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What will happen when antibiotics stop working?

What will happen when antibiotics stop working? | Health Medicine N'Science | Scoop.it
A golden era of antibiotics shifted the leading causes of death away from infection to cancer and cardiovascular disease. At the moment, we can still treat most infections as only a few are resistant to what is currently the last line of antibiotics – the colistins. But history shows us this will change and colistin resistance is already growing in China and the United States.

While prizes are being awarded for new research to combat resistance, farmers are slammed for overuse of antibiotics in livestock, doctors chided for unnecessary prescriptions and pharmaceutical companies criticised for a lack of investment.

Meanwhile, new antibiotic discoveries are rare if not non-existent and exciting new methods aren’t seen by many as enough to avert doomsday. Some believe technology – and even a revivial of older treatments – might save us. Others have already laid out what we need to do now to save ourselves.

We aren’t in the post-antibiotic era yet, but what would the world be like if no antibiotics were available? We only have to go back 70 years, before the “golden era” of antibiotic discoveries of the 1940s to 1960s, to experience infectious disease as the predominant cause of human death. These diseases are still around and some are more virulent – complicated by multiple antibiotic resistances, which evolved through many factors, but mostly driven by our overuse.

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Tomatoes could hold the key to old-age prostate problems, scientists say

Tomatoes could hold the key to old-age prostate problems, scientists say | Health Medicine N'Science | Scoop.it
The traditional problem suffered by older men of having to relieve themselves several times a night could be treated by eating more tomatoes, scientists believe.

Researchers found that a nutrient called lycopene, which gives tomatoes their red colour, could potentially ease the affliction suffered by millions.

A review of 67 research studies, published in the journal Oncology and Cancer Case Reports, suggests that the nutrient can be used to slow down the enlargement of the prostate, which causes the embarrassing condition.

With age most men suffer an unexplained expansion of the prostate, which is wrapped around the urinary tract.

The prostate constricts the tube and may block it altogether, causing a condition called benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH).

Professor Hiten Patel, from Bart’s and the Royal London Hospital, led the team which reviewed the research.

“We knew lycopene seems to slow down the development of prostate cancer, but now it seems it can slow down the enlargement of the prostate and development of BPH as well,” he said.

“We need to do more research before we can say it should be recommended routinely for everyone, but the outcome of this review is very promising.”

The findings appear to corroborate previous studies conducted in China where traditional diets include a much higher intake of fruit and vegetables and lower rates of BPH were found

Other research by Bristol University showed that those who ate the most tomatoes had an 18% risk of prostate cancer.

Dr Athene Lane, lead author of the Bristol study, said: “There is definitely something in lycopene to be investigated further so we can understand how the mechanisms works.”

Despite identifying lycopene as a potentially helpful factor in controlling prostate expansion, treatment may be more complicated than simply eating more tomatoes.

This is because lycopene is not easily absorbed into the blood unless processed in some way.

However, researchers believe this problem can be circumvented by administering the nutrient in the form of a supplement pill LactoLycopene.

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Superbug defences shattered by breakthrough drug design (Wired UK)

Superbug defences shattered by breakthrough drug design (Wired UK) | Health Medicine N'Science | Scoop.it

A team of molecular scientists has uncovered a way to disable the defensive structure of the multidrug-resistant gram-negative bacteria, paving the way for new antibiotics that target this barrier.

Gram-negative bacteria are often found in the gut, but can become resistant to antibiotics and can cause infections of the blood, surgical sites, as well as pneumonia and meningitis. Misuse of antibiotics has led to a worrying trend of drug-resistant bacteria in circulation, leading to the emergence of "superbugs", and it has been singled out as one of the greatest single problems threatening the future of our health.

"These drug resistance numbers increase every year, making antibiotics useless, which results in hundreds and thousands of patient's deaths," Changjiang Dong, from the University of East Anglia Norwich Medical School, told Wired.co.uk. "So we are trying to find a way to solve this drug resistance problem."

He and his team have now found a way around this particular bacterium's defences, according to a paper published in Nature: lipopolysaccharide (LPS). This is a molecule made up of a tough outer membrane that the UAE team wanted to crack. Until now, how the molecule's transport proteins are utilised to create that membrane has been unknown.


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Skin layer grown from human stem cells could replace animals in drug and cosmetics testing | KurzweilAI

Skin layer grown from human stem cells could replace animals in drug and cosmetics testing | KurzweilAI | Health Medicine N'Science | Scoop.it

An international team led by King’s College London and the San Francisco Veteran Affairs Medical Center (SFVAMC) has developed the first lab-grown epidermis (the outermost skin layer) with a functional permeability barrier akin to real skin.

The new epidermis, grown from human pluripotent stem cells, offers a cost-effective alternative lab model for testing drugs and cosmetics, and could also help to develop new therapies for rare and common skin disorders.

The epidermis, the outermost layer of human skin, forms a protective interface between the body and its external environment, preventing water from escaping and microbes and toxins from entering.

Tissue engineers have been unable to grow epidermis with the functional barrier needed for drug testing or produce an in vitro (lab) model for large-scale drug screening. That’s because the number of cells that can be grown from a single skin biopsy sample has been limited.

The new study, published in the journal Stem Cell Reports (open access), describes the use of human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) (stem cells that can develop into different types of body cells) to produce an unlimited supply of pure keratinocytes (the predominant cell type in the outermost layer of skin). These new keratinocytes closely match keratinocytes generated from other stem-cell types: human embryonic stem cells (hESC) and primary keratinocytes from skin biopsies.


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Lifespans predictable at early age-Worm study suggests that activity in mitochondria determines ageing.

Lifespans predictable at early age-Worm study suggests that activity in mitochondria determines ageing. | Health Medicine N'Science | Scoop.it
Worm study suggests that activity in mitochondria determines ageing.

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Scientists have a crystal ball on their hands: bursts of activity in the energy-producing mitochondria in a worm’s cells accurately predict how long it will live.

The findings, published today in Nature1, suggest that an organism’s lifespan is, for the most part, predictable in early adulthood. Unlike other biomarkers for ageing, which work under limited conditions, these mitochondrial bursts are a stable predictor for a variety of genetic, environmental and developmental histories. “Mitochondrial flashes have an amazing power to predict the remaining lifespan in animals,” says study lead Meng-Qiu Dong, a geneticist who studies ageing in the Caenorhabditis elegans worm at the National Institute of Biological Sciences in Beijing. “There is truth in the mitochondrial theory of ageing.”

The mitochondria are organelles that power the cells of plants, animals and other eukaryotic organisms. During energy production, they produce reactive oxygen molecules, such as free radicals, that can cause stress and damage the mitochondria. Although mitochondria break down over time, the mitochondrial theory of ageing, first proposed2 in 1972, remains controversial and unproven. For instance, some long-lived organisms, such as naked mole rats, endure with high levels of oxidative damage. Nevertheless, many scientists think that mitochondria remain the primary drivers of ageing.


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Device could diagnose pancreatic cancer in minutes - Futurity

Device could diagnose pancreatic cancer in minutes - Futurity | Health Medicine N'Science | Scoop.it
A new credit card-sized device could analyze a biopsy and help diagnose pancreatic cancer in a matter of minutes.

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Pancreatic cancer is a particularly devastating disease. At least 94 percent of patients will die within five years, and in 2013 it was ranked as one of the top 10 deadliest cancers.

Routine screenings for breast, colon, and lung cancers have improved treatment and outcomes for patients with these diseases, largely because the cancer can be detected early.

But because little is known about how pancreatic cancer behaves, patients often receive a diagnosis when it’s already too late.

A new low-cost device could help pathologists diagnose pancreatic cancer earlier and faster. The prototype can perform the basic steps for processing a biopsy, relying on fluid transport instead of human hands to process the tissue.

“This new process is expected to help the pathologist make a more rapid diagnosis and be able to determine more accurately how invasive the cancer has become, leading to improved prognosis,” says Eric Seibel, research professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Human Photonics Laboratory at the University of Washington.

Seibel and colleagues presented their initial results this month at the SPIE Photonics West conference and recently filed a patent for this first-generation device and future technology advancements.


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SpaceX Launch Rescheduled for Dec. 31 | Parabolic Arc

SpaceX Launch Rescheduled for Dec. 31 | Parabolic Arc | Health Medicine N'Science | Scoop.it

SpaceX has rescheduled the launch of its Thaicom 6 satellite for Dec. 31. It will be SpaceX’s fourth launch of the year and its second commercial communications satellite mission. The New Year’s Eve launch of the Falcon 9 rocket will take place from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. If the flight goes off as scheduled, it will be the 20th American orbital launch of the year.


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Stratocumulus's curator insight, December 19, 2013 11:56 PM

 

Read more at: http://www.wacotrib.com/blogs/joe_science/spacex-satellite-launch-set-for-dec/article_b31d65b4-6822-11e3-9f40-001a4bcf887a.html?mode=jqm

Allen Taylor's curator insight, December 24, 2013 10:07 PM

SpaceX are working toward a New Year's Eve commercial satellite launch, reinforcing their cred as a commercially viable launch provider.

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Can We Turn Unwanted Carbon Dioxide Into Electricity?

Can We Turn Unwanted Carbon Dioxide Into Electricity? | Health Medicine N'Science | Scoop.it

Researchers are developing a new kind of geothermal power plant that will lock away unwanted carbon dioxide (CO2) underground – and use it as a tool to boost electric power generation by at least 10 times compared to existing geothermal energy approaches.


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Unraveling the Mystery of How Antidepression Drugs Work: Scientific American

Unraveling the Mystery of How Antidepression Drugs Work: Scientific American | Health Medicine N'Science | Scoop.it
New insights into how selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors work suggest they reverse inhibited nerve regeneration and connectivity that may underlie depression

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Depression strikes some 35 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, contributing to lowered quality of life as well as an increased risk of heart disease and suicide. Treatments typically include psychotherapy, support groups and education as well as psychiatric medications. SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, currently are the most commonly prescribed category of antidepressant drugs in the U.S., and have become a household name in treating depression.The action of these compounds is fairly familiar. SSRIs increase available levels of serotonin, sometimes referred to as the feel-good neurotransmitter, in our brains. Neurons communicate via neurotransmitters, chemicals which pass from one nerve cell to another. A transporter molecule recycles unused transmitter and carries it back to the pre-synaptic cell. For serotonin, that shuttle is called SERT (short for “serotonin transporter”). An SSRI binds to SERT and blocks its activity, allowing more serotonin to remain in the spaces between neurons. Yet, exactly how this biochemistry then works against depression remains a scientific mystery.In fact, SSRIs fail to work for mild cases of depression, suggesting that regulating serotonin might be an indirect treatment only. “There’s really no evidence that depression is a serotonin-deficiency syndrome,” says Alan Gelenberg, a depression and psychiatric researcher at The Pennsylvania State University. “It’s like saying that a headache is an aspirin-deficiency syndrome.” SSRIs work insofar as they reduce the symptoms of depression, but “they’re pretty nonspecific,” he adds.


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The secret of longevity for the world’s longest-living rodent: better protein creation | KurzweilAI

The secret of longevity for the world’s longest-living rodent: better protein creation | KurzweilAI | Health Medicine N'Science | Scoop.it
Naked mole rats are small, hairless, subterranean rodents native to eastern Africa (credit: Adam Fenster/University of Rochester) Better-constructed

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Better-constructed proteins could explain why naked mole rats live long lives — about 30 years — and stay healthy until the very end, resisting cancer, say University of Rochester biologists Vera Gorbunova and Andrei Seluanov.

Their work focuses on naked mole rat ribosomes, which assemble amino acids into proteins. Ribosomes are composed of ribosomal RNA (rRNA) molecules and proteins.

When the ribosome connects amino acids together to create a protein, a mistake is occasionally introduced when an incorrect amino acid is inserted. But the researchers found that the proteins made by naked mole rat cells are up to 40 times less likely to contain such mistakes than the proteins made by mouse cells.

Gorbunova and Seluanov discovered a possible reason: the naked mole rat’s rRNA is unique.


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First biological evidence of a supernova

First biological evidence of a supernova | Health Medicine N'Science | Scoop.it

In fossil remnants of iron-loving bacteria, researchers of the Cluster of Excellence Origin and Structure of the Universe at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM), found a radioactive iron isotope that they trace back to a supernova in our cosmic neighborhood. This is the first proven biological signature of a starburst on our earth. The age determination of the deep-drill core from the Pacific Ocean showed that the supernova must have occurred about 2.2 million years ago, roughly around the time when the modern human developed.


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Structural dynamics underlying memory in aging brains

Structural dynamics underlying memory in aging brains | Health Medicine N'Science | Scoop.it
(Medical Xpress)—When the brains of those who have succumbed to age-related neurodegeneration are analyzed post-mortem, they typically show significant atrophy on all scales

Not only is the cortex thinner and sparser, but the hollow ventricles inside the brain are grossly enlarged. In the absence of any specific disease, these general trends are still familiar. It has traditionally been assumed that the dynamic microfeatures of aged brains—the growth of the fine neurites and the synapses they make—would similarly be degenerate. In other words, synaptic growth would have either entered some form of stasis, or alternatively, a state of permanent decay with replacement by matrix or scar tissue. Contrary to these expectations, recent research shows increased structural plasticity in the axonal component of synapses in the aged mouse cortex. Reporting in the current issues of PNAS, researchers provide evidence that the observed behavioral deficits in these animals may be due to an inability to maintain persistent synaptic structure, rather than because of a loss of plasticity.

Read more at: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2013-04-dynamics-underlying-memory-aging-brains.html#jCp

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Nerve stimulation for severe depression changes brain function (5/9/2013)

Nerve stimulation for severe depression changes brain function (5/9/2013) | Health Medicine N'Science | Scoop.it

For nearly a decade, doctors have used an implanted electronic stimulator to treat severe depression in people who don't respond to standard antidepressant therapy.

Now, preliminary brain scan studies conducted by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis are beginning to reveal the processes occurring in the brain during stimulation and may provide some clues about how the device improves depression. They found that vagus nerve stimulation brings about changes in brain metabolism weeks or even months before patients begin to feel better.

The findings will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Brain Stimulation and are now available online.

"Previous studies involving large numbers of people have demonstrated that many with treatment-resistant depression improve with vagus nerve stimulation," says first author Charles R. Conway, MD, associate professor of psychiatry. "But little is known about how this stimulation works to relieve depression. We focused on specific brain regions known to be connected to depression."

Conway's team followed 13 people with treatment-resistant depression. Their symptoms had not improved after many months of treatment with as many as five different antidepressant medications. Most had been depressed for at least two years, but some patients had been clinically depressed for more than 20 years.

All of the participants had surgery to insert a device to electronically stimulate the left vagus nerve, which runs down the side of the body from the brainstem to the abdomen. Once activated, the device delivers a 30-second electronic stimulus to the vagus nerve every five minutes.

To establish the nature of the treatment's effects on brain activity, the researchers performed positron emission tomography (PET) brain imaging prior to the initiation of stimulation, and again three and 12 months after stimulation had begun.

Eventually, nine of the 13 subjects experienced improvements in depression with the treatment. However, in most cases it took several months for improvement to occur.

Remarkably, in those who responded, the scans showed significant changes in brain metabolism following three months of stimulation, which typically preceded improvements in symptoms of depression by several months.

"We saw very large changes in brain metabolism occurring far in advance of any improvement in mood," Conway says. "It's almost as if there's an adaptive process that occurs. First, the brain begins to function differently. Then, the patient's mood begins to improve."


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Magic mushrooms lift severe depression in clinical trial

Magic mushrooms lift severe depression in clinical trial | Health Medicine N'Science | Scoop.it
Magic mushrooms have lifted severe depression in a dozen volunteers in a clinical trial, raising scientists’ hopes that the psychedelic experiences beloved of the Aztecs and the hippy counter-culture of the 1970s could one day become mainstream medicine.

A clinical trial, which took years and significant money to complete due to the stringent regulatory restrictions imposed around the class 1 drug, has found that two doses of psilocybin, the active substance in the mushrooms, was sufficient to lift resistant depression in all 12 volunteers for three weeks, and to keep it away in five of them for three months.

The size of the trial and the absence of any placebo means the research, funded by the Medical Research Council and published in the Lancet Psychiatry journal (pdf), is a proof of principle only.

The scientists, from Imperial College London, said they hoped the results would encourage the MRC or other funders to put up the money needed for a full trial. However, the use of a placebo control, comparing those who use the drug with those who do not, will always be difficult, because it will be obvious who is having a psychedelic experience.

In spite of the outcome, the researchers urged people not to try magic mushrooms themselves.

The lead author, Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, said: “Psychedelic drugs have potent psychological effects and are only given in our research when appropriate safeguards are in place, such as careful screening and professional therapeutic support.

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To Fight Growing Threat From Germs, Scientists Try Old-Fashioned Killer

To Fight Growing Threat From Germs, Scientists Try Old-Fashioned Killer | Health Medicine N'Science | Scoop.it
Bacteriophages, little-used for decades in the U.S. and much of Europe, are gaining new attention because of resistance to antibiotics.

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Peering Into Black Holes' Pasts

Peering Into Black Holes' Pasts | Health Medicine N'Science | Scoop.it

Galaxies’ central black holes are surprisingly simple creatures at heart, but they have a complicated past. New studies are starting to remove history’s obfuscating veil.


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Humanized pig organs to revolutionize transplantation | KurzweilAI

Humanized pig organs to revolutionize transplantation | KurzweilAI | Health Medicine N'Science | Scoop.it
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Genome pioneer J. Craig Venter’s Synthetic Genomics Inc. (SGI) is teaming up with United Therapeutics Corporation subsidiary Lung Biotechnology Inc. to use synthetic genomic advances to develop humanized pig lungs.

The collaboration will focus on creating organs that are safe and effective for use in human patients in need of transplantation, with an initial focus on lung diseases — addressing specifically the urgent need for transplant organs for people with end-stage lung disease.

SGI  plans to use its unique DNA design, DNA synthesis, genome editing, and genome-modification tools to develop engineered primary pig cells with modified genomes. This will involve modifying a substantial number of genes at an unprecedented scale and efficiency, the company says.

400,000 people die annually from lung disease

United Therapeutics will leverage its xenotransplantation (between-species) expertise to implant these engineered cells, generating pig embryos that are born with humanized lungs.

“We believe that our proprietary synthetic genomic tools and technologies, coupled with United Therapeutics’ knowledge and advances in regenerative medicine technologies and treatment of lung diseases, should enable us to develop humanized pig organs for safe and effective transplant into humans,” said said J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., Founder and CEO, SGI. “We believe this is one of the most exciting and important programs ever undertaken in modern medical science.”


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Baby boys and girls should get different formula milk, claim scientists

Baby boys and girls should get different formula milk, claim scientists | Health Medicine N'Science | Scoop.it
A mother's milk may contain different levels of nutrients depending on the sex of her baby to meet different growth needs

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Baby formula should be tailored for boys and girls to reflect the differences in milk that mothers produce depending on their baby's sex, researchers say.

Tests on mothers' milk in both monkeys and humans have showed that levels of fat, protein, vitamins, sugars, minerals and hormones vary enormously, but there is evidence that milk made for female and male babies is consistently different.

The make-up of the milk has a direct impact on the child's growth, but also on his or her behaviour and temperament, which may last for the rest of their life. Scientists suspect that breast milk may be tailored by nature to meet the different growth needs of the sexes.

The findings have led some researchers to suggest that baby formula should come in boy and girl formulations to match the differences seen in breast milk.

"We have good reason to be sceptical of a one-size-fits-all formula," said Prof Katie Hinde, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University.


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The symphony of life, revealed

The symphony of life, revealed | Health Medicine N'Science | Scoop.it

A new imaging technique captures the vibrations of proteins, tiny motions critical to human life.


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In the search for alien life, an open mind is best tool

In the search for alien life, an open mind is best tool | Health Medicine N'Science | Scoop.it

The search for planets outside our solar system has been much in the news for the past couple of years, with most of the attention, and questions, focused on "habitable" planets -- do they exist, and if so are at least some in fact harboring life?


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Children could have DNA tested at birth - Telegraph

Children could have DNA tested at birth - Telegraph | Health Medicine N'Science | Scoop.it
Jeremy Hunt wants Britain to become the first country in the world to routinely test children's entire DNA at birth to identify diseases

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Every child in Britain could have their DNA decoded at birth by the NHS to predict their risk of disease, the Health Secretary has predicted.

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, wants Britain to become the first country in the world to routinely sequence people’s genomes to form part of their health records.

The information can then be used through out their lives to help doctors recommend lifestyle changes and treatments to enable patients to stay healthy.

Genetic testing is already used on a disease by disease basis within the NHS to help identify specific forms of cancer, inherited conditions or congenital heart problems.

Earlier this year, however, the Government launched a project where 100,000 patients will have their entire genomes sequenced over the next five years.


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Scientists developing way to "see" pain in the body

Sci­en­tists are hop­ing a new tech­nique will let them “see” pain in the bod­ies of hurt­ing peo­ple, so doc­tors won’t have to rely solely on pa­tients’ some­times un­clear ac­counts of their own pain.

Past re­search has shown a link be­tween pain and a cer­tain kind of mol­e­cule in the body, called a so­di­um chan­nel—a pro­tein that helps nerve cells trans­mit pain and oth­er sensa­t­ions to the brain. Cer­tain types of so­di­um chan­nel are over-pro­duced at the site of an in­ju­ry. So re­search­ers set out to de­vel­op a way to make the re­sult­ing over-concentra­t­ions of so­di­um chan­nels vis­i­ble in scan­ning im­ages.

Cur­rent ways to di­ag­nose pain bas­ic­ally in­volve ask­ing the pa­tient if some­thing hurts. This can lead doc­tors astray for a va­ri­e­ty of rea­sons, in­clud­ing if a pa­tient can’t com­mu­ni­cate well or does­n’t want to talk about the pain. It can al­so be hard to tell how well a treat­ment is really work­ing. 

No ex­ist­ing meth­od can meas­ure pain in­tens­ity ob­jec­tively or help physi­cians pin­point where the pain is, said Sandip Biswal of Stan­ford Uni­vers­ity in Cal­i­for­nia and col­leagues, who de­scribed their new tech­nique Nov. 21 on­line in the Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Chem­i­cal So­ci­e­ty. 

Biswal and col­leagues tested the tech­nique in rats.

They used an ex­ist­ing scan­ning meth­od known as pos­i­tron emis­sion to­mog­ra­phy (PET) scan, which uses a harm­less ra­di­o­ac­t­ive sub­stance called a trac­er to look for dis­ease in the body. They al­so turned to a small mol­e­cule called sax­i­toxin, pro­duced nat­u­rally by cer­tain types of mi­cro­scop­ic ma­rine crea­tures, and at­tached a sig­nal to it so they could trace it by PET im­ag­ing.

When the re­search­ers in­jected the mol­e­cule in­to rats, of­ten a stand-in for hu­mans in lab tests, they saw that the mol­e­cule ac­cu­mu­lat­ed where the rats had nerve dam­age. The rats did­n’t show signs of tox­ic side ef­fects, the sci­en­tists said, adding that the work is one of the first at­tempts to mark these so­di­um chan­nels in a liv­ing an­i­mal.


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Space Warps Project Needs Your Help

Space Warps Project Needs Your Help | Health Medicine N'Science | Scoop.it

Astronomers are asking volunteers to help them search for “space warps.” More commonly known as “gravitational lenses,” these are rare systems with very massive galaxies or clusters of galaxies that bend light around them so that they act rather like giant lenses in space, creating beautiful mirages. 


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Scientists make 'lab-grown' kidney

Scientists make 'lab-grown' kidney | Health Medicine N'Science | Scoop.it
A kidney "grown" in the laboratory has been transplanted into animals where it started to produce urine, US scientists say.

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Similar techniques to make simple body parts have already been used in patients, but the kidney is one of the most complicated organs made so far.

A study, in the journal Nature Medicine, showed the engineered kidneys were less effective than natural ones.

But regenerative medicine researchers said the field had huge promise.

Kidneys filter the blood to remove waste and excess water. They are also the most in-demand organ for transplant, with long waiting lists.

The researchers' vision is to take an old kidney and strip it of all its old cells to leave a honeycomb-like scaffold. The kidney would then be rebuilt with cells taken from the patient.

This would have two major advantages over current organ transplants.

The tissue would match the patient, so they would not need a lifetime of drugs to suppress the immune system to prevent rejection.

It would also vastly increase the number of organs available for transplant. Most organs which are offered are rejected, but they could be used as templates for new ones.


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Open Your Mind to the New Psychedelic Science | Wired Science | Wired.com

Open Your Mind to the New Psychedelic Science | Wired Science | Wired.com | Health Medicine N'Science | Scoop.it
In recent years, a small cadre of scientists has cautiously rekindled the scientific study of psychedelics.

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“Now that we’ve been able to start getting some evidence on the benefits, it changes people’s calculus,” said Rick Doblin, the founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), one of the meeting’s sponsors.

Doblin and MAPS have been battling regulators since the mid-80s to allow research and clinical trials with psychedelics. The recent revival of psychedelic science may be one sign their efforts are finally paying off.

Public attitudes towards illegal drugs in general may be shifting. A recent Pew Research Center survey, for example, found for the first time that more than half of Americans think marijuana should be legal. Baby boomers in particular, who may have hidden their stash while raising kids, seem to be loosening up in their old age, the survey found.

The interest in psychedelics may also have something to do with a growing sense of frustration over the lack of promising new psychiatric drugs in the pipeline. Many of the current drugs are based on compounds discovered serendipitously in the 1950s, and true innovation has been so hard to come by that many companies are giving up.

Meanwhile, people have been using hallucinogens for centuries, often in religious healing ceremonies, and yes, sometimes just for the hell of it. But just because they’re party drugs for some doesn’t mean they can’t be the subject of serious scientific inquiry. Or does it? After all, it didn’t end so well the first time around.


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luiy's curator insight, April 27, 2013 2:13 PM

“This opens a door to the scientific study of mystical experiences,” Griffiths said. In future work, he hopes to investigate how the psilocybin experience may differ in people with different personality types, religious backgrounds, and genetics.

 

Clearly, drugs like psilocybin have powerful effects on the mind, but the rationale for using them in psychiatry requires a fair amount of hand waving. The same could be said of virtually all psychiatric treatments already on the market, however: Nobody really knows how they work.

The classic psychedelics, including psilocybin and LSD, stimulate receptors for serotonin, a neurotransmitter that’s also targeted, albeit in different ways, by approved antidepressant and anti-anxiety drugs like Prozac and Zoloft.

 

Several scientists at the conference pointed to findings that activity in the brain’s default mode network is elevated in people with depression. Because psilocybin and ayahuasca seem to dampen activity in this network, perhaps they could help.

 

It’s hard to connect those dots without a strong dose of speculation, but one idea is that the elevated activity in the default mode network reflects too much attention directed inward. People in the grips of depression, the thinking goes, are trapped in an endless cycle of critical self-examination, and a little neural desynchronization might help them reboot.

 

Araújo presented promising preliminary findings on using ayahausca to reduce symptoms of depression, and he’s recently gotten approval for a larger clinical trial in Brazil. The British group has approval to begin a trial with psilocybin.