NOVA Marathons: Health and Medicine | NOVA



Physique + MindPhysique & Mind

Six episodes exploring the fascinating science and improvements in well being and drugs.

Hiya, NOVA followers! We perceive that lots of chances are you’ll be spending extra high quality time at house than standard. And, as faculties throughout the nation stay closed, fostering scholar studying at house is a high precedence.

Within the upcoming weeks, we’ll be sharing collections of a few of our favourite NOVA movies—all organized by topic to make bingeing, studying, and leisure as straightforward as potential for science lovers of all ages.

Whether or not you’ve got ever been curious concerning the microscopic world of organisms residing inside you or needed a deeper understanding of the science of dependancy, prepare: The topic of this assortment is “Well being and Medication.”

Decoding COVID-19 (2020)

The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has upended life as we all know it in a matter of mere months. However on the identical time, an unprecedented world effort to know and include the virus—and discover a therapy for the illness it causes—is underway. Be a part of the medical doctors on the entrance strains of the battle in opposition to COVID-19 as they strategize to cease the unfold, and meet the researchers racing to develop remedies and vaccines. Alongside the way in which, uncover how this devastating illness emerged, what it does to the human physique, and why it exploded right into a pandemic.

Habit (2018)

Hear firsthand from people fighting dependancy and comply with the cutting-edge work of medical doctors and scientists as they examine why dependancy isn’t an ethical failing, however a continual, treatable medical situation. Easy accessibility to medication like heroin, fentanyl, and even prescription drugs like OxyContin has fueled an epidemic of dependancy—the deadliest in U.S. historical past. Now, science is revealing how dependancy impacts the mind, and high consultants are gathering proof about how we should always tackle our drug drawback, from embracing evidence-based remedies, to rethinking public insurance policies.

Poisoned Water (2017)

Water. Activate the tap and it’s all the time there. With out it we perish. However how secure is our faucet water?

On this particular report narrated by Joe Morton, NOVA investigates what occurred in Flint, Michigan, when native officers modified town’s water supply to save cash, however missed a crucial therapy course of. Because the water pipes corroded, lead leached into the system, exposing the group—together with 1000’s of kids—to harmful ranges of poison. NOVA uncovers the science behind this artifical catastrophe— from the intricacies of water chemistry to the biology of lead poisoning to the misuse of science itself. NOVA follows odd residents and impartial scientists who uncovered the hazard lurking in Flint’s water and confronted those that turned a blind eye. And uncover the disturbing fact that reaches far past Flint—water programs throughout the nation are equally weak. How can we shield ourselves from poisoned water?

Vaccines—Calling the Pictures (2014)

Illnesses that had been largely eradicated in the US a era in the past—whooping cough, measles, mumps—are returning, partially as a result of nervous dad and mom are skipping their youngsters’s photographs. NOVA’s “Vaccines—Calling the Pictures” takes viewers around the globe to trace epidemics, discover the science behind vaccinations, hear from dad and mom wrestling with vaccine-related questions, and make clear the dangers of opting out.

NOVA Wonders: What’s Residing in You? (2018)

Whether or not they make you fats, fart, or freak out, microbes play a central position in your life.

Proper beneath your nostril—in your face, in your intestine, and in every single place in between—trillions of micro organism, viruses, and fungi are so plentiful in your physique, they outnumber your human cells. However these aren’t simply nasty hitch-hikers. Many are essential to your survival. Proof suggests {that a} numerous microbiome can preserve you wholesome and, conversely, a broken one might kill you. NOVA Wonders friends into this microscopic world to find the fascinating, weird, and downright stunning secrets and techniques of the human microbiome, together with the world’s largest stool financial institution, which transforms uncooked stool into life-saving poop drugs.

Life’s Best Miracle (2001)

A sequel to one of the vital standard NOVAs of all time, “Miracle of Life,” this Emmy Award-winning program tracks human growth from embryo to new child utilizing the extraordinary microimagery of Swedish photographer Lennart Nilsson.

I got stung by a stingray, and all I got was this deeper understanding of venom medicine | NOVA



Physique + MindPhysique & Mind

Animal venoms are helpful for drugmakers as a result of they’re potent, focused, and fast-acting. Belief me, I might know.

The bluespotted ribbontail ray (Taeniura lymma) is one in every of greater than 200 stingray species discovered all over the world. Picture Credit score: Antagain, Getty Pictures

Three years in the past, wading within the sun-warmed waters of the Florida Keys, I felt a pointy pinch and regarded down at my ft in shock. My buddy Jen and I had pushed down from Miami for a weekend filled with sturdy Cuban espresso and Hemingway’s six-toed cats. Tempted by water so heat and aquamarine it was virtually a cliche, we had stopped to swim at a roadside seashore on Bahia Honda Key. I had eased in, cautious to tug my ft slowly throughout the seafloor in a dance recognized to beachgoers because the “stingray shuffle,” hoping to alert any native sealife to my method. However not cautious sufficient. 

My foot throbbing, I stumbled again to the seashore towards Jen, who puzzled if I might need stepped on some glass. However within the subsequent half hour, as my ankle and foot ballooned and the ache ratcheted up—from stinging to aching, from aching to bone breaking—it grew to become clear I will need to have been stung by one thing. Then my foot began to show blue, and we drove to the hospital.

“Bahia Honda?” the nurse stated. “You’re the fourth individual to come back in with a stingray sting from there right this moment.”

The ache didn’t subside till the subsequent day, when my foot had returned to its regular colour. That was the beginning of a six-week restoration, which additionally concerned crutches, painkillers, heavy-duty antibiotics, and a horrible rash. I wouldn’t want the expertise—which entails a degree of discomfort that some have in comparison with a gunshot wound—on anybody. However on reflection, it’s an fascinating one to contemplate. As a result of, it seems, animal venoms just like the one coursing by means of my veins on Bahia Honda Key are wanted for drug growth, with seven FDA-approved medication derived from venom toxins available on the market up to now. Harnessing their energy to harm opens up a world of prospects for therapeutic.

The Bahia Honda seashore the place the creator had a run-in with a stingray. Picture Credit score: Giuseppe Milo, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Chemical biologist Mandë Holford, who research venom science at her lab at Hunter School, compares what was occurring in my foot within the second after the sting to a “cluster bomb.” The toxins in animal venom have been engineered by evolution over many millennia to incapacitate by affecting some element within the blood, mind, or cell membranes, she says. “You’re getting invaded with 200 to 300 totally different toxins, all making an attempt to determine easy methods to attain their goal, transferring by means of and rupturing cell membranes, doing all types of injury.”

The nurse on the emergency room instructed me stingrays have been migrating by means of the realm, their path bringing them near the cove the place I went wading. Stingrays ship their venom by means of a number of serrated barbs that lie alongside their tails. Whereas at relaxation, a stingray retains its barb tucked away, immunologist Carla Lima instructed me in an e-mail. However when it feels threatened—say, by the ft of a clueless human out for a swim—it pushes its tail perpendicular to its physique, puncturing that human’s flesh with its venom-laden backbone.

Lima research toxins in venomous fish on the Butantan Institute in São Paolo, Brazil. Her analysis into stingray venom has proven that what’s in that venom really modifications as a stingray matures. Within the freshwater species she research—whose venom properties are higher explored than the marine stingray that acquired me—the venom of younger rays tends to comprise toxins that trigger ache to the goal. Lima hypothesizes this can be to chase predators away. In distinction, the toxins in grownup venom have a necrotizing impact, which means they destroy tissue, which might be useful for looking.

Peptides, brief chains of amino acids that play key roles within the organic capabilities of every kind of organisms, make up a big a part of most animal venoms—and a few are solely present in these venoms. Lima and different researchers have recognized the peptides porflan and orpotrin as two of the weather within the freshwater stingray’s poisonous cocktail, together with quite a lot of totally different proteases, that are enzymes that break down peptides. 

As I sat cradling my foot on the seashore in Bahia Honda, related proteases and associated proteins labored to interrupt down the construction of cells in my heel, serving to the venom unfold additional, and to immediate an inflammatory response that led to the swelling I noticed. The peptides, however, possible triggered the arteries to constrict and blood to pool, creating extra irritation and blocking circulation—maybe the reason for my foot turning blue.

A southern stingray (Dasyatis americana) cruises the ocean ground off Grand Turk Island within the Caribbean. Picture Credit score: Nate Madden, Shutterstock

{That a} substance that causes a lot ache and wreaks a lot organic havoc can be utilized in drugs is what Holford calls “the yin and yang of nature.” And the truth that harm and therapeutic are, not less than on this case, two sides of the identical coin varieties the premise for the work she does in her lab, figuring out new drug purposes for numerous elements of animal venom.

Venoms have nice potential to contribute to drug growth as a result of they’re each potent and extremely focused, Holford says, with peptides that match bodily into cell receptors and alter how these cells perform. Due to this dynamic, venom-based medication can work virtually instantaneously. They usually’re not what individuals within the pharmaceutical enterprise name “leaky,” which means they have a tendency to solely act on the meant cell element and don’t cease at different spots alongside the way in which inflicting unwanted effects.

Most stingray venom analysis, like Lima’s, takes place in areas the place stingrays pose a menace to individuals: tropical spots like Brazil and Australia. On a drug-development degree, we nonetheless don’t know a lot about it, Lima says. However we do know rather a lot about different venoms—particularly these created by cone snails and snakes.

For one factor, not all venom toxins trigger ache. Some peptides current in snake venom deal with manipulating proteins within the wound so blood flows freely, appearing as pure anticoagulants. Different peptides in Gila monster venom promote insulin manufacturing, useful for a hungry lizard that hasn’t eaten for awhile. And but different peptides in cone-snail venom do the alternative of what stingray venom does: paralyze and suppress ache, retaining the snail’s prey from going into fight-or-flight mode and slowing it down till the (additionally sluggish) snail can come nab it for a snack.

This final kind of venom is likely one of the focuses at Holford’s lab. Many cone-snail venom peptides are wealthy in cysteine amino acids, whose construction she compares to Velcro. That makes it comparatively simple for them to stay within the hourglass-shaped pores on the floor of cells that allow vital minerals like sodium, calcium, and potassium movement out and in. The free motion of these minerals is a part of how cells speak to one another. 

With these channels shut down, neurons can’t talk with each other to point ache. That’s what makes Prialt, the business model of the cone snail’s ziconotide peptide, an efficient ache medicine. Holford and her colleagues are additionally exploring the potential of different associated cone-snail peptides to assist dampen indicators firing too quick in somebody having a coronary heart assault or an epileptic seizure.

She even sees attainable purposes right here for most cancers remedy. Present chemotherapy regimens “don’t discriminate between regular cells and tumor,” she says. However as a result of venom peptides work on particular receptors—receptors that some tumors develop too lots of as a part of their growth—they might assist create a most cancers drug that particularly starves most cancers cells of important minerals, stopping their development.

The saw-scaled viper (Echis carinatus) is likely one of the deadliest snakes in India, and its venom is the premise of the blood-thinning drug Tirofiban. Picture Credit score: Sagar Khunte, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The venom that just about ruined my Florida Keys trip (although I nonetheless acquired to get pleasure from some lovely sunsets, and the seafood was incredible) was extremely refined, honed by evolution to inflict ache and physiological harm with laser precision. It was virtually comforting to study this within the weeks after, as I hobbled round on my crutches and watched with fascinated disgust because the wound developed a stingray-shaped blister. (My boyfriend stated it was an indication I used to be growing superpowers, however unhappy to say none appeared.)

“We all know from nature that these peptides work,” Holford says. “What we don’t know is huge: the place they work, how they work, how efficient they’re. And that’s an enormous sport of ‘The place’s Waldo.’” Holford and her colleagues have give you a protocol for locating new venom elements which have potential in drug purposes, then determining easy methods to get them there. Step one is a sensible take a look at the pure world: figuring out which animal species are creating venom, particularly venom that may be extracted manually. Subsequent, the crew makes use of new applied sciences that Holford refers to because the “omics”— genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics—to determine the toxins inside these venoms, by inspecting the directions the animals’ DNA and RNA comprise and the proteins constructed by following these directions.

From there, the crew is ready to use that genetic code to fabricate extra of a selected peptide within the lab, which is particularly helpful in the case of finding out venoms which might be produced in small portions in nature. They then check the artificial toxin on the animal’s pure prey to ensure it’s efficient and additional tweak it to make sure it’s as particularly focused as it may be for people. And at last, they begin to consider drug supply. Does this drug have to cross the blood-brain barrier? Wouldn’t it work if administered orally? These are important questions, since potential medication that may’t be delivered successfully can’t actually be medication in any respect.

Very similar to the expertise of the sting itself, the probabilities for brand spanking new medication listed below are dizzying. Most venom-based medication available on the market are derived from a single peptide. However my stingray’s venom (identical to different naturally occurring venoms) featured tons of of peptides. And with the arrival of the “omics,” drug growth with venom has turn into extra environment friendly. Time- and resource-intensive experiments can now be run way more rapidly utilizing laptop modeling, making the entire course of extra viable and opening up a complete world of drug prospects.

Lima and her colleagues in Brazil, for instance, are persevering with to discover the realm of fish venom. One artificial peptide derived from the venom of a species of toadfish exhibits explicit promise. A 2017 examine urged that peptide, often known as TnP, has highly effective anti-inflammatory and therapeutic results in mice. Results that would probably assist stem the autoimmune reactions that result in spinal twine harm in sufferers with a number of sclerosis.

As Holford and her crew navigate the brand new technological panorama, they’re additionally on the lookout for methods to simplify their course of. One innovation Holford is worked up about is organoids, on this case, venom glands grown independently in a laboratory. Rising organoids would make buying venom samples a lot simpler, she says, and wouldn’t require sacrificing an animal for the preliminary pattern. 

That’s particularly vital with local weather change and habitat loss fueling a looming biodiversity collapse that would take with it undiscovered venoms with the capability to heal. “In 10 years we’re heading towards this main shift that’s coming if we don’t change our attitudes and life-style,” she says. “We might lose a variety of issues on the planet which might be probably lifesaving.”

Findings could have future implications for precision medicine, lead to individualized treatments — ScienceDaily


As a clinician on the College of Missouri Thompson Middle for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Problems, David Beversdorf helps sufferers with autism spectrum dysfunction (ASD), a lot of whom may be battling gastrointestinal or digestive points, together with constipation and diarrhea. These signs are skilled by kids with ASD at the next charge than their neurotypical friends, though some people may not reply favorably to conventional remedies, corresponding to laxatives.

In a current research, Beversdorf collaborated with a researcher at Penn State College to establish particular RNA biomarkers linked with gastrointestinal points in kids with autism. The findings may assist sooner or later result in individualized remedies aimed toward easing the ache of those people.

Saliva samples have been collected from almost 900 kids, a few of whom had autism and skilled gastrointestinal disturbances, at a number of tutorial medical facilities throughout the nation. After analyzing the samples, the researchers recognized particular RNA biomarkers linked to kids who had autism and skilled gastrointestinal signs.

“We wished to grasp how a baby’s physique responds to the assorted micro organism residing within the mouth and decide if these interactions contribute to gastrointestinal signs,” stated Steve Hicks, an affiliate professor of pediatrics on the Penn State School of Medication, who collaborated with Beversdorf on the research. “By figuring out these particular microRNAs within the saliva of kids with autism, these molecules could function future targets for creating novel remedies or monitoring medicine effectiveness in kids with autism-related gastrointestinal circumstances.”

Beversdorf added that RNA have regulatory properties all through the human physique, and the particular RNA recognized within the research could have regulatory results on organic pathways associated to metabolism, digestion, melancholy and habit.

“It is a type of ‘rooster or the egg’ instances the place we nonetheless do not know if it’s the RNA probably contributing to the gastrointestinal points, or if the gastrointestinal points are inflicting the RNA to be expressed otherwise, however we’ve recognized a relationship, which will probably be helpful to additional discover going ahead,” stated Beversdorf, who additionally has appointments within the MU School of Arts and Science and MU Faculty of Medication. “This analysis can probably assist contribute to precision drugs sooner or later, the place we are able to observe kids with autism and gastrointestinal signs over an prolonged time frame and assess how they may reply to personalised remedies, with the final word purpose of lowering their signs and enhancing their high quality of life.”

“Saliva RNA biomarkers of gastrointestinal dysfunction in kids with autism and neurodevelopmental issues: Potential implications for precision drugs” was lately revealed in Frontiers in Psychiatry. Funding for the research was offered by the Nationwide Institutes of Well being. Co-authors on the research embody Kristin Sohl, David Levitskiy, Priscilla Tennant, Robin Goin-Kochel, Rebecca Shaffer, Alexandra Confair and Frank Middleton.

Highlighting the promise of personalised well being care and the impression of large-scale interdisciplinary collaboration, the NextGen Precision Well being initiative is bringing collectively innovators from throughout the College of Missouri and the UM System’s three different analysis universities in pursuit of life-changing precision well being developments. It is a collaborative effort to leverage the analysis strengths of Mizzou towards a greater future for Missouri’s well being. An vital a part of the initiative is its anchoring facility, the Roy Blunt NextGen Precision Well being constructing, opened in October 2021, which expands collaboration between researchers, clinicians and business leaders in a state-of-the-art analysis facility.

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