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Sunday, 9 November 2008

General weirdness

On today's edition:

  1. Cocaine 'flush' could be first anti-overdose drug
  2. Could brain scans ever be safe evidence?
  3. Nanomagnets in disguise help fill in the detail
  4. Human immune cells grown in pigs

General weirdness is a very good title, you'll find out when you read the articles. All the 4 of them are somewhat erm freak. Anyway, enjoy!
First, check out this awesome video:

It's amazing what creature dwell in the water, right?

Cocaine 'flush' could be first anti-overdose drug

  • 02 September 2008

BY TWEAKING a naturally occurring enzyme, chemists have created a molecule that could flush a cocaine overdose out of the body before it can cause irreparable damage to the central nervous system.

If the enzyme works in humans, it would be the first therapy to remove the drug from a user's body. Currently, doctors can only relieve the symptoms of a cocaine overdose, by lowering the patient's temperature and reducing their heart rate.

Enzymes in the body combine cocaine with water and then, over a sequence of reaction steps, break it down into two harmless products. But this process is very slow – it takes up to 90 minutes to dispose of even a tiny dose, and much longer for a large overdose.

Now Zhan and his colleagues say they have a way to speed up the natural process. By modifying one of the enzymes, they have created a molecule that can break down cocaine much faster.
When they gave 18 mice a highly toxic dose of cocaine, the 12 that they also injected with the
modified enzyme all survived, with only two suffering seizures. The six controls, which did not
receive the enzyme, died.
Because only five of the 574 amino acids that make up the naturally occurring enzyme
are changed in the modified enzyme, the team suggests that their overdose therapy should
have few side effects in humans.source
My comment: Now, if you ask what's cool about that, it's simple-many people die from overdose, not always because they were addicted. Like those girls that transport cocaine in their breast implants or whatever. Now, those people will stand a chance of actually living. And that's always nice.

Could brain scans ever be safe evidence?

  • 03 October 2008
  • Linda Geddes

DONNA insists that she met friends for lunch on the afternoon of 25 January 2008 and did not violate a restraining order against Marie. But Marie told police that Donna broke the terms of the order by driving up to her car while it was stopped at a traffic light, yelling and cursing, and then driving off.

A polygraph test proved unsatisfactory: every time Marie's name was mentioned Donna's responses went sky-high. But when Donna approached Cephos of Tyngsboro, Massachusetts, for an fMRI scan, which picks up changes in blood flow and oxygenation in the brain, it was a different story.

"Her results indicated that she was telling the truth about the January 25 incident," says Steven Laken of Cephos, who maintains that when people are lying, more areas of the brain "light up" than when they are telling the truth (see the scans of Donna's brain).

Laken claims that when the police saw Donna’s fMRI results, they dropped the investigation
against her – although Donna’s cellphone records also corroborate her story.
Cephos, which started offering commercial testing in the US earlier this year, is one of several
companies that claim they can show whether someone is lying using fMRI. Until recently, these
firms claimed they could detect lies up to 90 per cent of the time.

However, last week, at a symposium on neuroscience, law and government at the University of Akron in Ohio, Laken announced that Cephos had achieved an accuracy of 97 per cent. The secret, he said, it to ask questions in small chunk rather than as a continuous
stream, a tweak that allows the brain to “come back to a resting normal state before you ask
another series of questions”, leading to clearer results.
Laken hopes to pass another, more controversial milestone before early next year: getting what is essentially crude mind-reading admitted as evidence into the US courtroom.
Will he succeed? The decision will be made on a trial-by-trial basis by judges who will likely
turn to a set of criteria known as the Daubert standard, which say that scientific evidence accepted in a US court must be testable an produce consistent results, be “This explosion in neuroscience is something that courts are going to have to consider and we’re not really ready for it yet peer reviewed and published, have known error rates and have gained acceptance by the scientific community.
Laken argues that fMRI meet these criteria and is a widely accepted technology cited in
more than 10,000 scientific publications.

One criticism is that the vast majority of fMRI studies do not focus on its use in lie detection
specifically. Nor on criminals trying to lie.

People may also be able to trick the test. It is well known that people can defeat the polygraph
by controlling their breathing when they are lying, and by trying to artificially increase their heart rate during control questions.

Laken argues that fMRI is harder to fool than the polygraph because it monitors changes in
the brain during the formulation of a lie, rather than the stress responses associated with lying.
Greely counters this by pointing out there may be other ways to trick fMRI. At least one study suggests that fMRI scans of people who are telling spontaneous lies look quite different to those of people telling a planned lie.

What’s more, because fMRI is motion-sensitive, you need a cooperative subject. Someone
who doesn’t want to be scanned just has to move their head or even their tongue inside their
mouth to scupper the results.

Even if independent studies confirm Cephos’s results, there will still be questions about the
ethics of using fMRI in court. “It would be an invasion of what we see as a typical jury function:
judging credibility,” says Moriarty. “I think people also see it as invasive of people’s privacy
on some level that courts find discomforting.”source

My comment: Now, I already posted on that, since I find it outrageous. If it is your basic right to be silent and not talk when it can and will be used against you, how about if they read your thoughts! Isn't that a contradiction? Because for me it is. If you want to prove you're innocent by it-ok, but if you don't want to use it, you shouldn't be considered guilty! I mean come on, there are so many people that can focus or visualise to an immense degree. If you put them on the fMRI and they get them selves into a delta state and basically ignore anything, and you compare them with a very emotional person, what do you think you'll see! The brain is merely a tool and some people have mastered it way to well. Get real! And in any case, you shouldn't have the right to use it, because it violates probably all the human rights you can think of.

Nanomagnets in disguise help fill in the detail

SURGEONS about to perform delicate operations on the heart or major blood vessels need the
clearest pictures they can get. Magnetic nanoparticles injected into the bloodstream will help
reveal fine details on MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans – but there’s a snag. The
particles quickly accumulate in the liver, which then removes them from the body.

Now Mauro Magnani of the University of Urbino in Italy and his team have found a way to get
the tiny particles to spend longer in the bloodstream, by hiding them inside living red blood cells.
To do this, the team first immerse the blood cells in a watery solution, which causes them to swell. This opens pores in their membranes, allowing nanoparticles to drift into the cells. They become trapped when the cells are returned to a solution more like blood and the pores
close up again (Journal of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, DOI: 10.1166/jnn.2008.190).
When the treated cells are injected back into the bloodstream, they remain there until they
are destroyed naturally, which normally takes about four months.
During this time, the nanoparticle payload can be used to help visualise the circulatory system.
Magnani has already used magnetic blood cells to image the , hearts of mice. “We can see the
circulatory system, the heart and the heart cavities,” he says. He is . safely be used in humans. The nanoparticles are already approved for direct injection into patients’ bloodstreams, and
red blood cells have been used as drug delivery vehicles in several

Thousand people with no serious side effects so far. If the procedure is used, only a small fraction of a person’s red blood cells will carry the particles, Magnani points out.

Mohammed Hamady, a consultant radiologist at Imperial NHS Trust in London, says the

technique could be particularly useful for monitoring patients after treatment to patch up an
aortic aneurysm, a swelling in the wall of the largest artery in the body. Blood sometimes leaks out from the repair, and this can be difficult to detect.

My comment: This is actually an article I already posted, but this time, you have it a more complete way. The source is private. Buy the article from NewScientist to read it. But please check out to what advanced state the research is. Again, this could be the next big thing in medecine.

Human immune cells grown in pigs

INDIVIDUAL “piggy banks” of immune cells might one day be used to boost our own immune
systems or to fight HIV and cancer. The immune cells would be grown in piglets from each
patient’s own cells.

Our immune system’s T-cells, which play a key role in fighting off diseases, are “primed” in childhood to fight particular pathogens. This plasticity diminishes after puberty,
but Jeffrey Platt at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, has come up with a way to revive it.

He reckons that if a human’s immune cells are transferred into a young pig, they could become primed like a child’s, then implanted back into the person they came from.

To see if growing a human immune system inside pigs is possible, Platt and his colleagues
extracted stem cells from human umbilical cord blood and bone marrow, and injected them into
developing pig fetuses. Lacking a mature immune system, the fetuses accepted the foreign
tissue as their own, and when the piglets were born Platt found that the injected cells had multiplied and matured into a diverse range of human T-cells, alongside the
pig’s own immune cells.

The researchers separated out the human T-cells from the pig’s blood and mixed some of them with ordinary cells from the person whose cells had been injected into the fetus. The
extracted T-cells did not mount an immune attack, indicating that it should be possible to implant them back into the donor, but they did attack cells from other people, showing they were functional (Tissue Engineering A, DOI: 10.1089/ten.tea.2008.0117).

The piglets could also be used to make human cells that fight specific diseases. When Platt
vaccinated some of them against the pig pathogens parvovirus and Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae, human T-cells extracted from these animals mounted an
immune response to the pathogens. As these are human cells, this immunity must have
developed inside the pig.

“If I had HIV, I could put my stem cells in pigs and immunise them with an HIV vaccine,” says
Platt. This might work better that giving the vaccine to the person directly, as an adult’s immune
system is often too mature to react. “You would get immunity used for this. Platt says that the
necessary technology is available now, if regulatory authorities can be convinced that the procedure can be safely tested in humans.

The fear is that dormant pig viruses buried in their DNA could spread to humans, but Platt
says that this has never been shown to happen except in highly artificial laboratory conditions.
Another potential danger is that human-derived cells might pick up surface molecules from
the pig. “This could make the transferred cells themselves targets for immune destruction,”
My comment: I find this study very intriguing. Yes, it's risky and I don't think that the risks mentioned in the article are the worst but in any case, it presents new opportunities for fighting immune-based diseases. And in cases when they kill off the patient's immune system, this way they could transplant back cells to the patient after some selective breeding. Probably.

1 comment:

Shea said...

enjoyed this very much, interesting