Gut feeling about your CEO is spot on

Gut feeling about CEO is spot on

Gut feeling about CEO is spot on.

That gut feeling many workers, laborers and other underlings have about their CEOs is spot on, according to three recent studies in the Journal of Management, the Journal of Management Studies and the Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies that say CEO greed is bad for business.

But how do you define greed? Are compassionate CEOs better for business? How do you know if the leader is doing more harm than good? And can anybody rein in the I-Me-Mine type leader anyway?

University of Delaware researcher Katalin Takacs Haynes and three collaborators — Michael A. Hitt and Matthew Josefy of Texas A&M University and Joanna Tochman Campbell of the University of Cincinnati — have chased such questions for several years, digging into annual reports, comparing credentials with claims and developing useful definitions that could shed more light on the impact of a company’s top leader on employees, business partners and investors.

They test the assumption that self-interest is a universal trait of CEOs (spoiler alert: it’s alive and well), show that too much altruism can harm company performance, reveal the dark, self-destructive tendencies of some entrepreneurs and family-owned businesses and provide a way to measure and correlate greed, arrogance and company performance.

“We tried to look at what we think greed is more objectively,” said Haynes, who was recently promoted to associate professor of management in UD’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics. “What we’re trying to do is clean up some of the definitions and make sure we’re all talking about the same concepts.”

In their studies, researchers offer plenty of evidence that some leaders are insatiable when it comes to compensation. How much is too much? They don’t put a number on that. But they do add plenty of nuance to the question and point to a mix of motivations that goes beyond raw greed.

“It’s not for us to judge what too much is for anybody else,” said Haynes, “but we can see when the outcome of somebody’s work is the greater good, and when it is not just greed that is operating in them.”

Greed seems all too apparent to many workers. The recent recession left millions without jobs and many companies sinking into a sea of red. At the same time, though, stunning bonuses and other perks were landing in the laps of people at the helm.

Haynes, who joined the UD faculty in 2011, has found the range of pay within companies an intriguing question, too.

“Why is it that in some companies there is a huge difference between the pay of the top executive and the average worker or the lowest-paid employee and in other companies the pay is a lot closer?” she said.

Many a minimum-wage worker, making $15,080 per year, has wondered that, and so have those in the middle class, who may work a year to make what some CEOs make in a day.

But if you make more than anyone else does that mean you’re greedy?

The question is more complicated than water-cooler conversations might suggest. And Haynes and her collaborators go to the data for answers, leaving emotion, indignation and cries for justice to others. They leave others to correlate the data with names, too.

Instead, they offer definitions and analytical tools that add clarity, allow for apples-to-apples comparisons and shed new light on how a leader’s objectives shape company performance.

“It’s possible that high pay is perfectly deserved because of high contributions, high skill sets,” Haynes said, “and just because somebody doesn’t have high pay doesn’t mean they aren’t greedy.”

The marks of greed are found elsewhere — in a reporting category that tracks “other” compensation and perquisites, in the pay rates of other top executives, in compensation demands during times of company stress, for example.

Haynes’ studies included interviews (with anonymity assured), publicly reported data, written surveys, essays and a review of published information and interviews with CEOs.

The studies also examined managerial hubris and how it differs from self-confidence.

“Hubris is an extreme manifestation of confidence, characterized by preoccupation with fantasies of success and power, excessive feelings of self-importance, as well as arrogance,” researchers wrote.

“Say I’m a stunt driver and I have jumped across five burning cars before with my car,” Haynes said. “I’m pretty confident I can do that — and maybe even six. Say I’m not a stunt driver. To say I could jump through six burning cars would be arrogance. And if I drag you to go with me, it could be criminal.”

Risk aversion can harm a company. But risk for short-term gain without thought of the company’s future is a sign of greed.

“Some CEOs take risks and it will pay off,” she said. “They will have reliable performance and we can forecast that. We know their track record. Others take foolish risks not based on their previous performance.”

Such risks may be especially prevalent among young entrepreneurs, who underestimate the resources needed to help a startup succeed and fail to recognize that more than money is at stake.

“While financial capital is an important concern with these behaviors, the effects on human and social capital are often overlooked, despite the fact that they are highly critical for the success and ultimate survival of entrepreneurial ventures,” the researchers wrote.

Generally, researchers found that greed is worse among short-term leaders with weak boards.

The good news, Haynes said, is that strong corporate governance can rein in CEO greed and keep both self-interest and altruism in proper balance. And that is where the greatest success is found.

“Overall, we conclude that measured self-interest keeps managers focused on the firm’s goals and measured altruism helps the firm to build and maintain strong human and social capital,” researchers wrote.

 

Source:  sciencedaily.com

Scientists discover key driver of reversing aging process

A study tying the aging process to the deterioration of tightly packaged bundles of cellular DNA could lead to methods of preventing and treating age-related diseases such as cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease, experts say.

A study tying the aging process to the deterioration of tightly packaged bundles of cellular DNA could lead to methods of preventing and treating age-related diseases such as cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, experts say.

A study tying the aging process to the deterioration of tightly packaged bundles of cellular DNA could lead to methods of preventing and treating age-related diseases such as cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, experts say. In the study, scientists at the Salk Institute and the Chinese Academy of Science found that the genetic mutations underlying Werner syndrome, a disorder that leads to premature aging and death, resulted in the deterioration of bundles of DNA known as heterochromatin.

The discovery, made possible through a combination of cutting-edge stem cell and gene-editing technologies, could lead to ways of countering age-related physiological declines by preventing or reversing damage to heterochromatin.

“Our findings show that the gene mutation that causes Werner syndrome results in the disorganization of heterochromatin, and that this disruption of normal DNA packaging is a key driver of aging,” says Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a senior author on the paper. “This has implications beyond Werner syndrome, as it identifies a central mechanism of aging–heterochromatin disorganization–which has been shown to be reversible.”

Werner syndrome is a genetic disorder that causes people to age more rapidly than normal. It affects around one in every 200,000 people in the United States. People with the disorder suffer age-related diseases early in life, including cataracts, type 2 diabetes, hardening of the arteries, osteoporosis and cancer, and most die in their late 40s or early 50s.

The disease is caused by a mutation to the Werner syndrome RecQ helicase-like gene, known as the WRN gene for short, which generates the WRN protein. Previous studies showed that the normal form of the protein is an enzyme that maintains the structure and integrity of a person’s DNA. When the protein is mutated in Werner syndrome it disrupts the replication and repair of DNA and the expression of genes, which was thought to cause premature aging. However, it was unclear exactly how the mutated WRN protein disrupted these critical cellular processes.

In their study, the Salk scientists sought to determine precisely how the mutated WRN protein causes so much cellular mayhem. To do this, they created a cellular model of Werner syndrome by using a cutting-edge gene-editing technology to delete WRN gene in human stem cells. This stem cell model of the disease gave the scientists the unprecedented ability to study rapidly aging cells in the laboratory. The resulting cells mimicked the genetic mutation seen in actual Werner syndrome patients, so the cells began to age more rapidly than normal. On closer examination, the scientists found that the deletion of the WRN gene also led to disruptions to the structure of heterochromatin, the tightly packed DNA found in a cell’s nucleus.

This bundling of DNA acts as a switchboard for controlling genes’ activity and directs a cell’s complex molecular machinery. On the outside of the heterochromatin bundles are chemical markers, known as epigenetic tags, which control the structure of the heterochromatin. For instance, alterations to these chemical switches can change the architecture of the heterochromatin, causing genes to be expressed or silenced.

The Salk researchers discovered that deletion of the WRN gene leads to heterochromatin disorganization, pointing to an important role for the WRN protein in maintaining heterochromatin. And, indeed, in further experiments, they showed that the protein interacts directly with molecular structures known to stabilize heterochromatin–revealing a kind of smoking gun that, for the first time, directly links mutated WRN protein to heterochromatin destabilization.

“Our study connects the dots between Werner syndrome and heterochromatin disorganization, outlining a molecular mechanism by which a genetic mutation leads to a general disruption of cellular processes by disrupting epigenetic regulation,” says Izpisua Belmonte. “More broadly, it suggests that accumulated alterations in the structure of heterochromatin may be a major underlying cause of cellular aging. This begs the question of whether we can reverse these alterations–like remodeling an old house or car–to prevent, or even reverse, age-related declines and diseases.”

Izpisua Belmonte added that more extensive studies will be needed to fully understand the role of heterochromatin disorganization in aging, including how it interacts with other cellular processes implicated in aging, such as shortening of the end of chromosomes, known as telomeres. In addition, the Izpisua Belmonte team is developing epigenetic editing technologies to reverse epigenetic alterations with a role in human aging and disease.

 

Source:  sciencedaily.com

Wal-Mart’s water scam: Making $600 on $1 it spends in California

Walmart Scam

Walmart Scam

According to a report from Sacramento CBS affiliate, Walmart has been bottling its water from a Sacramento water district during California’s historically devastating drought– and it’s making a grotesquely large profit off of it.

CBS 13′s Adrienne Moore reports:

Sacramento sells water to a bottler, DS Services of America, at 99 cents for every 748 gallons—the same rate as other commercial and residential customers. That water is then bottled and sold at Walmart for 88 cents per gallon, meaning that $1 of water from Sacramento turns into $658.24 for Walmart and DS Services.

For comparison, the city of Sacramento says the average family uses 417 gallons of water a day.

The news comes shortly after California Governor Jerry Brown signed an executive order mandating a one-quarter reduction in urban water use state-wide.

Starbucks recently was criticized for bottling its Ethos water in drought-stricken California — so it stopped. Walmart would be wise to adopt the same policy.

 “It’s certainly leaving a bad taste in everyone’s mouth when you can’t fill up a swimming pool, if you’re building a new home in West Sacramento; you can’t water your lawn if you’re living in this region,” said public relations expert Doug Elmets. “And to find out they’re making a huge profit off of this, it’s just not right.”

A spokesperson from Walmart said the company is “tracking [the drought] closely.”

“Our commitment to sustainability includes efforts to minimize water use in our facilities. We have and continue to work with our suppliers to act responsibly while meeting the needs of customers who count on us across California.”

Source:  salon.com

China’s Drone War

China drone war

China drone war

China’s military plans to produce nearly 42,000 land-based and sea-based unmanned weapons and sensor platforms as part of its continuing, large-scale military buildup, the Pentagon’s annual report on the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) disclosed Friday.

China currently operates several armed and unarmed drone aircraft and is developing long-range range unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for both intelligence gathering and bombing attacks.

“The acquisition and development of longer-range UAVs will increase China’s ability to conduct long-range reconnaissance and strike operations,” the report said.

China’s ability to use drones is increasing and the report said China “plans to produce upwards of 41,800 land- and sea-based unmanned systems, worth about $10.5 billion, between 2014 and 2023.”

Four UAVs under development include the Xianglong, Yilong, Sky Saber, and Lijian, with the latter three drones configured to fire precision-strike weapons.

“The Lijian, which first flew on Nov. 21, 2013, is China’s first stealthy flying wing UAV,” the report said.

The drone buildup is part of what the Pentagon identified as a decades-long military buildup that last year produced new multi-warhead missiles and a large number of submarines and ships.

Additionally, the Pentagon for the first time confirmed China’s development of an ultra-high speed maneuvering strike vehicle as part of its growing strategic nuclear arsenal.

“China is working on a range of technologies to attempt to counter U.S. and other countries’ ballistic missile defense systems, including maneuverable reentry vehicles (MaRV), [multiple, independently targetable reentry vehicles], decoys, chaff, jamming, and thermal shielding,” the report, made public Friday, states.

“The United States and China acknowledge that the Chinese tested a hypersonic glide vehicle in 2014,” the report noted.

It was the first time the Pentagon confirmed the existence of what is known as the Wu-14 hypersonic glide vehicle, a strike weapon that travels at the edge of space at nearly 10 times the speed of sound.

 

Source:  http://freebeacon.com

Coffee Antioxidant 500 times greater than vitamin C

coffee that mimics effects of morphine

coffee that mimics effects of morphine

The coffee industry plays a major role in the global economy. It also has a significant impact on the environment, producing more than 2 billion tonnes of coffee by-products annually. Coffee silverskin (the epidermis of the coffee bean) is usually removed during processing, after the beans have been dried, while the coffee grounds are normally directly discarded.

It has traditionally been assumed that these by-products ─ coffee grounds and coffee silverskin, have few practical uses and applications. Spent coffee grounds are sometimes employed as homemade skin exfoliants or as abrasive cleaning products. They are also known to make great composting agents for fertilizing certain plants. But apart from these limited applications, coffee by-products are by and large deemed to be virtually useless. As such, practically all of this highly contaminating ‘coffee waste’ ends up in landfills across the globe and has a considerable knock-on effect on the environment.

However, a UGR research team led by José Ángel Rufíán Henares set out to determine the extent to which these by-products could be recycled for nutritional purposes, thereby reducing the amount of waste being generated, as well as benefitting coffee producers, recycling companies, the health sector, and consumers.

In an article published in the academic journal Food Science and Technology, the researchers demonstrate the powerful antioxidant and antimicrobial properties of the coffee grounds and silverskin, which are highly rich in fibre and phenols. Indeed, their findings indicate that the antioxidant effects of these coffee grounds are 500 times greater than those found in vitamin C and could be employed to create functional foods with significant health benefits.

Moreover, Professor Rufián Henares points out: “They also contain high levels of melanoidins, which are produced during the roasting process and give coffee its brown colour. The biological properties of these melanoidins could be harnessed for a range of practical applications, such as preventing harmful pathogens from growing in food products.” However, he also adds: “If we are to harness the beneficial prebiotic effects of the coffee by-products, first of all we need to remove the melanoidins, since they interfere with such beneficial prebiotic properties.”

The researchers conclude that processed coffee by-products could potentially be recycled as sources of new food ingredients. This would also greatly diminish the environmental impact of discarded coffee by-products.

The Ministry of Economics and Finance has recently allocated a new research project to the team under the ‘State R&D programme’, in order to enable them to conduct further studies in the area and re-assess the potential value of coffee by-products.

 

Source:  sciencedaily.com

Doctor who discovered Cancer blames lack of Oxygen

The Man Who Discovered Cancer

The Man Who Discovered Cancer

Dr. Otto H. Warburg won a Nobel Prize for discovering the cause of cancer. There is one aspect of our bodies that is the key to preventing cancer: pH levels.

What Dr. Warburg figured out is that when there is a lack of oxygen, cancer cells develop. As Dr. Warburg said, “All normal cells have an absolute requirement for oxygen, but cancerous cells can live without oxygen – a rule without exception. Deprive a cell of 35% of it’s oxygen for 48 hours and it may become cancerous.” Cancer cells therefore cannot live in a highly oxygenated state, like the one that develops when your body’s pH levels are alkaline, and not acidic.

Most people’s diets promote the creation of too much acid, which throws our body’s natural pH levels from a slightly alkaline nature to an acidic nature. Maintaining an alkaline pH level can prevent health conditions like cancer, osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and acid reflux. Eating processed foods like refined sugars, refined grains, GMOs, and other unnatural foods can lead to a pH level that supports the development of these conditions, and leads to overall bad health. In fact, most health conditions that are common today stem from a pH level that is too acidic, including parasites, bacteria, and viruses are all attributed to an acidic pH level.

There is a natural remedy that you can use at home that is simple, and readily available. All you need is 1/3 tablespoon of baking soda, and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. Mix the ingredients into 8ounces of cold water, and stir well. The baking soda will react with the lemon juice or ACV and begin to fizz. Drink the mixture all at once. The combination will naturally reduce your pH levels in your body and prevent the conditions associated with an acidic pH level. Maintaining a healthy pH level will do wonders for your health, and you will notice the difference after only a few days of the treatment.

 

Source:  buynongmoseeds.com

Swiss Chemical Company Rejects Monsanto’s

v

Monsanto, in Bid for Syngenta, Reaches for a Business It Left Behind

Over the last two decades Monsanto has cast off its century-long history as a chemical company and refashioned itself as an agricultural life sciences company, led by its genetically engineered seeds.

But with its $45 billion bid to acquire the agricultural chemical giant Syngenta — a bid Syngenta rejected on Friday as inadequate — Monsanto appears to be trying to get back into a business it largely abandoned. That is a possible acknowledgment, some analysts say, that the biotech seeds might not be the engine to carry the company forward much longer.

“If you go back 10 years, they put all their marbles on biotechnology and they’ve done fantastically well there,” said William R. Young, managing director of ChemSpeak, a consulting firm following the chemical industry. “But going forward, maybe the growth is limited,” he said. Buying Syngenta “allows for some diversification in product line.”

Syngenta both announced and rejected Monsanto’s unsolicited bid on Friday, saying the offer undervalued Syngenta’s prospects and underestimated “the significant execution risks, including regulatory and public scrutiny at multiple levels in many countries.”

Monsanto offered to pay 449 Swiss francs, or about $490, for each share of Syngenta; 45 percent of the payment would be in cash. The offer represented a 35 percent premium to Syngenta’s closing price on Thursday.Monsanto, in its own statement, said it believed combining the two companies would create “an integrated global leader in agriculture with comprehensive and complementary product portfolios.” It said it was confident in its ability to obtain all necessary regulatory approvals.

The deal would create an agricultural behemoth, combining Monsanto, the world leader in seeds and genetically engineered traits (like herbicide resistance), with Syngenta, the largest producer of agricultural chemicals.

The two companies are in some sense mirror images of each other. They are similar in size, each with over $15 billion in annual revenue. But Monsanto gets most of its revenue from seeds and biotech traits; the rest comes mainly from the herbicide Roundup. Syngenta gets most of its revenue from chemicals, like weed control products, and less from seeds.

So far, investors have seen more potential in the seed business. Monsanto has had a market valuation more than 60 percent greater than Syngenta’s.

Source:  nytimes

Success Regenerating Spinal Cords

Regenerated nerves after spinal cord injury

Regenerated nerves after spinal cord injuryHead Transplant

Working with paralysed rats, scientists in the US have shown how they might be able to regenerate spines after injury and help paralysed people to one day walk again.

The team, from Tufts University School of Medicine, crushed the spines of lab rats at the dorsal root, which is the main bundle of nerve fibres that branches off the spine, and carries signals of sensation from the body to the brain. They then treated the spines with a protein called artemin, known to help neurons grow and function. After the two-week treatment, the nerve fibres regenerated and successfully passed signals over a distance of 4 centimetres.

“This is a significantly longer length of Central Nervous System regeneration than has been reported earlier,” one of the team, physiologist Eric Frank, “But still a long way to go!”

Reporting in a study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team says the artemin treatment was successful in regenerating both large and small sensory neurons.

And while that 4-centimetre distance is important, Frank says that’s not all that counts: “The regenerating nerve fibres are growing back to the right places in the spinal cord and brainstem.” He adds that this is pretty impressive, given that their subjects were several months old, which isn’t young in rat years.

The results suggest that the chemical guidance cues that allow the nerve fibres to get to their correct target areas persist in the adult spinal cord, says Frank. This means that while artemin may not help regenerate all nerve fibres -some aren’t receptive to it – it’s likely to help with other neurones to. “If it becomes possible to get these other types of nerve fibres to regenerate for long distances as well, there is a reasonable chance that they can also grow back to their original target areas,” says Frank.

The challenge is getting regenerated nerve fibres to reconnect, so they can do what there are supposed to do, which just might be possible, considering these results. If scientists could achieve that, it would be a big leap forward in improving the lives of paralysed people.

Source:  sciencealert.com

Most likely culprit for schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is eight different diseases

Schizophrenia is eight different diseases

Researchers have found a gene that links the three previously unrelated biological changes most commonly blamed for causing schizophrenia, making it one of the most promising culprits for the disease so far, and a good target for future treatments.

Schizophrenia is a debilitating mental disorder that usually appears in late adolescence, and changes the way people think, act and perceive reality. For decades, scientists have struggled to work out what causes the hallucinations and strange behaviour associated with the disorder, and keep coming back to three neuronal changes that seem to be to blame. The only problem is that the changes seemed to be unrelated, and, in some cases, even contradictory.

But now, researchers from Duke University in the US have managed to find a link between these three hypotheses, and have shown that all three changes can be brought about by a malfunction in the same gene.

Publishing in Nature Neuroscience, the researchers explain that their results could lead to new treatment strategies that target the underlying cause of the disease, rather than the visible changes or phenotypes, associated with schizophrenia.

“The most exciting part was when all the pieces of the puzzle fell together,” lead researcher, Scott Soderling, a professor of cell biology and neurobiology from Duke University, said in a press release. “When [co-researcher Il Hwan Kim] and I finally realised that these three outwardly unrelated phenotypes … were actually functionally interrelated with each other, that was really surprising and also very exciting for us.”

So what are these three phenotypes? The first is spine pruning, which means that the neurons of people with schizophrenia have fewer spines – the long part of a brain cell that passes signals back and forth. Some people with schizophrenia also have hyperactive neurons, and excess dopamine production.

But these changes just didn’t seem to make sense together. After all, how could neurons be overactive if they didn’t have enough dendritic spines to pass messages back and forth, and why would either of these symptoms trigger excess dopamine production? Now, researchers believe that a mutation in the gene Arp2/3 may be to blame.

Soderling and his team originally spotted the gene during previous studies, which identified thousands of genes linked to schizophrenia. But Arp2/3 was of particular interest, as it controls the formation of synapses, or links, between neurons.

To test its effect, the researchers engineered mice that didn’t have the Arp2/3 gene and, surprisingly, found that they behaved very similarly to humans with schizophrenia. The mice also got worse with age and improved slightly with antipsychotic medications, both traits of human schizophrenia.

But most fascinating was the fact that the mice also had all three of the unrelated brain changes – fewer dendritic spines, overactive neurons and excess dopamine production.

They also took things one step further and showed, for the first time, that this lack of dendritic spines can actually trigger hyperactive neurons. This is because the mice’s brain cells rewire themselves to bypass these spines, effectively skipping the ‘filter’ that usually keeps their activity in check.

They also showed that these overactive neurons at the front of the brain were then stimulating other neurons to dump out dopamine.

“Overall, the combined results reveal how three separate pathologies, at the tiniest molecular level, can converge and fuel a psychiatric disorder,” Susan Scutti explains over at Medical Daily.

The group will now study the role Arp2/3 plays in different parts of the brain, and how its linked to other schizophrenia symptoms. The research is still in its very early stages, and obviously has only been demonstrated in mice and not humans. But it’s a promising first step towards understanding this mysterious disease.

“We’re very excited about using this type of approach, where we can genetically rescue Arp2/3 function in different brain regions and normalise behaviours,” Soderling said. “We’d like to use that as a basis for mapping out the neural circuitry and defects that also drive these other behaviours.”

Source:  sciencealert.com

Enzyme that change a person’s blood type

Blood Type

Blood Type

Scientists have discovered that a particular type of enzyme can cut away antigens in blood types A and B, to make them more like Type O – considered the ‘universal’ blood type, because it’s the only type that can be donated to anyone without the risk of provoking a life-threatening immune response.

The team, from the University of British Columbia of Canada, worked with a family of enzymes called 98 glycoside hydrolase, extracted from a strain of Streptococcus pneumoniae. Over many generations, they were able to engineer a super high-powered enzyme strain that can very effectively snip away blood antigens where previous generations of the enzyme struggled. “A major limitation has always been the efficiency of the enzymes,” one of the team, Stephen Withers, said in a press release. “Impractically large amounts of enzyme were needed.”

Getting the right type of blood when you need it is crucial, and it has to do with the different types of residue that can accumulate the surface of red blood cells. Both blood types A and B have this residue – A has an N-acetylgalactosamine residue, and B has a galactose residue – and Type AB has a mixture of both. Only Blood Type O is free from this residue, which means it can be received by any patient, no matter what type they’re carrying.

Withers and his team managed to create their ‘mutant’ enzyme strain using a technology called directed evolution, which allows them to insert many different types of mutations into the gene that codes for it, and by progressively selecting strains that are the best at snipping away the blood antigens, were able to create an enzyme that’s 170 times more effective at it than its parent strain. They published their results in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

“The concept is not new, but until now we needed so much of the enzyme to make it work that it was impractical,” said Withers. “Now I’m confident that we can take this a whole lot further.”

While the current enzyme strain is not yet capable of removing 100 percent of the antigens from Blood Types A and B, which is where it needs to get if the researchers want to make any real use of it, the team is confident that they’ll get it there so they can try it out in clinical trials. Even the smallest amount of antigen in donated blood can set off a dangerous immune response in the recipient.

“Given our success so far, we are optimistic that this will work,” says Withers.

Source:  sciencealert.com

Humans Played Role in Neanderthal Extinction

neanderthal-human-skulls

neanderthal-human-skulls

Ancient teeth from Italy suggest that the arrival of modern humans in Western Europe coincided with the demise of Neanderthals there, researchers said.

This finding suggests that modern humans may have caused Neanderthals to go extinct, either directly or indirectly, scientists added.

Neanderthals are the closest extinct relatives of modern humans. Recent findings suggest that Neanderthals, who once lived in Europe and Asia, were closely enough related to humans to interbreed with the ancestors of modern humans — about 1.5 to 2.1 percent of the DNA of anyone outside Africa is Neanderthal in origin. Recent findings suggest that Neanderthals disappeared from Europe between about 41,000 and 39,000 years ago.

Scientists have hotly debated whether Neanderthals were driven into extinction because of modern humans. To solve this mystery, researchers have tried pinpointing when modern humans entered Western Europe. [Image Gallery: Our Closest Human Ancestor]

Modern human or Neanderthal?

The Protoaurignacians, who first appeared in southern Europe about 42,000 years ago, could shed light on the entrance of modern humans into the region. This culture was known for its miniature blades and for simple ornaments made of shells and bones.

Scientists had long viewed the Protoaurignacians as the precursors of the Aurignacians — modern humans named after the site of Aurignac in southern France who spread across Europe between about 35,000 and 45,000 years ago. Researchers had thought the Protoaurignacians reflected the westward spread of modern humans from the Near East — the part of Asia between the Mediterranean Sea and India that includes the Middle East.

However, the classification of the Protoaurignacians as modern human or Neanderthal has long been uncertain. Fossils recovered from Protoaurignacian sites were not conclusively identified as either.

Now scientists analyzing two 41,000-year-old teeth from two Protoaurignacian sites in Italy find that the fossils belonged to modern humans.

“We finally have proof for the argument that says that modern humans were there when the Neanderthals went extinct in Europe,” study lead author Stefano Benazzi, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Bologna in Ravenna, Italy.

A fossil tooth found at an Italian site called Grotta di Fumane (shown here) came from a modern human, scientists say.

The researchers investigated a lower incisor tooth from Riparo Bombrini, an excavation site in Italy, and found it had relatively thick enamel. Prior research suggested modern human teeth had thicker enamel than those of Neanderthals, perhaps because modern humans were healthier or developed more slowly. They also compared DNA from an upper incisor tooth found in another site in Italy — Grotta di Fumane — with that of 52 present-day modern humans, 10 ancient modern humans, a chimpanzee, 10 Neanderthals, two members of a recently discovered human lineage known as the Denisovans, and one member of an unknown kind of human lineage from Spain, and found that the Protoaurignacian DNA was modern human.

“This research really could not have been done without the collaboration of researchers in many different scientific research fields — paleoanthropologists, molecular anthropologists, physical anthropologists, paleontologists and physicists working on dating the fossils,” Benazzi said.

Killing off Neanderthals

Since the Protoaurignacians first appeared in Europe about 42,000 years ago and the Neanderthals disappeared from Europe between about 41,000 and 39,000 years ago, these new findings suggest that Protoaurignacians “caused, directly or indirectly, the demise of Neanderthals,” Benazzi said.

These 3D models show an incisor tooth from two Italian sites, Riparo Bombrini (left) and Grotta di Fumane (right).
Credit: Daniele Panetta, CNR Institute of Clinical Physiology, Pisa, Italy

View full size image

It remains unclear just how modern humans might have driven Neanderthals into extinction, Benazzi cautioned. Modern humans might have competed with Neanderthals, or they might simply have assimilated Neanderthals into their populations.

Moreover, prior research suggests that Neanderthals in Europe might have been headed toward extinction before modern humans even arrived on the continent. Neanderthals apparently experienced a decline in genetic diversity about the time when modern humans began turning up in Europe.

“The only way we might have proof of how modern humans caused the decline of Neanderthals is if we ever find a modern human burying a knife into the head of a Neanderthal,” Benazzi joked.

The researchers now hope to find more Protoaurignacian human remains. “Hopefully, we can find DNA that may say something about whether these modern humans and Neanderthals interbred,” Benazzi said.

 

Source:   livescience.com

Tinder users are married

tinder

tinder

When casually swiping through Tinder, do you ever look for a wedding ring? Maybe you should, as new data has found around one third of those looking for love on the app are married.

Men outnumber women on the dating app 6:4, and the majority of users (45 per cent) are aged between 25-34. Around 38 per cent are aged 16-24, while 1 per cent are between 55 and 64 years of age, research by GlobalWebIndex has found.

While over half (54 per cent) describe themselves as single, 30 per cent are married, and 12 per cent are in a relationship. The remaining 4 per cent define themselves as divorced / widowed or as ‘other’.

Unsurprisingly, almost four in five (76 per cent) described their living conditions as rural, while 17 per cent were suburban and 7 per cent rural.

Interestingly, a quarter of Tinder users said they’d paid for an online dating service in the last month, compared to 6 per cent of average internet users and 14 per cent of dating site users.

Tinder users are presented with an image of a person of the gender of their choice, and given the chance to swipe right for yes, and left for no. Only once a pair have liked each other are they given the chance to message each other.

It’s been downloaded over 50 million times since its launch in 2012, matching around 26 million prospective couples every 24 hours. More than 1.6 billion swipes have been made since launch.

Around 90 million people used a location-based dating app in January, while around 25 million dating app users are based in China alone.

Source:  telegraph.co.uk

IRA Leader shot Dead

IRA Leader JOCK

IRA Leader JOCK

A former senior IRA figure has been shot dead near Belfast city centre.

Gerard ‘Jock’ Davison, 47, was shot a number of times at Welsh Street in the Markets area at about 09:00 BST.

Police do not believe dissident republicans were behind the attack and they do not believe it was sectarian.

It is understood Mr Davison was involved in the fight in a Belfast bar in January 2005 that led to the death of Robert McCartney, one of Northern Ireland’s most high profile killings.

Mr Davison’s uncle Terence was later acquitted of Mr McCartney’s murder.

Det Ch Insp Justyn Galloway said: “This was a cold-blooded murder carried out in broad daylight in a residential area and it has no place in the new Northern Ireland.”

Appealing for information, he said: “We have detectives in the Markets area making house to house enquiries and seeking to identify witnesses.

“I would appeal to local people to co-operate with them and give them any information they have.”

The detective said Mr Davison was a grandfather and “a high-profile community worker who devoted much of his time to those living in the Markets”.

“In fact, Mr Davison was walking to a local community centre where he worked when he was shot,” he said.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said: “This brutal act will be condemned by all sensible people – there can be no place today for such actions.

“I would urge anyone with any information to bring that forward to the PSNI.”

The murder of Mr Davison has also been condemned by politicians in the area.

Sinn Féin assembly member Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said there was shock that the man had been shot dead “in such a callous fashion in broad daylight while on his way to work”.

“The victim is from the area and well-known for his work in the community sector,” he said.

“Local people are shocked and angered by what has happened, and I would appeal to people to remain calm.”

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell said: “This is a horrendous crime and those responsible have shown no regard for anyone that could have been caught in the middle of it during the school rush hour.

“People here want to move on from the violence of the past. This community will reject those who bring murder and mayhem to our streets.

“I would appeal to anyone with any information to bring it forward as soon as possible.”

Alliance councillor Paula Bradshaw said: “Guns have no place on our streets – those responsible for this vicious crime are a danger to our society and must be urgently apprehended by the police.

“Whoever carried out this murder must be taken off our streets and brought before the courts to face justice for their horrific crimes.”

DUP MLA Jonathan Bell said: “No right-thinking person wants to go back to the days when this sort of event was all too common, not only in Belfast but throughout our province, and those responsible have to be brought to justice and have to face a court of law.”

UUP representative Rodney McCune said: “The timing of the murder at nine o’clock in the morning – people are going to work, taking their children to school – will be a matter of some shock, naturally.

“Especially because it will send a message across the city that these type of serious incidents are still happening and we do have a strong criminal element in society.”

 

Source:  BBC.com

Drone war is killing non-al-Qaeda leaders

Drones

Drones

Hypothetically, American drone bombings in Pakistan are supposed to be killing off al-Qaeda’s leadership. But in actuality, the strikes kill more people who aren’t in the terrorist group’s command structure.

Council on Foreign Relations fellow Micah Zenko dug up a 2011 assessment, from Pentagon official Michael Vickers, that there were “perhaps four important Qaeda leaders left in Pakistan, and 10 to 20 leaders over all in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.” Zenko then compared that number to an average of several estimates of people killed in drone strikes:

Since Vickers’ estimate that there were two dozen al-Qaeda leaders left in 2011, more than two-hundred U.S. drone strikes have killed upwards of 1,200 people — apparently non-al-Qaeda leaders.

Zenko’s comparison makes a very clear point: unless Vickers’s estimate in 2011 was a dramatic lowball, it’s just wrong to say that the drone campaign is narrowly tailored to killing top al-Qaeda officials. It’s killing many more people than that, including hundreds of civilians and, recently, an American and Italian hostage. And even if American drones campaign took out top al-Qaeda officials in the process, it’s genuinely unclear how much that would damage the group.

Source: Vox.com

Coconut oil reduce calories in rice 60 per cent

coconut-oil

coconut-oil

It sounds too good to be true but a simple change to the way rice is cooked could reduce its calorie content by 60 per cent.

Cooking rice with a teaspoon of coconut oil then refrigerating it for 12 hours more than halves the number of calories absorbed by the body, scientists have shown.

Scientists in Sri Lanka have discovered that cooking rice with a teaspoon of coconut oil then refrigerating it for 12 hours more than halves the number of calories absorbed by the body. The change remains even if it is reheated.

The researchers from the College of Chemical Sciences in Colombo, Sri Lanka, say simply changing the way rice is cooked could help tackle the obesity epidemic.

“Because obesity is a growing health problem, especially in many developing countries, we wanted to find food-based solutions,” says Dr Sudhair James, who is at the College of Chemical Sciences, Colombo, Western, Sri Lanka.

“We discovered that increasing rice resistant starch (RS) concentrations was a novel way to approach the problem.”

By using a specific heating and cooking regimen, he says, the scientists concluded that “if the best rice variety is processed, it might reduce the calories by about 50-60 percent.”

One in four adults in England is obese and these figures are set to climb to 60 per cent of men, 50 per cent of women, by 2050.

Obesity and diabetes already costs the UK over £5billion every year which is likely to rise to £50 billion in the next 36 years.

Rice contains around 240 calories per cup. The trick to bringing down the calorie content is by changing how the body digests it.

Usually the starchy carbohydrates in rice are broken down in the small intestine where they become glucose and are eventually stored as fat. However, cooking rice with a teaspoon of coconut oil, and then chilling for 12 hours appears to make half of the carbohydrate indigestible so it passes through the body without becoming fat.

“After your body converts carbohydrates into glucose, any leftover fuel gets converted into a polysaccharide carbohydrate called glycogen,” added Dr James.

“Your liver and muscles store glycogen for energy and quickly turn it back into glucose as needed. The issue is that the excess glucose that doesn’t get converted to glycogen ends up turning into fat, which can lead to excessive weight or obesity.”

Source:  telegraph.co.uk

Women lie for Profit Recognized as Medical Condition

Women liar

Women liar

Apparently unaware or dismissive of the consequences, there is an epidemic of sorts of people faking serious illness and advertising it on the internet. The Guardian reviews the case of wannabe cancer victim Belle Gibson and beyond:

How would you fake cancer? Shave your head? Pluck your eyebrows? Install a chemo port into your neck? These days you don’t need to. Belle Gibson’s story is a masterclass on faking cancer in the modern age. She fooled Apple, Cosmopolitan, Elle and Penguin. She fooled the hundreds of thousands who bought her app, read her blog and believed that her story could be their story.

Diagnosed with a brain tumour aged 20, Gibson had four months to live. She blogged her journey of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, treatments she shunned after eight weeks. Instead, she cut gluten and dairy and turned to oxygen therapy, craniosacral treatments and colonic irrigation. Against all odds, she made it. Her followers were inspired. If Belle could make it, maybe they could too.

Gibson launched The Whole Pantry app in 2013, filled with healthy living tips and recipes. She promised a third of proceeds from the 300,000 downloads ($3.79 per download) to charity. Elle named her “The Most Inspiring Woman You’ve Met This Year”, Cosmopolitan awarded her a “Fun, Fearless Female award” and Penguin published her cookbook. Apple pre-installed her app on Apple Watch and flew her to its Silicon Valley launch.

Then cancer re-emerged, and Gibson announced on Instagram: “It hurts me to find space tonight to let you all know with love and strength that I’ve been diagnosed with a third and forth [sic] cancer. One is secondary and the other is primary. I have cancer in my blood, spleen, brain, uterus, and liver. I am hurting.”

Last week, Gibson admitted it was all a lie. “No. None of it’s true. I am still jumping between what I think I know and what is reality. I have lived it and I’m not really there yet.”

She is now being investigated over the disappearance of $300,000 of promised charity donations. Months earlier, she spoke of her four-year-old son and the short time they had left together: “[Oliver] sees me on days that I can’t get out of bed. The only thing that breaks me is [the idea of] not being able to see Oli grow. He’s so incredible I just want to squish him all day forever. I don’t want those moments to end. I’m just going to miss him.”

The diagnosis of Münchausen syndrome has dominated analysis of Gibson’s case. It comes under the rubric of a wider term, factitious disorder: the intentional production (feigning) of disease in order to assume the role of a sick person…

 

Source:  disinfo.com

Babies using Smart Phones

baby using smart phones

baby using smart phones

More than one-third of babies are tapping on smartphones and tablets even before they learn to walk or talk, and by 1 year of age, one in seven toddlers is using devices for at least an hour a day, according to a study to be presented Saturday, April 25 at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in San Diego.

The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages the use of entertainment media such as televisions, computers, smartphones and tablets by children under age 2. Little is known, however, when youngsters actually start using mobile devices.

Researchers developed a 20-item survey to find out when young children are first exposed to mobile media and how they use devices. The questionnaire was adapted from the “Zero to Eight” Common Sense Media national survey on media use in children.

Parents of children ages 6 months to 4 years old who were at a hospital-based pediatric clinic that serves a low-income, minority community were recruited to fill out the survey. Participants were asked about what types of media devices they have in their household, children’s age at initial exposure to mobile media, frequency of use, types of activities and if their pediatrician had discussed media use with them.

Results from 370 parents showed that 74 percent were African-American, 14 percent were Hispanic and 13 percent had less than a high school education. Media devices were ubiquitous, with 97 percent having TVs, 83 percent having tablets, 77 percent having smartphones and 59 percent having Internet access.

Children younger than 1 year of age were exposed to media devices in surprisingly large numbers: 52 percent had watched TV shows, 36 percent had touched or scrolled a screen, 24 percent had called someone, 15 percent used apps and 12 percent played video games.

By 2 years of age, most children were using mobile devices.

Lead author Hilda Kabali, MD, a third-year resident in the Pediatrics Department at Einstein Healthcare Network, said the results surprised her.

“We didn’t expect children were using the devices from the age of 6 months,” she said. “Some children were on the screen for as long as 30 minutes.”

Results also showed 73 percent of parents let their children play with mobile devices while doing household chores, 60 percent while running errands, 65 percent to calm a child and 29 percent to put a child to sleep.

Time spent on devices increased with age, with 26 percent of 2-year-olds and 38 percent of 4-year-olds using devices for at least an hour a day.

Finally, only 30 percent of parents said their child’s pediatrician had discussed media use with them.

Source:  disinformation.com

Magic mushrooms permanently changes personality

psilocybin mushroom

psilocybin mushroom

Psilocybe cubensis, commonly referred to as magic mushrooms have the potential to make a lasting change to one’s personality. This is a preliminary conclusion from a study conducted by Johns Hopkins researchers and published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

A single dose of ‘shrooms’ was enough to make a lasting impression on the personality in 30 of the 51 participants, or nearly 60%. Those who had a hallucinatory or mystical experience after consuming the mushrooms showed increased in the personality trait ‘openness’, which is closely related to creativity and curiosity. This increase was measured 2 months and even 14 months after the last session, which suggests long-term effects.

Study leader Roland Griffiths, a professor of psychiatry, finds this lasting impact on a personality trait remarkable: “Normally, if anything, openness tends to decrease as people get older.” Openness is one of five traits that were tested and the only one that changed during the study. Along with the other factors extroversion, neuroticism, agreeableness and conscientiousness, openness is one of the major personality traits that are known to be constant throughout one’s lifetime.

According to the researchers, this study is the first finding of a short-term means with which long-term personality changes can made. “There may be applications for this we can’t even imagine at this point,” says Griffiths. “It certainly deserves to be systematically studied.”

There is currently another study under way to determine whether or not psilocybin can help cancer patients deal with feelings of anxiety and depression.

 

Source:  azarius.pt

Humans Bred with Unknown Species

Humans Bred with Unknown Species

Humans Bred with Unknown Species

A new study presented to the Royal Society meeting on ancient DNA in London last week has revealed a dramatic finding – the genome of one of our ancient ancestors, the Denisovans, contains a segment of DNA that seems to have come from another species that is currently unknown to science. The discovery suggests that there was rampant interbreeding between ancient human species in Europe and Asia more than 30,000 years ago. But, far more significant was the finding that they also mated with a mystery species from Asia – one that is neither human nor Neanderthal. 

Scientists launched into a flurry of discussion and debate upon hearing the study results and immediately began speculating about what this unknown species could be.  Some have suggested that a group may have branched off to Asia from the Homo heidelbernensis, who resided in Africa about half a million years ago. They are believed to be the ancestors of Europe’s Neanderthals. 

However others, such as Chris Stringer, a paleoanthropologist at the London Natural History Museum, admitted that they “don’t have the faintest idea” what the mystery species could be.

Traces of the unknown new genome were detected in two teeth and a finger bone of a Denisovan, which was discovered in a Siberian cave. There is not much data available about the appearance of Denisovans due to lack of their fossils’ availability, but the geneticists and researchers succeeded in arranging their entire genome very precisely.

“What it begins to suggest is that we’re looking at a ‘Lord of the Rings’-type world – that there were many hominid populations,” Mark Thomas, an evolutionary geneticist at University College London.

The question is now: who were these mystery people that the Denisovans were breeding with?

 

Source:  ancient-origins.net

Protein Treatment Staves Off Alzheimer’s Disease Symptoms

Protein Treats Alzheimer’s Disease

Protein Treats Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, with over 1,200 individuals developing the disease every day. A new paper in the Journal of Neuroscience from lead author Dena Dubal of the University of California, San Francisco describes how manipulating levels of a protein associated with memory can stave off Alzheimer’s symptoms, even in the presence of the disease-causing toxins.

Klotho is a transmembrane protein associated with longevity. The body makes less of this protein over time, and low levels of klotho is connected to a number of diseases including osteoporosis, heart disease, increased risk of stroke, and decreased cognitive function. These factors lead to diminished quality of life and even early death.

Previous research has shown that increasing klotho levels in healthy mice leads to increased cognitive function. This current paper from Dubal’s team builds on that research by increasing klotho in mice who are also expressing large amounts of amyloid-beta and tau, proteins that are associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Remarkably, even with high levels of these toxic, disease-causing proteins, the mice with elevated klotho levels were able to retain their cognitive function.

“It’s remarkable that we can improve cognition in a diseased brain despite the fact that it’s riddled with toxins,” Dubal said in a press release. “In addition to making healthy mice smarter, we can make the brain resistant to Alzheimer-related toxicity. Without having to target the complex disease itself, we can provide greater resilience and boost brain functions.”

The mechanism behind this cognitive preservation appears to be klotho interacting with a glutamate receptor called NMDA, which is critically important to synaptic transmission, thus influencing learning, memory, and executive function. Alzheimer’s disease typically damages these receptors, but the mice with elevated klotho were able to retain both NMDA function and cognition. Part of the success also appears to be due to the preservation of the NMDA subunit GluN2B, which existed in significantly larger numbers than the control mice. The mechanism and the results of this study will need to be investigated further before developing it into a possible treatment for humans in the future.

“The next step will be to identify and test drugs that can elevate klotho or mimic its effects on the brain,” added senior author Lennart Mucke from Gladstone Institutes. “We are encouraged in this regard by the strong similarities we found between klotho’s effects in humans and mice in our earlier study. We think this provides good support for pursuing klotho as a potential drug target to treat cognitive disorders in humans, including Alzheimer’s disease.”

 

Source:  iflscience.com

Antioxidant diet could extend life

Antioxidant

Antioxidant

University of Florida Health researchers have found that putting people on a feast-or-famine diet may mimic some of the benefits of fasting, and that adding antioxidant supplements may counteract those benefits.

Fasting has been shown in mice to extend lifespan and to improve age-related diseases. But fasting every day, which could entail skipping meals or simply reducing overall caloric intake, can be hard to maintain.

“People don’t want to just under-eat for their whole lives,” said Martin Wegman, an M.D.-Ph.D. student at the UF College of Medicine and co-author of the paper recently published in the journal Rejuvenation Research. “We started thinking about the concept of intermittent fasting.”

Michael Guo, a UF M.D.-Ph.D. student who is pursuing the Ph.D. portion of the program in genetics at Harvard Medical School, said the group measured the participants’ changes in weight, blood pressure, heart rate, glucose levels, cholesterol, markers of inflammation and genes involved in protective cell responses over 10 weeks.

“We found that intermittent fasting caused a slight increase to SIRT 3, a well-known gene that promotes longevity and is involved in protective cell responses,” Guo said.

The SIRT3 gene encodes a protein also called SIRT3. The protein SIRT3 belongs to a class of proteins called sirtuins. Sirtuins, if increased in mice, can extend their lifespans, Guo said. Researchers think proteins such as SIRT3 are activated by oxidative stress, which is triggered when there are more free radicals produced in the body than the body can neutralize with antioxidants. However, small levels of free radicals can be beneficial: When the body undergoes stress — which happens during fasting — small levels of oxidative stress can trigger protective pathways, Guo said.

“The hypothesis is that if the body is intermittently exposed to low levels of oxidative stress, it can build a better response to it,” Wegman said.

The researchers found that the intermittent fasting decreased insulin levels in the participants, which means the diet could have an anti-diabetic effect as well.

The group recruited 24 study participants in the double-blinded, randomized clinical trial. During a three-week period, the participants alternated one day of eating 25 percent of their daily caloric intake with one day of eating 175 percent of their daily caloric intake. For the average man’s diet, a male participant would have eaten 650 calories on the fasting days and 4,550 calories on the feasting days. To test antioxidant supplements, the participants repeated the diet but also included vitamin C and vitamin E.

At the end of the three weeks, the researchers tested the same health parameters. They found that the beneficial sirtuin proteins such as SIRT 3 and another, SIRT1, tended to increase as a result of the diet. However, when antioxidants were supplemented on top of the diet, some of these increases disappeared. This is in line with some research that indicates flooding the system with supplemental antioxidants may counteract the effects of fasting or exercise, said Christiaan Leeuwenburgh, Ph.D., co-author of the paper and chief of the division of biology of aging in the department of aging and geriatric research.

“You need some pain, some inflammation, some oxidative stress for some regeneration or repair,” Leeuwenburgh said. “These young investigators were intrigued by the question of whether some antioxidants could blunt the healthy effects of normal fasting.”

On the study participants’ fasting days, they ate foods such as roast beef and gravy, mashed potatoes, Oreo cookies and orange sherbet — but they ate only one meal. On the feasting days, the participants ate bagels with cream cheese, oatmeal sweetened with honey and raisins, turkey sandwiches, apple sauce, spaghetti with chicken, yogurt and soda — and lemon pound cake, Snickers bars and vanilla ice cream.

“Most of the participants found that fasting was easier than the feasting day, which was a little bit surprising to me,” Guo said. “On the feasting days, we had some trouble giving them enough calories.”

Leeuwenburgh said future studies should examine a larger cohort of participants and should include studying a larger number of genes in the participants as well as examining muscle and fat tissue.

Source:  eurekalert.org

Virus That Preys on Other Viruses

Virus That Preys on Other Viruses

Virus That Preys on Other Viruses

Viruses infect a wide range of plants and animals, and shows that they can even infect one another. If that seems surprising, no wonder: until a team of French researchers watched one virus invade another, hijacking its genetic machinery and making copies of its victim’s DNA, scientists didn’t even know this was possible.

The French team dubbed the virus’s virus Sputnik and called it a “virophage” to parallel “bacteriophage,” which is the name for a virus that infects bacteria. Sputnik is tiny, with only 18,000 genetic bases in its chromosome. Its victim, by contrast, is a large mamavirus that the scientists found in a Paris cooling tower, and contains about 1.2 million genetic bases. An infection by Sputnik sickens the mamavirus by interfering with its replication.

The discovery that even viruses can fall ill has reignited an old controversy—whether viruses are are actually alive or simply rogue bits of DNA that depend upon other organisms to reproduce. “There’s no doubt this is a living organism,” says Jean-Michel Claverie, a virologist at the the CNRS UPR laboratories in Marseilles, part of France’s basic-research agency. “The fact that it can get sick makes it more alive”.

And now that they know viruses can infect other viruses, the researchers say it could be possible to use virophages against the most harmful viruses, although they’re cautious about the idea. “It’s too early to say we could use Sputnik as a weapon against big viruses or to modify them,” says co-author Bernard La Scola, also at the University of the Mediterranean. “But phages are used to modify bacteria, so why not?”.

Source:  discovermagazine.com

Brain’s neural firing patterns explained

neural noise

neural noise

Researchers at the University of Rochester may have answered one of neuroscience’s most vexing questions—how can it be that our neurons, which are responsible for our crystal-clear thoughts, seem to fire in utterly random ways?

 In the November issue of Nature Neuroscience, the Rochester study shows that the brain’s cortex uses seemingly chaotic, or “noisy,” signals to represent the ambiguities of the real world—and that this noise dramatically enhances the brain’s processing, enabling us to make decisions in an uncertain world.

“You’d think this is crazy because engineers are always fighting to reduce the noise in their circuits, and yet here’s the best computing machine in the universe—and it looks utterly random,” says Alex Pouget, associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester.

Pouget’s work for the first time connects two of the brain’s biggest mysteries; why it’s so noisy, and how it can perform such complex calculations. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, the noise seems integral to making those calculations possible.

In the last decade, Pouget and his colleagues in the University of Rochester’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences have blazed a new path to understanding our gray matter. The traditional approach has assumed the brain uses the same method computation in general had used up until the mid-80s: You see an image and you relate that image to one stored in your head. But the reality of the cranial world seems to be a confusing array of possibilities and probabilities, all of which are somehow, mysteriously, properly calculated.

The science of drawing answers from such a variety of probabilities is called Bayesian computing, after minister Thomas Bayes who founded the unusual branch of math 150 years ago. Pouget says that when we seem to be struck by an idea from out of the blue, our brain has actually just resolved many probabilities its been fervently calculating.

“We’ve known for several years that at the behavioral level, we’re ‘Bayes optimal,’ meaning we are excellent at taking various bits of probability information, weighing their relative worth, and coming to a good conclusion quickly,” says Pouget. “But we’ve always been at a loss to explain how our brains are able to conduct such complex Bayesian computations so easily.”

Two years ago, while talking with a physics friend, some probabilities in Pouget’s own head suddenly resolved.

 “One day I had a drink with some machine-learning researchers, and we suddenly said, ‘Oh, it’s not noise,’ because noise implies something’s wrong,” says Pouget. “We started to realize then that what looked like noise may actually be the brain’s way of running at optimal performance.”

Bayesian computing can be done most efficiently when data is formatted in what’s called “Poisson distribution.”

And the neural noise, Pouget noticed, looked suspiciously like this optimal distribution.

This idea set Pouget and his team into investigating whether our neurons’ noise really fits this Poisson distribution, and in his current Nature Neuroscience paper he found that it fit extremely well.

“The cortex appears wired at its foundation to run Bayesian computations as efficiently as can be possible,” says Pouget. His paper says the uncertainty of the real world is represented by this noise, and the noise itself is in a format that reduces the resources needed to compute it. Anyone familiar with log tables and slide rules knows that while multiplying large numbers is difficult, adding them with log tables is relatively undemanding.

The brain is apparently designed in a similar manner—”coding” the possibilities it encounters into a format that makes it tremendously easier to compute an answer.

Pouget now prefers to call the noise “variability.” Our neurons are responding to the light, sounds, and other sensory information from the world around us. But if we want to do something, such as jump over a stream, we need to extract data that is not inherently part of that information. We need to process all the variables we see, including how wide the stream appears, what the consequences of falling in might be, and how far we know we can jump. Each neuron responds to a particular variable and the brain will decide on a conclusion about the whole set of variables using Bayesian inference.

As you reach your decision, you’d have a lot of trouble articulating most of the variables your brain just processed for you. Similarly, intuition may be less a burst of insight than a rough consensus among your neurons.

Pouget and his team are now expanding their findings across the entire cortex, because every part of our highly developed cortex displays a similar underlying Bayes-optimal structure.

“If the structure is the same, that means there must be something fundamentally similar among vision, movement, reasoning, loving—anything that takes place in the human cortex,” says Pouget. “The way you learn language must be essentially the same as the way a doctor reasons out a diagnosis, and right now our lab is pushing hard to find out exactly how that noise makes all these different aspects of being human possible.”

Pouget’s work still has its skeptics, but this, his fourth paper in Nature Neuroscience on the topic, is starting to win converts.

“If you ask me, this is the coming revolution,” says Pouget. “It hit machine learning and cognitive science, and I think it’s just hitting neuroscience. In 10 or 20 years, I think the way everybody thinks about the brain is going to be in these terms.”

Not all of Pouget’s neurons are in agreement, however.

“…but I’ve been wrong before,” he shrugs.

 

Source:  phys.org

Coffee protein mimics effects of morphine

coffee that mimics effects of morphine

coffee that mimics effects of morphine

Brazilian scientists have discovered a protein in coffee that has effects similar to pain reliever morphine, researchers at the state University of Brasilia (UnB) and state-owned Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation Embrapa said Saturday.

Embrapa said its genetics and biotech division, teaming up with UnB scientists, had discovered “previously unknown protein fragments” with morphine-like effects in that they possess “analgesic and mildly tranquilizing” qualities.

The company added tests on laboratory mice showed that the opioid peptides, which are naturally occurring biological molecules, appeared to have a longer-lasting effect on the mice than morphine itself.

Embrapa said the discovery has “biotechnological potential” for the health foods industry and could also help to alleviate stress in animals bound for the slaughterhouse.

In 2004, Embrapa managed to sequence coffee’s functional genome, a major step towards efforts by the firm and UnB to combine coffee genes with a view to improving grain quality.

Imaging test for autism spectrum disorder

autism spectrum disorder

autism spectrum disorder

Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute scientists have developed a brain-imaging technique that may be able to identify children with autism spectrum disorder in just two minutes.

This test, while far from being used as the clinical standard of care, offers promising diagnostic potential once it undergoes more research and evaluation.

“Our brains have a perspective-tracking response that monitors, for example, whether it’s your turn or my turn,” said Read Montague, the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute professor who led the study.

“This response is removed from our emotional input, so it makes a great quantitative marker,” he said. “We can use it to measure differences between people with and without autism spectrum disorder.”

The finding, expected to be published online next week in Clinical Psychological Science, demonstrates that the perspective-tracking response can be used to determine whether someone has autism spectrum disorder.

Usually, diagnosis – an unquantifiable process based on clinical judgment – is time consuming and trying on children and their families. That may change with this new diagnostic test.

The path to this discovery has been a long, iterative one. In a 2006 study by Montague and others, pairs of subjects had their brains scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, as they played a game requiring them to take turns.

From those images, researchers found that the middle cingulate cortex became more active when it was the subject’s turn.

“A response in that part of the brain is not an emotional response, and we found that intriguing,” said Montague, who also directs the Computational Psychiatry Unit at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and is a professor of physics at Virginia Tech. “We realized the middle cingulate cortex is responsible for distinguishing between self and others, and that’s how it was able to keep track of whose turn it was.”

That realization led the scientists to investigate how the middle cingulate cortex response differs in individuals at different developmental levels. In a 2008 study, Montague and his colleagues asked athletes to watch a brief clip of a physical action, such as kicking a ball or dancing, while undergoing functional MRI.

The athletes were then asked either to replay the clips in their mind, like watching a movie, or to imagine themselves as participants in the clips.

“The athletes had the same responses as the game participants from our earlier study,” Montague said. “The middle cingulate cortex was active when they imagined themselves dancing – in other words, when they needed to recognize themselves in the action.”

In the 2008 study, the researchers also found that in subjects with autism spectrum disorder, the more subdued the response, the more severe the symptoms.

Montague and his team hypothesized that a clear biomarker for self-perspective exists and that they could track it using functional MRI. They also speculated that the biomarker could be used as a tool in the clinical diagnosis of people with autism spectrum disorder.

In 2012, the scientists designed another study to see whether they could elicit a brain response to help them compute the unquantifiable. And they could: By presenting self-images while scanning the brains of adults, they elicited the self-perspective response they had previously observed in social interaction games.

In the current study, with children, subjects were shown 15 images of themselves and 15 images of a child matched for age and gender for four seconds per image in a random order.

Like the control adults, the control children had a high response in the middle cingulate cortex when viewing their own pictures. In contrast, children with autism spectrum disorder had a significantly diminished response.

Importantly, Montague’s team could detect this difference in individuals using only a single image.

Montague and his group realized they had developed a single-stimulus functional MRI diagnostic technique. The single-stimulus part is important, Montague points out, as it enables speed. Children with autism spectrum disorder cannot stay in the scanner for long, so the test must be quick.

“We went from a slow, average depiction of brain activity in a cognitive challenge to a quick test that is significantly easier for children to do than spend hours under observation,” Montague said. “The single-stimulus functional MRI could also open the door to developing MRI-based applications for screening of other cognitive disorders.”

By mapping psychological differences through brain scans, scientists are adding a critical component to the typical process of neuropsychiatric diagnosis – math.

Montague has been a pioneering figure in this field, which he coined computational psychiatry. The idea is that scientists can link the function of mental disorders to the disrupted mechanisms of neural tissue through mathematical approaches. Doctors then can use measurable data for earlier diagnosis and treatment.

An earlier diagnosis can also have a tremendous impact on the children and their families, Montague said.

“The younger children are at the time of diagnosis,” Montague said, “the more they can benefit from a range of therapies that can transform their lives.”

Fungus Super food “The Mushroom Of Immortality”

“The Mushroom Of Immortality”

“The Mushroom Of Immortality”

Chaga is a non-toxic fungal parasite that grows on birch trees (as well as a few other types) in Northern climates. It is far from your typical soft and squishy mushroom, it actually looks and feels like burnt wood or charcoal. Chaga is known by the Siberians as the “Gift From God” and the “Mushroom of Immortality.” The Japanese call it “The Diamond of the Forest,” and the Chinese refer to it as the “King of Plants.” The Chinese also regard it as an amazing factor inachieving longevity. Chaga does grow in North America, but most Americans have no clue of its existence, let alone amazing healing properties, which will be listed below.

This mushroom of immortality is said to have the highest level of anti-oxidants of any food in the world and also, the highest level of superoxide dismutase (one of the body’s primary internal anti-oxidant defenses) that can be detected in any food or herb. The active constituents of Chaga are a combination of: amino acids, beta glucans, betulinic acid, calcium, chloride, copper, dietary fiber, enzymes, flavonoids, germanium, iron, lanosterol, manganese, magnesium, melanin, pantothenic acid, phenols, phosphorus, polysaccharides, potassium, saponins, selenium, sodium, sterols, trametenolic acid, tripeptides, triterpenes, triterpenoids, vannillic acid, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, Vitamin D2, Vitamin K and zinc. Phew.

Chaga is extremely powerful because it contains within it, the actual life force of trees -the most powerful living beings on this Earth. Trees can live for as long as 10,000 years with some even surpassing that. Chaga concentrates this power, and we can harvest it as well. One of the most important properties of Chaga is betulinic acid, however, in order for chaga to be beneficial, it has to be harvested from birch trees only. Birch trees are the only trees that contain this amazing compound. Betulinic acid has a wide range of biological effects including potent antitumor activity.
Some Other Medicinal Properties Of The Chaga Mushroom Include:

  • Anti-HIV – a study published in The Pharmological Potential Of Mushrooms demonstrated chaga’s potential to lessen symptoms of HIV.
  • Antibacterial – Chaga kills or inhibits growth or replication by suppressing or destroying the reproduction of bacteria.
  • Anti-Inflammatory – Chaga is known to be a powerful anti-inflammatory and pain reliever, which makes it excellent for conditions such as arthritis.
  • Anti-Candida – Because chaga promotes and protects the liver, candida toxins are processed efficiently.
  • Adaptogen – Chaga is an Adaptogen. Its compounds can increase the body’s capability of adapting to stress, fatigue and anxiety. (Something most Americans can definitely benefit from.)
  • Many other potential benefits include the treatment of asthma, hair loss, allergies, boosting the immune system, diabetes, Crohn’s Disease, psoriasis, anti-aging and literally hundreds of others.

How To Prepare Wild Chaga Mushroom Tea

Chaga mushrooms grow wild in forests in Northern climates on birch trees. If you are lucky enough to find one, you’ll want to harvest it, as chaga can be quite expensive to purchase. DO NOT cut into the tree to retrieve the chaga, doing so could kill the tree. If retrieved correctly the chaga will continue to grow and will be ready to harvest every four years or so, and the tree will continue to thrive.

***It is important to properly identify the chaga mushroom before consumption. To ensure you are getting the correct fungus, make sure that you are harvesting from birch trees only. Chaga has a similar texture to wood and looks a lot like burnt wood or charcoal, inside it should be a golden orangy color. Be sure to look it up before consuming if you are unsure just to be safe!***

To make the tea, cut a few small pieces off the chaga and place it in a pot. Pour in about 2 liters of filtered water and cover with a lid. Bring the pot to a boil for a minute or so, then reduce the heat to a simmer and keep the lid off. Let this simmer for about an hour and then add in another liter of water and continue to simmer with the lid on for another hour. This will make approximately 1 liter of chaga mushroom tea. It is a time consuming process, but I think that the amazing benefits justify the process, plus it tastes great! It tastes like a nice vanilla flavored black tea. You can add honey or sweetener if you wish, but I think it tastes surprisingly delicious on its own.

FDA-APPROVED ASPARTAME DISEASE

ASPARTAME DISEASE: AN FDA-APPROVED EPIDEMIC

ASPARTAME DISEASE:
AN FDA-APPROVED EPIDEMIC

“Diet” products containing the chemical sweetener aspartame can have multiple neurotoxic, metabolic, allergenic, fetal and carcinogenic effects. My database of 1,200 aspartame reactors–based on logical diagnostic criteria, including predictable recurrence on rechallenge–is reviewed.

The existence of aspartame disease continues to be denied by the FDA and powerful corporate entities. Its magnitude, however, warrants removal of this chemical as an “imminent public health threat.” The use of aspartame products by over two-thirds of the population, and inadequate evaluation by corporate-partial investigators underscore this opinion.

About Aspartame

The FDA approved aspartame as a low-nutritive sweetener for use in solid form during 1981, and in soft drinks during 1983. It is a synthetic chemical consisting of two amino acids, phenylalanine (50 percent) and aspartic acid (40 percent), and a methyl ester (10 percent) that promptly becomes free methyl alcohol (methanol; wood alcohol). The latter is universally considered a severe poison.

Senior FDA scientists and consultants vigorously protested approving the release of aspartame products. Their objections related to disturbing findings in animal studies (especially the frequency of brain tumors), seemingly flawed experimental data, and the absence of extensive pre-marketing trials on humans using real-world products over prolonged periods.

Aspartame reactions may be caused by the compound itself, its three components, stereoisomers of the amino acids, toxic breakdown products (including formaldehyde), or combinations thereof. They often occur in conjunction with severe caloric restriction and excessive exercise to lose weight.

Various metabolic and physiologic disturbances explain the clinical complications. Only a few are listed:

  • Damage to the retina or optic nerves is largely due to methyl alcohol exposure. Unlike most animals, humans cannot efficiently metabolize it.
  • High concentrations of phenylalanine and aspartic acid occur in the brain after aspartame intake, unlike the modest levels of amino acids following conventional protein consumption.
  • Aspartame alters the function of major amino acid-derived neurotransmitters, especially in obese persons and after carbohydrate intake.
  • Phenylalanine stimulates the release of insulin and growth hormone.
  • The ambiguous signals to the satiety center following aspartame intake may result either in increased food consumption or severe anorexia.
  • Large amounts of the radioactive-carbon label from oral aspartame intake have been detected in DNA.

The current “acceptable daily intake” (ADI) of 50 mg aspartame/kg body weight makes no sense. It represents the projection of animal studies based on lifetime intake! This was clearly stated by previous FDA Commissioner Dr. Frank Young during a U.S. Senate hearing on November 3, 1987. Furthermore, it disregards the usual 100-fold safety factor used by the FDA as a guideline for regulated food additives. The maximum daily intake tolerated by most reactors in my series, based on the predictable recurrence of induced symptoms and signs, ranged from 10 to 18.3 mg/kg.

“We had better be sure that the questions that have been raised about the safety of this product are answered. I must say at the outset, this product was approved by the FDA in circumstances that can only be described as troubling.”

I have devoted more than two decades to analyzing aspartame disease, a widespread but largely ignored disorder. Its existence continues to be reflexively denied by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the American Medical Association (AMA), and many public health/ regulatory organizations.

The medical profession and consumers have been assured by the Council on Scientific Affairs of the AMA2 and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that aspartame is “completely safe.” Moreover, the impression is left that reports of serious reactions are a “health rumor” fabrication … notwithstanding the CDC report in 1984 of 649 aspartame reactors with many attributed disorders3.

Aspartame Intake

Many reactors consumed prodigious amounts of aspartame, especially during hot weather. Conversely, some experienced convulsions, headache, or other severe symptoms after exposure to small amounts (e.g., chewing aspartame gum; placing an aspartame strip on the tongue; babies while breast-feeding as the mother drank an aspartame beverage).

Interval Between Cessation and Improvement

Nearly two-thirds of aspartame reactors experienced symptomatic improvement within two days after avoiding aspartame. With continued abstinence, their complaints generally disappeared.

Causation

The causative role of aspartame products has been repeatedly shown by (a) the prompt improvement of symptoms (grand mal seizures, headache, itching, rashes, severe gastrointestinal reactions) after stopping aspartame products, and (b) their recurrence within minutes or hours after resuming them. The latter included self-testing on numerous occasions, inadvertent ingestion, and formal rechallenge.

Some aspartame reactors with convulsions purposefully rechallenged themselves on one or several occasions “to be absolutely certain.” This was unique among six pilots who had lost their licenses for unexplained seizures while consuming aspartame products. (All had been in otherwise excellent health.) They sought to have their licenses reinstated by such objective confirmation on rechallenge.

High-Risk Individuals

These groups include pregnant and lactating women, young children, older persons, those at risk for phenylketonuria (PKU), the relatives of aspartame reactors (see above), and patients with liver disease, iron-deficiency anemia, kidney impairment, migraine, diabetes, hypoglycemia, and hypothyroidism.

 

Source: wnho.net  By H. J. Roberts

Blood Test to Diagnose Depression

First Blood Test to Diagnose Depression in Adults

First Blood Test to Diagnose Depression in Adults

Test identifies nine blood markers tied to depression; predicts who will benefit from therapy

The first blood test to diagnose major depression in adults has been developed by Northwestern Medicine® scientists, a breakthrough approach that provides the first objective, scientific diagnosis for depression. The test identifies depression by measuring the levels of nine RNA blood markers. RNA molecules are the messengers that interpret the DNA genetic code and carry out its instructions.

The blood test also predicts who will benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy based on the behavior of some of the markers. This will provide the opportunity for more effective, individualized therapy for people with depression.

In addition, the test showed the biological effects of cognitive behavioral therapy, the first measurable, blood-based evidence of the therapy’s success. The levels of markers changed in patients who had the therapy for 18 weeks and were no longer depressed.

“This clearly indicates that you can have a blood-based laboratory test for depression, providing a scientific diagnosis in the same way someone is diagnosed with high blood pressure or high cholesterol,” said Eva Redei, who developed the test and is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “This test brings mental health diagnosis into the 21st century and offers the first personalized medicine approach to people suffering from depression.”

Redei is co-lead author of the study, which was published Sept. 16 in Translational Psychiatry.

Redei previously developed a blood test that diagnosed depression in adolescents. Most of the markers she identified in the adult depression panel are different from those in depressed adolescents.

 

Source:  scienceblog.com

Schizophrenia is eight different diseases

Schizophrenia is eight different diseases

Schizophrenia is eight different diseases

 

New research shows that schizophrenia is not a single disease, but a group of eight distinct disorders, each caused by changes in clusters of genes that lead to different sets of symptoms.

The finding sets the stage for scientists to develop better ways to diagnose and treat schizophrenia, a mental illness that can be devastating when not adequately managed, says C. Robert Cloninger, co-author of the study published Monday in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

“We are really opening a new era of psychiatric diagnosis,” says Cloninger, professor of psychiatry and genetics at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Cloninger says he hopes his work will “allow for the development of a personalized diagnosis, opening the door to treating the cause, rather than just the symptoms, of schizophrenia.”

Clonginger and colleagues found that certain genetic profiles matched particular symptoms. While people with one genetic cluster have odd and disorganized speech – what is sometimes called “word salad” – people with another genetic profile hear voices, according to the study, funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Some genetic clusters gave people higher risks of the disease than others, according to the study, which compared the DNA of 4,200 people with schizophrenia to that of 3,800 healthy people.

One set of genetic changes, for example, confers a 95% chance of developing schizophrenia. In the new study, researchers describe a woman with this genetic profile who developed signs of the disorder by age 5, when she taped over the mouths of her dolls to make them stop whispering to her and calling her name. Another patient – whose genetic profile gave her a 71% risk of schizophrenia – experienced a more typical disease course and began hearing voices at age 17.

The average person has less than a 1% risk of developing schizophrenia, Cloninger says.

Psychiatrists such as Stephen Marder describe the the study as a step forward. Today, doctors diagnose patients with mental illness with a process akin to a survey, asking about the person’s family history and symptoms, says Marder, a professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California-Los Angeles.

“It underlines that the way we diagnose schizophrenia is relatively primitive,” Marder says.

Patients may wait years for an accurate diagnosis, and even longer to find treatments that help them without causing intolerable side effects.

Doctors have long known that schizophrenia can run in families, says Robert Freedman, editor in chief of the American Journal of Psychiatry and chair of psychiatry at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. If one identical twin has schizophrenia, for example, there is an 80% chance that the other twin has the disease, as well.

In the past, doctors looked for single genes that might cause schizophrenia, without real success, Freedman says.

The new paper suggests that genes work together like a winning or losing combination of cards in poker, Freedman says. “This shows us that there are some very bad hands out there,” Freedman says.

 In some cases – in which a genetic profile conveys close to a 100% risk of schizophrenia – people may not be able to escape the disease, Cloninger says. But if doctors could predict who is at high risk, they might also be able to tailor an early intervention to help a patient better manage their condition, such as by managing stress.

Doctors don’t yet know why one person with a 70% risk of schizophrenia develops the disease and others don’t, Clonginger says. It’s possible that environment plays a key role, so that child with a supportive family and good nutrition might escape the diagnosis, while someone who experiences great trauma or deprivation might become very ill.

The study also reflects how much has changed in the way that scientists think about the genetic causes of common diseases, Marder says. He notes that diseases caused by a single gene – such as sickle-cell anemia and cystic fibrosis – affect very few people. Most common diseases, such as cancer, are caused by combinations of genes. Even something as apparently simple as height is caused by combinations of genes, he says.

Doctors have known for years that breast cancer is not one disease, for example, but at least half a dozen diseases driven by different genes, says study co-author Igor Zwir, research associate in psychiatry at Washington University. Doctors today have tests to predict a woman’s risk of some types of breast cancer, and other tests that help them select the most effective drugs.

Those sorts of tests could be extremely helpful for people with schizophrenia, who often try two or three drugs before finding one that’s effective, Cloninger says.

“Most treatment today is trial and error,” Cloninger says.

If doctors could pinpoint which drugs could be the most effective, they might be able to use lower doses, producing fewer of the bothersome side effects that lead many patients to stop taking their medication, Cloninger says.

 

Source:  usatoday.com

1 Million Dollar Race For Cure To End Aging

The $1 Million Race For The Cure To End Aging

The $1 Million Race For The Cure To End Aging

 

The hypothesis is so absurd it seems as though it popped right off the pages of a science-fiction novel. Some scientists in Palo Alto are offering a $1 million prize to anyone who can end aging. “Based on the rapid rate of biomedical breakthroughs, we believe the question is not if we can crack the aging code, but when will it happen,” says director of the Palo Alto Longevity Prize Keith Powers.

It’s a fantastical idea: curing the one thing we will all surely die of if nothing else gets us before that. I sat down with Aubrey de Grey, the chief science officer of the SENS Research Foundation and co-author of “Ending Aging,” to discuss this very topic a few days back. According to him, ending aging comes with the promise to not just stop the hands of time, but to actually reverse the clock. We could, according to him, actually choose the age we’d like to exist at for the rest of our (unnatural?) lives. But we are far off from possibly seeing this happen in our lifetime, says de Grey. “With sufficient funding we have a 50/50 chance to getting this all working within the next 25 years, but it could also happen in the next 100,” he says.

If you ask Ray Kurzweil, life extension expert, futurist and part-time adviser to Google’s somewhat stealth Calico project, we’re actually tip-toeing upon the cusp of living forever. “We’ll get to a point about 15 years from now where we’re adding more than a year every year to your life expectancy,” he told the New York Times in early 2013. He also wrote in the book he co-authored with Terry Grossman, M.D., that “Immortality is within our grasp.” That’s a bit optimistic to de Grey (the two are good friends), but he’s not surprised this prize is coming out of Silicon Valley. “Things are changing here first. We have a high density of visionaries who like to think high.”

And he believes much of what Kurzweil says is true with the right funding. “Give me large amounts of money to get the research to happen faster,” says de Grey. He then points out that Google’s Calico funds are virtually unlimited.

Whether it’s 15, 25 or even 100 years off, we need to spur a revolution in aging research, according to Joon Yun, one of the sponsors of the prize. “The aim of the prize is to catalyze that revolution,” says Yun. His personal assistant actually came up with the initial idea. She just happens to be an acquaintance of Wendy Schmidt, wife of Google’s Eric Schmidt. But it was the passing of Yun’s 68-year-old father-in-law and some conversations with his friends that got him thinking about how to take on aging as a whole.

The Palo Alto Prize is also working with a number of angel investors, venture capital firms, corporate venture arms, institutions and private foundations within Silicon Valley to create health-related incentive prize competitions in the future. This first $1 million prize comes from Yun’s own pockets.

The initial prize will be divided into two $500,000 awards. Half a million dollars will go to the first team to demonstrate that it can restore heart rate variability (HRV) to that of a young adult. The other half of the $1 million will be awarded to the first team that can extend lifespan by 50 percent. So far 11 teams from all over the world have signed up for the challenge.

Source:  techcrunch.com

Monsanto’s Dark Connections to the “Military Industrial Complex”

Monsanto’s  “Military Industrial Complex”

Monsanto’s “Military Industrial Complex”

 

A US peer-reviewed study conducted last year which was published in the scientific journal Entropy, linked Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup – which is the most popular weed killer in the world – to infertility, cancers and Parkinsons Disease amongst other ailments. The authors of the study were Stephanie Seneff, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Anthony Samsel, a retired science consultant from Arthur D. Little, Inc. and a former private environmental government contractor. The main ingredient in Roundup is the “insidious” glyphosate, which the study found to be a deeply harmful chemical:

“Glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of other food borne chemical residues and environmental toxins. Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body […] Consequences are most of the diseases and conditions associated with a Western diet, which include gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease” (Samsel and Seneff, 2013).

The Executive Director of the Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT) Jeffrey M. Smith has discovered a link between gluten disorders and GM foods in a study he conducted last year. Gluten disorders have sharply risen over the past 2 decades, which correlates with GM foods being introduced into the food supply. Smith asserts that GM foods – including soy and corn – are the possible “environmental triggers” that have contributed to the rapid increase of gluten disorders that effect close to 20 million American’s today:

“Bt-toxin, glyphosate, and other components of GMOs, are linked to five conditions that may either initiate or exacerbate gluten-related disorders […] If glyphosate activates retinoic acid, and retinoic acid activates gluten sensitivity, eating GMOs soaked with glyphosate may play a role in the onset of gluten-related disorders” (Smith, 2013).

One of the more damming studies on the safety of GM foods was led by biologist Dr. Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University of Caen, which was the first study to examine the long term affects on rats that had consumed Monsanto’s GM corn and its Roundup herbicide. The study was conducted over a 2 year period – which is the average life-span of a rat – as opposed to Monsanto’s usual period of 90 days. The peer-reviewed study found horrifying effects on the rats health, with a 200% to 300% increase in large tumours, severe organ damage to the kidney and liver and 70% of female participant rats suffered premature death. The first tumours only appeared 4 to 7 months into the research, highlighting the need for longer trials.

Initially the study was published in the September issue of Food and Chemical Toxicology, but was then later retracted after the publisher felt the study was “inconclusive”, although there was no suspicion of fraud or intentional deceit. Dr. Seralini strongly protested the decision and believed “economic interests” were behind the decision as a former Monsanto employee had joined the journal. Monsanto is infamous for employing swaths oflobbyists to control the political, scientific and administrative decisions relating to the organisation, and this incident was a major whitewash by the GM producer to stop the barrage of negative media reports relating to the toxic effects of their products. The study led by Dr. Seralini was later published in a less well renowned journal, the Environmental Sciences Europe, which reignited the fears of GM foods safety.

France has recently implemented a ban on Monsanto produced maize (MON810) – a different variety of the Monsanto GM corn that was discussed in the study above (NK603) – citing environmental concerns as the reason for the ban. France joins a list of countries including Italy and Poland who have imposed bans on GM corn over the past few years. Additionally, Russian MPs have introduced a draft into parliament which could see GM producers punished as terrorists and criminally prosecuted if they are deemed to have harmed the environment or human health. In India, many of the GM seeds sold to Indian farmers under the pretext of greater harvests failed to deliver, which led to an estimated 200,000 Indian farmers committing suicide due to an inability to repay debts.

There is growing evidence to support the theory that bee colonies are collapsing due to GM crops being used in agriculture, with America seeing the largest fall in bee populations in recent years. Resistance to Monsanto and GM foods has been growing in recent years after the launch of the worldwide ‘March Against Monsanto’ in 2012, which organises global protests against the corporation and its toxic products within 52 countries. Monsanto was also voted the ‘most evil corporation’ of 2013 in a poll conducted by the website Natural News, beating the Federal Reserve and British Petroleum to take the top position.

Monsanto Produced and Supplied Toxic Agent Orange

Researching Monsanto’s past reveals a very dark history that has been well documented for years. During the Vietnam War, Monsanto was contracted to produce and supply the US government with a malevolent chemical for military application. Along with other chemical giants at the time such as Dow Chemical, Monsanto produced the military herbicide Agent Orange which contained high quantities of the deadly chemical Dioxin. Between 1961 and 1971, the US Army sprayed between 50 and 80 million litres of Agent Orange across Vietnamese jungles, forests and strategically advantageous positions. It was deployed in order to destroy forests and fertile lands which provided cover and food for the opposing troops. The fallout was devastating, with Vietnam estimating that 400,000 people died or were maimed due to Agent Orange, as well as 500,000 children born with birth defects and up to 2 million people suffer from cancer or other diseases. Millions of US veterans were also exposed and many have developed similar illnesses. The consequences are still felt and are thought to continue for a century as cancer, birth defects and other diseases are exponential due to them being passed down through generations.

Today, deep connections exist between Monsanto, the ‘Military Industrial Complex’ and the US Government which have to be documented to understand the nature of the corporation. On Monsanto’s Board of Directors sits the former Chairman of the Board and CEO of the giant war contractor Lockheed Martin, Robert J. Stevens, who was also appointed in 2012 by Barack Obama to the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations. As well as epitomising the revolving door that exists between the US Government and private trans-national corporations, Stevens is a member of the parallel government in the US, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). A second board member at Monsanto is Gwendolyn S. King, who also sits on the board of Lockheed Martin where she chairs the Orwellian ‘Ethics and Sustainability Committee”. Individuals who are veterans of the corporate war industry should not be allowed control over any populations food supply! Additionally, Monsanto board member Dr. George H. Poste is a former member of the Defense Science Board and the Health Board of the U.S. Department of Defense, as well as a Fellow of the Royal Society and a member of the CFR.

Bill Gates made headlines in 2010 when The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation bought 500,000 Monsanto shares worth a total of $23 million, raising questions as to why his foundation would invest in such a malign corporation. William H. Gates Sr. – Bill’s father – is the former head of Planned Parenthood and a strong advocate of eugenics– the philosophy that there are superior and inferior types of human beings, with the inferior type often sterilised or culled under the pretext of being a plague on society. During his 2010 TED speech, Bill Gates reveals his desire to reduce the population of the planet by “10 or 15 percent” in the coming years through such technologies as “vaccines”:

“The world today has 6.8 billion people. That’s heading up to about 9 billion. Now if we do a really good job on new vaccines, health care, reproductive health services, we could lower that by perhaps 10 or 15 percent” (4.37 into the video).

In 2006, Monsanto acquired a company that has developed – in partnership with the US Department of Agriculture – what is popularly termed terminator seeds, a future major trend in the GM industry. Terminator Seeds or suicide seeds are engineered to become sterile after the first harvest, destroying the ancient practice of saving seeds for future crops. This means farmers are forced to buy new seeds every year from Big-Agri, which produces high debts and a form of servitude for the farmers.

 

Source:  globalresearch.ca

The first Genetically Modified Strain of Marijuana

Monsanto Creates First Genetically Modified Strain of Marijuana

Monsanto Creates First Genetically Modified Strain of Marijuana

The news that has been welcomed by scientists and leaders of the agriculture business alike as a move forward towards the industrial use of marijuana and hemp products could bring a major shift towards marijuana policies in the U.S.A. and ultimately, to the world.

Under present US federal law, it is illegal to possess, use, buy, sell, or cultivate marijuana, since the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, although it has been decriminalized to some extent in certain states, Monsanto’s interest in the field has been interpreted by experts as the precursor to “a major shift in marijuana policy in the US” as it is believed the company would not have invested so much time and energy if it had not had “previous knowledge” of the Federal government’s “openness” towards the future legalization of marijuana.

Lawyer and marijuana law specialist, Edmund Groensch, of the Drug Policy Alliance, admits Monsanto’s involvement in marijuana projects could definitely help the pro-legalization activists.

“Currently, Federal law criminalizes marijuana and hemp derivatives because public opinion is still against it and legal commercial production in the U.S. is currently handled by a patchwork of small farmers whom are not trusted by investors. A major player as Monsanto could bring confidence within government and towards investors in the market if it were to own a large part of the exploitable lands and commercial products”.

“There is presently no way to control the production of marijuana and the quality of the strains. A GM strain produced by a company with the credentials and prestige of Monsanto would definitely lend a massive hand to pro-legalization activists within certain spheres of government and within the business world” he explains.

Although Monsanto’s testing on cannabis is only at an experimental stage, no plan has yet been released by the agriculture business firm as to what purposes the patented strain would be used for, although specialists believe answers should come this fall as rumors of a controversial new bill which could “loosen up laws around medical marijuana” is reportedly scheduled to pass before congress coming this fall.

Critics fear genetically modified cannabis will mix with other strains and could destroy the diversity of DNA, a reality dismissed by most studies claim experts.

 

Source:  worldnewsdailyreport.com

Humans Immortal By 2040

 

Humans Immortal By 2040

Humans Immortal By 2040

 

In 30 or 40 years, we’ll have microscopic machines traveling through our bodies, repairing damaged cells and organs, effectively wiping out diseases. The nanotechnology will also be used to back up our memories and personalities.

In an interview with Computerworld , author and futurist Ray Kurzweil said that anyone alive come 2040 or 2050 could be close to immortal. The quickening advance of nanotechnology means that the human condition will shift into more of a collaboration of man and machine , as nanobots flow through human blood streams and eventually even replace biological blood, he added.

That may sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, but Kurzweil, a member of the Inventor’s Hall of Fame and a recipient of the National Medal of Technology, says that research well underway today is leading to a time when a combination of nanotechnology and biotechnology will wipe out cancer, Alzheimer’s disease , obesity and diabetes .

It’ll also be a time when humans will augment their natural cognitive powers and add years to their lives, Kurzweil said.

“It’s radical life extension,” Kurzweil said . “The full realization of nanobots will basically eliminate biological disease and aging. I think we’ll see widespread use in 20 years of [nanotech] devices that perform certain functions for us. In 30 or 40 years, we will overcome disease and aging. The nanobots will scout out organs and cells that need repairs and simply fix them. It will lead to profound extensions of our health and longevity.”

Of course, people will still be struck by lightning or hit by a bus, but much more trauma will be repairable. If nanobots swim in, or even replace, biological blood, then wounds could be healed almost instantly. Limbs could be regrown. Backed up memories and personalities could be accessed after a head trauma.

Today, researchers at MIT already are using nanoparticles to deliver killer genes that battle late-stage cancer. The university reported just last month the nano-based treatment killed ovarian cancer, which is considered to be one of the most deadly cancers, in mice.

And earlier this year, scientists at the University of London reported using nanotechnology to blast cancer cells in mice with “tumor busting” genes, giving new hope to patients with inoperable tumors. So far, tests have shown that the new technique leaves healthy cells undamaged.

With this kind of work going on now, Kurzweil says that by 2024 we’ll be adding a year to our life expectancy with every year that passes. “The sense of time will be running in and not running out,” he added. “Within 15 years, we will reverse this loss of remaining life expectancy. We will be adding more time than is going by.”

And in 35 to 40 years, we basically will be immortal, according to the man who wrote The Age of Spiritual Machines and The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology .

Kurzweil also maintains that adding microscopic machines to our bodies won’t make us any less human than we are today or were 500 years ago.

“The definition of human is that we are the species that goes beyond our limitations and changes who we are,” he said. “If that wasn’t the case, you and I wouldn’t be around because at one point life expectancy was 23. We’ve extended ourselves in many ways. This is an extension of who we are. Ever since we picked up a stick to reach a higher branch, we’ve extended who we are through tools. It’s the nature of human beings to change who we are.”

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t parts of this future that don’t worry him. With nanotechnology so advanced that it can travel through our bodies and affect great change on them, come dangers as well as benefits.

The nanobots, he explained, will be self-replicating and engineers will have to harness and contain that replication.

“You could have some self-replicating nanobot that could create copies of itself… and ultimately, within 90 replications, it could devour the body it’s in or all humans if it becomes a non-biological plague,” said Kurzweil. “Technology is not a utopia. It’s a double-edged sword and always has been since we first had fire.”

 

Source:  cio.com

Women more likely to be assaulted in developed countries

Women are more likely to be physically assaulted in developed countries, study shows

Women are more likely to be physically assaulted in developed countries, study shows

When researchers examine violent assault numbers, historically the data has pointed to higher rates of female victimization in developing countries.

But a study by a West Virginia University sociology professor finds that women in developed countries — like the United States — are actually more likely to be physically assaulted than women in developing countries.

In “Individual and Structural Opportunities: A Cross-National Assessment of Females’ Physical and Sexual Assault Victimization,” Professor Rachel E. Stein examines how individuals’ daily routines and elements of country structure create opportunities prime for victimization.

“Research on developing countries will often lump sexual assault, physical assault and robbery together and sometimes studies expand to examine all types of victimization to increase the report record count,” Stein said.

Using data from the International Crime Victimization Survey from 45 countries, Stein reviewed physical and sexual assault victimization statistics at the national level to determine whether the societal structures around victims played a part in the frequency of attacks.

Sexual victimization is defined as incidents where, “people sometimes grab, touch, or assault others for sexual reasons in a really offensive way.” Physical victimization is defined as “being threatened or personally attacked by someone in a way that really frightened you.” The sample was limited to females only.

A variety of factors contributing to victimization exist. These can range from how often a female goes out for leisure activities (go to a bar, to a restaurant, to see friends), whether she lives alone, and age.

“Because individuals’ routines matter for victimization risk, it is important to educate people so they can become more aware of how their everyday activities might increase their risk for certain types of victimization,” Stein said. “However, individual routines are not the only contributing factor to victimization.

A woman’s surrounding environment also plays a risk, Stein said.

“One example is the unequal distribution of resources, such as formal conflict resolution, in countries with high levels of inequality. If policies are to effectively reduce the risk of victimization, they need to consider not only the lifestyles of individuals, but the context in which these activities take place.”

The paper was featured in the December 2014 issue of the International Criminal Justice Review and was recognized with the 2014 Richard J. Terrill Paper of the Year Award.

This is the second time Stein has been recognized with this award, receiving it in 2010 for her paper “The Utility of Country Structure: A Cross-National Multi-Level Analysis of Property and Violent Victimization.”

 

Source:  sciencedaily.com

FRANCIS CRICK high on LSD discovering structure of DNA

FRANCIS CRICK

FRANCIS CRICK

FRANCIS CRICK, the Nobel Prize-winning father of modern genetics, was under the influence of LSD when he first deduced thedouble-helix structure of DNA nearly 50 years ago.

The abrasive and unorthodox Crick and his brilliant American co-researcher James Watson famously celebrated their eureka moment in March 1953 by running from the now legendary Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge to the nearby Eagle pub, where they announced over pints of bitter that they had discovered the secret of life.

Crick, who died ten days ago, aged 88, later told a fellow scientist that he often used small doses of LSD then an experimental drug used in psychotherapy to boost his powers of thought. He said it was LSD, not the Eagle’s warm beer, that helped him to unravel the structure of DNA, the discovery that won him the Nobel Prize.

Despite his Establishment image, Crick was a devotee of novelist Aldous Huxley, whose accounts of his experiments with LSD and another hallucinogen, mescaline, in the short stories The Doors Of Perception and Heaven And Hell became cult texts for the hippies of the Sixties and Seventies. In the late Sixties, Crick was a founder member of Soma, a legalise-cannabis group named after the drug in Huxley’s novel Brave New World. He even put his name to a famous letter to The Times in 1967 calling for a reform in the drugs laws.

It was through his membership of Soma that Crick inadvertently became the inspiration for the biggest LSD manufacturing conspiracy-the world has ever seen the multimillion-pound drug factory in a remote farmhouse in Wales that was smashed by the Operation Julie raids of the late Seventies.

Crick’s involvement with the gang was fleeting but crucial. The revered scientist had been invited to the Cambridge home of freewheeling American writer David Solomon a friend of hippie LSD guru Timothy Leary who had come to Britain in 1967 on a quest to discover a method for manufacturing pure THC, the active ingredient of cannabis.

It was Crick’s presence in Solomon’s social circle that attracted a brilliant young biochemist, Richard Kemp, who soon became a convert to the attractions of both cannabis and LSD. Kemp was recruited to the THC project in 1968, but soon afterwards devised the world’s first foolproof method of producing cheap, pure LSD. Solomon and Kemp went into business, manufacturing acid in a succession of rented houses before setting up their laboratory in a cottage on a hillside near Tregaron, Carmarthenshire, in 1973. It is estimated that Kemp manufactured drugs worth Pounds 2.5 million an astonishing amount in the Seventies before police stormed the building in 1977 and seized enough pure LSD and its constituent chemicals to make two million LSD ‘tabs’.

The arrest and conviction of Solomon, Kemp and a string of co-conspirators dominated the headlines for months. I was covering the case as a reporter at the time and it was then that I met Kemp’s close friend, Garrod Harker, whose home had been raided by police but who had not been arrested. Harker told me that Kemp and his girlfriend Christine Bott by then in jail were hippie idealists who were completely uninterested in the money they were making.

They gave away thousands to pet causes such as the Glastonbury pop festival and the drugs charity Release.

‘They have a philosophy,’ Harker told me at the time. ‘They believe industrial society will collapse when the oil runs out and that the answer is to change people’s mindsets using acid. They believe LSD can help people to see that a return to a natural society based on self-sufficiency is the only way to save themselves.

‘Dick Kemp told me he met Francis Crick at Cambridge. Crick had told him that some Cambridge academics used LSD in tiny amounts as a thinking tool, to liberate them from preconceptions and let their genius wander freely to new ideas. Crick told him he had perceived the double-helix shape while on LSD.

‘It was clear that Dick Kemp was highly impressed and probably bowled over by what Crick had told him. He told me that if a man like Crick, who had gone to the heart of human existence, had used LSD, then it was worth using. Crick was certainly Dick Kemp’s inspiration.’ Shortly afterwards I visited Crick at his home, Golden Helix, in Cambridge.

He listened with rapt, amused attention to what I told him about the role of LSD in his Nobel Prize-winning discovery. He gave no intimation of surprise. When I had finished, he said: ‘Print a word of it and I’ll sue.’

 

Source:  miqel.com