Tuesday November 21, 2017

Stem cells used for crucial brain chemical

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New York: Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have used stem cells to create a specialised nerve cell that makes serotonin, a signalling chemical with a broad role in the brain.

Serotonin affects emotions, sleep, anxiety, depression, appetite, pulse and breathing. It also plays a role in serious psychiatric conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression.

“Serotonin essentially modulates every aspect of brain function, including movement,” said one of the researchers Su-Chun Zhang said.

A small number of neurons localised on one structure at the back of the brain are responsible for making this chemical.

Serotonin exerts its influence because the neurons that make it project to almost every part of the brain, the researchers said.

The study began with two types of stem cells: one derived from embryos, the other from adult cells.

As serotonin neurons form before birth, the researchers had to recreate the chemical environment found in the developing brain in the uterus, Zhang said.

Because the neurons can be generated from induced pluripotent stem cells, which can be produced from a patient’s skin cells, “these could be useful for finding treatments for psychiatric disorders like depression, where we often see quite variable responses to drugs,” study first author Jianfeng Lu said.

“By identifying individual differences, this could be a step toward personalised medicine,” Lu noted.

The findings were reported in the journal Nature Biotechnology. (IANS), (image courtesy: stemology.co.uk)

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Do You Feel Sleepy Post-Lunch? Well, Take a Look at the Possible Reasons!

Feeling sleepy after lunch. Wish to take a nap. Heavy lunch makes you feel lethargic.

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Post lunch siesta in office hours . Pixabay.

New Delhi, August 22, 2017: Have you ever wondered that from the total office hours, why is it only post-lunch that you feel like slugging away? What could possibly be the reason behind these post-lunch slumps?

Most of the people tend to grab a bite from outside eateries. They eat anything that they feel like such as pasta, bread, burger etc., without even giving a thought to what kind of food they are in-taking. Is it high in protein, carbohydrate or fat? This thought never comes to their mind.

The main reason behind this drowsiness is not the lunch but what we consume in the lunch. It is basically due to the chemical changes in the body during the digestion process that you feel sleepiness.

After the meal, our body generates insulin to regulate blood-sugar levels. The amount of insulin released primarily depends on two main factors. First, the type of meal i.e, whether it is rich in protein, carbs or fat. The other factor is the size of the meal.

Heavy lunch in the office hours. Pixabay

If we have a large meal, then the amount of insulin released will be more and vice-versa. With the secretion of insulin, our body also produces Serotonin and Melatonin. Similar is the case with the protein-rich diet. The protein contains Tryptophan amino acids, which is used by the body to produce Serotonin.

Serotonin and Melatonin are basically neurotransmitters that have a calming effect and help regulate sleep. When they get metabolized in the brain, they induce drowsiness.

Moreover, the body streams more blood to the digestive system to digest food. If you opt for a heavy lunch, then post-lunch, your body would stream more blood to the digestive system. And for that period of time, most of your body’s energy would be used by your digestive system and not by your brain. This makes you feel lazy and forces you to go for a siesta.

So, do not opt for heavy lunch. Instead, have a heavy breakfast so as to set good energy level for the day and then eat small meals throughout the day. This is the way to adios to the post-lunch sleepiness.

prepared by a Shivani Chowdhary of NewsGram. Twitter @cshivani31

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Beware Expectant Mothers! High Fat Diet May Disturb Your Child’s Mental Health

An unhealthy diet not only creates health problems for expectant mothers, but also alters children's development of the brain and endocrine system which may cause long-lasting mental health ramifications

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mental health of children
Maternal high fat diet may affect the mental health of children. Wikimedia
  • The findings showed that an unhealthy diet creates health problems for expectant mothers, alters children’s development of the brain and endocrine system
  • Exposure to a high-fat diet during gestation and early in development impaired the development of neurons containing serotonin
  • On the other hand, introducing the child to a healthy diet at an early age also failed to reverse the effect

New York, July 22, 2017: Babies whose mothers consumed a high-fat diet during their pregnancy may be at an increased risk of developing mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression, a study has warned.

The findings, of an animal study, showed that an unhealthy diet not only creates health problems for expectant mothers, but also alters children’s development of the brain and endocrine system which may cause long-lasting mental health ramifications.

“Given the high level of dietary fat consumption and maternal obesity in developed nations, these findings have important implications for the mental health of future generations,” said Elinor Sullivan, assistant professor at the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) in the US.

Further, exposure to a high-fat diet during gestation and early in development impaired the development of neurons containing serotonin — a neurotransmitter that is critical in developing brains.

Also ReadLanguage Lessons For Your Baby May Start in Womb

On the other hand, introducing the child to a healthy diet at an early age also failed to reverse the effect, the researchers said.

“It’s not about blaming the mother,” but “about educating pregnant women about the potential risks of a high-fat diet in pregnancy and empowering them and their families to make healthy choices by providing support. We also need to craft public policies that promote healthy lifestyles and diets,” Sullivan noted.

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For the study, published in the journal Frontiers in Endocrinology, the team tested the effect of a maternal high-fat diet on non-human primates, tightly controlling their diet in a way that would be impossible in a human population.

Researchers grouped a total of 65 female Japanese macaques into two groups, one given a high-fat diet and one a control diet during pregnancy.

They subsequently measured and compared anxiety-like behaviour among 135 offspring and found that both males and females exposed to a high-fat diet during pregnancy exhibited greater incidence of anxiety compared with those in the control group. (IANS)

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Oxford University Scientists have discovered 320 million year-old fossil containing oldest plant root cell

The fossils studied during the research are the remains of the soil from the first giant tropical rainforests on Earth

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Scientists in laboratory Image source: Wikimedia commons

Oxford University Herbaria has found in a fossilized root tip, the cells which gave rise to the roots of an ancient plant. The researchers also found, it is the first ever actively growing fossilized root i.e an ancient plant frozen in time. The study is published in the journal Current Biology.

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‘I was examining one of the fossilised soil slides held at the University Herbaria as part of my research into the rooting systems of ancient trees when I noticed a structure that looked like the living root tips we see in plants today. I began to realize that I was looking at a population of 320 million-year-old plant stem cells preserved as they were growing — and that it was the first time anything like this had ever been found. It gives us a unique window into how roots developed hundreds of millions of years ago.’ Oxford Plant Sciences PhD student Alexander (Sandy) Hetherington, who made the discovery during the course of his research, said.

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Plant cells. Image source: Wikimedia

These stem cells are located in the meristems (in plants at the tips of roots and shoots) of multicellular organisms. These stem cells are renewing cells which form these organisms. The 320 million-year-old stem cells discovered are different to all those living today, with a unique pattern of cell division that remained unknown until now. That tells us that some of the mechanisms controlling root formation in plants and trees have now become extinct and may have been more diverse than thought.

These roots were important because they comprised the rooting structures of the plants growing in Earth’s first global tropical wetland forests with tall trees over 50m in height and were in part responsible for one of the most dramatic climate change events in history. The evolution of deep rooting systems increased the rate of chemical weathering of silicate minerals in rocks — a chemical reaction that pulled CO2 out of the atmosphere, leading to the cooling of Earth and thus one of the planet’s great ice ages.

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The fossils studied during this research are the remains of the soil from the first giant tropical rainforests on Earth. The rock in which the soil is preserved formed in the Carboniferous swamps that gave rise to the coal sources spanning what is now Appalachia to central Europe, including the coal fields in Wales, northern England and Scotland.

Sandy has named the stem-cell fossil Radix carbonica (Latin for ‘coal root’).

‘These fossils demonstrate how the roots of these ancient plants grew for the first time. It is startling that something so small could have had such a dramatic effect on Earth’s climate. This discovery also shows the importance of collections such as the Oxford University Herbaria — they are so valuable, and we need to maintain them for future generations.’ says Professor Liam Dolan, Head of the Department of Plant Sciences at Oxford University and senior author of the paper.

-by Vrushali Mahajan, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter @Vrushali Mahajan 

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