The image above is of the normal mammalian organ of Corti, which is the epithelium which contains the sensory cells of the ear. Those cells are hair cells, which are stained green here with (I’m guessing) fluorescent phalloidin, which tags actin in the hair cells. The inner hair cells are in the lower left, and the three rows of outer hair cells are to the upper right. Nuclei of the inner hair cells are blue, which I’m guessing is DAPI. The spindly red things are the neurons, which are synapsing on the inner hair cells’ surface. The spiky things shooting out of the top of the inner hair cells are the stereocilia (which are made of actin, so green) which project into the fluid filled space above the organ of Corti. When sound waves are picked up by the ear canal and focused into the cochlea, the basilar membrane vibrates, causing the stereocilia to bend, which depolarizes the hair cells.
Study sheds light on asthma and respiratory viruses
People with asthma often have a hard time dealing with respiratory viruses such as the flu or the common cold, and researchers have struggled to explain why.
In a new study that compared people with and without asthma, the answer is becoming clearer. The researchers found no difference in the key immune response to viruses in the lungs and breathing passages. The work, at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, suggests that a fundamental antiviral defense mechanism is intact in asthma. This means that another aspect of the immune system must explain the difficulty people with asthma have when they encounter respiratory viruses.
Funding: This study was supported by grants from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (grant numbers AADCRC U19-AI070489 and U19-AI000000, U10-HL109257, and CTSA UL1 TR000448), and Roche Postdoctoral Fellowship awards.
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Bacteria living on human bodies contain genes that are likely to code for a vast number of drug-like molecules — including a new antibiotic made by bacteria that live in the vagina, researchers report in this week’s issue of Cell1.
The drug, lactocillin, hints at the untapped medical potential of this microbial landscape.
“They have shown that there is a huge diverse potential of the microbiome for producing antimicrobial molecules,” says Marc Ouellette, a microbiologist at the University of Laval’s Hospital Centre (CHUL) in Quebec, Canada, who was not involved in the research.
Donia, M. S.et al. Cell158, 1402–1414 (2014)
The antibiotic lactocillin was isolated from a Lactobacillus bacterium (shown here). BSIP SA / Alamy
The third American aid worker to catch Ebola in West Africa has been given two experimental treatments, doctors said Thursday. One of those therapies came from the blood of another American who recently recovered from Ebola.
Last Friday, Dr. Rick Sacra, 51, was flown to Omaha, Neb., in a special medevac plane after he caught Ebola in Liberia. The family doctor had been working at a maternity ward in the country’s capital, Monrovia, when he got sick.
Of the three countries most affected by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, Liberia has been hit the hardest. The country has reported more than 2,000 cases and about 1,200 deaths, the World Health Organization said Monday.
When Sacra arrived at the Nebraska Medical Center, doctors said he was in stable condition. The next day, doctors gave Sacra blood plasma from Dr. Kent Brantly — another American aid worker who caught Ebola in Liberia.
Brantly was treated for Ebola at a hospital in Atlanta back in August. Doctors gave him and his co-worker, Nancy Writebol, the experimental drug ZMapp. Both of them recovered from Ebola. But it still isn’t known whether ZMapp helped them. So far, the drug has been tested only in monkeys.
The idea is that Brantly’s blood contains Ebola antibodies, which could help Sacra’s immune system fight off the virus.
The essay was written by Dr. Josh Mugele, assistant professor of clinical emergency medicine at Indiana University’s School of Medicine, and Chad Priest, an assistant dean at the Indiana University School of Nursing. They pay tribute to a Liberian colleague, Dr. Samuel Brisbane, director of the emergency department at Monrovia’s John F. Kennedy Memorial Medical Center.
They’d worked closely with Sam Brisbane on a disaster-medicine program. He was a memorable character, they write: “at once caring and profane … his laugh was best described as a giggle, and he swore frequently.”
And he was terrified by Ebola. “Dr. Brisbane was a wreck,” they recall. When they asked how they could protect themselves, he told the authors: “Leave Monrovia.”
his summer, Dr. Brisbane treated a patient with “suspected Ebola.” A few days later, the 74-year-old doctor came down with symptoms of the virus. He died on July 26.
"With apologies to his wife and family, who saw him dire horribly and unjustly," Mugele and Priest conclude, "we believe our friend died a good death – as did all the nurses and doctors who have sacrificed themselves caring for patients with this awful disease."
We spoke with Mugele and Priest about the idea of a “good death.”
You believe Dr. Brisbane died a good death because of his self-sacrifice?
Mugele: Dr. Brisbane was an older gentleman, he had a coffee plantation, he had a wife and children. He didn’t have to treat these patients. He didn’t have to be a doctor at that stage of his life. And he kept doing it even though he knew [Ebola] was very contagious and he had a high likelihood of getting it. Dying was a selfless act on his part.