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Research Report: Adverse effects of cholesterol-lowering statins revealed

Researchers at UCSD School of Medicine have analyzed nearly 900 studies on the adverse side effects of cholesterol-lowering statins and compiled a lengthy list that includes muscle and liver damage, memory loss, numbness in the fingers and toes, blood glucose elevation, and tendon problems.

The studies also revealed that higher statin doses or more powerful statins, as well as certain genetic conditions, are linked to greater risk of developing side effects. The UCSD researchers also conclude that physicians need to be better informed of these side effects in order to properly monitor patients and provide more informed treatment decisions. The article is the first comprehensive review paper on statins’ adverse effects and appears in the on-line edition of “American Journal of Cardiovascular Drugs.”

‘Improving’ on RNA

In a finding that could shed light on how life began on Earth, scientists at the Scripps Research Institute have synthesized RNA enzymes that replicate themselves without the help of proteins or other cellular components - and the process proceeds indefinitely.

In the modern world, DNA carries the genetic sequence for advanced organisms, while RNA is dependent on DNA for performing its roles such as building proteins. One theory about the origins of life postulates that because RNA can function as both a gene and an enzyme that RNA might have arose before DNA and acted as the ancestral molecule of life.

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Through a method of forced adaptation known as in vitro evolution, an RNA enzyme developed in the lab that could perform the basic chemistry of replication was improved to the point that it could drive efficient, perpetual self-replication. The study appears in “Science Express,” the advanced, online edition of the journal “Science.”

Conservation grants awarded

Del Mar-based Papoose Conservation Wildlife Foundation has announced grants to support a science and nature education program for urban youth and a wildlife conservation project in Vietnam.

San Diego-based Aquatic Adventures received funding for “Canyon Exploration” - a program that provides opportunities for children to discover and experience nature.

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The Pangolin Conservation Program, of Cuc Phuong National Park, in Viet Nam, will use its grant for a survey of the status, ecology, and conservation requirements of pangolin in the wild. This unique ant- and termite-eating mammal has a physical appearance marked by large, hardened, plate-like scales. Under severe threat due to poaching and habitat decline, the pangolin is not well known by the public and, therefore, has received little support for its scientific study.