Lost sleep could cause ‘permanent damage to brain cells’ scientists warn.

Study found sleep-deprived mice lost up to 25 per cent of their brain cells.

Sleepless nights could prove more damaging than previously thought, after the results of a new study suggested sleep deprivation can lead to a permanent loss of brain cells.

The “disturbing” research found mice experiencing chronic sleep loss saw 25 per cent of their brain cells die, according to research published yesterday in theJournal of Neuroscience.

Now, scientists fear humans could suffer the same neuronal injuries – which would also make attempting to ‘catch up’ on missed sleep pointless.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine set out to determine if chronic sleep loss damages brain cells involved in keeping the brain alert, and if this damage can be reversed.

Lead author Sigrid Veasey, a professor at the University, said previous research on humans has shown attention span and several other aspects of cognition do not return back to normal even with three days of recovery sleep, raising the possibility that permanent damage had been sustained.

The team studied lab mice, keeping them awake for periods of time that were similar to human sleep loss, such as when people work night shifts or long hours.

After three days of shift-work sleep patterns, mice lost 25 per cent of brain cells in part of the brain stem.

“No one really thought that the brain could be irreversibly injured from sleep loss.” Dr Veasey said. “This is the first report that sleep loss can actually result in a loss of neurons.”

She said more research will need to be undertaken to see if people who regularly miss out on sleep could also suffer permanent brain cell damage.

If a similar phenomenon does occur in humans, the researchers believe it could be possible to develop a treatment that would protect against the harmful effects of losing sleep.

“If we can show that we can protect the cells and wakefulness, then we’re launched in the direction of a promising therapeutic target for millions of shift workers.”

The team also plans to examine shift workers post-mortem for evidence of increased brain cell loss and signs of disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, since some previous mouse models have shown that cell damage can accelerate the course of those diseases.

Rapid breaths ‘protect early babies’

Superfast ventilation – equivalent to 600 breaths per minute – is the best way to protect extremely premature babies’ lungs, a study has concluded.

Premature baby

Most are currently supported with about 30 breaths per minute.

But a study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, indicates very rapid but shallower breaths led to better long-term lung function.

The researchers, at King’s College London, said the findings would provoke intense debate.

They followed 319 babies born before 29 weeks of gestation, from birth to adolescence.

The team compared what happened to the lungs of those given conventional ventilation within an hour of being born, with those on high-frequency oscillatory ventilation (HFOV).

The small airways of the children were in better shape between the ages of 11 and 14 if they had had HFOV as a baby.

It is thought that the smaller volume of air being forced into the lungs caused less damage to the delicate organs than conventional therapy.

The difference did not appear to affect children in their daily lives.

Prof Anne Greenough, from King’s College London, said: “It is exciting that the differences are still there in adolescence.”

She said worse lung function in people having conventional therapy could leave them more vulnerable to damaging effects of infection or smoking later in life.

About 60,000 babies are born very prematurely in the UK each year.

Lung cancer rates up among UK women

Lung cancer rates among women in the UK have risen by 73% since 1975, while falling by 47% among men.

Cancer Research UK, which has released the figures, says the changes are because of contrasting trends in smoking habits in men and women.

Lung cancer cells

The charity says the proportion of men who smoke has been declining since the 1950s, while figures for women did not start to drop until the 1970s.

Overall, lung cancer rates across the UK have fallen by 20% since 1975.

The latest figures show there were around 43,500 cases of lung cancer in the UK in 2011 – approximately 23,800 men and 19,700 women.

In the same year there were around 35,200 deaths from lung cancer, including 19,600 men and 15,600 women.

Save lives

Dr Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said the figures provided a “stark reminder” that lung cancer remains a big challenge and called for a renewed effort to tackle the disease.

The new figures reveal that rates of lung cancer among women now stand at 41 women in every 100,000, up from 23 in every 100,000 in 1975.

For men, the lung cancer rate is now 59 in every 100,000, down from 112 per 100,000 people in 1975.

The highest rates in England are found in the north, while the lowest rates are in the east, south-east and south-west.

In Scotland, lung cancer rates in women have almost doubled over the past 40 years and are among the highest in the world.

X-ray of lungs
Rates of lung cancer among women now stand at 41 women in every 100,000

Lung cancer remains the second most common cancer in the UK and the biggest cancer killer. Around 87% of cases are attributable to smoking.

“We need to improve awareness of the possible signs and symptoms of lung cancer and urge people – especially those at increased risk – to go to their doctor without delay if they spot any symptoms,” said Cancer Research UK’s director of early diagnosis Sara Hiom.

“We know that if people go to their GP as soon as they’re aware of symptoms it can make all the difference and save lives.”

Death sentence

Fewer than 10% of people diagnosed with lung cancer survive for five years or more after diagnosis, Cancer Research UK says.

“These figures provide a stark reminder that lung cancer remains one of the biggest challenges in cancer research,” Dr Kumar said.

“The disease kills more than twice as many people as the second most common cancer killer – bowel cancer – and this looks set to continue unless we all do more.

“The attitude that a lung cancer diagnosis is a death sentence must change.”

Dr Kumar said the charity wanted to make the UK “a leader in lung cancer research”.

Facebook Can Identify Faces as Well as You Do .

New DeepFace app designed to — you guessed it — create more ad revenue

Facebook has developedsoftware that is able to recognize faces just as accurately as you can.

Researchers say that DeepFace, as the program is ominously called, can determine whether two photographed faces are of the same person with 97.25% accuracy. The company claims that humans only score slightly better on the same test: 97.53%.

Based on information like the distance between the eyes, and from the nose to the eyes, Facebook’s existing software is already able to suggest friends to tag when you upload a photo. DeepFace, however, uses much more advanced technology, creating a 3D model of the photographed face, which it is able to rotate and compare with other images.

Currently, the software is only a research project, but as with all of Facebook’s endeavors there’s a moneymaking end goal in sight: learning more about us, so that ads can be even further personalized. (CEO Mark Zuckerberg also aims to develop software that can decipher our moods through our status updates and comments).

Wait, what is that? Did I hear privacy advocates grumbling?

Sugar doesn’t make kids hyper, and other parenting myths .

Baby shoes didn’t feature prominently into Baby V’s wardrobe for quite some time. Tiny Chuck Taylors are adorable, obviously, but I questioned their utility for a baby who didn’t use her feet except as wiggly pacifiers. So Baby V spent a lot of time barefoot — a fashion statement that I didn’t really consider until she started toddling around in public.

Well-meaning observers were quick to tell me that I needed to get that baby some nice stiff shoes. Hard soles will help her get the hang of walking and protect her delicate baby feet, I was told. But when I started looking into this advice, I actually found the opposite is true: These days, people recommend that babies learning to walk wear soft, flexible shoes, or better yet, go barefoot. The minimalist footwear allows the nascent walkers the most sensory feedback from their sweet little feet as they move across the earth.

I offer the shoe advice as just one tiny glimpse into the life of a parent of a young kid. Over the last year, I’ve come to learn that much of the advice I’ve heard, while well-intentioned, might just be wrong. Or at the very least, questionable. So here are my top five parenting myths (shoes didn’t make the cut), with a little dash of science.

1. Sugar makes kids hyper.

Lots of parents swear that a single hit of birthday cake holds the power to morph their well-behaved, polite youngster into a sticky hot mess that careens around a room while emitting eardrum-piercing shrieks. Anyone who has had the pleasure to attend a 5-year-old’s birthday party knows that the hypothesis sounds reasonable, except that science has found that it’s not true.

Sugar doesn’t change kids’ behavior, a double-blind research study found way back in 1994. A sugary diet didn’t affect behavior or cognitive skills, the researchers report. Sugar does change one important thing, though: parents’ expectations. After hearing that their children had just consumed a big sugar fix, parents were more likely to say their child was hyperactive, even when the big sugar fix was a placebo, another study found.

Of course, there are plenty of good reasons not to feed your kids a bunch of sugar, but fear of a little crazed sugar monster isn’t one of them.

2. Listening to Mozart makes babies smarter.

My colleague Rachel Ehrenberg busted this “Mozart Effect” myth in her 2010 feature. The original observation, that 10 minutes of classical music made college students briefly perform better on a paper-folding task, was twisted so out of context that the governor of Georgia used tax money to buy a classical music CD for every baby born in the state.

Many babies adore music, and there’s evidence that suggests music might help soothe babies. There’s also evidence that playing an instrument might be beneficial to brain development, as Ehrenberg points out. But scientists haven’t found that classical music makes your baby smarter. So play music to your child because she loves it and you love it, not because you’re looking to grub a few extra IQ points.

3. Feeding a baby solid food will help her sleep through the night.

Your baby is waking up in the night? Just put some rice cereal in the last bottle before bed, well-intentioned observers urge. The solid food will fill baby’s tummy and keep her satisfied longer, which translates to fewer wakeups. Except that it doesn’t.

Babies fed rice cereal before bedtime slept no better than babies fed only breast milk or formula, a study found. In fact, early introduction to solid food (before 4 months) has been associated with worse infant sleep.  The magical cure of feeding a baby solids before bedtime belongs at the top of the heaping pile of sleep miracles that sound great but don’t really work. And speaking of rice cereal…

4. Rice cereal is the ideal first food for babies.

Lots of people assumed that Baby V would have bland rice cereal when she was ready to try solid food around four months. But our doctor assured us that there’s no reason to choose it over delectable fruits or veggies such as bananas or avocados. Other foods taste way better than starchy rice cereal, and have some good nutrients and fat, too. Baby V’s doctor urged us to be adventurous with those first tastes and venture beyond the cereal.

For most babies, there’s no reason to wait a long time to introduce foods considered to be at high risk of causing an allergic reaction, the American Academy of Pediatrics now believes. So gradually start rotating in fish, eggs, yogurt and peanut butter anytime after your little one starts eating solids.

5. Sippy cups cause speech problems.

Some innocent Googling about which cup I ought to buy landed me on some awfully frightening websites that urged me to forego the sippy cup. The reasoning goes that sippy cups encourage immature mouth and tongue movements, which stunts the development of muscles needed for clear speech.

The problem is that I haven’t found any studies that back that claim up. (As always, please let me know if I’ve missed something.) Sippy cups can contribute to cavities if babies are allowed to constantly drink milk or juice from them, and sippy cups can injure children if they fall while drinking, but I haven’t seen any data to make the case that moderate sippy cup usage get in the way of normal speech.

Grandmother claims sperm facials are her anti-ageing secret .


From the desk of Zedie.

  • Stella Ralfini says that her key to eternal youth is semen facials
  • Discovered trick in India and has been using it for 30 years
  • Sperm is packed with antioxidants
  • Actress Heather Locklear also a fan

From Kim Kardashian’s vampire facials – which draws her own blood before injecting it back into her face – to Simon Cowell’s beloved sheep placenta facials, there’s some weird and wonderful beauty treatments on the market today.

But one grandmother’s bizarre beauty secret has just gone and trumped them all.

67-year-old Stella Ralfini from London says that her key to eternal youth is semen facials.

Scroll down for video

Bizarre: Speaking in a YouTube video, 67-year-old Stella Ralfini says that her key to eternal youth is semen facials - a tip she picked up on her travels in India

Bizarre: Speaking in a YouTube video, 67-year-old Stella Ralfini says that her key to eternal youth is semen facials – a tip she picked up on her travels in India

‘It’s worth thousands and thousands, but it’s free,’ she explains in a YouTube video.

‘All you need is a lover but if you don’t have one, you know what to do. All you need to do is, every ten days or two weeks, just both have a good time, make sure he has a good time, and when your beautiful love-making session is over, you are going to scoop this amazing sperm mask up in your fingers, put it on your face, leave it for fifteen minutes and wash it off.’

 She goes on: ”I know some of you are thinking “What is she saying?!” but we have to assume that your lover is a healthy clean man and eats wells.

British Stella, who describes herself as an author, life coach, couples counselor and tantric guide, explains that she learned the bizarre anti-ageing trick during her time in India, where she was studying a lovemaking method called Tantra.

Earth dodged a massive magnetic eruption from Sun that could have wreaked havoc – The Times of India

A massive magnetic storm at a speed of 3,000 kilometres per second — enough to circle the Earth five times in one minute – the likes of which has not been seen in the past 150 years — almost hit earth in 2012.

But at it tore through Earth’s orbit, releasing energy equivalent to that of about a billion hydrogen bombs, good fortune prevailed on the blue planet which was placed on the other side of the sun at the time.

Had the eruption come nine days earlier, it would have hit Earth, potentially destroying our electrical grid, disabling satellites and GPS and disrupting our increasingly electronic lives wreaking havoc and “causing fireworks”.

Scientists confirmed on Wednesday that a fierce solar eruption known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs) blasted away from the sun at sent a pulse of magnetized plasma barrelling into space and through Earth’s orbit.

The solar bursts would have enveloped Earth in magnetic fireworks matching the largest magnetic storm ever reported on Earth, the so-called Carrington event of 1859.

The dominant mode of communication at that time, the telegraph system, was knocked out across the United States, literally shocking telegraph operators.

According to University of California, Berkeley and Chinese researchers, Earth dodged the huge magnetic bullet from the sun on July 23, 2012.

The storm was detected by Nasa’s STEREO (Solar Terrestrial Observatory) A spacecraft.

Physicist Ying D Liu, professor at China’s State Key Laboratory of Space Weather and UC Berkeley research physicist Janet G Luhmann said “Had it hit Earth, it probably would have been like the big one in 1859, but the effect today, with our modern technologies, would have been tremendous.”

The storm, if it hit earth would have caused destruction worth $2.6 trillion worldwide.

A considerably smaller event on March 13, 1989, led to the collapse of Canada’s Hydro-Quebec power grid and a resulting loss of electricity to six million people for up to nine hours.

One reason the event was potentially so dangerous, aside from its high speed is that it produced a very long-duration magnetic field.

This orientation drives the largest magnetic storms when they hit Earth because the southward field merges violently with Earth’s northward field in a process called reconnection.

“These gnarly, twisty ropes of magnetic field from coronal mass ejections come blasting from the sun through the ambient solar system, piling up material in front of them and when this double whammy hits Earth, it skews the Earth’s magnetic field to odd directions, dumping energy all around the planet,” Luhmann said.

The goal of STEREO probing the magnetic fields of the sun and Earth is to understand how and why the sun sends out these large solar storms and to be able to predict them during the sun’s 11-year solar cycle. This event was particularly unusual because it happened during a very calm solar period.

Joe Gurman at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center determined that the huge outburst resulted from at least two nearly simultaneous CMEs separated by only 10 to 15 minutes. To date, it has been unclear how extreme space weather storms form and evolve. Developing a better understanding of their causes is vital to protect modern society and its technological infrastructures.

A New Material For Night-Vision Contact Lenses .

Nobody has made night-vision contact lenses yet… but here’s a glimpse at how that technology might work, if it ever comes to be.

University researchers have created a super-light, super-thin material that detects infrared light. Infrared includes the wavelengths of light that, in part, help night-vision goggles see warmer objects in the dark. In the future, a material like this could fit into a number of interesting devices. “It can be stacked on a contact lens or integrated with a cell phone,” lead researcher Zhaohui Zhong said in a statement.

illustration showing the chemical structure of graphene

For now, Zhong and his team’s accomplishment is getting graphene to emit a stronger signal after absorbing infrared light. Graphene—a material composed of a single layer of carbon atoms—is able to absorb a wide spectrum of wavelengths of light, including infrared. Normally, however, graphene absorbs very little of what hits it, producing a weak signal as a result. For any kind of graphene optical device to work, it has to get a strong signal from its graphene detector.

Zhong and a team of three other engineers at the University of Michigan constructed a material consisting of two layers of graphene separated by an insulating layer. That material reacted more strongly to infrared light, producing an electrical field that the team measured to deduce how much infrared was hitting it.

The material worked at room temperature, which is another accomplishment because previous attempts to amp up graphene’s light detection required the graphene to be cooled to far below freezing. It also worked for a wide range of infrared wavelengths.  Infrared detectors in use now are narrower in range, with different materials specializing in detecting near-infrared and mid-infrared wavelengths.

Researchers show how lost sleep leads to lost neurons.

Sleep lossSleep loss is bad for mood and mental processing

Sleep loss may be more serious than previously thought, causing a permanent loss of brain cells, research suggests.

In mice, prolonged lack of sleep led to 25% of certain brain cells dying, according to a study in The Journal of Neuroscience.

If the same is true in humans, it may be futile to try to catch up on missed sleep, say US scientists.

They think it may one day be possible to develop a drug to protect the brain from the side-effects of lost sleep.

The study, published in The Journal of Neuroscience, looked at lab mice that were kept awake to replicate the kind of sleep loss common in modern life, through night shifts or long hours in the office.

“Start Quote

We now have evidence that sleep loss can lead to irreversible injury”

Prof Sigrid VeaseyUniversity of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

A team at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine studied certain brain cells which are involved in keeping the brain alert.

After several days of sleep patterns similar to those followed by night workers – three days of night shifts with only four to five hours sleep in 24 hours – the mice lost 25% of the brain cells, in part of the brain stem.

The researchers say this is the first evidence that sleep loss can lead to a loss of brain cells.

But they add that more work needs to be done to find out if people who miss out on sleep might also be at risk of permanent damage.

Prof Sigrid Veasey of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology, told BBC News: “We now have evidence that sleep loss can lead to irreversible injury.

“This might be in a simple animal but this suggests to us that we are going to have to look very carefully in humans.”

She said the next step was to examine the brains of shift workers after death for evidence of any loss of brain cells.

Office workers for IPC Media work late into the night in the Blue Fin Building in Southwark in 2010
Shift work may have permanent health implications

In the long-term, they think it might be possible to develop a medicine that protects brain cells, by boosting a natural chemical involved in sleep recovery.

Prof Hugh Piggins of the University of Manchester said the experiment indicated in a mouse model of sleep deprivation what might go wrong in the human brain.

“The authors draw parallels with night shift work in humans and suggest how chronic sleep deprivation could adversely affect not only our physical, but also our mental health,” he said.

“This possibility will need to be tested by a lot more research. Nonetheless, it is consistent with many recent reports of importance of circadian clocks and sleep cycles for optimal well-being. “

Half of meat product samples contained DNA of wrong animals, council finds

Leicester survey backs up results from other areas, reinforcing fears of widespread meat contamination and mislabelling
  • Beefburgers being cooked
Officers in Leicester found that nearly half of meat products they sampled contained species of animal that were not declared on the product’s label Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Half of the meat samples tested by a local authority food safety team last year contained species of animals not identified on their labels.

Beefburgers and sausages sampled by Leicester Trading Standards contained undeclared chicken, while samples of lamb curry were found to contain cheaper beef or a mix of beef and lamb or turkey.

Leicester city council is the latest authority to publish results from a targeted survey of meat products on sale in its area in 2013, which shows that gross contamination of meat is widespread.

The findings follow similar results from West Yorkshire, North Yorkshire and West Sussex councils that also found consumers were regularly being misled about the contents of their food.

Minced beef samples were found in Leicester that were a mix of meat from three species; beef, chicken and lamb. Lamb mince samples contained not only lamb but also beef, chicken and turkey. Twelve out of 20 samples of doner kebab meat also failed to meet legal requirements because the species of animals used were misdescribed.

In total, 105 samples of meat products were collected from butchers, retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers, fast food shops and caterers in Leicester and tested by the public analyst. Of these, 50 samples failed to meet legal requirements for composition and labelling, 47 of them because they contained undeclared species of animal.

Leicester council says deliberate deception is likely to be the cause in several cases, while in others failure to clean machines properly between processing batches of different meats may be the explanation.

In 18 samples, meat of an undeclared species was a major ingredient, accounting for levels of between 60% and 100%. The rest of the failed samples tested positive for the presence of at least one type of undeclared meat at medium (30-60%) or minor (5-30%) levels.

One sample returned no DNA result in the tests as the meat ingredient had been so heavily processed it was marked down as denatured.

Last month the Guardian revealed that hundreds of food tests carried out by West Yorkshire councils had also found the routine adulteration of food and drink. Over a third of nearly 900 samples collected in that area were not what they claimed to be or were mislabelled in some way.

The regulator, the Food Standards Agency, which defines any level of DNA of undeclared species of over 1% as “gross adulteration”, said the failure rate found by Leicester and West Yorkshire is higher than the picture overall because its sampling programmes were targeted at categories of produce where problems are already suspected. The overall failure rate for meat in 2013 in local authority testing held by the FSA was 13.5%, it said.

It added: “The Food Standards Agency and Defra are helping target local authority resources through greater central coordination of intelligence, giving additional support for complex investigations, and additional funding. The government has increased support to the national coordinated programme of food sampling by local authorities from £1.6m to £2.2m in 2013-14.”

Leicester city council’s head of regulation, Roman Leszczyszyn said trading standards officers had been encouraged by central government to pursue a policy of intelligence-led enforcement rather than random sampling to “reduce the burden on business and remove unnecessary inspection”.

“That’s led us to look to the Food Standards Agency for intelligence. Meat composition has never come up on our horizon before,” he said.

In line with other authorities, Leicester Trading Standards has seen a steady reduction in resources, with the number of officers employed reduced from 31 in 1997 to 14 currently. Official figures, released in response to a parliamentary question from Labour MP for Bristol East Kerry McCarthy, show that the number of tests carried out by local authorities to check the composition of food roughly halved between 2008-9 and 2012-13. Five years ago 32,600 products were tested to check their composition, but last year just under 17,000 were tested.

Leicester council undertook the sampling programme after the horsemeat scandal when it discovered that lamb burgers being served in local schools and labelled as halal in fact contained undeclared pork DNA. Although its subsequent tests uncovered widespread adulteration with the wrong species, it did not find any other cases of undeclared pork or of horsemeat.

Professor Chris Elliott, who has been commissioned by the government to review the food system in response to the horsemeat scandal, warned that the Leicester results showed takeaways and butchers were still open to deliberate adulteration. “It’s clear that big retailers have put good measures in place now against species substitution but it’s also clear some places are very vulnerable. It is of paramount importance that local authorities conduct regular scrutiny of outlets in their areas,” he said.

In the West Yorkshire findings, illegal examples included mozzarella that was less than half real cheese, ham on pizzas that was either poultry or “meat emulsion” instead of pork, frozen prawns that were 50% water, minced beef adulterated with pork or poultry, fruit juices that contained illegal additives, counterfeit vodka, and a herbal slimming tea that was neither herb nor tea but glucose powder laced with a withdrawn prescription drug for obesity at 13 times the normal dose.