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Medical News Today


House dust microbes degrade cancer-causing chemical

New research finds that household dust hosts microbes that can break down cancer-causing environmental chemicals. However, the byproducts of this degradation may also harm health. The microbes in our household dust can fight off cancer-causing chemicals, but at what cost? Our households are riddled with all kinds of microbe, some of which are good and some of which are dangerous. From our dishwashing sponges to our toothbrush holders, there are plenty of places in our homes where these tiny microorganisms can hide. In particular, the dust that settles on our furniture and other surfaces contains a wide variety of fungi,...

Alzheimer's: Synthetic protein blocks toxic beta-amyloid

Alzheimer's is a relentless disease in which toxic clusters of beta-amyloid protein collect in brain cells. Now, scientists have designed a synthetic peptide, or small protein, that can block beta-amyloid in its early and most harmful stages. New research may have found a way to stop Alzheimer's-related brain damage in its early stages. The synthetic peptide, which has only 23 amino acids, folds into structures called alpha sheets. The sheets bind to early-stage, small clumps of beta-amyloid and stop them forming larger masses. A team from the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle and other research centers in the United...

'Harmless' microbe may cause death of good gut bacteria

Good bacteria are imperative for gut health. New research finds that another type of gut microbe could be endangering the beneficial bacteria population.New research finds a microbe that may diminish beneficial gut bacteria. Trillions of microbes are present in the gut. The majority are bacteria. However, other types — including viruses and single cell eukaryotes (SCE) — exist. Few studies have examined SCEs, as many believe they are innocuous. However, new research led by the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (NUS Medicine) in Singapore has found that one common SCE — Blastocystis — could be destroying "good" forms of...

Researchers look at the link between gut bacteria and autism

New research looks to the gut microbiome to try to address some of the symptoms associated with autism, but this investigation comes with its own set of problems. New research looks at the importance of gut bacteria in autism. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke explain that "[a]utism spectrum disorder (ASD) refers to a group of complex neurodevelopment disorders characterized by repetitive and characteristic patterns of behavior and difficulties with social communication and interaction." They also point out that specialists use the term "spectrum," as autism is different in different individuals. The condition can incorporate a "wide range...

Why do we empathize? Researchers take on new perspective

Humans have a compulsion to simulate the activities and behaviors of others in their social group, but why is that? The findings of a new study may change the way that we understand empathy and phenomena of emotional and behavioral contagion. New research suggests a different way of looking at the evolution of empathy. Empathy is a complex occurrence that researchers sometimes define as "feeling concern for others [and] sharing and comprehending their emotions, prompting motivation to help them." While empathy may not always come naturally, it is related to other phenomena that occur mechanically and are tied to mirroring...

Syncing brain waves may fight age-related memory problems

Memory can deteriorate naturally, due to age, and even when this process is not related to neurodegenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer's, it can still affect a person's quality of life. Now, researchers from Boston University in Massachusetts are exploring ways of fighting age-related memory decline. By resynchronizing brain waves, we could reverse some age-related memory problems. "Working memory [...] is a fundamental building block of human cognition," explains Robert Reinhart, Ph.D., the director of the university's Visual Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory. "It's been called, classically, the 'workbench of the mind' or the 'sketchpad of the mind.' It allows us to hold...

Scientists quash claims about single 'depression genes'

After completing an enormous study, scientists have dismissed claims that single gene variants, or even a small group of them, can dictate susceptibility to depression. Instead, they suggest that any genetic risk for depression likely arises from very large numbers of variants, each contributing a small effect.A group of scientists has debunked the 'candidate gene hypotheses' for depression. Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) reviewed hundreds of investigations that, over the last 25 years, had singled out "candidate genes" for depression. They found that 18 such genes had featured at least 10 times in previous studies. Then,...

Weight loss: How the 'love hormone' might help

A new study has investigated oxytocin's effects on the brain regions that help control eating behavior to explore the possibility of using this hormone as a treatment for obesity.Researchers get to grips with how oxytocin alters our brain's response to food. Oxytocin is a hormone that plays an essential role in social interaction, trust, anxiety, sexual reproduction, childbirth, and mother-infant bonding. As such, people sometimes refer to it as the "love hormone." This hormone increases the contraction of the uterus during labor and stimulates milk production. Most discussions about oxytocin focus on its role during childbirth, but it also affects...

Smoking may not be related to dementia risk after all

There is no doubt that smoking damages health and increases the risk of many diseases and premature death. However, a study that followed hundreds of older adults for more than 10 years found no link between tobacco smoking and raised dementia risk.A new study suggests there is no causal link between smoking and the risk of developing dementia. Dementia is the general name for conditions that diminish the capacity to think, remember, reason, and interact with others. These symptoms can progress to the point that people are no longer able to carry out their daily activities and take care of...

Can changes in brain energy pathways cause depression?

New research has identified mutations in the DNA code that may affect energy metabolism. It also found a link to major depressive disorder. Could mutations in mitochondria cause depression? The World Health Organization (WHO) describe depression as "the leading cause of disability worldwide." It affects more than 300 million people around the world. Experts believe that many factors contribute to major depressive disorder (MDD). These include genetics, environmental factors including abuse, brain physiology, and the immune system. One theory is that disturbances in energy metabolism in the brain may contribute to a person developing MDD. Conceptually, this is relatively easy...

Atherosclerosis: Scans spot inflammation in arteries before they harden

By the time plaques have formed in arteries, the process of atherosclerosis, a condition that can lead to heart attacks and strokes, is already well underway. Now, by using advanced imaging technology to spot artery inflammation, scientists have for the first time found a way to track the condition before the plaques develop. Scientists are using advanced PET/MRI to predict atherosclerosis. The finding, which appears in a recent Journal of the American College of Cardiology paper, should lead to better, earlier diagnosis and treatment of atherosclerosis, say the study's researchers, who work at the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares (CNIC)...

Osteoporosis: New tools help pinpoint potential risk genes

A combination of powerful tools has helped scientists identify two new genes that could contribute to osteoporosis through their effect on bone density. The finding could lead to better treatments for the bone-weakening disease.It may soon be possible to predict osteoporosis before it develops. The study, by researchers at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) in Pennsylvania, highlights the importance of understanding the 3D geography of the genome in locating genes that cause disease. The team points out that identifying DNA variants, or differences, behind diseases, is not necessarily enough to locate the genes that cause the disease. The variants,...