X chromosome, training AI, anti-obesity drugs for AD & PD | Last Week in Science (4th Feb 2024)

Training AI with the eyes of a toddler

Is language inherent or acquired? We all learn language when we are young. Can we train an AI by providing the same kind of experience? And if yes, then what will we gain out of this experiment?

Researchers at New York University made a toddler wear a camera on his head for 1 hour per week from the age of six months to two years. This footage was then used to train an AI algorithm. The audio was given as the transcript - thus the algorithm could associate words with the images in the video. This algorithm was not trained any language and it could still identify some of the words by the image and word association like crib and ball. This experiment challenges the view that language is inherent because the computer program could learn it without having no prior information of how language works.

Reference: This AI learnt language by seeing the world through a baby’s eye

Is X making you sick?

Auto immunity is when your immune system starts attacking your own body. Two thirds of the cases of autoimmune diseases are seen in females. Sex hormones are thought to cause this higher susceptibility of females to develop autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. X chromosome is also seems to be a probable culprit for development of autoimmunity.

Genetically human females and males are different because of the presence of two X chromosomes in females and one X and one Y chromosome in males. To compensate for the double dose of genes on the X chromosome in females, one of the chromosomes is made inactive. This process coats the chromosome with RNA and proteins. Xist is the RNA that wraps around one of the X chromosomes in the cells of human females.

In a recent study, it was found that auto antibodies are formed in the body that attack the proteins associated with Xist. Now, since all the cells of human females have Xist so it puts them at a higher risk of developing such auto antibodies and in turn autoimmune disease. Individuals that had auto immune diseases also had these auto antibodies present in their blood. Using this information the scientists will now be developing tests for early detection of autoimmune diseases. These auto antibodies can also be used for developing new treatment methods.

Reference: Why autoimmune disease is more common in women: X chromosome holds clues

Anti-obesity drugs can treat Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease

The bestseller anti obesity drug of 2023 - semaglutide suppresses appetite and makes the brain believe you are full. It is used to treat diabetes and it also causes weight loss. It has recently found to decrease the risk of heart disease. And this drug has also shown to suppress inflammation - a process that happens when the immune cells are in the fight mode either attacking and/or clearing up the dead cells and the collateral damage after the attack is over. There are many diseases where the inflammation is either the cause or the effect. And semaglutide like drugs seem to reduce inflammation everywhere in the body.

There is brain inflammation in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease - where there is memory loss or individuals lose control of their motor function leading to tremors and falls. Currently, drugs similar to semaglutide are being tested as a medicine for AD and PD. And it is showing promising results, improving symptoms of these neurodegenerative diseases.

Reference: Obesity drugs have another superpower: taming inflammation