An implant that beams instructions out of the brain has been used to restore movement in paralysed primates for the first time, say scientists.Rhesus monkeys were paralysed in one leg due to a damaged spinal cord.The team at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology bypassed the injury by sending the instructions straight from the brain to the nerves controlling leg movement.
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Researchers at the University of Michigan have transplanted lab-grown mini lungs into immunosuppressed mice where the structures were able to survive, grow and mature.”In many ways, the transplanted mini lungs were indistinguishable from human adult tissue,” says senior study author Jason Spence, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Internal Medicine and the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at the U-M Medical School.
Some kids may very well have magical superpowers. About one in 10 children infected with HIV have a built-in mechanism in their immune system that protects them from developing AIDS, according to a new study conducted in South Africa.Despite high levels of the virus in their blood, the children’s immune systems stayed calm and did not let the infection worsen, researchers reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine. “This is quite unusual because in general the progression from HIV infection to serious disease is more rapid in children than in adults. About 60 percent of kids infected die within two and a half years,” said senior study author Philip Goulder, a pediatric infectious disease researcher at the University of Oxford.
Harvard University researchers have made the first entirely 3D-printed organ-on-a-chip with integrated sensing. Built by a fully automated, digital manufacturing procedure, the 3D-printed heart-on-a-chip can be quickly fabricated and customized, allowing researchers to easily collect reliable data for short-term and long-term studies.
This new approach to manufacturing may one day allow researchers to rapidly design organs-on-chips, also known as microphysiological systems, that match the properties of a specific disease or even an individual patient’s cells.
For the first time, National Institutes of Health researchers have demonstrated in mice that gene therapy may be the best method for correcting the single faulty gene that causes Niemann-Pick disease, type C1 (NPC1). The gene therapy involved inserting a functional copy of the NPC1 gene into mice with the disease; the treated animals were then found to have less severe NPC1 symptoms. The study, led by researchers at NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, was published Oct. 26, 2016, in the journal Human Molecular Genetics.
Beneath our everyday world there is a miniature universe of cells, trillions of tiny worlds, unseen and beautiful. Here is the latest Art of the Cell demo reel, including clips from many of the projects I have worked on, such as “Biology: How Life Works”, and “The Inner Life of the Cell”. In this video compilation, you will glimpse transport molecules strutting through the cellular landscape, watch antibodies mark cancer cells for destruction, view viral rna enclosed in geometric capsids, and witness apoptosomes gathering in a cell’s final hour. Look on as spinning atp synthases generate power deep in the folds of mitochondria, observe chromosomes divide as a cell undergoes mitosis, and see signals amplified as they cascade through the cytosol.
In people who suffer from pain disorders, painful feelings can severely worsen and spread to other regions of the body. Patients who develop chronic pain after surgery, for example, will often feel it coming from the area surrounding the initial injury and even in some parts of the body far from where it originates. New evidence suggests glia, non-neuronal cells in the brain, may be the culprits behind this effect.Glia were once thought to simply be passive, supporting cells for neurons. But scientists now know they are involved in everything from metabolism to neurodegeneration. A growing body of evidence points to their key role in pain. In a study published today in Science, researchers at the Medical University of Vienna report that glia are involved in long-term potentiation (LTP), or the strengthening of synapses, in pain pathways in the spinal cord.
Jeanne Calment, the French doyenne believed to be oldest person in the world when she died at the extreme age of 122, was known for three things: her quick wit, her fondness for bicycling around the small city where she grew up — and the fact that she was a daily smoker.
Before her death in 1997, Calment was often asked the secret to her good health. She would respond with a laugh and describe how she would frequently consume two pounds of chocolate a week, drank generous amounts of port wine and became a smoker at age 21.
At a time when public health messages emphasize just how important it is to carefully balance diets and fitness regimes in order to live long lives, Calment is a reminder of that no matter what we do there may always be a part of our health that is beyond our control.
In an intriguing study published this week, researchers delved into the genetic makeup of long-lived smokers like Calment and found that their survival may be due to an innate resilience they were born with.
The power of regenerative medicine now allows scientists to transform skin cells into cells that closely resemble heart cells, pancreas cells and even neurons. However, a method to generate cells that are fully mature – a crucial prerequisite for life-saving therapies – has proven far more difficult.
But now, scientists at the Gladstone Institutes and UC San Francisco have made an important breakthrough: they have discovered a way to transform skin cells into mature, fully functioning liver cells that flourish on their own, even after being transplanted into laboratory animals modified to mimic liver failure.
People who love chili peppers might be eating their way to a longer life, according to a new study published in The BMJ.
“We know something about the beneficial effects of spicy foods basically from animal studies and very small-sized human studies,” says study author Lu Qi, associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. Some of those preliminary studies have found that spicy food and their active components—like capsaicin, the compound found in chili peppers—might lower inflammation, improve metabolic status and have a positive effect on gut bacteria and weight, he says.
via The Intriguing Link Between Spicy Food and a Longer Life | TIME.
Across the globe, as economies grow, so too does the incidence of colorectal cancer. Lifestyle changes are to blame, and in this Nature Video we see how increases in colorectal cancer are affecting many countries around the world, and what this could mean in the future to a world that is still developing.
Sleeping not only protects memories from being forgotten, it also makes them easier to access, according to new research from the University of Exeter and the Basque Centre for Cognition, Brain and Language. The findings suggest that after sleep we are more likely to recall facts which we could not remember while still awake.
Continue reading “Memories More Accessible After a Good Night’s Sleep”
]In a piece of brain tissue smaller than a dust mite, there are thousands of brain cell branches and connections. Researchers from Harvard University in Boston, MA have mapped them all in a new study appearing in Cell. They find some unexpected insights about how the cells talk to each other.
The power of regenerative medicine now allows scientists to transform skin cells into cells that closely resemble heart cells, pancreas cells and even neurons. However, a method to generate cells that are fully mature – a crucial prerequisite for life-saving therapies – has proven far more difficult.But now, scientists at the Gladstone Institutes and UC San Francisco have made an important breakthrough: they have discovered a way to transform skin cells into mature, fully functioning liver cells that flourish on their own, even after being transplanted into laboratory animals modified to mimic liver failure.
Scientists have created a revolutionary new electronic membrane that could replace pacemakers, fitting over a heart to keep it beating regularly over an indefinite period of time.
The device uses a “spider-web-like network of sensors and electrodes” to continuously monitor the heart’s electrical activity and could, in the future, deliver electrical shocks to maintain a healthy heart-rate.
Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Washington University in St. Louis used computer modelling technology and a 3D-printer to create a prototype membrane and fit it to a rabbit’s heart, keeping the organ operating perfectly “outside of the body in a nutrient and oxygen-rich solution”.
Previous studies of the brain have depicted the cortex as a patchwork of function-specific regions. Parts of the visual cortex at the back of the brain, for instance, encode color and motion, while specific frontal and middle regions control more complex functions, such as decision-making. Neuroscientists have long criticized this view as too compartmentalized.In a paper published today in Science, the researchers from the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT show that, indeed, multiple cortical regions work together simultaneously to process sensorimotor information—sensory input coupled with related actions—despite their
A major international randomized clinical trial has found that HIV-infected individuals have a considerably lower risk of developing AIDS or other serious illnesses if they start taking antiretroviral drugs sooner, when their CD4+ T-cell count—a key measure of immune system health—is higher, instead of waiting until the CD4+ cell count drops to lower levels. Together with data from previous studies showing that antiretroviral treatment reduced the risk of HIV transmission to uninfected sexual partners, these findings support offering treatment to everyone with HIV.
The new finding is from the Strategic Timing of AntiRetroviral Treatment (START) study, the first large-scale randomized clinical trial to establish that earlier antiretroviral treatment benefits all HIV-infected individuals. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, provided primary funding for the START trial. Though the study was expected to conclude at the end of 2016, an interim review of the study data by an independent data and safety monitoring board (DSMB) recommended that results be released early.
Today’s digital photos are far more vivid than just a few years ago, thanks to a steady stream of advances in optics, detectors, and software. Similar advances have also improved the ability of machines called cryo-electron microscopes (cryo-EMs) to see the Lilliputian world of atoms and molecules. Now, researchers report that they’ve created the highest ever resolution cryo-EM image, revealing a druglike molecule bound to its protein target at near atomic resolution. The resolution is so sharp that it rivals images produced by x-ray crystallography, long the gold standard for mapping the atomic contours of proteins. This newfound success is likely to dramatically help drugmakers design novel medicines for a wide variety of conditions.
Evolution is what got us here today, if you accept the scientific approach to our creation. It was processes such as ‘survival of the fittest’ which led us, as well as other earthly creatures, to develop some of the traits, senses, and abilities that we possess today.
For superhero fans, especially those who love the X-Men, you know that these superhuman characters acquired their powers through the process of evolution. Little mutations in genes led to them become the recipient of more than simple human-like abilities. Wouldn’t we all like to have the ability to see through objects, climb walls, retract claws from our fists, or have superhuman strength? Well, one speculative designer from the Royal College of Art in London, named Agatha (Agi) Haines, believes that one day in the future this may all be possible, thanks to a technology called bioprinting.
After more than six years of intensive effort, and repeated failures that made the quest at times seem futile, Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) and Harvard’s Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology (HSCRB) have successfully converted mouse and human skin cells into pain sensing neurons that respond to a number of stimuli that cause acute and inflammatory pain.
Caption: This image shows human noxious stimulus detecting sensory neurons produced by converting skin cells with a set of five genes to this new fate — enabling study of ‘pain’ in a dish.
Credit: (c) Liz Buttermore
This “disease in a dish” model of pain reception may advance the understanding of different types of pain, identify why individuals differ in their pain responses or risk of developing chronic pain, and make possible the development of improved drugs to treat pain. A report on the work was given advance on-line release today by the journal Nature Neuroscience.
OF the three most fundamental scientific questions about the human condition, two have been answered.First, what is our relationship to the rest of the universe? Copernicus answered that one. We’re not at the center. We’re a speck in a large place.
Second, what is our relationship to the diversity of life? Darwin answered that one. Biologically speaking, we’re not a special act of creation. We’re a twig on the tree of evolution.
Third, what is the relationship between our minds and the physical world? Here, we don’t have a settled answer. We know something about the body and brain, but what about the subjective life inside? Consider that a computer, if hooked up to a camera, can process information about the wavelength of light and determine that grass is green. But we humans also experience the greenness. We have an awareness of information we process. What is this mysterious aspect of ourselves?
Scientists have found a way to beat back the hands of time and fight the ravages of old age, at least in mice. A new study finds that mice bred without a specific pain sensor, or receptor, live longer and are less likely to develop diseases such as diabetes in old age. What’s more, exposure to a molecule found in chili peppers and other spicy foods may confer the same benefits as losing this pain receptor—meaning that humans could potentially benefit, too.
Could the elixir of youth be as simple as a protein found in young blood? In recent years, researchers studying mice found that giving old animals blood from young ones can reverse some signs of aging, and last year one team identified a growth factor in the blood that they think is partly responsible for the anti-aging effect on a specific tissue–the heart. Now that group has shown this same factor can also rejuvenate muscle and the brain.
“This is the first demonstration of a rejuvenation factor” that is naturally produced, declines with age, and reverses aging in multiple tissues, says Harvard stem cell researcher Amy Wagers, who led efforts to isolate and study the protein. Independently, another team has found that simply injecting plasma from young mice into old mice can boost learning.
In a side-by-side comparison, a noninvasive, multitarget stool DNA test proved to be more sensitive than a fecal immunochemical test (FIT). This result, published March 19 in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggests that the DNA test, which includes quantitative molecular assays for genetic abnormalities related to cancer, could significantly improve the effectiveness of colon cancer screening.
The FIT test detects hidden blood in the stool, a potential signal for cancer. In contrast, the DNA test includes quantitative molecular assays for KRAS mutations, aberrant NDRG4 and BMP3 methylation, and β-actin, plus a hemoglobin immunoassay.
The effectiveness of the DNA test was established in a study that evaluated nearly 10,000 asymptomatic patients who were deemed to be at average risk of developing colorectal cancer. It turned out that 65 (0.7%) of these patients had colorectal cancer, and 757 (7.6%) had advanced precancerous lesions. When these patients were screened, the study determined that the sensitivity for detecting colorectal cancer was 92.3% with DNA testing and 73.8% with FIT.
The final cost of the Human Genome Project has been estimated at approximately $2.7 billion. At the time, researchers predicted costs would need to fall significantly to enable routine genome sequencing and usher in a new era of personalized and predictive medicine. In late 2001, at a scientific retreat convened by the National Human Genome Research Institute, the threshold cost of $1,000 per genome was conceived. Consequently, the “$1,000 genome” has been chased by DNA sequencing platform developers ever since.
With the recent launch of the HiSeq X Ten system, Illumina appears to have breached the $1,000 barrier to sequence a human genome in a single day. Illumina’s “$1,000 genome” claim is inclusive of instrument depreciation, consumables, DNA extraction, library preparation, and estimated labor. Although the exact cost is widely debated, this indicates a “real-world” figure rather than an abstraction of direct sequencing costs. In this context, it would appear that the personalized medicine era envisioned in 2001 has officially arrived.
Perhaps you’ve punched out a paper doll or folded an origami swan? TED Fellow Manu Prakash and his team have created a microscope made of paper that’s just as easy to fold and use. A sparkling demo that shows how this invention could revolutionize healthcare in developing countries … and turn almost anything into a fun, hands-on science experiment.
In biology, scientists typically conduct experiments first, and then develop mathematical or computer models afterward to show how the collected data fit with theory. In his work, Rob Phillips flips that practice on its head. The Caltech biophysicist tackles questions in cellular biology as a physicist would—by first formulating a model that can make predictions and then testing those predictions. Using this strategy, Phillips and his group have recently developed a mathematical model that accounts for the way genes compete with each other for the proteins that regulate their expression.
A paper describing the work appears in the current issue of the journal Cell. The lead authors on the paper are Robert Brewster and Franz Weinert, postdoctoral scholars in Phillips’s lab.
UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers created new nerve cells in the brains and spinal cords of living mammals without the need for stem cell transplants to replenish lost cells.
Although the research indicates it may someday be possible to regenerate neurons from the body’s own cells to repair traumatic brain injury or spinal cord damage or to treat conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, the researchers stressed that it is too soon to know whether the neurons created in these initial studies resulted in any functional improvements, a goal for future research.
Continue reading “Researchers generate new neurons in brains, spinal cords of living adult mammals”
Operating on a child’s heart is a challenging procedure. Not only is the organ (presumably) defective, but it’s also small, complex, and delicate. So when Louisville, KY heart surgeon Erle Austin was preparing to operate on 14-month-old Roland Lian Cung Bawi’s heart, he first showed the scans of the muscle to two other surgeons, both of whom gave him “conflicting advice on how to proceed,” according to the Courier-Journal.
Then, Austin turned to the University of Louisville’s engineering school, which hooked him up with a MakerBot Replicator 2X. (From the video, it seems that the engineers had better luck with their 3D MakerBot printers than Ars ever did.) Using a computer model generated by the boy’s radiologist, the engineers fed the MakerBot with a new kind of flexible polymer “that’s similar in consistency to heart muscle,” Timothy Gornet, manager of the rapid prototyping center at U of L, told the Courier-Journal. They printed out three cross-sections of the heart, blown up to-scale, so that the surgeons could see the interior.
his 3D medical animation shows the function of white blood cells in normal immunity. It also portrays how the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) affects the immune system and causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Common types of antiretroviral medications used to treat HIV and AIDS are also shown.
Engineers like to make things that work. And if one wants to make something work using nanoscale components—the size of proteins, antibodies, and viruses—mimicking the behavior of cells is a good place to start since cells carry an enormous amount of information in a very tiny packet. As Erik Winfree, professor of computer science, computation and neutral systems, and bioengineering, explains, “I tend to think of cells as really small robots. Biology has programmed natural cells, but now engineers are starting to think about how we can program artificial cells. We want to program something about a micron in size, finer than the dimension of a human hair, that can interact with its chemical environment and carry out the spectrum of tasks that biological things do, but according to our instructions.”
Getting tiny things to behave is, however, a daunting task. A central problem bioengineers face when working at this scale is that when biochemical circuits, such as the one Winfree has designed, are restricted to an extremely small volume, they may cease to function as expected, even though the circuit works well in a regular test tube. Smaller populations of molecules simply do not behave the same as larger populations of the same molecules, as a recent paper in Nature Chemistry demonstrates.
What does it take to regrow bone in mass quantities? Typical bone regeneration — wherein bone is taken from a patient’s hip and grafted onto damaged bone elsewhere in the body — is limited and can cause great pain just a few years after operation. In an informative talk, Molly Stevens introduces a new stem cell application that harnesses bone’s innate ability to regenerate and produces vast quantities of bone tissue painlessly.
For the first time ever, neuroscientists have completed a comprehensive roadmap of the top-trafficked communication highways in the human brain.
This white-matter map not only charts the geography of these neural highways – it also plots out which of them interact with the most other paths, which are most crucial for supporting key brain functions, and which ones leave the whole brain most vulnerable to long-term damage if they’re disrupted.
This 3D medical animation shows the coronary vessels in the heart and the different ways they may become blocked. The symptoms of acute coronary syndrome (ACS) are depicted. The animation finishes up with common treatments for acute coronary syndrome and heart attack.
In work inspired partly by the movie “Avatar,” one monkey could control the body of another monkey using thought alone by connecting the brain of the puppet-master monkey to the spine of the other through a prosthesis, researchers say.
These findings could help lead to implants that help patients overcome paralysis, scientists added.
Paralysis due to nerve or spinal cord damage remains a challenge for current surgical techniques. Scientists are now attempting to restore movement to such patients with brain-machine interfaces that allow people to operate computers or control robotic limbs.
Scientists at Imperial College London have discovered that iron deficiency may increase stroke risk by making the blood more sticky.
The findings, published in the journal PLOS ONE, could ultimately help with stroke prevention.
Every year, 15 million people worldwide suffer a stroke. Nearly six million die and another five million are left permanently disabled. The most common type, ischaemic stroke, occurs because the blood supply to the brain is interrupted by small clots.
The Imperial team found that iron deficiency increases the stickiness of small blood cells called platelets, which initiate blood clotting when they stick together. Although a link between iron deficiency and sticky platelets was first discovered almost 40 years ago, its role has been overlooked until now.
Crime dramas frequently depict detectives interrogating suspected criminals under bright lights to get the truth out of them. Now, a new study may lend credence to this tactic, as it suggests human emotion – both positive or negative – is experienced more intensely under bright lights.
The research, conducted by investigators from the University of Toronto Scarborough in Canada and Northwestern University in Illinois, was published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.
Genetic adaptations for life at high elevations found in residents of the Tibetan plateau likely originated around 30,000 years ago in peoples related to contemporary Sherpa. These genes were passed on to more recent migrants from lower elevations via population mixing, and then amplified by natural selection in the modern Tibetan gene pool, according to a new study by scientists from the University of Chicago and Case Western Reserve University, published in Nature Communications on Feb. 10.
The transfer of beneficial mutations between human populations and selective enrichment of these genes in descendent generations represents a novel mechanism for adaptation to new environments.
High elevations are challenging for humans because of low oxygen levels, but Tibetans spend their lives above 13,000 feet with little issue. They are better suited when compared to short-term visitors from low altitude due to physiological traits such as relatively low hemoglobin concentrations at altitude. Unique to Tibetans are variants of the EGLN1 and EPAS1 genes, key genes in the oxygen homeostasis system at all altitudes. These variants were hypothesized to have evolved around 3,000 years ago, a date which conflicts with much older archaeological evidence of human settlement in Tibet.
DNA testing can predict which men face the highest risk of deadly prostate cancer, scientists say.
The team at the Institute of Cancer Research, in London, say men could soon be offered genetic screening in a similar way to breast cancer in women.
New research from psychologists at the universities of Kent and Limerick has found that music that is felt to be ‘beautiful but sad’ can help people feel better when they’re feeling blue.
The research investigated the effects of what the researchers described as Self-Identified Sad Music (SISM) on people’s moods, paying particular attention to their reasons for choosing a particular piece of music when they were experiencing sadness – and the effect it had on them.
The study identified a number of motives for sad people to select a particular piece of music they perceive as ‘sad’, but found that in some cases their goal in listening is not necessarily to enhance mood. In fact, choosing music identified as ‘beautiful’ was the only strategy that directly predicted mood enhancement, the researchers found.
For the first time, scientists have created human lungs in a lab — an exciting step forward in regenerative medicine, but an advance that likely wont help patients for many years.”Its so darn cool,” said Joan Nichols, a researcher at the University of Texas Medical Branch. “Its been science fiction and were moving into science fact.”If the lungs work — and thats a big if — they could help the more than 1,600 people awaiting a lung transplant. Lungs are one of many body parts being manufactured in the lab — some parts, such as tracheas and livers, are even further along.
The rise and fall of empires, the march of armies, the flow of trade routes, the practice of slavery — all these events have led to a mixing of populations around the world. Such episodes have left a record in the human genome, but one that has so far been too complex to decipher on a global scale.
Now, geneticists applying new statistical approaches have taken a first shot at both identifying and dating the major population mixture events of the last 4,000 years, with the goal of providing a new source of information for historians.
Whether human or animal, vertebrate or invertebrate, nearly every creature begins life as a tiny clump of cells. Before those cells can begin blossoming toward being a fully formed organism, however, they first must reorganize themselves into layers, each of which goes on to form complex structures such as internal organs, skin, muscle, and bone.
The signals that trigger that reorganization, however, have been largely a mystery, until now.
Scientists at Harvard have identified a previously unknown embryonic signal, dubbed Toddler, that instructs cells to move and reorganize, through a process known as gastrulation, into three layers: the ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm. The new signal is described in a Jan. 9 paper in the journal Science.
It is a feeling we all know – the moment when a light goes on in your head. In a sudden flash of inspiration, a new idea is born. Today, scientists are using some unusual techniques to try to work out how these moments of creativity – whether big, small or life-changing – come about. They have devised a series of puzzles and brainteasers to draw out our creative behaviour, while the very latest neuroimaging technology means researchers can actually peer inside our brains and witness the creative spark as it happens. What they are discovering could have the power to make every one of us more creative