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New Baby Simulators Save Lives—and Spare Animals
New high-tech baby simulators make it easier for health professionals to learn life-saving pediatric techniques without practicing on animals. The new SimBaby, a lifelike mannequin from the Norwegian-based company Laerdal, provides a much more realistic training experience compared with animal laboratories. Trainers can program SimBaby to change the sound of her breathing, speed up or slow her pulse, and change the size of her pupils to mimic a wide range of conditions from pneumonia to traumatic brain injury. Another infant simulator, BabySIM, is available from Florida-based Medical Education Technologies, Inc. Debra Sprunt, director of clinical simulation at the University of Maryland School of Nursing, says the new baby simulators would definitely be useful for practicing neonatal intubations instead of using kittens.
British Scientists Grow Stem Cells in Animal-Product-Free Environment
Arecent breakthrough in eliminating the use of animal products in embryonic stem cell cultivation is good news for researchers who eventually hope to use the cells to treat a wide range of human diseases—from Parkinson’s to Alzheimer’s. In March, scientists at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland, succeeded in growing human embryonic stem cells without the mouse “feeder” cells and bovine serum typically used in stem cell culture.
Instead, the researchers, led by Paul De Sousa, Ph.D., grew stem cells on laminin, a protein derived from human placentas, and used human feeder cells to provide nutrients and growth factors.
Researchers have been looking for ways to grow embryonic stem cells without animal products since they discovered that these products can contaminate stem cell lines with bacteria and viruses—and even with the prions responsible for mad cow disease—making the cells unsuitable for use in therapies for humans. “This type of cross-species infection accounts for some of the most deadly pathogens known to man—hantavirus, avian flu, and, most recently, Creutzfeld-Jacob disease,” De Sousa tells PCRM. Scientists are now working on growing embryonic stem cells without using animal products or any feeder cells at all.
Oregon Passes Dissection Alternatives Law
Oregon students can say no to dissection without risking their grades. A new law makes Oregon the 11th state to give students the right to learn about anatomy without harming animals. According to Senate Bill 383, sponsored by state senator Ryan Deckert, any K–12 student in an Oregon public school where dissection is part of the coursework now may choose to use animal-friendly alternatives, such as CD-ROMs, clay models, computer programs, books, videos, or transparencies. Public school teachers may not penalize students who choose not to dissect. School districts that have dissection in the curriculum are required under the law to notify students and their parents about their options. For more information on problems with dissection and alternatives, please visit PCRM’s Web site, www.dissectionalternatives.org.
Milk Contributes to Risk of Diabetes and Heart Disease
Milk consumption may boost the risk of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, two conditions that increase the likelihood of developing diabetes and heart disease. Researchers from the British Women’s Heart and Health Study found that women who drink milk had lower insulin sensitivity, higher triglyceride levels and BMIs (body mass indexes), and lower HDL (good) cholesterol levels than those who generally avoided milk. They were also more likely to have type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome; the latter is a combination of high blood sugar, high blood pressure, cholesterol problems, and obesity. Researchers were unclear as to why milk increased the risk for the development of these conditions, but its saturated fat and lactose sugar are prime suspects.
Lawlor DA, Ebrahim S, Timpson N, Smith GD. Avoiding milk is associated with a reduced risk of insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome: findings from the British Women’s Heart and Health Study. Diabet Med. 2005;808-11.
Soy Helps with Blood Pressure
Soy protein, consumed as part of the normal diet, is associated with lower blood pressure. A study of more than 45,000 women aged 40–70 reveals that women who consume more than 25 grams of soy per day have an average 1.9 mm Hg lower systolic, and 0.8 mm Hg lower diastolic blood pressures than a group that consumed less than 2.5 grams per day. The effects were more pronounced in women older than 60, where the greater level of soy intake was associated with a decrease of 4.9 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure, and a 2.2 mm Hg decrease in diastolic pressure. Previous investigations have suggested that soy may have beneficial effects on oxidative stress and inflammation in the body, both of which play a role in hypertension.
Yang G, Shu XO, Jin F, et al. Longitudinal study of soy food intake and blood pressure among middle-aged and elderly Chinese women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005;81:1012-7.
Vegetarians Weigh Less Than Meat-Eaters
Anew study adds to the evidence that plant-based diets prevent obesity. In an investigation of more than 50,000 middle-aged and older women from the Swedish Mammography Cohort, researchers found that vegetarian women had a much lower prevalence of overweight than their omnivorous counterparts. Forty percent of omnivores had a BMI greater than 25, compared to 25 percent of vegetarians. Further analysis showed that, on average, vegans weighed less, and also suggested that vegans may be at a lower risk of developing overweight than semi- and lacto-vegetarians (65 percent risk reduction compared with 48 and 46 percent, respectively). Researchers found that omnivores consumed more saturated fat as a percentage of calories, more refined grains, and less fruits, vegetables, and fiber. Authors suggest that vegetarian diets, which are naturally high in carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other fiber-rich foods, promote leanness and decrease the risk of overweight and obesity.
Newby PK, Tucker KL, Wolk A. Risk of overweight and obesity among semivegetarian, lactovegetarian, and vegan women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005;81:1267-74.