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US surgeons report longest successful pig-to-human kidney transplant

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WASHINGTON: United States surgeons who transplanted a genetically modified kidney into a brain-dead patient announced on Thursday (Sep 14) that they had ended their experiment after a record-breaking 61 days.

The latest experimental procedure is part of a growing field of research aimed at advancing cross-species transplants, mainly testing the technique on bodies that have been donated for science.

There are more than 103,000 people waiting for organ transplants in the US, 88,000 of whom need kidneys.

“We have learned a great deal throughout these past two months of close observation and analysis, and there is great reason to be hopeful for the future,” said Robert Montgomery, director of the New York University Langone Transplant Institute, who led the surgery in July.

It was the fifth so-called xenotransplant performed by Montgomery, who also carried out the world’s first genetically modified pig kidney transplant in September 2021.

Tissue collected during the study indicated a mild rejection process had begun, requiring intensification of immunosuppression medication.

By “knocking out” the gene responsible for a biomolecule called alpha-gal – a prime target for roving human antibodies – the NYU Langone team were able to stop immediate rejection.

The donor pig in this experiment came from a herd cultivated by Virginia-based biotech company Revivicor.

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The herd has also been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a source of meat for people with hypersensitivity to the alpha-gal molecule, an allergy caused by some tick bites.

These pigs are bred, not cloned, meaning the process can be more easily scaled.

Early xenotransplantation research focused on harvesting organs from primates – for example, a baboon heart was transplanted into a newborn known as “Baby Fae” in 1984, but she survived only 20 days.

SEE ALSO:  NBS: 5kg cooking gas price hit N5,139.25

Current efforts focus on pigs, which are thought to be ideal donors for humans because of their organ size, their rapid growth and large litters, and the fact they are already raised as a food source.

In January 2022, surgeons at the University of Maryland Medical School carried out the world’s first pig-to-human transplant on a living patient – this time involving a heart.

He died two months after the milestone, with the presence of porcine cytomegalovirus in the organ later blamed.

Last week, Chinese scientists published a paper showing they had succeeded in hybrid pig-human kidneys in pig embryos, an alternative approach that also has the potential to one day help address organ donation shortages.

But the development raised ethical issues – especially since some human cells were also found in the pigs’ brains, experts said.

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Source: AFP/rc
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FULL LIST: US, UK, Canada, other countries where Binance is banned, restricted

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FULL LIST: US, UK, Canada, other countries where Binance is banned, restricted
Flags of countries where Binance is restricted
Access to websites of top global cryptocurrency exchanges and virtual digital asset service providers such as Binance, Kucoin, OKX, and others, have been blocked and restricted in some countries.

Major economies like China, India, Turkey, and Nigeria have restricted and curtailed crypto trading.

Authorities are wary of how exchanges may be laundering the proceeds of criminal activity, or aid tax offenders, or host the perpetrators of crypto scams.

In the past few years, the platform has landed itself in a fix over compliance issues in several countries. Binance has been slow to comply with local money laundering laws, and has failed to register to do business in many countries.

On May 12, 2023, Binance exited the Canadian marketplace due to stricter requirements around stablecoins and investor limits.

Canada tightened regulations for crypto asset trading platforms with the introduction of a pre-registration process.

For Nigeria, telecommunications firms have been instructed to restrict access to the websites of cryptocurrency firms such as Binance, OctaFX, Coinbase and others, months after its Central Bank issued a guideline to govern digital asset operators’ activities.

This new restriction on crypto websites is aimed at slowing currency speculation activities in the country, with Binance stating that its platform is not for currency pricing. The platform said this after users complained about their inability to buy dollars.

When Nigeria banned Twitter in 2021, Nigerians continued using the platform with Virtual Private Network (VPN) apps. The same is expected, with the country boasting one of the largest crypto populations in the world.

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Binance Holdings Ltd., branded Binance, is a global company that operates the largest cryptocurrency exchange in terms of daily trading volume of cryptocurrencies.

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It was founded in 2017 by Changpeng Zhao, a developer who had previously created high-frequency trading software.

Binance was initially based in China, then moved to Japan shortly before the Chinese government restricted cryptocurrency companies.

Binance subsequently left Japan for Malta and currently has no official company headquarters.

Cryptocurrency trading platform is facing restrictions in multiple jurisdictions, such as the United States, Singapore, Canada and the United Kingdom.

In 2021, Binance was put under investigation by both the United States Department of Justice and Internal Revenue Service on allegations of money laundering and tax offenses.

Also, the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority ordered Binance to stop all regulated activity in the United Kingdom in June 2021.

Bayo Onanuga, the special adviser to President Bola Tinubu on information and strategy, had advocated that Binance and other crypto platforms should be banned from operating in Nigeria.

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Onanuga’s call for a ban on cryptocurrency trading platforms followed the directive of the CBN on February 5, 2021, to banks, non-bank financial institutions (NBFIs), and other financial institutions (OFIs), to close accounts of persons or entities involved in crypto transactions.

The regulator also warned local financial institutions against dealing in crypto assets or facilitating payments for crypto exchanges.

CBN cited concerns over money laundering, terrorism financing, cybercrime, and the volatility of cryptocurrencies as reasons for the ban.

Majority of restrictions across countries stem from licensing and money laundering issues.

The countries where Binance has been restricted or banned in no particular order are as follows:

United States

United Kingdom

SEE ALSO:  FULL LIST: US, UK, Canada, other countries where Binance is banned, restricted

Japan

Italy

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Canada

Belgium

Nigeria

Australia

India

Netherlands

Thailand

Philippines

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Germany

France

Bangladesh

Iran

Vietnam

Kazakhstan

Malaysia

China   (The Nation)

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NBS: 5kg cooking gas price hit N5,139.25

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• Gas cylinders
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in its latest report released yesterday, said the average price of 5kg of cooking gas increased from N4,962.87 recorded in December 2023 to N5,139.25 in January 2024

The report tagged “Cooking Gas Price Watch” indicated that the January price represented a 3.55 percent increase, compared to what was obtained in December 2023.

The Bureau said: “The average price of 5kg of cooking gas increased on a year-on-year basis by 12 per cent from N4,588.75 recorded in January 2023 to N5,139.25 in January 2024.

According to the state profile analysis, Nasarawa recorded the highest average price at N5,790.00, followed by Jigawa at N5,681.82, and Gombe at N5,660.00.

Conversely, Kaduna recorded the lowest price at N4,150.00, trailed by Ogun and Osun at N4,751.04 and N4,763.53, respectively.

Zonal analysis revealed that the Northeast had the highest average retail price for 5 kg of cooking gas, at N5,296.32, followed by the North-Central at N5,240.36. While the South-West, at N4,805.05, had the lowest average retail price.

“The average retail price for refilling a 12.5kg cooking gas increased by 1.96 percent on a month-on-month basis from N11,510.16 in December 2023 to N11,735.72 in January 2024.

“The average retail price for 12.5kg cooking gas rose by 14.19 percent on a year-on-year basis from N10,277.17 recorded in January 2023 to N11,735.72 in January 2024,” the NBS said.

An analysis of state profiles revealed that Cross River recorded the highest average retail price of N13,040.00, followed by Jigawa at N12,875.00 and Zamfara at N12,725.00.

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However, the analysis also revealed that Kaduna recorded the lowest average price of N9,699.50 for 12.5 kg of cooking gas, followed by Kwara and Niger at N10,000.00 and N10,400.00, respectively.

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“The lowest average price for 12.5kg of cooking gas was recorded in Kaduna at N9,699.50, followed by Kwara and Niger at N10,000.00 and N10,400.00, respectively.

“Analysis by zone showed that the South-South recorded the highest average retail price of N12,602.47, followed by the North-West at N12,224.93.

“The South-West recorded the lowest price at N11,189.02,” NBS added.

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Concerns as Japa syndrome hits aviation, agencies lose technical staff

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Concerns as Japa syndrome hits aviation, agencies lose technical staff
The aviation industry is in dire shortage of manpower as dozens of technical staff, such as inspectors, engineers and training instructors are leaving the agencies in droves over poor remuneration and lack of motivation.

The apex regulatory authority, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), has lost 15 inspectors in recent times to brain drain.

Also, the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria lost 20 technical staff in the last five years.

The NCAA is said to be the hardest hit with dozens of inspectors leaving the organisation for “greener pastures.”

The Civil Aviation Authority is responsible for oversight and surveillance of the industry, enforcing regulations for all service providers and players in the industry.

For the airlines especially, the CAA is responsible for providing guidance for all aspects of their activities to ensure compliance with regulations.

It is in charge of issuance of licences to new and existing (upon expiration) airlines and ensures the airworthiness of aircraft flying over the Nigerian sky.

To effectively do this, the authority requires adequate technical manpower (inspectors) who are either pilots or engineers to carry out routine and regular checks on airlines.

With over 10 scheduled airlines and 22 non-scheduled, as well as over 30 prospective carriers currently undergoing the process of certification, it becomes a herculean task to meet the urgent needs of operators.

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It was learnt that the NCAA is facing a severe shortage of technical manpower, which is stretching its capacity to meet the needs of operators as they have to queue before getting several approvals done.

Why inspectors are leaving

The japa syndrome hitting the NCAA is in two-folds. While some leave the country for greener pastures, majority of them leave for in-country pastures to airlines.

For instance, the inspectors who are either pilots or engineers, have the option of working for airlines who pay four times higher than what the NCAA pays.

The NCAA, owing to the existing civil service structure, cannot exceed a particular threshold as stipulated in the conditions of service for civil servants in Nigeria.

It was further learnt that the salary of an average inspector is about N500,000 monthly, described as the lowest in the world.

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Checks showed that the salary is five times higher in other countries.

In the United States, it is about $80,000 (N80m) per annum; $60,000 (N60m) per annum in the UK; €53,315 (N58.7m at N1,102/€) in Germany, among others.

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Also, airlines in Nigeria pay three times higher than what any aviation agency pays technical staff like pilots and engineers.

Confirming this in a chat with our correspondent, the immediate past director-general, Civil Aviation, Captain Musa Nuhu, said the agency lost technical staff on a daily basis.

During a recent stakeholders’ meeting convened by the Minister of Aviation, Festus Keyamo, the director-general, who was recently suspended, confirmed losing 15 inspectors recently, saying, “The industry is expanding while we are shrinking.”

He said, “The ministry has intervened. It is really difficult and sometimes demoralising. By now we should be talking about another salary increase. We really have to talk to the unions and staff and make them understand. It is unfortunate.

“With the continued support of the Ministry of Aviation, there has been progress with the agencies of government involved, like the Salaries and Wages Commission, but not yet completed.

“My people (inspectors) have a problem with salaries. They are earning N500,000 and the airline pays N1.5m. It is unfortunate. That is the way it is and that is why we need to be removed from that salary structure.

 “As at two years ago, Kenya was paying their inspectors $10,000 and they are going to increase it. You pay your people peanuts and you expect them to do magic.”

It was reported that the NCAA has different categories of inspectors, including airworthiness inspectors, flight operation inspectors, ground operation inspectors, cabin inspectors, aerodrome inspectors and airspace inspectors.

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But there are only 100 airworthiness inspectors, which are the most critical in providing services to both the existing and incoming airlines, and more than 250 aircraft combined to work with.

A source in the NCAA who spoke with our correspondent on the condition of anonymity said most of the inspectors retired but they were retained, while dozens of them left in search of greener pastures.”

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NCAT loses 20 technical staff

At the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), no fewer than 20 technical staff have left for greener pastures over poor pay.

A former rector of the college, Captain Alkali Modibbo, confirmed that agencies and airlines were in ongoing war of poaching technical staff.

He said, “We have the hitch of instructors. The airplanes would be there but we don’t have enough instructors to handle the training. This is so because of our remuneration. The college is a federal government institution and we are paid through the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), which is a government policy, so you can’t unilaterally change it.

“If the federal government is not ready to increase salaries, there is nothing you can do on your own. But we are trying to see if we can increase allowances for our technical staff, especially flying instructors, engineering instructors, air traffic services and control so that we can retain them.

“We have lost more than 20 technical staff in the last five years to greener pastures. When your salaries and allowances don’t measure up with other colleagues, then people start to look for better places. We need more technical staff to train our students.

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“The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) is suffering the same pain. According to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the NAMA is below standard with the air traffic controllers. So, the NAMA comes and grabs our air traffic controllers. The air traffic controllers run to NAMA because the salaries and allowances are four times better than what we can offer here,” he added.

In the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, described as the most safety critical agency managing the airspace, the Authority has continuously lamented the dearth of air traffic controllers.

The president of National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), Abayomi Agoro said, “We have acute manpower gaps and the agency undergoes some recruitment exercises to fill out the shortage, but they are yet to be trained.”

Commenting on the challenge, a former rector of the NCAT, Captain Samuel Caulcrick, recalled how he faced a similar challenge as the head of the foremost training institution.

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If the wages are okay, some of them would stay. It is always an issue with the salaries and wages commission.

“We have always had that issue. It has always been difficult to retain these key personnel after training them. It happened to me. I left Zaria in 1980, but then, I had to finish my bond before they could allow me to join the Nigeria Airways to fly a bigger aeroplane,” he said.

Also speaking, a former general secretary of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Comrade Olayinka Abioye, said government must stop the japa syndrome in the industry.

He said, “As often said, a disgruntled worker is an accident waiting to happen. This being so, the management and unions (if any) must work together to reduce the number of professionals that may japa through improved welfare benefits.

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“Can you imagine a situation where conditions of service, which ought to be reviewed every five years, are yet to be approved after all efforts put into getting them dusted and reviewed? What could be the cause of the avoidable delay? It is a known fact that all the agencies have fulfilled their respective official government obligations by submitting for scrutiny and perusal of their respective financial profiles so that they do not recourse to the federal government for assistance, yet they cannot get this simple thing done.”

The chairman of Air Peace, Mr Allen Onyema, recently called for the removal of the NCAA from the civil service structure to bring about greater efficiency in its operation.

“I am an advocate of taking the NCAA out of the civil service salary structure. The wages being paid by NCAA inspectors are very poor. As a matter of urgency and safety concern, their wage structure should be removed from that of civil service with immediate effect. The NCAA is losing staff, they cannot compete with the airlines in getting the right workforce,” he said. (Daily Trust)

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