Archive for September, 2005

New Study Suggests Adult Sickle Cell Drug Can Help Children Too

A drug used for the treatment of sickle cell anemia in adults has now been shown to cause significant improvements in very young children with the disorder. The finding is an important one as these young patients are especially vulnerable to serious organ failure and even death at an early age. The study results will be published in the October 1, 2005, issue of Blood, the official journal of the American Society of Hematology.

Sickle cell anemia is a genetic blood disorder that can cause severe pain, fatigue, and organ damage to the kidneys, spleen, and liver. It occurs in about one in every 500 African-Americans. In the new study, 21 children from two to four years old who had sickle cell anemia were given the drug hydroxyurea orally as a flavored liquid formula. A majority of the children took the drug for at least four years and more than half of the participants completed all six years of the study.

The treatment was well-tolerated in the patients, with only one child’s dosage permanently reduced during the study due to adverse effects. The drug’s primary function, to counteract the effects of the disease by increasing and sustaining fetal hemoglobin production, was achieved in all study participants. Patients treated with hydroxyurea also weighed more and were taller than untreated children with the disorder – their growth rates were even comparable to those of normal children.

Another measure of success of the therapy was that the study patients had improved spleen function, an important finding as many children with sickle cell anemia lose spleen function by two years of age. Participants also experienced significantly fewer incidents of acute chest syndrome, a potentially life-threatening disorder associated with sickle cell disease. During the study, one four-year-old girl died of sepsis, a toxic bacterial infection, though no increased risk of sepsis was found among the hydroxyurea-treated patients.

“This study demonstrates that hydroxyurea is an efficient and safe treatment option for young children with sickle cell anemia,” said Jane Hankins, M.D., M.S., of St. Jude Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center and lead study author. “As sickle cell anemia is a chronic disorder, having a drug that can be started early and continued long-term with few adverse effects is of significant importance to the way we treat this debilitating disease.”

This work was supported by the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities and by General Clinical Research Center grants from the National Institutes of Health.

Posted in Health, Chronic Illness | 1 Comment »

Teens Fill Thousands Of Shoeboxes Filled With Items For Other Teens Affected By Katrina

What would a teen want who lost everything to a hurricane? That question sparked a national campaign launched by Teen Ink magazine. This well-established national magazine and website is encouraging its millions of teenage readers and others to assemble shoeboxes full of relief supplies for teens affected by the disaster.

Teen Ink suggests that the shoeboxes include new or like-new items such as school supplies, t-shirts, hats, jeans, accessories, phone cards, gift cards, watches, calculators, DVDs, CDs and other items that are important to teens. The boxes will be released to major relief organizations serving teens. See

“This call for teenagers to help other teens has had a very positive response from young people around the country who are looking for a way to help,” said publisher John Meyer, who founded the magazine 17 years ago to give teenagers a responsible forum to express their ideas, concerns and creativity.

Meyer said that in the initial stages they have already received many boxes or pledges for thousands of boxes. “Who better than a fellow teen to know what someone who’s lost everything would want,” said Meyer. “There are needs beyond food and shelter. We hope that these extra items will help teens get back to a life as it was before the hurricane. We want them to know that people their age care and are taking action!”

For almost two decades Teen Ink magazine and has published more than 30,000 pieces on every aspect of teen life, all written by teenagers. “This effort is a unique way for teens to express themselves by doing something for others at this critical time,” said Meyer. “Giving of oneself is the ultimate form of expression, and we’re facilitating that.”

Sandy Star, a high-school teacher in San Antonio, Texas, agrees. “This shoebox program provides a unique opportunity for teenagers to individually think about what they would want if they lost everything, and then they can provide some of those items to others in need.”

Teen Ink magazine reaches more than 4 million teenagers in thousands of junior and senior high schools nationwide. In addition, its website has more than 17,000 pages of teen writing, art, photography, contests, resources and more.

Relief contributors (teens and adults alike) can send their shoeboxes of supplies to Teen Ink, Box 30, Newton, MA 02461. For all the details, visit or call 617-964-6800. Teachers are invited to call and arrange for their entire school to participate.

Posted in Lifestyles | No Comments »

VolunteerMatch Connects Volunteers With Hurricane Relief Volunteer Opportunities


VolunteerMatch joins the world in mourning the catastrophic events of Hurricane Katrina, and is committed to helping channel desperately needed resources to the disaster areas. The volunteer response to Hurricane Katrina is unprecedented, and during this time of national crisis more people than ever are turning to VolunteerMatch to find ways to help.


VolunteerMatch is the national, nonprofit service offering the most relevant and up-to-date volunteer resource available, and connecting volunteers with the nonprofits that need them.


Now more than ever, there is an ongoing need for volunteers to assist with the hurricane relief efforts. Many volunteers that cannot travel to the Gulf Coast to volunteer are choosing to channel their desire to help out into their local communities.


The VolunteerMatch web site is accessible at


People want to help, and VolunteerMatch offers a 35,000-strong, nationwide network of current volunteer opportunities. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, VolunteerMatch’s free, nonprofit service has channeled tens of thousands of interested volunteers directly to nonprofit agencies involved with rescue, relief and rehabilitation efforts.


Anyone interested in volunteering can enter their ZIP code at VolunteerMatch to find both local and national ways to get involved, give back and make a difference. Any charitable organization in need of volunteers can also list volunteer opportunities on VolunteerMatch.

Posted in Lifestyles | No Comments »

Keeping Junk Mail And Phone Marketers At Bay

Many people don’t realize that they have options when it comes to receiving junk mail and unsolicited phone calls. Below is a quick list of the main services that will assist you in getting your name removed from mailing and calling lists. There’s also a do-not-contact list for deceased family members.

Posted in Lifestyles | No Comments »

Nice Deals That Are Almost A Steal

In general, I don’t usually talk about shopping websites. There’s the occasional article on maternity clothes, but for the most part I steer clear. Sometimes though, there’s a service that’s just too cool to simply pass up. I recently discovered The websites keeps track of all of the online deals available. If there’s a printable coupon, an outrageous discount, or a super close-out, they have it. After perusing their website for about 10 minutes, this website seems like the real deal. This one is definitely going on my bookmark list.

Although they cover just about everything, they mainly focus on the following products:

Posted in Lifestyles | No Comments »

British Scientists Receive Go Ahead To Create An Embryo With Two Mothers

In an effort to prevent the passing of certain genetic diseases — in this case Mitochondrial diseases — scientist have devised a way to use the intended mother’s egg with Mitochondrial DNA from a donor.

Instead of transplanting the pronuclei, these researchers injected another woman’s ooplasm - the substance inside the cell that contains the mitochondrial DNA and bathes the nucleus - into the egg cell of the mother with faulty mitochondrial DNA.

The UK research, permitted by the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority and funded by the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, will check that transplanting the pro-nuclei works and is safe.

The resulting egg would never be allowed to develop into a baby.

But even if it did, the offspring would still resemble their mother and father because the mitochondrial DNA does not dictate things like hair color.

The researchers stress that this research is only the very first step in a very difficult process, which they hope will lead to techniques that might prevent the transmission of mitochondrial DNA disease.

About one in 5,000 children and adults are at risk of developing a mitochondrial disease.

Full Story

Posted in Health | No Comments »

Researchers Discover Evidence Of Babies Crying In The Womb

Researchers studying the the effects of maternal smoking and cocaine use during pregnancy discovered something they didn’t expect — signs of crying in unborn babies.

With the help of video-recorded ultrasound images, the investigators found that a group of third-trimester fetuses showed evidence of “crying behavior” in response to a low-decibel noise played on the mother’s abdomen.

Fetuses showed a “startle” response to the noise, along with deep inhalations and exhalations,an open mouth and a “quivering” chin — all signs of crying.

The behaviour, seen in 11 fetuses, began as early as the 28th week of pregnancy. It was only by chance that the researchers made their observations, said study co-author Dr Ed Mitchell of the University in Auckland in New Zealand.

My guess would be that like many behaviors inside the womb, the baby’s body is testing and turning on its newly wired responses — all related to survival outside of the womb. We already know that unborn babies can suck on their thumb, and that they can also sense external stimuli, like the sound in this study. So, it’s not a huge surprise that unborn babies would be able to exhibit signs of crying, especially since that’s one of the first survival behaviors they do immediately after they’re born.

Full Story

Posted in Pregnancy | No Comments »

Find The Cheapest Gas With Widgets

Finding the cheapest gas prices usually involves driving around, and looking for the best deal. This of course counteracts itself, because you’re wasting gas while looking all over town for the best deal.

Now there’s an easy way to check gas prices in your area without ever getting into your car. All you need is Dashboard (available with Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger) or Konfabulator (available for Mac and Windows), and a gas widget.

[Thanks to]

Posted in Technology | No Comments »

A Better Way To Call Customer Service

Someone has put together a web page that offers phone numbers and tips to get to a human customer service representative — without having to go through the annoying touch-tone answering system. The list includes banks, mobile phone companies, online retailers, and more. It also includes a phone number to where you can actually talk to a real human being.

Find-A-Human — IVR Phone System Shortcuts (USA)

Posted in Lifestyles | No Comments »

Tainted Compassion

I consider myself a compassionate person. If I see someone truly hurting, I feel for them, and will help them if possible. Compassion towards others (empathy in action) is part of what makes us human.

Earlier today, I was getting gas for my car. While pumping gas, a truck quickly pulled up near me, and a well dressed man got out, and started walking straight towards me. He was holding a clip board and a shiny brochure in his hand, and it was obvious that I was his target.

This guy had urban salesman written all over him, and I was his next meal. Over time, I’ve become incredibly jaded towards all salespeople. There’s something about the disingenuous approach that most (if not all) salespeople use - such as their smile, their ingratiating comments, and their unique ability to find and talk about something that I will respond to.

Before this guy had a chance to open his mouth, I looked at him and said, “If you’re selling something, I’m not interested.” I had stopped him in his tracks. He looked befuddled, and he wasn’t expecting such a well rehearsed and terse reaction from his prey. Befuddlement turned to annoyance, and I soon started to intuit that something wasn’t completely right. That was when he said in frustration, “I’m not trying to sell you anything. I just need directions.”

Still wary, I looked at his brochure, and sure enough, he was looking for the Parade of Homes that was being held near this area. I wasn’t as much embarrassed as I was disturbed by my own conditioning. Years and years of attracting schemers and aggressive sales people had conditioned me to always be on alert for the tell-tell signs of people who would want to take advantage of me. This guy had all of those tell-tell signs, and I wasn’t about to give him an edge in word-wise.

We live in a world where people, either through advertising or person-to-person sales, have exploited our innate desire to feel compassionate towards one another. Now, like the story I just told, most people must be on guard to protect themselves. In fact, it’s possible that this is the reason why community is breaking down all across the United States. Genuine friendship and compassion doesn’t seem to exist anymore - or at least it’s in short supply. It seems that we have to be constantly wary of meeting new people, and aware that they may only be befriending us, because they want to sell us a work-from-home product, like health tablets or Tupperware.

I have a few good friends. Good friends are rare and far between. Good friends don’t ask anything from us, except to just be together. Helping each other move, or being there when one of us is down, is a privilege. Good friends are some of the few things where compassion can be untainted, and free to express itself without fear of having a part of us taken away, or taken advantage of.

Posted in Daily Living | No Comments »

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