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April 20, 2017
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The family of Aaron Hernandez, the former tight end for the New England Patriots and convicted murderer found hanging in his Massachusetts prison cell on Wednesday, is releasing his brain to Boston University's Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center for a study on brain trauma.

Attorney Jose Baez said Hernandez's brain is being donated to advance the study of CTE, a degenerative brain disease linked to people who sustain repeated concussions and head trauma that can only be diagnosed after death. CTE can cause everything from memory loss to disorientation, and several football players, including Frank Gifford, Junior Seau, and Mike Webster, have been found to have it.

In 2015, Hernandez, 27, was convicted of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Odin Lloyd, his fiancee's sister's boyfriend, and sentenced to life in prison. He was found early Wednesday morning hanging from a bed sheet attached to a window in his cell, and the chief state medical examiner has ruled his death a suicide. Catherine Garcia

May 9, 2016
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As part of a new study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, researchers found that more and more children are being poisoned by e-cigarettes.

Most children who became ill swallowed liquid nicotine, while others inhaled or touched a device. "This is an epidemic by any definition," said Dr. Gary Smith, the study's lead author and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus. The team looked at telephone calls made to poison centers regarding exposure to tobacco and nicotine by children age 6 and under, from January 2012 through April 2015. At the beginning of the study, there were 14 calls a month about a child becoming sick from an e-cigarette, and by the end, there were 223 calls a month, The Associated Press reports. Most of the children affected were 2 years old or younger.

The study found that a majority of children who were exposed to e-cigarettes were able to stay at home, and of those who had to seek medical attention, less than 3 percent were hospitalized and 2 percent suffered complications, including seizures; one child died. Parents are urged to keep their e-cigarettes on a high shelf or tucked away in an area where children cannot see or reach them. Symptoms of liquid nicotine poisoning include vomiting, a fast heartbeat, and jittery behavior, and poison control should be called immediately if poisoning is suspected. Catherine Garcia

October 26, 2015
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By 2100, parts of the Persian Gulf could experience heat and humidity so extreme that a person would not be able to survive being outside for several hours, researchers said.

In a study published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, Jeremy S. Pal of Loyola Marymount University and Elfatih A. B. Eltahir of MIT used climate models and a method of measuring atmospheric conditions known as wet-bulb temperature to determine how hot it would have to get for a person to sweat and still not cool off; they found that a wet-bulb temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit hits the mark (that's roughly the equivalent of a heat-index reading of 165 degrees Fahrenheit). After six hours of exposure, the conditions "would probably be intolerable even for the fittest of humans, resulting in hyperthermia," the researchers said.

Due to climate change, the coasts in the Middle East, where the water is already warm, would probably be the first to see these harsh combinations of heat and humidity, The New York Times reports. The 95-degree wet-bulb temperatures would likely happen once every 10 or 20 years, Eltahir said, and would be "quite lethal." Anyone without air conditioning or people working outdoors would suffer the most, as would people on the hajj, the pilgrimage that brings two million people to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, every year to pray outdoors. It takes place during different times of the year, and if it happened during an extremely hot summer, "this necessary outdoor Muslim ritual is likely to become hazardous to human health," the authors wrote. There is some hope, researchers say: If greenhouse gas emissions are reduced, "such efforts applied at the global scale would significantly reduce the severity of the projected impacts." Catherine Garcia

September 9, 2015
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A research team is concerned that sticky proteins found in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease could be spread to others by surgical instruments, even after they have been sterilized with formaldehyde.

Researchers in the UK looked at the brains of eight patients who died from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) after being injected with pituitary growth hormone from cadavers years earlier, The Guardian reports. Six of those brains had an unusually high buildup of amyloid beta, the protein linked to Alzheimer's. The patients were between the ages of 36 to 51, and none had the gene variants that bring about early onset dementia. The findings could suggest that the seeds of amyloid beta were spread to the patients along with the abnormal proteins that gave them CJD.

Writing in the journal Nature, the researchers said scientists need to investigate if amyloid betas can be spread through medical procedures. While the team says there is no evidence that Alzheimer's is contagious or can be passed on through a blood transfusion, they still want to see more research conducted. Eric Karran of Alzheimer's Research UK concedes that the "findings sound concerning," but says he isn't worried himself. "It's unusual for people of the ages studied in this research to have amyloid in the brain, but we don't know whether they would have gone on to develop Alzheimer's, and there is currently no evidence that people who received human-derived growth hormone have a higher rate of the disease," he said. Catherine Garcia

March 24, 2015
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Just breathing in air pollution for one day can increase a person's risk of stroke, researchers say.

By looking at 103 studies involving 6.2 million stroke hospitalizations and deaths in 28 countries, researchers found that every type of pollution except ozone was linked to an increased risk for strokes, and the higher the level of pollution, the more strokes occurred, The New York Times reports.

The data showed that daily increases in pollution from nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter corresponded with increases in strokes and hospital admissions. Researchers are not entirely sure why that is, although studies have previously shown that air pollution constricts blood vessels and increases blood pressure and risk for blood clots. There's not much a person can do once air pollution increases, says lead author Dr. Anoop Shah of the University of Edinburgh. "If you're elderly or have co-morbid conditions, you should stay inside," he told The Times. The only real solution is to work on improving air quality. "It's a question of getting cities and countries to change," he said. Catherine Garcia

March 2, 2015
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A new study from Stanford University says that climate change driven by humans is behind the drought in California, which is affecting 98 percent of the state.

The two main weather conditions that lead to drought — higher than average temperatures and tiny amounts of rain and snow — are occurring at the same time because of climate change, the study shows. Researchers also found that the worst droughts in the state's history happened when it was dry and warm, and global warming is increasing the chance that those weather patterns will take place at the same time, USA Today reports. The study's leader, Noah Diffenbaugh, said having dry years that are also warm would not happen without human influence, like burning fossil fuels.

Not everyone agrees with the Stanford study, which appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Scientist Martin Hoerling with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that most of the warm temperatures have been caused by a ridge of high pressure in the atmosphere that minimized rain and snow, and those natural weather patterns were the main cause of the drought. Catherine Garcia

January 14, 2015
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A new study has found that people who work long hours are more likely to drink too much, leading to more issues down the line.

Researchers in Finland looked at data from 61 studies involving 333,693 people in 14 countries, and discovered that people who work more than 48 hours per week are 13 percent more likely to engage in risky drinking than those who work 35-40 hours, NPR reports. In Europe, risky drinking is more than 14 drinks every week for women and more than 21 drinks for men; in the United States, it's seven or more drinks per week for women and more than 14 drinks for men.

The researchers added that those who drink to deal with stress at work may actually be making things worse, as imbibing too often can lead to increased sick days, poor performance, work injuries, and bad decision making. Catherine Garcia

January 14, 2015

A new study suggests that babies in their first year of life can retain more information by taking a nice, long nap after learning something.

A team from the University of Sheffield in England held a trial with 216 babies between six- and 12-months-old, teaching each one three new tasks involving playing with hand puppets. Half went to sleep within four hours, and the other half either slept less than 30 minutes or never fell asleep at all. The next day, the babies were asked to repeat what they were taught, and on average the group that slept a long time could complete 1.5 tasks, while the group that didn't sleep couldn't do any.

Dr. Jane Herbert from the department of psychology at the University of Sheffield told BBC News that while most people thought "wide-awake was best" when it comes to learning, it "may be the events just before sleep that are most important." The researchers say that "strikingly little is known" about sleep in the first year of life, and this shows that activities like reading at bedtime are even more important than previously thought. Catherine Garcia

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