Saturday, April 24, 2010

Women testing make-up 'at risk of infections'

Women testing make-up and other products at beauty counters are leaving themselves at risk of a number of infections, a study has found.

So-called ‘tester’ pots and jars were found to expose customers to everything from E-coli to conjunctivitis, the eye disease.

Experts warned that women should avoid using the pots, provided so that they can try out make-up before they buy, as far as possible.

American researchers found that all of the make-up they tested contained traces of E-coli, a cause of major food poisoning, which could cause skin infections in beauty consumers.

The study also found traces of the herpes simplex virus, which causes cold sores. Make-up was most likely to be contaminated on Saturdays – the busiest shopping day of the week. Bacteria die off relatively quickly within make-up, because it does not contain enough nutrients for them to continue to grow.

Dr Elizabeth Brooks, a biological sciences professor at Jefferson Medical College in Pennsylvania, who led the study, said: "Wherever you can see E-coli, you should just think 'E-coli equals faeces.' "That means someone went to the bathroom, didn't wash their hands and then stuck their fingers in that moisturiser."

She added: "If you're asking me if I would personally try a public lipstick tester – or if I would let my teenage daughters do that – then the answer is no. "I would ask for the individual tester.”

The researchers spent two years analysing make-up taken from department stores, specialist shops and chemists.

They used sterile swabs to take samples of products, including skin, eye and lip make-up.They then transferred the make-up onto a chemical substance on which cultures can grow. Between 67 and 100 per cent of the products showed at least some level of contamination,The experts recommend trying on make-up during weekdays, when there are generally fewer customers who could have contaminated the tester.

But women should also wash their faces after trying on make-up from a make-up counter, and be extremely careful when trying on eye make-up.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Engineers Generate Electricity by Tapping Into Algae Cells

In an electrifying first, Stanford scientists have plugged in to algae cells and harnessed a tiny electric current. They found it at the very source of energy production -- photosynthesis, a plant's method of converting sunlight to chemical energy. It may be a first step toward generating "high efficiency" bioelectricity that doesn't give off carbon dioxide as a byproduct, the researchers say.

"We believe we are the first to extract electrons out of living plant cells," said WonHyoung Ryu, the lead author of the paper published in the March issue of Nano Letters. Ryu conducted the experiments while he was a research associate for mechanical engineering professor Fritz Prinz.

The Stanford research team developed a unique, ultra-sharp nanoelectrode made of gold, specially designed for probing inside cells. They gently pushed it through the algal cell membranes, which sealed around it, and the cell stayed alive. From the photosynthesizing cells, the electrode collected electrons that had been energized by light and the researchers generated a tiny electric current.

"We're still in the scientific stages of the research," said Ryu. "We were dealing with single cells to prove we can harvest the electrons."

Plants use photosynthesis to convert light energy to chemical energy, which is stored in the bonds of sugars they use for food. The process takes place in chloroplasts, the cellular powerhouses that make sugars and give leaves and algae their green color. In the chloroplasts, water is split into oxygen, protons and electrons. Sunlight penetrates the chloroplast and zaps the electrons to a high energy level, and a protein promptly grabs them. The electrons are passed down a series of proteins, which successively capture more and more of the electrons' energy to synthesize sugars until all the electron's energy is spent.

In this experiment, the researchers intercepted the electrons just after they had been excited by light and were at their highest energy levels. They placed the gold electrodes in the chloroplasts of algae cells, and siphoned off the electrons to generate the tiny electrical current.

The result, the researchers say, is electricity production that doesn't release carbon into the atmosphere. The only byproducts of photosynthesis are protons and oxygen.

"This is potentially one of the cleanest energy sources for energy generation," Ryu said. "But the question is, is it economically feasible?"

Ryu said they were able to draw from each cell just one picoampere, an amount of electricity so tiny that they would need a trillion cells photosynthesizing for one hour just to equal the amount of energy stored in a AA battery. In addition, the cells die after an hour. Ryu said tiny leaks in the membrane around the electrode could be killing the cells, or they may be dying because they're losing out on energy they would normally use for their own life processes. One of the next steps would be to tweak the design of the electrode to extend the life of the cell, Ryu said.

Harvesting electrons this way would be more efficient than burning biofuels, as most plants that are burned for fuel ultimately store only about 3 to 6 percent of available solar energy, Ryu said. His process bypasses the need for combustion, which only harnesses a portion of a plant's stored energy. Electron harvesting in this study was about 20 percent efficient. Ryu said it could theoretically reach 100 percent efficiency one day. (Photovoltaic solar cells are currently about 20-40-percent efficient.)

Possible next steps would be to use a plant with larger chloroplasts for a larger collecting area, and a bigger electrode that could capture more electrons. With a longer-lived plant and better collecting ability, they could scale up the process, Ryu said. Ryu is now a professor at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Herbs for Skin Care

There are a wide variety of skin problems many people face on a day to day basis. The most common of course, tends to be oily skin and acne. But there are others as well, such as dry skin, itching and flaky skin, rashes, wrinkles, and even more serious problems such as psoriasis and eczema.

Due to the wide variety of skin problems and conditions people experience, there can be any number of reasons for the problems. Most modern doctors tend to treat the symptoms themselves though, instead of digging for deeper problems to resolve. Herbalists and natural remedy specialists agree however, that most skin related health problems are related to toxins within the body. Specifically the liver or colon is not functioning as well as they should be, and they need to be cleansed.

And since most skin problems are cleared up with liver or colon cleansing approaches, many skin remedies include herbs which work specifically to help the liver cleanse, tone and heal.

Dandelion for instance, is an excellent herb for liver health. It will help the liver produce more bile, which draws toxins and pollutants out of your body at a much faster rate. This process works very well for dealing with every day skin problems such as acne.

Eczema is often caused by a food allergy of some kind, and it's seen most often in children. The most common allergies which cause this skin condition are cows milk and wheat or gluten. Simply removing these items from the child's diet is often all that's needed to clear up the eczema problems.

When food allergies aren't the cause though, sometimes bacteria and infections is. In these cases, Garlic is the best herb to use for clearing up those problems. Garlic is a powerful anti fungus herb which can kill candida yeast related infections among many others. Garlic will also expel most parasites from your body, and those tend to cause skin related problems too.

For wrinkles and dry skin problems though, one of the most natural approaches you can take is to simply drink more water. Our bodies need two to three quarts of water every day, and more so if we're sick or live in dry climates. Since our skin always seems to get water last, after all the major internal organs have gotten their share, there's often not enough left over to hydrate the skin properly. This not only causes dryness, itching and flaking, but it can cause premature wrinkles too.

Applying Vitamins A, C and E to your facial skin directly will also help rehydrate it, fight free radical damage, and reduce or prevent wrinkles as well.

With summer coming very soon, many people will experience mild, moderate and severe sunburns from being exposed too long without proper skin protection. An excellent natural remedy for sunburns though, is to simply apply old fashioned black tea to the burned areas. Soak some teabags in cool water for a few moments to activate the tannin, then lay the bags on the sunburned skin. This will pull the heat and pain from the burn, as well as help it to heal into a nice tan without peeling

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Fruits and veggies can reduce cancer

Researchers at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, have discovered that just three servings a month of raw broccoli or cabbage can reduce the risk of bladder cancer by as much as 40 per cent. The team of researchers surveyed 275 people who had bladder cancer and 825 people without cancer. They asked especially about cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage.
These foods are rich in compounds called isothiocyanates (ITCs), which are known to lower cancer risk. The effects were most striking striking in non-smokers.
Compared to smokers who ate fewer than three servings of raw cruciferous vegetables, non-smokers who ate at least three servings a month were almost 73 per cent less likely to be in the bladder cancer group, they found. Among both smokers and non-smokers, those who ate this minimal amount of raw vegetables had a 40 per cent lower risk. However the team did not find the same effect for cooked vegetables as cooking tends to reduce 60 to 90 percent of ICTs.