Apr 13, 2009
Scientists say they have developed a fast and supersensitive new test for ricin, a poison found in castor beans that scientists say is a prime candidate for use in bioterrorism attacks. The new method, described in research recently published in Analytical Chemistry, takes only three minutes to detect ricin and is 100 to 1,000 times more sensitive than tests currently available, according to study co-author Vern Schramm, a biochemist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in Bronx, N.Y.
Ricin comes from the castor bean plant Ricinus communis, which is easy and cheap to grow. Extracting the poison from the beans requires simple chromatography, a method of separating chemicals taught in college chemistry classes. If eaten, inhaled or injected into the bloodstream, ricin kills cells by interfering with their ability to manufacture proteins, which can lead to organ failure and death, Schramm explains. There is no treatment for ricin exposure, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Feb 11, 2009 | 1
Researchers may have discovered a new way to monitor mitochondrial diseases, a spectrum of disorders caused by genetic errors in mitochondria, the fuel-burning factories within cells that produce energy necessary for life. A new study reveals that people with these diseases may be deficient in glutathione, a toxin-fighting molecule made by the body that helps repair damage wrought by wayward mitochondria.
"We found very clearly that the glutathione levels were low in our mitochondrial disease patients," says Gregory Enns, a pediatrician and geneticist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. and coauthor of the study published this week in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. By measuring blood levels of glutathione, researchers may be able to assess the severity of a patient's disease and gauge how well therapies are working, Enns notes.
Feb 9, 2009 | 2
Giving Alzheimer's patients a battery of cognitive tests may help predict whether it's safe for them (and us) to get behind the wheel, according to a new study.
"We found that tests that involved visual perception and visual memory were particularly important in preventing driving errors," says Jeffrey Dawson, a biostatistician at the University of Iowa College of Public Health in Iowa City and lead author of the study published in Neurology.
Dawson hopes the findings will pave the way for the creation of a test that physicians could give to people diagnosed with Alzheimer's to determine if it’s safe for them to be on the road.
Feb 2, 2009 | 1
Identifying women at risk for postpartum depression might be as easy as measuring hormone levels in the blood during pregnancy, suggests a study published today in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
"We found a hormone that is produced by the placenta during pregnancy that is a good predictor of postpartum depression," says lead author Ilona Yim, a psychologist at the University of California in Irvine. Using blood tests to measure this hormone might one day help doctors identify mothers-to-be at risk for postpartum depression (PPD).
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