Category Archives: Health

SciMo reporter: awards and the EV71 story

EV71_AtomicStructure-ScienceMojo

Last year was a big year for Science Mojo’s reporter. A multimedia story about an outbreak of a common retrovirus that affects young children (EV71) was:

  • picked up by Fairfax Media, a major Australian media company
  • featured in awards ceremonies from the Australian publishing industry.

Ossie Awards for Student Journalism 2013

Best Online Story – Highly commended

Melbourne Press Club – 2013 Student Journalist of the Year

One of four students shortlisted from over 30 entries

The Citizen Newsroom Awards

Best News Report – Winner

To view the multimedia story (text, graphics and video) in The Citizen, see below:

Health officials alerted as five struck down, paralysed by emerging strain of EV71 virus by Julie Milland

The shorter version of the text was also co-published by Fairfax (The Age and Sydney Morning Herald) in print and online across Australia:

Five children hit by polio-like paralysis by Julie Milland

And there was a follow-up article in Fairfax publications

EV71 virus linked to death of fourth child by Melissa Davey and Julie Milland

Great science reads of the fortnight – Dec 1 2012

1. We’ve all heard of “white noise” but scientists have uncovered a smell they are calling “olfactory white”. The “white” or bland smell is based on a combination of odours and would probably not be found in nature. But it will help scientists to learn about the human olfactory system and brain.

The whiff of white could hide strong odours by Zoë Corbyn in Nature

2. A jumping spider called Nefertiti recently returned from a 100-day stay at the International Space Station. The experiment, devised by 18-year-old Egyptian Amr Mohamed, tested whether Nefertiti would be able to adjust her hunting methods in a low-gravity environment and then readjust back on Earth. The video shows how Nefertiti got the hang of hunting in low gravity.

World’s First “Spidernaut” Lands at Smithsonian by the Newsdesk at the Smithsonian

3. Devastating floods have inundated California every 200 years for the last 2000-odd years, according to scientists who analysed sediment deposits. The last flood was in 1861…

Megastorms Could Drown Massive Portions of California by Michael D. Dettinger and B. Lynn Ingram in Scientific American

4. Today is World AIDS Day and discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS still exists. This post discusses some of the history around the stigma attached to infectious diseases.

What can we learn from disease stigma’s long history? by Sara Gorman in PLOS Blogs

5. Severe stress and chronic stress have opposite effects on the behavioural response of animals. This discussion of a study in mice shows scientists edging closer to understanding the physiology of severe stress.

Stressing out really does make it worse by Scicurious in Scientific American Blogs

Great science reads of the week – Nov 17 2012

1. A NASA supercomputer has modelled how winds move aerosols around the Earth. You can see dust (red) from the Sahara, the movement of carbon (green) from fires in Africa and Australia, sea salt (blue) in tornadoes and hurricanes over the Pacific and sulphates (white) from a volcanic eruption. For snapshots of these features or for more information go to this NASA webpage:

Paint by particle by NASA

Video credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center.

2. Physics moves forward when new findings conflict with existing theories. But at this early stage, it looks like the Higgs-like particle fits exactly with the existing theory (the Standard Model). But don’t worry, there is still hope that future data will throw up something unexpected.

New Higgs Results Bring Relief – and Disappointment by Michael Moyer at Scientific American

3. I have never felt comfortable with the idea that some people use the “medical model” to fully account for psychological conditions. The medical model would direct a doctor to treat a psychological problem as if it is a physical affliction, like a broken leg. In other words, it all comes down to biology or the physical condition of the brain or body. Read this article for the argument against the medical model of addiction.

Why addiction is NOT a brain disease by Marc Lewis at PLOS Blogs

4. Rappers had their brains scanned in two situations: while they were freestyling and while they were reciting memorised lyrics. Comparing the two sets of brain scans helped researchers to understand the creative process.

Brain scans of rappers shed light on creativity by Daniel Cressey at Nature News

5. Got an opinion on whether exercise should be “slow and long” or “fast and hard”? This article gives you the run-down on the various options for intense exercise.

Fast and furious: intensity is the key to health and fitness by Nigel Stepto and Chris Shaw at The Conversation

Signalling molecule regulates women’s fertility and cancer of the uterus

News Story

A signalling molecule important for fertility in women could also be involved in cancer of the uterus, a Melbourne researcher has found.

Associate Professor Eva Dimitriadis, from Prince Henry’s Institute, says her research shows the molecule, interleukin 11 (IL11), is one of the factors important for the successful attachment or implantation of the embryo in the uterus.

She says the focus of infertility research is often on the quality of the embryo but the attachment of the embryo to the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) is also important.

Dimitriadis says she decided to look at endometrial cancer because IL11 belongs to a family of molecules that are involved in cancer cell invasion.

She says endometrial cancer is the most common cancer of the female reproductive system, yet there are no suitable screening tests and treatment options are limited.

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Scientist Profile: Associate Professor Eva Dimitriadis

Eva Dimitriadis spoke with Science MoJo about some of the nuts and bolts of a science career. She goes through why she chose a career in science and, in particular, her field of women’s reproductive health.

Eva runs a lab at Prince Henry’s Institute in Melbourne and specialises in the biology of pregnancy.

Music credit for the video: The Strange Italian Song by the Juanitos (creative commons 2.0)

Scientific study tests whether acupuncture can help menopausal hot flushes

News Story

A Melbourne doctor has started a trial of acupuncture for menopausal women after finding many of her patients did not want to take hormone replacement therapy.

Dr Caroline Ee, a general practitioner and acupuncturist from the Department of General Practice at the University of Melbourne, has already completed a pilot study of 23 women but needs more women for this study.

“I tried using acupuncture for a few women who were flushing and they felt a lot better,” Ee says.

Ee says there is controversy about universities teaching complementary medicine, but that it is important to look at these treatments because many people use them.

“Our study is one of the examples of the ways in which we are using very strict scientific principles to examine an old therapy,” she says.

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Sensationalised medical reporting: scientists are adding to the problem

MoJo Musings

Science and health reporting has copped a lot of flak over the years. The report of the “scientific breakthrough” has become frustrating and annoying (and perhaps an ethical issue), especially to people who are sick and desperate for a cure.

Certainly, if you believed everything you read in the newspaper in the 1990s, breast cancer should have been cured in 1998 and the sequencing of the human genome should have “transformed medicine”.

There are three main players in this particular media game:

  • Scientists
  • PR departments of research institutions
  • Journalists

A study just published by Yavchitz and colleagues in PLOS Medicine looked at the interactions of all three players. The results suggest that scientists should look carefully at their own writing of scientific papers, as this can have a role in disseminating “spin”. I think this finding would surprise many scientists.

The study examined a cohort of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) that are considered the “gold standard” for testing the effectiveness of therapies. The authors examined “spin” in the conclusions of the scientific abstracts (the summary of the study) of the original published paper and in the corresponding press release and news story.

The authors defined spin as “specific reporting (intentional or unintentional) that emphasises the beneficial effect of the experimental treatment”.

To me, the results were startling.

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