New Alternatives to Statins Add to a Quandary on Cholesterol

ROCHESTER, Minn. — Doctors have long faced a conundrum in prescribing statins to lower cholesterol and heart attack risk: The drugs are cheap and effective for most people, and large, rigorous clinical trials have found minimal side effects. But as many as 25 percent of those who try them complain of muscle pain. Others stop taking the drugs because, they say, they cause a hazy memory or sleep problems, among other side effects not documented in studies.

Now, with the approval on Thursday of the second in a powerful — and very expensive — new class of cholesterol-lowering drugs, the dilemma confronting doctors just got trickier…..

Link to full story at NYT

3D simulation depicting how a tumor grows

Healthy tissues are like healthy ecosystems: Both composed of diverse populations. But in tumors, a single, malignant cell type often dominates. A new computer model is helping researchers understand why, and it could pave the way to more effective cancer treatments.

Using mathematical algorithms, a team of researchers has developed a new, 3D simulation depicting how a tumor grows from a handful of rogue cell types (represented by different colors) into a malignant mass comprised of millions of cancerous mutants. The model, published this week in Nature, is reinforcing something that laboratory studies have also shown: Tiny movements of cells within a tumor can cause the mass to quickly expand, or allow it to rebound after chemotherapy.

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Some people are born without a ‘Mind’s Eye’

When science journalist Carl Zimmerwrote a 2010 article in Discover magazine about English neurologist Adam Zeman’s case study of a man who couldn’t visualize people or things, the professor was approached by 21 people who saw themselves in the article and wanted to learn more. Now Zeman and colleagues at the University of Exeter Medical School are reporting in the journal Cortex that the condition could affect as many as 2.5% of the population. They’re calling it “aphantasia,” though Zeman insists in an interview with the BBC that it is not a disorder but rather a “variability of human experience” where most of us “spend our lives with imagery hovering somewhere in the mind’s eye, which we inspect from time to time.” Says one man of his childhood insomnia: “I couldn’t see any sheep jumping over fences, there was nothing to count.”


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Laser detects brain tumour cells during surgery

Surgeons in London have used lasers to diagnose abnormal tissue during an operation to remove a brain tumour for the first time in Europe.

The non-invasive technique measures light reflected off tissue to determine whether it is cancerous or healthy.

The patient, Reuben Hill, 22, is making a good recovery after the operation at Charing Cross Hospital.

It is hoped the technique could make this kind of delicate surgery faster and more accurate.

It has only been tired in Montreal, Canada, before now.

Mr Hill, who is from Devon and studying for a PhD in physics at Imperial College London, works with the same laser technology as used in his operation.

Before surgery, he told me: “My inner scientist is fascinated by what they are going to do.

“Understanding the physics involved definitely makes it less frightening.”


Full story at BBC News

Is a universal flu vaccine on the horizon?

Every fall, millions of people roll up their sleeves for a flu vaccine, hoping to give their immune system a leg up on influenza. But the flu virus has thousands of strains that mutate and evolve across seasons, and the vaccine can’t guard against all of them. Now, two groups of researchers have independently created vaccines that lay the groundwork for a long-sought shot that could protect against every type of flu.

“This is really cutting-edge technology,” says Antonio Lanzavecchia, an immunologist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, who is unaffiliated with both studies. “There is still work to do, but this is a clear step forward and it’s headed in the right direction.”


Scientists develop flu vaccines by predicting the strains most likely to infect a population. They use year-round flu surveillance along with field reports from countries in the Southern Hemisphere to guess which strains are most likely to hit North America at the height of the flu season—December through March. But viral guesswork is a tricky business, and it’s impossible to be 100% right. This uncertainty makes for patchy protection, and as flu strains mutate over the course of the season, vaccines become less and less effective.


Link to full article at AAAS

13 scientific breakthroughs inspired by nature


Biomimicry, the field of science that takes direct R&D cues from nature’s own solutions, has provided us with breakthrough materials, inspired developments in robotic locomotion and informed new medical techniques. We’ve even gotten introspective and looked at our own biological functions in order to create useful technologies.


Link to engadget  article

Extra virgin olive oil linked to lower blood sugar and cholesterol

(Reuters Health) – Compared to other kinds of fat, extra virgin olive oil may have healthier effects on levels of blood sugar and bad cholesterol after meals, according to an Italian study.

That may explain why a traditional Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil is linked to lower risk of cardiovascular disease, researchers say.

“Lowering (post-meal) blood glucose and cholesterol may be useful to reduce the negative effects of glucose and cholesterol on the cardiovascular system,” lead study author Francesco Violi, a researcher at Sapienza University in Rome, said by email.

Violi and his colleagues tested the effect of adding extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) to a Mediterranean diet based on fruits, vegetables, grains and fish, with only limited consumption of dairy or red meat.


Read full article at Reuters

Harvard neuroscientist: Meditation not only reduces stress, here’s how it changes your brain

Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, was one of the first scientists to take the anecdotal claims about the benefits of meditation and mindfulness and test them in brain scans. What she found surprised her — that meditating can literally change your brain. She explains:

Q: Why did you start looking at meditation and mindfulness and the brain?

Lazar: A friend and I were training for the Boston marathon. I had some running injuries, so I saw a physical therapist who told me to stop running and just stretch. So I started practicing yoga as a form of physical therapy. I started realizing that it was very powerful, that it had some real benefits, so I just got interested in how it worked.

The yoga teacher made all sorts of claims, that yoga would increase your compassion and open your heart. And I’d think, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m here to stretch.’ But I started noticing that I was calmer. I was better able to handle more difficult situations. I was more compassionate and open hearted, and able to see things from others’ points of view.


Read full article at The Washington Post

Hot Chilli May Unlock A New Treatment For Obesity

University of Adelaide researchers have discovered a high-fat diet may impair important receptors located in the stomach that signal fullness.

Published today in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers from the University’s Centre for Nutrition and Gastrointestinal Diseases (based at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute) investigated the association between hot chilli pepper receptors (TRPV1) in the stomach and the feeling of fullness, in laboratory studies.

“The stomach stretches when it is full, which activates nerves in the stomach to tell the body that it has had enough food. We found that this activation is regulated through hot chilli pepper or TRPV1 receptors,” says Associate Professor Amanda Page, Senior Research Fellow in the University of Adelaide’s School of Medicine and lead author on the paper.


Read full article at BioSpace

The story of how cephalothin to treat typhoid was developed

Allergic to penicillin? Then you could be shot full of something that came out of a Sardinian sewer. Here’s the backstory of the important medicine that we found floating around in our own feces.

Typhoid fever is a life-threatening sickness. Although it’s rare in areas with good drinking water purification systems, worldwide it claims 200,000 lives every year. Even when scientists found out that the fever was the result of a bacterial infection, usually picked up through contact with sewage already containing the bacteria, direct treatments were hard to come by, and there was little they could do to purify water supplies for entire regions.

This is why Giuseppe Brotzu, an Italian professor of hygiene, was so surprised that the people in one particular area suffered a very low rate of typhoid casualties during a 1948 epidemic.

Read full article at io9