Biological Building Blocks

Gut bacteria, the best sperm and the hunt for a genetic link to anorexia.

By Lacy Schley|Monday, August 07, 2017
RELATED TAGS: PERSONAL HEALTH
bacteria
bacteria
CNRI/Science Source

Bacteria That Shape Blood Vessels

Researchers have discovered a surprising link between gut-dwelling bacteria and the brain’s blood vessels. Cerebral cavernous malformations (CCMs) are capillaries that are enlarged or deformed and thin-walled, making them vulnerable to leaks — which can lead to stroke or seizure. To study these deformities, experts genetically engineered mice to form CCMs after an injection of a specialized drug. Some rodents went on to develop abdominal infections, thanks to the bacteria Bacteroides fragilis. Researchers realized when B. fragilis was present, the mice were more likely to have CCMs, and when the bacteria were eliminated, the CCM development stopped. The findings strengthen a growing body of evidence that the microbes of our intestines play an important and unexpected role in an array of maladies.

sperm
sperm
Kzenon/Shutterstock
How to Spot a Dud

Sorting good sperm from bad may have just gotten easier. Scientists have come up with a new way to test the viability of human sperm by using a technique called magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS). Other testing methods either can’t provide much detailed information or damage the cells in the process. MRS, however, lets experts study the molecules inside cells while in action, to determine the properties of healthy swimmers. The technique could lead to better male infertility tests.

scale
scale
Stocktrek Images/Science Source
Pinpointing Anorexia

A distorted body image, an extreme fear of putting on pounds, abnormally low body weight — all hallmarks of the eating disorder anorexia nervosa. Long thought to be a psychiatric condition, a new study reveals it also might have genetic underpinnings. Analyzing the DNA of about 3,500 diagnosed people and nearly 11,000 without the disorder, researchers homed in on a genetic locus — a gene’s location on a chromosome — that’s involved in the body’s metabolic processes and seems to be associated with the disorder. Scientists are now closer to a more complete picture of this potentially deadly condition.

ADVERTISEMENT
Comment on this article
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
DSC-CV0917
+