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Scientists discover ‘snooze button’ in the brain that could induce ‘hibernation’

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scientists discover snooze button in the brain that could induce hibernation

Being able to put someone in a state of suspended animation may be a step closer after scientists found the trigger in mammal brains that can induce hibernation.

Researchers from the University of Tsukuba and Harvard Medical School identified the ‘snooze button’ in mice that triggered naturally occurring temporary hibernation.

This natural sleeping state was also triggered in rats, who do not usually hibernate or go into torbor, according to the Japanese scientists.

It may be possible to induce synthetic hibernation in humans if it turns out we have the same set of brain cells as the mice and rats involved in this study.

Being able to put someone into suspended animation could improve recovery rates from surgery or illness, the team say. It could also make interplanetary travel safer. 

Researchers from the University of Tsukuba and Harvard Medical School identified the 'snooze button' in mice that triggered naturally occurring temporary hibernation and say it could be used on humans in the future

Researchers from the University of Tsukuba and Harvard Medical School identified the 'snooze button' in mice that triggered naturally occurring temporary hibernation and say it could be used on humans in the future

Researchers from the University of Tsukuba and Harvard Medical School identified the ‘snooze button’ in mice that triggered naturally occurring temporary hibernation and say it could be used on humans in the future

Two studies, unrelated but both published in Nature, made a similar discovery – that a neuron could be used to trigger torpor in mammal brains.

In a US study, scientists identified a population of brain cells that control topor and showed that stimulating these brain cells in mice induces torpor.

They found that while blocking these brain cells prevents torpor, the authors wrote.

The researchers say it may be possible to induce synthetic hibernation in humans if we have the same set of brain cells, which could be useful in reducing tissue damage or preserving organs for transplantation. 

The team said artificial induction of a hibernation-like state could eventually have medical applications for humans, although this effect has not been tested in people.

Hibernating animals can lower their body temperature to reduce energy expenditure during times of limited food availability, such as the winter. 

Previous research has implicated the central nervous system in the regulation of hibernation, but the precise mechanisms involved have been unclear – until now.

To learn more about what drives hibernation, Takeshi Sakurai and colleagues from the University of Tsukuba setup a study of lab mice who do not hibernate.

Mice exhibit a similar temporary hypometabolic state to hibernation called torpor.

Their experiments led to the identification of a distinct set of neurons in the hypothalamus – an import part of the brain responsible for a range of functions.

They are known as Q neurons and can induce long-lasting (more than 48 hours) reductions in body temperature and metabolism, similar to hibernation. 

The authors show that these neurons can be activated synthetically with chemicals or light, and uncover the wider circuit of neurons involved in this effect. 

No adverse effects on mouse behaviour or damage to tissues and organs were observed following the induced hibernation-like state. 

The researchers say it may be possible to induce synthetic hibernation in humans if we have the same set of brain cells, which could be useful in reducing tissue damage or preserving organs for transplantation

The researchers say it may be possible to induce synthetic hibernation in humans if we have the same set of brain cells, which could be useful in reducing tissue damage or preserving organs for transplantation

The researchers say it may be possible to induce synthetic hibernation in humans if we have the same set of brain cells, which could be useful in reducing tissue damage or preserving organs for transplantation

To determine whether the induced state was distinct from torpor, the authors repeated their experiments in rats, which undergo neither torpor nor hibernation. 

Once again they found that activation of Q neurons induced a hibernation-like hypometabolic state in the rats, just like it did in the mice.

In an independent study, Michael Greenberg and colleagues from Harvard identify a population of neurons within the hypothalamus that regulate torpor in mice. 

They demonstrate that stimulating these neurons can drive a mouse to the torpor state, even when there is no shortage of food. 

The role of these neurons is confirmed by blocking their activity, which prevents natural torpor from being initiated.

These findings help researchers to understand the neuronal processes that regulate hibernation-like states. 

Sakurai and colleagues suggest that these neuronal circuits may be conserved in a broad range of mammals, even in non-hibernating species, and posit that it might be possible to selectively manipulate Q neurons. 

Inducing a state of synthetic hibernation in humans could be possible in future.

The two papers related to this study have been published in the journal Nature and can be found here and here

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Care home residents ‘dying of loneliness’ as testing delays expose ‘huge staff shortages’

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care home residents dying of loneliness as testing delays expose huge staff shortages

Vulnerable people living in care homes are ‘dying of loneliness,’ as they’re deprived from seeing families due to lockdown, while delays in testing have exposed ‘huge staff shortages,’ in the sector, it has been claimed.

Baroness Ros Altmann, a former Minister of State for pensions, welcomed Matt Hancock‘s announcement yesterday that care home residents would receive free PPE during the winter to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The Health Secretary announced a £500million ‘infection control fund’ will help pay workers full wages when they are self-isolating and ensure carers work in only one care home, thereby reducing the risk of spreading the virus. 

Mr Hancock unveiled his winter action plan, which will also include guidance on whether care homes should restrict visits from family members. 

Baroness Altmann warned restrictions could put lives at risk. 

Baroness Ros Altmann has warned residents in care homes are 'dying of loneliness,' as they're kept apart from loved ones

Baroness Ros Altmann has warned residents in care homes are ‘dying of loneliness,’ as they’re kept apart from loved ones

Speaking on Good Morning Britain today, she said: ‘Some people in care homes are more likely to die because of loneliness from lockdown and that is a real problem.

‘Many of those people were unable to see their relatives and were desperately, desperately in need of their family visits and the family themselves needed to see the older people.

‘One has to wonder whether it’s right for the Government to say they can’t go and see their loved ones. 

‘Some people died on their own, other people in care homes aren’t necessarily vulnerable, so I just wonder if depriving people of their “visitation rights” as it were, is the best way to go.

‘I hope it won’t be too draconian that therefore people in care homes aren’t just left totally isolated from their families and loved ones if they desperately need to see them.’

Matt Hancock unveiled a £500million fund for care homes yesterday, but warned care homes could restrict visits from family members

Matt Hancock unveiled a £500million fund for care homes yesterday, but warned care homes could restrict visits from family members

Speaking about yesterday’s announcement, Baroness Altman said: ‘I think it’s great that we are offering free PPE and that we are making extra money available to the care home sector, it has been underfunded for decades and the crisis in social care is getting worse.

‘The Government is starting to wake up to that, partly because the pandemic has exposed just how neglected the sector has been and how cut off some of it has been from the health service.

‘What is also important though is that not everybody in a care home is elderly and vulnerable.

If you try and lump all care homes together, you’ll be potentially disadvantaging or damaging, for example, people with autistic children living in care homes, adult children in their 20s and 30s who’ve really needed family visits and the family needs to see them.

‘So these blanket bans or blanket measures that suggest all care homes should ban visits in vulnerable areas needs to be nuanced.

‘The Government must also make sure that we get the testing right, because we’ve got staff going in and out of care homes because there’s a huge staff shortage across the sector and if they don’t know whether they have the Covid or not then you will have a problem of spreading it inadvertently.

Boris  Johnson said earlier this week: 'It's an incredibly difficult thing, but we are going to have to place some restrictions on people, visitors being able to go into care homes'

Boris  Johnson said earlier this week: ‘It’s an incredibly difficult thing, but we are going to have to place some restrictions on people, visitors being able to go into care homes’

‘Also staff within care homes, if they can’t get a test or are waiting for the result of a test that are taking a long time, they won’t be able to come into work and therefore there’ll be staff shortages in the homes.’ 

On Wednesday, Boris Johnson said relatives may face restrictions, telling The Sun: ‘Be in no doubt we’re going to do absolutely all we can to stop the spread in care homes. And I’m afraid it’s an incredibly difficult thing, but we are going to have to place some restrictions on people, visitors being able to go into care homes.’ 

Mr Hancock said: ‘We are entering a critical phase in our fight against coronavirus with winter on the horizon. 

‘Our priority over the next six months is to make sure we protect those most vulnerable receiving care and our incredibly hard-working workforce by limiting the spread of the virus and preventing a second spike. 

‘This winter plan gives providers the certainty they need when it comes to PPE and provides additional support to help care homes to limit the movement of staff, stop the spread of coronavirus and save lives. 

‘We will be monitoring the implementation of this carefully and will be swift in our actions to protect residents and colleagues across the country.’ 

Age UK’s director Caroline Abrahams said it was important the plan achieved an ‘appropriate balance’ between ensuring infection control and allowing residents to keep in contact with loved ones. 

She said: ‘It is possible to have safe visiting in care homes, but this requires a rigorous approach from providers and ready access to enough PPE and testing. 

‘There will always be a risk that a visitor unintentionally brings the infection into a care home but this risk can be managed and it has to be considered alongside the dire consequences for care home residents, those with dementia especially, of being cut off from loved ones for long periods of time. 

‘There is no doubt that some older people to whom this is happening are dying of sadness as a result.’ 

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People share some of the most traumatising messages they have exchanged with their family members

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people share some of the most traumatising messages they have exchanged with their family members

At times there are no better people to embarrass you than the people who love you the most – your family. 

From brothers sharing their toilet triumphs to parents ‘pressuring’ their children into doing drugs, there really is nothing off limits. 

More than one million people follow the Instagram account @YourSh****Family, believed to be run from America, which collates the most awkward and cringey text messages.

The hilarious profile features some of the most unusual interactions people have with their family members which are submitted by members of the public.  

One mother left their child extremely confused when she messaged them to let them know she had found her phone after it gone missing. She found it in the most logical place of all - the fridge

One mother left their child extremely confused when she messaged them to let them know she had found her phone after it gone missing. She found it in the most logical place of all – the fridge

After visiting their place, one mother felt the need to inform their child that the urine in their toilet was actually their father's as opposed to hers - citing his inability to flush the toilet in her apology

After visiting their place, one mother felt the need to inform their child that the urine in their toilet was actually their father’s as opposed to hers – citing his inability to flush the toilet in her apology

Concerned mother: This man received a rather unusual text from his mother that he was not expecting when she asked him if he was sweating down below

Concerned mother: This man received a rather unusual text from his mother that he was not expecting when she asked him if he was sweating down below

Sometimes there are concerned mothers and other times there are relaxed mothers who cannot cope with their children's dramatics - such as this one who seemed unfazed by her child's alarming response

Sometimes there are concerned mothers and other times there are relaxed mothers who cannot cope with their children’s dramatics – such as this one who seemed unfazed by her child’s alarming response

Motherly love: Another mother gave her child some questionable advice when she suggested a range of things they could do to make them a 'bit more interesting' - including getting abducted, sex work, selling their kidneys or changing their last name

Motherly love: Another mother gave her child some questionable advice when she suggested a range of things they could do to make them a ‘bit more interesting’ – including getting abducted, sex work, selling their kidneys or changing their last name

Cool mom: In an unusual interaction with their mother, this person was shocked when their mother explained the reason they had been feeling 'funny' was because they had forgotten they had 'eaten an edible'

Cool mom: In an unusual interaction with their mother, this person was shocked when their mother explained the reason they had been feeling ‘funny’ was because they had forgotten they had ‘eaten an edible’

The coronavirus pandemic had taken its toll on this person, so much so that they asked their mother to 'slap them into next year', and they were surprised to find their mother was more than willing to oblige

The coronavirus pandemic had taken its toll on this person, so much so that they asked their mother to ‘slap them into next year’, and they were surprised to find their mother was more than willing to oblige

Brotherly love: This young woman was less than pleased when she asked for an opinion about her new look and her comical brother told her she looked like her grandmother

Brotherly love: This young woman was less than pleased when she asked for an opinion about her new look and her comical brother told her she looked like her grandmother

This mother's concern was a little less conventional than usual, encouraging her child to take drugs in order to have 'cool stories' to tell when they are older

This mother’s concern was a little less conventional than usual, encouraging her child to take drugs in order to have ‘cool stories’ to tell when they are older

A father was left with no other option but to use his children to find out when his anniversary with their mother is, to avoid an awkward conversation

A father was left with no other option but to use his children to find out when his anniversary with their mother is, to avoid an awkward conversation

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Facebook will curb internal debate over politics, racial justice and the coronavirus pandemic

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facebook will curb internal debate over politics racial justice and the coronavirus pandemic

Facebook has said it is updating workplace policy to prevent clashes over politics, racial justice or the pandemic on its internal employee message board.

Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg discussed the move during a question-and-answer session with employees.

‘What we’ve heard from our employees is that they want the option to join debates on social and political issues rather than see them unexpectedly in their work feed,’ Facebook spokesman Joe Osborne said in response to an AFP inquiry on Thursday.

‘We’re updating our employee policies and work tools to ensure our culture remains respectful and inclusive.’

Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg discussed the move during a question-and-answer session with employees. Above, Mark Zuckerberg pictured in a 2019 file image

Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg discussed the move during a question-and-answer session with employees. Above, Mark Zuckerberg pictured in a 2019 file image 

Facebook is strengthening its harassment policy so that employees from under-represented communities don’t face hostile work environments, according to Osborne.

The Silicon Valley-based internet titan said will also make it clearer which parts of its Workplace internal message board is for discussing contentious political or social issues, and carefully moderate those conversations.

Facebook’s role in the spread of misinformation, hate, or rhetoric has made those workplace topics as well as issues that employees may have strong personal opinions about.

The tech giant is exploring ways to promote civil, open debates focused on work, with all involved remaining professional, according to Osborne.

Details of how Facebook intends to achieve that goal were still being worked out, he said.

Facebook has said it is updating workplace policy to prevent clashes over politics, racial justice or the pandemic on its internal employee message board. Above, the thumbs up Like logo is seen at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California

Facebook has said it is updating workplace policy to prevent clashes over politics, racial justice or the pandemic on its internal employee message board. Above, the thumbs up Like logo is seen at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California 

Facebook’s move came on the heels of a CNBC report that Google is calling on workers to more judiciously manage internal message board conversations due to complaints about heated, abusive posts.

A shift to remote work at tech firms has ramped up use of internal message boards for worker collaboration and conversation.

A year ago Google updated workplace guidelines for ‘Googlers,’ calling on them to be responsible, helpful, and thoughtful during exchanges on internal message boards or other conversation forums.

‘While sharing information and ideas with colleagues helps build community, disrupting the workday to have a raging debate over politics or the latest news story does not,’ the updated guidelines stated.

‘Our primary responsibility is to do the work we’ve each been hired to do, not to spend working time on debates about non-work topics.’

Managers or those moderating forums were directed to intervene if the policy is violated, revoking comments, ending discussions, or even taking disciplinary action.

The Alphabet-owned internet giant is expanding that moderation scheme to involve more internal discussion groups, according to CNBC.

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