The future of medicine and health
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The future of safe sex?

The future of safe sex? | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Once mocked as having the erotic appeal of a jellyfish, the female condom is being reinvented as the next big thing in protective sex. In the first article from new digital publication Mosaic, Emily Anthes takes an in-depth investigation to see what chance it has of catching on this time around.

In 1987, an American pharmaceutical executive called Mary Ann Leeper flew to Copenhagen to get a first-hand look at what she thought might be the world’s next great health innovation. She didn’t expect to find it tucked away inside an old cigar box.

When she arrived at the old farmhouse owned by Danish doctor and inventor Lasse Hessel, he opened the door with a cigar in his mouth. Then he fetched the box. “Inside were all these bits and pieces – metal, plastic, all different kinds of stuff,” Leeper recalls. “I took a deep breath and thought, ‘Holy mother – what have I gotten myself into?’” Somehow, these bits and pieces fit together to form a contraption that women could wear during sex to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections – the world’s first female condom.

The presentation may have been unconventional, but Leeper and her colleagues at Wisconsin Pharmacal had high hopes for Hesse’s invention. “The Aids crisis in the United States was just fully being recognised, and it was clear to us that for women to have a product that they could use to help protect themselves would be a good thing,” Leeper says.

Indeed, when Wisconsin Pharmacal finally introduced the female condom to the US in 1993, public health experts hailed it as a game-changer. The condom, a polyurethane pouch inserted into the vagina before sex, would protect women from sexually transmitted infections even if their male partners refused to wear condoms.

Technically, the female condom works. When used correctly, it reduces a woman’s risk of contracting HIV by around 94–97% each time she had sex, according to estimates. Studies show that making female condoms available alongside the male version increases the percentage of sexual acts that are protected, and decreases the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections.

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We're Now a Step Closer to Using MDMA to Treat Post-Traumatic Stress

We're Now a Step Closer to Using MDMA to Treat Post-Traumatic Stress | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
For over a century there has been a divide in how we see legal pharmaceuticals used to treat illness and illicit ones we use to get high and party.

Yet the line is gradually blurring with the psychoactive substances in drugs such as ecstasy increasingly showing promise in the treatment of certain mental health conditions, meaning we could see them being legally prescribed in the next few years.

At the recent Psychedelic Science 2017 conference in California, researchers affiliated with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) gave a presentation on phase II trials of the amphetamine relative MDMA being used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

While this was the first public release of results they are yet to publish, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had a sneak preview last November, and have already given their approval for testing to move onto the third and final stage.

To make sure a drug actually works, and that it has more benefits than risks, it moves through a number of levels of experimentation.

Pre-clinical testing is what we often read about with great excitement in news articles, where a chemical shows some promise in petri-dishes or animals.

From there it can be tested on healthy people in increasing doses just to make sure any down sides aren't too extreme. That's Phase I.
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The science of laughter – and why it also has a dark side

The science of laughter – and why it also has a dark side | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
When you hear someone laugh behind you, you probably picture them on the phone or with a friend – smiling and experiencing a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. Chances are just the sound of the laughter could make you smile or even laugh along. But imagine that the person laughing is just walking around alone in the street, or sitting behind you at a funeral. Suddenly, it doesn’t seem so inviting.

The truth is that laughter isn’t always positive or healthy. According to science, it can be classified into different types, ranging from genuine and spontaneous to simulated (fake), stimulated (for example by tickling), induced (by drugs) or even pathological. But the actual neural basis of laughter is still not very well known – and what we do know about it largely comes from pathological clinical cases.

Laughter and the appreciation of humour are vital components of adaptive social, emotional and cognitive function. Surprisingly, they are not uniquely human. Primates and apes also enjoy a good chuckle. This may have evolved because it helps them survive. Laughter is, after all, a communal activity which promotes bonding, diffuses potential conflict and eases stress and anxiety. But it loses its momentum quickly when indulged in alone (solitary laughter can have ominous connotations).
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'Exciting' blood test spots cancer a year early - BBC News

'Exciting' blood test spots cancer a year early - BBC News | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Doctors have spotted cancer coming back up to a year before normal scans in an "exciting" discovery.

The UK team was able to scour the blood for signs of cancer while it was just a tiny cluster of cells invisible to X-ray or CT scans.

It should allow doctors to hit the tumour earlier and increase the chances of a cure.

They also have new ideas for drugs after finding how unstable DNA fuels rampant cancer development.

The research project was on lung cancer, but the processes studied are so fundamental that they should apply across all cancer types.

Lung cancer kills more people than any other type of tumour and the point of the study is to track how it can "evolve" into a killer that spreads through the body.
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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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Musclebound mice study brings "exercise pill" a step closer

Musclebound mice study brings "exercise pill" a step closer | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
New research could mean that a pill to provide some of the same health benefits as exercise could eventually move from fantasy to reality. One day we may thank scientists at Augusta University for playing a role in saving all that sweat. A team there has found that suppressing a particular protein can enhance muscle mass and help obese people reduce their risk of a number of health concerns.

Researchers bred both lean and obese mice that were unable to produce the protein myostatin, which is known to inhibit muscle growth. Both groups of mice bulked up as a result, but although the obese mice still remained obese, they had cardiovascular and metabolic health markers similar to the lean mice and much better than obese mice that produce myostatin.

"While much more research is needed, at this point myostatin appears to be a very promising pathway for protection against obesity-derived cardiometabolic dysfunction," explains Joshua T. Butcher, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the Vascular Biology Center at Augusta University.

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Fountain of Youth? Young Blood Infusions "Rejuvenate" Old Mice

Fountain of Youth? Young Blood Infusions "Rejuvenate" Old Mice | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
An injection of “new blood” is a phrase long used as a metaphor for the revitalizing effect of fresh minds on a stagnant organization. But research now suggests it also applies in a literal sense. In a development that calls to mind both vampire lore and stories of bathing in blood, young blood appears to in fact rejuvenate old brains.

Researchers at Stanford University led by neuroscientist Tony Wyss-Coray showed in a 2014 study that infusions of blood from young mice reversed cognitive and neurological impairments seen in old ones. They used a somewhat bizarre technique in which two mice were sutured together in such as way that they shared a circulatory system (known as parabiosis), and found old mice joined to their youthful counterparts showed changes in gene activity in a brain region called the hippocampus as well as increased neural connections and enhanced “synaptic plasticity”—a mechanism believed to underlie learning and memory in which the strength of neural connections change in response to experience. They also gave old mice infusions of young blood plasma (the liquid component of blood containing proteins and hormones but no cells), which significantly improved their performance in learning and memory tests.
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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.
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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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