Groundbreaking Discovery: potential cure for preeclampsia!

Preeclampsia is one of the many deadly diseases that can occur during pregnancy. What is even more daunting about it, though, is the fact that it cannot be cured without delivering the baby early. But what if I told you that the same protein thought to cause Alzheimer’s disease (cis P-tau) is also the culprit behind preeclampsia? Yes, you read that right. The cis P-tau protein was found for the first time outside the brain: in the blood and placenta of women suffering from preeclampsia. This not only gives insight into the connection between preeclampsia and brain health, but also leads to the discovery of a potential cure. Isn’t that amazing? A disease that caused 10% of maternal deaths worldwide could be treated without inducing birth! Behind the scenes of preeclampsia But what exactly is the cis P-tau protein and how does the body synthesise it? Well, until now, it was considered a biomarker for Alzheimer’s, strokes and other neurological disorders. And what is even more fascinating about it, is that it’s also linked to cancer! Essentially, the body produces an enzyme called Pin1, that keeps all the proteins in check. This is a stress enzyme, meaning it changes its structure depending on the environment, toxins, physiological changes, etc. Pin1 increases its activity in cancers, so it is found in cancerous stem cells in particular. In neurological diseases and preeclampsia, Pin1 becomes inactive. Thus, the normal tau protein, which was previously kept in shape by Pin1, becomes its misshapen form: cis P-tau. To sum up, too much Pin1 leads to cancer, while too little causes neurological diseases and preeclampsia. Having discovered cis P-tau’s implication in the disease, researchers have tested an antibody that targets the protein in mice with preeclampsia. The results were truly remarkable, as all the symptoms of preeclampsia were reversed and the protein was significantly depleted.   Science is the path to the future and all the people involved are the ones paving it. It is not everyday that we get to see a discovery that has the potential to save so many lives. If you found this article interesting and want to take part in shaping the future, stay tuned and stay curious with us! You can read the full article here. See you next time. About the author… Hello! My name is Ilinca and I am a third year medical student that dabbles in a little bit of everything. I have an undying thirst for knowledge and a great talent for procrastination. Oh and I love hairless cats with all my heart!

Astrocytes: the key to losing weight while eating more

 Did you know that 42% of Americans are obese? Moreover, did you know that 53% of European adults are overweight? The situation is so dire, that the World Health Organisation has coined the term “globesity”, referring to the “escalating global epidemic of overweight and obesity”. Obesity: the 21st century pandemic Obesity is a complex disease that can’t be boiled down to just eating too much and not moving enough. It also involves genetics, the environment one lives in, stress, etc. Thus, it is no wonder that several organisations, including the American Medical Association, now consider it a chronic disease. Obesity also increases the risk of several other afflicitions, including type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, heart disease and some cancers. But how can we even begin to control the ongoing obesity epidemic? The science behind dietless weightloss Recently, researchers discovered a new drug that burns fat while the subject is maintaining a high calorie intake. They named it KDS2010 and the way it works truly is fascinating. Neurons in the lateral hypothalamus regulate fat metabolism. Researchers now discovered that the hypothalamus contains a cluster of neurons that have receptors for an inhibitory neurotransmitter, called GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid). The researchers observed that in obese mice the neurons that have GABA receptors have a slower pacemaker firing, so the neurotransmitter inhibits them. In turn, less energy is consumed in the brown fat tissue and therefore less heat is produced. So, the mouse lost less weight. MAO, or Monoamine Oxidase B, holds a key role in the production of GABA (and many other neurotransmitters). Reactive astrocytes can produce this enzyme. A surprising discovery was that astrocytes actually regulate the activity of the GABA receptors and so, in the obese mice, the MAO enzyme is overproduced, thus the GABA quantity increases and the receptors are inhibited. Therefore, the obese mice lose less fat and less weight. KDS2010 is a MAO-B gene inhibitor, so basically it reverses the process mentioned before: there is less MAO, so less GABA, the GABA receptor neurons are active.  KDS2010 is now undergoing clinical trials. Researchers also tested the drug on an obese mouse model and it yielded astonishing results: KDS2010 supressed weight gain without affecting the appetite and without changing the calorie intake. If you found this article interesting, stay tuned and stay curious with us! You can read the article here. See you next time. About the author… Hello! My name is Ilinca and I am a third year medical student that dabbles in a little bit of everything. I have an undying thirst for knowledge and a great talent for procrastination. Oh and I love hairless cats with all my heart!

How engineered bacteria can track tumours

There is a common misconception that bacteria are freaky microscopic monsters that only mean to harm us. However, after a short lesson in microbiology, you might find out that’s not entirely true! Bacteria also live to aid the human body, playing a huge role in digestion. Nowadays bacteria can live to serve an even higher purpose: tracking tumours before any other modern screening method.  This study, specifically, targets the early diagnosis of colorectal cancer, which is the third leading cause of death in men and women alike. Although the survival rates have risen over the last decade, the prevalence in patients 50 and under has also been ascending. So, it is becoming more and more important to detect tumours as early as possible. Static screening methods, such as imaging, may offer the positive results too late, since they detect the cancer itself and not the real activity of cancer cells. Our microscopic friends come to the rescue!  This is where bio-sensors come in. They are generally “devices that measure biological or chemical reactions by generating signals proportional to the concentration of an analyte in the reaction” according to the National Institutes of Health. They are also not a new or revolutionary concept: L.L. Clark discovered and used the first ever biological sensor in 1950. Bacteria have long been used to detect the metabolic activity of different cells. What is, however, new and riveting about this discovery is that the genetically engineered new bacteria (Acinetobacter Baylyi) can now detect tumour DNA. This was not thought to be possible for mammalian DNA until now.  So how does this work? Essentially, A. baylyi can ingest the cancerous DNA shed by the tumour. The genetically engineered A. baylyi only survives after ingesting the aforementioned DNA. So, if there is a tumour, the modified bacteria will survive and produce a signal accordingly, therefore the person will test positive for colorectal cancer. If the test is negative, the bacteria will die and therefore it would not produce a signal.   It is important to note, however, that this is only the beginning of cancer DNA research, since further testing on this matter is needed. Who would have thought that such a small organism could have such a big impact? If you found this article interesting, stay tuned for more and stay curious with us! Oh, and remember: bacteria are not always foes, they can also be friends! You can read the entire article here. About the author… Hello! My name is Ilinca and I am a third year medical student that dabbles in a little bit of everything. I have an undying thirst for knowledge and a great talent for procrastination. Oh and I love hairless cats with all my heart!

AI Discovers an Antibiotic Targeting Acinetobacter Baumanii

Did you know that the same algorithm that recognizes your face when you unlock your phone could find a new antibiotic for one of the most challenging pathogens out there? As unbelievable as that might sound, it is in fact true! And the concept behind both is one that has stirred quite the controversy in the modern media: artificial intelligence.   With the help of  trained neural networks, researchers have recently found a new antibiotic that specifically targets Acinetobacter baumannii – a Gram negative pathogen that causes severe nosocomial infections in patients with a weakened immune system. Finding a new antibiotic for A. baumanii has proven to be difficult through conventional screening techniques, since this particular group of germs has the ability to develop resistance swiftly by incorporating DNA from their environment. The ABCs of neural networks But what are neural networks and what do they do? Essentially, they are algorithms that function like the human brain does, but better: they are faster learners than their muse. There are several layers of interconnected “neurons”: first layer of neurons receives input, then sends the output to the second layer and so on. Each layer is receptive for a specific characteristic. For example, if such a network were to analyse an image, the first layer would collect information regarding the dark and light spots, the second layer would try to recognize the shapes created by the sharp edges of the picture, etc. And this all applies to several aspects of our daily lives: facial recognition softwares, driverless cars or even text suggestions.  And just as a neural network manages to process an image, it also manages to predict the antibiotic properties structurally new molecules have against A. baumanii.  How AI worked in our favour  The researchers trained the neural network to assess the activity of different molecules (off-patent drugs and synthethic molecules) that inhibit the growth of A. baumannii. Then, they used the collected data to train a binary classifier: an algorithm that places data in one of two categories. In this case, the categories for the binary classifier were: molecule that has antibiotic properties or molecule that does not have antibiotic properties. Using this algorithm the researchers predicted the antibacterial activity of compounds that were not initially used against the pathogen. The assesed compounds were provided by the Drug Repurposing Hub – “an open-access repository of more than 6,000 compounds”, according to their website. In the past, researchers created those compounds with the intention of treating several other diseases. However, the molecules ended up out of use, for one reason or another. The Hub offers those structures to researchers willing to find them another purpose. The trained neural network processed the 6,000 compounds, assessed whether they had antibacterial properties and whether they were structurally similar to already known antibiotics that work against A. baumanii. In the end, the molecules with the highest activity against the pathogen underwent in vitro testing. Abaucin proved itself to be the most suitable compound. Abaucin was also tested on a wounded mouse model, where it proved to be remarkably effective.   Although this is an astonishing step forward, it is still important to mention that structural analogs of abaucin need to be developed for enhanced activity in vivo. With the help of AI, the field of medicine could evolve at a stunning pace, providing a cure for the now deadly nosocomial infections. If you found this article interesting, stay tuned and stay curious with us! You can read the entire article here. About the author… Hello! My name is Ilinca and I am a third year medical student that dabbles in a little bit of everything. I have an undying thirst for knowledge and a great talent for procrastination. Oh and I love hairless cats with all my heart!

Inflammatory Bowel Disease And Immunonutrition

You are standing in line at the most well-known fast-food in your city. You are already thinking how you are going to take a bite from that delicious sandwich and your stomach is rumbling. Have you ever thought of the idea that the sounds your stomach is making might not be a sign of your cravings, but one last call for help? Studies show that the so called “western diet” containing high levels of carbohydrates and fatty acids contributes to the genesis of one of the most widespread 21st century’s diseases: the inflammatory bowel disease (I.B.D.). And so, that delicious sandwich you have been dreaming of the whole day might become a triggering factor in the activation of the immune cells. This activation leads to an immune response followed by the inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT). As a result, the microbiota of the GIT is strongly affected and it leads to dysbiosis- meaning lack of benefic bacteria diversity but incoming growth of pathobionts like E. Coli. Now that we have a brief idea of what I.B.D. is, you must be wondering: what about the treatment? So far, there are three known approaches. The first one is represented by the PROBIOTICS. They are beneficial intestinal microbes which are administered in order to rejuvenate the microbiota of the GIT. Unfortunately, the desired effect of the probiotics is different from what is really happening in the gut. Our GITs are particularly different from one another and by that I mean that we all have various types of beneficial bacteria which are considered as “self” in an immune response. However, by administering a probiotic, which is a rather “one size fits all” approach due to the fact that the containing bacteria might be different from the ones of the patient, we generate an immune response in which the drug is considered “non self”. If our body rejects the probiotic, it will fail to replenish the stocks of beneficial bacteria. The second approach is represented by the administration of PREBIOTICS. How can a letter make such a difference in treating I.B.D.? First of all, the prebiotics differ from probiotics not only by one letter, but by the concept of how they act on the microbiota. A prebiotic is “a substrate that is selectively used by host microorganisms conferring a health benefit”. Basically, prebiotics offer to the existing bacteria in the microbiota a substrate on which they could prosper. The third approach consists of administering VITAMIN D. Patients with I.B.D. have shown a deficiency of the sunshine vitamin which is correlated to the dysbiosis. Vitamin D has an important role in maintaining the homeostasis of the intestinal barrier and the microbiota, thus a lack of this vitamin will lead to a worsened outcome in patients with I.B.D. Has this summary incited your appetite for science? If so, read the entire article linked below: Catalina Sabina Cremeneanu – SOMS Wisp of Science

Artificial Intelligence And Its Impact On Histopathology

What is the meaning of life? Are robots going to take over humanity? I’m sure I am not the only one kept up at night by such obscure thoughts.  We can’t possibly answer the first question in due time, that would only create unnecessary head scratchers, but for the second one I can only say this: probably not…yet?  A paper published in the American Journal of  Surgical Pathology describes the impact of deep learning assistance on the histopathological review of lymph nodes for metastatic breast cancer, which further sheds some light into how exactly artificial intelligence (AI) is going to either help or replace human labour.   The charm of creating intelligence preoccupied humankind all the way back to the time when Talos protected Europa from invaders. Nowadays, state-of-the-art computing resources allow Google to make progress in a branch of AI called deep learning. This software attempts to mimic the activity in layers of neurons in the cortex. It basically learns to recognize patterns in digital representations of sounds, images, and other data. Moreover, it is proving to be of great help in the medical field, already surpassing specialists in speed and accuracy. In pathology, reviewing lymph nodes for breast cancer metastases can be a truly tiring job; that’s where the Lymph Node Assistant (LYNA) comes especially in handy, considering the difficulty and, most of all, the importance of detecting early micrometastases.   The study, a bout of strength between humans and machines: 6 pathologists completed a simulated diagnostic task in which they reviewed lymph nodes both with and without the assistance of LYNA. The use of LYNA made the task easier and halved average slide review time. Moreover, algorithm assistance significantly increased the detection of micrometastases (from 83% to 91%). It is important to note that algorithm assisted pathologists actually proved higher accuracy than both the algorithm and the pathologist alone. Why is that? The perks of AI have already been recognized: some can even exceed a pathologist’s sensitivity for detecting individual cancer foci in digital images. However, this gain in sensitivity comes at the cost of increased false positives. Also, it is limited to the task for which they have been specifically trained. On the other hand, the pathologist’s experience and understanding of the clinical context proves invaluable for discerning false results. Hence, combining the sensitivity of the software with the specificity of humans actually brings the best of both worlds to accurate results.   We have barely begun to understand the strengths and weaknesses of these algorithms, so the potential clinical utility has not yet been thoroughly examined; still, the future looks bright! Even though shows like “Black Mirror” paint a gruesome outlook for the distant future, one cannot deny the beauty and the necessity of technology in our lives, especially since we are lucky enough to be witnessing fiction slowly turning into reality. But next time you want to jokingly hit your Roomba or toy with your Google Home, you may want to think again…they might remember. Follow this link to read more on this particular subject:  Silvia Dumitriu – SOMS Wisp of Sciene

The Relationship Between Social Media And Depression

It is well known that social media has a major impact on our lives, but how does it really affect us? A study made by the University of Amsterdam revealed that the passive use of social media (also called PSMU – passive social media use) leads to depression-like symptoms such as loneliness and fatigue. Even though scrolling through social media feeds is a time-consuming routine, a lot of people do this every day. The study was made with 125 students, measuring how they felt seven times a day for 14 days. They were asked to complete a 12 item questionnaire at fixed times, thing made possible by an app on their phones. The study concentrated on three periods of time: short-term (2 hours), medium-term (from one inquiry to the other) and long-term (the entire 14 days). The surprising thing with this study is that PSMU did not predict depression symptoms; it was quite the other way around: a negative mood lead to an escalation in social media use. The short-term timeframe revealed that PSMU also came with ‘a loss of interest, concentration problems, fatigue and loneliness’. The link between focusing and social media is interesting as well: students who experience less concentration problems tend to spend less time on social media at a given timeframe, the opposite being likewise (more concentration problems resulted in more time spent on social media). It is not yet known if PSMU is the cause of those symptoms or if it’s the other way around. George Aalbers, (UvA Research Master’s graduate in Psychology and lead author of the study) underlines the fact that the relation between social media and general well-being is more complicated than ‘social media make people depressed’. He claims that specific PSMU is correlated with specific depression symptoms, but the link between the two is not fully known yet. The next thing to do, as researchers declare, is to reproduce the discovery in a clinical context, the results being able to show an unmistakable correlation between PSMU and depression symptoms. Do you want to learn more about this? If your answer is ‘yes’, check the article below: Vina Gabriela – SOMS Wisp of Science

Mitochondrial DNA Inherited From Fathers, Not Just Mothers

Mitochondrion is the powerhouse of the cell, but who really powers the transmission of this amazing organelle? Taosheng Huan (a geneticist from the USA) recently identified a case that has changed the way we look at mitochondrial inheritance: a four-year-old boy that carries mitochondrial DNA both from the mother, as well as from the father. Until know, scientists thought that mitochondrial DNA is inherited almost exclusively from the mother. The reason for this exclusiveness is unknown, but one theory suggests that the mitochondria found in sperm are more prone to mutation than their counterpart in the egg. Moreover, certain molecular mechanisms found in the egg can destroy the mitochondria if they manage to “leak” from the male gamete. If these mechanisms fail, then the paternal mitochondria will be passed on to the egg. Following this discovery, Huang and his team went further and found 17 individuals from three unrelated families, who inherited mitochondrial DNA from their fathers. They concluded that both the maternal and paternal DNA was synchronized during fertilization which resulted in children with mixed mitochondria. Researchers have also found one interesting aspect: children who possessed mitochondrial DNA from their grandfathers. This fascinating pattern of inheritance is explained as it follows: the mother inherited DNA from her grandfather and passed it on to the child, with no implications from the biological father. Preliminary results show that 1 in every 5000 people presents mixed mitochondrial DNA, making this anomaly more frequent than we thought. This discovery opens up the possibility of various treatments and applications in the medical field, such as assisted reproductive technology. Huang’s team was part of the “three-parent” baby project in 2016 in which nuclear DNA from a mother with mitochondrial disease was transferred to an egg with healthy mitochondria which was then fertilized. Instead of using a foreign egg, paternal mitochondria could replace the affected maternal mitochondria. However, given the fact that mitochondria from the sperm can mutate more easily, multiple problems can appear in the evolution of the embryo. Alongside the biological difficulties, the ethics of these artificial procedures lead to various debates. While there is still a lot to be known about this process, it has already changed the way we describe mitochondria and its inheritance. This topic is too big to be covered in just a few words, so I invite you to satisfy your thirst of knowledge by accessing this link: . Karim Cherry – SOMS Wisp of Science

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