News Bites brings you 5 weekly news in bite-sized forms

1. Tackling obesity

Researchers from the University of New South Wales in Sydney have developed a new drug, known as NMN, which holds the potential to revert the negative effects of maternal obesity. Tested primarily on mice, the drug works by increasing the body’s metabolic rate much in the same way that exercise works.

Offspring born to overweight mothers are often predisposed to obesity themselves and was the team’s goal to find a solution for the negative effects brought on by maternal obesity. Thus far, the team’s tests have shown positive results with a reduction in body fat and increased glucose tolerance.

Together with a whole host of health benefits, the prevention of obesity is also pivotal in reducing the risk of knee dislocations as a recent study from the US has found. If left untreated, obesity may eventually complicate to vascular problems and result in leg amputation.

With the global rates of obesity continuously rising, NMN holds the key to improved societal health.

“Our study offers some promise that we may have another approach to prevent obesity in children from overweight mothers,” says Margaret Morris, study lead and head of pharmacology at the university’s school of medical sciences.

2. Air pollution and osteoporosis

Even slight air pollution increases the risk of developing osteoporotic fractures.
Even slight air pollution increases the risk of developing osteoporotic fractures.

Researchers at Colombia University’s Mailman School of Public Health People studied data from nine million people and discovered a link between air pollution and osteoporosis. By looking at patients admitted to American hospitals for osteoporosis-related fractures between 2003 and 2010, the team uncovered an increased risk of fractures in those living in areas with poorer air quality.

In fact, patients living in low-pollution areas showed significantly lower rates of osteoporotic-related fractures. Meanwhile, those living in areas with even a slightly increased amount of air pollution showed an increased risk of developing osteoporotic fractures.

Andrea Baccarelli, chair of Environmental Health Sciences at the Mailman School comments, "Decades of careful research has documented the health risks of air pollution, from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, to cancer, and impaired cognition, and now osteoporosis. Among the many benefits of clean air, our research suggests, are improved bone health and a way to prevent bone fractures."

3. Sheep capable of facial recognition

In other news, researchers from the University of Cambridge have demonstrated facial recognition abilities in sheep, which proves these simple farm animals are much smarter than we are led to believe. Facial recognition, an ability possessed by humans, dogs, mockingbirds and, now, sheep, is an important skill that allows researchers to better understand how the brain works.

“These data show that sheep have advanced face-recognition abilities, comparable with those of humans and non-human primates,” claims the authors of the study.

More than just a novel discovery, facial recognition in sheep can aid towards better understanding neurodegenerative disease in humans, which negatively affect facial recognition. One of the main diseases researchers are currently focusing on is Huntington’s Disease, which can lead to a loss of facial recognition.

4. A better understanding of wound healing

Wound healing is improved in wounds that are inflicted in the daytime and are free of bacteria
Wound healing is improved in wounds that are inflicted in the daytime and are free of bacteria

Recently, scientist have made big strides towards the better understanding on how our body heals itself. One such discovery is the work of the team from the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge. The team recently discovered that our bodies heal much faster if an injury is inflicted during the day time as compared to night time. Much of this has to do with our body’s biological clock, the circadian rhythm, which determines our overall cell metabolism rate. During the day, there are more circulating cells in the human body which promotes faster healing. With this knowledge, the team believes a drug to aid wound healing can be developed leveraging our circadian rhythm.

Separately, a team from the University of Manchester has identified that certain bacteria lead to slower wound healing. One of the key culprits of this slowdown is Pseudomonas aeruginosa (and its variants), which shifts the balance of microorganism our skin. These findings directly correlate to clinical scenarios, where wound infection is an all too common sight with Pseudomonas aeruginosa equally present. Research leader, Dr Sheena Cruickshank says, "There is an urgent need to understand the bacterial communities in our skin and why so many of us will develop wounds that do not heal.

5. The benefits of sauna

Sauna sessions bring a whole host of health benefits including heart, lung and mental health improvements.
Sauna sessions bring a whole host of health benefits including heart, lung and mental health improvements.

Saunas are known worldwide and adopted by various communities and cultures independent from each other, yet the claimed benefits of saunas have always been disputed. Until now, a team of researchers from the University of Bristol have shown more empirical evidence towards the benefits of saunas.

The same team which demonstrated reduced risks of heart disease and strokes in association with saunas, has also shown that the use of saunas significantly reduce the risk of developing dementia. According to another of their most recent study on hypertension, they stated that how saunas help to improve one’s quality of health is still unknown at this point. Nonetheless, there are theories pointing towards reduced blood pressure due to improved blood flow stimulated by the heat from the sauna.

Besides dementia and cardiovascular conditions, saunas have also been linked with improvements in arthritis, chronic-tension headaches, lung function and the immune system. For many, sauna sessions are considered to be leisure activities – but now, with its proven health benefits, there are all the more reasons to take regular saunas. MIMS

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