Stories tagged health

Vaccine production
Vaccine productionCourtesy AJC1

Another billion bucks

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says she will announce Monday that Washington has approved another billion dollars to buy components of the vaccine. Sebelius said on Sunday that research is under way to provide a safe and effective vaccine to fight a flu strain that could be a pandemic." Associated Press via Yahoo News

Jul
04
2009

Awesome fireworks require a chemical bath

Fireworks color
Fireworks colorCourtesy Camera Slayer
Awesome Fourth of July fireworks can be viewed from our Science Museum of Minnesota each year during the Taste of Minnesota celebration. Fireworks are often shot over water to minimize fire danger. Ever wonder what kind of chemicals rain down into the Mississippi River during a fireworks display?

Chemical coloring

Part of learning chemistry is to understand what is called the flame test. Unknown chemical compounds, when heated in a flame, will generate different colors. Lithium yields red, copper gives blue or blue-green, sodium gives yellow, aluminum and titanium produce the whites.

Making fireworks more green

Chemists are attempting to make fireworks less harmful to the environment.

Perchlorates, which are used to help the fireworks’ fuel burn, were named in an EPA health advisory earlier this year (which recommended a maximum of 15 micrograms per liter of drinking water), as they have been linked to disruption of the thyroid gland.Scientific American

A 2007 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study found that perchlorates spiked by up to 1000 times normal after the fireworks display and took 20 to 80 days to return to normal depending on surface temperatures.

How to make fireworks whistle, crackle, and pop

Click this link where Live Science explains some of the strange ingredients in fireworks like:

"chemists add bismuth trioxide to the flash powder to get that crackling sound, dubbed "dragon eggs." Ear-splitting whistles take four ingredients, including a food preservative and Vaseline.
Tubes, hollow spheres, and paper wrappings work as barriers to compartmentalize the effects. More complicated shells are divided into even more sections to control the timing of secondary explosions.

Jun
18
2009

A medical miracle in the making?
A medical miracle in the making?Courtesy nbonzey
If you're one of those people who is easily grossed out, you might want to stop reading this post. Because what I'm about to tell you might make your stomach turn.

In an effort to help heal human wounds, medical researchers have been studying creepy, crawly, flesh-eating maggots. THE SAME wiggly critters that appear in your garbage can, on road kill, and any place where they can find dead meat or rotten food. In case you don't know the maggot life story, eventually these larvae grow-up to become flies, at which point they continue to hang out with garbage. It's not a pretty life, but they don't complain much.

So...what do maggots have to do with medicine?

Well, people have known for a long time that deep or difficult wounds (ulcers, burns, deep lacerations) heal much faster if you enlist maggots for a little help. In fact, hospitals even breed fly larvae (maggots!) so they can apply "maggot therapy" to wounds that would otherwise heal poorly. As gross as it sounds, this technique actually works well. The maggots eat the decaying tissue, preventing bacterial growth and helping to keep the wound "clean" so it can heal better.

Until recently, researchers were not exactly sure how these maggots did their miracle work on wounds, or how they could make maggot therapy more accessible. What they've discovered is that an enzyme produced by the maggots can itself help to remove decaying tissue. You can read more about it here.

This means that new bandages infused with maggot juice, or maggot ointment, might not be far from drugstore shelves. The enzyme appears to help heal wounds large and small, and with very few side effects. I wonder if upset stomach is one of them?

What do you think - would you buy a maggot-based product to help heal cuts and scrapes?

Jun
17
2009

John Snow: Eats only vegetables, drinks only boiled water... dies of a stroke at age 41. Nuts.
John Snow: Eats only vegetables, drinks only boiled water... dies of a stroke at age 41. Nuts.Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Here we are again, languishing in the long hours of June 17, enjoying a leisurely Snow day. A John Snow day.

Wait, you say, fractionally raising your heads from your overstuffed couches and baths full of tepid water. Didn’t John Snow actually die in June? And, like, didn’t he die on June 16, not on the 17th?

Well, yes, June 16, 1858, was in fact the day John Snow died. But I only just made up Snow day, and I wasn’t paying attention yesterday. Plus, do y’all even know who John Snow was?

Oh, John Snow was the most marvelous man! He drugged queen Victoria! He deprived thirsty communities of pump handles! He saved London from tiny invisible monsters! Oh, what a man!

John Snow was the sort of guy that posthumously gets the Cleverboots Award for Correct Thinking. Sort of like how I will surely be recognized with a Cleverboots Award years after I die, for how strikingly accurate my public ranting on the subjects of invisible lasers, lizard people, and “stay away from me, wizards!” will prove to be.

Snow was one of the first people to study the used of ether and chloroform as anesthetics. Which is to say, people had used those compounds as anesthesia before, but Snow calculated doses that would leave you somewhere between horrible pain and drugged to death. That was important. Everybody’s favorite queen of England (Victoria, duh) had Snow personally administer her anesthesia during the births of her eighth and ninth children. Once people saw Victoria doing it, everybody wanted in on anesthesia.

Snow’s greatest achievement, perhaps, came in an episode I like to call “Johnny Snow vs. Cholera.”

See, in the middle of 19th century in London, people were sort of split into three groups. There was the “Cholera is caused by poisonous gases” group. Most everybody thought that theory was the best, and it was called the “miasma theory.” There was also the “Cholera is caused by something tiny or invisible in water” group. This was pretty much what we call “germ theory,” and most everybody was all, “Germs? That’s stupid. Check your head!” And, finally, there was the “Hey, we’re actually dying of cholera over here” group, and most everybody thought they were gross.

But not John Snow! Instead of arguing and making up theories based on what seemed reasonable, he actually went out and looked at stuff. Gasp!

Without knowing for certain exactly how cholera was being transmitted (germs or miasma, or whatever), Snow began to record who in London was getting the disease, and he plotted cases on city street maps. He saw clusters of the disease in certain areas of the map, and so he looked for common elements. In the case of one outbreak, Snow realized that the majority of infected people were getting their water from one of two water companies, both of which were pulling water from a dirty (read: full of sewage) section of the Thames river. In another outbreak, Snow found that most of the victims of the disease were getting their water from a particular public pump. When John Snow had the handle of the pump removed, so that nobody could get water from anymore, the outbreak ended.

Snow’s discoveries from studying the cholera outbreaks added to the evidence for germ theory, and, perhaps more importantly, constituted a huge stride forward in the science of epidemiology. Snow wasn’t just figuring out how to cure diseases, he was tracking down where they start, and learning about how they move through populations. These are the same basic principles behind the actions health organizations still take today when dealing with outbreaks in the much larger population pools (or pool) of the 21st century.

It’s pretty interesting stuff. Check out this Snow-stravaganza: UCLA’s comprehensive page on John Snow and the cholera outbreaks.

Now enjoy what’s left of your Snow day.

First H1N1 Death in Minnesota.

by Anonymous on Jun. 16th, 2009

The first death in Minnesota of the H1N1 or also known as the Swine Flu. The five year old girl died on June 15, 2009. The very young girl did have multiple medical conditions before becoming ill.
To find more on this go to this link.
http://kstp.com/news/stories/S979151.shtml?cat=206

Jun
14
2009

Stem cells for humans
Stem cells for humansCourtesy bananaooyoo

Stem cells promise to be a magic bullet for fighting diseases

Stem cells are the body's master cells, able to morph into any type of tissue, organ, or blood. Patient specific stem cells hold the promise of reversing cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's and other diseases and also allow researchers to grow patient-specific organ and tissue transplants which will not require harmful anti-rejection drugs.

Finally, manufactured stem cells safe for human trials

Up until now, the stem cells produced from a patients own skin had within them remnants which made them unsafe (linked to health problems such as genetic disorders and cancer).

Robert Lanza and a team led by Kwang Soo Kim of Harvard University succeeded in delivering the genes by fusing them with a cell penetrating peptide which does not pose the risk of genetic mutation. Their findings are published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

This system eliminates the potential risks associated with the use of viruses, DNA transfection, and potentially harmful chemicals and in the future could potentially provide a safe source of patient-specific cells for regenerative medicine. Cell Stem Cell

Secret sauce uses human proteins

Their technique involves soaking cells in human proteins that turn back the clock biologically, making the cells behave like powerful embryonic stem cells. They plan to seek Food and Drug Administration permission to test the cells in people by next year.

"This method eliminates the risks associated with genetic and chemical manipulation, and provides for the first time a potentially safe source of iPS cells for translation into the clinic," Lanza said.
"This is the ultimate stem cell solution -- you just add some proteins to a few skin cells and voila! Patient-specific stem cells!" Reuters

Safe stem cell production still needs improvement

Only a tiny percentage of skin cells in the study transformed into iPS cells over two months (0.001%).

"How readily or quickly this technology is applied, and whether the efficiency is improved, are things that we will have to wait and see. said Dr. Arnold Kriegstein, director of the Institute for Regeneration Medicine at the University of California" Time

Learn more about producing safe stem cells

The WHO has raised the swine flu pandemic alert to the highest level. (A/H1N1 is the first flu pandemic in 41 years.) This doesn't mean the disease is more dangerous, just that it's in more places and continuing to spread. As of this morning, 28,774 confirmed A/H1N1 cases have been reported in 74 countries, with 144 deaths. (These counts are not precise anymore, however, because many people who catch this flu are recovering at home without being tested.)

Watch/listen to the press conference

Map of the outbreak

BBC coverage

Graduating seniors at Bloomington high schools this week will don caps and gowns, get their diplomas, but won't get any congratulatory handshakes from school administrators on the commencement ceremony stage. In recent days, separate confirmed cases of swine (H1N1) flu have been recorded at Bloomington Kennedy and Jefferson high schools, prompting officials to skip the traditional handshakes for public health concerns. Instead, students will get a nod of the head from school district leaders.

Here's a heart-breaking and inspiring story about an 18-year-old Missouri youth who has lived almost his entire life with AIDS. He received his high school diploma this past weekend. With as much AIDS education as we've had over the years, it's really amazing some of the misconceptions this youth has had to deal with through his school years...and that he's still living an active, mostly healthy life.