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Interesting Findings And World Unfolding Through My Eyes.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

SuperChild Who Behave Like SuperMan

Liam Hoekstra was hanging upside down by his feet when he performed an inverted sit-up, his shirt falling away to expose rippled abdominal muscles.

It was a display of raw power one might expect to see from an Olympic gymnast.

Liam is 19 months old.

But this precocious, 22-pound boy with coffee-colored skin, curly hair and washboard abs is far from a typical toddler.

"He could do the iron cross when he was 5 months old," said his adoptive mother, Dana Hoekstra of Roosevelt Park. She was referring to a difficult gymnastics move in which a male athlete suspends himself by his arms between two hanging rings, forming the shape of a cross.

"I would hold him up by his hands and he would lift himself into an iron cross. That's when we were like, 'Whoa, this is weird,'" Hoekstra said.

Liam has a rare genetic condition called myostatin-related muscle hypertrophy, or muscle enlargement. The condition promotes above-normal growth of the skeletal muscles; it doesn't affect the heart and has no known negative side effects, according to experts.

Liam has the kind of physical attributes that bodybuilders and other athletes dream about: 40 percent more muscle mass than normal, jaw-dropping strength, breathtaking quickness, a speedy metabolism and almost no body fat.

In fitness buffs' terms, the kid is ripped.

"We call him The Hulk, Hercules, the Terminator," his mother said.

Liam can run like the wind, has the agility of a cat, lifts pieces of furniture that most children his age couldn't push across a slick floor and eats like there is no tomorrow -- without gaining weight.

"He's hungry for a full meal about every hour because of his rapid metabolism," Dana Hoekstra said. "He's already eating me out of house and home."

Liam's condition is more than a medical rarity: It could help scientists unlock the secrets of muscle growth and muscle deterioration. Research on adults who share Liam's condition could lead to new treatments for debilitating ailments such as muscular dystrophy and osteoporosis.

If researchers can control how the body produces and uses myostatin, the protein could become a powerful weapon in the pharmaceutical arsenal. It also could become a hot commodity among athletes looking to gain an edge, perhaps illegally, on the competition, experts said.
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It Could Change Your Life

A massive worldwide hunt for disease-causing genes is starting to yield results. Seven years after the genome project, powerful new gene chips that can scan up to one million locations across your DNA are beginning to pinpoint genes that are at the root of killers from breast cancer to heart disease to diabetes.

Not too many years from now, researchers predict that gene findings will be used to create genetic report cards that could help predict one's risks for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, schizophrenia and more. Biotech companies are hopeful that the gene screens will form a new multibillion-dollar business, promising a new kind of preemptive care. But skeptics wonder whether premature genetic testing could just lead to a mountain of confusing, scary or uninterpretable genetic information.

To make sense of this deluge of DNA findings, here's a quick rundown of how genes work. Each gene is a recipe written in DNA for a molecule that does a job in the body; each of us gets one copy from mom and one from dad. For some diseases, only a single bad copy can cause a disease; for others, you need two bad versions. What researchers are finding when they find a "bad gene" is a problematic version that can cause disease. These problem genes are being found at an amazingly rapid rate.

By The Numbers: 12 Gene Tests That Could Change Your Life
In the past three months scientists have unearthed solid evidence for six diabetes-causing gene variants, several variants involved in prostate cancer and an obesity gene that adds 7 pounds of fat if you have the bad version. Two groups have found a genetic quirk on chromosome 9 that boosts your risk of having a heart attack by 40% to 60%. In late May British researchers using a study of 44,000 patients published data pointing to four new genes linked to breast cancer.

Francis Collins, who heads the gene-hunting effort at the National Institutes of Health, predicts "an avalanche" of new disease-gene findings in the next year. "Every geneticist is doing this right now. It is a gold rush," says Dietrich Stephan at Translational Genomics Research Institute, a Phoenix nonprofit that recently pinpointed genes that affect human memory.

In the long run, researchers hope the gene findings will lead to potent new treatments. But that will take a while. New gene tests will come sooner. DeCode Genetics just began selling one gene test aimed at forecasting diabetes risk and plans another test for heart-attack risk. Celera sells a gene test to predict whether your liver is vulnerable to the hepatitis C virus, to help determine whether toxic drugs are necessary (many infected people never get symptoms). And Roche sells a chip that analyzes genes in the liver to determine whether it can properly digest various drugs. It remains to be seen whether these tests will catch on, but one gene test is already a commercial hit: Myriad Genetics (nasdaq: MYGN - news - people ) sells test for the breast cancer genes known as BRCA1 and BRCA2. Its gene test sales are at $100 million a year and growing at a 40% clip.

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The Making Of Martyr

Film maker Brooke Goldstein traveled to the West Bank and filmed more than five hours of interviews with terrorists and their brainwashed children. She went into it believing the situation had been exaggerated—but found it was worse than she could have imagined: Recruited To Die.

As the group walked through the town, they spoke to Palestinian Arab children in schools and on the street. “Our fixer was encouraging us to speak with the children. I think I’d always, deep down, had a hard time thinking the problem was really that bad. I thought maybe it was a lunatic fringe,” she said.

In fact, the fanaticism was worse than she ever imagined. “The most shocking thing was reconciling the normal appearance of these kids and what was coming out of their mouths,” she said. “I was holding these beautiful children in my lap, and my translator was translating words of hate.”

The story was always the same. “No child ever said, ‘I don’t want to be a martyr.’ They talked about fame, paradise, virgins, and Ferris wheels [after death]. They were happy to tell me they hated Jews,” she said.

The children were more fanatical than their parents. “When we interviewed Hussam’s family for the film, his parents were distraught. They don’t believe in this whole child suicide bomber concept,” Ms. Goldstein said. “Then I interviewed his sister, who was like, ‘I’m so proud of my brother. Hamas says he’s a hero.’ At one point she had a loser, dwarf, mentally handicapped brother. Now she’s the coolest girl in class, and very proud.”

In addition to the children, Ms. Goldstein interviewed Mr. Zubeidah, commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in Jenin. At the time, the Israel Defense Forces had made five attempts to assassinate him. In person, Mr. Zubeidah was not the harsh figure she had expected. “It was like talking to any other kid, about 27 years old,” she said. “He was smiling. My translator told me, ‘He’s talking about killing Jews.’”

“The Making of a Martyr” is being shown at the Brooklyn International Film Festival on Saturday and Tuesday.
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Richest Man of India Mukesh 's New Home

In the most conspicuous sign yet of India's unprecedented prosperity, the country's richest man, Mukesh Ambani, is building a new home in the financial hub of Mumbai: a 60-storey palace with helipad, health club and six floors of car parking.
The building, named Antilla after a mythical island, will have a total floor area greater than Versailles and be home for Mr Ambani, his mother, wife, three children and 600 full-time staff.
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