TIME Research

Scientists Developing Pill That Could Let Gluten-Free People Eat Pasta

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A trial is slated to begin within the year

People who suffer from celiac disease may not need to avoid pasta forever: scientists are developing a pill that would allow them to eat gluten.

Scientists at the University of Alberta are working on a pill made from chicken egg yolks that could help people with celiac disease digest gluten, Quartz reports.

Hoon Sunwoon, associate professor in the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, who worked on the project, explained to Quartz how the pill works: “This supplement binds with gluten in the stomach and help to neutralize it, therefore providing defence [sic] to the small intestine, limiting the damage gliadin causes.” Gliadin is a component of gluten that causes digestive trouble for people with celiac; gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley.

But celiacs, don’t rejoice just yet: the drug is still in development. A trial is slated to begin within the year.

TIME Research

You Asked: Why Is My Stomach Growling?

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Illustration by Peter Oumanski for TIME

Grumblings are an important part of digestion, and they may play a role in obesity and gut disorders.

You know a rumbling tummy is a sign you haven’t eaten in a while. But there’s a lot more going on down there than a quaking plea for more food.

Like street sweepers cleaning up after a parade, the gastrointestinal contractions you feel are your gut’s way of cleansing your empty stomach of left-behind food particles, bacteria overgrowth and other debris, says Dr. Toku Takahashi, a professor and gastroenterologist at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Takahashi says the rumbling is just one phase of a larger process called the migrating motor complex (MMC), which ensures your stomach and intestines stay active and continue to clear away detritus between meals. He says a poorly functioning MMC has turned up in patients with abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and other symptoms of indigestion or the presence of harmful microorganisms.

Aspects of your gut’s grumbling may also affect your risk for weight issues like obesity.

Feelings of hunger come from your brain, but they’re based on chemicals signals your brain receives from your gut, says Dr. Jan Tack, a professor of medicine who studies gastrointestinal disorders at Belgium’s University of Leuven. According to Tack, there’s mounting evidence that both hunger and the different phases of the MMC are triggered by a “forgotten” gut hormone called motilin.

“The hormone is ‘forgotten’ because rats and mice do not express it, so it is under-studied,” Tack explains.

Gut chemistry quickly gets complicated. But Tack says both obesity and hunger appear to be linked in some ways to your motilin levels. “We have shown that motilin-induced hunger signaling is altered in people experiencing unexplained weight loss and obesity,” he says.

Tack says a person’s motilin levels also seem to change after bariatric procedures like gastric bypass surgery. Motilin may also affect the ways you experience pleasure or a sense of reward after eating, he adds.

All of this research is very new. But manipulating motilin and the resulting MMC response may eventually emerge as a novel way to treat obesity, dyspepsia and other gut-related health issues, Tack’s research suggests.

In the meantime, one thing is certain: It’s normal and healthy to experience a grumbling stomach in between meals.

TIME Research

How Having Oily Skin Might Help Prevent Wrinkles

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And why wrinkles tend to be more noticeable around your eyes than on your forehead

Have you ever heard the old wives’ tale that people with oilier skin get fewer wrinkles? There may be some small grain of truth in that after all, according to a new study published in the journal Clinical Anatomy.

For the study, Japanese researchers analyzed the skin on the foreheads and around the eyes in cadavers aged 20 to 90 years old, looking at the wrinkles, the number of sebaceous glands (which are what secrete the skin’s oil), as well as the skin’s elasticity and density. In the end they found that the depth and length of wrinkles correlated to the amount of sebaceous glands in these areas, with areas with more glands tending to have wrinkles that weren’t as deep or long.

This may explain why wrinkles tend to be more noticeable around your eyes (hello, crow’s feet) than on your forehead, since there are more oil-secreting glands in the forehead than around your eyes.

While the authors say it’s possible that oilier skin (thanks to having more glands) prevents dry and deeper wrinkles from forming, the presence of the oil isn’t the only thing that seems to help keep skin smooth. It could also be that the skin on the areas with more glands tended to be thicker and have more elasticity. As the researchers put it: “Such properties will suppress the deformation of the skin.”

Another interesting finding: the density of oil glands was lower in women, than it was for the men, though they didn’t see a big difference in wrinkle depth between the sexes.

Ultimately, what matters more for your skin is the total picture: protecting yourself from the sun’s rays, exercise, eating a healthy diet with lots of foods that are good for your skin, and getting enough sleep.

But hey, if this makes you feel a little bit better about your oily skin, we won’t blame you.

This article originally appeared on Health.com

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TIME Research

There’s a New Theory About Native Americans’ Origins

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Chlaus Lotscher / Getty Images An Eskimo harpoons a whale in the Bering Sea off Alaskan shores.

The question at hand: Did Native Americans come to the Americas in one migratory wave or two?

New research is turning a centuries-old hypothesis about Native Americans’ origins on its head. A team of geneticists and anthropologists published an article in Science on Tuesday that traces Native Americans to a single group that settled in what’s now America far later than what scientists previously thought.

The researchers looked at sequenced DNA from bones as well as the sequenced genomes of Native American volunteers with heritage from not only the Americas but also Siberia and Oceania, says according to Rasmus Nielsen, a computational geneticist at the University of California, Berkeley, and one of the authors of the study. The researchers contacted people whose heritage indicated they were of Amerindian or Athanbascan—the two ethnic derivations of Native Americans—descent. Specifically, they looked at their mitochondrial DNA (mDNA), which is passed from mother to child.

What they found fundamentally changes what scientists previously thought. The team found that Native Americans most likely had a common Siberian origin, contradicting theories that an earlier migration from Europe occurred.

The timeline Rasmus and his colleagues propose goes something like this: About 23,000 years ago, a single group splintered off from an East Asian population. The group, hailing from northeast Asia, crossed the Bering Land Bridge between northeast Asia and Alaska, eventually making their way to the rest of the Americas. About 13,000 years ago—much more recent than previous theories—Native Americans started to split into different groups, creating the genetic and cultural diversity that exists today.

“We can refute that people moved into Alaska 35,000 years ago,” Rasmus says. “They came much more recently, and it all happened relatively fast.”

Rasmus’ team’s theory contradicts another line of thought, which points to two different populations coming from Siberia, settling in the Americas more than 15,000 years ago.

David Reich, a senior author of a different Nature paper detailing the competing theory and a professor at Harvard, told the New York Times that their results were “surprising”: “We have overwhelming evidence of two founding populations in the Americas,” he said. Reich’s group divides the migration groups into two: one is the First Americans, and another they identify as Population Y, which “carried ancestry more closely related to indigenous Australians, New Guineans and Andaman Islanders than to any present-day Eurasians or Native Americans.”

Despite their differences, both groups agree on the notion that Native Americans can trace their ancestry to Eurasian migrants with Australasian ancestry.

Rasmus emphasizes that their team’s new findings don’t close the case. But as simple as the finding seems to be, Rasmus says it is truly astonishing. “The original hypothesis isn’t true,” he says. “All Native Americans are descendants of one migration wave.”

TIME Reproductive Health

Activists Release Second Video Slamming Planned Parenthood Fetal Tissue Donations

The Center for Medical Progress is criticizing Planned Parenthood in a new video

The group that accused Planned Parenthood of illegally selling fetal tissue for medical research released a second secretly taped video on Tuesday, claiming to show a doctor from the national reproductive health nonprofit discussing the issue.

The edited eight-minute video, released by anti-abortion activists at the Center for Medical Progress, shows two unseen people posing as representatives of a fetal tissue procurement company and speaking with Dr. Mary Gatter, a member of Planned Parenthood’s Medical Directors’ Council. The video, reportedly shot on Feb. 6 of this year, appears to show Gatter and the representatives discussing the price of fetal tissue.

Planned Parenthood has acknowledged donating fetal tissue to researchers following abortions but has denied receiving any payments beyond reimbursement for its costs, which is legal.

The Center for Medical Progress alleges that the video the group released Tuesday shows Gatter “haggling” over the price of the fetal tissue.

“The money is not the important thing for me,” Gatter said in the video, according to the Center for Medical Progress. “But it has to be big enough that it makes it worthwhile for me.”

Planned Parenthood released a statement condemning the video as “highly edited” and calling the activists who filmed it “widely discredited.”

“What the video released today shows is a Planned Parenthood medical provider, who has dedicated her career to ensuring that women have access to the best health care, stating over and over again that she follows all laws and medical standards,” Eric Ferrero, vice president of communications for Planned Parenthood of America, said in a statement. “The video was heavily edited in attempt to support false and outrageous claims, but the fact remains that there is nothing in these videos to suggest any violation of law or improper activity.”

Tuesday’s video follows an initial one released by the Center for Medical Progress on July 14, which drew widespread attention to Planned Parenthood’s longtime practice of donating fetal tissue to scientists for research. Republican presidential contenders called for an investigation into Planned Parenthood’s practices, but many in the medical community say fetal tissue research is both legal and important.

TIME Research

This May Be How Acupuncture Tamps Down Stress

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Rats who got acupuncture showed fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression than stressed-out rats who didn't get treatment

Acupuncture may work by targeting the same pathways that stress travels along, according to a new study in rats from Georgetown University Medical Center and published in the journal Endocrinology.

Ladan Eshkevari, PhD, a nurse anesthetist, licensed acupuncturist and associate professor in the department of nursing and the department of pharmacology and physiology at Georgetown University Medical Center, noticed that the acupuncture patients coming to her for pain were reporting improvement of symptoms unrelated to their pain, like chronic stress, depression, sleep and appetite.

“There was nothing in the literature about acupuncture for PTSD and chronic stress,” she says, so she decided to study it. To find out if acupuncture was affecting chronic stress, Eshkevari and a team of researchers looked at what happened in a key pathway in dealing with stress for both humans and rats: the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA). It’s the same pathway targeted by some anti-anxiety drugs and antidepressants, Eshkevari says, and the HPA is involved in the production of the stress hormone cortisol.

In the experiment, the researchers compared four groups of rats: one group was stressed and given acupuncture; another group was stressed and given sham acupuncture (at a non-acupuncture point to make sure any results weren’t due to a placebo effect); a third group was stressed and didn’t get any acupuncture; and a final control group just hung out without any interventions.

First, the researchers decided to look at an acupuncture point called stomach 36; according to Chinese medicine, it’s a potent point associated with stress, stomach issues and pain, and in humans, it’s located right below the knee behind the tibia bone. The rat equivalent of stomach 36 is on the hind paw near the knee, Eshevari says.

Because most people who get acupuncture come in for treatment after a stressful event, Eshkevari says, she wanted to expose the rats to stress before treatment. She put them in a bucket of ice that made their legs cold for about an hour, then let the rats acclimate to room temperature before their 20-minute-long acupuncture sessions.

“It took me months to figure out how to do acupuncture on an awake rat,” says Eshkevari. It would have been easier to anesthetize them, but Eshkevari didn’t want to affect stress hormone levels. So she cut up her husband’s tube socks to hold the rats during treatment. “It was only big enough for them to crawl in to their hind legs, so their hind paws would be hanging out,” she says. She put the rats in the socks, quickly inserted the needles and connected them to the electrodes for their 20-minute sessions.

After 11 days of stress and acupuncture, Eshkevari put the rats to the test. When placed in an open box, less anxious rats will more readily explore; anxious rats will sit in the corner. And in a forced swim test, rats are dropped in a bucket and forced to swim; the quicker they give up, the higher they score in depression.

The rats who had acupuncture at the stomach 36 point had levels of cortisol in their blood comparable to the control rats that weren’t stressed—and lower cortisol levels than the other stressed-out rats, including the rats who received sham acupuncture. Likewise, the stressed-out rats who didn’t receive acupuncture showed more anxiety, depression and hopelessness through the behavioral tests, while the acupuncture-treated rats behaved a lot more like the normal rats that hadn’t been exposed to anything, Eshkevari says. “In this model, acupuncture can allay some of the untoward effects of stress,” she explains.

To make sure the acupuncture was affecting the pathway they thought it was, the researchers gave the rats a drug to block the HPA pathway, then retested the rats of behavioral measures. The effect went away.

“That’s how we know that the acupuncture not only worked, but it worked via the pathway we’re hypothesizing it works,” Eshkevari says.

The study is in rats, not in humans, and Eshkevari says that it’s certainly not enough to prove that the mechanism works exactly the same way in humans. “It would be very interesting and much more useful to do these experiments on human models of stress,” she says.

Still, she believes it’s an important preliminary step. “I had a sense anecdotally from the patients,” she says. “Now I feel like we have some evidence that this does work, the placebo is controlled for, and when we block the pathway it stops working. We know this is a potential mechanism. Now I can more confidentially try to translate that to humans.”

TIME mental health

There’s a New Treatment for Severe Depression—With Fewer Side Effects

Brief pulses of electricity have fewer side effects than one prolonged jolt

One of the most common ways to treat for severe depression has been electroconclusive therapy (ECT), where electric currents are passed through the brain to trigger brief, intentional seizures to stabilize brain chemistry.

New research published Tuesday in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry suggests, however, that a new method—ultra-brief pulse right unilateral, or (RUL) ECT—may have fewer negative side effects, like confusion, and memory and heart problems.

The study used data from 689 patients with a median age of 50 from six countries. “Our analysis of the existing trial data showed that ultra-brief stimulation significantly lessened the potential for the destruction of memories formed prior to ECT, reduced the difficulty of recalling and learning new information after ECT and was almost as effective as the standard ECT treatment,” saud Colleen Loo, professor at the University of New South Wales.

While ECT sends a single, controlled electric current to the brain’s prefrontal cortex—shown to be underperforming in patients suffering from severe depression—(RUL) ECT sends brief pulses of electricity, reducing total stimulation of the prefrontal cortex by one-third.

Loo noted that more research is needed, but emphasized the study’s promising outlook on not only being more efficient and safer for patients but also reducing the stigma depressed patients suffer.

“This new treatment, which is slowly coming into clinical practice in Australia, is one of the most significant developments in the clinical treatment of severe depression in the past two decades,” she said in a press release. “We are still working hard to change the broader medical profession’s and general public’s perception of ECT, which has struggled to shake off the tarnished image given to it by popular movies such as the 1975 film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

TIME mental health

Study Finds That Women Slip Into Dementia Faster Than Men

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The study has no medical implications quite yet

Women who develop slight memory deficits and mental decline slide faster toward dementia than men, according to a new study presented Tuesday at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Washington.

Researchers were quick to note that the study’s findings aren’t reflective of a difference in brain chemistry between genders and have no medical implications just yet. “All we can say at this point is that there appears to be a faster trajectory for women than men” in the direction of dementia, said P. Murali Doraiswamy, a professor of psychiatry at Duke University’s Institute for Brain Sciences and lead author of the study.

The study used cognitive test scores from 398 participants of both genders who were primarily in their 70s. After controlling for outside variables like education and genetics, the researchers found that women’s test scores fell by an average of two points per year, compared to just one point for men. This wasn’t the only negative effect for women: their standard of life—how they performed at home, work, and with family—also fell faster than men.

A vast majority—nearly two-thirds of the five million Americans afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease—are women, which scientists note can be traced to the fact that women live longer, but the reasons for their decline have remained indeterminate.

[New York Times]

 

TIME

Study Finds That Men Who Attack Women Online Are, Literally, Losers

Teenager playing video games
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Men who perform badly in games are more likely to harass female users

A new study purports to show what we all could have guessed: Men who attack women online are actual losers.

A pair of researchers examined interactions between players during 163 games of Halo 3 to determine when men were most likely to exhibit sexist, anti-social behavior toward their female peers.

According to the study, which was recently published in the journal PLOS One, men who were worse players than their peers tended to hurl more nastiness at female gamers. On the other hand, men who knew their way around the console were nicer to male and female players.

The researchers say the findings support an “evolutionary argument” that low-status men with low dominance have more to lose and are therefore more hostile to women who threaten their status in the social hierarchy.

“As men often rely on aggression to maintain their dominant social status, the increase in hostility towards a woman by lower-status males may be an attempt to disregard a female’s performance and suppress her disturbance on the hierarchy to retain their social rank,” researchers write.

The findings also support the growing body of anecdotal and research-based evidence that women face harsh blowback when they enter into and thrive in male-dominated corners of the Internet.

As the Washington Post points out, however, the study does not offer any solutions on how to solve the issue.

TIME HIV/AIDS

A Woman Born HIV-Positive Is in Remission Despite Stopping Treatment Years Ago

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Science Stills/Visuals Unlimited, Inc./Getty Images

Doctors believe early rather than continuous treatment with antiretrovirals is key

The first case of a woman in long-term HIV remission despite not receiving treatment for many years has been documented in France.

The 18-year-old was HIV-positive at birth and given antiretroviral drugs as a child, but her family decided to cease the treatment when she reached the age of 6. Twelve years have passed and today her viral load is too low to be measured. Doctors can’t figure out why the women’s HIV has stalled.

“With this first, highly documented case of this young woman, we provide the proof of concept that long-term remission is possible in children, as in adults,” Dr. Asier Sáez-Cirión, from the Institute Pasteur in Paris, told the BBC.

“However, these cases are still very rare,” he said.

Some experts believe that early treatment is the key to future remission, but large-scale studies still need to be conducted to nail down this theory.

Although there is still much to learn, predicting HIV remission has been the subject of studies in the past. Sáez-Cirión previously led a research group of 14 patients who had no sign of the virus re-emerging after coming off antiretroviral drugs. Thirteen years passed and the patients’ viral loads remained low.

[BBC]

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