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Scientists Test Drug for Traumatic Brain Injury

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Nobody ever thought head trauma was a good thing, but ongoing studies make it clear just how bad it can be. Now, researchers have begun testing an experimental drug that may help prevent some of the injury’s negative effects. Their results were recently published in the journal PLoS One.

The effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI) can last a lifetime. At the moment, according to study co-author Linda Van Eldik, treatment options for TBI are limited. "Traumatic brain injury represents a major unmet medical need, as there is currently no effective therapy to prevent the increased risk of dementia and other neurologic complications, such as post-traumatic epilepsy, neuropsychiatric disorders, and post concussive symptoms such as headaches, sleep disturbances, memory problems, dizziness, and irritability," she said in a press release

Van Eldik and her colleagues are working to develop a drug to nip some of those long-term effects in the bud. "Following a head injury, the body mobilizes immune cells [called cytokines] to respond to the trauma and jump-start the healing process," she said. "Although these immune cells help repair the injury, they also cause inflammation that may damage the tissuea sort of double-edged sword."

The researchers hope to hold on to the benefits of immune response while blocking the inflammation that can lead to later problems. They believe the best candidate for this process may be a compound called MW151. Van Eldik has been working with MW151 for years. In a 2007 test, Van Eldik and her colleagues found that MW151 was able to hold off the pro-inflammatory cytokines while preserving the immune system’s cell-repair abilities. These tests were limited to a type of TBI called closed head injury. Van Eldik and her colleagues wanted to see if it would work in other types. 

The researchers ran new tests, this time looking at diffuse TBI (injury spread across a wide area of the brain, as opposed to a small section). They used a technique called midline fluid percussion to induce diffuse brain injuries in lab mice, then dosed the mice with MW151. Some of the mice were euthanized, and their brains, blood, and livers examined to determine if the drug was effective and safe. Other mice were given problem-solving tests to see if the drug had protected their ability to learn. The researchers found that even low doses of MW151 suppressed inflammatory proteins without interfering with cell repair.

"We were delighted to see that MW151 is effective in more than one model of TBI," lead author Adam Bachstetter said in the press release. "MW151 appears to dampen down the detrimental inflammatory responses without suppressing the normal functions that the cells need to maintain health."

MW151 seems like a good candidate so far, but to date, the researchers have only tested the drug on rodents. They hope to progress to clinical trials in the next few years. 

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Big Questions
How Long Could a Person Survive With an Unlimited Supply of Water, But No Food at All?
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How long could a person survive if he had unlimited supply of water, but no food at all?

Richard Lee Fulgham:

I happen to know the answer because I have studied starvation, its course, and its utility in committing a painless suicide. (No, I’m not suicidal.)

A healthy human being can live approximately 45 to 65 days without food of any kind, so long as he or she keeps hydrated.

You could survive without any severe symptoms [for] about 30 to 35 days, but after that you would probably experience skin rashes, diarrhea, and of course substantial weight loss.

The body—as you must know—begins eating itself, beginning with adipose tissue (i.e. fat) and next the muscle tissue.

Google Mahatma Gandhi, who starved himself almost to death during 14 voluntary hunger strikes to bring attention to India’s independence movement.

Strangely, there is much evidence that starvation is a painless way to die. In fact, you experience a wonderful euphoria when the body realizes it is about to die. Whether this is a divine gift or merely secretions of the brain is not known.

Of course, the picture is not so pretty for all reports. Some victims of starvation have experienced extreme irritability, unbearably itchy skin rashes, unceasing diarrhea, painful swallowing, and edema.

In most cases, death comes when the organs begin to shut down after six to nine weeks. Usually the heart simply stops.

(Here is a detailed medical report of the longest known fast: 382 days.)

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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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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