Stories tagged health


Nano technology makes detecting lung cancer easy and affordable

BreathalyzerCourtesy mrjorgen
The breath of people who have lung cancer is different than those who don't. For years scientists have been perfecting techniques that determines what exactly is different.

Expensive and complicated tools like gas chromatographs and mass spectrometers were used to identify and measure 42 volatile organic compounds that represent lung cancer biomarkers. Sensors were designed to react to four of these compounds.

Gang Peng of the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa and colleagues have now developed what they say is an inexpensive, portable sensor technology that can quickly distinguish between the breath of lung cancer patients and healthy people. New York Times

How lung cancer detectors work

Tiny gold nano size beads were coated with organic compounds that would react with the four lung cancer biomarkers. The particles were deposited as a thin film between two electrodes. The breath of someone with lung cancer reacts with the chemicals in the gold beads, changing their electrical resistance.

Learn more

Physics World has a more complete explanation of how gold nano beads sense lung cancer.

The abstract of the research paper titled "Diagnosing lung cancer in exhaled breath using gold nanoparticles can be found in Nature Nanotechnology.


Flu sends 4-H'ers home early

State Fair 4H campers plagued by H1N1 flu
State Fair 4H campers plagued by H1N1 fluCourtesy the_dharma_bum
I have fond memories of staying overnight at the State Fair. I can imagine the disappointment of being told to go home early after looking forward to performing at the State Fair for months.

Four confirmed cases of H1N1 flu

Earlier this week sick kids were being sent home but after it was confirmed that four students had been diagnosed with the swine flu, officials sent more than 100 4-Hers home.

"When we met the girls this morning, they were in tears," said BayBridge, who lives across the border in Big Stone City, S.D., and whose kids participate in the 4-H club in Ortonville, Minn. "They look forward to this all year long. But in a case like this, you have to do what you need to do."

Incoming 4-H students allowed in

About 400 new 4-H students were expected to move into the dorm Thursday after workers sanitized surfaces. Jerry Hammer, the fair's general manager, said he considers the fair to still be "perfectly safe."

"It's as safe as going to any store or the Mall of America or even your neighborhood park," he said. "Follow the advice of the experts: wash your hands well, cover your coughs, use common sense. If you don't feel good, stay home."

Human type H1N1 influenza infects turkeys without mutating

"My understanding is that with the ones that were sick, it was a very mild disease," Lubroth said. "It's significant in that we don't need to recommend any drastic measures, as far as culling the population of turkeys. Let them go through their illness and recover — seven to 10 days — and if they are sound and healthy, they could enter the food chain."

Source: Associated Press via Yahoo News

Rotator cuff injury changes from green to purple: Upon joining the Minnesota Vikings this week, Brett Favre related that he's had a rotator cuff injury in his arm for several seasons.
Rotator cuff injury changes from green to purple: Upon joining the Minnesota Vikings this week, Brett Favre related that he's had a rotator cuff injury in his arm for several seasons.Courtesy PSUMark2006
Since Science Buzz is about the only Minnesota information source that has not had an item in recent days about new Viking quarterback Brett Favre, I'm going to change that and post this video of Favre speaking about the mysteries of rotator cuff injuries, evidently something he's been dealing with a lot longer than anyone knew.

Requiem for a sore throat

by Anonymous on Aug. 19th, 2009

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Drawn about 2 years prior to his death.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Drawn about 2 years prior to his death.Courtesy Public domain via Wikipedia
A new study just published in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests musical wunderkind, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, may have died from complications of strep infection caused by what's commonly known as "strep throat". Mozart's death is officially recorded in the city of Vienna's death registry as "military fever", a general description for a condition with symptoms of rash and high fever. But researchers from Amsterdam dug deeper into the city's death records and discovered a high level of edema-related deaths had been recorded right around the time of the composer's death in 1791. Edema is a build-up of fluids in the body's tissue caused by such things as kidney failure, which can be brought on by rheumatic fever. Untreated infection by A Streptococcus bacteria (the source of strep throat) can develop into rheumatic fever. The researchers suspect an epidemic of strep throat may have originated in a local military hospital where crowded conditions would have been ideal for spread of the airborne bacteria. Their conclusion that strep was ultimately responsible for Mozart's death may be the most reasonable one in light of what was happening in the community at the time.

Death of Mozart abstract in Annals of Internal Medicine story story


Tens of thousands of childhood nightmares: wrapped up in one little package.
Tens of thousands of childhood nightmares: wrapped up in one little package.Courtesy bug_girl_mi
Remember stumbling through the world as a stupid little kid? You touched bugs. You dug holes. You explored mud. And then… then you heard about killer bees. Killer bees and flesh-eating diseases. Killer bees, flesh-eating diseases, and tiny eggs that could come off a picnic table, get into your body, and hatch into something that would eat your brain.

It wasn’t the end of your childhood, it just gave you something to think about all the time. No, you’re childhood didn’t end until you were able to convince yourself that these things—killer bees, flesh-eating bacteria, brain eggs—were harmless… if they even exist at all.

Well guess what: they do. They exist, and they are dangerous! Your childhood is long gone, and now so is your adulthood. Welcome to the next stage in your life: The childhood nightmare spotlight!

Today’s feature: raccoon poop brain parasites! They’re real, and they’re all up in your brains!

So, what’s nice about raccoon poop brain parasites as a childhood nightmare—as opposed to childhood nightmares like killer bees, or one of those little fish that will swim up your urethra—is that even we fancy city-folk are vulnerable to it.

See, there is, in this world, a thing called Baylisascaris procyonis. B. procyonis is a species of roundworm. It is a parasitic species of roundworm, in fact, known to infest the guts of raccoons. Should procyonis eggs find their way into a human (and more on ust how they might do that in a minute), there’s no need to worry about them turning into worms and going crazy in the intestines—the parasite really only wants to do that to raccoons. Instead, the eggs hatch into larvae, and enter the blood stream, traveling about the body to wherever suits them. I think that whoever wrote the wikipedia article on them puts what happens next rather well:

A great deal of damage occurs wherever the larva tries to make a home. In response to the attack, the body attempts to destroy it by walling it off or killing it. The larva moves rapidly to escape, seeking out the liver, eyes, spinal cord or brain. Occasionally they can be found in the heart, lungs, and other organs.

This can lead to a whole range of symptoms from skin irritation to blindness to brain damage (and what doctors call “craziness”) to death.

So how do they get in you? You have to eat poorly cooked raccoon, or uncooked raccoon feces.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Phew! It’s been years since I’ve had undercooked raccoon, and I almost never put raccoon feces in my mouth anymore. Not since college! I don’t even know where to get raccoon feces these days!”

Shows what you know. Raccoons are everywhere, even in your precious, safe cities. And when they pick a spot to relieve themselves, they really go for it. Raccoons, as it happens, us communal “latrines.” That means that multiple raccoons will pick a spot in, say, your back yard, to all go to the bathroom on. Each gram of raccoon feces can contain up to 20,000 worm eggs, so when you’ve got a latrine full of raccoon mess, you’ve got plenty of potential brain parasites. Especially if you’re in the habit of putting everything in your mouth, or of cleaning your yard with a leaf-blower. (The leaf blower would fill the air—and possibly your mouth—with tiny particles of raccoon feces and brain parasite eggs.)

Not many people get the disease (only 14 in the last 30 years, says this article, or possibly 25 in the last 6 years, like this article says) but getting it is bad enough that you might want to give it a little thought. Or lots of though, late at night. Don’t believe me? Read this article again.

The best way to avoid it is to keep that raccoon feces out of your mouth. And to follow the simple tips on cleaning up raccoon latrines offered in this article (which you already looked at). My favorite anti-raccoon latrine tip? “Flame” the latrine with a propane torch! It’s like Aliens!

At any rate, you’re probably safe. Possibly safe. Safe-ish.

You really could have raccoon poop brain parasites, you know. There were probably some on your deck, and you didn’t even think about it when you were eating that watermelon.

You probably have a headache right now.

Thank goodness for creative scientists! There is a new report out that Brilliant blue G, a derivative of a commonly used blue food color (FD&C blue No. 1), can improve recovery from a spinal cord injury. This study found in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences," is summarized in and in a CNN article.

I read that currently only 15% of all people with spinal cord injuries can even be treated in the emergency room so this is a potential treatment for 85% of all spinal cord injuries. And the better news is the rats in the study showed only one side effect, they temporarily turned blue. The researchers are applying for permission to test it in humans - I hope it works as well as it did in the rats.


The soybean industry, worth $27 billion last year, is exploring ways to combat aphids. Aphids can destroy up to 40% of a farmer's crop.
Using Binodoxys communis against soybean aphids: Researchers look for mummies, the darker brown objects on the soybean leaf shown above, to gage  the effectiveness of the beneficial insect in controlling soybean aphids. The light green spots on the soybean leaf are soybean aphids.
Using Binodoxys communis against soybean aphids: Researchers look for mummies, the darker brown objects on the soybean leaf shown above, to gage the effectiveness of the beneficial insect in controlling soybean aphids. The light green spots on the soybean leaf are soybean aphids.Courtesy David Hansen, Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station

With insecticide costing $10 to $15 per acre, it can add $8,000 or more to his costs. But the difference between spraying and not spraying can be 10 bushels or more per acre at harvest, said Iverson, president of the South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council.

Biological warfare against soybean aphids

Another possibility researchers are looking at is Binodoxys communis, a tiny, parasitic insect that inserts an egg into the aphid. The egg hatches into a larva that kills the aphid, feeds on it and emerges as an adult from what becomes a mummified aphid shell.

Minnesota winters may be too cold

Initial counts of Binodoxys communis that survived through the winter were low. Plan B is to look at a couple other species of parasitoid wasps.

Learn more


Liver and pancreasCourtesy Jiju Kurian Punnoose

Liver cells could be reprogrammed as insulin factories

In the embryo, the pancreas and liver tissue develop from the same family of cells. Crucial for the creation of the pancreas in the embryo, is the Pdx-1 gene.

By infecting adult human liver cells with a harmless virus engineered to carry Pdx-1, the liver cells began produced Pdx-1 protein.

Sarah Ferber and her colleagues at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, Israel, showed that the gene deactivates a range of genes relevant to the cell's function in the liver, as well as activating unexpressed genes vital for beta cell function (beta cells produce insulin).

The ultimate plan is to take liver cells from people with diabetes, reprogram the cells and reinject them. Because they are the patient's own, the cells should escape rejection by the immune system, sparing the individual a lifetime of daily insulin injections. "Potentially, patients can be donors of their own therapeutic tissue," says Ferber. New Scientist

Ferber is presenting the work on July 9 at an International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) meeting in Barcelona, Spain.