May 2012

Sightless eye cells detect light

The existence of these cells answers several questions about human biology

As most people know, vision in the standard evolutionarily-developed eye is provided thanks to rod and cone cells. Rod cells only see in black and white, are more light-sensitive, and are good at detecting motion. Cone cells come in a lot of different varieties, and provide color vision. (Humans have three different types of cone cells which detect red, green, and blue. Other animals have more kinds of cones, and can see more colors than we can.)
But it turns out there is a third kind of cell in your eye. And even though it can't "see" in the traditional way, it detects light levels. These cells are also connected almost directly to your thalamus, and regulate your sleep cycle, and may be implicated in seasonal depression and migraines, among other phenomena.

Chagas Disease: The Next New Plague

This parasitic infection could be poised to become a big problem

Chagas disease is much in the news this week, after reports were released calling it "the new HIV/AIDS." It's this year's swine flu! It recently moved Wired to ask, "What if a deadly epidemic was burgeoning and almost nobody noticed?"
What is Chagas Disease?
Chagas disease is caused by a parasite, which lives in the intestines of blood-sucking insects in the Triatoma species. Triatoma are colloquially known as "kissing bugs," because they prefer to bite and suck blood from the corners of people's mouths. They are basically the tropical version of bed bugs, hiding in cracks and crevices during the day, and emerging at night to feed on their human hosts.

Secret Epidemic of Brain Tapeworms

How many epilepsy patients are actually suffering from tapeworm infection?
When most people think of tapeworms, they think of the worm's adult stage, when the long ribbon-like worm makes its living by latching on to the wall of the intestines and drinking the host's blood. But like many invertebrates, tapeworms go through several life cycles - and one of those life cycles can accidentally end up in your brain.
It isn't the tapeworm's plan, to end up in your brain. The tapeworm isn't any happier about it than you are. Nevertheless, it sometimes happens, and the results (known medically as "neurocysticercosis") include epilepsy and blindness.

OTC HIV Test - FDA Considering Approval

In-Home HIV test (OraQuick)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reviewing the first ever test consumers could purchase over-the-counter to enable concerned individuals to test on their own -- at home and without having to see a doctor -- whether they have the HIV virus. Word is, the FDA is considering approving the test for consumers to purchase at a drug store or online.

The test is called the OraQuick In-Home HIV test, which reviewers think may help slow the spread of the HIV virus. This review comes just one day following an FDA panel approving the HIV pill called Truvada for HIV preventative use.

The concern over the approval with the at home HIV test lies in the concern over privacy. If the OraQuick In-Home HIV test is approved for OTC use, consumers would simply swab their mouth. The test would return a result in 20 minutes.

Nightmare cures

Any recs would be great right about now.

Life has been a little more traumatic than usual lately. I am so blessed and fortunate to have my daughter and my family and my home; we are growing our own food and my husband has work. I am luckier than most people on the planet. But between a significant pay cut for me, a double root canal and a lengthy period of dental pain followed by sheer dread, and the summer (heat and bugs, that is) upon us so soon, I just haven’t been feeling well.

I don’t think I’ve been worrying more than usual, but my subconscious tells me different: I have had at least one nightmare every night for the past, oh, three weeks or so. Sleeping, one of my favorite activities, has become something I actually dread. I am so exhausted during the day from only sleeping one or two hours at night; I end up taking a nap, something I don’t want to do, only to have nightmares then, too.