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February 9, 2012 at 10:20 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

A Week of Honest Discovery and Life Changing Sightseeing

By E.M. Wollof from SLN More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the A New Itch Blog Series

As I was perusing the interwebs for the next virus to infect eager minds with, I stumbled across....well....I stumbled across way too much stuff. Turns out, the first true week in February is a hot time for research studies to publish their findings...must be an alignment of exo-planets and such. So, with indecisiveness in full swing, let's run through all of them.

In Your Face Parkinson's

Recent studies show that participating in Tai Chi courses can significantly improve balance in Parkinson's patients. In a study conducted by Fuzhong Li of the Oregon Research Institute in Eugene, 195 seniors were sent to one of three classes that met twice a week for an hour. Each of the participants was taking regular medication for their Parkinson's and had the ability to stand on their own, unaided movement was difficult though (a signature loss with Parkinson's disease, as it destroys the brain cells that produce dopamine).

The three classes all involved physical movement, just in different categories. The first was a basic Tai Chi course, the second a gentle weight training course, and the third was a stretching course. Each patient was scored on a 100 point mobility scale that dealt with the ability to lean or shift body weight without falling over. The patients started the study with a score of 64 across the board. By the end of the study, 24 weeks, the stretching group had actually lost two points, the resistance group had gained four, and the Tai Chi group had gained an average of ten! The Tai Chi group also showed an improvement in being able to move from one point to the next without excess bodily movement in the process. During the Tai Chi training, there were only 62 falls reported, less than half of the other two groups! Pretty hard to argue with those numbers!


The Scripps Research Institute has invented a way to spot the spread of cancerous cells from solid tumors, opening the gate to more efficient treatments of a variety of cancers. The standard process for detecting these types of cell movements is a surgical biopsy, and, I don't know if anyone has seen one of those needles, needless to say...ouch.

The process involves taking a blood sample from the patient and injecting a chemical that illuminates the circulating tumor cells (the cells that break off from cancerous tumors). Once illuminated, the cells can be tracked, and hopefully thwarted in their attempt to set up shop in different parts of the body. This is no cure for cancer, but coupled with some of the spot on chemo treatments that are being developed, it could lead to a much more efficient way of attacking cancer head on.

Seeing Your Child For The First Time...

Recent gene therapy studies have shown remarkable results in treating Leber's Congenital Amaurosis (LCA), a rare inherited disease caused by defects in a gene encoding a protein needed for vision. The study only had three participants, so it is being labelled as merely a stepping stone to larger studies, but it did lead to a mother being able to see her children for the first time, an obviously positive result that has had positive effects on the research.

The gene that is injected into the eye is engineered specifically to attack genetic defects like LCA, it is called RPE65. The gene doesn't completely restore sight, but has allowed participants in the study to see at night and to navigate around certain obstacles unaided. Truly, this study is a major leap forward in the gene therapy sector.

See you next week...

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