Saturday, February 13, 2010

Inflammation and Alzheimers

For a long time it was believed that inflammation played a critical role in the development of Alzheimer's. This can be true but needs to be carefully qualified because as the below abstract demonstrates "massive gliosis" induced by interleukin 6 actually prevented amyloid deposition. Look at the gliosis link for the wikipedia entry, it is a good example of when not to trust Wiki. Wiki is very useful for a quick overview of relatively mundane and simple concepts but can be very misleading when dealing with cutting edge research. In the abstract overleaf the bods found that inducing gliosis, which is typically associated with inflammation, is actually leading to clearance of amyloid. Clearance of amyloid is the great interest in current Alzheimer's research and this for the simple reason that amyloid aggregation appears to be a key driving factor in Alzheimer's disease. As usual, with more research, what once looked obvious becomes blurred. Inflammation is found in many pathologies but it is a mistake to assume that inflammation is the cause of that pathology. As this study indicates it can play a vital protective role.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Relative Risk and the Chernobyl Incident

Have a look at the abstract further down. It highlights something that we tend to ignore. We think that something like Chernobyl should have massive consequences but as indicated in studies on Nagasaki and Hiroshima mortality from radiation exposure was surprisingly low; excepting of course those in the immediate blast experience. What this study does highlight though is that even obesity and passive smoking is up there with radiation in terms of public health risk. I have long had concerns about the continuing polluting of our environment and the increasing amounts of artificial chemicals we are exposed too. These risks are "silent risks" in that they receive little attention but collectively these risks are going to cost individuals and governments a great deal of money.

Diet and Longevity

A quick one. This report came up on Science Daily.
The study found that a complex dietary supplement powerfully offsets this key symptom of ageing in old mice by increasing the activity of the cellular furnaces that supply energy -- or mitochondria -- and by reducing emissions from these furnaces -- or free radicals -- that are thought to be the basic cause of ageing itself. The abstract follows.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cancer, Diet, and Angiogenesis

Over the years there have been a multitude of reports on the anti-cancer properties of various foods. There is valuable truth in these reports and it does pay to adopt your diet so as to include a variety of these foods into your lifestyle. For example, it has long been known that a carotenoid found in tomatoes, lycopene, appears to confer protection against prostate cancer. Watermelon also contains good amounts of this carotenoid. However when eating tomatoes at least you really need to cook the tomatoes as this maximises the absorption of lycopene. This study highlights an unusual trend that is appearing in the data. As they state:

"The intake of isolated lycopene does not protect from the development of PCA."

Another Study on Mercury in Fish

This news release from reports that some of the top Tuna brands sold in the USA contain levels of mercury that contravene the EPA standards. Mercury levels in some fish species have been rising for decades, the levels are now so high that pregnant women are advised to be very careful in the type of fish they consume. The irony of this is that studies done in Britain have indicated that the consumption of fish and\or fish oil  supplements results in measurable improvements in the cerebral function of their children. We must stop poisoning the planet.

Open Systems and Rapid Change - Climate on the edge

This article highlights a major problem with all modelling of climate data. When confronted with an open system like the climate there is an inherent unpredictability that is non-computable. That is, we can never fully anticipate the effects of human behavior upon the climate. We can make reasonable assumptions about what to expect but we never with the certainty we desire. This is becoming all the more important because the failure of Copenhagen to produce binding commitments means that most nations will continue to emit Greenhouse Gases at rates which are guaranteed to further perturb climate dynamics in ways which we can never fully anticipate.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Marijuana Protective Against Alzheimers - Null Result

The wider community is typically unaware of the positive aspects emerging from cannabinoid research. The headline that reports this science news is an example of why that occurs, a matter I will address later in this post. For now I'll focus on this piece of research and other research into the medical use of cannabinoids.

Complexity and Co-operation

Lynn Marguilis was the bod who championed the idea that mitochondria were originally a cell that took up residence inside other cells. Being a woman she had to work extra hard to make her argument stick. The story is that as the early earth environment became more oxygen rich from all those plant like cells absorbing CO2 and emitting O2, cells mutated to take advantage of the considerable energy potential in using oxygen. Not sure, I think primarily because of its electron sharing and transport potential. As one bod quipped: Life is just an electron looking for a home. My iconoclastic propensity led me to be very suspicious of the Theory of Evolution but not the fact of evolution. This naturally left me in a difficult position. I couldn't tolerate this "given enough time x will mutate to y" jazz because was a huge assumption that was not justified on the current data. In the last decade however that assumption is increasingly finding support from primary data.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Dumbest Generation Ever?

Once again someone is asserting that the upcoming generation will bring about the downfall of civilisation. To the best of my knowledge this refrain has been occurring since time immemorial. In this case the author is arguing that the internet age is breeding a generation of idiots. What the author fails to acknowledge is that our generation created the culture that has turned the upcoming generation away from learning about the world in general. There is no doubt education standards have markedly declined in recent decades but laying the blame at the current generation is a wonderful exercise in blame shifting. The problem lies not with THEM but US.