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“Two hundred and fifty years ago, Arab miniaturists were in the custom of staring at the western horizon at daybreak to alleviate the understandable and eternal anxieties about going blind shared by all miniaturists; likewise, a century later in Shiraz, many illustrators would eat walnuts mashed with rose petals on an empty stomach in the mornings. Again, in the same era, the elder miniaturists of Isfahan who believed sunlight was responsible for blindness to which they succumb one by one, as if to the plague, with work in a half-dark corner of the room, and most often by candlelight, to prevent direct sunlight from striking their worktables. At day’s end, in the workshops of the Usbek artists of Bukhara, master miniaturists would wash their eyes with water blessed by sheikhs.” (

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Recently researchers have discovered a previously undescribed micro-organism that lives within the tissues of an Australian plant know as snakevine (Kennedia nigriscans). This micro-organism is a species of Streptomyces, a genus that has been the source of more than 50 licensed antibiotics. In cell culture these new compounds have demonstrated a broad activity against both bacteria and fungi. This micro-organism may represent a new source for clinically useful antibiotics. (

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Magnetic resonance spectroscopy has been demonstrated to be useful in differentiating idiopathic Parkinson’s disease from atypical parkinsonian syndromes such as progressive supranuclear palsy or corticobasal degeneration. In a study from Spain proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy was used to evaluate a group of patients with Parkinson’s disease with and without dementia as well as a control group. In this study, in the occipital region N-acetylasparate levels were significantly reduced in patients with dementia and Parkinson’s disease compared with those patients without dementia and the control group. The clinical correlation for this involvement of the occipital lobes in this subset of patients has not yet been investigated. (

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It now seems apparent that routine consumption of fish has protective properties in preventing stroke. This has in general been attributed to the long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are most exclusively derived from marine sources and inhibit platelet aggregation. Now, in a study from Harvard University a prospective cohort study of more than 40 000 men suggests that eating fish as infrequently as once a month can reduce the risk of ischaemic stroke in men. However, in this study no significant associations were found between the concentration of long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and the risk of haemorrhagic stroke. The protective effect of fish in preventing stroke may not be related to long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. (

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Routine physical activity may lower the risk for coronary heart disease. Although several mechanisms have been suggested for this protective effect the precise mechanism remains to be defined. In a study from the National Center for Environmental Health in Atlanta, Georgia, of more than 13 000 participants, routine physical exercise was correlated with a reduced C reactive protein concentration. In addition, physical activity was positively associated with serum albumin concentration and inversely associated with both log transformed plasma fibrinogen concentration and log transformed white blood cell count. These results suggest that physical activity may reduce inflammation, which is a critical process in the pathogenesis in cardiovascular disease. (

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For some patients food allergies can be life threatening. Food biotechnologists are currently working on altered genetic food products to avoid some of these problems. Recently, at Dupont Experimental Station in Wilmington, Delaware, scientists have reported a technique called RNA interference to silence the genes that encode P-34, a protein responsible for causing 65% of all soybean allergies. This technique exploits the mechanisms that cells use to protect themselves against foreign genetic material, causing a cell to destroy RNA transcribed from a given gene and thus effectively turning off the gene. Whether this technique will be widely accepted by the public has not been determined. (

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In the past decade a wide range of pharmacological agents have been developed for the treatment of hypertension. Some controversy exists as to which agents are ideal for initiating therapy in the treatment of hypertension. In a study of more than 30 000 patients over 55 years of age, in the antihypertensive and lipid lowering treatment to prevent heart attack trial, thiazide-type diuretics were shown to be superior to ACE inhibitors and calcium channel blocking agents in preventing one or more major forms of cardiovascular disease. Moreover, they are less expensive. The results of this study suggest that thiazide-type diuretics should be preferred for the first step in initiating antihypertensive therapy. (

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Recent evidence suggests that infants born via in vitro fertilisation may be at risk of birth defects, the Beckwith-Widemann syndrome. This syndrome is characterised by an enlarged tongue and predisposition to unusual forms of cancer. In a registry of 65 children with Beckwith-Widemann syndrome, three (5%) had been conceived via in vitro fertilisation, despite the fact that less than 1% of all births in the United States occur after in vitro fertilisation. Further studies are necessary to further define this risk. (

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Since the initial report of hypersensitivity to latex in the late 1970s this allergy has been increasingly recognised as a significant medical problem in patient populations. In a recent study from Detroit more than 1000 patients visiting an urban emergency department were evaluated. Latex specific IgE antibodies were measured; 8% had positive IgE antibodies to latex and 24% were classified as having strongly positive results. The prevalence of latex sensitisation in the general population appears to be greater than previously described. (

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House dust mite allergen is a well recognised cause of asthma. The use of antiallergic mattress covers in patients with asthma appears to reduce the level of house dust mite allergen in dust samples. In a study of 30 patients with asthma in Switzerland who had house dust mite allergy, the use of antiallergic mattress covers resulted in a significant reduction in house dust mite within dust samples. However, in patients with moderate to severe asthma airway hyper-responsiveness did not seem to be affected by allergen avoidance. (

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