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Tesamorelin in T2D Not Linked to Metabolic Changes – MedPage Today

Posted: June 19, 2017 at 5:44 pm

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Tesamorelin treatment in patients with type 2 diabetes did not affect the primary endpoint of relative insulin response, a new study showed.

After patients were treated with the synthetic analogue of human growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH), relative insulin response — the study’s primary endpoint — there was no significant between-group differences regarding the change from baseline (0.020.08 L/pmol placebo; 0.050.37 1-mg tesamorelin; 0.130.56 2-mg tesamorelin), according to David Clemmons, MD, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and colleagues.

The researchers also reported modifications to relevant diabetes medications, and the frequency of changes did not significantly differ between groups, as the team reported online in PLOS ONE.

However, there was a significant drop in total cholesterol levels among those on 2 mg of tesamorelin compared with placebo (-0.30.6 mmol/L; P

There were previous reports of an association between recombinant human growth hormone replacement therapy and reversal of metabolic alterations, stemming from low or deficient serum growth hormone levels, Clemmons et al noted. In addition, these analogues have also been linked to hyperglycemia, insulin resistance, and fluid retention, as well as worsening of glucose tolerance in prior studies. Therefore, the researchers aimed to evaluate the safety of administration of tesamorelin — known to increase basal and pulsatile secretion of growth hormone — in those with type 2 diabetes; the team said they were particularly interested in further evaluating usage in patients on highly active antiretroviral therapy.

A total of 53 people with type 2 diabetes were recruited from five U.S. centers for the randomized placebo-controlled trial. A 2-week “lead-in” period occurred following recruitment to determine dietary patterns and blood measurements of participants. Patients were randomized in a 1:1:1 fashion into three treatment groups: 1 mg of tesamorelin (n=18), 2 mg of tesamorelin (n=19), and placebo (n=16).

Blood samples were collected at baseline and subsequently every 4 weeks during the 12-week trial to assess fasting blood glucose, HbA1c, and IGF-1 levels. At the same time, a benchmark of a 75 g oral glucose tolerance test was also completed after an overnight fast, in which participants were also instructed to avoid insulin and sulfonylurea hypoglycemic medications. Triglyceride, total cholesterol, and LDL- and HDL-cholesterol were assessed through blood samples collected at baseline, and at 8 and 12 weeks.

In terms of overall diabetes control, there were no significant differences between the study groups. Regarding mean change (SD) in HbA1c levels — another secondary endpoint of the study — there was no overall treatment effect from baseline to 12 weeks between the groups. However, Clemmons’ group did find a significant difference at 12 weeks between the 2 mg tesamorelin and placebo groups (P

IGF-1 significantly increased among both treatment groups during the study period when compared with those in the placebo group (mean change from baseline: 33 ng/mL for the 1 mg group; 66 ng/mL for the 2 mg group; P

In terms of another secondary endpoint of fasting glucose levels (meanSD), there were also no significant differences from baseline to 12 weeks among the groups (P=0.44).

Week 1 data were as follows:

And for Week 12, the results were:

However, a borderline effect of time regarding fasting glucose levels was noted, with higher levels reported at weeks 4 and 8 among the 2 mg treatment group (P=0.06).

No serious adverse events or death were reported during the study. However, mild adverse events among the treatment groups included nausea, diarrhea, generalized weakness, fatigue, headache, light-headedness, and upper respiratory tract infection.

The researchers noted that their findings are in line with previous data, particularly one study that showed an initial rise in fasting glucose levels among patients on HIV treatment with tesamorelin, which then returned to baseline values after 6 months of treatment.

The study was sponsored by Theratechnologies, which also provided support in the form of the salary for one of the co-authors. Clemmons was a paid consultant of the company at the time the study was performed.


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Planned Parenthood opens $2 million facility in Queensbury | Local … – Glens Falls Post-Star

Posted: at 5:44 pm

QUEENSBURY Planned Parenthood Mohawk Hudsons $2 million clinic opens Monday at 543 Bay Road.

The Greater Glens Falls Health Center replaces an aging facility at 135 Broad St., will offer all services previously offered at that site and is adding a series of additional services.

An added benefit for both staff and patients is the new location, on a medical cul-de-sac near SUNY Adirondack, with a good deal of parking behind the building. The entrance is also at the rear.

At the old site, patients had to park on the street and very often encountered protesters in front of the building. In fact, at one point, the house next door was used as a headquarters for anti-abortion protesters.

Everything about it is state-of-the-art, Emma Corbett, the groups director of communications, said of the new facility on Thursday. We are adding some very important pieces to what we have had before. And there is more privacy entering and leaving the building.

There are also a number of new programs available at the Bay Road site.

Telemedicine will be available as part of an effort to improve access to care through technology. Patients will receive preventive medicine and behavioral health counseling they might not otherwise have been able to access.

Say our providers here are all busy, but a patients needs to talk to someone about their care, Corbett said. There might be a staff member in Utica who does not have a patient and can work with the patient here through teleconferencing.

The new building will allow Planned Parenthood to expand its informed consent transgender health care and hormone replacement therapy.

Planned Parenthood will continue to offer support for survivors of rape, sexual assault, domestic violence and other crimes through the Victims Advocacy Services team, but in an expanded area that will be more comfortable for patients.

The new facility will continue to offer all aspects of reproductive health services, including wellness exams, cancer screenings, family planning, abortion care, adoption options counseling, STI/HIV testing and treatment and depression screening and treatment.

The center held a ribbon-cutting Friday afternoon.

Mohawk Hudsons CEO Kim Atkins stressed that he feels it is clear that Planned Parenthood is needed, nationally and locally, despite de-funding efforts in Washington, D.C.

Locally, he said, the time had come for a new and more modern facility.

After serving the Glens Falls community and Warren County for over 50 years, it was time to find a more modern facility that offers patients more privacy, and affirms our commitment to the area for many more years to come, he said last week.

Besides Queensbury, Planned Parenthood Mohawk Hudson has facilities in Amsterdam, Clifton Park, Cobleskill, Johnstown, Oneida, Rome, Saratoga, Schenectady and Utica.

You can read Bill Toscanos blog at or his updates on Twitter, @billtoscano_ps.

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Frequency Therapeutics Presented Data at the International Society … – Business Wire (press release)

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WOBURN, Mass.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Frequency Therapeutics, a company spearheading the movement to restore hearing by harnessing the regenerative potential of progenitor cells in the body, today announced a presentation delineating the companys proprietary platform, Progenitor Cell Activation (PCA), was presented at the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) 2017 Annual Meeting which took place in Boston, Massachusetts, on June 14-17. The presentation, Small molecule activation of progenitor cells as a means of in situ tissue regeneration, described a process that may provide a novel means of addressing cellular deficiencies or malfunctions in many diseases including hearing loss, dermatology, muscle and gastrointestinal (GI) diseases. The presentation was conducted on Friday, June 16 at 7:00pm ET by Chris Loose, Ph.D., Co-founder and CSO of Frequency Therapeutics.

Scientists have worked for decades pushing targeted cells to regenerate. The applicability of tissue regeneration is limited by the complexities of cell therapy, including cell delivery, gene expression and functionality. Unlike previous approaches which resulted in forced conversion of Lgr5+ cells into the desired cell type, Frequencys PCA technology uses a precise and controlled application of small molecules to activate dormant progenitor cells within the body, causing them to divide and differentiate into their designated target cells. Frequencys presentation highlighted the Companys PCA Platform, initially targeting cochlear hair cell regeneration for noise-induced hearing loss, as a viable approach to develop a whole new category of disease-modifying therapeutics for a wide range of degenerative conditions.

Progenitor Cell Activation is a system where the local delivery of small molecules to dormant Lgr5 progenitor cells could produce profound therapeutic opportunities across a vast number of disease areas that exhibit high, unmet medical needs, said Dr. Loose. We believe PCA technology could be used to modulate cells in situ to address a number of diseases with minimal safety risk. Our first indication in hearing loss has produced positive results in preclinical studies, and we look forward to presenting further information as we move our lead program ahead.

Our PCA platform presents a robust opportunity to address many debilitating issues, and expand to therapeutic areas where there are few or no options currently available, added David Lucchino, President, Co-Founder and CEO of Frequency. The body has an innate, but sometimes dormant ability to heal itself. Activating the bodys own resources could overcome biological barriers that still exist within the overall drug development space to address medical needs like hearing impairment, skin disorders, gastrointestinal diseases and muscle regeneration.

A team led by Frequencys scientific co-founders published research highlighting the PCA approach to regenerate inner ear sensory hair cells in early 2017. The paper titled, Clonal Expansion of Lgr5-Positive Cells from Mammalian Cochlea and High-Purity Generation of Sensory Hair Cells, was a February cover feature in the journal Cell Reports, and can be accessed in the current online edition.


Frequencys precise and controlled approach transiently causes Lgr5+ progenitor cells to divide and differentiate, much like what is seen in naturally regenerating tissues such as the skin and intestine. Frequency activates stemness through mimicking signals provided by neighboring cells (the stem cell niche) with small molecules, and this proprietary approach is known as the Progenitor Cell Activation (PCA) platform. Frequency believes that PCA has the potential to yield a whole new category of disease-modifying therapeutics for a wide range of degenerative conditions. To fuel its drug discovery programs, Frequency is leveraging a PCA screening platform using primary human cells. Frequencys initial focus is on chronic noise induced hearing loss. Other potential applications include skin disorders, gastrointestinal diseases, and diabetes.


Frequency Therapeutics develops small molecule drugs that activate progenitor cells within the body to restore healthy tissue. Through the transitory activation of these progenitor cells, Frequency enables disease modification without the complexity of genetic engineering. Our lead program re-creates sensory cells in the inner ear to treat chronic noise induced hearing loss, which affects over 30 million people in the U.S. alone.

Frequency Therapeutics Presented Data at the International Society … – Business Wire (press release)

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To Evaluate Stem Cell Therapies, Think Unilaterally? – ALS Research Forum

Posted: at 5:44 pm

Testing stem cell therapies unilaterally?A side-by-side comparison of strength of key muscles may enable scientists to evaluate stem cell therapies for the disease. The approach aims to control for the variability of the disease internally, without historical cohorts and/or the use of a placebo (see Donofrio and Bedlack, 2011; Glass et al., 2016).The biceps and triceps appear to be most reliable muscles to monitor progression in people with ALS according to this analysis (Rushton et al., 2017). [Neural progenitor cells. Courtesy of Nature Cell Biology. Reproduced with permission.]

Motor neurons degenerate in ALS. Why these cells are destroyed remains unclear. Therefore, how to slow or stop this destruction of motor neurons in ALS remains an open question.

In the meantime, a growing number of scientists are turning to stem cells in hopes to promote motor neuron survival in people with ALS and/or reduce their toxicity (see December 2015 conference news). But how to evaluate these strategies in the clinic remains hotly debated.

Now, a research team at Cedar Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California reports that an emerging outcome measure, which involves monitoring muscle strength, may facilitate the evaluation of stem cell therapies for the disease (Rushton et al., 2017). The study, led by Clive Svendsen, found that functional decline of key muscles on the left and right side of people with ALS progressed at a similar rate. The results suggest that at least some stem cell therapies could be evaluated unilaterally by comparing the strength of muscles on the treated and untreated side for each of these muscle groups.

This side-by-side comparison, according to a subsequent power analysis, may enable clinicians to evaluate stem cell therapies for ALS in a smaller sample size without the need for sham surgeries and/or placebo injections.

This unilateral approach is emerging as an alternative to evaluate a growing number of potential neuroprotective strategies for neurodegenerative diseases including ALS (see NCT02943850, NCT02478450; Glass et al., 2016).

The study is published on June 9 in Neurology.

The retrospective analysis, performed in collaboration with Cedar Sinais Robert Baloh, studied the rates of decline of 6 upper and lower muscle groups in nearly 750 people with ALS determined by fixed dynamometry. These longitudinal datasets, previously collected by physical therapist Pat Andres and colleagues, now at Massachusetts General Hospital, capture the decline in strength of key muscles in people with ALS during at least a 16-month period measured by either the TUFTS Quantitative Neuromuscular Exam (TQNE) or more recently, the Accurate Test of Limb Isometric Strength (ATLIS) system (Andres et al., 1986; Shields et al., 1998; Andres et al., 2012.

Analyzing therapies by hand. Meanwhile, Biogen scientists in Cambridge, Massachusetts are turning to hand-held dynamometry to evaluate potential therapies for ALS. The emerging strength-based measure highly correlates with the progressive loss of motor function (ALS-FRS-R) and breathing capacity (FVC) according to a retrospective analysis of 924 people with ALS presented at the 2017 meeting of the American Academy of Neurology (see May 2017 news). And, according to a subsequent side-by-side comparison, these musclesdecline at similar rates. [Image: Douma et al., 2014 under CC BY 2.0 license.]

The study builds on previous work, led by Barrow Institutes Jeremy Shefner in Phoenix, Arizona and Biogens Toby Ferguson in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which found that monitoring the strength of key muscles using hand-held dynamometry is a reliable and reproducible approach to measure progression of ALS in a clinical setting and thereby, may facilitate the evaluation of potential therapies (see May 2017 conference news; Shefner et al., 2014).

Now, Svendsens team is gearing up to evaluate their potential stem cell therapy for ALS. The strategy uses genetically engineered neural progenitor cells (NPCs) to deliver GDNF into the CNS in hopes to protect motor neurons in people with the disease (see April 2017 news; Gowing et al., 2014). The approach is at the phase 1 stage. Stay tuned.

Featured Paper

RushtonDJ, Andres PL, Allred P, Baloh RH,SvendsenCN. Patients with ALS show highly correlated progression rates in left and right limb muscles. Neurology. 2017 Jun 9. [PubMed].


ShefnerJM, Liu D, Leitner ML, Schoenfeld D, Johns DR, Ferguson T, Cudkowicz M.Quantitativestrengthtesting in ALS clinical trials. Neurology. 2016 Aug 9;87(6):617-24. [PubMed].

Andres PL, Skerry LM, Munsat TL, Thornell BJ, Szymonifka J, Schoenfeld DA, Cudkowicz ME. Validation of a new strength measurement device for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis clinical trials. Muscle Nerve. 2012 Jan;45(1):81-5. [PubMed].

Andres PL, Hedlund W, Finison L, Conlon T, Felmus M, Munsat TL.Quantitative motor assessment in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Neurology. 1986 Jul;36(7):937-41.[PubMed].

Glass JD, Hertzberg VS, Boulis NM, Riley J, Federici T, Polak M, Bordeau J, Fournier C, Johe K, Hazel T, Cudkowicz M, Atassi N, Borges LF, Rutkove SB, Duell J, Patil PG, Goutman SA, Feldman EL. Transplantation of spinal cord-derived neural stem cells forALS: Analysis of phase 1 and 2 trials. Neurology. 2016 Jul 26;87(4):392-400.[PubMed].

Gowing G, Shelley B, Staggenborg K, Hurley A, Avalos P, Victoroff J, Latter J, Garcia L, Svendsen CN. Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor-secreting human neural progenitors show long-term survival, maturation into astrocytes, and no tumor formation following transplantation into the spinal cord of immunocompromised rats. Neuroreport.2014 Apr 16;25(6):367-72. [PubMed].

Further Reading

Atassi N, Beghi E, Blanquer M, Boulis NM, Cantello R, Caponnetto C, Chi A, Dunnett SB, Feldman EL, Vescovi A1, Mazzini L; attendees of the International Workshop on Progress in Stem Cells Research for ALS/MND. Intraspinal stem cell transplantation for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: Ready for efficacy clinical trials? Cytotherapy.2016 Dec;18(12):1471-1475. [PubMed].

Donofrio PD, Bedlack R. Historical controls in ALS trials: a high seas rescue? Neurology. 2011 Sep 6;77(10):936-7. [PubMed].

clinical trial clinical trial design disease-als gdnf neuralstem neuroprotection stem cell topic-clinical topic-randd

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BEST Students Assisting in Stem Cell and Regeneration Research – Keene State College

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Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Jason Pellettieri and several undergraduate students are researching the regenerative characteristics of planarian flatworms this summer. The goal is to break ground on understanding the biological workings behind stem cells and regeneration.

Some animals naturally exhibit this capacity and therefore provide ideal experimental subjects for studying cellular and molecular mechanisms of regeneration. Research in my laboratory deals with one such model organism the planarianSchmidtea mediterranea, said Dr. Pelletieri. This aquatic flatworm has the remarkable ability to form entirely new individuals, complete with nervous, digestive, and reproductive systems, from tiny body fragments. My students and I are using the recently completedS. mediterraneagenome sequence to investigate the genetic basis of this phenomenon.

This project will help expand the field of flatworm research by characterizing new genes that control how stem cells respond to injury, said undergraduate researcher Chris Abel 18. Abel is one of seven researchers in Dr. Pellettieris lab. He began conducting research with another faculty member before transitioning into his current position. He says that a lot of the skills needed to be proficient in the lab came first from the classroom, but that he also brings back new skills from his research experience.

I frequently use skills from chemistry classes for determining solution molarity, proper solution preparation, and solubility behavior of different chemicals. I also take lab skills to the classroom during in-class labs, allowing me to be more proficient in completing tasks during these labs, said Abel.

Through the Building Excellence in Science and Technology (B.E.S.T.) program, summer research students are receiving on-campus housing support in order to be closer to their labs and receive a more immersive research experience.

Though Abel has extended experience with conducting research, some newer biology students are working in the lab, having been connected to summer research through the B.E.S.T. program. Samantha Boulanger 20 is a biology major who decided to stay on campus this summer to get experience working in a research lab.

Doing research keeps you engaged in the science field. This motivates you to continue to push your boundaries and grow your lab skills, said Boulanger. The B.E.S.T. program allows us to be paid for our work and motivates us to start research. Its the first work experience for a lot of us.

Max Foisey 19 is another student dedicating his summer to Dr. Pellettieris lab by conducting RNAi experiments to discover which genes are responsible for regeneration in planarians.

I am interested in a career in medicine, so doing research gives me first-hand experience working with live animals in a lab setting and helps me to learn biological processes as well, said Foisey.

BEST Students Assisting in Stem Cell and Regeneration Research – Keene State College

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What Happened to Otto Warmbier? – The Atlantic

Posted: at 3:43 am

After being imprisoned for 17 months in North Korea, 22-year-old Otto Warmbier was returned to his home in Ohio this week.

On Thursday, doctors at Cincinnati Medical Center spoke publicly about his condition. It is, technically, stablethough that could sound misleadingly positive. His heart is not in imminent danger of stopping, but stability does not mean Warmbier is poised to lead a life that involves movement or communication.

Rather all evidence presented by his doctors yesterday indicates that Warmbier is much closer to death than he is to the University of Virginia student he was in early 2016, when he took a recreational trip to Pyongyang. There he was arrested in the airport for a hostile act against the government and last seen shortly after, in the news conference pictured above.

His doctors yesterday described Warmbiers most recognizable sign of life as spontaneous eye-opening and blinking. That means not only is he not communicating, he does not open or close his eyes when asked to do so. He does not show signs of awareness.

Based on magnetic resonance images of Warmbiers brain, his status is not likely to substantively improve. The scans showed extensive loss of brain tissue in all regions of his brain. That means his brain was deprived of oxygen and/or blood for a long time, and tissue died everywheremuch the same process that happens to brain cells in a particular area of the brain when a person has a stroke, everywhere.

This MRI also makes it possible to say whether a stroke is recent or not. People in early stages of hypoxic-ischemic brain injury sometimes improve; people in remote stages do not. Warmbiers brain injury is in a remote stage. His doctors reported that it happened more than a year ago.

What caused this type of diffuse cellular death throughout the entire brain?

This can be the result of asphyxiation, including by exposure to poisonous gas, and by cardiac arrest of innumerable possible causes. The doctors reported yesterday that the most likely caused was cardiopulmonary arrest. That isnt much of a hypothesisalmost begging the question, in that it means his heart and/or lungs ceased to supply his brain with oxygen.

The real question would be what the doctors believe to be the cause of said cardiopulmonary arrest. They said there was no evidence of trauma, including scars or fractures, which would be evident in imaging tests even after theyve healed. Even in the hands of forensic pathologists, the exact etiology may never be known with certainty. Though no obvious explanation involves humane treatment and attentive medical care. Even if the 22-year-old simply suffered a (very rare) cardiac arrest of some organic cause, brain injury this severe would mean that he was not resuscitated for a prolonged period.

The explanation that came from North Korea was that the cause was a combination of botulism and ingesting sleeping pills. The food-born botulism toxin would not directly account for the damage to the brain. Rather, it paralyzes the muscles of the body, and that can involve the thorax to such a degree that it will stop a persons breathing. This is a common cause of death in people with untreated botulism. The Ohio doctors said yesterday there was no evidence the young man had botulismthough if this happened a year ago, the toxin would be gone from his body and no evidence may remain.

Overdosing on a sedative or opiate could also suppress a persons breathing to the point that brain tissue dies. The combination of explanations is not implausible.

But neither is it exculpatory. Botulism is treatable; an antidote to the toxin can be administered. Even in the absence of that antidote, cardiac resuscitation and ventilatory support can supply blood to the brain of an acutely paralyzed person.

Yesterday Warmbiers father Fred described his son as a fighter. Evidence provided by his doctors paints this medical case as one where an opportunity for fighting is passed. The bleak prognosis accords better with what Fred said of the plan for Otto: Were trying to make him comfortable.

What Happened to Otto Warmbier? – The Atlantic

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Beijing Water Park Incident Leaves Woman With Critical Brain Injury – The Beijinger (blog)

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A woman has been critically injured after an incident occurred under mysterious circumstances at a Beijing water park.

A woman surnamed Liu sufferedsevere head trauma at theHappy Water Rubik’s Cube ( hun yo shu mfng)on May 28while riding the “Tornado,” a park attractionin which visitors ride a raftdown afour-story water slide through a pipe and into a spiraling funnel.

Liu was given medical attention at the Fengtai District water park, andwas then sent to the emergency room atAerospace Center Hospital where doctors determined Liu had suffered acardiac arrest and ahydrocephalus condition.

Liu has notregained consciousness since the incident first happened. Her condition has worsened to the point where she can only breathe with the aid of a ventilator. Liu’s mother has said, “The doctor told us that she may pass any time now.”

Despite her grave situation, no one has been forthcoming about the circumstances behind theHappyWater Rubik’s Cube incident.

A man named Jiang was sitting next to the victim on the raft on the Tornado slide along with an unnamed third party when the incident occurred. However, Jiang’s recollection of the incident to the Beijing Morning Report only begins once the ride was over, at which time he noticed Liu was unconsious.

“We quicked fished her out of the water. We yelled at her,but there was no response,” Jiang was quoted as saying.

Additionally, the doctor who is treating Liu at Aerospace Center Hospital is unable to confirm to Chinese news what is the reason for his patient’s injury.

“We are temporarily unable to determine the cause ofbrain damage, and further observation is needed,” said the unnamed doctor in regards to his critically injured patient.

Instead of explaining what happened, Jiang has been telling the press how he had not been adequately informed of safety proceduresduring his time at the water park. “Upon exchanging our admission tickets and entering thepark, we didn’t see any safety warnings,” said Jiang.

As well, Jiang alleges he wasn’t “allowed” to contact 120 emergency services by park staff members until 20 minutes after the incident.

By contrast, acustomer management representative for the park named Liu Chang has refuted Jiang’s allegations.

“We were very surprised at the incident because this problem has not occurred with any of our other park visitors,” said Liu Chang.”The park vigorously provided medical aid at the time ofthe incident, and has provided for the medical expenses.”

Liu Chang also refuted Jiang’s accusation that park visitors aren’t properly briefed on safety with this retort (abridged):

Safety warnings are issued on all our admission tickets, whether electronic or paper. As well, there are large-sized warned placed at the entrance to the park. As well, beginning from when visitors enter the park, there are repeated broadcast safety warnings. There are Chinese and English instructions printed in front of each attraction, clearly specifying any age, health or height restrictions.

Instead of the incident itself, Chinese media have focused upon the enormous cost of Liu’s medical treatment, which has since risen to RMB 200,000(USD 29,369).

Informed by the hospital of insufficientfunds, the victim’s mother said she was forced to reach out to the water park to ask for compensation, for which they did not comply.

“I had always been in contact with her, and she had always inquired on the situation with my child,” said the victim’s mother.”She has comforted me not to worry, but still, she has not given us enough funds to cover the medical costs.”

According to the Beijing Morning Report, theHappy Water Rubik’s Cube paid an additional RMB 30,000to meet the request made by the victim’s mother.

The incident finally made it tothe newslast Tuesday (Jun 13)in which the victim’sfamily lawyer has threatened the park with litigation if negotiations fall through.

First opened in 2011,Happy Water Rubik’s Cubeis Beijing’s largest open-air water park.

More stories from this authorhere.


Images: Ly, Dianping, LaSwim, Ccoo

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Generous donation: 16-year-old offers her hair to fellow cancer fighters –

Posted: at 3:42 am

Rene Ray De La Cruz Staff Writer @DP_ReneDeLaCruz

VICTORVILLE A young cancer fighter recently braved the salon chair as she had a portion of her long, dark-blond hair cut for chemo patients.

Sitting inside Bella Mia salon in Hesperia on Tuesday, 16-year-old Paije Grissom held up her freshly-cut braided ponytail as she laughed and exclaimed, I didnt know I had that much hair.

Diagnosed six years ago with a rare form of malignant chordoma cancer, Grissom is a smiling, outgoing teenager from Victorville who told the Daily Press she wants to donate her long, luscious hair while she still can.

Ive been through a lot of cancer treatments, but I still have my hair, Grissom said. I figured Id donate my hair to someone who lost their hair to chemo or radiation.

Grissom, whose life has been filled with radiation treatments, surgeries and chronic infections, has suffered partial hearing loss in her right ear, is starting to lose sight in both her eyes and deals with chronic fatigue and several other ailments, which prevents her from attending classes at Victor Valley High School.

Grissom, who lives with her grandmother, Monette Holmes, said her best friend, Nadia Castillo, 12, has been one of the few brights spots in her life.

Nadia is the one person who can make me laugh and smile at any time, Grissom said. We spend a lot of time together and shes the one that lifts my spirit and calms me down.

Castillo told the Daily Press she and Grissom are attached as best friends and they enjoy sleep-overs, eating barbecue, exploring Hesperia Lake Park and listening to hip-hop, rap and country music.

We have a lot in common and we love being together, Castillo said. I really do hope and pray that Paije gets better.

Castillo accompanied Grissom to Bella Mia where she also had her hair cut and donated to cancer patients, said Holmes, who praised the hair salon for their “big hearts” and charity work.

Grissom said she looks forward to attending another Camp Ronald McDonald For Good Times this summer where she plans to meet new friends, play games, eat good food and talk to people who understand what Im going through.

As Grissom and Castillo took selfies and giggled, Holmessaid shes concerned about her granddaughters lack of cortisol, which helps control blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, reduce inflammation and assist with memory formulation.

Her pituitary glands arent functioning correctly, she has chronic migraines and she suffers from outbursts because of her hormone imbalance, Holmes said. Shes dealing with so much, its hard to keep up with everything.

Paije is such a trooper and does not complain about all of the IV’s, blood work, or any other testing that the doctor’s order, said Holmes, after returning from an infusion center at Loma Linda to see if her granddaughter will need hormone replacement therapy.

We are not certain how many days a week that Paije will need treatments, but some people here come every single day for up to eight hours, Holmes said. We will know soon if Paije will be a part of this necessary treatment regimen.

Holmes said her granddaughter wants to go to Universal Studios in Hollywood and stay at the haunted Roosevelt Hotel, but medical expenses, vehicle repairs and a cut in income have taken a toll on the family.

I know that I have a long road ahead of me, but I just want to enjoy my life right now, Grissom said. I just hope I can help others while Im dealing with being sick.

For more information on Paije Grissom’s journey, visit

Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227, RDeLa [email protected] or on Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz.

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‘Sing Out Louise!’ What Makes Amanda Keller an LGBT Hero in Alabama – Daily Beast

Posted: at 3:42 am

For Amanda Keller, her service as the director of the Magic City Acceptance Center for LGBTQ youth in Birmingham, Alabama, embodies the sincerest tribute to her late father.

The 32-year-old first began working with the Birmingham Aids Outreach (BAO) organization, which founded the Center, on World AIDS Day in December 2009.

She had wanted to become involved with local HIV/AIDS advocacy following her father Roberts death from AIDS-related illness in November 2003, in her native Cleveland, Ohio.

I wanted to educate myself and others, and this was the best way that I knew [so that] I could remain connected to him and give back to the community, she says.

The presence of Keller and activists like her is vital in Alabama, a state better known for homophobic bogeymen like former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who fought tooth and nail against a judicial decision striking down Alabamas ban against same-sex marriage in February 2015, and then later fought local compliance with the Supreme Court decision in June of that year that brought marriage equality across the country.

Alabama is also the home state of Senator Jeff Sessions, now the attorney general, whose record on standing against anti-LGBTQ equality is long.

Establishing a supportive LGBT organization within Alabama is equal parts rewarding and challenging, Keller allows.

Alabama receives a lot of negative stereotypical attention. I will admit that some of it is deserved, but thats not the Alabama I see on a daily basis, Keller says. Our state does not offer any protections to LGBTQ individuals and many of our schools and businesses do not include sexual orientation and gender identity in non-discrimination policies.

In school health classes, we teach students that homosexuality is a sin, while some teachers openly discriminate against LGBTQ youth preaching that they will go to hell in front of the classroom, and turn a blind eye to problematic comments and behavior in the hallways.

Our youth regularly report excessive bullying at school, lack of support at home, and fear of finding employment in an affirming place other than Target or Starbucks. Our youth have been physically attacked, verbally abused, and treated differently just because they cannot be accepted for who they are.

However, Alabama also offers figures such as Representative Patricia Todd, who is openly lesbian and has served since her 2006 election on behalf of Birminghams District 16 in Alabamas House of Representatives.

Keller, who has had regular occasion to interact with Rep. Todd at LGBTQ-themed events and counts herself among one of the legislators fans, described her to me as the woman Alabama never saw coming, as a fierce advocate not just for LGBTQ issues but also as an important female voice within the states male-dominated political tableau.

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Through the work of the Center and organizations like it, along with like-minded businesses and officials, Keller believes that positive change is possible.

The community is starving for more information and tolerance. More often than not, I encounter individuals who are supportive, but just need more education.

Keller and her colleagues work closely with local schools and youth-serving organizations, as well as private counselors and community members for referrals. We regularly visit Gay-Straight Alliance clubs at schools, speak at community events, and have a strong social media presence which helps us reach the youth who do not yet know about ourservices.

My political activism is tied entirely to community advocacy and education, says Keller. For every individual that I can educate, my hope is that they will educate at least one more. We live in the Bible Belt and it is often difficult to navigate this conservative, religious landscape but we can all agree on one thing: We should all love one another. I would never try to change ones beliefs, but I do hope I can help them treat the LGBTQ community with love and respect, which all people deserve.


Keller grew up in a Cleveland suburb and had a childhood that was straightforward in many ways, albeit colored with unique aspects of her fathers outgoing personality and love of the stage.

We seemed to be a typical family of four that volunteered at the local soup kitchen, were involved in after-school activities, and attended church eachSunday. However, my father always took the opportunity to design costumes and sets on the back of the hymnal during sermons.

My dad loved his short shorts and was extremely animated, but he was a theater director and trained dancer so I never thought much about his tap dancing outbreaks or singing his way into my bedroom each morning.

He would steal my bedroom furniture for shows, and found a way to incorporate his children in every show so that we could all be together as a family. He went as far as putting us all in a local circus where he starred as the ringmaster and my brother and I dressed up as Tom Thumb and his wife.

Although she later learned that her father identified himself as bisexual when meeting her mother, he never explicitly came out to Keller. Only when the thunderbolt of the AIDS diagnosis came in 2000, after her parents had divorced and her mother was newly remarried, did she come to realize her father had another side he had kept hidden.

I will never know if this came as a surpriseto him, or if he had a sense of when he might have been exposed to HIV. I wrestle with these questions every day and wish Id had the courage to have these conversations as a teenager. I do know that he was probably HIV-positive for much of my childhood because it had progressed to AIDS by the time he was diagnosed.

Keller credits her mother Patricia and older brother Matt for shouldering much of the burden of her fathers failing health during what was a painful experience for all of them.

The watershed of the diagnosis also rippled throughout the social fabric surrounding her father. I watched most of our community turn away from a man they once celebrated and respected. This was a lesson for Keller about the stigma still surrounding the disease, for which she says the primary remedy is awareness education.

Friends were no longer allowed to come over and I was treated differently in school because word had spread. My work [has since] expanded to LGBTQ advocacy because I often wonder if he may have been diagnosed sooner if he [had been] able to live authentically. This includes the ability to pursue affirming health care.

Keller said that openly discussing her fathers health issues and resulting death did not always come so freely to her. I used to not want to talk about it, or only would say he died of pancreatic failure.

Keller now regrets her former reticence, and feels she atones for, or acknowledges, this prior silence by helping others to live open and proud lives. This Pride Month, her fathers legacy and the Magic City Acceptance Center continue to serve this mission.


It was a long-distance relationship with her now ex-husband, whom she met during a trip to Atlanta, that led Keller to Alabama in 2006.

She transferred from Ohio State University to the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where she completed her degree in philosophy. Although she confuses that she came to her adoptive city only kicking and screaming, she enthusiastically remained in her new home even after the end of her marriage. Although that didnt work out, Im so grateful for this journey, and wouldnt change a single thing, she says.

After her schooling concluded, Keller sought to pick up the reins of community service again.

In tandem with her work with BAO, she signed onto the Magic City Acceptance Project, billing itself as a volunteer network of individuals, agencies, and organizations focused on professional practice and community support that results in positive outcomes and a positive future for LGBTQ youth, adults, and families in Birmingham. Initially under the direction of Genie Taylor, five years into its mission, Keller now serves as chair.

It took a village to raise this child, Keller explained to me. In our case, the village included the Mystic Krewe of Apollo, a local Mardi Gras krewe, or parade committee in the Gulf of Mexico region such those as in New Orleans, that supports the efforts of BAO, several dedicated volunteers, and BAO staff. With their help, four layers of carpet, dropped ceilings, and several walls were removed from our first location. Powered by coffee and a dream, we buffed the floors and coated them in five pounds of iridescent glitter.

Matching the efforts on the ground to build the Center were varied sources of municipal and charitable funding, including a joint initiative between the Elton John and Elizabeth Taylor AIDS foundations. This philanthropic venture sought to respond to the disproportionately rising numbers of HIV infection in the South, and dovetailed with BAOs own expanded focus from HIV/AIDS services to LGBTQ outreach.

The Center provides access to those sorts of services, as well as HRT [hormone replacement therapy] and PrEP.

The Center has served nearly 500 individuals since opening its doors three years ago in June 2014. Many of the younger people who sought their services now act as mentors themselves.

They are open four-plus days a week offering art workshops, support groups, self-care workshops, and counseling with a licensed professional counselor. A majority of their youth clients are between the ages of 13-18, but they do have several who are as young as 11 and up to the age of 24. Roughly 60 percent of these individuals identify as trans or non-binary.

When we opened, we offered one support group and one movie night a month, Keller recalls. I will never forget sitting and waiting alone in the building, just hoping someone would show up. We had an if we build it, they will come mentality, but knew it would take time and a very intentional effort to spread the word.

For our first prom, just two months after opening, we welcomed 24 youth. To say I was ecstatic would be an understatement. The next year, we hosted 52, and last year, we welcomed over 80 individuals. This year, we plan to have over 100 youth join us at our 4th Annual Queer Prom, a glitzy party for the centers attendees.


Ultimately, the memory of Kellers father guides her in her day-to-day life.

My entire childhood was a series of comical and unusual events with my father. He was so spirited and the most embarrassing memories are now my favorite. He was a showman in every sensehe had a booming voice, an unmistakable laugh, and a presence that could take over a room.

For such a lively and animated person, he could be a man of few words. The words I do remember were those that pushed me to reach my full potential. His favorite line and [now] mine too will always be Sing out Louise! This is why I am so passionately called to the work I do. Im surrounded by an incredible community that reminds me of him each day.

The promise of change in Alabama keeps her engaged in LGBTQ advocacy, in which she terms herself a lifer, committed to the cause. She points to momentum for a nondiscrimination ordinance on the cusp of passage in Birmingham, which is progressive in other ways already.

It was extremely moving for Keller that when she suffered her own health crisis recently, this community responded in turn to support her.

I was diagnosed with stage 5 renal failure on my birthday in November of last year. I immediately started dialysis while beginning the search for a living donor. My diagnosis came as a shock to us all. Within a short period of time, we created a social media marketing campaign with the hope that we would find a living donor. Thats how we found Kerry, the woman who was a complete stranger… who also saved my life.

Keller underwent a kidney transplant in February and has now recovered completely.

This was a very public journey and I could not have done this without this wonderful, loving community, she says.

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