Medical research is a fascinating, yet challenging discipline that continues to surprise mankind with an array of findings hitting the news each day. These breakthroughs, on one hand help understand and address known medical conditions, also unearth new possibilities of research.
Let’s take a look at the recent developments in medical research.
Is it really possible to create intelligence in an artificial environment? Cambridge scientists have, in fact, for the first time created enzymes from artificial genetic molecules or XNAs, synthesised as a part of an earlier research by the team at Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology. Lab-built XNAs, similar to natural DNAs in living organisms, are capable of storing and transmitting genetic information; and with their ability to produce XNAzymes (similar to enzymes that power vital processes in humans), they have proved that there are other possible alternatives to support catalytic processes that sustain life.
The find opens up possibilities for alternate therapies for chronic ailments, where natural enzymes have a limited life-span. This also means that life forms built on entirely different genetic molecules can exist on other planets as well.
HIV – Self Limiting?
In yet another interesting find, researchers led by Prof. Phillip Goulder, Oxford University have revealed that the much dreaded HIV has now developed resistance to the human immune system and in the process is losing out on its ability to trigger AIDS.
The study focused on the impact of HIV on the blood proteins – human leukocyte antigens (HLA) that enable the immune system to identify potential threats. Genetic variations in humans trigger the production of a variant of this protein – HLA-B*57, which protects the system from an HIV attack.
In an attempt to counter the protective effect of this variant protein, HIV in select cases evolved to become more resistant and, hence, has limited its ability to replicate, and eventually slow down the onset of AIDS.
Mediterranean Diet Delays Ageing
The healthy and delicious Mediterranean diet now can boast of yet another benefit, thanks to the study published at the BMJ.
According to the results of the study, a regular Mediterranean diet resulted in longer telomeres – indicative of healthy ageing.
Telomeres, located at the tail-end of chromosomes, help maintain their structural integrity and progressively shorten in length as people grow older and become linked to age-related physical and medical conditions.
Mediterranean diet – rich in fruits, veggies, unrefined grains, olive oil, and seafood – is known to help combat inflammation and oxidation that otherwise badly affect telomeres. Being low in sugar, saturated fats, poultry, meat and dairy, the diet again does not damage telomeres. The diet as a whole improves the health of the telomere and the person as well.
Vitamin D and Mental Health
Vitamin D is an essential ingredient for a healthy skin, and now it seems that lack of this vitamin can influence mental health as well.
A combined research by University of Pittsburgh and Queensland University of Technology (QUT) has revealed that vitamin D levels in the body affect the levels of serotonin and dopamine produced by the brain. The vitamin is used by the brain to synthesise these enzymes that are known to have a direct impact on seasonal affective disorder aka depression.