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Bats could hold secret to long life — and other health news you may have missed

A protein found in bats could have “therapeutic potential” for humans. (Getty Images)
A protein found in bats could have “therapeutic potential” for humans. (Getty Images) (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

It’s been a busy week in health news — from saying goodbye to COVID public health and mpox global health emergencies to ushering in a new era of over-the-counter birth control pills.

But that’s not all that happened in the wellness space. Here’s what else you might have missed from Yahoo News partners.

Study says bats could hold the key to fighting inflammatory diseases and aging

In a study published on Thursday, researchers identified a protein carried by bats that could explain their long lives and imperviousness to certain viruses — with possible “therapeutic potential” for humans.

Bats have “exceptionally long life spans for small mammals” with some surviving up to 40 years, the Telegraph reported, and they can live with viruses that would otherwise be harmful to humans, such as SARS, Ebola and Zika.

A team of scientists in Singapore and China said this is thanks to a modified version of a protein called “bat ASC2,” which suppresses the inflammatory response in bats. When researchers genetically modified mice to carry the protein, the mice demonstrated the same inflammatory defenses as bats. Human cells tested in a lab setting became more resilient too.

Lin-Fa Wang, who led the study, told the Telegraph that bat ASC2 could hold the key to longevity and reduced mortality from viruses in humans as well.

“It may not be the only factor, as biology is never as simple as one molecule or one pathway. But the overall dampening of inflammation most likely plays a role in health aging in bats,” Wang said.

New blood donation rules allow more gay men to give in U.S.

Drawing blood from a patient's arm.
All potential blood donors — regardless of sex, gender or sexual orientation — will now be screened with a new questionnaire evaluating their risks for HIV. (Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Under new guidelines finalized by the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday, gay and bisexual men in monogamous relationships are now able to donate blood without abstaining from sex, the Associated Press reported. The FDA announced plans for the change in January, and the new approach will be implemented by blood banks starting this week.

It’s the latest of several blood donation restrictions on gay and bisexual men that have been rolled back in the last few years. In 2015, the FDA dropped a lifetime ban on donations and replaced it with a one-year abstinence requirement before giving blood. In 2020, that one-year requirement was shortened to three months.

Instead of a blanket ban, all potential donors will now be screened with a new questionnaire evaluating their risks for HIV. “Potential donors who report having anal sex with new partners in the last three months will be barred from giving until a later date,” the Associated Press said.

First-time guidance issued for teens and social media

Young people looking at their cell phones.
Teens should have training in “social media literacy,” the American Psychological Association says. (Getty Images) (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

On Tuesday, the American Psychological Association (APA) issued its first advisory aimed at parents, teachers, technology companies and others on guiding teens’ social media use, Fox News reported.

The Health Advisory on Social Media Use in Adolescence includes a number of recommendations, such as establishing “social media limits and boundaries,” giving teens training in “social media literacy” and reducing adolescents’ risk of exposure to “illegal or psychologically maladaptive behavior” on social media that could lead to self-harm. For children ages 10 to 14, the APA’s advisory recommends that adults review their children’s social media and offer ongoing discussion and coaching about the content.

“Help your child understand people are selective about sharing only what they want you to see online, giving a curated view of their lives and appearance,” APA’s chief science officer, Mitch Prinstein, said in a Q&A on the organization’s website.

Prinstein said about half of teens report at least one sign of problematic social media use, with warning signs including “being unable to stop even when they want to, lying in order to continue using social media and failing to keep up with daily routines, schoolwork or relationships,” Fox News said.

Artificial intelligence could lead to faster, more accurate heart attack diagnosis

Drawing of the human heart system.
Advances in AI could relieve pressure on emergency departments. (Getty Images) (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A study published on Thursday suggests that an algorithm developed using artificial intelligence (AI) could provide faster, more accurate heart attack diagnoses.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found that compared to current testing methods, an “algorithm called CoDE-ACS was able to rule out a heart attack in more than double the number of patients, with an accuracy of 99.6%,” the Independent reported.

The algorithm was developed using data from 10,038 patients in Scotland who presented with a suspected heart attack. Using patient information such as age, sex, medical history and troponin levels, it produced a probability score of 0 to 100 to predict whether the individual had had a heart attack.

Experts say the ability to rule out heart attacks faster could relieve pressure on emergency departments and reduce hospital admissions by singling out patients whose pain is due to a heart attack from those whose symptoms are caused by something less serious.