22 December 2008The United Nations envoy for Chad has just concluded a mission to the eastern town of Dogdoré to assess humanitarian challenges there resulting from internal strife, rebel activity and a spill-over from the conflict in neighbouring Darfur. Over the weekend, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Chad, Victor Angelo, met with local authorities and representatives of the 28,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the region, which has been attacked repeatedly by bandits since September, prompting aid workers to temporarily suspend activities.Mr. Angelo said Chadian authorities would soon deploy gendarmes and guards to the area in an attempt to improve the security situation and allow aid groups to resume their work. Some 180,000 IDPs and 57,000 refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR), as well as 263,000 Darfurians, are receiving humanitarian assistance in Chad. Earlier this month, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for 4,900 UN troops to be deployed to strife-torn areas of Chad and CAR – where a UN Mission known as MINURCAT is already operating – to replace the 3,000-member European Union Force (EUFOR), which is scheduled to leave in March.
Brittle stars are included within a whole range of species, which contribute to knowledge in the medically important area of tissue regeneration. All brittle stars regenerate lose limbs, but the rate at which this occurs is highly variable and species-specific. One of the slowest rates of arm regeneration reported so far is that of the Antarctic Ophionotus victoriae. Additionally, O. victoriae also has an unusual delay in the onset of regeneration of about 5 months. Both processes are of interest for the areas of regeneration biology and adaptation to cold environments. One method of understanding the details of regeneration events in brittle stars is to characterise the genes involved. In the largest transcriptome study of any ophiuroid to date, we describe the results of mRNA pyrosequencing from pooled samples of regenerating arms of O. victoriae. The sequencing reads resulted in 18,000 assembled contiguous sequences of which 19% were putatively annotated by blast sequence similarity searching. We focus on the identification of major gene families and pathways with potential relevance to the regenerative processes including the Wnt/β-catenin pathway, Hox genes, the SOX gene family and the TGF beta signalling pathways. These data significantly increase the amount of ophiuroid sequences publicly available and provide candidate transcripts for the further investigation of the unusual regenerative process in this Antarctic ophiuroid.