Here’s why you’re going grey, according to science .


Most of us find our first ‘greys’ by the time we turn 30, usually at the temples, then later, across the scalp. While many people find the salt and pepper look appealing, others go to great lengths to conceal these locks.

The grey hair ‘rule of thumb’ is that by the age of 50, half of the population have lost the colour in 50 percent of their hair. When researchers tested this rule, they foundthat 74 percent of people aged between 45 and 65 had grey hair, with an average intensity of 27 percent.

Generally, men have more grey hair than women. Asians and Africans have less grey hair than Caucasians.

What determines the colour of hair?

Hair colour is produced by cells known as melanocytes, which migrate into the hair bulb as the hair follicles develop in utero. The melanocytes produce pigment that is incorporated into the growing hair fibres to produce hair in a bewildering array of natural shades.

Hair colour depends on the presence and ratios of two groups of melanins: eumelanins (brown and black pigments) and pheomelanins (red and yellow pigments). While variations in the ratio of these pigments can produce an large number of colours and tones, siblings often have strikingly similar hair colour.

Hair colour varies according to body site, with eyelashes being darkest because they contain high levels of eumalanin. Scalp hair is usually lighter than pubic hair, which often has a red tinge, due to the presence of more phaeomelanin pigments. A red tinge is also common in underarm and beard hair, even in people with essentially brown hair on their scalp.

Hormones such as melanocyte-stimulating hormone can darken light hair, as can high levels of oestrogen and progesterone, which are produced in pregnancy. Certain drugs such as those to prevent malaria can lighten hair, while some epilepsy medications can darken it.

Siblings often have strikingly similar hair colour. hans905/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

Blond children tend to see their hair darken around the age or seven or eight. The mechanism for this is unknown and probably not related to hormones, as the darkening precedes puberty by a number of years.

New parents often find the first coat of their baby’s hair is darker than expected. It is not until this first hair is shed and replaced, at around eight to 12 months of age, that you get a clear indication of their hair colour.

Growth

Human hair growth is cyclical. During the anagen phase, hair grows continuously at a rate of 1cm per month. Anagen can last three to five years on the scalp and produce hair that grows to between 36 to 60cm in length.

At the end of the anagen phase, the follicle turns off, hair growth stops and remains off for the three months. Towards the end of this resting (telogen) phase, the hair is shed and the follicle remains empty until the anagen phase of the cycle restarts.

Pigment production also turns on and off in rhythm with the hair cycle. When pigment cells turn off at the end of one hair cycle and fail to turn back on with the onset of the next, hair becomes grey.

Losing colour

Genetic factors appear to be important in determining when we turn grey. Identical twins seem to go grey at a similar age, rate and pattern, however we’re yet to identify the controlling genes.

There is no evidence to link the onset of greying to stress, diet or lifestyle. Certain autoimmune diseases such as vitiligo and alopecia areata can damage pigment cells and induce greying. However, these conditions are uncommon and can explain only a tiny fraction of greying.

Early greying occurs in premature ageing syndromes such as Hutchinson’s-progeriaand Werner syndrome, where every aspect ageing in the body is accelerated. Premature greying can also be seen in people affected by pernicious anaemia, autoimmune thyroid disease or Down syndrome.

So, why doesn’t pigment production turn back on?

At the end of each hair cycle, some pigment-producing melanocytes become damaged and die. If the melanocyte stem cell reservoir at the top of the hair follicle can replenish the bulb, this keeps pigment production going. But when the reservoir of stem cells is exhausted, pigment production stops and the hair turns grey.

Scientists have long known that in order to prevent hair from going grey they would need to either prolong the life of the melanocytes in the hair bulb – by protecting them from injury – or expand the melanocyte stem cell reservoir in the upper or top region of the hair follicle so they continue to replace lost pigment cells.

A group of French scientists have identified a new series of agents that protect hair follicle melanocytes from damage at the end of the hair cycle. This enables pigment production to restart as soon as the next hair cycle begins.

The agents work by mimicking the action of an enzyme called DOPAchrome tautomerase. This enzyme is the naturally occurring antioxidant in the hair bulb that protects melanocytes from oxidative damage. By duplicating the effects of DOPAchrome tautomerase, melanocyte metabolism and survival improves.

The new agents are being formulated into a product that can be applied as a spray-on serum or shampoo. But they won’t re-colour grey hair or bring back the dead cells that produce hair colour. Instead, they protect your melanocytes.

So for those who cannot find it within themselves to embrace the salt and pepper look, new options are on the horizon.

Indian scientist helps find breakthrough malaria cure.


“Malaria is caused by a parasite that lives inside an infected mosquito and is transferred into the human through a bite.”

An Indian scientist, who suffered from malaria as a child, is among a group of top international scientists which has identified a key protein that if targeted stops the disease, paving the way for new treatments.

Dr Mahmood Alam, from Lohardaga in Jharkhand, is among the authors of the new study published in the journal ‘Nature Communications’ today.

Alam and others at the Medical Research Council’s (MRC) Toxicology Unit based at the University of Leicester and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine identified a key protein, called a protein kinase, that if targeted stops malaria.

“There has been a great deal of excitement among malaria scientists about the outcome of our research since it not only tells us about the biochemical pathways that are essential for the parasite to survive in our bodies but it also allows us to design drugs that can spot these essential pathways and thereby kill the parasite,” said Alam.

“As a kid I had malaria few times and I always wanted to study the malaria parasite so that effective drugs or vaccines could be developed,” said the scientist, who graduated in biotechnology in Ranchi and moved to Pondicherry for his Master’s in the subject from Pondicherry University.

“To study the survival mechanisms of P falciparum, I joined the research group of Prof Andrew Tobin at University of Leicester and then at Medical Research Council, Toxicology Unit. Here I have used the cutting edge technology of phosphoproteomics to further study the biochemical pathways in malaria parasite,” he added.

Malaria is caused by a parasite that lives inside an infected mosquito and is transferred into the human through a bite. Once inside the body, parasites use a complex process to enter red blood cells and survive within them. By identifying one of the key proteins needed for the parasite to survive in the red blood cells, the team have prevented the protein from working, thus killing the parasite. The discovery could be the first step in developing a new drug to treat malaria.

The scientists – funded by the UK’s MRC and the Wellcome Trust – used state-of–the-art methods to dissect the biochemical pathways involved in keeping the malaria parasite alive. This included an approach called chemical genetics where synthetic chemicals are used in combination with introducing genetic changes to the DNA of the parasite.

They found that one protein kinase (PfPKG) plays a central role in various pathways that allow the parasite to survive in the blood. Understanding the pathways the parasite uses means that future drugs could be precisely designed to kill the parasite but with limited toxicity, making them safe enough to be used by children and pregnant women.

Co-lead author of the study Professor Tobin said: “This is a real breakthrough in our understanding of how malaria survives in the blood stream and invades red blood cells. We’ve revealed a process that allows this to happen and if it can be targeted by drugs we could see something that stops malaria in its tracks without causing toxic side-effects.”

According to the World Health Organisation, malaria currently infects more than 200 million people worldwide and accounts for more than 500,000 deaths per year.

 

What if the whole world suddenly went vegetarian?


Imagine if the easy part of this scenario was convincing the world’s meat-lovers to replace their omnivorous lifestyle with a vegetarian one. What would it mean for the Earth’s environment and the 7 billion people living in it?

 As the global population tips over 7 billion, it’s becoming increasingly crucial that we think about what all those people and their children are going to be eating over the next century and beyond. According to a report last year by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, the meat industry is one of the biggest threats to the environment, contributing to 14.5 percent of human-related greenhouse gas emissions. And this is only going to increase as developing countries continue to grow and establish more sustainable economies, which will facilitate more opportunties for people to afford expensive, meat-laden diets if they choose.

While there are scattered efforts to attract meat-lovers to meatless products, such as this new veggie burger that bleeds, and dairy-lovers to dairy-less products, such as this new cow-less artificial milk, in an effort to curb land-use, pollution, and waste, people who love animal products aren’t going to give it up that easily.

But what if they did? What if, somehow, everyone on Earth could be convinced to give up meat forever? What would the world look like then?

According to L. V. Anderson at Slate.com, at least one research team has asked the question, and in 2009 they ran the numbers on a hypothetical wholly vegetarian world. Publishing in the journal Climate Change, researchers from the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency found that if everyone in the world switched to vegetarianism or veganism tomorrow, by 2050 carbon emissions related to the agriculture industry would have been reduced by 17 percent, methane emissions by 24 percent, and nitrous oxide emissions by 21 percent. Greenhouse gas emissions would see similarly significant reductions.

Plus all these improvements would come at a much lower cost than if we were to see the same reductions using current strategies, such as imposing carbon taxes and establishing clean, renewable energy options. The upshot, says L. V. Anderson, is “Universal eschewal of meat wouldn’t single-handedly stave off global warming, but it would go a long way toward mitigating climate change.”

Another positive, the researchers report, is that with no more livestock meals, the problem of antibiotic-resistant infections would become a whole lot less serious. Because of the way animals are currently farmed – often in incredibly close quarters – farmers do everything they can to prevent any kind of infection from cropping up and decimating their stock. And not only do antibiotics prevent disease, but they can also promote growth, which makes their livestock more valuable. But that’s not helping humans in the long run. According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, “much of antibiotic use in animals is unnecessary and inappropriate and makes everyone less safe”.

So less pollution and antibiotic-resistant infections is the good news. But what the Dutch team, led by climate scientist Elke Stehfest, didn’t take into account in their study was the overall health of all those people who suddenly gave up meat, and what financial burden that would put on the world’s health systems.

“In this scenario study we have ignored possible socio-economic implications such as the effect of health changes on GDP and population numbers,” the team wrote. “We have not analysed 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.”

And then there’s the economic impact of a meat industry that’s now suddenly peddling a whole lot of unwanted goods. Without it, says L. V. Anderson at Slate, the global economy would tank:

According to Livestock’s Long Shadow, the influential 2006 UN 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. 

And we’re assuming here that an entire world of newly minted vegetarians would be happy to eat whatever’s seasonal all the time. If everyone suddenly felt like asparagus for dinner when it’s not in season, the costs of getting it to grow effectively in suboptimal conditions, and then having it shipped and stored all over the world has its own very serious environmental implications.

There’s never going to be a perfect solution that sees all 7 billion of us fat and happy while contributing minimal damage to the environment, but we can cut down on how much meat we’re eating. Which, if we’re being completely selfish, is better for us anyway. “We not only can,” says L. V. Anderson, ” 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.”

Now wheelchair that can climb stairs


A couple of wheelchair proto-types that promise to climb the stairs with ease and speed, will hit the market soon, giving hope to the wheelchair-bound who are expected to find their freedom.

wheelchair-main

Back in 2003, a stair-climbing wheelchair called iBOT was launched by Johnson & Johnson. It was revolutionary and touched the lives of the wheelchair-bound who could enjoy their much-needed freedom. Because of its price though ($22,000), it failed to make impressive sales and was discontinued in 2009. Cut to circa 2015, hope is in air again for the disabled as few stair-climbing wheelchair proto-types are attempting to hit the market.

WHEELCHAIR THAT CRAWLS LIKE SNAKE ON STAIRS

Price tag: US$16,500 (approx)

A Hong Kong designer Alan Lee is ready with the proto-type of B-Free Wheelchair. He apparently got inspired to design it after he got affected by the plight of a paraplegic. He got its patent in 2011 and the wheelchair was launched in 2014. While the product is not yet in the market, hopefully it will launch soon.

How it works

The chair which almost crawls like a snake has a pair of front and rear pedrails.

Features

“The pedrails are powered by a pair of 750-watt electric motors wired up to an 80 Ah lithium-ion battery. Those motors provide speeds up to 3 mph (5 km/h) and a range of up to 17 miles (27.5 km). There’s a five-mode controller on one armrest and a speed/direction controller on the other. The 287-lb (130 kg) chair includes an aluminum chassis and a cushioned seat with headrest. It supports users up to 220 lb (100 kg), and the seat includes a gyroscopic mount that keeps the user level, even when the chair is at an incline.,” according to gizmag.

B-Free right now is trying to get launched in Hong Kong and Macau markets. It will be in Europe market next year.

Watch the video. URL: https://youtu.be/yriBMeC3YpQ

First comprehensive analysis of the woolly mammoth genome completed — ScienceDaily



Rendering of a wooly mammoth family.
Credit: © photology1971 / Fotolia

The first comprehensive analysis of the woolly mammoth genome reveals extensive genetic changes that allowed mammoths to adapt to life in the arctic. Mammoth genes that differed from their counterparts in elephants played roles in skin and hair development, fat metabolism, insulin signaling and numerous other traits. Genes linked to physical traits such as skull shape, small ears and short tails were also identified. As a test of function, a mammoth gene involved in temperature sensation was resurrected in the laboratory and its protein product characterized.

The study, published in Cell Reports on July 2, sheds light on the evolutionary biology of these extinct giants.

“This is by far the most comprehensive study to look at the genetic changes that make a woolly mammoth a woolly mammoth,” said study author Vincent Lynch, PhD, assistant professor of human genetics at the University of Chicago. “They are an excellent model to understand how morphological evolution works, because mammoths are so closely related to living elephants, which have none of the traits they had.”

Woolly mammoths last roamed the frigid tundra steppes of northern Asia, Europe and North America roughly 10,000 years ago. Well-studied due to the abundance of skeletons, frozen carcasses and depictions in prehistoric art, woolly mammoths possessed long, coarse fur, a thick layer of subcutaneous fat, small ears and tails and a brown-fat deposit behind the neck which may have functioned similar to a camel hump. Previous efforts to sequence preserved mammoth DNA were error-prone or yielded insights into only a limited number of genes.

To thoroughly characterize mammoth-specific genes and their functions, Lynch and his colleagues deep sequenced the genomes of two woolly mammoths and three Asian elephants — the closest living relative of the mammoth. They then compared these genomes against each other and against the genome of African elephants, a slightly more distant evolutionary cousin to both mammoths and Asian elephants.

The team identified roughly 1.4 million genetic variants unique to woolly mammoths. These caused changes to the proteins produced by around 1,600 genes, including 26 that lost function and one that was duplicated. To infer the functional effects of these differences, they ran multiple computational analyses, including comparisons to massive databases of known gene functions and of mice in which genes are artificially deactivated.

Genes with mammoth-specific changes were most strongly linked to fat metabolism (including brown fat regulation), insulin signaling, skin and hair development (including genes associated with lighter hair color), temperature sensation and circadian clock biology — all of which would have been important for adapting to the extreme cold and dramatic seasonal variations in day length in the Arctic. The team also identified genes associated with the mammoth body plan, such as skull shape, small ears and short tails.

Of particular interest was the group of genes responsible for temperature sensation, which also play roles in hair growth and fat storage. The team used ancestral sequence reconstruction techniques to “resurrect” the mammoth version of one of these genes, TRPV3. When transplanted into human cells in the laboratory, the mammoth TRPV3 gene produced a protein that is less responsive to heat than an ancestral elephant version of the gene. This result is supported by observations in mice that have TRPV3 artificially silenced. These mice prefer colder environments than normal mice and have wavier hair.

Although the functions of these genes match well with the environment in which woolly mammoths were known to live, Lynch warns that it is not direct proof of their effects in live mammoths. The regulation of gene expression, for example, is extremely difficult to study through the genome alone.

“We can’t know with absolute certainty the effects of these genes unless someone resurrects a complete woolly mammoth, but we can try to infer by doing experiments in the laboratory,” he said. Lynch and his colleagues are now identifying candidates for other mammoth genes to functionally test as well as planning experiments to study mammoth proteins in elephant cells.

While his efforts are targeted toward understanding the molecular basis of evolution, Lynch acknowledges that the high-quality sequencing and analysis of woolly mammoth genomes can serve as a functional blueprint for efforts to “de-extinct” the mammoth.

“Eventually we’ll be technically able to do it. But the question is: if you’re technically able to do something, should you do it?” he said. “I personally think no. Mammoths are extinct and the environment in which they lived has changed. There are many animals on the edge of extinction that we should be helping instead.”

Quell Wearable Device: A New Treatment For Chronic Pain


One of the highlights of this year’s ADA Exhibit Hall was NeuroMetrix’s Quell chronic pain management device. Quell is the over the counter version (no prescription needed) of a previous NeuroMetrix device called Sensus – it uses nerve stimulation to treat multiple types of chronic pain, including diabetic neuropathy and fibromyalgia. Quell stands out as one of the only FDA cleared non-drug therapies for chronic pain relief, eliminating many of the side effects that come with common pain medications. The device first debuted at the Consumer Electronic Show in January, and it is now shipping to customers as of last week. Quell is available for purchase online here at $249 for the device itself, followed by $30 for each month’s worth of supplies.

Product_Device_4Quell is worn in a strap that wraps around the upper calf, sending electrical pulses through the skin to the sensory nerves that in turn signal the brain to trigger the body’s natural pain relief response, blocking pain signals throughout the body. It is similar conceptually to TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), but developed in a completely wearable form factor and is much more sophisticated, stronger, and optimized for diabetes nerve pain. It can be worn for long periods of time, including during sleep – a major advantage, as pain can often be particularly burdensome at night, limiting sleep. The device itself is about the same thickness as an iPhone 5, is relatively lightweight, and its strap resembles a sports band that can easily be hidden under clothes. Impressively, NeuroMetrix teamed up with the renowned IDEO design team when creating Quell, leading to its patient-friendly and innovative look.

Quell_Woman_Sitting_AQuell is also Bluetooth-connected to a smartphone app that tracks the treatment time (“treatments” come in 60-minute on/off intervals), battery life (conveniently displayed as number of treatments left in addition to battery percentage, e.g. “75%, battery, 15 treatments left”), and even sleep quality. The app is easy to navigate through and has big and easy-to-read font. Quell can also last for 40 hours before needing to be plugged in to recharge.

Product_Band_6Anecdotally, we have heard that Sensus has been a game changer for many patients with chronic pain, and Quell’s direct-to-consumer model should certainly help expand its access to more people dealing with neuropathy and other forms of chronic pain. User experience and pain relief data on Quell will be very informative, and we were told at ADA that these surveys are currently underway. Pain from diabetic neuropathy can be absolutely debilitating, and we really hope many patients will benefit from this new option.

Docs Have Role in Preventing Childhood Obesity


Pediatrics group issues new recommendations on how physicians should counsel parents

Pediatricians should advise families to replace the cookie jar with a fruit bowl and trade in soda for tap water or low-fat milk, according to new recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for preventing childhood obesity.

The recommendations, published in the journal Pediatrics, lay out how pediatricians can be more proactive in helping families nip excess weight gain in the bud.

“Because of the numerous medical and psychosocial complications of childhood obesity and the burden of pediatric obesity on current and future health care costs, this condition is now recognized as a public health priority by many groups and experts,” wrote the authors, led byStephen Daniels, MD, of the University of Colorado and chair of the AAP Committee on Nutrition.

“Even when families have knowledge of healthy behaviors, they may need help from pediatricians to motivate them to implement behavior changes,” Daniels said in a press release.

“Pediatricians can and should play an important role in obesity prevention because they are in a unique position to partner with families and patients and to influence key components of the broader strategy of developing community support,” Daniels and co-authors wrote.

Following are some highlights of the updated recommendations.

Beverages

Sugar-sweetened beverages such as soda and iced teas should be completely removed from children’s diets. The ideal beverages for children at all meals and during the day are tap water and low-fat milk.

Sparkling water, unsweetened flavored waters, and artificially sweetened drinks can be used to transition from sodas to plain water, but should have a limited place in children’s diets.

Families should limit the intake of 100% fruit juices because these are high in calories.

Foods

Children’s diets should be rich in low-calorie foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean meat, lean fish, and legumes and limited in high-calorie foods such as fat-rich meats, fried foods, baked goods, sweets, cheese, and oil-based sauces.

If high-calorie foods are purchased for special occasions, any leftovers should be removed immediately afterward. Any high-calorie foods in the home should be wrapped in foil to make them less visible and placed in the back of the refrigerator or high up in the pantry. Healthy foods should be readily available at all times and placed in plain sight.

“Practically, the cookie jar should be replaced by a fruit bowl,” the authors wrote.

Eating Habits

Family meals should be eaten at a table without distractions such as television.

Children should be encouraged not to skip meals, especially breakfast.

Families should be encouraged to review school menus and provide alternatives if healthy choices are not available.

Screen Time and Physical Activity

Screen time should be limited to 2 hours or less per day, both because it’s sedentary and it exposes kids to food advertising. Mindless snacking in front of the TV should be avoided.

At least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity is recommended per day. This can include walks and hikes, bicycle trips, bowling, roller skating, and dog walking. Families should consider taking stairs when possible and walking or biking rather than driving to nearby destinations.

Sleep

Pediatricians should take a sleep history and recommend children get their age-appropriate amounts of sleep per day, as lack of sleep has been associated with obesity in children.

“Parents and other family members are strongly encouraged to adopt the same fitness and lifestyle changes as the child. Pediatricians can educate families, provide support, and help them stay on track,” Daniels said in a press release.

“It is never too early for a family to make changes that will help a child keep or achieve a healthy weight,” said Sandra Hassink, MD, co-author and president of the AAP, via press release. “Families can improve their eating habits in a variety of ways, but it is important for healthy eating and physical activity to be tailored to the child’s developmental stage and family characteristics.”

The current report updates and replaces the 2003 AAP policy statement Prevention of Pediatric Overweight and Obesity and complements the AAP-endorsed 2007 expert committee Recommendations for Prevention of Childhood Obesity.