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.
One of the main mysteries confounding development of an HIV vaccine is why some people infected with the virus make the desired antibodies after several years, but a vaccine can’t seem to induce the same response.
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.
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.
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.
Human intelligence is being defined and measured for the first time ever. Researchers have been recently undertaken to quantify the brain’s dynamic functions, and identify how different parts of the brain interact with each other at different times – namely, to discover how intellect works.
Fear memory encoding, the process responsible for persistent reactions to trauma-associated cues, is influenced by a sparse but potent population of inhibitory cells called parvalbumin-interneurons (PV-INs) in the amygdala, according to a new study.
Researchers have found evidence that bone marrow transplantation may one day be beneficial to a subset of patients suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a fatal neurodegenerative disorder more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
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.
Eating a type of powdered food supplement, based on a molecule produced by bacteria in the gut, reduces cravings for high-calorie foods such as chocolate, cake and pizza, a new study suggests. Scientists asked 20 volunteers to consume a milkshake that either contained an ingredient called inulin-propionate ester, or a type of fibre called inulin.
Nerves in the central nervous system of adult mammals do not usually regenerate when injured. The granule cell, a nerve cell located in the cerebellum, is different. When its fibres, called parallel fibres, are cut, rapid regeneration ensues and junctions with other neurons called “synapses” are rebuilt. The precise mechanism for this was unclear.
My friend has a glass eye and unless you knew the story you might not think anything of it. His older brother did it. You read that correctly, in a schizophrenic induced confusion he tried to killed him. He never held what happened against his older brother, he was sick, how could he? The courts say, he cannot visit his brother while he’s in prison. This could’ve been avoided with early detection and now international researchers have used a new technique to identify significantly more DNA sequence repeats in patients with schizophrenia than in control individuals.
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.
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.
The antibiotic arms race is on, while we are rushing to find new antibiotics, bacteria are working on finding ways around them. With that in mind, a new experimental antibiotic developed by a team of scientists successfully treats the deadly MRSA infection and restores the efficacy of a commonly prescribed antibiotic that has become ineffective against MRSA.
Is copper deficiency contributing to the obesity epidemic? Though small amounts of copper are essential to health – oysters, liver, beans and nuts are good sources – copper’s role in metabolism has been unclear: Some studies found that it boosted fat burning, others that it depressed it.
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.
Mitochondria, sure it’s the powerhouse of the cell, but maybe it can be much more that. At least that’s what it looks like thanks to researchers at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke who have discovered that boosting the transport of mitochondria along neuronal axons enhances the ability of mouse nerve cells to repair themselves after injury.
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.
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.
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.
It’s rare for scientists to get what they describe as “clean” results without spending a lot of time repeating the same experiment over and over again. But when researchers saw the mice they were working with doubling their weight within a month or two, they knew they were on to something.
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.
Recently, scientists discovered a new learning rule for a specific type of excitatory synaptic connection in the hippocampus. These synapses are located in the so-called CA3 region of the hippocampus, which plays a critical role for storage and recall of spatial information in the brain. One of its hallmark properties is that memory recall can even be triggered by incomplete cues. This enables the network to complete neuronal activity patterns, a phenomenon termed pattern completion.
Each year, an estimated 1.7 million people in the United States sustain traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These injuries occur most frequently from falling, but can also result from military combat, car accidents, contact sports or domestic abuse. Recently, physicians and researchers have become increasingly concerned that even mild cases of repetitive brain trauma could have long-term, unanticipated consequences.