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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 01-12-16

Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cyprus-mail.com/>


Sunday, December 16, 2001

CONTENTS

  • [01] Thalassaemia chief hails gene therapy progress
  • [02] Beauty spot trees 'being chopped down to make way for a car park'
  • [03] Municipal elections today
  • [04] Tourist killed by hit and run driver

  • [01] Thalassaemia chief hails gene therapy progress

    By Jennie Matthew

    THE DIRECTOR of the Cyprus Thalassaemia Programme yesterday described American scientists' ability to correct sickle cell anaemia in mice as a "real breakthrough" that could lead to gene therapy in humans.

    Researchers at Harvard used a gutted AIDS virus and a custom-made gene to corrected sickle cell anaemia in mice for a year, according to an article in this week's Sciencemagazine.

    Thalassaemia expert Michalakis Angastiniotis said yesterday that he was aware of the research, but that gene therapy in humans was still a long way off.

    Sickle cell disorders are most common in Africa, the Mediterranean, India and the Middle Eastern.

    One in every 13 African Americans carries the sickle cell gene and in Cyprus one in 100 people suffers from thalassaemia, a similar disease caused by a mutation of the same gene.

    That means there are some 600 patients out of a population of 600,000 - a considerable burden on blood banks.

    Sufferers need blood transfusions every two to four weeks to stay alive, as well as a cocktail of expensive drugs to remove excess iron from their systems.

    "Since we wrote the report we have kept mice that are over a year old and they still express (the gene) at the same levels. We really believe that it is permanent," Philippe Leboulch of Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Genetix Pharmaceuticals in Boston, Massachusetts, who led the study, told Reuters news agency.

    "If they succeeded with a vector for a year and it can be re-introduced in a harmless way then it's a breakthrough through that may lead to gene therapy in Man," Angastiniotis told the Sunday Mail .

    Sickle cell disease means that abnormal haemoglobin carries oxygen through the blood, causing frequent blood clotting, anaemia, strokes and or organ damage. Leboulch's team designed a new gene that normalises the beta globin and prevents the red blood cells from mutating into a sickle shape and malfunctioning.

    The new gene was inserted into mice using a gutted HIV virus. It produced the needed protein for as long as 10 months, a significant time in gene therapy.

    But although research will soon begin on monkeys, success in humans is still a long way off.

    Leboulch said the gene therapy does affect stem cells in the bone marrow, where red and white blood cells are produced in humans.

    "These are the ones that you really want to target because they are the only ones capable... of keeping the process going in the individual," Leboulch, heading a team drawn from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the French research institute INSERM, said.

    More research is necessary on the vector, to make sure that there's no danger that patients would develop the HIV virus that leads to AIDS.

    They hope to find a way to separate and grow the patient's own stem cells, to use the gene therapy on these, to make it safer for patients.

    The one gene therapy patient known to have died suffered an over-reaction to the virus used in his body.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [02] Beauty spot trees 'being chopped down to make way for a car park'

    By Alexia Saoulli

    ANGRY Nicosia residents are up in arms at Interior Ministry proposals to set up a temporary parking space along a nearby riverbank.

    Bernadette Savvides says she and her neighbours are distraught at what the government intends to do, and are trying to put a stop to it before it's too late.

    The area concerned is the riverbank park behind Byron Street, just below the old water tower.

    "It's a land of particular beauty, full of eucalyptus trees," said Savvides.

    "Two years ago we bought an apartment here because we thought it was one of the most beautiful areas in Nicosia, and that it would never be spoiled."

    "It's a green area that shouldn't be built on," she said. "And all of the residents in the apartments overlooking the riverbank were promised that the land around here could not be built on as it was government-owned land, which meant it could not be bought or sold".

    Savvides told the Sunday Mailthat 10 days ago Forestry Department personnel started sawing down trees, so she phoned the department and was told "they were lopping off the tops and pruning the trees, and removing some of the ill ones to tidy up the area, so that people using the park wouldn't be at risk".

    The work continued this week so she phoned the Forestry Department again to be told there was no cause for concern and that this was standard procedure.

    "Anyone involved in the forest industry would say that this procedure is making the trees healthier, and I accept that argument," she said. "But I have since found out that the government printing office further up the road desperately needs parking space and petitioned the Interior Ministry for permission to create a temporary one in the riverbank.

    "The worst part is that their petition was accepted," she said.

    Since then, Savvides has spoken to the Interior Ministry and the government printing office. Both have confirmed that a temporary car park is under construction.

    Now she and her neighbours are waiting to be sent a copy of the letters sent to and from the Ministry confirming the deal.

    "The Ministry argues that the letter from the printing office stressed a temporary parking lot and that it won't be a permanent fixture, but I'm afraid it will be," she said. "Even temporary in the riverbank is unacceptable as far as I'm concerned.

    "It's like saying 'hey, we need a temporary parking lot -- let's use Hyde Park'. You can't do it. It doesn't happen," Savvides said.

    Many of the trees have already been reduced by one third in height, she said.

    She wants to know why a car parking next to a local confectionery had not been suggested as it is nearly always empty.

    "Why not use that for the printing office instead of cutting down all these trees?" she said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [03] Municipal elections today

    AROUND 467,000 voters are expected to cast their ballots today in the island's municipal elections.

    Voting, which is compulsory, begins at 7am sharp with a one-hour break at 12pm. It will resume at 1pm and end at 5pm.

    Vote counting will then take place in situ at polling stations.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [04] Tourist killed by hit and run driver

    A SCOTTISH tourist was killed yesterday by a hit and run driver in Larnaca and a 21-year-old youth from Paphos died after the car in which he was a passenger collided head-on with a truck.

    Thomas Ferguson Doran, 48, from Glasgow, was killed at around 2.30am while returning to his hotel.

    Police said Doran, who was walking along the Dhekelia to Larnaca road, was hit from behind by a white car, which then sped away from the scene.

    He was rushed to Larnaca hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

    Doran was identified at 7am by the owner of the hotel where he was staying. Police said he had been drinking at a local bar just before the incident.

    The second fatal accident happened at around 5am on the Mesogi to Paphos road.

    Police said a car driven by 20-year-old Meletios Christodoulou from Mesogi, with passenger Christos Philippou from Paphos, collided head-on with an articulated lorry.

    The fire service was called to free the two men trapped in the wreckage. Philippou was killed in the crash and Christodoulou is in a critical condition in hospital.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001


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