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Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Scientists at the University of Tokyo plans to use human stem cells to grow pancreases in pigs for transplantation,  News reported on Monday.

The first project to grow human organs in animals is expected to be launched in Japan within a year or so, once it clears government and university screening committees, News cited Prof. Hiromitsu Nakauchi as saying.

Nakauchi’s team plans to use human introduced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) to reproduce pancreases in the experiment.

Like embryonic stem cells, iPS cells can develop into any kind of cells.

Moreover, they can be generated directly from adult cells without the need for embryos and can avoid transplant rejection problems.

According to News reports, the research team will inject human iPS cells into a pig embryo genetically modified so that it lacks the ability to develop a pancreas.

The embryo will then be placed in a surrogate sow’s womb.

The fetus will be removed before delivery to examine the amount of pancreas tissue derived from the human iPS cells and how well it functions.

The team hopes the genetically engineered pancreases could be used to treat patients with serious diabetes in 10 years.

On March 1, Japan’s Ministry of Education and Science gave the green light to the controversial research process, involving implanting animals with human stem cells that could eventually help grow human organs for transplant inside animal hosts.

The decision to revise its guidelines means Japanese researchers can now apply for permits to carry out studies employing the technique, a ministry official said.

But the Japanese government still prohibits the placement of fertilised animal eggs containing human cells in human wombs as well as the use of animals produced through such genetic engineering for breeding, Kyodo News said.

Ethical questions have been raised about the status of animals containing human cells.

But a supply shortage of donated organs calls for researchers to find a quicker and better solution to the dilemma.

Published in World

Access Bank Plc has declared the sum of N14.463 billion as dividend payable to its shareholders for the year ended December 31, 2018.

This was disclosed at the 30th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the company held on Sunday in Lagos.

The board of directors of the institution led by Mosun Belo-Olusoga had proposed a final dividend of 25 kobo per ordinary shares, totalling N7.23 billion, which equals the interim dividend of 25k per ordinary share earlier paid at mid-year.

Meanwhile, the bank, alongside its subsidiaries, has posted N95 billion as profit after tax (PAT) for the year.

The Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer (GMD/CEO) of the bank, Herbert Wigwe, while addressing shareholders noted that the business recorded increase in profits by displaying financial strength in a lackluster operating environment.

He said, “the strength of the performance reflects a growing franchise supported by digital analytics and customer service touchpoints.”

Gross earnings of the bank went up by 15.2% – from N459 billion in 2017 to N529 billion in 2018; profit before tax appreciated to N103 billion, 32% higher than the 2017 record of N78 billion and N88 billion in 2016.

Published in Bank & Finance
Tuesday, 30 April 2019 09:49

Sri Lanka: U.S. envoy says threat real

The U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka on Tuesday said some of the militants involved in the Easter Sunday bombings on the island were likely still at large and could be planning fresh attacks.

Sri Lankan security forces also said they were maintaining a high level of alert amid intelligence reports that the militants were likely to strike before the start of the holy Islamic month of Ramadan.

“Tremendous progress has been made toward apprehending those plotters but I don’t think the story is over yet.

“We do believe that there is active planning under way for more attacks,’’ Ambassador Alaina Teplitz said in an interview.

Scores of suspected militants have been arrested in the multi-ethnic island nation since April 21 suicide bomb attacks on hotels and churches that killed over 250 people, including 42 foreign nationals.

“Security will stay tight for several days because military and police are still tracking down suspects,’’ a senior police intelligence official said.

Another government source told News men a document has been circulating among key security establishments instructing police and security forces across the country to remain on high alert.

The source said the militants were expected to try a strike before Ramadan.

Ramadan is scheduled to begin in Sri Lanka on May 6.

Teplitz told Reuters that the risk of more attacks remained real.

“We certainly have reason to believe that the active attack group has not been fully rendered inactive,’’ she said.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is assisting Sri Lankan authorities in the investigations but Teplitz declined to give more details.

The government has lifted a ban on social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and viber, a source at the president’s office said.

The ban was imposed immediately after the attacks to prevent the spread of rumours.

The government has also banned women from wearing face veils under an emergency law put in place after the Easter attacks.

Authorities suspect members of two previously little-known groups, National Thawheedh Jamaath (NTJ) and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim, of carrying out the attacks, although the Islamic State extremist group has claimed responsibility.

Authorities believe Zahran Hashim, the founder of NTJ, was the mastermind and one of the nine suicide bombers.

In India, Police said they arrested a 29-year-old man in the southern state of Kerala, close to Sri Lanka, for planning similar attacks there.

“The man had been influenced by speeches made by Zahran,’’ the government’s National Investigation Agency said in a statement.

Sri Lanka’s 22 million population is mostly Buddhist but includes minority Christians, Muslims and Hindus.

Published in World

To cover for the loses they incurred, the Federal Government is making plans to compensate manufacturers of codeine-based cough syrup in the country over the complete ban placed on their products in 2018.

The Federal Government had ordered the withdrawal of all codeine based cough syrup from circulation after a BBC documentary exposed its widespread nationwide abuse in 2018.

This was revealed by the Director General, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, Prof. Moji Adeyeye on Monday during an interactive session with journalists in Lagos.

According to Adeyeye, NAFDAC has been directed by government to compile a list of manufacturing firms to be reimbursed, adding that over N1bn would be needed to compensate the manufacturers.

Adeyeye, in her interaction with journalists, also faulted a report claiming that 70 percent of drugs in the country were fake.

“The report was aimed at causing panic in the public. We are consulting our legal team to take the matter up”, the NAFDAC DG said, adding that the agency was in the process of conducting a research to determine the current percentage of fake drugs in the country.

Published in Business

South Sudan’s oil minister said on Monday that the country’s oil was flowing smoothly and problems with importing chemicals for drilling, due to a strike at a port in neighbouring Sudan, had been resolved.

Landlocked South Sudan’s main oil shipment hub is Port Sudan in neighbouring Sudan. Chemicals due to be imported by South Sudan via the port for oil drilling were stranded late last week after oil workers at the port went on strike.

Oil minister Ezekiel Lol said those chemicals would be shipped to South Sudan on Monday.

“I can assure the world and the people of South Sudan that South Sudan oil is flowing smoothly without any difficulties,” Lol said during a visit to Sudan to discuss the issue with Sudanese officials.

The chemicals had been held up at the port for three days, he said.

“The chemicals that are in Port Sudan will be leaving today for South Sudan,” Lol said.

South Sudan’s information minister had said on Friday that the country’s oil exports had been disrupted due to strikes and protests in Port Sudan, but Sudan officials said there had been no disruptions to exports.

South Sudan, which ships its oil through Sudan via a pipeline to Port Sudan, says its current oil production is 135,000 barrels per day.


- Reuters

Published in Engineering

The Health minister, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, is stuck with 20 bids from companies and individuals competing to secure government clearance to grow and export marijuana for medical purposes.

Senior officials in the Ministry of Health told Daily Monitor that they are stuck with the bids because of lack of regulations governing the undertaking. The ministry is also overwhelmed by the number of ganja planters, both local and foreign, inquiring about the application process and follow-ups.

"Marijuana growing without proper control measures can be dangerous to our youthful population... . already it is the second highest cause for the Butabika [mental rehabilitation] hospital admissions majority of whom are youth. We can't just accept growing [of marijuana]," the State minister for Health, Ms Sarah Opendi warned.

"Why are we having this huge influx of people to our country wanting to grow it here and not any other East African country? We already have laws prohibiting its production without clearance from the ministry, but this law is already being abused. People are growing marijuana under whose authority?" she added.

Dr Aceng, at the weekend, confirmed the scramble for cannabis growing in Uganda and revealed how the number of interested companies has shot up from 14 to 20. She said most of the companies are local owners seeking to tap into the $5b cannabis industry.

The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 2015 allows cultivation, production and exportation of medical marijuana and mandates the minister to issue written consent for medical marijuana. However, Dr Aceng insists the applications will have to wait for the final decision of Cabinet.

Commenting on health benefits of marijuana, which is one of the terms of reference for the Cabinet sub-committee, Dr Aceng said: "It's true marijuana has medicinal properties but the medical properties are still under research... it has been proven it can be used in reducing pain in cancer patients but even then research is still ongoing... there is also research in areas of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia in cases of epilepsy; it's still undergoing research."

However, the absence of regulations to guide Dr Aceng on marijuana permits has also complicated matters to the extent that the Health minister and Cabinet do not know how to proceed. Some companies have also put pressure on Dr Aceng inquiring what's going on and accused her of creating a monopoly.

The government has already licensed Industrial Hemp (U) Ltd to grow and export medical marijuana. The company is currently working together with Pharma Limited, one of the biggest Israeli cannabis firm on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.

They have invested $360m (about Shs1.3 trillion) and established marijuana farms in Hima, Kasese.

Sources told Daily Monitor that before Cabinet discussed the deals, Dr Aceng wanted to request Internal Security Organisation (ISO) and Internal Affairs ministry to conduct due diligence on some of the companies. But after consulting internally, the minister abandoned the move and ran to Cabinet. She reportedly feared a "risk" of having 20 companies growing cannabis in various parts of the country without collective responsibility.


Credit: All Africa & Daily Monitor Uganda

Published in Agriculture
  1. Opinions and Analysis


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