Our Strength Lies in Our Humanity

Six curious facts about smell

Six curious facts about smell Veres Production/Shutterstock Don’t underestimate the power of your nose. It makes our everyday eating experience pleasant and interesting and it warns us of spoiled food, corked wine and the dangers of gas and smoke. It evokes strong emotional reactions, influences sexual attraction and can be used as a sensitive analytical instrument. 1. We taste with our nose Many people think that we do all of…

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Mystery China pneumonia outbreak likely caused by new human coronavirus

Mystery China pneumonia outbreak likely caused by new human coronavirus testing/Shutterstock Since December 2019, there has been a cluster of 59 cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, eastern China. The pneumonia is associated with a previously unidentified coronavirus related to the deadly SARS virus. Seven of those cases are thought to be serious, and one person – with serious pre-existing health problems – has died. The WHO has also just announced…

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Air pollution from brake dust may be as harmful as diesel exhaust on immune cells – new study

Air pollution from brake dust may be as harmful as diesel exhaust on immune cells – new study Brake dust is composed of iron particles, which studies have shown are harmful to human health. pdsci/ Shutterstock The harmful impact of air pollution caused by diesel exhaust fumes on our health is well known. It’s responsible for causing everything from respiratory problems to dementia and even certain types of cancers. But…

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Lyme disease: Justin Bieber’s tick-bite illness can cause joint pain, heart problems, and depression

Lyme disease: Justin Bieber’s tick-bite illness can cause joint pain, heart problems, and depression The singer announced he's been battling the disease for a couple of years now. Tinseltown/ Shutterstock Justin Bieber recently announced that for the last couple of years he’s been battling Lyme disease. Lyme disease, which is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, can be transmitted to humans if they’re bitten by an infected tick. In fact,…

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AI is transforming medicine – but it can only work with proper sharing of data

AI is transforming medicine – but it can only work with proper sharing of data Anonymised data is crucial for AI to work. alphaspirit/Shutterstock It is not often that one witnesses a transformational advance in medicine. But the application of artificial intelligence (AI) to improve the early detection of disease is exactly that. I was a co-author of the paper recently published in Nature showing that an AI system developed by Google was better at spotting breast tumours than doctors. Now, researchers in the US have reported that AI-supported laser scanners are faster than doctors at detecting brain tumours. These are very exciting developments that will, ultimately, have a big impact on the accuracy, logistics and speed of diagnosis. There are a multitude of similar projects underway that employ artificial…

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Exercise: we calculated its true value for older people and society

Exercise: we calculated its true value for older people and society Group exercise significantly benefits older people. Shutterstock Taking up exercise is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions for people wanting to improve their health. But our research shows that the benefits of older people going to exercise groups go beyond self-improvement and provide good value for society, too. Less than two-thirds of UK adults reach the recommended physical activity levels of 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week. Keeping active is especially important for older people because it can help reduce falls and improve independence and the ability to carry out everyday tasks. It also boosts mental wellbeing. Older people are more vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation, and forming friendships and the social aspect of…

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Fitness gurus and ‘muscular Christianity’: how Victorian Britain anticipated today’s keep fit craze

Fitness gurus and ‘muscular Christianity’: how Victorian Britain anticipated today’s keep fit craze Weightlifter Eugen Sandow might be compared to a Victorian fitness 'influencer'. Wellcome Images/ Wikimedia Commons, CC BY The Victorian era is often remembered as an age of industrial innovation, staunch morals and hard work. When we imagine the stereotypical Victorian, we often picture stiff collars and heavy, head-to-toe dresses – not celebrity weightlifters or homemakers practising callisthenics. But it turns out our obsession with physical fitness isn’t just because of 20th-century stars like Jane Fonda, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. In fact, the Victorian age saw the beginnings of modern celebrity fitness culture and new forms of exercise – which we might credit for our current obsession today. The Victorian fitness craze might first be…

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In defence of ‘imprecise’ medicine: the benefits of routine treatments for common diseases

In defence of ‘imprecise’ medicine: the benefits of routine treatments for common diseases Statins are imprecise and rather brilliant. roger ashford/Shutterstock The NHS states that it “will be the world-leading healthcare system in its use of cutting-edge genomic technologies to predict and diagnose inherited and acquired disease, and to personalise treatments and interventions”. As all diseases are either inherited or acquired, this is no modest claim. This approach to medical care is known as “precision medicine”, and given the hype that surrounds the model, you might be forgiven for thinking that the usual practice of “imprecise” medicine is greatly inferior. And yet it has been the routine and, in many respects, indiscriminate use of effective treatments for a range of common diseases that has improved the health of large numbers…

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Body clock affects how the immune system works — new findings

Body clock affects how the immune system works — new findings Aaron Amat/Shutterstock All life on Earth has evolved to cope with a rotating planet which results in the predictable transition between day and night. The details differ between plants, fungi, bacteria and animals, but the consistent feature is a biological “clock” that allows the organism to anticipate the change and prepare for it. In animals, the central clock that keeps track of night and day is in the brain where it receives light from the retina to keep synchronised with the light or dark. But all cells in the body have their own clocks. Because these biological clocks have a cycle that is close to 24 hours they are termed circadian (“circa” meaning “about” and dian, meaning day, from…

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Childhood deprivation affects brain size and behaviour

Childhood deprivation affects brain size and behaviour Yakobchuk Viacheslav/Shutterstock The human brain goes through dramatic developmental changes in the first years of life. During this period it is particularly sensitive to environmental influences. This sensitivity helps babies learn and develop, but it also leaves them vulnerable to negative experiences, such as maltreatment, which can have a lasting physical and psychological impact. In our latest research, published in PNAS, we show that extreme adversity early in life is linked to changes in brain structure in adulthood. Early childhood adversity experienced in institutions was related to a smaller brain as well as regional changes in brain structures. Some of these changes were linked to neurodevelopmental problems, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which can arise following adversity. Our study examined a…

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