Skeptical Reporter for April 12th, 2013
In Great Britain, public health officials say a big increase in the demand for MMR vaccinations suggests parents' "legacy of mistrust" over the jab is being overcome. Take-up for the MMR vaccine in the area dropped significantly in the late 1990s when research - which has since been discredited - raised concerns over the jab. After an outbreak of measles, hundreds of people have started queuing at hospitals offering drop-in clinics for children and young adults. Families began queuing at the drop-in MMR clinic at Swansea's MorristonHospital an hour before it opened during the weekend. Before the introduction of the MMR vaccination in 1988, some half a million children in the UK caught measles each year and about 100 died from it. The latest figures for Wales, which cover October to December 2012, show that uptake of the first dose of MMR vaccine in two-year-old children was 94% and ranged by local authority from 87% to 97%.
The scientists who were recruited to appear at a conference called Entomology-2013 thought they had been selected to make a presentation to the leading professional association of scientists who study insects. But they found out the hard way that they were wrong. The prestigious, academically sanctioned conference they had in mind has a slightly different name: Entomology 2013 (without a hyphen). The one they had signed up for featured speakers who were recruited by e-mail, not vetted by leading academics. Those who agreed to appear were later charged a hefty fee for the privilege, and pretty much anyone who paid got a spot on the podium that could be used to pad a résumé. “I think we were duped,” one of the scientists wrote in an e-mail to the Entomological Society. Those scientists had stumbled into a parallel world of pseudo-academia, complete with prestigiously titled conferences and journals that sponsor them. Many of the journals and meetings have names that are nearly identical to those of established, well-known publications and events. Steven Goodman, a dean and professor of medicine at Stanford and the editor of the journal Clinical Trials, which has its own imitators, called this phenomenon “the dark side of open access,” the movement to make scholarly publications freely available.
Ali Razeghi, a Tehran scientist has registered "The Aryayek Time Traveling Machine" with the state-run Centre for Strategic Inventions. The device can predict the future in a print out after taking readings from the touch of a user. Razaeghi said the device worked by a set of complex algorithims to "predict five to eight years of the future life of any individual, with 98 percent accuracy". As the managing director of Iran's Centre for Strategic Inventions, Razeghi is a serial inventor with 179 other inventions listed under his own name. "I have been working on this project for the last 10 years," he said. Razeghi says Iran's government can predict the possibility of a military confrontation with a foreign country, and forecast the fluctuation in the value of foreign currencies and oil prices by using his new invention. "Naturally a government that can see five years into the future would be able to prepare itself for challenges that might destabilise it," he said.
In the United States, a natural medicine lobbyist dropped off a bottle of nutritional capsules labeled "Calm" to the office of state Sen. Charles Schwertner. They had the opposite effect. Staffers in Schwertner's office called the Texas Department of Public Safety after the supplements were dropped off by a representative of the Texas Health Freedom Coalition, an advocacy group for natural health and alternative medicine. Coalition executive committee member Radhia Gleis said the senator’s office overreacted to the gift. The senator's chief of staff, Thomas Holloway, said the office was complying with direction from DPS and wasn't trying to worry anyone. Still, the coalition capitalized on the incident and used it to help spread awareness about its legislative goals. Gleis also had strong words for Schwertner, an orthopedic surgeon in Georgetown who represents Bryan and College Station in the Senate. "This is a perfect example of a medical doctor who knows nothing about these herbs," Gleis said.
And now let’s look at some news in science
A population of 200 of the world's rarest orangutans was found tucked away in the forests of the island of Borneo, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society. All subspecies of Bornean orangutans are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. But scientists estimate just 3,000 to 4,500 individuals are left in the subspecies known as Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus, making them the most severely threatened. The previously unknown population was found by conservationists near the BatangPark, in an area covering about 140 square kilometers. Local communities apparently had been aware of the apes, but no major research projects had been undertaken in the area until February, when conservationists with WCS and other groups surveyed the region. They found a total of 995 orangutan nests, including fresh nests that indicated the rare population was recently using the area.
For the first time, scientists have developed a way to make organs transparent to light while keeping them intact, providing a detailed glimpse of their inner structure. Using the new technique, scientists imaged the neurological wiring in a mouse's brain. The method, known as CLARITY was described in the journal Nature. "Studying intact systems with this sort of molecular resolution and global scope — to be able to see the fine detail and the big picture at the same time — has been a major unmet goal in biology, and a goal that CLARITY begins to address," explained study leader Karl Deisseroth, a bioengineer and psychiatrist at Stanford University. Traditionally, imaging organs like the brain has involved slicing them into thin sections, which destroys long-distance connections between cells. Methods for imaging whole, intact organs exist, but are generally not compatible with methods for studying genes and other things at the molecular level. The new technique lets scientists study intact organs at different scales, from the broad to the very detailed.
The European Space Agency opened a new space weather center last week in Brussels to keep tabs on sun storms that could interfere with satellites in orbit and power grids on Earth. Formally inaugurated on the 3rd of April, the Space Weather Coordination Centre (SSCC) will gather information on sun storms as well as disturbances in our planet's geomagnetic environment and ionosphere. Experts at the center will issue alerts and provide support for satellite operators, government agencies and research institutes whose work might be affected by space weather, according to a statement from ESA. The SSCC, housed in the Royal Observatory of Belgium, is part of ESA's Space Situational Awareness (SSA) program, which keeps track of hazards like space junk and potentially dangerous asteroids that pose a threat to Earth and its systems in orbit.
Like finally seeing all the gears of a watch and how they work together, researchers from UCLA and UC Berkeley have, for the first time ever, solved the puzzle of how the various components of an entire telomerase enzyme complex fit together and function in a three-dimensional structure. The creation of the first complete visual map of the telomerase enzyme, which is known to play a significant role in aging and most cancers, represents a breakthrough that could open up a host of new approaches to fighting disease, the researchers said. "Everyone in the field wants to know what telomerase looks like, and there it was. I was so excited, I could hardly breathe," said Juli Feigon, a UCLA professor of chemistry and biochemistry and a senior author of the study. "We were the first to see it." The scientists report the positions of each component of the enzyme relative to one another and the complete organization of the enzyme's active site. In addition, they demonstrate how the different components contribute to the enzyme's activity, uniquely correlating structure with biochemical function.
And now, in local news from Romania, we learn that
Romanian researchers have accomplished the first telocyte transplants in the country, after just three years since these novel types of cells were discovered. The operation was done on lab rats that had an induced heart attack. According to Romanian researchers, this is a first step in trying to develop a way to help heart muscles regenerate after a heart attack. The experimental operation took place at the “Matei Bals” Institute in Bucharest.