Glowing Hearts

March 12, 2006

Cornell University researchers have developed genetically engineered mice that have a fluorescent molecule which glows when the heart contracts. The molecule, known as green fluorescent protein (GFP), is derived from bioluminescent jellyfish. It was incorporated into these mice so that the fluorescence is linked to the release of calcium by the muscle cells of the heart. Because the release of calcium is necessary to cause the rhythmic contraction of the heart, the investigators were able to view this process as different areas of the heart began to glow. Their studies have led to new information of embrylogic development of the heart.

There is a nice image from their study on Technovelgy (link below).


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fastfoodThe rates of childhood obesity are expected to rise over the next five years to staggering numbers.

In North and South America, it is estimated that just under half of the region’s children will be overweight by 2010, up from about 28 percent. In EU countries, about 38 percent of all children will be overweight should present trends continue _ up from about 25 percent in recent surveys, according to a report published by the International Journal of Pediatric Obesity.

“We have truly a global epidemic which appears to be affecting most countries in the world,” said Dr. Philip James, the chairman of the International Obesity Task Force and the author of an editorial in the journal warning of the trend.

The study lays the blame for this trend on greater access to junk foods and sedentary lifestyles (read as gamers, bloggers, etc.). Public health authorities are concerned that obese kids will, in turn, become obese adults who will suffer from increased rates of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.


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sushi, a public health advocacy group, released an undercover investigation of mercury levels in sushi at several popular L.A. restaurants.

The mercury levels of the 12 tuna samples averaged about double the FDA standard, and a quarter of the orders were near or above the limit where the agency says fish should not be sold, said Eli Saddler, a public health analyst and attorney for


Mercury Poisoning (Wikipedia)

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Individuals with a mutation of the liver enzyme that metabolizes caffeine appear to be at greater risk for heart attacks when they drink over four cups of coffee percoffee day compared with those who drink less than one cup according to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The team’s results showed that only carriers of the gene mutation for slow caffeine metabolism were at increased risk of heart attack associated with drinking coffee.

For these patients, the increased risk was 64 percent for four or more cups per day over the previous year compared with patients who drank less than one cup per day. The corresponding risk was less than 1 percent for subjects who had two copies of the rapid metabolizing gene.


Everyone knows that blondes have more fun, but did you know that the development of blonde hair color was actually an adaptation to attract a big furry Cave Man?hairclip So says a recent study:

According to the study, north European women evolved blonde hair and blue eyes at the end of the Ice Age to make them stand out from their rivals at a time of fierce competition for scarce males.


The study argues that blond hair originated in the region because of food shortages 10,000-11,000 years ago. Until then, humans had the dark brown hair and dark eyes that still dominate in the rest of the world. Almost the only sustenance in northern Europe came from roaming herds of mammoths, reindeer, bison and horses. Finding them required long, arduous hunting trips in which numerous males died, leading to a high ratio of surviving women to men.

Brunettes out there shouldn’t fret, at least for their distant offspring. ‘Natural’ blondes are due to become extinct over the next 200 years.

A study by the World Health Organisation found that natural blonds are likely to be extinct within 200 years because there are too few people carrying the blond gene. According to the WHO study, the last natural blond is likely to be born in Finland during 2202.


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george_washingtonIn yet another sad commentary on the American public, a recent study has found that we know more about the “Simpsons” than the freedoms granted us by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Americans apparently know more about “The Simpsons” than they do about the First Amendment.

Only one in four Americans can name more than one of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment (freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly and petition for redress of grievances.) But more than half can name at least two members of the cartoon family, according to a survey.

For god’s sake, turn off your television and click this link to learn the First Amendment.


A bit of commentary from Salon’s Tim Grieve:
“But it’s not like Americans are ignorami or anything: While only 28 percent of those polled could name two or more rights protected by the First Amendment, 41 percent could name two out of three “American Idol” judges, and 52 percent could name two or more characters from “The Simpsons.”

Aside from the end-of-the-world aspect of it all, we’re not sure what it all means — except that maybe Democrats who hope to win back the White House ought to spend a little less time on the separation of powers and the unitary executive and a little more on power ballads and fart jokes.”

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cellphoneAs it turns out, the use of electronic equipment while in flight may actually disrupt components critical to in-flight navigation and landing. A group at Carnegie Melon University studied emissions from electronic equipment while on board commercial aircraft.

Researchers noted that there is no definitive instance of an electronic device used by a passenger causing an accident. However, they said their data support the conclusion that use of devices like cell phones “will, in all likelihood, someday cause an accident by interfering with critical cockpit instruments such as GPS receivers.”

And here’s an interesting statistic:

… despite the ban on cell phone use during flights, the researchers discovered that on average one to four cell phone calls are made from every commercial flight in the northeast United States

And those laptops and portable gaming systems?

In the past, the FAA has found nothing to indicate that the use of passive devices like laptops or game-playing electronics poses a threat to the aircraft.

However, the CMU study concluded otherwise. While the researchers looked primarily at cell phone use, they also discovered that emissions from other portable devices proved “problematic.”

“We found that the risk posed by these portable devices is higher than previously believed,” researcher Bill Strauss said in a release announcing the findings.


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