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     Volume 4 Issue 25 | December 17, 2004 |

   Cover Story
   News Notes
   A Roman Column
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   Slice of Life
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   Book Review
   Dhaka Diary
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Smoking Delays Healing
Cigarette may cause more harm than most people think apart from damaging the lungs. It slows wound healing and increases the risk of scarring. Study at the University of California has found that cigarette smoke delays the formation of healing tissue. Wound healing is a highly choreographed, four-act biological drama of clotting, inflammation, cell proliferation and tissue remodelling. It features an exotic cast of clotting and growth factors, specialised cells and structural proteins, each of whom must time their entrance and exit perfectly. However, cigarette smoke interferes with this process. Cells (or fibroblasts) secrete many proteins that compose the extra-cellular matrix and are critical in orchestrating tissue repair and remodelling. Surprisingly, doses found in tissues of smokers, smoke did not kill the fibroblasts but instead damaged them in a way that caused them to produce stress response and survival proteins.

Rubbersidewalks are a cost-effective and environmentally sound solution to the chronic problems caused by tree-lined sidewalks. Cities across the country struggle with the public safety concerns and financial burdens posed by tree roots lifting concrete sidewalks. Rubbersidewalks' modular sidewalk system allows air and water to easily reach soil below so trees develop less aggressive roots, which can be easily maintained during periodic inspection. One-square-foot of Rubbersidewalks recycles waste rubber from one passenger tire and in California alone more than 34 million passenger tires are disposed of each year creating 408 million pounds of waste rubber. Each 20 square foot installation saves one tree from removal Rubbersidewalks' pavers are recollected and recycled at the end of their life cycle.

Monkey embryos cloned for the first time
Monkey embryos have been successfully cloned for the first time, and embryonic stem cells have been extracted from them, scientists reported on Monday. The success could have implications for human therapies as it means that stem cell researchers could one day test stem cell therapies in non-human primates, before taking treatments into the clinic. They used a new, gentler method to coax the embryos to develop to the blastocyst stage a hollow mass of cells which contains embryonic stem cells, the universal precursors to all the cell types in the body. These unspecialised cells may offer clinicians hope in repairing damaged organs and tissues. But cloning human embryos is fraught with ethical problems - plus the practical problems of obtaining donor egg cells. Now a team led by Gerald Schatten, a developmental biologist at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, US, in collaboration with the Korean researchers, has successfully applied the team's technique to macaque monkeys.

Political Spam Ready to Bomb Your Cell-phones
After being bombarded with entertainment and advertisement spam, get ready to receive some political spam as well on your cell-phones, as SMS becomes the new in thing in the political campaign arena. Federal politicians in Australia have been granted permission to update their constituents with everything from electorate news to the latest government programmes and Christmas greetings via a SMS. The order allows the leaders to send text messages to up to 7000 constituents or almost 10 per cent of their electorate, over three years, with the cost being 1800 dollars an MP. However, the service cannot be used for political or commercial use.

Eel's Nerve Circuitry to Help Paralysis
In a collaboration blending biology and robotics, researchers are unravelling the circuitry in an eel's spinal cord to help develop a microchip implant that may someday help paralysed people walk again. Researchers are trying to understand how the brain transmits electrical messages along the spinal cord that tell the legs what to do. Then, they aimed at making microchips that replicate this process. They started by modelling the way swimming signals move along the spinal cord of a lamprey eel. They found that although the lamprey is a very primitive vertebrate, it has shown that it's remarkably like humans in the ways it makes and controls its locomotion. But unlike that of humans, the lamprey's nervous system is remarkably easy to study. The researchers are now moving to expand their project by developing a neuroprosthetic implant that would connect to human central pattern generators to restore locomotion in patients with spinal cord injuries.

Gene Technique to Fight Blindness
The first clinical trial of a therapy based on the much-heralded technique of RNA interference, or RNAi, will begin within several weeks to treat a condition, which can lead to blindness. The technique works by silencing a key gene involved in a progressive disorder of the retina called wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), say executives at Acuity Pharmaceuticals, a private biotechnology company in Philadelphia, US. RNAi is a naturally occurring process in which the presence of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) in cells triggers a series of steps that ultimately destroys messenger RNA (mRNA) and shuts down protein production. It is believed to have evolved to protect cells from invading viruses. In the upcoming Phase I trial, doctors will inject many copies of Cand5, a "small, interfering" double-stranded RNA, or siRNA, directly into the eyeballs of patients suffering from the disabling eye disorder. "It's tremendously exciting," says Michael McManus, an RNAi expert at the University of California, San Francisco, US. "It represents the first step in using this technology to treat a human disease."


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