December 12, 2018

    A protein inspired by scorpion venom could be used to transport drugs of therapeutic importance inside the brain
    Scorpion venom to deliver drugs into the brain - science news headlines in brief

    When attempting to deliver drugs into the brain one must consider the existence of the natural obstacle called the blood-brain barrier (BBB) which prevents many chemical compounds from entering the nervous system. To overcome this, a team of researchers plans to use a protein from a deadly source: the scorpion venom!

    This small protein is derived from chlorotoxin, found in the scorpion venom (Giant Yellow Israeli scorpion) and it can cross the BBB. The team managed to chemically synthesize the carrier protein. By attaching drugs to it, they can be delivered them into the body and then they can reach the brain.

    The final goal is to be able to deliver drugs to the nervous system in order to treat various diseases. The study is important since about 98% of drugs that have therapeutic potential cannot cross the blood-brain barrier by themselves.

    Read the full story: Institute for Research in Biomedicine Barcelona
    Scientific publication: Chemical Communications


    A drug with omega-3 fatty acid EPA triggered a remarkable decrease in the risk for heart attack and stroke in a clinical trial
    Fish oil-containing drug shows promise against risk of heart attack, stroke - science news

    According to a recently published study, a drug based on fish oil may reduce the probability for stroke and heart attack in high risk patients (high triglyceride levels, previous strokes or heart attacks, atherosclerosis).

    The drug, with the trade name Vascepa, contains high doses of the omega-3 fatty acid EPA. In the study, it decreased the risks by 25%. Moreover, it reduced cholesterol levels.

    The study looks very promising and the researchers believe this observation has great potential. Likely the topic will continue to be investigated, and hopefully confirmed in future clinical trials.

    Read the full story: NBC News
    Scientific publication: New England Journal of Medicine


    Defense against pathogens has a new player: the gamma delta T cell that detects and destroys foreign or cancer cells independently from the rest of the immune system
    Revolutionary immune cells with a double function - health short science news

    Immunologists have discovered that a special class of T cells, the gamma delta T cells, can be on the one hand part of the innate immune system (for defense against intruders in general), but on the other hand can be part of the adaptive immune system (for defense against specific intruders). As a consequence, they can detect and destroy foreign cells or malfunctioning cells (cancer cells, or perhaps erroneously in autoimmune diseases) independently, thus without being instructed by other cells of the immune system. This surprising observation may have huge consequences for our understanding of the immune system, and how to manipulate it to treat cancer and autoimmune diseases.

    Read the full story: The Francis Crick Institute
    Scientific publication: Nature Immunology


    Gut bacteria from healthy people could cure colitis in cancer patients undergoing immunotherapy
    Fecal transplantation to treat immunotherapy-induced colitis - health short science news

    Immunotherapy is effective to fight cancer, but often causes side-effects due to inhibition of the immune system. One of these is colitis, or inflammation of the colon. In a case study with two patients, scientists found that transplanting gut bacteria from healthy donors to the patients cures colitis. This is a very encouraging result, considering that resolution of colitis was permanent, and needed only one treatment. On top of this, treatment is cheap. More patients will have to be enrolled in the study, but, if results are confirmed, fecal transplantation could be considered as a first line therapy for immunotherapy-induced colitis.

    Read the full story: MD Anderson Cancer Center
    Scientific publication: Nature Medicine


    Genes that increase risk of cardiovascular disease also heighten the risk for Alzheimer's
    Genetic links between cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease discovered - health short science news

    In a study on the DNA of 1.5 million people, scientists have found that genes that have been associated with cardiovascular disease, especially those involved in lipid metabolism, are risk factors for the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Other genetic risk factors for cardiovascular disease that have been linked with diabetes type II or high body mass index do not contribute to elevated risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Thus, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease can co-occur because they are partially genetically linked, and drugs that target lipid metabolism might be repurposed to treat or prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

    Read the full story: Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis
    Scientific publication: Acta Neuropathologica


    Our bodies burn calories differently depending on the circadian rhythm
    How many calories you burn depends on the time of day - science news headlines in short

    A new study reports a surprising fact: the number of calories burnt while at rest varies with the time of day. According to the research, people burn more calories in the late afternoon and early evening.

    This explains why irregular eating and sleeping make people more prone to gaining weight. To reach this conclusion researchers studied people in a special lab where they could not tell what time it was outside.

    So, it is not only what we eat that is important but is also when we eat! Researchers advised for regularity in eating and sleeping patterns to promote good health. Next, they plan to look at how appetite and the body's response to food varies with the time of day.

    Read the full story: Medicalxpress
    Scientific publication: Current Biology


    A new gene was discovered in relationship with a rare form of alopecia
    New gene for hair loss discovered - science news

    A team of scientists has discovered a new gene responsible for a rare form of hair loss called Hypotrichosis simplex. The gene is called LSS and it affects an enzyme crucial for the metabolism of cholesterol.

    The disease leads to hair loss already in childhood. It is not yet understood how this gene triggers alopecia, but it offers new clues about the biological cause of the disease.

    A better understanding of the mechanisms behind the Hypotrichosis simplex disorder could lead to treatments that could hopefully prevent hair loss.

    Read the full story: University of Bonn
    Scientific publication: The American Journal of Human Genetics


    Colorized scanning electron micrograph of Escherichia coli. Image: NIAID, modified by Sofia Forslund, MDC, CC BY 2.0
    Recovery of gut microbiota following antibiotics treatment - health short science news

    Antibiotics treatment does not complete sterilize the human gut as some bacteria remain, including a few that have been found in a new study. Some sensitive species disappear completely, whereas other bacteria reduce themselves to spores, waiting for better times to come. During recolonization, more and more disease-causing bacteria initially appear, which may explain why many people suffer from intestinal problems during antibiotics treatment. Microbiota have reversed to normal after six months, except for the fact that the sensitive species do not return.

    Read the full story: Max Delbrück Center for molecular medicine
    Scientific publication: Nature Microbiology


    Hospitals are the places where most of the infections with superbacteria occur
    Superbacteria kill 33,000 Europeans every year - health short science news

    33,000 Europeans die each year following infections with antibiotics-resistant bacteria, a new study shows. Furthermore, the burden of these infections is comparable to that of influenza, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS combined. Most the infections, 75%, occur in hospitals, and 39% is caused by infections by bacteria that are resistant to last-line antibiotics such as carbapenems and colistin. It is thus important to take measures to prevent infection with these so-called superbacteria, and this includes central European coordination.

    Read the full story: European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control
    Scientific publication: The Lancet – Infectious Diseases


    Coffee seems to decrease slightly the risk for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and now we know why
    Coffee may inhibit proteins involved in Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases - latest science news in brief

    Coffee is good, at least that’s what the majority would say. But more than that, it may have additional health benefits. According to new research, coffee is able to inhibit the accumulation of amyloid-beta and tau, proteins that trigger the Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

    The protective effect is not due to caffeine, as it was also observed in the case of decaffeinated coffee. Instead, scientists identified a group of compounds called phenylindanes (produced during roasting), as the inhibitors of amyloid-beta and tau aggregation.

    Before you jump for the coffee machine, you should know that more research is still needed before this can be translated into therapeutic applications.

    Read the full story: ScienceDaily
    Scientific publication: Frontiers


    The nature of T cells in the human brain has been deciphered
    How T cells protect the brain - health short science news

    Using brain tissue from human donors, researchers have identified many characteristics of T cells, which protect the brain against viral infections. It has become of where they reside in the brain precisely, what sort of pro-inflammatory substances they produce and secrete (the cytokines), and how their activity is controlled. Considering the latter, T cells appear to express CTLA-4 and PD-1 in huge amounts, which are known as inhibition points of their activity. This is important information for further study and treatment of neurological autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

    Read the full story: Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Microbiomes changes immediately
    Your microbiome could change on immigrating to the USA - short science news and articles

    In an interesting finding, researcher have uncovered that immigrants to the USA, lose their native microbiome immediately and quickly acquire the microbiome of European-American people.

    People from developing countries have a greater diversity of bacteria in their gut, which is considered good for overall health. However, immigrants from Southeast Asia, mainly from Hmong and Karen communities who were included in this study immediately lost this diversity.

    Importantly, these communities started suffering from obesity, similar to western populations. Strikingly the changes were more pronounced in children, which could affect their long-term health.

    Read the full story: The Conversation
    Scientific publication: Cell


    Zebrafish larvae are a novel testing system for psychoactive substances. Image: National Institute of Genetics, CC BY 4.0
    Zebrafish larvae used for high-throughput testing of new appetite suppressants - health short science news

    In the search for new psychoactive drugs, scientists have turned to zebrafish larvae. By observing the larvae’s behavior, many drugs can already be filtered out for unwanted side effects. The advantages of using larvae of zebrafish are that they can be reproduced in large quantities in a short period of time, and that their behavior is well characterized. Scientists can monitor feeding behavior of thousands of larvae at the same time by applying fluorescent paramecia (unicellular organisms). This approach led to a quick screening of more than 10,000 small molecules, 500 of which acted on appetite, and 250 did so without inducing side effects. Some of these molecules were then tested in mice and found to influence appetite in a molecular manner that is different from already existing compounds without side effects. Zebrafish larvae will be used for the screening of other compounds, for instance of the discovery of antidepressants in the near future.

    Read the full story: University of Zurich
    Scientific publication: Science Advances


    New two-pronged approach to identify drugs against cancer: by inducing errors when cancer cells divide their chromosomes, as seen here, and by inhibiting telomerase. Image: Mar Carmena and Emma Peat
    New screening approach identifies drugs that disrupt division of cancer cells - health short science news

    Scientists have developed a new way of compound screening that may lead to the identification of new drugs to combat cancer. The selection process builds upon an already existing approach that is designed to target the enzyme telomerase, which helps to protect chromosomes from damage. In the new screening approach, scientists look for drugs that not only inhibit telomerase, but also induce errors in the DNA when cancer cells divide. These drugs can now easily be identified when testing them on artificial human chromosomes that have fluorescent markers built in. Next, the drugs are tested in real cancer cells to determine their precise effects on chromosome division. It is hoped that future drugs identified with this approach will be more effective than already existing drugs.

    Read the full story: University of Edinburgh
    Scientific publication: Cancer Research


    The colon may be important for sugar regulation. Credit: Ed Uthman, Flickr
    Colectomy increases the risk of diabetes - daily science news headlines

    People who have had a colectomy have increased risk of diabetes, showed researchers from the University of Copenhagen.

    The study involved over 46,000 people and suggested that the colon may have a role in regulating sugar levels. When the colon is removed, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in significantly increased.

    This new discovery may help uncover new ways for preventing and treating diabetes.

    Read the full story: University of Copenhagen
    Scientific publication: eLife


    Study participant David Mzee is now able to take a few steps of his own. He was totally paraplegic after a sports accident. Image: EPFL / Jean-Baptiste Mignardot
    Making the paralyzed walk again - health short science news

    Three paraplegic patients are now able to walk again thanks to intensive training and precise electrical stimulation of their spinal cords via a wireless implant. After a few months, patients could walk without electrical stimulation. This breakthrough stimulation and training neurotechnology is very different from other stimulation techniques to make paralyzed patients walk again, and is based on years of research on animal models. In fact, the scientists that developed this technique mimicked in real time how the brain activates the spinal cord. The technology will be improved over time to improve recovery and to make it available to hospitals and clinics everywhere.

    Read the full story: Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne
    Scientific publication: Nature


    Cannabis interferes with the learning process and memory in adolescent regular users
    One month of abstinence of cannabis improves learning and memory - health short science news

    Adolescents and young adults who stopped taking cannabis for one month show improved learning ability and memory, a new study shows. This is especially good news for adolescents that are regular users, as their brains go through a critical period of maturation, and are extremely sensitive to cannabis. There was no improvement in attention after the one-month period of abstinence. Thus, abstaining from cannabis helps young people learn, while continuing cannabis was found to interfere with learning and memory.

    Read the full story: Massachusetts General Hospital
    Scientific publication: Journal of Clinical Psychiatry


    Infants born at home have a higher variety of beneficial bacteria for at least one month after birth
    Babies born at home have better gut bacteria - short science news health

    According to a recent study, babies born at home have a more diverse bacteria in their guts. This has a positive impact on the development of their immunity and metabolism.

    The reason why babies born at home have different bacteria compared to those born in a hospital is not known. The study involved 35 infants out of which 14 were born at home.

    Understanding why this difference occurs could help prevent disease later in life.

    Read the full story: Rutgers University | The State University of New Jersey
    Scientific publication: Scientific Reports


    Many humans are immune to Cas9 that is used for gene therapy
    Our immune cells attack Cas9 that is used for gene therapy - health science news

    CRISPR-Cas9 is a new molecular gene editing technique that is used to make specific changes in the DNA of animals and plants, and could also be used in humans. However, scientists found that most of us have immunity to Cas9, so that the technique cannot be used safely in humans in its current form. Immunity is caused by infections of Streptococcus bacteria, from which Cas9 is derived. Thus, new solutions have to be found to prevent dangerous immunological reactions before CRISPR-Cas9 can be used safely in humans.

    Read the full story: Charité Berlin
    Scientific publication: Nature Medicine


    Recent research shows that higher levels of vitamin D in the blood are linked to better cardiorespiratory fitness
    Vitamin D important for healthier heart and lungs - daily science news headlines

    A new study showed an interesting link between the levels of vitamin D in the blood and the ability of the heart and lungs to supply oxygen to the muscles (cardiorespiratory fitness).

    People that had the highest levels of vitamin D showed a 4.3-fold increase in cardiorespiratory ability, compared to the individuals with the lowest levels. The difference was significant even after adjusting for additional factors (age, sex, smoking, etc.).

    It was known that vitamin D was good for healthy bones, but this study suggests it is also important for heart and lung functions. Clinical trials should be conducted to see if vitamin D supplements are beneficial, considering that people with higher cardiorespiratory fitness are healthier and live longer.

    Read the full story: European Society of Cardiology
    Scientific publication: European Journal of Preventive Cardiology


    Obese mice lost weight after treatment with BP3 protein
    A natural protein helps obese mice lose 1/3rd of their fat - short science articles and news

    While fat mice look cute, some obese mice have a genetic predisposition to obesity as well as the metabolic complications associated with them such as the diabetes and fatty liver. Now, researchers have found that the protein BP3 which is a natural protein and not an artificial drug enhances the activities of other proteins involved in metabolism of carbohydrates and sugars. This led to the discovery that treatment of BP3 over 18 days could reduce the obesity in mice for 33%. Also, it decreased the excess blood sugar which is usually linked to diabetes and eliminated fats from their fatty liver. Surprisingly, there were no microscopic and clinical side effects of the protein which could help develop human treatments.

    Read the full story: Georgetown University
    Scientific publication: Scientific reports


    Cell replication by cancer cells is accelerated as compared with that by healthy cells
    Cancer cells speed up cell division - cancer short science news

    Cancer cells have been found to accelerate cell replication, leading to rapid tumor expansion. Using advanced microscopic imaging techniques, scientists observed that cancer cells duplicate their DNA a lot faster than healthy immune cells. This observation confirms that cancer cells escape from the tight regulation of cell division, and also that DNA replication does not take a fixed amount of time as previously thought. These data provide more insight into cancer, and could be important for the development of drugs to combat cancer, for instance with those that restore the regulatory machinery that normally keeps cell division in check.

    Read the full story: Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research
    Scientific publication: Cell Cycle


    Paracetamol during pregnancy could accelerate puberty in the girl child
    Earlier puberty in girls whose mothers took painkillers during pregnancy - short science articles and news

    The worldwide average intake of paracetamol during pregnancy is steadily increasing over the past few years. Now, researchers have shown an effect on the girl child due to this increasing trend. There is an advancement on the beginning of puberty in the girl child by at least 1.5 to 3 months if the mother took paracetamol during pregnancy. There was no effect on the puberty of the male child. The study is based on the largest public data record of Danish birth cohort of at least 100,000 women who informed on their use of paracetamol during pregnancy. This certainly challenges the notion that paracetamol is harmless during pregnancy.

    Read the full story: Aarhus University
    Scientific publication: American Journal of Epidemiology


    Mouse pancreatic islet in which the glucagon (purple)-producing alpha-cells have been labeled with a fluorescent tag (green). Some of them have started to produce insulin (red), and they appear as yellow (green-and-red merge). Image: UNIGE Pedro Luis Herrera
    Pancreatic cells reprogram themselves to produce insulin - health science news

    When applying an insulin receptor antagonist to block insulin signaling, one to five per cent of pancreatic alpha cells that normally produce glucagon start to synthesize insulin in mice, researchers found. Thus, insulin produced by pancreatic beta cells act as a break on insulin synthesis in alpha cells. This break is removed in diabetes type I, as beta cells stop synthesizing insulin and die. Such reprogramming could be explored further to try to restore insulin production in diabetes type I patients. On a broader level, this study shows that mature cells can change their function, even when they have already completely differentiated into a particular cell type.

    Read the full story: University of Geneva
    Scientific publication: Nature Cell Biology


    Grief promotes inflammation, which in turn increases the risk of depression, cardiovascular disease, and premature death
    Loss of a loved one could kill yourself too - health science news

    By conducting interviews with, and analyzing blood parameters of, people whose spouse recently died, researchers found more inflammation markers in those of were grieving the most. Inflammation is known to contribute to many diseases in older adulthood. For example, depression is linked to higher levels of inflammation, and those who lose a spouse are at higher risk of depression, cardiovascular disease, and premature mortality. The current study shows that grief, regardless of people’s depressive symptoms, is associated with inflammation, which, in turn, can be cause of disease and even death.

    Read the full story: Rice University
    Scientific publication: Psychoneuroendocrinology


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