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Entries in Australia (3)

Wednesday
Aug312011

Sunscreen Pill from Aussie Reef Coral?

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Tropical coral from Australia's Great Barrier Reef contains natural UV blockers that might one day come in a pill that protects our eyes and skin from the sun's ravages, researchers say.

But don't toss your high-SPF lotions and creams yet. If all goes as planned, a tablet that would protect people from damaging ultraviolet radiation is probably about five years away, said Paul Long, a senior lecturer in pharmaceutical science at King's College London.

Long leads a three-year research project, financed by the British government, focused on sun-shielding compounds in Acropora microphthalma coral. He and his fellow researchers have been trying to unravel the biochemical secrets of these chemicals, extracted from coral samples gathered during night dives.

"What we have found is that the algae living within the coral makes a compound that we think is transported to the coral, which then modifies it into a sunscreen for the benefit of both the coral and the algae," Long said in a statement from King's College, which issued a news release about the research. "Not only does this protect them both from UV damage, but we have seen that fish that feed on the coral also benefit from this sunscreen protection, so it is clearly passed up the food chain."

Because Acropora microphthalma coral is endangered, the scientists first must create a synthetic version of the coral compounds, which could be tested on human skin samples. Long has suggested scientists might find a ready supply in excess skin discarded by plastic surgeons after tummy tucks. Only after scientists learn how the compound affects skin cells could they then begin developing a pill that would protect skin throughout the body, as well as the eyes, which also are sensitive to the effects of UV light.

Long and his colleagues began thinking a pill might work based upon observations of small fish eating coral, "like Nemo" in the animated movie Finding Nemo, "and then larger fish would eat the smaller fish, so these compounds pass up the food chain."

One important consideration for researchers involves determining how the compounds' UV-blocking properties might interfere with the body's production of Vitamin D, often called the sunshine vitamin. Vitamin D comes either from exposure to sunlight, or from dietary supplements.

A pill based on coral's natural UV blockers wouldn't be the first sunscreen pill to offer protection from the inside out. A dietary supplement called Heliocare contains green tea, beta-carotene and Polypodium leucotomos, a tropical fern extract long used for psoriasis and eczema. However, dermatologists say its skin-protective antioxidants don't take the place of topical sunscreens, but may make the sun less vulnerable to UV damage. A bottle of 60 Heliocare pills runs about $50.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun172011

Roughhousing with Dad Crucial for Development, Say Researchers

Jack Hollingsworth/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Dads roughhousing with their young children is crucially important in the early development of kids, according to a study by Australian researchers. Sunday is Father's Day and as the annual tribute to dads approaches, experts say the gift that keeps on giving -- for years to come -- is for kids to play a little rough with their fathers.

"We know quite a lot about how important fathers are in general for a child's development. Over the last decade, for example, that it's mainly mother that interacts with children and that's how they develop, and that's the important bit, that's changed. We know fathers are important," Richard Fletcher, the leader of the Fathers and Families Research Program at the University of Newcastle in Australia, told ABC News.

"Father's Day reminds us parents that we have no more solemn obligation than to care for our children," President Barack Obama said Wednesday in calling for fathers to be more involved with their children. "But far too many young people in America grow up without their dads, and our families and communities are challenged as a result."

The percentage of fathers who live with their children has doubled in the past 50 years, and dads tend to spend more than twice the amount of time with their children than they did in the 1960's, according to a study released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center.

Australian researchers watched film of 30 dads while they roughhoused with their children, usually through a game where the child would try to remove a sock from their father's foot, to see what effect it might have on children.

"Rough and tumble play between fathers and their young children is part of their development, shaping their children's brain so that their children develop the ability to manage emotions and thinking and physical action altogether," said Fletcher. "This is a key developmental stage for children in that preschool area between the ages of about two and a half and five. That's when children learn to put all those things together."

Although boys were more likely to encourage the start of roughhousing with their dads, researchers did not see a significant difference between boys and girls once the play started. But for the kids, it's not just play.

"When you look at fathers and their young children playing, you can see that for the child, it's not just a game. They obviously enjoy it and they're giggling, we know that's true, but when you watch the video, you can see that child is concentrating really hard…I think the excitement is related to the achievement that's involved," Fletcher told ABC News. "It's not about a spoiled child not wanting to lose, I think that child is really striving for the achievement of succeeding."

The researchers believe that the most important aspect of this play is that it gives children a sense of achievement when they 'defeat' a more powerful adult, building their self-confidence and concentration. However, fathers who resist their children, can also teach them the life lesson that, in life, you don't always win.

These kinds of lessons can be crucial in child developmental stages as they begin to build their outlook on the world. "We think it has implications for children's resilience. So, if parents want their children to grow up and not get into drugs and not get into trouble, if they want them to do well academically, than this is probably a good thing to do," said Fletcher. "We did find a correlation so that the dad's whose play was much better coordinated according to our measures, those children had less problems."

Fletcher admits that more research needs to be done, but he is hopeful that his team will eventually be able to help fathers know how to best interact with their child in their formative periods to ensure them a successful future. "It's a new area, but we're excited about the possibilities," said Fletcher.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan052011

'Sex Not Specified': Living as Both Male and Female

Photo Courtesy - Norrie/ABC News(SYDNEY) -- If you pass Norrie on the sidewalk, you won't be able to tell if she is a man or a woman.

The 49-year-old walks through her gritty Sydney, Australia neighborhood barefoot and wearing a dress.  She is flat-chested, has an Adam's Apple, medium-sized feet and sports a haircut that could be male or female -- short in the back and on the sides, with a mop of long hair on top.  She wears little or no make-up.

Norrie goes by only one name and is a self-described 'spansexual.'  She was the first person in the world ever to be issued identity papers that state: "Sex Not Specified."

"I see myself as male and female," she said.  Norrie is happy to be referred to as "he" or "she" in conversation.  But says she doesn't want her identity documents to be telling lies.

"In terms of M or F," Norrie said.  "I'm not specifically M or F.  You can't specify me as being male or you can't specify me as being female without committing a 'fudge' at the very least."

Two doctors examined Norrie and couldn't determine that she was one sex or the other, physically or psychologically.  So the State of New South Wales issued her a document that states: "Sex Not Specified."

Norrie was born, anatomically, as a normal boy in a small Scottish town.  Her family immigrated to Australia when she was seven, where she grew from an awkward adolescent into a glamorous gay man.

Norrie said that during the day, she was discriminated against at her job in a government office for her appearance and sexual orientation.  At night, Norrie socialized with transvestites and transsexuals where she felt accepted.

Eventually, she started dressing in drag and came to believe she was a woman trapped in a man's body.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio