Posts tagged with "Stanford University"

A cure for the common cold? Stanford-UCSF researchers are close

October 15, 2019

Disabling a single, apparently noncritical protein in cells may deter the replication of viruses known to cause 50% f all common colds—as well as polio, asthma, encephalitis, and other diseases—according to researchers at Stanford University and UC-San Francisco.

Few of us escape without catching at least one rhinovirus during the winter—when germs breed freely in closed environments. There are roughly 160 known types of rhinovirus, which helps to explain why getting a cold doesn’t stop you from getting another one a month later. Making matters worse, rhinoviruses are highly mutation-prone and, as a result, quick to develop drug resistance, as well as to evade the immune surveillance brought about by previous exposure or a vaccine.

The recent academic findings about cold prevention were made in human cell cultures and in mice.

“Our grandmas have always been asking us, ‘If you’re so smart, why haven’t you come up with a cure for the common cold?’”said Jan Carette, associate professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford. “Now we have a new way to do that.”

In a study published online in the September 16 edition of Nature Microbiology, Carette and his associates found a way to stop a broad range of enteroviruses, including rhinoviruses, from replicating inside human cells in culture, as well as in mice. They accomplished this feat by disabling a protein in mammalian cells tha tall enteroviruses appear to need in order to replicate. 

Carette shares senior authorship with Or Gozani, MD, PhD, professor of biology at Stanford and the Dr. Morris Herzstein Professor of Biology; Raul Andino, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology at UCSF; and Nevan Krogan, PhD, professor of cellular and molecular pharmacology at UCSF. The lead authors are former Stanford graduate student Jonathan Diep, PhD, and Stanford postdoctoral scholars Yaw Shin Ooi, PhD, and Alex Wilkinson, PhD.

Research contact: @Stanford

Showing your true colors: What you didn’t know about gray hair

November 8, 2018

Some people don’t turn a hair when they start going gray; others run straight for the colorist. But for those who embrace the natural look, there is good news. According to AARP, “Gray hair is having a moment. Now more than ever, women are feeling empowered to embrace their natural roots as they age.”

And while the advocacy group for those over 50 does not mention men, they, too, have stopped shunning those silver streaks.

What started the trend? Maybe there is just strength in numbers, as Baby Boomers begin to show their age: By 2029, fully 20% of the U.S. population will be over the age of 65.

Now, as millions of Americans dump the dye and go for authenticity, Good Housekeeping has posted a story on the “root causes” and recommended care of your newly metallic mane.

1. Normal aging is the biggest culprit. Okay, no surprise here, the lifestyle magazine says. Dermatologists call this the 50-50-50 rule. “Fifty percent of the population has about 50% gray hair at age 50,” Dr. Anthony Oro, a professor of Dermatology at Stanford University, told Good Housekeeping. And like skin, hair changes its texture with age, says Dr. Heather Woolery Lloyd, director of Ethnic Skin Care at the University of Miami School of Medicine.

2. Your ethnicity makes a difference. Caucasians tend to go gray earlier—and redheads, the earliest of all. Then Asians. Then African-Americans. Scientists haven’t figured out why yet.

3. Stress seems to play a role. “Stress won’t cause you to go gray directly,” says Roopal Kundu, an associate professor in Dermatology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “But stress is implicated in a lot of skin and hair issues.” During an illness, for example, people can shed hair rapidly. And hair you lose after a stressful event—such as a course of chemotherapy—may grow back a different color.

4. Lifestyle makes a difference. Smoking, for example, stresses your skin and hair. “Low vitamin B12 levels are notorious for causing loss of hair pigment,” says Karthik Krishnamurthy, director of the Dermatology Center’s Cosmetic Clinic at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

5. Hair and its color are separate things. Hair stem cells make hair, and pigment-forming stem cells create pigment. Typically, they work together—but either can wear out, sometimes prematurely. Researchers are trying to determine whether a medicine, or something you could put on your scalp, could slow the graying process.

6. Your hair basically bleaches itself. You may be familiar with hydrogen peroxide as a way to go blonde, but it’s also the way we go gray. According to a 2009 study conducted by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, hydrogen peroxide naturally occurs in our hair follicles, and as we age, it builds up. This build-up blocks the production of melanin, which forms our hair’s pigment.

7. Your hair doesn’t turn gray—it grows that way. A single hair grows for one to three years; then you shed it—and grow a new one. As you age, your new hair is more likely to be white. “Every time the hair regenerates, you have to re-form these pigment-forming cells, and they wear out,” says Stanford’s Oro.

8. Gray hair isn’t coarser than colored hair. Gray hair actually is finer than colored hair, but it may seem drier because our scalps produce less oil as we get older. Another reason? Your hair may also ‘feel’ coarser if you pull out your first few grey hairs, because constant pulling-out of hair can distort your follicles.

Finally, the experts say, gray hair turns yellow in the sun. Wear a hat, or spray on a hair sunscreen to keep those silver strands at their best.

Research contact: @karenspringen

‘Swipe right to sue’: Now you can file lawsuits using a smartphone app

October 18, 2018

A new legal-services app enables users to sue just about anyone with their smartphones and to claim awards from class-action lawsuits, much in the same way they would select a match on Tinder —with a quick “swipe right to sue,” the Washington Post reported on October 16.

The app, dubbed DoNotPay, launched this week and already has been downloaded more than 10,000 times, according to creator and founder Joshua Browder—a 21-year-old senior at Stanford University who has been labeled the “Robin Hood of the Internet” by the BBC.

As an 18-year-old, Browder first created a chatbot— a computer program that conducts a conversation via auditory or textual method—that helped drivers to challenge parking tickets in New York, London, and Seattle.

Following that successful trial, he developed another bot to help people sue consumer credit reporting agency Equifax last year, after a data breach left 143 million American consumers vulnerable to identity theft.

He told the Post this week that he came up with the idea for his latest project—available and working in all 50 states —after a number of people used DoNotPay to recoup as much as $11,000 from Equifax, even after the credit reporting agency appealed the suit.

The updates to the “robot lawyer app’ introduced this week allow users to sue a defendant for up to $25,000, the Post reports.

“I think people are really upset with how the legal system works,” Browder said in an interview with the news outlet “Lawyers say this app isn’t necessary, but if your issue is below $10,000, no lawyer is going to help, and if they do they’re going to take 50 percent of what you make.”

“The most popular claims so far involve a merchant breaching a contract, such as United Airlines kicking someone off a flight,” Browder noted. “There [are] a large number of negligence suits, which is very interesting.”

How exactly does the app work?

Once opened, the app tells users they can sue anyone by pressing a button. The app then asks several questions about the nature of the filing, as well as users’ name and location, before asking the user to fill in the amount for which they plan to sue.

After directing the claim into one of 15 separate legal lanes —from automobile accident to recovering personal property—DoNotPay provides the documents necessary to file the suit—among them, a demand letter, county filing documents, and even a strategic script to read in court. Users print out the documents and mail them to the relevant courthouse, setting the lawsuit in motion.

The app can also analyze a user’s receipts and email, and display all the class-action lawsuit settlements they’re eligible for, Browder told the Post.

“In true millennial fashion, the user can then swipe right on lawsuits that interest them (or left if not) and DoNotPay will instantly claim the funds,” he added.

The app is free, and users are allowed to keep any money they recoup. However, if the app offers more specialized services in the future, Browder said, it is possible that they will come with a price tag.

Research contact: Browder@stanford.edu

Enthusiasm cools among employers for Summer Friday perks

May 29, 2018

Last Friday, many Americans hustled out of the office a little early to get their Memorial Day mojo going. However, while employers likely turned a blind eye to that particular holiday exodus, they won’t be so amenable on many weekends this summer. Based on several surveys, companies are cutting back on Summer Fridays this year, Mic reported on May 24.

New York City Staffing company OfficeTeam found that the number of employers offering the perk had declined precipitously— from 63% in 2012 to just 20% last year.  And that’s a shame, they said, because fully 30% of employees think leaving early for the weekend is the best of all office perks.

According to Gallup, the number of employees who are completely satisfied with their hours is actually trending down. In fact, a 2014 Gallup poll found that the 40-hour work week is no longer even close to operative; most office workers are at their desks for 47 hours a week, if not more.

But those longer hours don’t necessarily lead to greater productivity: A CNBC report in 2015 cited a Stanford University study that showed that “employee output falls after a 50-hour work week—and  sharply falls off a cliff after 55 hours.”

Worse yet, fully 40% of workers already are approaching that cliff, according to Gallup, and 20% of full-time workers log more than 60 hours per week.

Yet, based on a study conducted by the Harvard University School of Public Health, stress-related productivity loss amounts to about $30 billion for employers each year.

As Mic points out, employees are simply counting down the clock on Friday afternoons anyway, so why not let them go?

Of course, summer Fridays aren’t going to be an easy solution for every workforce, Mic writer James Dennin admits.

“But,” says Dennin,”the case is clear that Americans are overworked, office closures are the best way to get workers to take time off—and the best time to close an office is when it’s warm and sunny outside.”

Research contact: jdennin@mic.com