Saturday, November 28, 2009

Chocolates work 'like anti-depressants'

If you believe rat research that did not actually use chocolates

AUSTRALIAN scientists have confirmed what chocoholics have been praying is true - their favourite comfort food can reduce stress. Food rich in fat and sugar can alter chemical composition in the brain to reduce anxiety, professor Margaret Morris said.

In a study of rats, Professor Morris, from the University of NSW's School of Medical Sciences, found effects of past trauma could be erased by "unlimited access to yummy food". "Implementing that diet reversed anxiety ... it took an animal back to the non-stressed state," Professor Morris said. "We really don't know why, but there seems to be a biochemical link."

Using two groups of baby rats, one with normal contact with mothers, the other with lengthy separations and higher stress hormones, scientists found they became less stressed with comfort foods. "The control group had no effect from the diet really, but the stressed animals had a deficit ... which was restored by the diet." "(The) food seems to affect neurogenesis similar to the way anti-depressants promote nerve growth in the brain."


Tiny hidden disc 'can wipe out skin cancer'

A disc the size of a fingernail that destroys the most dangerous form of skin cancer has been developed by scientists. Fitted under the skin, the tiny device wiped out melanoma in up to half of the cases it was tested on. It paves the way for a treatment with improved prognosis and fewer side-effects than traditional anti-cancer drugs. The disc, which measures 8.5mm across, uses proteins usually found on skin tumours as 'bait' to trigger a powerful immune response.

The process begins with the disc, which is porous and loaded with a cocktail of compounds, being implanted under the skin. It releases proteins that lure immune-system messengers inside the disc. There, they spot the tumour proteins planted as bait and kickstart a chain of reactions which culminate in specialised white blood cells hunting down and destroying the tumour itself. The cells are programmed to attack only the tumour, sparing healthy cells from damage, and the body from side effects such as hair loss and nausea.

The manipulation of the immune system means the disc is classed as a vaccine, even though it would be used to treat cancer, rather than prevent it.

When mice with large melanomas were treated, tumours were eliminated in up to half of cases. In contrast, untreated animals rapidly succumbed, the journal Science Translational Medicine reports.

The work, at Harvard University in the U.S., is at an early stage but suggests a similar device could be used to combat skin cancer in people. The scientists believe their technique is simpler than vaccine treatments under development. Researcher Professor David Mooney said: 'We've taken a major step toward the design of effective cancer vaccines.'


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