OIL BEATS THE BULGE

Fish oil rich in vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids and thought to benefit heart and brain health has now been shown to aid slimming, by working on fat cells. Specialists at Kyoto University in Japan discovered beige fat cells existing alongside the white cells that store fat and cause obesity and the brown cells that burn fat and generate heat. The beige cells also burn fat but are reduced in older people.

The researchers found that in mice fish oil triggered conversion of white cells into the beige type – indicating that boosting beige cells with fish oil could cut obesity. Professor Teruo Kawada said this partly explained why Japanese and Mediterranean diets promoted longevity.

MAN-MADE CARTILAGE

A polymer and silica bio-material that could replace damaged cartilage has been developed by Imperial College London and Milano-Bicocca University, Milan. The glass-like material mimics the properties of cartilage, has the same load-bearing and shock-absorbing abilities, and can self-heal, allowing separated sections to re-attach.

It could create intervertebral disc implants, 3D-print tiny biodegradable scaffolds replicating lost knee cartilage, and even encourage cartilage regrowth. However, the team believe the development could take 10 years to reach patients.

CELLS FOR OSTEOPOROSIS

Injected stem cells could combat age-related osteoporosis. In tests at Toronto University and The Ottawa Hospital, osteoporotic mice were found to lack mesenchymal stem cells, or MSCs. Scientists injected the mice with MSCs, which differ from other stem cells in not needing to match, and within six months the affected bones were healthy. The team believe they could have found a new way of treating or preventing osteoporosis and have begun trials with elderly patients. They hope dedicated trials can start within five years.

DOUBLE CORONARY RISK

Two genes have been located that may increase coronary disease risks. An international team, including researchers at Leicester University and backed by the British Heart Foundation, found a gene that weakens the ability to remove triglycerides from the blood. The researchers then observed that patients in whom the gene was inactive had lower triglyceride levels and half the coronary risk.

The discovery could lead to triglyceride-lowering medication. Alterations in a second gene were linked to high blood pressure. The reasons are unclear. Meanwhile, Edinburgh University scientists have revealed a testosterone-heart disease link, possibly making men more vulnerable.

 

NEW VOICES

Vocal cords have been laboratory-grown with vocal cord tissue from four patients whose larynges had been removed and from cadavers. The tissue was bioengineered and transplanted on to larynges from canine cadavers. Air was then passed through attached artificial windpipes to produce sound. Next, the tissue was grafted on to mice with positive results. Wisconsin University scientists expect years of further study, particularly to assess safety and long- term function.

LIGHT IN THE EAR

A device has been trialled that shows problems behind the eardrum by excluding visible light and using shortwave infrared. It could replace the conventional otoscope, which cannot illuminate anything beyond the eardrum. Middle-ear infections, therefore, cannot be precisely identified by this means and false positive diagnoses can be made. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which developed the instrument, aims to continue trials.

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