2009年 09月 25日 ( 4 )

An AIDS vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection in humans for the first time, a significant advance in a field of research that has long been stymied (邪魔される) by failure.

The $105 million, six-year trial, which involved more than 16,000 people in Thailand —the largest AIDS-vaccine trial ever conducted — found that an experimental vaccine was 31% effective in preventing HIV infection. The volunteer group in the study was representative of the general Thai adult population, including low-risk, heterosexual adults. Calling the results of the trial a "significant scientific advance," officials at the World Health Organization said the results reinvigorated (再活性化する、生き返らせる) the stalled (行き詰まった、立ち往生している) quest for a vaccine against AIDS, which is estimated to kill some 2 million people globally each year.

The vaccine, called RV144, combined two older vaccines that had each proved unsuccessful in previous tests: ALVAC, from Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccine division of French drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis; and AIDSVAX, originally developed by VaxGen Inc. and now held by the nonprofit Global Solutions for Infectious Diseases.

The vaccine was administered in two stages. First the ALVAC vaccine, which uses a Frankenstein virus of canarypox (カナリア痘ウイルス) and HIV, was used as a primer dose, then AIDSVAX was administered as a "booster" to improve the body's immune response to the first shot. Half of the trial's participants received the combination vaccine, while the other half received a placebo (偽薬). In the final analysis, 74 of the 8,198 placebo recipients became infected with HIV, compared with 51 of 8,197 participants who received the vaccine regimen (療法).

"The efficacy is a modest one. But it's the first time we've seen a positive signal of efficacy in a human trial of any HIV vaccine. That's an exciting result in a field that has been characterized by disappointments for two decades," says Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which provided major funding and other support for the Thai trial.

The scientists working on the trial, led in Thailand by the U.S. Army and the Thailand Ministry of Public Health, said they were baffled (困惑する) as to why the two seemingly ineffective vaccines appeared to work together. Another mystery was that the people who became infected with HIV developed roughly the same amount of virus in their blood whether they got the vaccine or the placebo. Typically a protective vaccine would lower a patient's so-called viral load, a criterion that physicians use as the main indicator of HIV infection. The outcome of the trial of RV144 suggests that scientists do not fully understand what constitutes a successful immune response to the AIDS virus.

"We don't know whether our current measures of the human immune response are even relevant to the protection that we see in this trial. [That is] a humbling reminder of how little we know, and how much work remains to be done in our search for an optimal (最適な) HIV vaccine," Fauci says.

But Jonathan Weber, a professor of communicable diseases and an HIV expert at Imperial College in London, says the consistency of the viral load across the placebo and vaccine groups was not a surprise. "It's a fair assumption that this vaccine works through antibody (抗体) production," he says. "We've known for years that antibodies don't seem to affect the course of an HIV infection. Antibodies can be preventive, but they can't modify the disease."

Colonel Jerome Kim, who helped lead the study for the U.S. Military HIV Research Program, says other unknowns remain about the vaccine, such as the duration of its effect, the potential need for additional boosters, its efficacy in higher-risk populations like intravenous (静脈の) drug users and, most crucially, whether it might work on other subtypes (亜類型) of the virus. "The vaccine was tested in Thailand against types of HIV that circulate in Thailand," Kim says, pointing out that a different strain of the virus causes high infection rates in Africa.

Both Kim and Fauci emphasize that it will probably be a "significant period of time" before the trial results lead to a vaccine that can be submitted for approval for use in the general public, if such a breakthrough occurs at all. Most licensed vaccines have an efficacy rate of at least 70%, although it's possible that an HIV vaccine with lower efficacy may gain approval, Kim says. "The efficacy threshold may be a consideration that is specific to individual countries, the nature of their HIV-AIDS epidemics and the performance characteristics of the vaccine," Kim says.

Ade Fakoya, a London-based clinician and senior adviser to the British nonprofit AIDS Alliance, tells TIME that a 30% efficacy rate is still very low. By comparison, studies in Africa suggest that male circumcision can cut the risk of HIV infection in men by up to 60%. Still, in a field that has been beset (包囲攻撃される) by a series of high-profile failures in the past 20 years — in 2007, for example, two international trials of a promising Merck vaccine in about 4,000 people were stopped early, and later analysis suggested that the vaccine may have increased people's risk of infection — the results of the Thai trial are a turning point. "In terms of where the vaccine world was even a few weeks ago, this is huge news and a proof of concept, finally, that vaccines can work," says Fakoya.

by yu-fen-sun | 2009-09-25 14:11 | 英語関連
Japan Airlines Corp. President Haruka Nishimatsu on Thursday asked transport minister Seiji Maehara for a capital injection (資本注入) of public funds to keep the troubled carrier flying.

However, Maehara later told the press he was not convinced JAL's rehabilitation plan will work and said it "lacks specifics and feasibility."

The minister said he will discuss the issue with Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama as soon as he returns from New York next week to decide how to proceed with the issue.

Nishimatsu and Maehara discussed the struggling air carrier's situation during a one-hour meeting at the transport ministry.

"We touched on special measures based on the industrial revitalization law (産業再生法)," Nishimatsu told reporters afterward.

Asked if that meant JAL requested a public fund injection, Nishimatsu said: "Yes, that's the direction we asked for." The JAL chief wouldn't say how much money he asked for.

The nation's flagship airline received an emergency loan of ¥100 billion at the end of June, including cash from the government-affiliated Development Bank of Japan, and is expected to need at least another ¥100 billion by the end of the year.

Last week, JAL drafted a plan to cut 6,800 workers and terminate 50 domestic and international routes over three years through March 2012. Nishimatsu said he proposed a more aggressive cost-cutting plan at the meeting with Maehara but didn't elaborate (詳細に述べる).

Maehara said he doubted the company can execute the plan in three years and said the topic required more discussion.

"Regarding whether to apply the special measures concerning industrial revitalization law, it is not a situation where we can agree to it right now," Maehara said.

JAL, which posted a record group net loss of ¥99.04 billion in the April-June quarter, was asked to come up the rehabilitation plan by the end of September. It is also negotiating a capital investment with the world's two largest air carriers — Delta Air Lines Inc. and American Airlines Inc. — as well as other foreign airlines.

But whether the loss-making carrier will receive emergency support remains uncertain. Some ministry officials doubt the recession is the root cause of JAL's woes (苦悩、悩みの種).
by yu-fen-sun | 2009-09-25 13:36 | 英語関連
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama is set to vow in a speech at the United Nations on Thursday to act to combat the economic crisis and global warming and to achieve nuclear disarmament (武装解除、軍縮) and nonproliferation (不拡散), while calling on the world for international coordination to help control globalization.

Hatoyama is poised to (~する構えだ) express Japan's willingness to do its best to serve as a bridge for the world between East and West, between industrialized and developing nations, and among various cultures based on the spirit of fraternity, in delivering a speech at the U.N. General Assembly.

As part of his government's efforts to steer Japan out of recession, Hatoyama, who heads the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and took office about a week ago, will introduce such measures as child allowances on the world stage.

With the new government reviewing the nation's economic policies, Japan will undoubtedly achieve a recovery, according to a draft speech by the 62-year-old new Japanese leader.

Japan needs to address globalization properly, arguing that globalization could also cause the widening of income gaps, it says.

The world faces the challenge of extending the light side (良い点) (of globalization) as well as controlling the dark side (悪い点), the draft says, urging the world to coordinate to create a system designed to rein in excessive market-based approaches.

He will again reiterate (繰り返して言う、何度も言う) Japan's pledge to aim to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels, a target that won praise when he declared it at a U.N. summit on climate change on Tuesday.

Japan will pledge such an ambitious goal as it simply hopes to serve as a "bridge" between countries with differing interests and protect the Earth for future generations.

On the nuclear challenge, Hatoyama will note that Japan in particular is a country that can call for nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation "most convincingly" because it is the only nation to have experienced atomic bombings and as one that advocates three non-nuclear principles (非核三原則) of not producing, possessing or allowing nuclear weapons on its territory "despite its potential capability to possess them."

Calling North Korea's nuclear test and missile firings a threat to peace and safety in the region and the entire international community, Hatoyama is set to say Japan "cannot tolerate" such acts and will continue to make efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula through the six-party framework.

On Japan-North Korea relations, Japan aims to solve the abduction issue and nuclear and missile problems in line with the 2002 Pyongyang Declaration.

by yu-fen-sun | 2009-09-25 13:28 | 英語関連
Honda rolls out (量産する) 'Segway' of unicycles (一輪車)

Honda Motor Co. unveiled on Thursday a new compact self-balancing vehicle that looks like a futuristic (未来型の) unicycle.

Unlike other self-balancing devices like the two-wheeled Segway or Toyota Motor Corp.'s Winglet, Honda's U3-X is a one-wheeler. It can move back and forth and even side to side, thanks to a ring of small perpendicular (垂直の) wheels lining the outer edge of the main wheel, Honda said.

The vehicle has a seat on the top and a tiny footrest (足置き) on each side of the wheel. Riders steer by shifting their weight, while balance-control technology developed from research for the Asimo, Honda's bipedal (二足の、二足歩行の) humanoid robot (人間型ロボット), automatically keeps it upright, Honda said.

"This is the result of our efforts to create a mobility device that can exist together naturally with human beings," Honda President Takanobu Ito told a news conference in Tokyo.

The vehicle weighs less than 10 kg, making it easy to carry by its handle.

Honda officials said they think the electric unicycle will mostly be used indoors.

But Ito said the company isn't planning commercial sales just yet because the device is still in the experimental stage.

"We have not yet determined whether to jump into the market or not. We will think about and try many kinds of possibilities for the device," he said.

The motor-driven device can operate for an hour on its lithium-ion battery (リチウムイオン電池), which takes 90 minutes to charge, the company said.

Honda plans to showcase the U3-X at Tokyo Motor Show 2009, which gets under way (始まる) Oct. 24 at the Makuhari Messe convention center in the city of Chiba.

by yu-fen-sun | 2009-09-25 13:15 | 英語関連