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Environmental Crimes – UNICRI

Posted: November 21, 2016 at 11:15 am

UNICRI considers environmental crime, including its links with other forms of crime, a serious and growing danger for development, global stability and international security.

Since 1991, UNICRI has combated crimes against the environment and related emerging threats through applied research, awareness, and capacity-building initiatives. Today, countering environmental crime is an emerging priority for UNICRI work.

Environmental crimes encompass a broad list of illicit activities, including illegal trade in wildlife; smuggling of ozone-depleting substances (ODS); illicit trade of hazardous waste; illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing; and illegal logging and trade in timber. On one side, environmental crimes are increasingly affecting the quality of air, water and soil, threatening the survival of species and causing uncontrollable disasters. On the other, environmental crimes also impose a security and safety threat to a large number of people and have a significant negative impact on development and rule of law. Despite these issues, environmental crimes often fail to prompt the appropriate governmental response. Often perceived as victimless and incidental crimes, environmental crimes frequently rank low on the law enforcement priority list, and are commonly punished with administrative sanctions, themselves often unclear and low.

The involvement of organized criminal groups acting across borders is one of many factors that have favoured the considerable expansion of environmental crimes in recent years. Led by vast financial gains and facilitated by a low risk of detection and scarce conviction rates, criminal networks and organized criminal groups are becoming increasingly interested in such illicit transnational activities. These phenomena fuel corruption and money-laundering, and undermine the rule of law, ultimately affecting the public twice: first, by putting at risk citizens health and safety; and second, by diverting resources that would otherwise be allocated to services other than crime.

The level of organization needed for these crimes indicates a link with other serious offences, including theft, fraud, corruption, drugs and human trafficking, counterfeiting, firearms smuggling, and money laundering, several of which have been substantiated by investigations. Environmental crimes therefore today represent an emerging form of transnational organized crime requiring more in-depth analysis and better-coordinated responses at national, regional and international levels.

UNICRI has been actively involved in the field of environmental crime and justice research and training since 1991, issuing various publications on the topic. The first research projects were aimed at environmental law, especially exploring the limits and potentials of applying criminal law in crimes related to environment. In June 1998, UNICRI organised in Rome a seminar on International Environmental Conventions and the Administration of Criminal Law. Since then, UNICRI has focused on the involvement of organized criminal groups in environmental crime.

UNICRI also has built a strong international network of experts from major international organisations active in the field, including international and national NGOs as well as well-known researchers from academia.

To increase awareness of the threat of environmental crime, UNICRI contributed to the organization of a conference in Rome in December 2011 entitled Illicit Trafficking in Waste: A Global Emergency, with the participation of the Ministry of the Environment of Italy, parliamentarians, international partners such as the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), and stakeholders involved in countering trafficking in and dumping of toxic waste. To enhance understanding of the dynamics of environmental crime, the Institute is currently implementing a research and data collection project in the domain of environmental crime, with a specific focus on the dumping of illegal waste and hazardous materials, including e-waste, and its relation with organized crime. The research methodology follows the one applied by the Institute with success in other fields related to organised crime (such as counterfeiting, for example), and can be utilised to investigate different areas of environmental crime in the future.

In partnership with several research institutes, civil society organizations, and municipalities, UNICRI has launched a process for consultation at the international level on the involvement of organized crime in environmental crime, with a view to identifying a set of recommendations for more effective policies and action at the national, regional and international levels. To that end, the Institute, in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme, has organized an international conference in Italy on 29 and 30 October 2012.

In preparation for the Conference, the Institute has carried out preliminary in-depth data collection and analysis of cases involving trafficking in and dumping of toxic and e-waste.

In parallel, UNICRI has elaborated a number of applied-research project proposals covering different aspects of environmental crime aimed at shedding light on aspects not yet fully explored by the international community, including the intersection between counterfeiting and waste management or transnational environmental crime and corruption. In addition, another set of proposed activities looks at environmental crime from a multi-sectorial perspective, targeted at exploring the dimension and scope of environmental crime in Europe as well as proposing a set of tools and instruments to assess and monitor environmental crime across the region.

UNICRI International Conference on Environmental Crime – Convening key IGOs, NGOs, major LEAs, academia and scholars (October 2012, Rome – Italy).

Research – Data collection and mapping of illicit trafficking cases of waste, analysis of international legislation and relevant application, and identification of risk factors linked to organized crime.

Outreach activities Conferences, capacity building for law enforcement, awareness workshops, and seminars for general public.

Publications: Environmental Crime Bibliography

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Genetic Engineering and GM Crops – Pocket K | ISAAA.org

Posted: November 10, 2016 at 5:32 pm

Over the last 50 years, the field of genetic engineering has developed rapidly due to the greater understanding of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) as the chemical double helix code from which genes are made. The term genetic engineering is used to describe the process by which the genetic makeup of an organism can be altered using recombinant DNA technology. This involves the use of laboratory tools to insert, alter, or cut out pieces of DNA that contain one or more genes of interest.

Developing plant varieties expressing good agronomic characteristics is the ultimate goal of plant breeders. With conventional plant breeding, however, there is little or no guarantee of obtaining any particular gene combination from the millions of crosses generated. Undesirable genes can be transferred along with desirable genes; or, while one desirable gene is gained, another is lost because the genes of both parents are mixed together and re-assorted more or less randomly in the offspring. These problems limit the improvements that plant breeders can achieve.

In contrast, genetic engineering allows the direct transfer of one or just a few genes of interest, between either closely or distantly related organisms to obtain the desired agronomic trait (Figure 1). Not all genetic engineering techniques involve inserting DNA from other organisms. Plants may also be modified by removing or switching off their own particular genes.

Source: Agricultural Biotechnology (A Lot More than Just GM Crops). http://www.isaaa.org/resources/publications/agricultural_biotechnology/download/.

Genes are molecules of DNA that code for distinct traits or characteristics. For instance, a particular gene sequence is responsible for the color of a flower or a plants ability to fight a disease or thrive in extreme environment.

The sharing of DNA among living forms is well documented as a natural phenomenon. For thousands of years, genes have moved from one organism to another. For example, Agrobacterium tumefaciens, a soil bacterium known as natures own genetic engineer, has the natural ability to genetically engineer plants. It causes crown gall disease in a wide range of broad-leaved plants, such as apple, pear, peach, cherry, almond, raspberry, and roses. The disease gains its name from the large tumor-like swellings (galls) that typically occur at the crown of the plant, just above soil level. Basically, the bacterium transfers part of its DNA to the plant, and this DNA integrates into the plants genome, causing the production of tumors and associated changes in plant metabolism.

Genetic engineering techniques are used only when all other techniques have been exhausted, i.e. when the trait to be introduced is not present in the germplasm of the crop; the trait is very difficult to improve by conventional breeding methods; and when it will take a very long time to introduce and/or improve such trait in the crop by conventional breeding methods (see Figure 2). Crops developed through genetic engineering are commonly known as transgenic crops or genetically modified (GM) crops.

Modern plant breeding is a multi-disciplinary and coordinated process where a large number of tools and elements of conventional breeding techniques, bioinformatics, molecular genetics, molecular biology, and genetic engineering are utilized and integrated.

Figure 2: Modern Plant Breeding

Source: DANIDA, 2002.

Although there are many diverse and complex techniques involved in genetic engineering, its basic principles are reasonably simple. There are five major steps in the development of a genetically engineered crop. But for every step, it is very important to know the biochemical and physiological mechanisms of action, regulation of gene expression, and safety of the gene and the gene product to be utilized. Even before a genetically engineered crop is made available for commercial use, it has to pass through rigorous safety and risk assessment procedures.

The first step is the extraction of DNA from the organism known to have the trait of interest. The second step is gene cloning, which will isolate the gene of interest from the entire extracted DNA, followed by mass-production of the cloned gene in a host cell. Once it is cloned, the gene of interest is designed and packaged so that it can be controlled and properly expressed once inside the host plant. The modified gene will then be mass-produced in a host cell in order to make thousands of copies. When the gene package is ready, it can then be introduced into the cells of the plant being modified through a process called transformation. The most common methods used to introduce the gene package into plant cells include biolistic transformation (using a gene gun) or Agrobacterium-mediated transformation. Once the inserted gene is stable, inherited, and expressed in subsequent generations, then the plant is considered a transgenic. Backcross breeding is the final step in the genetic engineering process, where the transgenic crop is crossed with a variety that possesses important agronomic traits, and selected in order to obtain high quality plants that express the inserted gene in a desired manner.

The length of time in developing transgenic plant depends upon the gene, crop species, available resources, and regulatory approval. It may take 6-15 years before a new transgenic hybrid is ready for commercial release.

Transgenic crops have been planted in different countries for twenty years, starting from 1996 to 2015. About 179.7 million hectares was planted in 2015 to transgenic crops with high market value, such as herbicide tolerant soybean, maize, cotton, and canola; insect resistant maize, cotton, potato, and rice; and virus resistant squash and papaya. With genetic engineering, more than one trait can be incorporated or stacked into a plant. Transgenic crops with combined traits are also available commercially. These include herbicide tolerant and insect resistant maize, soybean and cotton.

To date, commercial GM crops have delivered benefits in crop production, but there are also a number of products in the pipeline which will make more direct contributions to food quality, environmental benefits, pharmaceutical production, and non-food crops. Examples of these products include: rice with higher levels of iron and beta-carotene (an important micronutrient which is converted to vitamin A in the body); long life banana that ripens faster on the tree and can therefore be harvested earlier; tomatoes with high levels of flavonols, which are powerful antioxidants; arsenic-tolerant plants; edible vaccines from fruit and vegetables; and low lignin trees for paper making.

*August 2016

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Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)

Posted: September 22, 2016 at 7:51 pm

Complementary and Alternative Cancer Treatment What is Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)?

Complementary and alternative cancer treatments are often lumped together. But to a cancer specialist, there is a big difference. Complementary therapy is used in addition to mainstream medical treatment. Alternative therapy is used instead of proven treatment. Another term you may hear is integrative medicine. This means combining CAM and standard care to try to treat cancer in a way that involves your body, mind and spirit. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) includes:

Complementary medicine is a group of diagnostic and therapeutic disciplines that are used together with conventional medicine. An example of a complementary therapy is using aromatherapy to help lessen a patient’s discomfort following surgery.

Complementary medicine is usually not taught or used in Western medical schools or hospitals. Complementary medicine includes a large number of practices and systems of health care that, for a variety of cultural, social, economic, or scientific reasons, have not been adopted by mainstream Western medicine.

Complementary medicine is different from alternative medicine. Whereas complementary medicine is used together with conventional medicine, alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine. An example of an alternative therapy is using a special diet to treat cancer instead of undergoing surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy that has been recommended by a physician.

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) can include the following:

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The Differences Between Utilitarianism & Ethical Egoism

Posted: June 7, 2016 at 7:44 pm

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Consequentialism is a moral theory that states that the consequences of one’s actions are the basis for any morality or judgment toward that action. Both utilitarianism and ethical egoism are theories within consequentialism that focus on the outcome of conduct as the primary motivation of that action and any critique of whether or not that conduct is ethical. The major difference between utilitarianism and ethical egoism is where those acts are directed.

Utilitarianism focuses on the idea of the greater good. Essentially, this ethical theory intends to maximize good for the the most people. The moral worth of any action is judged by how much good results for all sentient beings. While some individuals may suffer from these actions, utilitarianism holds that the conduct may still be ethical if it does more good for a greater number of people than it harms.

Ethical egoism, also known simply as egoism, holds that moral conduct ought to be judged through self-interest. Egoism states that the good consequences for the individual agent outweigh the consequences placed upon others. In egoism, actions could be considered ethical for the individual if the one taking the action is benefited, while any benefit or detriment to the welfare of others is a side effect and not as important as the consequences for the individual.

The primary differences between these two theories, keeping in mind that there are numerous sub-theories within each branch of thought, is the value placed between the individual and others. In utilitarianism, the most ethical action may be that which harms the individual agent but maximizes the positive impact for the most people overall, essentially placing the emphasis on the whole as opposed to the individual. In egoism, the individual has a greater value than others, thus it is ethical to act in one’s own self-interest even if it may potentially harm others.

Utilitarianism seeks to maximize good by minimizing harm to all while egoism seeks to maximize good by keeping the individual happy. In utilitarianism, actions must be judged on the amount of people (or beings) that benefit from the action as opposed to how many the same action may potentially harm. Proponents argue that utilitarianism results in a greater sum of benefit to its harm, based upon outcome and not intention. However, critics of utilitarianism argue that following the interest of the greater good may result in tremendous harm to a large number of individuals.

Meanwhile, egoists argue that acting in self-interest can result in position action because the individual knows best how to benefit his own self, and if everyone were to act in the interest of others, then the general welfare of all would decrease as they are never working for their own good. Egoists trust that others will act in their own interests, thus making it unnecessary to take action solely for their benefit.

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Psoriasis Pictures – Psoriasis Symptoms, Treatment, Cures

Posted: October 17, 2015 at 10:41 pm

There is no substitute for visiting a doctor or dermatologist for help in getting a diagnosis and receiving treatment advice for psoriasis. However, because there are a large number of treatments which are considered effective, some of which are quite simple and inexpensive, many individuals can also find success in treating their psoriasis on their own. How? By informing themselves about the variety of available treatments and then treating themselves through a careful trial-and-error approach. Though there is still no simple cure for all psoriasis, many can find relief and partial or even total clearing of their skin by exploring available treatment options.

In this section describing the treatment of psoriasis, we will briefly review only some of the more popular and effective treatments, some of which involve using prescription or over-the-counter drugs and others which are more natural. However, before describing these treatments lets briefly review what causes psoriasis.

Psoriasis is commonly understood to be a disorder of the immune system, and is called an auto-immune disorder. In psoriasis ones own immune system, and in particular, ones T-helper cells, mistakenly attacks ones own skin cells. Most psoriasis treatments focus on addressing this immune response, either by suppressing the immune system, by removing the source or a link of the immune response, or by treating the symptoms on the skin. Ok, now lets get on to a brief review of some of the more common treatments.

Biologics- Biologics are a new class of drugs for treating more severe cases of psoriasis, and include Amevive, Enbrel, Humira, Remicade, and now Stelara, among others. Amevive works by blocking the T-cell immune response, and Enbrel, Humira, and Remicade work by blocking another key factor in the immune response, which is called TNF-alpha. Stelara, the most recent to be approved, works by blocking the activation of some of the interleukin chains in the immune response. The biologics have given hope to many with moderate to severe psoriasis who were not previously helped by other treatments, however biologics also have a higher risk of sometimes serious side effects, such as infections. Other drawbacks are that the biologics usually have to be administered by injection or infusion, do not work for everybody, are very expensive, and the symptoms of psoriasis usually return after treatment ends.

Coal Tar- An old and common form of treatment used to control mild cases of psoriasis, coal toar is used in shampoos and creams. Though coal tar can reduce itching and inflammation for some people, it is only moderately effective, is messy, can irritate the skin and in high concentrations can be toxic and possibly carcinogenic.

Coconut Oil- Coconut oil has been receiving more attention recently as a treatment for psoriasis sufferers, both as a dietary supplement and as a skin ointment. Coconut oil contains high levels of lauric acid, which is known to help destroy candida in the intestinal tract, thereby healing one of the possible underlying causes of psoriasis. Coconut oil has also been shown to reduce inflammation, both when taken as a nutritional supplement or when applied to the skin.

Cyclosporin- Cyclosporin is an immunosuppressant and is effective at reducing psoriatic symptoms because it reduces and suppresses the immune system For the same reason, however, cyclosporin comes with a higher risk of side-effects and is usually only prescribed for more severe cases of psoriasis.

Diet Modification- Modifying ones diet can often be the most effective form of controlling psoriasis. Why? There is increasing evidence that byproducts from food may be the triggers for the immune response which causes psoriasis. Some researchers have proposed that leaky gut syndrome (also called intestinal hyperpermeability) may be responsible for the leaking of food-based agents from the intestinal tract into the bloodstream. Thus, diet modification may help by not only removing the food triggers from ones system, but also by helping to heal ones intestinal tract, perhaps by combatting an overgrowth of candida, which is one possible cause of leaky gut syndrome. Those that are serious about controlling their psoriasis and that want to do so with minimal cost and risk of side-effects from medications should explore the research available on controlling psoriasis through modifying ones diet. Some common food triggers include dairy products, highly acidic foods, fermented foods, alcohol, sugars, nuts, wheat, gluten, nightshades, and many others; however, it is important to recognize that different people may have different food triggers- one needs to experiment for oneself. Also, in addition to removing certain items, many have benefitted from adding other items to their diet, such as cocounut oil, fish oil and other omega 3s, folic acid, zinc, antioxidants, Vitamin D and probiotics.

Dithralin (Anthralin) Dithralin is a synthetic form of an extract from the bark of the South American araroba tree. It is often quite effective, and works by blocking cell proliferation. It often takes a while to start working and can stain and irritate the skin. Dovonex and other Vitamin D analogues- Dovonex, the brand name for calcipotriene, is the most well known and widely used form of the Vitamin D analogues which are used to treat psoriasis. Others are Vectical and tacalcitol. Dovonex is a synthetic form of Vitamin D3, and works by inhibiting skin cell growth and proliferation. Many people report good results with Dovonex, and the known side effects are minimal, however, it can take a number of weeks before seeing results and some people report minimal clearing. Recently, the Vitamin D analogues have also sometimes been formulated to include hydrocortisone.

Methotrexate- Like cyclosporin, methotrexate is a systemic medication with more potentially serious side effects, but which can also offer relief for more serious cases of psoriasis as well as severe cases of psoriatic arthritis. Methotrexate works by inhibiting cell growth, and was originally approved for use as a chemotherapeutic treatment for cancer. The most serious potential side-effect of taking methotrexate is liver damage, and its use must be monitored by medical professionals.

Moisturizers- There are many forms of moisturizers used to treat psoriasis, which are helpful because they not only can soothe the skin and reduce itching, but because they can also help remove the top layer of scales, allowing other agents to more easily reach and treat the underlying skin cells. Oatmeal baths, salicyclic acid, epsom salt baths, saltwater bathing, and a variety of oils are just a few of many moisturizing treatments. Some moisturizers, such as coconut oil and ocean or salt water, may also work by reducing inflammation as well as merely lifting scales and soothing skin.

Omega 3s (Fish Oil)- Dietary supplements such as fish oil containing Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce inflammation and some studies and people report good results.

Phototherapy, Sunlight- There are a number of different forms of phototherapy used to control psoriasis, which work by reducing skin cell growth. Though often effective, with phototherapy symptoms get worse before they get better, and the potential for overexposure brings with it a carcinogenic risk, hence the importance of medical oversight when choosing phototherapy.

Retinoids Topical retinoids such as Tazorac come in creams and gels, and are a synthetic form of Vitamin A. Tazorac is the brand name for Tazoratene, and is also used to treat acne. Skin irritation is one side-effect, and it often takes 2-12 weeks to see results.

Topical Corticosteroids- The most common form of treatment. Topical steroids such as hydrocortisone are used in a variety of forms and applied to the skin. They work by reducing the inflammatory reaction. Topical steroids will usually provide temporary relief and reduce inflammation, scaling and itching, however, they do not address the underlying source of the symptoms, and because of side effects are usually only recommended for temporary use.

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Libertarianism in the United States – Wikipedia, the free …

Posted: August 3, 2015 at 1:40 pm

Libertarianism in the United States is a movement promoting individual liberty and minimized government.[1][2] The Libertarian Party, asserts the following to be core beliefs of libertarianism:

Libertarians support maximum liberty in both personal and economic matters. They advocate a much smaller government; one that is limited to protecting individuals from coercion and violence. Libertarians tend to embrace individual responsibility, oppose government bureaucracy and taxes, promote private charity, tolerate diverse lifestyles, support the free market, and defend civil liberties.[3][4]

Through 20 polls on this topic spanning 13 years, Gallup found that voters who are libertarian on the political spectrum ranged from 17%- 23% of the US electorate.[5] This includes members of the Republican Party (especially Libertarian Republicans), Democratic Party, Libertarian Party, and Independents.

In the 1950s many with classical liberal beliefs in the United States began to describe themselves as “libertarian.”[6] Academics as well as proponents of the free market perspectives note that free-market libertarianism has spread beyond the U.S. since the 1970s via think tanks and political parties[7][8] and that libertarianism is increasingly viewed worldwide as a free market position.[9][10] However, libertarian socialist intellectuals Noam Chomsky, Colin Ward, and others argue that the term “libertarianism” is considered a synonym for social anarchism by the international community and that the United States is unique in widely associating it with free market ideology.[11][12][13]

Arizona United States Senator Barry Goldwater’s libertarian-oriented challenge to authority had a major impact on the libertarian movement,[14] through his book The Conscience of a Conservative and his run for president in 1964.[15] Goldwater’s speech writer, Karl Hess, became a leading libertarian writer and activist.[16]

The Vietnam War split the uneasy alliance between growing numbers of self-identified libertarians, anarchist libertarians, and more traditional conservatives who believed in limiting liberty to uphold moral virtues. Libertarians opposed to the war joined the draft resistance and peace movements and organizations such as Students for a Democratic Society. They began founding their own publications, like Murray Rothbard’s The Libertarian Forum[17][18] and organizations like the Radical Libertarian Alliance.[19]

The split was aggravated at the 1969 Young Americans for Freedom convention, when more than 300 libertarians organized to take control of the organization from conservatives. The burning of a draft card in protest to a conservative proposal against draft resistance sparked physical confrontations among convention attendees, a walkout by a large number of libertarians, the creation of libertarian organizations like the Society for Individual Liberty, and efforts to recruit potential libertarians from conservative organizations.[20] The split was finalized in 1971 when conservative leader William F. Buckley, Jr., in a 1971 New York Times article, attempted to divorce libertarianism from the freedom movement. He wrote: “The ideological licentiousness that rages through America today makes anarchy attractive to the simple-minded. Even to the ingeniously simple-minded.”[21]

In 1971, David Nolan and a few friends formed the Libertarian Party.[22] Attracting former Democrats, Republicans and independents, it has run a presidential candidate every election year since 1972. Over the years, dozens of libertarian political parties have been formed worldwide. Educational organizations like the Center for Libertarian Studies and the Cato Institute were formed in the 1970s, and others have been created since then.[23]

Philosophical libertarianism gained a significant measure of recognition in academia with the publication of Harvard University professor Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia in 1974. The book won a National Book Award in 1975.[24] According to libertarian essayist Roy Childs, “Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia single-handedly established the legitimacy of libertarianism as a political theory in the world of academia.”[25]

Texas congressman Ron Paul’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns for the Republican Party presidential nomination were largely libertarian. Paul is affiliated with the libertarian-leaning Republican Liberty Caucus and founded the Campaign for Liberty, a libertarian-leaning membership and lobbying organization.

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Questions and Answers About Psoriasis

Posted: July 17, 2015 at 10:42 pm

October 2013

This publication contains general information about psoriasis. It describes what psoriasis is, what causes it, and what the treatment options are. If you have further questions after reading this publication, you may wish to discuss them with your doctor.

Psoriasis is a chronic (long-lasting) skin disease of scaling and inflammation that affects greater than 3 percent of the U.S. population, or more than 5 million adults. Although the disease occurs in all age groups, it primarily affects adults. It appears about equally in males and females.

Psoriasis occurs when skin cells quickly rise from their origin below the surface of the skin and pile up on the surface before they have a chance to mature. Usually this movement (also called turnover) takes about a month, but in psoriasis it may occur in only a few days.

In its typical form, psoriasis results in patches of thick, red (inflamed) skin covered with silvery scales. These patches, which are sometimes referred to as plaques, usually itch or feel sore. They most often occur on the elbows, knees, other parts of the legs, scalp, lower back, face, palms, and soles of the feet, but they can occur on skin anywhere on the body. The disease may also affect the fingernails, the toenails, and the soft tissues of the genitals, and inside the mouth. Although it is not unusual for the skin around affected joints to crack, some people with psoriasis experience joint inflammation that produces symptoms of arthritis. This condition is called psoriatic arthritis.

Individuals with psoriasis may experience significant physical discomfort and some disability. Itching and pain can interfere with basic functions, such as self-care, walking, and sleep. Plaques on hands and feet can prevent individuals from working at certain occupations, playing some sports, and caring for family members or a home. The frequency of medical care is costly and can interfere with an employment or school schedule. People with moderate to severe psoriasis may feel self-conscious about their appearance and have a poor self-image that stems from fear of public rejection and concerns about intimate relationships. Psychological distress can lead to significant depression and social isolation.

Psoriasis is a skin disorder driven by the immune system, especially involving a type of white blood cell called a T cell. Normally, T cells help protect the body against infection and disease. In the case of psoriasis, T cells are put into action by mistake and become so active that they trigger other immune responses, which lead to inflammation and to rapid turnover of skin cells.

In many cases, there is a family history of psoriasis. Researchers have studied a large number of families affected by psoriasis and identified genes linked to the disease. Genes govern every bodily function and determine the inherited traits passed from parent to child.

People with psoriasis may notice that there are times when their skin worsens, called flares, then improves. Conditions that may cause flares include infections, stress, and changes in climate that dry the skin. Also, certain medicines, including beta-blockers, which are prescribed for high blood pressure, and lithium may trigger an outbreak or worsen the disease. Sometimes people who have psoriasis notice that lesions will appear where the skin has experienced trauma. The trauma could be from a cut, scratch, sunburn, or infection.

Occasionally, doctors may find it difficult to diagnose psoriasis, because it often looks like other skin diseases. It may be necessary to confirm a diagnosis by examining a small skin sample under a microscope.

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Genome Study Predicts DNA of the Whole of Iceland

Posted: March 26, 2015 at 10:47 am

Large genome databases are starting to reveal critical health informationeven about people who have not contributed their DNA.

Maps show how common certain risk-causing DNA mutations are around Iceland.

The CEO of an Icelandic gene-hunting company says he is able to identify everyone from that country who has a deadly cancer risk, but has been unable to warn people of the danger because of ethics rules governing DNA research.

The company, DeCode Genetics, based in Reykjavk, says it has collected full DNA sequences on 10,000 individuals. And because people on the island are closely related, DeCode says it can now also extrapolate to accurately guess the DNA makeup of nearly all other 320,000 citizens of that country, including those who never participated in its studies.

Thats raising complex medical and ethical issues about whether DeCode, which is owned by the U.S. biotechnology company Amgen, will be able to inform members of the public if they are at risk for fatal diseases.

Kri Stefnsson, the doctor who is founder and CEO of DeCode, says he is worried about mutations in a gene called BRCA2 that convey a sharply increased risk of breast and ovarian cancers. DeCodes data can now identify about 2,000 people with the gene mutation across Icelands population, and Stefnsson saidthat the company has been in negotiations with health authorities about whether to alert them.

We could save these people from dying prematurely, but we are not, because we as a society havent agreed on that, says Stefnsson. I personally think that not saving people with these mutations is a crime. This is an enormous risk to a large number of people.

The Icelandic Ministry of Welfare said a special committee had been formed to regulate such incidental findings and would propose regulations by the end of the year.

Kri Stefnsson

The technique used by DeCode to predict peoples genes offers clues to the future of so-called precision medicine in other countries, including the U.S., where this year President Barack Obama called for researchers to assemble a giant database of one million people (see U.S to Develop DNA Study of One Million People). A large enough U.S. database could also be used to infer genes of people whether or not they had joined it, says Stefnsson, and could raise similar questions about whether and how to report health hazards to the public.

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Mount Sinai Researchers Discover Genetic Origins of Myelodysplastic Syndrome Using Stem Cells

Posted: March 25, 2015 at 2:45 pm

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Newswise (New York March 25, 2015) Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs)adult cells reprogrammed back to an embryonic stem cell-like statemay better model the genetic contributions to each patient’s particular disease. In a process called cellular reprogramming, researchers at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have taken mature blood cells from patients with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and reprogrammed them back into iPSCs to study the genetic origins of this rare blood cancer. The results appear in an upcoming issue of Nature Biotechnology.

In MDS, genetic mutations in the bone marrow stem cell cause the number and quality of blood-forming cells to decline irreversibly, further impairing blood production. Patients with MDS can develop severe anemia and in some cases leukemia also known as AML. But which genetic mutations are the critical ones causing this disease?

In this study, researchers took cells from patients with blood cancer MDS and turned them into stem cells to study the deletions of human chromosome 7 often associated with this disease.

With this approach, we were able to pinpoint a region on chromosome 7 that is critical and were able to identify candidate genes residing there that may cause this disease, said lead researcher Eirini Papapetrou, MD, PhD, Department of Oncological Sciences, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Chromosomal deletions are difficult to study with existing tools because they contain a large number of genes, making it hard to pinpoint the critical ones causing cancer. Chromosome 7 deletion is a characteristic cellular abnormality in MDS and is well-recognized for decades as a marker of unfavorable prognosis. However, the role of this deletion in the development of the disease remained unclear going into this study.

Understanding the role of specific chromosomal deletions in cancers requires determining if a deletion has observable consequences as well as identifying which specific genetic elements are critically lost. Researchers used cellular reprogramming and genome engineering to dissect the loss of chromosome 7. The methods used in this study for engineering deletions can enable studies of the consequences of alterations in genes in human cells.

Genetic engineering of human stem cells has not been used for disease-associated genomic deletions, said Dr. Papapetrou. This work sheds new light on how blood cancer develops and also provides a new approach that can be used to study chromosomal deletions associated with a variety of human cancers, neurological and developmental diseases.

Reprogramming MDS cells could provide a powerful tool to dissect the architecture and evolution of this disease and to link the genetic make-up of MDS cells to characteristics and traits of these cells. Further dissecting the MDS stem cells at the molecular level could provide insights into the origins and development of MDS and other blood cancers. Moreover, this work could provide a platform to test and discover new treatments for these diseases.

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Mount Sinai Researchers Discover Genetic Origins of Myelodysplastic Syndrome Using Stem Cells

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Human Augmentation Market by Product, Application, & Geography – Global Forecast to 2020

Posted: March 12, 2015 at 7:44 pm

NEW YORK, March 11, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — The lucrative growth rate of the augmentation market in the future is the major driving factor for the human augmentation market. Human augmentation has not only made human beings’ life easier but has also resulted in its longevity. In the product category of human augmentation, the “wearable augmentation” is expected to have a higher market size as compared to the “in-built augmentation”. The major reason behind its large market size is the growing demand for sophisticated gadgets. The eye-wear holds the highest market share in the North American human augmentation market, due to the presence of a large number of market players, which are launching new products in this region. The North American market is estimated to grow at the highest growth rate between 2014 and 2020.

The global human augmentation market is expected to reach up to $1135 million by 2020, at a CAGR of 43.5% between 2014 and 2020.

The global human augmentation market has been segmented into three categories that include: products segment, application, and geography. The product segment includes the in-built augmentation and wearable augmentation types. The application segment includes the medical, defense, industrial, and others segments. The human augmentation market has also been segmented on the basis of geography. The market by geography has been classified into various economic regions such as North America, Europe, APAC, and ROW.

The major players that offer various products in the human augmentation market are B-Temia Inc. (U.S.), BrainGate Company (U.S.), Ekso Bionics Holdings, Inc. (U.S.), Google Inc. (U.S.), Raytheon Company (U.S.), Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd (South Korea), and Vuzix Corporation (U.S.).

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Human Augmentation Market by Product, Application, & Geography – Global Forecast to 2020

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