Want Perfect Pitch? You Might Be Able To Pop A Pill For That.

In the world of music, there is no more remarkable gift than having perfect pitch. As the story goes, Ella Fitzgerald’s band would use her perfect pitch to tune their instruments.

Jazz singer Ella Fitzergerald was said to have perfect pitch.

Although it has a genetic component, most believe that perfect pitch — or absolute pitch — is a primarily a function of early life exposure and training in music, says Takao Hensch, professor of molecular and cellular biology at Harvard.

Hensch is studying a drug which might allow adults to learn perfect pitch by re-creating this critical period in brain development. Hensch says the drug, valprioc acid, allows the brain to absorb new information as easily as it did before age 7.

“It’s a mood-stabilizing drug, but we found that it also restores the plasticity of the brain to a juvenile state,” Hensch tells NPR’s Linda Wertheimer.

Hensch gave the drug to a group of healthy, young men who had no musical training as children. They were asked to perform tasks online to train their ears, and at the end of a two-week period, tested on their ability to discriminate tone, to see if the training had more effect than it normally would at their age.

In other words, he gave people a pill and then taught them to have perfect pitch. The findings are significant: “It’s quite remarkable since there are no known reports of adults acquiring absolute pitch,” he says.

Interview Highlights

On whether the drug could be used to teach other skills

There are a number of examples of critical-period type development, language being one of the most obvious ones. So the idea here was, could we come up with a way that would reopen plasticity, [and] paired with the appropriate training, allow adult brains to become young again?

On the likelihood of the drug becoming common for learning new languages

I think we are getting closer to this day, because we are able to understand at greater cellular detail how the brain changes throughout development. But I should caution that critical periods have evolved for a reason, and it is a process that one probably would not want to tamper with carelessly.

If we’ve shaped our identities through development, through a critical period, and have matched our brain to the environment in which we were raised —acquiring language, culture, identity — then if we were to erase that by reopening the critical period, we run quite a risk as well.


It’s a scandal drug trial results are still being withheld.

The Commons public accounts committee’s report into the government’s handling of the UK’s £424m stockpile of the influenza drug Tamiflu, published last week, was damning. But starting from this narrow remit, the committee also stumbled – with palpable amazement – into a far wider problem.

Several different types of statin pills tablets, UK

Nobody can give you a fully informed view on the benefits of any treatment, let alone Tamiflu, because the results of clinical trials are being routinely and legally withheld from doctors, researchers and patients. As the committee pointed out, government agencies around the world disagree on whether Tamiflu reduces your chances of pneumonia and death, but we can have no idea who is right, because we can’t see the evidence. Astonishingly, in withholding this information for five years, Tamiflu’s makers, Roche, have broken no law – and it is only an accident of history that this drug has become the poster child for change.

The first study on the problem of missing results was published in 1986. A 2010 review article by the NHS’s own research body summarises the results of a dozen more studies on the same subject: this found that, overall, the chances of a completed trial being published are roughly 50%. This undermines our ability to make informed decisions on everything from surgical techniques to drugs and devices. Unsurprisingly, trials with positive results are twice as likely to be published as those with negative results, so the evidence we do see is potentially biased. Large studies from the past two years, chasing up results from huge registries of completed trials, report similar results. Information isn’t just passively left unpublished: it is actively withheld when requested by researchers.

Doctors like me cannot possibly make informed decisions about which treatment is best when the information we rely on has been distorted in this way. The problem is endemic, has a serious impact on public health, and has been well documented for over two decades. How can this have been allowed to happen?

It’s tempting to fall back on crude fairytales of evil corporations, and there is no doubt that industry has lobbied hard against change. Secret internal memos, leaked in 2013, showed the US and EU industry representative bodies discussing their “advocacy strategy” against transparency, including a plan to “mobilise” the patient representative groups the industry often generously funds.

But the real scandal lies with the very people we expect to protect us. It seems some civil servants at medicines regulators still wish for a quiet life, where they can ruminate on secret data behind closed doors, with no or limited academic or public scrutiny over their decisions. This is particularly dangerous when you consider that some of the biggest medical scandals of the past few years – problems with the evidence for Vioxx, Avandia and Tamiflu, for example – were only spotted by independent researchers and academics, often after a long fight for access to information on clinical trials.

The medical profession, until recently, has been supine. In 2012 the medical royal colleges, societies and even the Department of Health signed up to a bizarre set of documents – apparently orchestrated by industry – claiming there is a “robust regulatory framework” ensuring access to trial results. Not only does this give false reassurance on a vitally important matter of public safety, but the signatories refused to answer even the simplest questions about how they came to sign such peculiar statements.

Now, all that has changed. Some 130 patient groups, representing more than 100 million patients, have signed up to All Trials, a campaign I co-founded with the BMJ and other groups a year ago. Others supporting the campaign include Nice, the Medical Research Council and GlaxoSmithKline one of the biggest drug companies in the world.

The final frontier is delay and denialism at the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, the Department of Health and the government. David Cameron, when asked about missing trial results and Tamiflu, at prime minister’s questions, explained that he took this problem seriously, and suggested new EU legislation will fix it. This is untrue. New EU legislation – which the industry have been lobbying desperately against – only requires better sharing for trials starting after 2014. Even if it passes, this will do nothing to improve the evidence base for the decisions made in clinics around the world today. The overwhelming majority of treatments prescribed by doctors right now – the everyday drugs for blood pressure, cholesterol, ulcers and more that are taken by millions – all came on the market over the past two decades, not the past seven days. That is the era of evidence that patients need.

Government should ride the wave we have created, and act. There has been more progress on trials transparency in the past 12 months than in the past 25 years. Proposals from industry and regulators are riddled with loopholes so huge they exempt the vast majority of trials on the medicines we use today: but these loopholes are finally being called out.The net is tightening for those who belittle this problem, or pretend it has been fixed, and it’s almost painful to see how easy it was for patients and doctors to have such an impact. We should have acted sooner, but we have an unprecedented opportunity for change. Anyone undermining the case for transparency will find themselves on the wrong side of patients and the wrong side of history. Medicine relies on evidence: future generations will look back on us tolerating withheld results in the same way we look back on medieval blood-letting.

Indigenous people face greater risks from new strain of bird flu, study finds

A new, severe version of “bird flu” could pose a significant risk to Indigenous people, after researchers found they were far more susceptible to the virus than other Australians.

A study conducted by the University of Melbourne found that human immunity to the H7N9 influenza virus, which emerged in China last year, varied according to ethnicity.

H7N9 bird flu health officials in China

Researchers tested the prevalence and responsiveness of virus-killing T cells, key in natural immunity, in people of varying ethnicities. While 57% of “Caucasoid” people had a robust T-cell response to the virus, just 16% of Indigenous people in Australia and north America had the same protection.

The H7N9 virus emerged in China in March last year and has so far spread to Hong Kong and Taiwan. It is a strain of the avian influenza, or bird flu, virus that shot to prominence due to pandemic fears over another strain, H5N1.

So far, about 150 people have been infected globally by the H7N9 virus, with around a third of them dying. The University of Melbourne researchers warn that the H7N9 strain, which is spread by birds to humans and has the potential to mutate to allow human-to-human infection, is potentially more dangerous than H5N1.

“The virus is a concern because it has a high mortality rate of around 30% from acute respiratory distress syndrome,” report co-author Katherine Kedzierska, associate professor at the University of Melbourne’s department of microbiology and immunology, told Guardian Australia.

“Humans have no prior history with the virus, so we lack the antibodies to fight it. We looked at cellular immunity, which is our pre-existing immunity, and found the prevalence of T-cell immunity greatly depends on ethnicity.”

Kedzierska said Indigenous people lacked a key protein needed to fight the virus, with their historical isolation making them relatively ill-equipped to deal with new viruses.

“Caucasians have the most immunity because they have adapted to flu viruses and developed mechanisms to fight them off,” she said. “Indigenous people don’t have that, which provides an explanation why there were such high mortality rates from the Spanish flu in 1918, when 10-20% of Indigenous people in Australia died, compared to just 1% of Caucasian people.”

Kedzierska said it was important for the government to factor in the different levels of immunity in different ethnicities when developing responses to flu outbreaks. Researchers are now working on finding ways to boost T-cell immunity in Indigenous communities, in order to develop a tailored vaccine for the virus.

China’s tech hope to fix smog crisis

Smog in Shanghai's financial district of Pudong
All downhill from here? China wants to arrest the decline in air quality in urban centres

Officials in China say they are confident green technology will help overcome the country’s notoriously polluted air.

Apocalyptic scenes of dense smog have recently forced major cities including Shanghai and Harbin to virtually shut down.

The capital Beijing is among urban areas where pollution routinely exceeds safety limits set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

In a rare interview, a senior environmental official told the BBC he was “optimistic” that the problems would be overcome.

How China is trying to battle the smog

The Chinese government has launched an effort worth 1.7 trillion yuan (£180bn) to clean up power stations and traffic fumes.

The head of air quality at Beijing’s Environmental Protection Bureau, Wang Bin, pointed to the success other major world cities have had in tackling smog.

“You can see in those big cities like in London in Britain, Los Angeles in America and Tokyo in Japan, they all had huge air problems in the past – for example, London was nicknamed Smog City – which was caused by fast industrialisation.

Air quality monitoring equipment
Pollution monitoring equipment is an outward sign that China is taking air quality seriously

“But their situation has improved a lot and their air is really better now. Beijing’s pollution is not that severe.

“We have already moved fast to cope with this issue. So we are very confident about reaching a good level of air quality and changing our capital into a green Beijing in future.”

Specific measures include closing down any power stations within the city that burn coal – or switching them to burning cleaner gas instead.

A new lottery system with very few winners is restricting the rise in the number of new cars and drivers. Beijing already has five million cars on its roads, and greener cars will get priority.

Beyond that, a major push for renewable energy including hydroelectric, wind and solar is designed, in part, to help replace power generation by coal, the cheapest but most polluting fuel.

But many people will remain to be convinced that these actions are drastic enough – or that any official optimism is justified.

One mother, Jia Yi, told me of her fears for the health of her twin seven-year-old daughters.

She insists that Ji Xiang and Ru Yi wear face masks on days when the pollution levels are high.

“There are so many people and cars in Beijing and that will influence my children’s health – I do believe Beijing is not a place to live.

“So if it won’t affect my children’s education, we’d rather go to the southern part of China which has better air and environment.”

Ji Xiang and Ru Yi
Twins Ji Xiang and Ru Yi wear face masks on days when pollution levels are high

Prof Pan Xiao-chuan of Peking University’s School of Public Health has led studies into air pollution.

“My personal feeling is that in the last two years the smog frequency in Beijing has been rising – we have figures to prove that – and also the density of the smog is increasing.

“This means the figures of PM 2.5 and PM 10 are really high when there’s a big smog in Beijing.”

PM 2.5 and PM 10 are two types of pollution involving particles too small to see with the naked eye – less than 2.5 or 10 microns in diameter.

Often these consist of fragments of unburned fuel and are small enough to reach the lungs or, in the smallest cases, to cross into the bloodstream as well.

The World Health Organization (WHO) sets a maximum safe limit of exposure over a 24-hour period: 25 of the PM 2.5 particles in every cubic metre of air.


Most Chinese cities routinely experience levels well in excess of 200 and, on one occasion in Beijing, of 800.

Given the risks of respiratory and cardiovascular problems, Prof Pan says the regular publication of pollution data has “a very important public health value”.

Until recently, the Chinese authorities did not release data on PM2.5, even though readings on this pollution type were published by the US Embassy in Beijing.

This led to an outcry on social media during a particularly bad smog event in 2011 and forced a change in policy.

Prof Pan said: “This will warn the public when they can go outdoors and when it’s better to stay indoors, and how the old and children should protect themselves.”

The threat of air pollution has become so serious that one school for expatriate children has taken the drastic step of sealing off part of its playground.

Monitoring centre
A social media outcry led to changes on the publication of pollution data

A giant inflatable dome at the International School of Beijing now provides an insulated space where the air is filtered and positive pressure ensures any pollution is kept at bay.

Gerrick Monroe, the school’s operations director, said the dome was bought after one pollution spell kept children indoors for a 20-day period.

“One of the first questions prospective parents will ask is ‘what is the air quality like?’

“This is one of the selling points – we take indoor air quality very seriously here.”

For the longer term, the hope is that the government’s measures will start to take effect.

But one leading environmental scientist, Prof Zhang Shiqui of Peking University, says it is “a really big challenge for China” trying to balance economic growth and poverty reduction with public health.

Buildings are shrouded in smog in Lianyungang, China
Some commentators are less than optimistic about the prospects for a greener environment in the near term

“I think it’s highly dependent on whether China can successfully introduce a restructuring strategy and, second, can China can switch to cleaner sources of energy, and can consumers change their behaviours?

“In previous years, if the government wanted to slow down the economy to get a greener environment, the public would not have agreed.

“But after the PM2.5 event in 2011, the public has a high awareness of air pollution and they are eager to improve the environment here.

“But although China has huge GDP growth, per capita it’s still very low, so China should maintain proper economic growth to solve the poverty issue.”

The reality is that it will take years or even decades to reduce China’s pollution problem – but a combination of public awareness and cleaner technology may help accelerate the process.

Alleged cure for dengue in Indonesia stirs debate.

A controversial herbal drug for dengue has been claimed by its inventor to have passed a phase III clinical trial in Indonesia, and the claims about ‘cure for dengue’ have been making rounds on the internet, but some scientists have questioned any such claims as unsubstantiated.

The alleged drug was invented by Max Reynolds, a retired Australian scientist from Griffith University, using the concentrate of Melaleuca alternifolia, also known as tea tree, a shrub native to Australia.

The drug reportedly has antiviral characteristics and is said to cure all four strains of dengue.

The claims have reached Kenya this month, with The Star reporting that “Local medics have welcomed development of a drug that can completely cure dengue fever” (16 December).
But doctors and scientists in Australia doubt the drug’s reported ability to cure dengue.

Cameron Webb, scientist and clinical lecturer at Marie Bashir Institute of Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity, University of Sydney, says results of the trials have not been published yet and Reynolds’ report on his new drug is not in any peer-reviewed journals and, therefore, could not be validated.

“It is impossible to make a judgement on the effectiveness of any drug, or the manner in which clinical trials were undertaken, without seeing the work — ideally through publication in an internationally recognised peer-reviewed publication,” Webb tells SciDev.Net.

Reynolds says he conducted the first stage of his clinical trial on animals in University of Gajah Mada, Yogyakarta, in 2006. The reported success of the trial led to a second stage, where Reynolds says he administered the drug to a group of healthy humans at the University of Indonesia. He then approached the research division of Indonesia’s Ministry of Health to get their permission in conducting the third stage of the trial, where he applied the drug to 504 people with dengue fever in hospitals and government’s clinic in Indonesia.

Siswanto, head of the Centre for Applied Health Technology and Epidemiology Clinic in Indonesia’s Ministry of Health, says his office is supportive of Reynolds’ invention because Indonesia has a large prevalence of dengue — about 10,000 cases each year — so it is interested in research on a cure for the disease.

Reynolds’ company Neumedix, which funded all the clinical trials, has applied for an approval from Indonesia’s National Agency for Food and Drugs Control (BPOM) to manufacture the drug. If the company gets a licence, it plans to release the drug in tablet form to the local market sometime in 2014 at US$50 per bottle.

But Webb criticised the definition of “success” in the clinical trials that Reynolds and the Indonesian scientists’ claim.

“What was the measure of success in the treatment of human cases?” he asks, adding that it is not clear what claims about decrease in viral load mean in “relation to human disease unless full details of the result are made available and can be reviewed”.

Steven Donohue, a physician from Queensland Public Health, told ABC Radio Australia (28 September) that he would not recommend anyone use the drug.

“All they have done is show that the well-known antiseptic properties of tea tree are able to kill dengue and other viruses in a test tube which we already knew,” he said.

Tarik Jasarevic, WHO’s media relations officer,  tells SciDev.Net: “We haven’t seen research from the clinical trials so we cannot comment on the effectiveness of the product.”

Jasaveric adds: “It is not our practice to comment on new medical products before it is approved by a national regulatory agency.”

Both Siswanto and Nasronudin, head of the Institute of Tropical Diseases at the University of Airlangga, say they are not aware of the criticisms against Reynolds’ drug and defend their research collaboration with Reynolds.

“Our task as scientists is to do research. It is up to the public whether they want to accept the result of our research or not,” Nasronudin asserts.

Viral load tests ‘could transform HIV treatment failure’.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is calling for an increased use of viral load monitoring to improve treatment outcomes of HIV patients, in its latest study on testing in Africa.

Of those suspected of treatment failure after standard HIV tests such as white cell counts and clinical signs, as many as 70 per cent could be unnecessarily switched to more toxic treatments because these tests can falsely suggest their first-line treatment is failing, MSF’s study reports.

Instead, viral load tests determine the amount of virus in a patient’s blood and can better monitor how someone is responding to treatment on antiretrovirals (ARVs). If levels are found to be ‘undetectable’ the drugs are suppressing HIV as they should and people are less likely to transmit the virus to others. But an elevated viral load indicates a problem.

“Viral load is the closest measure we have for how well antiretroviral treatment is working as opposed to other measures of the immune system,” says Jennifer Cohn, medical coordinator for MSF’s Access Campaign, which works to provide affordable drugs. “It lets us know if therapy is working or if we need to change their therapy to something else if the virus is continuing to reproduce to high levels.”

The research, presented at the 17th annual International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) in Cape Town, South Africa (7–11 December 2013), looked at three countries starting to implement viral load tests: Kenya, Malawi and Zimbabwe. It found that among people who were suspected of failing their treatment based on standard assessments only 30 per cent had a higher viral load than expected.

The remaining 70 per cent could be switched unnecessarily to more expensive second-line treatment if viral load testing was not subsequently used to confirm treatment failure, which could waste hard-pressed resources.

Despite MSF and other organisations saying that viral load testing is the ‘gold standard’ for treatment monitoring, its high costs mean that use is low. A survey of 23 poor countries in 2012 revealed that while all included viral load monitoring in their HIV treatment guidelines it was available in only four.

“Costs are dependent on negotiations with manufacturers and pooled procurements,” says Cohn. “Countries that need a large amount of tests can reduce costs by buying a large volume [in one purchase]. Increasing the daily throughput of tests can also bring down the cost per test.”

The researchers suggest the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria — two organisations that provide funding for HIV treatment in Africa — should pool their procurement to negotiate lower prices with companies.

But there are also organisational challenges. “My concern is the implementation cascade,” says Lut Lynen, head of the HIV/AIDS and infectious diseases unit at the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium. This is about the logistics of transporting samples from the field to laboratories and then relaying the results back to healthcare workers.

“A colleague in Congo [reported] that the facility doing the viral load tests is 500 kilometres away and it takes six weeks to three months to get a result back — if ever.”

Lynen adds that access to treatment is still the priority. “A solution for treatment monitoring is an absolute necessity, but in those countries where access to antiretroviral treatment is still low, the first priority should be to get them on treatment and retain them in care.”

Lightning detection promises improved storm forecasts.

An alternative to costly radar-based weather services could soon be operational in developing nations, to help them detect severe storms more cheaply and quickly.

The technology, which uses lightning detection to forecast when and where storms will strike, has already proven successful in demonstration projects in Brazil, Guinea and India. Next year, Earth Networks — one of the companies at the forefront of the technology — will conduct further trials in Haiti.

As more developing nations increase their numbers of mobile phone masts, which are ideal locations for mounting the lightning sensors on, the proportion of countries using the technology looks set to increase, according to the US company.

Lightning detection costs a fraction of traditional Doppler radars, which can cost tens of millions of dollars for broad regional coverage.

It also collects data faster and, by monitoring precipitation, can be used to assess the likelihood of floods and drought. According to Finnish company Vaisala, which has more than 100 lightning detection stations located in the United States, when lightning is detected the data can be delivered in less than two minutes.

Vaisala’s Total Lightning system detects the electromagnetic signals given off when lightning strikes the earth’s surface. Information on the location, time, and strength of each strike, and on whether it is positively or negatively charged is then processed and communicated to users of the technology.

Earth Networks also uses cloud computing capabilities and algorithms to provide automated alerts for thunderstorms, tornadoes and other forms of severe weather, which can be configured to be sent to mobile phones.

The company foresees these alerts being delivered to millions of mobile phone users around the world. In cases of severe weather with lightning, the notifications have been shown to “alert 50 per cent faster than warnings based on other technology currently available, providing 27 minutes, on average, of lead time,” according to Earth Networks.

Bob Marshall, the company’s president and CEO, tells SciDev.Net that the company now has more than 50 antennas covering most of Brazil and 50 more covering all of India, and, most recently, has installed sensors on 12 mobile phone masts in Guinea.    

“These countries have very little infrastructure to support weather observation forecasting and warning, and the technology that has been tried out over the last decade has failed — a lot of money has been spent,” says Marshall.

This year they “picked what should be one of the hardest countries to do this — Guinea — and it’s working tremendously well,” says Marshall. Guinea is part of the world’s stormiest area, but has no meteorological radar to track storms. In September, a dozen people died because of severe weather, including five from lightning in the Koundara Prefecture in Northwest Guinea.

Mamadou Lamine Bah, director of Guinea’s National Directorate of Meteorology (NDM), tells SciDev.Net: “After evaluating this technology for three months, we could follow the formation of the most dangerous weather events in Guinea”.

“The results from the demonstration project are very satisfactory,” he adds. “Data from these [lightning detection] stations would fill the gaps encountered in the collection and exchange of data on the regional and international level.”

According to Bah, the network of meteorological observation stations within Guinea does not meet international standards, because of a lack of equipment and inadequately qualified staff.

“Guinea and other African countries need alert systems and high-performance tools and personnel for their meteorological services,” he says.

According to Marshall, “based on what countries around the world are seeing happening now in Guinea we are receiving a lot of interest in the technology”. However, at this time he is unable to disclose which countries have expressed an interest.

Earth Networks’ lightning detection systems started out principally in the United States; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the US Air Force all use the data from its lightning network and technology.

7 Tips to Change the Way You Deal with Stress.

“I promise you nothing is as chaotic as it seems. Nothing is worth your health. Nothing is worth poisoning yourself into stress, anxiety, and fear.” ~ Steve Maraboli

Most of us tend to lose our peace of mind due to a variety of reasons such as economic worries, relationship problems and health issues, to mention only a few. We live under the constant fear of an uncertain future and do not know how to cope with it.

Here are some tips to change the way you deal with stress:

1. Re-asses what you have set your heart upon

You may have set your heart on things that are out of your reach for whatever reason. Sometimes you can knock your head off trying to realize your heart’s desire, but you won’t be able to fulfil it. It is, therefore, no use holding on to an unrealistic goal you cannot achieve.

You must understand that everything is not under your control. Just try to digest this reality sincerely without any ego and let me assure you would start feeling light and easy immediately.

2. Look at life like drama unfolding before you

There are generally two reactions when you are watching a movie (of life, in this case).

First, you get involved with the storyline and start hoping or wishing the way the things should turn up.

Second, you remain detached or perhaps relaxed. You continue to eagerly watch wondering how the story is going to unfold.

Which of these two situations is better?

In the first situation you feel sad and of course, sometimes happy (temporarily) as well-at the turn of events in the story. But in the second situation of wonderment and pure curiosity, you just enjoy the story without being emotionally involved. You utter: How interesting! I wonder what would happen next!

A state of curiosity is obviously much more enjoyable than a state of expectation and hope.

3. Understand that only a calm mind is capable of clear thinking and action

Start affirming to yourself: I am going to stay calm whatever happens. Or, the awareness of the need to stay calm –a practical necessity in such cases–by itself can be very helpful in facing the situation that is going out of your control. Once you allow yourself to be overwhelmed by the events, you may become myopic, take wrong decisions and regret later on. If you stay calm you will be able to handle the situation in a much better way.

4. Develop control over self rather than the circumstances

Sometimes, your response to a bad situation—generally of fear, confusion and stress- can be worse than the consequences of the situation itself.

The external world is, of course, out of your control, but you can control the world within you. Whenever you are torn by ifs and buts or any negativity in your thoughts, keep affirming: I will handle any situation that may emerge. Gradually you will develop faith on your strengths and a time will come when all doubts and uncertainties will disappear. Then you will have nothing to fear even in fearful situations.

5. You are not the only one to stumble and fall

Don’t feel guilty. In fact you are only one of the countless thousands who are stumbling and falling on a daily basis. Life is like that. What is important is that you should retain the awareness that you are not going to be held down by your fall and that you need to get up and be on your feet again. Keep moving on even stumblingly. You will still be moving forward.

6. Remember the heroes who valiantly cope up with life

Remember Stephan Hawking who contracted motor neurone disease when he was just 21 and was given only 2 years to live. He went to Cambridge and held the post of Lucasian Professor at Cambridge, the chair held by Isaac Newton in 1663. His A Brief History of Time became the best seller. Do you think your condition is even worse than that of   Professor Hawking and countless others?

7. Focus on the silver linings in the black clouds

Have you ever lost your way in the darkest night when the skies are overcast with thundering clouds made worse by frightening bursts of lightening? But then did you not feel relieved that the sizzling, quivering, serpentine maze of light lasting not even a second, so to say, brightened the landscape and also showed you the way to your home? What matters is that you should try to focus on what can be helpful in difficult situations and make the best of it.

Here is an inspiring quote by Peter Marshall: “When we long for life without difficulties, let’s remember that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.”

Piggy-backing proteins ride white blood cells to wipe out metastasizing cancer.

Cornell biomedical engineers have discovered a new way to destroy metastasizing cancer cells traveling through the bloodstream – lethal invaders that are linked to almost all cancer deaths – by hitching cancer-killing proteins along for a ride on life-saving white blood cells.

“These circulating are doomed,” said Michael King, Cornell professor of biomedical engineering and the study’s senior author. “About 90 percent of cancer deaths are related to metastases, but now we’ve found a way to dispatch an army of killer white that cause apoptosis – the cancer cell’s own death – obliterating them from the bloodstream. When surrounded by these guys, it becomes nearly impossible for the cancer cell to escape.”

Metastasis is the spread of a cancer cells to other parts of the body. Surgery and radiation are effective at treating primary tumors, but difficulty in detecting metastatic cancer cells has made treatment of the spreading cancers problematic, say the scientists.

King and his colleagues injected human blood samples, and later mice, with two proteins: E-selectin (an adhesive) and TRAIL (Tumor Necrosis Factor Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand). The TRAIL protein joined with the E-selectin protein was able to stick to leukocytes – white blood cells – abundant in the bloodstream. When a cancer cell comes into contact with TRAIL, which is nearly unavoidable in the frenzied flow of blood, the cancer cell essentially kills itself.

“The mechanism is surprising and unexpected in that this repurposing of white blood cells in flowing blood is more effective than directly targeting the cancer cells with liposomes or soluble protein,” say the authors.

In the laboratory, King and his colleagues tested this concept’s efficacy.

When treating cancer cells with the proteins in saline, they found a 60 percent success rate in killing the cancer cells. In normal laboratory conditions, the saline lacks to serve as a carrier for the adhesive and killer proteins. Once the proteins were added to flowing blood that mimicked human-body conditions, however, the success rate in killing the cancer cells jumped to nearly 100 percent.


The study, “TRAIL-Coated Leukocytes that Kill Cancer Cells in the Circulation,” was published online today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

More information: TRAIL-coated leukocytes that kill cancer cells in the circulation, PNAS, http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1316312111

Provided by Cornell University