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Possible Breakthrough for Sufferers of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

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Chronic fatigue syndrome has baffled scientists way before researchers defined the debilitating disorder in 1988. Long derided as the "yuppie flu" because of its high rate of incidence among young white-collar workers, the syndrome causes muscle weakness, extreme fatigue that cannot be improved by bedrest, and impaired concentration. Its cause has never been clear, and many have suggested that CFS is a mental illness

But in recent years, the evidence has been mounting that CFS has a physical cause; to that end, it's now also known as myalgic encephalopathy. Now, a group of Norwegian scientists think they have found that cause—and it seems to be linked to the body's immune system response.

A series of small trials of an autoimmune disorder drug suggest that chronic fatigue symptoms might be caused by antibodies the body produces to fight off infections. The drug, rituximab, used to treat diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, destroys the white blood cells known as B cells. In the latest study, two-thirds of the 29 chronic fatigue patients who took the drug experienced alleviated symptoms. After three years, 11 patients were still in remission.

The researchers say the disorder could be the result of the body’s immune system getting out of whack after an infection. One hypothesis floated by Øystein Fluge, one of the study’s authors, is that antibodies produced to fight an infection might continue attacking the person’s tissues, preventing the blood from fully circulating and providing the body with oxygen. 

Another recent study led by Columbia University supports the idea that CFS patients have significant differences in their immune systems from healthy subjects. This points toward a vital treatment for a little-understood disorder. A larger, better-controlled follow-up to the Norwegian study is now underway. 

[h/t: New Scientist]

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Medicine
Why Haven't We Cured Cancer Yet?
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Walkathons, fundraisers, and ribbon-shaped bumper stickers raise research dollars and boost spirits, but cancer—the dreaded disease that affects more than 14 million people and their families at any given time—still remains bereft of a cure.

Why? For starters, cancer isn't just one disease—it's more than 100 of them, with different causes. This makes it impossible to treat each one using a one-size-fits-all method. Secondly, scientists use lab-grown cell lines cultivated from human tumors to develop cancer therapies. Living masses are far more complex, so potential treatments that show promise in lab experiments often don't work on cancer patients. As for the tumors themselves, they're prone to tiny genetic mutations, so just one growth might contain multiple types of cancer cells, and even unique sub-clones of tumors. These distinct entities might not respond the same way, or at all, to the same drug.

These are just a few of the challenges that cancer researchers face—but the good news is that they're working to beat all of them, as this TED-Ed video explains below.

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Health
Skipping Breakfast Could Be Bad for Your Heart
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There are mountains of evidence supporting the claim that breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Getting something in your stomach in the first hours of the morning can regulate your glucose levels, improve your cognition, and keep your hunger in check. Now new research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology points to another reason not to wait until lunchtime to break last night’s fast. As TIME reports, people who skip breakfast are at an increased risk for atherosclerosis, a disease caused by plaque buildup in the arteries.

Researchers surveyed over 4000 men and women between the ages of 40 and 54 living in Spain. After looking at the dietary habits of each participant, they broke them into three groups: people who consumed more than 20 percent of their daily calories in the morning; those who got 5 to 20 percent; and those who ate less than 5 percent.

The subjects who ate very little in the a.m. hours or skipped breakfast all together were 2.5 more likely to have generalized atherosclerosis. This meant that plaque was starting to collect on the walls of their arteries, hardening and narrowing them and increasing the risk for heart attack or stroke. People who fell into the 5 to 20 percent calorie category were also more likely to show early signs of the disease, while those who ate the most calories in the morning were the healthiest.

These results aren’t entirely surprising. Previous studies have shown a connection between skipping breakfast and health problems like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and unwanted weight gain. A possible explanation for this trend could be that waiting several hours after waking up to eat your first meal of the day could trigger hormonal imbalances. The time between getting into and out of bed is the longest most of us go without eating, and our bodies expect us to consume some calories to help kickstart our energy for the day (drinking straight coffee doesn’t cut it). Another theory is that people who don’t eat in the morning are so hungry by the time lunch rolls around that they overcompensate for those missing calories, which is why skipping breakfast doesn’t make sense as a diet strategy.

But of course there are many breakfast skippers who aren’t motivated by health reasons either way: They just don’t think they have the time or energy to feed themselves in the morning before walking out the door. If this describes you, here are some simple, protein-packed meals you can prepare the night before.

[h/t TIME]

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