Aducanumab: The Controversial Therapy for Alzheimer‘s Disease

In June of 2021, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted landmark approval to aducanumab – a biopharmaceutical developed by Biogen, targeted to treat  Alzheimer’s disease (AD). AD is the most common form of dementia, hallmarked by progressive cognitive decline and memory loss. 

Historically, AD therapies have focused on alleviating the symptoms rather than targeting the root cause of the disease. Aducanumab, however, is the first approved drug that could tackle one of the putative pathogenetic pathways of AD: the formation of amyloid-β plaques in the brain. Nevertheless, is this truly the root cause of AD? And was the aducanumab trial data robust enough to warrant FDA approval? Questions such as these fuel the controversy within the scientific community.

Why Do Dogs Understand Human Body Language?

Science experiments do not get much more fun than playing with puppies – especially when there are almost 400 of them. Through the study of puppies, a team from the Arizona Canine Cognition Centre have been able to learn more about dogs’ ability to understand human body language.

Down your daily dose of exercise with a glass of water

Would an exercise pill be effective and is it a good idea? This article was inspired by a piece written in the New Scientist by Jo Marchant and summarises the research, concerns and hopes for exercise mimetic drugs that may help combat the health hazards of our increasingly sedentary lifestyles.

The WHO’s Global Study on the Origins of SARS-CoV-2

The World Health Organization (WHO) released a joint study, (WHO Headquarters, 2021), conducted between 4 January 2021 and 10 February 2021 in partnership with the World Organisation for Animal Health, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and a team of multidisciplinary Chinese experts. This study aimed to identify the source and introduction route of the SARS-CoV-2 virus into the human population. The study focussed on three main components: epidemiology, molecular epidemiology and bioinformatics, and animals and the environment.

Magic Mushrooms, the Future of Mental Health Treatment

Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy is gaining popularity due to its effectiveness in mitigating mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and addiction. This article will summarise the findings of a systematic study review conducted by Wheeler and Dyer in 2020. 

Musical Training Enhances Brain Connectivity Regardless of Innate Pitch Recognition Ability

Absolute pitch (AP), also known as “perfect pitch”, is defined as the ability to name or produce a note of a particular pitch in the absence of a reference note (Deutsch, 2013). It is a rare ability, with an estimated occurrence of 1 in 10,000 people, that requires the capacity to mentally classify sounds into memorable categories (Takeuchi & Hulse, 1993). By contrast, relative pitch is a skill shared by most musicians and requires a starting note as an anchor point whereby other intervals can be identified. Comparable to how the general population would be able to identify an object of a particular colour, this task is simple and immediate to the small percentage of the population who possess AP. The ability is deemed to neither be completely inherited nor teachable (Chin, 2003), and attempts to train adult musicians in AP have yielded largely unsuccessful results (Rakowski & Miyazaki, 2007). It is instead thought to rely upon musical exposure during a critical period of development (Russo, et al., 2003). How this very specific talent is reflected in brain networks is not well understood. Previous attempts to classify AP stereotyped connectivity have yielded highly heterogeneous findings with inconsistencies arising in the location and direction of brain connectivity, whether a deficit or excess is present in the former, latter, or both. 

Feasibility of ex planta Lab-grown Wood: A Proof-of-Concept Using Zinnia elegans

The effects of climate change have escalated the need for novel technologies to manufacture biofuels, construction materials, and consumer goods. Many of these green solutions use plant material as starting products which require land for non-food crops. As the population increases, and as climate changes reduces available arable land, use of non-food crops will become infeasible (1). The potential to grow plant material in the lab would circumvent these issues and provide a useful, practical, and environmentally friendly source of starting materials in various industries. Wood is used for example in furniture production, construction work, and as a feedstock for fuels (2).

Bioactive iridoids in catnip and silver vine cheer cats up and repel mosquitos

Ever wondering why your beloved cat is obsessed with catnip and silver vine? It’s widely known that cats rub their heads and faces on the plants and roll all over the ground, as if the plants had put a spell on them. The neurophysiology of the well-known phenomenon, however, remains unknown until recently Professor Masao Miyazaki’s team revealed that this behaviour is caused by the bioactive iridoid compounds in catnip and silver vine.

Spreading misinformation – retracted coronavirus studies continue to be cited

A year after it had been declared a pandemic, COVID-19 remains an unavoidable topic in many areas of our lives, from daily news headlines to scientific papers continuously being published. The mainstream media is constantly feeding its recipients new information received from the scientific community about the virus. Members of the general public pass on this information to friends, relatives, social media contacts. In a lot of cases, validity of the claims made by the “experts” are not checked – why should they be? First authored by an academic, research often passes a rigorous review process conducted by professionals in the field before being published. The problem arises when a study that should have never been published somehow slips through this process and is then used as a basis for further arguments by the readers and even other scientists.

The visualisation of Quadruple-Helix DNA in Living Human Cells

The DNA molecule is often associated with its well-known double-stranded helical B conformation, first discovered using crystallographic evidence sought by English chemist and x-ray crystallographer Rosalind Franklin. While this is the most common structure, it can also be found in two other double helical conformations, the A and Z forms, and it has also been found to adopt a range of other structures such as cruciform and slipped structures, and triple helices.1 The diversity of known possible non-B conformations has increased  with the discovery of four-stranded ‘quadruple helix’ DNA molecules, also known as ‘G-quadruplexes’ or ‘G4s’, having been detected in guanine-rich regions of the genome. While this form of DNA has been previously theorized to exist and has been synthesized ‘in vitro’ by researchers, it was only found to exist in human cells in 2013. 2 It has been found to have an essential role in telomere function, replication, transcription, and translation. However, imaging the molecules remained a challenge and in January 2021, researchers identified a probe exhibiting fluorescence in the presence of G-quadruplexes which could be used in order to visualize quadruple-stranded DNA in live cells using fluorescent lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM).