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Pulse 184: Make a New Year's Resolution to Help Others

29 December 2020
Giulio Prisco

Charity

It's time for good resolutions for the new year. Psychologists at the University of Rochester suggest that we should set goals that aim to help others. Working toward such goals will also add to our own well-being.

“If you want to make a New Year’s resolution that really makes you happy, think about the ways in which you can contribute to the world,” says professor emeritus Richard Ryan.

“We found that when people are focused on giving to others they experience deeper satisfactions than when their goals are more self-oriented,” adds Ryan. “For example, experiments show that doing something benevolent for others, even when you will never meet the beneficiary, increases your positive mood and energy. Most recently, we published a study about what we call people’s ‘integrative span.’”

The study is published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

“We discovered that your happiness increases as your focus of concern and care gets wider,” continues Ryan. “If your main concerns and cares are narrow and selfish - just about ‘me and the people very close to me,’ versus about ‘my family and my community,’ versus about ‘the larger world and everything in it’ - the less happy you are prone to be. A broader scope of caring and concern for others, in contrast, predicts a higher well-being.”

So, go ahead and make New Year’s resolutions that aim to help others and contribute to the world in small (or big) ways. And don’t be too harsh on yourself when you encounter the inevitable setbacks, lapses, and failures. Ryan’s final advice is, “remember to be a compassionate self-coach.”

CRISPR Used to Develop Vaccine for Parasite

Scientists at University of Zurich are developing a (harmless) experimental live vaccine for Toxoplasma gondii. The widespread parasite puts people with a weakened immune system at risk and can trigger malformations in the womb.

To this end, the scientists are using modified CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing scissors. They permit making alterations to the genetic material of single-cell organisms that are indistinguishable from natural mutations.

A research paper is published in Journal of Biological Methods. It describes a modified CRISPR-Cas9 that can deactivate a gene without errors and unintended genetic alterations, in a way which is indistinguishable from naturally occurring mutations.

Gene Therapy for Deafness Works in Lab Mice

Researchers at Tel Aviv University have developed an innovative treatment for deafness. It's based on the delivery of genetic material into the cells of the inner ear. The genetic material replaces a genetic defect and enables the cells to continue functioning normally.

A study is published in EMBO Molecular Medicine. It describes how the researchers created a harmless synthetic virus and used it to deliver genetic material (a normal version of a defective mutated gene) to the inner ear of laboratory mice. The treated mice developed normal hearing, with sensitivity almost identical to that of healthy mice without the mutation.

According to the researchers, this novel therapy could lead to a breakthrough in treating children born with various mutations that eventually cause deafness.

Common Anti-Diarrhea Drug Could Treat Cancer

Two years ago, scientists led by Goethe University found evidence indicating that the common anti-diarrhea drug loperamide could be used to induce cell death in glioblastoma cell lines. The drug is sold under the brand name Imodium, among others. The scientists have now deciphered the mechanism of action of the drug.

Glioblastoma is a very aggressive and lethal type of cancer in children and adults. And it responds poorly to chemotherapy.

A research paper is published in Autophagy. It indicates that loperamide triggers a mechanism, known as autophagy-dependent cell death, that drives cancer cells to “digest themselves.”

The scientists are persuaded that the loperamide-induced death of glioblastoma cells could help in the development of new therapeutic approaches for the treatment of this severe form of cancer.

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