Tag Archives: science

Scientists Discover Children’s Cells Living in Mothers’ Brains


Scientists Discover Children’s Cells Living in Mothers’ Brains

The connection between mother and child is ever deeper than thought

By Robert Martone

pregnant woman

The link between a mother and child is profound, and new research suggests a physical connection even deeper than anyone thought. The profound psychological and physical bonds shared by the mother and her child begin during gestation when the mother is everything for the developing fetus, supplying warmth and sustenance, while her heartbeat provides a soothing constant rhythm.

The physical connection between mother and fetus is provided by the placenta, an organ, built of cells from both the mother and fetus, which serves as a conduit for the exchange of nutrients, gasses, and wastes. Cells may migrate through the placenta between the mother and the fetus, taking up residence in many organs of the body including the lung, thyroid muscle, liver, heart, kidney and skin. These may have a broad range of impacts, from tissue repair and cancer prevention to sparking immune disorders.

It is remarkable that it is so common for cells from one individual to integrate into the tissues of another distinct person. We are accustomed to thinking of ourselves as singular autonomous individuals, and these foreign cells seem to belie that notion, and suggest that most people carry remnants of other individuals. As remarkable as this may be, stunning results from a new study show that cells from other individuals are also found in the brain. In this study, male cells were found in the brains of women and had been living there, in some cases, for several decades. What impact they may have had is now only a guess, but this study revealed that these cells were less common in the brains of women who had Alzheimer’s disease, suggesting they may be related to the health of the brain.

We all consider our bodies to be our own unique being, so the notion that we may harbor cells from other people in our bodies seems strange. Even stranger is the thought that, although we certainly consider our actions and decisions as originating in the activity of our own individual brains, cells from other individuals are living and functioning in that complex structure. However, the mixing of cells from genetically distinct individuals is not at all uncommon. This condition is called chimerism after the fire-breathing Chimera from Greek mythology, a creature that was part serpent part lion and part goat. Naturally occurring chimeras are far less ominous though, and include such creatures as the slime mold and corals.

Microchimerism is the persistent presence of a few genetically distinct cells in an organism. This was first noticed in humans many years ago when cells containing the male “Y” chromosome were found circulating in the blood of women after pregnancy. Since these cells are genetically male, they could not have been the women’s own, but most likely came from their babies during gestation.

In this new study, scientists observed that microchimeric cells are not only found circulating in the blood, they are also embedded in the brain. They examined the brains of deceased women for the presence of cells containing the male “Y” chromosome. They found such cells in more than 60 percent of the brains and in multiple brain regions. Since Alzheimer’s disease is more common in women who have had multiple pregnancies, they suspected that the number of fetal cells would be greater in women with AD compared to those who had no evidence for neurological disease. The results were precisely the opposite: there were fewer fetal-derived cells in women with Alzheimer’s. The reasons are unclear.

Microchimerism most commonly results from the exchange of cells across the placenta during pregnancy, however there is also evidence that cells may be transferred from mother to infant through nursing. In addition to exchange between mother and fetus, there may be exchange of cells between twins in utero, and there is also the possibility that cells from an older sibling residing in the mother may find their way back across the placenta to a younger sibling during the latter’s gestation. Women may have microchimeric cells both from their mother as well as from their own pregnancies, and there is even evidence for competition between cells from grandmother and infant within the mother.

What it is that fetal microchimeric cells do in the mother’s body is unclear, although there are some intriguing possibilities. For example, fetal microchimeric cells are similar to stem cells in that they are able to become a variety of different tissues and may aid in tissue repair. One research group investigating this possibility followed the activity of fetal microchimeric cells in a mother rat after the maternal heart was injured: they discovered that the fetal cells migrated to the maternal heart and differentiated into heart cells helping to repair the damage. In animal studies, microchimeric cells were found in maternal brains where they became nerve cells, suggesting they might be functionally integrated in the brain. It is possible that the same may true of such cells in the human brain.

These microchimeric cells may also influence the immune system. A fetal microchimeric cell from a pregnancy is recognized by the mother’s immune system partly as belonging to the mother, since the fetus is genetically half identical to the mother, but partly foreign, due to the father’s genetic contribution. This may “prime” the immune system to be alert for cells that are similar to the self, but with some genetic differences. Cancer cells which arise due to genetic mutations are just such cells, and there are studies which suggest that microchimeric cells may stimulate the immune system to stem the growth of tumors. Many more microchimeric cells are found in the blood of healthy women compared to those with breast cancer, for example, suggesting that microchimeric cells can somehow prevent tumor formation. In other circumstances, the immune system turns against the self, causing significant damage. Microchimerism is more common in patients suffering from Multiple Sclerosis than in their healthy siblings, suggesting chimeric cells may have a detrimental role in this disease, perhaps by setting off an autoimmune attack.

This is a burgeoning new field of inquiry with tremendous potential for novel findings as well as for practical applications. But it is also a reminder of our interconnectedness.

A Drug That Could Give You Perfect Visual Memory


A Drug That Could Give You Perfect Visual Memory

Imagine if you could look at something once and remember it forever. You would never have to ask for directions again. Now a group of scientists has isolated a protein that mega-boosts your ability to remember what you see.

A group of Spanish researchers reported today in Science that they may have stumbled upon a substance that could become the ultimate memory-enhancer. The group was studying a poorly-understood region of the visual cortex. They found that if they boosted production of a protein called RGS-14 (pictured) in that area of the visual cortex in mice, it dramatically affected the animals’ ability to remember objects they had seen.

Mice with the RGS-14 boost could remember objects they had seen for up to two months. Ordinarily the same mice would only be able to remember these objects for about an hour.

The researchers concluded that this region of the visual cortex, known as layer six of region V2, is responsible for creating visual memories. When the region is removed, mice can no longer remember any object they see.

If this protein boosts visual memory in humans, the implications are staggering. In their paper, the researchers say that it could be used as a memory-enhancer – which seems like an understatement. What’s particularly intriguing is the fact that this protein works on visual memory only. So as I mentioned earlier, it would be perfect for mapping. It would also be useful for engineers and architects who need to hold a lot of visual images in their minds at once. And it would also be a great drug for detectives and spies.

Could it also be a way to gain photographic memory? For example, if I look at a page of text will I remember the words perfectly? Or will I simply remember how the page looked?

I can’t see much of a downside for this potential drug, unless the act of not forgetting what you see causes problems or trauma.

via Science

The War on Aging: Could buckyballs let us live to 150?

By , updated 222 days ago

Any high school science student could probably tell you what Buckminsterfullerine is: A molecule made up of sixty carbon atoms, bonded together in a spherical shape. The naturally occurring substance is a scientific curiosity, with potential applications ranging from cancer treatment to creating body armor. But could a teaspoon or two a day allow us to live to 150 years of age? New research into the organic compound suggests that it indeed might be a real weapon in the war against aging.

In a clinical trial, scientists at Université Paris Sud in France fed three groups of rats different substances. The first group was a control, the second was fed olive oil, and the third was given a mixture of olive oil and Buckminsterfullerine. The control group had a lifespan of only 22 months, and the olive oil group lived a median of 26 months. But the group that was fed the mixture? The results were quite surprising to researchers, who were performing the test to determine the toxicity of Buckminsterfullerine — rats in group three lived an astonishing 42 months.

According to the research published in the April 10 edition of Biomaterials, Buckminsterfullerine — affectionately nicknamed buckyballs — works by reducing the oxidative stress that causes aging. Granted, the research only applies to rats thus far, and this is only one study into the compound, but the results are still quite promising. It may be a good 500 years too late for Ponce de León, but it seems like humanity may have finally discovered the fountain of youth. Or, at the very least, lab rats have.

Astronauts could survive radiation on Mars, scientists say


Astronauts could survive radiation on Mars, scientists say


Astronauts could survive the elevated radiation levels on the surface of Mars, according to a NASA expert. (NASA)

Your take?
Will we see a manned mission to Mars in our lifetime?

Astronauts on a future mission to Mars could survive radiation levels on the Red Planet’s surface, according to a NASA expert.

At a recent press briefing, the scientist in charge of monitoring radiation data collected by the Curiosity Mars rover said energy levels on the planet’s surface fluctuate with time of day and the season but are roughly equivalent to what astronauts experience now in the International Space Station.

“Absolutely,  astronauts can live in this environment,” said Don Hassler, of Boulder, Colo.’s, Southwest Research Institute. Hassler is the principal investigator for Curiosity’s Radiation Assessment Detector, or RAD.

“It’s never really been a question of if we can go to Mars, it’s a matter of when we go, how do we best protect our astronauts,” Hassler said.

On Earth, life is shielded from powerful radiation emitted by the sun and other cosmic sources by a thick atmosphere and a magnetic field. Mars however lacks those qualities, and visiting astronauts would be exposed to far higher levels of radiation.

Hassler said that even though the RAD has yet to experience a solar flare or storm —  an event that would greatly increase radiation levels — it should be possible to manage the overall dosage of radiation that astronauts will sustain during a two-year mission to Mars.

Astronauts are given a “career limit” of radiation exposure they can endure while in space. That limit determines how long they can be exposed to solar and cosmic rays before they risk serious health consequences such as increased risk of cancer, sterility, and gene mutation. Due to the extremely long time-frame involved in a Mars mission, astronauts will meet or exceed that career limit unless they are properly protected.

Solar storms are of particular concern. Exposure to radiation during such an event while walking on Mars’ surface, or while walking in space, would probably cause immediate illness.

“That could have an acute effect which could cause vomiting in their space suit and jeopardize the mission,” Hassler said. “But on a normal day when an astronaut is on a space walk in deep space, it’s really just a question of numbers. They’re accumulating a radiation dose and at some point they’re going to hit their career limit.”


Viruses Made of Glass


Harmful Viruses Made of Beautiful Glass

Saturday 06.11.2011 , Posted by

When glass blower Luke Jerram saw visualizations of viruses and pathogens in the scientific world he noticed one big theme: color. Wondering what effect the artificial color in normal scientific drawings had on our interpretation of these invisibly small forms, he created his own exquisite versions out of his favorite material: blown glass. Covering such well known maladies as AIDS and Swine Flu, his works are both beautiful and disturbing, challenging observers to reinterpret their view of the tiny organisms. The pieces, each about 1,000,000 times the size of the actual pathogen, were designed with help from virologists from the University of Bristol using a combination of scientific photographs and models. See more of on this unique work at lukejerram.com .


Swine Flu


E. Coli

E. Coli Detail

Human Papilloma (HPV)


Small Pox


T4 Bacteriophage


Quantum Theory of Soul’s Existence


Scientists offer quantum theory of soul’s existence

Patrick Swayze

Maybe Patrick Swayze was onto something when he walked off to heaven at the end of ‘Ghost’.

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A PAIR of world-renowned quantum scientists say they can prove the existence of the soul.

American Dr Stuart Hameroff and British physicist Sir Roger Penrose developed a quantum theory of consciousness asserting that our souls are contained inside structures called microtubules which live within our brain cells.

Their idea stems from the notion of the brain as a biological computer, “with 100 billion neurons and their axonal firings and synaptic connections acting as information networks”.

Dr Hameroff, Professor Emeritus at the Departments of Anesthesiology and Psychology and Director of the Centre of Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona, and Sir Roger have been working on the theory since 1996.

They argue that our experience of consciousness is the result of quantum gravity effects inside these microtubules – a process they call orchestrated objective reduction (Orch-OR).

In a near-death experience the microtubules lose their quantum state, but the information within them is not destroyed. Or in layman’s terms, the soul does not die but returns to the universe.

Dr Hameroff explained the theory at length in the Morgan Freeman-narrated documentary Through the Wormhole, which was recently aired in the US by the Science Channel.

The quantum soul theory is now trending worldwide, thanks to stories published this week by The Huffington Post and the Daily Mail, which have generated thousands of readers comments and social media shares.

“Let’s say the heart stops beating, the blood stops flowing, the microtubules lose their quantum state,” Dr Hameroff said.

“The quantum information within the microtubules is not destroyed, it can’t be destroyed, it just distributes and dissipates to the universe at large.

‘If the patient is resuscitated, revived, this quantum information can go back into the microtubules and the patient says “I had a near death experience”.’

In the event of the patient’s death, it was “possible that this quantum information can exist outside the body indefinitely – as a soul”.

Dr Hameroff believes new findings about the role quantum physics plays in biological processes, such as the navigation of birds, adds weight to the theory.

Stephen Colbert Interviews Neil deGrasse Tyson


this is awesome
By Robert T. Gonzalez
Nov 28, 2011 12:59 PM 341,699 100
Must Watch: An Out-of-Character Stephen Colbert Interviews Neil deGrasse Tyson

This is excellent. Back in 2010, an out-of-character Stephen Colbert sat down with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson at Montclair Kimberly Academy to talk for 90 minutes about science, society and the universe. Yesterday, the Hayden Planetarium posted the interview on its website for all to watch.

The interview starts a little more than 6 minutes in. Topics addressed include:

-Why there is something instead of nothing (in ten words or less)
-The ethics of man/animal hybrids
-The “complexity” of evolutionary processes versus the tenets of creationism
-Whether science is a thing, a way to look at the world, or both
-Lab-grown meat
-The plausibility of a multiverse
-The importance of promoting science literacy
-The latest discoveries in astrophysics, including Mars farts — something we wrote about earlier today.

The traffic generated by the posting of the interview took its toll on the Hayden Planetarium’s servers, so the video featured here is streaming from YouTube — but be sure to show the HP some love.

Video by The Hayden Planetarium via teridon
Colbert & Tyson via