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BPA in plastic disrupts reproductive system

In a new study, researchers have found new evidence that the plastic additive BPA can disrupt women’s reproductive systems, causing chromosome damage, miscarriages and birth defects.

Washington State University geneticist Patricia Hunt and colleagues at WSU and the University of California, Davis, report seeing reproductive abnormalities in rhesus monkeys with BPA levels similar to those of humans.

By using an animal with the most human-like reproductive system, the research bolsters earlier work by Hunt and others documenting widespread reproductive effects in rodents.

“The concern is exposure to this chemical that we’re all exposed to could increase the risk of miscarriages and the risk of babies born with birth defects like Down Syndrome,” Hunt said.

“The really stunning thing about the effect is we’re dosing grandma, it’s crossing the placenta and hitting her developing foetus, and if that foetus is a female, it’s changing the likelihood that that female is going to ovulate normal eggs.

It’s a three-for-one hit,” she said.The research also adds to the number of organs affected by BPA, or bisphenol A, which is found in plastic bottles, the linings of aluminum cans and heat-activated cash register receipts. This May, Hunt was part of another paper in PNAS reporting that the additive altered mammary development in the primate, increasing the risk of cancer.

Hunt’s colleagues at UC, Davis exposed different groups of gestating monkeys to single daily doses of BPA and low-level continuous doses and looked at how they affected the reproductive systems of female foetuses. She saw that in the earliest stage of the adult’s egg development, the egg cell failed to divide properly. Earlier mouse studies showed similar disturbances translated into genetic defects in the mature egg.

How even old dogs can be taught new tricks

A brain research has shown that you can indeed “teach old dogs new tricks.”
It suggests that the brain you have as an adult is not necessarily the brain you are always going to have. It can still change, even for the better.

Dartmouth graduate student Alex Schlegel has been using the white matter as a landscape on which to study brain function. “This work is contributing to a new understanding that the brain stays this plastic organ throughout your life, capable of change,” Schlegel said.

“Knowing what actually happens in the organisation of the brain when you are learning has implications for the development of new models of learning as well as potential interventions in cases of stroke and brain damage,” he noted. Schlegel is a graduate student working under Peter Tse, an associate professor of psychological and brain sciences.

“This study was Peter’s idea. He wanted to know if we could see white matter change as a result of a long-term learning process. Chinese seemed to him like the most intensive learning experience he could think of,” he explained.
Twenty-seven Dartmouth students were enrolled in a nine-month Chinese language course between 2007 and 2009, enabling Schlegel to study their white matter in action.

“An increase in myelination tells us that axons are being used more, transmitting messages between processing areas. It means there is an active process under way,” Schlegel said.

The work demonstrates that significant changes are occurring in adults who are learning. The structure of their brains undergoes change.

A helmet that sends SOS on crash

The brainchild of an India-born chef for top cyclists, a new ‘life saver’ bike helmet that connects with your phone and alerts emergency services in case of an accident is set to hit the markets soon.

The potentially life saving smartphone app, which can detect a crash and then alert the emergency services, has been designed for bike riders.

The clever application pairs through Bluetooth with a motion detector which is attached to the rider’s helmet and senses the crash.

The invention has been created by Oklahoma-based software company ICEdot in the US.The detector, named the ICEdot Crash Sensor, can even evaluate the severity of the crash depending on the force of the rider’s fall.

Chris Zenthoefer, ICEdot’s CEO, said: “The idea came from Biju Thomas, a prominent chef for a lot of top cyclists. He was on a solo ride and crashed and thought if the crash had been any worse, nobody would have know where he was located.”“We were then introduced and it became clear that the pairing of his idea with ICEdot existing technology were a perfect match,” Zenthoefer said.

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