Killer hot peppers? Jalapeños join tomatoes as salmonella suspect
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials are now investigating whether jalapeño peppers (as well as closely related serrano peppers) may be linked to a nationwide salmonella outbreak first reported in April. Until now, tomatoes were the prime suspects in the largest U.S. food-borne outbreak in the past decade. More than 1,000 people have been affected in more than 40 states and in Canada. Salmonella poisoning causes diarrhea, vomiting, body aches and fever; it is most dangerous in infants, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems. During a news conference yesterday, officials said they believe that both peppers and tomatoes are culprits and that they are trying to pinpoint the source, such as farms that grew both crops. For updates and a list of foods to avoid, check out the FDA's Web site.
Implant for children promises to straighten young spines
Scientists in Spain and France have developed a new implant designed to help children with scoliosis, abnormal curvature of the spine. Developed at NADAR Computerized Medical Systems in Langreo, Spain, the implant uses a hydraulic piston to apply a force between two points along the spine—gradually straightening the excess bend, according to New Scientist. As the child grows and the spine expands, doctors would send a wireless signal to adjust the implant—which has been tested in sheep but is at least three years away from human trials—opening a valve that moves fluid from the implant's reservoir into the piston to increase the implant's hydraulic pressure. The device, described in the journal Mechatronics, is removed completely once the spine is straight. If successful, this hydraulic implant could replace back braces or, in more extreme cases, spinal fusion surgery to graft sections of bone or metal rods onto the spine to help straighten it. The hydraulic implant can be used in young children and can be adjusted as they grow, whereas these other approaches cannot be performed until a child is almost fully grown (by then their scoliosis has worsened over time). Scoliosis affects up to four children in every thousand, with girls accounting for 80 percent of the cases.
Apple's latest line: New 3G iPhone hits the streets
The wait is over. Apple's new iPhone 3G goes on sale today, promising to download information twice as fast as its predecessor, featuring a built-in global-positioning system (GPS) and running hundreds of new software programs, including one from the Associated Press that uses the GPS to determine the iPhone owner's location and automatically send him or her local news articles. Other software includes eBay Mobile, which allows iPhone users to shop and to track bids on any items they are selling as well as programs from Facebook, MySpace, Sega and Travelocity specifically designed to work on the device's touch screen. Also, unlike its predecessor, which debuted in June 2007 retailing at $599, the new iPhone will cost a more reasonable $199 for the eight-gigabyte model and $299 for the 16-gigabyte model, if your sign a two-year contract with network provider AT&T (the only phone company licensed to support the iPhone in the U.S.).
Who's afraid? Not these brain cells
Brown University researchers have found brain cells responsible for helping people overcome fear of things they once found scary. The finding, published in Nature, could pave the way for these so-called intercalated cells in the amygdala, a brain region that processes fear, to become drug targets for treating phobias (such as fear of heights and closed spaces) as well as post-traumatic stress disorder in soldiers and others. Scientists trained two rat populations—one with these cells intact and the other with them disabled—to fear a certain sound by giving them a mild shock every time it was played. After awhile, the animals would freeze in their tracks when they heard the noise, bracing for pain. The team then played the tone sans the shock. When they sounded the note again a week later, rats with healthy intercalated cells weren't bothered, whereas the others froze. The scientists believe that intercalated cells form "extinction memories," which associate something previously feared (such as an air raid siren or a car backfiring) with a harmless outcome.