Friday, February 26, 2010


NEW YORK - JULY 02:  Former champion Takeru Ko...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
About time... we are more aware now of what we should be seeing in the labels...


CHICAGO - When four-year-old Eric Stavros Adler choked to death on a piece of hot dog, his anguished mother never dreamed that the popular kids' food could be so dangerous.

Some food makers have warning labels about choking but not nearly enough, says Ms Joan Stavros Adler, Eric's mum.

The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees. The United States' largest paediatricians group is calling for sweeping changes in the way food is designed and labelled to minimise children's chances for choking.

Federal law requires choking warning labels on certain toys including small balls, balloons and games with small parts. There should be a similar mandate for food, the paediatrics academy says.

Choking kills more than 100 American children 14 years or younger each year and thousands more - 15,000 in 2001 - are treated in emergency rooms. Food, including candy and gum, is among the leading culprits, along with items like coins and balloons. Of the 141 choking deaths in kids in 2006, 61 were food-related.

Doctors say high-risk foods, including hot dogs, raw carrots, grapes and apples - should be cut into pea-sized pieces for small children to reduce the chances of choking. AP

From TODAY, Tuesday, 23-Feb-2010



SAN DIEGO - A cure for peanut allergies could be available within three years, a British doctor has claimed as he launches the world's biggest study into the potentially fatal disorder.

Dr Andrew Clark, at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, believes the 1 million ($2.2 million) National Health Service sponsored research project will help rid thousands of children of their allergic reaction to peanuts.

It could also be the beginning of the end for all food allergies, he claimed.

The new study follows a successful former trial in which 23 children were given tiny doses of peanut flour every day, gradually increasing the dose until now they can eat five or more nuts a day.

Previously the children would have risked anaphylactic shock or even death if they accidentally ate even a trace amount of peanut. The team said this was the first time that so-called "desensitisation treatment" had been successful.

Earlier attempts at exposing children with peanut allergies to the nuts caused serious reactions.

The news was presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The Cambridge group will begin the new study next month with 104 children who have already been recruited, said Dr Clark.

"This is going to be the largest trial of its kind in the world and it should give us a definitive idea of whether it works and whether it's safe," he said.

He said the families involved in the earlier study had had their lives transformed.

"It's dramatic. Before they were checking every food label every time they ate food. They would worry it would cause a reaction or even kill them but now they can go out and eat curries and Chinese food and they can eat everyday snacks and treats."

He said the previous trial had been running for two years and two of the children, aged 15, had dramatically reduced treatments to just five peanuts a week - yet retained their tolerance.

From TODAY, Tuesday, 23-Feb-2010


I was working on tissue culture of Vitex negun...
I was working on tissue culture of Vitex negundo. It was a big surprise when it started to bloom inside the test tube. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


SAN DIEGO - More than 30 years after the world greeted its first "test-tube" baby with a mixture of awe and concern, researchers say they are finding only a few medical differences between these children and kids conceived in the traditional way.

More than 3 million children have been born worldwide as a result of what is called assisted reproductive technology, and injecting sperm into the egg outside the human body now accounts for about 4 per cent of live births, researchers reported on Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The majority of assisted reproduction children are healthy and normal, according to researchers who have studied them.

Some of these children do face an increased risk of birth defects, such as neural tube defects, and of low birth weight, which is associated with obesity, hypertension and Type 2 diabetes later in life, the researchers said.

Ms Carmen Sapienza, a geneticist at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, noted that few of these test tube children are older than 30, so it's not known if they will be obese or have hypertension or other health problems at age 50 or older. AP

From TODAY, Tuesday, 23-Feb-2010


The Red ribbon is a symbol for solidarity with...Image via Wikipedia


SAN DIEGO (California) - Health officials are considering a radical shift in the war against HIV and Aids that would see everyone tested for the virus and put on a lifetime course of drugs if they are found to be positive.

The strategy, which would involve testing most of the world's population for HIV, aims to reduce the transmission of the virus that causes Aids to a level at which it dies out completely over the next 40 years.

Dr Brian Williams, professor of epidemiology at the South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis, said transmission of HIV could effectively be halted within five years with the use of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs).

"The epidemic of HIV is really one of the worst plagues of human history," he told the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in San Diego.

"I hope we can get to the starting line in one to two years and get complete coverage of patients in five years. Maybe that's being optimistic, but we're facing Armageddon."

Major trials of the strategy are planned in Africa and the United States and will feed into a final decision on whether to adopt the measure as public health policy in the next two years. In the trials, people will be offered HIV tests once a year, either as routine when they visit their GP, or through mobile clinics in more remote regions.

The move follows research that shows blanket prescribing of ARVs could stop HIV transmission and halve cases of Aids-related tuberculosis within 10 years.

More than 30 million people are infected with HIV globally and two million die of the disease each year. While ARVs have been a huge success in preventing the virus from causing full-blown Aids, scientists estimate only 12 per cent of those living with the infection receive the drugs.

The disease is overwhelmingly prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for a quarter of all HIV/Aids cases globally. Half of these are in South Africa.

In general epidemics, a person with HIV infects between five to 10 others before succumbing to complications of Aids. Treating patients with ARVs within a year of becoming infected can reduce transmission tenfold, enough to cause the epidemic to die out.

Scientists estimate that the cost of implementing the strategy in South Africa alone will be US$3 billion to US$4 billion ($$4.2 billion to $5.6 billion) a year.

The world currently spends US$30 billion a year on Aids research and treatment, a figure that some experts believe will double over the next decade.

From TODAY, Tuesday, 23-Feb-2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Drugs to Pass Exams -- Will It Help to Pass Life's Tests, Too?

Diagram of the brain of a person with Alzheime...Image via Wikipedia

LONDON - British universities must investigate measures, including random dope testing, to tackle the increasing use of cognitive enhancement drugs by students for exams, a leading behavioural neuroscientist warns.

Student use of drugs, such as Ritalin and Modafinil, available over the Internet and used to increase the brain's alertness, had "enormous implications for universities", said Dr Barbara Sahakian, a professor of clinical neuropsychology at Cambridge University's psychiatry department.

Normally prescribed for neurological disorders including Alzheimer's disease, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, such drugs boost acetylcholine in the brain, improving alertness and attention.

Their use has prompted concerns that they could give students an unfair advantage. "This is something that universities really have to discuss. They should have some strategy, some kind of active policy," Dr Sahakian said.

"The coercion aspect is a strong one. Some students say they feel it is cheating, and it puts pressure on them to feel they have to use these drugs when they don't really want to."

Dr Sahakian, whose work is at the forefront of research on the effects of such drugs on healthy people, said urgent debate was now needed on the ethics of how society dealt with "smart drugs".

Though data on long-term effects on healthy users was not yet available, some scientists believe that pharmaceutical advancement and cultural acceptance could make "cosmetic neurology" as popular as beauty "enhancements".

"If a safe and effective drug is developed which enhances cognition, then I think it would be difficult not to allow access to it," Dr Sahakian said. But if such drugs were then legal, many ethical issues had to be addressed.

"The big question is, are we all going to be taking drugs in the next 10 years and boosting our cognition in that way? And if we are, will we use them to have a shorter working week ... or will we go headlong into a 24/7 society where we work all the time because we can? You have to consider there are things that could be beneficial about such drugs because we have an ageing population," she said.

Surveys in the United States indicate that 16 per cent of university students are using "smart drugs". There are global websites and chatrooms devoted to how to best use drugs to aid study.

A Nature magazine poll of 1,400 respondents - mostly scientists and researchers - indicated that one in five had used "smart drugs".

Questioned about their attitude towards the drugs, the majority frowned on their usage in competitive situations, such as university entrance exams. However, some admitted that they would be pressured to give their child a "smart" drug if other children were using them. THE GUARDIAN

From TODAY, Monday, 22-Feb-2010