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November 12, 2008

German doctor accidentally cures man of AIDS

A Doctor, a Mutation and a Potential Cure for AIDS - WSJ.com

The breakthrough appears to be that Dr. Hutter, a soft-spoken hematologist who isn't an AIDS specialist, deliberately replaced the patient's bone marrow cells with those from a donor who has a naturally occurring genetic mutation that renders his cells immune to almost all strains of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

The development suggests a potential new therapeutic avenue and comes as the search for a cure has adopted new urgency. Many fear that current AIDS drugs aren't sustainable. Known as antiretrovirals, the medications prevent the virus from replicating but must be taken every day for life and are expensive for poor countries where the disease runs rampant. Last year, AIDS killed two million people; 2.7 million more contracted the virus, so treatment costs will keep ballooning.

While cautioning that the Berlin case could be a fluke, David Baltimore, who won a Nobel prize for his research on tumor viruses, deemed it "a very good sign" and a virtual "proof of principle" for gene-therapy approaches. Dr. Baltimore and his colleague, University of California at Los Angeles researcher Irvin Chen, have developed a gene therapy strategy against HIV that works in a similar way to the Berlin case. Drs. Baltimore and Chen have formed a private company to develop the therapy.

November 08, 2008

Stretching is bad for you

Phys Ed - Stretching - The Truth - NYTimes.com

Click through for the advice on what you should actually do before engaging in aerobic exercise.

Researchers now believe that some of the more entrenched elements of many athletes’ warm-up regimens are not only a waste of time but actually bad for you. The old presumption that holding a stretch for 20 to 30 seconds — known as static stretching — primes muscles for a workout is dead wrong. It actually weakens them. In a recent study conducted at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, athletes generated less force from their leg muscles after static stretching than they did after not stretching at all. Other studies have found that this stretching decreases muscle strength by as much as 30 percent. Also, stretching one leg’s muscles can reduce strength in the other leg as well, probably because the central nervous system rebels against the movements.

“There is a neuromuscular inhibitory response to static stretching,” says Malachy McHugh, the director of research at the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. The straining muscle becomes less responsive and stays weakened for up to 30 minutes after stretching, which is not how an athlete wants to begin a workout.

What makes people happy?

First Person Plural - The Atlantic (November 2008)

If you ask people which makes them happier, work or vacation, they will remind you that they work for money and spend the money on vacations. But if you give them a beeper that goes off at random times, and ask them to record their activity and mood each time they hear a beep, you’ll likely find that they are happier at work. Work is often engaging and social; vacations are often boring and stressful. Similarly, if you ask people about their greatest happiness in life, more than a third mention their children or grandchildren, but when they use a diary to record their happiness, it turns out that taking care of the kids is a downer—parenting ranks just a bit higher than housework, and falls below sex, socializing with friends, watching TV, praying, eating, and cooking.

The question “What makes people happy?” has been around forever, but there is a new approach to the science of pleasure, one that draws on recent work in psychology, philosophy, economics, neuroscience, and emerging fields such as neuroeconomics. This work has led to new ways—everything from beepers and diaries to brain scans—to explore the emotional value of different experiences, and has given us some surprising insights about the conditions that result in satisfaction.

November 06, 2008

Oxygen Bleach is a murderer's best friend

Why hair bleach is a murderer's best friend - tech - 06 November 2008 - New Scientist Tech

BUDDING crime-scene investigators take note: a common household bleach can render the forensic techniques for detecting blood useless.

There are two types of bleach found in household cleaning products. Chlorine-based bleaches are known to make bloodstains invisible, but applying chemicals such as luminol or phenolphthalein will still reveal the presence of haemoglobin - crucial for identifying blood - even after up to 10 washes. In contrast, oxygen bleach, which contains an oxidising agent such as hydrogen peroxide, erases all trace of haemoglobin. Its effect seems to have been untested until now.

Probiotics 'may stop pneumonia'

Beeb | Probiotics 'may stop pneumonia'
Probiotics could be used to protect critically ill patients from developing pneumonia, according to scientists. The friendly bacteria can block the colonisation by dangerous bugs of the airways of ventilated patients, the Swedish study concluded. The probiotic solution performed just as well as normal antiseptics used to keep pneumonia-causing bacteria at bay, the journal Critical Care reported. Being more natural it could pose fewer side effects, the authors said. The probiotic bacterium Lactobacillus plantarum 299 is normally present in saliva and is also commonly found in fermented products like pickles and sauerkraut.