Category Archives: Science

Study: Alzheimer’s symptoms reversed within minutes

This is great news: a recent study showed a remarkable improvement in Alzheimer’s patients given a drug designed to treat immune-related disorders. In one case, the patient’s symptoms were reversed quickly:

The new study documents a dramatic and unprecedented therapeutic effect in an Alzheimer’s patient: improvement within minutes following delivery of perispinal etanercept, which is etanercept given by injection in the spine.

“It is unprecedented that we can see cognitive and behavioral improvement in a patient with established dementia within minutes of therapeutic intervention,” said Griffin [the author of commentary on the study]. “It is imperative that the medical and scientific communities immediately undertake to further investigate and characterize the physiologic mechanisms involved.”

Fighting Alzheimer’s has been pretty-near-hopeless before now, so this is fantastic news. It would be great to see Alzheimer’s turned into just another treatable issue.

more indications that we know little about genetics

I was talking to my brother John the other day about how it’s commonly assumed that we know almost everything about science, so there isn’t much left to discover. Specifically, there’s this notion that new discoveries aren’t likely to overturn older ideas, because if so someone would have done so by now. I personally think that’s complete hogwash; my favorite saying about the scientific method is, ” Progress consists of replacing a theory that is wrong with one more subtly wrong.”[1] Ideas derived scientifically are certainly useful, but they shouldn’t be considered inviolate.

In that vein, it’s nice to see scientists continue to push the boundaries of what we assume, as in this article by Derek Lowe about DNA sequences that are identical in humans and mice:

Even important enzyme sequences vary a bit among the three species, so what could these pristine stretches (some of which are hundreds of base pairs long) be used for? The assumption, naturally, has been that whatever it is, it must be mighty important, but if we’re going to be scientists, we can’t just go around assuming that what we think must be right. A team at Lawrence Berkeley and the DOE put things to the test recently by identifying four of the ultraconserved elements that all seem to be located next to critical genes – and deleting them.

The result? No detected difference in the mice, and a whole lot of speculation as to how that’s even possible. The results can be (and are being) debated furiously, but the point is that there’s something completely unexplained that, when tested against prevailing knowledge, doesn’t match up. To me that’s not just noteworthy, it’s exciting! It means there’s a lot more exploring to do, a lot more science for all of us.
[1] I’ve seen this one around the tubes, generally attributed to Dr. David Hawkins. If you know of a linkable source, post it in the comments.

How the lunar module evolved

Just a note to brag that the November 2007 issue of the British Interplanetary Society’s magazine Spaceflight: The Magazine of Astronautics and Outer Space features an article called “Grumman’s ambitious spider” about how Grumman tried to modify the Lunar Module to give it more flexibility and utility. The authors of this interesting article (which features cool illustrations) are Dwayne A. Day and some other guy named Glen Swanson. That second name sounds familiar…darn…can’t think of who he is.