Cancer researchers push to relax rules for clinical trials

US government examines whether criteria for participating in drug studies unnecessarily exclude some people.

Nearly 20% of publicly funded cancer clinical trials in the United States fail because investigators are unable to enrol enough participants. Yet patients and their physicians often grow frustrated when they encounter the sometimes insurmountable requirements to join a study.

Now, researchers are pruning the lengthy lists of eligibility criteria for trials, in the hope of nixing unnecessary rules that might be hindering research. On 16 April, representatives of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will meet stakeholders in Washington DC to discuss how restrictive eligibility criteria for clinical trials could be limiting patients’ ability to access experimental treatments — and the quality of the data generated by the studies. The agency plans to use the information it gathers to develop guidelines for drug makers.

“You can have the greatest ideas and the greatest science,” says Stuart Lichtman, an oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. “But if no one goes on the study, what good is it?”

Eligibility requirements are typically intended to protect either the participant or the study. Participants with some degree of liver failure, for example, might not be allowed to take part in a trial of a drug thought to pose a risk to that organ. Criteria might also exclude people with conditions that could confound the results of a study.

But some researchers say that a ‘cut-and-paste’ mentality has increased clinical-trial requirements over time, as scientists have used previous trial protocols as templates for their next studies. That may needlessly restrict participation in a trial.

Fenced off

David Gerber, a lung-cancer specialist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, and his collaborators have found1 that 80% of clinical trials sponsored by the US National Cancer Institute excluded people with previous cancer diagnoses. Yet in many cases, he says, the previous cancer might have been caught early and removed successfully before the person developed lung cancer.

“What really frustrates me are instances when, in my mind and in my heart, it really seemed that the patients should be eligible,” says Gerber. “If I had the exact same treatment outside of a clinical trial, I would give it to them without a concern.”

A joint project by the FDA, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Alexandria, Virginia, and the advocacy group Friends of Cancer Research in Washington DC has found that five common criteria for cancer-trial eligibility often could be amended without harming participants or the integrity of the trial. The team published its results last October2.

People with HIV, for example, were once excluded from trials because of their poor prognosis. Now, with treatment, they often live as long as people without the virus and should be included in many cancer trials, the group concluded.

The team also recommended that in some cases, researchers should ease restrictions on people with organ dysfunction. That could be particularly important in light of the ageing populations in some countries, including the United States, says Lichtman. The restrictions were put in place when cancer treatments were more broadly toxic, he notes, and might not be necessary for the more targeted drugs available today.

Youth movement

One recommendation that could generate some controversy, he says, is a push to lower the age of eligibility for many adult cancer trials from 18 to 12. This reflects an understanding of basic drug metabolism, says Edward Kim, an oncologist at Atrium Health in Charlotte, North Carolina, who chaired the ASCO effort. “There is nothing magical about 18,” he says. “Your body pharmacologically metabolizes drugs the same way at age 12 as it does at age 18.”

But some adult-cancer physicians might feel uncomfortable treating younger people, and often that treatment takes place in specialized children’s hospitals, unlike adult clinical trials. Furthermore, most adolescent cancers are rare, and can differ from adult cancers — even when they start in the same organ. This means the change might have little impact on research overall, says paediatric oncologist Peter Adamson of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. But it could still help individual adolescents who might otherwise have been excluded from trials, he adds: “It’s the right thing to do.”

Kim and others are now working to see their changes implemented, and have submitted their suggestions to an influential programme that coordinates clinical development of new therapies at the US National Cancer Institute. Kim says he has been contacted by researchers at large pharmaceutical companies who are eager to make the changes in their upcoming trials. And Gerber, who has been asked to give talks on his analyses around the world, says that countries with aging populations — such as Japan and Italy — would do well to reevaluate their own clinical trial criteria.

The result, Kim says, could be data that are more relevant to the people whom he and his colleagues treat every day. “These patients have these characteristics and they’re going to be treated eventually by their doctors,” he says . “This is the real world.”

Nature 556, 12-13 (2018)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-03355-6
Archaeologists Have Found a Mysterious Bloody Massacre From 5th Century Sweden

Around 1,500 years ago, perhaps around 450 CE, unknown raiders stormed the small, prosperous village of Sandby borg on the shore of Öland island, and slaughtered the inhabitants, leaving the bodies where they fell.

Now, archaeologists in Sweden have stumbled upon this grisly mystery. With less than 7 percent of the site excavated, the research team, led by archaeologists Clara Alfsdotter, Ludvig Papmehl-Dufay and Helena Victor, has already found the remains of at least 26 bodies.

It doesn’t look like much now – just a grassy green mound ringed by an oval of rock, but it was once a thriving settlement.

The village was inside a ringfort not far from the shoreline, containing 50 or so homes circled by walls that stood 4 to 5 metres (13 to 16 feet) high. Around 200 to 250 people would have lived there.

At the time, the European Migration Period was underway, and it was an unstable, tumultuous time; but who killed the villagers and why remains a mystery nonetheless.

sandby borg layoutThe layout of Sandby borg. (Alfsdotter et al./Antiquity)

The dig team has only excavated three of the homes – but what they have found is deeply moving. The bodies exhibit signs of blunt force trauma, or supine positions that indicate they died suddenly, or were unconscious prior to death.

The remains of a five-year-old child and an infant just a few months old were also found, and two skeletons were partially charred – in a manner that indicates that the soft tissue was still present. Possibly they fell into fires, or a fire was started – either accidentally or on purpose.

One skeleton (pictured at the top of this article), of an adolescent no older than 15, had its feet resting on the abdomen of another skeleton, as though the young person had tripped, or fallen backwards over another body, never to get up again.

Bodies were also found in the streets, along with the remains of dogs and livestock, which could have starved to death, or also been killed in the attack. One house contained nine sets of human remains.

Historically, the people of the area cremated their dead. It all points to absolute carnage.

“You don’t find people lying around in houses,” Victor told the BBC. “[People] don’t do it today, and didn’t do it then.”

sandby borg broochesFive gilt brooches recovered from Sandby borg. (Alfsdotter et al./Antiquity)

Even more curious: the site is abundant with treasure. Gold coins, glass beads, gilded brooches, rings and silver pendants of high quality were found scattered. Everything except weapons.

Whoever sacked the Sandby borg village didn’t loot the site – except, perhaps, for potential weapons, which may have been taken as a trophy or tribute to the gods. It’s unknown whether the residents defended themselves – but it seems like they didn’t, the researchers said.

“Damage resembling common battle injuries, such as parry fractures or facial trauma, both typically produced when facing an opponent, has so far not been identified,” they wrote in their paper.

“This pattern leads us to conclude that the perpetrators comprised a large number of people, striking simultaneously in several houses, and that several of the victims were not in a position to defend themselves.”

Although the island at the time was populated by around 15 other ringfort villages, no one ever visited the site to loot the homes or inter the bodies. They remained where they fell, the village abandoned, until the roofs collapsed and the macabre scene was buried by time.

sandby borg siteSnadby borg prior to the excavations. (Kalmar County Museum)

Even to this day, whispers remain, although there’s no record, either written or oral, of the massacre. Local people, the researchers said, warned them to stay away from the site, vaguely inferring it was dangerous.

“I do find it most likely that the event was remembered and that it triggered strong taboos connected to the site, possibly brought on through oral history for centuries,” Papmehl-Dufay said.

The local Kalmar County Museum is featuring an exhibition of the excavation, and work on the site continues.

A paper detailing the team’s work so far can be read in the journal Antiquity.


Two common iron supplements may cause cancer

A new study finds that two iron compounds, which are used in supplements and food additives, raise levels of a cancer biomarker — even when consumed in low amounts.

The new research comes from the Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, in collaboration with the United Kingdom Medical Research Council and the University of Cambridge, also in the U.K.

The scientists — led by Nathalie Scheers, an assistant professor at the Chalmers University of Technology — explain that their research was prompted by older studies that showed that two compounds, called ferric citrate and ferric EDTA, promote tumors in mice.

But, these previous studies did not reveal “whether all forms of ‘bioavailable’ iron exacerbate gut cancer cells,” or whether different forms of iron display the same mechanism.

So, in the new study, Scheers and colleagues examined the effect of these two compounds on the growth of human colorectal cancer cells. Additionally, they tested another widely available iron compound called ferrous sulfate.

In their experiment, the researchers used levels of the compounds that might realistically be found in the gastrointestinal tract after taking the supplement.

To their knowledge, Scheers and colleagues are the first to study the effect of these compounds on human cells. The researchers published their findings in the journal Oncotarget.

Ferric citrate, EDTA may be carcinogenic

Scheers and her team used a range of techniques, including cell proliferation assays and Western blot analysis, to carry out their investigation.

The study revealed that even in low amounts, both ferric citrate and ferric EDTA raised cellular levels of a cancer biomarker called amphiregulin and its receptor. By contrast, ferrous sulfate had no such effect on the cells.

“[S]pecific iron compounds affect cell signaling differently, and some may increase the risk of colon cancer advancement in an amphiregulin-dependent fashion,” the authors write.

Scheers comments on the findings, saying, “We can conclude that ferric citrate and ferric EDTA might be carcinogenic, as they both increase the formation of amphiregulin, a known cancer marker most often associated with long-term cancer with poor prognosis.”

However, Scheers adds, “we must bear in mind that the study was done on human cancer cells cultured in the laboratory, since it would be unethical to do it in humans.”

“But, the possible mechanisms and effects observed still call for caution. They must be further investigated.”

The problem with iron supplements

Ferric citrate, often marketed as Auryxia, is a widely available iron supplement used to treat anemiain people with chronic kidney disease.

In some countries, ferric EDTA is sometimes added to cereals, flour, or powdered drinks. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of ferric EDTA as a food additive to a variety of sauces, including soy sauce, sweet and sour sauces, teriyaki, and fish sauce.

Iron supplements are used medically by pregnant women, people who have lost blood, and patients with chronic kidney disease, among others. The researchers warn that these groups of people might be at a higher risk of consuming harmful levels of the carcinogenic chemical.

The authors caution that consumers may find it difficult to discern between iron supplements because “[m]any stores and suppliers don’t actually state what kind of iron compound is present — even in pharmacies.”

“Usually, it just says ‘iron’ or ‘iron mineral,’ which is problematic for consumers,” Scheers adds. “Most importantly, researchers and authorities need to start to distinguish between this form of iron and that form of iron. We need to consider that different forms can have different biological effects.”

At the moment, people should still follow recommended medical advice. As a researcher, I cannot recommend anything — that advice needs to come from the authorities.”

Nathalie Scheers

“But, speaking personally, if I needed an iron supplement, I would try to avoid ferric citrate,” she concludes.

Source: DigiWire

Female sexual behavior in mice is controlled by kisspeptin neurons


Sexual behavior is essential for the survival of many species. In female rodents, mate preference and copulatory behavior depend on pheromones and are synchronized with ovulation to ensure reproductive success. The neural circuits driving this orchestration in the brain have, however, remained elusive. Here, we demonstrate that neurons controlling ovulation in the mammalian brain are at the core of a branching neural circuit governing both mate preference and copulatory behavior. We show that male odors detected in the vomeronasal organ activate kisspeptin neurons in female mice. Classical kisspeptin/Kiss1R signaling subsequently triggers olfactory-driven mate preference. In contrast, copulatory behavior is elicited by kisspeptin neurons in a parallel circuit independent of Kiss1R involving nitric oxide signaling. Consistent with this, we find that kisspeptin neurons impinge onto nitric oxide-synthesizing neurons in the ventromedial hypothalamus. Our data establish kisspeptin neurons as a central regulatory hub orchestrating sexual behavior in the female mouse brain.

Fig. 1


Female copulatory behaviors are exquisitely orchestrated by sex hormones in order to coincide with ovulation and thus to ensure the highest possible chance of fertilization1. Female rodents typically control the initiation and timing of copulatory contacts with males2. This is achieved by a succession of precopulatory behaviors bringing the female in contact with males and is driven by sexual motivation and mate preferences. Once in direct contact with the male, the female will display receptive behaviors, such as the lordosis posture, which is necessary for intromission. The neural circuits and the individual neurons underlying the coordination of sexual motivation and mate preference with ovulation have, however, remained elusive.

Mice are nocturnal animals and heavily rely on olfactory cues, such as pheromones, to identify potential mates3. Pheromones are detected and processed by a highly specialized neural circuit, the accessory olfactory system, which initiates in the vomeronasal organ (VNO) in the nasal septum. The vomeronasal pathway runs in parallel to the main olfactory system originating in the main olfactory epithelium (MOE). The accessory olfactory system has been functionally linked to a range of innate behaviors including reproduction4,5,6,7,8. How exactly pheromones impinge on both reproductive physiology and behavior has only recently begun to emerge. Signals triggered by pheromones in the neuroepithelium of the VNO are transmitted to gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons in the reproductive center of the neuroendocrine brain9. GnRH neurons are located in the preoptic area of the anterior hypothalamus and control the hypothalamus–pituitary gonadal axis by releasing the GnRH peptide from axon terminals in the median eminence10. GnRH then acts on gonadotrope cells in the anterior pituitary to trigger secretion of the gonadotropins; luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). LH and FSH in turn regulate sex hormone production (i.e., estradiol in females and testosterone in males) and the maturation of the gametes. In rodents, pheromones are known to modulate GnRH neuronal activity in a sex-dependent manner11,12. Exposure to female pheromones activates GnRH neurons in male mice consequently leading to a LH/testosterone surge, and vice versa male pheromones induce LH release in female mice13.

Sex hormones provide gonadal feedback to the brain; however, GnRH neurons do not express the appropriate steroid hormone receptors and are thus not direct targets of this feedback regulation10. Instead, gonadal sex steroid feedback is indirectly relayed to GnRH neurons. One critical neuronal population relaying sex steroid feedback to GnRH neurons lies in the rostral periventricular area of the third ventricle (RP3V) of the hypothalamus and produces the neuropeptide kisspeptin. Kisspeptin is a potent stimulator of GnRH neuronal activity (acting via its receptor Kiss1R, also known as GPR54)14,15 and controls ovulation by driving the LH surge16,17. RP3V kisspeptin neurons display a profound sexual dimorphism with greater neuron numbers in female than in male mice18 consistent with a pivotal role of these cells in female reproduction.

We recently found that the RP3V kisspeptin neuronal population in female mice is specifically activated by male but not by female pheromones19, raising the possibility that these neurons serve reproductive functions in addition to providing estradiol feedback to GnRH neurons. To dissect the functional role of RP3V kisspeptin neurons in reproduction, we applied a combination of complementary genetic strategies. We demonstrate that the RP3V kisspeptin neuronal population is necessary for the expression of both male-directed mate preference and lordosis behavior using specific viral-based cell ablation techniques and optogenetic stimulation. We then analyzed the neural circuitry downstream of RP3V kisspeptin neurons and found that mutant mice lacking GnRH secretion in adulthood also failed to show any male-directed preference. These data suggest that kisspeptin neurons act through GnRH neurons to trigger olfactory-driven mate preferences in female mice. In contrast, lordosis behavior did not depend on GnRH neurons downstream of RP3V kisspeptin neurons. To dissect the downstream neural circuitry-mediating lordosis in female mice, we then employed a combination of genetic transsynaptic tracing and viral tract tracing from RP3V kisspeptin neurons. We found that a subset of neurons in the ventrolateral part of the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMHvl) that express nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) and are communicating with kisspeptin neurons. Consistent with the idea that nitric oxide (NO) is a key neurotransmitter downstream of kisspeptin neurons, female mice deficient in nNOS showed a strong decrease in lordosis behavior. Taken together, our results demonstrate that kisspeptin governs both mate preference and sexual motivation in female mice, indicating that sexual behavior and ovulation are coordinated by the same neuropeptide.

See full article 

Study reveals how bacteria communicate in groups to avoid antibiotics

In a new study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC), researchers from the University of Notre Dame and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have found that the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a pathogen that causes pneumonia, sepsis and other infections, communicates distress signals within a group of bacteria in response to certain antibiotics. This communication was found to vary across the colony and suggests that this bacterium may develop protective behaviors that contribute to its ability to tolerate some antibiotics.

“There is a general lack of understanding about how communities of bacteria, like the opportunistic pathogen P. aeruginosa, respond to antibiotics,” said Nydia Morales-Soto, senior research scientist in civil and environmental engineering and earth sciences (CEEES) at the University of Notre Dame and lead author of the paper. “Most of what we know is from studies about stationary biofilm communities, whereas less is known about the process beforehand when bacteria are colonizing, spreading and growing. In this study, our research team specifically reviewed the behavior of bacteria during this period and what that may mean for antibiotic resistance.”

The reported behavior was caused by tobramycin, an antibiotic commonly used in clinical settings, and resulted in a dual signal response. As this antibiotic was applied to a colony of P. aeruginosa, the bacteria produced a signal to a localized area of the colony—a Pseudomonas quinolone signal (PQS) that is known to occur—as well as a second, community-wide response, known as the alkyl hydroxyquinoline (AQNO).

The team mapped production of each response spatially, and determined that P. aeruginosa is capable of producing PQS in small pockets at significantly higher concentrations than previously recorded. These findings helped secure the paper’s selection as a JBC “Editor’s Pick,” a recognition only given to the top 2 percent of manuscripts published in the journal for a given year.

The study showed that PQS and AQNO are independently regulated responses that are intentionally communicating different messages. Additionally, this means the bacteria type may have some capability to protect the colony from some external toxins while the bacteria are still in a colonizing phase.

“Although the AQNO response identified in the paper is a stress-dependent behavior, it is such a new chemical message that it has not yet been definitively labeled as a signal. Although, based on our findings, we believe it is,” said Joshua Shrout, associate professor of CEEES and concurrent associate professor of biological sciences at the University of Notre Dame and co-author of the paper. “Regardless, this work opens a new window into understanding P. aeruginosa behavior and potentially how this bacterium promotes tolerance to antibiotics.”

The study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, was able to identify a unique bacterial behavioral response because of the team’s distinctive research method. The group utilized both Raman spectroscopy and mass spectrometry to complete a deliberate analysis, pixel by pixel, from hundreds of thousands of pixels in their chemical images. This detailed process is what allowed the researchers to identify the two distinct chemical responses of the bacteria to tobramycin, which can be otherwise easily missed. The method is also a unique process developed by this specific team of researchers.

Provided by:
University of Notre Dame

More information:
Nydia Morales-Soto et al. Spatially-dependent alkyl quinolone signaling responses to antibiotics inPseudomonas aeruginosaswarms. Journal of Biological Chemistry (2018). DOI: 10.1074/jbc.RA118.002605

Credit: CC0 Public Domain


Telomerase discovery paves way for drugs to combat aging and cancer

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have published the first detailed image of the molecular structure of human telomerase, the enzyme that lengthens chromosomes and extends the lifespan of a cell.

Telomerase adds short regions of DNA called telomeres to the ends of chromosomes, which prevent the loss of genetic material during cellular replication.

Telomerase is inactive in most adult cells, meaning telomeres shorten during our lifetime. It is thought that the shortening of telomeres could be responsible for aging. Reactivation of telomerase can be seen in cancer, allowing cells to proliferate uncontrollably.

The discovery of telomerase at UC Berkeley more than 30 years ago triggered enormous interest in the role the enzyme plays in aging and cancer and sparked efforts to manufacture drugs that can activate or block it.

Although neither anti-aging or anti-cancer drugs have yet emerged, the image of the enzyme that has now been produced should kick-start the process and enable more targeted drug screening and improved drug design.

It has been a long time coming. It took a lot of persistence.” – – Kathleen Collins, Co-Senior Author

One hurdle has been the difficulty in obtaining pure samples of this complex enzyme, which has an RNA backbone with six types of protein that add DNA to chromosome ends.

Researchers worldwide have disagreed over whether the enzyme operates singly or as conjoined proteins, as well as how many proteins add the DNA.

Without definitive answers to these questions, it has been difficult to design drugs that can target the enzyme to either destroy it and stop cancer or restart the enzyme, which may trigger rapid cell division following a bone transplant, for example.

Co-senior author Kelly Nguyen says the structure, which is published in Nature, still lacks final detail, but together with the knowledge about its gene sequence, it should provide enough information for researchers to start considering potential drug targets.

Collins has been trying to determine the structure ever since the first human telomerase protein was discovered in 1997 and is looking forward to discovering more about the assembly of one of the most complex enzymes in the body.

Can microbes manipulate our minds?

Katerina Johnson (Department of Experimental Psychology) and Kevin Foster (Department of Zoology) assessed data from studies on the gut-brain axis to suggest how ‘that gut feeling’ evolved.

Research has shown that gut bacteria (especially species belonging to Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium) can influence social behaviour, anxiety, stress and depressive-like behaviour. Katerina explained: “We know there are numerous possible mechanisms, including communication via the vagus nerve (major nerve linking the gut and brain), the immune system and hormonal changes, as well as the production of neuroactive chemicals by gut microbes. But why should we expect gut bacteria to affect behaviour at all?” In their paper, Johnson and Foster consider the evolutionary pressures that may have led to ‘that gut feeling’.

One theory gaining momentum is that members of the gut microbiome actively manipulate our behaviour for their own benefit. For instance, gut bacteria might change our behaviour in ways that make us more sociable to increase their likelihood of transmission to new hosts. Indeed, it is intriguing that numerous species of gut bacteria can produce chemicals of identical structure to our brain’s own neurotransmitters (or their precursors). However, in light of evolutionary theory, the authors suggest this scenario, that our brains are manipulated by our microbes, is very unlikely given the immense diversity of microbial species and strains inhabiting the gut.

Professor Foster explained: ‘Any extra energetic cost invested by bacteria producing a neuroactive chemical to manipulate host behaviour would make it very vulnerable to being outcompeted by other microbes not making this additional investment. The conditions favouring manipulation appear rarely satisfied by the genetically diverse ecosystem of the mammalian microbiome.’

Katerina commented: ‘Rather than viewing our microbial companions as puppeteers manipulating our behaviour, instead we suggest that the behavioural effects of gut microbes are more likely a result of natural selection on microbes to grow and compete in the gut, and natural selection on hosts to depend on their microbes. Microbial growth gives rise to metabolic by-products such as short-chain fatty acids known to affect brain function and microbial metabolites can also interact with our immune response.

‘In addition, our physiology may have adapted to make use of our associated microbes. Similar to the ‘hygiene hypothesis’, which posits that an absence of microbes impairs immune system development, we propose that we may have evolved to depend on our microbes for normal brain function, such that a change in our gut microbiome could have effects on behaviour.’

Johnson and Foster suggest that an understanding of the evolution of gut-brain communication may help us to effectively engineer this microbial ecosystem with potential benefits for mental health and well-being.

The full paper can be read in Nature Reviews Microbiology.


The Hottest Sex Research of 2018

Some scientific studies have the tendency to be, well, a little dry. (We should know—we read thousands of them every year!) But when it comes to sex research, there’s rarely a dull moment. So we combed through our arsenal of bizarre data and useful tips to bring you the best sex and relationship nuggets of 2012. Read up and get your sexy on.

1. Lube is your secret weapon.
Men who add extra lubrication to their condoms during intercourse tend to last longer in the sack, according to a study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine. Why it ups your stamina isn’t 100 percent clear, but study author Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., the Men’s Health Sex Professor, tells that women have also reported sex to be more pleasurable and satisfying when they use lubricant during sex. The main takeaway: The wetter the better.
Read the full story: The Simple Way to Last Longer in Bed

2. Her sex drive is on the rise.
Great news for married men everywhere: Women’s sexual satisfaction increases with age, says a study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine. Researchers asked more than 800 women over 40 years old about their recent sexual activity, desire, and satisfaction in the bedroom. The results: Not only were the women more satisfied with their sex lives, but nearly 70 percent were consistently reaching orgasm. The researchers suggest women tend to become more comfortable with their bodies and open about their sexual desires as time passes.
Read the full story: Ignite Your Sex Drive

3. Foreplay isn’t just for women.
Men who don’t frequently engage in sexual touching with their partner have more than twice the odds of experiencing erectile problems, according to a new study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. Researchers surveyed 1,352 people about how much touching they did—i.e. kissing, hugging, and caressing—and whether or not they’ve had any issues reaching climax, maintaining an erection, or becoming aroused. Turns out, both women and men experienced issues when there was a lack of hands-on fun. The connection: Foreplay is equally critical for guys because it facilitates arousal, study author Adena Galinsky, Ph.D., a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Chicago, tells
Read the full story: The Crucial Bedroom Move You’re Forgetting

4. Walnuts strengthen your swimmers.
Eating just 75 grams of walnuts a day—roughly a handful—can improve the quality of your semen, according to a report in the journal Biology of Reproduction. Researchers monitored 117 healthy men, asking half to incorporate 75 grams of walnuts into their diets. After 3 months, the guys who ate walnuts saw an improvement in the shape of their sperm, as well as the movement and vitality of their swimmers. Researchers credit the alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)—a natural plant source of omega-3—in walnuts for the extra boost.
Read the full story: The Food That Strengthens Your Sperm

5. Her sex toys aren’t your replacement.
Afraid her sex toys will steal your thunder? Don’t be. Most women say using a vibrator doesn’t make them depend on it for pleasure, according to new research from Indiana University. About three-quarters of women also say that vibrators make partnered sex more exciting and can help them climax more easily. “Don’t just spring a vibrator on her though,” says Herbenick. Ask which toys she’s open to, and you’ll seem sexy and thoughtful.

6. She’s cool with one-night stands (if it’s good).
Say goodbye to the walk of shame. Women are less likely to regret random hookups if the sex was satisfying, according to a new Canadian study. Researchers interviewed women about uncommitted sexual encounters and found that bad sex was associated with disappointment, embarrassment, and guilt. Good sex, on the other hand, rarely led to regret. “Orgasmic sex causes the release of oxytocin, which promotes bonding,” study author Maryanne Fisher, Ph.D, tells Men’s Health. This could lead her to believe it’s the start of a relationship. Using a condom may also reduce her regret, says Fisher. (And yours, naturally.)

7. Your sleeping style can bring you X-rated dreams.
Want hotter dreams? A study published in the journal Dreaming suggests that it may be as easy as switching up your sleeping style. Researchers surveyed 670 people about their sleeping posture, personality, and typical dream experiences and found that people who sleep face down on their stomach with their arms stretched above their head tend to have more sexual dreams. What gives? The researchers are still trying to find reason behind this kinky link, but they assume it could be due to constricted breathing and stimulation as your junk is pressed against the bed sheets.
Read the full story: Sleep Like THIS—Dream About Sex

8. Your buddies are killing your erection.
If your girlfriend is forming friendships with your bros, it may be ruining your sex life. Cornell researchers asked more than 3,000 men to ballpark how much their significant others talked with their buddies, and almost a quarter reported that their partners chatted with their friends more than they did. The results: Those men were 92 percent more likely to report trouble getting an erection than the guys who spent more time with their buds. The connection: When your partner talks to your friends more than you do, it can be a threat to masculinity, sense of control, and lead to resentment because you can end up feeling isolated by both parties. And all of these elements affect your sex drive, lead researcher Benjamin Cornwell, a professor at Cornell University, tells
Read the full story: The Surprising Thing That Kills Your Sex Drive

9. She’s thinking about you—like that
A woman’s sexual fantasies tend to be recurring and are often triggered by someone she knows, according to a study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. One popular theme: “Most women reported fantasies in which their partner was so turned on he had to have sex with her on the spot,” study author Samantha Dawson, Ph.D., tells Other prominent themes were foreplay, bondage, and chivalry. Curious what your girlfriend imagines doing with you? Ask her to write down her fantasies as they occur. Doing this may make her more aware of her desires—and can help you fulfill them, says Dawson.

10. Facebook could be ruining your love life.
Staying connected to an ex on Facebook can halt your recovery from the breakup and stunt your personal growth, according to a new study in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. Not having enough self-control—plus a persistent need to seek out information on Facebook—leaves you permanently bitter from the breakup, lead study author Tara C. Marshall, Ph.D., a psychologist at Brunel University in England, tells
Read the full story: The #1 Person You Need to Unfriend on Facebook

11. Exercise gets her off.
Core workouts can trigger orgasms in women, says a study published in the journal Sexual and Relationship Therapy. You read that right: In a study at Indiana University, over half of 530 women surveyed copped to experiencing an exercise-induced orgasm or exercise-induced sexual pleasure during a workout. What’s more, the majority of the women admitted they weren’t even daydreaming about sex while working up a sweat, says Herbenick, lead author of the study. And although researchers can’t exactly explain the awesome phenomenon, they do know that many of these orgasms took place when women’s abdominal muscles were being utilized.
Read the full story: The Coregasm Workout

12. The G-spot is real. (Er, maybe?)
Earlier this year, groundbreaking research was published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine revealing the first physical evidence that the G-spot does, in fact, exist. Study author Adam Ostrzenski, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of gynecology at Florida International University, performed a vaginal wall dissection on a fresh cadaver and discovered a cluster of erectile tissue deep in the front vaginal wall. According to Ostrzenski, the G-spot is actually much lower in the vagina than previously believed—about half an inch from the urethral opening. But keep in mind: This is only one study on one (dead) woman. Future research will be needed to replicate the findings and confirm if the mass of erectile tissue is tied to pleasure at all. So while the rest of the research community untangles this new information, our standard advice still holds: listen to her, explore, and ask her what feels good.
Read the full story: BREAKING: Scientist Says He’s Found the G-Spot

Source: JournalGazett

Scientists literally brought out the big gun to study the origins of water

Water is everywhere on our planet. If it’s not crashing against the shore, it’s pounding on the roof, or dripping from the faucet, or pooling right in that spot where you just stepped. But how did all that water get here?

It’s a question that has preoccupied planetary scientists for years. Did planets like Earth, Mars, Venus, and Mercury form dry out of the dust and heat of the inner solar system, only to be drenched in water delivered from ice-laden comets later on? Or did drier asteroids and asteroid collisions bring the wet stuff?

“Water is critical to life as we know it, and it’s also essential to the evolution of planets. Water changes the way rocks behave, so the timing of when water arrives on Earth really affects its geological evolution,” says Terik Daly, a planetary geologist. “We’ve known for awhile that asteroids and comets carry water, and that’s probably how water came to Earth. But the details of that process have kind of been a black box.”

Computer models are starting to give us answers to those questions. But the models only go so far. To really understand how this water delivery system works, you need to watch it happen. But meteorite strikes are notoriously unpredictable, so researchers decided to create their own with the help of a super-sized gun at NASA’s Ames Research Center. The research, led by Daly, was just published in this week’s Science Advances.

“Impact models tell us that impactors should completely devolatilize at many of the impact speeds common in the solar system, meaning all the water they contain just boils off in the heat of the impact,” study co-author and geoscientist Pete Schultz said in a statement. “But nature has a tendency to be more interesting than our models, which is why we need to do experiments.”

vertical gun

The Ames Vertical Gun Range as it looked in the 1960’s. The gun (center) is used to fire tiny pellets into a surface at speeds resembling a collision between asteroids.

NASA built the Ames Vertical Gun Range in the 1960s to help researchers working on the Apollo program who were trying to figure out what the surface of the moon was like. Scientists still use it to slam things together in order to get a real-world look at what is typically only modeled by computers.

To simulate a water-rich asteroid slamming into the surface of another asteroid, the team fired pellets of rock no larger than a bb pellet into a thin bed of pumice powder. Pumice is a glass that forms when lava cools very quickly, and the powdery substance might be similar to the surface of an asteroid. They superheated the pumice for an hour and a half at temperatures over 1500 degrees Fahrenheit to bake off any water within.

Delivering the water to this dry powder were pellets of serpentine, a mineral found on Earth that already has plenty of water tied into its molecular structure—it’s also found in meteorites called carbonaceous chondrites.

The vertical gun is loaded, the tray of ultra-dried pumice lined up underneath it, and then… bang! It’s all over in a second.

The serpentine pellet slams into the pumice surface at over 11,000 miles per hour, tearing through the thin mylar tray holding it up. Bits of the rock fly apart, and the impact is enough to melt parts of both the rock and pumice, creating a glass. And that glass held water.

Instead of simply boiling off in the impact, some of the water stuck around. Part of it stayed trapped in bits of the projectile blown apart as it hit the pumice surface, but plenty of it got mixed in with the molten glass. If that had been a real asteroid impact, it means that there would still be plenty of water delivered to the target.

pumice glass

Samples of glass created during the experiments.

Terik Daly

The results only show how an asteroid impacting another asteroid would have looked, not an asteroid impacting a larger object like the Earth or Moon. To simulate those impacts would require vastly more powerful equipment, but this tells us a lot about how this process might operate on larger bodies.

“The experiments that we do in the lab are small and planets and asteroids are very big. But we take what we see in the lab and we try to understand that very well, and we take what we know about how impacts operate at large scales and use those principles to guide the results of how we interpret those experiments,” Daly says.

For example, the geoscientists know that on the Moon the impact speeds are a lot higher than what they do in the lab. And they also know that impacts that happen at higher speeds produce more melted material. If the impact melt on the Moon traps water in the same way as the melt in the experiments, then the experimental mechanisms should hold up on even larger scales.

Ideally, Daly and colleagues would like to take a closer look at asteroids in the solar system with signatures of water on their surface, to see if the percentage of water trapped there matches their experimental results. It could help researchers understand some of the basic dynamics of the solar system today, and also give some insights into how our solar system and planet formed.

“The whole question of the origin of water and where it came from and how it got here is really essential to understanding the formation and evolution of Earth, and on the largest scale, how it got to be the place where we are today,” Daly says.


First Case of Sexually Transmitted Zika Has Been Reported in The US

A new report suggests that Zika virus has been sexually transmitted between two people in Texas. If confirmed, this will be the first evidence of the virus being spread through sexual contact in the US, and only the second such case worldwide.

Zika virus is usually transmitted by mosquitoes, but last year a team of medical researchers confirmed that the virus could also be passed on sexually. And now the Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS) suggests the same thinghas caused one individual, who hadn’t travelled outside the US, to become infected. The individual’s partner had recently returned from Venezuela.

“A person who recently traveled to an area with Zika virus transmission returned to the United States and developed Zika-like symptoms,” the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told the media. “The person later tested positive for Zika, along with their sexual partner, who had not traveled to the area.”

Researchers still need to confirm exactly how this new case was transmitted, but the evidence suggests that the person who travelled to Venezuela brought back the infection and then spread it to their partner via semen.

“We don’t believe this was spread through mosquito bites,” Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC, told the BBC. “We do believe it was spread through a sexual contact.”

Health officials are now cautioning people exposed to the virus to be extra careful.

“Now that we know Zika virus can be transmitted through sex, this increases our awareness campaign in educating the public about protecting themselves and others,” said Zachary Thompson, the director of the DCHHS. “Next to abstinence, condoms are the best prevention method against any sexually-transmitted infections.”

Regardless of how this case spread, this is the first time we know of that the virus has been transmitted within mainland US – all other cases were caught overseas.

For most people, Zika virus doesn’t cause much worse than a week of rash, fever, and conjunctivitis. But in pregnant women, the virus has been linked to a condition called microcephaly, which causes babies to be born with abnormally small skulls and potentially severe brain damage.

To be clear, this link hasn’t been confirmed, but the evidence is so strong, and the implications are so serious, the World Health Organisation upgraded the outbreak to a global public health emergency earlier this week – something it’s only done on three other occasions. There is currently no vaccine and no treatment for Zika.

The good news in all of this is there’s still no evidence of the virus being transmitted by mosquitoes in the US, or anywhere outside these 28 countries and territories. But that list is continuously being updated and added to by the CDC. Today, two cases of Zika were confirmed in Australia, in individuals who had recently returned from the Caribbean.

“Based on what we know now, the best way to avoid Zika virus infection is to prevent mosquito bites AND to avoid exposure to semen from someone who has been exposed to Zika,” the CDC told The Guardian.

Expectant mothers are also being advised not to travel to regions with active Zika virus transmission, and in some of the most affected regions, such as Brazil, women are being asked to postpone planned pregnancies if possible. In the central American country of El Salvador, officials have asked females not to get pregnant until 2018.

Source: Science Alert