Heart attacks that produce few if any symptoms may be mistaken for indigestion or simple malaise, but they can be more serious than heart attacks that bring crushing pain because they often don’t bring a victim to the hospital for lifesaving help. Experts discuss.
Dr. Martha Gulati, cardiologist, University of Arizona and Editor-in-Chief, American College of Cardiology patient education initiative
Dr. Robert Vogel, Professor of Medicine and Cardiology, University of Colorado and co-author, The Pritikin Edge
Women stay mentally sharp farther into old age than men typically do, and scientists now think they know why. It all has to do with how the brain burns energy. A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that women’s brains burn energy in a much more youthful way throughout adulthood. Women’s brains appear to be about three years younger than men’s of the same chronological age, even in their 20’s, and that difference holds for the rest of their lives.
Binge drinking and prolonged heavy drinking may trigger a permanent change in a person’s DNA, which results in an even greater desire for alcohol. A study in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research shows that among binge and heavy drinkers, two genes are modified that influence drinking behavior—one that influences the body clock and another regulating the stress-response system. Scientists hope the findings may eventually help identify biomarkers for people at risk for alcoholic changes.
And finally, more than half of all American workers say they’ve suffered from job burnout, but most of them won’t take a “mental health day” away from the job to deal with it. The University of Phoenix survey shows only a third of workers have taken time off for mental health, mostly because they say their companies don’t view it as an acceptable reason to be off work.
Explorers and scientists have been looking for the fountain of youth for thousands of years. Now there’s speculation they may have found an aging inhibitor in a generic HIV drug called Lamivudine. A study in the journal Nature shows that mice who are equivalent to 75 years old in human terms experienced dramatically reduced inflammation and other signs of aging when they received the drug. Lamivudine was approved for treating HIV in 1995. Scientists say they’re anxious to start human anti-aging trials.
Speed limits on highways are usually set as a result of engineering studies. But some local governments override those recommendations, believing that the lower the limit is, the safer the road will be. A new study in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention shows that’s only partially true. Crashes are reduced when a speed limit is set five miles per hour lower than recommendations… but setting the speed limit 10, 15, or 25 miles per hour lower actually increases both total crashes and fatal crashes because so many drivers completely ignore the limit.
And finally… educators have long sought ways to get girls more interested in science. Now a study in the journal Psychological Science has some tips. The study shows that suggesting “let’s do science” is much more effective at getting girls engaged than suggesting “let’s be scientists.” Researchers say pervasive stereotypes, even among the young, torpedo the idea that very many girls ever do become scientists.
Advancements in genetic science are often clouded in ethical controversy. Often, scientists are accused of “playing God.” Experts discuss a new platform where scientists and public can debate it, and from which education can be disseminated.
Dr. Ting Wu, Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School
Most people think of science as fact-based and not as subject to bias as the rest of the world. However, studies show that gender bias is rampant in science, and that women are not taken as seriously as men, even with identical qualifications. Experts discuss the problem and possible solutions.
Dr. Hannah Valentine, Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity, National Institutes of Health, and Senior Investigator, National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute
Dr. Nancy Hopkins, Professor of Biology Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Since their creation, vaccines have had a long history of being controversial. Many of the problems surrounding vaccines that we hear about have to do with recent controversies. Yet, their conception has been the center of ethical debates since the 1960s. The founding of vaccines is an important point in history that has allowed for the development of understanding the balance between need and ethics in medicine.
Vaccines were founded from the eminent need to stop the spread of the next horrific epidemic. Dr. Meredith Wadman, reporter for Science magazine and author of The Vaccine Race: Science, Politics, and the Human Costs of Defeating Disease, explains that the devastation of the Rubella epidemic that occurred from 1964 to 1965 influenced the race to find a vaccine to help prevent the breakout of another epidemic. However creating vaccines involves reproducing the viruses which can only be done with cells. Originally, scientists used monkey kidney cells, but Dr. Wadman explains that these were expensive to obtain and they came with a number of safety issues. So, Leonard Hayflick, a researcher, developed the idea of using human cells, a concept that, Dr. Wadman, explains has garnered the attention of ethics debates because he used cells obtained from a fetus without the consent of the women who had given up the fetus. The cells from this fetus that were used in the 1960s are still being used today in order to develop more vaccines that have been used to save hundreds of millions of people.
How do scientists justify the ethics of this decision to people who do not agree with abortion? Dr. Wadman explains that it is important to look at the larger picture because it is not an ongoing process. Since 1960, this one fetus has been used to save the lives of a number of people. But, this reasoning should not be used to justify all unethical matters. Dr. Wadman explains that the race to find a vaccine was later used to rationalize an abuse of power during World War II in which researchers in America began to test on institutionalized people, prisoners, and even premature newborns and intellectually disabled children, in order to create a vaccine against influenza. At the time, these practices were not regulated, but over time protections and rules were implemented that no longer made it possible for experiments of this nature to take place. While the need for a vaccine can appear to be vital, especially when there are lives on the line, it is important that researchers do not forfeit ethics.
Dr. Meredith Wadman, reporter at Science magazine and author of The Vaccine Race: Science, Politics, and the Human Costs of Defeating Disease