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40 news posts in Health

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08 Nov 2023

Could willow bark provide our next life-saving antiviral medicine?

by Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Image/ Scientists have found that specially processed samples of willow bark extract have an antiviral effect which isn’t seen in already known medical compounds from willow bark, such as salicylic acid, the precursor to modern aspirin. The extract worked against two common types of virus with very different structures, enteroviruses and coronaviruses, suggesting the potential for a new broad-spectrum antiviral to help us fight viruses that are otherwise hard to treat. From a seasonal cold to a stomach bug, nobody likes catching a virus — and epidemics can be devastating. We need safe, sustainable antiviral options to treat the outbreaks of the future. Scientists in Finland have now shown that an extract of willow bark — a plant which has already provided several medicines, including the precursor to modern aspirin — has a broad-spectrum antiviral effect in cell sample experiments. The extract worked both on enveloped coronaviruses, which cause colds as well as Covid-19, and non-enveloped enteroviruses, which cause infections such as flu and meningitis. There are no clinically approved drugs which work against enteroviruses directly, so this extract could be a future game-changer. “We need broadly acting and efficient tools to combat […]

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01 Nov 2023

Do mild depressive and anxiety symptoms in fathers predict behavioral and cognitive problems in their children?

by Deborah Pirchner, Frontiers science writer Image: Many people experience stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms in their life. Times of transition, such as pregnancy and children starting school can be significant periods of stress and vulnerability within families. Studies have generally found that high levels of anxiety and depression in parents are linked to poorer behavioral and cognitive outcomes in children. Now, a team of researchers in Canada has examined if self-reported paternal anxious and depressive symptoms are associated with children’s cognitive functioning and behavior. They found that slightly higher, but mild anxious or depressive symptoms in fathers were associated with fewer behavioral difficulties in the first years of elementary school and better scores on a standardized IQ testing in their children. The results need to be confirmed by further studies, the researchers said. While the role of mothers’ stress, anxiety and depression on children’s behavioral and cognitive development is well established, less is known about the connection between fathers’ mental health and children’s development. Now, a team of researchers affiliated to different institutions across Quebec, Canada has examined if paternal anxious and depressive symptoms, measured during their partner’s pregnancy, and again six to eight years later, are associated […]

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25 Oct 2023

Our favorite bittersweet symphonies may help us deal better with physical pain

by Deborah Pirchner, Frontiers science writer Image: Even before it was found to reduce pain and anxiety in modern times, music has been used for centuries to relieve pain. Now, researchers in Canada have investigated which aspects of listening to music can lead to a decreased pain perception. They found that participants’ perception of pain intensity and unpleasantness was reduced when they listened to their favorite music compared to pre-selected relaxing music, which is commonly used in clinical settings. In addition, bittersweet music – unlike other emotionally loaded music – was found to additionally reduce pain unpleasantness. Research has shown that music might be a drug-free way to lower humans’ pain perception. This decreased sensitivity to pain – also known as hypoalgesia – can occur when pain stimuli are disrupted between their point of input and where they are recognized as pain by the conscious mind. In a new study, researchers in Canada have examined what type of music helps to dampen pain perception. “In our study, we show that favorite music chosen by study participants has a much larger effect on acute thermal pain reduction than unfamiliar relaxing music” said Darius Valevicius, a doctoral student at the Université […]



05 Oct 2023

Can masculine marketing convince more men to eat vegan?

by Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Image/ Eating more plant-based dishes is good for your health and good for the planet – but the perception that these dishes are for women and not for men may be stopping some men from choosing plant-based meals. Scientists found that you can present vegan dishes with a masculine framing, altering the perception that these dishes are for women, but changing the perception doesn’t change people’s preferences. Eating more plant-based meals is better for our health and better for the planet. But cultural preferences are significant barriers to reducing meat consumption – especially for men, who are underrepresented among vegans and vegetarians. Studies have found that eating meat is associated with masculinity, and that gender stereotypes label plant-based diets as suitable for women but not men. So is it possible to change the perception of plant-based food with marketing, and convince men to eat more of it? “Men might be less inclined to consume vegan food due to the need to perform gender,” said Alma Scholz, lead author of a new study published in Frontiers in Communication. “However, with vegan food being framed in a masculine way, men might feel less resistance and […]

Image courtesy of Dr Novak: Dario Novak and Marin Čilić, 2020 Olympic silver medalist

Featured news

07 Sep 2023

What makes a Grand Slam champion? Research finds three key guidelines for tennis coaches

by Dr Dario Novak, University of Zagreb Image courtesy of Dr Novak: Dario Novak and Marin Čilić, 2020 Olympic silver medalist To provide adequate support to young athletes, it is important to understand their development path. Over the years, researchers have recognized the significance of tracking all processes aimed at optimizing athletes’ progress and overall success. In a new study by Mario Oršolić, Dr Petar Barbaros, and Dr Dario Novak, 30 tennis players at different levels of success were interviewed, including 10 Grand Slam winners, to understand how they got into the sport and what drove their success. The research, published in Frontiers in Sports and Active Living, sought to deepen the understanding of specialization in tennis by exploring the experiences of tennis players at different levels of success. By analyzing their stories, the researchers aimed to contribute to a wider knowledge on the development of tennis players, as well as providing valuable insight for individual sports careers. They condensed their findings down to the following guidelines for coaches and players: It is important that the initial introduction into tennis for younger children is aimed at stimulating positive feelings and love for the sport; Specialization (targeted and more intensive training) […]


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31 Aug 2023

Scientists develop finger sweat test to detect antipsychotic drugs in patients

by Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Image/ Maintaining a regimen of antipsychotic drugs can be difficult, but going off them unexpectedly can have disastrous health consequences for patients. Traditionally, monitoring patients on these drugs involves blood tests, which can be painful and time-consuming. A quick, non-invasive finger sweat test newly developed by scientists could replace these blood tests and make patients’ lives easier. Antipsychotic drugs treat incredibly vulnerable patients. Maintaining a treatment regimen is difficult for many patients, but not taking the medication is associated with a higher risk of poor health outcomes. These drugs are also very powerful with strong side-effects, and blood tests are often used to calibrate a patient’s dosage and confirm that they are taking the recommended dose. However, blood tests are invasive and potentially uncomfortable. Scientists have now discovered a way to test the levels of common antipsychotic drugs in the sweat from patients’ fingerprints, offering a quicker, more comfortable, and more convenient alternative to blood draws for patient monitoring. “Our test offers patients a quick and dignified way of showing commitment to antipsychotic treatment,” said Katherine Longman of the University of Surrey, first author of the study in Frontiers in Chemistry. “This non-invasive […]


Featured news

24 Aug 2023

New pocket-sized device for clinicians could spot infected wounds faster

by Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Image/ Scientists have developed a device that works with a smartphone or tablet to capture medical images which can identify infected wounds. By capturing the heat produced by a wound and the fluorescence of bacteria, it helps clinicians tell the difference between inflammation and a potentially dangerous infection. This could allow for quicker intervention, catching infections before they become serious threats to health. It’s notoriously difficult for doctors to identify a wound that is becoming infected. Clinical signs and symptoms are imprecise and methods of identifying bacteria can be time-consuming and inaccessible, so a diagnosis can be subjective and dependent on clinician experience. But infection can stall healing or spread into the body if it isn’t treated quickly, putting a patient’s health in grave danger. An international team of scientists and clinicians thinks they have the solution: a device run from a smartphone or tablet app which allows advanced imaging of a wound to identify infection. “Wound care is one of today’s most expensive and overlooked threats to patientsand our overall healthcare system,” said Robert Fraser of Western University and Swift Medical Inc, corresponding author of the study published in Frontiers in Medicine. […]


Featured news

18 Aug 2023

A simple mouth rinse could spot early heart disease risk

by Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Image/ Periodontitis, a common oral health problem that involves infected gums, is linked to cardiovascular disease. Scientists studying the inflammation that precedes periodontitis have found that higher inflammation, reflected by higher levels of white blood cells in saliva, is linked to less healthy arteries and a potentially higher risk of cardiovascular disease even in young, apparently healthy people. What if we could identify the earliest warning signs of cardiovascular disease from a simple saliva sample? Scientists think they have found a way to do so. Gum inflammation leads to periodontitis, which is linked with cardiovascular disease. The team used a simple oral rinse to see if levels of white blood cells — an indicator of gum inflammation — in the saliva of healthy adults could be linked to warning signs for cardiovascular disease. They found that high levels correlated with compromised flow-mediated dilation, an early indicator of poor arterial health. “Even in young healthy adults, low levels of oral inflammatory load may have an impact on cardiovascular health — one of the leading causes of death in North America,” said Dr Trevor King of Mount Royal University, corresponding author of the study published […]


Featured news

10 Aug 2023

New high-tech microscope using AI successfully detects malaria in returning travelers

By Deborah Pirchner, Frontiers science writer Image: Malaria is an infectious disease claiming more than half a million lives each year. Because traditional diagnosis takes expertise and the workload is high, an international team of researchers investigated if diagnosis using a new system combining an automatic scanning microscope and AI is feasible in clinical settings. They found that the system identified malaria parasites almost as accurately as experts staffing microscopes used in standard diagnostic procedures. This may help reduce the burden on microscopists and increase the feasible patient load. Each year, more than 200 million people fall sick with malaria and more than half a million of these infections lead to death. The World Health Organization recommends parasite-based diagnosis before starting treatment for the disease caused by Plasmodium parasites. There are various diagnostic methods, including conventional light microscopy, rapid diagnostic tests and PCR. The standard for malaria diagnosis, however, remains manual light microscopy, during which a specialist examines blood films with a microscope to confirm the presence of malaria parasites. Yet, the accuracy of the results depends critically on the skills of the microscopist and can be hampered by fatigue caused by excessive workloads of the professionals doing the […]

Prof Yasuda pictured at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Image: Hiroshi Yasuda.

Featured news

24 Jul 2023

Meet a scientist who studies how to save lives in a nuclear disaster

by Prof Hiroshi Yasuda/Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Prof Yasuda pictured at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Image: Hiroshi Yasuda. Prof Hiroshi Yasuda has been studying the consequences of radioactive contamination since he was a student at Kyoto University, inspired by the Chernobyl accident of April 1986. A pioneer of research into radiological protection for astronauts and aircraft crew members, he has worked for international bodies such as the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as an expert on radiological impact assessment. After the Fukushima Daiichi accident of March 2011, he led the effort to assess the exposure to radiation of Fukushima residents, and led the official report on the accident for the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR). He now works at Hiroshima University, continuing his research and teaching a new generation of students about radiation sciences. Yasuda is the author of a new article in Frontiers in Public Health which discusses how best to protect hospital patients during nuclear emergencies, and has kindly taken the time to share some thoughts about his career and research as part of the Frontiers Scientist series. What inspired you to become a researcher? […]


Featured news

18 Jul 2023

Smiles all round: clinical trial shows that a toothpaste containing synthetic tooth minerals can prevent cavities as effectively as fluoride

by Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Image/ Scientists studying alternatives to fluoride toothpastes tested out hydroxyapatite toothpaste, which is already known to help people who are at particular risk for cavities or have trouble with dental sensitivity and periodontitis, but which hasn’t been trialed in adults with healthy teeth. Patients used either a hydroxyapatite toothpaste or a fluoride toothpaste for 18 months. At the end of this period, the patients using hydroxyapatite toothpaste were no more likely to develop cavities than the patients using fluoride. Brushing twice a day keeps the dentist away – but can we improve on the toothpaste we use to maintain clean teeth, preventing medical issues that spiral from poor dental health? Most toothpastes use fluoride, a powerful tool for oral hygiene. However, fluoride can pose health problems in some cases, especially for children who consume too much fluoride by swallowing most of their toothpaste: children normally use only a tiny dose of toothpaste to avoid these problems, but that reduces toothbrushing efficacy. In the search for alternatives, a team of international scientists and Polish clinicians have identified a hydroxyapatite toothpaste that works just as well as fluoride toothpaste to protect against cavities. “Hydroxyapatite is […]


Featured news

11 Jul 2023

Simple oxygen intervention could help patients ‘dramatically improve’ after brain injuries

by Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Image/ Normobaric oxygen, delivered at the same pressure as the atmosphere, is often used to maximize brain cell survival in patients with neurological trauma. Scientists found that giving experimental participants normobaric oxygen through a nasal cannula helped them learn a new visuomotor task more quickly and effectively, raising hopes that this oxygen intervention could also be used for rehabilitation. Motor learning skills let us move through the world: we use them to teach ourselves how to walk, how to pick up a drink, how to run. But age or sickness can weaken our ability to learn motor tasks. Scientists studying the impact of oxygen supplementation on motor learning have found a promising treatment that could help patients who have experienced neurological trauma recover old skills. “A simple and easy to administer treatment with 100% oxygen can drastically improve human motor learning processes,” said Dr Marc Dalecki, now at the German University of Health and Sports in Berlin, senior author of the study in Frontiers in Neuroscience. Repurposing a frontline treatment Our brains need a lot of oxygen. In low-oxygen contexts cognitive function decreases, while in high-oxygen contexts it recovers, and the delivery of […]


Featured news

09 Jun 2023

New high-tech helmets may protect American football players from debilitating concussions

by Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Image/ Evidence is mounting that head impacts in American football can lead to devastating neurological illness. Scientists searching for ways to protect players have developed a helmet containing liquid shock absorbers that cuts the impact of blows to the head by a third compared to existing models. Millions of people in the US are concussed every year playing sports. Players of games like American football are at particularly high risk for injuries that can have devastating long-term consequences. Stanford University scientists working with the company Savior Brain have now designed one potential way of protecting players: a helmet containing liquid shock absorbers that could reduce the impact of blows to the head by a third. “Most of the members of our team have a personal connection to traumatic brain injury and we care deeply about ensuring long-term athlete brain health,” said Nicholas Cecchi, a PhD candidate at Stanford University and lead author of the study in Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology. “Concussion and repeated head impacts are still a major problem in contact sports, and we believe that improved helmet technology can play an important role in reducing the risk of brain injury.” […]

Featured news

16 May 2023

Occasional cannabis use during pregnancy may be enough to impact fetal growth significantly

By Deborah Pirchner, Frontiers science writer Image: As cannabis products are being legalized around the world, the notion that they are safe to consume – including during pregnancy – is rising. Now, researchers in the US have investigated if the timing of cannabis exposure impacts fetal growth. They found that exposure in just the first trimester resulted in a significant decrease in newborn weight. If exposure continued, effects got more severe, including reduced head circumference. The consumption of the drug is discouraged at any point during pregnancy, the researchers stressed. As more people use cannabis for recreational purposes, attitudes towards the drug have changed. For example, research has shown that dispensaries often recommend cannabis – also referred to as marijuana – to pregnant women to ease pregnancy symptoms, especially morning sickness. There is a growing body of literature attesting to poor child outcomes if cannabinoids are consumed during pregnancy. The exact effects on the developing fetus, however, remain unclear. Researchers in the US have now examined how timing of cannabis exposure during pregnancy impacts fetal development. “We show that even when marijuana use occurred only in the first trimester of pregnancy, birth weight was significant reduced, by more than […]