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Cholesterol wars: Does a pill a day keep heart attacks away? Simon Danaher By Michael Brooks IT STARTED in 2014, with a routine health check. I was 44, and fit enough to have completed a string of Olympic-distance triathlons. I exercised most days, at the gym, on a football pitch, running or cycling. The problems began when a nurse did a finger-prick test of my blood cholesterol. It wasn’t broken. So, I was being invited to join the club.

Even so, I’d been vaguely aware of a backlash against statins – and even against the idea that cholesterol really is a bogeyman for your heart. In wealthier parts of the. High-fiber diet keeps gut microbes from eating colon's lining, protects against infection. It sounds like the plot of a 1950s science fiction movie: normal, helpful bacteria that begin to eat their host from within, because they don't get what they want. But new research shows that's exactly what happens when microbes inside the digestive system don't get the natural fiber that they rely on for food. Starved, they begin to munch on the natural layer of mucus that lines the gut, eroding it to the point where dangerous invading bacteria can infect the colon wall. In a new paper in Cell, an international team of researchers show the impact of fiber deprivation on the guts of specially raised mice.

The mice were born and raised with no gut microbes of their own, then received a transplant of 14 bacteria that normally grow in the human gut. Scientists know the full genetic signature of each one, making it possible to track their activity over time. The researchers also saw that the mix of bacteria changed depending on what the mice were being fed, even day by day. Why choosing the right workout could fine-tune your brain. By Teal Burrell PUMPING iron to sculpt your biceps. Yoga poses to stretch and relax. Running to whittle your waistline and get fit fast. There are loads of reasons why it’s smart to exercise, and most of us are familiar with the menu of options and how each can shape and benefit your body. But we are discovering that there are numerous ways in which exercise makes you smart too. That the brains of exercisers look different to those of their more sedentary counterparts is, in itself, not new.

But a new chapter is beginning in our understanding of the influence of physical exercise on cognition. They are looking beyond the standard recommendation of 30 minutes of moderate, aerobic exercise a day, for the sake of your brain. First evidence that sperm epigenetics affect the next generation. The International Photo Co/Getty By Helen Thomson SPERM pass on more than just their DNA.

Chemical switches attached to the genomes of sperm – known as epigenetic tags – have been shown to alter the next generation for the first time. The discovery could explain how a father’s experiences may later affect gene activity in their offspring, a vital step towards improving health and fertility. Throughout life, our environment changes the activity of our genes, switching them on or off without altering DNA.

It does this by epigenetics – adding or removing regulatory chemical tags. Both smoking and diet can alter which genes are tagged in this way, and epigenetic changes have also been linked to cancer. Over the past decade, a handful of studies have suggested that environmental stressors experienced by parents can also affect the health of their children and even grandchildren. “The implication is that a father’s experiences might affect their offspring’s characteristics” More on these topics: Why super-gonorrhoea is spreading and may soon be untreatable. Maurizio De Angelis/SPL By Debora MacKenzie England’s public health agency has launched an “incident response” after discovering more cases of gonorrhoea that are resistant to nearly all antibiotics.

Doctors across England have been asked to double-check that people they treat for gonorrhoea have been cured, to report any treatment failures, and to treat their sexual contacts in hope of containing the bacteria. But fewer than half of such contacts are being traced. Gonorrhoea, also known as “the clap”, was largely controlled by antibiotics after the second world war.

But the bacteria readily acquire genes for resisting drugs, and by 2012, the World Health Organization warned that strains of the infection were appearing that resisted nearly all classes of antibiotics. In 2012, the UK mandated treatment with two antibiotics at once – azithromycin pills plus an injection of ceftriaxone – so if bacteria acquired resistance to one, they would be killed by the other. Advertisement Secret treatment. Explosive road rage-like anger linked to parasite spread by cats. Getty Images There are many ways your cat might be filling you with rage. Scratching your furniture, sitting on your computer keyboard – or giving you parasites that may cause explosive anger. Infection with Toxoplasma gondii, a protozoan parasite carried by cats, has been linked to a human psychiatric condition called intermittent explosive disorder. People who have IED typically experience disproportionate outbursts of aggression, like road rage.

T. gondii is already known to change the behaviour of the organisms it infects. By making rodents bolder and more adventurous, the parasite makes them more likely to be caught and eaten by a cat, allowing the parasite to complete its life cycle. It can also infect humans, through contact with cat faeces, poorly cooked meat or contaminated water, and as many as one-third of the world’s population may be infected. To see if T. gondii is associated with aggression, Emil Coccaro at the University of Chicago and his colleagues examined 358 adults. I can tell you how to heal yourself with hypnosis. Michael Blann/Getty You believe hypnosis has the potential to transform healthcare.

How so? Many problems we bring to our doctors have a psychophysiological component: irritable bowel syndrome, recurrent migraines, anxiety-related symptoms. And we know that people can somehow keep powerful medications from being effective. Access to mental healthcare is important here, but it’s physicians who are most often in a position to help those people self-regulate. Clinical hypnosis is about learning how to interpret nonverbal cues and improve trust, communication and empathy. It is about educating the patient to be a better boss of their body and mind. Then why is hypnosis not widely used? In part, because nobody knows what it is.

So, tell us what hypnosis is and how you think it works. My colleagues and I propose that hypnosis is simply a skill set for influencing people. Where ... More on these topics: Marathon mind: How brain training could smash world records. Nadine Rupp/Bongarts/Getty AT THE 2014 Berlin marathon, Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto beat everyone who has ever run the 42.2-kilometre race, blazing his way to a new world record time of 2:02.57.

Shaving 26 seconds off the previous best was an extraordinary achievement, particularly for a man who only began training seriously in 2010. And yet Kimetto was 3 minutes off the 2-hour mark – the fabled barrier considered by many as the greatest challenge left in sport. Sports scientists will give you a familiar list of what is required to break that barrier: as high an oxygen capacity as has ever been recorded, impeccable running economy, a pancake-flat course, perfect temperatures and top-notch pacemakers. But perhaps that is not the whole story. Until recently, scientists concerned with the limits of human endurance performance tended to focus on the physiological – how the body functions, in other words – and the environmental.

Tap the placebo effect to unlock your body's healing powers. Marcel Stive/Plainpicture LINDA BUONANNO had been sick with irritable bowel syndrome for 15 years when she saw a TV advertisement recruiting participants for a new study. Desperate for help, she signed on, even after learning that the potential treatments she would be offered consisted of either nothing – or pills filled with nothing. When the experiment ended, she begged the researchers to let her keep the pills. “I felt fantastic,” Buonanno says. She has been trying to get her hands on more ever since. This is the placebo effect in action, and it may come as a surprise to learn that it works even when people know they are being given a sham treatment. But before your doctor can prescribe you one of Buonanno’s pills, a lot of slippery questions must be tackled: what conditions respond to the placebo effect? The placebo effect has been on ... Cancer’s penicillin moment: Drugs that unleash the immune system.

Martin Oeggerli 2012, kindly supported by FHNW WHEN Vicky Brown was diagnosed with advanced malignant melanoma in 2013, she was in shock. Even with the best treatments available at the time, most people with her diagnosis lived for about six months. Then her fate took a turn for the better. Through the Melanoma UK charity, Brown was referred to take part in a trial of an experimental treatment at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London. Brown’s results may be extraordinary, but they aren’t unique. This new generation of anticancer drugs – called checkpoint inhibitors – is having such a profound impact that some scientists are pitching it as a turning point in cancer treatment. Ralph Barrera-Pool/Getty Images Jimmy Carter’s brain cancer was successfully treated with the new drugs[/caption ... Four genes discovered that will help you live beyond 100. Fancy living to 100? Your chances are boosted if you carry protective variants of four newly discovered genes.

They are: • ABO Determines blood group • CDKN2B Helps regulate cellular life cycles Advertisement • SH2B3 Has been shown to extend lifespan in fruit flies • One of the HLA genes, which are involved in how the immune system recognises the body’s own cells Uncovered by searching the genomes of centenarians, the genes join APOE, which influences the risk of Alzheimer’s, as the bits of our genome most clearly associated with longevity. “I’m motivated because I really don’t understand why we get old,” says lead author Stuart Kim at Stanford University. Gene trawl Studies of identical twins suggest that genetic make-up has a significant influence on lifespan. But which genes are responsible? For example, in 2014, Kim published a study comparing the genomes of 17 supercentenarians – people aged 110 and over – with those of the general population.

Zoning in This time Kim had more success. Diabetic pancreas cells made to produce insulin by bone protein. What an incredible transformation. A protein used to help bones mend can also force pancreatic cells into producing insulin. The discovery could help people with type 1 diabetes produce their own insulin without having to take daily injections. In type 1 diabetes, beta cells in the pancreas that make insulin – the hormone that keeps our blood glucose levels at a safe concentration – are destroyed by the immune system. As a result, people with the disease have to inject themselves daily with insulin.

Now, researchers have discovered that non-beta cells in the pancreas can be transformed into insulin-producing cells, merely by exposing them to a growth factor called BMP-7. Advertisement “We are very encouraged by the simplicity of our finding,” says Juan Domínguez-Bendala, director of stem cell development at the Diabetes Research Institute in Miami, Florida. Surprise discovery Intrigued, they added the growth factor to a soup of pancreatic cells that do not normally produce insulin. Less risk. SAN FRANCISCO, ITALY / Bloomberg: Italy has the World’s 3rd Most Efficient Health Care. Bacteria now resistant even to 'last resort' antibiotics. Well that’s ironic. As if to mark World Antiobiotic Awareness Week, antibiotic resistance just got a whole lot scarier.

Resistance genes identified in China suggests we could soon see bacteria that are resistant to every known type of antibiotic, and these genes have already been found in bacteria infecting people. Until now, a type of bacteria known as Gram negative have remained susceptible to one particular class of antibiotics, called polymyxins. These have become known as “last resort” antibiotics, increasingly used to treat infections that resist every other kind. In 2012, the World Health Organisation classified colistin, the most widely used polymyxin, as being critically important for human health. But that didn’t stop farmers around the world, especially in China, from using large quantities of colistin to fatten up pigs and chickens.

While curtailing the use of colistin in livestock would be a sensible move, it’s possible it won’t make a difference. Image credit: China Photos. Anti-booze drug may flush out dormant HIV and could lead to cure. It could be just what HIV researchers the world over have been waiting for – a non-toxic drug that will drive the virus from its hiding places around the body. What is it? The well-known anti-alcohol drug, Antabuse. The drug, also called disulfiram, has been given to alcoholics for decades, making them vomit if they drink at the same time – a strong disincentive. But now a small clinical trial suggests this drug also flushes out dormant HIV from its hiding places in infected people. If bigger trials support the finding, the drug could be a vital step towards a cure for HIV. One strategy would be to somehow wake up the dormant virus, flushing it from its hiding places so that it can be killed off once and for all.

Viral activity Until now, the main candidates have been a class of drugs called histone deacetylase inhibitors, but these have too many toxic side effects to be a realistic option. Over that time, they found an increase in HIV gene expression in all of their study group. Let them eat steak: How to eat meat the healthy way. By Linda Geddes BACON causes breast cancer; chops clog your arteries. The headlines are clear – if you care about your health, you shouldn’t be eating meat. Once considered the star attraction of a balanced, healthy plate of food, meat is now linked to obesity, heart disease and cancer.

Add the environmental concerns over a growing global appetite for meat, and it seems meat should now be an occasional guilty pleasure rather than a daily staple, or so we are told. Yet the evidence isn’t quite as clear-cut as the headlines suggest, and not everyone is convinced of the perils of tucking into a juicy steak. A growing body of research – which is, perhaps unsurprisingly, being championed by the meat industry – suggests that recommendations to cut down on or give up meat altogether are too restrictive and could even be doing us more harm than good. World Health Organization may approve first malaria vaccine. Stressed dads affect offspring brain development through sperm microRNA. World's first biolimb: Rat forelimb grown in the lab.

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