June 12, 2014
Tests Confirm Donated Art Is
By JILL LAWLESS
London (AP) Scientific tests have confirmed that a painting donated to Britain’s National Trust by a wealthy supporter is a Rembrandt self-portrait worth tens of millions of pounds, the heritage body said Tuesday.
The portrait of the artist, wearing a cap with a white feather, was long thought to be the work of one of Rembrandt’s pupils and was credited as in the ``style of’’ the 17th-century Dutch master.
But last year Ernst van de Wetering, the world’s leading Rembrandt expert, declared it genuine. The National Trust said tests on the paint, the signature and the wooden panel all confirm the authenticity of the portrait, which was painted in 1635, when Rembrandt was 29.
Cambridge University experts analyzed the cell structure of the wooden panel the portrait is painted on—poplar or willow, a type Rembrandt favored—and used X-rays to reveal changes to the composition over time, also typical of the artist. The pigments, including blue mineral azurite and blue cobalt, also were consistent with those used by Rembrandt.
Rembrandt self-portrait (nice feather!)
`’The varnish was so yellow that it was difficult to see how beautifully the portrait had been painted,’’ said David Taylor, paintings and sculpture curator at the National Trust. ``Now you can really see all the flesh tones and other colors, as well as the way in which the paint has been handled—it’s now much easier to appreciate it as a Rembrandt.’’
The painting was given to the trust in 2010 by the estate of Edna, Lady Samuel of Wych Cross, whose property-developer husband was a major collector of Dutch and Flemish art. It hangs in Buckland Abbey in southwest England, the former home of 16th-century seafarer Francis Drake.
The painting has been valued at as much as 30 million pounds ($50 million)—but the trust, whose mandate is to safeguard Britain’s heritage, is not allowed to sell it.
Healthy Seniors In Study Seeking A Way To Block Alzheimer’s
Washington (AP) In one of the most ambitious attempts yet to thwart Alzheimer’s disease, a major study got underway Monday to see if an experimental drug can protect healthy seniors whose brains harbor silent signs that they’re at risk.
Scientists plan to eventually scan the brains of thousands of older volunteers in the U.S., Canada and Australia to find those with a sticky build-up believed to play a key role in development of Alzheimer’s—the first time so many people without memory problems get the chance to learn the potentially troubling news.
Having lots of that gunky protein called beta-amyloid doesn’t guarantee someone will get sick. But the big question: Could intervening so early make a difference for those who do?
``We have to get them at the stage when we can save their brains,’’ said Dr. Reisa Sperling of Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, who is leading the huge effort to find out.
Researchers are just beginning to recruit volunteers, and on Monday, a Rhode Island man was hooked up for an IV infusion at Butler Hospital in Providence, the first treated.
Peter Bristol, 70, of Wakefield, Rhode Island, figured he was at risk because his mother died of Alzheimer’s and his brother has it.
``I felt I needed to be proactive in seeking whatever therapies might be available for myself in the coming years,’’ said Bristol, who said he was prepared when a PET scan of his brain showed he harbored enough amyloid to qualify for the research.
``Just because I have it doesn’t mean I’m going to get Alzheimer’s,’’ he stressed. But Bristol and his wife are ``going into the situation with our eyes wide open.’’
He won’t know until the end of the so-called A4 Study—it stands for Anti-Amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic Alzheimer’s—whether he received monthly infusions of the experimental medicine, Eli Lilly & Co.’s solanezumab, or a dummy drug.
Solanezumab is designed to help catch amyloid before it builds into the brain plaques that are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s. It failed in earlier studies to treat full-blown Alzheimer’s, but it did appear to help slow mental decline in patients with mild disease, raising interest in testing it even earlier.
Scientists now think Alzheimer’s begins ravaging the brain at least a decade before memory problems appear, much like heart disease is triggered by quiet cholesterol build-up. Many believe the best chance of preventing or at least slowing the disease requires intervening, somehow, when people still appear healthy.
The $140 million study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, Lilly and others, will track if participants’ memory and amyloid levels change over three years.
Whether this particular drug works or not, the Alzheimer’s study is being watched closely as a chance to learn more about how amyloid works and how people handle the uncertainty of knowing it’s there.
``Amyloid we know is a huge risk factor, but someone can have a head full of amyloid and not decline’’ mentally, Sperling said. ``We need to understand more about why some brains are resilient and some are not.’’
Before any brain scans, interested 65- to 85-year-olds will undergo cognitive tests to make sure their memory is normal. Volunteers also must be willing to learn their amyloid levels, and researchers can turn away those whose psychological assessments suggest they may not cope well with the news. Sperling expects to screen more than 5,000 healthy seniors to find the needed 1,000 participants, who will be monitored for anxiety or distress.
``It is breaking new ground,’’ said Dr. Laurie Ryan of the NIH’s National Institute on Aging. ``We really do have to understand how that affects people.’’
More than 35 million people worldwide have Alzheimer’s or similar dementia, including about 5 million in the U.S., numbers expected to rise rapidly as the baby boomers age.
Alzheimer’s affects 1 in 9 people over age 65, and about a third of those 85 and older, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Today’s medications only temporarily ease some symptoms, and scientists don’t even know exactly how the disease forms. A leading theory is that amyloid plaques kick off the disease but tangles of a second protein, named tau, speed up the brain destruction.
As scientists shift their attention to the still healthy, a few studies are underway to try blocking Alzheimer’s in people genetically at risk to get a form of the disease that runs in their families.
The A4 study widens the focus beyond a genetic link.
Like Bristol, the first participant, some people do want to know if they’re at risk, said Dr. Jason Karlawish, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania who helped design the study’s psychological precautions. After all, many already get tested for Alzheimer’s-related genes.
He calls the research ``an opportunity to study the future of the way we’re going to think about, talk about and live with the risks of Alzheimer’s disease.’’
Study information: http://www.a4study.org
NC’s 13th Amendment On Tour To Celebrate Juneteenth
By MARTHA WAGGONER
Raleigh, NC (AP) North Carolina’s original copy of the 13th amendment is coming out of storage and going on a tour of seven historic sites as part of Juneteenth, which celebrates the date the last American slaves learned they were free.
The tour also is part of North Carolina’s commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, said Kevin Cherry, director of the state Office of Archives and History. Slavery was ignored when North Carolina marked the centennial of the end of the war, he said.
``We were determined that was not going to happen with the 150th commemoration,’’ Cherry said.
North Carolina, Arkansas and Mississippi are the only three Confederate states that still have their original copies of the 13th amendment, he said.
The need for the amendment ``demonstrates that freedom was a process and less of a proclamation,’’ said Earl Ijames, a curator with the N.C. Museum of History.
The tour opened last Thursday at Historic Edenton and last Friday at Somerset Place in Creswell. The document will then be displayed June 12 at Vance Birthplace in Weaverville; June 13 at Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum in Sedalia; and June 14th at Historic Stagville in Durham. The document will be on display June 21 at the CSS Neuse Interpretative Center in Kinston, then June 28 at Tryon Palace in New Bern.
Ijames learned recently that the tour will have two important additions at New Bern and, perhaps, Kinston. The family of Luke Martin Sr., a member of the 1st North Carolina Colored Troops (later the 35th U.S. Colored Troops), has loaned Martin’s Springfield rifle and a German-made Confederate sword to the state.
Martin was a slave on a plantation near Plymouth who escaped and made his way to New Bern to fight for the Union, Ijames said.
Martin’s son, 96-year-old Luke Martin Jr., still lives in New Bern in the house where he was born. He and his children agreed to loan the items to the state for a year, Ijames said.
Martin Jr.’s daughter Fannie Williams, who lives with him in New Bern, said her brother, William Perkins Martin Sr., had the rifle and sword hanging on a wall in his house. ``My daddy finally convinced my brother to let it go on loan,’’ she said. ``He had to think hard about taking them off that wall. He’s very particular about them.’’
It’s also unusual for the copy of the 13th amendment to go on the road. This is believed to be the first time the fragile document, stored in a climate-controlled vault, has left Raleigh, said state archivist Sarah Koonts.
North Carolina ratified the amendment Dec. 4, 1865, and Georgia followed two days later, providing the necessary three-quarters of the then 36 states needed for the amendment. June 19, 1865, or Juneteenth, is recognized as the date the last slaves, those in Galveston, Texas, learned they were free—more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.