castanyes blaves

Random ramblings about some random stuff, and things; but more stuff than things -- all in a mesmerizing and kaleidoscopic soapbox-like flow of words.



It was bound to happen

and it will happen at some point:

at which point, having a iTouch-Linux would be kind of... cool :-)

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Gene Therapy to the rescue?
Gene therapy treats Parkinson's
Nerve cell activity was dampened down by the therapy
An experimental form of gene therapy for Parkinson's disease has been shown to produce promising results.

US scientists treated 12 patients with a virus genetically modified to carry a human gene which dampens down the nerve cells over-excited by Parkinson's.

Now brain scans have revealed significant improvements - which were still present a year later.

The study, led by the University of New York, features in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This study important as it suggests that it was the therapy itself, rather than a placebo effect, that was having a positive impact on patients' symptoms
Dr Kieran Breen
Parkinson's Disease Society

However, the work is still at an early stage. The main aim was to test whether the therapy was safe.

Scientists delivered the gene only to one side of the brain - that which controls movement on the side of the body most affected by Parkinson's - to reduce the potential risk.

It makes an inhibitory chemical called GABA that turns down the activity in a key part of the pathway which controls movement.

Motor network changes

The US team tested the impact of the therapy by using a form of brain imaging known as positron emission tomography (PET) to track changes in the brain.

They focused on two discrete brain networks - one that regulates movement, and another that affects thinking processes.

Only the motor networks were altered by the therapy - but this was all the researchers had hoped for.

The scans showed that the motor network on the untreated side of the body got worse, and that on the treated side got better.

The improvement was reflected in an improvement in patients' symptoms.

They began to show signs of improvement one month after starting therapy, and by six months movement had improved by an average of 30%.

One patient registered an improvement of 65%.

The brain scans also showed those patients who received the highest dose of the gene therapy registered the longest-lasting effect.

Lead researcher Dr David Eidelberg said: "Having this information from a PET scan allows us to know that what we are seeing is real.

"This study demonstrates that PET scanning can be a valuable marker in testing novel therapies for Parkinson's disease."

Parkinson's, which affects around 120,000 people in the UK, is caused by the loss of brain cells, which leads to a drop in chemicals required to regulate cell activity, and the connections they make with their neighbours.

Dr Kieran Breen, of the Parkinson's Disease Society, said the disease was likely to be caused by a mix of genetic and environmental factors.

"Because of this, there are many potential ways to treat or cure Parkinson's, and gene therapy is one potential route holding a lot of promise," he said.

"This study is important as it suggests that it was the therapy itself, rather than a placebo effect, that was having a positive impact on patients' symptoms."

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Fishy GM food, of the good kind

By Helen Briggs
Science reporter, BBC News

Oilseed rape (Rothamsted Research)
Crops such as oilseed rape have been engineered to produce fish oil
Plants genetically engineered to make fish oils offer a new approach to improving diet, say UK scientists.

Experiments have proved that crops containing genes from marine organisms are able to produce omega 3 fatty acids normally found in oily fish.

Adding the oil to animal feed would create omega 3-rich meat, milk and eggs.

Researchers from the EU-wide Lipgene project say such food would help tackle public health issues like obesity.

'Good' fats

Concerns over dwindling fish stocks and marine pollution has led researchers to seek an alternative source of long chain omega 3 fatty acids; fats that have important health benefits, especially for the heart. The best source is oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel and herring, but most people do not get enough in their diet.

Salmon (VT freeze frame)
Most people don't eat enough oily fish

Omega 3 fatty acids are made not by the fish themselves but by the marine microbes they consume.

Scientists at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden, Herts, isolated key genes from a species of microscopic single-celled marine algae known as Thalassiosira pseudonana.

They inserted the genes into crops such as linseed and oil seed rape and found that the plants were able to synthesise omega 3 fatty acids in their seed oils.

"We know that this works, we've done proof of concept studies in model plants and also in crop plants and we can see the accumulation of some of the fish oils we're interested in," said research group leader Professor Johnathan Napier.

"We're still at the stage where we'd want to optimise and improve the levels that we see so I think we're probably three or four years away from the point where we have something ready for regulatory approval for some sort of limited field release," he added.

The eventual aim is to feed GM-enhanced oils to animals such as chickens and cattle, to produce omega 3 enriched meat, milk and eggs.

This would provide a sustainable source of fish oil amid concern over dwindling fish stocks.

"The big problem is that fish (and fish oils) is a very seriously diminishing natural resource," said Professor Napier.

"There are big problems with the sustainability of natural fish stocks and there are also concerns about pollution of the marine environment so we're interested in trying to produce a sustainable alternative source with these fish oils."

Consumer issues

Professor Ian Givens from the Nutritional Sciences Research Unit at the University of Reading said he believed that consumers would see the benefit of such foods, despite the fact they come from transgenic crops.

Salmon (VT freeze frame)
There is concern over dwindling fish stocks

"There has been a lot of concern and resistance about the whole GM technology in the food chain," he said.

"Things move on. When people are able to see more clearly what the benefits to them are from these sorts of approaches, rather than the benefits to others, I suspect that mindsets will change but it will take time."

New figures released by Lipgene show that only 30% of the UK population is consuming the recommended 450mg/day intake of omega-3 fatty acids.

Teenagers, especially males, and low income groups eat the least of all, said Professor Givens.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) recommends that everyone should eat two portions of fish a week, including one portion of oily fish.

But because fish can contain pollutants such as dioxins and PCBs, there are limits to the amount that should be consumed, particularly for women who are pregnant and breast feeding.

An FSA spokesperson said an expert committee reviewed the evidence on the relationship between long chain omega 3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease in 2004.

"Two portions of fish per week, one white and one oily, provides the amount of long chain omega 3 fatty acids that can help prevent heart disease," said the spokesperson.

"The Agency recommends that it is better to eat fish, especially oily fish, rather than fish oil supplements or fish oil fortified foods because as well as being rich in long chain omega 3 fatty acids, fish also contains essential vitamins and minerals and is a good source of protein."

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Another geeky entry about geeky stuff -- Linux and the common cold

Mr Forsyth said Google had to be aware that making a "mobile OS is a very specialised form of rocket science.

"It's not search rocket science."

He said the alliance was yet another attempt to launch a Linux-based operating system to drive mobile phones.

"About every three months this year there has been a mobile Linux initiative of some sort launched.

"It's a bit like the common cold. It keeps coming round and then we go back to business. We don't participate in these full stop. We make our own platform and we are focused on driving that into the mobile phone market at large ever more aggressively."

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Gordon Brown +1

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has committed the UK to reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 60% before 2050 to help tackle global warming.

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Not good

Merck decideix tancar el seu centre de recerca de Barcelona

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