“Seinfeld”, Science, and Snacks

February 1, 2008

 

    Forget Temple Pharmacy School, I should have gone to Clemson University.  I could have worked on my degree with Prof. Dawson, a food microbiologist.  He conducted a study inspired by an episode of “Seinfeld”.  Any loyal “Seinfel” fans will recall the episode where George double dips his chip at a funeral reception and is caught.  The episode is credited with being the first major popular use of the term “double dipping”.  They guy freaks out and tells George, “That’s like putting your whole mouth right in the dip!”.  Well Professor Dawson set out to investigate if that charge is true.  He was skeptical that bacteria could be transfered from mouth to chip to mouth initially.  But the research indicates that 50 -100 bacteria would be transfered from one mouth to another in each bite, if there was a cup that was exposed to “sporadic double dipping.”  GROSS.  The study will be published in the Journal of Food Safety later this year.

    Professor Dawson published a paper last year on the five-second rule.  While his findings indicate that the rule is not true and food should not be eaten from the floor even if it is there for less than five seconds, my findings differ.  (Well at least my findings of tasty food on floors).

Full Article


Stem Cells Used to Cure SSA

December 7, 2007

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Encouraging new research published in Science indicates that stem cells can be used to cure sickle cell anemia. The study used iPS cells and was done in mice. The sickle cell mice were treated with iPS therapy, and cured of the sickle cell without complication. The expected complications of using iPS in treatment are rejection and tumor growth. Rejection was controlled in this experiment, because the cells were identical (because they came from the mice) and it has been 4 months and still no tumor development. There is a lot of support for using the iPS cells they come from skin, not from embroynic cells.

“Induced pluripotent stem, or iPS, cells, are virtually identical to embryonic stem cells. They can morph into all of the more than 200 cell types in the body but are derived from skin, not from embryos. Mouse iPS cells were first derived earlier this year, and scientists reported last month to great fanfare that they had created similar cells from human skin.”

Although it will be many years before this technique could start appearing in humans clinically, it is still promising. The sickle cell diseases are just one group of genetics disorders, thousands of other genetic disorders could potentially be helped with similar technology. Although these “alternative” stem cells are showing great promise, most prominent geneticists want to clear up any confusion about the cells. They are inferior to using embryonic stem cells. Hopefully the world will just appreciate this discovery for the medical miracle it is and not attempt to use it for propaganda. The iPS stem cells have been touted by President Bush and some religious conservatives as the perfect and equal alternative to stem cells. But in reality, embryonic stems would make the research far simpler and expedite the discovery process.

Scientists Cure Mice Of Sickle Cell Using Stem Cell Technique

Read the full Article By Rick Weiss

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 7, 2007


Ever wonder what your appendix is up to?

October 6, 2007


Scientists have finally solved an age old medical mystery (or likely solved). The appendix, often viewed as an evolutionary relic, has a function (at least theoretically). Bad news for my readers who have had them removed and are now planning on moving to an uninhabited island living along for the rest of their lives. Here’s the explanation.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Some scientists think they have figured out the real job of the troublesome and seemingly useless appendix: It produces and protects good germs for your gut. That’s the theory from surgeons and immunologists at Duke University Medical School, published online in a scientific journal this week.

The function of the appendix seems related to the massive amount of bacteria populating the human digestive system, according to the study in the Journal of Theoretical Biology. There are more bacteria than human cells in the typical body. Most are good and help digest food. But sometimes the flora of bacteria in the intestines die or are purged. Diseases such as cholera or amoebic dysentery would clear the gut of useful bacteria. The appendix’s job is to reboot the digestive system in that case. The appendix “acts as a good safe house for bacteria,” said Duke surgery professor Bill Parker. Also, the worm-shaped organ outgrowth acts like a bacteria factory, cultivating the good germs, Parker said. That use is not needed in a modern industrialized society, Parker said.

If a person’s gut flora dies, it can usually be repopulated easily with germs they pick up from other people, he said. But before dense populations in modern times and during epidemics of cholera that affected a whole region, it wasn’t as easy to grow back that bacteria and the appendix came in handy. In less developed countries, where the appendix may be still useful, the rate of appendicitis is lower than in the U.S., other studies have shown, Parker said. Even though the appendix seems to have a function, people should still have them removed when they are inflamed because it could turn deadly, Parker said. About 300 to 400 Americans die of appendicitis each year, according to the CDC.


When Pedophillic Amoebas Attack

October 5, 2007

 This is gross.  You all laugh when I hold my nose while swimming.

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(CNN) — Ray Herrera does not mince words about what his 12-year-old son, Jack, went through.  “It’s beyond description to watch your most precious, beautiful, wonderful, loved one become a vegetable essentially and then die,” Herrera said.  In August, Jack returned from summer camp that included swims in Texas’ Lake LBJ. Five days after coming home he was dead, killed by a microscopic amoeba.

Jack is one of six people to die this summer in the United States from the naegleria fowleri amoeba.  The amoeba enters the human body through the nose. It then travels to the brain, where it begins to feed.  Symptoms of the amoeba’s rampage begin 1 to 14 days after infection and resemble the flu. At the onset of those symptoms the amoeba victim’s health swiftly declines.  “Folks lapse into a coma, there are abnormal movements of the eyes and a terrible cascade of events leading to the actual death of parts of the brain.”

Although exposure to the amoeba is usually fatal, Sherin says a cocktail of drugs can fight the amoeba if administered in time. The key, he says, is identifying the amoeba early.

Until this summer there were only 24 known cases of the virus in the U.S. since 1989, according to the CDC.  Health officials cannot explain the spike in cases this summer, except that weather plays a factor.

Another question health officials have is why the amoeba seems to appear more often in young males. All six victims this summer were male, ages 10 to 22 years old.  But other than wearing nose plugs while swimming or staying out of freshwater above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, there is little people can do to prevent exposure to the amoeba.

Health officials say federal or local governments have few tools to combat the amoeba.  The health department has posted signs at 15 swimming and boating areas where people may face exposure to the amoeba.  The effectiveness of the signs appears mixed.  As he sunbathed near a sign warning of amoebas, John Walters seemed unconcerned about danger possibly lurking beneath the clear, inviting waters. “Its no worse I suppose than the gator signs over there and somebody did get attacked here once.”