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Paralysed man walks again after cell transplant

A paralysed man has been able to walk again after a pioneering therapy that involved transplanting cells from his nasal cavity into his spinal cord.

Darek Fidyka, who was paralysed from the chest down in a knife attack in 2010, can now walk using a frame.

The treatment, a world first, was carried out by surgeons in Poland in collaboration with scientists in London.

Details of the research are published in the journal Cell Transplantation.

BBC One’s Panorama programme had unique access to the project and spent a year charting the patient’s rehabilitation.

Darek Fidyka, 40, from Poland, was paralysed after being stabbed repeatedly in the back in the 2010 attack.

He said walking again – with the support of a frame – was “an incredible feeling”, adding: “When you can’t feel almost half your body, you are helpless, but when it starts coming back it’s like you were born again.”

For the full story, click here.

Bringing the Dead back to Life

A radical procedure that involves replacing a patient’s blood with cold salt water could retrieve people from the brink of death, says David Robson.

Rhee isn’t exaggerating. With Samuel Tisherman, at the University of Maryland, College Park, he has shown that it’s possible to keep bodies in ‘suspended animation’ for hours at a time. The procedure, so far tested on animals, is about as radical as any medical procedure comes: it involves draining the body of its blood and cooling it more than 20C below normal body temperature.

Once the injury is fixed, blood is pumped once again through the veins, and the body is slowly warmed back up. “As the blood is pumped in, the body turns pink right away,” says Rhee. At a certain temperature, the heart flickers into life of its own accord. “It’s quite curious, at 30C the heart will beat once, as if out of nowhere, then again – then as it gets even warmer it picks up all by itself.” Astonishingly, the animals in their experiments show very few ill-effects once they’ve woken up. “They’d be groggy for a little bit but back to normal the day after,” says Tisherman. Continue reading

Equation can “predict momentary happiness”

It has long been known that happiness depends on many different life circumstances.

Now scientists have developed a mathematical equation that can predict momentary delight.

They found that participants were happiest when they performed better than expected during a risk-reward task.

Brain scans also revealed that happiness scores correlated with areas known to be important for well-being.

For the full story, click here.

Stress and Heart Attack link explained

Scientists said Sunday they may have unravelled how chronic stress leads to heart attack and stroke: triggering overproduction of disease-fighting white blood cells which can be harmful in excess.

Surplus cells clump together on the inner walls of arteries, restricting blood flow and encouraging the formation of clots that block circulation or break off and travel to another part of the body.

White blood cells “are important to fight infection and healing, but if you have too many of them, or they are in the wrong place, they can be harmful,” said study co-author Matthias Nahrendorf of the Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Doctors have long known that chronic stress leads to cardiovascular disease, but have not understood the mechanism. Continue reading

‘Bonding hormone’ oxytocin has anti-aging qualities

The hormone known for creating soothing sensations during pleasant social and physical interactions might one day be used to maintain and repair aging muscles, according to a study conducted at the University of California at Berkeley.

Researchers say oxytocin, which is released during breastfeeding, sex, and even a warm hug, could become a viable treatment for age-related muscle wasting or sarcopenia.

Associated with social and romantic attachements, oxytocin increases libido and is thought to create social, familial and romantic bonds.

“This is the hormone that makes your heart melt when you see kittens, puppies and human babies,” said principal investigator Irina Conboy, associate professor of bioengineering and a member of the Berkeley Stem Cell Center and of the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3). “There is an ongoing joke among my research team that we’re all happy, friendly and trusting because oxytocin permeates the lab.” Continue reading

The Generous Marriage

An article by Tara Parker-Pope

From tribesmen to billionaire philanthropists, the social value of generosity is already well known. But new research suggests it also matters much more intimately than we imagined, even down to our most personal relationships.

Researchers from the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project recently studied the role of generosity in the marriages of 2,870 men and women. Generosity was defined as “the virtue of giving good things to one’s spouse freely and abundantly” — like simply making them coffee in the morning — and researchers quizzed men and women on how often they behaved generously toward their partners. How often did they express affection? How willing were they to forgive?

The responses went right to the core of their unions. Men and women with the highest scores on the generosity scale were far more likely to report that they were “very happy” in their marriages. The benefits of generosity were particularly pronounced among couples with children. Among the parents who posted above-average scores for marital generosity, about 50 percent reported being “very happy” together. Among those with lower generosity scores, only about 14 percent claimed to be “very happy,” according to the latest “State of Our Unions” report from the National Marriage Project.

While sexual intimacy, commitment and communication are important, the focus on generosity adds a new dimension to our understanding of marital success. Though this conclusion may seem fairly self-evident, it’s not always easy to be generous to a romantic partner. The noted marriage researcher John Gottman has found that successful couples say or do at least five positive things for each negative interaction with their partner — not an easy feat.

“In marriage we are expected to do our fair share when it comes to housework, child care and being faithful, but generosity is going above and beyond the ordinary expectations with small acts of service and making an extra effort to be affectionate,” explains the University of Virginia’s W. Bradford Wilcox, who led the research. “Living that spirit of generosity in a marriage does foster a virtuous cycle that leads to both spouses on average being happier in the marriage.”

Social scientists are now wondering if this virtuous cycle extends to children too. In a study of 3-year-old twins, Israeli researchers have identified a genetic predisposition toward generosity that may be further influenced by a parent’s behavior. Preliminary findings suggest that children with more-engaged parents are more likely to be generous toward others, which may bode well for their future relationships — and their parents’ too.

“We see meaningful differences in parents’ behaviors,” said Ariel Knafo, the principal investigator and a psychologist at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. “In the long run we’d like to be able to see whether it’s children’s generosity that also makes parents more kind or the other way around. Probably it’s both.”

Eating Whole Fresh fruits lowers risk of diabetes, drinking juice raises it

Eating more whole fresh fruit, especially blueberries, grapes, apples and pears, is linked to a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes, but drinking more fruit juice has the opposite effect, says a study.

British, US and Singaporean researchers pored over data from three big health investigations that took place in the United States, spanning a quarter of a century in all.

More than 187,000 nurses and other professional caregivers were enrolled.

Their health was monitored over the following years, and they regularly answered questionnaires on their eating habits, weight, smoking, physical activity and other pointers to lifestyle.

Around 6.5 percent of the volunteers developed diabetes during the studies.

People who ate at least two servings each week of certain whole fruits, especially blueberries, grapes and apples, reduced their risk of Type 2 diabetes by as much as 23 percent compared to those who ate less than one serving per month.

“Our findings provide novel evidence suggesting certain fruits may be especially beneficial for lower diabetes risk,” said Qi Sun, an assistant professor of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

On the other hand, those who consumed one or more servings of fruit juice each day saw their risk of the disease increase by as much as 21 percent.

Swapping three servings of juice per week for whole fruits resulted in a seven-percent reduction in risk, although there was no such difference with strawberries and cantaloupe melon.

The paper, published on Friday by the British Medical Journal (BMJ), says further work is needed to explore this “significant” difference.

It speculates that, even if the nutritional values of whole fruit and fruit juice are similar, the difference lies with the fact that one food is a semi-solid and the other a liquid.

“Fluids pass through the stomach to the intestine more rapidly than solids even if nutritional content is similar,” says the paper.

“For example, fruit juices lead to more rapid and larger changes in serum [blood] levels of glucose and insulin than whole fruits.”

The study also points to evidence that some kinds of fruit have a beneficial effect for health.

Berries and grapes, for instance, have compounds called anthocyanins which have been found to lower the risk of heart attacks.

But, say the authors, how or even whether this also applies to diabetes risks is for now unclear.

The investigation looked at data from the Nurses’ Health Study, which ran from 1984-2008; the Nurses’ Health Study II (1991-2009); and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (1986-2008).

Ten kinds of fruit were used in the questionnaire: grapes or raisins; peach, plums or apricots; prunes; bananas; cantaloupe melon; apples or pears; oranges; grapefruit; strawberries; and blueberries.

The fruit juices identified in the questionnaire were apple, orange, grapefruit and “other.” – AFP/Relaxnews, September 2, 2013.

Eating fatty fish can reduce risk of arthritis

A NEW study finds that eating a weekly portion of salmon or other fatty fish, such as trout or mackerel, could reduce your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis by more than half.

In a study published Monday in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases, the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm found that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish can cut the risk of chronic inflammatory disease by 52 percent.

Prior research from 2009 suggests that consuming fish oils could help reduce inflammation that leads to a variety of diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis. In this study, researchers highlighted the benefit to long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (Pufa) content in fish.

If you prefer lean fish, such as cod or canned tuna, the same benefit could be found in eating four servings a week, the researchers found. Long-term, weekly consumption of any type of fish was associated with a 29 percent lower risk of the disease.

However you’ll need to sustain a regular diet of fish for at least 10 years to enjoy the health prevention against the condition, they added.

To reach their findings, head researcher Alicja Wolk and her team analyzed the diets of 32,232 Swedish born between 1914 and 1948. Subjects completed questionnaires about their food intake and lifestyle in 1987 and 1997. Women who consumed at least 0.21g of omega-3 Pufas daily had the 52 percent reduced risk, the study found. – AFP Relaxnews

Oregon scientists get stem cells from cloned human embryos

A team of researchers said Wednesday that it had produced embryonic stem cells — a possible source of disease-fighting spare parts — from a cloned human embryo.

Scientists at the Oregon Health and Science University accomplished in humans what has been done over the past 15 years in sheep, mice, cattle and several other species. The achievement is likely to, at least temporarily, reawaken worries about “reproductive cloning” — the production of one-parent duplicate humans.

But few experts think that production of stem cells through cloning is likely to be medically useful soon, or possibly ever.

“An outstanding issue of whether it would work in humans has been resolved,” said Rudolf Jaenisch, a biologist at MIT’s Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, Mass., who added that he thinks the feat “has no clinical relevance.”

“I think part of the significance is technical and part of the significance is historical,” said John Gearhart, head of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “Many labs attempted it, and no one had ever been able to achieve it.”

A far less controversial way to get stem cells is now available. It involves reprogramming mature cells (often ones taken from the skin) so that they return to what amounts to a second childhood from which they can grow into a new and different adulthood. Learning how to make and manipulate those “induced pluripotent stem” (IPS) cells is one of biology’s hottest fields.

Stem cells have the capability of maturing into different types of tissue depending on how they are stimulated. Embryonic stem cells (ESCs), plucked from a microscopic embryo, have the greatest potential. With the right molecular nudges, they could theoretically be used to grow new kidneys, lungs and hearts for use by people whose own organs have worn out.

Some experts think that “regenerative medicine” will eventually become an approach to healing that is as important as surgery or pharmacology.

The Oregon researchers, led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov, produced embryonic stem cells through “somatic cell nuclear transfer,” the technique used in 1996 to make Dolly the sheep the first cloned mammal.

The nucleus of a mature cell is transplanted into a human oocyte (egg) whose own nucleus has been removed. After the right stimulation, this new hybrid cell starts to divide and develop just as a sperm-fertilized egg would. When it is at the “blastocyst” stage — about 100 cells — its core contains a small number of embryonic stem cells capable of becoming any type of cell possessed by the human body.

But getting the doctored egg to grow even that far is extremely difficult. For some species, hundreds of eggs must be subjected to nuclear transfer before any produce viable embryonic stem cells. The failure of human oocytes to produce them had led some scientists to speculate that the technique simply might not work in people for some reason.

Mitalipov and several members of his team work at the Oregon National Primate Research Center and had refined their techniques using rhesus monkeys. They used nuclei from the skin cells of newborns or, in some cases, fetuses. Their stimulants included a pulse of electricity at the time of nuclear transfer and the addition of caffeine to the fluid cells lived in.

The tweaks and improvements apparently made all the difference. In one experiment, eight oocytes harvested from one woman produced five blastocysts and four embryonic stem cell lines — a success rate virtually unseen in other animals. The researchers subsequently proved cells were “pluripotent” by coaxing them to become, among other things, beating heart muscle cells.

The experiments were reported in a paper published online in the journal Cell.

“Where the kudos come is in being able to over time enhance and improve the technology developed in other species to make this amenable to the human oocyte,” Gearhart said.

The blastocysts could be implanted in a woman’s uterus. It might develop into a fetus. Most cloned animals, however, turn out to have major health problems and shortened lives.

“We just need to make sure it’s clear to the public that no one in their right mind would want to do that. There is no intent to do reproductive cloning. None at all,” Gearhart said.

Are these embryonic stem cells more versatile than IPS cells made by reprogramming skin cells?

“That’s of interest,” Jaenisch said. But whatever the answer, “the consequence would be to make the IPS cells better.” Given the difficulty of obtaining human oocytes, and the controversial nature of the research, embryonic stem cells aren’t likely to ever be the preferred tool of regenerative medicine, he said.

Source: Washington Post