Monday, 19 November 2018

Not Exactly Peanuts

Peanut allergies endanger a growing cohort of young people but it appears that possibly life-long immunotherapy by exposing sufferers to increasing doses of medical grade peanut protein is just around the corner (https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/nov/18/peanut-allergy-treatment-around-the-corner-but-cost-raises-concerns). Having said that, concerns have been raised that the cost might be a further challenge to a cash-strapped NHS as one would have to use a very purified material to get the safe doses needed. The thing is, however, that the allergy can (and does) kill.

'Energy Drinks' and Age of Consent?

I do wish they would stop calling them 'energy drinks' as you might well, using similar criteria, also call sugar cubes 'energy food'. Yes, the drinks contain sugar and glucose (which are actually likely to lower blood sugar levels in the short term by an insulin-mediated process termed 'reactive hypoglycaemia') but many also have high doses of caffeine. There is now a move to limit the age, at which they can be consumed, to 18 rather than 16 (https://www.theguardian.com/food/2018/nov/19/set-age-ban-on-sale-of-energy-drinks-at-18-government-told). This is primarily an attempt to stop these drinks producing unruly behavioural changes in school settings. I personally think that more effort ought to be directed to convincing young (and older?) folk that these concoctions are of little benefit rather than attempting to cut off the supply by making the age of legal consumption higher.

Dicing It Up?

The Wombat appears unique in its ability to produce cuboidal faeces. Their function is pretty obvious, as the cubes will not roll away from locations where they are deposited as territorial markers but there has been a question of how the marsupial produces this shape (and, no, they haven't got square anuses!). A study (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/nov/18/scientists-unravel-secret-of-cube-shaped-wombat-faeces) has suggested that the last portion of the wombat's intestine (unlike that of e.g. the pig) has sections of periodic stiffness enabling it to generate 2cm cubes. The Hippopotamus also marks its territory with faeces using a 'muck-spreader' approach. If they could generate cuboidal faeces, they might look like bricks!

Czech-Mate for the Tiger?

Yet another illustration of the depths to which some people will stoop for money, is the discovery in the Czech Republic of a criminal conspiracy to deal in pelts and tissues from Tigers, Lions and Cougars desired (and purchased at great expense) by purveyors of Chinese 'Medicine' (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/19/gruesome-discovery-of-czech-tiger-farm-exposes-illegal-trade-in-heart-of-europe). The 'farm' had lots of rotting animal parts in freezer chests lacking the necessary electrical supply as well as strange 'stews' of animal bones and meat. This finding gives the lie to the claim that Europeans would never be involved in such an unsavoury trade.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Plastic Piranhas

I really don't know why people are surprised to find plastic contaminants in the bodies of fresh-water, Amazonian fish (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/16/sad-surprise-amazon-fish-contaminated-by-plastic-particles). Given the duration and ubiquitousness of plastic use, I would be astounded if they weren't found in all living things in every location on the planet.

Gulling the Gulls?

The description of Herring gulls as a 'seagull' is a bit of a misnomer as these birds are essentially opportunistic agents in a variety of locations (not always by the sea). The prediction that they might well decline in our cities with improvements in our treatment of human waste is, I feel, a tad optimistic (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/16/gulls-gulls-gulls-how-the-seaside-birds-took-over-urban-britain). Many of our high-rise buildings seem to have characteristics of the elevated, predator free nesting locations that these birds favour and edible rubbish still exists outside treatment areas. I predict that they will still thrive in our cities.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Uplifting?

What is essentially a meta-analysis has strongly suggested that male symptoms of depression and anxiety can be alleviated by treatment with testosterone (https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/nov/14/testosterone-therapy-could-help-tackle-male-depression-study). This essentially means that the disturbed mood in males is strongly linked to their endocrine status (so, either depression lowers testosterone or lowered testosterone, as in aging cohorts, tends to elevate depression). Although not currently recommended by NICE, testosterone might be a relatively cheap therapy for some forms of male depression.

Not Exactly Peanuts

Peanut allergies endanger a growing cohort of young people but it appears that possibly life-long immunotherapy by exposing sufferers to ...