WBEZ | Science http://www.wbez.org/news/science Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Electricity treatment offers hope to brain cancer patients http://www.wbez.org/news/electricity-treatment-offers-hope-brain-cancer-patients-113272 <p><div style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1009_novocure-farmers-market1-624x467.jpg" title="The Optune treatment is non-invasive and has few side effects, and though it looks like a bathing cap hooked up to a backpack, it kills cancer cells. (Courtesy of Novocure)" /></div><div><p>For the first time in more than a decade, there&rsquo;s a new treatment for patients diagnosed with one of the most common and deadly forms of brain cancer, known as glioblastoma or GBM.&nbsp;More than 12,000 Americans are diagnosed annually and until now, the median life expectancy after diagnosis&nbsp;was about 15 months.</p><p>Unlike traditional treatments, which include chemotherapy and radiation, this new treatment is non-invasive, doesn&rsquo;t involve drugs and has few side effects. In fact, it looks a lot like an old-fashioned bathing cap hooked up to a backpack.</p><p>The treatment, called&nbsp;<a href="http://www.novocure.com/~/media/Files/N/Novocure/press-release/2015/201520-FDA-Approval_Final.pdf" target="_blank">Optune</a>&nbsp;and developed by the oncology company Novocure, delivers electricity directly to the areas of the brain affected by GBM tumors, and has shown promise both in extending life and shrinking tumors.</p><p>Optune performed so well during testing that clinical trials were halted to speed its delivery to the market. The treatment is not being touted as a cure, but as a new tool in extending life and slowing the spread of the disease.&nbsp;William Doyle, Novocure&rsquo;s executive chairman, discusses the treatment with<em>&nbsp;Here &amp; Now&#39;s&nbsp;</em>Jeremy Hobson.</p><p><span style="font-size:18px;"><strong>Interview Highlights</strong></span></p><p><strong>How does it work?</strong></p><p>&ldquo;We all know we have essentially three weapons against cancer today &ndash; surgery, radiation, drug therapy. Optune is a completely different fourth weapon, and it uses physical properties of electric fields specifically within cells. That&rsquo;s our name, Optune, because we have to tune these fields in order to get them into the cells we&rsquo;re interested in. Once we get the electrical fields into the cells, we can interfere with the proteins required for cell division, and instead of one cell becoming two and two becoming four, when we interfere with the machinery of cell division, one cell becomes zero, and that&rsquo;s how we fight cancer with Optune.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Is it meant to be used with other methods of treatment?</strong></p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s one of the great things about Optune, because of course with the other three modalities, we hope for the increase in survival, but we have to worry about toxicity. With Optune, there&rsquo;s no systemic toxicity so we can add it, in particular, to drug therapies. We don&rsquo;t see any increase in the toxicity, and we see in many cases what&rsquo;s called synergy or a multiplication effect in terms of the efficacy.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>What can it do to extend life?</strong></p><p>&ldquo;Today on standard therapy, a patient can expect to live a little over a year, that&rsquo;s the mean survival. In our trial we show that the survival was increased from about 15 months to about 20 months, in the median. But I think the number patients are more focused on is that the two-year survival was increased by 50 percent.</p><p><strong>Clinical trials were cut short to bring this to market. How much does it cost?</strong></p><p>&ldquo;There has not been an advance in glioblastoma in over a decade. This is an incredibly difficult cancer. It&rsquo;s a fact that oncology therapies are expensive &ndash; that&rsquo;s a great concern to patients. We&rsquo;ve in fact created a group within Novocare that works directly with patients and their insurance companies, we have extremely large patient assistance programs, so we work to make sure that every patient that&rsquo;s eligible for Optune receives it, regardless of income. The list price for Optune is $21,000 per month, including all the equipment and nurse support. So again, oncology therapies are expensive.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>In the future are you hoping to use this treatment for other kinds of tumors?</strong></p><p>&ldquo;The mechanism interfering with proteins of mitosis is universal to all cells, so once we tune our fields so that they enter the cell of interest, we can kill it. The limitation is back to the bandages. We need to be able to surround the region of the body with our transducer rays, so that means our targets are the deadly tumors of the brain, chest and abdomen. We have clinical trial programs in pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, mesothelioma&hellip; so we have a full range of targets for this therapy.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>How close are we to a&nbsp;cure?</strong></p><p>&ldquo;Cure is a very difficult word to use, and what we&rsquo;re focused on is extending long-term survival. I will say the numbers we talked about earlier were medians. What that means is some patients do worse, other patients do much better. Another fact of the Optune therapy is that when it&rsquo;s on, it&rsquo;s killing cancer cells; when it&rsquo;s not on, it&rsquo;s not killing cancer cells. So patients on Optune do much better when they use it at least 18 hours per day, and we have seen patients with extended long-term survival. So I don&rsquo;t know when we will have a cure but I think using Optune in combination with other therapies offers hope that didn&rsquo;t exist previously.&rdquo;</p></div><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="386" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bpH_JxnVVSw" width="624"></iframe></p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2015/10/09/electricity-brain-cancer-treatment" target="_blank"><em>via Here &amp; Now</em></a></p></p> Fri, 09 Oct 2015 15:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/electricity-treatment-offers-hope-brain-cancer-patients-113272 Dealing with alcoholism in the family http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2015-10-08/dealing-alcoholism-family-113249 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Former Rhode Island Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy visits FOX News’ “America’s Newsroom” at FOX Studios on October 6, 2015 in New York City..jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A memoir called &ldquo;<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Common-Struggle-Personal-Journey-Addiction/dp/0399173323?tag=wburorg-20" target="_blank">A Common Struggle</a>,&rdquo; released Tuesday by former Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy, bears all about his family&rsquo;s health and alleged addictions.</p><p>The portrait of his father, the late U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, and his mother Joan, breaks what he calls a &ldquo;conspiracy of silence&rdquo; about how alcoholism poisoned the family. Others are disputing the account, including his older brother, Ted Kennedy Jr., a Connecticut state senator.</p><p>Those inner-family disputes are not uncommon, according to&nbsp;Robert Ackerman, an expert on alcoholism and family life. Siblings can have different experiences with a parent&rsquo;s addiction, he says, and in some cases, one sibling may not recognize the problem at all.</p><p>Here &amp; Now&lsquo;s Robin Young speaks with Ackerman about alcoholism and the many ways that it impacts family and children.</p><hr /><p><strong><span style="font-size:18px;">Interview Highlights</span></strong></p><p><strong>How common is it for one child to say something and another to stay silent?</strong></p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s very common. Several years ago I was amazed when I met adult children of alcoholics whose siblings did not consider themselves to be adult children of alcoholics. There&rsquo;s a lot of different reasons for it &ndash; it runs all the way from your perception, your age, your gender can have a lot to do with it. Daughters of alcoholics talked about their experience very differently than sons talked about their experience. Let me give you an example. Daughters of alcoholic fathers, which is the most common in 60 percent of cases, talked about their dads almost from a defensive point of view, but daughters of alcoholic mothers talked about their moms almost from an attacking point of view. A man can get inebriated and make a fool out of himself in public, but by our cultural standards, he&rsquo;s still permitted to feel masculine. But it&rsquo;s very difficult for a woman to do the same thing.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Can someone really deny that a family member is alcoholic?</strong></p><p>&ldquo;Well yes, we would think after all these years we&rsquo;d have a handle on the concept of denial. One way of looking at it is what&rsquo;s really in it for the person who really does deny. Men coming out of alcoholic families &ndash; boy if it&rsquo;s your mom, we will deny for a much longer time if mom had a drinking problem than if dad had a drinking problem. I denied and protected my dad for years, and finally when I was older I thought about what&rsquo;s in it for me, and I thought, as long as I deny that he was alcoholic, I got to deny that it really hurt me. If I wasn&rsquo;t hurt then I didn&rsquo;t have to do anything about it. And I found out later that that&rsquo;s just not true, it had a huge impact on me. One classic case I saw was one time people came to hear me speak and there were sisters asking all kinds of questions, and the father was alcoholic but had quit drinking, but the older sister went on and on, and the younger sister said, &lsquo;we never realized you were impacted by this&rsquo; and this really quiet mother spoke up and said, &lsquo;you weren&rsquo;t affected, none of you were affected&rsquo; just like that. And you know, mom spent her life trying to protect her children and if her kids were affected, then mom thought maybe she had failed.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>On the disastrous nature of anonymity for children of alcoholic parents</strong></p><div>&ldquo;You mentioned Patrick Kennedy and his &lsquo;conspiracy of silence&rsquo;. I&rsquo;ve always talked about, if you&rsquo;re living in an alcoholic family, addiction takes hostages. It puts a whole lid on what you can and can&rsquo;t say in your family, and it starts to put a lid on yourself and pretty soon you find yourself going out of your way to cover up what you live with every day. The stuff that really stands out the most is that it really has an impact in normal human development. Those things you and I should work on as we grow up &ndash; the development of trust, the development of intimacy with other people, a great sense of creativity, a sense of self-accomplishment. When you&rsquo;re second or third to a bottle or to OxyContin, it&rsquo;s very painful. I was aware of this as a kid and I never said anything to anybody but I never felt that I was as good as the other children, like &lsquo;wow they must have come from a really good home&rsquo; and I just was not about to share my home. And it&rsquo;s not just about what&rsquo;s happening to you &ndash; I believe the greatest impact, especially on children, it&rsquo;s not what happened, it&rsquo;s about what they&rsquo;re missing.&rdquo;</div><p><strong>On the terrifying moment of intervention</strong><br />&ldquo;We have absolutely no idea how that parent is going to take it. I wound up with the same thing, I finally got enough nerve to say something to my father when I was a young man and my dad sort of politely told me where to go. The number one thing is, and I believe this more than anything else, that is people and members of an alcoholic family quite simply have a right to recovery. It&rsquo;s as simple as that, whether that person is five or 55 years old. And that right does not depend on whether that alcoholic gets sober, it depends on whether or not you take enough interest in yourself or your children to get help. You can&rsquo;t sit around and wait for somebody who&rsquo;s drug-affected to make a rational decision.&rdquo;</p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2015/10/08/dealing-with-alcoholism-in-the-family" target="_blank"><em> via Here &amp; Now</em></a></p></p> Thu, 08 Oct 2015 15:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2015-10-08/dealing-alcoholism-family-113249 The Carolinas' 'thousand-year' flood follows a rainfall trend across the US http://www.wbez.org/news/carolinas-thousand-year-flood-follows-rainfall-trend-across-us-113237 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/rainmap.png" style="height: 344px; width: 610px;" title="A US National Weather Service map shows precipitation levels across the southeastern US on October 4, 2015. White splotches in South Carolina indicate areas with more than 10 inches of rain. (National Weather Service/Advanced Hydrologic Predictive Service)" /></div><p><a href="http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=3142" target="_blank">Twenty-seven inches of rain over five days. More than 15 inches in just 10 hours.</a></p><p>Those are just a couple of the unfathomable amounts of rain that fell in parts of South and North Carolina last weekend in the storm that killed at least 17 people and caused in the neighborhood of&nbsp;<a href="http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_EAST_COAST_RAINSTORM?SITE=AP" target="_blank">$1 billion in damage</a>.</p><p>Meteorologists called it a &ldquo;thousand-year event&rdquo; &mdash; meaning a deluge that&rsquo;s likely to happen only once in 1,000&nbsp;years, but they may have to change their odds as the planet warms up. Already this year there have been two such supposedly rare rain events, and many other rainfall records set, in the US.</p><p>&ldquo;Oklahoma and Texas had incomprehensible&nbsp; amounts of&nbsp; rain in May,&rdquo; says&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wunderground.com/about/bhenson.asp" target="_blank">Bob Henson</a>, a blogger for the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wunderground.com/?MR=1" target="_blank">Weather Underground</a>&nbsp;who worked &nbsp;more than 20 years at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder Colorado. &ldquo;The amount of rain in Texas was what you would expect maybe once every two or 3000 years.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=3047" target="_blank">June was the second wettest month on record in Illinois and neighboring Indiana and Ohio set rainfall records that same month.</a></p><p>And don&rsquo;t forget&nbsp;<a href="http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-02-11/big-snow-warming-world-whats">the record amounts of snow that fell on New England last winter</a>.</p><p>And what&rsquo;s going on isn&rsquo;t just the usual clustering you often find among random events.</p><p>When it rains these days, Henson says, it often rains harder.</p><p>&ldquo;That&#39;s been shown through a great amount of research over the last 20 years&hellip; It&#39;s not happening in every single location, but it&#39;s happening in enough places that you could legitimately call it a global trend. The US is in line with that trend,&nbsp; most parts of the US are seeing this happen.&rdquo;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>And Henson says there&rsquo;s a simple connection to climate change. The earth&rsquo;s atmosphere is warming up, and when it gets warmer, he says, the oceans evaporate more moisture into the air. &ldquo;So there&#39;s literally more fuel available to make it rain harder when you have a set up that&rsquo;s creating rain in the first place.&rdquo;</p><p>In other words, warmer temperatures may not be causing such storms, but they are helping feed more water into storm systems.</p><p>The particulars of the storm that battered North and South Carolina were a classic example of random weather events combined with the effects of the upward temperature trend.</p><p>&ldquo;We had a upper-level low-pressure center (that) sat over the southeast for several days,&rdquo; Henson says.&nbsp; &ldquo;That brought in a lot of forcing to pull the air upward and make it rain.&rdquo; And the rainfall was in turn fed by an unusually moist atmosphere in the region.</p><p>&ldquo;You had a ton of moisture available along the East Coast and moisture being funneled in from hurricane Joaquin into the Carolinas.&rdquo;</p><p>The growing number of deluges bring lots of problems with them, but Henson, who wrote his master&rsquo;s thesis on flash flood warnings, says one of the biggest may just be getting people to take the threat seriously.</p><p>He says the heavy rains in the Carolinas were pretty well forecast, and local officials were fairly well prepared, but regular folks still ventured out into the storms when they&rsquo;d been warned not to.</p><p>&ldquo;People simply don&#39;t take moving water seriously a lot of the time,&rdquo; Henson says.&rdquo; How many cases do you see of people driving into floodwaters and then once there, of course the vehicle gets carried off? So it&#39;s a perpetual challenge to make people realize that water in motion can be just as dangerous as, say, high winds.&rdquo;</p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-10-07/carolinas-thousand-year-flood-follows-big-rainfall-trend-across-us" target="_blank"><em> via PRI&#39;s The World</em></a></p></p> Thu, 08 Oct 2015 10:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/carolinas-thousand-year-flood-follows-rainfall-trend-across-us-113237 New dietary guidelines will not include sustainability goal http://www.wbez.org/news/new-dietary-guidelines-will-not-include-sustainability-goal-113222 <p><p>When it comes to eating well, should we consider both the health of our bodies&nbsp;and&nbsp;of the planet?</p><p>Earlier this year, as we<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/02/26/389276051/will-the-dietary-guidelines-consider-the-planet-the-fight-is-on">&nbsp;reported</a>, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee concluded that a diet rich in plant-based foods promotes good health &mdash; and is also more&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/12/15/370427441/congress-to-nutritionists-dont-talk-about-the-environment">environmentally sustainable</a>. And, for the first time, the panel recommended that food system sustainability be incorporated into the federal government&#39;s dietary advice.</p><p>But, it turns out, the idea of marrying sustainability guidance with nutrition advice proved to be very controversial.</p><p>And now, President Obama&#39;s two cabinet secretaries who will oversee the writing of the guidelines say they will not include the goal of sustainability.</p><p>&quot;We will remain within the scope of our mandate ... which is to provide nutritional and dietary information,&quot; write U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Sylvia Burwell, secretary of Health and Human Services, in a&nbsp;<a href="http://blogs.usda.gov/2015/10/06/2015-dietary-guidelines-giving-you-the-tools-you-need-to-make-healthy-choices/">joint statement</a>.</p><p>The two secretaries went on to say that &quot;we do not believe that the 2015 DGA (Dietary Guidelines for Americans) are the appropriate vehicle for this important policy conversation about sustainability.&quot;</p><p>The statement came just one day in advance of a much-anticipated congressional hearing. Secretaries Vilsack and Burwell are scheduled to <a href="http://www.c-span.org/video/?328598-1/secretaries-tom-vilsack-sylvia-burwell-testimony-nutritional-guidelines#" target="_blank">testify before the House Agriculture Committee Wednesday morning</a> on the topic of the dietary guidelines.</p><p>Advocates have been pushing for inclusion of sustainability goals. The consulting group<a href="http://www.foodminds.com/">&nbsp;Food Minds</a>&nbsp;analyzed 26,643 written, public comments submitted to the federal government on the topic of the dietary guidelines. They found that write-in campaigns by the advocacy groups Friends of the Earth, Food Democracy Now and My Plate, My Planet were the top three sources of comments.</p><p>Last week, in an editorial&nbsp;<a href="https://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2015/09/30/science.aab2031.abstract">published</a>&nbsp;in&nbsp;Science&nbsp;magazine,&nbsp;<a href="http://gwtoday.gwu.edu/kathleen-merrigan-serve-executive-director-sustainability-institute">Kathleen Merrigan</a>&nbsp;of George Washington University and a group of co-authors wrote that adopting a reference to sustainability in the dietary guidelines would &quot;sanction and elevate the discussion of sustainable diets.&quot;</p><p>Merrigan argues that &quot;by acknowledging benefits of sustainability, the government would open itself up to greater demand for sustainability investments and would signal to consumers that such foods are preferred.&quot;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/newdiet.jpg" style="height: 359px; width: 540px;" title="The debate about sustainable diets has focused on meat production, which requires lots of land and water to grow grain to feed livestock. It also contributes to methane emissions. But the cabinet secretaries with final authority say the 2015 dietary guidelines won't include sustainability goals. (David McNew/Getty Images)" /></p><p>The debate about sustainable diets has focused on meat production. As we&#39;ve&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2012/06/27/155527365/visualizing-a-nation-of-meat-eaters">reported</a>, meat production uses lots of land and water to grow grain to feed livestock. It also contributes to methane emissions.</p><p>&quot;There are a lot of complex issues around livestock production that suggest &mdash;quite strongly &mdash; that we need to reduce meat consumption for sustainability reasons,&quot;Merrigan told us.</p><p>And other foods also have an environmental footprint that we should not ignore. Take, for instance, almonds.</p><p>&quot;It takes up to 2.8 liters of water to produce a single &#39;heart-healthy&#39; almond,&quot; Merrigan and company write in the editorial.</p><p>&quot;With 80 percent of the world&#39;s almonds growing in drought-stricken California, should consumers be advised to limit almond consumption and consider alternatives that consume fewer resources?&quot; Merrigan and her co-authors ask.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP_101497980202.jpg" style="height: 389px; width: 540px;" title="In this Tuesday, July 21, 2015 photo, decaying almonds hang from a dead tree in an almond orchard, in Newman, Calif., abandoned by a landowner who couldn't get enough water for irrigation. Due to California's epic drought, Central Valley farmers who depend on water pumped from the Sacramento San Joaquin River Delta to irrigate their crops, have seen their water allocations reduced or eliminated altogether. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)" /></div><p>The meat industry has opposed the idea of including sustainability in the dietary guidelines. &quot;In our view, this is clearly out of scope,&quot;&nbsp;<a href="https://www.meatinstitute.org/ht/d/sp/i/237/pid/237">Janet Riley</a>&nbsp;of the North American Meat Institute told us.</p><p>She says experts need a more complete understanding of how food production impacts the environment.</p><p>&quot;If you compare 10 pounds of apples and 10 pounds of meat, the meat surely has the larger carbon footprint, but it also delivers more nutrition, it nourishes more people longer&quot; in terms of calories and protein, says Riley.</p><p>She says, going forward, if sustainability is going to be included in the dietary guidelines, there needs to be more data and more experts at the table.</p><p>In a statement, the meat institute&#39;s president and CEO,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.meatinstitute.org/ht/d/sp/i/237/pid/237">Barry Carpenter,</a>&nbsp;praised the secretaries&#39; decision. He called sustainability &quot;an important food issue,&quot; but one &quot;outside of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee&#39;s scope and expertise.&quot;</p><p>The dietary guidelines are updated every five years, so it&#39;s possible that this debate will continue.</p><p>&quot;The compelling science around the need to adjust dietary patterns to ensure long-term food security cannot be ignored,&quot; Merrigan told me after the secretaries issued their statement. &quot;If not [in] the 2015 DGA [Dietary Guidelines for Americans], then maybe the 2020 DGAs.&quot;</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/10/06/446369955/new-dietary-guidelines-will-not-include-sustainability-goal?ft=nprml&amp;f=446369955" target="_blank"><em>via NPR</em></a></p></p> Wed, 07 Oct 2015 11:34:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/new-dietary-guidelines-will-not-include-sustainability-goal-113222 Three scientists win Nobel Prize in Chemistry for DNA repair research http://www.wbez.org/news/three-scientists-win-nobel-prize-chemistry-dna-repair-research-113220 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" dna="" fredrik="" mechanistic="" of="" sandberg="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ap_432991312020_wide-513b2ba1aefcc2e5012f546668c642275e3c0b8e-s600-c85.jpg" studies="" style="height: 337px; width: 600px;" title="Professor Sara Snogerup Linse (left) explains the work that won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, won by Sweden's Tomas Lindahl, American Paul Modrich and U.S.-Turkish scientist Aziz Sancar on Wednesday. The three worked on " /></div><div><p><strong>Updated at 10:10 a.m. ET</strong></p><p>Their work details how cells repair damaged DNA and preserve genes. And now three scientists &mdash; Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar &mdash; have won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Their work promises years of better treatment and better drugs.</p><p>The three researchers carried out their work separately, unearthing different mechanisms cells use to fix problems in a range of cells.</p><p>Lindahl, born in 1938, is a Swedish citizen. Modrich, born in 1946, is a U.S. citizen &mdash; as is Sancar, who is also a citizen of Turkey. Like Modrich, Sancar was born in 1946.</p><p>In the 1970s, Lindahl showed that contrary to previous beliefs, DNA decays &quot;at a rate that ought to have made the development of life on Earth impossible,&quot; as the Nobel Prize committee puts it. He then showed how cells constantly use base excision repair to repair this decay and prevent the collapse of our genetic information.</p><p>Working on how cells recover from damage sustained from sunlight or carcinogenic substances, Sancar mapped out how cells use nucleotide excision repair to correct defects.</p><p>Modrich solved the puzzle of how cells correct errors that arise when cells are replicated, finding that they use mismatch repair to sharply reduce the frequency of errors.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/mismatch-dna-c2143d6d75a8b698eca803e07335af7d2f555c46.jpg" style="text-align: center; height: 451px; width: 600px;" title="When faced with errors in genetic information brought on by cell replication, Paul Modrich showed that the cells use a process called mismatch repair to reduce problems. (Courtesy of the Nobel Prize Committee)" /></p><p>In making these discoveries, the researchers also laid the groundwork for understanding how flaws in these cellular repair systems cause hereditary diseases &mdash; and how they affect the way people&#39;s cells react to changes brought on by cancer and aging.</p><p>Lindahl has said that cancer is widely thought to be a disease of genome instability and DNA damage. &quot;The more we know about how DNA is damaged and how it&#39;s repaired the more effective we can be in devising methods to eradicate cancer cells specifically without harming normal cells,&quot; he said at a March conference at the National University of Ireland in Galway.</p><p>Modrich earned his Ph.D. from Stanford University and now works at Duke University&#39;s School of Medicine; Sancar earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Dallas and currently teaches in the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.</p><p>Lindahl earned his Ph.D. from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm and is now an emeritus leader at the Francis Crick Institute and Clare Hall Laboratory in Britain.</p><p>&mdash; <em><a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/10/07/446532519/dna-repair-research-nets-chemistry-nobel-for-3-scientists?ft=nprml&amp;f=446532519" target="_blank">via NPR</a></em></p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 07 Oct 2015 11:07:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/three-scientists-win-nobel-prize-chemistry-dna-repair-research-113220 Research showing neutrinos have mass awarded Nobel Prize http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2015-10-06/research-showing-neutrinos-have-mass-awarded-nobel-prize-113207 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/1006_nobel-prize-physics-2-624x333.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="attachment_93738"><p style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://s3.amazonaws.com/media.wbur.org/wordpress/11/files/2015/10/1006_nobel-prize-physics-2.jpg" title="The portraits of the winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics 2015 Takaaki Kajita (L) and Arthur B McDonald are displayed on a screen during a press conference of the Nobel Committee to announce the winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics on October 6, 2015 at the Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, Sweden. Takaaki Kajita of Japan and Canada’s Arthur B. McDonald won the Nobel Physics Prize for work on neutrinos. (Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images)"><img alt="The portraits of the winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics 2015 Takaaki Kajita (L) and Arthur B McDonald are displayed on a screen during a press conference of the Nobel Committee to announce the winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics on October 6, 2015 at the Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, Sweden. Takaaki Kajita of Japan and Canada's Arthur B. McDonald won the Nobel Physics Prize for work on neutrinos. (Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images)" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/media.wbur.org/wordpress/11/files/2015/10/1006_nobel-prize-physics-2-624x333.jpg" /></a></p><p>Looks like John Updike&rsquo;s poem about neutrinos being mass-less objects, &ldquo;<a href="http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1995/illpres/cosmic-call.html" target="_blank">Cosmic Gall</a>,&rdquo; might need an update.</p></div><p>Takaaki Kajita of Japan and Arthur McDonald of Canada have been awarded the Nobel Prize in&nbsp;Physics for their discovery that the subatomic particles called neutrinos&nbsp;do&nbsp;have&nbsp;mass. Scientists have called this a historic and major discovery.</p><p>Michael Turner, director of the <a href="https://kicp.uchicago.edu" target="_blank">Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics</a> at the University of Chicago, tells&nbsp;<em><a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org/" target="_blank">Here &amp; Now</a>&#39;s</em> Jeremy Hobson how&nbsp;this discovery has changed scientists&rsquo;&nbsp;understanding of the universe.</p><p>&ldquo;The universe has so many neutrinos that they contribute as much to the mass budget of the universe as do the stars we see in the sky,&rdquo; Turner said.</p><p>He says the neutrino, which he affectionately calls a &ldquo;lightweight,&rdquo; may be able to tell us about the origins of matter.</p><p>&ldquo;The atoms that you and I are made out of, we believe that neutrinos in the early universe had a role in creating the ordinary matter that we&rsquo;re made out of,&rdquo; Turner said.</p><p><em>Correction: After our interview aired, Professor Turner sent us this correction: &nbsp;&ldquo;It is now four Nobels for the neutrino: &nbsp;1988 for the discovery of the muon neutrino; 1995 for the discovery of the neutrino itself; 2002 for solar and supernova neutrinos; and 2015 for neutrino mass. &nbsp;What a particle!&rdquo;</em></p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2015/10/06/nobel-prize-in-physics" target="_blank"><em>via Here &amp; Now</em></a></p></p> Tue, 06 Oct 2015 15:39:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2015-10-06/research-showing-neutrinos-have-mass-awarded-nobel-prize-113207 Making the most of muck in the Cuyahoga River http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2015-10-06/making-most-muck-cuyahoga-river-113203 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/A tug moves dredged sediment through the Cuyahoga River.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><a class="lightbox" href="http://wcpn.ideastream.org/news/muddy-prospects-new-industry-surfaces-thatll-repurpose-river-sediment" style="text-decoration: none; color: rgb(44, 149, 199); outline: 0px; transition: opacity 0.3s ease 0s; font-family: 'Droid Sans', arial, sans-serif; font-size: 16px; line-height: 19px;" target="_blank" title="A tug moves dredged sediment through the Cuyahoga River (Jim Ridge/Share the River via WCPN)"><img alt="A tug moves dredged sediment through the Cuyahoga River (Jim Ridge/Share the River via WCPN)" class="size-large wp-image-93704" height="339" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/media.wbur.org/wordpress/11/files/2015/10/1005_sludge-cuyahoga-624x339.jpg" style="border: 0px; width: 624px;" width="624" /></a></p><p>Twice a year, a six-mile stretch of the Cuyahoga River has enough sediment dredged out of it to fill about 18,000 dump trucks.&nbsp;This allows shipping traffic to continue between Lake Erie and Cleveland&rsquo;s industrial sectors.</p><p>But earlier this year, Ohio governor John Kasich signed an executive order prohibiting open lake dumping of dredged material.</p><p>From the&nbsp;<em><a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org/" target="_blank">Here &amp; Now</a></em>&nbsp;Contributors Network, WCPN&rsquo;s&nbsp;Brian Bull&nbsp;reports on alternative efforts to make use of all that muck.</p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2015/10/06/cuyahoga-river-dredging" target="_blank"><em> via Here &amp; Now</em></a></p></p> Tue, 06 Oct 2015 13:09:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2015-10-06/making-most-muck-cuyahoga-river-113203 Women find a fertility test isn't as reliable as they'd like http://www.wbez.org/news/women-find-fertility-test-isnt-reliable-theyd-113177 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/egg-freezing.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res445316929"><div data-crop-type="" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="Maria Fabrizio for NPR" src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/10/02/egg-freezing_wide-310ccb910c29f53d74912c68bf9c8e4e8636df41-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 342px; width: 610px;" title="(Maria Fabrizio for NPR)" /></div><div>Women concerned about their fertility can use a test to help decide whether they should freeze their eggs now or whether they still have time to have a baby.</div></div><p>But this test, called an&nbsp;<a href="http://www.acog.org/Resources-And-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Gynecologic-Practice/Ovarian-Reserve-Testing">ovarian reserve test</a>, is often ambiguous and can be misinterpreted. Some fertility specialists worry that many women will be misled by their results, leading some to feel pressured to freeze their eggs when they don&#39;t need to and others to miss their best window to do so.</p><p>A few months ago, I was in Samantha Margolis&#39; kitchen in Washington, D.C., where she was getting ready to give herself an injection. In front of her were several small vials filled with hormones. Margolis was mixing the hormones with saline solution and then injecting them just below her belly button.</p><p>Margolis did these injections every day for 10 days to stimulate her ovaries to make several eggs grow at once. In a normal monthly cycle, just one egg grows and is released at ovulation, but flooding the ovaries with these hormones coaxes them to make more mature eggs.</p><p>At the end of the 10 days, Margolis had a medical procedure to retrieve the mature eggs so they could be frozen at Shady Grove Fertility Center. The idea behind egg freezing is that since the number of eggs and the quality of them decline in women over time, women can preserve eggs when they&#39;re younger to increase their chances of having a baby if they have a fertility issue in the future.</p><p>Margolis, who&#39;s 36, decided to freeze her eggs early this year after getting two key pieces of information about her fertility. First, she learned that her mother had gone through menopause at age 40, and her grandmother had gone through it at 38. (Studies show there is a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2856641/">genetic component</a>&nbsp;to the age at which a woman goes through menopause.)</p><p>She also got the results of an ovarian reserve test.</p><p>Different fertility centers have different versions of this test, but every woman exploring the option of egg freezing has to take one so that doctors can figure out whether she is a good candidate for the procedure. At many fertility centers, the test involves measuring three different hormones in the blood that typically change dramatically in women between age 35 and menopause. There&#39;s also an ultrasound to count follicles, which is where eggs mature in the ovaries.</p><p>Doctors put all this information together, to get a rough picture of a woman&#39;s egg supply. Margolis&#39; results didn&#39;t look good. When she asked her doctor whether she should freeze her eggs, &quot;She said to me &#39;Samantha, I&#39;m not an alarmist, but I would do this, and I would do it as soon as you can. I wouldn&#39;t wait.&#39; &quot;</p><p>Two cycles of hormones and $22,000 later, Margolis got just eight eggs to freeze. Doctors recommend having 15 to 20 eggs for the best chance of making a baby with them later through in vitro fertilization.</p><p>Margolis says she&#39;s glad she froze her eggs when she did. But, she says, &quot;I wish that [this test] was at a certain age was part of your annual [gynecologic] exam. There is no question that if I would have had this test earlier and known what my count was that I would have done this years ago.&quot; Had she done the procedure earlier, she also might have gotten closer to the goal of 15 to 20 eggs for freezing.</p><p>Reproductive medicine specialists say ovarian reserve testing can be useful for women like Margolis who discover when they take it that their egg supply may be running low. &quot;The ability to both test for your egg supply and at the same time do something about it is really amazing,&quot; says Dr.&nbsp;<a href="http://reprosource.com/about/leadership/">Benjamin Leader</a>, a fertility diagnostics researcher and CEO of ReproSource, a fertility testing company in Woburn, Mass.</p><p>But fertility experts also worry that many women will be misled by their test results. &quot;There are issues with the test, the reliability of the test,&quot; says Dr.&nbsp;<a href="https://weillcornell.org/spfeifer">Samantha Pfeifer</a>, an associate professor at Weill Cornell Medical College and chairwoman of a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.asrm.org/Guidelines_for_Practice/">committee</a>&nbsp;at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine that guides doctors in her field.</p><p>Women are born with all of their eggs (some 1 million to 2 million total). One mature egg is typically released each month in the menstrual cycle. Meanwhile, other&nbsp;<a href="http://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/guide/your-guide-female-reproductive-system?page=3">eggs are slowly dying</a>.</p><p>Beginning around age 25, the number of eggs starts to decline a bit more swiftly, and then accelerates after 35 until menopause, when eggs are essentially gone. As the quantity of eggs declines, the quality of the remaining eggs is also deteriorating, which can also affect a woman&#39;s ability to conceive. (Egg quantity and quality are just a few of many different factors that can make it difficult for a couple to conceive.)</p><p>The ovarian reserve test was originally developed to measure egg supply in women who were struggling to get pregnant &mdash; not in women who wanted to freeze their eggs. Doctors realized that some of these women could benefit from ovarian stimulation to produce eggs to use in in vitro fertilization because they still had a lot of eggs left. Those women responded well to hormones &mdash; the same ones Samantha Margolis took in her own egg freezing process. (Women undergoing egg freezing and women doing IVF undergo the same ovarian stimulation process to make eggs &mdash; the difference is that the IVF patients usually use their eggs right away.)</p><div id="res445308914"><div><p data-pym-src="http://apps.npr.org/dailygraphics/graphics/fertility-amh-20151002/child.html">&nbsp;</p></div><div>&nbsp;</div></div><p>In particular, researchers realized that measuring one hormone, called anti-Mullerian hormone, or AMH, in the blood seemed to help predict whether a woman&#39;s ovaries would respond well to the drugs. Higher AMH meant that a woman was likely to produce more eggs under stimulation, while lower levels usually yielded fewer eggs.</p><p>In March, the ASRM practice committee that Pfeifer chairs published a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(12)02255-8/abstract">paper</a>&nbsp;in the journal of&nbsp;Fertility and Sterility&nbsp;noting that &quot;there is mounting evidence to support the use of AMH as a screening test for poor ovarian response.&quot; The paper also noted that the three other hormones fertility centers often check &mdash; FSH, estradiol and inhibin B &mdash; are only poor to fair measures of how a woman&#39;s ovaries will respond to stimulation or her ability to conceive.</p><p>Even though the AMH level may be one of the strongest tools doctors have to assess egg supply, it still can be difficult to interpret what it means, since the range of AMH levels in women of the same age can be huge. Age still is a very important predictor of fertility, but&nbsp;<a href="http://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(10)02687-7/fulltext">one recent study</a>&nbsp;of about 17,000 women in the U.S. found that AMH levels are very unevenly distributed by age. And AMH may decline faster in some women than others.</p><p>Pfeifer says that overall, the ovarian reserve test is not that precise, and is just a snapshot of one moment in time. &quot;These tests do not tell me how many eggs are left; they can generally give you a sense of are there a lot of eggs there, or fewer eggs remaining,&quot; she says. &quot;But they&#39;re not really predictive of when someone is going to go through menopause or be able to achieve a pregnancy.&quot;</p><p>Studies have also shown that there can be a lot of variability in test results, even for the same samples from the same woman. Leader says that&#39;s because different labs have different methods and don&#39;t calibrate their results to the same clinical outcomes.</p><p>For example, Leader says, &quot;When results from one lab are compared to another, a &#39;concerning&#39; result may not be &#39;concerning&#39; for a given condition, and, vice versa, a &#39;reassuring&#39; result may not actually be &#39;reassuring.&#39; &quot; Leader says that the best way to interpret test results is to calibrate the numbers to the &quot;gold standard definition for egg supply,&quot; which is the number of eggs retrieved after the ovaries have been stimulated with hormones. This is how his company ReproSource calibrates egg supply for its patients and clinicians.</p><p>The worst case scenario of using an inaccurate test is that a woman might feel pressured to freeze her eggs because of ominous results when she actually has plenty of eggs left, while another woman might perceive a rosy outlook when she actually may be nearing the end of her egg supply.</p><p>Because of all the uncertainty in measuring egg supply in individual patients, Pfeifer says it&#39;s way too soon to be offering this test as part of regular gynecologic exams.</p><p>&quot;I think that for some people this test is very helpful in guiding them in decision making, but for other people, it may not in and of itself direct them that accurately,&quot; she says.</p><p>People in the egg freezing business see it differently. Many of them say all women should get the test to be better informed about their fertility.</p><p>&quot;There&#39;s no reason why we shouldn&#39;t be doing this test on an annual basis,&quot; says Jay Palumbo, a vice president at Eggbanxx in New York. It&#39;s a company that markets egg freezing with parties branded&nbsp;<a href="https://www.eggbanxx.com/events">Let&#39;s Chill</a>. Palumbo calls herself a &quot;fertility matchmaker&quot; because she helps women who want to freeze their eggs find doctors who will do it.</p><p>She says many of the women who call her looking for a doctor have gotten bad news from the test. &quot;The egg freezing population &mdash; about 20 percent of them find out they have a fertility issue,&quot; she says. &quot;And it&#39;s interesting to hopefully catch people early on in the process so hopefully that maybe, possibly they&#39;re able to avoid some of the heartache later on.&quot;</p><p>The heartache, as the fertility industry sees it, is having no eggs, or no good quality eggs, left when the time comes to try and get pregnant.</p><p>Many women, though, just won&#39;t get clear information from the test. That can make a major life decision like egg freezing more agonizing. You already have to weigh the cost &mdash; $8,000 to $30,000, depending how many rounds of hormones you have to do &mdash; and the possible side effects of the hormones, which include&nbsp;<a href="http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ovarian-hyperstimulation-syndrome-ohss/basics/definition/con-20033777">ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome</a>. And then there&#39;s the fact that&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/08/28/435251307/freezing-eggs-may-reduce-a-womans-odds-of-success-with-ivf">success rates</a>&nbsp;for a live birth from frozen eggs are lower than for fresh eggs.</p><p>The test can be dangerous in other ways, according to&nbsp;<a href="http://womensmentalhealthconsortium.net/galst">Joann Galst</a>, a psychologist in New York City who specializes in women&#39;s fertility issues. Measuring your fertility can be like a Pandora&#39;s box. &quot;This is a really personal field in terms of how people feel about themselves as beings and their future life goals and parenting, Galst says. &quot;It hits them in a very profound deep way to get any information that there may be a problem in this area.&quot;</p><p>That&#39;s why every woman getting the test should ensure they use a lab that gives meaningful results and find a doctor or nurse trained to interpret these results or women may get an inaccurate picture of their fertility, according to Leader of ReproSource.</p><p>Pfeifer of Weill Cornell says that as testing improves, doctors will be able to better guide patients to the right decision.</p><p>&quot;Ideally we&#39;d love to know how can we predict who should freeze their eggs, for example, or who should try and get pregnant sooner; who should do something sooner because their fertility decline faster than expected,&quot; says Pfeifer. &quot;And if we can say these people don&#39;t have to freeze their eggs because they should have no difficulty getting pregnant well into their late 30s &mdash; well, that&#39;d be great to know that.&quot;</p><p>But for now, Pfeifer says, this test isn&#39;t there.</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/10/05/444479324/women-find-a-fertility-test-isnt-as-reliable-as-theyd-like?ft=nprml&amp;f=444479324"><em>via NPR</em></a></p></p> Mon, 05 Oct 2015 12:04:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/women-find-fertility-test-isnt-reliable-theyd-113177 Work on parasite diseases earns Nobel Prize for medicine http://www.wbez.org/news/work-parasite-diseases-earns-nobel-prize-medicine-113173 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP_264208766266_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res445981163" previewtitle="Satoshi Omura, Youyou Tu and William C. Campbell share in the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine."><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="Satoshi Omura, Youyou Tu and William C. Campbell share in the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/10/05/nobels-winners-medicine_custom-5c0e8a8c02c077dca0d1c876ac562805d17298e8-s800-c85.jpg" style="text-align: center; height: 263px; width: 610px;" title="Satoshi Omura, Youyou Tu and William C. Campbell share in the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. (Courtesy Nobel Prize Committee)" /></p><p style="text-align: justify;">The medicines they helped develop are credited with improving the lives of millions. And now three researchers working in the U.S., Japan, and China have won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Among the winners: William C. Campbell of Drew University in Madison N.J., for his work on the roundworm parasite.</p></div><p style="text-align: justify;">Born in Ireland, Campbell shares half the prize with Satoshi Omura of Kitasato University in Japan, who has researched the same parasite. The other half of the award goes to Youyou Tu of the China Academy of Traditional Medicine in Beijing, China, for her work in developing therapies for malaria.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">Taken together, the three &quot;have transformed the treatment of parasitic diseases,&quot; according to the Nobel Prize committee. &quot;The global impact of their discoveries and the resulting benefit to mankind are immeasurable.&quot;</p><p style="text-align: justify;">All of the researchers were born in the 1930s; much of their key research was published around 1980. And their findings came after intense searches for existing natural components that might help fight diseases.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">Working in Japan, Omura isolated novel strains of Streptomyces bacteria from soil samples that not only had antibacterial components, but also had the potential to combat other harmful microorganisms.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">In the U.S., Campbell explored the effects of Omura&#39;s Streptomyces cultures and found that, as the Nobel committee says, &quot;a component from one of the cultures was remarkably efficient against parasites in domestic and farm animals.&quot;</p><p style="text-align: justify;">The active compound, called Avermectin, was further developed to become Ivermectin, which is now used around the world to protect people and animals from a range of parasites, from River Blindness to Lymphatic Filariasis (also known as Elephantiasis).</p><p style="text-align: justify;">&quot;I humbly accept this prize,&quot; Omura said when he was contacted by the Nobel committee today. Saying there are &quot;many, many researchers&quot; who are doing important work, he added, &quot;I may be very, very lucky.&quot;</p><p style="text-align: justify;">Anecdotes have long held that Omura found the life-changing soil sample while he was doing what he loved: playing golf. He clarified that a bit today, saying it had happened &quot;very close to the golf course.&quot;</p><p style="text-align: justify;">Tu revolutionized how malaria is fought by applying ancient techniques from China&#39;s traditional herbal medicine to isolate and purify a component from the plant&nbsp;Artemisia annua&nbsp;that could fight malaria in animals and people.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/IrNL27eWKOI?rel=0" width="560"></iframe></p><p style="text-align: justify;">Tu used those insights to extract the component, now known as Artemisinin, and to show that it could beat malaria. The Nobel committee says Artemisinin represented &quot;a new class of antimalarial agents that rapidly kill the Malaria parasites at an early stage of their development, which explains its unprecedented potency in the treatment of severe Malaria.&quot;</p><p style="text-align: justify;">The plant that yielded the compound,&nbsp;Artemisia annua,&nbsp;is also known as qinghao, sweet wormwood and sweet Annie. Its use in traditional Chinese medicine dates back more than 2,000 years.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">The work that led to the discovery of Artemisinin began in the late 1960s, when China launched a large-scale effort to develop an antimalarial treatment to protect North Vietnamese soldiers from the deadly disease.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">To illustrate how malaria works &mdash; and how humans have fought it &mdash; NPR&#39;s Adam Cole produced a video feature in 2012, explaining how that story ranges from the use of quinine (and the gin and tonic) to the Vietnam War.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">&mdash;<em><a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/10/05/445976576/work-on-parasite-diseases-earns-nobel-prize-for-medicine?ft=nprml&amp;f=445976576" target="_blank"> via NPR</a></em></p></p> Mon, 05 Oct 2015 10:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/work-parasite-diseases-earns-nobel-prize-medicine-113173 The science is in: beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder http://www.wbez.org/programs/world/2015-10-02/science-beauty-truly-eye-beholder-113164 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Credittheilr.jpg" style="height: 344px; width: 610px;" title="A new study says everyone has a unique idea of who is attractive (Credit: theilr)" /></div><p>There are some&nbsp;<a href="http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/366/1571/1638" target="_blank">factors</a>, such as symmetrical facial features or clear skin, that are encoded into our genes as attractive traits.</p><p>But a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822(15)01019-2" target="_blank">study&nbsp;</a>published this week concludes that people disagree with each other about who is attractive&nbsp;about half the time. The study,&nbsp;titled&nbsp;&quot;Individual Aesthetic Preferences for Faces Are Shaped Mostly by Environments, Not Genes,&quot; concludes that personal experience and history, not genetic predisposition, account for this difference in taste.</p><p>This is especially startling because genetics determine much of our abilities and preferences -- even our ability to recognize different faces<a href="http://www.pnas.org/content/107/11/5238.full" target="_blank">&nbsp;is genetic.</a></p><p>&quot;For years there&#39;s been art, there&#39;s been&nbsp;discussion, that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but there hadn&#39;t been any scientific evidence.&quot; said Dr.&nbsp;Laura Germine, one of the leaders of the study,&nbsp;&quot;So we wanted a quantitative study of what influences our judgements of aesthetics, and to investigate where this comes from a behavioral genetic standpoint.&quot;&nbsp;</p><p>To gather this quantitative evidence Germine and her team&nbsp;gathered data from&nbsp;35,000 volunteers who visited their website&nbsp;<a href="http://www.testmybrain.org/" target="_blank">Test My Brain</a>. They determined a way to effectively test difference in facial&nbsp;preference, and used this to test&nbsp;547 pairs of identical twins and 214 pairs of&nbsp;fraternal&nbsp;twins on the attractiveness of 200 faces. Identical twins have the same exact genes, but they still find different faces attractive.</p><div><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="face1" src="http://cdn1.pri.org/sites/default/files/styles/original_image/public/face.png?itok=sXjFwIxn" style="height: 392px; width: 610px;" title="The study used a ranking system to determine individual preferences in facial aesthetics. (Credit: testmybrain.org)" typeof="foaf:Image" /></p><div><p>Germine concludes this means that much of what inspires our idea of what is attractive&nbsp;is&nbsp;personal history: &quot;The environment of the beholder is what determines the moment-to-moment judgments of attraction. If you&#39;re exposed to a face paired with a positive emotion, you are more likely to find that face, and other faces like it more attractive.&quot;&nbsp;This means that every social relationship could influence what traits and faces one prefers.</p></div></div><p>&quot;We looked at adult twins who had been out of the home for 10, 20, 30 years and so had very different life experiences.&quot; explained Germine.&nbsp;&quot;The example I always give is the face of your first boyfriend could be one of the shaping factors of our notion of facial attractiveness.&nbsp;If we studied 12-year-old twins the family environment might be the same, and so likely they could find similar faces attractive.&quot;</p><p>Germine noted that the study didn&#39;t look explicitly at&nbsp;romantic attraction but general attraction to facial features. &quot;We tested the attractiveness of male and female faces and people tend to have the same percentage of agreement or disagreement.&quot;</p><p>Test yourself online&nbsp;<a href="http://www.testmybrain.org/tests/start" target="_blank">here</a>, to see how much you differ from other people on what faces you prefer, and who you find beautiful.&nbsp;</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-10-02/science-beauty-truly-eye-beholder" target="_blank"><em>via PRI&#39;s The World</em></a></p></p> Fri, 02 Oct 2015 14:46:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/world/2015-10-02/science-beauty-truly-eye-beholder-113164