Category Archives: Research


Church linked to longer life

A recent study conducted on 74,000 women over 20 years shows that women who attended church more than once a week had 33% lower all-cause mortality.

It will be interesting to see how the scientific community reacts to this report. The model accounts for major lifestyle risk factors, which will certainly be under scrutiny. Nevertheless, the model boasts impressive correlations with statistical P-Values of less than 0.001.


Revolutionary Brain Implant Restores Hand Movement In Quadriplegic Patient

For many, paralysis or limb loss is a lifelong burden, and scientists across the world have been working around the clock to restore movement to these unfortunate few. Now, a new Nature study showcases what is not just a step but a leap forward in medical science.

A young man, who became a quadriplegic during a diving accident, is today able to grasp objects and even play video games using his own hand and fingers, after a novel device was surgically inserted into his brain. This remarkable breakthrough, spearheaded by researchers at The Ohio State University (OSU) Wexner Medical Center, promises to revolutionize the way paralysis is treated in the future.

“This is the first technique of its kind,” study co-author Chad Bouton of the New York-based Feinstein Institute for Medical Research told IFLScience. “Neural recordings have been linked back to the body to allow movement in a human.”

The patient, Ian Burkhart, is a 24-year-old quadriplegic from Ohio, whose neural connections between his brain and limbs were severed. This type of paralysis used to be incurable, but as demonstrated just last October, quadriplegia can be partly overcome: Surgeons managed to restore partial functions to patients’ hands and arms by connecting healthy nerves to damaged ones.

by Robin Andrews. Read the full article here.

photo credit: Ian Burkhart demonstrates the technology. Ohio State University/Batelle


Disease Fighting Beer: Drink to your health!

(Fox) Beer lovers may soon have another reason to throw back a pint of their favorite brew, as researchers said they have taken one step closer to crafting a beer that can help fight disease. In data presented at the 251st National Meeting & Exposition for the American Chemical Society, scientists at the University of Idaho reported they are close to synthesizing healthful hops compounds in a lab. Previous research has linked hops, which give beer its bitter flavor, to halting bacterial growth and disease.

“When researchers extract healthful chemicals from hops, they first have to determine whether they have separated out the specific compounds they’re interested in,” project leader Kristopher Waynant, Ph.D., said, according to a news release. “But if you can figure out how to make these compounds from scratch, you know they are the right ones.”

Waynant and his team are studying specific compounds found in hops called humulones, which are alpha acids that have anticancer and anti-inflammatory properties, and lupulones, which are beta acids that are not as well understood.

According to the release, researchers want to harness the healthful activities of the two to potentially improve consumer’s health. To do so, researchers must work to confirm humulones and lupulones are the proper target by separating the acids with high-performance liquid chromatography. However, to analyze the results, they must be compared to analytical standards that do not exist. That’s why Waynant and researcher Lucas Sass are attempting to synthesize humulones and lupulones in a lab, according to the release.

“Unfortunately, the first few pathways I proposed were not the best or most efficient,” Waynant said in the news release. “But Lucas has gone through the literature and analyzed different ways to perform each of these steps to get the best results.”

“It’s been a lot of trial and error,” Sass said in the release. “But it’s so exciting when an approach finally works.”


Chemical Plant

The Poisons We Live In: How Dangerous Chemicals Still Evade Safety Testing

The story of Parkersburg, West Virginia is a cautionary tale of how large companies are still able to use marketing, lobbying, and lawyering to protect dangerous products.

Mariah Blake of the Huffington Post shares the story of  how Parkersburg became disastrously poisoned by DuPont’s chemical waste and how the main toxin, perfluorooctanoic acid (C8), has found it’s way into many US water systems. In fact, studies have shown the toxic chemical to be in the blood of over 90% of Americans.

Shelby county, Cullman County, and Clayton county are some of the many US counties that have detected C8 in the water supply.

Click here to see if your water is contaminated.

Although C8 is a known carcinogen,  liver toxin, developmental toxin, allergy stimulant and disrupter of normal thyroid function, it is still an unregulated substance.

The article in the Huffington Post explains how we arrived at this situation:

By the early 1970s, Congress was once again debating how to regulate the chemicals that now formed the fabric of American domestic life. Both houses drafted legislation that would empower the Environmental Protection Agency to study the health and environmental effects of chemicals and regulate their use. But the industry unleashed another lobbying blitz. Under the final version of the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, existing chemicals were again grandfathered in. Manufacturers did have to inform the EPA when they introduced new chemicals—but no testing was required. The resulting regulatory regime, which exists to this day, is remarkably laissez-faire. Only a handful of the 80,000-plus chemicals on the market have ever been tested for safety—meaning that we are all, in effect, guinea pigs in a vast, haphazard chemistry experiment.

Developments in chemistry have produced many valuable chemicals and medicines that have greatly benefited mankind. However, we should never be so foolish to ignore the dangers that can permanently damage our future and the future of our children.

The article is a long read, but definitely worth the time. Click here.


Girls soccer more dangerous than boys lacrosse

We normally think of soccer as a safer alternative to “full-contact” sports, like football, hockey or lacrosse. However, a recent study has shown that the risk of concussion is much higher than typically assumed.

In fact, the concussion risk for high school girls soccer is 4.5 concussions per 10,000 athlete exposures. This ranks  higher than the concussion risk for boys lacrosse, which is 4.0, and is almost that of football, which is 6.4.

The majority of concussions in soccer result from head-to-ball contact or head-to-head contact. Typically, these hits are the result of aggressive “Heading”, a move where soccer players use their head to hit the ball.

If more than one player goes for the same ball, the risk of injury is significantly increased, since players might have head-to-head contact.

10708755_825636734147508_6314490592686145869_oMuch of this risk is attributable to playing aggressively, however, players can educate themselves on how to head the ball safely, how to defend against head-to-head contact, and can use non-hindering protective gear.

If you would like to speak to a medical professional about concussion risks, look for doctors specializing in Sports Medicine.



Hearing Restored in Mice with Genetic Deafness using Gene Therapy

(IFL Science) Around 360 million people, or five percent of the global population, have disabling hearing loss. While half of these cases are avoidable through prevention strategies, such as vaccination and reducing exposure to loud noises, many are genetic and can be inherited. But hope could well be on the way, as scientists have successfully managed to restore hearing in mice with a type of genetic deafness.

The work is very much proof-of-principle at this stage, but the researchers think that with further fine-tuning, their technique – gene therapy – could eventually make its way into clinical trials and help people with deafness caused by faulty genes.

The gene on which the researchers chose to focus for their study is called TMC1, one of more than 70 identified so far that can cause deafness upon mutation. The crucial role that this gene plays in hearing was identified a couple of years ago by lead study author Jeffrey Holt and his team from Harvard Medical School, ending a frustrating ongoing hunt. They discovered that it forms part of channels located on tiny sensory cells in the inner ear, which facilitate the conversion of sound vibrations into electrical signals. These impulses then travel along nerves to the brain, ultimately allowing us to perceive sound.

For the investigation, published in Science Translational Medicine, the researchers created two different strains of mice with genetic deafness involving TMC1. The first, in which the entire gene was deleted, was designed to model the recessive form of TMC1 deafness whereby young children experience hearing loss following the inheritance of two mutant copies of the gene. The second, in which they made a small tweak in the TMC1 code, represented the less common, dominant form of the gene, which causes children to go deaf during adolescence after a single faulty copy is inherited.

To correct these mutations, the researchers engineered a harmless virus commonly used in gene therapy, called adeno-associated virus 1, to possess a normal, healthy copy of either TMC1 or its relative TMC2. They also added in a DNA sequence called a promoter, which meant that the gene was only switched on, or expressed, in sensory cells located in the inner ear. Because the virus does not need to insert its genes into our own genome in order to be expressed, this alleviated the concern that it could disrupt native DNA, Holt told IFLScience.

After injecting the viruses into the inner ear, the researchers observed some remarkable effects. In the recessive models, not only did the sensory cells regain the ability to respond to sounds, but a portion of the brain involved in sound perception also began displaying activity. Ultimately, these responses allowed the animals to hear once again, which was confirmed by exposing them to noises and measuring their reactions. The researchers also saw positive effects in the dominant model in which a TMC2-containing virus was used, with function restored at both the cellular and systems level, but unfortunately it was somewhat less successful at the behavioral level.

Although these early results are promising, the researchers need to continue to monitor the mice to see whether the restoration of hearing loss is sustained for longer than the already observed period of two months. They also plan to extend this work and investigate other forms of genetic deafness, including those which cause Usher Syndrome, Holt told IFLScience. This condition causes both blindness and deafness, so Holt thinks that it’s possible that a single gene therapy agent might help to treat both disorders, but there is still a lot of research and development before this approach is ready for the clinic.

By: Justine Alford
Image credit: Eddy Van 3000


UAB launches study of Marijuana oil for severe seizures

The University of Alabama at Birmingham has launched two studies of cannabidiol oil, or CBD oil, as a treatment for severe, intractable seizures. The two studies, an adult study at UAB and a pediatric study at Children’s of Alabama, were authorized by the Alabama Legislature in 2014 by legislation known as Carly’s Law.

The UAB studies are designed to test the safety and tolerability of CBD oil in patients with intractable seizures. CBD oil, a derivative of the cannabis plant, is delivered orally as an oily liquid.

“We are extremely pleased to launch these exciting studies,” said David Standaert, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Neurology. “What we learn from these investigations could have a profound impact on the lives of many adults and children with uncontrolled seizures. We are honored to have been entrusted with this effort by the Alabama Legislature, and we look forward to getting the studies underway.”

UAB will enroll 100 subjects in the two studies, 50 adult patients and 50 pediatric patients. Potential study subjects must apply to the UAB Cannabidiol Program for inclusion in the studies. Each application, which must include a referral from a patient’s primary treating neurologist, will be reviewed by a panel of UAB neurologists. Patients must meet necessary qualifications in order to be enrolled. Applications will be reviewed in the order in which they are received. Information on how to apply for enrollment can be found on the UAB Cannabidiol website at

Initial appointments will be scheduled as patients are enrolled. All patients in the studies will receive CBD oil.

UAB has contracted with a vendor to supply the oil, which is available only in very limited quantities nationwide. The vendor, who is providing the oil at no charge, has capped the amount of oil available for use in the UAB studies at enough to treat 100 patients, which would make the UAB studies among the largest in the nation. If more than 100 patients qualify for inclusion in the studies, UAB will investigate the possibility of expanding the studies.

by Bob Shepard, Source