Category Archives: good news

Good News Monday: The Upside of Bad Cholesterol

Not that this is license to eat vast quantities of Brie, but it’s reassuring to know that if you take medicine for cholesterol management one surprising benefit is that it also seems to reduce COVID severity.

In a new study, researchers found that patients taking statin medications had a 41% lower risk of in-hospital death from COVID-19. Confirming their earlier hypothesis, statins have anti-inflammatory effects and binding capabilities, which could explain how they stop progression of the virus.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Good News Monday: A Wild Comeback

As reported by the World Wildlife Fund:

The greater one-horned rhinos in India’s Manas National Park — their population once completely decimated by poaching — are making a comeback thanks to joint conservation efforts under the Indian Rhino Vision 2020 initiative.

Today, there are 44 rhinos in Manas NP and a total of around 3,700 greater one-horned rhinos in Asia, up from only 200 at the beginning of the 20th century.

Photo by Frans Van Heerden on Pexels.com

Good News Monday: The Pen IS Mightier

Of course, writers intuitively know this.

Handwriting leads to faster learning than typing or watching videos

StudyFinds.com

by John Anderer

Photo by Sarah Chai on Pexels.com

BALTIMORE, Md. — Taking notes with a plain old pen and paper is becoming more antiquated by the day. However, a new study finds handwriting is actually the superior learning option, beating out both typing and watching videos when it comes to quickly picking up new information. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University report that handwriting is “surprisingly faster and significantly better” for learning certain skills.

“The question out there for parents and educators is why should our kids spend any time doing handwriting,” says senior author Brenda Rapp, a Johns Hopkins professor of cognitive science, in a university release. “Obviously, you’re going to be a better hand-writer if you practice it. But since people are handwriting less then maybe who cares? The real question is: Are there other benefits to handwriting that have to do with reading and spelling and understanding? We find there most definitely are.”

Pen and paper triples learning speed?

A group of 42 participants took part in the study. Researchers taught each person the Arabic alphabet after separating them into three learning groups: pen and paper, typing, and video watching. After all participants had been “introduced” to an Arabic letter via a short video, subjects had to attempt to absorb the new information according to their assigned learning group. The typing group had to find the letter they just saw on a keyboard. The video group saw an on-screen flash of a letter and had to answer if it was the same letter they had just seen. The handwriting group had to copy the letter with pen and paper.

By the time participants across all three groups had finished six “learning sessions,” pretty much everyone was able to recognize the letters. However, the writing group reached this level much faster than the other two groups, after an average of just two learning sessions.

Next, study authors set out to see if any of the groups could “generalize” their new knowledge. In simpler terms, while it’s great that they could identify the Arabic letters they had just learned, could they actually use them to write, spell new words, and recognize unfamiliar words? The writing group excelled in all three of those categories to a much larger degree than either the typing or watching groups.

“The main lesson is that even though they were all good at recognizing letters, the writing training was the best at every other measure. And they required less time to get there,” explains lead author Robert Wiley, a former Johns Hopkins University Ph.D. student who is now a professor at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.

Ultimately, the handwriting group showed far more of the skills necessary for expert adult-level Arabic reading and spelling.

Why do our brains react so well to paper?

As far as why handwriting is a cut above when it comes to learning, study authors believe it is because writing reinforces both visual and aural lessons. More specifically, they say that the very act of writing something down creates a “perceptual-motor experience” that fosters “richer knowledge and fuller, true learning.”

“With writing, you’re getting a stronger representation in your mind that lets you scaffold toward these other types of tasks that don’t in any way involve handwriting,” Wiley adds.

While these findings involved only adults, researchers are confident their work applies to children as well.

“I have three nieces and a nephew right now and my siblings ask me should we get them crayons and pens? I say yes, let them just play with the letters and start writing them and write them all the time,” Wiley concludes.

The study appears in the journal Psychological Science.

Good News Monday: Promising Research on Staying Sharp

From Studyfinds.com

Memory, dementia
(© pathdoc – stock.adobe.com)

Anti-aging protein discovered in blood prevents mental decline

JUNE 20, 2021by Chris Melore

HOUSTON, Texas — Anti-aging treatments are a popular field of study these days, as more and more people are living into their 70s and 80s. However, a new study reveals the answer to preventing cognitive decline as we age may have been sitting in our blood all along. Researchers have discovered a protein in red blood cells which has the power to prevent memory loss and other age-related issues in the brain.

Tests in mice find that removing the protein adenosine receptor A2B (ADORA2B) from red blood cells triggers faster declines in memory, the ability to recognize sounds, and leads to higher levels of inflammation in the brain.

ADORA2B helps deliver oxygen to keep us young

It’s no secret that as the human body ages, people begin to slow down. With more people reaching old age in modern times, more people are developing age-related diseases like dementia. Study authors explain that the amount of oxygen in the blood also declines as people age.

They add that ADORA2B, a protein on the membrane of red blood cells, helps to release oxygen so the rest of the body can use it. With that in mind, an international team set out to see how large of a role ADORA2B plays in keeping the brain youthful and active.

Researchers engineered a group of mice which lack ADORA2B in their blood. They compared these animals to normal mice, examining their mental decline as they got older. Results reveal all of the typical signs of cognitive decline — poor memory, hearing problems, and brain inflammation — were worse in mice lacking ADORA2B protein.

Moreover, after experiencing a lack of oxygen throughout their bodies, study authors discovered that behavioral and physiological trauma to mice without the anti-aging protein was more severe than in normal mice. Due to these findings, scientists conclude that ADORA2B slows the natural aging of the brain by delivering oxygen vital to its normal functioning.

“Red blood cells have an irreplaceable function to deliver oxygen to maintain bioenergetics of every single cell within our body. However, their function in age-related cognition and hearing function remains largely unknown. Our findings reveal that the red blood cell ADORA2B signaling cascade combats early onset of age-related decline in cognition, memory and hearing by promoting oxygen delivery in mice and immediately highlight multiple new rejuvenating targets,” says study author Dr. Yang Xia from the University of Texas McGovern Medical School in a media release.

The team published their findings in the journal PLOS Biology.

Good News Monday: Something In Common

In recent years, our little community has sadly become increasingly polarized, what with strongly-held opinions on such crises as “LollipopGate” (did the former head of the vegetation committee instruct landscapers to trim certain trees in unnatural shapes?),”GateGate” (did the front gate close on a neighbor’s car through malfunction, or was this an error on the part of the driver?),”PoopGate” (did a neighbor deliberately not pick up after their pet, or did the outraged complainant mistake a clump of mud for dog poop?), and “SnoopGate” (did a neighbor repairing storm-related damage to his home knowingly violate The Rules? And could the “concerned party” have asked the owner directly about his repairs? Or — gasp — maybe offered to help rather than contacting the Powers-That-Be as a first resort?) Deep breath.

There seems to be no shortage of time for people to complain, yet little interest in listening to the other side. And it’s all gotten notably worse since the last US election, with the endless repetition of bs about “stolen” votes. I swear we have grooves in our roads from everyone digging in their heels!

So it was with great interest that I read the following piece on studyfinds.org. Perhaps there’s reason to be hopeful after all.

U.S. Politics - Democrats and Republicans, donkey and elephant on flag
(© Victor Moussa – stock.adobe.com)

(© Victor Moussa – stock.adobe.com)

Political polarization study finds liberal and conservative brains have one thing in common

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — There seems to be no end in sight to the political divide splitting America in two right now. While political polarization is not a new phenomenon, researchers say they still know very little about what causes people to see the world through an ideological bias. Now, a team from Brown University reveals liberals and conservatives actually do share some common ground — they all hate uncertainty.

Their study finds the brains of “political partisans” on both sides of the spectrum show an inability to tolerate uncertainty. These individuals also have a need to hold onto predictable beliefs about the world they live in.

Examining a group of liberals and conservatives, researchers discovered watching politically inflammatory debates or news coverage exacerbates each person’s intolerance of the unknown. Liberals began to display more liberal thinking and conservatives moved further to the conservative side. Despite their ideological differences, the team finds the same brain mechanics are driving this behavior.

“This is the first research we know of that has linked intolerance to uncertainty to political polarization on both sides of the aisle,” says study co-author Oriel FeldmanHall, an assistant professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences at Brown, in a university release. “So whether a person in 2016 was a strongly committed Trump supporter or a strongly committed Clinton supporter, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that an aversion to uncertainty only exacerbates how similarly two conservative brains or two liberal brains respond when consuming political content.”

Political views not to blame for polarized society?

Study authors used fMRI scans to measure brain activity while participants watched three different programs. The 22 conservatives and 22 liberals viewed a neutrally-worded news report on the very polarizing topic of abortion, a fiery political debate segment, and a completely non-political nature show.

After seeing the videos, participants answered questions gauging their understanding and opinions of the different segments. They also completed political and cognitive surveys measuring their intolerance of uncertainty. According to study co-author Jeroen van Baar, the results show political polarization is less about what people think and more about how their brains cope with the world around them.

“We found that polarized perception — ideologically warped perceptions of the same reality — was strongest in people with the lowest tolerance for uncertainty in general,” says van Baar, a former Brown researcher now at Trimbos, the Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction. “This shows that some of the animosity and misunderstanding we see in society is not due to irreconcilable differences in political beliefs, but instead depends on surprising — and potentially solvable — factors such as the uncertainty people experience in daily life.”

“We used relatively new methods to look at whether a trait like intolerance of uncertainty exacerbates polarization, and to examine if individual differences in patterns of brain activity synchronize to other individuals that hold like-minded beliefs,” FeldmanHall adds.

Birds of a (political) feather flock together

The study also reveals brain activity and neural responses in partisans diverge between liberals and conservatives. Researchers say these differences reflect each side’s subjective interpretation of the content they’re viewing. People who strongly identify as liberals processed political videos in a very similar way to other liberals in the study; a trait called neural synchrony. Study authors discovered the same thing when examining the brains of conservatives.

“If you are a politically polarized person, your brain syncs up with like-minded individuals in your party to perceive political information in the same way,” FeldmanHall explains.

The results also show people displaying a higher level of intolerance for uncertainty are more sensitive to politically polarizing content. Surprisingly, the news report on abortion with a completely neutral tone did not exacerbate the group’s polarized perceptions.

“This suggests that aversion to uncertainty governs how the brain processes political information to form black-and-white interpretations of inflammatory political content,” the researchers explain.

“This is key because it implies that ‘liberal and conservative brains’ are not just different in some stable way, like brain structure or basic functioning, as other researchers have claimed, but instead that ideological differences in brain processes arise from exposure to very particular polarizing material,” van Baar concludes. “This suggests that political partisans may be able to see eye to eye — provided we find the right way to communicate.”

The study appears in the journal PNAS

Good News Monday: Long-lasting Immunity

From The New York Times:

Immunity to the Coronavirus May Persist for Years, Scientists Find

Important immune cells survive in the bone marrow of people who were infected with the virus or were inoculated against it, new research suggests.

The studies may soothe fears that immunity to the virus is transient, as is the case with coronaviruses that cause common colds.
The studies may soothe fears that immunity to the virus is transient, as is the case with coronaviruses that cause common colds.Credit…Christopher Capozziello for The New York Times

By Apoorva Mandavilli May 26, 2021

Immunity to the coronavirus lasts at least a year, possibly a lifetime, improving over time especially after vaccination, according to two new studies. The findings may help put to rest lingering fears that protection against the virus will be short-lived.

Together, the studies suggest that most people who have recovered from Covid-19 and who were later immunized will not need boosters. Vaccinated people who were never infected most likely will need the shots, however, as will a minority who were infected but did not produce a robust immune response.

Both reports looked at people who had been exposed to the coronavirus about a year earlier. Cells that retain a memory of the virus persist in the bone marrow and may churn out antibodies whenever needed, according to one of the studies, published on Monday in the journal Nature.

The other study, posted online at BioRxiv, a site for biology research, found that these so-called memory B cells continue to mature and strengthen for at least 12 months after the initial infection.

“The papers are consistent with the growing body of literature that suggests that immunity elicited by infection and vaccination for SARS-CoV-2 appears to be long-lived,” said Scott Hensley, an immunologist at the University of Pennsylvania who was not involved in the research.

The studies may soothe fears that immunity to the virus is transient, as is the case with coronaviruses that cause common colds. But those viruses change significantly every few years, Dr. Hensley said. “The reason we get infected with common coronaviruses repetitively throughout life might have much more to do with variation of these viruses rather than immunity,” he said.

In fact, memory B cells produced in response to infection with SARS-CoV-2 and enhanced with vaccination are so potent that they thwart even variants of the virus, negating the need for boosters, according to Michel Nussenzweig, an immunologist at Rockefeller University in New York who led the study on memory maturation.

“People who were infected and get vaccinated really have a terrific response, a terrific set of antibodies, because they continue to evolve their antibodies,” Dr. Nussenzweig said. “I expect that they will last for a long time.”

The result may not apply to protection derived from vaccines alone, because immune memory is likely to be organized differently after immunization, compared with that following natural infection.

Upon first encountering a virus, B cells rapidly proliferate and produce antibodies in large amounts. Once the acute infection is resolved, a small number of the cells take up residence in the bone marrow, steadily pumping out modest levels of antibodies.

To look at memory B cells specific to the new coronavirus, researchers led by Ali Ellebedy of Washington University in St. Louis analyzed blood from 77 people at three-month intervals, starting about a month after their infection with the coronavirus. Only six of the 77 had been hospitalized for Covid-19; the rest had mild symptoms.

Antibody levels in these individuals dropped rapidly four months after infection and continued to decline slowly for months afterward — results that are in line with those from other studies.

Some scientists have interpreted this decrease as a sign of waning immunity, but it is exactly what’s expected, other experts said. If blood contained high quantities of antibodies to every pathogen the body had ever encountered, it would quickly transform into a thick sludge.

Good News Monday: Advocating for Avocados

They’re not just for guacamole anymore! A recent study suggests they may also fight cancer.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Avocado discovery may lead to new leukemia treatment

by John Anderer on studyfinds.com

GUELPH, Ontario — Avocados are a dietary staple of millions, but a new study finds these delicious fruits may have some extra medicinal benefits to offer as well. Researchers from the University of Guelph have discovered a new avocado compound they say may open the door for better leukemia treatments.

More specifically, this compound appears to target and attack an enzyme that can be critical to cancer cell growth.

Researchers focused their attention on acute myeloid leukemia (AML), which doctors call the most dangerous variety of blood cancer. Most people diagnosed with AML are over 65 years-old and only about 10 percent survive for five years post-diagnosis.

Importantly, leukemia cells house large amounts of an enzyme called VLCAD that helps with metabolic processes.

“The cell relies on that pathway to survive,” says Dr. Paul Spagnuolo, Department of Food Science, in a university release. “This is the first time VLCAD has been identified as a target in any cancer.”

Is there a cancer treatment hiding in a superfood?

Spagnuolo and his team tested various nutraceutical compounds in an attempt to find any substance capable of fighting VLCAD.

“Lo and behold, the best one was derived from avocado,” Spagnuolo notes.

“VLCAD can be a good marker to identify patients suitable for this type of therapy. It can also be a marker to measure the activity of the drug,” he continues. “That sets the stage for eventual use of this molecule in human clinical trials. There’s been a drive to find less toxic drugs that can be used.”

Right now, about half of all older AML patients enter palliative care. Others opt for chemotherapy, but that often does more harm than good.

“We completed a human study with this as an oral supplement and have been able to show that appreciable amounts are fairly well tolerated,” Spagnuolo concludes.

The study appears in the journal Blood.

Good News Monday: Housework = Brain Work

According to the study below. So if you sit on your butt while your partner does the housework, here’s good reason to think twice!

old person cleaning chores
(Credit: Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels)

Doing household chores can actually give you a bigger brain

StudyFinds.com

TORONTO, Ontario — Have you been putting off your spring cleaning or just saving some tedious chores for a rainy day? A new study may provide the motivation you need, especially for seniors. Researchers in Toronto find older adults who perform household chores have larger brains — a key measure of good cognitive health.

“Scientists already know that exercise has a positive impact on the brain, but our study is the first to show that the same may be true for household chores,” says Noah Koblinsky, lead author of the study, Exercise Physiologist and Project Coordinator at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute (RRI) in a media release.

“Understanding how different forms of physical activity contribute to brain health is crucial for developing strategies to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia in older adults.”

Researchers at Baycrest Hospital examined 66 mentally healthy older adults during their study. Each participant took part in three assessments, a health evaluation, structural brain imaging, and a cognitive test. Results reveal older people who spend more time doing chores have greater brain volume, regardless of how much they exercise. These chores ranged from cleaning, to cooking, to going outside and working in the yard.

How do chores keep the brain healthy?

Although most people probably aren’t fond of doing chores, the team finds they’re likely helping the brain in several ways. First, study authors believe chores have a similar effect as low-intensity aerobic exercise — which benefits the heart and blood vessels.

Chores also push the mind to plan and organize, which promotes the formation of new neural connections over time. Lastly, researchers say chores help older adults become less sedentary. Previous studies have revealed how sitting and being less active can lead to poor health and cognitive decline.

“Besides helping to guide physical activity recommendations for older adults, these findings may also motivate them to be more active, since household chores are a natural and often necessary aspect of many people’s daily lives, and therefore appear more attainable,” says senior author Dr. Nicole Anderson, Senior Scientist at the RRI.

The study appears in the journal BMC Geriatrics.

Good News Monday: Love Conquers Infirmity

A very sweet and inspiring story to kick off the week!

Elderly Man Gets Lessons on Hair and Make-Up to Help His Struggling Wife

By Good News Network May 3, 2021

A devoted 79-year-old husband visited a beauty school to get lessons in hair and make-up to help his “beautiful” wife who can no longer get ready by herself.

The gentleman walked into Alberta’s Delmar College of Hair and Esthetics and told director Carrie Hannah that he wanted to learn how to use the curling wand.

SWNS

His wife’s vision was failing and she kept burning herself as a result, so he was looking for a few tips.

The man was paired with a student and mannequin and was taught how to operate the curling wand and protect his wife’s skin. He also asked for tips on applying her mascara.

The adorable OAP also asked for tips on applying her mascara.

Carrie said: “My staff and students were so touched by his sincere wish to help his wife of 50 plus years

“He lovingly pulled pictures from his wallet, showing everyone his wife, and boasted about how beautiful and talented she has always been.

“Her appearance has always been something she has taken pride in and it’s important to her so therefore important to him.”

SWNS

“He is turning 80 in May, and I think he is also a very brave man for stepping into a hair college and asking for lessons on styling hair, as I don’t think too many men would do that.

“In an age of staged social media photos, it was really great to see an authentic real human gesture of love.”

Since his initial visit, both the man and his wife have visited the college to express their gratitude to everyone there.

Carrie said, “They’re both impressed with his new professional skills. And her hair is looking great!”

Good News Monday: A New Way to Heal a Broken Heart

Another fascinating story from StudyFinds.com

broken heart woman
(Credit: RODNAE Productions from Pexels)

Researchers discover drug that can mend the physical damage of a broken heart

by Chris Melore

MELBOURNE, Australia — From someone experiencing chest pain after a breakup, to a married couple dying within minutes of each other, there are many real examples of what doctors call broken heart syndrome. While the emotional scars are a separate issue, there may finally be a way to prevent lasting physical injury. Researchers in Australia say, for the first time, scientists have uncovered a drug that can literally mend a broken heart.

A team from Monash University find Suberanilohydroxamic acid (SAHA) can significantly improve cardiac health due to this condition. In their study, researchers used SAHA to target genes affected by a “broken heart” — or Takotsubo cardiomyopathy.

Although many may think broken heart syndrome is just a saying, doctors know it to be a very real ailment. Patients suffer a weakening of the left ventricle, the heart’s main pumping chamber. Stressful emotional triggers, usually following a traumatic event like the death of a loved one, often cause this problem. Researchers add broken heart syndrome can mimic a heart attack, causing chest pain, shortness of breath, and an irregular heartbeat.

How does SAHA heal the heart?

Suberanilohydroxamic acid is currently serving as a cancer treatment, with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approving its use. The drug works on the heart by protecting certain genes and the acetylation/deacetylation (Ac/Dc) index in particular. This is a vitally important process which regulates gene expression in humans.

“We show for the first time a drug that shows preventative and therapeutic benefit is important to a healthy heart. The drug not only slows cardiac injury, but also reverses, the damage caused to the stressed heart,” says study leader Professor Sam El-Osta from Monash Central Clinical School in a university release.

Mostly women suffer from this mysterious condition

The study finds, in western nations, broken heart syndrome almost exclusively affects women, especially after menopause. In fact, researchers say up to eight percent of women believed to be having a heart attack may actually be dealing with Takotsubo cardiomyopathy.

While the symptoms are similar, the exact cause of the physical pain of a broken heart is still a mystery. Doctors believe a surge of stress hormones flood the heart during a traumatic event. This may cause changes in the heart muscles and blood vessels which prevent the left ventricle from working properly. The result is the heavy, achy feeling people get in the chest that can be mistaken for a heart attack.

The good news is most people recover from broken heart syndrome within two months. The bad news, unfortunately, is that some patients may suffer from heart failure due to their extreme trauma. Although death from a broken heart is rare, researchers say 20 percent of patients experience some degree of heart failure. Until now, there has been no standard treatment to alleviate this condition.

“This pre-clinical study describes a new standard in preventative and therapeutic potential using a cardioprotective drug that targets genes in the heart,” Professor El-Osta concludes.

“The team is committed to the research of women’s health recognizing the uneven sex prevalence of almost 9:1 (female to male). Based on these promising results we are focused on the continued development of compounds like SAHA to improve cardiac benefit and healthier life.”

The study appears in the journal Signal Transduction and Targeted Therapy.