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These Feet Were Made for Walking (and Running)

We usually walk or run.  When walking, we roll from heel to arch to toe and rock our arms back and forth.  When running, we bounce up and down slightly while pumping our arms.  Did you know that many other gaits are possible?  Why do we use only two?  A team of specialists in bio-robotics […]

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, […]

How You Tune In

Studies on rats have shown there are certain neurons that respond to changes in the background sound (see LiveScience story on MSNBC News).  We humans probably have these, too.  Rather than firing continuously, they search for changes in the auditory landscape that might be of interest: changes in pitch, loudness or duration in single sounds […]

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 […]

Eyesight: More Reasons to Be Thankful

So much is going on in your body when you look at that sliced turkey and raise it to your salivating mouth, a human mind can only fathom bits and pieces of the story.  Everyone knows the eye is the quintessential example of a complex organ, but Current Biology1 focused on one of the wonders […]

Living Wonders at a Glance

Here is an assortment of recently-reported biological marvels at the cellular level.  Researchers into creation and evolution explanations may wish to delve into these more deeply. Clock Conductor:  The brain is a “time machine,” reports EurekAlert on research at Duke University about the human biological clock.  Each structure in the brain has a resonant frequency […]

Red Blood Cells Are Master Contortionists

Biophysicists have analyzed why red blood cells are able to squeeze through tight spaces on their journeys through our tissues, reports the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering.  Their membranes contain a network of 33,000 hexagons arranged in a complex geodesic dome formation.  Each hexagon vertex is joined with flexible lines to a central maypole-like proto-filament, […]

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 […]

Are Brains Evolving Bigger, or Fatter?

Two papers in Science Sept. 9 claimed that human brains may still be evolving.  According to the authors, two genes related to brain size appear to be under “positive selection” in certain people groups.  One team said their variant occurred the same time as the emergence of art, music, religious practices and sophisticated tool use, […]

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 […]

How Proteins Build Teeth Like Glass on a Mattress

Here’s something to chew on.  Tooth enamel is hard, like crystal, but is bound to dentin underneath, which is pliable, like a mattress.  Your teeth can last a lifetime only because the ceramic-like enamel is cemented to a foundation of softer dentin, and because both of these materials are built to the right hardness specs […]
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