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Just the Facts

London Drug Disaster
The six volunteers who participated in a widely publicized London trial of an experimental drug that left them seriously ill were offered interim payments by the drug’s manufacturer if they agreed not to sue. The drug, TGN 1412, had seemed safe in tests on primates and other animals, but within minutes of the clinical trial’s start, all six men experienced life-threatening inflammation of their tissues and multiple organ failure. One man, 20-year-old Ryan Wilson, is likely to lose several fingers and toes, and all six will have permanently damaged immune systems. The offer—£5,000 (about $9,400)—was turned down by each of the men.

Heart Disease Goes Global
Metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms including abdominal fat, cholesterol disorders, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance, among others, is known to be related to fatty Western diets. And now the condition—which is linked to increased risk of heart disease—is becoming increasingly common in China. According to a study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, about a third of a sample of 2,334 people over age 60 in the Beijing metropolitan area had metabolic syndrome. The researchers believe that as the economy and lifestyle in China becomes more Westernized, so too will the risk for cardiovascular disease.
Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Apr. 18, 2006.

bird grammarStarling Grammar
Scientists recently reported in the journal Nature that a group of starlings were able to differentiate between a regular birdsong “sentence” and one containing a clause. Starlings, whose songs are made up of a complex mix of whistles, warbles, and rattles, make different combinations of sounds in their songs. They can even recognize other starlings by learning another individual bird’s unique sound combinations.

mothers dayA Mother of Thousands
Noelle has given birth hundreds of times. She’s a pregnant robot being used for training in hospitals and medical schools around the globe. This high-tech simulator was created by Miami-based Gaumard Scientific Co. Inc., and models range from a $3,000 basic version to a very high-tech $20,000 version. Noelle can be programmed to experience many complications, including breach presentation, and can be in labor for hours or just minutes. She ultimately gives birth to a simulator baby that shows vital signs when hooked up to a monitor. The baby can also change colors: a healthy baby will be pink while a baby experiencing oxygen deficiency will be blue.
Paul Elias, “Robot Birth Simulator Gaining Popularity,” AP

A Little High Is Too High
Many Americans have borderline high blood pressure—a category between normal blood pressure and hypertension, sometimes called “prehypertension.” According to the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, blood pressure that is just a little high can still increase one’s risk for heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, or congestive heart failure. People can take control of their bloodpressure without medication before it turns into hypertension by exercising and eating plenty of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. It’s campersalso important to stay away from foods high in fat, cholesterol, and salt.
HealthDay News, May 2, 2006.

Happy Campers
More and more summer camps are making it easier for kids to enjoy healthy—and fun—vegetarian fare. At Kids Make a Difference Camp, based in Los Angeles, camp director Andy Mars serves only healthy vegan meals. Campers learn how to help with meal preparations—such as rolling their own vegetarian sushi—and roast veggie hot dogs over the campfire.

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