The Sideshow
  • (Damian Dovarganes/AP)Scientists have isolated a gene in mice  that works to give them "super memories" and reverses the course of several degenerative mental illnesses like Alzheimer's. And because of the similarity of mice and human brains, a powerful brain pill for humans may now not be far off.

    The brains of both mice and humans release a gene known as PKR, which is triggered by the onset of Alzheimer's. But the newly discovered gene can apparently block PKR's release--a development that not only can reverse the course of degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer's, but induces a state of "super memory" in the mice it has been tested on.

    "If we were to find an inhibitor, a molecule, a drug that will specifically block PKR, we should be able to do the same [in humans]," Maura Costa-Mattioli, who led the research study at Baylor University, told the Vancouver Sun. "And we did."

    "We recognize that PKR plays a dual role, one in regulating simple everyday processes like the way neurons talk to each other [for] memory, but also has a stress response," added John Bell, a senior scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute who also contributed to the study.

    More from the Sun:

    A virus is one form of stress that triggers PKR, but Alzheimer's patients' brains also experience PKR-releasing stress, said Bell, whose cancer research led him to create PKR-deficient mice which he shared with Costa-Mattioli's lab. Researchers found that when PKR is genetically suppressed in mice, another immune molecule, called gamma interferon, increases communication between neurons, improving memory and making brain function more efficient, Costa-Mattioli said.

    Reportedly,  when PKR is blocked, the gamma interferon can work more or less spontaneously to improve brain functions--and can be activated via a simple PKR-inhibitor injection into a mouse's stomach rather than through more conventional and drawn-out gene therapy. The possible application for humans would lead to something like taking a "brain pill" to treat diseases like Alzheimer's, or simply to give the memory a significant boost:

    When the researchers tested the PKR-deficient mice in a series of memory tests, those mice were able to pick up on patterns and remember them on the first try, while the other mice needed days to figure out how to solve the puzzle. The PKR-deficient mice consistently showed significantly better memory and learning abilities than their counterparts.

    Read More »from “Super memory” pill–and possibly an Alzheimer’s cure–could be around the corner
  • A new ad campaign uses superheroes to raise breast cancer awarenessAn advertising agency in Mozambique has created a new campaign for breast cancer awareness featuring some leading female superheroes performing self breast exams (SBE). The ads feature Wonder Woman, Catwoman, X-Men's Storm and She-Hulk.

    The ads feature the caption: "When we talk about breast cancer, there's no women or superwomen. Everybody has to do the self-examination monthly. Fight with us against this enemy and, when in doubt, talk with your doctor."

    However, the well-intentioned ads have sparked some controversy. Over at Badass Digest, Devin Faraci writes, "As admirable as these ads are they, as is the case with many breast cancer PSAs, seem to skew towards men."

    Boing Boing's Xeni Jardin, who is currently living with breast cancer, writes:

    "I think more awareness and more data is generally a good thing. Even for superheroes. As an aside, the ads are fun but I'm gonna guess that the creative team on this one was all-male . . . . Ever notice how public health ads about testicular cancer and prostate cancer don't tend to feature fondle-y sexualized close-ups of those parts?"

    Read More »from Comic superheroes perform breast self exams
  • Tim Tebow/Getty ImagesTwo New York high-school students have been suspended for organizing a bended-knee tribute to Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow.

    Seventeen year old Connor and Tyler Carroll are fans of the NFL star, a devout Christian who has led his team on an improbable 7-1 record since becoming the team's starting quarterback.

    The NFL player has unwittingly started a global trend called "Tebowing"--what the site tebowing.com describes as, "to get down on a knee and start praying, even if everyone else around you is doing something completely different."

    For some, the act of Tebowing is highly ironic, but for the Carroll brothers it was meant as a sincere gesture. However, in this case, the kids in question have provoked the ire of one bystander "doing something completely different": Superintendant Nancy Carney, who took vigorous issue with organized Tebowing in the school hallway. About 40 students reportedly participated in the latest act on Wednesday, which you can watch in the video below:


    Carney said the suspension has nothing to do with the religious nature of the gesture. "It is about being sure kids are able to get to class on time and keeping the kids safe and orderly," Carney said. "These students were warned and did it again. If the kids aren't going to abide by rules, there are consequences."

    Read More »from High-school students suspended for “Tebowing”

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