Ennio teaches a course on immunology to a class at the Institute of Biotechnology, University of Addis Ababa, January 2016

22 Jan Let’s to do some science !

The Molecular and Cellular Immunology Course at Institute of Biotechnology Addis Ababa University 9-19 Jan 2016.

By Ennio Carbone

The Immunology course was held at the University of Addis Ababa, Institute of Biotechnology from the 9th to the 19th of January 2016. It was a typical refreshing course for PhD students.
I decided to have a special focus on new advances in the fields of innate immunity , tumor immunology and new immune-therapies.

The students participation was enthusiastic and we had good time in the study groups activities. The course was judged extremely well by all the participants and the faculty. The textbook used was the free downloadable from the web a self explicative immunology handbook conceived for the teaching in less favorite countries. The different epidemiology of the sub-saharian countries; dominated by old and new infectious diseases, induce in an immunologist, belonging from the Nordic countries,

Darwinian thoughts on his/her scientific activities considering how these diseases have been a powerful driving force for the immune system phylogenesis in the vertebrate.

The possibility to start collaborative researches with the colleagues at the Institute of Biotechnology offer a rather unique possibility to evaluate the regulation and effector mechanisms of the immune system in pathological conditions where the ethology is related to infectious agents often related to orphan diseases.

Finally I would like to thank the colleagues and students for the Addis Ababa Friday evening, enjoying the warm Ethiopian hospitality, food and music, and their introduction to the Ethiopian history and culture.

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Liam in Rift Valley

06 Nov Amazing weekend

Weekend trip to the Ethiopian Rift Valley

The majority of visitors to Addis Ababa go north to visit the Western Highlands where the water flows west to form the Blue Nile. As a biologist however I was more interested to see the Rift Valley which is east of Addis and runs south towards Kenya and Tanzania. It only drops a few hundred feet in most places but in the mountains of Ethiopia it is more impressive. Graduate students Demsachew Guadie and Fitsum Tadesse took me down on Saturday with a University car and driver. The picture shows the Awash River in the Rift Valley which flows in from south of Addis and on up the valley to the North and East, where it disappears into the desert south of the Danakil Depression. The villagers were cleaning fish by the roadside and the ground was covered with catfish heads. The large Marabou Storks have bald heads like vultures because they are scavengers that will eat absolutely anything; the catfish heads would only need to be cut up a bit more. The little girl got most of my coinage. When the boys came and I told them to get some from her she ran away.

We continued from here down past the Rastafarian town of Shashememe. Eucalyptus, introduced in Addis Ababa in the nineteenth century by Emperor Menelik to provide tree cover, can grow up to ten feet a year here; the plantations protect degraded hillsides and the poles are coppiced every few years to give scaffolding for the construction sites in Addis. After watching Armand and Michaela Denis and David Attenborough for years this was the first time I saw the termite mounds, the camels, and the round, mud-walled farmhouses called Hojos, with nests of Weaver Birds in the acacias around them made from farmyard wheat or Tef straw. In Hawassa we stayed the night by a lake with many colorful birds. Along the rivers that flow down into the Rift Valley and the lakes they form in the valley itself is where most hominid fossils have been found in rocks recently formed from sediments. The South African hominid expert Lee Berger favours the old idea that we humans, with our hairlessness and other adaptations, must have evolved more in association with coasts or inland water than any other hominid.

We came back by Addadi Maryam which has an underground church. There had been a Sunday market and I drank the local Raki in the village pub with the Oromo farmers whose tethered horses had bright and yellow saddle blankets showing the Lion of Ethiopia. There is some tendency to political separatism in the Ethiopian regions now and this is how Ireland must have been in the nineteenth century when a local man walked up to a political meeting in just such a village square and shouted the equivalent of „Arise Addadi Maryam and take your place among the Nations of the Earth!“. The journalist Peter Gill reported though that the main concern of Ethiopian farmers in an election was to know which Party would win – you don’t want to be caught voting for the losers.

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Liam teaches Molecular Biology

05 Nov Teaching in Addis Ababa

Teaching Gene Expression in Addis Ababa.

The classes were attended by PhD students from Biotechnology and from Medicine. We went through much on Lewin’s Genes XI textbook during a one week intensive course. On the Friday I gave a talk on RNA Modification and Innate Immunity. The students said I look like Tom Hanks from Captain Harris in the recent movie about Somali pirates!

The research in the Department is focused on plant genetics, variation in plants like coffee and finger millets that are native to Ethiopia and on identifying and improving plants that can be used in semi-desert areas and for remediating ecological damage. Professors Kassahun Tesfaye and Teklehaimanot Haileselassie are involved in this. Ethiopia has made great progress in food production although this is offset somewhat by continuing high population growth. Plans to improve marginal land involve more drought-resistant planting and new farming practices such as housing animals and bringing forage to them to prevent overgrazing leading to ecological damage or land erosion. Professor Addis Simachev studies extremophile microorganisms in the Danakil Depression in North-East Ethiopia – „The Hottest Place on Earth“ .

Professor Tesfaye Tessema studies infections transmitted between animals and humans and the Medical Faculty are interested in collaborations to study human populations. This should be particularly interesting in Ethiopia which has many hominid paleontology sites and also has populations representing each of the three main language groups of Africa.

The highlight of my visit to Addis was seeing the hominid section in the basement of the National Museum. Lucy, the three year old girl who is our oldest known bipedal ancestor, has missing parts of her skeleton replaced with a blue molding that makes her look like the Terminator! The rest of the exhibit shows all the other hominids that existed and the long process of improvement in stone tools by different hominid groups before modern man. The exhibit also shows just how human the Neanderthals were and suggests that Neanderthal-like hominids existed in Africa also. This is likely to be confirmed by studies on human genomes.

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