A Whirlwind of News – Jennifer Stallings

            These days it seems like everyone is connected to the Internet, which provides users with an abundance of information. With the advent of news publications taking over the World Wide Web rather than print, it’s sometimes hard to keep up with all the interesting information that isn’t as news worthy as a front-page topic. In this blog post, a review of current news articles will be provided in an effort to spread the word about interesting topics without having to search around for them.

  •  Diet soda does not increase Diabetes Risk

–        A study by Harvard University researchers found that artificially-sweetened soft drink, coffee or tea consumption in a group of men followed for 20 years were risk factors for developing diabetes. Prior studies had suggested that people who drink diet soda regularly might be more likely to get diabetes than those who avoid artificially-sweetened drinks, but the recent study indicates that the link is a result of other factors common to both diet soda drinkers and people with diabetes, including being overweight. Although diet-soda can be a good alternative to sweetened beverages that contain high amounts of sugar, diet-drinks should not replace water. Water is essential to life and drinking 8 cups a day is beneficial.

–        Link to article: http://www.arabtimesonline.com/NewsDetails/tabid/96/smid/414/ArticleID/168172/t/Diet-soda-doesn%E2%80%99t-raise-diabetes-risk/Default.aspx


  • Italy work on AIDS vaccine

–        Researchers who are part of Italy’s National Aids Centre (CNAIDS) will be testing a candidate vaccine known as the “Italian vaccine” in 200 people with HIV. The vaccine target a protein called “Tat-1” which researchers believe is regulates production of the virus. The website including data about the vaccine suggests that Tat may modify the virus-host dynamics which can control HIV-1 replication—this will be used in prevention and treatment. Along with this clinical trial, a service component that is funded by the Italian foreign affairs ministry will be providing equipment to 40 health clinics in South Africa. 

–        Link to article: http://www.timeslive.co.za/lifestyle/health/article1030558.ece/SA-Italy-work-on-AIDS-vaccine


  •  A Viagra-Like Condom to Treat and Embarrassing Problem

–        The Wall Street Journal published a report about a contraceptive for men with difficulty maintaining an erection. A U.K. biotech company working with Durex is approaching an approval of this product in Europe. The medical purpose according to the company is to cut down the risk of sexually transmitted disease. As of now, it’s unclear whether the manufacturer will approach the FDA to market the product here.

–        Link to article: http://blogs.wsj.com/health/2011/04/20/a-viagra-like-condom-to-treat-an-embarrassing-problem/


  • San Francisco’s policy could have huge impact, study says

–        An aggressive policy implemented in San Francisco recommends everyone diagnosed with HIV start treatment immediately. The aim of this is to cut the rate of new infections according to a study released on 4/15/2011. Federal guidelines have been gradually promoting early treatment due to the more efficient and safe drugs used to treat infection. San Francisco’s public health department is still working on addressing the stigma surrounding treatment and support for individuals.

–        Link to article: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/04/16/MN9G1J1NO1.DTL&tsp=1



  • Common nutrition beliefs are merely urban myths

–        This article addressed a recent news report citing nutrition topics based on urban myths. For one, inadequate vitamin D intake is correlated with age-related macular degeneration although foods like eggs are not the best if you want to increase intake. It would take 15 eggs to meet the current adult recommendation for vitamin D while only a 4 oz. serving of fatty fish (salmon, sardines) meets ½ of recommendation while a cup of milk provides 1/6 of recommendation. Along with this, the protein of an egg is not solely in the white. Sixty percent is found in the white while the remaining amount is in the yolk.

–        Link to article: http://www.staradvertiser.com/features/healthoptions/20110419_Common_nutrition_beliefs_are_merely_urban_myths.html


Finding important news information can sometimes be time consuming. These above articles are fraction of what can be found after a quick search for food using keywords. News is constantly released and keeping up with current topics can be interesting and it’s a great conversation starter!


A step in the right direction…HIV vaccine research

Rachel Corrado- Boston University student and BLC Volunteer

As a health science student at Boston University, I am always excited when the lectures in my classes relate to the topics I hear about in the BLC. Lately, I was assigned to read an article dealing with new progress made in developing a possible vaccine for HIV. Researchers at Oxford University have recently discovered aspects of the virus’ protective structure that may actually make it vulnerable.

At its most basic level, HIV is a bundle of proteins and carbohydrates. While most attempts at vaccine development have been focusing on the proteins, this method has so far been unsuccessful. HIV always seems to be one step ahead of the body’s immune system, mutating and shifting its proteins so that developing an effective antibody is extremely difficult. However, Dunlop et. al. have made some interesting discoveries by taking a closer look at the carbohydrate portion of the structure.

“Most of the antigenic surface of HIV is covered by carbohydrates,” says Dr. Christopher Scanlan, one of the researchers involved in the project. “It’s often called the glycan shield. The virus needs to be continually evading the immune system, and this shield is perhaps the most effective strategy.”

This “glycan shield” acts as a sort of cloaking device as the virus makes its way through the body, hiding it from the immune system. Normally, it is one of HIV’s primary means of protecting itself, but the scientists think they may have discovered a flaw in this armor that they might be able to turn against the virus. The structure is unique in that the surface carbohydrates are packed so closely together, and while this makes the defense mechanism effective, it also prevents the typical modification that would normally occur in other viruses. In other words, the researchers have found a stable portion of HIV for the body’s immune system to recognize and latch onto. Furthermore, they discovered that certain carbohydrates that coat the outside of yeast cells are remarkably similar to the stable carbohydrates on the outside of HIV. If the researchers can modify the yeast carbohydrates to look more like the ones on HIV, they may be able to create a safe and effective vaccine.

Though it may just be because I am a biology nerd, I love it when I can learn about all the mechanics of the human body and how it interacts with the diseases to which it is exposed. It’s even better when I can learn about something like this, which may be a step in the right direction for finally developing a tool to fight this dangerous and adaptive virus.


“Polysaccharide mimicry of the epitope of the broadly neutralizing anti-HIV antibody, 2G12, induces enhanced antibody responses to self oligomannose glycans.” Dunlop, D.C. et. al. Glycobiology 2010.

The BLC would like to thank Rachel Corrado for her contribution to our blog and her continued service to the HIV community.