Hub Headlines from the Johns Hopkins news network Hub Mon, 08 Feb 2016 16:00:00 -0500 Johns Hopkins approved to perform first HIV-positive to HIV-positive organ transplants in U.S. <p>Johns Hopkins recently received approval from the <a href="">United Network for Organ Sharing</a> to be the first hospital in the United States to perform HIV-positive to HIV-positive organ transplants.</p> <p>The institution will be the first in the nation to do an HIV-positive kidney transplant and the first in the world to execute an HIV-positive liver transplant.</p> <p>"This is an unbelievably exciting day for our hospital and our team, but more importantly for patients living with HIV and end-stage organ disease. For these individuals, this means a new chance at life," says <a href="">Dorry Segev</a>, associate professor of surgery at the <a href="">Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine</a>.</p> <p>This announcement brings to fruition the two-year effort Segev put into helping draft the 2013 HOPE Act—a bill signed by President Obama that made it possible for HIV-positive individuals to donate organs, and one of only 57 bills passed in 2013.</p> <p>Approximately 122,000 people are on the U.S. transplant waiting list at any one time. Thousands die each year, many of whom may have lived had they gotten the organ they needed. Meanwhile, Segev estimates that each year, about 500 to 600 HIV-positive would-be organ donors had organs that could have saved more than 1,000 people—if only the medical community had been allowed to use the organs for transplant.</p> <p>The antiquated law, which the HOPE Act reversed, prevented doctors from using organs from HIV-positive donors, even if they were intended to be given to an HIV-positive patient desperately in need of the organ. Despite the positive outcomes of non-HIV transplants in HIV-positive recipients and the proven results of HIV-positive to HIV-positive kidney transplants in South Africa, HIV-positive to HIV-positive transplantation in the United States was not a possibility until now.</p> <p>The first approved HIV-positive to HIV-positive transplant could take place as soon as a suitable organ should become available and a recipient is successfully identified and prepared.</p> <p>"Organ transplantation is actually even more important for patients with HIV, since they die on the waiting list even faster than their HIV-negative counterparts," Segev says. "We are very thankful to Congress, Obama, and the entire transplant community for letting us use organs from HIV-positive patients to save lives, instead of throwing them away, as we had to do for so many years."</p> Mon, 08 Feb 2016 10:05:00 -0500 Hopkins lacrosse season preview: Blue Jays look to build on last spring's run of success <p>After <a href="">winning the inaugural Big Ten men's lacrosse tournament</a> and <a href="">advancing to the NCAA semifinals</a> in 2015, Johns Hopkins has its sights set even higher in 2016. Despite facing a makeover on defense and needing to replace one of the best attackmen in school history, this year's team has the same lofty goal that every Blue Jays lacrosse team has—winning a national championship.</p> <p>To reach that goal, coach Dave Pietramala and the Blue Jays will rely heavily on a dynamic tandem on attack, an experienced midfield, and an emerging faceoff unit and hope that a talented but inexperienced defensive unit comes together.</p> <p><strong>Also see:</strong> <a href="">Schedule</a> | <a href="">Roster</a></p> <p>Below is a closer look at the 2016 Blue Jays, who open the season Tuesday at Navy.</p> <h4>Attack</h4> <p>Senior attackman Ryan Brown scored a school-record 61 goals a year ago, earning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and second-team USILA All-America honors. He was the primary beneficiary of the passing talents of Wells Stanwick, who graduated in 2015 after recording 124 career assists. Brown enters his final year with 118 career goals and a 34-game goal-scoring streak.</p> <p>Brown will still be taking passes from a Stanwick, but it will be sophomore Shack Stanwick, who burst on the scene last year with a 28-goal, 23-assist effort that made him the first Hopkins freshman to top the 50-point mark in more than 20 years. His continued development will be essential as opposing defenses key on Brown.</p> <p>Junior Wilkins Dismuke is the most experienced player in a three-man battle for the other starting spot on attack, along with freshmen Alex Concannon and Kyle Marr. All three figure to see significant time as the season progresses. Senior Liam Giblin, who is battling back from an offseason injury, and freshmen Henry Grass and Jake Fox, could also see time on attack.</p> <h4>Midfield</h4> <p>Two members of last year's first-team midfield, Connor Reed and Joel Tinney, will miss the entire 2016 season, setting up opportunities for others to see increased roles. Senior Holden Cattoni and junior John Crawley figure to anchor the top two units. Cattoni scored 23 goals and added five assists last season, and Crawley finished fifth on the team in scoring with 21 goals and 11 assists.</p> <p>Two other returnees from the second midfield, juniors Cody Radziewicz and Kieran Eissler, will be counted on to increase their production. With 60 career combined games played between them, they are one of the most experienced second-line tandems in the nation and work well together.</p> <p>An emerging presence at midfield this season could be sophomore Patrick Fraser, who opened eyes last season as a key member of a Johns Hopkins extra-man unit that produced 38 goals. Four sophomores—Thomas Guida, Brinton Valis, Sam Lynch, and Drew Pirie—are among the returning players battling for time, and freshman Drew Supinski—the No. 4 recruit in the nation, according to <em>Inside Lacrosse</em>—could see immediate time on one of the top midfield units after an impressive fall and strong showings in preseason scrimmages.</p> <h4>Defense</h4> <p>The biggest personnel losses for Hopkins come at the defensive end, where two starters on close defense, the starting pole, a top short-stick defensive middie and a man-down specialist must all be replaced.</p> <p>Junior Nick Fields returns as the leader on defense after grabbing honorable mention All-Big Ten honors last season. As he did in 2015, Fields will routinely draw the assignment of marking the opposition's top attackman; his ability to win that matchup is crucial to the overall success of Hopkins on defense.</p> <p>Ben Kellar transferred to JHU from Bucknell, where he earned first -team All-Patriot League honors last season. Kellar, a graduate student, has significant experience and will provide a physical presence down low. Senior co-captain Matt O'Keefe and freshman Patrick Foley also figure into the team's plans on close defense.</p> <p>Among the others who figure into the team's plans on defense are senior Eddie Morris, juniors Riley DeSmit and Trevor Koelsch, and sophomore Sam Bamigboye.</p> <p>The long stick middie role vacated by the graduation of Michael Pellegrino, a two-time All-American, figured to be filled by some combination of senior co-captain Derrick Kihembo, junior Austin Spencer, and freshman Robert Kuhn. Kihembo was second on the depth chart last season and played in 15 games behind Pellegrino, while Spencer was a two-year regular on defense at UMass before transferring to Johns Hopkins last summer.</p> <p>Junior Joe Carlini has been a regular as a short stick defensive middie since arriving and is now the leader of that group. Sophomores Tal Bruno and Chris Hubler; freshmen Lane Odom, Danny Jones, and Ryan Coulter; and senior Kelton Black, could all see time alongside Carlini.</p> <h4>Goalies</h4> <p>A three-way battle has emerged for the starting spot as the Blue Jays look to replace Eric Schneider, who started 33 games in his career and played a majority of the minutes last season. Senior Will Ryan, sophomore Brock Turnbaugh, and freshman Hunter Sells carried have each made a compelling case for the job during fall and preseason practices.</p> <p>Ryan is easily the most experienced of the bunch, having played in 10 games—including two starts—last season. He helped jump-start JHU's late-season seven-game winning streak with a nine-save performance in a double-overtime win against Penn State.</p> <h4>Faceoffs</h4> <p>A year ago, Hopkins won just 52.2% of its faceoff attempts. With a revamped defense, better production will be counted on as that unit develops.</p> <p>Pietramala is confident that he has four players capable of succeeding at the faceoff X this season. Senior Craig Madarasz and sophomore Hunter Moreland figure to lead the way for the Blue Jays. Madarasz missed the entire season a year ago, but won 22 of 42 faceoffs as a sophomore in 2014. Moreland emerged last season as one of the top young faceoff specialists in the nation, winning 111 of 202 draws (55%). Juniors Kevin O'Toole and Matt Ledwin handled the faceoff chores in the fall when Madarasz and Moreland were working their way back from injuries and could also be called upon.</p> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 15:00:00 -0500 Hip-hop and poetry: Evolving sound, style, and the impact of MCs <p>Reviewing <a href="">Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's "The Message"</a> in 1982, <em>New York Times</em> critic Robert Palmer wrote, "Until 'The Message,' the message of the overwhelming majority of rap records was self-assertion or just plain bragging, a kind of updated equivalent of 1950's bragging blues like Bo Diddley's 'I'm a Man' or Muddy Waters's 'Hoochie Coochie Man.'"</p> <p>This hip-hop song wasn't simply a popular dance track and a high-charting record on <em>Billboard</em>'s "Black Singles" list. It was the hip-hop track that put the MC—and what was said and how it was articulated—front and center. Thirty years later, not only has hip-hop become the lingua franca of pop music in general, but MCs are rightly celebrated for their lyrical command: for their clever wordplay and ingenious rhyme schemes, for their storytelling gifts and emotional breadth, for their humor and politics. In short, for their poetry.</p> <p><a href=""><em>The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop</em></a>, released last year, brings together 78 poets shaped by and responding to the verbal, intellectual, and political culture forged by hip-hop and its five elements: DJing, graffiti writing, B-boying/-girling, MCing, and knowledge. Co-edited by poets/educators <a href="">Kevin Coval</a>, <a href="">Quraysh Ali Lansana</a>, and <a href="">Nate Marshall</a>, <em>BreakBeat Poets</em> is the first poetry anthology of writers shaped by hip-hop. The authors range in age from their teens to their early 50s.</p> <p>"It is, in all honesty, quite surprising that it has taken this long for an anthology of this nature to arrive," notes <a href="">a review in the <em>International Socialist Review</em></a>. "One would have thought that the first anthology of poetry 'by and for the Hip-Hop generation' would have been at least twenty years old by now."</p> <p><a href="">Dora Malech</a>, an assistant professor in Johns Hopkins University's <a href="">Writing Seminars</a>, invited <em>BreakBeat Poets</em> co-editor Lansana and two of the poets included in the anthology—<a href="">Tony Medina</a> and <a href="">Safia Elhillo</a>—to be guests at her <a href="">Poetry and Social Justice class</a>, one of three <a href="">community-based learning classes</a> offered this semester through the Center for Social Concern's <a href="">Engaged Scholar Faculty and Community Fellows Program</a>. All three will appear at a <a href="">free reading and interactive performance</a> Monday at the Arellano Theatre sponsored by the <a href="">Center for Africana Studies</a>.</p> <p>The Hub caught up with Lansana, a lecturer in the Creative Writing Program of the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, by phone to talk about hip-hop and poetry, the reemergence of sound in poetry, and his top five MCs.</p> <p><strong>I read that the original idea for <em>The BreakBeat Poets</em> anthology came from co-editor Kevin Coval, and that he asked you to help him put it together. What was attractive about the project for you, this examination of the relationship between hip-hop and poetry? Was that discussion happening much in poetry, the consideration of hip-hop's language and form on poetic ideas?</strong></p> <p>I think one of the things that's very unique and interesting about Chicago is that there was no separation in the nexus of the hip-hop community and the very booming and burgeoning spoken-word and poetry community in the '80s. They were really one in the same. Many of the city's MCs frequented open-mic readings. As a matter of fact, the writer and the director of the movie <em>Love Jones</em>, Theodore Witcher, was a saxophone player in my first poetry band, the Funky Wordsmyths. In the late '80s early '90s we used to frequent a jazz bar called Spices, and the movie is based on the community of folks who hung out there. So toward the latter end of that era, Kanye [West] and Common and Malik Yusef and J. Ivey and some of Chicago's evolving MCs in the hip-hop community were frequenting the open mic at Spices. So in Chicago there was no real separation between the communities. We were all in the same scene in the same places.</p> <p>Personally, rap has always been poetry. When I fell in love with hip-hop in '79 when "Rapper's Delight" eventually made it to Oklahoma, I was learning the works of Gwendolyn Brooks, I was learning to fall in love with poetry and language. And I grew up in a household filled with music. I'm the youngest of six, so I listened my older siblings' music—I knew the lyrics to Stevie Wonder songs before I knew how to spell the words that he was singing—and they were a part of the black power movement in Oklahoma, as much as it was. I was introduced to black power and black politics and arts movements and poetry very early in my life, well before I even understood it. But it's always shaped and informed me. My older siblings had Amiri Baraka and Nikki Giovanni poems taped to the walls of their bedrooms. I'm reading these words, I'm seeing raised black fists on walls, and I'm 4 and 5. That had an effect that I didn't fully understand until much later in life.</p> <p>So for me, rap is poetry, poetry is rap. There's never really been a distinction between the two. And I was fortunate enough to move to Chicago at a time when this movement was growing and hip-hop was evolving. And we were all in the same spots.</p> <p><strong>I'm glad to hear you bring up the musicality of language. I'm old enough to recall that for a long time hip-hop was derided, both musically and lyrically, that a MC's rhymes were fit for the ear but not for the page. I think that's a more difficult argument to make now. My question is, did hip-hop play any role in reaffirming the auditory experience of contemporary poetry?</strong></p> <p>I say quite often to my students that Billy Collins and Robert Pinsky have benefitted from Snoop Dog, although I don't know if they would ever admit that publicly. Hip-hop has been here the last 40 years and what we've experienced over the last 20 to 30 of those years is the mainstreaming of rap. And what is rap? It's lyric-based music. It's lyrics-first music.</p> <p>So as rap has, in many ways, been co-opted and moved to the center, certainly what we call page-culture or print-culture poets have benefitted from it as much as hip-hop or anyone else has.</p> <p><strong>Has hip-hop, and the way many of its MCs make personal experience the medium for reflecting on the time they're living in, had any impact on the formal or thematic ways the writers collected in the <em>The BreakBeat Poets</em> either conceive or explore issues such as identity, race, or even political ideas?</strong></p> <p>That's an interesting question. First of all, poets have always done that—we could go back to "Prufrock," Keats, Yeats. We could go back to Phillis Wheatley. I think that's always been there for poets and most artists. I think what hip-hop has done is help change and/or shape the conversation in new ways and helped change many aesthetic approaches to express those things. There are many poems in the anthology that literary critics would say are avant-garde. And the avant-garde aesthetic, it's not new but it continues to evolve and change.</p> <p>With the poems in the book, hip-hop has informed various approaches to say that there really are no rules in any way. In terms of the five elements, if you single rap out because it's the most commercially viable, what we've experienced since the early 1990s, for me, was all of a sudden one day we no longer heard De La Soul and [A] Tribe [Called Quest] and Big Daddy Kane on the radio and we heard NWA and Ice-T. It seemed like overnight reality rap was what was on the air and conscious rap no longer was. I think that's what has happened since the early '90s—because most of the focus of mainstream commercial rap is "bitch" and "ho," you have folks of all genders and ethnicities responding to that mainstreaming of this element of hip-hop that dominates commercial radio.</p> <p>And certainly in this book, a lot of folks, particularly young women—I'm very proud of the fact that half the poets in the book are women—responding to how rap has informed them and how the politics of the mainstreaming of rap has co-opted not only the five elements, but their own relationship with rap. I think about Chris Rock talking about being at the club and seeing women dancing to Lil Jon and how odd that was for him. What he brings up with that paradigm is that at that moment it was hard to love rap because the money was being put behind certain elements of rap but not the five elements that [Afrika] Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash and Kool DJ Herc conceived when they put together what became hip-hop.</p> <p><strong>Finally, MCs are always getting asked about who their top five MCs are. Who might be included in the top five MCs for their impact on poetry as reflected in the book?</strong></p> <p>[Laughs] That's very different from who my top five are. There's a lot of attention paid to Kanye and Tupac and Biggie in the book. There's some attention paid to ODB in the book. That's tough.</p> <p><strong>Who are your top five?</strong></p> <p>That's tough, too. My top five would be Nas, Kendrick [Lamar], Chance the Rapper, Jean Grae, and ... I don't know who my fifth would be. Maybe Biggie.</p> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 13:30:00 -0500 Documentary 'License to Operate' gives voice to community in crisis <p><a href=""><em>License to Operate</em></a>, a documentary produced by Johns Hopkins alumnus Don Kurz, tells the stories of reformed Los Angeles gang members who use their street cred to intervene in gang violence. They counsel families devastated by gun violence, patrol streets, and build—however grudgingly—working alliances with police officers for violence prevention. One former gang member tells the group at a meeting, "I was never a bad person, but when it came to being a banger, I was the best."</p> <p>Following Thursday's film screening at JHU's Hodson Hall, a panel of experts explored the importance of storytelling and giving voice to communities in crisis.</p> <p>"People in dysfunctional communities might not hear what you say, but they understand what they see," said panelist Aquil Basheer, a founder of the organization from which the film borrows its name.</p> <p>Panelists agreed that enabling community members to tell their own stories can let audiences gain entry into otherwise underrepresented and mischaracterized social groups.</p> <p>The post-screening discussion featured <a href="">Daniel Webster</a>, an expert on gun policy at JHU's Bloomberg School of Public Health; Dedra Layne, director of <a href="">Safe Streets Baltimore</a>, a program that uses evidence-based health approaches to address gun violence in the city; <a href="">Linda DeLibero</a>, director of the <a href="">Program in Film and Media Studies</a> at Johns Hopkins; and Basheer, who is featured in the film and founded <a href="">Maximum Force Enterprises</a>, a community-based violence intervention program. <a href="">Beverly Wendland</a>, dean of JHU's Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, moderated the discussion.</p> <p>The panel talked about the impact films like <em>License to Operate</em> , released in May 2015, can have on efforts to prevent violence. DeLibero called the film a "quiet and powerful demonstration of what can be accomplished" when people are allowed to tell their own stories.</p> <p>DeLibero's own efforts to promote storytelling for at-risk youth recently led to the creation of the <a href="">youth filmmaking program</a> at Johns Hopkins University. The program will give students and young adults from neighborhoods across Baltimore the opportunity to document their world on film.</p> <p>Basheer noted that during the filmmaking process, members of the L.T.O. organization were active in the editing process, "to make sure members of the community were represented in a respectful way."</p> <p>Layne added that films help communities see and understand themselves, their reactions to tragedy, and how they can create positive impact in their own neighborhoods.</p> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 15:40:00 -0500 Zika virus: Expert discusses its evolution and the challenges of developing effective treatments <p>A <a href="">recent case of sexually transmitted Zika virus in Texas</a> has raised new concerns that the mosquito-borne disease, believed to be linked to microcephaly and other birth defects, could be widely transmitted through sexual contact. Earlier this week, the World Health Organization said that the Zika virus and its suspected complications in newborns constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.</p> <p>For insight on Zika transmission and what the Texas case means for the safety of pregnant women in endemic regions, the Hub spoke with molecular microbiologist <a href="">Andrew Pekosz</a>, director of the Center for Emerging Viruses and Infectious Diseases at the <a href="">Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health</a>.</p> <h4>How do viruses like the Zika virus evolve?</h4> <p>It's a really interesting story, in the sense that there are a lot of viruses like Zika that have been identified in different parts of the world that have been shown to be spreading in limited fashions in those areas. And every once in a while it really makes a jump in terms of penetrating and expanding.</p> <p>You've seen it most recently with <a href="">Chikungunya virus</a>, and back in the 2000s it was <a href="">West Nile</a> here in the U.S. There are a lot of factors that drive the emergence of these viruses into new niches and new populations.</p> <h4>Does its evolution make Zika difficult to contain?</h4> <p>It might. Right now, we don't know what the primary driving factors are behind this explosion of viral infections that are occurring in multiple parts of the globe. Certainly there are aspects of the virus itself that may have changed. We do know that the sequences of the virus that are circulating now are different from the sequences we saw five years ago or even 20 years ago. What we don't know is if any of those sequences made it more likely for this virus to now be infecting mosquitos or more efficiently infecting humans.</p> <p>We also don't know if how this virus is circulating in nature has changed. Related viruses, like <a href="">Yellow Fever virus</a>, which is in the same family as Zika, requires infection of monkeys as well as humans in order to maintain itself in mosquito populations. A virus like <a href="">Dengue</a>, another relative of Zika, only requires infection of humans to maintain itself in mosquito populations. We don't know how much Zika relies on these different populations for maintenance or whether that has changed.</p> <h4>The CDC confirmed a case of sexually transmitted Zika. How do viruses change their modes of transmission? Is this unusual?</h4> <p>It's not surprising that there are reports of these types of transmissions with certain viruses. We've seen that <a href="">Ebola virus</a> can be present in semen for long periods of time and well after a person is thought to have been cured. A person can still be shedding the virus and transmitting it to sexual partners.</p> <p>This is not the first case of Zika virus being transmitted sexually. This happened several years ago with workers coming back from Africa to Colorado. A scientist was infected and passed it on to his spouse.</p> <p>When it comes to maintaining themselves in populations, viruses like Zika that require mosquitoes need high levels of the virus in the blood, because that's how other mosquitoes can get infected. So when the virus moves out of the blood into other areas, these aren't the primary means of transmission. They're just reservoirs of the virus that are left in the body waiting for the immune response to kick in and clear them out.</p> <p>Sexual transmission is basically a byproduct. It's a potential method of transmission, but not a primary method of transmission.</p> <h4>So we won't see Zika evolve into a sexually transmitted disease. It will most likely remain a mosquito-borne problem.</h4> <p>Absolutely. The primary means that we're concerned about with Zika is people who get infected via mosquitoes.</p> <h4>Based on our current understanding of Zika, its transmission, and related health concerns, what challenges do scientists face in developing a vaccine or treatment?</h4> <p>One is that we don't know anything about the type of immune response that is needed in order to protect from infection. That is one of the main research avenues that we need to go forward. If you generate antibodies to Zika virus, are you protected? Are you protected for long periods of time with those antibodies, or is it just a short period of protection? What type of vaccine do you need to stimulate the correct immune response? There's a lot we don't know about what it takes to protect someone from Zika, and we can only really establish what they are by using basic science and laboratory experiments. Once we know that, then we can launch forward and design the right type of vaccine to induce the right kind of immune response.</p> <h4>How long does that take?</h4> <p>It can sometimes take years. And that's just using laboratory models to study the immune response. After that, you have to make sure that what you've seen in the laboratory can also be induced in human populations. Human population studies are way down the line and often take years to complete.</p> <h4>Is there a way to expedite treatment or vaccine development?</h4> <p>Well, remember that the population that is driving this concern is pregnant women and the potential effect of Zika on the fetus. However, that's a very tenuous link right now—there's a lot of uncertainty about the diagnosis of Zika and the diagnosis of microcephaly, and we really don't know how strong of a link there is, and how many cases of microcephaly are directly caused by Zika.</p> <p>Having said that, because it's pregnant women, and we're talking about unborn children, it becomes an incredibly important issue that we have to take very, very seriously. That's why you're seeing travel advisories by the CDC and government agencies suggesting that women put off pregnancies. When there's uncertainty, it's better to be safe than to risk something.</p> <p>The other issue is that developing a vaccine or treatment for pregnant women is even more complicated than getting human trials done on non-pregnant populations, because pregnant women have a different immune response. Trials in pregnant women carry a great risk because you have to consider health of both the fetus and the mother. We want a vaccine to target pregnant women, but that's probably one of the most difficult populations to get approval for. It's a very difficult problem to tackle from a practical, logistical standpoint.</p> <p>I think if we didn't have cases of microcephaly linked to Zika, we would not be talking about it as much as we are now. The vast majority of populations won't produce any symptoms or will produce very mild symptoms. A strategy where we vaccinate the entire population is not what we want to pursue here.</p> <h4>What strategies should we be pursuing?</h4> <p>What we need to do is find these groups that are at particular risk and think about ways we can intervene there during the time the person is infected. It may be a vaccine that a young woman takes before she gets pregnant. This offers a great niche here, because it allows you to do testing on non-pregnant women and could be offered in endemic places as "women considering having a child should get this vaccine before becoming pregnant." That's one niche that could work for that population. Another strategy is to think about ways to provide short-term protection to women who are pregnant and have Zika. And this entails something like giving patients antibodies that recognize Zika, which, say, could provide protection for a few months of pregnancy and allow them to complete the pregnancy without having to resort to long-term therapies or vaccination.</p> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 14:30:00 -0500 Silicon Valley accelerator Y Combinator to pay visit to Johns Hopkins <p>Hours before the kickoff of the biannual <a href="">HopHacks hackathon</a> on Friday, organizers will welcome two members of the Silicon Valley tech accelerator <a href="">Y Combinator</a>, which has served as an incubator and fundraiser for tech giants such as DropBox, Airbnb, and Reddit.</p> <p>Y Combinator partner Dalton Caldwell and hardware specialist Luke Iseman will host a talk, followed by a Q and A session, at 5:30 p.m. at Hodson Hall. The speakers will also hold office hours and meet with students to discuss startup ideas before their scheduled talk.</p> <p>Caldwell is the founder of the music streaming service imeem—which was acquired by MySpace in 2009—and Mixed Media Labs. Iseman cofounded the soil sensor startup Edyn and specializes in hardware development.</p> <p>Event organizer Kasim Ahmad, a venture coordinator for Johns Hopkins University's own accelerator program, <a href="">FastForward</a>, says the goal is for the speakers to impart some of the secrets of their own successes.</p> <p>"I hope that attendees of the talk are inspired to take the next step in their entrepreneurial process," he says.</p> <p>Added Daniel Swann, a student founder of HopHacks who will graduate in May with a master's degree in computer science: "Y Combinator is all about the cutting edge of technology. They really like to see innovative ideas and innovative teams. They want to see people who are passionate about technology, who are really devoted to what they're working on, and people who think of alternative ideas. We hope to see that in our hackathon—really creative ideas that haven't been seen before."</p> <p>HopHacks is a 36-hour hackathon that brings together university students from around the country to take part in collaborative computer programming. The event is coordinated by a team of 13 students and is sponsored in part by <a href="">Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures</a>, the <a href="">Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory</a>, Google, Bloomberg, and AOL, among others. Winning teams are awarded cash prizes, and additional awards and honors will be given out by sponsors.</p> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 12:50:00 -0500 JHU students get immersive introduction to issues facing refugee communities <p>Irene Vargas emigrated from Peru when she was 10 years old, arriving in America with no English and no friends.</p> <p>The Johns Hopkins University senior now calls Baltimore home, and is discovering that she shares the community with a surprisingly large immigrant and refugee population. A <a href="">2014 report estimated that 7.3% of the city's population</a> was born outside the U.S. Of the 6,700 refugees who resettled in Maryland in 2010–2014, 43 percent live in Baltimore City, according to a <a href="">Maryland Office for Refugees and Asylees report</a>.</p> <p>Spurred by her experiences as an immigrant, Vargas wanted to learn about what life is like for refugees. Other Hopkins students expressed similar interests, propelled by their own experiences as immigrants or galvanized by the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis.</p> <p>Last month, the Alternative Breaks Program, an extension of JHU's <a href="">Center for Social Concern</a>, offered Vargas and her peers an opportunity to learn about refugees and the communities that support them as part of an immersive, for-credit Intersession course.</p> <p>Participating students spent the week at a retreat center in Mount Vernon, which served as a temporary headquarters for three Alternative Breaks groups. Under the direction of course instructor Bob Francis, a Johns Hopkins sociology PhD student, the students learned about the current crisis in Syria and specific migrant populations living in Baltimore. The city's refugee population comes from all around the world; among those who have recently resettled here, the largest group is from Bhutan, a Buddhist kingdom in the Himalayas.</p> <p>Two student facilitators, Caroline Lupetini and Aria Albritton, organized a busy schedule for the week that included meetings with resettlement agencies, service activities, and a day trip to Washington, D.C. There the group visited the UN Refugee Agency and met with a staffer in the office of Sen. Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat who this fall urged the White House to accept more refugees from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries. The visit coincided with a Senate vote to block legislation in favor of tougher refugee screening, which prompted an ongoing discussion among the students throughout the week.</p> <p>"Almost everyone had direct experience with this," Lupetini said, adding that several students shared their own stories of immigration. "It was really wonderful to hear everyone's personal stories to add to the instructional value of the trip."</p> <p>The highlight of the week, many agreed, was tutoring with the <a href="">Refugee Youth Project</a>, a Baltimore City Community College program that provides after-school programming for refugee youth. The 11 JHU volunteers dispersed to several tables to provide individualized help to program participants on topics that included math, history, and SAT prep.</p> <p>"I've never had an experience like this one," Vargas said.</p> <p>As she tutored a 16-year-old Burmese refugee, she recalled a time when she bounced from tutor to tutor, struggling with her English. "I see myself in them," she said.</p> <p>The Breaking in Baltimore Alternative Breaks Program is designed to give students an opportunity to explore social justice issues by engaging with Baltimore through direct service and education sessions. For more information and to see upcoming trips, visit <a href="">the Center for Social Concern website</a>.</p> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 12:33:00 -0500 New interdisciplinary center at Johns Hopkins aims to reshape medical care <p>Johns Hopkins University today announced the establishment of a new collaborative research effort designed to enhance the efficiency, effectiveness, and consistency of health care.</p> <p>The Malone Center for Engineering in Healthcare, at the university's <a href="">Whiting School of Engineering</a>, will bring together engineers, clinicians, and health care providers to focus on three priority areas: data analytics, systems design and analysis, and technology and devices. Clinician-engineering teams will work together to help speed innovation and its impact on society by integrating their research-based advances with practical applications.</p> <p>Bringing engineers into all aspects of medical practice at Johns Hopkins will "enhance the impact of our already preeminent health sciences enterprises," JHU President <a href="">Ronald J. Daniels</a> said. "We are breaking down barriers and coming together as one university, dedicated to advancing wholly new approaches to health care."</p> <p>The center will be established through the support of Whiting School alumnus John C. Malone, who earned a master's degree and doctorate at Johns Hopkins. Malone has also supported the Whiting School with a gift for the construction of Malone Hall, a cutting-edge academic research facility that opened on JHU's Homewood campus in 2014, and a series of professorships associated with the new center. They include the Mandell Bellmore Professorship, named for Malone's PhD adviser at Johns Hopkins. <a href="">Gregory D. Hager</a>, a professor of computer science, is the inaugural Mandell Bellmore Professor and the center's founding director.</p> <p>The center aims to spark new collaborations at Johns Hopkins and will also help support research initiatives already taking place, including:</p> <ul> <li><p>Neurologist and Malone Professor <a href="">John Krakauer</a> has been leading a team that developed a computer game meant to help stroke patients recover by using their arms to control the movements of a virtual dolphin.</p></li> <li><p>Computer scientist <a href="">Suchi Saria</a> led work to develop an algorithm that identifies hospital patients at greatest risk of septic shock. Using records of thousands of patients at a Boston hospital, the method was able to predict septic shock before organ dysfunction two-thirds of the time, a 60 percent improvement over existing screening.</p></li> <li><p>Computer scientist <a href="">Ilya Shpitser</a>, who is being named a John C. Malone Assistant Professor, works on drawing intelligent conclusions from biased data, especially in complex multivariate settings, and then applying the data analysis to problems in health care, medicine, and epidemiology.</p></li> </ul> <p>Hager said that to be effective, innovation in health care must be a "team sport" involving engineering-clinician teams embedded at the Johns Hopkins schools of Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health.</p> <p>"More than a decade of working with medical practitioners has taught me that silver bullets in health care innovation are few and far between—we have to build a culture of working together on a continuing and sustained basis to have real impact," Hager said. "The payoffs will be huge. We aim to make Johns Hopkins the national leader for technology innovation in health care."</p> <p>Added Paul Rothman, dean of the medical faculty: "The relationship between engineering and medicine is woven into the fabric of our schools, and where creative problem solving and a willingness to take risks are prized. It is clear that the juncture of technology and medicine will continue to reshape health care and will have enormous impact on how we diagnose disease, deliver care, and conduct health-related research."</p> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 08:30:00 -0500 Thomas Dolby among headliners for first Light City Baltimore festival <p><a href="">Thomas Dolby</a>, a 1980s pop music icon and a professor of the arts at Johns Hopkins University, will be among the headline performers at next month's inaugural Light City Baltimore festival, event organizers announced earlier this week.</p> <p>For more than three decades, Dolby—perhaps best known for his 1982 synthpop hit "She Blinded Me With Science"—has been a pioneer in the digital music industry, working alongside artists including David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, Foreigner, Joni Mitchell, and George Clinton.</p> <p>He joined the faculty at Johns Hopkins in 2014 as Homewood Professor of the Arts and serves as the artistic director for the Program in Sound on Film at Station North, helping to lead the university's efforts in Baltimore's blossoming arts and entertainment district.</p> <p><a href="">Light City Baltimore</a>, which runs from March 28 to April 3 in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, is the first large-scale, international light festival in the United States. The festival's 50 attractions will celebrate ideas, ingenuity, and creativity through art, music, and innovation. Other headliners include Baltimore artist Dan Deacon and Philadelphia's DJ Jazzy Jeff.</p> Wed, 03 Feb 2016 15:40:00 -0500 Drug shortages force doctors to make difficult ethical decisions <p>Work-arounds due to shortages of crucial and lifesaving drugs have become the new normal in American medicine, forcing health care providers to make difficult decisions with no formal guidance, according to <a href="">a special report published recently by <em>The New York Times</em></a>.</p> <p>"At medical institutions across the country, choices about who gets drugs have often been made in ad hoc ways that have resulted in contradictory conclusions, murky ethical reasoning and medically questionable practices," author Sheri Fink writes in the article.</p> <p>After seeing the effect of chemotherapy shortages on pediatric cancer patients and his oncologist colleagues, <a href="">Yoram Unguru</a>, an oncologist at the Children's Hospital at Sinai in Baltimore and a faculty member at Johns Hopkins University's <a href="">Berman Institute of Bioethics</a>, decided to take action. Working with the Children's Oncology Group, he convened a working group of bioethicists, pharmacists, policymakers, and cancer specialists to address the problem.</p> <p>"The reasons for drug shortages are complex, but we must not lose sight of the fact that without access to these lifesaving drugs, children and adults with cancer will almost certainly die," Unguru says. "It is untenable for this situation to continue any longer. We have a clear moral obligation to act to address this critical issue."</p> <p>In <a href="">a commentary published in the <em>Journal of the National Cancer Institute</em></a>, Unguru and colleagues issue concrete guidance for the ethical allocation of chemotherapy and other supportive care drugs for children with cancer.</p> <p>"When faced with having to decide which of two children with cancer receives a lifesaving treatment, physicians and administrators should not feel that they are alone without a roadmap," Unguru says. "Allocation of scare resources, especially those that could save a life, is difficult and complex, but it is unethical to leave these challenges unaddressed. We hope this framework will be helpful and serve as a catalyst for further substantive action."</p> Wed, 03 Feb 2016 09:30:00 -0500 Activist, scholar Angela Davis calls for new thinking on criminal justice, prisons <p>In a packed assembly at Johns Hopkins University last night, activist and political scholar Angela Davis called for a wholesale dismantling of America's flawed policing and prison systems, framing that cause as central to the modern abolitionist movement.</p> <p>"We cannot simply call for reform," said Davis, who visited Hopkins as part of the <a href=""><em>JHU Forums on Race in America</em></a> series. "We want an end to incarceration, period."</p> <p>She urged for new forms of justice that "help us build a more compassionate and less violent society."</p> <p>Davis traced the history of the abolitionist movement back to slavery and throughout the last century's civil rights struggles—in which she herself was famously engaged, after rising to international attention as a counterculture icon in the 1970s. In the decades since, as a writer, professor, and speaker, she's become one of the country's most outspoken intellectuals, focusing on race, feminism, and justice.</p> <p>When the university <a href="">announced last month that Davis would speak on campus</a>, all tickets were claimed within an hour. More than a thousand people gathered last night to hear her speak at Shriver Hall on the Homewood campus, with many more watching from overflow viewing locations or via a live online broadcast.</p> <p>Davis spoke at length about the prison-industrial complex and "the deep structural racism embedded" in America's strategies for policing and imprisonment.</p> <p>"Racism continues to play a determining role in who gets stopped by the police and who doesn't," she said. "It determines who gets arrested and who goes free, who gets convicted and who is acquitted, who gets longer sentences and who gets shorter sentences." The criminal justice process is "a justice process that does appear criminal," she added, garnering applause.</p> <p>Davis described the United States as a "prison nation," noting <a href="">statistics cited recently by President Barack Obama</a> that the U.S. makes up 5 percent of the world's total population yet is home to 25 percent of its prison population. While she said she supports decarceration, that solution alone, she said, won't guarantee an end to the "punitive measures of police and prisons to solve deeply ingrained social and economic problems."</p> <p>She noted that jails and prisons are actually relatively new features in the context of human history. "These technologies of punishment should be considered impermanent—they have not always existed," Davis said. "If they have not always existed, then they don't have to exist in the future."</p> <p>Davis folded in related themes of gay and transgender rights, the struggles of Native Americans and Palestinians, and the dangers of xenophobia, particularly today's strain of Islamophobia. Feminism was also a recurring focus. "So much damage to our movement has been done by the assumption that men are the human beings that really matter," Davis said, responding to a male audience member who wondered whether masculinity was critical to today's civil rights activism.</p> <p>Davis, who was once associated with the Black Panther Party—a connection that, along with her Communist affiliation, led to her dismissal from an assistant professor position at UCLA in 1969—expressed optimism about 21st-century activism.</p> <p>With the public outrage over recent high-profile incidents of police brutality—including the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore—has come a wave of "new movements [that] have embraced abolitionism," she said, referencing the Black Lives Matter movement, the Black Youth Project 100, and the Dream Defenders.</p> <p>Davis, who just turned 72, recently spent time in Miami with the Dream Defenders, a group created in response to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin there.</p> <p>"I felt like a new person," she said. "I think young people will help to enliven us veterans, and show us paths we wouldn't have been able to imagine on our own."</p> <p><a class="twitter-timeline" href="" data-widget-id="694903792765124608">#raceinamericajhu Tweets</a> <script>!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+"://";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");</script></p> Tue, 02 Feb 2016 15:00:00 -0500 Johns Hopkins students examine chocolate up close—for science, of course <p>Even the most die-hard chocolate lovers probably haven't considered what the confection looks like on a molecular level. Just ask Victoria Michael, one of the students who took "Chocolate: An Introduction to Materials Science" during Johns Hopkins University's intersession.</p> <p>"It's incredibly cool to get a totally new perspective like this on chocolate, which is something we see all the time and don't really think about," the junior international studies major said. With its craggy surface studded with crystals of sugar and chubby globules of cocoa butter, chocolate, under a scanning electron microscope, resembles the surface of an alien planet.</p> <p>Offered through the Whiting School of Engineering's <a href="">Department of Materials Science and Engineering</a>, the course introduced 20 students to basic concepts in materials science, including phase diagrams, crystallization, and various characterization techniques—all through one of humankind's favorite treats.</p> <p>"OK, I admit it—I am a bit of a chocoholic," said <a href="">Jennifer Dailey</a>, the course's instructor, a doctoral student in materials science and engineering, and a National Science Foundation graduate research fellow. She created the class in conjunction with the "Teaching as Research" program at the University's Center for Educational Resources, collecting data to ascertain whether teaching students scientific concepts through something that they are familiar with and excited about (in this case, chocolate) helps them learn and retain the material as well as or better than students who learn in a more traditional lecture class.</p> <p>"My goal for this course was to introduce students to materials science, and to make materials science and engineering more accessible," Dailey said. "It definitely worked. I think it's fair to say that the course got many students excited about science and engineering."</p> <p>The course worked so well, in fact, that one student switched her major from traditional biology to biomaterials, an option available within the School of Engineering's materials science and engineering major.</p> <p>"The data seem to indicate that when learning scientific concepts in the context of something fun, students who started at a lower level of knowledge were able to retain the same amount as students who came in at a higher level and were exposed to a more traditional lecture materials science class," she said. "Plus, they had fun!"</p> Tue, 02 Feb 2016 11:30:00 -0500 Cancer cells travel in groups to forge metastases with greater chance of survival, study suggests <p>Apparently there's safety in numbers, even for cancer cells. <a href="">New research from Johns Hopkins</a> suggests that cancer cells rarely form metastatic tumors on their own, preferring to travel in groups to increase their collective chance of survival.</p> <p>In <a href="">a report on the study published online in the <em>Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</em></a>, the researchers say they also found that traveling cells differ from those multiplying within a primary tumor, and that the difference may make them naturally resistant to chemotherapy.</p> <p>"We found that cancer cells do two things to increase their chances of forming a new metastasis," says <a href="">Andrew Ewald</a>, professor of cell biology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "They turn on a molecular program that helps them travel through a diverse set of environments within the body, and they travel in groups."</p> <p>Metastasis, the complex way that tumor cells spread through the body, causes more than 90 percent of cancer-related deaths. Most chemotherapy drugs target proliferating cells and won't kill metastasizing cells, which leaves patients vulnerable to new tumors.</p> <p>Ewald and his team tested mice with a form of mammary gland cancer known to spread to the lungs. They found that fewer than three percent of the metastases came from a single cell, and discovered cell clusters at each step of the destination to the lungs—in tissue, blood vessels, and blood.</p> <p>Next, the researchers tested whether group travel gave the cells an advantage. In lab tests they found that clusters were at least 15 times better at forming colonies than single tumor cells. When they repeated the test in mice, the clusters were more than 100 times better at creating large metastases.</p> <p>"You can think of metastasis as <em>The Amazing Race</em>," says Ewald. "The cells encounter many different challenges as they attempt to grow and spread, and some cells are better at different events than others, so traveling in a group makes sense."</p> <p>The team also looked at whether traveling cells showed any particular molecular hallmarks that could be used to predict and ultimately prevent tumor spread. Building on previous research, they reaffirmed the role of the protein K14, which showed up in high levels in small, traveling cell clusters.</p> <p>K14 levels also helped identify different types of gene activity, revealing whether the cells were on a program for proliferation or metastasis. These findings, Ewald says, could eventually be used to develop new drugs to target metastasizing cells specifically.</p> Mon, 01 Feb 2016 16:15:00 -0500 Johns Hopkins biologist Scott Bailey receives $250,000 President's Frontier Award <p><a href="">Scott Bailey</a>, an associate professor in the Bloomberg School of Public Health's <a href="">Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology</a>, says his work figuring out the nuts and bolts of cellular structures that nobody has seen before is driven by "just the curiosity of it all."</p> <p>That curiosity has led Bailey to breakthroughs in visualizing the atomic structure of a large multiprotein complex with a key role in bacterial immunity. It has set the stage for the development of new drugs to prevent antibiotic resistance and will foster progress in genome editing strategies that may someday lead to precision treatments for genetic disorders.</p> <p>Today, it also earned Bailey the second Johns Hopkins University President's Frontier Award.</p> <p>"This award is to just dream and follow wherever curiosity leads him in advancing his research agenda," university President <a href="">Ronald J. Daniels</a> said after surprising Bailey in his lab with the $250,000 award. Joined by Provost <a href="">Robert C. Lieberman</a>, the president congratulated Bailey on the transformative impact he has had on his discipline, adding "this is a vote of confidence in knowing the best is yet to come."</p> <p>The <a href="">Frontier Award</a> was made possible through a donation from two Johns Hopkins alumni: university trustee Louis J. Forster and alumna Kathleen M. Pike. The award will recognize one person each year for five years with funding for their research expenses. When it was <a href="">announced in October 2014</a>, the program was characterized as an investment in a researcher's future potential, rather than a lifetime achievement award.</p> <p>University leaders said that in addition to President's Frontier Award winner Bailey, three outstanding 2016 finalists are each being recognized with $50,000 presidential monetary gifts to fund their research and advance their academic pursuits. Those three finalists are <a href="">Xin Chen</a>, an associate professor of biology in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences; <a href="">Michael Hersch</a>, a composer and pianist on the faculty of the Peabody Conservatory; and <a href="">Shanthini Sockanathan</a>, a professor of neuroscience in the School of Medicine.</p> <p>Bailey, who also is affiliated with the Bloomberg School's <a href="">Malaria Research Institute</a>, says it was a shock to find his students and colleagues crowded into his lab with a large banner declaring him this year's winner.</p> <p>"It's phenomenal," he says. "It's very sort of Hopkins in the sense that it is like a family here. I feel it at all levels, from the department to the school to the university."</p> <p>Bailey says he is already thinking about what his team can do with the money, including "the ways we can push into new ground, to take on more risky projects. Government funding is more narrowly defined in what you can do. With this you can go after a problem and really take risks with it. … That is where the breakthroughs tend to come."  </p> <p>Bailey grew up in Sheffield, England, and earned his bachelor's and doctoral degrees at the University of Sheffield, U.K. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Yale before joining the faculty of the <a href="">Bloomberg School of Public Health</a> in 2008. In recent years Bailey's groundbreaking research has led him to be lauded as one of the best structural biologist of his generation.</p> <p>"As a researcher, Scott is incredibly gifted," says <a href="">Pierre A. Coulombe</a>, professor and chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the Bloomberg School. "He's bold in the choices he makes, but steady and poised as he is pursuing a question. He also has been a very strong mentor to his students."</p> <p>Bailey works at the edges of scientific knowledge to understand at the molecular level how bacteria's immune systems fight off the threat posed by harmful viruses.</p> <p>Using x-ray crystallography, Bailey and his team have visualized the atomic structure of Cascade, a large multi-protein complex that binds to a DNA target. Cascade is a key element of the CRISPR system of bacterial immunity. CRISPR is an acronym for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats.</p> <p>The breakthrough by Bailey's team allowed for a better understanding of the bacterial immune response and how it acts as a barrier to the transfer of genetic information that promotes virulence and antibiotic resistance among bacterial cells. This new insight about how CRISPR functions sets the stage for the development of new drugs to prevent antibiotic resistance. This is important because more bacterial infections are becoming immune to existing antibiotics, leading to a major public health crisis.</p> <p>Also, because the CRISPR system has been isolated and adapted for genome editing in a wide variety of species, including humans, the team's new findings have implications for emerging techniques used to correct genetic defects responsible for a broad array of diseases.</p> <p>Bailey said the CRISPR research is "a good poster child for basic research. It started with people looking at yogurt, trying to make yogurt more cost-effective, and all of a sudden we've got something that may be a cure for genetic disease."</p> <p>In a joint announcement to the university community today, Daniels and Lieberman said, "It is deeply gratifying to see our faculty move their innovative work forward with the support of the President's Frontier Award program as well as with the Discovery and Catalyst Awards. We look forward to all that lies ahead for Scott, for our finalists and, indeed, for the community of remarkable scholars of which they are a part."</p> Mon, 01 Feb 2016 14:00:00 -0500 Higher levels of fitness linked to reduced risk of death after first heart attack <p>Higher levels of physical fitness may improve the chances of survival after a first attack, researchers at Johns Hopkins and the Henry Ford Health System report.</p> <p>Their findings, based on medical records data gathered from more than 2,000 men and women, are <a href="">described in the online Feb. 1 edition of <em>Mayo Clinic Proceedings</em></a>.</p> <p>"We knew that fitter people generally live longer, but we now have evidence linking fitness to survival after a first heart attack," says <a href="">Michael Blaha</a>, director of clinical research for the <a href="">Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease</a> and assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "It makes sense, but we believe this is the first time there is documentation of that association."</p> <p>For the new study, Blaha and his colleagues focused on medical records of individuals who had taken a treadmill stress test before their first heart attack and used the patient's achieved metabolic equivalent score—MET, for short&mdash:as a quick, although not perfect, measure of energy consumption at rest and during physical activity. The higher the MET score, Blaha says, the more physically fit the participants were considered to be.</p> <p>The researchers found that overall, the 634 people achieving MET scores of 10 or higher had about 40 percent fewer deaths after a first heart attack as compared to the rest of the patients. They also observed that one-third of the 754 patients with a MET score of 6 or less died within a year of their first heart attack. Overall, their results showed an 8 percent reduction in death risk for each whole-number increase in MET score after a first heart attack.</p> <p>"Our data suggest that doctors working with patients who have cardiovascular risk factors should be saying, 'Mr. Jones, you need to start an exercise program now to improve your fitness and chances of survival, should you experience a heart attack,'" says Clinton Brawner, clinical exercise physiologist at Henry Ford Health System.</p> <p>The investigators noted that their study design has limitations, including the fact that they could not assess whether improving fitness levels as measured by MET scores can decrease the risk of death from a heart attack. Also, Blaha says, they didn't determine if people who are fitter have less damaging heart attacks, or if they have same-sized heart attacks as those who are unfit but survive them better. Decades of research show that cardiovascular fitness does increase blood flow to the heart and may aid in healing, which is a likely contributing factor to lower mortality rates.</p> Mon, 01 Feb 2016 11:15:00 -0500 A closer look at what goes wrong in the brain when someone can't spell <p>By studying stroke victims who have lost the ability to spell, researchers have pinpointed the parts of the brain that control how we write words.</p> <p>In the latest issue of the journal <em>Brain</em>, Johns Hopkins University <a href="">neuroscientists link basic spelling difficulties for the first time with damage to seemingly unrelated regions of the brain</a>, shedding new light on the mechanics of language and memory.</p> <p>"When something goes wrong with spelling, it's not one thing that always happens—different things can happen, and they come from different breakdowns in the brain's machinery," said lead author <a href="">Brenda Rapp</a>, a professor in JHU's <a href="">Department of Cognitive Sciences</a>. "Depending on what part breaks, you'll have different symptoms."</p> <p><a href="">Rapp's team</a> studied 15 years' worth of cases in which 33 people were left with spelling impairments after suffering strokes. Some of the people had long-term memory difficulties, others working-memory issues.</p> <p>With long-term memory difficulties, people can't remember how to spell words they once knew and tend to make educated guesses. They could probably correctly guess a predictably spelled word like "camp," but with a more unpredictable spelling like "sauce," they might try "soss." In severe cases, people trying to spell "lion" might offer things like "lonp," "lint," and even "tiger."</p> <p>With working memory issues, people know how to spell words but have trouble choosing the correct letters or assembling the letters in the correct order—"lion" might be "liot," "lin," "lino," or "liont."</p> <p>The team used computer mapping to chart the brain lesions of each individual and found that in the long-term memory cases, damage appeared on two areas of the left hemisphere, one towards the front of the brain and the other at the lower part of the brain towards the back. In working memory cases, the lesions were primarily also in the left hemisphere but in a very different area in the upper part of the brain towards the back.</p> <p>"I was surprised to see how distant and distinct the brain regions are that support these two subcomponents of the writing process, especially two subcomponents that are so closely inter-related during spelling that some have argued that they shouldn't be thought of as separate functions," Rapp said. "You might have thought that they would be closer together and harder to tease apart."</p> <p>Though science knows quite a bit about how the brain handles reading, these findings offer some of the first clear evidence of how it spells, an understanding that could lead to improved behavioral treatments after brain damage and more effective ways to teach spelling.</p> Mon, 01 Feb 2016 10:00:00 -0500 No, drinking hot water or jumping vigorously after sex won't prevent pregnancy <p><em>Jane Otai is a community health educator working in Kenya for the international health nonprofit and Johns Hopkins University affiliate <a href="">Jhpiego</a>. This blog entry <a href="">originally appeared on the NPR blog Goats and Soda</a>.</em></p> <p>To be a girl in the Viwandani slum of Nairobi, Kenya, means sleeping in a one-room shack with as many as eight members of your family. It means convincing your parents that your monthly school fees are worth struggling to save for. It means scrounging for rags or old mattress stuffing to fashion a sanitary pad so you can go to school during that time of the month.</p> <p>And for too many, it means ignorance about reproductive health.</p> <p>I am a health care educator who has spent a decade working with women and families in the slums of Nairobi. When I meet with adolescents, as I did recently with a group of 75 in Viwandani, I talk about how to manage menstrual periods and the benefits of delaying pregnancy. On this particular visit, I was also there to deliver much-needed sanitary pads donated by girls' schools in the Baltimore-Washington area.</p> <p>As I began talking with the girls, ages 11 to 15, they explained they already knew how to avoid getting pregnant. No, their strategies didn't involve abstaining from sex or using condoms. Here's what they said would prevent pregnancy: taking a hot bath, drinking hot water, jumping vigorously after sex, having sex in a standing position, or having sex when it is raining or in a swimming pool.</p> <p>Their answers saddened me. But I probably shouldn't have been shocked. According to the 2014 <a href="">Kenya Demographic Health Survey</a>, the rate of contraceptive use is lowest among women ages 15 to 19, and 15 percent of them have already given birth.</p> <p>These numbers have contributed to alarming rates of maternal mortality: Globally, complications related to pregnancy and childbirth are <a href="">leading causes of death</a> among girls ages 15 to 19.</p> <p>When asked why they and their friends engage in sex at an early age, the girls explained their beliefs that sex reduces pains from their period and that a girl is able to dance well if she's had sex. They also mentioned hunger as a reason. When parents are not able to provide food or clothing, the girls can get these items from men in exchange for sex.</p> <p>This is not just a Kenya problem.</p> <p>Last week, health leaders from around the world met in Indonesia for the International Conference on Family Planning. One key part of the agenda was addressing youth reproductive health. As the <a href="">program notes</a>, there are more than 2 million adolescents with HIV, and one in 10 worldwide births is to a girl age 15 to 19.</p> <p>Of course, many devoted people and organizations are already on a mission to address these issues.</p> <p>But there are still girls out there, like the ones at my meeting in Nairobi, who don't even think of contraceptives as a way to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Once I told them about those options, however, they were receptive to them.</p> <p>So there is still a need to better understand what drives pregnancy among adolescents and come up with targeted interventions.</p> <p>One avenue of opportunity is in the classroom. When I meet with girls in Nairobi, I find they are hungry for the knowledge and skills that will lead to a bright future. The best way to achieve this is to prevent them from dropping out of school. Studies have shown that staying in school reduces the chances of girls getting pregnant or marrying early, lowers rates of HIV infection, and puts them on track to acquire a career.</p> <p>We also need parents, churches, and other community structures to share reproductive health information with the adolescents. It's time that this education becomes part of the curriculum in schools globally.</p> <p>That way, to be a girl in the Viwandani slum of Nairobi, Kenya, can mean earning a degree and going on to enjoy a productive life.</p> Mon, 01 Feb 2016 07:45:00 -0500 Edward Snowden, 'Orange Is the New Black' author headline annual Johns Hopkins speaker series <p>National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, the author of a bestselling book about life in a women's prison, and the founder of are among those who will speak at Johns Hopkins University during the spring semester as part of the 2016 <a href="">Foreign Affairs Symposium</a>.</p> <p>The annual speaker series, founded in 1998, is run by Johns Hopkins students and sponsored by the university's Office of Student Development and Programming. All events are free and open to the public; reserved seats can be purchased in advance through <a href=""></a>.</p> <p>The complete lineup:</p> <h4>Feb. 10 - Piper Kerman</h4> <p>Kerman is the author of the book "Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Woman's Prison," which was adapted for television as the popular Netflix series. She is an advocate for prison reform and teaches writing at correctional facilities in Ohio. <a href="">More information about this event</a></p> <h4>Feb. 17 - Edward Snowden</h4> <p>In 2013, Snowden sparked a worldwide debate on the government's collection of private information when he revealed documents detailing the NSA's surveillance practices. He has received many honors for his actions, including <em>The Guardian</em>'s Person of the Year and a spot on <em>TIME</em>'s 100 Most Influential People in the World. Snowden—who lives in an undisclosed location in Russia, where he has been granted temporary asylum—will appear via a live video broadcast. <a href="">More information about this event</a></p> <h4>Feb. 23 - Naomi Klein</h4> <p>Klein is an environmentalist and the author of "This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate," one of <em>The New York Times</em> 100 Notable Books of 2014. In the book she argues that global capitalism and climate change are bound together. In 2015, the book was adapted into a documentary. <a href="">More information about this event</a></p> <h4>March 9 - Ezra Klein</h4> <p>Klein, a journalist who founded the news site in 2014, has written for <em>The Washington Post</em>, where he managed "Wonkblog," one of the paper's best-read blogs. He also serves as a commentator on MSNBC programs such as "The Rachel Maddow Show," "Hardball with Chris Matthews," and "The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell." <a href="">More information about this event</a></p> <h4>March 22 - Panel on the Future of Policing in America</h4> <p>A panel discussion featuring Linda Sarsour, founder of Muslims for Ferguson; Donovan X. Ramsey, a journalist and fellow at the public policy organization Demos; Mark Puente, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist at <em>The Baltimore Sun</em>; and Commissioner Kevin Davis and Col. Melissa Hyatt from the Baltimore Police Department. <a href="">More information about this event</a></p> <h4>April 7 - World Bicycle Relief</h4> <p>Founded in 2005, World Bicycle Relief is an international nonprofit organization committed to bicycle distribution in rural Africa. By getting people bicycles, the group hopes to give people better access to education, health care, and economic opportunities. <a href="">More information about this event</a></p> Fri, 29 Jan 2016 13:15:00 -0500 Zika virus: What do we know about it, and how can it be contained? <p>A <a href="">recent outbreak of Zika virus in Brazil</a> is causing alarm throughout the Americas, with health officials warning Thursday that the disease is "spreading explosively." The World Health Organization (WHO) will convene an emergency meeting Monday to address the problem, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued travel alerts for people visiting Brazil and other endemic areas.</p> <p>Much of the concern about the virus stems from its apparent link to <a href="">microcephaly</a>, a birth defect wherein an infant's head is smaller than normal, often because the brain is undersized and may not have developed properly. Symptoms of the virus are otherwise not serious in adults, making its spread all the more rapid.</p> <p>The Hub reached out to <a href="">Anna Durbin</a>, an associate professor and researcher in the <a href="">Department of International Health</a> at the <a href="">Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health</a> to discuss Zika virus and its threat to public health. Durbin's work focuses on vaccine development for Dengue and other related mosquito-borne viruses.</p> <h4>What do we know about the Zika virus, and what are the risks?</h4> <p>We know that it is a <a href="">Flavivirus</a>, which means that it is related to viruses like Dengue, West Nile, and Yellow Fever virus. It is a mosquito-borne virus, and the primary mosquito that carries the virus is called <em>Aedes aegypti</em>, the same mosquito that carries Dengue. There is a huge outbreak of the virus in Brazil, and as the WHO said, it's spreading explosively across the Americas.</p> <p>It's a relatively new virus, meaning that it hasn't been seen in populations until more recently. It was discovered in 1947 in a rhesus monkey. The scientists were actually looking for Yellow Fever virus, but found different viruses that are carried by mosquitoes, and Zika was one of them.</p> <p>There were a couple of smaller outbreaks: one in Micronesia and one in French Polynesia. What's interesting is that those outbreaks were much smaller than the current outbreak in the Americas, and there did not appear to be cases of microcephaly associated with those outbreaks. That said, those outbreaks were quite small, so it might be that it was not noticed. In the French Polynesia outbreak, there were increased cases of <a href="">Guillain-Barré syndrome</a>, and investigators there thought that it may be related to Zika virus. That's not unusual. We do see Guillain-Barré syndrome after various viral infections—most commonly influenza.</p> <p>There is no vaccine for Zika, and the vast majority of people don't have many symptoms. Reports are that only about 20 percent of people who are infected with the virus have symptoms, and those symptoms generally are a rash, a low-grade fever, joint swelling and joint pain, and conjunctivitis, or redness of the eye.</p> <p>The big concern now throughout the Americas is that in Brazil, they have seen more cases of microcephaly than in previous years. Investigators are concerned that there might be a link, that if a mother is infected during her pregnancy it might lead to microcephaly.</p> <h4>Is that what makes it so dangerous?</h4> <p>In terms of transmission, the fact that so many people don't have symptoms contributes to why it's spreading so rapidly. People don't feel sick and go about their normal day—they go to work, they travel. They're going around getting bitten by mosquitoes, whereas if they're home in bed, they're less likely to be bitten and therefore transmit the disease.</p> <p>The reason this outbreak is so concerning is the possible link between infection in the mother during pregnancy and microcephaly. That's such a devastating outcome for the fetus. We have no treatment for Zika, so even if the mother is diagnosed during her pregnancy, right now we don't have any drugs to treat her or her fetus.</p> <h4>How does the virus spread?</h4> <p>The mosquito bites you and takes a blood meal. The virus lives in the blood meal that the mosquito has taken. That virus grows within the mosquito and replicates, making its way, essentially, through the mosquito to its saliva. When the mosquito bites another person, the virus gets injected, via the mosquito's saliva, into the next person.</p> <h4>What challenges do health organizations face in containing the spread of this virus?</h4> <p>The biggest hurdle is mosquito control and trying to prevent the mosquitoes from spreading the disease, which can be very difficult. We do have intermittent mosquito control mechanisms that have been used for select outbreaks, but they are very difficult to maintain and are very expensive. And any time you stop the mosquito control, the mosquitoes come back, so you have to have ongoing and continual efforts—meaning insecticides, fogging—that are very difficult to sustain for long periods of time.</p> <p>The other hurdle is figuring out how we can protect women who become pregnant. As you can imagine, it can be very scary for women in endemic areas who may become pregnant. They don't know if they have Zika because they may not have a lot of symptoms, and they may not know until later in their pregnancy or until after they've given birth.</p> <p>It's important to determine whether or not there is a real link between Zika and microcephaly, and to understand, if there is a link, how that link works so you can intervene in other ways until we can find a vaccine or find a drug. Right now, there is high suspicion that Zika is causing microcephaly, but we haven't confirmed it, and we really need studies to confirm that to make sure that we are in fact targeting the right cause in order to prevent microcephaly in these kids.</p> <h4>How can health care workers get ahead of the spread of the disease to prevent further infection?</h4> <p>I think the biggest thing to try to do right now is to be informed about protecting yourself from mosquitoes. Remove mosquito breeding areas from around your home. These mosquitoes really like to live close to people—they're day-biters, they live around homes, sometimes even in the homes. They breed in very small amounts of water, so it's important to get the message out that people should remove any areas of standing water around homes.</p> <p>When you're living in endemic areas, it's really difficult—you'd have to be wearing DEET every day—but little things like putting screens on windows if possible, wearing long pants, long sleeves, those are important things to do.</p> <p>In terms of governmental support in endemic areas, we need larger governmental efforts in <a href="">vector control</a>. Again, that's not going to be easy to sustain. We've been trying vector control for Dengue, but it hasn't worked because efforts have to be so intensive and it has to be prolonged, and finding the financial resources and the will to sustain it has been difficult.</p> <h4>You mentioned that it had been discovered in a rhesus monkey. Are there other animals that could be carriers for the virus?</h4> <p>Not that we know of. Most Flaviviruses only have mosquitoes, humans, and some monkeys as hosts, so we think Zika is going to be like that. West Nile virus can replicate in birds but is carried by different mosquitoes and is in a different virus family—it's more related to Japanese encephalitis. But Yellow Fever and Dengue only inhabit nonhuman primates, humans, and mosquitoes. We think that will probably be true of Zika—but we don't know. We have to do the studies.</p> <p>I will say the other big focus is that we need rapid diagnostic tests for Zika, and we need a vaccine. I think a rapid diagnostic test may be easier and quicker to develop than a vaccine, because right now, the tests that we use to diagnose Zika are very labor-intensive and they take a long time. We can't test at point of care right now; we have to send the tests off. So rapid diagnostics are a high priority, and vaccine development is a high priority as well.</p> <h4>What is the risk of the virus spreading to the United States?</h4> <p>Most public health experts, and I would agree with this, feel the risk is low. Will we see cases of Zika virus in the United States? Most definitely yes. But the vast majority of those cases will be travelers returning from Zika-endemic areas. Could Zika possibly be transmitted within the United States? I would say yes, but again it would probably be very low level and not be sustained, similar to what we've seen with Dengue in the United States. There was a recent outbreak of Dengue in Hawaii that was contained. We've had a few cases of Dengue transmitted in Florida and the Florida Keys in the past five years or so, but it hasn't been sustained.</p> <p>A lot of that has to do with the infrastructure we have here in the United States—people have air conditioners, screens in their windows. People spend a lot of time indoors. There's not as much time spent exposed to mosquitoes.</p> <p>It's important to know that the National Institutes of Health and the government are aware of the problem. Meetings have been held. They're looking at research agendas and prioritizing resources for Zika. The WHO is convening an emergency meeting on Monday. So I think the public health authorities and governments are aware of this problem and are mobilizing to do everything they can.</p> Fri, 29 Jan 2016 12:00:00 -0500 Mothers who are obese, diabetic are more likely to have children with autism <p>Autism is more common in children born to mothers with obesity and diabetes, a new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study suggests.</p> <p>Researchers found that mothers with both conditions were at least four times more likely than healthy weight mothers to give birth to children diagnosed on the autism spectrum. Their findings, <a href="">published in the journal <em>Pediatrics</em></a>, contribute to growing evidence that the risk of autism develops before birth.</p> <p>According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of autism has skyrocketed since the 1960s, with one in 68 children in the U.S. now affected by the neurodevelopmental condition. Over the same time period, obesity and diabetes have also reached epidemic levels in women of child-bearing age.</p> <p>Though previous research has linked autism to maternal diabetes, this Hopkins study is believed to be the first to look at obesity and diabetes in tandem as risk factors.</p> <p>Researchers analyzed 2,734 mother-child pairs from the Boston Medical Center between 1998 and 2014. They followed the babies from birth through childhood, identifying 102 diagnoses of the autism spectrum disorder. Their findings revealed that obese mothers with diabetes—whether pre-pregnancy or gestational—were more than four times as likely to have children with autism.</p> <p>"It's important for us to now try to figure out what is it about the combination of obesity and diabetes that is potentially contributing to sub-optimal fetal health," says study co-author <a href="">M. Daniele Fallin</a>, director of the <a href="">Wendy Klag Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities</a> at the Bloomberg School and chair of the <a href="">Department of Mental Health</a>. The study was led by <a href="">Xiaobin Wang</a>, the Zanvyl Krieger Professor in Child Health at the Bloomberg School and director of <a href="">the Center on the Early Life Origins of Disease</a>.</p> <p>Though both obesity and diabetes are known to cause general stress on the body, scientists don't yet fully understand the biology of why the two conditions contribute to autism risk. Previous research has linked maternal obesity with inflammation of the fetal brain and lowered levels of folate, a B-vitamin essential for development.</p> <p>Regardless of the future studies warranted, the Hopkins researchers stress that better management of weight and diabetes can have lifelong impacts on both mother and child.</p> <p>"In order to prevent autism, we may need to consider not only pregnancy, but also pre-pregnancy health," Fallin says.</p>