Entrepreneurial Universities: Business Incubators and Intellectual Property

May 11, 2010

Universities face many challenges with decreased federal and state funding and increased expectations from graduating students. Some universities attempt to solve these challenges by earning revenue in an entrepreneurial fashion. An entrepreneur is a person who creates something and accepts responsibility for the risks associated with this venture to get the rewards. Some colleges focus on getting potential entrepreneurs to succeed with their businesses after they graduate. Others earn revenue when existing faculty make great discoveries that earn the institution royalties.

One example of this second concept is the development and success of the drink Gatorade. A researcher in a lab at the University of Florida in the 1960’s used the football team as his research subjects and discovered that his electrolyte beverage was a great success. The university received licensing royalties of hundreds of millions of dollars because it retained its rights to the product.

What Are Entrepreneurial Universities?

Universities have established two types of systems to support these needs. Both types are called entrepreneurial universities. The first type attempts to support a graduating student toward building a successful business. It does this by creating a business incubator in which students can use what they have learned to follow a dream and make it come true.

The second type of entrepreneurial university prevails when faculty members perform research that result in patents, inventions and royalties. The intellectual property is licensed and revenue is earned for the university. The first such institution is considered to be Louis Pasteur’s Institute in 1888 when he split from the Sorbonne. He took his inventions, including the secrets behind the process of pasteurization, and the resulting economic consequences with him.

How Entrepreneurial Universities Are Created

Most universities do not have entrepreneurial concepts written into their mission statements. First, therefore, a university must decide that making an historical precedent would be best for the institution, faculty and students. The university must then collaborate with government agencies to gain the financial support it needs to proceed. In some cases it will need to form collaborations with financial supporters from industry and determine what projects will benefit both parties. Industry funding for academic research and development has increased from $1.5 billion to $2.3 billion from 1995 to 2005.

Next, an infrastructure must be laid out and implemented to support both the students and faculty. Educational programs and curricula must be established. Sufficient research laboratories, classrooms and personnel must be acquired. At this point the university will create a corporate model and a local off-site business incubator. They will renovate this building with offices, space to work and the appropriate people to support the individuals’ business goals. It may even invest more to form a more general model to support various types of ventures.

The Difference between Entrepreneurial Universities and Other Universities

Most universities are satisfied with accepting students and teaching them a subject plus a few electives. They release the student four or five years later with a diploma, perhaps some research experience and a huge loan that the student must pay off. Some may have undertaken an internship which would give them a better chance of getting a position at a company. Some will inherit their family’s business. But most have no idea how or when they will get a job. Many find jobs in completely different fields.

Entrepreneurial universities, on the other hand, assist their students by preparing them for their future while they are enrolled and continue doing so after they graduate. They have specialized educational programs for the students and continued support for graduates.

The primary role for most universities is to educate their students through courses and research. Faculty at entrepreneurial universities, however, must find a way to incorporate research that is primarily motivated by making a profit. This can generate a large amount of money through patents, inventions and licensing. Since some of their university funding is acquired from industry, the researcher in this case is limited in what he can pursue. He has collaborated with a private entity and must adhere to agreed upon entrepreneurial projects. This can be difficult since each has its personal motives and these are not usually mutual.

The Elements That Make Up an Entrepreneurial University

For an entrepreneurial university to thrive, it needs a variety of elements. These include:

  • Dedicated faculty, staff and personnel
  • Students with an entrepreneurial spirit
  • University funding and coordination from local, state and federal government
  • A business incubator and research facility
  • Off-site collaborators.

Each of the above must be focused toward a common goal to maximize the benefit of the whole.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Entrepreneurial Universities

There are several key advantages that increase the entrepreneurial success of such universities.

  • Students are offered a program that includes pertinent courses, research, faculty and personnel that are trained to efficiently drive their students to their goal.
  • Faculty members have the resources they need including research laboratories, staff, students and funding.
  • The university has a reputation, funding from royalties and improved infrastructure.
  • The local community also gains from the addition of potential businesses, income and jobs.

There are, however, some clear disadvantages of such a system. If a researcher makes a discovery using a university laboratory, like the Gatorade example, the university is the primary recipient of the royalties. The researcher may publish on the subject and be associated with the discovery. But he does not personally benefit with a substantial financial profit.

Industry can interpret this relationship as a business deal and demand to be in control of the direction of research. They use the research groups to develop technology and fill their pipelines with new products. They own the intellectual property and demand confidentiality. No longer can the university researcher decide to work on an interesting project that may take 10 years; he must follow orders and research money-making theories. Research is no longer to discover new things and share that knowledge; it is for profit.

 Examples of Well Known Entrepreneurial Universities

  • Stanford and the University of San Francisco: Herbert Boyer of UCSF and Stanley Cohen of Stanford obtained a patent for a gene splicing technique that brought both universities over $200 million over 17 years.
  • UCSF: Research performed here also resulted in Genentech which produces much of the insulin used by diabetics.
  • University of Texas: Dell computers originated here
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  • University of Arkansas.

Alzheimer’s Disease

May 11, 2010

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. Common symptoms include memory loss, confusion, irritability and aggression, mood swings and language breakdown. It is often misdiagnosed as senility. Progression of the disease varies widely. About 26.6 million people were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2006.

There are two types of Alzheimer’s. Late-onset, or sporadic, Alzheimer’s is more common and is diagnosed in people 65 years of age or older. Early-onset, or familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD), usually develops in adults in their 30’s and 40’s. This type only occurs in about 1 out of every 1000 Alzheimer’s cases. These individuals have a family history of FAD. Genetics has been linked to Alzheimer’s.

Genetics of Alzheimer’s

Genetics and Alzheimer’s are linked but the relationship is not completely understood. If a parent has been diagnosed with FAD, 50% of his offspring will develop it. It is due to autosomal dominant mutations. Therefore, even if a person has only one copy of the gene, he will develop that type. A person who has not developed the disease can not pass it on. Late-onset Alzheimer’s, on the other hand, is not inherited. There are, however, families in which clusters of cases exist.

Three genes have been discovered that influence a person’s risk of getting FAD. These include an amyloid precursor protein (APP) gene and two presenilin genes (PSEN-1 and PSEN-2). These genes exist on chromosomes 1, 14 and 21. A mutation on chromosome 21 causes a build-up in the amount of amyloid protein in the brain. An increase in the amount of amyloid protein has been linked to FAD. Mutations in all of these genes cause senile plaques.

Many genes affect a person’s chances of getting late-onset Alzheimer’s. Some genes are thought to have protective influence. A combination of multiple genes increases the risk of developing it. Only one gene has been identified so far. Apolipoprotein E (APOE) mutations are the cause of about 50% of all late-onset Alzheimer’s. It is found in three forms:

  • APOE2 gives a person some protection against getting Alzheimer’s.
  • APOE3 gives an individual an “average risk” of developing Alzheimer’s.
  • APOE4 increases a person’s risk of getting Alzheimer’s. People with one copy are four times more likely and those with two copies are ten times more likely to develop the disease. Having two copies, however, does not mean that a person will definitely get the disease.

Recent research has, however, made it possible to determine which genes have an influence on developing this disorder. It will only take time to identify these genes. The role of each gene will then be determined. It may then be possible to treat and prevent the disease.

Treatment of Alzheimer’s

Treatment is targeted at alleviating the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Research has not yet discovered a way to prevent or delay the onset or progression of this condition. Clinical trials are ongoing. Some lifestyle changes that may help include exercise, mental stimulation and a healthy diet. Cardiovascular health and pharmaceutical products may also have an influence on one’s risk.

HIV / AIDS: Biology, Statistics, Risk Factors, Symptoms, Genetics, Tests

May 11, 2010

About HIV/AIDS

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a retrovirus that can result in acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Nine out of ten untreated individuals with HIV will develop AIDS in 10-15 years or sooner after acquiring the disease. With anti-retroviral treatment, patients have an increased life expectancy. Without treatment, patients usually die within a year.

AIDS is now considered to be pandemic. Between 1981 and 2006 it is estimated that 25 million people died from AIDS. In 2007 worldwide statistics show the following statistics:

  • 330,000 children died from AIDS
  • 2.1 million people died from AIDS
  • 33.2 million people lived with AIDS.

Over 75% of those deaths originated in sub-Saharan Africa.

The immunodeficiency affects every organ of the body. Certain conditions are more likely in a person with HIV including:

  • bacterial infections
  • cervical cancer
  • fungal infections
  • gastrointestinal infections
  • lymphomas
  • parasitic infections
  • pulmonary infections
  • tumors and malignancies
  • viral infections.

Symptoms develop from the body’s lack of having a regularly functioning immune system. Symptoms include:

  • chills
  • fever
  • sweats
  • swollen glands
  • weakness
  • weight loss.

Research has now determined that some individuals have HIV genetic resistance. Other people are more susceptible to HIV/AIDS. The risk factors that increase one’s chance of getting HIV include:

  • anal sex
  • blood exposure
  • blood transfusion recipients between 1978 and 1985
  • intravenous drug users who share syringes and/or needles
  • mother-infant transmission
  • needle stick injury
  • oral sex
  • people who have had multiple sex partners
  • people who have had sex with a man who has had sex with another man
  • sexually transmitted diseases (STD)
  • unprotected sex.

The Biology of HIV/AIDS

The human immunodeficiency virus attacks all the organs of the immune system. These include the CD4+ T cells. AIDS leads to failure of the entire immune system because CD4+ cells normally protect the body from infections. Without them opportunistic infections attack the body and can cause death.

HIV is spread from individual to individual by transfer of body fluids. This occurs by having unprotected sexual intercourse, by sharing needles or from mother to child. Infected fluids include:

  • blood
  • breast milk
  • pre-ejaculate
  • semen
  • vaginal fluid.

The Genetics of HIV/AIDS

HIV resistance is an inherited trait in about 1% of the white population, but it is rare in the African and Asian populations. This genetic disease resistance was first discovered when doctors realized that a small percentage of individuals who screened positive for HIV did not get AIDS. Chemokine coreceptors (CCR) were found to be responsible for suppressing infection. Researchers later found that people with a defective CCR5 gene are more resistant to HIV-1.

AIDS and genetic resistance research had determined that a deletion of a portion of the CC-CKR-5 gene makes the gene inaccessible to the virus. Some populations have a higher percentage of individuals with this mutation. This means that this mutation has a more recent origin.

Interpreting Your Genetic Test Results

DNA test results will determine if an individual is susceptible to HIV/AIDS or not. If one has the mutation in the gene that makes one resistant, it can be passed on to children. Those who are homozygous, or have two genes that are defective, are extremely resistant to the disease. Even though some people have a resistance to HIV, this virus has a very short replication cycle and can mutate within a short period of time. This means that even if an individual has a mutation in this gene, it does not mean that they will not get the disease.

If an individual’s genetic test results determine that they lack the “resistance” gene, this does not make the individual more susceptible to the disease than the general population. It just means that they must be careful and make the correct lifestyle choices.

 Frequently Asked Questions about HIV/AIDS Resistance

  • How safe is the blood supply in the United States?

The blood supply is the safest in the entire world. HIV testing began in 1985. All blood that was donated after this time has been HIV free. Additional testing has been added since this time. When blood has been identified as being infected, it is discarded.

  • Why is it so difficult to suppress AIDS?

The AIDS virus mutates at such a rapid rate that it is difficult to keep up with it. The best treatment at the time may be able to suppress most of the virus, but since it replicates so rapidly, at least some of the virus has become immune to the treatment.

  • Why do treatments sometimes fail?

Powerful combinations of cocktails exist to attempt to suppress AIDS. One of the reasons these treatments fail to work is the noncompliance of the patient to taking the drugs. Side effects may be unpleasant, dietary restrictions may be difficult and the act of taking dozens of pills may be daunting. If a patient does not take a dose, it could allow drug-resistant mutants to replicate and take the system over.

Recent News on HIV/AIDS Resistance

More recent research has determined that two separate genes, KIR3DL1 and HLA-B*57, are involved in resistance to AIDS. If an individual inherits a version of these genes, they might be more resistant to getting AIDS. The mechanism has not yet been explained, but this is good news.

Marine Biology Camos and Trips

May 11, 2010

Marine biology camps and trips are now available in many cities near the coast all over the world. They offer a wide variety of activities for groups or individuals. It is an excellent opportunity for children to explore their interests in the field of Marine Sciences. They can experience on a daily basis a day camp or a multi-night sleepover in a residential camp. They give children hands-on close-up experience with the animals. Kids can interact with, feed and swim with endangered wildlife.

Where To Find Them

Marine Biology Summer Camps are held all over the US in coastal cities. SeaWorld holds its Adventure Camps in Tampa Bay and Orlando, FL, San Antonio, TX and San Diego, CA. Marine Bio Camp at Sea starts off in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, and the majority of time is spent in Bimini in the Bahamas, 55 miles to the east. Catalina is 25 miles from the coast of Long Beach, CA.

Similar camps are also offered in Wilmington, NC, Cambria, CA, Grand Manan Island, Maine, Canada, Big Pine Key, FL, Seal Harbor, Maine, Awendaw, SC, and many other locations. Some are held out of the USA in the Caribbean, Bahamas, Costa Rica, Australia, Honduras, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.

Activities at Marine Biology Camp

Because there are so many options to choose from, activities at only several of the above locations have been described below to give an example of what is available. Each has its own advantages, but they cater to the child and the age range.

SeaWorld hosts activities for children from grade 4 through college. Classes for younger kids include getting to know animals, learning how to care for the animals and how to boogie board. Classes for older kids teach what a person needs to know pursuing a career in animal care field. This is a hands-on look at preparing animal food, clean-up and working with animals and the people who care for them. They also learn how to surf and snorkel.

Marine Bio Camp at Sea accepts children from age 14 to 18. They explore the work that is performed on research vessels. They learn about and swim with dolphins. The gentle introduction to the sea offers an opportunity to become comfortable with the sea.

Catalina Junior Sea Camp is for kids 8 to 12. These kids enjoy snorkeling, sailing, kayaking, hiking trails and learning about the ocean. After snorkeling and seeing hundreds of fish in the ocean, kids come back and learn more about these fish species in the fish and shark labs which are stocked with fish in aquariums, pictures, specimens and exhibits. There is also an algae lab where kids learn the many types and uses of seaweed today. They are also taken aboard a research flat top boat and brought out to sea to perform experiments. Afterwards, the samples are taken back and microscopes allow the children to see plankton in the lab. There are also invertebrate and marine mammal labs in which the children can touch the invertebrates in tanks and see and touch skeletons of mammals.

Catalina Sea Camp is for kids 12 to 17. These older kids SCUBA, snorkel, sail, surf, and kayak. They also take courses in Marine Biology, Invertebrates and Ichthyology, Ocean Exploration and Discovery, Aquarium Design, Maintenance and Behind the Scenes, Hot Topics in Marine Conservation, and Seafood Cookery. They also take courses in Arts and Crafts that include painting, nature sketching and photography, jewelry design and creation. Kids also have an opportunity to help plant to revegitate the island clean up the shorelines.

Cost

Six nights at SeaWorld costs $1025 for grades 4 to 6, $1075 for grades 7 to 9 and $1125 for career camp for grades 10 to 12. Tuition runs from $2495 at Marine Bio Camp at Sea. Catalina Junior Sea Camp costs $1150 for one week. Catalina Sea Camp costs $3300 for three weeks.

Cystic Fibrosis: Signs and Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

May 11, 2010

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disease affecting the mucus glands of the lungs, pancreas, liver, sinuses, intestines and sex organs. Mucus, which is normally thin and watery, usually keeps tissues moist. Those who develop CF, however, have very thick mucus which results in frequent lung infections. This mucus can block ducts leading to the pancreas as well. Sweat glands are also affected.

Signs and Symptoms of Cystic Fibrosis

Genetic tests can identify individuals with a mutated gene even before they are born. Newborn genetic screening tests can detect the disease as well. Sweat tests must be performed after birth, however, to determine if the individual is a carrier or has the disease. 

Symptoms and severity differ from person to person. One individual may have terrible lung and digestive disorders. Others may not have any symptoms until later in life. Some symptoms include:

  • bloated feeling
  • deficiency in the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K
  • greasy and/or bulky stools
  • intestinal gas
  • malnourished
  • poor growth
  • shortness of breath
  • stomach pain or discomfort.

In advanced cases lung and pancreatic disorders cause many problems. Mucus in the lungs harbors bacteria which cause lung infections and blocks airways making it difficult to breathe. Respiratory failure is a major problem.

Ducts in the pancreas are blocked by mucus as well. The pancreas normally produces digestive enzymes that break down food in the intestines. If the ducts are blocked, proteins and fats will not be metabolized correctly. When this happens, the person suffers from stomach and intestinal disquietude, malnutrition and abnormal stools.

People who have CF have sweat which is five times as salty as a healthy individual’s sweat. Their mineral balance can be upset if they perspire and lose large quantities of sodium, which is very important in the body’s normal functions. This loss can also result in a heat emergency or abnormal heart rhythms.

What Causes Cystic Fibrosis

Medical research has established a genetic link to cystic fibrosis. A single gene on chromosome 7 makes a protein called the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR). This gene is responsible for making sweat, mucus and digestive juices. This protein controls chloride ions going in and out of cells.

People who have cystic fibrosis have a mutation in the CFTR gene. This means that chloride ions are not capable of getting through the membrane of the cells. In most cases, however, the CFTR protein is missing. The shortened version is identified by the body and destroyed.

CF is inherited and is not contagious. It is a recessive disorder, meaning people with one normal gene and one mutated gene are carriers of the disease. Offspring must inherit the mutated gene from each parent to have symptoms. Offspring of two parents who are carriers have a 25% chance of developing the disease.

Treatment for Cystic Fibrosis

Treatment involves the use of antibiotics and clearing the mucus out of the lungs. They are prescribed enzymes to help them digest their food and obtain nutrients. Surgery is sometimes necessary to clear obstructions. Lung transplants may be required if tissue damage is too severe.

Progress toward a Cure

There is no cure for CF. Cystic fibrosis prognosis is not good. But research gives hope that there is an increasing life expectancy of people with CF. Recent developments in treating and curing the disease are under development. Gene therapy is in the future. This involves placing a normal CFTR gene in the infected cells.

Some other developments toward a cure target the metabolic pathways involved in the disease. These include:

  • Correcting the problems with the lining of the lungs to prevent infections
  • Improving the mucus so it is not so thick
  • New antibiotics
  • New medications to reduce the toxic effects of the inflammatory immune response.

Breast Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, Genetics and Genetic Testing

May 11, 2010

Breast cancer is defined as cancer that originates in the breast cells. Women are 100 times more likely to develop it than men. It is the second most common form of cancer after lung cancer. Every year about 200,000 American women are diagnosed with breast cancer. It killed half a million people in 2005.

Breast cancer can spread through the lymphatic system or blood vessels to other parts of the body. This spread is referred to as metastasizing. It can metastasize to the lungs, brain, liver or bones.

There are non-specific and specific symptoms. Non-specific means that they could be symptoms for some other condition. Some non-specific symptoms include:

  • bone and joint pain
  • chills
  • discharge from one nipple
  • fever
  • jaundice.

Some specific symptoms include change in the size or shape of the breast or nipple and a lump in the breast or the lymph nodes in the armpit and/or collarbone

Inflammatory breast cancer occurs when breast cancer cells enter the small lymph vessels next to the skin. Symptoms include:

  • orange peel texture of the skin
  • pain
  • redness
  • swelling
  • warmth.

Paget’s disease of the breast also manifests itself in the skin and resembles eczema. Symptoms may include:

  • discharge
  • itching
  • lump
  • mild flaking of the skin around the nipple
  • redness
  • sensitivity
  • tingling.

Causes of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer stems from a combination of hereditary and environmental influences. People who have a family history with multiple cases of breast or ovarian cancer are at higher risk of getting breast cancer. Breast cancer is more common if one has an Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish background. It usually occurs sporadically and is not inherited. Some risk factors include:

  • age
  • alcohol intake
  • childbearing
  • environmental factors like radiation and tobacco use
  • high fat intake
  • hormones
  • obesity
  • sex.

Genetics of Breast Cancer

About 5-10% of those diagnosed have a hereditary form of breast cancer. If a person inherits a mutation in the breast cancer 1 (BRCA1) or breast cancer 2 (BRCA2) genes, she is at higher risk of developing breast cancer. It is rare to inherit a mutation. Only one in 1000 has a mutation in one of these genes.

People who have the mutation may get cancer or may lead a long healthy life. Having a mutation does not guarantee the individual will develop cancer. About 13% of the population develops breast cancer. Those with a mutation in either of these genes are three to seven times more likely to get it.

How Genetic Testing Is Done for Breast Cancer Patients

Genetic testing looks at sequences of DNA to identify changes. The sequence of DNA has been determined for healthy people. If there is a mutation in a gene, it can make a person more susceptible to certain diseases. Certain inherited conditions have been linked to mutations in certain genes. Genetic testing is the comparison of the sequence of sample DNA to the agreed upon sequence for a normal gene to identify these risks.

Genetic testing for breast cancer is only performed on people who are at high risk of getting cancer. This blood test identifies the presence of mutations in the BRCA genes. A breast cancer genetic testing lab determines the patient’s risk of getting cancer. Genetic counseling is included in this test to make sure people are informed of their risk and options for the future.

Progress toward a Cure

Treatment for breast cancer today relies heavily on surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Gene therapy is one option of curing breast cancer. It is not yet possible, but eventually doctors will be able to fix the mutations in the genes. Research continues to search for more genes that influence a person’s risk of developing breast cancer.

Some ways to prevent breast cancer include:

  • Chemoprevention – Some medications, such as tamoxifen, decrease one’s chance of developing cancer.
  • Mastectomy – Preventative removal of breast tissue reduces the risk of cancer by 90%.
  • Surveillance – More frequent self-exams, clinical exams, MRI’s and mammograms discover cancer earlier.

Prostate Cancer: Biology, Genetics, Prevalence

May 11, 2010

Prostate cancer can only occur in men because the prostate is a gland which exists in the male reproductive system. Prostate cancer detection begins with screening for prostate specific antigen (PSA). Detection occurs less often when symptoms develop or by physical examination. Prostate cancer diagnosis is confirmed by biopsy. Risk factors include age, ethnicity, family history and diet.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men. It can be painful, make urinating difficult and cause erectile dysfunction. Men who are at average risk of prostate cancer have a 14% chance of developing prostate cancer by the time they are 80 years of age. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men. Many men develop prostate cancer, do not have any symptoms and die of other causes related to old age.

Biology of Cancer

Cancer occurs when genes mutate and do not produce the correct regulatory proteins which normally control cell functions. Cells then multiply out of control. Cancer can spread to other parts of the body, such as bones and lymph nodes. Genes can mutate before a person is born. This is considered to be hereditary. This type of cancer can be inherited by offspring in future generations. Genes can also mutate during a person’s lifetime. The cells derived from this line would then be immortal.

Prostate Cancer Genetics

Most prostate cancer is sporadic, so 75% of individuals with prostate cancer mutated genes after birth. Only 5% of men inherit prostate cancer. The remaining 20% develop familial prostate cancer, which means that a combination of environmental and shared genes resulted in cancer.

Genetics has been implicated in the development of prostate cancer. Every cell contains two copies of each gene; one copy originates from the mother and one from the father. When prostate cancer is inherited, it follows an autosomal dominant inheritance. This means that the mutation only has to occur in one copy of the gene for the individual to be at higher risk of developing cancer. Each child has 50% chance of inheriting the mutation causing prostate cancer from a parent who has the mutation.

The only way a person can know if they are at high risk of having a genetic mutation is genetic testing. Since there is no genetic test for prostate cancer, one must rely on family history. If a man has a strong family history of prostate cancer, he can participate in prostate cancer research to determine what the genes are that are correlated with it.

Prostate cancer risk factors include mutations in several genes. A gene on chromosome 17 is associated with increased risk of prostate cancer.  Research must be continued to verify these findings to determine if they can be used for genetic testing in the future. Several other mutated genes have been identified as being responsible for increased likelihood of developing prostate cancer.

Prevalence of Prostate Cancer

Rates of prostate cancer vary widely throughout the world. It is least prominent in South and East Asia, more common in Europe and most common in the United States. In 2008, about 186,000 men in the US will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. It normally develops in men over 50 years old. An estimated 28,000 deaths will occur from prostate cancer. Although the incidence of prostate cancer is decreasing overall, black men are twice as likely to develop this cancer as white men.

Progress toward a Cure

Prostate cancer prevention may be in the near future. Men can determine their risk factor through their family history and attempt to control certain environmental and lifestyle factors. These factors include a balanced diet, healthy weight, exercising, limiting alcoholic beverages and avoiding tobacco products. Eventually research will determine which genetic mutations are correlated with prostate cancer.

Reiki for Animals

May 11, 2010

Reiki is a form of mind body healing that is an alternate therapy for physical, mental and emotional diseases. It can be translated as “universal life energy” or “spiritually guided life force energy”. It is a technique in which the flow of energy from a practitioner’s hands decreases stress and promotes relaxation and healing. If one has low life force energy, one can easily succumb to sickness. Conversely, if one has high life force energy, joy and health may overcome the negative forces. Reiki treats the entire being including the body, mind, spirit and emotions to enhance a person’s wellbeing.

How Reiki Works

Practitioners of Reiki use the “laying on of hands” to channel healing energy. The energy works to give the recipient a glowing radiant feeling of peace and security.  Anyone can access this energy by receiving an attunement carried out by a Reiki Master. They can then use the energy to heal themselves or others. Since the energy is of the Universe and not from an individual, it is said to be unlimited in amount. By using Reiki symbols to create a temporary connection between the practitioner and recipient, it can also be given at a distance.

Reiki works well because it is gentle and noninvasive. It can be used for injuries, illnesses or emotional problems. Treatments allow for quicker recovery from physical problems resulting from surgery or accidents. It does this by removing pain, promoting relaxation and relieving stress. It helps the healing process and gives a better quality of life. The healing principles are the same whether one is healing a relative, a friend, oneself or an animal.

Animal Reiki

Animals respond especially well to Reiki sessions. Some animals are comfortable having the Reiki practitioner place hands directly on them in a quiet, undisturbed environment. The animal gives its permission by moving toward the practitioner until the two are touching. The animal will then position its body to show which parts need to be addressed. The practitioner must then be aware of the areas which draw more energy and spend more time on these areas.

Other animals may prefer to have a treatment at a distance. The distance could be several feet or thousands of miles. The reason for absentee meetings could be because the practitioner is too far away geographically from the potential recipient or perhaps the animal is too small, fragile or frightened to have a hands-on experience. It is especially helpful for aggressive animals which would not otherwise be able to be treated. This reduces the risk of injury to the animal, the keeper and the Reiki practitioner.

The duration of the treatment depends on the size of the animal and the degree of illness. The Reiki sessions could last between 20 to 45 minutes on three or four consecutive days. The healing will build each consecutive day. It will not interfere with a veterinarian’s treatment or medications. It helps to revitalize older animals and calm hyperactive or stressed animals. Healthy animals enjoy a treatment to help them relax or just as loving interaction. It works on cats, dogs, horses, hamsters, lizards, frogs, snakes, gerbils, fish and other pet species.

What is Awamori?

May 11, 2010

Awamori is an earthy-flavored alcoholic beverage made only in Okinawa, Japan. It is similar to sake but has several major differences. Instead of being brewed like sake, it is distilled like a single malt scotch. After a single distillation it is diluted with water. It also has higher alcohol content than sake since it is usually sold as 50 to 60 proof. But it can also be found at 120 proof.

 Awamori is made from Thai-style long grain Indica rice versus the long grain Japonica rice used in sake production. This rice is still imported from Thailand. The process of distillation was imported from Thailand to Japan. That could be the reason that rice is still imported from Thailand today. Black koji mold, which is indigenous to Okinawa, is used in the fermentation process of Awamori. White koji mold is used in the production of shochu.

 History of Awamori

There are several theories on how awamori gets its name. “Awa” means foam and “mori” means to rise up. One idea is that the amount of foam is proportional to the alcohol content. Others believe that it merely refers to a large amount of foam generated in the fermentation process.

 Awamori was brought to Okinawa in the 14th to 15th century. A member of the Satsuma clan named it to distinguish it from other types of shochu. The emperor allowed only 30 families to distill it. This privilege was inherited so it stayed in the same family for many generations. Today there are 47 distillers of awamori.

 How Awamori is Made

Crushed long grain Indica rice imported from Thailand is washed until the outer covering is removed. It is then soaked in water, drained and steamed for an hour. Then it is cooled to 40 degrees Celsius. Black koji mold is added and left overnight in the steamer. The rice mixture is then spread over shelves for two days to allow the mold to breed which coverts the starch to sugar. Black mold water is added and this mixture is allowed to ferment for two weeks. It is then moved to a distiller container for two and a half hours at which point it becomes awamori.

 Okinawa is a sub-tropical environment. This means that a brewed product would have to be chilled and would not last long. Since awamori is distilled and contains a lot of citric acid, it can withstand the long fermentation and aging processes. Awamori is called “kusu” after aging 3 or more years. Actually, only 51 per cent of the awamori liquor has to be aged to be considered to be kusu. Therefore, it is important to check the label to make sure it is “100 per cent aged.” Its flavor mellows after 10 to 25 years.

 How to Drink Awamori

Many people enjoy awamori because it is versatile, clear and does not contain any additives. It can be added to many different mixed drinks. It is naturally produced and aged which suggests a minimum of morning discomfort. Normally it is mixed with water and ice. Some recipes follow:

 Mantra

Ingredients

  • 2 oz awamori
  • splash of water
  • squeeze of fresh lime

 Directions

  •  
    1. Pour awamori over ice in a “rock glass” tumbler.
    2. Add a splash of water and a squeeze of fresh lime.

 Karma

Ingredients

  • 1 oz awamori
  • 1/3 oz triple sec
  • 1 oz cranberry juice
  • 2-3 lime wedges, squeezed

 Directions

  1. Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice.
  2. Shake three or four times.
  3. Strain into a chilled martini glass.

Awamori Black Vinegar

Because inhabitants of Okinawa have the longest lifespan in the world, people are interested in their secrets. One of these secrets is the natural health supplement known as Awamori Moromi Black Vinegar. Until recently, it has been a well-kept secret from everyone except those who distill awamori. Now, it is widely used in Japan to promote health and longevity.

Awamori black vinegar is actually light in color. It is a tonic made from the fermented rice mash that is a by product of awamori. Originally, it was fed to the pigs. Then farmers noticed how healthy the pigs were after eating the mash. They were exceptionally healthy, thrived, had healthy appetites and were almost fat-free. Therefore, they started drinking the tonic themselves.

The tonic is extremely nutritious. It contains:

  • vitamin B-1
  • vitamin B-2
  • vitamin B-6
  • iron
  • calcium
  • potassium
  • magnesium
  • 16 times the amount of amino acids compared to normal Japanese vinegar and 43 times the amount in apple cider vinegar

 These amino acids are very important nutritional supplements for healthy growth.

Kristina and Christina: Making One of Oprah’s Top “10 Sweet Creation” Cakes

May 11, 2010

Banana Cake

I subscribe to Oprah’s O Magazine daily email newsletter, so I was happily surprised to find a beautiful article on April 6, 2010, entitled “Celebrity Chefs Create 10 Luscious Cakes”. The cakes they picked to celebrate the magazine’s 10th anniversary all sound delectable, but one really stood out. I wanted to make something for my Mom for Mother’s Day and she really likes hazelnuts. Christina Tosi shares her recipe for Banana Cake that includes four unique fillings and toppings:

  • Banana cream
  • Hazelnut crunch
  • Chocolate hazelnut ganache
  • Hazelnut frosting.

 Just a couple of warnings before you undertake this project: 1) it takes a lot of work to prepare each of the following layers and 2) the ingredients are relatively expensive. It took me most of a whole day to buy the ingredients and make the entire cake. Finding the ingredients may require a good amount of effort. Depending on where you live, gianduja chocolate, hazelnut paste and hazelnut praline paste can be hard to find. It may be necessary to buy some items online.

  • Gianduja is a hazelnut-flavored chocolate that I found at Whole Foods. It is made by Callebaut and cost $12 per pound.
  • Hazelnut paste is like peanut butter, but is made with hazelnuts instead of peanuts. I made it myself. Hazelnuts are not always easy to find and usually cost at least $8 per pound.
  • Hazelnut praline paste can be made from ground up hazelnut pralines, but a very smooth version can be bought at specialty shops like Sur La Table and at some upper scale grocery stores. An 11 ounce can of praline paste sells for about $12. The oils often separate from the paste, so it has to be stirred well to recombine them before using.

 Making the Banana Cream

  • 3/4 pound very ripe bananas, cut into chunks for food processor
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. unflavored gelatin (like Knox)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. and 1 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup cold heavy cream
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces

 Peel and weigh the brown bananas, then cut them in pieces so they fit in the food processor. Add lemon and ½ cup of the milk, and then turn on food processor until smooth. Some small chunks may survive. In separate small bowl or cup, add gelatin to remainder of milk.

 Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt in medium saucepan. Add banana mixture, egg yolks and ¼ cup cream to dry mixture and whisk until combined thoroughly. Bring to a boil while stirring. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue stirring for about 2 minutes. Add butter and gelatin/milk and cook for 1 minute. Pour mixture into bowl and set this bowl in another container with ice water to cool. Stir to cool quicker.

 Beat ¾ cup heavy cream until stiff, and then fold into banana mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool. This may take a couple of hours.

 Making the Hazelnut Brittle

  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts, roasted
  • 1/2 cup sugar

 I personally can never find roasted hazelnuts, so I usually buy raw ones from Trader Joe’s or raw bulk from Henry’s Market. I spread them in a single layer on a cookie sheet in a 350 degree F preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes (depending on your oven), then place them in a tea (kitchen) towel and cover them for 5 minutes or so. The steam will usually make the outer skin on the nuts peel off easier. Just use oven mitts and rub the hazelnuts gently but firmly against each other and the towel. Most of the skins will come off. Don’t worry if some don’t. Remove skin fragments from nuts.

 Prepare a cookie sheet by placing parchment paper on it and spraying a little nonstick cooking spray on it. Set aside. Cook sugar in a small saucepan (preferably with a heavy bottom) set on medium heat. Sugar will turn amber when it is done. Be careful to not let it burn. If it does, start over. Stir hazelnuts into melted sugar and work quickly to cover each. Turn it out onto prepared cookie sheet and spread nuts out into single layer with oiled spoon, fork or rolling pin. This will harden and cool relatively quickly.

 Making the Hazelnut Crunch

  • 1/2 recipe hazelnut brittle (see above)
  • 1 cup hazelnut paste
  • 1/3 cup confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 cups crisp rice cereal

 Grind the hazelnut brittle in the food processor by pulsing it frequently. They ask for it to be powder, but I couldn’t get that consistency without it heating up, so the pieces were larger.

 To make hazelnut paste, I added about 2 cups of roasted/skinned hazelnuts into the food processor and pulsed for several minutes. It started heating up, so I stopped and scraped out the inside several times to help it out. It ended up being like a crunchy peanut butter, not smooth like butter.

 Mix brittle, paste, powdered sugar and salt until thoroughly combined. Then add crisp rice cereal and carefully mix together.

 Making the Cake Layer

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 12 Tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 pound very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

 Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease 3 10” x 2” round cake pans and place parchment paper on bottom. Spray paper with nonstick spray. Stir first four ingredients together and set aside dry ingredients.

 Cream butter in stand mixer, and then slowly add sugar. Continue mixing at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and mix. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix together. Add dry ingredients at low speed and mix until combined. Add 1/3 of batter into each of the prepared cake pans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Make sure the middle is springy when you press it gently or else it will be undercooked. It will be lightly browned. Cool about 10 minutes in pan, and then place rack on top and turn entire thing over. Remove parchment paper and let cool completely.

 Making the Hazelnut Frosting

  • 1/2 cup hazelnut praline paste
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 Tbsp. confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
  • Pinch of salt

 Combine ingredients in small bowl. Whisk until light and smooth. Cool in refrigerator about 15 minutes so it is spreadable.

 Making the Chocolate Hazelnut Ganache 

  • 1/2 cup hazelnut praline paste
  • 4 ounces Gianduja chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. good-quality hot fudge sauce
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup cold heavy cream

 Place the first four ingredients in a medium bowl and microwave at 50% power for 30 seconds, stir and continue heating for 30 more seconds. Stir until completely mixed. Then slowly add cream and whisk together until shiny and creamy. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate about 1 hour until cold.

 Right before you assemble the cake, place the bowl in a bowl of ice water and beat with electric mixer until light and fluffy.

 Ingredients Needed for Assembly

  • 1/3 cup whole milk

Assembly of the Banana Cake 

Layer 1) Place one cake on plate or cake stand. Brush top of cake with milk. Spread with half of the whipped ganache. Then spread half of the crunch mixture on top of the ganache. Spread half of the banana mixture over the crispy mix. Layer 2) repeat same as layer 1. Layer 3) Place third cake on top. Brush top of cake with milk. Spread frosting on top. Refrigerate for 1 hour or more.

 This is a pretty tall cake, so you can cover it with plastic wrap loosely. Before you serve it, break up the brittle and sprinkle it over the top. This cake serves between 12 and 16 people.

Chocolate Hazelunt Ganache

Hazelnut Crunch

Hazelnut Brittle


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