Sun will ‘flip upside down’ within weeks, says Nasa

The sun’s magnetic field will reverse polarity at some point in the coming weeks, sending ripples to the edge of interstellar space.

Tomas Jivanda

Friday, 15 November 2013

The sun is set to “flip upside down” within weeks as its magnetic field reverses polarity in an event that will send ripple effects throughout the solar system.

Although it may sound like a catastrophic occurrence, there’s no need to run for cover. The sun switches its polarity, flipping its magnetic north and south, once every eleven years through an internal mechanism about which little is understood.

Continue reading “Sun will ‘flip upside down’ within weeks, says Nasa”

Harvard seeks $8.1 billion in record fundraising drive

Sunday, September 22, 2013 – 10:36


BOSTON – Harvard, the richest university in the United States, said on Saturday it would seek to raise some $6.5 billion in donations to fund new academic initiatives and bolster its financial aid programme.

The fundraising drive by the Cambridge, Massachusetts, institution is the university’s biggest and believed to be the most ambitious ever undertaken by a university, ahead of one concluded last year by Stanford University in California that raised $6.2 billion (S$8.1 billion).

Harvard unveiled its campaign at an event featuring Bill Gates, who spent three years at the school in the 1970s before dropping out to co-found Microsoft Corp.

Gates, who was ranked by Forbes magazine this year as the world’s second-richest person behind Mexico’s Carlos Slim, joked about his decision to leave the university during a talk before alumni and donors.

“You never say that you are ‘dropping out’ of Harvard. I’went on leave’ from Harvard,” he said. “If things hadn’t worked out for my company, Microsoft, I could have come back.”

Gates did not say whether he intended to donate to the ambitious campaign. A spokesman for the billionaire, whose foundation has made several grants to the university, said later on Saturday there was nothing to announce.

The university has already raised $2.8 billion from more than 90,000 donors during the pre-launch phase of the campaign, its first major fundraising drive in more than a decade, it said in a press release.

Harvard’s investment portfolio is worth about $30.7 billion, roughly the size of the annual gross domestic product of the Baltic nation of Latvia.

That endowment shrank 0.05 per cent in the fiscal year ended in 2012, after double-digit gains the previous year, according to the most recent figures from the university.

“The endowment is meant to last forever. … It enables our faculty to do groundbreaking research and supports financial aid for our students,” Vice President for Alumni Affairs & Development Tamara Rogers said in a statement. “In order to undertake new activities, we are going to have to raise new funds.”

Nearly half of the money raised in the new campaign will support teaching and research, while a quarter will go for financial aid and related programs. The rest will go toward capital improvements and a flexible fund, according to Harvard, recently ranked America’s No. 2 university behind Princeton by US News & World Report.

Four years ago, Harvard was forced to suspend its campus expansion and put the construction of a $1 billion science complex on hold after its endowment lost 27.3 per cent during the financial crisis.

Funds from the campaign will help finance that project in Boston’s Allston neighborhood. Construction resumed a year ago.


A storm is coming: Sun’s poles are set to FLIP within four months and it could lead to bad weather and radio disruption

  • The sun’s  magnetic field reverses its polarity once every 11 years or so
  • Flip  represents a peak in solar activity where bursts of energy are  released
  • These  bursts can lead to space storms and changes to Earth’s  climate
  • Radio and  satellite communications may also be affected

By  Victoria Woollaston

PUBLISHED: 09:42 EST, 6  August 2013 |  UPDATED: 09:46 EST, 6 August 2013

The sun’s magnetic field is expected to flip  in the next three to four months and it could lead to changes in our climate,  storms and disruption to satellites.

This solar event only happens once every 11  years and signals what physicists call the Solar Maximum – a time when the Sun’s  solar activity is at its highest.

During this peak in activity the outbursts of  solar energy can increase the amount of cosmic and UV rays coming towards Earth  and this can interfere with radio communications, cause solar bursts of light –  known as flares – and can affect the planet’s temperature.

Physicists from Stanford University believe the Sun's magnetic fields will flip before the end of the year, reversing their polarity.  

Physicists from Stanford University believe the Sun’s  magnetic fields will flip before the end of the year, reversing their polarity.  This will cause an increase in solar energy and could lead to changes in climate  and satellite disruption. The reversal happens once every 11 years or  so



Solar Maximum peaks and troughs 

During the sun’s cycle the amount of solar  activity reaches peaks and troughs known as Solar Maximum and Solar Minimum.

During Solar Maximum the amount of solar  activity is at its highest due to a flip, or reversal, of the sun’s magnetic  field.

Since 1976 there have been three Solar  Maximums and they occur roughly every 11 years, although this can vary from  between nine and 14 years.

During a Solar Maximum, large numbers of  sunspots appear and the sun’s irradiance – or electromagnetic radiation – output  grows by around 0.1 per cent.

This increase in energy can impact global  climate and recent studies have shown some correlation with regional weather  patterns.

‘It looks like we’re no more than three to  four months away from a complete field reversal,’ solar physicist Dr Todd  Hoeksema of Stanford University told Nasa  Science.

‘This change will have ripple effects  throughout the solar system.’

The sun’s magnetic field reverses around  every 11 years at the peak of each solar cycle.

The last peak, or Solar Maximum, was in 2000  and Nasa initially predicted the next flip would take place between 2011 and  2012.

Physicists also warned at the time that the  next Solar Maximum could be the strongest yet.

Scientists at Stanford’s Wilcox Solar  Observatory have been studying the sun’s magnetic field since 1976, during which  time they have witnessed three reversals.

In 1859 a solar storm known as the 1859 Solar  Superstorm, or Carrington Event after Richard C Carrington who recorded the  event, saw numerous solar flares appear all over Earth.

It was so strong that the Northern  Lights –  a natural light display that appears predominantly in that  Arctic and Antarctic  regions and is caused by the collision of energetic  charged particles in the  magnetosphere and solar wind – were said to be  have been visible as far south  as Rome.

During Solar Maximum the amount of solar activity is at its highest. 

During Solar Maximum the amount of solar activity is at  its highest. A Solar Maximum causes large numbers of sunspots to appear. The  Sun’s irradiance – or electromagnetic radiation – output grows by about 0.1 per  cent during this time and this can lead to changes in climate and affect radio  communications


In 1859 a solar storm known as the Solar  Superstorm, or Carrington Event named after Richard Carrington who  recorded it,  saw numerous solar flares appear.

From 28 August 28 to 2 September sunspots and  solar flares were observed.

British astronomer Carrington  observed the  largest flare, which caused a major coronal mass ejection – a massive burst of  solar wind and magnetic field – to travel directly  toward Earth.

It was so strong that the Northern  Lights –  a natural light display that appears predominantly in that  Arctic and Antarctic  regions caused by the collision of energetic  charged particles in the  magnetosphere and solar wind – were said to be  have been visible as far south  as Rome.

Telegraph services were also  disrupted.

Solar flares created by changes in solar  activity also release X-rays and UV radiation.

These rays can affect Earth’s ionosphere – a  region of the upper atmosphere – and disrupt long-range radio communications.

Dr Phil Scherrer, also a solar physicist at  Stanford, explained that during a magnetic field reversal the Sun’s polar  magnetic fields lose strength and then stop all together before appearing again  the other way around.

The increase of solar bursts have  implications for a huge area; its influence extends billions of miles past  Pluto.

Changes in the magnetic field affect what’s  called the ‘current sheet.’

This sheet juts out for billions of miles  from the Sun’s equator where according to Science@Nasa, the star’s  slowly-rotating magnetic field includes an electric current.

Although the current of electricity is small,  there is a large amount flowing through a region around 10,000km  thick.

The heliosphere – a region of space and our  solar system that is directly influenced by the Sun and its solar activity – is  controlled by this sheet.

When a magnetic field flips it causes the  current sheet to become wavy, which Scherrer described to Science@Nasa as being  like the seams on a baseball.

As Earth orbits the Sun, the planet dips in  and out of the sheet and these transitions can cause stormy space  weather.

It can also affect cosmic rays, which are  particles that travel almost at light speed, and these rays can be dangerous to  astronauts and space stations. Some researchers believe these rays also directly  affect how cloudy Earth is.

Wilcox’s Solar Observatory is continuing to  monitor the changes and is set to release a statement when the reversal takes  place.


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N.Korea has everything in place for new atom test: US expert

N.Korea needs more tests to “miniaturise” bomb, an expert said. -Reuters     Wed, Jul 17, 2013  Reuters

VIENNA – North Korea has strong technical reasons to carry out another nuclear test but may be hesitating because it would anger China, a prominent US scientist who has often visited the reclusive Asian state said on Wednesday.

Stanford University’s Siegfried Hecker, who was shown a previously undetected uranium enrichment facility when he was last there three years ago, said the North had “everything in place” for what would be the fourth such explosion since 2006.

The impoverished country conducted its third nuclear test in February, prompting stiffer UN sanctions against it.

Like the United States and South Korea, China – North Korea’s sole major diplomatic ally – has urged Pyongyang to take steps to end its nuclear programme and to return to dialogue.

Hecker said North Korea “needed additional tests in my opinion to miniaturise”, referring to the effort to develop a bomb small and robust enough to fit onto a delivery vehicle such as a missile.

The outside world tries to monitor North Korea’s nuclear advances largely via satellite images.

Hecker said the North’s tunnel preparations had caused speculation that there could be two tests back in February, but this did not happen and one tunnel remained ready.

“There are strong drivers for them to test again,” said Hecker, believed to have been the last Westerner to visit North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear complex. “They have a tunnel that’s ready to go if they want to test again,” he told a seminar held by an international nuclear-test-ban treaty organisation in Vienna.

But China’s displeasure was an important reason “why I think they are hesitating now… The price they have to pay is mostly determined by China”, Hecker said.

China is North Korea’s most important economic and political backer, but the two are uneasy allies and tensions have grown.

Some Chinese banks have frozen out North Korea’s main foreign exchange bank amid frustration in Beijing over the North’s continued pushing of its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.

Earlier this month, US Secretary of State John Kerry said China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi assured him that Beijing had been “very firm” with Pyongyang on its need to end its nuclear programme.

Hecker said he believed the North was weighing the benefits and costs of further testing: “The important part is to increase the cost … and the Chinese are absolutely key to that”.

North Korea said this month it would not give up its nuclear deterrent until Washington ends its “hostile policy” towards Pyongyang, but it was ready to revive international talks on its nuclear programme frozen since 2008.

Hecker, a former head of the US Los Alamos National Laboratory, said he was concerned about the possibility of cooperation between North Korea and Iran, which denies Western allegations that it is seeking nuclear weapons capability.

Any sharing of the North’s test data would be dangerous, he said, adding: “That would be very, very troublesome and indeed could give the Iranian programme a significant boost”.

An Iranian diplomat in the audience took issue with Hecker’s comment, saying Tehran “does not need any nuclear weapon”.

Hecker said he believed Iran had developed a nuclear weapon option. “Iran … has put all the things in place to be able to develop the bomb should it decide to do so,” he said.

Biological computer that ‘lives’ inside the body comes one step closer as scientists make transistor out of DNA and RNA

Finding could lead to new biodegradable devices based on living cells that are capable of detecting changes in the environment

Steve Connor

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Scientists believe they are close to building the first truly biological computer made from the organic molecules of life and capable of working within the living cells of organisms ranging from microbes to man.

The researchers said that they have made a transistor – the critical switch at the heart of all computers – from DNA and RNA, the two biological molecules that store the information necessary for living things to replicate and grow.

Silicon transistors control the direction of flow of electrical impulses within computer chips, but the biological transistor controls the movement of an enzyme called RNA polymerase along a strand of the DNA molecule, the scientists said.

Ultimately, the aim is to use the biological transistors – called transcriptors – to make simple but extremely small biological computers that could be programmed to monitor and perhaps affect the functioning of the living cells in which they operate, researchers said.

It could lead to new biodegradable devices based on living cells that are capable of detecting changes in the environment, or intelligent microscopic vehicles for delivering drugs within the body, or a biological monitor for counting number of times a human cell divides so that the device could destroy the cell if it became cancerous, the scientists said.

“Biological computers can be used to study and reprogram living systems, monitor environments and improve cellular therapeutics,” said Drew Endy, assistant professor of bioengineering at Stanford University in California, who led the study published in the journal Science.

Last year, Professor Endy announced new ways of using biological molecules to store information and to transmit data from one cell to another. The latest study adds the third critical component of computing – a biological transistor that acts as a “logic gate” to determine whether a biochemical question is true or false.

Logic gates are critical for a computer to function properly. In a biological setting the use of logical data processing is almost as limitless as its use in conventional electronic computing, said Jerome Bonnet, a bioengineer within the Endy laboratory, and the lead author of the study.

“You could test whether a given cell had been exposed to any number of external stimuli – the presence of glucose and caffeine for instance. [Logic] gates would allow you to make the determination and store that information so you could easily identify those which had been exposed and which had not,” Dr Bonnet said.

Biological computers have been the dream of electronic engineers for decades because they open the possibility of a new generation of ultra-small, ultra-fast devices that could be incorporated into the machinery of living organisms.

“For example, suppose we could partner with microbes and plants to record events, natural or otherwise, and convert this information into easily observed signals. That would greatly expand our ability to monitor the environment,” Professor Endy said.

“So the future of computing need not only be a question of putting people and things together with ubiquitous silicon computers. The future will be much richer if we can imagine new modes of computing in new places and with new materials – and then find ways to bring those new modes to life,” he said.


Stanford University raises $1 Billion in Donations

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Wednesday, 20 February 2013
Stanford University has set a new record for college fundraising, becoming the first school to collect more than $1 billion in a single year, according to a report released Wednesday.

For the eighth straight year, Stanford ranked first in the Council for Aid to Education’s annual college fundraising survey, which shows that elite institutions continue to grab a disproportionate share of donor dollars.
In the 2012 fiscal year, roughly 3,500 U.S. colleges and universities raised $31 billion, 2.3 percent more than the previous year. The record was set in 2008 when schools took in $31.6 billion before fundraising dropped during the height of the financial crisis.

“We’re climbing out of the doldrums,” said survey director Ann Kaplan. “We haven’t returned to the high point of 2008, but we’re approaching it. I think you can say that about a lot of industries.”

Topping the list was Stanford at $1.035 billion, followed by Harvard University at $650 million, Yale University at $544 million, the University of Southern California at $492 million and Columbia University at $490 million.

The top 10 fundraising colleges collected $5.3 billion, or 17 percent, of the $31 billion, even though they represent only 0.3 percent of the 3,500 accredited, nonprofit schools included in the survey.

Stanford benefited from a surge in donations at the end of its multi-year Stanford Challenge fundraising campaign, which netted $6.2 billion. It also benefited from the successful launch of a $1 billion campaign for its medical school and hospitals.

The 10-campus University of California system raised $1.56 billion, which doesn’t include money collected by its individual campuses. UC Berkeley was the leading fundraiser among all public universities, taking in $405 million.

Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, Stanford’s alumni list includes the founders of major tech companies like Yahoo Inc. who have given to the school in recent years.
Stanford raised 46 percent more in its 2012 fiscal year than the $709 million it collected in 2011 and surpassed its previous record of $911 million set in 2006. The $1.035 billion haul is equal to nearly $56,000 for each of its roughly 18,500 undergraduate and graduate students, though much of the money will be used for research and construction.
By contrast, San Jose State University, a public college 20 miles away, raised $14 million, which is equal to $450 for each of its 31,000 students.

Stanford received donations from nearly 79,000 donors, including $100 million of a $150 million gift from Silicon Valley investor Robert King and his wife Dorothy to establish the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies.

“We are in awe and remain humbled by this kind of response. It was a remarkable showing of generosity,” said Martin Shell, Stanford’s vice president for development. “Higher education for most people represents hope for a better future, and donors want to invest in that.”



Human intelligence is declining according to Stanford geneticist

Published: 18 February, 2013, 23:56 Edited: 18 February, 2013, 23:56

Ever can’t help but think you’re surrounded by idiots? A leading scientist at Stanford University thinks he has the answer, and the bad news is things aren’t likely to get any better.

Dr. Gerald Crabtree, a geneticist at Stanford, has published a study that he conducted to try and identify the progression of modern man’s intelligence. As it turns out, however, Dr. Crabtree’s research led him to believe that the collective mind of mankind has been on more or a less a downhill trajectory for quite some time.

According to his research, published in two parts starting with last year’s ‘Our fragile intellect. Part I,’ Dr. Crabtree thinks unavoidable changes in the genetic make-up coupled with modern technological advances has left humans, well, kind of stupid. He has recently published his follow-up analysis, and in it explains that of the roughly 5,000 genes he considered the basis for human intelligence, a number of mutations over the years has forced modern man to be only a portion as bright as his ancestors.

“New developments in genetics, anthropology and neurobiology predict that a very large number of genes underlie our intellectual and emotional abilities, making these abilities genetically surprisingly fragile,” he writes in part one of his research. “Analysis of human mutation rates and the number of genes required for human intellectual and emotional fitness indicates that we are almost certainly losing these abilities,” he adds in his latest report.

From there, the doctor goes on to explain that general mutations over the last few thousand years have left mankind increasingly unable to cope with certain situations that perhaps our ancestors would be more adapted to.

“I would wager that if an average citizen from Athens of 1000 BC were to appear suddenly among us, he or she would be among the brightest and most intellectually alive of our colleagues and companions, with a good memory, a broad range of ideas, and a clear-sighted view of important issues. Furthermore, I would guess that he or she would be among the most emotionally stable of our friends and colleagues. I would also make this wager for the ancient inhabitants of Africa, Asia, India or the Americas, of perhaps 2000–6000 years ago. The basis for my wager comes from new developments in genetics, anthropology, and neurobiology that make a clear prediction that our intellectual and emotional abilities are genetically surprisingly fragile.”

According to the doctor, humans were at their most intelligent when “every individual was exposed to nature’s raw selective mechanisms on a daily basis.” Under those conditions, adaption, he argued, was much more of a matter than fight or flight. Rather, says the scientists, it was a sink or swim situation for generations upon generations.

“We, as a species, are surprisingly intellectually fragile and perhaps reached a peak 2,000 to 6,000 years ago,” he writes. “If selection is only slightly relaxed, one would still conclude that nearly all of us are compromised compared to our ancient ancestors of 3,000 to 6,000 years ago.”

That doesn’t mean it’s all downhill, though. Dr. Crabtree says, “although our genomes are fragile, our society is robust almost entirely by virtue of education, which allow strengths to be rapidly distributed to all members.”

“We have a long time to solve it. People 300 years ago had no idea where we’d be scientifically now,” he says. “We’ll be able to deal with this problem with a range of humane and ethical solutions.”

Insight: Evidence grows for narcolepsy link to GSK swine flu shot : Doctors are fearful of having their reputations ruined by reporting possible links

By Kate Kelland, Health and Science Correspondent | Reuters – 8 mins ago

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Emelie is plagued by hallucinations and nightmares. When she wakes up, she’s often paralyzed, unable to breathe properly or call for help. During the day she can barely stay awake, and often misses school or having fun with friends. She is only 14, but at times she has wondered if her life is worth living.

Emelie is one of around 800 children in Sweden and elsewhere in Europe who developed narcolepsy, an incurable sleep disorder, after being immunized with the Pandemrix H1N1 swine flu vaccine made by British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline in 2009.

Finland, Norway, Ireland and France have seen spikes in narcolepsy cases, too, and people familiar with the results of a soon-to-be-published study in Britain have told Reuters it will show a similar pattern in children there.

Their fate, coping with an illness that all but destroys normal life, is developing into what the health official who coordinated Sweden’s vaccination campaign calls a “medical tragedy” that will demand rising scientific and medical attention.

Europe’s drugs regulator has ruled Pandemrix should no longer be used in people aged under 20. The chief medical officer at GSK’s vaccines division, Norman Begg, says his firm views the issue extremely seriously and is “absolutely committed to getting to the bottom of this”, but adds there is not yet enough data or evidence to suggest a causal link.

Others – including Emmanuel Mignot, one of the world’s leading experts on narcolepsy, who is being funded by GSK to investigate further – agree more research is needed but say the evidence is already clearly pointing in one direction.

“There’s no doubt in my mind whatsoever that Pandemrix increased the occurrence of narcolepsy onset in children in some countries – and probably in most countries,” says Mignot, a specialist in the sleep disorder at Stanford University in the United States.


In total, the GSK shot was given to more than 30 million people in 47 countries during the 2009-2010 H1N1 swine flu pandemic. Because it contains an adjuvant, or booster, it was not used in the United States because drug regulators there are wary of adjuvanted vaccines.

GSK says 795 people across Europe have reported developing narcolepsy since the vaccine’s use began in 2009.

Questions about how the narcolepsy cases are linked to Pandemrix, what the triggers and biological mechanisms might have been, and whether there might be a genetic susceptibility are currently the subject of deep scientific investigation.

But experts on all sides are wary. Rare adverse reactions can swiftly develop into “vaccine scares” that spiral out of proportion and cast what one of Europe’s top flu experts calls a “long shadow” over public confidence in vaccines that control potential killers like measles and polio.

“No-one wants to be the next Wakefield,” said Mignot, referring to the now discredited British doctor Andrew Wakefield who sparked a decades-long backlash against the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) shot with false claims of links to autism.

With the narcolepsy studies, there is no suggestion that the findings are the work of one rogue doctor.

Independent teams of scientists have published peer-reviewed studies from Sweden, Finland and Ireland showing the risk of developing narcolepsy after the 2009-2010 immunization campaign was between seven and 13 times higher for children who had Pandemrix than for their unvaccinated peers.

“We really do want to get to the bottom of this. It’s not in anyone’s interests if there is a safety issue that needs to be addressed,” said GSK’s Begg.


Emelie’s parents, Charles and Marie Olsson, say she was a top student who loved playing the piano, taking tennis lessons, creating art and having fun with friends. But her life started to change in early 2010, a few months after she had Pandemrix. In the spring of 2010, they noticed she was often tired, needing to sleep when she came home from school.

But it wasn’t until May, when she began collapsing at school, that it became clear something serious was happening.

As well as the life-limiting bouts of daytime sleepiness, narcolepsy brings nightmares, hallucinations, sleep paralysis and episodes of cataplexy – when strong emotions trigger a sudden and dramatic loss of muscle strength.

In Emelie’s case, having fun is the emotional trigger. “I can’t laugh or joke about with my friends anymore, because when I do I get cataplexies and collapse,” she said in an interview at her home in the Swedish capital.

Narcolepsy is estimated to affect between 200 and 500 people per million and is a lifelong condition. It has no known cure and scientists don’t really know what causes it. But they do know patients have a deficit of a brain neurotransmitter called orexin, also known as hypocretin, which regulates wakefulness.

Research has found that some people are born with a variant in a gene known as HLA that means they have low hypocretin, making them more susceptible to narcolepsy. Around 25 percent of Europeans are thought to have this genetic vulnerability.

When results of Emelie’s hypocretin test came back in November last year, it showed she had 15 percent of the normal amount, typical of heavy narcolepsy with cataplexy.

The seriousness of her strange new illness has forced her to contemplate life far more than many other young teens: “In the beginning I didn’t really want to live any more, but now I have learned to handle things better,” she said.


Scientists investigating these cases are looking in detail at Pandemrix’s adjuvant, called AS03, for clues.

Some suggest AS03, or maybe its boosting effect, or even the H1N1 flu itself, may have triggered the onset of narcolepsy in those who have the susceptible HLA gene variant.

Angus Nicoll, a flu expert at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), says genes may well play a part, but don’t tell the whole story.

“Yes, there’s a genetic predisposition to this condition, but that alone cannot explain these cases,” he said. “There was also something to do with receiving this specific vaccination. Whether it was the vaccine plus the genetic disposition alone or a third factor as well – like another infection – we simply do not know yet.”

GSK is funding a study in Canada, where its adjuvanted vaccine Arepanrix, similar to Pandemrix, was used during the 2009-2010 pandemic. The study won’t be completed until 2014, and some experts fear it may not shed much light since the vaccines were similar but not precisely the same.

It all leaves this investigation with far more questions than answers, and a lot more research ahead.


In his glass-topped office building overlooking the Maria Magdalena church in Stockholm, Goran Stiernstedt, a doctor turned public health official, has spent many difficult hours going over what happened in his country during the swine flu pandemic, wondering if things should have been different.

“The big question is was it worth it? And retrospectively I have to say it was not,” he told Reuters in an interview.

Being a wealthy country, Sweden was at the front of the queue for pandemic vaccines. It got Pandemrix from GSK almost as soon as it was available, and a nationwide campaign got uptake of the vaccine to 59 percent, meaning around 5 million people got the shot.

Stiernstedt, director for health and social care at the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, helped coordinate the vaccination campaign across Sweden’s 21 regions.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says the 2009-2010 pandemic killed 18,500 people, although a study last year said that total might be up to 15 times higher.

While estimates vary, Stiernstedt says Sweden’s mass vaccination saved between 30 and 60 people from swine flu death. Yet since the pandemic ended, more than 200 cases of narcolepsy have been reported in Sweden.

With hindsight, this risk-benefit balance is unacceptable. “This is a medical tragedy,” he said. “Hundreds of young people have had their lives almost destroyed.”


Yet the problem with risk-benefit analyses is that they often look radically different when the world is facing a pandemic with the potential to wipe out millions than they do when it has emerged relatively unscathed from one, like H1N1, which turned out to be much milder than first feared.

David Salisbury, the British government’s director of immunization, says “therein lies the risk, and the difficulty, of working in public health” when a viral emergency hits.

“In the event of a severe pandemic, the risk of death is far higher than the risk of narcolepsy,” he told Reuters. “If we spent longer developing and testing the vaccine on very large numbers of people and waited to see whether any of them developed narcolepsy, much of the population might be dead.”

Pandemrix was authorized by European drug regulators using a so-called “mock-up procedure” that allows a vaccine to be authorized ahead of a possible pandemic using another flu strain. In Pandemrix’s case, the substitute was H5N1 bird flu.

When the WHO declared a pandemic, GSK replaced the mock-up’s strain with the pandemic-causing H1N1 strain to form Pandemrix.

GSK says the final H1N1 version was tested in trials involving around 3,600 patients, including children, adolescents, adults and the elderly, before it was rolled out.

The ECDC’s Nicoll says early warning systems that give a more accurate analysis of a flu strain’s threat are the best way to minimize risks of this kind of tragedy happening in future.

Salisbury agrees, and says progress towards a universal flu vaccine – one that wouldn’t need last-minute changes made when a new strain emerged – would cuts risks further.

“Ideally, we would have a better vaccine that would work against all strains of influenza and we wouldn’t need to worry about this ever again,” he said. “But that’s a long way off.”

With scientists facing years of investigation and research, Emelie just wants to make the best of her life.

She reluctantly accepts that to do so, she needs a cocktail of drugs to try to control the narcolepsy symptoms. The stimulant Ritalin and the sleeping pill Sobril are prescribed for Emelie’s daytime sleepiness and night terrors. Then there’s Prozac to try to stabilize her and limit her cataplexies.

“That’s one of the things that makes me feel most uncomfortable,” she explains. “Before I got this condition I didn’t take any pills, and now I have to take lots – maybe for the rest of my life. It’s not good to take so many medicines, especially when you know they have side effects.”

(Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Will Waterman)–finance.html


Prime Minister often finds out about policies from the radio or newspapers, says former advisor Hilton


James Tapsfield

Sunday, 13 January 2013

David Cameron’s former policy guru has spoken of his “horror” at Downing Street’s inability to control government decisions.

Steve Hilton has apparently admitted that the Prime Minister often finds out about policies from the radio or newspapers – and often opposes them.

The startling insights are said to have been delivered in a seminar for students at California’s Stanford University, where Mr Hilton is teaching while on sabbatical, the Sunday Times reported.

“Very often you’ll wake up in the morning and hear on the radio or the news or see something in the newspapers about something the Government is doing,” he told them.

“And you think, well, hang on a second – it’s not just that we didn’t know it was happening, but we don’t even agree with it! The Government can be doing things… and we don’t agree with it? How can that be?”

He described how No 10 is frequently left out of the loop as important policy changes are pushed through by “paper-shuffling” civil servants.

He also complained that only 30% of daily government business was devoted to implementing its reform programme.

Another 40% related to implementing EU regulations, and 30% related to “random things… which were not anything to do with the coalition agreement”.

“In other words, only 30% of what the Government is doing is actually delivering what we’re supposed to be doing. It just shows you the scale of what you’re up against,” he said. “When I found that out, that was pretty horrific.”

He complained that the paperwork associated with everyday decisions was “impossible” for ministers to wade through. Many policy changes were simply nodded through.

“There’s all sorts of things, and they can be quite trivial things but they can be quite serious as well, and they can certainly affect the real world,” he said.

“That’s how you end up with stuff happening that the Government is doing that the people running the Government don’t know about, or disagree with.

“When you start thinking about how things get decided, it’s pretty incredible… it’s a brilliant system for paper-shuffling people to be in control.”

He added: “The bureaucracy masters the politicians. I don’t mean that in a hostile way – it’s just a fact.”

Mr Hilton left for California – where he teaches an hour-long class on “How to make change happen in government” – last May. He was widely believed to have become disillusioned with the Government’s progress on radical reforms, and his Google executive wife, Rachel Whetstone, is based there.

One of the most colourful characters in Mr Cameron’s inner circle, Mr Hilton remains close to the premier and is theoretically only on temporary leave from Downing Street. Many expect him to play a role in the 2015 general election campaign.


4 common antipsychotic drugs found to lack safety and effectiveness in older adults: aripiprazole (Abilify), olanzapine (Zyprexa), quetiapine (Seroquel), and risperidone (Risperdal)

Contact: Debra Kain 619-543-6163 University of California – San Diego

In older adults, antipsychotic drugs are commonly prescribed off-label for a number of disorders outside of their Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved indications – schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The largest number of antipsychotic prescriptions in older adults is for behavioral disturbances associated with dementia, some of which carry FDA warnings on prescription information for these drugs.

In a new study – led by researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, Stanford University and the University of Iowa, and funded by the National Institute of Mental Health – four of the antipsychotics most commonly prescribed off label for use in patients over 40 were found to lack both safety and effectiveness. The results will be published November 27 in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

The study looked at four atypical antipsychotics (AAPs) – aripiprazole (Abilify), olanzapine (Zyprexa), quetiapine (Seroquel), and risperidone (Risperdal) – in 332 patients over the age of 40 diagnosed with psychosis associated with schizophrenia, mood disorders, PTSD, or dementia.

“Our study suggests that off-label use of these drugs in older people should be short-term, and undertaken with caution,” said Dilip V. Jeste, MD, Estelle and Edgar Levi Chair in Aging, Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences, and director of the Stein Institute for Research on Aging at UC San Diego.

Results of the five-year study led by Jeste, who is also current president of the American Psychiatric Association (which was not involved in this research), showed that within one year of treatment, one-third of the patients enrolled in the study developed metabolic syndrome (medical disorders that can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease or diabetes). Within two years, nearly a quarter of the patients developed serious adverse effects and just over half developed non-serious adverse effects.

Because the patients enrolled in the study were all diagnosed with conditions with psychotic symptoms that required antipsychotic drug treatment according to their treating physicians, no placebo was used in the trial.  Instead, the researchers used a technique called “equipoise stratified randomization” which is a hybrid of complete randomization and a clinician’s choice method.

“Our goal was to ensure clinical relevance,” said Jeste.  Patients had to agree to be randomized to 2, 3 or 4 of the study drugs, as they or their physicians were allowed to exclude one or two of the study AAPs, due to past experience or anticipated risk of the particular drug.   Treating clinicians could determine the optimal dosage.  “We attempted to make the study as ‘user-friendly’ as possible, to allow the drugs the best chance of success, while seeking to minimize the amount of bias,” he explained.

While the researchers’ intent was to continue the patients on the randomized medications for two years, the average length turned out to be only six months, after which the medications were halted or switched because they didn’t work and/or had side effects.

Because of a notably high incidence of serious adverse events, quetiapine had to be discontinued midway through the trial.  The researchers  found that there were significant differences among patients willing to be randomized to different AAPs – thus, treating clinicians tended to exclude olanzapine and prefer aripiprazole as one of the possible choices in patients with existing metabolic problems. Yet, the different AAP groups did not appreciably differ in most outcome measures.

Using a common scale called the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS), to measure symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, unusual behavior, depression, and anxiety, assessments were made at 6 weeks, 12 weeks, and then every 12 weeks.   Results using “blind” raters showed no significant improvement in BPRS over a six-month period.

“While there were a few significant differences among the four drugs, the overall risk-benefit ratio for the AAPs in patients over age 40 was not favorable, irrespective of diagnosis and drug,” said Jeste.

Jeste points out that clinicians, patients, and caregivers are often left with difficult and unclear choices for treatment for older persons with psychosis, such as that associated with dementia.   Not only are psychosis and agitation common in persons with dementia but they also frequently cause considerable caregiver distress and hasten institutionalization of patients. At the same time, there are no FDA-approved alternatives to antipsychotics for this population, and the high cost of newer AAPs also makes their use problematic.

While the researchers say their findings do not suggest that these AAPs should be banned in older patients with psychiatric disorders, they do indicate that considerable caution is warranted in off-label, long-term use of the drugs in older persons.

“When these medications are used off-label, they should be given in low dosages and for short durations, and their side effects monitored closely,” said Jeste. “Clearly, there is also a critical need to develop and test new interventions that are safe and effective in older people with psychotic disorders.”



Other authors of this paper are Hua Jin, MD, Pei-an Betty Shih, PhD, Shahrokh Golshan, PhD, Sunder Mudaliar, MD, Robert Henry, MD, and Danielle K. Glorioso, MSW, from University of California, San Diego; Helena C. Kraemer, PhD, emerita professor of biostatistics in psychiatry at Stanford University, and Stephan Arndt, PhD, professor of psychiatry and biostatistics at the University of Iowa.

The study was supported in part by National Institutes of Health grants MH071536, P30 MH080002-01, 1K01DK087813-01, NCRS UL1RR031980 and by the Department of Veteran Affairs.

Are we getting more stupid? Researchers claim our intelligence is diminishing as we no longer need it to survive

By Mark Prigg

PUBLISHED:13:57 EST, 12  November 2012| UPDATED:14:10 EST, 12 November 2012

Our intelligence and behaviour requires  optimal functioning of a large number of genes, which requires enormous  evolutionary pressures to maintain.

Now, in a provocative theory, a team from  Stanford University claim we are losing our intellectual and emotional  capabilities because the intricate web of genes which endows us with our brain  power is particularly vulnerable to mutations – and these mutations are not  being selected against our modern society because we no longer need intelligence  to survive.

But we shouldn’t lose any sleep over our  diminishing brain power – as by the time it becomes a real problem technology  will have found a solution making natural selection obsolete.

Researchers say be are becoming less intelligent because we no longer need intelligence to surviveResearchers say be are becoming less intelligent because  we no longer need intelligence to survive

‘The development of our intellectual  abilities and the optimisation of thousands of intelligence genes probably  occurred in relatively non-verbal, dispersed groups of peoples before our  ancestors emerged from Africa,’ says Dr Gerald Crabtree, lead author of the  paper published today in Cell Press journal Trends in Genetics.

In this environment, intelligence was  critical for survival, and there was likely to be immense selective pressure  acting on the genes required for intellectual development, leading to a peak in  human intelligence.

But it was downhill from there on in as, from  that point, it’s likely that we began to slowly lose ground, the researchers  claim.

With the development of agriculture, came  urbanisation, which may have weakened the power of selection to weed out  mutations leading to intellectual disabilities.

The team believe we have sustained mutations harmful to our intelligence
The team believe we have sustained mutations harmful to  our intelligence

Based on calculations of the frequency with  which deleterious mutations appear in the human genome and the assumption that  2,000 to 5,000 genes are required for intellectual ability, Dr Crabtree  estimates that within 3,000 years, about 120 generations, we have all sustained  two or more mutations harmful to our intellectual or emotional  stability.

Also, recent findings from neuroscience  suggest that genes involved in brain function are uniquely susceptible to  mutations.

Dr Crabtree argues that the combination of  less selective pressure and the large number of easily affected genes is eroding  our intellectual and emotional capabilities.

But the loss is quite slow, and judging by  society’s rapid pace of discovery and advancement, future technologies are bound  to reveal solutions to the problem, Dr Crabtree believes.

He said: ‘I think we will know each of the  millions of human mutations that can compromise our intellectual function and  how each of these mutations interact with each other and other processes as well  as environmental influences.

‘At that time, we may be able to magically  correct any mutation that has occurred in all cells of any organism at any  developmental stage.

‘Thus, the brutish process of natural  selection will be unnecessary.’

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Common herbal medicine may prevent acetaminophen-related liver damage, says Stanford researcher : S-methylmethionine

2009 study posted for filing

Contact: Krista Conger 650-725-5371 Stanford University Medical Center

STANFORD, Calif. — A well-known Eastern medicine supplement may help avoid the most common cause of liver transplantation, according to a study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. The finding came as a surprise to the scientists, who used a number of advanced genetic and genomic techniques in mice to identify a molecular pathway that counters acetaminophen toxicity, which leads to liver failure.

“I didn’t know anything about the substance that was necessary for the pathway’s function, so I had to look it up,” said Gary Peltz, MD, PhD, professor of anesthesiology. “My postdoctoral fellow, whose parents and other family members in Asia were taking this compound in their supplements, started laughing. He recognized it immediately.”

The molecule was S-methylmethionine, which had been marketed as an herbal medicine known as Vitamin U for treatment of the digestive system. It is highly abundant in many plants, including cabbage and wheat, and is routinely ingested by people. Coincidentally, Garnett Cheney, MD, at Stanford University performed a series of studies in the 1950s in which he used the compound to treat peptic ulcers.

Peltz is the senior author of the research, which will be published online Nov. 18 in Genome Research. The experiments were conducted in Peltz’s laboratory at Roche Palo Alto in Palo Alto, Calif., where Peltz worked before coming to Stanford in July 2008. He is continuing the research at Stanford. The first author of the paper, Hong-Hsing Liu, MD, PhD, is now a postdoctoral scholar in Peltz’s Stanford lab.

Acetaminophen is a pain reliever present in many over-the-counter cold and flu medicines. It is broken down, or metabolized, in the body into byproducts — one of which can be very toxic to the liver. At normal, therapeutic levels, this byproduct is easily deactivated when it binds to a naturally occurring, protective molecule called glutathione. But the body’s glutathione stores are finite, and are quickly depleted when the recommended doses of acetaminophen are exceeded.

Unfortunately, the prevalence of acetaminophen makes it easy to accidentally exceed the recommended levels, which can occur by dosing more frequently than indicated or by combining two or more acetaminophen-containing products. However, severe liver damage can occur at even two to three times the recommended dose (the maximum adult dose is 4 grams per day; toxic daily levels range from 7 to 10 grams).

“It’s a huge public health problem,” said Peltz. “It’s particularly difficult for parents, who may not realize that acetaminophen is in so many pediatric medicines.” Acetaminophen overdose is the most common cause of liver transplantation in this country. The only effective antidote is an unpalatable compound called NAC that can induce nausea and vomiting, and must be administered as soon as possible after the overdose.

Peltz and his colleagues used 16 inbred strains of laboratory mice for their investigations. Most strains are susceptible to acetaminophen toxicity, but one is resistant. They compared how the drug is metabolized by the different strains and looked for variations in gene expression and changes in endogenous metabolites in response to acetaminophen administration. They identified 224 candidate genes that might explain the resistant strain’s ability to ward off liver damage, and then plumbed computer databases to identify those involved in metabolizing acetaminophen’s dangerous byproducts.

One, an enzyme called Bhmt2, fit the bill: It helped generate more glutathione, and its sequence varied between the resistant and non-resistant strains of mice. Bhmt2 works by converting the diet-derived molecule S-methylmethionine, or SMM, into methionine, which is subsequently converted in a series of steps into glutathione. The researchers confirmed the importance of the pathway by showing that SMM conferred protection against acetaminophen-induced liver toxicity only in strains of mice in which the Bhmt2 pathway was functional.

“By administering SMM, which is found in every flowering plant and vegetable, we were able to prevent a lot of the drug’s toxic effect,” said Peltz. He and his colleagues are now working to set up clinical trials at Stanford to see whether it will have a similar effect in humans. In the meantime, though, he cautions against assuming that dosing oneself with SMM will protect against acetaminophen overdose.

“There are many pathways involved in the metabolism of this drug, and individuals’ genetic backgrounds are tremendously variable. This is just one piece of the puzzle; we don’t have the full answer,” he said. However, if subsequent studies are promising, Peltz envisions possibly a co-formulated drug containing both acetaminophen and SMM or using SMM as a routine dietary supplement.



The research was partially funded by the Institute of General Medical Sciences and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health and by Roche. Peltz and Liu are the co-inventors on a patent filed on the use of SMM to prevent acetaminophen toxicity in humans. SandHill Bio, a drug discovery startup co-founded by Peltz, is further investigating the potential therapeutic applications of the finding.

The Stanford University School of Medicine consistently ranks among the nation’s top 10 medical schools, integrating research, medical education, patient care and community service. For more news about the school, please visit The medical school is part of Stanford Medicine, which includes Stanford Hospital & Clinics and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. For information about all three, please visit

BROADCAST MEDIA CONTACT: M.A. Malone at (650) 723-6912 (

Photon Magnetism Used to Control Light breaks law of time-reversal symmetry: Nanoscale Applications That Use Light Instead of Electricity

Synthetic Magnetism Used to Control Light: Opens Door to Nanoscale Applications That Use Light Instead of Electricity

Promise of harnessing light. An advance could yield a new class of nanoscale applications that use light instead of electricity. (Credit: © mrage / Fotolia)

ScienceDaily (Oct. 31, 2012) — Stanford researchers in physics and engineering have demonstrated a device that produces a synthetic magnetism to exert virtual force on photons similar to the effect of magnets on electrons. The advance could yield a new class of nanoscale applications that use light instead of electricity.

Magnetically speaking, photons are the mavericks of the engineering world. Lacking electrical charge, they are free to run even in the most intense magnetic fields. But all that may soon change. In a paper published in Nature Photonics, an interdisciplinary team from Stanford University reports that it has created a device that tames the flow of photons with synthetic magnetism.

The process breaks a key law of physics known as the time-reversal symmetry of light and could yield an entirely new class of devices that use light instead of electricity for applications ranging from accelerators and microscopes to speedier on-chip communications.

“This is a fundamentally new way to manipulate light flow. It presents a richness of photon control not seen before,” said Shanhui Fan, a professor of electrical engineering at Stanford and senior author of the study.

A Departure

The ability to use magnetic fields to redirect electrons is a founding principle of electronics, but a corollary for photons had not previously existed. When an electron approaches a magnetic field, it meets resistance and opts to follow the path of least effort, travelling in circular motion around the field. Similarly, this new device sends photons in a circular motion around the synthetic magnetic field.

The Stanford solution capitalizes on recent research into photonic crystals — materials that can confine and release photons. To fashion their device, the team members created a grid of tiny cavities etched in silicon, forming the photonic crystal. By precisely applying electric current to the grid they can control — or “harmonically tune,” as the researchers say — the photonic crystal to synthesize magnetism and exert virtual force upon photons. The researchers refer to the synthetic magnetism as an effective magnetic field.

The researchers reported that they were able to alter the radius of a photon’s trajectory by varying the electrical current applied to the photonic crystal and by manipulating the speed of the photons as they enter the system. This dual mechanism provides a great degree of precision control over the photons’ path, allowing the researchers to steer the light wherever they like.

Broken Laws

In fashioning their device, the team has broken what is known in physics as the time-reversal symmetry of light. Breaking time-reversal symmetry in essence introduces a charge on the photons that reacts to the effective magnetic field the way an electron would to a real magnetic field.

For engineers, it means that a photon travelling forward will have different properties than when it is traveling backward, the researchers said, and this yields promising technical possibilities. “The breaking of time-reversal symmetry is crucial as it opens up novel ways to control light. We can, for instance, completely prevent light from traveling backward to eliminate reflection,” said Fan.

The new device, therefore, solves at least one major drawback of current photonic systems that use fiber optic cables. Photons tend to reverse course in such systems, causing a form of reflective noise known as backscatter.

“Despite their smooth appearance, glass fibers are, photonically speaking, quite rough. This causes a certain amount of backscatter, which degrades performance,” said Kejie Fang, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Physics at Stanford and the first author of the study.

In essence, once a photon enters the new device it cannot go back. This quality, the researchers believe, will be key to future applications of the technology as it eliminates disorders such as signal loss common to fiber optics and other light-control mechanisms.

“Our system is a clear direction toward demonstrating on-chip applications of a new type of light-based communication device that solves a number of existing challenges,” said Zongfu Yu, a post-doctoral researcher in Shanhui Fan’s lab and co-author of the paper. “We’re excited to see where it leads.”

Same Report 2 Titles ( Organic fruit and vegetables are no better for children, pediatricians claim ) – ( American Academy of Pediatrics Reviews The Benefits of Organic Foods )

Article # 1


2nd article  at Bottom
3rd and 4th  article link to the Actual PR release…From the OTA the Other the Original Release from the AAP

Organic fruit and vegetables are no better for children, pediatricians  claim

By Associated Press

PUBLISHED:16:43 EST, 22  October 2012| UPDATED:16:44 EST, 22 October 2012

Organic fruits and vegetables are not necessarily safer or more nutritious than  conventional foods, a leading pediatricians group has claimed.

Parents who  want to reduce their kids’ exposure to pesticides may seek out organic produce,  but science has not proven that eating  pesticide-free food makes people healthier, the American Academy of Pediatrics  said.

‘Theoretically there could be negative  effects, especially in young children with growing brains,’  said Dr. Janet Silverstein, a co-author on the report.

Findings: Pediatricians have claimed pesticide-free foods, as those pictured, aren't necessarily safer or more nutritious for children than conventional foods
Findings: Pediatricians have claimed pesticide-free  foods, as those pictured, aren’t necessarily safer or more nutritious for  children than conventional foods

Yet Silverstein, a  pediatric endocrinologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville, added that rigorous scientific evidence  is lacking.

‘We just can’t say for certain that organics  is better without long-term controlled studies,’ she said.

The report was published online on Monday in  Pediatrics and echoes a Stanford University study released last  month.

That research concluded that while eating  organic fruits and vegetables can reduce pesticide exposure, the amount measured  in conventionally grown produce was within safety limits.

More digging: Doctors said there were limited studies showing its damage
More digging: Doctors said there were limited studies  showing its damage

Since organic foods tend to be costlier, a  good strategy for penny-pinching parents concerned about pesticides is to buy  only organic versions of foods with the most pesticide residue – including  apples, peaches, strawberries and celery, Silverstein said.

But the pediatricians group says higher  prices on organic foods might lead some parents to buy fewer fruits and  vegetables over all.

They fear this is not a good strategy since  both have health benefits including reducing risks for obesity, heart disease  and some cancers.

Parents should aim to provide their families  a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whether organic or not, along with plenty  of whole grains and low-fat or fat-free dairy products, the report  says.

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Article # 2

American Academy of Pediatrics Reviews The Benefits of Organic Foods

by in Parenting

In the last few years the benefits of organic foods has always been a big question for many families. In fact Stanford University doctors recentlyrevealed that because they were ‘inadequately prepared when it came to answering their patients’ questions regarding the nutritional value of organic foods, they combed through thousands of studies on 237 of the most commonly compared organic and conventionally grown foods. In the end it was found that organic foods did not prove themselves to be any more nutritious than conventionally grown foods.  The big issue, however, is pesticide exposure.

Looking to make things a little easier for parents ‘confused by conflicting marketing messages regarding healthy food choices for their children’, the American Academy of Pediatrics(AAP) did their own research, which is scheduled to appear in the November issue of the journal Pediatrics. Calling the report a major milestone for the organic sector, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) hails it as a confirmation of the significance of the benefits that organic provides.

“OTA commends the American Academy of Pediatrics—which is THE authority for pediatricians and parents—for examining the health and environmental benefits of organic foods. The science cited in this report points firmly towards positive aspects of organic farming, and confirms many reasons for purchasing organic foods,” said Christine Bushway, OTA’s CEO and Executive Director. She added, “This information will help empower parents as they make decisions about what to feed their children.”

Overall, the clinical report cited the following contributions of organic farming and food consumption:

  • Lower exposure to pesticides known to cause disease
  • Lower exposure to drug-resistant bacteria
  • Higher beneficial nutrient levels such as Vitamin C, total phenols and phosphorus
  • Lower levels of detrimental substances such as nitrates
  • Yields comparable to those of conventional farming techniques while avoiding environmental pollution and reducing fossil fuel consumption
  • Lower pesticide exposure for farm workers
  • Lower overall environmental impact than conventional farming.

Co-authors Dr. Joel Forman and Dr. Janet Silverstein added that there is a need for additional studies to improve our understanding of the long-term health effects of pesticide exposure from conventional foods and from the consumption of meat from hormone-treated animals, as well as to study nutritional aspects of food grown organically.

Agreeing that additional scientific research is needed to improve understanding of long-term health effects from dietary choices, Bushway added,

“It is clear that organic presents a valuable option for consumers who want to lower their families’ exposure to pesticides and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and reduces risk to farm workers and their families from exposure to toxic pesticides while maintaining agricultural productivity. With scientific research already demonstrating that pregnant women and children are uniquely vulnerable to exposure to pesticides, it is important to remember that organic food—particularly produce—is available at competitive prices at many venues, making this decision easier for parents.”

Young blood really is the key to youth

HUMANS are constantly searching for an elixir of youth – could it be that an infusion of young blood holds the key?

18 October 2012 by Helen Thomson, New Orleans

Magazine issue 2887Subscribe and save

This seems to be true for mice, at least. According to research presented this week at the Society for Neuroscience conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, giving young blood to old mice can reverse some of the effects of age-related cognitive decline.

Last year, Saul Villeda, then at Stanford University in California, and colleagues showed they could boost the growth of new cells in the brains of old mice by giving them a blood infusion from young mice (Nature,

“We know that blood has this huge effect on brain cells, but we didn’t know if its effects extended beyond cell regeneration,” he says.

Now the team has tested for changes in cognition by linking the circulatory systems of young and old mice. Once the blood of each conjoined mouse had fully mixed with the other, the researchers analysed their brains.

Tissue from the hippocampus of old mice given young blood showed changes in the expression of 200 to 300 genes, particularly in those involved in synaptic plasticity, which underpins learning and memory. They also found changes in some proteins involved in nerve growth.

The infusion of young blood also boosted the number and strength of neuronal connections in an area of the brain where new cells do not grow. This didn’t happen when old mice received old blood.

To find out whether these changes improved cognition, the team gave 12 old mice eight intravenous shots of blood plasma either from a young or an old mouse, over the course of one month. They used plasma rather than whole blood to exclude any effect produced by blood cells.

The mice then took part in a standard memory task to locate a hidden platform in water. The old mice that had received young blood plasma remembered where to find the platform much quicker than the mice on the old plasma.

To find out which brain area was involved in this reversal of cognitive decline, the team performed fear conditioning tests. Mice that had been given young blood were better at remembering fear associated with tasks that activated the hippocampus, suggesting that young blood has a specific effect on this area of the brain.

But the mystery remains: what exactly is it about young blood that old blood doesn’t have? “We have not identified any individual factors responsible for the rejuvenating effects of young plasma yet,” says Tony Wyss-Coray, also at Stanford. His team is now trying to identify possible candidates such as lipids and hormones.

Villeda is hopeful the results might one day translate to humans since the components of blood that change with age in mice mirror those in humans.

While “it’s plausible that similar mechanisms operate in humans,” says Joseph Quinn at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, there is no evidence yet to support this.

Bioengineers Introduce ‘Bi-Fi’ — The Biological ‘Internet’

ScienceDaily (Sep. 27, 2012) — If you were a bacterium, the virus M13 might seem innocuous enough. It insinuates more than it invades, setting up shop like a freeloading houseguest, not a killer. Once inside it makes itself at home, eating your food, texting indiscriminately. Recently, however, bioengineers at Stanford University have given M13 a bit of a makeover.

The researchers, Monica Ortiz, a doctoral candidate in bioengineering, and Drew Endy, PhD, an assistant professor of bioengineering, have parasitized the parasite and harnessed M13’s key attributes — its non-lethality and its ability to package and broadcast arbitrary DNA strands — to create what might be termed the biological Internet, or “Bi-Fi.” Their findings were published online Sept. 7 in the Journal of Biological Engineering.

Using the virus, Ortiz and Endy have created a biological mechanism to send genetic messages from cell to cell. The system greatly increases the complexity and amount of data that can be communicated between cells and could lead to greater control of biological functions within cell communities. The advance could prove a boon to bioengineers looking to create complex, multicellular communities that work in concert to accomplish important biological functions.

Medium and message

M13 is a packager of genetic messages. It reproduces within its host, taking strands of DNA — strands that engineers can control — wrapping them up one by one and sending them out encapsulated within proteins produced by M13 that can infect other cells. Once inside the new hosts, they release the packaged DNA message.

The M13-based system is essentially a communication channel. It acts like a wireless Internet connection that enables cells to send or receive messages, but it does not care what secrets the transmitted messages contain.

“Effectively, we’ve separated the message from the channel. We can now send any DNA message we want to specific cells within a complex microbial community,” said Ortiz, the first author of the study.

It is well-known that cells naturally use various mechanisms, including chemicals, to communicate, but such messaging can be extremely limited in both complexity and bandwidth. Simple chemical signals are typically both message and messenger — two functions that cannot be separated.

“If your network connection is based on sugar then your messages are limited to ‘more sugar,’ ‘less sugar,’ or ‘no sugar'” explained Endy.

Cells engineered with M13 can be programmed to communicate in much more complex, powerful ways than ever before. The possible messages are limited only by what can be encoded in DNA and thus can include any sort of genetic instruction: start growing, stop growing, come closer, swim away, produce insulin and so forth.

Rates and ranges

In harnessing DNA for cell-cell messaging the researchers have also greatly increased the amount of data they can transmit at any one time. In digital terms, they have increased the bit rate of their system. The largest DNA strand M13 is known to have packaged includes more than 40,000 base pairs. Base pairs, like 1s and 0s in digital encoding, are the basic building blocks of genetic data. Most genetic messages of interest in bioengineering range from several hundred to many thousand base pairs.

Ortiz was even able to broadcast her genetic messages between cells separated by a gelatinous medium at a distance of greater than 7 centimeters.

“That’s very long-range communication, cellularly speaking,” she said.

Down the road, the biological Internet could lead to biosynthetic factories in which huge masses of microbes collaborate to make more complicated fuels, pharmaceuticals and other useful chemicals. With improvements, the engineers say, their cell-cell communication platform might someday allow more complex three-dimensional programming of cellular systems, including the regeneration of tissue or organs.

“The ability to communicate ‘arbitrary’ messages is a fundamental leap — from just a signal-and-response relationship to a true language of interaction,” said Radhika Nagpal, professor of computer science at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, who was not involved in the research. “Orchestrating the cooperation of cells to form artificial tissues, or even artificial organisms is just one possibility. This opens a door to new biological systems and solving problems that have no direct analog in nature.”

Ortiz added: “The biological Internet is in its very earliest stages. When the information Internet was first introduced in the 1970s, it would have been hard to imagine the myriad uses it sees today, so there’s no telling all the places this new work might lead.”

Survey shifts spotlight away from poor as key supporters of militants in Pakistan: Stronger support for militant groups among the middle class


For immediate release: September 11, 2012
Media contact: Michael Hotchkiss,, 609-258-9522

Survey shifts spotlight away from poor as key supporters of militants in Pakistan

A groundbreaking survey of Pakistanis has found stronger support for militant groups among the middle class than the poor. The finding by a team including Princeton researchers challenges the conventional wisdom about links between economic status and views on militants that has helped shaped American foreign-aid policies since 2001.

The nationally representative survey of 6,000 Pakistani adults, conducted in the spring of 2009, also found that Pakistanis in general held militant groups in low regard. And, when the survey results were analyzed along with data that identified the sites of violent attacks, researchers saw evidence that support for the militant groups was reduced by residents’ direct exposure to militants’ violent actions.

The survey and its potential implications for the way American foreign aid is distributed are described in an article published online in July by the American Journal of Political Science. The authors are Princeton graduate student Graeme Blair; C. Christine Fair, assistant professor, Center for Peace and Security Studies at Georgetown University; Neil Malhotra, associate professor, Graduate School of Business at Stanford University; and Jacob Shapiro, assistant professor of politics and international affairs in Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

Expectations that poorer people are more susceptible to the appeals of violent groups have contributed to U.S. policies that focus on using aid to reduce poverty as a way to combat militant violence. But the survey found that the poor in Pakistan were substantially more negative toward militant groups than their middle class countrymen. By one measure, poor Pakistanis were up to 23 times more negative about militants than their middle-class counterparts.

“Giving development aid may be effective in improving peoples’ livelihoods and making them better off in monetary ways, but it is not going to be effective in changing their minds because the poor in Pakistan are not the people whose minds we need to change,” said Blair, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Politics. “They already really dislike the militant groups.”

David Laitin, the James T. Watkins IV and Elise V. Watkins Professor of Political Science at Stanford who wasn’t involved with the research, said it represents an advance in scholarship on the topic.

“This paper takes one more careful step toward understanding the relationship of poverty and terror, much of it moved forward by Princeton scholars. Alan Krueger, now chairman of the [White House Council of Economic Advisers], revealed that suicide bombers came from the richer elements in countries with terrorist organizations,” Laitin said. “Professor Shapiro, in an earlier paper, demonstrated that Iraqi insurgents were recruited more successfully from the employed than the unemployed. And this paper pushes us further, showing that the absolutely impoverished in Pakistan are less likely to support terrorist cells.

“Poverty is bad enough, these Princeton scholars show us, but the poor aren’t willing accomplices to terror.”

A novel approach

The survey, which the journal article describes as “arguably the first valid, national measurement of attitudes toward militant groups in Pakistan,” used a novel technique to measure support for four militant groups: Kashmiri tanzeems (or organizations), the Afghan Taliban, al-Qaida and sectarian tanzeems.

Participants were visited, normally at their homes, by survey teams between April 21, 2009, and May 25, 2009. In keeping with cultural norms of the area, participants were surveyed by a member of their own sex.

Participants weren’t asked directly about support for the groups — which could have been dangerous for those conducting the survey and could have skewed results.

Instead, some participants were asked their level of support for four policies — such as universal polio vaccination across Pakistan. When other participants were asked about their support for the same policies, the survey takers noted that one of the militant groups supported each policy.

From the difference in responses, researchers estimated support for the groups themselves.

“At the time we were in the field, the subject of militancy was a tense one in Pakistan,” Shapiro said. “So asking people directly how they felt about specific organizations, lots of people wouldn’t tell you how they felt. The estimate of support you would draw if you asked people directly would be biased.”

The researchers later compared the locations where the survey was conducted with areas where political violence had been reported, using data they collected on 27,570 incidents of such violence. The researchers found that dislike of militant groups was stronger among the urban poor living in areas affected by militant violence in the year before the survey.

“Our interpretation of the fact that the urban poor in Pakistan are the most negative toward militant groups suggests to us that these are the people who are most affected when a bomb goes off,” Shapiro said. “The average upper-middle class family in Pakistan doesn’t go to the market for itself, isn’t out in exposed public spaces that much and its income isn’t extremely vulnerable to short-term disruptions. But of the urban poor, all of that is true.”

Shapiro said that a similar survey undertaken in the winter and spring of 2012 and overseen by many of the same researchers indicates that militancy has become an even more sensitive topic in Pakistan than it was when the original survey was taken, though it is too early to know how support levels for militant groups has changed.

“We know now that poor Pakistanis are more negative towards militants than others,” Shapiro said. “Now we want to understand exactly why, and the new survey is designed to help get at that.”

The results of the 2009 survey are part of a growing body of research that calls into question a direct link between economics and violence, Shapiro said.

“There are a ton of wonderful reasons to give money to Pakistan and try to support economic growth there and in lots of other places,” Shapiro said. “But when we premise it on what I think is an incorrect notion that doing so is going to change people’s political views, we’re distorting how we spend the money. Foreign aid is scarce and powerful and should be spent on making people’s lives better.”

And over the past several years, Shapiro said, the U.S. government has begun rethinking how it directs development spending, focusing more on how aid programs can address specific grievances that are motivating people to support militant groups.

Another potential area to focus aid is on helping residents understand the consequences of militant violence, Shapiro said. That includes helping middle-class and upper-class Pakistanis understand the extent to which their country’s underperformance economically compared with its peers is a consequence of the presence of militant organizations, he said.

The survey in Pakistan and related data collection on violence was supported by the International Growth Center, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Department of Homeland Security through the National Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events

Stanford Is Building a Body-Cooling Glove That Might Work ‘Better Than Steroids’ for Athletes

One of the reasons professional athletes illegally use steroids is to help speed up their recovery time after a particularly grueling game or injury, thus making them fresh as spring chickens the next time they compete. But one of the goals of helping the body to recover is lowering core temperture, and Stanford believes that the heat-extracting glove they’re developingis so effective at lowering core body temperture that it might actually be better than steroids in speeding up recovery time. And it’s closer to being a readily available product than you think.

Building off the common knowledge that the hands, feet and face are the body’s most effective radiators, Stanford researchers have developed a technology that creates a vacuum around a hand and sucks the heat right out from the body.

The newest version of the device is a rigid plastic mitt, attached by a hose to what looks like a portable cooler. When Grahn sticks his hand in the airtight glove, the device creates a slight vacuum. The veins in the palm expand, drawing blood into the AVAs, where it is rapidly cooled by water circulating through the glove’s plastic lining.

The method is more convenient than, say, full-body submersion in ice water, and avoids the pitfalls of other rapid palm-cooling strategies. Because blood flow to the AVAs can be nearly shut off in cold weather, making the hand too cold will have almost no effect on core temperature. Cooling, Grahn says, is therefore a delicate balance.

The scary part is that the device already works better than its creators could have ever imagined. Not only did it help out with patients recovering from injury, but the effect it had on athletes was nothing short of revelatory. When tested on a resident fitness freak, he was able to increase his number of pullups per session from 180 to 620 over a span of six weeks. All he did was connect the glove to his hand between every other set, let it run for a few minutes, and then return to his pullups. Any residual fatigue from an earlier part of the workout was non-existent.

If this makes it out of the lab, the implication for sports—especially those athletes who train rigorously in the offseason—could be huge. There’s no official word as to when the glove will be available, from from the sounds of it, the team is putting finishing tweaks on the commercial version. Just imagine if LeBron James gets his hands on it. Scary! [Stanford]

A genetic blueprint of your unborn baby

08 September 2012 by Harriet A. Washington

Sequencing the whole genome of a fetus could provide a medical early warning on a previously unknown scale – but it also brings dilemmas, says Harriet A. Washington

BOY or girl? This you can easily discover, but wouldn’t you like to know more? If you could peer into your baby’s medical future, what traits would you most want assurance about?

Most parents wouldn’t hesitate: a healthy child. Soon science will be able to help them with that more quickly, completely – and safely – than ever before.

In June, a team at the University of Washington in Seattle announced a new technique that enables the construction of a comprehensive genome sequence – a genetic “blueprint”, as they described it – of the developing fetus from as early as the first trimester (Science Translational Medicine, vol 4, p 137ra76). The test could be available in clinics in as little as five years.

Then, in July, a team at Stanford University in California announced a slightly different technique for obtaining the same information (Nature, vol 487, p 320).

Both techniques rely on the fact that fetal DNA circulates in the mother’s bloodstream and can be isolated and sequenced. The Seattle test needs only a sample of saliva or blood from the father and blood from the mother. After determining the parents’ genomes, it is possible to discern which DNA comes from the fetus. The Stanford test requires only maternal blood.

Both tests are non-invasive, thus avoiding the 2 per cent risk of miscarriage posed by today’s most common antenatal genetic tests, amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling. These require a needle to be inserted into the amniotic sac so that the fetal DNA can be tested for Down’s syndrome and other genetic disorders.

The existing antenatal tests can also spot other chromosomal abnormalities, including cystic fibrosis, trisomy 13, and Turner, Klinefelter and fragile-X syndromes. In contrast, the genetic blueprint can finger thousands of potentially problematic genes. It is “like going from being able to see that two books are stuck together to being able to notice one word misspelled on a page”, says Jacob Kitzman, a member of the University of Washington team.

The benefit is a medical early warning on a previously unknown scale. Children with the genetic disorder phenylketonuria, for example, are usually diagnosed after birth and must be put on a strict, lifelong diet. Knowing the child’s status beforehand would be helpful.

Given this and other potential benefits, should we not hasten to make blueprint screening mandatory, as many newborn tests are today? Not until we know more, and maybe not even then.

Today, only around 5 per cent of women who have prenatal tests receive bad news. Full genome screens will detect many more problems – and will introduce much more uncertainty because whole-genome mapping predicts the mere possibility of disease. Not all genetic anomalies are expressed as pathology.

The test will also produce false positives that frighten parents into thinking their child will have a disability when in fact he or she will be healthy.

For that matter, what is “healthy” anyway? When is a genetic anomaly a disease? Males with the chromosome disorder XYY were once thought to have a high risk of violent behaviour, and many XYY fetuses were aborted. But research has shown that XYY males are essentially normal.

The price of genetic knowledge can be high because of the anxiety caused by the knowledge of a propensity for a disease that has no known treatment or cure, or that may never appear.

Before using such a test parents must ask themselves “what can we do with the information?” If abortion is not an option, perhaps because the fetus is past the maximum gestation period or because of moral beliefs, the information can be useless – or worse than useless, thanks to the needless anxiety. Moreover, the dearth of treatment options for some disorders makes the information medically useless, but potentially risky if insurers use it to hike rates or deny cover.

If abortion is an option, new problems emerge: which disorders justify abortion? For some conditions the choice is perhaps clearer. For example, children with the infantile form of Tay-Sachs or Canavan disease go into an immediate, inexorable decline. There is no cure or effective treatment and most children with the disease die in childhood.

But what of genes that entail a higher risk of Alzheimer’s, typical prostate cancers or Huntington’s? These diseases emerge only after decades of productive life, and may not emerge at all.

Changing perceptions of disorders over time must also be taken into consideration. For example, we have seen a cultural sea change in the perception of Down’s syndrome. Fifty years ago, parents were often advised to institutionalise affected children. Today people with the condition mostly live in mainstream society and have found wide acceptance.

There are other ethically and legally sensitive issues. Who has a right to a child’s genetic information? If the screen reveals an unmanageable condition such as Huntington’s that will not manifest until the child is old enough to make his or her own decisions, should the parents decide whether to share the information with other family members who may share the risk? Should there be regulations that compel a physician or the parents to alert siblings and others who may be at high risk of harbouring the gene?

The Seattle test can also reveal unexpected paternity. Should doctors have to disclose this, or should parents be able to opt out of being informed?

Whole-genome fetal sequencing is still years away from being used in the real world. It’s a good job, as we have a lot to sort out before then.

Harriet A. Washington is a medical ethicist and writer based in New York. She is the author of Deadly Monopolies (Doubleday, 2011) and Medical Apartheid (Doubleday, 2007)

Little evidence of health benefits from organic foods,…Stanford Institution Fails to List Conflict of Interest (COI) in Meta analysis: Claimed Pesticide Laden Crops are Organic

Contact: Michelle Brandt 650-723-0272 Stanford University Medical Center

STANFORD, Calif. — You’re in the supermarket eyeing a basket of sweet, juicy plums. You reach for the conventionally grown stone fruit, then decide to spring the extra $1/pound for its organic cousin. You figure you’ve just made the healthier decision by choosing the organic product — but new findings from Stanford University cast some doubt on your thinking.

“There isn’t much difference between organic and conventional foods, if you’re an adult and making a decision based solely on your health,” said Dena Bravata, MD, MS, the senior author of a paper comparing the nutrition of organic and non-organic foods, to be published in the Sept. 4 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.

A team led by Bravata, a senior affiliate with Stanford’s Center for Health Policy, and Crystal Smith-Spangler, MD, MS, an instructor in the school’s Division of General Medical Disciplines and a physician-investigator at VA Palo Alto Health Care System, did the most comprehensive meta-analysis to date of existing studies comparing organic and conventional foods. They did not find strong evidence that organic foods are more nutritious or carry fewer health risks than conventional alternatives, though consumption of organic foods can reduce the risk of pesticide exposure.

The popularity of organic products, which are generally grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers or routine use of antibiotics or growth hormones, is skyrocketing in the United States. Between 1997 and 2011, U.S. sales of organic foods increased from $3.6 billion to $24.4 billion, and many consumers are willing to pay a premium for these products. Organic foods are often twice as expensive as their conventionally grown counterparts.

Although there is a common perception — perhaps based on price alone — that organic foods are better for you than non-organic ones, it remains an open question as to the health benefits. In fact, the Stanford study stemmed from Bravata’s patients asking her again and again about the benefits of organic products. She didn’t know how to advise them.

So Bravata, who is also chief medical officer at the health-care transparency company Castlight Health, did a literature search, uncovering what she called a “confusing body of studies, including some that were not very rigorous, appearing in trade publications.” There wasn’t a comprehensive synthesis of the evidence that included both benefits and harms, she said.

“This was a ripe area in which to do a systematic review,” said first author Smith-Spangler, who jumped on board to conduct the meta-analysis with Bravata and other Stanford colleagues.

For their study, the researchers sifted through thousands of papers and identified 237 of the most relevant to analyze. Those included 17 studies (six of which were randomized clinical trials) of populations consuming organic and conventional diets, and 223 studies that compared either the nutrient levels or the bacterial, fungal or pesticide contamination of various products (fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, milk, poultry, and eggs) grown organically and conventionally. There were no long-term studies of health outcomes of people consuming organic versus conventionally produced food; the duration of the studies involving human subjects ranged from two days to two years.

After analyzing the data, the researchers found little significant difference in health benefits between organic and conventional foods. No consistent differences were seen in the vitamin content of organic products, and only one nutrient — phosphorus — was significantly higher in organic versus conventionally grown produce (and the researchers note that because few people have phosphorous deficiency, this has little clinical significance). There was also no difference in protein or fat content between organic and conventional milk, though evidence from a limited number of studies suggested that organic milk may contain significantly higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

The researchers were also unable to identify specific fruits and vegetables for which organic appeared the consistently healthier choice, despite running what Bravata called “tons of analyses.”

“Some believe that organic food is always healthier and more nutritious,” said Smith-Spangler, who is also an instructor of medicine at the School of Medicine. “We were a little surprised that we didn’t find that.”

The review yielded scant evidence that conventional foods posed greater health risks than organic products. While researchers found that organic produce is 30 percent less likely to be contaminated with pesticides than conventional fruits and vegetables, organic foods are not necessarily 100 percent free of pesticides. What’s more, as the researchers noted, the pesticide levels of all foods fell within the allowable safety limits. Two studies of children consuming organic and conventional diets did find lower levels of pesticide residues in the urine of children on organic diets, though the levels of urinary pesticides in both groups of children were below the allowable safety thresholds. Also, organic chicken and pork appeared to reduce exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, but the clinical significance of this is unclear.

As for what the findings mean for consumers, the researchers said their aim is to educate people, not to discourage them from making organic purchases. “If you look beyond health effects, there are plenty of other reasons to buy organic instead of conventional,” noted Bravata. She listed taste preferences and concerns about the effects of conventional farming practices on the environment and animal welfare as some of the reasons people choose organic products.

“Our goal was to shed light on what the evidence is,” said Smith-Spangler. “This is information that people can use to make their own decisions based on their level of concern about pesticides, their budget and other considerations.”

She also said that people should aim for healthier diets overall. She emphasized the importance of eating of fruits and vegetables, “however they are grown,” noting that most Americans don’t consume the recommended amount.

In discussing limitations of their work, the researchers noted the heterogeneity of the studies they reviewed due to differences in testing methods; physical factors affecting the food, such as weather and soil type; and great variation among organic farming methods. With regard to the latter, there may be specific organic practices (for example, the way that manure fertilizer, a risk for bacterial contamination, is used and handled) that could yield a safer product of higher nutritional quality.

“What I learned is there’s a lot of variation between farming practices,” said Smith-Spangler. “It appears there are a lot of different factors that are important in predicting nutritional quality and harms.”


Other Stanford co-authors are Margaret Brandeau, PhD, the Coleman F. Fung Professor in the School of Engineering; medical students Grace Hunter, J. Clay Bavinger and Maren Pearson; research assistant Paul Eschbach; Vandana Sundaram, MPH, assistant director for research at CHP/PCOR; Hau Liu, MD, MBA, clinical assistant professor of medicine at Stanford and senior director at Castlight Health; Patricia Schirmer, MD, infectious disease physician with the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System; medical librarian Christopher Stave, MLS; and Ingram Olkin, PhD, professor emeritus of statistics and of education. The authors received no external funding for this study.

Information about Stanford’s Department of Medicine, which supported the work, is available at The Center for Health Policy is a unit of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford.

The Stanford University School of Medicine consistently ranks among the nation’s top medical schools, integrating research, medical education, patient care and community service. For more news about the school, please visit The medical school is part of Stanford Medicine, which includes Stanford Hospital & Clinics and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. For information about all three, please visit

PRINT MEDIA CONTACTS: Michelle Brandt at (650) 723-0272 (, Margarita Gallardo at (650) 723-7897 (

BROADCAST MEDIA CONTACT: M.A. Malone at (650) 723-6912 (

—————- The Following are Concerns of experimenter bias, from the Engineering Evil site.

* First off Oganics that are 30% less likely to be contaminated by Pesticides than Conventional are Not Organic: Any significant Pesticide Crop should of been omitted from the Organic side of the Meta Analysis

* The effect of Food Pesticide Exposure Effects can be found all over this site

Removed All other COI Info? (UPDATED AS 5 SEP 12)

* The paid research by Monsanto. The Venture Capital offered to secure Patents on Research through the Gates Foundation and others, The Job Placement services Bio Tech Companies etc…..

Makes little difference if ” The authors received no external funding for this study ” since the one who  employs the researchers does….

IT APPEARS STANFORD changed their search engines just recently…….You have to do an Advanced Search…Type in Monsanto, or Gates..They do not come up on a regular search…If that does not work, I have copies of the PDF and Screen Shots…I can take the time to post.. 😉

Removed all other COI Information: Just Follow the Link, and Connect the dots…I honestly don’t know how Stanford or Many Universities could avoid any COI’s, even if it wanted to now.

Go to Page 6 of this PDF…

It appears that the Gates Foundation May in Cooperation with other firms,Supplies Start up Capital to Stanford Researchers (As well as Others)  in Hopes of Aquiring Patents….It is no seceret, the Gates Foundation is a major source of research dollars to many institutions. Whether the Gates foundation is doing it for charity, or other motivations is up to the reader.

* In any Case Stanford does work with Monsanto a Great Deal.. Go to type in Monsanto on the search… Draw  your own Conclusions

Gates Foundation Grants to Stanford

Gates investments in Monsanto, and cooperation with Cargill

The Conflict is not directly by the Researchers, but the Institution

Recent Gates Foundation Grant List to Stanford: Source Gates Foundation

2012 Stanford University College-Ready Education (U.S.) United States $274,999 2012 Stanford University College-Ready Education (U.S.) United States $30,000 2012 Stanford University College-Ready Education (U.S.) United States $30,000 2011 Stanford University Charitable Sector Support Global Policy and Advocacy $150,000 2011 Stanford University Discovery Global Health $100,000 2011 Stanford University Water, Sanitation, & Hygiene Global Development $397,100 2011 Stanford University Water, Sanitation, & Hygiene Global Development $100,000 2011 Stanford University Discovery Global Health $100,000 2011 American Education Finance Association Advocacy & Public Policy United States $84,870 2010 Stanford University Discovery Global Health $100,000 2010 Stanford University Advocacy & Public Policy Global Policy and Advocacy $50,000 2010 Stanford University – John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities College-Ready Education (U.S.) United States $1,541,091 2010 Stanford University Agricultural Development Global Development $995,844 2010 Stanford University Postsecondary Education United States $1,433,143 2010 Stanford University Vaccines Global Health $1,000,000 2010 Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Postsecondary Education United States $4,409,433 2010 Stanford University Discovery Global Health $100,000 2010 Stanford University Discovery Global Health $100,000 2009 Stanford University Postsecondary Education United States $1,400,088 2009 Stanford University Postsecondary Education United States $3,000,000

Organic and sustainable foods have more polyphenolics linked to health benefits

Contact: Andy Fell 530-752-4533 University of California – Davis

Organically or sustainably grown berries and corn contain up to 58 percent more polyphenolics, natural antioxidants that are a natural defense for plants and may be good for our health, according to a new study by researchers at the University of California, Davis. The work suggests that pesticides and herbicides may actually reduce the production of polyphenolics by plants.

“This really opens the door to more research in this area,” said Alyson Mitchell, assistant professor of food science at UC Davis, who led the research team.  The researchers compared levels of total polyphenolics and ascorbic acid content in marionberries (a type of blackberry) and corn grown organically, sustainably or conventionally, and in strawberries grown sustainably or conventionally. The fruits and corn used were frozen, freeze-dried or air-dried.

Frozen sustainably-grown and organic marionberries and corn contained 50 to 58 percent more polyphenolics than conventionally grown crops from neighboring plots. Sustainably-grown frozen strawberries contained 19 percent more polyphenolics than conventional fruit. Sustainably-grown and organic produce also had higher levels of ascorbic acid.

Frozen fruit and corn tended to have higher levels of polyphenolics than freeze-dried or air-dried foods.

The polyphenolics in the organic crops were at levels you would expect to see in wild plants, suggesting that pesticide use reduces the need for plants to make these chemicals, Mitchell said

Polyphenolics are natural chemicals produced by plants as by products of other processes. When plants are stressed, for example by insects, they produce higher levels of polyphenolics, which can taste bitter, to drive away pests.

Studies show that eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, which is high in polyphenolics can reduce the risk of some cancers and heart disease. But scientists don’t know exactly how polyphenolics cause these effects.

“We know they’re beneficial, but we don’t know what types of polyphenolics are beneficial , or in what quantities,” Mitchell said.

The organic foods were grown according to the definition set by the U.S.  Department of Agriculture, without artificial pesticides or fertilizers used in conventional farming. Sustainably-grown produce was grown with artificial fertilizers, but without pesticides.

Total polyphenolics levels were slightly higher in sustainably grown produce, suggesting that a combination of organic and conventional practices yields the highest levels. Crops grown without using pesticides or herbicides might make more polyphenolics because they are more likely to be stressed by insects or other pests, Mitchell said.

“This may reflect the balance between adequate nutrition in the form of fertilizers and external pest pressures because of the lack of pesticides and herbicides,” she said.


The research, which was partly supported by a gift from Oregon Freeze-Dry Inc., was published in the Feb. 26 edition of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry

Repost 2003

Alzheimer’s disease molecule can actually REVERSE multiple sclerosis, say scientists after shock discovery

  • Maligned molecule found to have beneficial anti-inflammatory effect

By Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED:05:43 EST, 3 August 2012 | UPDATED:06:11 EST, 3 August 2012

A molecule that causes Alzheimer’s disease could reverse paralysis caused by multiple sclerosis (MS), a study has found.

The much-maligned molecule, known as A-beta, has until now been known as the chief culprit behind Alzheimer’s.

But it is also found in multiple-sclerosis lesions, which occur when immune cells invade the brain and spinal cord and attack the insulating coatings of nerve cells.

The nerve signals then get mixed up  leading to blindness, loss of muscle control and difficulties with  speech, thought and attention

Scientists from Stanford University in the United States wanted to investigate the role the molecule played in MS.

They used a mouse model that mimics several features of the disease – including the autoimmune attack on myelinated sections of the brain. They then injected A-beta into the rodent’s belly.

The scientists had suspected the injection would exacerbate the MS, but the opposite happened.

 In mice whose immune systems had been ‘trained’ to attack myelin, which usually results in paralysis, A-beta injections delivered before the onset of symptoms prevented, delayed and even reversed paralysis.

This shows that when A-beta is injected outside the brain it moderates and can even reverse symptoms of MS and does not cause Alzheimer’s in the mouse.

The researchers believe the startling discovery will open new avenues in the fight against MS, a hugely debilitating condition which affects around 100,000 people in the UK.

Effect of MS on the brain: This CT scan shows patches of scar tissue in white, which damage the nervous system Effect of MS on the brain: This CT scan shows patches of scar tissue in white, which damage the nervous system

Laboratory tests also showed that A-beta countered not only visible symptoms such as paralysis, but also the increase in certain inflammatory molecules that characterises multiple-sclerosis flare-ups.

Lawrence Steinman, an MS expert and lead author of the report, which is published Science Translational Medicine, said: ‘This is the first time A-beta has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.’

Lennart Mucke, director of the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease in San Francisco and a veteran Alzheimer’s researcher, noted that while A-beta is toxic in the brain, it can have a very different effect elsewhere in the body.

He said: ‘A-beta is made throughout our bodies all of the time. But even though it’s been studied for decades, its normal function remains to be identified.

‘Most intriguing, to me, is this peptide’s potential role in modulating immune activity outside the brain.

‘There probably is a multiple-sclerosis drug in all this somewhere down the line,’ he said.