Google Life joins heart fight

A company whose name is synonymous with eyeballs on the Internet is turning its attention to hearts. Google Life Sciences, a research group recently spun off from its parent corporation, is teaming with the American Heart Association in a $50 million project to find new ways to fight heart disease.

The heart association's half, $25 million over five years, is the largest single research investment in its history. For the Google group, its latest biomedical venture will join projects that include whiz-bang devices such as driverless cars, contact lenses that monitor blood-sugar for diabetics and health-tracking wristbands.

brain stimulation may aid in obesity

Giving a region of the brain that's key to self-control and motivation a zetz of electrical stimulation may help the obese to eat less and lose more weight, a study said.

Research suggests that the brains of people who are obese differ in a key respect from those of normal-weight people: The left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex — a structure just above the right eye that plays a role in behavior related to planning and reward-seeking — is less active in the obese.

When participants in the small, preliminary clinical trial got current directed at the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, they consumed an average of 2,863 calories daily — a reduction of 18 percent to 23 percent.

federal 'chimera' funds are halted

The Obama administration has quietly clamped a moratorium on a new type of stem-cell research, triggering a letter from a group of Stanford scientists condemning the move and saying that it could delay discoveries in a promising field of medicine.

The research — which strives to grow human organs in animals, called "chimeras," after the hybrid creatures in Greek mythology — could lead to an endless supply of organs for transplantation and improved drug testing, proponents say. But it also poses ethical and animal welfare concerns.

The suspension of federal funding for this research "impedes scientific progress in regenerative medicine and should be lifted," said a letter from the Stanford scientists published in the journal Science. In a startling reversal of policy, reminiscent of the Bush administration's 2001 ban on embryonic stem-cell funding, the federal government issued a notice Sept. 23 saying it would stop funding chimera research while it deliberates future policy.

National Institutes of Health officials did not immediately respond to the criticism, but in a September statement, they vigorously defended the need to hit the pause button. The suspension offers "a unique opportunity to take a deep breath and consider whether any additional policies are needed to promote the responsible conduct of this promising science," said Carrie D. Wolinetz, associate director for Science Policy at the NIH.

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