Monday, April 30, 2012

Some science items via ScienceDaily's (free) newsletter:
Scientists at Duke University Medical Center have shown the ability to turn scar tissue that forms after a heart attack into heart muscle cells using a new process that eliminates the need for stem cell transplant.
The study . . . used molecules called microRNAs to trigger the cardiac tissue conversion in a lab dish and, for the first time, in a living mouse, demonstrating the potential of a simpler process for tissue regeneration.
If additional studies confirm the approach in human cells, it could lead to a new way for treating many of the 23 million people worldwide who suffer heart failure, which is often caused by scar tissue that develops after a heart attack. The approach could also have benefit beyond heart disease.
"This is a significant finding with many therapeutic implications," said Victor J. Dzau, MD, a senior author on the study who is James B. Duke professor of medicine and chancellor of health affairs at Duke University. "If you can do this in the heart, you can do it in the brain, the kidneys, and other tissues. This is a whole new way of regenerating tissue."

‘Self-healing’ concrete is being developed by researchers at Northumbria University which could see cracks in concrete buildings become a thing of the past. . . .
“This project is hugely exciting. The potential is there to have a building that can look after itself.”

Long portrayed as stagnant in economic terms, the income growth of the U.S. middle class may be much greater than suggested by economists like Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez. . . .
Median income of the U.S. middle class rose by as much as 37 percent from 1979-2007[,] says Richard Burkhauser. . . . In contrast, when Piketty and Saez-style estimates were used, median income increased by only 3.2 percent over the same period.
. . . Burkhauser's team . . . was able to show how much the income picture changes when taxes are subtracted from market income and government transfers such as welfare assistance, unemployment insurance and Social Security benefits are added. The team also adjusted for household size and the value of health insurance -- factors Burkhauser says more accurately reflect financial resources available to middle class individuals.
Says Burkhauser: "When we broaden our measure to include government taxes and transfers and look at households adjusted for size, the gains of middle class Americans are ten times larger. The gains are even more when we include the value of in-kind income such as the value of employer and government provided health insurance."

The herpes zoster vaccine, also known as the shingles vaccine, is generally safe and well tolerated according to a Vaccine Safety Datalink study of 193,083 adults. . . .
More than 1 million people develop shingles every year in the United States. Shingles is a painful contagious rash caused by the dormant chickenpox virus which can reactivate and replicate, damaging the nerve system. The elderly are especially vulnerable because immunity against the virus that causes shingles declines with age.

Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have identified a new way to deliver long-lasting pain relief through an ancient medical practice. . . .
Several years ago, Zylka and members of his lab documented how injecting PAP into the spine eased chronic pain for up to three days in rodents. The only problem was PAP's delivery. . . .
"We knew that PAP . . . lasts for days following spinal injection, so we wondered what would happen if we injected PAP into an acupuncture point?" Zylka said. "Can we mimic the pain relief that occurs with acupuncture, but have it last longer?"
To find out, Zylka and his lab injected PAP into the popliteal fossa, the soft tissue area behind the knee. This also happens to be the location of the Weizhong acupuncture point. Remarkably, they saw that pain relief lasted 100 times longer than a traditional acupuncture treatment. What's more, by avoiding the spine the researchers could increase the dose of PAP. A single injection was also effective at reducing symptoms associated with inflammatory pain and neuropathic pain.