HIV Treatment & European Dinosaur | SciByte 123

HIV Treatment & European Dinosaur | SciByte 123

We take a look at an infant possibly cured of HIV, a new dinosaur in Europe, antibiotics, Curiosity news, and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

Direct Download:

MP3 Audio | OGG Audio | Video | Torrent | YouTube

RSS Feeds:

MP3 Feed | OGG Feed | Video Feed | Torrent Feed | iTunes

Show Notes:

2nd Infant Possibly Cured of HIV

  • A second American baby born with the AIDS virus may have had her infection put into remission and possibly cured by very early treatment, in this instance, four hours after birth.
  • Last Time on SciByte …
  • Scibyte 84 | HIV & SpaceX Troubles | March 5, 2013
  • The \’First Case\’
  • The girl was born in LA a month after researchers announced the first case in Mississippi last year that led doctors worldwide to rethink how fast and hard to treat infants born with HIV
  • The Mississippi baby is now 3 1/2 and seems HIV-free despite no treatment for about two years although she is still getting AIDS medicines, so the status of her infection is not as clear.
  • Treatment
  • Most HIV-infected moms in the U.S. get AIDS medicines during pregnancy, which greatly cuts the chances they will pass the virus to their babies
  • The LA baby was born mother was not taking her HIV medicines although the mom was given AIDS drugs during labor to try to prevent transmission of the virus
  • Doctors started the baby on AIDS drugs within a few hours after birth before test results came back, tests later confirmed she had been infected
  • The infant remained on antivirals until 18 months of age, at which point the child was lost to follow-up for a while
  • Ten months after discontinuation of treatment, the child underwent repeated standard blood tests, none of which detected HIV presence in the blood
  • Tests
  • A host of sophisticated tests at multiple times suggest the LA baby has completely cleared the virus
  • Doctors are cautious about suggesting she has been cured, instead of being in remission but it looks like a cure
  • The baby\’s signs are different from what doctors see in patients whose infections are merely suppressed by successful treatment
  • Adult AIDS-related Development
  • Only about 1 percent of people have two copies of the gene that gives this protection
  • Scientists have modified genes in the blood cells of a dozen adults to help them resist HIV from a donor with natural immunity to the virus
  • HIV usually infects blood cells through a protein on their surface called CCR5. A California company, Sangamo BioSciences Inc., makes a treatment that can knock out a gene that makes CCR5.
  • They tested it in 12 HIV patients who had their blood filtered to remove some of their cells. The treated cells were infused back into the patients
  • Four weeks later, half of the patients were temporarily taken off AIDS medicines to see the gene therapy\’s effect
  • The virus returned in all but one of them; that patient turned out to have one copy of the protective gene
  • Researchers knew that the virus was going to come back in most of the patients, but the hope is that the modified cells eventually will outnumber the rest and give the patient a way to control viral levels without medicines
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Doctors hope for cure in a second baby born with HIV |


Tracking SeaTurtles

  • Small satellite-tracking devices attached to sea turtles swimming off Florida\’s coast have delivered first-of-its-kind data that could help unlock the mystery of what endangered turtles do during the \”lost years.\”
  • \”Lost Years
  • \”Lost years\” refers to the time after turtles hatch and head to sea where they remain for many years before returning to near-shore waters as large juveniles
  • The time period is often referred like this because not much has been known about where the young turtles go and how they interact with their oceanic environment
  • Before this study, most of the scientific information about the early life history of sea turtles was inferred through genetics studies, opportunistic sightings offshore, or laboratory-based studies
  • With real observations of turtles in their natural environment, scientists are able to examine and reevaluate existing hypotheses about the turtles\’ early life history
  • Tracking
  • A team of scientists tracked 17 loggerhead turtles for 27 to 220 days in the open ocean using small, solar-powered satellite tags
  • The goal was to better understand the turtles\’ movements, habitat preferences, and what role temperature may play in early sea turtle life history
  • While the turtles remain in oceanic waters (traveling between 124 miles to 2,672 miles) off the continental shelf and the loggerhead turtles sought the surface of the water as predicted
  • The Study
  • The study found that the turtles do not necessarily remain within the currents associated with the North Atlantic subtropical gyre
  • It was historically thought that loggerhead turtles hatching from Florida\’s east coast complete a long, developmental migration in a large circle around the Atlantic entrained in these currents
  • The team\’s data suggest that turtles may drop out of these currents into the middle of the Atlantic (Sargasso Sea)
  • The team also found that while the turtles mostly stayed at the sea surface, where they were exposed to the sun\’s energy, the turtles\’ shells registered more heat than anticipated (as recorded by sensors in the satellite tags
  • Hiding in the Seaweed
  • A new hypothesis about why the turtles seek refuge in seaweed (Sargassum). It is a type of seaweed found on the surface of the water in the deep ocean long associated with young sea turtles.
  • Scientists propose that young turtles remain at the sea surface to gain a thermal benefit, which makes sense because the turtles are cold blooded animals by remaining at the sea surface
  • By associating with Sargassum habitat, turtles gain a thermal refuge of sorts that may help enhance growth and feeding rates, among other physiological benefits.
  • The Importance
  • Findings are important because the loggerhead turtles along with other sea turtles are threatened or endangered species
  • Florida beaches are important to their survival because they provide important nesting grounds in North America, more than 80% along Florida\’s coast
  • There are other important nesting grounds and nursing areas for sea turtles in the western hemisphere found from as far north as Virginia to South America and the Caribbean.
  • There\’s a whole lot that happens during the Atlantic crossing that we knew nothing about and this work helps to redefine Atlantic loggerhead nursery grounds and early loggerhead habitat use
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Sea turtles \’lost years\’ mystery starts to unravel |


New European Dinosaur

  • A new dinosaur species found in Portugal may be the largest land predator discovered in Europe, as well as one of the largest carnivorous dinosaurs from the Jurassic
  • Torvosaurus Gurneyi
  • Scientists discovered bones belonging to this dinosaur north of Lisbon, they were originally believed to be a dinosaur species from North America
  • Closer comparison of the shin bone, upper jawbone, teeth, and partial tail vertebrae suggested a new species, Torvosaurus Gurneyi
  • The mouth bones have a different shape and structure, the number of teeth, as well as size and shape of the mouth, may differentiate the European and the American
  • It had blade-shaped teeth up to 10 cm long, which indicates it may have been at the top of the food chain in the Iberian Peninsula roughly 150 million years ago
  • Scientists estimate that the dinosaur could reach 10 meters long and weigh around 4 to 5 tons
  • With a skull of 115 cm, it would be one of the largest terrestrial carnivores at this era
  • An active predator that hunted other large dinosaurs, as evidenced by blade shape teeth up to 10 cm
  • Evidences of closely related dinosaurs suggest that this large predator may have already been covered with proto-feathers
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • New dinosaur found in Portugal, largest terrestrial predator from Europe — ScienceDaily |
  • Torvosaurus gurneyi: New Giant Dinosaur Discovered in Portugal |

New Antibiotic to Fight Drug-Resistant Bacteria

  • A team of researchers have discovered a new class of antibiotics to fight drug-resistant bacteria
  • Oxadiazoles, was discovered in silico (by computer) screening and has shown promise in the treatment of MRSA in mouse models of infection
  • Researchers screened 1.2 million compounds found that the oxadiazole inhibits a penicillin-binding protein
  • The oxadiazoles are also effective when taken orally, currently there is only one marketed antibiotic for MRSA that can be taken orally.
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • New class of antibiotics discovered by chemists — ScienceDaily |


  • Continuing On
  • Engineers will now occasionally commanding Curiosity to drive backwards in a newly tested bid to minimize serious damage to the six 20 inch diameter wheels
  • Curiosity is well on the way to her next near term goal, which is a science waypoint, named Kimberly (formerly called KMS-9), which lies about half a mile ahead.
  • \”Kimberley,\” features ground with striations and is where researchers plan to suspend driving for a period of science investigations
  • The map shows the route driven by NASA\’s Mars rover Curiosity through the 561st Martian day, or sol, of the rover\’s mission on Mars (March 5, 2014)
  • Multimedia
  • Big-Context Traverse Map Through Sol 561 |
  • Image Galleries at JPL and Curiosity Mulimedia
  • Social Media
  • Curiosity Rover @MarsCuriosity
  • Further Reading / In the News


Looking back | March 13

  • 1781 : 233 years ago : Uranus : Sir William Herschel announced his discovery of Uranus, the first planet discovered with a telescope. At the time of discovery he labeled it as a comet, by 1783 he finally acknowledged it was a planet, and by 1787, he had also observed the Uranian satellites Titania and Oberon (11 Jan 1787), which were later given these names by his son, John Herschel.
  • 1930 : 84 years ago : Pluto : Clyde W. Tombaugh telegraphed the discovery of Pluto to the Harvard College Observatory. After nearly a year of searching, Tombaugh discovered a possible moving object on photographic plates taken on January 21, 23 and January 29 confirmed the movement and discovery of Pluto.

Looking up this week

  • Keep an eye out for …
  • Thurs, March 13 | ~hour after sunset | To the lower left of the Moon you can see the star Regulus (actually two binary stars). Regulus is the bottom star of the handle of the sickle of the constellation Leo (looks like a backwards question mark)
  • Fri, Mar 14 | Tonight Regulus is above the moon
  • Planets
  • Venus | \”Morning Star\” | Before and during dawn Venus is in the SE
  • Mars | 9pm | Rises in the SE, with Spica 6* to its right. The two are their highest point around 2am with Spica now 5-6* to the lower right
  • Jupiter | Is the only planet visible right now in the evenings and is high in the SE, it crosses nearly overhead (for skywatchers at mid-northern latitudes) around 8 or 9 p.m. and sets in the West before dawn
  • Saturn | 11pm | Rises around 11 or and is highest in the south at the beginning of dawn. By then it\’s far to the left of Mars and Spica

  • Further Reading and Resources

  • Sky&Telescope
  • For the Southern hemisphere:
  • Constellations of the Southern Hemisphere :
  • Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand :
  • AstronomyNow
  • HeavensAbove

Question? Comments? Contact us here!