Posts

Showing posts from February, 2015

FUTURE OF HYPERTENSION TREATMENT

Image
A new system can perform a one-time minimally invasive catheter-based per cutaneous procedure that has shown to significantly reduce blood pressure--in as little as 30 seconds. This new technology, developed by Vessix Vascular, has the potential to help the one in three adults in the United States who suffer from hypertension-- a condition that is more common than cancer, diabetes and coronary artery disease combined. Today, anti-hypertensive drugs are the primary treatment for hypertension. But despite the widespread use of drugs, only about half of hypertensive patients around the world are well controlled, even when multiple medications are taken at optimal dosages. The V2 system performs a new procedural treatment called renal denervation, which Dr. Mehemet Oz has called "a profound game changer." It uses a short blast of radiofrequency (RF) energy to disable the nerves surrounding the arteries leading to the kidneys, treating one of the key physiological contributors to hy…

BUMBLEBEES MAKE FALSE MEMORIES , TOO

Image
It's well known that our human memory can fail us. People can be forgetful, and they can sometimes also "remember" things incorrectly, with devastating consequences in the classroom, courtroom, and other areas of life. Now, researchers show for the first time in the Cell Press journalCurrent Biology on February 26 that bumblebees can be unreliable witnesses too. The new study is the first to explore false memories in any non-human animals, the researchers say. They now suspect that the phenomenon may be widespread in the animal kingdom. "We discovered that the memory traces for two stimuli can merge, such that features acquired in distinct bouts of training are combined in the animal's mind," says Lars Chittka of Queen Mary University of London. As a result, "stimuli that have actually never been viewed before, but are a combination of the features presented in training, are chosen during memory recall." Bumblebees are rather clever animals, which ex…

SCIENTISTS GROW LEG MUSCLE FROM CELLS IN A DISH

Image
A team of researchers from Italy, Israel and the United Kingdom has succeeded in generating mature, functional skeletal muscles in mice using a new approach for tissue engineering. The scientists grew a leg muscle starting from engineered cells cultured in a dish to produce a graft. The subsequent graft was implanted close to a normal, contracting skeletal muscle where the new muscle was nurtured and grown. In time, the method could allow for patient-specific treatments for a large number of muscle disorders. The results are published in EMBO Molecular Medicine. The scientists used muscle precursor cells -- mesoangioblasts -- grown in the presence of a hydrogel (support matrix) in a tissue culture dish. The cells were also genetically modified to produce a growth factor that stimulates blood vessel and nerve growth from the host. Cells engineered in this way express a protein growth factor that attracts other essential cells that give rise to the blood vessels and nerves of the host, co…

HOW EYELASH LENGTH KEEPS YOUR EYES HEALTHY

Image
It started with a trip to the basement of the American Museum of Natural History in New York to inspect preserved animal hides. Later, Georgia Institute of Technology researchers built a wind tunnel about 2 feet tall, complete with a makeshift eye. By putting both steps together, the team discovered that 22 species of mammals -- from humans, to hedgehogs, to giraffes -- are the same: their eyelash length is one-third the width of their eye. Anything shorter or longer, including the fake eyelashes that are popular in Hollywood and make-up aisles, increases airflow around the eye and leads to more dust hitting the surface.
Eyelashes form a barrier to control airflow and the rate of evaporation on the surface of the cornea," said Guillermo Amador, a Georgia Tech Ph.D. candidate in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering who authored the study. "When eyelashes are shorter than the one-third ratio, they have only a slight effect on the flow. Their effect is more pr…

ANTIBIOTICS GIVE RISE TO NEW COMMUNITIES OF HARMFUL BACTERIA

Image
Most people have taken an antibiotic to treat a bacterial infection. Now researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of San Diego, La Jolla, reveal that the way we often think about antibiotics -- as straightforward killing machines -- needs to be revised.
The work, led by Elizabeth Shank, an assistant professor of biology in the UNC-Chapel Hill College of Arts and Sciences as well as microbiology and immunology in the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine, and Rachel Bleich, a graduate student in the UNC-Chapel Hill Eshelman School of Pharmacy, not only adds a new dimension to how we treat infections, but also might change our understanding of why bacteria produce antibiotics in the first place. "For a long time we've thought that bacteria make antibiotics for the same reasons that we love them -- because they kill other bacteria," said Shank, whose work appears in the February 23 Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academ…

PEANUT CONSUMPTION IN INFANCY PREVENTS PEANUT ALLERGY

Image
Introduction of peanut products into the diets of infants at high risk of developing peanut allergy was safe and led to an 81 percent reduction in the subsequent development of the allergy, a clinical trial has found. The study was supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, and was conducted by the NIAID-funded Immune Tolerance Network (ITN). The results appear in the current online issue of theNew England Journal of Medicine and were presented today at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Researchers led by Gideon Lack, M.D., of King's College London, designed a study called Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP), based on observations that Israeli children have lower rates of peanut allergy compared to Jewish children of similar ancestry residing in the United Kingdom. Unlike children in the UK, Israeli children begin consuming peanut-containing foods early …

DECONSTRUCTING MENTAL ILLNESS THROUGH ULTRADIAN RHYTHMS

Image
Might living a structured life with regularly established meal times and early bedtimes lead to a better life and perhaps even prevent the onset of mental illness? That's what's suggested in a study led by Kai-Florian Storch, PhD, of the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and McGill University, which has been published in the online journaleLife Our daily sleep-wake cycle is governed by an internal 24-hour timer, the circadian clock. However, there is evidence that daily activity is also influenced by rhythms much shorter than 24 hours, which are known as ultradian rhythms and follow a four-hour cycle. Most prominently observed in infants before they are able to sleep through the night, ultradian rhythms may explain why, on average, we eat three meals a day that are relatively evenly spaced across our daily wake period. These four-hour ultradian rhythms are activated by dopamine, a key chemical substance in the brain. When dopamine levels are out of kilter -- as is sugge…

NEEDLE FREE VACCINATION , SKIN CELLS HELP

Image
Vaccination is an effective method of stimulating the human body's immune system to fight against various pathogens (e.g. bacteria, viruses). Worldwide vaccination needs safe, easy-to-use and inexpensive tools for vaccine administration. The skin immune system is a promising target as the skin lies directly in front of us. New research published in the January 2015 issue ofExperimental Dermatology introduces a new approach to stimulate the skin immune response by applying needle-free vaccination.
"For 10 years, researchers at Charité-Berlin and UPMC-Paris have been working together on how to use the skin immune system to develop a new, non-invasive vaccination method," said Annika Vogt, a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Dermatology & Allergy (Charité-Berlin, Germany) and UPMC University Paris, Sorbonne Universités, (France). "In this study, we show how a painless method helps such vaccines cross the skin. The method 'wakes up' skin …

NEW NANOGEL FOR DRUG DELIVERY

Image
Scientists are interested in using gels to deliver drugs because they can be molded into specific shapes and designed to release their payload over a specified time period. However, current versions aren't always practical because must be implanted surgically.
To help overcome that obstacle, MIT chemical engineers have designed a new type of self-healing hydrogel that could be injected through a syringe. Such gels, which can carry one or two drugs at a time, could be useful for treating cancer, macular degeneration, or heart disease, among other diseases, the researchers say. The new gel consists of a mesh network made of two components: nanoparticles made of polymers entwined within strands of another polymer, such as cellulose. "Now you have a gel that can change shape when you apply stress to it, and then, importantly, it can re-heal when you relax those forces. That allows you to squeeze it through a syringe or a needle and get it into the body without surgery," says Ma…

BRAN'S ICONIC SEAT OF SPEECH GOES SILENT WHEN WE ACTUALLY TALK

Image
For 150 years, the iconic Broca's area of the brain has been recognized as the command center for human speech, including vocalization. Now, scientists at UC Berkeley and Johns Hopkins University in Maryland are challenging this long-held assumption with new evidence that Broca's area actually switches off when we talk out loud The findings, reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, provide a more complex picture than previously thought of the frontal brain regions involved in speech production. The discovery has major implications for the diagnoses and treatments of stroke, epilepsy and brain injuries that result in language impairments. "Every year millions of people suffer from stroke, some of which can lead to severe impairments in perceiving and producing language when critical brain areas are damaged," said study lead author Adeen Flinker, a postdoctoral researcher at New York University who conducted the study as a UC Berkeley Ph.D…

POPULAR SODA INGREDIENTS , CARAMEL COLOR , POSES CANCER RISK TO CONSUMERS

Image
Public health researchers have analyzed soda consumption data in order to characterize people's exposure to a potentially carcinogenic byproduct of some types of caramel color. Caramel color is a common ingredient in colas and other dark soft drinks. The results show that between 44 and 58 percent of people over the age of six typically have at least one can of soda per day, possibly more, potentially exposing them to 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI), a possible human carcinogen formed during the manufacture of some kinds of caramel color The results were published online today in PLOS One. Building on an analysis of 4-MEI concentrations in 11 different soft drinks first published by Consumer Reports in 2014, researchers led by a team at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) estimated exposure to 4-MEI from caramel-colored soft drinks and modeled the potential cancer burden related to routine soft drink consumption levels in the United States. "Soft drink consumers are be…

ENGINEERED INSULIN COULD OFFER BETTER DIABETES CONTROL

Image
For patients with diabetes, insulin is critical to maintaining good health and normal blood-sugar levels. However, it's not an ideal solution because it can be difficult for patients to determine exactly how much insulin they need to prevent their blood sugar from swinging too high or too low. MIT engineers hope to improve treatment for diabetes patients with a new type of engineered insulin. In tests in mice, the researchers showed that their modified insulin can circulate in the bloodstream for at least 10 hours, and that it responds rapidly to changes in blood-sugar levels. This could eliminate the need for patients to repeatedly monitor their blood sugar levels and inject insulin throughout the day. "The real challenge is getting the right amount of insulin available when you need it, because if you have too little insulin your blood sugar goes up, and if you have too much, it can go dangerously low," says Daniel Anderson, the Samuel A. Goldblith Associate Professor in…

RESEARCHERS IDENTIFY PEPTIDE THAT REDUCES URGE TO EAT

Image
Researchers have identified a peptide and hormone that when administered to a specific area of the brain may reduce the desire for food. The study, which appears in the journalNeuropsychopharmacology, may one day lead to medications that treat obesity and binge eating disorders Obesity is a complex disorder affecting more than 78 million Americans which involves an excessive amount of body fat. It increases your risk of diseases and health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Binge-eating disorder is a prevalent illness in America characterized by periods of excessive uncontrolled consumption of food, followed by uncomfortable fullness and feelings of self-disgust. Using an experimental model, the researchers found when administering pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating peptide (PACAP), a peptide and hormone produced by neurons, in a specific area of the brain called the "central amygdala," it reduced the intake of food and led to weight loss. Acc…

MEDITATION MUST SLOW THE AGE RELATED LOSS OF GRAY MATTER IN THE BRAIN

Image
Since 1970, life expectancy around the world has risen dramatically, with people living more than 10 years longer. That's the good news. The bad news is that starting when people are in their mid-to-late-20s, the brain begins to wither -- its volume and weight begin to decrease. As this occurs, the brain can begin to lose some of its functional abilities. So although people might be living longer, the years they gain often come with increased risks for mental illness and neurodegenerative disease. Fortunately, a new study shows meditation could be one way to minimize those risks. Building on their earlier work that suggested people who meditate have less age-related atrophy in the brain's white matter, a new study by UCLA researchers found that meditation appeared to help preserve the brain's gray matter, the tissue that contains neurons. The scientists looked specifically at the association between age and gray matter. They compared 50 people who had mediated for years and 50…

ANTI- EPILEPSY DRUG PRESERVES BRAIN FUNCTION AFTER STROKE

Image
New research suggests that an already-approved drug could dramatically reduce the debilitating impact of strokes, which affect nearly a million Americans every year. In the study, one dose of the anti-epilepsy drug, retigabine, preserved brain tissue in a mouse model of stroke and prevented the loss of balance control and motor coordination. Researchers from the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio conducted the study, which was published Feb. 3 in The Journal of Neuroscience. Balance and coordination test Hours after a stroke, both treated mice and a control group of mice were placed on a balance beam to observe motor coordination. The untreated mice displayed a pronounced loss of coordination with slips and falls. Treated mice had no difficulty with balance, ambulation or turning around on the beam. "You couldn't even tell they had a stroke," said senior author Mark S. Shapiro, Ph.D., professor of physiology at the UT Health Sc…