Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Two Three Random Science Developments -- But I Liked 'Em. . . .

The first (video, below) because one of the Mars rovers is now using a newly-installed software pacakge, to "self-navigate, and self-select" destinations, across the Martian surface -- the first extra-planetary vehicle ever to do so:

[When we go "off-topic" for this blog -- we go way off -- ("nothing exceeds, like excess," eh?) -- off the planet, even.]

Next, because I eat a banana a day -- and the last because I'd like to live for 150 years -- the much longer linked article, from which these snippets were culled:
. . . .Banana Lectin an HIV Fighter?

A potent new inhibitor of HIV, derived from bananas, may open the door to new treatments to prevent sexual transmission of HIV, according to a University of Michigan Medical School study.

The interest is centered around lectins, naturally occurring chemicals in plants, because of their ability to halt the chain of reaction that leads to a variety of infections. In laboratory tests, BanLec, the lectin found in bananas, was as potent as two current anti-HIV drugs. Based on the findings published in the March 19, 2010 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, BanLec may become a less expensive new component of applied vaginal microbicides, researchers said.

The new study described the complex actions of lectins and their ability to outsmart the HIV virus. Lectins are sugar-binding proteins that can identify foreign invaders, like a virus, and attach themselves to the pathogen. The U-M team discovered that Ban Lec can inhibit HIV infection by binding to the sugar-rich HIV-1 envelope protein, gp120, and block its entry to the body.

Regeneration Gene Identified

Scientists have identified a gene that may regulate regeneration in mammals. The absence of this single gene, called p21, confers a healing potential in mice long thought to have been lost through evolution and reserved for creatures like flatworms, sponges and some species of salamander.

In a report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the Wistar Institute demonstrated that mice lacking the p21 gene gain the ability to regenerate lost or damaged tissue. Unlike typical mammals, which heal wounds by forming a scar, those mice begin by forming a blastema, a structure associated with rapid cell growth and de-differentiation as seen in amphibians.

According to the researchers, the loss of p21 causes the cells of the mice to behave more like embryonic stem cells than adult mammalian cells, and their findings provided evidence to link tissue regeneration to the control of cell division. . . .

Carry-on, folks -- NCAA Sweet Sixteen games to handicap. . . .


Anonymous said...

Oh...just to punish you for going off topic....

Check out bananas: The Unfortunate Sex Life of the Banana @

Anonymous said...

Speaking of science news. I just came across this interesting article on Asenapine (Saprhis) from 3 weeks ago of a study reported at the European Congress of Psychiatry.

It seems that Merck is claiming asenapine is more effective than placebo as an adjunct to lithium or valproate at 3 weeks.

The problem is that this was not the study endpoint. The study endpoint was at 12 weeks and at 52 weeks after extension!

There was NO data reported at the endpoint of 12 weeks.

Why didn't they report the 12 week data, plus why was only 3 weeks data reported and not other interim points. This certainly looks like cherry picking to me.


Now of course the author could have it wrong. Initial 3 week evaluations are more common with acute mania with extensions to 12 and 52 weeks. But if the message is supposed to be that asenapine is useful for extension beyond 3 weeks then I don't see it. Besides I've discussed other reports of extension studies here before and they also had major problems.

All in all so far everything I've seen so far does argues against any extended use beyond 3 weeks.


Condor said...

Thanks Salmon!

This is now a new post, above.


Condor said...

And I actually liked that "damn interesting" banana. . . erh, run-down.


[As I wander off to bed, I must confess that I loved Butler's "Cinderella" two-step, at the big dance tonight. . . even though it busted my brackets.]