Sunday, April 29, 2012

Drug driving test at your fingertips

A FINGERPRINT is all you need to determine whether someone is under the influence of drugs.
Paul Yates from Intelligent Fingerprinting, a company spun out from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, and colleagues, have developed a handheld device that police can use to detect breakdown products from drugs excreted through sweat pores in the fingertips.
The device applies gold nanoparticles coated with antibodies to a fingerprint. The antibodies stick to antigens on specific metabolites in the fingerprint. Fluorescent dyes attached to the antibodies will highlight the presence of any metabolites. The technique was first used to detect nicotine, but now works on a range of drugs, including cocaine, methadone and cannabis.
It is hard to prove that someone is drug driving, for example, says Yates, because existing tests are invasive, can be contaminated, or aren't sensitive enough. The new device could detect nanograms of metabolites in minutes, he says. The device was announced at the UCL International Crime Science Conference in London last week.

Give treatment earlier to slow spread of HIV

ANY person with HIV whose partner is not infected should be offered immediate treatment to cut the risk of transmission. The recommendation, from the World Health Organization, is part of a global crackdown on the spread of HIV.
Giving antiretroviral drugs to an infected partner earlier reduces the risk of transmission by 96 per cent, a clinical trial found last year.
The new strategy is part of a drive to stop HIV spreading, even if it means treating people whose immune systems are not yet depleted to the levels that usually require therapy. "This is the first time people would get treatment not necessarily for their own benefit, but to protect their partners," says Bernhard Schwartlander, director of evidence, innovation and policy at UNAIDS in Geneva, Switzerland.
"The big question is to what extent reducing the viral load in a community impacts the HIV epidemic overall," says Andrew Ball of the WHO's HIV/AIDS department.

Epigenetic changes linked with ageing

SOME of the genetic changes associated with ageing may be the result of epigenetics - which suggests they could be reversed.
Molecules can attach to DNA, enhancing or preventing gene activation without changing the underlying genetic code. Such epigenetic changes are already suspected as factors in psychiatric disorders, diabetes and cancer.
They may also play a role in ageing. Jordana Bell of King's College London and colleagues looked at the DNA of 86 sets of twin sisters aged 32 to 80, and discovered that 490 genes linked with ageing showed signs of epigenetic change through a process called methylation.
"These genes were more likely to be methylated in the older than the younger [sets of] twins," says Bell, suggesting that the epigenetic changes themselves might contribute to ageing (PLoS Genetics, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002629).
The next challenge is to establish when gene methylation occurs. It can be triggered through lifestyle factors such as smoking, and environmental stresses.
It may one day be possible to develop enzymes that can remove the offending molecules from DNA and reverse methylation - and some aspects of ageing.

Hand paralysis reversed in monkeys

Eavesdropping on the brains of monkeys with hand paralysis has helped restore near-normal function. The system could one day be trialled in people, too.
Currently available systems restore only basic hand control to people with damage to the spinal nerves that control the arms. The Freehand system, for example, uses sensors at the shoulder to detect shrugs. The sensors then trigger electric stimulators to activate hand muscles, allowing the person to clench or unclench their hand.
Lee Miller and his colleagues at Northwestern University, Chicago, think it is possible to fine-tune this control. They inserted 100 electrodes into the brains of two healthy monkeys to record the neural activity linked to different hand and arm muscle activity.
They then used an anaesthetic to paralyse the monkeys' wrist and hand muscles. By comparing subsequent brain activity with that recorded before paralysis, the team could predict the movement each monkey was attempting, and electronically trigger muscles in the monkey's hand to replicate the expected action. The animals regained enough control to successfully place a ball into a tube in 80 per cent of attempts
"If you walked into the room, you wouldn't realise the monkey is paralysed," says Miller. The system effectively mimics the way healthy people control their limbs, but because it bypasses the spinal cord, it could be useful for nerve-damaged individuals. "By going directly to the brain, we have potential access to a much richer set of control signals that represent the actual movement the patient is attempting to make."

India firm Ranbaxy launches new malaria drug

India's top drugmaker Ranbaxy Laboratories has launched a new malaria treatment drug, Synriam, on the occasion of the World Malaria Day.
The country's first anti-malaria drug would treat Plasmodium falciparum malaria in adults, the company said.
It said the new drug was approved by Indian authorities for sale in India and conformed to the recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The WHO estimates that malaria kills about 15,000 people annually in India.
But the Lancet, one of the world's leading medical journals, says that figure is hugely underestimated. It says more than 205,000 people die of malaria every year in India.
The drug was launched on Wednesday in the Indian capital, Delhi, by Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and Science and Technology Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh.
In a statement, Ranbaxy said: "Synriam provides quick relief from most malaria-related symptoms, including fever, and has a high cure rate of over 95%."
Tsutomu Une, the chairman of Ranbaxy, said: "The drug fills a vital therapy gap not only in India but also worldwide. We will make all possible efforts to make Synriam accessible to the world."
The company said it was working to make the drug available in Africa, Asia and South America where malaria is rampant.
Malaria remains a major global public health challenge. India accounts for over 75% of the 2.5 million reported cases of malaria in southeast Asia annually.

'Heart shrinking' trial to combat heart failure to begin

A trial using electricity to shrink the hearts of patients with heart failure is about to start in Liverpool.
It will involve electrically stimulating one of the nerves leading to the heart, which it is hoped could shrink the heart and improve life expectancy.
This is the first trial of the technique in humans, after it was shown to keep rats and dogs alive for longer.
This first patient will be operated on in the next few days.
The heart pumps blood around the body, and when it fails to do this properly people can become tired and out of breath far more quickly. For some patients it feels like running a marathon when they are only sitting in an armchair.
Heart failure affects around 900,000 people in the UK and can be the result of high blood pressure, dead heart muscle after a heart attack, or a genetic condition.
Bigger and bigger As the heart loses its ability to pump, it fills with too much blood and becomes stretched over time. The more the heart enlarges, the worse the symptoms.
Surgeons at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital and The Royal Liverpool University Hospital hope to reverse the damage.
They will fit a device - similar to a pacemaker - to the vagus nerve which runs to the heart. Surgeons said the electrical stimulation should "protect the heart" from the effects of the hormone adrenaline.
Adrenaline makes the heart pump harder and faster; this is one of the body's responses to heart failure - but doctors say it becomes toxic over time and damages the heart further.
The idea is that by shielding the heart, it will stop enlarging and begin to shrink.
Continue reading the main story

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Dr Jay Wright, a consultant cardiologist at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital, told the BBC: "We're hoping it will shrink the heart, but it might not be to normal size."
He said shrinkage "would lead to improvement in symptoms - we know that the bigger the heart the worse the symptoms".
Nearly 100 patients will take part in the trial at 30 hospitals around the world.
The first will be Carl Jordan, who used to be a paramedic. He has had several heart attacks which have damaged his heart, causing it to become enlarged.
He said: "Being the first person to have this device implanted in Liverpool was a huge decision.
"My quality of life at the moment is not great, because of the restrictions my condition has imposed on me, especially the breathing problem, as some days this is quite severe and getting worse.
"Another factor is I have a young family who, although I am the one with the illness, they too are living with it and see every day what it can do to me, so hopefully it will improve my quality of life as well as the lives of others."

Pigeons have `GPS in their brain' to assist in navigation

WASHINGTON: Certain neurons in pigeon brains encode the direction and intensity of Earth's magnetic field, providing the common birds with an internal global positioning system (GPS), a new study has claimed.

According to the study, birds and other organisms, such as bees and turtles, likely possess similar systems, but humans are not likely to possess a magnetic sense of direction, although they can map out shorter distances in their heads.

"We have found cells in the (pigeon) brain that signal the direction, intensity and polarity of an applied magnetic field," Discovery News quoted David Dickman, co-author of the study from Baylor College of Medicine neuroscientist, as saying.

"These three qualities can be used by the brain to compute heading information, like a compass, and latitude on the Earth surface (location between the magnetic North and South Poles).

"It is possible that magnetic intensity could also be used to give the bird longitude (East-West location) through learned associations of differing regional variations along the Earth surface.

"Together, these cells could form the basis of determining heading direction and position according to a brain representation of a magnetic Earth surface map," he said.

For the study, Dickman and his colleague Le-Qing Wu placed 7 pigeons in a pitch-black room and used a 3D coil system to cancel out the planet's natural geomagnetic field and generate a tunable, artificial magnetic field inside the room.

While they adjusted the elevation angles and magnitude of their artificial magnetic field, they simultaneously recorded the activity of neurons in the pigeons' brains that had already been identified as candidates for processing such magnetic signals.

They identified 53 specific brain stem neurons that exhibited significant responses to changes in their artificial magnetic field.

Prior research found that magnetic receptors in the retina, nose, inner ear and possibly the beak of birds receive and interpret magnetic field information, which then goes to the brain for processing.

In addition to the findings applying to other birds, they could also apply to bacteria, honeybees, fish, turtles and even a few mammals, such as the blind mole rat. All of these organisms are documented as being able to sense and use the Earth's magnetic field.

In the case of pigeons, the ability allows them to travel hundreds of miles. Dickman reminded that "the ancient Romans used pigeons to carry messages home from their battles."

Up to a certain point, the GPS is useful, but when honing in on a specific location, he believes pigeons rely more upon other orientation cues, such as vision and smell.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Study calls for regulating salt in fast foods

The amount of salt on the menus of the six biggest fast food companies varies greatly from nation to nation, according to a study that calls for regulations to curb sodium intake.
And despite Australian fast food on average sitting in the middle of pack, one burger set the record for breaking the upper daily limit.
Researchers in Australia, Britain, Canada, France, New Zealand and the United States looked at the salt content of 2124 food items sold by six fast food chains in April 2010.
The study, which appears in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, included popular items such burgers, chicken nuggets, pizza, salad, sandwiches and fries.
Lead author Elizabeth Dunford, a PhD student at the George Institute in Sydney, says the level of salt in Australian fast food is better than Canada and the United States, but worse than the United Kingdom and France.
She says burgers rated the worst when it came to salt content per serve, with the Hungry Jack's Ultimate Double Whopper containing 6.3 grams of salt. The next worst offender was the Burger King Angus bacon and cheese burger from the United States with 5.2 grams.

Exceeding recommended intake

According to the Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand, the adequate intake level for salt is 4 grams per day, with an upper limit of no more than 6 grams.
Dunford says previous research shows Australians are on average consuming 8 to 12 grams of salt a day, with 75 per cent coming from processed foods.
Too much dietary salt has been linked to higher blood pressure and other adverse health effects.
Previous studies have shown cuts in salt intake can result in a significant reduction in deaths.
"The main outcome of high salt is high blood pressure levels and that is the leading risk factor for cardio vascular disease and stroke, which is the number one cause of death in Australia," says Dunford.
Several countries have started to curb salt intake, with the latest successes coming from voluntary salt reduction targets and labelling of foods.
"We think the reason for [the low salt levels in the UK] is that they have a national salt reduction campaign," says Dunford.
"In Australia we started that process with some processed foods, but we're a little behind in other foods. We're heading in the right direction."

Aspirin's fat burning mechanism found

It may be great for curing a splitting headache, but scientists have now discovered that aspirin also activates an enzyme that burns fat, a finding that could unlock its cancer fighting properties, according to a new study.
Previous research has shown that once ingested, aspirin breaks down into salicylate, a compound derived from plants such as willow bark, and used as a drug for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians recorded the medicinal use of willow bark in their manuscripts.
In the 1890s, pharmaceutics developed a modified form of salicylate to make it less irritating to the stomach - creating the drug aspirin.
More recently, research has known that salicylate triggers a molecular pathway that leads to pain relief.
Now a team led by Professor Grahame Hardie, a cell biologist at the University of Dundee in Scotland, has discovered how salicylate affects metabolism. They report their findings today in the journal Science.
Hardie and his team suspected that salicylate affected an enzyme known as AMPK, which is a key regulator of cell metabolism.
To test this, researchers compared a control group of mice, with another group that lacked a sub-unit of the AMPK enzyme. They injected both groups of mice with salicylate and measured the rate at which they utilised fat.
They found that the mice with AMPK were able to burn fat at a faster rate. This indicated that salicylate switches on AMPK, increasing the breakdown of fat.
"It's exciting that we've discovered salicylates are working in a new and different way to what we originally thought," says Hardie.

Implications for cancer

Hardie says recent studies have shown that people who take aspirin over long time periods appear to have a lower incidence of cancer. But doctors warn against prolonged aspirin use, which can cause stomach bleeding.
"I'm particularly interested in these protective effects against cancer," says Hardie. "Further research may help us discover another way of taking salicylate, other than aspirin, which has fewer side-effects."
He explains that anti-cancer effects may be due to the activity of AMPK, as diabetic drugs that target AMPK in cells are also associated with a reduced incidence of cancer.
Dr Briony Forbes, a biochemist at the University of Adelaide, says findings in this study are likely to explain recently identified protective effects against cancer by aspirin.
"The surprising finding that salicylate promotes AMPK activity also opens up exciting avenues for diabetes prevention and treatment."

Malaria Is Still a Problem in Africa

Mama Berta lives in a village in the African country of Tanzania. She cares for her three grandchildren, who are two, five, and seven years old. You might be surprised to learn that her biggest worry is something very tiny: mosquitoes.
Though tiny, mosquitoes in Africa pose a big danger. Many of them carry a parasite that causes a disease called malaria. When one of those mosquitoes bites a person, the parasite gets into the person’s bloodstream and makes them very sick.
In many parts of Asia, Europe, and the Americas, this awful disease is under control or simply gone. But in Africa, where malaria is still a big problem, the insects spread the disease quickly and easily.
In the past year, Beatrice (age two) has had malaria twice. She was lucky, because she survived. A child dies every 30 seconds in Africa from malaria—3,000 die every day. Adults die, too. And many others get very, very sick with headaches, fever, and vomiting. One time, Beatrice had to spend a week in the hospital.
But a program called “Malaria No More” has an answer: mosquito nets. The organization gives the nets to families. One net is big enough for two or three family members to sleep under.
Most of the mosquitoes which carry malaria come out between ten at night and four in the morning. The bed nets stop the mosquitoes from getting through so they can’t bite, and the nets are treated with chemicals that make the mosquitoes stay away and kill them on contact. So these nets protect people from malaria while they are sleeping.
Malaria No More gave Mama Berta a net to hang over the childrens’ bed. “The mosquito net not only means healthy children who are strong enough to play and learn, but a grandmother who can rest a little easier, knowing that they are safe,” says Martin Edlund of Malaria No More.
We have vaccines to protect us from many diseases, but so far no one has been able to develop one for malaria. Until then, Malaria No More and other organizations are working hard to teach African families how to protect themselves from mosquitoes and stay well.

Fast Facts

  • Each year there 300 million cases of malaria worldwide
  • One million of those cases result in death; 90 percent of the deaths are in Africa
  • Malaria also exists in Central and South America, parts of Asia and Southeast Asia, and the Caribbean

Green Tips: Conserve Resources

It’s easy to protect the planet! These tips help save limited resources such as water and energy. So get green and give the tips a try. Make sure to ask your parents before trying any of these tips!

  • Choose locally grown food. Transporting food long distances wastes fuel and creates extra CO2.

  • Turn off the water while brushing your teeth.

  • Send an e-card instead of a paper card.

  • Say "No bag, thank you." Whether you're buying toys, snacks, or clothes, tell the checkout person you don't need a bag. By carrying your own reusable fabric bag, you'll help reduce the estimated 100 million plastic bags that each year clog sewers, entangle birds, and get swallowed by whales, sea turtles, and other wildlife.

  • Scrape leftovers off the dishes instead of rinsing them.  (Wash the dishes soon after.)

  • Take short showers instead of baths. Aim for five minutes—but still get clean!
Share these green tips with your family and friends!

Drinking Water: Bottled or From the Tap?

If your family is like many in the United States, unloading the week’s groceries includes hauling a case or two of bottled water into your home. On your way to a soccer game or activity, it’s easy to grab a cold one right out of the fridge, right?

But all those plastic bottles use a lot of fossil fuels and pollute the environment. In fact, Americans buy more bottled water than any other nation in the world, adding 29 billion water bottles a year to the problem. In order to make all these bottles, manufacturers use 17 million barrels of crude oil. That’s enough oil to keep a million cars going for twelve months.

Imagine a water bottle filled a quarter of the way up with oil. That’s about how much oil was needed to produce the bottle.

So why don’t more people drink water straight from the kitchen faucet? Some people drink bottled water because they think it is better for them than water out of the tap, but that’s not true. In the United States, local governments make sure water from the faucet is safe. There is also growing concern that chemicals in the bottles themselves may leach into the water.

People love the convenience of bottled water. But maybe if they realized the problems it causes, they would try drinking from a glass at home or carrying water in a refillable steel container instead of plastic.

Plastic bottle recycling can help—instead of going out with the trash, plastic bottles can be turned into items like carpeting or cozy fleece clothing.

Unfortunately, for every six water bottles we use, only one makes it to the recycling bin. The rest are sent to landfills. Or, even worse, they end up as trash on the land and in rivers, lakes, and the ocean. Plastic bottles take many hundreds of years to disintegrate.

Water is good for you, so keep drinking it. But think about how often you use water bottles, and see if you can make a change.

And yes, you can make a difference. Remember this: Recycling one plastic bottle can save enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for six hours.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Saturday, April 21, 2012


  • Save the earth freeze you butt off
  • Save the earth jump in the grand canyon
  • Clean and Green
  • Save Earth. We Have Nowhere Else To Go!
  • He Who Plants a Tree Loves Others Beside Himself!
  • There’s No Planet B
  • Save the Earth or Die
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
  • Nature Saves Us, We Have to Save Nature
  • Do You Need to Print?
  • Think….Before You Print
  • Buy Local
  • Save the earth have no children
  • Keep Our Oceans Blue
  • Keep Our Forests Green
  • Eat Sleep Recycle
  • Go Green
  • Go Green for Life
  • To Sit in the Shade, You Have to Save Paper First
  • Don’t Waste Water
  • Save Paper, Save Trees, Save the Planet
  • Save the earth have no children

How the First Earth Day Came About

What was the purpose of Earth Day? How did it start? These are the questions I am most frequently asked.

Actually, the idea for Earth Day evolved over a period of seven years starting in 1962. For several years, it had been troubling me that the state of our environment was simply a non-issue in the politics of the country. Finally, in November 1962, an idea occurred to me that was, I thought, a virtual cinch to put the environment into the political "limelight" once and for all. The idea was to persuade President Kennedy to give visibility to this issue by going on a national conservation tour. I flew to Washington to discuss the proposal with Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who liked the idea. So did the President. The President began his five-day, eleven-state conservation tour in September 1963. For many reasons the tour did not succeed in putting the issue onto the national political agenda. However, it was the germ of the idea that ultimately flowered into Earth Day.

I continued to speak on environmental issues to a variety of audiences in some twenty-five states. All across the country, evidence of environmental degradation was appearing everywhere, and everyone noticed except the political establishment. The environmental issue simply was not to be found on the nation's political agenda. The people were concerned, but the politicians were not.

After President Kennedy's tour, I still hoped for some idea that would thrust the environment into the political mainstream. Six years would pass before the idea that became Earth Day occurred to me while on a conservation speaking tour out West in the summer of 1969. At the time, anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, called "teach-ins," had spread to college campuses all across the nation. Suddenly, the idea occurred to me - why not organize a huge grassroots protest over what was happening to our environment?

I was satisfied that if we could tap into the environmental concerns of the general public and infuse the student anti-war energy into the environmental cause, we could generate a demonstration that would force this issue onto the political agenda. It was a big gamble, but worth a try.

At a conference in Seattle in September 1969, I announced that in the spring of 1970 there would be a nationwide grassroots demonstration on behalf of the environment and invited everyone to participate. The wire services carried the story from coast to coast. The response was electric. It took off like gangbusters. Telegrams, letters, and telephone inquiries poured in from all across the country. The American people finally had a forum to express its concern about what was happening to the land, rivers, lakes, and air - and they did so with spectacular exuberance. For the next four months, two members of my Senate staff, Linda Billings and John Heritage, managed Earth Day affairs out of my Senate office.

Five months before Earth Day, on Sunday, November 30, 1969, The New York Times carried a lengthy article by Gladwin Hill reporting on the astonishing proliferation of environmental events:

"Rising concern about the environmental crisis is sweeping the nation's campuses with an intensity that may be on its way to eclipsing student discontent over the war in Vietnam...a national day of observance of environmental being planned for next spring...when a nationwide environmental 'teach-in'...coordinated from the office of Senator Gaylord Nelson is planned...."

It was obvious that we were headed for a spectacular success on Earth Day. It was also obvious that grassroots activities had ballooned beyond the capacity of my U.S. Senate office staff to keep up with the telephone calls, paper work, inquiries, etc. In mid-January, three months before Earth Day, John Gardner, Founder of Common Cause, provided temporary space for a Washington, D.C. headquarters. I staffed the office with college students and selected Denis Hayes as coordinator of activities.

Earth Day worked because of the spontaneous response at the grassroots level. We had neither the time nor resources to organize 20 million demonstrators and the thousands of schools and local communities that participated. That was the remarkable thing about Earth Day. It organized itself.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Drink water before exam, improve your grades

LONDON: Drinking a glass of water could help you do better in exams, researchers have suggested.

A new study found that students who took a drink, such as water, coffee or cola, before taking an exam did up to 10% better than those who did not - the difference between a grade.

It is unclear why a drink should help, but one theory suggests that information flows more freely between brain cells when they are well hydrated. Drinking water may also calm nerves, while those who became thirsty during the test could be more easily distracted, the Daily Mail reported.

The study, which looked at hundreds of university students, compared whether they took a drink into the exam with their marks. The students' overall academic ability was then factored in.

Those who arrived with drinks did around 5% better on average. But the improvement was even more marked among those just starting out at university, whose results improved by as much as 10%.

‘Meat eating played a big role in human evolution’

LONDON: Meat eating helped early humans to spread more quickly across the world and had a profound effect on human evolution, scientists say.

Researchers from Lund University in Sweden found that the high-quality diet allowed mothers to wean babies earlier and have more children, allowing human communities to grow faster.

The researchers, who detailed their findings in the scientific journal PLoS ONE, compared 67 species of mammals, including humans, apes, mice and killer whales, and found a clear correlation between eating meat and earlier weaning.

They also found that babies of all species stop suckling when their brains have developed to a particular stage, but carnivores reached this point more quickly than herbivores or omnivores.

"Eating meat enabled the breast-feeding periods and thereby the time between births to be shortened," lead author Elia Psouni was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail. "This must have had a crucial impact on human evolution."

In the past, researchers had tried to explain the shorter breast-feeding period of humans based on social and behavioural theories of parenting and family size.

138 million Indian smokers do not know tobacco causes stroke

NEW DELHI: Nearly 138 million Indian smokers do not know that smoking tobacco causes stroke.

As many as 92 million on the other hand aren't aware that tobacco causes heart disease.

According to a report released on Friday by the World Heart Federation, half of all Chinese smokers and one-third of Indian and Vietnamese smokers are unaware of the risks tobacco poses to our heart.

Awareness of the risk of secondhand smoke is even lower.

Around 275 million Indians consume tobacco which has 3095 chemical components - 28 of which are proven carcinogens tha can cause cancer According to WHF, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the world's leading cause of death, killing 17.3 million people every year.

Eighty per cent of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries like India, which are increasingly being targeted by the tobacco industry.

Tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure causes about one-tenth of global deaths from CVD.

Even smoking a few cigarettes a day significantly increases the risk of heart disease. Smokeless tobacco products have also been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

Secondhand smoke exposure increases the risk of heart disease by 25 per cent and more than 87 per cent of worldwide adult deaths caused by secondhand smoke are attributable to CVD.

The report, entitled "Cardiovascular harms from tobacco use and secondhand smoke" was commissioned by the WHF and written by the International Tobacco Control Project (ITC Project), in collaboration with the Tobacco Free Initiative at the World Health Organization. Professor Geoffrey T Fong at the University of Waterloo, Canada and chief principal Investigator of the ITC Project, said "This report shows a broad correlation between poor knowledge of the risks of tobacco use and high levels of smoking prevalence. To break this link and reduce the deadly toll of tobacco, more needs to be done to increase awareness of the specific health harms."

Professor Fong added "Our research shows that the risks of tobacco use to lung health are very widely accepted. But we need to attain the same level of knowledge and awareness that tobacco use can cause heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease and secondhand smoke can cause heart attack."

According to Fong, health warning labels are known to be an effective method for educating the public on the health harms of tobacco products.

A number of countries have introduced warnings about the increased risk of heart disease or heart attack, but no country has yet implemented a label to warn people that secondhand smoke causes heart disease.

Johanna Ralston, CEO of World Heart Federation, commented: "If people don't know about the cardiovascular effects of tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure, they cannot understand how much or how quickly smokers are endangering not only their own lives, but those of family members, friends, co-workers or other non-smokers who breathe tobacco smoke. In countries like India or China, so many people are at high risk for heart attack or stroke, and it strikes at a relatively early age: risks of CVD are far more present and immediate than most of the better-known fatal effects of tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure."

According to him, knowing about cardiovascular risks of tobacco will help smokers take quitting seriously, and encourage people to demand and comply with policies that protect everyone from the harms of tobacco.

The report, which presents data from two major global tobacco research and surveillance studies - the Global Tobacco Surveillance System (GTSS) and the ITC Project - recommends three steps to reduce the current and future cases of CVD due to tobacco use - which may total over 100 million people - among the one billion people throughout the world who smoke today, and of their families exposed to secondhand smoke:

"Increase the price of tobacco products, eliminate tobacco promotion and marketing and Implement 100 per cent smokefree laws in workplaces and public places - which is proven to significantly lower hospital admissions for heart attacks," it suggested.

A recent WHO report had said that almost 2 in 5 deaths among adults aged 30 years and above in India are caused due to smokeless tobacco. According to WHO's "Mortality attributable to tobacco report" globally 12% of all deaths among adults aged 30 years and over were due to smokeless tobacco in 2004 compared with 16% in India, 17% in Pakistan and 31% in Bangladesh.

Direct tobacco smoking was responsible for 5 million deaths. Another 6 lakh people died from second-hand smoke. Over the next 20 years, the annual death toll from tobacco will be 8 million, with more than 80% of those deaths projected to occur in low- and middle-income countries.

WHO says tobacco could, in the 21st century, kill over 1 billion people. Many think smokeless tobacco is safer than the smoking form. However that's not really true.

Bhavna Mukhopadhyay, executive director, Voluntary Health Association of India added "2500 people die every day due to tobacco related diseases in India. Display of harsher pictorial warnings on tobacco products is one of the most effective tool to reduce tobacco consumption. Chewing tobacco and gutka itself contributes to 90% of oral cancer cases in the country," she said.

According to the Global Adult Tobacco India Survey (GATS), 21% of the country's population is addicted to smokeless tobacco alone and another 5% percent smoke as well as use smokeless tobacco.

Among smokeless tobacco products, khaini is used the most, followed by gutkha. Around 91% of female tobacco users use smokeless products like betel quid with tobacco is used the most, followed by gutkha and khaini.

According to GATS, India spends approximately Rs 300 billion annually in both public and private spending on treatment of tobacco related illness, accounting for roughly one fourth of all health spending.

The World lung Organisation recently said that globally, tobacco-related deaths have nearly tripled in the past decade, and tobacco is responsible for more than 15% of all male deaths and 7% of female deaths. The World Tobacco Atlas says more than 43 trillion cigarettes have been smoked in the last 10 years and cigarette production has increased by 16.5% in that time period.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A.P. Board Of Intermediate Education March 2012 Inter I Year Examination Results Available Now!

A.P. Board Of Intermediate Education March 2012 Inter I Year Examination Results Available Now!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Scientists Discover 'Switch' in Plants to Create Flowers

Flowering is the most crucial act that plants undergo, as the fruits of such labor include crops on which the world depends, and seeds from which the next generation grows.
While classic experiments have demonstrated that plants are able to adjust the timing of their flowering in response to environmental conditions, such as light, temperature and the availability of nutrients, very little has been known about what exactly triggers plants to make flowers instead of leaves, under various environmental conditions.
Now, a team of researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) has discovered how this happens. The team, led by Associate Professor Yu Hao from the Department of Biological Sciences at the NUS Faculty of Science, has identified a protein that is essential for flowering under normal light conditions. The team's findings are published April 17 in the online, open-access journal PLoS Biology.
To identify the element that triggers the process of flowering in plants, Prof Yu and his colleagues undertook a study that spanned around five years, in which they scanned for proteins in plants using a process called yeast two-hybrid screening. After scanning around 3 million samples, the researchers identified a molecule they dubbed FT-INTERACTING PROTEIN 1 (FTIP1).
The researchers found that plants with mutant, non-functional versions of the FTIP1 gene flowered much later under normal light conditions (around 16 hours of light per day). When such mutants were given a working version of this gene, their flowering time was restored largely back to normal.
These findings suggest that FTIP1 is key to how flowering is controlled by light and imply that FTIP1, and genes similar to it, could be used as molecular markers for both classical plant breeding and for targeted genetic modification for desirable flowering traits, with the aim of increasing crop yields in changing environments.
Further studies from Prof Yu and his team hint that a group of FTIP1-like proteins are involved in a wide range of plant developmental processes. They are now working to uncover the other factors that are critical in controlling flowering and other key developmental processes in plants.

Supercomputer to simulate brain for disease fight

LONDON: Scientists say they are building a 'human brain' , using the world's most powerful supercomputer that will simulate the entire mind and thus help fight against brain diseases like Alzheimer's.

The 'brain' is intended to combine all the information so far uncovered about its mysterious workings - and replicate them on a screen, right down to the level of individual cells and molecules, says an international team behind the project.

The scientists hope to complete it within 12 years. If it works it could be revolutionary for understanding devastating neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's , and even shedding light into how we think, and make decisions, the Daily Mail reported.

Switzerland-based Henry Markram, who is leading the team which include UKbased Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, said, "The complexity of brain, with its billions of interconnected neurons, makes it hard for neuroscientists to truly understand how it works. Simulating it will make it much easier, allowing them to manipulate and measure any aspect of the brain."

Housed at a facility in Dusseldorf in Germany, the 'brain' will feature thousands of three-dimensional images built around a semicircular 'cockpit' so the scientists can virtually 'fly' around different areas and watch how they communicate with each other.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Beware of too much sugar in ‘healthy’ fruit drinks

LONDON: 'Healthy' drinks may not be that healthy - these often contain far more sugar than people realize and can actually add up to 450 calories a day to one's diet, researchers have warned.

A team at Glasgow University has based its findings on a survey in which it asked more than 2,000 people in the UK to estimate how much sugar was in a range of drinks, the Daily Mail reported.

While many overestimated the amount of sugar in fizzy beverages, they underestimated levels in smoothies and fruit juices. The researchers also found that soft drinks account for a most of their recommended calorie intake.

The participants were asked to guess number of teaspoons of sugar in a range of popular drinks. They underestimated it for pure apple juice and orange juice, a caffeinated energy drink and a smoothie by between two and four teaspoons. For a pomegranate-based drink, they underestimated the sugar content as nearly 18 teaspoons.

The survey suggests the average person in the UK consumes 3,144 calories a week through non-alcoholic liquid intake - this adds around 450 calories a day to one's diets. Prof Naveed Sattar, who led the survey, said, "What you drink can be as damaging to the body consuming too many sugar-sweetened drinks can greatly contribute to abdominal obesity."

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Dental x-rays linked to most common brain tumour

WASHINGTON: Frequent dental x-rays have been linked with higher risk of developing meningioma, the most commonly diagnosed primary brain tumour, says a new study.

The findings suggest that moderate use of this form of imaging benefits some patients, although dental x-rays may be necessary in particular cases.

Dental x-rays are the most common synthetic source of exposure to ionizing radiation for individuals, the primary environmental risk factor for developing meningioma, the journal Cancer reports.

Elizabeth Claus, of Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and her colleagues studied information from 1,433 patients diagnosed with meningioma.

"The study presents an ideal opportunity in public health to increase awareness regarding the optimal use of dental x-rays, which unlike many risk factors is modifiable," said Claus, according to an Yale statement.

They were aged between 20 and 79 years -- natives of Connecticut, Massachusetts, North Carolina, the San Francisco Bay Area, and eight counties in Houston, Texas -- between May 1, 2006 and April 28, 2011.

The investigators also studied information from a group of 1,350 individuals who had similar characteristics but who had not been diagnosed with a meningioma.

Over a lifetime, patients with meningioma were more than twice as likely as the second group to report having ever had a bitewing exam, which uses an x-ray film held in place by a tab between the teeth.

Individuals undergoing bitewing exams on a yearly or more frequent basis were 1.4 to 1.9 times as likely to develop meningioma as controls. (Risks differed depending on the age at which the exams were done).

An increased risk of meningioma was also linked with panorex exams (which are taken outside of the mouth and show all of the teeth on one film) taken at a young age or on a yearly or more frequent basis.

Individuals who reported receiving these exams when they were younger than 10 years old had a 4.9 times increased risk of developing meningioma.

Scientists create hair thin solar cells

LONDON: Scientists have created solar cells so thin and flexible that they can be wrapped around a single strand of human hair.

The ultra-thin film consists of electrodes on a plastic foil and is only 1.9 micrometres thick, a tenth of the thinnest solar cells present available, according to researchers.

Being extremely thin, light and flexible, they can be used in portable electrical charging devices or electronic textiles worn on clothing, the journal Nature Communications reports.

Tsuyoshi Sekitani, from the University of Tokyo, said: "Being ultra-thin means you don't feel its weight and it is elastic. You could attach the device t your clothes like a badge to collect electricity (from the sun).

"Elderly people who might want to wear sensors to monitor their health would not need to carry around batteries," added Sekitani, according to the Telegraph.

Scientists and consumers in Japan are increasingly turning to alternative energy sources following last year's nuclear crisis in Fukushima.

Hopefully, the new ultra-thin solar cells, which were created jointly by researchers from Johannes Kepler University of Austria and contributors from University of Tokyo, will be put to practical use within around five years.

The research team are now working on increasing the rate at which the device is able to convert sunlight into electricity in order to apply it to specific appliances, as well as exploring an increase in cell size, according to Sekitani.

China launches space drug laboratory

BEIJING, China has set up a laboratory to conduct research on medicines for astronauts during space missions, the science and technology ministry said.
The laboratory, housed in the China Astronaut Centre here, was opened on Tuesday. The construction began in 2009, Xinhua reported.
It is the country's first laboratory dedicated to aerospace medical research, said Li Yinghui, a senior scientist with the China Manned Space Engineering project.

Obesity-high blood sugar combo creates pregnancy risks

WASHINGTON: Overweight women with moderately elevated blood sugar are at a higher pregnancy risk than their obese counterparts with normal blood sugar or those who have gestational diabetes but normal weight.

One of the adverse outcomes is having large babies, the result of fat accumulation. Large babies increase the risk of injury to the baby during vaginal delivery, increasing the likelihood of a Caesarean section.

A pregnant woman's higher blood sugar level and weight can also lead to higher insulin and lower blood sugar levels in a newborn. In turn, these effects may eventually trigger obesity and diabetes, perhaps as early as childhood, the journal Diabetes Care reports.

"We need to address the combination of overweight and blood sugar of these women as urgently as we do for women who are obese or have gestational diabetes," said principle investigator Boyd Metzger, professor of endocrinology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

The study, based on 23,316 women from nine countries, also found women who are both obese and have gestational diabetes are at a much higher risk of having an adverse pregnancy than women having only one of those conditions, according to a Northwestern statement.

The study found when the mothers are obese and have gestational diabetes, the babies weigh 340 gram more than babies of mothers with normal weight and blood sugar.

Cosmetics use linked to diabetes?

Researchers have warned that chemicals in plastics, cosmetics and toys can raise a person's risk of developing diabetes, though independent experts are not fully convinced.

A team at Sweden's Uppsala University has found that people with "modest" levels of the chemicals - called phthalates - in their blood are twice as likely to develop diabetes, 'The Daily Telegraph' said.

The chemicals called phthalates are used in products such as clingfilm as it can be a softening agent in plastics but they can be used in cosmetics such as self tans and perfumes.

The researchers have based their findings, published in the 'Diabetes Care' journal, on an analysis of data from 1,000 people aged over 70, of which 114 developed diabetes.

After taking into account factors that are known to cause type 2 diabetes , including obesity, smoking, high cholesterol, they found people with higher levels of phthalates in their blood were more likely to develop diabetes.

Monica Lind, who led the study, said: "Although our results need to be confirmed, they do support the hypothesis that certain chemicals can contribute to the development of diabetes."

Soon, a gel to perk up male fertility

LONDON: Scientists have discovered chemical compounds that boost the swimming ability of sperm cells, opening the way for a new gel to help couples conceive naturally.

Male fertility has been largely overlooked with most treatments requiring women to take medication or undergo expensive and invasive procedures.

"Fertility treatments basically involve helping sperm to reach the egg," said Jackson Kirkman-Brown, senior lecturer in reproductive biology at the University of Birmingham and director of the Centre for Human Reproductive Science, Birmingham.

"The majority of these involve doing something quite invasive to the woman, often even though she may be perfectly healthy. If you can give the man's sperm a little more va-va-voom, you could help fertility in a far less invasive way and it would be far cheaper," he said.

"We now have some compounds, that are in the early stages of testing, which can make more sperm swim through cervical mucus, which means you would get more sperm into the uterus. This should increase natural fertility," added Kirkman-Brown, according to the Telegraph.

Current fertility treatments such as IVF cost thousands of pounds while requiring the woman to take powerful medication and undergo invasive procedures to extract and implant eggs.

Yet only a third of all fertility problems suffered by couples are due to women - the rest lie with the male partner or an unknown cause. There have also been some recent concerns that male infertility is increasing as studies have shown that up to a quarter of young men have poor quality semen.

Qatar: Richest nation is global obesity capital

DUBAI: With over half of its population overweight, the world's wealthiest country Qatar is the obesity capital of the world.

The energy-rich Gulf country, was ranked by Forbes this year as the world's wealthiest country. However, it has seen an increase in obesity related health problems, the UK's Daily Mail said.

Half of all adults in the state are classed as obese and 17% are suffering from diabetes , making it the most overweight country in the world.

Low levels of exercise and a growing popularity of fast food outlets has led to concern among local health activists. "It's a very, very serious problem facing future of Qatar," Sharoud Al-Jundi Matthis, programme manager at Qatar Diabetes Association, said.

Nasa robots found signs of life on Mars in 1976?

BOSTON: A recent study by four scientists has revealed that Nasa's Viking missions in 1976 could have detected life on Mars.

Their findings which has already triggered a lot of controversy in Nasa and other space groups has been published in the current issue of the International Journal of Aeronautical and Space Sciences brought out by the Korean Society of for Aeronautical and Space Sciences.

The authors of the paper are Giorgio Bianciadia, Joseph Miller, Patricia Ann Straat and Gilbert V Levin. Their finding assumes significance in the context of an earlier statement by Nasa 36 years ago that the Viking missions failed to detect life on the Red Planet.

Their research was based on a mathematical analysis, but till late Friday evening Nasa had not responded to the discovery. According to the report, a mathematical analysis of the samples found that the salts in the soil on Mars has "thrown off " initial estimates indicating that there was strong evidence of microbial life.

It says that the new analysis looked for what is known as "complexity" in the Martian samples. The scientists decided to reassess the Viking samples because of the discovery of what are known as "perchlorates" in the soil at the landing site of another Mars lander in 2008.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

the world’s first trial using liver stem cells

An Indian-origin professor in the U.K. will head the world’s first trial using liver stem cells that could avoid transplant surgery.
Paediatric liver consultant Professor Anil Dhawan, who will head the trial at King’s College Hospital, has described the use of stem cells to treat liver disease as an “exciting breakthrough”, The Daily Mail reported.
Doctors have developed a pioneering treatment for liver disease that could save hundreds of lives a year and avoid the need for transplant surgery, it said.
Eighteen British children suffering from rare and life threatening liver conditions are to receive infusions of specially treated liver cells removed from the organs of dead donors, the paper said.
It said that doctors believe they will make vital stem cells — the building blocks of life — and repair the damaged organ.
“We have many very sick children and babies who need transplants. If we can cure them without a transplant that will be a fantastic development.
“We have tried using ordinary liver cells with limited success, but is the first time a treatment has been developed that gets the liver to regrow using stem cells,” Mr. Dhawan was quoted, as saying by the daily.
He added that if all goes well, the children, who are being treated with the cells, will show an improvement within a couple of months.
“We would expect those children to come off their medicines and therapy. It will mean the liver cells have done their job and corrected the defects that made them ill. “Then we will have to see how long the effect lasts and whether we have to top up these children with further infusions. I am optimistic the treatment will work,” he said.

Discovery could lead to 'next-gen' vaccines

The discovery of how a vital immune cell recognises dead and damaged body cells could open the way to next-gen vaccines that are more effective and have fewer side-effects.
Scientists from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute have identified, for the first time, how a protein found on the surface of immune cells called dendritic cells recognises dangerous damage and trauma that could signify infection.
Dendritic cells are critical for raising an alarm about the presence of foreign invaders in the body such as viruses, bacteria and parasites as well as tumour cells and other dead or damaged cells, the journal Immunity reported.
Also known as antigen-presenting cells, they digest and present molecules from damaged cells to other immune cells that recognise foreign invaders and launch an immune response, said a university statement.
The research was a collaborative effort involving a team of immunologists, protein chemists and structural biologists, led by Mireille Lahoud, Jian-Guo Zhang, Peter Czabotar and Ken Shortman from Eliza Hall.
Lahoud said the study demonstrated that the immune system has evolved a very clever way of detecting damaged and dead cells to help promote an immune response.
Lahoud said that the finding could develop or increase the efficacy of vaccines for diseases that do not currently have good preventive options, such as malaria or HIV.
“There is also the possibility that the system could be used to develop therapeutic vaccines for treating diseases, such as some forms of cancer, as well as for preventing them,” Lahoud added.

‘A blood test could crack Alzheimer’s code’

The earlier the detection of Alzheimer’s disease the more likely it is that decline could be slowed or even stopped.
The testing currently on offer is invasive and expensive, and scientists around the world are looking for a cheaper and easier method. Researchers at Newcastle University say they are making progress in coming up with a blood test that could complement brain imaging.
“We detect it very late with imaging techniques,” said research leader Pablo Moscato. “When a lot of damage has been done in your brain, it’s unlikely we can come up with a solution.” The aim is for a 50-dollar blood test with a high level of accuracy.
“If we can catch this early, then the possibility of drug intervention is there because the drug companies would see a market and try and come up with one,” Professor Moscato said.
In a paper published in the PLoS (Public Library of Science) ONE journal, the team delivered a progress report on their work in developing a cheap two-part blood test that could determine whether a mild intellectual impairment was going to progress to Alzheimer’s.
“We’re looking at pairs of markers,” Moscato said. “The best possible measurement is if you take them at the baseline and then again in 12 months. Then you compare the variation between the pairs of proteins over that 12 months.” What the team look for acceleration. “It’s the rate of change of values that rings the bells,” he said. “If it grows and grows exponentially then we know we have something wrong.”
People with mild cognitive impairment do not inevitably develop Alzheimer’s. Some maintain a level of functioning and some progress to another form of dementia.

Genes identified for common childhood obesity

An international team of genetics researchers have identified at least two new gene variants that increase the risk of common childhood obesity, according to a study published online this week in Nature Genetics.
As one of the major health issues affecting modern societies, obesity has increasingly received public attention, especially given a rising prevalence of the condition among children. Research indicates that obese adolescents tend to have higher risk of mortality as adults. Although environmental factors such as food choices and sedentary habits contribute to the increasing rates of obesity in childhood, twin studies and other family-based evidence have suggested a genetic component to the disease as well.
Previous studies have identified gene variants contributing to obesity in adults and in children with extreme obesity, but relatively little is known about genes implicated in regular childhood obesity.
In the new study, researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia recruited and genotyped the world’s largest collection of DNA from children with common obesity. In order to have sufficient statistical power to detect novel genetic signals, they formed a large international consortium to combine results from similar datasets from around the world. The U.S. National Institutes of Health partly funded this research, which analyzed previous studies supported by many other European, Australian and North American organizations.
The current meta-analysis included 14 previous studies encompassing 5,530 cases of childhood obesity and 8,300 control subjects, all of European ancestry. The study team identified two novel loci, one near the OLFM4 gene on chromosome 13, the other within the HOXB5 gene on chromosome 17. They also found a degree of evidence for two other gene variants. None of the genes were previously implicated in obesity.
“This work opens up new avenues to explore the genetics of common childhood obesity,” said lead investigator Struan Grant, associate director of the Center for Applied Genomics at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “Much work remains to be done, but these findings may ultimately be useful in helping to design future preventive interventions and treatments for children, based on their individual genomes.”

Why is the flame of the candle yellow in colour?

The flame of a burning candle is dominated by yellow color although there are other color regions in particular blue color in a small way.
In the flame, mechanism(s) of light production for different regions differ and determined by the ambient atmosphere during the course of candle burning (that is presence or absence of oxygen/air, hydrogen from the break-down of hydrocarbons, the usual constituent of the candle material).
As the candle wick is lighted, it picks up the fuel through capillary action of the wick from the immediate surrounding region of the burning wick.
This molten region of the paraffin/wax-hydrocarbons gets burnt and undergoes molecular transitions determined by the environ.
The miniscule blue region of the flame can be attributed to hydrogen burning resulting from the break-down of hydrocarbons from the candle stuff while the incandescent wick material, the carbonaceous materials such as soot from the burning of candle stuff, with limited supply of oxygen dominating the scenario results in a yellow flame . The latter process can be better described by incandescence, a process of light generation through burning analogizing glow of tungsten filament in an electrical bulb or glow of lighted match stick and so on yielding yellow flames where most of the energy is dissipated as heat radiation.
It should be borne in mind that a blue flame yields higher temperate than does a yellow flame.
Also it is common experience to see a domestic gas stove showing difference in flame color changing from yellowish blue to deep blue as we change the control knob ( letting air through nozzle determining the speed of combustion of the gas) from sim mode to high flame mode.

Hybrid Copper-Gold Nanoparticles Convert CO2

Copper -- the stuff of pennies and tea kettles -- is also one of the few metals that can turn carbon dioxide into hydrocarbon fuels with relatively little energy. When fashioned into an electrode and stimulated with voltage, copper acts as a strong catalyst, setting off an electrochemical reaction with carbon dioxide that reduces the greenhouse gas to methane or methanol.
Various researchers around the world have studied copper's potential as an energy-efficient means of recycling carbon dioxide emissions in powerplants: Instead of being released into the atmosphere, carbon dioxide would be circulated through a copper catalyst and turned into methane -- which could then power the rest of the plant. Such a self-energizing system could vastly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired and natural-gas-powered plants.
But copper is temperamental: easily oxidized, as when an old penny turns green. As a result, the metal is unstable, which can significantly slow its reaction with carbon dioxide and produce unwanted byproducts such as carbon monoxide and formic acid.
Now researchers at MIT have come up with a solution that may further reduce the energy needed for copper to convert carbon dioxide, while also making the metal much more stable. The group has engineered tiny nanoparticles of copper mixed with gold, which is resistant to corrosion and oxidation. The researchers observed that just a touch of gold makes copper much more stable. In experiments, they coated electrodes with the hybrid nanoparticles and found that much less energy was needed for these engineered nanoparticles to react with carbon dioxide, compared to nanoparticles of pure copper.
A paper detailing the results will appear in the journal Chemical Communications; the research was funded by the National Science Foundation. Co-author Kimberly Hamad-Schifferli of MIT says the findings point to a potentially energy-efficient means of reducing carbon dioxide emissions from powerplants.
"You normally have to put a lot of energy into converting carbon dioxide into something useful," says Hamad-Schifferli, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and biological engineering. "We demonstrated hybrid copper-gold nanoparticles are much more stable, and have the potential to lower the energy you need for the reaction."
Going small
The team chose to engineer particles at the nanoscale in order to "get more bang for their buck," Hamad-Schifferli says: The smaller the particles, the larger the surface area available for interaction with carbon dioxide molecules. "You could have more sites for the CO2 to come and stick down and get turned into something else," she says.
Hamad-Schifferli worked with Yang Shao-Horn, the Gail E. Kendall Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, postdoc Zichuan Xu and Erica Lai '14. The team settled on gold as a suitable metal to combine with copper mainly because of its known properties. (Researchers have previously combined gold and copper at much larger scales, noting that the combination prevented copper from oxidizing.)
To make the nanoparticles, Hamad-Schifferli and her colleagues mixed salts containing gold into a solution of copper salts. They heated the solution, creating nanoparticles that fused copper with gold. Xu then put the nanoparticles through a series of reactions, turning the solution into a powder that was used to coat a small electrode.
To test the nanoparticles' reactivity, Xu placed the electrode in a beaker of solution and bubbled carbon dioxide into it. He applied a small voltage to the electrode, and measured the resulting current in the solution. The team reasoned that the resulting current would indicate how efficiently the nanoparticles were reacting with the gas: If CO2 molecules were reacting with sites on the electrode -- and then releasing to allow other CO2 molecules to react with the same sites -- the current would appear as a certain potential was reached, indicating regular "turnover." If the molecules monopolized sites on the electrode, the reaction would slow down, delaying the appearance of the current at the same potential.
The team ultimately found that the potential applied to reach a steady current was much smaller for hybrid copper-gold nanoparticles than for pure copper and gold -- an indication that the amount of energy required to run the reaction was much lower than that required when using nanoparticles made of pure copper.
Going forward, Hamad-Schifferli says she hopes to look more closely at the structure of the gold-copper nanoparticles to find an optimal configuration for converting carbon dioxide. So far, the team has demonstrated the effectiveness of nanoparticles composed of one-third gold and two-thirds copper, as well as two-thirds gold and one-third copper.
Hamad-Schifferli acknowledges that coating industrial-scale electrodes partly with gold can get expensive. However, she says, the energy savings and the reuse potential for such electrodes may balance the initial costs.
"It's a tradeoff," Hamad-Schifferli says. "Gold is obviously more expensive than copper. But if it helps you get a product that's more attractive like methane instead of carbon dioxide, and at a lower energy consumption, then it may be worth it. If you could reuse it over and over again, and the durability is higher because of the gold, that's a check in the plus column."

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cigarettes as radioactive as x-rays

When I was a medical doctor in the hospital system, every now and then I needed to get a chest x-ray on a patient who was also a cigarette smoker.
Quite often, they would get nervous about the potential radiation damage from a chest x-ray. But when I told them that two packets of cigarettes gave them the same radiation dose as a chest x-ray, they would not believe me.
This raises two questions. First, how did a radioactive metal get into their cigarettes? And second, why did they not believe me?
Every year, we humans smoke about six trillion cigarettes, enough to make a chain that would easily reach from the Earth to the Sun, and back, and then do the whole trip again, just for good measure.
By 2020, cigarettes will be killing about 10 million people each year. They have already knocked off 100 million people in the 20th century, and if we don't come to our senses, they could kill one billion in the 21st century.
The radioactive metal in cigarettes is polonium-210. It was discovered in 1898 by Marie and Pierre Curie. It is extremely toxic (about 250-million-times more toxic than cyanide) and is naturally present in uranium.
Developed countries use fertiliser that is manufactured from apatite rock, and this rock naturally contains uranium which then decays to radioactive polonium-210, which enters the tobacco plant through both the leaves and roots.
When the cigarette burns, it reaches temperatures of 600–800°C, hotter than the melting point of polonium.
The liquefied polonium sticks to tiny particles in the cigarette smoke, and then preferentially lands at locations in your airways and lungs, where one pipe splits into two pipes.
Polonium-210 has a very short half-life of 138 days. It is intensely radioactive, and sprays alpha particles on to the surrounding tissues.
Now, most people would be definitely worried if you suggested that they have a chest x-ray every day for the rest of their lives. But some of these people quite happily smoke, sometimes up to two packets of cigarettes every day.
Cigarette smoke is already loaded with various chemicals that are well-known to cause cancer. It's estimated that the radiation dose from the polonium-210 in cigarettes accounts for about two per cent of cigarette deaths. That is several thousand deaths each year in the USA alone.
It was first discovered that cigarettes contained radioactive polonium about half a century ago. So how come it's not general knowledge?
The answer is simple. Big Tobacco has done an excellent cover-up job for the last half century.
Once they realised that there was radioactive polonium in tobacco, they started their own internal — and very secret — research program. They even came up with ways to drastically reduce the amount of polonium in cigarette smoke.
At one giant tobacco company, RJ Reynolds, a memo was sent, and it read, referring to the radioactive polonium, "removal of these materials would have no commercial advantage".
But there was another reason why they wanted to keep their research secret. At the Phillip Morris tobacco company in 1978, a scientist, Paul Eichorn, wrote a memo to his boss, Robert Seligman, the then vice-president of research and development at Philip Morris.
Eichorn wrote, referring to research on polonium, "it has the potential of waking and sleeping giant. The subject is rumbling, and I doubt we should provide facts."
But the big tobacco companies had yet another reason for not publishing their research. They were following their infamous motto of 'doubt is our product'.
So any tiny variation in the research done by scientists outside the tobacco industry was spun into the spurious claim that even the experts don't really know what makes smoking harmful.
Big Tobacco's internal research showed that polonium was harmful, but to quote an internal Philip Morris document from 1982, so long as they kept their research quiet, any suggestion of a link between polonium-210 and lung cancers is "spurious and unsubstantiated".
Perhaps Big Tobacco should get some of their own internal research x-rayed, so they can see through their own smoke screen.

Dental x-rays linked to brain tumours

People who get regular dental x-rays are more likely to suffer a type of brain tumour, according to new research, suggesting that yearly exams may not be best for most patients.
The study in the US journal Cancer showed people diagnosed with meningioma who reported having a yearly bitewing exam were 1.4 times to 1.9 times as likely as a healthy control group to have developed such tumours.
A bitewing exam involves an x-ray film being held in place by a tab between the teeth.
Also, people who reported getting a yearly panorex exam - in which an x-ray is taken outside the mouth and shows all the teeth on one film - were 2.7 to three times more likely to develop cancer, said the study.
A meningioma is a tumour that forms in the membrane around the brain or spinal cord. Most of the time these tumours are benign and slow growing, but they can lead to disability or life-threatening conditions.
The research, led by Elizabeth Claus of the Yale University School of Medicine, was based on data from 1433 US patients who were diagnosed with the tumours between the ages of ages 20 and 79 years.
For comparison, researchers consulted data from a control group of 1350 individuals who had similar characteristics but had not been diagnosed with a meningioma.
Dental patients today are exposed to lower radiation levels than they were in the past, but the research should prompt dentists and patients to re-examine when and why dental x-rays are given, says Claus.
"The study presents an ideal opportunity in public health to increase awareness regarding the optimal use of dental x-rays, which unlike many risk factors is modifiable," she says.
Michael Schulder, vice chairman of the department of neurosurgery at Cushing Neuroscience Institute, part of the North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System in New York, says he was not shocked by the findings.
"This should come as no great surprise given the connection between radiation and meningioma development that has been established in various other contexts," says Schulder, who was not involved in the research.
"The chance of these tumours arising in patients who were x-rayed yearly still was low. Nonetheless, dentists and their patients should strongly consider obtaining x-rays less often than yearly unless symptoms suggest the need for imaging."

Weighing up the risk

The American Dental Association's guidelines call for children to get one x-ray every one to two years; teens to have one every 1.5 to three years, and adults every two to three years.
The ADA said in 2006 there was little evidence to back up the routine use of full-mouth dental x-rays in patients without any symptoms.
Associate Professor Matthew Hopcraft of the University of Melbourne Dental School says there are no strict guidelines regarding dental x-rays in Australia.
"Dentists in Australia would normally do a risk assessment for their patients ... weighing up the risk of disease versus the risk of potential harm from radiation from the x-rays," says Hopcraft.
He says most patients would undergo one x-ray every one or two years, while a patient with a high risk from tooth decay would need one every six months.
Hopcraft says improvements in radiographic equipment has seen the dosage rate received by patients undergoing an x-ray reduce over time.
"We've moved a lot in Australian practice towards digital radiography from traditional film and that's allowed the dosage of radiation to decrease significantly as a consequence."

Piranhas leave this fish alone

It’s a matchup wor­thy of a late-night ca­ble mov­ie: put a school of starv­ing pi­ra­nha and a 300-pound fish to­geth­er, and who comes out the win­ner?

The sur­pris­ing an­swer—given the pi­ra­nha’s no­to­ri­ous guil­lo­tine-like bite—is Brazil’s mas­sive Ar­a­pai­ma fish. The se­cret to its suc­cess, re­search­ers say, lies in its in­tri­cately de­signed scales, which could pro­vide in­spira­t­ion for en­gi­neers look­ing to de­vel­op flex­i­ble ce­ram­ics.

    Marc Mey­ers, an en­gi­neer the Uni­vers­ity of Cal­i­for­nia San Die­go, has been stu­dy­ing the Ar­a­pai­ma since trav­el­ing to the Am­a­zon ba­sin and find­ing that the fish could live in pi­ra­nha-infested lakes that make mince­meat of oth­er an­i­mals.

Mey­ers and col­leagues set up an ex­pe­ri­ment that pits pi­ra­nha against Ar­a­pai­ma by us­ing a ma­chine that re­sem­bles an in­dus­trial-strength hole punch. Pi­ra­nha teeth were at­tached to the top “punch,” which was pressed down in­to Ar­a­pai­ma scales on the low­er “punch.” The scales were em­bed­ded in a soft rub­ber sur­face meant to mim­ics the soft un­der­ly­ing mus­cle on the fish.

In their stu­dy, pub­lished in the jour­nal Ad­vanced Bio­ma­te­rials, the re­search­ers found that the teeth can par­tially pen­e­trate the scale, but crack be­fore they reach the mus­cle.

The Ar­a­pai­ma scale com­bines a hard, mineral-rich out­er­lay with an in­ter­nal de­sign that helps the scale re­sist the pi­ra­nha’s razor-like bite. The mix of ma­te­ri­als is like the hard enam­el of a tooth de­posited over softer den­tin, said Mey­ers. “You of­ten find this in na­ture, where you have some­thing hard on the out­side, but it rides on some­thing softer that gives it tough­ness,” he ex­plained.

It’s a com­bina­t­ion that en­gi­neers would like to re­pro­duce for ap­plica­t­ions such as sol­diers’ body ar­mor, which needs to be both tough and flex­i­ble, Mey­ers not­ed. Oth­er ap­plica­t­ions might in­clude fu­el cells, in­sula­t­ion and aer­o­space de­signs.

  Mey­ers is an ex­pert in bio­mim­et­ics, the study of nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als from liv­ing or­gan­isms and the pro­cesses that pro­duce them. En­gi­neers are pur­su­ing bio­mim­et­ics be­cause “we are hit­ting a wall, so to speak” in de­signing con­ven­tion­al ma­te­ri­als, he said. “We have used our in­genu­ity to the max­i­mum, but one way to overcome that is to look at na­ture… the ma­te­ri­als that na­ture has at its dis­pos­al are not very strong, but na­ture com­bines them in a very in­gen­ious way to pro­duce strong com­po­nents and strong de­signs.”

In the case of Ar­a­pai­ma (sci­ent­i­fic name Ara­pai­ma gig­as), the in­gen­iously de­signed scales serve as peace through strength, let­ting the beast co­ex­ist with pi­ra­nha when the two are crowd­ed in­to shrunk­en Am­a­zon ba­sin lakes dur­ing the dry sea­son.

The com­bina­t­ion of hard and soft ma­te­ri­als, Mey­ers and col­leagues con­tend, give the scales sev­er­al ways to re­pel the bite. The scales overlap like shin­gles on the fish, and each scale has a “very hefty min­er­al­ized lay­er on top of it,” Mey­ers said. Un­derneath, each scale con­sists of much softer col­la­gen fibers stacked in al­ter­nat­ing di­rec­tions like a pile of ply­wood.

The ex­ter­nal sur­face is twice as hard as the in­ter­nal lay­er, giv­ing the fish a lay­er of dense ar­mor. At the same time, the struc­ture of the in­ter­nal lay­er lends tough­ness to the scale, Mey­ers said. “As you stack the lay­ers of fibers in this way,” he ex­plained, “they have dif­fer­ent ori­enta­t­ions, which gives strength that is the same in all di­rec­tions.”

Peo­ple of the Am­a­zon some­times use the ridged Ar­a­pai­mas scales, which can be nearly four inches (10 cm) long, as nail files. The cor­ru­gat­ed sur­face keeps the scales’ thick min­er­al­ized sur­face in­tact while the fish flexes as it swims, Mey­ers said. Ce­ram­ic sur­faces of un­chang­ing thick­ness are strained when bent, but the cor­ruga­t­ions let the scales “be bent more easily with­out crack­ing,” he ex­plained.

The cor­ruga­t­ions, the soft but tough in­ter­nal lay­er and the wa­ter in the scales all con­trib­ute to their abil­ity to flex while re­main­ing strong, he added. It’s an en­gi­neering so­lu­tion that lets the fish re­main mo­bile while heavily ar­mored, and al­so al­lows the scales to bend and de­form con­sid­erably be­fore break­ing.

From the ab­a­lo­ne shell to the tou­can’s beak, Mey­ers said, the nat­u­ral world is re­plete with in­spira­t­ion for 21st cen­tu­ry ma­te­ri­als sci­en­tists. One of his next pro­jects will in­volve the scales of the al­li­ga­tor gar, a huge fish from the Amer­i­can South whose scales were used by Na­tive Amer­i­cans as ar­row tips. He re­cently re­ceived some sam­ples from Lou­i­si­ana art­ist Di­anne Ulery, who makes jew­el­ry from the ivory-colored, ar­rowhead-shaped scales.

Stu­dents in his lab al­so are work­ing on ab­a­lo­ne shells and sam­ples of leath­er­back tur­tle skin ob­tained from the Na­t­ional His­to­ry Mu­se­um in San Die­go, among oth­er spe­cies.

In some re­spects, the field of bio­mim­et­ics is a re­turn to the roots of ma­n­u­fac­tur­ing, Mey­ers sug­gested, when early hu­mans crafted from leath­er, bone and wood. “We’ve pro­duced ma­te­ri­als with much high­er per­for­mance, but we’re reach­ing the lim­it with syn­thet­ic ma­te­ri­als,” he not­ed. “Now we are look­ing back at those nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als and ask­ing, ‘how does na­ture put these things to­geth­er’?”

When not re­searching or teach­ing, Mey­ers al­so is a suc­cessful fic­tion au­thor. He has pub­lished two nov­els, “Mayan Mars” and “Chech­nya Ji­had.” He is cur­rently look­ing for a pub­lish­er for his third work of fic­tion, which takes place in the Am­a­zon and fea­tures, he said, pi­ra­nhas in spec­tac­u­lar fash­ion.


SV Vedic University Tirupati PG and Research Admissions 2012

Sri Venkateswara Vedic University, Tirupati (SVVU), also known as Sri Venkateswara Veda Viswavidyalaya has issued announced admission for the academic year 2012-13. Admission to various UG, PG, M.Phil and Ph.D programmes will be based on the entrance examinations to be conducted by Vedic University. SVVU is providing education free of cost along with free accommodation, clothing and hostel facilities. Admitted candidates will also get scholarships for all PG, M.Phil. and Ph.D. courses. The Vedic University is offering these programmes in the disciplines of Veda Adhyayana, Agamadhyana, Paurohityadhyanana and Veda Bhashyadhyayana. The University is funded by TTD. Details can also be obtained from . SV Vedic University is offering three year Sastri Course (graduation) and two year Acharya Course (post-graduation) in the following subjects:

1. Vedadhyayana: Rigveda (Sakala) / Krishna Yajurveda (Taittiriya) / Suklayajurveda (Kanva) / Samaveda (Kauthuma)
2. Agama: Vaikhanasagama / Pancharathragama / Saivagama
3. Paurohitya: Asvalayana Paurohitya / Apastambiya Paurohitya/ Vaikhanasa Paurohitya / Paraskara Paurohitya
4. Vedabhashya: Krishnayajurvedabhashya / Suklayajurvedabhashya (Kanva)

Selection of candidates for admissions will be done based on separate Entrance Test to be held by SVV University. SV Vedic University also offering UG and PG, M.Phil and Ph.D. Courses in Vedic Studies and other areas. These are 1. B.A. Vedic Studies 2. M.A. Vedic Studies 3. Certificate Course in Vedic Mathematics 4. M.Phil Courses (Visishtacharya Course): Veda / Veda Bhashya / Pourohitya / Aagama / Mimansa 5. Ph.D. (Vidya Varadhi).

Interested candidates can see the website for details of eligibility, age limits, entrance test pattern, syllabus and prospectus. Last date for receipt of filled in applications: 07/06/2012. Contact for details: 9000688969 / 0877- 2264 651. Address: Registrar, Sri Venkateswara Vedic University, Alipiri- Chandragiri Bypass Road, Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh.

NTR University PG Admissions Counseling Schedule 2012-13

Dr. NTR University of Health Sciences, Vijayawada has issued Counseling schedule notification for provisional admission into Post-Graduate Medical Courses for the academic year 2012-13 in the campus and its affiliated colleges in Andhra Pradesh. All the candidates qualified in the Post Graduate Medical Entrance Test 2012 (PGMET) held on 11-03-2012 are advised to attend the admission counseling as per the schedule given below. They should produce all original certificates and with University fee as stated in the notification at the time of counseling:

Venue for the counseling is Dr. NTR University of Health Sciences, Vijayawada. Physically handicapped candidates should report at 10 AM on 13 April 2012. They should attend before the Medical Board with all the original certificates. Following is the schedule for 85 percent of local seats to be filled through this counseling. Reporting time for all days is 8- 30 AM. Counseling will be held from 16th April 2012 to 23rd April 2012. Local area candidates of OU region should attend during 16 -18 April, AU area candidates between 19-21 and SVU area candidates between 22-23 April as the ranking order in various categories.

Counseling for 15 percent unreserved seats will be held on 25 and 26 April 2012 at 8-30 AM for all the candidates. All the selected candidates should pay Rs.10,600 and Rs.13,600 for admission into Government and Private colleges respectively on the day of counseling. This should be paid in the form of DD drawn on any nationalized Bank in favour of the Registrar, Dr. NTR University of Health Sciences, payable at Vijayawada. Tuition fee has to be paid to the college at respective colleges.
More details can be obtained from

EAMCET 2012 Hall Tickets Download - Corrections to EAMCET Applications and Read more:

Did you enter any mistakes while applying online for the EAMCET 2012? No need to worry. You can correct them through the procedure given by EAMCET 2012 authorities. You can made corrections in the EAMCET online applications forms till April 25, 2012. Candidates should follow this procedure to request any corrections. The Eamcet hall tickets will be ready by 26th April 2012 and no corrections will be allowed from that date. Candidates can download EAMCET 2012 hall tickets from You can use the said website for any corrections on your applications.

EAMCET 2012 Convener, Prof. N.V. Ramana Rao informed that candidates who want to make changes in online applications submitted for EAMCET 2012 can send an email to ‘' . The mail should give details such as registration number of EAMCET application or Intermediate hall-ticket number along with identifying the mistakes to be rectified. Candidates can also check their applications for the mistakes on the website and send a mail to the EAMCET office with all the relevant details. It is informed that most of mistakes are related to minority status and wrong entry of date of birth. The authorities will tally the details with the data available at the Board of Intermediate Education. Any mistakes will be automatically rectified by the online system. But candidates should check their applications for any mistakes and bring them to the notice of the authorities.

The submission of online applications for EAMCET 2012 is continuing with the provision of payment of the late fee. Candidates who have paid registration fee but not submitted their applications before the 30th March 2012 have to pay the fee again as their earlier transaction will not be valid. Interested candidates can submit application forms till April 9 midnight with a fee of Rs. 750 which also includes original fee. You can submit the same till April 19 with a late fee of Rs. 1,250 and till April 28, 2012 with a late fee of Rs. 5,250. The last chance to submit the applications is May 9, 2012 with a late fee of Rs. 10,250.

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