Health & Wellness


Since nanomaterials are now in everything, it's time to see how much damage they cause

Edmonton - The tiny critters had seemed so content, swimming around under the microscope.

Scientist Shirley Tang was studying how living organisms might be affected by nanomaterials. These minute particles assembled from just a few molecules offer great promise but also pose a lot of questions - and can cause surprising and unpredictable harmful effects.

In an effort to understand those effects, Tang had just exposed some protozoa to nanoparticles. The one-celled animals promptly absorbed them, ejected them, and then carried on.

"They seemed happy," says Tang, a chemistry professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario.

"They would eat bacteria as normal. We didn't see any mortality to the protozoa."

But a closer look showed they weren't happy at all. Sure, they'd eat bacteria, but instead of absorbing their prey, they'd simply excrete it.

"Now they can only digest 40 per cent, 20 per cent, 10 per cent of their food."

Brazil: 340 on cruise ship sickened; cause unknown

Hundreds of passengers on a Swiss-owned cruise ship were stricken with severe vomiting and diarrhea caused by a mysterious ailment, Brazilian health officials said Thursday.

At least 340 victims have been sickened on the MSC Sinfonia, now docked in Salvador, Bahia, according to a spokeswoman for the National Agency for Sanitary Vigilance. She spoke on condition of anonymity, in line with department policy.

The illness didn't appear to be life-threatening and most passengers were recovering Thursday.

Goat modified for drug making sparks fears

A U.S. government regulator's positive review of an anti-clotting drug made from the milk of a genetically modified goat has sparked consumer-group concerns.

"The regulatory process seems to have put the cart before the horse, analyzing the safety of the product before it has opined on the safety of the manufacturing process," Greg Jaffe of the Center for Science in the Public Interest said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration "clearly needs to impose cradle-to-grave conditions to prevent the goats from leaving the farm or their products from entering the food supply," Jaffee told USA Today.

An FDA evaluation, to be presented to its Blood Products Advisory Board Friday, finds the drug ATryn to be effective and safe.

Cyprus: 3rd baby dies of Legionnaires' disease

Nicosia, Cyprus - Officials say a third baby has died from an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease at a private clinic in the Cypriot capital.

A total of 11 babies were infected, and one is on a respirator in critical condition at the state-run Makarios Hospital, according to Andreas Hadjidemetriou, a doctor there.

UC Davis Study: "Autism is Environmental" (Can We Move On Now?)

I have always said there may be a small percentage of people with autism spectrum disorder (perhaps those with Asperger Syndrome) whose symptoms are a result only of their genetic makeup, with no environmental factors involved at all.

But a new study out of UC Davis' MIND Institute says that it's time to abandon science's long, expensive, and not very fruitful quest to find the gene or genes that cause autism alone, without any environmental triggers.

"We need to keep (environmental) studies going," Irva Hertz-Picciotto, the co-author of the study and professor of environmental and occupational health and epidemiology at UC Davis, said in a statement.

"We're looking at the possible effects of metals, pesticides and infectious agents on neurodevelopment," Hertz-Picciotto said. "If we're going to stop the rise in autism in California, we need to keep these studies going and expand them to the extent possible."

Autism is predominantly an environmentally acquired disease, the study seems to conclude. Its meteoric rise, at least in California, cannot possibly be attributed to that shopworn mantra we still hear everyday, incredibly, from far too many public health officials: It's due to better diagnosing and counting.
Magic Hat

Chemopreventive agents in black raspberries identified

A study published in Cancer Prevention Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, identifies components of black raspberries with chemopreventive potential.

Researchers at the Ohio State Comprehensive Cancer Center found that anthocyanins, a class of flavonoids in black raspberries, inhibited growth and stimulated apoptosis in the esophagus of rats treated with an esophageal carcinogen.

Old Gastrointestinal Drug Slows Aging, May Alleviate Alzheimer's

Montreal -- Recent animal studies have shown that clioquinol - an 80-year old drug once used to treat diarrhea and other gastrointestinal disorders - can reverse the progression of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases. Scientists, however, had a variety of theories to attempt to explain how a single compound could have such similar effects on three unrelated neurodegenerative disorders.

Researchers at McGill University have discovered a dramatic possible new answer: According to Dr. Siegfried Hekimi and colleagues at McGill's Department of Biology, clioquinol acts directly on a protein called CLK-1, often informally called "clock-1," and might slow down the aging process. The advance online edition of their study was published in Oct. 2008 in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Replacing pain killers with hypnosis

It may not be your method of choice for major operations, but for a growing number of procedures - from childbirth to dental surgery - hypnosis is an effective alternative to conventional sedatives and analgesics.

Alexis Makris, a 19-year-old hairdresser's apprentice from Stuttgart, Germany, is jogging along a sunny beach in Greece. He's not interested in the cold steel hook poking around in his upper left jaw, or the latex-covered fingers of the dentist wielding the instrument in his mouth. He's too occupied with the smell of the salt sea air and the feel of the warm sand on his feet. When the tug of the wisdom tooth being pulled from his mouth becomes a little too insistent, he picks up his pace. As the tooth is finally yanked out, accompanied by a small gush of bright red blood, Makris is still running, oblivious to any pain.

Salmonella outbreak sickens 388 across U.S.

Washington - An outbreak of salmonella food poisoning has made 388 people sick across 42 states, sending 18 percent of them to the hospital, U.S. health officials said on Wednesday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is trying to trace the source of the outbreak, which began in September. The Department of Agriculture, state health officials and the Food and Drug Administration are also involved.

The CDC said poultry, cheese and eggs are the most common source of this particular strain, known as Salmonella typhimurium.

"It is often difficult to identify sources of foodborne outbreaks. People may not remember the foods they recently ate and may not be aware of all of the ingredients in food. That's what makes these types of investigations very difficult," said CDC spokesman David Daigle.

Daigle did not specify how many people were hospitalized, but the percentage he gave puts that figure at about 70.

'It Takes 2 To Know 1': Shared Experiences Change Self-recognition

Looking at yourself in the mirror every morning, you never think to question whether the person you see is actually you. You feel familiar - at home with your own unique self image. After all, you have been sporting the same old face for years. An innovative study published December 24, 2008 in the online, open-access, peer-reviewed journal challenges this common-sense notion about our own self image. The study shows for the first time that the image we hold of our own face can actually change through shared experiences with other people's faces.

The study reveals that recognition of our own face is not as consistent as we might think. The participants' ability to recognize their own face changed when they watched the face of another person being touched at the same time as their own face was touched, as though they were looking in a mirror. Specifically, when asked to recognize a picture of their own face, the picture that people chose included features of the other person they had previously seen. This did not happen when the two faces were touched out of synchrony.

Sharing an experience with another person may change the perception we have of our own self, such as the recognition of our own face. "As a result of shared experiences, we tend to perceive other people as being more similar to us, and this applies also to the recognition of our own face. This process may be at the root of constructing a self-identity in a social context," says Dr Tsakiris who led the study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, UK.