Peer Support Good For Health

Getting along with your colleagues may not only be good for your work satisfaction and productivity, it could be good for your health, too.

That’s according to a new study, published in the May issue of Health Psychology, that looked at the medical history of more than 800 people working in finance, insurance, public services, health care, and manufacturing companies between 1988 and 2008.

The team of researchers, led by Arie Shirom at Tel Aviv University in Israel, looked at peer social support in terms of the participants’ perception of how supportive and friendly their colleagues were to them. The researchers found that a high level of peer social support was associated with a lower risk of mortality. When also looking at the participants’ age, they found peer social support to have a protective effect only for people aged between 38 and 43. Interestingly, support from supervisors was not associated with mortality rate.

The researchers also looked at the effect of the participants’ decision power in their jobs. While high decision power was associated with reduced mortality in men, the researchers found that the opposite was true in women. That it is more typical for men than women to hold high-power positions at the types of companies studied may at least partly explain the finding, Shirom said in a press release.

“Peer social support, which could represent how well a participant is socially integrated in his or her employment context, is a potent predictor of the risk of all causes of mortality,” the researchers wrote in the paper. (By Elisabeth Pain)

A Rattling Conversation About Anything – 1

It is a fact of life that many blogs disappear just after few postings. My search to one of the blog states that the blog has been deleted by the owner. I know I don’t get to say goodbye to this blog. But at least, I had a chance to say goodbye to the skills which had vanished as the blog dies off. As life can be unpredictable sometimes, I didn’t know when it was my turn next. But my heart goes out to save my talent and skill. I feel even more for my two blogs which need constant touch-up needlessly in time of time constraint and work commitment. I believe if society as a whole see writing from long life education point of view, the the cyber world would be a much better place to visit.

I am sorry to hear about a landslide caused by heavy rains that killed twenty-three children at the Children’s Hidayah Madrasah Al-Taqwa orphanage in Hulu Langat. The incident struck when the children were practising the traditional Malay ‘kompang’ under a tent near a steep slope and it was found later that the orphanage did not have a certificate of fitness (CF) when it was built many years ago.

There is a soothing word: From Allah we come and to Him we return


A fresh start for many of my students. A trouble weeks for many of us. I realized I desperately need a break. Two family feasts are waiting…

3D Innovation

I was amazed by 3D innovation. Nevertheless, I wonder how each time you watch tv you ought to wear special glasses.

Here is the good news.

Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd exhibited a 55-inch 3D LCD TV viewable without special glasses at FPD China 2011, which took place from March 15 to 17, 2011, in Shanghai, China. The new 3D LCD TV reportedly had a functional switch between 2D and 3D modes.

The TV is equipped with an LCD panel whose optical refraction index can be changed in front of an LCD panel used for displaying images. Samsung believes this prototype will be commercially available in about three years.

Autostereoscopic technology allows the viewer to view 3D images without the need of special eyewear. Toshiba and other companies are developing similar technology, banking on commercial and consumer calls for glasses-free viewing of 3D images.

Make sure when checking out any TV, from LCD TVs to 3D TVs that you check the best available resources.
(News from Samsung)

Update on Heart Research

A conductive patch of carbon nanotubes can regenerate heart tissue growing in a dish, according to preliminary research from Brown University. The patch, made of tiny chains of carbon atoms that fold in on themselves, forming a tube, conducts electricity and mimics the rough surface of natural tissue. The more nanotubes the Brown researchers added to the patch, the more cells around it were able to regenerate.

During a heart attack, areas of the heart are deprived of oxygen, killing muscle and nerve cells used to keep the heart beating strongly and rhythmically. The tissue cannot regenerate on its own, which disrupts the heart’s rhythm, weakens it, and sometimes leads to a repeat heart attack. Tissue engineers around the globe are searching for ways to regenerate or repair this damaged tissue using different types of scaffolds and stem cells.

Thomas Webster, an associate professor of engineering and orthopedics at Brown and senior author of the study, says his work is distinctive because he examined not just the muscle cells that beat, but also the nerve cells that help them contract and the endothelial cells that line the blood vessels leading to and from the heart. The fact that the patch helped regenerate all three types of cells, which function interdependently in the heart, suggests the newly grown tissue is similar to normal heart tissue. The research was published today in Acta Biomaterialia.

In another development, a functioning strip of heart muscle has been created from mouse embryonic stem cells, thanks to the identification of a new type of cardiac stem cell. The research has not yet been repeated with human cells, but it lays a blueprint for how to generate heart muscle that could be used to repair damage from heart attacks and to test new drugs. The scientists, from Harvard University, are now working on isolating similar cardiac cells from lines of human stem cells.

Stem-cell therapy for heart disease has so far focused on trying to repair heart-attack damage with injections of patient-derived stem cells from bone marrow, but studies have yielded mixed results. Rather than using undifferentiated cells, “the push now is to try to obtain cardiac myocytes [heart muscle cells] from people and use them as patches that would be placed over damaged tissue in someone who has had a heart attack,” says Benoit Bruneau, a researcher at theGladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease, in San Francisco. “They made engineered cardiac tissue from embryonic stem cells. From a bioengineering point of view, that’s significant.”

Embryonic stem cells, which are capable of forming any type of tissue in the body, can spontaneously form clumps of beating heart cells when grown in a dish. But it has been difficult to isolate large numbers of these cells from the mix of tissue types that can develop from embryonic stem cells. A heart patch would require a huge number of these cells, perhaps billions, says Christine Mummery, a biologist at the Leiden University Medical Center, in the Netherlands.

The Harvard team, led by Kenneth Chien, director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Cardiovascular Research Center, in Boston, has made progress toward this goal, previously developing a method of isolating a master cardiac stem cell from embryonic stem cells and fetal tissue–one capable of producing all the cell types that make up the heart. In the most recent study, published today in the journalScience, Chien’s team developed a way to isolate particularly desirable progeny of this master stem cell, cells that produce only ventricular muscle cells, the type damaged in heart attacks. “If you want to create a cardiac patch, you want cells that will behave–that would line up nicely like they do in the heart,” says Bruneau.

Scientists genetically engineered mice to express two markers of different colors–one that marked the master cardiac stem cell, and the other that turns on when the cells start making muscle. They then isolated the 0.5 percent of cells in the developing mouse embryo that expressed both markers. In addition to making only ventricular muscle cells, these cells also have the ability to continue to reproduce, enabling the production of large volumes of cells. “This ability to divide and make muscle is something that normal heart cells do not have,” says Chien.
(Excerpt From MIT Journal)

Guardian’s Commentary On Imam Muda

Malaysia’s latest reality television star is brimming with boyish charm, quiet confidence and stage presence. Crowned last Friday, Muhammad Asyraf Mohd Ridzuan is no run-of-the-mill entertainer. He is Malaysia’s next top imam.

Over 10 weeks, the 26-year-old ousted nine others in the reality TV programme Imam Muda, or “Young Imam”, to clinch the coveted prize of a job at a prestigious Malaysian mosque, an all-expenses-paid pilgrimage to Mecca and a scholarship to al-Madinah International University in Saudi Arabia.

Oozing the same razzmatazz appeal as Britain’s ‘The X Factor’, Imam Muda is the brainchild of the Muslim lifestyle cable channel Astro Oasis and JAWI, a branch of the state’s Islamic affairs department.

Instead of the song and dance routine though, contenders face weekly challenges such as performing the Islamic ritual of cleansing two unclaimed corpses, preaching to young delinquents hauled in after a police raid and counselling unwed pregnant girls at a woman’s shelter.

Chosen from a pool of over 1000 applicants, 10 aspiring imams were housed in a mosque hostel with no access to the outside world for a period of three months as they underwent training in public speaking, Qu’ran recitation and Islamic doctrines.

The show’s creator Izelan Basar hopes that Imam Muda will make Islam more appealing to the nation’s young Muslims by portraying it as a religion that is relevant to modern times.

To this end, its producers were guided by feedback from a survey about the type of imams that the young wanted at their mosques.

Izelan summarises its target audience’s views thus: “They said, ‘We want someone who can talk on the same wavelength, who can be one of us, an imam who can play football, can talk about the World Cup, can talk about the environment and UFOs, for example'”.

Judging from its official Facebook page which has garnered nearly 65,000 fans as I write this, the show is a runaway hit. Thousands who tuned in to last Friday’s finale would have been delighted to find out that season two is scheduled for next year.

Yet Imam Muda’s success at capturing the imagination of the Muslim masses has a darker side. The TV phenomenon feeds into a public fascination with charismatic clerics, who have not always been good news for Malaysia.

One in particular, Ashaari Mohammad, sticks like a sore thumb in Malaysia’s post-independence history.

In the late 80s and early 90s, the enigmatic preacher headed the Islamic revivalist group known as al-Arqam which boasts a following of some 10,000 Muslims. With Ashaari fashioning himself as a messianic figure, al-Arqam began to look like a cultish movement.

Alarmed at his increasing popularity, the government reacted by banning the organisation in 1994. Ten years later, it detained Ashaari under the internal security act and subsequently restricted his movements in a bid to stem his influence.

Though there’s no suggestion Asyraf will turn into another Ashaari, the show’s emphasis on personalities is cause for concern. Imam Muda seeks commodified clerics (“ideal sons-in-law” as Izelan describes the contestants) and rewards the well-rounded individual rather than the theology. Doesn’t this make Imam Muda complicit in the Islamic sin of shirk, or idol worship?

Finally, the public voting system that has come to define most reality shows is markedly absent in Imam Muda. Elimination is left to the discretion of Hasan Mahmud, a former grand imam of Malaysia’s national mosque.

Yet surely such a major national decision should not depend on the whims of one man, even if he is a respectable cleric. If Imam Muda is to be the de facto way for Malaysians to decide their next top imams, then the people must decide – with the caveat that they should be encouraged to look critically at the candidates, and see beyond the charisma. In any case, the last thing the Muslim world needs is another unelected leader.
(By: Nazry Bahrawi /

Into Hidden Village

Just few kilometres from Custom and Immigration checkpoint, lies the ‘illegal jetty’ where local people who are either of Malaysia or Thai citizens or both move easily criss-cross the two countries.

Rantau Panjang, a small border town on the Malaysian side is annexed to Sungai Golok town on the Thai border; divided by a small river that often flooded in the monsoon season.

This jetty that lies behind a row of shop-lot, is pretty much off-limits to tourist. I remember, a friend from Manila, an external examiner who joked saying that he’d never been to a border town in the Philippine. True enough, Philippine has no border town.

Interestingly, soldiers are just watching from both sides on activities going on without muddling much on the livelihood of the people.

In Memory Of My Mother

When I was a child, I remembered my mother used to grind spices using batu giling. It was a hard work, each time she prepared us curry. She sweated even before the real cooking session started.

Those days, having served chicken curry was a luxury. To catch chicken is a half-day work. My brother was given a task of chasing them; he was pacing up and about the small compound, trying to tame down the roosters and yet his voices were heard throughout the whole kampung.

Mother is the best chef I ever know. I used to tell my wife: I like your cooking, but my mother’s cooking is still the best. To my surprise, she never jealous over my mother. She knows simply, like it or not, I have to surrender eating her cooking.

When my mother was dying in my hospital, my entire family and I went for our daily visit. I remember, sleeping on the floor almost every night, watching the computer screen and doing my work while she was sleeping on the hospital bed.

I knew her last moment has came up, when I correctly called my sister to return back to the hospital even though she had safely reached her home in Seremban. Once she and her family reached the hospital, my mother exhaled her last breath.

Today is a Mother’s Day. I know I would never met my mother again. But all the thoughts about you raced my mind as I ventured closer through pictures and albums.. I knew all I witnessed is my past memory. And tears dropped from my eyes..Al-Fatihah.