invertebrates inspire new breakthrough in nerve regeneration therapy, country music and suicide, most states fail science education

New procedure repairs severed nerves in minutes, restoring limb use in days or weeks

The team studied the mechanisms all animal cells use to repair damage to their membranes and focused on invertebrates, which have a superior ability to regenerate nerve axons compared to mammals. An axon is a long extension arising from a nerve cell body that communicates with other nerve cells or with muscles.

This research success arises from Bittner’s discovery that nerve axons of invertebrates which have been severed from their cell body do not degenerate within days, as happens with mammals, but can survive for months, or even years.

The severed proximal nerve axon in invertebrates can also reconnect with its surviving distal nerve axon to produce much quicker and much better restoration of behaviour than occurs in mammals.

“Severed invertebrate nerve axons can reconnect proximal and distal ends of severed nerve axons within seven days, allowing a rate of behavioural recovery that is far superior to mammals,” said Bittner. “In mammals the severed distal axonal stump degenerates within three days and it can take nerve growths from proximal axonal stumps months or years to regenerate and restore use of muscles or sensory areas, often with less accuracy and with much less function being restored.”

The team described their success in applying this process to rats in two research papers published today. The team were able to repair severed sciatic nerves in the upper thigh, with results showing the rats were able to use their limb within a week and had much function restored within 2 to 4 weeks, in some cases to almost full function.

Among animals that can regrow limbs and regenerate nerve cell connection are starfish, sanddollars – sea cucumbers can regenerate damaged intestines. Planternaians probably break the record. Cutting them into multiple parts can result in several new worms regenerated from those pieces. Beautiful chameleon lizards can also regrow tails as can little enole lizards. Enoles seem to expect to lose their tails they come off so easily – a tasty treat to occupy predators while they get away. Though it should be noted that lizard tail regrowth is usually not as perfect as the original so any games involving lizard tail pulling are still cruel. For complex organisms salamanders and axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) deserve some kind of prize in their life long ability to regenerate or regrow highly complex structures such as limbs, jaws, tail, spinal cord, or eyes throughout their lives. Unlike the lizards the new growth by the urodele amphibians is just like the original and if they lose a limb multiple times, they can regenerate that limb multiple times. Amazingly despite this ability there have been few urodele amphibian wars, drunken brawls or jackass stunts.

Researchers hope to soon move on to clinical trails for humans. The goals here are more modest, the regrowth of damaged nerve cells in legs and arms that have suffered severe trauma.

1960  Paul Delvaux  La Gare Forestière  or Station forest Huile sur Toile. I like this late phase in his work, a little surrealism meets Lewis Carrol.

The Effect of Country Music on Suicide.

This article assesses the link between country music and metropolitan suicide rates. Country music is hypothesized to nurture a suicidal mood through its concerns with problems common in the suicidal population, such as marital discord, alcohol abuse, and alienation from work. The results of a multiple regression analysis of 49 metropolitan areas show that the greater the airtime devoted to country music, the greater the white suicide rate. The effect is independent of divorce, southernness, poverty, and gun availability. The existence of a country music subculture is thought to reinforce the link between country music and suicide. Our model explains 51% of the variance in urban white suicide rates.

Unfortunately the entire article is behind a pay-wall. I doubt they can show cause and effect. That there is a strong correlation might be of some gotcha value to fans of rock and rap. Social critics, usually amateur psychologists, over the years have been quick to point fingers at correlations behind rock and rap, and anti-social behavior. If human behavior was that simple certainly corporate America would be beaming purchasing decisions into people’s heads by now. Not that advertising does not play on known physiological stimuli. We still have the will power to say no.

This was a great article – Komen’s Choice – on the politicization of health care and women’s bodies, noting the trend to make some parts Democratic and some conservative. That trend will likely continue. In the mean time it seems that Komen has seen to error of its ways – Cancer Group Backs Down on Cutting Off Planned Parenthood.

This is one of the most popular posts making the rounds right now – Your state sucks at science

Seriously. This map suggests that unless you live in California, a smattering of states out East, or a small handfull of other states sprinkled across the country, you’re looking at a very grave problem when it comes to scientific illiteracy in your community’s youth (and, presumably, its population in general). Come to think of it, this map should really concern you, no matter where you live.

Some have called this diagram, recently published in a report by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a grim portrait of state science standards in the U.S. But this goes well beyond grim. This is downright bleak.

Tennessee ranks very badly. I went to school there for a while. In my public school history that included some great teachers – both in the sense of academics and inspiring – Tennessee had two of the worse, they were nightmares as teachers and human beings. The continued resistance to teaching evolution is like teaching physics and leaving out the theory of relativity. The top post is a good example. If you do not understand how organisms are related, their physiological similarities and differences, you cannot began to theorize what to examine in order to make medical breakthroughs.