Domenica, 17 Novembre 2013

ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano, Russian commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg returned to Earth today, landing in the Kazakhstan steppe.

Their return flight, landing at 02:49 GMT (03:49 CET), was in the same Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft that flew them to the International Space Station on 29 May.

Luca and Karen will now travel to Houston, Texas, where they will undergo medical checks before meeting media on 13 November at 13:30 GMT (14:30 CET).

Luca spent five months on the International Space Station for his Volare mission under a bilateral agreement with the Italian space agency and NASA. He conducted more than 30 scientific experiments, performed two extravehicular activities (EVAs) and operational tasks as well as maintaining the orbital outpost.

Luca’s science roster included installing and running experiments on emulsions that will help industry to create foods and pharmaceuticals with longer shelf‑lives.

The Italian astronaut used ESA’s space furnace to heat metal to 1400°C for studying microstructures during alloy casting. This research can only be conducted in microgravity and is paving the way for ultra-light and stable space‑age metals.

Another experiment had Luca collect data of his own skin to help develop a model of how our tissues age. Luca also recorded his sleep to help understand how the human body regulates sleep patterns.

These experiments and more are benefitting people on Earth and preparing humans for further exploration of our Solar System. Previous experiments have drastically improved the industrial process for creating complex titanium alloys, resulting in cheaper and faster manufacturing of high-quality materials.

In addition to his scientific workload, Luca carried out operational tasks such as monitoring the docking of ESA’s fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle,Albert Einstein. Luca oversaw the unloading of more than 1400 items from the cargo spaceship.

Karen and Luca worked as a team to grapple and berth the second commercial spacecraft to visit the International Space Station, Cygnus.

His eventful mission included two spacewalks to install external experiments and prepare the Station for a new Russian module that will be launched next year.

Luca’s second spacewalk was cut short after a malfunction in the spacesuit caused water to accumulate inside his helmet, forcing him and NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy to return to the airlock as quickly as possible. Luca, a test pilot from the Italian air force, remained calm and returned to the airlock safely despite intermittent communications and without being able to see out of his helmet.

This was the first mission for Luca and the first for ESA’s new astronauts from the class of 2009. The next to fly to the Station will be Alexander Gerst, set for launch on 28 May 2014 from Kazakhstan.

The European Space Agency (ESA) is Europe’s gateway to space. It is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.

ESA has 20 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, of whom 18 are Member States of the EU.

ESA has Cooperation Agreements with eight other Member States of the EU. Canada takes part in some ESA programmes under a Cooperation Agreement.

ESA is also working with the EU on implementing the Galileo and Copernicus programmes.

By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, ESA can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country.

ESA develops the launchers, spacecraft and ground facilities needed to keep Europe at the forefront of global space activities.

Today, it launches satellites for Earth observation, navigation, telecommunications and astronomy, sends probes to the far reaches of the Solar System and cooperates in the human exploration of space.

Pubblicato in Scienceonline

Partners agree approach for developing vaccines capable of reducing malaria cases by 75% and to enable malaria elimination.

Dr Jean-Marie Okwo Bele, Director of WHO’s Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals

The world should aim to have vaccines which reduce malaria cases by 75%, and are capable of eliminating malaria, licensed by 2030, according to the updated 2013 "Malaria Vaccine Technology Roadmap", launched today. This new target comes in addition to the original 2006 Roadmap’s goal of having a licensed vaccine against Plasmodium falciparum malaria, the most deadly form of the disease, for children under 5 years of age in sub-Saharan Africa by 2015.

“Safe, effective, affordable vaccines could play a critical role in defeating malaria,” said Dr Robert D. Newman, Director of WHO’s Global Malaria Programme. ”Despite all the recent progress countries have made, and despite important innovations in diagnostics, drugs and vector control, the global burden of malaria remains unacceptably high.”
Current situation

The most recent figures by the WHO indicate that malaria causes an estimated 660 000 deaths each year from 219 million cases of illness. Scale-up of WHO recommended malaria control measures has been associated with a 26% reduction in the global malaria death rate over the last decade. Effective malaria vaccines could be an important complement to existing measures, if they can be successfully developed.

Final results from Phase III trials of the most advanced vaccine candidate, RTS,S/AS01, will be available by 2015. Depending on the final trial results, and depending on the outcome of the regulatory review by the European Medicines Agency, a WHO recommendation for use and subsequent prequalification of this first vaccine could occur in late 2015.
The Malaria Vaccine Technology Roadmap

The new roadmap, launched today at the annual conference of the American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene in Washington DC and also announced in a letter published in "The Lancet", aims to identify where additional funding and activities will be particularly key in developing second generation malaria vaccines both for protection against malaria disease and for malaria elimination. These include next-generation vaccines that target both Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax species of malaria.

“The new vaccines should show at least 75% efficacy against clinical malaria, be suitable for use in in all malaria-endemic areas, and be licensed by 2030,” says Dr Jean-Marie Okwo Bele, Director of WHO’s Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals. “The roadmap also sets a target for malaria vaccines that reduce transmission of the parasite.”

The 2013 "Malaria Vaccine Technology Roadmap" cites several reasons for the update, among them changing malaria epidemiology associated with the successful scale-up of malaria control measures in the last decade; a renewed focus on malaria elimination and eradication in addition to the ongoing need to sustain malaria control activities; and new technological innovations since 2006 including promising early work on so-called transmission-blocking malaria vaccines.

WHO lists 27 malaria vaccine candidates currently in clinical trials, with most in early stages of testing; RTS,S/AS01 is the only one currently in late-stage development.

The Roadmap’s vision centres on developing safe and effective vaccines against Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax that prevent disease and death and prevent transmission to enable malaria eradication, and is built around two strategic goals:

Development of malaria vaccines with protective efficacy of at least 75% against clinical malaria suitable for administration to appropriate at-risk groups in malaria-endemic areas.
Development of malaria vaccines that reduce transmission of the parasite and thereby substantially reduce the incidence of human malaria infection. This will enable elimination in multiple settings. Vaccines to reduce transmission should be suitable for administration in mass campaigns.

The "Malaria Vaccine Technology Roadmap" is the result of a consultative process led by WHO, which brought together the global community of malaria vaccine researchers and product developers, and is supported by an informally-organized group of malaria vaccine funders. The Malaria Vaccine Funders Group comprises the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership, the European Vaccine Initiative, the European Commission, the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, the US Agency for International Development, the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the Wellcome Trust, and WHO.

Pubblicato in Scienceonline
Domenica, 17 Novembre 2013 20:40

The Accidental Species

Misunderstandings of Human Evolution

224 pages | 8 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2013

The idea of a missing link between humanity and our animal ancestors predates evolution and popular science and actually has religious roots in the deist concept of the Great Chain of Being. Yet, the metaphor has lodged itself in the contemporary imagination, and new fossil discoveries are often hailed in headlines as revealing the elusive transitional step, the moment when we stopped being “animal” and started being “human.” In The Accidental Species, Henry Gee, longtime paleontology editor at Nature, takes aim at this misleading notion, arguing that it reflects a profound misunderstanding of how evolution works and, when applied to the evolution of our own species, supports mistaken ideas about our own place in the universe.

Gee presents a robust and stark challenge to our tendency to see ourselves as the acme of creation. Far from being a quirk of religious fundamentalism, human exceptionalism, Gee argues, is an error that also infects scientific thought. Touring the many features of human beings that have recurrently been used to distinguish us from the rest of the animal world, Gee shows that our evolutionary outcome is one possibility among many, one that owes more to chance than to an organized progression to supremacy. He starts with bipedality, which he shows could have arisen entirely by accident, as a by-product of sexual selection, moves on to technology, large brain size, intelligence, language, and, finally, sentience. He reveals each of these attributes to be alive and well throughout the animal world—they are not, indeed, unique to our species.

The Accidental Species combines Gee’s firsthand experience on the editorial side of many incredible paleontological findings with healthy skepticism and humor to create a book that aims to overturn popular thinking on human evolution—the key is not what’s missing, but how we’re linked.

Pubblicato in Scienceonline


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