Monday, December 20, 2010

Scientists find gene clue to 130 brain diseases

AFP - Monday, December 20

PARIS (AFP) - – Scientists on Sunday said they had discovered a bouquet of proteins that play a critical role in the development of more than 130 brain diseases.

Their study also highlights a surprising link between these disorders -- including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's -- and the evolution of human behaviour, they said.

The human brain is a labyrinth of millions of specialised nerve cells interconnected by billions of electrical and chemical pathways called synapses.

Within these synapses are proteins that combine together, forming a molecular machine known as the post-synaptic density, or PSD, which is believed to disrupt synaptic functioning, causing disease and behavioural change.

Reporting in the journal Nature Neuroscience, Seth Grant of Britain's Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute led a team that extracted PSDs from synapses of patients undergoing brain surgery.

"We found over 130 brain diseases involve the PSD -- far more than expected," said Grant. "The human PSD is at centre stage of a large range of human diseases affecting millions of people."

Besides common and debilitating neurodegenerative disorders, these include epilepsies and childhood development diseases such as autism.

The PSDs identified so far come from combinations of 1,461 proteins, each encoded by a separate gene.

"We now have a comprehensive molecular playlist of 1,000 suspects," noted Jeffrey Neobels, a professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, commenting on the study.

"Every seventh protein in this line-up is involved in a known clinical disorder, and over half of them are repeat offenders."

The findings open several news paths toward tackling these illnesses, including better diagnosis, the authors said.

To help accelerate this goal, the researchers have released all their data into the public domain, and created the first-ever "molecular roadmap" for human synapses showing how proteins and diseases interconnect.

"We can also see ways to develop new genetic diagnostic tests and help doctors classify the brain diseases," Grant said.

Unexpectedly, the study also revealed the proteins in PSDs have deep evolutionary roots and play an indirect role in cognitive behaviours such as learning and memory, as well as emotion and mood.

Compared with other gene-encoded proteins, the PSD proteins evolved much more slowly.

"The conservation of the structure of these proteins suggests that the behaviours governed by the PSD and the diseases associated with them have not changed much over many millions of years," Grant said.

It also shows that the synapses in rodents are more similar to humans than previously thought, suggesting that mice and rats are good models for examining human brain disease, he said.

Brain disease and disorders are the leading cause of medical disability in the developed world, according to the UN's World Health Organization.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Woman boards bus naked in Singapore

By Faris – December 17th, 2010

Is it the start of a worrying trend or are Singaporeans finally breaking the shackles of conformity and daring to be “different’?

This after Singapore police arrested a woman in her 50s for boarding a bus stark naked near Ubi Avenue on Wednesday evening, the third such case of a “nude” arrest this month.

Last Sunday, a naked man in his 20s or 30s was arrested after trying to order coffee in the buff from a 24-hour McDonald’s outlet along Queensway.

Earlier this month, a heavily tattooed man in his 40s sat naked for hours near an HDB block in Ang Mo Kio. He was later arrested after several warnings.

Psychologist, Mr Daniel Koh, 39, who owns Insights Mind Centre, told Yahoo! SEA, “Some of them might be attention seekers or would like to be the focal point of news while others might actually be crying out for help.”

“In the case of the latter, authorities should step in and such people should be reviewed, ” he said.

Mr Koh added that there are also those who do it out of sexual gratification or to arouse themselves.

In the latest case, the elderly woman who boarded the bus naked was initially dressed in a black blouse and pants. According to eyewitnesses, she later started to strip down by the roadside in full view of passers-by.

Oblivious to the stares by members of the public, the woman folded her clothes into a neat pile and put them in a plastic bag which she later placed on the pavement.

She then walked towards a bus stop in front of Block 302, Ubi Avenue 1, and stood a few metres away from the shelter, even though it was drizzling slightly.

Madam Huay who witnessed the incident said in Mandarin to The New Paper, “When she continued stripping, I felt more and more nervous. She was stark naked in front of peak-hour traffic. There were about 100 people staring at her.”

One of them, Mr Lim Fam Meng, a barber in his 50s said in Mandarin, “I was scared silly, but it was also an interesting sight. All of us who were in the shops came out. Passers-by also stopped to gawk.”

When bus service 22 arrived, she boarded the bus and sat in the back row. However, the bus did not move off and when she refused to budge or even accept a jacket to cover her modesty, passengers were told to sit at the front of the bus and women to the back, where they could help shield her.

Passengers were eventually transferred to a second bus service 22 that arrived later.

It was only when two police officers arrived and made her wear a yellow raincoat that she complied and left with them in a police car. She was later found to be of unsound mind.

The incident is the latest in a string of recent cases involving people appearing nude in public. In the first six months of the year, there have already been 105 such incidents — one about every other day.

It is understood that those arrested and who are believed to be mentally unsound are usually referred to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) for psychiatric review.

Dr Koh has also advised members of public to be cautious when confronted with such people.

While it is important for males not to go near them for fear of being accused of molest, he said whoever is around should determine whether the naked man or woman is in a rational mood.

“They should just monitor the situation because such people might act defensive and be aggressive towards whoever approaches them. In this case it is best to leave them alone and leave it to the authorities,” he added.

Those found guilty of being nude in public, or in a private location, but visible to those outside, faces a fine of up to $2,000 and up to three months in jail.

Thank you for the incredible, amazing response to Yahoo!’s Fit-To-Post blog so far. We continue to welcome your views and comments but please don’t abuse this opportunity. Be nice. Be courteous. Be sensible. Respect the feelings of others and refrain from using any kind of offensive language. And in the spirit of great conversations, please don’t stray from the topic at hand.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Naked man arrested at McDonald’s outlet

By Faris – December 14th, 2010

A Chinese man in his mid-twenties gave McDonald’s customers and crew alike a nasty shock when he walked in naked. (Yahoo! file photo)

A man was refused service by the McDonald’s crew in Queensway after he walked in stark naked and tried to order breakfast in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The incident occurred at the Rideout Tea Garden McDonald’s outlet along Queensway around 4am.

A witness, media coordinator Aslan Asat, 26, who was sitting in the alfresco area of the restaurant with three of his friends, told The New Paper they were shocked to see the man grinning as he casually walked into the restaurant totally nude.

“The naked guy was holding on to a laptop case, but he did not attempt to cover his private parts with it,” he added. The naked man also did not appear to be intoxicated.

It is understood that the Chinese man, who looked to be in his mid-twenties to early thirties, tried to order a cup of coffee over the counter but was refused service by the McDonald’s crew.

Mr Aslan said, “The McDonald’s staff asked him to leave, but he loitered around in the restaurant for at least 10 minutes before walking out.”

There were six other customers in the fast-food restaurant at the time, and they had the same reaction towards the naked man.

“Everyone was gawking at him initially and started to giggle after a while,” he said.

However, the naked man continued to loiter outside the restaurant even after being asked to leave.

“He took out a phone from the laptop case and started to make a call. I overheard him complaining about the refusal of service by McDonald’s staff in English,” said Mr Aslan.

“He left only after lighting up a cigarette.”

A McDonald’s spokesman confirmed the incident and said the restaurant had to turn the customer away due to the objectionable nature of his behaviour.

“The fast-food restaurant has referred the case to the police and investigations are under way.”

Police said they received a call at 4.35am on Sunday regarding a man appearing naked at a McDonald’s outlet. They arrested the man and referred him to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) for psychiatric assessment.

Lawyer, Foo Cheow Ming, told the paper that appearing naked in public and exposing one’s private parts is regarded as an “obscene” act by Singapore courts.

If found guilty, the man faces a maximum sentence up to three months in jail and a fine of $2,000.

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