By Cari Nierenberg

Sometimes, you just really want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And, as long as you’re not allergic to the ingredients, that’s totally fine. At least, that’s what one woman thought.

The 68-year-old woman, who had never had a peanut allergy, had a severe allergic reaction to the sandwich, according to a recent report of her case, which was published in August in the journal Transplantation Proceedings. But someone else did have a peanut allergy, it turned out: the donor who supplied the woman with a transplant lung.

It’s a very rare occurrence for lung transplant recipients to acquire a food allergy from a donor organ, said lead case report author Dr. Mazen Odish, a fellow in pulmonary and critical care medicine at the University of California – San Diego Medical Center, who treated the woman.

There have only been about four or five case reports in which organ recipients have acquired peanut allergies with anaphylaxis following a lung transplant, Odish told Live Science.

Identifying the culprit
The woman in the case had needed a single-lung transplant to treat her emphysema, a condition in which the air sacs in the lungs become damaged, making it difficult to breathe. She received a new left lung from a 22-year-old male donor, Odish said.

The woman’s recovery was going well after the transplant, but the day before she was scheduled to go home from the hospital, she felt tightness in her chest and found it very difficult to breathe, according to the report. Initially, her doctors weren’t sure why she was experiencing these symptoms of respiratory failure, and tests done at the time didn’t turn up any clear explanation for it.

It wasn’t until the woman mentioned that her symptoms started immediately after she had eaten a PB & J sandwich that doctors began to suspect a food allergy, even though the woman lacked other common allergy symptoms, such as a rash or stomachache.

Because the woman had never had problems eating peanuts before, doctors contacted the transplant agency, who confirmed that the male donor had a known peanut allergy, according to the case report.

So, along with the lung, the woman also appears to have received a peanut allergy from the donor, Odish told Live Science.

Although it’s rare for food allergies to be transferred from organ donors to transplant recipients, it does occur: cases of food allergies being acquired from organ donors have been reported after liver, kidney, lung, bone marrow, heart and kidney transplants, the authors wrote.

But not every transplant recipient who obtains an organ from a donor with food allergies picks up the sensitivity, which may turn up anywhere from days to months after the transplant. Studies have suggested, for example, that children and people who receive liver transplants may be more likely to develop food allergies from organ donors who have them.

Other research has shown that transplant-acquired food allergies occur more frequently when organ recipients are prescribed tacrolimus, an immunosuppressive drug used to reduce the risk of organ rejection following a transplant. The woman in this case had been on tacrolimus.

Skin tests later confirmed that the woman was allergic to peanuts, and she also tested positive for almonds, cashews, coconuts and hazelnuts. Doctors advised her to avoid peanuts and tree nuts, and she was given an EpiPen in case of another severe allergic reaction to these foods.

It’s unclear if transplant-acquired food allergies remain a lifelong concern for patients, Odish said, because it’s possible that the allergy may wane in some individuals. Allergy doctors will likely continue to test the woman for peanut and tree nut allergies to see if her tolerance to these foods change over time, he noted.


Oceanographer Penny Chisholm tells the story of a tiny ocean creature you’ve probably never heard of: Prochlorococcus, the most abundant photosynthetic species on the planet. A marine microbe that has existed for millions of years, Prochlorococcus wasn’t discovered until the mid-1980s — but its ancient genetic code may hold clues to how we can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

If you are not enjoying your favorite things as much as you used to, new research suggests a way to break through the boredom: Try the same old things in new ways. Researchers found that people found new enjoyment in popcorn, videos – even water – when they consumed them in unconventional ways.

Findings suggested that using unconventional consumption methods helped people focus on what they enjoyed about the product in the first place, said Robert Smith, co-author of the study and assistant professor of marketing at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.

“When you eat popcorn with chopsticks, you pay more attention and you are more immersed in the experience,” Smith said. “It’s like eating popcorn for the first time.”

This phenomenon may explain such things as the popularity of “pitch black” restaurants that serve diners in the dark. “It may not be anything special about darkness that makes us enjoy food more. It may be the mere fact that dining in the dark is unusual,” Smith said.

Smith conducted the study with Ed O’Brien of the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. The results appear online in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. The researchers conducted four experiments.

In one study, 68 people came to a laboratory supposedly for an experiment about “helping people eat more slowly.” Half the people ate 10 kernels of popcorn using their hands, one at a time. The other half ate the kernels one at a time with chopsticks. Afterward, participants rated the experience on a variety of measures, including how much they enjoyed the popcorn, how flavorful it was and how much fun it was to eat it. Results showed that people who ate the popcorn using chopsticks reported enjoying it more than those who used their hands, Smith said.

Another finding suggested why that might be. Those who used chopsticks – compared to those who ate with their hands – reported that they felt more immersed in the experience, that it helped intensify the taste and helped them focus on the food.

But the researchers then had the participants repeat the experiment. In this second trial, everyone enjoyed the popcorn equally and felt equally immersed, regardless of how they ate it. “This suggests chopsticks boost enjoyment because they provide an unusual first-time experience, not because they are a better way to eat popcorn,” Smith said.

A second study of 300 participants recruited online found that even drinking water was rated as more enjoyable when it was done in novel ways. In this study, participants came up with their own “fresh, new and fun” ways to drink water – everything from drinking out of a martini glass to drinking out of a shipping envelope to lapping at the water with their tongue like a cat. Those who drank water in these novel ways enjoyed it more than those who drank it normally.

In the final two studies – one conducted in a lab and one done online – participants watched a one-minute video three times in a row. The video showed an exciting motorcycle ride filmed with a GoPro camera from the driver’s perspective. All participants watched it twice normally, rating how much they enjoyed it after each viewing. But the third viewing was different for some participants. One-third were asked to watch the videos using “hand-goggles” – forming circles with their thumbs and index fingers around their eyes, and using them to track the ride by bobbing their head back and forth to follow the cyclist. For another third of the participants, the video was flipped upside down. The final third watched the video in the conventional way.

As expected, those who watched the video in the conventional way showed less enjoyment by the third viewing. Those who watched the video upside down didn’t enjoy it very much because, even though the viewing was unconventional, it was also disruptive. However, those who watched the video for the third time with hand-goggles enjoyed it more than the other groups.

But did participants really enjoy the video more – or did they just like the strange experience of using hand-goggles? Results suggest the unconventional way of watching really did make the video itself more enjoyable. After the study, the researchers offered to let all participants download the video to keep – and three times more people who watched with hand-goggles asked to download the video than those in the other conditions. “They actually thought the video was better because the hand-goggles got them to pay more attention to what they were watching than they would have otherwise,” he said. “They were more immersed in the video.”

Smith said these findings apply in a variety of ways to everyday life. For example, when you’re eating pizza, after eating one slice normally, you could try eating one slice with a knife and fork and then folding the next slice. And if you’re sick of your sofa, try putting it in another room rather than getting rid of it. “It may be easier to make it feel new than you might think. It is also a lot less wasteful to find new ways to enjoy the things we have rather than buying new things,” he said.

This article has been republished from materials provided by The Ohio State University. Note: material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.

Unconventional Consumption Methods and Enjoying Things Consumed: Recapturing the “First-Time” Experience. Ed O’Brien, Robert W. Smith. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, first Published June 17, 2018,

By Mindy Weisberger

After losing three toes to frostbite, a recent participant in one of the coldest long-distance races on Earth reached a toe-tally bizarre decision for what to do with the detached digits.

During the race, which took place in February in the Canadian Yukon, British competitor Nick Griffiths suffered frostbite so severe that three of his toes had to be amputated. Rather than simply disposing of the toes, he decided to donate them to a remote Canadian bar for use in a signature drink known as the “Sourtoe Cocktail,” which famously includes a dehydrated human toe, according to the Toronto Star.

It all began when Griffiths entered the 300-mile (483 kilometers) division of the Yukon Arctic Ultra, a punishing race across frozen wilderness that takes place along the Yukon Quest Trail. Participants race on foot, sleds and mountain bikes, and temperatures can drop below minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 50 degrees Celsius), according to the race’s website.

After 30 hours on the trail, with temperatures measured at below minus 40 degrees F (minus 40 degrees C), Griffiths dropped out with evidence of frostbite on several extremities, but the damage was most severe in his left foot.

Griffiths got the idea to donate his toes while recuperating in a Canadian hospital, when a nurse showed him video footage of her quaffing a drink containing a preserved human toe, served at a bar called the Sourdough Saloon, in the Yukon Territory, Griffiths told the Star. After hearing her story, he decided to contact the bar staff with the offer of three newly detached toes, which they were pleased to accept, the Star reported.

Griffiths’ bemused surgeon provided him with the amputated toes in vials of medical-grade alcohol, he told the Star.

For decades, the saloon has offered its Sourtoe Cocktail to intrepid imbibers — a tradition launched in 1973 using a toe that allegedly once belonged to a famous Canadian bootlegger. Patrons arrange to drink the cocktail by appointment and do so under the close supervision of a “Toe Captain.” The official toe wrangler ensures not only that drinkers touch the toe with their lips — a requirement for receiving an official certificate from the bar for consuming the cocktail — but also that they neither steal nor swallow the toe.

The cocktail must contain a minimum of 1 ounce of alcohol — and, of course, one human toe. Other than that, the drink’s contents are up to the drinker, though the Sourtoe experience often involves a shot of a local beverage known as Yukon Jack — 80-proof liquor blended from Canadian whisky and honey, according to the Sourdough Cocktail Club website.

More than 100,000 people have sampled the Sourtoe, and in the decades since the grisly drink was first poured, more than 10 toes have been acquired by the saloon operators. Preserved toes are stored in salt when they’re not floating in a cocktail. But they don’t last forever, and the saloon depends on generous toe-nations such as Griffiths’ to keep the Sourtoe Cocktail available for the curious and the brave, Jonny Klynkramer, the Sourdough Saloon bar manager, told the Star.

“We always prefer big toes — they’re the meatiest,” Klynkramer said.

By Yasemin Saplakoglu

The newest neuron has been named the “rosehip neuron,” thanks to its bushy appearance. The brain cell, with its unique gene expressions, distinctive shape and diverse connections with other neurons, has not been described before and, what’s more, it isn’t present in neuroscientists’ favorite subject: mice.

“It’s very bushy,” said Trygve Bakken, one of the lead authors of the paper and senior scientist at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle. Neurons have long branches called dendrites that receive signals from other neurons. In the rosehip cells, these dendrites are “very compact with lots of branch points, so it kind of looks a little bit like a rosehip,” Bakken told Live Science. (Rosehips are a type of fruit produced by rose plants.)

Also adding to the rosehip appearance are the large bulbs at the end of their axons that release neurotransmitters or chemical signals to other neurons, Bakken added.

The new finding is the result of a collaboration between Bakken and his team and researchers at the University of Szeged in Hungary. Both teams independently identified the distinctive-looking neurons and, when the teams learned they were looking at the same thing, they decided to work together, Bakken said.

The researchers at the Allen Institute documented the strange new neuron by examining the brain tissue of two deceased middle-age men. When the researchers looked at the genes of the rosehip neuron in this post-mortem tissue, they found that the neurons acted differently. “There are a number of genes that are turned on just in that cell and not in other[s],” Bakken said

Meanwhile, the team in Hungary further documented the rosehip neuron by studying the electrical activity and shapes of neurons in brain tissue that had been removed from people’s brains during surgery and kept alive in a solution.

A rare neuron

One reason rosehip neurons eluded neuroscientists for so long is likely because the cells are so rare in the brain, Bakken said. Another reason, he added, is because human brain tissue is difficult for scientists to obtain for study. Indeed, in the study, the researchers examined only one layer of the brain. It’s possible, however, that rosehip neurons could be found in other layers, too, Bakken said.

Specifically, the researchers found that the rosehip neurons make up about 10 percent of the first layer of the neocortex — the most recently evolved part of the cortex that’s involved in sight and hearing. They also found that rosehip neurons connect to neurons called pyramidal cells, a type of excitatory neuron that makes up two-thirds of all the neurons in the cortex, according to Cell.

The full extent of the rosehip neurons relationship to the pyramidal neurons is unclear, but the researchers did find that the rosehip neurons act as inhibitory neurons, or those that restrain the activity of other neurons. “They have the potential to sort of put the brakes on the excitability” of pyramidal neurons, Bakken said. But as to how this influences the brain’s behavior, “we don’t really know yet,” he added.

Absent in mice

All mammals have a cortex, and within it a neocortex, Bakken said. But there are about “a thousand times more cells in the human cortex compared to the mouse,” he said. In other words, it makes up a much bigger part of our brain than it does a mouse’s. So then, perhaps it’s not surprising that the team didn’t find any genetic hint of rosehip neurons in mice.

“Finding cell types that are uniquely human… helps our understanding of the physiological differences that under[lie] our higher cognitive abilities and may better inform upon treatment strategies for brain-related disorders,” said Blue B. Lake, an assistant project scientist in the bioengineering department at the University of California, San Diego who was not part of the study.

The absence of the rosehip neuron in mice brains might serve as a cautionary reminder that the results of some brain studies done on rats can’t be translated to humans, the researchers said.

“Mice have been a wonderful model organism for understanding how brains work in general and can help us understand how human brains work,” Bakken said. “But I think finding a part of that circuit that is not seen in a mouse that points to needing to study actual human tissue.”

There are enough parts of the brain conserved among mice, humans and other mammals that people can make “inferences about things we learn in the mouse and sort of, at least, hypothesize that something similar is likely to be happening in the human brain,” Bakken said. But, sometimes things present in human brains are “just not there” in mouse brains.

By Rafi Letzter

A kid in France transcribed parts of the Hebrew book of Genesis and the Arabic-language Quran, into DNA and injected them into his body — one text into each thigh.

Adrien Locatelli, a 16-year-old high school student, posted a paper Dec. 3 on the preprint server OS, in which he claimed, “It is the first time that someone injects himself macromolecules developed from a text.”

Locatelli, a student at the boarding school Lycée les Eaux Claires in Grenoble, France, told Live Science that he didn’t need any special equipment for his project.

“I just needed to buy saline solution and a syringe because VectorBuilder sent me liquid and ProteoGenix sent me powder,” he told Live Science.

VectorBuilder is a company that creates viruses that can sneak DNA strands into cells for gene-editing purposes. ProteoGenix synthesizes, among other things, custom strands of DNA. Both companies primarily serve scientists, but their products are available to anyone who purchases them.

If you saw the texts that Locatelli injected into his body, they wouldn’t look like much. DNA is just a long molecule that can store information. Mostly, it stores the information living things use to go about their business. But it can be used to store just about any kind of information that can be written down.

Locatelli’s method for translating the texts into DNA was straightforward, if a bit crude. DNA encodes its information using repeating strings of four nucleotides, which scientists have abbreviated as A, G, T and C. Locatelli lined up each letter of the Hebrew and Arabic alphabets (which correspond closely to each other) with a nucleotide, so each nucleotide represented more than one letter. So if you were to write a Hebrew sentence using his scheme, every aleph, vav, yud, nun, tsade, and tav would become a G. Every dalet, khet, ayin, and resh would become a T. And so on.

So, is this a good idea? Locatelli thinks so.

“I did this experiment for the symbol of peace between religions and science,” he said, adding, “I think that for a religious person it can be good to inject himself his religious text.”

Locatelli said he didn’t experience any significant health problems following the procedure, though he reported some “minor inflammation” around the injection site on his left thigh for a few days.

This account of only minimal complications fits with what Sriram Kosuri, a professor of biochemistry at UCLA, told Live Science.

“[The injected texts] are unlikely to do anything except possibly cause an allergic reaction. I also don’t know how likely the rAAV vector would be to make actual virus, given the way he injected. I honestly don’t know enough about the vector he used and how he did it (details are scarce),” he wrote in a message.

The horse, a purebred, was wearing a bronze-plated military saddle and ready to go when Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried the ancient city of Pompeii in A.D. 79. The horse, too, was covered in pumice and ash.

Almost 2,000 years later, archaeologists unearthed the immobilized horse, along with the remains of two others, in the remnants of a stable attached to a sumptuous suburban villa in Civita Giuliana, outside the walls of what remains of Pompeii, the Archaeological Park of Pompeii said in a statement on Monday.

The horses are among a growing list of archaeological treasures dug up at the Pompeii site, discovered in the late 16th century. This year, Pompeian excavations have found a shrine with wall paintings that hint at Roman life in the first century; the skeleton of a man who had fled the volcanic eruption only to be buried by a rock; and a well-preserved fresco in a house on the Via del Vesuvio depicting the mythological rape of Leda, the queen of Sparta, by Zeus in the form of a swan.

The horses probably perished soon after the volcanic explosion, with their frozen postures suggesting they had been unable to wrest free. The saddled horse and its elaborate harness were discovered over the summer, the archaeological park statement said.

Instead of stirrups, the saddle had four bronze-plated wooden horns, one in each corner, to help keep the rider stable. Researchers compared the saddle to those used by Romans around the time Mount Vesuvius erupted.

In May, researchers completed a plaster cast of the first horse found at the site. The dimensions suggested that the horses, including the latest discovered, had been of a valuable breed, officials said in a statement, a type used to display social status.

The discovery of the horses confirmed that the stable had been part of a prestigious estate, Massimo Osanna, the Pompeii site’s general director, said in the statement. The villa was enhanced with “richly frescoed and furnished rooms, and sumptuous sloping terraces facing onto the Gulf of Naples and Capri, as well as an efficient servant’s quarter, with a farmyard, oil and wine warehouses and densely cultivated lands,” according to the statement.

Archaeologists discovered 15 rooms from the villa in the early 20th century, and smaller finds since then. In 1955, dividing walls were found in excavations at Civita Giuliana. In recent decades, scavengers visited the site too, digging illegal tunnels below the estate.

To stop the illegal tunneling, official excavations began again this year. In 2019, with the aid of 2 million euros ($2.27 million), archaeologists will continue the work with an eye toward opening the site to the public, Mr. Osanna said.