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We're a little crazy, about science!

Biology

The science behind real life zombies

Zombies: Science Fiction vs. Fact

zombies ahead

In the spirit of Halloween we bring you the science fact and fiction behind the undead. Zombies, those brain loving little guys, (and girls) are everywhere. Sure, we are all familiar with the classic  zombie, but did you know that we aren’t the only zombie lovers out there? It turns out that nature has its own special types of zombies, but this isn’t a science fiction movie, this is science fact! Sometimes fact can be scarier than fiction, so let’s dive in.

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Red meat and organs may pose a significant health hazard

cooked steak

cooked steak

Neu5Gc, a non-human sialic acid sugar molecule common in red meat that increases the risk of tumor formation in humans, is also prevalent in pig organs, with concentrations increasing as the organs are cooked, a study has found. The research suggests that Neu5Gc may pose a significant health hazard among those who regularly consume organ meats from pigs.

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A new view of the immune system

t cells

t cells

Pathogen epitopes are fragments of bacterial or viral proteins. Attached to the surface structure of cells, they prompt the body’s immune system to mount a response against foreign substances. Researchers have determined that nearly a third of all existing human epitopes consist of two different fragments. Known as ‘spliced epitopes’, these types of epitopes have long been regarded as rare. The fact that they are so highly prevalent might, among other things, explain why the immune system is so highly flexible.

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High cholesterol triggers mitochondrial oxidative stress leading to osteoarthritis

knee problems

knee problems

High cholesterol might harm more than our cardiovascular systems. New research using animal models suggests that high cholesterol levels trigger mitochondrial oxidative stress on cartilage cells, causing them to die, and ultimately leading to the development of osteoarthritis.

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Vitamins A and C help erase cell memory

epigenetics

epigenetics

Vitamins A and C aren’t just good for your health, they affect your DNA too. Researchers have discovered how vitamins A and C act to modify the epigenetic ‘memory’ held by cells; insight which is significant for regenerative medicine and our ability to reprogramme cells from one identity to another.

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Sugar gives bees a happy buzz

simpson sugar mound

simpson sugar mound

An unexpected sugary snack can give bees a little buzz and appears to lift their mood, even making them optimistic, according to research that suggests pollinators have feelings, too. Since emotions are subjective and difficult to measure—particularly in animals—researchers looked at how bees’ behavior changed after they were given a sip of sucrose solution.

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Children could point the way to new HIV treatments

HIV Aids

HIV Aids

Children with HIV who can resist the disease progressing could point the way to new treatments for HIV infection that are more widely applicable to infected adults and children alike, an international team of researchers has found.

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Protect kids from toxic secondhand smoke, experts urge

second hand smoke

second hand smoke

It’s advice most smokers with children probably take lightly, but they shouldn’t. Parents and policy advocates should take a “zero tolerance” approach to exposing children to secondhand cigarette smoke, which can be responsible for lifelong cardiovascular consequences in addition to respiratory and other health issues.

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The new findings heart repair research

broken heart

broken heart

Scientists trying to find ways to regenerate a damaged heart have shed more light on the molecular mechanisms that could one day make this a reality.  Whilst other organs such as the liver can regenerate, the heart muscle has very little ability to do so after suffering damage, such as a heart attack.
In the womb the body is able to produce heart muscle cells but soon after birth it effectively stops producing them.

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Study could herald new treatment for muscular dystrophy

muscular dystrophy fun

muscular dystrophy fun

New research has shown that the corticosteroid deflazacort is a safe and effective treatment for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The findings could pave the way for first U.S.-approved treatment for the disease.

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Antimicrobial chemicals found with antibiotic-resistance genes in indoor dust

pokemon evolution

pokemon evolution

Researchers have found links between the levels of antimicrobial chemicals and antibiotic-resistance genes in the dust of an aging building used for athletics and academics. One of the antimicrobials seen in the study is triclosan, a commonly used antibacterial ingredient in many personal care products.

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Babies chew on subtle social, cultural cues at mealtime

baby eating food

baby eating food

At the dinner table, babies do a lot more than play with their sippy cups, new research suggests. Babies pay close attention to what food is being eaten around them – and especially who is eating it. The study adds evidence to a growing body of research suggesting even very young children think in sophisticated ways about subtle social cues.

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Caffeine reverts memory deficits by normalizing stress responses in the brain

coffee brain

coffee brain

A new study describes the mechanism by which caffeine counteracts age-related cognitive deficits in animals. The international teams showed that the abnormal expression of a particular receptor – the adenosine A2A, target for caffeine – in the brain of rats induces an aging-like profile namely memory impairments linked to the loss of stress controlling mechanisms.

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Researchers report new Zika complication

zika mosquito

zika mosquito

If zika didn’t seem scary enough in the media, there is new data showing that there could be a new neurological complication of infection with the Zika virus.

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The relationship between low physical activity and psychotic symptoms

mental health exercise

mental health exercise

Physical activity can help reduce cardiovascular disease and premature mortality in people with psychological problems. However, there is limited data on exercise in people with serious mental disorders, especially from low- and middle-income countries. This study explored whether complying with the World Health Organization recommendations of 150 minutes of moderate-vigorous exercise per week is related to psychotic symptoms or the diagnosis of a psychosis.

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In cells, some oxidants are needed

bai5 drinks with antioxidents

bai5 drinks with antioxidents

Within our bodies, high levels of reactive forms of oxygen can damage proteins and contribute to diabetic complications and many other diseases. But some studies are showing that these reactive oxygen species (ROS) molecules sometimes can aid in maintaining health–findings now boosted by a surprising discovery by researchers.

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A dog’s dilemma: Do canines prefer praise or food?

dramatic dog cupcakes

A new study suggests that given the choice, many dogs prefer praise from their owners over food. The study is one of the first to combine brain-imaging data with behavioral experiments to explore canine reward preferences.

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Intestinal flora effects drug response

taking medicine

taking medicine

Intestinal flora has multiple influences on human health, but researchers have revealed that it is also likely to have an effect on the body’s response to drugs. Recent research suggests that changes in the intestinal flora, caused by antibacterial and antibiotic drugs or individual differences between people, may have an effect on a person’s response to drugs including side effects. The research focused on the changes in proteins due to the condition of intestinal flora that affect the response to drugs in the liver and kidneys.

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Targeting the gut-brain connection can impact immunity

gut brain connection

gut brain connection

There’s a reason it’s called a gut feeling. The brain and the gut are connected by intricate neural networks that signal hunger and satiety, love and fear, even safety and danger. These networks employ myriad chemical signals that include dopamine, a powerful neurotransmitter most famous for its role in reward and addiction.

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Pesticides used to help bees may actually harm them

Save the bees

Die hard, the bee version.

Pesticides beekeepers are using to improve honeybee health may actually be harming the bees by damaging the bacteria communities in their guts. The discovery is a concern because alterations can affect the gut’s ability to metabolize sugars and peptides, processes that are vital for honeybee health.

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Why you’re stiff in the morning: Your body suppresses inflammation when you sleep at night

joint pain in the morning

joint pain in the morning

Feeling stiff first thing in the morning? It’s not your imagination, new research has found a protein created by the body’s “biological clock” that actively represses inflammatory pathways within the affected limbs during the night. This protein, called CRYPTOCHROME, has proven anti-inflammatory effects in cultured cells and presents new opportunities for the development of drugs that may be used to treat inflammatory diseases and conditions, such as arthritis.

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New neurons created through exercise don’t cause you to forget old memories

yoga

yoga

Fellow exercise enthusiasts, you can breath a sigh of relief and so can your brain. Research has found that exercise causes more new neurons to be formed in a critical brain region, and contrary to an earlier study, these new neurons do not cause the individual to forget old memories, according to new research.

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FAMIN or feast? Newly discovered mechanism influences how immune cells ‘eat’ invaders

macrophage

macrophage

A new mechanism that affects how our immune cells perform – and hence their ability to prevent disease – has been discovered by an international team of researchers. To date, researchers have identified hundreds of genetic variants that increase or decrease the risk of developing diseases from cancer and diabetes to tuberculosis and mental health disorders.

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The mysterious fart

farted on the bus

farted on the bus

Everyone does it …no, not poop, but fart. Passing gas, fuming, crop dusting, cracking a rat — no matter what you call it — everyone fart, but why? Researchers have published an article devoted to the review of gaseous neurotransmitters of microbial origin and their role in the human body.

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Embryonic gene Nanog reverses aging in adult stem cells

aging

aging

The fountain of youth may reside in an embryonic stem cell gene named Nanog. In a series of experiments, the gene kicked into action dormant cellular processes that are key to preventing weak bones, clogged arteries and other telltale signs of growing old. The findings also show promise in counteracting premature aging disorders such as Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome.

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Protein found to bolster growth of damaged muscle tissue

muscular dystrophy art
muscular dystrophy art

Read more about the story behind this image and see others here.

Biologists have found that a protein that plays a key role in the lives of stem cells can bolster the growth of damaged muscle tissue, a step that could potentially contribute to treatments for muscle degeneration caused by old age and diseases such as muscular dystrophy. The results show that a particular type of protein called integrin is present on the stem cell surface and used by stem cells to interact with, or “sense” their surroundings.

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Repeated stimulation treatment can restore movement to paralyzed muscles

nerves

nerves

Conducted at the BioMag laboratory at the Helsinki University Hospital, a new patient study could open a new opportunity to rehabilitate patients with spinal cord damage. In a new study which two patients with spinal cord injuries received a form of treatment that combined transcranial magnetic stimulation with simultaneous peripheral nerve stimulation given repeatedly for nearly six months.

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Stem cells feel the force

funny stem cell comic

funny stem cell comic

All cells share the same genetic code, no matter if they are skin or brain cells. However, these cells are exposed to very different types of mechanical environments and mechanical stresses. For example, brain tissue is very soft, whereas bone is hard. Researchers know that cells respond to extrinsic forces by changing their structure and their gene expression to be better suited for their particular environments and to be able to execute their specific functions.

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New method to grow and transplant muscle stem cells holds promise for treatment of MD

muscle

Satellite cells are stem cells found in skeletal muscles. While transplantation of such muscle stem cells can be a potent therapy for degenerative muscle diseases such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy, these cells tend to lose their transplantation efficiency when cultured in vitro.

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A new bio-ink for 3-D printing with stem cells

3d bioprinting

3d bioprinting

The new stem cell-containing bio ink allows 3D printing of living tissue, known as bio-printing. The new bio-ink contains two different polymer components: a natural polymer extracted from seaweed, and a sacrificial synthetic polymer used in the medical industry, and both had a role to play.

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Chemical changes in the brain affect Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s Disease Robs

Alzheimer’s Disease Robs

A new study is helping to explain why the long-term use of common anticholinergic drugs used to treat conditions like allergies and overactive bladder lead to an increased risk of developing dementia later in life. The findings show that long-term suppression of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine – a target for anticholinergic drugs – results in dementia-like changes in the brain.

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Mothers with diabetes more likely to have anti-fetal brain autoantibodies

diabetes pregnancy

diabetes pregnancy

Mothers of children with autism and were diagnosed with metabolic conditions during pregnancy, particularly gestational and type 2 diabetes, were more likely to have anti-fetal brain autoantibodies in their blood compared to healthy women of children with autism. The presence of these anti-fetal brain autoantibodies has been previously found to be specific to some mothers of children with autism and rare among mothers of children without autism.

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Researchers watch skin cells ‘walk’ to wounds

bandaids

bandaids

New research is giving a whole new meaning to feeling your skin crawl. Skin cells typically spend their entire existence in one place on your body. But researchers have seen how the cells will alter the proteins holding them in place and move to repair a wound.

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The truth is out there: Scientists unlock X-Files DNA mystery

x files

x files

Scientists have unlocked a crucial part of the mystery as to how our DNA can replicate and repair itself – something which is essential for all life forms. The new research has revealed how branched DNA molecules are removed from the iconic double-helical structure -a process which scientists have been looking to unlock for over 20 years.

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Zika virus directly infects brain cells and evades immune system detection

zika virus

zika virus

The mosquito-borne Zika virus linked to microcephaly and other neurological problems in newborns of affected mothers directly infects the brain progenitor cells destined to become neurons. The team of researchers used a strain of Zika currently impacting the Americas, and found that the virus infects about 20 percent of cells on average, evades immune system detection, and continues to replicate for weeks.

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New muscular dystrophy drug target identified

DMD

DMD

Scientists have discovered that muscle cells affected by muscular dystrophy contain high levels of an enzyme that impairs muscle repair. This finding provides a new target for potential drug treatments for the disease, which currently has no cure. Muscular dystrophy (MD) is an inherited genetic condition that gradually causes a weakening of muscles.

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How the brain makes — and breaks — a habit

OCD alphabet soup

OCD alphabet soup

Not all habits are bad. Some are even necessary. It’s a good thing, for example, that we can find our way home on “autopilot” or wash our hands without having to ponder every step. But inability to switch from acting habitually to acting in a deliberate way can underlie addiction and obsessive compulsive disorders.

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How depression and antidepressant drugs work

depression

depression

Treating depression is kind of a guessing game. Trying to find a medication that works without causing side effects can take months, or more likely, years. However, new research demonstrates the effectiveness of ketamine to treat depression in a mouse model of the disease and brings together two hypotheses for the cause of depression.

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Bacteria in branches naturally fertilize trees

tree deforistation

tree deforistation

The bacteria in and on our bodies have been shown to be vital for human health, influencing nutrition, obesity and protection from diseases. But science has only recently delved into the importance of the microbiome of plants. Since plants can’t move, they are especially reliant on partnerships with microbes to help them get nutrients.

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You are what you eat: Immune cells remember their first meal

immune system

immune system

Scientists have identified the trigger for immune cells’ inflammatory response — a discovery that may pave the way for new treatments for many human diseases. Immune cells play essential roles in the maintenance and repair of our bodies. When we injure ourselves, immune cells mount a rapid inflammatory response to protect us against infection and help heal the damaged tissue.

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Bacteria are individualists

cultured bacteria

cultured bacteria

No two bacteria are identical – even when they are genetically the same. A new study from researchers reveals the conditions under which bacteria become individualists and how they help their group grow when times get tough. Whether you are a human or a bacterium, your environment determines how you can develop.

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Antibody therapy opens door to potential new treatment for HIV

HIV spreading

HIV spreading

The development of antiretroviral therapy, a combination of drugs that slows the replication of HIV in the body, has transformed the treatment of this infection. What was once a certain death sentence is now a chronic condition that people can live with for decades. But this therapy has drawbacks. There are side effects, including kidney problems, decreased bone density, and gastrointestinal problems. And if a person discontinues his or her treatment, even missing a few doses, the level of the virus in the body is able to rebound quickly.

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Influence of religion and predestination on evolution and scientific thinking

lego evolution

lego evolution

Generally seen as antithetical to one another, evolution and religion can hardly fit in a scientific discourse simultaneously. However, in a new article, a biology researcher delves into observations on the influences a few major religions have had on evolutionists and their scientific thinking over the centuries.

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What scientists know — and don’t know — about sexual orientation

Love makes a family

Love makes a family

Over the last 50 years, political rights for lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals have significantly broadened in some countries, while they have narrowed in others. In many parts of the world, political and popular support for LGB rights hinges on questions about the prevalence, causes, and consequences of non-heterosexual orientations.

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Transfer of gut bacteria affects brain function and nerve fiber insulation

Brain stomach connection

Brain stomach connection

Quick hide, shut your windows and lock your doors, are you alone? No, you aren’t that’s the problem and what’s worse, you are being controlled. This isn’t a plot for the latest thriller, this is the findings of a new study and adds to growing number of studies showing that our bacteria is more of us than we realize. In fact, the study found that specific combinations of gut bacteria produce substances that affect myelin content and cause social avoidance behaviors in mice.

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Bigger brains led to bigger bodies in our ancestors

brain sizes

brain sizes

New research suggests that humans became the large-brained, large-bodied animals we are today because of natural selection to increase brain size. The work contradicts previous models that treat brain size and body size as independent traits responding to separate evolutionary pressures. Instead, the study shows that brain size and body size are genetically linked and that selection to increase brain size will “pull along” body size.

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A newly discovered way for cells to die

huntingtons disease

huntingtons disease

Some cells are meant to live, and some are meant to die. For example, the linker cell of C. Elegans, a favored model organism for biologists, is among those destined for termination. This cell helps determine the shape of the gonad in male worms–and then it dies, after two days, just as the worms are transitioning from larvae into adults. This programmed cell death is a normal part of the animal’s development, yet the genetic and molecular mechanisms underpinning it have not been worked out.

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Could a popular painkiller hamper our ability to notice erors?

pain relief

pain relief

Pain, it’s a pain, it always seems to find ways to pop up when you least expect it, enter non-aspirin! Better known as acetaminophen, it has been known for centuries that is an effective painkiller. Since it is over the counter most people don’t give it a second thought, but according to a new study, it could also be impeding error-detection in the brain.

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Manufacturing human tissue from textiles

Tissue engineering

Tissue engineering

Until we can figure out our lack of regenerating our bodies, or can convince more people to donate organs, we are at mercy of either luck or technology. Bio 3-D printing offers hope that we can print personalized organs as need and rejection free. But the technology relies almost solely with tissue engineers, there job is to find processes using  novel bio-materials seeded with stem cells to grow and replace missing tissues.

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Carb-loading and your heart, you may want to put the pasta down…

carb loading cat

carb loading cat

So if you are one of the bodybuilders, powerlifters, marathon runners, or just people who like to binge-eat every now and then — no judgment all you can eat pizza day is a thing I’m told telling myself — there is some bad news. If you like to preload carbs like they are the magic bullet to your workout woes, you may want to rethink it because according to a new study, it can have an acute and detrimental effect on heart function.

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