Livin' on the MDedge

Friendly gut bugs, MCI-battling mushrooms, and remembering to forget


 

Friend or foe, how do we know?

That’s the question immune cells ask all the time, especially about gut bacteria. A study published March 7 seeks to explain how immune systems can distinguish between happy-go-lucky gut microbes and deadly pathogens. Turns out, the friendly microbes simply high five!

Cartoon illustration of germs frithyboy/Getty Images

Well, not really. But they do have a hook-like arm, called a holdfast, which latches onto the gut lining. The holdfast is lined with vesicles that carry antigens into the gut. While antigens normally cause immune cells to attack, something about these antigens are telling T cells to hold their fire.

The authors of the study hypothesized that the packaging of the antigens – the vesicles – might be the reason for the friendliness between microbes and T cells. It’s like the immune system expects a cannonball, but is pleasantly surprised by an Amazon Prime package full of goodies showing up on their doorstep instead. Yay for presents!

Don’t skimp on the ’shrooms

While you’re piling onions onto your plate to reduce cancer and cheese for your heart, make sure you add mushrooms for extra brain power. Researchers conducting a 6-year study in Singapore observed cognitive decline in 600 Chinese people aged at least 60 years, and they found that those who eat more than two portions of cooked mushrooms per week have up to 50% reduced odds of mild cognitive impairment.

Mushrooms in a skillet AnnaPustynnikova/Getty Images

Researchers here at the LOTME Lab have harnessed the power of these food studies to determine that a Philly cheesesteak with mushrooms and onions is the healthiest meal out there. Chow down!

As far as we know, all the mushrooms were standard edible fungi, and none were magic mushrooms (although, that might help, too; try that on your own time). Researchers believe that the compound ergothioneine, an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that cannot be synthesized by humans, might be reason for the reduced risk of mild cognitive impairment Maybe it’s time to add a cup of cooked shiitake mushrooms to your morning routine.

Fuggedaboutit!

We all have unwanted memories that we’d rather forget about. An embarrassing incident, a painful experience – everyone has moments they’d rather not think about. So, the question is: How do you get rid of these bad memories?

A woman with a quizzical look holds her hand to her forehead nicoletaionescu/Getty Images

The obvious solution is to stop thinking about it. But if you’re a regular reader of Livin’ on the MDedge, you can probably guess that the answer isn’t that simple.

And, in fact, it isn’t! A group of researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, has performed a study on intentional forgetting, and they found that the best way to forget something is ... to think about it. Study subjects were shown a series of images and told to either remember or forget those images while their ventral temporal cortex was monitored for activity. Not only were participants successfully able to forget images by thinking about it, but activity in the brain was higher when forgetting than while remembering.

Obviously, this research would be helpful for anyone dealing with trauma, and we hope doctors who have to treat such patients keep it in mind. Just don’t think about it too much, or you’ll forget about it.

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