Three women, seven summits

first_img12 April 2007Evelina Tshabalala, Zukiswa Matamo and Nomawethu Nika from Mandela Park informal settlement in Hout Bay, Cape Town are used to making their way through hardship.That’s why they’re not daunted by their latest project: to climb the highest mountains on each of the seven continents and, in the process, become the first black women to conquer Everest. The journey beginsMatamo and Nika summited Russia’s Mount Elbrus on 9 September 2006. Tshabalala summited Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro on 8 July 2006, followed by Matamo on Women’s Day, 9 August and Nika on 9 November.Next up was Aconcagua in Argentina, South America’s tallest peak, summited by Matamo and Nika on 7 January, followed by Tshabalala on 26 February. Australia’s Mount Kosciuszko is next in line for the trio, with Tshabalala planning to catch up on Elbrus before or after the Australasia trip.They’ve called their project “Isicongo”, after the isiZulu word for the top of a mountain.“Every summit has its own character,” says Tshabalala. “They differ in heights and levels of difficulty. Kilimanjaro is not the most difficult or dangerous, but when I reached the top, at that very moment I was the highest person in Africa.“There is no feeling like it. I can’t wait to get started on Elbrus.”The Seven SummitsLess than two hundred people have climbed all of the so-called Seven Summits, the highest mountain top on each of the seven continents.Subject to debate, the seven are: Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa; Elbrus in Russia, Europe; Vinson Massif in Antarctica; McKinley (also known as Denali) in Alaska, North America; Kosciuszko in Australia, Australasia/Oceania; Aconcagua in Argentina, South America; and Everest in Nepal, Asia.[*Note: there is some controversy over which seven summits count as the seven – and accordingly over how many have climbed all seven. See more on this below.]Although the seven are “non-technical” mountains – meaning that advanced rock climbing skills and equipment are not needed to climb them – they involve gruelling routes, hostile weather conditions, and extreme altitude.John Reader, in his book Kilimanjaro, describes climbing Africa’s highest peak as follows:“The climb is not difficult in mountaineering terms, you could say it is equivalent to scrambling up a staircase more than three kilometres long. Or you could say that it is equivalent to clambering up the side of nine Empire State Buildings laid end to end at about sixteen degrees.“But then at 4 710m, where the final ascent of Kilimanjaro begins, there is little more than half the density of oxygen which occurs on Manhattan or at the foot of most staircases. So, in effect, the aspiring climber attempts the equivalent of those feats with the equivalent of only one lung.“The result is agonising, there is no other word for it.”Tshabalala, no stranger to endurance sport, describes her own experience on the mountain as follows: “When I was near the top of Kili, I began to get very tired. My water was frozen, my feet were frozen and my legs felt heavy.“I had to talk to myself and focus my thoughts. I thought about all my family, living and dead, and willed them to help me. I imagined the pride I would feel when I reached the top. Eventually I got there.”Beating the oddsTshabalala, 41, is a single mother, the sole bread-winner in her family, and lives in a one-bedroom shack next to a rubbish dump. She’s survived a car accident, the death of her second son – and the news that she’s HIV-positive.She’s also an accomplished marathon runner: in 1994 she realised her life-long dream of taking part in the London Marathon, where she placed 25th.It was running that first brought Tshabalala and Matamo, a domestic worker and mother of three, together in 2003.Matamo had spent the previous two years struggling to lose the weight she had put on after the birth of her third child. Tshabalala’s solution began with a 20-kilometre run.“After that run I decided I never wanted to see Evelina again,” says Matamo. “I kept looking at her and thinking, I’m never running with you again.”Eighteen months later, the two were running marathons together, Matamo had shed 42 kilograms, and the friendship was unbreakable. They remember each others’ times for every race they have run together. And Matamo doesn’t mind finishing behind Tshabalalo – because she always runs back to keep her company until the finish line.Then there were threeIn 2005, Tshabalala and Matamo climbed Table Mountain, and were hooked at once on this lofty new expression of their sporting abilities.In the same year, Matamo met Nika, also a mother and domestic worker, who had also starting running in order to lose weight.Matamo encouraged Nika to start running competitively, and within the space of a few months Nika had completed the Winelands Marathon, Two Oceans Half Marathon and Knysna Marathon.Achieving their new goal will require intense physical and psychological effort – and a fair dose of good luck, especially when it comes to the highest of them all: Mount Everest.Logistical mountains“Denali [or Mount McKinley, in Alaska] is the best preparation for Everest,” says Matamo. “You are dropped off on a glacier where you have to drag your supplies on a sled as you start climbing. We will need to dig a hole in the ice and pitch our tent inside the hole.“After that, we will need to hack enormous bricks out of the ice to place around the perimeter of the hole to protect our tent from the violent winds. All this must happen in the wind, snow and freezing cold. This mountain is going to test our strength, mentally and physically.”The logistics involved in the project are daunting in themselves. Take the Vinson Massif, part of the Sentinal Range of Antarctica, located at 78°S and a mere 1 200km from the South Pole.In order to get to the Vinson Massif base camp, mountaineers must take a plane from Punta Arenas in Chile to the Patriot Hills blue-ice runway on the Antarctic surface. From there, they must take a one hour’s helicopter ride to the base camp – and hope that the weather is kind.People often have to wait up to three weeks before the weather will allow helicopters to land there – to drop them off or to pick them up afterwards – often resulting in supplies being exhausted.And that’s just one leg of the Seven Summits journey. There are six more trips to be organised, timed and carried out.Mountains of the mind“What we are doing may be newsworthy because it is a ‘first’, and no other black women have done this,” says Tshabalala.“But just because it makes the papers, it doesn’t make it more important than someone overcoming their own challenges – whether it’s getting an education, a promotion, or surviving an ordeal.“Isicongo is a project that we hope will move others to move their own mountains.”Which seven summits?To climb the highest mountain on each of the seven continents is a challenge that mountaineers have aspired to since American Dick Bass first publicised the idea in his book “Seven Summits” in 1985 – although he climbed the Australian summit Kosciuszko instead of the higher, more difficult Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia.Canadian Pat Morrow was the first to complete all seven summits with Carstensz in 1986. Four months later, the great Reinhold Messner followed suit.Since then, there has been controversy over which seven count as the seven – some arguing that Kosciuszko, the highest point in Australia, should be included; others arguing that Australia is really not a continent, but that Australasia/Oceania is, and that Carstensz should therefore be included.Two overlapping lists of climbers who have climbed the seven summits – the seven with Carstensz list, and the seven with Kosciuszko list – have thus developed.According to 7summits.com, there are currently 100 names on the former list, and 139 on the latter. Taking overlaps into account, a total of 180 climbers have climbed the seven summits … 59 of them having climbed all eight!The eight summits (including both Carstens and Kosciuszko) are: Mt Everest, Nepal – 8 850mAconcagua, Argentina – 6 962mMt McKinley (or Denali), Alaska – 6 194mMt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania – 5 895mMt Elbrus, Russia – 5 642mVinson Massif, Antarctica – 4 897mCarstensz Pyramid (or Puncak Jaya), Indonesia – 4 884mMt Kosciuszko, Australia – 2 228mThe 8 000 metre peaksOf course, the seven summits – excepting Everest – are nowhere near being the tallest seven in the world.For these one has to consult another of mountaineering’s favourite lists: the list of the world’s 14 highest mountains, all of whose summits top 8 000 metres (above which one enters mountaineering’s “death zone”) – and all of which are found in the Himalayas (eight in Nepal, five in Pakistan, one in Tibet).SouthAfrica.info reporter Want to use this article in your publication or on your website?See: Using SAinfo materiallast_img read more

Police warned weeks ago of attack on Amarnath pilgrims, says ‘top secret’ memo

first_imgAs the government on Tuesday blamed separatists for gunning down seven Amarnath pilgrims and wounding 19 more in Kashmir before fleeing into the night, rebel groups in the disputed region condemned the deadly attack on civilians and insisted they had no part in it. An intelligence report that was circulated to Jammu & Kashmir police, military and paramilitary units two weeks ago indicates security officials had been expecting an attack. The intelligence report, marked “top secret,” warned that a “sensational attack by terrorist outfits cannot be ruled out” in the region. The memo, dated June 25, and verified as authentic by The Associated Press, said, “terrorists have been directed to eliminate 100 to 150 pilgrims and about 100 police.” It described circumstances eerily similar to what transpired on Monday night- “The attack may be in the form of standoff fire on yatra convoy, which they (militants) believe will result in flaring of communal tensions throughout the nation.” Also Read  Police were searching for the assailants, who they said were from the Pakistan-based rebel group Lashkar-e-Taiba. “We’re investigating the attack, but we know certainly that the Lashkar has done it. We’ll soon deal with them,” police Inspector General Muneer Ahmed Khan said. Lashkar-e-Taiba denied any involvement in the attack, which they called “reprehensible” and “un-Islamic,” according to a statement sent to local media in Srinagar. “No Kashmiri has ever targeted any pilgrims, and this barbarity and atrocity is the trademark of Indian forces,” the group’s statement said. Omar Abdullah, former Chief Minister of Kashmir, asked the Home Ministry to protect Kashmiri students and workers across the nation. “Possibility of backlash can’t be ignored,” he said in a Twitter message. Most of the pilgrims wounded in the attack were released from hospitals on Tuesday. The bodies of those killed were flown to New Delhi on their way to Gujarat and Maharashtra. The attack sparked outrage across Kashmir and other states. In the Jammu region, hundreds of protesters shouted angry slogans against the militants and burned a faceless effigy meant to represent both terrorism and Pakistan. Many shops and businesses were shut for a protest strike in Jammu. Meanwhile, students in Ahmadabad gathered for a sit-in protest against all religious violence, while peace activists planned a candlelight vigil in New Delhi on Tuesday night. Kashmiri separatist leaders condemn terror attack on Amarnath pilgrims Amarnath Yatra attack: Narendra Modi says India will never be bogged down by evil designs of hate  Police said the attack began with gunmen unleashing a hail of bullets on an armoured police vehicle and, soon after, on a nearby police patrol. They said that a bus carrying 60 pilgrims had been passing through the area when the patrolling police and militants were exchanging fire, and that some bullets struck the bus and its passengers. The police also said that the bus had been travelling at night, despite instructions to avoid the roads after dark. Though security had been increased along the route for the pilgrimage, thousands of deployed soldiers and police do not patrol overnight. Several bus passengers who were wounded gave a different version of events, saying the bus had been targeted from three directions during the attack. They said the driver kept driving the bus as it was being struck with bullets near Anantnag . The annual summer pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave shrine, which began on June 29 under heavy security, has been targeted in the past. On Tuesday, thousands of pilgrims continued the pilgrimage undeterred, as soldiers and police increased security along the Himalayan route for buses carrying pilgrims to the base camps where they start walking the path to the high mountain cave. None of the rebel groups in the region have claimed responsibility for the attack, and the three top separatist leaders in Kashmir condemned it. They demanded an independent investigation into the attack. “This incident goes against the very grain of Kashmiri ethos,” the separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammed Yasin Malik said in a joint statement. Also Readlast_img read more

Scientists identify mechanism used by lung cancer cells to obtain glucose

first_imgReviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Nov 15 2018FINDINGSScientists at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center have identified sodium glucose transporter 2, or SGLT2, as a mechanism that lung cancer cells can utilize to obtain glucose, which is key to their survival and promotes tumor growth. The finding provides evidence that SGLT2 may be a novel biomarker that scientists can use to help diagnose precancerous lung lesions and early-stage lung cancers.BACKGROUNDCancer cells require large amounts of glucose to survive and grow. Past research has established that passive glucose transporters, or GLUTs, are the primary means the body uses to deliver glucose to tumors. However, more recent studies have found some cancers, such as prostate and pancreatic, also rely on SGLT2 to utilize glucose, which spurred the UCLA scientists to study the role of SGLT2 in relations to lung cancer.Related StoriesUsing machine learning algorithm to accurately diagnose breast cancerAdding immunotherapy after initial treatment improves survival in metastatic NSCLC patientsSugary drinks linked to cancer finds studyFinding ways to diagnose lung cancer earlier when it is easier to treat is imperative because it is currently the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in both men and women worldwide.METHODThe researchers used positron emission tomography, or PET scans, to capture SGLT activity in lung cancer cells. They were able to use SGLT2 activity to monitor the effects of SGLT2 inhibitors to treat mice with genetic models of lung cancer and mice that had been implanted with human lung tumors.The researchers found unusually high levels of SGLT2 in human specimens of lung cancer, showing that these tumors predominantly utilize SGLT2, but not GLUTs, to transport glucose in the early stages of tumor growth and even in pre-malignant lesions that precede the development of lung cancer.IMPACTThe study suggests that lung cancer can be detected earlier, when it is much easier to treat. By using SGLT2 as a biomarker, lung cancer could not only be found earlier than it often is today, but it could potentially be discovered even before lesions become cancerous. The researchers also provided evidence that a common FDA-approved inhibitor drug (which is currently used to treat diabetes) could help block SGLT2 activity in cancer cells. The inhibitor could be used to block glucose uptake and help reduce tumor growth. Source:http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/ucla-researchers-identify-mechanism-that-fuels-the-growth-of-cancer-cellslast_img read more

Largescale screen efficiently identifies drugs that are potent cancerkillers

first_img Source:https://www.ucsf.edu/ Reviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Apr 10 2019UC San Francisco scientists have designed a large-scale screen that efficiently identifies drugs that are potent cancer-killers when combined, but only weakly effective when used alone. Using this technique, the researchers eradicated a devastating blood cancer and certain solid tumor cells by jointly administering drugs that are only partially effective when used as single-agent therapies. The effort, a cross-disciplinary collaboration between UCSF researchers, is described in a study published April 9 in the journal Cell Reports.When scientists developed the first targeted cancer therapies — drugs that interfere with specific biological circuits that cancer depends on for growth and survival — many thought they had finally cornered cancer. But cancer is a devastatingly clever disease that can outwit these precision medicines by “rewiring” itself to sidestep the circuits switched off by these drugs.”Many cancers either fail to respond to a single targeted therapy or acquire resistance after initially responding. The notion that combining targeted therapies is a far more effective way to treat cancer than a single-drug approach has long existed. We wanted to perform screens with saturating coverage to understand exactly what combinations should be explored,” said UCSF’s Jeroen Roose, PhD, professor of anatomy and senior author of the new study.Scientists have found that when they target two distinct circuits with two different drugs — each of which is inadequate on its own — the aggregate effect can be greater than sum of its parts. However, figuring out which drugs can synergize to kill cancer remains a challenge.To demonstrate the power of their screening system, the scientists searched for targeted therapies that could join forces to kill an aggressive blood cancer called T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL). Their hunt began with a drug that targets PI3K, an enzyme that promotes the growth of many cancers, including T-ALL. Though drugs that target PI3K already exist, the current crop of PI3K inhibitors can slow, but normally can’t kill, this type of cancer.”Nearly 65 percent of T-ALL patients have hyperactive PI3K, but most patients will likely not be cured by single-drug treatments. We wanted to find drugs that would kill T-ALL when combined with a PI3K inhibitor,” said Roose, a member of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. To find those drugs, the researchers turned to RNA interference (RNAi) — a technique that allows scientists to massively reduce the activity of specific genes. The discovery of RNAi, which occurs naturally in all animals and plants, and is now widely used in research, was a major breakthrough that was recognized with the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.”RNAi is sort of a magic bullet for targeting specific genes,” said Michael T. McManus, PhD, professor at the UCSF Diabetes Center and study co-author, who designed the screen with Roose. “Although there is a great deal of fascinating underlying biology that relates to RNAi, most scientists use it as a tool to ‘turn down the volume’ of a specific gene in a cell.”The gene-editing tool CRISPR has made it possible to completely remove genes. But according to McManus, while eliminating a specific gene is the gold standard — an essential first step in determining its function in cells — at times, reducing a gene’s activity level using RNAi activity may be more desirable. This is especially true, he says, when researchers are seeking to mimic the effects of drugs, which often reduce the activity associated with a particular gene without completely eliminating it.Related StoriesLiving with advanced breast cancerTrends in colonoscopy rates not aligned with increase in early onset colorectal cancerBacteria in the birth canal linked to lower risk of ovarian cancer”When searching for cancer drugs, for example, RNAi may do a better job of approximating precision therapies, both of which only partially inhibit their biological targets,” McManus said. The researchers have also started exploring CRISPRi and CRISPRa — modified forms of CRISPR that inhibit or amplify the activity of target genes, respectively, without making cuts to the DNA — for these reasons.Roose and McManus aren’t the first scientists to use RNAi to search for these kinds of combinatorial therapies. But earlier efforts were error-prone because those screens used RNAi libraries that were too small, Roose said. What sets the new study apart is the ultra-complex collection of short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) that were used. These RNA fragments contain sequences that correspond to those found in messenger RNAs (mRNA) — the molecular arbiters of gene activity in the cell. When an shRNA finds an mRNA that contains a matching sequence, the two molecules bind together to initiate a process that destroys the mRNA and inhibits the activity of that gene. In total, the researchers targeted some 1,800 cancer-associated genes with approximately 55,000 shRNAs, or about 30 shRNAs per gene, “more than enough to eliminate false positives and false negatives,” Roose said.The screen itself involved growing two different human T-ALL cell lines in the presence of PI3K inhibitors and then simultaneously administering shRNAs to find out which genes, when silenced in the presence of these drugs, killed the cancer. From this comprehensive screen, the researchers then focused on 10 genes whose activity, when curbed with precision medicines, was predicted to kill T-ALL cancer cells in combination with PI3K drugs. They tested these predictions and found that nine of the combined therapies could kill T-ALL — a feat that none of the drugs could achieve on its own. The researchers then tested the most effective of these synergistic drug combinations on mouse models of T-ALL and found that it could extend survival by 150 percent.The screen also yielded a digital tool that Roose says will be useful for other researchers: a user-friendly, searchable database based on results from the screen. The search engine — developed by Marsilius Mues, PhD, a former Roose lab postdoc and lead author of the new study — produces mansuscript-quality figures that help researchers identify genes that emerged from the screen as potential targets for combination therapy with PI3K inhibitors.Recognizing that discoveries made in blood cancers don’t always translate to solid tumors, the researchers also tested the predicted drug combinations on 28 solid tumor cell lines derived from human breast, colorectal, pancreatic and brain cancers. They found that even in these solid tumor cells, the combination therapies synergized to reduce the number of cancer cells by up to 20 percent over the course of the experiment.”An important message from our work is that scientists can use leukemia cells as a platform to find drug combinations that also work in solid tumors. Our screening platform is very generalizable,” Roose said.Among the most surprising and promising of the results was that the researchers were able to find pairs of drugs that impeded cancer growth, but which had no effect on normal cells.”Finding therapies that specifically target cancer without harming healthy tissue is the holy grail of cancer research,” Roose said. “This surprising result suggests that our method may aid in the discovery of this kind of cancer-specific precision medicine.”last_img read more

Congress to go it alone in Uttar PradeshCongress to go it alone

first_img COMMENT SHARE SHARE EMAIL Published on SHARE Congress general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad   –  Rajeev Bhatt January 13, 2019center_img Will contest all 80 Lok Sabha seats Left out of the SP-BSP pre-poll tie-up in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress on Sunday announced that it would go it alone on all the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the State in the upcoming general election.After a brainstorming session with senior party leaders, Congress general secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh, Ghulam Nabi Azad, however, said his party would accommodate any secular force that was capable of taking on the ruling BJP in the Lok Sabha polls.The meeting of the Congress was held a day after the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) announced their alliance in Uttar Pradesh, sharing 38 seats each and leaving two seats for smaller parties. The alliance will also not contest from Rae Bareli and Amethi, leaving these seats for UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi respectively.Not included in allianceOn his party being left out of the SP-BSP alliance, Ghulam Nabi Azad said: “The Congress should have been a part of the Grand Alliance (against the BJP) in Uttar Pradesh. But if someone does not want to walk along, nothing can be done.” Asked whether the Congress would field candidates in seats which will be contested by BSP supremo Mayawati and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav , Azad did not give any clear answer.On the possibility of a post-poll alliance with the SP and the BSP, he said at the national level, the Congress would welcome all the secular regional parties.“The Congress workers are not at all disappointed on being left out of the alliance. On the contrary, they are saying the party would have had to contest on 25 seats, but now it would be contesting on all the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state. Congress president Rahul Gandhi will hold at least 13 rallies in Uttar Pradesh,” added Azad. At the joint press conference with Yadav held here on Saturday, Mayawati had said that during the Congress’s rule in the country, poverty, unemployment and corruption grew, and there were scams in defence deals.The BSP chief had also pointed out that in the past, her party had not benefitted from seat-sharing pacts with the Congress.Azad on Sunday accused the BJP of dividing the country for power, and claimed that the saffron party had failed to fulfil any of its poll promises.“The coming Lok Sabha election is a battle to unite India and safeguard the democratic values,” he said. “The Congress has been fighting for the rights of the poor, farmers, backward castes and Dalits since even before Independence and after Independence, it is following the same ideology,” he added. COMMENTS Uttar Pradesh politicslast_img read more