Disease

Cancer cells are smart.  Very smart.  They can evade the immune system using several different methods that shield them from detection.  Thanks to the brilliance of scientists such as Jeff Bluestone, Jim Allison and Carl June, the rapidly flourishing field of cancer immunotherapy is providing an avenue for the immune system to overcome cancer's subversion.  Revising features of immune cells enables the immune system to recognize cancer cells for what they are – and destroy them. 

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We all have this image of mosquitoes as incredibly thirsty little blood-suckers. And we're not far from wrong — at least when it comes to the females of the species (they need blood to help them reproduce). But both genders  need sugar for energy — which they get from flowers. And some clever scientists are trying to exploit this need to vanquish the insects — and thus the diseases (such as malaria and dengue) that they carry.

Dr. Agenor Mafra-Neto from ISCA Technologies and colleagues from various universities reported at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society that they have devised a blend of chemicals that contain both an insecticide and a group of chemicals that mimic mosquito attractants (their work is...

Cancer is most easily "cured" when it's caught early. That's the rationale behind Pap tests for cervical cancer, PSA tests for prostate cancer, and mammograms for breast cancer. But there aren't similar screening tests for all cancers — and some, such as ovarian and pancreatic cancer  are often not found until they're well-advanced, which makes them particularly lethal. Lung cancer, too, may not be found — especially in non-smokers — until it's too advanced to treat successfully, or requires extensive surgery to control. My colleague, Dr. Julianna LeMieux, has described a new type of screening tool that hopefully could find a number of types of cancer while they're in the early stages, using DNAs shed...

Coupla questions... What is the difference between the pennies below? And why does the penny on the left look like an albino? Hint: It has to do with the historical significance of the year in which it was minted. Answers will be forthcoming, thus ensuring that you will have to read this wretched piece to the end.

 

 

 

 

What's up with these two? Photo: Wikipedia Commons

MINERALS

Unlike nasty elements, such as fluorine (1) and mercury, (2) copper is one of the "elemental good guys." Copper metal has a number of unique properties that make it so important...

Babies and young children with middle ear infections (acute otitis media or AOM) can be the bane of parents’ existence, leading to sleepless nights and frustration when a child is suffering.  Antibiotics are typically used to treat the condition and are effective as long as the causative agent is sensitive to a particular drug or combination of them.

Dr. Ravinder Kaur and colleagues from the Rochester General Hospital Research Institute in Rochester, NY, studied the epidemiology of AOM — in particular how the prevalence of  responsible bacteria had altered since the introduction of vaccines against Streptococcus pneumonia (Sp) in 2010: one was a 7-valent vaccine, and the other was a 13-valent vaccine. Their...

Microbiologist Stanley Falkow is credited with saying, "The goal of every bacterium is to become bacteria." Similarly, the goal of every pathogen is to infect a new host.

Pathogenic microbes face an evolutionary trade-off: On the one hand, they want to be as nasty as possible, because the nastier they are, often the easier it is to spread from one host to the next. Think of Vibrio cholerae, the causative agent of cholera, which upon infection can result in a person producing gallons of diarrhea. Death is due to dehydration, but not before the patient served as an incubator and excreted billions of more bacteria into the environment.

On the other hand, a microbe does not want to be too nasty. If it incapacitates or kills its host quickly, it will be difficult for...

A study last week hit the news hard, like a linebacker, on the topic of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and football. The media jumped on it, some of the results were blown out of proportion, and the take home message became blurry. 

Regardless, what came through the noise of the splashy headlines is that 1) some football players suffer from CTE and 2) the longer they play, the worse it is. 

CTE has been controversial since it was discovered in 2005. Although it has been loosely recognized for the last century, as 'punch drunk syndrome', and known mostly to the boxing community - with research under our belts, our understanding of CTE is becoming clear.

CTE is a...

Sometimes, health advice is too good to be true. Eat pomegranates to prevent cancer. Organic food will make your kids smarter. Use sunscreen to treat an autoimmune disease.

What? Wait a minute - that last, as crazy as it sounds, just might be real. 

A new study entitled "Salate derivatives found in sunscreens block experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis in mice" published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports that certain compounds found in sunscreens may help treat multiple sclerosis (MS). (1)

The researchers, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, were working with an animal model designed to study MS called experimental autoimmune...

As part of the "natural is better" movement, many Americans -- particularly those who live in the city and know absolutely nothing about agriculture -- have decided that playing farmer is a fun pastime. It certainly can be a fun hobby... that is, until the vomiting and diarrhea begin.

The CDC reports that 10 separate Salmonella outbreaks, affecting 48 states and DC, has sickened 790 people and hospitalized at least 174. The outbreaks have been linked to hatcheries where people handled ducklings and chicks.

Chickens and other poultry can carry Salmonella. Not only can this pathogen be found in their feces and environment, it can also be found on egg shells. That's why, according to...

A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 99% of donated brains from people who played in the NFL showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a type of neurodegenerative disease that is thought to result from persistent brain injury from knocks to the head. Signs of CTE were also noted in the brains of 91% of people who played the sport in college and 21% who played in high school.

Predictably, headline writers went crazy:

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