Tuesday, May 02, 2006

suspicious fire; immune evolution

There was a seven-alarm (!) fire this morning in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I could easily see the smoke from my apartment, five miles away. A set of abandoned warehouses along the East River just "happened" to catch fire at 6am. As Curbed snarkily puts it: "Greenpoint Clearing Land for Waterfront Development." Photos there too. Slash-and-burn, right here in the big city...

The other particularly recommended blog entry this morning is Carl Zimmer's discussion of that drug trial that went horribly wrong recently. You probably heard about it--half a dozen healthy young men took a drug that worked great in animals, and all of them nearly died of immune system over-reactions. Zimmer looks at the cell biology of the drug, of people, and even more interesting, of our evolution. It seems that in the process of humans' recent evolution, an aspect of our immune system changed in such a way that a particular immune cell can drastically over-react in certain circumstances. Our nearest relatives, chimps and bonobos, don't get lupus, asthma, or AIDS, and this mutation seems to be a big factor in why not. Nobody really knows why we have this mutation; it was probably adaptive at some point for some reasons, but there's no explanation yet. This understanding of the immune system at this level is cutting-edge research, and it doesn't look like the drug company did anything wrong. Very interesting ongoing story.

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