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Saturday, 3 September 2011

Mathematical modeling may improve health treatments

David Vanness, assistant professor of population health sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, shows a slide from a statistical model in his office. Vanness develops mathematical models to assess the effectiveness of different health care treatments.
Madison - What is the maximum dose of a drug that will limit side effects to an acceptable level? How many patients would benefit from a treatment and how many would be harmed? Would the potential benefit of screening everyone for a disease outweigh the potential harm to people who receive unneeded care because of inaccurate results?
These are common questions in modern medicine. Yet answering them often would require clinical trials that span decades.That's not practical or even feasible. Instead, researchers are turning to computer models, meshing math and biology to develop a better understanding of the effectiveness of diagnostic tests and treatments.David Vanness at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health is one of those researchers.Vanness, an economist, spends a good part of his days writing intricate equations designed to gauge what is known - and what isn't known - about how well a diagnostic test or treatment works."My goal is to help take the research that's already being done about new medical technologies and help decision-makers determine whether they are valuable to patients and to society," he said.
The amount of information generated by the advances in medicine often is too overwhelming and too complex to analyze and understand without computer models.
It's an esoteric field - the domain of people with a gift for math - but the work of Vanness and other researchers could one day help ensure that patients receive the most effective care.
The goal is to give doctors better information on which tests, drugs and procedures work best for specific patients. Too often, that information simply doesn't exist, particularly for new treatments."We are always playing catch-up," Vanness said. "The joke in technology assessment is it's always too early to assess a technology until it's too late."
Vanness' expertise is building Bayesian models - a type of statistical analysis used to determine probability and measure uncertainty.
Advances in medicine often start with imperfect evidence and build on that. Bayesian models are a way of gauging how much confidence you can have in research findings, such as whether patients or a specific group of patients would benefit from a treatment.
"That's really what my job is about - trying to find out what the data can tell us that's of value and trying to highlight where it fails and why it fails," he said.
Making sense of data
Computer models enable researchers to integrate and analyze data from different sources, such as clinical trials, medical records and insurance claims.
"You've got to find something to string it all together," Vanness said, "and you use mathematical models and computers to do that."
That, in turn, could help doctors and scientists answer questions about the effectiveness of different treatments more quickly.
If you want to know where to focus your research energies and resources," Vanness said, "then you have to know what you don't know."
The work brings together an array of disciplines - medicine, applied math, biostatistics, epidemiology, economics, engineering.
"It's a grab bag," he said.
On Wall Street, Vanness would be known as a "quant," and he could have plied his skills building mathematical models to help predict whether an investment would go up or down.
Models are widely used in weighing and analyzing potential benefits and harms from a treatment or diagnostic test.
Researchers use models, for example, to help determine whether patients should be screened for a disease, estimating how many patients would benefit by detecting the disease early and how many would be harmed by additional tests or unnecessary treatments when the initial results are inaccurate.
"Modeling is a way to help you weigh those trade-offs and understand how important they are," said Douglas Owens, a senior investigator at VA Palo Alto Health Care System and a professor of medicine at Stanford University.
An example is the controversial recommendation that screening most women in their 40s for breast cancer would result in more harm - because of the risk of complications from biopsies when mammograms incorrectly indicate a possible tumor - than the overall benefit of detecting cancer in some women.
The recommendation sparked a firestorm of criticism. And without question, some women are alive today because they were screened in their 40s. But that doesn't undercut the panel's conclusions that the harms overall outweighed the benefits.
A bigger role ahead
Models have inherent limitations. They are only as good as the data and assumptions on which they are based. They also can make dumb - or wildly varying - predictions if the researcher misses something in the data.
But models are being used more cautiously, Vanness said, and in the past decade they have gotten better at measuring uncertainty.
"But there's still a lot to be learned," he said.
At the same time, models are certain to have a larger role in research, in part because of advances in computer processing power and new statistical tools for analyzing and interpreting data and assessing uncertainty.
"The kind of things we do routinely now would have been very difficult to do 20 years ago," said Owens, the VA Palo Alto investigator.
Models also hold the potential for helping doctors and scientists determine the effectiveness of different treatments more quickly.
For example, more information will become available from electronic health records in the coming decade, such as how patients respond to a specific treatment, and models can help analyze that data.
They also could become an indispensable tool as more is learned about the link between someone's genetic makeup and disease and how he or she may respond to a specific treatment.
An additional advantage is they can be revised and updated when new information becomes available.
The ultimate goal is to provide better information to doctors and patients. That also could help make better use of the money spent on health care.
"We really are looking to direct resources toward things that work the best," said Pamela McMahon, associate director of the Institute for Technology Assessment at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Lowering health costs
Roughly half of the growth in medical spending is from new technology. Yet, whether a new test or treatment results in better outcomes for patients, or is more effective than less costly options, often isn't known.
Determining what treatments help patients will be essential if the United States and other countries are to slow the rise in health care spending.
Doctors, economists and policy analysts have long called for more research on comparative effectiveness - research that looks at what works best for specific patients.
The health care reform law allocated a total of $560 million through 2013 and more than $500 million a year beginning in 2014 on comparative-effectiveness research.
In addition, the Recovery Act of 2009 allocated $1.1 billion for the research.
The initiative will face its share of challenges. The research can be immensely complex and rarely yields straightforward answers. And ways must be found to find answers more quickly.
That will require new ways of analyzing data and new research methods.
"So much data gets collected in the clinical trials that are conducted that could have the keys to all sorts of treatment choices," Vanness said. "We just don't look at it."
"The hardest part about what I do sometimes is just this feeling that the answer is out there," he added, "and it's locked in the database somewhere or it's locked in the experiences of patients who just simply aren't being asked, 'Hey, how are you doing?'
"If we could just find efficient ways to capture and analyze that data, we could have a much healthier population."
Reporter Guy Boulton conducted research for this story during a fellowship funded by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research organization with offices in Menlo Park, Calif., and Washington, D.C.
By Guy Boulton of the Journal Sentinel

Quality certificate for ayurvedic medicines

The government has launched a voluntary quality certificate for the Rs.10,000 crore Indian ayurvedic drug industry to make it more competitive internationally, the Rajya Sabha was informed Tuesday.
In a written question, Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare S. Gandhiselvan said the department of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy) has collaborated with the Quality Council of India in issuing the quality certificate.
Till now, eight ayurvedic companies have got these certificates. The department comes under the health ministry.
‘This certification would enable industry to demonstrate compliance to international norms through independent, third party certification which would facilitate exports,’ he said.

Walnuts Linked to Reduced Breast Cancer Risk

Adding walnuts to your daily diet could go a long way in reducing the risk of breast cancer, a new study conducted by researchers from Marshall University in the United States reveals.
The researchers tested the effect of walnuts in mice that had been genetically programmed to develop breast cancer and found that the risk of cancer was lowered by as much as 50 percent when they were given walnuts in their daily diets.
Lead researcher Elaine Hardman said that walnuts also showed a positive influence on the genetic activity related to the development of breast cancer among humans. “What we put into our bodies makes a big difference – it determines how the body functions, and our reaction to illness and health. The results indicate that increased consumption of walnut could reduce the risk of cancer”, she said.
The research has been published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer.

Popular Takeaways Contain High Levels of Salt

A survey carried out by the Local Government Group Study into popular takeaways has found that the food items contain very high levels of salt, fat and artificial colors. The study analyzed more than 220 popular takeaways in both England and Wales and found that the food items contained artificial color levels in excess of the maximum limit set by the Food Standard Agency. According to the study, an average portion of popular Indian takeaways like chicken tikka masala and pilau rice had 116 percent of the Guideline Daily Amount (GDA) of saturated fat and 92 percent GDA of salt. The problem was also found in Chinese takeaway like sweet and sour chicken with fried rice which contained 119 percent GDA of salt. “The family takeaway is like a tradition in homes across the country, be it celebrating the end of a working week or settling down for Saturday night television. Everyone knows they often aren't especially healthy and should be enjoyed in moderation, but that just one meal can contain so much fat, salt and sugar is truly shocking and unnecessary”, LG Regulation Board’s Paul Bettison said. Source-Medindia

How Cycling can Benefit You

A sedentary lifestyle causes obesity. Regular cycling increases physical activity and improves overall health. Those who cycle regularly are seen to be healthier than those who do not do so. Regular cycling is an effective, proven way to maintain health and increase longevity. Some of the important benefits of cycling are:• It fortifies the immune system and protects the body from various infections. • It aids in strengthening the body muscles and regularly tones them. • Cycling strengthens the skeletal system and improves mobility. • It improves posture and prevents spinal diseases and back pain. • The circular movement of cycling is good for cartilages and tendons; therefore, it improves joint movement and prevents the likelihood of joint diseases. • Cycling has a calming or soothing effect. It reduces mental stress and physical fatigue. • It reduces fat accumulation in the body and, thus, prevents obesity. • It improves blood circulation in the body. • Cycling builds stamina. It reduces tiredness and promotes a feeling of well being. Various international organizations have emphasized the importance of physical activity and reduced dependence on cars. This emphasis is also significant from the point of view of growing global obesity and climatic challenges. A health impact assessment study was conducted to estimate the risks and the benefits of travelling by bicycle as compared to cars in an urban environment. This study was conducted among members of Bicing, which is acommunity bicycle sharing program, in Barcelona, Spain. The total number of participants in the study were 181,982. The overall outcome was quite remarkable. There was increased physical activity, reduction in air pollution and road accidents. There was also a significant decrease in the emission of carbon dioxide, which is released by cars and other automobiles. The estimated annual mortality of the Barcelona bicycle users was significantly affected. Initially, causalities occurring due to road accidents were 0.03, and deaths occurring due to air pollution were 0.13. Owing to increased physical activity by way of cycling, about 12.46 deaths were evaded. The benefit:risk ratio was 77. Bicycle also reduced the annual emission rate of carbon dioxide by 9,062,344 kg. The conclusion drawn from this study was that public initiatives like Bicing are very effective in promoting the use of cycle and also in highlighting the benefits associated with cycling. The benefits outweighed the risks involved. Therefore, such public initiatives are helpful in promoting the use of cycling to keep fit. Reference: The health risks and benefits of cycling in urban environments compared with car use: health impact assessment study; David Rojas et al; BMJ2011.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Hollywood Suffering OxyContin Abuse: Doctors Warn of A Beverly Hills Epidemic

OxyContin, a drug that is used for safe pain management, is becoming one of the most abused and misused drugs in Hollywood. The drug, known on the street as OC, O and hillbilly heroin, becomes menacingly dangerous if used inappropriately. Police officials revealed that not only Michael Jackson was 'heavily addicted' to Oxycontin before he died, but Adam 'DJ AM' Goldstein too downed several pills in his system at the time of his death two years ago. Whereas Courtney Love suffered an overdose of the medication in 2003, the same year radio personality Rush Limbaugh sought professional help for his addiction to the drug. Even Heath Ledger was prescribed the drug prior to his fatal overdose. "In my opinion, the OxyContin problem is in epidemic proportions," addiction specialist Clare Kavin told Fox News. "Regardless of the number of warnings and the related news in the media from the last few years, there is still a significant number of patients that are chained to this addiction and are scared or unable to seek treatment due to shame, financial means or fear of relapse," Kavin said. Kavin also insisted that the drug is mainly a hot favourite among celebrities because of its hefty price tag. "Oxycontin can be very expensive, at usually 20 to 40 dollars for a single pill," she said. "We have seen celebrities that have spent thousands of dollars a week in order to have these pills delivered directly to them," she added. Los Angeles-based addiction specialist, Dr. Adi Jaffe, added that the drug can be equivalently strong as heroin and there is hardly any difference between getting addicted to OxyContin and an addiction to heroin. Source-ANI

Aerobics Is the Most Effective Way To Burn Belly Fat

Aerobic exercise is the most efficient and effective way to lose the belly fat that poses a serious threat to your health, researchers say. Researchers from Duke University Medical Center concluded after conducting head-to-head comparison of aerobic exercise, resistance training, and a combination of the two.This isn't the fat that lies just under your skin and causes the dreaded muffin top. Belly or abdominal fat – known in scientific communities as visceral fat and liver fat -- is located deep within the abdominal cavity and fills the spaces between internal organs. It's been associated with increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, and certain kinds of cancer. "When it comes to increased health risks, where fat is deposited in the body is more important than how much fat you have," says Duke exercise physiologist Cris Slentz, Ph.D., lead author of the study published in the American Journal of Physiology. "Our study sought to identify the most effective form of exercise to get rid of that unhealthy fat." The Duke study showed aerobic training significantly reduced visceral fat and liver fat, the culprit in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Aerobic exercise also did a better job than resistance training at improving fasting insulin resistance, and reducing liver enzymes and fasting triglyceride levels. All are known risk factors for diabetes and heart disease. Resistance training achieved no significant reductions in visceral fat, liver fat, liver enzyme levels or improvements in insulin resistance. The combination of aerobic with resistance training achieved results similar to aerobic training alone.

Saliva Test for Cancer

The amount of potential carcinogens stuck to a person's DNA can be measured by means of a saliva test. This test could help determine risks for cancer and other diseases, scientists reported here today during the 242nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS)."The test measures the amount of damaged DNA in a person's body," said Professor Hauh-Jyun Candy Chen, Ph.D., who led the research team. "This is very important because such damaged DNA — we call this 'DNA adducts' — is a biomarker that may help doctors diagnose diseases, monitor how effective a treatment is and also recommend things high-risk patients can do to reduce the chances of actually getting a disease," said Chen. The research team is at National Chung Cheng University (NCCU) in Taiwan. "We tried urine and blood and found these adducts. Then we turned our attention to saliva. It's much more convenient to collect a sample of saliva." A DNA adduct forms when a potentially cancer-causing substance is chemically attached to a strand of DNA, which makes up genes. People come into contact with such substances in the environment, certain workplaces and through everyday activities. Cigarette smoke, for instance, contains at least 20 known cancer-causing substances. When such a substance binds to DNA, it changes the DNA so that genes may not work normally. Our body has a built-in repair system that can naturally clear up such damage. If that system fails, however, a DNA adduct could lead to mutations or genetic changes that, in turn, could lead to cancer. DNA adducts also accumulate with aging and have been linked to other health problems, including inflammatory diseases and chronic brain disorders like Alzheimer's disease.The new test measures the levels of five key DNA adducts, including some that form as a result of cigarette smoking. Traditionally, DNA for such tests had to be obtained by taking a blood sample and processing the white blood cells, which contain large amounts of the genetic material. More recently, however, scientists found that DNA samples could be obtained more conveniently from saliva. The DNA is present in white blood cells found naturally in saliva and from cells shed from the lining of the mouth. Chen uses a very sensitive laboratory instrument called a mass spectrometer to analyze for DNA adducts.Chen envisions several uses for any potential commercial version of the test, which she said would probably cost several hundred dollars. One, for example, might be health promotion among people exposed to carcinogens due to lifestyle, occupation or other factors. Detection of high levels of DNA addicts in cigarette smokers, for instance, could encourage them to stop. Follow-up tests showing a decline in DNA adducts could reinforce their healthier lifestyle. Source-Eurekalert

New Culprit in Alzheimer's Disease Identified

Scientists from University of British Columbia have discovered the key factor that destroys the brain in Alzheimer's disease - a profusion of blood vessels.While the death of cells, whether they are in the walls of blood vessels or in brain tissue, has been a major focus of Alzheimer's disease research, a team led by Wilfred Jefferies, a professor in UBC's Michael Smith Laboratories, has shown that the neurodegenerative disease might in fact be caused by the propagation of cells in blood vessel walls. Examining brain tissue from mouse models of Alzheimer's disease, Jefferies' team found nearly double the density of capillaries compared to normal mice. They also found a similarly higher density of capillaries in brain samples of people who had died of the disease, compared to samples from people who didn't have it. Jefferies, in an article published online today by PLoS One, theorizes that the profusion of blood vessels is stimulated by amyloid beta, a protein fragment that has become a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. The blood vessel growth, or "neo-angiogenesis," leads to a breakdown of the blood-brain barrier – the tightly interlocked network of cells that allows oxygen-carrying blood to reach brain tissue while blocking harmful substances, such as viruses. "When the blood vessels grow, the cells of the vessel walls propagate by dividing," Jefferies says. "In the process of splitting into two new cells, they become temporarily rounded in shape, and that undermines the integrity of the blood-brain barrier, potentially allowing harmful elements from outside the brain to seep in."

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

High Protein Diet Helps Lose Belly Fat

High-protein, low-carbohydrate energy restricted diet help dieters trim belly fat and increase lean muscle, particularly when the proteins come from dairy products. The study, published in the September issue of the Journal of Nutrition,compared three groups of overweight and obese, but otherwise healthy, premenopausal women. Each consumed either low, medium or high amounts of dairy foods coupled with higher or lower amounts of protein and carbohydrates. The women exercised seven days per week for four months, a routine that included five days of aerobic exercise and two days of circuit weightlifting. According to the researchers, there were identical total weight losses among the groups, but the higher-protein, high-dairy group experienced greater whole-body fat and abdomen fat losses, greater lean mass gains and greater increases in strength. The tissue composition, exclusively fat, of the weight the women lost has profound implications for longer-term health, say the researchers. One hundred per cent of the weight lost in the higher-protein, high-dairy group was fat. And the participants gained muscle mass, which is a major change in body composition, says Andrea Josse, lead author of the study and a graduate student in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University. “The preservation or even gain of muscle is very important for maintaining metabolic rate and preventing weight regain, which can be major problem for many seeking to lose weight.” Researchers found the lower-protein, low-dairy group lost about a pound and half of muscle whereas the lower-protein, medium dairy group lost almost no muscle. In marked contrast, the higher-protein, high-dairy group actually gained a pound and half of muscle, representing a three-pound difference between the low- and high-dairy groups.

Healthful Antioxidant Levels Boosted by Putting the Squeeze on Fruit With 'Pascalization'

New evidence that a century-old food preservation technology is finding a new life amid 21st century concerns about food safety and nutrition, scientists are reporting. They say that the method more than doubles the levels of certain healthful natural antioxidants in fruit. The effect, reported here at the 242nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), occurs as a bonus in addition to its effects in killing harmful bacteria, viruses and mold in food. The technology, called high-pressure processing (HPP) involves subjecting food to 40,000-80,000 pounds of pressure per square inch for about 15 minutes. That's about five times the pressure that an African elephant would exert if it stood on a postage stamp. Applied evenly, however, the force in HPP does not squash the food — which can be fresh, processed, liquid or in other forms. The pressure does change the molecular structure of the microbes in food in ways that kill bacteria, molds and viruses. The technique also is known as "pascalization" in honor of the 17th century French scientist Blaise Pascal, famous for research on the effects of pressure on liquids. It differs from the more familiar thermal pasteurization process, which involves heating milk, beer and other foods to kill bacteria. Carmen Hernandez-Brenes, Ph.D., presented results of the new study on HPP's effects on antioxidants in fruit. Her presentation was part of a symposium, which began today, entitled "Tropical and Subtropical Fruits: Flavors, Color, and Health Benefits." Abstracts of the nearly two dozen presentations by international authorities on those topics appear at the end of this press release.

Benefits and Risks of Soy Food for Women in Menopause

A new report reviews the risks and benefits of soy protein, isoflavones and metabolites in menopausal health that can be useful to physicians to help them make decisions about soy use with their patients. Soy has recently been reviewed and supported for introduction into general medical practice as a treatment for distressing vasomotor symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, but its use in other medical areas, such as heart health, requires further research, according to a new report reviewing the risks and benefits of soy protein, isoflavones and metabolites in menopausal health from The North American Menopause Society (NAMS)/Wulf H. Utian Translational Science Symposium, published in the July Menopause, the peer-reviewed NAMS journal. "Although a significant amount of scientific research about soy and soy isoflavones exists, the adoption of soy isoflavones into the care of women in menopause has to date been recommended mainly by physicians and health care practitioners involved in integrative medicine. We believed that facilitating a robust review of the current scientific evidence about the benefits and risks of soy could yield a document useful to physicians to help them make decisions about soy use with their patients, particularly those in menopause," said Belinda H. Jenks, Ph.D., director of Scientific Affairs & Nutrition Education at Pharmavite LLC. Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., Pharmavite LLC and the Allmen Foundation supported the development of the symposium and report via an unrestricted educational grant.

Extroverts Need Not Necessarily Be Happier Than Introverts

Extroverts need not necessarily be happier than introverts, says new research. Those who go out, drink and make merry are generally thought to enjoy their life a lot more than the inhibited types. But Indiana University researchers found that the less socially inclined could have stronger family relationships and friendships, which could make them that much more emotionally secure. They could also resort to cognitive strategies like positive thinking to make up for their limited social interaction. What is more important than partying is maintaining contacts with family, with friends and like-minded individuals, insists Bernardo J. Carducci, director of the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University Southeast. “That could be other people in clubs that you belong to, like the accounting club, astronomy club . . . people you play intramural sports with." A second study, also conducted by Carducci, found that college students who are goal-oriented also tend to be happier than their less focused peers. "When you look at what these people do differently, people who strive to reach personal goals, they engage in more purposeful leisure, rather than sitting around and watching television," Carducci said. "They don't go clubbing as much as the others. They spend more time on what we call spiritual reflection. They write in journals. These are the kinds of people who tend to be more happy. These also are the people who mostly graduate from college."

Discontinuation of Smokeless Tobacco Post-Myocardial Infarction Linked to Better Survival Chances

In this prospective cohort study, presented today at the ESC Congress 2011, discontinuation of smokeless tobacco after a myocardial infarction (MI) is associated with a lower risk of subsequent mortality. Investigators found that post MI snus quitters had a 44 % lower risk of total mortality.The association seems to be independent of smoking habits, but partly explained by concomitant changes in other lifestyle variables. Smokeless tobacco in the form of Swedish snus (oral moist snuff) has been advocated as a safer alternative to smoking. Snus takes the form of a finely ground and moistened tobacco, a bolus of which is placed under the upper lip for around an hour, with daily exposure times estimated to be around 10 to 12 hours. Different formulations exist from loose tobacco to sachets. In Sweden, 20% of adult males and 4% of adult females are estimated to be daily users. The sale of snus is illegal in the rest of the European Union, but widespread and increasing in the United States. "While cigarettes are indeed associated with more negative health effects, smokeless tobacco can't be regarded as harmless," said Gabriel Arefalk from Uppsala University (Uppsala, Sweden), the first author of the study. "In Sweden every time we discharge an MI patient who's a snus user, we're faced with the clinically important question of whether they should discontinue use." Of concern, he added, has been a meta-analysis suggesting that use of smokeless tobacco results in an increased risk for fatal MIs, indicating that snus use may predispose people to arrhythmic or other serious complications of MIs.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Health Ministry studying recommendations of inter-ministerial panel on radiation effects from mobiles

The Union health ministry is studying the report of an inter-ministerial committee on the effect of radiation from mobile tower and mobile phones and may sanction long term scientific research related to the health aspect of radiation exposure.
Based on media reports and public concerns, Department of Telecommunications (DoT) constituted a committee on this in August last year, consisting of representatives from DoT, Indian Council of Medical Research, Ministry of Environment & Forest and Department of Biotechnology to examine the various studies on the effect of radiation from mobile tower and mobile phones.
One of the recommendations of the panel was to conduct the long term scientific research related to health aspect of EMF radiation exposure and associated technologies in India in the areas like health effect of RF exposure in children, and health effect of RF exposure in foetus, mothers and elderly persons.
Sources in the ministry said that the recommendations were being examined by the Government for taking appropriate action. The Ministry will go for long term comprehensive study as far as the health aspects are concerned.
Different studies have been done so far in this area. The international Agency for Research on cancer (IARC), a part of the World Health Organization (WHO), has classified radiofrequency electro-magnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B), based on an increased risk for gliaoma, a malignant type of brain cancer associated with wireless phone use. WHO will conduct a formal risk assessment of all studied health outcomes from radiofrequency fields exposure by 2012.
To study adverse effects of cell phone, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has initiated a study in Delhi to examine whether use of cell phone creates risk of neurological, cardiological, cancer, ENT and reproductive discords. Efforts will also be made to measure specific absorption rate, power density wave length and frequency of RFR emitted from various types of cell phones and cell phone towers under this study.
An animal study (2005-08) supported by ICMR to find out the effect of RFR (Radio Frequency Radiation) on male reproduction at Jawaharlal Nehru University suggested that decrease in sperm count and increase in apoptosis may be a causative factor due to mobile radiation exposure leading to infertility. A study conducted by PGIMER (Post Graduate Institute for Medical Education & Research), Chandigarh (2010) reported long term and intensive mobile phone use may cause inner ear damage.
The inter-ministerial committee had taken note of all these studies and made the recommendations to the Government, sources added.

Chinese Herb to Treat Alzheimer's Disease

A practical method has been developed by Yale University researchers to create a compound called huperzine A found in Chinese club moss. This compound is believed to treat Alzheimer's disease.
They believe that the compound could also potentially combat the effects of chemical warfare agents.Until now, researchers have only been able to derive small amounts of the compound directly from the Huperzia serrata plant, or had to resort to lengthy and cumbersome methods to synthesize it in the lab.
Now researchers at Yale have developed a practical and cost-effective method to synthesize huperzine A in the lab. The process requires just eight steps and produces a yield of 40 percent. Previously, the best synthetic techniques had required twice as many steps and achieved yields of only two percent.
"Being able to synthesize large amounts of huperzine A in the lab is crucial because the plant itself, which has been used in Chinese folk medicine for centuries, takes decades to grow and is nearing extinction due to overharvesting," said Seth Herzon, the Yale chemist who led the research.
Herzon and his team have partnered with an industrial firm to help produce the compound on larger scales.
The firm plans to comprehensively evaluate the therapeutic potential of huperzine A by conducting clinical trials for several different neurological disorders in the U.S.
"We believe huperzine A has the potential to treat a range of neurologic disorders more effectively than the current options available," Herzon said. "And we now have a route to huperzine A that rivals nature's pathway."
The study was recently published in the journal Chemical Science.

Revealed: How sticky egg captures sperm

Researchers have uncovered exactly how a human egg captures an incoming sperm to begin the fertilisation process, in a new study published this week in the journal Science.
The research identifies the sugar molecule that makes the outer coat of the egg 'sticky', which is vital for enabling the sperm and egg to bind together. Researchers across the world have been trying to understand what performs this task for over thirty years.
The scientists behind this study believe their work could help address some of the previously unexplained causes of human infertility and sub-fertility and be very useful for diagnosing this problem in couples who are unable to have children. It could also provide a new target for the development of natural contraceptive agents.
The international team, from the University of Missouri, the University of Hong Kong, Academia Sinica in Taiwan and Imperial College London, discovered that the sugar chain known as the sialyl-lewis-x sequence (SLeX) is highly abundant on the surface of the human egg. After experimenting with a range of synthesised sugars in the laboratory they went on to show that SLeX specifically binds sperm to an egg, and tested their findings using the outer coats of unfertilised 'non-living' human eggs.

"This exciting research is providing the first insights into the molecular events occurring at the very beginning of human life. The details we've discovered here fill in a huge gap in our knowledge of fertility and we hope they will ultimately help many of those people who currently cannot conceive," said Professor Anne Dell CBE FRS FMedSci from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London, who led the team that discovered the SLeX sugars on the egg surface.
"Unravelling the composition of the sugar coat that shrouds the human egg is the culmination of many years of painstaking research by my mass spectrometry colleagues at Imperial. This endeavour was an enormously difficult task because human eggs are very tiny - about the size of a full stop - so we didn't have much material to work with."
The World Health Organization estimates that infertility affects up to 15 percent of reproductive-aged couples worldwide and almost one in every seven couples in the UK have problems conceiving a child for various clinical reasons, many of which are still unexplained by medical science.
Lead author, Dr Poh-Choo Pang, also from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London, said: "We hope that our study will open up new possibilities for understanding and addressing the fertility problems that many couples face. Although clinical treatments are still a way off, we are very excited about the new research into fertility that we hope will now be possible, building on our work."
"We first proposed a model of human sperm-binding involving SLeX-like molecules on the outer covering of the human egg in 1992. Our recent studies have now confirmed that this longstanding model is correct," said corresponding author and associate professor Gary Clark, from the University of Missouri School of Medicine. "Defining how the sperm initially recognises and then penetrates the egg's sugar coat is important for the design of natural contraceptive agents and for unravelling causes of previously unexplained human infertility or sub-fertility."
A sperm 'recognises' an egg when proteins on the head of the sperm meet and match a series of specific sugars in the egg's outer coat. Once a successful match has been made, the outside surfaces of the sperm and egg bind together before they merge and the sperm delivers its DNA to the inside, fertilising the egg.
The authors of this new study used ultra-sensitive mass-spectrometric imaging technology to assess which molecules were most likely to be key in the binding process. They discovered that SLeX is abundantly found on the egg's outer coat and that it is expressed at a much higher concentration than any of the other sugars that can be found on the thick transparent shell. From these results, they deduced that SLeX was most likely to be responsible for binding with proteins on the head of the sperm.
The research team in Hong Kong tested whether SLeX was the key binding sugar using the outer coats of unfertilised and non-living human eggs, obtained by informed consent from in vitro-fertilisation patients. They carefully bisected the empty coat in a delicate procedure using a tiny knife, carried out under a powerful microscope. The scientists treated one half with a chemical that prevented the SLeX sugar from binding, to see what effect this would have on a sperm's ability to bind to the egg. When they released sperm around the bisected egg, they found that significantly fewer bound to the treated half of the egg coat than the untreated half.
"Our knowledge on sperm-egg binding in humans is limited. The identification of SLeX would enable researchers to uncover other molecules involved in this important process of human life," said Professor William Yeung from the Department of Obstetrics and Gyneacology and the Centre for Reproduction, Development and Growth at the University of Hong Kong, who led this phase of the research.
The researchers are now keen to use the findings of this study to further investigate the proteins on the head of a sperm that enable it to recognise an egg.
Source:Eureka Alert

Proposed Medicare, Medicaid Cuts may Force Docs to Stop Seeing Patients

US lawmakers have for sometime now been struggling with facts and figures on how to cut federal spending by $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years.
There are proposals to cut Medicare and Medicaid programs that could make it impossible for many hospitals to remain profitable and force doctors to stop seeing Medicare patients.
As part of a deal struck earlier this month to raise the nation's debt ceiling, a bi-partisan "supercommittee" has until Nov. 23 to make recommendations for spending cuts. If Congress cannot agree on a plan, automatic spending cuts will begin in 2013 - including a 2 per cent reduction in Medicare reimbursements to hospitals and health care providers.
That change will result in the loss of $1.3 billion for Pennsylvania hospitals alone over a nine-year period, according to Michael Strazzella, vice president of federal relations for the Hospital and Healthsystems Association of Pennsylvania.
But proposals being studied to avoid the automatic cuts may end up being worse for hospitals, doctors and patients, experts said. Suggestions include:
A 30 per cent cut to Medicare reimbursements to physicians, which many doctors say would force many in their ranks out of business.
Converting Medicaid to a block grant program, which would cut Pennsylvania's share of federal funding by about 31 per cent.
In late December, President Barack Obama signed legislation renewing the region's wage index set under 2003's Medicare Modernization Act, which allowed area hospitals to retain more than $34 million in Medicare.The act increased Medicare reimbursements to area hospitals by about 8 percent, elevating them to what hospitals in the Allentown/Easton areas receive. The fix helps local hospitals offer wages comparable to hospitals in Allentown, Easton and even parts of New Jersey, Mr. Strazzella said, but needs to be extended each year by legislators.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Seniors’ Adverse Drug Reactions Need Better Prevention Strategies, Say Researchers

Medical practitioners need to implement new strategies for decreasing adverse drugs reactions among seniors, conclude the authors of a scientific literature review led by Michael Steinman, MD, a physician and geriatrics researcher at the San Francisco VA Medical Center.
“Most approaches to preventing adverse drug events in older people have focused on getting doctors to prescribe the right drug in the first place,” said Steinman. “But, it turns out that the majority of adverse drug reactions occur because medications that are prescribed correctly sometimes have side effects.”
Steinman, who is also an associate professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, noted that approximately 10 percent of hospitalizations in older people are due to medication reactions, and that about one third of older adults have an adverse drug event every year.The key to reducing adverse drug events, he said, is for doctors to focus not only on the initial decision of what to prescribe, but on finding ways to “better catch and manage these adverse events soon after they occur, and before they can spiral out of control” – something that physicians “have not always been very good at doing,” Steinman said.
The review appears in the August 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
One reason adverse medication reactions cause so much “preventable harm,” said Steinman, is that patients and physicians sometimes have difficulty recognizing those reactions. “A patient might feel lightheaded or dizzy, or have an upset stomach or trouble thinking clearly,” he said. “Instead of recognizing those as drug side effects, we can end up on wild goose chases, looking for other diseases or conditions that could be causing those symptoms.”
A common scenario, Steinman said, is one in which a patient gets stomach pains from a medication. “Instead of stopping the drug,” he said, “the doctor prescribes a second drug for the stomach pains. That drug has a side effect, and the doctor gives a third drug to treat the side effects of the second drug, and so on.”
The authors recommend several steps to help doctors better evaluate and manage drug side effects.One step would be to design, or re-design, health information technology – such as electronic medical records – to monitor for possible side effects by cross-checking patients’ prescriptions, laboratory information and reported symptoms.
A second step would be to educate patients in how to recognize and report side effects, and to increase vigilance among medical professionals in checking for side effects in their patients. “This requires us to actively follow up with patients,” said Steinman. “It doesn’t have to be doctors who do this; pharmacists, nurses and even automated voice response systems over the telephone could provide early warning and advance notice.”
A third step would be for medical schools to teach clinicians a more active approach to prescribing drugs and following up with patients. They note that “interdisciplinary training can help physicians, pharmacists, nurses and other health professionals learn how to work together in ongoing assessments of patient care.”
Co-authors of the study are Steven M. Handler, MD, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh and the Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Health Care System; Jerry H. Gurwitz, MD, of the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the Meyers Primary Care Institute, Worcester, Mass.; Gordon D. Schiff, MD, of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Mass.; and Kenneth E. Covinsky, MD, MPH, of SFVAMC and UCSF.
The research was supported by funds from the National Institute on Aging, the American Federation for Aging Research, the National Institutes of Health and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Some of the funds were administered by the Northern California Institute for Research and Education.
NCIRE - The Veterans Health Research Institute - is the largest research institute associated with a VA medical center. Its mission is to improve the health and well-being of veterans and the general public by supporting a world-class biomedical research program conducted by the UCSF faculty at SFVAMC.
SFVAMC has the largest medical research program in the national VA system, with more than 200 research scientists, all of whom are faculty members at UCSF.
UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care.
Source:Steve Tokar

Researchers Say Violence Still a Leading Cause of Death

Researchers say that the estimated annual cost of medical care and productivity lost because of violence each year is estimated at more than 70 billion dollars.
Violence is an unfortunate reality of the world we live in with direct implications for health" state Dr. James Rippe, Editor in Chief of the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.
The journal in collaboration with the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC) in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed a special issue to take a closer look at violence prevention.
"We are delighted to join with the CDC to bring this important issue to the forefront of medical discussion," said Rippe.
Suicide, child abuse, playground fights, gang violence, sexual assault, and domestic violence are other examples of violence that touch people in all walks of life and communities everywhere, the report says.
Homicide and suicide remain in the top 10 leading causes of death for people from birth to age 64. "Clinicians play an integral role in preventing violence on both individual and community levels. By understanding and recognizing risks for violence in their patients, they can identify warning signs and make referrals to effective preventive services. They can add to the voice of the community in raising awareness of violence, and in implementing evidence-based strategies to prevent it," said Dr. Linda Degutis, Director of CDC's Injury Center.

Painkiller recalled after suspected sabotage

The makers of painkiller Nurofen Plus have recalled the tablets in Britain after anti-psychotic and epilepsy drugs were found to have been placed in packets in acts of suspected sabotage.
"Nurofen Plus is being recalled," said a statement on Friday from manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser.
"Consumers are being asked to return packs of Nurofen Plus to their nearest pharmacy following five reported cases of other manufacturer's medicines being found in boxes."
It added: "Sabotage is suspected and we are working with the police on a formal investigation to find the person or persons responsible."
Distribution and manufacture of Nurofen Plus had also been halted while investigations take place, said the company.
There had been no serious health consequences for consumers but the manufacturer said it did not want to take any risks when it came to the safety of its products.
There are around 250,000 packets of Nurofen Plus currently in customers' hands, the company added.
Police in London, where four of the affected packets were found, confirmed they were investigating.
The decision came after the country's medicines watchdog issued a warning that some packs of Nurofen Plus contained Seroquel XL, an anti-psychotic drug used to treat schizophrenia, mania and bipolar depression.
The drug was found in four packets in London and two people had accidentally taken the drug but are both well, said the company.
People who take it may experience sleepiness and are advised not to drive or operate any tools or machinery until they know how the tablets have affected them.
Meanwhile the epilepsy drug Neurontin was found in one packet of Nurofen Plus, but no one was thought to have accidentally taken the drug, which can cause dizziness.

Report: Vaccines generally safe, some side effects

Vaccines can cause certain side effects but serious ones appear very rare — and there's no link with autism and Type 1 diabetes, the Institute of Medicine says in the first comprehensive safety review in 17 years.
The report released Thursday isn't aimed at nervous parents. And the side effects it lists as proven are some that doctors long have known about, such as fever-caused seizures and occasional brain inflammation.
Instead, the review comes at the request of the government's Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which as the name implies, pays damages to people who are injured by vaccines. Federal law requires this type of independent review as officials update side effects on that list to be sure they agree with the latest science.
"Vaccines are important tools in preventing serious infectious disease across the lifespan, from infancy through adulthood. All health care interventions, however, carry the possibility of risk and vaccines are no exception," said pediatrician and bioethicist Dr. Ellen Wright Clayton of Vanderbilt University, who chaired the institute panel.
Still, the report stresses that vaccines generally are safe, and it may help doctors address worries from a small but vocal anti-vaccine movement. Some vaccine-preventable diseases, including measles, are on the rise.
"I am hopeful that it will allay some people's concerns," Clayton said.
The review echoed numerous other scientific reports that dismiss an autism link.
But it found convincing evidence of 14 side effects:
—Fever-triggered seizures, which seldom cause long-term consequences, from the measles-mumps-rubella, or MMR, vaccine.
—MMR also can cause a rare form of brain inflammation in some people with immune problems.
—The varicella vaccine against chickenpox sometimes triggers that viral infection, resulting in widespread chickenpox or a painful relative called shingles. It also occasionally can lead to pneumonia, hepatitis or meningitis.
—Six vaccines — MMR and the chickenpox, hepatitis B, meningococcal and tetanus-containing vaccines — can cause severe allergic reactions known as anaphylaxis.
—Vaccines in general sometimes trigger fainting or a type of shoulder inflammation.
There's suggestive evidence but not proof of a few other side effects, including anaphylaxis from the human papillomavirus, or HPV, vaccine and short-term joint pain in some women and children from the MMR vaccine.
On the other hand, the report cleared flu shots of blame for two long-suspected side effects: Bell's palsy and worsening of asthma.
That doesn't mean there aren't other side effects — the review couldn't find enough evidence to decide about more than 100 other possibilities. Some vaccines are just too new to link to something really rare. Another example: Flu shots have long come with a caution about rare, paralyzing Guillain-Barre syndrome, but Clayton said research hasn't settled if that's a coincidence since the disorder is more common during the winter.
The Health Resources and Services Administration, which runs the vaccine compensation program, is reviewing the report but said it's too early to predict if it will prompt changes to the injury list.

By 2020, Asian Men Will Be Struggling to Find Wives

Asian men will have a tough time finding a wife by 2020 if the ongoing perception that a male is better than a female child continues.
According to the China Press, an estimated 160 million female foetuses have been aborted over many decades due to the mistaken perception that the male is superior to the female.
And the trend is especially severe in China and India, where the ratio of the male and female population was seriously unbalanced.
"It is estimated that by 2020, it will be very difficult for hundreds of thousands of Asian men to get a wife," the Star Online quoted the paper as stating.
American author Mara Hvistendahl said in her new book 'Unnatural Selection' that many Asian parents only wanted male babies because of the belief and also due to the "one child" policy in China.
The daily said if nature was allowed to take its course, the ratio of male and female population should be 105 male to 100 female.
"However, the male population in many developing countries has far exceeded this ratio. In China, the ratio is 120 male to 100 female, India (108:100) and Armenia (120:100)," it revealed.

Herbs To Stop Lethal Bleeding After Birth

Danish researchers have identified several herbs that could help stop lethal bleedings after birth. They examined a number of plants which are used for illegal abortions in Tanzania. The lab tests show that several of the plants can make the uterus tissue contract and that the plants therefore can be used to staunch bleeding. This new knowledge is now to be conveyed in rural Tanzania where access to medicine often is difficult.
Every year around 350,000 women die globally due to post partum bleedings – blood loss during child birth. On the African continent, one in 16 women die during their pregnancy and in some countries the number is as high as every eighth woman. The reason is poor access to medical assistance often because the women either lack money or because they live to far away. The knowledge about herbs, which can help the uterus contract after childbirth is therefore often the only life saving opportunity in remote rural areas.
Scientists at the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, tested 22 abort inducing plants in the lab on rat tissue, and several of the plants had close to the same effect as the control drug acetylcholin.
“Half of the plants we tested made the uterus tissue contract strongly whereas 11 of the extracts induced contractions with short intervals. Seven of the plants worked in both ways,” explains Associate Professor Anna K. Jäger from the Department of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Copenhagen. Anna K. Jäger is Ethno Pharmacologist, which means her research is founded in the meeting with different cultures’ traditional healers and she investigates whether the traditional medicine contains active drugs that have a proved effect on diseases.

Salman Khan to Get Treatment in the US for Trigeminal Neuralgia

Bollywood superstar Salman Khan will be traveling to the United States in order to undergo treatment for his neurological problem as well as to get treated for aneurysm in the lowest part of his brain.
The 45-year old confirmed rumors that he suffers from a medical condition known as trigeminal neuralgia, which is a facial nerve disorder that causes unbearable pain in the face and jaw.
The actor’s bodyguard, Shera revealed that he will be leaving to the United States either on August 27 or 28, a fact that was later confirmed by Salman himself.
Salman said that the problem first started during the shooting of Partner back in 2007 and worsened last year when he was shooting for Veer. “The pain is a bit too much now. So I am going now to the US to get it fixed.There is constant pain and if you google this thing you will find out that the amount of pain it causes results in maximum amount of suicides”, he said.

Yoga may become part of school curriculum in Karnataka

Schoolchildren in a few taluks of Karnataka may soon have an addition to their curriculum, Yoga, as the state government is planning to introduce it in schools to improve students’ health.
GN Sreekantaiah, director, Department of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (Ayush), announced this at a press meet on Thursday.
He said that each taluk that had been selected — Hiriyur, Challakere, Jagalur, Muddebihal — has around 200 schools, private as well as government. He added that Yoga would be taught to students of classes VII to X. Sreekantaiah said that to begin with, Ayush was planning to teach Yoga to a few teachers from these schools.
He said practising Yoga made one immune to diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. Further pointing out its benefits, he said it improved one’s physical and mental health.
The director claimed that Ayush was now equipped to tackle and control anaemia. He said the department would launch a pilot project where anaemic students would be treated. Further, he said, the students would be monitored scientifically and information about it would be released later.
Students for this pilot project would be selected from five-six schools each from Hassan, Gadag, Bangalore and Mysore districts, he added.
Sreekantaiah pointed out that intake of drumstick and amla is the best way to combat anaemia as these items are rich in iron, Vitamin A and reduce constipation.

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