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Greg CritserRSS Feed of this column.

Greg Critser is a longtime science and medical journalist whose work appears in the LA Times, the Times of London and the New York Times. He is the author of California (National Geographic 2000)... Read More »

Research links smog to devastating effects not just on lungs but on hearts, brains and fetal development.

By Greg Critser
June 23, 2009

Not long ago, Jesus Araujo, a cardiology researcher at UCLA, parked a cage full of transgenic mice alongside the 110 Freeway. As a control, he placed another group in a less-polluted space on the Westside. Araujo was interested in learning more about how smog affects the heart and whether bad air could help explain the persistence of heart disease after 25 years of cholesterol management, statins and endless lifestyle advice.

Recently I had the opportunity to ask Paul Ewald, one of the nation's leading evolutionary biologists, about a subject near and dear to his heart: the evolution of a bug, specifically swine flu. As usual, Ewald, a professor of biology at the University of Louisville, was lucid, cogent and memorable.

In his 2002 book, Plague Time: The New Germ Theory of Disease, Ewald set the bio-med community on its head by arguing that most chronic disease is caused by sub-acute levels of pathogenic origin, rather than genes.

This week, researchers and scientists at UCLA are doing something unusual: They are organizing a demonstration against the violent tactics of certain animal rights groups.

This week, people in labs across the country are saying: It's about time.

-- It's about time that people came out of their labs and off the bench and took a public stand, rather than relying upon trade groups and animal providers to make the case for them

-- It's about time that science generated its own leaders to pro-actively make the case for animal testing, rather than rely on the usual ( and rather suspect) cast of pharmaceutical companies and toxicology labs

Nicholas Wade has an outstanding piece in today's Times Science section about the "hope" for Resverotrol and other sirtuin-activating compounds that may activate the lifespan extending pathway controlled by caloric restriction, although, like several stories on the subject lately, it left me wondering about a few things. Comment and answers appreciated, they are: 1. The reason for these stories--a Cell Metabolism article that appeared July 3 was actually quite negative about resverotrol's lifespan-extending effects. The Cell piece was about an experiment on normal, rather than high fat fed mice, raising the questions that resverotrol's previous success with high fat mice actually had more to do with energy partitioning than with the stress resistance touted by Sinclair and Guerente.
Southern Illinois University School of Medicine

How a 20-gram rodent conquered the world of science

The following is the beginning of my new article in the December Harper's, which is generating a lot of response already. I was asked onto the Colbert Report ( which I declined, much to the chagrin of certain younger members of the family), and I have been called "some sort of PETA" type, (which I am not). To read the whole thing you will have to get the magazine, on newsstands now. It is worth it because you can also see the eery art by Adam Stennett they used with it.

I haven't been screwing off. Here is my report from the third conference for Strategically Engineered Negligable Senescence, the brainchild of cell biologist Aubrey DeGrey, as it appeared in the Times of London:

This summer two Cambridge undergraduates approached Aubrey de Grey, an outspoken expert on ageing, in his favourite pub, hoping for an informal chat. “Er, sorry, Dr de Grey?” one of them said. “I just wanted to say that I heard your lecture about antiageing medicine and that I thought it was brill . . .”

“Then what are you doing about it?” de Grey replied.

“What?” his student admirer said, clearly puzzled.