Articles on top science websites featuring researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, home to the largest hospital-based research program in the United States.

The Guardian

Pains and needles: brain scans point to hidden effects of acupuncture
Featuring Vitaly Napadow, PhD, of the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging

Neuroscientists have been studying how acupuncture affects the brain. It’s clear from many imaging studies that causing pain by inserting needles into the skin does influence brain activity, presumably by activating nerves close to the acupuncture point.

Suntans for all: chemical causes any skin to tan – and protects against cancer
Featuring David Fisher, MD, PhD of the Department of Dermatology and the Cutaneous Biology Research Center

Scientists have created the ultimate fake tan: a chemical that triggers the release of dark pigment in the skin without the need for sunbathing or a genetic predisposition for tanning.

The substance would induce a tan even in fair individuals with the kind of skin that would naturally turn lobster pink rather than bronze in the sun, the scientists predicted.

How ‘superagers’ stay sharp in their later years
Written by Lisa Feldman Barrett, PhD of the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging

When it comes to retirement, experts recommend that everyone do some hard thinking. By this, they mean you should plan your finances responsibly, consider carefully where to live, and decide what color beach chair to sit in all day as you sip strawberry daiquiris in the sun. But there’s another reason to think hard about these details: hard thinking by itself – a strenuous mental workout – is good for your aging brain.

Science News

Birth Control Research is Moving Beyond the Pill
Featuring research by David Pepin, PhD, and Patricia Donahoe, MD, of the Department of Surgery

More than 50 years later, the most commonly used form of reversible contraception in this country is still the pill. Additional methods have been developed for women — such as implants, patches, vaginal rings and injectables — but most do basically the same thing as the pill: use synthetic versions of sex steroid hormones to suppress ovulation. The method has proved its merit, but the current crop of contraceptives doesn’t work for everyone. Some women can’t tolerate the side effects stemming from manipulation of the hormones. Others can’t use hormonal contraceptives at all, because of underlying health conditions.

New Test May Improve Pancreatic Cancer Diagnosis
Featuring research by Katherine Yang, PhD, Ralph Weissleder, MD, PhD and other investigators from the Center for Systems Biology and the Mass General Cancer Center

Pancreatic cancer is hard to detect early, when the disease is most amenable to treatment. But a new study describes a blood test that may aid the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and someday make earlier screening feasible, the authors say.

Instead of Starving A Cancer, Researchers Go After Its Defenses
Featuring Rakesh Jain, PhD, of the Edwin Steele Laboratories for Tumor Biology

Trained as an engineer, not a biologist, Jain was studying tumor vasculature during the height of excitement about drugs that could impede vessel growth. He was bothered by the fact that capillaries that arise in the tumor aren’t normal; they’re gnarled and porous, incapable of effective blood flow in the same way a leaky pipe is lousy at delivering water. The expanding tumor squeezes smaller vessels, making them even less able to transport blood.

New Scientist

Psychedelic drug ayahuasca improves hard-to-treat depression
Featuring David Mischoulon, MD, PhD, of the Depression and Clinical Research Program

It tastes foul and makes people vomit. But ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic concoction that has been drunk in South America for centuries in religious rituals, may help people with depression that is resistant to antidepressants.

Live Science

New Therapy Halts Rare Brain Disease Depicted in ‘Lorenzo’s Oil'
Featuring Florian Eichler, MD, Director of the Leukodystrophy Service

Doctors have successfully suppressed a rare brain disease that typically strikes young boys, by using a novel type of therapy that alters a patient's genes.

The disease, called adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) is an extremely rare degenerative disorder that affects about 1 in 20,000 people worldwide, virtually all of whom are boys. One family's desperate search for a cure for ALD was depicted in the 1992 film "Lorenzo's Oil."

ARS Technica

False penicillin allergies fuel superbugs—and doctors are fighting back


Got allergies? Scientists may have finally pinpointed the cells that trigger reactions