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Remembrance of things past

Luckily for Fénéon, the police were simply investigating anyone in their files and their first search proved little more than a worrying nuisance. Despite the books and photographs that confirmed his allegiance to radical causes the officers gave the place no more than a cursory glance and allowed him to leave for work at the War Ministry, where amazingly, he was storing a small box of detonators. He had obviously benefited from reluctance of the authorities to exert themselves over a case where the only victim was himself, an outspoken advocate of the anarchist cause. After the Vaillant's bomb-throwing incident in the Chambre des Députés, Tailhade was rumored to have exclaimed: “ What matter the victims, if the gesture is beautiful!” which left him in the embarrassing position of having to accept the loss of an eye with as much grace as he could muster. He does seem to have managed this remarkably well, occasionally stunning guests at his home by popping out his glass eye and dropping into a tumbler of water. (David Sweetman.Explosive Acts. Toulouse-Lautrec, Oscar Wilde, Felix Fénéon and the Art and Anarchy of the Fin de Siècle. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000:373)

Choose your cardiologist well

Physician volume is a well established determinant of outcomes of invasive cardiac surgery procedures. Studies have demonstrated an inverse relation between the annual surgeon volume of coronary artery bypass graft procedures and in-hospital mortality. Now a study from Ontario, Canada, demonstrated that the 30 day mortality and the 1 year mortality of patients admitted with acute myocardial infarction are also affected by the volume of the admitting physician. Patients with acute myocardial infarction who are treated by a high volume admitting physician are much more likely to survive at 30 days and 1 year. (JAMA2001;285:3116–22)

Being successful and living well

Previous studies have demonstrated that social status is an important predictor of poor health. Most studies of this issue have focused on the poor health of the lower echelons of society. In a retrospective cohort analysis of all actors and actresses ever nominated for an academy award in a leading or supporting role, the demonstrated life expectancy was 3.9 years longer for academy award winners than for others who are less recognised performers. This difference was equal to a 28% relative reduction in death rates. Being successful has a very positive effect on health status. (Ann Intern Med2001;134:955–62)

Tee shirts do not prevent ultraviolet damage

Because of the continuing epidemic of skin cancer the public has been instructed to wear protective clothing against ultraviolet damage. In a recent study of white cotton tee shirts as well as print tee shirts it was demonstrated that ultraviolet transmission through these fabrics is high. Ultraviolet light protection can be increased by washing the tee shirts and especially by using a detergent with a ultraviolet absorbent agent. (J Am Acad Dermatol2001;44:767–74)

Independent supply of embryonic stem cells

It is not yet clear whether President Bush will allow US government funds to be used to support research utilising embryonic stem cells. Several research laboratories, however, are developing stem cell lines that will be made available to other investigators. Already investigators at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, have made such a line of cells available. A privately funded University of Wisconsin Medical School spin-off, WiCel, began offering cells last year. Soon investigators from the University of California at San Francisco will also be providing cells of this type. Once these stem cell lines are established research can move forward without having to destroy additional embryos. (JAMA2001;286:33)

Embryonic stem cells and diabetes

Stem cells are self renewing elements that can generate many different cell types in the body. They are found in adult and fetal tissues but the stem cells with the widest developmental potential derive from the early stage of mammalian embryos. In a recent study from the National Institutes of Health embryonic stem cells were used to produce insulin secreting structures similar to pancreatic islets. These cells self assembled to form three dimensional clusters similar to pancreatic islets and glucose triggers these cells to release insulin. It is clear that engineering of embryonic stem cells to produce an abundant source of immunocompatible tissue for transplantation holds a growing promise for the treatment of diabetes. (Science2001;292:1389–93)

Nicotine patches are not associated with myocardial infarction

Nicotine patches have proved to be one of the most useful aids in assisting patients to stop smoking. Case reports have suggested, however, that they may increase the risk of myocardial infarction. A population based controlled study among 68 hospitals in an eight county region surrounding Philadelphia has demonstrated that nicotine patches were not associated with an increased risk of myocardial infarction. (J Am Coll Cardiol2001;37:1297–302)

Antibiotics and sinusitis

Overuse of antibiotics in medical practice is a well documented problem. Now a randomised placebo controlled trial in three community paediatric practices in St Louis, Missouri, has demonstrated that in children with acute sinusitis no clinical benefit is documented in patients treated with amoxicillin or amoxicillin-calvulnate compared with those patients treated with the placebo. Sinusitis may be one other clinical condition where antibiotics should not be used routinely. (Pediatrics2001;107:619–25)

Depression and aerobic exercises

Several reports have indicated physical activity may reduce the severity of symptoms in patients with mild to moderate depression. Now a study from Berlin suggest that even in patients with severe major depression short term aerobic exercise can reduce the symptoms of depression. In this study significant reduction in depressive symptoms was demonstrated after a training period of 10 days consisting of 30 minutes of walking per day. (Br J Sports Med2001;35:114–17)

Snakes, frogs, and digestive disease

An unknown class of proteins, chemically related to snake venom and frog skin secretions, may lead to the development of new treatments for digestive disorders. Two proteins occurring in humans that are found to control muscular movement in the intestine have been named prokineticins by investigators at the University of California Irvine. Inhibiting these chemicals pharmacologically may be a successful method to treat vomiting and gastrointestinal side effects associated with cancer chemotherapy. (JAMA2001;285: 1380)

Soy products inhibit hot flushes

The association between soy product intake and the occurrences of hot flushes has been investigated in a cohort of female residents of Takayama in Japan. In this study after the data were controlled for age, total energy intake, and menopausal status, hot flushes were significantly inversely associated with the consumption of soy products in terms of both the total amount and isoflavone intake. These data lend support to the notion that consumption of soy products has a protective effect against hot flushes associated with menopause. (Am J Epidemiol2001;153:790–3)

Outdoor air pollution and asthma

There has been no consistent evidence to associate outdoor air pollution and the development of asthma. However, recent a recent study from Korea of over 7000 children suggests that there is a direct correlation. The prevalence of asthma and bronchial hyperresponsiveness was higher among children living around heavily industrial areas compared with those living in less polluted areas despite a similar atopic sensitisation. (Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol2001;86:4056–60)

Coffee may help prevent Parkinson's disease

Recent studies have shown that the more coffee people drink the less likely they are to get Parkinson's disease. Research in mice has demonstrated that caffeine intake may prevent the loss of dopamine in the striatum, a brain area targeted by the disease. Caffeine apparently achieves its protective effect by blocking an A-2 adenosine receptor that appears almost exclusively in striatal neurons. Caffeine is known to seek out these receptors. (Science2001;292:1295)

Stress and the common cold

Few studies on the effect of stress and naturally occurring common colds have been performed. Now a 1 year prospective cohort study from Spain indicates that stress increases the risk of being infected by the viruses causing the common cold. In this study subjects with the highest index of stress also had the highest rate of infections. Psychological stress may be an important risk factor for the common cold. (Epidemiology2001;11: 345–9)

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