Health & Medicine

Category: Health & Medicine

Scientists in Cambridge have found hidden signatures in the brains of people in a vegetative state, which point to networks that could support consciousness even when a patient appears to be unconscious and unresponsive. The study could help doctors identify patients who are aware despite being unable to communicate.

As medical personnel and public health officials are responding to the first reported cases of Ebola Virus in the United States, many of the safety and treatment procedures for treating the virus and preventing its spread are being reexamined. One of the tenets for minimizing the risk of spreading the disease has been a 21-day quarantine period for individuals who might have been exposed to the virus. But a new study by Charles Haas, PhD, a professor in Drexel's College of Engineering, suggests that 21 days might not be enough to completely prevent spread of the virus.

The discovery of a "maternal age effect" by a team of Penn State scientists that could be used to predict the accumulation of mitochondrial DNA mutations in maternal egg cells -- and the transmission of these mutations to children -- could provide valuable insights for genetic counseling. These mutations cause more than 200 diseases and contribute to others such as diabetes, cancer, Parkinson's disease, and Alzheimer's disease. The study found greater rates of the mitochondrial DNA variants in children born to older mothers, as well as in the mothers themselves. The research will be published in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on October 13, 2014,

A noninvasive method of delivering a promising therapy for persistent Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) infection appears to be as effective as treatment via colonoscopy or through a nasogastric tube. In their JAMA report, receiving early online release to coincide with a presentation at the Infectious Diseases Society of America's ID Week conference, investigators from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) report that oral administration of the therapy called fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) in acid-resistant capsules was as successful as more invasive methods in eliminating recurrent diarrhea caused by C. difficile.

Physician scientists at 22 consortia will collaborate with representatives of 98 patient advocacy groups to advance clinical research and investigate new treatments for patients with rare diseases. The collaborations are made possible through awards by the National Institutes of Health — totaling about $29 million in fiscal year 2014 funding — to expand the Rare Diseases Clinical Research Network (RDCRN), which is led by NIH's National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS).

Researchers say there should be an international database containing the very latest information about organ donations and transplants, so policy makers can make informed decisions on whether to adopt an opt-out or opt-in system.

New research published today in the online journal PLoS Outbreaks predicts new Ebola cases could reach 6,800 in West Africa by the end of the month if new control measures are not enacted.

A leading Dartmouth researcher, working with The Melanoma Genetics Consortium, GenoMEL, an international research consortium, co-authored a paper published today in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute that proves longer telomeres increase the risk of melanoma.


This image depicts gut microbiota.
Artificial sweeteners, promoted as aids to weight loss and diabetes prevention, could actually hasten the development of glucose intolerance and metabolic disease; and they do it in a surprising way: by changing the composition and function of the gut microbiota – the substantial population of bacteria residing in our intestines. These findings, the results of experiments in mice and humans, were published today in Nature. Among other things, says Dr. Eran Elinav of the Weizmann Institute's Immunology Department, who led this research together with Prof. Eran Segal of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics Department, the widespread use of artificial sweeteners in drinks and food may be contributing to the obesity and diabetes epidemic that is sweeping much of the world.

Raw honey has been used against infections for millennia, before honey - as we now know it - was manufactured and sold in stores. So what is the key to its' antimicrobial properties? Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have identified a unique group of 13 lactic acid bacteria found in fresh honey, from the honey stomach of bees. The bacteria produce a myriad of active antimicrobial compounds.

A candidate Ebola vaccine could be given to healthy volunteers in the UK, The Gambia and Mali as early as September, as part of an series of safety trials of potential vaccines aimed at preventing the disease that has killed more than 1,400 people in the current outbreak in West Africa.

In response to an ongoing, unprecedented outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in West Africa, a team of researchers from the Broad Institute and Harvard University, in collaboration with the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation and researchers across institutions and continents, has rapidly sequenced and analyzed more than 99 Ebola virus genomes. Their findings could have important implications for rapid field diagnostic tests. The team reports its results online in the journal Science.

University of Adelaide researchers have discovered that the immune system is defective in people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, which is a major reason why sufferers have ongoing issues with pain.

Handwashing with antibacterial soap exposes hospital workers to significant and potentially unsafe levels of triclosan, a widely-used chemical currently under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to a study led by researchers from UC San Francisco.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has brought a lot of attention to the deadly virus. According to the World Health Organization, up to 90% of those infected with Ebola die from the virus. Now, researchers publishing August 13 in the Cell Press journal Cell Host & Microbe reveal how Ebola blocks and disables the body's natural immune response. Understanding how Ebola disarms immune defenses will be crucial in the development of new treatments for the disease.

Researchers with The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) Research Network have completed the largest, most diverse tumor genetic analysis ever conducted, revealing a new approach to classifying cancers. The work, led by researchers at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and other TCGA sites, not only revamps traditional ideas of how cancers are diagnosed and treated, but could also have a profound impact on the future landscape of drug development.

Anesthesia providers are missing opportunities to clean their hands during surgical procedures, according to a study published in the July issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, the official publication of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC).

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a complicated multifactorial autoimmune disease influenced by many genetic and environmental factors. The hallmark of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the presence of high levels of anti-double-stranded DNA autoantibody (anti-dsDNA) in sera. In addition, greater infection rates are found in SLE patients and higher morbidity and mortality usually come from bacterial infections. Deciphering interactions between the susceptibility genes and the environmental factors for lupus complex traits is challenging and has resulted in only limited success.

New genomic research led by UC San Francisco (UCSF) scientists reveals that two common gene variants that lead to longer telomeres, the caps on chromosome ends thought by many scientists to confer health by protecting cells from aging, also significantly increase the risk of developing the deadly brain cancers known as gliomas.

A multi-institutional team of researchers has pinpointed exactly what goes wrong when chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) patients develop resistance to ibrutinib, a highly effective, precisely targeted anti-cancer drug. In a correspondence published online May 28 in the New England Journal of Medicine, they show how the mutation triggers resistance. Their finding could guide development of new agents to treat drug-resistant disease.

Caveat emptor – or "buyer beware" holds true when it comes to the unknown health effects of e-cigarettes. An article in the June issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, the scientific journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), examines risks, including the ongoing dependence on nicotine and the dual use of e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes.


Dr. Bruce Beutler is a Professor of  Immunology at the University of Texas Southwestern Center for the Genetics of Host Defense.
A lean "Supermodel" mouse type has revealed the potentially critical role played by a largely unknown gene that regulates metabolism, findings that could provide new insight into diseases ranging from diabetes to obesity, a new study by UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers suggests.

An international team of scientists, including researchers from the University of California, San Diego, report that the likely causative agent of Kawasaki disease (KD) in Japan is a windborne agent originating from a source in northeast China. KD is a mysterious childhood ailment that can permanently damage coronary arteries.


The left images show the brain during concentrative meditation, while images to the right show the brain during nondirective meditation.
Mindfulness. Zen. Acem. Meditation drumming. Chakra. Buddhist and transcendental meditation. There are countless ways of meditating, but the purpose behind them all remains basically the same: more peace, less stress, better concentration, greater self-awareness and better processing of thoughts and feelings.

A new study carried out by researchers at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham), the Max Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces (Germany), the Free University of Berlin (Germany), UC San Diego, and Shinshu University (Japan) has identified a novel molecule that prevents T-cells from orchestrating asthma brought on by allergens. The findings, published on May 12 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), show promise for a new potent therapeutic agent to treat asthma, a chronic disease affecting more than 25 million Americans.

Using frozen stool from healthy, unrelated donors was safe and effective in treating patients with serious, relapsing diarrhea caused by Clostridium difficile, according to a new pilot study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases and available online. Known as fecal microbiota transplantation, the treatment was equally effective whether given via a colonoscope or a nasogastric tube. The findings suggest approaches that may make this promising treatment more readily available to patients.


This shows Hadza women roasting tubers.
The gut microbiota is responsible for many aspects of human health and nutrition, but most studies have focused on "western" populations. An international collaboration of researchers, including researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, has for the first time analysed the gut microbiota of a modern hunter-gatherer community, the Hadza of Tanzania. The results of this work show that Hadza harbour a unique microbial profile with features yet unseen in any other human group, supporting the notion that Hadza gut bacteria play an essential role in adaptation to a foraging subsistence pattern. The study further shows how the intestinal flora may have helped our ancestors adapt and survive during the Paleolithic

Scientists found that the molecule, called microRNA 135b, is a vital 'worker' employed by several important cancer genes to drive the growth of bowel cancers.

Four young men who have been paralyzed for years achieved groundbreaking progress — moving their legs — as a result of epidural electrical stimulation of the spinal cord, an international team of life scientists reports today in the medical journal Brain.

The St. Jude Children's Research Hospital-Washington University Pediatric Cancer Genome Project has identified new mutations in pediatric brain tumors known as high-grade gliomas (HGGs), which most often occur in the youngest patients. The research appears today as an advance online publication in the scientific journal Nature Genetics.

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