Electric eels ‘remotely control prey’

The high voltage discharges – seen here as a red colour – paralyse prey, making it easy to capture, the study sa

A jolt from an electric eel does more than stun its prey, scientists say.

A study, reported in the journal Science, has now shown that eels can use their electric organs to remotely control the fish they hunt.

A researcher from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, found that the electric discharges from eels made the muscles of their prey twitch.

This makes the fish easier to capture either by immobilising it or making it “jump” to show where it’s hiding.

Kenneth Catania, who led the study, set up small aquatic arenas to test the eels’ hunting abilities – putting an eel and an unfortunate fish into the same tank.

Electric eel and fish (c) Kenneth Catania
Electric eels “reach into the nervous system” of their prey

When they spotted their prey, the eels released pulses of electricity that appeared to immobilise the fish.

Further study revealed that the eels’ electric pulses directly activated the nerves that controlled their prey’s muscles.

“When the eel’s pulses slow down – when the eel gets tired at the end of its attack – you see individual fish twitches, with one twitch from every pulse,” said Dr Catania.

“That tells us that the eel is reaching in to the prey’s nervous system, controlling its muscles.”

In further observations of the eels’ hunting strategies, Dr Catania noticed that the hungry creatures would emit pairs of pulses when their potential meal was out of view.

“People had known since 70s that eels give off these pairs of pulses – or doublets – as they explore looking for food,” he said.

“Usually when they’re excited and they know that food is around but can’t find it.

“It actually turns out that this generates very rapid and strong [muscle] contraction.”

This essentially makes the fish “jump” and reveal their whereabouts.

Electric eel (c) Kenneth Catania
Eels are also able to make their prey reveal where they are hiding

“So the eels have an efficient way to induce a massive twitch in their prey.

“You and I couldn’t activate every muscle in our bodies at once, but the eels can do that [remotely] in their prey.

“They can completely immobilise prey or they can make prey move, depending on what they would like to do.”

Other researchers are studying eels at the molecular level, to find out how they and other electric fish have managed to “build” a battery from muscle tissue.

Dr Catania thinks they are “just fascinating animals in their own right”.

“It’s amazing in the first place that they can give off electricity,” he said.

“To use that to control their prey’s nervous system is incredible.”

Old batteries ‘could power slums’

IBM UrJar tester
About 400 million people in India are off grid, and use other sources to get power

Old laptop batteries still have enough life in them to power homes in slums, researchers have said.

An IBM study analysed a sample of discarded batteries and found 70% had enough power to keep an LED light on more than four hours a day for a year.

Researchers said using discarded batteries is cheaper than existing power options, and also helps deal with the mounting e-waste problem.

The concept was trialled in the Indian city of Bangalore this year.

The adapted power packs are expected to prove popular with street vendors, who are not on the electric grid, as well as poor families living in slums.

The research, which comes from IBM’s India-based research team, will be discussed at a conference in San Jose, California, according toTechnology Review from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


The IBM team created what they called an UrJar – a device that uses lithium-ion cells from the old batteries to power low-energy DC devices, such as a light.

The researchers are aiming to help the approximately 400 million people in India who are off grid.

UrJar diagram
The UrJar uses lithium-ion cells from the old batteries to power low-energy DC devices

Options such as solar power are considerably more expensive and logistically more cumbersome at the moment.

If the UrJar, which would last a year, is made in sufficiently large volume, researchers estimate the price per unit at just 600 rupees (about £7).

They conclude: “UrJar has the potential to channel e-waste towards the alleviation of energy poverty, thus simultaneously providing a sustainable solution for both problems.”

Feedback from the trial was positive, the team said. Among the improvements suggested by users was a call for rat-resistant wires.


E-waste is a major problem, particularly in the developing world, where the majority of the West’s unwanted technology ends up.

IBM’s research said 142,000 computers are thrown away in the US daily – around 50 million a year.

India’s predicament is particularly urgent. Not only does the country receive a lot of e-waste from other countries, but with a booming IT market it is also generating huge amounts of its own – around 32 tonnes a day, according to one estimate.

Computer Aid, a UK-based charity that redistributes unwanted old technology, welcomed the initiative.

“We think that this is an excellent initiative as it is in line with our practice of reusing and refurbishing rather than recycling,” said Keith Sonnet, its chief executive.

“Refurbishing has definitely a more positive impact on the environment and we should encourage more companies to adopt this practice.”

Rare insect found only in glacier national park imperiled by melting glaciers

The persistence of an already rare aquatic insect, the western glacier stonefly, is being imperiled by the loss of glaciers and increased stream temperatures due to climate warming in mountain ecosystems, according to a new study released in Freshwater Science.

In the study, scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey, Bucknell University, and the University of Montana illustrate the shrinking habitat of the western glacier stonefly (Zapada glacier) associated with glacial recession using data spanning from 1960 – 2012. The western glacier stonefly is only found in Glacier National Park and was first identified in streams there in 1963.

In a two year period beginning in 2011, scientists resampled six streams throughout the stonefly’s historical range and, using species identification and genetic analysis, found the western glacier stonefly in only one previously occupied stream and in two new locations at higher elevations.

For scientists, the concern is not just about this single species, since the stonefly is representative of an entire, unique ecosystem.

“Many are considered vulnerable to climate change because they are cold water dependent and confined to mountaintop streams immediately below melting glaciers and permanent snowfields,” said Joe Giersch, project leader and USGS scientist. “Few studies have documented changes in distributions associated with temperature warming and glacial recession, and this is the first to do so for an aquatic species in the Rockies.”

The glaciers in Glacier National Park are predicted to disappear by 2030 and the western glacier stonefly is responding by retreating upstream in search of higher, cooler alpine stream habitats directly downstream of disappearing glaciers, permanent snowfields and springs in the park.

The rare western glacier stonefly (Zapada glacier) is native to Glacier National Park and is seeking habitat at higher elevations due to warming stream temperature and glacier loss due to climate warming. Credit: United States Geological Survey

“Soon there will be nowhere left for the stonefly to go,” said Giersch.

USGS conducted this US FWS-funded research, in part, because the stonefly was petitioned for inclusion under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, and more information was needed on its status and distribution to make that determination.

A spring fed stream in the Two-Medicine drainage of Glacier National Park is one of 2 new locations for the western glacier stonefly (Zapada glacier). Credit: United States Geological Survey

“There are a handful of other coldwater dependent alpine aquatic species here in Glacier that are at risk of extinction due to the loss of permanent snow and ice. Under a warming climate, the biodiversity of unique aquatic alpine species – not just in Glacier, but worldwide – is threatened, and warrants further study,” said Giersch.

Find out why a vitamin K deficiency threatens bone and heart health

Globally speaking, osteoporosis causes more than 8.9 million fractures annually – affecting about 200 million women with an osteoporotic fracture every 3 seconds! Yet, most women are never told that a vitamin K deficiency can cause weakening of the bones, chronic inflammation plus a host of degenerative diseases.

Learn the secrets to avoiding heart disease and osteoporosis. On the next NaturalNews Talk Hour, Jonathan Landsman and Dr. Kate Rheaume-Bleue talk about the risks associated with popular nutritional supplements; why vitamin K2 is crucial for optimal health plus many other lifesaving tips – which have been ignored by science for over 70 years!

vitamin K

Cardiovascular disease (CVD), the leading cause of death around the world, claims the lives of over 17 million people per year. According to the World Health Organization, “cardiovascular diseases can be prevented” – yet they fail to mention that vitamin K deficiency is connected to CVD.

“When we’re lacking K2, we’re at much greater risk for osteoporosis, heart disease, and cancer. And these are three concerns that used to be relatively rare. Over the last 100 years, as we’ve changed the way we produced our food and the way we eat, they have become very common.”
– Dr. Kate Rheaume-Bleue

The most misunderstood vitamin on the planet

Vitamin K is often touted as the “blood clotting” vitamin – but this is where the confusion begins. Blood clotting only comes from vitamin K1, technically called phylloquinone, which is easily found in our diet by eating dark, leafy green vegetables. Vitamin K2, technically called menaquinone and largely ignored by conventional medicine, is responsible for moving calcium around in the body.

The significance of vitamin K2 can NOT be overemphasized. If you want stronger bones (which need calcium) and clear, healthy arteries (which do NOT need excess calcium deposits) – then you need to avoid a vitamin K2 deficiency.

On the next NaturalNews Talk Hour, Jonathan Landsman and Dr. Kate talk about how vitamin K2 is crucial for optimal health – especially if you’re taking calcium or vitamin D supplements. Do NOT miss this lifesaving program.

Visit: http://www.naturalhealth365.com and enter your email address for show details + FREE gifts!

Health alert: Read carefully if you’re taking vitamin D or calcium supplements

Unfortunately, thanks to modern living conditions, vitamin D deficiency has reached epidemic levels in our society due to inadequate sunlight exposure. Dr. Kate says:

“When you take vitamin D, your body creates more of these vitamin K2-dependent proteins, the proteins that will move the calcium around. They have a lot of potential health benefits. But until the K2 comes in to activate those proteins, those benefits aren’t realized. So, really, if you’re taking vitamin D, you’re creating an increased demand for K2. And vitamin D and K2 work together to strengthen your bones and improve your hearthealth.”

Are you taking calcium supplements? Watch out because you could be increasing your risk of a heart attack or stroke. Dr. Kate points out:

“… For so long, we’ve been told to take calcium for osteoporosis… and vitamin D, which we know is helpful. But then, more studies are coming out showing that increased calcium intake is causing more heart attacks and strokes. That created a lot of confusion around whether calcium is safe or not. But that’s the wrong question to be asking, because we’ll never properly understand the health benefits of calcium or vitamin D, unless we take into consideration K2. That’s what keeps the calcium in its right place.”

On the next NaturalNews Talk Hour, you’ll learn about the health benefits of vitamin K2; why vitamin K2 is missing in our diet; the best supplements to take plus much more. If you’re a healthcare provider – you’re going to LOVE this program.

This week’s guest: Dr. Kate Rheaume-Bleue, naturopathic doctor and vitamin K expert

Learn how to maintain strong bones and a healthy heart – Sun. Dec. 7

Kate Rheaume-Bleue (RAY-OME BLOO) is a licensed primary care naturopathic physician and author. A former faculty member at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, Dr. Kate is a renowned expert in the field of natural health and speaks internationally on many topics related to natural medicine.

Dr. Kate is the author of the book, “Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox: How a Little Known Vitamin Could Save Your Life” and is a widely sought-after public health speaker. A frequent guest on radio and television, Dr. Kate is a leading authority on the topic of vitamin K2 and natural disease prevention strategies.

Are you deficient in vitamin K2? If you’re like most Americans, the answer is yes – especially if you suffer with osteoporosis, heart disease, diabetes or cancer. On the next NaturalNews Talk Hour, you’ll learn about the difference between vitamin K1 and K2; the ‘calcium paradox’ and the vitamin D problem that’s largely ignored by mainstream medicine.

Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/047885_vitamin_k_bone_health_dr_kate_rheaume-bleue.html#ixzz3L81QzBWU

Cerebral oxygenation in elite Kenyan athletes

The Journal of Applied Physiology has published an article by Jordan Santos-Concejero of the Faculty of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences of the University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU), and entitled `Maintained cerebral oxygenation during maximal self-paced exercise in elite Kenyan runners’. This is a pioneering study in the world of the physiology of exercise, given that it describes for the first time that elite Kenyan athletes have greater brain oxygenation during periods of maximum physical effort, and which contributes to their success in long-distance races.

Doctor Jordan Santos-Concejero, of the Department of Physical Education and Sport at the UPV/EHU, carried out research the aim of which was to analyse the response of cerebral oxygenation at maximum and progressive rhythms amongst elite Kenyan runners from the Kalenjin tribe. These results were presented to the scientific community at the European Congress of Sport Science in Amsterdam in July past, and entered for the Young Investigator Award, and which have been now published by the Journal of Applied Physiology. The research shows that the Kenyan runners are able to maintain their cerebral oxygenation within a stable range, which may contribute to their success in long-distance races.

The trials were undertaken at the laboratories of the Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine in Cape Town University and the University of Stellenbosch (both in South Africa). A sample of 15 elite Kenyan runners was selected, all from the Kalenjin tribe, and each with achievements in the Half Marathon of between 1.01 and 1.03. The cerebral oxygenation was studied during the exercise (basically changes in oxyhaemoglobin, deoxyhaemoglobin, blood flow, arterial saturation, and so on) using NiRS (Near-infrared Spectroscopy) and oximetry readings during a maximum trial of 5 kilometres and a maximum incremental test.

“Contrary to all that published in the literature,” explained doctor Santos-Concejero, “we can see that the Kenyans were capable of maintaining their oxygenation in a stable manner during the 5 kilometre trial, with implications for the athletes’ performance.”

Brain activity

It has been observed that, when cerebral oxygenation in the prefrontal lobule falls, the neural activity in this zone also drops. This zone is closely linked to the control of movement and to decision-making, and it has thus been put forward that this reduction in neuronal activity may explain the drop in performance observed amongst European athletes, on cerebral oxygenation reducing. Given that, with the Kenyan athletes, this reduction does not occur, “we believe that the neuronal activation in the prefrontal lobule is not compromised and perhaps this capacity of maintaining their cerebral oxygenation in a stable way may contribute to their great performance in long-distance trials,” explained the UPV/EHU teacher.

The research also focused on the possible causes of this particularity of African athletes, attributing their stable cerebral oxygenation during maximum effort to early lifestyle factors such as the prenatal exposure to high altitudes and the high levels of physical activity during childhood. “The prenatal exposure to high altitudes has protector effects on the fetus, greater blood flow to the uterine artery, which may involve greater cardiopulmonary capacity in adulthood and, consequently, less incidence of arterial desaturation during high-intensity exercises,” concluded the research.

Also, the undertaking of physical exercise regularly during childhood implies benefits such as increase in ventricular mass and motor coordination, lower levels of cytokines and, most importantly, greater neural growth as a consequence of the greater vascularization of the encephalus. “This last point may partially explain why their cerebral oxygenation is maintained during periods of maximum effort,” stated Jordan Santos-Concejero.


CDC issues flu vaccine apology: this year’s vaccine doesn’t work!

The following video from Gary Franchi of NextNewsNetwork reveals the shocking admission by the CDC that this year’s flu vaccine doesn’t work.


video URL:https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=M6cVeHUvlmY

For the first time we can remember, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are going on the record, saying the flu vaccine won’t work this year. The warning comes just before the busiest part of flu season, in January and February. Unfortunately, there won’t be any refund for any of the patients or insurance companies who spent money on flu shots earlier this fall.

But don’t worry. Just when you thought perhaps the CDC could boost their credibility, they found a way to put a sales pitch on the end of their warning. The CDC says if you do come down with the flu, there’s a cure. It’s just going to cost more money. Money that will end up profiting pharmaceutical giants, GlaxoSmithKline and Roche. CDC officials are urging doctors to prescribe two specific antiviral medications for any patients who come in with flu symptoms.

Just last week, the CDC issued a warning, prompting Americans to take the flu vaccine if they haven’t already. Health officials said they had 160 million flu shots on the shelves and ready to go. But just earlier this week, Italy launched an official investigation after about a dozen people died within 48 hours of getting the flu shot. Their national health agency issued an immediate warning, saying DON’T take the vaccine. Here in America, the CDC isn’t going that far. In fact, they found a way of turning this failed vaccine into a promotion for yet another big pharma drug.

And here’s an original laboratory research report from Natural News earlier this year. I personally conducted the ICP-MS heavy metals analysis of these flu vaccines and have the raw count data to prove it. Mercury particle counts at atomic masses 200, 201 and 202 were through the roof on these laboratory tests.

Don’t you find it astonishing that it takes a private ICP-MS laboratory with no ties to government funding, universities or the FDA to finally test flu vaccines and report the truth? (To my knowledge, Natural News is the only news organization in the world that owns a cutting-edge private mass spectrometry instrument and uses it for scientific research in the public interest…)

Flashback: Flu vaccines laboratory confirmed to contain crazy high concentrations of mercury

Mercury tests conducted on vaccines at the Natural News Forensic Food Lab have revealed a shockingly high level of toxic mercury in an influenza vaccine (flu shot) made by GlaxoSmithKline (lot #9H2GX). Tests conducted via ICP-MS document mercury in the Flulaval vaccine at a shocking 51 parts per million, or over 25,000 times higher than the maximum contaminant level of inorganic mercury in drinking water set by the EPA.(1)

The tests were conducted via ICP-MS using a 4-point mercury calibration curve for accuracy. Even then, the extremely high level of mercury found in this flu shot was higher than anything we’ve ever tested, including tuna and ocean fish which are known for high mercury contamination.

In fact, the concentration of mercury found in this GSK flu shot was 100 times higher than the highest level of mercury we’ve ever tested in contaminated fish. And yet vaccines are injected directly into the body, making them many times more toxic than anything ingested orally. As my previous research into foods has already documented, mercury consumed orally is easily blocked by eating common foods like strawberries or peanut butter, both of which bind with and capture about 90% of dietary mercury.

Here are the actual results of what we found in the influenza vaccine from GSK (lot #9H2GX):

Aluminum: 0.4 ppm
Arsenic: zero
Cadmium: zero
Lead: zero
Mercury: 51 ppm

All tests were conducted via calibrated, high-end ICP-MS instrumentation as shown in these lab videos.

Doctors, pharmacists and mainstream media continue to lie about mercury in vaccines

As you take in the scientifically-validated fact that mercury exists at very high concentrations in flu vaccines, keep in mind that most doctors, pharmacists and members of the mainstream media continue to stage an elaborate lie that claims mercury has “already been removed from vaccines.”

Never mind the fact that the use of mercury is admitted right on the package containing the vaccine vial. And now, Natural News has scientifically confirmed the mercury content of flu vaccines using high-end laboratory instrumentation. The existence of high mercury in flu shots is irrefutable.

Anyone who claims mercury has been removed from all vaccines is either wildly ignorant or willfully lying. And anyone who would knowingly allow themselves to be injected with mercury is probably already a victim of the kind of brain damage well known to be caused by mercury.

Insert admits “no controlled trials”

Shockingly, the package insert for this flu shot readily admits the vaccine has never been subjected to scientific clinical trials:

“There have been no controlled trials adequately demonstrating a decrease in influenza disease after vaccination with Flulaval,” the package insert claims in tiny text (that no one reads).

This is printed right on the insert, yet no one in the mainstream media will ever report this astonishing admission. This statement, all by itself, is a confession that flu shot marketing is a fraud.

Across the board, flu shots are heavily propagandized and promoted with the implication that they have zero risks while offering 100% protection. No one in the mainstream media ever questions this claim even though the package insert openly admits the claim is complete hokum and has never been subjected to scientific scrutiny.

No evidence of safety or effectiveness in pregnant women

But that’s not all the insert admits. It also says:

“Safety and effectiveness of Flulaval have not been established in pregnant women, nursing mothers or children.”

And yet everywhere you go in America, there’s a Walgreens, CVS or Wal-Mart pharmacy promoting flu shots for pregnant women. Never mind the fact that flu shot safety has never been established in pregnant women, and never mind the obvious fact that you should never inject a pregnant women with mercury in the first place!

Who needs scientific proof when you’ve got the full propaganda of the media and the government to back you up? Anyone who dares question the scientific validity of flu shot safety for pregnant women is immediately attacked as being an opponent of all vaccines.

Apparently, the only requirement to be accepted by the vaccine community is to believe in medical fairy tales while abandoning all critical thinking and scientific skepticism. In the vaccine industry, genuine science is simply not allowed. No wonder two former Merck virologists filed a False Claims Act with the federal government, accusing the company of knowingly fabricating its vaccine efficacy data to trick the FDA.

Never proven safe or effective in children, either

Flu shots are heavily promoted for children, right alongside mumps and measles vaccines. But it turns out flu shots are never scientifically tested for safety or efficacy in children.

Check out what the insert for this vaccine directly admits:

“Safety and effectiveness of Flulaval in pediatric patients have not been established.”

It’s right there in black and white… an open admission. Yet flu shots are aggressively marketed to parents and children as if they were Tic-Tacs. The real beauty of the entire vaccine industry scam is that no scientific evidence is required! You don’t have to have any proof, all you have to do is believe in vaccines as a matter of faith.

Never tested for cancer risk

Do flu shots cause cancer? The honest, scientific answer is that these shots are never tested for that. As the insert readily admits:

“Flulaval has not been evaluated for carcinogenic or mutagenic potential, or for impairment of fertility.”

Believe it or not, the Flulaval vaccine also warns that no one should be given this shot if they’ve already received another flu shot at some previous time:

“Do not administer Flulaval to anyone… following previous administration of any influenza vaccine.”

And yet, amazingly, people are encouraged to get flu shots year after year, even though the package insert directly warns against anyone taking a series of influenza vaccines.

Admission that flu shots contain formaldehyde and sodium deoxycholate

The same insert that admits this vaccine has never been proven safe in children or pregnant women also openly admits that it contains neurotoxic chemicals.

Per the insert, each dose of Flulaval contains up to 25 mcg of formaldehyde (a neurotoxin) and up to 50 mcg of sodium deoxycholate.

This is on top of the 25 mcg of mercury you’ll get in every dose. And remember, this is mercury that’s injected directly into your body, so you absorb 100% of this mercury (unlike mercury you eat, where most of it sticks to food fibers and is transported out of your body).

Total admission that flu shots cause seizures, convulsions and Guillian-Barre syndrome

Ever wonder what all these toxic chemicals and heavy metals cause in humans? Flu shots vaccines, it turns out, are already known to cause a huge number of devastating health effects.

Predictably, there is a massive disinfo campaign across the mainstream media, Wikipedia, medical journals and government propaganda agencies (CDC, FDA, etc.) to pretend that flu shots have no risks whatsoever. Yet the insert that comes with the vaccine openly admits the flu shot has been linked with a long, frightening list of serious adverse effects. As this Flulaval insert says (see photo below):

“In addition to reports in clinical trials, the following adverse events have been identified during postapproval use of Flulaval…

chest pain
allergic edema of the mouth
muscle weakness
Guillian-Barre syndrome
convulsions / seizures
facial or cranial nerve paralysis
limb paralysis

If you take flu shots, you are being poisoned by quacks

The upshot of all this is that flu shots utterly lack any scientific evidence of safety of efficacy. We don’t know if they work at all, in other words, and neither does the vaccine manufacturer. Neither do the doctors or medical staff who administer them. Flu vaccines are injected into people purely as a matter of blind faith in the very same companies that have already been convicted of felony crimes.

GlaxoSmithKline, for example, not only manufacturers this Flulaval vaccine… the company also committed multiple felony crimes and got caught bribing doctors, ultimately agreeing to pay a multi-billion-dollar criminal settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Trusting a flu shot made by a corporation of felons is a lot like trusting the purity of heroin you buy from a street dealer. Both flu shots and street heroin have at least one thing in common, by the way: neither has ever been tested for safety.

We also know that flu shots contain neurotoxic chemicals and heavy metals in alarming concentrations. This is irrefutable scientific fact. We also know that there is no “safe” form of mercury just like there is no safe form of heroin — all forms of mercury are highly toxic when injected into the body (ethyl, methyl, organic, inorganic).

The only people who argue with this are those who are already mercury poisoned and thus incapable of rational thought. Mercury damages brain function, you see, which is exactly what causes some people to be tricked into thinking vaccines are safe and effective.

Technically, you’d have to be stupid to believe such a thing, as the vaccine insert directly tells you precisely the opposite.

Share this story, spread the truth

Share this story with everyone who needs to know the truth about flu vaccines. This message needs to get out. Every fact stated in this article is 100% true and verified. The quotes from the Flulaval package insert are on-the-record statements from GlaxoSmithKline.

And for the record, I am not an opponent of the theory of vaccination. What I’m against is the continued use of toxic heavy metals and chemicals in vaccines. I’m also opposed to the wildly fraudulent marketing of vaccines. If any other product were marketed with the same lies and deceptions as vaccines, they would be immediately charged with fraud and misrepresentation by the FTC. But somehow when the vaccine industry commits routine fraud, everybody pretends it isn’t happening.

Even with all the marketing fraud taking place, if the vaccine manufacturers would stop poisoning the population with vaccine additives (by removing mercury, formaldehyde and other chemicals from their products), nearly all opposition to vaccines would rapidly disappear.

Sources for this story include:
(1) http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basi…
(2) http://vaccines.naturalnews.com

Scientists chart spinal circuitry responsible for chronic pain

Pain typically has a clear cause–but not always. When a person touches something hot or bumps into a sharp object, it’s no surprise that it hurts. But for people with certain chronic pain disorders, including fibromyalgia and phantom limb pain, a gentle caress can result in agony.

In a major breakthrough, a team led by researchers at the Salk Institute and Harvard Medical School have identified an important neural mechanism in the spinal cord that appears to be capable of sending erroneous pain signals to the brain.

By charting the spinal circuits that process and transmit pain signals in mice, the study, published online November 20, 2014 in Cell, lays the groundwork for identifying ways to treat pain disorders that have no clear physical cause.

“Until now, the circuitry involved in processing pain has remained a black box,” says Martyn Goulding, Salk professor in the Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory and a co-senior author of the paper. “Identifying the neurons that make up these circuits is the first step in understanding how stems from dysfunctional neural processing.”

In many instances, people who suffer from chronic pain are sensitive to stimuli that don’t normally cause pain, such as a light touch to the hand or a subtle change in skin temperature. These conditions, referred to generally as forms of allodynia, include and nerve damage that is caused by diseases such as diabetes, cancer and autoimmune disorders.

Dopamine helps with math rules as well as mood

The chemical messenger dopamine – otherwise known as the happiness hormone – is important not only for motivation and motor skills. It seems it can also help neurons with difficult cognitive tasks. Torben Ott, Simon Jacob and Professor Andreas Nieder of Tübingen’s Institute for Neurobiology have demonstrated for the first time how dopamine influences brain cells while processing rules. You can read the study in full in the early online edition of Neuron.

The effects of dopamine become very clear when the brain gets too little of it, as is the case with Parkinson’s disease. A dopamine imbalance leads to varied neurological disruptions – particularly movement – but also mental abilities. Our key cognitive center, the prefrontal cortex, which we use for abstract thought, rule-based decisions and logical conclusions, is intensively supplied with dopamine. Despite its major medical significance, we know little about dopamine’s effects on information processing by neurons in the healthy brain.

To test this, the researchers trained rhesus monkeys to solve “greater than” and “less than” math problems. From other recent studies, the researchers knew that certain neurons in the prefrontal cortex answer such questions – one half of these “rule cells” was only activated when the “greater than” rule applied, and the other half was only activated when the “less than” rule applied.

Meanwhile, physiologically small amounts of various substances were being discharged near the relevant cells. These substances can have the same effect as dopamine – or the opposite effect – and could be adsorbed by dopamine-sensitive neurons. The surprising result was that stimulation of the allowed the “rule cells” to perform better and to more clearly distinguish between the “greater than” and “less than” rules. Dopamine had a positive effect on the “rule cells'” quality of work.

The study provides new insight into how dopamine influences abstract thought processes needed, for instance, to apply simple mathematical rules. “With these findings, we are just starting to understand how nerve cells in the prefrontal cortex produce complex, goal-directed behavior,” says Ott. Along with a better understanding of the foundations of in this important part of the brain, the results could have medical significance. “These new insights help us to better interpret the effects of certain medicines which may be used for instance in cases of severe psychological disturbance,” says Professor Nieder, “because such medications influence the balance in the in ways we do not understand well to date.”

Wireless nanorod-nanotube film enables light stimulation of blind retina

Scientists have developed a new light-sensitive film that could one day form the basis of a prosthetic retina to help people suffering from retinal damage or degeneration. Hebrew University of Jerusalem researchers collaborated with colleagues from Tel Aviv University and Newcastle University in the research, which was published in the journal Nano Letters (“Semiconductor Nanorod–Carbon Nanotube Biomimetic Films for Wire-Free Photostimulation of Blind Retinas”).
Carbon nanotube-semiconductor nanocrystals film for light stimulation of the retina
Carbon nanotube-semiconductor nanocrystals film for light stimulation of the retina. Absorption of light by semiconductor nanorods attached to carbon nanotube film (upper right) results in retina stimulation (upper left).
The retina is a thin layer of tissue at the inner surface of the eye. Composed of light-sensitive nerve cells, it converts images to electrical impulses and sends them to the brain. Damage to the retina from macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa and other conditions can reduce vision or cause total blindness. In the United States alone, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects as many as 15 million Americans, with over 200,000 new cases diagnosed every year.
Scientists are currently designing a variety of medical devices to counter the effects of retinal disorders by sending visual signals to the brain. But these silicon-chip based solutions are typically hampered by their size, use of rigid parts, or requirement of external wiring such as to energy sources.
In the new study, Hebrew University researchers collaborated with colleagues from Tel Aviv University and Newcastle University to develop a novel approach for retina stimulation. Their device absorbs light and stimulates neurons without using wires or external power sources.
The Hebrew University researchers are Prof. Uri Banin, the Alfred & Erica Larisch Memorial Chair in Solar Energy, and his graduate student Nir Waiskopf, at the Institute of Chemistry and the Harvey M. Krueger Family Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology.
The researchers combined semiconductor nanorods and carbon nanotubes to create a wireless, light-sensitive, flexible implantable film. The film transforms visual cues to electric signals, mimicking the function of the photo-sensitive cells in the retina. Therefore, it could potentially form part of a future prosthetic device that will replace the damaged cells in the retina.
The researchers tested the new device on light-insensitive retinas from embryonic chicks and observed a neuronal response triggered by light.
According to the researchers, the new device is compact, capable of higher resolution than previous designs, and is also more effective at stimulating neurons. While much work remains until this can provide a practical solution, with additional research the researchers hope their carbon nanotube-semiconductor nanocrystals film will one day effectively replace damaged retinas in humans.
Prof. Uri Banin of the Hebrew University said: “This is a pioneering work demonstrating the use of highly tailored semiconductor nanocrystals in activation of biomedical functionalities. We hope this can lead to future implementation of this approach in retinal implants.”
The researchers received funding from the Israel Ministry of Science and Technology, the European Research Council and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.
Source: Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Read more: Wireless nanorod-nanotube film enables light stimulation of blind retina

Seeing is believing in nanotechnology

It could take a few years to perfect, but artificial sight is just a matter of time, says a Hebrew University researcher

Rendering of how the  light-sensitive film system works in the eye (Credit: Courtesy)

Israeli scientists, together with researchers in the UK, are working on perfecting a technique that could one day form the basis of a prosthetic retina to help people suffering from eye damage or degeneration.

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Using nanotechnology, the light-sensitive film, composed of nerve cells, converts images to electrical impulses and sends them to the brain, where they get converted back into images — shapes and shadows, at minimum — that are then transmitted to the optic nerve, which then “sees” what the eye is looking at.
“It’s like seeing from the inside what you can’t see from the outside,” said Nir Waiskopf, a Hebrew University graduate student working with research leader Professor Uri Banin on the project.

The research was published in the industry publication Nano Letters.

What is special about the technology, developed by the Hebrew University scientists with colleagues from Tel Aviv University and Newcastle University in the UK, is that the input mechanism – the device that lets blind users “see” – goes into the eye itself.

“Our system is the first one that doesn’t require external equipment,” Wasikopf said. “The film is implanted in the eye, and using nanotechnology it processes what the eye is looking at and converts it into an image that is sent to the optic nerve.”

The most advanced of the currently available artificial vision systems is the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System, approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. This system restores some functional vision for people suffering from blindness, according to its maker, Second Sight Systems.

While the principles of how the Argus works are similar to the ones used by the one being developed by Hebrew University, the process of how the images get into the brain and to the optical nerve is different.

The Hebrew university-developed system combines semiconductor nanorods and carbon nanotubes to create a wireless, light-sensitive, flexible implantable film. The film transforms visual cues to electric signals, mimicking the function of the photo-sensitive cells in the retina. Essentially, the film is a stand-in for the retina, taking over its functions and operating in the same manner that a working retina would, with the imaging processing done on the film using nanotechnology.

It looks good on paper, and so far, the animal experiments conducted by the team have been successful, according to Waiskopf, but much work remains until this can provide a practical solution, he stressed.

“We have a lot of hurdles to jump, starting with testing in humans, and it could be a long time – maybe five years or more – before we get FDA approval for this. But I’m hopeful that we will be able to cut that timeframe down.”
The experiments so far have concentrated on providing images that indicate shape and size, and light and darkness. Like with the Argus system, the university-developed film does not restore sight artificially in the way people who can see understand it – at least not yet.

“Because we are experimenting on animals who cannot tell us what they are seeing, we can’t really be sure how well it is working,” Wasikopf said.

That it is working at all is indicated by the reactions of animals, who respond to light when outfitted with the film, when they previously were unable to. “But we won’t really get answers about resolution and depth until we try it out on people,” he said.

Wasikopf, however, is optimistic about the prospects for the system.

“Because we are using nanotechnology to accomplish this, we will be able to use different nanoparticles on the film in order to stimulate different responses. For example, we could use nanoparticles that are sensitive to different colors and have a mechanism to ‘mix’ the colors, allowing the user to ‘see’ in color,” which no system currently available is capable of,” he explained.

The team’s research shows that the system already provides more light sensitivity than camera-based systems. “We are constantly optimizing it, so we expect results to continue to improve,” Wasikopf added.

According to the researchers, the new device is compact, capable of higher resolution than previous designs, and is also more effective at stimulating neurons. While much work remains, researchers hope their carbon nanotube-semiconductor nanocrystals film will one day effectively replace damaged retinas in humans.

“This is pioneering work,” said Prof. Banin. “We hope this can lead to future implementation of this approach in retinal implants.”