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.
There are plenty of reasons it’s important to maintain a healthy weight, and now you can add one more to the list: It may be good for your brain. Researchers have found that having a higher body mass index, or BMI, can negatively impact cognitive functioning in older adults.
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.
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.
There are three kinds of glial cells in the brain, oligodendrocyte, astrocyte and microglia. Oligodendrocytes myelinate neuronal axons to increase conduction velocity of neuronal impulses. A Japanese research team found a characteristic feature of oligodendrocytes that selectively myelinate a particular set of neuronal axons.
Bladder cancer is the seventh most common cancer in males worldwide. Every year, about 20,000 people in Japan are diagnosed with bladder cancer, of whom around 8,000–mostly men–succumb to the disease. Bladder cancers can be grouped into two types: non-muscle-invasive cancers, which have a five-year survival rate of 90 percent, and muscle-invasive cancers, which have poor prognoses.
Tauopathies are a group of neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease that are characterized by the deposition of aggregates of the tau protein inside brain cells. A new study reveals that the cutting of tau by an enzyme called caspase-2 may play a critical role in the disordered brain circuit function that occurs in these diseases.
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.
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.
Scientists have discovered a new pathway in the brain that can be manipulated to alleviate depression. The pathway offers a promising new target for developing a drug that could be effective in individuals for whom other antidepressants have failed. New antidepressant options are important because a significant number of patients don’t adequately improve with currently available antidepressant drugs.
A team of scientists are redefining what it means to be a prion–a type of protein that can pass heritable traits from cell to cell by its structure instead of by DNA. Although prions are infamous for causing Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, fatal familial insomnia, and bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as mad cow’s disease, the present study indicates that prions identified in yeast, and possibly in plants, and other organisms may be beneficial.
A team of researchers has found that consuming an omega-3 fatty acid called DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, can stop a known trigger of lupus and potentially other autoimmune disorders. DHA can be found in fatty, cold-water fish and is produced by the algae that fish eat and store in their bodies. It can be found in fish oil supplements as well, used by more than 30 million Americans.
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.
A team of researchers has observed what they believe are the building blocks of memories in a mouse brain. In their paper, the researchers describe how they caused certain neurons to become illuminated when they fired, allowing them to watch in real time as memories were made and then later as they were replayed while the mouse was sitting idle.
Researchers studying how the brain uses perception of the environment to guide action offer a new understanding of the neural circuits responsible for transforming sensation into movement.
A tiny RNA appears to play a role in producing major depression, the mental disorder that affects as many as 250 million people a year worldwide. Major depression, formally known as major depressive disorder, or MDD, brings increased risk of suicide and is reported to cause the second-most years of disability after low-back pain.
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.
To date, it has been assumed that the differentiation of stem cells depends on the environment they are embedded in. A research group now describes for the first time a mechanism by which hippocampal neural stem cells regulate their own cell fate via the protein Drosha.
Researchers have discovered that our brain actively takes sugar from the blood. Prior to this, researchers around the world had assumed that this was a purely passive process. An international team reports that transportation of sugar into the brain is regulated by so-called glial cells that react to hormones such as insulin or leptin; previously it was thought that this was only possible for neurons.
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.
Long before Zika virus made it a household word, the birth defect called microcephaly puzzled scientists and doctors — even as it changed the lives of the babies born with it during the pre-Zika era. But new discoveries reported by an international team of scientists may help explain what happens in the developing brains of babies still in the womb, causing them to be born with small brains and heads.
Many lower organisms retain the miraculous ability to regenerate form and function of almost any tissue after injury. Humans share many of our genes with these organisms, but our capacity for regeneration is limited. So scientists are studying the genetics of these organisms to find out how regenerative mechanisms might be activated in humans.
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.