Yearly Archives: 2008

Starting knowledge on rejuvenation of the brain

Researchers at my former alma mater, UBC, have discovered why the brain loses its capacity to re-grow connections and repair itself, knowledge that could lead to therapeutics that “rejuvenate” the brain.

The study, published in The EMBO Journal, identified a set of proteins — calpain and cortactin, which regulate and control the sprouting of neurons — a mechanism known as neural plasticity.

Read more here.

Do fairy tales prime children for religion?

In an eloquent piece published in the WSJ, Tony Woodleif writes about how Richard Dawkins believes that fairy tales promote “anti-scientific” thinking among children. Dawkins has a point, but Woodleif’s point was just as strong, if not stronger. Such tales also teach children to believe in the impossible. If humans didn’t believe in the impossible, we wouldn’t have air travel or a host of other things we now think of as science.

Injectable artificial bone developed

According to Cosmos Magazine:

“Artificial ‘injectable bone’ that flows like toothpaste, and hardens in the body, has been invented by British scientists.

This new regenerative medicine technology provides a scaffold for the formation of blood vessels and bone tissue, and can also deliver stem cells directly to the site of bone repair, say the researchers.

“Injectable bone is the first delivery system for stem cells and growth factors that forms a material with the strength of a bone,” said Robin Quirk, a pharmacist and co-founder of RegenTec – the University of Nottingham, In England, spin-off company commercialising the technology.”

Hat tip to KurzweilAI.net for the news source.

Self-powering sensors to transmit data

Cnet reports that “Engineers at Kansas State University have developed a radio with sensors and microprocessors that can transmit data and is self-sufficient when it comes to power. The device, called by the engineers an “energy-harvesting radio,” is essentially a wireless sensor with microprocessor and radio that can transfer a flash of data gathered by the sensor every few seconds.”

Note to Obama: The FCC Needs Transparency

This week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee released a report accusing Kevin Martin, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, of being deceptive and opaque in his management of the agency’s affairs. That a politician would pull such moves is no surprise, but the report should send a strong signal to the incoming Obama administration.

“Chairman Martin withheld important and relevant data from the other Commissioners during their consideration of the 13th Annual Video Competition Report in an apparent attempt to enable the Commission to regulate cable television companies,” the report states.

This finding was one of many pointing out how the Chairman wielded his power inappropriately.

It is common knowledge that Chairman Martin personally dislikes the cable companies. This animosity seems to be what drove his reintroduction of a rule to require a 30-percent market share cap on cable companies. In 2001, the U.S. Court of Appeals struck down a similar cap; since then, competition in the video services market has skyrocketed.

When asked why Chairman Martin would reintroduce a rule already rejected by the courts, Joy Sims, a spokesperson for the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, simply said, “Look at the House report issued today.”

One man’s vendetta, the report reveals, has the ability to influence an entire industry. To those who marvel at that reality, Berin Szoka of the Progress and Freedom Foundation explains that “the FCC is one of the most unaccountable agencies. The problem is not isolated to Chairman Martin, but was probably worse under him because of his war on cable.”

[...]

Read more here.

CA & NY lead in Centenarian numbers

This bit of data was re-posted from Parade magazine on the GRG mailing list today. The numbers are of course projected to grow.

How many people in this country are 100 or older?

At the time of the last census, in the year 2000, the U.S. had about 50,000 centenarians. The largest number (5341) lived in California, followed by 3997 in New York. Perhaps more revealing, the two states with the highest proportion of their populations 100 years or older were South Dakota (one out of every 3056 people) and Iowa (one out of every 3110 people).

Using lasers to heal cuts

From MIT Tech Review:

“Many believe that lasers should be used not just to create wounds but to mend them too. Abraham Katzir, a physicist at Tel Aviv University, has a system that may just do the trick and is proving successful in its first human trials.

In principle, “laser-bonded” healing offers certain advantages over classic needle-and-thread sutures, including faster healing, decreased risk of infection, and less scarring. Researchers have been working toward flesh-welding lasers for more than a decade, and a number of human trials have shown promise. But what was lacking, until now, was consistency.”

Immigrants more likely to be entrepreneurs

This, from BusinessWeek, is no surprise to those of us living in Silicon Valley.

“a November 2008 study by Robert W. Fairlie, a professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz, gives the strongest evidence to date that critics of open-immigration policies have misjudged the impact of immigrants on the U.S. economy.

Issued under the auspices of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the peer-reviewed study pulled data from three large, nationally representative government data sets, and found that immigrants are almost 30 percent more likely to launch a business than non-immigrants. According to the study, roughly 16.7 percent of all new business owners in this country are immigrants, yet immigrants make up only 12.2 percent of the workforce in the U.S. [...]“

Light syringe could target cancer

From Cnet news:

“Professor Kishan Dholakia and Dr. Frank Gunn-Moore–both of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland–say the “light saber” could be used routinely on cancer patients within the next five years.

The method would allow chemotherapy drugs to be pumped directly into cancer cells. The researchers believe hard-to-reach cancers such as that of the pancreas would especially benefit. “

Can heavy water have an impact on longevity?

From the UK’s Daily Mail:

“Scientists believe that ‘heavy water’ enriched with a rare form of hydrogen could add as much as 10 years to life.

Foods, from steak to eggs, could also be modified to allow us to eat and drink our way to a healthy old age. The idea is the brainchild of Mikhail Shchepinov, a former Oxford University scientist, who counts controversial ageing guru Aubrey de Grey among his admirers.

It centres on fortifying the body’s tissues and cells against attack and decay caused by free radicals, dangerous chemicals produced when food is turned into energy. [...]“

Rate of new cancer cases drops for first time in US

This is great news, particularly since the American population is aging and cancer tends to strike older people at higher rates.

From Reuters:

“Cancer rates have dropped for the first time in the United States and previous declines in cancer deaths are accelerating, a report released on Tuesday showed as cancer-fighting efforts produced solid results. [...]

The report, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, detailed progress in cutting new cases of the three most common kinds of cancers among men — lung, colorectal and prostate — and the two most common types among women — breast and colorectal. It also showed a leveling off of women’s lung cancer death rates.”

Eli Lilly looks towards personalized medicine

According to the Arizona Republic, “The chairman of Eli Lilly & Co. said the future of the pharmaceutical industry rests not with blockbuster drugs but with targeted therapies that work for smaller groups of people based on their biological makeup.” This is no huge surprise for those following biotech, but it is a significant departure for big pharma. In related news, Venture Beat says today that “Mohr Davidow Ventures, a Menlo Park, Calif. firm, has hired two biotech experts to help it make prudent investments in personalized healthcare companies.”

It’s a personalized medicine party.

Biomarkers found to predict biological age

For the longest time, scientists haven’t had tools at their disposal to measure biological (as opposed to simple chronological) age. They finally found some doing research on worms and plan more studies as well. This is a big deal as “examining biomarkers over time would provide a scientific baseline for clinical trials of anti-aging medicines, which is currently impossible to determine given the lengthy lifetime of human beings.” The Buck Institute’s Simon Melov was the lead author of the study.

From their press release:

“Scientists at the Buck Institute for Age Research have identified for the first time biomarkers of aging which are highly predictive of both chronological and physiological age. Biomarkers are biochemical features that can be used to measure the progress of disease or the effects of treatment. The research involves nematode worms, microarrays which measure changes in gene expression, and complex computer algorithms. This is the first step toward identifying similar biomarkers in humans which would provide a means of scientifically validating anti-aging therapies. The research is due to appear in the November 20, 2008 online edition of Aging Cell.”

Cure for Type 1 diabetes in mice

From Scientific American:

“A new study shows that the cancer drugs imatinib (also known as Gleevec by Novartis) and sunitinib (Sutent, made by Pfizer) halt diabetes in mice.

A team from the University of California, San Francisco and Berkeley-based drug maker Plexxikon found that most of the mice manipulated to have Type 1 diabetes no longer had diabetes symptoms after just a few weeks on either of the two drugs.”

New windpipe made using patient’s own stem cells

From the TimesOnline:

“A woman has been given a new section of windpipe created from her own stem cells in an operation that could revolutionise surgery.

Claudia Castillo, 30, who lives in Barcelona, has become the first person to be given a whole organ tailor-made for her in laboratories across Europe.

A graft from a donor was used, but because it has been imbued with Ms Castillo’s own cells, there is no sign that her body will reject the organ.”

Where Are the Japanese Googles?

Japanese consumers are known to be ardent gadget lovers, but that doesn’t mean that technology development is thriving in Japan. In fact, the country has been surprisingly inhospitable to entrepreneurs, as I recently discovered when I traveled to Tokyo for the Silicon Valley Connect trip. That could change, though — especially if smart people from the two countries connect and work together.

Read my article here.

Pfizer is getting into stem cell research

From Bloomberg News:

“Doctors may someday slow or reverse the aging process with drugs that stimulate the body to repair itself as a result of research undertaken by Pfizer Inc.

Pfizer, the world’s largest drugmaker, will spend $100 million during the next five years to harness stem cells to treat heart disease, diabetes and vision loss common among the elderly, said Ruth McKernan, the scientist heading the program. “

New camera pill by Philips

According to Cnet News:

“Philips Research is out with a new intelligent camera pill that can be electronically preprogrammed to deliver targeted doses of medicine to patients with digestive disorders such as Crohn’s disease, colitis, and colon cancer. The device comes in the form of an 11 mm x 26 mm capsule that patients swallow with water, just like any other pill. It’s designed to pass through the digestive tract of its own accord…”

Pretty cool.