I've been working on a new series, themed around the concept of "Time."
I just uploaded it to My Gallery, hope you'll enjoy it.
|Time V © Elena E. Giorgi|
|Time I © Elena E. Giorgi|
|Time II © Elena E. Giorgi|
|Time III © Elena E. Giorgi|
|Time V © Elena E. Giorgi|
|Time I © Elena E. Giorgi|
|Time II © Elena E. Giorgi|
|Time III © Elena E. Giorgi|
|"They called her Ame Onna" - © Reylia Slaby|
"I'm Reylia, and I'm a conceptual photographer, but that isn't all I think I am. I am also a graphite artist, a poet, a dancer, a model, a writer and a reader. Not because I do all of those equally as much, or that I'm spectacular at any of them, but because I love them all equally, and have all had their place in my life."I think I can relate to those words. :-)
"In my photos I must have emotion, and I must have feeling. That is all I strive for. I get my inspiration from what I believe to be truths in life. If I can bring to people images they only see in their dreams, and images filled with whimsical hope, beauty, or tragedy, then that is a wonderful gift. And I hope that in that way I can be a friend."
"We hypothesized that despite their different ethnic and genetic backgrounds, the strong infectious pressure exerted by the major epidemics of the last millennium (of which epidemics of plague are probably the most significant) has led to convergent evolution: specific immune genes, selected during these European epidemics, become signatures that differ from those found in the Northwest Indian populations from whom the Rroma have derived ."Laayouni et al.  found several gene clusters under positive selection, of which one in particular (TLR1, TLR6, and TLR10) code for receptors that modulate responses to Yersinia pestis, the bacterium responsible for the bubonic plague.
"Due to the fast evolution of the influenza virus, the components of the influenza vaccine are changed for many flu seasons. Even though the vaccine is usually redesigned to match closely the newly evolved influenza virus strains, there occasionally has been a suboptimal match between vaccine and virus ."The surveillance data comes from the World Health Organization Global Influenza Surveillance Network (GISN), a network of 136 national influenza centers scattered in 106 different countries. The data focuses on one influenza gene in particular, the hemagglutinin (HA) because the protein it codes seems to drive the antibody response.
|Self-portrait - by EEG|
JLP: Besides providing the image for Lost in the Echo, I have a few of your prints here that show the scope of your talents. This shape shifting, surreal effect to the print below is one of my favourites. I know you’re a photographer from these, but can you tell us a little bit about you? Who’s the person behind the camera?You can see the sparkly new cover I made for Jack and read the full interview on Jack's blog.
EEG: The story of my life in a nutshell: I was born in the UK, grew up in Tuscany (Italy), and lived in 4 different European countries and 4 different states in the U.S. before settling in beautiful New Mexico. As for “what” I am, I’m first and foremost a scientist -- that’s how my brain works. But I wouldn’t be who I am without my two creative outlets: writing and photography.
JLP: There’s a lot of scope for inspiration in all of the places you have lived, and it’s sparked a writing talent too. How long have you been a photographer? What influenced you to first pick up a camera?
EEG: I’ve been drawing and painting since I could hold a pencil and paintbrush. My first camera was a Sony point and shoot, which I used mainly to take pictures of things and people I wanted to paint. Painting is a demanding activity, though: you not only have to find the time to do it, you also need to have the right space. It’s a lot easier when you can afford a studio where you can keep up your work in progress for as long as you need. In my case, life took over: for about a decade we kept moving every other year, and the paintbrushes and paints ended up in a box, and, well, they stayed there. All those pictures I was still taking never turned into paintings. It finally dawned on me that I might as well perfect the one thing I was already doing: photography! I bought a used DSLR from a colleague, and once I discovered the freedom of being able to choose my own settings (aperture, ISO, exposure time, etc.) I felt like I had a whole new world to unravel. I started doing landscapes. I live in a place (New Mexico, USA) that offers staggering views and incredible skies, so it was the natural thing to do. I progressively moved on to macros, portraits, and now I’m doing the one thing I enjoy the most: photo composites, images that I create combining different pictures and backgrounds. It’s as if the cycle closed back, because compositing allows me to do what I used to do with my paintbrushes, except now my canvas is a JPEG file and I no longer need a studio. All I need is my laptop.
JLP: Along with your photography skills, you’re also an agented author. What kind of novels do you write?
EEG: Thrillers. I love action and I love to get my characters in a lot of trouble. I think it makes up for my long days spent in a cubicle at work.
JLP: Can you tell us about the novel you’re working on?
EEG: I just finished writing the first book in a new series set in the future. It features a murderous and sexy computer hacker, the biothreat federal agent who’s after her, an eccentric medical examiner, and a deadly pathogen. The world building was daunting at first. Even when I’m writing fiction, I research everything (location, people, history, etc.), but here I actually had to make up a whole society on my own. I solved the conundrum by doing both: I researched all the current state-of-the-art technology and then tried to imagine what it would look/be like one hundred years from now. I actually ended up having lots of fun with it. My agent just started shopping the book around, I’ve got fingers and toes tightly crossed!
JLP: I can hear the scientist and a love for facts in there. Do you think you’re more comfortable with writing from a male or female point of view, or doesn’t the gender of the MC hold any barriers for you?
EEG: The real “barrier” (though it doesn’t stop me from writing, so more than a barrier I would call it a challenge) is the voice more than the POV. No matter whether it’s male or female, young or old, I strive to give my characters their own voice. Success comes when you can tell the gender from the voice without knowing the character’s name. My first book series is written in first person, and the main character is a male LAPD detective. One of the agents who offered representation made me the best compliment ever: she said she had no idea I was a woman until she read my full name. At the time, I’d read all the Philip Marlowe books and loved the voice. Like Marlowe, my detective is also from Los Angeles, so I wanted to continue in the noir tradition with the first person, witty and sarcastic narrative. I guess the ultimate judges will be the readers.
JLP: Knowing you’re both photographer and author raises a curious conundrum. Do you find there’s anything you can express more in photography than you can in writing, or vice versa?
EEG: That’s an interesting question. There are instances when I can picture the setting of a scene very vividly in my head but I struggle to find the right words to describe it. I find myself thinking, “If only I could take a picture...” But for the most part it’s the other way around. Photography has made me very aware of the light around me, and it does affect the way I write. I’m often describing light sources in my scenes and how the light falls on my characters and how it affects their vision.
JLP: The idea for Lost in the Echo came from a photo supplied by a reader through a reader challenge on Goodreads. It’s a very intimate and annual author-reader challenge on Goodreads. Have you ever used any of your own prints to inspire your writing?
EEG: Not my own pictures, but I do browse images to inspire my writing all the time. For example, when I was researching the world building for my last book, I browsed a lot of futuristic buildings and architecture and I had a lot of fun doing that. Whenever my brain draws a blank on a particular setting for a scene I go to Google images, type a few keywords, and then inspiration suddenly comes to my screen in the form of beautiful images.
"The new long-term follow-up results from their initial Calcium Up-Regulation by Percutaneous Administration of Gene Therapy In Cardiac Disease (CUPID 1) clinical trial found a one-time, high-dose injection of the AAV1/SERCA2a gene therapy results in the presence of the delivered SERCA2a gene up to 31 months in the cardiac tissue of heart failure patients. In addition, study results show clinical event rates in gene therapy patients are significantly lower three years later compared to those patients receiving placebo. Also, patients experienced no negative side effects following gene therapy delivery at three-year follow-up."The one dose gene therapy is delivered directly to the heart through a catheter, and the SERCA2a genes are inserted inside a modified adeno-associated virus (AAV). I've discussed viral vectors for gene therapy in the past (see this post and this one). What I didn't know at the time is that there's a new family of viral vectors fine tuned for cardiac gene therapy: they are called cardiotropic vectors .
"We show that vaccine immunogens expressing the single centralized gene CON-S generated cellular immune responses with significantly increased breadth compared with immunogens expressing a wild-type virus gene. In fact, CON-S immunogens elicited cellular immune responses to 3- to 4-fold more discrete epitopes of the envelope proteins from clades A, C, and G than did clade B immunogens. These findings suggest that immunization with centralized genes is a promising vaccine strategy for developing a global vaccine for HIV-1 as well as vaccines for other genetically diverse viruses ".This indicates that CON-S, being genetically closer to all clades is potentially able to protect better from viruses across clades, whether using a single clade strain would miss protecting from strains from other clades.
"Mitochondrial DNA copy number decreases with age, which could account for the reduction of mitochondrial gene transcripts and therefore, the proteins encoded by these genes ."Even though it's not clear whether the decline in mitochondrial function is a cause or a consequence of the senile phenotype, there have been some new studies suggesting that mitochondria play a major role in regulating cellular aging, and that restoring mitochondrial function can indeed slow down the aging process.
"Current dogma is that aging is irreversible. Our data show that 1 week of treatment with a compound that boosts NAD+ levels is sufficient to restore the mitochondrial homeostasis and key biochemical markers of muscle health in a 22-month-old mouse to levels similar to a 6-month-old mouse ."The NAD+ compound the Harvard researchers talk about in their paper is a coenzyme that restores communication between the nucleus and the mitochondria. When levels of mitochondrially encoded mRNA are restored, ensuring that the production of mitochondrial proteins participating in the oxidative phosphorylation complexes is no longer declining, the pathways associated with low-fat diets and high exercise regimens are once again activated.
"All of the main players in the nuclear NAD+-SIRT1-HIF-1a-OXPHOS [oxidative phosphorylation] pathway are present in lower eukaryotes, indicating that the pathway evolved early in life’s history. This pathway may have evolved to coordinate nuclear-mitochondrial synchrony in response to changes in energy supplies and oxygen levels, and its decline may be a conserved cause of aging ."Even more remarkable is that the pathway the researchers found is implicated in cancer tissues, too. So, while it's worth reminding ourselves that aging is NOT a disease (I hate it when I see commercials that tell me they found a "cure" for wrinkles!), there are many age-related diseases, including cancer, that could benefit from these findings. As always, it remains to be seen whether the mouse model is reproducible in higher mammals, but finding and understanding these pathways is indeed a great step forward.
|Walking on Moonlight by EEG|
|Spoonfuls of Me by EEG|
|found on Facebook|
"Recent studies have highlighted a connection between infection during pregnancy and the increased risk of autism in the offspring. Parallel studies of cerebral spinal fluid, blood and postmortem brains reveal an ongoing, hyper-responsive inflammatory-like state in many young as well as adult autism subjects. There are also indications of gastrointestinal problems in at least a subset of autistic children ."In his review , Patterson makes a good summary of the relevant studies: for example, a permanent, inflammatory-like state has been found in postmortem examination of ASD affected brains. This was found at all ages, indicating that the state was established early in the development and maintained throughout the life-span of the ASD affected individual. These abnormalities expand to the central nervous system and the peripheral immune system affecting also the gastrointestinal tract:
"These findings include immune cell infiltrates present in the colon, ileum and duodenum, as well as increased T cell activation in the intestinal mucosa. These inflammatory changes are associated with autoimmune responses that could contribute to the observations of decreased mucosal integrity, or 'leaky gut' ."
"Abnormal activation of the immune system may also be involved in the etiology of autism. [. . .] Family members of autistic children, particularly the mothers, show a higher incidence of allergy or autoimmune diseases. Consistent with immune involvement are findings that maternal infection is a risk factor for autism ."In conclusion, there is a correlation between immune abnormalities and ASD, and the immune abnormalities propagate to the brain and the gastrointestinal tract. However, it is unclear if these abnormalities cause the behavioral symptoms of ASD or if they are a secondary effect. The health and well-being of our immune system has such deep, profound effects on the central nervous system. The two interact very closely together: stress and the general emotional status, for example, can affect immunity; vice versa, the immune system can influence behavior. Both our brain and our immune system constantly learn and readapt to the surrounding environment (for example, our immune system learns to recognize new pathogens throughout our lifetime), which makes them prone to life-long epigenetic changes induced by environmental factors such as stress and disease. It's not a coincidence that:
"Immune dysregulation has also been implicated in the etiology of a variety of neurodegenerative, psychiatric, and neurodevelopmental disorders, including Parkinson, Huntington, and Alzheimer diseases, multiple sclerosis, major depression, schizophrenia, and addiction ."Hsiao et al.  addressed the open question of whether the immunological abnormalities cause ASD-like behaviors in a mouse model. They induced ASD in mouse offspring through "maternal immune activation" (MIA): the immune system of pregnant mice was altered and then the offsprings of the altered mice that were behaviorally abnormal was compared to the offsprings of the controls. The behaviorally abnormal MIA offsprings exhibited core behavioral symptoms of autism, including increased repetitive behaviors, decreased social interactions, and increased anxiety. Hsiao et al. found several abnormalities in the immune system of these MIA offsprings: levels of regulatory T-cells were decreased and CD4+ T-cells were hyper-responsive. These abnormalities could not be transferred to healthy mice through a bone marrow from the MIA mice. However, when irradiated and transplanted with immunologically normal bone marrow, many of the behavioral abnormalities stopped. This would suggest that the immunological dysregulation causes the ASD-like behaviors.
"It is striking that in a mouse model of an autism environmental risk factor that exhibits the cardinal behavioral and neuropathological symptoms of autism, there is also permanent peripheral immune dysregulation. This finding provides the opportunity to explore molecular mechanisms underlying the relationship between brain dysfunction and altered immunity in the manifestation of abnormal behavior. Furthermore, this finding provides a platform for investigating how prenatal challenges can program long-term postnatal immunity, health, and disease. Maternal insult-mediated epigenetic modification in HSC and progenitor cells is one possible mechanism for how effects may be established by transient environmental changes yet persist permanently into adulthood. However, the BM transplant results suggest that the peripheral environment of the MIA offspring is also critical for maintaining a permanently modified immune state ."We will never be able to prove or disprove a direct causal relation between vaccines and autism: if a child develops ASD after vaccination, unfortunately, we cannot rewind time and see if the same child, without the vaccine, would've never developed ASD in his/her lifetime. ASD typically develops in infancy, which is when the bulk of vaccines are administered. The risk of ASD is much higher (see last week's post) if there's already a family member with ASD, siblings in particular. And given the deep, complex interactions and reciprocal influence between the nervous system and the immune system it is quite possible that a sudden change in the immune system could cause some level of disruption in the nervous system. However, if the immune system is primed to such risk, a virus or any other pathogen, which cause changes in the immune system just like a vaccine does, could also cause similar disruptions. On the other hand, vaccines can potentially prevent infections that, according to these studies, do increase the risk of ASD in the baby during the first trimester of gestation.