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« Science: July 2006 | Main | Science: September 2006 »

Science

Cancer Cells Commit Suicide

They think they found a way to trick cancer cells into committing suicide. It's based on the mechanism regular cells used to destroy themselves if they're defective.

Scientists have found a way to trick cancer cells into committing suicide. The new synthetic compound, which removes a molecular safety catch that activates a natural executioner in the body's cells, could lead to better treatments of cancers including those affecting the lung, skin, breast, kidney and colon.

The body has several defences against cells growing out of control and into tumours - one is to cause defective or dangerous cells to commit suicide. This natural process of cell death, called apoptosis, involves a protein called procaspase-3. When activated, procaspase-3 changes into an enzyme called caspase-3, which begins the cell death. In cancers, this mechanism is often faulty and cells can grow unchecked. Many types of cancer are resistant not only to the body's own signals for cell death but also to the chemotherapy drugs that try to mimic it.

But Paul Hergenrother, a chemist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has found a way around the natural biological process that kickstarts apoptosis - a synthetic molecule that directly activates procaspase-3. "This is the first in what could be a host of organic compounds with the ability to directly activate executioner enzymes."

The question is, what happens if the synthetic molecule starts to encourage healthy cells to also activate the procaspace-3 enzyme? Instead of unchecked cancer growth, your cells will start spontaneously dying.


By min | August 28, 2006, 3:10 PM | Science | Comments (0)| Link



Pluto Sues IAU

There are actually public interest groups for Pluto. And they're suing the International Astronomical Union for downgrading Pluto to a dwarf planet.

"The IAU isn't the end-all, be-all for the solar system," said a public relations spokesperson for Pluto, appearing on CNN's Larry King Show. "You can't just un-designate a planet without giving folks on the planet an opportunity for due process, and the right to be heard, and to challenge the facts upon which the decision is based." The complaint alleges that the IAU violated key provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act, federal constitutional law, and certain Plutonian legal principles that are too complicated to set forth here.

"We reject the downgrade from classical planet to 'dwarf planet'," the Plutonian flak told King. "We have a right to self-identity, to call ourselves whatever we want to call ourselves and not allow some pointy-headed scientists on Earth to label us. We feel confident that a jury on Earth or on Pluto or on any other planet will see through the IAU's discrimination and in the end give us celestial justice." Apparently, Pluto has contacted Mark Geragos to see if he will take the case.

It sounds like a joke. I hope very much it is. Otherwise, there are people out there who are discussing "Plutonian legal principles" and feel that this is about "self-identity". Also, that last sentence says Pluto called a lawyer. The rock. In the sky. Called a lawyer.


By min | August 25, 2006, 3:34 PM | Science | Comments (1)| Link



Unusual Rods

"Unusual Rods Get Thicker When Stretched, Thinner When Compressed"

I mean, you could read the article, but i think the title says all that there needs to be said.


By min | August 25, 2006, 3:32 PM | Science | Comments (0)| Link



Nothing Beats Diesel Fume

For all you exercise types out there:

With every deep draught of oxygen, I also gulp down alarming quantities of ozone, carbon monoxide, microscopic particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, lead, and a witch's brew of other pollutants. By conducting part of my workout at midday along a congested street, I am reducing my lung function, constricting my air passages, courting chest pain, increasing my chances of developing asthma, unleashing free radicals to catalyze carcinogens in my bloodstream, and activating cellular processes that might lead to a heart attack.
...
A sedentary person inhales approximately 15,000 liters of air per day, or 6 to 10 liters per minute. During heavy aerobic exercise, however, you draw in 60 to 150 liters per minute, delivering oxygen throughout 600 to 900 square feet of surface area in the lungs.

"That means the exerciser breathes in 10 to 15 times more pollution than the sedentary person, and he's sucking it deeper into his lungs," says Rob McConnell, M.D., a researcher in the department of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California medical school. "In fact, just by stepping out the door, you could be exposed to five times the ozone you'd inhale if you stayed inside. So if you're outdoors and exercising . . . well, do the math."

Link


By min | August 23, 2006, 3:07 PM | Science | Comments (2)| Link



It's Only DEATH

How sad is it that a) the companies have to be forced to warn people that a drug they're taking might cause sudden death and b) that a drug that might cause death is FDA approved at all?

Several drugs to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, including the widely prescribed Ritalin, must include warning information about the risk of heart problems and psychotic behavior, US health officials said today.

The drugs, which include GlaxoSmithKline Plc's Dexedrine and Novartis AG's Ritalin, must include a warning about the possible risk of sudden death and serious heart problems, Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman Susan Bro said.

...

Ms Bro could not confirm whether other ADHD drugs - Johnson & Johnson's Concerta and Eli Lilly and Co's Strattera - also were ordered to carry the warnings.

Strattera already includes a caution about suicidal thoughts, while Shire Plc's Adderall already carries a warning that misuse can cause heart problems.

[emphasis mine]

Link

I find it very hard to believe all these people are suffering from ADD. I think they're bored and not getting enough exercise. I also think that parents want their kids to be quiet when the parents want them to be quiet and act like happy little dolls when the parents are ready to be entertained. Since we can't all afford nannies to take them away when we're tired of them, we get them drugs to keep them sedated. The one and only time the health care system tries to "help out".

THX-1138, anyone?


By min | August 22, 2006, 10:53 AM | Science | Comments (0)| Link



They "Lost" It

It was the BBC that previously held the record for losing historic tapes - the first Top of the Pops, the early Pete 'n' Dud shows, and more than 100 episodes of Doctor Who have all disappeared. But US space agency Nasa has now claimed the crown. In fact, it has set a record that may prove impossible to beat. It has managed to lose the original footage of the first moon landing by Neil Armstrong and his crew on July 21 1969. Mankind's giant leap has been followed by an equally giant pratfall.

Link

I don't see what the big deal is. They filmed it once in a studio. They surely could refilm it a second time. And with the technology they have, i'm sure they could age it up to look like the original fake footage.


By min | August 16, 2006, 3:15 PM | Science | Comments (1)| Link



Seymour Hersh

CNN Interview:

BLITZER: Welcome back to our special "Late Edition: Crisis in the Middle East." Did the Bush administration see the Israel- Hezbollah conflict as an opening for a U.S. strike against Iran? Joining us now from Washington is the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and The New Yorker magazine staff writer, Seymour Hersh. He's got a major article on this subject that is just coming out.

Spectacular suggestions, allegations being made by you, Sy Hersh, allegations now being formally denied by the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department. But let me read to you from your article: "According to a Middle East expert with knowledge of the current thinking of both the Israeli and the U.S. governments, Israel had devised a plan for attacking Hezbollah -- and shared it with Bush administration officials well before the July 12th kidnappings" of those two Israeli soldiers.

Tell our viewers what you say you've learned because, as you know, the denials are coming in fast and furious.

SEYMOUR HERSH, "NEW YORKER" MAGAZINE: Well, one thing there's no question about, that this was known what Israel was going to do, it's attack on Hezbollah, the basically using air, primarily, was known to this White House. And I will tell you also to the State Department. They both had different reasons, the State Department and White House, for wanting Israel to do it, encouraging them to do it, supporting them.

Our Air Force worked very closely with the Israeli air force for months before this, not necessarily with a deadline knowing when it would happen. It was always going to be whenever there was an incident they would take advantage of an incident. The word I used was fortunate timing. When the Hezbollah grabbed some of the Israeli soldiers in early July, that was then a pretext -- I think that's the only word -- for a major offensive that had been in the works a long time.

The State Department always viewed what Israel was going to do, Condi Rice and her colleagues, as a way to stabilize -- going after Hezbollah would stabilize the Lebanese government and give them a chance under 1559 to take control. The White House, I write in this article, talking about specifically about Cheney's office, sort of center for the neocons, their view was different. Israel's attack on Hezbollah was going to be sort of a model, prototype, that is, a lot of air against a dug-in underground facility. Everything in southern Lebanon that Hezbollah had was underground.

For them it was going to be a test run for the bombing and the attack they really want to do, probably next year if they can. I'm not saying they've decided, but they want to go after Iran, and Iran, of course, the Persians have been dug in since, what, the 11th century so we know it's a tough call.

BLITZER: Because they're saying that these Sy Hersh conspiratorial theories so far-fetched they're rejecting them out of hand, especially this notion that what the Israelis have done now in Lebanon against Hezbollah is a prelude, a test run, if you will, for what the U.S. hopes to do against Iranian targets in Iran. And I want you to explain the nature of your sources, if you can -- I know you have confidential sources -- how good these sources are that are making this spectacular accusation.

HERSH: You know, when I did Abu Ghraib, the same kind of stuff was thrown at me, that I'm fantasizing, I'm a fantasizer, and I'll just put, you know -- I'm not writing from some off the wall weekly. The New Yorker is very solid. The editors of The New Yorker, my editor Dave Remnick and others know who my sources are. In many cases, they've talked to my sources. This is one of the procedures that The New Yorker -- very close fact-checking.

It's not about they're denying what I'm saying. It's about what these people have said to me. These are people inside, very much inside who are very concerned about the policy. And something else that was in the story is this, is that this White House will find a way to view what happened with the Israelis against Hezbollah as a victory. And they'll find a way to see it as a positive for any planning that is going on towards Iran.

I'm not saying Iran's a done deal. What I'm saying is, the idee fixe about Iran is almost as it was about in the first couple years after 9/11 in the White House as about Iraq. These guys, the president, Cheney and others, want to go. It's very much on their minds.

The nuclear weapons, whether they're there or not, have existential for this White House. This president does not want to leave the White House with that problem unsolved, and so, therefore, encouraging and abetting the Israelis to go after Hezbollah, after all, you cannot attack Iran as long as Hezbollah has missiles.

You have to get rid of those missiles, a potential deterrent, before you can go after Iran. That's the way they looked at it in the White House. I think it was something that really should be examined by a Congressional committee. It's sort of time to decide whether we're a democracy or not. This president's doing an awful lot of foreign policy without sharing it with the rest of us.

BLITZER: Because what they're criticizing your sourcing, they're saying you're speaking to former government officials, former intelligence officers, consultants to the U.S. government. The sourcing doesn't seem to include any current officials who are intimately involved with this type of planning.

HERSH: Well, it does. I mean, there are current officials talking to me, and if you read the sourcing carefully you'll see there are people, Middle East experts, you know, whether it's in or out of the government. The bottom line is, it's not a question -- you know, you and I have known each other a long time. Long of tooth we both are.

I would not write something, and I understand this is going to be all over the Middle East. It is already as far as I hear. And I understand the implications of the story. All of us do. And nobody is suggesting that Israel wouldn't have done what it did without the Americans. They didn't -- Israel didn't need the White House to go after Hezbollah, but it's the idea that they got tremendous amount of support from this White House.

That's the idea that -- why do you think this president has spent four and a half weeks doing nothing to get an immediate cease-fire, putting no pressure on the Israelis? It's all part of what they view as sort of a plan for what they want to do next. And it's not conspiratorial. It's simply the way...

BLITZER: Sy Hersh. Sy Hersh writing in The New Yorker magazine. And appreciated coming in Sy. Always appreciate speaking with you. Thanks very much.

HERSH: Great to be here.

More from Hersh, and the conclusions the Bush administration is drawing from the Israel/Hezbollah war, at Billmon.

Sample:

The surprising strength of Hezbollah's resistance, and its continuing ability to fire rockets into northern Israel in the face of the constant Israeli bombing, the Middle East expert told me, "is a massive setback for those in the White House who want to use force in Iran. And those who argue that the bombing will create internal dissent and revolt in Iran are also set back." Nonetheless, some officers serving with the Joint Chiefs of Staff remain deeply concerned that the Administration will have a far more positive assessment of the air campaign than they should, the former senior intelligence official said. "There is no way that Rumsfeld and Cheney will draw the right conclusion about this," he said. "When the smoke clears, they'll say it was a success, and they'll draw reinforcement for their plan to attack Iran."

By fnord12 | August 15, 2006, 12:09 PM | Science | Comments (0)| Link



For the Last Time, Sour and Bitter Are Not the Same

They have their own subset of cells to detect each taste. Link

Mammals, including humans, can detect five primary flavors: bitter, sweet, salty, sour, and umami (known to the West as the taste of monosodium glutamate or MSG). Each taste bud on the tongue contains separate, distinct subsets of cells that specifically detect each taste -- sweet cells respond to sweet substances, bitter cells to bitter substances, and so on. Taste receptors, proteins on the surface of these cells, are responsible for detecting the "taste" of a particular food or chemical and triggering signals sent to the taste centers of the brain.

So, clearly there's either something wrong with your taste cells or with your brain, and i think we all know which explanation is more likely.


By min | August 8, 2006, 11:59 AM | Science | Comments (4)| Link



Pour Toi, Joshua

Approximately 2,000 children are treated in United States hospital emergency rooms annually for escalator-related injuries. According to a study published in the August issue of Pediatrics and conducted by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy (CIRP) in the Columbus Children's Research Institute at Columbus Children's Hospital, an estimated 26,000 U.S. children 19 years of age and younger were treated in a hospital emergency department for an escalator-related injury in 1990-2002.
...
The most common mechanism of injury for all age groups was a fall, which accounted for more than half of the injuries. Entrapment accounted for 29 percent of injuries, and the leg was the most frequent (28%) site of injury for all age groups combined.

Link

I just want to point out that the study put 19 year olds in the "children" category. Now, i can see how little kids can get stuck in the gaps or have their hand caught or something, but if you're 19 years old and can't use an escalator without injuring yourself, i don't think it's entirely the escalator's fault. I think you might just be dumb.


By min | August 8, 2006, 11:49 AM | Science | Comments (4)| Link



Yuck Yuck and Double Yuck

This is so gross. And ofc, it's some crazy German doctor who thought it up. "Yes....let's use real human corpses, skin them, preserve them, and display them. Everybody will love it!"

There will be a skinned male body crouched over a chessboard with his cranium split open to show his brain, seemingly contemplating a move that he will never make.

There will be The Horseman, a rider with his skull chopped in two and his body flayed to show the underlying musculature. He sits with his brain in one hand and a whip in the other, astride the posed and flayed cadaver of a horse, frozen for ever in its leap. There will be another figure chopped up and vertically expanded so that his body resembles a sashimied totem pole or a Salvador Dali painting in which the sliced body looks like a chest of drawers. There will be the erect, flayed cadaver of a man holding his own skin aloft as though it was a precious trophy. Which, in a sense, it is.

But most distressingly of all, at the denouement to the exhibition, there will be the bisected cadaver of an eight-months pregnant woman with her womb opened to reveal the foetus. Von Hagens always arranges the exhibition this way: it starts relatively mutedly with preserved body parts and ends with the emotional climacteric of this double tragedy, held for ever in suspended animation - thanks to the professor's revolutionary preservation technique called plastination.

Link

I really didn't need to know about human musculature that badly. Honest.


By min | August 8, 2006, 11:41 AM | Science | Comments (5)| Link



Oooooh...Shiny!

What's this and how's it work?


By min | August 8, 2006, 11:25 AM | Science | Comments (2)| Link



Terminator Much?

They purposely developed a bunch of robots that are able to work together, independent of humans. What the hell are they thinking?

This August in Monterey Bay, Calif., an entire fleet of undersea robots will for the first time work together without the aid of humans to make detailed and efficient observations of the ocean.
...
Moreover, the mathematical system that allows the undersea robots to self-choreograph their movements in response to their environment might one day power other robotic teams that -- without human supervision -- could explore not just oceans, but deserts, rain forests and even other planets.

First they're able to self-choreograph their movements. Then they start developing independence and free-thinking. And then we're screwed. Scientists are such jerks.


By min | August 2, 2006, 3:11 PM | Science | Comments (0)| Link



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