April 07, 2005

Just the Facts, Ma'am

Dude. The world's first bionic eye. My dream of spending my twilight years as a cyborg seems so much closer now.

Scientists are asked about the one thing they wish everybody knew about science. Me, I nominate germ theory, but this answer was my favorite:

Is it really true that the world wants to hear only one thing about science? And then continue after that, with its ongoing religious, superstitious and political disputes? Maybe the world wants to hear only one thing from me. What could that be? All the important things that the world has already heard from my colleagues might be incomplete my colleagues may have forgotten to tell the world something. What could that be? I do not know.

Doses of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, that are too low to get high on can protect against hardening of the arteries.

Still, in a vindication for substance purists, alcohol demonstrably lowers production of breastmilk, and smoking adds 10 years to a woman's reproductive age.

Guest columnist Ellen James in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review summarizes the hypocrisy of the pharmacy controversy:

... The funny thing about this debate is that it only centers on the birth control pill. Never do you hear of a pharmacist refusing to fill a prescription for OxyContin because they suspect the patient of developing an addiction.

Never do you hear of the same pharmacist refusing to fill a prescription weight-loss medication because they think the user should just try to lose weight through diet and exercise. And, of course, you never hear of a pharmacist refusing to stock condoms for the same reason as refusing to fill a birth control prescription. ...

Fighting back against another instance of corporate malfeasance, Florida's Attorney General is suing drug manufacturers for overcharging the state Medicaid system. Good for the AG, I hope his team cleans up in court.

A potential vaccine against HPV, which causes cervical cancer and genital warts, is undergoing large scale clinical trials. Very promising results so far, including the arrest of pre-cancerous lesions in women who are already infected. Frankly, I think the connections they've discovered between certain viruses and a few particular types of cancer is just fascinating. Cancer is among those diseases that seem particularly frightening because the body ends up fighting itself, a disease format that presents significant barriers to treatment. If more cancers are discovered to be infections gone horribly awry, well, we've learned how to handle quite a few infections.

On the other hand, because infections are caused by an evolving class of organisms, once we can fight them on their own ground we begin a war of escalation. Drug resistant staph infections are becoming more common, even outside hospitals, and doctors are now being urged to test even routine cases of skin infections for the more dangerous strain of this bacteria. The infection is spread by casual touch, and is best prevented by frequent hand washing. These staph infections are still treatable with existing antibiotics and basic outpatient procedures, but they require aggressive treatment or they can kill enough tissue to become life-threatening.

A study has quantified just how badly obese female shoppers are treated compared to shoppers of typical weight. They were only treated with normal levels of attention and friendliness when they said they were trying to lose weight. Niiice. There are probably people out there who could have told us this without needing a study, but maybe now someone will listen to them.

Our Washington State home research team at the UW has found a possible link between bullying and excess TV watching in children. I don't know how that relates to the adult population, but I'll admit to feeling way more belligerent when I leave the news on all evening.

Along with the World Health Organization's drive to reduce deaths in mother and infant populations, the BBC profiles 6 mothers around the world. According to WHO, 500,000 women die every year in childbirth, and 4,000,000 babies don't survive their first month.

While chronic stress is generally bad for you, the stress of being bullied seems to have immune protective effects in mice, generally considered a good model for the human immune system. If true, Democrats should be the healthiest people in the country. Yay, us.

Posted by natasha at April 7, 2005 02:00 AM | Health/Medicine/Health Care | Technorati links |