Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

A federal judge's ruling striking down the Obama administration's policy on embryonic stem cell research could result in an immediate halt for now in this kind of medical work in Missouri and nationally, according to some local and national proponents of the research.

That view was reinforced late yesterday by news that the National Institutes of Health has imposed a nationwide freeze on grants in the pipeline. That decision could affect research underway at both Washington University and the University of Missouri at Columbia.

For many of the home visits, Jamry uses a team of nurses, shown here in his office during a weekly meeting to go over cases.
Hodiah Nemes | Beacon intern

For 15 years, Dr. William Gee operated a solo medical practice in St. Louis. "It was going quite well," Gee says. But Gee was busy, a little too busy. He felt "pressure to see more and more patients with less and less time" and experienced mounting overhead costs.

"I got tired of that," Gee said.

A new early intervention program, financed with $88 million in federal health-reform money, has the potential of breaking the poverty cycle that afflicts generation after generation of at-risk families. The idea is to give a needy kid a healthy start in life through a home-visit  program that addresses child protection, health, early education and social service issues through age 8.

Jesse Drapekin smiles in front of his final Power Point presentation.
Jo Seltzer | Beacon file photo

Lots of young people are into social networking these days. But another kind of networking has been going on for two decades in laboratories across the St. Louis area.

Each summer dozens of students participate in STARS (Students and Teachers as Research Scientists), a program sponsored by the University of Missouri-St. Louis. This year, more than 60 students spent their summer doing original research in top labs of academia and industry.

"These kids are the scientists and engineers of tomorrow," said Michael Anch of the Saint Louis University department of psychology.

Dr. Frank R. Burton, whose research on chronic pancreatitis helped dispel the widely held assumption that sometimes led patients to be incorrectly labeled as problem drinkers, died of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (lung disease) at Saint Louis University Hospital on Monday (Aug. 2, 2010). He was 58.

Dr. Burton, a professor of internal medicine, suffered a heart attack in June while vacationing, but was recovering well when it was discovered that he had advanced lung disease. The illnesses were determined to be unrelated.

As she held and examined leafy green vegetables at the new Save-A-Lot grocery store in Pagedale the other day, Coreen Davis didn't need to be reminded that she hasn't been able to walk into a new supermarket in that part of St. Louis County for 40 years.

Pagedale but for surrounding communities."

He added that it wasn't easy to make the store a reality. The process involved tax increment financing, the buyout of about 10 properties, and developing the project "in a way that the provider of the grocery store in this case can pay rent that makes economic sense."

Here are two interesting facts from a new "green economy'' report commissioned by the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association:

 -- St. Louis has added 1,000 green jobs in the past two years, despite the recession.

 -- The number of green jobs in the region grew 54 percent between 1995 and 2008, while green job growth in California's Silicon Valley was 53 percent during the same time period.

Women who are diagnosed with breast cancer may soon be helped by a discovery made in 1880 by Alexander Graham Bell.

St. Louis may have missed out this week on a share of Race to the Top stimulus funds to improve public education, but it is a big winner on the health-care front. The federal government announced Thursday that it was extending through 2014 an unusual program that has provided about $25 million a year for funding area community health centers.

The hot, unforgiving Missouri sun beats down on a lost man. Although just a few miles from home, the man does not know where he is and has no recollection of how he got to where he is. He stands, scared and confused, pondering how he lost his way, but he still can't muster a single memory of his journey there.

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.

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