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October 21, 2002
Volume 80, Number 42
CENEAR 80 42 p. 64
ISSN 0009-2347
NEWSCRIPTS
Duct tape zaps warts

Physician Dean R. Focht III of Madigan Army Medical Center, Tacoma, Wash., and his colleagues find that covering a wart with duct tape may be a good way to get rid of it. Their findings appear in the October issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

BY K. M. REESE
The ordinary wart (Verruca vulgaris) afflicts 5 to 10% of children. The current preferred treatment among pediatricians is to hit the wart with liquid nitrogen for 10 to 20 seconds every two to three weeks. Cryotherapy, however, can hurt or frighten children, especially little ones, and may cause blisters or infections. Preliminary studies and anecdotal evidence suggested that covering a wart with adhesive tape might help to get rid of it, so Focht and his colleagues decided to give the method a try.

The Madigan group tried standard cryotherapy and duct-tape therapy on 51 wart-afflicted patients, ages three to 22 years. Twenty-six got duct tape; 25 got cryotherapy. Focht and his coworkers found that, using specified procedures, 85% of the duct-tape patients and 60% of the cryotherapy patients got rid of their warts. The duct-tape group members lost their warts within 28 days; the cryotherapy group members lost theirs after two treatments spaced at least two weeks apart. Thus the average times were "comparable," the authors conclude.

Focht and colleagues think the duct-tape method looks like a safe, nonthreatening treatment for young peoples' warts. In their experiments it was more effective than cryotherapy, they say, and caused fewer adverse effects.

 

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Scientist behind 'The X-Files' science

The Times (London) carried on Sept. 9 a report by Sanjida O'Connell on "the scientist who has made Dana Scully's on-screen research believable." Scully is the FBI agent who works with agent Fox Mulder on the TV show "The X-Files."

Scully is a scientist, and the scientist who keeps her work on track is Anne E. Simon, professor of cell biology and molecular genetics at the University of Maryland. Simon currently is studying a virus that harms turnips. For several years, however, she has helped Chris Carter, the creator of "The X-Files," "to keep the series on the scientific straight and narrow."

Simon generally has little to do with the plots of the show. The episode she had most to do with was "The Erlenmeyer Flask," which was nominated for an Edgar Award, given by the Mystery Writers of America.

In that show, Carter wondered how a scientist could identify an alien life form. Simon said to check for an extra base pair in the creature's genome. An extra base pair would be so extraordinary that even a scientist would have to conclude that the creature was an extraterrestrial.

Simon, O'Connell reports, says a scientist usually can't watch science in the movies or on TV without wincing. "The microscopes are wrong; the language is wrong; cures of viral infections are instantaneous." In one episode, Simon insisted that the real amino acid sequence be used, even though it would be on a computer screen for only seconds. A lecturer at Indiana University used the episode to teach students about immunohistochemical staining; he asked them to check the protein sequence from "The X-Files" against a database, convinced that it would be wrong. To his surprise, it was correct.

 

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Tea compounds block tumors

Allan H. Conney, professor of cancer and leukemia research, and his colleagues at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J., find that two compounds in green tea reduce formation of skin tumors in mice irradiated with ultraviolet B light [Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 99, 12455 (2002)]. The compounds are caffeine and epigallocatechin gellate. Both were applied to the skin. The mice were a hairless breed especially subject to skin tumors.

Caffeine appears to have the edge because it is chemically more stable. The effect is biological, not a sun-screening effect, Conney says. Mice were tested earlier with oral caffeine, which seemed to work. People have not been tested with either compound. Says Conney: "If you are a mouse, it would be terrific. In people, we just don't know yet."



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