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Probing sleep’s drowsy mystery

first_imgIt is one of the ironies of sleep research that scientists stay up all night to do it.Across Harvard’s Schools and hospitals, approximately 100 faculty members, fellows, technicians, and students study sleep, with some regularly burning the midnight oil, chugging coffee, drawing blood, and blearily staring at polysomnograph readouts, seeking insights into a phenomenon so familiar that we all do it daily but so unknown that none of us really understands why.“It’s one of the big remaining mysteries in biology,” said Alexander Schier, professor of molecular and cellular biology, who is using laboratory zebrafish to probe the genetic basis of sleep. “We don’t know why we sleep, what it is good for, and why we spend a third of our lives asleep.”Even as we adjust our clocks and sleep this weekend, researchers across Harvard are taking a variety of approaches in their investigations, examining the practice of sleep through studies of circadian rhythms and sleep-wake cycles, probing dysfunctions like sleep apnea and narcolepsy, examining sleep’s substance by recording brain waves during normal and disrupted periods, documenting sleep deprivation during long hours in the workplace, and investigating the health effects of sleep-deprived lives: increased rates of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.Harvard’s efforts in this area have grown steadily over the past 50 years. Today, the University and its affiliated institutions form one of the world’s premier centers for sleep research, drawing $20 million in grants annually and running clinical programs at affiliated hospitals that bring in 20,000 outpatients a year and provide another 5,000 bed-days for patients needing analysis of brain waves, eye movement, muscle movement, heart rate, and breathing to diagnose and treat sleep disorders.Harvard’s sleep research effort occurs under the umbrella of Harvard Medical School’s (HMS) Division of Sleep Medicine, begun in 1997 by then-Dean Joseph Martin as a way to promote sleep research and clinical care while also providing training for the next generation of scientists and physicians.While no one understands yet why we sleep or what happens to us when we do, Harvard researchers have made a number of discoveries that have cracked open the door to understanding. Charles Czeisler, Baldino Professor of Sleep Medicine at HMS, head of the HMS Division of Sleep Medicine, and head of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, has made advances concerning sleep-wake cycles, from determining that the average intrinsic sleep cycle is just a few minutes over 24 hours, to understanding how to use light to reset the body clock, to the discovery of a light-detection system that bypasses the eye’s visual system and synchronizes the body clock with day and night.Researchers hope to understand the effects of disrupted sleep on our lives. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), showed that working night shifts is not only bad for your health, the effects worsen the longer you do it. Czeisler has picked a fight with the medical education establishment by arguing — and showing in studies — that forcing young doctors to work 24-hour-plus shifts impairs their judgment, puts patients at risk of serious medical errors, and puts the doctors at risk when driving home in an exhausted fog.Susan Redline, Farrell Professor of Sleep Medicine at HMS and at the Brigham, has uncovered associations between sleep-disordered breathing, which includes sleep apnea, and dementia, while Ronald Kessler, the McNeil Family Professor of Health Care Policy at HMS, last year tallied the toll that insomnia takes on the American workforce, putting a price tag of $63.2 billion on lost productivity annually.Though sleep remains a mystery, research at Harvard and elsewhere has shown that it is much more important to our overall health than was previously appreciated, which prompts researchers to express frustration that their findings are routinely ignored by a nation obsessed with getting to work on time, getting the job done, and getting ahead.“I still think the overarching cultural drive is that sleep, though sometimes pleasant, is something that gets in the way,” said Jeffrey Ellenbogen, assistant professor of neurology at HMS and director of the Sleep Laboratory at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).“We tend to view sleep as something that impedes our personal and professional aspirations. … If only that corporate executive could sleep four hours instead of eight, he could be a much better executive.”Sleepy workers and dreaming doctors Czeisler began investigating sleep while working on his senior thesis as an undergraduate at Harvard in the 1970s. Today a professor at HMS and the Brigham and principal investigator of a laboratory where white-coated technicians monitor sleeping volunteers for weeks at a time, Czeisler has made his name not only by illuminating the human circadian rhythms, but also by investigating workplace practices.Early in his career he investigated shift work at a round-the-clock potash manufacturer that weekly rotated its workers to earlier shifts. Czeisler recommended changing the shift rotation direction, moving workers to later shifts to better align with circadian rhythms, and having workers keep the same shift for several weeks at a time, with several days off between shift changes. The result was a 20 percent increase in productivity.More recently, Czeisler has focused on the medical industry and the long shifts routinely asked of physicians and trainees. In a series of studies, Czeisler and researchers in his lab showed that long hours — originally instituted to improve care by keeping the same doctor in charge of a patient through large portions of their treatment — were actually harming patient care.Among other findings, Czeisler and colleagues showed that interns working more than 24 hours per shift made 36 percent more errors, including 56 percent more serious errors not caught by a supervisor, than an intern working a shorter shift. A national study of 2,700 interns found that working more than 20 hours in a row resulted in 73 percent more needle-stick injuries. It also showed that one in five fatigue-related mistakes resulted in patient injury, with one in 20 interns nationally admitting that they’d made a fatigue-related mistake that led to a patient’s death.Those results got the attention of the medical establishment, but there has still been resistance to changing a system that dates back more than a century, through which virtually all of today’s physicians have come, Czeisler said.“It was not greeted warmly in all circles,” Czeisler said.Though movement has been slow, the effort has resulted in incremental reform, with recommendations in place that first-year residents work no more than 16 hours at a stretch. Czeisler is at work on studies to examine whether second- and third-year residents could benefit from similar changes, and has also set his sights on surgeons who operate after being on call overnight. A 2009 study showed that the risk of complications rises 170 percent if a surgeon has less than six hours of sleep before performing an operation.Learning in the lab about sleepAt MGH, volunteers snooze at the nearby Holiday Inn in the name of science. A suite has been converted into a sleep lab, headed by Ellenbogen. He is investigating perhaps the deepest part of the mystery, the substance of sleep: what is happening in our brains that is of such importance that we lose awareness of the world around us.Specifically, Ellenbogen is examining our reduced sensitivity to external stimuli. He’s conducting experiments in which volunteer sleepers wired to polysomnographs — machines that measure bodily functions of sleepers — are awakened for periods so brief that the subjects don’t remember them the next day. “One side [of the research] is examining how the brain precludes sensory information,” Ellenbogen said. “The other side is what the brain is doing so it wants to preclude information. I can’t — and nobody can yet — get into the mental content of sleep itself. …  There’s a big gap between what we know and what’s happening.”Over on Harvard’s main campus, students and fellows are staying up late looking not so much at the brain during sleep, but rather at the genes that control what the brain does. In Schier’s lab in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Schier and colleagues use zebrafish as a model animal. Though most of his lab is devoted to developmental studies — for which the transparent fish are ideal models — about a third of his work looks at sleep.Under normal conditions, zebrafish are active for about 14 hours and then go into a sleeplike state of reduced activity. By observing the fish, Schier can find individuals that sleep more or less than their companions. By examining which genes are active and looking for differences between normal, short-, or long-sleeping fish, Schier is hoping to zero in on genes — and the compounds that they produce­ — that play roles in sleep.Harvard School of Public Health Professor Frank Hu showed that working night shifts is not only bad for your health, the effects worsen the longer you do it. File photo by Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff PhotographerHazardous to your healthThough the function of sleep remains mysterious, its importance to health is becoming clear. HSPH’s Hu has utilized data from the long-running Nurses’ Health Study to examine the linkages between sleep habits, shift work, and health.A study published last year showed that working night shifts for three to nine years increases the danger of developing type 2 diabetes by 20 percent, working nights 10 to 19 years results in a 40 percent increased risk, while working 20 years or longer carries a 58 percent increased risk of developing diabetes.Hu said about half of the relationship between shift work and diabetes can be explained by weight gain. Working at night means disrupted circadian rhythms and increased sleep deprivation, which increases the hunger hormone ghrelin. Hungry night workers have fewer restaurants to choose from and often resort to eating junk food in vending machines.Disrupted sleep is hazardous even beyond its dietary effects and has been shown to increase blood pressure, increase insulin resistance, disturb glucose metabolism, and influence the development of some cancers, such as colorectal and breast cancers.“Most research is focused on diet and exercise,” Hu said. “We’re missing the third pillar of health, which is sleep.”last_img read more

The Revival of Joe Orton’s Loot Begins Pilfering Off-Broadway

first_imgKeep your belongings in sight at all times, because the first off-Broadway revival of Joe Orton’s dark comedy Loot begins performances January 9. Presented by Red Bull Theater, the British satire will play a limited engagement at the Lucille Lortel Theater through February 9. Opening night is set for January 16. View Comments Show Closed This production ended its run on Feb. 9, 2014 The McLeavy’s are in mourning, but young Hal and his partner-in-crime need someplace to stash their loot. When Scotland Yard’s finest comes sniffing about, no one escapes suspicion, from the naughty nurse to dear old gardening dad. And where did Mrs. McLeavy’s body go? Orton’s wicked stew of Oscar Wilde and Kafka is sexy, sharp-witted, and shocking. The production will feature set design by Narelle Sissons, costume design by Sara Jean Tosetti, lighting design by Scott Zielinski and sound design by Brad Berridge.center_img Loot Directed by Jesse Berger, the cast of Loot includes Rebecca Brooksher as Fay, Eric Martin Brown as Meadows, Jarlath Conroy as McLeavy, Ryan Garbayo as Dennis, Rocco Sisto as Truscott and Nick Westrate as Hal. Related Showslast_img read more

Compost Compact.

first_imgWith help from University of Georgia experts, Georgia farmersthink they may have found a simple replacement for a chemicalthey hoped they’d never lose.Farmers would keep on using methyl bromide to control soil-bornediseases of vegetable crops if they could. But they can’t. Nowdefined as a chemical that depletes the ozone layer, methyl bromidewill be phased out by 2005, a government ruling that worries farmers.Replacing Methyl Bromide”Methyl bromide is very important to us,” said BillBrim, a Tifton, Ga., farmer. “Right now, we’re just tryingto figure out what we’re going to do when they take it away fromus.”In a joint effort with the UGA Coastal Plain Experiment Stationin Tifton, Ga., Brim and other farmers believe they’ve found asafer replacement: compost.A high-quality compost of the perfect mixture of yard waste,gin trash, culled vegetables and poultry litter, they say, couldhelp protect plants from disease. The compost could make fertilizerand irrigation more effective and help the environment, too.Because of the warm climate and long growing seasons in theSoutheast, vegetable crops are highly susceptible to disease.If vegetable growers can’t control those diseases, they can’tcontinue to farm, said David Langston, an Extension plant pathologist with the UGA College of Agriculturaland Environmental Sciences.Composting to Increase Beneficial OrganismsSoil in the Southeast, particularly in south Georgia, is extremelysandy. Nutrients can leach quickly through this soil.The sandy soils have little organic matter. And intensive tillingspeeds the breakdown of the little there is. “Most soil inthis area has less than 1 percent organic matter,” said KeithRucker, a Tift County extension agent.Soil contains microscopic pathogens that can damage plants,Rucker said. But it also contains beneficial organisms that cansuppress the pathogens. Research has shown that compost can increasethe number of beneficial organisms, improve the soil and suppressdiseases.”Compost increases the organic matter and nutrient-holdingcapacity of sandy soil,” said Darbie Granberry, a UGA ExtensionService vegetable horticulturist. “And it helps stretch the farmer’sfertilizer dollars.”Granberry said compost also extends the use of waste material,such as municipal waste and poultry litter, that would otherwisebe a burden on the environment.Two years ago, Brim and other farmers around Tifton, Ga., becameinterested in the benefits of applying compost to vegetables grownon plastic-film mulch. They can now produce as much as 8,000 tonsof compost annually, at a cost of $30 per ton.On-Farm Research PlotsBrim allocated part of his land to create research plots. CAESscientists will collect data from these plots and help in furtherstudies to find economical ways farmers can manage to their crops.Early data shows that transplants grown in greenhouses withcompost tend to be larger and more robust. By using compost, Brimsaid he has reduced irrigation by as much as 30 percent and increasedthe fertility of his soil.With help from UGA, Brim applied for a Southern Region SustainableAgriculture Research Education (SARE) grant to fund the researchon the farm.The federal grant allows farmers to develop their ideas intoviable practices and technologies with the help of CAES faculty. Information from the research is then shared with other farmers.”It’s an opportunity for researchers and extension peopleto work with the farmer,” Granberry said, “and to helpsolve a particular problem he has on the farm.””We’ve worked really close with the researchers and theextension office with this,” Brim said. “Research isthe most important thing that can happen to agriculture rightnow. We’re just trying to find a way to keep a positive cash flow.”A field day Oct. 24 will showcase the on-farm plots. For moreinformation, call the Tift County Extension Service office at(229) 391-7980. Or e-mail [email protected]last_img read more

Colombian Air Force to Participate in RED FLAG 2012

first_img For the first time in Colombian history, the combat pilots of the Colombian Air Force will participate in Red Flag, the world’s most important military aviation competition, held at the Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada. Their participation represents the recognition of the professionalism and expertise that characterize the members of Latin America’s most operationally active Air Force. This unprecedented achievement will allow Colombia to demonstrate its capabilities in the field of combat aviation at an event attended only by the Air Forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization member countries. Red Flag 2012 will test the skills and endurance in flight of pilots and aircraft, including the Kfir C-10 fighter-bomber, which will face complex simulated missions in a highly demanding environment. This fact merited the recognition of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who said in his speech at the Military ceremony commemorating the 92nd anniversary of the Air Force, “For the first time in history, the Air Force was invited to compete in this international competition, but it had to undergo testing first. (…) We’re going in to compete with the big boys, we’re going in through the front door, as a respected and respectable Air Force, as an Air Force admired by the entire hemisphere, as is made clear to me every time I travel to any country.” On the Road to Victory Everything began in February 2011, when the best pilots, maintenance technicians, and specialists in air safety, among other Air Force specialties, arrived at the 3rd Combat Air Command in Malambo, Atlántico department. There, they began exhausting days of training and checking the aircraft that would enable them to have the opportunity to compete in the big leagues of military aviation. “We start at 6 a.m. and finish late, but this effort is worth it, because we’ve seen the squadron’s progress,” said Major Edwin Vargas, commander of the 111th Combat Squadron, which flies Kfirs. All the activities were conducted in English, using a specialized aeronautical language that was evaluated by USAF personnel. Every day, starting at 5 a.m., there were inspections, mission reviews, combat and air-refueling exercises, and surveillance and threat-identification-assistance missions, all under the observation of evaluators, who paid attention above all to the criterion of safety. As the exercises progressed, so did the demands and the pressure, until the final evaluation day arrived, in November. Gathered at CACOM 3’s Awatawa Auditorium, the group of U.S. Air Force (USAF) personnel began evaluating each aspect. All the Colombian pilots and crew members waited for the overall evaluation, until one of the officers on the delegation expressed it in a special way: “Welcome to Las Vegas!” was the welcome phrase to the big leagues of military aviation. The members of the Colombian Air Force burst into loud applause in recognition of several months of demanding preparation and sacrifice, reflected in the satisfaction of a duty fulfilled. The pilots of the 111th Kfir Squadron, the Boeing KC 767 Jupiter, and the CACOM 1 Technical Group were especially involved in this exercise. “As a combat pilot, you always aspire to be among the best and command a plane like the Kfir, which is so strategic for the country; it will always be a source of pride, still more if you get to be part of such an important event,” said Major Óscar Sánchez Velandia, a Kfir pilot instructor. Lieutenant Colonel David Keessey, commander of the USAF Air Support Squadron, was one of the first officers to recognize the locals’ capabilities. “They’re the best combat pilots in Colombia and, I’m sure, in Latin America.” By Dialogo June 12, 2012last_img read more

Football Federation of B&H moving to a new Facility this Year?

first_imgAdministration of the Football Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina should move to new premises in the second half of 2016.The facility, which used to be owned by the Geodetic Institute of B&H, is located in the Sarajevo Municipality of Novi Grad, at the Boulevard of Meša Selimović, and it was purchased through judicial sale at a public auction.As the FF of B&H stated, procurement of new business facility covering 5,900 square meters is one of successful business moves of the Federation’s management in the past year.The majority of space will be used by the FF of B&H, and it is envisaged that the part of the facility which exceeds the needs of the Federation is rented.Secretary General Jasmin Baković highlighted that the facility “with its surroundings should primarily be functional, modern and attractive to both football enthusiasts and all other people”.“Among other things, there will be a congress center with three halls, a museum, trophy hall, fan shop, restaurant, underground garage, outdoor parking lots, a fountain, greenery etc. office space will comply with the needs of the General Secretariat. It is important to highlight that all bodies of the Federation, as well as complete administration, will have excellent working conditions,” Baković said.(Source: read more


first_imgAustralia’s best Youth Touch Footballers will assemble on the Sunshine Coast for the Touch Football Australia (TFA) National Youth Camp at the Currimundi Recreation Centre, Currimundi, from Thursday 28 June – Sunday July 1 2007.93 National squad members from the six Federation of International Touch (FIT) Youth Divisions will be put through their paces by National Youth Coaches and some of Australia’s leading Open age Coaches and players during the four day program.The National Youth Squads comprising 18 Years Boys, Girls, and Mixed squads, and National 20 Years Men’s, Women’s, and Mixed squads will be exposed to fitness testing, skill development, game play, tactical briefs, sports science, and mentoring sessions during the camp.The camp is Australia’s first step in regaining the FIT Youth World Cup that was relinquished to New Zealand at the most recent Youth World Cup that was played at Quad Park on the Sunshine Coast in 2005.The National squad players will be working towards the National Youth Championships in Coffs Harbour from 19-22 September 2007, where squads will be reviewed again.Players have their long-term goals firmly on selection in the National Teams for the next FIT Youth World Cup to be played in Auckland New Zealand in January 2009.Local Sunshine Coast Australian Women’s Open World Cup player, Peta Rogerson will attend the camp as a role model with fellow 2007 FIT World Cup representatives Australian Women’s Open Captain Sharyn Williams, Australian Open Men’s Captain Gavin Shuker, and Gary Sonda.The quartet of role models played starring roles in the Australia’s retention of the FIT Open World Cup played in Stellenbosch South Africa in January 2007. The six National Youth squads will participate in a range of  on and off field activities aimed to introduce and immerse them in the successful culture of Touch Football Australia’s High Performance program.last_img read more

Government to Train More Young Persons Through HEART/NTA

first_img State Minister for Education, Youth and Information, Hon. Floyd Green, says the Government expects a 14 per cent increase in the number of students trained in HEART Trust/NTA programmes this year. Story Highlights Giving the keynote address at the opening ceremony for World Youth Skills Day 2018 on July 17 at the Garmex HEART Academy in Kingston, Mr. Green said the Government has set a target of having 134,000 young persons trained over the period.center_img State Minister for Education, Youth and Information, Hon. Floyd Green, says the Government expects a 14 per cent increase in the number of students trained in HEART Trust/NTA programmes this year.Giving the keynote address at the opening ceremony for World Youth Skills Day 2018 on July 17 at the Garmex HEART Academy in Kingston, Mr. Green said the Government has set a target of having 134,000 young persons trained over the period.He said this is possible due to the improved access to training opportunities through the full integration of the National Youth Service (NYS), Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning (JFLL) and the Apprenticeship Board with the HEART Trust/NTA to create a super training agency.“As a Government, we have been improving access to skills training. We want to ensure that right across the length and breadth of Jamaica, any young person that wants to go into skills, there is an avenue. When you come to the HEART Trust, it is a one-stop shop. We provide assessments and then put you on a pathway towards skills education,” the State Minister said.Mr. Green called on young persons to explore technical and vocational education and training (TVET) areas as viable career options.According to studies conducted by the HEART Trust’s Labour Market Research and Intelligence Department, new and emerging occupational areas include 3D Visualisers, Big Data Engineers, Renewable Energy Specialists, Accident Reconstruction Specialists, Robotics Engineers, Mechatronic Engineers, Smart House Infrastructure Designers and Drone Pilots.HEART Trust now has an increased focus on specialisations, including training programmes targeted at high-employment industries, such as business process outsourcing (BPO), tourism and hospitality, logistics and animation as well as construction and agriculture.last_img read more

Alberta sees big drop in charitable donations

first_imgAnother sign of the hard times in Alberta; people are really starting to tighten the purse strings when it comes to charitable donations.The latest figures from Statistics Canada show total donations reported by Canadian tax filers fell almost three per cent in 2016 to $8.9 billion.The largest decrease was in Alberta: a drop of 10.7 per cent.The next biggest drop was Prince Edward Island at a little more than five per cent.Even with the decrease, Alberta still had a higher number of people making donations, about 21 per cent, than the national average, 20.5 per cent, and the second highest median donations at $470 compared with the national median donation of $300.Donors in Lethbridge had the second highest median charitable donations in the country at $620.Calgary United Way COO Beth Gignac said the trend of year over year declines continued in 2017.She explained the economic turbulence means a lot of people are out of the work force, and now rely on agencies they would normally donate to.“What we’re doing and have been doing over the past year is working with our agency partners to talk about ways in which we can think our way through this problem together,” she said.That includes working with corporate workplace partners and getting the message across that even a small contribution can have a big impact.Gignac said the greatest challenge as an organization, given what’s happening, is to still be able to provide sustainable funding to the 104 agencies they support.last_img read more

Richardson International has deal to buy Wesson oil from Conagra Brands

first_imgWINNIPEG — Richardson International Ltd. says it has an agreement with Conagra Brands Inc. to purchase cooking oil brand Wesson and a U.S. production facility for an undisclosed price.The privately held Winnipeg-based company says the acquisition reinforces the growth strategy for its food business and complements its position as a vertically integrated canola processor.Canada’s largest agribusiness says it will “reinvigorate” the brand and plans to invest in the Memphis, Tenn., facility.The Canadian company recently invested $30 million to build an innovation centre focused on product development.The agreement is subject to the usual closing conditions, including regulatory approval and is expected to be finalized in the first quarter.The deal comes nine months after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission moved to block the proposed US$285-million acquisition of Wesson oil by J.M. Smucker Co. over concerns the combination would lessen competition. Smucker had planned to move production to its facility in Ohio.The Canadian Presslast_img read more

Update to fatal crash on Highway 97 south of Dawson Creek

first_imgThe lone driver of the Ford, a 36-year-old man also from the Peace Region, sustained only minor injuries.Police are continuing to investigate the cause of this collision.Anyone with information regarding this collision is being asked to call the Peace Region Traffic Services in Dawson Creek at 250-784-3700, citing file 2019-3847.Police will not be releasing any further information at this time.The Highway was closed and has since reopened. DAWSON CREEK, B.C. – Dawson Creek RCMP, Peace Region Traffic Services and Emergency Services responded to a fatal collision this morning, Wednesday, June 5, at approximately 7:50 a.m. on Highway 97 between 229 and 235 Roads south of Dawson Creek.According to RCMP, upon arrival, it was determined that a collision occurred between a northbound Ford F550 service truck and a southbound Jeep Cherokee.RCMP say the lone driver of the Jeep, a 59-year-old woman from the Peace Region, died in the crash.last_img read more