March 22, 2019

    Viral encephalitis, 3D illustration showing brain and close-up view of viruses and neurons
    Why some people develop encephalitis following a virus infection

    Mutations in the DBR1 gene explain why 1 in 10,000 people will develop encephalitis following a common virus infection. The protein encoded by DBR1 is important for proper mRNA splicing, and without it, immunity in the brainstem against viruses is severely impaired. This discovery sheds new light on the precise cause of encephalitis, a potentially deadly disease.

    Read the full story: The Rockefeller University
    Scientific publication: Cell

    Side effects of birth control methods are often a concern for women
    No link found between contraceptives and depression - short science news

    Depression is a common concern for many women using birth control methods. However, a new study by researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center found no evidence to support a link between hormonal birth control and depression. The researchers reviewed thousands of studies on the mental health effects of contraceptives, published in over 30 years. They concluded that there is insufficient evidence to prove a link between birth control and depression.

    Read the full story:
    Scientific publication: Contraception

    Exomeres (purple). By: Molecular Cytology Core Facility, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
    New nano-sized particles secreted by cancer cells discovered - short science news

    A new cellular messenger discovered by Weill Cornell Medicine scientists may help reveal how cancer cells co-opt the body’s intercellular delivery service to spread to new locations in the body. In a paper published in Nature Cell Biology, scientists identify nano-sized particles, called exosomes, that are secreted by cancer cells and contain DNA, RNA, fats and proteins. Investigators separated two distinct exosome subtypes and discover a new nanoparticle, which they named exomeres. Exomeres largely fuse with cells in the bone marrow and liver, where they can alter immune function and metabolism of drugs. The latter finding may explain why many cancer patients are unable to tolerate even small doses of chemotherapy due to toxicity.

    Read the full story:
    Scientific publication: Nature Cell Biology

    Tobacco heating products are designed to heat rather than burn tobacco
    Tobacco heating products may reduce exposure to toxic chemicals compared to cigarettes  - news

    A new alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes is represented by tobacco heating products designed to heat rather than burn the tobacco. These products are very new and little is known about their effects. A clinical study conducted by scientists at British American Tobacco has revealed that when smokers switch completely from cigarettes to tobacco heating products, their exposure to certain cigarette smoke toxicants is significantly reduced. The study suggests that tobacco heating products may substantially reduce risks compared to smoking conventional cigarettes. The results were encouraging; however, the study was conducted on only 180 participants and further confirmation of the results is needed.

    Read the full story: Eureka Alert
    Scientific publication: Meeting of the Society for Research in Nicotine and Tobacco

    Antidepressants are more effective than placebo in the treatment of depression
    Antidepressants work

    In a huge meta-analysis, researchers found that antidepressants are, on average, more effective than placebo. This applied to all of the 21 antidepressants that were evaluated in this study, with some antidepressants being more effective than others. The analysis concerned treatments of 8 weeks, so that it remains uncertain whether the beneficial effects of antidepressants persist over the longer term. While the use of antidepressants has been met with controversy, the study shows that antidepressants work. However, the data only present averages across groups of patients, and the response to medication is known to vary from person to person.

    Read the full story: University of Oxford
    Scientific publication: The Lancet

    A child’s development is affected by the health and lifestyles of th parents before pregnancy
    The future of a child influenced by the parents’ lifestyle before pregnancy - short science news

    Young men and women often carry health risks induced by their lifestyle and this can influence future pregnancies and the growth of the children. This is what a news large-scale study suggests. Health issues such as obesity, substance abuse and mental disorders can have an impact on pregnancy, even if they occurred in the past, for example during the adolescence of the parents. For example, the maternal depression, affecting a high proportion of the mothers is correlated with pre-pregnancy mental health problems that date back to adolescence. The study suggests actions to be taken to improve the health and lifestyle of adolescents and future parents-to-be.

    Read the full story: University of Melbourne
    Scientific publication: Nature

    Problem drinking should be treated as early as possible to lower the risk for dementia
    Alcohol use is a major risk factor for dementia

    A nation-wide screening of dementia patients in France found a strong correlation between alcohol use disorder and dementia, especially early-onset dementia. Of 57.000 cases diagnosed with early-onset dementia, 57% had a history of chronic heavy drinking. As heavy drinking can be avoided, it is important to reduce problem drinking as early as possible, before brain damage and dementia become permanent, researchers say.

    Read the full story: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
    Scientific publication: The Lancet Public Health

    Teenagers were better prepared for a standard driving test than older people
    Age and driving: the younger the better for passing a driving test - short science news

    The age of a driver is important when it comes to safe driving. Contrary to popular beliefs, a new research study suggests that teenagers are better at passing a driving test compared to their older peers. This was especially true for men, the older the student, the worse his driving skills score was. The study also investigated the importance of other factors. It found that there was no significant difference in driving skills between males and females. Moreover, the people that were involved in sports performed better. This may be because participation in sports improves spatial perception. The study suggests it may be a good idea for older drivers to review the safety driving guidelines.

    Read the full story:
    Scientific publication: PLOS One

    A disadvantaged childhood may predict poor health in older adults
    Health in elderly influenced by economic vulnerability during childhood - short science news

    Could socio-economic vulnerability in childhood influence health in older adults? This is the question that scientists from the University of Geneva try to answer in a recent study. They examined data from more than 24,000 older people from 14 European countries. The researchers found that socio-economically disadvantaged individuals in childhood had low muscle strength at an older age - a good indicator of their overall health status. Even if they did better in life and improved their socio-economic status as adults, individuals disadvantaged as children had a higher risk of poor health. Read more below to find out why!

    Read the full story:
    Scientific publication: Age and Ageing

    Insulin-like proteins are naturally produced by some viruses
    Insulin goes viral

    Analyses of viral DNA revealed that four viruses synthesise proteins that look a lot like insulin. The viral insulin binds to rodent and human insulin receptors, and switches on all related signalling pathways within the cell to stimulate sugar uptake or cell division. The identified viruses are known to infect fish, but whether they also can infect humans, either directly or through fish consumption, is at present not known. The viruses will be used for further studies in diabetes type I research, and might help pharmaceutical industry to design new insulin-like proteins in the treatment of disease.

    Read the full story: Joslin Diabetes Center
    Scientific publication: pnas

    New test for detecting autism in children developed by scientists from the University of Warwick
    New test for detecting autism in children developed by scientists from the University of Warwick

    A new promising test for detecting autism was developed recently at the University of Warwick. The test screens blood and urine samples for abnormal protein levels. It can detect two categories of proteins, both associated with autism: the oxidation marker dityrosine and advanced glycation endproducts. The results need to be confirmed by follow-up studies. If successful, the new test could be used for early detection of autism, assessment of treatment efficacy and to evaluate the progress of the disorder.

    Read the full story: Eureka Alerta
    Scientific publication: Molecular Autism

    Latest research news in cancer
    Latest research news in cancer

    ScienceBriefss Editorial

    Cancer research is advancing fast. Here at, we have highlighted some of the latest research news about the biology of cancer and the strategies scientists envisage to come to effective cancer treatment.

    Cancer is one of the most feared diseases. Tremendous efforts are invested in cancer research, hoping to understand the mechanisms of this disease and to eventually cure it. Advances have been made and this editorial article outlines the most impressive scientific discoveries in cancer research, released in the news recently.

    Read the full story: ScienceBriefss Editorial on cancer news

    Vaccination might be the future to protect oneself against cancers
    Induced pluripotent stem cells may serve as cancer vaccine

    Injection of pluripotent stem cells into experimental mice prevented or slowed down tumor development, a new study shows. These cells can be made from your own blood or skin cells by reprogramming them back to a juvenile state that bears much resemblance with cancer cells. The immune system will recognise these cells and be on the alert when a cancer might develop in the future. Pluripotent stem cells might thus make it possible to vaccinate somebody with his or her own cells against cancers.

    Read the full story: Sciencebriefss
    Scientific publication: Cell Stem Cell

    Brain and encephalography in epilepsy patient during seizure attack
    Specific neurons in the hippocampus control the spread of epileptic seizures

    Mossy cells, a particular set of brain cells, prevent the spread of electrical, epileptic, activity from the hippocampus to the rest of the brain. Temporal lobe epilepsy patients suffer from a progressive loss of mossy cells, worsening the condition over time. The discovery of a protective role of specific hippocampal neurons, obtained in laboratory mice, might help to develop new strategies to treat temporal lobe epilepsy.

    Read the full story: Stanford Medicine
    Scientific publication: Science

    Study shows possible association between highly processed aliments consumption and cancer
    Highly processed food could contribute to cancer - short science news

    A recent study suggests consumption of highly processed aliments could trigger cancer in humans. This category of foods includes fizzy drinks, ready meals, sugary cereals and packaged baked goods and snacks; they often have high levels of fat, sugar and salt, but lack in vitamins and fibers. The findings are based on following 104,980 healthy adults. The results show that a 10% increase in the proportion of ultra-processed foods in the diet was associated with increases of 12% in the risk of overall cancer and 11% in the risk of breast cancer. Further research is needed, but this study is already triggering an alarm call regarding processed food consumption, which in some developed countries accounts for up to 50% of the daily food intake.

    Read the full story: BMJ News
    Scientific publication: BMJ

    Safe use of nanotechnology in medicine is coming closer.
    DNA nanorobots kill tumors by cutting off their blood supply

    A completely new way to fight cancers might be the use of DNA nanorobots that effectively find tumors and induce clogging of the blood vessels that feed the tumors. Nanorobots were injected in laboratory animals, and caused cancers to shrink, acted specifically in the tumors, and did not spread into the brain where they might induce unwanted side-effects. Safe use of nanotechnology in medicine is approaching.

    Read the full story: Arizona State University
    Scientific publication: Nature Biotechnology

    Weight lost by dieting is often regained due to the activity of a protein in the brain.
    Dieting might become effective now that fat burning is better understood

    The end of yo-yo dieting might be in sight now that researchers have discovered a protein in the brain that acts as a switch to control fat burning. This protein ensures that the body stores more energy after a period of food shortage. By manipulating this protein, researchers might one day be able to fool the brain enough so that we won’t regain the weight lost by dieting.

    Read the full story: Monash University
    Scientific publication: Cell Reports

    Lymphocytes attacking a cancer cell.
    Cancer-killing virus puts the immune system on red alert

    A cancer-killing virus that is currently in clinical trials may not only infect cancer cells, but also triggers a strong immune reaction that attacks tumors even far away from the virus-infected region. Researchers found that infecting tumor cells (only 5% of the cancer cells) by the virus exposes the immune system to cancer proteins, which causes an immune response against the rest of the tumor. These findings make it possible to combine the use of the virus with immunotherapy for effective treatment of cancers.

    Read the full story: University of San Francisco
    Scientific publication: Cancer Research

    Naked mole rats live a long life without cancer. Image: Wikimedia Commons
    Further cause found for a long life without cancer in the naked mole rat

    Naked mole rats inhibit metabolic processes in senescent cells much more than mice do, a new study shows. As a consequence, senescent cells keep dividing, and ageing is greatly retarded. In mice and other animals, on the other hand, senescent cells stop dividing to prevent cancer development, but ageing is enhanced. It was already known that naked mole rats do not develop cancers, in spite of cell division throughout life, and it is for these reasons that researchers have turned to this animal species to study the competing biology of ageing and cancer.

    Read the full story: University of Rochester
    Scientific publication: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA

    Gut bacteria influence metabolism
    Intestinal bacteria linked to obesity

    Gut bacteria have an influence on weight gain and obesity, a mouse study shows. This is explained by the activity of a « bacterial sensor » in the intestines that controls gene expression in both the mice and bacteria. In the mice, this involves genes that control metabolism. In the bacteria, these genes regulate food intake, thus leaving more or less nutrients available for the mice. The results imply that treatment of obesity and related illnesses should be possible by manipulating gut bacteria.

    Read the full story: Johns Hopkins Medicine
    Scientific publication: Mucosal Immunology

    Antibodies against sugar molecules coating the cells help identify biomarkers for diseases
    Antibodies against complex sugars enable discovery of biomarkers for diseases. Short science news

    Antibodies are molecules in our blood that recognize specific targets in order to protect the body from infections and other diseases. A new technology is now using antibodies specific for sugar molecules as a tool to discover biomarkers for diseases. Many deadly diseases are difficult to identify early, due to lack of specific biomarkers. The technique has already been used to pinpoint a potential biomarker for ovarian cancer relapse. The technology is in development phase, but it promises to help scientists and doctors quickly identify dangerous diseases.

    Read the full story: Augusta University
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications

    Measles vaccine delivered on time extends the survival rate of children from undeveloped countries
    Measles vaccine has benefits beyond protecting against measles infection. Short science news

    The largest study of children in low/middle income countries shows that correct timing of measles vaccine protects beyond measles infections by increasing child survival rates. Child mortality was decreased when the vaccine was delivered after the third diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP3) vaccination. The study included 38,000 children from Ghana and it found that vaccinated children had 28% higher chances of survival, in the first 12 months and 18% higher chances by five years of age. The study also found a significantly stronger beneficial effect of measles vaccination for boys in comparison to girls.

    Read the full story:
    Scientific publication: Frontiers in Public Health

    Blood sugar measurements and insulin injections are routine for diabetes patients. Image: Pixabay
    New compound to treat Type 2 diabetes

    Chemists have designed a compound that stimulates insulin release from the pancreas to lower blood sugar levels in diabetes Type 2 patients, but without causing side effects. Side effects, such as nausea, are brought about by the effects of current drugs in the brain. However, by chemically modifying a current drug, the new compound cannot enter the brain, thus eliminating side effects, yet preserving its stimulatory action on insulin release. Removal of side effects would motivate patients to continue their treatment.

    Read the full story: Syracuse University
    Scientific publication: Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism

    Dialysis of patient with kidney failure. Image: Wikimedia Commons
    Functioning human kidney created in mice

    Scientists from the University of Manchester have created human kidney tissue for the first time outside the human body. The tissue, which is able to produce urine, was generated from human embryonic stem cells that were combined with a particular gel that served as artificial connective tissue. This mixture was then injected in mice, which started to form human nephrons, the functional units of kidneys. This is a major research milestone which may help patients with kidney failure in the future.

    Read the full story: University of Manchester
    Scientific publication: Stem Cell Reports

    Triple negative breast cancer better understood. Image: Pixabay
    How cancer stem cells drive a deadly type of breast cancer

    Researchers from Cleveland Clinic have found that cancer stem cells make use of a unique intracellular survival mechanism that makes them proliferate and spread. Cancer stem cells are at the heart of an aggressive breast tumour that cannot be treated effectively due to its biomolecular composition. With the discovery of the survival mechanism of cancer stem cells, researchers hope to have a new target for the development of medication to stop these cells from replicating themselves and spreading to other parts of the body.

    Read the full story: Cleveland Clinic
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications

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