Mutations tied to autism may alter gut function, microbiome in mice – Spectrum

Image by Floris Slooff/Shutterstock

Mutations in the gene NLGN3, found in some people with autism, alter mice’s gut nervous system, two new studies suggest. One of these mutations also affects the population of microbes that live inside their gut. The results may help explain why gastrointestinal problems often accompany autism, says lead researcher Elisa Hill-Yardin.

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Postpartum body changes you should know about – The New York Times

Illustration by Hye Jin Chung

When I was pregnant, I read four books on pregnancy and two on childbirth. I read no books on what my body would be like during the first year postpartum, because I had never heard of any. During that first year, many people are underinformed about their own bodies, even as they learn vast amounts about their babies. For this piece, I discussed health in the first postpartum year with two ob-gyns, a nurse, two physical therapists who specialize in treating postpartum bodies and two mothers. The experts stressed that you don’t have to live with pain, discomfort or leaking urine, and that your health is as important as your baby’s.

How to Keep Pumping When You Return to Work – The New York Times

Image by Caroline Tompkins for The New York Times

The vast majority of working parents can’t keep their babies with them while they’re working. This means that if they want to keep breastfeeding while they work, they have to pump breastmilk. I talked to three breastfeeding experts and two lactation consultants; as well as five parents who navigated the decision to pump breastmilk when they returned to work as restaurant managers, police, scientists, soldiers and consultants. In researching this article, I heard about women pumping in printer closets, in the back of Humvees, in bathrooms and while driving. The experts I consulted all said that the best approach is to know your rights, make a plan and communicate transparently with your employer. Both experts and parents agreed: above all, be kind to yourself.

Gene therapy targets sickle-cell disease – Nature

Image credit: Steve Babuljak/UCSF

Gene therapy might offer a cure for sickle-cell disease, and clinical trials are already under way. The approach is promising because just a single gene needs correcting: the one for the β-globin subunit of haemoglobin, the body’s oxygen ferry. But Elliott Vichinsky is concerned that the same problems that make current sickle-cell care ineffective will also plague this gene-therapy treatment. He estimates that at least 30% of his adult patients with sickle-cell disease die from preventable causes. As his patients attest, sickle-cell care is often inadequate for reasons that have little to do with scientific advancement and lots to do with economics and racism.

 

When the Baby You’re Expecting Turns Out to Be Twins (or More!) – The New York Times

Illustration by Pablo Rochat

So you’ve just found out you’re pregnant with multiples. It’s O.K. to freak out. It’s a lot to process. Katie Ring panicked when she found out she was pregnant with twins, even though she was not at all surprised. “It felt like too much,” she said. “I felt like I was going to lose my whole identity.” For this guide, I sifted through the science, consulted three obstetricians who specialize in multiples, interviewed a mom of twins, and compiled the information you need to know about being pregnant with multiples, without the scaremongering.

VBAC Facts: Is Vaginal Birth After Caesarean Right for You? – The New York Times

Illustration by Lily Padula

If you’re pregnant and you’ve previously had a cesarean section, you may have a decision to make: Do you try for a vaginal birth after cesarean (otherwise known as a V.B.A.C.) or schedule another cesarean? Deciding whether or not to try for a V.B.A.C. means reckoning with the details of your medical situation in the context of your values, according to the experts. “I think it’s important to know that V.B.A.C. is an option for most women, and their chances of success are actually quite high,” said Dr. Jeanne-Marie Guise, M.D. M.P.H., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine.

When and Why to Get Ultrasounds During Pregnancy – The New York Times

Image via The New York Times

Early pregnancy can feel unreal. How do you know the fetus is there when you can’t see it or feel it moving yet? So the first ultrasound picture can feel momentous: Finally, your whirring brain can be placated with direct proof. But other than the visual evidence that you’re not dreaming all this, you may not know what to expect from prenatal ultrasounds. We’re here to walk you through it. For this guide, I interviewed two obstetricians who specialize in ultrasounds — and a radiologist whose observation led to a diagnostic breakthrough — to find out what you need to know about prenatal ultrasounds.

The world’s strongest MRI machines are pushing human imaging to new limits – Nature

Image credit: Centre for Advanced Imaging, The University of Queensland

On a cold morning in Minneapolis last December, a man walked into a research centre to venture where only pigs had gone before: into the strongest magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine built to scan the human body. First, he changed into a hospital gown, and researchers made sure he had no metal on his body: no piercings, rings, metal implants or pacemakers. Any metal could be ripped out by the immensely powerful, 10.5-tesla magnet — weighing almost 3 times more than a Boeing 737 aeroplane and a full 50% more powerful than the strongest magnets approved for clinical use. “This is a window we’ve just never had in the intact human brain,” says Ravi Menon.

How cerebral organoids are guiding brain-cancer research and therapies – Nature

Image credit: M. Lancaster/MRC-LMB

People with glioblastoma multiforme, one of the most common forms of brain cancer, have a median survival of less than 15 months after diagnosis. If researchers could grow numerous small brain-like structures that contained a replica of the person’s tumour and then bathe them in various treatments, in the space of a few weeks, they might learn exactly which ones would have the best chance of fighting brain cancer in that individual. Howard Fine, a neuro-oncologist at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, is developing such models, known as cerebral organoids. Organoids are particularly valuable for studying brain cancer because neither human brain tumours transplanted into mice nor human tumour stem cells grown in a culture dish behave in the same way as their counterparts in the body.