Research briefs

Cannabis brain damage link shown

Long-term cannabis use can cause structural damage to the hippocampus and amygdala, say Australian scientists. Structural MRI scans of 15 men who smoked an average of five joints daily for 10 years showed that hippocampus volume was reduced by 12 per cent and amygdala volume by 7 per cent (Arch Gen Psych 2008; 65: 694-701).

Amniocentesis concerns
Prenatal tests for chromosomal abnormalities in the fetus miss more than half of conditions, say Italian experts. Speaking at the European Society of Human Genetics conference this week, researchers from the TOMA laboratory in Busta Arsizio - which pioneered prenatal diagnosis - said women need to be advised about the limitations and risks of amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling tests.

I should cocoa
Cocoa could be beneficial for patients with diabetes, say US researchers. A study of 41 patients with stable type-2 diabetes showed that drinking cocoa with high flavanoid levels three times a day led to better flow-mediated dilation, which could cut cardiovascular risk (J Am Coll Cardiol 2008; 51: 2,141-9).

How 'good' bacteria work
Bacteria in the gut release a special molecule that eases inflammatory bowel disease, research on mice suggests. The finding could explain how 'good' bacteria work. Analysis of Bacteroides fragilis led to identification of polysaccharide A. This triggers interleukin-10 to switch off the immune system, working against inflammation.

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