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Could Broccoli Sprouts Help Treat Type 2 Diabetes?

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The next big diabetes drug may have been sitting in the salad bar all along. Researchers say concentrated broccoli sprout extract could be an excellent tool for regulating blood glucose in people with Type 2 diabetes (T2D). They published their findings in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Scientists have been interested in broccoli sprout extract (BSE) for some time now. The active ingredient, a compound called sulforaphane (SFN), has already been tested as a potential treatment for a number of conditions, including cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Nobody had considered SFN for diabetes before. The authors of the current study weren’t even considering it. They had just been looking for existing drugs that matched T2D’s genetic signature. Out of 3852 different compounds, just a few possible leads emerged. The most promising among them was SFN.

The researchers took that lead and ran with it. They tested the compound’s effects on the liver and blood sugar in not one, but a whole bunch of settings, starting with computer models of genes, then moving to liver cells cultured in the lab, then mice and rats.

The results of each experiment informed the next one—and the results were promising. SFN seemed to reduce glucose production in liver cells and change T2D gene expression in rats.

Finally, the researchers moved into testing the drug on people. They recruited 103 obese people with hard-to-manage T2D at a Swedish hospital and tested how well each person’s body metabolized glucose. For 12 weeks, study participants took a daily dose of either BSE concentrate or a placebo. They watched for other symptoms or side effects and monitored their blood sugar as usual. Two weeks later, the researchers checked the participants’ glucose tolerance again.

The results were as encouraging as the previous experiments’. Patients who took the drug saw significantly decreased blood sugar levels without any serious side effects. And, the authors write, “SFN also protects against diabetic complications such as neuropathy, renal failure, and atherosclerosis in animal models because of its antioxidative effects.”

Before we all get too excited, there are a lot of caveats to consider.

“High doses of BSE cannot yet be recommended to patients as a drug treatment but would require further studies,” the authors write, “including data on which groups of patients would potentially benefit most from it.”

That’s for sure. All of the experiments we describe here were small. All of the rats and mice, and 75 percent of the human participants, were male. All 97 humans who completed the study were Swedish, obese, and between the ages of 35 and 75, and all the women involved were postmenopausal. And study participants took refined BSE. They didn’t just eat broccoli sprouts.

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MARS Bioimaging
The World's First Full-Color 3D X-Rays Have Arrived
MARS Bioimaging
MARS Bioimaging

The days of drab black-and-white, 2D X-rays may finally be over. Now, if you want to see what your broken ankle looks like in all its full-color, 3D glory, you can do so thanks to new body-scanning technology. The machine, spotted by BGR, comes courtesy of New Zealand-based manufacturer MARS Bioimaging.

It’s called the MARS large bore spectral scanner, and it uses spectral molecular imaging (SMI) to produce images that are fully colorized and in 3D. While visually appealing, the technology isn’t just about aesthetics—it could help doctors identify issues more accurately and provide better care.

Its pixel detectors, called “Medipix” chips, allow the machine to identify colors and distinguish between materials that look the same on regular CT scans, like calcium, iodine, and gold, Buzzfeed reports. Bone, fat, and water are also differentiated by color, and it can detect details as small as a strand of hair.

“It gives you a lot more information, and that’s very useful for medical imaging. It enables you to do a lot of diagnosis you can’t do otherwise,” Phil Butler, the founder/CEO of MARS Bioimaging and a physicist at the University of Canterbury, says in a video. “When you [have] a black-and-white camera photographing a tree with its leaves, you can’t tell whether the leaves are healthy or not. But if you’ve got a color camera, you can see whether they’re healthy leaves or diseased.”

The images are even more impressive in motion. This rotating image of an ankle shows "lipid-like" materials (like cartilage and skin) in beige, and soft tissue and muscle in red.

The technology took roughly a decade to develop. However, MARS is still working on scaling up production, so it may be some time before the machine is available commercially.

[h/t BGR]

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More Studies See Links Between Alzheimer's and Herpes
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iStock

Although it was discovered in 1906, Alzheimer’s disease didn’t receive significant research attention until the 1970s. In 1984, scientists identified the plaque-like buildup of amyloid beta proteins in brain tissue that causes nerve damage and can lead to symptoms like memory loss, personality changes, and physical debility.

Now, researchers are learning why amyloid beta tends to collect in brain tissue like barnacles on a ship. It might not be rallying expressly to cause damage, but to protect the brain from another invader: the herpes simplex virus.

As The Atlantic recently noted, a number of studies have strengthened the notion that amyloid beta activity is working in response to herpes, the virus that travels along nerve pathways and typically causes cold sores around the mouth (HSV-1) or genitals (HSV-2). In a study involving mice, those engineered to produce more amyloid beta were more resistant to the herpes virus than those who were not.

But when too much amyloid beta is produced to combat the virus, the proteins can affect the brain’s neurons. And while herpes tends to target specific pathways in the body that result in external sores, it’s possible that the virus might act differently in an older population that is susceptible to more widespread infection. Roughly half of adults under age 50 in the U.S. are infected with HSV-1 and 12 percent with HSV-2, which suggests that a large swath of the population could be vulnerable to Alzheimer's disease. Two other strains of the virus, HHV-6A and HHV-7, have also been found to be more common in the brains of deceased Alzheimer’s patients than in the general population.

More research will be needed to further understand the possible relationship between the two. If more findings support the theory, then it’s possible that antiviral drugs or vaccines targeting herpes might also reduce the chances of amyloid beta buildup.

[h/t Atlantic]

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