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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Scientists have discovered the crucial ovulation-triggering role played by a small protein molecule in the brain

Brain protein holds key to fertility
Scientists have discovered the crucial ovulation-triggering role played by a small protein molecule in the brain, a finding that could hold the key to new therapies for infertility.

Dubbed kisspeptin, the protein is known to play a vital role in kick-starting puberty.

Now, a group from the University of Otago led by Professor Allan Herbison, in collaboration with Cambridge University researchers, has published the first evidence that kisspeptin signaling in the brain is also essential for ovulation to occur in adults.

Studying female mice, the researchers found that signaling between kisspeptin and its cell receptor GPR54 was essential to activate gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons, the nerve cells known to initiate ovulation.

The research appears in the latest issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

"This is an exciting finding, as people have been trying to find out precisely how the brain controls ovulation for more than 30 years. This work now reveals a crucial link in the brain circuitry responsible," Herbison said in a statement.

The study indicates that disorders affecting the signaling between kisspeptin and the GPR54 receptors will result in women being unable to ovulate.

As an approach to treating infertility in some women, it could allow for ovulation to be induced in a more natural way than current therapies, the research added.

"Targeting drugs to this chemical switch to make it work properly may help some people who are infertile, while finding compounds that can block this switch could lead to new contraceptives," Herbison added.

"Our findings show that kisspeptin may be a promising area to focus future research efforts aimed at either enhancing or regulating human fertility."

Herbison says his research group is now investigating what role kisspeptin-GPR54 signaling might play in the male reproductive system.

As for the protein's name "kisspeptin," the researchers say it is completely unrelated to its association with reproduction.

"The researchers who originally discovered the gene that codes for kisspeptin had no idea that it had a role in fertility -- it was named in honor of Hershey Kisses, as Hershey was the town in the United States where the scientists were based."

The spirit of RAMADAN

Muslims across the world are marking Ramadan, the holiest month of the Islamic year, with charity and outreach programs.

what should happen during Ramadan, a month-long exercise for Muslims to avoid misconduct.

During fasting month, I hope that we, Muslims, carry out introspection so that after Ramadan we will be able to stay away from any negative things and we can start our lives like a newly born baby -- free from sin.

We, , have learned many things in the last ten years in trying to strengthen our national character and fix our mistakes committed in the past.

This Ramadan, we, especially muslims as the majority, have to contemplate our behavior of previous years.

Have we understood thoroughly and implemented our Islamic teachings correctly, as written in the holy Koran and prophet Muhammad's guide?

These contain the spirit for helping and loving others without discrimination, hatred or dishonesty.

@I hope during the fasting month, Muslims can really change their bad ways to good, particularly in their behavior and attitudes.

In this holy month of Ramadan, Muslims, whoever they are and whatever they're doing, will be restructuring their entire life to become a better person.

It isn't just not eating and drinking, but also avoiding all causes that will break the fast such as bribery, smuggling, intimidation and other vices that ruin a person's life.

This should continue even after the month of Ramadan ends. This way we don't have to learn the hard way how to be a better person; we just do as our religion tells us and the results will be overwhelmingly good for this country.

@One main point of Ramadan is "honesty". By fasting a Muslim is urged to be honest to him/herself. A good Muslim will not break his/her fast although no one is watching him/her.

He/she realizes that fasting is really a form of personal worship to God and only God is able to judge whether the fasting is good or not. He/she realizes that God always keeps an eye on him/her.

@After Ramadan we can expect that Muslims in this country will be reminded to be honest in all aspects of life. If the people and the leaders are to be honest with him/her self and believe God always keeps an eye on him/her, then hopefully the misconducts in this country will be lessened.

@What's the point in restraining yourself when you will be acting wrong the rest of the year?

@Ramadan is a time to serve and respect others instead of being served and respected by others. Happy fasting for Muslims.

The Council for American-Islamic Relations, the Washington-based advocacy and civil rights group, is urging Muslims to invite their non-Muslim neighbors to join them at an iftar— the evening meal when Muslims break their dawn-to-sunset fast during the 30-day holiday, which began Monday evening.

The idea, says spokesman Ibrahim Hooper, is to increase understanding of Islam by sharing the experience of Ramadan, when Islam's holy scripture, the Quran, was revealed. Observing the fast is one of the five pillars of the faith, along with submission to God, pilgrimage to Mecca, prayer and charity.

ON THE WEB: How Islamic Relief spends its money

Many Muslims make charitable gifts during the month of Ramadan, and service projects are also popular. This year, hundreds of Muslims around the nation will serve the hungry and homeless at Day of Dignity events in 18 U.S. cities. The events are coordinated by Islamic Relief USA, based in Buena Park, Calif.

Their goal for the events, which start Saturday in Las Vegas and Seattle, is to offer food and winter supplies to 25,000 people, up from 20,000 last year, says spokesman Mostafa Mahboob.

In Seattle, organizer Aziz Junejo says organizers expect to serve meals and distribute supplies such as ponchos, blankets, socks and hygiene kits to 1,000 people at a downtown day-labor center. The event is underwritten by personal donations and 20 area mosques.

"We want to show people respect, not just give them handouts. We take time to talk with them and hear their stories," Junejo says.

Chrome the future best browser

Google Inc.'s new Web browser, called Chrome, does much of what a browser needs to do these days: It presents a sleek appearance, groups pages into easy-to-manage "tabs" and offers several ways for people to control their Internet privacy settings.

Yet my initial tests reveal that this "beta," or preliminary release, falls short of Google's goals, and is outdone in an important measure by the latest version of Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer.

Chrome is a challenge to Microsoft's browser, used by about three-quarters of Web surfers. But it could equally be called a challenge to Microsoft's Office software suite, because what Google really wants to do is to make the browser a stable and flexible platform that can do practically everything we want to do with a computer, from word processing and e-mail to photo editing.

To strengthen that effort, Chrome was designed to improve on the way other browsers handle JavaScript, one of the technologies used to make Web pages more interactive and more like desktop software applications. Google's online word processing and spreadsheet programs use this technology, but it's also very widely deployed on Web pages to do less sophisticated things, like drop-down menus.

At first blush, Google's focus on JavaScript makes sense. JavaScript can eat up computer processor power, and if poorly used by a Web site, can bring down the browser. One of the things Chrome promises is that if one browser tab crashes, it won't take down the whole program.

Chrome also has some cosmetic differences from Internet Explorer and Firefox, like putting the tabs at the very top of the window. That's a nice move, but it's the browser's performance that really matters to me. And this is where Chrome's attention to JavaScript might miss the point.

At work, I often have 40 or 50 tabs open in Firefox, grouped in different windows depending on which topic they pertain to. Frequently, Firefox would slow down all the other applications on my computer, then seize up completely.

At first I thought JavaScript was to blame, and blocked it from running. But that made many sites unusable, and it didn't help: The browser still froze.

It turns out the culprit is not JavaScript but another technology used to make Web pages more interactive: Adobe Systems Inc.'s Flash plug-in. It's the program-within-a-program that plays YouTube videos and those annoying "splash" pages that some sites employ to dazzle you with animations before letting you do anything useful on the site.

Flash is a tremendous resource hog in Firefox, eating up processor time to the point where there is nothing left for other programs. It does this even if you're not actively doing anything. Merely having a YouTube page open on your screen will suck power from your computer's central processing unit, or CPU. This is outrageous behavior for a browser. It's my CPU and I want it back.

Luckily, there's a small add-on program for Firefox that lets the user prevent Flash files from running automatically when a page loads, and it turns Firefox into a stable, efficient browser.

What does this mean on Chrome? Well, it has the same problem. It lets sites running Flash take over your computer's resources. It doesn't hog the CPU quite as bad as with Firefox, but in a way, it's more serious, because unlike with Firefox, there's no way to stop Flash from running. Chrome's controls are quite bare-bones, perhaps because it's still in "beta."

On the plus side, Chrome allows you to diagnose problems with runaway plug-ins easily, because it tells you exactly which pages are consuming which resources. Had I been able to do this with Firefox, it would have saved me from months of browser troubles.

So which one comes out smelling like roses? The beta of Internet Explorer 8, released just last week.

When playing a YouTube video, Firefox 3 took up 95 percent of the CPU time on a three-year old laptop running Windows XP.

Chrome came in at 60 percent — still too much. Especially since Google owns YouTube! You'd think it could make its browser work well with that site in particular.

Internet Explorer barely broke a sweat, taking up just a few percent.

When I told each browser to load eight pages, some of which were heavy with Flash and graphics, Firefox took 17 seconds and ended with a continuous CPU load of 50 percent. That means it took up half of my available processing power, even if I wasn't looking at any of the pages.

Chrome loaded them the fastest, at 12 seconds, and ended with a CPU load of about 40 percent.

Internet Explorer 8 took 13 seconds to load, but ended with no CPU load at all.

So while Chrome's performance is a little better than that of Firefox, in practical terms, it is far less useful, because it lacks the broad array of third-party add-ons programs like Flashblock that make Firefox so customizable. With time, it might catch up, but in the meantime, I'd recommend giving the new Internet Explorer a spin.

On the Net:

Google's Chrome browser is outperforming the latest "stable" builds of both Firefox 3 and Internet Explorer 7 in the popular Acid3 test. The Acid test, for those who do not know, tests how well a browser complies with a given set of Web standards. While all three browsers pass the Acid2 test, Chrome currently clocks in at 78 out of 100 on Acid3, while Firefox and IE7 stand at 71 and 14 respectively. The only release quality build to beat Chrome is Opera, which scores an 83.
Even though Google has the stable builds edged out, we have to remember that Chrome is still in development, where it is topped by a number of other "unstable," development builds, including Firefox 3.1 Beta 1 (85), Opera (91), and Safari 4 (100). It is interesting that the Safari 4 Developer Preview performs so much better than Chrome, given that they are both built on Apple's WebKit framework.
Whenever a new browser or an update to a browser is released, one of the first things that techies tend to look at is how it fares on the Acid test. The latest iteration of the test, Acid3, is the hardest yet and no "stable" browser builds have achieved a 100 out of 100 on the test, although the Safari 4 Developer Preview has.
Passing the Acid3 test is an important goal for browser developers and it's great to see that Chrome is performing so well on its first attempt.

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