The future of medicine and health
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Researchers use voltammetry to probe the brain's chemistry

Researchers use voltammetry to probe the brain's chemistry | The future of medicine and health |
(—Our brains are constantly awash in chemicals that serve as messengers, transporting signals from one neuron to another.  It's a really nifty system, although scientists still aren't clear on how, exactly, those chemical messages end up...
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The Supplement Industry Is Barely Regulated And It's Endangering Actual Lives

The Supplement Industry Is Barely Regulated And It's Endangering Actual Lives | The future of medicine and health |
When Pouya Jamshidi, a resident at Weill Cornell Medical College, delivered his first baby, the doctor on call told him to take the newborn away from its mother.

The baby, a healthy girl with mocha-pink skin and a powerful set of lungs, was being quarantined.

In the middle of the pregnancy, her mother had come down with tuberculosis. She'd contracted the contagious lung infection in her teens, and the illness came back despite preventative antibiotics and regular screenings. The cause: a popular herbal supplement called St. John's wort.

"The trouble is most people don't consider it a medication because you don't need a prescription for it, and so she didn't tell us," Jamshidi told Business Insider.

St. John's wort is one of the most popular herbal supplements sold in the United States. But in 2000, the National Institutes of Health published a study showing that St. John's wort could severely curb the effectiveness of several important pharmaceutical drugs - including antibiotics, birth control, and antiretrovirals for infections like HIV - by speeding up their breakdown in the body.

"It basically overmetabolised the antibiotics so they weren't in her system in the correct dose," Jamshidi said.

The findings on St. John's wort prompted the US Food and Drug Administration to warn doctors about the herbal remedy. But that did little to stem public sale or consumption of it.
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The New Science of Sex and Gender

The New Science of Sex and Gender | The future of medicine and health |
Sex is supposed to be simple—at least at the molecular level. The biological explanations that appear in textbooks amount to X + X = ♀ and X + Y = ♂. Venus or Mars, pink or blue. As science looks more closely, however, it becomes increasingly clear that a pair of chromosomes do not always suffice to distinguish girl/boy—either from the standpoint of sex (biological traits) or of gender (social identity).

In the cultural realm, this shift in perspective has already received a wide embrace. “Nonbinary” definitions of gender—transfeminine, genderqueer, hijra—have entered the vernacular. Less visible perhaps are the changes taking place in the biological sciences. The emerging picture that denotes “girlness” or “boyness” reveals the involvement of complex gene networks—and the entire process appears to extend far beyond a specific moment six weeks after gestation when the gonads begin to form.

To varying extents, many of us are biological hybrids on a male-female continuum. Researchers have found XY cells in a 94-year-old woman, and surgeons discovered a womb in a 70-year-old man, a father of four. New evidence suggests that the brain consists of a “mosaic” of cell types, some more yin, others further along the yang scale.
These findings have far-reaching implications beyond just updating the biology textbooks. They have particular bearing on issues of personal identity, health and the economic well-being of women. That is because arguments about innate biological differences between the sexes have persisted long past the time they should have been put to rest.
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Why we fell for clean eating

Why we fell for clean eating | The future of medicine and health |
In the spring of 2014, Jordan Younger noticed that her hair was falling out in clumps. “Not cool” was her reaction. At the time, Younger, 23, believed herself to be eating the healthiest of all possible diets. She was a “gluten-free, sugar-free, oil-free, grain-free, legume-free, plant-based raw vegan”. As The Blonde Vegan, Younger was a “wellness” blogger in New York City, one of thousands on Instagram (where she had 70,000 followers) rallying under the hashtag #eatclean. Although she had no qualifications as a nutritionist, Younger had sold more than 40,000 copies of her own $25, five-day “cleanse” programme – a formula for an all-raw, plant-based diet majoring on green juice.

But the “clean” diet that Younger was selling as the route to health was making its creator sick. Far from being super-healthy, she was suffering from a serious eating disorder: orthorexia, an obsession with consuming only foods that are pure and perfect. Younger’s raw vegan diet had caused her periods to stop and given her skin an orange tinge from all the sweet potato and carrots she consumed (the only carbohydrates she permitted herself). Eventually, she sought psychological help, and began to slowly widen the repertoire of foods she would allow herself to eat, starting with fish. She recognised that the problem was not her veganism, per se, but the particularly rigid and restrictive diet regime she had imposed on herself.

As Younger slowly recovered from her eating disorder, she faced a new dilemma. “What would people think”, she agonised, “if they knew the Blonde Vegan was eating fish?” She levelled with her followers in a blogpost entitled Why I’m Transitioning Away from Veganism. Within hours of announcing her new diet, Younger was receiving irate messages from vegans demanding money back from the cleanse programmes and T-shirts they had bought from her site (featuring slogans such as “OH KALE YES”).
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Possible Anti-Aging Brain Therapy Shows Promise in Mice

Possible Anti-Aging Brain Therapy Shows Promise in Mice | The future of medicine and health |
Clotho, one of the Three Fates of Greek mythology, carried the weighty responsibility of spinning the thread of human life. It seems fitting then that a protein linked to reducing and extending life spans should take its name from this mythic figure. Researchers discovered the klotho protein in 1997, when they found that diminished levels seemed to make the animals age faster. Conversely, mice genetically engineered to maintain elevated klotho levels live 30 percent longer than normal mice. Recent research hints that the protein itself could form the basis of anti-aging therapies.

Many studies have since established klotho as a longevity promoter, including in humans, with numerous protective effects on organs throughout the body. Its levels decline with age but some people with a version of the klotho gene known as KL-VS produce more of the protein and typically live longer. Now a new study, led by physician and neuroscientist Dena Dubal of the University of California, San Francisco, suggests klotho has potential as a therapy against brain aging and the maladies that come with it. The team found beneficial effects in young and aging mice on memory and learning and on some of the motor deficits found in Parkinson’s disease.
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We're One Step Closer to Curing Type 1 Diabetes With This First-Ever Stem Cell Implant

We're One Step Closer to Curing Type 1 Diabetes With This First-Ever Stem Cell Implant | The future of medicine and health |
Clinical trials have begun for ViaCyte's PEC-Direct, an implant that grows insulin-producing cells from stem cells to treat type 1 diabetes patients.

If successful, the implant could eliminate the need for these patients to inject themselves with insulin.

The World Health Organisation reports that more than 422 million people worldwide are living with diabetes, a condition that can take two forms.

In the first, the body's immune system attacks cells in the pancreas, preventing the organ from producing enough insulin [type 1 diabetes (T1D)]. In the second, the body doesn't know how to use the insulin that is produced [type 2 diabetes (TD2)].

T1D accounts for roughly 10 percent of diabetes cases, and unlike T2D, which can often be reversed through lifestyle changes such as weight loss or increased exercise, scientists have yet to figure out how to prevent or cure T1D.

Right now, insulin injections are the best way to manage T1D, but this method can be problematic in high-risk cases - patients with hypoglycemia (low glucose) unawareness, for example, may have trouble adjusting their insulin dosage.

Thankfully, researchers all over the world are hard at work looking for a cure that will free T1D patients from their dependence on insulin injections, and now, one group may have found it.
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Here's How We Can Stop Planes From Becoming Total Cesspools of Infection

Here's How We Can Stop Planes From Becoming Total Cesspools of Infection | The future of medicine and health |
Cram a bunch of people from different parts of the world into a flying tin can, recycle the air in the cabin, and you've got a pretty solid recipe for helping the spread of various infections.

Air travel is an efficient way to transport both people and diseases. But now researchers have finally come up with the most optimal method for limiting infection rates.

When you return home from vacation with a nasty bug, several factors will have led to that unlucky moment - from aircraft cabin air quality to flight duration, contact with other people, waiting time in boarding queues and more.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), even though aeroplanes use up to 50 percent recycled air, it is supposed to go through efficient filters that should trap pathogens such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses.

But despite these precautions, it's the prolonged close contact with other potentially diseased humans that makes air travel more of a disease risk.

And according to a new study lead by researchers from Arizona State University, the way we board and distribute people on planes can make a big difference.

"There is direct evidence for the spread of infection within commercial airplanes for many infectious diseases including influenza, SARS, tuberculosis, measles, and norovirus," they write in the study.

Now, just sitting next to someone who is flu-ridden is not automatically going to get you sick - there's a lot of randomness involved here, which mathematicians refer to as stochasticity.
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WATCH: What Does Science Actually Say About Whether There's a Gay Gene?

WATCH: What Does Science Actually Say About Whether There's a Gay Gene? | The future of medicine and health |
It's thought that between 2 and 6 percent of people identify as same sex attracted – but the jury is still firmly out on the science on why and how it occurs.

Is being gay genetic, and if so, is there a gay gene?

Well, as the boys from AsapSCIENCE explain, having a specific gay gene that can be passed on doesn't make a lot of sense considering how few same sex couples have kids.

However, that being said, two studies in the 1990s found that gay men do have a higher number of homosexual relatives compared to heterosexual men.

This led the researchers to think that being gay had something to do with a linkage on their X chromosome.

As the video explains, this has also been found in newer studies – specifically a part of the X chromosome called Xq28.

But with 80 percent less children then straight couples, purely genetic inheritance of same sex attraction can be something of a paradox.

So it's obviously more complicated than that – and that means that epigenetics gets involved.

A recent study looked at whether the attachment of a type of a methyl group (a type of epigenetic DNA change) changes your likelihood of same sex attraction.

The team were able to use that methyl groups to predict the sexuality of men with 70 percent accuracy.

However, it was a small population size, and there has been some controversy about the research.

So where does this leave us?

Well, I'll let the AsapSCIENCE boys explain the rest in the video above, but there are quite a few interesting hypotheses about how being gay fits into the world.
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Human genome editing: We should all have a say

Human genome editing: We should all have a say | The future of medicine and health |
Shoukhrat Mitalipov, a reproductive biologist at Oregon Health and Science University, is nothing if not a pioneer. In 2007, his team published proof-of-principle research in primates showing it was possible to derive stem cells from cloned primate embryos. In 2013, his team was the first to create human embryonic stem cells by cloning. Now, in 2017, his team has reported safely and effectively modifying human embryos with the MYBPC3 mutation (which causes myocardial disease) using the gene editing technique CRISPR.

Mitalipov’s team is not the first to genetically modify human embryos. This was first accomplished in 2015 by a group of Chinese scientists led by Junjiu Huang. Mitalipov’s team, however, may be the first to demonstrate basic safety and efficacy using the CRISPR technique.

This has serious implications for the ethics debate on human germline modification which involves inserting, deleting or replacing the DNA of human sperm, eggs or embryos to change the genes of future children.
Ethically controversial

Those who support human embryo research will argue that Mitalipov’s research to alter human embryos is ethically acceptable because the embryos were not allowed to develop beyond 14 days (the widely accepted international limit on human embryo research) and because the modified embryos were not used to initiate a pregnancy. They will also point to the future potential benefit of correcting defective genes that cause inherited disease.

This research is ethically controversial, however, because it is a clear step on the path to making heritable modifications - genetic changes that can be passed down through subsequent generations.
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Not Enough Sleep Really Does Affect Your Waistline

Not Enough Sleep Really Does Affect Your Waistline | The future of medicine and health |
You can put gaining extra inches on your waistline to the list of health issues related to a lack of regular shut-eye – a list that already includes faster cell ageing, neuron damage, and reduced memory capability.

That's the conclusion of new research that found adults sleeping for six hours a night had average waist measurements 3 centimetres (1.2 inches) larger than those sleeping for nine hours a night.

What's going on? The team from the University of Leeds in the UK thinks a lack of sleep messes around with the chemical mix of our metabolism and our body's ability to maintain a healthy weight.

"Our findings support the accumulating evidence showing an important contribution of short sleep to metabolic diseases such as obesity," report the researchers.

Data was crunched from 1,615 UK adults, aged between 19 and 65, as part of the National Diet and Nutrition Survey Rolling Programme. Participants were asked to log sleep and food intake for four days, and weight, blood pressure, and waist circumference were also recorded.

As well as the waistline difference, the shorter sleepers were heavier too: every extra hour of sleep between six and nine hours accounted for 0.46 kg/m2 lower BMI values in the adults surveyed.

The data also showed a link between shorter sleep times and reduced levels of HDL cholesterol, the 'good' type of cholesterol responsible for removing harmful cholesterol from the bloodstream and reducing the risk of heart disease.

However, this study didn't turn up any link between a less healthy diet and less sleep at night, a connection that has been made in the past.
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The Era of Human Gene Editing Is Here—What Happens Next Is Critical

The Era of Human Gene Editing Is Here—What Happens Next Is Critical | The future of medicine and health |
Scientists in Portland, Ore., just succeeded in creating the first genetically modified human embryo in the United States, according to Technology Review. A team led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health & Science University is reported to “have broken new ground both in the number of embryos experimented upon and by demonstrating that it is possible to safely and efficiently correct defective genes that cause inherited diseases.”

The U.S. team’s results follow two trials—one last year and one in April—by researchers in China who injected genetically modified cells into cancer patients. The research teams used CRISPR, a new gene-editing system derived from bacteria that enables scientists to edit the DNA of living organisms.

The era of human gene editing has begun.

In the short term, scientists are planning clinical trials to use CRISPR to edit human genes linked to cystic fibrosis and other fatal hereditary conditions. But supporters of synthetic biology talk up huge potential long-term benefits. We could, they claim, potentially edit genes and build new ones to eradicate all hereditary diseases. With genetic alterations, we might be able to withstand anthrax attacks or epidemics of pneumonic plague. We might revive extinct species such as the woolly mammoth. We might design plants that are far more nutritious, hardy, and delicious than what we have now.

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Implanting Stem Cells Into The Brain Might Extend Human Lifespan

Implanting Stem Cells Into The Brain Might Extend Human Lifespan | The future of medicine and health |
As far as brain regions go, the hypothalamus is something of a multi-tasker: it helps control our temperature, hunger, sleep, emotions, and sex drive.

But that's not all. A new study suggests it's also responsible for keeping us young, thanks to a supply of neural stem cells that regulate our ageing.

Sadly, these disappear with time – which could be why we get old – but tests with mice show that implanting new cells to replace them can actually extend lifespan.

"Our research shows that the number of hypothalamic neural stem cells naturally declines over the life of the animal, and this decline accelerates ageing," says molecular pharmacologist Dongsheng Cai from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx.

"But we also found that the effects of this loss are not irreversible. By replenishing these stem cells or the molecules they produce, it's possible to slow and even reverse various aspects of ageing throughout the body."

Cai and his team discovered back in 2013 that the hypothalamus plays a role in ageing, and that by reducing inflammation in the brains of mice, the animals were able to live longer lives.

Now, in a follow-up study, the researchers think they've pinpointed the particular cells in the hypothalamus that matter here: neural stem cells, which serve to generate replacements for dead and damaged cells.

In mice, these cells start to disappear when the animals are about 10 months old (mice middle age), and are largely gone by the time they turn two (elderly).
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That Age-Old Advice to Finish Your Antibiotics Might Do More Harm Than Good

That Age-Old Advice to Finish Your Antibiotics Might Do More Harm Than Good | The future of medicine and health |
Medical experts from the UK have called for physicians and policy makers to stop instructing patients to complete courses of antibiotics, arguing that not only is the advice effectively baseless, but it might actually contribute to the superbug epidemic.

Contrary to the conventional wisdom dispensed by GPs for more than half a century, in most cases failing to take an entire course of antibiotics does not increase the risk of most common forms of infectious bacteria developing resistance.

Most of us have gone to the doctor with a killer sore throat or an ear ache that just won't quit and been prescribed an antibiotic with the sage direction to take all of the tablets, even after you start to feel better.

Even the World Health Organisation supports the idea that stopping antibiotics too early could be giving the remaining bacteria a helping hand.

"For example, in materials supporting Antibiotic Awareness Week 2016 WHO advised patients to "always complete the full prescription, even if you feel better, because stopping treatment early promotes the growth of drug-resistant bacteria," Martin Llewelyn from Brighton and Sussex Medical School and his colleagues explain.

The problem is the advice has never been based on research of any kind, instead arising out of an early hypothesis proposed by the Australian pharmacologist Howard Florey, who in the early 1940s carried out clinical trials on the newly discovered bacteria-killer, penicillin.
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Scientists discover how the brain's hypothalamus controls ageing – and manage to slow it down

Scientists discover how the brain's hypothalamus controls ageing – and manage to slow it down | The future of medicine and health |
If you are reading this and you don’t smoke, then your major risk factor for dying is probably your age. That’s because we have nearly eliminated mortality in early life, thanks to advances in science and engineering. But despite this progress, we still haven’t worked out how to eliminate the damaging effects of ageing itself.

Now a new study in mice, published in Nature, reveals that stem cells (a type of cell that can develop into many other types) in a specific area of the brain regulate ageing. The team even managed to slow down and speed up the ageing process by transplanting or deleting stem cells in the region.

Ageing poses an important challenge for society. By 2050, there will be as many old people (age 65+) as children (under 15) on Earth for the first time. This change is reflected in unprecedented stress on our health and social care systems. Understanding how we can keep ourselves in good health as we age is becoming increasingly important.

The mechanisms that keep organisms healthy are relatively few in number and conserved between species, which means we can learn a lot about them by studying animals such as mice. Among the most important are senescent cells – dysfunctional cells which build up as we age and cause damage to tissue – chronic inflammation and exhaustion of stem cells. These mechanisms are thought to be connected at the cell and tissue level. As with a ring of dominoes, a fall anywhere can trigger a catastrophic collapse.
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Scientists Are Finally Set to Mass-Produce The Active Compound Found in Magic Mushrooms

Scientists Are Finally Set to Mass-Produce The Active Compound Found in Magic Mushrooms | The future of medicine and health |
For nearly 60 years scientists have known the chemical responsible for magic mushrooms' psychedelic reputation is a compound called psilocybin. What we haven't known is the biochemical pathway behind this famous hallucinogen.

Feel free to now tick that one off your chemistry bucket-list. German researchers have identified four key enzymes involved in making the chemical, potentially setting the stage for mass production of a promising pharmaceutical.

Psilocybin was first identified by the Swiss scientist Albert Hofmann way back in 1959, but has only recently re-entered the spotlight as a safe way to treat conditions related to anxiety, depression, and addiction.

As the evidence mounts, there could be a need for an efficient way to synthesise the compound for experimentation and mass production.

So a small team of researchers from Friedrich Schiller University Jena in Germany sequenced the genomes of the magic mushroom species Psilocybe cubensis and Psilocybe cyanescens to hunt for the biochemical components responsible for constructing this mind-bending molecule.

They had their suspicions, as early work on the molecule's biosynthesis using radioactive tags had already revealed the order of the steps required to turn a molecule of tryptophan - an essential amino acid - into a series of chemicals, ending up with psilocybin.

While the order is a little different than it first appeared, it turns out four enzymes are responsible for the entire process.

Knowing what these enzymes are as well as the genes that encode them is a boon for any future pharmacologist who might want to churn out buckets of the stuff, or tweak the secret recipe to suit their needs.

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One Drop: The data-driven approach to managing diabetes

One Drop: The data-driven approach to managing diabetes | The future of medicine and health |
Diabetes is a data-driven disease, with patients suddenly finding themselves inundated with information that they need to measure, monitor and record to stay healthy. But in an age of algorithms that could lighten the load, diabetes care still largely relies on patients manually keeping track of everything themselves. The One Drop system is designed to let people manage their diabetes through an integrated app, smart meter and supplies service. New Atlas spoke to the company's founder, Jeffrey Dachis, to find out how it works.

At a glance, One Drop seems like what you'd expect diabetes care to be like in the modern day. It includes a lancet device to draw blood, a glucose meter that sends test results to a smartphone via Bluetooth, and an app that ties everything together. Users can sync information from fitness trackers, monitor their data over time, and easily share it with their doctor.

But as obvious as it sounds, this kind of modern data management system hadn't been applied to diabetes care before. Patients are generally expected to jot down their readings, or at best, enter them manually into an app. Managing the condition requires a lot of legwork, but time isn't the only thing diabetes drains from a person: as Dachis found out firsthand, it takes a massive mental toll that many doctors all but ignore.
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Fighting negative emotions can make you feel worse - Futurity

Fighting negative emotions can make you feel worse - Futurity | The future of medicine and health |
Embracing negative emotions can make you feel better, while pressure to be positive can actually make you feel worse, new research suggests.

“We found that people who habitually accept their negative emotions experience fewer negative emotions, which adds up to better psychological health,” says study senior author Iris Mauss, an associate professor of psychology at University of California, Berkeley.

At this point, researchers can only speculate on why accepting your joyless emotions can defuse them, like dark clouds passing swiftly in front of the sun and out of sight.

“Maybe if you have an accepting attitude toward negative emotions, you’re not giving them as much attention,” Mauss says. “And perhaps, if you’re constantly judging your emotions, the negativity can pile up.”

The study, which appears in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, tested the link between emotional acceptance and psychological health in more than 1,300 adults in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Denver, Colorado, metropolitan area.
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This Insane Nanochip Device Can Heal Tissue Just by Touching The Skin Once

This Insane Nanochip Device Can Heal Tissue Just by Touching The Skin Once | The future of medicine and health |
Imagine buzzing the skin over an internal wound with an electrical device and having it heal over just a few days – that's the promise of new nanochip technology that can reprogram cells to replace tissue or even whole organs.

It's called Tissue Nanotransfection (TNT), and while it's only been tested on mice and pigs so far, the early signs are encouraging for this new body repair tool - and it sounds like a device straight out of science-fiction.

The prototype device, developed by a team at Ohio State University, sits on the skin and uses an intense electrical field to deliver specific genes to the tissue underneath it. Those genes create new types of cells that can be used nearby or elsewhere in the body.

"By using our novel nanochip technology, injured or compromised organs can be replaced," says one of the study leaders, Chandan Sen. "We have shown that skin is a fertile land where we can grow the elements of any organ that is declining."

During animal tests, researchers were able to use TNT to reprogram skin cells on the outside of injured legs to become vascular cells, which are key to regulating a healthy blood flow through the body.

Within a week, active blood vessels appeared in the injured legs, and by the second week the injured legs had been saved by TNT.

What's more, nerve cells generated in the lab using the same technique were used to successfully help brain-injured mice recover from a stroke.

"This is difficult to imagine, but it is achievable, successfully working about 98 percent of the time," says Sen.
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'Origami organs' could regenerate tissue - Futurity

'Origami organs' could regenerate tissue - Futurity | The future of medicine and health |
A new kind of bioactive “tissue paper” is made of materials derived from organs that are thin and flexible enough to fold into an origami bird.

The technology could potentially be used to support natural hormone production in young cancer patients and aid wound healing.

The tissue papers are made from structural proteins excreted by cells that give organs their form and structure and are combined with a polymer to make the material pliable.

For the study, researchers used individual types of tissue papers made from ovarian, uterine, kidney, liver, muscle, or heart proteins obtained by processing pig and cow organs. Each tissue paper had specific cellular properties of the organ from which it was made.

“This new class of biomaterials has potential for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine as well as drug discovery and therapeutics,” says corresponding author Ramille Shah, assistant professor of surgery and assistant professor of materials science and engineering at Northwestern University. “It’s versatile and surgically friendly.”
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Could We Use Space to Pay for a Universal Basic Income?

Could We Use Space to Pay for a Universal Basic Income? | The future of medicine and health |

How Do you Pay for Everyone?

Universal basic income is the idea that every citizen should receive an amount of money from the government to meet their needs, regardless of age, race, gender, or even need. It has been billed as a solution to a variety of current and potential societal problems, including AI automation, poverty, and people losing the ability to allocate their own time.

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Brain "switch" that regulates energy expenditure and fat production uncovered

Brain "switch" that regulates energy expenditure and fat production uncovered | The future of medicine and health |
In recent years our understanding of the body's metabolic processes has progressed at an incredible pace. With rapidly increasing global rates of obesity, the race has been on to unlock the mysteries of how to manipulate the body's fat burning mechanisms. A team at Monash University recently made a major discovery, identifying the "switch" in the brain that controls how the body converts food into energy.

The majority of research around obesity has examined the way the body alternates production of its two major fat cells – white and brown. The production of these fat cells, called adipocytes, are directed by signals from the brain, with white fat cells produced to store energy, while brown fat cells are produced to expend energy.

Research has shown these adipocytes are dynamic and can change from brown to white depending on direction from the brain. The team from Monash discovered in 2015 how the body executed this fat cell change, but the underlying mechanism that controlled the process was still a mystery.

The new study shows that after a meal, the brain senses the body's insulin levels and sends signals to generate either brown or white adipocytes. This on/off energy expenditure switch is coordinated by the hypothalamus through changes in the levels of a type of protein called T-Cell Protein Tyrosine Phosphatase (TCPTP).The research found that, if the body is working properly, TCPTP is repressed when one consumes a meal. When TCPTP is inhibited the brain begins increasing its energy expenditure protocols, ultimately signaling production of brown fat. But this feeding-induced repression of hypothalamic TCPTP was found to be defective in the obese.
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Scientists edit human embryos to safely remove disease for the first time – here's how they did it

Scientists edit human embryos to safely remove disease for the first time – here's how they did it | The future of medicine and health |
Scientists in the US have released a paper showing that they have successfully edited human embryos to correct a mutation that causes an inheritable heart condition. The findings are hugely important as they demonstrate for the first time that the technology may one day be used safely to edit out many devastating diseases.

But how close to curing genetic diseases does the new study actually take us? And how concerned should we be about the ethical implications of the technology?

The genome editing tool used, CRISPR-Cas9, has transformed the field of biology in the short time since its discovery in that it not only promises, but delivers. CRISPR has surpassed all previous efforts to engineer cells and alter genomes at a fraction of the time and cost.

The technology, which works like molecular scissors to cut and paste DNA, is a natural defence system that bacteria use to fend off harmful infections. This system has the ability to recognise invading virus DNA, cut it and integrate this cut sequence into its own genome – allowing the bacterium to render itself immune to future infections of viruses with similar DNA. It is this ability to recognise and cut DNA that has allowed scientists to use it to target and edit specific DNA regions.
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You Don't Want to Know How Germ-Ridden Your Kitchen Sponge Really Is

You Don't Want to Know How Germ-Ridden Your Kitchen Sponge Really Is | The future of medicine and health |
Given the sole purpose of kitchen sponges is to, you know, absorb stuff, we probably shouldn't be surprised by how mind-bogglingly filthy these things can get – and yet here we are.

Scientists in Germany have conducted what they say is the world's first comprehensive study of contamination in used kitchen sponges, and it backs up we already feared: these soggy, porous 'cleaning products' are positively teeming with living bacteria.

Researchers led by Furtwangen University ran genetic sequencing on samples from 14 different used kitchen sponges and ended up finding 362 different types of bacteria happily lounging within all that comfortable, springy foam.

Fortunately for you and me, the majority of this bacteria was in fact not harmful – but some of it was.

"What surprised us was that five of the ten [types] which we most commonly found, belong to the so-called risk group 2 (RG2)," says lead researcher, microbiologist Markus Egert, "which means they are potential pathogens."

These included Acinetobacter johnsonii, Moraxella osloensis, and Chryseobacterium hominis – which the researchers say can lead to infections – plus Acinetobacter pittii and Acinetobacter ursingii.

Of these, bacteria in the family Moraxellaceae was the most dominant kind found, backing up previous research on sponges.
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Talking to Yourself in The Third Person Can Reduce Stress And Negative Emotions

Talking to Yourself in The Third Person Can Reduce Stress And Negative Emotions | The future of medicine and health |
Talking to yourself in the third person can help you keep your emotions in check, based on new research that aims to find simple and effective ways to reduce the impact of stress and other negative feelings.

The study found that a few silent words about yourself in the third person used up as much mental effort as the standard first-person talking-to-yourself chat, but was more effective at keeping emotions balanced.

According to the team from Michigan State University, it's all about getting some perspective and seeing yourself as someone else might see you. Taking a mental step back, in other words, can avoid more extreme mood swings.

For example, you might say to yourself "why is John upset?" rather than "why am I upset?" if you're feeling down (and your name's John).

"Essentially, we think referring to yourself in the third person leads people to think about themselves more similar to how they think about others, and you can see evidence for this in the brain," says one of the researchers, psychologist Jason Moser.

"That helps people gain a tiny bit of psychological distance from their experiences, which can often be useful for regulating emotions."

Two experiments were carried out. In the first, 37 students were shown both neutral and disturbing images, then asked to react to them in their heads in both the first and third person, while their brain activity was monitored via electroencephalography (EEG).
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How Nanoparticles And a Common Spice Are Killing Cancer Cells

How Nanoparticles And a Common Spice Are Killing Cancer Cells | The future of medicine and health |
Scientists have come up with a potential new way to treat neuroblastoma, the most common kind of cancer in infants, by targeting it with nanoparticles loaded up with an ingredient of the spice turmeric.

Turmeric is more often used to add flavour to curries, but the curcumin chemical it contains has shown promising progress in tests in destroying neuroblastoma tumour cells resistant to other drugs.

If scientists can work out how to adapt this into a full and safe treatment, it would have the benefit of being less toxic and unpleasant for patients than traditional alternatives like chemotherapy – which is especially important when you're dealing with young kids.

"High-risk neuroblastoma can be resistant to traditional therapy, and survival can be poor," says lead researcher Tamarah J. Westmoreland, from the University of Central Florida.

"This research demonstrates a novel method of treating this tumour without the toxicity of aggressive therapy that can also have late effects on the patient's health."

Using curcumin to fight cancer isn't a new idea, but it's difficult to get the chemical into drugs because of its low solubility and poor stability. Nanoparticles could fix that.
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Dramatic decline in Western sperm counts over past 40 years

Dramatic decline in Western sperm counts over past 40 years | The future of medicine and health |
A large-scale meta-analysis of 185 studies across 40 years has found a more than 50 percent decline in sperm concentration and total sperm count among men from North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The rate of decline was found to be consistent and is cause for significant concern if the trend continues.

Previous studies showing downward trends in global sperm counts have been criticized by scientists for a variety of factors. It has been argued that many prior fertility studies contained data that was skewed by selection bias and weren't representative of the broader population. Other researchers have also questioned the validity of historical sperm count estimates, claiming older studies were unreliable due to inaccurate measuring techniques.

This latest study attempts to correct for these limitations. Unlike earlier meta-analyses that included sample counts going as far back as 1931, this study only included data collected since 1973 so as to reduce the uncertainty in its results. Meta-regression models were also developed to account for variable factors such as age, abstinence and selection of the study population.
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