"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!!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Genes in the News 

A few interesting bits today...

Dutch researchers claim to have found a genetic site for age-related hearing loss. It seems that SNPs in the gene KCNQ4, which has been previously implicated in childhood hearing loss, predispose adults to progressive hearing loss in old age. Aside from the obvious potential for treating and preventing that syndrome itself, the research could lead to further developments in hearing therapies in general.

When procaspase-3 is activated, it leads to programmed cell death. Cancer cells are rich in procaspase-3, but do not allow it to turn on, leading to their pathologic growth. A new drug, called PAC-1, seems to activate procaspase-3 such that tumor cells selectively die, leaving healthy cells undamaged. As wonderful as this sounds, I have a hard time imagining how there can really be that few side effects. But then again, you never know!

Speaking of killing things, the FDA has approved a six-bacteriophage cocktail that is to be sprayed on cold cuts, intending to kill off Listeria and other harmful food pathogens. While this sounds like a good idea, I am again worried about side-effects. Less for the human consumers (bacteriophages are, by definition, no direct threat to humans), than for our beneficial gut bacteria, and for the prospect of resistant harmful bacteria on the horizon. Hmm.

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