We’ve long known that the human stomach can be a trustworthy indicator of our mental state, and vice-versa. Whether it’s a poor, nutrient-deficient diet leading to a groggy and depressive state or a grindingly stressful situation leading to a range of intestinal issues, the connection between the brain and the gut is both intimate and deep.
Yet new research has revealed an ever-increasing number of remarkable connections between such problems as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and autism, and our stomach health.
As the connection between the gut microbiome and human health appears increasingly multi-layered, novel solutions to human ailments have come to light–including the recent study by scientists at Arizona State University (ASU) that shows how a boost in microbial diversity in the stomach through fecal transplants can dramatically cut down on the symptoms of autism in young children.
Not only does the severity of issues arising from Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) dramatically fall post transplant, it does so for several years after the transplants are undertaken, showing the huge power of the gut microbiome in regulating and affecting conditions in the brain.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in every 59 children born in the United States is diagnosed with autism. The neurological condition can lead to a number of social and communicative difficulties for children, with chronic gastrointestinal issues among the many problems they face, with around 30 to 50 percent of those with autism experiencing problems like constipation, stomach pain, and diarrhea, according to the authors of the study at ASU.
In an ASU study from 2017, 15 of 18 children with severe symptoms arising from autism were given eight weeks of fecal transplants in order to introduce healthy microbial flora into the participants’ gastrointestinal tracts. Two years later, only three of the participants remain classified as suffering “severe” symptoms, measured through questionnaires that gauged their communication, social skills, hyperactivity, and other factors.
Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown, a scientist at ASU told New Atlas:
“Many kids with autism have gastrointestinal problems, and some studies, including ours, have found that those children also have worse autism-related symptoms … In many cases, when you are able to treat those gastrointestinal problems, their behavior improves.”
Indeed, the benefits of the fecal transplant have gone beyond simply persisting, but have actually improved with time. While doctors had observed a 24-percent decrease in psychological symptoms of autism at the eight-week mark, two years after the study was held those same symptoms were nearly cut in half, or 45 percent.
“We are finding a very strong connection between the microbes that live in our intestines and signals that travel to the brain … Two years later, the children are doing even better, which is amazing.”
And while many argue that autism isn’t necessarily a disorder requiring a “cure,” per se, it remains inarguable that the removal of social, communicative, and gastrointestinal difficulties will serve to make the lives of people on the spectrum easier.
The scientists have begun working to begin larger and more thorough clinical trials in hopes of continuing to prove the benefits of fecal transplants, as well as clearing their treatment with the FDA.
Derek Chauvin Found GUILTY of Murdering George Floyd
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been found guilty on all counts in the murder of George Floyd, the 46-year-old Black man whose death at Chauvin’s hands last May sparked a long period of unrest and major protests against policing and racism in America.
After deliberating for about 10 hours over two days, the jury found Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter for the killing of Floyd on a street corner last year on Memorial Day.
The second-degree murder charge carries a maximum sentence of 40 years. The third-degree murder charge carries a maximum sentence of 25 years, and second-degree manslaughter can carry up to 10 years.
In harrowing video footage from the May 25, 2020, incident that has been seen billions of times across the globe, Chauvin could be seen kneeling on the neck of Floyd for over nine minutes while fellow Minneapolis officers Tou Thao, J Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane stood by. Meanwhile, a horrified crowd of bystanders filmed and pled with officers as the event transpired.
On Monday, the prosecution and defense presented their closing arguments to the jury.
Prosecutors argued that Chauvin’s actions directly led to Floyd dying from low oxygen, or asphyxia. Prosecutor Steve Schleicher said that Chauvin “chose pride over policing,” calling his actions “unnecessary, gratuitous and disproportionate.” He also reminded the jury that Chauvin’s hundreds of hours of training over the course of 19 years with the Minneapolis Police Department should have led to a different outcome than Floyd’s death during a crisis.
The prosecution also focused on the fact that Chauvin knee was on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds.
The defense, however, argued that Floyd’s use of illegal drugs and a pre-existing heart condition were to blame and that “the totality of the circumstances,” including exposure to carbon monoxide, led to his death in police custody.
38 witnesses were called by prosecutors, including the teenager who recorded the widely seen video that has been played endlessly over the past year. She and other bystanders testified that they remain haunted by Floyd’s death. The defense called seven witnesses, including two experts.
Floyd’s death rekindled a long-seething anger over police brutality and racial oppression in the United States, with cities across the U.S. and the world rising up in protest over his killing and the killings of other victims of law enforcement.
President Joe Biden had expressed his wish for “the right verdict” without specifying explicitly whether the verdict would be guilty or not guilty. Biden had been careful not to comment on a potential outcome in Chauvin’s trial while urging calm.
Residents, activists and journalists descended on the Hennepin County Courthouse in downtown Minneapolis when the announcement was made at 2:30 pm local time that the verdict has been reached. The crowd greeted the judge’s announcement of Chauvin’s guilty charges with applause and cheers.
Cliffhanger: Mountain Biker Saved From “Imminent Death” After Falling Into Canyon
A Southern California mountain biker is likely counting his blessings after he was rescued from what authorities describe as “imminent death”” after falling from the side of a cliff in the Angeles National Forest.
The mountain biker, described as an older man, fell into the canyon at Mt. Wilson on Thursday morning and was dangling hundreds of feet above the ground before his fellow bikers, and eventually a special team from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, rescued him.
For some time the man dangled by a thin cord around his ankle that was tied to his bicycle while hanging on for dear life “like a cat,” Capt. Tom Giandomenico of the LASD special enforcement bureau told the Los Angeles Times.
“He knew he was in such a precarious situation. He was just scared to even rotate his head to look at us. He just didn’t want to move a muscle,” LASD Deputy Richard Thomsen told CBSLA.
Additionally, when the helicopter team arrived it wasn’t just a matter of simply hoisting the man to safety, as the air generated by the helicopter’s rotor would have sent the man plummeting to “imminent death,” Giandomenico added.
“Because he was head-down on the rock face there, that dropped probably a good 40 feet before it hit some soft dirt and a boulder,” Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Helbring said. “And beyond that was hundreds of feet down to the bottom of the canyon.”
Instead, one of the members of the special enforcement team composed of former SWAT officers devised a plan to rappel down to the man and move him to a ledge below, from which the two could be airlifted to safety.
However, due to a lack of boulders or trees, there was nothing to tie a rope to – and thus no way to rappel down to anything.
So instead, the special enforcement team used the man’s brother and another friend to be their anchor, a plan that ultimately succeeded.
Giandomenico called the rescue “one of the more significant, courageous maneuvers I’ve seen.”
“Heroic, in my opinion,” he added.
Scientists Create First-Ever Embryos With Monkey and Human Cells
For the first time, scientists have created embryos in a lab that contain the cells of both humans and monkeys.
Scientists hope that by creating chimeric embryos – embryos containing cells from two distinct species – they might be able to create organs for people who desperately need transplants.
Over 100,000 people in the United States lone are currently on a waiting list for organ transplants crucial to saving their lives, but the supply of donor organs has dropped significantly since the pandemic began unfolding.
Researchers have attempted to inject human stem cells into the embryos of pigs and sheep in recent years in hopes of growing organs for transplants, but this hasn’t yielded positive results. Scientists are hoping that by turning to macaque monkeys, which share a greater genetic similarity to humans, they may have more success.
In a study published Thursday in the journal Cell, researchers in the U.S. and China injected 25 pluripotent stem cells from humans into embryos from macaque monkeys.
After one day, the researchers detected human cells beginning to grow in 132 of the embryos. They embryos ultimately survived for 19 days.
However, bioethicists have raised concerns about the potential for abusing medical regulations that currently govern the treatment of animal and human subjects, as well as the possibility that a rogue scientists might potentially spike living creatures with human cells.
“My first question is: Why?” Kirstin Matthews, a science and technology fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute, told NPR. “I think the public is going to be concerned, and I am as well, that we’re just kind of pushing forward with science without having a proper conversation about what we should or should not do.”
Researchers insist that the study serves purely humanitarian goals that could save countless lives in the future.
“This work is an important step that provides very compelling evidence that someday when we understand fully what the process is we could make them develop into a heart or a kidney or lungs,” said University of Michigan professor Jeffrey Platt, who was not involved in the study.
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