Thursday, June 14, 2007

New (potential) Cancer Treatment

Nanoparticles and genes used to treat cancer
Straits Times reported 14 Jun that a team of researchers from the National Cencer Centre (NCC) have turned “engineered” silica nanoparticles into tools for anti-cancer gene therapy. The engineered nanoparticles were developed by a team from NTUC School of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering. Tests showed that the nanoparticles could carry and transfer pieces of DNA to the spleen, thus causing it to produce immune cells that recognise and destroy cancer cells. The tests also showed that such gene therapy could prevent a cancer relapse. According to NCC’s Prof Hui Kam Man, the result is a more targeted and effective cancer treatment with fewer side effects. It noted that the study was funded over two years by a grant of more than $250,000 from the NMRC and the results were published in the international journal Gene Therapy last month.

Monday, June 4, 2007

'Uniquely Singapore' Dengue

The Straits Times reported 2 Jun that scientists here were stumped that uniquely Singapore strains of the dengue virus seemed to have risen here and that young adults were most hit by the fever. It noted that early results from an ongoing islandwide study showed that the strains of the virus circulating here could be evolving differently from those in other parts of the region. It quoted Dr Martin Hibberd, a dengue researcher and associate director of infectious diseases at the Genome Institute of Singapore, saying, "It's possible that almost all the strains we see now are found exclusively in Singapore". Preliminary findings of the Early Dengue (Eden) infection and outcome study suggested that young adults here - those over 21 - were more often victims of the disease than their counterparts in other Asian countries where the disease was endemic. In Indonesia and India, for example, dengue victims were much younger - children. The report added that in the region, the chance of meeting an infected Aedes mosquito carrying the virus was once every six months whereas here, because of stringent vector control, the chance of getting bitten by an infected mosquito was about once every 10 years, "a statistical rarity", according to Dr Hibberd.

How is that for a dose of "Uniquely Singapore?"

Friday, May 18, 2007

Khoo Teck Puat Hospital

It was reported in Straits Times that the new 550-bed general hospital being built in Yishun is to be named the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, in acknowledgement of the $125 million donation made by the late hotelier’s family. Of the total, $100 million will be used to fund part of the construction costs, and $5 million will be set aside each year for the next five years towards a welfare fund to help poor and needy patients. When ready in 2010, the new hospital promises to be at the frontline of technology, said Health Minister Khaw yesterday. Speaking to healthcare and information technology professionals at the first Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference in the Asia-Pacific, Minister Khaw said the healthcare industry needs to use IT to improve services. The article also reported Minister Khaw as saying “We have seen how technology has transformed the other sectors of the economy…but healthcare unfortunately remains many steps behind other sectors.” In addition, according to chief executive officer of Singhealth Prof Tan Ser Kiat, there are three main challenges in implementing IT in hospitals: money, talent, and mindsets. The report added that some of the new ideas that could be featured in the new hospital include software that shows all available beds at the touch of a button and alerts housekeepers, porters, and nurses on their Wi-Fi phones when beds need to be made or when they are ready for patients.

Khoo Teck Puat was a Malaysian-born banker and hotel owner with an estimated fortune of $2.6 billion, who owned the Goodwood Group of boutique hotels in London and Singapore and was the largest single shareholder of Britain's Standard Chartered Bank, and who was ranked as the 137th richest person in the world by Forbes magazine (and the richest in Singapore), died Feb. 21 of a heart attack in a Singapore hospital at age 86.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Amazing Hoodia Diet

Hoodia Gordonii is a succulent plant used for years by the San people in the Kalahari Desert as an appetite suppressant during times of hunger or long hunts. It contains a molecule that fools your brain into believing you are full, making it easier to lose excess weight and making skipped meals painless and easy. Hoodia has been reported as having no known side-effects, stimulant free, and will not give you the shakes, or make your heart race or raise your body temperature.

Hoodia Gordonii powder comes from South Africa where it is grown under commercial cultivation in compliance with South African Government laws. The only legitimate use is in 100% Hoodia Gordonii Powder. The plant takes years to grow and it is a rare and until recently only grew in the wild. Lately, a number of growers saw the commercial potential in this plant and set up farms whereby they began to commercially develop the rare plant. This proved to be the only way to provide sustainable quantities of the material to consumers.

Will update this once I find out where they sell this in Singapore!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Noah's Ark

I wonder where my next holiday destination would be. One place I would love to go would definitely be to Schagen, Netherlands - to see Noah's Ark.

Dutch creationist Johan Huibers built a replica of the blibical Ark, drawing a crowd of curious pilgrims and townsfolk to behold the wonder. Associated Press reported 29 Apr that reckoning by the old biblical measurements, Johan's fully functional ark is 150 cubits long, 30 cubits high and 20 cubits wide. That's two-thirds the length of a football field and as high as a three-story house.

Life-size models of giraffes, elephants, lions, crocodiles, zebras, bison and other animals greet visitors as they arrive in the main hold. Huibers did the work mostly with his own hands, using modern tools and occasional help from his son Roy. Construction began in May 2005.

On the uncovered top deck -- not quite ready in time for the opening -- will come a petting zoo, with baby lambs and chickens, and goats. And one camel. Visitors on the first day were stunned by its size. In fact, Noah's Ark as described in the Bible was five times larger than Johan's Ark. But that still leaves enough space near the keel for a 50-seat film theater, where kids can watch the segment of the Disney film "Fantasia" that tells the story of Noah. Another exhibit shows water cascading down on a model of the ark. Exhibits on the third level show ancient tools and old-fashioned barrels, exotic stuffed animals, and a wax model of an exhausted Noah reclining on a bed in the forecastle.

Perhaps it was only logical that the replica project would be the brainchild of a Dutchman: Fear of flooding is ingrained in the country's collective consciousness by its water-drenched history.
With the threat of global warming and rising sea levels, having the ark would be meaningful in the middle of Holland. Huibers said he hopes the project will renew interest in Christianity in the Netherlands, where churchgoing has fallen dramatically in the past 50 years. He also plans to visit major cities in Belgium and Germany.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Control Fire Ants, Save Crops

Associated Press reported 7 May that researchers have pinpointed a naturally occurring virus that kills fire ants, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture is now seeking commercial partners to develop the virus into a pesticide to control fire ants.

Imported red fire ants have plagued farmers, ranchers and others for decades. They arrived in the U.S. in the 1930s and now cause $6 billion in damage annually nationwide, including about $1.2 billion in Texas. The massive fire ant colonies destroy crops, damage farm and electrical equipment and hasten soil erosion. Humans and livestock are particularly vulnerable to the insect's stinging attacks.

"Sustained control is what we're trying to achieve," said Steve Valles, an entomologist in the Gainesville research lab. "Eradication is not going to happen."

In the laboratory, the virus, SINV-1, has proven to be self-sustaining and transmissible. Once introduced, it can eliminate a colony within three months. That's why researchers believe the virus has potential as a viable biopesticide to control fire ants, known to scientists as Solenopsis invicta. Although it occurs naturally in fire ants, the virus needs a stressor before it becomes deadly and begins replicating within a colony, Valles said.

The virus isn't alone in the fight against the fire ant. In South America, they have dozens of natural enemies. But researchers don't know whether those predators could be introduced here.
Among them is the small phorid fly, which seeks out fire ants and lays its eggs on them. The eggs hatch into tiny maggots that bore into the heads of their host and feed on its brains.
The problem is no one knows how effective these phorid flies are going to be in North America.

The fire ant isn't all bad. As omnivores, they eat just about anything and can reduce tick populations in pastures and yards. Also, cotton and sugarcane growers see them as helpful. The ants munch on boll weevils, caterpillars and sugarcane borers. "But on balance they're an ecological disaster," Merchant said. "The good that they do is far outweighed by the negative."

Monday, May 7, 2007

Januvia - Intelligent Diabetes Drug

Straits Times reported 7 May that a new class of diabetes drugs - described by one doctor as 'intelligent' because it would adapt to sugar levels – would go on sale that day. It worked only when blood sugar levels were high, and would not cause weight gain. Called Januvia, the drug does not cause excessively low sugar levels, or hypoglycaemia, which is a serious problem faced by older diabetics. And unlike several existing diabetes drugs, it woudoes not cause patients to gain weight. This is a big plus as obesity increases the risk of diabetes. Januvia costs $3.50 - about the price of other branded diabetes drugs, but much more than generic ones. It may prove a boon to older diabetics who are sensitive to medication and whose blood sugar levels can swing from one extreme to the other.