The human body naturally forms a protein called alpha-synuclein which is found, among other places, in the brain in the endings of nerve cells. However, misfolded forms of this protein that clump together are linked to damage to nerve cells, a deterioration of the dopamine system and the development of problems with movement and speech – hallmarks of Parkinson’s disease.
The latest findings, which are based on studies in mice, back up a long-held theory that abnormally folded alpha-synuclein may start off in the gut and then spread to the brain via the vagus nerve – a bundle of fibres that starts in the brainstem and transports signals to and from many of the body’s organs, including the gut.
Full article on the Guardian
If you bled when you brushed your teeth this morning, you might want to get that seen to. We may finally have found the long-elusive cause of Alzheimer’s disease: Porphyromonas gingivalis, the key bacteria in chronic gum disease.
That’s bad, as gum disease affects around a third of all people. But the good news is that a drug that blocks the main toxins of P. gingivalis is entering major clinical trials this year, and research published today shows it might stop and even reverse Alzheimer’s. There could even be a vaccine.
Read article on newscientist.
The findings are the latest to suggest that these universally fatal, if rare, diseases can be spread through the eyes.
We can get sick from prions in a few ways. Sometimes, people are born with mutations passed down in their family that increase the risk of developing a prion disease, including a form of CJD. Most commonly, as with people who have sCJD, the prions show up spontaneously, with the normally harmless prion protein changing into a misfolded form that makes nearby proteins misfold, too. But what’s especially terrifying about prions is that they can also be infectious, capable of spreading from person to person, or even animal to person.
It can take years, even decades, for the symptoms of a prion disease (such as dementia or muscle weakness) to show up, but once they do, it’s usually only a matter of months before death.
Full article here.
Conley describes his early academic work as “lefty sociology.” His Ph.D. thesis was on the black-white wealth gap and he dedicated his early career to studying the transmission of health and wealth between parents and children.
At N.Y.U., Conley kept getting into disagreements with geneticists, arguing that their methods were dangerously naïve. It seemed to him implausible that studying only twins — the gold standard of genetics research — was enough to teach us the difference between nature and nurture. But over time, he decided that it wasn’t enough to just argue.
Conley is an academic, and even within that tortured group he is something of a masochist. At that time he was a tenured professor, the kind of gig most people see as the endgame of an academic career, and yet he decided to go back and grind out another Ph.D., this time in genetics. He went into his program believing that our social environment is largely the cause of our outcomes, and that biology is usually the dependent variable.
By the end of his time, he says, the causal arrow in his mind had pretty much flipped the other way: “I tried to show for a range of outcomes that the genetic models were overstating the impact of genetics because of their crazy assumptions.” He sighs. “But I ended up showing that they’re right.”
Read full article on the New York Times.
WE ALL have memories we would rather forget – and it is possible, if you try hard enough.
It is easy to think of memories as something you can actively strengthen, whereas forgetting is a passive process. But we have started to discover it can be intentional too.
Perhaps the easiest way to forget something is simply to try to suppress a memory. Jeremy Manning at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, has found that just telling people to “push thoughts out of their head” is enough to make them forget lists of words they have learned to associate with particular cues. “We don’t know how, but people seem to know how to do it.”
The truth about memory is far more elaborate than we previously thought. Here’s your guide to how it really works
This seems especially paradoxical because we also know that rehearsing memories helps to strengthen them. Suppression has been linked to decreased activity in the hippocampus, so we may be unknowingly reducing our hippocampal activity by focusing on the present, says Justin Hulbert at Bard College, New York.
Full article on newscientist
Doctors in the UK will be able to prescribe cannabis products to patients from 1 November, Home Secretary Sajid Javid has announced.
Javid had decided to relax the rules about the circumstances in which cannabis products can be given to patients, after considering expert advice from a specially commissioned review.
The new regulations apply to England, Wales and Scotland, and follow several high-profile cases, including that of Alfie Dingley and Billy Caldwell, children with epilepsy whose conditions appeared to be helped by cannabis oïl.
Full article on NewScientist.
A recent study of enterochromaffin cells, a subset of enteroendocrine cells, also found that gut signals are transmitted at epithelial-neural synapses through release of the neurotransmitter serotonin (4). Together, these findings overturn a decades-old dogma that enteroendocrine cells signal exclusively through hormones.
Article on ScienceMag.
Doctors in the UK should be able to prescribe cannabis-derived medicine, the government’s chief drug advisers have recommended, paving the way for a loosening of the laws governing access to the substance.
Cannabis is classed as a schedule 1 drug, meaning it is thought to have no therapeutic value and cannot be lawfully possessed or prescribed. It may be used for the purposes of research but a Home Office licence is required.
“At present, cannabis-derived products can vary greatly in their composition, effectiveness and level of impurity. It is important that clinicians, patients and their families are confident that any prescribed medication is both safe and effective.”
The ACMD has tasked the Department of Health and Social Care and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency with producing a definition for the products that could be prescribed.
The council also recommends that clinical trials urgently take place to further establish the safety and effectiveness of different products.
Read complete article on TheGuardian…
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In 2017, scientists managed to observe and produce the loving mechanism to voles of prairies1. Before going further in this article, it is necessary to know that this species (Microtus ochrogaster) is curiously an excellent choice to model the human loving behavior. Indeed, voles look like us emotionally talking: they are monogamous but have sexual interactions with other partners than their other half, they become aggressive in the presence of other individuals of the same sex and depressed when they lose their partner. Furthermore, the prefrontal cortex of voles and humans can modify the behavior of the deep layers of the brain.
That’s what happens to the voles when they fall in love… and thus that’s probably what happens to us either in such a situation. The neuroscientists of the Emory University of Atlanta were able to observe that the loving feeling coincides, in the brain of voles, with the takeover of the accumbens core by the prefrontal cortex. In other words, the center of reflection and decision suddenly takes over the center of pleasure while the subject falls in love. It would thus be the intellect which would be at the origin of the Love feeling! And it would be it which would make us perceive the presence of our partner as a reward.
The same team was able to verify it: having introduced photoperceptible genes into certain neurons of a female, they put her in a cage with an unknown male (and they made sure to prevent any physical contact between them). Then they activated the neurons of the prefrontal cortex of the female with a frequency determined during preliminary phases of observation, before the experiment. Then they placed the female in an environment containing various males: in 10 cases out of 12, the female then preferred the male that was chosen by the scientists.
Even if this behavior are not directly transposable to a human (whose brain is more complex), this experiment lights us on the way we work. And, potentially, this knowledge can help us treating disorders as autism, which corresponds to a difficulty in creating social links.
1■ Science et vie, august 2017, “Les secrets de l’amour enfin révélés” [“Science and life”, “Secrets of loved finally uncovered”]