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Showing posts from November, 2014

PAIN FROM REJECTION , PHYSICAL PAIN MAY NOT BE SO SIMILAR AFTER ALL

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Over the last decade, neuroscientists have largely come to believe that physical pain and social pain are processed by the brain in the same way. But a new study led by the University of Colorado shows that the two kinds of pain actually use distinct neural circuits, a finding that could lead to more targeted treatments and a better understanding of how the two kinds of pain interact. For the study, published in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers used a technique recently borrowed from the computer science field by neuroscientists--multivariate pattern analysis--to examine brain scans that were taken while people looked at a picture of someone who had rejected them. The results were compared to brain scans made of the same people when they were receiving a painful heat stimulus. "Physical pain and social rejection do activate similar regions of the brain," said CU-Boulder graduate student Choong-Wan Woo, lead author of the study. "But by using a new analys…

1.1 MILLION HIV INFECTION IN CHILDREN PREVENTED

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An estimated 1.1 million human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections among children under the age of 15 have been prevented between 2005 and 2013. According to data released by the UN Children`s Fund (UNICEF) Friday ahead of World AIDS Day, new HIV infections among children has declined by about 40 percent between 2009 and 2013, Xinhua reported. However, the global goal of reducing the figure by 90 percent is still out of reach, the data said. The progress has been made through providing more pregnant women living with HIV with services for the prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT), such as lifelong HIV treatment which can reduce the transmission of virus to babies and keep their mothers alive. The sharpest declines took place in eight African countries, including Malawi, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, among others. However, only 67 percent of pregnant women living with HIV in all low- and middle-income countries received the most effective treatment for PMTCT in 2013. An esti…

UTERINE CONTRACTIONS INCREASE SUCCESS OF ARTIFICIAL INSEMINATION

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The negative impact of contractions during in vitro fertilization is a well-known fact. What was unknown until now was the effect it had on artificial insemination. A new study has discovered that it is the contrary to that seen in embryo transfer: there is an improved chance of getting pregnant. Researchers from the Valencian Infertility Institute (IVI) have demonstrated that the number of contractions of the uterus per minute is a parameter associated with success in artificial insemination procedures. The study, recently published in the journal Fertility & Sterility, has been carried over the course of five years with data obtained from a sample of over 600 women. "The number of uterine contractions per minute is positively related to the rate of clinical pregnancy and that of live births following artificial insemination, with the correct synchronisation of the moment of insemination being especially important," explains Manuel Fern├índez, the main author of the work an…

GENOMES OF MALARIA CARRYING MOSQUITOES SEQUENCED

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Nora Besansky, O'Hara Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Notre Dame and a member of the University's Eck Institute for Global Health, has led an international team of scientists in sequencing the genomes of 16Anopheles mosquito species from around the world. Anopheles mosquitoes are responsible for transmitting human malaria parasites that cause an estimated 200 million cases and more than 600 thousand deaths each year. However, of the almost 500 different Anophelesspecies, only a few dozen can carry the parasite and only a handful of species are responsible for the vast majority of transmissions. Besansky and her fellow researchers investigated the genetic differences between the deadly parasite-transmitting species and their harmless (but still annoying) cousins. Two papers published in today's (Nov. 27) editions ofScience Express, an electronic publication of the journal Science in advance of print, describe detailed genomic comparisons of these mosquit…

SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASE RISK OF STILLBIRTH IN MALES

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A large-scale study led by the University of Exeter has found that boys are more likely to be stillborn than girls. Published in the journalBMC Medicine, the study reviewed more than 30 million births globally, and found that the risk of stillbirth is about ten percent higher in boys. This equates to a loss of around 100,000 additional male babies per year. The results could help to explain why some pregnancies go wrong. Around a quarter of stillbirths have no known cause. Of the remainder, many are linked to placental abnormalities but it is often unclear why the abnormalities occur. Dr Fiona Mathews from the University of Exeter said: "The numbers speak for themselves -- the disparity between male and female stillbirth rates is startling. Stillbirth is a common occurrence, even in rich countries with good healthcare systems: every day, eleven babies are stillborn in the UK. Uncovering why male babies are at higher risk could be a first step towards developing new approaches to pr…

ELDERLY BRAINS LEARN , BUT MAY BE TOO MUCH

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A new study led by Brown University reports that older learners retained the mental flexibility needed to learn a visual perception task but were not as good as younger people at filtering out irrelevant information. The findings undermine the conventional wisdom that the brains of older people lack flexibility, or "plasticity," but highlight a different reason why learning may become more difficult as people age: They learn more than they need to. Researchers call this the "plasticity and stability dilemma." The new study suggests older people may indeed be facing it. "Plasticity may be kept OK, in contrast with the view of many researchers on aging who have said that the degree of plasticity of older people gets lower," said Takeo Watanabe, the Fred M. Seed Professor at Brown University, corresponding author of the study inCurrent Biology. "However, we have found that the stability is problematic. Our learning and memory capability is limited. You do…

PROMISING EBOLA VACCINE DEVELOPED

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An experimental vaccine to prevent Ebola virus disease was well-tolerated and produced immune system responses in all 20 healthy adults who received it in a Phase 1 clinical trial conducted by researchers from the National Institutes of Health. The candidate vaccine, which was co-developed by the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), was tested at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. The interim results are reported online in advance of print in theNew England Journal of Medicine. The unprecedented scale of the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa has intensified efforts to develop safe and effective vaccines, which may play a role in bringing this epidemic to an end and undoubtedly will be critically important in preventing future large outbreaks," said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. "Based on these positive results from the first human trial of this candidate vaccine, we are continuing our accele…

COPPER ON THE BRAIN AT REST

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In recent years it has been established that copper plays an essential role in the health of the human brain. Improper copper oxidation has been linked to several neurological disorders including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Menkes' and Wilson's. Copper has also been identified as a critical ingredient in the enzymes that activate the brain's neurotransmitters in response to stimuli. Now a new study by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has shown that proper copper levels are also essential to the health of the brain at rest. "Using new molecular imaging techniques, we've identified copper as a dynamic modulator of spontaneous activity of developing neural circuits, which is the baseline activity of neurons without active stimuli, kind of like when you sleep or daydream, that allows circuits to rest and adapt," says Chris Chang, a faculty chemist with Berkeley Lab's Chemical …

DOGS HEAR OUR WORDS AND HOW WE SAY THEM

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When people hear another person talking to them, they respond not only to what is being said--those consonants and vowels strung together into words and sentences--but also to other features of that speech--the emotional tone and the speaker's gender, for instance. Now, a report in the Cell Press journalCurrent Biology on November 26 provides some of the first evidence of how dogs also differentiate and process those various components of human speech. "Although we cannot say how much or in what way dogs understand information in speech from our study, we can say that dogs react to both verbal and speaker-related information and that these components appear to be processed in different areas of the dog's brain," says Victoria Ratcliffe of the School of Psychology at the University of Sussex. Previous studies showed that dogs have hemispheric biases--left brain versus right--when they process the vocalization sounds of other dogs. Ratcliffe and her supervisor David Reby…

DOES A YOGURT A DAY KEEP DIABETES AWAY

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A high intake of yogurt has been found to be associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to research published in open access journalBMC Medicine. This highlights the importance of having yogurt as part of a healthy diet. Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that occurs when the body doesn't produce enough insulin, or the body's cells develop resistance to insulin. There is an increased risk of developing it if a relative has the condition or if an individual has an unhealthy lifestyle. Approximately 366 million people are affected by type 2 diabetes worldwide and it is estimated this will increase to 552 million people by 2030, which puts pressure on global healthcare systems. Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health pooled the results of three prospective cohort studies that followed the medical history and lifestyle habits of health professionals. These studies were the Health Professionals' Follow-up Study (HFPS), which included 51,529…

NOVEL THEORY CONNECTS MOTHER'S TO CHILDHOOD OBESITY

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As the waistlines of children in the United States continue to grow, scientists continue to seek causes of the childhood obesity epidemic. One University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health researcher has published a new theory that he says explains why infants in the United States are being born heavier than at any time in our nation's history. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. In 2012, more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. "Childhood obesity is the major public health problem of the 21st century and will continue to be until we fully understand why children are becoming obese. My theory offers that understanding," said Edward Archer, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow in the Nutrition Obesity Research Center and Office of Energetics. Archer says that previously there were no valid theories as to why children are …

GENE DISCOVERED THAT REDUCES RISK OF STROKE

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Scientists have discovered a gene that protects people against one of the major causes of stroke in young and middle-aged adults and could hold the key to new treatments. Researchers from Royal Holloway, University of London, together with an international team from across the United States and Europe, have found that people with a specific variant of a gene, known as PHACTR1, are at reduced risk of suffering cervical artery dissection, which is caused by a tear in an artery that leads to the brain. The new discovery, published in the journalNature Genetics,could lead to new treatments and prevention strategies for the disease, which is a major cause of stroke in young adults. The same gene variant has also been identified as a protector against migraines and affects the risk of heart attack. Professor Pankaj Sharma, from the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway, said: "This is an important breakthrough. Our findings provide us with a greater understanding of how this reg…

GARLIC, BROCCOLI BOOST FIGHT AGAINST CANCER

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Cancer types such as melanoma, prostate cancer and certain types of leukemia weaken the body by over-activating the natural immune system. Researchers from the University of Copenhagen have now demonstrated that selenium -- naturally found in, e.g., garlic and broccoli -- slows down the immune over-response. In the long term, this may improve cancer treatment. The findings have been published in theJournal of Biological Chemistry. The immune system is designed to remove things not normally found in the body. Cells undergoing change, e.g. precursors of cancer cells, are therefore normally recognised and removed by the immune system. Unfortunately, the different cancer cells contain mechanisms that block the immune system's ability to recognise them, allowing them to freely continue cancer development. Certain cancer cells overexpress immunostimulatory molecules in liquid form. Such over-stimulation has a negative impact on the immune system: "You can say that the stimulating mole…

BABIES REMEMBER NOTHING BUT A GOOD TIME

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Parents who spend their time playing with and talking to their five-month-old baby may wonder whether their child remembers any of it a day later Thanks to a new BYU study, we now know that they at least remember the good times. The study, published in Infant Behavior and Development, shows that babies are more likely to remember something if there is a positive emotion, or affect, that accompanies it. "People study memory in infants, they study discrimination in emotional affect, but we are the first ones to study how these emotions influence memory," said BYU psychology professor Ross Flom, lead author of the study. Although the five-month-olds can't talk, there are a number of different ways that researchers can analyze how the babies respond to testing treatments. In this particular study, they monitored the infants' eye movements and how long they look at a test image. The babies were set in front of a flat paneled monitor in a closed off partition and then exposed t…

LIGHTING UP TUMORS

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A STAR researchers have developed a hybrid metal-polymer nanoparticle that lights up in the acidic environment surrounding tumor cells. Nonspecific probes that can identify any kind of tumor are extremely useful for monitoring the location and spread of cancer and the effects of treatment, as well as aiding initial diagnosis.
Cancerous tumors typically have lower than normal pH levels, which correspond to increased acidity both inside the cells and within the extracellular microenvironment surrounding the cells. This simple difference between tumor cells and normal cells has led several research groups to develop probes that can detect the low pH of tumors using optical imaging, magnetic resonance and positron emission tomography. Most of these probes, however, target the intracellular pH, which requires the probes to enter the cells in order to work. A greater challenge has been to detect the difference in extracellular pH between healthy tissue and tumor tissue as the pH difference is…