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Potentially lethal stinger arrives in UK waters

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jellyTHE MARINE CONSERVATION SOCIETY (MCS) have received reports of several Portuguese Men-of-War washing up on beaches in Cornwall and Scilly Isles, just weeks after authorities in Ireland warned local beach goers about a spate of recent strandings of this potentially dangerous floating sea creature. Now the society are warning they could turn up in Wales.

Stings can be exceptionally painful and in extreme cases fatal.

MCS says the Portuguese Man-of-War (Physalia physalis) are only occasionally reported in UK waters with the last significant UK strandings of the species occurring in 2009 and 2012.

“We don’t receive reports of Portuguese Man-of-War every year, but when we do they can turn up in big numbers, usually around about this time of year”, said Dr Peter Richardson, Head of the MCS Biodiversity Programme, “In the last couple of weeks we’ve received several confirmed reports of Portuguese Man of War stranded on beaches around Cornwall and the Scilly Isles. With the earlier strandings in Ireland, these recent sightings could herald the arrival of more of the creatures as they get blown in from the Atlantic.”

The Portuguese Man-of-War isn’t a jellyfish but is closely related, and consists of a floating colony of hydrozoans – lots of really tiny marine organisms living together and behaving collectively as one animal. A  Cornish pasty-shaped, transparent purple float is visible on the water’s surface whilst the blue, tentacle-like ‘fishing polyps’ that hang below the float can be tens of meters in length.

“It’s the tentacle-like polyps that can give an agonising and potentially lethal sting,” said Dr Richardson, “Because a stranded Portuguese Man of War looks a bit like a deflating purple balloon with blue ribbons attached, children will find it fascinating. So, if you’re visiting a Cornish beach this weekend it’s well worth making sure you know what these animals look like and that no one picks them up. We’d like people to report any sightings of Portuguese Man Of War to our website so we get a better idea of the extent of the strandings.“

One of the animals was found this weekend at Portheras Cove, near Morvah, Cornwall by volunteers of the Friends of Portheras Cove environmental group.  Delia Webb from the group says it was found during a beach clean, lying among the plastic debris that had blown in on the high tide; “We find all sorts of strange and unusual items at our tiny Cornish cove, and we have had strandings of Portuguese Man of War before. They look amazingly beautiful, with hints of pink and blue, but thankfully we were aware of the potential danger lying beneath, and knew not to poke or prod it, just report the sighting to the MCS.”

If you spot a Portuguese Man-of-War then report the sighting immediately, ideally with a picture, to www.mcsuk.org, where a Jellyfish ID Guide, which  includes the Portuguese Man O War, can also be downloaded.

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Police trying to track stolen tanker

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE is investigating the theft of a fuel tanker containing approximately 8,500 litres of diesel (4,000 litres of red diesel and 4,500 litres of white diesel).

The vehicle was taken from Tan Y Foel Quarry, Cefn Coch, Welshpool, between 5.30pm on Wednesday, May 23 and 6am on Thursday, May 24.

The police are asking people to see if the tanker is now in this area.

Anyone with information that can help officers with their investigation is asked to report it by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908, quoting Ref: DPP/0006/24/05/2018/01/C.

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Reprogrammed virus offers hope as cancer treatment

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A CANCER treatment that can completely destroy cancer cells without affecting healthy cells could soon be a possibility, thanks to research led by Cardiff University.

The team of researchers has successfully ‘trained’ a respiratory virus to recognise ovarian cancer and completely destroy it without infecting other cells. The reprogrammed virus could also be used to treat other cancers such as breast, pancreatic, lung and oral.

Dr Alan Parker from Cardiff University’s School of Medicine said: “Reprogrammed viruses are already being used in gene therapy procedures to treat a range of diseases, demonstrating they can be trained from being life-threatening into potentially lifesaving agents.

“In cancer treatment, up until now, reprogrammed viruses have not been able to selectively recognise only the cancer cells and would also infect healthy cells, resulting in unwanted side effects.

“We’ve taken a common, well-studied virus and completely redesigned it so that it can no longer attach to non-cancerous cells but instead seeks out a specific marker protein called αvβ6 integrin, which is unique to certain cancer cells, allowing it to invade them.

“In this case we introduced the reprogrammed virus to ovarian cancer which it successfully identified and destroyed.

“This is an exciting advance, offering real potential for patients with a variety of cancers.”

Once the virus enters the cancer cell it uses the cell’s machinery to replicate, producing many thousands of copies of itself, prior to bursting the cell and thereby destroying it in the process. The newly released viral copies can then bind and infect neighbouring cancer cells and repeat the same cycle, eventually removing the tumour mass altogether.

The virus also activates the body’s natural immune system, helping it to recognise and destroy the malignant cells.

The reprogrammed virus is from a group of respiratory viruses called adenoviruses. The advantage of using these viruses is that they are relatively easy to manipulate and have already been safely used in cancer treatment.

The technique used to reprogramme the virus to identify the protein common to ovarian, breast, pancreatic, lung and oral cancers could also be used to manipulate it so that it would recognise proteins common to other groups of cancers.

Additional refinement to the viral DNA could also allow the virus to produce anticancer drugs, such as antibodies, during the process of infecting cancer cells. This effectively turns the cancer into a factory producing drugs that will cause its own destruction.

The research was carried out in a laboratory, using mice with ovarian cancer, and has not yet reached clinical trials. The next step is to test the technique with other cancers, with a view to starting clinical trials in five years’ time.

Dr Catherine Pickworth from Cancer Research UK said: “It’s encouraging to see that this virus, which has been modified to recognise markers on cancer cells, has the ability to infect and kill ovarian cancer cells in the lab. Viruses are nature’s nanotechnology and harnessing their ability to hijack cells is an area of growing interest in cancer research.

“The next step will be more research to see if this could be a safe and effective strategy to use in people.”

The team includes researchers from Cardiff University; the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, USA; Glasgow University; the South West Wales Cancer Institute; and Velindre Cancer Centre.

The research was funded by Cancer Research UK, Tenovus Cancer Care and Cancer Research Wales.

The paper ‘Ad5NULL-A20 – a tropism-modified, αvβ6 integrin-selective oncolytic adenovirus for epithelial ovarian cancer therapies’ is published in Clinical Cancer Research.

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Money raised by Canolfan Padarn in the Race for Life

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STAFF and service users from Canolfan Padarn took part in this year’s Race for Life which took place on Sunday, May 13.

Service users Debbie, Lowri and Donna had been training for months as part of the centre’s healthy lifestyle group and were joined by staff members Lina, Ellie-May, Heather, Jenny, Dawn and Anwen, along with Heather’s daughter Cala, and Anwen’s daughter Jena.

Canolfan Padarn Support Worker Ellie-May Watkins said: “The crowd gave the crew great support and we’re grateful to everyone who cheered us on. We’d like to say a huge thank you to Queens Road Bowling Club for use of their facilities on the day. Previously, Canolfan Padarn raised £330 for Cancer research, we hope that we will match or exceed that in sponsorship this year.”

Canolfan Padarn is a community resource base for adults with learning disabilities in Aberystwyth, offering social, leisure and work opportunities in the local area.

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