Aug 5, 2009 | 19
The Chongqing Children's Palace in China will mix leisure with science this summer as the staff runs DNA testing on children attending the five-day camp. The test, in combination with observations of how the children play, is designed to help parents identify and cater to their children's genetic gifts at an early age.
Approximately 30 children between the ages of three and 12 are in the program, which costs $880, according to CNN. The DNA samples are collected from mucosal membranes, like saliva from the cheek, and tests are run on 11 genes. From the data collected, the camp scientists think they can extract information regarding a child's IQ, memory, athletic ability and more.
China claims to be the first to use DNA testing as a means to determine genetic gifts as opposed to inheritance or susceptibility to disease.
Jul 31, 2009
The Mexico City government announced a plan this week to boost tourism in response to the negative impact of the H1N1 “swine” flu. The city will pick up medical costs for any guest who gets sick while visiting.
Since the initial outbreak of swine flu in Mexico earlier this year, occupancy in Mexico City’s 470 hotels has dropped to as low as 5 percent and is currently at 59 percent, according to USA Today. The government hopes to boost the number of visitors by offering health insurance for anyone who stays in the city between Aug. 1 and the end of the year.
“We want to send the message that Mexico City is a secure place that will protect its visitors,” city tourism minister Alejandro Rojas Díaz told the New York Times.
Jul 28, 2009 | 5
Many doctors have a hard time owning up to errors, in part due to fears of being sued over malpractice claims and the consequent increase in malpractice insurance premiums.
However, the University of Michigan Health System’s (UMHS) approach, acknowledging mistakes and compensating patients up front, has reduced the number of malpractice cases and subsequent costs, according to the Associated Press.
In 2004, the university implemented a transparency concept in which the hospital admits mistakes, not only addressing patients’ concerns but also allowing doctors the freedom to learn from their mistakes.
UMHS malpractice claims dropped from 121 in 2001 to 61 in 2006, two years after implementation of the policy, Richard Boothman, the system’s chief risk officer, told the AP.
Jul 27, 2009 | 15
The first person to receive a new cardiac stem cell treatment in a U.S. Food and Drug Administration clinical trial is doing well, it was announced last week.
On Friday, doctors at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, in collaboration with the nearby Jewish Hospital, issued a press release stating that one week after treatment, Mike Jones’s heart was getting stronger.
Jones, whose heart tissue is permanently scarred and weakened by two previous heart attacks, suffers from congestive heart failure, a condition affecting about five million Americans each year, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Jul 23, 2009 | 4
On Thursday the New Zealand-based Living Cell Technologies began giving type 1 diabetes patients a pig cell treatment, which promises to suppress disease symptoms.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), roughly 18 million people suffer from the disease, which is characterized by an inability of the body to produce insulin. This failure stems from destruction of islet cells—cells that reside in the pancreas and produce insulin—by a misdirected immune attack.
The company is harvesting islet cells from neo-natal pigs, encapsulating them in an algae-derived gum that protects the pig cells from being rejected by the person’s immune system. Studies on 10 subjects are currently underway in Russia, and now eight patients will be given the product, called Diabecell, in the New Zealand studies.
Jul 22, 2009 | 11
The Food Safety Enhancement Act (H.R. 2749), a bill currently being moved through the House of Representatives and gaining attention over the summer, could give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate the way animals are raised on farms—a prospect that worries many small farmers.
The bill brings to light the challenges of determining which government agency should be regulating which process. And generally, farmers are more comfortable with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) governing farm production policies.
Many farmers believe that the FDA should regulate food and not necessarily the living organisms on the farm. One of the biggest concerns among farmers is the lack of FDA expertise regarding on-farm production, as pointed out by North Carolina Farm Bureau President Larry Wooten during his testimony at a June 17 congressional hearing on the bill. The Farm to Consumer News Web site reports that organic supporters are worried about burdensome and expensive regulations that the “food safety police,” as they call the FDA, might devise and enforce.
Jul 17, 2009 | 6
Yesterday, in a nonjury trial, U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney convicted Dongfan “Greg” Chung, a 73-year-old Orange County, Calif., resident, on six counts of economic espionage for stealing trade secrets from Boeing.
Chung, a former engineer at Boeing and previously for Rockwell International, was also found guilty of two non-economic charges, one count of acting as an agent of the People’s Republic of China and one count of lying to the FBI. He is the first person to be indicted and convicted under the Economic Espionage Act of 1996, which makes theft or misappropriations of trade secrets a federal crime.
Agents from the FBI and NASA raided Chung’s home on September 11, 2006, where they found about 250,000 pages of Boeing and Rockwell materials, including trade secrets on communication upgrade plans for the shuttle, the “next generation booster rocket” Delta 4, and the C-17 Globemaster III airlifter, which is used to rapidly move troops and cargo to military bases. According to the February 2008 indictment, Chung did not work on either the Delta 4 or C-17 projects while he was at Boeing and Rockwell, suggesting that he never should have had possession of those particular documents.
Jul 17, 2009
Orbo Novo, a highly anticipated ballet, premiered in Boston this month. The contemporary dance, designed by esteemed choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, is giving audiences a glimpse into the two hemispheres of the brain.
The work may be an extreme exemplification of an ongoing mission by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to enhance the communication of science for the general public. The two organizations have worked long together on this goal, recently developing a traveling “Communicating Science” workshop, to hone researchers' ability to describe their work in ways non-specialists can grasp.
Jul 16, 2009 | 9
Corn-based ethanol production continues to rise; U.S. farmers planted 87 million acres of corn this year—two million more than the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had initially estimated in March. This news has driven down corn market prices, leaving farmers skeptical about the theory that ethanol production has caused a corn shortage and in turn inflated food prices in the U.S.
The U.S. is the world's largest producer of both corn and ethanol, surpassing Brazil in the latter category in 2006. Since 2002, the year ethanol production began rapidly increasing in the U.S., the rate at which food prices increase has doubled (an increase of $46 per week for a family of four from 2002 to 2009, compared with an increase of $23 per week for the same family over the prior seven-year period). These simultaneous increases in food costs and ethanol production have left many people concerned over a potential shortage of the grain. The current market prices, however, undermines the correlation between ethanol production and a shortage of the grain.
Jul 14, 2009 | 2
Arm injuries are commonplace among Major League Baseball pitchers, and such impairments may have cost a few notable pitchers, such as Randy Johnson and Brandon Webb, a chance to play in the 76th All-Star Game tonight.
A pitcher’s shoulder joint can rotate as quickly as 7,000 degrees per second—nearly 20 complete revolutions in one second if the shoulder could rotate completely freely—during a pitch, making it one of the fastest movements possible by the body, and this repetitive motion of the arm contributes to the fatigue-related injuries. Ian Byram and his colleagues at Vanderbilt Medical Center are hoping to reduce the damage by identifying pitchers at risk for injury during the preseason, allowing teams to design unique strength training routines for susceptible athletes.
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