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USC 2015: The year in health and wellness

One in a series showcasing a year of university highlights

The close of one year and dawn of another brings on inevitable resolutions: promises to live better, smarter and healthier. USC scientists did their part in 2015, coming up with a wide array of research in the world of wellness. From disease-fighting diets to surprising strategies against baldness, here are highlights from USC’s year in health.

An anti-aging, anti-cancer answer


Fresh veggies, anyone? (Photo/Bob Nichols)

If you want to live longer, lose belly fat and get smarter, a key may be to eat less — a lot less. In their study in mice, USC Davis School of Gerontology scientists showed that going on cycles of a four-day, low-calorie diet that mimics fasting could boost several aspects of health. Other work from the researchers in 2015 also suggested that cyclic fasting combined with low-toxicity chemotherapy can help fight colon, breast and lung cancers.

The future in mothers milk

baby with bottle

The study examined 25 mother-infant pairs and looked at breast milk and infant measures at ages 1 and 6 months. (Photo/Mary Mackinnon)

USC researchers linked some components of breast milk to a child’s risk of developing obesity later in life. Levels of certain kinds of carbohydrates in breast milk could influence children’s future obesity even more than the mother’s own weight or her weight gain during pregnancy.

Pulling hairs might help for baldness

Bald man

The team’s regenerative process relies on the principle of “quorum sensing.” (Photo/Randi Scott)

Could a treatment for baldness be in the offing? Scientists found that plucking hairs in a specific pattern and density can cause up to six times as much hair to grow back, according to Keck School of Medicine of USC pathology Professor Cheng-Ming Chuong. The injured hair follicles spur the immune system to push surrounding follicles to grow hair.

Big win for kids’ health

Los Angeles Skyline

Air quality has improved throughout the Los Angeles basin, resulting in health improvements for growing children. (Photo/Nserrano)

Kids in Southern California breathe easier today than youngsters who came of age in the ’90s, courtesy of cleaner air. The USC Children’s Health Study found that fewer children in the Los Angeles basin today have lung problems linked to poor air quality. That sets them up for a healthier adulthood.

Restore your own teeth?


USC researchers are examining some novel ways for dental regeneration. (Photo/Damien Thorne)

Imagine replacing a broken tooth with a brand-new molar that’s all your own. Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC researchers took a step toward making that happen. They discovered how stem cells act as seeds to become different kinds of teeth. The work could help in strategies to regrow new human molars, incisors and more.

A reward for eating less

healthy meal

The findings may offer a tasty salvo against rising obesity rates and health care costs. (Photo/

A freebie could be the key to getting people to eat healthier portions at fast-food restaurants. USC Marshall School of Business esearchers found that when customers were given the option of either ordering a large-sized meal or a small meal at the same price — but the small meal included a chance at winning a prize — diners opted for the smaller portion.

Controlling a robot with your mind

Erik Sorto

Erik Sorto uses the robotic arm surgically implanted by Keck Medicine of USC. (Photo/Spencer Kellis, Caltech)

A bullet paralyzed Erik Sorto from the neck down, but now he can control a robotic arm just by thinking about it. He became the first person to have a neural prosthetic device implanted in a region of the brain where intentions are made. Now he can take a drink or even play “rock, paper, scissors” with a robotic arm just by putting his mind to it.

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USC 2015: The year in health and wellness

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