There will be no other issue of consequence facing the human species in 100 years. Photo courtesy of AFP.
Slower Aging On The Horizon
Oct 19, 2006 - New studies on the aging process may lead to preventions that could improve quality of life and reduce healthcare costs for those over 65, researchers say. In the last century the average lifespan has increased by about 30 years. Most people spend the last years of their lives in a fragile state, Anna McCormick, director of the biology of aging program at the National Institute on Aging, said at a recent conference on Capitol Hill. "We're trying to stretch the mid-life, not trying to add 15 years of very frail life at the end," McCormick said. Representatives from several research institutions including the Kronos Longevity Research Institute discussed the roles some of their ongoing studies are playing in understanding aging. Current studies include the Longevity Assurance Gene initiative, which has been working since 1993 to find and identify the specific genes and molecular processes that are involved with aging. McCormick's research involving a species of worms has shown an insulin-signaling gene is connected to aging.
Read the full story, click Terra Daily

The physics that describes these splashing jets of water has been used to model invasive cancers.(Courtesy Adam Hart-Davis/DHD Multimedia Gallery.)

Splashing out against tumours

Oct 18, 2006 - Similarities between tumour growth and the physics of splashing water drops have been used by researchers in the US and Italy to predict how cancer invades healthy tissue. This has led them to propose clinical management strategies for the treatment of invasive tumours (arXiv.org physics/0610040). Some water drops splash into multiple jets after striking a solid surface while others remain intact – and physicists have been successful at predicting this behaviour using surprisingly simple equations. These equations have been adapted by Thomas Deisboeck of the Harvard-MIT Center for Biomedical Imaging in the US and colleagues at Italy’s University of Turin, who observed that this splash/no splash behaviour is exhibited by some cancers. Tumours either send out multiple (and often deadly) invasive tentacles into surrounding healthy tissue, or they do not. The researchers defined a tumour “invasion parameter” by modifying the fluid-dynamical equations that predict which drops will splash and how many jets will result. 
Read the full story, click Physics Web
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A grid of 9 wells corresponds to the squares on a tic-tac-toe grid (Image: Joanne Macdonald)

'DNA computer' is unbeatable at tic-tac-toe 

Oct 17, 2006 - A computer that uses strands of DNA to perform calculations has mastered the game tic-tac-toe. MAYA-II, developed by researchers at Columbia University and the University of New Mexico in the US, uses a system of DNA logic gates to calculate its moves. A DNA logic gate consists of a strand of DNA that binds to another specific input sequence. This binding causes a region of the strand to work as an enzyme, modifying yet another short DNA sequence into an output string. Scientists have already developed DNA computers capable of various similar simple calculations. But the researchers behind MAYA-II say their design should prove particularly useful for exploring ways to identify the genetic markers associated with certain diseases. A human plays MAYA-II by adding a DNA sequence that represents their chosen move at a particular point in the game. This is added to all 8 wells that correspond to the outer squares on a tic-tac-toe grid. One limitation of the system is that the human player must always go second, after the centre square has been filled by the machine.
Read the full story, click  New Scientist

The malignant melanoma mole or lesion is irregularly coloredranging from light brown to dark brown, black, red, blue or white

Listening to the sound of skin cancer

Oct 16, 2006 - Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia can now detect the spread of skin cancer cells through the blood by literally listening to their sound. The unprecedented, minimally invasive technique causes melanoma cells to emit noise, and could let oncologists spot early signs of metastases -- as few as 10 cancer cells in a blood sample -- before they even settle in other organs. The team's method, called photoacoustic detection, combines laser techniques from optics and ultrasound techniques from acoustics, using a laser to make cells vibrate and then picking up the characteristic sound of melanoma cells. In a clinical test, doctors would take a patient's blood sample and separate the red blood cells and the plasma. In a healthy person, the remaining cells would be white blood cells, but in a melanoma patient the sample may contain cancer cells. To find out, doctors would put the sample in saline solution and expose it to rapid-fire sequences of brief but intense blue-laser pulses, each lasting just five billionths of a second.
Read the full story, click  PhysOrg

Micropump developed by MIT
Portable 'lab on a chip' could speed blood test
Oct 16, 2006 - Testing soldiers to see if they have been exposed to biological or chemical weapons could soon be much faster and easier, thanks to MIT researchers who are helping to develop a tiny diagnostic device that could be carried into battle. By tweaking the design of a tiny pump, researchers affiliated with MIT's Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies have taken a major step towards making an existing miniature "lab on a chip" fully portable, so the tiny device can perform hundreds of chemical experiments in any setting. "In the same way that miniaturization led to a revolution in computing, the idea is that miniature laboratories of fluid being pumped from one channel to another, with reactions going on here and there, can revolutionize biology and chemistry," says Martin Bazant, associate professor of applied mathematics and leader of the research team.
Read the full story, click  Filtered Science News

"The differences between chimps and humans are not in our proteins, but in how we use them," says researcher Katherine Pollard. Photo courtesy of Katherine Pollard.
Comparing Chimp And Human DNA
Oct 16, 2006 - Most of the big differences between human and chimpanzee DNA lie in regions that do not code for genes, according to a new study. Instead, they may contain DNA sequences that control how gene-coding regions are activated and read. "The differences between chimps and humans are not in our proteins, but in how we use them," said Katherine Pollard, assistant professor at the UC Davis Genome Center and the Department of Statistics. Pollard and colleagues at UC Santa Cruz led by David Haussler looked for stretches of DNA that were highly conserved between chimpanzees, mice and rats. Then they compared those sequences to the human genome sequence, to find pieces of DNA that had undergone the most rapid change since the ancestors of chimps and humans diverged about five million years ago. They found 202 "highly accelerated regions" or HARs, which showed a high rate of evolution between humans and chimps. Only three of those regions contain genes that are likely to encode proteins. The most dramatically accelerated region, HAR1, appears to make a piece of RNA that may have a function in brain development.
Read the full story, click  Terra Daily


THE OIL WITH MORE. New studies indicate that trace ingredients in olive oils may fight major chronic diseases.

Olive Oil's Newfound Benefits
Oct 14, 2006 - Olive oil is a cornerstone of Mediterranean diets, which are renowned for being good for the heart. Many nutritionists have attributed that benefit to the oil's high proportion of monounsaturated fatty acids. However, a European study suggests that olive oil's fatty acid makeup is only part of the story. The study indicates that lightly processed olive oils—the virgin types common in Mediterranean diets—offer additional ingredients with a cardiovascular advantage: abundant antioxidants known as polyphenols. When healthy men incorporated a virgin olive oil especially rich in these polyphenols into their diets, characteristics of their blood changed in many beneficial ways. Before eating polyphenol-rich oil, the men had consumed a diet low or devoid of the olive antioxidants. María-Isabel Covas of the Municipal Institute for Medical Research in Barcelona and her colleagues report their findings in the Sept. 5 Annals of Internal Medicine.
Read the full story, click Science News


VICTORY. Cyclist and testicular cancer survivor Lance Armstrong gets a medical checkup during the 2004 Tour de France. Applying heat might make other cancers as easy to eliminate as testicular cancer, which is foiled by body temperature and so seldom kills.
© Damien Meyer/DPA Pool/EPA/Corbis

Warming Up to Hyperthermia

Oct 14, 2006 - In March 1999, Jason Foster was unpleasantly surprised by a BB-size lump that he found in one of his testicles. He ignored it for a week, hoping that it would go away. But instead, the lump swelled to the size of a pea. "I had alarm bells going off in my brain," recalls Foster. A trip to the urologist confirmed his fears—Foster had testicular cancer. The news set him on a grueling, 4-month path of surgery and multiple chemotherapy drugs. Foster lost his hair, spent hours throwing up, and was exhausted. To stay upbeat, he tried to keep the disease in perspective. "I knew I'd have a positive outcome on the other side," says the 36-year-old media-relations director at San Diego State University. "I still think of myself as having had minor league cancer. Those with breast, lung, and other cancers, they go through treatment, and there's no guarantee that they'll make it." Foster's take is correct: Among cancers, testicular cancer is unusually curable. Even when the cancer has migrated elsewhere in the body by the time of diagnosis, about 72 percent of men are still alive 5 years later. In contrast, the 5-year survival rate for breast cancer is about 26 percent after it spreads. Researchers have puzzled for years over what they call the "Lance Armstrong effect," named after the world's most famous bicycle racer and testicular cancer survivor. Some scientists propose that a single factor—heat—could be responsible for this cancer's relatively easy cure.
Read the full story, click Science News

We're one step closer to corpsicles, with the ability to prevent ice damage to cryonically frozen cells

Too Cool For The 21st Century

Oct 13, 2006 - Medical science has come a long way. It can prevent or thwart many diseases, reattach limbs, transplant vital organs, and, for better or worse, keep patients alive long after their use-by date. But we're still a long way from attaining what is arguably the holy grail of medicine: extending the human lifespan beyond its natural limit. While a lot of knowledgeable people have predicted how long we could live for; nobody is really sure. But this hasn't stopped a number of people opting into a process that they hope will give them access to future medical assistance far beyond our current capabilities: cryonics. Cryonics - often erroneously referred to as cryogenics - is what you might better remember as a convenient sci-fi plot device; think suspended animation or stasis, though neither is exactly comparable. But rather than journeying to a distant planet, cryonic aficionados will stay on Earth in the hope that they can be revived in the future and cured of whatever ails them in this life. Or even better, that future medical science might have found a way to give them immortality.
Read the full story, click Science a GoGo

A bac­te­ri­o­cyte

Tiny genome may be melting away, study suggests

Oct 12, 2006 -Biologists have long won­dered what is the small­est num­ber of genes re­quired for an or­gan­ism to sur­vive. Iden­ti­fy­ing this “min­i­mal ge­nome,” some re­search­ers think, could re­veal the most bas­ic re­quire­ments of life, and thus pro­vide a more fun­da­men­tal un­der­stand­ing of it. Now, sci­en­t­ists say they’ve found the ti­ni­est known ge­nome of a liv­ing thing, along with two huge sur­pri­ses. First, the ge­nome is just one third the size of the “smal­lest” known be­fore. But pos­si­bly strang­er, they claim, it ap­pears too pu­ny to al­low its own­er, a bac­te­ri­um, to live on as a spe­cies much long­er.  Like a cash-strapped com­pa­ny that has to merge with a rich­er firm to keep go­ing, they say, the mi­crobe and its genes seem to be lit­er­al­ly fus­ing in­to a larg­er crea­ture, be­com­ing cogs in its cel­lu­lar ma­chi­n­er­y. “The race to find the small­est mi­cro­bi­al ge­nome has tak­en an amaz­ing turn,” wrote Siv An­ders­sen of Upp­sa­la Uni­ver­si­ty, Swe­den, in a com­men­tary in the Oct. 13 is­sue of the re­search jour­nal Sci­ence. 
Read the full story, click World Science

While the practical devices could be years from fruition, Drachman told UPI that the science has surpassed fiction.

Sci-Fi 'Brain' Restores Motion

Oct 11, 2006 - Researchers have pulled a page out of science fiction books, creating brain interfaces that have the potential to give sight to the blind, voice to the speechless and motion to the paralyzed. In a presentation at Wednesday's closing session of the 131st annual meeting of the American Neurological Association in Chicago, John Donoghue, director of the Brain Science Department at Brown University, Providence, R.I., said four people have been surgically implanted with electrodes in the brain. "We are on a path that will allow patients to participate in their own rehabilitation and perhaps learn to operate an exo-skeleton that is neurally controlled," said Donoghue, founder of Cyperkinetics Inc., developers of the BrainGate device he demonstrated Wednesday. Presently, the patients -- all of whom have no mobility in their arms or legs -- to perform a variety of tasks.  One man was able to use his brain interface to command a prosthetic arm to pick up a piece of candy and hand it to a researcher. A woman suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, sometimes called Lou Gehrig's disease, and unable to speak, use any of her limbs or even move her head, employed the a brain-computer interface to write sentences which were then spoken by the computer.
Read the full story, click  Space Daily

The doctors with joysticks (Eric Leuthardt, seated, and Mathew Smyth, standing) engage in a game of Space Invaders while biomedical engineer Daniel Moran looks on behind the computer screen. This team, with Dr. John Zempel  enabled a 14-year-old to play a two-dimensional video game using signals from his brain. Photo by David Kilper / WUSTL

Teenager Moves Video Icons Just By Imaginatio

Oct 11, 2006 -Teenage boys and computer games go hand-in-hand. Now, a St. Louis-area teenage boy and a computer game have gone hands-off, thanks to a unique experiment conducted by a team of neurosurgeons, neurologists, and engineers at Washington University in St. Louis. The boy, a 14-year-old who suffers from epilepsy, is the first teenager to play a two-dimensional video game, Space Invaders, using only the signals from his brain to make movements. Getting subjects to move objects using only their brains has implications toward someday building biomedical devices that can control artificial limbs, for instance, enabling the disabled to move a prosthetic arm or leg by thinking about it. Many gamers think fondly of Atari's Space Invaders, one of the most popular breakthrough video games of the late '70s. The player controls the motions of a movable laser cannon that moves back and forth across the bottom of the video screen. Row upon row of video aliens march back and forth across the screen, slowly coming down from the top to the bottom of the screen. The objective is to prevent any one of the aliens from landing on the bottom of the screen, which ends the game. The player has an unlimited ammunition supply.
Read the full story, click  Space Mart

A protein solution rapidly stops bleeding in rodents. An effective blood stopper might allow for more leisurely surgeries.

Protein Gel Stops Bleeding in Unknown Way

Oct 10, 2006 - A biodegradable protein solution stanches bleeding in mere seconds when applied to open wounds in rodents, according to a new study. How the material works in detail is unclear, but it appears nontoxic and long lasting in animals, suggesting that it may either have advantages over existing bleeding stoppers or be able to complement them, researchers report. A number of different products are in use or are being developed to control bleeding on the battlefield and in routine surgery. All of them have drawbacks, including the potential for excessive heat, blood clots and allergic reactions. The new liquid does not seem to carry these risks, says neuroscientist Rutledge Ellis-Behnke of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who developed the material with his colleagues. Ellis-Behnke and his colleagues had sought out short proteins, or peptides, suitable for patching severed nerves or wounds in the brain. In March they reported that a liquid made from one such peptide could repair severed optic nerves in hamsters by forming a gel in which stem cells could accumulate and grow.
Read the full story, click  Scientific American

Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in the United States and many European countries. The neovascular "wet" form of the disease is responsible for most (90%) of the severe loss of vision.
Improving the View: Treatment reverses macular degeneration
Oct 07, 2006 - People with a relentless eye disease now have a better-than-average prospect of recovering some vision, thanks to a new drug that takes a lesson from an anticancer strategy, two studies show. Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in the elderly. In the less common, wet form of the disease, rogue blood vessels escape normal growth control and leak fluid into the macula, the area at the center of the retina that enables a person to see fine detail. As a result of fluid disrupting their sight, people with the condition often see straight lines as crooked. This form of macular degeneration can lead to legal blindness within months. Cancer researchers have developed a drug to stop the similarly aberrant blood vessel growth that's often present in tumors. The new eye studies showcase a drug called ranibizumab, which is a fragment of the cancer drug. Both drugs inhibit a protein essential to blood vessel growth, says David M. Brown, a retina surgeon at Methodist Hospital in Houston who worked on both trials. Preliminary studies of ranibizumab convinced the Food and Drug Administration in June to approve the drug to treat wet macular degeneration. The two new large trials, reported in the Oct. 5 New England Journal of Medicine, establish that ranibizumab reverses the disease in many patients.
Read the full story, click  Science News


Mother's milk supplies near-ideal nutrition to an infant. A new study that looked at some 18,000 babies also finds that breastfeeding confers motor-coordination benefits on them in their first year of life.

Babies Motor Better with Breast Milk
Oct 07, 2006 - Physicians have been advocating for years that breast milk is the best food for infants. Not only does it have the nutrition that babies need, but it also provides some antibodies and growth factors that speed maturation of the infant gut, thereby fending off disease. Now, a team of scientists in Britain offers strong evidence of another benefit. Mother's milk boosts early neurological development. Social epidemiologist Yvonne J. Kelly of University College London and her colleagues were aware of studies that had suggested neurological benefits from breastfeeding. However, notes Kelly, those earlier analyses tended to be small and done in special populations—such as preemies. They also failed to rule out many factors that might account for differences in a child's developmental skills. Among such possible confounders: race, parent's education, family income, parenting attitudes, depression in the mother, characteristics of childcare, or the baby's overall health. Kelly and her coauthors had access to information on such features for the families of 18,000 infants from throughout the United Kingdom.
Read the full story, click Science News

The Hendra virus under the microscope.

Scientists Develop Vaccine Against Deadly Viruse

Oct 06, 2006 - Scientists from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) here, in collaboration with counterparts from the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) in Geelong, have developed a vaccine to fight two deadly animal viruses that can infect and kill humans and are considered to be potential biological terror agents. Dr. Christopher C. Broder, professor in the USU Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and Dr. Katharine Bossart, a former graduate student in that department and now postdoctoral fellow at the AAHL, along with their Australian colleagues, explained their vaccine discovery in the Sept. 27th online edition of the Journal of Virology, ahead of print. Nipah virus and Hendra virus are recently emerged and closely related viral pathogens and both agents are considered to be potential biological terror agents.
Read the full story, click Terra Daily

How Bacteria Grip Tight To Surfaces Even Under High Fluid Flow
Oct 02, 2006 - Bacterial adhesive bonds can get stronger under force. Unexpectedly the FimH-sugar combination makes a "catch bond" that acts like a finger trap and actually gets stronger as drag force is exerted on a bacterium, as opposed to getting weaker as for normal bonds. Rather than being swept away by fluids moving through the human body, the bacterium grips even more tightly, helping it stick around and form an infection. The catch bonds release their grip when there is little or no force on the bacteria. In new research, the scientists have learned that the mechanical properties of the fimbriae also play a key role maintaining E. coli attached to mucousal surfaces. The tiny protrusions are made up of interlocking protein segments in a tightly coiled helix shape, like a seven-nanometers-wide Slinky toy.
Read the full story, click Science Daily

3-D Brain Atlas To Help Unlock Mysteries Of Neurological Disorders
Oct 01, 2006 - The completion of the Allen Institute for Brain Science's inaugural project signals a remarkable leap forward in one of the last frontiers of medical science -- the brain. The Institute today announced the completion of the groundbreaking Allen Brain Atlas, a Web- based, three-dimensional map of gene expression in the mouse brain. Detailing more than 21,000 genes at the cellular level, the Atlas provides scientists with a level of data previously not available. Since humans share more than 90 percent of their genes with mice, the Atlas offers profound opportunity to further understanding of human disorders and diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, epilepsy, schizophrenia, autism and addiction. About 26 percent of American adults -- close to 58 million people -- suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. 
Read the full story, click Science Daily

In Plasmodium falciparum the young trophozoites seen above will develop into schizonts, lysing the RBCs, and initiating another cycle of infection about every 48 hours.

Swedish researchers make headway on new malaria treatment

Sep 29, 2006 - A new treatment against the most severe form of malaria has proven successful on rats and monkeys, animals whose "mechanisms are similar" to humans, a team of Swedish researchers said on Friday. "There's a lot of hope. I am very optimistic because we know that the mechanisms we are looking at in the two models are very similar to the mechanism that we have in humans," Anna Vogt, a member of the research team at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, told AFP. The treatment concerns the most acute form of malaria, caused by the parasite Plasmodium falciparium which kills two million people each year, according to a statement from the institute. The substance developed by the team both prevents and helps cure blood cells infected with the parasite. "The parasite ... infects the red blood cells, which then accumulate in large amounts, blocking the flow of blood in the capillaries of the brain and other organs," the researchers said.
Read the full story, click  PhysOrg

Molecular scissors help cancer cells break out and spread

Sep 29, 2006 - A University of Michigan research team has identified how cancer cells employ a sort of molecular scissors to cut their way out of tumors and begin spreading throughout the body. This spread of cancer cells, called metastasis, marks a turning point in the progression of the disease, after which treatment and recovery become more difficult. "We asked how cancer cells cut their way through tissues," said Stephen Weiss, Life Sciences Institute research professor and division chief, molecular medicine and genetics in the U-M Medical School. "They use what we call proteases, a type of molecular scissors. However, there are so many different types of these scissors encoded by the human genome, we wanted to focus our attention on finding the subset used by cancers."
Read the full story, click  PhysOrg

Doctors remove tumour in first zero-g surgery

Sep 27, 2006 - French doctors carried out the world's first ever operation on a human in zero gravity on Wednesday, using a specially adapted aircraft to simulate conditions in space. During a 3-hour flight from Bordeaux in southwest France, the team of surgeons and anaesthetists successfully removed a benign tumour from the forearm of a 46-year-old volunteer. The experiment was part of a programme backed by the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop techniques for performing robotic surgery aboard the International Space Station or at a future Moon base. "We weren't trying to perform technical feats but to carry out a feasibility test," said team leader Dominique Martin after the flight. "Now we know that a human being can be operated on in space without too many difficulties."
Read the full story, click  New Scientist

Sunburns result when the amount of exposure to the sun exceeds the ability of the body's protective pigment
UV Blocker: Lotion yields protective tan in fair-skinned mice
Sep 23, 2006 - A lotion that stimulates production of the skin pigment melanin induces a deep tan in specially bred laboratory mice. Those mice have skin similar to that of red-headed, fair-skinned people, who are notoriously poor tanners. The animals developed their tans without being exposed to the sun and its ultraviolet (UV) rays. Further tests showed that the additional melanin protected the mice against UV-induced DNA damage, sunburn, and skin cancer. The active ingredient in the lotion is forskolin, an Asian plant extract that has been used to treat health problems. But scientific studies of the compound in the past few decades have shown no clear benefit, says study coauthor David E. Fisher, an oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Children's Hospital in Boston. Nevertheless, past tests had shown that forskolin can rev up production of cyclic AMP, a molecule that's instrumental in producing melanin.
Read the full story, click  Science News

Physics is behind the subcellular patterns that play an important role in organism development
Stresses determine the shape of life
Sep 22, 2006 - Patterns are everywhere in nature, from the leopard's spots to the nautilus's spiral shell, but scientists struggle to understand the mechanisms that produce them. Researchers in the US now believe that physics of microtubules is an important piece in the puzzle (Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. 103 10654). Jim Valles and Jay Tang at Brown University, have worked out that physics is behind the patterns formed by microtubules – proteins that play a fundamental role in cell division and organism development. "What's exciting is that this finding may provide insight into how the shapes that make up the human body are created," said Valles. Microtubules are shaped like long, thin straws and are found in all cells - whether that's the humble amoeba or a human brain cell. They perform many functions, including forming the structure that pulls the chromosomes apart during cell division and serving as the "train tracks" to transport proteins around cells.
Read the full story, click Physics Web

Etkin, Hirsch, and colleagues found that the emotional stimuli activated the amygdala as expected.

How The Brain Keeps Emotions At Bay

Sep 21, 2006 - Daily life requires that people cope with distracting emotions--from the basketball player who must make a crucial shot amidst a screaming crowd, to a salesman under pressure delivering an important pitch to a client. Researchers have now discovered that the brain is able to prevent emotions from interfering with mental functioning by having a specific "executive processing" area of the cortex inhibit activity of the emotion-processing region. The findings also offer insight into how sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression are unable to control emotional intrusion into their thoughts, said the researchers, Amit Etkin, Joy Hirsch, and colleagues, who reported the discovery. They published their findings in the September 21, 2006, issue of the journal Neuron, published by Cell Press.
Read the full story, click Terra Daily

Cluster headaches cause excruciating pain around the
eyes.Gary Carlson 


Dropping acid may help headaches - Cluster headache sufferers say LSD can abort attacks
Sep 13, 2006 - We need to study the effect of powerful hallucinogens such as LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) and psilocybin, the active ingredient in 'magic' mushrooms, on debilitating cluster headaches, researchers say. Their study, which points towards the effectiveness of these drugs, is published in the journal Neurology. It is the first formal look at reports of LSD's therapeutic benefits in nearly 40 years, says Andrew Sewell of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Center at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. LSD was used extensively in psychiatric research in the 1960s, but as mainstream attitudes swung against 'acid', prohibitive measures made researching the beneficial effects of hallucinogens extremely difficult. Cluster headaches are characterized by excruciating pain that lasts from fifteen minutes to up to three hours if left untreated. In the chronic form, attacks can happen up to eight times a day, with no period of remission lasting longer than a month.
Read the full story, click Nature

A tea plant
Green tea may save lives, researchers find
Sep 12, 2006 - Adults in Ja­pan who drank more green tea had a low­er risk of death from all causes and from heart dis­ease specif­i­cally, though not from can­cer, a study has found. Tea is the world?s most con­sumed bev­er­age af­ter wa­ter, so even small health ef­fects could have ma­jor re­per­cus­sions for pub­lic health, ac­cord­ing to re­search­ers. Com­pounds in green tea called po­ly­phe­nols have been much stud­ied for pos­si­ble heart dis­ease- and can­cer-pre­ventive ef­fects. But al­though stud­ies with an­i­mals and cul­tured cells have shown pro­m­ise, the ef­fects in hu­mans re­main un­clear, said the sci­en­t­ists, Shi­ni­chi Ku­ri­ya­ma of the To­ho­ku Uni­ver­si­ty School of Pub­lic Po­l­i­cy in Sen­dai, Ja­pan, and col­leagues.
Read the full story, click World Science

Theodosius Dobzhansky, a well-known evolutionary geneticist, studied fruit flies in the infant days of genetic research in 1930.
Genetic Surprise Confirms Neglected 70-Year-Old Evolutionary Theory
Sep 08, 2006 - Biologists at the University of Rochester have discovered that an old and relatively unpopular theory about how a single species can split in two turns out to be accurate after all, and acting in nature. The finding, reported in today's issue of Science, reveals that scientists must reassess the processes involved in the origin of species. The beginnings of speciation, suggests the paper, can be triggered by genes that change their locations in a genome. "In the 1930s there was speculation that parts of chromosomes that switch from one location to another might cause a species to split into two different species," says John Paul Masly, lead author of the paper and doctoral student at the University of Rochester. "Showing that it was more than an academic idea was difficult, and required a bit of luck.
Read the full story, click Terra Daily

The healthy brain (l) showed the same activity as the patient's (r)
"Vegetative" patient can think, study suggests
Sep 07, 2006 - A patient in a vegetative state can communicate just through using her thoughts, according to research. A UK/Belgium team studied a 23-year-old woman who had suffered a severe brain injury in a road accident, which left her apparently unable to communicate. By scanning her brain, they discovered she could understand spoken commands and even imagine playing tennis. They said their findings, published in Science, were "startling", but cautioned this could be a one-off case. Five months after her accident, which happened in July 2005, the researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) to record the woman's brain activity. She was diagnosed as being in a vegetative state, which meant even when she was awake, she was unresponsive.
Read the full story, click  BBC

Credit: iStock
Probing Question: Can you train yourself to need less sleep?
Sep 07, 2006 - Not long ago I took a fishing trip with two friends. We woke before dawn after only four hours of sleep and headed out on the road. Fatigue set in quickly: As heads bobbed and eyelids eased shut, we drifted onto the shoulder of the highway before jerking awake and coming safely to a stop. As the 18-wheelers barreled past us in the early morning light I couldn't help but wonder: Do truck drivers, and others in sleep-deprived occupations, experience similar fatigue? Or do their bodies learn to adapt to less sleep? Cynthia LaJambe, a chronobiologist at the Pennsylvania Transportation Institute, has conducted sleep research at Penn State and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, and has seen the effects of sleep deprivation -- including fatigue, sadness, stress, anger and diminished performance -- first-hand.
Read the full story, click  PhysOrg

GlycoFi fermentation engineer Thomas Potgieter operates a filtration unit used to purify therapeutic proteins from glycoengineered yeast. Image: COURTESY OF GLYCOFI
Have Some Sugar with Your Protein
Sep 07, 2006 - A tiny company engineers yeast to make better human therapeutics, a technique that could transform biotech manufacturing.  Investigators from GlycoFi and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center--the company is an offshoot of research at the college--reported on a technique capable of genetically engineering the yeast Pichia Pastoris to stud a broad range of therapeutic proteins with the same sugars found in human proteins. Attaching sugars is required to ensure that the protein folds into the proper shape and that it is thermodynamically stable. Moreover, if a protein carries the wrong sugars--from yeast, for instance--the human immune system goes on the offensive. Yeast has routinely been used for decades to make insulin and other proteins that do not undergo glycosylation, the process of coupling sugars to the surface of the protein. But it has not been deployed for glycosylated proteins like erythropoietin, the antianemia compound (also frequently used for sports doping) that the researchers report on in the Science paper.
Read the full story, click Scientific American

The temporal pole is found in a region of the brain near the ears
Strange ducks shape brain science
Sep 06, 2006 - Although many people might not draw a duck very well, few would include four legs and eyebrows in their picture. But those who suffer from a common type of dementia confuse concepts such as "bird" and "dog", and will produce the strangest drawings. The area of the brain that stores meaning is damaged in these people. Researchers from the University of Manchester may have finally solved a 150-year-old debate by pinpointing where that area actually is. They think that a brain sector just underneath the ears, called the temporal pole, is responsible. Professor Matthew Lambon Ralph, of Manchester University said: "At the heart of communication is me getting a meaning from me to you. "If you don't understand that meaning, then the middle part of all communication falls away."  
Read the full story, click BBC

Engineered Immune Cells Beat Back Cancer
Aug 31, 2006 - Cancer results from cells gone wild. Proliferating out of control, the cells spawn malignant growths that can travel throughout the human body, spreading the disease. Some patients' immune systems are able to recognize such tumors and begin to attack them, and research has shown that boosting the patients' levels of such tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes can help defeat deadly cancer. Now scientists have transformed immune cells into cancer fighters outside the body--and prompted complete remission in two subjects when those cells were reintroduced. Immune cells such as lymphocytes, also known as T cells and pictured in blue above, recognize health threats via special receptors on the cell surface. Steven Rosenberg of the National Cancer Institute and his colleagues first cloned the genes governing the cancer-recognizing receptor in immune cells from a patient who had successfully beaten back melanoma. 
Read the full story, click Scientific American

Epilepsy is a neurological condition that makes people susceptible to seizures

Epilepsy breakthrough on horizon
Aug 31, 2006 - Researchers at MIT are developing a device that could detect and prevent epileptic seizures before they become debilitating. Epilepsy affects about 50 million people worldwide, and while anticonvulsant medications can reduce the frequency of seizures, the drugs are ineffective for as many as one in three patients. The new treatment builds on an existing treatment for epilepsy, the Cyberonics Inc. vagus nerve stimulator (VNS), which is often used in patients who do not respond to drugs. A defibrillator typically implanted under the patient's collar bone stimulates the left vagus nerve about every five minutes, which has been shown to help reduce the frequency and severity of seizures in many patients. The MIT researchers and colleagues at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) seek to improve the treatment by combining it with a detector that measures brain activity to predict when a seizure is about to occur. The new device would sense the oncoming seizure and then activate the VNS, in principle halting the seizure before it becomes manifest.
For more information, click PhysOrg

Dr. David Mangelsdorf, chairman of pharmacology.
First Encyclopedia Of Nuclear Receptors
Aug 30, 2006 - Organisms thrive on sex and food, and so do their cells' receptors. In creating the first "encyclopedia" of an entire superfamily of nuclear receptors - proteins that turn genes on and off throughout the body - UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers found that certain receptors form networks and interact to regulate disease states and physiology in two main areas, reproduction and nutrient metabolism. Receptor networks also have key roles in metabolism's biological clock, researchers found. The findings, published today in two studies in the journal Cell, chart the anatomy and timing of nuclear receptor expression throughout the body in hopes that researchers can uncover global receptor functions to improve prediction, diagnosis and treatment of diseases, from hypertension to diabetes.
For more information, click Terra Daily

Blood plasma transfusions could be an effective form of second-line defense
Is The Cure In The Blood For Bird Flu
Aug 30, 2006 - The secret to curing those infected with avian influenza may lie in the blood of those who have survived the disease, new research shows. According to a study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, antibodies from those who have survived bird flu could be used in blood plasma transfusions to help those trying to fight the disease. Blood plasma transfusions were used by doctors during the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic, and it is thought that the same technique could be used to supplement the use of vaccines or Tamiflu and other anti-virals in the event of an avian-influenza pandemic. U.S. military and biotech researchers examined papers on blood plasma transfusions written between 1918 and 1925 and found that influenza-influenced pneumonia sufferers who were given blood plasma transfusions were 21 percent more likely to survive than those who were not.
For more information, click Terra Daily

"Understanding how the brain learns, stores, recognizes and recalls visual information will help us overcome impairments to these functions caused from brain damage and diseases..." - David Freedman.
Human Brain Filing System Uncovered
Aug 29, 2006 - Socks in the sock drawer, shirts in the shirt drawer, the time-honored lessons of helping organize one's clothes learned in youth. But what parts of the brain are used to encode such categories as socks, shirts, or any other item, and how does such learning take place? New research from Harvard Medical School (HMS) investigators has identified an area of the brain where such memories are found. They report in the advanced online Nature that they have identified neurons that assist in categorizing visual stimuli. They found that the activity of neurons in a part of the brain called the parietal cortex encode the category, or meaning, of familiar visual images and that brain activity patterns changed dramatically as a result of learning. Their results suggest that categories are encoded by the activity of individual neurons (brain cells) and that the parietal cortex is a part of the brain circuitry that learns and recognizes the meaning of the things that we see.
For more information, click Terra Daily

Risky Legacy: African DNA linked to prostate cancer
Aug 26, 2006 - The high rate of prostate cancer among African American men may result in large part from a newly identified stretch of DNA passed down from their African ancestors. A black man's odds of developing prostate cancer by age 55 are more than twice those of a white man. The racial discrepancy is less pronounced when the disease appears later. Researchers have suspected for years that genetic factors account for part of the racial difference in risk. Most African Americans have both African and European forebears, so their chromosomes are mosaics of genes from the two continents. Previously identified genetic markers indicate that in U.S. blacks, an average of about 80 percent of the DNA is African in origin.
For more information, click Science News

A 3D structure of RNA
Is Functional RNA The Missing Link
Aug 22, 2006 - Scientists have discovered a gene that has undergone accelerated evolutionary change in humans and is active during a critical stage in brain development. Although researchers have yet to determine the precise function of the gene, the evidence suggests that it may play a role in the development of the cerebral cortex and may even help explain the dramatic expansion of this part of the brain during human evolution. "At this point, we can only speculate about this gene's role in the evolution of the human brain, but it's exciting to find a new gene involved in brain development, and it's especially exciting for us because it validates our approach of letting evolution guide us and tell us what are the important parts of the human genome," said David Haussler, director of the Center for Biomolecular Science and Engineering.
For more information, click Terra Daily

Colon Polyp
The Screen Team - Less unpleasant colon exams might catch more cancers
Aug 19, 2006 - As tumors go, those in the colon and rectum are among the most preventable. In their early stages, they're also beatable. Yet every year in the United States, nearly 150,000 new cases of colorectal cancer emerge, and the disease kills about 55,000 people. Those numbers make colorectal cancer the fourth-most-common and second-most-lethal malignancy. The problem, doctors say, is that many people don't get screened for the cancer when they should. Screening is recommended for people age 50 and up. Optical colonoscopy, the most thorough test, can alert doctors to an emerging threat—a precancerous growth called a polyp—months or years before it would turn malignant. Polyps often form lobes that protrude into the hollow space between the colon's walls.
For more information, click Science News

 A screen shot simulating smoke generation from cauterization on a model of the stomach. Credit: Rensselaer/Suvranu De
Digital Surgery With Touch Feedback Could Improve Medical Training
Aug 17, 2006 - Combining the sense of touch with 3-D computer models of organs, researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are developing a new approach to training surgeons, much as pilots learn to fly on flight simulators. With collaborators at Harvard Medical School, Albany Medical Center, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the team is developing a virtual simulator that will allow surgeons to touch, feel, and manipulate computer-generated organs with actual tool handles used in minimally invasive surgery (MIS). MIS allows doctors to perform operations through small incisions with long, slender instruments and video cameras, which can result in minimal postoperative pain, less blood loss, lower risk of complications, and a shorter hospital stay. The number of MIS procedures has grown dramatically in recent years, but despite its many advantages, the technique deprives surgeons of the depth perception, dexterity, sense of touch, and hand-eye coordination that they are accustomed to in open surgeries.
For more information, click Space Daily

The plasma needle
(image courtesy:
Technical University of Eindhoven)
Plasmas move into dentistry
Aug 16, 2006 - Physicists in the US have shown that plasmas can be used to kill the bacteria that cause tooth decay. John Goree and colleagues at the University of Iowa have used a hand-held "plasma needle", which works at room temperature, to kill Streptococcus mutans grown in a glass dish (J. Phys. D: Appl. Phys. 39 3479). Although the needle is only an experimental device at the moment, the researchers say it could one day be used by dentists to replace mouthwash as a much more efficient way of eradicating oral bacteria. Plasmas are ionised gases that are routinely used in materials processing and the semiconductor industry. Unfortunately, the temperatures in most plasmas are so high that they would immediately kill living cells, which has ruled them out for biological applications. Three years ago, however, physicists at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands developed a plasma needle that works at room temperature.
For more information, click Physics Web

Pomegranate Juice
Juice May Slow Prostate Cancer Growth (with recipe)
Aug 12, 2006 - Prostate cancer will claim the lives of an estimated 30,000 men in the United States this year. The second leading cause of cancer death in men, its incidence climbs with age. In Western countries, the disease is reaching nearly epidemic proportions among the elderly. However, the cancer can grow so slowly that many men with prostate cancer will die of something else first. A mystery has always been what factors might improve a man's odds of having a slow-growing malignancy. A new study suggests that drinking pomegranate juice might be one of them. Several studies have associated diets high in plant-derived polyphenols—principally, the deeply pigmented antioxidants in many fruits and vegetables—with lower risks of malignancies including prostate cancer. Because the blood-red juice of pomegranates is especially rich in such compounds, Allan J. Pantuck of the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles and his colleagues decided to test it against metastatic prostate cancer.
For more information, click Physics Web

Pomegranate Juice
Duff and dubious data
Aug 12, 2006 - Look, I feel sorry for the six men who swelled up "like the Elephant Man" on TGN1412. The interim report is out now, and it has a lot of sensible suggestions about the mechanics of that kind of trial, but it got me thinking: if you wanted to be actuarial about this, and count up the pain and death caused by research shortcomings, where would you find the most tragedy? How about duff studies? Tardive dyskinesia is a horrible and disabling movement disorder, a side-effect of schizophrenia treatment. A 1996 review looked at 500 studies of 90 treatments for it: not one provided useful data, they all either had too few patients or were too brief. That's 500 duff studies, while patients continued to suffer, with no outcry, and no regulatory response: I could fill the page with similar examples. But perhaps that's too esoteric for our tragedy ledger. How about unnecessary research, through absent mindedness, or the greed of drug companies?
For more information, click Guardian

 Malaria is caused by a single-celled parasite, Plasmodium, which is transmitted through the bite of the Anopheles mosquito (pictured).
Einstein Researchers Find Key to Unlocking World's Deadliest Malaria Parasite
Aug 08, 2006 - Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have leveraged the results of their research into tuberculosis to craft a tool for unlocking the secrets of another of the world's leading infectious killers-malaria. These findings, published in the August issue of Nature Methods, "should substantially speed up research efforts to bring malaria under control," says Dr. David Fidock, senior author of the paper and an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Einstein. Malaria is caused by a single-celled parasite, Plasmodium, which is transmitted through the bite of the Anopheles mosquito. The disease kills an estimated 1.2 million people every year. The Einstein scientists focused on the most deadly Plasmodium strain-P. falciparum-which is proving increasingly resistant to treatment. Their research has led to the first efficient technique for inserting any gene of interest into the P. falciparum genome to gain biological information that could lead to more effective treatments.
For more information, click Terra Daily

Obese People More Likely to Pass Out in Heat
Aug 03, 2006 -  Obese people face a higher risk of passing out -- or worse -- during heat waves, some health experts say. Layers of fat make it extra difficult for a body to dissipate heat, or to move to a cool location. Add in diabetic dehydration and other conditions common in the obese, and it's a recipe for trouble. "ER physicians will tell you that they (obese people) are the ones collapsing,'' said Thomas Adams, a Michigan State University physiologist. Federal health officials list obesity as a risk factor for heat-related illness, but health warnings generally focus on the dangers to children, the elderly and the socially isolated. Those are the groups considered most in danger of fatal heat stroke, health officials said.  
For more information, click Live Science

Shape-shifting lens mimics human eye
Aug 02, 2006 Now a shape-shifting lens has been developed that alters its focal length when squeezed by an artificial muscle, rather like the lens in a human eye. The muscle, a ring of polymer gel, expands and contracts in response to environmental changes, eliminating the need for electronics to power or control the devices. "The lenses harness the energy around them to control themselves," says lead researcher Hongrui Jiang at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, US, where the device has been developed (Nature, vol 442, p 551). "This would be useful for environments where it's not easy to use electronics and conditions are not constant." The devices could simplify medical imaging equipment and biosensors, he says.   
For more information, click New Scientist

Evidence Of Rapid Evolution Is Found At The Tips Of Chromosomes
Aug 02, 2006 -  In terms of their telomeres, mice are more complicated than humans. That's the finding from a recent Rockefeller University study, which shows that mice have two proteins working together to do the job of a single protein in human cells. The findings, published recently in Cell, suggest that the protein complex that protects chromosome ends may have evolved far more rapidly than previously believed. Acting as caps on the ends of each chromosome, telomeres are composed of repetitive DNA and shelterin, a protective protein complex protects.   
For more information, click Terra Daily

Is a 16-year-old wise enough to decide to skip chemotherapy?
Aug 01, 2006 -  Should the government intervene to save the life of a 16-year-old boy, even if it means forcing him into medical care against his and his parents' wishes? This is the question at stake in the case of Starchild Abraham Cherrix, a teenage boy who has Hodgkin's disease, a cancer of the lymph nodes that is highly treatable if diagnosed early. After completing chemotherapy, Abraham learned earlier this year that the cancer had returned. The boy decided to forgo further chemotherapy (the first round had left him severely nauseated and so weak that he could barely walk at times) and instead to pursue an "alternative" treatment known as the Hoxsey method—a sugar-free, organic diet and herbal supplements under the supervision of a clinic in Mexico. His parents, Jay and Rose Cherrix, approved of his decision.    
For more information, click Reason Online

Side Effect Revealed: Heart risk found in leukemia drug
Jul 29, 2006 -  Since its introduction a few years ago, the cancer drug imatinib has given patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia an unprecedented chance at long-term survival. But studies of the drug in people and mice reveal an unexpected risk of heart failure lurking beneath imatinib's benefits. A research team led by Thomas Force of Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia evaluated 10 patients who suffered moderate-to-severe heart failure while taking imatinib, which is marketed as Gleevec by the drug company Novartis. In all 10 patients, none of whom had had previous heart problems, their heart's blood-pumping efficiency decreased after 1 to 14 months on the drug. When the researchers examined heart tissue from two of the patients, they found cell abnormalities characteristic of heart damage.   
For more information, click Science News

Immune Cells Found to Protect Against Snakebites
Jul 28, 2006 -  When a venomous snake bites its prey, a deadly cocktail of toxins rushes into the victim’s body causing sweating or chills, nausea, blurred vision, convulsions, and ultimately, death. It has long been thought that the victim’s immune system exacerbated the effects of the venom. Now, a new study shows that mast cells in the immune system of mice actually unleash proteins that break down some of the most toxic components of snake venom. Found in all mammalian immune systems, mast cells were assumed to worsen snakebite symptoms because they respond to a variety of triggers in the body, including bacteria and parasites, by instigating tissue changes such as inflammation and blood vessel dilation.
For more information, click Scientific American

UV Radiation Causes 60,000 Deaths A Year
Jul 27, 2006 -  The World Health Organization based in Switzerland estimates 60,000 people die each year from spending too much time in the sun. In a report on disease caused by ultraviolet radiation, the WHO says malignant melanoma is responsible for 48,000 deaths while other skin cancers cause the remaining 12,000 deaths, the BBC reports. In addition to skin cancer, excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation is responsible for sunburn, premature aging of the skin and triggering cold sores. Dr. Maria Neira, WHO director for Public Health and the Environment, says while everyone needs some sun, too much can be deadly. "Fortunately, diseases from UV such as malignant melanomas, other skin cancers and cataracts are almost entirely preventable through simple protective measures," Neira says.
For more information, click Terra Daily

Study Re-Creates Deja Vu All Over Again
Jul 27, 2006 -  Researchers in the United Kingdom say they've found a way to study what produces déjà vu — the feeling people get that they've seen or experienced something before. Using hypnosis, a team at the University of Leeds says it can re-create the phenomenon to get a better understanding of what causes it.  "So far, we've completed the natural history side of this condition. We've found ways of testing for it and the right clinical questions to ask," Chris Moulin — one of the researchers — told the university's newspaper. "The next step is … to find ways to reduce the problem." Though most people experience déjà vu as a fleeting oddity that occurs rarely, there are those who live with it constantly — a condition known as déjà vecu — and it's hoped this new research will give scientists a way to treat them.
For more information, click ABC News

Nano Helps Keep Cells Alive
Jul 26, 2006 -  Encasing living cells in networks of silica and fatty layers only nanometers or billionths of a meter in size could help keep them alive longer for use in novel chemical factories or sensors, experts tell UPI's Nano World. Scientists are tinkering with integrating cells into devices. However, the usual method of doing so involves encapsulating them in silica gel, but when these dry out, stresses are generated that kill cells. Materials scientist Jeff Brinker colleagues instead used live cells to direct the formation of scaffolds that would help keep them alive. They gave cells silica dissolved in a solution loaded with fatty compounds known as phospholipids, which are key components of cell membranes.
For more information, click Space Mart

Irradiated Pathogens Used to Create Potent Vaccine
Jul 26, 2006 -  Since the time of Louis Pasteur, vaccines have worked on the principle that injecting dead or weakened pathogens into the body allows the immune system to learn to fight them. But vaccines from weakened microbes require constant refrigeration until use, and those from microbes killed by heat or chemicals provoke a weaker immune response, requiring occasional boosters. But new research reviving an old concept--killing microorganisms via gamma radiation--seems to show that such irradiated vaccines can trigger powerful immunity. Sandip Datta of the University of California, San Diego, and his colleagues first bombarded a colony of Listeria monocytogenes--a bacteria found in food that can cause health problems for mothers, babies and the immunocompromised--with 600,000 rads of gamma rays. The irradiated bacteria showed no signs of growth despite being introduced into a warm soy broth and allowed to sit.
For more information, click Scientific American

More Organs A Heartbeat Away
Jul 26, 2006 -  Doctors say it is time to go "Back to the Future" and return to the way organs were originally acquired for human transplantation: waiting for a patient's heart to stop. The vast majority of organs now used in transplantation procedures are taken from patients who have been declared "brain dead" and who have previously agreed to be an organ donor or whose relatives allow the organs of their loved ones to become a "gift of life" for deathly ill individuals. But with organ waiting lists getting longer and longer -- and 6,000 people in the United States dying each year while on those lists -- doctors suggest that taking organs from people who die from cardiac death may be a way to save more lives.   
For more information, click Space Daily

To heal a wound, turn up the voltage
Jul 26, 2006 -  It may sound like something out of Frankenstein, but electric currents applied to the skin could potentially speed up wound healing. Ironically, though the phenomenon was reported 150 years ago by the German physiologist Emil Du Bois-Reymond, it has been ignored ever since. Now Josef Penninger of the Austrian Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in Vienna and Min Zhao of the University of Aberdeen, UK, have demonstrated that natural electric fields and currents in tissue play a vital role in orchestrating the wound-healing process by attracting repair cells to damaged areas. The researchers have also identified the genes that control the process. "We were originally sceptical, but then we realised it was a real effect and looked for the genes responsible," Penninger says. "It's not homeopathy, it's biophysics."   
For more information, click New Scientist

Diet changes may not help fight cancer, studies find
Jul 23, 2006 -  Two new studies have found what their authors say is scant evidence that changes in diet help cancer patients survive longer or avoid recurrences of the disease. Many cancer patients and their families see hope in foods popularly believed to help fight cancer, including nutritional supplements. And studies indicate that eating plenty of vegetables and fruits helps prevent certain cancers. While not disputing that healthy eating has major benefits, the authors of one study said such diets may have little relevance in treating cancer itself. Some nutritional supplements may even be harmful, they added. The study consisted of an analysis of 59 previous studies of specific dietary modifications.   
For more information, click World Science

Autistic Males Have Fewer Neurons in Amygdala
Jul 19, 2006 -  Many boys and men with autism suffer from diminished social and communication skills. They may also suffer from a diminished number of neurons in their amygdala, according to the results of a new study. David Amaral and Cynthia Mills Schumann of the University of California, Davis, surveyed the number of neurons in the amygdala of nine autistic males and 10 nonautistic males ranging in age from 10 to 44. Painstakingly counting them under a microscope revealed significantly fewer neurons (electrical signaling cells) in the area of the brain associated with fear and memory.
For more information, click Scientific American

Starting Exercise Later in Life Still Helps Heart
Jul 18, 2006 -  Exercise has been shown to help the heart, whereas a lazy lifestyle can be a major risk factor for heart disease. But few studies have examined how exercise impacts health at different ages. Now researchers have shown in a small study that even those who take up exercise after age 40 derive significant health effects. Epidemiologist Dietrich Rothenbacher of the University of Heidelberg and his colleagues surveyed 312 patients--mostly men--between the ages of 40 and 68 who suffered from coronary heart disease and 479 volunteers matching the patients in age and sex.
For more information, click Scientific American