Genes Point to Best Diets

Gene Test Indicates Who Will Benefit From Low-Carb or Low-Fat Diets
By Ron Winslow – WSJ
March 4, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO—In the long-running debate over diets—low-fat or low-carb—Stanford University researchers reported Wednesday that a genetic test can help people choose which one works best for them.

In a study involving 133 overweight women, those with a genetic predisposition to benefit from a low-carbohydrate diet lost 2 1/2 times as much weight as those on the same diet without the predisposition. Similarly, women with a genetic makeup that favored a low-fat diet lost substantially more weight than women who curbed fat calories without low-fat genes. The women were followed for a year.

“Knowing your genotype for low-carb or low-fat diets could help you increase your weight-loss success,” said Christopher Gardner, an associate professor of medicine at Stanford and a co-author of the study.

Data from a separate study indicate that 45% of white women have a low-carb genotype while 39% are predisposed to a low-fat diet, suggesting the test has the potential to yield a useful result for much of the population. The test is based on variations in three genes known to regulate how the body metabolizes fat and carbohydrates.
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Government Takes DNA Without Your Consent

The Government has Your Baby’s DNA
By Elizabeth Cohen, CNN Senior Medical Correspondent

(CNN) — When Annie Brown’s daughter, Isabel, was a month old, her pediatrician asked Brown and her husband to sit down because he had some bad news to tell them: Isabel carried a gene that put her at risk for cystic fibrosis.

While grateful to have the information — Isabel received further testing and she doesn’t have the disease — the Mankato, Minnesota, couple wondered how the doctor knew about Isabel’s genes in the first place. After all, they’d never consented to genetic testing.

It’s simple, the pediatrician answered: Newborn babies in the United States are routinely screened for a panel of genetic diseases. Since the testing is mandated by the government, it’s often done without the parents’ consent, according to Brad Therrell, director of the National Newborn Screening & Genetics Resource Center.
In many states, such as Florida, where Isabel was born, babies’ DNA is stored indefinitely, according to the resource center.

Many parents don’t realize their baby’s DNA is being stored in a government lab, but sometimes when they find out, as the Browns did, they take action. Parents in Texas, and Minnesota have filed lawsuits, and these parents’ concerns are sparking a new debate about whether it’s appropriate for a baby’s genetic blueprint to be in the government’s possession.

“We were appalled when we found out,” says Brown, who’s a registered nurse. “Why do they need to store my baby’s DNA indefinitely? Something on there could affect her ability to get a job later on, or get health insurance.”
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Augmented Reality

Bringing Virtual Objects into the Real World
If you own an iPhone, you are already using augmented reality with the application Monocle. By combining the phone’s camera view with tiny tags indicating the names, distances and user ratings of nearby bars, restaurants and stores, you are using augmented reality.

With video-see-through technology, AR hand-held devices such as tablet PC’s, PDA’s, or camera cell phones, (or in many cases just a webcam and our standard computer monitor), you hold the device up and “see through” the display to view both the real world and the superimposed virtual object. You can move around and see the virtual object, model, animation, or game from different views as the AR system performs alignment of the real and virtual cameras automatically. All you need is a computer, printer, and a webcam.

More at How Stuff Works

Cool Stuff

Breaking America’s Addiction to Oil

Imagine a world where super-efficient cars are desirable, affordable and everywhere…
where gasoline no longer makes history, but is history…

The $10 Million Dollar X Prize Competition
The X Prize Foundation is a public-private partnership that is conducting incentivized competitions to stimulate innovation in automotive, space and genomic technologies.

In 2004, the Foundation captured world headlines when Burt Rutan, backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, built and flew the world’s first private vehicle to space to win the $10 million Ansari X Prize.

Progressive Insurance, along with a $5.5 million grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, created the competition to inspire a new generation of viable, super fuel-efficient vehicles.

Competitor must design, build and race super-efficient vehicles that will achieve 100 MPG and produce less than 200 grams/mile CO2 emissions. They must be capable of being produced for the mass market.

43 teams will participate in the formal vehicle challenges, which will begin in the spring of 2010 and winners will be announced in September 2010.

The DOE contributed an additional $3.5 million award to fund a two-year national education program that engages students and the public in learning about advanced vehicle technologies, energy efficiency, climate change, alternative fuels and the science, technology, engineering and math behind efficient vehicle development.

Alzheimer’s Could be Detected by Simple Eye Test

According to UK scientists, the technique uses fluorescent markers which attach to dying cells that can be seen in the retina and give an early indication of brain cell death.

Research has been carried out on mice, with human trials ready to begin. The research, which is published in the journal, Cell Death and Disease, could enable scientists to overcome the difficulty of investigating what is happening inside the brains of those with Alzheimer’s. Currently the only tests we have are expensive MRI scans or post-mortems.

Fluorescent Dye
The new technique enables scientists to track the progress of brain disease by looking at dying cells in the retina, which show up as green dots. The dying and dead cells absorb the fluorescent dye.

So far research has only been carried out on mice, but scientists are optimistic that the technique can be translated to humans.

Professor Francesca Coredeiro, from University College London Institute of Ophthalmology said: “Few people realise that the retina is a direct, albeit thin, extension of the brain. It is entirely possible that in the future a visit to an optician to check on your eyesight will also be a check on the state of your brain.”

Dr. Coredeiro said she hopes that screening for Alzheimer’s will be available within five years.
The first clinical trials will begin by the end of2010.

Rebecca Wood, Chief Executive of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, said: “These findings have the potential to transform the way we diagnose Alzheimer’s, greatly enhancing efforts to develop new treatments and cures. If we spot Alzheimer’s in its earliest stages, we may be able to treat and reverse the progression of the disease as new treatments are developed.”

700,000 people in the UK live with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and that number is set to double within a generation unless scientists make rapid progress in their race for a cure.”


The Land Where Children Eat Mud
TimesOnline – By Alex von Tunzelmann

Haiti is mired in historic debt and in danger of complete collapse. It is stricken by flood and famine, and kidnap, rape and child abuse are rife. So what is the West doing to rescue the ‘nightmare republic’?

If you ever hear of Haiti, it is usually because of something frightening. It is famous for hurricanes, deforestation, poverty, drug smuggling, violence, dictatorships, voodoo and slavery. Half a century ago, when it was under the tyranny of François “Papa Doc” Duvalier and his “zombie” militia, Graham Greene called Haiti the “nightmare republic”. Though Papa Doc has long gone, the nightmares have never ended in this Caribbean dystopia. Haiti is the poorest country and only Third World nation in the western hemisphere, and it’s getting worse.

Two centuries ago, the political economist Robert Malthus postulated that a society in which the population grew too fast could reach a point where people simply could not be fed, leading to a total collapse. Over the past five years, Haiti has not only met but exceeded the conditions for a Malthusian catastrophe. The only things keeping the country from absolute disaster are imported food and charity. With a global economic crisis afoot, the question is how long that can be sustained. I had plenty of reservations about going to Haiti. It is a place born out of the darkest days of slavery: a country where white people have always been regarded, with some reason, as the enemy, and where, in some areas, half of all women and girls have been the victims of rape.  Continue reading

Can You Hear Me Now?

The Mojave Phone Booth
Life, in general, is more complicated and we seem to spend more time fixing things that are suppose to make my life easier – and less time enjoying them.

15 years ago we never really thought about talking on the phone while we were driving. If we needed to make a call we looked for a phone booth and pulled over. Simple.

Now we have cell phones. Cell phones are great because you don’t have to stop the car and get out to make a call. Simple.

For the past couple of years I contemplated getting a Blackberry. My thinking was that it would simplify my life if I had a phone/camera/email/internet/text device all rolled into one.

Ordering the phone and service plan was simple. Setting up the account (using the land line) not so much. It took 2 hours.

Programming the damn thing took another 3 hours. After my 5 hour ordeal I had a headache and was on “tiny-type overload” from trying to read the instructions on the 2.5 inch screen. Simple? Not so much.