How’s a Failed Cholera Vaccine Helping Millions of Children With Autism?

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Let’s start from the beginning. Ever wonder how this whole recent gluten thing started?

Cholera and a rock star, of course… well, a scientific rock star, that is. Yes, there are rock stars even in the scientific community and this post will walk you through some fantastic research by the biggest “gluten” rock star — Alessio Fasano, M.D. There is a lot of fiction out there about gluten but here are the scientific facts that launched a multi-billion dollar gluten-free industry… and help many with autism…

So how did this gluten thing really start?

In the 1980s, Dr. Fasano was developing a cholera vaccine. The cholera bacteria produce a toxin that causes massive amounts of diarrhea and therefore a vaccine could be used therapeutically to save lives from this deadly disease. The research went well in animal models so a clinical trial with healthy humans was the next step. Unfortunately, the vaccine did not work completely and the human subjects still had diarrhea when given the vaccine and cholera although the diarrhea was much less. This was a huge scientific disappointment and most would also say a failure.

But this is how a rock star is born.

Dr. Fasano could have easily given up and moved on to some other research project but instead Dr. Fasano set out to find out why his vaccine did not work. This is called resilience! In that act Dr. Fasano became a scientist rock star… he learned from his failure, actually thrived from his failure, and now has a much larger impact in society than he could have ever imagined. Let me explain what he found…

Tight junctions… not quite a “sealed gut”… big difference

Through gene mutation studies and some beautiful science Dr. Fasano and his team were able to identify a <a target="_blank" href="http://www.pnas.org/content/88/12/5242.abstract?sid=cba65491-fc7a-4e45-89ab-40ddbba50f91" —> Read More

These Stunning Images Will Take You On A Journey Through The Brain

Harvard University scientists have discovered a new world of mystery and complexity at the micro level of the brain.

A new study authored by molecular biologist Dr. Jeff Lichtman and his colleagues and published last week in the journal Cell offers a glimpse inside the neurons of a mouse’s brain in unprecedented detail.

Lichtman told The Huffington Post that 20 scientists worked on the six-year project, with the aim of developing high-resolution images of the animal’s brain in an effort to better understand this complex organ.

The scientists developed technologies that created digital models of the actual brain tissue of mice, allowing researchers to examine its detailed structural organization.

In a series of 3D graphic images, the researchers were able to reconstruct components of an adult mouse’s brain at nanoscale resolution. They focused specifically on the brain’s neocortex, the outermost layer, which makes up roughly three-quarters of the brain’s volume. The neocortex comprises gray matter, the tissue made up of neurons that acts as an information-processing center.

“The goal of this study was to help us fathom this most mysterious part of biology,” Lichtman said in a Harvard video about the research. “Our goal in this case was to do that by looking at brains and describing them at very high resolutions.”

Using the new imaging technique, the researchers collected tens of thousands of ultra-thin brain sections — each one-thousandth the thickness of a single strand of hair — on a single film strip. They were able to create images of these sections at high resolution by using new software tools to color the neural connections.

Scroll down for more high-resolution images of a mouse brain in technicolor detail:

The image above depicts a brain cell, also known as a neuron, which is designed to carry electrochemical —> Read More

Christie Christie Admits He Used Birth Control

Republican presidential candidate and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie revealed during a New Hampshire campaign stop Tuesday that he has used birth control.

“I’m a Catholic, but I’ve used birth control and not just the rhythm method,” Christie told diners while at Blake’s Restaurant in Manchester.

Christie acknowledged that using certain forms of contraception is a violation of the Catholic Church’s teachings, but said he does not regret it.

“So you know, my church has a teaching against birth control,” Christie said. “Does that make me an awful Catholic because I believed and practiced that function during part of my life? I don’t think so. But you know what? I’m only going to find out when it is my time to be judged.”

Campaign spokesperson Samantha Smith, when asked what forms of birth control Christie has used, told The Huffington Post, “I can’t answer that last part.”

Christie, who was re-elected governor of New Jersey by a landslide in 2013, has struggled to gain traction in the Republican primary to this point. According to HuffPost Pollster’s aggregation of major polls, Christie enjoys the support of 3.6 percent of Republican primary voters, putting him just behind Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and ahead of Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R).

Christie’s frank remarks are consistent with his image as a more moderate Northeastern Republican who tends to emphasize fiscal conservatism and his willingness to take on labor unions, rather than social issues. He has chosen to focus his campaigning in New Hampshire, where the primary electorate is less socially conservative than in other early primary states like Iowa or South Carolina.

But Christie’s comments will only reinforce the perception among the Republican Party’s socially conservative wing that Christie is too moderate to be the party’s nominee. Although Christie —> Read More

Snails As Big As Shoes Are Kind Of A Problem In Florida

When HuffPost Weird first heard that giant snails were “invading” Florida, we had visions of this:

Unfortunately, that’s far from the reality for Floridians. Giant African land snails — which can grow as large as a shoe — reappeared in the Sunshine State in 2011, when they were spotted in Miami for the first time since the 1960s. Since then, Florida has spent $10.8 million to eradicate the species, removing 158,000 of the giant snails.

Scientists consider the giant African land snail to be “one of the most damaging snails in the world,” according to the Florida Department of Agriculture. The snails eat around 500 types of plants in the region, as well as the stucco on houses.

It’s also possible for the snails to transmit a parasitic infection that can cause a rare form of meningitis, though it’s unlikely. The snails become infected by consuming rat feces that contains the parasite — which is commonly known as the “rat lungworm” — and humans must consume the snail to get the infection. No snails in the U.S. have been known to carry the parasite, according to the Department of Agriculture.

The snails are difficult to kill. State workers initially tried offing them with organic pesticides, but when that didn’t work, they tried snail and slug-killing pellets that work 95 to 100 percent of the time — except when the snails climb trees to evade them. The department even uses specially trained dogs to sniff out the snails.

The snails are native to Africa, and no one is entirely sure how they got to Florida in the first place. Officials believe they may have initially stowed away in the soil of plants shipped to Florida, according to NPR.

Sometimes, the snails are also —> Read More

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