Johns Hopkins Gazette: February 6, 1995


Glendening budget increases aid to private higher education
     Gov. Parris N. Glendening's 1996 budget proposal calls for a
$34 million, or 4.6 percent, increase over last year in state aid
for higher education. Included in his proposal is a total of
$28.4 million in aid to Hopkins and other private institutions
under the Sellinger Program of Aid to Independent Colleges and
Universities. This amount will be reduced by $1.2 million if
special legislation is enacted altering the program's formula.
     The budget also proposes to fully fund the special state
operating grant of $2.995 million for the Peabody Institute. 
     The governor's proposed capital budget of $158.9 million for
projects at all colleges and universities allocates $8.3 million
for building projects at independent colleges and universities.
Of that amount, $2.8 million is targeted for renovations for the
Milton S. Eisenhower Library on the Homewood campus and $2
million for the Peabody Art Fund. The art fund, which is expected
to total $15 million by June 30, 1996, will be transferred to the
Peabody Institute in exchange for the art collection at the end
of FY1996, in accordance with a statutory agreement between the
university and the state.

Timing of immune responses affects development of AIDS
     Hopkins researchers say that gay men infected with the AIDS
virus remain free of AIDS symptoms for at least six years if they
make large amounts of antibodies against some parts of the virus
during the first few months after infection. Infected gay men who
mount weaker immune responses during this time tend to develop
AIDS much faster, within three years. 
     The findings should help physicians to identify which men
may need treatment soon and which men probably will not develop
symptoms for many years, said Homayoon Farzedegan, associate
professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the School of
Public Health and lead author of the study.
     "The unique thing about this study is that it's the first
time that so many HIV-positive men who progressed rapidly to AIDS
have been followed so closely for so long after they first
seroconverted," Dr. Farzedegan said. Seroconversion, he
explained, occurs when antibodies to the AIDS virus appear in the
person's blood and is the primary evidence of infection. The
10-year study compared 17 newly infected men who progressed
rapidly to AIDS with a control group of 42 newly infected men who
had not developed AIDS after six years. Men who developed AIDS
within three years of becoming infected had more of the virus's
genetic material in their blood than did men who did not progress
rapidly to AIDS. And in men who developed AIDS faster, the immune
system cells called T cells, which help to fight germs, were less
active against infections than in the control group.

First effective drug developed for treatment of sickle cell
     A Hopkins-led team of researchers last week announced the
first effective treatment for the most painful symptoms of sickle
cell anemia, an inherited blood disease affecting about 72,000
Americans. Physicians say that the disease, which most commonly
affects people whose ancestors are from Africa, the Middle East,
the Mediterranean basin and India, shortens the lives of its
victims by approximately 30 years. 
     The researchers, led by Samuel Charache, professor of
medicine, cautioned that the drug, hydroxyurea, is not a cure and
that researchers do not know whether it can be used in children
or pregnant women. For about 15 percent of those diagnosed with
sickle cell anemia, the drug could slowly turn their lives
     Until now, people who suffered from severe cases either took
pain medications or had blood transfusions. The research, which
began with two Baltimore men 12 years ago and was recently
replicated in a national study, showed that daily doses of
hydroxyurea reduced by 50 percent the frequency of painful
episodes, hospitalizations, transfusions and a life-threatening
chest syndrome. 
     Researchers said the drug works by turning on a switch that
stimulates the production of fetal hemoglobin, which interferes
with the blood damaging process. Hydroxyurea, which can be
prescribed for sickle cell patients, has yet to be approved by
the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Hopkins Oncology Center joins Comprehensive Cancer Network
     The Johns Hopkins Oncology Center has joined 12 of the
country's leading cancer centers to form the National
Comprehensive Cancer Network, which will develop practice
standards and outcomes measures to promote high-quality,
cost-effective care for cancer patients. "The alliance of the top
cancer providers in the nation... promises to be a major force in
shaping the future of the delivery of care for cancer patients in
this country," said Martin D. Abeloff, the Oncology Center
     Individual centers will evaluate and refine their own
operations to serve as models for the nation. Members also will
work closely within their regions and through their own
affiliations to raise standards for care in the community.

Proteins may help sperm 'sniff' their way to eggs
     A Hopkins study asserts sperm in mammals may "sniff" their
way to the egg by using the same types of proteins the nose uses
to sense odors. If confirmed, the new findings could lead to
treatments for contraception that make it harder for sperm to
"smell" and find the egg, as well as infertility treatments that
improve the sperm's capacity to home in on the egg's signal.
     The study, reported in the January issue of Molecular
Medicine, showed that a part of sperm tails in rats contains the
same type of receptor proteins that appear in the nose. These
proteins respond to airborne molecules that enter the nose,
triggering a reaction that sends a signal to the brain.
Scientists think a similar reaction may be triggered when
receptor proteins in sperm encounter molecules released by the
egg. This reaction may regulate the way a sperm swims.
     "The next step is to see if researchers can find a molecule
from the egg that acts as a signal to sperm," said the report's
lead author, Hopkins medical and doctoral student Loren Walensky.
"It's already been shown that sperm swim toward the follicular
fluid, the fluid that surrounds the egg, so that's the first
place to look."
     Walensky, who works in the laboratory of Solomon Snyder,
director of Neuroscience, found another strong similarity between
sperm and the olfactory system: two proteins that turn down the
signal from olfactory receptors are also present on the same
portion of the sperm tail.
     "These similarities make us hopeful that what we'll learn
from sperm receptors and egg signaling may help us better
understand the sense of smell," Walensky said.

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