A Cure for Multiple Sclerosis – Maybe/Probably

That’s right, you heard me. Though experts are warning people not to get their hopes too high just yet, the initial results are pretty impressive.

The initial studies done in Italy were small but the outcomes were dramatic. In a group of 65 patients with relapsing-remitting MS (the most common form) who underwent surgery, the number of active lesions in the brain fell sharply, to 12 per cent from 50 per cent; in the two years after surgery, 73 per cent of patients had no symptoms.

Read more at the Globe & Mail

“Robin Hood Banker” Does What You’d Expect

When people on the subway can’t even be bothered to tell someone about the dead body they’re riding with (true story, happened to a friend), it’s always heartening to run into someone with a conscience. Like this banker in Germany:

The woman knew most of the clients of her small rural branch and had access to their accounts, German TV station WDR reported. That’s how she discovered that some of her richest customers – some with six-figure balances – had not touched their accounts in years. Meanwhile, others were drowning in debt. “Customers asked me if I could help them. They couldn’t get credit in a conventional way,” the woman told the court, adding that she found her actions unbelievable now. “I can’t understand it any more. I must have had helper syndrome.”

Read more at The Guardian

DIY Glasses for the Poor

Something like 6 percent of the North American population wears glasses. If you’re amongst these four-eyes, you probably appreciate your local optometrist, who makes your vision possible. Unfortunately, people in developing countries don’t get to have a local optometrist — and that means no glasses. Happily, an inventor has just created glasses that people can adjust themselves, obviating the need for prescriptions and experts. And he’s getting them out to the people who need them.

The implications of bringing glasses within the reach of poor communities are enormous, says the scientist. Literacy rates improve hugely, fishermen are able to mend their nets, women to weave clothing. During an early field trial, funded by the British government, in Ghana, Silver met a man called Henry Adjei-Mensah, whose sight had deteriorated with age, as all human sight does, and who had been forced to retire as a tailor because he could no longer see to thread the needle of his sewing machine. “So he retires. He was about 35. He could have worked for at least another 20 years. We put these specs on him, and he smiled, and threaded his needle, and sped up with this sewing machine. He can work now. He can see.”

Read more at The Guardian

North American Governments Agree to Protect Wilderness

With so many reports of Canada and the US flouting international agreements on environmental reform, it’s nice to see that we care about something. Canada, America and Mexico have just drafted a memorandum of understanding on protecting wilderness areas in the three countries.

The three nations have long cooperated on wilderness management – programs have straddle the U.S.-Canadian border since 1910 and the U.S.-Mexican border since the 1930s. Yet the memorandum of understanding is the first multinational agreement on wilderness protection, according to Vance Martin, president of the Wild Foundation.

“It’s not very easy to do anything internationally, even when the countries are neighbors,” Martin said.

With the agreement, wildlife officials said, ecological monitoring efforts such as migratory species tracking, air and water quality tests, and staff training will be better managed across the seven agencies responsible for such tasks in North America.

Read more at Worldchanging

A Good Night’s Sleep is Amazing

Apparently the best thing you can do is for your body is give it a good night’s sleep.

But a new study presented at the 2009 meeting of the Society for Neuroscience shows how disrupting your sleep cycle can interfere with your health and cognitive function. (1) Researchers from Rockefeller University disrupted the circadian rhythms of mice by exposing them to 10 hours of light followed by 10 hours of darkness. After two months of this, the mice were in need of more than a little nap. They had difficulty learning. They were more impulsive. And they got fat, thanks in part to changes in appetite hormones and metabolism.

These changes all reflect a problem with one thing: self-regulation. Even at the most basic task of homeostasis-maintaining normal body temperature-these mice were messed up. One reason why: The researchers found changes in the animals’ medial prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain most important for self-control. This area of the brain is especially sensitive to disruptions in sleep and diet.

This isn’t the first study to show that interrupting natural sleep cycles is harmful. A previous study (whose mouse participants were even more unfortunate) found that chronic jet lag can be fatal. (2) Uh, yikes. Suddenly my frequent flier miles are looking less appealing. Another study, this time with hamsters in the unfortunate role of the sleep-disrupted, found that altering natural circadian rhythms results in systemic organ disease. (3)

Plenty of other studies have found that the more common sleep problem-not enough-interferes with stress management, emotion regulation, learning, and willpower.

Keep reading at Psychology Today.

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