This question has been asked over and over, whether consuming such substances are proven to be perfectly healthy, without having effect of your physical/mental health, or that they should be forbidden in the face of society for its hidden properties that slowly ruin our physical perception without having the consciousness to know so. With different beliefs coming from different opinions, there has been research; science has finally provided an answer for society to realise the reality how soft drinks really affect our brain cognition. The research suggests that excess sugar (especially the fructose in sugary drinks) might damage your brain. Researchers ( that have utilised data from the Framingham Heart Study) found that people who drank soft drinks consistently are more likely to have poorer memory, a smaller overall brain volume, and a significantly smaller hippocampus (an area of the brain important for learning and memory).
Researchers examined the data, including MRI scans and cognitive testing results, from about 4,000 people enrolled in the FHS. The researchers looked at people who consumed more than two sugary drinks a day of any type: any type of soft drink, fruit juices, and other carbonated beverages, or more than three per week of soda alone. Among the individuals in the ‘high intake’ group, they found multiple indications of accelerated brain aging, including smaller overall brain volume, poorer episodic memory (the memory of autobiographical events; times, places, and associated emotions), and a shrunken hippocampus, all risk factors for early-stage Alzheimer's disease. Researchers also found that higher intake of diet soda, at least one per day, was associated with smaller brain volume.
The researchers took age, smoking, diet quality, and other factors into consideration, however they could not completely control for pre-existing conditions like diabetes, which may have developed over the course of the study and is a known risk factor for dementia. Diabetics generally drink more diet soda on average, as a way to limit their sugar consumption, and some of the correlation between diet soda intake and dementia may be due to diabetes as well as other cardiovascular risk factors. However, these pre-existing conditions cannot wholly explain the new findings.
Many curious minds have wondered; how do axons guide themselves to establish unique connections to other neurons? Axons allow our brains to be able to interact in different ways in different situations. When we study how people think, react and interact, we typically understand the behaviour and the overall basis of how it works, however, we have never really delved deep into how these interconnections actually form, to allow us to think, react and interact.
Axons are equipped with growth cones, that navigates by sensing its environment. These growth cones encounters a succession of ‘sign posts’: netrin, ephrin, sema3 and slit3 genes. Receptors on the neurons are able to detect these guidance cones by binding onto them. This can be approved by the scientific study conducted that involved embryonic eye tissue in a petri dish. There were a selection of different growth cones, and you can present it with a molecule that you would want to test to see the different responses that the tissue may present in the petri dish. This shows how growth cones respond and grow due to the different environments - some axons are attracted and some present repulsion to molecules such as netrin for example. If you remove the particular receptor and its specific guidance cone, the axons will form to become lost and disorganized.
Ephrin is used for the chiasm for the retina, and without it, the nerves would not have diverted to a different direction. Netrin presented capabilities of causing attraction of the axons, whereas ephrin was seen to be repulsive to the growth cones. The usage of ephrin and netrin presented different behavior by the neurons, meaning that these molecules are critical for directing the axons to its designated destination in the brain so that it can participate in its specific function - without them, the axons will not be able to form connections to the right neurons for the right functions, leaving the interconnected communication between neurons to be unrecognisable. Further research in this area will be very useful for future application of this technology, as neuron integration is an area that has left scientists fighting to work out the secret to it. There is no doubt that if a significant breakthrough is made, it will become easier to cure neurodegenerative diseases.
Scientists have potentially found a drug to stop neurodegenerative diseases, including dementia, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer's. In 2013, a U.K Medical Research Council team stopped brain cells dying in a animal for the first time, creating headline news around the world. However, the compound used was unsuitable for people as it caused organ damage.
However, now two drugs have been prepared which have been found to have the same protective effect on the brain and are already safely used in people. Professor Giovanna Mallucci, who was the lead scientists from the MRC Toxicology Unit in Leicester described the compound as “really exciting”.
Human trials are expected to take place on dementia patients soon and expects to know whether the drugs work within two or three years. The approach is focused on the neutral defence mechanisms built into brain cells. These cells respond by shutting down nearly all protein production in order to halt the virus’s spread. Many neurodegenerative diseases involve the production of faulty proteins that activate the same defences. When the brain cells shut down production for so long, they eventually starve themselves to death, therefore the process can destroy movement, memory or even kill, depending on the disease.
In the initial study, the researchers used a compound that prevented the defence mechanism kicking in. It halted the progress of prion disease in mice - which was the first time any neurodegenerative disease had been halted in any animal. The findings were described as a turning point for the field even though the compound was toxic to the pancreas.
Since 2013, the research group has tested more than 1000 ready made drugs on nematode worms, human cells in a dish and mice. The best known drug of the pair is trazodone, which is already taken by patients with depression. The other, DBM, is being tested in cancer patients. However, results from the clinical and human trials must be presented before the drugs can be utilised. Dr Doug Brown from the Alzheimer's Society said “We’re excited by the potential of these findings” and Dr David Dexter from the Parkinson’s UK said “This is a very robust and important study”.
Phones have been contested since their arrival. A man who utilised his cell phone for 6 hours a day over the course of 12 years, used the phone due to work related purposes, but he ended up suffering from a benign tumour – this tumour is not as dangerous as malignant, but it can become life threatening. Benign tumours do not spread to other parts of the body, whereas malignant tumours can grow and spread to other parts of the body, therefore making them more dangerous.
The debate over the safety of mobile phones has been an issue that has raged on for the past decade, and whilst there has been no concrete evidence that has proved that mobile phones are dangerous. Already people have counter argued the proposition presented by the victim, in that he used his phone to call clients for 6 hours a day, much more than the average person. In a similar fashion, Robert Romero also used his phone for an estimated 3 hours a day for 15 years, and in 2010 he was diagnosed with a benign tumour. Note that the former case also saw that the victim’s ear would go red, and he would suffer from a headache. The case of Robert Romero lead o the Italian Supreme court ruling that there was a link between mobile phones and cancer. Studies have shown that there is no clear link between phone usage and cancer, in 2013 a study did report a link between acoustic neuromas and phones.
Phones emit low levels of radiation, nowhere as dangerous as high energy radiation. In 2011 the World Health Organization, declared mobile phones possibly carcinogenic, note that this is the same category as lead and coffee. In this day and age, phone usage has become increasingly common, and yet there has been no significant increase in the number of incidents similar to that of Robert Romeo. Thankfully acoustic neuromas is very rare, and the initial risk of contraction itself is low, so even if mobile phones double the risk (which there is no proof that they do), the overall risk of contraction will still be very low.
Smart bandages, which tell doctors how a wound is healing, are starting to be used in trials within the next year, according to researchers. Developers of the smart bandage are using a multi-technology approach, including nanotechnology, 5G infrastructure and 3D printing, creating an effective product while attempting to keep manufacturing costs down, for economies of scale.
The dressing would be an intelligent approach to treatment, which would allow doctors and medical staff to assess and keep up to date about the patient's progress. It would use micro sensors to detect issues such as infection, alerting the doctor if a problem were to arise. The bandage, which was created by Swansea University, is designed to detect any issues in between appointments with wound healing.
Prof Marc Clement, chairman of Life Sciences at Swansea University said “5G is an opportunity to produce resilient, robust bandwidth that is always there for the purpose of healthcare”.
In addition to this, the dressing would be cable to connect to the patient's smartphone, which could help monitor and track physical activity levels and impact recovery speed. Traditional medicine is where a clinician will see a patient and then prescribe medicine before seeing the patient again months later. What the future holds is where there is the ability to vary the treatment to the individual, the lifestyle and the pattern of life.
The method could be of great interest to the NHS, as although it would increase the costs as the raw materials and technology would cost significantly more than a piece of bandage, it would allow patients to know whether to come and visit a doctor or not, rather than immediately visiting the hospital when they think something is wrong, which is increasing the pressure on the NHS currently.
However, this isn't the first time smart bandage will be used to help prevent infection. Last year, British scientists developed a bandage which turned yellow when the wound became infected. Trials for this bandage are also currently ongoing. What is left to say is that this is a huge stepping stone in the biomedical world, and with further research, trials and funding, we may be seeing many of these smart bandages at our local pharmacies, GP’s and hospitals in the forthcoming future.
It weighs less than a pound (450g) yet it is so important and beats around 115,200 times a day over and over again throughout your lifetime. This is the heart. Our blood vessels (arteries, veins and capillaries) which make up a system, are alone 60,000 miles long; which means that they can go around the world more than twice. The heart has a major role in the human body (as we all know); without the heart, our bodies can stop working very quickly. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the Western world.
The heart is a muscle and connected to it is many blood vessels which help the heart to carry and pump blood and necessities to other various parts of the body and to supply what the organs need. The brain is in constant need of oxygen from blood and without the heart, the brain would not be able to function as it would not get its supply of oxygen. Also, muscles constantly need nutrients, for example: oxygen, glucose and amino acids, as well as sodium, calcium and potassium in order to contract normally; so without the heart, we would not be able to respire to produce energy. If the heart was to fail, the entire body would shut down in a matter of minutes.
The heart has another function apart from carry needed blood and nutrients to the rest of the body, it is also a source of disposal of waste in the body. As the heart pumps blood around the body, it takes up carbon dioxide that your body produces as a result of aerobic respiration (which your muscles undergo constantly) and other waste products. As the heart does its cycle, the blood will eventually be transported back to the heart. The blood becomes rid of all chemicals such as carbon dioxide, these chemicals are sent to the lungs to be breathed out of our body. Blood also takes waste products to the liver and kidneys to be rid of via urine. Without the heart, we would be full of harmful chemicals and substances and we would all soon die.
So the heart is also known as a double circulatory system. This is because it has two pumps: the right side of our hearts receive blood from the body and pumps it to the lungs; and the left side of our hearts does the exact opposite (receives blood from the lungs and pumps it out to the body). This type of system allows the heart to have its advantages – higher blood pressure and so it prevents backflow of blood and it allows a greater flow of blood to the tissues.
Recently at the University of Queensland, Australia have had a major advancement in cardiac disease research by creating a ‘beating’ human heart muscle from stem cells. The scientists at UQ collaborated with German researchers to create models of the human heart tissue in the laboratory so that they could study the heart and its diseases ‘in a dish’. This will then provide scientists functioning human heart muscle to screen new drugs and to investigate heart repair.
Before the Common Era, the Greeks believed that matter could be split but only split a certain number of times. In the Early 1800s, physicist John Dalton believed atoms were tiny particles that made up elements, cannot be divided and that the atoms of the given elements have to be the same. The famous Joseph John Thomson later built upon this theory after cathode rays had been discovered. He viewed that these particles had negative charges and could be deflected by both magnetic and electric fields. Also, he noticed that their masses were incredibly small. Thomson therefore proposed atoms were made up of electrons moving around in a ‘sea’ of moving positive charge. His model is commonly referred to as the plum pudding model.
The next major step in the history of the atom was Ernest Rutherford’s gold-leaf experiment in 1909. The experiment was directing alpha particles towards a sheet of gold foil. All deflection was measured and Rutherford calculated and determined that a plum pudding atom would have lots of deflection. The results were astounding as most particles were not deflected and the small percentage of particles that were deflected was deflected through large angles. Very few particles were actually deflected towards the source of alpha emission. Here is an image of Rutherford’s gold leaf experiment.
In 1911, Rutherford proposed a creation of a new atomic model based upon the results of gold leaf experiment. He proposed that most of the atoms mass is within a nucleus which would be positive and that the negative electrons were orbiting the nucleus just like planets orbit the sun. Also, the overall positive and negative charges must be balanced. In 1918, Rutherford discovered the proton further proving his model and in 1932, James Chadwick discovered the neutron concluding that Rutherford’s discovery was indeed fact. The image below depicts
Rutherford’s ideas graphically in this version of the atom.
The Bohr model was another step towards the latest model of the atom as he attempts to create the connection between atoms and light. He believed that the colors of light in a gas correspond differently to energy levels within electrons. The key to his model was that electrons can only be at certain energy levels within the atom. The model depends on the connection between the difference of energy level and the frequency corresponding to this change. A significant statement of Bohr’s model was that for certain elements, only certain frequencies of light can be absorbed or emitted. This can be linked to what we now know as the absorption and emission spectrums. The diagram below should hopefully make more sense, as Bohr’s model can be rather confusing.
Now the more recent, Schrodinger and Heisenberg model mentions that electrons orbiting the nucleus no longer occur as it previously did with Rutherford and Bohr. The issue is that we cannot state the trajectory of an electron within an atom and all we can state are the probabilities of where the electrons might be. This is due to the uncertainty principle within quantum mechanics. The diagram below is officially the latest graphic image of the standard model of the atom and whether it is likely to change in the future well, we cannot rule this possibility out.
Now in the 21st century we have discovered all sorts of particles, hadrons, bosons, baryons, mesons, quarks, leptons and all the antiparticles so many believe that there is no further change arising. However, with the continued research of dark matter and exotic behavior with electrons theorized into being split to their electric and magnetic one dimensional fields, no one knows where this will take us. The deficiencies of the standard model occur due to the lack of knowledge of the origin of mass, neutrino oscillations, matter and antimatter asymmetry and the nature and mystery of dark matter. These are only a fragment of the possibilities of change within the atom and perhaps it may remain as the electron cloud model but it is the determination and inspiration of those that aspire to change the unchangeable, think the unthinkable and do the undoable that makes the world progress therefore by no means will the current model of the atom be the final one.
Stem cells are cells with the potential to develop into many different types of cells in the body during early life and growth. How are they different to other cells? They can divide and renew themselves over a long time, making them useful as a sort of internal repair system; they are unspecialised so they cannot do specific functions but they have the capability to become specialised cells, for example, muscle cells or red blood cells.
In humans, there are different types of stem cells that come from different places in the body or are formed at different times in our lives. There are embryonic stem cells that exist only at the earliest stages of development (in a three to five year old embryo, known as a blastocyst) and there are different types of tissue-specific or adult stem cells that appear during the earliest stages of development and remain in our bodies throughout our life. Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent, which means that they can develop into different types of body cells but cannot generate support structures like the placenta and the umbilical cord. Other cells are multipotent which mean they can develop into a few different cell types, generally in a specific tissue, hence why they are called tissue-specific stem cells.
As humans grow older, the number and type of stem cells change. The stem cells that stay in your body throughout your life are tissue-specific; however, there is evidence that the skin stem cells in your body at a young age won’t be the same as the ones in your body when you are older.
There are also induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS), which are similar to embryonic stem cells, although they are made from specialised adult cells using a laboratory technique discovered in 2006 which won a Nobel Prize. So what are scientists so excited about? The discovery of these stem cells raised hopes that cells could be made from a patient’s own skin to cure their disease, this allows the risk of immune rejection to be removed. The finding of these cells allows cell banks to be created, which allows a matching donor to be found for patients, almost like a blood bank.
In a stem cell transplant, embryonic stem cells are specialised into the appropriate adult cell; they are then used to replace the tissue that has been damaged. This method can be used to replace neurons damaged by spinal cord injury, strokes or other neurological problems; used to produce insulin to treat those with diabetes; replace any tissue or organ that has been injured or diseased and others. Using embryonic stem cell therapies can be much more useful in medical research as cells could be used to study diseases, to create new drugs and to test drugs for side effects
This week, I had the opportunity to watch “Starfish”, a British independent film which tells the story of Tom Ray, and the challenges him and his family faced after he contracted sepsis. When his dentist accidentally scratched his gums, it resulted in blood poisoning and Tom was left with cold hands and feet, headaches and stomach pains a few days later. After nine months in a hospital, Tom had gone through a coma and several operations. He came home as a quadruple amputee, both arms and legs, with his face disfigured; narrowly escaping death.
Sepsis is potentially a fatal condition, when the body goes into overdrive when responding to infection, caused by (most commonly) bacteria, viruses or fungi. This may have started anywhere in the body. It can also be contracted following a chest or water infection, and even from the simplest skin injuries like a cut. The immune system then damages its own tissues and results in organ failures, which is life-threatening- meaning it should be treated urgently.
In the US state of Virginia, Dr. Paul Marik claims to have an improvised cure for sepsis. One woman, aged 48, had contracted the condition but was perfectly healthy before. She walked into the hospital with her kidneys and lungs not functioning properly. Marik stated that in cases like these, it is likely that it results in death. However, the patient was well enough to leave the hospital two days after.
Influenced by research carried out at the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), Dr Marik injected the patient with a mix of vitamin C, steroids and thiamine as a last resort. Ever since first using it in January 2016, Dr Marik has used the treatment on 150 patients and only one has died from sepsis. Despite this, small-scale studies usually do not show the same effectiveness when in large populations. It is also unknown exactly which chemical or component in the mixture is successful in curing sepsis. Therefore, further testing is needed on the efficacy of the treatment.
Alternatively, some experts have recently stated that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can possibly treat sepsis. Initially, researchers had known that NSAIDs block an enzyme called cyclooxygenase. However, recent studies show that a subgroup inhibits the caspase enzyme, which, if triggered, can lead to to sepsis. Bacteria can initiate cell death and cause inflammation, resulting in the condition. Through studying worms, the drugs proved to be effective in blocking caspase and delaying the death of cells. Nevertheless, there are some side effects that arise from using these drugs, including an increased risk of heart attacks. So researchers are unsure whether they are the right treatment to be used.
In the UK alone, there are 150,000 cases of sepsis, and 44,000 of those cases result in death. It causes more deaths than breast, prostate and bowel cancer combined. Those with severe cases of sepsis are five times more likely to die than those with a stroke or heart attack. Antibiotics and fluids have been proven to treat sepsis. Nonetheless, medical attention should be given within an hour of it being suspected.
Lyme disease, an infection spread through ticks, currently it is the most common disease in the Northern Hemisphere. The history of the disease is relatively young, having been diagnosed as a separate condition in 1975, and its bacterium was first identified in 1981. Its biggest threat? It has no vaccine, and many specialists have tipped 2018 to be the year in which the number of people affected will peak. Lyme disease is difficult to be detected, and it science has shown that if Lyme disease is left untreated, it can lead to chronic complications such as memory problems, and arthritis. Due to the increasing issues created by climate change, higher temperatures are leading to a higher number of mice reproducing. Mice are the source for the bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, which causes Lyme disease, and the carriers of tick.
2016 was a year in which the mouse population increased, dubbed the “mouse plague” and the number of mice increase the rate of Lyme disease spreading. The ticks grasp onto the mice, and the when they feed on the blood of the mice, which contains the bacteria aforementioned, the bacteria move into the tick’s gut. The tick then attaches onto a human and the bacteria passes into the human’s blood.
Rick Ostfeld, was able to predict the possible outbreak of Lyme disease, by identifying the acorns littered in a forest in New York. The acorns, indicate the population of mice, and the population of infected ticks are predicted with the number of mice. Another threat of Lyme disease, is that in areas where the disease is scarce – outside the Lyme zones, the public is generally unaware of the precautions you need to take in order to avoid contracting Lyme disease.
The vaccine, Lymerix, developed by GSK, was withdrawn after 4 years, due to the link between Lymerix and chronic arthritis. Many anti-vaccination groups and the media, caused public support for the vaccine to decline. The vaccine for animal’s works to neutralise the B. burgdoferi and this is what the human version is currently being developed to do.
It is important that a vaccine is developed, in order to combat the ticking time bomb, which Lyme disease is, an outbreak of the disease can lead to many chronic problems in people. Public awareness for Lyme disease should also increase, and the precautions you should take in order to avoid contracting Lyme disease.