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Europe backs first gene therapy

Europe backs first gene therapy | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
A treatment which corrects errors in a person's genetic code has been approved for use for the first time in the Western world.
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Rats, reasoning, and rehabilitation: Neuroscientists uncovering how we reason

Rats, reasoning, and rehabilitation: Neuroscientists uncovering how we reason | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Even rats can imagine: A new study finds that rats have the ability to link cause and effect such that they can expect, or imagine, something happening even if it isn't. The findings are important to understanding human reasoning, especially in older adults, as aging degrades the ability to maintain information about unobserved events.

"What sets humans apart from the rest of the animal kingdom is our prodigious ability to reason. But what about human reasoning is truly a human-unique feature and what aspects are shared with our nonhuman relatives?," asks Aaron Blaisdell of the University of California, Los Angeles. "This is the question that drives my passion for research on rational behavior in rats."

Blaisdell hopes that his work with rats will teach us more about what it means to be human. His recent studies are part of a growing body of work on reasoning - the ability to figure out how to move from one state of affairs to another, to achieve a particular outcome.

From reasoning in rats to differences in reasoning among people with autism and schizophrenia, researchers are discussing the latest science on reasoning in a symposium today at the Cognitive Neuroscience Society (CNS) conference in San Francisco.
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Even 'last resort' antibiotics are starting to fail - Futurity

Even 'last resort' antibiotics are starting to fail - Futurity | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Bacteria frequently implicated in respiratory and urinary infections in hospitals may soon develop complete resistance to antibiotics, even those used as a last resort, experts warn.

A new study shows that two genes that confer resistance against a particularly strong class of antibiotics can be shared easily among a family of bacteria responsible for a significant portion of hospital-associated infections.

Drug-resistant germs in the same family of bacteria recently infected several patients at two Los Angeles hospitals. Those infections are linked to medical scopes believed to have been contaminated with bacteria that can resist carbapenems, potent antibiotics that are supposed to be used only in gravely ill patients or those infected by resistant bacteria.

“Carbapenems are one of our last resorts for treating bacterial infections, what we use when nothing else works,” says senior author Gautam Dantas, associate professor of pathology and immunologyat Washington University in St. Louis.
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Blood test uses human stem cells to predict severe drug reactions

Blood test uses human stem cells to predict severe drug reactions | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Scientists have developed a blood test using human stem cells that predicts whether new drugs will cause severe side effects. The test, which only requires blood from a single donor, could help prevent catastrophic inflammatory reactions known as a cytokine storm in people participating in drug trials.

"As biological therapies become more mainstream, it’s more likely that drugs being tested on humans for the first time will have unexpected and potentially catastrophic effects," says Professor Jane Mitchell from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London, who led the study. "We’ve used adult stem cell technology to develop a laboratory test that could prevent another disaster like the TGN1412 trial."

In 2006 six healthy young men were hospitalized with multiple organ failure after experiencing a cytokine storm as a result of taking part in the first tests in humans of the drug TGN1412.

Tests on human cells are essential because biological therapies, or "biologics" (such as the cancer drugs Herceptin and Avastin), use antibodies which are specific to humans. They can cause severe reactions, such as a cytokine storm, that don’t occur in animal studies.
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'Fat gene' may control if you're apple or pear shaped - Futurity

'Fat gene' may control if you're apple or pear shaped - Futurity | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
People who carry a lot of weight around their bellies are more likely to develop diabetes and heart disease than those who have bigger hips and thighs.

But why does fat accumulate in different places to make these classic “apple” and “pear” shapes?

A new study with zebrafish suggests that a gene called Plexin D1 appears to control both where fat is stored and how fat cells are shaped, known factors in health and the risk of future disease.
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Death Is Optional | Edge.org

Death Is Optional | Edge.org | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

Let me give you an example that I'm thinking about a lot today, concerning the future of humankind in the field of medicine. At least to the best of my understanding, we're in the middle of a revolution in medicine. After medicine in the 20th century focused on healing the sick, now it is more and more focused on upgrading the healthy, which is a completely different project. And it's a fundamentally different project in social and political terms, because whereas healing the sick is an egalitarian project ... you assume there is a norm of health, anybody that falls below the norm, you try to give them a push to come back to the norm, upgrading is by definition an elitist project. There is no norm that can be applicable to everybody.

And this opens the possibility of creating huge gaps between the rich and the poor, bigger than ever existed before in history. And many people say no, it will not happen, because we have the experience of the 20th century, that we had many medical advances, beginning with the rich or with the most advanced countries, and gradually they trickled down to everybody, and now everybody enjoys antibiotics or vaccinations or whatever, so this will happen again.

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Testosterone boost 'could cut deaths'

Testosterone boost 'could cut deaths' | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Boosting men's testosterone levels could potentially prevent deaths from heart disease and type 2 diabetes, UK doctors and scientists say.

Boosting men's testosterone levels could potentially reduce deaths from heart disease and type 2 diabetes, UK doctors and scientists say.

A team in Sheffield has shown the sex hormone has a "major impact" on the way sugar and fat are handled by the body.

At the Endocrine Society's annual meeting, they said low testosterone was common in type 2 diabetes.

Experts said the field was being "turned upside down" as testosterone was previously considered a villain.

It was thought to explain why men are more prone to heart disease. There are also concerns about the damaging impact of testosterone, as seen in bodybuilders who abuse the hormone.

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Slimming 'boosts male fertility'

Slimming 'boosts male fertility' | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
New approaches to improving the fertility of obese men are presented by researchers from two Canadian universities.

 

Two approaches to boosting obese men's sperm have been presented at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society.

The first suggested that obese men who lost weight were more likely get their partners pregnant.

The second found that a cancer drug helped some infertile men have children.

Experts said the approaches were interesting alternatives to IVF and were opening up "real possibilities" for men.

Weight loss is already widely advised for women struggling to conceive and obesity has long been suspected as a factor in male infertility.

A team at the University of Sherbrooke in Canada say they have conducted the first study to help men lose weight and see if it improved the chances of conception.

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Olive oil ingredient leads cancer cells to their death

Olive oil ingredient leads cancer cells to their death | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
An ingredient in extra-virgin olive oil called oleocanthal has been known as a compound capable of killing a variety of human cancer cells, but only now have researchers uncovered how this process...
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Smartphone add-on tests for HIV and syphilis in 15 minutes | KurzweilAI

Smartphone add-on tests for HIV and syphilis in 15 minutes | KurzweilAI | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

The user presses the bulb of the smartphone dongle, designed to fit in one hand, to initiate the fluid flow (credit: Tassaneewan Laksanasopin, Columbia-

A low-cost smartphone accessory that can detect three infectious disease markers from a finger prick of blood in just 15 minutes, performing all mechanical, optical, and electronic functions of a lab-based blood test.

That’s what team of researchers led by Samuel K. Sia, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia Engineering, has developed.

It performs an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) triplexed immunoassay not currently available in a single test format: HIV antibody, treponemal-specific antibody for syphilis, and non-treponemal antibody for active syphilis infection.

Sia’s innovative accessory (dongle), a small device that easily connects to a smartphone or computer, was recently piloted by health care workers in Rwanda. They tested whole blood obtained via a finger prick from 96 patients who were enrolling into prevention-of-mother-to-child-transmission clinics or voluntary counseling and testing centers.

 

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How green tea targets cancer cells - Futurity

How green tea targets cancer cells - Futurity | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
A compound found in green tea can kill oral cancer cells without damaging healthy cells, and now scientists think they've figured out how it works.

Earlier studies showed the compound called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) killed oral cancer cells, but researchers didn’t how it worked, says Joshua Lambert, associate professor of food science at Penn State University.

“EGCG is doing something to damage the mitochondria and that mitochondrial damage sets up a cycle causing more damage and it spirals out, until the cell undergoes programmed cell death.

“It looks like EGCG causes the formation of reactive oxygen species in cancer cells, which damages the mitochondria, and the mitochondria responds by making more reactive oxygen species.”

As this mitochondrial demise continues, the cancer cell also reduces the expression of antioxidant genes, further lowering its defenses.

“So, it’s turning off its mechanism of protection at the same time that EGCG is causing this oxidative stress,” Lambert says.

The compound did not cause the same reaction in normal cells—in fact it appeared to increase the protective capabilities of the cell, according to the study published online in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food

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Targeting specific astrocyte brain-cell receptors found to boost memory in mice | KurzweilAI

Targeting specific astrocyte brain-cell receptors found to boost memory in mice | KurzweilAI | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

Gladstone Institutes researchers have uncovered a new memory regulator in the brain that may offer a potential treatment to improve memory in Alzheimer’s disease using a drug that targets those receptors.

They found in their research* that decreasing the number of A2A adenosine receptors in astrocyte brain cells improved memory in healthy mice. It also prevented memory impairments in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease.

The findings were published Monday (Jan. 26) in Nature Neuroscience.

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Global ENIGMA consortium cracks brain’s genetic codes for aging | KurzweilAI

Global ENIGMA consortium cracks brain’s genetic codes for aging | KurzweilAI | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

In the largest collaborative study of the brain to date, about 300 researchers in a global consortium of 190 institutions identified eight common genetic mutations that appear to age the brain an average of three years.

The discovery could lead to targeted therapies and interventions for Alzheimer’s disease, autism, and other neurological conditions.

Led by the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC), an international team known as the Enhancing Neuro Imaging Genetics through Meta Analysis (ENIGMA) Network, pooled brain scans and genetic data worldwide to pinpoint genes that enhance or break down key brain regions in people from 33 countries.

This is the first high-profile study since the National Institutes of Health (NIH) launched its Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) centers of excellence in 2014. The research was published Wednesday, Jan. 21, in the peer-reviewed journal Nature.

“Our global team discovered eight genes that may erode or boost brain tissue in people worldwide,” said Paul Thompson, Ph.D., Keck School of Medicine of USC professor and principal investigator of ENIGMA. ” Any change in those genes appears to alter your mental bank account or brain reserve by 2 or 3 percent. The discovery will guide research into more personalized medical treatments for Alzheimer’s, autism, depression and other disorders.”

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Daily avocado diet may cut cholesterol - Futurity

Daily avocado diet may cut cholesterol - Futurity | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
New research suggests that adding an avocado to a cholesterol-lowering diet amps up its heart-healthy effects.
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Team finds 'exploding head syndrome' more common in young people than thought

Team finds 'exploding head syndrome' more common in young people than thought | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Washington State University researchers have found that an unexpectedly high percentage of young people experience "exploding head syndrome," a psychological phenomenon in which they are awakened by abrupt loud noises, even the sensation of an explosion in their head. Brian Sharpless, a Washington State University assistant professor and director of the university psychology clinic, found that nearly one in five—18 percent—of college students interviewed said they had experienced it at least once. It was so bad for some that it significantly impacted their lives, he said."Unfortunately for this minority of individuals, no well-articulated or empirically supported treatments are available, and very few clinicians or researchers assess for it," he said.

The study also found that more than one-third of those who had exploding head syndrome also experienced isolated sleep paralysis, a frightening experience in which one cannot move or speak when waking up. People with this condition will literally dream with their eyes wide open.The study is the largest of its kind, with 211 undergraduate students interviewed by psychologists or graduate students trained in recognizing the symptoms of exploding head syndrome and isolated sleep paralysis. The results appear online in the Journal of Sleep Research.Based on smaller, less rigorous studies, some researchers have hypothesized that exploding head syndrome is a rare condition found mostly in people older than 50.
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The Virtual Course That Could Change How Students Study Medicine

The Virtual Course That Could Change How Students Study Medicine | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Physicians assistants are highly paid medical professionals who provide a lot of the same healthcare services that doctors do. They take patient histories and perform physical exams, diagnose illnesses and develop treatment plans, prescribe medications and counsel patients. And in surgical settings, they suture wounds and assist with the procedures.
PAs, as they’re known in the industry, typically earn master’s degrees in medical science before practicing. These programs usually last three academic years and include classroom instruction in topics ranging from anatomy to pharmacology. Students also participate in more than 2,000 hours of clinical rotations. This training entails a lot of rigorous coursework—education that would, in theory, be hard to deliver outside the brick-and-mortar walls of the 175 or so higher-education institutions with accredited PA master’s programs.

Or maybe not. Soon, an aspiring PA might be able to complete nearly all this coursework online—and through an Ivy League to boot: Yale.

Yale announced earlier this month that it’s partnering with 2U, Inc.—a firm that helps selective nonprofit universities develop virtual degree programs—to launch its online PA initiative. The project is still pending approval by the accrediting commission for PA schools and from various state licensing agencies. But if it gets the green light, it would likely be the country’s first fully online PA degree. (Some programs are considered "hybrid" and entail a combination of on-campus and online coursework.) It would also become Yale’s first fully online master’s program and join the university’s existing on-campus PA program, which was launched in the early 1970s. The online program would cost the same as the on-campus one, whose sticker price is $35,654 annually for the first two years, excluding other fees.
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Scientists create functioning "mini-lungs" to study cystic fibrosis

Scientists create functioning "mini-lungs" to study cystic fibrosis | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Researchers at the University of Cambridge have grown functional "mini-lungs" using stems cells derived from the skin cells of patients with a debilitating lung disease. Not only can the development help them in coming up with effective treatments for specific lung diseases like cystic fibrosis, but the process has the potential to be scaled up to screen thousands of new compounds to identify potential new drugs.

Creating miniature organoids has been the focus of many a research group, as it allows scientists to better understand the processes that take place inside an organ, figure out how specific diseases occur and develop or even work towards creating bioengineered lungs.

The research team from the Wellcome Trust-Medical Research Council Cambridge Stem Cell Institute studied a lung disease called cystic fibrosis, which is caused by genetic mutation and shortens a patient's average lifespan. Patients have great difficulty breathing as the lungs are overwhelmed by thickened mucus.

To create working mini-lungs, the researchers took skin cells from patients with the most common form of cystic fibrosis and reprogrammed them to an induced pluripotent state (iPS), which allows the cells to grow into a different type of cell inside the body.
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Artificial Platelets Could Soon Enter Human Trials | DiscoverMagazine.com

Artificial Platelets Could Soon Enter Human Trials | DiscoverMagazine.com | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Cell-sized particles could help with blood clotting in the face of donor shortages.
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Drugs that dramatically increase healthy lifespan discovered by Scripps Research, Mayo Clinic | KurzweilAI

Drugs that dramatically increase healthy lifespan discovered by Scripps Research, Mayo Clinic | KurzweilAI | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

A research team from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), Mayo Clinic and other institutions has identified a new class of drugs that in animal models dramatically slows the aging process, alleviating symptoms of frailty, improving cardiac function, and extending a healthy lifespan.

They found two drugs — the cancer drug dasatinib (sold under the trade name Sprycel) and quercetin, a natural compound found in many fruits, vegetables, leaves and grains and also sold as a supplement that acts as an antihistamine and anti-inflammatory — can kill senescent cells. These are cells that have stopped dividing and accumulate with age, accelerating the aging process.

The scientists coined the term “senolytics” for this new class of drugs.

“We view this study as a big first step toward developing treatments that can be given safely to patients to extend healthspan or to treat age-related diseases and disorders,” said TSRI Professor Paul Robbins, PhD, who with Associate Professor Laura Niedernhofer, MD, PhD, led the research efforts for the paper at Scripps Florida. “When senolytic agents, like the combination we identified, are used clinically, the results could be transformative.”

“The prototypes of these senolytic agents have more than proven their ability to alleviate multiple characteristics associated with aging,” said Mayo Clinic Professor James Kirkland, MD, PhD, senior author of the new study. “It may eventually become feasible to delay, prevent, alleviate or even reverse multiple chronic diseases and disabilities as a group, instead of just one at a time.”

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Coffee linked to 'cleaner' arteries

Coffee linked to 'cleaner' arteries | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Drinking a few cups of coffee a day may help people avoid clogged arteries - a known risk factor for heart disease - South Korean researchers believe.
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A Pill That Boosts a Woman's Sex Drive Is Almost Here. But Do We Need It? | WIRED

A Pill That Boosts a Woman's Sex Drive Is Almost Here. But Do We Need It? | WIRED | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
In its latest attempt to kick-start lady libidos with a pill, Sprout Pharmaceuticals announced this week that it will resubmit its female sex drug, flibanserin, for FDA approval. If it gets the okay, the drug would be the first prescription of its kind for women in the United States: a treatment for female hypoactive sexual disorder, or a low sex drive. More…
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SuperAger brains yield new clues to their remarkable memories | KurzweilAI

SuperAger brains yield new clues to their remarkable memories | KurzweilAI | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

SuperAgers, aged 80 and above — but with memories that are as sharp as those of healthy persons decades younger — have distinctly different looking brains than those of normal older people, according to new Northwestern Medicine research.

Understanding Superagers’ unique “brain signature” may enable scientists to decipher the genetic or molecular source and develop strategies to protect the memories of normal aging persons, as well as treat dementia.

Published Jan. 28 in the Journal of Neuroscience, the study is the first to quantify brain differences of SuperAgers and normal older people.

Cognitive SuperAgers were first identified in 2007 by scientists at Northwestern’s Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

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Gene linked to long life also protects against mental decline in old age

Gene linked to long life also protects against mental decline in old age | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Discovery gives scientists hope of developing a therapy that could slowdown the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia

People who carry a mutated gene linked to longer lifespan have extra tissue in part of the brain that seems to protect them against mental decline in old age.

The finding has shed light on a biological pathway that researchers now hope to turn into a therapy that slows the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Brain scans of more than 400 healthy men and women aged 53 and over found that those who carried a single copy of a particular gene variant had a larger brain region that deals with planning and decision making.

Further tests on the group found that those with an enlarged right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (rDLPFC), as the brain region is known, fared better on a series of mental tasks.

About one in five people inherits a single copy of the gene variant, or allele, known as KL-VS, which improves heart and kidney function, and on average adds about three years to human lifespan, according to Dena Dubal, a neurologist at University of California, San Francisco.

Her latest work suggests that the same genetic mutation has broader effects on the brain. While having a larger rDLPFC accounted for only 12% of the improvement in people’s mental test scores, Dubal suspects the gene alters the brain in other ways, perhaps by improving the connections that form between neurons.

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Scientists extend telomeres to slow cell aging | KurzweilAI

Scientists extend telomeres to slow cell aging | KurzweilAI | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

Scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine have developed a new procedure that uses modified messenger RNA to quickly and efficiently increase the length of human telomeres, the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes that are associated with aging and disease.

Treated cells behave as if they are much younger than untreated cells, multiplying with abandon in the laboratory dish rather than stagnating or dying. Skin cells with telomeres lengthened by the procedure were able to divide up to 40 more times than untreated cells.

The procedure will improve the ability of researchers to generate large numbers of cells for study or drug development and may lead to preventing or treating diseases of aging, the scientists say.

Telomeres are the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes, which house our genomes. In young humans, telomeres are about 8,000–10,000 nucleotides long. They shorten with each cell division, however, and when they reach a critical length, the cell stops dividing or dies. This internal “clock” makes it difficult to keep most cells growing in a laboratory for more than a few cell doublings.

‘Turning back the internal clock’

“Now we have found a way to lengthen human telomeres by as much as 1,000 nucleotides, turning back the internal clock in these cells by the equivalent of many years of human life,” said Helen Blau, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford and director of the university’s Baxter Laboratory for Stem Cell Biology. “This greatly increases the number of cells available for studies such as drug testing or disease modeling.”

A paper describing the research was published in the FASEB Journal. Blau, who also holds the Donald E. and Delia B. Baxter Professorship, is the senior author. Postdoctoral scholar John Ramunas, PhD, of Stanford shares lead authorship with Eduard Yakubov, PhD, of the Houston Methodist Research Institute.

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So is cancer mostly 'bad luck' or not?

So is cancer mostly 'bad luck' or not? | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
News reports that most cases of cancer are the result of bad luck dominated headlines at the start of the year - but they now appear to have been incorrect.
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