Thursday, September 10, 2009

FDA Approves HPV Vaccine for Men.

FDA Panel OKs HPV Vaccine Gardasil for Boys

FDA Advisory Panel Recommends Approving HPV Vaccine Gardasil for Males Ages 9 to 26 to Prevent Genital Warts
By Miranda Hitti
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Sept. 9, 2009 -- An FDA advisory committee voted to recommend approval of the vaccine Gardasil for males ages 9 to 26 to prevent genital warts.

Gardasil targets four strains of human papillomavirus, commonly called HPV. Males can carry HPV and transmit it sexually to their partners.

HPV can cause genital warts and penile and anal cancer in men. Each year, about 200 out of 100,000 males are newly diagnosed with genital warts, according to background information cited by the FDA. Penile cancer and anal cancer are much rarer.

Gardasil already has FDA approval for use in females ages 9 to 26. In females, HPV can cause cervical cancer.

The FDA advisory committee ruled 7 to 0, with one abstaining vote, that Gardasil's clinical trial data support the vaccine's effectiveness at preventing genital warts in males ages 9 to 26. And in a 7 to 1 vote, the advisory committee ruled that the data show Gardasil to be safe for males in that age range.

The FDA advisory committeereviewed three studies of Gardasil that together included more than 5,000 males ages 9 to 26 in various countries including the U.S.

Participants got a total of three shots of Gardasil or a placebo spread over six months. They also got checkups and tests to check for HPV infection.

Gardasil was 89% effective in preventing genital warts. The vaccine was less effective in participants who had already been exposed to HPV.

No serious side effects were seen, according to information posted on the FDA's web site.

The most commonly reported adverse events were fever and headache. Injection site reactions were more common with Gardasil than with the placebo. Most of those reactions were mild to moderate in intensity, Gardasil's maker, the drug company Merck, states in a document posted on the FDA's web site.

Gardasil is already licensed for use in males in many countries, and there haven't been any red flags raised about the vaccine's safety in the limited number of international safety reports that have been done, FDA documents state. But the FDA says that post-marketing surveillance and studies will be "essential" if Gardasil is approved for males.

There weren't enough data to assess Gardasil for preventing other conditions, since those conditions were so rare, the FDA notes.

It's now up to the FDA to decide whether to approve Gardasil to prevent genital warts in boys and young men. The FDA often follows the recommendations of its advisory committees, but it isn't required to do so.

Gardasil is up for FDA consideration only as a way to prevent genital warts in boys -- not to prevent cancer in males or to curb transmission of the HPV virus to women.

Found @

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Back into Science

Well, I am back to the blog. I took a three week hiatus to do my phlebotomy practicum (which was kinda cool) and then dove back into school this week (which was awesome). My classes this semester are Clinical Microbiology and Hematology/Coagulation, which means I spend 20 hours a week in the lab, and another 15 or so studying outside the lab. Fortunately, I love the material, so it makes school much more enjoyable.
So now that school is in session, I will be focusing more on Med Lab stuff, though I won't completely abandon science news, especially if it's exciting.

My first week of classes was mostly review, though they did cram a lot of new stuff down our throats, at least new to me. One teacher, who has been in the medical field all her life, and even took some med school classes at U of W, commented on how Med Techs know more about the medical laboratory then nurses and doctors (the exception being, of course, pathologists and other lab geeks). It certainly has been a crazy week. While in Hematology we're covering different microscope techniques and erythrocyte development, in Micro we mixed our own medias and did our first Gram stains.

And for exciting science news: IBM scientists have taken the first picture of a molecule. An actual molecule. You can see the bonds!
The molecule is pentacene, a chain of five benzene rings.

It' ^_^

Learn more here and here.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What's the sound of one lung coughing?

My friend Jenny was asking me the other day about a lung bacterium in China which can kill you in 24 hours. I looked into it and discovered that the bacterium she was referring to is actually Yersinia pestis, which is responsible for the plague.
Yes, THE plague.
When Y. pestis gets into the lungs, its called the "pneumonic plague". And yes, it can kill you within 24 hours if it goes untreated. Administering antibiotics within the first 24 hours is critical.
The World Health Organization reports that between 1998 and 2008, nearly 24,000 cases were reported and around 2,000 deaths. Most cases occur in Africa.
For more fun facts about the plague, go here (It's actually an interesting and easy to remember fact list. Makes for great dinner convo with the in-laws.)

China has had it before, so its nothing new or alarming. In April of this year, over 10 were infected, causing the quarantine of a village. Read more about that here.

Note: Facebookers, to see the spiffy photos of Y. pestis (it glows!), click here to go to Lab Geek. Or you could just be lame and not see the photos.
But that's no fun.

She Dazzled Me With Science!

The Critter. Not the Auto Insurance.
Geckos are very cute. They are also very good at climbing on difficult terrain using a complex adhesive system. It was not known when and how they activate their unique system of traction. However, thanks to those geniuses at University of Calgary and Clemson University in South Carolina, we now have a better understanding of gecko feet. They discovered that geckos' amazing grip is triggered by gravity.
U of C biological sciences professor, Anthony Russel, says "Geckos use microscopic, hair-like filaments to attach to surfaces. Only at certain angles do they switch on their traction system." Geckos must be on an incline in order to trigger their adhesive system, which allows them to climb smooth surfaces at steep angles.
Learn more here.

Kill Tumors with Nanotubes!
Scientists have discovered that injecting nanotubes into tumors and heating them with a 30-second zap of a laser effectively kills kidney tumors in nearly 80 percent of mice. The finding holds a potential future cancer treatment for humans.
I would go into detail of the study, but it's late and I'm tired. So instead, go here to learn more.

Speaking of lasers, check out this nifty video. (Facebook minions may have to go to my actual blog, Lab Geek, to watch.) Its a video of a laser going through a red balloon to pop the black balloon within. The red wavelength of the laser is transmitted through the red balloon and subsequently absorbed by the darker balloon.

Trash Island
There has been a lot of talk the past few months of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a floating mass of garbage (mostly plastic) which is twice the size of Texas and covers hundreds (possibly thousands) of miles. Now a gaggle
of scientists from the University of California's Scripps Institution of Oceanography has embarked on a three-week mission to study the patch, trying to evaluate how much is there, what types of trash is most common, and possible draw up prevention strategies. The reasons may seem obvious, but the main one is the alarming amount of plasitic, which slowly degrades and turns into increasingly smaller bits of plastic. Seabirds mistake it for food and they dive down to eat it, as well as various forms of marine life.
Dive in here.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Science Quickies

I am wayyy too tired to actually write out a piece by piece description, so all you're getting today is science stubs.

New York and North Carolina scientists report the assembly of the first functioning prototype of an artificial Golgi organelle. The lab-on-a-chip device could lead to a faster and safer method for producing heparin, the widely used anticoagulant/blood thinner.
Robert Linhardt and colleagues point out in a recent study that the Golgi bodies are one of the most poorly understood organelles of the human body. Scientists already know, however, that the organelles play a key role in producing heparin.
Enjoy the science here.

Derek Lovley and his minions at the University of Massachusetts Amherst are playing around with Geobacter, and observed the evolution of a new strain. This new strain dramatically increases power output per cell and overall bulk power. It also works with a thinner biofilm than earlier strains, cutting the time to reach electricity-producing concentrations on the electrode.
Learn more here.

Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine say that current diagnostic tests for ovarian cancer are ineffective for early detection. A new study finds that in order to make a significant dent in the mortality rate for the deadly cancer, the tests would have to be able to detect tumors of less than 1 cm in diameter.
Read about it here.

Scientists reported the successful isolation of genetically diverse Marburg viruses from a common species of African fruit bat. The Marburg virus is a genetic cousin to the Ebola virus, and can produce severe fever, bleeding, and up to a 90% death rate during outbreaks. The African fruit bat is also known as the Egyptian fruit bat, Rousettus aegyptiacus. This is the first time the virus has been isolated from a natural host.
Follow the excitement here.

Armchair astronomers helped discover a batch of tiny galaxies that may help professional astronomers understand how galaxies formed stars in the early universe.

"Green Pea" galaxies are forming stars 10 times faster than the Milky Way, despite being 10 times smaller and 100 times less massive, making them among the most extremely active star-forming galaxies ever found. They are between 1.5 billion and 5 billion light years away.
Learn more here.

Scientists Program Blood Stem Cells To Become Vision Cells

Sunday, July 19, 2009


I have made an internet discovery which will prove itself extremely useful in my upcoming microbiology class. It's called Microbe Wiki, and it's a great online catalog of microbes. It's certainly not complete, but for beginning microbiology, it is a very handy tool.
Check it out:

In other microbiology news, scientists believe that the microbe "Methanosarcina barkeri" may survive the martian atmosphere. M. barkeri is a methanogen (survives off of methane, which has been detected on Mars), is able to handle long dry spells and a wide range of temperature differences.
Learn more here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Time for Science!

Yay, science time!

- Exciting news first: Thirteen years ago, scientists at GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research discovered a new element, Element 112, after bombarding a lead target with zinc ions in their particle accelerator. They have now finally decided to name it Copernicus (Cp for short), after Nicolaus Copernicus, who discovered that the earth revolved around the sun.
Get excited here.

- Scientists have tracked down the genetic mutation which lead to blue eyes. All blue eyed people (including yours truly) are descended from a common ancestor who lived about 6,000 to 10,000 years ago. Before that, everyone was brown eyed. The mutation affects the OCA2 gene, which controls pigment production. It doesn't so much switch the gene off (which would cause albinism), but lessens the effect of the gene. Learn more here.

- It's been long known that, following an HIV-1 infection, women develop lower viral loads, yet suffer a faster progression of the disease. Researchers at the Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), MIT and Harvard discovered that a receptor molecule involved in the first-line recognition of HIV-1 responds to the virus differently in women. This causes a subsequent differences in chronic T cell activation, which doctors use to predict disease progression. (Their paper will be published in an upcoming issue of Nature Medicine). The researchers focused on focused on plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs), which are one of the first immune system cells to respond to HIV-1. They discovered the higher progesterone levels of premenopausal women correlated with increased activation of pDCs in response to HIV-1. Thus, the same amount of virus induces stronger pDC activation in women than in men. Learn more about the study here.

- Also in HIV/AIDS news, Brazil has proven that developing countries can indeed successfully treat and fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Their secret lies largely with inexpensive generic drugs. They also saved more than $1 billion as a result of bargaining with multinational pharmaceutical companies, having them lower their prices dramatically and encouraging generic companies to develop low-cost alternatives for emerging markets. Go Brazil!
Read the good news here.

- In Alzheimer's news, a drug called PMX205 recovers memory in mice, and may be used one day for Alzheimer's treatment. PMX205 is similar to a drug used in clinical trials for rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis. It prevents inflamed immune cells from gathering in brain regions with amyloid plaques. Discover more here.

- Biologist J. Albert Uy (of Syracuse University) and his science minions have observed speciation in action, as two closely related populations of monarch flycatcher birds have split and are on their way to becoming two distinct species. Speciation has only been observed in action a handful of times, and is a central aspect of evolution (Bite me, creationists!). This is a fairly large endeavor, but it didn't phase Mr. Uy. Taking into account that the plumage of the two populations had changed (one is all black, the other has chestnut bellies), and that the males defend their mating territory and attack invading males, Uy and his team made models of the two bird populations. The all-black males attacked the all-black models, and paid little attention to the chestnut bellied models, and vice-versa. This indicates that the males do not consider the males of the other population a reproductive threat.
The birds also have a differing MC1R gene, which explains the change in plumage.
It's all gone to the birds here.

- Assistant Professor Li Hoi Yeung and Assistant Professor Koh Cheng Gee (along their team of science zombies) have discovered that during apoptosis (cell death) the cell's rescue mechanism is disabled when specific proteins can no longer enter the nucleus, which stops the cell from initiating it's self-repair process. This is actually a very important discovery in the world of biology, so be excited!
Oh, and they also discovered that the protein RanGTP, (involved in the transportation of certain proteins into and out of the cell's nucleus), is reduced greatly during the early stages of apoptosis. Just because they felt like rubbing in how smart and awesome they are.
Revel in the excitement here.

- In the boggling world of physics, Yale University researchers have discovered a light force with repulsive power. It can be used to manipulate silicon microchip components, and may means that one day, nanodevices could run off of light instead of electricity.
Get excited and learn more here.

- Dr. Daniel Malone, (UA College of Pharmacy) mailed a questionnaire to 12,500 U.S. pharmaceutical prescribers who were selected based on a history of prescribing drugs associated with known potential for drug-drug interaction. (The prescribers were physicians, physicians' assistants and nurse practitioners.) He found that, on average, perscibers only correctly identified 42.7% of drug pairs with potentially dangerous drug-drug interactions.
Oops. Looks like med schools are focusing enough on drug-drug interactions.
Follow the shame here.

While I have respect for NASA and all the contributions they have made towards understanding the worlds around us, I have to give them a hard time for this: As the last components of the International Space Station are installed in 2110, they plan to de-orbit it in 2016.
Seriously guys. What they hell??
Billions of dollars have gone into this, and the final cost is estimated at $100,000,000,000. This is one of humanity's greatest monuments, a symbol of international collaboration in the name of science. There is no reason to take it down. It is more useful up in orbit then it is destroyed in a million little pieces as it reenters our atmosphere.
Get angry here.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Alaskan Mud Flats

Salt deposits from high tide

Moose Track

Wild peas

Sandhill cranes taking off. These birds visit the flats every summer.


Researchers of the Northeast England Stem Cell Institute have created artificial human sperm cells using embryonic stem cells.
Scientists claims that within 10 years this technique could also be used to allow infertile couples to have their own children. It could even be possible to create sperm from female stem cells which would ultimately mean a woman having a baby without a man. It may also prove useful for young boys subjected to chemo treatment which left them infertile.
This is the first time human sperm has been created in a laboratory. The experiment has proved controversial and threatens to reignite the fierce debate of embryo research. Professor Nayernia, who heads the research, says "This is very amazing and very exciting. They have heads, they have tails and they move. The shape is not quite normal nor the movement, but they contain the proteins for egg activation." {He also claimed that his team has already used the technique on mice, which have produced offspring. The mice all died shortly after they were born.}
"Soon we will be able to isolate stem cells from the skin to generate sperm cells," he said. "This would enable us to look at individual stem cells from an infertile patient and find out what is the cause...We hope that eventually this could help create sperm for infertile men."

Learn more Here.

The Stages of Mitosis

Saturday, July 11, 2009

More Feynman

Apparently today is Richard Feynman day here at Lab Geek.

Richard Reynman on Fire

I <3 Richard Feynman.

Friday, July 10, 2009


Today, July 10th, is the 153rd birthday of Nikola Tesla, the inventor of the radio, alternating current electric power, and at least 278 other inventions. He is considered on of the greatest electrical engineers ever, and was an adversary of Thomas Edison who refused to pay Tesla for several patents he developed for the Edison company. He had an eccentric personality and in his later years made some very outlandish claims, causing his peers to write him off as a mad scientist.
Tesla died of heart failure on January 7, 1943. His ashes currently reside in the Tesla Museum in Belgrade, Serbia.

It was Tai Shan's birthday yesterday. Happy 4th birthday Tai Shan!

Tai Shan is the first panda to be born at the Smithsonian National Park Zoo and survive, making him the 3rd in the U.S. He is also a product of artificial insemination.
His four layer birthday cake is made up of ice, bamboo, shredded beets and beet juice, which took zoo nutritionists two weeks to design.

The Inner Life of a Cell

Here is a very beautifully animated video put together by the spiffy fellows of Harvard and BioVisions.

(The song is "The Man Who Doesn't Know Nothing" by Michael Elektrich)

Sciency Tid-Bits

Studies have already shown that monkeys can string together different sounds to create "sentences," particularly one of alarm or warning. A new study now indicates that can also recognize poor grammar. By introducing a nonsense word as a suffix, and then later using it as a prefix, the monkeys recognized the difference.
Learn more here.

One of the first things a science student learns about is Absolute Zero. But have you ever wondered about the range of known temperatures? How hot is the Sun? What is the hottest temperature achieved in a lab? How hot was the Big Bang?
To get a nifty idea of temperature ranges, check out Nova's interactive scale here.

Interested in the underwater lakes and rivers? Click here to plan your next spelunking adventure. The pictures are pretty amazing.

Need cancer information? Check out