research

Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions Using Science

By Laurie Breen   We’re now in the first week of the New Year, so how are those resolutions coming along? These life hacks, based in behavioral research, can help you reach and maintain your goals to succeed in 2017.     Plan Ahead Avoid unhealthy, impulsive decisions by planning ahead whenever possible. Researchers at Harvard Business School found that if consumers ordered their groceries 5 or more days in advance, they tended to spend less and order more healthy foods. Similar effects were found among students who were asked to order their lunches a week in advance versus ordering them at the time of consumption.   Read More: “A behavioral decision theory perspective on hedonic and utilitarian choice”   Image: Source   Keep Good Company The influence of peers on the behavior of individuals has been well documented, but it’s important to find peers who are going to help you succeed – not enable you to fail. Researchers Leslie K. John and Michael I. Norton looked at co-workers who were given treadmill desks, and found that if employees were given access to the usage statistics of their co-workers, they tended to perform only as well as their least successful co-worker.   Similar results were found in a study that looked at savings habits – when employees were given information as to how much their peers were putting away...

Alternative Combination Treatments For Combatting Cancer Cells

By Janet Taylor   Illustration demonstrating the anti-cancer effect of the drug combination. Credit: Evi Bieler, NanoImaging Lab, University of Basel   Metformin is a commonly prescribed drug for type two diabetes. It reduces serum glucose levels by inhibiting hepatic gluconeogenesis, decreasing absorption of glucose from the GI tract and increasing peripheral utilization of glucose by both adipose tissue and skeletal muscle. Its anticancer properties stem from its combination of systemic and cellular effects.   Systemically, lower serum glucose levels means that glucose availability to cancer cells is decreased. At the cellular level, it disrupts oxidative phosphorylation and thereby inhibits mitochondrial respiration. This is important because the cancer cells are already lacking necessary glucose for energy production and a decrease in cellular respiration leaves the cells with decreased ATP levels necessary for DNA translation and cell growth. While this drug has many benefits, in order to exert these effects, the dose must be very high.   The goal of current research was to find drugs that could work synergistically with metformin to kill cells without the lethal effects that each drug used alone would cause. When searching for a second compound, only those that are cytotoxic when combined with metformin were studied. The antihypertensive syrosingopine was found to be synthetically lethal with metformin. Syrosingopine acts by inhibiting the degradation of sugars and depleting cells of catecholamine stores. Syrosingopine was...

Medical Advancements To Look Forward To This Year #1: Human Microbiome

And here we are again…another year with new possibilities and tremendous scope for groundbreaking progress. Considering the state of medicine and healthcare today, there are many things to look forward to this year. In an effort to capture the highlights, let’s take a look at what truly has the potential to make its mark as one of the many featured stories of 2017.     1. The Human Microbiome 2016 saw a surge in interest in the microbiome, a field that studies the microbiotic organisms that reside within human beings and the influence they extend towards our overall health and well being. While the area has been under investigation for several years, it received the greatest interest last year, purporting an even more passionate introspection this coming year.   Beyond the basic characteristics of the microbiome and its interaction with our organ systems (covered in the TED Talk below), one of the most interesting features of this field arises due to its significant philosophical and paradigm-altering applications. Since the discovery that microbiotic cells exceed human cells in numbers, this has brought to question what it really means to be human. Furthermore, the genetic influence is greatly intriguing, questioning the degree of influence impacted by our own genetic makeup in comparison to that of the microbiome.   Once again, medicine has brought us to a crossroads with other areas of...

New Strategy to End Ancient War on Malaria

  Malaria is one of the most devastating infectious diseases in the world today. About 400 million people are infected each year and of those 1.2 million die. Efforts to control malaria have been held back by the lack of an effective vaccine, the alarming rapidity with which Plasmodium, the protozoan parasite, develops drug resistance, plus the failure to eradicate the Anopheles mosquito vector. Fresh approaches to fight malaria are urgently needed, to be used singly or perhaps in combination. One novel approach to a vaccine was recently discussed in this blog.   Formation of Plasmodium berghei (a rodent parasite) oocysts in culture. A. Ookinetes. B. Transforming ookinete and C. young oocysts. F. Transformation begins with a small hump on the outer edge of the ookinete. Transforming ookinetes (“tooks”) then take on a snail-like appearance (v). The entire population of ookinetes transform in 12–36 h, depending on nutrient availability. Source.   Plasmodium undergoes an unusually large number of lifestyle changes in its trip from the female mosquito to a human and back. This is one of the most complex life cycles extant, with so many details that it taxes one’s memory. Each one of the dozen or so stages is labeled with a fancy name and ought be a target for intervention but, for a host of reasons, that has proven elusive. However, the parasite is especially vulnerable in one stage, the transition from a cell called the ookinete to one named the oocyst, which...

Use of Pasteurized Bacterium to Safeguard Against Obesity

According to the World Health Organization, the rate of obesity has doubled since the 1980s, leaving more people at risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, musculoskeletal issues, several types of cancer and premature death. Overweight individuals are those with a BMI at and over 25 and obesity occurs when BMI reaches 30 and higher. Both scenarios are generally caused by intake of high fat, energy dense foods and lack of physical activity.   Image: Source   Researchers in Belgium have recently isolated a protein that may stop the development of diabetes and obesity. If effective, this discovery would be huge as the CDC states that more than 36.5 percent of Americans are currently obese and that there are more than 29 million Americans with diabetes.  Akkermansia muciniphila is one of the normal bacterial floras of the gut. It typically resides in the mucosal layer and scientists noted that obese mice generally had lower levels present compared to healthy mice.   Source: Microbiology Society   Beginning in 2015, research began to introduce new levels of the bacteria to determine metabolic significance and a reduction in metabolic symptoms was noted.  The focus then turned to human use and methods to make it most effective were investigated. Pasteurization was used, as it allows the properties of the sensitive bacteria to be maintained while allowing it to be more suitable for human application. They found,...

TED Talks For Food Lovers #7: How Food Shapes Our Cities

Where does food come from? Given the billions of people in the world, with millions concentrated in big cities, do we really know how we feed so many people with so much food everyday? And what insight can ancient cities and their structures provide into the food networks that keep the human species fed today? Listen in to Carolyn Steel in her TED talk below for answers to these questions and more.     Diet and health are highly interdependent. The food people eat over the course of a lifetime often plays a huge role in determining many of the ailments they incur. Referring to some recent exploration into the field of microbiomics, the large quantity and variety of bacteria in our body may likewise be acutely as well as chronically transforming due to the food we eat and the changes we make to our diets. Lastly, for aspiring medical personnel, quick food sources such as cold pizzas, Chipotle veggie bowls, and espresso shots often make up our daily sustenance. What effect do these have on our health?   Over the course of the next several articles, I would like to take you all on a run through some of the most interesting TED talks on food, some quite interesting and others downright genius. As you watch these videos, reflect on the close ties between nutrition and medicine, and...

Millennials, Back At It Again: Changing The Healthcare Industry

The term “millennials” is in no shortage these days, referring to the generation reaching young adulthood around the millennium. With just a simple Google search, you can find thousands of articles about millennials, usually involving social media, job hopping, or the “me” generation.   There is no doubt that times are changing and, apparently, millennials have a large part in that shift. Well, I should say technology is the real catalyst for the change and with a rising technology-obsessed generation, several industries are seeing some major impacts. Just a few examples include the food, retail, entertainment, and banking industries. Less human interaction, more transparent sourcing, and a desire for more rapid transactions are just some of the characteristics involved in the shift throughout these industries.   So, why is this relevant for med students? You guessed it. Millennials are changing the healthcare industry too.   Even though many medical students today may even be part of the millennial generation, it is important to know how your industry could be changing around you. Here are some ways that millennials may impact the healthcare industry.   Image: Source   1. Skepticism of Pharmaceutical Industry As pharmaceutical companies become more and more transparent, Americans are becoming more skeptical over the drugs they are promoting. According to a recent SERMO poll, “millennials [are] more likely to challenge doctor recommendations [and] more comfortable discussing healthcare costs.” This generation is less likely...