In Vitro is Chauvinist: The Sex Ratio of IVF Babies is Skewed Towards Males

Got to admit, I thought this was about eugenics and culture.

In vitro fertilization (IVF) accounts for up to five percent of babies born in developed countries, and the technique has yielded some five million people ever since Louise Brown was born in the UK on July 25, 1978. And that’s just humans; the technology has been a huge boon in breeding farm animals. Yet there are hints that the procedure can have some unwanted effects on the resultant embryos. One such indication is a skewed sex ratio.

Source: In vitro is chauvinist: The sex ratio of IVF babies is skewed towards males

Looks like the fix is just a change in culture medium. It will take some time for this to become mainstream for human IVF. It also looks like (from the abstract) that this extra bath doesn’t harm male embryos in any way, so it won’t require genetic testing of embryos to sort out the girls (extra $$$ and mandatory freeze).

The best part is that this fix will likely increase overall success rates as those female embryos that would have failed instead thrive. Even a small % increase in success means so much to people desperately trying for a child, regardless of gender.

This Is Why You Scratch an Itch

Having an itch can be incredibly annoying but it actually serves an important function, protecting us from damage to our skin. However, scientists have long struggled to explain what actually causes the sensation – in particular why some types of touch cause an itch whereas others do not.

Now a new study in mice has shed light on what actually happens in the body when we want to scratch an itch. The research, published in Science, could lead to treatments for many thousands of people suffering from chronic itch, a disorder causing an intense desire to scratch.

Source: What makes us scratch an itch? Scientists finally have the answer

Chronic itching is a serious and dangerous disorder. Dr. Atul Gawande wrote an article in the New Yorker called “The Itch”, which focused on the case of a women who developed an itch in her scalp that was so unrelenting and severe that she scratched her way through her skull and into her brain. She was admitted into a hospital that specialized in this disorder, where she met a person whose throat itch was so severe that he killed himself one night by tearing his throat out (normally, his arms were restrained).

Marijuana Exposure in Utero has Lifelong Consequences

As marijuana is legalized in more states, questions about its safety and the health consequences of cannabis use are becoming mainstream. A new study published in PNAS finds that use of cannabis by pregnant women can have implications for the neural development of her child and that some of the consequences continue into adulthood, So, like alcohol, another recreational drug that is legal in the US, marijuana is likely best avoided by pregnant women.

…This study isn’t conclusive about effects in humans; it was done in mice, and it used a regular dose that may not reflect human use habits. But at a bare minimum, these findings suggest we should be avoiding recreational cannabis use during pregnancy. Perhaps someday soon legal marijuana will come with a “do not consume while pregnant” warning, just like alcohol does.

Source: Marijuana exposure in utero has lifelong consequences

If diesel exhaust changes the expression of our DNA, and air pollution gets into the body via the skin…  Not at all surprising…

There are many reasons a pregnant woman would want to know if it is safe to consume marijuana during pregnancy that aren’t just her being stupid selfish person wanting to get high and not caring about the baby. During the first trimester, marijuana can help with the often debilitating nausea. In the third trimester, it can help with the pain and discomfort especially when trying to sleep. Marijuana can also help with anxiety throughout pregnancy. We should not just dismiss the potential benefits of marijuana offhand because frat boys like to do bong rips and watch silly movies on Tuesday nights. There are legitimate medical benefits and studying if there are lasting harmful effects could provide relief to pregnant women.

Antioxidants May Lead to Cancer Spread, Study Says

Since the term “antioxidants” made the leap from the realm of biochemistry labs and into the public consciousness in the  1990s, Americans have come to believe that more is better when it comes to consuming the substance that comes in things like acai berries, green tea and leafy veggies.

A provocative new study published Wednesday in the journal Nature raises important questions about that assumption.

Source: The latest study about antioxidants is terrifying. Scientists think they may boost cancer cells to spread faster.

This article leaves off a couple of important points on the research

  1. Anti-oxidants increase the rate at which metastases form, and do not appreciably affect the growth of the primary tumor.
  2. The study focused on melanoma xenografts only, some of which are highly metastatic. This will probably apply to other kinds of cancer as well, but that needs to be more fully investigated.
  3. N-acetylcysteine isn’t just an antioxidant.

Here’s the journal article itself (behind a paywall).

Antidepressants Plus Blood Thinners Cause Brain Cancer Cells to Eat Themselves in Mice

In a study appearing in Cancer Cell on September 24, Swiss researchers find that antidepressants work against brain cancer by excessively increasing tumor autophagy (a process that causes the Cancer Cells to eat themselves). The scientists next combined the antidepressants with blood thinners—also known to increase autophagy—as a treatment for mice with the first stages of human glioblastoma. Mouse lifespan doubled with the drug combination therapy, while either drug alone had no effect.

…”Importantly, the combination therapy did not cure the mice; rather, it delayed disease progression and modestly extended their lifespan,” Hanahan says.

Source: Antidepressants plus blood thinners cause brain cancer cells to eat themselves in mice

It won’t work against every brain cancer, some will also resist that particular signal to initiate apoptosis. It might not work in humans, mice are still a biological model not a human. It’ll take a decade or two to get through all the human trials and safety requirements.

I had to read the article to find out the blood thinner used was: ticlopidine (AKA Ticlid).  Ticlid was taken off the US market.  The article mentions that Plavix works in it’s place.  The tricyclic antidepressants used were desipramine (DMI) and trifluoperazine (TFP).  Optimistically, it won’t take long for this combination to gain traction – ~5 years I’d guess, and lots of people will benefit from stage 2/3 trials in the mean time. Approval for drugs which already have a proven safety profile is much much faster than for other drugs, many of which only take the 2 decades you list from discovery or synthesis to reach that point.

What leads to scientists deciding to test two drugs for totally unrelated conditions on a third unrelated condition?

There is a lot of background/buildup work for something like this to be discovered.

In this case, someone tested antidepressants on cancer cells and found an increase in the rate of auto-destruction. Then, somewhere else another person tested blood thinners on cancer cells and observed the same thing.

These studies would have identified why this is happening, via two different biological mechanisms, and published that information. Then this third group would have read both studies, seen that they accomplish autophagy in different ways, and thought: “Maybe if we try both route A and route B to destroy the cells, it will destroy it twice as fast.”

It’s just educated guessing.

How do you give a mouse brain cancer?

Because the mice they use are inbred mouse lines, they’re all essentially clones of each other. This also happens to mean you can transfer cancer cells from one into another without rejection occurring. The cancer will then progress normally in the recipient mice. I can’t see the paper (this article came out ahead of print), but it’s likely they transferred glioblastoma cells between mice.

Similarly, you can use SCID (Severe Combined ImmunoDeficiency) mice, which have their immune systems completely knocked out.  You can do a xenograft, where you take a glioblastoma cell line from any species, and implant it into the mice. The cancer would then spread normally.

Genetically-Engineered Bacteria Can Keep Mice From Getting Fat

Genetically engineered bacteria can prevent mice offered a high-fat diet from overeating. The beneficial effects of the bacteria last for about four to six weeks, suggesting that they temporarily take up residence in the gut.

Researchers developed the anti-obesity therapy to test a new way of treating chronic diseases. Sean Davies, a pharmacologist at Vanderbilt University, is modifying bacteria that live in and on the body—known collectively as a person’s microbiome. The hope is that engineered microbes could secrete drugs to treat diabetes, high blood pressure, or other conditions over the long term, eliminating the need to remember to take a pill. Another benefit is that many drugs—including the one tested by the Vanderbilt group—cannot be administered orally because they wouldn’t survive digestion. Bacteria could make it easier to administer such drugs.

Source: Microbes Engineered to Prevent Obesity

The concept is interesting, but this is the first mice trial – meaning, nowhere near prime time.

While most know E. coli from the scares in the recent years, we have E. coli in our intestines.

A Woman Became Obese After a Poop Transplant

Scientists have known for a while that gut bacteria can play a profound role in the weight of mice. Now we have a case report in humans that is not entirely surprising: A woman gained 36 pounds and became obese in the 16 months after a fecal transplant.

…It’s impossible to draw conclusions from any single patient, of course, but this case is interesting against the broader context of what we know about the gut microbiota and weight. A decade of studies in mice have found that those implanted with the gut microbiota of obese humans will become obese, too, despite eating the same diet as those given the microbiota of non-obese humans. Gastric bypass surgery in mice also drastically shifts the gut microbiota, and it could be one reason for why the surgery is so effective for losing weight.

Source: A Woman Became Obese After a Poop Transplant

Her name was Incontinentia… Incontinentia Buttocks! 😀

Potato Extract: Prevents Weight Gain in Mice

Potatoes have long been thought of as a starch-filled food that pack a big punch on your plates — but that could also pack on pounds.

But recent lab testing being undertaken by researchers at Montreal’s McGill University indicates the humble potato could actually provide a key to weight control.

Their research indicates potato extract has been shown to prevent obesity in mice.

…”The one dose of the potato extract is equivalent to eating 30 potatoes. Thirty regular-sized table potatoes,” said Lou Agellon a professor with McGill’s School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition.

Source: Potato extract could prevent weight gain, McGill research indicates

The article claims the extract is working by blocking the fat absorption – but it’s excess calories that are stored as fat, not fat being fat on our bodies.  We know that increased saturated fat food consumption doesn’t lead to fat in the blood

Study: Junk Food Worse for Male …Mice

Stuffing down a burger and coke may be more harmful for men than women, if the results of a new mouse study apply to humans.

The detrimental impact of junk food seems to be connected to inflammation in the brains of male mice, with the brains of females protected by oestrogen, according to research published today in Cell Reports.

Source: Junk food diet worse for male brains

The article only covers that this has been seen in mice, and they hope this leads to confirm the issue exists for humans. And ladies: menopause means that protection is gone.

Even on cheat days, there’s better stuff to eat than junk food like: