Biomedical Laboratory Science

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The brain dictionary!

Where exactly are the words in your head?

Scientists have created an interactive map showing which brain areas respond to hearing different words. The map reveals how language is spread throughout the cortex and across both hemispheres, showing groups of words clustered together by meaning. The beautiful interactive model allows us to explore the complex organization of the enormous dictionaries in our heads.

Explore the brain model for yourself here

Read the paper here

Source: NatureVideo

Vitamin D and cardiovascular disease prevention

Vitamin D is a precursor of the steroid hormone calcitriol that is crucial for bone and mineral metabolism. Both the high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in the general population and the identification of the vitamin D receptor in the heart and blood vessels raised interest in the potential cardiovascular effects of vitamin D. Experimental studies have demonstrated various cardiovascular protective actions of vitamin D, but vitamin D intoxication in animals is known to induce vascular calcification. In meta-analyses of epidemiological studies, vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increased cardiovascular risk. Findings from Mendelian randomization studies and randomized, controlled trials (RCTs) do not indicate significant effects of a general vitamin D supplementation on cardiovascular outcomes. Previous RCTs, however, were not adequately designed to address extra skeletal events, and did not focus on vitamin D-deficient individuals. Therefore, currently available evidence does not support cardiovascular benefits or harms of vitamin D supplementation with the commonly used doses, and whether vitamin D has cardiovascular effects in individuals with overt vitamin D deficiency remains to be evaluated. Here, we provide an update on clinical studies on vitamin D and cardiovascular risk, discuss ongoing vitamin D research, and consider the management of vitamin D deficiency from a cardiovascular health perspective.

Key points
  • The vitamin D receptor (VDR) and enzymes for vitamin D metabolism are expressed throughout the cardiovascular system
  • VDR and 1α-hydroxylase knockout mice have hypertension with myocardial hypertrophy and increased activity of the renin–angiotensin–aldosterone system
  • The molecular effects of VDR activation indicate various anti-atherosclerotic and protective effects on the heart and on common cardiovascular risk factors
  • Observational studies have shown that low 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels are associated with an adverse cardiovascular risk profile and significantly increased risk of cardiovascular events
  • Mendelian randomization studies and randomized clinical trials have not shown significant effects of vitamin D on cardiovascular events, but these trials were not designed to investigate cardiovascular outcomes in vitamin D-deficient individuals
  • Vitamin D supplementation is currently not indicated for the purpose of cardiovascular disease prevention, but treatment of vitamin D deficiency is critical for skeletal health
The critical involvement of vitamin D in bone and mineral metabolism is historically known. The identification of the vitamin D receptor (VDR) in almost all human organs including the heart and the blood vessels, and observations that individuals deficient in vitamin D are at increased risk of various extraskeletal diseases, stimulated research on the role of vitamin D for overall and cardiovascular health. In this Review, we summarize the existing knowledge on the effects of vitamin D on cardiovascular diseases and associated risk factors, with a particular focus on meta-analyses of large, epidemiological studies and randomized, controlled trials (RCTs). First, we provide a short summary of vitamin D metabolism and current vitamin D guidelines, a historical perspective on vitamin D and cardiovascular diseases, and a brief overview on the mechanistic effects of VDR activation on cardiovascular risk factors, the blood vessels, and the heart. The principal aspect of this Review is an update on observational studies, Mendelian randomization studies, and RCTs on vitamin D and cardiovascular risk. Finally, we outline and discuss ongoing vitamin D research, including large RCTs, and present our conclusions on how to deal with the management of vitamin D deficiency from a public health and cardiovascular health perspective.

Figure 1: Human metabolism of vitamin D.

Source: NatureReviewsCardiology

Vitamin D and cardiovascular disease prevention

Friday, May 6, 2016

Gallstones: Epidemiology, Pathophysiology and Management.

Gallstones grow inside the gallbladder or biliary tract. These stones can be asymptomatic or symptomatic; only gallstones with symptoms or complications are defined as gallstone disease. Based on their composition, gallstones are classified into cholesterol gallstones, which represent the predominant entity, and bilirubin (‘pigment’) stones. Black pigment stones can be caused by chronic hemolysis; brown pigment stones typically develop in obstructed and infected bile ducts. For treatment, localization of the gallstones in the biliary tract is more relevant than composition. Overall, up to 20% of adults develop gallstones and >20% of those develop symptoms or complications. Risk factors for gallstones are female sex, age, pregnancy, physical inactivity, obesity and over nutrition. Factors involved in metabolic syndrome increase the risk of developing gallstones and form the basis of primary prevention by lifestyle changes. Common mutations in the hepatic cholesterol transporter ABCG8 confer most of the genetic risk of developing gallstones, which accounts for ∼25% of the total risk. Diagnosis is mainly based on clinical symptoms, abdominal ultrasonography and liver biochemistry tests. Symptoms often precede the onset of the three common and potentially life-threatening complications of gallstones (acute cholecystitis, acute cholangitis and biliary pancreatitis). Although our knowledge on the genetics and pathophysiology of gallstones has expanded recently, current treatment algorithms remain predominantly invasive and are based on surgery. Hence, our future efforts should focus on novel preventive strategies to overcome the onset of gallstones in at-risk patients in particular, but also in the population in general.

Gallstones (cholelithiasis) are masses in the gallbladder or biliary tract that are caused by abnormally high levels of either cholesterol or bilirubin (a breakdown product of heme) in bile (Fig. 1). Gallstones are common (∼10–20% of the global adult population), and >20% of people with gallstones will develop symptoms in their lifetime (including biliary colic or infections), usually in adulthood. Gallstone disease is defined by the occurrence of symptoms or complications caused by gallstones in the gallbladder and/or the bile ducts. From a clinical perspective and in treatment algorithms, those with asymptomatic stones are not generally classified as having gallstone disease. Gallstone disease is among the gastrointestinal conditions associated with the highest socioeconomic costs.

Figure 1: Classification of gallstones.
PrimeView Poster:
Gallstones are masses in the gallbladder or biliary tract. 10–20% of adults will develop gallstones in their lifetime, and >20% of those will develop symptoms or complications. This Primer by Lammert et al. focuses on the formation of gallstones, summarizes the current principles of treatment of the stones and their potential complications and envisions future approaches for this widespread disease. And this PrimeView focuses on the most common risk factors, which include genetics, ethnicity, sex, age, drugs, parasites, over nutrition and pregnancy.
Frank Lammert, Kurinchi Gurusamy, Cynthia W. Ko,Juan-Francisco Miquel, Nahum Méndez-Sánchez, Piero Portincasa, Karel J. van Erpecum, Cees J. van Laarhoven& David Q.-H. Wang

View poster: Gallstone Poster (high-resolution PDF (1.30 MB))

Source: NatureReviewsDiseasePrimers

Breast milk hormones found to impact bacterial development in infants' guts

Intestinal microbiome of children born to obese mothers significantly different from those born to mothers of healthy weight

A new study finds that hormones in breast milk may impact the development of healthy bacteria in infants' guts, potentially protecting them from intestinal inflammation, obesity and other diseases later in life.

The study, published Monday in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, examines the role of human milk hormones in the development of infants' microbiome, a bacterial ecosystem in the digestive system that contributes to multiple facets of health.

"This is the first study of its kind to suggest that hormones in human milk may play an important role in shaping a healthy infant microbiome," said Bridget Young, co-first author and assistant professor of pediatric nutrition at CU Anschutz. "We've known for a long time that breast milk contributes to infant intestinal maturation and healthy growth. This study suggests that hormones in milk may be partly responsible for this positive impact through interactions with the infant's developing microbiome."

Researchers found that levels of insulin and leptin in the breast milk were positively associated with greater microbial diversity and families of bacteria in the infants' stool.

A new study examined the role of human milk hormones in the development of infants' microbiome

Bipolar, autism, and schizophrenia might share genetic origin

A new, in-depth genetic study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, finds a potential link between bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and autism. Although the findings are tentative, they open the door to new avenues of investigation.

Bipolar disorder, previously called manic depression, causes dramatic shifts in mood, along with swings in activity and energy levels.

Thought to affect almost 1 to 3 percent of Americans, bipolar disorder can be an incredibly disruptive condition.

Bipolar disorder is thought to share a common genetic origin with a number of other psychiatric conditions. Although evidence of this connection is growing, the search is still in its infancy.

New research, led by Dr. James Potash, puts another gene-shaped piece in the jigsaw. The study was a joint venture, conducted at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD, and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, NY.

The genetics behind psychiatric disorders are slowly revealed.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Human Embryo Implantation Model in Lab Dish

Scientists based at The Rockefeller University have created an experimental system that models the implantation of a human embryo. The new system, an adaptation of one used to recapitulate the implantation of a mouse embryo, provides an attachment substrate, surrounds the blastocyst with just the right chemical environment, and provides scaffolding that accommodates the morphological movements that are particular to human embryos. For example, a human blastocyst undergoing implantation assumes a disk-like shape, whereas the mouse blastocyst is oblong.

The in vitro system has been used to show molecular and cellular processes in human development that occur up to day 14 after fertilization. The system, which has experimentally replicated implantation outside of the uterus for the first time, promises to expand scientists’ ability to answer basic questions about our own development, as well as to understand early pregnancy loss.

Details of the work appeared May 4 in the journal Nature, in an article entitled, “Self-Organization of theIn Vitro Attached Human Embryo.” The article paid particular attention to postimplantation development of the human embryo, a process that remains mysterious.

Source: genengnews

The mechanisms and functions of spontaneous neurotransmitter release

Fast synaptic communication in the brain requires synchronous vesicle fusion that is evoked by action potential-induced Ca2+ influx. However, synaptic terminals also release neurotransmitters by spontaneous vesicle fusion, which is independent of presynaptic action potentials. A functional role for spontaneous neurotransmitter release events in the regulation of synaptic plasticity and homeostasis, as well as the regulation of certain behaviours, has been reported. In addition, there is evidence that the presynaptic mechanisms underlying spontaneous release of neurotransmitters and their postsynaptic targets are segregated from those of evoked neurotransmission. These findings challenge current assumptions about neuronal signalling and neurotransmission, as they indicate that spontaneous neurotransmission has an autonomous role in interneuronal communication that is distinct from that of evoked release.

Key points
  • Synaptic terminals can release neurotransmitter by spontaneous vesicle fusion that is independent of presynaptic action potentials.
  • The traditional view of spontaneous neurotransmitter release suggests that spontaneous events occur randomly in the absence of stimuli owing to low-probability conformational changes in the vesicle fusion machinery.
  • Recent studies have identified key distinctions between the synaptic vesicle fusion machineries that perform spontaneous versus evoked neurotransmitter release.
  • In mammalian hippocampal synapses and at the Drosophila melanogaster neuromuscular junction, spontaneous and evoked neurotransmitter release events show some spatial segregation and activate distinct populations of postsynaptic receptors.
  • Segregation of spontaneous neurotransmission enables selective neuromodulation that is independent of evoked release.
  • In mammalian hippocampal synapses and at the D. melanogaster neuromuscular junction, spontaneous release events activate specific postsynaptic signal transduction cascades that maintain synaptic efficacy or regulate structural plasticity and synaptic development.
  • Novel strategies that selectively target spontaneous release events are needed to address whether spontaneous release can signal independently during ongoing activity in intact neuronal circuits.
  • Introduction
Our current insights into the mechanisms underlying synaptic transmission originate from experiments that were conducted in the 1950s by Bernard Katz and colleagues. A key aspect of these studies was the discovery of spontaneous neurotransmitter release events, which seemed to occur in discrete 'quantal' packets. This fundamental observation enabled the complex and seemingly intractable nature of action potential-evoked neurotransmission to be analyzed and understood on the basis of its unitary components. Although the original work solely relied on electrophysiological analysis, later studies that used electron microscopy provided visual validation of the hypothesis that neurotransmission occurs through fusion of discrete synaptic vesicles that contain neurotransmitters with the presynaptic plasma membrane.

Figure 3: Segregation of spontaneous and evoked neurotransmission.

Vitamin D Could Repair Nerve Damage in Multiple Sclerosis

A protein activated by vitamin D could be involved in repairing damage to myelin in people with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to new research from the University of Cambridge. The study, published today in the Journal of Cell Biology, offers significant evidence that vitamin D could be a possible treatment for MS in the future.

Researchers, from the MS Society Cambridge Centre for Myelin Repair, identified that the ‘vitamin D receptor’ protein pairs with an existing protein, called the RXR gamma receptor, already known to be involved in the repair of myelin, the protective sheath surrounding nerve fibres.

By adding vitamin D to brain stem cells where the proteins were present, they found the production rate of oligodendrocytes (myelin making cells) increased by 80%. When they blocked the vitamin D receptor to stop it from working, the RXR gamma protein alone was unable to stimulate the production of oligodendrocytes.

Neuron with oligodendrocyte and myelin sheath (edited)

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Neurodegenerative disease damage reversed in fruit flies

Alzheimer's and Parkinson's symptoms have been reversed in fruit flies following treatment with a drug-like chemical, says research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The discovery, which centers around the protection of brain cells, could be a turning point in the fight against neurodegenerative disease, say the authors.

Neurodegenerative diseases occur when groups of nerve cells in the brain die, making it difficult for a person to move and to think.

According to Claire Bale, of Parkinson's UK, the symptoms of Parkinson's tend not to appear until 70 percent of nerve cells in the brain have already been lost.

Unfortunately, current treatments are only able to tackle the symptoms of the condition - they cannot slow or stop the degeneration of these cells.

Scientists are making progressing in techniques to protect nerve cells.

New gene testing method can identify mutations, prioritize variants in breast and ovarian cancer genes

A research team led by an award-winning genomicist at Western University has developed a new method for identifying mutations and prioritizing variants in breast and ovarian cancer genes, which will not only reduce the number of possible variants for doctors to investigate, but also increase the number of patients that are properly diagnosed.

These potentially game-changing technologies, developed by Peter Rogan, PhD, students and his collaborators from Western's Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, reveal gene variants that were missed by conventional genetic testing.

Their method, described in BMC Medical Genomics, was first applied to 102 individuals at risk or with a diagnosis of inherited breast cancer. The team also studied 287 women with no known mutations for an article published in Human Mutation.

Rogan, Canada Research Chair in Genome Bioinformatics, says that 16 to 20 per cent of women in southwestern Ontario, who have their BRCA genes tested for breast and/or ovarian cancer risk, carry disease-causing gene variants that are well-understood by clinicians and genetic counselors. If a patient tests positive for an abnormal BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene and have never had breast cancer, there is a much higher-than-average risk of developing the deadly disease.

Source: azonano

A novel device claims to be an 'off switch' for painful menstruation.

It’s estimated that nine out of 10 women suffer from period pain each month, and an unfortunate 10 percent of those will get it so bad, they could be incapacitated for up to three days. 

Other than using contraceptives to skip their period altogether (just like astronauts do), menstruating women have precious few options to beat this thing and get on with their lives. Some over-the-counter pain-killers and a strategically placed hot water bottle is about it.

But there’s another option behind secret door #3, and early reports are saying this thing actually works. Dubbed Livia, this new medical device claims to be an"off switch for menstrual pain".

Okay, so first thing’s first: how does this supposed 'miracle cure' actually work? 

As the Livia website explains, the device comes with two electrodes, which you need to place on the painful areas on your abdomen. Switch the device on, and these electrodes will start delivering imperceptible electric pulses to your nerves, which will settle the pain.

Source: sciencealert

Fasting no longer necessary before cholesterol test

For the first time, a team of international experts recommends that most people do not need to fast before having their cholesterol and triglyceride levels tested.

Fasting is a problem for many patients, they explain, and note the latest research shows that cholesterol and triglyceride levels are similar whether people fast or not.

The experts represent the European Atherosclerosis Society (EAS) and the European Federation of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (EFLM) joint consensus initiative.

They refer to new research from Denmark, Canada, and the United States that included over 300,000 people and found it is not necessary to have an empty stomach to check cholesterol levels.

Apart from Denmark, all countries require that patients fast for at least 8 hours before checking their cholesterol and triglyceride levels - referred to as "lipid profile." In Denmark, non-fasting blood sampling has been in use since 2009.

Researchers say fasting before a cholesterol test is unnecessary.

We could be close enough to the stem cell revolution!

Stem cell therapy has been in use for many years, but with only limited reach. As such the oft bandied stem cell revolution has still yet to arrive. Steve Buckwell and Chris Coe explain why this is set to change and why now is the perfect time for its potential to be achieved. 

The stem cell revolution as it’s often referred to is now already in its third decade. But like the paper free office, is it just one of those envisaged futures that never seem to really happen? Embryonic stem cells were first isolated 18 years ago, but stem cell therapies have been slowed by high production costs, batch-to-batch variability and limited seed material. But we still believe the revolution will kick off some time in the second half of this decade. This is why.

Firstly the early ethical issues have, in many cases been overcome, with adult stem cells showing promise in the clinic but not requiring the embryo exploitation and destruction that made embryonic stem cell research so controversial in the years after 1998. Secondly, there is now substantial mid-stage clinical evidence that stem cells work in areas of unmet medical need, much of which has only become evident in the last five years.

There are various stem cell products in development that work allogeneically, meaning that the patient receives stem cells sourced from someone else’s body. As a general rule, allogeneic therapies are quite cost effective because they have the potential to be ‘off-the-shelf’, whereas autologous therapies (use of the patient’s own cells) can be considerably more expensive.

Source: labnews

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Novel test can detect any virus

Scientists have designed a test that can detect not only any known virus type and subtype but also virus outbreaks.

A research team led by the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis (WUSTL) condensed nearly 1 billion base pairs of viral DNA sequences to create a test that they call ViroCap.

“With this test, you don’t have to know what you’re looking for. It casts a broad net and can efficiently detect viruses that are present at very low levels. We think the test will be especially useful in situations where a diagnosis remains elusive after standard testing or in situations in which the cause of a disease outbreak is unknown,” said research associate Professor Gregory Storch.

To develop the test, the researchers targeted unique stretches of DNA or RNA from every known group of viruses that infects vertebrates – including 2 million unique stretches of genetic material. The stretches of material were used as probes which can pluck out viruses from a sample and find a genetic match. The matched viral material was then analyzed by high-throughput genetic sequencing.

New test can detect any virus that infects vertebrates
Source: labnews

Insights on the Growing Fingerprint Challenge

Although some fingerprint analysis is new, the concept—using fingerprints for identification—started centuries ago.

The Future of Identifying People Will Require More Than One Method

Standing in the immigration line at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi, India, I watch person after person be fingerprinted. First, you put your left four fingers on a digital pad, then your right four, and finally both thumbs at once. If all goes smoothly, the Indian government collects all ten fingerprints for everyone entering the country. It’s not as easy as it sounds, even from the start. More than one person is asked to try again and again. So obtaining a print can be as difficult as analyzing one.

Although some fingerprint analysis is new, the concept— using fingerprints for identification—started centuries ago. Thousands of years ago in Babylon, a fingerprint served as a signature of sorts on business papers. Finally, in 1880, British surgeon Henry Faulds described using fingerprints to identify people; he gets credit for the first use of this technology of lifting a print from an alcohol bottle.

Source: labmanager

Next Generation Blood Separation Technology

A next-generation blood separation technology that is designed to enhance sample quality, improve laboratory efficiency and reduce laboratory turnaround time has received the Conformité Européenne (CE) marking. 

The tube is a single-use, plastic evacuated tube used to collect, separate, transport and process venous blood specimens to obtain high-quality plasma for in vitro diagnostic use and the tube has a revolutionary separator technology, providing a cleaner plasma sample with less cellular contamination, meaning the sample is more stable and allows a longer window to conduct testing when compared to existing blood separation tubes. 

BD Barricor tubes (BD, Becton, Dickinson and Company, Franklin Lakes, NJ, USA) are optimized to deliver a high quality plasma sample by reducing cellular content (versus plasma gel tubes), as a result of the mechanical separator remaining open throughout the centrifugation cycle.

BD vacutainer separation tubes for blood specimens

Heart Attack Patients Are Getting Younger and More Obese.

Young people tend to feel invincible to danger, but they're not, especially when it comes to their heart health. One of the most common misconceptions about heart health is that older people are the only ones who need to worry. 

Patients who suffer from the most severe and deadly type of heart attack, STEMI, are getting younger and more obese, according to Dr. Samir Kapadia, professor of medicine and section head for interventional cardiology at Cleveland Clinic.

"On the whole, the medical community has done an outstanding job of improving treatments for heart disease, but this study shows that we have to do better on the prevention side," said Kapadia in a statement. "When people come for routine checkups, it is critical to stress the importance of reducing risk factors through weight reduction, eating a healthy diet, and being physically active." He presented his research at the American College of Cardiology's 65th Annual Scientific Session.

Source: HealthDay

Monday, May 2, 2016

Tips to diabetes for drinking alcohol

Enjoying a glass of wine, fruity margarita, or frosty pint of beer requires a little forethought if you have diabetes. Before you indulge, make sure you have a tasty appetizer or healthy salad to go along with your drink. And talk to your doctor about drinking alcohol. The answer to whether you can or should not will depend on your specific circumstances.

How Does Alcohol Affect Blood Sugar?

The way alcohol affects your blood sugar comes down to whether you’ve eaten, and how much and how often you drink. A standard drink contains 0.6 fluid ounces of alcohol. This means that a 12 ounce beer (about 5% alcohol) is equivalent to a 5 ounce glass of your average table wine (about 12% alcohol) or a shot of hard liquor such as vodka. Here’s the scoop on how much and how often:
  • When you have an occasional drink with food, alcohol generally has little effect on your blood sugar. This is the safest way to enjoy alcohol.
  • When you have an occasional drink without any food, alcohol can cause your blood sugar to fall to dangerously low levels. You should never drink alcohol on an empty stomach.
  • If you are a habitual drinker (3 to 4 drinks a day), alcohol increases your blood sugar no matter what you eat. If this describes you, consider talking to your doctor about ways to cut back or stop your alcohol use.

Source: diabeteszone

'Millions will die' from antimicrobial resistance unless we act now

From helping humans live longer and hacking our performance, to repairing the body and understanding the brain, WIRED Health will hear from the innovators transforming this critical sector.

Ten million people around the world will die each year by 2050 if more is not done to tackle the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance, Jim O'Neill, commercial secretary to the treasury, has said.

Speaking at WIRED Health, O'Neill said the rise in resistance needs to be "embraced by policy makers around the world".

If it isn't then the number of people dying from antimicrobial resistance (AMR) will increase dramatically.

Staphylococcus Aureus

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Lab-grown sperm makes healthy offspring

Sperm have been made in the laboratory and used to father healthy baby mice in a pioneering move that could lead to infertility treatments.

The Chinese research took a stem cell, converted it into primitive sperm and fertilised an egg to produce healthy pups.

The study, in the Journal Cell Stem Cell, showed they were all healthy and grew up to have offspring of their own.

Experts said it was a step towards human therapies.

It could ultimately help boys whose fertility is damaged by cancer treatment, infections such as mumps or those with defects that leave them unable to produce sperm.

Sperm factory

Making sperm in the testes is one of the longest and most complicated processes in the body - taking more than a month from start to finish in most mammals.

Source: bbc

Scientists are growing billions of blood cells in the lab

From helping humans live longer and hacking our performance, to repairing the body and understanding the brain, WIRED Health will hear from the innovators transforming this critical sector. Read all of our WIRED Health coverage here.

Jo Mountford is making billions of red blood cells in a laboratory in Glasgow. And now she wants to scale-up production. Big time.

Mountford, from the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences at the University of Glasgow, started trying to create blood in the lab in 2007 and is now able to create it on demand.

In 2008, her team produced 100,000 red blood cells; by 2014 output had reached ten billion cells for the year. The ten billion cells were stored in 88 flasks and made up 8.8 litres of blood.

The team – funded by the Wellcome Trust and incorporating universities and organisations from around the UK – is now able to produce the cells in 30-31 days. "We can choose what blood group we make," Mountford told the audience at WIRED Health.

The NHS Blood and Transplant facility in Bristol, where donated blood is screened. A British team
called Novosang wants to render this process obsolete
Source: Greg White

Human sperm created from mature skin cells for infertility solution

Scientists in Spain say they have created human sperm from skin cells, which could eventually lead to a treatment for infertility.

The researchers said they were working to find a solution for the roughly 15 per cent of couples worldwide who are unable to have children and whose only option is to use donated gametes (sperm or eggs).

"What to do when someone who wants to have a child lacks gametes?" asked Dr Carlos Simon, scientific director of the Valencian Infertility Institute, Spain's first medical institution fully dedicated to assisted reproduction.

"This is the problem we want to address: to be able to create gametes in people who do not have them."

The result of their research, which was carried out with Stanford University in the United States, was published on Tuesday in Scientific Reports, the online journal of Nature.

Infertile sperm cells were created by adding genes to skin cells

Organ regeneration with skin cells turning Into brain and heart cells

In a breakthrough study, researchers were able to chemically change skin cells to heart and brain cells.

When a person’s own body fails them, there are plenty of roadblocks to getting it running again. Adult hearts have a very limited ability to regenerate, so oftentimes the only way to help a person with a failing heart is to get them a new one. This is risky, though, since the patient’s body may reject even a perfectly matched organ. Scientists have been making strides in overcoming that problem by using a patient’s own stem cells to regenerate tissue, and researchers from the Gladstone Institutes have made a major breakthrough in the area — they successfully used a combination of chemicals to transform skin cells into heart and brain cells.

The feat is unprecedented, since all previous attempts to reprogram cells required scientists to add outside genes. Published in Science and Stem Cell, the research gives scientists a foundation for one day being able to regenerate lost or damaged cells with pharmaceuticals. The system is both more reliable and efficient than previous processes, and avoids medical concerns surrounding genetic engineering.

“This method brings us closer to being able to generate new cells at the site of injury in patients,” Dr. Sheng Ding, a Gladstone senior investigator, said in a press release. “Our hope is to one day treat diseases like heart failure or Parkinson’s disease with drugs that help the heart and brain regenerate damaged areas from their own existing tissue cells. This process is much closer to the natural regeneration that happens in animals like newts and salamanders, which has long fascinated us.”

Brain cells are hard to fake, but it may now be possible.
Source: Pixabay

Disorders that can affect the placenta during pregnancy

The placenta and its health are vital to the health of a woman's pregnancy and fetal development. This organ provides oxygen, nutrients, and filters fetal waste during pregnancy.

It also plays an important role in hormone production and protects the fetus from bacteria and infections.

The blood-rich placenta is joined to the uterine wall and connects to the baby by way of the umbilical cord.

Most often the placenta attaches itself to the top or side of the uterine wall. At times, however, it may grow or attach to the uterus in a way that can cause health problems.

The risk of placental disorders is affected by ethnicity, lifestyle and medical history.

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