The Feds have no idea how to grow decent pot

❝ The only marijuana researchers can legally obtain for studies looks like something you would scrape off the bottom of your shoe after walking on a grassy field.

This is not an exaggeration. Take a look at this photo, courtesy of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies:

This is the marijuana that researchers were sent for a study looking at whether pot can help treat post-traumatic stress disorder.

❝ Due to federal prohibition and regulations, all of the marijuana used for US research is provided by one facility at the University of Mississippi through the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). But researchers have complained for years that the quality of marijuana that NIDA supplies is terrible — typically far below what you can get from state-legal medical or recreational marijuana markets or even the black market.

The photo above exemplifies this. The marijuana looks like it’s made up more of leaves and stems than the actual bud you’re supposed to smoke. As anyone who’s ever smoked pot can tell you, you’re typically supposed to throw out the leaves and stems — meaning what you see in the photo is basically garbage to the typical user. Usable pot is supposed to look chunkier and laced with crystals that are high in THC (which is what gets you high).

❝ Here’s an example of higher-quality pot, taken before the stems are fully removed:

It ain’t just aesthetics, folks. The questions of usability, effectiveness, say, as a product to be used to wean Americans off opioids – are relevant.

RTFA for all the details and discussion.

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Clinical trials tend to be positive when Docs get industry dollar$

When study investigators have financial relationships with pharmaceutical companies, clinical trial results are more likely to turn up positive…

In a review of 190 papers on randomized controlled trials, taking money from industry was significantly associated with favorable trial results in a fully adjusted model…Salomeh Keyhani, MD, of the University of California San Francisco, and colleagues reported online…

Their findings suggest bias in the evidence base, Keyhani said. Practicing clinicians “should be concerned enough to employ healthy skepticism while reviewing the results of any one trial,” she told MedPage Today.

❝ The paper makes the distinction between a study being funded by a drug company, and investigators who have financial relationships with those companies.

Researchers with financial relationships can influence the study results in less obvious ways, such as study design and analytic approach, but Keyhani noted that the current research is a “cross-sectional study so any interpretation of the findings should be made with caution.”…

Gasp! Who’da thunk it.

RTFA for methodology – and more.

Mediterranean diet can slow down brain aging and memory loss

❝ It has long been claimed that a Mediterranean diet is good for your health, but a new study suggests it may benefit the brain as well as the body – and could help slow down brain ageing.

A study by academics for the journal Neurology found that older people who followed a Mediterranean diet lost less brain volume over a three-year period than those who did not stick to the diet as closely.

❝ The Mediterranean diet includes large amounts of fruit and vegetables, olive oil, beans and cereal grains such as wheat and rice with moderate amounts of fish, dairy and wine and limited quantities of meat.

❝ Study author Dr Michelle Luciano of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland said: “As we age, the brain shrinks and we lose brain cells which can affect learning and memory.

“This study adds to the body of evidence that suggests the Mediterranean diet has a positive impact on brain health.”…

❝ The study claims dietary difference explained 0.5 per cent of the variation in total brain volume – an effect that was half the size of that due to normal ageing.

The results were the same when researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect brain volume, such as age, education and having diabetes or high blood pressure.

There was no relationship found between grey matter volume or cortical thickness and the Mediterranean diet…

The Mediterranean diet has long been lauded by experts for its apparent ability to prevent many serious illnesses, including heart disease and breast cancer.

And it is often advocated by dieticians and nutritionists as an effective way to lose weight or stay slim because it delivers higher amounts of so-called “good” fats but is relatively low in sugar and harmful trans-fats.

I’ll second that emotion.

Though I grew up within the culture of a typical Mediterranean diet there were excesses of red meat and sugar. Not surprising in a first generation American family from the period including the Great Depression.

Though I’ve been gradually losing weight gained the last couple of years before retiring – with the encouragement of my ever-patient wife, the bullying of Essey – my iPhone, the purchase of a digital scale that measures lots of stuff and talks to the iPhone – I’ve lost 20 lbs over the past 8 months. I now weigh less than I did in 1977.

Nothing excessive. The most significant modifications being [1] reducing the amount of food consumed at any one time; [2] increasing my standards for daily exercise – which means walking – a little faster, and a mile more than previous averages. Not difficult. The changes have become habit. I eat, now, a daily amount that should eventually [gradually] knock off another 30 lbs.

Simple lifestyle changes will prevent heart disease


Jack Sachs

❝ Billions of dollars are spent every year on medications that reduce the risk of heart disease — the No. 1 killer in the United States…But some people feel powerless to prevent it: Many of the risk factors seem baked into the cake at birth. Genetic factors can have a huge impact on people’s chances of dying of heart disease, and it has long been thought that those factors are almost always outside of one’s control.

Recent research contradicts this, though, and that should give us all renewed hope…

❝ Researchers gathered data from four large prospective cohort studies that followed thousands of people for years, looking at the relationships between various risk factors and heart disease. The first began enrolling patients in 1987 and the last in 2008. Even though specific genes of interest weren’t known when these studies began, data were available that allowed scientists to evaluate genetic risk decades later. Using about 50 different variations — single-nucleotide polymorphisms (otherwise known as SNPs) — researchers created a risk score.

They also looked at how lifestyle factors were associated with outcomes. These included not smoking cigarettes, not being obese (having a B.M.I. less than 30), performing physical activity at least once a week and having a healthful diet pattern.

❝ That last criterion was defined as doing at least half of the following recommendations: eating more fruits, nuts, vegetables, whole grains, fish and dairy products and eating less refined grains, processed meats, unprocessed red meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, trans fats and sodium. Every one of the four lifestyle factors was associated with a decreased risk of coronary events…

❝ That’s the first bit of good news. Doing any one of these things makes a difference.

But the effect is cumulative. The researchers divided people into three groups based on these factors. “Favorable” required at least three of the four factors, “intermediate” required two of them, and “unfavorable” required one or none. Across all studies, those with an unfavorable lifestyle had a risk that was 71 percent to 121 percent higher than those with a favorable lifestyle.

More impressive was the reduction in coronary events — heart attacks, bypass procedures and death from cardiovascular causes — at every level of risk. Those with a favorable lifestyle, compared with those with an unfavorable lifestyle, had a 45 percent reduction in coronary events among those at low genetic risk, a 47 percent reduction among those with intermediate genetic risk, and a 46 percent reduction among those at high genetic risk.

RTFA, folks. It’s filled with information. Yes, it would be great if most of you already know most of this. Can’t wait until I get hundreds of comments telling me you do! Until then, I will continue to post useful advice on behaving like you want to live a long, long time.

Oh, yeah, like the American Heart Association, I recommend more exercise than the researchers accept as minimum.

Just like my politics. I’d like all of us folks, who work for a living, physically, intellectually, professionals or pieceworkers – to have as enjoyable life as our society and economy is really capable of. Not what we’re allowed by political pricks whose only role in life seems to be as guard dogs for the rich and powerful.

Scientists map safe locations for wastewater injection in Texas and Oklahoma


Jens-Erik Lund Snee

Stress maps of Texas and Oklahoma, with black lines indicating stress orientation. Blue-green colors indicate regions of extension in the crust, while yellow-orange areas are indicative of crustal compression.

❝ Stanford geophysicists have compiled the most detailed maps yet of the geologic forces controlling the locations, types and magnitudes of earthquakes in Texas and Oklahoma.

These new “stress maps…provide insight into the nature of the faults associated with recent temblors, many of which appear to have been triggered by the injection of wastewater deep underground…

❝ To create these stress maps, Mark Zoback and his graduate students Jens-Erik Lund Snee and Richard Alt interpreted data from different parts of Texas and Oklahoma donated by oil and gas companies…

When combined with information about the faults present in a given area, the scientists were able to assess which faults are likely to be problematic and why. In the areas where induced earthquakes have occurred in Texas and Oklahoma, the Stanford scientists show that a relatively small increase of pore pressure – the pressure of fluids within the fractures and cavities of rocks – would have been sufficient to trigger slip…

❝ In a related paper…graduate student F. Rall Walsh and Zoback present a methodology for assessing which faults are susceptible for earthquake triggering and which are not.

❝ The Stanford scientists also found that many of the recent earthquakes in Texas that have been suspected as being triggered by wastewater injection occurred on faults that – according to the new map – have orientations that are nearly ideal for producing earthquakes. Hence, doing this kind of study in advance of planned injection activities could be very helpful.

Useful, that is within the context of oil and gas well drillers actually making use of this information. Unless attitudes have changed greatly from the days when I was involved with that industry – I don’t expect much of a response to this study. This is an industry concerned, first and last, with easy profits, comparatively cheap costs – even when they don’t seem that way to mere mortals who worry about household budgets and even the occasional mid-strength earthquake.

Example: I got a call one sunny autumn morning in New Orleans from a Texas driller – in Dubai. Doesn’t matter what broke on what machinery. He had to stop work.

He told me he’d already spoken to one of our warehousemen and parts were now waiting outside the front door of my office in a taxi. Waiting for me to accompany them to New Orleans International Airport. I walked downstairs and got in the cab. At the airport I picked up the few boxes of parts and walked to the tarmac next to the air freight terminal. There was a full-size Boeing air freighter waiting and I placed the boxes inside an open doorway along with appropriate paperwork. The hatch closed. The jet took off headed for Dubai. No other cargo on board besides the $300 worth of parts I’d delivered.

Part of the cost of doing business. To be passed along to consumers.

All 2016 American Nobel laureates are immigrants

❝ In a year in which Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is proposing a crackdown on immigration, all six of the 2016 American Nobel laureates announced to date are immigrants.

“I think the resounding message that should go out all around the world is that science is global,” Sir J. Fraser Stoddart, one of three laureates in chemistry…Stoddart, born in Scotland, credited American openness with bringing top scientists to the country. He added, however, that the American scientific establishment will only remain strong “as long as we don’t enter an era where we turn our back on immigration.”

Stoddart said the United States should be “welcoming people from all over the world, including the Middle East…”

❝ Duncan Haldane, the English Princeton University researcher who won the prize for physics, described the immigration process as a “bureaucratic nightmare for many people” in an interview with The Hill.

The prize in physics was awarded to three British immigrants, Haldane, David Thouless of Yale University and Michael Kosterlitz of Brown University.

❝ Despite procedural challenges, the scientists believe the American educational system will continue attracting researchers from all over the world…

Haldane said top scientists come to the United States because of its research-friendly funding system.

“There’s a tradition of funding very fundamental research without regard for it being ‘useful,’” said Haldane.

❝ The Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded to Oliver Hart of Harvard University and Bengt Holmström of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, British and Finnish immigrants, respectively.

I wonder if Trump sheeple follow their master’s contempt for reading and facts. He says he learns everything from watching TV – mostly Fox News. Facts about American immigrants get scant coverage in the world of “fair and balanced” sophistry.

Funding ban on human-animal hybrids ended

pigotaur
Pigotaur

Should the U.S. government use tax dollars to fund scientists fusing human stem cells into early animal embryos in order to create “chimeras” that are part human and part pig? Or part mouse?

The U.S. National Institutes of Health says the answer is yes. The agency announced Thursday that it plans to lift a moratorium that since last year has blocked taxpayers’ money from flowing to this type of hot-button research.

Carrie Wolinetz, the NIH’s associate director for policy, said experiments to inject human stem cells into early-stage animal embryos “are really important and exciting to understand how disease works” and to explore new medical treatments.

At the same time, the agency is proposing stricter controls on certain experiments most likely to lead to monkey-men or other bad science fiction…

And bad science fiction it would be. Unless requisite technology becomes as cheap as, say, drones from a big-box electronics chain, no for-real scientist is going to waste a chunk of their budget on “thrilling” experiments capable of attracting Sharknado movie producers or the religion police.

Human-animal mixtures aren’t new. Wolinetz noted in a statement that biomedical researchers “have created and used animal models containing human cells for decades” to gain insights into biology and disease. Scientists often grow human tumors inside of mice, for example.

But the new research is different, because potent human stem cells are being injected directly into a very early-stage animal embryo, consisting of just a couple of dozen cells. Theoretically, the human cells could then end up contributing to any part of the animal, and in any amount…

What’s the point of such experiments? One is that it might be possible to create an otherwise normal pig whose entire heart—or whole liver—is made from human cells. That would create a new way to farm human organs for transplant.

The issue was clearly a delicate one for the NIH, which was caught between advancing science and a possible political bombshell that could lead to public backlash. The agency said it would form a special committee to oversee funding of these human-animal mixtures—a move that could raise questions over political interference in science.

Pretty much every other nation capable of such research has already marched forward past the artificial political boundaries constructed by religion in the United States. Even if we avoid the short-term political limits appropriate to clown show politicians like George W or Donald Trump, our world-class scientific institutions and universities have to confront both federal and state limits put in place by legislators in mortal fear of know-nothing voters. Every day, every month, every year.

Know-Nothing Congress roadblocks US policy on mitochondrial therapy

Scientists believe they can now remove disease-causing mitochondrial DNA from human embryos, providing new cures for previously untreatable conditions, but the policy signals coming from Washington DC are in stark contradiction, according to a new Viewpoint essay published in JAMA.

On Feb. 3, 2016, the Health and Medicine Division of the National Academies issued a report on mitochondrial replacement therapy commissioned by the Food and Drug Administration. The division recommended that under certain conditions, MRT clinical trials should be allowed to proceed. But just six weeks before, President Obama signed an appropriations bill that included a bit of language essentially forbidding those trials…

❝ “One big step forward was taken by the IOM report when it concluded that it is “ethically permissible” to embark on first-in-human clinical trials of MRT subject to rigorous safety and efficacy imperatives,” wrote Dr. Eli Adashi…and I. Glenn Cohen…“However, two steps back were taken with the enactment of a policy rider which precludes the FDA from further consideration of MRT…”

Meanwhile in the United Kingdom, the government has approved MRT clinical trials and some might begin this year. But despite the National Academies recommending a similar advance to the FDA, legislation has left U.S. policy at a standstill, wrote Adashi and Cohen.

Whether or not the eventual births of disease-free children in the UK will change congressional hearts and minds remains to be seen,” they wrote. “Failing such, progress in the prevention of mitochondrial DNA diseases will remain the domain of a biomedical enterprise an ocean away.”

The same ignoranus mindset George W Bush brought to US government is alive and well in a Congress governed by shortsighted and foolish conservatives, embraced by Republicans, Tea Party Trumpkins and Blue Dog Democrats. American voters may never learn to vote in their own economic and social interest; but, you’d think they’d eventually figure out that passing laws that help your children to die really ain’t too bright.

X-Ray research on fried potatoes to make them tastier


Tamara Evans

When I’m waiting for my dinner to finish cooking, I can’t say I often think about how the way I fry it is changing the food’s microstructure. But after sifting through a paper recently published in the Journal of Food Science that explores the microstructure of “fried potato disks”, I might just.

The study was conducted by Tanjila Alam and Pawan S. Takhar from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. In it, they cut russet potatoes into tiny 45-millimeter diameter, 1.65-millimeter thick disks and then deep fried them in soybean oil. So, think of them as little crispy potato chips for science. The potato samples were fried in 190 degrees Celsius oil for 0, 20, 40, 60, or 80 seconds.

After that, the fried potatoes were subjected to X-ray micro-computed tomography, which creates a micro 3D image of the sample without destroying it. The idea here, is to see how frying the potato affects its porosity, the twistiness (“tortuosity”) of the paths connecting the pores, and how much oil the chip takes in, which eventually could help us make better fried foods…

In this study, the researchers found that the longer the potato was fried, the more the pore size and number of pores increased, which helped the potatoes to take on more oil. The chips that were fried for longer also had less twisty pathways between pores, which corresponds to having better oil uptake.

Scientists aren’t just interested in fried potatoes, the paper notes. In 2011, researchers put chicken nuggets to a similar test, dying the oil blue and using a confocal microscope to trace oil and pore distribution through the deep fried delicacy. Yum!

Too bad the study only addresses one of America’s favorite food groups – fat. They left out sugar, salt and crap beer.