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

Open Your Mind to the New Psychedelic Science | Wired Science | Wired.com | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
In recent years, a small cadre of scientists has cautiously rekindled the scientific study of psychedelics.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Human Umbilical Blood Has Regenerated the Brains of Elderly Mice

Human Umbilical Blood Has Regenerated the Brains of Elderly Mice | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Researchers have regenerated the memories and learning abilities of elderly mice by injecting their brains with proteins taken from human umbilical cord blood.

The blood of human teenagers had previously been shown to rejuvenate ageing mice, but this new study shows that blood from the umbilical cords of babies could have even more powerful effects.

Based on these findings, the researchers suggest properties in umbilical blood could one day be used to slow down neurological degeneration in elderly human brains, too.

But these results are yet to be replicated in humans, so we can't get too carried away.

"The really exciting thing about this study, and previous studies that have come before it, is that we've sort of tapped into previously unappreciated potential of our blood - our plasma - and what it can do for reversing the harmful effects of aging on the brain," lead researcher Joe Castellano from Stanford University School of Medicine told NPR.

In the latest study, the researchers collected blood from humans at three different ages: babies' umbilical cords; young people aged between 19 to 24 years old; and older people aged between 61 and 82.

The team then injected plasma taken from these blood samples into mice that were the equivalent of around 50 years old.

Impressively, the mice that received the plasma from umbilical cord blood started to perform better on behavioural tests than their peers, and their memories also improved - they were better at remembering the way out of a maze.
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Scientists Discover a Hidden Network of 'Mini Brains' That Could Be Responsible for Pain

Scientists Discover a Hidden Network of 'Mini Brains' That Could Be Responsible for Pain | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Scientists have found evidence of a hidden network of 'mini brains' that could overhaul our understanding of how pain is transmitted throughout the body, and revolutionise the way we design pain medication.

The current assumption is that pain sensations are only interpreted by the central nervous system - the brain and spinal cord. But the new research suggests that the peripheral nervous system plays a much more important role that's been eluding us for centuries.

To be clear, this research has only been done in rats and mice for now, and the results need to be replicated in humans before we think about rewriting the textbooks.

But given the similarities between rodent and human nervous systems, the finding provides a pretty compelling reason to take a closer look at the peripheral nervous system in humans, too. Especially given the ongoing struggle to create effective pain relief for chronic and severe pain.

"We don't yet know how the system works, but the machinery is definitely in place to allow the peripheral system to interpret and modify the tactile information perceived by the brain in terms of interpreting pain, warmth or the solidity of objects," said lead researcher Nikita Gamper from the University of Leeds in the UK.

"Further research is needed to understand exactly how it operates, but we have no reason to believe that the same nerve arrangements would not exist in humans."

The peripheral nervous system is the name given to all the nerves that feed into the central nervous system from around our body.
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FDA approves home genetic tests for Alzheimer's and other diseases

FDA approves home genetic tests for Alzheimer's and other diseases | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has finally approved a direct-to-consumer genetic screening service into the market, after initially banning the device back in 2013 following concerns about the public health consequences of inaccurate results.

The company 23andMe was founded in 2006 with the goal of bringing genetic testing to the general public. Its saliva testing kits claimed to offer the subject a variety of genetic information from whether you are at risk for some inherited diseases to what parts of the world your ancestry heralds from. On initial release the company was providing results to customers indicating risk levels for 254 diseases and conditions.

Because the reliability of many of those genetic markers were questioned, the FDA pulled the plug on the service in 2013, expressing concern that "assessments for drug responses carry the risks that patients relying on such tests may begin to self-manage their treatments through dose changes or even abandon certain therapies depending on the outcome of the assessment."
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Fixing lousy sleep could keep us healthy longer - Futurity

Fixing lousy sleep could keep us healthy longer - Futurity | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
The unmet sleep needs of the elderly elevate their risk of memory loss and a wide range of mental and physical disorders, say researchers.

As we age, bouts of wakefulness, trips to the bathroom, and other nuisances plague our nights as we lose the ability to generate restorative deep sleep we once enjoyed. Does this mean older people need less sleep?

Not according to the new article in Neuron.

“Nearly every disease killing us in later life has a causal link to lack of sleep,” says senior author, Matthew Walker, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley. “We’ve done a good job of extending life span, but a poor job of extending our health span. We now see sleep, and improving sleep, as a new pathway for helping remedy that.”

Unlike more cosmetic markers of aging, such as wrinkles and gray hair, sleep deterioration has been linked to such conditions as Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and stroke, Walker says.

Though older people are less likely than younger cohorts to notice and/or report mental fogginess and other symptoms of sleep deprivation, numerous brain studies reveal how poor sleep leaves them cognitively worse off.
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Scientists Think They Have Another Reason Humans Became Smarter Than Our Ancestors - Blood

Scientists Think They Have Another Reason Humans Became Smarter Than Our Ancestors - Blood | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Anthropologists have been curious about the evolution of human intelligence for many decades. The main lines of research have involved archaeological finds concerning the use of fire, tools and so on. The Conversation

But what about looking for evidence in fossil skulls, the place where the brain resided?

The volume of the human brain increased to be about three and a half times larger than our Australopithecus ancestors 3 million years ago.

It is generally assumed that intelligence is correlated with brain size, and the reason for this is that the number of nerve cells in mammalian brains seems to be directly related to brain size.

Our research focused on the rate of blood flow to the brain, which relates closely to metabolic rate because the blood supplies the essential oxygen. If blood flow to your brain is stopped, you will pass out within seconds.

Normally you have about 7 millilitres of blood flowing to your brain each second. Remarkably, this rate changes little, regardless of whether you are awake, asleep or solving mathematical problems.

The brain's plumbing

The blood flow to the cognitive part of the brain, the cerebrum, comes through two internal carotid arteries, one on the right and one on the left. The size of these arteries is related to the rate of blood flow through them.
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Two-Thirds of Cancer Mutations Are Random and Unavoidable, Scientists Claim

Two-Thirds of Cancer Mutations Are Random and Unavoidable, Scientists Claim | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Almost two-thirds of cancer mutations are caused by random DNA-copying errors during cell division and are impossible for us to avoid, regardless of lifestyle and the genes we inherit from our parents, according to new research.

The findings – which estimate that 66 percent of cancer mutations are effectively bad luck that we can't do anything about – support the conclusions of a controversial paper released in 2015 by the same researchers, which came under fire for appearing to suggest that there was nothing we could do to prevent various cancers.

This time around, the team from Johns Hopkins University are at pains to emphasise that their findings don't contradict what we know about cancer prevention – nor detract from the importance of environment and heredity in terms of causing cancer.

"It is well-known that we must avoid environmental factors such as smoking to decrease our risk of getting cancer. But it is not as well-known that each time a normal cell divides and copies its DNA to produce two new cells, it makes multiple mistakes," says biostatistician Cristian Tomasetti.

"These copying mistakes are a potent source of cancer mutations that historically have been scientifically undervalued, and this new work provides the first estimate of the fraction of mutations caused by these mistakes."
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A good night's sleep is like hitting the jackpot - Futurity

A good night's sleep is like hitting the jackpot - Futurity | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Working on getting a better night’s sleep can lead to optimal physical and mental well-being over time—but quality of sleep is more important than quantity.

For a new study, researchers analyzed the sleep patterns of more than 30,500 people in UK households over four years and discovered that better sleep leads to levels of mental and physical health comparable to those of somebody who’s won a jackpot of around £200,000.

Positive changes in sleep over time—improved quality and quantity, and using less sleep medication—are linked with improved scores on the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ), which is used by mental health professionals to monitor psychological well-being in patients.

People surveyed who reported positive improved sleep scored a 2-point change in the GHQ—a result comparable to those recorded from patients completing an eight-week program of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy designed to improve psychological well-being.
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"Super Agers" Have Brains That Look Young

"Super Agers" Have Brains That Look Young | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
As we get older, we start to think a little bit more slowly, we are less able to multitask and our ability to remember things gets a little wobblier. This cognitive transformation is linked to a steady, widespread thinning of the cortex, the brain's outermost layer. Yet the change is not inevitable. So-called super agers retain their good memory and thicker cortex as they age, a recent study suggests.

Researchers believe that studying what makes super agers different could help unlock the secrets to healthy brain aging and improve our understanding of what happens when that process goes awry. “Looking at successful aging could provide us with biomarkers for predicting resilience and for things that might go wrong in people with age-related diseases like Alzheimer's and dementia,” says study co-author Alexandra Touroutoglou, a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School.

Touroutoglou and her team gave standard recall tests to a group of 40 participants between the ages of 60 and 80 and 41 participants aged 18 to 35. Among the older participants, 17 performed as well as or better than adults four to five decades younger. When the researchers looked at MRI scans of the super agers' brains, they found that their brains not only functioned more like young brains, they also looked very similar.
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Are Your Sperm in Trouble?

Let’s begin with sex.

As a couple finishes its business, millions of sperm begin theirs: rushing toward an egg to fertilize it. But these days, scientists say, an increasing proportion of sperm — now about 90 percent in a typical young man — are misshapen, sometimes with two heads or two tails.

Even when properly shaped, today’s sperm are often pathetic swimmers, veering like drunks or paddling crazily in circles. Sperm counts also appear to have dropped sharply in the last 75 years, in ways that affect our ability to reproduce.

“There’s been a decrease not only in sperm numbers, but also in their quality and swimming capacity, their ability to deliver the goods,” said Shanna Swan, an epidemiologist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who notes that researchers have also linked semen problems to shorter life expectancy.

Perhaps you were expecting another column about political missteps in Washington, and instead you’ve been walloped with talk of bad swimmers. Yet this isn’t just a puzzling curiosity, but is rather an urgent concern that affects reproduction, possibly even our species’ future.
Continue reading the main story

Andrea Gore, a professor of pharmacology at the University of Texas at Austin and the editor of the journal Endocrinology, put it to me this way: “Semen quality and fertility in men have decreased. Not everyone who wants to reproduce will be able to. And the costs of male disorders to quality of life, and the economic burden to society, are inestimable.”

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Drug tag team clobbers antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Drug tag team clobbers antibiotic-resistant bacteria | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Penicillin has been around since 1928, which means the bugs it's meant to fight have had almost 100 years to develop strategies to survive its effects. As more and more bacterial infections become impervious to penicillin and the other antibiotics that belong to the penicillin group, finding alternative ways to beat down deadly infections is becoming more critical than ever. Now researchers have found what all good combat specialists have long known – getting each other's back in a fight can be a winning strategy.

The bacteria that are immune to penicillins like amoxicillin and ampicillin release enzymes called beta-lactamases that shred the antibiotics, rendering them useless. Some bacteria can defeat even newly developed penicillins by putting out a group of bacterial beta-lactamases called metallo-beta-lactamases (MBLs). One such group of bacteria are those called carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae or CRE, which cause infections that, according to the CDC can kill up to half of their victims.

In a study led by Robert A. Bonomo from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio, it was discovered that combining two antibiotics eliminated 81 percent of CRE specimens tested.
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We Just Got More Evidence That the 2 Human 'Sex Pheromones' Don't Actually Exist

We Just Got More Evidence That the 2 Human 'Sex Pheromones' Don't Actually Exist | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
When we talk about animal instinct, we're often talking about pheromones - chemicals that affect the behaviour of other animals, and make individuals irresistible to the opposite sex during mating season.

For decades, debate has raged over whether humans might also release and be susceptible to our own unique pheromones. But a new study has just provided evidence that the two leading 'human sex pheromone' candidates aren't actually pheromones at all.

Until now, researchers had narrowed down the hunt for human pheromones to two chemicals - androstadienone (AND), which is found in male sweat and semen, and estratetraenol (EST), found in women's urine.

The jury has remained out on whether or not they're true human pheromones, but that hasn't stopped the media and perfume makers from running with the idea, leading many people to believe to some extent that, as a species, we're responding to each other's subtle pheromone cues.

But in a new double-blind study, researchers from the University of Western Australia tested the effect on 94 healthy humans, and found that these so-called pheromones had no measurable impact on their behaviour whatsoever.

"Much of the research currently promoted focuses on studies that back AND and EST being pheromones in humans, because of the human fascination on how we can improve our attractiveness to the opposite sex," said lead researcher Leigh Simmons.

"This contributes to a skew in public perception on whether humans do have pheromones with many people believing we do, because research suggesting the opposite tends not to be as published, and if it is published it does not get the same degree of attention."
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Even More Evidence Has Linked Parkinson's Disease to Our Gut Bacteria

Even More Evidence Has Linked Parkinson's Disease to Our Gut Bacteria | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Researchers have found yet another reason to think the symptoms of Parkinson's disease could be a consequence of the type of bacteria living in our gut.

Such discoveries could help us use changes in our gut bacteria to not only diagnose the debilitating disorder earlier, but potentially create better targeted treatments.

Once referred to as 'the shaking palsy', Parkinson's disease is mostly characterised by tremors and a loss of fine motor control, later progressing into dementia, difficulty walking, and sometimes chronic depression.

In most studies on the condition the brain has been the focus, with the blame for the disease primarily falling on the death of cells in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra – a lump of tissue responsible for movement and reward.

In recent years, however, scientists studying the root cause of Parkinson's disease have shifted their attention from the nervous system onto the denizens of our gut, identifying significant differences in the types of bacteria living in the guts of those with the condition and those who don't.

Now a team of scientists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in the US have contributed yet another piece of evidence tying Parkinson's disease with our personal community of microorganisms – or microbiota.
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The Hunger Gains: Extreme Calorie-Restriction Diet Shows Anti-Aging Results

The Hunger Gains: Extreme Calorie-Restriction Diet Shows Anti-Aging Results | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
The idea that organisms can live longer, healthier lives by sharply reducing their calorie intake is not exactly new. Laboratory research has repeatedly demonstrated the anti-aging value of calorie restriction, often called CR, in animals from nematodes to rats—with the implication that the same might be true for humans.

In practice though, permanently reducing calorie intake by 25 to 50 percent or more sounds to many like a way to extend life by making it not worth living. Researchers have also warned that what works for nematodes or rats may not work—and could even prove dangerous—in humans, by causing muscle or bone density loss, for example.

But now two new studies appear to move calorie restriction from the realm of wishful thinking to the brink of practical, and perhaps even tolerable, reality. Writing in Nature Communications, researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the National Institute on Aging reported last month chronic calorie restriction produces significant health benefits in rhesus monkeys—a primate with humanlike aging patterns—indicating “that CR mechanisms are likely translatable to human health.” The researchers describe one monkey they started on a 30 percent calorie restriction diet when he was 16 years old, late middle age for this type of animal. He is now 43, a longevity record for the species, according to the study, and the equivalent of a human living to 130.

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Drug delivery in a nasal spray might open a direct route to the brain

Drug delivery in a nasal spray might open a direct route to the brain | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Locusts and humans don't have a lot of physical similarities. But peer inside our noggins, and our blood-brain barriers – a protective shield that prevents harmful particles from entering the brain – share a useful anatomical likeness. Scientists have successfully used the brains of these tropical grasshoppers as a testbed for a new type of drug delivery, one that could see life-saving medicines carried directly to the brain by way of a simple sniff.

The blood-brain barrier is a protective membrane that surrounds vessels in the brain to protect it from foreign substances that may cause harm. But the trouble is, it stops 98 percent of therapeutic molecules from entering at the same time, presenting a major roadblock to the treatment of brain disease.

Researchers have made some promising advances in this area, with ultrasound techniques that help open the door and engineered fat cells that can make it through on their own. But by and large, getting drugs to this part of the brain is invasive and tricky business. Engineers at Washington University in St. Louis, however, say that they have come up with a nasal-spray-like technology that could make things much, much simpler.

The team, led by research scientist Ramesh Raliya, developed an aerosol made up of gold nanoparticles. These were crafted to a certain size and shape, and were tagged with fluorescent markers so the researchers could track their movement.
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Sperm Are Being Turned Into Tiny Weapons to Attack Gynaecological Cancer

Sperm Are Being Turned Into Tiny Weapons to Attack Gynaecological Cancer | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Getting enough toxic material to the right place in your body for it to kill tumours – while not damaging anything else – has always required thinking outside of the box.

Wrapping sperm cells in an iron suit and then guiding them to a target using magnetic fields could be one innovative way to deliver drugs to parts of the female reproductive system affected by cancer.

Researchers from the Institute for Integrative Nanosciences and the Chemnitz University of Technology in Germany have found a way to harness a process already well adapted to navigating the harsh environments of the vagina, cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes to treat conditions such as gynaecological cancer, endometriosis, and pelvic inflammatory diseases.

Delivering drugs in effective doses to the right site without damaging healthy cells is one of the main challenges in research on cancer treatment.

Packing the drugs in tiny bubbles, such as in microscopic vessels called liposomes, helps make them more soluble and helps protect the body from the toxic contents as they're carried through the body.
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This New Type of Male Contraceptive Not Only Prevents Babies; It's Completely Reversible

This New Type of Male Contraceptive Not Only Prevents Babies; It's Completely Reversible | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Until now, men have had only two serious options for preventing baby-making: condoms or 'the snip'.

A promising new product could be set to change all that, with animal trials indicating that it's not only close to 100 percent effective, but that it can also be fully reversed, making it less drastic than the vasectomy while still offering similar benefits.

Trademarked under the name Vasalgel, the contraceptive is a polymer gel being developed by the non-profit Parsemus Foundation in California, which aims to "find low cost solutions that have been neglected by the pharmaceutical industry".

We reported on Vasagel back in February after it showed itself to be effective in preventing rhesus monkeys from getting pregnant for up to two years.

The gel acts as a barricade to sperm when injected into the thin tube that channels sperm from each teste to the ejaculatory ducts – a tube also known as the vas deferens.

Sperm produced in the testes usually travel up the vas deferens to meet with other glands that add various substances to make up semen; when blocked by the gel, they are either embedded in the material or are simply reabsorbed by the body.
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Scientists Have Turned Spinach Into Beating Human Heart Tissue

Scientists Have Turned Spinach Into Beating Human Heart Tissue | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Researchers have successfully used spinach leaves to build functioning human heart tissue, complete with veins that can transport blood.

To tackle a chronic shortage of donor organs, scientists have been working on growing various tissues and even whole organs in the lab. But culturing a bunch of cells is only part of the solution - they simply won't thrive without a constant blood supply.

It's notoriously difficult to build a working network of fine blood vessels (also called vasculature), especially when you get down to capillaries, which are only 5 to 10 micrometres wide. Blood vessels transport the oxygen and nutrients that a lab-grown tissue sample needs to grow and function.

Now a team led by scientists from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) have successfully turned a spinach leaf into living heart tissue by using the tiny network of veins you'd already find in a plant.

"Plants and animals exploit fundamentally different approaches to transporting fluids, chemicals, and macromolecules, yet there are surprising similarities in their vascular network structures," the scientists write in their paper.

Instead of trying to build a vasculature from scratch, the researchers stripped their spinach leaves of green plant material until all that was left was the fine cellulose structure that holds the leaf together.
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It's Happening: Scientists Can Now Reverse DNA Ageing in Mice

It's Happening: Scientists Can Now Reverse DNA Ageing in Mice | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Researchers have identified a cellular mechanism that allows them to reverse ageing in mouse DNA and protect it from future damage.

They've shown that by giving a particular compound to older mice, they can activate the DNA repair process and not only protect against future damage, but repair the existing effects of ageing. And they're ready to start testing in humans within six months.

"The cells of the old mice were indistinguishable from the young mice, after just one week of treatment," said lead researcher David Sinclair from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia and the Harvard Medical School in Boston.

"This is the closest we are to a safe and effective anti-ageing drug that's perhaps only three to five years away from being on the market if the trials go well."

Sinclair and his team made headlines back in 2013 when they found that the cells of younger mice contained more of a compound called nicotinaminde adenine dinucleotide, or NAD+, than their older counterparts.

Not only that, but when they gave the older mice more NAD+, they started to look younger, too.

It was a big deal at the time, but one of the tricky things about medicine is that in order to show that something could work as a potential treatment, you need to first understand how it's acting in the body.

And although the researchers knew NAD+ was having an impressive effect, they couldn't say for sure how it was doing it.

Now, Sinclair and his team have released a new study, where they outline in detail the mechanism through which NAD+ protects DNA from the damage of ageing and radiation in mice.
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Unexpected new lung function discovered: Making blood

Unexpected new lung function discovered: Making blood | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Our bodies still hold plenty of secrets, and scientists have just uncovered a doozy: the lungs play a key role in producing blood. Until now, this task was ascribed solely to bone marrow, but studies on mice at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) have found that, surprisingly, the majority of the body's platelets are produced in the lungs, as is a backup reservoir of blood stem cells that can step in when those in the bone marrow run dry.

Science has long believed that most of the cells that make up blood reside in bone marrow, where a process called haematopoiesis gives us the oxygen-carrying red blood cells, the white blood cells that fight off infection, and components like platelets, whose role is to form clots to stop bleeding. Megakaryocytes – the cells that produce platelets – have been spotted in lung tissue before, but were usually thought to live and work mainly in bone marrow
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Will 90 Become The New 60? - Issue 46: Balance - Nautilus

Will 90 Become The New 60? - Issue 46: Balance - Nautilus | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Immortality: Trust us, you wouldn’t like it.

It’s a comforting message, in a sour-grapes sort of way. It sounds wise and mature, suggesting that we put aside childish dreams and accept once and for all that there can be no vital Veg-O-Matic that slices mortality and dices infirmity. Gerontologists like it, being particularly eager to put on a respectable front and escape the whiff of snake oil that clings to the field of life extension.

In 1946 the newly founded Gerontological Society of America cited, in the first article of the first issue of its Journal of Gerontology, the need to concern ourselves to add “not more years to life, but more life to years.” The dictum was famously sharpened 15 years later by Robert Kennedy when he told the delegates at the first White House Conference on Aging “We have added years to life; it is time to think about how we add life to years.” Political theorist and futurist Francis Fukuyama was particularly eloquent but hardly alone when he warned two decades ago that if we maintain our obsession with extending life at all costs, society may “increasingly come to resemble a giant nursing home.”
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Tuning brain regions like radios for better memory

Our brains are basically electrochemical computers, so using electricity to manipulate their function is a well-proven technique. From deep-brain stimulation that controls the symptoms of depression to zapping our grey matter to improve our vision, electrical current applied to our brains holds a lot of promise. Now researchers at Imperial College London have shown that a low-voltage stream of electricity can be used to bring different brain regions in sync with each other, leading to improved memory ability and the hope of treating neurological disorders.

In the study, the researchers used what's known as transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) to affect the way in which the electric current in two brain regions was oscillating. The weak electric current applied to the forehead from tACS brought the middle frontal gyrus and the inferior parietal lobule into sync with each other. Both of these areas are known to be involved in working memory, which is our extreme short-term memory that helps us function in the here-and-now. An example of working memory would be the way in which we'd be able to recall what we needed when we go out to our cars to retrieve a forgotten item.
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Low-gluten diets linked to increased risk of diabetes

Low-gluten diets linked to increased risk of diabetes | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Gluten-free diets have exploded in popularity in recent years, but many have questioned whether this new food trend is actually medically helpful for those without a diagnosed celiac disease. A new study released by the American Heart Foundation points to a possible relationship between low-gluten diets and a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes.

A Consumer Reports National Research Centre survey from 2014 revealed that up to a third of American adults polled were trying to cut gluten out of their diets. Yet the prevalence of celiac disease in the United States has been relatively stable at about 1 percent of the population. So many people seem to believe that reducing or eliminating gluten from their diet is an inherently healthy act, but is there actually any science to back up that belief?

Researchers at Harvard University set out to determine what health effects avoiding gluten had on those people with no specific medical reason to avoid the substance. They accumulated data previously recorded from three separate long-term health studies comprising nearly 200,000 participants.

The separate studies involved participants logging their food habits in questionnaires completed every two to four years. The Harvard team estimated the daily gluten intake from this data and found that those who ate the most gluten had a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes during the 30 years of follow-up.
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Something (not emotion) links epilepsy and religion - Futurity

Something (not emotion) links epilepsy and religion - Futurity | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Researchers may have uncovered a link between religiosity—a disposition for spiritual experience and religious activity—and epilepsy.

This connection between epilepsy and heightened religious experience has been recognized since at least the 19th century.

“Past research has indicated that humans might have a distinctive neurological tendency toward being spiritually oriented,” says Brick Johnstone, a neuropsychologist and professor of health psychology at the University of Missouri. “This research supports the notion that the human propensity for religious or spiritual experiences may be neurologically based.”

“The end goal of this research is to understand if some type of connection exists between the brain and spiritual experience,” says Daniel Cohen, coauthor and assistant professor of religious studies. “If a connection exists, what does it mean for humans and their relationship with religion?”
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Scientists show cognitive enhancing drugs can improve chess play

Scientists show cognitive enhancing drugs can improve chess play | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
The first study to both show and measure the effects of cognitive-enhancing drugs such as modafinil, methylphenidate (best known under the trade name Ritalin), and caffeine, on chess play is being published in the March edition of the peer-reviewed journal European Neuropsychopharmacology. This shows significant cognitive improvements for modafinil and methylphenidate, and may have influence how these drugs are used off-label in a range of activities.

The study shows how certain drugs can alter and even improve the way in which the brain processes complex information. As applied to chess (and other fields), this supports the possibility pharmaceutical enhancement giving a player a competitive advantage. The World Chess Federation, FIDE, recognised this by introducing an anti-doping code in 20141.

Now a new double-blind randomised controlled trial by scientists from German and Swedish universities has shown that the cognitive enhancing drugs, modafinil, methylphenidate, and caffeine can improve chess play. Previous research had shown that the drugs could improve cognitive performance when a subject was tired or was performing below his or her optimal performance, but this is the first work to show improvement of cognitive performance even if the subject is performing at a very high level.

The team, led by Professor Klaus Lieb (University of Mainz, Germany) gave 39 male chess players controlled doses of one of the drugs modafinil, methylphenidate, caffeine, or a placebo. They then played a series of rapid, time-limited (15 minutes) games against a chess programme (the popular Fritz 12 programme) which had been matched to the strength of each individual player. This was a 4-day "crossover" study, meaning that the player had who taken modafinil on day 1 would receive a different drug (or placebo) on each subsequent day, and so on. In total the researchers gathered data from over 3000 chess games.
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The human brain makes fructose, researchers discover – here's why that might be a big deal

The human brain makes fructose, researchers discover – here's why that might be a big deal | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Researchers at Yale University have discovered that the brain is capable of making fructose – a simple sugar, usually found in fruit, vegetables and honey.

Not all sugars are equal. Glucose is a simple sugar that provides energy for the cells in your body. Fructose has a less important physiological role and has been repeatedly linked to the development of obesity and type 2 diabetes. When there is excess glucose the processes that break it down can become saturated, so the body converts glucose into fructose instead, using a process known as the “polyol pathway”, a chemical reaction involved in diabetic complications. The researchers at Yale reported in the journal, JCI Insight, that the brain uses the polyol pathway to produce fructose in the brain.

Unlike glucose, which can be metabolised throughout the body, fructose is normally metabolised almost completely in the liver and also in semen where it produces energy for sperm. Most fructose produced by this pathway is thought to stay inside the cells that make it, as fructose levels in the blood are usually extremely low. These low circulating levels make it unlikely that fructose made in this way reaches the brain in significant amounts, and yet some studies have previously identified very high levels of fructose in the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord).

Importantly, research has shown that exposure to fructose can significantly alter the expression of hundreds of genes in the brain, including genes that control metabolism, cell communication, inflammation and brain function. This suggests that fructose is likely to alter brain function.
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