Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Monday, February 27, 2006
Along with an earlier study, which found a different mutation of KCNC3 to be implicated in child-onset cerebellar degeneration and mental retardation, this research provides a very interesting new base for research into neurodegenerative disorders and potentially others as well.
Friday, February 24, 2006
Evidence suggests that Crohn's Disease may in fact be caused by immune underactivation, as opposed to overactivation as previously believed. The study also suggests that Viagra might be helpful in treatment.
And this is a fascinating and lovely profile of two brilliant epidemiologists working to save the world.
Thursday, February 23, 2006
While older men start having trouble getting it up, middle-aged women seem to be more likely to have twins. It seems that as women approach menopause, their follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) spikes get stronger, leading to more multiple ovulations. Interesting.
And, of course, a homeless man is in a Little Rock jail for stealing a sheep. In a trash bin. Claiming to be a veterinarian. Et cetera.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
The other thing there are in science are lingering questions: areas where we just don't know enough to say much of anything meaningful. Sexuality is one of those areas. A fairly small UCLA study suggests that 'extreme skewing' of X-chromosome inactivation in mothers may be linked to having gay sons. Mothers who had multiple gay sons were found to be more skewed towards one chromosome than were mothers with one or no gay sons. This is of course made more interesting by previous studies suggesting other active roles in determining sexuality.
Telling you who you like fucking isn't the only thing you genes do. The SRY gene, best known for its critical role in making embryos develop as males (forming testes, etc.), seems to also support neurons in the substantia nigra, which is a key area for motor control that gets destroyed in Parkinson's Disease. This finding could help explain why men are so much more prone to Parkinson's than women: the relevant areas of the brain are dependent on sex-specific hormones to survive. Females seem to have a different mechanism for supporting this system.
The Y chromosome also could come in handy for nabbing crooks: UK research suggests that, at least in the UK, Y-chromosome analysis could give good odds on a person's last name. This sounds a lot like bullshit to me, considering the different ways in which people have gotten their names (particularly in the US). Also, I still don't like the idea of the gub'men keeping my genes on file and rounding me up every time someone who may be related to me knocks over a 7-11.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Monday, February 20, 2006
Besides being anywhere that serves food from Happy Valley, another good time not to eat may be when studying or taking an exam. Research suggests that the hormone ghrelin, previously associated with hunger and metabolism, may modulate memory such that being hungry could trigger memory recall.
Seen the ads for Cortislim, or some other diet pill that claims to make you lose weight by blocking cortisol? Well, in a completely unshocking revelation, research indicates that it's not that simple. Elevated cortisol may be a result of weight gain or of what causes weight gain, but not its cause.
And in case you somehow missed it: fat kids get bullied more (but also seem to do more bullying themselves), and green tea is good for you (now it seems to improve cognitive function in the elderly).
Sunday, February 19, 2006
Friday, February 17, 2006
I also had very good attendance records at school, but when I didn't want to go to class, I didn't go to class. And if I needed an excuse, I was good enough at bullshit and forging my mom's signature to get one.
A bunch of kids in Florida, it seems, are too lazy to do any of this, and have been bribing their gym teacher to get out of class. I suppose it would have worked better if the gym teacher hadn't been a moron too (or dishonest) and forgotten not to mention the absences to the kids' parents.
The result: Florida kids are poorer, fatter, and still not any smarter.
Thursday, February 16, 2006
For my part, I went to the open house a couple weeks ago, and was totally blown away. The place is gorgeous. It would be a major tragedy if the place got gutted to make more ugly condos or another pretentious restaurant (as is likely to happen if it gets sold). So, even if you can't donate, please do yourself a favor and go see the place.
While you're taking your vitamin C, take your vitamin D/calcium supplements. They don't provide much protection against fractures, but every little bit helps. Needless to say, I would really suggest eating better foods as a better way to get nutrients, but if the pills help, why the hell not.
Speaking of pills, all you scene queens should listen up: listening to loud music all night may increase the risk of brain damage from taking Ecstasy. I'm always dubious of drug research, but this study looks valid-ish. Granted, it's in rats, and they were probably just licking each other instead of drinking and dancing and ... licking each other ... like club kids, but still. Don't be an E-tard.
But do dance! And if you're no good, you may have an even better excuse: genetics. A Hebrew University study has found two genetic variants between dancers and others. I firmly believe that anyone can learn to dance, eventually, but this could be a difference between a Fred Astaire and your average 'Dancing with the Stars' contestant.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Study participants who received the higher dose of the cannabinoid-receptor blocking drug were seen to lose more weight than those on placebo, and also had significantly lower levels of triglycerides and higher levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol. The latter effects were over and above what is expected from weight loss alone.
Unfortunately, the study had a high drop-out rate, which could skew the results, and also raises questions as to its design and, potentially, the drug's tolerability. In that rimonabant has also shown promise for smoking cessation and other addictions, we will almost certainly learn more soon.
(Insert segue here)
It's already known that carrying water in copper pots fights contamination, but common copper may also help in fighting off the flu. Research suggests that copper surfaces are highly effective at killing off the H1N1 flu strain, a close relative of the H5N1 "bird flu." So, uhm, keep some copper handy?
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
There is good news today: it seems that circumcision may make men less likely to transmit HIV to women as well as being less likely to contract it. Yes, the former does control for the latter (it's a study of HIV-negative women partnered with positive men: significantly less women whose men were cut got HIV).
UPDATE:A commenter points out that the effects of circumcision on HIV are relatively small. Yes, they are. But any reduction is a good reduction as far as I'm concerned, and in that effective condom use is ...errr... problematic in many parts of the world, every little bit helps.
Also the numbers are not the entire point: as a scientist, after you find that there is an effect like this, you have to figure out why*. And once you've done that, you figure out how you can exploit it in more dramatic terms: can you make the protective effect greater, or apply it to another situation?
*There's also the personal agenda hiding out behind the, uhm, curtain.
Monday, February 13, 2006
Saturday, February 11, 2006
Friday, February 10, 2006
This study does absolutely nothing to help clear things up. Testing an unpatched version of IE versus any version of Firefox, which is almost by definition patched, is completely useless. Anyone who is using such a 'virgin' IE release probably isn't net-savvy enough to download Firefox, or even type in the correct URL. So the comparison is utterly invalid. This study would not have been more difficult to perform in a meaningful fashion: not to have done so reveals either extreme bias without the cleverness to even vaguely mask it, a failure to grasp experimental design principles in the first place.
From the department of ...duuhhhh..., researchers at Columbia University have found that people rate songs they perceive to be popular more positively than unpopular ones. The interesting bit is that the effect is not absolute - the group that didn't see popularity ratings tended to be more positive to the same songs as the influenced group. Hmm.
UPDATE: Having read the paper, I still am unsure I buy the idea that, even if kids could be convinced to do less kissing, it would really reduce their risk of meningitis. Equally significant effects were found for having visiting friends' houses daily, and sharing a bedroom was an even stronger risk factor. So go ahead and make out!
Thursday, February 09, 2006
Somewhat similarly, it seems that a some popular non-prescription stomach drugs - H2 blockers like Pepcid, Zantac, Axid, or Tagamet - may cause a severe bowel disease when given to premature infants. Interesting.
The good news is that researchers may have found a compound, CSA-54, capable of blocking HIV infection of cells. We'll see if it goes anywhere.
Also, it seems that eating red grapefruit (one of my favorite foods) is extra good for you: coronary patients with statin-resistant hyperlipidemia who ate a red or white grapefruit a day for thirty days had significantly lowered cholesterol than those who ate none. Those who ate red grapefruit had even better results than those eating white grapefruit, particularly with respects to their triglyceride levels. So, yay grapefruit!
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Et cetera. I'd love to hear what others have to say, by my take on this study is simply that they have confused "suffer depression" with "worry about their own kids well-being."
Tomorrow's parents, however, may have one less thing to worry about: cleaning the bathroom. Researchers at the University of New South Wales are working to develop a self-cleaning nanoparticle coating that could be used indoors. How current models work is really cool: a layer containing titanium dioxide is activated by UVA from sunlight, and becomes super-oxidative, breaking down germs and organic dirt. The surface is superhydrophilic, so water just washes it all off with no droplet formation. The trick now is to get it to activate under indoor light. (I wonder why you couldn't just have a button outside the bathroom that locks the door, blasts it with UVA, hoses it down and then blows dry automatically. Maybe I watched too much Jetsons as a kid.)
Carpal tunnel syndrome is often called a scourge of the information economy. The thing is, that a Harvard Medical School study has found, contrary to expectation, that it is more likely to be caused by manufacturing jobs than by sitting at a computer. I guess I don't buy this study at all. First of all, I know more than a few people with CTS, and they all seem to have gotten it working on the computer.
Second, the study claims no CTS risk for up to seven hours a day at the computer. I don't think there's been a non-vacation week when I haven't spent more than 7 hours a day on the computer since high school. Nowadays, I work about 10-12 hours a day on the computer for my job, then I go home and read blogs, the news, and pay bills, etc. on the computer. I'm sure most of the people reading this are similar, and I fail to see how "up to seven hours a day" is meaningful to much of anyone.
UPDATE: Here is the NIH release for the low-fat diet study, which has some better details. The result is still the same: eating less saturated and trans fat is a very good idea, but you have to look at overall diet quality for real health improvements.
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
A very large Swedish twin study has found that 79% of the risk for Alzheimers seems to be genetic. They found that 45% of identical twins were concordant for the disease. Now if they can find (and repair) the genes responsible...
A group of naturalists have found an isolated area of Indonesia which is home to a spectacular array of new species, including more than 20 new species of frogs, four new species of butterfly, a new species of honeyeater bird, and others. This is really cool, and also a reminder of why we need to protect our deep forests.
Monday, February 06, 2006
Speaking of homophobic guys about whom we really wonder, since when does Eminem have such a nice ass (Page down 3x)???
Also, who wants to go see this exhibit with me?
Friday, February 03, 2006
Autotransplantation of stem cells may be an effective treatment for Lupus.
As if road raging drivers weren't bad enough, it seems that people who carry guns are more likely to have road rage. If you follow the logic, it is that people who carry guns are more likely to be emotionally unstable. Thank you, Charleton Heston.
It seems that crushed beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) leaves may help repel mosquitoes. I have no idea what beautyberry is, but yay for it.
Contrary to popular wisdom, late-night snacking does not seem to cause weight gain, in and of itself. If your late-night snack regularly include Jumbo Slice, then maybe it does.
Thursday, February 02, 2006
An MIT survey of teens finds that they are very hopeful about technology's promise for the future, but have some very funny ideas about their future careers. 17 percent said they were considering medicine, but only 9 percent were interested in science. This is something I've noticed in hearing people (including, horrifyingly, some clinicians) talk about medical careers: they forget that a career in medicine really must include being a scientist. You can't be an effective clinician if you can't keep up with new advances in treatments and evidence-based medicine. You can't do that unless you have a very firm grasp of scientific methods.
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
The opener, "Je mens," really sets the tone with its first line, "Comme je respire, je mens." Not a stunning profundity, but a great introduction to the album as the slow, lush melancholy draws you in completely. The title track bounces along as she wonders what kind of man she will marry...the sense is hopeful, but still sad. It's never said, but you get the clear impression that she just been recently burned.
In "Les patineurs," another favorite and perhaps hier to "la Venus en caotchouc," she wonders about the dreams of skaters as they trace lines on the ice. She never says out right what she really means; it's clear there is some metaphor I don't get, I'm perfectly content to float along with her childish lilt.
The only place it doesn't work for me is the last two songs, "Non ça s'peut pas" and "L'océan des possibles," a pair of duets with Bernard Lavilliers and Michel Jonasz, respectively. The former is a remake of one of Clarika's previous songs which, I think, is totally skewed by Lavilliers' presence. The original is pained, fervent, and gorgeous, this version is at best pretty, and really a bit forced. Neither singer sounds particularly involved: this is a crushingly sad song, and deserves better.
"L'océan des possibles," is again sad, warm, and pretty, but the duet sounds forced. Clarika has such an enchanting and expressive voice, I can't think why she bothers sharing the mic.
These things aside, Joker is a solid record, and it will be months before I have a real favorite track, so it earns a solid place on my playlist. The early leaders are "Joker," "L'avant dernier," and "Patricia," but only time will tell. I'm also pretty sure that at least one or two people I know would be quite fond of this album. It also has killer cover/booklet art.