Expanding protections for chimpanzees
If a new proposal from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service goes through, chimpanzees could be reclassified as endangered, enhancing legal protections against their use for medical research.
Studies have found the chimpanzees used for medical research often leave with symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder, and there’s a whole host of ethical concerns given their genetic proximity to humans.
But it’s that same proximity that has until recently made them crucial to researchers.
Although there are still a few areas of biomedical research for which chimps remain essential, experiments involving them have fallen out of favor as scientists switched to using mice, rats and other animals that have been genetically altered so that their immune systems mimic those of humans.
Read more over at Science Now.
Photos: Gerald Herbert, Ted S. Warren / Associated Press, Outhendrik Schmidt / AFP/Getty Images
A wrinkly, grey-haired look into aging
While the indications of aging are all around us, in that extra bit of effort it takes to get out of bed in the morning or the thinning hair atop your head, scientists still are trying to understand just how aging occurs.
The body reacts to these triggers in ways that exacerbate problems — no longer signaling cells to divide, for instance. We also run out of tissue stem cells. Communication among cells becomes riddled with errors, a factor associated with cancer.
Rounding out the list are deregulated nutrient sensing, mitochondrial dysfunction and cellular senescence.
The cause for all of this study of our decaying state, as it turns out, is a positive one, in the words of the stud’s coauthor Carlos Lopez-Otin:
“We don’t aspire to immortality, just to the possibility of making life a little better for us all.”
Read more over at Science Now.
Photo: Richard Hartog / Los Angeles Times
Debunking the Myths of Happiness
Sonja Lyubomirsky, UCR Professor of Pyschology, sat down with the Greater Good’s Jason Marsh to talk about how our assumptions about what will and won’t bring us happiness are often flat-out wrong.
Sonja Lyubomirsky: For example, marriage does make people happy, but the most famous study on marriage shows that the happiness boost only lasts for an average of two years. We also know that passionate love—the love that media and movies and literature tell us that we should all be experiencing—tends to dissipate over time. If love survives, it tends to turn into what’s called “companionate love,” which is really more about deep friendship and loyalty. But because our culture holds passionate love up as an ideal, we think that there must be something wrong with us when our relationships aren’t as exciting to us a few years later than they were at the beginning. The same thing goes for our jobs, or the amount of money we make.
Jason Marsh: Are these myths just a product of the media—or do you think they might be rooted in certain innate, perhaps psychological, propensities?
SL: Wow, that’s a good question! I do think media and the culture propagate these myths. I don’t know whether they’re hardwired or evolutionarily adaptive. I will say that the psychological phenomenon hedonic adaptation—which is a big theme of my book—does strongly affect our ideas of what makes us happy.
Hedonic adaptation means that humans beings are remarkable at getting used to changes in their lives. It is evolutionarily adaptive, and perhaps hardwired, so all of us get used to the familiar. That might be because in our ancestral environment, it was important to us to be vigilant or alert to change—a change in the environment might signal a threat, or it could signal a reward or opportunity for reward. And so when things are the same, when stimuli are constant, we don’t tend to notice them or pay attention to them very much.
But the downside of hedonic adaptation is that when a relationship becomes familiar—or when a job becomes familiar, or when your new car becomes very familiar to you—then you start taking the spouse or job or car for granted. You stop paying attention to them, and that’s when we have adapted.
The GIFs make it.
test reblogged from pacificstand
How has your sleep been? Good? Feeling well-rested?
If so, you’re in a surprisingly elite club. A stunning 83% of Americans don’t get decent sleep on a nightly basis - and the biggest culprit? Stress, according to a new study.
Stress and anxiety were cited as the top reason by 48% of the 1,008 adults interviewed by the polling firm Harris Interactive. In addition, 47% of those surveyed said they simply weren’t able to turn off their thoughts.
Other reasons included a lack of income, with 11% more of those in households making less than $35,000 a year having trouble sleeping compared to those making more than $100,000. And women (88%) are more likely than men (78%) to have issues with their sleep.
So maybe take a breather, avoid over-analyzing the past day’s events and whatever the future holds and rest your head with a clear consciousness tonight, and see how you feel in the morning.
Read more on the survey over at Science Now.
It’s time for finals - but what are kids using to help them study?
A new study has found that while 12% of teenagers have taken stimulant medication intended for those with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder for non-medical purposes, just 1% of parents think that’s the case, regardless of whether that use is for last-minute studying or recreation.
So why the concern about students using such drugs?
Use of stimulant medication by children without ADHD can lead to acute exhaustion, abnormal heart rhythms, and — if an adolescent becomes addicted and goes into withdrawal — to confusion and psychosis.
Plus, there’s still no scientific consensus on whether medication intended for ADHD actually improves academic performance.
Read more via Science Now.
Photo: Keith Beaty / Toronto Star
Angelina Jolie’s not the first to make a drastic choice as cancer looms
Jolie surprised the world earlier this week with the announcement that she had undergone a double mastectomy to reduce her chances of getting breast cancer, a decision that Los Angeles Times writer Anna Gorman is all too familiar with.
Fear of cancer is a horrible thing. It stays with you all day long, and it wakes you up at night.
I didn’t want to live with that, especially when I knew I could do something about it.
Like Angelina Jolie, I have a genetic mutation that increased my odds of getting breast cancer to nearly 90%. Also like Jolie, I chose to get my healthy breasts removed to reduce that risk to less than 5%.
Nearly five years after her surgery, Gorman is doing absolutely fine, her scars have faded and she’s glad that Jolie is bringing the tragic genetic condition that prompted both of their decisions to the forefront of the national conversation on cancer.
Read Gorman’s emotional story in full, as a part of our Column One series.
Photos: Anne Cusak / Los Angeles Times
Opening the new science frontier: Your brain
Researchers have discovered a way to make the human brain transparent, which in turn makes it possible to explore three-dimensional images right down to the molecular circuitry.
So what’s the big deal about making the brain transparent?
The recipe for transforming cadaver brains into see-through research tools stands to accelerate investigations of Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia and a host of other brain maladies, and already has led to a significant insight into the peculiar characteristics of neurons associated with Down syndrome and autism.
Photo: Raoul Ranoa / Los Angeles Times, Brady MacDonald / Nature
What’s better than delicious, healthy food? More of it!
As more an more restaurant-goers become inclined to try organic food, even if it’s pricier, non-traditional organic restaurants have popped up. But each faces their own unique challenges, and for Chinese restaurants in particular, the organic label brings some rough opposition.
…the pricier meals are a tough sell in the heavily Asian American valley, where more than 500 Chinese restaurants are in a pitched battle to offer authentic dishes at ever lower prices.
Area restaurants wear B and C food-safety grades like badges of honor, and diners line up for cheap fried pork dumplings and dim sum at $2 a plate. Tam’s dumplings cost $7 and come steamed, with organic spinach wrappers.
Read more on the continued efforts of organic Chinese restaurants here.
Photos: Anne Cusack/ Los Angeles Times
Bad news for bacon lovers
Stow away that bacon and toss out your hot dogs - there’s a new study linking processed meat consumption and premature death, specifically at the hands of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
From Sabine Rohrmann of the University of Zurich:
“Overall, we estimate that 3% of premature deaths each year could be prevented if people ate less than 20 grams processed meat per day.”
Just to put those 20 grams in perspective, your average hot dog contains 50 to 70 grams depending on the brand. Yikes.
Read more on the study via Booster Shots.
Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
Breast cancer rates increasing among the young
The latest findings of a lengthy study, published by the Journal of the American Medical Assn. are eye-opening - here’s a breakdown of the sobering numbers:
In 1976, 1.53 out of every 100,000 American women 25 to 39 years old was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer, the study found. By 2009, the rate had almost doubled to 2.9 per 100,000 women in that age group — a difference too large to be a chance result.
And breast cancer is more fatal for younger victims (defined as those aged 25 to 39), with breast cancer typically acting more aggressively. That said, just 7% of all breast cancer diagnosed in the U.S. is found in women under 40.
Photo: American Cancer Society/Getty Images
Do you know what you’re eating?
You go to the store, you read some labels, you check out at the register, go home, cook it all up and eat it. That’s the routine - but how often do you wonder just what it is you’re eating?
The laws pertaining to genetically-modified ingredients are in their infancy, and there’s little precedent, but here’s the deal:
“People are usually surprised to learn that there is no legal right to know,” said Michael Rodemeyer, an expert on biotechnology policy at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
The FDA mandates that the ingredients, possible allergens, changes in composition etc be clearly labeled. But how your food came to be in the first place? You’re largely on your own.
Photo: Anita Hofschneider / Associated Press
Hold the salt, please: A half-million premature deaths could be prevented over the next decade in America alone, if only the decision was made to steadily reduce our intake of salt.
The findings come courtesy of researchers from UC San Francisco, Harvard University’s School of Public Health and Simon Fraser University in Canada, whose independent studies on salt intake came to similar conclusions, published Tuesday in the American Heart Assn.’s journal Hypertension.
But that’s not all:
A more abrupt reduction to 2,200 milligrams per day—a 40% drop from current levels—could boost the tally of lives saved over 10 years to 850,000, researchers have projected.
Read more why even moderate cutbacks in salt can produce long-term health benefits on Booster Shots.
(Photo via Anacleto Rapping / Los Angeles Times)
An impending medical crisis: Millions of Californians may be set to receive healthcare coverage under President Obama’s healthcare reform bill, but with so many ready to jump on board, one question lingers. Where are all of the doctors?
State lawmakers have some ideas on how to combat what could become a crippling shortage in California.
They are working on proposals that would allow physician assistants to treat more patients and nurse practitioners to set up independent practices. Pharmacists and optometrists could act as primary care providers, diagnosing and managing some chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and high-blood pressure.
But many doctors’ groups aren’t exactly happy with the idea of expanding the definition of medical practitioners.
Doctors say giving non-physicians more authority and autonomy could jeopardize patient safety. It could also drive up costs, because those workers, who have less medical education and training, tend to order more tests and prescribe more antibiotics.
(Photo via Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images)
This is entirely real: Mountain Dew has announced “Kickstart,” a breakfast energy drink that Pepsico hopes will find a following amid the previously-anointed best parts of waking up: Coffee, tea and orange juice.
Said Mountain Dew spokesperson Elisa Baker:
Our consumers told us they were looking for an alternative to traditional morning beverages.
Read more via the Money & Co. blog.
(Photo via Pepsico)
$87,500: That’s how much one California teacher was charged for a routine 20-minute knee surgery, prompting a fight between her, her insurance company and outpatient surgery centers that, in some instances are vastly overcharging the ill.
The normal cost of the operation? $3,000.