Category Archives: science

Using SMS to manage and contain the spread of infectious diseases

Read a very interesing article on Wired about a company called Cell-life which is developing SMS and Internet based monitoring software to enable a small team of doctors to effectively monitor the side-effects of Anti Retroviral (ARV)drugs used in the treatment of AIDS. In this case, many side-effects such as lactic-acidosis are life-threatening unless treatment is received quickly. The cell-life system enables fast diagnosis of these issues using SMS text messaging to communicate with doctors and interface with the system databases. It’s a wonderful example of technology having a beneficial effect on the lives of thousands of people and (as someone pointed out) a balance to my earlier techno-dystopia remarks…

California Stem Cell Research initiative

Throughout the rest of the US stem-cell researchers are weighing up the costs (and funding issues) of another 4 years of Dubya. However, California has neatly sidestepped these issues by finding a way to supplant it’s stem cell research initiatives with state funds. Cunning!

In the Golden State, stem cell researchers will see a windfall of $3 billion over the next 10 years, averaging about $300 million a year, thanks to the passage of Proposition 71, the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative. It shouldn’t be difficult to entice the best minds in the country to move to a place where their work is fully supported by a state known for its mild climate.

Without wanting to get into the complexitiies of the ethical and legal debate surrounding this kind of research I’ll be interested to discover the results this promising initiative produces. Whether we morally agree with stem-cell research or not it has the potential to have a major impact on the treatment of a wide range of illnesses, especially degenerative neurological conditions such as alzheimers and parkinsons.

Mini-me

Many of you will be familiar with the concept of two separate genus of man existing side by side in prehistoric times. I’m talking about Neanderthal and Homo-sapien. Recent studies have shown our homo-sapien ancestors may have contributed to the extinction of the neanderthals. It seems 3 factors were at play

  1. Neanderthals were unable to deal adequately with cold stress at a time of climactic change, 25-30,000 years ago
  2. Neanderthals needed to increase their energy intake and hence food consumption to keep warm. Homo-sapiens were more anatomically suited to keeping warm, making better use of increasingly scarce food resources
  3. Homo sapiens devised high-tech ways to keeping themselves warm including furs, boots etc.

However, in a remarkable paleoanthropological discovery, researchers have unearthed the remains of a dwarf human species that survived on the Indonesian island of Flores until just 13,000 years ago. This significantly extends the known range of physical variation in the homo-sapien genus and reveals that we shared the planet with other humans much more recently than previously believed.
This bantam human genus, dubbed Homo-floresiensis, stood around a metre tall and had a head slightly bigger than a grapefruit. Despite it’s compact cranium it developed sophisticated tools such as micro-blades, perforators and barbs. As the article points out islands have produced giants aswell as dwarves as evidenced by the giant komodo dragon lizard. Anyway, I keep wondering what we’ll learn about the evolution of man, the full extent of our genus and the factors that both shaped us and caused homo-sapien to prevail. It’s also an interesting assertion of the effect of genetic and environmental isolation on genetic development. More on this at a later date…