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Obesity poses 'dementia time bomb'

Obesity poses 'dementia time bomb' | The future of medicine and health |
Ever-growing waistlines could fuel a big increase in the number of people with dementia in the future, researchers have warned.

Previous studies have shown that being overweight in middle age increases the odds of developing the mental disorder.

Data presented at the European Congress on Obesity suggests stemming the rise in obesity will cut dementia.

The Alzheimer's Society charity said regular exercise and a healthy weight were important for reducing risk.

Piling on too many pounds is known to be bad for the body, but there is growing evidence that it is also bad for the mind.

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Scientists are working on an “exercise pill” so you never have to work out again

Imagine if, instead of sweating on the treadmill and forcing yourself through repetitive sit-ups, you could have the benefits of exercise without any of the effort. That scenario isn’t a ridiculous fantasy but a serious scientific goal, and researchers have recently published a major breakthrough: They have created a blueprint of the molecular reactions to exercise.

The findings, published in Cell Metabolism on Oct. 2, show that exercise causes 1,000 molecular changes in skeletal muscles. Dr. Nolan Hoffman, an author of the study and a research associate at the School of Molecular Bioscience, University of Sydney, says that the goal is to identify the most important changes, so that these can be replicated using drugs.

“We’ve created an exercise blueprint that lays the foundation for future treatments, and the end goal is to mimic the effects of exercise,” he tells Quartz from Sydney. “It’s long been thought that there were many signals elicited by exercise, but we were the first to create this map and we now know the complexity.”

Researchers from the University of Sydney and the University of Copenhagen worked together on the study, which used a technique called mass spectrometry to study the protein changes in skeletal muscle after exercise.

Four healthy males had a muscle biopsy before exercise, then rode an exercise bicycle as hard as they could for 10 minutes, and finally gave a second sample of muscle. Their samples were shipped to Sydney, where they were examined.

“We were definitely very thankful to these individuals, who not only gave their muscle samples to science but also before and after such a high intensity bout of exercise,” says Hoffman.
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Is the chilli pepper friend or foe? - BBC News

Is the chilli pepper friend or foe? - BBC News | The future of medicine and health |
For thousands of years, humans have taken a masochistic pleasure from adding chilli to their food. Now research indicates that the spice that has undoubtedly made our lives more interesting may also make them longer.

There is only one mammal that enthusiastically eats chillies.

"Humans come into the Western hemisphere about 20,000 years ago," says Paul Bosland from New Mexico State University. "And they come into contact with a plant that gives them pain - it hurts them. Yet five separate times, chilli peppers were domesticated in the Western hemisphere because humans found some usefulness - and I think it was their medicinal use."

The potential for both health and harm has always been a defining characteristic of chilli peppers, and among scientists, doctors and nutritionists it remains a matter of some dispute which prevails.

A huge study, published this summer in the British Medical Journal, seemed to indicate that a diet filled with spices - including chillies - was beneficial for health.

A team at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences tracked the health of nearly half a million participants in China for several years. They found that participants who said they ate spicy food once or twice a week had a mortality rate 10% lower than those who ate spicy food less than once a week. Risk of death reduced still further for hot-heads who ate spicy food six or seven days a week.

Chilli peppers were the most commonly used spice among the sample, and those who ate fresh chilli had a lower risk of death from cancer, coronary heart disease and diabetes.
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How Your Brain Is Wired Reveals the Real You

How Your Brain Is Wired Reveals the Real You | The future of medicine and health |
The brain’s wiring patterns can shed light on a person’s positive and negative traits, researchers report in Nature Neuroscience. The finding, published on September 28, is the first from the Human Connectome Project (HCP), an international effort to map active connections between neurons in different parts of the brain.

The HCP, which launched in 2010 at a cost of US$40 million, seeks to scan the brain networks, or connectomes, of 1,200 adults. Among its goals is to chart the networks that are active when the brain is idle; these are thought to keep the different parts of the brain connected in case they need to perform a task.

In April, a branch of the project led by one of the HCP's co-chairs, biomedical engineer Stephen Smith at the University of Oxford, UK, released a database of resting-state connectomes from about 460 people between 22 and 35 years old. Each brain scan is supplemented by information on approximately 280 traits, such as the person's age, whether they have a history of drug use, their socioeconomic status and personality traits, and their performance on various intelligence tests.
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These artificial teeth are as tough as real ones - Futurity

These artificial teeth are as tough as real ones - Futurity | The future of medicine and health |
Few structures in nature are more durable than teeth or seashells. The secret of these materials lies in their unique fine structure: They are composed of different layers in which numerous micro-platelets are joined together, aligned in identical orientation.

Now scientists have combined old and new technologies to construct artificial teeth that mimic the complex structure of natural teeth.

André Studart, a professor of complex materials at ETH Zurich, led the team that created the teeth using a technique called magnetically assisted slip casting (MASC).

“The wonderful thing about our new procedure is that it builds on a 100-year-old technique and combines it with modern material research,” says Studart’s doctoral student Tobias Niebel, coauthor of a paper describing the work published in the journal Nature Materials.
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Blindsight: the strangest form of consciousness

Blindsight: the strangest form of consciousness | The future of medicine and health |
When Daniel first walked into London’s National Hospital, ophthalmologist Michael Sanders could have had little idea that he would permanently alter our view of human consciousness.

Daniel turned up saying that he was half blind. Although he had healthy eyes, a brain operation to cure headaches seemed to have destroyed a region that was crucial for vision. The result was that almost everything to the left of his nose was invisible to him. It was as if he were looking out of a window, with the curtains drawn across half of his world.

And yet, as Sanders began testing him, he noticed something very strange: Daniel could reach out and grab Sanders’ hand, even when it must have fallen right behind his blind spot. It was as if some kind of “second sight” was guiding his behaviour, beyond his conscious awareness.

Intrigued, Sanders referred Daniel to the psychologists Elizabeth Warrington and Lawrence Weiskrantz, who confirmed the hunch with a series of clever tests. They placed a screen in front of Daniel’s blind spot, for instance, and asked him to point at a circle, when it appeared in different places. Daniel was adamant that he could not see a thing, but Weiskrantz persuaded him to just “take a guess”. Surprisingly, he was almost always right. Or Weiskrantz and Warrington would present a single line on the screen, and Daniel had to decide whether it was horizontal or vertical. Again, Daniel was adamant that nothing had appeared before his eyes, yet his accuracy was around 80%, much more than if he had been guessing randomly.
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To treat obesity, consider 100 trillion gut bugs - Futurity

To treat obesity, consider 100 trillion gut bugs - Futurity | The future of medicine and health |
A drug that appears to target specific intestinal bacteria in mice may lead to new treatments for obesity and diabetes in humans.

Mice fed a high-fat diet and provided tempol, an antioxidant drug that may also help protect people from the effects of radiation, were significantly less obese than those that did not receive the drug.

“The two interesting findings are that the mice that received tempol didn’t gain as much weight and the tempol somehow impacted the gut microbiome of these mice,” says Andrew Patterson, assistant professor of molecular toxicology at Penn State.

“Eventually, we hope that this can lead to a new line of therapeutics to treat obesity and diabetes.”

The microbiome is the biological environment of microorganisms within the human body.

Tempol reduces some members of a bacteria—a genus of Lactobacillus—in the guts of mice. When the Lactobacillus levels decrease, a bile acid—tauro-beta-muricholic acid—increases. This inhibits FXR, farnesoid X receptor, which regulates the metabolism of bile acids, fats, and glucose in the body.

“The study suggests that inhibiting FXR in the intestine might be a potential target for anti-obesity drugs,” says Frank J. Gonzalez, laboratory metabolism chief of the National Cancer Institute.

Tempol may help treat type 2 diabetes symptoms. In addition to lower weight gain, the tempol-treated mice on a high-fat diet had lower blood glucose and insulin levels.

“Previously, Dr. (James) Mitchell observed a significant difference in weight gain in mice on tempol-containing diet,” Patterson says. “He approached us to help figure out what was going on, and it had been an interesting journey wading through the complexities of the microbiome.”

Mitchell is radiation biology branch chief at the National Cancer Institute.

Other studies have hinted at the relationship between tempol, the gut microbiome, and obesity, but did not focus on why the drug seemed to control weigh gain, Patterson says.
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Fidgeting Can Cancel Out the Bad Effects of Sitting All Day

Fidgeting Can Cancel Out the Bad Effects of Sitting All Day | The future of medicine and health |
Finally, some good news for those of us who sit for a living

Sitting is basically the new smoking.

An ever-growing body of research is showing that being sedentary and sitting for long periods of time are linked to poor health consequences, including a laundry list of risks for conditions ranging from obesity to heart disease. Even exercising doesn’t make up for the negative health effects of being stuck in your seat.

But before you beg your boss for a standing desk, a new study suggests that moving a little throughout the day—also known as fidgeting—can actually counteract the problems that come with sitting for extended periods of time.

The new study, published Wednesday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that women who sat for long periods of time have a lower mortality rate if they considered themselves moderately to very fidgety, compared to women who said they only fidgeted occasionally. Women who sat for long periods of time without fidgeting had an increased risk of death that wasn’t seen among other groups. Perhaps most surprisingly of all, the researchers didn’t find a difference in mortality risk between women who sat more versus those who were more active—as long as the sitters were fidgety.
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Machine learning algorithms could predict breast cancer treatment responses

Machine learning algorithms could predict breast cancer treatment responses | The future of medicine and health |
Different patients with the same type of cancer can have different responses to the same medication, which leaves doctors in a tough spot: how do they know which treatment will have the best response? If they get it right, their patient may enter remission; but if they're wrong the patient's health will deteriorate. Now researchers at Western University might have the answer. They developed machine learning algorithms – a branch of artificial intelligence – that crunch genetic data to determine the most likely treatment response and allow more personalized treatment regimens.

"Artificial intelligence is a powerful tool for predicting drug outcomes because it looks at the sum of all the interacting genes," said lead researcher Peter Rogan. "The earlier we treat a patient with the most effective medication, the more likely we can effectively treat or possibly even cure that patient."

The researchers used a set of 40 genes that are found in 90 per cent of breast cancer tumors for their analysis of data from cell lines and tumor tissue samples from around 350 cancer patients who were treated with at least one of the two chemotherapy drugs paclitaxel and gemcitabine.

They then set their computers to work crunching the data and identifying associations between the drug and patient genes. Their machine learning tool managed to predict gemcitabine resistance and paclitaxel sensitivity with 84 per cent accuracy, paclitaxel resistance with 82 per cent accuracy, and gemcitabine response (i.e. remission or not) with 62 to 71 per cent accuracy.

The researchers now plan to refine their algorithms and feed the system more data to improve the predictions.
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Stunning Map Shows Pathogens Hopping Between Species

Stunning Map Shows Pathogens Hopping Between Species | The future of medicine and health |
You and your adorable cat share not only hugs and kisses but also a few pathogens, according to a recent paper in Scientific Data. In this visualization, UK researchers mapped the overlapping relationships between infectious agents—parasites, viruses, bacteria, fungi—and the hosts they mercilessly attack.

The bigger the dot, the more unique pathogens that attack only that species. So yeah, humans win that game. (Though it’s also likely that more pathogens have been identified for humans than for other species.) The lines connecting the dots shows that those species share at least one pathogen, and the thicker the line, the more they share.

In this case, the domestics—dogs, cats, cattle—seem to be the most generous with each other. And this map is yet more evidence that amphibians are complete aliens.
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Scientists seek permission to genetically modify embryos - BBC News

Scientists seek permission to genetically modify embryos - BBC News | The future of medicine and health |
UK scientists are seeking permission to genetically modify human embryos for the first time.

Researchers at The Francis Crick Institute in London want to use a controversial genetic technique to carry out research into infertility.

The embryos would be destroyed after the research and not implanted into the womb.

The government's fertility watchdog said it had received the application, which would be looked at in due course.

In the UK, it is illegal to use gene editing of embryos in IVF treatment, but it is permissible for research purposes, under a licence.

"We have recently received an application to use Crispr/Cas9 (gene editing) in one of our licensed research projects, and it will be considered in due course," said a spokesperson for the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA).

When scientists in China announced they had genetically modified human embryos in a world first earlier this year, there was an outcry.

The embryos were never destined for use in IVF, but there were concerns the work could be a slippery slope towards designer babies.

The technique - known as gene editing - can make precise changes to DNA. But any alterations would be passed on to future generations if the embryos were ever to be used in human reproduction.

It would be illegal to do this under British law, although it is permissible to use the technique for research purposes, where the embryos are eventually destroyed. The Francis Crick Institute is the first to apply for a research license, making it something of a test case.

The researchers want to use the technique to look at the earliest stages of human development, in the hope of better understanding why some women have miscarriages.

The HFEA will now consider the application, but no decision is expected for some weeks or months. Most scientists agree that genome editing should not be used for reproductive purposes at present. But they say this is not a reason to block research.
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Technology can’t take the place of a doctor who listens to you

Data are everywhere. But in medicine, data aren’t everything.

From online symptom-checking websites to web-based professional medical resources, both patients and practitioners are able to answer many of their medical questions with the click of a mouse or touch of a screen. For those questions that require further investigation, new laboratory tests and high-tech medical imaging can help support (or refute) potential diagnoses.

Yet some diagnoses fall through the cracks of these modern investigative tools.

For example, a patient who walks in with abdominal discomfort and irregular bowel habits may ultimately walk out several visits later with a diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)—a gastrointestinal disorder that may affect up to 10% of the global population. This syndrome is typically not associated with any abnormalities on x-rays, invasive procedures, or lab tests.
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We Can Rebuild Him: Patient Receives 3D Printed Titanium Ribs and Sternum - Singularity HUB

We Can Rebuild Him: Patient Receives 3D Printed Titanium Ribs and Sternum - Singularity HUB | The future of medicine and health |
It’s a bit like a Marvel superhero comic or a 70s sci-fi TV show—only it actually just happened. After having his sternum and several ribs surgically removed, a Spanish cancer patient took delivery of one titanium 3D printed rib cage—strong, light, and custom fit to his body.

It’s just the latest example of how 3D printing and medicine are a perfect fit.

The list of 3D printed body parts now includes dental, ankle, spinal, trachea, and even skull implants (among others). Because each body is unique, customization is critical. Medical imaging, digital modeling, and 3D printers allow doctors to fit prosthetics and implants to each person’s anatomy as snugly and comfortably as a well tailored suit.

In this case, the 54-year-old patient suffered from chest wall sarcoma, a cancer of the rib cage. His doctors determined they would need to remove his sternum and part of several ribs and replace them with a prosthetic sternum and rib cage.

Titanium chest implants aren’t new, but the complicated geometry of the bone structure makes it difficult to build them. To date, the typically used flat plate implants tend to come loose and raise the risk of complications down the road.

Now, we can do better. We have the technology.

Complexity is free with 3D printing. It’s as easy to print a simple shape as it is to print one with intricate geometry. And with a 3D model based on medical scans, it’s possible to make prosthetics and implants that closely fit a patient’s body.
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Self-control saps memory resources

Self-control saps memory resources | The future of medicine and health |
In an infamous set of experiments performed in the 1960s, psychologist Walter Mischel sat pre-school kids at a table, one by one, and placed a sweet treat – a small marshmallow, a biscuit, or a pretzel – in front of them. Each of the young participants was told that they would be left alone in the room, and that if they could resist the temptation to eat the sweet on the table in front of them, they would be rewarded with more sweets when the experimenter returned.

The so-called Marshmallow Test was designed to test self-control and delayed gratification. Mischel and his colleagues tracked some of the children as they grew up, and then claimed that those who managed to hold out for longer in the original experiment performed better at school, and went on to become more successful in life, than those who couldn’t resist the temptation to eat the treat before the researcher returned to the room.

The ability to exercise willpower and inhibit impulsive behaviours is considered to be a core feature of the brain’s executive functions, a set of neural processes - including attention, reasoning, and working memory - which regulate our behaviour and thoughts, and enable us to adapt them according to the changing demands of the task at hand.

Executive function is a rather vague term, and we still don’t know much about its underlying bran mechanisms, or about how different components of this control system are related to one another. New research shows that self-control and memory share, and compete with each other for, the same brain mechanisms, such that exercising willpower saps these common resources and impairs our ability to encode memories.
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Cancer drug sharpens memory in rats - Futurity

Cancer drug sharpens memory in rats - Futurity | The future of medicine and health |
A drug commonly used to treat cancer may be a way to sharpen memory, make it easier to learn a language, and even help people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers say when they gave the drug RGFP966 to rats, it made them more attuned to what they were hearing and more able to retain and remember information. The rats were also able to develop new connections that allowed memories to be transmitted between brain cells.

Their findings appear in the Journal of Neuroscience.

“Memory-making in neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease is often poor or absent altogether once a person is in the advanced stages of the disease,” says Kasia M. Bieszczad, assistant professor of behavioral and systems neuroscience at Rutgers University. “This drug could rescue the ability to make new memories that are rich in detail and content, even in the worst case scenarios.”
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3D printing lets surgeons learn to carve ears - Futurity

3D printing lets surgeons learn to carve ears - Futurity | The future of medicine and health |
When surgical residents need to practice a complicated procedure to fashion a new ear for children without one, they typically grab a bar of soap, carrot, or an apple.

To treat children with a missing or under-developed ear, experienced surgeons harvest pieces of rib cartilage from the child and carve them into the framework of a new ear. They take only as much of that precious cartilage as they need.

That leaves medical residents without an authentic material to practice on, as vegetables are a pale substitute. Some use pig or adult cadaver ribs, but children’s ribs are a different size and consistency.

Now, researchers have used 3D printing to create a low-cost pediatric rib cartilage model that more closely resembles the feel of real cartilage and allows for realistic surgical practice. The innovation could open the door for aspiring surgeons to become proficient in the sought-after but challenging procedure.

Their results are described in an abstract presented this week at the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery conference in Dallas, Texas.
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Russian scientist says he is stronger and healthier after injecting himself with 'eternal life' bacteria

Russian scientist says he is stronger and healthier after injecting himself with 'eternal life' bacteria | The future of medicine and health |
If injecting yourself with 3.5 million-year-old bacteria could keep you looking and feeling youthful and healthy without having to fork out for a gym membership, would you do it?

Russian scientist Anatoli Brouchkov, head of the Geocryology Department at Moscow State University, is looking for the key to eternal youth.

He has therefore become a human guinea pig for some bacteria that could perhaps hold the key to longevity.

The bacteria,named Bacillus F, is amazing because it has remained alive in the permafrost for millions of years.

Scientists have tested it on mice and human blood cells, but this wasn't enough for Mr. Brouchkov, who decided to inject himself with it.

"I started to work longer, I've never had a flu for the last two years," he said. "After successful experiments on mice and fruit flies, I thought it would be interesting to try the inactivated bacterial culture," he told The Siberian Times.

He didn't think there would be a danger, as the bacteria is actually in trace amounts in the water of the region.

The scientist said: "'Besides, the permafrost is thawing, and I guess these bacteria get into the environment, into the water, so the local population, the Yakut people, in fact, for a long time are getting these cells with water, and even seem to live longer than some other nations. So there was no danger for me."
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Can a 10-minute walk erase 6 hours of sitting? - Futurity

Can a 10-minute walk erase 6 hours of sitting? - Futurity | The future of medicine and health |
Many office workers spend the majority of an eight-hour day sitting at their desks. New research suggests sitting for six straight hours can impair vascular function.

But walking for just 10 minutes can reverse the damage.

“It’s easy for all of us to be consumed by work and lose track of time, subjecting ourselves to prolonged periods of inactivity,” says Jaume Padilla, assistant professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri.

“However, our study found that when you sit for six straight hours, or the majority of an eight-hour work day, blood flow to your legs is greatly reduced. We also found that just 10 minutes of walking after sitting for an extended time reversed the detrimental consequences.”
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A Genomics Revolution: Evolution by Natural Selection to Evolution by Intelligent Direction - Singularity HUB

A Genomics Revolution: Evolution by Natural Selection to Evolution by Intelligent Direction - Singularity HUB | The future of medicine and health |
Humanity is moving from evolution by natural selection (Darwinism) to evolution by intelligent direction.

For most of human history, our average age was only about 26 years old.

We would procreate at age 13, live just long enough to help our children raise their children, and then, on average, die at age 26 (so we were no longer taking food from the mouths of our grandchildren).

It was through technological innovation — sanitation and germ theory — that we moved life expectancy from 26 to the mid 50s. Recently, because of modern medicine's progress in treating heart disease and cancer, we've bumped up today's global average human lifespan to 71 years.

But this is just the beginning.

Advances over the next 10 to 15 years will move life expectancy north of 100.

This post is about advances in reading, writing, and building elements of the human body.
Reading – Sequencing the Human Genome

Your genome is the software that runs your body.

It is composed of 3.2 billion "letters," or base pairs, that code for everything that makes you "you" — your hair color, your height, your personality, your propensity to disease, your lifespan, and so on.

Until recently, it's been very difficult to rapidly and cheaply "read" these letters and even more difficult to understand what they do.

In 2001, my friend and Human Longevity Inc. co-founder Dr. J. Craig Venter sequenced the first complete human genome. It took about a year and cost $100 million.

Since then, the cost to sequence a genome has been plummeting exponentially, outpacing Moore's Law by almost 3x (take a look at the graph below).
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The War Over Genome Editing Just Got a Lot More Interesting

The War Over Genome Editing Just Got a Lot More Interesting | The future of medicine and health |
If you want to drop some real DNA editing knowledge—like, I don’t know, at a party!—here’s a tip. Instead of calling the much hyped precise genome-editing tool CRISPR, call it CRISPR/Cas9. CRISPR, you see, just refers to stretches of repeating DNA that sit near the gene for Cas9, the actual protein that does the DNA editing.

Well, at least for now. Today, gene-editing scientists dropped some curious news: They’ve found a CRISPR system involving a different protein that also edits human DNA, and, in some cases, it may work even better than Cas9.

The discovery comes at a time when CRISPR/Cas9 is sweeping through biology labs. So revolutionary is this new genome editing technique that rival groups, who each claim to have been first to the tech, are bitterly fighting over the CRISPR/Cas9 patent. This new gene-editing protein called Cpf1—and maybe even others yet to be discovered—means that one patent may not be so powerful after all.

And there’s good reason to think more useful CRISPR proteins are out there. CRISPR sequences are a part of primordial immune systems, found in some 40 percent of bacteria and 90 percent of archaea. In a study published today in Cell, Feng Zhang (no relation to this writer) and colleagues trawled through bacterial genomes looking for different versions of Cpf1. They found two, from Acidominococcus and Lachnospiraceae, that can snip DNA when scientists insert them into human cells.

“There are definitely many more defense systems out there, and maybe some of them might even have spectacular applications like with the Cas9 system,” says John van der Oost, a microbiologist at Wageningen University who is a co-author on the paper. “We have the feeling it’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
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Starving cancer cells of sugar could be the key to future treatment

Starving cancer cells of sugar could be the key to future treatment | The future of medicine and health |
All the cells in our bodies are programmed to die. As they get older, our cells accumulate toxic molecules that make them sick. In response, they eventually break down and die, clearing the way for new, healthy cells to grow. This “programmed cell death” is a natural and essential part of our wellbeing. Every day, billions of cells die like this in order for the whole organism to continue functioning as it is supposed to.

But as with any programme, errors can occur and injured cells that are supposed to die continue to grow and divide. These damaged cells can eventually become malignant and generate tumours. In order to avoid their programmed cell death in this way, cancer cells reorganise their metabolism so they can cheat death and proliferate indefinitely.

Cancer researchers have known for decades that tumours use a faster metabolism compared to normal cells in our body. One classic example of this is that cancer cells increase their consumption of glucose to fuel their rapid growth and strike against programmed cell death. This means that limiting glucose consumption in cancer cells is becoming an attractive tool for cancer treatments.
A new hope?

You may have seen articles or websites advocating that starving patients of sugar is crucial for getting rid of tumours or that eating less sugar reduces the risk of cancer. The story is not that simple. Cancer cells always find alternatives to fuel their tank of glucose, no matter how little sugar we ingest. There is not a direct connection between eating sugar and getting cancer and it is always advisable to talk to your doctor if you have doubt about your diet.
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Your Body Is Surrounded by Clouds of Skin and Fart Bacteria

Your Body Is Surrounded by Clouds of Skin and Fart Bacteria | The future of medicine and health |
Everywhere you go, in everything you do, you are surrounded by an aura of microbes. They drift down from your hair when you scratch your head, they fly off your hand when you wave to your friend, they spew out of your mouth when you talk. Even when you sit around doing nothing, you’re sitting in your own, personal microbial bubble.

Made up of millions, billions, trillions of bacteria, yeast, cells, and cell parts, this bubble is actually more like a cloud—a cloud, new research suggests, that is unique to you. And as gross as it is to imagine everyone around you shedding microbial bits and pieces into the air, studying those clouds can be useful for people like doctors tracking down disease outbreaks and cops tracking down criminals.

The gut microbiome, often invoked in expensive probiotic-heavy diets, is probably the hottest microscopic community right now. It’s the collection of microbiota, living inside you, that helps you break down food, fight disease, and control your hunger.

But your outer body has its own microbiome, too. Your body is covered in skin, and that skin is like a vast savannah populated with millions of exotic critters. They feed on the oils seeping from your skin, dead cells, bits of organic matter, and each other. “In a single centimeter of skin, you can find thousands of bacteria,” says James Meadow, former University of Oregon1 researcher and co-author of a microbiome paper published today in the journal PeerJ.
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According To This Sleep Expert, Work And School Shouldn't Start Until After 10am

According To This Sleep Expert, Work And School Shouldn't Start Until After 10am | The future of medicine and health |
Sleep is money for the brain, and young adults are accruing as much as 10 hours of sleep debt each week. According to sleep expert Paul Kelley, a sleep-deprivation crisis is burdening young adults in today's world.

“This is a huge issue for society,” Kelley, who works for the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at the University of Oxford, told the Guardian. “We are generally a sleep-deprived society but the 14-24 age group is more sleep-deprived than any other sector of society. This causes serious threats to health, mood performance and mental health.”

For school children, Kelley advocates age-based start times: 8:30 a.m. for eight to 10-year-olds, 10 a.m. lessons for 16-year-olds, and 11 a.m. starts for 18-year-olds.

While this might sound drastic, his approach does have scientific backing. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adolescents don’t start releasing melatonin – a hormone that helps regulate our body clock – until nearly eleven o’clock at night. These secretions don’t stop pumping through their blood until much later in the morning, making it difficult to wake up early.

Despite this, in 42 American states more than 75% of schools start before 8:30 a.m., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The average start time is 8:03 a.m.

“At the age of 10 you get up and go to school and it fits in with our nine-to-five lifestyle,” Kelley said. “When you are about 55 you also settle into the same pattern. But in between it changes a huge amount and, depending on your age, you really need to be starting around three hours later, which is entirely natural.”

Sleep, or lack thereof, can affect scores on exams, mood during the day, and relationships with one’s family. It is a vital part of our existence on Earth, with one-third of our life spent snoozing.

“Getting enough sleep is important for students’ health, safety, and academic performance,” said Anne Wheaton, an epidemiologist in the CDC’s Division of Population Health, in a statement. “Early school start times, however, are preventing many adolescents from getting the sleep they need.”
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How your brain quickly yells ‘Stop!’ - Futurity

How your brain quickly yells ‘Stop!’ - Futurity | The future of medicine and health |
Researchers have found the part of the brain that directs us to make split-second changes in actions—like when a driver slams on the brakes or a batter checks a swing when a pitch suddenly veers out of the strike zone.

Experiments with rats show that neurons in the basal forebrain—a zone that, not surprisingly, lies toward the bottom of the front of our brains—control that response.

“The study discovered a new role for basal forebrain neurons in the control of action,” says Michela Gallagher, professor of psychological and brain sciences at Johns Hopkins University. “This work opens the door to novel approaches focused on this circuit in certain neurological and psychiatric conditions that affect basic cognitive functions of the brain.”

The ability to rapidly stop a behavior is critical for everyday functioning, allowing pedestrians in a crosswalk, for instance, to freeze if a car surprises them and restraining people from grabbing their vibrating phones during a meeting.
Alzheimer’s and ADHD

A better understanding of the cognitive mechanics behind what’s known as reactive inhibition could help people suffering from neurological conditions where such control is diminished—everything from Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and normal aging.

Scientists had assumed the self-control necessary to interrupt and reverse a planned behavior originated in the basal ganglia, a brain area responsible for a variety of motor control functions, including the ability to start an action. Gallagher’s study demonstrates, however, that the “stop” response happens in the nearby basal forebrain, a part of the brain best known for regulating sleep, but also recognized as a site for early neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease.
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Heart 'in a box' could save more organs for transplant - Futurity

Heart 'in a box' could save more organs for transplant - Futurity | The future of medicine and health |
Medical programs are testing a new device that may improve the availability of donor hearts for transplants.

It’s an ex vivo (out-of-body) circulatory system that has come to be called “heart in a box.” (See a video of a heart in the device here.)

“The technological advance of this device is that it circulates blood into the aorta and the coronary arteries, and the heart will be beating again all the way to its new home,” says Jason Smith, a cardiothoracic surgeon and transplant specialist at the University of Washington Medical Center. The Regional Heart Center there is one of seven medical programs testing the device, which is made by TransMedics of Andover, Massachusetts.

When someone dies and their heart is made available for transplant, a four- to six-hour window exists between harvest and implant. That’s how long the organ can be packed in an icy saline slush in a hand-held cooler—the standard of care for decades—and still be reliably restarted.

That window of viability dictates the distance from which transplant centers accept donor hearts.

“The idea with heart in a box is that because blood is perfusing the heart, you can keep the organ out of the body considerably longer. In Europe, they’ve gone up to 11 hours on the machine and still had a successful transplant,” Smith says.
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How music can help relieve chronic pain

How music can help relieve chronic pain | The future of medicine and health |
As the 17th-century English playwright William Congreve said: “Music has charms to soothe a savage breast.” It is known that listening to music can significantly enhance our health and general feelings of well-being.

An important and growing area of research concerns how music helps to mitigate pain and its negative effects. Music has been shown to reduce anxiety, fear, depression, pain-related distress and blood pressure. It has been found to lower pain-intensity levels and reduce the opioid requirements of patients with post-operative pain.

Music has helped children undergoing numerous medical and dental procedures. And it has been demonstrated to work in a variety of other clinical settings such as palliative care, paediatrics, surgery and anaesthesia.

So what makes music so effective at making us feel better? The research has often drawn on theories around how nerve impulses in the central nervous system are affected by our thought processes and emotions. Anything that distracts us from pain may reduce the extent to which we focus on it, and music may be particularly powerful in this regard. The beauty is that once we understand how music relates to pain, we have the potential to treat ourselves.

Music attracts and holds our attention and is emotionally engaging, particularly if our relationship with the piece is strong. Our favourite music is likely to have stronger positive effects than tracks we don’t like or know. Researchers have demonstrated that the music we prefer has greater positive effects on pain tolerance and perception, reduces anxiety and increases feelings of control over pain. In older people with dementia, listening to preferred music has been linked with decreasing agitated behaviour.

Alongside the benefits of listening to what you prefer, the nature of the music has also been shown to be important in enhancing how emotionally engaging it is for patients. Recent research has demonstrated this in relation to dynamics, brightness, arousal levels and other acoustic attributes. Music which is bright, with low intensity and slower tempo has been shown to have the most positive effect on the degree of pain that we experience, for example.
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