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In world first, Japanese scientists to test ‘reprogrammed’ stem cells in treating Parkinson’s disease

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

 

Jun Takahashi (L), professor at Kyoto University’s Center for iPS Cell Research and Application. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

Scientists at Japan’s Kyoto University announced on Monday (July 30) they will be starting the world’s first clinical trial to treat Parkinson’s disease using “reprogrammed” stem cells.

Since Parkinson’s is caused by a lack of dopamine made by brain cells, researchers have long hoped to use stem cells to restore normal production of the neurotransmitter chemical.

In August last year, scientists from Kyoto University, a world leader in the technology, said they had successfully used the induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) to restore functioning brain cells in monkeys with symptoms of the debilitating disease.

The clinical trial for humans will start August 1, Jun Takahashi of Kyoto University said on Monday and will involve transplanting dopamine-producing neurons made by human iPS cells into the brains of people with the disease.

Parkinson’s is a degenerative disorder resulting from a lack of dopamine-producing brain cells, which affect the human nervous system. Symptoms include tremors, body stiffness, slow movement, and difficulty walking. Currently, there are about 150,000 people living with Parkinson’s disease in Japan. — Reuters

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Japanese man ‘marries’ virtual reality character

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Thursday, November 15th, 2018

Wedding ceremony of Akihiko Kondo and virtual character Hatsune Miku | REUTERS

With nearly 40 wedding guests looking on and filming the special moment, Akihiko Kondo lifted up the veil on his bride and kissed her. The only catch? Kondo’s bride is Hatsune Miku, a virtual reality star developed by a Japanese music technology firm.

Together, Kondo, 35, and Hatsune Miku, represented by a stuffed doll, declared they were ‘married’ in the $18,000 ceremony in Tokyo.

A week after the ‘marriage’, Kondo came home from work at a middle school in the suburbs and was greeted by the holographic projection of the love of his life who literally lights up and welcomes him home.

The hologram of Hatsune Miku recognizes Kondo’s face and voice with her embedded camera and microphone and can respond with simple phrases and songs.

The fact that she is not a physical person has not stopped Kondo from finding happiness in this arrangement.

“I believe the concept of happiness and love is different for each person. I believe there is something like a template for happiness — where a real man and woman gets married and have a child together, but I do not think such a template can be applied to everyone to make them happy,” Kondo, told Reuters as he fiddled with silver marriage rings worn by him and a stuffed doll of Hatsune Miku.

Hatsune Miku’s general appearance is that of a 16-year old anime pop star with two large pigtails in blue. She was designed as a computer-generated singing software, based on a voice-synthesizing program developed by Crypton Future Media.

From a young age, Kondo was convinced he would never marry and would stay single all his life. Ten years ago, he said an episode of workplace bullying by a female superior sealed his fate and convinced him to remain a singleton.

Since deciding Hatsune Miku was ‘the one’, he said he has remained faithful and devoted his life to the virtual pop star, who has thousands of fans domestically and internationally.

But his wedding ceremony on November 4 was not universally understood, he said.

His parents, who allowed him to go ahead with the ceremony, did not attend and although Kondo received encouragements and support from many friends and other fans of Hatsune Miku through Twitter, not everyone sent him congratulatory messages.

Kondo said some accused him of being a creepy ‘otaku’, which loosely refers to ‘geeks who live an anti-social life’. Others accused him of contributing to the decline in Japan’s population, while some even accused him of stealing their pop star.

But Kondo is not discouraged. He said his wedding ceremony will serve to encourage other people to have the courage to pursue their happiness even if only available in the virtual world.

“I think it was nice to have this wedding ceremony in terms of encouraging such people (who are pursuing diverse types of marriage),” Kondo said.

In 2017, Japanese tech developer Gatebox, which developed the holographic devices, began issuing ‘marriage registration forms’ for users of their favorite virtual characters. Gatebox said in a press release on their website that over 3,700 of these unofficial ‘marriage certificates’ had been issued.

Both Gatebox and Crypton Future Media declined to be interviewed by Reuters on the subject of Kondo’s wedding. — Reuters

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PH, Japan ink P18-B loan agreement for MRT-3 rehab works

by UNTV News and Rescue   |   Posted on Thursday, November 8th, 2018

Loan agreement between the Philippines and the Japanese governments

MANILA, Philippines – Rehabilitation works in MRT Line 3 are now on its way after the signing of the P18-B pesos loan agreement between the Philippines and the Japanese governments represented by the Department of Finance (DOF) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

This was after the two countries’ exchange of notes on the said project was finalized on Wednesday (November 7).

The said exchange of notes involves the overall detailed plan on the rehabilitation of MRT-3 which includes a general overhaul of train coaches, replacement of rail tracks, improvements in the train’s power and signaling systems, as well as the repair of elevator and escalator systems along with beautification works in all MRT3 stations.

The ceremony was headed by Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and Japan Ambassador to the Philippines Koji Haneda with Transportation Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John Batan witnessing the event.

“With the Exchange of Notes for the MRT-3 rehabilitation, we secure a better and safer commuting experience for our riding public. We shall see improvements, service efficiency, security, and convenience,” Locsin said.

“We all know that a safe and eco-friendly transportation system is crucial for the greater Manila area and the Philippines as a whole to realize sustainable economic growth and a more comfortable life for the Filipino,” said Ambassador Haneda.

The loan agreement will shoulder the 80% of the entire rehabilitation project while the remaining 20% will be shouldered by the Philippine government.

The entire project is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2021. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Joan Nano)

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PH, Japan sign exchange of notes to enhance defense, transport capabilities

by UNTV News and Rescue   |   Posted on Thursday, November 8th, 2018

(L-R) Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. and Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Koji Haneda

MANILA, Philippines – The governments of the Philippines and Japan signed on Wednesday (November 7) the Exchange of Notes on the Grant Aid of Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) UH-1H Parts and Maintenance Equipment to the Philippine Air Force (PAF); and on the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT3) Rehabilitation.

Representing both governments in the signing held at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) were Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. and Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Koji Haneda.

The Grant Aid on UH-1H parts and maintenance equipment to the Philippine Air Force (PAF), involves ¥10.68 billion (P5 billion) worth of spare parts and maintenance equipment of UH-1H helicopters which are useful in PAF’s activities related to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, transport, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

Meanwhile, the MRT-3 rehabilitation project involves “the complete rehabilitation of MRT-3, the general overhaul of MRT-3’s entire fleet of 72 Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs), and day-to-day maintenance,”

The rehabilitation works are expected to be completed in the first 26 months, and the general overhaul to be completed on the 43rd month.

Secretary Locsin noted how Japan has supported development projects in the Philippines particularly “through economic and development assistance as well as in enhancing our defense and security capabilities. It is help that has no agenda but friendship, decency, and a deep and abiding regard, as much for the safety and well-being of neighbors, as for oneself.”

The Exchange of Notes, according to Locsin, “affirms this ever-growing, mutually beneficial and gratifying relationship between our two countries and our two peoples.”

For his part, Ambassador Haneda reiterated Japan’s commitment to the Philippines saying “we do not only mark our commitments on paper, we also pledge our all-out efforts in bringing these projects into successful completion.” – Marje Pelayo (with reports from JL Asayo)

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