February 5, 2015
Professor’s Crowdfunding To Research Age Reversal Of Pets
By DAVID TEMPLETON
Pittsburgh (AP) As a research scientist, Jonathan W. Jarvik recently decided to do something different.
For funding, he decided to seek small donations from many rather than one large grant from the likes of the National Institutes of Health.
And while his focus is a newly discovered protein that shows promise in reversing the aging process, he set his sights on improving the health and lifespan of Mopsy and Tigger rather than John and Martha.
SpectraGenetics Inc., Jarvik’s company on the South Side, is using crowdsource fund raising, so-called ``crowdfunding’’ to raise money to reverse aging in pets using a site at Indiegogo.com. The campaign faces a Sunday funding deadline with $2,400 collected to date. The goal is $95,000.
``I am disappointed that we have not raised more,’’ he said. ``But I am hopeful that contributions will accelerate as more people become aware of our campaign and recognize the remarkable opportunity it represents.’’
Jarvik, a Ph.D. in genetics and a Carnegie Mellon University professor, is interested in GDF11, a protein generated by a gene of the same name that’s generating excitement worldwide, including at the National Institute of Aging.
A Harvard University study last year found that transfused blood from young mice with high levels of the protein ``triggered new muscle and more neural connections’’ in old mice, with follow-up studies revealing ``that their memory formation improved,’’ stated the journal Science, which cited GDF11 as one of the year’s best medical discoveries.
A video explaining Jarvik’s project at Indiegogo says GDF11 ``makes the muscles, minds and hearts of aging mice stronger and more youthful.’’ As with mice, GDF11 protein levels drop off as humans age. Jarvik’s research at CMU involves cell receptors, protein molecules on cell membranes where such biological agents as hormones, antibodies, molecules and neurotransmitters attach themselves and alter cell function. SpectraGenetics provides biological tools for pharmaceutical companies to develop treatments that target receptors.
The pet research will use CMU technology to test thousands of off-patent drugs and other safe compounds to find GDF11 boosters, the Indiegogo video states. If one is identified, Jarvik said, they will release the findings to the public for use with pets ``with no strings attached.’’ Such a GDF11 booster for humans would take years to develop, test for safety and effectiveness, and get approvals for market. Proving effectiveness in animals involves lower costs and fewer regulations.
``This is a fascinating project dealing with aging,’’ said Jarvik, the brother of Robert Jarvik, a developer of the Jarvik-7 artificial heart. ``This is a special opportunity, and it would be nice if we could turn this into something real.’’
Using crowdfunding in science is a relatively new concept. But Indiegogo cofounder Danae Ringelmann said scientists and researchers already have embraced it ``as a powerful way to fund and publicize groundbreaking medical research, innovative medical devices and scientific research.’’ She notes the $98,685 raised to cure black-bone disease, $317,540 to fund human clinical trials for a stem-cell treatment for multiple sclerosis, and $355,583 donated to measure a person’s microbiome as a health indicator. In the latter case, each donor was offered a free microbiome assessment.
Christian Manders, chief operating office of the Pittsburgh biomedical company Promethean LifeSciences Inc., is not involved with Jarvik’s project but has been watching with interest. He said SpectraGenetics officials learned about crowdfunding during a bus trip to a state biotechnical conference in October with scientists and students.
``I think what they are doing definitely is unique in my eyes because this is a sophisticated scientific company attacking a specific problem with cutting-edge research,’’ Manders said. ``This has possibility for tremendous impact on public health and aging wellness. They can come up with a compound to help with aging animals and piggyback that compound to do the same for humans.’’
Major Stores Asked To Stop Sales Of ‘Fake’ Supplements
Albany, NY (AP) Bottles of Walmart-brand echinacea, an herb said to ward off colds, were found to contain no echinacea at all. GNC-brand bottles of St. John's wort, touted as a cure for depression, held rice, garlic and a tropical houseplant, but not a trace of the herb.
In fact, DNA testing on hundreds of bottles of store-brand herbal supplements sold as treatments for everything from memory loss to prostate trouble found that four out of five contained none of the herbs on the label. Instead, they were packed with cheap fillers such as wheat, rice, beans or houseplants.
Based on the testing commissioned by his office, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Tuesday he has sent letters to the four major store chains involved - GNC, Target, Walmart and Walgreens - demanding that they immediately stop selling adulterated or mislabeled dietary supplements.
Schneiderman said the supplements pose serious risks. People who have allergies or are taking certain medications can suffer dangerous reactions from herbal concoctions that contain substances not listed on the label, he said.
"This investigation makes one thing abundantly clear: The old adage `buyer beware' may be especially true for consumers of herbal supplements," the attorney general said.
The herbal supplement industry criticized the method used to analyze the samples and raised questions about the reliability of the findings.
Walmart's vice president of Health & Wellness, Carmen Bauza, said testing by Walmart suppliers hasn't revealed any issues with the relevant products, but the company will comply with the attorney general's request to stop selling them in New York.
"We take this matter very seriously and will be conducting side-by-side analysis because we are 100 percent committed to providing our customers safe products," Bauza said.
Walgreen pledged to cooperate with the attorney general, who asked the store chains for detailed information on production and quality control.
"We take these issues very seriously and as a precautionary measure, we are in the process of removing these products from our shelves as we review this matter further," Walgreen spokesman James Graham said.
GNC said it, too, will cooperate, but spokeswoman Laura Brophy said: "We stand by the quality, purity and potency of all ingredients listed on the labels of our private-label products."
Target said it can't comment without reviewing the full report.
Nutritionist David Schardt of the Center for Science in the Public Interest said the tests show that the supplement industry is in urgent need of reform, and until that happens, consumers should stop wasting their money.
A 2013 Canadian government study estimated there are 65,000 dietary supplements on the market, consumed by more than 150 million Americans. The nonprofit American Botanical Council estimated 2013 sales of herbal supplements in the U.S. at $6 billion.
The Food and Drug Administration requires companies to verify their products are safe and properly labeled. But supplements are exempt from the FDA's strict approval process for prescription drugs.
Schneiderman said tests found no echinacea or any other plant material in bottles of Walmart's Spring Valley Echinacea. He said no ginseng was found in 20 tests of GNC's Herbal Plus Ginseng, which is taken to boost energy.
Other supplements tested included garlic, which is said to boost immunity and prevent heart disease; ginkgo biloba, often touted as a memory-booster; and saw palmetto, promoted as a prostate treatment.
DNA tests found such substances as rice, beans, pine, citrus, asparagus, primrose, wheat, houseplant, wild carrot and unidentified non-plant material - none of which were mentioned on the label.
The store chain with the poorest showing was Walmart, where only 4 percent of the products tested showed DNA from the plants listed on the labels.
The investigation looked at six herbal supplements sold at stores across the state. Testing was performed by an expert in DNA technology, James Schulte II of Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York.
The DNA tests were done on three to four samples of each supplement purchased. Each sample was tested five times. Overall, 390 tests involving 78 samples were conducted.
Steve Mister, president and CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a dietary supplement trade group, criticized the testing procedure and accused Schneiderman of engaging in a "self-serving publicity stunt under the guise of protecting public health."
"Processing during manufacturing of botanical supplements can remove or damage DNA," Mister said. As a result, he said, DNA analysis "may be the wrong test for these kinds of products."
Michael McGuffin, president of the American Herbal Products Association, said identification of an herb through DNA testing must be confirmed through other means, such as chromatography or microscopy.
But Arthur Grollman, a physician and pharmacology professor at Stony Brook University, called the study "a well-controlled, scientifically based documentation of the outrageous degree of adulteration in the herbal supplement industry."
This Week In The Civil War: January 25th & February 1st
This Week in the Civil War - This series marking the 150th anniversary of the Civil War draws primarily from wartime dispatches credited to The Associated Press or other accounts distributed through the AP and other historical sources.
Editors Note Primary sources for the series are historic newspaper databases and other archival records.
By The Associated Press
This Week in The Civil War for Sunday, Jan. 25: Sherman’s forces poised to enter the Carolinas.
News reports this week 150 years ago in the Civil War focused on reports that Gen. William T. Sherman’s Union forces, after reaching Savannah, Georgia before Christmas 1864, were now poised to enter South Carolina. The Springfield Republican of Springfield, Mass., noted the speculation on Jan. 30, 1864, that a move was planned while other reports said Sherman’s forces were still resting just outside the state. The Cleveland Leader, of Cleveland, Ohio, reported, meanwhile, of a ``Great Panic in South Carolina.’’ The Newark (N.J.) Daily Advertiser cited reports of residents of South Carolina fleeing in anticipation of Sherman’s advance ``accompanied by families, flocks, herds, cattle, servants.’’ Other reports, this week in 1865, spoke of the retirement of the Confederate secretary of state, saying the Confederate government appeared to be disintegrating amid a settling gloom over war developments.
This Week in the Civil War for Sunday, Feb. 1: Robert E. Lee made commander-in-chief of all Confederate forces, 13th Amendment proposal to abolish slavery passes U.S. House.
Confederate Robert E. Lee was made commander-in-chief of all Confederate forces on Jan. 31, 1865, receiving the promotion even as the Southern war effort was faring badly. By early 1865, the secessionists were hard-pressed by the Union on several sides. In early February 1865, Union Gen. William T. Sherman’s troops were beginning to enter the Carolinas after their destructive march across Georgia in late 1864. In other developments, The Associated Press reported that a group of ``rebel peace commissioners’’ had apparently arrived inside Union lines in early February 1865. But their movements remained uncertain and there was no immediate report on their intent. The U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 31, 1865, passed the 13th Amendment proposing to formally abolish slavery. President Abraham Lincoln, noting the measure had passed the senate in April 1864, submitted the proposed amendment to state legislatures for their consideration. It would obtain ratification by the required number of states by December 1865.