You Are What You Eat

Mouse

Whenever a person consumes healthier meals and therefore less calories, according to a new study on mice at the NYU Langone Medical Center, they could be lengthening their lives.

Using female mice, scientists fed one group of mice a diet of pellets containing a high amount of calories, while feeding another group of mice a diet of pellets containing 30% less calories. The hippocampus and the region surrounding it in the brains of the mice were then examined for expression of aging-genes throughout various stages of maturity. The results of the study, while not entirely applicable to humans, has shown that the mice that ate the lower calorie diets had less expression of aging genes and had less risk of chronic illnesses such as hypertension and stroke.

“The study does not mean calorie restriction is the ‘fountain of youth,’ but that it does add evidence for the role of diet in delaying the effects of aging and age-related disease.” Stated Stephen D. Ginsberg, a researcher involved with the study. The study examined more than 10,000 genes related to aging, which is a much larger amount than that previously studied by researchers. While the study was performed on mice, the results could be similar in humans, and the researched performed by Dr. Ginsberg and others should serve as a warning for our ever-indulgent world of fast food and high caloric intake.

Article:  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141117110650.htm

Third-hand Smoke Can Lead to Severe Medical Problems

Recently great attention has been given to the dangers of smoking. We all know the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke, however few know what third-hand smoke is or what it does. Third-hand smoke is the debris from cigarettes that lingers both in the air, and on objects giving off a foul odor. It is now coming to our attention that it is far more dangerous than we originally thought. Studies are showing that the inhalation can lead to health risks associated with routine smoking. In fact third-hand smoke may cause 60% of the damage that regular smoking creates. The toxins left behind by a smoker are even shown to stay in the area for nearly 18 hours. It is important for us to give greater attention to the effects of third-hand smoke in order to protect our health, and the health of those around smokers.

Trust Your Eyes?

How do illusions deceive people into seeing false perceptions of what is actually in front of them? Illusions are caused from a misunderstanding between eyes and the brain. All illusions start with the eyes. The light that bounces off an object enters the cornea of the eye. The cornea refracts the light through the pupil. The light rays then go through the lens towards the retina where the nerve cells are present. The cells, commonly called rods or cones, which are the two types of cells that  send the light through the optic nerve for the brain to interpret. Illusions are set up in a particular way with patterns, images or colors that trick the brain.

Illusions sometimes occur due to familiarity of the situation we are falsely perceiving. The whole process of interpreting information takes fractions of a second, so often times the brain quickly notices a familiar situation and is hard wired into coming to a conclusion. The link below displays a picture providing an example of this phenomena. The second picture consists of what seems to be simply a nature photo, but with a closer look actually shows the outline of a women’s face. Naturally the brain quickly perceives just trees becasue it is the “normal” understanding of the photo.

http://opticalillusionshowtheywork.blogspot.com

Another type of illusion, called a physiological illusion, occurs from a certain type of light, color, and position. This type of illusion occurs when the stimuli that are sent to the brain are so intensive or repetitive that it causes some sort of jam that creates a misperception. The picture below seems to be moving side to side. The reason this illusion works is becasue the repetition that the eyes can’t fully digest and an over stimulation occurs.

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Sometimes simply context can confuse the mind. The illusion below shows two groups of circles. The middle ones on both sides are surprisingly the same size. It is extremely shocking because the one on the left looks much bigger than the one on the right. This happens becasue the brain groups each part of the image separately and compares those circles. The circle on the left is big compared to the others while the one on the right is smaller than the others. This shows how the brain analyses some situations. The brain simply compares each circle to the other and gives it a general big or small association.

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Essentially illusions come from the false information and trickery our eyes send to the brain. Our eyes and brain work to process information in fractions of a second. Because of this optimization and simplicity is key. Rather than fully grasping all of the information many comparisons and quick conclusions can be made. The brain is forced to take shortcuts with comparisons such as light and dark, big and small, and shape to quickly adapt and react to what the eyes see.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optical_illusion

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/EyeHealth/optical-illusions-eye-brain-agree/story?id=8455573

http://theweek.com/article/index/258473/how-optical-illusions-trick-your-brain-according-to-science

Could non-gluten proteins play a role in celiac disease?

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Gluten refers to the proteins found in wheat endosperm. Wheat endosperm is a type of tissue produced in seeds that’s ground to make flour.  It is composed of two different proteins: gliadin (a prolamin protein) and glutenin (a glutelin protein). Today, there are many questions being asked about whether we should be consuming gluten.

In today’s society, one of the new healthy trends is to be gluten free. However, for those with celiac disease, it is necessary to be gluten free. Celiac disease is a condition that damages the lining of the small intestine. It prevents the intestine from absorbing parts of food that are important for staying healthy. In this article, questions are raised regarding research that claims that people with celiac disease also have reactions to non-gluten proteins.

From research, scientists have discovered that when someone with celiac disease eats gluten (group of proteins), it causes an immune reaction. Such symptoms are diarrhea, abdominal pain, anemia, and nutritional deficiencies. The current treatments are to avoid all gluten-containing foods. Armin Alaedini, Susan B. Altenbach, and their colleagues wanted to further investigate this.  They found that people with celiac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis (a rash associated with the disease) had an immune reaction to five groups of non-gluten proteins. From this, Scientists concluded that further studies regarding celiac disease and gluten should test and include non-gluten proteins.

In addition, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the way to test for celiac disease is through a blood test and then a follow up biopsy on the small intestine. When people have celiac disease and it goes untreated, their body is not receiving the necessary nutrients in order for the body to grow.

I chose this article because I try to be extremely conscious of making healthy eating choices. I have found that a lot of foods don’t agree with me but bread/ gluten has never been a concern. I know people who have celiac disease and are gluten-free. However, I also know people who do not have celiac disease and eat a gluten-free diet anyway. In some cases, people who have done this have found that it damages their stomach and ruins their ability to eat gluten. I researched this topic because I wanted to learn the truth behind a gluten-free diet and when that diet is truly necessary and appropriate.

Are you gluten-free? Do you have celiac disease? Have you ever tried gluten-free products?

 

http://celiac.org/celiac-disease/what-is-celiac-disease/

http://www.livescience.com/39726-what-is-gluten.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gluten

http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/digestive-diseases/celiac-disease/Pages/ez.aspx

Article Link: http://www.biologynews.net/archives/2014/11/05/could_nongluten_proteins_play_a_role_in_celiac_disease.html

 

 

Petri Dish Brain Models…Endless Possibilities.

Side View of the Brain

Who would have thought that modern science could develope a brain stimulation with actual brain cells in a petri dish? Well researchers led by Doctor Rudolph E. Tanzi have done just that.  They have made substantial steps in the field of medical brain research specifically in the Alzheimer’s research field. Rudolph E. Tanzi is a prominent neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. One of Tanzi’s colleagues and also a neuroscientist, Doo Yeon Kim, suggested that they grow brain cells in gel. From this suggestion researchers under Tanzi’s lead created a brain scenario in a petri dish and then gave this model Alzheimer’s disease. Tanzi and his group took embryonic stem cells, which have the potential to become any type of cell in the body, and grew them with a mixture of chemicals. Said chemicals cause the stems cells to become neurons, which they then gave those neurons Alzheimer’s genes and were all growing in a commercially available gel in a petri dish. Those genes then caused plaques and later tangles which are indicative characteristics of Alzheimers. Dr Tanzi was quoted, “Sure enough, we saw plaques, real plaques…We waited, and then we saw tangles, actual tangles. It looks like you are looking at an Alzheimer brain.” This manufactured real Alzheimer’s brain stimulation opens new doors for research that was hindered because previously on mice with imperfect formsof the human Alzheimer’s genes. Doctor P. Murali Doraiswamy of Duke University states, “It could dramatically accelerate testing of new drug candidates.” Although the Petri Dish Model lacks some real life qualities it can still be utilized as a start for quick, cheap, and easy drug testing. Doctor Sam Gandy of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York states that the new discovery is, “a real game changer.” Tanzi is now starting to test 1,200 drugs on the market and 5,000 experimental drugs, a project that was impossible to perform on mice. Tanzi also wishes to test a protein, amyloid, that clumps into the plaques. He found an enzyme, that when blocked prevents tangles from forming. Dr. Gandy wishes to use the the system to study the influence of genes, such as ApoE4, which contributes to about 50% of Alzheimer’s cases. Dr. Doraiswamy of Duke stated, “The lack of a viable model for Alzheimer’s has been the Achilles’ heel of the field.” Tanzi’s model is the first step towards defeating this “Achilles’ heel” which opens infinite new doors in the research of finding new medications to cope with the devastation of Alzheimer’s disease.

For more Information: 

Official Alzheimer’s Research Page

Neuroscience Research 

Actual Article

 

 

 

Your Potato Chips Could be Killing You

800px-Potato-Chips

Last year the FDA found a very dangerous chemical that forms in many common foods during cooking.  The chemical is called acrylamide and research suggests that it makes people more susceptible to certain cancers.  Acrylamide forms during frying, grilling, baking, roasting, or toasting when the amino acid asparagine reacts with sugars in the food.  It is what gives food like potato chips their crunchy-ness and taste.

French Fries, potato chips and other potato products have the most acrylamide in them.  Scientists have also found acrylamide in products such as coffee (especially dark roast), roasted nuts, and breakfast cereals. It is estimated that 38% of calories come from food that contains acrylamide.  Acrylamide is also found in cigarette smoke.

Acrylamide has also been found to affect pregnant women and infants.  One study in Environmental Health Perspectives showed that high acrylamide intake may be connected to slower and less fetal growth.

There are a couple of things that you can do to limit the effects of acrylamide.  The first is cooking/frying/roasting potatoes for a shorter time and toasting bread for a shorter time.  Do not let the potatoes become dark brown and do not char/burn your toast.  Another thing you can do is cook at a lower heat and use more organic ingredients.  You can also eat less potato products, cookies, and pastries and switch to a light roast coffee.  

Research on this chemical isn’t totally conclusive so I wouldn’t be too worried about it.  However, I will be more careful about the potato products that I eat and the way I cook my food.

Article:

http://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/food-safety/article/acrylamide-food-chip-tips

Other Articles:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2013/11/15/the-fda-calls-out-yet-another-food-chemical-to-avoid-acrylamide/

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/11/19/246188051/remember-death-by-french-fries-here-s-the-story

http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/ChemicalContaminants/ucm053569.htm

Potent Pot and Potential Problems

Marijuana Joint

Does smoking a little “recreational” Pot now and then really cause health problems? The answer is definitively yes.  Doctor Jodi Gilman of Massachusetts General Hospital- Harvard Center for Addiction Medicine was reviewing some brain scans were she noticed something incredibly alarming.  She found when reviewing brains of 20 pot smokers ages 18 to 25 that the nucleus accumbens of the brain of marijuana smokers were notably denser than normal. Gilman along with other researchers at Harvard University and Northwestern University conducted a study on the effects of smoking marijuana(pot) on the young adult brain.  Moderate marijuana use has been proven effect for use by adults to ease nausea and pain, however in a developing young brain, use could be detrimental.  The study took 40 young adults, non-smokers and smokers ( 7 light smokers, 9 medium smokers- light up 3-5 times per week, and 4 daily smokers) brain scans who had no sign of dependency.  These scans showed that in all smoker brains showed irregularities in the structure of the brain, specifically in the nucleus accumbens.  Similar changes were also seen the amygdala which controls memory, emotional and fear responses in the brain. Gilman concluded that these structural abnormalities indicated long term effects of THC on the brain.  Another point of interest in the influence of marijuana use on the young brain, is that the potency of pot smoked now versus pot smoked year earlier has increased.  According to samples seized by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency show that the concentration of THC, the drugs psychoactive compound, the average potency of THC has risen from 3.75 % in 1995 to 13% in 2013. Some types of marijuana products sold for recreation have been noted to have up to 70% of THC.  High-THC marijuana is associated with paranoia and psychosis according to The New England Journal of Medicine.  Nora D. Volkow stated that “We have seen very,very significant increases in emergency room admissions..It can be explained by the fact that current marijuana has a higher potency.”  Alan J Budney, a researcher and professor at Dartmouth Medical School explained that the higher the potency the more addictive marijuana becomes. A study released in 2012 showed that teenages who were found to be dependant on pot before age 18 and who continued using it into adulthood lost an average of 8 I.Q. points by age 38.  These are some serious facts to consider next time you are at a party and marijuana is present. Lighting up a few times just for the fun of it might wreak havoc on your brain in years to come.

For more information:

Link to Article

Marijuana Drug Abuse

NYT- Increase of Pot Use in Teenagers

 

A Historiography Cognitive Dissonance

In his theory of Cognitive Dissonance, American psychologist Leon Festinger, hypothesizes that humans “cognize and interpret information to fit what they already believe.”  In a recent article from nautil.us, Tom Vanderbilt provides the reader with a brief summary and historiography of the various studies related to Festinger’s theory and the idea that “we see what we want to see.”

duck:rabbit

Since both of my parents are psychologists I figured, “this article should be right in my wheelhouse, right?.” I found the article interesting primarily because Vanderbilt’s collection of studies serve to confirm that our brains have a “mind of their own,” and that it is essentially impossible to observe something truly objectively. One study involving the above ambiguous image of a sort of duck/rabbit hybrid, revealed that children were more likely to see the rabbit on easter sunday, “where on other sundays they were more likely to see the duck.” A similar study, conducted by psychologists Albert Hastorf and Hadley Cantril, was based off of the footage from a highly contentious football game.  The game was Princeton v. Dartmouth 1951, and after asking students from the respective universities questions such as “Which team do you feel started the rough play,” Hastorf and Cantril, concluded that since the “responses were so biased… the data [indicates] that there is no such thing as a game existing out there in its own right which people merely observe.” The general consensus of the various, interconnected studies that Vanderbilt cites is that “in a world of ambiguity, we see what we want to see:” our environment presents us with an influx of information (too much information for us to process) so the brain simply chooses which bits of information to deal with.  In order to efficiently process all the information from our environment, the brain “fill[s] in the details, making sense out of ambiguous sensory input.”  So, the research warns us to take what we see with a grain of salt: because our biases alter even our physical, sensory perception of the world.

 

Further reading:

http://changingminds.org/explanations/theories/cognitive_dissonance.htm

https://explorable.com/cognitive-dissonance-experiment

http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Rabbit-DuckIllusion.html

Vegan diet found to have the best health benefits

 

Vegetables

Many people have recently been trying a gluten-free diet in an attempt to be healthier, or for other personal reasons. Gluten is the basic protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale so those on that diet must avoid foods like bread, pasta, cereal, cake, essentially any carb. Carbohydrates seem to have a bad rep in our society and people often try very hard to keep them out of their diet. Some researchers even say that: “We’ve gotten somewhat carb-phobic here in the U.S. when it comes to weight loss”. 

A recent study led by researchers at the University of Southern California have found that a vegan diet even while consuming carbohydrates is best for “weight loss, decreased levels of saturated and unsaturated fat, lower BMI’s and improved macro nutrients.” This study showed that maybe people should be avoiding meat instead of carbs to improve their diet. While a vegan diet is not healthy for everyone, the study still introduced a new look on dieting and healthy eating.

The study randomly assigned one of five diets to several participants that were then followed for six months throughout the study. The five diets included vegan which bans all animal products, vegetarian which bans meat and seafood but allows animal products such as cheese and eggs, pesco-vegetarian which excludes all meat except seafood, semi-vegetarian with some meat intake, and omnivorous which excludes no foods. The participants were invited to weekly support groups throughout the study to make sure they followed their diet and also remained healthy.  At the end of the six months, the participants on the vegan diet lost more weight than the other groups by an average of 4.3%, or 16.5 lb. 

The leader of the study, Gabrielle Turner-McGrievy, was surprised by the outcome of the research. She thought the outcome of the pesco-diet would have been significantly higher than that of the meat-diet but it was not. The vegan diet was also high in carbohydrates. Turner-McGrievy was proud to say that “This study might help alleviate the fears of people who enjoy pasta, rice, and other grains but want to lose weight.”

I found this article to be very interesting because I have been following a pescetarian diet for about 11 months. I exclude meat in my diet but I still eat seafood and other animal products. My diet is also very high in carbohydrates because carbs are easy snacks. I am surprised yet pleased to see how little the effect of carb consumption had on the vegan diet.

 

Original Article:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141106101732.htm

 

Related Articles & Additional Information

http://www.thestate.com/2014/11/09/3802103/usc-study-finds-vegan-diet-most.html

http://www.medicaldaily.com/vegans-eat-carbs-and-still-lose-weight-why-you-should-give-diet-shot-310106

http://www.meatlessmonday.com/

http://celiac.org/live-gluten-free/glutenfreediet/what-is-gluten/

http://www.veganhealth.org/

Videogames aren’t that bad for your brain after all

An exciting new study at the University of Rochester, has given way to a new theory regarding the benefits of playing video games on the brain. According to brain professor Daphne Bavelier, “…playing action video games can foster better templates in our brains. The better the template, the better the performance.” To test her theory, Bavelier compared perceptual learning skills of individuals playing action video games such as Call of Duty for 50 hours and others who played non action video games like Sims in pattern discrimination tasks. Her research revealed that those who played action video games were far quicker at completing these tasks than non action game players, leading Bavelier to conclude that the action game players’ better performance is a direct result of their more developed brain templates.  When tested again a year later, the action gamers’ performance still succeeded other individuals, suggesting that video games are actually healthy for the brain and can make people better learners. While Bavelier’s results exemplify that more action packed games produce this effect, Bavelier continues to conduct research to determine which characteristics in video games are key to improving a players skills.

So, what do you think about this research and its implications? Should parents encourage their kids to play more video games?

"Tex playing video games" by R Pollard

“Tex playing video games” by R Pollard

Football may become safer with the use of magnets in helmets

New research is being conducted which shows that magnets might make football safer. The purpose of the magnets would be to repel each other when players heads are colliding with one another, which in turn would lessen the force of the hit. Although it has not been tested yet, any idea that could be used to protect athletes in crucial. As time goes on the football helmet continues to change as new safety precautions are created. Profesional football players are known to travel at speeds of almost 20 miles per hour, coupled with the fact that they generally weight upwards of 200 lbs causing nearly 150 g’s of force when players collide. Many helmet to helmet collisions lead to concussions, which could lead to very severe health problems. It is necessary for us to become aware of these dangers, and take appropriate action to lessen player injuries.

Magnetizing the Game of Football

As more and more concussions have plagued Football, from the high-school level to that of the NFL, it is known that change must occur, and fast. Along with creating temporary memory loss, concussions have created long-term health problems for football players that hurt them for the rest of their lives. This article highlights the innovative invention of magnetized football helmets that repel each other to decrease the impact into the helmet.

Up until now, the only real idea with respect to reducing the amount of concussions has been to “disperse the impact energy after the impact’s already occurred.” Neuroscientist Raymond Colello believes that magnets would lower the impact before the collisions occur, thus reducing the amount of concussions in football.

The Brain

Although the magnets haven’t been tested in football helmets yet, there have been several experiments verifying the magnets’ effectiveness. The article talks about how, with players running up to 20 mph on the field, players can receive impact forces of up to 150 g’s; this is terrifying because concussions occur at an impact of 100 g’s. Colello argues that the only way to lower the 100,000 people who receive concussions playing football every year is to put magnets in their helmets.

Using very powerful magnets made in China that weigh about .3 lbs, Colello measured that two magnets beside each other repel each other with about 100 pounds of force. After testing the magnets by attaching them to weights and dropping them from 48 inches, he recored that dropping a helmet and it hitting a stationary object would create 120 g’s of force. With these magnets in the helmets, the impact force would be under 100 g’s, which is enough of a difference to stop a concussion from occurring.

Of course Colello recognizes that there are different levels of football with different amounts of contact. The powerful magnets cost about $50 to $100, but for younger players, Colello recommends less powerful, cheaper magnets that will still help in preventing concussions. He is anxiously awaiting customized magnets that will fit into helmets and allow him to begin testing the magnets with dummy’s, and then eventually real people!

I am completely in support of changes in the technology of football helmets! Concussions have become more and more common as football players have become stronger, and concussions have also proven to be detrimental to the health of many athletes. Articles such as these are very exciting, and I expect big improvements in preventing concussions in years to come. What is your take on putting magnets in football helmets?

Major Article Used: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/magnets-helmets-might-make-football-safer?tgt=nr

Other Related Articles:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concussion

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Football_League

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnet

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroscience

 

Oh the Irony: Spice Receptors Responsible for Cold Sensations

 

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For some people, experiencing cold temperatures translates to an extreme and painful sensation, rather than just “feeling chilly”. This type of pain can even occur at milder temperatures of 68°F and below. When studying the body’s mechanism responsible for connecting cold and pain, researchers at Lund University in Sweden recently discovered that the receptor involved here is the same receptor which reacts to substances in garlic and mustard.

There has been lots of research regarding the connections between pain and irritant substances in mustard, garlic and chili. When consumed in mass amounts, these spices can cause burning sensations, rashes, swelling, and when exposed to the eyes, crying. The substances in the spices affect nerves involved in the pain system and are activated by inflammation. In the case of the garlic and mustard receptor, the Lund research team noted the way powerful substances in the garlic and mustard irritated the nerve cells 10 years ago. These receptors are found throughout the body, in places such as the skin, bladder and gut. TRPA1 is the ion channel, associated with sensory processes, activated by garlic extracts and mustard oil.  with  Now, the scientists have extended their research to prove that this garlic and mustard receptor also responds to cold.

By extracting the human receptor protein and inserting into an artificial cell membrane, the Lund scientists were able to see its reactions to cold. The scientists executed their experiment hoping get a better understanding of the body’s temperature senses and help for cold allodynia sufferers. People with chronic pain or diseases often experience problems affecting the nervous system. For instance, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy treatments can experience the side-effect of becoming over-sensitized to cold. The pain experienced by patients and the reaction for the garlic and mustard receptor both begin at relatively mild temperatures.

Drug companies are attempting to address this issue by developing drugs which will block the receptors, hopefully reducing the inflammation side effects and general pain. The Lund team believes this application will also relieve the pain caused by cold. The garlic and mustard receptor reacts to chemical substances acting as airway irritants. To address this issue, a new plausible solution of a drug which helps those affected by perfume, smoke and other irritants is believed to also help people suffering from over-sensitizing cold in their airways.

The connection of the garlic and mustard receptor to cold helps us further understand the precision and specificity of the our body’s abilities in temperature sensing. Substances in spices (notoriously hot and well, spicy) can react in ways to bring about extreme pain from over-sensitivity to cold. It’s wild that the body’s sensory neurons can share receptors and cause similar reactions to very different triggers (spice substances and the cold). It’s pretty amazing that medication is being developed to block the receptors for both substances, lessening the pain and inflammation for these seemingly polar issues. It turns out that science, involved in even the tiniest receptor, really does connect everything.

 

Sources:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141113085154.htm

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK5237/

http://www.achenet.org/resources/allodynia_when_touch_hurts_but_shouldnt/

 

 

Photograph :

Images by John ‘K’

Wild Mustard Flowers

Fat lies: Did you inherit your body?

While obesity is typically attributed to over eating and a lack of exercise, researchers at Kings College London have identified a type of gut bacteria, called Christensenellacae, which influences a person’s genetic makeup and body weight. The study focused on fecal samples from 416 pairs of twins. Of these participants, identical twins had a larger abundance of the gene microbe than fraternal twins suggesting that the bacteria is highly heritable. Furthermore, researchers found that Christensenallacae is most common in the intestines of lean people and in experiments with mice they determined that this microbe alone promoted thinner mice. Thus far, research results suggest that a person’s genes influence his body weight by determining the types of bacteria that live in his intestines and that altering the Christensenallacae population could have a direct impact on his susceptibility to obesity. This research gives a very important window into the study of obesity prevention and gut microbes. Although the information is groundbreaking, further studies need to be conducted to determine if altering levels of this gut microbe is actually effective.

As researchers continue to expand their study, how do you think this discovery will be used in the future to combat obesity?

weight loss by pixabay

weight loss by pixabay

Human skin cells reprogrammed directly into brain cells

Brain

 

Original article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141022123021.htm

Some key words:

Neurodegenerative diseases: Disease such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease that undergo a neurodegenerative process, specific neurons are targeted for degeneration.

Spiny brain cell: The desired end brain cell in this study, and a brain cell affected by Huntington’s disease

 

In a study by the researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in Saint Louis, they demonstrate a way for human skin cells to be specifically converted to a type of brain cell. This study can help in the rehabilitation of people with Huntington’s disease by turning skin cells in to brain cells that are lost through this neurodegenerative disease. This is all accomplished without passing through the stem cell phase preventing other cell types forming.

This research involved adult skin cells that Yoo, the senior author, and his colleagues reprogrammed by using two microRNAs: miR-9, and miR-124. These micro RNAs open up the otherwise tightly packaged and inactive sections of the gene critical to the formation of brain cells. While the micro RNAs open up genes used for the creation and functionality of neurons, transcription factors taken from a part of the brain where medium spiny neurons are common directs the newly formed brain cells to a specific subunit of brain cells. The researchers then observed that the newly formed brain cells behave and function in a similar way to the native medium spiny neurons in mice, allowing this study to proceed in to further stages of experimentation, and hopefully result in a treatment practical for human use.

This study is very critical in the advancement of the treatment for neurodegenerative disease such as Huntington’s disease. Using different transcription factors from parts of the brain, alternate types of brain cells can be created to replace cells lost from neurodegenerative effects. This form of treatment will also prevent rejection of the transplant because the skin cells can be taken from the patient’s own body. This is a breakthrough in our pursuit of cures for these lethal neurodegenerative diseases.

How do “Evergreen” trees survive such long winters?

800px-Pine_stand_near_Aegviidu,_Jan_2010First let’s start with how trees work, and why normal leaves of the typical tree (deciduous) would not survive during the winter. These trees grow large leaves whose great surface area allows for more photosynthesis to occur. However, water is required for photosynthesis to occur. A good amount of water is transported through the tree’s vascular system by xylem and phloem. Much of this water is required to keep leaves alive. If these leaves were to remain alive during the winter months, the water inside them would freeze and kill them anyways. To retain this water, the tree recalls all water back into the wooden parts of the tree and lets leaves “fall” right before the winter. This is known as the dormant state where the tree survives off of the energy created from photosynthesis performed before losing its leaves. Since the leaves had a large surface area, photosynthesis is done in enough quantity to allow the tree to survive with no photosynthesis for a long winter.

Now, onto why the ‘leaves’ of Evergreen trees stay green and are able to survive such bitter cold winters:
Have you noticed what grows on Evergreen trees? The most common “leaf” is the pine needle. These are very small and thin needles that can be thought of as a leaf tightly coiled together. They cover themselves in a waxy substance called cutin. These needles also require less water to stay alive and perform photosynthesis than leaf. The small amount of water and protective Cutin coating stop any water from freezing and killing any pine needles. Yes, the tiny leaves do not perform as much photosynthesis as a large deciduous leaf, but these pine needles have the qualities necessary to survive the long winter and continue to do photosynthesis throughout the entire winter and provide continuous energy for the tree. Also, some needles do die, and these are immediately replaced by new, healthy needles. This process is different than the one time “fall” of a deciduous tree’s leaves. We will see many more pine trees in cold northern climates and more deciduous trees in warm southern climates. One can think of an Evergreen as a tree that has a continuous energy fueling its growth, while a deciduous tree flourishes with high energy production for three seasons of the year and then “sleeps” for the winter with its stored energy.

If you’re looking to take good care of evergreen trees, it would be best to water any backyard evergreen trees in the season of Autumn to add to its water supply that fuels photosynthesis that goes on (important because of the lack of absorbed water in winter due to it being frozen in the soil).

Which tree do you think is more effective at surviving in its own environment?800px-Pine_stand_near_Aegviidu,_Jan_2010

Related link: http://science.jrank.org/pages/5241/Pines.html

Photo: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pine_stand_near_Aegviidu,_Jan_2010.jpg

Chemical in coffee may help prevent obesity-related disease

Small cup of coffee

Scientist at University of Georgia (UGA) have done a study that suggests that coffee has a chemical that can help decrease the risk of obesity and thus lower the chances for type 2 diabetes and liver diseases. Coffee contains chlorogenic acid, or CGA. CGA is not only found in coffee but in fruits and vegetables such as apples, pears, and blueberries. CGA is an antioxidant that can decrease chronic inflammation in animals. Chronic inflammation is a cause of obesity which can inhibit your body’s ability to receive insulin. The test was done on a group of mice who were given high fat diets and injected with CGA shots over a 15 week period. The mice revived the CGA shots bi-weekly. Without the shots, the mice would’ve gained a substantial amount of weight, but because of CGA, they had little to no weight gain, healthy liver composition and normal blood sugar levels.

While CGA does decrease the chance of obesity, it is not a cure. Yongjie Ma, “a postdoctoral research associate in UGA’s College of Pharmacy and lead author of the paper,” said that this is not a substitute for diet and exercise. The main use for CGA would be as a therapeutic method to help people at risk of obesity and potential diabetes.

Do you think CGA can make a big impact on the obesity and diabetes community?

Additional article: http://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20120328/green-coffee-beans-may-aid-weight-loss

 

Diet Tip #1: Hang Out with Skinny People and Go on a Low Calorie Diet

labrat

Microbiomes are incredibly vast and mysterious; we don’t quite know how they work. However, with a few experiments, we have come to a few conclusions.

1) Microbiomes determine your weight.

Scientists extracted bacteria from the intenstines of human twins, one lean and one larger. The injected these microbiomes into twin mice. The mouse who received the large twin’s microbiome gained fat and the mouse who received the lean twin’s microbiome remained small.

2) Fat microbiomes can be influenced by a skinny microbiome.

A fat mouse placed in a cage of skinny mice lost weight.*

3) Skinny microbiomes cannot be changed.

A skinny mouse placed in a cage of fat mice remained skinny.*

4) With the correct diet, you can become skinny.

Fat mice eating healthy food made them skinny but when they ate junk food, they stayed fat. A different group of scientists replicated this experiment with overweight humans and a low calorie diet. Their microbiotic diversity was low and increased significantly, leading to weight loss.

5) Diet does not affect skinny people.

Regardless of which diet the skinny mice ate, they stayed skinny. A different group of scientists replicated this experiment with skinny people and a low calorie diet. Their microbiotic diversity was already high and did not change much.

*read the full study here

Why?

Fat microbiomes tend to be more efficient at extracting nutrients from food and storing the excess, so whenever someone with an efficient microbiome eats, he/she stores a lot of the nutrients. Skinny microbiomes, on the other hand, are not as efficient at extracting nutrients so there is less energy to store after a meal. Going on a low calorie diet if you want to lose weight could solve the problem because whatever can be extracted from the food will be used for day to day functions. Considering that skinny people already are not extremely efficient at extracting nutrients, a low calorie diet will not necessarily cause any significant changes.

This source performed a study (humans) where they discovered that obese people typically have lower genetic diversity than lean people. Obese people who went on a low calorie diet had a higher genetic diversity at the end of the experiment than those who did not go on a low calorie diet, and obese people who continued to have a low genetic diversity gained significantly more weight over nine years. Lean people who went on a low calorie diet did not have a significant increase in microbiotic diversity compared to lean people who did not go on that diet. However, this correlation does not imply causation because some obese people have a high genetic diversity. Scientists believe that a low genetic diversity is linked to metabolic disorders, which could cause obesity, but that obesity in and of itself is not always caused by low genetic diversity.

Whenever you touch, breathe, or eat something, bacteria is entering your body and interacting with the native bacteria. So, when fat mice interact with skinny mice, it’s possible that the fat mice pick up diverse bacteria from skinny mice, contributing to their increase in microbiotic diversity, and when skinny mice interact with fat mice, they can’t lose genetic diversity but also have nothing really to gain from mice with low genetic diversity.

Conclusion: If you have a metabolic disorder, it could be beneficial to surround yourself with skinny people and eat low calorie foods because you’re more likely to absorb diverse types of bacteria while also storing less energy from food.

Too Hot to Handle?

Climate scientist Axel Timmermann has recently stated that “this summer has seen the highest global mean sea surface temperatures ever recorded since their systematic measuring started. Temperatures even exceed those of the record-breaking 1998 El Niño year.” Timmermann has been studying the global climate system and according to his studies, the “Global Warming Hiatus” came to an end in April 2014.

He says that the North Pacific has been the cause of most of the global ocean warming, whose temperature has risen far above any recorded temperatures, has shifted hurricane tracks, and has changed trade winds. There has even been coral bleaching in the waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands. Apparently, this began in January 2014 when the sea-surface temperatures suddenly began to rise at an unusual rate. Then in April and May, the warm waters of the western Pacific spread to the eastern Pacific, releasing large amounts of heat into the atmosphere. This heat hadn’t been in the atmosphere for nearly a decade.

Ocean Temperatures

(Sea Surface Temperatures 2003-2011)

Timmermann says that “record-breaking greenhouse gas concentrations and anomalously weak North Pacific summer trade winds, which usually cool the ocean surface, have contributed further to the rise in sea surface temperatures.” These warm temperatures have been spreading all the way to the Gulf of Alaska.

As this 14-year break in the ocean warming comes to an end, more questions come to the surface: What can we do? What other effects will this have on other environments? Will there be another hiatus?

Certainly this is just another piece in the puzzle of the larger global warming issue, and if it isn’t reversible, how can we stop other similar issues?

Depression Infection?

Melancholy_2

 

Major Depression Disorder (MDD), most commonly known as “Depression”, is typically thought of as a genetic or neurological disease. However, Dr. Tuhran Canli, Associate Professor of Psychology and Radiology at Stony Brook University, suggests that MDD be recategorized as a result of a parasitic, bacterial, or viral infection. Canli’s paper, Biology of Mood & Anxiety Disorders, argues how possible pathways from these infections could cause MDD.

The causes of MDD are still unclear, therefore the research is delving more into the causes over the treatments. Dr. Canli suggests that by redefining MDD as an infectious disease, it will push future researchers to focus their attention on parasites, bacteria, or viruses.

Canli’s three major arguments for this change of MDD’s etiology are as follows:

1. MDD patients have a loss of energy, typically found in an illness. Also, the “inflammatory biomarkers in MDD suggest an illness-related origin”.

2. Parasitic, bacterial, and viral infections alter emotional behavior in humans.

3. The body is an ecosystem, made for microorganisms and genetics. These infections alter that ecosystem.

The redefinition of the causes of MDD could have significant help in finding the cause and eventual better treatment of the disease. Has depression been an infection all along?

 

Original article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141114124307.htm

Picture: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Melancholy_2.PNG