Archive for the ‘science’ Category

Robot fish in London Aquarium

March 26, 2009

It took three years for scientists from Essex University to make a new version of robotic fish which is now on display in a tank in London Aquarium. The carp-like contraption with improved artificial intelligence swims with the aid of self-moving sensors and controls, bringing delight to visitors.


“This work has many real-world applications, including seabed exploration, detecting leaks in oil pipelines, mine countermeasures, and improving the performance of underwater vehicles,”
project leader Huosheng Hu told the Associated Press. —http://news.nationalgeographc.com/news/2005/

Propelled by battery which lasts about 5 hours, the fish is 50 x 15 x 12 cm. and comes with an undulating body and shiny scales. Three of the mechanical fish, supposed to be the smartest and most lifelike, will live with real ones. A competition is set for children to give them their names.(Photo Credit: Adrian and Sarah x 2) =0=

===========================================================

Obama’s stem cell research policy: the use of embryonic cells from helpless unborn sparks religious debate

March 10, 2009

As a sign of the moral dilemma and political divide rocking the United States, Pres. Barack Obama reverses the Bush-era stem cell policy that protects the embryo from being used as a tool in finding treatments and cures for illnesses. It is one of the many secularist liberal thrusts of the new administration.

The contentious decision is a triumph for those who want effective treatments against diverse illnesses like cancer, stroke, heart attack, and Parkinson’s disease. However, it is a set-back for the outspoken anti-abortion groups and pro-lifers who believe that life starts at conception and therefore the unborn is deserving of social protection.

“Embryonic stem cells are master cells that can morph into any cell of the body. Scientists hope to harness them so they can create replacement tissues to treat a variety of diseases — such as new insulin-producing cells for diabetics, cells that could help those with Parkinson’s disease or maybe even Alzheimer’s, or new nerve connections to restore movement after spinal injury. But they come with criticism. “I believe it is unethical to use human life, even young embryonic life, to advance science,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative organization that opposes the move.”:—-Yahoo News/ AP (03/08/09, Eliot, J)

Obama is criticized by conservatives for approving the use of embryos in stem cell research to be funded by tax payers’ dollars. But his supporters believe curing sickness and allaying suffering take precedence over the welfare of the embryo. The advocates of the new policy are part of the rising number of Americans who believe that life without maladies is possible. They hope the words “incurable” and “terminal” may one day be banished from the vocabulary.

“This action is morally wrong because it encourages the destruction of innocent human life, treating vulnerable human beings as mere products to be harvested,” said Cardinal Justin Rigali, the Archbishop of Philadelphia and Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities”—-Yahoo News/ AP (03/09/09, Gorski, E)

There are those who believe that the public funding of embryonic stem research is a paradoxical prelude to setting up of a healthcare policy which will use less costly medical services to the aged and the severely ill—-a radical triage plan which favors more care for people who are young and productive over those who are old, and disabled.

Despite the advance of modern science and temptations to hasten social engineering, life must be respected at the start of conception. Having seen abortion and selective pregnancies done in the America first hand, I don’t concur with Obama’s stance to use the cells of developing embryos in research investigations.

Though I may well benefit from embyronic stem cells because of my illness and disability, on ethical and religious grounds, I believe researches must find a way to spare the embryo. Life in its early form has been redefined, used and abused to suit certain socio-political agenda. The growing embryo deserves equality, dignity, and protection from society just like any human being.

“Princeton University politics professor Robert George, a Catholic and another member of the Bush-era Council on Bioethics, said the moral argument over embryonic stem cell research is not rooted in religion but in ethics and equality. He said research shows that an embryo is a human being in its earliest form of development, so we have to ask ourselves whether all human life should be treated equally, with dignity and respect. “—-Yahoo News/ AP (03/09/09, Gorski, E)

Convenience, easing suffering, prologation of life, and escaping mortality must not be done at the expense of others in society. From the vantage of science, embyronic stem cell research is not the only way to find cures against life-threatening and debilitating illness.

It’s my belief that individuals and governments have no ethical right to use cells of helpless embryos to advance the conveniences of the strong even if the need is pressing. Though cures from stem cells may one day be realized with the use of the conceptus, humanity can’t escape the changes that go with something as natural as sickness and ageing—all that leads to dying and demise. (Photo Credits: California Institute for Regenerative Medicine x 2)=0=

=======================================================

The Ebola-Reston virus scare in the Philippines

March 2, 2009

Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever

There was panic and alarm when Ebola virus first emerged as a fatal bleeding disease in Congo (Zaire) in 1978. Similar outbreaks in neighboring countries in Africa occured. Transmitted mainly by body fluids, the acute infection (aka Ebola hemorrhagic fever, EHF) of the Filoviridae family of RNA viruses presented like a typical viral infection— fever, headache, joint and muscle pain, sore throat, and weakness after an incubation of 2 to 21 days. Some manifested with a skin rash, conjunctival injection, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, internal and external bleeding.

There were those who survived and spontaneously recovered, but many with severe infections showed signs of hemorrhage, fluid loss, shock, and eventual death. EHF is feared because it is highly transmissible and carries a high mortality rate.

Reported cases of EHF have been zoonotic infections (animal borne.) A potential agent of bioterrorism, Ebola can present as a nosocomial infection, a disease contracted in hospitals and medical facilities during an outbreak. The exact origin, location, and natural habitat (known as the “natural reservoir”) of Ebola virus aren’t fully known. This makes containment of the infection difficult.

The first 4 of the 5 subtypes of Ebola is known to cause disease in humans: Ebola-Zaire, Ebola-Sudan, Ebola-Ivory Coast and Ebola-Bundibugyo. The virulence and lethality of these viral strains are suggested by World Health Organizations’s (WHO) containment recommendations below. EHF has no known vaccine nor specific cure.

WHO’s containment of Ebola

•Suspected cases should be isolated from other patients and strict barrier nursing techniques implemented.
•Tracing and following up people who may have been exposed to Ebola through close contact with patients are essential.
•All hospital staff should be briefed on the nature of the disease and its transmission routes. Particular emphasis should be placed on ensuring that invasive procedures such as the placing of intravenous lines and the handling of blood, secretions, catheters and suction devices are carried out under strict barrier nursing conditions (biohazard.) Hospital staff should have individual gowns, gloves, masks and goggles. Non-disposable protective equipment must not be reused unless they have been properly disinfected.
•Infection may also spread through contact with the soiled clothing or bed linens from a patient with Ebola. Disinfection is therefore required before handling these items.
•Communities affected by Ebola should make efforts to ensure that the population is well informed, both about the nature of the disease itself and about necessary outbreak containment measures, including burial of the deceased. People who have died from Ebola should be promptly and safely buried. — World Health Organization (WHO)

WHO’s therapy and treatment of Ebola

• Severe cases require intensive supportive care, as patients are frequently dehydrated and in need of intravenous fluids or oral rehydration with solutions containing electrolytes.
• No specific treatment or vaccine is yet available for Ebola haemorrhagic fever. Several potential vaccines are being tested but it could be several years before any is available. A new drug therapy has shown some promise in laboratory studies and is currently being evaluated. But this too will take several years.
• Experimental studies using hyper-immune sera on animals have shown no protection against the disease. —World Health Organization (WHO)

Ebola Reston virus in the Philippines

“In 1989, Reston, an Ebola virus subtype, was isolated in quarantined laboratory cynomolgus monkeys (Macacca fascicularis) in Reston, Virginia, USA. From 1989 to 1996, several outbreaks caused by the Ebola Reston subtype occurred in monkeys imported from the Philippines to the USA (Reston in Virginia, Alice in Texas and Pennsylvania) and to Italy. Investigations traced the source of all Ebola Reston outbreaks to one export facility near Manila in the Philippines, but the mode of contamination of this facility was not determined. Several monkeys died, and at least four people were infected, although none of them suffered clinical illness.”—World Health Organization (WHO)

The Ebola-Reston (ERV,) the fifth subtype of the virus was first found in Philippine monkeys. It has caused disease in primates, but not in humans. Mainly because this that local health authorities seem to be “in control” over the simmering Ebola outbreak that has infected pigs in Pandi, Bulacan.

To make sure the ERV doesn’t spread to the general population, the Philippine government in coordination with the World Health Organization (WHO) is on the process of slaughtering 6,000 infected pigs. So far no person has been reported to have fallen ill of the disease, but there are 6 farm workers and butchers who turned positive for Ebola antibodies. This is surely a cause of concern.

In spite the Department of Health’s (DOH) effort to contain the disease, nobody knows the extent ERV has spread in the country at this time. It is unclear which other animal species harbor the disease agent and need isolation or killing. Philippine health authorities can only speak of what they know—that a number of pigs and some individuals were proven to be positive for antibodies— which means they encountered the virus without suffering signs of illness.

With the potential to mutate and acquire virulence, Ebola-Reston can be transmitted to susceptible hosts and become infective to more animals and humans. Though ERV doesn’t cause disease in healthy individuals, it’s unclear what happens if the virus infects people with weak immunity or those sick of debilitating illnesses. That’s why to avoid epidemics, isolation or euthanasia of infected animals (like in the Avian Flu infection) are high in the list of priorities.

Awareness of the disease is enhanced through step-up public health education. Cleanliness is important. There is heightened watch over the sale of “double-dead” meat that may carry the disease agent. As a precaution, testing for ERV is expanded and export of porcine meat to other countries has been halted.

The strategies to combat ERV is complex and tedious. Despite DOH’s monitoring and vigilance, medical workers have to deal with the challenges of a serious health threat whose outcome is just starting to unravel. The danger of Ebola doesn’t only rest on the Philippines, but on the entire world as well. It’s a global effort that this disease is nipped on the bud. (Photo Credit: [][][][][]/ http://www.bio.davidson.edu /KeeAun)=0=

==========================================================

New frogfish species found in Indonesia

March 1, 2009

A newly discovered odd frogfish called “psychedelica” which according to a University of Washington biology professor is a member of the antennariid genus, Histiophryne is discovered in Indoensia.

The fish looks odd. Its pectoral fins on the underside appear like legs and its skin is covered by coral-like dendritic stripes which probably serve as a disguise in its biodiverse tropical habitat.

The colorful inhabitant of shallow waters is said to bounce like a rubber ball. It has a gelatinous fist-sized body covered with thick folds of skin that protect it from sharp-edged corals. It also has a flat face with eyes directed forward, like humans, and a huge, yawning mouth.—- Yahoo.News/ AP (02/28/09, McDowell, J)

Encountered in Ambon Island in Eastern Indonesia by scuba divers, the mustard-colored fish with cerulean blue eyes was reported by Ted Pietsch, in a paper which appeared in a recent publication of Copeia, the journal of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists. A genetic study recognized this fish to be a new species. (Photo Credit: AP/ seaphotos.com/ David Hall)

===========================================================

Medicine & Religion: Is confession a potent balm against major diseases in RP?

February 16, 2009

Dr. Francisco Duque III, the secretary of the Department of Health (DOH) reportedly said a staggering 80% of Filipinos are suffering from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) “due to unhealthy lifestyle.” The doctor goes on to say that to combat cardiovascular illnesses, cancers, and diabetes, people have to go to church and make regular “confession.” I find his religious recommendation oddly misleading. It needs clarification.

“Among those considered as NCDs are cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and diabetes. Duque said the three are now among the major health problems in the country. Duque said one way to address this problem is for the people to go on regular confession.” I suggest that they go to church to pray and confess their sins because its one way of managing”—-GMANewTV.net (02/16/09)

It isn’t unusual to blame stress as a cause of sickness. Though stress goes with almost all diseases, its role is often indirect, sometimes obscure, in many organic diseases. As far as science is concerned, most illnesses have underlying pathogenetic bases whose roles are generally far-reaching than the effects of stress.

Heart diseases are related to high fat diet, sedentary lifestyle, and smoking. Diabetes mellitus may have an autoimmune basis but can come with risk factors like obesity, lack of exercise, and genetics. Certain cancers are triggered by stepwise mutations (alterations in the DNA) that generate clones of abnormal cells that invade, metastasize, and eventually kill the body. In all these, stress plays a role, albeit less strongly than what is suggested by Dr. Duque.

The act of confession (reconciliation) taught by certain religions is not shared by all believers. Confessing sins to a priest by the Catholics has markedly dwindled in recent years. Dr. Duque may encounter criticism and opposition in recommending the holy sacrament to prevent non-communicable diseases. There are non-faith based treatments in medicine which are more predictable and efficacious.

Stress is part of the normal challenges of daily living. Not all people who go through significant emotionally disruptive situations get ill in the process. Sick and healthy individuals, suffer from harrowing conditions in varying degrees. As such the roles of stress in every illness are hard to quantify; their effects on the body aren’t uniformly the same.

I believe emotion plus the working of the mind, and the entire body equilibrium are influenced by stress more than it affects specific organs of the body. It is probably the reason why religion, spirituality, a belief in the supernatural, exercise, meditation, and relaxation regimens have some roles to play in disease management. The mechanisms behind their healing properties aren’t fully understood.

Yet, medical science offers credible explanations in disease causation and treatment. Illnesses can be attributed to causes like direct physical injuries, infections, cancers, immunologic conditions, hormonal swings, metabolic derangements, nutritional deficiencies, hereditary disorders, chemical, drug and radiation exposures, poisonings, among others.

Stress is only one among the long list. Therefore, “confession” as Dr. Duque suggested may help in being healthy, preventing sickness, and going through an illness and subsequent recuperation. But surely, we need to account for greater ways to fight diseases more than what have been recommended by the standard and complementary approaches of medicine. This is important in the holistic way of maintaining the health of the nation.(Photo Credits: denislpaul; sacerdotal) =0=

===========================================================

Medicine & Religion: Is confession a potent balm against major diseases in RP?

February 16, 2009

Dr. Francisco Duque III, the secretary of the Department of Health (DOH) reportedly said a staggering 80% of Filipinos are suffering from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) “due to unhealthy lifestyle.” The doctor goes on to say that to combat cardiovascular illnesses, cancers, and diabetes, people have to go to church and make regular “confession.” I find his religious recommendation oddly misleading. It needs clarification.

“Among those considered as NCDs are cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and diabetes. Duque said the three are now among the major health problems in the country. Duque said one way to address this problem is for the people to go on regular confession.” I suggest that they go to church to pray and confess their sins because its one way of managing”—-GMANewTV.net (02/16/09)

It isn’t unusual to blame stress as a cause of sickness. Though stress goes with almost all diseases, its role is often indirect, sometimes obscure, in many organic diseases. As far as science is concerned, most illnesses have underlying pathogenetic bases whose roles are generally far-reaching than the effects of stress.

Heart diseases are related to high fat diet, sedentary lifestyle, and smoking. Diabetes mellitus may have an autoimmune basis but can come with risk factors like obesity, lack of exercise, and genetics. Certain cancers are triggered by stepwise mutations (alterations in the DNA) that generate clones of abnormal cells that invade, metastasize, and eventually kill the body. In all these, stress plays a role, albeit less strongly than what is suggested by Dr. Duque.

The act of confession (reconciliation) taught by certain religions is not shared by all believers. Confessing sins to a priest by the Catholics has markedly dwindled in recent years. Dr. Duque may encounter criticism and opposition in recommending the holy sacrament to prevent non-communicable diseases. There are non-faith based treatments in medicine which are more predictable and efficacious.

Stress is part of the normal challenges of daily living. Not all people who go through significant emotionally disruptive situations get ill in the process. Sick and healthy individuals, suffer from harrowing conditions in varying degrees. As such the roles of stress in every illness are hard to quantify; their effects on the body aren’t uniformly the same.

I believe emotion plus the working of the mind, and the entire body equilibrium are influenced by stress more than it affects specific organs of the body. It is probably the reason why religion, spirituality, a belief in the supernatural, exercise, meditation, and relaxation regimens have some roles to play in disease management. The mechanisms behind their healing properties aren’t fully understood.

Yet, medical science offers credible explanations in disease causation and treatment. Illnesses can be attributed to causes like direct physical injuries, infections, cancers, immunologic conditions, hormonal swings, metabolic derangements, nutritional deficiencies, hereditary disorders, chemical, drug and radiation exposures, poisonings, among others.

Stress is only one among the long list. Therefore, “confession” as Dr. Duque suggested may help in being healthy, preventing sickness, and going through an illness and subsequent recuperation. But surely, we need to account for greater ways to fight diseases more than what have been recommended by the standard and complementary approaches of medicine. This is important in the holistic way of maintaining the health of the nation.(Photo Credits: denislpaul; sacerdotal) =0=

===========================================================

Fecund birth and elderly parturition

December 19, 2008

The arrival of a baby is one of the happiest moments of a family. It is even happier for the Duggar family in Arkansas that welcomes Jordyn-Grace Makiya, a 7 pound, 3 ounces baby girl, the 18th member of the brood. Jim Bob Duggar and wife Michele who are devoted to parenting have now 10 sons and eight daughters. “The ultimate gift from God,” said the ecstatic father whose baby was born by caesarean section (CS) on Thursday, December 18, 2008 at Mercy Medical Center in Rogers, AK.

In India, a similarly happy couple celebrates the birth of their healthy daughter after a pregnancy that was made possible by fertility treatment. At 70 years old, two decades beyond the usual age of menopause, Rajo Devi delivered by CS at the National Fertility Center in Hisar, India, Monday, Dec. 8, 2008. She and husband Bala Ram, 72, had been trying to have a baby for about ten years in a community which bears stigma on childless couples.

Because of modern technology, changing cultural norms, and individual preferences, more couples like the Duggars and the Rams are able to decide on unusual choices of family size and age of childbearing. It is unclear what these choices will bring to their children of the future. (Photo Credit: AP/ Beth Hall; AP /Devendra Uppal) =0=

========================================================

From the frontiers of space, an explanation of a sky glow seen 436 years ago

December 5, 2008

Using the distant echoes of light from a thermonuclear flare which an ancient Dutch astronomer witnessed in November 1572, scientists were able to make a composite picture of the event. Astronomer Tycho Brahe described the enigmatic glow in the heavens. He thought it was a new star in the Cassiopeia constellation.

Scientists arrived at an explanation of “SN1572,” the luminescent body which was first seen and documented by Brahe 436 years ago before it faded in the sky. Scientists from Europe and Japan confirmed it was supernova, an old exploding star.

“Supernovae are the explosions of aging stars, that produce enough light to outshine entire galaxies for a few weeks. They are important scientifically because they seed the universe with heavy elements, providing the raw material for successive generations of new stars. The very well defined luminosity of type-Ia supernova also makes them ideal “standard candles”, allowing astronomers, by comparing their observed and actual luminosities, to gauge distances within the universe and thereby chart the cosmic rate of expansion.“ Physicsworld.com (12/03/08, Cartlidge, E)

The interesting findings of the Tycho Brahe’s supernova are important in the understanding of aging stars— the past, present, and future of the universe in general. Photo Credit: Nasa/AP)=0=

A sugary delight in the outer fringes of the Milky Way

November 29, 2008

In the outer reaches of our galaxy where the condition is less hostile and potentially habitable, a basic sugar has been detected by scientists. This makes seekers of extra-terrestial life ecstatic. The monosaccharide sugar called glycoldehyde is a molecule on which ribonucleic acid (RNA,) a biochemical construct of life, can originate.

This is an important discovery as it is the first time glycolaldehyde, a basic sugar, has been detected towards a star-forming region where planets that could potentially harbor life may exist,”—reported Serena Viti of University College London—Wired Science Network (11/26/08, Moskowitz, C)

The discovery of the glycolaldehyde in the outer rim of the Milky Way galaxy, about 26 million light years away from earth, generates more curiosity and effort from researchers to seek life outside our planet. From the gaseous eerie clouds of outerspace, the building elements of life such as carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen are studied in the hope that an incovertible evidence of life outside earth will be discovered. (Photo Credit: TQWestphal;Wired Science Network:=0=

RELATED BLOG: “Mars Exploration: Inching Its Way To Find The Ultimate Proof Of Life” Posted by mesiamd at 7/18/2008.

A fresh look at longevity as a supercentenarian dies

November 28, 2008

Edna Parker, the 115 year and 220 day old American woman, the world’s oldest person died, says the Gerontology Research Group in Los Angeles, California. The Indiana woman who lived in a nursing home followed the passing on August 13, 2007 of the Japanese Yone Minagawa, the Guinness World Book of Records title holder for the oldest person before Parker.

Both persons qualify as “supercentenarians” for having lived beyond 110 years old. It is believed that currently there are 89 supercentenarians worldwide among whom 79 are women and 10 are men.

An amazing Frenchwoman who lived for 122 years

Jeanne Louise Calment was born in Arles, France on February 21, 1875 and died on August 4, 1997. She once met Vincent Van Gogh in her father’s shop. Her genes may have contributed to her longevity as her father lived to the age of 94 and her mother to the age of 86. She married a distant cousin at the age of 21. Her only grandson died in 1963. She rode a bicycle to the age of 100.

In October of 1995, much press coverage announced that Jeanne had exceeded the lifespan of Shigechiyo (Chigechiyo) Izumi, who until then had held the claim to the longest lived human. In fact, work by John Wilmoth indicates that Izumi may have only been 105 when he died, meaning that Jeanne may have outlived Izumi in 1980. If that is accurate, Jeanne would have become the longest lived human in 1991 when she exceeded the longevity of Carrie White, who died at the age of 116.”—Source: ww.wowzone.com

Increasing longevity of people has been a source of fascination of modern society. It is mainly attributed to better healthcare, control of illnesses by science, improved diet and life-style. With a normal maximum life-span of about 120 years, people are enthused by the prospect of extending years of survival or achieving immortality.

Researchers are finding ways of extending longevity, but others are questioning whether a longer life is better than having a shorter one that is meaningful and relatively free of protracted suffering. Ethicists mull on the morality of prolonging survival using means that are controversial. For instance, they struggle on the moral questions on using helpless human embryos in an effort to cure diseases and extend life. (Photo Credits: Ollik; AP/Darron Cummings; http://www.wowzone.com; [][][][])=0=

=======================================================