Wednesday, 30 May 2012

10 Habits of Happy Couples

What does it take to be happy in a relationship? If you’re working to improve your marriage, here are the 10 habits of happy couples.
1. Go to bed at the same time
Remember the beginning of your relationship, when you couldn’t wait to go to bed with each other to make love? Happy couples resist the temptation to go to bed at different times. They go to bed at the same time, even if one partner wakes up later to do things while their partner sleeps. And when their skins touch it still causes each of them to tingle and unless one or both are completely exhausted to feel sexually excited.
2. Cultivate common interests
After the passion settles down, it’s common to realize that you have few interests in common. But don’t minimize the importance of activities you can do together that you both enjoy. If common interests are not present, happy couples develop them. At the same time, be sure to cultivate interests of your own; this will make you more interesting to your mate and prevent you from appearing too dependent.
3. Walk hand in hand or side by side
Rather than one partner lagging or dragging behind the other, happy couples walk comfortably hand in hand or side by side. They know it’s more important to be with their partner than to see the sights along the way.
4. Make trust and forgiveness your default mode
If and when they have a disagreement or argument, and if they can’t resolve it, happy couples default to trusting and forgiving rather than distrusting and begrudging.
5. Focus more on what your partner does right than what he or she does wrong
If you look for things your partner does wrong, you can always find something. If you look for what he or she does right, you can always find something, too. It all depends on what you want to look for. Happy couples accentuate the positive.
6. Hug each other as soon as you see each other after work
Our skin has a memory of “good touch” (loved), “bad touch” (abused) and “no touch” (neglected). Couples who say hello with a hug keep their skin bathed in the “good touch,” which can inoculate your spirit against anonymity in the world.
7. Say “I love you” and “Have a good day” every morning
This is a great way to buy some patience and tolerance as each partner sets out each day to battle traffic jams, long lines and other annoyances.
8. Say “Good night” every night, regardless of how you feel
This tells your partner that, regardless of how upset you are with him or her, you still want to be in the relationship. It says that what you and your partner have is bigger than any single upsetting incident.
9. Do a “weather” check during the day
Call your partner at home or at work to see how his or her day is going. This is a great way to adjust expectations so that you’re more in sync when you connect after work. For instance, if your partner is having an awful day, it might be unreasonable to expect him or her to be enthusiastic about something good that happened to you.
10. Be proud to be seen with your partner
Happy couples are pleased to be seen together and are often in some kind of affectionate contact — hand on hand or hand on shoulder or knee or back of neck. They are not showing off but rather just saying that they belong with each other.
Happy couples have different habits than unhappy couples. A habit is a discrete behavior that you do automatically and that takes little effort to maintain. It takes 21 days of daily repetition of a new a behavior to become a habit. So select one of the behaviors in the list above to do for 21 days and voila, it will become a habit…and make you happier as a couple. And if you fall off the wagon, don’t despair, just apologize to your partner, ask their forgiveness and recommit yourself to getting back in the habit.

How Mobile is Your Marketing? 4 Tactics to Try Today

We’ve come a long way since the first mobile phone call was made in 1973. Back then, the mobile phone weighed a hefty 2 pounds and cost nearly $4K! Fast-forward to 2012 and 70% of the world’s population has a mobile phone. That’s more than 5 billion mobile subscribers, and in the US, that's 9 out of 10 people!
Mobile phones are a way of life that enable us to communicate and interact with each other in real-time. Does this change the way you market your business? It should. Here are 4 tactics to try to connect with customers in ways you never dreamed possible:

1. Create a mobile site
About a year ago we launched a mobile version of our website to capitalize on the roughly 69% of consumers that are using their smartphones for Internet access. This way, when someone is searching for our site on a smartphone, they're presented a mobile-optimized version of our website that is streamlined for mobile usage. We include a call-to-action to sign up for an account to capture any new customers that may be browsing for an email service provider, and we’ve had thousands of signups as a result. Not bad considering these folks might not've signed up otherwise. A little effort can go a long way. And, while slightly less than 5% of our overall traffic is coming from mobile users, we know this is an important channel that will continue to grow.

2. Get Listed
Is your business listed on a mobile directory? Say what, you ask? Yes, that’s right, there are directories specifically for mobile search and if your business isn't listed, you may be missing out on valuable opportunities. Some of these listings and directories include Google Places Mobile, AroundMe and Yahoo! Local Mobile. When someone is searching on a mobile device, it'll recognize where the user is and will deliver search results based on that location. Get your business listed and capture the potential of mobile search.

3. Click to Call
If you’re sending out emails to promote your business, good for you. We’re big fans at VerticalResponse because that’s what we do! We’ve penned a ton of blogs with tips for designing your emails for mobile devices which is a must-do. Heck, we've even written an entire guide about it. But, have you thought about simply including a "click to call" link in your emails? It's a powerful “touch” because with a single click, the recipient can immediately be connected to your business. Quick, simple and effective.

4. Get Social
Social networking websites like Foursquare and Facebook Places use the smartphone's GPS to enable users to “check in” at different locations around their neighborhood, or around the world. If you haven’t already, set up your business page on these sites and others like them so customers can actively engage with your business and help spread the word when they post their check-in to their social networks. Then, their friends will see the check-in and see your business. It's simple word of mouth marketing, without the mouth.

There you have it. 4 things to take action on with your marketing to get mobile-friendly. Let me know how it works for you!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

hairy blue tarantula

A blue tarantula, a sneezing monkey and the Spongebob Squarepants mushroom - meet some of the amazing new species discovered this year

Click here to find out more!
Among other discoveries are an orchid that only blooms at night, a parasitic wasp and tiny worm that lives almost a mile underground
A blue Sazima's Tarantula (Pterinopelma sazimai)
A blue Sazima's Tarantula (Pterinopelma sazimai)
It’s an arachnophobe’s worst nightmare: this huge, hairy, bright blue spider has been recently discovered by scientists.
Thankfully, unless you live among the tabletop mountains of eastern Brazil, you’re unlikely to find the Sazima’s tarantula scurrying across your bathtub.
The scarily hairy tarantula is on a list of the top 10 "bizarre and unusual" new species discovered in the last year.
Also on the list, chosen by a committee of leading scientists, is a sneezing monkey, a mushroom named after Spongebob Squarepants and an orchid that only blooms at night.
A venomous jellyfish, giant millipede, parasitic wasp and a tiny worm that lives almost a mile underground are also among the top 10, chosen from among 200 nominated animals and plants described for the first time last year.

Spongebob Squarepants Mushroom
Spongebob Squarepants Mushroom (Spongiforma squarepantsii)
A Sneezing Monkey
Sneezing Monkey (Rhinopithecus strykeri)
A Devil's Worm
Devil's Worm (Halicephalobus mephisto)
Box Jelly
Box Jelly (Tamoya ohboya)
The "sneezing monkey", Rhinopithecus strykeri, was found by scientists conducting a gibbon survey in the high mountains of Burma.
The critically endangered snub-nosed monkey has a distinctive white beard and sneezes when it rains.
Also on the list is the Bonaire banded box jelly, a colourful and venomous jellyfish found near the Dutch Caribbean island of Bonaire.
Its scientific name, Tamoya ohboya, was chosen because of an assumption that anyone stung by the creature is likely to exclaim "oh boy!".
The night-blooming orchid, named Bulbophyllum nocturnum, by scientists from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, was discovered in Papua New Guinea. Its flowers open at around 10pm and close early the next morning.
The Devil's worm is one of the weirdest new critters. Measuring just half a millimetre, it was found at a depth of 1.3 kilometres, or 0.8 of a mile, in a South African gold mine where temperatures reach 37C.
The worm is the deepest living multicellular terrestrial organism on Earth. It was named Halicephalobus mephisto after mestopheles, the demon in the Faust legend.

A giant Millipede
A giant Millipede (Crurifarcimen vagans)
A Night-blooming Orchid
Night-blooming Orchid (Bulbophyllum nocturnum)
A Nepalese poppy
Nepalese poppy (Meconopsis autumnalis)
A Walking Cactus
Walking Cactus
A small attack wasp
A small attack wasp (Kollasmosoma sentum)

The list is published each year by the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University in the US.
A committee of international scientists made the selection based on "bizarre and unusual" traits that make certain species stand out.
The list commemorates the birth on May 23 1707 of Carolus Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist who devised the modern system of animal and plant classification.
"The top 10 is intended to bring attention to the biodiversity crisis and the unsung species explorers and museums who continue a 250-year tradition of discovering and describing the millions of kinds of plants, animals and microbes with whom we share this planet," said institute director Professor Quentin Wheeler.
"The more species we discover, the more amazing the biosphere proves to be, and the better prepared we are to face whatever environmental challenges lie ahead."
Prof Wheeler added: "Each species provides a unique chapter in the history of life and unless we discover them now, we stand to lose an enormous amount of irreplaceable evidence about our own origins and relatives."

Tippy-Top Target for Next Mars Rover

Credit: NASA/HiRISE/University of Arizona

When NASA's next rover, now dubbed Curiosity, arrives at Mars on 6 August, its prime target will be the base of Mount Sharp, the 5-kilometer-high mound of sediments in the middle of Gale crater. Mars researchers have no idea how those sediments got there. But a pair of geologists is now suggesting that at least the top third of Mount Sharp is volcanic ash that fell out of the sky surprisingly early in Mars's history. The so-called Medusae Fossae Formation (left) covers a third of the martian equatorial region, some patches of it being near Gale crater. Orbital imaging suggests it is ash from massive eruptions. It bears a striking resemblance to layered deposits high up Mount Sharp (right), the researchers note online today in Science. By counting accumulated impact craters, the team has also found that the two deposits were laid down at about the same time, 3.8 billion years ago. If they are indeed one in the same deposit, Curiosity could probe beneath the thin coating of dust that obscures all of the deposit and confirm its true nature. That's assuming the rover survives long enough to range far up the mysterious mound.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Infertility: Prevent And Tackle!

There's an alarming growth of infertility among young Indian women. What are the top reasons for it, when should you raise an alarm and visit a specialist? Here's some know-how.

Ask Dr Kaberi

Women are born with a fixed pool of eggs: One to two million at birth, 3,00,000-5,00,000 at puberty, which reduces to about 25,000 when a woman turn 37, and further goes down to 1,000 by the time she hits menopause. From 32, the ability to conceive per monthly cycle decreases gradually but significantly, and goes down rapidly after 37 - which shows a decrease in the egg quality. Lack of sexual activity is also a contributing factor.

Why Is Infertility On The Rise?

Latest research indicates that 10 percent of urban Indian couples in their reproductive age are infertile. However with women of 35 years of age and above, it is as high as 30-40 percent. The rising stats are due to the social changes in the past decade and a half. More women are focusing on their careers and are marrying late. The very process of planning for a baby is delayed.

Even today, most women are unaware of the exponential decline of fertility after the age of 35. Media highlights of celebrity wives and actors conceiving late in life are another negative influence on women. Most of us are unaware that these may be aided pregnancies. A high-powered career and pressure at work may also lead to a reduction in the sperm count of the man, or affect the woman's body negatively.

When Should You Visit A Doctor?

A couple should visit a specialist if they've had sex about 3-4 times a week for more than a year, and failed to conceive. However, women 35 years of age and above, who have been detected with a gynaecological issue such as polycystic ovaries, fibroids, endometriosis or pelvic tuberculosis, should visit a doctor immediately after the tests have shown positive for any of the above mentioned conditions. The actual treatment for infertility can be a mentally, financially and physically draining process for a couple. So it's best to be prepared!*

Top Reasons For Infertility
The main reasons for infertility are divided into four categories: Male factor, female factor, unexplained or both. Broadly speaking, each category is responsible for one fourth of the causes.

The man may have low-quality sperm, or there may be an absence of sperms. This could be because of birth anomalies, hormonal imbalances, an infection, trauma, or excessive smoking and intake of alcohol.

The "women" factor covers ovarian, tubal or uterine factors; poor egg quality possibly due to an infection, injury, cancer treatment, or increasing age. Endometriosis, polycystic ovary, fibroids and tuberculosis are other major causes of infertility among women.

How Can You Prevent It?
  • Try to conceive before you turn 33.
  • Try to lead a stress-free and happy life. Draw the line at the end of the day; cut off from work concerns, learn to relax.
  • Follow healthy lifestyle habits: Eat a well-balanced diet, drink plenty of fluids and say "no" to alcohol and smoking. Make exercise a part of your daily routine.
  • Practise meditation and yoga: It calms the mind and body.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Donate Your Sperms and Give a New Life

Being a mother and a father is a great feeling, but some couples are not lucky enough to get this feeling. In some cases, like in case of lesbians, single women, and couples with infertile males use this method to get pregnant. A sperm donor is a male person who donates his sperm for the purpose of assisting other couples in getting a baby who cannot have a baby of their own. The main intention of the sperm donor in donating sperm is to help a woman in conception. The sperms donated by the donor are stored in the sperm bank under specific temperature and controlled conditions.

If you are looking for a clinic, then you can either visit a fertility clinic or choose for home donation. Sperm donation is legal and has helped millions of couples all around the globe to be lucky enough to have a baby. It has been the best way to get your own baby. There are some misconceptions hovering over about sperm donation. Listed below are some facts about sperm donation:
  1. You can get sperm banks all across the globe. 
  2. In many of the cases you get paid for donating sperm.  
  3. The medical history of the donor is first scrutinized before the sperms are accepted.
  4. Sperms are stored under control condition in safe and secure manner.
  5. The donor is not liable for the expenses of the new born baby who has stepped into the world because of his sperm.

It is important that you compare all the available options when looking for a donation clinic. Be sure that the clinics you are choosing possess all the legal credentials and certificates required to practice such procedures. You can search for a good reputed donation clinic over the internet. Internet will make the task of finding a good donation clinic in your area easy for you. Within few clicks, you will be returned with a list of clinics.

Sperm donation may have psychological effects. It could be a big decision, so it is important that you consult your family members before making your final decision. There are certain laws of every country, so be sure that you have the knowledge about the laws of your country or state. Sperm donation is the best solution for couples who cannot have their own child. You can simply visit any donation clinic to donate sperms and give a new life.

What Photographers Must Know About Using Extreme Wide Angle Lenses Click Here: What Photographers Must Know About Using Extreme Wide Angle Lenses

Many photographers dream of owning one of the super wide lenses. Not a fisheye but a lens so wide it verges on fisheye. However as well as being expensive, there are some steep learning curves to overcome when using such wide lenses. In this brief article we will discuss a few of the more prominent ones and some ways of using these lenses to get get good images.
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Wide Angles can create dramatic all encompassing images
One of the first things that takes some getting used to is the exaggerated perspective, in other words where the foreground and background seem to been stretched far apart. This can make composition difficult and you need to think about your foreground a lot more than with a normal range lens. To get the best out of a foreground subject you will need to move in really close, depending on the size of the subject – sometime within a few centimeters. It is here that you will really start to notice the effect of the rule of thirds on your composition, getting your subject on a third whilst leading the eye to the now distant background can be a challenge and requires careful positioning. Super wides can work well by positioning a horizon on the upper third and filling the lower two thirds with an interesting subject matter, this works particularly well on landscape photographs.
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Use the foreground carefully
Another compositional conundrum with super wides is converging verticals. As with all lenses pointing the camera up or down when shooting, for example architecture, will cause the lines of the building to converge. This effect is greatly exaggerated with a super wide. Some solutions include getting further back at making sure the camera is pointing level to the vanishing point, finding an elevated position or using the converging verticals as a feature of the image, creating a dramatic, abstract look.
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Using converging verticals for dramatic effect
Super wides can be great for interior shots, particularly cathedrals and other large spaces. The converging vertical issue is prevalent here as well but the points above are equally useful for interiors. Look for lines to lead your eye into the image.
One thing super wides are really great for are symmetrical shots. The exaggerated perspective combines well with a symmetrical subject often producing striking, abstract images.
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Look for symmetry
One of the great advantages of super wides is their immense depth of field at most apertures. This is extremely useful for landscape photography where you want a good foreground subject to lead the eye to the sweeping vista behind and need both to have good focus. However, with a fast super wide you can also create dramatic images by coming in super close to your subject, focusing directly on that subject with a wide aperture. The resulting image will draw the eye straight to the subject matter whilst maintaining a dramatic, but out of focus background.
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The different effects of depth of field
One of the biggest issues with a super wide lens it that of flare. Because the lens is taking in a large field of view and will often have an extremely convex front element, the chance of light falling onto the element is high. Because of their nature, lens hoods have to be short and stubby and not actually that great at shielding the light. Be aware of the position of the sun or other lights and check you images carefully, one technique for reducing lens flare is to put the camera on a tripod and position your body, just out of shot, to shield the light.
Another issue is that of filters. Some super wides have such convex elements that they cannot take standard filters, the Nikon 14-24mm 2.8 is a classic example. Others may have filter threads but at their widest aperture you may start getting vignetting even using just one filter. There are some manufacturers that produce filters with thin rims to help overcome this problem.
One of the hardest filters to use on a wide angle is a polarizer. Because of the wide sweep of sky that can be included in shot, when trying to punch out a crisp blue sky, you may find that some of the extremities of that sky will go so dark as to appear almost black. Monitor this carefully and if doubt shoot a series of shots with the polarizer at different angles.
So, this is just a very few hints and tips on using these versatile but difficult lenses. One of the great things about super wides is that you can break all the usual rules of composition and still end up with stunning shots.
Jason Row is a British born travel photographer now living in Ukraine. You can follow him on Facebook or visit his site, The Odessa Files. He also maintains a blog chronicling his exploits as an Expat in the former Soviet Union

A Photographer’s Guide to the Gorgeous Colours of Venice Click Here: A Photographer’s Guide to the Gorgeous Colours of Venice

It’s romantic, beautiful and a photographer’s paradise yet Venice can at times be a hard place to photograph. It is one of the most visited cities in the world and as such you can have a frustrating time trying to capture its beauty. In this short guide we will show some of the place to see and when to see them.
For Europeans, Venice is highly accessible with numerous budget and full cost airlines flying to Marco Polo airport on the mainland. Non Europeans will be able to connect via most European capitals. There are also very good train links from other Italian cities.
As a photographer the best time to go is the spring or autumn, April/May and late September through to late October. The reasons for this are that it is less crowded, cooler and the light is less harsh than mid summer. Hotels on the main islands are expensive but off peak you may find deals.
The other option is to stay on the mainland and take the train or water bus to the city but you need to factor in the time that this takes plus the additional costs. Water buses are the very best way to see Venice itself and the network covers the whole of the lagoon. Budget wise it is best to buy a multi day pass which will enable you to travel any bus at any time during it’s validity.
What to Shoot in Venice
Perhaps the most iconic location in Venice is St Mark’s Square and in my opinion there is only one time to shoot it – early. Plan on getting to the square either on foot or by water taxi about 45 minutes before sunrise. At this time the square is deserted and as the sun rises, the light is truly magical. The water front by St Marks is a great place to shoot Venetian life before the tourists arrive, waiters setting up their tables, elderly Italian’s sitting in the sun reading the morning newspaper and the unmanned Gondolas make fantastic foregrounds to the cityscape shots. From sunrise you will have perhaps 90 minutes of good shooting time before the crowds arrive.
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Dawn near St Marks Square
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Before the crowds arrive for the day
As the crowds do arrive, it is worth a walk to the nearby Arsenal, the very photogenic old fort of the city and largely ignored by tourists. A bridge crosses the canal in front of the grand entrance and makes a great viewpoint for shooting from.
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The Arsenal – A 10 minute walk from St Marks
By now, the heat of the day will be kicking in and the light can get a little harsh. Shooting-wise, now is the best time to wander the alleys and backstreets. It is here that you will find fantastic little details such as Venetian masks in shop windows or quirky stuff on buildings such as lion shaped door knockers. The light and shade in the back streets can be used to create images with great atmosphere and the streets themselves tend to remain quiet through the day. Be careful with your exposure here, the contrast between the shadows and the highlights can be very high, expose to get definition in the highlights and if needed pull the shadows back in the post production.
Venice is so full of details that you can spend many hours just photographing them. So many of the buildings feature multiple arches and these can make great frames for a wider shot Another thing to do during the middle of the day is to take a water bus along the Grand Canal. Put on a good long lens and find a spot by the boat’s side and you will find fantastic shots all along the canal, from the suave Italian water taxi drivers to the the delivery boats and even emergency boats such as police and fire whizzing past.
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In the heat of the day, look for the details
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Venetian Traffic Jam
Towards the end of the day and into the early evening is a great time to shoot the bridges. The golden light makes the Rialto Bridge almost luminescent whilst further down the Grand Canal at the Scalzi Bridge, there is some great opportunities to get night shots of the bridge itself as well as some of the surrounding architecture. Many of the main sights of Venice are well lit at night and the hour just after sunset, whilst there is still some blueness in the sky, is a great time to shoot these.
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Rush Hour Venice Style
There is so much to shoot in Venice that this short article can only give you just a taster of it. It is a wonderful place to just wander with a camera, there are great shots around every corner. One little non-photographic tip – eating in Venice can be horrendously expensive, but if you look in the back streets, away from the tourist hot spots you will find plenty of cafe’s catering for the locals. Here you will find great food at reasonable prices.

7 Ways Quitting Smoking Makes You Beautiful

By now, it’s abundantly clear that quitting smoking can help save your life. The facts don’t lie: 80 to 90 percent of lung cancer deaths are due to smoking, and smokers are six times more likely to suffer heart attacks than nonsmokers. Every year, smoking causes almost 450,000 deaths in the United States alone. But if good health isn’t enough to entice you to quit smoking, then think about the cosmetic risks of smoking. Smoking negatively affects your skin, your eyes, and your teeth. The good news? Quitting smoking can help you look more vibrant and healthy — which is exactly how you’ll feel, too.

Brighten Your Eyes

One side effect of smoking is skin damage all over your body, and one area where you will definitely see the damage is around your eyes. “The skin under the eyes is very delicate, and smoking damages this delicate tissue,” says Pat Folan, RN, the director of the North Shore-LIJ Center for Tobacco Control in Great Neck, N.Y. “Quitting smoking may have restorative benefits.”

Put the Brakes on Wrinkles

Smoking can cause wrinkles all over your body, says Jenny A. Van Amburgh, PharmD, associate clinical professor at the Northeastern University Bouve College of Health Sciences in Boston. “The thousands of chemicals in cigarette smoke cause a breakdown in the major structural components of the skin — elastin and collagen,” she explains. “When these components are damaged, your skin loses its firmness, elasticity, and strength.” Another side effect of smoking is premature aging of the skin from the nicotine, which causes blood vessels to narrow, decreasing blood flow to the skin and resulting in a decrease in the amount of oxygen and nutrients available to skin cells.

Perk Up Your Breasts

Smoking doesn't just cause surface wrinkles. Damage to skin cells can cause skin on certain areas of the body to sag. “The chemicals in cigarettes cause skin to sag and lose elasticity and tone, and this can cause sagging of the upper arms and breasts,” says Folan. “In addition, studies have linked breast cancer to smoking and secondhand smoke exposure.”

Reverse Tooth Staining

Not surprisingly, the tar and nicotine passing through your lips and into your lungs have a big impact on the health of your mouth as well. In fact, one of the first easily visible side effects of smoking is yellow teeth. Luckily, quitting smoking can reverse this effect. “Most changes in the mouth due to smoking are reversible, including bad breath and yellowed teeth,” says Abinash Achrekar MD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine in the division of cardiology at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. “Unfortunately, oral cancers can develop that are not as easily reversible.”

Save Your Lips and Gums

Your teeth aren’t the only part of your mouth negatively impacted by smoking. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, the risks from smoking and other tobacco products can also lead to oral cancer, bad breath, discoloration of gums, tooth loss, lost sense of taste, gum recession, and mouth sores. “Smokers usually get burns on their lips or the inside of their cheeks, which can resolve when they quit. People who quit smoking will see an improvement in their breath and sense of taste,” says Van Amburgh.

Rid Your Nails of Stains

Here’s a side effect of smoking that some smokers aren’t even aware of: ugly stains on hands and fingers, particularly the fingers that hold all those cigarettes. “After you quit smoking, you will notice a line on your fingernail between the new-growth nail (non-stained) and the stained nail,” says Van Amburgh. “Eventually, the new nail will replace the stained nail. In many people, the stains on their fingers will eventually fade.”

Put a Shine on Your Hair

Even your hair will show more shine and luster, and possibly stay in place longer, when you finally get around to quitting smoking. “The 7,000 chemicals in cigarettes affect every cell in the body, including hair follicles,” says Folan. “Smoking has been associated with hair loss.” Quitting smoking makes your hair look and smell better as the lingering “ashtray” odor is gone.

20 Reader Tips to Stop Smoking for Good

Are you among the 70 percent of smokers who wish you could quit? Then you probably know firsthand that quitting smoking is not easy, and usually requires multiple attempts before you successfully stop. But quitting smoking for good is possible: According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, about 48 million adults are former smokers; there are more former smokers in the nation than current smokers.
And many of them are Everyday Health Facebook fans, who recently shared the strategies that helped them kick butt. Here are some of our favorite motivational tips and inspirational stories.

Keep an Inspiring List

"I smoked two packs a day from age 15 to 35 and quit cold turkey 15 years ago. I wrote down all the reasons for quitting and looked at them several times a day. I kept a running total of how much money I was saving. I kept lots of hard candies. I scrubbed my house and car so they smelled good. And I walked when I really needed a smoke. The first three weeks were miserable. The next year was challenging. The second year I realized how much better I felt and freer I was." — Sharon Blavier Hargrove.

Start a Healthy Hobby

"I gave up smoking and picked up running. The fitter I got, the less I wanted to ruin that feeling by smoking." — Janice Gadd.

Find a Go-To Healthy Snack

"The hand-to-mouth habit is hard to break; hence why people typically gain weight, so I recommend almonds to snack on." — Tara Smith Caron
"I used lollipops at first but then I switched to baby carrot sticks because I didn’t want to put on weight. I never even noticed that my pants were getting tighter until I couldn't get into them. I have gained a lot of weight since the day I quit, but I would take that because dieting is a lot easier and less drastic than dying." — Celeste Lamasa.

Hang With Non-Smoking Pals

"Quitting is easy when you hang out with people who don’t smoke." — Erica Field
"I had to stay away from people who smoked and never picked up [a cigarette] again. Just like any other addiction, you can't have just one. I’ve been smoke-free for 10 years." — Joan Campbell Kramer.

Stop When You're Expecting

"I quit when I got pregnant. [It was] easy, because it wasn't about me... It was about the little baby growing inside of me." — Casey Strabley
"I smoked but would stop while I was pregnant and start again after the baby was born. But when I got pregnant with my third baby, I took one last hit and never smoked again. My babies’ health is too important. When you smoke it’s on your clothes and your hair and I didn't want my kids breathing that. My baby also had really bad ear infections and smoking would've made things worse. My kids are the reason I quit." — Tiffany Castile.

Use the Patch

"I smoked for 15 years, quit cold turkey a few times, then I wound up starting again, so the last time I really wanted to quit — which makes the difference; you have to want to quit — I used the patch. It’s been five years since I quit, and I can't stand the smell of the smoke on people. That's what keeps me from starting again: I don't want to smell like that!" — Kimberly Campbell.

Rely on Your Faith

"I smoked for 17 years and started getting sick of the smell all over everything! I prayed the night before my birthday that he would take [cigarette cravings] from me. When I awoke on Dec. 7, 2009 I didn't smoke again and haven't wanted to since. I saw too many of my loved ones die from cancer and refused to let that take me too!" — Patrice Grant
"I prayed and asked God to take away the desire to smoke. I used patches and chewing gum. It's been 20 years and I have not smoked another one. Now I can't stand to even smell them!" — Mary Hall.

Seek Out Support

"I quit cold turkey, but I was successful because of two co-workers who were supportive. They brought me things to chew on and would come take me walking. I don't know if I would have made it without them." — Sandy Akers.

Read a Helpful Book

"I read The Easy Way to Quit Smoking by Allen Carr … It worked for me and a few of my friends." — Amanda Gill.

Consider Your Cancer Risk

"[I stopped] cold turkey! My best friend was diagnosed with breast cancer and it [spread] to her bones. When the cancer went to her brain, I quit — for myself, and my son! Watching her slowly die was one of the worst things I ever had to do. But I had to be there for her. If that wasn't enough to make you want to quit, I don't know what would! It’s been five years, and I crave a cig once in a while. I breathe in and out think of something different and then it’s gone!" — Pam Goodwin McGee
"I quit cold turkey five years ago. My grandmother passed away from cancer and emphysema; watching her suffer and smother was all I needed." — Dana Brantley McMullan.

Quit for Your Kids

"I gave up [smoking] 25 years ago when my 4-year-old was imitating me with a cigarette while she was playing with her dolls! I was a pack-a-day smoker, and am happy I quit. Our mind is a powerful thing ... make up your mind and stick to it!" — Simona Vasquez
"I quit July 1982 after my 5-year-old son came into kitchen pretending to "smoke like mommy does.” Immediately threw out the rest of the pack, and have never looked back. It can be done. Where there is a will, there is a way!" — Eileen Kaye Carter.

Stop for Your Grandkids

"I smoked for 40-plus years when my grandson started visiting regularly, and everyone who was a smoker had to go outside. There was no smoking around my angel! I realized there is no cigarette worth more than my grandson, and dirtying my lungs was no longer a priority; my grandson was. It’s been three years now, and oh don’t get me wrong, it was very hard and sometimes I crave a cig. But I want to be able to breathe when playing with my little boy. Look at what’s important to you — a cigarette or your life!" — Deborah Irene Green Beecham.

Go One Day at a Time

"Getting through that first day was hard. Giving up the morning smoke was impossible — it made my day unbearable. Finally [on the day I ultimately quit] I allowed myself to have the morning smoke. Once I had one "day" under my belt, it was an investment that made the following days easier." — Thomas G Schell.

Pick a Milestone Birthday

"Last January, I quit after smoking for 16 years. I had always said I would quit before I turned 30, which I just did a few weeks ago. I no longer enjoyed it, so I waited until the cravings were just absolutely unbearable, and I would smoke a part of a cigarette. After a few re-lights they would taste terrible, and I would get nauseated and light-headed. After three days of this, I found I just couldn't stomach the thought of smoking, even though I wanted it. I was done." — Abby Sheetz.

Consider Hypnosis

"I went to a hypnotist on July 16, 1991, and haven't smoked since." — Connie Connell Ingersoll.

Change Your Outlook

"I just realized that I'm far too precious and valuable to be poisoning myself. Once I started looking at things that nourish my body, mind, and spirit versus things that are toxic to it, I began to have a great deal of love for myself and choose not to fill my body full of toxins. Self-love is good motivation. I just finally decided to be my best friend." — Dezarae Starnes.

Try Toothpicks

"I had promised myself I would quit at 50, which I did. I chewed cinnamon toothpicks! Just to make sure my lungs were healing I participated in a British Columbia Lung Cancer Project one year later. The test confirmed that I had the lungs of a 47-year-old with no cancer — [quitting] was so worth it!" — Sheryl Beach.

Keep Yourself Busy

"Someone told me whatever you do, don't keep smoking after age 40. At age 38 I quit cold turkey on January 1, 1990. That following December, I gave birth to my beautiful daughter, my only child. I substituted cigarettes with cough drops and a lot of coffee. It was very hard but I got through it. One thing I do remember, I couldn't believe how much more time I had by stopping. You have to keep yourself busy." — Catherine V. Ackerman
"I [haven’t smoked] for 10 years now. I just changed my routine. I put cigarettes out of reach where I would have to think before lighting up. [I made myself wait] so gradually the craving would diminish, but it was rough at first. And I did have a couple of puffs, which made me sick, and so I didn’t do that anymore. The best thing is keep your hands busy and be committed. If you don't have the commitment to doing it, you are not gonna make it." — Tonie Lesia Dalton.

Distract Yourself With Candy

"I smoked for about 20 years and about five years ago I took the first step and stopped smoking indoors (my house, other peoples’ homes, etc.), which helped me to cut down. Last November I decided one day to quit. I had smoked my last cigarette on the way home from work the night before and told myself I wouldn’t buy anymore. So I bought myself a bag of Dum-Dum suckers, and would take them to the places outside where I normally smoked. Within two weeks the cravings were practically gone, and I have been nicotine-free for a little more than six months now!" — Traci L. Henry.

Learn From a Health Scare

"I collapsed at home from an asthma attack. (Yes, I was stupid and smoked with asthma). But after my heart stopped twice, both lungs collapsed, and I had to be intubated, I woke up two days later, luckily with no brain damage … yeah, I quit!" — Donna McArthur Hill
"I smoked for 23 years, then had a heart attack and double bypass [surgery] and then quit cold turkey. I haven’t had any urges to smoke since. I don’t like the smell and have been smoke-free for five years." — Cathy Lockhart Hall.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Spider-Phobes May Get Quick Relief

Fear of spiders, a type of anxiety disorder, may be treatable in a single therapy session, according to a small new study.
People with a lifelong spider phobia were able to touch or hold a tarantula after a two- or three-hour therapy session, and the effectiveness of the therapy continued for at least six months, the Northwestern University researchers reported.
The lasting changes in the brain's response to fear after short-term therapy seen in this study offer new directions for treating other phobias and anxiety disorders, the researchers said.
"Before treatment, some of these participants wouldn't walk on grass for fear of spiders or would stay out of their home ... for days if they thought a spider was present," lead author Katherina Hauner, a postdoctoral fellow in neurology, said in a university news release.
"But after a two- or three-hour treatment, they were able to walk right up and touch or hold a tarantula," she said. "And they could still touch it [six months later]. They were thrilled by what they accomplished."
Functional MRI brain scans revealed that the regions of the brain associated with fear response lit up with activity when the 12 adult participants simply looked at photos of spiders.
The participants were then asked to gradually approach a tarantula in a terrarium but, on average, could get no closer than 10 feet.
As part of the therapy, the participants were taught about tarantulas and learned that their terror-causing beliefs about them were not true.
"They thought the tarantula might be capable of jumping out of the cage and onto them," Hauner said. "Some thought the tarantula was capable of planning something evil to purposefully hurt them. I would teach them the tarantula is fragile and more interested in trying to hide herself."
The participants learned to approach the tarantula in slow steps until they could touch the outside of the terrarium. They progressed to touching the tarantula with a paintbrush and a glove, and eventually to petting it or holding it with their bare hands.
Following therapy, brain scans showed that the participants had much lower levels of activity in the fear-response regions of the brain when they looked at photos of spiders. This reduced activity was still seen six months after therapy.
The study was published May 21 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Fear of spiders is considered a specific phobia, a type of anxiety disorder affecting about 7 percent of the population, the news release noted.
SOURCE: Northwestern University, news release, May 24, 2012

Scientists turn skin cells into beating heart muscle

Scientists have for the first time succeeded in taking skin cells from patients with heart failure and transforming them into healthy, beating heart tissue that could one day be used to treat the condition.
The researchers, based in Haifa, Israel, said there were still many years of testing and refining ahead. But the results meant they might eventually be able to reprogram patients' cells to repair their own damaged hearts.
"We have shown that it's possible to take skin cells from an elderly patient with advanced heart failure and end up with his own beating cells in a laboratory dish that are healthy and young - the equivalent to the stage of his heart cells when he was just born," said Lior Gepstein from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, who led the work.
The researchers, whose study was published in the European Heart Journal on Wednesday, said clinical trials of the technique could begin within 10 years.
Heart failure is a debilitating condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood around the body. It has become more prevalent in recent decades as advances medical science mean many more people survive heart attacks.
At the moment, people with severe heart failure have to rely on mechanical devices or hope for a transplant.
Researchers have been studying stem cells from various sources for more than a decade, hoping to capitalize on their ability to transform into a wide variety of other kinds of cell to treat a range of health conditions.
There are two main forms of stem cells - embryonic stem cells, which are harvested from embryos, and reprogrammed "human induced pluripotent stem cells" (hiPSCs), often originally from skin or blood.
Gepstein's team took skin cells from two men with heart failure - aged 51 and 61 - and transformed them by adding three genes and then a small molecule called valproic acid to the cell nucleus.
They found that the resulting hiPSCs were able to differentiate to become heart muscle cells, or cardiomyocytes, just as effectively as hiPSCs that had been developed from healthy, young volunteers who acted as controls for the study.
The team was then able to make the cardiomyocytes develop into heart muscle tissue, which they grew in a laboratory dish together with existing cardiac tissue.
Within 24 to 48 hours the two types of tissue were beating together, they said.
In a final step of the study, the new tissue was transplanted into healthy rat hearts and the researchers found it began to establish connections with cells in the host tissue.
"We hope that hiPSCs derived cardiomyocytes will not be rejected following transplantation into the same patients from which they were derived," Gepstein said. "Whether this will be the case or not is the focus of active investigation."
Experts in stem cell and cardiac medicine who were not involved in Gepstein's work praised it but also said there was a lot to do before it had a chance of becoming an effective treatment.
"This is an interesting paper, but very early and it's really important for patients that the promise of such a technique is not over-sold," said John Martin a professor of cardiovascular medicine at University College London.
"The chances of translation are slim and if it does work it would take around 15 years to come to clinic."
Nicholas Mills, a consultant cardiologist at Edinburgh University said the technology needs to be refined before it could be used for patients with heart failure, but added: "These findings are encouraging and take us a step closer to ... identifying an effective means of repairing the heart."

5 Surprising Summer Allergies

Memorial day is the unofficial start of summer and avoiding a few nasty surprises can help you breathe easily during the next few months.
The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology is calling attention to five asthma and allergy triggers that can derail your fun this summer.
  1. Bugs. Stings can be painful and even life-threatening. Be careful around open sodas and other sweet foods and drinks when you're outside These can lure stinging insects. If you react badly, talk to your allergist about carrying epinephrine to use after a sting.
  2. Chlorine. This pool chemical can cause asthma flare-ups in some people.
  3. Campfire smoke. This, too, can bring on asthma symptoms. Be sure to sit upwind.
  4. Weather changes. Wind can circulate pollen and mold, triggering allergy symptoms in some people.
  5. Fruits and vegetables. Certain types, like peaches, apples, and melons, can cause tingling in the mouth in some people, especially people with pollen allergies.
If you have allergies or asthma, talk to your doctor about how to keep your symptoms under control this summer!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

CHIP antibiodies

Why is ChIP such a useful technique?

ChIP dissects the spatial and temporal dynamics and interactions of chromatin and its associated factors. This technique allows us to map minute-by-minute changes at a single promoter, or alternatively, follow a single transcription factor over the entire human genome. ChIP is very versatile and can give us significant insight into how genes are regulated in their natural context.
The principle of ChIP is simple: the selective enrichment of a chromatin fraction containing a specific antigen. Antibodies that recognize a protein or protein modification of interest can be used to determine the relative abundance of that antigen at one or more locations (loci) in the genome. The most commonly ‘chipped’ chromatin is euchromatin. This material contains active genes and maintains an open and extended structure in order to play an important role in transcription, DNA repair and gene replication. By contrast heterochromatin, which contains many inactive genes, is difficult to analyze by ChIP, not least because of its condensed state and generally repetitive DNA sequence.
Here we provide some further insights into the ChIP technique to compliment our X-ChIP and N-ChIP protocols, provided by collaborators and the Abcam team, which we hope will help you troubleshoot this powerful method.

What is ChIP?

ChIP is used to determine whether a given protein binds to a specific DNA sequence in vivo. The ChIP procedure consists of the following steps:
  1. Isolation of total chromatin
  2. Fragmentation of the chromatin (to achieve resolution)
  3. Immunoprecipitation of the resulting chromatin fragments
  4. Analysis of the immunoprecipitated fraction to determine the amount of a target DNA sequence (or  sequences) relative to its abundance in the input chromatin.
(For a full literature review of the technique in its various forms read our ChIP article written by Dr. Graeme Cuthbert and Dr. Andy Bannister, University of Cambridge.)


Cross-linking of DNA and proteins is often required to stabilise their interactions before analysis. ChIP can be performed in two different ways depending on whether you opt to cross-link your chromatin sample: if you cross-link your sample then the technique is termed “X-ChIP,” otherwise it is referred to as “N-ChIP.”

To cross-link or not to cross-link?

The aim of cross-linking is to fix the antigen of interest to its chromatin binding site. Histones themselves generally do not need to be cross-linked, as they are already tightly associated with the DNA.
Other DNA binding proteins that have a weaker affinity for DNA or histones may need to be cross-linked. This holds them in place and avoids protein dissociating from the chromatin binding site.
Tip: The further away from the DNA your interaction of interest lies then the less effective ChIP will be without cross-linking. E.g. ChIP for histone modifications is unlikely to require cross-linking whereas non-histone proteins such as transcription factors and proteins contained in DNA binding complexes will probably need cross-linking.

How do I cross-link?

Use formaldehyde, as the links it forms are reversible. See our N-ChIP and X-ChIP protocols for details. UV cross-linking is not appropriate as it is irreversible.

Can I cross-link too much?

Yes. Cross-linking is a time-critical procedure. Cross-linking should generally only be carried out for a few minutes. Excessive cross-linking can lead to a decrease in the amount of protein bound to the DNA, reduction in the availability of epitopes/changes in epitopes for antibody binding and, in turn, reductions in the material bound/antigen availability in your sample.
Tip: always perform a time-course experiment to optimize cross-linking conditions.

Chromatin fragmentation

Fragmentation of the chromatin is required to make interactions accessible to antibody reagents. To fragment chromatin, you can either sonicate it or digest it with using micrococcal nuclease. Which method you choose will largely depend upon the type of ChIP experiment being performed.

N-ChIP with enzymatic digestion

Enzymatic digestion, with micrococcal nuclease, should be sufficient to fragment your sample for performing N-ChIP. N-ChIP does not call for cross-linking and so there will be no potential affects on the enzyme accessing its target. Using the enzymatic technique it is possible to generate single monosomes (~175 base pairs), providing the highest resolution in ChIP.
Nucleosomes are dynamic and without cross-linking they may rearrange during the enzymatic digestion. This is a potential problem if you wish to map areas of the genome, and suitable controls must be used to monitor any changes (see Detection — controls for quantitative PCR).
Tip: Enzymatic cleavage will not produce “random” sections of chromatin. Miccrococcal nuclease favors certain areas of genome sequence over others and will not digest DNA evenly or equally. Results may not be entirely accurate as certain loci could be over represented and some data may be missed.
How do I get consistency in my digestions?Be sure to aliquot your stock enzyme after purchase and run a new time course with a fresh aliquot every time you set up an experiment. Although enzyme quality may vary over time in storage, the risk of variation within chromatin preparations (degree of compaction etc.) is far higher — one chromatin sample should not be treated as being the same as all others before it.
Tip: X-ChIP should be carried out as a control experiment when doing N-ChIP to assess any dynamic and unwanted changes resulting from the absence of cross-linking.

X-ChIP and sonication

Typically, sonication is necessary for X-ChIP as formaldehyde cross-linking restricts the access of enzymes such as micrococcal nuclease to their targets, meaning that enzymatic digestion will normally be inefficient on cross-linked samples.
Sonication is generally believed to create randomly sized DNA fragments, with no section of the genome being preferentially cleaved. The fragments created by sonicating, which average 500–700 base pairs (2–3 nucleosomes), are typically larger than those created via enzymatic cleavage. The size of the fragments that are created directly affects the resolution of the ChIP procedure; fragments up to 1.5 kb resolve well for most purposes in ChIP.
Tip: Although sonication is most appropriate for X-ChIP and enzymatic digestion is ineffective on fully cross-linked samples, micrococcal nuclease digestion can be useful when gentle/incomplete cross-linking is carried out and it can improve resolution in combination with sonication.

Antibodies for ChIP

Antibodies are used in ChIP to capture proteins and the interacting DNA.

Antibodies used for ChIP should ideally be fully characterized

Characterizing antibody specificity using peptide competition in western blot is recommended for N-ChIP. Ideally, specific antibodies for ChIP should be affinity-purified; however many laboratories use sera as their antibody source and then overcome background problems that may arise with stringent buffers (see other frequently asked questions).
Be aware: even full characterization will not tell you whether or not an antibody will function in X-ChIP, as the effects of cross-linking can be dramatic to the extent that different epitopes may be generated and specific epitopes may be lost.

A polyclonal antibody is preferable to a monoclonal

Whereas monoclonal antibodies recognize only a single epitope, within a polyclonal antibody population there will be a number of antibodies that recognize different epitopes. A polyclonal population will reduce the probability that all specific epitopes will be masked by the process of cross-linking, so there is a better chance of a positive result in X-ChIP.

Don’t have a ChIP-grade antibody?

In general, if an antibody works in normal immunoprecipitation then it is a good candidate for success in ChIP.

What antibody controls could I use?

As a positive antibody control for the technique, Histone H3 (tri methyl K4) is a popular positive control to use when chipping active genes. As a negative control, use an antibody that recognizes a non-chromatin epitope such as an anti-GFP antibody.
Tip: Chromatin remodeling may move or remove histones at a particular locus e.g. an active promoter, so use a control antibody against a non modified histone such as Histone H3 to check for the preservation of nucleosomes at particular genomic loci.
Caution: Remember that these antibodies are not positive and negative controls for the success of the ChIP experiment per se — this depends on the locus you are studying. For example, if there is no Histone H3 tri methyl K4 at the particular locus of interest, then even if you have the best ChIP antibody in the world it will not immunoprecipitate anything from this region and so will not be an appropriate positive control.

The antibody is working for ChIP but the signal is weak — how can I remedy this?

  • Try a different type of ChIP. For example, if you are performing N-ChIP try X-ChIP.
  • Look in a different location. It may be that the antigen is present but not on the section of the genome that you are looking at.
  • Use a different antibody if one is available.
  • Is the epitope being masked in X-ChIP? It may be necessary to further optimize the cross-linkage time course.

What concentration of antibody should I use in my ChIP experiment?

To start with, use 3–5 mg of antibody for every 25–35 mg of pure monosomes used. If you are doing a quantitative ChIP then ultimately you may need to match the amount of chromatin with the same amount of antibody. As with many techniques, it is essential to optimize the amount of antibody at the start if possible.


Controls for quantitative PCR

Certain areas of the genome will purify better than others, and some nucleosomes may re-arrange during enzymatic fragmentation. As a result, it is important to generate PCR primers to several regions in the starting material, as well as the purified/chipped material, as controls for spurious results. Generate starting material by lysing the starting cells and take a sample for simple PCR of control regions in parallel with ChIP.


With variations in starting material possible, data should always be normalized for the amount of starting material, to remove errors introduced due to uneven sample quantities. To normalize your data, take the final amplicon value and divide it by the amplicon value of input material.
Tip: Measuring the amounts (and quality) of starting material is the key to interpreting your results effectively.

Other frequently asked questions

What histone control sample should be used for ChIP?

Calf thymus histone preparation should be used as a positive control histone sample for checking antibody specificity in western blot. When chipping for histone modifications, purified histone H3 and H1 can be used as positive controls for the quality of the experimental histone preparation (histone H1 is usually used for X-ChIP).

What buffer is recommended?

The more stringent the buffer used the better (i.e., higher concentrations of salt and detergent in the buffer will lead to cleaner results). It is essential that the buffer is optimized for every new chipping experiment as a compromise must be found between low backgrounds and detrimental effects on the target. NP40 can be used as a detergent and RIPA is also commonly used for X-ChIP.

What other treatments might affect my ChIP results?

TSA, butyrate or colcemid addition do not generally affect ChIP.

Summary of advantages and disadvantages

N-ChIPPredictable and testable antibody specificityNot useful for non-histone proteins

Efficient precipitation of DNA and proteinSelective nuclease digestion may bias input chromatin

High resolution (175 bp/monosomes)Nucleosomes may rearrange during digestion
X-ChIPGood for non-histone proteins binding weakly or indirectly to DNAMay be inefficient antibody binding due to epitope disruption
 Cross-linking minimizes nucleosome rearrangementsFixes transient (artifactual) interactions to give a false picture of steady state levels

Good for organisms where native chromatin is difficult to prepare (e.g., yeasts)Lower resolution chromatin preparation by sonication

Difficult to enzymatically digest cross-linked DNA
(Adapted from O'Neill and Turner, Methods, 2003, pp76–82)

New protein signature of breast cancer progression identified

The findings of the collaborative study led by the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Germany and involving researchers in University College Dublin and the National Institute of Cellular Biotechnology, Dublin City University are published in the current issue of .
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of for women in the USA. Within the various subtypes of the disease, estrogen receptor negative (ER-) tumours have a relatively .
This study focused on identifying the proteins associated with the progression of ER- tumours and, of the 8750 proteins identified, 7800 were quantified. Proteomic analysis showed that high levels of proteins, CRABP2 and IDH2, along with low levels of SEC14L2 were predictive of overall breast cancer survival in patients.
The Irish contribution to the study, which involved Conway Fellow, Professor William Gallagher and Dr Stephen Madden (DCU), focused on the in silico validation of the candidate multi-marker signature of these 3 proteins (CRABP2, IDH2, SEC14L2).
‘As the initial discovery work by the Mann group in the Max Planck Institute was performed on a discrete set of cell culture models and clinical specimens, our work provided a key element of verification on more than 1,200 patients,”, said Professor Gallagher, Associate Professor of Cancer Biology, UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science and deputy coordinator of the SFI Molecular Therapeutics for Cancer Ireland Strategic Research Cluster. “We were also able to demonstrate that this prognostic signature retained value at the mRNA level, as the original discovery work was at the protein level”.
Commenting on the potential impact of the research, Professor Gallagher added, “The real strength of this work is that it will act as a very extensive repository for information for multiple investigators worldwide, thereby impacting on a wide range of downstream studies”.
Ideally, Gallagher and his team would hope to look at the functional relevance of the differentially expressed proteins identified in terms of their respective contributions to and to further validate using hundreds to thousands of clinical specimens that this 3-marker signature also works at the protein level.
More information: Proteomic portrait of human breast cancer progression identifies novel prognostic markers. Tamar Geiger, Stephen F. Madden, William M. Gallagher, Juergen Cox and Matthias Mann, Cancer Research, May 1 2012 (first published online Mar 12)

Pigment Preserved in 162-Million-Year-Old Fossils

Credit: British Geological Society

The fossilized ink sac of an ancient cephalopod—the group of tentacled invertebrates that includes today’s octopi, squid, and cuttlefish—still holds some of the ink pigment, a new study suggests. Researchers unearthed the 30-millimeter-long fossil (above) from 162-million-year-old rocks in the southern United Kingdom, about 40 kilometers east of Bristol. Images the scientists took with a scanning electron microscope reveal tiny, nearly spherical structures that are similar in size to structures in the ink of the modern-day cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis). But that physical similarity doesn’t prove the pigment in those structures is intact because minerals could have replaced the original particles. So the researchers conducted a variety of chemical tests, including placing samples of material scraped from the fossil in a solution that typically breaks down melanin pigments. In this case, the reaction generated two substances found only in eumelanin, a brownish-black form of the pigment that is also found in the ink of today’s cephalopods, the researchers report online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The new findings may help scientists identify eumelanin or its remnants in other fossils, such as feathers, scales, or skin—which may, in turn, shed light on the diverse roles of pigments in ancient organisms.

Intruder Arrested at GM Field Trial

A protestor was arrested Sunday morning after attempting to break into a field trial of genetically modified wheat at Rothamsted Research, an agricultural research station in Harpenden, U.K. The attack damaged fences and some of the “buffer zone” crops surrounding the experimental wheat, but damaged “less than 0.1%” of the test crop, says Darren Hughes, head of communications at Rothamsted. He says the fence surrounding the experiment, the security guards at the site, and the rapid response by police prevented serious damage to the plot.

Take the Flour Back, a group of activists that has invited the public to a day of protest at the site on Sunday, has said it has no connection to yesterday’s incident. According to an e-mailed statement, the group’s Eleanor Baylis says: "We have no information about this incident, but are relieved if the quantity of GM pollen released from the trial has been reduced.” Their protest plans for next weekend include destroying the experimental plot. Scientists involved in the trial have issued a public plea to the protestors to allow the trial to proceed. Both sides debated the issue last week on a leading BBC news program. Today’s statement from the group says they “are going ahead with their mass action next Sunday 27th May.”

A nearby experiment that has been running for more than 150 years was not damaged in yesterday’s attack, Hughes says. That experiment, called Park Grass, looks at the evolution of species on former farmland as it is allowed to go wild. Researchers are still concerned that Sunday’s protest might damage the site, Hughes says. However, he says, the site “is clearly marked, so anyone who damaged it would be doing so deliberately.” Take the Flour Back has information on Park Grass and another historical experiment on its Web site, urging protestors not to damage those sites.

Hughes says there are no further plans for a public debate before Sunday. Rothamsted researchers had offered to meet the protesters tomorrow evening for a public discussion. Take the Flour Back, however, declined that invitation.

For Dementia Patients, Feeding Tubes May Increase Bed Sores

Feeding tubes increase the risk of bed sores in bedridden dementia patients, according to a new study.
The finding challenges the long-held belief that providing nutrition through feeding tubes helps prevent bed sores or helps promote their healing in this group of patients, the authors of the Brown University-led study said.

The researchers did not look at how feeding tubes could cause bed sores (also called pressure ulcers), but they noted that feeding tubes can cause agitation in patients, who then have to be restrained and sedated. Feeding tubes also may increase the risk of diarrhea.

Together, these factors may cause and worsen bed sores, the researchers said.

The researchers examined data from nursing homes and Medicare claims in order to compare thousands of dementia patients. Among patients who did not initially have a bed sore, 35.6 percent with a feeding tube ended up with at least a stage 2 bed sore, compared with 19.8 percent of patients without a feeding tube.
A stage 2 bed sore is an open sore in the upper layer of the skin. A stage 4 bed sore is the most serious type.

After making statistical adjustments, the researchers concluded that patients with a feeding tube were 2.27 times more likely to develop a bed sore than those without a feeding tube. The risk of developing a stage 4 bed sore was 3.21 times higher for those with a feeding tube.

Among patients who already had a bed sore, short-term improvement in the sore occurred in 27.1 percent of patients with a feeding tube and in 34.6 percent of those without. Patients without a feeding tube were 0.7 times more likely to have an improvement in a sore than those with one, the researchers determined.
The study was published May 14 in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

"This study provides new information about the risks of feeding tube insertion in people with advanced [dementia]," lead author Dr. Joan Teno, a gerontologist and professor of health services, policy and practice in the Public Health Program at Brown, said in a university news release.

"We see a substantial risk of people developing a stage 2 and higher [bed sore]," she said. "We believe these risks should be discussed with family members before a decision is made to insert a feeding tube in a hospitalized nursing home resident with advanced [dementia]."

SOURCE: Brown University, news release, May 14, 2012

Monday, 21 May 2012

4 'pillowcase' burglary suspects caught after high-speed chase in Martin County

Four South Florida men suspected of "pillowcase" burglaries in Melbourne took deputies on a high-speed chase on Interstate 95 before they were charged with burglary and other felony charges, according to a Martin County Sheriff's Office news release.

Deputies on Friday charged Tyrone Wright, of the 10900 block of Royal Palm Boulevard, Coral Springs, Jasen Francois, of the 1400 block of Northwest 20th Place, Fort Lauderdale, Desmond Dickson, 20, of the 700 block of Southwest 4th Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, and Kenneth Jones, of the 1100 block of Northwest 21st Street, Fort Lauderdale, with burglary and grand theft over $300 after deputies found stolen loot near the suspects' car and in the back of a patrol car after the men had been removed.

Officials are investigating if the men are connected with a rash of burglaries that took place in the Sewall's Point and Hobe Sound areas.

About 12:35 p.m. a deputy was attempting a traffic stop on a black Ford car after noticing it had very dark tinted windows, the arrest affidavit states.

Instead of stopping, the driver, who has not been named, fled south on I-95, exited to the northbound lanes and got off on Kanner Highway. The four men bailed out of the car in the 7700 block of Southwest Lost River Road in front of a Wendy's restaurant.

Dickson and Francois were found inside Wendy's, and Jones was located inside a storage room of a Holiday Inn hotel. Wright was found in the parking lot of a nearby Cracker Barrel, the affidavit states.
After a deputy removed Francois from a patrol vehicle, he saw jewelry lying on the seat where the suspect had been sitting, the affidavit states. The jewelry, which was taken from a Melbourne home, has an estimated value of more than $300, the affidavit states. The victim of a burglary in Melbourne early Friday morning identified the jewelry as belonging to her, the affidavit states

As of Friday, Francois, 19, and Dickson, 20, were being held at the Martin County Jail on $200,000 bond each. Jones, 24, and Wright, 20, were being held without bond for violation of probation charges.

Friday's arrest comes a day after a Hobe Sound woman interrupted four men, also from South Florida, who allegedly were burglarizing her home.

The woman on Thursday chased the men and gave deputies a description, aiding in their capture.
As of Friday the men in the Thursday burglary remained held at the Martin County Jail.

Friday's arrest comes a day after a Hobe Sound woman interrupted four men, also from South Florida, who allegedly were burglarizing her home.
The woman on Thursday chased the men and gave deputies a description, aiding in their capture.
As of Friday the men in the Thursday burglary remained held at the Martin County Jail.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Venus's Rare Sun Crossing May Aid Search for Exoplanets

Early next month, skywatchers will get their second—and final—chance this century to observe a rare mini-eclipse in which Venus crosses in front of the sun. As seen from Earth on 5-6 June, the silhouette of Venus, as big as a large sunspot, will adorn the sun's orange disk with a fleeting beauty mark. Venus's passages, or transits, occur in pairs spaced 8 years apart every 105 or 122 years. The next transit isn't until 2117.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Cancer Cells in Bloodstream Show Great Diversity: Study

There is a great deal of genetic diversity in cells shed by cancerous tumors into the bloodstream, a new study has found.
Some cells have genes that enable them to lodge themselves in new locations, helping the cancer spread between organs, while other cells have different patterns of gene expression that might make them more benign or less likely to survive in other locations in the body.
Some circulating tumor cells even express genes that could predict their response to a specific cancer treatment, the researchers said.
"Within a single blood draw from a single patient, we're seeing [varied] populations of circulating tumor cells," senior study author Dr. Stefanie Jeffrey, chief of surgical oncology research at the Stanford University School of Medicine, said in a university news release.
The researchers said their findings highlight how multiple types of treatment may be needed to cure what appears to be a single kind of cancer and suggest that the current cell-line models of human cancers need to be improved upon.
The study, which used blood samples from breast cancer patients, is the first to look at circulating tumor cells one by one instead of taking the average of many of the cells. It also is the first to show the extent of genetic differences between circulating tumor cells, the researchers said.
Scientists have long known that circulating tumor cells move through the bloodstreams of cancer patients. Over the past five years, though, many cancer researchers have begun to think the cells could be the key to tracking tumors noninvasively.
The study appears online Tuesday in the journal PLoS One.
More information
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about cancer.
SOURCE: Stanford University, news release, May 7, 2012

Sperm Collide Along Liquid Maze on Way to Fertilize Egg

Sperm cells navigate the complex fluid-filled channels of the female reproductive tract by crawling along walls and swimming around corners, a new study reveals.
And although millions of sperm cells are ejaculated, the few that actually reach an egg collide frequently along the way.
This new insight on how sperm travel could help scientists develop new treatments for infertile couples, say British researchers who injected the cells into hair-thin microchannels, or mini-mazes, to identify which sperm are the fastest swimmers and why.
"In basic terms, how do we find the 'Usain Bolt' among the millions of sperm in an ejaculate," study author Dr. Jackson Kirkman-Brown, lead in reproductive biology at the University of Birmingham and science lead at the Birmingham Women's Fertility Centre, said in a news release.
"Sperm cell following walls is one of those cases when a complicated physiological system obeys very simple mechanical rules," study leader Dr. Petr Denissenko, at the University of Warwick's School of Engineering, said in the news release.
As described by the researchers, the sperm's journey sounds more like a bumper car ride than a smooth swim upstream.
"When the channel turns sharply, cells leave the corner, continuing ahead until hitting the opposite wall of the channel, with a distribution of departure angles, the latter being modulated by fluid viscosity," the researchers said. "Specific wall shapes are able to preferentially direct motile cells."
The researchers concluded their findings could help scientists developing treatments for infertility to identify the strongest sperm cells.
The findings appear online in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

More information
The U.S. National Institutes of Health provides more information on infertility.
SOURCE: University of Warwick, news release, May 7, 2012