Centipede venom blocks pain
A compound taken from the legs of centipede may offer a new, potent pain reliever for people living with chronic pain, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The molecule they discovered was better than morphine in some cases, and unlike morphine, the centipede venom compound did not have side effects on the mice, and did not seem to create tolerance or addiction.
The venom compound seems to block a specific sodium channel in cells, which in humans works by translating painful sensations to feelings of pain in the brain. Some people are born with genetic mutations that make this channel nonfunctional. These people are perfectly healthy, but feel no pain and can’t smell anything.
For the study, mice were subjected to pain from several sources, such as acid and heat. Those who were given the compound felt much less pain than the control mice, and the relief was equivalent to that of opioids. They also found no side effects, which they think would translate to humans based on the people with the gene mutations.
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Sourced from: Live Science, Stings So Good: Centipede Venom Could Fight Pain
Published On: Oct 31st 2013
Brain has more "computer power" than thought
Neuroscientists at the University of North Carolina have found that dendrites - the short branches that project from neurons and carry nerve signals – may actively process information instead of passively carry it from neuron to neuron.
Previous research discovered many of the same molecules that support electrical spikes are also present in the dendrites, and experiments with brain tissue showed dendrites can use these molecules to generate these spikes themselves. However, it was unclear whether normal brain activity involved “dendritic spikes,” and, if so, what role they might play.
To find out, lead author Spencer Smith and his colleagues attached tiny glass pipes known as pipettes to dendrites in areas of the mouse brain responsible for processing data from the eyes. The researchers then took electrical recordings from individual dendrites within the brains of anesthetized and awake mice. As the mice viewed black-and-white bars on a computer screen, the scientists detected an unusual pattern of electrical signals, or bursts of spikes, in the dendrites. And the electrical signals from the dendrites varied depending on the features of the images the mice saw. This, said researchers, suggests that the dendrites may actually help the mice process what they see.
All in all, “functions we thought required an entire neuron may be carried out instead by just one portion of a neuron’s dendritic tree,” Smith told LiveScience. “This would imply that a single neuron can act like many, many computational sub-units.” He also noted that although his research focused on understanding how brain circuitry works, it also might help address brain disorders as well.
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Sourced from: NBC News, Human brain may be even more powerful computer than thought
Published On: Oct 31st 2013