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July 2009

By: Gina | July 31 2009 | Category: Research & Technology, Science News, Tidbits for Teachers

Physician vaccinating a patientProbably everyone reading this has had the flu at least once in their lifetime.  The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect 5-20% (that is as many as 1 out of 5 people) of people in the U.S. each year.  Is it serious?  More than 200,000 people are hospitalized and about 36,000 people die yearly from the flu. 

The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccination each year.  Unfortunately, many of us don't know where to get vaccinated, forget about it, or are simply more afraid of shots than the flu. (A big mistake!) Undoubtedly, a lot more people would be vaccinated if, like tetanus vaccinations, we only had to get a shot every ten years or so.  So why can't we? 

Normally when we are vaccinated, we are injected with small parts of molecules called 'epitopes'.  Our immune system responds by making 'memory cells' that specifically recognize those epitopes.  At a second encounter with that epitope, these memory cells help the body mount a much stronger and quicker immune response than the first time.  Thus, after a flu vaccination, when the real flu virus tries to attack, our memory cells go to work and usually stop it before we feel sick.  

Unfortunately, unlike tetanus which is caused by a single bacterium, flu can be caused by two different families of viruses (called group 1 and group 2).  Worse, within these families are many different subtypes each of which has different epitopes.  Because of this, every year, scientists have to make some informed guesses as to which type of flu will be common next year and then make the appropriate vaccine.

A discovery by a group of scientists in the United States and another group from Europe and Hong Kong may make the '10 year flu vaccine' a reality.  These scientists identified an epitope that appears to be common to the members of the group 1 influenza virus family.  Using this epitope, a vaccine was made that was able to prevent death in mice that were challenged with lethal doses of flu viruses.  It even protected them against the H5N1 'bird flu' virus

Hopefully vaccines generated by this epitope will be potent enough, that a single vaccination given every few years will be enough to protect us against all group 1 influenza viruses.  Now if scientists can just find a common epitope for group 2!

Jianhua Sui, William C Hwang, et al.  Nature Structural & Molecular Biology 16, 265 - 273 (2009) Structural and functional bases for broad-spectrum neutralization of avian and human influenza A viruses

Mark Throsby, Edward van den Brink, et al.  PLoS ONE 3(12): e3942. (2008). Heterosubtypic Neutralizing Monoclonal Antibodies Cross-Protective against H5N1 and H1N1 Recovered from Human IgM+ Memory B Cells
By: Dave | July 28 2009 | Category: NIH Resources, Science and the Arts, Science History, Tidbits for Teachers

Harry Potter's World homepageI was surfing the NIH National Library of Medicine's Website looking for visitor information, when I stumbled onto:

Harry Potter's World - Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine

Even if you haven't seen the latest movie, this online exhibit provides an interesting contrast between life at Hogwarts and the science of the 15th and 16th Centuries.

There are resources for teachers, too.

This exhibit will be traveling to librariesExternal Web Site Policy nationwide from September 2009 to January 2011, hopefully to a location near you.

BTW - if you're in the DC area, there are three more chances to see this sort of science fact versus movie fiction discussion live at Science in the Cinema.
By: Paul | July 24 2009 | Category: Issues in Education

Education SignU.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, in a recent articleExternal Web Site Policy addressed ‘…four assurances that will prepare K-12 students for success after graduation.’ He made it clear that he would be working with state leaders to assist them to create policies to implement these assurances.
To fulfill the first assurance, the states have to adopt rigorous K-12 standards that prepare students for success in college and the workforce. Second, they should develop data systems that will track from year to year whether students are making the progress they need to graduate from high school ready to succeed in college or the workforce. These data systems will also provide the information to determine if a teacher is effective in improving student performance. Third, the states need plans to find effective teachers and to make sure those teachers are working in classrooms where they will have the greatest impact on students who need the most help. Fourth and finally, states must have plans to turn around their lowest-performing schools.
In the first three areas, state and national leaders have made substantial progress according to Secretary Duncan, but when it comes to turning around troubled schools the necessary policy and political will is still lacking. Duncan asserts that at least 5,000 schools, about 5 percent of the total, are seriously underperforming. Approximately 2,000 high schools are dropout factories, where two out of five of their freshmen are not enrolled at the start of their senior year. In thousands of schools serving K-8 students achievement is low and not improving. Without aggressive action to improve these schools, the children in them will continue on the path to failure.
Secretary Duncan points to the fact that thanks to American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds, resources are now available to address this problem. ARRA funds include $3 billion for the Title I School Improvement Program, which is specifically designed to cover interventions in low-performing schools. When this is added to the $545 million in the 2009 fiscal appropriation and the $1.5 billion proposed for fiscal 2010, school improvement will receive as much as $5 billion over two years. That is an unprecedented federal investment in fixing our lowest-performing schools.
In the past, school officials have been content to make changes that resulted in only nominal progress. They have been reluctant to make dramatic changes such as replacing the school leadership and staff or closing and reopening under new governance. Such limited intervention may lead to modest progress, but in our lowest-performing schools, that is just not enough. As an example of a better way to turn around low-performing schools, Secretary Duncan offers his experience in Chicago. His approach to the lowest-performing schools was to move the adults out of the schools and keep the students in the schools, and then move in new adults. He said, “it was the best and fastest way to create a new school culture, one in which student achievement was the primary goal.” Duncan is calling on the network of turnaround specialists to be ready to start work, and he is urging all key players, including unions, districts, and states to get in th e business of turning around our lowest-performing schools.
By: Dave | July 23 2009 | Category: NIH Resources


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We're happy to announce that we've just posted four video interviews on our LifeWorks career database. Watch them on your browser or download them as QuickTime movies.

The interview with Biological Technician Keisha Hines-Harris is above. The three other Success Stories can be found on the LifeWorks homepage.
You can also click on the links here to view and download:

More video interviews are in the works.
By: Dave | July 21 2009 | Category: NIH Resources, Tidbits for Teachers

Cover image of The Brain: Understanding Neurobiology Through the Study of AddictionSpeaking of NIH curriculum supplements for high school, we are POISED to reprint the updated 2009 version of The Brain: Understanding Neurobiology Through the Study of Addiction.

This popular set of lessons has been out-of-print for nearly a year.

For the 2009 addition we've made the following changes:
  • The multimedia student activities are now online only. The lesson plans were re-written with Web access instructions. A CD-ROM will no longer come with the printed supplement.
  • Lesson Organizers have been added. These are brief overviews of the activities to use as a reminder while you're teaching.
  • The background sections on addiction research have been updated, and new resources and references are listed.
We'll start taking orders for the new addition when we get a due date from the printer...probably in September or October.

If you already have a copy of The Brain ... Addiction, don't freak. We're working on a short PDF file you can download with the updates. The teacher background and support materials are improving. The student lessons and worksheets are remaining the same.
By: Dave | July 17 2009 | Category: NIH Resources, Tidbits for Teachers

Cover of Exploring Bioethics curriculum supplement The long awaited Exploring Bioethics curriculum supplement for high school is finished. The final version is on its way to the printers. We'll start taking orders on August 3 and expect the first copies to start rolling out of our Rockville warehouse in mid August. That's mid August 2009, really. We're still working on the Website and hope to have that up in the fall.

What is Exploring Bioethics, you ask?

This FREE resource from NIH and EDCExternal Web Site Policy is a teacher’s guide to six three-day lessons on the ethical considerations of real-world life science. Students use an innovative model to formulate and justify positions on topical bioethical issues while building inquiry, critical thinking, and teamwork skills. Topics include:
  • Enhancements in Sports
  • Vaccination Policies for Schools
  • Allocation of Organs for Transplant
  • Genetic Testing
  • Human Subject in Medical Research
  • Human Use of Animals in Research and Beyond
Exploring Bioethics will be available in print for folks in the U.S. and posted online in HTML and PDF formats for everybody everywhere.

You can experience some of these lessons right now by viewing two Webinars we conducted this spring with the National Science Teachers AssociationExternal Web Site Policy. The Webinars are archived at the NSTA Learning CenterExternal Web Site Policy.
By: Debbie | July 10 2009 | Category: NIH Resources

Star Sleep LogoMillions of Americans are unaware that their children may be seriously sleep deprived. That’s why the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) developed the Sleep Well. Do Well. Star Sleeper Campaign. Its goal is to advise parents that children need at least nine hours of sleep each night to do their best in school, sports, family relationships, friendships, and other activities.

Like adults, children suffer when they don’t get enough sleep. They may have difficulty concentrating on their schoolwork, become irritable and fidgety, and be more vulnerable to common injury and illness. Encouraging good sleep habits when children are young can help lay the foundation for a lifelong habit of adequate healthy sleep. The Sleep Well. Do Well. Star Sleeper Campaign and its “spokes cat” Garfield have some great tips to help you help your children get enough sleep. These include establishing a relaxing bedtime routine, such as a warm bath or reading, and avoiding big meals and caffeine before bedtime.

For a list of bedtime tips and more information on the importance of sleep, visit the Sleep Well. Do Well. Star Sleeper Campaign Web site — or contact the NHLBI Information Network at 301-592-8573.
By: Cynthia | July 2 2009 | Category: Science and the Arts

A mixed-media artwork showcased at the NIH juried art show by National Cancer Institute’s Jorge Bernal.”]Hi, Cynthia is here. I have a fabulous job as a writer and editor for the Office of Science Education. Besides writing, I get to work on lots of other great science education projects in the office. My work is expanding now into Web site usability and development. Before this job, I worked as a biologist for several different NIH labs.

Art, in its myriad of forms, is a great passion of mine. For this blog, I will be posting on the merging of science and the arts. I especially enjoy exploring the many ways that the arts can enhance science education.

I’m certainly not the only scientist who loves art! Right now, the halls of the NIH Clinical Center are filled with art created by scientists and other NIH employees and some local artists for the 2009 NIH Juried Art Show. More than 500 artworks, including paintings, photographs, pottery, and textiles were submitted for the show. The article “NIH Juried Art Show Returns in May” published in the March-April issue of The NIH Catalyst describes the opening event, the art and the artists.

Princeton UniversityExternal Web Site Policy has recently opened its third “Art of Science” exhibit. At the Web siteExternal Web Site Policy, you can cast your vote for your favorite images. In this show, the artworks were not created for art’s sake; rather, they emerged directly from scientific research.
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