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04/19/2007


Bee Venom Kills HIV: VIDEO

A toxin found in bee venom has been found to be successful in killing HIV, raising hopes for a gel that could deliver it to infected cels via nanoparticles.

Science Daily:

Stinger"Our hope is that in places where HIV is running rampant, people could use this gel as a preventive measure to stop the initial infection," says Joshua L. Hood, MD, PhD, a research instructor in medicine. The study appears in the current issue of Antiviral Therapy.

Bee venom contains a potent toxin called melittin that can poke holes in the protective envelope that surrounds HIV, and other viruses. Large amounts of free melittin can cause a lot of damage. Indeed, in addition to anti-viral therapy, the paper's senior author, Samuel A. Wickline, MD, the J. Russell Hornsby Professor of Biomedical Sciences, has shown melittin-loaded nanoparticles to be effective in killing tumor cells.

The new study shows that melittin loaded onto these nanoparticles does not harm normal cells. That's because Hood added protective bumpers to the nanoparticle surface. When the nanoparticles come into contact with normal cells, which are much larger in size, the particles simply bounce off. HIV, on the other hand, is even smaller than the nanoparticle, so HIV fits between the bumpers and makes contact with the surface of the nanoparticle, where the bee toxin awaits.

"Melittin on the nanoparticles fuses with the viral envelope," Hood says. "The melittin forms little pore-like attack complexes and ruptures the envelope, stripping it off the virus."

How does one collect bee venom?

A helpful video, AFTER THE JUMP...

Venom

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Group of Scientists Believe They Have Unlocked Hereditary Question of Why People are Gay

A group of scientists from the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis say they believe they have the answer to why people are gay, and believe it is an "epigenetic" one linking fathers to lesbian daughters and mothers to gay sons. And they say they can prove whether their theory is right within six months, US News reports:

GenomeLong thought to have some sort of hereditary link, a group of scientists suggested Tuesday that homosexuality is linked to epi-marks — extra layers of information that control how certain genes are expressed. These epi-marks are usually, but not always, "erased" between generations. In homosexuals, these epi-marks aren't erased — they're passed from father-to-daughter or mother-to-son, explains William Rice, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California Santa Barbara and lead author of the study.

More:

Rice and his team created a mathematical model that explains why homosexuality is passed through epi-marks, not genetics. Evolutionarily speaking, if homosexuality was solely a genetic trait, scientists would expect the trait to eventually disappear because homosexuals wouldn't be expected to reproduce. But because these epi-marks provide an evolutionary advantage for the parents of homosexuals: They protect fathers of homosexuals from underexposure to testosterone and mothers of homosexuals from overexposure to testosterone while they are in gestation.

"These epi-marks protect fathers and mothers from excess or underexposure to testosterone — when they carry over to opposite-sex offspring, it can cause the masculinization of females or the feminization of males," Rice says, which can lead to a child becoming gay. Rice notes that these markers are "highly variable" and that only strong epi-marks will result in a homosexual offspring.

Adds Rice: "We've found a story that looks really good. There's more verification needed, but we point out how we can easily do epigenetic profiles genome-wide. We predict where the epi-marks occur, we just need other studies to look at it empirically. This can be tested and proven within six months. It's easy to test. If it's a bad idea, we can throw it away in short order."

More here.


Sydney Doctor Reprimanded for Prescribing 'Chemical Castration' to Gay Teen in Order to 'Cure' Him

Sydney doctor Mark Craddock has been "found guilty of unsatisfactory processional conduct" and reprimanded as well as restricted to the field of radiology after prescribing a "chemical castration" to a teen in order to "cure" him of being gay, AFP reports:

CyprostatBoth men were at the time members of the Exclusive Brethren, a conservative Christian group whose members shun television, radio, and the Internet and do not vote.

In a letter of complaint to the commission, the patient wrote that he came out as gay at the age of 18 and was informed by a church leader, "There's medication you can go on for these things."

The patient then consulted Craddock.

The commission argued that during the consultation the doctor did not provide appropriate medical management of the patient's needs by failing to physically examine him or take a medical history.

He also failed to refer him to a counsellor or psychologist.

Craddock instead prescribed cyprostat, a drug used to treat prostate cancer and manage sexual deviation by reducing testosterone, in circumstances which were not clinically indicated, the commission alleged.

One wonders why licenses aren't completely revoked in these situations.


New Study Shows Sexual Orientation Revealed by One's Eyes

A new study reveals that sexual orientation can be detected by looking at the pupils of our eyes.

EyeScience Daily reports:

For the first time, researchers at Cornell University used a specialized infrared lens to measure pupillary changes to participants watching erotic videos. Pupils were highly telling: they widened most to videos of people who participants found attractive, thereby revealing where they were on the sexual spectrum from heterosexual to homosexual.

The findings were published August 3 in the scientific journal PLoS ONE.

Previous research explored these mechanisms either by simply asking people about their sexuality, or by using physiological measures such as assessing their genital arousal. These methods, however, come with substantial problems.

"We wanted to find an alternative measure that would be an automatic indication of sexual orientation, but without being as invasive as previous measures. Pupillary responses are exactly that," says Gerulf Rieger, lead author and research fellow at Cornell. "With this new technology we are able to explore sexual orientation of people who would never participate in a study on genital arousal, such as people from traditional cultures. This will give us a much better understanding how sexuality is expressed across the planet."

Justin Lehmiller adds:

The idea for this study came out of past research indicating that our pupils naturally dilate when we see something interesting. This is an involuntary response activated by our autonomic nervous system, a bodily system that controls breathing, digestion, heart rate, and many other automatic processes. Pupil dilation is therefore something that it unlikely to be under a person’s conscious control. One previous study conducted in the 1960s found that people’s pupils tend to dilate when they see sexually arousing imagery, but that study only looked at a total of 10 participants (half heterosexual and half homosexual), all of whom were men.

In the new study, 325 men and women of varying sexualities (heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual) watched a series of one-minute video clips in random order. The video content was either a man masturbating, a woman masturbating, or a neutral landscape. A gaze-tracking camera measured the size of participants’ pupils every two milliseconds as the videos were shown. All videos were of equivalent brightness to ensure that changes in light did not affect pupil size.


Report: Doctors Engineering Fetuses to Prevent Intersex, Tomboy, and Lesbian Children

The Journal of Bioethical Inquiry recently published a paper detailing an increasing amount of off-label medical intervention used by U.S. doctors to prenatally engineer fetuses with steroids in order to prevent intersex, tomboy, and lesbian babies, according to a Northwestern University report compiled largely with findings obtained from Freedom of Information Act requests:

WombThe pregnant women targeted are at risk for having a child born with the condition congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), an endocrinological condition that can result in female fetuses being born with intersex or more male-typical genitals and brains. Women genetically identified as being at risk are given dexamethasone, a synthetic steroid, off-label starting as early as week five of the first trimester to try to “normalize” the development of those fetuses, which are female and CAH-affected. Because the drug must be administered before doctors can know if the fetus is female or CAH-affected, only one in eight of those exposed are the target type of fetus.

The off-label intervention does not prevent CAH; it aims only at sex normalization. Like Diethylstilbestrol (DES) -- which is now known to have caused major fertility problems and fatal cancers among those exposed in utero -- dexamethasone is a synthetic steroid. Dexamethasone is known -- and in this case intended -- to cross the placental barrier and change fetal development. Experts estimate the glucocorticoid dose reaching the fetus is 60 to 100 times what the body would normally experience.

According to Northwestern, the report provides evidence that proponents of the intervention are interested in reducing rates of "behavioral masculinization" and the NIH has funded experiments to this end.

There is "a nearly 20 percent 'serious adverse event' rate among the children exposed in utero." Mothers have been told that it is safe but there is no scientific evidence, and the FDA cannot prevent the procedure being advertised as safe because the advertising is done by "a clinician not affiliated with the drug maker."

90 percent of those exposed to the procedure cannot benefit, and medical societies have been saying this for a decade.

According to Northwestern, "The paper is authored by Alice Dreger, professor of clinical medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and is co-authored by Ellen Feder, associate professor of philosophy and religion at American University, and Anne Tamar-Mattis, executive director of Advocates for Informed Choice."


Scientists Create Artificial Jellyfish from Rat Cells: VIDEO

Scientists have built a synthetic jellyfish from silicone and cells from a rat's heart:

MedusoidThe synthetic creature, dubbed a medusoid, looks like a flower with eight petals. When placed in an electric field, it pulses and swims exactly like its living counterpart.

“Morphologically, we’ve built a jellyfish. Functionally, we’ve built a jellyfish. Genetically, this thing is a rat,” says Kit Parker, a biophysicist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who led the work. The project is described today in Nature Biotechnology1.

Parker’s lab works on creating artificial models of human heart tissues for regenerating organs and testing drugs, and the team built the medusoid as a way of understanding the “fundamental laws of muscular pumps”.

The hope is to create something similar from human heart cells to test drugs that would improve cardio functions.

Watch it move, AFTER THE JUMP...

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