Share via Shortlink Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on LinkedinShare via Email Share via Shortlink TagsGeo Group Chief Executive Officer of the GEO Group George Zoley and the Geo Group headquartersGeo Group, one of the largest private prison operators in the country, is putting inmates at risk of contracting Covid-19, and is failing to report on inmates who have died from the virus at one of its facilities in Houston, according to a recent lawsuit.Avery Ayers, an inmate in a federal halfway house in Houston, alleges GEO Group, a real estate investment trust, has failed to abide by the proper safety and health protocols at the facility. Notably, the company threatened to discipline inmates if they called any county or city agencies for Covid-19 information, testing or informing them about any deaths at the facility, according to the complaint filed in federal court in Houston in late June.Furthermore, the complaint alleges GEO Group has not reported on three deaths at the facility related to COVID-19.Geo Group did not immediately return a request to comment.Ayers has been a resident at Geo Group’s halfway house since February and is set to be released in July on supervised release, according to the complaint. Ayers makes a number of allegations on how Geo Group is not in compliance with the Center for Disease Control and Bureau of Prison’s guidance.He claims that when meals are served there are 25-30 at a time in a common area and prisoners have to sit five people at a table making it impossible to social distance.He also alleges that inmates are required to sleep in close quarters and in bunk beds about three feet apart and share bathrooms. The inmates are also forced to clean the facilities themselves, but Geo Group does not provide basic cleaning supplies, or basic medical care, and does not have an on-site medical team, the suit claims.The complaint further alleges Geo Group is not screening people for coronavirus before they come into the halfway house.The complaint is seeking class action and is seeking to release enough people from the halfway house so that residents can be housed safely. It also seeks to implement the appropriate sanitary measures, including an in-house medical staff and screening of staff and residents for Covid-19 symptoms before they come into the facility.Geo Group is based in Boca Raton. It has seen its stock fall over 30 percent since the beginning of March to $11.48 in July due to the impacts of the coronavirus.Geo Group, with a market cap of about $1.4 billion, reported a sharp decline in net income and revenue in its first quarter. The company’s net income fell to $25.2 million, or 21 cents per diluted share, compared to $40.7 million, or 34 cents per diluted share, in the first quarter of 2019. Revenues, meanwhile, dropped to $605 million in the first quarter of 2020 from $610.7 million in the first quarter of 2019.Geo Group said in its most recent earnings that “the spread of COVID-19 has negatively impacted a number of our facilities and programs and is expected to result in lower full-year 2020 revenues.”The company’s stock dropped significantly in 2016 after the Obama administration announced its plans to phase out private prison contracts with the federal government. Under Trump, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed this decision in 2017 and Geo Group gained the first contract for an immigration detention center under the Trump presidency.The firm also donated more than $500,000 to President Trump’s campaign and inaugural committee and to other Republican candidates, including to Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis.
Subscribe to the Horse Sport newsletter and get an exclusive bonus digital edition! Watch the Excitement Unfold on FEI TVThe provisional FEI TV broadcasting schedule from the Palexpo Arena in Geneva is as follows:Thursday 15 April 2010 – 19.10 to 21.15 CEST, Rolex FEI World Cup™ Final, JumpingFriday 16 April 2010 – 19.10 to 21.45 CEST, Rolex FEI World Cup™ Final, JumpingSaturday 17 April 2010 – 22.10 to 23.15 CEST, FEI World Cup™ Final, DrivingSunday 18 April 2010 – 13.25 to 16.45 CEST, Rolex FEI World Cup™, Jumping ANOTHER HECTIC QUALIFYING SEASONIt’s been a long and winding road to the 2009/2010 Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping final in Geneva, with riders qualifying from 13 leagues around the globe. The battle for precious points has been hard-fought by a total of 814 men and women hoping to take their place amongst the stars who will jump for the coveted title in the Palexpo Arena next week, and for each of those who earned a spot, that alone is a considerable achievement.The smallest qualifying league in terms of participant numbers was the South East Asian series which attracted just seven riders to its four events and which was won by Malaysia’s Qabil Ambak Dato Mahamad Fatil. In stark contrast, the North American leagues jointly attracted a massive 184 starters to 28 competitions, and with 12 representatives at next week’s fixture seem likely to prove highly influential. GREAT WINThe Arab League concluded at Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates on 23 January with a great win for Abdullah Sharbatly and Goldex from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia who then came out to top an early class during the last Western European League fixture at ‘s-Hertogenbosch in The Netherlands two weeks ago. When Abdullah showed his absolute delight at finding himself in the winner’s enclosure at the Dutch venue he won his way into the hearts of the spectators who subsequently greeted him with roars of support every time he re-entered the ring.There were 11 rounds staged in the Australian league which ended in Sydney in December with a runaway victory for three-time Australian champion Chris Chugg, while Kyrgyzstan’s Andrey Shalohin headed up the three-leg Central Asian series which drew to a close at Astana in Kazakhstan last August. There were also only three legs in the Caucasian league in which Rashod Samadov from Azerbaijan reigned supreme, but there were 17 legs for the Central European countries before the final at Tallinn in Estonia last month which was a highly-successful and competitive event. The sport of jumping has grown immeasurably in terms of participation and rider expertise in this region in recent years, and Estonia will be well-represented in Geneva by Belgian-based 27 year old Tilt Kivisild and the considerably more experienced 49 year old Rein Pill.FINAL LEG VICTORYToshiki Masui came out on top of the eight-round Japanese League series when producing a final-leg victory at Osaka last October, and there were also eight competitions in New Zealand where Katie McVean pipped Anna Trent for the regional title. Over the five legs of the South African series a total of 29 riders lined out, and it was Shaun Neill who headed the leaderboard following the last leg in Cape Town in November. The seven-round South American series attracted a strong entry of 69 riders, but this has already provided one of the hard-luck stories of the season as Brazil’s Yuri Mansur Guerios, who earned his ticket to Geneva with a win in the final leg at Rio de Janeiro last November, suffered a bitter blow when his top horse, the 14 year old French gelding Ideal de Balia, was struck down by a colic attack last Friday. The chestnut horse remains in intensive care following an operation on Tuesday of this week.It has been a long climb to the top for 30 year old Yuri who hails from Sao Paolo and who broke into the show jumping scene after spending three years working as a groom at Ludo Philippaert’s yard in Belgium. He achieved his long-held dream when he qualified for the 2009/2010 Rolex FEI World Cup™ Final, but fate has ensured he will only get to compete in the minor competitions at the Palexpo Arena next week. “I’m not just disappointed for myself, I’m sorry for my horse because we worked hard together to qualify – I just hope he will be OK and that we get the chance to try again” Yuri said yesterday.INTRIGUINGThe USA East Coast League result is particularly intriguing because the international line-up is led by Olympic gold medallist Mclain Ward from New York followed by young Irish rookie Darragh Kenny in second place with Russia’s Ljubov Kochetova in third ahead of Canada’s Karen Cudmore in fourth, while over in the USA West Coast it was World Cup specialist Rich Fellers who came out on top. The 13-leg Western European League meanwhile produced some spectacular jumping over the winter months at the end of which Ireland’s Jessica Kuerten led the leaderboard with Germany’s Marco Kutscher in second ahead of Switzerland’s Pius Schwizer in third.It has been another great season, and with the sport continuing to develop rapidly world-wide, the 2009/2010 Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final promises plenty of quality performances along with, no doubt, a few new suprises.The 2009/2010 Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final begins next Wednesday, 14th April. For further information check out website http://www.worldcupgeneva.com/FACTS AND FIGURESThirteen leagues world-wide814 riders participated609 riders earned qualifying pointsThe Central Asian League was the first to finish – on 5th August 2009The last league to conclude was the North American series which drew to a close on 4th April 2010CALENDAR OF EVENTS FOR WESTERN EUROPEAN LEAGUE: 1, Oslo (Norway) 9-11 October; 2, Helsinki (Finland) 15-18 October; 3, Lyon (FRA) 28 Oct-1 November; 4, Verona (Italy) 5-8 November; 5, Stuttgart (Germany) 15-22 November; 6, London-Olympia (Great Britain) 15-21 December; 7, Mechelen (Belgium) 26-30 December; 8, Leipzig (Germany) 21-24 January; 9, Zurich (SUI) 28-31 January; 10, Bordeaux (France) 5-7 February; 11, Vigo (Spain) 11-14 February; 12, Gothenburg (Sweden) 25-28 February; 13, s’Hertogenbosch (The Netherlands) 25-28 March; FINAL – Geneva (Switzerland) 14-18 April. We’ll send you our regular newsletter and include you in our monthly giveaways. PLUS, you’ll receive our exclusive Rider Fitness digital edition with 15 exercises for more effective riding. Geneva (SUI), 9 April 2010 SIGN UP Horse Sport Enews Email* More from Horse Sport:Christilot Boylen Retires From Team SportAfter an exemplary career as one of Canada’s top Dressage riders, seven-time Olympian Christilot Boylen has announced her retirement from team competition.2020 Royal Agricultural Winter Fair CancelledFor only the second time in its history, The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair has been cancelled but plans are being made for some virtual competitions.Royal Agricultural Winter Fair Statement on 2020 EventAs the Province of Ontario starts to reopen, The Royal’s Board and staff will adhere to all recommendations put forward by government and health officials.Government Financial Assistance for Ontario FarmersOntario Equestrian has recently released this update of several financial assistance packages available, including those for farm business.
Anthony’s Travel has expanded its burgeoning PSVAR-compliant fleet with the delivery of a Yutong TC9. It was supplied by Pelican Bus and Coach.The TC9 is the fifth PSVAR-certified coach with the operator. Those vehicles run alongside an accessible minicoach and a PSVAR-compliant bus.The Yutong has an additional door ahead of the rear axle and a lift is mounted within the luggage locker as part of a specification developed by Pelican earlier in 2020. It can carry 34 seated passenger or a maximum of six wheelchair users. Most work to achieve PSVAR compliance was carried out by Yutong in its factory in Zhengzhou, but the Hidral lift and some other items were added after arrival in the UK.Four 49-seat accessible coaches already in Anthony’s fleet received front, side and rear destination screens in February to achieve PSVAR compliance. The certification process for those vehicles was completed recently. Anthony’s has chosen white LED displays across its PSVAR-compliant coaches rather than the more common orange screens to give a discreet appearance.Managing Partner Richard Bamber says the PSVAR-compliant TC9 has been purchased with the future in mind post-coronavirus COVID-19. It forms part of the Cheshire operator’s long-term investment plan.“We are delighted to have taken delivery of this beautiful accessible coach. When we ordered it, the world was a much calmer place, and we could not have envisioned the time ahead. It is a tough time for everyone in the coach industry and, like everyone else, we have had to adapt and watch out outgoings.“As a company we have strong foundations that will see us through the pandemic. With coronavirus COVID-19, coach operators’ days are spent firefighting, with an ever-changing landscape of regional and national restrictions and false starts. But there will be a future post-pandemic and we must not lose sight of it.“There will certainly be an appetite to travel. We wanted to continue with our long-term investment plans, so cancelling the TC9 was never an option.”Mr Bamber adds that as a pair of family businesses, Anthony’s Travel and Pelican worked together to get the coach into service under challenging conditions for the industry. The PSVAR-compliant Yutong TC9 has made a good first impression, “and most importantly, passengers like it.”In addition to a standard PSVAR-compliant variant of the TC9, Pelican also offers the TC9M. It is customised to mobility requirements and can carry up to eight wheelchair users.
Controversial appointment Holbrooke will soon be working with Peter Galbraith, who was named last week (25 March) as the UN’s deputy envoy to Afghanistan. Galbraith was the first US ambassador to Croatia after it broke away from Yugoslavia in 1991. He was the diplomat who signalled to the Croatian government that the Clinton administration did not oppose Iranian arms shipments to the Bosnian government via Croatia. In 1995, Galbraith in effect gave the green light to a Croatian offensive to retake Serb-held territories. The offensive – Operation Storm – paved the way for the Dayton accords. (It also got the commander of the operation, General Ante Gotovina, an indictment from the war crimes tribunal, where he is currently standing trial.) Galbraith, son of John Kenneth Galbraith, an economist and former US president John F. Kennedy’s ambassador to India, will now assist Kai Eide, a Norwegian diplomat who serves as the UN’s top man in Afghanistan, in implementing the ‘civilian surge’ that the Obama administration is preparing. Eide was reported to have resisted Galbraith’s appointment because it could undermine his authority, but the two are friends: Eide introduced Galbraith to Tone Bringa, a Norwegian anthropologist who became Galbraith’s wife. Philip H. Gordon, a director for Europe in former president Bill Clinton’s National Security Council (NSC) in 1998-99, and currently at the Brookings Institution – a think-tank in Washington, DC – is to become assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, the top state department official to deal with the region. Gordon was nominated on 12 March and if confirmed by the Senate will replace Daniel Fried. A foreign-policy intellectual who has written a great deal about the transatlantic relationship, Gordon speaks French, German, Italian and Spanish. Two other senior foreign policy figures in the new Democratic administration also hail from Brookings – Susan Rice, ambassador to the United Nations in New York, and Ivo Daalder, Obama’s nominee as envoy to NATO in Brussels. Dutch-born Daalder was a predecessor of Gordon’s as NSC Europe director, in 1995-96. He was educated at the UK universities of Kent and Oxford (as well as Georgetown and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and has authored and co-authored books on America’s Bosnia policy and NATO’s war in Kosovo. He is also a co-editor – with Gordon and Nicole Gnesotto – of a 2005 volume on a US-Europe strategy for the Middle East. The Balkan connection In July 1999, Bill Clinton, the then US president, received a hero’s welcome in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, where he attended the inaugural summit of the Stability Pact for South-eastern Europe. The summit capped four years of American leadership in the Balkans after the European Union had failed to keep order in its own backyard. Several prominent American diplomats who worked together, and with their European partners, to bring peace to the Balkans in the 1990s have been named to senior positions in the Obama administration’s foreign policy team. That is perhaps unsurprising: after initial dithering, the Clinton administration – the last time most of these diplomats were in government – threw its best negotiators at the problem, first in Bosnia and then in Kosovo. Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, is a former assistant secretary of state for European and Canadian affairs and ambassador to Germany. Best known as the architect of the 1995 Dayton peace accords that ended the war in Bosnia, he is in the headlines again because of that role: unnamed state department officials who worked with Holbrooke have supported long-standing rumours that he offered immunity from prosecution to Radovan Karadžic´ on condition that the Bosnian Serb leader leave politics. Other officials, and Holbrooke himself, dispute this account. Even if such assurances were made, however, they have no legal bearing on the trial of Karadžic ´ at the UN war crimes court in The Hague. With Barack Obama’s presidency less than three months old, it is too early to assess how his approach to foreign policy might develop. But many in Europe are watching carefully as appointments are made to senior positions, looking for clues as to Obama’s intentions. “We do not have anything hard and fast yet,” a US official said, “but we are hoping that policies are being reviewed and positions filled quickly.” A few names have already emerged. Holbrooke’s right-hand man at Dayton, Christopher Hill, has been nominated as chief of America’s largest mission abroad, in Baghdad. Hill, who was chief US negotiator with North Korea, also still needs Senate approval to take up his new position.
When trying to understand someone’s intentions, nonhuman primates expect others to act rationally by performing the most appropriate action allowed by the environment, according to a new study by researchers at Harvard University.The findings appear in the Sept. 7 issue of the journal Science. The work was led by Justin Wood, a graduate student in the Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), with David Glynn, a research assistant, and Marc Hauser, professor of psychology at Harvard, along with Brenda Phillips of Boston University.“A dominant view has been that nonhuman primates attend only to what actions ‘look like’ when trying to understand what others are thinking,” says Wood. “In contrast, our research shows that nonhuman primates infer others’ intentions in a much more sophisticated way. They expect other individuals to perform the most rational action that they can, given the environmental obstacles that they face.”The scientists studied the behavioral response of more than 120 primates, including cotton-top tamarins, rhesus macaques, and chimpanzees. These species represent each of the three major groups of primates: New World monkeys, Old World monkeys, and apes. All three species were tested in the same way, and the results showed the same responses among the different types.In the first experiment, the primates were presented with two potential food containers, and the experimenter either purposefully grasped one of the containers or flopped a hand onto one of the containers in an accidental manner. For all three species, the primates sought the food container that was purposefully grasped a greater number of times than the container upon which the hand was flopped. This indicates that the primates inferred goal-oriented action on the part of the experimenter when he grasped the container, and were able to understand the difference between the goal-oriented and accidental behavior.In the second experiment, the researchers asked if the primates infer others’ goals under the expectation that other individuals will perform the most rational action allowed by the environmental obstacles. Again, the primates were presented with two potential food containers. In one scenario, an experimenter touched a container with his elbow when his hands were full, and in another scenario, touched a container with his elbow when his hands were empty. The primates looked for the food in the container indicated with the elbow more often when the experimenter’s hands were full. The primates considered, just as a human being would, that if someone’s hands are full then it is rational for them to use their elbow to indicate the container with food, whereas if their hands are empty it is not rational for them to use their elbow, because they could have used their unoccupied hand.Developmental psychologists have long understood that young children are able to engage in this type of rational action perception, but scientists have not understood whether this ability is unique to human beings or is shared with other animals. This study suggests that this ability evolved as long as 40 million years ago, with nonhuman primates.“This study represents one of the broadest comparative studies of primate cognition, and the significance of the findings is reinforced by the fact that these results were consistent across three different species of primates,” says Wood. “The results have significant implications for understanding the evolution of the processes that allow us to make sense of other people’s behavior.”The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Science Federation.
AUSTIN — Governor Greg Abbott announced Monday that Goldman Sachs and the LiftFund, along with other community development financial institutions (CDFIs), are partnering to provide $50 million in loans to small businesses in Texas that have been affected by COVID-19 as part of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.These loans, made through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), will primarily be used for payroll so that employees can continue to receive paychecks and small businesses can retain their employees and will be partially or wholly forgiven.“Small businesses and their employees are at the heart of the Texas economy, and they need support during these difficult times,” Abbott said. “These loans will help us revitalize our economy and restore Texans’ livelihoods as we respond to COVID-19. I thank Goldman Sachs and the LiftFund for providing this lifeline to Texas small businesses and their employees by providing them with the support they need to overcome the challenges posed by COVID-19. This partnership is an important first step in our journey to economic recovery in the state of Texas.” LiftFund is a non-profit organization, headquartered in San Antonio, that helps small business owners with limited access to capital. The company offers small business loans and minority business loans for entrepreneurs.LiftFund partners with SBA lenders and other lending institutions to provide startup loans, SBA 504 Loans, and microloans in Texas, and throughout the South Eastern U.S. In 2018, LiftFund had 591 donors, 118 investors, 500 partners, and 100 employees.The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. is a leading global investment banking, securities and investment management firm that provides a wide range of financial services to a substantial and diversified client base that includes corporations, financial institutions, governments and individuals.Founded in 1869, the firm is headquartered in New York and maintains offices in all major financial centers around the world. Next UpJohn Waldron, president and chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs, said he has seen first-hand the determination and resilience of small business owners in Texas, having worked alongside them for years through Goldman’s 10,000 Small Businesses program.“Goldman Sachs understands that our communities and economy rely on small business, and we are doing everything we can to support this vital engine of economic growth and employment,” he said.Goldman Sachs will provide the capital as part of its $550 million commitment to COVID-19 relief, and LiftFund, alongside other CDFIs, will administer the funding to qualified small businesses. If all stipulations are met, small business can have their loans forgiven in full by the SBA. Business owners can apply for a PPP loan and find more information about the program on the LiftFund website.The governor was joined for the announcement by President and CEO of LiftFund Janie Barrera.Also joining the Governor were Brent Reaves, owner of Smokey John’s Bar-B-Que in Dallas, Patricia and Clint Butler, owners of Coffeecionado Community Roasters in San Antonio, and Michele and Mitch Allen, owners of iRun Texas in San Antonio.The Butlers and Allens will be the first to benefit from this partnership to provide PPP loans in Texas.
Richard III Rylance will play Thomas Cromwell in Wolf Hall, which is set during the reign of Henry VIII. Featuring a script by Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and directed by Peter Kosminsky, the series follows Cromwell’s rise from the son of a blacksmith to right-hand man to the King. No other casting has been announced. Related Shows Mark Rylance Show Closed This production ended its run on Feb. 16, 2014 It’s shaping up to be a busy six months for Mark Rylance: After ending his Broadway engagement as the star of both Twelfth Night and Richard III, the two-time Tony Award winner will begin filming the previously announced miniseries adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s bestselling historical novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. According to The New York Times, PBS’s Masterpiece will broadcast the miniseries in 2015. Star Files View Comments A Best Actor Tony winner for Boeing-Boeing and Jerusalem, Rylance most recently starred and co-directed the new play Nice Fish at the Guthrie Theatre and directed Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones in a London revival of Much Ado About Nothing. Richard III and Twelfth Night begin previews on October 15 at the Belasco Theatre and open on November 10, directed by Tim Carroll.
by Mike Smith In national politics the only meaningful victory is one where you completely vanquish your opponent. A compromise is a defeat. An attempt to understand an opposing view is interpreted as lacking conviction in your cause, or, worse, disloyalty to a political party. One side is portrayed as always despicably wrong, while the other side contends it is always virtuous and right. Promotion of your cause must come at the complete denigration of your opponent’s view, or even the destruction of their character. There are no rhetorical boundaries. You say anything in order to win the debate.This is, unfortunately, Washington, D.C., nowadays and the reality of our politics. Nothing illustrates this more than the ongoing debate over the future direction of health care. This debate is emblematic of all that is wrong with our politics.Republicans want to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as most call it; Democrats want it retained. Some Democrats have said that repeal of the Affordable Care Act will mean Americans will die. Some Republicans counter that retaining Obamacare is too expensive and will ultimately result in the collapse of our health care system — although they have yet to put forth an alternative plan. By design politicians want us to believe that we either will die or we’ll wind up destitute, depending on which political side of the health care debate we fall on. For the most part, both sides are engaged in rhetorical gamesmanship, where certain words are hyped to catch our attention — or perhaps to scare us — but with the ultimate goal of dividing rather than uniting us.Obamacare is indeed becoming unaffordable, and in many parts of the country options are limited. If trends continue, it is unsustainable in its current form. It is a broken system that needs to be fixed. Democrats must admit to this fact. But on the other hand, Obamacare has provided millions of Americans with health care coverage, and if you wish to replace it then you must provide details of what a new health care system will look like, what it will cost and who is covered. Republicans must admit to this fact.But in modern-day politics acknowledging these facts dilutes the message. So facts often become bothersome details, obstacles to the ultimate goal of winning. There has to be a conqueror and a conquered. It’s political warfare without any possibility of a truce. There are always opportunities for compromise, but both sides look past those possibilities because to do otherwise is a sign of political weakness. In the end, all of this frustrates most Americans. This should worry politicians of both parties. If Americans lose confidence in, and support for, our governmental institutions such as Congress, the presidency, and our court systems, then our political system could be in jeopardy.History has shown that a democracy is constantly vulnerable. As Americans, we think of our democracy as indestructible, even perpetual. But is it? The playwright Sam Shepard is quoted as saying, “Democracy’s a very fragile thing. You have to take care of democracy. As soon as you stop being responsible to it and allow it to turn into scare tactics, it’s no longer democracy, is it? It’s something else. It may be an inch away from totalitarianism.”The question that we must all ask ourselves is where are we headed as a country? But perhaps just as important is the answer to this question: Where are our leaders taking us?Mike Smith is the host of the radio program, “Open Mike with Mike Smith,” on WDEV 550 AM and 96.1, 96.5, 98.3 and 101.9 FM. He is also a political analyst for WCAX-TV and WVMT radio and is a regular contributor to Vermont Business Magazine, The Times Argus and Rutland Herald. He was the secretary of administration and secretary of human services under former Gov. Jim Douglas.
Share LinkedIn Macrophages are cellular sentinels in the body, assigned to identify “attacks” from viruses, bacteria, or fungi and sound the alarm when they are present. However, these cells are a “double edged sword” in spinal cord injury, providing both neural repair-promoting properties and pathological functions that destroy neuronal tissue“We know from previous research that macrophages are versatile, and signals at the injury site can stimulate repair or destruction–or confusingly, both,” said John Gensel Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Physiology in the Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center at the University of Kentucky. “But the mechanisms through which these signals stimulate the good and/or bad functions in macrophages are not known. So the next big question to answer in the efforts to understand and treat SCI was, ‘Why?’”Gensel teamed up with Phillip Popovich, Ph.D, Professor in the Department of Neuroscience and Director of the Center for Brain and Spinal Cord Repair (CBSCR) at The Ohio State University to explore the mechanisms governing the positive and negative processes that occur in macrophages following spinal cord injury. Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Pinterest “On the cellular level, the body’s response to spinal cord injury is similar to the immune response to attacks by bacteria or viruses,” Gensel said. “The functions that macrophages adopt in response to these stimuli were the focus of our study.”Gensel and Popovich looked at more than 50 animals with spinal cord injury to try to identify which macrophage receptors promoted neuronal repair and which directed the destructive process.“We found that activating bacterial receptors boosted the macrophage response and limited damage to the spinal cord following injury, while activating fungal receptors actually contributed to pathology,” Gensel said.While this study oversimplifies the complex process by which macrophages promote repair and destruction of neuronal tissues, it nonetheless sheds light on opportunities to modulate macrophage responses after spinal cord injury, potentially reducing – or even reversing – damage and the resulting side-effects.“The implications are exciting: we now can look for treatments targeted to the receptors that jump-start the macrophage’s restorative effects without activating the receptors that modulate the destructive processes in that same cell.”The study has been published as a Featured Article in the most recent issue of the Journal of Neuroscience. Email
Jul 29, 2011 (CIDRAP News) – A team of European researchers reported yesterday the discovery of a human monoclonal antibody that binds to all types of influenza A viruses, raising the prospect of a new flu treatment and improving the chances of developing a broadly protective or “universal” flu vaccine.Writing in Science, the team said the antibody, called FI6, recognizes all 16 types of hemagglutinin found in influenza A viruses and that it protected mice and ferrets from lethal doses of two different flu subtypes.A number of researchers in recent years have reported finding human antibodies that target multiple influenza A subtypes, but the new findings are the first report of an antibody that recognizes all of them.”FI6 is the only antibody that has been discovered to date that binds and neutralizes both Group 1 and Group 2 human and animal influenza A viruses,” says a press release issued on behalf of Humabs Biomed, a Swiss company that participated in the research. Humabs, of Bellinzona, Switzerland, collaborated with the Institute for Research in Biomedicine, also of Bellinzona, and the United Kingdom Medical Research Council.Group 1 viruses include H1, H2, H5, H6, H8, H9, H11, H12, H13, and H16 subtypes, while group 2 includes H3, H4, H7, H10, H14, and H15. The type A subtypes that now most commonly infect humans are H1N1 and H3N2, but human are also susceptible to avian flu viruses such as H5N1, H7N7, and H9N2, and to H2, which caused the pandemic of 1957-58.The new findings relate only to influenza A viruses, not influenza B strains, which circulate at varying levels every year.Thousands of cells screenedIn their hunt for exceptional human antibodies, the researchers used a special single-cell culture method to screen or “interrogate” 104,000 plasma cells from eight donors, their report says. Four plasma cells from one donor yielded an antibody that reacted with H1, H5, and H7 viruses.The researchers reproduced this antibody and, using various tests, found that it showed binding and neutralizing activity against all 16 influenza A hemagglutinins. Further, they designed an optimized variant of FI6, called FI6v3, that lacks certain unnecessary mutations, the report says.The team tested the prophylactic effects of the antibody by administering it to mice and then exposing them to normally lethal doses of a lab strain of H1N1 virus. The mice were fully protected when they received an FI6 dose of 4 micrograms per kilogram of body weight.The authors also tested the effects of the antibody when used to treat mice previously exposed to lethal doses of flu virus. When given 1 or 2 days after infection, a dose of 15 mcg per kg protected mice from death. And in other experiments, the antibodyreduced weight loss and prevented death in mice infected with an H3 virusprotected ferrets from a lethal challenge with a 2004 strain of H5N1 virusIn other work, the team used x-ray crystallography to determine that the antibody bound to a particular region in the “F subdomain” of the hemagglutinin. They describe the site as conserved, meaning it is the same in different hemagglutinin types. Their report goes into great detail about how the antibody meshes with the surface contours of the hemagglutinin.Previous reports have noted that the globular head of the hemagglutinin protein, which studs the surface of flu viruses, mutates often to keep the immune system from recognizing it, whereas the stalk or stem of the protein is much more stable.”The results of prophylaxis and therapy that we report identify FI6 as the first example of a neutralizing monoclonal antibody for potential use against all influenza A viruses,” the authors conclude.Study wins praiseGary Nabel, MD, PhD, director of the Vaccine Research Center at the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, praised the report while cautioning that it will take time to translate the findings into something clinically useful.”It’s a very elegant paper,” he said. “It clearly gives a new window on antibody recognition of flu and neutralization of flu, and it offers potentially a better reagent in terms of inhibiting flu. So it’s all good.”He commented that very recent studies have demonstrated sets of antibodies that bound to multiple influenza A viruses in group 1 or group 2, but not both. “So we were going under the assumption that there was some difference between group 1 and group 2 that antibodies couldn’t distinguish, and clearly this report says otherwise,” he said.Nabel said the study offers some insights about the ways the immune system can approach conserved sites on the hemagglutinin. “The more we understand about how antibodies bind to highly conserved sites, the better off we’ll be. . . . Not to mention that if this proves efficacious in treating infection, that would be another nice implication.”He said it would not be too difficult to produce the antibody in quantity for use as a flu treatment, but added, “I think the real question is whether the pharmaceutical industry sees that there’s enough of a market to do that and whether there is a way to do the kind of clinical trial that could show the efficacy of a flu antibody.”To use the discovery to make a broadly protective vaccine, researchers will need to isolate and exploit the hemagglutinin region targeted by the antibody, Nabel said.”Ideally what you do is refine it further to just the stem region that the antibody is seeing,” he said. “You remove that stem region from the rest of the hemagglutinin, which is, in a way, a distraction to the immune system, and then present that in its mot obvious way to elicit the antibody response.”Nabel said this challenge is “not trivial” and will take years: “I think anything less than 5 years would be aggressive, and everything would have to just roll out without complications, which kind of never happens,” he said. “But there are a lot of people working on the problem, there are a lot of different approaches, and universal flu [vaccine] is high on the radar screen, so I think we’ll be seeing a lot of activity there.”Corti D, Voss J, Gamblin SF, et al. A neutralizing antibody selected from plasma cells that binds to group 1 and group 2 influenza A hemagglutinins. Science 2011 Jul 28 (early online publication) [Abstract]See also: Jul 28 EurekAlert press releaseJul 28 UK Medical Research Council press releaseJan 14 CIDRAP News story “Antibodies from H1N1 patients raise hope for more versatile flu vaccines”