SciTech Briefs

Tuberculosis drug takes on phobias

The tuberculosis drug D-cycloserine has been discovered to improve learning and memory, which may potentially help people overcome psychiatric disorders. Although irrational fears have been resistant to nearly all drug therapy, researchers at Emory University found that combining the drug with psychotherapeutic treatment helped subjects conquer the fear of heights more quickly. The drug helps patients learn to feel comfortable in the presence of their greatest fears. Other scientists hypothesize that the drug
might help anorexic patients unlearn their harmful eating habits.

Source: The Associated Press

Device will make clean water in space

In as little as two years, a device that recycles sweat, urine, and the moisture from breathing into drinking water may serve astronauts aboard the International Space Station. In more needy areas, including Iraq and Southeast Asia, smaller and simpler versions of this technology are anticipated to be available by September. However, before the technology can be installed aboard the space shuttle, it must undergo numerous tests to ensure that the system is capable of withstanding the stresses of liftoff.

Source: The New York Times

Man wins free ride on commercial spaceship

Doug Ramsburgh of Colorado will become one of the world?s first intergalactic tourists. Ramsburgh was randomly selected from 135,000 entries in the ?Boldly Go? sweepstakes, sponsored by Virgin Galactic ? the new offshoot of the Virgin empire ? and Volvo. The winner has a reserved seat aboard a modified version of SpaceShipOne.
Last fall, SpaceShipOne made history as the first commercially funded spaceship ever launched. Virgin Galactic commercial space flights are expected to begin in two or three years, pending safety and regulatory approval, and will cost about $200,000. Like any prospective astronaut, Ramsburg will have to undergo basic training and pass a physical, but this process will not be so rigorous as to exclude the general public.


Contacts may replace diabetics? needles

Diabetics may soon be able to track their blood sugar levels by wearing specially designed contact lenses. Diabetes affects the body?s ability to produce insulin, which results in dangerous spikes in blood sugar levels. Currently, most diabetics must monitor their blood sugar levels by drawing blood. But Chris Geddes, the associate director of the Center for Fluorescence Spectroscopy at the University of Maryland, says diabetics? finger-pricking days are numbered.
To make sugar-sensing contact lenses, a substance is added that glows at varying intensities depending upon the presence or absence of glucose (sugar) in the body. A handheld device flashes a blue light into the eye to measure the intensity of the glow and then determines the individual?s blood sugar level. Many people with diabetes also need glasses or contact lenses because of the way diabetes affects the blood vessels in the retina, so monitoring blood sugar levels with contact lenses makes sense, says Geddes.