Health, Science, Environment

Health
4:30 pm
Fri May 13, 2011

New drug to treat hepatitis C approved by FDA

High magnification micrograph of a liver with cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is a condition caused by hepatitis C.
(via Wikimedia commons)

The FDA has approved a new drug for the treatment of hepatitis C, a viral disease that attacks the liver and can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer.

In the U.S., existing medications cure only about 50 percent of patients.

Dr. Bruce Bacon of Saint Louis University led a clinical trial for the new drug, boceprevir.

Bacon says adding boceprevir to the standard two-drug treatment significantly improved cure rates, especially for patients who have been treated before and failed to recover.

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Breast Cancer Study
5:27 pm
Mon May 9, 2011

Wash U. study: estrogen-reducing drugs may reduce need for mastectomy in breast cancer patients

Mammograms of estrogen-receptor positive breast tumors before and after 16 weeks of aromatase inhibitor therapy. The top images: a tumor that responded to the treatment and regressed. The lower images: a resistant tumor that stayed about the same size.
(Washington University School of Medicine/ Matthew J. Ellis)

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine have shown that estrogen-lowering drugs can help reduce the need for mastectomy in some breast cancer patients.

Estrogen is known to increase tumor growth in the majority of breast cancer patients.

In a new study, post-menopausal women with large breast cancer tumors were given one of three estrogen-lowering drugs before surgery.

Study lead Dr. Matthew Ellis says all three drugs were equally effective in shrinking tumors and reducing the need for complete breast removal.

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from St. Louis on the Air
3:30 pm
Thu May 5, 2011

Algaepalooza 2011 calls on citizen scientists

Dr. Terry Woodford Thomas of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center works with some young citizen scientists at Algaepalooza 2010. (Backyard Biofuels)

Algae, that very same stuff that turns aquarium walls and backyard fences green, are also a potent source of energy, and hold significant potential as a clean, renewable fuel source.  Algae were first investigated as a source of energy back in the 1970’s when high gas prices prompted an interest in alternative energies and the US Department of Energy created the Aquatic Species Program.  That program was discontinued in 1996, but as oil costs have continued to rise and energy independence has reemerged as a national priority, researchers around the world, and many right here in St. Louis, are again focused on the potential of algal biofuels.

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Elk reintroduction
12:04 pm
Thu May 5, 2011

Elk officially back in Missouri

Conservation Commissioner Chip McGeehan helps unload Missouri’s first elk from the truck that brought them from Kentucky to their new home at Peck Ranch Conservation Area.
(Missouri Department of Conservation/Jim Low)

For the first time since the Civil War, elk are back on Missouri soil.

The 34 elk spent three months in quarantine in Kentucky before arriving today in southeast Missouri. They'll be housed temporarily at the Peck Ranch Conservation Area, which is part of the elk restoration zone.

The elk's arrival was delayed from April 30 so conservation officials could complete all the necessary health tests.

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Energy
6:27 pm
Tue May 3, 2011

Biomass energy conference in St. Louis this week

A biomass gasifier in Sri Lanka. Gasifiers are used to convert biomass into usable energy.
(via Flickr/shehal)

Representatives of the biomass energy industry have gathered in St. Louis this week.

They're here to discuss technologies for turning everything from crop residues to municipal trash into liquid fuels, heat, and electricity.

Tim Portz is the program director for BBI international, the company organizing the International Biomass Conference & Expo.

He says it's not going to be easy for the biomass industry to gain a foothold in the marketplace of already established U.S. energy producers.

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Elk Reintroduction
2:48 pm
Fri April 29, 2011

Elk reintroduction: a different kind of Missouri comeback

You can also see photos of the elk and find out more about the reintroduction above. And, for more information about  the elk restoration efforts prior to their arrival in Missouri, see the video below the story text.

Starting tomorrow*, elk will be back in Missouri. They haven’t been here since the mid-1800s, when hunting and habitat loss drove eastern elk to extinction.

States from Arkansas to Pennsylvania have since reestablished their elk populations. And now Missouri is trying to do the same.

But not everyone is happy about the state’s elk reintroduction plans.

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Robotics
6:35 am
Tue April 26, 2011

Student-made robots take over Chaifetz Arena. Next stop? The Edward Jones Dome!

Peter Prombo Cates (left) and Chirag Doshi, students at Gateway Institute of Technology in St. Louis, carry their team’s robot off the playing field.
(Véronique LaCapra/St. Louis Public Radio)

This week in St. Louis, close to 9,000 high school students from five countries will compete in the FIRST Robotics Championship.

Teams of student-built, remote-control robots will take to the field at the Edward Jones Dome. Organizers hope the competition will draw more than 20,000 spectators and generate at least $18 million in local spending.

Véronique LaCapra was at the St. Louis Regional event in March and has this inside look at the competition.

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Gates Foundation grant
3:48 pm
Thu April 14, 2011

Danforth Center gets grant for African nutrition

A cassava root. The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center has received $8.3 million fron the Gates Foundation to research ways to increase nutrition in the root, which is the main carbohydrate for a quarter of a billion people.
(via Flickr/Intenational Center for Tropical Agriculture)

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in Creve Coeur $8.3 million to increase the nutritional value of a staple crop in Africa.

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St. Louis Zoo
4:34 pm
Mon April 11, 2011

Elephant at St. Louis Zoo tests positive for tuberculosis

Donna, the 40-year-old Asian elephant at the St. Louis Zoo, has tested positive for tuberculosis.
(St. Louis Zoo)

A 40-year old Asian elephant at the St. Louis Zoo named "Donna" has tested positive for tuberculosis, but is expected to be just fine.

Donna the Elephant came to the St. Louis zoo as a 3-year old juvenile in 1971.

All elephants get complete medical evaluation each year including blood collection, vaccinations and trunk cultures to look for tuberculosis.

Randy Junge, the Zoo's Director of Animal Health said the 40-year-old pachyderm will live off-display for the next year, but won't be quarantined.

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Brain Health
3:00 pm
Wed April 6, 2011

Exposure to welding fumes may lead to impaired brain function

Brain scans from a control subject (left), a welder (center), and a subject with idiopathic Parkinson's disease (right), in a study by researchers at Washington University comparing brains of apparently healthy welders to those of Parkinson's patients.
(via Neurology ®)

Workers exposed to the metal manganese in welding fumes may be at increased risk of developing Parkinson’s-like symptoms, including loss of motor control and tremors.

That’s the finding of researchers at Washington University School of Medicine, who compared brain scans of apparently healthy welders to those of Parkinson’s patients.

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