Tag Archives: Children + Future

Collins: Testimony on the threat of genetic discrimination

The testimony of Francis Collins before the subcommittee on Health is now online

A recent NIH study of families at risk for hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer … revealed that the number concern expressed by participants regarding genetic testing was about losing health insurance, should the knowledge of their genetic test result be divulged or fall into the “wrong hands” … Unless Americans are convinced that their genetic information will not be used against them, the era of personlized medicine may never come to pass. The rest would be a continuation of the current one-size-fits-all medicine, ignoring the abundant scientific evidence that the genetic differences among people help explain why some of us benefit from a therapy while others do not.

Allergy and DC antigen processing: vitamin versus hygiene hypothesis

Last week Science has an update on differential antigen processing by DCs including a key sentence on immature DCs:

Cultured immature DCs capture antigen but only process and present it on MHC II after exposure to inflammatory stimuli or TLR ligation.

Although the authors were not aware of current allergy research, they perfectly summarize how vitamin D renders DC immature, while hygiene (infections or LPS farm exposure ) may antagonize it.

Mirror neurons

I found an interesting extension of my self blog at Edge

Five and a half years ago, Edge published a notable essay by neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran, entitled MIRROR NEURONS and imitation learning as the driving force behind “the great leap forward” …
And, one year ago, we published a related essay, Mirror Neurons and the Brain in a Vat [1.10.06], which further developed this set of ideas …
Here, for the Edge 10th Anniversary Essay, we are pleased to present a new work, “The Neurology of Self-Awareness”, in which “Rama” explores the concept of the self, tying in the ideas of researchers such as Horace Barlow, Nick Humphrey, David Premack and Marvin Minsky (among others), who have suggested that consciousness may have evolved primarily in a social context.

Ramachandran shows an interesting development – by chance quite similar what I am currently reading from Alfred Adler and his scholar Rudolf Dreikurs: children (and adults) want to be accepted as individuals and want to be at the same time part of a group. Martin Buber comes to my mind “Der Mensch wird erst am Du zum Ich”. Yea, yea.

Don’t miss the NYPL digital gallery for a more detailed view of mirror neurons.

Living near highways

A new study now shows directly that personal exposure of particles is linked to asthma symptoms. Children carried pollution monitors in their backpacks on the way to school where PM2.5 ranged from 20 to 50 micrograms per cubic meter. Although only around 10 percent of the total mass of particles was diesel soot, it was this that was most closely linked to the children’s asthma. This nicely complements results of our study in Munich in 1989/1990 which was the first survey indirectly linking car exhaust and airway symptoms in children. Mechanisms how this happens are not very well known – for a discussion of the biphasic response see our paper of a mouse model, yea, yea.

Dr. Livingstone, I presume?

Asthma in Africa: I will touch this issue in more detail in a forthcoming editorial in PLos Medicine. Africa has fascinated me since childhood when I read books of Paul White, Albert Schweitzer and tried to get everything our library had about David Livingstone and Morton Stanley. Here is a further link that we couldn’t place in the editorial – a 2 month helicopter trip from Hamburg to Kapstadt including daily GPS data to watch a heli flying in Google Earth, simply the best, I have seen in the internet this year, yea.

Supersize me and the fake food hypothesis

Is there any sense of genetic studies aiming at an association with body mass index? Will there ever be a public health strategy or any medical intervention based on a genetic marker?
I am recalling what Christoph – a friend of mine at medical school and a now professor for child psychiatry – once told me when he was working on his thesis about anorexia: “You only need to weight them for a diagnosis”. As there are now lots of weighing machines out there, there are plenty of DNAs (intended for different outcomes!), which might be a reason of the 5946 “obesity and gene” papers.
Will this help anybody? I fear, that responsibility is even shifted to “poor genes” (of course I acknowledge that there might be gene nutrient interactions – Paul Soloway wrote a nice essay on that). My view – developed with my wife over many years – is that that the obesity epidemics is largely an environmental trait of poor eating habits, wrong orientation on dress models and not enough physical activity. I recall also Professor Walter Willett – who has been my former advisor in Nutritional Epidemiology – that things can be quite simple. Check for his “Low Glycemic Index” on the web, find a sports club for biking, jogging or walking, concentrate on eating and use small spoons and forget about diets.
There is long-standing discussion, how the body signals by “being hungry” that something is missing (sorry, only 1 historic reference). Of course this works also in non-humans: Have you ever seen supersized animals? My guess is, that the well developed and unconscious food recognition process is largely fooled by pre-processed food that contains additives changing appearance, taste and smelling. So, you have now heard the first time about the fake food hypothesis. I do not believe so much in voluntarily overeating – it seems much more an involuntary repeated intake to find someting useful.
Coming back to our start: Imagine that
drugs that can block hunger (as we now learned the search for required food ingredients) and imagin that the developed world continues to eat their currently preferred food: Everybody will then need a professional nutrionists to balances his/her daily intake. So, we better save tax payer money for these BMI-gene studies. Yea, yea.

Mini-München: University for children

Have you ever heard of a city of children? Adults may have access but whole life (including a university with 4 lecture rooms) is completely managed by children. We are proud to participate in Mini-München now for many years. Here are the rules, rule 3 says that studying is being paid like any other work… Yea, yea.

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