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Was Tamiflu effective in curbing H1N1?

Was Tamiflu effective in curbing H1N1? | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it

The drug Tamiflu was given to tens of thousands of people during the H1N1 flu pandemic. A recent study claims that the drug does nothing to halt the spread of influenza. This could mean that the UK and US Governments wasted £500 million and $1.5 billion stockpiling the drug, respectively.

 

The review published in the British Medical Journal, claims that Roche, the drug’s Swiss manufacturer, gave a “false impression” of its effectiveness and accuses the company of “sloppy science”.

 

Dr Tom Jefferson, the lead author said, “The stuff is toxic. It increased the risk of psychiatric events, headaches and renal events in one in 150 people. People reported nausea, vomiting and constriction of the airways. In Japan eight children jumped out of windows and committed suicide.”

 

However, Dr Daniel Thurley, UK medical director of Roche , countered: “We disagree with the overall conclusions of this report. Roche stands behind the wealth of data for Tamiflu and the decisions of public health agencies worldwide, including the US and European Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organisation."

 

Indeed, a previous review published in the Lancet highlighted the effectiveness of neuraminidase inhibitors such as Tamiflu in reducing mortality at the peak of the H1N1 pandemic.

 

Read more about:

 

BMJ Tamiflu campaign  http://goo.gl/yfs7Xc

Dr Tom Jefferson's review http://goo.gl/ff09pj

Lancet's contrasting Tamiflu review http://goo.gl/tn70rm

 

 


Via Sepp Hasslberger
Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Science is a self-correcting community effort. Therefore, disagreements, debates and controversy is commonplace among scientists. However, huge political egos, prestigious journals and vested corporate interests have a way of prolonging scientific controversies such as climate change http://sco.lt/86HUtl

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Sepp Hasslberger's curator insight, April 12, 8:28 AM

Half a billion pound sterling is what the British shelled out for stockpiling an ineffective, even dangerous drug, all on the hype of a pharmaceutical manufacturer.

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's comment, May 31, 12:36 PM
@Sepp Hasslberger, great scoop. However, there is more to the controversy than highlighted in the Telegraph. Lancet published a review which contradicts the one in BMJ http://sco.lt/5tRXHt
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A Message From The Curator

A Message From The Curator | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it

Biotech and Beyond comprises a series of articles on a range of topics which include novel therapies, research and of course, biotechnology.

 

My first degree was BSc. Biotechnology which was awarded by Monash University. However, I have moved on to phytochemistry and food science for my PhD and currently teach chemistry at UCSI University. Nonetheless, I still find biotechnology issues, discoveries and therapies fascinating.

 

Please follow my topic and share my scoops if you found the curated articles interesting, and check out the popular tags listed in the post above. I also welcome suggested scoops related to this topic and give credit where credit is due.

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

I teach chemistry at UCSI University, Malaysia and most of my research is centered around phytochemistry.


My research interests can be viewed here:
http://scholar.google.com.my/citations?user=iVv3xbAAAAAJ&hl=en


I manage the Facebook and Google+ pages belonging to the Faculty of Applied Sciences, UCSI University. Curated scoops are shared here:
https://www.facebook.com/Applied.Sciences.UCSI

https://plus.google.com/117901649282247944098/posts

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Why do Bats Transmit so many Diseases like Ebola?

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Really cool video simplifying the science of epidemiology. The describes why bats are especially good vectors, carriers of diseases. 

 

Diseases spread when there is a change to either the host, environment or vector. Therefore, any change to the environment could potentially result in dire consequences.

 

Watch more videos on featuring more light hearted trivia here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/biotech-and-beyond/?tag=Trivia

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Scientists think they've found Patient Zero in the Ebola outbreak

Scientists think they've found Patient Zero in the Ebola outbreak | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it
A new study suggests the origin of the worldwide Ebola outbreak was a two-year-old African boy who passed away last year.

 

The two-year-old boy identified as Patient Zero died on 6 December 2013 in a village in Guéckédou in southeastern Guinea in Africa. The region borders Sierra Leone and Liberia, making it an ideal entry point for an epidemic. There have since been at least 1,779 cases of the disease, as Denise Grady and Sheri Fink explain in The New York Times, and 961 deaths - including the boy's mother, sister and grandmother. 

 

At the time of their deaths, no one was sure what had sickened the family, despite the fever, vomiting and diarrhoea characteristic of the disease, so no special procedures were put into place when it came to treating them. And, within a few weeks, the study shows that contaminated healthcare workers who had supported the family and mourners at their funerals then spread the disease to surrounding villages and hospitals. By early March it had appeared across southern Guinea. Cases have now been reported in Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

 

The international team of researchers managed to trace the disease's origins by looking at the way the new strain spread through Africa. Although the toddler and his family were never officially diagnosed with Ebola, their symptoms match the disease and, according to The New York Times, "fit into a pattern of transmission that included other cases confirmed by blood tests".

 

So how did this Ebola outbreak get so out of control, when we've generally been able to get a hold of them quite quickly in the past?

 

Read more here: http://sciencealert.com.au/news/20141208-26004.html

 

The associated research article can be read here:

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1404505

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Poor hygiene and infrastructure was quoted as one of the causes of the outbreak. However, from my experience with airport health officials during the H1N1 outbreak, some countries have very lax enforcement of quarantine.


Others like China had very strict enforcement. Health officers would measure the temperature of every passenger before anyone is allowed to leave the plane. If anyone had a fever, the whole plane would be disinfected even if it causes a delay in flights.


Read other scoops on epidemiology here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/biotech-and-beyond/?tag=Epidemiology

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Stem cell stroke therapy shows promise after first human trial

Stem cell stroke therapy shows promise after first human trial | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it

Treatment with CD34+ hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells has been shown before to improve functional recovery in non-human models of ischemic stroke via promotion of angiogenesis and neurogenesis. A pilot study undertaken by researchers from Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and Imperial College London has now shown promise in rapid treatment of serious strokes. The study, the first of its kind published in the UK, treated patients using stem cells from bone marrow.

 

According to the Stroke Association, about 152,000 people suffer a stroke in the UK alone each year. However, the five patients treated in the recent Imperial College pilot study all showed improvements. According to doctors, four of those had suffered the most severe kind of stroke, which leaves only four percent of people alive or able to live independently six months after the event. All four of the patients were alive after six months.

 

A particular set of CD34+ stem cells was used, as they help with the production of blood cells and blood vessels’ lining cells. These same cells have been found to improve the effects of stroke in animals, and they assist in brain tissue and blood growth in the affected areas of the brain. The CD34+ cells were isolated from samples taken from patients’ bone marrow and then infused into the affected area via an artery that leads to the brain, using keyhole surgery.

 

The innovative stem cell treatment differs from others in one important way: patients are treated within seven days of their stroke, rather than six months hence. The stroke sufferers all recorded improvements in terms of clinical measures of disability, despite four of the five having suffered the most severe kind of stroke.

 

Autologous CD34+ selected stem/progenitor cell therapy delivered intra-arterially into the infarct territory can be achieved safely in patients with acute ischemic stroke. Future studies that address eligibility criteria, dosage, delivery site, and timing and that use surrogate imaging markers of outcome are desirable before larger scale clinical trials.

 

Read more here:

http://www.gizmag.com/stroke-treatment-stem-cell-bone-marrow/33258/

 

A paper detailing the research was published in journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine: 

http://stemcellstm.alphamedpress.org/content/early/2014/08/07/sctm.2013-0178.abstract



Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald, Jocelyn Stoller
Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

A groundbreaking therapy in regenerative medicine. A stroke can cause permanent neurological damage or death and is in some ways it is more debilitating than a heart attack.

 

Any therapy which can repair some of the neurological damage is significant. The major challenge in preventing neurological damage is early detection, which can be difficult because there is often little discomfort and suffers may not know they are experiencing a stroke.

 

Recently, researchers have also mapped the functions of different regions of the brain. This forms part of the evidence against the "10% myth". Read more here: http://sco.lt/7aOUyn

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High throughput organic synthesis

High throughput organic synthesis | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it

A lab in 2014 boasts a battery of fume cupboards and analytical instruments — and no one is smoking a pipe. But the essence of what researchers are doing is the same. Organic chemists typically plan their work on paper, sketching hexagons and carbon chains on page after page as they think through the sequence of reactions they will need to make a given molecule. Then they try to follow that sequence by hand — painstakingly mixing, filtering and distilling, stitching together molecules as if they were embroidering quilts.

 But a growing band of chemists is now trying to free the field from its artisanal roots by creating a device with the ability to fabricate any organic molecule automatically. “I would consider it entirely feasible to build a synthesis machine which could make any one of a billion defined small molecules on demand,” declares Richard Whitby, a chemist at the University of Southampton, UK.

True, even a menu of one billion compounds would encompass just an infinitesimal fraction of the estimated 1060 moderately sized carbon-based molecules that could possibly exist. But it would still be at least ten times the number of organic molecules that have ever been synthesized by humans. Such a device could thus offer an astonishing diversity of compounds for investigation by researchers developing drugs, agrochemicals or materials.

 

“A synthesis machine would be transformational,” says Tim Jamison, a chemist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge. “I can see challenges in every single area,” he adds, “but I don't think it's impossible”.

 

A British project called Dial-a-Molecule is laying the groundwork. Led by Whitby, the £700,000 (US$1.2-million) project began in 2010 and currently runs until May 2015. So far, it has mostly focused on working out what components the machine would need, and building a collaboration of more than 450 researchers and 60 companies to help work on the idea. The hope, says Whitby, is that this launchpad will help team members to attract the long-term support they need to achieve the vision.

 

Read more here: 

http://www.nature.com/news/organic-synthesis-the-robo-chemist-1.15661


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

From high throughput sequencing and screening, we are moving to high throughput organic synthesis. In the near future, personalized medication may be viable after all. 

 

Read more scoops on novel therapies here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/biotech-and-beyond/?tag=Novel+Therapies

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Mapping the social and cognitive functions of the brain

Mapping the social and cognitive functions of the brain | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it

By studying the injuries and aptitudes of Vietnam War veterans who suffered penetrating head wounds during the war, researchers have found that brain regions that contribute to optimal social functioning are also vital to general intelligence and emotional intelligence.

 

“We are trying to understand the nature of general intelligence and to what extent our intellectual abilities are grounded in social cognitive abilities,” said Aron Barbey, a University of Illinois professor of neuroscience, psychology, and speech and hearing science. Barbey, an affiliate of the Beckman Institute and he Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois, led the new study with an international team of collaborators. 

 

The study involved 144 Vietnam veterans injured by shrapnel or bullets that penetrated the skull, damaging distinct brain tissues while leaving neighboring tissues intact. Using CT scans, the scientists painstakingly mapped the affected brain regions of each participant, then pooled the data to build a collective map of the brain. They then looked for damage in specific brain regions tied to deficits in the participants’ ability to navigate intellectual, emotional or social realms. Social problem solving in this analysis primarily involved conflict resolution with friends, family and peers at work.

 

As in their earlier studies of general intelligence and emotional intelligence, the researchers found that regions of the frontal cortex (at the front of the brain), the parietal cortex (further back near the top of the head) and the temporal lobes (on the sides of the head behind the ears) are all implicated in social problem solving. The regions that contributed to social functioning in the parietal and temporal lobes were located only in the brain’s left hemisphere, while both left and right frontal lobes were involved.

 

Read the full article here:

http://www.kurzweilai.net/the-social-origins-of-intelligence-in-the-brain

 

Findings were reported in the journal Brain and can be read here:

http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2014/07/27/brain.awu207


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

There is a popular myth that humans use no more than 10% of their brains throughout their entire life. This has been shown to be untrue as brain damage consistently results in loss of function. Nonetheless, this myth provided the premise for some great movies such as the 2014 film, Lucy 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_(2014_film)

 

Read more scoops on the brain here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/biotech-and-beyond/?tag=Brain

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Helen Teague's curator insight, August 3, 6:32 AM

From Dr. Stefan Gruenwald:

By studying the injuries and aptitudes of Vietnam War veterans who suffered penetrating head wounds during the war, researchers have found that brain regions that contribute to optimal social functioning are also vital to general intelligence and emotional intelligence.

 

This finding, reported in the journal Brain, bolsters the view that general intelligence emerges from the emotional and social context of one’s life.

“We are trying to understand the nature of general intelligence and to what extent our intellectual abilities are grounded in social cognitive abilities,” said Aron Barbey, a University of Illinois professor of neuroscience, psychology, and speech and hearing science.

 

Barbey, an affiliate of the Beckman Institute and he Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois, led the new study with an international team of collaborators.

 

The study involved 144 Vietnam veterans injured by shrapnel or bullets that penetrated the skull, damaging distinct brain tissues while leaving neighboring tissues intact. Using CT scans, the scientists painstakingly mapped the affected brain regions of each participant, then pooled the data to build a collective map of the brain.

 

The researchers used a battery of carefully designed tests to assess participants’ intellectual, emotional and social capabilities. They then looked for damage in specific brain regions tied to deficits in the participants’ ability to navigate intellectual, emotional or social realms. Social problem solving in this analysis primarily involved conflict resolution with friends, family and peers at work.

 

As in their earlier studies of general intelligence and emotional intelligence, the researchers found that regions of the frontal cortex (at the front of the brain), the parietal cortex (further back near the top of the head) and the temporal lobes (on the sides of the head behind the ears) are all implicated in social problem solving. The regions that contributed to social functioning in the parietal and temporal lobes were located only in the brain’s left hemisphere, while both left and right frontal lobes were involved.

Jocelyn Stoller's curator insight, August 13, 1:55 AM

Strange that CT scans were used. High resolution Functional MRI would show both structure and activity. Other imaging methods such as optogenetics, MEG, TMS, BOLD, etc. could also help to pinpoint these areas without using radiation on an already-injured brain.

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First man-made biological leaf

RCA graduate Julian Melchiorri says the synthetic biological leaf he developed, which absorbs water and carbon dioxide to produce oxygen just like a plant, could enable long-distance space travel.

 

"Plants don't grow in zero gravity," explains Melchiorri. "NASA is researching different ways to produce oxygen for long-distance space journeys to let us live in space. This material could allow us t0 explore space much further than we can now."

 

"The material is extracted directly from the fibres of silk," Melchiorri explains. "This material has an amazing property of stabilising molecules. I extracted chloroplasts from plant cells and placed them inside this silk protein. As an outcome I have the first photosynthetic material that is living and breathing as a leaf does."

 

Read more here:

http://www.dezeen.com/2014/07/25/movie-silk-leaf-first-man-made-synthetic-biological-leaf-space-travel/

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Really interesting union of science and art. Previous attempts to create artificial leaves resulted solar powered fuel cells.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artificial_photosynthesis

 

Unfortunately, I have yet to find a peer reviewed article scrutinizing the functionality of Melchiorri's "Silk Leaf".  Nonetheless, below is one of his earlier inventions featured in an academic journal:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0094576514001477

 

MIT researchers have also attempted to enhance the photosynthesis of plant leaves and add additional functionalities to leaves using nanotechnology http://sco.lt/8rBN69

 

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Footage of cardiac transplant, not for the faint of heart

Almost half a century ago, the world’s first heart transplant was performed in South Africa in 1967. The following year, Australia’s first heart transplant was performed by Dr Harry Windsor at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney. 

 

According to the Heart Foundation, the procedure usually takes between three and six hours, and will be one of two types of transplant operations. An orthotopic heart transplant is the most common type (as seen above), and this involves removing the diseased heart from the body through an incision made in the middle of the chest. A donor heart is then placed inside.

 

Under rare circumstances, selected patients can undergo heterotopic heart transplants i.e. two hearts. Read more about heterotopic heart transplants here: http://sciencealert.com.au/features/20140807-25842.html

 

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Really interesting video if you do not mind the sight of blood. Otherwise,  watch other science videos here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/biotech-and-beyond/?tag=Video

 

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Rats Feel Regret After Making Wrong Choices

Rats Feel Regret After Making Wrong Choices | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it
Researchers studied brain areas involved in decision making, evaluating outcomes.

 

Could've, should've, would've. Everyone has made the wrong choice at some point in life and suffered regret because of it. Now a new study shows we're not alone in our reaction to incorrect decisions. Rats too can feel regret.

 

Regret is thinking about what you should have done, says David Redish, a neuroscientist at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. It differs from disappointment, which you feel when you don't get what you expected. And it affects how you make decisions in the future.

 

Redish and colleague Adam Steiner, also at the University of Minneapolis, found that rats expressed regret through both their behavior and their neural activity. Those signals, researchers report today in the journal Nature Neuroscience, were specific to situations the researchers set up to induce regret, which led to specific neural patterns in the brain and in behavior.

 

Redish would also like to be able to translate what he's seen in his rats to human behavior. "Humans avoid regret," says Redish. "Do rats?"

 

Read more here: 

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/06/140608-regret-rats-neuroscience-behavior-animals-science/

 

Read related research papers here:

http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v17/n7/full/nn.3740.html

http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v17/n7/full/nn.3745.html

 

 

 

 

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Dolphins, crows, apes are well known smart animals. But there are lots of animals such as rats which are smarter than you think. Read more about it in this scoop: http://sco.lt/819AvJ

 

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Is Urine Really Sterile?

Despite what you might've seen on some wilderness-survival show, there's increasing evidence that your pee isn't sterile. So don't do anything crazy with it.

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

This is an interesting piece of trivia which indicates that proponents of urine therapy should probably stop drinking their own pee. Much of the claims have no scientific basis

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urine_therapy

 

On a more serious note, urine could be used as a source of renewable energy. Read more here: http://sco.lt/8qK8w5

 

Read more science trivia here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/biotech-and-beyond/?tag=Trivia

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FOXO1: Genetic switch for insulin production by human gastrointestinal cells

FOXO1: Genetic switch for insulin production by human gastrointestinal cells | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it

By switching off a single gene, scientists have converted human gastrointestinal cells into insulin-producing cells, demonstrating in principle that a drug could retrain cells inside a person’s GI tract to produce insulin.

 

"People have been talking about turning one cell into another for a long time, but until now we hadn't gotten to the point of creating a fully functional insulin-producing cell by the manipulation of a single target," said the study's senior author, Domenico Accili, MD, the Russell Berrie Foundation Professor of Diabetes (in Medicine) at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC).

 

The Columbia researchers were able to teach human gut cells to make insulin in response to physiological circumstances by deactivating the cells' FOXO1 gene. Accili and postdoctoral fellow Ryotaro Bouchi first created a tissue model of the human intestine with human pluripotent stem cells. Through genetic engineering, they then deactivated any functioning FOXO1 inside the intestinal cells. After seven days, some of the cells started releasing insulin and, equally important, only in response to glucose.

 

The finding raises the possibility that cells lost in Type 1 diabetes may be more easily replaced through the reeducation of existing cells than through the transplantation of new cells created from embryonic or adult stem cells. Although insulin-producing cells can now be made in the lab from stem cells, these cells do not yet have all the functions of naturally occurring pancreatic beta cells.

 

The new research was reported in the online issue of the journal Nature Communications:

http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2014/140630/ncomms5242/full/ncomms5242.html


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

These findings indicate that gastrointestinal cells and insulin producing β cells in the pancreas probably differentiated from the same line of cells during development. Insulin production in gastrointestinal cells is probably deactivated by the FOXO1 gene.

 

This opens up new possibilities as there is already a proof of concept for treating HIV with induced pluripotent stem cells. http://sco.lt/7yg3g9

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M. Philip Oliver's curator insight, July 2, 3:28 PM

Dr Stefan's post reegarding Diabetes update!

Peter Phillips's curator insight, July 2, 3:43 PM

New hope for diabetics - without a transplant.

malek's comment, July 10, 4:52 AM
an epiphany when you have it in the family
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Achilles’ heel in antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Achilles’ heel in antibiotic-resistant bacteria | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it
Scientists at the University of East Anglia have made a breakthrough in the race to solve antibiotic resistance.

 

New research published today in the journal Nature reveals an Achilles’ heel in the defensive barrier which surrounds drug-resistant bacterial cells.

The findings pave the way for a new wave of drugs that kill superbugs by bringing down their defensive walls rather than attacking the bacteria itself. It means that in future, bacteria may not develop drug-resistance at all.

The discovery doesn’t come a moment too soon. The World Health Organization has warned that antibiotic-resistance in bacteria is spreading globally, causing severe consequences. And even common infections which have been treatable for decades can once again kill http://sco.lt/7HUsa1

 

Group leader Prof Changjiang Dong, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “We have identified the path and gate used by the bacteria to transport the barrier building blocks to the outer surface. Importantly, we have demonstrated that the bacteria would die if the gate is locked.”

 

Lead author PhD student Haohao Dong said: “The really exciting thing about this research is that new drugs will specifically target the protective barrier around the bacteria, rather than the bacteria itself. “Because new drugs will not need to enter the bacteria itself, we hope that the bacteria will not be able to develop drug resistance in future.”

 

Read more here: 

https://www.uea.ac.uk/mac/comm/media/press/2014/June/antibiotic-resistance-achilles-heel

 

 

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

There may be some optimism in the "post-antibiotic" era after all. Nobel-winning chemist Kary Mullis, recently unveiled a radical new post-antibiotic cure that shows extraordinary promise http://sco.lt/6vJoaP

 

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Chronic stress hurts your memory

Chronic stress hurts your memory | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it

Studies show that memory and stress are more connected than we once thought. There's nothing like stress to make your memory go a little spotty. A 2010 study found that chronic stress reduces spatial memory: the memory that helps you recall locations and relate objects.

 

University of Iowa researchers recently found a connection between the stress hormone cortisol and short-term memory loss in older rats. Their findings, published in the Journal of Neuroscience this week, showed that cortisol reduced synapses -- connections between neurons -- in the animals' pre-frontal cortex, the area of the brain that houses short-term memory.

 

But there's a difference between how your brain processes long-term job stress, for example, and the stress of getting into a car accident. Research suggests low levels of anxiety can affect your ability to recall memories; acute or high-anxiety situations, on the other hand, can actually reinforce the learning process.

 

Acute stress increases your brain's ability to encode and recall traumatic events, according to studies. These memories get stored in the part of the brain responsible for survival, and serve as a warning and defense mechanism against future trauma.

 

If the stress you're experiencing is ongoing, however, there can be devastating effects.

 

Read the accompanying slideshow: 6 ways to keep the brain young

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/06/17/health/memory-stress-link/

 

Read the academic publications here:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278584609003893

http://www.jneurosci.org/content/34/25/8387

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22688258

 

 

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Stress has a lot to do with how adversity is perceived. Stess helps us perform better to overcome adversity but over time optimism and impetus changes to depression. Indeed, scientists have also found a link between stress and depression  http://sco.lt/777VfF

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The heart makers, regenerating a human heart

How do you make a working human heart? Scientists can turn stem cells into beating heart cells, but getting them to organize into a 3D heart requires a scaffold. 


Dr. Harald Ott, medical researcher from Massachusetts General Hospital, discovered a method of essentially refurbishing organs that were otherwise not suitable for transplantation. In a series of dramatic findings reported since then, he has demonstrated that he can clean an organ of all its cells and use what’s left as scaffolding for new functioning tissue that can be regrown from a patient’s own stem cells. Because they are created by using a patient’s own cells, such regenerated organs won’t be rejected as foreign tissue by the body

 

This laborious technique, known as whole organ decellularization, is like knocking down a house’s walls to reveal its frame, only to replaster it again. It works because the frame is perfect—it retains the complicated three-dimensional architecture of the organ, including the branching network of blood vessels that provide the cells with nutrients and oxygen. It also preserves the array of complex sugars and growth factors that covers the matrix and provides signposts for growing cells, nudging them into the right shapes and structures.

 

“These organs are so much like a real one that eventually the body should be able to maintain it,” Dr. Ott says. They’ve demonstrated in animal models that the new heart can beat, a lung can exchange oxygen and a kidney can produce urine. He and his colleagues have recently scaled up their technology to work with human organs. With the lung, they are now at the stage of seeding human lungs with human cells. With the heart, they are also seeding human hearts with human cells. The kidney requires further work before they reach the stage of using human organs.

 

Read more below and donate to support organ regeneration research:
https://giving.massgeneral.org/regenerated-organs-made-to-order/


Associated research articles from Nature here:

http://www.nature.com/nm/journal/v14/n2/full/nm1684.html

http://www.nature.com/nm/journal/v16/n8/full/nm.2193.html

http://www.nature.com/nm/journal/v19/n5/full/nm.3154.html

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

A really simple yet elegant solution in giving stem cells a proper scaffold to grow into an organ. 

 

Read more scoops on regenerative medicine here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/biotech-and-beyond/?tag=Regeneration

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WHO: Evidence shows Ebola crisis 'vastly' underestimated

WHO: Evidence shows Ebola crisis 'vastly' underestimated | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it
The magnitude of the Ebola crisis in West Africa is "vastly' underestimated, the World Health Organization said, as the death toll rose to more than 1,000.

 

Ebola has infected at least 1,975 people in Nigeria, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since the outbreak began this year. Of those, 1,069 have died, according to the WHO. It said the number reflects the count as of Monday.

 

"The outbreak is expected to continue for some time," the WHO said in a statement Thursday. "Staff at the outbreak sites see evidence that the numbers of reported cases and deaths vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak."

 

It did not provide an estimate of unreported cases.

 

The United Nations agency said it's teaming up with the affected countries to gather more on-the-ground intelligence for a coordinated response. "WHO is mapping the outbreak, in great detail, to pinpoint areas of ongoing transmission and locate treatment facilities and supplies," it said.

 

The new numbers come as health officials are considering the use of experimental treatments and vaccines since no proven ones exist. Ebola spreads through contact with organs and bodily fluids such as blood, saliva, urine and other secretions of infected people.

 

Read more here: http://edition.cnn.com/2014/08/15/health/ebola-outbreak/index.html

 

Read the official statement from WHO here: http://www.who.int/csr/disease/ebola/overview-20140814/en/

 

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Affected countries are in desperate need of better quarantine enforcement, hygiene and healthcare infrastructure.

 

Recently, scientists believe they have traced the source of the infection and identified "patient zero" http://sco.lt/5PtlK5

 

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Secrets of the Creative Brain

Secrets of the Creative Brain | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it
A leading neuroscientist who has spent decades studying creativity shares her research on where genius comes from, whether it is dependent on high IQ—and why it is so often accompanied by mental illness. 

 

Dr. Nancy Andreasen  and her research team conducted a study in 1995 using positron-emission tomography, or PET, scanning. PET turned out to be unexpectedly useful in advancing the understanding of association cortices of the brain and their role in the creative process. Subjects were asked to lie quietly with their eyes closed, to relax, and to think about whatever came to mind, a state of mind called "random episodic silent thought", or REST. The association cortices of creative individual were found to be wildly active during REST.

 

Andreasen also notes that having too many ideas can be dangerous. Part of what comes with seeing connections no one else sees is that not all of these connections actually exist. In another more recent study, Andreasen studied subjects from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop searching for a connection between mood disorders and creative writing. To participate in the study, each subject spends three days in Iowa City, since it is important to conduct the research using the same MRI scanner. After the MRI scans, subjects were scheduled for an in-depth interview. The study found a strong association between creativity and mood disorders.

 

Read more here:
http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/06/secrets-of-the-creative-brain/372299/

 

Dr. Nancy Andreasen's research articles can be read here:
http://www.pnas.org/content/93/18/9985.full.pdf

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181877/

 

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

This article was written not long before actor Robin Williams killed himself. This resonates with Andreasen's warning that individuals who are able to form associations too easily can be overwhelmed with the number of hypothetical scenarios constructed in their minds, some of which are not real.

 

More scoops on the human brain can be read here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/biotech-and-beyond/?tag=Brain

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Eric Chan Wei Chiang's comment, August 13, 12:57 AM
@Jocelyn Stoller, @Jeff Morris and @Sepp Hasslberger, a scoop you may be interested in.
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Researchers May Have Discovered The Consciousness On/Off Switch

Researchers May Have Discovered The Consciousness On/Off Switch | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it
Researchers from the George Washington University have managed to switch consciousness on and off in an epileptic woman by stimulating a single region of the brain with electrical impulses. While this is a single case study, it provides an exciting insight into the neural mechanisms behind consciousness, a subject of great interest that is poorly understood despite decades of research.

 

Consciousness is a fascinating topic that has both intrigued and puzzled scientists and philosophers for centuries. Despite significant advances in our understanding of the brain, little is known about the neural networks that underpin consciousness. However, research has hinted that consciousness is likely the result of an integration of activity from numerous different areas of the brain, marrying all of our perceptions together into one experience. But what is the central hub to this process?

 

A few years back, Francis Crick, one of the scientists involved in deciphering the structure of DNA, and colleague Christof Koch proposed that a brain region known as the claustrum may be at the heart of consciousness, stringing together the constant input of information arriving from different brain networks. 

 

Now, in the latest study, researchers demonstrate that their hypothesis might be correct after all. The scientists stumbled upon this finding whilst stimulating different areas of the brain of an epileptic woman and measuring resultant activity in order to find the epicenter of her seizures. They discovered that electrical stimulation with an electrode placed between the left claustrum and anterior-dorsal insula caused the woman to lose consciousness. She completely stopped moving, became unresponsive and her breathing slowed.


Read more at http://www.iflscience.com/brain/researchers-may-have-discovered-consciousness-onoff-switch

 

The associated research article can be viewed here:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1525505014002017

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Scientists have also mapped the functions of different areas of the brain http://sco.lt/7aOUyn; and stimulated cognitive ability with a short electrical current http://sco.lt/5K3RqL

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Underwater self-healing polymer mimics biological self-repair of mussels

Underwater self-healing polymer mimics biological self-repair of mussels | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it

A common acrylic polymer used in biomedical applications and as a substitute for glass has been given the ability to completely self-heal underwater by US researchers. The method, which takes inspiration from the self-healing abilities of adhesive proteins secreted by mussels, could allow for longer lasting biomedical implants. Temporary hydrogen bonding network stitches damage as the material fuses together.


"Polymer self-healing research is about 10 years old now and many different strategies have been developed," says Herbert Waite, who conducted the work with colleagues at the University of California, Santa Barbara. 'None, however, address the need for healing in a wet medium – a critical omission as all biomaterials function, and fail, in wet environments.' The idea of mimicking the biological self-healing ability of mussel adhesive proteins is not new, and previous attempts have involved polymer networks functionalised with catechols – synthetic water-soluble organic molecules that mimic mussel adhesive proteins – and metal-ion mediated bonding.


Now, Waite and colleagues have discovered a new aspect of catechols after they were simply 'goofing around' in the lab and found a new way to modify the surface of poly(methyl methacrylate), or PMMA, with catechols. This led them to explore the material's properties and discover that hydrogen bonding enables the polymer to self-heal underwater after being damaged. 'Usually, catechols in wet adhesives are associated with covalent or coordination mediated cross-linking. Our results argue that hydrogen bonding can also be critical, especially as an initiator of healing,' he says.


The healing process begins because catechols provide multidentate hydrogen-bonding faces that trigger a network of hydrogen bonds to fix any damage – the interaction is strong enough to resist interference by water but reversible. Acting a bit like dissolvable stitches, hydrogen bonding between the catechols appears to stitch the damaged area, which allows the underlying polymer to fuse back together. Phillip Messersmith, a biomaterials expert at the University of California, Berkeley, US, says that this is ‘really creative work’.

 

Read more here: 

http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/2014/07/underwater-self-healing-polymer-mimics-mussels

 

Read the research article from Nature Materials here:

http://www.nature.com/nmat/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nmat4037.html


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Chemistry is making a comeback with the rise of regenerative medicine. After all, stem cells need a scaffold to grow upon. 

 

Read more scoops on novel therapies here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/biotech-and-beyond/?tag=Novel+Therapies

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Neuroscientists say handwriting activates the brain

Neuroscientists say handwriting activates the brain | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it
Writing by hand activates areas in the brain that help you learn faster and better.

 

“When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated. There is a core recognition of the gesture in the written word, a sort of recognition by mental simulation in your brain,” Stanislas Dehaene, a psychologist at the Collège de France in Paris.


A study conducted at Indiana University, in the US, reported that when children write by hand three areas of the brain are activated—the left fusiform gyrus, the inferior frontal gyrus and the posterior parietal cortex. These are the same areas that are set in motion when adults read and write. Kids who typed or just traced letters didn’t show any activation in these areas.


“This is one of the first demonstrations of the brain being changed because of the practice,” explained Karin James, who was involved in the study, told The New York Times.


Taking notes by hand can help you learn faster and better—you should try it next time you have an exam or need to deliver a presentation. Studies suggest this is due to the fact that one needs to process and reframe all the information before writing it down. “We don’t write longhand as fast as we type these days, but people who were typing just tended to transcribe large parts of lecture content verbatim,” Pam Mueller, teaching assistant at Princeton University


Read more here:

http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20141906-25707.html


The research article featuring the Indiana University study can be read here: http://indianapublicmedia.org/stateimpact/2011/09/29/why-schools-should-keep-teaching-handwriting-even-if-typing-is-more-useful/


Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Handwriting has many cognitive advantages, but typing fast can also help improve our cognitive and creative processes. 


Typing won't help you learn better or faster, but improving your typing skills can help you improve your written communication and facilitate exchange of ideas.


Read about the benefits of typing here: http://sco.lt/88ExJx

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Biofortified probiotics could prevent obesity and insulin resistance

Biofortified probiotics could prevent obesity and insulin resistance | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it

Scientists were able to reduce weight gain in mice by feeding them a genetically modified version of E. coli, a common intestinal bacterium. The biofortified microbes were designed to produce N-acylphosphatidylethanolamine (NAPE)  which the bodies of mice and humans convert into N-acylethanolamide (NAE) a hormone that signals the brain to reduce appetite. 

 

In the study, published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, mice given the microbe and un-dosed animals were both put on a high-fat diet. The animals fed the bacteria via their drinking water ate less and gained less weight, and also showed less insulin resistance, a marker for diabetes. 

 

The finding raises the possibility that these bacteria, which basically amount to an engineered probiotic, could be imported into humans to do the same thing. That's obviously a ways off and hypothetical at this point, since mice are not humans.

 

However, if the biofortified microbe is deemed safe for consumption, it would have several advantages of current treatments for obesity (of which there are few). E. coli colonizes the human gastrointestinal tract better than most probiotics and the genetically modified bacterium has been shown to exert its effects for at least four weeks between interventions. This would negate the need for taking a pill everyday.

 

Read more here:

http://www.kurzweilai.net/study-suggests-probiotics-could-prevent-obesity-and-insulin-resistance

 

Read the research article from The Journal of Clinical Investigation here: http://www.jci.org/articles/view/72517


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

The term biofortification is often applied to the nutritional enhancement of crops via selective breeding or genetic modification. I felt that term was suitable for describing the genetic enhancement of probiotics as these bacteria confer nutritional benefits and are often incorporated into functional foods.

 

I also find this technology fascinating because it much simpler and than other comparable therapies such as a bionic pancrease http://sco.lt/6W8BuL

 

Functional foods are another topic which interest me and more scoops on the topic can be read here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/food-health-and-nutrition/?tag=Functional+Foods

 

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Deborah Verran's comment, July 26, 7:31 AM
NB This research was performed in mice. The value of probiotics as for eg in some manufactured brands of yoghurt remains to be seen.
Pierre-André Marechal's curator insight, July 28, 9:23 AM

A vos commentaires...  PAM

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Gene ‘Switch’ Reverses Cancer in Common Childhood Leukemia Model

Gene ‘Switch’ Reverses Cancer in Common Childhood Leukemia Model | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it
Melbourne researchers have shown a type of leukemia can be successfully ‘reversed’ by coaxing the cancer cells back into normal development. The discovery was made using a model of B-progenitor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL), the most common cancer affecting children.

 

Institute researchers Dr Ross Dickins and Ms Grace Liu led the study with Walter and Eliza Hall Institute colleagues and collaborators in Vienna. The study was published in the journal Genes & Development. Ms Liu said the team used a newly developed ‘genetic switch’ technology to inhibit then reactivate Pax5 in the leukemia model.

 

“Along with other genetic changes, deactivating Pax5 drives normal blood cells to turn into leukemia cells, which has been shown before,” Ms Liu said. “However we showed for the first time that reactivating Pax5 enabled the cells to resume their normal development and lose their cancer-like qualities, effectively curing the leukemia. What was intriguing for us was that simply restoring Pax5 was enough to normalize these cancer cells, despite the other genetic changes.”

 

In leukemia, immature white blood cells replicate abnormally and build up in the bone marrow, interfering with production of normal blood cells. Ms Liu said Pax5 was a gene frequently ‘lost’ in childhood B-ALL. “Pax5 is essential for normal development of a type of white blood cells called B cells,” she said. “When Pax5 function is compromised, developing B cells can get trapped in an immature state and become cancerous. We have shown that restoring Pax5 function, even in cells that have already become cancerous, removes this ‘block’, and enables the cells to develop into normal white blood cells.”

 

However, Dr Dickins said that genes that are lost in tumor cells are not traditionally drug targets. Nonetheless, the genetic switch technology used to study Pax5 could also be used to understand ‘tumour suppressor’ genes in other cancers, he said.

 

Read more here: 

http://www.biosciencetechnology.com/news/2014/06/gene-%E2%80%98switch%E2%80%99-reverses-cancer-common-childhood-leukemia-model

 

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Cancer is not a simple disease with a simple cure http://sco.lt/7yHpNR

 

Nonetheless, there have been several example of successful gene therapy:

http://www.scoop.it/t/biotech-and-beyond/?tag=Gene+Therapy

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Cancer is not a single disease with a simple cure

Cancer is not a single disease with a simple cure | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it

For many years, the general public has been misled by the notion that we will find “The Cure”, the one miracle drug that has the ability to destroy any cancer. Fundamentally, cancer is different from other diseases – normal diseases have vulnerabilities our human cells do not possess.


Since cancer shares the same genetic makeup as the rest of our body, the chemicals that harm cancer cells invariably affect normal cells. Rather than a single medicine, or magic bullet, curative treatments will require a well-defined combination of innovative diagnostics, targeted therapies, and new advances in immunotherapy.  


Almost all cancers have distinct subtypes that predict better responses to one therapy over another. For example, most breast cancers respond to estrogen while a smaller portion have high levels of a pro-cancer gene called Her2. Trastuzumab, a therapy for Her2-type breast cancers, does not work on the estrogen-responsive breast tumors, while anti-estrogens do not work on the Her2-only tumors.


The advent of the personal genome sequencing era has allowed for the tremendous possibility of further refining this method by individually mapping each patient’s tumor for the underlying mutations that cause the cancer.


Read more here: http://www.breakingbio.org/cancer-will-never-be-cured-at-least-not-the-way-we-think-of-a-cure/

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

The quest for the magic bullet which cures all cancer caught the public's imagination since 1971 when President Richard Nixon declared the War on Cancer.

 

Unfortunately, most experts are now of the opinion there is no single cancer but many different cancers.

 

Read more about how whole genome sequencing is allowing physicians and researchers to see how each cancer develops: 

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v458/n7239/abs/nature07943.html

 

Read other scoops on novel therapies here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/biotech-and-beyond/?tag=Novel+Therapies

 

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Eric Chan Wei Chiang's comment, July 17, 7:22 AM
@Breaking Bio thanks for the scoop. However, providing a link to an actual academic research or review publication would lend a lot of credibility to the article.
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Complete Genes May Pass from Food to Human Blood

Complete Genes May Pass from Food to Human Blood | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it

Our bloodstream is considered to be an environment well separated from the outside world and the digestive tract. According to the standard paradigm large macromolecules consumed with food cannot pass directly to the circulatory system.

 

During digestion proteins and DNA are thought to be degraded into small constituents, amino acids and nucleic acids, respectively, and then absorbed by a complex active process and distributed to various parts of the body through the circulation system.

 

Here, based on the analysis of over 1000 human samples from four independent studies, we report evidence that meal-derived DNA fragments which are large enough to carry complete genes can avoid degradation and through an unknown mechanism enter the human circulation system.

 

In one of the blood samples the relative concentration of plant DNA is higher than the human DNA. The plant DNA concentration shows a surprisingly precise log-normal distribution in the plasma samples while non-plasma (cord blood) control sample was found to be free of plant DNA.

 

Read the full scientific article here:

http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0069805

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

This research article has raised fears that DNA from genetically modified organisms (GMO) may enter our bloodstream and integrate with our DNA. Such fear mongering can be seen here: 

http://www.lifeadvancer.com/dna-from-gmos-can-pass-directly-into-humans-study-confirms

 

It is however, important to note that this study was not working specifically with DNA from GMO. This means that DNA from any of our food items e.g. a sandwich with beef, tomatoes and wheat can enter our bloodstream.

 

I am still slightly skeptical of the findings of this study given that the mechanism which allows large DNA molecules to be absorbed still has not been identified. However, I am certain that DNA in food does not pose a food safety risk whether or not the food item has been genetically modified or not. It is highly unlikely that genes from our foodstuff can be integrated into our genome.

 

Imagine this: If we accidentally ate a spider, we would all receive spider powers if we could meld genes from the spider with our own.

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Why Do Joints Pop And Crack?

SciShow explains what really causes those popping sounds your joints make -- fluid dynamics, people! -- and what you should watch out for if you're a habitual knuckle-popper!

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Did you know that our clothes affect our ability to do certain tasks? http://sco.lt/79KaTh

 

Have you also wonder why do women feel the cold more than men? http://sco.lt/7klLvd

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Fasting triggers stem cell regeneration of immune system

Fasting triggers stem cell regeneration of immune system | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it
In the first evidence of a natural intervention triggering stem cell-based regeneration of an organ or system, a study shows that cycles of prolonged fasting not only protect against immune system damage -- a major side effect of chemotherapy -- but also induce immune system regeneration, shifting stem cells from a dormant state to a state of self-renewal.

 

In both mice and a Phase 1 human clinical trial, long periods of not eating significantly lowered white blood cell counts. In mice, fasting cycles then "flipped a regenerative switch": changing the signaling pathways for hematopoietic stem cells, which are responsible for the generation of blood and immune systems, the research showed.

 

The study has major implications for healthier aging, in which immune system decline contributes to increased susceptibility to disease as we age. By outlining how prolonged fasting cycles -- periods of no food for two to four days at a time over the course of six months -- kill older and damaged immune cells and generate new ones, the research also has implications for chemotherapy tolerance and for those with a wide range of immune system deficiencies, including autoimmunity disorders.

 

"We could not predict that prolonged fasting would have such a remarkable effect in promoting stem cell-based regeneration of the hematopoietic system," said corresponding author Valter Longo, the Edna M. Jones Professor of Gerontology and the Biological Sciences at the USC Davis School of Gerontology, and director of the USC Longevity Institute.

 

Read more here: 

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140605141507.htm

 

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Intermittent fasting seems to be an area of current research and something much discussed by health enthusiasts http://sco.lt/7tFrKD

 

@PAT NOVAK also scooped a good infographic on intermittent fasting here: http://sco.lt/67F0RF

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Why stress affects some more than others?

Why stress affects some more than others? | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it

In response to stress, some people cope easily while others succumb to depression or other mood disorders. While depression can develop from a wide variety of biological and genetic factors, stressful events are often a major trigger. But why does stress make some people develop mood disorders while others remain resilient?

 

Learning more about the changes in the brain following stress could help answer this question and lead to better methods and treatments. Recently, researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York did just that, using a mouse model of human depression to ask questions about the effects of stress on depression and the brain.

 

What they found was that in “depressed” mice, neurons fire differently than they do in resilient mice. In addition, these neurons can turn a resilient mouse into a depressed mouse when activated.

 

To test their theory, the researchers electrically stimulated the medial prefrontal cortex neurons to see how much stimulation was required for the neurons to fire. When they ran electric currents through those neurons in depressed mice, they fired very readily in response, indicating that these neurons had strong connections with their neighboring neurons. In contrast, the stress-activated neurons in the resilient mice did not fire easily in response to the electric stimulation, indicating that these same neurons in the resilient mice had weaker connections with their neighbors.

 

We’re still a long way from knowing how and where to stimulate the brain to effectively treat depression, but this study takes us one step closer.

 

Read more here: http://www.popsci.com/blog-network/ladybits/new-study-uncovers-why-stress-leads-depression-some-not-others

 

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Psychiatry lacks definitive tests for many diseases and diagnosis if often subjective in nature.

 

Better understanding of the brain would allow for brain scans with more definite indicators http://sco.lt/8xB2Pp

 

Read more about the brain here:
http://www.scoop.it/t/biotech-and-beyond?q=brain

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