Mobile Sim Today’s smartphones are as powerful as some…

Mobile Sim

Today’s smartphones are as powerful as some computers, and technology is constantly improving. Here their pocket-sized processors are being put to good use for doctors – never without their phones to access records and messages – doing something that requires a little more power. Mathematical models simulate beating hearts (grey) – highlighting waves of electrical activity in each ventricle chamber in rainbow colours. Each virtual ventricle compares with similar patterns seen in living hearts (to the right) from pigs (top row) and rabbits (middle). Tweaking the model’s settings produces simulations to match human patients (bottom), potentially giving doctors a portable visual tool for studying, discussing and treating irregular beats, or arrhythmias. Heart simulations have their origins in the 1960s, when a computer the size of a small car might have been required to run much simpler models, begging the question – given another 60 years, what will smartphones be able to do for us?

Written by John Ankers

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Patterns of Transmission Tuberculosis (TB) affects about a…

Patterns of Transmission

Tuberculosis (TB) affects about a third of the world’s population. Seven lineages of the causative bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) are composed of different strains, which vary according to characteristics like drug sensitivity. A study of 124 TB patients in Brazil and the more than 700 individuals who’d been in close contact subdivided a lineage of Mtb into two strains, high (HT) and low (LT), according to how effectively they’d transmitted disease. Now the team has looked in mice at the lung damage the two strains cause. Immune cells called macrophages filled with lipid droplets are a hallmark of Mtb infection. In mice with Mtb-HT discrete collections of macrophages (granulomas) developed with fewer lipid droplets and containing fewer bacteria (the black squiggles seen here centrally) than the widespread inflammatory macrophages found with Mtb-LT. How the immune system interacts with Mtb apparently leads to distinct patterns of bacterial growth and damage, which in turn underlies the subsequent differences in infectiousness.

Written by Lindsey Goff

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Running Mates Exercise improves our health in many ways,…

Running Mates

Exercise improves our health in many ways, potentially even boosting our ability to produce more neurons. In mice, exercise causes an increase in stem cells known as neural precursor cells (NPCs), found in a part of the brain’s hippocampus, the dentate gyrus, which may give rise to new neurons during adulthood. Recent research suggests this is linked to changes in their blood, particularly their platelets, small blood cells responsible for blood clotting after injury. Mice given access to running wheels possessed more activated platelets, with different properties and protein content, than mice that had not exercised. In laboratory tests, blood serum from those active mice stimulated the multiplication of cultured NPCs (pictured, with cell nuclei in blue), while activated platelets even encouraged more cells to become neurons (in red). How exactly they do so remains unclear, but platelets may form an important link, passing the benefits of exercise onto the brain.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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