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10 Cool Discoveries You Should Know About

From asteroid mining to HIV prevention, here are 10 things you should know about from the week.

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Karolina Skibicka, one of the researchers of the study which was published in the Journal of Neuroscience, says that "Our decision to eat is linked to the same mechanisms in the brain which control addictive behaviours. We have shown that exendin-4 affects the reward and motivation regions of the brain." Exendin-4 research offers possible ways to treat disorders like compulsive overreating.

Those sugary, fatty foods we find difficult to fend off also would have been a survival strategy 10,000 years ago. Evolutionary psychologist  Satoshi Kanazawa says in this talk on the Big Think that we are still operating with the same brain we used as hunter-gatherers when food was scarce and calorie-dense food was the best thing we could hope for. Now food is always available, “but our brain doesn’t know that. There was no such thing as abundant food 10,000 years ago and our brain still cannot comprehend ‘supermarket.’ If our brain comprehended ‘supermarket’ there’s no need to crave sweet and fatty food.”  

Here’s the three-fer: a recent Oxford study reported on in  Red Orbit by Michael Harper says that the fat we ingest goes to our midsections a lot faster than we used to think -- within four hours of eating. 

Bottom line, in the battle to be svelte we’re sabotaged by our own brains, our fast-fat-processing bodies and the temptation of cheap, available scrumptious food. If a little synthesized lizard slobber will help arm us against that, I’m ready to give Reptilicus a great big at-a-pharmaceutical-distance kiss.

7. FDA Takes Two Steps in HIV Prevention and Testing

A very different advance in preventive medicine happened recently when an FDA panel recommended the approval of Truvada, the first drug for the prevention of  HIV,  CBS News reports. Truvada works by inhibiting the ability of the virus to multiply and is already used as part of a treatment regimen for HIV-positive patients but it would be the first drug used to prevent the disease in at-risk patients, “including gay and bisexual men and heterosexual couples with one HIV-positive partner.” Taken every day in conjunction with condom use, Truvada reduces the risk of acquiring HIV.

There are some  controversies over the drug, its cost-effectiveness, whether people will take it faithfully and whether it will dissuade people from using condoms. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation opposes approval of Truvada.

Right on the heels of the FDA panel’s recommendation for Truvada, another advisory panel, this one the FDA's, recommended the approval of the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test from Orasure Technologies,  ABC News reports. A quick swab along the gum line and a 20-minute wait and thousands of people who might not otherwise go to a clinic can test themselves privately, at home, potentially preventing the spread of HIV. Twenty percent of Americans infected with HIV don’t know it; the FDA estimates that 2.8 million people might pick up the test in its first year, diagnose 45,000 positive cases while missing 3,800 (based on its 93% effectiveness rating) and prevent transmission to 4,000 people. 

ABC News’ Richard Besser, former acting director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that “it’s important that anyone who gets tested, whether at home or in a doctor’s office, “is connected to support services.”

8. Research With Teeth

Some aspects of your health, like taking a daily pill, practicing safe sex or watching your diet are things you can do on your own. Then there are times you have to turn to a puffer fish. 

Puffer fish are, of course, those hypnotically cool fish that  inflate in their own defense, sometimes employing sticky spines and being incredibly toxic to their enemies -- NatGeo says one puffer contains enough tetradotoxin to kill 30 humans. 

 
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