Apr 15, 2009 | 3
Therapeutic cancer vaccines received a potentially big boost this week when Seattle-based biotech company Dendreon announced that its Provenge vaccine prolonged the lives of prostate cancer patients. The success of this trial could pave the way for approval of the drug, which triggers the body's immune system to attack malignant prostate tumors.
Most people think of a vaccine as a jab to prevent the winter flu and other viruses like polio or smallpox. Such vaccines often inject a piece of a virus into the body to trigger it to produce antibodies against it to ward off future infections. A new generation of vaccines can protect girls and young women from a virus that precipitates cervical cancers.
Mar 24, 2009 | 7
SAN FRANCISCO – The popularity of brain training games has great appeal to aging baby boomers who may be having second thoughts about some of those mind-altering experiences of their now distant youth. The real value of these over-engineered video games, however, may not be for lapsed hippies: Research has shown that the games may improve the mental functioning of the learning disabled and the memory impaired – and now comes word that they may reduce the seemingly intractable symptoms of schizophrenia.
Schizophrenics suffer from a long list of cognitive deficits that may affect attention, memory and the ability to set priorities and manage everyday affairs.
One answer may lie in computerized brain-training software, according to researchers at the University of California at San Francisco, who have successfully used such software from Posit Science (a company established by neuroscience pioneer Michael Merzenich) to improve cognition in schizophrenics.
Mar 23, 2009 | 1
SAN FRANCISCO—We may all have a little bit of Narcissus in us. If the mythological figure were a modern-day pretty boy—say a Brad Pitt or a Matt Damon--a neuroscientist might interpret the infatuation with self not as a tragic flaw, but rather as a normal manifestation of the functioning of the superior temporal sulcus, the inferior frontal gyrus or some other brain structure lifted straight out of TV's Grey’s Anatomy.
Like Narcissus, neuroscientists have found that our own faces capture our rapt attention. We recognize emotions from sadness to disgust more readily on our own faces than in the same expressions made by others. And when we don’t, something may be very wrong. This insight, presented yesterday at the Cognitive Neuroscience Society meeting here, seems fairly obvious at first glance.
Jan 20, 2009 | 6
The greatest scientists often become the centerpiece of theater or musical works that expropriate their images and ideas as emblems of a particular historical era. Sometimes such a dramatic device works as intended. Einstein on the Beach, Philip Glass’s lengthy meditation on the physicist’s life and his role as a pivotal figure of the Atomic Age, comes to mind.
Just as often, the scientist as icon leads the artist astray. This year’s observance of the bicentennial of Darwin’s birth and the sesquicentennial of the publication of his masterwork, On The Origin of Species, means that it is now the 19th-century naturalist’s turn to become an object of artistic and historical license.
Dec 26, 2008 | 11
What do you do to pass on your genes to the next generation if you are really hard up, it’s too dark to see clearly and you are literally under enormous pressure. The short answer: play rough and weird.
Species of deep-sea squid that strut their stuff in the blackness that prevail thousands of feet beneath the ocean surface encounter few opportunities to mate and so every tryst must count.
So what's a guy (squid) to do? Males of the species Taningia danae use sharp beaks or hooks on tentacles to make cuts into their mates of more than two inches before depositing sperm packets called spermatophores, Australian biologists tell the German magazine Der Spiegel.
Dec 19, 2008 | 4
Hey, doc. Watch what you say. Sticks and stones may break patients' bones but it turns out words – your words – may hurt them, too. A new study shows that physicians may unnecessarily frighten patients by using technical jargon instead of layman's terms for certain types of medical conditions, making them sound a lot worse than they really are. Some examples:“androgenic alopecia” instead of male pattern baldness or “myalgic encephalopathy” in place of chronic fatigue syndrome.
Researchers at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario report in the online journal PLoS One that 52 undergraduate students in a study considered disorders described in “medicalese” to be more serious and rare than when they were cast in simple terms. The technical talk proved confusing only for conditions (male pattern baldness, for one) that were not thought of as diseases until relatively recently.
Dec 12, 2008 | 21
Is your neighborhood using? Researchers from Oregon State University and the University of Washington have devised technology that analyzes what’s been flushed down the toilet to measure how many speed freaks and coke heads you’ve got living down the street.
A report published in the Dec. 15 edition of the American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science & Technology describes a new test that uses standard chemical analytical methods to look at what stuff makes its way through the municipal sewer systems to wastewater treatment plants. There, the test can measure levels of drugs including illegal substances like crystal methamphetamine. Unlike previous methods, the technique does not require expensive and time-consuming sample preparation, making it a practical for comparing drug use in different regions.
Nov 25, 2008 | 3
Prenatal genetic tests such as amniocentesis (drawing some amniotic fluid from around a 16-week fetus) always carries a small risk of miscarriage. Now, a partnership between a group of Chinese researchers and a San Diego biotech company may result in a simple no-risk blood test that detects defects caused by single-gene mutations.
Chinese University of Hong Kong scientists report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they devised a technique that locates a fetus's DNA molecules in blood samples taken from its mother. The fetal DNA or genetic material, which tends to be shorter than that of the mom, is duplicated and subjected to a “molecular counting” technique that tallies both mutant and normal genetic material. The new method overcomes what had been the major obstacle to such testing: distinguishing fetal DNA inherited from mom from mom's own DNA,
Nov 19, 2008 | 67
A large-scale study released this week showed that the herb gingko biloba has no effect in preventing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. But alternative medicine aficionados may find hope in a new research touting the bennies of another "herb" in preserving memory.
Scientists from Ohio State University report that marijuana, contrary to the conventional wisdom, may help ward off Alzheimer's and keep recall sharp. Their findings, released today at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in Washington D.C.: chemical components of marijuana reduce inflammation and stimulate the production of new brain cells, thereby enhancing memory.
The team suggested that a drug could be formulated that would resemble tetrahydroannibol, or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in pot sans making the user high. But the research may ultimately drive those who fear impending dementia to roll their own solution to the problem.
Nov 18, 2008 | 1
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Scientists for years have been scratching their heads over the cause of itching. There were theories that it shared a nerve pathway with pain to the brain – and now comes news that different forms of itching apparently have their own neural routes. The question is how to block their way. Sure there are some treatments like Benadryl and its ilk that stop itching induced by histamines, biological compounds known to cause itching. But no treatments exist for other forms of itching that drive patients to the doctor’s office.
Despite the fact that itching is the No. 1 complaint that dermatologists receive, there had been little research into the phenom until relatively recently. The reason: the puzzling ailment may be terribly uncomfortable but it's rarely cause for alarm. In certain cases it may be a sign of an underlying problem as serious as cancer – but it was often dismissed because it was not considered to be life threatening.
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