A Cure for the Common Conservative?

Looks like the cure for conservatism will actually beat a cure for cancer… Yup – “There’s a pill for that!”

Blood pressure drug ‘reduces in-built racism’

A common heart disease drug may have the unusual side-effect of combating racism, a new study suggests.

The beta-blocker drug can reduce ‘subconscious’ racism, the Oxford University study found.

Researchers found that people who took propranolol scored significantly lower on a standard test used to detect subconscious racial attitudes, than those who took a placebo.

Propranolol is most often used to reduce high blood pressure by lowering the heart rate, as well as angina and irregular heartbeat. It is also used to manage the physical symptoms of anxiety, and control migraine.

It is thought to work by blocking activation of the peripheral ‘autonomic’ nervous system, and in areas of the brain involved with formulating emotional responses, including fear, called the amygdalae.

The researchers believe propranolol reduces racial bias because such subconscious thoughts are triggered by that autonomic nervous system.

Their small study took 36 white student volunteers, gave half a single 40mg dose of propranolol and half a placebo, and asked them all to undertake the Implicit Association Test - designed to test “subtle and spontaneous biased behaviour” – two hours later.

The test requires participants to visually sort particular words like ‘joy’ ,’evil’, ‘happy’ and ‘glorious’, as well as black and white faces, into the correct categories.

Sylvia Terbeck, lead author of the study, published in the journalPsychopharmacology, said: “Our results offer new evidence about the processes in the brain that shape implicit racial bias.

“Implicit racial bias can occur even in people with a sincere belief in equality.

“Given the key role that such implicit attitudes appear to play in discrimination against other ethnic groups, and the widespread use of propranolol for medical purposes, our findings are also of considerable ethical interest.”

Professor Julian Savulescu, of the university’s Faculty of Philosophy, and a co-author of the study, said: “Such research raises the tantalising possibility that our unconscious racial attitudes could be modulated using drugs, a possibility that requires careful ethical analysis.

A Vaccine for Heroin Addiction?

Wow – this could be  major game changer.

And you thought there were only Zombies in the movies..

Mexican scientists successfully test vaccine that could cut heroin addiction

A group of Mexican scientists is working on a vaccine that could reduce addiction to one of the world’s most notorious narcotics: heroin.

Researchers at the country’s National Institute of Psychiatry say they have successfully tested the vaccine on mice and are preparing to test it on humans.

The vaccine, which has been patented in the US, makes the body resistant to the effects of heroin, so users would no longer get a rush of pleasure when they smoked or injected it.

“It would be a vaccine for people who are serious addicts, who have not had success with other treatments and decide to use this application to get away from drugs,” the institute’s director Maria Elena Medina said on Thursday.

Scientists worldwide have been searching for drug addiction vaccines for several years, but none have yet been fully developed. A group at the US National Institute on Drug Abuse has reported significant progress in a vaccine for cocaine.

However, the Mexican scientists appear to be close to making a breakthrough on a heroin vaccine and have received funds from the US institute as well as the Mexican government.

During the tests, mice were given access to deposits of heroin over an extended period of time. Those given the vaccine showed a huge drop in heroin consumption, giving the institute hope that it could also work on people, Medina said.

Kim Janda, a scientist working on his own narcotics vaccines at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, said that the Mexican vaccine could function but with some shortcomings.

“It could be reasonably effective, but maybe too general and affect too many different types of opioids as well as heroin,” Janda said.

Mexico has a growing drug addiction problem. Health secretary Jose Cordoba recently said the country now has about 450,000 hard drug addicts, particularly along the trafficking corridors of the US-Mexico border.

Mexican gangsters grow opium poppies in the Sierra Madre mountains and convert them into heroin known as Black Tar and Mexican Mud, which are smuggled over the Rio Grande.

Ancient Nubians Knew Value of Antibiotics

Turns out Nubians discovered the benefit of antibiotics over 2000 years ago.

ANCIENT NUBIANS DRANK ANTIBIOTIC-LACED BEER

People have been using antibiotics for nearly 2,000 years, suggests a new study, which found large doses of tetracycline embedded in the bones of ancient African mummies.

What’s more, they probably got it through beer, and just about everyone appears to have drank it consistently throughout their lifetimes, beginning early in childhood.

While the modern age of antibiotics began in 1928 with the discovery of penicillin, the new findings suggest that people knew how to fight infections much earlier than that — even if they didn’t actually know what bacteria were.

Some of the first people to use antibiotics, according to the research, may have lived along the shores of the Nile in Sudanese Nubia, which spans the border of modern Egypt and Sudan.

“Given the amount of tetracycline there, they had to know what they were doing,” said lead author George Armelagos, a biological anthropologist at Emory University in Atlanta. “They may not have known what tetracycline was, but they certainly knew something was making them feel better.”

Armelagos was part of a group of anthropologists that excavated the mummies in 1963. His original goal was to study osteoporosis in the Nubians, who lived between about 350 and 550 A.D. But while looking through a microscope at samples of the ancient bone under ultraviolet light, he saw what looked like tetracycline — an antibiotic that was not officially patented in modern times until 1950.

At first, he assumed that some kind of contamination had occurred.

“Imagine if you’re unwrapping a mummy, and all of a sudden, you see a pair of Ray Ban sunglasses on it,” Armelagos said. “Initially, we thought it was a product of modern technology.”

His team’s first report about the finding, bolstered by even more evidence and published in Science in 1980, was met with lots of skepticism. For the new study, he got help dissolving bone samples and extracting tetracycline from them, clearly showing that the antibiotic was deposited into and embedded within the bone, not a result of contamination from the environment.

The analyses also showed that ancient Nubians were consuming large doses of tetracycline — more than is commonly prescribed today as a daily dose for controlling infections from bad acne. The team reported their results in theAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology.

They were also able to trace the antibiotic to its source: Grain that was contaminated with a type of mold-like bacteria called Streptomyces. Common in soil, Strep bacteria produce tetracycline antibiotics to kill off other, competing bacteria.

Grains that are stored underground can easily become moldy with Streptomycescontamination, though these bacteria would only produce small amounts of tetracycline on their own when left to sit or baked into bread. Only when people fermented the grain would tetracycline production explode. Nubians both ate the fermented grains as gruel and used it to make beer.

The scientists are working now to figure out exactly how much tetracycline Nubians were getting, but it appears that doses were high that consumption was consistent, and that drinking started early. Analyses of the bones showed that babies got some tetracycline through their mother’s milk.

Then, between ages two and six, there was a big spike in antibiotics deposited in the bone, Armelagos said, suggesting that fermented grains were used as a weaning food.

Today, most beer is pasteurized to kill Strep and other bacteria, so there should be no antibiotics in the ale you order at a bar, said Dennis Vangerven, an anthropologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

But Armelagos has challenged his students to home-brew beer like the Nubians did, including the addition of Strep bacteria. The resulting brew contains tetracycline, tastes sour but drinkable, and gives off a greenish hue.

There’s still a possibility that ancient antibiotic use was an accident that the Nubians never knew about, though Armelagos has also found tetracycline in the bones of another population that lived in Jordan. And VanGerven has found the antibiotic in a group that lived further south in Egypt during the same period.

Finding tetracycline in these mummies, said VanGerven, was “surprising and unexpected. And at the very least, it gives us a very different time frame in which to understand the dynamic interaction between the bacterial world and the world of antibiotics.”

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