Saturday, July 12, 2008

Nanoparticle Stops Cancer From Spreading

By Kevin McKeever, HealthDay Reporter

(HealthDay News) -- California researchers say they have developed molecular "smart bombs" that stop pancreatic and kidney cancer from spreading in mice while causing fewer side effects and damage to healthy surrounding tissues than traditional chemotherapy.

A team from the University of California, San Diego, designed a "nanoparticle" anti-cancer drug delivery system that zooms in on a protein marker called integrin avB3, which is found on the surface of certain tumor blood vessels. The marker is tied to the development of new blood vessels and malignant tumor growth.

While the system had little impact on primary tumors, it halted the metastasis of pancreatic and kidney cancers throughout the bodies of mice. Cancer metastasis normally is much harder to treat than the primary tumor, and it usually leads to the patient's death.

The findings were published in this week's online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

According to the report, the system works with a lower dose of chemotherapy because it attacks the cancer with such precision. In most chemo treatments, the destruction of healthy tissue is a side effect as it floods the body with cancer-killing toxins.

"We were able to establish the desired anti-cancer effect while delivering the drug at levels 15 times below what is needed when the drug is used systemically," study leader David Cheresh, vice chairman of pathology at UCSD, said in a university news release. "Even more interesting is that the metastatic lesions were more sensitive to this therapy than the primary tumor."

UCSD engineers and oncologists together designed the nanoparticle -- a microscopic particle made of lipid-based polymers -- to work with the cancer-killing drug doxorubicin.

"Doxorubicin is known to be an effective anti-cancer drug but has been difficult to give patients an adequate dose without negative side effects," Cheresh said. "This new strategy represents the first time we've seen such an impact on metastatic growth, and it was accomplished without the collateral damage of weight loss or other outward signs of toxicity in the patient."

"Traditional cancer therapies are often limited or non-effective over time, because the toxic side effects limit the dose we can safely deliver to the patient," he said. "This new drug delivery system offers an important advance in treating metastatic disease."

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Why Divorcing Women Seek Revenge

Don't get mad, get even... Revenge is sweet... An eye for an eye.... Were these clichés drumming through Christie Brinkley's head when she decided to push for divorce proceedings that would be open to the public? She must have calculated the media frenzy that would ensue when her husband's transgressions—18-year-old mistress, swinger websites, porn habits—were blared in open court. Thankfully, they reached a settlement this morning, so we won't need to hear any more.

I can't help agreeing with a psychiatrist who questioned Brinkley's good sense when it came to protecting the couple's two children, ages 10 and 13. What will their lives be like, I wonder, when they return to school in the fall to classmates who have heard all the sordid details about their father?

But I'm even more curious about whether she was motivated by revenge, as so often we are when a person we love lets us down. What compels women, as well as men, to spend thousands on divorce lawyers rather than give their soon-to-be-ex any "undeserved" assets? Or to air all the dirty laundry of their marriage? I asked Michael McCullough, a professor of psychology at the University of Miami and author of Beyond Revenge: The Evolution of the Forgiveness Instinct, to explain what drives us to seek revenge.

It turns out the inclination is entirely natural. "Your brain is doing what it's supposed to be doing," he tells me via E-mail from Amsterdam. "When someone is acting out of revenge, she's in a state of desire or craving and engages in a behavior that she thinks will produce a reward for her." He says the Olympic athletes now training in Beijing experience the same patterns of brain activation when thinking about achieving the gold as someone plotting a stick-it-to-him scenario. Both induce feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. "There was probably some evolutionary process of natural selection put into our brains," he explains, "to make sure we'd be motivated to defend our interests and punish people who have harmed them."

Divorce, McCullough adds, is a common time to experience these emotions, as couples go from trying to live together, with all the sacrifices that entailed, to living in a very self-protective, self-focused way. That said, getting even, while it may yield short-term satisfaction, usually leads to more harm than benefit by triggering a tit-for-tat that escalates the situation. Mediation is better than hiring lawyers, he says, if the couple is willing and able to participate with one mediator. Beyond that, you can work to bring vengeful impulses under control by intentionally trying to forgive the person who has harmed you.

Forgiveness is far easier in the case of betrayal, says McCullough, if the cheating spouse makes a sincere attempt to apologize and displays genuine remorse. When a wronged person feels apologized to, compensated for the injury, and safe, he says, revenge usually becomes beside the point.

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Escape the Cubicle: 5 Steps To Convincing Your Boss To Let You Telecommute

Cubicle hell. Photo by Steve Lyon. Working here makes you grow old fast.

If you find yourself thinking “I can do this job from home,” don’t just dream about it anymore, make it happen. Here’s how.

No sooner than framing my college diploma on the wall, I found I was on my own, broke and nestled in the corner of a cubicle just to pay my bills. Yes, living in the city was swell, sort of. As for a desk job? I quickly figured out that wasn’t my thing.

The future looked bleak from behind my cubicle walls. Hadn’t I grown up in a place where powder mornings off weren’t just a luxury? I needed to escape my cubicle and fast!

I began to entertain the idea of telecommuting, or working remotely from home, so I could use those extra hours (usually reserved for traffic or playing Solitaire on my computer) to get outside and make the most out of my day.

It turned out to be a lengthy process of trial and error to convince my boss I wanted to telecommute. Ok, it took me a few jobs and bosses to get it right. So in an effort to save you some time, I’ve summed up the five steps I took to convince my boss I should telecommute.

1. Assess the situation.

Ask yourself some simple questions. Do you cherish an office environment? Or do co-workers and other office distractions easily annoy you? Is there a reason why you take 1.25 hours at lunch instead of just one?

I found myself pondering these things on a regular basis. It wasn’t a matter of not being productive. I always did my work, but found there were several times throughout the day when being in the office irritated me. I tried to make excuses or blame other people for my predicament, but that didn’t make me feel better. Think about what works best for you and where you’ll be the happiest earning your paycheck.

2. Accept and embrace your job for what it is.

When I realized that a cubicle wasn’t right for me, I became claustrophobic in my workspace and instantly abhorred my cell mates. But it wasn’t their fault. It was time to come to terms with my situation and accept it. So I work in a cubicle from 9am to 5pm or 7pm or 8pm and I suffer anxiety picking out a pair of pressed pants and a sweater vest in the morning before work. So what?

Embracing reality will put you in the position to figure out what you really want and move forward.

Just because you don’t like your office environment doesn’t mean you’re not gaining valuable work experience. Accept that–for the time being–you work in a cubicle and the initial decision to do so wasn’t a mistake. Embracing reality will put you in the position to figure out what you really want and move forward.

3. Create a game plan.

If you’ve decided that telecommuting is perfect for you, don’t go public with your decision until you’ve set up and are already following a game plan. Convince your boss that you’re indispensable to the company, whether you have a physical presence in the office or not. Get your boss to invest in YOU. Here are some suggestions:

* Be eager to take the red-eye and attend the company seminar in Ohio.

* Out-perform your co-workers.

* Prove that you execute all aspects of your position to the point where it will be difficult for your boss to replace you / train someone new.

* Take a few sick days (cough, cough) but continue to work from home and WOW your superiors with your unparalleled skills even under duress.

* Subtly hint that the commute is killing you and you waste precious hours sitting on the freeway everyday.

* Maybe throw it out there that you’ve re-vamped your home office.

Note: Whatever tactic you use, be sure to elaborate on how much you love your job, how skilled you are after having attended the seminars (that your company paid for) and that you wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.

4. Commit to the plan with your boss.

Once your boss is all buttered up, you’re ready to drop the T-bomb. Schedule a time to meet with him or her for a review. Prepare a list of all your positive attributes (you attended the seminar, you worked from home when you were sick), acknowledge any legitimate concerns your boss may have and then explain to him/her with absolute conviction that telecommuting is the best and only option for you.

Failing an initial, “Go for it!” from your boss, offer to set up a trial period so that both of you can follow your progress working from home. Make sure during this time to document every single aspect of your productivity.

5. Go all out.

The key to this whole exercise is performance, and the only way you’ll get your boss to bend over is if you commit to your promise and actually work. Be a monument of productivity. Follow through with every minutiae of your job (always stay signed into iChat, CC your boss on every email) and show your boss you are more than capable of working efficiently from home and that you both made the right decision.

Say goodbye to those dreary office walls! Telecommuting is a win-win situation for everyone. Not only will your boss be tickled that he/she’s hired such an outstanding employee, but you’ll be racking up extra hours throughout your day that you can use however you like.

The bottom line is this: no one but you has the power to decide what’s in your best interest and if working from home will help you make the most out of your day, then make it happen.

The bottom line is this: no one but you has the power to decide what’s in your best interest and if working from home will help you make the most out of your day, then make it happen. Technology has enabled everything to be only a click away. With internet, email, Skype, iChat, Central Desktop, etc. we can be almost anywhere in the world and still manage to get our work done.

Even now I’m writing this article from back home in Idaho, waiting for the bus so I can catch a couple late afternoon runs on the mountain before the day is through…

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Elliott's War

It has been five years since the start of the Iraq War. But for former Marine Michael Elliott, the psychological impact of war is his latest and most challenging battle.

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Being too fat 'can damage sperm'

Overweight man
The world's obese population is rising

Obese men have poorer quality sperm, perhaps because too much fat around their testicles causes them to heat up, scientists have suggested.

University of Aberdeen researchers looked at the sperm of over 2,000 men in couples having problems conceiving.

The heaviest men had a higher proportion of abnormal sperm, as well as other problems.

The scientists told a European fertility conference losing weight probably boosted fertility.

We are pleased to be able to add improved semen quality to the long list of benefits that we know are the result of an optimal body weight
Dr Ghiyath Shayeb
University of Aberdeen

Being obese is already known to affect women's chances of getting pregnant.

The men were divided into four groups, according to their BMI (body mass index).

Other factors which could affect fertility, such as smoking, high alcohol use and age, were taken into account by the researchers.

Men who had a healthy BMI of 20 to 25 were had higher levels of normal sperm than those who were heavier.

They also had higher semen volume, the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology meeting in Barcelona was told.

But those with a higher BMI had lower volumes of seminal fluid, and a higher proportion of abnormal sperm.

There was no significant difference between the four groups in sperm concentration or activity.

Other studies have also linked obesity to DNA damage in the sperm.

Semen quality

Dr Ghiyath Shayeb, who led the research, said: "Our findings were quite independent of any other factors and seem to suggest that men who are trying for a baby with their partners, should first try to achieve an ideal body weight.

"This is in addition to the benefit of a healthy BMI for their general well being.

"Adopting a healthy lifestyle, a balanced diet, and regular exercise will, in the vast majority of cases, lead to a normal BMI.

"We are pleased to be able to add improved semen quality to the long list of benefits that we know are the result of an optimal body weight."

The researchers will now look at male BMI in fertile and infertile couples to see if the poorer semen quality is directly linked to poor fertility, and examine further how obesity can damage sperm.

Dr Shayeb said there were a number of possible explanations, including different hormone levels in obese men, overheating of the testicles caused by excessive fat in the area, or simply the lifestyle and diet that leads to obesity also causing poorer semen quality.

Dr Ian Campbell, chair of the charity Weight Concern, said it was known that overweight people had a tendency to have fewer children.

He said there had been a suspicion that was mainly due to lack of opportunity.

"But if weight actually has a detrimental effect on sperm quality, that's really interesting," he said

"It's one more reason for men to lose weight."

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Designers Present Bold Visions of Future Cars

The internal combustion engine will soon belong to the past -- at least that's what the designers of the future seem to think. Students at Pforzheim University have come up with radical new designs for cars that will run on batteries, photovoltaic and fuel cells.

The design faculty at Pforzheim University in southern Germany is regarded as one of the most prestigious centers for the training of future automobile designers. The current crop of students, whether in their first year or about to graduate, are all coming to the same conclusion with their end of year projects. The car only has a future if it is practically reinvented from scratch.


Click on a picture to launch the image gallery (10 Photos)

There are two points that seem to be essential in all of their designs. Firstly, the cars of the future have to be extremely energy efficient. This means that the concepts of lightweight construction and minimizing friction and wind resistance are paramount in their work. Secondly, cars are products that will continue to evoke strong emotions, and the use and perception of the automobile will have to stimulate the senses more than ever.

"In general we consider the coming years as a particularly exciting period of revolutionary steps in the development of automobiles, and the resulting paradigm shift in design," explains Lutz Fügener, Professor for Transportation Design at the university. The basic task of these creative types will be as follows: How should cars look that are ecologically sustainable and extremely energy efficient but at the same time remain the distinctive mode of transport for individuals?

Fügener predicts the demise of the internal combustion engine over the next 20 or 30 years and this should indeed provide these nascent designers with great new opportunities. The concept for an electric car, for example, can be completely different to the previous automobiles because the technical components can be distributed much more freely within the body of the vehicle. The use of photovoltaic cells in the carriage or the ability to drive powered by hydrogen or fuel cells will require a completely new design.

The projects that the Pforzheim students have come up with and that are now on show at the university are a glimpse into the not too distant future and make it clear that the age of the car is far from over. "We stick to a basic principle," Fügener says. "The future is better than the past. And we are working on it."

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Toyota Scales Back Production of Big Vehicles

DETROIT — Toyota acknowledged Thursday that, like its rival automakers in Detroit, it misjudged the drastic swing in the American market away from larger vehicles.

With sales of pickups and big S.U.V.’s tumbling, Toyota said it would shut down truck production at two United States plants for three months and consolidate its pickups into one factory next year.

The Japanese automaker also said it would begin making its Prius gas-electric hybrids in a new plant in Mississippi by late 2010 to meet demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles.

“It shows that Toyota is just as fallible as anybody else,” said Joseph Phillippi, a principal of AutoTrends Consulting. “They’re human after all.”

While overall vehicle sales have dropped 10 percent this year, sales of large pickups are down about 25 percent through June, and S.U.V. sales have fallen over 30 percent, according to data compiled by Ward’s Automotive Group.

The shift has hit Detroit’s Big Three much harder. General Motors, Ford Motor and Chrysler have responded by idling truck plants across North America and temporarily laying off tens of thousands of workers.

But Toyota’s announcement that it will suspend truck production at plants in Texas and Indiana was an unwelcome first for the Japanese company.

“We never have faced anything like this before,” Mike Goss, a Toyota spokesman, said. Sales of Toyota’s full-size Tundra pickup fell 53 percent in June, and the company has bulging inventories of both the pickup and its large Sequoia S.U.V.

So Toyota is taking a page out of Detroit’s playbook by ceasing truck production at its plants in Princeton, Ind., and San Antonio from Aug. 8 until early November. The company will also suspend production of V-8 engines at a factory in Huntsville, Ala.

More than 4,000 employees will be affected, but the workers will be paid and attend training sessions during the shutdowns.

“By using this downturn as an opportunity to develop team members and improve our operations, we hope to emerge even stronger,” said Jim Wiseman, vice president for external affairs for Toyota’s North American manufacturing division.

Toyota introduced its Tundra model last year, at the same time that it opened its San Antonio plant in the heart of Texas pickup country.

The new plant and truck were aimed directly at Detroit’s last stronghold of profits and market share. But in retrospect, Toyota’s timing could hardly have been worse.

“In many ways, Toyota’s strategy hasn’t been any different than G.M. or Ford, which was to build bigger vehicles with bigger engines and bigger profits,” said Maryann Keller, an industry consultant in Greenwich, Conn.

While the Tundra has been favorably compared with Ford’s F-series and G.M.’s Chevrolet Silverado, the advent of $4-a-gallon gas has torpedoed sales in the entire segment.

The drop in sales has already forced Ford to delay the introduction of its F-series this fall.

“No one gets away unscathed,” said James N. Hall, principal at the consulting firm 2953 Analytics in Birmingham, Mich. “When segments go down, you’re going to ride down with them.”

Toyota said it would discontinue building pickups in Indiana next year, and move all of its Tundra production to San Antonio.

The automaker had planned to build its midsize Highlander S.U.V. in a plant under construction in Blue Springs, Miss.

But Toyota said Thursday that it will put Highlander production into the Indiana plant, and devote the new Mississippi facility to the popular Prius. Now built exclusively in Japan, the Prius has been selling out in American showrooms. In June, Prius sales fell 33 percent because dealers simply couldn’t fill orders.

Mr. Goss, the Toyota spokesman, said production plans for the Prius in Mississippi have yet to be completed. But he said an average Toyota assembly line produces 150,000 vehicles a year.

Over all, Toyota’s United States sales have dropped nearly 7 percent this year, and the company has also seen shortfalls in supplies of its Yaris and Corolla small cars.

But analysts said that Toyota’s moves Thursday demonstrate the flexibility and financial resources that make it such a formidable competitor.

“They have piles of cash and are as flexible as any company in the industry,” said Ms. Keller. “This is probably a good thing for Toyota because, in their history, they have shown that adversity is what makes them stronger.”

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The Legend Of the Crystal No-Brainer

A Smithsonian Channel documentary on the fake antiquities premieres tonight.

A Smithsonian Channel documentary on the fake antiquities premieres tonight. (By Kevin Clark -- The Washington Post)

Washington Post Staff Writer

It arrived at the Smithsonian 16 years ago, a heavy package with no return address.

Inside: an unsigned letter and a large hollow skull made of milky crystal.

The package was addressed to the "MezoAmerican Museum" -- which isn't real. And the letter said the crystal skull was made by the Aztecs -- which isn't true.

Smithsonian anthropologist Jane MacLaren Walsh has researched the skull since 1992. It's a hoax now deemed important enough that it inspired a news conference yesterday at the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History.

Why now? Walsh doesn't mention the publicity opportunity that is "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," a $306 million (so far) summer movie. "We've been doing a lot of research on it," she avers.

The museum's crystal skull exhibit -- essentially, the skull in a box -- opens today and continues through Sept. 1. The Smithsonian Channel also premieres the documentary "Legend of the Crystal Skulls" tonight. Yesterday morning, several members of the media were lured to a preview that promised to shed "new light" on the myths surrounding the crystal skull. When it was wheeled out on a cart, journalists crowded around in hushed tones; the clicking of camera shutters was the only noise in the room.

"Legend of the Crystal Skulls" recounts how the objects captured popular imagination, spawning countless tales -- namely, there are 13 such skulls that, once reunited, will divulge all knowledge and wisdom about humanity! And crystal skulls prove the existence of Atlantis, the lost city! And they crash computer hard drives!

The documentary also details how the Smithsonian's crystal skull was found to be fake, along with all of the other supposed pre-Columbian crystal skulls around the world (scientists of yore say: Oops.) One is on display in Paris, at the Musee du Quai Branly; another is at the British Museum in London. The British and the French artifacts came from the collection of antiquities dealer Eugène Boban in the late 1800s. Of them all, the Smithsonian's skull is easily the biggest, at about 30 pounds and 10 inches high.


"It's definitely from the '60s," Walsh jokes. "It's so big and bold."

Walsh and British Museum scientist Margaret Sax examined the two skulls from their respective museums under scanning electron microscopes. They saw smooth marks on the surface of the crystal, which could have been made only by modern cutting tools. Their finding was a "definitive debunking of one of the most outrageous archaeological hoaxes of the century," said David Royle, executive vice president for programming and production of Smithsonian Networks.

The most-storied crystal skull, and the one referenced in the Indiana Jones movie, is the Mitchell-Hedges skull, which is in private hands. F.A. Mitchell-Hedges -- a sort of real-life Indiana Jones, except English and a master of tall tales -- and his adopted daughter Anna said they found the skull in the ancient Mayan city Lubaantun.

The skull is known alternately as the Skull of Doom and the Skull of Love, and was said by Mitchell-Hedges to be more than 3,600 years old and the embodiment of evil.

Anna, who died last year, said she basically climbed into a hole in the ground and found it sitting among some rocks. ("I saw something shiny," she reportedly said. Simple as that.) Actually, Walsh said, the elder Mitchell-Hedges bought the skull at a Sotheby's auction in 1943 from Sidney Burney, an art dealer. No one knows where Burney got it from -- but in any case, it's probably not Mayan.

Believers in the crystal skull do not lack for conviction, however. The Mitchell-Hedges official Web site ( proffers rebuttals to all the scientific points made in "Legend of the Crystal Skulls," stopping short of calling the documentary a work of fiction. Some believers have even concluded from the "evidence" that the skulls were made by neither modern artists nor ancient Aztecs but extraterrestrials with tools beyond the ken of humankind.

There are many questions that remain unanswered. Where did Burney get his crystal skull? Who made the Smithsonian's crystal skull? This Eugène Boban, what was his deal?

The true legend of the crystal skull, perhaps, is its ability to inspire legends. It's all very meta. This is not the Smithsonian's modus operandi -- don't the experts study actual artifacts? -- but the museum has taken some PR hits lately. Padded expense accounts and suchlike.

But it makes for a fascinating narrative: a story of New Age hype, of a convergence of science and myth, and of the time and resources dedicated to researching what is essentially a piece of '60s kitsch. As the skull was wheeled away after the news conference preview yesterday, it was not glowing, not magnetizing everything in sight, not doing anything at all. Proving, once again, that life is always more exciting in the movies.

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