Archives for posts with tag: health

A chemical neurotransmitter called Nppb (natriuretic polypeptide b) tells you when you need to scratch an itch. This knowledge could help the development of drugs to treat itchy conditions such as eczema.

Read the original research in Science.


Have you got tadpoles in your pond yet? If they lose their tails they can regrow a new one within weeks (but don’t try this at home…)


Credit: Manchester University

This seems to be through raised levels of reactive oxygen species, which are usually thought to be harmful, and suggests that antioxidants may not always be helpful to health. The research could be important in understanding how healing happens, and help the development of regenerative medicine. Read the research in Nature Cell Biology.

A study of faecal transplants had to be stopped early because it was so successful – it was three to four times more likely to cure the difficult to treat gut infection Clostridium difficile than the strong antibiotic vancomycin.

While they might sound gross, faecal transplants from healthy donors, administered via a tube up the nose,  are turning out to be very effective at halting these very nasty infections. An alternative could be a dose of synthetic poo.

Read the original paper in the New England Journal of Medicine, or an article in Nature.

Stool transplants (faecal microbiota transplantation) have cured the nasty gut infection Clostridium difficile with a 90% success rate but the thought of having someone else’s faeces may not be everyone’s cup of tea. A ‘synthetic poo’, known gloriously as RePOOPulate, could be safer, more stable and more adaptable.

Read the original paper in Microbiome if you’re not too grossed out…

Stem cells from the linings of dog’s noses have been used to help paralysed dogs to walk. The cells were cultured and transplanted to the injury site in the spine of pet dogs and many of them were able to walk again with the help of a harness (see the video). It’s early days, but one day this could help repair damage in humans.

Some Paralympic athletes with spinal injuries use a technique called ‘boosting’ to improve their performance. This uses pain or discomfort to make their blood pressure jump higher – even as extreme as intentionally breaking a toe. This triggers autonomic dysreflexia (AD), which can be dangerous, and could even cause a stroke. The technique is banned, and will be monitored by checking blood pressure in people who look unwell.

Paralympic Games 29 Aug – 9 Sept

Stephen Hawking, the world-renowned theoretical physicist has opened the Paralympic Games at the age of 70, nearly 50 years after he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a form of motor neurone disease, and given just a few years to live. His narration included the words to inspire scientists and potential scientists: “Look up at the stars, and not down at your feet.”

Paralympic Games 29 Aug – 9 Sept

Smoking cannabis in their teens can lower people’s IQ, according to a study in New Zealand that followed 1000 people for 25 years, and the more that is smoked, the greater the drop. This could be because the brain is still developing and growing before 18. Read the original paper in PNAS.

Dr Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse has discovered the best way to collect samples from whales and monitor their health without distressing them. She uses a remote-controlled helicopter to pass a Petri dish through the plume coming from their blowholes to collect – well – whale snot. She received the 2010 (Ig) Nobel Prize for Engineering for this. Thanks to QI!

Researchers have created a drug that specifically targets a protein in the testes and stops sperm production in mice, and is reversible – so has potential as a male contraceptive pill. However… one of the effects is shrinking testes, and though it’s reversible, how would people cope with that? And the age old question too – would women trust their partners to take the pill? These aren’t questions that need answering quite yet as it has only been tested in animals so far. As Professor Moira O’Bryan, the head of male infertility at Monash University in Australia, said to BBC News: “Although there is undoubtedly an urgent need for additional contraceptive options, the path between this paper and a new product is likely to be long.”

Read the original research in the journal Cell, and there’s more information here and here.

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