Connect with us

Medicine and Health

The largest-ever 3D-mapped segment of the human brain remains small enough to fit on a grain of rice

blank

Published

on

blank

This vibrant spectrum of cells depicts the most extensive and detailed three-dimensional map ever created of a specific region of the human brain. Although it is the largest, it is still only a cubic millimeter in size, which is approximately equivalent to half a grain of rice. Through this achievement, scientists are now able to observe the complex network of 57,000 cells, linked by 150 million synapses and numerous millimeters of blood vessels, which constitute this particular small area of the human cortex.

Over the past ten years, a partnership between scientists at Harvard University and Google has been dedicated to creating a comprehensive and detailed map of the mouse brain. This represents a significant and crucial advancement in our progress, as it unveils the previously unknown intricacy of a portion of brain matter at the level of synapses.

Senior author Jeff Lichtman stated that the term ‘fragment’ is ironic. His team generated electron microscopy images that serve as the foundation for the new map. “For the majority of individuals, a terabyte is considered to be enormous. However, even a small portion of the human brain, which is minuscule and tiny, still contains thousands of terabytes.”

Using AI algorithms created by Google Research, the imaging from Lichtman’s team at Harvard can be color-coded and reconstructed to unveil unparalleled levels of detail.

It is reasonable to assume that neurons, which are the fundamental nerve cells, would be the most prevalent in the primary organ of the central nervous system, as indicated by their name, correct? However, the team discovered that the number of these cells was actually twice as many as the supporting glial cells, which play a role in maintaining the optimal environment of the brain. The oligodendrocytes, which generate myelin, the crucial insulation surrounding nerve axons, were the most abundant cell type.

The tissue fragment displayed peculiarities such as robust neurons interconnected by 50 or more synapses each, enlarged axons containing what the research team referred to as “unusual material,” and a limited quantity of axons arranged in “extensive whorls.” Due to the fact that the tissue sample was obtained from a patient with epilepsy, it remains uncertain whether these characteristics are associated with the aforementioned condition or not.

Mapping down to this level of detail is crucial because it has the potential to offer future researchers valuable insights into the impact of small-scale connections within brain tissue. These connections may have significant effects on major functions and contribute to the development of diseases.

The scientific field that studies the connections within the brain is referred to as “connectomics.”. Recent advancements in the field include a large-scale global initiative to comprehensively map the intricate connections within the human brain, similar to how we have mapped the human genome. Additionally, the first comprehensive map of an insect brain has been published.

In addition to previous achievements such as last year’s unveiling of a brain cell atlas, scientists can now delve into our intricate network of “little gray cells” with unprecedented depth.

In order to advance this objective and increase the accessibility of these techniques to a wide range of scientists, the Harvard and Google teams have created a set of analytical tools that are openly accessible to the public. “Due to the substantial investment made in this project, it was crucial to present the findings in a manner that allows anyone else to easily access and derive advantages from them,” stated Viren Jain, a member of the Google Research team.

The ultimate objective of this project is to create a comprehensive map of the entire mouse brain. This map will yield approximately 1,000 times more data than what is currently being generated from this 1-cubic-millimeter fragment of the human brain. Therefore, there is still a considerable amount of progress to be made.

The authors acknowledge that approaches to understanding the meaning of neural circuit connectivity data are still in their early stages. However, they consider this petascale dataset as a starting point.

The research findings have been published in the scientific journal Science.

As Editor here at GeekReply, I'm a big fan of all things Geeky. Most of my contributions to the site are technology related, but I'm also a big fan of video games. My genres of choice include RPGs, MMOs, Grand Strategy, and Simulation. If I'm not chasing after the latest gear on my MMO of choice, I'm here at GeekReply reporting on the latest in Geek culture.

Medicine and Health

Microplastics have been detected in the male genitalia of humans for the first time

blank

Published

on

blank

Researchers have recently discovered microplastics in human penises, expanding the list of body parts where these harmful particles have been detected.

Microplastics are small pieces of plastic that are shorter than 5 millimeters (0.2 inches) and can originate from various sources, including plastic production or the breakdown of plastic objects. With their apparent penetration into every small space, some people are worried about the potential consequences for our well-being.

The initial phase of this process involves determining their presence within the body. Researchers from the University of Miami, the University of Colorado, and the research institution Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon embarked on a quest to ascertain whether these entities could be detected in penises.

In order to accomplish this, the team collected penile tissue samples from six individuals who were undergoing surgery to treat erectile dysfunction. One of the samples was used as a control for comparison. Subsequently, the samples were examined for microplastics using laser direct infrared (LDIR) microspectroscopy, a method that enables scientists to identify the types, sizes, and quantities of microplastics present.

The analysis indicated that microplastics were present in 80 percent of the samples, with sizes ranging from 20 to 500 micrometers. However, another microscopy technique detected some microplastics as small as 2 micrometers (equivalent to thousandths of a millimeter, for reference to their minuscule size).

The microplastics (MPs) consisted of seven distinct types, with polyethylene terephthalate being the most abundant at 47.8 percent. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a type of plastic, is frequently utilized in the manufacturing of clothing as well as packaging for food and beverages.

Polypropylene, accounting for 34.7 percent of the sample, emerged as the second most prevalent plastic. This versatile plastic is utilized in various applications, including rigid food packaging and plastic laboratory equipment.

The authors state that their study is a pioneering investigation into the existence of microplastics (MPs) in penile tissue. “Our research provides important information about the presence of MPs in human tissues, which contributes significantly to the ongoing discussion about the impact of environmental pollutants on human health.”

While this study represents the initial discovery of microplastics in penile tissue, previous findings have already identified their presence in the surrounding region. In a recent study, scientists discovered substantial amounts of microplastics in the testes of both humans and dogs. Additionally, another investigation revealed the presence of microplastics in all 36 semen samples examined by the researchers.

Scientists have consistently highlighted the need for further research, but they have indicated the potential impact of microplastics on reproductive health, specifically investigating the connection between microplastics and erectile dysfunction.

In an interview with Sky News, Dr. Ranjith Ramasamy, the main researcher, stated that further investigation is needed to understand the mechanism behind the presence of microplastics in the penis.

The research is published in the International Journal of Impotence Research

Continue Reading

Medicine and Health

Long-Term COVID Risk Factors Found in Data from Almost 5,000 People

blank

Published

on

blank

More information about who may be most likely to get a long-lasting illness has been found by looking at data from 4,700 people who have recovered from COVID-19. Scientists still don’t know exactly what causes the painful symptoms of long COVID—there are hundreds of possible causes—but this new study gives them a better idea of who may be affected.

If you get infected with SARS-CoV-2, you will have a long-term condition called Long COVID for at least three months. The symptoms may get worse over time or come on and off in waves. Some people will get better after a while, but for others, whose symptoms started in the early days of the pandemic in 2020 and haven’t gone away yet, they are still sick.

A lot of work has been done by scientists to figure out what causes long-term COVID and to find treatments that might help, not just for these patients but also for people with other post-viral syndromes. There are still a lot of things we don’t know, though. One of the biggest questions is who may be most likely to get long-term COVID. Someone at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center may have led a new study that could help.

“Our study clearly establishes that COVID posed a substantial personal and societal burden,” said Professor Elizabeth C. Oelsner, who wrote the study and was the lead author. “By figuring out who was most likely to have had a long recovery, we have a better idea of who should be involved in ongoing research into how to lessen or stop the long-term effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

The 4,700 people who took part in the study agreed to be a part of the Collaborative Cohort of Cohorts for COVID-19 Research, or C4R. C4R is made up of more than 50,000 people from all over the US who are doing long-term research to help us learn as much as we can about the COVID-19 pandemic.

The people who took part were asked to say how long it took them to get better after getting COVID. The average time to get better from an infection between 2020 and 2023 was 20 days, and more than one in five adults had symptoms for at least three months.

The biggest groups of those were found to be women and people who already had heart disease. American Indian and Alaska Native people who took part also had more severe first infections and took longer to recover.

Being vaccinated against the virus and having an infection with an omicron lineage variant, which is usually linked to milder disease, were both linked to a faster recovery. She said, “Our study shows how important it is that COVID vaccinations have been, not only in lowering the severity of an infection but also in lowering the risk of long-term COVID.”

Other health problems that are usually linked to worse outcomes from COVID, like diabetes and chronic lung disease, were linked to longer recovery times. However, this was no longer a statistically significant finding when sex, heart disease, vaccination status, and variant exposure were taken into account.

The study also found an interesting lack of a significant link with mental health disorders. Studies have shown that a lot of people with long COVID have problems with their mental health, but Oelsner said, “We did not find that depressive symptoms before SARS-CoV-2 infection were a major risk factor for long COVID.”

The main thing to remember is that getting vaccinated is still the best way to avoid getting COVID in the first place, so make sure you don’t have a worse experience with it. The current circulating variants are mostly offshoots of Omicron. This may also be a reason to be hopeful, since these variants were linked to shorter recovery times.

New vaccines are being made to match the newest strains, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts out detailed information on when people of different ages and risk levels should think about getting their next booster. Different countries have different vaccine availability, but the health authority in your area should be able to tell you if you can get a shot.

The study can be found in JAMA Network Open.

Continue Reading

Medicine and Health

Which is better for us: fresh or frozen vegetables?

blank

Published

on

blank

People are changing how they shop at the grocery store to save money because the cost of living is going up. This is especially true when it comes to vegetables. As a general rule, frozen vegetables are less expensive than fresh ones. However, some people think that fresh vegetables are naturally “better” for you. Which is it?

In a clean corner
Fresh vegetables that are crunchy and taste great are great, but they might not have as many nutrients as you think.

They start to lose their nutrients as soon as they are picked. That’s because they are taken away from their source of nutrients when they are picked. So that they can stay alive, the cells in vegetables breathe faster, which can cause nutrients to be lost. It’s also possible for this to happen when vegetables are stored or processed and are exposed to oxygen.

But this is the big nutritional catch with fresh vegetables: how healthy they are depends on how soon you eat them after picking them. Since the prices of vegetables at stores are going through the roof, some people are growing their own or getting them from community gardens. It usually takes a little longer for fresh vegetables from the store to get to our tables.

To get the most out of fresh vegetables, they should be eaten within a few days, if possible. CNN Health spoke with Gene Lester, a plant physiologist and national program leader for the US Department of Agriculture. “After it’s four, five, or seven days old, it’s a whole different story.”

In the cold corner
It became popular to freeze fresh vegetables because they go bad faster when left out in the open air. This way, you can use them up faster and avoid having a fridge full of spoiled green beans. Besides that, because they are frozen so soon after being picked, frozen vegetables are usually thought to have more nutrients.

Still, there is some evidence that frozen vegetables may have less vitamin C than fresh vegetables. Vitamin C is important for many bodily functions and, you know, keeps you from getting scurvy. For that reason, frozen vegetables are blanched, which means they are quickly scalded in steam or boiling water and then quickly cooled.

Blanching food is thought to help keep the flavor and stop that weird gray color that can happen with frozen food. This is done by turning off enzymes in the vegetables, which freezing alone couldn’t do. But heat can also break down vitamin C, so some of it might be lost in vegetables that are going to be frozen.

Vitamin C loss doesn’t seem to be that clear-cut, though. If it’s frozen, there may not be any more loss.

A study from 2015 that looked at how well eight different fruits and vegetables kept their vitamins found that spinach, carrots, peas, and broccoli that were stored fresh or frozen did not differ significantly in terms of vitamin C. It was discovered that frozen corn and green beans had higher levels of vitamin C than fresh ones. The authors said this was because fresh vegetables break down faster.

The whole picture
The study mentioned above also discovered that, on average, frozen vegetables had the same amount of vitamins as fresh ones, and sometimes even more. Any food is “better” than none at all, and any vegetable is better than none at all in the big picture.

Vegetables are full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and they are good for you in many ways, like helping your immune system and giving you more energy.

If you can’t decide between fresh and frozen, choose the option that works best for you, whether it’s financially, practically, or just in terms of taste.

Continue Reading

Trending