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Genetically engineered virus kills liver cancer

Genetically engineered virus kills liver cancer | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
A genetically-engineered virus tested in 30 terminally-ill liver cancer patients significantly prolonged their lives, killing tumours and inhibiting the growth of new ones, scientists reported on Sunday.
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Magic mushrooms 'reset' depressed brain

Magic mushrooms 'reset' depressed brain | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
A hallucinogen found in magic mushrooms can "reset" the brains of people with untreatable depression, raising hopes of a future treatment, scans suggest.

The small study gave 19 patients a single dose of the psychedelic ingredient psilocybin.

Half of patients ceased to be depressed and experienced changes in their brain activity that lasted about five weeks.

However, the team at Imperial College London says people should not self-medicate.

There has been a series of small studies suggesting psilocybin could have a role in depression by acting as a "lubricant for the mind" that allows people to escape a cycle of depressive symptoms.

But the precise impact it might be having on brain activity was not known.

The team at Imperial performed fMRI brain scans before treatment with psilocybin and then the day after (when the patients were "sober" again).

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, showed psilocybin affected two key areas of the brain.

The amygdala - which is heavily involved in how we process emotions such as fear and anxiety - became less active. The greater the reduction, the greater the improvement in reported symptoms.
The default-mode network - a collaboration of different brain regions - became more stable after taking psilocybin.

Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, head of psychedelic research at Imperial, said the depressed brain was being "clammed up" and the psychedelic experience "reset" it.

He told the BBC News website: "Patients were very ready to use this analogy. Without any priming they would say, 'I've been reset, reborn, rebooted', and one patient said his brain had been defragged and cleaned up."

However, this remains a small study and had no "control" group of healthy people with whom to compare the brain scans.

Further, larger studies are still needed before psilocybin could be accepted as a treatment for depression.
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Universal flu vaccine to begin human trials this winter

The flu virus is a crafty foe, constantly adapting to our best weapons. It's an arms race every year, as scientists need to go back to the drawing board and predict how the virus might change. But now we might be gaining the upper hand in the war: a universal flu vaccine has been cleared for widespread human trials in the UK that should be much more effective at destroying different forms of the virus.

The flu might seem common and largely harmless, but the virus is not to be underestimated: the illness spreads easily and in severe cases can annually cause up to half a million deaths worldwide, particularly in people over the age of 65. Every year, it's a race for scientists to develop and deliver vaccines to fight the strains predicted by the World Health Organization to be the most likely to circulate. Unfortunately, the constantly-adapting bug often has other plans, with different strains spreading and undermining the vaccine's effectiveness – that's why you might still get the flu after getting the jab.
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This molecule stores our long-term memories - Futurity

This molecule stores our long-term memories - Futurity | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
New research has uncovered the molecule that stores long-term memories—it’s called calcium/calmodulin dependent protein kinase, or CaMKII for short.

The discovery of the memory molecule resolves one of the oldest mysteries in neuroscience—how do our brains create and retain long-term memories?

The finding also opens up radically new avenues of brain research. One day, by targeting CaMKII, it may be possible to erase the memories that underlie trauma or drug addiction. Though it would raise serious ethical issues, it might also allow us to change our pasts by wiping out recollections of unhappy experiences.

CaMKII has also been found to play a role in Alzheimer’s disease. It’s never been clear if the illness deletes long-term memories or if they remain present, yet inaccessible to recall. A better understanding of CaMKII might clarify this.

“Just like it’s unimaginable that we could understand cells if we didn’t understand DNA, it’s unimaginable that you can understand memory if you don’t know what molecule stores it,” says John Lisman, chair in neuroscience at Brandeis University, whose lab made the discovery.

A memory may feel abstract or immaterial, but it is actually a biochemical process taking place in the brain. It involves neurons communicating with each other via the “wires” or synapses connecting them.

The pathway an electrochemical signal follows as it continually travels from neuron to synapse to neuron constitutes a memory. Whenever you have that memory, the same pathway gets activated. And the more it’s activated, the more it becomes hardwired into the brain’s circuitry. Eventually, it becomes a long-term memory.

Activation also requires enzymes, molecules that set off chemical reactions. The problem is that these enzymes don’t exist for longer than a week. If a memory is to endure, it would seem that the enzymes would have to remain functioning for years or even decades.

Once the enzymes turn off, one would expect the memories to go with them. “This became a holy grail in neuroscience,” Lisman says. “How can a molecule in your brain serve as a memory? How does nature accomplish this?”
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UK scientists edit DNA of human embryos

UK scientists edit DNA of human embryos | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
The blueprint for life - DNA - has been altered in human embryos for the first time in the UK.

The team at the Francis Crick Institute are unravelling the mysteries of the earliest moments of life.

Understanding what happens after a sperm fertilises an egg could lead to ways of improving IVF or explain why some women miscarry.

The embryos were modified shortly after fertilisation and allowed to develop for seven days.

The researchers are exploring one of the most astounding of transformations.

We have all journeyed from a single fertilised egg to a human being - built from myriad different tissues ranging from bone to those needed to read this page.

The first few steps on that journey are as critical as they are poorly understood.

Breakthroughs in manipulating DNA have allowed the team at the Crick to turn off a gene - a genetic instruction - suspected to be of vital importance.

The easiest way of working out how something works is to remove it and see what happens.

So the researchers used the gene-editing tool Crispr-Cas9 to scour the billions of letters of genetic code, find their genetic target and break the DNA to effectively disable it.

They were targeting a gene. You are unlikely to have heard of it, but OCT4 is a superstar in early embryo development.

Its complete role is not understood but it acts like an army general issuing commands to keep development on track.

The researchers used 41 embryos that had been donated by couples who no longer needed them for IVF.

After performing the genetic modification, the team could watch how the embryos developed without OCT4.
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The reason a calorie-restricted diet extends your lifespan is in your genes

You've probably seen some headlines in recent years heralding the correlation between a lowered caloric intake and increased lifespan. The topic has been a rich area of research for decades, but scientists have been unable to successfully explain the phenomenon. New research from a team at Temple University may have finally cracked the puzzle by revealing that epigenetic changes that occur with age can be slowed through a calorie-restricted diet.

The research focused on the process of DNA methylation, a chemical activity that essentially directs when a gene should or shouldn't be expressed. These methylation patterns were found to shift as an animal ages, increasing and decreasing in different genomic areas.

"Our study shows that epigenetic drift, which is characterized by gains and losses in DNA methylation in the genome over time, occurs more rapidly in mice than in monkeys and more rapidly in monkeys than in humans," says senior investigator Jean-Pierre Issa.

Using deep-sequencing technology the team first studied how age-related variations in DNA methylation were correlated with an animal's lifespan. It was discovered that the greater the epigenetic change from methylation, the shorter the animal's lifespan.

Knowing that a great deal of research has already shown how calorie restriction can increase lifespan, the focus of the study then moved on to examining whether reduced dietary calories had a direct effect on epigenetic drift.
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Massive Genetic Study Shows How Humans are Evolving

Massive Genetic Study Shows How Humans are Evolving | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
A huge genetic study that sought to pinpoint how the human genome is evolving suggests that natural selection is getting rid of harmful genetic mutations that shorten people’s lives. The work, published in PLoS Biology, analysed DNA from 215,000 people and is one of the first attempts to probe directly how humans are evolving over one or two generations.

To identify which bits of the human genome might be evolving, researchers scoured large US and UK genetic databases for mutations whose prevalence changed across different age groups. For each person, the parents’ age of death was recorded as a measure of longevity, or their own age in some cases.

“If a genetic variant influences survival, its frequency should change with the age of the surviving individuals,” says Hakhamanesh Mostafavi, an evolutionary biologist at Columbia University in New York City who led the study. People who carry a harmful genetic variant die at a higher rate, so the variant becomes rarer in the older portion of the population.

Mostafavi and his colleagues tested more than 8 million common mutations, and found two that seemed to become less prevalent with age.
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Gut Microbes Could Actually Be Triggering Relapses of Multiple Sclerosis

Gut Microbes Could Actually Be Triggering Relapses of Multiple Sclerosis | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
The role played by the millions of bacteria that live in our intestines is poorly understood, but the more we learn, the more complex it gets.

And, according to two new studies out this week, this microbiome could play a more significant part in multiple sclerosis than we thought.

Multiple sclerosis, which affects 2.5 million people around the world, is thought to be an autoimmune disease. During a relapse, or attack, immune cells breach the blood-brain barrier and enter the central nervous system, something that is highly restricted in healthy people.

These immune cells then attack the protective coating around nerve cells. This causes inflammation in the brain, which in turn causes scarring. These scars are responsible for the physical symptoms of MS.

No one knows what causes it, but a growing body of research is connecting it to the gut microbiome.

Several previous studies have identified microbiome differences between MS patients and healthy people, but new studies by teams at the University of California, San Francisco and the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Germany have identified how the different gut microbiome may play a role.

In the University of California study, led by geneticist Sergio Baranzini, two genera of bacteria, Acinetobacter and Akkermansia, were found to be four times more abundant in MS patients than healthy people.

They also showed that a genus of bacterium called Parabacteroides is four times more abundant in healthy people than MS patients.
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Fitbit's Ionic to offer glucose monitoring for diabetics

Fitbit's Ionic to offer glucose monitoring for diabetics | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Launched late last month, Fitbit's Ionic is the company's attempt at claiming some territory from smartwatch heavyweights like Apple and Garmin. Now the feature-packed wearable is set to gain a handy new piece of functionality, with the ability to display glucose levels on the user's wrist.
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Dual studies suggest high-fat, low-carb diet improves memory and lifespan

Dual studies suggest high-fat, low-carb diet improves memory and lifespan | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Are carbs the new fat? For much of the second half of the 20th century, doctors constantly suggested we avoid high-fat foods, but more recently a new target for our dietary scorn has emerged: carbohydrates. Two new companion studies are suggesting a ketogenic diet – high fat, low protein, and low carbohydrates – could enhance memory, improve physical strength and extend lifespan.

Whether you want to call it the Atkin's Diet, Paleo or simply "Keto," there have been plenty of variations on this way of eating. While some diets suggest no carbohydrates or sugars, many are underwritten by the same theory. The idea is that by severely restricting the body's intake of carbohydrates, a state known as ketosis is entered into. This forces the body to burn stored fats as fuel instead of carbohydrates.

A ketogenic diet certainly does result in weight loss, at least in the short term, but the long-term health effects of this kind of eating have long been cause for controversy among scientists.
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Sleep-boosting cells turn off neurons that keep us awake - Futurity

Sleep-boosting cells turn off neurons that keep us awake - Futurity | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Researchers have found a type of neuron in the brains of mice that appears to play a major part in promoting sleep by “turning off” other neurons meant to promote wakefulness.

The newly identified brain cells, located in a part of the hypothalamus called the zona incerta, the researchers say, could offer novel drug targets to treat sleep disorders, such as insomnia and narcolepsy, caused by the dysfunction of sleep-regulating neurons.

A summary of the research, which appears in the journal Nature, describes neurons that express a gene called Lhx6. Lhx6-expressing cells had not been observed in this area of the brain before and appear to connect the zona incerta to areas of the brain that control sleep and wakefulness.

“Because the hypothalamus is an ancient system that was relatively well-conserved in evolution from fish to humans, understanding its genetics and chemistry in mice should advance our knowledge of what happens in people’s brains,” says Seth Blackshaw, a professor of neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the study’s lead author.

Lhx6 is a gene that is essential for the formation of neurons that inhibit other neurons. “We know cells in other regions of the brain use Lhx6 and that the gene is vital for these areas to develop properly. For example, disrupting Lhx6 expression can result in many diseases, including severe epilepsy,” says Blackshaw. The known function of this gene in other cells led the researchers to study whether the Lhx6-expressing neurons played a role in inhibiting wake-promoting neurons.
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New camera can see through human body - BBC News

New camera can see through human body - BBC News | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Scientists have developed a camera that can see through the human body.

The device has been designed to help doctors track medical tools, known as endoscopes, during internal examinations.

Until now, medics have had to rely on expensive scans, such as X-rays, to trace their progress.

The new camera works by detecting light sources inside the body, such as the illuminated tip of the endoscope's long flexible tube.

Prof Kev Dhaliwal, of the University of Edinburgh, said: "It has immense potential for diverse applications, such as the one described in this work.

"The ability to see a device's location is crucial for many applications in healthcare, as we move forwards with minimally invasive approaches to treating disease."
'Tissues and organs'

Early tests have shown the prototype device can track a point light source through 20cm of tissue under normal conditions.

Beams from the endoscope can pass through the body, but usually scatter or bounce off tissues and organs rather than travelling straight through.

That makes it problematic to get a clear picture of where the tool is.

The new camera can detect individual particles, called photons, and is so sensitive it can catch tiny traces of light passing through tissue.

It can also record the time taken for light to pass through the body, meaning the device is able to work out exactly where the endoscope is.

Researchers have developed the new camera so it can be used at the patient's bedside.
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Metformin could be the first FDA approved antiaging drug | NextBigFuture.com

Metformin could be the first FDA approved antiaging drug | NextBigFuture.com | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
For the last two decades, researchers started comparing the health of diabetics on metformin to those taking other diabetes drugs.

Metformin-takers tended to be healthier in all sorts of ways. They lived longer and had fewer cardiovascular events, and in at least some studies they were less likely to suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s. Most surprising of all, they seemed to get cancer far less frequently—as much as 25 to 40 percent less than diabetics taking two other popular medications. When they did get cancer, they tended to outlive diabetics with cancer who were taking other medications.

Lewis Cantley, the director of the Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine, once put it, “Metformin may have already saved more people from cancer deaths than any drug in history.” Nobel laureate James Watson (of DNA-structure fame), who takes metformin off-label for cancer prevention, once suggested that the drug appeared to be “our only real clue into the business” of fighting the disease.

Metformin is from an ancient herb and the herb has been prescribed since medieval times. Metformin can cost 5 cents per pill.
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The concept of schizophrenia is coming to an end – here's why

The concept of schizophrenia is coming to an end – here's why | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
The concept of schizophrenia is dying. Harried for decades by psychology, it now appears to have been fatally wounded by psychiatry, the very profession that once sustained it. Its passing will not be mourned.

Today, having a diagnosis of schizophrenia is associated with a life-expectancy reduction of nearly two decades. By some criteria, only one in seven people recover. Despite heralded advances in treatments, staggeringly, the proportion of people who recover hasn’t increased over time. Something is profoundly wrong.

Part of the problem turns out to be the concept of schizophrenia itself.

Arguments that schizophrenia is a distinct disease have been “fatally undermined”. Just as we now have the concept of autism spectrum disorder, psychosis (typically characterised by distressing hallucinations, delusions, and confused thoughts) is also argued to exist along a continuum and in degrees. Schizophrenia is the severe end of a spectrum or continuum of experiences.

Jim van Os, a professor of psychiatry at Maastricht University, has argued that we cannot shift to this new way of thinking without changing our language. As such, he proposes the term schizophrenia “should be abolished”. In its place, he suggests the concept of a psychosis spectrum disorder.
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Reading stories creates universal patterns in the brain

Reading stories creates universal patterns in the brain | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
New research shows that when we hear stories, brain patterns appear that transcend culture and language. There may be a universal code that underlies making sense of narratives.

Telling and listening to stories is a pastime that spans all cultures. From crime novels to bedtime stories and from ancient legends to spicy romances, humanity loves a good book.

We are all very used to the idea of stories, but the processes at work in the brain are more complex than it seems.

Following a narrative and understanding the story's meaning and themes, as well as the interaction of causes and effects across time, involves challenging cognitive gymnastics. But of course, our brains make it seem effortless.

Neuroscience has made headway in finding out which brain regions help us to understand smaller chunks of language - words and sentences, that is - but we still have a lot to learn about how the brain understands a narrative. Following a story involves a steady accumulation of meaning.
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Fire ant venom offers new option for psoriasis - Futurity

Fire ant venom offers new option for psoriasis - Futurity | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Compounds derived from fire ant venom can reduce skin thickening and inflammation in a mouse model of psoriasis, research shows.

The findings, published in Scientific Reports, could lead to new treatments for psoriasis, a common autoimmune skin disease. Topical steroids are now the most frequent treatment for mild to moderate psoriasis, but they have side effects such as skin thinning and easy bruising.

Solenopsins are the main toxic components of fire ant venom. They chemically resemble ceramides, which are lipid-like molecules essential for maintaining the barrier function of the skin. Ceramides are in many skin-care products.

Ceramides can act as a double-edged sword, says lead author Jack Arbiser, professor of dermatology at Emory University School of Medicine. Under certain conditions, cells can convert them into S1P (sphingosine-1-phosphate), an inflammatory molecule.

Arbiser and his colleagues devised two solenopsin analogs that look like ceramides, but can’t be degraded into S1P. They then tested them in a mouse model of psoriasis, applying the compounds in a one percent skin cream for 28 days.
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Happy faces really are healthy faces

For thousands of years, we have been obsessed with having a healthy and attractive facial appearance – by any means necessary. The Egyptians crafted eyeliner from kohl, containing lead (definitely not good for you), and at the turn of the last century, people eagerly applied night cream fortified with radium to achieve a healthy glow (even worse).

We know how dangerous these practices are today, but are modern day beauty trends all that different? With acid peels that can permanently damage skin, to injections of the most acutely lethal toxin known to man – under its brand name Botox – the quest for a healthy-looking face has always been fraught with danger.

The reason we put our faces through all of this is straightforward: a healthy looking face brings huge benefits. Healthy looking people are more attractive; we’re more likely to vote for healthy-looking politicians, and a healthy appearance is preferred in faces across the globe.

Scientists have uncovered numerous facial qualities that are linked to health, and have found that people rely on these to judge who is healthy and who isn’t. Some you’re stuck with, like your facial symmetry, or how close your facial shape is to the average shape of the population. These have been shown to be related to health but are fixed aspects of your face.

Others you can change, with a bit of effort. Facial adiposity – the weight that’s carried in your face – for example, is related to your BMI and how many colds you have a year.
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Why haven't we evolved immortality? The answer is in our genes

If evolution works by selecting for the most advantageous genes, it begs the question: why haven't we evolved immortality? According to a decades-old hypothesis, certain genes that promote reproductive success also promote aging later in life, and now a study from Johannes Gutenberg University has identified some of these genes. The team also found that switching off those genes dramatically extended the lifespan of worms.

Getting old and dying is a natural part of life, but that doesn't mean we aren't interested in slowing or stopping it. There's a huge body of science dedicated to fighting aging at the genetic level, to find ways to extend not just our lifespan but our "healthspan" – the percentage of our lives in which we enjoy good health. There's not much point living to 110 if we spend our last 30 years completely bedridden.

But why hasn't evolution already done the heavy lifting for us? Individuals with traits that help them live longer are more likely to pass on their genes, so in theory, aging should have been entirely weeded out by now. To explain this apparent contradiction, in the 1950s biologist George Williams proposed the theory of antagonistic pleiotropy (AP), which operates on the principle of "benefit now, pay later." Essentially, the idea goes that evolution would select for genes that improve an individual's reproductive success in youth, and ignore any negative repercussions later in life because the genes have already been passed onto the next generation.

Williams' theory has since been backed up mathematically, and its effects can be seen in nature, but direct evidence had proven elusive. To test the idea, the Johannes Gutenberg team screened the genes of a worm species called C. elegans, and identified 30 genes that seem to fit the AP bill, helping in youth but turning against the animals in old age.
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Walking DNA nanorobot could deliver a drug to a precise location in your body | KurzweilAI

Walking DNA nanorobot could deliver a drug to a precise location in your body | KurzweilAI | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

DNA nanorobot cargo carrier (artist's impression) (credit: Ella Maru Studio)


 Caltech scientists have developed a “cargo sorting” DNA nanorobot programmed to autonomously “walk” around a surface, pick up certain molecules, and drop them off in designated locations. The research is described in a paper in the Friday, September 15, 2017 issue of Science. The major advance in this study is “their methodology for designing simple DNA devices that work in parallel to solve nontrivial tasks,” notes Duke University computer scientist John H. Reif in an article in the same issue of Science. Such tasks could include synthesizing a drug in a molecular factory or delivering a drug only when a specific signal is present in bloodstreams, say the researchers. “So far, the development of DNA robots has been limited to simple functions,” the researchers note.

The DNA nanorobot, intended as a proof of concept, has a “leg” with two “feet” for walking, and an “arm” and “hand” for picking up cargo. It also has a segment that can recognize a specific drop-off point and signal to the hand to release its cargo. Each of these building blocks are made of just a few nucleotides (molecules that form DNA) within a single strand of DNA.* As the robot encounters cargo molecules tethered to pegs, it grabs them with its “hand” components and carries them around (with a 6-nm step size) until it detects the signal of the drop-off point.

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Getting up every 30 minutes could help you live longer

Research continues to show that sitting down all day is bad for our health (indeed, countless standing desks have launched on the back of this knowledge), but for many, sedentary periods are simply a fact of working life. A wide-ranging new study suggests that regularly splitting up this sitting time can make a difference, with those that do so experiencing a lower risk of death.

"We tend to think of sedentary behavior as just the sheer volume of how much we sit around each day," said Keith Diaz, PhD, associate research scientist in the Department of Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center and lead investigator of the study. "But previous studies have suggested that sedentary patterns – whether an individual accrues sedentary time through several short stretches or fewer long stretches of time – may have an impact on health."

To explore this theory further, Diaz and his fellow researchers tapped into data collected by hip-mounted activity trackers worn by 7,895 adults over the age of 45. The subjects were black and white and were taking part in a US-wide national investigation on racial and regional influences on stroke. This new study is said to be the largest objectively linking sedentary time and patterns with mortality risk.
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Breakthrough: Diagnosing Alzheimer's with diamonds

Breakthrough: Diagnosing Alzheimer's with diamonds | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
One of the most confounding aspects of Alzheimer's Disease is our inability to diagnose the condition with certainty until after death. Now, researchers at Lancaster University (LU) in England are claiming a breakthrough in identifying the disease, even in its early stages, using a sensor embedded with a diamond. The hope is that using the device for early detection will improve the quality and length of life for those afflicted by the disease.

In what the university is calling "the largest and most conclusive study of its kind," LU researchers built a sensor with a diamond core measuring about 2-ft (0.6 m) square, which was attached to a computer. They then analyzed about 550 blood plasma samples from healthy individuals as well as those diagnosed with Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases. Infrared light was passed first through the diamond and then through the sample while the researchers took note of the "fingerprint spectrum" that was produced.

LU professor Francis Martin, principal investigator of the study, explained to New Atlas that by observing the way in which light is absorbed in the sample, the diamond-based analysis could distinguish between various chemical bonds such as those indicative of lipids, proteins, DNA, glycogen, and more.
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Biologists beat back death in fruit flies. Humans next?

Biologists beat back death in fruit flies. Humans next? | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have figured out a way to extend the life of female fruit flies by 20 percent by manipulating what the school has called a "cellular time machine." The biologists who carried out the work are hopeful that their findings will have implications for human aging and help fight off age-related diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

The researchers focused on mitochondria, tiny structures that act a bit like digestive organs inside our cells. These "cellular power plants" take the chemicals and oxygen in our systems provided through food and respiration, and convert them into a molecule known as ATP, which the cell can then use as food. When mitochondria age however, they can become damaged and build up in the body, creating a toxic environment conducive to disease formation.

In the research, UCLA biologists studied the mitochondria in fruit flies and figured out that as the insects reach middle age – which, for a fruit fly, is about one month old – their mitochondria change shape, making it tough for their cells to clear them out when the organelles are no longer functioning properly.
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'Pen' identifies cancer in 10 seconds - BBC News

'Pen' identifies cancer in 10 seconds - BBC News | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
A handheld device can identify cancerous tissue in 10 seconds, according to scientists at the University of Texas.

They say it could make surgery to remove a tumour quicker, safer and more precise.

And they hope it would avoid the "heartbreak" of leaving any of the cancer behind.

Tests, published in Science Translational Medicine, suggest the technology is accurate 96% of the time.

The MasSpec Pen takes advantage of the unique metabolism of cancer cells.

Their furious drive to grow and spread means their internal chemistry is very different to that of healthy tissue.
How it works

The pen is touched on to a suspected cancer and releases a tiny droplet of water.

Chemicals inside the living cells move into the droplet, which is then sucked back up the pen for analysis.

The pen is plugged into a mass spectrometer - a piece of kit that can measure the mass of thousands of chemicals every second.

It produces a chemical fingerprint that tells doctors whether they are looking at healthy tissue or cancer.

The challenge for surgeons is finding the border between the cancer and normal tissue.

In some tumours it is obvious, but in others the boundary between healthy and diseased tissue can be blurred.

The pen should help doctors ensure none of the cancer is left behind.

Remove too little tissue, and any remaining cancerous cells will grow into another tumour. But take too much, and you can cause damage, particularly in organs such as the brain.

Livia Eberlin, an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Texas, Austin, told the BBC: "What's exciting about this technology is how clearly it meets a clinical need.

"The tool is elegant and simple and can be in the hands of surgeons in a short time."
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Why being aware of your mortality can be good for you

Why being aware of your mortality can be good for you | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Nobody likes to think about lying on their death bed. From health anxiety to midlife crises, it seems like thoughts about ageing and death can often unleash some level of neurosis. But is that the whole story? We have examined mortality awareness – the realisation that we are all one day going to die – and found that, although the prospect of death is often scary, it can also have positive effects.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, research on death awareness so far has focused largely on the negative aspects of realising that we will eventually stop living. Indeed, until now, the dominant psychological theory has been “terror management theory”, which assumes that contemplating our demise invokes fear and anxiety. For example, studies using this framework have found that thinking about death can make us more punitive and prejudiced.

However, throughout the years, literature from various fields has offered other explanations. For example, “positive psychology” proposes concepts such as “post-traumatic growth” – the idea that people can grow psychologically through traumatic experiences. Thinking about the fact that we will die may be hard, but according to this theory it could also help us to get stronger psychologically.
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A Brilliant New Cancer Treatment That Re-Engineers Human Cells Just Got Approved

A Brilliant New Cancer Treatment That Re-Engineers Human Cells Just Got Approved | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just approved a cutting-edge cancer therapy.

On Wednesday, the FDA approved Novartis's Kymriah, also known as tisagenlecleucel, a treatment for pediatric acute lymphoblastic lymphoblastic leukemia.

"I think this is most exciting thing I've seen in my lifetime," Dr. Tim Cripe, an oncologist who was part of the FDA advisory committee panel that voted in favour of approving the drug in July.

The highly personalised treatment is called CAR T-cell therapy. It's a type of cancer immunotherapy — or a therapy that harnesses the body's immune system to take on cancer cells.

"We're entering a new frontier in medical innovation with the ability to reprogram a patient's own cells to attack a deadly cancer," FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement.

"New technologies such as gene and cell therapies hold out the potential to transform medicine and create an inflection point in our ability to treat and even cure many intractable illnesses. At the FDA, we're committed to helping expedite the development and review of groundbreaking treatments that have the potential to be life-saving."

Short for chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy, CAR-T treatment takes a person's own cells, removes them from the body, re-engineers them, and then puts the cells back in the body where they can attack cancer cells.
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99 percent of microbes in your body are completely unknown to science

99 percent of microbes in your body are completely unknown to science | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Whenever you feel lonely, just remember: you're always carrying several hundred trillion friends with you. A dizzying number of microbes call the human body home, and it turns out that science knows very little about most of them. In fact, a new Stanford survey of the foreign DNA fragments circulating in the human body has found that 99 percent of microbes inside us are completely unknown to science.

The discovery was initially made by accident, as a team investigated less invasive ways to predict whether a patient's body would reject a transplanted organ. Rather than the wholly unpleasant experience of having a tissue biopsy taken, the researchers were studying whether a simple blood sample would suffice. Essentially, the idea was that if they found fragments of the organ donor's DNA circulating in a patient's blood, it was a good indication that the body was rejecting the transplant.

Along with the patient's DNA and potentially that of the organ donor, the technique gives an insight into that person's microbiome – the trillions of bacteria, viruses and other microbes that live throughout the body. Of all the non-human DNA floating around in there, the team found that a staggering 99 percent didn't match anything in existing genetic databases.

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