There are numerous research efforts underway to develop new treatments and improve the lives of people suffering type 2 diabetes, whose ranks have increased dramatically in recent decades due in large part to the so-called obesity epidemic. A new generation of safer and more effective diabetes drugs could be in the offing with researchers at the Salk Institute discovering that when mice with diet-induced diabetes were given a single injection of a protein, their blood sugar levels were restored to a healthy range for more than two days.
Although type 2 diabetes can sometimes be managed through a healthy diet and regular exercise in the initial stages, tablets that boost the body's production of insulin are generally prescribed as the disease progresses. Such tablets can have side effects, including nausea and diarrhea, and aren't suitable for everyone, such as pregnant women and those with severe liver, kidney or heart disease. They can also cause blood glucose levels to drop too low, potentially resulting in hypoglycemia.
Now Salk researchers have found that injecting obese mice with the equivalent of type 2 diabetes in humans with a single dose of protein FGF1 quickly restored their blood glucose levels to normal levels where they remained for more than two days. Importantly, even when given high doses, the mice suffered none of the side effects common to most current diabetes treatments, such as weight gain or heart and liver problems.
Mice lacking a specific protein (TRAP-1) live longer lives with fewer age-related illnesses, such as tissue degeneration, obesity, and spontaneous tumor formation, when compared with normal mice, researchers at The Wistar Institute have...
Study with Duke and Stanford Universities aims to revolutionise treatment of disease through the study of healthy people. By Samuel Gibbs
Google’s latest project from its Google X “moonshot” division is every bit as ambitious as some of its robotics and communications projects like Glass.
Google wants to map how the human body behaves when it’s healthy, which could dramatically improve modern medicine.
What are they doing?
The Baseline study is a scientific investigation into what it means to be healthy. It will collect data from healthy individuals, crunch the numbers and define a healthy state for a human being from real-world people.
Why study the healthy?
Why study someone who isn’t sick? Modern medicine is good at treating diseases with obvious symptoms. But at the point at which a disease is showing symptoms severe enough to send someone to the doctor, the disease has been running wild within that person’s body for a good while.
By defining a baseline of what it means to be healthy, it is a lot easier to detect changes and pick up serious, life-threatening diseases before they become dangerous. Catching illness much earlier can either diminish the impact or neutralise the disease before symptoms appear.
Who's being studied?
Google’s study will initially take 175 volunteers from various groups of ethnicity, habit and area and conduct testing of methods and practices to inform a much larger study later on. That small select group of people is expected to expand to around 400 or so by the end of the year.
Scientists have already successfully coaxed stem cells into becoming red blood cells, which could be used to create "man-made" blood for transfusion. Red blood cells, however, aren't the only component of human blood. Now, researchers at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital have also created functional human platelets, using a bioreactor that simulates the medium in which blood cells are naturally produced – bone marrow.
The main role of platelets (also known as thrombocytes) is to stop wounds from bleeding, by essentially "plugging the hole" in the skin with a clot. Without sufficient numbers of them in the blood, spontaneous and excessive bleeding can occur. Such shortages can be caused by diseases, as a result of undergoing chemotherapy, or by other factors. In these situations, transfusions of platelets harvested from donated blood are often necessary.
In previous studies, scientists have successfully gotten induced pluripotent stem cells to change into megakaryocytes – these are the cells that ordinarily sit in the bone marrow and release platelets into the bloodstream. Unfortunately, it's proven difficult to get those lab-grown megakaryocytes to produce platelets outside of the body.
That's where Brigham and Women’s new "bioreactor-on-a-chip" comes into the picture. By mimicking bone marrow's extracellular matrix composition, stiffness, micro-channel size and shear forces, it persuades the megakaryocytes to produce anywhere from 10 to 90 percent more platelets than was previously possible.
When a soldier is wounded on an extremity such as an arm or leg, applying a bandage and/or tourniquet to stop the bleeding is typically a fairly straight-ahead process. However, in cases where an injury is received right at the junction between an extremity and the torso – places such as the neck, shoulder or groin – things get a lot trickier. Gauze pads treated with clotting agents are often packed into the wound, although they're not always sufficient for staunching the flow. A group of students from Johns Hopkins University are working on a better alternative, in the form of a hardening foam that's injected into the wound.
The treatment system is based around a syringe-style device that contains two liquids, namely polyol and a diisocyanatein, that are kept in separate compartments – it's not unlike one of those two-part epoxy applicators.
The idea is that when a medic is treating an injured soldier on the battlefield, they use a single plunger on the device to simultaneously inject the two liquids into the wound. As the liquids mix, a chemical reaction occurs. This causes them to transform into a polyurethane foam that expands to fill the wound cavity, and then hardens.
When a soldier is wounded right at the junction between an extremity and the torso, it can be difficult to treat. A group of students from Johns Hopkins Un...
A new study has addressed the relationship between personality and heart attacks. Distressed (type D) personality (TDP), characterized by high negative affectivity (NA) and social inhibition (SI), along with depression, anxiety and other negative affects (such as demoralization, hopelessness, pessimism and rumination) have been implicated as potential risk factors for coronary artery disease. While some evidence suggests that the NA dimension of TDP overlaps at least partially with depression, other studies underline how ‘TDP refers to a chronic, more covert form of distress that is distinct from depression'.
Scientists have developed a new technique to regrow human corneas.
Using key tracer molecules, researchers have been able to hunt down elusive cells in the eye capable of regeneration and repair.
They transplanted these regenerative stem cells into mice - creating fully functioning corneas.
Writing in the journal Nature, they say this method may one day help restore the sight of victims of burns and chemical injuries.
Limbal stem cells (LSC) are crucial for healthy eyesight - these cells work to maintain, repair and completely renew our corneas every few weeks.
Without them the cornea - the transparent outermost layer of the eye - would become cloudy and our vision disrupted.
A deficiency of these cells due to disease or damage through injury to the eye are among the commonest reasons behind blindness worldwide.
But the cells have so far been extremely difficult to identify, buried in a matrix of other structures in the limbal part of the eye - the junction between the cornea and the white of the eye (the sclera).
Over the past few decades, cardiac pacemaker technology has improved to the point that pacemakers have become a commonplace medical implant that have helped improve or save the lives of many millions of people around the world. Unfortunately, the battery technology used to power these devices has not kept pace and the batteries need to be replaced on average every seven years, which requires further surgery. To address this problem, a group of researchers from Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) has developed a cardiac pacemaker that is powered semi-permanently by harnessing energy from the body's own muscles.
The research team, headed by Professor Keon Jae Lee of KAIST and Professor Boyoung Joung, M.D. at Severance Hospital of Yonsei University, has created a flexible piezoelectric nanogenerator that has been used to directly stimulate the heart of a live rat using electrical energy produced from small body movements of the animal.
Liposuction may be a popular method of instant body fat reduction, but it certainly isn't perfect. Patients can experience bruising, there can be lumps that have to be addressed with a second procedure, plus things other than fat cells – such as connective tissue and nerves – can inadvertently also get removed. Two researchers, however, are developing what could be a better form of liposuction, that involves first using injected gold microparticles to melt the fat.
The technique was conceived by University of California, San Diego nanomedicine expert Adah Almutairi, and her brother Khalid who is a plastic and reconstructive surgeon. They were inspired by earlier research in which injected gold nanoparticles were drawn specifically to cancer cells, then heated up using near-infrared light to effectively "cook" those cells while leaving others unharmed.
The Almutairis believe that something similar could be done to fat cells.
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.
A carbs-rich diet has been blamed for the alarming explosion of obesity and chronic disease. What does the science show?
A decade ago, I said goodbye to wheat. I had been carrying around 15 extra pounds since high school and I was sick of it. A friend claimed that going wheat-free helped her lose weight and feel more energetic. A diet that didn’t require counting calories? Sounded good to me, so I gave it a shot. Six months later, those 15 pounds, close to seven kilos, were history.
Slowly, wheat found its way back into my world – oh how I missed bread! – and in 2009 I decided I was done. I haven’t regained much of the weight, nor do I feel different now. I can’t help but wonder, then, why my diet worked. Was it that my body truly functioned better without wheat? Was the claim true that carbohydrates, especially grains, promoted weight gain more than other types of foods?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 107 million blood donations are collected around the globe every year, most of which goes on to help save lives. However, while the need for blood is global, much of that which is donated is not accessible to many who need it, such as those in developing countries. And of the blood donated in industrialized countries, the amount often falls short of requirements. To help address this imbalance, scientists at the University of Essex are developing an artificial blood substitute that would provide a benign, virus-free alternative for blood transfusions.
The artificial blood substitute being developed by the University of Essex's Haem02 project would be able to be stored at room temperatures for up to two years, which would allow it to be distributed worldwide without the need for refrigeration and make it immediately accessible at the site of natural disasters. Best of all, as a claimed universal blood replacement it could be administered to anyone, regardless of blood type.
"It means we could overcome some of the inherent problems with transfusions as there would be no need for blood group typing and a longer shelf life means you are able to stockpile the supplies necessary for major disasters," explained Professor Cooper, a biochemist and blood substitute expert who is leading the research project. "It also offers the opportunity for routine transfusion support in ambulances or at remote inaccessible locations."
Doctors are being told not to routinely prescribe aspirin for a common heart condition that increases stroke risk.
Guidelines from the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) are set to recommend other drugs instead for patients with an irregular heartbeat, called atrial fibrillation.
Warfarin or similar blood-thinning medicine is best, says NICE in draft advice to be finalised this month.
The advice will affect hundreds of thousands of patients.
But experts say most doctors already follow the advice to prescribe blood-thinners other than aspirin and that the guidelines are "playing catch-up" - this is the first time they will have been updated since they were first issued in 2006.
Researchers have linked eating baked or broiled fish with brain health later in life—but say it's not about the omega-3 fatty acids.
The findings, published online in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, add to growing evidence that lifestyle factors contribute to brain health later in life.
Scientists estimate that more than 80 million people will have dementia by 2040, which could become a substantial burden to families and drive up health care costs, according to senior investigator James T. Becker, professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
Some studies have predicted that lifestyle changes such as a reduction in rates of physical inactivity, smoking, and obesity could lead to fewer cases of Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions of cognitive impairment in the elderly.
The antioxidant effect of omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in high amounts in fish, seeds, and nuts, and certain oils, also have been associated with improved health, particularly brain health.
A universal blood test screening for cancer is the goal of a lab at the University of Bradford, reducing unneeded and expensive biopsies.
Although many dread the prick of a blood test, most would find it a preferable testing method to invasive and expensive biopsies. That's why a blood test for cancer is the goal of many research efforts, including one at the University of Bradford in the UK, where researchers are claiming to have devised a simple universal blood test for the disease that relies on the fact that white blood cells in cancer patients are already damaged from battling cancerous cells.
"White blood cells are part of the body’s natural defense system," says Professor Diana Anderson, who led the research. "We know that they are under stress when they are fighting cancer or other diseases, so I wondered whether anything measurable could be seen if we put them under further stress with UVA light."
To put her theory to the test, the University of Bradford team used a comet assay, which involves exposing DNA to UV light and applying an electric field to induce it to travel through an agar medium. The more damaged the DNA, the more elongated its comet-like tail, as the structure is no longer as tightly compressed together.
"We found that people with cancer have DNA which is more easily damaged by ultraviolet light than other people," says Anderson. "So the test shows the sensitivity to damage of all the DNA – the genome – in a cell."
For people who don't already know, here's the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes: the body produces little or no insulin in the case of type 1, and isn't able to utilize the insulin that it does produce in type 2. It's a significant difference, so it's important that patients are diagnosed correctly. Thanks to a new microchip developed by a team at Stanford University led by Dr. Brian Feldman, doing so could soon be quicker, cheaper and easier than ever before.
In order to determine that a patient has type 1 diabetes as opposed to type 2, tests must be performed to confirm the presence of tell-tale antibodies in a sample of their blood. These tests must be performed by extensively-trained personnel in a lab, they involve the use of radioactive materials, take days to get results, and cost hundreds of dollars per test.
Because of these factors, the tests are sometimes not even performed, as it's generally assumed that children will get type 1 and adults will get type 2. In recent years, however, childhood obesity has caused a rise in the number of kids getting type 2, plus there's also a puzzling increase in adults with type 1.
That's where the Stanford chip comes in.
It can be incorporated into a hand-held device that could be used in the field with minimal training, delivering results in minutes. The chip doesn't require any radioactive material, is worth about $20, and can be used for about 15 tests before needing to be replaced. Additionally, it only requires a drop of blood, as opposed to the larger amount needed in the traditional system.
Similar memories overlap physically in the brain and this produces less confusion if the brain area responsible is larger, according to new research.
Scientists scanned the brains of 15 people recalling four similar scenes, in a study published in PNAS.
They spotted overlapping memory traces in a specific corner of the hippocampus called "CA3", a known memory area.
If their CA3 was bigger, the subjects were less confused and there was less overlap in the traces.
Most of us store many similar memories, relating to the places we spend most time and the people we know best. Normally we can tell them apart, though some of us may be better at it than others.
The CA3 region was thought to process each memory using distinct sets of brain cells. These findings suggest, however, that when two episodes incorporate similar content, they may in fact be "remembered" by physically overlapping networks - and more space could be beneficial.
"Our results may help to explain why we sometimes find it difficult to differentiate between similar past memories, and why some people are better at doing this than others," said Prof Eleanor Maguire, the study's senior author, from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London (UCL).
The 15 subjects watched four short movies, showing two different actions happening in each of two different places. They were then prompted to remember each one, 20 times over, inside a brain scanner.
Scans revealed distinguishable memory activity in the CA3 region, but not three other compartments of the hippocampus. Importantly, the four different memory traces showed significant overlap.
Furthermore, that overlap was more apparent in people who said they were more confused by the similarities between the four memories.
Some obese people may be able to remain metabolically healthy despite their size because their bodies produce low levels of a certain molecule, according to a study published today in the journal Cell.
High levels of the molecule, called heme oxygenase-1 or HO-1, are linked to metabolic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, as well as high blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol, which lead to these diseases.
Early tests in mice show that blocking HO-1 can improve metabolic healthiness. This suggests a potential new strategy for treating obesity-related disease.
Past research has estimated 25-30% of obese people have no metabolic illnesses or risk factors. But the reasons were unknown.
So the research team from the Medical University of Vienna and the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Freiburg, Germany, set out to investigate whether HO-1 was responsible.
In studies of human tissue, they found higher levels of HO-1 in liver and fat biopsies from people who were obese and insulin-resistant compared with obese people who were metabolically healthy.
Using mouse models, the researchers then deleted the HO-1 gene in immune cells called macrophages. This left the mice with better liver function and an increase in insulin sensitivity, indicating improved metabolic health.
As one of the strongest predictors of unhealthy obesity, the researchers said the HO-1 molecule was now a candidate biomarker for identifying metabolically unhealthy obese people to detect the onset of disease.
“This could allow clinicians to use targeted interventions to prevent disease progression specifically in obese individuals who show early signs of type 2 diabetes,“ senior study author J. Andrew Pospisilik, from the Max Planck Institute, told Cell.
With the continuing need for very small devices in therapeutic applications, there is a growing demand for the development of nanoparticles that can transport and deliver drugs to target cells in the human body.
Recently, researchers created nanoparticles that under the right conditions, self-assemble – trapping complementary guest molecules within their structure. Like tiny submarines, these versatile nanocarriers can navigate in the watery environment surrounding cells and transport their guest molecules through the membrane of living cells to sequentially deliver their cargo.
Although the transport of molecules inside cells with nanoparticles has been previously achieved using various methods, researchers have developed nanoparticles capable of delivering and exchanging complementary molecules. For practical applications, these nanocarriers are highly desirable, explains Francisco Raymo, professor of chemistry in the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences and lead investigator of this project.
"The ability to deliver distinct species inside cells independently and force them to interact, exclusively in the intracellular environment, can evolve into a valuable strategy to activate drugs inside cells," Raymo says.
The new nanocarriers are15 nanometers in diameter. They are supramolecular constructs made up of building blocks called amphiphilic polymers. These nanocarriers hold the guest molecules within the confines of their water-insoluble interior and use their water-soluble exterior to travel through an aqueous environment. As a result, these nanovehicles are ideal for transferring molecules that would otherwise be insoluble in water, across a liquid environment.
Humans have some regenerative abilities but compared to creatures like the salamander, which has an amazing ability to regenerate after injury, we’re pretty limited. Not only are salamanders the only adult vertebrates able to regrow full limbs, they’re able to regenerate an impressive repertoire of complex structures including parts of their hearts, eyes, spinal cord and tails.
In recent years, researchers have been studying salamander regeneration in the hope that the knowledge gathered would contribute to understanding how can they regenerate, and how to promote human regeneration.
Although we do not yet understand the exact mechanisms by which salamanders are able to regrow their limbs, we do know that this animal regeneration takes place by the reprogramming of adult cells. This means that for regeneration to take place, adult cells – such as muscle cells – that form the limb have to lose their muscle identity and proliferate to give rise to new cells that will contribute to form the new structure.
This process is rarely found in mammalian cells and this has been suggested as the basis for their poor regenerative abilities. But clearly, unravelling the mechanisms underlying this reprogramming is central to understanding why certain vertebrates can regenerate their limbs while others can’t, and how to repeat this process in humans. If we were able to crack this puzzle, it could lead to strategies to enhance the reprogramming of cells from patients, and to better understand their disease and design appropriate cures.
A successful prototype suggests that surgeons could one day implant glaucoma-sensing devices in the eye during cataract surgery.
Researchers have designed a high-tech, low-power sensor that can be placed permanently in a person’s eye to track hard-to-measure changes in pressure and monitor for diseases like glaucoma.
The sensor would be embedded with an artificial lens during cataract surgery and would detect pressure changes instantaneously, then transmit the data wirelessly using radio frequency waves.
“No one has ever put electronics inside the lens of the eye, so this is a little more radical,” says Karl Böhringer, professor of electrical engineering at University of Washington. “We have shown this is possible in principle. If you can fit this sensor device into an intraocular lens implant during cataract surgery, it won’t require any further surgery for patients.”
Oxytocin, a hormone associated with nurture and romance, can quickly repair muscles in older mice, new research shows.
“This is the hormone that makes your heart melt when you see kittens, puppies, and human babies,” says Irina Conboy, associate professor of bioengineering at the University of California, Berkeley. “There is an ongoing joke among my research team that we’re all happy, friendly, and trusting because oxytocin permeates the lab.”
Oxytocin is released with a warm hug, a grasped hand, or a loving gaze, and it increases libido. The hormone kicks into high gear during and after childbirth, helping new mothers bond with and breastfeed their new babies. While oxytocin is found in both young boys and girls, it is not yet known when levels of the hormone start to decline in humans, and what levels are necessary for maintaining healthy tissues.
A few other biochemical factors in blood have been connected to aging and disease in recent years, but oxytocin is the first anti-aging molecule identified that is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for clinical use in humans.
Pitocin, a synthetic form of oxytocin, is already used to help with labor and to control bleeding after childbirth. Clinical trials of an oxytocin nasal spray are also under way to alleviate symptoms associated with mental disorders such as autism, schizophrenia, and dementia.
Study in mice suggests new way to fight obesity and diabetes
What if you could trick your body into thinking you were racing on a treadmill—and burning off calories at a rapid clip—while simply walking down the street? Changing our rate of energy expenditure is still far into the future, but work in mice explores how this might happen. Two teams of scientists suggest that activating immune cells in fat can convert the tissue from a type of fat that stores energy to one that burns it, opening up potential new therapies for obesity and diabetes.
There are two types of fat in humans: white adipose tissue, which makes up nearly all the fat in adults, and brown adipose tissue, which is found in babies but disappears as they age. Brown fat protects against the cold (it’s also common in animals that hibernate), and researchers have found that mice exposed to cold show a temporary “browning” of some of their white fat. The same effect occurred in preliminary studies of people, where the browning—which creates a tissue known as beige fat—helps generate heat and burn calories. But cold is “the only stimulus we know that can increase beige fat mass or brown fat mass,” says Ajay Chawla, a physiologist at the University of California (UC), San Francisco. He wanted to better understand how cold caused this change in the tissue and whether there was a way to mimic cold and induce browning some other way.