Thursday, June 11, 2009

Insomnia for Cancer

Staying up late slows the disease's progress.

I wish that was the case. It seems like the press release from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a bit of a tease in that respect. The title indicates that messing with your circadian clock can stop cancer growth.

It actually sounds kind of inconclusive to me. Original studies showed that nurses and flight attendants who messed up their circadian rhythm (the way their bodies tell night from day, usually because they were working through the night) ended up with higher rates of cancer. So scientists concluded that messing up your circadian clock by keeping odd hours gives you cancer.

Now it looks like actually messing with your genes, and restructuring the biological cells of your body to change the circadian clock can slow down cancer. They altered the genes of some mice and found that they lived longer. So staying up late is still a bad idea, cancer-wise, but they're trying to find better ways of altering the way your cells tell what time it is.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Granny Tipping

Knocking old people around could provide a valuable service.

I was just looking at a paper in the Journal of Neurophysiology that presents new theories for preventing falls. Not that I read the Journal religiously or or anything. I guess I stumbled across it the same way you find anything out there on the internet.

Anyway, professors at the University of Illinois are experimenting with the way you keep your balance. They think that by exposing people to near-slips in laboratory conditions helps to train them to avoid actual slip-and-fall accidents in the real world. So the study was a lot of tipping people over on oil-lubricated vinyl, which probably wasn't nearly as erotic as it sounds.

That means that whenever you jostle old people in line and on the subway, you're being a good citizen, helping them develop a better sense of balance so they don't fall down on their own, right?

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The header image is adapted from a photo taken by Bill McChesney and used under a creative commons license.
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