Rheumatoid Arthritis and the Cell Cycle

This is a paper in which Sci has a certain amount of personal investment. You see, Sci has a family member who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis. And when I say suffer, I mean she suffers terribly. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where you own body attacks the lining of the membranes between your joints. The result is painful swelling and stiffness (arthritis) which usually affects the smaller joints first (like your fingers) and which can severely impair your quality of life. Symptoms can wax and wane, but right now there is no cure, and treatments (which include things like aspirin or harder pain killers, steroids, and other immunosuppressants) are often not very effective and have a large number of side effects.
About 1% of the population is affected, and while the disease isn’t itself fatal, it does shorten your lifespan by about 5-10 years, and seriously affects quality of life. Sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis often can’t work and daily living is often impaired. So even though it’s not a large population of people, it’s still very important to find better treatments and attempt to find a cure to improve the lives of those who suffer from the disease.
And so this paper looks at two different proteins that might be able to help the disease…by controlling cell division. In fact, one of them is the SAME protein that Sci wrote about a few weeks ago when she looked at the incredible healing mouse. Interestingly, that mouse apparently is used for some autoimmune disease studies like lupus. Hmmmm.
ResearchBlogging.org Nasu et al. “Adenoviral transfer of cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitory genes suppresses collagen induced arthritis in mice” Journal of Immunology, 2000.
(Does anyone else always worry they are spelling “arthritis” wrong? It’s one of those words that look wrong if you look at it too long)
Anyway, let me introduce to you…the arthritic mouse:
(ok, they don’t really look like that, but it’s cute!)

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Walking and Obesity: The City Life vs the Country Life

Sci rather wishes this study were done in mice, if only so she could write “the city mouse and the country mouse” in her title. But it was done in humans, which was really probably a good thing.
This post has some background. Sci was sitting around with her lab one day, shootin’ the breeze like you do when it’s Friday and science has you cross-eyed, and we were talking about going to meetings in exotic locales. We were talking about one especially large city, and one person in the group said “you know, what’s amazing about cities is how THIN everyone is”. And everyone in the group nodded sagely and said it was always shocking to go to large cities and realize how skinny everyone was.
But, being a scientist, Sci wondered…is this really true? Are people thinner in the city and thicker in the country, and if so, why? Is it just our perception, due to some cities featured on TV being full of starving artists and lots of plastic surgery? Is it universal? Is it just among the upper class? What about the urban poor? And is it due to all the walking, or is it just because of increased populations of starving artists?
And that’s not all. Sci just hopped up and moved to a new, Very Large City, and for the first week or so, my feet DEFINITELY noticed the walking increase. The blisters on my feet especially. Apparently every other female on the planet knew about those gel insoles to help you wear pretty shoes, but Sci apparently flunked that part of her “how to be a girl” exam.
So relationships between physical activity and obesity? Sci shot off an email to Travis of Obesity Panacea. Travis sent her a paper citation. Let’s do this.
ResearchBlogging.org Frank et al. “Obesity relationships with community design, physical activity, and time spent in cars” American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 2004.
(Put on your walking shoes! Sci hates those obligatory pictures of obese people next to pictures of people who are obviously models. This one is better.)

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Homeopathy: the basics

I feel kind of weird doing a post on homeopathy. But it drives me crazy when people talk about homeopathy as though it is the poor unfortunate soul of modern scientific medicine. So this is an “info” post. I’ve read a lot of blogs out there, and many of them attack homeopathy without explaining why they think it’s bunk, and many people defend homeopathy without knowing what it is they are defending. And I hate when people say things, and then look like idiots because they didn’t know ANYTHING about what they were saying. Sci has done this in the past, and wants to save you all from the same embarrassment.
Ah, homeopathy. Almost everyone has an opinion, and opinions are very strong. I managed to find only one article that I could say made an effort to be unbiased, looking at various studies done and whether the studies were enough to determine effects. This article is actually a statement from the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education by Johnson et al in 2007, and it’s an article about homeopathy and how it should be covered by those in pharmaceutical practice. So I’m relying pretty heavily on that one article, with other articles as supplement. I do think this stuff is bunk, but this is not about what I think. Rather, it’s about what homeopathic remedies are, and how they are purported to work.
I’ve tried to talk to several people about this post, and every single one of them started out saying “Ooh! Homeopathy! Can you tell me about [insert herbal remedy/ Airborne/ Zinc tablets/ aromatherapy]?!”
I wish I could, and maybe if you ask me a specific question about a specific herbal remedy, I can (hint for possible future posts). Unfortunately, homeopathy is not ABOUT that. Recently, homeopathy has come to mean pretty much anything in the way of alternative therapy, from aromatherapy and herbal remedies to pressure points and chiropractic techniques. But homeopathy itself is actually something very different. It doesn’t mean that homeopathy doesn’t often coincide with herbal remedies or aromatherapy, many homeopathic remedies are herbal in origin. But what I will be covering today is homeopathy in the very strictest sense.
So, for the record. Homeopathy ≠ herbal remedies. A lot of people say stuff like “you scientists hate homeopathy, but herbs can have many medical properties”. Yes, herbs can have many medical properties, and many researchers are still looking at plants to isolate possible active ingredients for new drugs. We wouldn’t even have aspirin if the Bayer company hadn’t started questioning why people took Willow infusions for headaches (willow bark contains salisylic acid, which is a relative of acetylsalisylic acid, or asprin). But herbal remedies like those are NOT homeopathy. The difference lies in how homeopathic remedies are made and the theory behind how they work.

What is Homeopathy?

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Zicam and your Nose

Sci saw this post recently at Dr. Pal’s place, and it rang some major bells in her head. So, I figure, I’ve got to cover it myself, now don’t I.
ResearchBlogging.org Lim et al. “Zican-induced damage to mouse and human nasal tissue” PLoS ONE, 2009.
So let’s start with a couple of things:
1) What is Zicam?
2) Why was it recalled?
3) What are the possible effects of zinc on the common cold?

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HFCS: the good, the bad, and the sinfully sweet

Since I started grad school in physiology, I get a lot of questions from friends and family about the science that goes on in their daily lives. It’s part of the reason why I decided to start blogging in the first place, to finally give people well-researched, thought-out, and long (yeah, they’re usually very long) answers to their questions. I can’t answer all questions, obviously, but when it comes to something I can research on Pubmed, the world is my oyster!
One of the questions I’ve gotten most often goes something like this: “What is high fructose corn syrup and why is it evil”, or “I know high fructose corn syrup is evil, but why?” It’s taken Sci a lot of time to think about answering these questions. It’s not because I can’t access the information, but rather because I know that, whatever I end up telling people, I’m going to get a response like “OMG! You are in the pocket of teh evil cornz industries!” or “You just hate corn! You are a horrible evil cornz haters!” The reality is that Sci is neither of these things.
But, despite possible repercussions on Sci’s relationship with corn, I want to answer the question. Especially because the New York Times is bringing back the corn syrup debate. And so today, Sci will attempt to talk about High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). In an effort to check this out I did a big literature search. I was careful to choose articles from researchers that didn’t receive company money as well as those that did. Citation list will be at the end.
Image via alibaba.com, where apparently you can buy this stuff in little bottles. Who knew?

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OMG, oldest TB evar!

This is one of those weeks where there is SO much to blog about and so little time to do it in! How shall I ever get to it all! This article actually came out on Tuesday, which means of course that others have now been there before me, but I like this paper a LOT and so I’m going to cover it anyway.
Hershkovitz et al. “Detection and molecular characterization of 9000-year-old mycobacterium tubuerculosis from a neolithic settlement in the eastern mediterranean”. PLoS ONE, 3(10), 2008.

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Complete speculation on the health of John McCain

Some people have been noticing erratic behavior from republican nominee John McCain lately. His most recent seems to be slight, but rather odd. Specifically, he appears to have developed ptosis— a drooping eyelid— which could of course be related to any number of causes, from an autoimmune attack on cholinergic receptors such as that seen in myasthenia gravis, to diabetes.
Ptosis can also be the result of a brain tumor that affects the oculomotor nerve (cranial nerve III). Sudden development of the condition at old age following multiple bouts of melanoma (which has a penchant for metastasizing to the brain) would seem to be cause for concern, so I wonder if any neurologists would like to weigh in?
McCain also seems to be hiring a very expensive makeup artist who may be assisting in the coverup of the condition. I really, really wish he’d release his medical records in full so that people can stop speculating about the ramifications of a chronically ill president with a potentially untreatable brain tumor, and his vice president with all the foreign policy experience and political saavy of a Hun.