Thursday, March 29, 2012

Millions of germs fly when you enter the room

.YALE (US) — A person’s mere presence in a room can add 37 million bacteria to the air every hour, a new study finds

From South Sudan to Yale

Paul Lorem epitomizes a blunt truth about the world: talent is universal, but opportunity is not.
Lorem, 21, is an orphan from a South Sudanese village with no electricity. His parents never went to school, and he grew up without adult supervision in a refugee camp. Now he’s a freshman at Yale University
 As Lorem was growing up, the region was engulfed in civil war, and, at age 5, he nearly died of tuberculosis. In hope of saving his life, his parents dropped him off at the Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya. They returned to their village and later died, and Lorem was raised in the camp by other refugee boys who were only a bit older. 
His class sometimes consisted of 300 pupils meeting under a tree, and Lorem didn’t have his own notebooks or pencils or schoolbooks, but he practiced letters by writing in the dust. His friends died of war, disease and banditry, but he devoured the contents of a tiny refugee camp library set up by a Lutheran aid group.
Teachers took increasing pride in their brilliant student and arranged for Lorem to leave the refugee camp and transfer to a Kenyan school for seventh and eighth grades. That way he could compete in nationwide exams and perhaps get into high school.
Just one problem: those exams were partly in Swahili, a language that Lorem did not speak. But he poured himself into his schoolwork, and classmates helped him. Lorem ended up earning the second highest mark in that entire region of Kenya. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Surgery for Diabetes May Be Better Than Standard Treatment

For some people with diabetes, surgery may be the best medicine.
Two studies have found that weight-loss operations worked much better than the standard therapies for Type 2 diabetes in obese and overweight people whose blood sugar was out of control. Those who had surgery, which stapled the stomach and rerouted the small intestine, were much more likely to have a complete remission of diabetes, or to need less medicine, than people who were given the typical regimen of drugs, diet and exercise.
The surgery also helped many to lower their blood pressure and cholesterol. 

Better Than A Van Gogh: NASA Visualizes All The World’s Ocean Currents

Our planet is so beautiful in so many ways...

NASA Scientific Visualization Studio assembled this remarkable animation of the surface currents of our oceans. It’s called Perpetual Ocean, and the full work is 20 minutes of HD video, assembled from a huge amount of satellite, on location and computational data generated by ECCOII (Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean, Phase II). ECCOII itself exists to better understand our oceans and their role in the changing global climate.
Link to a great video of the surface currents of the ocean with nice ambient music...

When Risk Is a Red-Meat Issue

The conflaguration of relative risk and absolute risk is a major issue when looking at any study. The "Numbers Guy" at the Wall Street Journal discusses this with regard to recent studies looking at the risk of death as a function of eating red meat...

When it comes to evaluating risk, there's a big risk of choosing the wrong number.
Researchers typically measure the effects of, say, a risky health behavior or a controversial new law by comparing how two groups fare. There are two common ways to make the comparison, and the numbers produced can look very different—and be interpreted quite differently by the public. Each can be appropriate, depending on the situation and audience, but listing one without the other is a recipe for confusion, many statisticians say.
Two recent news stories demonstrate how two sets of numbers can describe the same situation. A study by public-health researchers, including several from Harvard University, found that eating one additional serving of processed red meat each day is associated with an increase in the risk of death each year by 20%. But that translated into only two more deaths per 1,000 people per year among those eating the extra meat, or a rise of 0.2 percentage points.

"Relative risk is the ideal measure for statistical analysis, for addressing scientific questions," says Don Berry, a biostatistician at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. "But it is irrelevant for individual decision-making.

Chocolate 'may help keep people slim'

People who eat chocolate regularly tend to be thinner, new research suggests.
The findings come from a study of nearly 1,000 US people that looked at diet, calorie intake and body mass index (BMI) - a measure of obesity.
It found those who ate chocolate a few times a week were, on average, slimmer than those who ate it occasionally.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Studies Link Daily Doses of Aspirin to Reduced Risk of Cancer

Taking aspirin every day may significantly reduce the risk of many cancers and prevent tumors from spreading, according to two new studies published on Tuesday.

The findings add to a body of evidence suggesting that cheap and widely available aspirin may be a powerful if overlooked weapon in the battle against cancer. But the research also poses difficult questions for doctors and public health officials, as regular doses of aspirin can causegastrointestinal bleeding and other side effects. Past studies have suggested that the drawbacks of daily use may outweigh the benefits, particularly in healthy patients.


“What really jumps out at you in terms of prevention is the striking 75 percent reduction in esophageal cancer and a 40 to 50 percent reduction in colorectal cancer, which is the most common cancer right now,” Dr. Rothwell said. “In terms of prevention, anyone with a family history would be sensible to take aspirin,” he added.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Vaccines by skin may work better, study shows

Applying vaccines to the upper layers of the skin could stimulate a different and more powerful immune system response than the traditional approach of injecting a vaccine into muscle, according to a growing body of research by Boston scientists.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Giant squid eyes are sperm whale defence

The world's biggest squid species have developed huge eyes to give early warning of approaching sperm whales.
The models showed that in general, there is no benefit to be gained from developing eyes bigger than the swordfish's.
The exception is a really large moving object.
Here, large eyes enable better detection of a pattern of point sources of bioluminescence - light given off by tiny organisms - in low-contrast conditions.
This would give the squid warning of a sperm whale approaching at a distance of about 120m, the researchers calculate - potentially allowing it to take evasive action and avoid being eaten.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Invisible Children Responds To The Kony 2012 Viral Video Controversy

After a huge success comes the inevitable backlash. You probably watched the Joseph Kony movie yesterday. Now some critics are saying it’s not as good as it appears to be, but Invisible Children is fighting back.

How Exercise Can Change Your DNA

Scientists discover that physical activity leads to beneficial changes in gene activity, even after a single workout.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

If You Feel O.K., Maybe You Are O.K.

EARLY diagnosis has become one of the most fundamental precepts of modern medicine. It goes something like this: The best way to keep people healthy is to find out if they have (pick one) heart disease, autism, glaucoma, diabetes, vascular problems, osteoporosis or, of course, cancer — early. And the way to find these conditions early is through screening.

It is a precept that resonates with the intuition of the general public: obviously it’s better to catch and deal with problems as soon as possible. A study published with much fanfare in The New England Journal of Medicine last week contained what researchers called the best evidence yet that colonoscopies reduce deaths from colon cancer.
Recently, however, there have been rumblings within the medical profession that suggest that the enthusiasm for early diagnosis may be waning. 

How to Make Eyeball Stew

Because the eye is one of the first organs to form during embryonic development, it may be easier to culture using basic ingredients, says Conklin. Therefore, Sasai’s brew may not be easily tweakable for studying the development of other organs. But what this research does show is that it is possible to stimulate early organ growth from the right mix of molecules and stem cells alone.
“The main lesson in all of this is to first see what nature can do by itself when given essentially minimum instructions and the proper environment,” says Conklin. “And, given the right environment, the cells will jump into action.”

Why It’s So Important to Keep Moving

But in the current study, which was published this month in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the scientists created a more realistic version of inactivity by having their volunteers cut the number of steps they took each day by at least half.
They wanted to determine whether this physical languor would affect the body’s ability to control blood sugar levels. “It’s increasingly clear that blood sugar spikes, especially after a meal, are bad for you,” says John P. Thyfault, an associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri, who conducted the study with his graduate student Catherine R. Mikus and others. “Spikes and swings in blood sugar after meals have been linked to the development of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.”
And there were changes. During the three days of inactivity, volunteers’ blood sugar levels spiked significantly after meals, with the peaks increasing by about 26 percent compared with when the volunteers were exercising and moving more. What’s more, the peaks grew slightly with each successive day.
This change in blood sugar control after meals “occurred well before we could see any changes in fitness or adiposity,” or fat buildup, due to the reduced activity, Dr. Thyfault says. So the blood sugar swings would seem to be a result, directly, of the volunteers not moving much.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Smartphones and Other Gadgets Help Low Vision

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) is working to educate medical practitioners — including ophthalmologists — that more than many realize can be done to help patients with low vision, said Lylas G. Mogk, MD, an AAO clinical correspondent.

Among the hottest new gadgets are applications available for smartphones and other portable devices, said John Kitchens, MD, a partner at Retina Associates of Kentucky in Lexington.
Perhaps the most useful program uses the camera in the device to magnify whatever is on its screen, in combination with the device's external light to improve contrast, said Dr. Kitchens. One such program is iRead, which is available for iPhones and Android phones for free from the iTunes store. It was developed by Richard G. Davis, MD, an ophthalmologist in Long Island, New York.
Patients with macular degeneration can learn to use such magnification devices to make use of their peripheral vision. Although peripheral vision is not damaged by the condition, it is naturally less clear than central vision.
These products are helpful especially for quick tasks, such as reading the price tag on an item on a store shelf or reading a restaurant menu.
And e-book readers and tablets such as the Kindle and iPad can also magnify text, making it possible for people with mild low vision to read books.

Orbis 30 year Anniversary

As many of you I am a fervent supporter of Orbis. This video nicely shows the impact Orbis has had on the world over  the past 30 years!

Friday, March 02, 2012

Vitamin D on Trial

From my incredibly bright friend, Amy Maxmen

Prevention trials for vitamins and supplements are notoriously difficult, but some researchers aren’t giving up on finding proof that vitamin D helps ward off disease.


4 Health Rules You Can Break Today

Research is revealing that whoever wrote the old guidelines didn't have the whole picture, and that there are more paths to optimal health than we previously thought," Domar says. Happily, the new rules are more user-friendly than the old ones. Here, four tips to live by.
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