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Just thinking you had a good night's sleep can improve cognitive skills

Just thinking you had a good night's sleep can improve cognitive skills | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Just thinking you had a better night sleep creates a placebo effect that can improve your cognitive abilities, a new study has found.

Researchers at Colorado College found students who were told they had a good night’s sleep, even if they did not, performed better on attention and memory skill tests than those who had been informed they had slept badly.

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Can this garlic nutrient keep brains healthy? - Futurity

Can this garlic nutrient keep brains healthy? - Futurity | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
A nutrient in garlic may offer the brain cells protection against aging and disease, according to new research.

“Garlic is one of the most widely consumed dietary supplements,” says Zezong Gu, associate professor of pathology and anatomical sciences at the University of Missouri School of Medicine and lead author of the study.

“Most people think of it as a ‘superfood,’ because garlic’s sulfur-containing compounds are known as an excellent source of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory protection.

“Scientists are still discovering different ways garlic benefits the human body,” he says. “Our research focused on a carbohydrate derivative of garlic known as FruArg and the role this nutrient plays in protective responses.”
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How Your Brain Remembers Where You Parked The Car

How Your Brain Remembers Where You Parked The Car | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
If you run into an old friend at the train station, your brain will probably form a memory of the experience. And that memory will forever link the person you saw with the place where you saw him.

For the first time, researchers have been able to see that sort of link being created in people's brains, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Neuron. The process involves neurons in one area of the brain that change their behavior as soon as someone associates a particular person with a specific place.

"This type of study helps us understand the neural code that serves memory," says Itzhak Fried, an author of the paper and head of the Cognitive Neurophysiology Laboratory at UCLA. It also could help explain how diseases like Alzheimer's make it harder for people to form new memories, Fried says.
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Schizophrenia May Be the Price We Pay for a Big Brain

Schizophrenia May Be the Price We Pay for a Big Brain | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Plenty of us have known a dog on Prozac. We have also witnessed the eye rolls that come with the mention of canine psychiatry. Doting pet owners—myself included—ascribe all kinds of questionable psychological ills to our pawed companions. But in fact, the science suggests that numerous nonhuman species do suffer from psychiatric symptoms. Birds obsess; horses on occasion get pathologically compulsive; dolphins and whales, especially those in captivity, self-mutilate. And that thing when your dog woefully watches you pull out of the driveway from the window—that might be DSM-certified separation anxiety. “Every animal with a mind has the capacity to lose hold of it from time to time,” wrote science historian and author Laurel Braitman in her 2014 book Animal MadnessBut at least one mental malady, while common in humans, seems to have spared other animals: schizophrenia, which affects an estimated 0.4 to 1 percent of adults. Although animal models of psychosis exist in laboratories, and odd behavior has been observed in creatures confined to cages, most experts agree that psychosis has not typically been seen in other species, whereas depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety traits have been reported in many nonhuman species.
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Lab-grown blood, artificial organs – the science transforming our health

Lab-grown blood, artificial organs – the science transforming our health | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
The news that scientists have developed blood that can be grown in the laboratory raised hope last week that a powerful weapon had been created to tackle disease. Ensuring that sufficient blood is donated to hospitals is a constant problem for medical services and any new source is to be welcomed, doctors acknowledged. In addition, the prospect that blood could be grown artificially from stem cells suggests a promising new approach could be taken in helping patients with thalassaemia and sickle cell anaemia and other blood disorders.

As Liverpool University’s Professor John Hunt – one of the developers of lab-grown blood – put it: “This will make a difference to an essential piece of healthcare in our lifetime.”

It is certainly promising, though the development is only one of a growing number of medical techniques that are being perfected in order to improve healthcare in the near future. These projects cover novel treatments for cancer and heart disease, better ways to test promising new drugs, vaccines for conditions such as Parkinson’s, techniques that will allow parents to avoid passing on a lethal genetic legacy to their children, and tests that can spot illnesses long before they develop and become real threats to health.
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Student-designed pill dispenser uses fingerprint scanner to avoid overdosing

Student-designed pill dispenser uses fingerprint scanner to avoid overdosing | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
And you thought that regular pill bottles were hard to open ... a new overdose-proof medication dispenser developed by a team of mechanical engineering students at Johns Hopkins University can't be opened even with the help of a hammer or drill. It does, however, deliver the proper dosage at the proper time, as long as the patient uses its built-in fingerprint scanner.

The prototype device was designed mainly with painkillers in mind. Many people exceed the recommended dosage of such pharmaceuticals, risking both their immediate health and the chance of developing a long-term addiction. Additionally, narcotic painkillers like OxyContin are frequently acquired by prescription, but then sold for recreational use.

In the case of the Johns Hopkins dispenser, medication is added by the pharmacist via a lockable opening in the bottom – the pharmacist has a key to that opening, but the patient doesn't. At the same time that the container is filled, the patient's fingerprint is also scanned and matched to the device.

When they're subsequently supposed to take a pill, the patient holds their finger pad to the dispenser's scanner. As long as the print matches and the proper amount of time has elapsed since their previous dose, this causes a disc to rotate within the device, picking up a pill from a loaded cartridge and dropping it into an exit channel.
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Are plastics making men infertile?

Are plastics making men infertile? | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Recent research has reignited concerns that exposure to chemicals from plastics might be to blame for low sperm counts in young men. I share the concerns about the high prevalence of low sperm counts (one in six young men), and my research is directed at trying to identify what causes it. But whether plastics are to blame isn’t a simple matter.

Plastics are part of the fabric of our everyday lives and perform many essential functions. Without their thousands of uses, many of which are not obvious to us, our modern world could not function as it is. Plastics bring everyday benefits whether through children’s toys, the insulation around electrical wiring, their utility in food containers/wraps or their widespread use in medical products from blood bags, gloves and syringes, to the coating of some tablets and capsules.
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Asian mushroom extract shows promise as treatment for obesity and its ills

Asian mushroom extract shows promise as treatment for obesity and its ills | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Maybe Alice in Wonderland was on to something, nibbling on a mushroom to make herself shrink. New research has shown that a liquid extract made from a mushroom used in traditional Asian medicine for more than 2,000 years protects against weight gain and reverses obesity-related inflammation and metabolic dysfunction in overfed mice.

The mushroom, Ganoderma lucidum (known in China as lingzhi, and in Japan as reishi or mannentake), appears to work by correcting an unhealthy mix of microorganisms that colonized the guts of mice made obese by a diet of high-fat chow.

Published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, the findings of researchers in Taiwan lend credence to the woody mushroom's ancient reputation as a promoter of longevity and digestive health. But they also illuminate the powerful role that gut microbes appear to play in obesity and several of the ills associated with it.

Scientists remain uncertain as to which comes first - obesity or a community of gut microbes that is out of whack. But researchers are growing increasingly confident that prebiotics or probiotics - food or supplements that jump-start the growth of protective bacteria in the gut - may help protect against the health effects of overconsumption.

The latest research offers further confirmation of a relatively new theory among researchers: that the insulin resistance and high levels of systemic inflammation often seen in the obese stem in part from a decline in populations of gut bacteria that line the intestines.
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Will head transplants create an entirely new person?

Will head transplants create an entirely new person? | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
The world’s first full head transplant could take place as soon as 2017 if the controversial plans by Italian neuroscientist Dr Sergio Canavero come to pass. Wheelchair-bound Valery Spiridonov, who has the muscle-wasting Werdnig Hoffman disease, has volunteered to have his head transplanted onto a healthy body in a day-long operation.

The proposed surgery is highly controversial and its feasibility has been questioned by experts. But Dr Canavero’s plans also raise complex philosophical and ethical issues. A natural question is whether a living person with Spridinov’s head and someone else’s body would be the same person as Spridinov. In interviews, Spridinov has made it clear that he sees the proposed procedure as a way for him to live on with a new and healthy body.
A different perspective would be that Spridinov is a head-donor rather than the recipient of a new body. He is donating his head to someone else who will live the rest of his life with Spridinov’s head but won’t be the same person as Spridinov. On this account, Spridinov is signing his own death warrant by volunteering for the surgery.
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Eye trick reveals musicians even see in tune - Futurity

Eye trick reveals musicians even see in tune - Futurity | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Musicians don’t just hear in tune, they also see in tune, according to new research.

Researchers designed a scientific experiment to puzzle out how the brain creates an apparently seamless view of the external world based on the information it receives from the eyes.

“Our brain is remarkably efficient at putting us in touch with objects and events in our visual environment, indeed so good that the process seems automatic and effortless,” says Randolph Blake, professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University, who directed the study.

“In fact, the brain is continually operating like a clever detective, using clues to figure out what in the world we are looking at. And those clues come not only from what we see but also from other sources.”
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Anti-ageing pill pushed as bona fide drug

Anti-ageing pill pushed as bona fide drug | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Doctors and scientists want drug regulators and research funding agencies to consider medicines that delay ageing-related disease as legitimate drugs. Such treatments have a physiological basis, researchers say, and could extend a person’s healthy years by slowing down the processes that underlie common diseases of ageing — making them worthy of government approval. On 24 June, researchers will meet with regulators from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make the case for a clinical trial designed to show the validity of the approach.

Current treatments for diseases related to ageing “just exchange one disease for another”, says physician Nir Barzilai of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. That is because people treated for one age-related disease often go on to die from another relatively soon thereafter. “What we want to show is that if we delay ageing, that’s the best way to delay disease.
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Bespoke diets based on gut microbes could help beat disease and obesity

Bespoke diets based on gut microbes could help beat disease and obesity | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Scientists have created bespoke diets using a computer algorithm that learns how individual bodies respond to different foods.

Researchers believe the tailored diets could help stem the rising tide of diabetes, heart disease and obesity, by personalising people’s daily meals and so helping them to adopt healthy eating habits.

The first results from the Personalised Nutrition Project, run by leading researchers in Israel, are due to be unveiled on Friday at the Human Microbiome conference in Heidelberg, Germany.

The project challenges the idea that general recommendations about healthy foods are suitable for everyone, and instead aims to produce optimised diets based on people’s unique biological make-up.

“We are all different,” said Eran Segal, a computational biologist who runs the project with Eran Elinav at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot. “We see tremendous variability in people’s responses to foods, so if you want to prescribe diets, they have to be personally tailored.”
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A pocket-sized medical lab being tested at the CHUV

A pocket-sized medical lab being tested at the CHUV | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
The device – a sort of Swiss army knife of medical tests – was created by Qloudlab, a start-up based at EPFL, and is currently undergoing certification at the CHUV hospital.
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Test unravels history of infection - BBC News

Test unravels history of infection - BBC News | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
US researchers claim to have developed a single test that is able to identify past exposure to every known human virus infection, using a drop of blood.

The technique decodes the infection history imprinted in our immune response.

The scientists hope that the test will eventually provide important insight into how viruses contribute to development of a range of diseases.

The work was published in the journal Science.

During a virus infection, your immune system generates antibodies designed to fight the virus. Each antibody recognises a tiny fragment of the virus and their interaction is very specific - they fit like a lock and key.

Virus-specific antibodies can be long-lived; often persisting many years after an infection has disappeared. So, your antibody repertoire represents a historical record of all of the viruses that have infected you.

This immunological catalogue has been used for years to identify past virus exposure, but the diagnostic tests routinely used have been limited to one, or at most a few, different virus strains.
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Implantable pump to regulate fluids in the eye and preserve vision

Implantable pump to regulate fluids in the eye and preserve vision | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
When its levels are slightly off-kilter, eye fluid can create pretty big problems for our vision. When blockages occur they can lead to a build up in pressure that destroys the optic nerve and causes blindness, a condition we know as glaucoma. In contrast, a lack of fluid can cause the eye to cave in and stop functioning, a disease known as phthisis bulbi. Currently, little can be done about these irreversible conditions once they take hold, but Fraunhofer researchers have a potential solution in the works by way of a microscopic pump that can be implanted in the eyeball to regulate ocular pressure.

Though there are treatments available for both glaucoma and phthisis bulbi, these only slow the progression of damage and loss of vision, rather than reverse their symptoms. In glaucoma patients, this can involve surgically stimulating the flow of fluids from inside the eyeball's anterior chamber, but around one in four patients suffer scar tissue which in turn causes drainage problems. For phthisis bulbi patients, treatment sees fluid in the eye regularly topped up through injections, an uncomfortable process that still leaves the loss of vision inevitable.
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Stress Makes Your Brain Stronger: Try Fasting

Stress Makes Your Brain Stronger: Try Fasting | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Mark Mattson is a scientist at the National Institute of Aging and a professor at Johns Hopkins Medical who is also has been a practitioner of caloric restriction and intermittent fasting. In the July issue, he explains in his article “What Doesn’t Kill You…” how low-level exposure to toxic chemicals in plants may provide some of the same mild stresses on brain cells as do fasting and caloric restriction—stresses that actually help protect neurons. In a TED talk, he also explains the benefits of fasting on the brain:
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90 minutes in nature really change the brain - Futurity

90 minutes in nature really change the brain - Futurity | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
A new study finds quantifiable evidence that walking in nature could lead to a lower risk of depression.

Specifically, the study finds that people who walked for 90 minutes in a natural area, as opposed to participants who walked in a high-traffic urban setting, showed decreased activity in a region of the brain associated with a key factor in depression.

“These results suggest that accessible natural areas may be vital for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world,” says coauthor Gretchen Daily, professor in environmental science and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

“Our findings can help inform the growing movement worldwide to make cities more livable, and to make nature more accessible to all who live in them.”
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‘Microswimmer’ robots to drill through blocked arteries within four years | KurzweilAI

‘Microswimmer’ robots to drill through blocked arteries within four years | KurzweilAI | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
These “microswimmers” are driven and controlled by external magnetic fields, similar to how nanowires from Purdue University and ETH Zurich/Technion (recently covered on KurzweilAI) work, but based on a different design.

Instead of wires, they’re made from chains of three or more iron oxide beads, rigidly linked together via chemical bonds and magnetic force.

The beads are put in motion by an external magnetic field that causes each of them to rotate. Because they are linked together, their individual rotations cause the chain to twist like a corkscrew and this movement propels the microswimmer.

The chains are small enough­­ — the nanoparticles are 50–100 nanometers in diameter — that they can navigate in the bloodstream like a tiny boat, Fantastic Voyage movie style (but without the microscopic humans) via a catheter to navigate directly to the blocked artery, where a drill would clear it completely.
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Can the Bacteria in Your Gut Explain Your Mood?

Can the Bacteria in Your Gut Explain Your Mood? | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Eighteen vials were rocking back and forth on a squeaky mechanical device the shape of a butcher scale, and Mark Lyte was beside himself with excitement. ‘‘We actually got some fresh yesterday — freshly frozen,’’ Lyte said to a lab technician. Each vial contained a tiny nugget of monkey feces that were collected at the Harlow primate lab near Madison, Wis., the day before and shipped to Lyte’s lab on the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center campus in Abilene, Tex.Lyte’s interest was not in the feces per se but in the hidden form of life they harbor. The digestive tube of a monkey, like that of all vertebrates, contains vast quantities of what biologists call gut microbiota. The genetic material of these trillions of microbes, as well as others living elsewhere in and on the body, is collectively known as the microbiome. Taken together, these bacteria can weigh as much as six pounds, and they make up a sort of organ whose functions have only begun to reveal themselves to science. Lyte has spent his career trying to prove that gut microbes communicate with the nervous system using some of the same neurochemicals that relay messages in the brain.
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Nature's lubricant makes your body a well-oiled machine

Nature's lubricant makes your body a well-oiled machine | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
The old adage goes that the human body is a machine. And in many ways that isn’t far from the truth. Like any machine, the human body is made up of many individual parts moving together in a highly coordinated fashion. Parts slide by other parts with every blink and step. And to keep everything running smoothly and undamaged, the machine needs to be well oiled.

Chances are, you have not given much thought to your body’s lubrication. And in many ways, this is testament to just how effective it is at protecting against damage and wear. One reason that the sliding surfaces of the body are so resilient is because of a little known protein called lubricin which is nature’s most effective “grease”.

Lubricin was discovered coating the surfaces of joint cartilage, and is perhaps the body’s most effective boundary lubricant. The lubricin molecule consists of two adhesive “feet” flanking either end of a long flexible and non-adhesive “string”. It is this dichotomy that is the secret to its effectiveness.
These adhesive feet attach themselves to virtually any surface, forming a loop in the central non-adhesive string. As more and more lubricin attaches to a surface, it self-assembles to form a dense, carpet-like layer of lubricating loops. This layer is known as a “polymer brush”, and it cushions surfaces where they contact, reducing friction as they slide.
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Cocktail of chemicals may trigger cancer | KurzweilAI

Cocktail of chemicals may trigger cancer | KurzweilAI | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
A global task force of 174 scientists from leading research centers in 28 countries has studied the link between mixtures of commonly encountered chemicals and the development of cancer. The open-access study selected 85 chemicals not considered carcinogenic to humans and found 50 of them actually supported key cancer-related mechanisms at exposures found in the environment today.

According to co-author cancer Biologist Hemad Yasaei from Brunel University London, “This research backs up the idea that chemicals not considered harmful by themselves are combining and accumulating in our bodies to trigger cancer and might lie behind the global cancer epidemic we are witnessing. We urgently need to focus more resources to research the effect of low dose exposure to mixtures of chemicals in the food we eat, air we breathe, and water we drink.”

Professor Andrew Ward from the Department of Biology and Biochemistry at the University of Bath, who contributed in the area of cancer epigenetics and the environment, said: “A review on this scale, looking at environmental chemicals from the perspective of all the major hallmarks of cancer, is unprecedented”.

Professor Francis Martin from Lancaster University who contributed to an examination of how such typical environmental exposures influence dysfunctional metabolism, pointed out that despite a rising incidence of many cancers, “far too little research has been invested into examining the pivotal role of environmental causative agents. This worldwide team of researchers refocuses our attention on this under-researched area.”

In light of the compelling evidence, the taskforce is calling for an increased emphasis on and support for research into low dose exposures to mixtures of environmental chemicals. Current research estimates chemicals could be responsible for as many as one in five cancers. With the human population routinely exposed to thousands of chemicals, the effects need to be better understood to reduce the incidence of cancer globally, the scientist say.

The research was published in Oxford University Publishing’s Carcinogenesis journal today (June 23).
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To Ease Pain, Reach For Your Playlist Instead Of Popping A Pill

To Ease Pain, Reach For Your Playlist Instead Of Popping A Pill | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
We all know that listening to music can soothe emotional pain, but Taylor Swift, Jay-Z and Alicia Keys can also ease physical pain, according to a study of children and teenagers who had major surgery.

The analgesic effects of music are well known, but most of the studies have been done with adults and most of the music has been classical. Now a recent study finds that children who choose their own music or audiobook to listen to after major surgery experience less pain.

The catalyst for the research was a very personal experience. Sunitha Suresh was a college student when her grandmother had major surgery and was put in intensive care with three other patients. This meant her family couldn't always be with her. So they decided to put her favorite south Indian classical Carnatic music on an iPod, so she could listen around the clock.

It was very calming, Sunitha says. "She knew that someone who loved her had left that music for her and she was in a familiar place."
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Nanorobots wade through blood to deliver drugs

Nanorobots wade through blood to deliver drugs | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Nanorobots hold great potential in the field of medicine. This is largely due to the possibility of highly-targeted delivery of medical payloads, an outcome that could lessen side effects and negate the need for invasive procedures. But how these microscopic particles can best navigate the body's fluids is a huge area of focus for scientists. Researchers are now reporting a new technique whereby nanorobots are made to swim swiftly through the fluids like blood to reach their destination.

Though still an emerging field of science, nanoparticles are gaining something of a reputation as potential multitools for combating things like infections, cancer, type 1 diabetes and even prising open the blood-brain barrier. But they generally can't be simply inserted into the body and left to their own devices, which is why we're seeing the development of techniques aimed at getting them to where they need to go.
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‘Brain-to-Text’ system converts speech brainwave patterns to text | KurzweilAI

‘Brain-to-Text’ system converts speech brainwave patterns to text | KurzweilAI | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
German and U.S. researchers have decoded natural continuously spoken speech from brain waves and transformed it into text — a step toward communication with computers or humans by thought alone.

Their “Brain-to-Text” system recorded signals from an electrocorticographic (ECoG)* electrode array located on relevant surfaces of the frontal and temporal lobes of the cerebral cortex of seven epileptic patients, who participated voluntarily in the study during their clinical treatment.

The patients read sample text (from a limited set of words) aloud during the study. Machine learning algorithms were then used to extract the most likely word sequence from the signals, and automatic speech-to-text methods created the text output. The system achieved word error rates as low as 25% and phone (instances of phonemes in utterances) error rates below 50%.

The researchers suggest that the Brain-to-Text system might lead to a speech-communication method for locked-in (unable to communicate) patients in the future.
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First working synthetic immune organ with controllable antibodies | KurzweilAI

First working synthetic immune organ with controllable antibodies | KurzweilAI | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Cornell University engineers have created a functional, synthetic immune organoid (a lab-grown ball of cells with some of the features of a normal organ) that produces antibodies. The engineered organ has implications for everything from rapid production of immune therapies to new frontiers in cancer or infectious disease research.

The first-of-its-kind immune organoid was created in the lab of Ankur Singh, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, who applies engineering principles to the study and manipulation of the human immune system.
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Four myths about allergies you thought were true – but aren't

Four myths about allergies you thought were true – but aren't | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Allergies are on the rise across the developed world and hay fever and eczema have trebled in the last 30 years. Yet allergies are an area of much confusion and concern. Although 40% of people report having a food allergy, in fact only 1-5% do, and allergists commonly report spending most of their consultations refuting firmly held beliefs that have no scientific foundation.

Theories about allergy – some from medical research and some from lifestyle “gurus” – have led to conflicting information, making it hard to know what to believe. Because of this, Sense About Science worked with me and a number of allergists, immunologists, respiratory scientists and pharmacists to produce Making Sense of Allergies, a guide tackling the many myths and misconceptions about allergies. One common myth – something that I work on – is the link between allergies and exposure to microbes.

So here is a hygiene and allergy reality fact check:
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