Immune Cells Play Surprising Role In Steady Heartbeat

macrophages and heart cells

Immune system cells may help your heart keep the beat. These cells, called macrophages, usually protect the body from invading pathogens. But a new study published April 20 in Cell shows that in mice, the immune cells help electricity flow between muscle cells to keep the organ pumping.

Macrophages squeeze in between heart muscle cells, called cardiomyocytes. These muscle cells rhythmically contract in response to electrical signals, pumping blood through the heart. By “plugging in” to the cardiomyocytes, macrophages help the heart cells receive the signals and stay on beat.

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More Brain Differences Seen Between Girls, Boys With ADHD

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Girls and boys with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder don’t just behave differently. Parts of their brains look different, too. Now, researchers can add the cerebellum to that mismatch.

For boys, symptoms of the disorder tend to include poor impulse control and disruptive behavior. Girls are more likely to have difficulty staying focused on one task. Studies show that those behavioral differences are reflected in brain structure.  Boys with ADHD, for example, are more likely than girls to display abnormalities in premotor and primary motor circuits, pediatric neurologist Stewart Mostofsky of Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore has reported previously.

Now, Mostofsky and colleagues have looked at the cerebellum, which plays a role in coordinating movement. He reported the new findings March 25 at the Cognitive Neuroscience Society’s annual meeting in San Francisco.

Girls ages 8 to 12 with ADHD showed differences in the volume of various regions of their cerebellum compared with girls without the condition, MRI scans revealed. A similar comparison of boys showed abnormalities, too. But those differences didn’t match what’s seen between girls, preliminary analyses suggest. So far, researchers have looked at 18 subjects in each of the four groups, but plan to quintuple that number in the coming months.

Differences seem most prominent in areas of the cerebellum that control higher-order motor functions, Mostofsky said. Those circuits help regulate attention and plan out behavior, versus directing basics like hand-eye coordination. That could help explain why ADHD affects girls’ behavior differently than boys’.

Source : Sciencenews

Being Overweight Can Increase The Rate Of Developing Cancer

A meta-analysis of more than 200 studies shows that being overweight could increase cancer, including colon, breast, pancreas and ovary cancer.  Based on previous figures from two leading charities, in 2035, almost ¾ of people are expected to be overweight and 700,000 new cases of obesity-related cancer in 20 years time.

A recent study proves that there is a strong link between excess body fat and an increased risk of 11 cancers: colon, rectum, endometrium, breast, ovary, kidney, pancreas, gastric cardia, biliary tract system and certain cancers of the oesophagus and bone marrow.

Marc Gunter, a co-author of the research from the International Agency for Research on Cancer said, “I think now the public and physicians really need to pay attention to obesity with respect to cancer. Telling people to avoid being overweight not only reduces their risk of, say, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, it also reduces their risk of many different cancers.”

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Seven Earth-sized planets orbit nearby supercool star

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A nearby ultracool star harbors seven Earth-sized planets, three with orbits that potentially put them in a habitable zone. That makes the system, around a star called TRAPPIST-1, a prime target in the search for signs of alien life. Its discovery also hints that many more cousins of Earth may be out there than astronomers thought.

“It’s rather stunning that the system has so many Earth-sized planets,” says Drake Deming, an astronomer at the University of Maryland in College Park. It seems like every stable spot where a planet could be, there is an Earth-sized one. “That bodes well for finding habitable planets,” he says.

Michaël Gillon, an astrophysicist at University of Liège in Belgium, and colleagues announced last year that they had found three Earth-sized planets around TRAPPIST-1, an ultracool dwarf star previously called 2MASS J23062928−0502285 (SN: 05/28/16, p. 6). The Continue reading “Seven Earth-sized planets orbit nearby supercool star”

NASA Spots Mysterious Spray of Organic Material on Our Biggest Asteroid

NASA has announced that signs of organic material have been spotted on the surface of the Solar System’s largest asteroid, the dwarf planet Ceres, adding to the long list of rocks in space containing complex, carbon-based molecules.

It seems like every other day astronomers are finding organic molecules on some asteroid, comet, or meteorite, so the discovery itself might not seem all that exciting – but it’s what the orbiter didn’t see that adds an intriguing level of mystery.

The material was spotted in and around the crater Ernutet on Ceres’ northern hemisphere, using NASA’s Dawn orbiting spacecraft.

Finding evidence of organic molecules on a major asteroid from an orbiting craft is a first in space exploration, and hints at exciting things to come.

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Physicists help to decode the brain

An increasing number of physicists are using their expertise to understand the human brain. Paula Gould spoke to several researchers who have made the move to neuroscience

Doctors know that they can control epileptic seizures without having to perform surgery by placing the patient’s brain in an electric field. In doing so, they are exploiting the fact that an electric field can cause neurons to fire in synchrony. But they do not understand exactly how the process works. Eun Hyoung Park, a research associate at the Neural Engineering Center at Case Western Reserve University in the US, believes that is important to understand the way in which the neurons respond to the field. “This is an area where mathematicians and physicists can help,” she says. “You need to understand why these therapies work.”

Park is one of a growing number of researchers who have opted to apply their physics training to problems in neuroscience. Park initially completed a PhD and postdoctoral work in chaos theory and phase synchronization. She then moved to Case Western to apply the same theoretical tools to medical applications. “I wanted to expand my knowledge into a more applied field,” she says. “Synchronization prevails in nature in a lot of different areas.”

Dominique Durand, editor in chief of a new Journal of Neural Engineering published by the Institute of Physics, believes that the contribution of physical scientists and engineers is crucial to understanding the brain. “While neuroscientists and engineers from varied fields such as brain anatomy, neural development and electrophysiology have made great strides in the analysis of this complex organ, there remains a great deal yet to be uncovered,” he says. “The potential for applications and remedies deriving from scientific discoveries and breakthroughs is extremely high.”

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