Cat catches swine flu from humans
While the H1N1 “swine” flu has prompted widespread vaccinations and concern, one group was excluded from these protection efforts: household pets. Last Wednesday, a housecat in Iowa was diagnosed with the H1N1 virus.
Over the past several months, the only other animals diagnosed with the flu have been swine and ferrets.
The normal seasonal flu does not affect domestic animals, but other strains, such as avian flu, can be transmitted among species.
While the transmission from human to cat of the swine flu is a new step in its development, veterinarians are not particularly concerned. Given the many thousands of human cases of H1N1 in the past months, a single appearance in a pet is still only a minor threat.
The virus has not been documented spreading from animals to humans, and most animals still seem to have immunity. For now, at least, dogs and cats are safe from the swine flu.
Obesity quantitatively linked to cancer
In a study published last Thursday by the American Institute for Cancer Research, scientists revealed for the first time predicted numbers of cancer cases caused by obesity.
This is the first experimental data making direct links between this condition and specific cancers. Researchers analyzed a number of obesity-related cancers, including endometrial, esophageal, pancreatic, kidney, and other types. Of these, endometrial cancer was shown to have the greatest link to obesity, with 49 percent of the cases caused because the patients are overweight. Overall, the authors estimated that more than 100,000 cancer cases each year directly result from obesity.
The study does not propose explanations for the links between obesity and cancer, but scientists theorize that the excess estrogen and increased oxidative stress resulting from extra body fat may encourage cancer growth. As with other obesity-linked diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, a healthy diet and lifestyle decrease the risk for nearly all related health problems.
Space elevators go to infinity and beyond
A competition straight out of science fiction took place last Wednesday in the California desert: Three teams tested prototype climbers for a future space elevator. The space elevator concept, a staple of science fiction, was popularized by author Arthur C. Clarke (see “How Things Work: Space elevators” from the Aug. 15, 2009 edition of The Tartan).
They seek to make travel to Earth orbit easier without expensive, wasteful rockets.
The team LaserMotive won a second place prize of $900,000 when their climber reached one kilometer of cable at two meters per second. The first prize of $1.1 million requires five meters per second. While these tests are a long way from the 22,000 miles a real space elevator would have to climb, they are the first steps toward a new and potentially revolutionary technology.