SciTech

HealthLine

High levels of mercury in tuna

A report issued by the international conservation group Oceana states that the levels of mercury in fresh tuna sold in stores across the country are exceedingly high.

Many of the samples tested by Oceana had excess mercury in relation to the limits issued by the Food and Drug Administration.

This is a major concern, as exposure to mercury is known to have detrimental effects on the neurological development of fetuses and children. Furthermore, studies show that mercury is harmful to adults as well.

One-third of the samples tested had more than one part per million of mercury; a concentration high enough to allow the FDA to remove the tuna from the market.

Source: The New York Times

Excess calcium may lead to heart trouble

A study conducted by researchers in New Zealand shows that older women who take calcium supplements are at a higher risk of having heart attacks.

In the study, 732 women above the age of 74 were given a daily calcium supplement whereas 739 women of the same age were not given the supplement. Of the women who had heart attacks later on, 31 had taken the calcium supplement while 21 had not.

Scientists suggest that excess calcium that gets deposited in the walls of the arteries causing blockages, and leading to heart attacks. The researchers said that although this finding is not conclusive, it is worth investigating further.

Source: Reuters

Bone marrow aids transplant patients

Researchers claim that injecting blood or bone marrow cells from the donor into the patient during kidney transplantation can reduce the need for immune suppressant drugs.

Doctors at the Massachusetts General Hospital and the Harvard Medical School tested this technique on five patients who received kidneys from relatives. Four out of five of the patients successfully lessened their intake of immune suppressant drugs.

The injected bone marrow cells prevent the patient’s body from rejecting the transplanted organ. This discovery shows the potential to reduce the use of immune suppressants, which render the body extremely weak and susceptible to many diseases.

Source: Reuters

Genetics cause stunted growth

A peculiar condition that stubs the growth of the body and brain, while maintaining average intelligence, is likely to have been caused by gene mutation, scientists suggest.

The gene codes for the protein pericentrin, which helps disintegrate chromosomes during cell division.

Scientists at the Rauch of the Institute for Human Genetics at the University of Erlangen in Germany believe that a mutation in this protein prevents cell division from occurring normally and results in stunted growth.

While this condition can be used to explain the Hobbit-like people who lived nearly 18,000 years ago on an island in Indonesia, it is seen in modern-day humans as well. People with the mutation grow about three feet tall and have a brain the size of a baby’s. However, their intelligence levels are left unaffected.

Source: National Geographic News