Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Babies born naturally 'have higher IQs than those delivered by caesarean section'

In mice.  Relating mouse IQ to human IQ is a bit of a joke

Babies born naturally may have higher IQs than those delivered by caesarean section, new research claims.

According to scientists, when women give birth naturally there are higher levels of a special protein in babies’ brains that helps boost intelligence levels as they develop.

Scientists at Yale University in the US say the increased levels of the protein, called UCP2, in babies born naturally could help foster their short and long term memories – key components of the human IQ – as they grow up.

They made the discovery after studying the hippocampal region in the brains of mice born naturally and by caesarean.

Mice born by C-section were found to have lower levels of UCP2 and, as a result, suffered 'impaired adult behaviours'.

UCP2 has already been credited with helping to improve the chances of newborns breastfeeding.

The findings come at a time when a deal of controversy surrounds C-sections.  Critics have said that C-sections can increase the risk of internal bleeding and can lead to problems to do with fertility in the future.

They think that celebrity mothers, such as Victoria Beckham and Zoe Ball, are to blame for more women opting for them.

Around one quarter of babies in NHS hospitals are delivered by caesarean, although the figure is thought to be as high as 60 per cent in private clinics.

Study author Dr Tamas Horvath, whose findings are published in journal PLoS ONE said: 'These results reveal a potentially critical role of UCP2 in the proper development of brain circuits and related behaviours.

'The increasing prevalence of C-sections driven by convenience rather than medical necessity may have a previously unsuspected lasting effect on brain development and function in humans as well.'

She added: 'We found that natural birth triggered UCP2 expression in the neurons located in the hippocampal region of the brain.

'This was diminished in the brains of mice born via C-section. Knocking out the UCP2 gene or chemically inhibiting UCP2 function interfered with the differentiation of hippocampal neurons and circuits, and impaired adult behaviours related to hippocampal functions.'


How a potato juice supplement could help cure stomach ulcers

Early days yet

Stomach ulcers could have handed in their chips - thanks to the humble potato.  Scientists at Manchester University have discovered spuds contain unique antibacterial molecules that can treat the condition.

Members of the university’s microbiology team now hope the substance, dubbed ‘potato juice’ could go into production as a daily diet supplement.

Inspiration came as one of the department’s scientists tucked into a spud for Sunday lunch.  It led to the discovery of a key molecule which could both cure and prevent the bacteria that lives in the stomach and causes stomach ulcers and heartburn.

The discovery is one of many being made by scientists at the university as they try to develop the products and medicines of tomorrow.

Uniquely, unlike with antibiotics, the stomach bacteria cannot develop resistance to the ‘potato juice’ which also does not cause any side-effects.

Scientists at the university even carried out the test on different types of potatoes - discovering Maris Piper and King Edward varieties worked the best.

The process to extract the as yet unnamed molecule has now been patented, with hopes it could one day be sold as a supplement similar to probiotic yoghurt drinks.

Ian Roberts, professor of microbiology at the Faculty of Life Sciences, who worked on the discovery, said: 'One of our scientists was having Sunday lunch when her boyfriend’s grandma said they used to use potatoes to cure stomach ulcers.

'Afterwards she went and bought a bag of King Edwards from a shop on Curry Mile and started testing them in the lab.

'When I first heard about the idea of using potatoes to treat stomach ulcers I have to admit I was a bit sceptical. But on another level I wasn’t surprised - a lot of botanical products have very interesting compounds and we just have to find them.

'We see this ‘potato juice’ as a preventative measure to stop stomach ulcers developing that people would take as part of a healthy lifestyle. It could be a huge market if we can get it developed.'

The discovery of ‘potato juice’ is just one of a number of new medicines and treatments being developed by staff at the University of Manchester’s intellectual property department.

Staff there seek out companies from across the world to develop the university’s inventions.

Business manager Dr Sunita Jones said: 'It is really exciting to see these new discoveries - they cover all areas of science so it really keeps us on our toes.

'As a scientist, the end goal of any work is to put something into the public arena which will benefit people.

'We work to develop all the new technology that comes out of the university, by getting licensing agreements or forming spin-out companies. It’s great to see years of research pay off with a new drug or product at the end.'


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