; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Just the Facts?: All-Purpose Antiviral Close -- Two-Headed Baby Born -- Shroud of Turin...Again!

Breakthrough: A new drug that could cure everything from colds to HIV

Our most powerful antibiotics can kill many different kinds of bacterial infections at once, but we're still searching for a single all-purpose drug that kills viruses. We may have just discovered it.

Technically speaking, any drug that is used to treat a virus is known as an antiviral, and we use them to treat HIV, hepatitis, and certain flu strains. But those antivirals all have to be very specifically designed to take down one particular virus. The situation is even worse for vaccines, which don't exist for some diseases (and aren't practical for others, like the common cold) and need to be constantly redesigned to remain effective against evolving viral strains.

Creating a single antiviral drug that could kill lots of different viruses is a longstanding dream of medical researchers. Beyond all the obvious benefits of such an honest-to-goodness wonder drug, an all-purpose antiviral would give us a much better chance of fighting back against outbreaks of exotic viruses like SARS and swine flu. As a minor but still rather nice bonus, it could also be that long awaited cure for the common cold.

According to MIT research scientist Todd Rider, we're closer to such an antiviral than ever before. He's developed a drug named Draco, which he says has successfully vanquished 15 different viruses in lab trials on mice and human tissue. Those viruses include a quite literal murderer's row: dengue fever, polio, the swine flu, and the particularly nasty Ebola virus. And, yes, the common cold has also been tested, and Draco was able to get rid of it as well.

So how does Draco work? According to Rider, it combines his backgrounds in engineering and biology, wiring together a pair of proteins. The first protein detects that a virus has entered a cell, which triggers the second protein. In turn, that protein acts as a kill switch, destroying the infected cell to cut off the spread of the virus. That sacrifice represents a grimly practical solution, and so far, it seems to be working.

This is a seriously intriguing result, but there's some room for skepticism here. One cautious voice is that of Cambridge researcher Leo James, whose own antiviral research involves supercharging the immune system. He points out that Rider's results are highly unusual, and as such needs to be replicated by scientists elsewhere before we have a really good understanding of what's really going on here.

Either way, even though Rider has already put Draco to work on human tissue, that doesn't mean we're ready for human testing. There's a long road ahead for this drug, which will require tests on multiple rounds of larger animals before it's ready for human trials. Because viruses and human cells become so closely intertwined during an infection, it can be hard to control for all the side effects of an antiviral.

A good example of this is interferon, which was hailed a potential antiviral wonder drug back in the 1950s. Interferon works by detecting infections and sending signals to other cells to build up their defenses in preparation for an attack. The problem is that the drug also sends white blood cells racing to the infection. That's great news for more serious infections like hepatitis, for which interferon is still used today. But for more mild infections, like a cold, the inflammation, fever, and pain caused by the interferon cure is worse than the virus itself.

Draco has some similarities to interferon - they're both protein-based, which means Draco could also provoke an immune response. According to Rider, there's been no immune response so far in the mice who have received the drug. That's good news, but it may not directly correlate to the experience humans would have with the drug.

If Draco or one of the other antivirals works out, it would change the face of global health overnight. The ability to cure minor infections like the common cold could save people from a few days each year of ill health - which across an entire population would add up to a vastly more efficient workforce. And, looking even more broadly, the existence of an all-purpose antiviral would do a lot to reduce the health scares caused by new viral outbreaks, equipping us with a ready-made tool for the next big pandemic. - io9


Brazilian baby 'born healthy with two heads

A Brazilian woman who has given birth to a baby with two heads, admitted she had initially expected twins.

Maria de Nazare, gave birth by caesarean at a hospital in Anajas, in Brazil's northern Para state, with her newborn weighing 9.9lbs.

And in a tribute to the religious celebrations at Christmas, she has decided to call the pair Emanoel and Jesus.

Following the birth of her baby, mother Maria, 25, admitted that she had been told she was set to welcome twins.

But following a number of tests, doctors have revealed that the baby has two brains and two spines but shares one heart, lungs, liver and pelvis.

The hospital's director, Claudionor Assis de Vasconcelos, told Brazil's O Povo newspaper that the woman decided to travel to the hospital because she was feeling strong abdominal pains.

The 25-year-old mother, who lives in a rural area of the state, had no ultra-sound scans during her pregnancy and only found out about the abnormality minutes before the baby was born at 1am on Monday morning.

He said: 'When doctors scanned her they realised that the baby had two heads and that a normal birth would be a great risk both for mother and baby. The caesarean took an hour because the baby was sitting down.

'Despite all the problems we have as a small interior hospital we managed to save both mother and baby, which was our aim. And for us it was a great surprise to find out that the child was in really good health.'

Neila Dahas, director of the Santa Casa hospital said: 'If both their brains are functioning, how are we going to choose which head to remove?

'We are not considering the possibility of surgery. What we've got to think about at this moment is to maintain the children in good condition and see how they will develop.'

The two-headed boy is, in reality, conjoined twins who share a single body. The condition is known as dicephalic parapagus - an extremely unusual form of conjoinment.

Because they share the same body, it is not possible to separate dicephalic parapagus twins.

The birth of such twins is extremely rare in south-west Asia and Africa.

However, there have been instances of dicephalic parapagus twins in the West.

In the U.S. Abigail and Brittany Hensel have become media celebrities, appearing on the Oprah Winfrey Show and featuring in television documentaries.

Mr Vasconcelos added that at no point did the mother, who has three other children, appear distraught that her son has two heads.

He said: 'On the contrary, the baby was received with much happiness by the family.

'The mother fed both mouths and the baby stayed with her in her room the whole time. Her desire was to take her baby straight home.'

The mother and baby were taken by air ambulance yesterday afternoon to a specialist hospital in the state capital, Belem, to carry out further tests. They are expected to be allowed home later this week.

Remarkably, this is the second time a two-headed baby has been born in Brazil this year. Sueli Ferreira, 27, gave birth to a two-headed baby in Paraiba State, but it died a few hours later because of lack of oxygen to one of the child's heads. - dailymail


Shroud Of Turin, Jesus' Proposed Burial Cloth, Is Authentic, Italian Study Suggests (yeah, right!)

A series of experiments conducted by Italian researchers indicate the Shroud of Turin is likely authentic, but the team has not yet reached a definite conclusion.

Decades of research on Jesus' proposed burial cloth have revealed an array of conflicting ideas surrounding the shroud's authenticity. However, researchers from Italy's National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development believe their findings undermine previous theories that the shroud was faked in the medieval period, the Telegraph reports. The new claim seems to be stirring controversy again, as many point to previous research to the contrary.

Last year scientists were able to replicate marks on the cloth using highly advanced ultraviolet techniques that weren't available 2,000 years ago -- or during the medieval times, for that matter.

Research in the 1980s suggests the image was "forged" on the cloth between 1260 and 1390, but scientists have determined the hypothesis was based on testing material from a patch likely used to to repair the cloth after a fire, the BBC reports.

Since the shroud and "all its facets" still cannot be replicated using today's top-notch technology, researchers suggest it is impossible that the original image could have been created in either period.

However, scientists are willing to point out the flaw in their findings. The Vatican Insider reports:

This inability to repeat (and therefore falsify) the image on the Shroud makes it impossible to formulate a reliable hypothesis on how the impression was made.

Still, lead researcher professor Manuela Marinelli estimates the cloth is at least 95 percent authentic, the Voice of Russia points out. "Nobody can give 100 percent guarantees 2,000 years after it had been found."

The findings are bound to rile up both believers and skeptics, but as Tom Chivers, the Telegraph's assistant comment editor indicates:

The "authenticity" or otherwise of the Shroud of Turin does not have any implications for whether or not Christ was real, or whether He was divine. If it was a medieval forgery, it doesn't mean the stories aren't true; if it really was made in the first century AD, it doesn't mean they were.

The research team emphasizes their inclinations are not definite, but the Vatican Insider points out one of history's biggest mysteries still has no answer:

Regardless of the age the Shroud, whether it is medieval (1260 - 1390) as shown by the controversial dating by radiocarbon, or older as indicated by other investigations, and regardless of the actual importance of controversial historical documents on the existence of the Shroud in the years preceding 1260, the most important question, the "question of questions" remains the same: how did that body image appear on the Shroud? - THR

The Shroud of Turin: 3 Film Collector's Edition



This past Sunday, Eric, Lon and the BTE Staff celebrated Christmas a week early with all our friends, fans and family!

Lon Strickler, Sean "The Forkchop" Forker, Scott "Hackenslash" Walton, James Baker, and all of us at BTE Radio, want to thank you for listening, supporting us and helping us grow quickly into one of your favorite Paranormal Talk Radio shows. This week we have a very special Christmas present for you...our listeners, fans and friends!


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from BTE Radio 12-18-2011


2011, The Year Of The Orb - The 2011 UFO Saga - Told In Story Form - With Top Five Videos

If you remember in the last chapter, titled 2010 - the year ended with a huge level of expectations as for what to expect to happen in our skies in 2011 - do to the unprecedented PREDICTED October 13th, 2010 day-long UFO sky display that eventually had LIVE TV coverage with the man in the street in NYC. As such, the Stanley Fulham predictions for 2011 loomed as he himself passed before the year began. Would alien contact be accelerating as he predicted so that aliens could save our atmosphere? Would the `shapes' of UFOs continue to develop new attributes as they did in 2010? (Reports have suggested a possible increase in squareish, and rectangular and irregular shapes IMO.)

But, most importantly, would some form of UFO disclosure come in 2011 - some sort of direct `answer' about the anomalous phenomena seemingly being captured more and more on camera. Would the government of the USA itself take the `soft disclosure' route already taken by other countries, and, begged for by the exo-politics branch of the UFO contingent of folks. - Continue reading at UFO Disclosure Countdown Clock