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The Body Scientific

New optimism on challenges related to autism

Autism is a difficult subject — the diagnosis is problematic and treatment has been limited. The incidence, for reasons known and unknown, has been increasing (see my column of June 4, 2012, available online at www.tricornernews.com). Many people at the least severe end of the autism spectrum have learned to be productive and to employ the way their minds work to advantage. But at its most severe, autism is a lifelong and devastating prospect for those affected and their families.

New optimism on the challenges related to autism

The Body Scientific

Autism is a difficult subject — the diagnosis is problematic and treatment has been limited. The incidence, for reasons known and unknown, has been increasing (see my column of June 4, 2012, available online at www.tricornernews.com). Many people at the least severe end of the autism spectrum have learned to be productive and to employ the way their minds work to advantage. But at its most severe, autism is a lifelong and devastating prospect for those affected and their families.

What story does the DNA tell us?

The Body Scientific

When I was a Ph.D. student in the late 1960s, a scientist determined the exact DNA sequence that encoded the plan for part of a protein. He and his team sequenced 23 bases of DNA and it took them a year. We thought it was marvelous in concept and execution — and it was.

The increase in autism: analyzing cause and effect

The Body Scientific

The British science magazine Nature recently produced an issue dedicated to autism (www.nature.com/autism). Autism is defined by a regression of development in young children and a deterioration of language and social skills. It is also associated with repetitive behavior and sometimes a fascination with specific objects. The severity of the problem varies greatly, leading to the term autism spectrum disorder or, at the milder end, Asperger’s Syndrome. Helping a child with autism or an autism spectrum disorder is an enormous challenge.

The increase in autism: analyzing cause and effect

The Body Scientific

The British science magazine Nature recently produced an issue dedicated to autism (www.nature.com/autism). Autism is defined by a regression of development in young children and a deterioration of language and social skills. It is also associated with repetitive behavior and sometimes a fascination with specific objects. The severity of the problem varies greatly, leading to the term autism spectrum disorder or, at the milder end, Asperger’s Syndrome. Helping a child with autism or an autism spectrum disorder is an enormous challenge.

The latest international flu scare: Is H5N1 influenza a doomsday virus?

The Body Scientific
rhk2@columbia.edu

The papers have been full of articles over recent months about a doomsday influenza virus called H5N1 that has been created by scientists. The New York Times (Jan. 7), the Economist and other papers are thundering about looming calamity, and this column was about to do the same. But in a moment of sense I decided to visit my friend and colleague, Vincent Racaniello. Dr. Racaniello is the Higgins professor of microbiology at Columbia, the author of an important virology textbook and host of the podcast “This Week in Virology.”

Is H5N1 influenza a doomsday virus, as some would have us believe?

The Body Scientific
rhk2@columbia.edu

The papers have been full of articles over recent months about a doomsday influenza virus called H5N1 that has been created by scientists. The New York Times (Jan. 7), the Economist and other papers are thundering about looming calamity, and this column was about to do the same. But in a moment of sense I decided to visit my friend and colleague, Vincent Racaniello. Dr. Racaniello is the Higgins professor of microbiology at Columbia, the author of an important virology textbook and host of the podcast “This Week in Virology.”

Back to nature: the benefits and dangers of raw milk

The Body Scientific
rhk2@columbia.edu

I have a friend who speaks of raw milk from a farm in the Alps in the rhapsodic language that the French normally use for wine:  “It was fresh from the cow, full of cream and it smelled of the flowers in the meadows.” Tempting, certainly. There is, however, a case for caution.

Back to nature: the benefits and dangers of raw milk

The Body Scientific

I have a friend who speaks of raw milk from a farm in the Alps in the rhapsodic language that the French normally use for wine: “It was fresh from the cow, full of cream and it smelled of the flowers in the meadows.” Tempting, certainly. There is, however, a case for caution.

The flu is with us again, but maybe not forever

The Body Scientific
rhk2@columbia.edu

Two impressive articles in Science magazine caught my eye a few weeks ago. They suggest that it is possible to make a vaccine that will work against all flu viruses and will not have to be changed every year.