Sunday, October 04, 2009
The world, my world,
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Robert Bazell at NBC says: "All this enthusiasm is based on a small report published today in the New England Journal of Medicine. It focuses on one clinical trial in its earliest stage in 60 patients with breast, ovarian and prostate cancer. Some — but not all — of the patients whose cancers seemed hopeless saw them shrink drastically or disappear. Many avoided the typical side effects — nausea, hair loss — associated with cancer treatment."
Advances on many cancer fronts are coming fast and furiously, so much so it is hard to keep up with them. This is great for patients who are trying to directly treat their cancers without harming themselves while trying.
Thanks to createmotions for the image.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
There is some conversation going on in the science world about competition, so you may want to follow this discussion in the NYT this week and last.
What if scientists, instead of rushing to publish or perish, chose to cooperate? Sean Cutler decided to do “a little experiment,” as he calls it, and you can see the results in the forthcoming issue of Science. "I can already anticipate that a lot of people will say, “This is a bad message. You are painting an unflattering portrait of scientists.” To this I respond: Most of the scientists I know are very good, passionate and ethical people who behave. But some don’t, and these unethical types gain an unfair advantage that needs to be addressed so that competitive forces can work their magic most effectively. Good ethics = good competition. They are not in opposition."
John Tierney asks in his NYT blog called TierneyLab: "How widespread do you believe this problem is? Have you seen this sort of unethical competition in your field? Ever engaged in it yourself?"
Saturday, May 02, 2009
"Black holes are some of the simplest things in the universe. We think of them as being complicated things because they're described by complicated mathematics," Hamilton said.
"But as a practical matter, they are, in fact, much simpler than the sun, far simpler than stars and infinitely simpler than human beings."
You may also regret that you only have two eyes. In a strange twist, Hamilton and Polhemus argue that three eyes would be needed to properly judge distances inside a black hole, where space-time is highly curved and our binocular vision would become confused."
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
On April 22, at the Experimental Biology 2009 meeting in New Orleans, a panel of leading sleep researchers describes recent and new studies in this fast growing field. The session is part of the scientific program of the American Association of Anatomists (AAA).
Short sleep, poor sleep: novel risk factors for obesity and for type 2 diabetes.
Dr. Eve Van Cauter, University of Chicago, is a specialist in the effect of circadian rhythms on the endocrine system and has conducted several studies in which short-term sleep restriction damaged the body’s ability to regulate eating by lowering levels of leptin, the hormone that tells the body when it has had enough. In the AAA symposium, Dr. Van Cauter describes other recently published studies from her group, one showing that only three days sleep disruption is sufficient to increase insulin resistance in humans (thus causing the body to need higher levels of insulin) and a large epidemiological study showing that short sleep over a five year period causes an increase in systolic blood pressure.
Energy metabolism during chronic sleep deprivation: sleep less, eat more, don’t gain weight, yet show signs of progression toward diabetes.
Panel member Dr. Michael Koban, Morgan State University, reports a new study in which sleep restriction in rats led to glucose intolerance, a prediabetic state in which the blood glucose remains higher than normal after glucose challenge. Significantly, this is the first rodent study of sleep deprivation in which there was no association between glucose dysregulation and weight gain.
The researchers believe that extending sleep restriction will produce more pronounced glucose intolerance in which glucose levels do not return to normal levels for a longer period, thus providing more evidence that not sleeping enough could lead to diabetes in humans. The researchers also are looking for mechanisms to explain the change in metabolism related to sleep deprivation and the dissociation between weight gain and glucose dysregulation and insulin resistance.
Stress-related behaviors and hormone changes after prolonged sleep deprivation – and environmental factors that appear to modify them
Dr. Deborah Suchecki, Universidade Federal de Sao Paulo, describes how prolonged sleep deprivation activates the neuroendocrine stress response, as measured by increased blood levels of the stress-related hormones adrenaline, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), and corticosterone. Earlier studies have shown that sleep restriction in animals can gradually change brain and neuroendocrine systems in ways similar to those seen in stress-related disorders such as depression, while epidemiological studies suggest that sleep restriction may be an important risk factor for cardiovascular and other diseases linked to stress.
CNS changes after chronic sleep deprivation have role in both food intake and metabolism.
Dr. Gloria Hoffman, also of Morgan State University, presents studies that explain the role of the central nervous system pathways in stimulating feeding and causing metabolic changes associated with progression to diabetes. Specifically, increased production of the neurotransmitter neuropeptide Y and decreased production of proopiomelanocortiini products in the hypothalamus explain the hyperphagic response.
Although the CNS’s role in regulating metabolic rate is not well understood, she believes that histamine might be involved. Histamine neurons not only affect the maintenance of wakefulness but also are regulators of peripheral metabolism. In sleep deprived rats, elevations in the glucose to insulin ratio were positively correlated with an increase in histamine expression that raises the possibility that a dysregulation of histamine function during impaired sleep might serve to trigger metabolic and other changes leading to diabetes.
The scientists agree that as sleep curtailment becomes more common in industrialized countries it becomes increasingly important to understand how limited or poor quality sleep produces changes that can lead to obesity and diabetes, both epidemic in the developed world. More and more scientists are jumping on board with these lines of investigation, says Dr. Hoffman, and there is an increased demand for information on the part of health professionals and members of the general public, many of whom consider themselves sleep deprived.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Two presentations drawing from a multi-year nutrition research program in Delta summer camps and schools were presented on April 19 at the Experimental Biology 2009 meeting in New Orleans as part of the scientific program of the American Society for Nutrition. The ongoing research program is being conducted under the direction of research nutritionist Dr. Beverly McCabe-Sellers, US Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service, Little Rock, Arkansas, and is part of the Delta Obesity Prevention Research Unit (OPRU) headed by Executive Director Dr. Margaret Bogle.
The research arm of the Delta OPRU works with local communities to understand obstacles to better nutrition in the Lower Delta (including rural parts of Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi), which leads the nation in the rising prevalence of obesity in both adults and children.
The challenge to having more fruits and vegetables in the diets of youngsters is not their unwillingness, she says, nor is it necessarily the admittedly low income in the area. Potato chips are not inexpensive, but the children often had small bags of them for every meal. The largest challenge, she believes from her experience, is the difficulty in obtaining quality fresh produce at a reasonable cost in these rural areas far away from distribution centers.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
In a presentation April 18, at Experimental Biology 2009 in New Orleans, Dr. Pandey explained why this finding and related work in his Hopkins laboratory is promising in terms of both a new treatment for a large subset of pancreatic cancers and a potential blood or urine screening tool that might eventually do for pancreatic cancer detection what biomarkers like prostate-specific antigen levels have done for prostate cancer. His presentation was part of the scientific program of the American Society for Investigative Pathology.
Personalized treatment. Phosophorylated epidermal growth factor receptor (pEGFR), the receptor identified by Dr. Pandey, is closely related to HER-2, a growth factor receptor found and used as a drug target in a subset of breast cancers. After he found and profiled the pEGFR activated in the pancreatic cancers, Dr. Pandey realized the same receptor had been found by other researchers to be activated in a subset of lung cancers. And, most promising, an EGFR inhibitor named erlotinib already has been through the long and complex Food and Drug Administration approval process and is in use for treatment of these specific lung cancers.
But would the drug work in pancreatic cancers? Dr. Pandey’s group moved from studies of human cell lines to studies in mice in which human pancreatic tumor cells with activated EGFT had been placed. The tumors began growing. But when treated with erlotinib, they began to shrink. Other tumors without activated pECFR showed no response.
The promise – and the challenge – of using pEGFR is that of personalized medicine, says Dr. Pandey. Obviously a growth factor receptor that is activated only in a subset of all pancreatic cancers cannot be a one-size-fits-all target for treatment. Earlier studies in other laboratories and clinical trials already had tried EGF inhibitors as a treatment for pancreatic cancer and concluded that they did not work. When Dr. Pandey’s collaborators allowed them to re-examine their samples, they found that the only case in 12 cases that had responded to the EGF inhibitor was the only case with an activated EGF receptor. Dr. Pandey would like to see other researchers go back and re-analyze their data, separating patients with and without the activated receptor, and then determining the success rate. He believes it would tell a different, more hopeful story.
Screening for pancreatic cancer. Dr. Pandey’s other goal in his research is to use mass spectrometry to find additional markers of pancreatic cancer in the tumors themselves but also in blood and urine, which would avoid the problems of invasive biopsies. As a first step, his team has gone through the scientific literature to create a compendium of several hundred proteins and genes reported to be overexpressed in pancreatic cancers, making them excellent candidates for further study. The compendium already is being used by a consortium of investigators who are developing antibodies against the 60 most promising targets.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
I like the description on Wikipedia on synchronicity: Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events which are causally unrelated occurring together in a supposedly meaningful manner. In order to count as synchronicity, the events should be unlikely to occur together by chance. The concept does not question, or compete with, the notion of causality. Instead, it maintains that just as events may be grouped by cause, they may also be grouped by their meaning. Since meaning is a complex mental construction, subject to conscious and subconscious influence, not every correlation in the grouping of events by meaning needs to have an explanation in terms of cause and effect.
Jordan Lite's 60-Second Science blog, says, "Ever wonder how musicians manage to play in unison? Credit their brain waves: they synchronize before and while musicians play a composition, according to new research. German scientists report in BMC Neuroscience that they measured the brain waves of eight pairs of guitarists using electroencephalography (EEG) while they played a modern jazz piece called Fusion #1 (by Alexander Buck). The researchers found that the guitarists' brain waves were aligned most during three pivotal times: when they were syncing up with a metronome, when they began playing the piece and at points during the composition that demanded the most synchrony."
Saturday, January 24, 2009
[Image from Vaugn Merlyn]
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Evidently the world has been aware of Tammet since 2004 when he one the Pi contest -Tammet's web site.
Good quote: "My brain has developed a little differently from most other people’s. Aside from my high-functioning autism, I also suffered from epileptic seizures as a young child. In my book, I propose a link between my brain’s functioning and my creative abilities based on the property of ‘hyper-connectivity’. "
Daniel Tammet is the author of two books, Born on a Blue Day and Embracing the Wide Sky, which comes out this month. He’s also a linguist and holds the European record for reciting the first 22,514 decimal points of the mathematical constant Pi. Mind Matters editor Jonah Lehrer chats with Tammet about how his memory works, why the IQ test is overrated, and a possible explanation for extraordinary feats of creativity.
LEHRER: Your recent memoir, Born on a Blue Day, documented your life as an autistic savant. You describe, for example, how you are able to quickly learn new languages, and remember scenes from years earlier in cinematic detail. Are you ever surprised by your own abilities?
TAMMET: I have always thought of abstract information—numbers for example—in visual, dynamic form. Numbers assume complex, multi-dimensional shapes in my head that I manipulate to form the solution to sums, or compare when determining whether they are prime or not. For languages, I do something similar in terms of thinking of words as belonging to clusters of meaning so that each piece of vocabulary makes sense according to its place in my mental architecture for that language. In this way I can easily discern relationships between words, which helps me to remember them. In my mind, numbers and words are far more than squiggles of ink on a page. They have form, color, texture and so on. They come alive to me, which is why as a young child I thought of them as my “friends.” I think this is why my memory is very deep, because the information is not static. I say in my book that I do not crunch numbers (like a computer). Rather, I dance with them. None of this is particularly surprising for me. I have always thought in this way so it seems entirely natural. What I do find surprising is that other people do not think in the same way. I find it hard to imagine a world where numbers and words are not how I experience them!