“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 […]

Tech ‘Nobel’ awarded to Finnish physicist for small smart devices

Finnish materials physicist Tuomo Suntola, who developed a groundbreaking technology to reduce the size of complex devices, on Tuesday won Finland’s take on the Nobel science prizes. The 74-year-old was awarded the Millennium Technology Prize worth one million euros ($1.18 million). “Suntola’s prize-winning ALD (atomic layer deposition) innovation is a nanoscale technology in use all over the world,” the Technology Academy Finland, which awards the biennial prize, said in a statement. His technology is used to manufacture ultra-thin material layers for a variety of devices such as computers, smartphones, microprocessors and digital memory devices, enabling high performance in small size. “The extremely thin isolating or conducting films needed in microprocessors and computer memory devices can only be manufactured using the ALD technology developed by Tuomo Suntola,” the academy said. He developed the technology in 1974 to initially replace bulky monitors in hospitals […]

Eating eggs everyday may reduce the rate of cardiovascular disease

People who consume an egg a day could significantly reduce their risk of cardiovascular diseases compared with eating no eggs, suggests a study carried out in China, published in the journal Heart. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death and disability worldwide, including China, mostly due to ischaemic heart disease and stroke (including both haemorrhagic and ischaemic stroke). Unlike ischaemic heart disease, which is the leading cause of premature death in most Western countries, stroke is the most responsible cause in China, followed by heart disease. Although ischaemic stroke accounted for the majority of strokes, the proportion of haemorrhagic stroke in China is still higher than that in high income countries. Eggs are a prominent source of dietary cholesterol, but they also contain high-quality protein, many vitamins and bioactive components such as phospholipids and carotenoids. Previous studies looking at […]

A Compound Found In Cannabis Can Treat Epilepsy

Cannabidiol (CBD), a compound derived from the cannabis can treat epilepsy. Cannabidiol which does not produce a “high” and has been an increasing focus of medical research, was shown in a new large-scale, randomized, controlled trial to significantly reduce the number of dangerous seizures in patients with a severe form of epilepsy called Lennox–Gastaut syndrome. In the new study comparing 2 doses of CBD to a placebo, the researchers reported a 41.9 percent reduction in “drop seizures”—a type of seizure that results in severe loss of muscle control and balance—in patients taking a 20 mg/kg/d CBD regimen, a 37.2 percent reduction in those on a 10 mg/kg/d CBD regimen, and a 17.2 percent reduction in a group given a placebo. The phase III trial was led by principal investigator and study first co-author Orrin Devinsky, MD, a professor of neurology, […]

78,000-year cave record from East Africa shows early cultural innovations

An international, interdisciplinary group of scholars working along the East African coast have discovered a major cave site which records substantial activities of hunter-gatherers and later, Iron Age communities. Detailed environmental research has demonstrated that human occupations and cultural innovations occur in a persistent tropical forest-grassland ecotone, adding new information about the habitats exploited by our species, and indicating that populations sought refuge in a relatively stable environment. Prior to this cave excavation, little information was available about the last 78,000 years from coastal East Africa, with the majority of archaeological research focused on the Rift Valley and in South Africa. Humans lived in the humid coastal forest A large-scale interdisciplinary study, including scientific analyses of archaeological plants, animals and shells from the cave indicates a broad perseverance of forest and grassland environments. As the cave environment underwent little variation […]