Thursday, Nov. 20, 2008
Computers were once thought to be a clean technology. Everything virtual! No more paper!
That turned out to be an illusion. Computers produce some of the most toxic waste.
But that’s all about to change with the introduction of the world’s first completely biodegradable computer. Yes, you read that right: biodegradable.
The computer is made from wood panels which have been manufactured from waste products from the lumber industry.
The panels themselves have been impregnated with seeds. This means that once the computer reaches the end of its lifecycle it can be planted so that new trees will grow!
”One advantage of Iameco is that when the components are buried in landfill the wood gets wet, breaks down and new plants begin to grow from old computers.
There’s no mercury, lead or plastic in the machine, and it has three times the lifespan of other computers.”
It’s about $250 more expensive than a regular computer and runs any software.
Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2008
A mother in British Columbia, Canada, has donated an ovary to her twin sister.
It’s a remarkable gift of life in this November 11 or sister made medical history by giving birth to a baby produced with the egg of her sister’s transplanted ovary.
Born circa nine years ago in Hamburg, Germany, only Tilly was able to conceive naturally. Tilly is the mother of two children; Johanna and Lars.
Her sister, suffering from osteoporosis, given up the hope of bearing children.
Groundbreaking work in fertility Center of St. Louis, Missouri, made an ovary transplant possible.
“The doctor told my sister, ‘You and your twin sisters are ideal candidates for this surgery.’
My major driving factor was to help her.
After the surgery, it was kind of weird knowing that part of me was travelling overseas.
It’s the gift of life. My sister is super-happy. It’s just amazing the attention she’s getting from around the world. It gives a whole new meaning to Remembrance Day.”
— Tilly Buscher
Even then the chance of conceiving was considered to be very small.
The birth of the girl has been a miraculous result no one dared to hope for and has made headlines worldwide.
In what can only be described as a miracle mammoths could soon be roaming the earth again.
This is because researchers have been able to reconstruct the complete DNA of amendments. This is a world breakthrough. Similar DNA reconstruction is now possible for disappeared species such as the dodo and Neanderthal man.
The scientists believe that that is possible to implement the reconstructed DNA into the egg of an African elephant; the closest relative to the moments. This will effectively resurrect the species that died out more than 4500 years ago.
“By deciphering this genome we could, in theory, generate data that one day may help other researchers to bring the woolly mammoth back to life by inserting the uniquely mammoth DNA sequences into the genome of the modern-day elephant.
This would allow scientists to retrieve the genetic information that was believed to have been lost when the mammoth died out, as well as to bring back an extinct species that modern humans have missed meeting by only a few thousand years.
Our dataset is 100 times more extensive than any other published dataset for an extinct species, demonstrating that ancient DNA studies can be brought up to the same level as modern genome projects.”
— Professor Schuster
“This would allow scientists to retrieve the genetic information that was believed to have been lost when the mammoth died out, as well as to bring back an extinct species that modern humans have missed meeting by only a few thousand years
Scientists at Pennsylvania State University were able to reconstruct the DNA after extracting some DNA from the hairs of two mammoths which had been buried in snow for more than 20,000 years.
Although the extreme cold has helped preserve most of the DNA, the passage of time damaged part of it.
By comparing the DNA with the DNA of the close relative the African elephant, the 99.7% match, they were able to fill in the gaps.
Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2008
Doctors from the Indraprastha Apollo Hospital in Delhi have cured a three year old girl from a rare disease which prevented her from leading a normal life.
Fatima suffered from Crigler Najjar Syndrome (CNS), a rare and fatal liver disease.
Her only means of staying alive was phototherapy. Undressed she would be exposed to specific wavelengths of light for 10-16 hours a day, every day.
Dr Subhash Gupta (liver transplant expert) and Dr Anupam Sibal (paediatrician) transplanted a part of Fatima’s father’s liver. That has brought the bilirubin level to normal heights.
“Very high levels of bilirubin can cause permanent brain damage. The main therapy for patients with this disease is phototherapy. Greater the surface area of the body that is exposed to light and greater the intensity of light falling on the skin, higher is the efficacy of phototherapy.
Fatima was living in agony, spending 10 to 14 hours every day under phototherapy since birth. This was severely restricting her lifestyle. Even travelling and vacations were a great problem.
Since the defect was with the liver, we decided to transplant part of the healthy liver of Fatima’s father into her. She will not require any more phototherapy. She will only have to be on medicines all her life, the dosages of which will lessen as she ages.
Both Fatima and her father are doing well. Her eyes and skin are no more yellow in colour.”
— Dr Gupta
Cured, Fatima has returned to her family in the Middle East and can start a normal life.
Monday, Jul. 14, 2008
Besides making pasta’s curry tangy, the plump and red tomato has far more serious benefits – the humble fruit can be a suitable carrier for an oral vaccine against Alzheimer’s disease, says a group of researchers.
The study, conducted by HyunSoon Kim from the Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology (KRIBB) in Korea and colleagues from Digital Biotech Inc. and the Department of Biological Science at Wonkwang University, is currently in the early stages.
However, it is a promising first step towards finding an edible vaccine against the neurodegenerative disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia and it progresses over a long period of time.
It is thought to be caused by the accumulation of human beta-amyloid, a toxic insoluble fibrous protein in the brain, which leads to the death of neurons.
Reducing the accumulation of beta-amyloid may inhibit the degeneration of the nervous system and therefore prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. One approach is to stimulate the immune system to reduce beta-amyloid in the brain.
In the study, the researchers’ aim was to develop a plant-derived vaccine against Alzheimer’s disease, since beta-amyloid is toxic to animal cells.
Tomatoes are an attractive candidate as a vaccine carrier because they can be eaten without heat treatment, which reduces the risk of destroying the immune stimulation potential of the foreign protein.
In the study, the scientists inserted the beta-amyloid gene into the tomato genome and measured the immune responses to the tomato-derived toxic protein in a group of 15-month-old mice. They immunized the mice orally with the transgenic tomato plants once a week for three weeks, and also gave the mice a booster seven weeks after the first tomato feed. Blood analyses showed a strong immune response after the booster, with the production of antibodies to the human foreign protein.
The authors conclude: “Although we did not reveal a reduction of existing plaques in the brain of mice challenged with tomato-derived beta-amyloid…this study represents a unique approach in which transgenic plants expressing beta-amyloid protein are used to produce a vaccine.”
Thursday, Jul. 10, 2008
The fact that John Seville can tell this story is incredible.
“Once I found out I did die, it was extremely terrifying,” the 41-year-old New Jersey police officer said.
Seville was in his garden three months ago when he felt something terribly wrong.
“My legs felt cold. It felt like I had snow blindness,” he said.
Minutes after arriving at this hospital, Seville went into cardiac arrest; he flat-lined, no heartbeat.
“At that particular point in time, he’s dead. The question is: Is he going to remain dead,” Morristown Memorial Hospital Heart Dr. James Slater said. “He’s fallen off the cliff. We reach, we grab, we pull him back.”
Injecting medications started Seville’s heart again. However, doctors discovered another emergency: A deadly tear in his aorta, the major blood vessel in the body. A five-and-a-half hour operation repaired that blood vessel, but by now, many of his organs were failing, including his brain.
Three days after the surgery, the patient was only minimally conscious, paralyzed on his left side and making a little progress.
“He was on a ventilator, and I was afraid he would never be off of it,” Seville’s wife, Connie, said.
That’s when Connie 40 weeks pregnant with their second child went into labor. In that very same hospital, two floors down Levi Seville was born. Within hours, Connie decided this baby might hold the key to her husband’s recovery.
“The nursery brought the baby down with Connie and held him up to his face,” nurse Vicky Dunn said. “And he just cracked the biggest smile on his face. The unit got quiet, and then you just heard people crying. It was a beautiful sight. Then we just knew: He’s gonna make it.”
For the next several weeks, John’s recovery amazed even his doctors. Day by day, he gained strength and lost most of the paralysis.
Finally, it was time to head home. With a “thank you” to his doctors and nurses the Sevilles were soon back together again.
“Just to be able to come home and hug them, and just say ‘I love you,'” John said. “For a while there, you never know if you’re going to have that opportunity. It ‘s incredible.”
Wednesday, Jul. 9, 2008
Young people and adults who experience social anxiety may benefit from a revolutionary new study being carried out at the University of Sydney.
The study’s lead researcher, Dr Adam Guastella from the University of Sydney’s Brain & Mind Research Institute, said the treatment involves a combination of cognitive-behaviour therapy and d-Cycloserine (DCS), an antibiotic commonly used to treat tuberculosis.
“What is so exciting about this research is that this radical new method of treatment uses DCS to help patients learn to overcome fear faster so that it is less likely to return,” Dr Guastella said. “We use the medication in combination with the best psychological therapy approaches we have to create a top of the line treatment.
“This trial will test how effective DCS is for the everyday mental health professional, and the likelihood that DCS will revolutionise anxiety treatments for the general community.”
Dr Guastella recently led the largest and most comprehensive trial of this medication to treat social anxiety in university clinics, with a team of UNSW and Macquarie researchers. Published in Biological Psychiatry, it is the first international study to provide strong and comprehensive evidence for the benefits of DCS.
“We gave 56 adults either the medication or a placebo immediately before a therapy session. Those who took DCS with psychological treatment showed greater and faster improvement in total wellbeing,” he said.
Dr Guastella said social anxiety typically develops between the age of 12 and 27, and his new treatment trial is aiming to target sufferers from 12 years to 65. “We are hoping to develop a more effective treatment that is likely to have the greatest impact on reducing long-term disability across the lifespan.”
He said research has found that social anxiety in early adulthood can contribute to long-term social isolation and other mental health problems later in life. In the early stages social anxiety often appears as shyness or a fear of being perceived negatively by others.
Monday, Jul. 7, 2008
The parents of baby twins who defied death due to groundbreaking surgery in the womb have thanked the hospital that saved them.
Fidelma and Paul Greene, from Swords, Dublin, said yesterday their daughters, Lauren and Sophie, were thriving three months after being born.
Their unborn children had been given almost no chance of survival when Rotunda Hospital medics discovered they suffered from a rare medical condition.
Doctors diagnosed them with Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS) when their mother was 21 weeks pregnant.
The condition means one baby gets too much blood and the other too little. In almost all cases it leads to death of both twins, if it’s not treated.
Consultant obstetrician, Professor Fergal Malone, decided the foetuses had to be operated on while they were still inside their mother’s womb if they were to have any chance of surviving.
He performed the life-saving procedure in the hospital’s new foetal operating theatre on January 10 this year. The operation involved the obstetrician and his team inserting a camera, less than an eighth of a inch thick, and other tiny surgical instruments, into the womb.
The camera helped the team identify abnormal blood vessels, which were then repaired using laser therapy.
The girls were born by caesarean section three months later on April 7.
Lauren and Sophie are among the first children in Ireland to survive the pioneering surgery. It also saved the lives of twin boys Ryan and Dylan Kershaw, who were born in March last year.
The radical surgery was previously available in only a handful of clinics in Europe and North America.
Mr and Mrs Green said their babies would not have survived without Professor Malone and his team and thanked them for their care. “Paul and I are absolutely delighted that this story has had such a happy ending,” said Mrs Green (43).
“We would like to thank all the staff in The Rotunda for their excellent care and professionalism. Lauren was discharged home with me after five days and Sophie joined us at home nine days later. Now the girls are three months old and are thriving.”
Professor Malone said almost a third of all twin pregnancies were identical, and up to a quarter of identical twins could develop Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome.
“When one considers that up until recently survival for these babies was so poor, it is gratifying to see the Irish health service investing in new technology that provides such an immediately apparent benefit to our patients.”
Thursday, Jun. 12, 2008
Proteins in alligator blood could lead to new drugs that fight the super infections that plague humans, Louisiana researchers say. Mark Merchant of McNeese State University in Lake Charles, La., noticed that alligators often get banged up in battles over territory or food, but they never seem to get infected, despite slimy living conditions in bacteria-filled swamps.
“These alligators tend to get into tussles and fights,” says Lancia Darville, a researcher at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and a study co-author. “They have torn limbs and scratches that are exposed to all of this bacteria in the water, yet they are never infected.”
In a study, presented last week at the American Chemical Society meeting in New Orleans, Merchant and other experts explained why.
When researchers exposed 23 species of bacteria to the serum from alligator blood, all of the bugs were destroyed. Humans typically can defeat only eight of the bacteria.
“That was a good indication that alligators must have some other additional proteins or some proteins that are overly expressed in their system that are either not present in ours or not overexpressed in ours,” Darville says.
The study was the first to explore the anti-microbial activity of alligator blood in detail, according to the American Chemical Society. Previous studies by Merchant found that alligators, unlike humans, who need to be exposed to a bug for their immune system to gear up to fight it, are born with what is called an innate immune system.
“They don’t need to be exposed to any microorganism such as bacteria, viruses, fungi for their bodies to respond against them,” Danville says.
The findings may lead scientists to new drugs that can fight some of the most stubborn infections in humans, such as the “superbugs” that resist antibiotics.
If scientists can identify and then mimic the alligator’s microscopic defenders, Darville says, they might be able to make stronger bug-fighting pills or creams that could be applied to burns to fight infections.
“Ultimately, we would like to determine what the chemical structure is,” Darville says. “Once we can do that, we could eventually develop these into different anti-bacterial and anti-fungal drugs.”
Wednesday, Jun. 11, 2008
A breakthrough in research into Alzheimer’s Disease has been welcomed by those dealing with the condition.
Dr Calum Sutherland and colleagues at Dundee University’s Ninewells Medical School identified an enzyme which partially reverses the development of nerve clumps and tangles in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s.
The enzyme acts on a protein called CRMP2 which plays a key role in the formation of the clumps.
Drugs developed from the discovery could slow down their growth.
Dr Sutherland said: “One of the hardest tasks in Alz-heimer’s research is finding the abnormal biochemical pathways among the cascade of reactions taking place in the healthy brain, and working out how to repair them without causing unwanted side-effects.
“The new work highlights part of the natural process that could be harnessed to fully reverse the abnormal CRMP2 structure.”
Rebecca Wood, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust which funded Dr Sutherland’s work, said such findings are crucial to understanding the condition.
“A better understanding of the changes that occur in the brain at the onset of Alzheim-er’s, and how the disease progresses, could enable scientists to develop effective treatments for slowing or stopp-ing the disease,” she said.
“With 700,000 people in the UK living with Alzheim-er’s and other dementias, we desperately need to find an effective treatment to help these people.”
The discovery has been welcomed by Alzheimer’s Scotland which supports sufferers and their families.
Gabrielle Colston-Taylor, service manager for the charity in Dundee, said there is some pride that the discovery has been made in the city.
“It’s really exciting that this has happened in Scotland and more so that it’s in Dundee,” she said.
“But with all these things it will take time for it to be turned into a usable medicine for treatment.”
Monday, Jun. 9, 2008
Scientists at the United States space agency NASA say they could be on the verge of a breakthrough in their efforts to forecast earthquakes.
Researchers say some of the biggest earthquakes, such as the recent one in China, seem to be preceded by disturbances high up in the earth’s atmosphere.
They think rocks which are about to break become positively charged with electricity at the earth’s surface.
The electrical effect is then transferred 100 kilometres into the ionosphere, where it can be picked up by satellites.
Wednesday, Jun. 4, 2008
A HONG Kong research team has successfully tested a new drug combination that could help tackle the deadly bird flu virus in humans, scientists said in a paper due to be published tomorrow.
The use of three drugs together dramatically increased the survival rate of mice who had been infected with the deadly H5N1 virus, the University of Hong Kong team said in a paper to be published a United States-based journal.
And the treatment could help improve the survival chances of people infected with the deadly virus if the success can be replicated in humans, the paper said.
“Triple therapy offers some hope for surviving the devastating consequences associated with a pandemic influenza outbreak,” the 13-person team said in a paper to be released in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The team tested the drug combination on mice injected with lethal doses of the bird flu virus. They found that the drug combination increased survival rates from 13.3 per cent to 53.3 per cent when given after a delay of 48 hours.
The mortality of people infected with bird flu varies between 45 and 81 per cent, the paper said.
Several major pharmaceutical companies have been working on a vaccine to prevent the disease, which has killed more than 240 people, mainly in Asia, since 2003, according to the World Health Organisation.
DODDINGTON Rector Val Fernandez is walking tall after under-going a miracle during a recent Christian conference.
The sixty-year-old reverend had suffered with one leg being shorter than the other for 50 years after injuring her left limb in an accident at the age of 10.
But when a group of people at the New Wine Conference in Harrogate started to pray for Val for help with arthritis in her ‘good’ leg she started to feel something happening.
Although the prayers were being said for the pain in her ‘good’ right leg Val started to feel discomfort in her shorter left leg.
“It felt like my leg wanted to go somewhere and there was no room for it. Someone suggested taking my shoes off and it felt better,” explained Val, who also noticed she could put her heel on the floor.
“My left leg had been one-and-a-half inches shorter since the accident. I fell off my bike and a few days later I started to have a lot of pain. I went to the doctor and was told I should try to use my leg as much as possible – which I did.
“Unfortunately this caused awful damage. My leg ended up being shorter and I had to wear special built-up shoes on my left foot to compensate.
“I have had two hip replacements as a result of the damage caused and I walked with a limp despite the special shoes,” said Val.
But after the prayer experience at the conference Val was convinced her shorter leg had grown.
“I didn’t say anything much to anyone. I told a few close friends, but I wanted to have it confirmed first.
“I knew I had a hospital appointment to get some new shoes built up so when I went for this appointment I told the man responsible for organising the building up of my shoes that I thought my leg had grown.
“He asked me to walk with my shoes on and off and, although I still walked with a limp, there was no real difference between how I walked with or without my shoes. He said my leg had grown an inch.
“It is still half-an-inch shorter but he told me your body can naturally compensate for this and he said I didn’t need the raisers in my shoes any more.
“That was two weeks ago. I’m picking up my shoes this week and they will have had the raisers removed.
“I have just bought myself a dainty pair of pink shoes and for the first time I can choose whatever shoes I like without having to worry whether they are suitable to be built up.
“God does heal people. It is not just stories in the Bible, he is still doing things to help people,” said Val, who firmly believes she has undergone a miracle thanks to the power of prayer.
“There is no other explanation for what has happened. The man at the hospital could not explain it. I still limp slightly, but it is something and nothing,” she concluded.
She has contacted the conference organisers who have congratulated Val on her ‘fantastic news’.
Tuesday, Jun. 3, 2008
Two-year-old Nate Liao has spent his young life swathed in bandages from head to toe.
Nate has a rare and deadly genetic disease that prevents his skin from attaching to his body. The slightest friction against his skin, such as the rubbing of the seam from his shirt, gave him blisters the size of water balloons. Swallowing anything but baby food tore his esophagus.
Yet today, seven months after an experimental therapy at the University of Minnesota Children’s Hospital Fairview, the New Jersey toddler is eating Oreos. He’s slurping chicken noodle soup, cleaning his bowl and holding up his spoon for more. He’s wearing a regular T-shirt. And, for at least a few hours a day, some of his bandages are coming off.
For the first time, doctors say, they appear to have cured the disease Nate has, called epidermolysis bullosa.
“Every now and then, you really feel like you’ve done something great,” says John Wagner, a hematologist at the University of Minnesota Medical School who oversaw Nate’s therapy, a bone marrow transplant from his healthy 3-year-old brother, Julian. Doctors did the transplant to give Nate a vital protein that he was born without. That protein, collagen VII, glues the outermost layer of skin to the underlying layer, Wagner says.
The goal was for stem cells from the transplanted bone marrow to travel to Nate’s skin and begin to make collagen VII once they arrive, says Angela Christiano of Columbia University, who identified the gene for Nate’s disease and collaborated on his therapy.
The procedure, like all bone marrow transplants, was risky. Before they delivered the healthy bone marrow, doctors first administered intensive chemotherapy to kill off Nate’s immune system and prevent his body from rejecting his brother’s cells. A child like Nate, who has so many open wounds, would be left especially vulnerable to infection.
But Nate was lucky, Wagner says. His brother’s blood was a perfect match, which cut the risk of rejection.
Nate recovered from the surgery and even gained weight, says his mother, Theresa Liao, who has met with many researchers over the years to push for a cure.
Best of all, tests show that Nate’s body is making collagen VII. The transplant, Wagner says, seems to have cured the underlying genetic mistake that causes Nate’s disease.
But doctors don’t need lab tests to see the difference in Nate.
Nate today looks like a different child, Wagner says. His face has plumped up, and he has fewer blisters. Nate’s skin, which once looked like cellophane, now looks more normal, his mother says. Nate is even tough enough to bounce back after being hit by Julian with a toy train.
“They’re horsing around like brothers, instead of everyone saying, ‘Don’t hurt the baby,’ ” Liao says.
Wagner says he hopes Nate’s body will continue to make more collagen VII over time.
The protein won’t erase Nate’s scars, Wagner says. But, as the boy grows, his scars should appear proportionally smaller. With fewer wounds, Nate should have a lower risk of infection. He will become better nourished as cells lining his digestive system heal. And, most of all, doctors hope Nate will be spared from the aggressive skin cancer that kills many patients in their 20s.
Now, Nate’s parents and doctors are hoping for a second miracle. His 5-year-old brother, Jake, who has the same rare disease, is undergoing a transplant at the University of Minnesota. Jake faces tougher odds, Wagner says. Doctors couldn’t find a perfectly matched donor, so he’s receiving a match from an unrelated donor.
And because Jake is older, he has suffered far more scarring. He has lost the tips of his fingers, and his fingers have fused together. If the transplant cures his disease, surgeons will try to repair the damage, Wagner says.
Right now, Julian, Jake, Nate and their mother are in Minneapolis as Jake receives treatment. The father, Roger Liao, remains in New Jersey with a fourth son, who is healthy.
Scientists around the world will pay close attention to a news conference today as doctors present their research for the first time. If Nate has benefited from the transplant, other doctors will try to offer them, as well.
“It’s extremely exciting,” says Dennis Roop, a stem-cell expert at the University of Colorado-Denver Anschutz Medical Campus.
Jonathan Vogel, a senior investigator in dermatology at the National Cancer Institute, cautions that other patients may not respond as well as Nate. Experiments in mice — performed before doctors tried the therapy on Nate — cured only three of 13. Doctors also may want to wait before declaring Nate cured, to see if his condition continues to improve, he says.
But the boys’ mother says the therapy is an answer to a prayer. Ever since her first son was born with this disease, she says, “I made him a promise, to do whatever I could to make him better or make this go away. I’m doing my best to keep that promise.”
Monday, Jun. 2, 2008
A deformed Samoan baby girl banned from entering New Zealand is heading home after extensive medical treatment in the United States.
Nine-month-old Miracletina (Miracle) Julie Nanai was born to her parents Sefulu and Mikaele Nanai in Falelatai, near Apia, with extreme deformities, notably around the face. Medical authorities had not expected her to survive.
The parents had been told the child would die within hours if not fed. Her family refused to let her die and secretly fed her.
Family backer To’oa Kristin Taylor has written to media organisations in Samoa saying Miracle was heading home.
She has been in Miami Children’s Hospital for extensive surgery.
“All of this work has been worth every second,” Taylor wrote.
“To learn to live your faith to the point of exhaustion, in the face of criticism, in the depth of financial need and when all is seemingly hopeless … is a gift few will realize unless they believe in ‘Miracles’.”
They say they will be back in Samoa this week.
The hospital donated many of the services while fund raising in Australia, New Zealand and Samoa raised $100,000 to send the child to Starship children’s hospital in Auckland but she was refused a visa to enter New Zealand.
The then head of Immigration, now suspended, Mary-Anne Thompson, declared last September that treatment was not advisable and “will not benefit Tina’s quality of life.”
Having now undergone surgery at Miami Children’s Hospital, Miracle could live a “long, long” time, chief of plastic surgery S. Anthony Wolfe said.