Chapter 16. None
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By Brady Dennis Government warnings a decade ago about the risks associated with children and adolescents taking antidepressants appear to have backfired, causing an increase in suicide attempts and discouraging many depressed young people from seeking treatment, according to a study published Wednesday in the academic journal BMJ. Researchers said their findings underscore how even well-intentioned public health warnings can produce unintended consequences, particularly when they involve widespread media attention and sensitive topics such as depression and suicide. In 2003 and 2004, the Food and Drug Administration issued a series of warnings based on data that pointed to an increase in suicidal thinking among some children and adolescents prescribed a class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. They included such drugs as Paxil and Zoloft. In late 2004, the agency directed manufacturers to include a “black box” warning on their labels notifying consumers and doctors about the increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in youths being treated with these medications. The FDA warnings received a flood of media coverage that researchers said focused more on the tiny percentage of patients who had experienced suicidal thinking due to the drugs than on the far greater number who benefited from them. “There was a huge amount of publicity,” said Stephen Soumerai, professor of population medicine at Harvard Medical School and a co-author of Wednesday’s study. “The media concentrated more on the relatively small risk than on the significant upside.”
Link ID: 19747 - Posted: 06.19.2014
by Lauren Hitchings Our brain's ability to rapidly interpret and analyse new information may lie in the musical hum of our brainwaves. We continuously take in information about the world but establishing new neural connections and pathways – the process thought to underlie memory formation – is too slow to account for our ability to learn rapidly. Evan Antzoulatos and Earl Miller at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology decided to see if brainwaves – the surges of electricity produced by individual neurons firing en masse – play a role. They used EEG to observe patterns of electrical activity in the brains of monkeys as they taught the animals to categorise patterns of dots into two distinct groups. At first, they memorised which dots went where, but as the task became harder, they shifted to learning the rules that defined the categories. Humming brainwaves The researchers found that, initially, brainwaves of different frequencies were being produced independently by the prefrontal cortex and the striatum – two brain regions involved in learning. But as the monkeys made sense of the game, the waves began to synchronise and "hum" at the same frequency – with each category of dots having its own frequency. Miller says the synchronised brainwaves indicate the formation of a communication circuit between the two brain regions. He believes this happens before anatomical changes in brain connections take place, giving our minds time to think through various options when presented with new information before the right one gets laid down as a memory. Otherwise, the process is too time-consuming to account for the flexibility and speed of the human mind, says Miller. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.
Keyword: Learning & Memory
Link ID: 19746 - Posted: 06.19.2014
Migraines have been diagnosed in about eight per cent of Canadians, a quarter or more of whom say the severe headaches impact day-to-day life such as getting a good night’s sleep or driving, Statistics Canada says. The federal agency on Wednesday released its first report on the prevalence of migraine, saying an estimated 2.7 million Canadians, or 8.3 per cent, reported they had been diagnosed with the severe headaches in 2010-2011. Chronic migraines are frequent, severe, pulsating headaches accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. "I think the key finding that was quite interesting was the impact of migraine," said report author Pamela Ramage-Morin, a senior analyst in Ottawa. "For three-quarters to say that it had an impact on their getting a good night sleep, over half said it prevented them from driving on some occasions, even people feeling left out of things because of their condition. There's some social isolation that could be occurring. It may be limiting on people's education and employment opportunities. That can have a long-term effect." The sleep findings are important given lack of sleep can impact other aspects of life, Ramage-Morin said, noting how the effects can extend beyond the individual to the larger community. For both men and women surveyed, migraines were most common at ages 30 to 49, a group represents 12 per cent of the population and the prime working years. © CBC 2014
Keyword: Pain & Touch
Link ID: 19745 - Posted: 06.19.2014
by Bethany Brookshire When a cartoon character gets an idea, you know it. A lightbulb goes on over Wile E. Coyote’s head, or a ding sounds as Goofy puts two and two together. While the lightbulb and sound effects are the stuff of cartoons, scientists can, in a way, watch learning in action. In a new study, a learning task in rats was linked to increases in activity patterns in groups of brain cells. The results might help scientists pin down what learning looks like at the nerve cell level, and give us a clue about how memories are made. Different areas of the brain communicate with each other, transferring information from one area to another for processing and interpretation. Brain cell meets brain cell at connections called synapses. But to transfer information between areas often takes more than one neuron firing a lonely signal. It takes cortical oscillations — networks of brain cells sending electrical signals in concert — over and over again for a message to transmit from one brain area to another. Changes in electrical fields increase the probability that neurons in a population will fire. These cortical oscillations are like a large crowd chanting. Not all voices may be yelling at once, some people may be ahead or behind, some may even be whispering, but you still hear an overwhelming “USA! USA!” Cortical oscillations can occur within a single brain area, or they can extend from one area to another. “The oscillation tells you what the other brain area is likely to ‘see’ when it gets that input,” explains Leslie Kay, a neuroscientist at the University of Chicago. Once the receiving area ‘sees’ the incoming oscillation, it may synchronize its own population firing, joining in the chant. “A synchronized pattern of oscillations in two separate brain regions serves to communicate between the two regions,” says Kei Igarashi, a neuroscientist at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2013
Keyword: Learning & Memory
Link ID: 19742 - Posted: 06.17.2014
A selfie video that a 49-year-old Toronto-area woman took to show numbness and slurred speech she was experiencing helped doctors to diagnose her as having a mini-stroke, after she had earlier been given a diagnosis of stress. When Stacey Yepes’s face originally froze and she had trouble speaking in April, she remembered the signs of stroke from public service announcements. After the symptoms subsided, she went to a local emergency room, but the tests were clear and she was given tips on how to manage stress. The numbing sensation happened again as she left the hospital. When the left side of her body went numb while driving two days later, she pulled over, grabbed her smartphone and hit record. "The sensation is happening again," the Thornhill, Ont., woman says at the beginning of the video posted on YouTube by Toronto’s University Health Network. "It’s all tingling on left side," as she points to her lower lip, trying to smile. Yepes remembers that doctors said to breathe in and out and to try to manage stress, and she says she's trying. "I don’t know why this is happening to me." About a minute later, she shows that it’s hard to lift up her hand. "I think it was just to show somebody, because I knew it was not stress-related," she said in an interview. "And I thought if I could show somebody what was happening, they would have a better understanding." After going to Mount Sinai Hospital in downtown Toronto, Yepes was referred to Toronto Western Hospital’s stroke centre. © CBC 2014
Link ID: 19740 - Posted: 06.17.2014
By Adam Brimelow Health Correspondent, BBC News Researchers from Oxford University say they've made a breakthrough in developing smart glasses for people with severe sight loss. The glasses enhance images of nearby people and objects on to the lenses, providing a much clearer sense of surroundings. They have allowed some people to see their guide dogs for the first time. The Royal National Institute of Blind People says they could be "incredibly important". Lyn Oliver has a progressive eye disease which means she has very limited vision. Now 70, she was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa in her early twenties. She can spot movement but describes her sight as "smudged and splattered". Her guide dog Jess helps her find her way around - avoiding most obstacles and hazards - but can't convey other information about her surroundings. Lyn is one of nearly two million people in the UK with a sight problem which seriously affects their daily lives. Most though have at least some residual sight. Researchers at Oxford University have developed a way to enhance this - using smart glasses. They are fitted with a specially adapted 3D camera. retinitis pigmentosa Dark spots across the retina (back of the eye) correspond with the extent of vision loss in retinitis pigmentosa The images are processed by computer and projected in real-time on to the lenses - so people and objects nearby become bright and clearly defined. 'More independent' Lyn Oliver has tried some of the early prototypes, but the latest model marks a key stage in the project, offering greater clarity and detail than ever before. Dr Stephen Hicks, from the University of Oxford, who has led the project, says they are now ready to be taken from the research setting to be used in the home. BBC © 2014
by Tania Lombrozo Science doesn't just further technology and help us predict and control our environment. It also changes the way we understand ourselves and our place in the natural world. This understanding can and a sense of . But it can also be , especially when it calls into question our basic assumptions about the kinds of creatures we are and the universe we inhabit. Current developments in neuroscience seem to be triggering precisely this jumble of reactions: wonder alongside disquiet, hope alongside alarm. A recent at Salon.com, for example, promises an explanation for "how neuroscience could save addicts from relapse," while an by Nathan Greenslit at The Atlantic, published less than a week later, raises worries that neuroscience is being used to reinforce racist drug policy. Obama's hails "," but with it comes the need to rapidly work out the of what we're learning about the brain and about ourselves. We're ; but we're not always sure what to make of it. In at the journal Psychological Science, psychologists Azim Shariff, Joshua Greene and six of their colleagues bring these heady issues down to earth by considering whether learning about neuroscience can influence judgments in a real-world situation: deciding how someone who commits a crime should be punished. The motivating intuition is this: to hold someone responsible for her actions, she must have acted with free will. ©2014 NPR
Link ID: 19737 - Posted: 06.17.2014
By JAMES GORMAN Crazed commuters, fretful parents and overwrought executives are not the only ones to suffer from anxiety — or to benefit from medication for it. The simple crayfish has officially entered the age of anxiety, too. This presumably was already clear to crayfish, which have been around for more than 200 million years and, what with predatory fish — and more recently, étouffée — have long had reasons to worry. But now scientists from France have documented behavior in crayfish that fits the pattern of a certain type of anxiety in human beings and other animals. Although the internal life of crayfish is still unknown, the findings, reported on Thursday in the journal Science, suggest that the external hallmarks of anxiety have been around for a very long time — and far down the food chain. Beyond that, a precursor of Valium changed the behavior back to normal. That does not mean that the crayfish are ready for the therapist’s couch, but it does reinforce the sometimes surprising connections humans have with other living things. Humans share genes with yeast as well as apes, the brains of flies can yield insights into the brains of humans, and even a tiny roundworm has mating behaviors that depend on a molecule very similar to a human hormone. The response to a threat or danger that the scientists found in crayfish had been documented before in other animals, like mice, but not in invertebrates like insects and crustaceans. Researchers including Pascal Fossat and Daniel Cattaert at the University of Bordeaux reported that after crayfish were exposed to electric shocks, they would not venture out of comfortable dark areas in an elaborate aquarium into scarier (for a crayfish) brightly lit areas. © 2014 The New York Times Company
Jennifer Couzin-Frankel What if you could trick your body into thinking you were racing on a treadmill—and burning off calories at a rapid clip—while simply walking down the street? Changing our rate of energy expenditure is still far into the future, but work in mice explores how this might happen. Two teams of scientists suggest that activating immune cells in fat can convert the tissue from a type of fat that stores energy to one that burns it, opening up potential new therapies for obesity and diabetes. There are two types of fat in humans: white adipose tissue, which makes up nearly all the fat in adults, and brown adipose tissue, which is found in babies but disappears as they age. Brown fat protects against the cold (it’s also common in animals that hibernate), and researchers have found that mice exposed to cold show a temporary “browning” of some of their white fat. The same effect occurred in preliminary studies of people, where the browning—which creates a tissue known as beige fat—helps generate heat and burn calories. But cold is “the only stimulus we know that can increase beige fat mass or brown fat mass,” says Ajay Chawla, a physiologist at the University of California (UC), San Francisco. He wanted to better understand how cold caused this change in the tissue and whether there was a way to mimic cold and induce browning some other way. A few years ago, Chawla’s group had reported that cold exposure activated macrophages, a type of immune cell, in white adipose tissue. To further untangle what was going on, Chawla, his postdoc Yifu Qiu, and their colleagues used mice that lacked interleukin-4 (IL-4) and interleukin-13, proteins that help activate macrophages. When they exposed these mice to the cold, the animals developed far fewer beige fat cells than did normal animals, suggesting that macrophages were key to browning of white fat. © 2014 American Association for the Advancement of Science
Link ID: 19732 - Posted: 06.14.2014
by Clare Wilson People who begin antidepressant treatment must face a gruelling wait of several weeks before they find out whether or not the drug will work for them. A new take on the causes of depression could lead to a blood test predicting who will be helped by medication – taking the guess work out of prescribing. "A test would be a major advance as at the moment millions of people are treated with antidepressants that won't have any effect," says Gustavo Turecki of McGill University in Montreal, Canada, who led the study. The research centres on miRNAs, small molecules that have an important role in turning genes on and off in different parts of the body. MiRNAs have already been implicated in several brain disorders. In the latest study, Turecki and his colleagues measured the levels of about 1000 miRNAs in the brains of people who had committed suicide. These were compared to levels in brains of people who had died from other causes. A molecule called miRNA-1202 was the most altered, being present at significantly lower levels in the brains of people who died from suicide. Crucially, this molecule seems to damp down the activity of a gene involved in glutamate signalling in the brain. That's significant because recent research has highlighted the importance of glutamate signalling in depression. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.
Link ID: 19731 - Posted: 06.14.2014
By EDWARD ROTHSTEIN PHILADELPHIA — Clambering upward in dim violet light, stepping from one glass platform to another, you trigger flashes of light and polyps of sound. You climb through protective tubes of metallic mesh as you make your way through a maze of pathways. You are an electrical signal coursing through a neural network. You are immersed in the human brain. Well, almost. Here at the Franklin Institute, you’re at least supposed to get that impression. You pass through this realm (the climbing is optional) as part of “Your Brain” — the largest permanent exhibition at this venerable institution, and one of its best. That show, along with two other exhibitions, opens on Saturday in the new $41 million, 53,000-square-foot Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pavilion. This annex — designed by Saylor Gregg Architects, with an outer facade draped in a “shimmer wall” of hinged aluminum panels created by the artist Ned Kahn — expands the institution’s display space, educational facilities and convention possibilities. It also completes a transformation that began decades ago, turning one of the oldest hands-on science museums in the United States (as the Franklin puts it) into a contemporary science center, which typically combines aspects of a school, community center, amusement park, emporium, theater, international museum and interactive science lab — while also combining, as do many such institutions, those elements’ strengths and weaknesses. That brain immersion gallery gives a sense of this genre’s approach. It is designed more for amusement, effect and social interaction (cherished science center goals) than understanding. So I climb, but I’m not convinced. I hardly feel like part of a network of dendrites and axons as I weave through these pathways. I try, though, to imagine these tubes of psychedelically illuminated mesh filled with dozens of chattering children leaping around. That might offer a better inkling of the unpredictable, raucous complexity of the human brain. © 2014 The New York Times Company
Link ID: 19730 - Posted: 06.14.2014
By J. DAVID GOODMAN and ANEMONA HARTOCOLLIS Amid the weeknight bustle of a Walmart parking lot in Centereach, N.Y., a young woman in a pickup truck had lost consciousness and was turning blue. Her companion called 911. Possible drug overdose; come fast. A Suffolk County police officer, Matthew Siesto, who had been patrolling the lot, was the first to arrive. Needles were visible in the center console; the woman was breathing irregularly, and her pupils had narrowed to pinpoints. It seemed clear, Officer Siesto recalled of the October 2012 episode, that the woman had overdosed on heroin. He went back to his squad car and retrieved a small kit of naloxone, an anti-overdose medication he had only recently been trained to use in such circumstances. He prepared the dose, placed the atomizer in her nostril and sprayed. “Within a minute,” the officer said, “she came back.” Once the exclusive purview of paramedics and emergency room doctors, administering lifesaving medication to drug users in the throes of an overdose is quickly becoming an everyday part of police work amid a national epidemic of heroin and opioid pill abuse. On Wednesday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo committed state money to get naloxone into the hands of emergency medical workers across New York, saying the heroin epidemic in the state was worse than that seen in the 1970s, and the problem is growing. Last month, the New York police commissioner, William J. Bratton, announced that the city’s entire patrol force would soon be trained and equipped with naloxone. “Officers like it because it puts them in a lifesaving opportunity,” Mr. Bratton said, suggesting that beat officers would carry it on their belts. © 2014 The New York Times Company
Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 19728 - Posted: 06.14.2014
By ANEMONA HARTOCOLLIS Dozens of Whole Foods stores in the Northeast and a restaurant in New York received beef over an eight-month period that may not have been properly slaughtered to reduce the threat of mad cow disease, federal officials said on Thursday. The producer of the beef, Fruitland American Meat, in Jackson, Mo., recalled thousands of pounds of bone-in grass-fed rib eyes, and two quartered beef carcasses, after federal officials reviewing slaughtering logs found that certain precautions had not been followed. The beef in question was processed between Sept. 5 and April 25, and the meat has the number 2316 inside the Agriculture Department inspection mark. The federal government said the beef posed only a “remote” health hazard, and the cows themselves had shown no evidence of the disease. Fruitland American denied on Thursday that the meat had been improperly handled. The company said the government’s finding was based on a clerical error, in which the age of the cattle had been documented as 30 months or more, when rules on mad cow must be followed, because older cows are believed to be at greater risk. But birth records showed that the cows were in fact no more than 28 months old, a spokesman said. A spokeswoman for the Agriculture Department, Alexandra Tarrant, said the agency was looking into the chance that a clerical error had occurred. The meat was shipped to 34 Whole Foods stores in northern Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Michael Sinatra, a spokesman for the company, said none of the meat was currently in the stores. © 2014 The New York Times Company
Link ID: 19726 - Posted: 06.14.2014
Nathan Greenslit A recent neuroscience study from Harvard Medical School claims to have discovered brain differences between people who smoke marijuana and people who do not. Such well-intentioned and seemingly objective science is actually a new chapter in a politicized and bigoted history of drug science in the United States. The study in question compared magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of 20 “young adult recreational marijuana users” (defined as individuals 18 to 25 who smoke at least once a week but who are not “dependent”), to 20 “non-using controls” (age-matched individuals who have smoked marijuana less than five times in their lives). The researchers reported differences in density, volume, and shape between the nucleus accumbens and amygdala regions of the two groups’ brains—areas hypothesized to affect a wide range of emotions from happiness to fear, which could influence basic decision-making. Researchers did not make any claims about how marijuana affected actual emotions, cognition, or behavior in these groups; instead; the study merely tried to establish that the aggregated brain scans of the two groups look different. So, who cares? Different-looking brains tell us literally nothing about who these people are, what their lives are like, why they do or do not use marijuana, or what effects marijuana has had on them. Neither can we use such brain scans to predict who these people will become, or what their lives will be like in the future. Nonetheless the study invented two new categories of person: the “young casual marijuana user” and the young non-marijuana user. This is the latest example of turning to brain imaging to make something seem objective. Establishing brain differences among certain groups highlights the uniquely ignoble political history surrounding the criminalization of a plant. © 2014 by The Atlantic Monthly Group
Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 19725 - Posted: 06.14.2014
Carmen Fishwick Do you have difficulty getting enough sleep? Sleep problems affect one in three of us at any one time, and about 10% of the population on a chronic basis. Of Guardian readers who responded to a recent poll, 23% reported that they sleep between four and six hours a night. With continued lack of sufficient sleep, the part of the brain that controls language and memory is severely impaired, and 17 hours of sustained wakefulness is equivalent to performing on a blood alcohol level of 0.05% – the UK's legal drink driving limit. In 2002, American researchers analysed data from more than one million people, and found that getting less than six hours' sleep a night was associated with an early demise – as was getting over eight hours. Studies have found that blood pressure is more than three times greater among those who sleep for less than six hours a night, and women who have less than four hours of sleep are twice as likely to die from heart disease. Other research suggests that a lack of sleep is also related to the onset of diabetes, obesity, and cancer. Are you worried about how much sleep you get? Professor Russell Foster, chair of circadian neuroscience and head of the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at the University of Oxford, and professor Colin Espie, professor of sleep medicine at the University of Oxford and lead researcher on the Great British Sleep Survey, answered reader questions. © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited
Link ID: 19724 - Posted: 06.14.2014
By EVAN FLEISCHER In two labs some 50 miles apart in Israel, computer scientists and engineers are refining devices that employ tiny cameras as translators of sorts. For both teams, the goal is to give blind people a form of sight — or at least an experience analogous to sight. At Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv, where Zeev Zalevsky is head of the electro-optics program, these efforts have taken shape in the form of a smart contact lens. The device begins with a camera mounted on a pair of glasses, and the contact lens, Dr. Zalevsky explained, is embedded with an electrode that will produce an image of what is before the camera directly on the cornea. The image would be experienced in one of two ways: If an apple is placed before the camera, it could be “seen” either as the contour of an apple or as a Braille-like shape that a trained user would recognize as a representation of an apple. Continue reading the main story Contact lens could open new vistas for the blind. Video by Reuters Yevgeny Beiderman, a graduate student who worked with Dr. Zalevsky in testing the prototype, said: “The first time, the usage of the glasses feels strange. It takes at least a few attempts to start using it.” The image captured by Dr. Zalevsky’s device is 110 by 110 pixels — hardly photograph-quality resolution, but Dr. Zalevsky said by email that the camera captures several images in time, and the compressed and encoded result “is enough to allow functionality to the blind person (for example: Braille contains only six points and is enough for reading.)” Dr. Zalevsky is awaiting permission from a hospital to test the electrode lens on people, so in the meantime he has conducted preliminary trials using lenses that apply air pressure to the cornea instead. He has also conducted tests in which participants identified various shapes based on electrical stimulation of the tongue, after the same sort of training that would let someone wearing his lens “see” an apple as a Braille-like pattern. © 2014 The New York Times Company
Virginia Morell Teaching isn’t often seen in animals other than humans—and it’s even more difficult to demonstrate in animals living in the wild rather than in a laboratory setting. But researchers studying the Australian superb fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus) in the wild think the small songbirds (a male is shown in the photo above) practice the behavior. They regard a female fairy-wren sitting on her nest and incubating her eggs as the teacher, and her embryonic chicks as her pupils. She must teach her unhatched chicks a password—a call they will use after emerging to solicit food from their parents; the better they learn the password, the more they will be fed. Since 1992, there’s been a well-accepted definition of teaching that consists of three criteria. First, the teacher must modify his or her behavior in the presence of a naive individual—which the birds do; the mothers increase their teaching (that is, the rate at which they make the call) when their chicks are in a late stage of incubation. Second, there must be a benefit to the pupil, which there clearly is. Scientists reported online yesterday in Behavioral Ecology that the fairy-wrens also pass the third criteria: There must be a cost to the teacher. And for the small birds, there can be a hefty price to pay. The more often a female repeats the password, the more likely she is to attract a parasitical cuckoo, which will sneak in and lay its eggs in her nest. From careful field observations, the scientists discovered that at nests that were parasitized, the females had recited their password 20 times an hour. But at nests that were not parasitized, the females had called only 10 times per hour. Superb fairy-wrens thus join a short but growing list of animal-teachers, such as rock ants, meerkats, and pied babblers. © 2014 American Association for the Advancement of Science.
THE star of the World Cup may not be able to bend it like Beckham, but they might be able to kick a ball using the power of their mind. If all goes to plan, a paralysed young adult will use an exoskeleton controlled by their thoughtsMovie Camera to take the first kick of the football tournament in Thursday's opening ceremony in São Paulo, Brazil. The exoskeleton belongs to the Walk Again Project, an international collaboration using technology to overcome paralysis. Since December, the project has been training eight paralysed people to use the suit, which supports the lower body and is controlled by brain activity detected by a cap of electrodes placed over the head. The brain signals are sent to a computer, which converts them into movement. Lead robotic engineer Gordon Cheng, at the Technical University of Munich, Germany, says that there is a phenomenal amount of technology within the exoskeleton, including sensors that feed information about pressure and temperature back to the arms of the user, which still have sensation. The team hopes this will replicate to some extent the feeling of kicking a ball. The exoskeleton isn't the only technology on show in Brazil. FIFA has announced that fans will decide who is man of the match by voting for their favourite player on Twitter during the second half of each game using #ManOfTheMatch. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.
Link ID: 19720 - Posted: 06.12.2014
by Lauren Hitchings Being cold can burn calories but no one wants to freeze just to sculpt their muffin-top. Soon we may not have to. Researchers have identified immune molecules triggered by cold temperatures that make obese mice lose weight – without the need for the mercury to drop. Humans and other mammals respond to cold in two ways. On the surface, we shiver to burn energy and produce a quick burst of heat. On a deeper level, as Ajay Chawla at the University of California, San Francisco, and his colleagues recently discovered, cold temperatures send signals to immune molecules called macrophages. They, in turn, release other molecules that convert energy-storing white fat into another type that burns energy. Babies and some hibernating animals have lots of these energy-burning cells – known as brown fat – but it almost all disappears as people age. We now know that cold temperatures can trigger a "browning" of white fat in adults – converting some of their white fat into an intermediate form called beige fat. It may seem counterintuitive for our bodies to use up fat stores when we get cold, but think of the white fat as the wooden walls of a log cabin – having them there is a good way to keep warm generally, but when the cold sets in, you're going to want firewood – brown or beige fat, to burn. Now Chawla's team have identified interleukin-4 and interleukin-13 as the signalling molecules that kick-start the transition of white fat to its darker counterpart. What's more, by injecting mice with interleukin-4 four times over a period of eight days, the team was able to bypass the physical cold stimulus and activate the pathway biochemically. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.
Link ID: 19719 - Posted: 06.10.2014
Associated Press In one of the most ambitious attempts yet to thwart Alzheimer's disease, a major study got under way Monday to see if an experimental drug can protect healthy seniors whose brains harbor silent signs that they're at risk. Scientists plan to eventually scan the brains of thousands of older volunteers in the U.S., Canada and Australia to find those with a sticky build-up believed to play a key role in development of Alzheimer's - the first time so many people without memory problems get the chance to learn the potentially troubling news. Having lots of that gunky protein called beta-amyloid doesn't guarantee someone will get sick. But the big question: Could intervening so early make a difference for those who do? "We have to get them at the stage when we can save their brains," said Dr. Reisa Sperling of Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, who is leading the huge effort to find out. Researchers are just beginning to recruit volunteers, and on Monday, a Rhode Island man was hooked up for an IV infusion at Butler Hospital in Providence, the first treated. Peter Bristol, 70, of Wakefield, R.I., figured he was at risk because his mother died of Alzheimer's and his brother has it. "I felt I needed to be proactive in seeking whatever therapies might be available for myself in the coming years," said Bristol, who said he was prepared when a PET scan of his brain showed he harbored enough amyloid to qualify for the research. "Just because I have it doesn't mean I'm going to get Alzheimer's," he stressed. But Bristol and his wife are "going into the situation with our eyes wide open." He won't know until the end of what is called the A4 Study - it stands for Anti-Amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic Alzheimer's - whether he received monthly infusions of the experimental medicine, Eli Lilly & Co.'s solanezumab, or a dummy drug. © 2014 Hearst Communications, Inc.
Link ID: 19717 - Posted: 06.10.2014