Will beer lead the way to better pharmacueticals

A beer a day might not keep the doctor away but hops, one of the basic ingredients in beer brewing, could be good for you.

In a development that could lead to better drug treatments for diabetes and cancer, University of Washington research associate professor of chemistry, Werner Kaminsky, has determined the exact structure of humulones and their derivatives – the acids in hops that give beer its distinctive bitter taste.

There is already evidence to suggest that the bitter acids in beer (in small doses) can have a positive effect on certain cancers and diabetes, as well as inflammation and possibly even weight loss. It’s hoped that by better understanding the chemical structure of these substances, new and more effective pharmaceuticals can be created…

When beer is brewed, the humulone molecules have a unique structure. They are rearranged into a ring of five carbon atoms, not the six found in glucose. The process creates two side groups that can be configured in four ways – above, below or on opposite sides of the ring.

Kaminsky found that the structure of the molecule determines how effective it is in pharmaceuticals. This “handedness” results when a molecule can be arranged in two different ways with the same atoms. A certain “handedness” will see the molecules fitting together like a nut and bolt.

The findings overturned previous research which hadn’t identified handedness and which had assumed uniformity between the molecules…

If the molecules don’t fit together in the right way, it would be like the left hand going into right handed glove and the result, he says, can be disastrous for pharmaceuticals.

Kaminsky cites thalidomide as one example. The drug was designed originally to treat morning sickness in pregnant women in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Scientists at the time didn’t know the handedness of the molecule. As a result, one orientation caused birth defects while the other orientation did what the pill was created to do…

“Now that we have absolutely correctly assigned the handedness, people can study which of these molecules attach to a protein or taste receptor you have in your body. When that is known, you can then try to attach to it other features making standard molecules that have specific effects, from knowing how it works to developing a drug…

But don’t reach for that cold brew just yet. Kaminsky points out that beer itself has no health benefits. “The concentration in beer is very small, it’s not big enough to have a direct effect,’’ he says. “But you can isolate the humulones from beer, enrich them, put them into higher concentrations into a supplement. Then it is possible to achieve health benefits.

No reasonable beer drinker will pay overmuch attention to that last paragraph. There’s bound to be additional benefits from an, erm, adequate quantity of beer consumption. Folks are all just waiting for science to catch up.

Blood money ruled adequate penalty for Saudi who raped and killed his 5-year-old daughter

Lamia

A Saudi man who raped his five-year-old daughter and tortured her to death has been sentenced to pay “blood money” to the mother after having served a short jail term…

The man, said to be a religious scholar who is also a regular guest on Islamic television networks, confessed to having used cables and a cane to inflict the injuries, activists from the group Women to Drive said in a statement on Saturday.

Lamia was admitted to hospital on December 25, 2011, with multiple injuries, including a crushed skull, broken ribs and left arm, extensive bruising and burns, the activists said.

They said the father had doubted his daughter Lamia’s virginity and had her checked up by a medic.

She died last October.

Randa al-Kaleeb, a social worker from the hospital where Lamia was admitted, said the girl’s back was broken and that she had been raped “everywhere”, according to the group.

…The judge has ruled the prosecution could only seek “blood money and the time the defendant had served in prison since Lamia’s death suffices as punishment”…

The ruling is based on national laws that a father cannot be executed for murdering his children, nor can husbands be executed for murdering their wives, activists said.

In case you never had a clear understanding of how backwards and brutal a theocracy can be – here’s an example you should never forget.

Boy Scouts of America encouraged by Obama to end Gay discrimination

President Barack Obama on Sunday encouraged the Boy Scouts of America to end its ban on gay members and leaders, days before the group is expected to vote on the controversial and long-standing rule.

In an interview with CBS, anchor Scott Pelley asked the president if he believed scouting should be open to gays.

“Yes,” Obama said simply.

Asked to elaborate, Obama – who last year gave his backing to the right of same sex couples to marry – said gays and lesbians should be able to participate in “every institution” that others can.

“My attitude is … that gays and lesbians should have access and opportunity the same way everybody else does, in every institution and walk of life,” he said.

“The Scouts are a great institution that are promoting young people and exposing them to, you know, opportunities and leadership that will serve people for the rest of their lives, and I think that nobody should be barred (from) that.”

After criticism from gay rights groups as well as gay former Scouts and Scout leaders, the BSA national executive board is expected to vote Wednesday, the last day of a three-day meeting, on whether to lift the ban it had reaffirmed just last year.

Overdue. Now that people in all walks of life have succeeded in pushing Obama forward on the issue of Gay civil rights, he’s sharp enough to keep pressing what has become a leading issue for Democrats.

Republicans have a real quandary trying to assuage the True Believers they count on to come out and vote for Republicans – while continuing to sell out Gay members of their own party.

Super Bowl Commercials

Last year’s Super Bowl commercials IMHO were mediocre. Were any of them worth remembering?

This year’s – were worse. We liked a couple: The Kia robot model, Budweiser’s Clydesdale colt and this one, the Gangnam pistachio commercial. Skillful, simple green-screen production.