5 Myths About Hygiene, Germs And Cleanliness: Why Sweat Doesn’t Smell and Soap Doesn’t Kill Germs

The good thing is we don’t live in the Middle Ages anymore, when bathing was infrequent and inconvenient. But even though most of us take one to two showers a day these days, like hygiene machines, there are still some really simple things about cleanliness about which most people are unaware. Below are a few of these hygiene misconceptions.

washing hands

Soap Kills Germs

Even though we believe soap to be magically destroying the bacteria on our hands, that’s not exactly what it’s doing. Regular soap actually picks bacteria off the skin’s surface and sends microbes into the flush of water, banishing them down the drain. Unless you’re using anti-bacterial soap, you’re not really killing bacteria at all; you’re just moving them from one place to another.

Washing Your Hair Every Day

This may be more a matter of personal preference, but it’s not essential to wash your hair every day — in fact, it may even be detrimental to your hair. Shampoo strips our hair of natural oils, or sebum, which can be good if it’s done every other day or so. But shampooing every day could leave your hair dry and brittle.

Michelle Hanjani, a dermatologist at Columbia University, told NPR that “[i]f you wash your hair every day, you’re removing the sebum. Then the oil glands compensate by producing more oil.” So if you wash less, your hair will eventually produce less oil. The key is finding a balance — don’t shampoo all the time, but don’t drop it altogether either, greaseball.

Public Toilets are Really Gross

OK, so they are probably relatively dirty, but actually getting sick from the bacteria on them is a rarity. In order to contract an STD, streptococcus, hepatitis A or E. coli from a public toilet seat, you would have to “rub your crotch on the toilet seat in precisely the same place that someone else has previously rubbed [their] contaminated crotch,” Mary Roach writes on Salon. Also, some bacteria can only survive on the surface of the seat for a limited time, so it’s very unlikely that they can cause an infection.

“To my knowledge, no one has ever acquired an STD on the toilet seat — unless they were having sex on the toilet said!” Abigail Salyers, president of the American Society for Microbiology, told WebMD.

Your Sweat is What’s Making You Smell Like BO

This isn’t true! Sweat itself doesn’t have an odor since it’s mostly made up of water, but then where does body odor (B.O.) come from? When you sweat, normal skin bacteria break down the sweat — and these little guys are the ones secreting that smell. To better understand the process, see the video below:

Hand Sanitizer Will Kill ALL the Germs

Recently, research has emerged that antibacterial agents don’t work as well as previously imagined — and on top of that, they could actually promote infections. In December 2013, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it would begin regulating antibacterial products to ensure that they were safe and actually more effective than regular soap. The widespread use of antibacterial products leads to bacterial resistance, which can become a huge problem, especially when bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics.

In addition, one antimicrobial agent known as triclosan has been pinpointed in a recent study as a promoter of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria in nasal passages. Triclosan is often found in common household or cleaning items like kitchen surface cleaners, antibacterial soaps and toothpaste. So regular soap may be the best bet after all.

Girl, 5, has never been to a birthday party because the excitement could kill her .

  • Neve Dandy has a rare and severe form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome
  • Something as simple as a giggling fit can trigger a life-threatening seizure
  • An increase in her body temperature can also cause a seizure
  • As a result, she has to be protected from childhood illnesses
  • This means she cannot go swimming or to play centres


A five-year-old with a rare condition has never had a birthday party or been on holiday – because the excitement could kill her.

Neve Dandy suffers from such a severe form of epilepsy that even a gust of wind or a fit of giggles could trigger a life-threatening seizure.

Her parents say they are living with a ‘ticking time bomb’ because they never know when too much excitement or over exertion could induce a fit.

Neve Dandy (pictured with her mother, Rebecca), five, has a rare and severe form of epilepsy which means something as simple as a giggling fit could trigger a life-threatening seizure

Neve Dandy (pictured with her mother, Rebecca), five, has a rare and severe form of epilepsy which means something as simple as a giggling fit could trigger a life-threatening seizure


Neve rarely attends play dates and can never go swimming with her brother because the risk of over-excitement and infection is too high.

Neve’s condition, called Dravet syndrome, has seen her have seizures lasting up to one-and-a-half-hours and up to 200 electric shock type fits a day.

She is also at high risk of SUDEP (sudden unexplained death in epilepsy) and sleeps with a monitor that warns her parents when her heart rate or oxygen levels change.

Her mother, Rebecca, said: ‘Neve is probably the happiest little girl you will ever come across. She is always smiling and giggling.

‘But it can feel like you are looking after a ticking time bomb as caring for a child with Dravet is very stressful.

‘You never know when the next life-threatening seizure will come, or if a little one will turn into a big one. I feel incredibly grateful every morning when she wakes up and says hello.

Neve's condition is controlled by a special diet which sees her having to be given syringes full of oil and water

Neve’s condition is controlled by a special diet which sees her having to be given syringes full of oil and water


Bright light and wind can also trigger Neve's seizures so she has to wear sunglasses when she goes out and she has to stay inside when it is windy

Bright light and wind can also trigger Neve’s seizures so she has to wear sunglasses when she goes out and she has to stay inside when it is windy


‘We really do have to put a limit on excitement. And even a common virus could lead to a increase in her temperature, which can cause a seizure.

‘It’s quite sad really, always having to tell your child, “don’t laugh too much” or “don’t giggle too much” and telling our son not to make her laugh. It’s really tough.’

Mrs Dandy, and her husband Graham, 40, first noticed something was wrong with Neve when she was just four months old.


Dravet Syndrome is a rare and catastrophic form of epilepsy that begins in infancy.

Children with Dravets tend to have normal development as babies but development starts to plateau when they are in their second year of life.

Individuals with Dravet syndrome face a higher incidence of sudden unexplained death in epilepsy patients (SUDEP).

They often also experience other conditions including developmental delays, sleeping difficulties, chronic infections and difficulty feeding.

There is currently no cure and treatment options are limited – they mainly involve using anti-epilepsy drugs to treat the seizures.

Little is known about the long term prognosis of people with Dravet Syndrome.

As they attended a christening she began to shake in her father’s arms, and when it finally stopped after 25 minutes, she was rushed to hospital.

Neve spent a week in hospital where doctors tested her for a number of different conditions, including meningitis.

But the baffled medics were unable to come up with any explanations, and Neve suffered dozens of other fits before they finally gave her the diagnosis when she was 18 months old.

Dravet syndrome is a rare form epilepsy, with figures suggesting that of every 500 children diagnosed with epilepsy, only two are likely to have the condition.

As it affects many different parts of the brain, there are a number of different triggers for seizures, as opposed to other epilepsies that might only affect one site.

Sufferers can therefore not undergo brain surgery.

A slight change in body temperature due to illness can cause seizures as can overexcitement and overexertion.

Neve also has photosensitive epilepsy so anything that can give a strobe effect, such as screens, light through leaves or through a net, can cause a seizure.

Sufferers never grow out of Dravet syndrome and most will need care their entire lives.

Many also may be on the autism spectrum and be developmentally delayed – often having mobility issues, behavioural problems and difficulty sleeping.

Mrs Dandy, from Windsor, Berkshire, said: ‘Dravet syndrome affects every aspect of Neve’s life, but still she smiles.

‘She is very environmentally sensitive, the wind causes seizures so if it is a windy day she can’t go outside. She has to wear sunglasses whenever she is outside too.

Neve had her first seizure when she was four months old but was not diagnosed until she was 18 months old

Neve had her first seizure when she was four months old but was not diagnosed until she was 18 months old


Neve is unlikely ever to grow out of her epilepsy and her parents say she is like a 'ticking time bomb'

Neve is unlikely ever to grow out of her epilepsy and her parents say she is like a ‘ticking time bomb’


‘She can’t control her body temperature, so I can’t put her in tights for example. She doesn’t tend to go outside over the winter at all. In the summer the heat is even more of a risk.

‘We went through a stage where time on the trampoline would cause seizures or the sunlight through leaves.’

Mr and Mrs Dandy have to be particularly careful when she is around other children or doing fun activities.

‘We are always very careful about germs as even common childhood illnesses can lead to severe seizures. We don’t take her to public swimming baths or soft play centres for this reason,’ said Mrs Dandy.

‘When we do take her swimming somewhere private she goes in for 10 minutes and then it’s out again because she loves it so much that she gets overexcited.’

But the schoolgirl – who was taught at home for two years to avoid infection from other children – is finally getting a taste of normal life, thanks to a special diet.

Mrs Dandy said: 'You never know when the next life-threatening seizure will come, or if a little one will turn into a big one. I feel incredibly grateful every morning when she wakes up and says hello'

Mrs Dandy said: ‘You never know when the next life-threatening seizure will come, or if a little one will turn into a big one. I feel incredibly grateful every morning when she wakes up and says hello’


The eating plan has helped keep her seizures under control.

Neve was in and out of hospital and had four stays in intensive care over 18 months until she started on the ketogenic diet.

The diet alters the body’s chemistry by convincing it that it is starving and is formulated to sustain the state of ketosis within the body.

Forcing the body into a state of ketosis causes a build-up of ketones which in turn act as a kind of sedative, preventing the sudden disturbances in the electrical functioning of the brain that lead to seizure activity.

Full time carer Mrs Dandy added: ‘It has been absolutely brilliant. Neve only had to be rushed to hospital once in the last two years, whereas we went more than 60 times in the first three years.

‘She still has seizures every day but they are small and she copes with them. We haven’t had any bigger ones since February and prior to that we hadn’t had one for nearly two years.

Mrs Dandy says that despite Neve's special diet she still has seizures every day

Mrs Dandy says that despite Neve’s special diet she still has seizures every day


‘Day to day the diet means I weigh every gram of every bit of food that goes into Neve’s mouth.

‘About 75 per cent of what she eats is fat in the form of healthy oils, and we make the rest up with protein, fruits and vegetables – but we even have to give her syringes full of oil.

‘As a result of the diet we’ve managed to wean her off some of her anti-epilepsy drugs, it’s been amazing to get to know our little girl without all the medications and the side effects that they cause.’

‘Caring for a child with Dravet syndrome can be a very lonely and isolating experience because you have to spend so much time at home keeping your child safe,’ she continues, ‘we have a wonderfully supportive charity, Dravet Syndrome UK and I really don’t know what I would have done without all the practical and emotional support from other parents who are going through the same experience.’

Scientists Generate Sperm Precursors From Skin Cells Of Infertile Men .

Scientists have managed to use stem cells derived from the skin of infertile males to produce sperm precursor cells. The study, which has been published in Cell Reports, gives hope that one day scientists may be able to produce sperm that could be used to overcome fertility problems in certain men.

Infertility affects around 10-15% of couples, and mutations on the Y chromosome that affect sperm production are surprisingly common. Specifically, many men have alterations in the gene AZF which can lead to a variety of effects such as the complete absence of sperm or very low sperm counts.

In this particular study, scientists took skin samples from 3 infertile men with mutations in the AZF gene and 2 fertile men as controls. The infertile men did not produce any sperm, a condition known as azoospermia. They then used these skin cells, called dermal fibroblasts, in order to produce induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). iPSCs are cells that possess the ability to turn into virtually any type of cell in the body.

They transplanted these unspecialized iPSCs into a particular part of the testes of mice called the seminiferous tubules, which are where gametes (reproductive cells) are created. They found that the stem cells differentiated into sperm-like precursor cells which were very similar to fetal germ cells. Germ cells are the cells that give rise to gametes. These germ-like cells did not, however, go on to form mature sperm cells, probably because of differences between humans and mice. Another unfortunate observation was that cells that left the tubules went on to form tumors in the mice, which obviously represents a major safety problem.

They also found that the stem cells from the fertile men were better at differentiating into germ cells than those from infertile men, although the fact that the cells from infertile men could produce germ-like cells at all was impressive since AZF mutations sometimes cause a complete absence of germ cells. While it is still certainly early days, this study raises hope that with fine tuning, scientists may eventually be able to develop germ cells that could help men with fertility problems.

This study may also serve as a model that could help to further our knowledge of the formation of sperm cells in the fetus, allowing scientists to understand what happens very early on in development. Future work may focus on replicating this study in more closely related animals, such as nonhuman primates, which could yield more promising results.

DARPA working on brain implants to help restore memory.

Memory loss could soon be a thing of the past. US military researchers say they’re developing a new brain implant that could restore mental faculties. This could bring a new lease of life to millions around the world, but raises ethical concerns.

The project is being developed by the Defense Advanced Research Agency (DARPA), and could help soldiers who have suffered brain injuries during service, or millions of sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease. The program is expected to take around four years to complete and is part of a $100 million program by US President Barak Obama to gain a better understanding of the human brain, according to AFP.

“If you have been injured in the line of duty and you can’t remember your family, we want to be able to restore those kinds of functions,” DARPA program manager Justin Sanchez said this week at a conference in Washington DC, convened by the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas.

He believes that it is possible to develop prosthetic devices, which can interact with the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a key part of the brain, which is used for the consolidation of information, including the short term and long term memory.

However, the ability to manipulate the brain does raise ethical questions. Arthur Caplan, a medical ethicist at New York University’s Langone Medical Center says, “When you fool around with the brain you are fooling around with personal identity. The cost of altering the mind is you risk losing a sense of self, and that is a new kind of risk we never faced.”

In theory, the new technology, if and when it is developed, could alter the personality of a human, with Caplan mentioning that it could make soldiers more violent and callous.

Some progress has already been made on helping to reduce tremors in people who are suffering from Parkinson’s disease and even boosting memory in some patients who have contracted Alzheimer’s. This has been achieved through using a process called deep brain stimulation by sending electrical impulses to specific parts of the brain through a pacemaker.

Robert Hampson, who is an associate professor at Wake Forrest University, who is not connected to the DARPA project, has already tested some memory techniques on animals. His research on rodents and monkeys has shown that neurons in the hippocampus, which processes memory, fire differently when they see red or blue, or a picture of a face versus a type of food.

Using prosthetics designed to stimulate the hippocampus, Hampson was able to extend the short-term, working memory of his subjects. But to restore a human’s specific memory, the associate professor says scientists would need to know the precise pattern for that memory.

The idea is to restore a function back to normal or near normal of the memory processing areas of the brain, so that the person can access their formed memories, and so that they can form new memories as needed,” Hampson concluded.

Scientists develop GPS for DNA.

GPS has changed the way we get around the planet, but an international team of scientists has developed a different kind of GPS — a tool for locating your ancestors, as opposed to yourself. In this case, GPS stands for Geographic Population Structure. It’s a new genetic analysis tool that can scan a subjects DNA and estimate (with a high degree of accuracy) where their ancestors came from a millennia ago.

This technique relies on parsing out so-called genetic admixture, a process by which previously separated populations recombine over time and interbreed. The tool makes estimates about a subject’s genetic origins by using 100,000 DNA signatures as a baseline. The researchers claim the tool is considerably more powerful than previous methods because it uses all 44 diploid autosomal chromosomes, as opposed to the two sex chromosomes.

To demonstrate the effectiveness of GPS, the researchers tested residents of 10 villages in Sardinia. The results of this test placed 25% in the correct village, and the remainder in less than 50km of their true origins. Residents of 20 islands in Oceania were also analyzed using GPS, with 90 being placed on the right island based entirely on their DNA.


It’s actually a remarkably simple tool when you get down to it — GPS is essentially triangulating a person’s geographic origin based on genetic ratios. That’s why it gives an exact location that might be close to, but a few miles away from, a person’s ancestral village. This also means GPS is more useful for individuals who have fairly uniform heritage — someone whose parents were from vastly different backgrounds might be placed in the middle of an ocean. Although, the system offers more data on genetic makeup than the final location.

GPS isn’t just for fun — it has the potential to make medical treatment more specialized. People from a similar geographic area tend to have similar genetic makeups, so different treatments might be preferable based on that. GPS is much quicker and easier than a full genetic workup too. One of the researchers has created a website where you can test GPS by inputting a few data points. A future version will allow users to upload data directly from services like 23andMe to get more accurate results.

What if Everyone in the World Became a Vegetarian?

The meat industry is one of the top contributors to climate change, directly and indirectly producing about 14.5 percent of the world’s anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, and global meat consumption is on the rise. People generally like eating meat—when poor people start making more money, they almost invariably start buying more meat. As the population grows and eats more animal products, the consequences for climate change, pollution, and land use could be catastrophic.

Attempts to reduce meat consumption usually focus on baby steps—Meatless Monday and “vegan before 6,”passable fake chicken, andin vitro burgers. If the world is going to eat less meat, it’s going to have to be coaxed and cajoled into doing it, according to conventional wisdom.

But what if the convincing were the easy part? Suppose everyone in the world voluntarily stopped eating meat, en masse. I know it’s not actually going to happen. But the best-case scenario from a climate perspective would be if all 7 billion of us woke up one day and realized that PETA was right all along. If this collective change of spirit came to pass, like Peter Singer‘s dearest fantasy come true, what would the ramifications be?

At least one research team has run the numbers on what global veganism would mean for the planet. In 2009 researchers from the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency publishedtheir projections of the greenhouse gas consequences if humanity came to eat less meat, no meat, or no animal products at all. The researchers predicted that universal veganism would reduce agriculture-related carbon emissions by 17 percent, methane emissions by 24 percent, and nitrous oxide emissions by 21 percent by 2050. Universal vegetarianism would result in similarly impressive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. What’s more, the Dutch researchers found that worldwide vegetarianism or veganism would achieve these gains at a much lower cost than a purely energy-focused intervention involving carbon taxes and renewable energy technology. The upshot: Universal eschewal of meat wouldn’t single-handedly stave off global warming, but it would go a long way toward mitigating climate change.

The Dutch researchers didn’t take into account what else might happen if everyone gave up meat. “In this scenario study we have ignored possible socio-economic implications such as the effect of health changes on GDP and population numbers,” wrote Elke Stehfest and her colleagues. “We have not analyzed the agro-economic consequences of the dietary changes and its implications; such consequences might not only involve transition costs, but also impacts on land prices. The costs that are associated with this transition might obviously offset some of the gains discussed here.”

Indeed. If the world actually did collectively go vegetarian or vegan over the course of a decade or two, it’s reasonable to think the economy would tank. According to “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” the influential 2006 U.N. report about meat’s devastating environmental effects, livestock production accounts for 1.4 percent of the world’s total GDP. The production and sale of animal products account for 1.3 billion people’s jobs, and 987 million of those people are poor. If demand for meat were to disappear overnight, those people’s livelihoods would disappear, and they would have to find new ways of making money. Now, some of them—like the industrial farmers who grow the corn that currently goes to feed animals on factory farms—would be in a position to adapt by shifting to in-demand plant-based food production. Others, namely the “huge number of people involved in livestock for lack of an alternative, particularly in Africa and Asia,” would probably be out of luck. (Things would be better for the global poor involved in the livestock trade if everyone continued to consume other animal products, such as eggs, milk, and wool, than if everyone decided to go vegan.) As the economy adjusted to the sudden lack of demand for meat products, we would expect to see widespread suffering and social unrest.

A second major ramification of global vegetarianism would be expanses of new land available. Currently, grazing land for ruminants—cows and their kin—accounts for a staggering 26 percent of the world’s ice-free land surface. The Dutch scientists predict that 2.7 billion hectares (about 10.4 million square miles) of that grazing land would be freed up by global vegetarianism, along with 100 million hectares (about 386,000 square miles) of land that’s currently used to grow crops for livestock. Not all of this land would be suitable for humans, but surely it stands to reason that this sudden influx of new territory would make land much cheaper on the whole.

A third major ramification of global vegetarianism would be that the risk of antibiotic-resistant infections would plummet. Currently, the routine use of antibiotics in animal farming to promote weight gain and prevent illness in unsanitary conditions is a major contributor to antibiotic resistance. Last year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that at least 2 million Americans fall ill from antibiotic-resistant pathogens every year and declared that “much of antibiotic use in animals is unnecessary and inappropriate and makes everyone less safe.” The overprescription of antibiotics for humans plays a big role in antibiotic resistance, but eradicating the factory farms from which many antibiotic-resistant bacteria emerge would make it more likely that we could continue to count on antibiotics to cure serious illnesses. (For a sense of what a “post-antibiotics future” would look like, read Maryn McKenna’s amazing article on the topic for Medium and her story about a possible solution for chicken farming in Slate.)

So what would be the result, in an all-vegetarian world, of the combination of widespread unemployment and economic disruption, millions of square miles of available land, and a lowered risk of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea? I can only conclude that people would band together to form communes in order to escape capitalism’s ruthlessness, squat on the former pasture land, and adopt a lifestyle of free love.

I kid. Mostly. It’s easy to get carried away when you’re speculating about unlikely scenarios—and sudden intercontinental vegetarianism is very much an unlikely scenario.

But if the result of a worldwide shift to a plant-based diet sounds like a right-winger’s worst nightmare, it’s worth pointing out that continuing to eat as much meat as we currently do promises to result in a left-winger’s worst nightmare: In a world of untrammeled global warming, where disastrous weather events are routine, global conflicts will increase, only the wealthy will thrive, and the poor will suffer.

Let’s try a middle path. We’re not all going to become vegetarians, but most of us can stop giving our money to factory farms—the biggest and worst offenders, from a pollution and public health perspective. We can eat less meat than we currently do, especially meat from methane-releasing ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats, etc.). Just because a sudden global conversion to vegetarianism would have jarring effects doesn’t mean we can’t gradually reduce our consumption of meat, giving the market time to adjust. We not only can; we must. After all, with the world’s population slated to grow to 9 billion by 2050, we’ll be needing to take some of the 25 percent of the world’s land area back from the cows.

New technology to use body heat to power cellphones .

Scientists have devised new technology which generates electricity from body heat, allowing you to charge electronic devices on the go.

Professor Byung Jin Cho from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in South Korea is leading the team working on a thermoelectric (TE) generator.

The device uses the the small but significant temperature difference between skin and air to create power.

The small and flexible generator, made from glass and fabric, can be used to power up heart monitors, smart glasses and other wearable tech.

“Mobile phones consume high electrical energy compared to electrical sensors. Right now we are trying to make a sample that provides electricity for medical sensors,” Cho said.

“After that, smartphones will be the next application of the TE generator,” Cho added.

The device uses the the small but significant temperature difference between skin and air to create power.

So far only two types of TE generators have been developed, based either on organic or inorganic materials, ‘The Daily Express’ reported.

Cho said his technology, which minimises thermal energy loss but maximises power output, combines the best of both organic and inorganic tech.

“This is quite a revolutionary approach to design a generator. In so doing, we were able to significantly reduce the weight of our generator, which is an essential element for wearable electronics,” Cho added.

Scientists reveal circuitry of fundamental motor circuit

Scientists at the Salk Institute have discovered the developmental source for a key type of neuron that allows animals to walk, a finding that could help pave the way for new therapies for spinal cord injuries or other motor impairments related to disease.

The spinal cord contains a network of neurons that are able to operate largely in an autonomous manner, thus allowing animals to carry out simple rhythmic walking movements with minimal attention—giving us the ability, for example, to walk while talking on the phone. These circuits control properties such as stepping with each foot or pacing the tempo of walking or running.


The researchers, led by Salk professor Martyn Goulding, identified for the first time which neurons in the spinal cord were responsible for controlling a key output of this locomotion circuit, namely the ability to synchronously activate and deactivate opposing muscles to create a smooth bending motion (dubbed flexor-extensor alternation). The findings were published April 2 in Neuron.

Motor circuits in the spinal cord are assembled from six major types of interneurons—cells that interface between nerves descending from the brain and nerves that activate or inhibit muscles. Goulding and his team had previously implicated one class of interneuron, the V1 interneurons, as being a likely key component of the flexor-extensor circuitry. However when V1 interneurons were removed, the team saw that flexor-extensor activity was still intact, leading them to suspect another type of cell was also involved in coordinating this aspect of movement.

Ankle motor neurons (blue) show the inhibitory synaptic contacts (red) on their cell bodies, some of which are derived from V2b interneurons (yellow). Credit: Courtesy of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies

To determine what other interneurons were at play in the flexor-extensor circuit, the team looked for other cells in the spinal cord with properties that were similar to those of the V1 neurons. In doing this they began to focus on another class of neuron, whose function was not known, V2b interneurons. Using a specialized experimental setup that allows one to monitor locomotion in the spinal cord itself, the team saw a synchronous pattern of flexor and extensor activity when V2b interneurons were inactivated along with the V1 interneurons.

The team also showed that this synchronicity led to newborn mice displaying a tetanus-like reaction when the two types of interneurons were inactivated: the limbs froze in one position because they no longer had the push-pull balance of excitation and inhibition that is needed to move.

These findings further confirm the hypothesis put forward over 120 years ago by the Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist, Charles Sherrington, that flexor-extensor alternation is essential for locomotion in all animals that have limbs. He proposed that specialized cells in the spinal cord called switching cells performed this function. After 120 years, Goulding and researchers have now uncovered the identity of these switching cells.

“Our whole motor system is built around flexor-extension; this is the cornerstone component of movement,” says Goulding, holder of Salk’s Frederick W. and Joanna J. Mitchell Chair. “If you really want to understand how animals move you need to understand the contribution of these switching cells.”

With a more thorough understanding of the basic science around how this flexor-extensor circuit works, scientists will be in a better position to, for example, create a system that can reactivate the spinal cord or mimic signals sent from the brain to the .

Catch a train from a skyscraper.

For decades, skyscrapers have served as iconic symbols of national pride or flashy trophies of corporate wealth, reshaping the skyline of the world’s major urban centers. Perhaps in the future, the high-rise superstructures could also help revolutionize the way we travel.

What if trains could scale up and down the exterior of huge skyscrapers to create vertical rail stations?

That, at least, is the fanciful concept behind the Vertical Hyper-Speed Train Hub, a futuristic proposal of two UK-based architects envisaging trains roaring up and down the side of specially-designed skyscrapers nearly as high as the Empire State Building.

Towering above the crowded streets of future metropolises, these giant buildings are designed to minimize the large slices of real estate that major railway terminals occupy by flipping them on their side.

Vertical train stations in London by 2075?
Courtesy Christopher Christophi and Lucas Mazarrasa

The goal, designers Christopher Christophi and Lucas Mazarrasa say, is to free up valuable space in the densely-packed cities of tomorrow, which will be significantly challenged by overcrowding and a sharp drop in public space availability.

“In 60 years’ time, it will be very difficult for governments to find attractive pieces of available land for public use in the heart of megacities,” says Christophi, 27. “Governments will be able to take advantage of such spaces in order to re-adapt the cities’ structure to society needs,” he adds.

How it works

The designer’s vertical station concept calls for a tall cylindrical skyscraper whose small footprint would allow the transformation of the surrounding area into an urban park. Passengers arriving at the tower would use a lift to make their way up into the platform and from there into their carriage, which could accommodate 10 people sat in two rows opposite each other.

The atrium will be the main circulation space for commuters coming to the tower.
Courtesy Christopher Christophi and Lucas Mazarrasa

But, you might wonder by now, how could commuters stay on their feet whilst the train slides in hyper speeds along the huge tower’s façade?

The main idea is that instead of traveling on normal rails beneath, the carriages would be supported by magnetic tracks running up the skyscraper’s exterior. Each carriage proportion is designed as a cubical shape to enable it to function both vertically, when docked, and horizontally, while traveling After the train’s departure, the wagons would pivot like a “Ferris wheel,” allowing commuters to remain in an upright position and enjoy breathtaking views of the city.

Connecting cities

The radical proposal won the designers an Honorable Mention at this year’s eVolo Skyscraper competition, which encouraged people from around the world to propose new ideas for vertical structures of the future.

The designers say the towers, which would be capped off by a rooftop green plaza, are envisioned as individual pieces of infrastructure that could be replicated in cities around the world.

Our conceptual design is based upon utilizing existing and viable technologies that can currently be seen in hyper speed rail networks.
Lucas Mazarrasa, architect

The hope is to connect a new hyper-speed network of underground tunnels and overground routes where superfast trains would cover distances of 300 miles in 30 minutes. This, they claim, would not only save commuting time and simplify the way public transport is being used, but would also help to cut down CO2 emissions by replacing ways of transport powered by fossil fuels.

“Our conceptual design is based upon utilizing existing and viable technologies that can currently be seen in hyper speed rail networks, for example in China,” says Mazarrasa, 29, adding that is a matter of time before we’re able to reach the rail speeds their concept requires.

“The Maglev trains currently travel at 360 miles per hour — this technology by the 2075 will in no doubt move leaps and bounds from what it already is today, making the hyper-speed trains probably the fastest and safest way of transporting goods and people.”

Of course, there are a number of limitations to the project — the proposal deals only with stations designed to accommodate city by city travel, not to mention efficiency issues around loading trains in high volume terminals and connecting train routes.

Yet, like in most futuristic transport proposals, practical details are best to take a back seat for now to allow us to enjoy the thrilling ride — that is, unless you’re afraid of heights.

Scientists Regenerate Leg Muscles With Pig Bladder Tissue .

Five patients who lost large amounts of muscle in their legs were able to grow it back. With the help of pig bladder lining, scientists coaxed stem cells into becoming muscle cells in the patients’ bodies.

Muscle can regenerate after an injury, but not if large amounts are destroyed — such as with military wounds and traumatic accidents. Treatments are limited for these extreme cases of muscle loss, where scar tissue formed to fill in the gap. Stem cells have been shown to work, and these therapies usually follow a similar pattern: take stem cells from the patient, help them develop into the cells of choice, then inject them back.


Now, a University of Pittsburgh team led by Stephen Badylak developed a different kind of stem cell treatment that doesn’t involve taking out and adding back stem cells; rather, the stem cells stay in the body. The technique relies on extracellular matrix (ECM) — the lattice of protein molecules that add structure to living tissue. Once implanted in the body, ECM recruits stem cells to the injury site, where they’re coaxed into becoming muscle cells.


To create thin sheets of biological scaffolding, the team stripped the lining of pig bladders of all their cells — except for collagen, sugars, and structural proteins. Quilts of compressed extracellular matrix sheets are commercially available and commonly used as support to treat herniated abdominal walls and help with breast reconstruction.


After the method was successful in rodents with injured hind limbs, the team moved on to humans who have lost between 58 and 90 percent of their leg muscle. These five men had exhausted their other options, including multiple surgeries. Three were in the military (two were injured during blasts from improvised explosive devices), and the other two were injured in skiing accidents.


The patients had all completed a customized, 12 to 16-week physical therapy program. After they plateaued, and no longer showed signs of improvement for two weeks, the men received the ECM implants. First, the researchers had to surgically remove the scar tissue, and then they sutured in the scaffolding material. After a day or two, each patient returned to their physical therapy regimen for another five to 23 weeks.


As the matrix scaffold degrades, it acts as a homing device, sending out chemicals to recruit stem cells and other progenitor cells to the injury site. Post-treatment physical therapy is crucial because it triggers signals that direct stem cells toward becoming muscle cells, rather than some other kind of cell like fat or cartilage. That’s because mechanical forces tell the recruited stem cells to develop into properly aligned muscle tissue, Badylak explains in a teleconference. “The cells get the idea to say: ‘OK. I get it. I’m supposed to line up this way. I’m supposed to be the type of a cell that can bear weight, or contract,'” he adds. “If that doesn’t happen when they get there, and they don’t get those signals, they can turn into anything else.”


When the cells do mature into muscle cells, they help develop healthy, brand new tissue. In each patient, muscle regrew and were partially restored to their normal appearance. Half a year after surgery, MRI and CT imaging, as well as biopsies, revealed dense tissue at the implantation site. The procedure was considered a success if they improved at least 25 percent in day-to-day activities like walking, taking the stairs, or getting out of a chair. Three of them achieved this, though they all reported an improved quality of life.