Health bites

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 November, 2011, 12:00am


Progress against malaria

There is new hope in the fight against malaria. Tests done on mice by an international team led by scientists from the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation and The Scripps Research Institute have resulted in a family of chemical compounds that could lead to drugs that are more effective against the Plasmodium parasite, both in the blood and liver. When a malaria-infected mosquito feeds on a person, the parasite enters the body and infects liver cells within 30 minutes. There it develops for about eight days without causing noticeable symptoms. Then it enters red blood cells, which it eventually bursts releasing toxins into the bloodstream, making the person sick. If the sufferer is bitten again, the parasite will enter the mosquito and the cycle continues. Most anti-malarial drugs work only during the blood stage, and those that do work have notable side effects.

Don't take pills; drink juice

It's widely thought that cranberries prevent urinary tract infections, so many people pop pills of cranberry extracts in an attempt to stay healthy. But a recent study published in the journal Food Science and Biotechnology shows that cranberry juice itself is far more effective at preventing biofilm formation, the precursor of infection. Researchers from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts tested proanthocyanidins (PACs), a group of flavonoids found in cranberries thought to give the juice its infection-fighting properties. Incubating bacteria strains in juice cultures and PACs, they found that juice cultures prevented biofilm formation, but PACs showed only limited ability.

Meet the stars' yogi

What do Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz have in common with you? If you go for The Oriental Spa's special Zenciel yoga sessions this week, you'll have the same yoga teacher. Celebrity yogi Leo Zen will conduct four classes (HK$300 each) on Friday and Saturday on his Zenciel style, a blend of Kripalu, Ananda, Ashtanga and Hatha yoga. To book a slot, call The Oriental Spa at 21320011.

Research finds anti-cancer gene

A gene that helps protect the body from squamous cell cancer (SCC) of the skin has been discovered by scientists at Monash University in Melbourne, paving the way for possible new cancer treatments and prevention in as little as five years from now. Up until now, surgical treatments were the only option for the disease. The scientists found that the gene, which has an important role in skin development in the fetus, was missing in adult SCC tumour cells. Without it, there is no signal to stop skin cells from growing, causing cells to multiply and eventually form a cancer. Though initially focusing on skin cancer, the gene is also lost in SCC that arises in other tissues, including head and neck cancers, that often prove fatal.

Study rates who listens better

Twenty seconds is all it takes to tell whether a stranger is genetically inclined to being trustworthy, kind or compassionate, according to a study by the University of California, Berkeley. Twenty four couples were told to talk about times when they had suffered, with only the listener being recorded on video. A 20-second clip of the video was then shown to a group of observers, who were asked to rate which listener seemed most empathetic. Listeners who got the highest ratings possess a variation of the oxytocin (aka the 'love' hormone) receptor gene known as the GG genotype. These people 'displayed more trustworthy behaviours - more head nods, more eye contact, more smiling, more open body posture. These behaviours signalled kindness to the strangers,' says lead author Aleksandr Kogan.