How do we know if we’re looking at three apples or four? Researchers at the Universities of Bonn and Tübingen are now one step closer to answering this question. They were able to demonstrate that some brain cells fire mainly for quantities of three, others for quantities of four and others for other quantities. A similar effect can be observed for digits: In humans, the neurons activated in response to a “2” are for instance not the same as the neurons activated for a “5”. The results also demonstrate how we learn to handle number symbols in comparison to quantities. The study is published online in the journal Neuron.
Gluten -> inflammation -> auto-immune disorder?
The latest study suggests that pregnant women who eat 20g or more gluten a day are twice as likely to have a child with type 1 diabetes than women who eat less than 7g of gluten a day. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where insulin is not produced by the body, leading to serious problems in uptake and regulation of glucose. If untreated, high blood glucose can result in problems including damage to the heart and eyes.
The human gut is lined with more than 100 million nerve cells—it’s practically a brain unto itself. And indeed, the gut actually talks to the brain, releasing hormones into the bloodstream that, over the course of about 10 minutes, tell us how hungry it is, or that we shouldn’t have eaten an entire pizza. But a new study reveals the gut has a much more direct connection to the brain through a neural circuit that allows it to transmit signals in mere seconds. The findings could lead to new treatments for obesity, eating disorders, and even depression and autism—all of which have been linked to a malfunctioning gut.
The study reveals “a new set of pathways that use gut cells to rapidly communicate with … the brain stem,” says Daniel Drucker, a clinician-scientist who studies gut disorders at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute in Toronto, Canada, who was not involved with the work. Although many questions remain before the clinical implications become clear, he says, “This is a cool new piece of the puzzle.”
Science is never “settled”; there is always something new!
Researchers have finally triumphed in a decadeslong quest to identify human stem cells that reliably develop into the bone, cartilage, and other tissues that make up the body’s skeleton. The discovery, from a team that had previously identified such cells in mice, could pave the way for new treatments for fractures, joint damage, and osteoporosis. What’s more, these cells can apparently be coaxed into existence from fat that is normally discarded after liposuction, hinting at an abundant potential reservoir of stem cells to seed future research and therapies.
Weaving level: Expert
If you think you’re crafty, try building a house from palm fronds while hanging upside down.
Scientists say they have taken a potentially important — and possibly controversial — step toward creating human eggs in a lab dish.
A team of Japanese scientists turned human blood cells into stem cells, which they then transformed into very immature human eggs.
The eggs are far too immature to be fertilized or make a baby. And much more research would be needed to create eggs that could be useful — and safe — for human reproduction.
Immature human eggs (pink) were created by Japanese researchers using stem cells that were derived from blood cells. Courtesy of Saitou Lab
In November 2017, ecologist Leandro Moraes of the National Institute of Amazonian Research in Manaus, Brazil, was in the middle of a research expedition in central Amazonia when he spotted something strange: a black-chinned antbird (Hypocnemoides melanopogon) resting on a branch with an erebid moth (Gorgone macarea) on the back of its neck. The moth was probing one of the bird’s eyes with its proboscis and appeared to be drinking from it. About 45 minutes later, Moraes came across a different moth drinking from the eye of another resting antbird.
Butterflies and bees also drink the eye secretions of other animals—butterflies are partial to basking crocodiles, whereas bees like turtle tears. But fast-moving birds are unlikely hosts for these insects. At night though, the metabolism of birds drops; that’s when nocturnal moths exploit their tears, Moraes speculates.