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HIV-infected H9 T Cell. NIAID via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0 
HIV-infected H9 T Cell. NIAID via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0 

Scientists Report HIV No Longer Detected in the Blood of British Trial Subject

HIV-infected H9 T Cell. NIAID via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0 
HIV-infected H9 T Cell. NIAID via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0 

Scientists recently made a huge stride toward finding a cure for HIV. A team of researchers from five UK universities reported the apparent disappearance of the virus from the blood of a trial subject. According to The Telegraph, the 44-year-old British man may be the first person fully cured of the disease using the new treatment.

The treatments currently available target active T-cells infected with HIV but do nothing to treat dormant T-cells. The team of scientists are currently running a trial of a different kind of therapy meant to tackle HIV in its dormant state. It goes a few steps beyond existing anti-retroviral therapies (ART) by training the body’s immune system to recognize HIV with a vaccine and awakening dormant T-cells so they’re easier to eradicate.

The therapy is currently being administered to 50 volunteers, and so far it seems to have been fully effective in at least one subject. The virus is no longer detectable in the blood of the unnamed patient. This might be due to the regular drugs he’s taking, but if the dormant cells are completely gone as well then the case represents the trial’s first full cure.

HIV has been eliminated from one patient before using a rather roundabout method: In 2008, Timothy Brown received a stem cell transplant from someone with a natural immunity to the disease and was effectively cured. If this new treatment is as promising as it looks, it could offer a more practical solution to the 2.1 million people infected with HIV each year. Researchers plan to move forward with medical tests for the next five years and may eventually look into the treatment as a replacement for current therapies.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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The Surprising Link Between Language and Depression
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Skim through the poems of Sylvia Plath, the lyrics of Kurt Cobain, or posts on an internet forum dedicated to depression, and you'll probably start to see some commonalities. That's because there's a particular way that people with clinical depression communicate, whether they're speaking or writing, and psychologists believe they now understand the link between the two.

According to a recent study published in Clinical Psychological Science, there are certain "markers" in a person's parlance that may point to symptoms of clinical depression. Researchers used automated text analysis methods to comb through large quantities of posts in 63 internet forums with more than 6400 members, searching for certain words and phrases. They also noted average sentence length, grammatical patterns, and other factors.

What researchers found was that a person's use (or overuse) of first-person pronouns can provide some insight into the state of their mental health. People with clinical depression tend to use more first-person singular pronouns, such as "I" and "me," and fewer third-person pronouns, like "they," "he," or "she." As Mohammed Al-Mosaiwi, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at the University of Reading and the head of the study, writes in a post for IFL Science:

"This pattern of pronoun use suggests people with depression are more focused on themselves, and less connected with others. Researchers have reported that pronouns are actually more reliable in identifying depression than negative emotion words."

What remains unclear, though, is whether people who are more focused on themselves tend to depression, or if depression turns a person's focus on themselves. Perhaps unsurprisingly, people with depression also use more negative descriptors, like "lonely" and "miserable."

But, Al-Mosaiwi notes, it's hardly the most important clue when using language to assess clinical depression. Far better indicators, he says, are the presence of "absolutist words" in a person's speech or writing, such as "always," "constantly," and "completely." When overused, they tend to indicate that someone has a "black-and-white view of the world," Al-Mosaiwi says. An analysis of posts on different internet forums found that absolutist words were 50 percent more prevalent on anxiety and depression forums, and 80 percent more prevalent on suicidal ideation forums.

Researchers hope these types of classifications, supported by computerized methods, will prove more and more beneficial in a clinical setting.

[h/t IFL Science]

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Just 5 Alcoholic Drinks a Week Could Shorten Your Lifespan
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Wine lovers were elated when a scientific study last year suggested that drinking a glass of wine a day could help them live longer. Now a new study, published in The Lancet, finds that having more than 100 grams of alcohol a week (the amount in about five glasses of wine or pints of beer) could be detrimental to your health.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge and the British Heart Foundation studied the health data of nearly 600,000 drinkers in 19 countries and found that five to 10 alcoholic drinks a week (yes, red wine included) could shave six months off the life of a 40-year-old.

The penalty is even more severe for those who have 10 to 15 drinks a week (shortening a person’s life by one to two years), and those who imbibe more than 18 drinks a week could lose four to five years of their lives. In other words, your lifespan could be shortened by half an hour for every drink over the daily recommended limit, according to The Guardian, making it just as risky as smoking.

"The paper estimates a 40-year-old drinking four units a day above the guidelines [the equivalent of drinking three glasses of wine in a night] has roughly two years' lower life expectancy, which is around a 20th of their remaining life," David Spiegelhalter, a statistician at the University of Cambridge who was not involved with the study, tells The Guardian. "This works out at about an hour per day. So it's as if each unit above guidelines is taking, on average, about 15 minutes of life, about the same as a cigarette."

[h/t The Guardian]

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