News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 20th March 2015

A Polish/Irish festival celebrates our special 10 year relationship

A week-long event honours the 150,000 members of the Polish community in Ireland

 

Hannah Barwinska, Natalia Gil and Veronika Blaszczak (all age 11 from Polish School SEN) participate in the Brighter Futures pageant during the St Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin last Tuesday the 17th March 2015.

June 18th, 2012, and Market Square in Poznan, Poland, (above right) is thronged. It’s the last chapter in what has been a whirlwind summer romance between the Poles and the Irish. Irish football fans have endured a nightmare of a week in terms of results at Euro 2012, but none of them will forget the friendship that blossomed between them and their Polish hosts.

After eight days of heavy defeats, the Irish are nursing sore heads and bruised egos. A band of Poles have organised a gathering to “say goodbye to Ireland in our way”.

As the gathering begins, there are ripples in the crowd when the Poles begin to sing, not their native songs, but rousing renditions of The Fields of Athenry and other verses the Irish have been singing all week. They have learned the music and the words. The depth of the gesture is lost on nobody.

Flyers are distributed in the square. “We remember your great sportsmanship during your football game with Spain in Gdansk,” they say. “We remember your inspiring song The Fields of Athenry that brings into memory some of your history no one should ever forget. We too have a very hard past. We are also romantic and emotional people. This is something our nations have in common.”

The love affair between the Polish and the Irish may have been consummated here but this is not where it all began.Tens of thousands of Poles have migrated to Ireland since the State opened its borders to an enlarged EU in 2004.

Along the way there have been “misunderstandings” that have become folk tales. At one stage a Polish man seemed to be establishing himself as Ireland’s most reckless serial road traffic offender. By June 2007, Prawo Jazdy had more than 50 separate entries under his name in the Garda Pulse computer system, but with different addresses and not a single conviction. In the end the clue to his identity lay within the pages of a Polish-English dictionary. “Prawo jazdy” means driving licence. Garda officers were mistaking it for the driver’s name.

Every part of the country has a Polish presence that has added to community life. Few Irish towns have been left without a Polski sklep that sells pickles, Polish beer or smoked fish.

Of course, the pollution of the Irish gene pool has been perhaps the greatest development.

The contamination of the scraggly, pasty-skinned ginger archetype of the Irish has long been a matter of great urgency – and who better than the stunning Poles to do just that.

There are now Jakubs married to Aoifes and Seáns to Magdalenas.

It’s just a wonder there hasn’t been a Polish-Irish festival before now. The first one begins today, a week-long event aiming to celebrate the 150,000 members of the Polish community living in Ireland.

Ireland makes an early IMF repayment “leaving only 20% more to clear debt”

  

Ireland has made the last of its early loan repayments to the International Monetary Fund, leaving the country with just under a fifth of the original €22.5bn bailout left to pay.

  Friday’s payment was supposed to be due between July 2015 and January 2021 but with an average interest rate of 4.99%, Ireland’s bailout funds were far more expensive than the country’s borrowing rate on international markets, encouraging the government to pay the debts down as soon as possible, writes Elaine Moore in London.

Government borrowing costs across Europe have plummeted following the European Central Bank’s decision to begin a large scale programme of bond buying to boost the region’s economic recovery.

Last year Ireland’s benchmark borrowing rate dropped below the UK’s for the first time in six years highlighting the speed with which the country’s economy has turned around since the Eurozone debt crisis.

Oncotype DX test means no chemotherapy for some breast cancer patients

The gene test is only available here since 2011.

    

A study on a new test for breast cancer shows that it reduces the need for chemotherapy in some patients.

The test, Oncotype DX, involves a sample of the tumour being taken and sent to the US for gene testing. It has only been available in Ireland for four years.

Suitable patients?

Patients who are suitable for the test and whose cancer is node negative and hormone positive can have their tumour gene-tested.

The test looks at the activity of 21 genes in this particular breast cancer, and is able to see how the cancer is going to behave into the future and whether it would benefit from chemotherapy or not.

Genomic Health presented 11 studies today in Vienna, Austria, on the test in Ireland.

A study

They include a real-life observational study in Ireland, which demonstrates significant reductions in chemotherapy and cost savings when the test is used in early-stage breast cancer.

Dr Janice Walsh, Consultant Medical Oncologist at St Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin, led the research project for the All Ireland Co-Operative Oncology Research Group (ICORG) in collaboration with the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP).

Dr Walsh told TheJournal.ie that the test has been standard practice in the United States since 2005, but was only introduced in Ireland, following a long campaign, in 2011.

Ireland was the first European market to publicly reimburse the test.

The study at Irish hospitals showed that out of the 583 patients who were included in the analysis, 59% underwent a change in their treatment decision.

339 of the patients would have been recommended chemotherapy had they not undergone the test – the test showed that they could be changed to hormone therapy alone, as chemotherapy would have given them minimal or no benefit.

Dr Walsh said this is “hugely significant” as it means the patients can avoid the side effects from chemotherapy.

It is estimated that there are about 600 eligible patients a year.

Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in Irish women.

Kieran Kenny of Genomic Health said that the test has demonstrated value for patients and the health care system.

Experimental Oncotype DX test

 by Biogen offers hope to scientists

That they may be closer to a breakthrough

The shares in Biogen jump 7% in New York trading

    

The Biogen’s market value share has risen by $45 billion to nearly $110 billion in a little over a year

An experimental Alzheimer’s drug being developed by a US biotech group has offered hope that scientists may be closer to a breakthrough for the devastating disease, after early trials showed the treatment slowed the rate of cognitive decline.

Biogen’s Aducanumab is one of several drugs under development by big pharmaceutical groups that aim to reduce so-called “amyloid plaque”, a sticky build-up in the brain that many believe is responsible for Alzheimer’s disease.

A year-long study of 166 patients with a mild form of the disease showed that Biogen’s drug significantly reduced the build-up of plaque and delayed the onset of cognitive decline, according to data published yesterday at a medical conference in Nice, France.

Shares in Biogen, which have risen about 28% this year in anticipation of the data, jumped by 7% in New York trading, while other companies with similar drugs also gained, including Eli Lilly, up 2.4%, and Sanofi, which added 1.6%.

Biogen’s market value has risen by $45 billion to nearly $110 billion in a little over a year.

However, analysts and doctors voiced concerns over the drug’s safety, with a quarter of patients on the highest dose discontinuing treatment due to adverse effects, including swelling on the brain. Drug companies have trialled similar drugs for years with disappointing results, but the industry has pressed ahead because the commercial opportunity is huge: there are more than 25 million Alzheimer’s sufferers globally and five million in the US, the majority of whom do not respond to existing treatments.

Biogen and its partner Neurimmune developed the drug by cloning the memory cells of people in their 90s who had “super cognitive function” despite their age, as well as people who had Alzheimer’s that was progressing at an unusually slow rate.

Speed limit’s likely to be cut to many of rural Ireland road networks

 

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe yesterday predicted “many” rural roads are likely to see their maximum speed limit cut from 100km/h to 80km/h under new guidelines.

The guidelines also call on local authorities to “give serious consideration” to reducing speed limits from 50km/h to 30km/h within housing estates, where houses are fronting the roads, and near play areas.

Mr Donohoe said he continued to believe “very strongly” that local authorities must retain the power to determine speeds in housing estates — despite calls for a mandatory 20km/h speed limit by Roseann Brennan, whose six-year-old son, Jake, died after being knocked down by a car near his home in Lintown Grove, Kilkenny, last June.

The minister said the lowest speed local authorities can introduce under the law was 30km/h, but new legislation he was bringing through the Oireachtas would allow councils to have a 20km/h speed limit.

Mr Donohoe was speaking at the launch of Guidelines for Setting and Managing Speed Limits.

Under the document:

National roads less than 7 metres in width and more than 3km in length should have a maximum limit of 80km/h — while those over should be 100km/h zones.

A new road sign — a white circle with black diagonal stripes — will replace the 80km/h sign on narrow country roads, but the maximum speed will remain unchanged.

Urban speed zones will be determined by their function (arterial, link or local road) and their context (commercial or housing areas).

Mr Donohoe said a website, http://www.speedlimits.ie, would go live in the coming weeks, with a map giving limits on all roads.

Asked whether he expected a significant reclassification of areas from 50km/h to 30km/h, Mr Kelly said he thought there would be “more change” regarding rural roads, where limits would be determined by new criteria — regarding their width and length.

“You are likely to see a reclassification from 100km/h to 80km/h on many of these,” he said.

He also revealed new signage on country roads that legally have 80km/h speed limits, but where drivers need to exercise caution.

“This new generic sign is in use internationally,” said the minister.

“This sign means that drivers must use their judgement when using the road in question but must not exceed 80km/h.”

The signs are expected to be erected in April.

Moyagh Murdoch, RSA chief executive, said 80km/h country roads with “grass growing up the middle and clearly incapable of taking two cars had brought the system into disrepute”.

She said they would be running online, mobile and print media advertising campaigns backing the changes.

Mr Donohoe said Roseann Brennan had made “a very important contribution” in raising the profile of speed in residential areas. However, he said 20km/h was “just over 12 miles an hour” and the “level of motion has to be credible”. He thought 30km/h was “credible” and this was shown by international best practice.

Why is that mushroom glowing in the dark?

  

Many species of mushrooms glow in the dark. This bioluminescence is being studied by scientists to determine its function.

If you think you see a glowing mushroom, you might not be having a psychedelic hallucination. Some mushrooms indeed are bioluminescent, including one that sprouts among decaying leaves at the base of young palm trees in Brazilian coconut forests.

Scientists have long wondered what possible reason there could be for a fungus to glow. They now have an answer.

Researchers say that experiments in Brazil involving the big, yellow mushroom called “flor de coco,” meaning coconut flower, showed its night time bioluminescence attracted insects and other creatures that could later spread its spores around the forest.

  1. gardneri mushrooms growing on the base of a young babassu palm in Gilbues, Brazil. Photo: REUTERS/Michele P. Verderane

“Our research provides an answer to the question, ‘Why do fungi make light?’ that was first asked, at least first asked in print, by Aristotle more than 2,000 years ago,” says biochemist Cassius Stevani of Brazil’s Instituto de Química-Universidade de São Paulo.

“The answer appears to be that fungi make light so they are noticed by insects who can help the fungus colonize new habitats.”

Geneticist and molecular biologist Jay Dunlap of Dartmouth College’s Geisel School of Medicine says bioluminescence had independently evolved many times in such diverse life forms as bacteria, fungi, insects and fish.

“Most of these make light in their own way, that is, with biochemistry that is unique to each organism,” Dunlap says.

Of the 100,000 known fungus species, 71 are bioluminescent. The species in the study, published in the journal Current Biology, is one of the biggest and brightest of them.

The researchers found a circadian clock regulates its bioluminescence, glowing only at night.

They created two sets of plastic mushroom replicas, one with LED lights replicating bioluminescence and a second set with no light. Suspecting the glow might be used to entice insects, they put glue on both sets of phoney mushrooms in forest locations where real ones grow, then tracked the beasties that got stuck.

The glowing replicas lured an array of ants, cockroaches, flies, beetles, spiders, harvestmen, slugs, snails and centipedes.

Such creatures, after crawling on a real bioluminescent mushroom, disperse fungal spores around the forest.

Dunlap speculated that many of Earth’s bioluminescent mushrooms likely developed their glow for that purpose.

“Because it has evolved so many times in so many different organisms, each with their own biology, studying bioluminescence gives one a window on living things in all their wonderful diversity, and it sends you off to questions that you did not know existed,

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