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Twenty seconds to find trustworthy genes

It takes just 20 seconds to detect whether a stranger is genetically inclined to being trustworthy, kind or compassionate, researchers say.

In the study, 23 romantic couples were videotaped while one of the partners described a time of suffering in their lives. The other half of the couple and their physical, non-verbal reactions were the focal point of the study.

Groups of complete strangers viewed the videos. The observers were asked to rate the person on traits such as how kind, trustworthy, and caring they thought the person was, based on just 20 seconds of silent video.

“Our findings suggest even slight genetic variation may have tangible impact on people’s behaviour, and that these behavioural differences are quickly noticed by others,” said Aleksandr Kogan, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto and the study’s lead author.

What is not known, however, is what occurs from the genetic level to the behaviour – that is, the exact way the gene affects the biology underlying behaviour is still poorly understood and remains a major topic of inquiry.

Cardiac stem cells help fix a broken heart

Stem cells from heart-attack patients helped improve blood-pumping ability and restore vitality in cardiac muscle, according to a small trial published on Monday. It is the first time patients have been given an infusion of their own cardiac stem cells in the aim of solving the impact of heart failure rather than simply treating the symptoms of it.

The findings are so promising that the study’s chief investigator said a potential "revolution” was in the offing if larger trials succeeded.

Stem cells are infant cells that develop into the specialised tissues of the body. They have sparked great excitement as they offer hopes of rebuilding organs damaged by disease or accident. The index used for cardiac health is called the left ventricular ejection fraction (LVFV), which calculates the capacity of the left ventricle to expel blood in the space of a heartbeat. For a person in normal health, the LVFV is 50 percent or higher.Among the study patients, though, this had fallen to 40 percent or lower. At such a threshold, shortness of breath and fatigue are chronic and often disabling.

The stem cells were isolated from a coronary artery that had been removed when the patients underwent a coronary bypass.

Within four months of treatment, the LVFV rose by 8.5 percent and after a year by 12 percent -- four times what the researchers had expected.

Scans of the patients' hearts also showed a reduction in the area of tissue that had been scarred by the infarction, a discovery that challenges conventional belief that once scarring occurs, heart tissue is permanently dead.

The volunteers also reported a substantial improvement in quality of life, and there were no significant side effects.Previous stem-cell work on heart damage has used cells harvested from bone marrow. The interest in cardiac stem cells is that they are self-renewing, produce daughter cells and differentiate into all types of cells in the heart.

Aerobics improves memory in fibromyalgia patients Scientists including one of Indian origin found that areas of the brain responsible for pain processing and cognitive performance changed in fibromyalgia patients who exercised following a medication holiday.

The researchers from Georgetown University Medical Center said the changes indicate brain functioning is more streamlined after an exercise intervention because less of the brain’s resources are devoted to processing bothersome fibromyalgia perceptions such as pain.

They observed a decrease in brain activity in areas responsible for memory and pain control after fibromyalgia patients took part in an exercise regimen.  Fibromyalgia is a medical disorder characterised by widespread pain, fatigue, disordered sleep, and cognitive changes. It is regarded as an interoceptive disorder in that it has no apparent cause, said Brian Walitt, senior study author.

“The decreased brain activity we see in the area of cognition suggests that the brain is working more efficiently,” explained Walitt.

“We also see less brain activity in areas responsible for pain processing which might be aiding that efficiency,” he stated. Walitt cautions that more research needs to be conducted before suggesting a change in clinical care for fibromyalgia.

 However, their performance in the memory task did not change significantly when compared to their baseline study measurements. 

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