Xenophilia (True Strange Stuff)

Blog of the real Xenophilius Lovegood, a slightly mad scientist

Archive for December 9th, 2010

‘Diamond exoplanet’ idea boosted by telescope find

Posted by Anonymous on December 9, 2010

Artist's impression of Wasp 12bA US-British team of astronomers has discovered the first planet with ultra-high concentrations of carbon.

The researchers say their discovery supports the idea there may be carbon-rich, rocky planets whose terrains are made up of diamonds or graphite.

“You might see land masses and mountains made up of diamonds,” the lead researcher Dr Nikku Madhusudhan told BBC News.

The study in Nature journal raises new questions about how planets are formed.

The work has been described as an astonishing astronomical tour de force.

They have detected the thermal radiation (heat) from a planet 1,200 light years away using Nasa’s Spitzer Space Telescope.

From this information they have calculated the composition of its atmosphere, according to Dr Marek Kukula of the Royal Greenwich Observatory in London.

“It is absolutely astonishing that these scientists are able to start to tease out the details of what planets around other stars are made of,” he said.

“The planet is thousands of times fainter than the star it orbits. So the scientists have to perform an amazing feat of precision measurement to extract anything at all. …

via BBC News – ‘Diamond exoplanet’ idea boosted by telescope find.

No reason to doubt that there are diamond planets… but just keep in mind that an entire planet vanished once due to a miscalculation.

Posted in Space | 1 Comment »

Avoid Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice for Urinary Tract Infection

Posted by Anonymous on December 9, 2010

The title of this article was “Cranberry Juice Fails to Prevent Recurrent Urinary Tract Infection: Results From a Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial”, but that is misleading.

 

Drinking cranberry juice has been recommended to decrease the incidence of urinary tract infections, based on observational studies and a few small clinical trials.  However, a new study published in the January 1 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, and now available online, suggests otherwise.

College-aged women who tested positive for having a urinary tract infection were assigned to drink eight ounces of cranberry juice or a placebo twice a day for either six months or until a recurrence of a urinary tract infection, whichever happened first.  Of the participants who suffered a second urinary tract infection, the cranberry juice drinkers had a recurrence rate of almost 20 percent, while those who drank the placebo suffered only a 14 percent recurrence.

via IDsociety

I suspected they used sweetened cranberry juice, so I looked at the methods section of this study:

… Participants were randomly assigned to drink either 8 oz of 27% low-calorie cranberry juice cocktail twice per day or 8 oz of placebo juice twice per day for the test period of 6 months. Study juices were packaged and distributed by Fisher BioServices. Cranberry juice was provided by Ocean Spray Cranberries and was formulated under contract with NCCAM to fulfill research requirements of RFA.AT-03-004 grantees. A Drug Master File for this research grade—low-calorie juice cocktail (LCJC)—is on file with the United States Food and Drug Administration. Research juice was formulated to be similar to the commercially available Ocean Spray LCJC and was sweetened with Splenda (sucralose), exactly as is the retail juice. Commercially grown cranberries from Vaccinum macrocarpon Aiton were used for the juice production. Batches of LCJC were standardized for proanthocyanidin content. Proanthocyanidin is the cranberry juice component that is thought to produce the antiadhering activity against E. coli [20]. Each dose consisted of one 8-oz bottle (240 mL) containing a mean proanthocyanidin concentration of 112 mg per dose (range, 83–136 mg; standard deviation, ±14.1 mg), as measured by Fisher Bioservices by the DMAC(N,N-dimethyacetamicle) method. The placebo juice was formulated by Ocean Spray to imitate the flavor (sugar and acidity) and color of the cranberry beverage, without any cranberry content. In addition to other food and pharmaceutical-grade substances, both juices contained ascorbic acid in their formulations. Fisher Bioservices used identical bottles for the cranberry juice and the placebo beverage. All study juice (cranberry and placebo) was stored under refrigerated conditions (2–8oC) until delivery to study participants.

Patients were instructed to refrain from cranberry- or blueberry-containing foods during the study period. Study juice was delivered to participant’s home every 1–2 weeks starting on the day of enrollment in order to promote compliance. …

via Cranberry Juice Fails to Prevent Recurrent Urinary Tract Infection: Results From a Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial — Clin Infect Dis.

According to foodInsight, sucralose appears in over 4,000 products and bacteria can’t eat it, so it doesn’t produce tooth decay. However, another site says bacteria can feed on sucralose:

Splenda, aka sucralose, is a sucrose-like molecule. Basically, they have added Chlorine atoms to sucrose to make it indigestible by humans. However, since it is not digestible by us, it does not get absorbed and passes down the GI tract. It is digestible by bacteria. So in essence, if you consume sucralose, you are sending down an energy source to the bacteria you are trying to starve. So sucralose is not allowed.

That, if true, would by itself make this study inconclusive. But there’s another negative to consider. Splenda is the trade name for sucralose,  a synthetic compound,  sugar modified by adding chlorine atoms, discovered in the 1970s by researchers looking to create a new pesticide. It concentrates in the gastrointestinal tract.

… The human body is very good at detoxifying itself of certain substances, but this is not the case with organochlorine compounds, which are organic compounds that have been chlorinated. Dioxin, one organochlorine compound that is a by-product of the paper bleaching process, is 300,000 times more carcinogenic than DDT, an insecticide that was banned because of its toxicity. These compounds have been linked to birth defects, cancer, and immune dysfunction. These chemicals stay in the body and accumulate over time. According to the Sucralose Toxicity Information Center, the absorbed sucralose and its metabolites (chemically altered substances) concentrate in the liver, kidney, and gastrointestinal tract. Splenda manufacturers claim there is minimal absorption of Splenda and its metabolites. The FDA says there is only 11 percent to 27 percent absorption, but the Japanese Food Sanitation Council says as much as 40 percent is absorbed by the body.

According to claims by the manufacturer, the chlorine part of the sucralose molecule is similar to the chorine part of common table salt (NaCl – Sodium Chloride). However, some would caution that using sucralose may be more like ingesting small amounts of chlorinated pesticides like DDT. … Research in animals has shown:

  1. Up to 40 percent shrinkage of the thymus gland. (Critical for the response to disease – the ‘heart’ of our immune system)
  2. Enlarged liver and kidneys
  3. Atrophy of lymph follicles
  4. Reduced growth rate

- via DownToEarth

In my view this study is not examining the action of cranberry juice on UTI, it is examining OceanSpray’s formula including Splenda. The researchers don’t take into account the possible damaging effects of Splenda on the immune system. Repeat this study with unsweetened organic cranberry juice, and they might find what other placebo controlled studies have.

(1.) Jepson RG, Mihaljevic L, Craig J. Cranberries for preventing urinary tract infections. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2001: CD001321.

Seven trials met the inclusion criteria (four cross-over, three parallel group). The effectiveness of cranberry juice (or cranberry-lingonberry juice) versus placebo juice or water was evaluated in six trials, and the effectiveness of cranberries tablets versus placebo was evaluated in two trials (one study evaluated both juice and tablets). In two good quality RCTs, cranberry products significantly reduced the incidence of UTIs at twelve months (RR 0.61 95% CI:0.40 to 0.91) compared with placebo/control in women. One trial gave 7.5 g cranberry concentrate daily (in 50 ml), the other gave 1:30 concentrate given either in 250 ml juice or in tablet form. There was no significant difference in the incidence of UTIs between cranberry juice versus cranberry capsules (RR 1.11 95% CI:0.49 to 2.50). Five trials were not included in the meta-analyses due to methodological flaws or lack of available data. However, only one reported a significant result for the outcome of symptomatic UTIs. Side effects were common in all trials, and dropouts/withdrawals in several of the trials were high.

via NIH

 

Posted in Biology | 7 Comments »

Autism breakthrough: Researchers identify possible drug for impaired sociability

Posted by Anonymous on December 9, 2010

Dan Shuman – Eastern Virginia Medical School researchers have identified a potential novel treatment strategy for the social impairment of people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), an aspect of the condition that has a profound impact on quality of life.

“Persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders are either disinterested in social interactions or find them unpleasant. They often don’t understand what other people are thinking or feeling and misinterpret social cues,” said Stephen I. Deutsch, MD, PhD, the Ann Robinson Chair and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. “Sadly, persons with autism spectrum disorders are often painfully aware of their limited sociability, which can lead to profound feelings of sadness and frustration.”

As part of their research, EVMS scientists verified that a specific mouse strain, known as the BALB/c mouse, is a valid animal model of the limited sociability seen in persons with ASD. In the presence of another mouse, BALB/c mice move as far away as possible and do not interact as normal mice do — just like people with autism often avoid making social contact with other people.

This finding gave researchers a way to test whether an existing medication can alter the function of certain receptors in the brain known to affect sociability and help the animals be more at ease around others. The medication used, D-Cycloserine, originally was developed to treat tuberculosis, but previous studies showed, by chance, that it might change social behavior. In preliminary studies at EVMS, the medication appeared to resolve the Balb/c mouse’s deficits of sociability; it behaved as a normal mouse would when placed near another.

Dr. Deutsch will discuss the research at EVMS’ Quarterly Autism Education Series at noon, Dec. 14, in the school’s Hofheimer Hall auditorium.

EVMS’ laboratory studies with the Balb/c mouse led its investigators to hypothesize that D-Cycloserine could ease the impaired sociability of persons with autism, such as avoiding eye contact and personal interaction. Those traits can severely limit the possibility of employment and independent living for someone with autism.

“What makes this important is you might have someone with a 125 or 130 IQ who’s unemployable” because of their social impairments, said Maria R. Urbano, MD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences.

Dr. Urbano is moving this promising research from the laboratory directly to patient care by starting a pilot clinical trial of D-Cycloserine in adolescent and young adult patients with autism spectrum disorders. The trial will show whether the medication, which is already known to be safe for use in humans, has similar effects on the sociability deficits of persons with autism as it did in the mice. …

via Autism breakthrough: Researchers identify possible treatment for impaired sociability.

Great, no side effects except “… irritability, depression, psychosis convulsions…” Wait…  I think Wikipedia is missing an important comma. Is that psychosis and convulsions or are “psychosis convulsions” a special kind of convulsions?

It is also being trialed as an adjuvant to exposure therapy for anxiety disorders (e.g. phobias), depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and schizophrenia. It has been experimentally used for treatment of Gaucher’s disease. Recent research suggests that D-cycloserine … may be effective in treating chronic pain. The side effects are mainly central nervous system (CNS) manifestations, i.e. headache, irritability, depression, psychosis convulsions. Co-administration of pyridoxine can reduce the incidence of some of the CNS side effects (e.g. convulsions). These psychotropic responses are related to D-cycloserine’s action as a partial agonist of the neuronal NMDA receptor for glutamate and have been examined in implications with sensory-related fear extinction in the amygdala, and extinction of cocaine seeking in the nucleus accumbens. D-cycloserine is a partial agonist at the glycine receptor, and has been shown to have cognition-enhancing properties for models of Parkinsons disease in primates.

via Wikipedia

In any case, I don’t think a drug is going to make people much more interesting than they already are… although if I was psychotic and convulsing, I might think otherwise.

Posted in Biology, Mind | 6 Comments »

 
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