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Archive for June, 2012

Tangy Potato Salad with Scallions

Ingredients

  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 4 pounds Yukon gold or other waxy potatoes, scrubbed, halved, and sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1/2 cup white-wine vinegar
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Directions

  1. Set a steamer basket in a large pot. Fill with enough salted water to come just below basket. Bring to a boil; place potatoes in basket, and reduce heat to medium. Cover, and steam, gently tossing occasionally, until crisp-tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, combine vinegar and scallions in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. When potatoes are cooked, transfer to bowl with vinegar mixture. Toss to combine; let cool, tossing occasionally.
  3. When potato mixture is cool, mix in oil; season potato salad with salt and pepper.

 

MarthaStewart

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Grilled Shrimp with Chile, Cilantro, and Lime

You bought the freshest-looking shrimp, baby squid, or whole fish you could find. Now what? Follow Pelaccio’s road map for any kind of seafood: Marinate it in turmeric and fish sauce, grill it quickly over high heat, then pair it with a fiery dipping sauce.

 

Grilled Shrimp with Chile, Cilantro, and Lime

Ingredients

  • 16 jumbo shrimp, unpeeled, preferably head-on
  • 6 tablespoons fish sauce (such as nuoc nam or nam pla), divided
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided, plus more for grill
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 30 cilantro sprigs, chopped
  • 10 long red chiles (such as Holland or Anaheim), stemmed
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 2 1″ pieces ginger, peeled
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons palm sugar or (packed) light brown sugar

Preparation

  • Combine shrimp, 2 Tbsp. fish sauce, 2 Tbsp. oil, and turmeric in a large bowl; toss to coat. Let stand for 30 minutes.
  • Purée 4 Tbsp. fish sauce, 2 Tbsp. oil, cilantro, and remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor until a coarse mixture forms; transfer dipping sauce to a small bowl and set aside.
  • Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to high. Oil grill grates. Shake excess liquid from shrimp and place shrimp on grill. Cook, turning occasionally, until shrimp are charred and cooked through, 5-6 minutes.
  • Serve immediately with sauce.

Bonappetit

US and Europe see return of measles

Europe witnesses measles comeback
Fears of immunisation blamed for rise in disease which had been on the wane for decades.

Health authorities in the US and Europe are reporting a sudden rise in the number of people contracting measles.

Ten years ago, the infection killed 800,000 people worldwide, but aggressive vaccination campaigns have sharply reduced the global mortality rate, especially in Africa and Asia.

Yet in the US, where the disease had been declared eradicated, measles is on a comeback. Most cases are traced to unvaccinated travellers, but the highly contagious virus may also be spreading because of parents who refuse to vaccinate their children.

Al Jazeera‘s Tom Ackerman reports.

Popeye is right: Spinach makes you stronger, study shows

Tuesday, Jun 26, 2012
AFP

STOCKHOLM – Famous cartoon character Popeye is right to down a can of spinach when he wants his biceps to bulge, according to a Swedish study presented on Monday showing why the leafy vegetable makes us stronger.

Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm said on Monday they had conducted a study showing how nitrate, found naturally in spinach and several other vegetables, tones up muscles.

For the study, which will be published in the Journal of Physiology, the research team had placed nitrate directly in the drinking water of a group of mice for one week and then dissected them and compared their muscle functions to that of a control group.

‘The mice that had been on consistent nitrate had much stronger muscles,’ they said in a statement.

The nitrate used ‘was equivalent to a human’s consumption of about 200 to 250 grammes of spinach a day, so it’s a very easily obtained amount,’ one of the researchers at the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Dr Andres Hernandez, told AFP.

‘Well, it is if you eat spinach. For people who don’t eat their vegetables it will be more tricky,’ he added.

While no effect could be seen in the so-called slow-twitch muscles used for moderate exercise and endurance, the scientists saw a clear change could be seen in the fast-twitch muscles used for strength and more high-intensity exercises, Dr Hernandez said.

The tricky question, he said, was determining why this happened.

The researchers discovered that the nitrates had prompted an increase in two proteins, found naturally in the muscles, that are used for storing and releasing calcium, which is vital to making muscles contract.

The protein increase in turn led to higher quantities of calcium released in the muscles, Dr Hernandez said, pointing out that ‘if you have more calcium released, you have a stronger contraction.’ Translated into human terms, consuming nitrates from for instance spinach increases the muscle strength available for things like lifting weights or sprinting up a steep hill.

It could also increase endurance, Dr Hernandez said, pointing out that when stronger, the fast-twitch muscles, which fatigue faster than other muscles, do not need to contract as frequently.

This is not only good news for exercise buffs looking to improve their performance.

‘The really exciting part is to go ahead and look at people with muscle weakness, with muscle diseases, and even aging, and see if this can actually improve their muscle function,’ Dr Hernandez said.

He said the research team aimed to conduct a few more studies on mice but hoped to also carry out studies on humans soon.

asiaone

National Botanic Garden of Wales logs plant DNA barcode

Spreading bellflower Campanula patula

The spreading bellflower, campanula patula, is among the plants whose DNA is recorded

 

Wales has recorded the DNA of all its native flowering plants, which has potential to help conservation and develop new drugs to fight illnesses.

The National Botanic Garden of Wales says it is the first country in the world to create the database.

Wales has about 75% of UK flowering plants, and the database has 1,143 plants and conifers.

Barcodes are short DNA sequences and plants can be identified from pollen grains, seed pieces, or roots and wood.

Other plants introduced by humans will form the next phase of the three-year project.

 

HONEY BEE HOPE IN FIGHT OVER HOSPITAL BUGS

PhD student Jenny Hawkins is working on a joint project between the garden and the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Cardiff University to DNA barcode honey.

She has collected honey from across the UK and is testing its ability to kill hospital acquired infections such as MRSA.

She will then DNA barcode the honey to find out what plants bees visited to make it.

Ms Hawkins said: “By DNA barcoding the honey, we are looking for links between honey with good medicinal properties and particular plant species.

“If we find it, we might be able to make a super honey by allowing bees to forage on plants that provide high antibacterial properties.”

The Barcode Wales project has been led by Dr Natasha de Vere, head of conservation and research from the National Botanic Garden in Carmarthenshire.

She said: “Wales is now in the unique position of being able to identify plant species from materials which in the past would have been incredibly difficult or impossible.

“Through the Barcode Wales project, we have created a powerful platform for a broad range of research from biodiversity conservation to human health.”

The Welsh flora DNA barcodes are available on the Barcode of Life Database (BOLD) for use by researchers throughout the world.

DNA barcoding may be able to help in the crisis facing pollinating insects such as bees, according to Dr de Vere.

Pollination role

She is working with PhD student Andrew Lucas from the Swansea Ecology Research Team (SERT) at Swansea University to investigate the role hoverflies play in pollination.

Research will find out where hoverflies go by DNA barcoding the pollen carried on their bodies.

It will tell researchers “how hoverflies move through the landscape and the importance of habitat quality,” said Mr Lucas.

Partners in the Barcode Wales project include the National Museum Wales and Aberystwyth and Glamorgan universities, as well as the Botanical Society of the British Isles, and High Performance Computing (HPC) Wales.

BBC

EEG brain trace ‘can detect autism’

EEG

The researchers found 33 EEG patterns linked to autism

 

A simple brain trace can identify autism in children as young as two years old, scientists believe.

A US team at Boston Children’s Hospital say EEG traces, which record electrical brain activity using scalp electrodes, could offer a diagnostic test for this complex condition.

EEG clearly distinguished children with autism from other peers in a trial involving nearly 1,000 children.

Experts say more work is needed to confirm the BMC Medicine study results.

Early detectionThere are more than 500,000 people with autism in the UK.

Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means that it is not a single condition and will affect individuals in different ways.

Commonly, people with autism have trouble with social interaction and can appear locked in their own worlds.

It can be a difficult condition to diagnose and can go undetected for years.

EEG might offer a way to check for the same condition in younger siblings”

Dr Frank Duffy Lead investigator

The latest study found 33 specific EEG patterns that appeared to be linked to autism.

These patterns consistently spotted autism in children across a range of age groups, spanning from two to 12 years old.

Hallmark brain activityThe researchers repeated their analysis 10 times, splitting up their study group (children with a medical diagnosis of autism and children with no signs of autism) in different ways.

Around 90% of the time, the EEG patterns could correctly detect the children diagnosed with autism.

The team now plan to repeat their study in children with Asperger’s syndrome – one particular subset of autism. Typically, people with Asperger’s have higher-than-average intelligence and struggle less than people with other types of autism with their speech.

Dr Frank Duffy who is leading the investigation said the work could help determine if Asperger’s should be thought of as an entirely separate condition.

And it could point the way to determining if younger siblings of children with autism are likely to develop the same condition themselves.

“It is a great cause of anxiety when an older sibling develops autism.

“EEG might offer a way to check for the same condition in younger siblings in advance of them having symptoms.”

EEG could also be used to track what effect different autism treatments are having on the condition, he said.

Caroline Hattersley of The National Autistic Society said: “We welcome any research that may help us to understand autism better and improve diagnosis times for those with the condition.

“In a recent survey we commissioned, 50% of people with autism and their families said it was difficult to get a diagnosis and 55% said the process took too long.

“While further testing of EEG scans is still required, any tools that help identify autism at a younger age could potentially improve a person’s quality of life by allowing the right support to be put in place earlier.”

BBC

Role of stress in dementia investigated

Scrabble letters spelling stress

Ongoing research suggests stress might play a part in dementia

UK experts are to begin a study to find out if stress can trigger dementia.

The investigation, funded by the Alzheimer’s Society, will monitor 140 people with mild cognitive impairment or “pre-dementia” and look at how stress affects their condition.

The researchers will take blood and saliva samples at six-monthly intervals over the 18 months of the study to measure biological markers of stress.

They hope their work will reveal ways to prevent dementia.

The results could offer clues to new treatments or better ways of managing the condition, they say.

Dementia triggers

People who have mild cognitive impairment are at an increased risk of going on to develop dementia – although some will remain stable and others may improve.

Something such as bereavement or a traumatic experience – possibly even moving home – are also potential factors”

Prof Clive Holmes Lead of the new investigation

And past work suggests mid-life stress may increase a person’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

A Swedish study that followed nearly 1,500 women for a period of 35 years found the risk of dementia was about 65% higher in women who reported repeated periods of stress in middle age than in those who did not.

Scottish scientists, who have done studies in animals, believe the link may be down to hormones the body releases in response to stress which interfere with brain function.

Prof Clive Holmes, from the University of Southampton, who will lead the study, said: “All of us go through stressful events. We are looking to understand how these may become a risk factor for the development of Alzheimer’s.

“Something such as bereavement or a traumatic experience – possibly even moving home – are also potential factors.

“This is the first stage in developing ways in which to intervene with psychological or drug-based treatments to fight the disease.

“We are looking at two aspects of stress relief – physical and psychological – and the body’s response to that experience.”

Dr Simon Ridley, of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “We welcome any research that could shed new light on Alzheimer’s disease and other causes of dementia.

“Understanding the risk factors for Alzheimer’s could provide one piece of the puzzle we need to take us closer to a treatment that could stop the disease in its tracks.”

BBC

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