Study stokes conversation about cellphone safety | Scientists advance infection-Alzheimer's hypothesis | Study suggests morphine treatment for pain may instead worsen it
June 1, 2016
FBR Smartbrief
Top Story
Study stokes conversation about cellphone safety
Women using cell phones.
(Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
A report from US National Toxicology Program scientists suggests cellphones may be connected to certain heart and brain cancers in rats. Partial results from the work have been made available because of the high level of public interest, but experts said it's important to note that most research has found no such connection. Rats were exposed to radiation from the time they were in the womb to 2 years of age. A small percentage of male test rats developed cancer, consistent with what might occur normally, while none in the control group developed tumors, and radiation-exposed rats lived longer.
The New York Times (free-article access for SmartBrief readers) (5/27),  STAT (5/27) 
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Research Breakthroughs
Scientists advance infection-Alzheimer's hypothesis
The formation of beta amyloid plaques linked to Alzheimer's disease may be caused in some patients by the brain's defense mechanism against microbial infection, according to a study in Science Translational Medicine. Researchers at Harvard University found that beta amyloid had a protective effect in mice whose brains were exposed to salmonella, and they hypothesize that the beta amyloid remains after fighting off infection, providing the beginnings of Alzheimer's. Aspects of this line of thinking -- still preliminary -- have been tested in yeast, roundworms and fruit flies, and researchers plan a multicenter study of human brains.
The New York Times (free-article access for SmartBrief readers) (5/25) 
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Study suggests morphine treatment for pain may instead worsen it
University of Colorado Boulder researchers working with rats found that just five days of morphine use appeared to amplify and prolong pain, adding data to previous animal research suggesting morphine may interact with glial cells to spark release of neurotransmitters that stimulate pain. Duration of chronic pain was doubled in morphine-treated rats. "If the same result holds true in humans, it would mean that prescribed opioids aren’t only viciously addictive, they also worsen the very condition they're prescribed to treat," writes David DiSalvo.
Forbes (5/30),  ABC (Australia) (5/31) 
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Fasting-mimicking diet may reverse multiple sclerosis
A study published in Cell Reports found that a regimen known as the fasting-mimicking diet reversed multiple sclerosis symptoms and repaired nerve damage in mice, resolving illness in 20% of cases and improving the condition of all other treated mice. Data suggest the diet has a beneficial immune effect, targeting harmful autoimmune activity and boosting the production of healthy cells. Early safety research in humans found the diet shows promise for improving quality of life and mitigating disability.
The Telegraph (London) (tiered subscription model) (5/28) 
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"Ingenious" tool allows scientists to trace cellular proliferation
Researchers have developed a new approach to gene editing that allows scientists to trace cellular proliferation one cell division at a time. It's called GESTALT, or "genome editing of synthetic target arrays for lineage tracing," and the approach was validated in vitro, and then in the C. elegans roundworm and finally zebrafish. The team found every organ of the animals they looked at was composed mostly of cells derived from just a few progenitors. Experts say there are numerous possible applications for the work, described in the journal Science, which must be tested next in other laboratory animals.
The Atlantic online (5/26) 
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Key antibiotic-resistance gene surfaces in US human, swine samples
The mcr-1 gene, which confers resistance to the critical antibiotic colistin, has been identified in a Pennsylvania woman and sample from a pig. The woman's bacteria was susceptible to other antibiotics, but experts raised concerns over the gene's presence in the US. It has already been identified in people and animals in over 20 other countries.
National Geographic News (free registration) (5/26) 
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Study finds rats benefit from caring for unrelated young
Female rats with exposure to unrelated rat pups had significantly higher brain concentrations of tryptophan hydroxylase-2, an enzyme linked to production of serotonin, than rats not housed with pups, according to a report in Developmental Psychobiology. Upon exposure to new pups as adults, the rats with previous pup exposure acted maternally toward the youngsters and were less anxious than rats that had not spent time around pups. The research suggests spending time around children as teens may prime humans for parenting.
The Wall Street Journal (tiered subscription model) (5/30) 
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Other News
Animal Health
Study finds markers of humanlike intelligence in dogs
Dog peeks at human.
(Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
UK researchers who reported their work in the journal Intelligence found that like humans, dogs' performance on tests of cognitive ability vary among individuals, and individual dogs that performed well on one type of test tended to score well on others, too, suggesting a general type of intelligence in the species. The findings indicate the biology underlying intelligence may be conserved across animal species. (5/31) 
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