Umbilical cord blood could slow brain’s ageing, study suggests.


Scientists hope protein infusion which rejuvenated brains of aged mice could combat mental decline in older people

CT scans of a patient with Alzheimer’s disease. If the protein therapy is effective in humans it could be a potent weapon against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
CT scans of a patient with Alzheimer’s disease. If the protein therapy is effective in humans it could be a potent weapon against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. 

Scientists have reversed memory and learning problems in aged mice with infusions of a protein found in human umbilical cord blood.

The striking results have raised hopes for a treatment that staves off mental decline in old age, but researchers stressed that more studies, including human trials, are needed before the therapy can be considered for clinical use.

Tests on frail rodents found that the protein therapy rejuvenated an area of the brain called the hippocampus, which is crucial for memory formation, and one of the first and most important regions to deteriorate in old age.

Older mice that received the treatment reacted like younger animals in a series of behavioural tests, according to researchers at Stanford University in California. They escaped from a maze faster than before, had better memories, and started building nests again, a skill the animals tend to lose in old age.

Researchers led by Tony Wyss-Coray made the discovery after they noticed that human umbilical cord blood had unusually high levels of a protein called TIMP2 when compared with blood from older people. When injected into mice, the protein ramped up the activity of a group of genes that revitalised the hippocampus, and made it more able to adapt to new information. Details of the study are reported in Nature.

The work is the latest in a string of studies that suggest molecules found in young blood may be able to rejuvenate old brains and other tissues. If the therapies are effective in humans, they could become a potent weapon against the cognitive decline that comes with old age, and also neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

But until the treatment has proved itself in humans, scientists are roundly cautious of the work. The lesson from Alzheimer’s research on mice is that almost everything works in the animals, and so far nothing works in humans, said Rob Howard, professor of old age psychiatry at University College London. “Having taken that on on board, this is a really interesting way to understand how we might help people who are aged or in the early stages of the disease,” he said. The protein therapy might not reverse brain ageing, or halt Alzheimer’s, but it might boost what remains of the healthy brain to at least offset some of the decline that accompanies old age.

Jennifer Wild, a clinical psychologist at Oxford University, said that while the results were interesting, it was too early to consider it as a therapy for humans. “It’s exciting for mice who have cognitive ageing, but it’s way too early to start extrapolating that to say we can help humans,”, she said.

Source:www.theguardian.com

Advertisements

Psychedelic Drugs Really Do Lead to a Higher State of Consciousness.


Study participants bravely took LSD and ketamine in the name of science.

Scientists have found the first evidence of a higher state of consciousness and, unsurprisingly, it was in the brains of people who were tripping.

For the study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers at the University of Sussex reanalyzed brain scans of healthy volunteers who took one of three psychedelic drugsketamineLSD, or psilocybin, the active compound in shrooms, or a placebo. (A team from Imperial College London and the University of Cardiff collected the initial data.)

The scans looked for tiny magnetic fields produced in subjects’ brains to measure neural signal diversity, or the complexity of brain activity. The diversity of brain signals is a mathematical index for the level of consciousness; people who are awake have more diverse brain signal activity than people who are asleep, under anesthesia, or in a vegetative state, for example.

 The researchers found that all three drugs produced higher levels of brain signal diversity than the baseline “awake” state observed in people in the placebo group. They found similar changes in signal diversity even though the drugs are very different, pharmacologically, and noted that people who reported more intense experiences had more brain signal changes.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that people who got the drugs were thinking more philosophically, or that this is a “better” brain state; just that their brains operated at a different, higher level than normal.

“During the psychedelic state, the electrical activity of the brain is less predictable and less ‘integrated’ than during normal conscious wakefulness—as measured by ‘global signal diversity,'” Anil Seth, co-director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science at the University of Sussex, said in a release. “Since this measure has already shown its value as a measure of ‘conscious level,’ we can say that the psychedelic state appears as a higher ‘level’ of consciousness than normal—but only with respect to this specific mathematical measure.”

The team wants to confirm its results with more sophisticated methods but they’re cautiously excited, especially because this study could help inform discussions about medically supervised use of the drugs.

 Robin Cahart-Harris, head of psychedelic research at Imperial College London, one of the schools that conducted the original experiment, saidthat “the present study’s findings help us understand what happens in people’s brains when they experience an expansion of their consciousness under psychedelics. People often say they experience insight under these drugs—and when this occurs in a therapeutic context, it can predict positive outcomes. The present findings may help us understand how this can happen.”

And in what the release notes is “a striking coincidence,” this study was released exactly 74 years after Albert Hoffman, who synthesized LSD in 1938, conducted his first self-experiment with the drug. April 19, 1943, is known as “bicycle day” for Hoffman’s bike ride home after that fateful acid trip.

Source:https://tonic.vice.com

Early Clinical Trial Shows ‘Cancer Vaccines’ Can Protect Humans From Tumours 


Cancer comes in many different forms, and it is not unusual for diagnosed patients to endure multiple kinds of treatments before one that is effective against their particular form of cancer is found.

If it takes too long for doctors to find the right treatment, the consequences can be fatal.

 

The severity of cancer has fuelled physicians and scientists from all walks of life to explore any possible solution, including those that seem natural to those that may at times seem unconventional.

Well, researchers are now taking vaccines, which typically target viruses and bacteria, and reworking them to zero in on the patient’s specific cancer cells.

Physicians and scientists led by Catherine Wu at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston just presented their results of their new cancer therapy to the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in Washington, DC.

Their personalised vaccines have prevented early relapse in 12 patients with skin cancer, while also boosting patient immunity when combined with a cancer drug.

While earlier cancer vaccines targeted a singular cancer protein found ubiquitously among patients, these personalised vaccines contain neoantigens, which are mutated proteins specific to an individual patient’s tumour.

 These neoantigens are identified once a patient’s tumour is genomically sequenced, providing physicians with the information they need to pinpoint unique mutations.

Once a patient’s immune system is provided a dose of the tumour neoantigens, it can activate the patient’s T cells to attack cancer cells.

Unlike previous attempts towards cancer vaccines, which did not produce conclusive evidence in halting cancer growth, Wu’s team made their personal vaccine much more specific to each patient’s cancer, targeting about 20 neoantigens per patient.

The vaccines were injected under the patients’ skin for a period of five months and indicated no side effects and a strong T cell response.

All of Wu’s patients who were administered the personal vaccine are still cancer-free more than 2.5 years after the trial.

However, some patients with an advanced forms of cancer also needed an some extra punching power to fend off their diseases.

Two of Wu’s patients who did relapse were administered an immunotherapy drug, PD-1 checkpoint inhibitor, in addition to the personalised vaccine.

Working in conjunction with the enhanced T cell response from the vaccine, the drug makes it difficult for the tumour to evade the immune cells. The fusion of the two therapies eliminated the new tumours from both patients.

But we can’t get too excited yet. While these results are promising, the therapies are relatively new and require much more clinical testing.

Many physicians around the world are working together to test the potency of neoantigens in order to verify if the vaccine works better than current immunotherapy drugs over a sustainable period of time.

Personalised vaccines are costly and take months to create, a limiting factor in providing care to patients with progressing cancers.

Still, this study is an encouraging sign for many oncologists who are interested in using the immune system to fight cancer.

More than a million new patients are diagnosed with cancer each year in the U.S. alone, and even in situations where the cancer is treatable, the available chemotherapy agents themselves can be very toxic.

If proven safe and effective, this personalised cancer vaccine could give patients around the world hope for powerful treatment with fewer side effects.

Source:sciencealert.com

Neuroscientist Explains One Concept in 5 Levels of Difficulty


Watch the video. URl:https://youtu.be/opqIa5Jiwuw

Male contraceptive jab almost 100 per cent effective… and it can increase libido


A contraceptive injection for men has been shown to be almost 100 per cent effective, and may also increase libido.

The hormone-based jab is designed to lower sperm counts by acting on the brain’s pituitary gland.

Over a year-long trial, nearly 96 per cent of couples relying on the injection to prevent unplanned pregnancies found it to be effective. During this time, only four pregnancies occurred among the men’s partners.

 However, researchers said more work was needed to address the treatment’s reported side effects, which included depression and other mood disorders, muscle pain and acne. However it did also increase libido.

Dr Mario Festin, from the World Health Organisation in Geneva, Switzerland, said: “The study found it is possible to have a hormonal contraceptive for men that reduces the risk of unplanned pregnancies in the partners of men who use it.

“Our findings confirmed the efficacy of this contraceptive method previously seen in small studies.”

The contraceptive was found to be 96 per cent effective during 12 month trials 
The contraceptive was found to be 96 per cent effective during 12 month trials 

The injections contained a long-acting form of progestogen, a hormone that has the effect of blocking sperm production controlled by the pituitary gland.

Nearly 300 men were given injections every two months, which reduced sperm count to one million per millilitre or fewer within 24 weeks. At the end of the trial, three-quarters of the men said they would be willing to continue using the contraceptive jab.

Prof Allan Pacey at the University of Sheffield said: “There is certainly an unmet need for an effective reversible contraceptive for men, along the lines of the hormonal contraceptive for women.

“However, none of the preparations that have been developed and tested to date have managed to become a commercial reality for one reason or another.

“In this latest study, the authors used a combination of hormones (progesterone and testosterone) to try and take the science forward. Using long-acting injectable forms of these hormones they were able to suppress the production of sperm to a remarkable degree. As such, this contraceptive was extremely effective and therefore certainly has promise.

“However, the fact that so many side effects were observed in the men who were taking part in the trial is of concern. For a male contraceptive to be accepted by men (or women) then it has to be well tolerated and not cause further problems.”

Source: Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism

Cyanide suicide of Oxford academic after she revealed she was transgender


An Oxford University chemist poisoned herself with cyanide after telling her family and friends she was transgender, an inquest heard.

Erin Shepherd took her own life despite being apparently pleased with her transition from man to woman, Oxford Coroner’s Court was told.

Oxford 

Erin Shepherd, an Oxford University researcher, was found by firemen who forced their way into her flat

The 27-year-old was found dead in her flat in East Oxford after sending a suicide note via email to her parents and two sisters.

The researcher was found by firemen who forced their way into her flat, after shutting down the whole street alongside police and paramedics.

She was discovered near a container of white powder, which was confirmed as cyanide.

This was a great shock. Those closest to her did not foresee this.Oxfordshire coroner Darren Salter

Oxfordshire coroner Darren Salter described her suicide in January as a “tragic case'”, adding: “This was a great shock.

“Those closest to her did not foresee this. Things seemed to be going in the right direction. Very sadly, something caused her to decide to take her own life.”

Mr Salter read evidence from Miss Shepherd’s doctor, Richard Baskerville, who said she registered in 2015 under her former name, David Shepherd.

Mr Baskerville’s statement added: “She had recently come out as transgender. She had an extensive circle of friends and was pleased with her progress in transitioning. Her death was a sudden and tragic event.”

Miss Shepherd had completed her DPhil in chemistry at Corpus Christi College and had recently started as a paid academic in the chemistry department.

She had changed her name and was taking speech therapy to adopt a new identity.

Oxford cyanide
The property in Oxford where Erin Shepherd  was found. CREDIT: INS

Detective Sergeant Kevin Parsons, of Oxford CID, said Miss Shepherd accessed the university labs at 6am on the day she died, and it was likely to be around that time that she took the cyanide. At the inquest, he said: “She had struggled with her gender identity for most of her life.

 “She was doing well and showing no signs of unhappiness.”

He told the court how Miss Shepherd was unable to attend school as a teenager after being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, but worked hard to achieve.

Police were called to Miss Shepherd’s home by her sister Sophie Shepherd, after she received an email entitled ‘I am so sorry’.

The court heard she rang her sister urging her to flush the cyanide down the toilet, to no avail.

The university released a statement that said Miss Shepherd was “an outstanding chemist” whose death “greatly saddened” her friends.

Mr Salter concluded Miss Shepherd died of suicide.

Source:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/

Neil deGrasse Tyson Says This Is His Most Important Message Ever.


Famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson released an emotional new video in which he passionately implores Americans to reconsider how they are increasingly relating to science.

Article Image

In the post accompanying the video on his Facebook Page, Tyson wrote that this video contains “what may be the most important words I have ever spoken”.

He explains that innovation through science is how America, a “backwoods country,” became “one the greatest nations the world has ever known”.

“Science is the fundamental part of the country that we are,” says Tyson

But something has been changing in the way some Americans view science and it’s greatly worrisome to Tyson. When it comes to making decisions about scientific topics, he sees that “people have lost the ability to judge what is true and what is not.”

Case in point – American politicians.

“When you have people who don’t know much about science, standing in denial of it and rising to power, that is a recipe for the complete dismantling of our informed democracy,” warns Tyson. [1:00]

This stark statement is followed by an archival clip of then-congressman Mike Pence saying that evolution should be taught as a theory not fact.

The video, directed by Sarah Klein and Tom Mason, proceeds to show news clips of science under attack, with people questioning vaccines, GMOs and climate change.

Today’s America is “not the country I remember growing up in,” laments Tyson.

He brings up the 60s, the 70s, and the civil rights movement to point out that he doesn’t remember any time in recent American history when people were denying what science was, implying that this is what’s happening today.

Tyson defends science as an “exercise in finding what is true”. The scientific method involves testing hypotheses and peer review. Out of such a process rises what he calls “emergent truth” which is “better than anything else we have ever come up with as human beings”.

Science is “not something to toy with,” according to Tyson. You can’t choose to believe an equation like E=mc^2. Of course, he may be overstating there. You could very well propose an alternate equation as such is the way of science.

He forcefully says that the “emergent truths” arrived at through science are “true whether or not you believe in it”. And what is important is for people to understand that and move on to political conversations on how to solve our real problems.

Tyson focuses on climate change as an issue that is demanding our agreement – people need to get on the same page that this is a serious problem and work to solve it. He alludes to “carbon credits” or tariffs as possible topics for a political conversation that should have been had years ago, but keeps getting delayed because too many are in “denial”.

He calls upon Americans as voters and citizens to become scientifically literate to be able to make intelligent decisions about the issues.

“Recognize what science is and allow it to be what it can and should be in the service of civilization,” says Tyson.

Watch the video discussion. URL:https://youtu.be/8MqTOEospfo

Source:http://bigthink.com

The Universe Is as Spooky as Einstein Thought.


In a brilliant new experiment, physicists have confirmed one of the most mysterious laws of the cosmos.

There might be no getting around what Albert Einstein called “spooky action at a distance.” With an experiment described this week in Physical Review Letters—a feat that involved harnessing starlight to control measurements of particles shot between buildings in Vienna—some of the world’s leading cosmologists and quantum physicists are closing the door on an intriguing alternative to “quantum entanglement.”

“Technically, this experiment is truly impressive,” said Nicolas Gisin, a quantum physicist at the University of Geneva who has studied this loophole around entanglement.

According to standard quantum theory, particles have no definite states, only relative probabilities of being one thing or another—at least, until they are measured, when they seem to suddenly roll the dice and jump into formation. Stranger still, when two particles interact, they can become “entangled,” shedding their individual probabilities and becoming components of a more complicated probability function that describes both particles together. This function might specify that two entangled photons are polarized in perpendicular directions, with some probability that photon A is vertically polarized and photon B is horizontally polarized, and some chance of the opposite. The two photons can travel lightyears apart, but they remain linked: Measure photon A to be vertically polarized, and photon B instantaneously becomes horizontally polarized, even though B’s state was unspecified a moment earlier and no signal has had time to travel between them. This is the “spooky action” that Einstein was famously skeptical about in his arguments against the completeness of quantum mechanics in the 1930s and ’40s.

In 1964, the Northern Irish physicist John Bell found a way to put this paradoxical notion to the test. He showed that if particles have definite states even when no one is looking (a concept known as “realism”) and if indeed no signal travels faster than light (“locality”), then there is an upper limit to the amount of correlation that can be observed between the measured states of two particles. But experiments have shown time and again that entangled particles are more correlated than Bell’s upper limit, favoring the radical quantum worldview over local realism.

Only there’s a hitch: In addition to locality and realism, Bell made another, subtle assumption to derive his formula—one that went largely ignored for decades. “The three assumptions that go into Bell’s theorem that are relevant are locality, realism, and freedom,” said Andrew Friedman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a co-author of the new paper. “Recently it’s been discovered that you can keep locality and realism by giving up just a little bit of freedom.” This is known as the “freedom-of-choice” loophole.

In a Bell test, entangled photons A and B are separated and sent to far-apart optical modulators—devices that either block photons or let them through to detectors, depending on whether the modulators are aligned with or against the photons’ polarization directions. Bell’s inequality puts an upper limit on how often, in a local-realistic universe, photons A and B will both pass through their modulators and be detected. (Researchers find that entangled photons are correlated more often than this, violating the limit.) Crucially, Bell’s formula assumes that the two modulators’ settings are independent of the states of the particles being tested. In experiments, researchers typically use random-number generators to set the devices’ angles of orientation. However, if the modulators are not actually independent—if nature somehow restricts the possible settings that can be chosen, correlating these settings with the states of the particles in the moments before an experiment occurs—this reduced freedom could explain the outcomes that are normally attributed to quantum entanglement.

The universe might be like a restaurant with 10 menu items, Friedman said. “You think you can order any of the 10, but then they tell you, ‘We’re out of chicken,’ and it turns out only five of the things are really on the menu. You still have the freedom to choose from the remaining five, but you were overcounting your degrees of freedom.” Similarly, he said, “there might be unknowns, constraints, boundary conditions, conservation laws that could end up limiting your choices in a very subtle way” when setting up an experiment, leading to seeming violations of local realism.

This possible loophole gained traction in 2010, when Michael Hall, now of Griffith University in Australia, developed a quantitative way of reducing freedom of choice. In Bell tests, measuring devices have two possible settings (corresponding to one bit of information: either 1 or 0), and so it takes two bits of information to specify their settings when they are truly independent. But Hall showed that if the settings are not quite independent—if only one bit specifies them once in every 22 runs—this halves the number of possible measurement settings available in those 22 runs. This reduced freedom of choice correlates measurement outcomes enough to exceed Bell’s limit, creating the illusion of quantum entanglement.

The idea that nature might restrict freedom while maintaining local realism has become more attractive in light of emerging connections between information and the geometry of space-time. Research on black holes, for instance, suggests that the stronger the gravity in a volume of space-time, the fewer bits can be stored in that region. Could gravity be reducing the number of possible measurement settings in Bell tests, secretly striking items from the universe’s menu?

Friedman, Alan Guthand colleagues at MIT were entertaining such speculations

a few years ago when Anton Zeilinger, a famous Bell test experimenter at the University of Vienna, came for a visit. Zeilinger also had his sights on the freedom-of-choice loophole. Together, they and their collaborators developed an idea for how to distinguish between a universe that lacks local realism and one that curbs freedom.

And yet, the scientists found that the measurement outcomes still violated Bell’s upper limit, boosting their confidence that the polarized photons in the experiment exhibit spooky action at a distance after all.

Nature could still exploit the freedom-of-choice loophole, but the universe would have had to delete items from the menu of possible measurement settings at least 600 years before the measurements occurred (when the closer of the two stars sent its light toward Earth). “Now one needs the correlations to have been established even before Shakespeare wrote, ‘Until I know this sure uncertainty, I’ll entertain the offered fallacy,’” Hall said.

Next, the team plans to use light from increasingly distant quasars to control their measurement settings, probing further back in time and giving the universe an even smaller window to cook up correlations between future device settings and restrict freedoms. It’s also possible (though extremely unlikely) that the team will find a transition point where measurement settings become uncorrelated and violations of Bell’s limit disappear—which would prove that Einstein was right to doubt spooky action.

“For us it seems like kind of a win-win,” Friedman said. “Either we close the loophole more and more, and we’re more confident in quantum theory, or we see something that could point toward new physics.”

There’s a final possibility that many physicists abhor. It could be that the universe restricted freedom of choice from the very beginning—that every measurement was predetermined by correlations established at the Big Bang. “Superdeterminism,” as this is called, is “unknowable,” said Jan-Åke Larsson, a physicist at Linköping University in Sweden; the cosmic Bell test crew will never be able to rule out correlations that existed before there were stars, quasars or any other light in the sky. That means the freedom-of-choice loophole can never be completely shut.

But given the choice between quantum entanglement and superdeterminism, most scientists favor entanglement—and with it, freedom. “If the correlations are indeed set [at the Big Bang], everything is preordained,” Larsson said. “I find it a boring worldview. I cannot believe this would be true.”

Source:www.theatlantic.com