April 24, 2017

Put away the masks, creams, cleansers, and serums — a University of California, San Diego, professor says he has developed an acne vaccine that can take care of the disease.

"This is the first vaccine for human beauty," Prof. Eric Huang of the Department of Dermatology told NBC 7. "I think this vaccine has a huge market in the whole world." Huang said acne is caused by an overgrowth of the p. acnes bacteria inside a lesion, and when the bacteria releases a toxin called Christie-Atkins-Munch-Peterson (CAMP) factor, it causes inflammation. The human body can't neutralize this factor on its own, but the vaccine can. "It does not kill the bacteria," he said. "The vaccine neutralizes the bacteria, which everybody has."

After five years of work, there are two types of vaccines — therapeutic and preventative — which will be given to children in elementary school. The vaccine has been tested on mice and worked well, Huang said, and now, he needs to team up with a pharmaceutical company for large-scale clinical trials; if that happens soon, after FDA approval, the vaccine could be available within three to five years. Catherine Garcia

March 27, 2017
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Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is setting his sights on something new: "neural lace" technology, which involves implanting tiny electrodes into the brain that could one day help humans function at a higher level.

His new company, Neuralink, will pursue developing these cranial computers, which at first would most likely be used to treat people with brain disorders like epilepsy and major depression. While Musk would not comment to The Wall Street Journal about Neuralink, several people with information about the company said he is actively setting it up and could have a significant leadership role. Musk has said it's important for humanity to not be left behind as advances are made in artificial intelligence. Catherine Garcia

March 5, 2017
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A new study shows that eating a diet rich in staples of a Mediterranean diet — fish, olive oil, nuts, vegetables, and whole grains — may help reduce the risk of developing a type of breast cancer that cannot be treated with hormone therapy.

The study, conducted for the World Cancer Research Fund and published Monday in the International Journal of Cancer, found that the Mediterranean diet might greatly reduce the chances of women getting post-menopausal ER-negative cancer. Piet van den Brandt of Maastricht University in the Netherlands, the study's lead researcher, said this "usually has a worse prognosis than other types of breast cancer," and the research "can help to shine a light on how dietary patterns can affect our cancer risk."

The study followed 62,573 women between 55 and 69 who tracked their diets over two decades, starting in 1986. Over the course of the study, 3,354 women were found to have breast cancer, with 1,033 cases not analyzed because of family histories of breast cancer or incomplete diet data. The researchers concluded, after analyzing individual components of the subjects' diets, that nut intake was most strongly inversely associated with ER-negative breast cancer, The Guardian reports, followed by fruit and fish. They suggested that if everyone ate the highest defined Mediterranean diet — low in red meat, sugar, and white rice and bread — close to 33 percent of ER-negative breast cancer cases and 2.3 percent of all breast cancer cases could be avoided. Catherine Garcia

November 20, 2016

NASA successfully launched a new generation of weather satellite from Cape Canaveral, Florida, Saturday night, hailing a new era in weather forecasting. "This is a quantum leap," said Sandra Cauffman, deputy director of Earth sciences at NASA. "It will truly revolutionize weather forecasting."

The new GOES-R satellite differs from its predecessors in that it can take a high-resolution image of an entire hemisphere of the Earth every five minutes while simultaneously focusing on specific weather events. Previous satellites took 30 minutes to take the same photo and could not multi-task. Bonnie Kristian

September 27, 2016
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The next time you have a kidney stone, don't go to the doctor or stay home in excruciating pain — head to your local amusement park.

After hearing from patients who said their kidney stones passed without pain after going for a ride on Big Thunder Mountain at Disney World, researchers at Michigan State University decided to conduct a test. Using a 3D printer, they created silicone models and put in kidney stones of various sizes, then took them for a ride. The scientists say even the largest stones were dislodged after two or three rides, and sitting in the back was more effective than being in the front.

Dr. Clayton Lau, a urologist at City of Hope in Duarte, California, told ABC Los Angeles the bumpiness of a roller coaster likely does not create enough turbulence to pass a stone, and the rush of adrenaline probably causes movement in the ureter, helping propel the stones. The researchers say their models show the stones did pass all the way after at least one ride, and suggest that people who are prone to getting kidney stones go for regular rides to keep them at bay. Lau doesn't see thrill ride therapy becoming the next big thing, saying, "I think that's the last thing you want to do when you're in pain is jump on a roller coaster," but ask any patient and even while hurting, they might choose Disneyland over the doctor's office. Catherine Garcia

September 24, 2016
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A new species of tropical ant has been discovered in the vomit of a diablito, or little devil frog, a very orange and poisonous frog that lives in Colombia and Ecuador.

Scientists use wild ant-eating frogs as tiny scouts who are able to search for insects in places people can't go. Then they capture the frogs and carefully make them vomit up the results of their latest explorations. The frogs are released unharmed.

In this case, the frog puke contained a single (and dead) member of the newly identified ant species, Lenomyrmex hoelldobleri. "Sometimes people think that our world is very well explored. Nothing could be farther from the truth," said Christian Rabeling of the University of Rochester, New York, who led a study on the new ant. He added, "The difficulty is finding the ants!" Bonnie Kristian

September 20, 2016
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A new study published Tuesday finds that most DNA damage caused by smoking reverses itself five years after a person quits, but changes in at least 19 genes can last decades.

The team studied 16,000 people, with some participating in studies as far back as 1971. They supplied blood samples, shared their health histories, and filled out questionnaires regarding smoking, diet, and lifestyle. Researchers discovered that smokers had a pattern of methylation, an alteration of DNA that can change how a gene functions, affecting more than 7,000 genes. While researchers found that after people quit, most of the DNA damage disappears after five years, some genes, including the TIAM2 gene linked to lymphoma, still had changes caused by smoking 30 years later.

"Our study has found compelling evidence that smoking has a long-lasting impact on our molecular machinery, an impact that can last more than 30 years," Roby Joehanes of Hebrew SeniorLife and Harvard Medical School told NBC News. "The encouraging news is that once you stop smoking, the majority of DNA methylation signals return to never-smoker levels after five years, which means your body is trying to heal itself of the harmful impacts of tobacco smoking." Writing in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics, researchers said that by finding affected genes not previously associated with smoking, they could be used to determine who is at risk of developing diseases caused by smoking in the future. They could also be used to create new drugs to treat damage caused by cigarette smoke. Every year, more than 480,000 Americans are killed by smoking, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. Catherine Garcia

August 31, 2016
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Tasmanian devils often display aggression toward each other, which typically ends with one biting the other on the face. This act of hostility is helping spread devil facial tumor disease (DFTD), one of only three known forms of transmissible cancer.

First detected 20 years ago, DFTD is fatal nearly 100 percent of the time and has wiped out an estimated 80 percent of devils in Tasmania. In a study published Tuesday in the scientific journal Nature Communications, a team of scientists report that while looking at Tasmanian devil DNA, they discovered that two regions in their genomes are changing in response to the spread of the cancer. "Our study suggests hope for the survival of the Tasmanian devil in the face of this devastating disease," Andrew Storfer, a professor of biology at Washington State University and an author of the study, said in a statement.

Scientists are hoping to soon start breeding DTFD-resistant devils to enhance genetic diversity of the captive population. Storfer says the genomic data could also one day be used to "help direct future research addressing important questions about the evolution of cancer transmissibility and what causes remission and reoccurrence in cancer and other diseases." Catherine Garcia

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