A new method of travel

first_imgIFRANE, Morocco – While studying abroad last semester, I was introduced to a new form of transportation: camels. My classmates and I traveled to the town of Erfoud in the Tafilalt Oasis on Nov. 16. We went on historical tours, visited a fossil museum, attended Quran recitations and, my favorite part of the weekend, took a sunrise camel ride into the Sahara Desert. Although we had to wake up at 3 a.m. to catch the caravans into the dunes, the experience of riding a camel into the desert as the sun rose in the distance was unforgettable. There are few words that can describe the beauty of the desert. The landscape looked artificial, but I was quickly shaken into reality when I hopped onto the shaky, two-humped camel. Camels are definitely an interesting form of transportation, but they are not the most comfortable. I think I’ll stick with trains, buses, planes and cars. The Tafilalt Oasis is the second largest oasis in North Africa, behind the Nile Valley. It is manmade and said to date back to the Paleolithic Age. Because of its age, it is considered the best place to buy fossils in Morocco. In fact, the owner of the local fossil museum, Ibrahim Tahiri, is the main exporter of fossils from the Moroccan desert to Europe and North America. The fossil museum was not the only history Erfoud had to offer. Our professor, who organized the trip, arranged a tour of the Qasr al-Fada, a palace complex built by prince Moulay Abd al-Rahman in the early 19th century. Today, curators and descendants of the prince’s slaves still live in the parts of the complex that are not open for public viewing. The weekend reminded me how true and genuine Moroccan hospitality can be. We traveled to many small villages within the Oasis. Each time we walked through the gates of a new town, we were welcomed with Moroccan mint tea and an array of nuts. Our group consisted of approximately 25 people, but Moroccan men and women welcomed us into their homes as if we were old friends. This hospitality continued throughout the weekend when we were received at two different Zawiyahs, places of prayer and retreat. Not only did the people there welcome us as honorary guests, but they also provided us with entertainment, Quran recitations and tasty Moroccan tagine, a type of stew. My favorite part of the evening was the Quran recitations. Although I don’t know Arabic, listening to the men sing the verses was surreal. The verses became more upbeat as the evening progressed, and the musicians even broke out some drums. Islam is sometimes perceived negatively in the Western world, but I was able to witness a side of the religion that is rarely shared with the wider public. Contact Kaitlyn Rabach at [email protected]last_img read more

New drug discovered to treat cancer

first_imgUSC scientists unveiled a newly discovered drug to treat ovarian cancer on Sept. 17 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the university announced Tuesday.The drug is expected to decrease the number of doses a patient must take and make medicine more effective for patients whose cancer has developed a drug resistance.The drug is a member of a class of cytotoxic agents known as PACMA. Graduate student Alexey N. Butkevich, a co-author of the study, synthesized more than 80 newly created compounds in the lab with co-author Nicos A. Petasis, a professor of chemistry at the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Additional co-authors of the study included Nouri Neamati, a professor of pharmacology and pharmaceutical sciences at the USC School of Pharmacy, Roppei Yamada, Yu Zhou, Bikash Debnath and Professors Roger Duncan and Ebrahim Zandi.[Correction: A previous version of this story did not state that Nicos A. Petasis, professor of chemistry, is a lead researcher of this study along with Neamati. A previous version of this story also incorrectly stated that Butkevich worked in Neamati’s lab.]The researchers eventually found that PACMA31 was highly toxic to ovarian cancer.PACMA31 interrupts the folding process that shapes proteins and allows them to function properly. The build-up of these incorrectly folded proteins places stress on the cells and eventually causes them to die.As this strategy is different than that of the two leading drugs in the treatment of ovarian cancer, PACMA31 provides new hope for patients who do not respond to the usual treatments of paclitaxel and cisplatin.[Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that antibiotics are typically used to treat ovarian cancer.]Though the drug has not been tested on humans yet, Neamati said that PACMA31 could change the future of cancer treatment.“When the patient has no other choice, we could potentially treat them with our drug,” Neamati said in a statement.PACMA31 accumulates within cancer cells, meaning it is less likely than other drugs to cause detrimental side effects in normal tissues. Once PACMA31 latches onto its mark, it stays there permanently until the protein has been degraded.Prior to its unveiling, the drug was tested in the lab on ovarian cancer cells and mice tumors, where it was determined to be nontoxic and successful at halting tumor growth.Shili Xu, a graduate student who worked on the project, described the drug’s relevance to medicine in the press release.“We need a new generation of drugs,” Xu said. “We need to overcome the drug-resistance issue.”last_img read more