Health & Wellness
Map

Syringe

Vaccines as Biological Weapons?

There's a popular medical thriller novel in which a global pandemic is intentionally set off by an evil plot designed to reduce the human population. In the book, a nefarious drug company inserts live avian flu viruses into vaccine materials that are distributed to countries around the world to be injected into patients as "flu shots." Those patients then become carriers for these highly-virulent strains of avian flu which go on to infect the world population and cause widespread death.

There's only one problem with this story: It's not fiction. Or, at least, the part about live avian flu viruses being inserted into vaccine materials isn't fiction. It's happening right now.

Deerfield, Illinois-based pharmaceutical company Baxter International Inc. has just been caught shipping live avian flu viruses mixed with vaccine material to medical distributors in 18 countries. The "mistake" (if you can call it that, see below...) was discovered by the National Microbiology Laboratory in Canada. The World Health Organization was alerted and panic spread throughout the vaccine community as health experts asked the obvious question: How could this have happened?

Laptop

Babies and the Boob Tube

The bad news is, you may have wasted your money.

The good news is, you probably didn't do any harm.

That is the take-away from report on whether all those "educational" videos, which claim to make baby smarter, make any difference at all.

Family

Fertility Doctor Will Let Parents Build Their Own Baby

Clinic's Service to Custom-Design Baby's Hair and Eye Color Sparks Controversy

Imagine if you could choose your baby the same way you pick out a new outfit from a catalogue. Perhaps some blue eyes, a bit of curly hair, and why not make her tall, lean and smart? One fertility doctor now says that he may be able to deliver.

Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg has already helped thousands of couples choose their child's gender at his fertility institutes in Manhattan and Los Angeles. Within six months, he says, the clinic will offer a new service: allowing couples to select the physical traits of their babies. Steinberg says he cannot promise that people will get their selections, but claims he can dramatically increase the probability.

Cow

The Tale of rBGH, Milk, Monsanto and the Organic Backlash

Organic milk is now as readily available as conventional milk as more consumers and companies are recognizing its benefits and demand. A recent estimate by the USDA says organic products are now available in nearly 20,000 natural food stores and nearly 3 of 4 conventional grocery stores.

If you and/or your children drink organic milk, you've already heard about "rBGH", which may have prompted you to switch from conventional milk to organic milk in the first place. Organic milk is produced by cows who eat feed free of animal by-products from slaughter, and free of antibiotics, pesticides and hormones, like rBGH.

Magnify

One Protein Mediates Damage From High-Fructose Diet

Sweet reversal: Harmful effects of fructose traced to one protein in a study of mice.

Knocking out a liver protein in mice can reverse the damaging effects of a super-sweet diet. Diets loaded with high-fructose corn syrup wreak havoc on metabolic processes, but how fructose does its damage has been a mystery. The new study, appearing in the March 4 Cell Metabolism, identifies a possible culprit, a protein in the liver called PGC-1 beta.

The new research is "putting together things that we know and making a link," comments Carlos Hernandez of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The paper highlights the importance of PGC-1 beta in the whole process, says Hernandez, who wrote a commentary in the same issue of Cell Metabolism on the new research.

Over the past decade, high-fructose corn syrup has made its way into Western diets through soda and processed foods in ever-increasing amounts. Diets high in fructose are linked to a slew of metabolic disorders, including nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, high blood levels of triglycerides, and insulin resistance, which is tied to type 2 diabetes, says study coauthor Yoshio Nagai, a physiologist at Yale University School of Medicine. "Many people think fat is the enemy, but they don't care about sweeteners."

Magnify

The Truth Behind 'Where's Waldo?'

With assistance from the classic book character Where's Waldo?, researchers at Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center have recently made a major advance in understanding how the brain searches for objects of interest.

Susana Martinez-Conde, PhD, and fellow researchers Jorge Otero-Millan, Xoana Troncoso, PhD, Stephen Macknik, PhD, and Ignacio Serrano-Pedraza, PhD, recently conducted a study asking participants to find Waldo. As participants searched, their eye movements were simultaneously recorded. Results showed that the rate of microsaccades tiny, jerk-like fixational eye movements dramatically increased when participants found Waldo.

"This discovery helps explain human searching behavior, which can assist us in finding keys on a cluttered desk or recognizing a child's face on a playground," says Dr. Martinez-Conde.

Magnify

Broccoli May Help Protect Against Respiratory Conditions Like Asthma

Here's another reason to eat your broccoli: UCLA researchers report that a naturally occurring compound found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables may help protect against respiratory inflammation that causes conditions like asthma, allergic rhinitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Published in the March edition of the journal Clinical Immunology, the research shows that sulforaphane, a chemical in broccoli, triggers an increase of antioxidant enzymes in the human airway that offers protection against the onslaught of free radicals that we breathe in every day in polluted air, pollen, diesel exhaust and tobacco smoke. A supercharged form of oxygen, free radicals can cause oxidative tissue damage, which leads to inflammation and respiratory conditions like asthma.

"This is one of the first studies showing that broccoli sprouts - a readily available food source - offered potent biologic effects in stimulating an antioxidant response in humans," said Dr. Marc Riedl, the study's principal investigator and an assistant professor of clinical immunology and allergy at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Family

Having Parents with Bipolar Disorder Associated with Increased Risk of Psychiatric Disorders

Children and teens of parents with bipolar disorder appear to have an increased risk of early-onset bipolar disorder, mood disorders and anxiety disorders, according to a report in the March issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

As many as 60 percent of patients with bipolar disorder experience symptoms before age 21, according to background information in the article. Identifying the condition early may improve long-term outcomes, potentially preventing high psychosocial and medical costs. Having family members with bipolar disorder is the best predictor of whether an individual will go on to develop the condition, the authors note. "Therefore, carefully evaluating and prospectively following the psychopathology of offspring of parents with bipolar disorder and comparing them with offspring of parents with and without non-bipolar disorder psychopathology, are critical for identifying the early clinical presentation of bipolar disorder," they write.

Heart

Let's not look upon the demise of our financial base as a bad thing

One week on, and we are now beginning to hear predictions of even less growth, and the likely length of the depression increasing.

It's a little unfortunate that the only people who can get a word into the newspapers or onto the television, are in fact prime candidates for being helped by the men in white coats.

All they succeed in doing is causing confusion amongst those of us who are in the process of evolving into a more sensible human being.

The old "modern" paradigm has lived its life - bring on the new paradigm.

Magnify

Two Distinct Molecular Pathways Can Make Regulatory Immune Cells

Finding a way to bypass the molecular events involved in autoimmunity - where the body's immune system mounts a self-directed attack - could lead to new treatments for autoimmune disorders and chronic infections. A study published in this week's issue of PLoS Biology describes genetic evidence that two distinct molecular pathways control the formation of regulatory T cells (Treg), a cell type vitally important in limiting undesirable immune responses.

Treg cells are like the peace-keepers of the immune defence system - they limit the actions of effector T cells, the foot-soldiers of the body. If the body lacks sufficient numbers of Treg cells, it loses the ability to tone down immune responses once invading pathogens are cleared. In addition, the body is unable to suppress T cell responses that recognize and target the body itself. The latter can lead to autoimmunity, which can destroy vital tissues and organs.

Under normal healthy conditions, the majority of Treg cells are derived from an organ called the thymus. New work from researchers at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and The Scripps Research Institute in California, shows that if a gene called Carma1 isn't expressed normally, Treg development is impaired in the thymus. Mutations in Carma1 can result in a failure of the thymus to produce Treg cells, said senior investigator Kasper Hoebe, Ph.D., a researcher at Cincinnati.