Saturday, May 2, 2009

Swine Flu Not Spreading

The World Health Organization said the Swine Flu does not appear to be spreading in a significant way. Mexican health officials have lowered its suspected death toll by 75 people, which indicates the disease is not as widespread or dangerous as originally suspected. 

So far, cases of the Swine Flu outside of Mexico haven't been as severe. At this point 18 countries have reported outbreaks of the disease and significant measures have been taken in each to prevent further contamination.  Overall, initial concerns and predictions haven't been substantiated

Originally reported by the BBC

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Scars Be Gone

Scars are a part of life, but not for much longer. Scientists have discovered a drug that reduces the appearance of surgical scars. 

Scaring is prevented when the compound, avotemin, is injected into the skin around a surgical incision before and after a surgery. Avotemin works to send signals between cells so the body's collagen knits more effectively, which reduces scars. 

With more research the compound may result in an anti-scaring treatment. Even thought the drug is only cosmetic it can help people feel better about themselves - always a good thing. No one wants to be reminded of their injuries and illnesses. 

Originally reported by Daily Mail. 

Sunday, April 5, 2009

"The Pill" For Men and Infertility Cure

A recent study on sperm may result in a win for everyone. Researchers discovered a gene mutation that causes infertility and the discovery may lead to  a cure. The discovery may also lead to the development of a male contraceptive pill. In just one study two issues may be addressed. 

The researchers were initially trying to isolate genetic causes of deafness, but instead found two different DNA mutations in the CATSPER 1 gene that effected a man's ability to produce a protein related to sperm "hyperactivity," or sperms ability to move fast enough to penetrate a female egg.

It is possible that antibodies could be developed that could bind to the defective protein thus creating healthy, active sperm. Additionally, the mutation would be selectively applied in pill form and create a male birth control pill. Both applications need more research and development. Nevertheless - there's hope for those who and don't want children. 

Originally reported by the BBC

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Blind Man Who Could See

Seeing is believing and a 73-year-old man that lost his eyesight thirty years ago can now believe - his sight is back. With the help of a bionic eye, Ron can now track light and make out basic shapes. He says he can short socks for the first time in thirty years.  

Ron's experimental surgery took place at London's Moorfield's eye hospital. A tiny camera mounted on a pair of sunglasses transmits data via a cable to electrodes that sit upon Ron's retinas. When the electrodes are stimulated they transmit messages to the optic nerve in Ron's brain, which in turn allows him to see the light pattern experienced by the camera. 

With training, patients will be able to create meaningful images based on the light patterns they can now see. To date, eighteen people have bionic eyes and more will follow. 

Originally reported by the BBC.  

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Antibody Injections Help Severe Asthma

Half a million people with severe asthma now have an effective treatment. 

Two groups of researchers from the UK and Canada found injections of mepolizumab, an antibody, help reduce the frequency of severe attacks in people with asthma exacerbated. Aside from decreasing the number of attacks, the treatment also allows asthma patients to decrease their use of steroids, which have multiple negative side effects like weight gain and bone loss. 

This type of asthma is linked to abnormally high levels of white blood cells called eosinophils. The antibody injections bring the white blood cell count down and that prevents the server airway inflammation associated with asthma. 

The treatment reduces attacks by up to 50 percent and increases the quality of life for asthma sufferers

Originally reported by the BBC

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Rare Cheetah Gets a Close Up

Learning about endangered species is no easy task. The Saharan cheetah falls into this category and is rarely seen - until now. A team from the Zoological Society of London has captured several images of the endangered animal. The images help identify individual animals and provide information about the allusive species, which little is know about. 

With fewer than 250 mature individuals in the wild, the Saharan cheetah faces extinction. By gathering images of the animals that roam just six countries (Algeria, Togo, Niger, Mali, Benin, and Burkina Faso), zoologists hope to understand the animals' movement and ecology. This information may help save the species. 

If nothing else, the images provide another face to a problem humans love to ignore - endangered species. 

Originally reported by the BBC. Photo by Farid Belbachir of the Zoological Society of London. 


Friday, February 20, 2009

Peanut Allergy Cure?

An allergy to peanuts is no joke. For some, just smelling peanuts can result in a fatal reaction. Which makes finding a cure all the more important and useful. A team from Cambridge's Addenbrooke's Hospital may have done just that. The team effectively cured four children of their peanut allergy. 

Over the course of six mouths, the team gave the children larger and larger exposures to peanuts to build up their bodies' tolerance to the nut. By the end of the six month period the children could eat five peanuts a day and have no reaction. This is the first food allergy to be mitigated by exposure. 

Even though more testing needs to be done on the method, it does give people with the debilitating allergy hope. People with peanut allergies agonize over food products and often can't eat in certain restaurants because of the allergy. 

If the allergy is curable that means improved quality of life. (It also means airlines might start serving peanuts again. Here's hoping.) 

Originally reported by the BBC

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Universal Phone Charger on the Way

We've all done it - forgotten to charge our phone then appealed to a friend for theirs, but of course they have a different brand of phone so their charger won't work. This annoying scenario will be a thing of the past. 

The major phone companies - Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, LG, T-Mobile, Orange, 3, AT&T and Vodafone - have agreed to come together and create a universal phone charger that can be used with any handset model. The majority of phones will support the new charger by 2012.  Additionally, the charger will be environmentally friendly and consume 50 percent less stand-by energy compared to today's chargers.  

Let's give props to the major phone companies for thinking about their customers and how they can make our lives easier. It's also impressive that they would make the charger use less energy. Too bad the iPhone isn't included! 

Originally reported by the BBC

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Toddler Recovers from "Drowning"

The average person can only survive without oxygen for less than six minutes. Oluchi Nwaubani, a two-year-old girl, is not your average person. According to brain scans, the girl went for 18 minutes without oxygen while she lay at the bottom of a London pool. 

Despite going without oxygen for three times the normal period, the girl has made a full recovery. Doctors originally believed Oluchi wouldn't be able to walk again and would have brain damage. There predictions have proven unwarranted, which may be due to the cold water Oluchi was submerged in. Doctors believe the cold temperatures inhibited the potential damage. 

Originally reported by the BBC

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

New Way to Test for Postpartum Depression

Until recently postpartum depression was a mystery. Doctors didn't know which women would be affected. That has changed with the release of a study conducted by researchers at the University of California. They found increased levels of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) - produced by the placenta - indicates women at risk for developing depression after they give birth. 

The study is a break through when it comes to identifying the disease and preventing its debilitating effects. Now women can be screened so they know if they are at risk for postpartum depression, which is the first step to treating it. 

Originally reported by Reuters. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

You Don't Need That Extra Kidney After All

Donating anything makes people feel good and although donating a kidney falls into the same category, there's always been anxiety about whether it's good for your health. The selfless may sigh in relief - kidney donors have the same risk for disease as non-donors. 

A new study by the University of Minnesota found that kidney donors and non-donors live just as long and have the same rates of contracting disease (including kidney disease). The study reinforces the safety of donating a kidney, which could lead to more donations and transplants. With 78,000 people on the transplant wait list, anything that encourages donations is welcome. Research and doctors hope the study will alleviate some concerns about donating a kidney.  

Originally reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cream Could Make It All Better

Everyone fears them and can get them - sexually transmitted diseases. Yet there's hope for preventing the spread of genital herpes. 

Scientists at the Harvard Medical School have developed a cream that could stop the spread of herpes. The first of its kind, the cream stops the virus from replicating in a new host. It does this by inhibiting the genes the virus needs to replicate. 

Considering half a billion people have herpes worldwide, this is an amazing breakthrough. Even though the disease can be controlled it is often passed between sexual partners, as well as between mother and child. The cream still has to be tested for human use, but the research is promising. 

Originally reported by the BBC.  

Monday, January 12, 2009

2008 - Not So Bad After All

2008 was tumultuous. Headline after headline proclaimed bad news. Yet one journalist, Radley Balko, of Reason Magazine found several reasons why 2008 was a good year despite the economic downturn, natural disasters, political scandals, and high gas prices. Check out his editorial, "The Good News from A Bad Year." The piece is sure to make you feel better about 2008. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Tetris Helps Trauma

Everyone loves Tetris, the crazy puzzle game that amuses for hours. But aside from entertaining millions, the game actually helps reduce the effects of traumatic stress. 

A group of UK researchers found the game helps disrupt stressful memories. For the study, volunteers watched a series of stressful images. After viewing the images some volunteers played Tetris for 30 minutes. Those who played the game had lower stress levels compared to those who did not play the game. 

Although playing Tetris after a traumatic event may not be practical, scientists hope the study will contribute to other strategies for dealing with traumatic stress. And for now, people who spend hours playing the game can feel a little more relaxed. 

Originally reported by the BBC. Picture from  Tetris. 

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Mars Rovers Celebrate Five Year Anniversary

Space exploration met a milestone this week. NASA's Mars rovers have been on the red planet for an unprecedented five years collecting data.  The first rover, dubbed Spirit, landed on January 3, 2004, while the second rover, named Opportunity, landed 21 days later. Scientists expected the rovers to survive the harsh conditions for only 3 months. The rovers have exceeded expectations by gathering data about water on Mars and information about the planet's soil. 

The rovers' ability to survive bitter conditions and produce significant data about Mars gives the United States' space program hope. With budget cuts and reduced funding, NASA has still managed to operate  a successful program.  Here's to space exploration! 

Originally reported by the BBC. Picture from NASA.