Trouble With Math? Maybe You Should Get Your Brain Zapped

If you are one of the 20% of healthy adults who struggle with basic arithmetic, simple tasks like splitting the dinner bill can be excruciating. Now, a new study suggests that a gentle, painless electrical current applied to the brain can boost math performance for up to 6 months. Researchers dont fully understand how it works, however, and there could be side effects.

via Trouble With Math? Maybe You Should Get Your Brain Zapped – ScienceNOW.


New Tools to Hunt New Viruses

A new flu, H7N9, has killed 36 people since it was first found in China two months ago. A new virus from the SARS family has killed 22 people since it was found on the Arabian Peninsula last summer.

In past years, this might have been occasion for panic. Yet chicken and pork sales have not plummeted, as they did during flus linked to swine and birds. Travel to Shanghai or Mecca has not been curtailed, nor have there been alarmist calls to close national borders.

Is this relatively calm response in order? Or does the simultaneous emergence of two new diseases suggest something more dire?

Actually, experts say, the answer to both questions may well be yes.

via New Tools to Hunt New Viruses –

First drug to improve heart failure mortality in over a decade

CoQ10 is the first medication to improve survival in chronic heart failure since ACE inhibitors and beta blockers more than a decade ago and should be added to standard heart failure therapy.

Lisbon, 25 May 2013: Coenzyme Q10 decreases all cause mortality by half, according to the results of a multicentre randomised double blind trial presented today at Heart Failure 2013 congress. It is the first drug to improve heart failure mortality in over a decade and should be added to standard treatment, according to lead author Professor Svend Aage Mortensen (Copenhagen, Denmark).
Continue reading “First drug to improve heart failure mortality in over a decade”

Reducing caloric intake delays nerve cell loss

Activating an enzyme known to play a role in the anti-aging benefits of calorie restriction delays the loss of brain cells and preserves cognitive function in mice, according to a study published in the May 22 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. The findings could one day guide researchers to discover drug alternatives that slow the progress of age-associated impairments in the brain.

Li-Huei Tsai — director of the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory and Picower Professor of Neuroscience at MIT — along with postdoc Johannes Gräff and others at MIT tested whether reducing caloric intake would delay the onset of nerve cell loss that is common in neurodegenerative disease, and if so, whether SIRT1 activation was driving this effect. The group not only confirmed that caloric restriction delays nerve cell loss, but also found that a drug that activates SIRT1 produces the same effects.

via Reducing caloric intake delays nerve cell loss – MIT News Office.

Viruses in the gut protect from infection

“Mucus is everywhere,” says microbiologist Jeremy Barr. Almost every animal uses it to make a barrier that protects tissues that are exposed to the environment, such as the gut or lungs. Now, Barr and a team of researchers have discovered that mucus is also the key to an ancient partnership between animals and viruses.

Viruses known as bacteriophages, seen here attacking an E. coli (in a coloured scanning electron micrograph), abound in the mucus of organisms across the animal kingdom, where they help keep bacteria in check.


via Viruses in the gut protect from infection : Nature News & Comment.

Human embryonic stem cells created from adult tissue for first time

Scientists have used the cloning technique that led to Dolly the sheep to turn human skin into embryonic stem cells – which can make any tissue in the body.

The US team overcame technical problems that had frustrated researchers for more than a decade to create batches of the bodys master cells from donated skin.

The work will spark fresh interest in the use of cloning in medical research, and reignite the controversy over a procedure that demands a supply of human eggs, and the creation and destruction of early stage embryos. The US group employed the technique to make embryonic stem cells that were genetically matched to individuals. Such cells could be used to study diseases in exquisite detail, and regenerate damaged organs and tissues.Cloning technique: a donor egg before nucleus extraction

A human egg before nuclear extraction and fusion with a skin cell. The resulting embryonic stem cells were genetically identical to the skin donor. Photograph: Oregon Health & Science University

via Human embryonic stem cells created from adult tissue for first time | Science | The Guardian.

Having A Pet May Lower Heart Disease Risk

They’re man’s best friend, and  they may be one of the heart’s best allies as well.A panel of heart disease experts convened by the American Heart Association AHA reviewed research linking heart health and owning a pet and found that owning a pet is “probably associated” with a lower risk of heart disease for those without a history of heart problems, and with greater survival rates among heart disease patients.

via Having A Pet May Lower Heart Disease Risk |

Almond-Sized Brain Region is Control Centre for Ageing

In a New York laboratory, a special group of mice is destined to outlive their cage-mates. Their muscles will stay strong for longer. Their brains will stay sharp for longer. When they eventually die, they will have seen more months than their peers.The secret to their longevity isn’t a drug or a special diet. Instead, Dongsheng Cai from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine simply reduced the levels of a single protein called NF-kB in part of the brain called the hypothalamus. That was enough to extend their lives.

via Almond-Sized Brain Region is Control Centre for Ageing – Phenomena: Not Exactly Rocket Science.

The Neurobiology of Individuality

When a group of genetically identical mice lived in the same complex enclosure for 3 months, individuals that explored the environment more broadly grew more new neurons than less adventurous mice, according to a study published today (May 9) in Science. This link between exploratory behavior and adult neurogenesis shows that brain plasticity can be shaped by experience and suggests that the process may promote individuality, even among genetically identical organisms.

“This is a clear and quantitative demonstration that individual differences in behavior can be reflected in individual differences in brain plasticity,” said Fred Gage of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, who was not involved the study. “I don’t know of another clear example of that . . . and it tells me that there is a tighter relationship between [individual] experiences and neurogenesis than we had previously thought.”

via The Neurobiology of Individuality | The Scientist Magazine®.

Two-year-old girl receives new trachea made from her own stem cells | The Verge

Doctors announced today that two-and-a-half year old Hannah Warren just became the youngest person in history to receive a bioengineered organ transplant, a new windpipe made of a synthetic scaffold and her own stem cells. The nine-hour long procedure was performed April 9th, at Children’s Hospital of Illinois in Peoria, but the results were just made public. Doctors expect that Warren will be able to return home in a few months and breathe, eat, drink and swallow using the new windpipe, all of which she couldn’t do without the aid of machines until now.

Furthermore, because the procedure was performed using her own cells and no donor organ, there is next to zero risk of rejection.

via Two-year-old girl receives new trachea made from her own stem cells | The Verge.

A Sleep Gene Has A Surprising Role In Migraines

Mutations on a single gene appear to increase the risk for both an unusual sleep disorder and migraines, a team reports in Science Translational Medicine.

The finding could help explain the links between sleep problems and migraines. It also should make it easier to find new drugs to treat migraines, researchers say.

via A Sleep Gene Has A Surprising Role In Migraines : Shots – Health News : NPR.

Injectable Oxygen Keeps People Alive Without Breathing

Scientists have made a breakthrough that could save patient’s lives and open up the possibilities for underwater exploration.

A team at Boston Children’s Hospital have invented a micro-particle that can be injected into your bloodstream to oxygenate your blood – without any help being required from your lungs.

The particles are able to keep a patient alive for up to 30 minutes after respiratory failure – which is normally enough time to prevent a heart attack or brain damage due to oxygen deprivation.

injectable oxygen

via Injectable Oxygen Keeps People Alive Without Breathing – PSFK.

Injectable Nano-Network Controls Blood Sugar in Diabetics for Days at a Time

In a promising development for diabetes treatment, researchers have developed a network of nanoscale particles that can be injected into the body and release insulin when blood-sugar levels rise, maintaining normal blood sugar levels for more than a week in animal-based laboratory tests. The work was done by researchers at North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Children’s Hospital Boston. Continue reading “Injectable Nano-Network Controls Blood Sugar in Diabetics for Days at a Time”

The Cause of High Blood Pressure Revealed By Computer Modelling

Computer simulations show that high blood pressure can be entirely explained by arterial stiffening as we age, say researchers.

High blood pressure dramatically increases the risk of a stroke or heart attack and so is one of the biggest silent killers in the Western world.

But while there are several known mechanisms that cause high blood pressure, some 90% of cases are entirely unexplained. Physicians believe that various factors increase the risk of high blood pressure, such as age, family history, lack of exercise and so on. But the actual mechanism that causes the increase is hotly debated.

via The Cause of High Blood Pressure Revealed By Computer Modelling | MIT Technology Review.

Flu in pregnancy ‘may raise bipolar risk for baby’

Flu during pregnancy may increase the risk of the unborn child developing bipolar disorder later in life, research suggests.

A study of 814 expectant women, published in JAMA Psychiatry, showed that infection made bipolar four times more likely. The overall risk remained low, but it echoes similar findings linking flu and schizophrenia.

Experts said the risks were small and women should not worry.

via BBC News – Flu in pregnancy ‘may raise bipolar risk for baby’.

Threatwatch: Is the Saudi virus a new SARS?

The mysterious coronavirus that emerged in the Middle East last year may have started spreading from person to person. Health authorities in Saudi Arabia revealed this week that a cluster of cases in the east of the country were all linked to a single hospital. The similarity of the outbreak to the SARS epidemic of a decade ago is sending a shudder through public health experts worldwide.

Ziad Memish, the Saudi deputy health minister, told ProMed, the online forum on emerging disease, that 13 people in the kingdom fell ill with the virus – now called MERS – in the second half of April. Their average age was over 50, they had other problems such as heart or kidney disease or diabetes – and they had all visited the Al-Moosa Hospital in the town of Hofuf, shortly before developing a high fever and breathing problems

via Threatwatch: Is the Saudi virus a new SARS? – health – 08 May 2013 – New Scientist.

Human brain cells developed in lab, grow in mice

key type of human brain cell developed in the laboratory grows seamlessly when transplanted into the brains of mice, UC San Francisco researchers have discovered, raising hope that these cells might one day be used to treat people with Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, and possibly even Alzheimer’s disease, as well as and complications of spinal cord injury such as chronic pain and spasticity.

“We think this one type of cell may be useful in treating several types of neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders in a targeted way,” said Arnold Kriegstein, MD, PhD, director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCSF and co-lead author on the paper.

The researchers generated and transplanted a type of human nerve-cell progenitor called the medial ganglionic eminence (MGE) cell, in experiments described in the May 2 edition of Cell Stem Cell. Development of these human MGE cells within the mouse brain mimics what occurs in human development, they said. Continue reading “Human brain cells developed in lab, grow in mice”

Candidate Sepsis Drug Could Prevent Flu Deaths

The 1918 Spanish flu killed up to 40 million people. The swine flu pandemic in 2009 killed an estimated 284,000. Now, scientists have discovered a substance that could help doctors save lives during future influenza pandemics. Eritoran, a compound under investigation as a sepsis drug, dramatically reduces deaths from influenza in mice.

At the moment, doctors have only one class of compounds available to combat influenza. The drugs, Tamiflu and Relenza, block neuraminidase, a surface protein that influenza viruses need to leave the cell after reproduction. The drugs, taken orally, have to be given soon after infection to be effective, however, and some flu strains have developed resistance against them. A few scientists have also questioned the safety and efficacy of the compounds, which many countries stockpiled during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.

Instead of targeting the virus, immunologist Stefanie Vogel at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, tried to interfere with the host immune system.

via Candidate Sepsis Drug Could Prevent Flu Deaths – ScienceNOW.

The woman who can’t recognise her face

Heather Sellers has prosopagnosia, more commonly known as face blindness. “I can’t remember any image of the human face. It’s simply not special to me,” she says. “I don’t process them like I do a car or a dog. It’s not a visual problem, it’s a perception problem.”

The condition is estimated to affect around 2.5 per cent of the population, and it’s common for those who have it not to realise that anything is wrong. “In many ways it’s a subtle disorder,” says Heather. “It’s easy for your brain to compensate because there are so many other things you can use to identify a person: hair colour, gait or certain clothes. But meet that person out of context and it’s socially devastating.”

via Mindscapes: The woman who can’t recognise her face – health – 02 May 2013 – New Scientist.