Monthly Archives: August 2013

Can we repair the brain? A UK research-USA industry collaboration


Collaborating transatlantically are UK based Center for Clinical Brain Sciences established as recently as 2004 and USA based Biogen. A landmark clinical study will observe three licensed drugs for neurological conditions. Late stage progressive form of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients will be monitored for two years says Prof. Siddharthan Chandran, Director of the Anne Rowling Clinic. MRI scans will test for signs of MS disease progression. The research initiative is being funded by Biogen. The UK researchers will provide greater insight into the cell and biological processes behind progressive neurological diseases.

Over 35 million people are affected and the global cost for treatment and care is at 700 billion and rising.  Multiple sclerosis progresses fast.  Within 18 months of the first symptoms a person may become wheel chair bound. How does the brain cell wiring system get damaged so rapidly? The hope lies in a new discovery – stem cells can spontaneously repair damaged brain cells, by laying new myelin over nerve cells.  Treatment options being considered for research are by either activating existing stem cells in the brain or by transplanting stem cells to replace dead or dying brain cells. The UK research team has done the ground work for this research since their public is open to the advantages of stem cell research and understand the implications of using a patient’s own stem cells. This risky and super expensive research needs visionary and patient funding leaders. That is where Biogen comes in.  Naturally, such collaborations cannot be done in countries where the citizens do not understand or are opposed to the possibilities of stem cell research.

Dr. Siddharthan Chandran gave a talk at TEDGlobal 2013 describing his vision of hope for neurodegenerative diseases of the brain. See a description of his talk and more images by clicking here or at: http://blog.ted.com/2013/06/12/regenerating-hope-tedglobal-2013-with-siddharthan-chandran/

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Could “brain to brain” via internet communication research help autistics?


Researchers at University of Washington plugged the wirings of a human brain into the most advanced computer known by man – another human brain. They predict such “brain to brain” communication research might help people with disabilities communicate their needs for food, water or a game better. Amazingly, brain signals between these two human beings might work even if they spoke different languages, thus signaling the age of unification via grey matter.

This research was conducted at University of Washington between two human researchers located at opposite ends of the same campus. One human researcher wearing a brain cap contraption controlled via the internet the action of another human researcher wearing a wired contraption over the motor cortex area. Similar research has been done between rats or a human and a rat at Duke University and Harvard University.

Such research requires intereactions between mechanical engineers, bioengineers, neuroscientists, robotics experts, and computer scientists. Bringing them together are visionary leaders with a long – term approach to results and possible applications. Those who expect immediate economic impact will naturally not fund such research. University of Washington has been fortunate to have been funded with patient, visionary leaders. Their research is helping build a dynamic computer and robotics campus exploring the last frontier – the brain.

Read more in this Forbes article by Jennifer Hicks explained after interviews with researchers and accompanied with pictures and diagrams.

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Regain memory by Regenerating your brain cells


The simple flat worm may reveal a method to treat memory loss. Gardeners dislike these flat worms because they eat their valuable earthworms. However, memory scientists adore flatworms. Consider the fact that the non parasitic flatworm, Planarians planarians, has the ability to retain all memory when it regenerates a severed brain within 14 days – yes, these worms can routinely regenerate a severed brain or any other severed body part. This ability is because the worms have a very high percentage of pluripotent stem cells which can develop into any cell type, when required. But how does it retain the memory lost in the severed brain cells? Quoting CBS News :

Apparently losing your head doesn’t have to mean losing your mind. At least, not if you’re a worm.

photo-5
Brain, Stem cells and Memory – a worm’s role?
You might ask what memory can a lowly worm have? For over two decades Scientists have trained flatworms to show memory traits that can be measured.  An environmental familialization protocol can be measured automatically.

The Flat worm can regenerate any lost body part

The Flat worm can regenerate any lost body part

A trained decapitated worm can exhibit memory retrieval after regenerating a new head. The time limit for memory retrieval is about 14 days. They needed a lesson but the memory returned once stimulated said Dr Levin of Tuft University. This allows scientists to study the relation of the brain and the body in memory. The worm does not automatically lose it’s memory when it loses it’s brain. Where does the worm store it’s memory if not in it’s brain? There is obviously a connection between brain, unknown body cells and memory loss since there is a 14 day window of memory retention in these flatworms.

The unlimited possibilities of severed brain research
Are you thinking what Pursue Natural is thinking? If you are suggesting that perhaps this worm offers the opportunity to study brain regeneration and memory therapy in humans, then yes. Is it possible that the aging Alzheimers Dementia person has a hope that they could regenerate memory – that is if worm research can reveal how pluripotent stem cells in worms retain memory lost in a severed brain. Where and how is memory stored in a worm – if not in the brain?

The answer might help not only aging humans but also any memory loss patients such as athletes, who lose memory during a sports concussion. Pursue Natural hopes it might assist the Autistic individual regain their lost communication skills, which are apparently controlled by an interconnection between the brain and the immune system, in an unknown manner.  Could similar research reveal how communication skills are controlled by the brain and might be “lost” from an unknown environmental trigger/s? Perhaps if these worms could be trained to communicate in a manner that can be measured, then the loss and regain issues related to brain – body may be revealed.

Pluripotent stem cells are obtained from the human donor in need of therapy, can self renew, and largely mitigates any immune reaction. Ethical questions are skipped since these stem cells are not derived from an embryo but the patient’s own cells and can produce specific specialized cells instead of an entire human being.

Quoting Dr. Levin of Tufts University,

“The implications are that learned information can be stored in tissues outside the brain, and that this information can be imprinted upon newly regenerating brains. We do not know how much of this extends to humans, although these worms are not primitive creatures — they have a true centralized brain and many similarities to the human body-plan and genome”.

Memory Regeneration
Who is working on regenerating severed brains?
Scientist around the world are working on this problem since it is a hot topic in biologial research.  Naturally, parts of the world which are uneducated about the positive implications of stem cell research are either behind or unable to participate in this growing biological field.

Tuft University researchers T. Shomrat and M. Levin shed light on the fundamental interface between body patterning and stored memories and published their results in the Journal of Experimental Biology in the summer of this year, 2013.

Many genes have been identified for brain regeneration. Click here for the detailed review of process in 2008 by which the brain is regenerated or the genes involved in brain regeneration by Kiyokazu Agata and Yoshihiko Umesono of Kyoto University, Kitashirakawa-Oiwake, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, Japan.

The worm CNS or central nervous system has been analyzed by the team including K. Agata as early as in 1998 when at  Kobe University, Nada, Kobe, Japan.

The proteins and genes involved in relevant stem cell maintenance are being researched and beginning to be identified. Click here for  the team led by Vittorio Gremigni of Università di Pisa, Pisa, Italy in 2005.

Other science sites discussing the phenomenon of worm brain regeneration.

Scientific Forefront

Neuroxia

ZME Science

i09 we come from the future – has a photo of a decapitated worm’s progress to a new head in 7, 10, and 14 days.

CBS News – which has an illustration of the a decapitated worm’s progress to a new head in 7, 10, and 14 days along with a pictorial suggesting what memory is lost with decapitation and how this memory gradually returns.

If you appreciate such research, do encourage these researchers around teh world to continue their work.

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Effect on heart rate: Comparing Energy Beverages to Sports Drinks


No Energy Beverages are banned in the USA, says an National Institute of Health literature search review entitled, “Energy Beverages: Content and Safety.  For this review the researchers searched databases from 1976 to study the effects of sports beverages that claimed an ability to aid performance, muscle growth and recovery.

The inventor of Gatorade, Dr. Robert Cade, a sports Professor at Gainsville, Florida, is credited as being the pioneer in the area of sports drinks that replenished electrolytes and carbohydrates.  The popularity and fame of his invention followed him around the world until he died at the age of 80 because he came up with a supplemented drink that helped the Gator football players deal with the sweltering heat of Gainsville, Florida. You may click here to read more about the inventor, Dr. Cade and his invention.

There was one problem with Professor Cade’s replenishing drink: it tasted like bodily fluids and the players tended to spit it out. You see, Professor Cade was researching the kidney in the medical division and noticing that players did not urinate enough during or after a game, he came up with a solution to keep the players healthy. His top priority was health and not taste. Soon college teams playing against the Gator team realized that their teams were losing in the sweltering heat because their players were not replenished by Professor Cade’s “bodily waste” drink. The international giant, Pepsico, bought the rights to the drink called “Gatorade” today and the royalties are keeping the inventor, his team and the University of Gainsville happy.

Gatorade replenished carbohydrates in the form of sugars sucrose and glucose and electrolytes in the form of sodium and potassium salts. Today, there are many kinds of sports and energy beverages that add far more than what is necessary for a healthy performing kidney. Infact, many might be unhealthy. Some are suspected to be deadly depending on the genes inherited by the consumer. Long term exposure to certain Energy Beverages may cause significant changes to the cardiovascular system. In other words, some sports drinks might be unhealthy for the heart when used regularly for a longer time.

If you are concerned and are asking the question, “Is this Energy Beverage or Sports Drink safe for me to consume daily when I exercise?” then, you might want to read the results summarized by NIH researchers by clicking here.. It might save your life. It might keep your heart and kidneys healthy.

Red Bull, a very highly caffeinated sports beverage was introduced in Austria in 1987 and then to USA in 1997.  Since then the Energy Beverage market has exploded.  Red Bull commanded 65% share of the 650 million dollar market in 2005 but now has many competitors.  The USA is the largest consumer of Energy Beverages.  11 to 35 years olds are most likely to be consumers of Energy Beverages.  The regulations in the USA are very lax in banning such replenished beverages.  This research article shows alarmingly drinking such beverages is associated with risky behavior lifestyles. The review offers recommendations specific to populations and groups since genetics and age are factors to be considered, as Professor Cade had discovered in his pioneering, replenishing drink.

In the memory of this kidney researcher whose goal was to keep players safe in sweltering heat, let’s continue to keep the drinks safe and the users healthy and alive.

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Hunger is mental but Obesity is genetic


A California State University researcher, Takako Hara, raised a question in 1997, “What is the relationship between hunger and eating?” Hunger has been analyzed by several researchers for decades in three different criteria – biological, cognitive and learned. Click here to read this article summarizing the role of hunger in obesity research in 1997.  With the sequencing of the human genome, the role of the genes we inherited from our parents and their role has been extensively researched by obesity researchers and summarized in an article by Harvard University which you may click here to read.  We want to convince our readers that obesity can be strongly influenced by healthy environments and lifestyle choices.  However, we have to acknowledge that a certain segment of humans are genetically at far higher risk of obesity than the rest of us, on the same diet, in the same environment.  It is for them that it becomes critical to conquer this battle of mind over stomach and genetics.

Biology
People whose stomach was removed still felt hungry.

Hunger and Eating based on Biology
Humans use an external clock in their daily routine. At “lunch time” it is time to eat. Interestingly, people feel hungry for particular tastes. For example, the four basic tastes bitter, salty, sweet and sour are often included in statements when hungry.

Hunger and Eating based on Cognition
Blue is said to be an appetite suppresant – can you remember a single blue food that you crave? Mother nature does not produce blue food. Color greatly affects our hunger and people eventually can learn to change their preference. Children at a party beg for a cupcake with blue icing.

Our Brain, our intestine and Hunger
There are two places in our brain that control the feeling of being hungry or full. One part signals when to begin eating and the other part signals when to stop eating. The intestine or the gastrointestinal tract controls short-term hunger, or impulse eating.

So, What is Obesity?
Exceeding the average weight for a given height at a specific stage in one’s life may be defined as being obese. Simple overeating does not explain the cause of obesity. Obese people tend to respond more often to external cues of hunger like “lunch time” than the non – obese. There are boundary levels of feelings of hunger and being full that are determined by biology. For the obese this biologically determined boundary is higher than the non-obese.

Eating Disorders
There are people who can starve themselves and are called anorexics. A cognitive or learned component of anorexia cannot be ignored. While those who eat too much and then throw up by forcing themselves to throw up are called bulimic and tend to have a connection with depression. Both anorexics and bulimics may suffer from malnutrition.

Mind and Body Connection to Hunger
There are two kinds of hunger; one that is caused psychologically and the other that is caused physiologically. Problems like eating disorders and obesity occur frequently because we try to fullfil our psychological hunger. Until we acknowledge the fact that it is often times our mind that is hungry and not our stomach we may never be able to be fully “not hungry”.

The Sense of Hunger is Not Just the Food we Put Into Our Mouth but The Thoughts Controlled by The Environment Around All of Us.

Hunger Obesity BrainHunger in Children and Tantrums 
Occasionally, serious emotional or behavioral problems in children, according to researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis may sometimes indicate a problem more serious than hunger (Read more).  Excessive tantrums in pre-schoolers and it’s relationship to hunger is being extensively researched. Quoting Andrew C. Belden, Ph.D., a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) research scholar in child psychiatry,

“Healthy children may even display extreme behaviors if they’re very tired or sick or hungry. But if a child is regularly engaging in specific types of tantrum behaviors, there may be a problem.”

Unquote. You may click here to read more on when excessive tantrums in preschoolers may indicate mental evaluation is warranted rather than simple hunger of a healthy child.

Common Obesity is caused by Mutations in Multiple Genes
The search for an obesity gene that began several decades ago illuminated several genetic factors are responsible for obesity. Many people who carry the so called “obesity genes” do not become overweight until exposed to certain lifestyle factors which influence the genes that they inherited from their parents, including certain rare forms of obesity. Quoting from a Harvard University article, “Obesity – promoting genes in an Obesity – promoting world”:

To date, genome-wide association studies have identified more than 30 candidate genes on 12 chromosomes that are associated with body mass index. (8-10) It’s important to keep in mind that even the most promising of these candidate genes, FTO, accounts for only a small fraction of the gene-related susceptibility to obesity.

unquote.

The interplay of genes and genes – environment warrants attention. Twin studies are often cited by obesity researchers. A recent study of over 25,000 twins suggested a strong genetic influence on BMI. Twins have the same genetic influence on BMI and thus, obesity, assuming environment and lifestyle at home is same for the twins. It is increasingly clear that genetic factors identified so far make only a small contribution to obesity risk. Click here to read this Harvard University article.

Related Articles
High Fructose corn syrup – why would anyone educated still consume it?
How the biological inheritance from your parents defines you
Race, ethnicity and kidney disease
Two Traditional Plant-based Diabetic management from Africa, and India
War on obesity and diabetes by reducing intake of drinks with sugar to 16oz in New York City

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Role of “love hormone” and fresh infant food in autism and allergy


Adding to thirty years of research, scientists have discovered a potential role and mode of action of oxytocin, a naturally occuring brain hormone commonly called the “love hormone”. Neuropsychopharmacologists study the effect of chemicals in the brain and behavior. A team consisting of Dr. Tsien (Stanford University, CA), his graduate student Scott Owen, Dr. Gord Fischell (NYU Langone Medical Center, NY), his graduate student Sebnem Tuncdemir, and collaborators Patrick Bader, and Natasha Tirko resolved how oxytocin increases signaling to neurons and published their findings online on August 4, in the Journal Nature. This hormone can quiet background noise and enhance brain circuits. Individuals with autism lack the ability to filter desirable information processing signals. How this hormone can modulate fast spiking interneurons will continue to be researched, in addition to it’s therapeutic potential in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). To read the original article in nature click here.

…Neuromodulatory control by oxytocin is essential to a wide range of social1, 2, parental3 and stress-related behaviours4. Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are associated with deficiencies in oxytocin levels5 and with genetic alterations of the oxytocin receptor (OXTR)6. Thirty years ago, Mühlethaler et al.7 found that oxytocin increases the firing of inhibitory hippocampal neurons, but it remains unclear how elevated inhibition could account for the ability of oxytocin to improve information processing in the brain….

Research in repetitive behavior in ASD
With rising rates of autism spectrum disorder, especially among boys, there is a sense of urgency to find answers. We must not ignore the years of research effort by countless scientists working on how to reduce repetitive behaviors in individuals in the autism spectrum. For example, a 2003 article in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology was published by a team of Neuropsychopharmacologists suggested

….Repetitive behavior in autism spectrum disorders may be related to abnormalities in the oxytocin system, and may be partially ameliorated by synthetic oxytocin infusion…

which you can click here to read.  The problem lies in the fact that a cure is still elusive.  Some parents find that keeping individuals with ASD active in a repetitive sport helps ease the symptom of repetitive behavior, with a regulated repetitive movement resulting in enjoyment rather than frustration. However, it is a challenge getting an ASD individual to concentrate on such a sport.

Role of a love hormone in ASD
Why is it called the “love hormone”? Several articles explain that which you might enjoy reading in eurekalert, by Craig Andrews, by clicking here. What is the role of this hormone in conception to pregnancy and how is it involved in autism spectrum disorder? Researchers will labor on to find the answers.

Role of infant food in allergy
With the observation that certain diets reduce the risk of allergy in infants, one begins to wonder about the role of introduction of chemicals during conception and pregnancy that might interfere with hormones like the love hormone involved in development of normal brain circuits. To read the article on role of processed food and infant allergy click here by the scientist Kate Grimshaw (University of Southampton, UK).  In this article, the scientist published results of research on correlation between infant dietary pattern in first year of infancy and development of food allergy by age two.  Babies brought up on fresh food, presented lower allergy rates.

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