|Российская наука и мир|
(по материалам зарубежной электронной прессы)
В результате случайного заражения вирусом Эбола скончалась сотрудница Государственного научного центра вирусологии и биотехнологии "Вектор".
NEW ORLEANS, May 24 - A Russian scientist at a former Soviet biological weapons laboratory in Siberia has died after accidentally sticking herself with a needle laced with Ebola, the deadly virus for which there is no vaccine or treatment, the lab's parent Russian center announced over the weekend.
Scientists and officials said the accident had raised concerns about safety and secrecy at the State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology, known as Vector, which in Soviet times specialized in turning deadly viruses into biological weapons. Vector has been a leading recipient of aid in an American program to help former Soviet scientists and labs convert to peaceful research.
Although the accident occurred May 5, Vector did not report it to the World Health Organization until last week. Scientists said that although Vector had isolated the scientist to contain any potential spread of the disease and there was no requirement that accidents involving Ebola be reported, the delay meant that scientists at the health agency could not provide prompt advice on treatment that might have saved her life.
The first public mention of the accident was over the weekend on Pro-Med, the informal Internet reporting and discussion network of doctors and other health care professionals, which posted the Vector account of the laboratory accident on its Web site (www.promedmail.org).
American experts said the accident had not occurred in a lab now receiving United States government or private money for research.
While officials at Vector said the scientist, Antonina Presnyakova, was working on an Ebola vaccine, they have declined to identify who was financing the research or discuss its specific nature.
Terry Fredeking, the president and founder of Antibody Systems, a Texas-based company, said that while his company had spent more than $150,000 in the last five years on joint research on Ebola at Vector, the accident did not involve research he was financing. "It's sad and somewhat frightening," said Mr. Fredeking, "that Vector didn't inform the W.H.O. or even its own lab directors that the accident had occurred in time for us to offer help."
Ronald Atlas, a biodefense expert at a center at the University of Louisville, in Kentucky, said that while it was important to work on vaccines to protect against deadly viruses, the accident showed the danger. "It shows we must be careful about what we are doing, as well as where and with whom we are doing it," said Dr. Atlas, in an interview here at the American Society for Microbiology's annual meeting.
An American scientist was involved in a similar accident with Ebola at the Army's leading biodefense lab at Fort Detrick, Md., several months ago. But she did not contract the disease. The lab disclosed the accident within 48 hours, officials said.
Vector is also one of two repositories of the deadly smallpox virus - the other is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Since the Soviet Union collapsed, the United States has spent millions of dollars to help convert such places to peaceful research, including an estimated $10 million at Vector.
Critics of the program have opposed expanding such aid because it is hard to verify whether former Soviet scientists are using the American-supported research for peaceful purposes. But the program's defenders say it keeps scientists employed on peaceful projects and prevents them from working for anti-American states or terrorists seeking biological weapons.
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
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Международная комиссия по стратиграфии (ICS) впервые за 120 лет добавила в геохронологическую шкалу Земли новый геологический период. Он будет являться частью неопротерозойской эры и охватывать временной отрезок истории нашей планеты от 600 до 542 миллионов лет назад. В российской геологии и палеонтологии новый период совпадает с рубежом Вендской эпохи позднего протерозоя и раннего кембрия, поэтому российские ученые - члены ICS и Международного геологического союза - настаивали, чтобы новый период получил название Вендского, и выразили глубокое разочарование, когда большинство предпочло термин Эдиакарский.
A geological row is brewing over the first new geological period in 120 years to receive an official name.
This month the International Union of Geological Sciences announced that its International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS), the body in charge of official naming of geological time periods, voted to officially name the period 600 to 545 million years ago as the Ediacaran period.
This period occurred just before the explosion in the diversity of life in the Cambrian and itself hosted its own worldwide mini-explosion of marine life known as the Ediacaran fauna.
Ediacaran expert Dr Mikhail Fedonkin of the Paleontological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences said the fauna are the oldest known community of animals. They include large, fleshy and mostly soft-bodied creatures like jellyfish and worms.
"Most of them didn't have any mineralized parts: no teeth, no scales, no bones, no shells," Fedonkin told ABC Science Online from Moscow. Scientists only discovered the Ediacaran fauna relatively late in the 19th century because of the lack of fossils from the era. One high-profile discovery of Ediacaran fossils was made in the 1940s in the Ediacara Hills of South Australia's Flinders Ranges. And rocks at a site nearby have been used to define the boundaries of the new period ratified by the ICS.
Australian geologist Professor Malcolm Walter of Macquarie University was vice-chair of the ICS subcommittee that debated the issue and voted in favour of the decision. He said the naming was based on the fact that the most distinctive fauna of the period was called the Ediacaran fauna, the jellyfish and the worms.
But not all scientists agreed with the decision, including Fedonkin, who thought the name Vendian, given by Russian scientist in the 1950s, was more appropriate. Walter argued that there were "technical reasons" for avoiding the Vendian name. Other names for the period included the Upper Sinian, which was based on Chinese deposits. The decision on the name and the site that was to define the boundaries of the period were put to an ICS vote. The name officially became Ediacaran with the reference site in Australia.
"Science can't be done by vote; very often the minority is actually correct," said ICS member Fedonkin, who voted against the decision. "The Vendian period is well known within the scientific community. Not only Russians but other people have published their material in the scientific literature and named this period Vendian".
My site's better than yours
But Fedonkin's argument goes further. He said there was no good reason to choose the name Ediacaran based on the South Australian site, which he described as being inferior to other deposits.
"It's simply the worst of the worst," he said. "As a reference section, it is empty. The famous Ediacaran fauna occupies a thin layer at the very top of a huge succession of deposits."
By comparison, he said, sites west of the Ural Mountains in Russia discovered some years later after the Ediacara Hills deposit, offered a much thicker layer of Ediacaran fossils, covering a bigger time interval.
"It is full of fossils, no empty rock," he said. "Fossils are the time markers so it's better to choose a site where there are fossils all the way through."
Fedonkin also argued that the Russian site was better because its abundance of soft clay meant fossils had been better preserved than at the Australian site, where he said rocks were hard and fossils compressed. These conditions meant that even tiny phytoplankton were preserved, he said.
"When we extract for instance, the algae it is almost light brown, almost transparent. They're still organic," he said. "It's as if they died yesterday."
He said this made it possible to even study the biological nature of the organisms.
Walter said the ICS used the South Australian site based on the presence of a certain form of geological deposits that represented the end of a glaciation. But Fedonkin argued because these were undated, these could represent the end of any of five or six glaciations that occurred before 600 million years ago. Walter isn't convinced and argued that differences in isotopes can pinpoint it to the right period.
"We should define on the basis of fossil," Fedonkin said. "Fossils are the most reliable thing."
Australian palaeontologist Professor Pat Vickers-Rich of Monash University said the scientific argument about the naming of the period should remain within scientific circles until it was settled rather than become an "emotional issue".
"Although the Ediacaran has been voted in by the ICS, the discussion of this will continue in the future," she told ABC Science Online. "And I think the minimizing of discussion of this issue in the popular press and the claims by either sides are to be minimized until the issue is thoroughly thought through rationally."
The issue may see some interesting discussion at this August's International Geological Congress in Florence.
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EurekAlert / 2-Jun-2004
New ways into space
DFG travelling exhibition on loan to Russia - stopping in Moscow and Novosibirsk - a contribution to the Year of German Culture
Немецкое научно-исследовательское сообщество (DFG) организует в Москве и Новосибирске выставку "Новая дорога во Вселенную". В центре внимания находится космическая транспортная система многоразового использования. Представленные на выставке информационные материалы показывают те варианты систем, которые в недалеком будущем смогут быть запущены в космос. Открытие выставки в Москве состоится 7 июня, в Новосибирске – 30 июня.
After an extensive tour through Germany and international exhibitions in Rio de Janeiro, Bangkok and Seoul, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation, DFG) is now presenting its exhibition "The New Way into Space – Space Transporters of the Next Generation" in Moscow and Novosibirsk.
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On 7 June, DFG President Prof. Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker, the Russian Minister of Science Dr. Andrej Fursenko, the Vice President of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Prof. Nikolai Platé, and German Ambassador Dr. Hans-Friedrich von Ploetz will jointly open this exhibition in the State Museum for Contemporary History in Moscow.
In addition to a number of Russian cosmonauts, the first German in space, the former East German cosmonaut Dr. Sigmund Jähn, and astronauts Thomas Reiter and Prof. Ernst Messerschmid, currently head of the ESA's European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, will be present.
This DFG exhibition is a contribution by science to the cultural encounters agreed upon by the Russian President Vladimir Putin and the German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.
Following the "Year of Russian Culture in Germany" in 2003, 2004 is dedicated to "German Culture in Russia". After its stops in Moscow, the exhibition "The New Way into Space" will travel to Novosibirsk. There, DFG Vice President Prof. Frank Steglich, Governor Victor Tolokonskij, the Vice President of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Prof. Nikolai Dobrecov; and German Consul General Michael Grau will open the exhibition on 30 June.
A number of the experiments that will be exhibited were conducted in cooperation with Russian scientists. The Institute for Theoretical and Applied Mechanics in Novosibirsk was also involved.
The main focus of the exhibition is a reusable system resembling an airplane: a smaller upper stage pickabacks on a horizontally-launched lower stage to an altitude of about 30 kilometres, where the two vehicles separate.
While the lower stage is flown back to its point of origin, the upper stage begins its climb into orbit. After completing the mission, both vehicles land at the airport.
Richly illustrated and easily understood display panels and a multitude of exhibits – among them the Mirka capsule, which was launched into space with a Russian Soyuz rocket – demonstrate the new concept in the form of a fictional flight.
This encompasses the full circle from launch to flight, ascent into space, re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere and landing.
In its exhibition, the DFG will present the results of three Collaborative Research Centres from the Rhineland-Westphalian Technical University of Aachen, the Technical and Military Universities of Munich and the University of Stuttgart. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) also contributed to these projects.
So far, over 160,000 visitors around the world have visited the DFG exhibition. The complete exhibition programme is available on the Internet at http://www.dfg.de/raumtransportsysteme together with a number of real and computer-animated films.
ITAR-TASS / 03.06.2004
Russian scientists have successfully used a new method against different forms of cancer
Российские медики успешно применили новейшее оружие против различных видов рака - клетки из тканей животных, зараженных "профильным" онкологическим заболеванием. Об этом сообщил один из разработчиков новаторского метода, член-корреспондент Российской академии медицинских наук (РАМН) Сергей Северин.
MOSCOW, June 3 (Itar-Tass) - Russian scientists have successfully used a new method against different forms of cancer. One of designers of the innovative treatment, associate member of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences Sergei Severin said in an interview with Itar-Tass that the method employs cells from animals "infected" with cancer.
Associates of several cancer research institutes and clinics of Moscow and St. Petersburg have designed and patented the cell technology for prevention and treatment of the skin melanoma and kidney, urinary bladder and breast tumours.
Severin described the method as "fairly simple".
"We have succeeded to overcome the problem of compatibility of animal cells with human ones using a hydro gel that forms around it a capsule with unique properties in a month after subcutaneous or intramuscular injection."
The scientist explained that active cells from animals are injected into the biological capsule. Their function is "to teach the immune system of a patient to struggle against metastases and the cancer tumour itself". As a result, human immune cells programmed for destruction of the "infected" cells cannot infiltrate the capsule and are in a state of permanent combat readiness, as they "feel" the presence of the "infection source". Severin, who is chairman of the board of directors of Russian Biotechnologies company, said the new methodology had been patented in Russia and New Zealand on permission of the Health Ministry. The treatment has been tested for safety in a volunteer group.
"Twenty people have taken part in the trial, and we can make a preliminary conclusion that the method is absolutely safe and in several cases apparently helped the recovery of patients," he said. Eighty volunteers will be enrolled at the second phase of the trial.
"We shall try to check the effectiveness of the method in control of metastases after the operative removal of a cancer tumour," Severin said. Russian Biotechnologies has helped the scientists to patent the new treatment and will continue to promote it on international markets.
© ITAR-TASS. All rights reserved.
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Российские ученые сообщили, что два вида вакцины против ВИЧ практически готовы к клиническим испытаниям.
Vaccines that would protect against HIV are nearly ready for human trials, according to Russian scientists.
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The head of the country's State Research Centre of Virology and Biotechnology Vektor Sergei Netesov, says researchers in the country have developed two vaccines to fight the virus that are at the right stage for human trials.
He told the Russian Information Agency (RIA) Novosti that the vaccines are "practically" ready for volunteers. Additionally, he says that other vaccines are currently being worked on across the country.
The Vector centre itself is itself working on four possible vaccines, although only two are close to trial stage.
However, HIV and AIDS advocacy groups have previously called for caution when looking at such vaccines. Although there are positive developments, a vaccine that will block the virus across the world is still in the distant future.
Professor Robert Gallo, who jointly identified the link between HIV and AIDS in the 1980s, said last month that an anti-HIV vaccine would have to be developed using new techniques, as the traditional development process could not be used when dealing with HIV.
"Because of the danger, we cannot make a vaccine out of [weakened] viruses. We also won't be allowed to make a vaccine from a "killed" virus, as there is the risk that not all the viruses are destroyed," he said.
However, at the G8 summit last week, world leaders committed themselves to funding the fight against the virus, by financially backing a global vaccine initiative.
The Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise will receive funding from the richest countries, as scientists battle to protect future generations from HIV and AIDS.
Благодаря биофизикам, статистика достигла даже такой сокровенной стороны жизни, как регуляция работы генов. Исследование вероятностных аспектов молекулярной биологии поддерживается Российским фондом фундаментальных исследований и фондом ИНТАС.
Thanks to biophysicists, statistics has reached the most intimate aspect of life – regulation of genes' activity. Investigation on probabilistic aspects of molecular biology has been supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research and the INTAS Foundation.
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Regulation of genes' activity is one of the most important biological problems which has not been solved so far. A cell switches on and off its genes through multiple factors, which, if required, interact with certain sections of a chromosome or vice versa, leave them. While molecular biologists search for the mechanisms than ensure precise and uninterrupted control of genome's activity, biophysics keep on saying that this is a statistical process, i.e., a probabilistic one, therefore, it cannot be absolutely precise. Specialists of the Engelgardt Institute of Molecular Biology (Russian Academy of Sciences) and the Faculty of Physics, Moscow State University, jointly with the colleagues from the Gumboldt University (Germany) have received equations that allow to assess statistically the regulatory factors/DNA interaction.
According to biophysicists' opinion, molecules inside the cell move around as freely as in a drop of experimental solution: their concentrations go up and down slightly. Even an insignificant local change in molecule concentration capable of interaction with DNA may impact such interaction. Therefore, if two cells possessing an identical set of genes obviously differ from each other, they owe that to statistical deviations. It is impossible to measure the changes in concentration in experimental systems, therefore the researchers create mathematical models. In fact, these models are sometimes far from real ones (no infinite DNAs or DNAs all set by proteins exist in nature), but they help to evaluate the contribution of fortuity in the sanctum sanctorum of a cell - in regulation of genes' work. The contribution is significant. Sometimes, due to statistical difference of concentration at the DNA section there may turn out to be eight to twelve regulatory molecules instead of ten. Sometimes, the value of hindrances reaches 17 percent.
One more reason for hindrances lies in competition. Speaking about regulation of work of some gene, researchers normally imply specific interaction of definite molecules with specific sections of DNA. However, on top of specific interaction, there also exists non-specific interaction. Multiple molecules are capable of combining with DNA, and they do so simply because they happened to be nearby. Accidental connection is not that strong, but on the other hand, a lot of " alien" molecules can set on DNA, the alien molecules hindering genes from specific interaction with regulatory proteins. All theoretically possible cases of competition for physical contact with DNA also yield to mathematical formulation.
From biophysicists point of view, DNA with proteins adsorbed on it may be viewed as a message, where relevant information is carried not only by the number of bound proteins, but also by the degree of its deviation from an average value. The researchers are convinced that it is impossible to investigate the control of genes' activity without involvement of statistical thermodynamics of systems with a small number of particles. Although the objects of statistical thermodynamics exist not in bioplast, but in a test-tube filled with the solution of a complicated composition, the difference is normally disregarded by the authors of mathematical models.