Stem cell treatment for MS in five years?

Scientists hope to show that stem cell replacement can slow, stop, or even reverse damage caused by the disease of the central nervous system.

Some 100,000 people in Britain suffer from MS, with symptoms that can include dizziness and lack of balance, muscle spasms and blurred vision. It tends to get worse over time and there is no cure. However, later this year an international £10 million trial of up to 200 volunteers will begin looking at the effects of stem cell transplantation.

The participants, including 13 in Britain, will have stem cells harvested from their own bone marrow and grown in a laboratory before being re-injected into the bloodstream.

MS is caused by the immune system attacking a protective substance around nerve fibres called myelin. Where this happens scars, called lesions, are left behind. The hypothesis is that the stem cells will target these lesions and repair the damage…

Paolo Muraro, lead researcher on the study, based at Imperial College, London, said: “This is the first time that researchers from around the world have come together to test stem cell therapies in MS in such a large-scale clinical trial…

Just another positive avenue of experimentation now that most of the superstitious interruptions to such research have been set aside. The Brits have had less interference than physicians in the United States and we can only hope American voters won’t return us to the darkness of faith-based “science” again in the next few years.

Drinking wine helps stop sunburn

Ultraviolet (UV) rays emitted by the sun are the leading environmental cause of skin complaints, premature ageing, sun burn and even skin cancer. But in another nod towards the healthy mediteranean diet, Spanish scientists found substances in the grapes protect cells from the damage…

The University of Barcelona and the Spanish National Research Council looked at the chemical reaction in the skin when hit by UV rays from the sun. They found that flavonoids in the grapes can stop the chemical reaction that causes cells to die and therefore skin damage…

Marta Cascante, a biochemist at the University of Barcelona and director of the research project, said it proves grapes could help protect the skin from sun burn and even skin cancer. She said the research could help to develop skin creams and other products to protect skin from sun damage.

“This study supports the idea of using these products to protect the skin from cell damage and death caused by solar radiation, as well as increasing our understanding of the mechanism by which they act”, she said.

The study also adds to the popular image of the healthy and tanned population of the mediteranean.

Previous research has put the low cancer rates and good health down to tomatoes, olive oil and even red wine.

I would add garlic and love.

Woman dies after extreme spa detox treatment

The association representing the spas in Quebec is calling on people to be cautious when choosing a spa after a woman died following a detoxification treatment at a facility near Drummondville. Chantal Lavigne, 35, died in hospital Friday.

Police said Lavigne had undergone treatment at the Reine de Paix farmhouse in the town of Durham, about 100 kilometres southeast of Montreal. She was one of about 10 people taking part in a lengthy detoxification session.

“The treatments consisted of a process of sweating by being all wrapped in plastic with mud, and also with blankets,” said Sgt. Éloise Cossette. Lavigne died Friday afternoon, while another woman was in stable condition Saturday. Both women were also encased in cardboard boxes.

Police were trying to determine if negligence or criminal conduct was involved. Or just plain stupidity?

Spas in Quebec are not regulated, said Lucie Brosseau with Alliance Spas Relais Santé, which represents some Quebec spas. Brosseau said the association has developed standards for spas to follow, but they are not mandatory…

Police say at least 10 people were undergoing the same detox treatment, which lasted for several hours, and did not include drinking water…

Neighbours have previously complained to police about the farmhouse after hearing loud screaming on the property…

The spa specializes in Reiki therapy, and offers energy therapy, massage and natural products, according to an online listing.

Maybe one of their specialties is primal scream therapy. Another winner – for neurotics.

I would hope that anyone considering any wingy-dingy extreme therapy for anything would take the time to consult a physician about the procedures. Dying is as extreme as it gets.

GM crops may be capable of making their own nitrogen fertilizer

Two University of Alberta researchers have published a step by step plan to one-day end the use of environmentally harmful chemicals on commercial crops by developing plants that produce their own fertilizer.

U of A plant biologist Allen Good says the energy required to produce nitrogen fertilizers has pushed the world-wide cost for agricultural producers to $100 billion a year. Good says that while they are necessary for high yields, those nitrogen fertilizers also damage the environment.

Emissions from nitrogen fertilizers add to greenhouse gas emissions and chemical run-off from farm fields cause algae blooms in fresh water lakes and rivers. Good says the cost of cleaning up the environment adds another $50 billion to the world-wide cost of commercial agriculture fertilizers.

Good and his U of A co-author Perrin Beatty says some plants, like peas, have the natural ability to split atoms of nitrogen gas and use the bioactive elements that enhance growth. Mass produced and consumed cereal crops like wheat, rice and maize cannot naturally split nitrogen atoms and need commercial fertilizers…

Good and his U of A co-author Perrin Beatty say the fix is to genetically alter agricultural products like cereal crops so they can process nitrogen from the atmosphere naturally and still get the same growth enhancing effect as commercial fertilizers.

They’ve published their scheme to encourage discussion and research in this direction. Sounds reasonable to me. But, then, I think good genetic research can solve many problems we haven’t yet started to address.

Fewer nudists, numbers dwindle in Germany’s population

Much to the chagrin of Free Body Culture (FKK) enthusiasts who have been stripping off their clothing on beaches and parks since the early 1900s, a cold wind has been blowing across Germany for nudists and their numbers are steadily dwindling.

“German society is changing and it’s not easy to be a naturist anymore,” said Kurt Fischer, president of the German FKK association (DFK). There are some 500,000 registered nudists and a total of seven million Germans sunbathe naked regularly…

The main problem is the shrinking population, Fischer said.

The number of Germans fell by more than 3.2 million over the last three decades even though the country’s total population has managed to remain more or less steady at about 82 million thanks to immigration — often from countries in Eastern Europe and the Balkans as well as Turkey and Arabic countries.

“Our problems are demographic changes and the fact that immigrants aren’t interested in social nudity,” said Fischer, 70, whose association has such honored standing in Germany that it is even part of the Olympic Sport Federation (DOSB).

“Germany is relying more and more on immigrants to keep the population steady. But many come from countries with strong religious beliefs. They just aren’t into FKK.” Immigrants who arrive from cultures where headscarves are common will not usually be interested in becoming naturists in Germany, he said…

Nude sunbathing has a long tradition in Germany. The Free Body Culture (FKK) movement was founded in the early 20th century and succeeded in taking much of the smut and embarrassment out of nudity.

Even Germany’s top model Heidi Klum was quoted in the German media recently extolling the virtues of topless sunbathing and describing difficulties she has pursuing it in places such as the United States and Italy where it’s frowned upon or illegal…

In Germany, public nudity on beaches and lakes is by and large tolerated and practitioners face no legal consequences, although some courts have fined some caught hiking nude on public trails or riding bikes or horses while naked…

There are other reasons contributing to decline of the unique German cultural tradition. As a 70-year-old eastern woman named Brigitte pointed out, growing prosperity has led to growing waist sizes…

“But with the rise in prosperity a lot of people have come apart at the seams and they can’t show their bodies in public anymore. We’ve become a lot chubbier with all this prosperity. It’s not really very aesthetic anymore.”

I grew up with a flavor of naturism over my summers at my grandparents’ farm. Though Italian, their view of nature and the human body was influenced by German and Austrian groups like the FKK who spent a significant part of their outdoor time in northern Italy. I still have truly embarrassing photos hidden away somewhere of family frolics under an artificial rain shower from a hose on hot summer days.

I even managed some mountain biking au naturel here in New Mexico when I moved here a quarter-century ago. Not now, though. Aside from upsetting neighbors in this rather staid workingclass [predominantly Catholic] community, Rally would probably bark at me for being out of shape.

HOAX testing firm says dumb people use Internet Explorer

According to a new report, dumb people are more likely to use Internet Explorer than smart people. It’s a finding so apparently defamatory that the company responsible for the statement is allegedly being threatened with a lawsuit by inflamed Internet Explorer aficionados.

Online psychometric testing company AptiQuant, based out of Canada, turned its analytical skills to a group of more than 100,000 individuals in an effort to determine the IQ scores associated with various Web browser users. Over a period of around four weeks, the company gave a Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) to users looking for free online IQ assessment tests, then recorded the results and browsers used for all participants above the age of 16.

Across the board, the average IQ scores presented for users of Internet Explorer versions 6 through 9 were all lower than the IQ scores recorded for Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Camino, and Opera users.

Humorously enough, those using Internet Explorer with the Chrome frame built-in actually ranked third in IQ scores among this browser list. Opera users reported the highest average IQ score – hovering around the 120 to 130 range, which is a bit higher than the WAIS test’s population mean of 100 (and standard deviation of 15).

AptiQuant’s report notes that the only statistically significant difference in IQ scores occurred between Internet Explorer users and their counterparts. There was not a significant difference in IQ scores between non-IE browser users, even though these users, in aggregate, reported a higher average IQ score than IE users…

“I just want to make it clear that the report released by my company did not suggest that if you use IE that means you have a low IQ, but what it really says is that if you have a low IQ then there are high chances that you use Internet Explorer,” said CEO Leonard Howard.

Uh, OK.

UPDATE: This turned out to be a hoax.

Harassed by bill collectors, woman wins lawsuit for $1.26 million

New Mexico State Court

A Santa Fe federal court jury has awarded a woman $1.26 million in damages from a debt-collection law firm that pursued her for three years in a case of mistaken identity.

Denver-based Farrell & Sandlin twice filed to garnish the wages of Lucinda Yazzie of Farmington — the second time despite assurances from her employer that the collectors had the wrong person — and didn’t back off until Yazzie filed her federal court lawsuit, said Rob Treinen of Albuquerque, Yazzie’s attorney.

“They had been on notice that they had been pursuing the wrong person for three years,” Treinen said. “They just would not stop coming after her.”

Treinen said the jury awarded Yazzie $161,000 in actual damages for emotional distress and $1.1 million in punitive damages.

The Target credit card debt that the firm was trying to recover — the responsibility of another person named Lucinda Yazzie, with a different Social Security number, address and other identifiers — was about $5,000, Treinen said…

But Farrell & Sandlin filed a complaint in state court for money due against the wrong Lucinda Yazzie in April 2007 and obtained a garnishment of wages writ against her employer, a Farmington energy company. Yazzie couldn’t solve the problem with calls to Farrell & Sandlin, but the garnishment was dropped when Yazzie’s boss filed an answer saying she was the wrong person…

U.S. District Judge Bruce Black, in a pretrial order in the case, wrote that Farrell & Sandlin admitted that the Social Security number of the actual debtor “was changed in the Law Firm’s records by an unauthorized act of a former employee” and as a result the firm went after the wrong Lucinda Yazzie.

Target National Bank, the financial arm of Target stores, had provided the firm with correct information, the judge’s order says.

Aside from the egregious incompetence of the debt collection firm – Farrell & Sandlin – there is nothing that matches the sheer stupidity of the bureaucratic hacks working in the state court system who also had access to the fact that wrong information was being used to harass Ms. Yazzie.

And still they issued an order to garnish her wages – twice! They should all be fired and forced to find an honest job.

Beehive fences stop elephant raids on farmers’ crops in Kenya

Innovative beehive fences have helped a community in Kenya to successfully protect crops from elephants, according to research. Scientists found the hives to be a very effective barrier; elephants turned away from them in 97% of their attempted raids. The hives’ honey also produced additional profits for farmers.

Over the past 20 years, elephant numbers in Kenya have grown to around 7,500 and the population boost is widely heralded as a conservation success story. However, conflict between elephants and humans, especially farmers, is an ongoing problem.

Elephants frequently “raid” farms searching for food such as ripe tomatoes, potatoes and maize. To protect their livelihoods, some farmers have resorted to extreme measures including poisoning and shooting elephants…

Previous research into natural deterrents showed that elephants avoided African honey bees

“Finding a way to use live beehives was the next logical step in finding a socially and ecologically sensitive way of taking advantage of elephants’ natural avoidance behaviour to bees to protect farmers’ crops,” said Dr Lucy King, the University of Oxford biologist who led the study…

Bees cannot sting through elephant hide, but they can and do sting around elephants’ eyes and inside trunks…

In 32 attempted raids over three crop seasons, only one bull elephant managed to penetrate the novel defences…

The team created a boundaries for 17 farms, incorporating 170 beehives into 1,700m of fencing.

The conservationists who devised and tested the scheme now hope to roll similar systems throughout Kenya. I hate the silly-ass phrase; but, it really is a win-win situation for the farmers and the elephants.