Resveratrol in red wine could be used to treat depression and anxiety

Resveratrol, a plant compound found in red wine because present in grape skin, shows anti-stress and other positives effects, as demonstrated by several studies. A new study, this time conducted by the University of Buffalo, shows that this compound can have strong anti-stress effects because it blocks a particular stress-related enzyme in the human brain.

This means that resveratrol can be an effective enough alternative to treat patients suffering from anxiety disorders or depression, as Ying Xu, the lead author of the study as well as a professor at the Pharmacy School of Health, also says.

Resveratrol is present in the skin but also in the seeds of grapes and various other berries. Already in the past research had verified its antidepressant effect but this research has identified the reaction, previously unknown, which leads to this effect: it involves the enzyme phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE4), an enzyme that is influenced by the stress hormone, the corticosterone.

Excessive amounts of corticosterone in the brain can, in fact, lead to too high levels of stress and if this condition continues over time, depression and other mental disorders can develop. Antidepressant drugs sometimes do not work precisely because they focus almost always only on serotonin or noradrenaline in the brain.

However, several studies have shown that PDE4 causes almost the same depressive and anxiety-causing effects by lowering cyclic adenosine monophosphate, a messenger molecule, leading to physical alterations in the brain. Resveratrol, in turn, shows protective effects against corticosterone by precisely inhibiting PDE4 expression.


Tuberculosis bacteria feed on carbon monoxide to survive

A new, interesting discovery made by a group of researchers from two Australian institutions was published today in the ISME Journal. According to the researchers, the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which is responsible for tuberculosis in humans, can survive in the human body by “feeding” on carbon monoxide.

The latter is a gas that is notoriously dangerous just for humans as it can cause death in no time. For several microorganisms, including many species of bacteria, this gas is instead a source of energy. As one of the authors of the study, Chris Greening, a researcher at Monash University, explains, some pathogens use carbon monoxide to stay alive when other nutrients cannot be found.

Among them are mycobacteria, a group of bacteria that can cause various diseases in humans, including tuberculosis, leprosy and Buruli ulcer. When they infect the human body, for example, they usually find a hostile environment in which there are few nutrients.

Precisely for this reason they resort to carbon monoxide, as explained by Paul Cordero, another author of the study: they break down the gas, produced in very small quantities by immune cells in humans, into those that can be considered its fundamental components and are able to provide the energy to their cells to continue living during essentially “dormant” phases, phases that can allow them to remain alive inside the bodies even for years.

They do this thanks to an enzyme called carbon monoxide dehydrogenase, an enzyme that basically allows bacteria to produce energy from this gas. The latter does not prove sufficient to allow for real growth but still allows them to survive during the initial stages of infection.

As Katie Bayly, another author of the study, remembers, it was already known that Mycobacterium tuberculosis uses carbon monoxide, but it was not known why and no one knew how.

Now that we know that these bacteria use carbon monoxide to resist during the initial stages of infection in human lungs, it may be possible to propose new, more targeted therapies to defeat tuberculosis.


Icy planets can also sustain life on the surface according to a new study

Even at a new study on frozen rock type planets corroborates the hypothesis that extraterrestrial life may exist on these worlds. However, new research, which appeared in the Journal of Geophysical Research, does not focus on the areas below the superficial ice layer, like many other pieces of research, but on the surface.

It is believed, in fact, that many icy worlds can boast an ocean that lies beneath a shallow icy layer, an ocean where water can remain liquid thanks to complex gravitational movements that “stretch” the planet producing heat. In this new study, Adiv Paradise, physicist and astronomer at the University of Toronto, challenges this assumption by launching the idea that extraterrestrial life could also live above the frozen layer of the surface.

According to the results achieved by the astronomer, the classic “snowball” planets can boast near their equators sustainable temperatures that could allow life to be born to thrive. The idea also stems from what happened on Earth when it went through its “snowball” episodes: life continued to exist. However, life in these times on Earth was concentrated in the oceans. The scientist did not lose heart and performed computer calculations to simulate various conditions on frozen planets, calculating various factors such as the amount of starlight and the configuration of the continents as well as the presence of carbon dioxide.

The latter assumes a very important role: when its level drops too much the planets become balls of ice. However, according to the results achieved by computer simulations, some snowball planets continue to lose carbon dioxide after they have frozen. This means that there may be regions on these planets, presumably near the equators, with non-frozen soils, areas where water can continue to remain liquid.

Another interesting result achieved by researchers with these simulations lies in the discovery that Earth-like planets that reach the “snowball” state can remain frozen indefinitely thanks to complex atmospheric interactions that keep the level of carbon dioxide low.