Hope for Huntington’s Disease

This links to a story in the Globe & Mail about research for Huntington’s disease. That’s a degenerative neural disease that strikes people in their forties, after they have had children–and it’s inherited as a simple dominant, so 50% of the children are likely to have to too. It affects both body and mind, sometimes causing rages or irrational behavior. Now, there’s a promising lead: an enzyme snips Huntington’s abnormal protein into toxic segments, so if we can block the enzyme, we can slow the progress of the disease. One of its most intense researchers has the gene himself. Read the article, then the comments; they are most insightful.

San Diego fire

The Witch Creek fire is burning in the north part of San Diego County, moving quickly west towards Encinitas, which is at the north end of the city of San Diego (which is north of Tiajuana in Mexico). The Sign On San Diego Web site has maps, news, and a time-lapse video of the fire.

And why should I care? 250,000 people so far have been evacuated from their homes in Southern California–not a compact group but from streets built up into the dry hills. Apart from humanitarian aspects, I’ve been there, visiting, driving through, and cycling.

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California chinook fans flames

The Santa Ana winds are the warm-country version of the chinook — a wind that flows down a mountain, getting warmer as it goes down and raising the temperature in the surrounding countryside. It’s the opposite of refrigeration: expanding gas absorbs heat, condensing gas gives off heat. In the Canadian Rockies, a chinook is the warm wind that brings a sudden thaw in winter. But in a semi-desert like much of Southern California, it dessicates the vegetation and spreads any fires that start. I didn’t know that. I thought it was just a warm wind from the interior. But a compressing air mass can get very hot very quickly.

NASA satellite photos show how quickly the winds fan the fires. Here’s 11:35 a.m. on October 21; then below it is the same area just over three hours later.

Now I’m worrying about friends and colleagues in California. The Irvine fire is near the Irvine park and zoo, where I photographed some feral parrots last year.

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