Biosingularity

Archive for September 2008

Our brains contain their own navigation system much like satellite navigation (“sat-nav”), with in-built maps, grids and compasses, neuroscientist Dr Hugo Spiers told the BA Festival of Science at the University of Liverpool today.

The brain’s navigation mechanism resides in an area know as the hippocampus, which is responsible for learning and memory and famously shown to be different in London taxi drivers in a Wellcome Trust-funded study carried out by Professor Eleanor Maguire at UCL (University College London).
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Scientists have discovered a compound that could lead to new treatments for heart attacks as well as methods to protect hearts during open heart surgery and other situations in which blood flow to the heart is interrupted.

In the process, the researchers uncovered cellular mechanisms that help explain how alcohol can protect against heart attack damage. In addition, they have uncovered a possible key to reducing chest pain and the heart attack damage among millions of people of East Asian descent who are genetically unable to respond to nitroglycerin and other cardiovascular treatments.
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You know it’s good for you in other ways, but could eating your broccoli also help patients with chronic lung disease? It just might.

According to recent research from Johns Hopkins Medical School, a decrease in lung concentrations of NRF2-dependent antioxidants, key components of the lung’s defense system against inflammatory injury, is linked to the severity of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in smokers. Broccoli is known to contain a compound that prevents the degradation of NFRP.
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A new study has shown that an investigational drug (R207910, currently in clinical trials against multi-drug resistant tuberculosis strains) is quite effective at killing latent bacteria. This revelation suggests that R207910 may lead to improved and shortened treatments for this globally prevalent disease.
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eyeball 1 on Flickr – Photo Sharing!.

Some of the most challenging obstacles limiting the reprogramming of mature human cells into stem cells may not seem quite as daunting in the near future. Two independent research papers, published by Cell Press in the September 11th issue of the journal Cell Stem Cell, describe new tools that provide invaluable platforms for elucidating the molecular, genetic, and biochemical mechanisms associated with reprogramming. The new findings also offer considerable hope toward making the reprogramming process more therapeutically relevant.
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Subjects in memory tests given at MIT’s Computational Vision Cognition Laboratory were asked to recall which of a pair of objects they had seen earlier that day. Subjects were shown 3,000 images, one at a time, over a five-hour period.

Image courtesy / Computational Vision Cognition Laboratory, MIT

Image courtesy / Computational Vision Cognition Laboratory, MIT

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Individuals who have a genetic mutation associated with high body mass index (BMI) may be able to offset their increased risk for obesity through physical activity, according to a report in the September 8 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
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What makes a memory? Single cells in the brain, for one thing. For the first time, scientists at UCLA and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel have recorded individual brain cells in the act of calling up a memory, thus revealing where in the brain a specific memory is stored, and how it is able to recreate it.

Reporting in the current edition of the journal Science, Dr. Itzhak Fried, senior author and a UCLA professor of neurosurgery, and colleagues, recorded the activity of hundreds of individual neurons making memories from the brains of 13 epilepsy patients being treated at the UCLA Medical Center. The patients’ surgeons had placed electrodes into their brains to locate the origin of their seizures before surgical treatment (standard procedure in such cases). Read the rest of this entry »

A multi-institutional team of researchers, including scientists at the University of Minnesota Medical School, have developed a powerful tool for genomic research and medicine. The robust method will allow researchers to generate synthetic enzymes that can target and manipulate DNA sequences for inactivation or repair.
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This is a “monster” culture cell – a huge mutant with two nuclei and one centrosome. A normal cell can be seen at the lower right.

“monster” cell – triple labeled on Flickr – Photo Sharing!.

Scientists have detected previously unnoticed chemical signals that individual cells in the immune system use to communicate with each other over short distances.

The signals the researchers detected originated in dendritic cells – the sentinels of the immune system that do the initial detection of microscopic invaders – and were received by nearby T-cells, which play a number of crucial roles in the immune system, including coordination of attacks on agents that cause disease or infection.

Vanderbilt)

artist

An artist’s rendering of the completed MTN shows cells trapped inside as signals travel to them. (Source: Vanderbilt)

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Consuming large quantities of fish loaded with omega-3 fatty acids may explain low levels of heart disease in Japan, according to a study led by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. The study also found that third- and fourth-generation Japanese Americans had similar or even higher levels of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries – a major risk factor for heart disease, compared to white Americans.
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Neuroscientists at Georgetown University Medical Center have solved a mystery that lies at the heart of human learning, and they say the solution may help explain some forms of mental retardation as well as provide clues to overall brain functioning. Read the rest of this entry »

Researchers have long sought a factor that can trigger the brain’s ability to learn – and perhaps recapture the “sponge-like” quality of childhood. In the August 8 issue of the journal Cell, neuroscientists at Children’s Hospital Boston report that they’ve identified such a factor, a protein called Otx 2.

Otx2 helps a key type of cell in the cortex to mature, initiating a critical period — a window of heightened brain plasticity, when the brain can readily make new connections.
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One of the reasons people on low-carbohydrate diets may lose weight is that they reduce their intake of fructose, a type of sugar that can be made into body fat quickly, according to a researcher at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
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A dynamic 3D computer animated video takes you “inside” for a close-up look at how we’re made.  3D modeling and animation created by Bill Baker, Bakedmedia, Inc. and Mike Fisher for the National Human Genome Research Institute.

Age may not be rust after all. Specific genetic instructions drive aging in worms, report researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Their discovery contradicts the prevailing theory that aging is a buildup of tissue damage akin to rust, and implies science might eventually halt or even reverse the ravages of age.
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In the life of a cell, the response to DNA damage determines whether the cell is fated to pause and repair itself, commit suicide, or grow uncontrollably, a route leading to cancer. In a new study, published in the July 25th issue of Cell, scientists at NYU Langone Medical Center have identified a way that cells respond to DNA damage through a process that targets proteins for disposal. The finding points to a new pathway for the development of cancer and suggests a new way of sensitizing cancer cells to treatment.
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Researchers at the Joslin Diabetes Center have demonstrated for the first time that transplanted muscle stem cells can both improve muscle function in animals with a form of muscular dystrophy and replenish the stem cell population for use in the repair of future muscle injuries.
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