Daniel Lemire's blog

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Science and Technology links (January 25th 2020)

  1. Scientists found a way to increase the production of new neurons in the brains of mice, effectively rejuvenating the brains of old mice. (Source: Nature)
  2. How many people died during accidents at nuclear power plants? In North America, the most famous accident happened at Three Mile Island when a reactor overheated, shut down, and small amount of harmless radioactive gas was released. Nobody was harmed.
    In the recent Fukushima accident in Japan, about 50 people died directly as a result of the event. Many more people died following the event, but they did not die due to radiations or exposure to radioactive material. Instead, they mostly died due to the evacuation process, and most of the deaths where elderly or sick people from whom the evacuation was traumatic. It is estimated that infants in the region will see their cancer risk raised by 1% over their lifetime. In comparison the nuclear accident in Chernobyl was more tragic: thousands of people probably died as a result. Should you conclude that nuclear energy is risky? In the seventies, a dam collapsed and killed an estimated 230,000 people. Thus hydro-electric power is far more deadly than nuclear power, when just accounting for this one incident. And, of course, coal power plants are far more deadly than either hydro or nuclear. So we are irrational with respect to our fear of nuclear power. Speaking for myself, I would gladly live and work in a nuclear power plant, though maybe not one designed by the USSR. Furthermore, we now have the technology to build small nuclear reactors that would be orders of magnitude safer, if only we allow it.
  3. Academic researchers continue to fail to report the results of clinical trials in the USA, breaking the law in the process. This can be verified since clinical trials are public events, posted on the Web with the name of the researchers. It would be trivial to identify by name the academic researchers who fail to report the results of their clinical trial. These same clinical trials are typically funded by the government. The lack of compliance has been reported for years.
  4. Japan has 70,000 centenarians.
  5. Topical application of a drug commonly used as an immunodepressor (Rapamycin) appears to rejuvenate the skin of older people.
  6. Researchers were able to regenerate the optical nerve of mice after crushing it. It is believed to be an indication that we could reverse age-related vision loss due to glaucoma or other diseases.
  7. Exercise keeps you healthier, but how the benefits work is a bit unclear. Researchers found that by removing genetically some family of proteins (Sestrins) from flies and mice, they were able to negate the benefits of exercise. In contrast, increasing the production of Sestrins appear to emulate the benefits of exercise. (Source: Nature)
  8. Researchers claim to have found a new form of immunotherapy that would be effective against all cancers. However, it is an early stage and we are not even considering clinical trials at this time.