Prebiotics also useful to fight insomnia according to team of researchers

Prebiotics, usually used to improve the health of the digestive system and intestines, may also help to combat insomnia or to promote sleep. This is the opinion of a team of researchers who published the results of their own study in Scientific Reports.
According to the researchers, prebiotics can in fact improve resistance to stress by affecting the intestinal bacteria themselves.

Sleep problems affect tens of millions of people today and this research shows that further treatment with prebiotics is possible.
As Robert Thompson, researcher at the Department of Integrative Physiology and lead author of the study, explains, prebiotics nourish the beneficial bacteria found in our intestines by creating a symbiotic relationship with our bodies. But this has very powerful effects, even on our brain and our behavior.

Prebiotics (not to be confused with probiotics, which are real microorganisms) are beneficial compounds that are not broken down by the body but play an important role in the intestinal flora. Man cannot digest prebiotics but they can serve as nourishment for the intestinal microbiome, that is, the set of trillions of bacteria that live in our intestine or other organs of our body, and can indirectly affect our brains and our behaviour.
To reach these conclusions, the researchers performed experiments on adolescent male rats.
Using mass spectrometry, researchers analyzed faecal samples from rats by measuring their metabolites, small bioactive molecules that are produced by bacteria when food is broken down in the intestines.

The researchers found that rats on a prebiotic diet showed a different metabolome (the sum of all metabolites) and this also influenced the behaviour of the rats themselves as a result of stress.
“Our results reveal new signals from intestinal microbes that can modulate the physiology of stress and sleep,” reports Monika Fleshner, senior author of the study, who believes that these results could lead, perhaps, in the future to new solutions and new options for people who suffer from insomnia but do not want to take narcotics: “With this information, we may be able to develop a targeted therapeutic approach that increases the molecules that protect against stress and compresses those that seem to disturb sleep.

Earth was completely covered by the seas 3.2 billion years ago according to new analysis.

The Earth was a world of water, it was covered by a single global ocean without or with very little land, about 3.2 billion years ago: this is the interesting conclusion reached by a team of researchers from the Iowa State University.
The geologists have in fact analyzed the exposed oceanic crust, dating back precisely to this period in the history of the Earth, present in Australia and have realized a model which indicates that, in this distant period, the primordial Earth had all its continents submerged.

This approach could also have important consequences for the origin of life on Earth. If this condition was in fact present even when life on earth was born, the very origin of life itself should be reassessed and some of the most accepted models today could be set aside.
“Without continents and land above sea level, the only place where the first ecosystems would have evolved would have been in the ocean,” the researchers report.

The pieces of oceanic crust analyzed by the researchers date back to the Archean eon, a period of the Earth between 4 and 2.5 billion years ago.
Benjamin Johnson, along with colleagues including Boswell Wing, analyzed the oxygen isotopes of these rocks and the temperature values he found suggest that seawater in this ancient period was enriched with about 4 parts per thousand more than water in today’s seas with a heavy oxygen isotope.

Finding that the ratio between two different isotopes of oxygen trapped in rocks was very different 3.24 billion years ago, researchers came to the conclusion that there were no emerged continents.
Today, in fact, the mainland absorbs heavier oxygen isotopes from the water through atmospheric agents, something that does not seem to have happened in that distant period.

According to geologists, that is, it can be explained in the fact that there was not enough land to suck up these isotopes. That doesn’t mean that there wasn’t any land area in the world. There may have been, for example, microcontinents during this period, but they were not large enough to absorb heavy oxygen isotopes from the seas as they do today.

The question then arises: when did the action of Earth’s tectonics bring forth the first true continents? Interesting question here the same researchers promise to answer through new analyses of old oceanic crusts in other areas of the world.

New blood collection robot uses artificial intelligence to detect veins

A new tabletop robot to draw blood or insert catheters to deliver drugs and fluids was created by a group of engineers at Rutgers University. According to the press release, this robot uses artificial intelligence and infrared and ultrasound imaging technologies to guide needles or catheters with extreme precision into even the smallest blood vessels with minimal human supervision.

The new robot, described in a study published in Nature Machine Intelligence, arrives in a sector, that of blood sampling or the introduction of medicines into the blood itself, which is revolutionizing in recent years thanks to the advent of robotics and artificial intelligence.
Today, these robots can perform fairly complex medical tasks and can improve the results of procedures.

The new robot has already been tested on animals and volunteers and has proven to be able to accurately identify even the smallest blood vessels, which in itself improves the success rates and the total time of the procedure, even for the most experienced professionals, as explained by Martin L. Yarmush, professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Rutgers and senior author of the study.

One of the most difficult steps when it comes to taking blood or putting medication into the blood itself is to detect the veins and arteries. Very often even the most experienced health care professionals fail at the first attempt (or even at the next attempt) because the blood vessels can be small, twisted, collapsed on themselves, etc., situations that are even more present in chronically ill or traumatized people.

Very often at least five attempts are necessary, which delays treatment and is certainly not appreciated by the patient himself.
In addition, multiple attempts can perforate larger arteries than nerves or adjacent internal organs, which naturally increases the risk of complications.

Instead, this new robot or guide the lake or catheter precisely by identifying, through ultrasound imaging and using artificial intelligence, the blood vessels, distinguishing them from the surrounding tissue and classifying and estimating them by depth and level of adaptation to the operation.

“Not only can the device be used for patients, but it can also be modified to draw blood from rodents, a procedure that is extremely important for animal drug testing in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries,” Yarmush himself reports.

Diabetes: scientists discover new therapeutic options to limit collateral damage caused by insulin

A protein that can act as a regulator of blood sugar and lipids under certain conditions has been identified by a group of researchers at the University of Geneva (UNIGE). The protein, called S100A9, could counteract the side effects of insulin administered to diabetics.

The study published in Nature Communications mentions what a new treatment for diabetes and in general a significant improvement in the quality of life of tens of millions of people could be. In fact, millions of people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes have to resort to insulin injections. Overdose can cause hypoglycemia, a drop in blood glucose levels, while underdose can lead to dangerous hyperglycemia.

In experiments on mice, scientists found that the administration of S100A9 to insulin-deficient diabetic rats led to better glucose management and better control of ketones and lipids. They then discovered that this protein appears to work only when there is TLR4, a receptor placed on the membrane of certain cells, including adipocytes and immune system cells.

Now Roberto Coppari, one of the authors of the study together with Giorgio Ramadori, and his team want to understand the function of the protein S100A9. In this context, they are developing a new treatment that combines low doses of insulin and S100A9 to understand whether it is possible to better control glucose and ketones and limit the same negative side effect of insulin.

“We also want to decipher the exact role of TLR4 to offer a therapeutic strategy that achieves the delicate balance between blood sugar, ketones and optimal lipid control,” explains Coppari himself in the press release.



Children of mothers who have taken snus during pregnancy show higher blood pressure.

A research team found that children between the ages of five and six whose mothers had used snus during pregnancy had higher systolic blood pressure. The new study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Snus is a moist powdered tobacco for oral use that was banned in the European Union as early as 1992 after World Health Organization studies found it to be carcinogenic. However, this tobacco is very popular in some countries, such as Sweden, and is still available in the United States (although it is currently processed by the FDA in that country).

The snus is placed between the gums and the upper lip and essentially provides nicotine. The advantage of using such tobacco would be that it does not include the by-products of burning classic cigarettes. Another advantage is that it is not necessary to spit, as is the case with most common chewing tobacco cards.

This study shows that the intake of nicotine during pregnancy, whether from cigarettes, chewing tobacco or snus, is not safe and can have negative effects on the unborn child, as Felicia Nordenstam, a paediatric cardiologist at the Karolinska Institute University Hospital in Stockholm and lead author of the study, explains.

The researcher analyzed data from children born to 21 women who used only snus during pregnancy and compared it with data from 19 children whose mothers did not consume tobacco products during pregnancy.

Researchers found that systolic blood pressure in children in the first group was 4.2 mmHg higher than in children in the second group.