Award for Sumerian Dictionary Project
University of Pennsylvania Museums Pennsylvania Sumerian
Dictionary Project was awarded a two-year, $302,000 grant from
are extremely grateful for the support that this grant provides,"
noted Dr. Jeremy A. Sabloff, the Williams Director of the Museum.
"The Museum is committed to this unique and important project,
a natural outcropping of more than one hundred years of UPM research
in 1976, the Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary Project set
out on a mammoth mission: to produce the first comprehensive dictionary
of the worlds oldest written language. The original goal,
in an age before the internet and personal computers, was to produce
an 18-volume work, a hard-back opus to incorporate all data then
known, published and unpublished, from every possible source.
according to Dr. Stephen Tinney, associate curator in the Museums
Babylonian section and the Dictionary Projects current director,
the project will be implemented as a web-based work, also published
on CD-ROM. The dictionary will be updated and augmented as new
Sumerian writings are deciphered and scholarship at the Museum
and around the world progresses.
technology, and new ways of communicating with our fellow scholars
around the world, have given us an opportunity to re-conceive
of the dictionary project, not as a static, finished end-product
but as an evolving work-in-progress, " Dr. Tinney noted.
"Unlike the Sumerian state, we dont have a vast labor-pool
which we can press into service for us. Instead, we have to work
smarter, leave the heavy lifting to the computer, and exploit
the power of the net."
Museum has a long history of research and excavation work at ancient
Mesopotamian sites. UPM sent the first U.S. expedition to the
Near East-to Nippur, in Iraq-in 1887, and continues work in the
region today. The Museum houses more than 30,000 cuneiform tablets,
including the largest collection of Sumerian literary tablets
in the world.
Smallpox Without Smallpox
this era of bioterrorism, researchers at Penns School of
Medicine have discovered a way to study how smallpox overcomes
the human immune system. Due to the nature of variola, the virus
that causes smallpox, researchers cannot access the virus conventionally.
Therefore, using previously published data on the DNA of smallpox,
Penn researchers reverse-engineered a variola protein from vaccinia,
a related virus used to vaccinate against smallpox. Their findings
are presented in the May 28th edition of the Proceedings of
the National Academy of Sciences and suggest new means to
develop safer vaccines and potential therapies for smallpox.
protein is called the smallpox inhibitor of complement enzymes,
or SPICE for short. SPICE helps smallpox to elude complement,
the collective name for a number of proteins that serve as the
immune systems first line of defense. SPICE does not cause
smallpox itself and cannot spread the disease. SPICE is only one
of several hundred proteins that contribute to the virus
pathogenesis and host preference. To understand SPICEs role,
the researchers compared the activity of this protein to that
of human complement regulatory proteins and the vaccinia virus
complement control protein (VCP).
"We have devised a way to study variola without the risks
associated with using the entire virus," said Dr. Ariella
M. Rosengard, an immunobiology researcher in Penns department
of pathology and laboratory medicine. "We need to study variola
proteins if we are to make smallpox less virulent and make the
smallpox vaccine safer. Achieving these goals would be the most
effective way to disarm bioterrorists." Variola attacks only
humans, and is fatal in 30 to 40 percent of cases. The only current
defense against smallpox is containment, supportive measures,
Rosengards group molecularly engineered SPICE by an indirect
method, which did not require the virus. The complement system
defends against infectious microorganisms. It consists of bloodstream-based
enzymes that, when activated, disable invading microorganisms
directly or serve as beacons for other parts of the immune system,
such as white blood cells. Viruses have evolved complement regulatory
proteins such as SPICE and VCP to distract human complement in
order to allow the virus to slip past. Humans also have complement
regulatory molecules for a similar reason: to keep complement
from attacking other human tissues. "Without our own complement
regulators, wed likely destroy our own cells," said
Penn researchers involved in this research include Yu Liu, Zhiping
Nie, and Robert Jimenez. Funding for this research was supported
in part by a grant from the NIH.
Test Predicts Alzheimers Disease
urine sample taken at the doctors office can be the step
in determining your chances of developing Alzheimers disease
(AD), according to researchers at Penns School of Medicine.
They have determined that a urine test can reliably detect free
radical damage associated with people with Mild Cognitive Impairment
(MCI)a recognized precursor to AD. The test detects isoprostanes,
fatty acids that are formed as the result of free radical damage
in the braindamage that correlates with clinical diagnosis
is the first noninvasive test that can predict a clinical diagnosis
of Alzheimers disease," said Dr. Domenico Praticò,
assistant professor in the department of pharmacology. "Since
there is no cure for Alzheimers disease, physicians could
slow the course of the disease if it is caught early enough."
four years of initial diagnosis, up to 50% of people with MCI
develop Alzheimers disease. As AD progresses, it attacks
the brain and causes severe damage in the areas important for
memory, judgement, and language. This destruction leads to other
clinical complications and, eventually, death.
the study, published in the June edition of Archives of Neurology,
Dr. Praticò and his colleagues measured isoprostane in
blood and urine samples obtained from 50 patients with a clinical
diagnosis of AD, 33 patients with MCI, and 40 healthy volunteers
The researchers found significantly higher levels of isoprostane
in CSF, blood, and urine of MCI and AD subjects than in the volunteers.
Remarkably, the samples taken from the MCI subjects and the volunteers
differed only in respect to their isoprostane levels.
urine sample taken in the doctors office may be a first
point of decision in gauging the risk of developing AD. Further
tests could then determine the severity of a patients condition
and course of treatment.
at the moment this test is not yet clinically available, the team
is working on the development of a version of it that could be
broadly and easily performed.
research was supported by grants from the National Institutes
of Health and the American Heart Association.
May Stabilize Schizophrenia Patients Treatment for a Full
of the greatest difficulties in treating schizophrenia has always
been helping patients to stay on their medication. Now, that problem
is closer to being solved.
at Penns School of Medicine have designed an implantable
device capable of delivering anti-psychotic medication for a period
of five months, and continuing work at Penn indicates that such
devices may work for up to a full year. The device has been proven
effective in initial laboratory studies, and more research is
underway (in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh School
of Medicine) to lead to potential clinical trials.
from the small-mammal study appear in the current issue of the
scientific journal Neuropsychopharmacology. If the device
can be demonstrated to work effectively in human subjects in future
trials, it will offer a medical alternative that may relieve many
patients of the threat of psychosis and chronic social instability.
who need anti-psychotic drugs often fail to comprehend the profound
severity of their illness, and may stop taking their medication
during temporary periods of impaired judgement. But when the majority
of patients with psychiatric disorders take appropriate medicine,
they do achieve periods of remission from psychotic symptoms,"
said Dr. Steven Siegel, division of neuropsychiatry in the deprtment
of psychiatry. "The advantage of relying on an implantable
anti-psychotic medicine is that patients are able to make decisions
about the future course of their treatment during periods of relative
health, but if a medical reason arises that necessitates curtailing
treatment, the implant can be easily removed."
delivery device consists of a surgically-implantable disc made
of biodegradable polymers (a series of linked molecules) combined
with medication. In the trials, a traditional anti-psychotic medicine,
Haloperidol, was used. The discs have been modeled in a fashion
that allows each type of polymer to disintegrate at a specific
rate, so that exactly the prescribed volume of medication is released
into the bloodstream each day for up to a year. About the size
of a quarter, the device is held in place under the skin with
a single surgical stitch. According to Dr. Siegel, the implantation
procedure (and removal procedure) can be performed in about 15
minutes under local anesthetic.
Penn researchers who collaborated in the study are: Dr.
Karen I. Winey, department of materials science and engineering;
Dr. Raquel Gur, and Dr. Robert H. Lenox, department of psychiatry;
Dr. Warren B. Bilker,department of biostatistics and epidemiology,
and Debbie Ikeda, Neel Gandhi, and Wen-Xiao Zhang, MS, also of