Ice Bucket Challenge funds gene discovery in ALS (MND) research

The Ice Bucket Challenge that went viral in 2014 has funded an important scientific gene discovery in the progressive neurodegenerative disease ALS, the ALS Association says.

Scientists have identified a new gene contributing to the disease, NEK1.

The Ice Bucket Challenge has raised $115m (£87.7m) from people pouring cold water over themselves and posting the video on social media.

It was criticised as a stunt, but has funded six research projects.

 

Read at BBC News

Meet Luca, the Ancestor of All Living Things

A surprisingly specific genetic portrait of the ancestor of all living things has been generated by scientists who say that the likeness sheds considerable light on the mystery of how life first emerged on Earth.

This venerable ancestor was a single-cell, bacterium-like organism. But it has a grand name, or at least an acronym. It is known as Luca, the Last Universal Common Ancestor, and is estimated to have lived some four billion years ago, when Earth was a mere 560 million years old.

The new finding sharpens the debate between those who believe life began in some extreme environment, such as in deep sea vents or the flanks of volcanoes, and others who favor more normal settings, such as the “warm little pond” proposed by Darwin.

Read at NYT

Updated Brain Map Identifies Nearly 100 New Regions

The brain looks like a featureless expanse of folds and bulges, but it’s actually carved up into invisible territories. Each is specialized: Some groups of neurons become active when we recognize faces, others when we read, others when we raise our hands.

On Wednesday, in what many experts are calling a milestone in neuroscience, researchers published a spectacular new map of the brain, detailing nearly 100 previously unknown regions — an unprecedented glimpse into the machinery of the human mind.

Scientists will rely on this guide as they attempt to understand virtually every aspect of the brain, from how it develops in children and ages over decades, to how it can be corrupted by diseases like Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia.

Read at NYT

Researchers show porous silicon nanoparticles could be harmless to diagnose and treat cancer

The Lomonosov Moscow State University researchers in collaboration with their German colleagues have succeeded in proving that silicon nanoparticles can be applied to diagnose and cure cancer. For the first time the ability of particles to penetrate into the diseased cells effectively and dissolve completely after delivering the drug was shown. The details of the research are presented in the article published in the latest issue ofNanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nano.2016.04.004

The scientific direction of the team is called theranostics. This term means a combined ‘therapy’ and ‘diagnostics’, denoting the process of simultaneous detection and treatment of the disease. One of its applications is spotting a range of oncologic diseases with the help of nanoparticles filled with medicine for their targeted delivery into a cancer cell. Nowadays a lot of such nanoparticles do not meet the requirement of biocompatibility. According to one of the researchers, Liubov Osminkina (senior research fellow, Physics Department of Lomonosov Moscow State University), some of the nanoparticles can act quickly, deliver the drug accurately, cure a number of diseases, but months later a patient may suffer from liver, kidney, lung pains, or even headache.

 

Read at News Medical

First widely protective vaccine against chlamydia

The first steps towards developing a vaccine against an insidious sexual transmitted infection (STI) have been accomplished by researchers at McMaster University.

Researchers at the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at McMaster have developed the first widely protective vaccine against chlamydia, a common STI that is mostly asymptomatic but impacts 113 million people around the world each year and can result in infertility.

In a study, recently published in the journal Vaccine, the researchers show that a novel chlamydial antigen known as BD584 is a potential vaccine candidate for the most common species of chlamydia known as Chlamydia trachomatis.

As most C. trachomatis infections are asymptomatic, chlamydia can often go untreated and lead to upper genital tract infections, pelvic inflammatory disease, and infertility. This is why the promise of a vaccine would be extremely beneficial, says David Bulir, co-author of the study.

Read at Science Daily

Could copper be the new fat burner? The foods you should eat to get your daily dose

It’s one of the essential dietary minerals, vital to healthy bones, preventing anaemia and energy production. Now a clinical study shows copper also plays an integral role in the metabolism of fat

 

Copper’s antibacterial properties make it much sought after in preventing the spread of bacteria, and the trace mineral is pivotal in the formation of red blood cells and maintaining cholesterol balance.

As if that weren’t enough, copper just got an extra burnish with a recent study by scientists from the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California, Berkeley, who found that copper plays an integral role in metabolising fat.

Lead researcher Chris Chang said: “We find that copper in the diet is essential for breaking down fat cells so that they can be used for energy. It acts as a regulator. The more copper there is, the more the fat is broken down. We think it would be worthwhile to study whether a deficiency in this nutrient could be linked to obesity and obesity-related diseases.”

Read at South China Morning Post

Repeat After Me: Cold Does Not Increase Odds of Catching Cold

Great article by Aaron Carroll in the New York Times on the myths behind the rhinovirus.

 

 

 

I’ve become somewhat known for medical myth-busting (having been a co-author of three books on the subject), so a fairly large number of emails sent to me are from people with articles or studies that they think prove me wrong.

This week, as a few of us sniffle with summer colds, the emails are all about a new study that they think proves that cold weather makes you more likely to catch a cold.

I’m sorry to say that this continues to be a myth. Research doesn’t support it.

This latest study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is complicated research of cells in laboratory conditions. The researchers showed that cells kept at 37 degrees Celsius were more likely to undergoapoptosis (basically, cell suicide) than cells kept at 33 degrees Celsius. Apoptosis is a way that we protect ourselves from infection. If the infected cells kill themselves, then there’s fewer chances for replication of the viruses that infect them.

I’m sorry to say that this continues to be a myth. Research doesn’t support it.

Read at NYT

First Suspected Female-to-Male Sexual Transmission of Zika Virus — New York City, 2016

The CDC reports that there has been the first suspected case of female-to-male transmission of the Zika virus.

A routine investigation by the New York City (NYC) Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) identified a nonpregnant woman in her twenties who reported she had engaged in a single event of condomless vaginal intercourse with a male partner the day she returned to NYC (day 0) from travel to an area with ongoing Zika virus transmission. She had headache and abdominal cramping while in the airport awaiting return to NYC. The following day (day 1) she developed fever, fatigue, a maculopapular rash, myalgia, arthralgia, back pain, swelling of the extremities, and numbness and tingling in her hands and feet. In addition, on day 1, the woman began menses that she described as heavier than usual. On day 3 she visited her primary care provider who obtained blood and urine specimens. Zika virus RNA was detected in both serum and urine by real-time reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) performed at the DOHMH Public Health Laboratory using a test based on an assay developed at CDC (1). The results of serum testing for anti-Zika virus immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibody performed by the New York State Department of Health Wadsworth Center laboratory was negative using the CDC Zika IgM antibody capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (Zika MAC-ELISA) (2)

Read at CDC