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Almost 2 million Americans have age-related macular degeneration (AMD), where the cells in the retina, which is the?layer of tissue in the back of the eye, break down, causing?central vision to bee?blurry. Over time, 100,000 of those will bee blind. An international team of scientists has identified a protein, FHR4, which is strongly linked to AMD when its levels are raised in the blood.?The findings were confirmed in 484 patient and 522 control samples from two independent collections across Europe.?FHR4 is one of a group of proteins that regulate the plement system and the genes…
In the first-ever (sanctioned) investigational use of multiple edits to the human genome, a study found that?cells edited in three specific ways and then removed from patients and brought back into the lab setting were able to kill cancer months after their original manufacturing and infusion. This is the first U.S. clinical trial to test the gene editing approach in humans, and the publication of this new data today follows on the initial report last year that researchers were able to use CRISPR/Cas9 technology to successfully edit three cancer patients' immune cells. The ongoing study is a…
A recent paper, "Higher U.S. Rural Mortality Rates Linked To Socioeconomic Status, Physician Shortages, And Lack Of Health Insurance," published in Health Affairs Journal, seeks to explain differences in rural and urban people when it es to mortality, but also rank states using county level data on outes and health care access. The study focused on five explanatory variables within each county: socioeconomic (e.g., poverty status, access to housing and education, employment), uninsured rates, the supply of and access to primary care physicians, the percentage of racial or ethnic groups…

Channel Surfing

Brain & Behavior

Almost 2 million Americans have age-related macular degeneration (AMD), where the cells in the retina, which is the?layer of tissue in the back of the eye, break down, causing?central vision to bee?blurry. Over time, 100,000 of those will bee blind. An international team of scientists has identified a protein, FHR4, which is strongly linked to AMD when its levels are raised in the blood.?…
Researchers 35 years and younger, the annual Eppendorf &Science Prize for Neurobiology, which is awarded for contributions to neurobiological research based on methods of molecular and cell biology, is now open for entries. Applying requires a 1,000-word essay and tell the prize mittee about your work. The prize is $25,000 plus Science magazine will publish an essay about your work. You'll…
Two science books cheap (Kindle version, two bucks): The Male Brain: A Breakthrough Understanding of How Men and Boys Think Dr. Louann Brizendine, the founder of the first clinic in the country to study gender differences in brain, behavior, and hormones, turns her attention to the male brain, showing how, through every phase of life, the "male reality" is fundamentally different from the female…

Education

It's not infrequently that, whenever I plain about the increasing infiltration of quackery and pseudoscience into medicine, I sometimes lament that skeptics and supporters of science-based medicine are massively outgunned, because we are. Thus, we have the continued growth of what I like to refer to as "quackademic medicine," the infiltration of pseudoscience into medical academia in the form…
I've caught a fair amount of flak over my opposition to so-called "right-to-try" laws. Right-to-try laws have proliferated throughout the US like so much kudzu over the last three and a half years, to the point where 37 states now have some version of these profoundly anti-patient laws on the books. At the federal level, three weeks ago the Senate passed a federal version of right-to-try, with…
Acupuncture is nothing more than a theatrical placebo. I wish I could take credit for the term "theatrical placebo" to describe acupuncture, just as I wish I could take credit for coining the term "quackademic medicine" to describe the unfortunately increasing infiltration of quackery into academic medical centers and medical schools and as I wish I could take credit for the term "Tooth Fairy…

Environment

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature, a coalition of activist groups which recently charged that climate change is contributing to exploitation of women, is now arguing that various factors?are causing 2,000 species of fireflies to go extinct.? They came to the conclusion?by surveying affiliates?to ask them what is driving fireflies to extinction.? According to survey…
Insects scuttle, chew and fly through the world around us. Humans rely on them to pollinate plants, prey on insects that we don’t get along with, and to be movers and shakers for Earth’s ecosystems. It’s hard to imagine a world without insects. That’s why news reports in recent months warning of an “insect apocalypse” sparked widespread alarm. These articles, which were based on long-term insect…
Natural climate solutions let nature do the hard work in the fight against climate change by restoring habitats such as forests and wetlands. This could absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and help biodiversity thrive. Stephen Woroniecki – a PhD Researcher in Climate Change Adaptation from Lund University in Sweden – discusses how this approach could address the ecological crisis with…

Free Thought

For nearly as long as I can remember, I've been a fan of Jeopardy! Indeed, if I'm at home at 7:30 PM on a weeknight, Jeopardy! will usually be on the television. Given that, I remember what was basically a bit of stunt programming in 2011, when Jeopardy! producers had IBM's artificial intelligence superputer Watson face off against two of the most winning champions in the history of the show,…
The 75th World Science Fiction Convention took place in Helsinki and seems to have had the second-highest attendance ever: more than 7000 people in the Messukeskus convention centre, 2000 of whom had (like myself) never attended a WorldCon before. There were 250 programme items only on the Friday between?10 am and?10 pm, so there is no way that I'll be able to tell you everything that went on. (…
“The ability to listen and learn is key to mastering the art of munication. If you don't use your verbal skills and networking, it will disappear rapidly.” -Rick Pitino It’s been a week full of amazing and controversial stories about the Universe here?at?Starts With A Bang!?Did you catch the fantastic live event on Wednesday at Peddler Brewing pany in Seattle: Astronomy on Tap, starring me…

Humanities

Over the last two Mondays, I've been writing about an unproven cancer therapy that I hadn't really heard much about before. The cancer treatment is called Rigvir; it is manufactured in Latvia and marketed primarily through a Latvian entity called the International Virotherapy Center (IVC). To recap, Rigvir is an unmodified Echovirus, specifically ECHO-7, that, according to the IVC, seeks out…
This blog is based in the United States, and I'm an American. Unfortunately, this produces a difficult-to-avoid baked-in bias towards medicine as it is practiced in the US and, to a lesser extent, as it is practiced in the English-speaking world, because English is my language and I can read accounts ing out of English-speaking countries. The same bias exists with respect to pseudo-medicine,…
Planting a gingko and listening to early Black Sabbath. Sailboat owners around ?lg? have a lot of trouble with their wind indicators. The local crows use them as merry-go-rounds, which messes them up. Me: "I am daft today." Autocorrect: "I am Daddy Toast." Friendly local fellow gladly gave us permission to stash our excavation gear overnight behind his garden shed. Heavy downpour making loud…

Life Science

In the first-ever (sanctioned) investigational use of multiple edits to the human genome, a study found that?cells edited in three specific ways and then removed from patients and brought back into the lab setting were able to kill cancer months after their original manufacturing and infusion. This is the first U.S. clinical trial to test the gene editing approach in humans, and the publication…
When the big tsunami hit Japan in 2011, many objects were washed out to sea. This flotsam provided for a giant "rafting event." A rafting event is when animals, plants, etc. float across an otherwise uncrossable body of water and end up alive on the other side. With this particular event, I don't think very many terrestrial life forms crossed the Pacific, but a lot of littoral -- shore dwelling…
“It will shine still brighter when night is about you. May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.” ―Galadriel, LOTR, J.R.R. Tolkien Well, we've been anticipating it for months (or years), but this is our very first time meeting up since the total solar eclipse here at?Starts With A Bang!?Did you get to see it? Was it as spectacular for you as it was for me? I'm already…

Medicine

A recent paper, "Higher U.S. Rural Mortality Rates Linked To Socioeconomic Status, Physician Shortages, And Lack Of Health Insurance," published in Health Affairs Journal, seeks to explain differences in rural and urban people when it es to mortality, but also rank states using county level data on outes and health care access. The study focused on five explanatory variables within each…
With a new infectious disease outbreak on our doorstep, we might ask ourselves: are we reacting to the coronavirus in a way that is proportional to the threat? The problem is that when it es to infectious disease epidemics, we have a strong tendency to overreact emotionally and under-react behaviorally. The overreaction aspect may be attributable to the fact that we are primed to fear…
Last week, I wrote about Rigvir, a highly dubious cancer therapy developed in Latvia. Rigvir is an oncolytic virus, and its proponents claim that it targets only cancer cells for destruction, leaving normal tissue alone. Its history and how it came to be approved in Latvia in 2004 and added to the Latvian Health Ministry's list of reimbursable medications in 2011 remain rather mysterious, but how…

Physical Science

As surprising as it may sound, no one really knows what an electron is, and it is this fundamental question that has been the driving force for much of modern physics and eventually led to the development of quantum field theory. To answer the question “What is an electron?”, you would think the first step would be to observe it. However, that is easier said than done. Electrons are simply too…
“We do not realize what we have on Earth until we leave it.” -Jim Lovell Well, the ments are still on the fritz, requiring me to manually un-spam them one-at-a-time, but?Starts With A Bang!?is still going strong with some fabulous stories based on the best knowledge we have! This next week is poised to be a doozy of a fantastic one, as?Treknology?is out at last (Amazon is having a…
“There will be days when we lose faith. Days when our allies turn against us...but the day will never e that we forsake this planet and its people.” ―Optimus Prime There was too much to simply keep it to a single article a day this week here at?Starts With A Bang!?The dynamic duo of Megan Watzke and Kimberly Arcand published a delightful contribution on scale, and we're gearing up for a month…

Politics

A man who was not even known as a gun collector amassed an arsenal that all experts agree included illegal fully automatic weapons. He carried out an act of carnage, alone and using only those weapons, that exceeded in casualty count almost every military battle fought in recent decades by American troops, and that equaled or surpassed all but a very small number of terrorist attacks. He shot…
Two years ago, I wrote about a study that demonstrated how the antivaccine movement had learned to use Twitter to amplify their antiscience message. At the time, I noted how in 2014, when the whole "CDC whistleblower" conspiracy theory was first hatched, antivaxers were so bad at Twitter, so obvious, so naive. The Tweeted inane claims at government officials, scientists, legislators, and whoever…
Republican Senators have proposed one more bill to repeal the ACA. The Graham-Cassidy (or Cassidy-Graham) proposal would dramatically shrink the pool of federal money going to healthcare and revise how it’s distributed to states, in a way that is especially damaging to states that accepted the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. They hope to pass this destructive bill before the end of September, due to…

Technology

DNA evidence often isn’t as watertight as many people think. Sensitive techniques developed over the past 20 years mean that police can now detect minute traces of DNA at a crime scene or on a piece of evidence. But traces from a perpetrator are often mixed with those from many other people that have been transferred to the sample site, for example via a handshake. And this problem has led to…
“You endure what is unbearable, and you bear it. That is all.” -Cassandra Clare Well, the cat's out of the bag. A little over a week ago, Scienceblogs announced to us writers that they no longer had the funds to keep the site operational, and so they would be shutting down. They asked us to keep quiet about this, people didn't and now you know. As of the end of this month, there will be no new…
"Truth in science, however, is never final, and what is accepted as a fact today may be modified or even discarded tomorrow. Science has been greatly successful at explaining natural processes, and this has led not only to increased understanding of the universe but also to major improvements in technology and public health and welfare." -National Academy of Sciences It’s no secret that peering…