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UPI NewsTrack Health and Science News

March 17, 2011 at 5:59 PM   |   Comments

U.S. radiation suits donated to Japan

MIAMI, March 17 (UPI) -- A Florida company says it has donated 200 full-body nuclear radiation protection suits to aid power plant workers and rescue teams in Japan.

Meanwhile, Radiation Shield Technologies of Medley is working full-time to keep up with orders from companies in Japan, The Miami Herald reported Thursday.

The suits are in high demand because of their unique material, invented by Dr. Ronald DeMeo, a Coral Gables anesthesiologist and pain-management specialist, the newspaper said.

The material provides protection against infrared radiation, extreme heat, nuclear fallout and biological and chemical agents.

DeMeo said he first invented the fabric for medical personal after noticing sunburn-like skin damage on his arms and hands after using X-ray machines with his patients.

He also saw many colleagues in his field afflicted with different types of skin cancers, he said.

"I started to look into better shielding," DeMeo said. "I didn't realize I was venturing into something that hasn't been invented before."

When the Japanese reactors were damaged in the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, DeMeo directed his Hong Kong distributors to donate suits in stock to Japan.

They are expected to arrive this weekend.

The suits weigh nearly 10 pounds and can be put on by the wearer without outside assistance, something not possible with other radiological suits, Dan Edward, head of business development at Radiation Shield Technologies, said.


Gene therapy successful in Parkinson's

DETROIT, March 17 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say half of the patients in a study treating Parkinson's disease with gene therapy had lasting, clinically meaningful improvements.

Researchers with the Henry Ford Health System said the study is the first time gene therapy has proven successful in Parkinson's patients and could substantially improve the lives of 1 million Americans with the degenerative disorder, the Detroit Free Press reported Thursday.

Researchers followed 45 patients for six months after the gene therapy procedures conducted at seven U.S. medical centers, the newspaper said.

Half the patients showed improvements that were still sustained six months later, researchers said.

One of those patients is Dr. Walter Liskiewicz, 60, a Jackson, Mich., oral surgeon so disabled with Parkinson's he was unable to walk before his July 2009 gene therapy procedure at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

Since then, he said, his tremors have decreased, he can walk with a cane and he has been able to reduce the dosage of some of his strong Parkinson's medicines.

"I'm walking better and can use my hands much better," Liskiewicz said.


Plastic bottle from plant waste developed

PURCHASE, N.Y., March 17 (UPI) -- PepsiCo says it has developed a plastic bottle made completely of plant materials like switch grass, pine bark and corn husks instead of petroleum.

In inventing what it calls the world's first plastic bottle created entirely from plant-based, fully renewable resources, the company said it had "cracked the code," the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

At the molecular level, the new bottle is identical to existing plastic bottles made with polyethylene terephthalate resin, or PET.

The biggest difference is that making it does not require the use of petroleum, utilizing renewable plant materials instead.

The new bottle will be as strong and transparent as current bottles, being the chemical equal to the current PET plastic bottles, said Denise Lefebvre, senior director of advanced research at PepsiCo.

The breakthrough was finding the correct fermentation process using plant material, she said.

In making PET, the polyethylene makes up about 30 percent of the total by weight. That part was already being made out of plant materials; what PepsiCo discovered was how to make the second part of PET, the terephthalate, out of plant waste, the Times reported.

"We've been the one to crack the code on that," Lefebvre said.

Combining the technologies allows for a bottle made entirely from plants, she said.


Jane Goodall to open research center

CHARLOTTE, N.C., March 17 (UPI) -- Renowned conservationist and primatologist Jane Goodall will establish a research center on the Duke University campus in North Carolina, school officials said.

Goodall will announce the center, which will house more than 50 years of her field data from Tanzania, during a visit to Duke later this month, The Charlotte (N.C.) News & Observer reported Thursday.

The Jane Goodall Institute Research Center will be directed by Anne Pusey, chairwoman of Duke's department of evolutionary anthropology, school officials said.

The papers will be coming to Duke from the University of Minnesota.

Goodall began studying wild chimpanzees in Gombe National Park in Tanzania 50 years ago, and her research yielded a number of discoveries about primate and human evolution.

Perhaps her most significant finding was that chimpanzees are capable of making and using tools, a behavior once believed to be limited to humans.

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