Stories tagged cells


Rethinking CPR: New research is questioning if CPR does more harm than good. The thinking is that a sudden surge of oxygen into the body kills cells faster than a gradual return to normal conditions.
Rethinking CPR: New research is questioning if CPR does more harm than good. The thinking is that a sudden surge of oxygen into the body kills cells faster than a gradual return to normal conditions.
The conventional wisdom has been that when someone has a heart attack or other catastrophic health problem, the quick revival of blood flow and breathing will return them to life.

Now, new research is questioning that conventional wisdom, and is even wondering if the process of CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) could actually be leading to a quicker death. Hold on to your hat and read on.

The old thinking was that cells of the body would begin to die within four or five minutes of the stoppage of oxygen and nutrients coming to them through blood. The quicker a heart can be restarted and breathing can begin, the better the chances were for a body to go on living.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have been studying heart cells under microscopes. What they’ve found throws all that stuff up into the air. What they found was that cells cut off from their lifeline of blood died hours later, not minutes.

Now here’s the real freaky part. The researchers think that the cells die faster when their oxygen supply is quickly returned.

So the quick surge of oxygen and energy into the body may be just the wrong thing do to someone whose breathing and blood flow have stopped. These researchers are thinking that hypothermia – extreme cold temperatures bringing the body’s core temperature to 33 degrees C – might be a better option. Then medical professionals would have time to adjust the blood chemistry for a safe, gradual return of oxygen and nutrients to the cells, keeping them alive.

University of California researchers have tried a slightly different approach of treatment at four hospitals. Cardiac patients received a blood infusion that would keep their hearts in a state of suspended animation. They were on a heart-lung device to maintain blood flow to the brain until the heart could be slowly restarted. The tests were conducted in just 34 patients, but 80 percent were discharged from a hospital okay. Under the old methods, the survival rate is 15 percent.

A lot more research has to be done, but the findings do shake up what we’ve traditionally thought about how to keep people living. Share your thoughts on this topic with other Science Buzz readers here.


A breast cancer cell: Photo from NIH
A breast cancer cell: Photo from NIH

A researcher at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada has discovered a drug that causes cancer cells to die, without harming healthy cells nearby. The drug, called DCA, changes the way cancer cells get energy and, as a side-effect, kills them.

According to the article:

DCA attacks a unique feature of cancer cells: the fact that they make their energy throughout the main body of the cell, rather than in distinct organelles called mitochondria…. DCA reawakened the mitochondria in cancer cells.

Crucially, though, mitochondria do another job in cells: they activate apoptosis, the process by which abnormal cells self-destruct. When cells switch mitochondria off, they become “immortal”, outliving other cells in the tumour and so becoming dominant. Once reawakened by DCA, mitochondria reactivate apoptosis and order the abnormal cells to die.

But perhaps the best thing about this news is that DCA already exists. It has been used for years to treat other diseases, so we know it’s safe to use on humans. And it is not patented – any company can make it cheaply.

The drug still has to go through rigorous testing to see how effective it really is, and what dosage and procedures work best. But if this pans out, it will be exciting news for cancer patients everywhere.

Meanwhile, the number of deaths from cancer in the US dropped for the second straight year. While cancer remains the #2 killer in America (after heart disease), doctors have seen a drop in both the rate of cancer death (the percentage of cancer patients who die from the disease) and the total number of deaths.

Together, these two items make for some very good news in the fight against cancer.


I'm new here and want to ask a question - not write a short story. If this is the wrong place for a question, please help me out.

Is the human egg really the largest cell in the body? That's what the human body movie said. But isn't a neuron a cell, and isn't the axon a part of it, so that a single neuron can be a yard long - as in the sciatic nerve? Wouldn't that be larger than an egg cell?

And while i'm at it, here's a comment: The movie said that the brain controls the GI tract, but my understanding is that although the brain can influence your stomach and bowels, through emotions for example, the GI tract operates pretty much on its own. In fact, Dr. Michael Gershon calls the GI tract "The Second Brain" in his wonderful book by that title.

All in all, i thought the movie was fantastic, and wish there had been much, much more of it!