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Male infertility linked to protein invisibility cloak

Male infertility linked to protein invisibility cloak - health - 20 July 2011 - New Scientist
Sperm wears a protein coat that helps it sneak past the female immune system – or it should. Going coatless could be a major cause of male infertility, as it leaves sperm less able to penetrate the female's cervical mucus and fertilise the egg. Infertility, defined as the inability to conceive after 12 months of unprotected intercourse, affects 10 to 15 per cent of couples globally. About half of the time it is the male partner who is infertile – but in seven out of 10 cases of male infertility, sperm count and quality remain high, and the cause of the problem remains a mystery. A new study offers one possible explanation. Gary Cherr at the University of California, Davis, and colleagues studied 500 newly married Chinese couples. They found that when men's sperm lacked a coat of the protein beta-defensin 126, their wives were significantly less likely than expected to become pregnant. They were also 30 per cent less likely to give birth when they did. There is already some evidence that mouse and non-human primate sperm lacking the protein is less able to pass undetected through the female reproductive tract to fertilise an egg; Cherr thinks this cloaking role applies in human sperm too. "It has always been an enigma in biology why sperm cells in the female tract are not recognised as foreign cells and subsequently destroyed," he says. "We now know this protein coat helps the sperm cells evade the female's natural surveillance mechanisms." . . .

July 20, 2011

Did you know that human baby foreskins are prized for plastic surgery uses?

I didn't know. But now I wonder whose face my foreskin ended up stitched to? Was it a burn victim who just wanted to look the way he did before the accident? Was it someone having acne scars removed? Perhaps someone wanting a facelift or a collagen injection? Do you think when I meet that person, will I know? Will I feel a phantom foreskin limb tingle? Will my scar burn as if Voldemort was near? What's in a face? You'd be surprised
In the flap over San Francisco's proposed circumcision ban, one very important constituency hasn't been heard from: vain and aging people who might use a plastic surgery filler made of human baby foreskins. I'm not kidding. Once detached, that small piece of human apron tissue can perform all sorts of magic, including the repair of skin damaged by everything from burns to bunions to bad habits. In his 1891 book, "The History of Circumcision," snipping crusader Dr. Peter Remondino wrote: "for skin-transplanting, there is nothing superior to the prepuce of a boy." You can look up "prepuce." I had to.

July 16, 2011

Greenpeace destroys genetically modified wheat trial in Australia

Greenpeace destroys GM wheat trial in Australia - Biofortified
Greenpeace protesters have broken into a CSIRO experimental farm in Canberra to destroy a crop of genetically modified wheat. In the early hours of this morning a group of Greenpeace protesters scaled the fence of the CSIRO experimental station at Ginninderra in the capital’s north. Greenpeace says activists were wearing Hazmat protective clothing and were equipped with weed string trimmers. They say the entire crop of genetically modified wheat has been destroyed. About half a hectare of GM wheat is being grown on the site, as part of Australia’s first outdoor trials. No genetically modified wheat strain had ever been approved for cropping in Australia before. Last month the CSIRO received permission to conduct Australia’s first trial in which humans will eat GM wheat.

July 13, 2011

Photo Gallery: Grains of Sand Magnified 250x

Grains of sand magnified to 250 times real size — Lost At E Minor: For creative people

July 12, 2011

There is no such thing as a hypo-allergenic dog

The Myth of the Allergy-Free Dog - NYTimes.com
Dog lovers with a pet allergy have a big problem when it comes to having a dog in the home. But the usual solution — getting a breed known to be hypoallergenic — may not be a safe bet. In fact, there may be no such thing as a low-allergy or allergy-free dog, according to a new report. The study found that the quantities of dog allergens in homes with supposedly hypoallergenic breeds are no different from those in homes with dogs widely considered non-hypoallergenic. It is not even clear how a hypoallergenic breed earns the title. There is no single “official” list of them. Various breeds, often dogs that shed little hair, appear on lists posted on the Internet, and the American Kennel Club suggests 11 “hypoallergenic canine candidates,” including poodles, soft-coated wheaten terriers, schnauzers and the Portuguese water dog, made famous two years ago when the Obama family adopted one. “I have no idea where this whole concept came from,” said Christine Cole Johnson, the senior author of the study, to be published online in The American Journal of Rhinology and Allergy. “It’s been around for a long time, and maybe people associated it with shedding. I think it’s just a legend.”