Good news from around the world

Former cook gets her mortgage paid by fraternity

Jessie Hamilton — a former cook at Louisiana State University — recently had her mortgage paid by several members of Phi Gamma Delta, a fraternity at the university.

When the fraternity brothers found out that Hamilton was still working two jobs at the age of 74 to pay off her mortgage, they pitched in to surprise her on April 3, calling the day “Jessie Hamilton Day.” They handed her a $45,000 check to clear the mortgage on her house, which she had bought back in 2006.

The surprise was organized by Andrew Fursaotti, a former student at LSU and a member of Phi Gamma Delta, after he learned that she was working as a cook at a country club as well as a custodian at Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport to pay her bills in her 70s. When Fursaotti heard about her situation, he reached out to his old fraternity brothers to help her out.

Hamilton is now planning to retire and take a trip to Hawaii in the future. She had worked at LSU for 14 years, and is currently working at the airport as a member of the custodial staff. (source: today.com)

First Human Trial of HIV Vaccine Produced Immune Response in 97% of Volunteers 

The Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines have not been the only impressive vaccine breakthroughs we have seen this year. A recent phase I clinical trial of an experimental vaccine primed the immune system using a unique approach in order to prevent HIV. HIV, which affects more than 38 million people globally, is known to be among the most difficult viruses to target with a vaccine, in large part because it constantly evolves into different strains to evade the immune system.

The clinical trial, which took place at two sites — George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle — was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and enrolled 48 healthy adult volunteers. Participants received either a placebo or two doses of the vaccine compound.

The promising results, announced in February by the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) and Scripps Research, the vaccine showed success in stimulating production of rare immune cells needed to generate antibodies against the fast-mutating virus — and the targeted response was detected in 97 percent of participants who received the vaccine.

“We showed that vaccines can be designed to stimulate rare immune cells with specific properties, and this targeted stimulation can be very efficient in humans,” said William Schief, a professor and immunologist at Scripps Research and executive director of vaccine design at IAVI’s Neutralizing Antibody Center, whose lab developed the vaccine. He continued, stating, “We believe this approach will be key to making an HIV vaccine and possibly important for making vaccines against other pathogens.”

“This is a tremendous achievement for vaccine science as a whole,” says Dennis Burton, professor and chair of the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at Scripps Research, scientific director of the IAVI Neutralizing Antibody Center and director of the NIH Consortium for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Development. “This clinical trial has shown that we can drive immune responses in predictable ways to make new and better vaccines, and not just for HIV. We believe this type of vaccine engineering can be applied more broadly, bringing about a new day in vaccinology.”

This is a landmark study in the HIV vaccine field, demonstrating success in the first step of a pathway to induce broad neutralizing antibodies against HIV-1. The study sets the stage for additional clinical trials that will seek to refine and extend the approach — with the long-term goal of creating a safe and effective HIV vaccine. (source: Good News Network)

Deaf Sheepdog Returns to Herding Her Flock After Learning ‘Sign Language’ 

A working dog, Peggy was unable to continue the job she excelled at — herding sheep — when at the age of eight she lost her hearing. No longer able to communicate with her, Peggy’s owner subsequently relinquished her to the care of a local animal shelter.

But as it was near Christmas, the shelter was at capacity. That’s when animal welfare manager Chloe Shorten stepped in. Shorten and her husband, Jason, who had two other working sheepdogs, decided to take Peggy home.

“We knew Peggy wanted to be working, so we started the long process of teaching her how to herd and work with a shepherd without relying on voice commands,” Chloe Shorten told the BBC. “We started by teaching her to look at us for hand signals.”

Using repetition and “positive reinforcement,” with the help of a sheepdog trainer, Peggy eventually learned to respond to hand signals and body language rather than traditional verbal commands.

But Chloe says the most important lesson Peggy learned had nothing to do with sheep. It had to do with trust: “[It took time to] learn that we love her, and understand our praise.”

These days, while Peggy is semi-retired, with her GPS tracker in place, she still heads out with the flock from time to time, happy in the knowledge that a “thumbs up” means she’s a good girl. (source: Good News Network)