Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

As Haitians look back on the earthquake devastation that remains and look ahead to the hurricane season, they clearly see that a lot of work remains.

About 1.5 million Port au Prince residents (out of the country’s population of 8 million) still sleep in tented camps and spend part of each day standing in line for purified water. Coordination among aid organizations that have been in Haiti for a long time is going well, but that’s not the case with many of the organizations that first came in after the quake.

The Missouri Foundation for Health is one of only 11 groups nationally to win grants under a new federal initiative -- the Social Innovation Fund. The foundation got $2 million of the $50 million that the fund distributed Thursday. All recipients are charged with helping local communities develop better outcomes to persistent problems confronting the poor, ranging from struggling with financial issues to coping with AIDS.

On Feb. 21, 2010, The New York Times published an article by Gardiner Harris titled "Diabetes Drug Harms Heart, U.S. Concludes."  Rosiglitazone, a product of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), is sold under the brand name Avandia. Studies have indicated it could be responsible for about 500 heart attacks and 300 cases of heart failure a month.

Dr. Pat Wolff at a clinic.
Provided by Washington University

Six months after Haiti's devastating earthquake, some Haitian institutions are planning for a "new normal."

The tragedy in Haiti has steeled the determination of several seasoned St. Louis volunteers to educate, mentor and help more Haitians become self-sustaining. Haitians must serve their own people and run their own hospitals, schools and society, they said in interviews this week.

Expansions are planned in Haiti for two St. Louis-founded institutions.

Homer G. Phillips Hospital closed in 1979, but has been renovated and reopened as a senior living facility.
Onegentlemanofverona | Creative Commons

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - Dr. Jerome Williams Sr. still feels an emotional lift when he thinks about a Monday morning 72 years ago. In 1937, he had gathered with other Boy Scouts on the city's north side that morning. Standing erect, he waited to take his place in line for a parade; and in spite of the cold of a day in late February, he was moved by the sight of hundreds of people -- doctors and lawyers, teachers and preachers, dignitaries and ordinary people -- gathering in the vicinity of Whittier Street and Kennerly Avenue.

Matt and Tom Smith
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Beacon | File photo

In high school, Matthew Smith busied himself designing websites, taking photos and making pottery. His younger brother, Tom, played trombone in the school jazz band, worked on his Eagle Scout badge and concentrated on honors classes in math, physics and geometry.

Like most teenagers preoccupied with their own pursuits, they didn't really notice anything unusual about their dad. But their friends did.

"They'd say, 'Your dad doesn't have any hair on his legs. Your dad's hair is really long'," said Matthew, 23.

Michelle and Debbie Smith
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Beacon | File photo

Growing up with three brothers in a cramped house just outside Chicago, Michelle Smith delighted in the rare chance to slip into her mother's bra and black wig. As her heart pounded, her excitement was tempered only by the terror of being discovered. Had she been caught, Michelle feared her mother would not be amused by a 6-year-old's attempt to imitate mommy.

That's because Michelle was being raised as a son.

An international team of scientists has sequenced the genome of a duck-billed platypus. Part bird, part reptile and part mammal, the platypus genome sheds light on the evolution of mammals, including humans, and on the genetics of disease. Led by Richard K. Wilson, director of the Genome Sequencing Center at Washington University School of Medicine, the scientific team found that this mammal's DNA is as unusual as its duck-bill.

Mixed-up Mammal