Obesity is killing off people’s taste buds, and now scientists can explain why

Through the years scientists have gleaned that obesity can impact a person’s ability to taste, but until recently it’s been unclear why.

Researchers at Cornell University report the discovery that, in mice, a tiny amount of inflammation driven by obesity actually reduced the number of taste buds on their tongues. Their work was published on March 20 in the journal PLOS Biology, and it may wind up aiding the development of new therapies to alleviate what’s called “taste dysfunction” among people who suffer from obesity.

As part of their work, the researchers split lab mice into two groups and fed each group a different diet for eight weeks. The first group ate a standard rodent chow, comprised of 14% fat, 54% carbohydrate, and 32% protein. The second group got a high-fat diet consisting of 58.4% fat, 26.6% carbohydrate, and 15% protein, which led to obesity in the group.

via Obesity is killing off people’s taste buds—now scientists can explain why — Quartz

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Globally, people took 65% more antibiotics in 2015 compared to 2000 — Quartz

Globally, antibiotic use has been on the rise—which doesn’t bode well for the looming threat of superbugs.

From 2000 to 2015, approximately 65% more antibiotics have been sold globally both in total and by individual dose, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins, Princeton University, and the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy, based in Washington DC. The researchers tapped surveys from 76 countries of over 100 types of antibiotics conducted by IQVIA, a health research company based in Durham, North Carolina.

via Globally, people took 65% more antibiotics in 2015 compared to 2000 — Quartz

Nairobi is at risk from another cholera outbreak. Why this isn’t necessary

Flooding has affected households across Nairobi – even in the city’s high-end diplomatic enclaves. Its effects range. In addition to the deaths and serious injuries, vexing traffic jams have been intensified due to swamped roadways and stalled cars and schools have also been forced to close.

But nobody is more affected than people living in the city’s massive informal settlements, or slums. It’s estimated that slums are home to about two out of every three of Nairobi’s four million inhabitants.

Urban flooding has intensified because the city’s growth has outpaced improvements in infrastructure. Clogged drains, illegal construction that obstructs waterways and poor management of solid waste are just the tip of the iceberg.

In the slums, open sewers overflow quickly, bringing flash floods with them. Harmful waste gets washed into the rivers that snake through the city – rivers from which some people draw water to wash clothes, prepare food, irrigate their crops and livestock.

Because of these conditions the city is under constant threat of another major cholera outbreak. In 2017 more than 4,000 cases were reported across the country, 70% of them in Nairobi. Nairobi also had a cholera outbreak in a high-end hotel.

Cholera – transmitted when people ingest food or water contaminated with fecal matter containing cholera germs – can be deadly if not treated immediately.

via Nairobi is at risk from another cholera outbreak. Why this isn’t necessary

Amniotic fluid is a rich source of stem cells – that can now be harvested

Amniotic fluid, the protective liquid surrounding an unborn baby, is discarded as medical waste during caesarean section deliveries. However, there is increasing evidence that this fluid is a source of valuable biological material, including stem cells with the potential for use in cell therapy and regenerative medicine.

A team of scientists and clinicians at Lund University in Sweden have now developed a multi-step method, including a unique collection device and new cell harvesting and processing techniques, that enables term amniotic fluid to be safely harvested for large quantities of cells.

WATCH explainer video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QcnwuV6FGT0

The new method is used in combination with full-term caesarean section deliveries, and with millions of caesarean sections performed worldwide each year, it opens the potential for an unexploited reserve of stem cells and valuable bioactive molecules in the fluid surrounding the baby to be utilized.

“We showed that using our device, we can collect up to a litre of amniotic fluid at full-term caesarean deliveries. The collection added on average 90 seconds to the operation, and was safe for both mother and child,” says Associate Professor Andreas Herbst, lead clinician and a corresponding author of the study.

The collection device, which has been constructed with bio-inert plastics and 3D-printing techniques, forms a seal with the fetal cavity, enabling gentle and sterile collection of large volumes of amniotic fluid, while being completely safe for mother and baby. The collected fluid contains specialized cells with high therapeutic potential. The cell type that the current protocol purifies is called a Mesenchymal Stem Cell (MSC).

MSCs can obtained from other tissues in the body, and have already demonstrated therapeutic potential for immune and inflammatory-mediated diseases, for example, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, and neurodegenerative disorders. However, the difficulty in acquiring sufficient numbers of these cells limits their broad use in cell therapy and tissue repair applications. “Full term amniotic fluid, being an easily obtainable and abundant tissue source, may be the solution for MSC based cell therapy and regenerative medicine applications”, says Associate Professor Niels-Bjarne Woods, a corresponding author in the study.

Since the collections involve planned Caesarean sections, no additional invasive medical procedures are needed for the MSC isolation, in contrast to MSC isolation from bone marrow.

The research group has also shown another potential use for MSCs purified from full-term amniotic fluid. By converting these cells to an embryonic-like stem cell state, they can potentially give rise to all different cell types of the body, including neural cells, blood cells and heart cells, among others.

“The combination of this novel device and the coupled cellular selection and cultivation methods could be transformative for the stem cell field, as large quantities of newborn-MSC’s can be provided by utilizing this waste material. The safety standards we adhere to are also a central component for gaining clinical acceptance. The obvious next step would be to evaluate these cells further in the laboratory and, if successful, in disease models”, says Dr Marcus Larsson, clinician and a corresponding author on the publication.

The long-term goal is that amniotic fluid collection will be adopted in clinics worldwide, and by doing so, the numbers of suitably matched MSCs obtained would rapidly increase to finally be sufficient to treat any genetically matched person in need of individualized MSC based therapy.

“Now that we have demonstrated the feasibility to access this neonatal MSC source, our hope is that many more research groups will start working with these cells. This will accelerate our understanding of their full therapeutic potential“, says Dr. Niels-Bjarne Woods.

A new test can diagnose malaria in under two minutes—without taking blood

Magnetism and light have been combined in a test that can diagnose malaria in under two minutes without the need to take blood.

The new test, which has yet to undergo clinical trials, won a prize for entrepreneurs hosted by Britain’s Prince Andrew on Feb. 28.

“What we’re trying to do is to bridge the gap between local communities and effective diagnosis,” Shafik Sekitto, an engineer from Uganda and co-founder of the device, said in an interview.

via A new test can diagnose malaria in under two minutes—without taking blood — Quartz