Posts tagged with "University of Texas"

L-shaped suction-and-swallow drinking straw device cures 92% of hiccups attacks, scientists say

June 22, 2021

From holding your breath, to breathing into a paper bag, there seem to be a plethora of  cures for hiccups—none of which works 100% of the time. Now scientists at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio say they have found a better solution—a drinking straw device, The Guardian reports.

But what exactly are these strange (and sometimes loud) noises that most of us make—much to our own embarrassment and the amusement of others?

When you get hiccups—or singultus as they are known in medicine –the diaphragm and intercostal muscles suddenly contract. The subsequent abrupt intake of air causes the opening between the vocal folds—known as the glottis— to shut, resulting the socially dreaded “hic” sound.

However, now researchers think they have found a device that will cut hiccups short in over 90% of cases—and do it quickly, according to The Guardian.

Called “the forced inspiratory suction and swallow tool” (FISST), and patented as HiccAway, the $14 plastic device is a rigid L-shaped straw that has a mouthpiece at one end and an adjustable cap with a pressure valve, in the form of a small hole, at the other. Hiccuping people place the device into a glass of water and use it to sip.

The idea is that the enhanced suction required to draw water up through the device requires the phrenic nerve to trigger a contraction of the diaphragm, while the subsequent swallow involves activation of the vagus nerve, among others. As these two nerves are responsible for the hiccups in the first place, the researchers say keeping them busy stops them from causing the unwanted phenomenon.

 “It works instantly and the effect stays for several hours,” Dr Ali Seifi, associate professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, and a co-author of the study, said.

To evaluate the device. the team analyzed responses from 249 volunteers— more than two-thirds of whom said they had hiccups at least once a month.

Published in the journal JAMA Network Open, the results reveal that the device stopped hiccups in almost 92% of cases. Just over 90% of participants said they found it more convenient than other home remedies, while 183 of 203 participants said it gave better results. The authors say the results held across all demographics, hiccup frequencies and hiccup durations.

However the study has limitations, including that it did not include a control group and was based on self-reported results.

Dr. Rhys Thomas, a consultant neurologist and epilepsy neuroscientist at Newcastle University, who was not involved in the study, said the device was likely to work and was COVID-safe as it did not require input from others.

But he added: “I think this is a solution to a problem that nobody has been asking for,” noting there were other effective and low-cost options, including his own favourite approach of plugging both ears tightly, while drinking a glass of water through a normal straw.

“Anything that allows you to inflate your chest and swallow will work–the key down the back, the ‘boo!’ and the fingers in the ears will do that to a certain degree – and then this [device], if it allows you to have a long, slow swallow, will be a pretty potent way of doing that,” said Thomas, adding another approach was to drink from a glass backwards.

“If you are prepared for the fact you’ll end up wearing some of it, that is my second favorite option,” he said.

Research contact: @guardian

Gut feelings: Happiness may guard against deadly gastrointestinal infections

June 16, 2020

Those who are blessed with good cheer also are apt to have good digestion. In fact, researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas have found evidence that serotonin—the brain chemical responsible for feelings of happiness and well–being—may stop harmful intestinal pathogens from causing deadly infections, Study Finds reports.

Serotonin is almost always thought of as a brain chemical, but about 90% of it is actually produced in the gastrointestinal tract. There also are trillions of bacteria living in the stomach and, while the vast majority of those bacteria are beneficial, some pathogenic bacteria also make their way to the gastrointestinal tract. When this happens, it can lead to serious and sometimes fatal gut infections.

Gut bacteria, like any other form of bacteria, are quite susceptible to their living environment. With this in mind, the study’s authors wondered if levels of serotonin being made in the gut affected these pathogens in any way, according to Study Finds.

To study this possible relationship, researchers focused on Escherichia coli O157, a type of bacteria known to cause semi-frequent outbreaks of sometimes deadly food-borne infections. Some samples of these bacteria were grown by the team in a lab setting and then exposed to serotonin. Notably, gene expression tests conducted after this exposure reveal that the serotonin had indeed significantly reduced the “expression” of genes within the bacteria that cause infections.

Furthermore, when human cells were exposed to the serotonin-weakened bacteria, that bacteria was no longer capable of inflicting “infection-associated lesions.” So, just add some serotonin and the bacteria loses its ability to produce an infection.

Moving forward, the researchers were eager to test their idea on living subjects. They gathered a group of mice and studied how serotonin influenced the viral capabilities of Citrobacter rodentiumwhich is pretty much the rodent equivalent of e.coli for humans. Some of the mice were genetically modified to produce more serotonin than usual. Others were modified to produce less than normal.

The mice that were producing more serotonin were much less likely to develop an active Citrobacter rodentium infection, and/or experience significant symptoms after being exposed to the bacterium. Conversely, mice with low levels of serotonin developed serious infections and many even died, Study Finds reports.

Mice given fluoxetine (Prozac) to raise their serotonin levels also didn’t become infected after exposure to the bacterium.

Additional experiments helped the research team pinpoint the serotonin receptor within both E. coli and C. rodentiumthe protein known as CpxAThis protein is actually common among gut bacteria, so it seems likely that serotonin has a big effect on overall gut health.

The study’s authors want to continue their work on this subject, and are hopeful serotonin can be used as a legitimate treatment option for bacterial gut infections. As of now, there are very few available antibiotics that are effective against E. coli O157.

“Treating bacterial infections, especially in the gut, can be very difficult,” says study leader Vanessa Sperandio, Ph.D., a professor of microbiology and biochemistry at UT Southwestern Medical Center, in a statement. “If we could repurpose Prozac or other drugs in the same class, it could give us a new weapon to fight these challenging infections.”

The study is published in Cell Host and Microbe.

Research contact: @StudyFinds