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Saturday, 26 July 2014

Puberty in girls timed by genes from one parent

For the study, published in the journal Nature, scientists from 166 research centers worldwide analyzed data on over 180,000 women. One of the investigating centers was the University of Cambridge in the UK.
Senior author and pediatrician Dr. Ken Ong, of Cambridge's Medical Research Council (MRC) Epidemiology Unit, says:
"There is a remarkably wide diversity in puberty timing - some girls start at age 8 and others at 13. While lifestyle factors such as nutrition and physical activity do play a role, our findings reveal a wide and complex network of genetic factors."
Previous studies show that the timing of puberty in girls is a trait that is inherited, varies widely among individuals, and is linked to risks for obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, breast cancer, and early death.
However, the underlying mechanisms that determine the timing of puberty, and how they link to disease, are not clear.
teenage girl and her mom
According to the researchers, one parent may more profoundly affect puberty timing in their daughters than the other parent.
This study examines data from 57 studies that had analyzed the DNA of 182,416 women of European descent, and identifies 123 gene variants linked to timing of first menstrual cycle.
When a child is conceived, he or she has a new genome made of pairs of genes. Each pair of genes has one version from the biological mother and the other from the biological father.
The "usual" rule is that the two copies of a gene are expressed equally in the new individual. For example, if a child inherits a gene for blood group A from one parent, and the gene for blood group B from the other, the child's blood group will be AB.
But there are subsets of genes, called "imprinted" genes, that do not follow these equal expression rules. In imprinted genes, only one version, either the one inherited from the mother, or the one inherited from the father, is expressed. The other gene is effectively silenced with a chemical tag.

Six of the variants linked to puberty in girls are 'imprinted' genes

The researchers in this new study discovered that six of the 123 gene variants linked to timing of first menstrual cycle in girls are clustered within imprinted regions of the genome.
Lead author Dr. John Perry, Senior Investigator Scientist in the Cambridge MRC Epidemiology Unit says:
"Our findings imply that in a family, one parent may more profoundly affect puberty timing in their daughters than the other parent."
The parent the gene comes from appears to determine the activity of imprinted genes. Some genes are only active if the mother's copy is expressed, while others are only active if the father's copy is expressed.
The study finds both types influence puberty timing in girls, suggesting a potential conflict between the parents' genes over their child's rate of development.
The researchers found more evidence to support the idea of imbalance between the father's and the mother's genes from analyzing data on another 35,000 women in Iceland.
This is the first study to show imprinted genes can influence development after birth:
"We knew that some imprinted genes control antenatal growth and development," Dr. Perry explains, "but there is increasing interest in the possibility that imprinted genes may also control childhood maturation and later life outcomes, including disease risks."
Dr. Ong says they will continue to study these factors "to understand how early puberty in girls is linked to higher risks of developing diabetes, heart disease and breast cancer in later life - and to hopefully one day break this link."
The UK part of the study was funded by the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust.

Remarkable Discovery Made: Could This Be THE Treatment For Autism?

  • Recent studies indicate that compounds found in marijuana may be used to successfully treat autism.
  • Families share their stories of treating their autistic children with medical cannabis.
You may be tired of hearing about how medical cannabis is curing today’s most prevalent diseases and mental disorders, including cancer and epilepsy, as well as depression and anxiety. But there is a reason why the medical cannabis movement is taking off; cannabis WORKS, and for this reason, it is crucial to be spreading information about the potent effects of this plant.  

Studies Reveal Promising Results With Cannabis And The Treatment of Mutations Associated With Autism

*About 1 in 68 children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) according to estimates from the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. 
Last year, researchers at Stanford University said that the debilitating effects of autism are primarily caused by a gene mutation that blocks the body’s natural production of cannabinoids, called endocannabinoids, and hinders the way those molecules communicate with the brain.[1]
In the study, researchers found that the mutation of the neurologin-3 gene, which is responsible for creating and sustaining normal communication between brain cells, appears to have a direct correlation to autism. Therefore, introducing derivatives of cannabis to the brain could ease symptoms associated with the disease.
Although the exact science revolving around how a disturbance in endocannabinoid signaling contributes to autism symptoms hasn’t been extensively researched yet, researchers say there is significant evidence that suggests medical marijuana may be a viable treatment option for this condition.
Researchers from the University of Irvine in California believe the folks at Stanford may be on to something: because they, too, have discovered a link between endocannabinoids and autism.
In a study of mice with fragile X syndrome, it “showed dramatic behavioral improvements in maze tests measuring anxiety and open-space acceptance.” And because THC, the active compound in marijuana, stimulates the same receptors as the endocannabinoids, researchers concluded, “increasing natural marijuana-like chemicals in the brain can help correct behavioral issues related to fragile X syndrome, the most common known genetic cause of autism.”
A recent article published in the Autism Daily Newscast indicates that many families are already experimenting with marijuana as a treatment for their children’s autism — as an alternative to other drugs with major side effects and questionable results.
Researchers add that while they do not advocate giving medical marijuana to children with autism, they believe their findings will lead to the development of important treatments for this devastating disease.

Families Are Already Jumping On Board

Chrissy’s Story

Photo credit: THC Magazine
Photo credit: THC Magazine
Chrissy Hetrick-Leonard is a mother of three and a nurse. Her full-time job is caring for her oldest child, an 11-year-old girl with multiple health challenges. Those challenges are daunting and include Cornelia de Lang Syndrome, Dandy Walker Syndrome, autism, epileptic seizures, hip dysplasia and other maladies.
Chrissy’s daughter’s seizures were extreme to say the least, bloodying up her face and breaking bones, she told THC Magazine. There was a lack of eye contact or even smiles,  as doctors told Chrissy her daughter had the cognitive abilities of a 2-year-old. After years of frustration with pharmaceutical drugs and conventional therapies, Chrissy turned to RiverRock Wellness and Tony Verzura’s proprietary program called A.C.T.
The A.C.T. Now program has nearly eliminated the seizures suffered by Chrissy’s daughter, which are at most one per month. It has improved her cognitive function test results by 200 percent, and reduced her paralysis by 80 to 90 percent. She no longer uses any pharmaceutical drugs.
“Within the first week, I saw her come out of almost like a closet,” Chrissy says. “I got eye contact, direct smiles at me … The improvement after six months is mind blowing.”  Chrissy developed a wall board to assist in communicating with her daughter. After months of talking through pictures, by hitting a button for audio descriptions of the picture, to now walking up to the board and indicating her desire to say something, her daughter is alive like never before.

Alex’s Story

Photo credit: Alex`s Story Facebook page
Heartbroken and desperate, an Oregon family has turned to medical marijuana to help manage their son’s self-destructive rages. They say the treatment, which has sparked controversy, has helped their child, described as “severely autistic,” like nothing else has.
11-year-old Alex Echols suffers from tuberous sclerosis – a rare genetic disorder that causes the growth of non-malignant tumors in organs. Doctors say Alex has growths in his brain that have led to autism, debilitating seizures and self-directed rages.
Writing in a blog he set up for his son, dad Jeremy Echols explains that Alex often exhibits extreme, self-destructive behavior, such as slamming his head into walls and slapping his face until it bleeds.
Echols says that after trying — and failing — for years to protect Alex from himself, he and his wife were forced to move their son into a state-funded group home when he was 8.
Alex’s mother stated that they tried every medication in the books, as well as specialized therapies, but nothing seemed to work.
Then, in 2009, Alex’s mom came across stories of parents treating their autistic children with medical cannabis with positive results. With no other hope, the family decided to try the treatment. After some time, the family noticed some remarkable results:
“Eventually we had some truly amazing results,” Alex’s dad wrote on his blog. “He explored his world with his hands, something he was very rarely able to do. His hands were the enemy up to this point … But on those few truly magical days when we got the dosing just right, he played. He used his hands to explore. He looked at us and smiled.”
Unfortunately, the family still struggles with the continued administration of medical marijuana to Alex, due to the legal status of the plant in most states. They haven’t been spared criticism either, as the long-term developmental effects of cannabis use in children is still not yet known.
But for the Echols, the benefits far outweigh the risks.

How Long Will It Take?

How long will it take for people to realize the amazing healing capabilities of cannabis? This plant has the potential to wipe out a large majority of the pharmaceutical industry for good while saving the lives of millions of people in the process. Not to mention the incredible and unlimited uses of its counterpart, hemp. The fossil fuel industry, along with a plethora of other industries like clothing and construction,  would be revolutionized. If everyone were open to the potential uses of cannabis and hemp, we would see an entire new world and way of living, the likes of which we’ve only imagined in our wildest utopic dreams.
Source:Collective Evolution

TGen-led study seeks to understand why some HIV-positive men are more infectious than others

A new study led by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) provides insights into the interplay among bacteria, viruses and the immune system during HIV infection.

Currently, doctors measure HIV-positive men's infectivity - their potential to infect others - based on their blood viral load. However, some men produce large amounts of virus in their semen despite having low levels in their blood. Researchers call this "compartmentalization," where different levels of the virus can be found in different parts of the body; in this case, in the semen, versus the blood.   

Because of the importance of semen in HIV transmission - in both homosexual and heterosexual populations - researchers who conducted the study published today in the journal PLOS Pathogens sought to understand how HIV could be localized, or compartmentalized, in the semen.

Significantly, the study revealed a link between higher levels of HIV and higher levels of both bacteria and cytokines, biochemicals that can be described as the immune system's alarm bells.

"Our study is trying to tackle an important problem in HIV research," said Dr. Lance Price, Director of TGen's Center for Microbiomics and Human Health, and one of the study's senior authors. "We found that HIV infection affects the relationship between semen bacteria and immune system, and both are linked to semen HIV levels."

These findings could point to new ways to control the spread of HIV, said Dr. Price. "Our data suggest that semen bacteria may play a role in localized inflammation and HIV viral load in the semen, which is an important target for reducing HIV transmission."

While HIV can be found in many body fluids (semen, vaginal secretions, blood and breast milk), it is most commonly transmitted via semen in both homosexual and heterosexual sex.

Homosexual men were the focus of this study because they continue to be the population most at risk for HIV in North America. The study included 27 homosexual men infected with HIV, and 22 homosexual men who were uninfected.

The 27 infected individuals were examined before treatment, and at both one-month and six-month intervals following treatment with anti-retroviral therapy (ART). Samples from the 22 uninfected participants in the study served as controls.

"By comparing the semen bacteria in both uninfected and infected men, we found that HIV can cause an imbalance in the semen microbiome," said Dr. Cindy Liu, the study's lead author, a clinical pathology resident at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and an adjunct professor at TGen at the time of the study. "This imbalance can be corrected by HIV treatment. This suggests that there are complex host-microbe interactions in the semen."

"We have taken the first step to show that bacteria, HIV, and immune response in the semen may be connected," said Dr. Rupert Kaul, an immunologist from the University of Toronto, and another senior author of the study. "What we need to better understand next is the precise relationship between these three factors - whether the bacterial imbalance is the trigger or the result of the localized immune response."

The authors of the study, The Semen Microbiome and Its Relationship with Local Immunology and Viral Load in HIV Infection, are particularly excited about what this research may mean for another important patient population.

"Even though we have focused on men whose semen viral load can be controlled with HIV treatment in this study," said Dr. Kaul, "we need to study men who continue to have high HIV levels in their semen despite being on treatment. This will be important to improving how we treat patients and control the spread of HIV."

Source: Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen)

Scientists Test Nanoparticle "Alarm Clock" to Awaken Immune Systems Put to Sleep by Cancer

Researchers at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center are exploring ways to wake up the immune system so it recognizes and attacks invading cancer cells. Tumors protect themselves by tricking the immune system into accepting everything as normal, even while cancer cells are dividing and spreading.
One pioneering approach, discussed in a review article published this week in WIREs Nanomedicine and Nanobiotechnology, uses nanoparticles to jumpstart the body's ability to fight tumors. Nanoparticles are too small to imagine. One billion could fit on the head of a pin. This makes them stealthy enough to penetrate cancer cells with therapeutic agents such as antibodies, drugs, vaccine type viruses, or even metallic particles. Though small, nanoparticles can pack large payloads of a variety of agents that have different effects that activate and strengthen the body's immune system response against tumors.
There is an expanding array of nanoparticle types being developed and tested for cancer therapy. They are primarily being used to package and deliver the current generation of cancer cell killing drugs and progress is being made in that effort.
"Our lab's approach differs from most in that we use nanoparticles to stimulate the immune system to attack tumors and there are a variety of potential ways that can be done," said Steve Fiering, PhD, Norris Cotton Cancer Center researcher and professor of Microbiology and Immunology, and of Genetics at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. "Perhaps the most exciting potential of nanoparticles is that although very small, they can combine multiple therapeutic agents."
The immune therapy methods limit a tumor's ability to trick the immune system. It helps it to recognize the threat and equip it to effectively attack the tumor with more "soldier" cells. These approaches are still early in development in the laboratory or clinical trials.
"Now that efforts to stimulate anti-tumor immune responses are moving from the lab to the clinic, the potential for nanoparticles to be utilized to improve an immune-based therapy approach is attracting a lot of attention from both scientists and clinicians. And clinical usage does not appear too distant," said Fiering.
Fiering is testing the use of heat in combination with nanoparticles. An inactive metallic nanoparticle containing iron, silver, or gold is absorbed by a cancer cell. Then the nanoparticle is activated using magnetic energy, infrared light, or radio waves. The interaction creates heat that kills cancer cells. The heat, when precisely applied, can prompt the immune system to kill cancer cells that have not been heated. The key to this approach is minimizing healthy tissue damage while maximizing cancerous tumor destruction of the sort that improves recognition of the tumor by the immune system
Fiering cautions that there is a great deal of research and many technical variables that should be explored to find the most effective ways to use nanoparticles to heat tumors and stimulate anti-tumor immunity.
According to Fiering, this approach is far from new, "The use of heat to treat cancer was first recorded by ancient Egyptians. But has reemerged with high tech modern systems as a contributor to the new paradigm of fighting cancer with the patients' own immune system."
About Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock
Norris Cotton Cancer Center combines advanced cancer research at Dartmouth and the Geisel School of Medicine with patient-centered cancer care provided at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, at Dartmouth-Hitchcock regional locations in Manchester, Nashua, and Keene, NH, and St. Johnsbury, VT, and at 12 partner hospitals throughout New Hampshire and Vermont. It is one of 41 centers nationwide to earn the National Cancer Institute's "Comprehensive Cancer Center" designation. Learn more about Norris Cotton Cancer Center research, programs, and clinical trials online

Working in Shifts can Increase Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

A new study published in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine reveals that the risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases with shift work and is higher among men and those working rotating shift patterns.


Previous research has suggested links between working shifts and a heightened risk of various health problems, including digestive disorders, certain cancers, and cardiovascular disease. But whether diabetes can be added to the list has not been clear. 

The authors therefore trawled through scientific research databases, looking for relevant observational studies assessing associations between shift work and diabetes risk. 

They retrieved 12 international studies out of a potential total of 448, involving more than 226,500 participants, 14,600 of whom had diabetes. 

When they pooled all the results together they calculated that any period of shift work was associated with a 9% increased risk of developing diabetes compared with working normal office hours. 

This heightened risk rose to 37% for men, after further analysis to look at the potential effects of gender, study design, study location, job, shift schedule, body mass index (BMI), family history of diabetes and physical activity levels. 

The reasons for this finding are not clear, say the authors, but suggest that men working shift patterns might need to pay more attention to the possible health consequences of their working schedule. 

Daytime levels of the male hormone testosterone are controlled by the internal body clock, so it's possible that repeated disruption may affect this, say the authors, pointing to research implicating low male hormone levels in insulin resistance and diabetes. 

Most shift patterns, except mixed and evening shifts, were associated with a heightened risk of the disease compared with those working normal office hours. 

And rotating shifts, in which people work different parts of the 24 hour cycle on a regular basis, rather than a fixed pattern, were associated with the highest risk: 42%. 

Rotating shifts make it harder for people to adjust to a regular sleep-wake cycle, and some research has suggested that a lack of sleep, or poor quality sleep, may prompt or worsen insulin resistance, say the authors. 

Other research has linked shift work to weight gain and increased appetite, both of which are risk factors for diabetes, and shift work may also disturb cholesterol levels and blood pressure, they add. 

The authors point out that although their study was large, it was observational, so no conclusions can be drawn about direct cause and effect. 

But with an estimated 380 million people predicted to have type 2 diabetes by 2025, they suggest that any potentially modifiable factors could be of considerable public health importance, and are worth investigating further.

 journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Trick to Get Children Eat Their Veggies

Most kids are told that drinking milk makes their bones strong and eating fish is good for brain. But do these messages foster the idea that if something is good for us, it must surely taste bad? A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research suggests that when children hear about the benefits of healthy food, they're less likely to eat it.

"We predicted that when food is presented to children as making them strong or as a tool to achieve a goal such as learning how to read or count, they would conclude the food is not as tasty and therefore consume less of it," write authors Michal Maimaran (Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University) and Ayelet Fishbach (University of Chicago Booth School of Business). 

To test this idea, the authors conducted five studies with children between the ages of three and five. In all of the studies, the children were read a picture book story about a girl who ate a snack of crackers or carrots. Depending on the experiment, the story either did or did not state the benefits of the snack (making the girl strong or helping her learn how to count). The children were then given the opportunity to eat the food featured in the story and the authors measured how much they ate. The children ate more when they did not receive any message about the foods making them strong or helping them learn how to count. 

Brands marketing food items to parents and children can use these results to de-emphasize the benefits of healthy food and focus more on the positive experience of eating the food. These results also help to empower policy makers and medical institutions looking to combat childhood obesity and juvenile diabetes. 

"Parents and caregivers who are struggling to get children to eat healthier may be better off simply serving the food without saying anything about it, or (if credible) emphasizing how yummy the food actually is," the authors conclude.  

Source:Journal of Consumer Research 

Paracetamol No Better Than Dummy Drugs in Low-Back Pain

 Paracetamol No Better Than Dummy Drugs in Low-Back PainThe first-choice lower-back pain killer, paracetamol, worked no better than dummy drugs administered in a trial of more than 1,600 people suffering from the condition, researchers said.


In fact, the median recovery time for those on placebo was a day shorter than that for trial subjects given real medicine, they wrote in The Lancet medical journal. 

"Our findings suggest that... paracetamol does not affect recovery time compared with placebo in low-back pain, and question the universal endorsement of paracetamol in this patient group," the Australian team concluded. 

"Paracetamol also had no effect on pain, disability, function, global symptom change, sleep or quality of life." 

Lower-back pain is the leading cause of disability in the world, and paracetamol is "universally" recommended as the treatment of first choice, said a statement carried by The Lancet. 

The Paracetamol for Low-Back Pain Study (PACE) divided 1,652 individuals with acute pain from 235 clinics in Sydney, Australia, into three trial groups. 

One group received regular paracetamol doses, the other used the drug as needed, and the third was given placebo pills. 

Recovery was defined as seven consecutive days of 0 or 1 pain intensity on a 0-10 scale. 

"Median time to recovery was 17 days in the regular paracetamol group, 17 days in the as-needed paracetamol group, and 16 days in the placebo group," said the statement. 

All patients were given high-quality advise and reassurance, and the findings suggest these may be more important in lower-back pain management than drug therapy, said the authors. 

"Our results convey the need to reconsider the universal endorsement of paracetamol in clinical practice guidelines as first-line care for low-back pain." 

A potential limitation of the study was that some participants used other treatments. 

In a comment also carried by The Lancet, Bart Koes and Wendy Enthoven from the Universal Medical Center in Rotterdam applauded the team "for tackling this research question on a topic that has been without debate and evidence for such a long time." 

But they cautioned that guidelines should not be changed on the basis of a single trial.

Antioxidant Biomaterial Promotes Healing

When a foreign material like a medical device or surgical implant is put inside the human body, the body always responds. According to Northwestern’s Guillermo Ameer, most of the time, that response can be negative and affect the device’s function.
“You will always get an inflammatory response to some degree,” said Ameer, professor of biomedical engineering in McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and professor of surgery in the Feinberg School of Medicine. “A problem with commonly used plastic materials, in particular, is that in addition to that inflammatory response, oxidation occurs.”
We all need oxygen to survive, but a high concentration of oxygen in the body can cause oxidative reactions to fall out of balance, which modifies natural proteins, cells, and lipids and causes them to function abnormally. This oxidative stress is toxic and can contribute to chronic disease, chronic inflammation, and other complications that may cause the failure of implants.
Guillermo Ameer
Guillermo Ameer
For the first time ever, Ameer and his team have created a biodegradable biomaterial that is inherently antioxidant. The material can be used to create elastomers, liquids that turn into gels, or solids for building devices that are more compatible with cells and tissues. The research is described in the June 26 issue of Biomaterials.

“Plastics can self-oxidize, creating radicals as part of their degradation process,” Ameer said. “By implanting devices made from plastics, the oxidation process can injure nearby cells and create a cascade that leads to chronic inflammation. Our materials could significantly reduce the inflammatory response that we typically see.”
Ameer created the biomaterial, which is a polyester based on citric acid, by incorporating vitamin C as part of the building blocks. In preliminary experiments, his team coated vascular grafts with the antioxidant biomaterial, and the grafts were evaluated in animals by Ameer’s long-time collaborator Melina Kibbe, professor of surgery and the Edward G. Elcock Professor of Surgical Research at Feinberg and a vascular surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
As part of the foreign body response, grafts tend to inflame nearby cells and slowly scar over time, which eventually leads to failure. When the antioxidant vascular graft was implanted, however, the scarring was significantly reduced. Ameer’s team, funded by a proof-of-concept grant from the Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, also found that a water-soluble, thermoreversible version of the material sped up the healing of diabetic ulcers. Because the material is biodegradable, it harmlessly is absorbed by the body over time.
“In the past, people have added antioxidant vitamins to a polymer and blended it in,” Ameer said. “That can affect the mechanical properties of the material and limit how much antioxidant you can add, so it doesn’t work well. What we’re doing is different. We’re building a material that is already inherently, intrinsically antioxidant.”
Ameer said the new biomaterial could be used to create scaffolds for tissue engineering, coat or build safer medical devices, promote healing in regenerative medicine, and protect cells, genes, and viruses during drug delivery. He added that the new biomaterial is easy to make and inexpensive.
“Citric acid is affordable and in pretty much everything we come in contact with on a daily basis—food and beverages, skin and hair products, drugs, etc.,” Ameer said. “It’s a common, inexpensive raw material to use, and our system can stabilize vitamin C, an antioxidant that we are all familiar with.”
The first author of the study was Robert van Lith, a PhD candidate in Ameer’s research laboratory.

Brain's dynamic duel underlies win-win choices

People choosing between two or more equally positive outcomes experience paradoxical feelings of pleasure and anxiety, feelings associated with activity in different regions of the brain, according to research led by Amitai Shenhav, an associate research scholar at the Princeton Neuroscience Institute at Princeton University.
In one experiment, 42 people rated the desirability of more than 300 products using an auction-like procedure. Then they looked at images of paired products with different or similar values and were asked to choose between them. Their brain activity was scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). After the scan, participants reported their feelings before and during each choice. They received one of their choices at the end of the study.
Choices between two highly valued items (high-high), such as a digital camera and a camcorder, were associated with the most positive feelings and the greatest anxiety, compared with choices between items of low value (low-low), like a desk lamp and a water bottle, or between items of different values (low-high). Functional MRI scans showed activity in two regions of the brain, the striatum and the prefrontal cortex, both known to be involved in decision-making. Interestingly, lower parts of both regions were more active when subjects felt excited about being offered the choice, while activity in upper parts was strongly tied to feelings of anxiety.
This evidence that parallel brain circuits are associated with opposing emotional reactions helps to answer a puzzling question, according to Shenhav: "Why isn't our positivity quelled by our anxiety, or our anxiety quelled by the fact that we're getting this really good thing at the end? This suggests that it's because these circuits evolved for two different reasons," he said. "One of them is about evaluating the thing we're going to get, and the other is about guiding our actions and working out how difficult the choice will be."
The study, "Neural correlates of dueling affective reactions to win-win choices," was published July 14 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Shenhav conducted the research as a graduate student at Harvard University, along with Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience Randy Buckner, the study's senior author.
A second fMRI experiment showed that the same patterns of emotional reactions and brain activity persisted even when the participants were told before each choice how similarly they had valued the items. Their anxiety didn't abate, despite knowing how little they stood to lose by making a "wrong" choice. In a third experiment, Shenhav and Buckner tested whether giving people more than two choices increased their levels of anxiety. Indeed, they found that providing six options led to higher levels of anxiety than two options, particularly when all six of the options were highly valued items. But positive feelings about being presented with the choice were similar for two or six options.
This suggests that the anxiety stems from the conflict of making the decision, rather than the opportunity cost of the choice — an economic concept that refers to the lost value of the second-best option. The opportunity cost should be the same, regardless of the number of choices. In addition, subjects in this final study were given an unlimited amount of time to make a decision, compared with 1.5 seconds in the first two studies. The results showed that time pressure was not the main source of anxiety during the choices.
At the end of each study, participants had a surprise opportunity to reverse their earlier choices. Higher activity in a part of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex around the time of an initial choice predicted whether that decision would later be reversed. Previous work has shown that this brain region is involved in assessing how conflicted an individual feels over a particular choice; this result suggests that some choices may have continued to elicit conflict after the participant made a decision, Shenhav said. The researchers also found that people who reported more anxiety in their daily lives were more likely to change their minds.
This work could explain why ostensibly positive options can evoke a mixture of positive and negative responses, which are not explained by purely economic analyses of choice. "Rationally, there's no reason why when you put one good thing with another good thing, you should feel worse about the situation," said Brian Knutson, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Stanford University, who is familiar with the work but was not involved in it. "The neuroimaging tells us that these different mechanisms are fighting with each other," he said. "Understanding that dynamic can help us understand why decisions that we think should make us feel better can actually make us feel worse."
According to Shenhav, this research could shed light on the neural processes that can make more momentous choices so paralyzing for some people — for instance, deciding where to go to college or which job offer to take. But he admits that even more trivial decisions can be tough for him. "I probably experience more win-win choice anxiety than the average person," he said. "I'm even terrible at choosing where to eat dinner."
Source:Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

BU researchers discover that Klotho is neuroprotective against Alzheimer's disease

Boston University School of Medicine researchers may have found a way to delay or even prevent Alzheimer's disease (AD). They discovered that pre-treatment of neurons with the anti-aging protein Klotho can prevent neuron death in the presence of the toxic amyloid protein and glutamate. These findings currently appear in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
Alzheimer's disease is the most frequent age-related dementia affecting 5.4 million Americans including 13 percent of people age 65 and older and more than 40 percent of people over the age of 85. In AD the cognitive decline and dementia result from the death of nerve cells that are involved in learning and memory. The amyloid protein and the excess of the neurotransmitter, glutamate are partially responsible for the neuronal demise.
Nerve cells were grown in petri dishes and treated with or without Klotho for four hours. Amyloid or glutamate then were added to the dish for 24 hours. In the dishes where Klotho was added, a much higher percentage of neurons survived than in the dishes without Klotho.
"Finding a neuroprotective agent that will protect nerve cells from amyloid that accumulates as a function of age in the brain is novel and of major importance," explained corresponding author Carmela R. Abraham, PhD, professor of biochemistry and pharmacology at BUSM. "We now have evidence that if more Klotho is present in the brain, it will protect the neurons from the oxidative stress induced by amyloid and glutamate.

According to the researchers, Klotho is a large protein that cannot penetrate the blood brain barrier so it can't be administered by mouth or injection. However in a separate study the researchers have identified small molecules that can enter the brain and increase the levels of Klotho. "We believe that increasing Klotho levels with such compounds would improve the outcome for Alzheimer's patients, and if started early enough would prevent further deterioration. This potential treatment has implications for other neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, Huntington's, ALS and brain trauma, as well," added Abraham.
Source:Journal of Biological Chemistry

NYSCF scientists one step closer to cell therapy for multiple sclerosis patients

  Scientists at The New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) Research Institute are one step closer to creating a viable cell replacement therapy for multiple sclerosis from a patient's own cells.

For the first time, NYSCF scientists generated induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells lines from skin samples of patients with primary progressive multiple sclerosis and further, they developed an accelerated protocol to induce these stem cells into becoming oligodendrocytes, the myelin-forming cells of the central nervous system implicated in multiple sclerosis and many other diseases.
Existing protocols for producing oligodendrocytes had taken almost half a year to produce, limiting the ability of researchers to conduct their research. This study has cut that time approximately in half, making the ability to utilize these cells in research much more feasible.
Stem cell lines and oligodendrocytes allow researchers to "turn back the clock" and observe how multiple sclerosis develops and progresses, potentially revealing the onset of the disease at a cellular level long before any symptoms are displayed. The improved protocol for deriving oligodendrocyte cells will also provide a platform for disease modeling, drug screening, and for replacing the damaged cells in the brain with healthy cells generated using this method.
"We are so close to finding new treatments and even cures for MS. The enhanced ability to derive the cells implicated in the disease will undoubtedly accelerate research for MS and many other diseases," said Susan L. Solomon, NYSCF Chief Executive Officer.
"We believe that this protocol will help the MS field and the larger scientific community to better understand human oligodendrocyte biology and the process of myelination. This is the first step towards very exciting studies: the ability to generate human oligodendrocytes in large amounts will serve as an unprecedented tool for developing remyelinating strategies and the study of patient-specific cells may shed light on intrinsic pathogenic mechanisms that lead to progressive MS". said Dr. Valentina Fossati, NYSCF – Helmsley Investigator and senior author on the paper.
In multiple sclerosis, the protective covering of axons, called myelin, becomes damaged and lost. In this study, the scientists not only improved the protocol for making the myelin-forming cells but they showed that the oligodendrocytes derived from the skin of primary progressive patients are functional, and therefore able to form their own myelin when put into a mouse model. This is an initial step towards developing future autologous cell transplantation therapies in multiple sclerosis patients
This important advance opens up critical new avenues of research to study multiple sclerosis and other diseases. Oligodendrocytes are implicated in many different disorders, therefore this research not only moves multiple sclerosis research forward, it allows NYSCF and other scientists the ability to study all demyelinating and central nervous system disorders.
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, inflammatory, demyelinating disease of the central nervous system, distinguished by recurrent episodes of demyelination and the consequent neurological symptoms. Primary progressive multiple sclerosis is the most severe form of multiple sclerosis, characterized by a steady neurological decline from the onset of the disease. Currently, there are no effective treatments or cures for primary progressive multiple sclerosis and treatments relies merely on symptom management.
Source:Stem Cell Reports

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

What You Can Eat For Breakfast To Have Long Lasting Energy

healthy, easy, delicious breakfast from HOMISTROMost of us wake up still a little sleepy and tired, but we want our bodies to jump right into a hectic day and give us endless energy and top mental and physical performance. Caffeine and sugar offer a quick fix – a burst of energy and alertness, but that soon fades away… I suggest something different – try a healthy, nutrient-dense breakfast that will satisfy your cravings and provide actual sustained energy and fullness. But what kind of breakfast would give you that?

Rich In Fiber

There are two reasons why a breakfast rich in fiber is the best thing you can get in the morning. Firstly, fiber increases food volume while having zero effect on calories! When you eat more fiber (such as contained in whole grains, fruits and vegetables), the fiber then further expands in your stomach, giving you feeling of being full and satiated, reducing your hunger and helping you keep away from unhealthy snacks1.
Secondly, fiber is especially beneficial to consume in the morning because it cleanses the digestive system, stimulates the bowels and helps us start the day with a clean slate. Anything else you eat later on will be better processed, helping you actually extract and assimilate the nutrients in your food1.
Harvard Health Blog suggests that you should aim for about 6 grams of fiber with your breakfast2. Two easy ways to get it are cereal and fruit (or veggies). Good old oats will provide about 4 grams of fiber3 – add some nuts and fruit to it and you can easily get to the 6 grams. Or you can go for 2 slices of wholegrain bread with avocado (total of 6-7 grams of fiber)3. Fruits such as apples, bananas, oranges, strawberries and raspberries are always a good fiber-rich addition to your breakfast. Or just sprinkle some chia seeds on anything – that will skyrocket your fiber intake by 5 grams with just one tablespoon3!


Breakfast is a great opportunity to load up on vitamins and minerals, proteins and some healthy fats4. All this nutrition will keep your energy levels up and contribute to a productive day. Especially the balance between protein and carbs has been shown to stimulate cognitive function5.
  • Glucose – overnight the body uses up stored glycogen which needs to be replenished in the morning. Your best option is to go for slow-release carbohydrates which will be gradually digested and used up, giving you sustained energy vs the highs and lows of sugar consumption (or other simple carbs such as white flour). Such foods are again whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans.
  • Protein, Vitamins & Minerals – it is difficult to get all the vitamins and minerals your body requires during just lunch and dinner and quick snacks are usually not a big help either. You can get a great head start with a nutritious breakfast. For example, a serving of buckwheat porridge3 with walnuts and raisins can provide 35% of the daily requirement of protein, 100% of manganese, 20% of iron, over 50% of magnesium, copper and phosphorus, and 20% of vitamin B3 and B6.
  • Healthy fats – we need essential fatty acids, namely omega–3 and omega–6 fats, for most important bodily functions, including those of the nervous system and brain. Adding just 2-3 raw walnuts or a tablespoon of raw ground flaxseeds to your breakfast will provide a generous serving of omega 3. Further, avocados are a great source of monounsaturated fats6 – the good fats that lower bad cholesterol – and can easily be added to any breakfast for extra creaminess and nutrition.


A truly healthy breakfast provides a variety of nutrients. It is impossible to create the all-you-will-ever-need breakfast because what you need changes! That means that the best breakfast is different every few days and changes with the seasons. I recommend trying out a variety of recipes and selecting 4-5 favorites that you can rotate. Then keep experimenting and trying out new options for most fun and a balanced diet.
Now that you know what makes a healthy breakfast, don’t start thinking of excuses to skip it! Research suggests that breakfast skippers have a higher chance of being overweight than breakfast eaters2. You can create your own wholesome breakfast or check out these suggested recipes of healthy breakfasts which will only take 5 minutes to prepare and can be easily adjusted to the seasons and your own preferences.
Finally, if you have a quick-tasty-healthy breakfast recipe – please share it in the comments! :)
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Strategy proposed for preventing diseases of aging

Medicine focuses almost entirely on fighting chronic diseases in a piecemeal fashion as symptoms develop. Instead, more efforts should be directed to promoting interventions that have the potential to prevent multiple chronic diseases and extend healthy lifespans.
Researchers writing in the journal Naturesay that by treating the metabolic and molecular causes of human aging, it may be possible to help people stay healthy into their 70s and 80s.
In a commentary published July 24 in Nature, a trio of aging experts calls for moving forward with preclinical and clinical strategies that have been shown to delay aging in animals. In addition to promoting a healthy diet and regular exercise, these strategies include slowing the metabolic and molecular causes of human aging, such as the incremental accumulation of cellular damage that occurs over time.
The researchers, at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Brescia University in Italy, the Buck Institute for Aging and Research and the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California, write that economic incentives in biomedical research and health care reward treating disease more than promoting good health.
"You don't have to be a mathematician or an economist to understand that our current health care approach is not sustainable," said first author Luigi Fontana, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and nutrition at Washington University and Brescia University. "As targeting diseases has helped people live longer, they are spending more years being sick with multiple disorders related to aging, and that's expensive," said
The diseases of old age — such as heart failure, diabetes, arthritis, cancer and Alzheimer's disease — tend to come as a package, the researchers write. More than 70 percent of people over age 65 have two or more chronic diseases. But, they noted, studies of diet, genes and drugs indicate that interventions targeted to specific molecular pathways that delay one age-related disease often stave off others, too.
"Heart failure doesn't happen all at once," Fontana said. "It takes 30 or 40 years of an unhealthy lifestyle and activation of aging-related pathways from metabolic abnormalities such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes to give a person heart failure in his 60s. So we propose using lifestyle interventions — such as a personalized healthy diet and exercise program — to down-regulate aging pathways so the patient avoids heart failure in the first place."
His own research has highlighted potential benefits from dietary restriction in extending healthy life span. He has found that people who eat significantly fewer calories, while still getting optimal nutrition, have "younger," more flexible hearts. They also have significantly lower blood pressure, much less inflammation in their bodies and their skeletal muscles function in ways similar to muscles in people who are significantly younger.
Fontana and his co-authors also point out that several molecular pathways shown to increase longevity in animals also are affected by approved and experimental drugs, including rapamycin, an anticancer and organ-rejection drug, and metformin, a drug used to treat type 2 diabetes.
Numerous natural and synthetic molecules affect pathways shared by aging, diabetes and its related metabolic syndrome. Also, healthy diets and calorie restriction are known to help animals live up to 50 percent longer.
But it's been difficult to capitalize on research advances to stall aging in people. Fontana and his colleagues write that most clinicians don't realize how much already is understood about the molecular mechanisms of aging and their link to chronic diseases. And scientists don't understand precisely how the drugs that affect aging pathways work.
Fontana and his colleagues contend that the time is right for moving forward with preclinical and clinical trials of the most promising findings from animal studies. They also call for developing well-defined endpoints to determine whether work in animals will translate to humans. They are optimistic on that front because it appears that the nutrient-sensing and aging-related pathways in humans are very similar to those that have been targeted to help animals live longer and healthier lives.
But challenges abound. The most important change, they argue, is in mindset. Economic incentives in biomedical research and health care reward treating diseases more than promoting good health, they note.
"But public money must be invested in extending healthy lifespan by slowing aging. Otherwise, we will founder in a demographic crisis of increased disability and escalating health care costs," they write in Nature.
"The combination of an aging population with an increased burden of chronic diseases and the epidemic of obesity and type 2 diabetes could soon make healthy care unaffordable for all but the richest people," Fontana added.

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