Findings I like, this month

These bits of research failed to make headlines, but you might enjoy them, as I did (disclaimer: I didn’t look into the quality of any of these studies):

  • “Parents Influence on Children’s Eating Habits is Small.” Really?  How could that be?  Apparently, the community, peers, television viewing, and the “food environment” are more important.   I don’t think they were able to separate out young children from teenagers, for this study from Johns Hopkins University.  It claims to be the first-ever study to look at parental influence on eating habits.  (The news release is here.)
  • Autism Medication is Ineffective for Repetitive Behaviors. This is from Seattle Children’s Hospital.  They compared a common anti-depressant (citalopram) that is used to control repetitive behavior in children with autism against a placebo, and found no benefit.  The children wring their hands, or rock back and forth.  The drug was prescribed because some clinician thought that there was a common problem with the brain chemical serotonin.  (The news release is here. )
  • A New Material to Use Inside the Body — Blending Crustaceans and Polyester. Some University of Washington researchers are bio-engineering a substance that can blend two important qualities, stickiness and sturdiness.  You want a severed nerve to be able to grow back in the right direction, so you need some scaffolding that it can grab onto, like a wisteria in your garden.  And you need something that won’t dissolve too easily inside the body. This is an interesting blend, of shells and polyester.  They claim it has prospects for muscle and tendon repairs, too. (The news release is here.)

Chitosan and polyester fibers, at the nano scale.

Chitosan and polyester fibers, at the nano scale. (UW)

  • A Faustian Bargain, for Our Brains? This theory — and it’s more like a hunch — says our evolutionary history is a two-sided coin.  In exchange for evolving bigger, intelligent brains, we may have also been cursed with cancer.  Apparently, humans are more cancer-prone than other primates, and it may be related to a gene that kills off potentially bad cells.  By being more lax, our bodies are able to grow bigger brains.   (The news release is here.)
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