Thursday, March 16, 2006

Innovations that have made my week...

First, I am stoked that someone has gotten WinXP to run on the new Intel Macs. Lets face it: Mac hardware is sexy. I'll be getting a new box when Windows Vista comes out, and this is the first step towards the possibility of that box being a Mac instead of a PC. (I know, I could get a Mac now and run OSX or Virtual PC, but I'm addicted to a number of Windows based applications and the idea of Windows running natively on a Mac is just too cool).

Forgetting for a moment my own future hardware purchases, I'm even more excited by what this means for the computer hardware industry as a whole. PC manufacturers are going to be forced to innovate and come up with better design to compete with Apple. And that is a good thing for everyone if you ask me. (for a chuckle, here is an example of Apple's m4d d3sign 5killz. You'll have to install Google Video Player - if someone has a link to this in Windows Media Player or any other media players, please send it to me and I'll add the links)

Second bit of news I feel the need to rave about is a significant advance in cancer prevention, reproductive health, and public health in general. In 2005 a vaccine for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) was developed which should be available in the US in the second half of 2006.

HPV is extremely common. Half of all sexually active women between 18 and 22 in the US are infected (another way to think about this: more women have HPV than graduate college). HPV is harmless in 90% of cases. Unfortunately, some strains of HPV significantly increase a woman's risk for cervical cancer - HPV-16 for example is found in 50% of cervical cancers, and about a dozen other HPV types are involved in most other cases of the disease. An estimated 250,000 women die worldwide from cervical cancer each year.

It is in the news again because human trials of the vaccine have started in Australia and drug companies are starting to submit vaccines for US FDA approval - the first drug is expected to be approved in June 2006. Unfortunately there is resistance to a widespread vaccination program when the vaccines become available. This vaccine, if given to boys and girls (boys may not get cervical cancer, but they are rather instrumental in spreading HPV so it makes sense to me that they should also get the vaccine) could eradicate HPV from the planet as we have done with other infectious diseases in the past. The controversy is that the vaccine needs to be given before an individual becomes sexually active - and very few parents are comfortable acknowledging that their little angels are fooling around at age 13. But IMHO the bigger barrier to widespread vaccination is the fact that this isn't being viewed as a cancer vaccine but an STD vaccine - and we all know that there are cultural, religious, and political groups the world over which feel that "abstinence only" is the only approach to take when it comes to STDs.

The technology used to create the HPV vaccine is pretty neat - and this is one of the first medical advances to PREVENT cancer that I recall seeing. Sure, chemo and radiation might help once you've got it, and we all know that behavioral changes will prevent skin or lung cancer, but this is the first 'magic shot' for cancer prevention. Hooray for science.


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