In a fresh trial, dental pulp from extracted teeth is being used to treat depression.

The theory is that stem cells — master cells that can grow into different kinds of specialised cells — in the pulp may help to encourage the formation of new nerve cells in the brain.

Researchers behind this trial think that more nerve cells means better communication between them and the brain regions responsible for emotions. It is possible that inflammation may also be caused by stem cells.

The theory is that stem cells — master cells that can grow into different kinds of specialised cells — in the pulp may help to encourage the formation of new nerve cells in the brain

The theory is that stem cells — master cells that can grow into different kinds of specialised cells — in the pulp may help to encourage the formation of new nerve cells in the brain

This trial is a result of the groundbreaking finding that antidepressants can trigger brain stem cells to make more nerve cells.

According to NHS statistics, around one-tenth of people experience depression at any time in their life. It is unclear what exactly causes it.

Levels in the brain of mood chemicals such as serotonin are thought to be involved — most antidepressants are designed to work by increasing serotonin levels — but this chemical imbalance theory is unproven.

Other factors include genetic susceptibility, stressful life events and other lifestyle variables.

Research now suggests that both nerve cell proliferation and nerve-cell connections play a significant role in this process.

Studies in the past have shown that patients suffering from chronic depression tend to have a smaller hippocampus, an area in the brain responsible for emotion and memory.

Some experts believe that this may be why antidepressants take so much time to start working. It can take several weeks to see the effects of antidepressants. They increase brain chemicals, such as dopamine and serotonin. The theory is that your mood improves only when nerve cells are reconnected and new ones form. This can take weeks.

Around one in ten people suffers from depression at some time during their lives, according to NHS figures. The exact cause is not fully understood

According to NHS statistics, around one-tenth of people experience depression at any time in their life. We don’t know the exact reason.

Johns Hopkins University, the U.S.A., has ongoing research that shows antidepressants may trigger stem cell growth. The same effect was observed in exercise. In the new trial, 48 people diagnosed with depression will be given stem cells taken from the pulp of other people’s extracted teeth, plus the antidepressant fluoxetine.

The cells will be processed and cleaned before being injected into patients’ arms in four sessions, each two weeks apart. The fluoxetine will be administered daily to a comparison group. 

Commenting on the approach, Carmine Pariante, a professor of biological psychiatry at King’s College London, says: ‘In the short-term, stress increases the production of chemicals in the body that are helpful in the fight-or-flight response.

‘For example, stress increases inflammation, which protects us from infection.

‘However, psychosocial stressors that trigger depression — such as unemployment, marital difficulties or bereavement — are typically long-lasting, and in the long-term the increased inflammation reduces the birth of new brain cells and the connection between brain cells, leading to depression.’

Stem cells are also ‘anti-inflammatory’, he says, ‘so in addition to creating new brain cells, they can reduce the inflammatory effects of stress on the brain.’

‘We know that stem cells reach areas where there is inflammation. This is how they will find their way from the blood to the brain.’

Living close to a park may lower depression — and not just because of the greener environment.

For six years, researchers monitored the lives of 50,000 people and discovered that depression rates were 15% lower in those who lived near green spaces.

Research in Science of the Total Environment has shown green space may improve mood. Previous studies had found this to be true. But, the researchers believe that pollution is at least partially responsible.

‘The benefits of healthy vegetation on mental health may come from lowering air pollutants,’ say the doctors from Zhejiang University School of Medicine in China.

Research has shown that inflammation can cause depression in the brain due to air pollution.

For acne, a powder made of freshwater sponges found in lakes and rivers is under investigation. It is thought to be anti-inflammatory and promote growth of collagen — the tissue that keeps skin firm and healthy. Dermata Therapeutics will test the powder in an American trial. 120 people will apply it once per week.

You can reduce your risk of getting a hip injury by eating healthy foods

The risk of a fractured hip is reduced by eating more vegetables and fruits, according to a study by Leeds University researchers published in the journal PLoS One.

They analyzed data from sixteen different studies and found that a greater intake of fruit and vegetables provided the best protection. This is because it makes the bones more acidic, which helps them retain bone-building calcium.

In contrast, dairy foods — currently recommended for fracture risk reduction — offered limited protection, while excess alcohol, which can lower bone density, raised the odds of a fracture. 

How heat saves muscles if you can’t exercise

Research from Brigham Young University, the U.S. suggests that heat treatment may help people with long-term injuries who can’t exercise.

For ten days, 21 volunteers who were healthy had to wear a knee brace that restricted their movement. The machine fired radiowaves into skin to heat half of the leg muscles; the other half received a placebo treatment.

Results published in the journal Physiology showed that blood vessels shrinked in the placebo group, increasing the chance of developing heart disease, while they remained healthy in those who were heat treated. Now, researchers will investigate whether saunas can have this effect.

Heart repair with an electric patch

Scientists have developed an injectable plaster to treat people recovering from heart attacks and help prevent heart failure.

A surgical procedure to treat this condition is the insertion of an electronic patch inside the heart. It sends signals for a better pumping pattern. The procedure can be dangerous.

University of Western Ontario engineers have created a patch that is compressible and can then be injected. Then, the patch expands on the heart. Nature Biomedical Engineering reported that the plaster, measuring 2cm in length, is made out of gelatin, elastin and mouldable carbon.

The patch acts as a conductor, carrying the heart’s natural electric signals, improving the pumping, studies show.

Diabetes injections can be replaced with insulin pills

The new The journal Nature Biomed Engineering reported that smart pills could provide insulin for people suffering from diabetes.

Patients with Type 1 and type 2 diabetes who need insulin to control blood sugar must inject the hormone. Researchers have not been able to find a substitute pill because stomach acid could break down insulin before it can be absorbed into blood.

Yale University, in the U.S., has developed a protective pill shell made of solidified bile acids. It can be used to reduce inflammation caused by the disease and the shell will eventually break down in the pancreas.  

A new treatment for glue-ear problems in children

A wireless headset can help kids with glue ear to avoid having surgery. A glue ear is a condition where the middle portion of the ear fills up with liquid. This can result in temporary hearing loss. It can often be cleared by itself. Some children need surgery to have tiny grommets inserted to clear the fluid — but these often fall out.

This new kit includes bone-conduction headphones that transmit sound via vibrations and a microphone attached to an app. Families can monitor their hearing with the help of this device.

Researchers from Cambridge invited 26 children who had glue ears to test the device at home. All the families — a majority of the local waiting list for grommet surgery — decided to continue with the tech instead, journal BMJ Innovations reports.

Take control

Conditions that are related to strength in your hands. This week: Cognitive decline

According to a review of 15 published studies in Frontiers for Aging Neuroscience (February), people who have poor grip strength are twice as likely to experience cognitive decline. Their risk of Alzheimer’s disease was also 40 per cent higher.

It’s thought low grip strength is a marker for a lack of physical activity — being sedentary is linked to higher incidence of cognitive decline. Professor of Anatomy at Lancaster University Adam Taylor believes there could be a neurological connection.

‘The nervous system declines with age and this affects the speed at which the nervous impulses from your brain reach your hand muscles, making the signal to move less efficient.

‘This will naturally lower grip strength with age but it’s possible that the effects of degenerative changes in the brain speed up this process, accelerating normal wasting.’

Rude health

Harvard University research shows that having a dry nose can increase the likelihood of erectile disorder (ED) in men. They compared data from 17,000 men diagnosed with ED with a control group, looking for rates of chronic rhinosinusitis — inflammation of the nose and sinuses. 

The study, published in the journal Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery in October, suggests the inflammation may lead to atherosclerosis or furring up of the arteries, including those that supply blood to the penis. 

New tricks, old drugs 

Amantadine this week

This drug was developed in the mid-1960s to treat flu — it was shown to inhibit the ability of flu viruses to penetrate healthy cells and cause infection.

The drug was eventually abandoned because almost every strain of flu became immune to it. In 2011, it was pulled from the market worldwide as a flu treatment.

However, during its early years as a flu treatment, some patients with Parkinson’s disease noticed their symptoms improved with it — most notably, there was a marked reduction in involuntary muscle movements.

In 2017, the drug was officially repurposed as a treatment for Parkinson’s and is available on the NHS.