"It is true, and thus the question of whether it is sad or happy has no meaning whatever."
Bernhard Schlink

Science is best when discussed: leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments!!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Grow, Cause, Cure. Big Brother is Still Watching. 

Our old friend, leptin, seems to do even more than we thought. Michigan researchers have found that it is key to stimulating Xenopus tadpoles to develop limbs and become adult frogs. "Receptors in the tadpole's waiting limbs that crank up cell division when leptin signals are received," makes it sound like leptin could have a role in cancer development too...I wonder...

Another chemical, melanin, is known to be responsible for our skin color, but it may have other uses as well. Research suggests that black Americans have better hearing than whites, and that the difference may be that their excess melanin protects blacks against age-related hearing loss. More surprisingly, the study found that, despite the rise of Walkmans and iPods and cell phones, people's hearing isn't any worse than it was 35 years ago. (So there, mom!)

Huntington's and Parkinson's are two devastating neurodegenerative diseases, with little hope so far for treatment or prevention. Parkinson's is the bigger mystery, but a Mayo clinic study suggesting that pesticide exposure increases the risk of Parkinson's in men (but not women) may be a very helpful step. Knowing a causative factor allows us not only to directly address it (go organic!), but also guides future research directions. Huntington's is a genetic disease, but treatment remains elusive. In a major breakthrough, researchers claim to have cured a mouse model of the disease. This is really cool!

And, in case you thought government invasions of your privacy were limited to, you know, when you were in public, think again. The LAPD has started using a small surveillance drone. Police claim that it will only be used to track crooks and scout for missing persons, etc., but that doesn't change the fact that it will, in the process, record many people's private activities, in their yards and perhaps in their homes as well.

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