Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Caffeinator (He'll be back real quick)

We at the Ripsaw enjoy a strong, punch-in-the-face type cup of coffee in the morning, be it Sumatran, Ethiopian or plain or Starbucksy Arabica Breakfast Blend. Indeed, caffeine is often hailed by yours truly as a brain enhancer, a focus accelerant and an all around answer to life in the early hours of the day.=New research, however, shows there is a darker side to caffeine, and it's not all French Roast.

Caffeine mucks with insulin in diabetes.

Caffeine increases risk of miscarriage.

I think there's a unifier here. Caffeine works its magic by keeping a molecule known as cAMP from degrading. With lots of cAMP around, the brain can continue functioning when it would typically trigger fatigue and sleepiness as cAMP levels dropped. Keep the supply fresh and you can go much longer, so to speak.

Here's the thing: cAMP is a nigh-universal metabolic messenger, and is involved in both the metabolism of food as well as complex parts of the reproductive pathways. If you keep cAMP high through caffeine dosing, you're unbalancing something in the body, and in the case of diabetics or pregnant women, there's a much bigger risk involved.

Not that this should keep you from your favorite caffeinated beverage of choice, but perhaps coffee isn't the panacea wunderdrug we'd all like it to be.

Monday, January 28, 2008

You wonder who funds them.

America's Funniest home videos wacky science papers.

I'm not sure how farts keep one's personality together, but I'm listening.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

At the corner of vanity and therapy.

Stem cells give a peak into a possible melanoma breakthrough.

This is actually follow-up research on another breakthrough, the demonstration of a group of receptors, the, yes - ABC family - are key markers for tumor cells. In essence, this can be a unifying tag on the surface of tumor cells that set them apart from the rest of the normal, noncancerous cells in the body. Based on that tag, a therapy might be developed that could use that tag as a target. As mentioned, there are considerations; this receptor, ABCB5, does indeed have a function elsewhere in the body. This is the classic example of what the drug industry likes to call 'side effects'.

Of course, the rub is that melanoma is largely a self-inflicted form of cancer, with the vast majority of cases arising from sun exposure. Might want to make your hat for next summer bigger and floppier, neh?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hopefully we can remember where we put those extra cells

New preliminary research out of UC-Irvine shows the discovery of a creator gene responsible for differentiating cells into brain tissue. This is a key element in creating a stem cell line of cells that could be used to regenerate brain tissue in patients with diseases like Alzheimer's.

These genes are highly selective, and likely only operate in a small window of time during early development. It would be interesting to see what a homolog gene does in other organisms, as it might provide insight as to how we got our big juicy think-globs. Mmmmm, thinky.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Exciting new frontiers

Hey there!

Between a rush of holiday activity and a near month of malaise the Ripsaw had gone dark. Hopefully I'll be able to bring you the tasty science news you desire in the future. In the meantime, the world of stem cells has been all a quiver...

Human heart tissue grown from stem cells. A real great leap given the times, this is the leap from mere bits of progenitor cells towards something that might be used to build a new heart that could be put into use to save lives. These would be grown on a scaffold of collagen, which dovetails on previous Ripsaw reports.

Singapore considering human-animal chimeras. This is the type of bold research you'd expect Singapore and perhaps Taiwan to champion, so it will be interesting to observe what comes of such research. Without a doubt, these 'cybrid' studies will be essential to carefully bridging stem cell applications to people.