Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How Does Stress Affect Our Arteries?

Most people are aware that long term stress can have negative affects on the cardiovascular system, and increase your risk of heart attacks or stroke.  New research from Harvard Medical School has revealed some of the physiological changes taking place in our blood when exposed to chronic stress, and its link to atherosclerosis. 
Pressure Gauge in Heart - BM1944

Researchers found that mice exposed to constant stress had higher levels of monocytes and neutrophils circulating through their blood.  The accumulation of these white bloods cells are often found in fatty plaques that have been lodged in the walls of blood vessels.  Researchers then performed another experiment where they blocked bone marrow protein receptors responsible for stimulating the production of these immune cells.  They found that mice with reduced levels of active immune cells developed less plaque in their arteries.

Stress stimulates the body to prepare for oncoming danger, and the release of white blood cells will help the body heal injuries or combat infection.  However with chronic stress caused by work, money, or relationships, there aren't any infections or wounds to heal, leaving immune cells to continue circulating through the blood.  Researchers hope that a new approach to combat or monitor atherosclerosis can utilize white blood cell counts and regulate its stress-induced production.

Learn more.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Whooping Cough Epidemic in California

NBC News reports on Whooping Cough Epidemic:
Bordetella pertussis, SEM
The number of whooping cough cases in California has officially reached epidemic proportions, the California Department of Public Health reported.
Whooping cough, known to doctors as pertussis, has experienced a resurgence this year with more than 3,400 new cases reported between Jan. 1 and June 10, according a statement released by the department.
Bleeding in eye from whooping cough
The department said whooping cough is cyclical, peaking every three to five years. The last big spike in cases was in 2010.

Los Angeles County has experienced about 350 new cases so far this year with Long Beach being hit especially hard. The city has seen more than 90 new infections, making up nearly 20 cases per 100,000 people.Read More...


Celiac Disease and the Rise of Gluten-free Diets

Gluten Free Groceries - BT2485
The gluten-free diet has been gaining increased popularity for its purported health benefits, though the truth behind its emergence can be attributed to the rise of celiac disease among the general population.  Celiac disease occurs in individuals with a genetic predisposition, and is an autoimmune disorder which attacks the lining of the small intestine when in the presence of the gluten protein.  Gluten is found in wheat, barley, rye, and other grains, and is commonly used as an additive in various foods and drinks.
Normal & Abnormal Jejunum (Celiac Disease) - BW5565

A celiac patient's intestinal lining can degrade overtime, limiting their ability to absorb nutrients and leading to other health problems such as osteoporosis, fatigue, anemia, or infertility.  This differs from an individual suffering from gluten sensitivity, a condition in which the digestive system has difficulty metabolizing gluten, resulting in short-term gastrointestinal symptoms and discomfort.  As a result, celiac patients must restrict their diet to meats, fruits, vegetables, and other gluten-free grains and starch such as rice, corn, and potatoes, while avoiding most processed foods containing gluten.

The sudden popularity of gluten-free diets seems to correspond with an increase in celiac disease diagnoses in the United States.  Though celiac disease only affects an estimated 1% of the population, those numbers are four times higher than they were in the 1950's. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Faster Way to Find the Origin of Malaria

The New York Times Writes:
By using a DNA “bar code” of 23 short snips from the genes of parasites that cause malaria, scientists can now often quickly determine where they originated, British researchers report.
The information could be useful in fighting local outbreaks, which may be caused by parasites from other parts of the world. And it should be possible to make a test kit that will get that information from a spot of dried blood in two hours — far less time than is needed to sequence a whole genome.  More...


Dino Blood

Stegosaurus and Apatosaurus BM2224
"Dinosaurs were neither sluggish like lizards nor high-energy like mammals, but something in between, a study suggests.
The work stakes out a rare middle ground in the long-running debate over whether dinosaurs were ‘cold-blooded’ ectotherms, which use the environment to adjust their internal temperature, or ‘warm-blooded’ endotherms, which regulate their body temperature from within. 'There’s a third way,' says John Grady, a biologist at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque." - Alexandra Witze, June 12, 2014, Dinosaurs neither warm-blooded nor cold-blooded, Nature News, Nature Publishing Group

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Plastic Rocks

Robert Brook
Plastic waste SC6486
"Plastic first became widespread in the mid-20th century. Since then, about six billion tons have been manufactured. Much of that has ended up as trash, and nobody knows what will become of it.Now researchers have discovered an unexpected way that some plastic waste is persisting: as a new type of stone.The substance, called plastiglomerate, is a fusion of natural and manufactured materials. Melted plastic binds together sand, shells, pebbles, basalt, coral and wood, or seeps into the cavities of larger rocks to form a rock-plastic hybrid. The resulting materials, researchers report in the journal GSA Today, will probably be long-lived and could even become permanent markers in the planet’s geologic record." - Rachel Nuwer, June 9, 2014, The New York Times, continue reading click here.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Single-dose Antibiotic

Drugs fighting MRSA - Stock Illustration BV8338  ©Jim Dowdalls/ Science Source
Researchers at Duke University led a study which could potentially change the future of bacterial skin infection treatments.  The study involved the use of oritavancin, a new antibiotic  administered as a large, single infusion to patients with acute bacterial skin infections.  A control group received the current treatment, which involved two daily infusions of antibiotics over the course of 10 days. The results showed that both treatments were just as effective in reducing skin lesions and fevers without the need for additional antibiotics.

Often, patients do not complete their full 10-day treatment even after their symptoms disappear, allowing surviving strains of bacteria to become more resistant to antibiotics.  Since oritavancin can persist in the body for longer periods of time, the use of a single-dose therapy can provide easier treatment options which can help reduce the recurrence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Learn more.