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No Pain, No Gain Explained: Lactic Acid Supercharges Your Engines

The old paradigm: lactic acid buildup during exercise is like poison to your muscles, producing stiffness and agony.  The new paradigm: lactic acid is your friend, a fuel additive that helps keep your mitochondrial motors in top-notch condition.  Read all about it in a press release from UC Berkeley. What are you waiting for?  It’s […]

Misfolded Proteins Cause Cascade of Harmful Effects

Understanding how proteins fold is at the leading edge of scientific research.  Proteins begin as linear chains of amino acids (polypeptides), but end as complex shapes with loops, sheets, bumps, ridges and grooves that are essential to their functions.  If you imagine a string of beads, some with electrical charges, magnets, oil droplets or other […]

Of Talking Trees and Plant Perfumes

It’s not just Middle Earth where the trees talk.  The forests of Regular Earth have a language, too: a chemical language called the “invisible bouquet” by Pamela J. Hines, introducing a special series of articles on plant communication in Science.1  Of the thousands of different metabolites that plants can produce, many form a cloud around […]

Health Depends on Robust Cell Machinery

When we think of health, we typically visualize the big things: firm muscles, energy, lack of a protruding stomach and the like.  Cell biology, though, is showing us how our health depends on the proper functioning of countless myriads of molecular machines.  Here are some recent samples from the science journals: Heroic Underdogs in the […]

Abortion Pill Can Kill

An ugly secret has come out of the abortion drug mifepristone known as RU486.  It can kill normal, healthy women, and its approval by the FDA involved procedural violations that overlooked known safety concerns at the time.  Source: Annals of Pharmacotherapy news release (see also EurekAlert).  The research paper by Margaret M. Gary, MD and […]

Health from Unlikely Sources: Poison and Scum

“Everything in moderation,” health professionals remind us during the holidays.  Some things, however, none of us would have wanted at all – till scientists found there was treasure in them.     Botulinum toxin (botox), for instance, is one of the deadliest of biological poisons, but by now everyone knows it is being put to […]

Stem Cell Achievement a Possible Fraud

South Korean stem cell researcher Woo Suk Hwang has reason for stress and fatigue, as news reports show him escorted by bodyguards on the way to the office.  His landmark paper in Science1 last July that announced the creation of stem cells matching the donor’s DNA (05/23/2005) has been called into question on two fronts.  […]

Wine for Your Heart?  Think Again

“Any heart gains from drinking alcohol in moderation are likely outweighed by the harm, say researchers.”  That’s how a story on BBC News begins that warns that alleged benefits of alcohol for heart health may not be trustworthy.  A New Zealand team investigated earlier scientific studies that purported to show benefits of drinking in moderation, […]

Ecotherapy: Nature Is Good Medicine

The British Medical Journal, according to EurekAlert, says, “Getting close to nature is good for you.”  Ecotherapy is the fancy new buzzword for “restoring health through contact with nature.”  What are the benefits?  Improving quality of life, healing emotional problems, learning practical and social skills and the obvious one: better health through exercise.  Doctors and […]

Stem Cell Breakthroughs: No More Ethical Concerns?

Several science news sites have been reporting two new techniques for creating embryonic stem cells that do not involve the creation of viable embryos (see, for instance, New Scientist, Science Now, and Nature news, 437, 1065 (20 October 2005) | doi: 10.1038/4371065a).     There is no consensus yet, however, whether these methods overcome all […]

Men Aren’t Going Extinct – Yet

Not long ago, evolutionary biologists were predicting the demise of manhood (see 11/01/2001, 03/31/2004).  The idea was that the Y chromosome, with no redundant copy (unlike the female’s two X chromosomes, and all others) appeared to be shriveling up and mutating itself out of existence.  Now that the chimpanzee genome has been published (see 09/01/2005 […]

Looking for Ethical Alternatives to Embryonic Stem Cells

Pro-life advocates perked up their ears at the announcement of a new method that can produce stem cells without destroying embryos.  National Geographic News and MSNBC News talked about the method, which uses skin cells and “reprograms” them to act like embryonic stem cells.  Religion Journal thinks the ethical debate over stem cells may be […]

Bone Has Built-In Shock Absorbers with Molecular Springs

Your bones have little molecular springs in them that unwind and keep the collagen fibrils “glued” together when stress threatens a fracture.  See the description, with electron micrographs and diagrams, in a press release from UC Santa Barbara.  Said co-author Daniel Morse, director of UCSB’s Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies: “It’s especially exciting for us to […]

Are Natural Poisons Health Cures in Disguise?

Three recent stories are suggesting that natural toxins may be too much of a good thing: Snail Trail:  John Roach in National Geographic News wrote about new painkillers and drugs being developed from toxic snail venoms.  Cone snails create an array of hundreds of unique chemical compounds (see 10/22/2003 entry). Fungus Among Them:  A fungus […]

Health Beliefs Re-examined

Scientists continue to find new things that undermine commonly-held beliefs about health and the environment.  For example, Shower power:  Drinking more and showering less may not help conserve water, say Australian scientists reported by EurekAlert.  Sun bath:  We were always warned to keep out of the midday sun to avoid cancer, right?  Science Daily talks […]
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