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Showing posts from June, 2015

VIEWING CAT VIDEOS BOOSTS ENERGY , POSITIVE EMOTIONS

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If you get a warm, fuzzy feeling after watching cute cat videos online, the effect may be more profound than you think. The Internet phenomenon of watching cat videos, from Lil Bub to Grumpy Cat, does more than simply entertain; it boosts viewers' energy and positive emotions and decreases negative feelings, according to a new study by an Indiana University Media School researcher. The study, by assistant professor Jessica Gall Myrick, surveyed almost 7,000 people about their viewing of cat videos and how it affects their moods. It was published in the latest issue ofComputers in Human Behavior. Lil Bub's owner, Mike Bridavsky, who lives in Bloomington, helped distribute the survey via social media. "Some people may think watching online cat videos isn't a serious enough topic for academic research, but the fact is that it's one of the most popular uses of the Internet today," Myrick said. "If we want to better understand the effects the Internet may have o…

NANOPARTICLES TARGET AND KILL CANCER STEM CELLS THAT DRIVE TUMOR GROWTH

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Many cancer patients survive treatment only to have a recurrence within a few years. Recurrences and tumor spreading are likely due to cancer stem cells that can be tough to kill with conventional cancer drugs. But now researchers have designed nanoparticles that specifically target these hardy cells to deliver a drug. The nanoparticle treatment, reported in the journalACS Nano, worked far better than the drug alone in mice. Anti-cancer drugs can often shrink tumors but don't kill cancer stem cells (CSCs). Although CSCs might only make up a small part of a tumor, their resistance to drugs allows them to persist. They can then cause a tumor to regrow or spread cancerous cells throughout the body. Xiaoming He and colleagues wanted to develop a nanoparticle system to overcome these cells' defenses. The researchers packaged the anti-cancer drug doxorubicin into nanoparticles coated with chitosan, a natural polysaccharide that can specifically target CSCs. Once in the acidic environm…

HIGH SALT PREVENTS WEIGHT GAIN IN MICE ON A HIGH FAT DIET

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In a study that seems to defy conventional dietary wisdom, University of Iowa scientists have found that adding high salt to a high-fat diet actually prevents weight gain in mice. As exciting as this may sound to fast food lovers, the researchers caution that very high levels of dietary salt are associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease in humans. Rather than suggest that a high salt diet is suddenly a good thing, the researchers say these findings really point to the profound effect non-caloric dietary nutrients can have on energy balance and weight gain. "People focus on how much fat or sugar is in the food they eat, but [in our experiments] something that has nothing to do with caloric content -- sodium -- has an even bigger effect on weight gain," say Justin Grobe, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology at the UI Carver College of Medicine and co-senior author of the study, which was published in the journalScientific Reports on June 11. The UI team starte…

DATA SCIENTISTS FIND CONNECTIONS BETWEEN BIRTH MONTH AND HEALTH

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Columbia University scientists have developed a computational method to investigate the relationship between birth month and disease risk. The researchers used this algorithm to examine New York City medical databases and found 55 diseases that correlated with the season of birth. Overall, the study indicated people born in May had the lowest disease risk, and those born in October the highest. The study was published in theJournal of American Medical Informatics Association
"This data could help scientists uncover new disease risk factors," said study senior author Nicholas Tatonetti, PhD, an assistant professor of biomedical informatics at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and Columbia's Data Science Institute. The researchers plan to replicate their study with data from several other locations in the U.S. and abroad to see how results vary with the change of seasons and environmental factors in those places. By identifying what's causing disease disparities…

YOUR VIRAL INFECTION HISTORY IN A SINGLE DROP OF BLOOD

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New technology developed by Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) researchers makes it possible to test for current and past infections with any known human virus by analyzing a single drop of a person's blood. The method, called VirScan, is an efficient alternative to existing diagnostics that test for specific viruses one at a time. With VirScan, scientists can run a single test to determine which viruses have infected an individual, rather than limiting their analysis to particular viruses. That unbiased approach could uncover unexpected factors affecting individual patients' health, and also expands opportunities to analyze and compare viral infections in large populations. The comprehensive analysis can be performed for about $25 per blood sample. Stephen Elledge, an HHMI investigator at Brigham and Women's Hospital, led the development of VirScan. "We've developed a screening methodology to basically look back in time in people's [blood] sera and see what…

INFANT BRAINS DEVELOP YEARS FASTER THAN WE THOUGHT

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Scientists from the University of Louvain have discovered that a key element of infant brain development occurs years earlier than previously thought. The way we perceive faces -- using the right hemisphere of the brain -- is unique and sets us apart from non-human primates. It was thought that this ability develops as we learn to read, but a new study published in the journal eLife shows that in babies as young as four months it is already highly evolved. "Just as language is impaired following damage to the brain's left hemisphere, damage to the right hemisphere can impair our ability to distinguish faces so it is critical to understand how it develops," says co-author Bruno Rossion, Principal Investigator at the University of Louvain. Researchers used a cap fitted with electrodes to monitor the brain activity of 15 babies as they sat on their mothers' laps and watched a rapid succession of images over 20 seconds. They were shown 48 images of faces that differed in vi…

PARENTAL SMOKING PUSHES KIDS INTO POVERTY

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Smoking is not only bad for your health; it also puts 400,000 children in poverty. Smoking places a financial burden on low income families, suggesting that parents are likely to forgo basic household and food necessities in order to fund their addiction, according to UK research published in the open access journalBMC Public Health. This is the first UK study to highlight the extent to which smoking exacerbates child poverty. The findings are based on national surveys which estimate the number of children living in poverty by household structure. In 1999, the UK government announced a target to abolish child poverty by 2020, though this target is unlikely to be met. It is therefore crucial to identify avoidable factors that contribute to and worsen child poverty. "Smoking reduces the income available for families to feed, clothe and otherwise care for their children living in low-income households. This study demonstrates that if our government, and our health services, prioritize…