Epigenetic Alterations in Infants Through C-Sections

Cesarean Delivery just might be causing epigenetic alterations in the DNA of infants at birth. Studies have found this out recently, but it hasn’t been concluded that this change is long lasting. Although, the epigenetic change in these infants born through a c-section may explain and give reasons to why infants delivered in this way have relatively worse incomes than those born naturally. 

“In this study, our focus has been whether the way a baby is born can have an impact on a cellular level in the form of epigenetic alterations in DNA,” Ekstrom said.

Professor Tomas Ekstrom has provided a step towards an explanation with a paper in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Professor Ekstrom discovered higher rates of methylation in stem cells of a total of 18 babies through c-section and 25 through natural birth. The methylation of our DNA controls and affects which genes will be expressed and which won’t be. Cesarean delivery is one environmental factor that can affect the expression of genes in our DNA and what epigenetic changes will take place. 

“During a vaginal delivery, the fetus is exposed to an increased level of stress, which in a positive way will prepare the unborn baby for life outside the uterus,” said co-author Professor Mikael Norman. “This activation of the fetus’ defense systems doesn’t occur when a cesarean section is performed before labor begins, which in turn could be a possible cause for the noticed differences between the groups.”

“The biological mechanisms predisposing a fetus or a newborn infant to get a certain disease later in life are complex and depend on both genetic and environmental factors during formative years”, Ekstrom added.

Ekstrom showed that epigenetic alterations can be temporary for the infants or permanent, but it is too early for him to see if these identified effects will last. However, it is alarming that some epigenetic changes are not only permanent in the DNA of the newborn, but these changes can also be passed down to offspring after offspring, continually being passed along causing these effects of that one birth to be muligenerational.


Hello 3DTouch, Goodbye Computer Mouse?

Researchers from the University of Wyoming recently came out with the very possible replacement of the computer mouse that has done the job for around fifty years. This wearable, cheap device that can be slipped onto your finger tip is known as 3DTouch. Although it may look untidy or not that impressive at it’s current state, it is said that eventually this concern can be fixed when 3DTouch becomes wireless. 

There have been computer mouses that work in 3D already, but in most cases the resolution was poor. Now with this new mobile device on the tip of your finger can not only sense its position in 3D, but it can take on the actions of multiple mouse-like actions that are already programmed. It also is compatible with most devices already. Accuracy of this device is labeled as good, but there is always room for improvement: Accuracy can improve simply through a better optical sensor.

“The device makes use of three different types of sensor: a 3D accelerometer, a 3D magnetometer and a 3D gyroscope. The marriage of these 3 different sensors allows a superior estimate of orientation compared to using them in isolation. Furthermore, wearing several devices on different fingers enables multitouch interaction.”

How it works:

This device uses optical flow sensors to track the movement you create on a 2D surface. All of the location data it picks up is sent to the computer and is used to move the cursor on the monitor screen. It can also be used in the touchscreen-style by double tapping or long press.

A translucent button between your forefinger and thumb (pictured above) takes place of the left-click button on a regular computer mouse. With an accelerometer and gyroscope, it allows people to not only control the onscreen cursor in 2D, but with just a flick or wave of your finger in mid air in 3D.

With 3DTouch looking promising and easily improved, the computer mouse seems to be in threat of a smart “thimble”.

Infant “Cured” of HIV: Recent Detected Virus

In 2010, the infant was born prematurely from a mother who was HIV positive. She was not informed of having HIV, so without any medicine given for it, the transmission from the mother to the infant was high. Shortly after birth, the infant known as the “Mississippi Baby” was but on a triple drug treatment before testing even took place.

The treatment started just thirty hours after birth, was continued up until the age of eighteen months. The HIV was completely gone after five months, leading many to believe this girl was cured of the infection. Since it was completely gone, or just low enough that it couldn’t be detected, treatment came to an end for a total of two years. After this incident and a second one similar occurred, there was a large spark of hope and curiosity on whether or not this antiretroviral treatment could not only affect the levels of the HIV infection, but to give those infected a cure.

It sounded too good to be true, right? Well it was sadly.

A blood test found levels to be almost a thousand times above the detection threshold. With the findings of the HIV antibodies, the findings earlier on seemed doubtful. Now, the antiretroviral treatment continues to lower the levels in children and the infection early on still, but as people hoped before with it curing it completely isn’t much of a possibility as of now.

There is some sort of light at the end of the tunnel though in this story. Once treatment is stopped, the HIV infection usually will reappear once again within weeks, not years like in this case.

Source: http://www.iflscience.com

This Week In Science: Psychedelic Drugs and Tibetans

A couple of this week’s discoveries talked about:

Psychedelic Drugs:

Magic mushrooms alter the brain, and we recently found out how. In a study, a group was given psilocybin. Psilocybin is the chemical found in these magic mushrooms that gives an individual that digested them a psychedelic experience. Another controlled group wasn’t given psilocybin. In the ones with the chemical, they found that the region in the brain dealing with dreams and emotions was amplified, on high. While the region in the brain dealing with ego that gives someone a sense of “self” was decreased and not as active as the others. This affect shows why psychedelics have been considered to be useful in some kinds of psychotherapy.

Understanding how the brain deals with the enhanced cognitive fluency from the psychedelics such as magic mushrooms and LSD may give insights into how they are psychologically useful. Patients may get to experience an “emotional release in psychotherapy”, and also an increase and enhanced way of creative thinking.


“Tibet has the highest average elevation of any other region in the world, at 4900m above sea level.” For 21,000 years, there have been modern humans in Tibet. These humans have ancestors that were the current inhabitants that moved in around 3000 BCE. A recent study led by Rasmus Nielsen of UC Berkeley suggests that Tibetans’ ability to breathe at such high elevations may be credited to genes passed down to them through their ancestors. This could’ve been accomplished through interbreeding with their extinct cousins known as the Denisovans.

The gene associated with oxygen, EPAS1, is a possibility of this ability. It was found in the bone marrow of a Denisovan. This gene increases hemoglobin and the red blood cell count slightly, getting rid of the negative cardiovascular effects. In most high elevations, people can deal with it through thickening of their blood, but can stress the cardiovascular system. For Tibetans, the ability is permanent and not as unhealthy thanks to EPAS1. 87% of Tibetans have been tested and found with this gene.

“There might be many other species from which we also got DNA, but we don’t know because we don’t have the genomes,” Nielsen said. “The only reason we can say that this bit of DNA is Denisovan is because of this lucky accident of sequencing DNA from a little bone found in a cave in Siberia. We found the Denisovan species at the DNA level, but how many other species are out there that we haven’t sequenced?”

Developed RNA and cGMP: Cardiovascular Disease

Recently developed RNA, named “endless” RNA, by German scientists, can now bind itself to cGMP. Cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) is what cells are dependent on for transmission of signals and is also what can be responsible for cardiovascular diseases. 

With cardiovascular disease, the signaling pathway in cGMP can malfunction. With this recently developed RNA binding to cGMP, scientists can experiment and find more understandings of lowering the concentration of cGMP in cells. There have been other cases of stimulating cGMP through nitrogen monoxide (NO), but the goal of lowering the levels have not been reached so far.

So what have scientists from the Universities of Stuttgart and Tübingen came up with?

They now use a method where they can “trap” cGMP in certain cells by genetically modifying cells to produce the RNA they developed to bind to cGMP, the second messenger.

RNA is used all over nature to regulate vital functions and gene expressions, Controlling the concentration isn’t an easy task through these RNA sequences. This triplex-based folding motif being able to be inserted into mammalian cells and bind to the second messenger talked about in this post is a first step.

It has been inserted into smooth muscle cells of young mice, and it has shown a significant decreased, controlled level of cGMP. With the ability to control these levels that can be a reason behind cardiovascular diseases, can be an excellent lead into the lives of humans and this disease.