"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, December 11, 2006

More Birth and Death 

The rise of large animal life has long baffled biologists; the so-called "Darwin's Dilemma" fuels not only scientific inquiry and curiosity, but also gets used by crazies as 'evidence' that evolution isn't real. The 'Dilemma' is this - that for billions of years, life on Earth was pretty simple (well, small anyways), but then suddenly all kinds of large animals started appearing, and it's unclear why.

Queen's College researchers looked at evidence of the atmospheric composition in past eras, and found that the sudden development of large animals happened as atmospheric oxygen levels were dramatically increasing. Oxygen is, of course, critical to sustaining life as we know it on Earth, and large quantities of it are necessary to sustain large animals: before there was much oxygen around, big animals wouldn't have survived, but once there was enough to support them, one can speculate that larger size began to hold many advantages.

In terms of more recent beginnings of life, the evidence strongly indicates that breastfeeding babies is the best thing to do for them. Despite this, about 60% of American women don't breastfeed even for the first six months of life, which is the base recommendation for health, and researchers wonder why. An Australian study found that women who take an epidural pain killer during labor are less likely to breastfeed their babies.

It's not clear whether the drug itself is responsible for the difference, or if it's just that women who go without are more likely to stick it out in terms of breastfeeding. My guess is that it's a bit of column A and a lot of column B, but then, I'm a cynic.

On the other end of gestation, it appears that anti-impotence drugs, which increase NO transmission, may actually help the body fight cancer. That's right: Viagra for cancer! Researchers found that the increased NO levels interfere with immune down-regulating myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs), allowing the system to detect and kill cancers more effectively. Awesome!

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