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A Scientific First: How Psychedelics Bind to Key Brain Cell Receptor

news.unchealthcare.org
  • In order to use psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin in medical treatments, scientists study how these substances interact with brain cells on a molecular level.
  • It turns out that they actively bind to HTR2A, a serotonin receptor on the surface of brain cells.
  • When it’s activated, the receptor causes neurons to fire in an asynchronous and disorganized fashion, putting noise into the brain’s system.
  • Based on these findings, researchers will look for new drugs that might provide treatment for depression and other mental disorders without the psychedelic effect.

Ten minutes of massage or rest will help your body fight stress

uni-konstanz.de
  • Short-term treatments like a massage, or just resting for a bit, reduce stress by boosting the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).
  • Relaxation therapies show promise as a way to treat stress, but so far scientists haven’t developed a standardised method to test them - until now.
  • This study is the first standardised approach, and the results show that both rest and a massage increase heart rate variability (HRV) - higher HRV = greater relaxation.
  • Researchers say this shows we don’t need professional treatment in order to relax, even a 10-minute rest can boost our PNS and calm us down.
  • These conclusions will enable further experiments to study how different relaxation methods can help people with stress-related conditions like depression.

Stanford engineers reprogram yeast cells to become microscopic drug factories

news.stanford.edu
  • In an effort to overcome drug shortages, engineers transformed a special strain of yeast to make plant-based drug substitutes from sugars and amino-acids.
  • After 3 years and 34 genetic changes to the yeast’s DNA, the yeast now produces tropane alkaloids, naturally found in coca leaves and other plants around the world.
  • The study author has previously engineered yeast to produce another plan-based drug, and co-founded a startup to license the technology.
  • They expect this to be used in full-scale production in about two years.

Human-Like "Organ Chips" Could Eliminate Animal Studies

freethink.com
  • “Organ chips” are tissue cells from specific organs, linked together like systems in the body, and they can be used to study the human response to drugs and chemicals.
  • Researchers keep working on different ways to remove the need for animal studies, and this is a promising combination of several different approaches.
  • A team at Harvard is already using a “human body-on-chips” to study COVID-19.
  • It’s not a new technology, it’s been developed by multiple companies since 1989, but it’s not yet FDA approved.
  • Studies show that organ chips recreate the human response to substances accurately, and they might become approved in the near future.

COVID-19 vaccines by Oxford, CanSino and Pfizer all trigger immune responses

sciencenews.org
  • Tests of different vaccines are showing promise, but scientists still don’t know how to identify a protective (immune) response to the COVID virus.
  • So even though vaccines trigger the creation of antibodies, similar to those developed by people who recovered from COVID, the long-term effect is unclear.
  • There are almost 200 vaccine candidates being worked on at the moment, and over 20 clinical trials around the world.
  • Further results from vaccine tests might be known by the end of the year.

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