Archives for posts with tag: medicine

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…

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.

Researchers at the Children’s Hospital Boston have created oxygen-carrying microparticles that can be injected into the vein and could (theoretically) mean that someone could live without breathing or being ventilated. It’s only been tested in animals so far but it restored oxygen levels to normal within seconds. Like Harry Potter’s gillyweed, it would only be temporary but could buy time for doctors and paramedics.

Read the paper in Science Translational Medicine.

The antidoping labs, created by GlaxoSmithKline and supported by analysts from King’s College London for the Olympics, will become a biomarker centre for biomedical research. The MRC-NIHR Phenome Centre is reported to be the first of its kind in the world.

London 2012 unveils anti-doping laboratory with laboratory service providers GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and laboratory operators King's College London

Source: London 2012

The phenome is the sum total of the physical characteristics and chemical markers in the body, and by looking at the patterns in the phenome, researchers will aim to find new biomarkers to predict disease risk and outcomes, helping doctors to create better-tailored treatments.

Scientists working with Team GB are using genetic tests to try to work out why some athletes are prone to injury such as tendon injuries and stress fractures. Researchers at University College London may have found a gene linked with injury.

Olympic Games 27 July – 12 August

Some people feel no pain – this is known as congenital analgesia. Though this might sound like an advantage, people with this condition may not know when they are injured or have an internal problem such as appendicitis.It can also lead to bullying and psychological problems. Congenital analgesia can be caused by a mutation in SCN9A, and this gene is also linked with lack of sense of smell (congenital anosmia).

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