Stephen Hawking’s final scientific paper has been released, how obesity can trigger early-onset colorectal cancer, and have scientists found a new treatment for multiple sclerosis?

An elusive molecule that sparks multiple sclerosis may have been found

(Science Magazine, 10/10/2018, Mitch Leslie)

Our immune cells normally pounce on intruding bacteria and viruses. But in multiple sclerosis (MS), immune cells target the nervous system instead. Now, researchers may have pinpointed a long-sought molecule called a self-antigen that provokes these attacks, pointing a way toward potential new treatments. Researchers have long suspected that a self-antigen—a normal molecule in the body that the immune system mistakenly treats as a threat—can trigger MS. The prime suspects have been proteins in myelin, the nerve insulation that erodes in patients with the disease. But after years of searching, scientists haven’t been able to pinpoint the molecule. After extensive research they determined that shards of a human enzyme called guanosine diphosphate-L-fucose synthase, which helps cells remodel sugars that are involved in everything from laying down memories to determining our blood type, was the potential culprit.  

Obesity Tied to Colon Cancer Risk in Younger Women

(New York Times, 10/11/2018, Nicholas Bakalar)

October may be Breast Cancer awareness month but there is also another type of cancer that is affecting young women. In an observational study published in JAMA Oncology, researchers prospectively tracked the health of more than 85,000 women for 22 years, beginning when they were 25 to 42 years old. They found 114 cases of colorectal cancer in women under 45. The higher a woman’s body mass index, the greater her risk for early-onset colorectal cancer. Compared with women of normal weight — a body mass index between 18.5 and 22.9 — obese women, with a B.M.I. over 30, had a 93 percent increased risk for the disease. Weight gain from age 18 on was also associated with colorectal cancer. Compared to women who gained 10 pounds or less, those who gained 44 to 88 pounds had a 65 percent increased risk, and those who gained more than that had more than double the risk.

Hawking’s final science study released

(BBC News, 10/11/2018)

Stephen Hawking’s final paper has been published, and it shows him grappling with one of the universe’s strangest mysteries. It deals with the information paradox, a difficult question that had occupied Professor Hawking throughout his life. And in the very last days of his life he may have made important work towards solving it once and for all. Some researchers had believed this information was destroyed, but others said that this violated the laws of quantum mechanics. These laws propose that everything in our world can be broken down into information, for example, a string of 1s and 0s. In addition, this information should never disappear, not even if it gets sucked into a black hole. But Hawking, building on the work of Albert Einstein, showed that black holes have a temperature. And because hot objects lose heat into space, black holes must eventually evaporate – disappearing from existence. Black holes themselves are regions in space where the gravity is so strong that nothing that gets pulled in can escape.

 

 

—Compiled by Social Media Specialist Jillian Scola