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Shauna Murray is an associate professor and ARC Fellow at the University of Technology, Sydney in the Climate Change Cluster C3 Centre where she researches microalgae that produce toxins that are eaten by fish and could end up on your dinner plate, giving you an illness like Ciguatera. Ciguatera fish poisoning can cause major problems with circulation, digestion, breathing and the nervous system. Shauna's work includes identifying where the microalgae are growing so that fishers can be warned not to take any seafood from those areas and prevent the spread of the illness.

Gurjeet Singh Kohli is a Research Associate studying the genes of the microalgae that cause Ciguatera with both Shauna at UTS and Bret Neilan UNSW. He has recently handed in his PhD thesis. I asked him why it was so difficult to make a test kit that detects the toxins that cause Ciguatera.

Sustainable Aquaculture Group UTS
What is Ciguatera Fish Poisoning?

Your brain has a backup

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Brain scanning technology is quickly approachi...

Brain scanning technology is quickly approaching levels of detail that will have serious implications (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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For Brain Awareness week 2013, the Museum of Human Disease held Get Into Your Head to help people experiment with their brains. I visited the Museum and spoke with Thomas Fath, Christine Froud, and Bridget Murphy about the experiments.

Museum of Human Disease
Brain Awareness Week 2013

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I went to the Red Cross Blood Service in Alexandria, where all the blood donations are sorted and tested before being passed along to hospitals to speak to with Joe Patkes.

Joe Patkes, is Red blood cell serology manager for the Red Cross blood service for NSW. He's had 22 years experience in the blood transfusion business, 7 years with the Australian Red Cross, and before that, 14 years in the United States. He spoke with me about blood types and transfusions. Please excuse the occasional buzzing from the machines in the background.

Red Cross Blood Service Transfusion site
Red Cross Blood Service Donation site

Professor Thomas Borody interview

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Clostridium difficile

Clostridium difficile (Photo credit: AJC1)

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Professor Thomas Borody of the Center for Digestive Diseases is researching which illnesses are caused by the bacteria in the bowel going wrong, and developing bacterial therapies to restore health. In 1999 I spoke to him about how bowel flora affects the brain, and the triple-S, sick flora syndrome.

Since that time research around the world has started to catch up, and for one illness at least, clostridium difficile infection, this poo transplant will become the standard treatment. Other illnesses may follow.

Related articles
English: Tournefortia argentea (habit). Locati...

English: Tournefortia argentea (habit). Location: Kure Atoll, Near coast (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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A traditional herbal medicine based on the Octopus bush has been found effective against Ciguatera fish poisoning in bioassay tests. The active ingredient Rosmarinic acid has been patented. Clinical trials are yet to be done, but its the most hopeful news for Ciguatera Fish Poisoning sufferers I've seen in the ten years I've been poisoned. The active ingredient actually seems to work against the action of ciguatoxins and also act to remove them from the body.

Deutsch: Ciguatoxin CTX2

Deutsch: Ciguatoxin CTX2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Use of Rosmarinic Acid and the Derivaties Thereof to Treat Ciguatera- patent

Protective effect of Heliotropium foertherianum (Boraginaceae) folk remedy and its active compound, rosmarinic acid, against a Pacific ciguatoxin - Journal of Ethnopharmocology

Heliotropium foertherianum - wikipedia

Rosmarinic Acid - wikipedia

Reef Or Madness

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Reef or Madness from ilum - Julie Hollenbeck on Vimeo.

A 16 minute film about Ciguatera Fish Poisoning created By Julie Hollenbeck, Mark Newbill and Ray Trujillo, Jr.

Ciguatera, the most reported "seafood toxin illness in the world" that a majority of the planet has never heard of, infects hundreds of thousands of people a year, some of whose very will to live is tested by the devastating and debilitating chronic neurological affects of the fish-borne toxin.

"Reef or Madness" a short documentary film by University of Miami Marine Affairs and Policy students Julie Hollenbeck and Mark Newbill, that recounts the struggle of chronic Ciguatera sufferers who seek to regain some semblance of their healthy and productive lives following Ciguatera infection and the incapacitating symptoms that can last for years. While Ciguatera is a recognized medical illness, many marine toxin specialists have yet to agree on how long people may suffer with the symptoms of the fish poison, leaving long-term chronic sufferers to feel as if they're more crazy than sick. Their families and physicians wondering the same. "Reef or Madness" will give a "voice" to the sufferers of chronic Ciguatera, who face doubt, confusion and scorn from themselves, their families and friends as well as the medical and scientific communities.

If people knew that the fish they're about to eat is like playing Russian roulette with their health, they might think twice before taking that first bite.

This film was created for $143 using personal, leveraged and collaborative resources.
Marlie Productions, 2010 ©

#ProtectScience Protest rally

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On April 12th 2011 a rally to protest against proposed medical research budget cuts by the Australian government was held around the country. I attended the Sydney protest in Belmore Park and interviewed:
Bettina Arndt, Bill Ferris, Judy Black, and Andrea MacFarland.

IMGP2963 IMGP2946 IMGP2973

Living longer the Genescient way

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This is my 10 minute report on Gregory Benford's  hour-long talk and slide-show about his company Genescient's aquisition of the Methuselah flies, and how they are being used to show the networked interactions of drugs and foods with genes and how they express in the human body. He presented his talk at the Singularity Summit Australia. The Methuselah flies use experimental evolution to discover the genes that cause the diseases of aging. Their first product StemCell100 goes on dale in December 2010

Gregory Benford - 1Gregory Benford - 2


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This recording was made in large echoing room, from the audience. Its less than ideal. I'll be posting a studio quality recording of me presenting a script based on this talk, very soon.

Gregory Benford spoke about his company Genescient's aquisition of the Methuselah flies and how they are being used to show the networked interactions of drugs and foods with genes and how they express in the human body. He presented his talk at the Singularity Summit Australia.
Gregory Benford - 2

Here's my photos of his presentation as a slideshow or click on the thumbnails below:

Gregory <a href=IMGP1932-1IMGP1933-1IMGP1934IMGP1935IMGP1936IMGP1937IMGP1938IMGP1939IMGP1940IMGP1941IMGP1942IMGP1943IMGP1944IMGP1945IMGP1946

Sailor's Hello

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In the studio this week while we recorded Diffusion Science Radio, Victoria Bond demonstrated on Marc West the "Sailor's Handshake", used in the old days by sailors meeting eager girls on the docks, to subtly discover if they carried syphilis.

Victoria and Marc are members of the Diffusion Science Radio team.

Dr Rachel Dunlop versus the AVN

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Dr Rachel Dunlop has been battling the Australian Vaccination Network for the past 12 months. She explains why people were scared of vaccinations, and why they don't need to be afraid. download MP3

Dr Rachie is a member of the Australian Skeptics and a regular contributor to the SkepticZone podcast.

Karaoke Therapy

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Location of two brain areas that play a critic...

Image via Wikipedia

I suffer from mild aphasia from chronic ciguatera fish poisoning. I reasoned that karaoke therapy might help my fluent or "mild" aphasia. A year after I started singing, I had big improvements in the quality of my speech, and the science has been published explaining why it worked, and why joining a choir may help me and other people who've suffered "mild" aphasia even more.

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Zombie Fish poison! Associate Professor Graham Nicholson from the department of molecular and medical biosciences in the faculty of science at the University of Technology, Sydney spoke with Ian Woolf about the tropical fish disease Ciguatera and the fish you eat to consume the poison.
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New Scientist response podcast

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Here's a podcast of my response to the New Scientist headlines about "How People Can Think Themselves Sick - how chronic fatigue syndromes are triggered by people's mindset".

New Scientist have just published an interview with psychiatrist Simon Wessely with the irresponsible headline "When illness is mostly in the mind" which is advertised in their email PR as "How People Can Think Themselves Sick - how chronic fatigue syndromes are triggered by people's mindset"

I immediately wrote a comment about the unscientific interpretation of the data which I'll reproduce here.
His list of published work is here:on pubmed

I don't know which research he refers to in the interview.

Simon Wessley And CFS Sufferers Hurt By Wrong Headline

Simon has only shown that 33% of patients have recovered from CFS without knowing it and are merely de-conditioned from CFS, and 33% have been over-cautious with an illness that gives time-delayed feedback to activity, while the remaining 33% are managing their CFS exactly right and have no detectable psychiatric problem. At best 33% are "thinking themselves sick". There's nothing new in this, but it does prove that CBT and graded exercise doesn't cure 66% of CFS. If his research is correct.

 I notice that Simon Wessley never uses the phrase "mostly in the mind", and in fact never in the interview says that CFS is "triggered by a mindset." Where do these exaggerations come from?. Sadly its the exaggerated headlines and summaries that people will remember, not the carefully worded answers given in the interview.

One counter-example is all that is necessary to prove a scientific theory wrong. 66% of patients are not cured by CBT and graded exercise, therefore the theory is wrong. 33% not only aren't helped, but they are likely to have been MADE SERIOUSLY WORSE by the application of CBT and graded exercise. Given that this is the defining symptom of the diagnosis of CFS, why wasn't the question asked? How many people were hurt by being made to do exercise that made them sicker? 33% is a high number, and can't be dismissed the way Simon appears to.

His own research proves that his theory is wrong for 66% of patients. He should interpret this to mean that there are a small sub-set of people who have recovered from CFS and can be helped by CBT and graded exercise, and the remainder are sick for reasons his theory can't explain. Only half of those who don't recover respond to graded exercise and CBT with "good improvement", and half do not respond well to this treatment. This would be an accurate and fair interpretation that would not lead to CBT and graded exercise being the "cure" for all.

Whoever chose the headline and the short summary that appeared in the New Scientist PR email should apologize to both CFS sufferers and Simon Wessley for misleading everyone.

Michael Cortie SCEP interview

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I spoke with Professor Michael Cortie about his research using lasers to zap gold nano-particles to kill cancer cells and parasites, at the University of Technology, Sydney.

Dr Stephen Graves CFS interview

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Dr Stephen Graves, Director of Hunter Area Pathology and the Australian Rickettsial Reference Laboratory spoke with me about the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Conference held in Cambridge in July 2008. What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? What are the causes, and what is it like to be struck down by the illness? Why is it still the invisible illness so many years after its discovery in the 1980s?

The interview was broadcast on Diffusion Science Radio on 2SER on the 4th of August 2008 You can download the whole show here.

Chocolate desire laid bare

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Are you chocolate desiring or chocolate indifferent? The reason lies in your guts.

Memory Prosthetics

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Brain implants to help your memory. Ted Berger has a device that takes analogue signals from the brain, converts them to digital, processes the signals, and then outputs in the brains own language to neurons on the other side.

The Black Stuff

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Is Vegemite illegal in America? Personally, I never touch the stuff.

Asthmatic tomatoes

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Mint is the new heroin

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A new mint oil inspired lotion may help people who suffer chronic pain.

Sydney poisoned

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All fishing in Sydney has been banned indefinitely because seafood from the Harbour is poisoned with 35 times the WHO safe level of dioxins.

Extension of harbour fishing ban likely ABC
Sydney Harbour commercial fishing halted ABC

None of the reports name the corporations who dumped all this poison into the harbour. There is no indication that the people poisoned, the fishermen rendered jobless, nor the cost of cleaning up will be borne by the polluters. They are just referred to as "industries in Homebush Bay", whose poison sediments have spread everywhere for many years.

The State government hasn't committed to payng for any of this either. They're just hoping that some of the most persistant industrial wastes in the world will go away in a few months - or that the electorate will forget about it.
The poison didn't just happen yesterday. The Primary Industries Minister's angle is that its not his fault that the WHO have lowered the safe amount of dioxins. He admits the current levels are as bad as they were when he checked ten years ago.

Maybe the fish that survive the poison can replenish the unsustainably over-fished ocean.

Ironically, the tabloid TV shows recently bullied fish shops for not displaying where fish was from so that people could avoid buying foreign food. Now the same origin labelling laws can help you avoid food grown locally.

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