Research Roundup (Spring ’15, Week 9)

Every week our Research Editors highlight a few of the latest headlines in science news and explain why these pieces are interesting and applicable to our classes at UC San Diego. If you find an engaging science article, share it with us on our Facebook page and your highlight may just be featured!

Scientists retrieve lost memories using optogenetics| Science Daily

Researchers have found that memories that have been lost as a result of amnesia can now be recalled by activating brain cells with light, a technology known as optogenetics. After the researchers administered a compound that blocked strengthening of synapses to mice, they observed that the mice were not able to recollect any newly formed memories. However, when ontogenetic tools were used, they observed that the mice were able to completely recollect those memories. This discovery could potentially lead to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s in humans one day.

If you’re interested in Alzheimer’s and the use of optogenetics, consider taking Healthy and Diseased Brain

(BIPN 152).

Neil Srinivas | Jr. Research Editor

A radiation-free method for diagnosing scoliosis| Science Daily

For teenagers, scoliosis can progress to a large spinal curvature that is nearly six times greater than that in people above 16 years of age, due to the fact that their bodies are still in the process of developing and are more vulnerable to curvature. While regular screening can prevent scoliosis from worsening, the most common screening method uses X-rays. There are, however, major health risks associated with getting X-rays often, such as an increased risk of lung or breast cancer. This forces doctors to use X-ray screenings sparingly despite the fact that more screenings greatly improves the ability of doctors to monitor the condition of scoliosis in their patients. Researchers in Hong Kong have developed a new technology that enables safer and more frequent screenings for scoliosis known as Scolioscan, a radiation-free technology that can accurately assess scoliosis in three dimensions. This allows for more frequent follow-ups when monitoring the progress of spinal bracing or other treatments, without the health risks that multiple X-rays pose.

If you’re interested in learning more about the spine, consider taking Systems Neurobiology (BIPN 142).

Neil Srinivas | Jr. Research Editor

Obese teens’ brains unusually susceptible to food commercials, study finds| Science Daily

Scientists found that food commercials stimulate the regions of the brain that control pleasure, taste, and the mouth in obese teenagers. In the study, the areas of the teenagers’ brains involved with attention, focus, and processing rewards were strongly active when seeing commercials about food, indicating that they imagine themselves eating while watching the commercial. This may hinder the teenagers’ ability to lose weight later on.

If you are interested in a healthier eating lifestyle, consider taking Nutrition (BIBC 120).

Jasmine Chau | Sr. Research Editor

Component in green tea may help reduce prostate cancer in men at high risk| Science Daily

Studies have shown that certain compounds in green tea may prevent prostate cancer in men. These compounds, called catechins, inhibit cancer growth and invasion and cause cancer cell death. They have also been shown to reduce the growth of tumors in animal models. In this study, men who received green tea capsules twice daily had increased levels of Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), the catechin in green tea that is most effective against cancer.

If you are interested in cancer, consider taking Biology of Cancer (BIMM 134).

Jasmine Chau | Sr. Research Editor