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April 17, 2014

This Week In The Civil War: Confederates Take Plymouth

By The Associated Press

This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, April 20: Confederate ram at battle of Plymouth, N.C.

Confederate forces, in a joint operation of ground troops and an ironclad ram CSS Albemarle, attacked the federal garrison at Plymouth, N.C. near the mouth of the Roanoke River on April 17, 1864. The Confederacy—150 years ago in the Civil War—was weary of Union forces using the garrison as a springboard for raids into easternmost North Carolina.

The Albemarle, about 1865

Thousands of Confederate troops pressed toward the outnumbered Union fighters holding the fort at Plymouth. By April 18, fierce shelling had erupted, threatening U.S. warships there along the river.  On April 19, 1864, the CSS Albemarle reached the area and promptly sank one Union ship and badly damaged another, driving away other U.S. warships defending the garrison.  

A heavy Confederate bombardment ultimately forced the federal garrison to surrender on April 20, 1864. Flush with victory, the Confederacy would hold the area until late 1864 when it returned to federal control for the rest of the war.

Study Reveals Snacks May Help Avoid Marital Arguments

By SETH BORENSTEIN

AP Science Writer

Washington (AP) A quick candy bar may stave off more than hunger. It could prevent major fights between husbands and wives, at least if a new study that used voodoo dolls is right.

That’s because low blood sugar can make spouses touchy, researchers propose.

In fact, it can make them ``hangry,’’ a combination of hungry and angry, said Ohio State University psychology researcher Brad Bushman.

``We need glucose for self-control,’’ said Bushman, lead author of the study, which was released Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. ``Anger is the emotion that most people have difficulty controlling.’’

The researchers studied 107 married couples for three weeks. Each night, they measured their levels of the blood sugar glucose and asked each participant to stick pins in a voodoo doll representing his or her spouse. That indicated levels of aggressive feelings.

The researchers found that the lower the blood sugar levels, the more pins were pushed into the doll.

In fact, people with the lowest scores pushed in twice as many pins as those with the highest blood sugar levels, the researchers said.

The study also found that the spouses were generally not angry at each other. About 70 percent of the time, people didn’t put any pins in the doll, said study co-author Richard Pond Jr. at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. The average for the whole study was a bit more than one pin a night per person.

Three people put all 51 pins in at one time—and one person did that twice—Pond said.

Bushman said there’s a good physical reason to link eating to emotion: The brain, which is only 2 percent of the body weight, consumes 20 percent of our calories.

The researchers said eating a candy bar might be a good idea if spouses are about to discuss something touchy, but that fruits and vegetables are a better long-term strategy for keeping blood sugar levels up.

Outside experts gave the study, funded by the National Science Foundation, mixed reviews.

Chris Beedie, who teaches psychology at the Aberystwyth University in the United Kingdom, said he thought the study’s method was flawed and that his own work disagrees with Bushman’s conclusions. The better way to test Bushman’s concept is to give people high glucose on some occasions and low glucose on others, and see if that makes a difference in actual acts of aggression, he said.

But Julie Schumacher, who studies psychology and domestic violence at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, called the study well-designed and said it is reasonable to conclude, as the study did, that ``low glucose levels might be one factor that contributes to intimate partner violence.’’

Still, she and Beedie said it might be a big leap to interpret the results with voodoo dolls as indicating risk for actual physical aggression against a spouse.

The study procedure also raised another problem. Bushman had to handle a call from his credit card company, which wanted to make sure it was really he who had spent $5,000 to buy more than 200 voodoo dolls.

Seth Borenstein can be followed at http://twitter.com/borenbears

It’s Probably Just A Matter Of Time: 3D-Printed Heart

By DYLAN LOVAN

Associated Press

Louisville, KY (AP) It may sound far-fetched, but scientists are attempting to build a human heart with a 3-D printer.

Ultimately, the goal is to create a new heart for a patient with their own cells that could be transplanted. It is an ambitious project to first, make a heart and then get it to work in a patient, and it could be years—perhaps decades—before a 3-D printed heart would ever be put in a person.

The technology, though, is not all that futuristic: Researchers have already used 3-D printers to make splints, valves and even a human ear.

So far, the University of Louisville team has printed human heart valves and small veins with cells, and they can construct some other parts with other methods, said Stuart Williams, a cell biologist leading the project. They have also successfully tested the tiny blood vessels in mice and other small animals, he said.

Williams believes they can print parts and assemble an entire heart in three to five years.

The finished product would be called the ``bioficial heart’’ — a blend of natural and artificial.

The biggest challenge is to get the cells to work together as they do in a normal heart, said Williams, who heads the project at the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute, a partnership between the university and Jewish Hospital in Louisville.

An organ built from a patient’s cells could solve the rejection problem some patients have with donor organs or an artificial heart, and it could eliminate the need for anti-rejection drugs, Williams said.

If everything goes according to plan, Williams said the heart might be tested in humans in less than a decade. The first patients would most likely be those with failing hearts who are not candidates for artificial hearts, including children whose chests are too small to for an artificial heart.

Hospitals in Louisville have a history of artificial heart achievements. The second successful U.S. surgery of an artificial heart, the Jarvik 7, was implanted in Louisville in the mid-1980s. Doctors from the University of Louisville implanted the first self-contained artificial heart, the AbioCor, in 2001. That patient, Robert L. Tools, lived for 151 days with the titanium and plastic pump.

Williams said the heart he envisions would be built from cells taken from the patient’s fat.

But plenty of difficulties remain, including understanding how to keep manufactured tissue alive after it is printed.

``With complex organs such as the kidney and heart, a major challenge is being able to provide the structure with enough oxygen to survive until it can integrate with the body,’’ said Dr. Anthony Atala, whose team at Wake Forest University is using 3-D printers to attempt to make a human kidney.

The 3-D printing approach is not the only strategy researchers are investigating to build a heart out of a patient’s own cells. Elsewhere, scientists are exploring the idea of putting the cells into a mold. In experiments, scientists have made rodent hearts that beat in the laboratory. Some simple body parts made using this method have already been implanted in people, including bladders and windpipes.

The 3-D printer works in much the same way an inkjet printer does, with a needle that squirts material in a predetermined pattern.

The cells would be purified in a machine, and then printing would begin in sections, using a computer model to build the heart layer by layer. Williams’ printer uses a mixture of a gel and living cells to gradually build the shape. Eventually, the cells would grow together to form the tissue.

The technology has already helped in other areas of medicine, including creating sure-fitting prosthetics and a splint that was printed to keep a sick child’s airway open. Doctors at Cornell University used a 3-D printer last year to create an ear with living cells.

``We’re experiencing an exponential explosion with the technology,’’ said Michael Golway, president of Louisville-based Advanced Solutions Inc., which built a printer being used by Williams’ team.

Follow on Lovan on Twitter: (at)dylanlovan

 

 


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