The Health News – 28 May 2014

Overview

  • An environmental group has called for a ban on new nano-materials being used in foods and its packaging until risk assessments have proven the tiny materials are safe to consume.
  • Macquarie will today be WAS named as part of an international consortium aiming to synthesise yeast from scratch. The project could generate new strains of a vital ingredient in goods from vaccines to vegemite.
  • Having a baby alters new mothers’ brain activity, researchers have found, and a new study adds the first evidence of such changes in the brains of gay men raising children they adopted through surrogacy.


The news on Health Professional Radio.  Today is the 28TH May 2014. Read by Rebecca Foster.

http://www.theage.com.au/technology/sci-tech/green-group-calls-for-ban-on-nanomaterials-in-food-20140521-zrk6j.html

An environmental group has called for a ban on new nano-materials being used in foods and its packaging until risk assessments have proven the tiny materials are safe to consume.

A report released by Friends of the Earth on Thursday said the number of products in Australia containing nano-sized materials was growing rapidly, despite scientific evidence suggesting these materials could accumulate in the body and cause damage.

“In order to protect the health of the public you [need to] treat new technologies with a level of precaution until you’ve established they’re safe,” said Jeremy Tager, an author of the report.

He said nano-materials were used in food additives, supplements, food packaging, vitamins for livestock and pesticides.

Mr Tager said little work had been done to assess their potential long-term environmental and health impacts.

Research has found titanium dioxide could damage DNA, the immune system and cells. Other studies have shown nano-silica could cross the placenta barrier, he said.

Friends of the Earth also wants a register for products containing nano-materials and compulsory labels for nano-foods.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/bakers-delight-as-macquarie-helps-make-life/story-e6frgcjx-1226932162422

Macquarie will today be WAS named as part of an international consortium aiming to synthesise yeast from scratch. The project could generate new strains of a vital ingredient in goods from vaccines to vegemite.

Macquarie research chief Sakkie Pretorius, who will oversee the university’s part in the project, said yeast was an “industrial workhorse”. It has been used for centuries in baking, brewing and winemaking and now in producing biofuels and pharmaceuticals.

The project is being spearheaded by New York University geneticist Jef Boeke (pronounced BUKA).

In March Professor Boeke’s team reported that it had created a completely synthetic version of one of yeast’s 16 chromosomes, sparking an international mission to recreate the other 15 and generate the world’s first fully synthetic yeast.

Macquarie has been given the task of synthesising chromosome 14, which was “up for grabs” when Professor Pretorius emailed to ask about the project. The deadline is 2017.

The project is the latest instalment in the fast-moving field of synthetic biology. In 2010 scientists claimed to have created artificial life after synthesising the genetic code of a bacterium.

But yeast has a far more complex genome, and the project has industrial implications far beyond scientific interest. “It’s a technology with a promise to heal us, feed us and fuel us,” Professor Pretorius said.

http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2014/05/27/4013117.htm

Having a baby alters new mothers’ brain activity, researchers have found, and a new study adds the first evidence of such changes in the brains of gay men raising children they adopted through surrogacy.

The men’s pattern of brain activity resembles that of both new mothers and new fathers in the study.

The research could feed into the debate over whether gay men should be allowed to adopt children.

The current study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was conducted in Israel, and builds on work by neuropsychologist Ruth Feldman of Bar-Ilan University and others, who showed that the brains of new mothers become hyper-reactive to their child’s cries and other emotional cues.

It was not clear if that pattern is a result of the hormonal and other changes that accompany pregnancy or a response to the experience of motherhood.

The 48 gay fathers raising children with their husbands seemed to be both mum and dad, brain-wise. Their emotional circuits were as active as those of mothers and the interpretive circuits showed the same extra activity as that of heterosexual fathers’.

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