Pig stem cells offer transplant hope Chinese researchers have created stem cells from pigs' ears and bone marrow - a breakthrough that may pave the way for life-saving organ transplants, as well as new ways to combat diseases. Many of the biological functions and organs of pigs are similar to those of humans, and the team from the Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology hopes to now be able to modify immune-related genes in pigs so their organs will be accepted by humans. Many research teams are trying to achieve a similar breakthrough with human adult cells: turning them into so-called pluripotent stem cells that, like embryonic cells, can develop into any type of cell, AFP reports. Protein linked to Huntington's found United States researchers have identified a protein that appears to trigger the destruction of brain cells in people with Huntington's disease - a rare, incurable and fatal genetic affliction. The discovery by a team from Johns Hopkins University raises hopes of finally developing a treatment, and may have implications for other brain diseases such as Alzheimer's. The Huntington's gene creates a faulty protein that's found in all cells, but until now it wasn't clear why it only kills certain neurons: apparently, it mixes with a second protein in the brain, called Rhes, triggering a toxic chemical meltdown, AP reports. Herb to target autoimmune diseases Harvard University researchers have used a 'revolutionary' drug derived from an ancient Chinese herb to target cells that cause autoimmune afflictions such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and inflammatory bowel disease. Chang shan, from the root of the blue evergreen hydrangea, has been used for 2,000 years to reduce fever and fight malaria, WebMD reports. Halofuginone, a derivative of its toxic active ingredient, was inconclusively tested against malaria by the US military during the 1960s. But Anjana Rao says her team's results show it may 'herald a revolution in the treatment of certain autoimmune and inflammatory diseases'. Study shows healing power of turmeric Using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, US researchers have confirmed the healing powers of the Indian spice turmeric and discovered how it works. Turmeric has been used for centuries to treat wounds, infections and other ailments. Although these benefits are usually attributed to the main ingredient, curcumin, it's not been clear exactly what it does. The University of Michigan team says it acts like a 'biochemical disciplinarian': curcumin molecules make cell membranes more stable and orderly, boosting the cells' resistance to infection from disease-causing microbes, healthday.com reports. Tai chi brings pain relief Practising tai chi appears to ease arthritis pain and disability, say Australian researchers, based on a review of seven studies. Although the quality of the studies was 'low' and included different styles of tai chi and frequencies of practice, those involved reported an average 10 per cent decrease in pain and disability, as well as less tension and more satisfaction with their health generally, WebMD reports. This amounts to a 'small positive effect', says the review team. Mood affects vision, research finds What mood you're in appears to affect how well and how much you see, say Canadian researchers, based on a small study using functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI. People in a good mood take in more information when they look at something; those in a bad mood are more likely to have tunnel vision, WebMD reports. 'Good moods enhance the literal size of the window through which we see the world,' says team leader Taylor Schmitz, of the University of Toronto, who notes that this isn't always a good thing.