Richard Harris http://wkar.org en Feds Tighten Lab Security After Anthrax, Bird Flu Blunders http://wkar.org/post/feds-tighten-lab-security-after-anthrax-bird-flu-blunders In the course of trying to understand a laboratory accident involving anthrax, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stumbled upon another major blunder — involving a deadly flu virus.<p>The flu incident apparently posed no health risk, but it went unreported to top brass for six weeks. Those officials now recognize a <a href="http://www.npr.org/2014/07/09/330038131/researchers-aghast-over-discovery-of-smallpox-vials">pattern of problems</a> in their world-class laboratory. Fri, 11 Jul 2014 22:38:00 +0000 Richard Harris 56589 at http://wkar.org Feds Tighten Lab Security After Anthrax, Bird Flu Blunders Declining Domestic Sales Speed Talks For Tobacco Mega-Merger http://wkar.org/post/declining-domestic-sales-speed-talks-tobacco-mega-merger Transcript <p>MELISSA BLOCK, HOST: <p>From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block. The U.S. tobacco industry could be in for a shakeup. Reynolds American, the maker of cigarette brands such as Camel and Pall Mall, confirmed today that it's in talks to buy its smaller rival, Lorillard. As NPR's Yuki Noguchi reports, the potential merger comes as the industry feels the pinch of declining sales.<p>YUKI NOGUCHI, BYLINE: The U.S. Fri, 11 Jul 2014 20:11:00 +0000 Richard Harris 56577 at http://wkar.org Like All Animals, We Need Stress. Just Not Too Much http://wkar.org/post/all-animals-we-need-stress-just-not-too-much Ask somebody about stress, and you're likely to hear an outpouring about all the bad things that cause it — and the bad things that result. But if you ask a biologist, you'll hear that stress can be good.<p>In fact, it's essential.<p>For example, the adrenal glands of all animals have evolved to pump out <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3079864/">stress hormones</a> in unexpected situations — the hormones spur action and increase fuel to the brain, helping the animal react to danger appropriately. Wed, 09 Jul 2014 07:32:00 +0000 Richard Harris 56408 at http://wkar.org Like All Animals, We Need Stress. Just Not Too Much Smallpox Virus Found In Unsecured NIH Lab http://wkar.org/post/smallpox-virus-found-unsecured-nih-lab Scientists cleaning out an old laboratory on the National Institutes of Health campus in Bethesda, Md., last week came across a startling discovery: vials labeled "variola" — in other words, smallpox.<p>Under international convention, there are supposed to be only two stashes of this deadly virus: one at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and another at a similar facility in Russia.<p>The CDC swooped in to collect the vials and carted them off to a secure lab at its Atlanta headquarters.<p>In a statement Tuesday, the agency said scientists did indeed find smallp Tue, 08 Jul 2014 17:52:00 +0000 Richard Harris 56375 at http://wkar.org Smallpox Virus Found In Unsecured NIH Lab Quick DNA Tests Crack Medical Mysteries Otherwise Missed http://wkar.org/post/quick-dna-tests-crack-medical-mysteries-otherwise-missed Researchers are developing a radical way to diagnose infectious diseases. Thu, 05 Jun 2014 21:17:00 +0000 Richard Harris 54791 at http://wkar.org Quick DNA Tests Crack Medical Mysteries Otherwise Missed Measles Hits Amish Communities, And U.S. Cases Reach 20-Year High http://wkar.org/post/measles-hits-amish-communities-and-us-cases-reach-20-year-high Members of Amish communities in Ohio traveled to the Philippines for heartfelt reasons: They were there on service projects to help less fortunate people. Unfortunately, they came home with unwelcome hitchhikers: measles viruses.<p>Those travelers hadn't been vaccinated against this highly contagious disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday. Thu, 29 May 2014 18:28:00 +0000 Richard Harris 54438 at http://wkar.org Measles Hits Amish Communities, And U.S. Cases Reach 20-Year High Experimental Malaria Vaccine Blocks The Bad Guy's Exit http://wkar.org/post/experimental-malaria-vaccine-blocks-bad-guys-exit <p>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrNL27eWKOI</p> Thu, 22 May 2014 18:21:00 +0000 Richard Harris 54099 at http://wkar.org Experimental Malaria Vaccine Blocks The Bad Guy's Exit Medicine Needs More Research On Female Animals, NIH Says http://wkar.org/post/medicine-needs-more-research-female-animals-nih-says Many potential new drugs look like they could be big winners — at least when judged by how well they work in mice or other lab animals. Over the years, there have been a number of promising cancer "cures," possible Alzheimer's treatments, and candidate drugs for holding back the ravages of various degenerative diseases.<p>But, time after time, these great promises fade away once the potential treatments are tried in people. There are lots of reasons for that. Thu, 15 May 2014 18:18:00 +0000 Richard Harris 53741 at http://wkar.org Medicine Needs More Research On Female Animals, NIH Says If Polar Bears Can Eat A Ton Of Fat And Be Healthy, Why Can't We? http://wkar.org/post/if-polar-bears-can-eat-ton-fat-and-be-healthy-why-cant-we If you were a bear and wanted to make a go of it in the frozen North (think polar bear, of course), what would you need to survive?<p>White fur would help, to help you sneak up on prey. Also plenty of body fat to stay warm. Thu, 08 May 2014 16:44:00 +0000 Richard Harris 53382 at http://wkar.org If Polar Bears Can Eat A Ton Of Fat And Be Healthy, Why Can't We? Even Penguins Get The Flu http://wkar.org/post/even-penguins-get-flu When you think of bird flu, you may conjure up images of chickens being slaughtered to stem an outbreak, or of migrating ducks, which can carry flu viruses from one continent to the next. Well, it's time to add penguins to your list of mental images.<p>Yes, <a href="http://www.penguinworld.com/types/adelie.html">Adelie penguins</a>, which breed in huge colonies on the rocky Antarctic Peninsula, also harbor a version of the avian influenza virus, according to a <a href="http://mbio.asm.org/">study published</a> in the journal, <em>mBio</em>.<p>Fret not. Tue, 06 May 2014 04:03:00 +0000 Richard Harris 53241 at http://wkar.org Even Penguins Get The Flu Family Tree Of Pertussis Traced, Could Lead To Better Vaccine http://wkar.org/post/family-tree-pertussis-traced-could-lead-better-vaccine Whooping cough was once one of the leading killers of babies around the world. Now that it's largely controlled with a vaccine, scientists have had a chance to figure out how the disease came into being in the first place.<p>That story is told in a <a href="http://mbio.asm.org/content/5/2/e01074-14.full?sid=b438c0ee-50da-448f-8c94-4f7d08dd7700">study</a> published online this week in the journal <em>mBio</em>. Fri, 25 Apr 2014 20:41:00 +0000 Richard Harris 52777 at http://wkar.org Family Tree Of Pertussis Traced, Could Lead To Better Vaccine First Embryonic Stem Cells Cloned From A Man's Skin http://wkar.org/post/first-embryonic-stem-cells-cloned-mans-skin Eighteen years ago, scientists in Scotland took the nuclear DNA from the cell of an adult sheep and put it into another sheep's egg cell that had been emptied of its own nucleus. The resulting egg was implanted in the womb of a third sheep, and the result was Dolly, the first clone of a mammal.<p>Dolly's birth set off a huge outpouring of ethical concern — along with hope that the same techniques, applied to human cells, could be used to treat myriad diseases.<p>But Dolly's birth also triggered years of frustration. Thu, 17 Apr 2014 18:14:00 +0000 Richard Harris 52335 at http://wkar.org First Embryonic Stem Cells Cloned From A Man's Skin Ebola Drug Could Be Ready For Human Testing Next Year http://wkar.org/post/ebola-drug-could-be-ready-human-testing-next-year The <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/04/08/300509073/the-ebola-outbreak-three-weeks-in-dire-but-not-hopeless">Ebola outbreak</a> in West Africa is terrifying because there's no drug to treat this often fatal disease. But the disease is so rare, there's no incentive for big pharmaceutical companies to develop a treatment.<p>Even so, some small companies, given government incentives, are stepping into that breach. The result: More than half a dozen ideas are being pursued actively.<p>And these are boon days for drugs that can treat viruses. Fri, 11 Apr 2014 20:30:00 +0000 Richard Harris 52074 at http://wkar.org Ebola Drug Could Be Ready For Human Testing Next Year How Mouse Studies Lead Medical Research Down Dead Ends http://wkar.org/post/how-mouse-studies-lead-medical-research-down-dead-ends Most experimental drugs fail before they make it through all the tests required to figure out if they actually work and if they're safe. But some drugs get fairly far down that road, at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, based on poorly conducted studies at the outset.<p>Medical researchers reviewing this sorry state of affairs say the drug-development process needs serious improvement.<p>Consider drugs that are being developed to treat <a href="http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/amyotrophiclateralsclerosis.html">ALS</a>, or Lou Gehrig's disease. Tue, 08 Apr 2014 07:44:00 +0000 Richard Harris 51836 at http://wkar.org How Mouse Studies Lead Medical Research Down Dead Ends Simple Blood Test To Spot Early Lung Cancer Getting Closer http://wkar.org/post/simple-blood-test-spot-early-lung-cancer-getting-closer One of these days, there could well be a simple blood test that can help diagnose and track cancers. We aren't there yet, but a burst of research in this area shows we are getting a lot closer.<p>In the latest of these studies, scientists have used blood samples to identify people with lung cancer.<p>At the Stanford School of Medicine, <a href="http://stemcell.stanford.edu/about/Laboratories/diehn/index.html">Dr. Maximilian Diehn</a> spends some of his time as a radiation oncologist treating patients with cancer, and some of his time delving into the world of DNA. Sun, 06 Apr 2014 17:22:00 +0000 Richard Harris 51772 at http://wkar.org Simple Blood Test To Spot Early Lung Cancer Getting Closer Custom Chromo: First Yeast Chromosome Built From Scratch http://wkar.org/post/custom-chromo-first-yeast-chromosome-built-scratch Using the labor of dozens of undergraduate students, scientists have built a customized yeast chromosome from scratch.<p>It's a milestone in the rapidly growing field of synthetic biology, where organisms can be tailored for industrial use. In this case, the near-term goal is to understand the genetics of yeast, and eventually the genetics of us.<p>This was quite an undertaking. Yeast have about 6,000 genes packed in 16 tidy bundles called chromosomes. Thu, 27 Mar 2014 20:14:00 +0000 Richard Harris 51313 at http://wkar.org Custom Chromo: First Yeast Chromosome Built From Scratch Fewer People Are Getting Infections In Hospitals, But Many Still Die http://wkar.org/post/fewer-people-are-getting-infections-hospitals-many-still-die Hospital-acquired infections continue to be a big problem in health care, with 4 percent of patients getting a new infection while hospitalized, a study finds. And 11 percent of those infections turn deadly.<p>It's the first time that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has attempted to catalog all hospital infections, not just the infections with germs on their watch list. Wed, 26 Mar 2014 16:27:00 +0000 Richard Harris 51241 at http://wkar.org Fewer People Are Getting Infections In Hospitals, But Many Still Die Never Mind Eyesight, Your Nose Knows Much More http://wkar.org/post/never-mind-eyesight-your-nose-knows-much-more The human eye can distinguish more than 2 million distinct colors. But scientists studying smell now say they have their vision colleagues beat: The human nose, they say, can distinguish more than a trillion different smells.<p>Yes, trillion with a T.<p>That new figure displaces a much more modest estimate. Thu, 20 Mar 2014 20:47:00 +0000 Richard Harris 50964 at http://wkar.org Never Mind Eyesight, Your Nose Knows Much More Google's Flu Tracker Suffers From Sniffles http://wkar.org/post/googles-flu-tracker-suffers-sniffles If you want to know what's up with the flu at the moment, you have a few choices: You can get the latest information at <a href="https://www.google.org/flutrends/us/#US">Google Flu Trends</a>. Thu, 13 Mar 2014 20:23:00 +0000 Richard Harris 50621 at http://wkar.org Google's Flu Tracker Suffers From Sniffles Scientists Fear Ecological Disaster In Nicaragua's Planned Canal http://wkar.org/post/scientists-fear-ecological-disaster-nicaraguas-planned-canal Scientists are raising the alarm about the possible environmental consequences of a huge shipping canal that could cut across Nicaragua, from the Pacific to the Atlantic.<p>The government of this Central American nation has signed a deal with a Chinese company that is planning to build a maritime shortcut that would compete with the Panama Canal. Construction could begin next year — yet there's no official route for the canal and no assessment of its potential impacts on the environment.<p>So far, the plan hasn't triggered much concern among international conservation groups. Thu, 20 Feb 2014 21:05:00 +0000 Richard Harris 49654 at http://wkar.org Scientists Fear Ecological Disaster In Nicaragua's Planned Canal Ancient DNA Ties Native Americans From Two Continents To Clovis http://wkar.org/post/ancient-dna-ties-native-americans-two-continents-clovis The mysterious Clovis culture, which appeared in North America about 13,000 years ago, appears to be the forerunner of Native Americans throughout the Americas, according to <a href="http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v506/n7487/full/nature13025.html">a study</a> in <em>Nature</em>. Thu, 13 Feb 2014 08:03:00 +0000 Richard Harris 49303 at http://wkar.org Ancient DNA Ties Native Americans From Two Continents To Clovis Risky Tech Fixes For Climate Becoming Likelier, Critic Warns http://wkar.org/post/risky-tech-fixes-climate-becoming-likelier-critic-warns Some strategists still see a small window of opportunity to address climate change before the effects become damaging and costly. Wed, 12 Feb 2014 21:14:00 +0000 Richard Harris 49290 at http://wkar.org Risky Tech Fixes For Climate Becoming Likelier, Critic Warns Neanderthal Genes Live On In Our Hair And Skin http://wkar.org/post/neanderthal-genes-live-our-hair-and-skin Neanderthals died out long ago, but their genes live on in us. Scientists studying human chromosomes say they've discovered a surprising amount of Neanderthal DNA in our genes. And these aren't just random fragments; they help shape what we look like today, including our hair and skin.<p>These genes crept into our DNA tens of thousands of years ago, during occasional sexual encounters between Neanderthals and human ancestors who lived in Europe at the time. Wed, 29 Jan 2014 20:56:00 +0000 Richard Harris 48632 at http://wkar.org Ancient And Vulnerable: 25 Percent Of Sharks And Rays Risk Extinction http://wkar.org/post/ancient-and-vulnerable-25-percent-sharks-and-rays-risk-extinction There are more than a thousand species of sharks and rays in the world, and nearly a quarter of them are threatened with extinction, according to a new study. Wed, 22 Jan 2014 08:44:00 +0000 Richard Harris 48261 at http://wkar.org Ancient And Vulnerable: 25 Percent Of Sharks And Rays Risk Extinction An Old Tree Doesn't Get Taller, But Bulks Up Like A Bodybuilder http://wkar.org/post/old-trees-grow-faster-every-year Like other animals and many living things, we humans grow when we're young and then stop growing once we mature. But trees, it turns out, are an exception to this general rule. In fact, scientists have discovered that trees grow faster the older they get.<p>Once trees reach a certain height, they do stop getting taller. So many foresters figured that tree growth — and girth — also slowed with age.<p>"What we found was the exact opposite," says <a href="http://www.werc.usgs.gov/person.aspx?personid=138">Nate Stephenson</a>, a forest ecologist with the U.S. Thu, 16 Jan 2014 08:27:00 +0000 Richard Harris 48036 at http://wkar.org An Old Tree Doesn't Get Taller, But Bulks Up Like A Bodybuilder Whales, Dolphins Are Collateral Damage In Our Taste For Seafood http://wkar.org/post/thousands-whales-dolphins-killed-satisfy-our-seafood-appetite Hundreds of thousands of marine mammals are injured or killed every year by fishermen around the world. And because most seafood in the U.S. is imported, that means our fish isn't as dolphin-friendly as you might expect.<p>Under pressure from conservation groups, federal regulators are preparing to tighten import standards to better protect marine mammals.<p>There was a time, more than 40 years ago, when U.S. fishermen killed millions of dolphins while fishing for tuna. Wed, 08 Jan 2014 16:05:00 +0000 Richard Harris 47707 at http://wkar.org Whales, Dolphins Are Collateral Damage In Our Taste For Seafood Arctic Methane Bubbles Not As Foreboding As Once Feared http://wkar.org/post/arctic-methane-bubbles-not-foreboding-once-feared European scientists were alarmed in 2008 when they discovered streams of methane bubbles erupting from the seafloor in Norway's high Arctic. This gas, which contributes to global warming, was apparently coming from methane ice on the seafloor. A follow-up study finds that methane bubble plumes at this location have probably been forming for a few thousand years, so they are not the result of human-induced climate change. But continued warming of ocean water can trigger more methane releases in the Arctic, with potentially serious consequences to the climate. Mon, 06 Jan 2014 21:27:00 +0000 Richard Harris 47617 at http://wkar.org West Coast's Early Warning System For Quakes Still Spotty http://wkar.org/post/west-coasts-early-warning-system-quakes-still-spotty Earthquake scientists on the West Coast would like to build a system that would give people a bit of warning before they get jolted with strong shaking from a distant quake.<p>Seismic waves take time to travel from the epicenter, which means such a warning system could issue alerts ranging from a few seconds to a few minutes. Thu, 26 Dec 2013 23:01:00 +0000 Richard Harris 47208 at http://wkar.org West Coast's Early Warning System For Quakes Still Spotty Could Big Batteries Be Big Business In California? http://wkar.org/post/could-big-batteries-be-big-business-california The California Public Utilities Commission has called on utilities and private companies to install about $5 billion worth of batteries and other forms of energy storage to help the state power grid cope with the erratic power supplied by wind and solar energy.<p>The need to store energy has become urgent because the state is planning to get a third of its electricity from renewable sources by the end of the decade. Mon, 23 Dec 2013 08:24:00 +0000 Richard Harris 47065 at http://wkar.org Could Big Batteries Be Big Business In California? Environmentalists Split Over Need For Nuclear Power http://wkar.org/post/environmentalists-split-over-need-nuclear-power California is regarded as the leading state when it comes to addressing climate change. But in 2012, according to analysts at <a href="http://rhg.com/">Rhodium Group</a>, California's carbon emissions actually increased more than 10 percent, bucking the national trend of decreases. Tue, 17 Dec 2013 08:04:00 +0000 Richard Harris 46782 at http://wkar.org Environmentalists Split Over Need For Nuclear Power