Donated blood saves 4.5 million American lives each year, but has a short shelf life, low portability and must be available for all blood types. Researchers have sought safe and effective blood substitutes for 60 years, and a few viable alternatives are in animal testing.
Going gluten-free is very popular, but a new study finds that if you don’t have celiac disease, there’s no point in it. In fact, it may even hurt you. The 25-year study in the journal BMJ shows that people who eat the lowest levels of gluten have a 15% higher risk of heart disease. Researchers say the results aren’t necessarily cause-and-effect, but when people restrict heart-healthy whole grains to reduce gluten exposure, they often end up eating more refined grains.
Kidney transplants in children are helping them survive longer. A study in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons shows that 96% of children who got a new kidney about 10 years ago are still alive today. The transplanted kidneys themselves are also surviving longer—78 percent of living donor kidneys are still functioning 10 years later, compared to less than half a few decades ago. Better immunosuppression drugs get much of the credit.
And finally, if you’ve heard fewer kids complaining about being bullied lately, there’s a reason. Researchers have documented a significant decline in school bullying over the last 10 years. An ongoing study in the journal Pediatrics asks students about their experience with bullying over the last month. Since 2005, the proportion of children saying they’d been bullied has dropped about two percent per year to below 10 percent. Fewer than half of students also say they’ve witnessed bullying in the most recent survey. In 2005, about two-thirds of kids said they’d witnessed it.
DNA mutations happen all the time in the body, but the immune system usually detects and deals with them. When the system fails, cancer results. Yet some animals, such as elephants, almost never get cancer, and scientists have learned that the elephant DNA repair system is 20 times more powerful than the human system.
Researchers continue to search for a brain booster to combat the cognitive effects of advancing age, and they may have found one in human umbilical cord blood. A study in the journal Nature shows that human cord blood injected into old mice significantly improved the function of their brains. Researchers were then able to isolate the responsible factor in the newborn blood, a protein called timp-2. Timp-2 injected into old mice produced the same effects. Researchers say the findings could lead to new treatments of age-related mental decline.
More women who’ve had cancer are having children, but those kids are more likely to be born prematurely, with a below average birth weight. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that breast cancer treatment produces nearly double the risk for preterm birth later, while cancers such as Hodgkins lymphoma increased the risk by 6%. Doctors don’t know if those children have greater health risks later on in life.
And finally, a study now proves that when people get their pictures taken, most of them say “take my left side. It’s my better side.” And when people view pictures, they perceive the left side of faces to be more expressive. That’s according to a study in the journal Brain and Cognition. Scientists explain that the left side of the face is controlled by the right side of the brain, which is more involved in emotion.
The proportion of severely obese teenagers continues to rise. Doctors increasingly understand that only weight loss surgery is likely to help them lose weight and avoid health consequences of obesity. But teens are often held back until they’re so heavy that even bariatric surgery isn’t enough to return them to normal weight.