December 09, 2019

    Mucus inhibits the growth of bacteria
    The subtle way mucus disarms microbes - interesting science news

    Mucus, which lines 200 square meter of our bodies including lungs and digestive tract is not just a physical barrier can also disarm microbes preventing them from causing infections.

    Glycans, which are found in the mucus are mainly responsible for this property. Researchers studied the effects of glycans on Pseudomonas aeruginosa and discovered that this microbe no longer produced toxins or expressed genes, which are necessary for bacterial communication.

    This newly discovered property might be useful in finding new ways to treat antibiotic resistance in addition to traditional antibiotics.

    Read the full story: MIT news
    Scientific publication: Nature Microbiology


    Gut bacteria change even with a low dose of antibiotics
    Even low doses of antibiotics affect the gut bacteria - short science news and articles

    Gut microbes are known to be extremely sensitive to even low doses of antibiotics and such low doses are routinely found in the environment. Using three-dimensional microscopy in transparent zebrafish, researchers found that exposure to ciprofloxacin dramatically affect the gut bacteria.

    Researchers found that in presence of the antibiotic, bacteria, which are usually fast swimming, develop sluggish behaviour and form aggregates. Further, bacteria that normally, aggregate in dense colonies, end up forming even larger colonies.

    This zebrafish model could help us provide a framework to understand the effects of antibiotics in both humans as well as animals.

    Read the full story: University of Oregon (via ScienceDaily)
    Scientific publication: PNAS


    Human cartilage uses the same salamander like mechanism to regenerate tissue
    Salamander-like powers in humans to regrow cartilage - short science news and articles

    While it was always thought that humans cannot regrow tissue, researchers have recently discovered that human cartilage tissue has a repair mechanism similar to that seen in salamander.

    The cartilage tissue, especially in the ankle joint uses molecules called microRNAs which are the same molecules used for tissue regeneration in organisms like salamanders, lizards and zebrafish indicating that it is evolutionarily conserved across several species.

    This could form the basis of developing novel therapies for osteoarthritis which is the most common joint disorder in the world.

    Read the full story: Duke University
    Scientific publication: Science Advances


    Elucidating the cellular adaptions triggered by oxygen variations
    Nobel prize in Physiology (2019): identifying how cells sense changes in oxygen levels - short science news and articles

    The 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology was awarded to Sir Peter Ratcliffe, Gregg Semenza and William Kaelin Jr, for their contributions towards identifying the molecular mechanisms involved in regulation of gene activity in response to variations in oxygen levels.

    While, Gregg Semesza studied the role of Erythropoietin, Willaim Kaelin and Peter Ratcliffe studied the role of VHL gene and Hypoxia-induced factor (HIF) and their role in response to oxygen variations.

    Their discoveries had wide effects in the field of medicine with applications found in the development of new strategies to treat anemia, cancer as well as several other conditions.

    Read the full story: The Nobel Prize


    New treatment option of pancreatic cancer is possibly on the horizon. Image: Scienific Animations Inc under Creative Commons License 4.0
    Breaking the defense wall of pancreatic cancer - cancer short science news

    Weakening the defensive wall around a tumor so that chemomedicines can reach cancer cells better: if that approach proves to be effective in humans, that would offer prospects for pancreatic cancer, the form of cancer with the worst chance of survival.

    The wall consists of cells that stretch and contract and produce thick layers of proteins, creating a fibrous network in which the blood vessels that run to the tumor are squeezed and close. As a result, chemomedication does not end up properly in the cancer cells.

    Researchers have now found a protein, AV3, that can affect the cells that form the wall. As a result, the wall weakens and blood vessels open. The combination of AV3 and chemotherapy reduces tumors in human pancreatic tissue that had been implanted in mice. While this is hopeful, more clinical research is necessary to translate these results to an effective treatment option of patients.

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


    Cancer is the main cause of death in high-income countries. Image: The Lancet
    Cancer is now the leading death cause in high-income countries - health short science news

    The results of studies reported in the scientific journal “The Lancet” show that cancer is now the most common cause of death worldwide, but especially so in developed countries. Cardiovascular disease remains the most important death cause in middle- and low-income countries.

    World-wide, cancer was the cause of mortality in 26% of the cases in 2017, but as mortality due to cardiovascular disease in high-income countries continues to drop, the share of cancer is likely to increase. Differences between low-income and high-income countries are explained by the lower quality of health care in low-income countries, and successful management and prevention of cardiovascular disease in high-income countries.

    Researchers argue that governments of low-income countries should invest more in management and prevention of cardiovascular disease, rather than focusing largely on infectious diseases.

    Read the full story:
    Scientific publication: The Lancet


    Human gut microbes metabolize over 150 therapeutic drugs, highlighting the role bacteria play in determining how well individuals respond to medications
    Intestinal bacteria influence the effect of commonly used medicines  - health short science news

    Commonly used drugs such as cancer medication, antidepressants, birth-control contraceptive pills, and those that lower blood pressure or cholesterol are converted by bacteria in the intestines in such a way that the effect in our body may change as a result. The difference in gut bacteria population between individuals may explain why the effect of medicines can differ from patient to patient.

    American scientists exposed 271 types of pills in culture dishes to 76 different common human gut bacteria and saw a change occur in two thirds of the drugs: the chemical composition of the drugs changed under the influence of at least one bacterial strain.

    This discovery may have consequences for the treatment of various diseases, and promote personalized medicine.

    Read the full story: Yale University
    Scientific publication: Nature


    Biochemical dysfunctions leading to complications in diabetes have been identified
    Complications of diabetes better understood - health short science news

    A new study has shown that glucose metabolism in endothelial cells lining the blood vessels is increased in high concentrations of glucose, like those seen in diabetes. This was caused by the slower degradation of a glucose-metabolizing enzyme (HK2) in these cells.

    Prolonged activity of HK2 leads to increased formation of a glucose-derived substance called methylglyoxal (MG) which damages blood cells, the kidneys, the retina and nerves in arms and legs.

    Importantly, the study describes that a novel dietary supplement called glyoxalase 1 inducer (Glo 1 inducer) could correct the dysfunctional glucose metabolism in endothelial cells in cell cultures, suggesting that Glo 1 inducer could be considered for future treatment of complications caused by diabetes.

    Read the full story: University of Warwick
    Scientific publication: Scientific Reports


    A machine in UC's Nanoelectronics Laboratory makes test strips that can measure stress biomarkers. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative Services
    A simple test developed to know if you are stressed - interesting science news

    Researchers have developed a very simple test, which can easily measure the common stress hormones in sweat, blood, saliva or urine in humans. Eventually they hope that patients monitor their health using this device.

    This device uses ultraviolet light to measure the stress hormones. What is unique of this device is that it can measure not one but multiple biomarkers of stress at the same time.

    While this device is not intended to replace a full laboratory blood test, it’s a do at home system which gives us a ballpoint estimate of the patients current health status.

    Read the full story: University of Cincinnati
    Scientific publication: ACS Sensors


    Gene therapy could help in treating Down syndrome
    Gene targeting could help in treatment for Down’s syndrome - interesting science news

    Researchers have shown that targeting specific genes before birth might help in treatment of Down’s syndrome by reversing the brain maldevelopment and also improving the cognitive functioning.

    The scientists developed two experimental models and used stem cells, which are cells that can turn into other cells in the brain. They found that inhibitory neurons were overproduced in these models of Down’s syndrome.

    The gene targeted was the OLIG2 gene, which helped in rebalancing the excitatory-inhibitory balance towards a more healthy setting. Someday this approach could be used for treatment in humans.

    Read the full story: Rutgers University
    Scientific publication: Cell Stem Cell


    Low birthweight is more common in low- and middle-income countries, and reflects poorer maternal or fetal health
    One in 7 children born with a low birthweight - health short science news

    The scientific journal The Lancet reports that 20.5 million babies were born with a low birthweight, i.e. under 2500 g or 5.5 pounds in 2015. Most of these, over 90%, were born in low- and middle-income countries.

    While all 195 member states of the WHO committed to a 30% reduction in low birthweight prevalence by 2025, the current numbers indicate that progress is slow, and that efforts have to be doubled to meet this goal.

    Low birthweight is indicative of reduced maternal or fetal health, and predicts mortality, stunting, and adult-onset chronic conditions.

    Read the full story:
    Scientific publication: The Lancet – Global Health


    Titanium in food affects the gut bacteria
    Titanium in food affects the gut bacteria - interesting science news

    Researchers studied the impact of the food additive E171 (titanium dioxide nanoparticles) which is present in high quantities in food and medicine as a whitening agent. E171 is present in everything from chewing gum to mayonnaise and is consumed in high quantities by the general population.

    It is observed that in mice consuming E171, the gut bacteria are adversely affected triggering inflammation in the gut. This could lead to diseases like inflammatory bowel disease and even colorectal cancer.

    Also, increased incidence of dementia, auto-immune diseases and asthma is also linked to these titanium nanoparticles and this calls for strict regulation of food industry.

    Read the full story: University of Sydney
    Scientific publication: Frontiers in Nutrition


    Too much coffee can increase the risk of heart diseases
    How much is too much coffee? - interesting science news

    A morning coffee is sometimes the essential kick required by several people to begin their day. However, the question of how much is too much has always generated too much debate.

    Adding to this debate is the latest research which indicates that 6 or more coffees a day can be detrimental to your health and it could increase the risk of heart disease by 22%. This research confirms that excess coffee can trigger high blood pressure which is a precursor to heart diseases.

    The study used the data from UK Biobank which included approximately 350,000 participants in the age range of 37-73 years to come to this conclusion. So, coffee is moderation is absolutely fine and do not overindulge it.

    Read the full story: University of South Australia
    Scientific publication: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition


    The 'daywake' gene is linked to afternoon naps in flies
    The afternoon siesta-suppressing gene discovered - interesting science news

    Researchers working on fruit flies have identified a siesta-suppressing gene which could inform us on the biology that helps several organisms including humans to balance the benefits of a good afternoon nap vs. getting important things done.

    The afternoon naps which occur more on intense warm days were probably evolved as a protection against exposure to hot temperatures in the afternoon. However, certain fruit flies have a gene called ‘daywake’, which suppresses this activity especially when the temperatures cool down to increase the time spent seeking mates or food.

    Interestingly, the ‘daywake’ gene is adjacent to the ‘period’ gene which controls the circardian rhythm or the sleep-wake cycle of these flies.

    Read the full story: Rutgers University
    Scientific publication: Current Biology


    Mismatch repair deficiency refers to a characteristic of some cancer cells that create a large number of changes in the DNA, leading to new products that can be attacked by the immune system during immunotherapy. Image: Andrew H. Lee
    Why immunotherapy does not cure half of cancer patients - cancer short science news

    Scientists have discovered why cancers in about half of the cancer patients do not respond to immunotherapy. Analysis of tumors in mice and humans revealed that those cancers that do respond have a higher degree of microsatellite instability (MSI) than those with a lower MSI.

    This means that the DNA of cancers with high MSI is changed considerably. This may give rise to new proteins in cancer cells that the immune system can attack.

    Thus, the level of MSI can now be used as a biomarker, like a crystal ball, to predict which patient will benefit from immunotherapy and which patient will not.

    Read the full story: Johns Hopkins
    Scientific publication: Science


    Second hand smoking linked to hypertension
    Stay away from second-hand smoke to protect your heart - interesting science news

    If you are about to enter a room or a car that’s smoky, do yourself a favour and wait till it clears off the smoke. This is because researchers have shown that non-smokers show an increased risk of high blood pressure with longer durations of passive smoking.

    Further, the research showed that passive smoking exposure for 10 years lead to a 17% increased risk of hypertension.

    This is the first study, which has positively assessed the link between hypertension and second-hand smoke with the exposed person’s tested for cotinine in urine which is a principal metabolite of nicotine.

    Read the full story: European Society of Cardiology


    Fecal transplant could help against deadly infection
    Fecal transplant to treat antibiotic resistant bacteria - interesting science news

    Clostridoides difficile is a lethal bacterium that is resistant to several antibiotics and leads to sepsis and death if not treated immediately. Now we have a new weapon to treat it; its poop!!!

    While, the drug of choice is oral vancomycin, there are several newer antibiotics, but these are very expensive. Further using antibiotics to treat a gut infection could be disastrous since it kills other useful bacteria.

    This is where fecal transplant comes in. This can be transplanted by ememas, capsules or direct installations to improve the flourishing of normal the good bacteria and thus control and then prevent the recurrence of C.difficile infections.

    Read the full story: American Osteopathic Association (via ScienceDaily)
    Scientific publication: The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association


    Stress at work and sleepless nights go hand in hand, and the combination of the two increases the risk of cardiovascular disease by threefold in hypertensive employees
    Work stress and sleepless nights: a dangerous combination - health short science news

    A new study found that work stress and the associated sleeping problems increase the risk by threefold of cardiovascular death in employees with hypertension (high blood pressure).

    In comparison, stress at work alone increased this risk by 1.6-fold, and poor sleep alone by 1.8-fold.

    Thus, the specific combination of stress at work and poor sleep presents a serious cardiovascular risk, very relevant to the one-third of the working population that has hypertension.

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


    Sitting down and watching movies: putting your health at risk
    Americans sit too much - health short science news

    A large study including over 50,000 participants has revealed that Americans have not reduced the time they spend sitting in the period from 2001 through 2016.

    The habit of sitting behind computers, watching television or videos is apparently difficult to change, in spite of the many health warnings that have been broadcasted during this period.

    Thus Americans sit too much, although they have been informed about the health risk (obesity, diabetes, some cancers) this carries.

    Read the full story: Washington University School Of Medicine in St. Louis
    Scientific publication: JAMA


    People with happy partners live longer
    Happy spouse = longer life - interesting science news

    While previous research has shown that having a happy spouse leads to a longer marriage, now there is evidence it is also associated with a longer life. Interestingly, spousal life satisfaction was an even better predictor of participant’s mortality as compared to his or her own life satisfaction.

    Researchers state that life satisfaction is associated with healthy behaviours like good diet and exercise and this could result in the individuals also adopting these habits like their partner.

    This data comes from a national representative population of 4400 couples in the USA over the age of 50 years. Also, most of the couples surveyed were heterosexual couples and we don’t know if this applies to same-gender couples too.

    Read the full story: Association of Psychological Science
    Scientific publication: Psychological Science


    Playing video games does not impair social development of children, especially in boys
    Playing video games is not harmful for boy’s social development - health short science news

    To address the concern that playing video games impairs social development of children, a large Norwegian study has been undertaken with children between 6 and 12 years of age.

    It turned out that playing video games is essentially without effect on social development of boys. However, girls who play video games at the age of ten show less social competence two years later than girls who did not play video games at the same age.

    Researchers conclude that playing video games is in general not harmful for social development, but that for girls it is not clear whether social insecurity promotes playing, or that playing retards social development.

    Read the full story: Society for Research in Child Development
    Scientific publication: Child Development


    Microscopic image of an HIV-infected T cell. Credit: NIAID
    Antibody suppresses HIV for 4 months - interesting science news

    In patients who undergo a short pause in the anti-retroviral therapy (ART), regular dose of an antibody, which prevents HIV from binding on the human immune cells, has shown to suppress HIV levels for up to 4 months.

    The antibody known as UB-421 showed these results in a phase 2 clinical trial and encouragingly did not induce antibody resistant HIV.

    These results are also encouraging since previously tried antibodies which target proteins on the virus directly increase the mutation rate in the virus inducing resistance to the treatment.

    Read the full story: NIAID (via ScienceDaily)
    Scientific publication: NEJM


    Gene therapy could help cure X-SCID
    Immunity of kids restored by gene therapy - interesting science news

    Scientists have used gene therapy to restore immunity in infants with X-SCID, which is a life-threatening inherited disorder in which the immune cells do not develop correctly. This makes the infants highly susceptible to infections.

    The researchers inserted a normal copy of the IL2RG gene in the normal blood-forming stem cells of these infants. A lentivirus was used to deliver the gene which by itself isn’t infectious to the patient.

    Within 3-4 months of the therapy the infants were able to to produce normal number of several immune cells such as T cells, B cells and natural killer cells. This was a small clinical trial and hence will be replicated with a larger sample size in the future.

    Read the full story: NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
    Scientific publication: NEJM


    Antibiotic resistant bacteria are on patients and could be transmitted to others
    Where are the superbugs: On patients’ hands - interesting science news

    Multidrug resistant organisms or MDROs were found in 14% of patients on their hands and nostrils when tested for antibiotic resistant drugs.

    Certain patients developed infections of MRSA when in hospital and all these patients were positive for MRSA on their hands as well as hospital room surfaces. Surprisingly, this happened to be seen very early in their hospital stay indicating that transmission to room surfaces is very rapid.

    With the current practice of encouraging hospital patients to move about in the halls as a part of recovery, increases the risk of these bugs being transmitted to other hospital areas.

    Read the full story: Michigan Medicine - University of Michigan (via ScienceDaily)
    Scientific publication: Clinical Infectious Diseases


    NO2 coming out of car exhausts is a major risk for childhood onset asthma
    Four million new cases of childhood asthma per year caused by traffic-related air pollution - health short science news

    Globally, there are an estimated 170 new cases of childhood asthma, caused by traffic-related air pollution, per 100,000 children per year, representing 13% of all annual childhood asthma cases worldwide.

    Problems are most severe in the big Chinese cities, Seoul, and Moscow.

    Pollution, especially NO2, in these cities is below the maximal recommended levels, and researchers therefore propose to re-evaluate those levels to reduce the number of children with asthma.

    Read the full story: The Lancet Planetary Health


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