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December 08, 2004 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2004-12-08

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December 8, 2004



Researcher Lynne Shetron-Rama grows Bacillus anthracis in host cells at the University's newly founded Biodefense Proteomics Reseac etr
Created with a $5.9 million grant, the center will research on methods to disable biological weapons like anthrax.
joins nation s biodefensew
Snetwork with anthrax center


By Kingson Man
Daily Staff Reporter
At this moment, the naturally occur-
ring biological weapon, anthrax, lies
dormant all over the world in the form
of spores, waiting for the right time
and an unlucky host to strike. Within
hours of infecting a foraging herbivore
or its human handler, the spores spring
to life and begin a frenzy of replica-
tion and proliferation, wreaking
intercellular havoc, most likely result-
ing in death. And at the University's
newly created Biodefense Proteomics
Research Center, researcher Phillip
Hanna is looking for ways to disable
the bacterium at these earliest stages
of infection.
The center, directed by Hanna, was
created with a $5.9 million grant last
month, from the National Institutes of
Allergy and Infectious Disease, part
f the National Institutes of Health.
f the seven new centers created by
IAID, the University, along with the
cripps Research Institute in La Jolla,
alif., is charged with investigating
he deadly anthrax pathogen.
The goals of this center will be two-
old: To discover what Hanna calls the
"choke points" -or critical moments
- in the early development of Bacillus
anthracis, the spore-forming bacte-
rium that causes anthrax, and to dis-
seminate this information efficiently
to other scientists studying the patho-
Nicholas Bergman, co-director of
the center and faculty member in the
University's department of bioinfor-
matics, will principally be involved in
mining the information for "interest-
ing patterns," which will be no easy
"Our research should really increase
the data we have available," Bergman
said. Emphasizing the cooperative
nature of studying the deadly bacteri-
um, Bergman's goal will be to analyze

the data and make it "available to oth-
ers in academia and industry who are
better able to take individual leads to
the next step."
The University will be taking a
unique approach to understanding the
biology of anthrax. "The combination
of proteomics and genomics, applied
together toward the same problem, has
allowed us to take some huge strides
toward understanding ... big process-
es like spore formation," Bergman
said. "(The University) plays a pretty
dominant role in anthrax research
While genomics focuses on
sequencing the genome, or catalogu-
ing the genetic code of an organism,
proteomics is the considerably mess-
ier study of proteins and their action
in cells. While genes code for amino
acids that become the building blocks
of proteins, the proteins themselves
combine and recombine into a dizzy-
ing array of possibilities.
Hanna said, defining which of the
about 6,000 anthrax genes give the
bacterium such lethal success will
enable researchers to find "specific
molecules ... for vaccines, antibiotic
drugs and diagnostics."
Hanna is working on a hunch: That
figuring out which proteins are active
in the earliest stages of anthrax infec-
tion will allow researchers to shut
those mechanisms down and thereby
stop the budding spores dead in their
"We hypothesize the best time to
intervene medically is the early, estab-
lishment stages of anthrax," Hanna
Also under investigation is how
the long-dormant anthrax spore can
reanimate itself so quickly once inside
a suitable host. In a matter of hours,
the germ gathers nutrients, produces
toxins and starts manufacturing pro-
teins that enable it to elude the body's
immune mechanisms. According to


"I'm not sure
anthrax will ever
disappear as a
threat, but we
can certainly
make it easier
to deal with."
- Nicholas Bergman
Proteomics Research
Center co-director
Magnified view of Bacillus anthracis

State removes
limits on flu
vaccume usage
My AI'sn tUH$ will ctinue wilh its reviised>
Daily News Editor -valuationi of high-risk patients unti4
itreeves more word from the goww
Less than tw6 months after the ermn ffcas Winne1d said.
state retricted distition of flii "We'll be looking for guidance
vaccioe to nigh-sk indduls from tthe (Centers fr Disease Coin-
Michigan heath \ iswil lftthe trO and Pevenon ad the heath
~emergency order tomorrow~'. deptmient mtedical directr," he
The hrtae. edby the with add
draofalfthe US vcinsply, UHS now~ has 200 doses ofvC
force ofiiLs fro h Michian< cine left of the 35OO it 4tre with.
to nstuc helhCa istituin cie illkl edsrbtda
at high isk of dyihs "W hir e whkich o pen 4Xoi
fromi the thi. Distrib- a hog rdy
utig he acinetothe healthi to 11:30 a m. F~or su
wa amideeaordepartment K aciofe s kinde
punishable by 'up to h d. i the health fee that
si x m onth s ' Y3 \an a r m V \isfp)d)a,) g wi ,
a $200 Qe..............tition.
ouhofiil all restrictions wniedsdUH
istering the, yacim to try tolhs er it gave ouit
th~e Univers4ty He~alh ' 1L600 to L,700 shotsi
==.torstit f. itrb>. 1= 0Otothe University
'Ist nerleto the. UH also 'supp'ie
disease, U HS Drector the individualus th athlietic department,
RobtWinfield sid. e stllithy acnes for ya
"he h a,"j,+h o ar t ' tY atYhltes. This year.
'department hias high-ris " howeve, the depart-
removed ,al restnie/- meant 3urned aw iy 'The
tions ... we're gogC supply' it ormally
to try to continue t- Robert Winfid ys from UHSn
focu in on the~ idi-....UH$ Director~ Thestes
v'dtals who a e still ,, aPouinement g
high-risk: rd hedded, the publ c hea1th order
.' wever, U wil e liber- comes at a wienhen the U.S.govw
alizilng th concept of high risk" ernment deemed safe as mnafy as 4.
by Qffering the acine to some millon, doseso the vaccine manu-
individu~als who ~Weie preyiously faciured by 1GaxoSmithKiine .in~
excluded fromn the cteg ory. 'Win.- Germlany.
field added U ,{ \ Ny .S. Heafth and Hiunmani' Ser-
Fo istnc, peo wlie vie ertr Thmmy3Thmpwo
with\ a patet suffering fromt a. said yesterday the government w
imun syst disorder eould' immedtely biyPng~ LZ milhon
haebeen punished for reciving dosesuof 'the vaccine. cadled .Flu~
~a'idede the~ pjrevious~ piubl' arx an4sid Gax1o.nuthKliH'e
health order, "while the same per- had agreed 'to make about 3 miljion
son would now be able to receive it mo~re doses available later.
from UHS.,' Because Fluarix is not' tieensed.
Those eligible to reeive the ht , for use Tn the country, it will e>
vaccine~ from UAS incTude people nsed 'as 'a 'triaI drug, mearning it'
older' than~ 50, young cildren 'of can be' used only 'if patients 'si
students and others with w eak a~ fOrm' acknowledging its poten-
~that tUHS will turi away people ~
it 'beieves should 'not reeive the -TeAsocid Peucodr
vaccine. ' d thsreport.
Rationing over
Restricted distribution of flu vaccine lifted
* Even with the unrestricted distribution, University Health
Services will continue rationing its supply of flu vaccine.
* People over the age of 50, young children and or people with
weak immune systems are eligible for vaccinations.
* UHS now only has available 200 emergency vaccine shots
from the 3,500 doses it began with.
* The end to the restriction on the vaccines comes at the same
time as the U.S. government declares 4 million doses of vaccine
from the company GlaxoSmithKline are safe for usage.

I i

the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, anthrax spores are found
naturally in soil, most commonly in
agricultural and developing regions of
the world.
Earlier this year, however, Hanna
and his team took a sample of soil
from a bank on the Huron River back
to his lab and found that anthrax was
able to go through complete growth
cycles in it.
Hanna emphasized that "this does
not mean this actually happens in
nature, where the competition for food
is fierce" as opposed to the ideal grow-
ing conditions in the lab, although
"there is the possibility."
In the lab, Hanna works with a less
harmful or defanged version of B.
anthracis called the Sterne strain, a
live animal vaccine approved by the
U.S. Department of Agriculture. Two
large, circular chunks of DNA called
plasmids are needed by the bacteria
to remain virulent. One is the source
of its toxicity and the other creates a
"slimy outer coat covering the growing
anthrax" and protects it from immune-

system attack, Hanna said. The Sterne
strain lacks the plasmid necessary to
produce the outer coating.
In addition to working with a safer
strain of anthrax, Hanna scrupulously
maintains safe conditions in working
with the lethal pathogen. "We will
perform no work that we cannot do
safely," Hanna said. Oversight from
the CDC, NIH, the University's Bio-
safety Committee, the Department
of Occupational Safety and Environ-
mental Health, and the Department of
Public Safety, all abide by the same
Outside of the lab, however, "the
problem is that there are so many
unguarded, natural sources where
someone could get B. anthracis,"
Bergman said. The ultimate goal is
to develop an effective vaccine to pre-
vent anthrax outbreaks, and then to
develop drugs to treat the infections
that do occur.
Said Bergman, "I'm not sure anthrax
will ever disappear as a threat, but we
can certainly make it easier to deal

Engineering students construct
greenhouses for public schools

By Kim Tomlin
Daily Staff Reporter
More than 100 engineering students have
started building the first sides of the green-
houses that will be placed at five nearby, under-
privileged public schools next semester.
One section of the introductory class Engi-
neering 100 is working with the nonprofit orga-
nization Growing Hope to provide inexpensive
greenhouses that are needed for public gardens
and for educational purposes in the Ypsilanti
area, said University research scientist Lorelle
Meadows, who oversees
the class with Technical The outer w
Communications lecturer
Pauline Khan. currently be

Students apply skills to aid
community bulding project

Recognizing students' motivation, the Dow
Foundation - a charitable and educational
trust established in memory of the founder of
Midland-based Dow Chemical Co. - donated
$3,000 to the class. The donation allowed the
students to buy high-tech, polycarbonate sheet-
ing - hard to break
alls that are polymer glass - for
the outer structure of
ng built the greenhouses. With-

The students in the class said they are excit-
ed to help the community while learning how
to apply their engineering skills. Engineer-
ing freshman Shirleen Jouw said she does not
mind the hard work because the greenhouses
can be used to help the schools to grow food
for the community and to educate students on
The outer walls, which are currently being
built on North Campus, will be finished Friday.


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