Human Cells Make Mice Smarter – Scientific American

these human astrocytes accomplished calcium signaling at least three times faster than the mouse astrocytes did. The enhanced mice masterfully memorized new objects, swiftly learned to link certain sounds or situations to an unpleasant foot shock, and displayed un-usually savvy maze navigationsigns of mental acuity that surpassed skills exhibited by either typical mice or mice transplanted with glial progenitor cells from their own species.”

Gene therapy gives mice broad protection to pandemic flu strains, including 1918 flu

What Intel & AMD Clean Rooms Could Teach Hospitals – I, Cringely

Each year U.S hospitals kill ~100,000 people via 1.7MM “Hospital Acquired Infections” (infections that wouldn’t have happened had the victim not been in the hospital). Chip fab clean room tech could be the answer.

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Robert X Cringely

“One hundred thousand deaths is a lot of deaths, especially if every one was avoidable.”

California Bill Would Mandate Open Access To Publicly Funded Research – Slashdot

“This week, advocates of open access to publicly funded research are keeping an eye on California’s Taxpayer Access to Publicly Funded Research Act (AB 609), which could soon find its way to the California State Senate. The bill requires the final copy of any peer-reviewed research funded by California tax dollars to be made publicly accessible within 12 months of publication. If passed, the legislation would become the first state-level law mandating this kind of access. is featuring a collection of articles on open access publishing, which you can read while you await the verdict on AB 609.”

The Black Death Is Doing Fine – And Becoming Resistant

from Contagions

Yersinia pestis-plague-black death“Tibet-Qinghai plateau region is where Yersinia pestis originated and the region where subsequent pandemics arose, I think its time to look more closely at regional outbreaks and case studies.

In this region, the marmot (Marmota himalayana) is the primary reservoir for Yersinia pestis. This large communal burrowing rodent is hunted by local Tibetan tribesmen for both meat and pelts. Butchering marmots has long been considered a risk factor for contracting plague via their fleas, aerosols or skin abrasions. To investigate the exposure of marmot hunters to plague, Chinese epidemiologists collected serum from 120 Qinghai villagers, 68 male hunters and 52 female family members, along with 120 negative controls from the non-endemic area of Beijing. None of the villagers or controls reported having a fever within the last two years.

The results are eye-opening and illustrates the importance of occupational exposure. Over a third of the male villagers had an antibody response to Yersinia pestis. Only 2% of their female family members produced an antibody response. Wether two fever-free years are enough time to determine if they had symptomatic plague in the past is an open question. Their letter to Emerging Infectious Diseases does not provide much information on the test subject’s histories or oral reports. [see more here LINK]”

Osterholm on “contagion exhaustion”

From Crof’s H5N1 Blog…

Via The New York Times, Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of CIDRAP, writes today’s must-read: The Next Contagion – Closer Than You Think. Excerpt:

There has been a flurry of recent attention over two novel infectious agents: the first, a strain of avian influenza virus (H7N9) in China that is causing severe respiratory disease and other serious health complications in people; the second, a coronavirus, first reported last year in the Middle East, that has brought a crop of new infections. 

While the number of human cases from these two pathogens has so far been limited, the death rates for each are notably high. 

Alarmingly, we face a third, and far more widespread, ailment that has gotten little attention: call it “contagion exhaustion.” News reports on a seemingly unending string of frightening microbes — bird flu, flesh-eating strep, SARS, AIDS, Ebola, drug-resistant bugs in hospitals, the list goes on — have led some people to ho-hum the latest reports. 

Some seem to think that public health officials pull a microbe “crisis du jour” out of their proverbial test tube when financing for infectious disease research and control programs appears to be drying up. They dismiss warnings about the latest bugs as “crying wolf.” This misimpression could be deadly.  Continue reading

On Mayo – Rochester’s Expansion Plans


As the Destination Medical Center (DMC) legislation hurtles its way at warp speed to a final vote by the elected representatives of the State of Minnesota, it is time to pierce through the blitzkrieg of slick marketing, expensive lobbyists and political campaign style non-substantive sound bites that have thus far dominated the public discussion. The legislation requires our community and State to comprehend and support a complicated, expansive and expensive private commercial development/public infrastructure investment on a scale never before proposed that will determine our future and have precedential value for other corporations doing business in Minnesota. We have been given roughly three months to consider this proposal and many have endeavored to raise serious, thoughtful and legitimate questions with respect to a complex initiative that has taken at least three years and millions of dollars to develop with no community wide input. The vast majority of these questions have neither been acknowledged nor answered.

DMC is promising, “conservatively”, 15,000 good paying jobs over the next 20 years and an additional 30,000 to 45,000 jobs spurred by this unprecedented public funding mechanism. This will theoretically triple our already robust projected population growth anticipated to naturally occur without the DMC law if we assume a corresponding population increase of three people per job. If the DMC job promises are accurate, what impact will this dramatic population growth have upon agricultural, residential, commercial property and other taxes that will be required to cover not only the previously projected $800 million gap in infrastructure funding over the next 20 years as it relates strictly to streets, bridges and sidewalks but also similar infrastructure demands created by the DMC initiative? What will be the projected funding gap for sewers, storm sewers and parks that is just now being analyzed by Rochester and Olmsted County? What will be the social justice costs attributable to creating affordable/accessible housing, expanding law enforcement, fire protection, social services, judicial resources, community corrections, mental health care, public and private educational institutions, as well as alternative learning centers such as Hawthorne Education Center in the wake of this population explosion? Will nonprofit entities such as the United Way, Rochester Area Family Y, Salvation Army, Women’s Shelter, Zumbro Valley Mental Health Center and others be able to serve the critical needs of growing and underserved populations? While not looking for precise answers, we should be aware of whether or not these important traditional and human infrastructures needs have been considered and, if so, what their projected costs are and how we expect to pay for them.

Every aspect of the DMC Corporation (DMCC) must be subject to the open meeting laws/government data practices. Legislation of this scope and magnitude usually takes at least five years to make its way through the legislative process so that implications about data practices, open meeting laws and donor disclosure can meaningfully be discussed understood and appropriately incorporated into a proposed law. Critical to the legislation is the consultants who will advise DMCC. Are they city, county, state, Mayo Clinic or DMCC employees? If paid by Mayo, do they have an inherent conflict of interest in a process that is purported to be open and subject to public debate? Should any consultants/firms thus far hired by Mayo to create and advance its DMC legislation continue to be involved with the DMCC? Who supplies and pays for the support staff necessary to run the non-profit? These are just a few aspects of a small but vitally important portion of the bill that remain unsettled.

The House of Representatives composition of the DMCC board is simply more of the exclusive inner circle. The Senate version is no better. Instead of a select few, the composition of this community corporation should include two local elected officials and representation from each of the following: Mayo Clinic, Independent School District #535/private schools/alternative learning centers, one of the surrounding Olmsted County communities, the downtown business/development community, public safety/social services/corrections/ mental health, RCTC/UMR/Winona State, a core neighborhood association, the Minnesota House of Representatives(central Minnesota) and the Minnesota Senate (northern Minnesota). If DMC is determined by the State to be a legitimate public purpose and in this community’s best interest, then a truly representative cross section of the community should be intimately involved in its planning, development and implementation in order to bring balance and objectivity to the discussion.

As it has publically unfolded in the past two weeks, this legislation’s only relationship to the delivery of health care is in its appeal to the well-heeled patient. The true intent, as reflected in the just unleashed “DMC Infrastructure Master Plan” which this community has never been afforded any opportunity to consider, is to commercially transform our downtown and surrounding residential neighborhoods with 5 star hotels, Las Vegas style atriums, Disneyland trams and other undisclosed commercial development plans that have likely been in the works for years. Don’t you believe the citizens of Rochester should decide if, when and how we should be “transformed”? The premise of this legislation, according to DMC’s marketing department, is that people will not come to Rochester for world class medical care because our downtown is “woefully inadequate.” Other than the vast expanse of Mayo Clinic surface parking lots and parking ramps, this is simply untrue; just ask the uncelebrated downtown small business owners, hoteliers, restaurateurs and their employees who interact with our visitors from around the world by providing their own measure of care and comfort supporting our unparalleled world class medical community.

In closing, we should be mindful of the insightful eloquence from one of our founders: “Commercialism in medicine never leads to true satisfaction … and to maintain our self-respect is more precious than gold.” W.J. Mayo, 1938 from Aphorisms of Dr. Charles Horace Mayo, 1865 to 1939 and Dr. William James Mayo, 1861 –1939.

John C. Kruesel
Kevin A. Lund
Rochester, Minnesota
Home to the Mayo Clinic