dot Cool Stuff dot

Technology and Health News

All kinds of interesting tech and health news from around the World!

Technology and Health News > Monday, October-20-2008

Too many drinks shrink the brain

The habitual consumption of alcohol reduces the size of brain mass. This suggests a study in Neurology magazine.

The more we drink, the more our brains will decrease. To suggest this is a report of Wellesley College, Massachusetts, published in the journal Archives of Neurology (a publication of Jama) and this week the American Academy of Neurology.

We know that the volume of the brain decreases with age (about 1.9 percent every ten years). This physiological reduction is accompanied by an increase in white matter lesions and both factors - reminiscent of the authors - are related to cognitive problems like memory.

While some scholars have suggested a possible positive effect of alcohol on reducing the normal volume of brain mass, this new study suggests just the opposite. Data was collected on a sample of over 1,800 individuals aged between 55 and 64 years, most consumers of alcohol or ex-drinkers, which carried out magnetic resonance (participants in the Framingham Offspring fall Study, a study of the cardiovascular problems started in 1971, for which it was collected information on weekly consumption of alcohol, sex, body mass index and other physiological parameters). The results show that there is a significant correlation between alcohol intake and reduction of brain volume, especially in women which usually consume less alcohol than men.

Full Story

Technology and Health News > Tuesday, September-30-2008

The brake in the human brain

Npas4: This protein regulates the formation of inhibitory synapses between neurons.

The inhibitory activity of neurons is regulated by a particular switch. This is a protein involved in the formation and maintenance of synapses in regulating selectively switching the electrical signal between nerve cells. Its name is Npas4 and was discovered by researchers from the Children's Hospital in Boston this week to publish their study in Nature.

In particular, the protein in question is a transcription factor, that is a molecule that can activate or deactivate specific genes. Those which would be linked to Npas4 are more than 270. When the protein is produced in large quantities, we are seeing an increase in the number of inhibitory synapses on the surface of nerve cells.

But what induces the production of high levels of Npas4? According to the researchers this is a reaction to excitatory synaptic. "It is as if the same excitement triggers a program to rebalance the brain with inhibition," says Michael Greenberg, coordinator of the study, which continues: "The mice in which the protein is suppressed, in fact, have neurological problems: are anxious, hyperactive and more subject to seizures. " The discovery could help researchers in studying these disorders. Inhibition, in fact, plays an important role in brain development.

Full Story

Technology and Health News > Wednesday, September-10-2008

A bio-sensor for cancer

To isolate individual cells of the immune system and study the interaction in order to improve the treatment of cancer. At this will serve the new biosensor prototype developed under the project Cochise (Cell-On-CHIp bioSEnsor), supported by the European Union and coordinated by Roberto Guerrieri, professor of Electronics at the Faculty of Engineering, University of Bologna .

The biological approach used to treat cancer patients consisting of interferon, interleukin-2 or other factors stimulating the growth of different cell types and able to reinforce the natural defenses of the body. But these substances are not always well tolerated. An alternative approach is to identify the immune cells able to fight cancer, cultivate them in vitro and then re-introduce them in the body. But here the problem lies in identifying and in isolating the small number of cells that are selectively able to fight cancer.

The objective of the project Cochise (which is intended to last three years), is to develop a new class of biosensors capable of isolating cells (not more than 1 in 10 thousand) that are actually effective in fighting cancer cells . As the first objective was developed a prototype, used to demonstrate the possibility of controlling the flow of two individual cells and putting them in a display where you can study the interaction.

Full Story

Technology and Health News > Tuesday, August-26-2008

The causes of neuroblastoma

The mutation of the gene Alk would be responsible for inherited forms of cancer.

Neuroblastoma is a childhood cancer more widespread and aggressive: it attacks the autonomic nervous system during development, forming frequently in tumor masses or into the chest. A study, published in Nature and coordinated by the Children Hospital of Philadelphia (USA), indicates that mutations in the gene anaplastic lymphoma kinase (Alk) would be responsible for inherited forms of the disease.

The international group of researchers, including some of the Italian Institute for Cancer Research in Genoa, have collected genetic information of 20 families where the disease was presented in more than one occasion, by analyzing the DNA of 176 people ( of which 49 with neuroblastoma). Eight families, in which at least three individuals suffering from the disease were closely analyzed, possessed the changed Alk gene. The normal role of this gene, which expresses a transmembrane receptor, is not yet understood in depth but, according to previous studies, its alterations increase the risk of developing lymphoma or lung cancer.

Full Story

Technology and Health News > Tuesday, August-12-2008

Muscle tissue regeneration

A new technique, developed in the laboratories of the Foundation San Raffaele Biomedical Park, facilitates the process of regeneration of muscle tissue.

Stem cells, modified at the level of genes, could permit the recovery of tissue degenerated from Duchenne muscular dystrophy (Dmd), even when the disease is in an advanced stage. This is a further step towards developing a therapy, which is being developed for some years by researchers of the Foundation San Raffaele Biomedical Park of Castel Romano, coordinated by Giulio Cossu, University of Milan. The research, published in Nature Medicine, was conducted by Cesare Gargioli and Marcello Coletta, along with Fabrizio de Grandis and Stefano Cannata at the Roman Tor Vergata.

From previous studies and experiments on animal models it is known that mesangioblasti, stem cells normally associated with blood vessels, are able to spread easily and merge with and into the muscle tissue regenerating it (cell therapy). In advanced stages, however, this treatment had so far proven ineffective because of difficulties to penetrate between the muscle fibers. The degeneration, in fact, is accompanied by a process of inflammation followed by scarring tissue that impedes the provision of blood (and thus oxygen) to the muscles. Therefore, the muscle fibers are replaced with fatty tissue.

To overcome the obstacle, the researchers genetically modified cells derived from the tendons (fibroblasts) so as to make them express the protein metalloproteasi 9 (Mmp9), a molecule that can degrade collagen that accumulates between fibres degeneration.

Full Story

Technology and Health News > Monday, July-28-2008

Right or left?

The brain responds to stimuli, tactile and visual contradiction in delaying the processing of information that comes from the skin.

A fly is laying on the right elbow. Slight itching, moving vision towards the elbow, identification of the intruder and its position and, finally, blow. This reaction is not as instantaneous as you can imagine. Indeed, the brain seems to delay affixed aware of the tactile perception, as reported a study in Current Biology Group for Research in Cognitive Neuroscience (Grnc) in Barcelona.

The brain is often having to generate rapid responses integrating stimuli that produce information in contradiction: if, for example, the subject has crossed his arms and brings his right arm on the left side and left arm on the right side, his hands will be in a position that is reversed from the original location. In this case, the brain must be able to correctly integrate the information of the tactile stimulus (for example pinch) on the right hand, although the visual stimulus comes in fact from the left. To avoid mistakes the brain needs time to make a realignment of the information space of two different maps: that rof the body and one that covers everything else.

To understand how the mechanism works, researchers have assessed the response of 32 university students to a series of visual and tactile stimuli. Each student has been subjected to 600 tests. "First we asked participants to cross the arms, so that the position of hands was in conflict with the anatomical position" says Salvador Soto-Faraco, one of the authors of the study, "we have stimulated one of two hands." Few tenths of a second later, a small light (visual stimulus) I had left or right. Both the tactile stimuli that those visual products were in a totally random. In addition, the flash of light could be generated 60 or 200 milliseconds after the tactile stimulus. In order to assess whether the time elapsed between the two stimuli does influence or not the answer.

Full Story

Technology and Health News > Wednesday, July-16-2008

Darwin can rest in peace

The asymmetry of the skull of flatfish is the result of a progressive adaptation of the species. A study in Nature

The bizarre anatomy of flatfish had surprised even Charles Darwin, which had not managed to find an explanation for the asymmetry of their skull. All adult in this family - including the sole, turbot, halibut - in fact, have both eyes on the top of the head. But in fossils of fish of their progenitors, this feature was absent. The mystery of the asimmetric skull is now being revealed by a study carried out by Matt Friedman, a researcher at the Committee on Evolutionary Biology and the University of Chicago and State Department of Geology at the Field Museum and published in Nature: in the Eocene era, about 50 million years ago, there were fish with intermediate characteristics.

The U.S. researcher says it is enough to review the collections of fossils preserved in museums in some European countries (Italy, France, Austria, United Kingdom) to be able to find two kinds primitive - Amphistium, described for the first time more than 200 years ago, and the Heteronectes, unknown until now - in which the eye migration is partial. "We discovered thus an intermediate stage of development of these species," said Friedman, "showing that the asymmetry of the head of the fish we know today is the result of a gradual natural evolution."

Full Story

Technology and Health News > Tuesday, July-08-2008

How a tumor is born

A study explains how a yeast cell becomes cancerous: the fault is a chromosomal translocation

An altering of the genome that causes cancer was finally detected and reproduced in the laboratory. The discovery, crucial for understanding the genesis and development of malignancies, is due to the geneticist Charles V. Bruschi, head of the Laboratory of Molecular Genetics of yeast, International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Trieste (Icgeb) and coordinator of the Society of Italian scientific yeast (Zymi).

Together with his group, Bruschi has uncovered, that the so-called chromosomal translocation is at fault. The yeast cells, whose DNA was sequenced completely in 1996, are a good model because they possess many similarities with mammalian cells and are easily manipulated by genetic engineering. Thanks to technical Bit (Bridge-Induced Translocation), designed by Bruschi and Valentina Tosato in 2005, it was possible to artificially induce the translocation and demonstrate the crucial role of this phenomenon in the formation of cancer. "Although it has long been a correlation between the presence of chromosomal translocations and the appearance of cancer cells," explains Bruschi, "so far it was not clear whether a translocation was the origin of cancer or whether, instead, it was a consequence. This is because we see patients when the cancer has already formed and in the cells already exists a particular translocation. In practice, these observations are made when it is too late to establish a relationship of cause and effect. "

Full Story

Technology and Health News > Wednesday, July-02-2008

Through the glass

It was finally demonstrated how atoms arrange themselves inside the materials. This opens new possibilities for designing ultraresistant objects.

Glass is a material called 'amorphous', whose atoms that is, are not disposed in a regular type structures crystal. The substance is not considered a solid but, rather, a liquid with very high viscosity. An international research team, led by Paddy Royall University of Bristol (Great Britain), in collaboration with Japanese and Australian scholars, is now able to demonstrate that during the solidification particles have in-shaped structures that prevent the icosahedron formation of crystals. Unlike solid crystalline form, in which the atoms are fixed to one another by chemical bonds into regular geometric structures, glass appears' solid 'just because the movement of each particle is physically prevented by the presence of other neighbouring atoms. The particles, that is, hinder each other. It was thus finally confirmed, with a simulation test, a 50 years old theory that explains many of the characteristics of this material and that could allow us to build, for example, non-crystalline metals much more resistant than traditional ones.

Full Story

Technology and Health News > Friday, June-27-2008

In the brain of Indiana Jones

The ventral striatum, a part of the brain already known to be associated with rewards and unexpected stimuli, is the center of our desire for adventure. The research in Neuron.

A group of researchers from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at the University College of London has identified the area of the brain directly linked to our desire for adventure. Or, more precisely, our propensity to live new experiences and to experience what we do not know.

For the study, published in Neuron, researchers have developed a test: the participants were presented a series of images associated with different sums of money put into a premium, and were asked to guess which of the sums was higher. Although the volunteers easily could identify the image associated with richer rewards, when it was introduced a new figure, all of them tended to choose the latter rather than those already known with secure profits. Through magnetic resonance imaging, neuroscientists have noticed that the area of the ventral Striatum (an area of the brain already known to be associated to receive a reward and unexpected stimuli) was particularly active when participants opted for the novelty.

Full Story

dot dot
dot dot dot