What's the buzz

What's the buzz

Brain implant could restore lost memory

US military researchers have revealed that in the next few months, they will unveil new advances toward developing a brain implant that could one day restore a wounded soldier’s memory.


The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is forging ahead with a four-year plan to build a sophisticated memory stimulator, as part of President Barack Obama’s 100 million-dollar initiative to better understand the human brain, Discovery News reported.

The science has never been done before, and raises ethical questions about whether the human mind should be manipulated in the name of staving off war injuries or managing the aging brain. Some say that those who could benefit include the five million Americans with Alzheimer’s disease and the nearly 300,000 US military men and women who have sustained traumatic brain injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan.

DARPA program manager Justin Sanchez said this week at a conference in the US capital convened by the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas, said that they think they could develop neuroprosthetic devices that can directly interface with the hippocampus, and can restore the first type of memories which are the declarative memories.

Declarative memories are recollections of people, events, facts and figures, and no research has ever shown they can be put back once they are lost.

Factors that may contribute to longevity revealed

A landmark study of thousands of members of a retirement community in Southern California is revealing factors that may contribute to living longer.

Some of the findings are no surprise -- smoking led to shorter lifespans, while those who exercised lived longer. Other findings were unexpected -- vitamins did not prolong life, but carrying some extra weight did.

Dr Claudia Kawas of the University of California, Irvine, found the research equivalent of a gold mine when she discovered that 14,000 residents of a retirement community formerly known as “Leisure World” (now Laguna Woods) had filled out detailed questionnaires about their diet, activities, vitamin intake, and medical history back in the early 1980s.

With 6 million dollars from the National Institutes of Health, she and her staff took those 14,000 files and began a research project called “90+.” Who had died and when? Who was still alive and over 90? They were able to locate and sign up 1,600 of those 90-plussers, as they call them, many still living at Laguna Woods. Each is examined physically and cognitively every six months.

Kawas said that people who exercised definitely lived longer than people who didn’t exercise, adding that as little as 15 minutes a day on average made a difference.
Keeping active in non-physical ways, such as socializing, playing board games, and attending book clubs, also was associated with longer life.

Study brings in fresh hope for infertile men

A new study has found that stem cells made from the skin of adult, infertile men yield primordial germ cells — cells that normally become sperm — when transplanted into the reproductive system of mice.

The infertile men in the study each had a type of genetic mutation that prevented them from making mature sperm — a condition called azoospermia. The research at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Montana State University suggests that the men with azoospermia may have had germ cells at some point in their early lives, but lost them as they matured to adulthood.


Although the researchers were able to create primordial germ cells from the infertile men, their stem cells made far fewer of these sperm progenitors than did stem cells from men without the mutations.

The research provides a useful, much-needed model to study the earliest steps of human reproduction. “We saw better germ-cell differentiation in this transplantation model than we’ve ever seen,” Renee Reijo Pera, PhD, former director of Stanford’s Center for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research and Education said.

“We were amazed by the efficiency. Our dream is to use this model to make a genetic map of human germ-cell differentiation, including some of the very earliest stages,” Pera said.

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