Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Speech Buddies: Guide for Parents

Image from craven graphics
Speech Buddies is a new idea that takes the best technology used by speech therapists and brings it into the home for parents to use with their children.  The main goal for this new technology is to teach children correct tongue placement for the most common problem sounds for a child including; R, S, L, CH, and SH.  For parents this technology is a way to develop new routines for speech therapy by incorporating learning with activities that can appeal to children.
Image from worldpress

So parents may be wondering, "What are the benefits of Speech Buddies?"  Results have shown that with the help of speech buddies, children have been able to learn problem sounds twice as fast as a child who has not used this technique. Another benefit of the program is that is can decrease the cost and time necessary to help child over come problems with speech by bringing it into the home and allowing the parents to act as the teacher.  

The Speech Buddy website has a lot of valuable information for parents to read and go over before making the decision of whether or not this new idea is right for their child.  Questionnaires are present to help parents determine whether or not their child even has a speech problem.  There are also audio videos for parents to watch that show parents how to use Speech Buddies in the home.  Definitions of what speech disorders are and how it can be treated are present on the website as well.  Another tool present on the website for parents to use is the "frequently asked questions" portion.  There are questions present that many parents ask regarding Speech Buddies and give answers to those questions.  If parents find that they are interested in this program there is a 30 day satisfaction guarantee and a booklet that can be downloaded if there are still questions the parents have not got answered from the website.

Speech therapy is a common technique used to help children over come their problems with speech and Speech Buddies is a new and exciting way for parents to do just that.  If anyone is interested in the Speech Buddies program and would like to see prices as well as learn more about the technology please visit the Speech Buddies website.

DNA Binding Drugs


Drugs are consumed daily by individuals all over the world in order to treat a variety of different illnesses. Research to develop new drugs and to identity potential drug targets within the human body are essential in preventing, treating, and maintaining these illnesses. One important drug target is DNA. DNA contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all living organisms.

DNA has two main functions; transcription and replication. Transcription is the process from DNA to RNA, and then RNA is translated into proteins. Proteins are involved in all body processes and are essential in maintaining life. Replication is important for cell growth as well as a cell's ability to successfully divide. Both transcription and replication are vital to cell survival and smooth functioning of all body processes. Most DNA drugs target these two functions.

There are a few ways drugs are able to bind to DNA. One way is by controlling enzymes and factors involved in transcription. Another possibility is for drugs to bind to parts of DNA and interfere with the interactions between DNA and proteins. Take for example telomerase inhibitors, which are used in cancer treatment. Telomeres are located at the end of chromosomes and are important in preventing damage in DNA replication. In normal (somatic) cells, the cells have an end date or eventually die. In tumor cells, however, the telomere ends are kept more stable, thus allowing tumor cells to survive and continue to grow. Telomerase inhibitors work by stopping the action of an enzyme known as reverse transcriptase telomerase. This particular enzyme is what allows the tumor cells to survive and maintain growth; therefore these drugs can cause the tumor cells to die via apoptosis, programmed cell death.

Current research is focused on how drugs can actually bind to DNA and affect gene regulation. Gene regulation is a process in which a cell determines which genes it will express and when it will express them. All cells in the human body contain a copy of an individual’s DNA, which contains thousands of genes. These genes can either be turned on or off by the cells. For example, a bone cell could turn on genes to make it a bone cell, whereas in a skin cell the gene for bone cells would be turned off. Drugs that can bind directly to DNA and affect gene regulation could have an enormous impact on genetic diseases, HIV, and cancer.

This research is supported by a current article from ScienceDaily, Tangled Up in DNA: New Molecule Has Potential to Help Treat Genetic Diseases and HIV. Chemists at The University of Texas at Austin developed a drug called NDI that works by tangling itself inside DNA. The goal of these researchers is to use the NDI drugs mechanism for binding to DNA to target specific areas of DNA that diseases are found in order to turn gene expression on or off. In the article one of the researchers discussed using NDI to locate the HIV region of DNA and be able to " just sit on it and keep it quiet".

DNA is a key target for drug delivery. Hopefully future research will lead to the development of a drug that can target DNA and aid in the treatment of life threatening diseases. If you are interested in this topic please listen to the audio segment on DNA binding drugs by Nicole, Jake, and Charlie, where we will explore this topic further. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Genetics of Athleticism

Ever wonder how the super stars of a sport just happen to be so good? Although a lot of it is the immense effort, endless dedication, and countless hours that an athlete puts into it all (training, diet, exercise), sometimes there may be a little help from genetics. Some genes are said to control certain aspects of athleticism. Someone may be abnormally fast, jump extremely high, or kick with perfection. Wouldn't it be great to know which genes a person has and what they would be good at?
An article in the Washington Post says that tests are now being offered to parents to determine what their child's athletic strengths could be - based on their genetics. This will let parents know where they should steer their child in order for them to best utilize what they were born with. This will allow them to design and implement workouts fit for each individual. The tests are also useful in foreseeing any serious future health problems. Although controversial for testing on children, it is an example of how science can be put to use. One of the companies selling the tests say that the main purpose for them is to "maximize performance in the minimum amount of time and minimize risk."
With all things come skeptics. Many are disagreeing with the tests because they simply do not believe that genetics have anything to do with one's athletic capabilities and even if they did then it would be impossible to determine what one would be good at. It is also thought that parents and coaches, upon knowing the test results, will force and push kids into participating in sports that they do not want to participate in or that they will be pushed too far in the ones that they enjoy. There is also a concern that kids will be discouraged from participating in sports that "they would not be best capable of succeeding in" or that "would not best utilize what they were born to do."
Whether these tests are right or wrong, their development and the science behind them that makes them possible is still something that should be appreciated.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

What the Frack? The Truth Behind Hydrological Fracturing

Fracking, more technically referred to a hydrological fracturing, has been set on center stage surrounded by controversy as a result of misinformation and misunderstanding. Hydraulic fracturing has been taking place in America for nearly 60 years with over one million wells drilled since 1940. With a process such as this being used time and time again many improvements and modifications have been made to make the process safer and more efficient.
The Process
The process of bringing a well to completion is fairly fast taking only 70 to 100 days for a single well considering each well can be in production for 20 to 40 years. The construction timeline takes 4-8 weeks to prepare the site, 4-5 weeks to prepare the drilling rig and associated equipment and materials and 2-5 days of actual drilling. After the initial drilling, the affect surface area is reduced to the size of a two-car garage and the rest of the site is remediated to its original condition.
An overview of the drilling process can be seen here.
Typically, steel pipe known as surface casing is cemented into place at the uppermost portion of a well for the specific purpose of protecting the groundwater. Casing and cementing are critical parts of the well construction that not only protect any water zones, but are also important to successful oil or natural gas production from hydrocarbon bearing zones. It is critical for the casing and cementing to be done correctly in order to protect groundwater supplies. It’s also very important for brine wells to be sealed correctly also. Brine wells are used to store the saline water used during the fracking process. Since 1940, there have not been any confirmed cases of groundwater contamination due to hydrological fracturing. Many cases of water contamination occur due to old brine wells being improperly sealed and cased. To prevent contamination via the brine wells regulations must be imposed to insure they are cased and monitored correctly.
In theory, the process of drilling is safe on paper, but no one can accurately say there is no risk associated with it because there are risks associated with any action. Safeguardsproposed by the NRDC include:
1. Putting the most sensitive lands, including critical watersheds, completely off limits to fracking;
2. Not allowing leaky systems by setting clean air standards that ensure methane leaks are well under one percent of production to reduce global warming pollution, and requiring green completions and other techniques to reduce air pollution;

3. Mandating sound well drilling and construction standards by requiring the strongest well siting, casing and cementing and other drilling best practices;

4. Protecting the landscape, air, or water from pollution by closing Clean Air, Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water loopholes, reducing toxic waste, and holding toxic oil and gas waste to the same standards as other types of hazardous waste, funding robust inspection and enforcement programs, and disclosing fully all chemicals;
5. Using gas to replace dirtier fossil fuels like coal by prioritizing renewables and efficiency, implementing recently established mercury, sulfur and other clean air standards, and setting strong power plant carbon pollution standards; and
6. Allowing communities to protect themselves and their future by restricting fracking through comprehensive zoning and planning.

Implementing these proposed safeguards would allow hydrological fracturing to become a more viable energy resource without posing any environmental risks.