This Drug Could Restore Hearing Loss and Cure Tinnitus

Hearing is one of the many things that we all take for granted until it fails. At least that’s how it was for me. In October of 2012 I woke up to ringing in my right ear, it was something that happened before and I expected it to go away after a couple of minutes. Needless to say, the ringing didn’t stop; as matter of fact, it got worse. The day later, I began to experience deafness, I was constantly nauseous, and to make matters worse, I was suffering from vertigo – a symptom that prevents you from balancing properly.  All of this happened in a matter of three days.

Luckily for me, I was able to see a doctor within two days. Unfortunately, the technology that we currently have is not advanced enough to be able to see inside your ear. They can give you an MRI, but even then the technology cannot zoom in into the inner workings of the ear. This means that they couldn’t tell me exactly what happened. They ended up giving me a strong dose of steroids hoping that they would have some effect on my hearing and bring some of my hearing back to normal – it worked. I didn’t gain my full hearing back, but I could now eco-locate sounds to know where the sound was coming from.

Ever since that day, I became extremely interested in hearing loss advancements and technology to help people regain their hearing loss. It seems that in the past 10 years we’ve made a tremendous leap in the way that we treat some hearing conditions. The last couple of years have brought great discoveries on regenerative medicine, now we can add one more to the list with a hearing loss breakthrough.

Scientists at Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Harvard Medical School were able to restore partial hearing in mice that suffered from sensorineural hearing loss – this is a condition that happens after a prolonged exposure to loud noise. People in the military tend to suffer from this condition due to gun fire. Unlike the elderly that get this condition from age, young people are starting to suffer this hearing loss due to concerts, MP3 players, and general “I can last longer than you inside this loud car”

This new discovery could someday help people get their hearing back. Dr. Albert Edge conducted the study that appeared in the January 10 Issue of Neuron

According to the study, hair cells in the cochlea are responsible for transmitting sound to the brain. However, the cells begin to decline with age, toxins, long term exposure to noise, infections, antibiotics, and other drugs. Eventually the cochlea loses all its hairs and the hearing pathway is blocked and prevents the signals from being received in the auditory cortex of the brain.

Unlike other animals, mammals do not have the ability to regenerate these hair cells, once they start to die off, they don’t come back. The lack of hair cells causes less sound to reach the main area of the brain responsible for turning that sound into an actual “sound” that we can understand.

This lack of sound is what causes ringing in the ears, a condition known as tinnitus. When there is no sound, your ears begin to produce this “ringing” to compensate for the lack of sound.  Tinnitus affects a huge number of people across the world, and sadly there is no cure or treatment for the ringing. I’ve lived with tinnitus for 3 months now, and I can honestly say it is annoying. Sometimes I completely ignore the fact that it’s there, other times, it’s so loud that you can’t fall asleep.

This new treatment targets the endogenous cells left in the cochlea. Using a drug they call LY411575, they were able to transform ear cells into hair cells. This drug resulted in the partial recovery of hearing in mice who were deafened by the researchers by being exposed to loud noise. The drug is injected directly into the cochlear region of the deaf ear, then, after the inhibition of a protein called Notch, the hair cells grew.

The technology is still fairly new, the mice didn’t regain full hearing, but they were able to regain more hearing than they had. This, at the end of it all, is better than nothing.

Read this entire study here.

DNA Error Is Likely Responsible For Human Brain

Turns out that our DNA went full retarded about 3.5 million years ago and we ended up gaining the power of intelligence. According to researchers, when any cell divides, it first copies its entire genome. While the genome is being copied, the process often times causes errors that are later on fixed in the DNA reproduction, however, if the errors don’t get fixed they become permanent changes – we call them Mutations – sometimes these changes can hurt us, other times they can greatly help us out.

The researchers intentionally caused this “error” on small lab mice, and it caused their brains to move into place faster and helped their brain create more connections – which means they become “smarter”.

According to the researchers, the error is in the duplication of genomes, when a genome is copied twice, it increases our brain functions. They found that many of the duplicates in the human body play an important role in the developing brain.

“There are approximately 30 genes that were selectively duplicated in humans,” study researcher Franck Polleux, of The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., said in a statement  “These are some of our most recent genomic innovations.” An extra copy of a gene gives evolution something to work with: Like modeling clay, this gene isn’t essential like the original copy, so changes can be made to it without damaging the resulting organism.

According to them, this is where we differentiate from our primates, I’m sure there are other things involved but intelligence is the most noticeable one, and our DNA “Fails” may hold all the secrets.

“We may have been looking at the wrong types of mutations to explain human and great ape differences,” study researcher Evan Eichler, of the University of Washington, said in a statement. “These episodic and large duplication events could have allowed for radical — potentially Earth-shattering — changes in brain development and brain function.”  [Live Science]

Researcher Killed By Deadly Bacteria That He Was Working With

One of the main problems about working towards a vaccine for viruses and bacteria is that there is no “perfect” cure during your research. If you’re trying to invent a cure and vaccine for a deadly bacterium, this means you’re constantly coming in contact with the bacteria, and once infected – you now have your life on one end of the ticking clock.

The Guardian reported that,  a researcher from San Francisco died after being infected by a strain of meningococcal disease that he was researching. The disease is extremely virulent and the chances of it spreading are pretty high up in the spectrum. So much in fact, that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are giving friends, relatives, co-workers, and a whole bunch of other people shots of antibiotics as a precaution. Which is a good thing since this type of bacteria can be very deadly, especially if you wait too long. In Din’s case, he had failure across multiple organs and died in less than 24 hours after infection. IMG Credit: TBOB

Feeding-Tube Down Your Nose For Weight Loss?

I’m not really sure how I feel about this, I understand the hype in trying to fit into your summer clothes, or more importantly, your wedding dress. But future brides are paying up to $1,500 to have a doctor attach a feeding tube through their noses for about 10 days to help them lose up to 30 pounds.

The tube keeps your body “fed” with an 800 calories a day diet. This low calorie diet actually makes your body go into Ketosis, which is when your body starts to burn all of the Fat reserves but leaves your muscle intact. Since the feeding tube continues to feed your body throughout the day, you always feel full and don’t really have the urge to eat.

According to some patients, having the tube down your nose is not the hard part, knowing that you’re not really chewing anything to stay alive is. That, and having to explain to everyone in your family that you’re not suffering from a deadly disease or problem and that you’re actually doing this out of your own free will.

The procedure has a couple of draw backs, one of them is the fact that the buildup of ketones in your body will keep everyone, including your dog, away from you because of the foul stench that’s coming out of your mouth. The smell resembles that of nail-polish, which really stinks in my honest opinion. Then you have other problems, since you’re not getting any fiber into your diet, you’ll be constipated for the duration of the procedure. But sometimes that’s the price you have to pay to fit into a dress two sizes smaller than what nature intended you to fit into.  [via Buzzfeed – Image via ABC News]

Anti-CD47: A Way to Cure Cancer

One drug called anti-CD47 has the capabilities to cure not one type of cancer, but all forms of cancer. Breast, colon, lung, prostate, and liver can all be cured with an antibody drug that is created from a protein already found inside the body.

CD47 is a protein that protects healthy parts from the immune system when it goes into attack mode. The problem is that tumors use this protein to protect themselves from the immune system. This was first discovered by biologist Irving Weismann around a decade ago at Stanford University School of Medicine. He discovered that leukemia cells had higher traces of CD47 than other healthy parts of the body.

Weismann discovered that by using an antibody to block the CD47 the immune system was able to recognize lymphomas and leukemias as a threat to the body in mice. What is really impressive is that most recently Weismann and colleagues have discovered that CD47 is not only present on these types of tumors but all tumors, and they always seem to have higher levels of the protein than healthy cells.

They ran tests by placing the cancerous cells in a petri dish with an immune cell called macrophages and anti-CD47. They discovered that when the cancer cell was placed only with the macrophages, the cell was completely left alone; however, when they added the anti-CD47 the macrophages attacked the cell.

They also ran tests by implanting tumors in the feet of mice because they are easier to spot in this area. Out of the ten mice injected with human bladder cancer, 10 out of 10 mice had cancer spread to the lymph nodes. After treatment with anti-CD47, only one of the mice showed any cancer in the lymph nodes, and this tumor was showing signs of shrinkage. The mice with colon cancer injected had shrunk to less than one-third of its original size. All five mice that were injected with breast cancer cells had complete elimination of all cells after being treated with anti-CD47.

Although Weismann was positive about the results, “We showed that even after the tumor has taken hold, the antibody can either cure the tumor or slow its growth and prevent metastasis.” Other researchers such as cancer researcher Tyler Jacks of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge feel this study still has a long way to go. He said, “The microenvironment of a real tumor is quite a bit more complicated than the microenvironment of a transplanted tumor.”

There is also some questioning about anti-CD47 also attacking blood cells when it is released. Although the mice do increase their production of new blood cells, this might be something to stay alerted to. Also, the effects of combining anti-CD47 with chemotherapy could be counterproductive if the body is producing more CD47 as a result of the stress the treatment puts on the body.

The study has been given a $20 million grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine for human testing. Weismann is fully confident about the results he expects to see and said, “We have enough data already that I can say I’m confident that this will move to phase I human trials.”

A Baffling Illness Strikes Africa Which Turns Children Into Violent Zombies

The World Health Organization is on high alert about new Ugandan outbreak that turns children into violent and mindless humans “zombies” for lack of better terms.

The disease is called the Nodding Disease and it has struck thousands of children in the Northern Uganda Region, this illness causes seizures, violent behavior, and personality changes that make the children do irrational and “unsafe” things.

The main problem with this disease is that there is no known cure, once a child contracts the disease they lose all hope for ever having a normal future and eventually die from violent acts, or from mental retardation disorders.

The most severe of the violent acts is catching buildings on fire, it is reported that more than 200 people have been killed by fires started by children that have this disease.

Peter Spencer has been studying the disease for several years now, and figured out that before the child conducts a violent act, they go into small nodding seizures that often begin when the child begins to eat, or sometimes when he/she feels cold. These seizures are brief and halt after the child stops eating or when they feel warm again. This could explain why they start houses on fire, but it’s not a 100% definitive fact.

According to Wikipedia, these seizures can manifest themselves with a wide degree of severity. Spencer, has stated that upon presentation with food, “one or two [children] will start nodding very rapidly in a continuous, pendulous nod. The child next door will suddenly go into a grand-mal seizure, others will freeze.”

It is currently unknown what causes the disease, but it is believed to be connected to infestations of the parasitic worm Onchocerca volvulus, which is prevalent in all outbreak areas.  O. volvulus, a nematode, is carried by the black fly and causes river blindness. In 2004, most children suffering from nodding disease lived close to the Yei River, a hotbed for river blindness, and 93% of nodding disease sufferers were found to harbor the parasite–a far higher percentage than in children without the disease.

Pauline Oto and Thomas are two children living in Northern Uganda that have contracted the disease, their mother Grace Lagat, has to tie them up using fabric like handcuffs every time she steps out of the house, but according to reports, the children gnaw at their fabric restraints and try to escape whatever is keeping them from going out into the public.

The disease is not new.  It popped up in the 1960s in Sudan.  From there it slowly spread to Libya and Tanzania.

The Uganda infections, however, are a new outbreak – and it’s a very troubling sign.  The jump into a new region could be pure coincidence, or it could indicate the disease has become more virulent or found a new transmissions vector. Which, if it gets into the US it can cause a lot of problems.


Aspirin Does More Than Just Cut Cancer Risk, It Keeps It From Spreading Too

An apple a day, keeps the doctor away, that old saying was engraved on every child since the beginning of time to remind them to eat healthier. This came about because apples contain Vitamin C, which aids the immune system, and phenols, which reduce cholesterol. But an even better phrase that works for adults and young would be – an aspirin a day keeps cancer at bay.

Aspirin has become the pill of choice to doctor wannabe mothers, and for good reason too. A while back news broke out that aspirin can reduce the risk of cancer by over 60 percent, which is great, but now researchers at the University of Oxford said that the small pill can also stop the spread of cancer in patients who already suffer from the disease.

According to Peter Rothwell, the lead researcher, the aspirin achieves this by affecting blood platelets to reduce inflammation. In his study, he determined that cancer patients who take daily aspirin prevent their cancer from spreading over %50 of the time in compare to those who don’t take the drug.

Like any other drug and medical treatment, before you start taking aspirin on the daily basis, consult your doctor. Aspirin does have some side effects, if the pill works by preventing inflammation in the blood platelets; this means the blood is thinned out. Meaning you can have internal bleeding.  [The Lancet]

Small Brain Shocks for Improved Thinking

A new study conducted by MIT shows that certain areas in the brain are benefited by a weak electrical current. This study is not the first to use this tactic, but it did show that because the primary motor cortex was improved because of the current that this area of the brain is “involved in the acquisition and early consolidation phase of implicit motor learning.”

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has funded its own studies on this topic. Research conducted by the University of New Mexico last year used what they called transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS) to increase the mental awareness of soldiers. Those who volunteered for the research were given 2 millilamps to the scalp, which is “one-five-hundredth the amount drawn by a 100-watt lightbuld.”

“They learn more quickly, but they don’t have a good intuitive or introspective sense about why,” said Vincent Clark, a neuroscientist at the University of New Mexico.  Clark helped to conduct the experiments with volunteers by having them playing first-shooter video games and applying the shocks with a 9-volt battery.

Shock therapy is nothing new and can be dated back over two centuries. It has been used in a wide array of treatments from melancholia, epilepsy, and schizophrenia. Some of these experiments have turned out to be beneficial, and others have resulted in very negative consequences. The main question now is whether this technology should be put into the hands of people with absolutely no medical training.

That is exactly what makers of devices such as GoFlow are trying to accomplish. This will be the world’s first “DIY tDCS kit.” From the research conducted, it seems like the amount used in this device would not hurt the individual using it; however, anyone that will purchase this once it is finalized should do so with caution.