Understanding Health
Understanding Health

Understanding Health

The concept of health refers to so much more than whether or not you are sick. When researchers and doctors study health, they are studying the way that the body works, how it changes over time, what can break it down, how to protect it, and how to treat problems that do occur. This section of Frontiers for Young Minds will include articles from across nutrition, fitness, disease, genetics, systems of the body, prevention, injuries, treatment and medicine, mental health, adolescence, and other changes that happen to the body as it ages. It will also include articles about the tools that are available for studying the body, measuring how it changes, preventing problems, and treating issues that do occur. By providing access to fundamental ideas and cutting-edge knowledge about health, Understanding Health wants to enable the next generation to develop a better understanding of their own bodies and make more informed decisions regarding their own futures.

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Core Concept

Treats and Tricks: The Magic World of Sweetness

Taste is one of the five senses, together with sight, hearing, smell and touch. Food contains small particles, molecules, that entering our mouth are captured by receptors, which tell the brain that their taste is sweet, bitter, sour, salty or umami (the taste of stock cubes). Sweet is the taste people prefer by far. There are thousands of different substances that taste sweet, not only sugar but many other chemical compounds, including a few sweet proteins. Nobody would ever expect sugar to taste like meat or fish, nor a protein to taste like sugar. When the receptor “eats” the sweet molecule, it changes shape and sends a signal inside the cell. Sweet proteins can be almost as big as the receptor, so they cannot enter the cavities of the receptor but they can hug the receptor, stabilizing its active form.

Authors

Eleonora Asia Motti / Piero A. Temussi
Reviewed by Brian
Reviewed by Elsa
Reviewed by Yoonsa
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Core Concept

Good News from Immunotherapy: Our Immune Defense Stands Up to Cancer

Our immune system defends us and combats many microbes, like the viruses that cause common cold or bacteria that enter wounds. Our defenses can also learn to protect us from more difficult situations – and they can do so with the lessons learned from vaccines. For example, the poliovirus vaccine teaches our immune system to recognize and eliminate the poliovirus in case it enters our body. In recent years, scientists have found that the immune system can also be taught to attack another type of disease: cancer. Cancer is a big mistake in our body. It happens when cells lose control and start to grow without limits. The good news is that nowadays, we can educate the immune system in cancer patients – this is called immunotherapy. In this article, we will overview how our defenses can learn to attack and eliminate cancer.

Authors

Silvia A. Fuertes Marraco / Natalie J. Neubert / Daniel E. Speiser
Reviewed by ITI Galileo Ferraris
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Core Concept

Why Is the Liver So Amazing?

The liver is an organ that from a biochemical point of view is very active. However, if you observe it under the microscope, it seems to be very quiet because most of its cells remain in a non-dividing state (quiescent). The liver is so important that is provided with a great ability to tolerate several kinds of injuries. After stimuli such as a wound or chemical damage, all the cells change and divide until the normal size of the liver is restored. This interesting process is commonly known as “liver regeneration”. When this ability is exceeded, people may need a new liver; that is, a transplant. Right now, more than 15,000 people in the USA are waiting for a liver transplant. You will learn that due to its ability to “regenerate”, the liver can be donated in life.

Authors

Blanca Delgado-Coello
Reviewed by Fujia
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Core Concept

We Are Never Alone: Living with the Human Microbiota

The human body is inhabited by millions of tiny living organisms, called human microbiota. Bacteria are microbes found in our skin, nose, mouth, and especially, in our gut. We acquire them during birth and the first years of life, and they live with us throughout our life. They are involved in our healthy growth, in protecting our body from invaders, in helping digestion and in our mood. Some changes may occur during our growth depending on the food we eat, the environment where we live, the people and animals that interact with us, or medicines we take such as antibiotics. Human microbiota help us to keep healthy, but in special occasions they can also be harmful. We need to take good care of our microbiota to avoid the development of some diseases, such as obesity and asthma. We should eat healthy food that contribute to develop the good microbiota.

Authors

Gabriela Jorge Da Silva / Sara Domingues
Reviewed by Jack and Addy
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New Discovery

Why Do Little Kids Ask to Hear the Same Story Over and Over?

One way people learn new words is through reading books and stories. Little kids love hearing their favorite stories over and over and are also very good at learning new words. We wondered if reading the same stories could be helping preschool kids learn new words. Our research tested if it was better to read the same stories over and over or to read a few different stories. Here we tell you about three studies that show preschool kids learn more words from the same stories over and over. Our research suggests that it’s easier to learn new words from stories when you have heard the story before and know what is going to happen.

Authors

Zoe M. Flack / Jessica S. Horst
Reviewed by ITI Galileo Ferraris
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Core Concept

What Makes Your Dog Itch? Maybe It Is the Kennel Tick!

Once upon a time in a backyard not very far from you, a dog with long fluffy and shiny hair, named Rex, lived. He really loved to play outside, especially with his best friend and owner Jack, a nine-year-old boy. On a perfect spring day, it was not cold or hot, Jack and Rex went for a walk in a green park close by, and when they returned home Jack noticed that his loyal friend was very itchy and was scratching his ear a lot. His first thought was: “Well, there must be some dirt in his ear! After so much rolling on the grass it is normal …” A few days later Jack saw that Rex was very unhappy, and started wondering what was happening. He called his mother quickly and they both rushed to see Rex. “Mummy what´s that on Rex´s ear? It seems like warts!!! Is Rex sick?” Then his mother said: “Hopefully not! You know Jack, these little things are parasites called ticks and they can make Rex itch and feel uncomfortable. I am sure that if you know more about such small and incredible creatures, you will be amazed because there is more to them than meets the eye…

Authors

Joana Ferrolho / Gustavo S. Sanchesseron / Joana Couto / Sandra Antunes / Ana Domingos
Reviewed by Pittsburgh Gifted Center
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New Discovery

Move!—Because Exercise Can Boost Your Brainpower

Have you ever considered preparing for an exam by doing physical exercise? Wouldn’t it be great to go outside and play capture the flag or double Dutch with your friends instead of doing math? Of course, you already know that this is wishful thinking. Everyone has to prepare carefully and learn attentively if they want to do better in their exams. However, it is also true that exercise can boost your brainpower. In the following article, we are going to look into when and to what extent physical exercise is beneficial to your brain and under what circumstances positive effects like these can occur.

Authors

Valentin Benzing / Mirko Schmidt
Reviewed by Peterhead Academy
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New Discovery

How Does Aspirin Work in Plants and Humans?

Millions of people rely on aspirin to treat their headaches, fevers, and other ailments. But what most people don’t know is that the active ingredient in aspirin was first discovered in plants, where it plays a major role in keeping plants healthy. In the body, aspirin breaks down into a compound called salicylic acid (SA). In plants, SA is a critical hormone that regulates many processes, including immunity. Using powerful screens, we identified more than two dozen proteins that change their activities when they bind SA. SA and related compounds, both natural and synthetic, also have multiple targets in humans. We recently discovered several previously unknown SA targets, which are associated with prevalent, devastating human diseases. We have also identified several SA-based compounds that bind to these proteins more tightly and therefore inhibit their disease-associated activities much better than SA; this gives hope that better aspirin-type drugs can be developed.

Authors

Dan Klessig
Reviewed by ITI Galileo Ferraris
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Core Concept

Get Off the Couch! Exercise Your Way to a Healthy Brain

We all know that physical activity is good for our heart and lungs, but is it also good for our brain? Research has shown that regular physical activity can boost brain performance in a variety of different populations, from children and young adults, to older adults at-risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. These improvements in brain performance can be measured by tests of memory, thinking, and attention. It is thought that physical activity improves brain performance by changing brain function and size, a process known as neuroplasticity. In particular, physical activity may increase the size of the hippocampus – the brain’s memory center. Importantly, the benefits of physical activity on the brain are seen at all ages, which means it’s never too late to start. This research shows that being physically active may be an enjoyable way to help us improve our grades at school now, and keep our brains healthy throughout our lives.

Authors

Lindsay S. Nagamatsu
Reviewed by Dylan
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Core Concept

The Use of Stem Cells for Treatment of Diseases

Stem cells can form all organs in the body, from bone, kidney, liver to blood and brain. Specialized types of stem cells have the ability to stop immune responses. Stem cells may therefore be very useful as a therapy for diseases in which organs are damaged or where the immune system is too active. Some types of stem cells are already used for therapy, such as the hematopoietic or blood stem cells, which are used for the treatment of bone marrow cancer. The use of other types of stem cells is studied in the laboratory and in experimental therapies. Researchers are trying to find out what is the best way of giving stem cells to patients, where the cells go, and how long they survive in the patient. It is expected that in the future many more stem cell therapies will become available.

Authors

Franka Luk / Elke Eggenhofer / Marc H. Dahlke / Martin J. Hoogduijn
Reviewed by Amayah and Kaylah
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