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What's The Buzz .

New drug improves vision in blind

A Newcastle University study has found that an experimental drug improves the vision and perception of colour in patients with Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON), an inherited blindness.

In nine patients out of 36 patients taking the drug, idebenone, vision improved to the extent that patients were able to read at least one row of letters on the chart.  Inherited from the mother, and mainly affecting men, LHON is caused by damage to the mitochondria in the eyes—the “batteries” that power their cells.

“This is the first proven treatment for a mitochondrial disorder,” said Professor Patrick Chinnery, a Wellcome Trust Senior Fellow in Clinical Science at Newcastle University.
“We have seen patients who couldn’t even see an eye chart on the wall go on to read the first line down—and some even attempted the second line.

For these patients, it can mean a vast improvement in their quality of life,” he stated.  The greatest improvement was seen in patients who had deteriorated in one eye more than the other.

“While we know that their vision is not what it once was, we also know that this treatment can dramatically improve their lives—some were able to move around more easily or even see family photos again,” he added.

Soon, artificial lung that uses air rather than pure oxygen
Researchers at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland have designed an artificial lung that uses air instead of pure oxygen as the ventilating gas, as is the case with current man-made lungs, which require heavy tanks of oxygen.

It might be still years away to be used in humans, but the device is a major step toward creating an easily portable and implantable artificial lung, said lead reearcher Joe Potkay, a research assistant professor in electrical engineering and computer science at the University.

The device could come in at just 6x6x4 inches, which is roughly the volume of the real human lung, meaning it could conceivably pave the way for implantable artificial lungs. Potkay and his co-authors built the prototype device by following the natural lung's design and tiny dimensions. The artificial lung is filled with breathable silicone rubber versions of blood vessels that branch down to a diameter less than one-fourth the diameter of human hair.

Current artificial lung systems require heavy tanks of oxygen, limiting their portability. Due to their inefficient oxygen exchange, they can be used only on patients at rest, and not while active. And, the lifetime of the system is measured in days.

Hiding vegetables in kids’ foods doubles intake
A new study has found that adding pureed vegetables to children’s foods nearly doubles their intake of vegetable while reducing calories in the recipes. Preschool children consumed nearly twice as many vegetables and 11 percent fewer calories over the course of a day when Penn State researchers added pureed vegetables to their favourite foods.

“Childhood obesity rates are on the rise, and at the same time children are not eating the recommended amount of vegetables,” said Barbara Rolls, holder of the Helen A. Guthrie Chair in Nutritional Sciences.

“Vegetables have been shown to help lower calorie intake. The problem is getting kids to eat enough vegetables,” she said.  In their study, the researchers served vegetable-enhanced entrees to 39 children between the ages of 3 and 6 on three separate days.

They tested three familiar foods -- zucchini bread for breakfast, pasta with a tomato-based sauce for lunch and chicken noodle casserole for dinner.  The team modified the standard recipes for these foods by adding a variety of pureed vegetables to reduce the calories in the entrees by 15 percent and 25 percent.

“We incorporated several vegetables into the dishes, including broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, tomatoes and squash,” said Maureen Spill, a post-doctoral fellow in nutritional sciences and the study’s lead author.

And when they ate the vegetable-enhanced entrees as opposed to the standard-recipe entrees, their daily vegetable intake nearly doubled while their calorie intake decreased by 11 percent.

Rolls and colleagues found similar results when they served vegetable-enhanced entrees to adults.

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