Monday, October 31, 2011

What Happens After a Python Gorges May Help Human Hearts

BOULDER, Colo. — Pythons are known for their enormous appetites. In a single meal they can devour animals at least as big as they are — deer, alligators pigs and house pets, for example.
Equally remarkable is what happens inside the python as it digests its prey. Within a day, its heart and other organs can double in size. The metabolic rate and production of insulin and lipids soar.
Then, like an accordion, the python’s organs return to normal size in just a few days. Metabolism slows. Then the snake can fast for months, even a year, without losing muscle mass or showing any ill effects, ready to ambush new prey.
How this process happens so rapidly is a biological mystery with important implications for human health, particularly when it comes to heart failure. Now scientists at the University of Colorado here are reporting that they have partly solved it.
Understanding such exaggerated variations, the researchers say, could help them develop novel ways to delay, prevent, treat or even reverse various hereditary and acquired human diseases.
Pharmaceutical companies have scientifically manipulated substances from other reptiles to develop marketed drugs. For example, Byetta, a diabetes drug, is derived from a hormone found in Gila monster saliva.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Can Romance Be Reduced to Pronouns?

In the speed-dating study, Pennebaker and his colleague Molly Ireland found that couples who used similar levels of personal pronouns, prepositions and even articles were three times as likely to want to date each other compared with those whose language styles didn’t match.() The metric, called language style matching (L.S.M.), was also better at predicting who didn’t make a love connection than the individuals themselves, several of whom showed interest in a partner who did not reciprocate.() “It does better than humans themselves who are in the interaction,” said Pennebaker, author of the new book “The Secret Life of Pronouns.” “Some of the most revealing words we use are the shortest and most forgettable.”

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Doctor’s Remedy: Turmeric for Joint Pain

Yet another reason to go eat some more curry!

What the Science Shows: A study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2009 compared the active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, with ibuprofen for pain relief in 107 people with knee osteoarthritis. The curcumin eased pain and improved function about as well as the ibuprofen. Another study, by researchers at Baylor University Medical Center in 2008, reported that taking curcumin daily in moderate doses for up to three months was safe.
The Caveats
Because the active compound in turmeric can sometimes slow blood clotting, avoid taking it at least two weeks before any scheduled surgery, and do not mix with blood thinners like warfarin and Plavix. It may also worsen gallbladder problems, so avoid it if you have gallstones. Check with your doctor before trying it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

First Results of Phase 3 Trial of RTS,S/AS01 Malaria Vaccine in African Children

Exciting news in the latest journal of New England Journal of Medicine regarding a vaccine for Malaria:
As the accompanying editorial notes this could be available in some African countries in 2015!

What does this vaccine mean for the future of the control and elimination of malaria? The considerable increase in global funding is paying dividends. In places where effective interventions (insecticide-treated bed nets, insecticides, and artemisinin-combination treatments) are being intensively deployed, malaria morbidity and mortality are falling. Several new, simple, affordable interventions, such as seasonal chemoprevention among young children in areas of seasonally high malaria transmission and the use of artesunate in patients with severe malaria, can also provide substantial reductions in mortality. The very low rate of death from malaria in this large trial (only 10 deaths directly attributed to malaria) testifies to the benefits of providing early diagnosis and effective antimalarial treatment. But there are real dangers ahead. How will the necessary funding be sustained in the face of a global economic downturn, along with a reduction in political pressure associated with declining mortality from malaria? In addition, artemisinin resistance in malaria parasites and pyrethroid resistance in anopheline mosquito vectors pose very serious threats.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The only Task is to Love

This is a profound essay on what it is like to raise a child with a terminal illness...


Notes From a Dragon Mom: Link

Senegal Curbs a Bloody Rite for Girls and Women

Across the continent, an estimated 92 million girls and women have undergone it. But like more than 5,000 other Senegalese villages, Sare Harouna has joined a growing movement to end the practice.
In my many discussions with people in Africa, I learned that female genital cutting is such a long standing natural tradition which makes it hard to gain ground. However, the strategy outlined in this piece from Ms. Dugger at the New York Times shows that succss is indeed achievable!

The movement to end genital cutting is spreading in Senegal at a quickening pace through the very ties of family and ethnicity that used to entrench it. And a practice once seen as an immutable part of a girl’s life in many ethnic groups and African nations is ebbing, though rarely at the pace or with the organized drive found in Senegal.
The change is happening without the billions of dollars that have poured into other global health priorities throughout the developing world in recent years. Even after campaigning against genital cutting for years, the United Nations has raised less than half the $44 million it set as the goal.
But here in Senegal, Tostan, a group whose name means “breakthrough” in Wolof, Senegal’s dominant language, has had a major impact with an education program that seeks to build consensus, African-style, on the dangers of the practice, while being careful not to denounce it as barbaric as Western activists have been prone to do.
Link to article: here
Link to accompanying video here:

Friday, October 14, 2011

Sprinter, 100, sets record and aims for marathon

Fauja Singh, a 100-year-old British man, has run his way to eight sprinting world records and is aiming to set another, when he takes part in the Toronto Marathon.
Mr Singh broke the records for 100-year-old men in all eight sprinting distances on Thursday. The Guinness Book of World Records will be on hand on Sunday to document his attempt at completing a full marathon distance.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

In Some Chinese Hospitals, Violence Is Out of Control and It's Doctors Who Are at Risk

On a recent Monday afternoon, doctors at Beijing Tongren Hospital stopped working. Their hour-long protest aimed to raise awareness about what they say is a rising problem in Chinese hospitals: attacks on medical personnel. "Punish the attacker severely and give dignity back to doctors," read a digital sign set up by the staff, according to state media.
Days earlier, Xu Wen, a 43-year-old otolaryngologist at the hospital, had been brutally attacked by a dissatisfied patient.

Read more:,8599,2096630,00.html#ixzz1aZozluEO

Uncovering the business of child sacrifice in Uganda

A BBC investigation has discovered that many cases of child sacrifice in Uganda are not being followed up by the police and little is being done to protect potential victims.
According to a major report released by the charity Jubilee Campaign, around 900 Ugandan children have fallen victim to the practice.
The ritual, which some believe brings wealth and good health, was almost unheard of in the country until around three years ago, but it has re-emerged, seemingly alongside a boom in the country's economy.
Link (to a disturbing video)

Friday, October 07, 2011

Apple logo commemorating Steve Jobs a cyber hit

HONG KONG - A Hong Kong design student's poignant tribute to Apple founder Steve Jobs became an internet hit today with its minimalist, touching symbolism and brought a job offer and a flood of commemorative merchandise using his design.

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