Most of the research behind new medical advances is carried out using either animal tissues or cancer cells. Both tools have their problems: results from animals and humans do not always match up and cancer cells grown for years in laboratories often do not mimic the tissues they originally came from very well. Bridging the gap between whole animals and simple cells can be a challenge during the development of new treatments, but this is beginning to change since scientists have learned how to grow organoids.
We’re outnumbered by bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi that can make us ill. And the only thing standing between them and our devastation is our immune system. The immune system does such a good job most of the time that we only really think about it when things go wrong. But to provide such excellent protection against a whole host of pathogens, our immune system must constantly learn.
Are you lying? Do you have a racial bias? Is your moral compass intact? To find out what you think or feel, we usually have to take your word for it. But questionnaires and other explicit measures to reveal what’s on your mind are imperfect: you may choose to hide your true beliefs or you may not even be aware of them.
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly recently spent one year in space, while his identical twin brother Mark (a former NASA astronaut himself) stayed on Earth. The mission was part of an important health experiment, looking at how being in space affects our bodies. While the data are still being studied carefully, NASA recently released some intriguing preliminary findings.
In the past few years, you may have noticed more and more people around you turning away from meat. At dinner parties or family barbecues, on your social media feed or in the news, vegetarianism and its more austere cousin, veganism, are becoming increasingly popular.
Imagine what the world would be like if numbers had specific spatial locations, music had shapes, or colours made sounds. Perhaps you’d experience the bass in the Jamie xx track Gosh as cuboid, metallic and heavy, with spiralling ribbons of synthesiser in the background.
A feeling of apathy or being a little forgetful from time to time is nothing unusual. But for some, this could be an early sign of not getting enough thiamine (also known as vitamin B1). Long term, this can have serious consequences, including an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
How do you choose which shampoo to buy? Do you take the advice of your hairdresser or believe the adverts you see in magazines or on television? Perhaps you just opt for the brand on special offer in the supermarket? Most importantly, does it make any difference?
These days, many of us are flooded with advice on what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat. Alongside this calorie and nutrient-based advice you may even have heard that you should avoid eating while standing up or lying down, as was common in Ancient Greece or Rome. It may seem to make sense, but how much scientific evidence is there to back this advice?
Everybody knows that to lose weight you need to eat less or exercise more – or ideally do both. The evidence supporting the benefits of regular exercise and eating less is overwhelming, but for people looking to lose weight, it remains unclear whether there are extra benefits to be gained from increasing the intensity of workouts.
Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have developed a new computational model of a neural circuit in the brain, which could shed light on the biological role of inhibitory neurons — neurons that keep other neurons from firing.
Roughly 90% of humans are right-handed and this is one of the traits that separates us from most other primates who don’t really show any overall preference for left or right handedness. It’s believed that handedness played an important role in human evolution, with a recent study on the earliest evidence of right-handedness in the fossil record shedding light on when and why this trait arose. Interestingly, the clues were found not in our ancient hands, but in our ancient teeth.
We’re all here because of mutations. Random changes in genes are what creates variety in a species, and this is what allows it to adapt to new environments and eventually evolve into completely new species. But most random mutations actually disrupt the functions of our genes and so are a common source of genetic diseases.
The brain may not only control our thoughts and basic physical functions. Recent studies indicate that it also controls the way our body responds to the threat of bacterial infections. It does this by boosting the production of a protective molecule called PCTR1 that helps white blood cells kill the invading bacteria.
The internet may be the most comprehensive source of information ever created but it’s also the biggest distraction. Set out to find an answer on the web and it’s all too easy to find yourself flitting between multiple tabs, wondering how you ended up on a page so seemingly irrelevant to the topic you started on.
A lot of people will have already made up their mind about whether humans need dairy in their diet and will be thinking that the answer is obviously “yes” or obviously “no”. But nutrition is based on science not opinion – so, here’s the latest research on the matter.
Christmas is a time of year like no other; gifts are exchanged, little-spoken-to relatives are contacted, and appetising treats are consumed with great gusto. Christmas can be both a time of stress and a time of relaxation. But whether you love or hate Christmas it’s pretty difficult to avoid – and so your brain may be altered by the experience one way or another. Here are some of the main facets of the Christmas experience, and how they might affect your brain.