Glucans as biological response

Beta-D-glucans belong to a group of natural, physiologically active compounds, generally called biological response modifiers. Glucans represent highly conserved structural components of cell walls in yeast, fungi, or seaweed. Despite long history of research, the exact mechanisms of glucan action remain unsolved. The present review starts with the history of glucans. Next, the detailed information about the possible glucan sources is followed by a description of the mechanisms of action. Physiological functions of glucan suggest the possible use of glucans not only as non-specific immunomodulator, but also as its possible future use as a drug.

Though Ebola Cases Are in Decline, Hospitals Continue to Stay Vigilant

GREECE, N.Y. -- While the number of Ebola cases both abroad and the U.S. have been in decline, doctors and government agencies say the threat is not totally eliminated.  That's why every major medical center in our region still has a plan in place in case someone walks in with symptoms of the disease.
Thursday's drill at Unity Hospital started with a patient who presented with a history and symptoms that made doctors suspicious he may have been infected with Ebola.
The hospital's EBRT, or Emergency Biological Response Team, kicked into action. It includes staff members who have been highly trained in treating patients with infectious diseases. There more than 30 volunteers on that team who are always on call should someone come in with symptoms.
Someone with a suspected case of Ebola anywhere in our region would eventually be transferred to the University of Rochester Medical Center, the designated treatment center in our area, but if a patient walks into Unity with symptoms, doctors would have to treat that patient until he or she was moved. That's why leaders say it's important staff here be prepared.
"We're pleased to see that the number of cases has been dropping, these cases which have been mostly coming from West Africa," said James Haley, Chief Medical Officer, "but there has been no declaration that this is a crisis that is over, so we need to be prepared.  
"Just as this sort of snuck up on us last year and became a worldwide event, that can happen again."
The hospital has run several Ebola drills since the virus first really surfaced as a threat in the United States, but this was Unity's first large-scale drill, involving members from almost every department.
"There has been concerns, obviously, because it's new to us but through lots of training with the staff and best practices and working cohesively with Rochester Regional (Health Systems)," said Marina Dettori, nursing education director, "we have allayed their fears and they feel much more comfortable with the whole process."
Leaders said staff members did well, but there's always more to learn which can then be used at the next drill.
"After the drill is done, we'll give them a day or two and have after-action report, produce a document and plan our next drill and work on the improvements," said Jerry Seldes, Unity security director.

How your biology could overrule you when voting

Your ideology might be swamped by your biology when you cast your vote, and this is why parties like UKIP are riding high, say John Hibbing and Kevin Smith
POPULIST movements are everywhere at the moment, on both the left and right of politics. Yet many observers seem in denial about the strength and stubborn appeal of this phenomenon and, rather than trying to explain it, simply dismiss it as irresponsible pandering to the masses.
At the same time, scholars are using biology to understand political attitudes, chiefly the liberal-conservative split. Might this approach help us understand populism's pull?
Populists are characterised not just by their championing of the interests of ordinary people, but also by their often angry crusades against political or economic entities seen as hostile and threatening to those interests. These can be external: the European Union fits that bill for the left-leaning Syriza party in Greece as well as for the right-leaning UKIP in the UK. They can be internal: elite corporations and an out-of-touch government have spurred both the right-leaning Tea Party and the left-leaning Occupy movement in the US. Similar forces are at work in Spain, where left-wing Podemos is riding high.
Arguably, the most potent and volatile populist catalyst is immigration. Political systems throughout Europe typically have at least one right-leaning populist party unsympathetic or openly hostile to immigrants. It is not unusual for them to draw 10 to 15 per cent of the vote, sometimes more. In January, pollssuggested the anti-immigration National Front, led by Marine Le Pen, was the most popular party in France.

Research in the past few years, using information on brain structure and function from MRI scans, physiological responses, eye-trackers and behavioural genetics, shows that individual political orientations are deeply connected to biological forces that are usually beyond personal control (see "Beyond belief"). Despite initial incredulity – people like to believe political opinions are rational responses to salient events – the evidence that political preferences are linked to systems that often involve subconscious processes is growing. An admittedly simplistic but useful summary of this research is that human emotions are grounded in biology, and politics is grounded in emotions.
When it comes to biology and populism, it is worth asking two questions: first, why does populist parties' appeal rise and fall over time – more so than that of most other parties – and, second, why is the appeal so much greater among some people than others?
Biology has little to say about the first. Although environmental changes, such as conflict, can and do alter individual biological predispositions, sudden environmentally mediated shifts of biological predisposition that are strong enough to alter the electoral fortunes of populist parties in multiple societies seem unlikely.
Interestingly, non-biological, purely environmental explanations do not provide much better answers. The popular belief is that populism surges when economies falter or tragedies unfold. While intuitively appealing, studies find little evidence for a link to any metric of a nation's fortunes.
As for why populism's appeal varies so much from person to person, many see populism as a symptom of working class angst in a world where external forces disproportionately threaten that group. That view is questionable given thatsupport is often from those not low in socioeconomic status – think UKIP and the Tea Party. It is on this question of individual variation that biopolitical literature provides a more plausible – though far from total – explanation.
Humans have a well-established and potent negativity bias; we subconsciously respond more and pay more attention to negative than to positive events. This makes sense. Negative situations can have more severe consequences in survival terms, so successful organisms should be more sensitive to such stimuli. It is also well established that individuals vary in their degree of response to negative stimuli.
Physiologically speaking, some react nearly as strongly to positive as to negative stimuli; others much more strongly to negative.
Work in our lab and several others suggests that, after accounting for socioeconomic status, people who are more biologically responsive to and who devote more cognitive resources to negative stimuli favour policies that could be viewed as protective.
Those with a strong negativity bias are more likely to be suspicious of new approaches and different people. They tend to prefer certainty, tradition and security. Perhaps because they are more in tune with potential dangers, they are attracted to policies they believe will limit their vulnerability – whether the perceived threat comes from outside groups, pathogens or something that violates their group norms. In the face of perceived threats, they seek in-group safety. Variations in biologically measured negativity bias appear to predict attitudes on immigration and other perceived threats – issues typically at the core of populist movements.
Explanations for the lure of populist parties are undoubtedly more complex than biological sensitivities to negativity bias. Yet the biology suggests it would be a mistake to dismiss populism's appeal as something easily countered and to conclude that populist leaders create rather than capitalise on organic populist impulses.
Biological predispositions that bolster populism are by no means immutable. At the same time, they seem significantly harder to alter than many would like to believe; a strong negativity bias is usually deeply ingrained. Support for populist parties will continue to ebb and flow – but individual biological mechanisms animating populist urges are here to stay.
This article appeared in print under the headline "We are what we vote"
John Hibbing and Kevin Smith are professors of political science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and co-authors of Predisposed: Liberals, conservatives, and the biology of political differences (Routledge, 2013)