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Articles in Category: UNIVERSITY RESEARCH

African plant potential to treat Alzheimer

Compound isolated from Voacanga africana shows promising perspectives for the treatment of mental diseases


The leaves and bark of Voacanga Africana, a plant used for centuries by healers of São Tomé e Príncipe, an island off the western coast of Africa, have been prescribed since long ago to treat inflammation and mental disorders [1]. Is this science or just folklore? According to the last press release from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies [1], this time, is, once again, science.

The scientists at this institute have discovered that a compound isolated from the power of the plant protects cells from altered molecular pathways linked to Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and the neurodegeneration that often follows a stroke [1]. Image: See credits under ref. [4] below.


Family: Apocynaceae

Genus: Voacanga

Common name: Voacanga


Ginkgo biloba doesn't improve cognition in MS patients, study says



Many have been the properties and health benefits of Ginkgo biloba that have attracted the attention of most of us in the past years. Ginkgo biloba is a tree known for being among the most resistant tree species that ever existed on earth.

It has been claimed to be able to inhibit the progression of human colon cancer cells [8], being effective also in the treatment of dementia [9], and as a pilot study suggested in 2005 even improve cognition in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), more exactly the study suggested ginkgo Biloba improved attention in patients with multiple sclerosis [14].

These raise among multiple sclerosis patients the common believe that Ginkgo biloba would eventually help them to improve cognitive problems associated with the disease.

This has been just turning down by a study published in the journal of Neurology [14], according to which Ginkgo biloba does not improve cognitive performance in patients suffering multiple sclerosis. Image: Ginkgo biloba by ginkgogz under Creative Commons License (CC BY 2.0).


Family: Ginkgoaceae

Genus: Ginkgo

Common name: Ginkgo biloba, 銀杏, イチョウ, pinyin, yín xìng, Hepburn, ichō or ginnan, Maidenhair Tree


Chocolate provokes opium-like effects in our brains, study says


To say that chocolate is addictive is not exaggerated, in fact, recent studies on the subject suggest that this may be based on facts. The experience of having an opium-like effect when having chocolate has been studied by scientists and researchers since a very long time ago. Why is chocolate so addictive?

Some studies have linked chocolate addiction to the natural effects exerted by some of its ingredients used to elaborate it, cocoa, sugar, milk...etc. 

Some have speculated that chocolate activates certain brain regions initiating the production of neural substances, having as direct consequence this chocolate dependency and addiction that some of us experience when having chocolate.

Now researchers have published the result of a study in Current Biology explaining why are we so hooked to chocolate.Image: See credits under ref. [5] below.


Family: Malvaceae

Genus: Theobroma

Common name: Cacao


Snow melts faster under trees than in open areas


It seems logical to think that snow would melt faster under open areas than under the tree canopy, where it is protected from sunlight, UV radiation and heat, claim not justified by reason or science as in reality it seems like that is not really the case.

In a study performed near the Cedar River Municipal Watershed, east of Seattle, it has been proven that snow melts faster under trees than in open areas [1].

This study, operated by Susan Dickerson-Lange and various researchers from the University of Washington, shows the earlier statement wrong.

These recent findings by Jessica Lundquist, a University of Washington associate professor, show that tree cover causes snow to melt quicker in Mediterranean-type climates around the world.

In these types of climate areas the snow tends to melt faster under the tree canopy mainly due to the long-wave radiation emitted by trees. Image: Snow covered trail by Andy Arthur under Creative Common license (CC BY 2.0).

Early detection of Alzheimer's disease with peanut butter



Researchers and scientists have been struggling since very long time ago to find ways to detect Alzheimer's disease (AD) in its early stages, especially in view of the different treatment possibilities that this would give to future AD patients, however, this hasn't been always easy. In fact, Alzheimer's disease is commonly diagnosed by means of a complete medical assessment, the same way other cognitive impairment illnesses are diagnosed.

The above-mentioned medical assessment sometimes includes non-intrusive medical history checks and mental status tests but sometimes it does also include some other more intrusive physical and neurological exams.

Now, University of Florida researchers has found another non-intrusive and quite a simplistic way to detect and diagnose Alzheimer's disease in very early stages of this cognitive impairment illness, the use of "peanut butter", yes peanut butter. Let's see how they did it. Image: See credits under reference [2] below.