Should Science Pull the Trigger on Antiviral Drugs

There’s a moment in the history of medicine that’s so cinematic it’s a wonder no one has put it in a Hollywood film. The scene is a London laboratory. The year is 1928. Alexander Fleming, a Scottish microbiologist, is back from a vacation and is cleaning up his work space. He notices that a speck of mold has invaded one of his cultures of Staphylococcus bacteria. It isn’t just spreading through the culture, though. It’s killing the bacteria surrounding it.

Fleming rescued the culture and carefully isolated the mold. He ran a series of experiments confirming that it was producing a Staphylococcus-killing molecule. And Fleming then discovered that the mold could kill many other species of infectious bacteria as well. “I had a clue that here was something good, but I could not possibly know how good it was,” he later said.

We do currently have “antiviral” drugs, but they’re a pale shadow of their bacteria-fighting counterparts. People infected with HIV, for example, can avoid developing AIDS by taking a cocktail of antiviral drugs. But if they stop taking them, the virus will rebound to its former level in a matter of weeks. Patients have to keep taking the drugs for the rest of their lives to prevent the virus from wiping out their immune system.

Photo: Stan Musilek

via Should Science Pull the Trigger on Antiviral Drugs—That Can Blast the Common Cold? | Wired Science | Wired.com.

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Daily aspirin could help prevent and treat cancer

The case for using aspirin to prevent cancer continues to build, particularly if people are at increased risk of the disease.

Three new studies led by researchers at Oxford University also raise the possibility that a daily low dose of the drug could be effective, not just as a preventative measure, but as an additional treatment for those with cancer.

It follows the finding that aspirin can reduce the chances of tumours spreading to other parts of the body.

The three papers by Professor Peter Rothwell of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences and colleagues are published today, two in the medical journal The Lancet and the other in The Lancet Oncology.

Professor Rothwell says: ‘We are not at the stage of recommending aspirin use in everybody, but the guidelines on use of aspirin in the healthy middle-aged population certainly need to be updated in order to take into account the effects on the risk and outcome of cancer as well as on the risk of heart attacks and strokes.’Aspirin tablets

via Daily aspirin could help prevent and treat cancer – University of Oxford.

Nerve cells grow on nanocellulose

Researchers from Chalmers and the University of Gothenburg have shown that nanocellulose stimulates the formation of neural networks. This is the first step toward creating a three-dimensional model of the brain. Such a model could elevate brain research to totally new levels, with regard to Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, for example.

Over a period of two years the research group has been trying to get human nerve cells to grow on nanocellulose.

When the nerve cells finally attached to the scaffold they began to develop and generate contacts with one another, so-called synapses. A neural network of hundreds of cells was produced. The researchers can now use electrical impulses and chemical signal substances to generate nerve impulses, that spread through the network in much the same way as they do in the brain. They can also study how nerve cells react with other molecules, such as pharmaceuticals.

via Nerve cells grow on nanocellulose.

Obesity gene’s role revealed in mice study

In studies on mice which had been genetically modified to have the mutation, the mice consumed up to 80% more food than normal.

After a meal, hormones such as insulin and leptin should tell the brain that the body is full and should stop eating. The researchers showed that in the mutated mice the message was not being passed on from the hormones in the blood to the correct part of the brain.

One of the researchers Prof Baoji Xu said: “If there is a problem with the BDNF gene, neurons can’t talk to each other, and the leptin and insulin signals are ineffective, and appetite is not modified.”

He said the discovery “may open up novel strategies to help the brain control body weight” such as finding a “drug that can stimulate BDNF expression”.

via BBC News – Obesity gene’s role revealed in mice study.

With Relentless Testing, a Professor Watches His Body Get Sick

Michael Snyder knows his body better than anyone in history.

For two-and-a-half years, he’s had regular blood samples drawn, and tracked the ebb and flow of 40,000 different molecules within his cells, from hormones to blood sugar, to the proteins of the immune system and mutated genes. Snyder also watched as his genetic vulnerability to diabetes turned into actual disease.

In a paper published today in the journal Cell, Snyder, a genetics professor at Stanford University, and his collaborators recount 14 months of living a Truman Show kind of life, but with a microscope instead of a television camera. His story marks the first time anyone’s physiology has ever been followed this closely, and portends the future of personalized medicine, according to Snyder and others.

“This article reminds us that the future is now,” says Charis Eng, a professor of genomic medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. “I think we’re heading in this direction, and I think we must prepare in every way, not just scientifically, not just medically, but as a society—[considering] all the ethical, moral, and regulatory issues.”

via With Relentless Testing, a Professor Watches His Body Get Sick – Technology Review.

Aging brain gets stuck in time

The aging brain loses its ability to recognize when it is time to move on to a new task, explaining why the elderly have difficulty multi-tasking, Yale University researchers report.

“The aged brain seems to get lost in transition,” said Mark Laubach, associate professor at the John B. Pierce Laboratory and the Yale School of Medicine, and senior author of a study that appears in the March 14 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.

Laubach’s team was studying the impact of aging on working memory, the type of memory that allows you to recall that dinner is in the oven when you are talking on the phone. The researchers examined brain activity in the medial prefrontal cortex of young and older rats that is related to spatial working memory — the type of memory that allows you to recall, for example, that mashed potatoes are on the stove and the turkey is in the oven

Based on previous studies, they expected that it would be spatial memory most affected by aging. Instead, the Yale team found that the aged brain seems to lose its ability to respond to cues that indicate when it is time to move on to a new task. Continue reading “Aging brain gets stuck in time”

Why Interacting with a Woman Can Leave Men “Cognitively Impaired”

Movies and television shows are full of scenes where a man tries unsuccessfully to interact with a pretty woman. In many cases, the potential suitor ends up acting foolishly despite his best attempts to impress. It seems like his brain isn’t working quite properly and according to new findings, it may not be.

Researchers have begun to explore the cognitive impairment that men experience before and after interacting with women. A 2009 study demonstrated that after a short interaction with an attractive woman, men experienced a decline in mental performance. A more recent study suggests that this cognitive impairment takes hold even w hen men simply anticipate interacting with a woman who they know very little about.

mind,brain,men,woman,cognitively impaired, psychology

via Why Interacting with a Woman Can Leave Men “Cognitively Impaired”: Scientific American.