In this one, some pretty cool pieces of news :) So to say. Please read the second one-it's provides a very interesting view on why sex is beneficial for us!
- How the MySpace mindset can boost medical science
- 'Cuddle chemical' could treat mental illness
- Fetal cells could help fight off breast cancer
- Plastic red blood cells
How the MySpace mindset can boost medical science
- 15 May 2008
IT CAN create a buzz around an up-and-coming rock band, and is great for reuniting with friends from college. But can it help investigate the causes and treatment of serious diseases? That's the question surrounding attempts to use online social networking to recruit volunteers for clinical research.
The MySpace mindset is already meeting medical science on the website PatientsLikeMe. For the past two years it has enabled people with the degenerative neurological disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) to share information about symptoms and treatments. PatientsLikeMe has also expanded to build communities of people with other conditions, and has launched a number of projects analysing clinical information provided by the site's users.
'Cuddle chemical' could treat mental illness
- 14 May 2008
IT has been called the love hormone, the cuddle chemical and liquid trust. It peaks with orgasm, makes a loving touch magically melt away stress and increases generosity when given as a drug. Oxytocin is the essence of affection itself, the brain chemical that warmly bonds parent to child, lover to lover, friend to friend, and it could soon be unleashing its loved-up powers far and wide.
Oxytocin has long been used to induce labour and assist the let-down of milk in breastfeeding. Now there is growing interest in its potential as a therapy for mental illnesses characterised by "people problems" - autism, personality disorders, depression, social phobia, psychosis and even impotence. Some tout it as an elixir that makes you more likeable, trustworthy and attractive. Decoding its mysteries could even lead to the development of a powerful new recreational drug that makes ecstasy look like a mild dose of cheerfulness...
Oxytocin was discovered in 1909, when British pharmacologist Henry Dale found that a substance extracted from the human brain could cause contractions in pregnant cats. He named it using the Greek for "quick birth", and for decades it was known only for its role as a pregnancy hormone, promoting contractions and aiding breastfeeding.
In the 1970s it started to become clear that oxytocin was more than just a hormone - it was also a neurotransmitter. Released from a brain region called the hypothalamus during social interactions and sex, oxytocin is detected by receptors throughout the brain's emotional centre, the limbic system. This discovery prompted scientific interest that has mushroomed ever since, with oxytocin now one of the hottest topics in neuroscience.
Oxytocin's ability to connect social contact with feelings of pleasure and well-being has got researchers excited about potential therapeutic uses, since so many mental illnesses involve disorders of sociability or empathy. An obvious starting point is autism, which is marked by difficulty understanding the minds of others, aversion to human contact, and repetitive behaviours such as rocking.
Eric Hollander of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York is studying what happens when you give oxytocin to autistic adults. He has found that it improves their ability to recognise emotions like happiness and anger in people's tone of voice, something autistic people struggle with. A single intravenous infusion produced improvements that lasted two weeks (Biological Psychiatry, vol 61, p 498).
Hollander has also found that oxytocin increases his volunteers' ability to recognise faces and interpret emotional expressions.
Fetal cells could help fight off breast cancer
- 30 April 2008
WHILE having children has many benefits, protection against cancer isn't the first thing that springs to mind. Now it seems that fetal cells surviving in a mother's tissues may fight off breast tumours, which perhaps explains why women with children have a lower risk of getting breast cancer than childless women. If fetal cell levels can be boosted, it might also help cancer treatments.
During pregnancy, a small number of fetal stem cells cross the placenta into the mother's bloodstream and can survive for decades in her skin, liver, brain and spleen, a phenomenon called fetal microchimerism. Fetal cells have been shown to repair damage to some tissues (New Scientist, 20 August 2005, p 8), but do they also fight cancer?
Last year V. K. Gadi at the University of Washington in Seattle and colleagues noticed that mothers who develop breast cancer have fewer fetal cells in their bodies ...sourceMy comment: This one is rather curious for me, especially since I found out/not personally/ that being pregnant may have some spiritual benefits. Now it appears it also can help the mother. I didn't know about the lower chance to get breast-cancer if you were pregnant, but it certainly deserves some research. And it's good publicity for being pregnant. So have kids, kids :)
Plastic red blood cells
Red blood cells travel through the bloodstream delivering vital oxygen to body tissues and taking away unwanted carbon dioxide – and they have to squeeze through blood vessels as thin as 3 micrometres across to do it. But in some diseases, such as malaria and sickle cell disease, red blood cells lose this ability to deform.
Because of the small size of red blood cells and the demanding work they do, nobody has succeeded in making artificial versions to help people with such conditions.
Now though Joseph DeSimone, a chemical engineer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, US, thinks he knows how.
He has created tiny sacks of the polymer polyethylene glycol just 8 micrometres across – in the range of human red blood cells – that are capable of deforming in a way that allows them to pass through the tiniest capillaries.
Polyethylene glycol is biologically benign, but binds easily with other substances, which makes it ideal for carrying cargo through the blood, says DeSimone.
For example, a haemoglobin-type molecule carried inside the bag could deliver oxygen to the body and carry away carbon dioxide. The bags could also deliver drugs instead, or help as contrast agents for scans such as magnetic resonance imaging, PET or ultrasound.
DeSimone has injected the particles into mice with "no adverse side effects", but there is no news yet of more extensive tests.
My comment: Cool and creepy, huh?