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How Fat May Hurt the Brain, and How Exercise May Help

How Fat May Hurt the Brain, and How Exercise May Help | The future of medicine and health |

Obesity may have harmful effects on the brain, and exercise may counteract many of those negative effects, according to sophisticated new neurological experiments with mice, even when the animals do not lose much weight. While it’s impossible to know if human brains respond in precisely the same way to fat and physical activity, the findings offer one more reason to get out and exercise.

It’s been known for some time that obesity can alter cognition in animals. Past experiments with lab rodents, for instance, have shown that obese animals display poor memory and learning skills compared to their normal-weight peers. They don’t recognize familiar objects or recall the location of the exit in mazes that they’ve negotiated multiple times.

But scientists hadn’t understood how excess weight affects the brain. Fat cells, they knew, manufacture and release substances into the bloodstream that flow to other parts of the body, including the heart and muscles. There, these substances jump-start biochemical processes that produce severe inflammation and other conditions that can lead to poor health.

Many thought the brain, though, should be insulated from those harmful effects. It contains no fat cells and sits behind the protective blood-brain barrier that usually blocks the entry of undesirable molecules.

However, recent disquieting studies in animals indicate that obesity weakens that barrier, leaving it leaky and permeable. In obese animals, substances released by fat cells can ooze past the barrier and into the brain.

Rosmellin Barrios's curator insight, March 13, 2014 5:22 AM

I thought this article was very interesting because there was a lot of information. Obesity is a huge problem here in the U.S. I was actually impressed when i was reading this article and it said about how obesity could actually affect your brain. Fat cells manufacture and release substances into the blood stream which affect your brain. An experiment was done on mice and you were actually able to tell the difference from the normal average weight mice and the obese mice.

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Wound-plugging XStat syringe saves its first life on the battlefield

Wound-plugging XStat syringe saves its first life on the battlefield | The future of medicine and health |
With the capacity to stem severe bleeding within around 20 seconds, the XStat sponge-filled syringe could be a real game-changer when it comes to medical care. It has just proved its worth in the most testing of environments, with battlefield surgeons successfully using the device to plug a soldier's gunshot wound for the first time.

The syringe, which was first approved for battlefield use in 2014, works by filling a wound with small cellulose sponges. These are made from wood pulp and covered in chitosan, an antimicrobial compound found in crustacean shells. This not only fights off bacteria, but also causes blood clotting that combines with the expanding sponges to apply pressure and quickly stop arterial bleeding.

When a coalition forces soldier received a gunshot wound to the left thigh, opening up the femoral artery and vein to leave a gaping cavity, doctors were unable to stem the residual bleeding even after around seven hours of surgery.

The team then called on the XStat syringe to fill the wound, applying a single syringe to the cavity which almost immediately stopped the flow of blood. The soldier then became stable and was moved to a definitive care facility.

"The first-in-human experience with XStat is the culmination of tremendous effort on the part of both RevMedx and our military collaborators," says Andrew Barofsky, president and CEO of RevMedx. "We are pleased to see XStat play a critical role in saving a patient's life and hope to see significant advancement toward further adoption of XStat as a standard of care for severe hemorrhage in pre-hospital settings."
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World Immunization Week 2016

World Immunization Week 2016 | The future of medicine and health |
World Immunization Week (WIW) 2016, celebrated in the last week of April, aims to promote the use of vaccination. What is in store for this year's WIW?
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Gene helps prevent heart attack, stroke; may also block effects of aging | KurzweilAI

Gene helps prevent heart attack, stroke; may also block effects of aging | KurzweilAI | The future of medicine and health |
University of Virginia School of Medicine have discovered that a gene called Oct4 — which scientific dogma insists is inactive in adults — actually plays a vital role in preventing ruptured atherosclerotic plaques inside blood vessels, the underlying cause of most heart attacks and strokes.

The researchers found that Oct4 controls the conversion of smooth muscle cells into protective fibrous “caps” inside plaques, making the plaques less likely to rupture. They also discovered that the gene promotes many changes in gene expression that are beneficial in stabilizing the plaques. In addition, the researchers believe it may be possible to develop drugs or other therapeutic agents that target the Oct4 pathway as a way to reduce the incidence of heart attacks or stroke.

Could impact many human diseases, regenerative medicine

The researchers are also currently testing Oct4′s possible role in repairing cellular damage and healing wounds, which would make it useful for regenerative medicine.

Oct4 is one of the “stem cell pluripotency factors” described by Shinya Yamanaka, PhD, of Kyoto University, for which he received the 2012 Nobel Prize. His lab and many others have shown that artificial over-expression of Oct4 within somatic cells grown in a lab dish is essential for reprogramming these cells into induced pluripotential stem cells, which can then develop into any cell type in the body or even an entire organism.

“Finding a way to reactivate this pathway may have profound implications for health and aging,” said researcher Gary K. Owens, director of UVA’s Robert M. Berne Cardiovascular Research Center. “This could impact many human diseases and the field of regenerative medicine. [It may also] end up being the ‘fountain-of-youth gene,’ a way to revitalize old and worn-out cells.”
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Tomatoes could hold the key to old-age prostate problems, scientists say

Tomatoes could hold the key to old-age prostate problems, scientists say | The future of medicine and health |
The traditional problem suffered by older men of having to relieve themselves several times a night could be treated by eating more tomatoes, scientists believe.

Researchers found that a nutrient called lycopene, which gives tomatoes their red colour, could potentially ease the affliction suffered by millions.

A review of 67 research studies, published in the journal Oncology and Cancer Case Reports, suggests that the nutrient can be used to slow down the enlargement of the prostate, which causes the embarrassing condition.

With age most men suffer an unexplained expansion of the prostate, which is wrapped around the urinary tract.

The prostate constricts the tube and may block it altogether, causing a condition called benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH).

Professor Hiten Patel, from Bart’s and the Royal London Hospital, led the team which reviewed the research.

“We knew lycopene seems to slow down the development of prostate cancer, but now it seems it can slow down the enlargement of the prostate and development of BPH as well,” he said.

“We need to do more research before we can say it should be recommended routinely for everyone, but the outcome of this review is very promising.”

The findings appear to corroborate previous studies conducted in China where traditional diets include a much higher intake of fruit and vegetables and lower rates of BPH were found

Other research by Bristol University showed that those who ate the most tomatoes had an 18% risk of prostate cancer.

Dr Athene Lane, lead author of the Bristol study, said: “There is definitely something in lycopene to be investigated further so we can understand how the mechanisms works.”

Despite identifying lycopene as a potentially helpful factor in controlling prostate expansion, treatment may be more complicated than simply eating more tomatoes.

This is because lycopene is not easily absorbed into the blood unless processed in some way.

However, researchers believe this problem can be circumvented by administering the nutrient in the form of a supplement pill LactoLycopene.


Fruit and vegetables
Prostate Cancer
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'No evidence' to support emphasis on grit - Futurity

'No evidence' to support emphasis on grit - Futurity | The future of medicine and health |
The significance of grit in helping us reach success has been greatly overstated, according to a new meta-analysis of existing research on the topic.

In fact, Marcus Credé, an assistant professor at Iowa State University, and colleagues found no evidence that grit is a good predictor of success.

While some educators are working to enhance grit in students, Credé says there’s no indication that it’s possible to boost levels. And even if it were possible, it might not matter.

Grit is defined as perseverance and commitment to long-term goals. The research—often associated with University of Pennsylvania professor Angela Duckworth who first studied grit—is relatively new compared to the decades of work on performance indicators such as conscientiousness and intelligence.

Credé says his team’s analysis of 88 independent studies representing nearly 67,000 people shows that grit is really no different than conscientiousness. The findings will appear in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
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Clumsy teenage boys 'can blame brain' - BBC News

Clumsy teenage boys 'can blame brain' - BBC News | The future of medicine and health |
Scientists have come up with an explanation for why some teenage boys go through a clumsy phase.

Research suggests the brain struggles to cope with the body's change in height during a sudden growth spurt.

The boys walk clumsily for a while as their brain adjusts, say Italian scientists.

Adolescents who grow slowly and steadily remain more coordinated, a team at the University of Bologna found in a study.

Lead researcher Dr Maria Cristina said a sudden increase in height affects the body's ability to control established motor skills, such as walking.

"Adolescents tend to show previous control of the body when growing up, but the motor control behaviour is organised on the body's dimensions," she said.

"Following a growth spurt, the body needs time to adjust to changes to the periphery, during which time a teenager may walk awkwardly, while teenagers who grow steadily are able to handle growth modifications better and so maintain smoothness and regularity when walking."
Motor skills

The researchers studied 88 teenage boys aged 15.

They divided them into two groups - boys who grew more than 3cm over the three-month study period and those who grew only 1cm or less.

They then analysed aspects of gait, including balance, the ability to walk smoothly and regularity of stride.

The boys walked back and forth along a corridor with wireless sensors strapped to their backs and legs, and were asked to perform a mental arithmetic task while walking.

Boys who had not had a growth spurt walked more smoothly and their stride was more regular compared with the other group, the scientists found.

The research is published in the open access journal BioMedical Engineering OnLine.
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Analysis: Antibiotic apocalypse - BBC News

Analysis: Antibiotic apocalypse - BBC News | The future of medicine and health |
A terrible future could be on the horizon, a future which rips one of the greatest tools of medicine out of the hands of doctors.

A simple cut to your finger could leave you fighting for your life. Luck will play a bigger role in your future than any doctor could.

The most basic operations - getting an appendix removed or a hip replacement - could become deadly.

Cancer treatments and organ transplants could kill you. Childbirth could once again become a deadly moment in a woman's life.

It's a future without antibiotics.

This might read like the plot of a science fiction novel - but there is genuine fear that the world is heading into a post-antibiotic era.

The World Health Organization has warned that "many common infections will no longer have a cure and, once again, could kill unabated".

The US Centers of Disease Control has pointed to the emergence of "nightmare bacteria".

And the chief medical officer for England Prof Dame Sally Davies has evoked parallels with the "apocalypse".

Antibiotics kill bacteria, but the bugs are incredibly wily foes. Once you start treating them with a new drug, they find ways of surviving. New drugs are needed, which they then find ways to survive.
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The Future of Getting High

The Future of Getting High | The future of medicine and health |
In 2014, I walked into a dispensary in Boulder and emerged with something truly surreal: a receipt. For weed. Two years earlier, Colorado had voted to legalize recreational marijuana—reflecting a seismic shift in American attitudes toward the drug. In just two generations, the portion of the population that supports legalization went from 12 percent to 58 percent. Along the way, we’ve seen emerging marijuana markets, new technologies, and the normalization of experiences that were once taboo.

At the same time, though, Americans are succumbing to the dangers of other drugs in ever greater numbers. Substance-use disorders now affect more than 21 million Americans. Drug overdose—especially from heroin and other opiates—is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. And nearly a third of all vehicle fatalities are alcohol-related.

On the one hand, we want to feel good. On the other, we need to do more to protect ourselves and our loved ones. Scientists and entrepreneurs are working on new products and technologies that promise to make drugs and alcohol both safer and more satisfying. Here’s what the future of getting high might look like.
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Origami meat robot can rescue rubbish from your stomach (Wired UK)

Origami meat robot can rescue rubbish from your stomach (Wired UK) | The future of medicine and health |
An ingestible origami robot designed to patch wounds, deliver medicine or remove foreign objects from a person's stomach has been developed by researchers from MIT, the University of Sheffield and the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

The robot is swallowed in a capsule and unfolds once in the stomach as its container dissolves. Unlike its creators' previous ingestible robots, the new device is made largely of meat in the form of a type of dried pig intestine used in sausage casings.

In a video demonstration of the robot's capabilities, the team uses a mock-up of a stomach, moulded from that of a pig and made of silicone rubber, with a mixture of water and lemon juice to simulate stomach acid. The robot is sent down the oesophagus in a capsule made of ice and tasked with removing a button battery that's become embedded in the stomach wall.
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Dandruff? Soon you'll be reaching for the scalp yoghurt

Dandruff? Soon you'll be reaching for the scalp yoghurt | The future of medicine and health |
The next time dandruff dots your shoulders, you might want to reach for yogurt, not shampoo. The latest study into scaly scalps has found that nurturing particular bacteria on the skin could keep the white flakes at bay.

Researchers in Shanghai took on the dandruff problem with an unprecedented investigation into flaky scalps and the ecosystem of microbes that set up home on the human head, feeding on the lavish menu of dead skin and oily secretions called sebum.

Menghui Zhang at Shanghai Jiao Tong University invited 59 people aged 18 to 60 years old into the lab and gathered dandruff from eight different areas on their heads. All had washed their hair two days before turning up at the centre.

Zhang separated the volunteers into “healthy” and dandruff groups, depending on the amount of visible skin flakes in their hair. He then looked to see how the populations of scalp bacteria and fungi differed between the two groups, and with individual’s sex, age and physiology.

The researchers found that sebum secretions rose through the teenage years, peaked at 15 to 35 years old, and then declined as people got older. Meanwhile, dandruff became worse as people aged, with the over 40s having more severe dandruff than the younger participants. Writing in the journal Scientific Reports, the authors note: “Sebum is an important food source for the growth of fungi and bacteria.”
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Gene Therapy’s First Out-and-Out Cure Is Here

Gene Therapy’s First Out-and-Out Cure Is Here | The future of medicine and health |
A treatment now pending approval in Europe will be the first commercial gene therapy to provide an outright cure for a deadly disease.

The treatment is a landmark for gene-replacement technology, an idea that’s struggled for three decades to prove itself safe and practical.

Called Strimvelis, and owned by drug giant GlaxoSmithKline, the treatment is for severe combined immune deficiency, a rare disease that leaves newborns with almost no defense against viruses, bacteria, or fungi and is sometimes called “bubble boy” disease after an American child whose short life inside a protective plastic shield was described in a 1976 movie.

The treatment is different from any that’s come before because it appears to be an outright cure carried out through a genetic repair. The therapy was tested on 18 children, the first of them 15 years ago. All are still alive.

“I would be hesitant to call it a cure, although there’s no reason to think it won’t last,” says Sven Kili, the executive who heads gene-therapy development at GSK.
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Robo-Surgeon Successfully Sews Pig Intestine

Robo-Surgeon Successfully Sews Pig Intestine | The future of medicine and health |
Robots are a growing presence in operating rooms throughout the U.S. as surgeons embrace the technology to help them remove damaged organs or cancerous tissue. These systems have improved greatly in recent years but still need hands-on surgeons to guide their instruments and make critical decisions. Turning a robot loose on its own to cut and sew delicate tissue inside a human body would be a massively complex undertaking requiring advanced imaging, sensor and artificial intelligence technologies—not to mention a lot more acceptance from the medical community and federal regulators.

But those hurdles have not stopped scientists at Children’s National Medical Center’s (CNMC) Sheikh Zayed Institute from developing a robotic system that has successfully sutured and reconnected portions of pig intestine in a living animal with little or no human intervention, according to a report in the May 4 Science Translational Medicine.
Maria E Araiza-Gutiérrez's curator insight, May 12, 1:06 PM
robots are becoming ubiquitous

Robots are becoming ubiquitous!!
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Scientists make 'second skin' to hide wrinkles - BBC News

Scientists make 'second skin' to hide wrinkles - BBC News | The future of medicine and health |
Scientists claim to have developed an invisible elastic film that can be applied to the skin to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and eye bags.

Once applied, the formula dries to form a film that "mimics the properties of youthful skin", Nature Materials reports after a series of small trials.

At the moment it is being explored as a commercial cosmetic product.

But the US scientists say their "second skin" might eventually be used to deliver medicines and sun protection.
Second skin

The team from Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have tested their prototype product on a handful of volunteers, applying the formula to their under-eye bags, forearms and legs.

The polysiloxane polymer was m
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From frozen ovaries to lab-grown babies: the future of childbirth

From frozen ovaries to lab-grown babies: the future of childbirth | The future of medicine and health |
It is almost 40 years since the first IVF baby, Louise Brown, was born. While this amazing breakthrough was highly controversial at the time, IVF is today commonplace. So how is conception and childbirth likely to change over the next 40 years and beyond?

The rapid pace of research in the areas of fertility and reproduction raises some mind-boggling questions about the future. Will we conceive and grow babies entirely in laboratories – making sex and pregnancy a thing of the past? And will all future babies be “genetically designed”?

One of the real game changers will be women’s ability to preserve their fertility and have children later in life. The procedure of freezing eggs was once fairly unsuccessful. But these days 80-90% of the eggs survive and women have a 97% chance of having a baby if they freeze 40 or more eggs before they turn 35. Another option is for women to freeze ovarian tissue at a young age, which can be thawed and put it back in the body several years later. This is still being researched but babies have been born using this method, and it is only going to get better with time.

Scientists have also successfully created sperm from stem cells and there is no reason why the same cannot be done for eggs. So in 40 years, women will most likely have several viable options to help them preserve their fertility. Hopefully, this will also be socially accepted and an affordable thing to do by then – empowering women to have children when they are ready.

But will these changes result in IVF taking over as the main way of reproduction? Despite an enormous amount of research, only a third of women are able to have a baby following IVF today – something that is unlikely to change in the next 40 years. This is partly down to age and the fact that even the healthiest-looking embryo has around a 30% chance of having an abnormal genetic make-up, which can cause miscarriage or genetic defects. Genetic screening before implantation is already used to identify these embryos, but future, improved “non-invasive” testing of the fluid the embryo has grown in will significantly boost IVF rates. Indeed, a century from now IVF is highly likely to be the “normal” way to conceive, making those who conceive naturally look like radical risk takers.
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Exercise cuts your risk for 13 types of cancer

Exercise cuts your risk for 13 types of cancer | The future of medicine and health |
New study shows that regular exercise lowers your risks of developing 13 different types of cancer - far more than previously identified.
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'Eat fat to get thin': Official diet advice is 'disastrous' for obesity fight, new report warns

'Eat fat to get thin': Official diet advice is 'disastrous' for obesity fight, new report warns | The future of medicine and health |
Thirty years of official health advice urging people to adopt low-fat diets and to lower their cholesterol is having “disastrous health consequences,” a leading obesity charity warned yesterday.

“Eating fat does not make you fat,” argues a new report by the National Obesity Forum (NOF) and the Public Health Collaboration, as they demanded a major overhaul of official dietary guidelines.

The report says the low-fat and low-cholesterol message, which has been official policy in the UK since 1983, was based on “flawed science” and had resulted in an increased consumption of junk food and carbohydrates.

The document also accuses major public health bodies of colluding with the food industry, said the misplaced focus meant Britain was failing to address an obesity crisis which is costing the NHS £6 billion a year.

The authors call for a return to “whole foods” such as meat, fish and dairy, as well as high-fat healthy foods like avocados.
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Why we can't tickle ourselves

Why we can't tickle ourselves | The future of medicine and health |
Some of us are more ticklish than others, but nearly everyone is unable to tickle themselves. The answer is tied to how we see and how we perceive movement.

To get to the bottom of why we can’t tickle ourselves, let’s first examine another phenomenon. Close one eye, and then carefully push against the side of your other (open) eye, moving the eyeball from side to side in its socket. What do you see? It should appear as if the world is moving, even though you know it isn’t.

Now put your hand down and scan your environment. Your eye moves in similar ways as when you pushed it, but the world remains stable. Clearly the visual information gathered by the eye is the same in both cases, with images drifting across the retina as the eye moves around, but your perception of how things were moving was only false when you poked your eye.

This is because when you move your eyes naturally, the brain sends motor commands to the eye muscles and, at the same time, something called an “efference copy” of the commands is sent to the visual system so that it can predict the sensory consequences of the movement. This allows the visual system to compensate for the changes on your retina due to the eyeball’s motion and your brain knows that changes in the image (that look like things have moved) are in fact due to the eye’s own movement.

So you’re able to dart your eyes around the room, taking in every detail, without feeling like you’re whizzing around like a wild hornet. When you poked your eye, no such prediction had been made, and so no compensation took place, resulting in weird motion perception.
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How Your Gut Affects Your Mood

How Your Gut Affects Your Mood | The future of medicine and health |
At any given moment, you have somewhere between 10 trillion and 100 trillion microorganisms inhabiting your gut — that’s more microbes in your bowels than there are cells in your body. If that isn’t impressive enough, consider that collectively these microbes have about 150 times as many genes as your own genome. Scientists are still trying to figure out exactly which microbes make up the human microbiome, but it’s estimated to contain more than 1,000 species and 7,000 distinct strains of bacteria. Your gut is never alone.

It’s also not working in isolation. What’s becoming more and more clear is that the microbes in the gut are crucial for the brain and mental health. Ted Dinan is an expert in this field, and he became so almost by accident. It was the early 2000s, and he’d recently taken a position at University College Cork, a place that he said was “known for its heavy-hitting microbiologists.” Some of these microbiologists were talking about a type of bacteria they described as “probiotic” — conferring some kind of health benefit. As a psychiatrist, Dinan thought it would be interesting to see what happened when he fed these probiotics to some rats he was studying in an experimental model of mental health. Lo and behold, rats given the probiotics expressed fewer signs of anxiety and depression. Dinan and his colleagues would go on to coin the term “psychobiotics” for microbes that can benefit the brain or behavior.
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The Power Of Genes, And The Line Between Biology And Destiny

The Power Of Genes, And The Line Between Biology And Destiny | The future of medicine and health |
As researchers work to understand the human genome, many questions remain, including, perhaps, the most fundamental: Just how much of the human experience is determined before we are already born, by our genes, and how much is dependent upon external environmental factors?

Oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross the answer to that question is complicated. "Biology is not destiny," Mukherjee explains. "But some aspects of biology — and in fact some aspects of destiny — are commanded very strongly by genes."

The degree to which biology governs our lives is the subject of Mukherjee's new book, The Gene. In it, he recounts the history of genetics and examines the roles genes play in such factors as identity, temperament, sexual orientation and disease risk.
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Magic mushrooms lift severe depression in clinical trial

Magic mushrooms lift severe depression in clinical trial | The future of medicine and health |
Magic mushrooms have lifted severe depression in a dozen volunteers in a clinical trial, raising scientists’ hopes that the psychedelic experiences beloved of the Aztecs and the hippy counter-culture of the 1970s could one day become mainstream medicine.

A clinical trial, which took years and significant money to complete due to the stringent regulatory restrictions imposed around the class 1 drug, has found that two doses of psilocybin, the active substance in the mushrooms, was sufficient to lift resistant depression in all 12 volunteers for three weeks, and to keep it away in five of them for three months.

The size of the trial and the absence of any placebo means the research, funded by the Medical Research Council and published in the Lancet Psychiatry journal (pdf), is a proof of principle only.

The scientists, from Imperial College London, said they hoped the results would encourage the MRC or other funders to put up the money needed for a full trial. However, the use of a placebo control, comparing those who use the drug with those who do not, will always be difficult, because it will be obvious who is having a psychedelic experience.

In spite of the outcome, the researchers urged people not to try magic mushrooms themselves.

The lead author, Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, said: “Psychedelic drugs have potent psychological effects and are only given in our research when appropriate safeguards are in place, such as careful screening and professional therapeutic support.
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We've created a new way to look at your vagina – it might just save your life

We've created a new way to look at your vagina – it might just save your life | The future of medicine and health |
Oh vagina, how do I name thee? Let me count the ways. From private parts to lady bits, clunge to chuff, fanny to minge, yoni to yum yum, the list of names given to female genitalia is seemingly endless and often verging on the ridiculous.

With vaginal metaphors and euphemisms depicting female genitalia as scary, ugly or off limits, it’s not surprising a large number of women and girls struggle to identify parts of their own genitalia – with just half of women surveyed able to correctly locate the vagina on a diagram of the female reproductive system.

But our recent research is hoping to change all this. We have designed a phone app called Labella, which combines a piece of underwear and a mobile phone – allowing the user to get to know their own anatomy through the medium of a smart phone.

Initially designed with a wide range of women in mind, future developments will be aimed at young women, providing them with an educational tool which will enable them to get to know their bodies in a way that feels comfortable and knowledge driven.
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This Visualization of the Brain’s Word Map Is Really Addicting—Here’s Why

This Visualization of the Brain’s Word Map Is Really Addicting—Here’s Why | The future of medicine and health |
Last week, Nature, the world’s most prestigious science journal, published a beautiful picture of a brain on its cover. The computer-generated image, taken from a paper in the issue, showed the organ’s outer layer almost completely covered with sprinkles of colorful words. The paper presents a “semantic map” revealing which parts of the brain’s cortex—meaning its outer layer, the one responsible for higher thought—respond to various spoken words. The study has generated widespread interest, receiving coverage from newspapers and websites around the world. The paper was also accompanied by an online interactive model that allowed users to explore exactly how words are mapped in our brains. The combination yielded a popular frenzy, one prompting the question: Why are millions of people suddenly so interested in the neuroanatomical distribution of linguistic representations? Have they run out of cat videos?

The answer, I think, is largely the same as the answer to why “This Is Your Brain on X” (where X = food, politics, sex, podcasts, whatever) is a staple of news headlines, often residing above an fMRI image of a brain lit up in fascinating, mysterious patterns: People have a fundamental misunderstanding of the field of neuroscience and what it can tell us.

But before explaining why people shouldn’t be excited about this research, let’s look at what the research tells us and why we should be excited.
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Dreaming brain rhythms lock in memories - BBC News

Dreaming brain rhythms lock in memories - BBC News | The future of medicine and health |
Disrupting brain activity in sleeping mice, specifically during the rapid eye movement (REM) phase, can stop the animals remembering things they learned that day, a study suggests.

It is the clearest evidence to date that REM sleep is critical for memory.

By switching off certain brain cells, the researchers silenced a particular, rhythmic type of brain function - without waking the mice.

If they did this during REM sleep, the mice failed subsequent memory tests.

The research is reported in the journal Science.

REM sleep is the phase during which, at least in humans, dreams take place - but the question of whether it is important for settling new memories has been difficult to answer.

Recent studies have tended to focus on deep, non-REM sleep instead, during which brain cells fire in various patterns that reflect memory consolidation and "re-play" of the day's experiences.

During REM sleep, while our eyes flicker and our muscles relax, exactly what the brain is doing is something of a mystery. But it is a type of sleep seen across the animal kingdom, in mammals and birds and even lizards.

Especially in animals, REM phases can be quite fleeting. This and other complications have made it difficult to test what effect such sleep has.

Simply waking up humans or animals when they enter the REM phase, for example, causes stress and other problems that can confound any memory tests.
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Does what we eat influence inflammation in the brain?

Does what we eat influence inflammation in the brain? | The future of medicine and health |
It's no secret that diet has a huge impact on health, but a new study suggests that what we eat might even play a role in brain inflammation. The work was conducted by researchers at the Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), with the findings suggesting that changes in diet might influence neurodegeneration in the brain, and potentially even providing researchers with new targets for treatment.

While previous work has inferred that a connection between the gut microbiome and inflammation in the brain, the interaction is still little understood, prompting the BWH researchers to begin a study that aimed to gain more concrete data on the relationship. Their goal was to more precisely work out how the two areas are linked, and how diet might influence that connection.

They started by looking at astrocytes, which are a star-shaped cell type found in both the spinal cord and brain, in laboratory mice with multiple sclerosis (MS). Performing a genome-wide analysis of the cells, the team was able to pinpoint the molecular pathway involved in inflammation.

Turning back to the gut, the team then discovered that molecules derived from an amino acid called tryptophan – found in a number of foods, including turkey – act on that molecular pathway. When a large enough number of the molecules are present, they're actually able to limit brain inflammation.
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Should we edit out genetic disease?

Should we edit out genetic disease? | The future of medicine and health |
As genomic medicine advances, the possibility of manipulating our genetic makeup, and that of our future children, is rapidly becoming a reality. But, even if we could edit out genetic disease, does that mean we should?

The launch of the 100,000 Genomes Project by the government in 2012 is part of a wider trend to launch whole-genome sequencing into mainstream healthcare. Whole genome sequencing – the examination of a person’s entire DNA sequence – is set to drastically alter the ways we approach health and disease. By providing detailed information about a person’s genetic constitution, genome sequencing has the potential to explain both current health problems as well as forecast future ones. This may be through identifying susceptibility to late-onset diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, or revealing our “carrier status” for inheritable conditions – that is, conditions we unknowingly carry in our genes that we could pass on to our children.
Starting to become a reality

Genome sequencing appears set to eventually become a standard part of pregnancy planning. Private genetics companies already use the techniques to screen couples for large numbers of genetic conditions simultaneously, before the female partner even becomes pregnant. If the couple is found to be at risk of passing on a genetic condition, they are offered various interventions to prevent the birth of an affected child. It is anticipated that embryo genome editing techniques – techniques to remove disease-causing genetic mutations – might one day be among these interventions.

While genome sequencing on a mass scale is now largely feasible, important questions are yet to be answered about the ways they could, and should, be used. One group whose voices have been underrepresented in these debates are those of people already living with genetic disease.
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