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“I have been cooped up in my apartment with a low-grade fever, listening to Arsenio Rodriguez’s bitter bolera,” La Vidas Es un Sueno” (Life Is a Dream). As a young boy in Cuba, Rodriguez lost his eyesight after being kicked in the head by a mule. In 1947 when he was around thirty-five, he came to Manhattan to consult a specialist about the possibility of curing his blindness. The doctor told him that his sight could not be restored. That day, Rodriguez wrote the bolero, which opens with an ironic fairy-dust tinkle, after which the lyrics pour forth backed by his driving nine-piece combo. (

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To deliver genes into cells scientists have relied on engineered viruses. New silica nanoparticles with organic components may prove effective non-viral DNA carriers. Chemists at the University of Buffalo found that the electric charge on these nanoparticles held and compacted the DNA, protecting it from enzymatic digestion in cells. (

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Targeted cancer therapies that attack a specific protein identified through molecular analysis appear to be the next wave in cancer treatment. However, the strategy received a set back in December when AstraZeneca reported that its targeted therapy, gefitinib, shrank tumours but was no more effective than a placebo at extending the lives of patients with lung cancer. Other targeted therapies currently being investigated are those from Genentech and Osi Pharmaceuticals that apparently have improved patient survival. The area of targeted cancer therapies remains controversial. (

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Amblyopia is the most common cause of monocular visual impairment in children and young adults. The Pediatric Eye Disease Investigative Group has studied the effectiveness of patching versus atropine sulphate. The 2 year follow up data suggest that moderate amblyopia is equally well treated by atropinisation of the fixing eye versus part time occlusion therapy. Nevertheless, on average the amblyopic eye acuity was still approximately two lines worse than the sound eye at the end of the 2 year follow up period. (

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To the human eye the narcissus flower looks uniformly yellow but a camera that captures ultraviolet light reveals speckles, streaks, and splashes. Flowers use these hidden patterns to signal bees and other pollinators that can detect ultraviolet light. To see a bee’s eye view of more than a 1000 plant varieties go to www.naturfotograf.com/UV_flowers_list.html#top

One of the leading explanations of Alzheimer’s disease suggests that amyloid build up in plaque in patients’ brains is a major part of the pathological process. Work with mice genetically engineered to produce these plaques suggests that the build up of amyloid can be prevented by lifestyle change: housing the animals in an enriched environment—one amply stocked with toys, exercise equipment—instead of in standard laboratory cages equipped with nothing more than food and water resulted in significantly reduced amyloid build up. (

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Ciclosporin A is used as an adjutant to chemotherapy for the treatment of retinoblastoma. The rationale for this is that it sensitises tumour cells to chemotherapy by inhibiting the membrane bound toxin efflux pump. Investigators now provide evidence that the therapeutic effects of ciclosporin A in retinoblastoma are mediated by direct cytotoxicity. The authors have demonstrated that ciclosporin induces antiproliferative and apoptotic effects in retinoblastoma cells at clinically achievable levels. (

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The importance of breakfast has been emphasised by nutritionists for some time. Now a study in 10 healthy women demonstrates that missing breakfast was associated with significantly higher fasting levels of total and low density lipoprotein cholesterol and with postprandial insulin sensitivity which could lead to weight gain. (

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Concerns have arisen that drugs used to treat depression may in some susceptible individuals cause suicidal feelings, self harm, and suicide. In a meta-analysis of randomised control trials of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants investigators found that an increased risk of suicide and self harm could not be ruled out. However, they emphasise that larger trials with longer follow up are required to assess the balance of risks and benefits fully. Any such risk should be balanced against the effectiveness of selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors in treating depression. They recommend that clinicians should warn patients of a possible risk of suicide behaviour and monitor them closely in the early stages of treatment with selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors. (

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Recent recommendations have suggested that the routine use of antibiotics for middle ear infections in children should be discouraged. However, a randomised double blind placebo controlled trial of amoxicillin for acute otitis media in young children did not support the hypothesis that the cure rate among those receiving placebo is similar to those who take active treatment. (

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Experimental and epidemiology data have suggested that vitamin E supplementation may prevent cancer in cardiovascular events. Clinical trials have generally failed to confirm these benefits. A randomised double blind placebo controlled international trial conducted between 1993 and 1999 concluded that in patients with vascular disease or diabetes mellitus, long term vitamin E supplementation does not prevent cancer or major cardiovascular events. Moreover, it may increase the risk for heart failure. (

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The effective medical treatment of most forms of nystagmus still remains elusive. However, a recent report suggests that the potassium channel blocker 4-aminopyrodine may be an effective treatment for spontaneous upbeating nystagmus. This drug was investigated in the treatment of a single patient with upbeat nystagmus. Its use was associated with a reduction in the amplitude of the nystagmus and relief of the oscillopsia associated with it. The impaired upward smooth pursuit movements were restored to nearly normal. The authors propose that 4-aminopyridine improved the function of cerebellar pathways that mediate gaze holding and smooth pursuit by intensifying the excitability of cerebellar Purkinje cells. (

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