Sunday, April 2, 2017

News You May Have Missed, No. 74

 Scientists Find Non-Gluten Cause of Wheat Sensitivity

Researchers presenting at the 2016 United European Gastroenterology conference have identified a group of non-gluten proteins that can trigger symptoms of asthma, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, and more. 

Gluten-free diets began as a necessity for people with celiac disease, in which violent immune reactions to wheat can cause intestinal damage, widespread inflammation, and trouble absorbing nutrients. Then the food and diet industries caught on, and suddenly a gluten-free diet was being touted as the way to lose weight, flush “toxins,” and improve everything from mental clarity to libido. An Us-Against-Them narrative emerged in the media, pitting people with an autoimmune condition against all the fools pointlessly avoiding wheat. 

This bizarre, invented binary initially overlooked a third group of gluten-free eaters: people without celiac disease who still felt that wheat made them sick. Then that group began to grow and became harder to ignore—but rather than being taken seriously about their health, these folks were classed as a subtype of fool. “You’re either allergic to gluten or you’re just being a diva,” the argument went. 

But bit by bit, vindication has come creeping in. In July, 2016, an international team of researchers found that people with self-reported non-celiac wheat sensitivity (NCWS) were indeed sickened by eating wheat. Their intestinal lining was damaged, and blood tests showed higher levels of systemic inflammation. Gluten or no, something was seriously affecting them.

Another group of researchers suspected that something might be another protein. They started looking at a group called amylase-trypsin inhibitors, or ATIs. The ATIs are a small group, representing about 4 percent of wheat proteins, but they’re powerful.

The scientists found that consuming pure ATIs can cause all manner of nasty reactions throughout the body, triggering inflammation not just in the gut but also in the lymph nodes, kidneys, spleen, and brain. That same inflammation can exacerbate autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, asthma, lupus, and inflammatory bowel disease. 
Lead researcher Detlef Schuppan of Johannes Gutenberg University in Germany said ATI and gluten produce similar but distinct reactions in the human body. “ATIs from wheat that are also contaminating commercial gluten activate specific types of immune cells in the gut and other tissues,” he said in a statement, “thereby potentially worsening the symptoms of pre-existing inflammatory illnesses.”


17th Century Shakespearean Notebook Discovered

William Shakespeare (portrait)

A 17th century Shakespearean notebook with "enormous scholarly value" has been described as one of the most remarkable items to ever feature on the British television show,  Antiques Roadshow. The tiny pad, featuring "scientific scholarly notes" written during the Bard's lifetime, left manuscripts specialist Matthew Haley "trembling". The notebook is believed to have come from the collection of 18th Century antiquarian John Loveday of Caversham. The book was found by the five times great grandson of Loveday among his mother's belongings. Haley said it included detailed notes in Latin and suggested the jottings could have been the work of a student analyzing the playwright's work.
"There is so much research that can be done on this item," said Haley, who appraised the item at Caversham Park in Berkshire. "It's amazing, it's almost completely illegible, but you can pick out the odd word, and you can pick out phrases that appear in Shakespeare." He said it was "one of the best things" he had seen on the program "by a fairly good stretch". "I was completely knocked out," he added. At this time, the estimated value of the notebook is unknown.

Menstrual Cycle Recreated "In A Dish"

U.S. scientists say they have made a mini working replica of the female reproductive tract using human and mouse tissue. Although the palm-sized device looks nothing like a womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries, the researchers say it should help with understanding diseases of these organs and tissues. It also provides a novel way to test new treatments. The work is part of a project to create the entire human "body on a chip". The ultimate goal would be to take cells from any given individual in order to create a personalized model of their body to test drugs and treatments on, Nature Communications reports.

The 3D model is made up of a series of cubes that each represent the different parts of the female reproductive system. Each cube contains collections of living cells from the respective bits of this system - fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix and vagina (all human cells), and the ovaries (taken from mice). The cubes are connected together with small tubes, which allow special fluid to flow through the entire system, much like blood. This also means the "mini organs" can communicate with each other using hormones, mimicking what happens in a woman's body during a "typical" 28-day human menstrual cycle. One of the cubes represents the human liver because this organ plays an important role in drug metabolism, say the scientists.

Tests suggested that the tissues in the system responded to the cyclical ebb and flow of hormones, in a similar way to those of the female body. Research Dr. Joanna Burdette, from Northwestern University, said: "It's a biological representation of the female reproductive tract, so we call it Evatar."Co-worker Dr Ji-Yong Julie Kim said: "Understanding how the uterus responds to hormones is really important. There is no animal model for a lot of the stuff that we study." Experts welcomed the advance.

The World's Strongest Coffee

A South African company announced the "world's strongest coffee," containing a staggering caffeine content, is now available in the United States. Black Insomnia Coffee, first available in South Africa last year, announced a deal with Amazon to bring its ultra-caffeinated beans to the U.S. market. The company said it submitted its beans to scientific tests to ensure the brew contains 702 milligrams of caffeine per 12-ounce cup, several times the 150 milligrams in the average cup of coffee and beating the previous claimants to the "world's strongest coffee" throne, Death Wish coffee with 660 milligrams of caffeine per 12-ounce cup. The company admitted there are beverages with higher caffeine content, but those competitors contain additives and aren't "pure coffee.""So here's the thing, don't come crying to us if you can't handle the kick," the company said. "Our beans may taste great, they may be smooth, 'with the flavors of nuts and caramel,' but if you can't handle they kick, it may just not be for you. But for those who can, we are happy to be here for you."

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