WBEZ | Research http://www.wbez.org/tags/research Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Leon Lederman's offer: 'Ask a Nobel Laureate' http://www.wbez.org/story/leon-ledermans-offer-ask-nobel-laureate-95918 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-January/2012-01-27/leon lederman_US dept of energy_wikipedia.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-27/leon%20lederman_US%20dept%20of%20energy_wikipedia.jpg" style="width: 630px; height: 473px;" title="Dr. Leon Lederman won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1988. (U.S. Department of Energy)"></p><p>On a rainy day in September, a crowd gathered outside the Wrigley Building in downtown Chicago. They were waiting in line to take advantage of a rare opportunity: A chance to ask a Nobel Laureate anything and everything they ever wanted to know about science.</p><p>In this case, the Nobel Laureate was Leon Lederman. Lederman won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1988 for his role in using particles called neutrinos to expand scientific research about the structure and dynamics of matter. His many accomplishments and accolades include time spent as the head of Fermi Lab and his status as the founder of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora.</p><p>For two hours Lederman tackled all kinds of questions from impressively smart, curious and science-savvy passersby. (Their questions were especially impressive if you believe what the media tends to say about how none of us are interested in science.)</p><p>An engineer in his late 70s asks for advice on how he could best use science to fight for social justice.</p><p>A gamer asks for help understanding how <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/19/aids-protein-decoded-gamers_n_970113.html">recent discoveries on the structure of a protein in the AIDS virus</a> would help other scientists develop a cure.</p><p>A 7<sup>th</sup> grader asks for input on what kind of experiment she could conduct for her school science fair. She is, she says, “interested in cats.” Perhaps Lederman could suggest a cruelty-free experiment she might conduct with her furry friends?</p><p>Unfortunately, for a man who has dedicated much of his life to science education, Lederman seemed to have trouble connecting to some of the answer-seekers that day.</p><p>A question from a woman who wanted to know whether we’ll ever see far enough in space to catch a glimpse of the Big Bang went unanswered, as did the request from the 7<sup>th</sup> grade cat-lover.</p><p>But what became clear from many of Lederman’s answers that day was that at age 89 he remains as committed as ever to a scientific method rooted in skeptical inquiry, evidence-based conclusions, and results that can be duplicated. Whether it’s verifying <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/09/110923-neutrinos-speed-of-light-particles-cern-physics-einstein-science/">new research that suggests some particles can move faster than the speed of light</a> (Lederman very much doubts these findings) or atheists seeking rebuttals to attacks from their God-fearing friends, Lederman emphasized the need to be suspicious - and to provide your proof.</p><p>You can hear him argue on behalf of the scientific method in the audio above.</p><p><a href="../../series/dynamic-range">Dynamic Range </a><em>showcases hidden gems unearthed from </em>Chicago Amplified’s <em>vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Leon Lederman appeared on behalf of </em><em><a href="http://www.sciencentral.com/video/2008/08/21/street-corner-science-with-leon-lederman/"><em>Street Corner Science </em></a></em><em>and the </em><em><a href="http://c2st.org/programs"><em>Chicago Council on Science and Technology </em></a></em><em>in September of 2011. Click <a href="../../story/street-corner-science-ask-nobel-laureate-93472">here </a>to hear the event in its entirety.</em></p></p> Sat, 28 Jan 2012 09:54:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/leon-ledermans-offer-ask-nobel-laureate-95918 Top hair-raising research moments http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2011-12-05/top-hair-raising-research-moments-94614 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-December/2011-12-07/Jehlik_1653.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-05/Bear pic.jpg" title="These scientists fend off bears, bats, elephants and tipsy locals to get their research done. (photo by Jason Smith)" width="600" height="400"></p><p>Several weeks ago I had the pleasure of moderating <a href="http://news.uchicago.edu/article/2011/11/28/exploring-world-extreme-science">a conversation among four scientists </a>from local institutions, all of whom worked in rather unconventional “labs:” a mine shaft half-a-mile underground, a volcanic crater in Siberia, a racetrack in rural America.</p><p>The subject of the event was “Xtreme research” (cue air guitars!). You can listen in full via the link above (skip to minute 11:00 if you want to bypass my gobbledygook and cut straight to the panel). It was a really lively discussion and a great window into how science happens in unusual places. But for brevity’s sake, I’m including a few highlights here:</p><p><a href="http://geosci.uchicago.edu/people/colman.shtml"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-05/Jehlik points.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 200px; float: left; margin-right: 10px; margin-left: 10px;" title="(photo by Jason Smith)"></a><strong>Hot foot</strong></p><p><a href="http://geosci.uchicago.edu/people/colman.shtml">Albert Colman</a> works in the geophysical sciences department at the University of Chicago, and he studies extremophiles – that is, organisms who like extreme conditions, such as boiling hot, oxygenless volcanic hot springs. His main venue is the Uzon Caldera in Kamchatka, off in far-eastern Russia. Beneath much of the ground there is basically boiling mud (think Yellowstone in Siberia), so nearly every step comes with the risk of punching through the crust into the inferno below. One time Colman was about to take a photograph there, and he stepped back just a bit too far, only to feel his booted foot sinking. This was quite perilous – like in quicksand, if you yank out your stuck foot you risk just working your way in deeper. Colman says it took a full minute to carefully extricate himself. When he did get it out, the footprint was already filling with boiling liquid.</p><p><strong>Bat brain</strong></p><p><a href="http://home.fnal.gov/%7Erameika/CV_RAR.pdf">R<img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-05/Gina smiles.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 200px; float: right; margin-right: 10px; margin-left: 10px;" title="(photo by Jason Smith)">egina Rameika</a> of Fermilab worked for a time in an underground lab in a Minnesota mineshaft. She studies the behavior of extremely elusive particles called neutrinos, which in this case are <a href="http://www-numi.fnal.gov/">best observed deep inside the earth. </a>Every trip in and out of the lab, including the construction of a 5,000-ton particle detector, had to go via one elevator, about 20-feet square. I asked Rameika what would be going through her mind on the way down, and she responded without hesitation, “bats.” The shaft is full of them, and she said her chief preoccupation on the way down is keeping them out of her hair.</p><p><strong>Day at the races</strong></p><p><a href="https://blogs.anl.gov/expertsguide/forrest-jehlik/">Forrest Jehlik </a>researches engine technology at Argonne National Laboratory, but much of his work takes place at speedways across the Midwest and South. He helps spearhead the <a href="http://www.circletrack.com/enginetech/ctrp_1005_project_green_dyno_test/viewall.html">“green racing” project</a>, which aims to test uber-efficient engine designs in the context of circle-track racing. (He quipped that while his colleagues may have to fend off bears and bats, he has to worry about Coors-fueled locals who favor Ford, while he brings a Chevy.) At one race he and another engineer volunteered for pit crew duty. These guys are gearheads, to be sure, but not professional racing crew members by any stretch. At one point they improvised a fix to wring a few more horsepower out of the engine, which diverted a cooling system from the brakes. At one pit stop, Jehliks says the brakes got so hot they were “cherry red.” He says they burned through his gloves, and his skin, as he worked to remove them.</p><p><a href="https://blogs.anl.gov/expertsguide/doug-sisterson/"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-05/Gabe tlks.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 200px; float: left; margin-right: 10px; margin-left: 10px;" title="(photo by Jason Smith)"></a><strong>Gimme shelter</strong></p><p><a href="https://blogs.anl.gov/expertsguide/doug-sisterson/">Doug Sisterson</a> makes a beeline for the places where models of the climate don’t match up with the actual data. This typically means remote spots from Barrow, Alaska to Papua New Guinea. He’s a research meteorologist at Argonne, and he brings truckloads of cutting-edge equipment into inaccessible locales, to figure out what’s going on with the climate. He talks about caravanning his gear to an isolated village on the edge of the Sahara in Niger – a place where “if you forgot a roll of duct tape, it’s a long way to a Radio Shack.” When he got there he discovered that the site was completely exposed to the elements. So he asked the impoverished locals if they could help him build a research building. They enthusiastically complied, building a sturdy complex to house millions of dollars of sophisticated equipment, made entirely of what appear to be mud bricks.</p><p>It’s not at all clear that the skill sets needed to be a careful physicist or geochemist are anything like the skills needed to live and work in such extreme environments. I asked the scientists how they squared that disconnect. They all agreed: The common denominator is passion.</p></p> Mon, 05 Dec 2011 22:18:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2011-12-05/top-hair-raising-research-moments-94614 Researchers to study whether vitamin D could help asthma medications http://www.wbez.org/story/researchers-study-whether-vitamin-d-could-help-asthma-medications-90304 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-09/Asthma inhaler_Flicker_Wine me up.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Researchers in Chicago want asthma patients for a study on whether vitamin D pills can make inhaled steroids work better.</p><p>The research may help answer why inhaled steroids alone don't work in some people with asthma. It could be that people with low levels of vitamin D don't respond as well to the drugs. The study aims to examine whether adding vitamin D could fix that.</p><p>Dr. Lewis Smith at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Northwestern University's Feinberg medical school is lead investigator. He says the possibility that improving treatment might be as easy as taking a vitamin is exciting.</p><p>The study is part of asthma research involving the University of Chicago, Rush University Medical Center and Children's Memorial Hospital.</p><p>Adults aged 18 and up can participate. For details, call 312-926-0975.<br> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 09 Aug 2011 16:12:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/researchers-study-whether-vitamin-d-could-help-asthma-medications-90304 Biologists battle killer in the Great Lakes http://www.wbez.org/content/biologists-battle-killer-great-lakes-0 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/frontandcenter/photo/2011-07-06/88734/Lamprey eel_Front and Center.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A lot of people are worried about Asian carp swimming into the Great Lakes. We know from experience how bad an invasive species can be. Sea lamprey devastated the Great Lakes fishery in the 1940s and 50s, and they still kill a lot of fish.</p><p>Sea lamprey are native to the Atlantic Ocean. They swam into the upper Great Lakes through ship canals. Now that they’re here, they can’t be eradicated; they can only be reduced in number, and that’s a constant battle.</p><div class="daylife_smartgalleries_container" style="border: medium none; margin: 0pt; padding: 0pt; overflow: hidden; height: 375px; width: 550px; text-align: center;"><iframe class="daylife_smartgalleries_frame" src="http://galleries.wbez.org/gallery_slideshow/1309889044740?width=550&amp;disable_link_to_hosted_page=0&amp;height=375&amp;show_related=0" style="border: medium none; margin: 0pt; padding: 0pt; overflow: hidden; height: 100%; width: 100%;" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"></iframe></div><p><br> <style type="text/css"> div .inline { width: 290px; float: left; margin-right: 19px; margin-left: 3px; clear: left; } div .inlineContent { border-top: 1px dotted #aa211d; border-top-width: 1px; border-top-style: dotted; border-top-color: #aa211d; margin-bottom: 5px; margin-top: 2px; } ul { margin-left: 15px; } li { font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 1em; background-repeat: no-repeat; background-repeat-x: no-repeat; background-repeat-y: no-repeat; background-position: 0 5px; background-position-x: 0px; background-position-y: 5px; padding-left: 3px; margin-bottom: 0.5em; }</style> </p><div class="inline"><div class="inlineContent"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/story/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-28/FNC-inset-promo.jpg" style="width: 280px; height: 50px;" title=""></a><ul><li><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/about-front-and-center-%E2%80%93-depth-reporting-great-lakes-87655">About Front and Center</a></strong></li><li><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-05/big-ship-diary-88726">Big ship diary: nine days on a freighter </a></strong></li><li><a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-04/dredging-shipping-industry-declares-state-emergency-88579"><strong>Dredging: Great Lakes shipping emergency</strong></a></li></ul><p><strong>BLOG POST</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/2011-07-06/great-lakes-least-loved-creature-video-88538"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-July/2011-07-05/Bloody Sealamp_.jpg" style="width: 84px; height: 64px; float: left;" title=""></a><span style="font-size: 11px;"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/2011-07-06/great-lakes-least-loved-creature-video-88538"><strong>The Great Lakes<br> least loved<br> creature (VIDEO)</strong></a></span></p><p>&nbsp;</p></div></div><p>“It’s kind of a whack-a-mole situation,” says Don Schreiner, area fisheries supervisor for Lake Superior for the Minnesota DNR.Federal, state, and Canadian government agencies cooperate on sea lamprey control. Schreiner says they’ve tried cutting back efforts on some lakes.</p><p>“We thought we had them under control,” he says. “We moved that control to another lake that needed more help, and sea lamprey just blossomed where we moved the control away from.”</p><p>Sea lamprey swim up rivers to reproduce, so many of the tributaries into the Great Lakes have lamprey barriers now. Fish ladders allow other fish to pass, but sea lamprey can’t get over them.</p><p>On a June morning, Tom Davies visited the barrier on the Brule River in northern Wisconsin. Davies is a seasonal worker for the US Fish and Wildlife Service. One of his jobs is to climb down into a trap on the side of the barrier in hip waders and use a net to scoop out the sea lamprey that have been trapped that day.&nbsp; Davies says some days, there are as many as 600 sea lamprey in the trap.</p><p>“You come down off the ladder and you’re literally stepping on them, and they’re swimming all around you, hitting you in the waders,” he says.</p><p>Davies says he and his coworkers have joked that the TV show “Fear Factor” should have had people in swimming suits climb into the trap. It would have been horrifying. Adult sea lamprey are a foot or more long, gray and slimy looking. They look like eels, but a sea lamprey’s head ends in a big, round suction cup mouth, filled with rows of teeth. They kill fish by latching onto them, rasping a hole, and sucking out the fluids.</p><p>Davies grabs a sea lamprey and lets it latch onto his bare arm. He has to pry it off.</p><p>“See the mark they leave so quick?” he asks. There’s a red ring on his skin.</p><p>Workers at the barriers measure and sex the lampreys. The males are saved for one of the control projects. They’re sterilized and released in the St. Mary’s River, between Lake Superior and Lake Huron, where they compete with fertile males and reduce the number of fertilized eggs.</p><p>Workers also apply a chemical to streams where sea lamprey spawn to kill the young.</p><p>The Minnesota DNR’s Don Schreiner says these control efforts cost $20 million a year, “and that’s funding we continually fight for in Congress.” It’s on the books to be reduced by 20 percent in 2012.</p><p>Schreiner says the Great Lakes’ fishery depends on sea lamprey control. Estimates of the worth of that fishery range as high as $7 billion. Most of that economic return comes from sport fishing, but commercial fishing is important to the Great Lakes region, too.</p><p>Even on Lake Superior’s north shore, where the water is cold and deep and doesn’t produce a lot of fish, a small commercial fishery has made a comeback.</p><p>In the early 20<sup>th</sup> century, there were more than 400 commercial fishermen on the Minnesota shore of Lake Superior. But overfishing, pollution, and sea lamprey devastated the fish population. Today, some of that pollution has been cleaned up, fishing has been restricted, and some fish are stocked. Fish such as lake trout and cisco have rebounded. But the state is being conservative, and will only license 25 commercial fishermen.</p><p>Most of those fishermen also do something else for a living. But fisherman Stephen Dahl says he’s not part of a vanishing breed.</p><p>“There’s definitely a perception that we’re the last of the Mohicans, we’re dying out,” Dahl says. “And it’s like, no, it’s changed. It’s a changed world.”</p><p>Dahl heads out into the big lake in a small, open boat every morning, unless there’s too much ice in the harbor for him to break through. He hauls nets from the depths by hand. It’s hard work. Some days the lake is rough and the wind howls. He laughs when he’s asked about being wet and cold.</p><p>“I think I was born wet and cold,” he says.</p><p>Dahl is only allowed to catch cisco, which North Shore fishermen refer to as lake herring. In other parts of the lake, it’s legal for commercial fishermen to take trout and whitefish. They’ve got a ready market. Restaurants and delis on the shore snap up the fish when they’re available. Sometimes, when people know the fish are running, they’ll come to the dock and buy the fish right from the fishermen.</p><p>“This whole local food movement is really good,” Dahl says. It’s increased demand. “Most of the time I can’t keep up.”</p><p>The local food movement helps support an apprentice Dahl recently trained. Dahl’s apprentice, Jason Bradley, now has his own master’s license and his own boat. He’s also co-owner of a community supported agriculture (CSA) farm. His customers get the usual box of vegetables, but they can also get a herring share.</p><p>Customer Mark Gordon co-owns a charter sailing business, and likes to serve his customers local food. He’s a big fan of Jason Bradley’s herring.</p><p>“You just feel good eating the fish when you know it’s come right out of the lake,” Gordon says. “There’s no question about where it’s come from and how it was processed.”</p><p>Lake Superior fish is also sold around the country, and even overseas. Some of it goes to Iowa and is made into gefilte fish. Some of the roe goes to Scandinavia.</p><p>Native fish have bounced back in Lake Superior, but the DNR’s Don Schreiner says it’s still a “precarious situation.”</p><p>Schreiner says control measures keep sea lamprey numbers down to about 5 to 10 percent of what they were at their height.</p><p>“It sounds like we’ve done a good job, and we have,” Schreiner says. “Except that sea lamprey are very efficient.”He says biologists estimate that sea lamprey still kill as many fish in Lake Superior as sport and commercial fishing combined.</p></p> Wed, 06 Jul 2011 16:22:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/content/biologists-battle-killer-great-lakes-0 Epilepsy blamed for Chopin's dark hallucinations http://www.wbez.org/story/health/epilepsy-blamed-chopins-dark-hallucinations <p><p>The prolific musician and composer <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=15379968">Frederic Chopin</a> was a giant of the Romantic Era, <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=123967818">known for</a> writing passionate pieces for the piano. But the Polish-born Chopin was afflicted by mysterious health problems, including vivid hallucinations.</p><p>In Chopin's day, friends attributed these episodes to the composer's creative genius.</p><p>But Spanish researchers <a href="http://mh.bmj.com/content/early/2010/12/22/jmh.2010.005405.abstract">say this week</a> in the journal <em>Medical Humanities</em> they may have a better diagnosis: <a href="http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/about/types/syndromes/temporallobe.cfm">temporal lobe epilepsy</a>.</p><p></p><p>The authors say epilepsy wasn't well understood during Chopin's lifetime. "If he lived today, he would be correctly diagnosed and treated," Manuel Varquez Caruncho, a radiologist at Xeral-Calde Hospital Complex in Spain, tells <em>Shots</em>. "No problem at all."</p><p>What were his symptoms? Chopin described seeing "a cohort of phantoms," according to his lover George Sand. "The phantoms called him, embraced him… and he pushed away their skeletal faces away from his [face] and fought under their icy hands," she wrote, as Tad Szulc <a href="http://books.google.com/books?id=dyGlBVqYFjwC&pg=PA246&lpg=PA246&dq=chopin+%22cohort+of+phantoms%22&source=bl&ots=oJ53rikn3I&sig=fTIzda59jq5ehms3rlg49Qb93Vk&hl=en&ei=zAg_Ta-SHI72gAfO9MGcCA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CCgQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=">notes</a> in the biography <em>Chopin in Paris</em>.</p><p>Hallucinations can be caused by a number of things, Caruncho says. But he eliminated other diagnoses based on accounts of Chopin's symptoms in the writings of the composer and his friends.</p><p>The scientists nixed schizophrenia because the disorder is usually associated with auditory hallucinations, while Chopin's were visual. Migraines can cause hallucinations too, but they tend to last longer than the brief ones that Chopin was thought to have. And while Chopin took opium, Caruncho says Chopin's visions set in before he started using the drug.</p><p>But it was the records of Chopin's "brief, stereotyped and fragmentary" hallucinations that lead Caruncho to the diagnosis of temporal lobe epilepsy. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, <a href="http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/about/types/syndromes/temporallobe.cfm">temporal lobe epilepsy</a> is one of the most common forms of the disease, and causes regular seizures that can be accompanied by hallucinations.</p><p>Caruncho describes himself as a music lover who has long been fascinated with Chopin. "Every time I read a biography about Chopin, I thought about it in medical terms," he says. Caruncho spent years combing correspondence and articles to write the paper.</p><p>In addition to his hallucinations, Chopin suffered from a litany of other health problems. Researchers have offered <a href="http://chestjournal.chestpubs.org/content/113/1/210.long">many</a> diagnoses to account for them, including <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3320707">cystic fibrosis</a> and <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1294992/?page=4">alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency</a>. Chopin died in 1849 at age 39.</p><p>The authors write that Chopin "was the epitome of a frail and sensitive man, his illness enhancing the romanticised cliche of a sentimental artist." They say knowing more about Chopin's condition helps to dissipate the dark legends of a tortured composer. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1296065161?&gn=Epilepsy+Blamed+For+Chopin%27s+Dark+Hallucinations&ev=event2&ch=103537970&h1=Treatments+%26+Tests,Research,Health+Headlines+Newsletter,Shots+-+Health+News+Blog,History,Health,Science,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=133189133&c7=1128&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1128&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110125&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c31=133188451,126567633,121027244,103537970&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></p></p> Tue, 25 Jan 2011 15:29:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/health/epilepsy-blamed-chopins-dark-hallucinations How olive oil and Ibuprofen can make you want to cough http://www.wbez.org/story/brain-candy/how-olive-oil-and-ibuprofen-can-make-you-want-cough <p><p>Ever wonder about that peppery and irresistible urge to cough you feel at the back of your throat when you slurp some extra virgin olive oil?</p><p>If you're EVOO junkies like us (and who isn't?) the answer is probably yes.</p><p></p><p>So, we have another question. Ever try to swallow an ibuprofen tablet when you didn't have a glass of water around –- and ended up with a burning pain at the back of your throat that took hours to go away? We've had that happen too.</p><p>Well, it turns out in a weird coincidence that both sensations are caused by the same thing --- something called the <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK5237/">TRPA1 receptor</a>.</p><p>TRPA1 is a protein on the surface of cells at the back of your throat. It's probably there as a defense against noxious chemicals in the air. But it's also uniquely sensitive to EVOO and ibuprofen (and similar non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).</p><p>That's interesting to scientists, because the common link is one of the most important phenomena in medicine – inflammation, and chemicals that dampen it.</p><p>Researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center and coworkers have discovered that those back-of-the-throat receptors recognize a anti-inflammatory agent in EVOO called oleocanthal. The chemical is a potent inhibitor of an inflammatory enzyme called COX (cyclooxygenase). And that's just how ibuprofen works to reduce inflammation.</p><p>The overlap between EVOO and ibuprofen is the subject of an article in the January 19 issue of the <a href="http://www.jneurosci.org/"><em>Journal of Neuroscience</em></a>.</p><p>Back to that EVOO cough. Connoisseurs of olive oil know that the cough response is a marker for how pungent the oil is – a sign of purity. They even <a href="http://consumers.californiaoliveranch.com/health/olive-oil-primer-a-look-at-the-koroneiki-olive/">rate</a> EVOOs as one-cough, two-cough, even three-cough.</p><p>This pungency is valued in other foods and seasonings – think <a href="http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/40230.php">wasabi</a>, the tear-inducing green mustard served with sushi. Or that indispensable ingredient called garlic. (A related receptor is responsible for the perception of the chemical <a href="http://www.phytochemicals.info/phytochemicals/capsaicin.php">capsaicin</a>, which makes chilis hot.)</p><p>But the same receptor activated by a good EVOO is also responsible for the get-me-outta-here feeling when humans <a href="http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/40230.php">inhale tear gas</a>, tailpipe exhaust and the acrid smoke that asphyxiates firefighters. The insect repellent in citronella also works <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2010/08/26/129445731/a-look-at-why-insect-repellents-work">by tripping TRPA1</a>.</p><p>The Monell scientists point out that the reason TRPA1 makes you cough is that it's positioned at "the last possible checkpoint" before noxious air enters the deep airways to the lungs. The cough is the body's way of expelling the bad air before it does real damage.</p><p>So isn't it ironic that humans have transformed a primal defense against noxious fumes into an indicator of gourmet quality? The authors of the paper wonder if it might have something to do with the health benefits of anti-inflammatory chemicals.</p><p>"We suggest," they write, "that by a process not yet well understood, people have come, perhaps unconsciously, to transform an inherently unpleasant sensation into a positive one because it has beneficial health effects" – namely, anti-inflammatory effects.</p><p>More than just curious, the observation might contain some medically valuable clues. Maybe, scientists think, the TRPA1 receptor can tell them something about treatment of chronic pain and <a href="http://www.ionchannels.org/showabstract.php?pmid=18456404">asthma</a>. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1295459872?&gn=How+Olive+Oil+And+Ibuprofen+Can+Make+You+Want+To+Cough&ev=event2&ch=103537970&h1=Fitness+%26+Nutrition,Research,Pharmaceuticals,Shots+-+Health+News+Blog,Brain+Candy,Health,Your+Health,Science,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=133050281&c7=1128&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1128&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110119&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c31=126567887,126567633,126567381,103537970&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></p></p> Wed, 19 Jan 2011 11:05:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/brain-candy/how-olive-oil-and-ibuprofen-can-make-you-want-cough Genetically modified chickens don't pass on the flu http://www.wbez.org/story/animals/genetically-modified-chickens-dont-pass-flu <p><p>Here's a neat genetic trick: Make a chicken that can get the flu, but can't pass it on to other birds -- or, presumably, to the humans who take care of them.</p><p>British <a href="http://www.sciencemag.org/content/331/6014/223.abstract">researchers</a> have done it.</p><p>The British team, with the support of a <a href="http://www.cobb-vantress.com/">big poultry breeder</a> and government funding, inserted a gene into chickens that blocks flu viruses from replicating. These genetically modified chickens can get infected. But their cells don't spew forth zillions of copies of flu viruses -- so nearby poultry don't get sick.</p><p></p><p>Their achievement, reported in the current issue of <a href="http://www.sciencemag.org/content/331/6014/223.full?sid=188e70b7-bf0e-4653-b5ae-e187d32c074b"><em>Science</em></a>, addresses major problems for both poultry breeders and public health officials who worry about chickens as sources of flu viruses that make humans sick.</p><p>Chickens and other domestic fowl often serve as bridges for new flu viruses that pop up in wild birds and later cause human outbreaks. Most of the 517 reported <a href="http://www.who.int/csr/disease/avian_influenza/country/cases_table_2011_01_13/en/index.html">cases</a> of deadly <a href="http://www.who.int/csr/disease/avian_influenza/2010_12_09_h5n1_avian_influenza_timeline_updates.pdf">H5N1 bird flu</a> have been in people who've had contact with domestic poultry.</p><p>There are flu vaccines for chickens. But, like human vaccines, they have to be updated continually as new flu mutants evolve. Also, they don't totally prevent flu infections in poultry -- they just suppress them. So vaccinated flocks can still have "silent" outbreaks that don't kill off birds but allow the virus to mutate undetected.</p><p>The secret of flu-proofing chicken flocks is an artificial gene that contains a snippet of genetic material from the H5N1 flu virus. This bit of RNA codes for polymerase, an enzyme flu viruses need to make more of themselves.</p><p>The cells of GM chickens make this fake polymerase. When scientists infected the modified birds with lethal doses of H5N1, the virus latched onto the decoy form of polymerase. These viruses couldn't replicate and spread to other chickens through the birds' exhalations and droppings.</p><p>This is better than a vaccine, the researchers say, because the virus probably won't be able to evade the genetic defense as it can vaccines. That's because each one of the flu virus's eight genetic elements needs a polymerase gene to replicate; simultaneous mutants in all these places on the viral genome is "highly improbable," the scientists say.</p><p>Another big advantage: No flu virus of the important "A" family that includes H5N1, H1N1 and H3N2 -- the main threats to human health -- should be able to circumvent the genetic defense because they all need the same form of polymerase to replicate.</p><p>Intriguing as the new approach is, the problem is far from solved. Years more testing will be needed to make sure there's no hidden hazard from this type of genetic modification. And then there's the public relations work that will be needed to persuade government agencies and consumers to accept the GM chickens.</p><p>If these hurdles can be overcome, it might not be such a daunting task to replace the billions of ordinary chickens in commercial poultry herds with the GM type.</p><p>"That's because the trade in both broiler and egg-laying chickens has become consolidated in a handful of companies," Michael Greger of the Humane Society of the United States <a href="http://www.sciencemag.org/content/331/6014/132.1.summary">told</a> Martin Enserink of <em>Science. </em></p><p>As for the millions of backyard and rooftop flocks in developing countries around the world, Greger says the strategy would be provide their owners with GM chickens they can breed themselves. The flu-proofing gene would get passed along to their offspring.</p><p>The next horizon: GM pigs, ducks, turkeys and quail. They all get the flu, too. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1295459872?&gn=Genetically+Modified++Chickens+Don%27t+Pass+On+The+Flu&ev=event2&ch=103537970&h1=Infectious+Disease,Research,Vaccines,Public+Health+%26+Prevention,Health+Headlines+Newsletter,Shots+-+Health+News+Blog,Animals,Health,Your+Health,Research+News,Science,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=133027476&c7=1128&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1128&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110119&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c31=126568156,126567633,126567541,126567402,121027244,103537970&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></p></p> Wed, 19 Jan 2011 07:56:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/animals/genetically-modified-chickens-dont-pass-flu How life ends for cancer patients depends on the hospital http://www.wbez.org/story/cancer/how-life-ends-cancer-patients-depends-hospital <p><p>America’s hospitals treat patients with life-ending cancers very differently in their final months, with some deploying chemotherapy and other life-prolonging efforts until the end and others directing most of their patients into hospice, a new study finds.</p><p>The <a href="http://www.dartmouthatlas.org/downloads/reports/Cancer_report_11_16_10.pdf">report released today</a> by the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care argues that many patients are getting aggressive care that might not be best for them. It also adds to the drain on Medicare’s pocketbook -- a point the report doesn't address.</p><p>More than half of Medicare recipients getting treatment at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, N.Y. (57.3 percent) ended up dying in the hospital, according to the report. Only 18.7 percent of cancer patients who got care at Evanston Northwestern Healthcare in Evanston, Ill., ended up dying in the hospital.</p><p></p><p>Dartmouth surmises the differences are due to physicans in some hospitals favoring more aggressive treatments, while others are more amenable to hospice, which is often delivered at home and is championed in the report as a more humane way to die (as well as less expensive for Medicare).</p><p>At Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, N.J., 73 percent of patients used hospice in their final month, while at Westchester Medical, 18.6 percent did. (Westchester Medical didn’t respond to a request for comment.)</p><p>Dartmouth researchers argue that if more patients understood their choices about dying, more would choose hospice. "Unfortunately the care that patients get is much more about where they happen to be treated rather than care that follows their preferences," says <a href="http://tdi.dartmouth.edu/faculty/details/45">Dr. David Goodman</a>, the lead author of the study, issued by the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice, based in Hanover, N.H.</p><p>The report looked at Medicare records for more than 235,000 patients with cancer who died between 2003 and 2007.</p><p>Dartmouth’s previous end-of-life studies <a href="http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Stories/2009/November/16/Cooper-Debate.aspx">have had detractors</a>. Some hospitals argue that they provide <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/23/health/23ucla.html?pagewanted=all">more aggressive treatments to prolong life</a>.</p><p>Others say Dartmouth's 20/20 hindsight isn't fair, because imminent death is not as obvious when a patient is still breathing as it may seem retrospectively. Dartmouth says it only studied cancers that had particularly poor prognoses or were in a very advanced stage, so that the likelihood of death was strong.</p><p>Whatever the reasons, the New York City area stands out in the study.  A hospital death was particularly likely in Manhattan and some of the surrounding hospital markets, occurring for more than 4 of every 10 Medicare recipients with cancers likely to be terminal.</p><p>In a sign that doctors weren't letting patients go without a fight, nearly 1 in 5 Medicare recipients in Manhattan received in their final weeks of life several types of treatment Dartmouth described as "aggressive," including the insertion of a feeding tube or CPR.</p><p>Mason City, Iowa, is the place where Medicare recipients were least likely place to die in a hospital. Only 7 percent expired as inpatients, Dartmouth found.</p><p>But Mason City's practices may reflect the kind of place it is, rather than hospital or doctor practices. Dr. Douglas Blayney, a professor at Stanford University School of Medicine and past president of the <a href="http://www.asco.org/">American Society of Clinical Oncology</a><strong></strong> who thinks the Dartmouth report is valuable, notes that in order for patients to get hospice, they need a relative, neighbor or friend to help care for them. That's less likely at places with large portions of poorer patients, and more likely in smaller, rural areas such as Mason City, Blayney says.</p><p>“In general, places where there are strong support networks have better acceptance and utilization of home care and hospice,” he says. Copyright 2010 Kaiser Health News. </p> Tue, 16 Nov 2010 14:01:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/cancer/how-life-ends-cancer-patients-depends-hospital A busy heart doctor offers stress tips for women http://www.wbez.org/story/health/busy-heart-doctor-offers-stress-tips-women <p><p>Cardiologist <a href="http://www.brighamandwomens.org/departments_and_services/womenshealth/hearthealth/who-we-are/bios/michelle-albert/">Michelle Albert</a>, a professor at Harvard Medical School, knows a thing or two about stress. Her daily routine is a high-pressure juggling act that includes seeing patients at Brigham and Women's Hospital, teaching and conducting research.</p><p>Albert is an expert on the role that psychological stress plays in the development of heart diesase. And this past weekend, she presented results from a major new <a href="http://www.newsroom.heart.org/index.php?s=43&item=1151">study</a> showing that women in stressful jobs have an overall 40 percent increased risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and blocked arteries.</p><p>In a search for tips on how to manage work-related stress, Shots caught up with the industrious doctor by phone as she wrapped up a "long, rigorous" at the <a href="http://scientificsessions.americanheart.org/portal/scientificsessions/ss/">American Heart Association's big scientific meeting</a> in Chicago this week.</p><p></p><p>First, though, a recap of what she and her coauthors found. After following the health of more than 17,000 women -- mainly Caucasian health professionals -- for more than 10 years, the researchers concluded that a stressful job increased a woman's risk of heart attack by about 88 percent and raised the risk for bypass surgery or other major cardiovascular procedure by about 43 percent.</p><p>The long study went beyond previous work in documenting a link between work stress and major health effects, such as heart attacks, strokes and deaths. "These are the real deal," says Albert. "Most of the other studies on this have a much shorter follow-up time."</p><p>Men, of course, face plenty of stress and heart-health risks themselves (<a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2010/02/dick_cheney_and_the_modern_hea.html">Dick Cheney</a> is one of many poster boys), but Albert says working women tend to shoulder more, including raising a family and maintaining the home. "Women have to be particularly attuned to the issue of various stressors in their lives and seek help to manage them," she says.</p><p>So what's a woman in a demanding job to do? Well, Albert admits, most people can't do much to change their jobs. But she has some thoughts on how  women let off some job pressure with release and relaxation.</p><p><ul></p><p><li><a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2010/01/women_and_walking_the_benefits.html">Get plenty of exercise</a>, a no-brainer that is a great way to release tension</li></p><p></ul></p><p><ul></p><p><li>Tap your network of friends and family to talk about job stress. Albert notes that people who have better coping mechanisms for job stress tend to have lower blood pressure</li></p><p><li>Set limits on bringing work home from the office: try cutting e-mail or computer use to 15 minutes in the evenings.</li></p><p><li>Make sure your doctor knows about the stress level of your job. (Doctors, you need to make sure you ask about job stress when taking a medical history.)</li></p><p></ul></p><p>And so how does the busy doctor manage her own stress? She admits it's hard to find the time to exercise as much as she'd like to. And this worries her. "We all have lots of demands, and perhaps we spend more time at our jobs, and thinking about our jobs than we once did," she says. "But I think we need to spend just as much time focusing on personal lives to help manage the stress." Copyright 2010 National Public Radio.</p> Tue, 16 Nov 2010 12:57:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/health/busy-heart-doctor-offers-stress-tips-women Brain molecule may offer key to erasing fearful memories http://www.wbez.org/story/health/brain-molecule-may-offer-key-erasing-fearful-memories <p><p>Scientists have discovered a molecule in the brain that may help erase the fearful memories that afflict people with post-traumatic stress disorder.</p><p>The substance, <a href="http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/science.1195298">described in an online edition</a> of the journal <em>Science</em>, was found in mice. But it's part of a memory system that seems to work the same way in people.</p><p>Roger Clem and <a href="http://neuroscience.jhu.edu/RichardHuganir.php">Richard Huganir</a> of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine made the discovery while studying mice conditioned to associate a particular sound with an electric shock.</p><p>&quot;If they hear the tone the next day, or even weeks later, the mouse will freeze&quot; because it will bring up the fearful memory of the shock, Huganir tells Shots.</p><p>Clem and Huganir wanted to understand how that fearful memory is created.</p><p>So they studied the brains of mice that had just gone through fear conditioning. And they noticed that an unusual protein appeared in the amygdala, a <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112531962">part of the brain involved in emotions</a>.</p><p>That molecule remained for only a few days and appeared to strengthen the brain circuit responsible for maintaining the fearful memory.</p><p>But when the researchers eliminated the protein during this period, mice lost their fearful memory. Forever.</p><p>The trick was to eliminate the protein soon after a fearful incident, Huganir says.</p><p>&quot;Maybe this is a window of time when behavioral therapy would work much better,&quot; Huganir says, adding that it may also be possible to eliminate the protein with drugs.</p><p>And he says research on people suggests that it may be possible to create a new window for treatment by having people deliberately recall a fearful memory.</p><p>Researchers from New York University <a href="http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-12/niom-ntb120709.php">found</a> that when people did that, there was a 6-hour window in which the original memory could be altered permanently through behavioral techniques.</p><p>Experiments in rodents suggest that's because the molecule involved in fear memories appears once again in the amygdala, Huganir says.</p><p>If so, he says, it may be possible to eliminate a person's unwanted memory during the critical period by giving a drug that interferes with the fear molecule. Copyright 2010 National Public Radio.</p></p> Fri, 29 Oct 2010 10:27:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/health/brain-molecule-may-offer-key-erasing-fearful-memories