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Archive - Jul 1, 2009


Interferon-Alpha May Delay Full Onset of Type 1 Diabetes

Results of a phase 2 trial indicate that a low dose of oral interferon-alpha may, for a period, preserve beta cell function in newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes (formerly juvenile diabetes). "It shows a strong trend in preserving insulin-producing beta cell function that is significantly better than placebo," said Dr. Staley Brod, principal investigator of the trial, which includes the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). "It can extend the 'honeymoon phase' of the disease, allowing the body to still produce insulin from beta cells, which correlates with decreased complication rates." A honeymoon phase sometimes occurs just after diagnosis as the body tries to rebound. Many patients experience a period when their need for insulin becomes minimal, control of blood sugar improves and beta cells partially recover. If the pancreas is still able to function, the highs and lows experienced by taking manufactured insulin can be decreased. The results of the phase 2 trial were published in the July issue of Diabetes Care. [Press release] [Diabetes Care abstract]

Desert Rhubarb Is “Self-Irrigating” Plant

Researchers from the University of Haifa-Oranim have discovered that the desert rhubarb in the mountains of Israel’s Negev desert is able to harvest 16 times as much water as other plants in the arid area that receives only 75 mm of rainfall annually. The scientists determined that the rhubarb achieves this feat by having unusually broad leaves that have ridged surfaces much resembling a mountain range. These ridged surfaces funnel water down to the ground surrounding the plant’s single deep root and serve essentially as a “self-watering” system. "We know of no other plant in the deserts of the world that functions in this manner," the researchers concluded. Most desert plants have very small leaves in order to minimize moisture loss and survive on the little rain water that penetrates the ground in their immediate area. In addition to the rhubarb’s harvesting much more water than small-leaved desert plants, experiments showed that water that funneled down the rhubarb’s leaves penetrated as deep as 10 cm into the ground, whereas water that simply fell on the ground penetrated only 1 cm deep. The image shows the desert rhubarb and is credited to Professor Gidi Ne'eman, University of Haifa. [Press release]