Increased risk of birth defects in babies after first-trimester exposure to lithium

Researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai found an elevated risk of major congenital malformations in fetuses after first-trimester exposure to lithium, in the largest study ever to examine the risk of birth defects in lithium-exposed babies. Nearly one and one-half times as many babies exposed to lithium during the first trimester experienced major malformations compared to the unexposed group (7.4 percent compared with 4.3 percent). In addition, risk for neonatal hospital readmission was nearly doubled in lithium-exposed babies compared to the unexposed group (27.5 percent versus 14.3 percent). However, lithium exposure was not associated with pregnancy complications or other delivery outcomes, such as pre-eclampsia, preterm birth, gestational diabetes, or low birth weight. In addition, the researchers found that the risk of birth defects in lithium-exposed infants was lower than previously thought, because previous studies did not […]

New type of photosynthesis discovered

The discovery changes our understanding of the basic mechanism of photosynthesis and should rewrite the textbooks. It will also tailor the way we hunt for alien life and provide insights into how we could engineer more efficient crops that take advantage of longer wavelengths of light. The discovery, published today in Science, was led by Imperial College London, supported by the BBSRC, and involved groups from the ANU in Canberra, the CNRS in Paris and Saclay and the CNR in Milan. The vast majority of life on Earth uses visible red light in the process of photosynthesis, but the new type uses near-infrared light instead. It was detected in a wide range of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) when they grow in near-infrared light, found in shaded conditions like bacterial mats in Yellowstone and in beach rock in Australia. As scientists have now […]

“Useless” DNA changes the genitals you’re born with

Male mice grow ovaries instead of testes if they are missing a small region of DNA that doesn’t contain any genes — a finding that could help explain disorders of sex development in humans, at least half of which have an unknown genetic cause. The study, led by researchers at the Francis Crick Institute, could help explain disorders of sex development in humans, at least half of which have an unknown genetic cause. Mammals will develop ovaries and become females unless the early sex organs have enough of a protein called SOX9 at a key stage in their development. SOX9 causes these organs to become testes, which then direct the rest of the embryo to become male. The amount of SOX9 produced is controlled initially by the SRYprotein encoded by the Sry gene, which is located on the Y chromosome. This is why males, who have an X chromosome […]

Ugandan wins Africa prize for bloodless malaria test

A Ugandan inventor has won a major prize for a device which tests for malaria without drawing blood. Brian Gitta, 24, won the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Africa Prize for a device that detects tell-tale signs of malaria by shining a red beam of light on the patient’s finger. The diagnosis is ready to be shared to a mobile phone in a minute. He developed the device, called Matibabu, after blood tests failed to diagnose his own malaria. Malaria is the leading cause of death in Uganda, but it took four blood tests to diagnose Mr Gitta with the disease, Shafik Sekitto, who is part of the Matibabu team, told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme. “[Gitta] brought up the idea: ‘Why can’t we find a new way of using the skills we have found in computer science, of diagnosing […]

Gout in the elderly linked to higher risk of dementia

Gout is a very common condition. It is caused by deposits of crystals of a substance called uric acid (also known as urate) in the joints, which leads to inflammation. Periods of time when patients are experiencing gout symptoms are called flares. Flares can be unpredictable and debilitating, developing over a few hours and causing severe pain in the joints. Guidelines for the treatment of gout recommend lowering uric acid levels, although maintaining too low levels is a concern because uric acid is thought to protect the brain.2,3 “We welcome these results as they contribute to our understanding of the relationship between uric acid and dementia,” said Professor Robert Landewé, Chairperson of the Scientific Programme Committee, EULAR. “Previous studies have shown contradictory results with some indicating an increased risk of dementia, while others reporting the opposite.” “Our study found a […]

Psychedelic Drugs Can Repair Broken Neural Networks

Could psychedelic drugs one day play a part in the treatment of mental health conditions? The idea is getting less and less far-fetched, after scientists successfully used drugs including MDMA and LSD to repair neurons in animal tests and cultured cells. In small microdoses tested on rats, flies, and zebrafish, the substances sparked new growth in neurites, the bridges between neurons that enable internal communications. With previous research suggesting that neurites in the prefrontal cortex can retract and shrivel when conditions like depression take hold, being able to reverse the process could open up a crucial new avenue for finding effective treatments. “These are some of the most powerful compounds known to affect brain function,” says senior researcher David E. Olson, from the University of California, Davis. “It’s very obvious to me that we should understand how they work.” The new study was partly prompted by the increasingly encouraging research that […]