What's the buzz

What's the buzz

Tadpoles could lead to cure for blindness

Scientists are a step closer to find a cure for blindness - thanks to research into tadpoles which revealed the forces which can snap light sensing cells.

The experimental and theoretical findings help explain the origin of severe eye diseases and could lead to better treatments, the Daily Mail reported.

Eye cells rely on their outer segment to convert light into brain signals that allow us to see, but because of its unique cylindrical shape, the outer segment is prone to breakage, which can cause blindness in humans.

Dr Aphrodite Ahmadi, of the State University of New York College at Cortland, said: “To our knowledge, this is the first theory that explains how the structural rigidity of the outer segment can make it prone to damage.”

“Our theory represents a significant advance in our understanding of retinal degenerative diseases,” she said. The outer segment of photoreceptors consists of discs packed with a light-sensitive protein called rhodopsin.

Discs made at night-time are different from those produced during the day, generating a banding pattern that was first observed in frogs but is common across species.

Mutations that affect photoreceptors often destabilise the outer segment and may damage its discs, leading to cell death, retinal degeneration and blindness in humans.
But until now, it was unclear which structural properties of the outer segment determine its susceptibility to damage.

Dr Ahmadi and her team examined tadpole photoreceptors under the microscope while subjecting them to fluid forces.

New jab for meningitis could save thousands of lives

A vaccine against a deadly form of meningitis has been approved for use in the UK.
The European Commission gave manufacturers Novartis the green light to sell Bexsero, the first vaccine for meningitis B, after looking into its safety and effectiveness, the Mirror reported.

Meningitis B kills one in 10 and another one in four will suffer permanent disability, such as brain damage or limb loss.

Charity Meningitis UK has now called for the vaccine to be quickly introduced on the NHS.

Founder Steve Dayman said it was the biggest advance against meningitis since he lost his son to the disease 30 years ago and it will save thousands of lives and spare families so much suffering.

Department of Health vaccination experts will meet later this year to consider whether it should be included in the routine jabs already given to babies and young children.

Hot food in plastic plates could trigger kidney stones

Plastic plates are a favourite of parents and picnic-goers the world over, but new research suggests that eating hot meals on melamine crockery could actually be harmful to health.

Taiwanese researchers have found that hot temperatures increase the amount of melamine we are exposed to - and this can increase the risk of kidney stones, the Daily Mail reported.

They studied two groups of people who ate piping hot noodle soup. One group ate from melamine bowls, the other from ceramic bowls.

Urine samples were collected before the meal, and every two hours for 12 hours following the meal.

Three weeks later, the volunteers consumed the same kind of soup but the type of bowl they used was reversed. Urine samples were collected again. Total melamine levels in urine for 12 hours after eating the soup was 8.35 micrograms when the participants ate out of the melamine bowls versus about 1.3 micrograms when they ate out of ceramic bowls.

Lead researcher by Chia-Fang Wu, of Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan, said: “Melamine tableware may release large amounts of melamine when used to serve high-temperature foods.”

He noted that both higher temperatures (from hot soups, for example) or more acidic foods can encourage melamine to contaminate food, especially in older or low-quality kitchenware. But he added that the amount of melamine released into food and beverages from melamine tableware varies by brand, so the results of this study of one brand may not be generalised to other brands.