Tuesday, January 31, 2006
I mean, vibrating razors are creepy, but definitely not in an angsty-80's-soundtrack-laden-Jake-Gyllenhaal-goodness kinda way.
Unrelatedly, another study may have found an answer to the puzzle of why prions have survived evolution. In mice engineered not to produce prions, their marrow (stem) cells slowly deteriorated and stopped regenerating themselves. So, it seems that prions play a critical role in stem cell activity. Weird.
Monday, January 30, 2006
Aside from yet another reason for people to deny personal responsibility for being a fat-ass, there are a number of promises inherent in the discovery. Vaccines could be created to stop the viruses spread, and, more interestingly, if we can grok how they work to make us fat, we can use that to keep people who don't have the virus thinner.
I cannot even find words to describe how furious this makes me. If you are "morally opposed" to performing your job, get another bloody job. If I said I was "morally opposed" to using Excel, can I not do my work and be protected under these laws? Same thing.
And if you are "morally opposed" to treating gay/lesbian patients, you should have your license revoked, because you clearly aren't capable of providing competent care to anyone.
Sunday, January 29, 2006
Friday, January 27, 2006
Another mutation that is unfortunate for its hosts (but fortunate for people) is the mucA mutation in Pseudomonas aeruginosa, most famous for attacking the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients. The mutation, it seems, makes the bacteria extremely vulnerable to acidified sodium nitrite, a common meat preservative. This doesn't mean that eating bologna is good for CF patients - far from it - but it does promise to deliver some critical treatments for what has usually been considered an untreatable infection. It's been a good week for CF patients.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
I arrived home from work tonight at about 11:30 (I left at 7:45) to find my mailbox stuffed full of mail (a normal day brings but a credit card ad or two). Excitement! Could it be? Good news from grad school? A present? No. A Pepco bill, a Comcast bill, and three offers to extend my credit line. Le sigh.
As I carry my disappointing haul down to my door, in my entryway I see something even more promising: a white box! I didn't order anything...an unexpected present? Denied again: an empty JumboSlice box.
Is this a pathetic end to my day, or am I just over stressed?
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Sufferers of another genetic disease get good news today too: a study suggests that aerosol inhalation of concentrated saline twice a day reduces pulmonary symptoms and dangers of cystic fibrosis. That's really cool. And it's cheap, too!
You ever wonder how you just can't reason with some people? They insist, against all evidence, that dubya is a great president and competent leader, who would never go AWOL from anything, or that Al Gore invented the internet, etc.? Well, it's true. You can't reason with them, because partisans do not engage the rational-thinking parts of their brains when presented with information along political lines. They use emotional processing areas instead.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
This one should be self-explanatory to any (bio)chemists out there, but as a hint: this is the drug to which most of us are probably addicted.
This one, on the other hand, is for when I need to feel calmer. It's a photo I took, way back in 1997 while studying in Sanibel, Florida.
Continue this meme if you feel like, or don't.
Monday, January 23, 2006
Unrelatedly, another new study indicates that the malaria parasite may develop in the lymph nodes, not just in the liver as previously supposed. Tricksy, Plasmodium, very tricksy...
Friday, January 20, 2006
Another interesting finding is that sexual orientation affects aspects of facial recognition. Not totally shocking, but it seems that people's brains light up differently when viewing faces of their preferred sex. The 'reward areas' in the thalamus and medial orbitofrontal cortex lit up more when straight women and gay men looked at male faces and when straight men and gay women looked at female faces. Cool.
As the kid grows up, you might worry that her incessant use of the cell phone might be bad. Rest (semi) assured, however: it probably doesn't cause brain cancer.
Once she's old and has to deal with other health problems, it's good to know not only that chocolate is healthy, but why (epicatechin improves circulatory health).
Further towards the end of life, a new gene therapy technique may be helpful: researchers have found a way to selectively silence one of the genes responsible for the development of Parkinson's Disease. Also, another study suggests that glia may be a good target for treating Alzheimer's Disease.
And everyone loves a wayward whale.
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Katz characterizes the American diet as a "mad cacophony of flavors," but I would argue that the typical American diet has less flavor than the diets of people almost anywhere else in the world. For instance, last night I was trying to describe Ethiopian food to someone, and started by asking if he liked sour foods. He said he had no idea, and neither of us could think of a dish common in U.S. cuisine that was really sour. Ethiopians are not, despite the wide variety of rich flavors in their food, famously obese.
Also, if being thin means I only get to eat one flavor at a time, I would much rather be fat.
Another study suggests that moderate alcohol consumption is good for you: in this case, reducing the risk of stroke. In a population of mostly Latino men over 8 years, researchers found that those who drank less than two drinks a day but more than one a month had a lower risk than teetotalers.
Mind you, there were only 190 strokes to examine in the study population of 3176, but still, an effect is an effect.
A Japanese rat snake at the Tokyo zoo has apparently 'befriended' a hamster that was intended to be its dinner. Cute, yes, but there is no explanation of what the snake eats instead.
A new study suggests that abnormal cell division could be responsible for Alzheimers Disease. Cells in pre-alzheimers mice showed cell division where normal mice did not, and often the damaged cells in diseased mice had extra chromosomes, indicative of division.
Another study sheds some light on why you can't tickle yourself. The research indicates that sensory attenuation to self-initiated stimuli may be evolutionarily critical - attention filters allow us to focus on what's important (i.e., something trying to eat us) rather than our own activities.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
The study's methods sound somewhat dubious, but the result is not only obvious to anyone who is not a (micro)manager, and also not entirely novel to the literature, so I'll take it: meetings are really bad for productivity and job satisfaction. Yup, I get less than nothing done on days full of meetings, which my employers unwaveringly describe as having been "very productive." What, precisely, got produced remains a mystery.
By Y-chromosome analysis, Irish lord Niall of the Nine Hostages seems to have about 3 million descendents living today. This is impressive, but not really as impressive as Ghengis Khan's estimated 16 million. Similarly, an mtDNA study indicates that around 3.5 million of the approximately 8 million Ahskenazi Jews are descended from four 'founding mothers.' The ultimate Jewish grandmothers? Oy!
Brown U. researchers have engineered the yogurt-making bacteria, L. lactis, to produce cyanovirin, which helps prevent HIV infection in monkeys. The bacteria take up residence in the gut after you eat yogurt, and would theoretically protect their hosts. Cool!
Fat-busting hormone Leptin may also be a good antidepressant. This makes some sense, as it is released after eating, and we all know that pigging out is god for depression.
More evidence that curry is good for you: turmeric's anti-cancer properties are especially potent when mixed with certain veggies: curried cauliflower all the way!
And finally, from the department of 'you win some, you lose some,' we learn that the mutation that seems to protect against HIV makes carriers more vulnerable to West Nile virus.
UPDATE: Clinical trial gives evidence for what we all already know: 1 gram of ginger prevents nausea.
Sunday, January 15, 2006
Apparently, my friends presumed that after they left, I would be visited by someone who likes vodka gimlets, steak, and fucking cowboys.
I have no idea. This is what drunk blogging gets you.
Friday, January 13, 2006
One of the side effects of being overweight can be diabetes. A new study claims that just three weeks on a healthy diet with exercise can 'reverse' diabetes. The study comes out of UCLA, and is published in a reputable journal, but I still don't buy it. The sample is small (n = 31), and there does not appear to have been much or any follow-up. I have no trouble believing that shaping up will reduce symptoms and slow the disease, but diet and exercise are how you control it anyways.
Thursday, January 12, 2006
That is a great sentence with which to start your day. It seems that one of the major sources of the potent greenhouse gas is completely unexpected: plants! This is a hugely significant finding for climatology, and accounts for a number of previous mysteries, and those explanations will lead to better predictions and hopefully better ways to deal with human environmental impacts.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
This is not really a shock, as Genistein is a phytoestrogen, and estrogens are of course critical to reproductive development. Also, I would love to take this as a way to encourage new mothers who think that giving their babies soy formula is better than breastfeeding or giving them real milk, to please stop*.
*If the kid is lactose intolerant, fine, but bloody get off your vegan high horse and consider your kid's health.
Pretty much everything else falls to the wayside of work, and it's clearly not healthy. Yet another part of our work-obsessed culture that may be harming us is a bit subtler: eating lunch alone at our desks. This is something I really, really hate, and I'd never even thought about the unsanitary aspects of it. On (rare) days when I eat in the conference room with coworkers, or (even more rarely) go out, I come back feeling much more refreshed, and work more productively for the rest of the afternoon. Yet another healthier habit the French have on us: a long lunch!
And, one of my favorite proteins, Hedgehog, seems to have an inhibitory action on fat formation, and that the decrease in Hedgehog signaling as we age could account for later-life weight gain. More
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
An important aside, since the release mentions drinking at lunch, is that having a drink at lunch is entirely the norm in much (most?) of the world, and does not appear to be detrimental to productivity there. I'd like to see if the alcohol consumption/hangover data actually relate to performance data; I'm sure they do, after a certain threshold, but not immediately.
Monday, January 09, 2006
NIMH researchers have discovered a potential new antidepressant target: p11, which interacts somehow with the 5HT-1B receptor, appears to be lowered in depressed patients.
Tempted to spend $10,000 on that full-body scan for cancer? Well, adopting a dog might be a better investment.
India is in the process of digitizing its ancient systems of medicine and healing, hoping to stop pharmaceutical companies from patenting them. In perfect form-fitting ridiculousness, a pharmaceutical industry rep, Mark Grayson of PhARMA claimed that his industry developed their drugs via computer modeling, but that somehow this database would "inhibit drug development." Turn those two statements over your logic wheels for a second.
* It's just fish oil, which is fairly well established to be not bad for you and probably helpful. I just couldn't resist the ridiculousness of it.
I listen to an extremely wide range of music. I keep my X5 on all-folders shuffle at all times, looping through pop, punk, jazz, metal, hip-hop, funk, gogo, electronica and more. I do use Pandora sometimes, but the playlists get too repetitive for me. Not that it's playing the same songs over and over, but that everything sounds like everything else.
I wonder if there's a way to do the opposite of what Pandora and SIMAC are doing - that is, challenge people's tastes, not so shockingly as to suggest Pantera after the user selects Enya, but to push in that direction. "You've never heard of this band, or even this genre of music, but we think you should give it a go." That would be cool.
Friday, January 06, 2006
Men's Fitness magazine has, to everyone's bafflement, named Baltimore the 'fittest city' in the U.S., and Chicago 'the fattest.' I guess all that running from the cops and dodging bullets outweighs the fried-food diet. Honestly though, when even the magazine's editor essentially says the rankings are meaningless ("editor Neal Boulton is quick to point out that the survey is far from scientific"), why did he run it? If you're doing a survey, why not bother to make it at least a little bit valid? It's not that difficult, and I'm sure there are hundreds of unemployed sociology grad students who'd be glad to help.
And speaking of Chicago, it apparently does have a very fit population: of coyotes. The coyotes seem to have been exceedingly successful in adapting to the urban environment, fascinating scientists. They seem to be helping control problematic goose and rodent populations besides. Smart little varmits.
Thursday, January 05, 2006
Interestingly, the mice's symptoms were improved by switching them to a milk-based diet. So watch out, vegans!
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
And it is with some glee that I read that Rhode Island has effectively bitch-slapped the Supreme Court on its uber-federalist stance - that states don't have the right to legalize medical marijuana - by legalizing it anyway. The quote from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is utterly classic: "There's this notion from the '60s or the '70s that marijuana is a harmless drug...It's not." Uhm. Nothing is harmless, but pot is less dangerous than Ambien or Diazepam or Warfarin, so I fail to see the problem. Oh, wait, I get it! The White House is operating on this notion from the 80's or 20's that Big Brother Knows Best!
A couple weeks ago, we learned about magnesium's effects on bone density. Now, more research has found a novel mechanism which may help predict, diagnose, and someday treat osteoporosis. It turns out that the CB2 receptor seems to be involved in regulating bone density. CB2 is the mysterious sibling of CB1, the receptor where THC (that's the active ingredient in marijuana) acts. CB1 is fairly well characterized, but CB2 is still mostly a mystery. I wonder how they are related.
(insert clever segue here)
Baylor researchers are working on a new type of HIV vaccine, one which they hope will be more successful than previous attempts. The new vaccine blocks SOCS1, which normally acts as a sort of immune system 'brake,' thereby increasing immune response to the vaccine. I don't really understand how this works, and would love to learn.
Speaking of learning, that's what teens don't seem to do about STDs until it's too late. A new study indicates that kids aren't aware of much of anything about STDs, except HIV/AIDS, until they're told by their doctors that they have one. Is this a result of faith-based sex ed? Probably. It's probably also due to the way sex ed is taught, even when it is: as a scare tactic. Teenagers just zone out when adults talk down to them, so it's no shock that they miss this stuff.
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
People who are really obese are known to be at increased risk for all sorts of nasty health problems, but the definitions of 'obese' have long been unclear. Body Mass Index is the most common standard, but it is severely lacking in real-world relevance. A new study in the Lancet suggests that waist to hip ratio may be a better measurement to predict risks for weight-related diseases. Interesting, but as with BMI, I suspect that it's too simple. Everyone is built differently, and a trend (even a statistically significant one) seen over the population may not have any practical relevance on an individual basis. But, emphasizing something grounded in physical measurement, rather than BMI which doesn't generally account for things like muscle mass, bone density, etc., is a good start.
For those who really do need to lose weight - and I mean serious poundage, not just the post-holiday eggnogg belly - surgery is becoming an increasingly popular option. The US government is starting a major trial to evaluate three types of obesity surgery - gastric bypass, stomach banding, and cutting out bits of stomach - to see what works best.
We'll see what happens.
Sunday, January 01, 2006
Traumatized neighbors: at least three.
Bottles fancy Danish vodka consumed: 1.
Bottles fancy beer consumed: 1.
Bottles sparkly wine consumed: about 11.
Bottles of beer consumed: unknown.
Explosives set: many.
Falls down the stairs: 1 (sorry Nick!).
Grapefruits thrown: 1.
Frozen blintzes flung: 1.
Cans tuna tossed: 2.
Impact-smushed kumquats found under my bed this morning: 3.
Thanks to everyone who came, and happy new year anyway to those who didn't!
I just have to say that last night's was mischief of a truly higher order. I'm still fishing kumquat bits out of the various nooks and crannies of my apartment, and the coating of dried champagne, beer, and gunpowder on my bar probably should have been handled by the Hazmat team. This may have to become a tradition.