Saturday, October 21, 2006

Berry Good For Your Brain

The latest research from the Salk Institute shows that fisetin, a chemical found in strawberries and other fruits and vegetables, can stimulate long-term memory pathways in mice. This is interesting in terms of the potential for fisetin in memory enhancement in dementia and Alzheimer's Disease. From Science Daily:
Besides strawberries, fisetin is found in tomatoes, onions, oranges, apples, peaches, grapes, kiwifruit and persimmons. While eating strawberries sounds like an enjoyable alternative to popping a pill, Maher [the lead author] cautions that it would take about 10 pounds a day to achieve a beneficial effect, which might prove too much even for the most avid strawberry lovers.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Rules of the Lab

1. When you don't know what you're doing, do it neatly.

2. Experiments must be reproducible, they should fail the same way each time.

3. First draw your curves, then plot your data.

4. Experience is directly proportional to equipment ruined.

5. A record of data is essential, it shows you were working.

6. To study a subject best, understand it thoroughly before you start.

7. To do a lab really well, have your report done well in advance.

8. If you can't get the answer in the usual manner, start at the answer and derive the question.

9. If that doesn't work, start at both ends and try to find a common middle.

10. In case of doubt, make it sound convincing.

11. Do not believe in miracles---rely on them.

12. Team work is essential. It allows you to blame someone else.

13. All unmarked beakers contain fast-acting, extremely toxic poisons.

14. Any delicate and expensive piece of glassware will break before any use can be made of it. (Law of Spontaneous Fission).

hat tip to

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Modified Human Embryonic Stem Cells Can Preserve Visual Function

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a blinding disease of the
retina affecting 1.75 million Americans (1). Vision loss in AMD occurs due to the death of light-sensing cells in the central part of the retina, the area of highest visual sensitivity. In order to test new treatments before trying them in humans, an "RCS rat" was developed by the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) that undergoes retinal cell death and visual loss that, in some ways, resembles retinal diseases seen in humans.

In a study led by Dr. Raymond Lund's group at the Moran Eye Center in
Utah (2), human embryonic stem cells were modified to become specialized retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells. These RPE cells were injected into the eyes of RCS rats at an early age, prior to the onset of disease, to see if they could prevent the death of retinal cells over time. For comparison, a control group of RCS rats received an injection of liquid that did not contain RPE cells.

Two weeks after the injections, all groups of animals were tested for
their ability to react to light and generate the electrical signals that indicate processing of visual information. RCS rats receiving RPE injections were better able to detect and process light signals in the retina than were control RCS rats. The cellular structure of the rats' eyes was examined under a microscope. Animals that received RPE injections had fewer retinal cells die over the course of the experiment than control RCS rats. Further analysis showed that the injected human RPE cells partially prevented the death of the rats' own retinal cells. In summary, it appears that human embryonic stem cells may hold promise for new treatment strategies that target blinding retinal diseases such as macular degeneration.