Monday, November 29, 2010

Review of the TSA xray Backscatter bodyscanner safety report: hide your kids, hide your wife

Nice review  from a biophysicist here.

Aging Ills Reversed in Mice

Scientists Tweak a Gene and Rejuvenate Cells, Raising Hopes for Uses in Humans

Scientists have partially reversed age-related degeneration in mice, an achievement that suggests a new approach for tackling similar disorders in people.
By tweaking a gene, the researchers reversed brain disease and restored the sense of smell and fertility in prematurely aged mice. Previous experiments with calorie restriction and other methods have shown that aspects of aging can be slowed. This appears to be the first time that some age-related problems in animals have actually been reversed.
The reversals of age-related decline seen in the animals "justify exploration of telomere rejuvenation strategies for age-associated diseases," the paper concludes.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

How To 'Thrive': Dan Buettner's Secrets Of Happiness

In terms of translating the lessons from the "blue zones" to daily life, Buettner recommends that people "set up permanent nudges and defaults" in order to maximize happiness.
"For example, in our financial lives, we know that financial security has a three-times greater impact on our happiness than just income alone," he says. "So setting up automatic savings plans, and buying insurance as opposed to buying a new thing. The newness effect of a new thing wears off in nine months to a year, but financial security can last a lifetime."
Buettner argues that relationships are really the key to lifelong happiness, noting that "the happiest people in America socialize about seven hours a day," and mentioning that "you're three times more likely to be happy if you are married ... and each new friend will boost your happiness about 10 percent."

Finally, Buettner says that he has learned that people are happiest when they spend their time and money on experiences, as opposed to objects. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

When the Software Is the Sportswriter

ONLY human writers can distill a heap of sports statistics into a compelling story. Or so we human writers like to think.
StatSheet, a Durham, N.C., company that serves up sports statistics in monster-size portions, thinks otherwise. The company, with nine employees, is working to endow software with the ability to turn game statistics into articles about college basketball games.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Exercise Combination Cuts Blood Sugar in Type 2 Diabetics

WASHINGTON—Combining aerobic exercise and resistance training lowered blood-sugar levels in people with Type 2 diabetes, a new study has found.
The same improvement in glycemic levels wasn't seen among patients who performed aerobic exercise or resistance training alone, according to the study, which will be published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association.
Patients who walked and lifted weights also lost more fat and trimmed their waistlines more than people who did just one type of exercise even though the time devoted to exercising was similar—findings researchers said apply to everyone.
Although it's accepted that regular exercise provides big benefits for people with Type 2 diabetes and helps many reduce the use of diabetes medications, the exact exercise type has been unclear.

Flying Snakes, Caught on Camera

ScienceDaily (Nov. 23, 2010) Five related species of tree-dwelling snakes found in Southeast and South Asia may just be the worst nightmares of ophidiophobes (people who have abnormal fears of snakes). Not only are they snakes, but they can "fly" -- flinging themselves off their perches, flattening their bodies, and gliding from tree to tree or to the ground.

Environmental Toxin May Play Important Role in Multiple Sclerosis: Hypertension Drug Possible Treatment

ScienceDaily (Nov. 23, 2010) — Researchers have found evidence that an environmental pollutant may play an important role in causing multiple sclerosis and that a hypertension drug might be used to treat the disease.
The compound is an environmental toxin found in air pollutants including tobacco smoke and auto exhaust. Acrolein also is produced within the body after nerve cells are damaged. Previous studies by this research team found that neuronal death caused by acrolein can be prevented by administering the drug hydralazine, an FDA-approved medication used to treat hypertension.
The new findings show that hydralazine also delays onset of multiple sclerosis in mice and reduces the severity of symptoms by neutralizing acrolein.

Why EHRs aren’t meaningful to doctors and hospitals

Another good post on KevinMD blog which illustrates quite accurately the problem with Electronic Records implementation. In my view the excessive paper documentation required already decreases face to face time with patients. This will get worse as the data has to get inputted into computers. I have already seen many difficulties in this regard with the implementation of such records in our local hospital.

  • aren’t ready for prime time
  • slow productivity
  • decrease revenues,
  • show scant returns on investment
  • don’t talk to one another
  • distract from time spent with patients
  • are limited as communication tools

Quinine, artemisinin and our debt to traditional medical healers

Kevin MD blog always has great content, like the story below.

The history of two modern pharmaceuticals—quinine and artemisinin serve to illustrate our enormous debt to traditional medical healers.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

NKANDABBWE, Zambia — Hundreds of angry coal miners pushed toward the locked gate at Shaft 3, shouting and cursing as they neared the mine’s Chinese managers, who understood neither the English nor the Tonga words of the mob. As the workers butted up against the fence, the bosses grew more fearful and finally two fired their shotguns.
The Zambian miners scrambled in terror. Bodies pivoted, jounced and stumbled. Boston Munakazela did not know he was hit until he suddenly fell over and saw the blood on his chest and arms. Vincent Chenjele was knocked off his bicycle with a hole ripped in his belly. Wisborn Simutombo, bleeding from his arms, legs and stomach, pleaded with friends to pull him to safety across the coal-dusted road.
“We weren’t going to hurt them, but maybe the Chinese didn’t understand that,” Mr. Simutombo, 25, said recently, displaying scars left by the spray of shotgun pellets. “They were quick to shoot us though, and in Zambia the Chinese can get away with anything.”

As in many other African nations, the Chinese are an enormous economic presence in this impoverished but mineral-rich country, and their treatment of local workers has become an explosive political issue, presenting an awkward balancing act for governments desperate for foreign investment. “We’re an economy in transition, and we can’t afford to lose the cow that gives us milk today,” said Labor Minister Austin Liato.

Epilepsy’s Big, Fat Miracle

Evelyn, Sam’s twin sister Beatrice and I don’t eat this way. But Sam has epilepsy, and the food he eats is controlling most of his seizures (he used to have as many as 130 a day). The diet, which drastically reduces the amount of carbohydrates he takes in, tricks his body into a starvation state in which it burns fat, and not carbs, for fuel. Remarkably, and for reasons that are still unclear, this process — called ketosis — has an antiepileptic effect. He has been eating this way for almost two years.
But what we are doing is mainstream science. Elizabeth Thiele, the doctor who prescribed and oversees Sam’s diet, is the head of the pediatric epilepsy program at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, which is affiliated with Harvard Medical School. In fact, the regimen, known as the ketogenic diet, is now offered at more than 100 hospitals in the United States, Canada and other countries. We’re not opposed to drugs; we tried many. But Sam’s seizures were drug-resistant, and keto, the universal shorthand, often provides seizure control when drugs do not.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

How to Make the Dollar Sound Again

BY disclosing a plan to conjure $600 billion to support the sagging economy, the Federal Reserve affirmed the interesting fact that dollars can be conjured. In the digital age, you don’t even need a printing press.


This was on Nov. 3. A general uproar ensued, with the dollar exchange rate weakening and the price of gold surging. And when, last Monday, the president of the World Bank suggested, almost diffidently, that there might be a place for gold in today’s international monetary arrangements, you could hear a pin drop.
This is why Mr. Bernanke has set out to materialize an additional $600 billion in the next eight months.
The intended consequences of this intervention include lower interest rates, higher stock prices, a perkier Consumer Price Index and more hiring. The unintended consequences remain to be seen. A partial list of unwanted possibilities includes an overvalued stock market (followed by a crash), a collapsing dollar, an unscripted surge in consumer prices (followed by higher interest rates), a populist revolt against zero-percent savings rates and wall-to-wall European tourists on the sidewalks of Manhattan.
As for interest rates, they are already low enough to coax another cycle of imprudent lending and borrowing. It gives one pause that the Fed, with all its massed brain power, failed to anticipate even a little of the troubles of 2007-09.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Seeing the Natural World With a Physicist’s Lens

Yet for all these apparent flaws, the basic building blocks of humaneyesight turn out to be practically perfect. Scientists have learned that the fundamental units of vision, the photoreceptor cells that carpet the retinal tissue of the eye and respond to light, are not just good or great or phabulous at their job. They are not merely exceptionally impressive by the standards of biology, with whatever slop and wiggle room the animate category implies. Photoreceptors operate at the outermost boundary allowed by the laws of physics, which means they are as good as they can be, period. Each one is designed to detect and respond to single photons of light — the smallest possible packages in which light comes wrapped.
“Light is quantized, and you can’t count half a photon,” said William Bialek, a professor of physics and integrative genomics at Princeton University. “This is as far as it goes.”
So while it can take a few minutes to adjust to the dark after being fooled by a flood of artificial light, our eyes can indeed seize the prize, and spot a dim salting of lone photons glittering on the horizon.

Chemicals in Fast Food Wrappers Show Up in Human Blood

TORONTO, Ontario, Canada, November 8, 2010 (ENS) - Chemicals used to keep grease from leaking through fast food wrappers and microwave popcorn bags are migrating into food, being ingested by people and showing up as contaminants in blood, according to new research at the University of Toronto. The contaminants are perfluoroalkyls, stable, synthetic chemicals that repel oil, grease, and water. They are used in surface protection products such as carpet and clothing treatments and coating for paper and cardboard packaging.
"In this study we clearly demonstrate that the current use of PAPs in food contact applications does result in human exposure to PFCAs, including PFOA," said Mabury, the lead researcher and a professor in the university's Department of Chemistry.
Elevated levels of PFOA in blood have been associated with changes in sex hormones and cholesterol, according to the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances. Exposure to PFOA also has resulted in early death and delayed development in mice and rat pups, the agency says.
Rats that ingested PFOA for a long time developed tumors. However, based on differences between rats and humans, scientists have not determined for certain whether this could also occur in humans, the agency says.
"We found the concentrations of PFOA from PAP metabolism to be significant and concluded that the metabolism of PAPs could be a major source of human exposure to PFOA, as well as other PFCAs," said Mabury.

Don't Give This to Your Daughter - Despite What Your Doctor Says

It's been four years since Gardasil debuted as a blockbuster vaccine with sales that rocketed to over $1.1 billion in its first nine months. Touted as a wonder vaccine that would end cervical cancer, it was supposed to be the savior of both mankind and Merck's Vioxx-damaged bottom line. But now, according to CNN Money, it's a dud.
he real reason Gardasil is a flop is that people have become educated about this vaccine.
They've looked at the science and weighed the risks vs. the supposed benefits, and have made a choice not to get it for themselves or their children.
The word is out: despite what the CDC would have you believe, Gardasil's safety record is in serious question. As of September 28, 2010, the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) has more than 18,000 Gardasil-related adverse events listed in it, including at least 65 deaths.
As a vaccine used in the developed world, the science speaks for itself: Gardasil can't – and never will -- replace Pap smears, which are the reason that the incidence of cervical cancer is so low in the United States after decades of including pap smears in routine medical care for women.
Today, cervical cancer is not even in the top 10 cancers that kill American women every year.
As a vaccine for children, it doesn't make sense to vaccinate to try to prevent an infection that is cleared from your body without any negative effects within two years in most healthy persons, and is not transmitted in a school setting like other airborne diseases that are easily transmitted in crowded conditions.
Gardasil is designed to prevent only two of at least 15 strains of HPV that can lead to cervical cancer in those who do not clear the virus from their body within two years and become chronically infected.
There is also some evidence that Gardasil-induced immunity may wane after about five years. Pre-licensure clinical trials did not follow young girls or women for decades to find out if the vaccine does, in fact, prevent cervical cancer.
What went wrong with Gardasil is that this may be a vaccine that set many more health care consumers on a course of self-education that helped them make an informed decision about whether or not to take it – and there are several good reasons why many are deciding NOT to take it.

Valproic acid at half normal dose shows benefit in patients with retinitis pigmentosa

Results of a preliminary clinical analysis suggest that valproic acid may be an effective treatment for photoreceptor loss associated with retinitis pigmentosa.

Protecting Your Home From Afar With a Robot

When Robert Oschler, a programmer, leaves his home, he knows it is secure. And if he ever has cause for concern, he can open his laptop and survey the house through the eyes of his watchdogs.
His robot, a modified version of the Rovio from WowWee, has a camera, microphone and speakers atop a three-wheeled platform. From anywhere with a Net connection, he can send his robot zipping around the house, returning a video signal along the way.
“As creepy as it sounds, you could even talk to the guy and say, ‘Get out of there. There’s nothing valuable. I’m calling the police,’ ” he said.

AMA Warns of ‘Catastrophe’ Without 13-Month ‘Doc Fix’

Last June Congress passed a “doc fix” to hold off drastic cuts in Medicare payments to doctors — but only for six months.
Those six months are almost up, and now there’s a 23% reimbursement cut due to kick in Dec. 1 and a 25% cut on Jan. 1, according to the American Medical Association. Once again, the AMA is warning of the effects if Congress doesn’t come up with a longer-term solution.
If Congress doesn’t come up with a fix before it adjourns for the Thanksgiving holiday, it will be “catastrophic for seniors who rely on the Medicare program,” AMA President Cecil Wilson said at a press conference in San Diego, where the physicians’ group is holding a meeting. The AMA wants at least a 13-month patch for the payment problem.

Relying on these piecemeal fixes does nothing to address the larger problem: the payment formula being used now consists of automatic, across-the-board reimbursement cuts if spending reaches a certain level. No one likes that formula, but it would be very expensive to revamp permanently.

The Science Behind Why We Love Ice Cream

Why people prefer certain foods over others depends largely on a combination of taste and texture. While taste sensations are fairly well understood, scientists are just beginning to unravel the mystery of food texture.

Now, researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia have found that an enzyme in saliva called amylase, which breaks down starch into liquid, could play a key role in determining the appeal of various textures of food. A new genetic study shows that people produce strikingly different amounts of amylase, and that the more of the enzyme people have in their mouth the faster they can liquefy starchy foods.

Gallery: Military’s Freakiest Medical Projects

Some of the Pentagon's extreme medical innovations have already debuted in the war zone. And with myriad applications outside of combat, these advances in military medicine mean that revolutionary changes for civilian care aren't far behind

Study Says Drowsy Drivers Are Involved in 17% of Fatal Crashes

Study Says Drowsy Drivers Are Involved in 17% of Fatal Crashes
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