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A Success Story in the U.S : Dr. Hande Özdinler

Associate Prof. Hande Özdinler, Head of the ALS Research Center at Northwestern University, has become one of the ten best scientific inventors. In a special interview with Journalist Ali Cinar for Turk of America magazine, Dr. Özdinler stated that she started this work for her brother, whom she lost to a cerebral hemorrhage.

-Can you talk about your academic projects?

Özdinler Laboratory was established at Northwestern University in 2009 as the first laboratory in the world to study upper motor neurons. Since then, we have been investigating why these neurons are present in the brain and why they show degeneration.

We are gradually solving the death mechanisms and trying to develop appropriate treatment methods.

Our first project focuses on developing medication. We have presented our great invention together with Dr. Silverman; this is promising for patients with motor neuron diseases and especially for ALS patients, as it will be able to heal the motor neurons in the brain. NU-9 can stop motor neuron deaths more effectively than any other approved medication, and this ability resolves four different mechanisms simultaneously. Thanks to this study, our first steps have given rise to a significant advancement in cell-based and mechanism-focused medication development. We are now in the process of presenting this to patients. It is a challenging, costly, and elaborate process. We need financial support and are spending much time looking for that support.

Our second project is about finding biomarkers. With this study, we will be able to pave the way for drug inventions; we will find out which patient requires which drug, and ultimately, we will ensure the recovery of more patients.

Our third project concerns gene therapy. In this project, we will provide direct gene therapy to motor neurons that have died in the brain, enabling them to reap the benefits of personalized medicine and develop personalized healing methods.

We are working on these three main issues.

-What are the pros and cons of being a Turkish academic in the USA?

Scientists in other countries receive much support from their homelands. Joint projects, investments, student exchange programs, and many brilliant projects. Unfortunately, Türkiye does not benefit enough from scientists who have been successful abroad. In the US, it does not matter where you are from or which nationality you have. It can be challenging to become a C-Level executive. However, this can be achieved with an external and reliable support system. Sadly, I do not have such support. Türkiye does not support me. In addition, nobody from Türkiye has given me much help yet. We always receive the required financial support for our work from NIH project funds.

I would not say that being a Turkish academic in the US has many advantages; nevertheless, being an academic here has its benefits regardless of nationality. Doing science, thinking freely, and immediately accessing technological innovations are ensured. In this atmosphere, your race does not have any importance, and we are mainly discussing the projects.

-Can you mention the awards you have received?

First, I received the Best Master's Thesis Award from Bogazici University. At that time, we were doing the first gene cloning studies in Türkiye. Before a PCR machine, we were cloning genes; those were exciting days. Staying up all night in the lab, I was even once in the laboratory for a whole week without going outside. This was how I finished my thesis.

When I was doing my Ph.D., I received the FASEB award, a science award for the poster I submitted. As a post-associate professor, I received the Harvard Center for Neurodegeneration and Repair (HCNR) Award, which was given to two people at Harvard. This was such a difficult one to get, and I became a Harvard Fellow thanks to this; they also provided funds to the lab I was working in for my training.

At Northwestern, I received the NUCATS Translational Innovation and Corner Innovation awards. These prestigious awards are given to individuals who can think outside the box, create new things no one has ever done, and find innovative methods or solutions.

Our goal has never been to receive prizes and awards but to invent. When we receive awards, we just think, "Well, there are people who follow and appreciate our studies."

- What is your advice to young Turkish people?

It's tough to be young in Türkiye these days. They live in a more difficult time than we did. Universities are especially under so much pressure. Boğaziçi University is one of the best examples of this. Conscious, hardworking, productive, brilliant young people should be appreciated and given value. They are the ones who make inventions, ensure development and make the world a better place. Despite all the challenges they are faced with, young people must be resilient and continue to improve themselves. During COVID-19, many good universities moved their classes online and made them publicly accessible. I advise young people to learn and improve continuously. They will eventually see rewards for their efforts, maybe not today, but tomorrow for sure. They should work with a view to the future and invest in themselves.

-What is your goal for the next five years?

I want to see our work pay off in 5 years, and I want to see ALS patients starting to get better. We will finish this fight with ALS, and I would love to celebrate on the day this ends. We should declare that day a holiday for all ALS friends, their children, mothers, and fathers. A festival of the victory of humanity.

And I also would like to open an exhibition for my paintings. I want to sell my images to support students during their studies, and I would like to write, publish books, see the countries I haven't been to and have a fantastic time with my dear friends.

Dr. Özge Karadağ Caman from Columbia University: COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are still worrisome.

I had a discussion with Dr. Özge Karadağ Caman from Columbia University, which is one of the best universities in the U.S. with leading research in the medical field. She is a public health researcher at the Center for Sustainable Development and a member of the Lancet COVID-19 commission. She is also one of the members of the Turkish-American Medical Association. The success of Turkish doctors and the higher positions that they hold make us proud. I want to share with you some special sections from my conversation with her:

There isn’t any decrease in COVID-19 cases and mortality. What is the situation in hospitals? How do you think the winter will be like?

The worrisome trend in the COVID-19 numbers in the U.S. still continues. New York and some other nearby states are relatively better as compared to the first phases of the pandemic, thanks to the local precautions they have taken; however, it is unfortunately not possible to mention a centralized, powerful pandemic response across the U.S. Our decisions and actions rather than the virus itself determine the progress of the pandemic, and we can see that the pandemic can be kept under control in countries that acknowledge this scientific fact, show political decisiveness, and take the required public precautions; however, the U.S. is, unfortunately, yet to maintain country-wide control due to political, economic, cultural, and many other reasons. In some states where the number of cases is high, there are cases of overcrowding in hospitals and delays in non-emergent and non-COVID-19 medical care. Recently, studies on the severity and extent of the impact on non-COVID-19 healthcare services during the pandemic have gained prominence. Given the high number of COVID-19 cases, there are delays not only in protective services but also in the diagnosis and treatment of several other diseases at places where there is a negative impact both on the provision of and request for healthcare services. Conducted research will show the gravity of the situation more clearly in the upcoming period. If there are to be no changes in national policies and adopted measures, difficult autumn and winter seasons await the U.S.; however, the states which solemnly implement their own local measures will go through the following months with less damage.

It is said that the vaccine will be ready in 1 to 2 months. When do you think the vaccine will be available for use?

We see several remarks saying that the vaccine will be ready for the U.S. The approval procedures, which normally take longer, are anticipated to take shorter this time so that the vaccine can be used promptly during the pandemic. This issue should be addressed with a multidimensional and multidisciplinary approach because the development process of the vaccine should be completed with an appropriate number of subjects within a determined period, which must not be hindered to develop a vaccine as soon as possible to be able to provide protection for people. The most important principle taught in medical school is, “First, do no harm.” Accordingly, it is expected for the vaccine to be sufficiently tested to ensure that there are no rare, unwanted side effects while being protective at the same time and that the vaccinated subjects will be monitored during a specific period of time. Furthermore, even if the vaccine is released, herd immunity may not be achieved in a short period of time. The time required to produce millions of doses, the organization required for redundant and fair distribution thereafter, the provision of vulnerable groups with access to the vaccine, and the groups under the impression of anti-vaccinationists constitute the issues to be considered.

What are the differences between the U.S. and Turkey’s healthcare system? Which issues are handled better in Turkey?

There are surely several areas in the national healthcare system of each country that may be improved; however, it is possible to claim that the healthcare system in Turkey has several positive aspects when compared with the healthcare system in the U.S. When we evaluate the health insurance system and provision of healthcare services in the U.S., which has better facilities in the field of health with regard to scientific research and product development, we know that there is a high level of privatization in the provision of services, the health insurance system is complex, healthcare services are expensive, and there are serious issues and inequalities regarding access to the services. Pandemics are controlled first within the society itself and then via primary care and community-oriented services and measures. The hospitals, named as secondary or tertiary care services, come into play during treatment of the cases that occur despite the communal measures adopted. In other words, they manage the pandemic from the background rather than on the front line. Despite the existence of numerous hospitals with high budgets, high technology, and qualified experts, one of the important reasons why case numbers and mortality of the pandemic are high in the U.S. is the issues in the public health system or, in other words, the problems faced on the front line in fighting the pandemic. However, I would like to highlight that the two countries have different aspects both open to improvement in terms of the system itself and also the response to the pandemic, as the public health system and the hospitals constitute only a fragment of the response to the pandemic; this, on the other hand, is a multi-dimensional struggle that covers economic, social, and cultural aspects.

How was the education of medical students affected in the COVID-19 period?

It is inevitable to assert that medical training also suffered from some inconveniences just as the other fields, but the pandemic has its lessons to be learned. In medical training, sessions in laboratories and bedside teaching are just as important as theoretical knowledge. However, due to the pandemic, these sessions, from time to time, are interrupted. On the other hand, the epidemic may have contributed to medical students and specialty candidates; they may learn by experiencing in real life some cases that are abstract when covered theoretically, which is likely to designate them as experienced professionals in their prospective careers.

I think that today’s medical students will better understand the importance of public and global health; that physical, mental, and social health is a whole; that there are social factors that affect public health; and that policies and media affect health.

Amerikan Aesthetics in Istanbul Offers Top Aesthetic Services

According to Pesha Magid of Quartz Media, walk through Taksim Square, the center of modern Istanbul, and you’ll see them: groups of men wandering around with their heads swaddled in bandages or bright-red marks shaped like boomerangs stretching from temple to temple at the crowns of their heads.

Comodo Internet Security 7.0 Launches in UK

Image Comodo is launching the latest incarnation of its all-in-one protection software into the UK Market, backed by a £300 virus free guarantee*. Immediately available in the UK, Comodo Internet Security Pro 7 is a unique and patented prevention tool for unknown viruses as well as a detection tool for known viruses, stopping  ALL viruses at the door. It inspects each file that attempts to run on a computer and instantly compares the files to White Lists of good files and Black Lists of dangerous files.

Zeus Malware Found with Valid Digital Certificate

Image A recently discovered variant of the Zeus banking Trojan was found to use a legitimate digital signature to avoid detection from Web browsers and anti-virus systems. Security vendor Comodo reported Thursday finding the variant 200 times while monitoring and analyzing data from users of its Internet security system. The variant includes the digital signature, a rootkit and a data-stealing malware component. "Malware with a valid digital signature is an extremely dangerous situation," the company said in a blog post.

BlackBerry in Africa, Amazon in Turkey

Image Would you like to get your hands on a new BlackBerry (BBRY -2.89%) Z10 smartphone before it goes on sale in the U.S. on March 22? Try South Africa. It's been on the shelves there since March 1. This is not to suggest that South Africa is a more important market than the U.S. Obviously, with a population of about 50 million -- compared to more than 300 million here -- it's not. But at least South Africans can say they've been loyal to the BlackBerry brand: It still holds a 50% share of the smartphone market there, years after it fell off the radar screens of U.S. consumers.

The USAF Selects The A-29 for the LAS Mission

ImageThe USAF for a second time has selected the A-29 for the LAS mission. In announcing the award, the Air Force stated "this award is the result of a full and open competition" and Lt. Gen. C.R. Davis, military deputy for acquisition in Air Force headquarters said, "I am confident that the source selection process was disciplined and meticulous." Even Beechcraft's CEO commented on the care and professionalism of the USAF's selection process. In fact, this was a completely new evaluation process, conducted by a new team and overseen by a three-star general.

Turkish High Schools Teams Participating in the First Robotics Competition Regionals

ATAA Trustee Davut Okutcu visited the Turkish teams competing at the New York regionals at the Javitz arena. "The varsity Sport for the Mind," FRC combines the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology. Under strict rules, limited resources, and time limits, teams of 25 students or more are challenged to raise funds, design a team "brand," hone teamwork skills, and build and program robots to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors. It's as close to "real-world engineering" as a student can get. Volunteer professional mentors lend their time and talents to guide each team.

Comodo Introduces Industry Changing Endpoint Security Solution

Image Clifton, N.J., Feb. 27, 2013 — /PRNewswire/ -- Comodo, a leading internet security provider, announces their latest solution for centralized administration of security, including anti-virus protection of endpoints.  Comodo Endpoint Security Manager 3.0 (ESM 3.0) sets the tone for powerful security management with its easy to manage user interface. Combining a very short learning curve, the management of Comodo's award winning Endpoint Security suite and day-to-day information required to maximize and maintain user productivity, Endpoint Security Manager now offers a more powerful and intuitive platform for the business network.  The patent pending innovative panoramic technology display allows IT Managers to view all endpoints, such as a desktop computer, laptop, mobile device or printer, quickly and on one screen.

Comodo Internet Security 2013: A Hit With the Critics!

Image Producing a major software upgrade is a lot like producing a Broadway show. You write it, practice in the test lab, then take it “off Broadway” in a beta test where you can get the feedback of a live audience. When you have all of the kinks worked out you make your big debut. Like a Broadway show the critics will have their say. Now, we produced Comodo Internet Security 2013 (v6) for computer users everywhere and we know that you just can’t please everyone.

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