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Sunday, 30 December 2012

Magazine Editors Must Take Care Not to Promote Irresponsible Fad Diets

After the festive season and a lavish spread of rich food, many people wish to lose a few pounds in the New Year.In this regard, a government minister has advised magazine editors to do away with "irresponsible" fad diets that focus on body size alone.Calling it an irresponsible promotion, Lib Dem Jo Swinson has appealed to editors of women's, men’s health, celebrity and gossip magazines to stop publicizing and encouraging miracle weight loss cures.
Ms Swinson, who is a co-founder of the Campaign for Body Confidence, came out strongly against the immense pressure to conform to body stereotypes which can be a big blow to both men and women fueling low-self-esteem, depression and eating disorders.
In her appeal to editors she said, "I am sure that you want to promote a healthy lifestyle for your readers but at this time of year in particular far too much of magazine coverage tends to focus on irresponsible, short-term solutions and encourages readers to jump on fad diet bandwagons. As editors you owe more to your readers than the reckless promotion of unhealthy solutions to losing weight.”

 

Nutrition Experts Warn of Dangers of too Much Sweets for Kids

Leading nutrition experts have warned that parents are unwittingly hooking their children to sweet treats by bribing them with sweets in order to make them eat when they are toddlers.
According to a survey, nearly 60 percent of the parents admitted that their bribed their kids with sweets in order to make them eat and are thus increasing the chances that the kids get hooked to sweets as they grow older and thereby raising the risk of obesity. 
Around 2,000 mothers of children between 1 and 5 years of age took part in the survey and the researchers found that roughly 25 percent of the participants admitted letting their children taste chocolate by the time they turn 9 months old while over half admitting giving chocolate to their kids by the time they are 12 months of age. 
“The research is certainly concerning and reflects what I see in my nutritional practice. Parents are introducing chocolate and sweets into their babies and toddlers diets too early. The dietary patterns we lay down from when we wean children may well have an impact on their future food choices and health. Occasional sweet foods are of course fine but foods with lots of added sugar such as chocolate should be avoided on a regular basis and ideally not offered at home where they can easily become part of daily habits”, leading nutritionist Yvonne Bishop-Weston said. 

Yoga and Herbal Medicines Can Help Combat Psychological Disorders

 Yoga and Herbal Medicines Can Help Combat Psychological DisordersA holistic way involving yoga and herbal medicines can to tackle psychological disorders, according to researchers at the Dev Sanskriti University, Haridwar.The researchers subjected 60 patients of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) to a combination of yoga, pranayam, recitation of Gayatri Mantra and herbal medicines. The highly revered Gayatri Mantra is based on a Vedic Sanskrit verse from a hymn of the Rig Veda. 
The 60 participants were equally divided into males and females. They got 45 individual sessions of therapeutic interventions of holistic approach. Each session was of 60 minutes, with patients doing pranayam and Gayatri Mantra for 10 minutes each and yoga for 20 minutes. 
The most widely utilized treatments now are pharmacological management and behavior modification, said an article in the first issue of the Dev Sanskriti University's Interdisciplinary International Journal. 
A major disadvantage of drug treatment for anxiety disorders was that the relapse rate was very high, said researchers Deepak Singh, Pranav Pandya, O.P. Mishra and Pragya S. Lodhi. 
Pandya is the chancellor of the university. Mishra is the Emeritus Professor of psychology while Deepak Singh and Pragya Singh are assistant professors in the department of psychology.

The "holistic approach produced significant reduction in the level of OCD", said the research paper. 
"The combination of these specific techniques has collective effect on the patients and causes significant reduction in the symptoms of OCD," the university said. 
"Thus, the holistic approach can provide a new strategy for management of OCD. The findings are an important exploration with 
wide scope for further research and applications," it said. 
The paper also said some of the medicines in the market "cause many side effects" and approximately 90 percent of patients suffer a relapse if they discontinue medication. 
It said a new holistic approach was developed to provide maximum relief to the patients. 
"The holistic approach is based on the principle of psychology, yoga and Ayurveda (besides Gayatri Mantra recitation)," the journal said. 
According to the researchers, the nature of psychological disorder "is very complex and it is very difficult to understand and diagnose psychological disorder until it manifests itself in behavior. 
OCD is a common and often chronic and disabling disorder, the paper said. It is said to be one of the least understood, least diagnosed, and most disabling of the anxiety disorders. 
The worldwide prevalence of OCD is two percent of the general population. It usually begins in adolescence or in early adulthood.
Source-IANS

Researchers Discover Culprit Behind Osteoarthritis Pain

 Researchers Discover Culprit Behind Osteoarthritis PainA molecular mechanism central to the development of osteoarthritis (OA) pain has been identified by researchers.The finding from researchers at Rush University Medical Center, in collaboration with researchers at Northwestern University, could have major implications for future treatment of this often-debilitating condition. 
"Clinically, scientists have focused on trying to understand how cartilage and joints degenerate in osteoarthritis. But no one knows why it hurts," said Dr. Anne-Marie Malfait, associate professor of biochemistry and of internal medicine at Rush, who led the study. 
Joint pain associated with OA has unique clinical features that provide insight into the mechanisms that cause it. First, joint pain has a strong mechanical component: It is typically triggered by specific activities (for example, climbing stairs elicits knee pain) and is relieved by rest. As structural joint disease advances, pain may also occur in rest. 
Heightened sensitivity to pain, including mechanical allodynia (pain caused by a stimulus that does not normally evoke pain, such as lightly brushing the skin with a cotton swab), and reduced pain-pressure thresholds are features of OA. 
Malfait and her colleagues took a novel approach to unraveling molecular pathways of OA pain in a surgical mouse model exhibiting the slow, chronically progressive development of the disease. The study was conducted longitudinally, that is, the researchers were able to monitor development of both pain behaviors and molecular events in the sensory neurons of the knee and correlate the data from repeated observations over an extended period. 
"This method essentially provides us with a longitudinal 'read-out' of the development of OA pain and pain-related behaviors, in a mouse model" Malfait said. 
The researchers assessed development of pain-related behaviors and concomitant changes in dorsal root ganglia (DRG), nerves that carry signals from sensory organs toward the brain. They found that a chemokine known as monocyte chemoattractant protein (MCP)-1 (CCL2) and its receptor, chemokine receptor 2 (CCR2), are central to the development of pain associated with knee OA. 
Monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 regulates migration and infiltration of monocytes into tissues where they replenish infection-fighting macrophages. Previous research has shown that MCP-1/CCR2 are central in pain development following nerve injury. 
In the study, following surgery the laboratory mice developed mechanical allodynia that lasted 16 weeks. Levels of MCP-1, CCR2 mRNA and protein were temporarily elevated, and neuronal signaling activity increased in the DRG at eight weeks after surgery. 
This result correlated with the presentation of movement-provoked pain behaviors (for instance, mice with OA travelled less distance, when monitored overnight, and climbed less often on the lid of their cage - suggesting that they avoid movement that triggers pain), which were maintained up to 16 weeks. 

Mice that lack Ccr2 (knockout mice) also developed mechanical allodynia, but this began to resolve from eight weeks onward. Despite having severe allodynia and structural knee joint damage equal to that in normal mice, Ccr2-knockout mice did not develop movement-provoked pain behaviors at eight weeks. 
To confirm the key role of CCR2 signaling in development of the observed movement-provoked pain behavior after surgery, the researchers administered a CCR2 receptor-blocker to normal mice at nine weeks after surgery and found that this reversed the decrease in distance traveled, that is, movement-provoked pain behavior. 
Interestingly, levels of MCP-1 and CCR2 returned to baseline or lower by 16 weeks in mice exhibiting movement-provoked pain behaviors. This finding may suggest that the MCP-1/CCR2 pathway is involved only in the initiation of changes in the DRG, but once macrophages are present, the process is no longer dependent on increased MCP-1/CCR2. 
"Increased expression of both MCP-1 and its receptor CCR2 may mediate increased pain signaling through direct excitation of DRG neurons, as well as through attracting macrophages to the DRG," the researchers said. 
"This is an important contribution to the field of osteoarthritis research. Rather than looking at the cartilage breakdown pathway in osteoarthritis, Dr. Malfait and her colleagues are looking at the pain pathway, and this can take OA research in to a novel direction that can lead to new pain remedies in the future," said Dr. Joshua Jacobs, professor and chairman of orthopedic surgery at Rush University Medical Center. 
A paper describing the research was recently published in the print version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Source-ANI


  

New Insight into Cell Development and Cancer Uncovered

 New Insight into Cell Development and Cancer UncoveredRecent study conduced by researchers has shed light on how epigenetic signals may function together to determine the ultimate fate of a stem cell.
The study, published December 27, 2012 by the journal Molecular Cell, implicates a unique class of proteins called polycomb-like proteins, or PCL's, as bridging molecules between the "on" and "off" state of a gene. While all of these specialized types of cells share the same genetic information encoded in our DNA, it is becoming increasingly clear that information outside the genome, referred to as epigenetics, plays a central role in orchestrating the reprogramming of a stem cell down a defined path. 
Although it is understood that epigenetics is responsible for turning genes "on" and "off" at defined times during cellular development, the precise mechanisms controlling this delicate process are less well understood. 
"This finding has important implications for both stem cell biology and cancer development, as the same regulatory circuits controlled by PCL's in stem cells are often misregulated in tumors," said Dr. Greg Wang, senior author of the study and Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics in the UNC School of Medicine and a member of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. 
The study, led by postdoctoral research fellows Drs. Ling Cai and Rui Lu in the Wang lab, and Dr. Scott Rothbart, a Lineberger postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. Brian Strahl, Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics in the UNC School of Medicine and a member of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, identified that PCL's interact with an epigenetic signal associated with genes that are turned on to recruit a group of proteins called the PRC2 complex which then turn genes off. 
"In stem cells, the PRC2 complex turns genes off that would otherwise promote reprogramming into specialized cells of organs like the heart or lungs," said Wang. 
In addition to its fundamental role in cellular development, elevated levels of PRC2 have been found in cancers of the prostate, breast, lung, and blood, and pharmaceutical companies are already developing drugs to target PRC2. Wang and colleagues determined that the same mechanisms controlling PRC2 function in stem cells also applies in human cancers. 
"The identification of a specific PCL in controlling PRC2 in cancer cells suggests we may be able to develop drugs targeting this PCL to regulate PRC2 function in a more controlled manner that may maintain PRC2 function in stem cells while inhibiting it in the tumor," said Wang. 
Source:Molecular Cell

Friday, 28 December 2012

Genetic sequencing breakthrough to aid treatment for congenital hyperinsulinism

A research team at the University of Exeter has used new technology to discover novel mutations which cause hyperinsulinism

Congenital hyperinsulinism is a genetic condition where a baby's pancreas secretes too much insulin. It affects approximately one in 50,000 live births and in severe cases requires the surgical removal of all or part of the pancreas.
Researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School are the first in the world to utilise new genetic sequencing technology to sequence the entirety of a gene in order to identify mutations that cause hyperinsulinism. Previously, existing technology limited such sequencing to only part of the coding regions of the gene which meant that some mutations were missed.
Using new Illumina genetic sequencing technology, the research team led by Professor Sian Ellard has discovered novel mutations that cause hyperinsulinism. Their findings are published today, 27th December 2012, on-line by The American Journal of Human Genetics.
The outcome will be that some infants born with hyperinsulinism will require fewer investigations, because the new technology means that for many only one genetic test will be required to determine the extent of the condition in each child. It also means that clinicians will have more information at their fingertips to inform them about how much of the pancreas needs to be removed.
Approximately 50 per cent of patients with congenital hyperinsulinism require surgery, and of those half require the entire pancreas to be removed. Removal of the entire pancreas increases the risk of diabetes later in life, but if left undiagnosed and untreated hyperinsulinism can result in irreparable brain damage. Symptoms range from shakiness and tiredness to seizure and coma.
Dr. Sarah Flanagan, Research Fellow in Molecular Genetics at the University of Exeter Medical School said: "The potential provided by this new technology is important and exciting, because it allows us to investigate genetic coding in its entirety. This means that investigators can identify mutations that sit at the heart of any number of conditions where before they might have been missed. This in turn results in better information for clinicians upon which they can base effective treatments and interventions for their patients."
Source:The American Journal of Human Genetics

Cellular fuel gauge may hold the key to restricting cancer growth

Newly discovered role of AMPK as a tumour suppressor reveals its function in cancer

Researchers at McGill University have discovered that a key regulator of energy metabolism in cancer cells known as the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) may play a crucial role in restricting cancer cell growth. AMPK acts as a "fuel gauge" in cells; AMPK is turned on when it senses changes in energy levels, and helps to change metabolism when energy levels are low, such as during exercise or when fasting. The researchers found that AMPK also regulates cancer cell metabolism and can restrict cancer cell growth.
The discovery was made by Russell (Rusty) Jones, an assistant professor at McGill's Goodman Cancer Research Centre and the Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine. Jones along with his team is the first to show that AMPK can act as a tumour suppressor in animals. The research will be published December 27 in the journal Cell Metabolism.
"Cancer is a disease in which cells lose their normal restraints on growth and start to divide uncontrollably. But, in order for cells to grow quickly they need enough energy to complete the task," Jones explained. "AMPK acts like the fuel gauge in your car – it lets the body know when energy levels are low, and stops cell growth until there is enough gas in the tank. We wanted to see if this fuel gauge could affect the development and progression of cancer. We found that mice lacking AMPK developed tumours faster, suggesting that AMPK is important for keeping tumour development in check, at least for some types of cancer." For this study, Jones' team focused specifically on a type of blood cancer known as lymphoma. They discovered that the protein Myc, which is activated in more than half of all cancers, could promote lymphoma more rapidly when mice were deficient for AMPK.
One of the ways cancer cells support their enhanced rate of growth is by changing their metabolism, or how they generate energy. Cancer cells are different from normal cells in our body because they preferentially use sugar to fuel their growth. Jones discovered that AMPK plays a specific role in restricting cancer cells' ability to use sugar to fuel their growth. "For cancer cells with low AMPK levels, their metabolism goes into overdrive," explained Prof. Jones. "They use sugar more efficiently, allowing them to grow faster. These results suggest that turning on AMPK in cancer cells may be one way that we can restrict cancer growth."
Jones' breakthrough builds on his previous discovery that the widely prescribed medication metformin, a common diabetes drug, can restrict tumour cell growth. The results bring promise that common therapeutics that turn on AMPK and alter cellular metabolism, such as metformin, may become novel tools for cancer therapy. Jones and his colleagues at McGill are currently exploring clinical applications based on this research.
Source:McGill University

Birdsong study pecks at theory that music is uniquely human

Sometimes he sounds like music to her ears. Other times, not so much.



A bird listening to birdsong may experience some of the same emotions as a human listening to music, suggests a new study on white-throated sparrows, published in Frontiers of Evolutionary Neuroscience.

“We found that the same neural reward system is activated in female birds in the breeding state that are listening to male birdsong, and in people listening to music that they like,” says Sarah Earp, who led the research as an undergraduate at Emory University.
For male birds listening to another male’s song, it was a different story: They had an amygdala response that looks similar to that of people when they hear discordant, unpleasant music.
The study, co-authored by Emory neuroscientist Donna Maney, is the first to compare neural responses of listeners in the long-standing debate over whether birdsong is music.
“Scientists since the time of Darwin have wondered whether birdsong and music may serve similar purposes, or have the same evolutionary precursors,” Earp notes. “But most attempts to compare the two have focused on the qualities of the sound themselves, such as melody and rhythm.”
Earp’s curiosity was sparked while an honors student at Emory, majoring in both neuroscience and music. She took The Musical Brain” course developed by Paul Lennard, director of Emory’s Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology program, which brought in guest lecturers from the fields of neuroscience and music.
“During one class, the guest speaker was a composer and he said that he thought that birdsong is like music, but Dr. Lennard thought it was not,” Earp recalls. “It turned into this huge debate, and each of them seemed to define music differently. I thought it was interesting that you could take one question and have two conflicting answers that are both right, in a way, depending on your perspective and how you approach the question.”
Source:Emory University

Stuck in the throat

It is a well known fact that children often swallow things. Children aged 6 months to 6 years are most often affected, but even adults sometimes end up with a foreign body stuck in their throats—and not only there. Peter Ambe, Düsseldorf University Hospital, and his coauthors review this clinical problem in this issue of Deutsches Ärzteblatt International (Dtsch Arztebl Int 2012; 109(50): 869−75).

Adults ingest foreign bodies mostly with their food. The most commonly swallowed objects are fish bones and chicken bones. The clinical approach depends on the characteristics of the ingested foreign body (size, length, chemical composition, etc), the patient's subjective symptoms, and the clinical findings. In 80% of cases, the ingested foreign body passes through the gastrointestinal tract without any problems. Endoscopic intervention is required in 20% of cases, and surgery in less than 1%. Emergency esophagogastroduodenoscopy is recommended in case of complete occlusion of the esophagus or if sharp or pointed objects or batteries have been swallowed. Magnets and foreign bodies longer than 6 cm should be removed within 24 hours.The so-called body packers form a subgroup in this medical territory. Rule of thumb is that asymptomatic persons should be observed on the intensive care ward. No interventions should be undertaken. Symptomatic body packers with signs of intoxication, in whom a lethal dosis has to be assumed, should be medically stabilized and then immediately undergo laparotomy.
Source:Deutsches Aerzteblatt International

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Diabetes Epidemic in China Aggravated by One-child Policy

Diabetes in China, which is emerging as a major health issue in the country is probably being aggravated by its one-child policy, experts observe.he Chinese Government said that about 100 million families have just one child, which translates into an equal number of first borns, a status that researchers are finding may be linked to conditions that raise obesity risk, Chong Yap Seng, a scientist at Singapore's National University Hospital, said. 
According to the Age, Chong and colleagues in Beijing and Southampton, England, are studying the biological mechanisms that have conspired with diet and lifestyle changes to produce 92.3 million diabetics in China, almost four times as many as in the United States. 
Chong said that first borns gain weight faster and are bigger as adults, a trajectory that increases obesity risk and may explain why China's diabetes prevalence has more than tripled in a decade, the report said. 
Sales of diabetes medicines in China will expand 20 percent a year to reach 3.2 billion dollars by 2016, consulting firm IMS Health said, it said. 
The one-child policy was introduced in 1979 to curb a population growing 1.4 percent a year and to promote prosperity, it added. 
According to the report, some exceptions to the policy are allowed, such as permitting rural families to have a second child if the first is a girl. Those who can afford to can have a second or third baby by paying a fine. 
Rising numbers of diabetics, though, are costing China's economy 26 billion dollars annually in medical care and lost productivity, according to the International Diabetes Federation. 
The prevalence of diabetes in China, a nation of 1.34 billion people, is 8.8 percent, the report said. 
The U.S. has a diabetes prevalence of 9.3 percent and 24.1 million sufferers, according to federation estimates released last month. 
Within 18 years, China is projected to have 130 million sufferers of Type 2 diabetes, the form of the disease in which the body stops responding properly to the hormone insulin, according to the Brussels-based federation. 
The disease is already killing 1.2 million Chinese a year because of kidney failure, heart attack and other associated conditions, it said in a recent report. 
A 2010 study by researchers in Brazil, Britain and Italy published in PLOS One found that birth order is associated with increased body mass, higher levels of fat and metabolic risk in young adult men in Brazil, the report added.
Source-ANI


 

 

Secrets of Ancient Chinese Medicinal Herb Revealed

 Secrets of Ancient Chinese Medicinal Herb Revealed 

Scientist offered explanation for how a Chinese herbal medicine chang shan used for more than 2,000 years tackles fever and eases malaria.The herb is an extract of the root of a flowering plant called blue evergreen hydrangea, known in Chinese as chang shan and in Latin as Dichroa febrifuga Lour. 
Chang shan's use dates back to the Han dynasty of 206 BC to 220 AD, according to ancient documents recording Chinese oral traditions. 
In 2009, researchers made insights into its active ingredient, febrifuginone, which can be pharmaceutically made as a molecule called halofuginone. 
They found that halofuginone prevented production of rogue Th17 immune cells which attack healthy cells, causing inflammation that leads to fever. 
A study published in the journal Nature on Sunday found halofuginone works by hampering production of proteins for making "bad" Th17 cells, but not the "good" ones. 
Specifically, it blocks molecules called transfer RNA (tRNA), whose job is to assemble a protein bit by bit, in line with the DNA code written in the gene. 
As for malaria, halofuginone appears to interfere with the same protein-assembly process that enables malaria parasites to live in the blood, the study said. 
"Our new results solved a mystery that has puzzled people about the mechanism that has been used to treat fever from a malaria infection going back probably 2,000 years or more," said Paul Schimmel, who headed the team at the Scripps Research Institute in California. 
Halofuginone has been tested in small-scale human trials to treat cancer and muscular dystrophy. Drug engineers also eye it as a potential tool for combatting inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis, which are also autoimmune diseases.
Source-AFP

 

 

Study Unveils Reason Behind People's Susceptibility To Gout

Researchers have identified 18 new genetic variations that raises the uric acid levels in the blood, the prime factor that makes people susceptible to gout.
High levels of uric acid form small crystals in joints and tissues, causing pain and swelling – the main symptoms of the condition once known as the 'disease of kings'. Gout is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis, affecting up to two per cent of the world's population. Understanding how these common genetic variants increase uric acid levels in the blood may lead to improvements in the treatment and prevention of the disease. It could also help research into urate-lowering drugs. 
The international team of researchers, including scientists from the University of Edinburgh and Queen Mary, University of London, say gout is becoming more common in the developed world. 
They attribute its rise in part to increasing levels of obesity and an aging population. 
This painful joint inflammation affects at least one in seventy adults in the UK with approximately 900,000 people suffering at least one attack of gout in their lifetime. 
The work, published in Nature Genetics, was carried out by analyzing the genetic data of more than 140,000 people, from more than 70 individual studies from Europe, the U.S., Japan and Australia and represents the largest study worldwide on this topic. 
Dr Veronique Vitart, from the Medical Research Council Human Genetics Unit at the University of Edinburgh, and one of the lead authors of the study said: "Abnormal levels of uric acid have been associated with various common diseases and conditions, but causal relationships are not always clear. Gaining insight into the genetic components of uric acid levels offers a very useful tool to tackle these issues and to further our understanding of these conditions." 
Professor Mark Caulfield, from the William Harvey Research Institute at Queen Mary, and a lead author said: "Existing therapies to avoid attacks of gout sometimes cause side effects. Our findings identify new potential mechanisms for gout and offer opportunities for new therapies which may improve prevention of this debilitating condition in the future. 
Source:Nature Genetics

 

For pre-teens, kindness may be key to popularity


Kids who are kind are happier and gain greater peer acceptance, study finds

Nine to twelve-year-olds who perform kind acts are not only happier, but also find greater acceptance in their peer groups, according to research published December 26, 2012 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Kristin Layous and colleagues from the University of California, Riverside.
The authors randomly assigned over 400 students aged 9-12 to two groups: one group performed 'acts of kindness' and the other kept track of pleasant places they visited each week. Examples of kind acts included descriptions like "gave someone some of my lunch" or "gave my mom a hug when she was stressed by her job", and places visited included the baseball diamond, shopping center or a grandparent's house.
Children were asked to report on their levels of happiness after 4 weeks of activities, and the researchers found that children who performed kind acts were happier than the other group. To assess peer acceptance, students were given a list of classmates and asked to circle those they would like to work with for school activities. Here, the authors found that the group that had performed kind acts fared significantly better.
Though both groups of children had an increased sense of well-being from the activities, only the group that performed kind acts experienced greater acceptance by their peers. According to the authors, "Increasing peer acceptance is a critical goal related to a variety of important academic and social outcomes, including reduced likelihood of being bullied." They suggest that teachers and others can use the findings of this study to introduce regular pro-social activities into classrooms for pre-teens. Layous adds, "The findings suggest that a simple and relatively brief prosocial activity can increase liking among classmates. Given the relationship between peer acceptance and many social and academic outcomes, we think these findings have important implications for the classroom."
Source:PLOS ONE

Virtual women reveal more skin, regardless of body proportions


Unrelated to traditional measures of physical attractiveness, female avatars in Second Life expose more skin

In the virtual world of Second Life, female avatars expose substantially more skin than males, independent of their virtual body proportions, according to research published December 26 in the open access journalPLOS ONE by Matthieu Guitton and colleagues from Laval University, Canada.
The human tendency to cover up stems from climatic, environmental, physical and cultural constraints, so measuring people's propensity to reveal skin can be difficult in the real world. To study human behavior free of at least some of these constraints, the researchers analyzed how male and female avatars in the virtual, 3- dimensional world of Second Life dressed. Second Life offers users options to choose the gender, appearance and attire of their virtual avatars, and users can select clothing from several items created in this virtual world, rather than being restricted to a predefined costume.
They found that out of over 400 virtual people studied, 71% of male avatars covered between 75-100% of their skin, while only 5% of females did. In contrast, 47% of the virtual females they studied covered between 25-49% of their skin, compared to 9% of males. The amount of skin covered was independent of traditional gender-specific measures of physical attractiveness for virtual avatars, such as waist-chest ratios for females. According to the study, "These findings have implications for understanding how sex specific aspects of skin disclosure influence human social interactions in both virtual and real settings."
Guitton adds, "Virtual settings provide a unique tool to study human behavior unhindered by physical and environmental constraints.This tool enabled us to find a dramatic gender difference in the propensity to disclose naked skin.
Source:Plos one

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Carrot, A Panacea For Many Ailments

 Carrot, A Panacea For Many AilmentsCarrot, which is rich in vitamin and mineral contents, besides other valuable nutrients, can offer protection against different ailments, according to health experts.Considering the effectiveness of carrot, doctors and health experts have declared it "apple" for the people having meager resources, the News reported. 
Dr. Mian Iftikhar, a Medical Specialist, said that carrot especially its juice, is better for stomach and gastrointestinal health, which also solves a variety of digestive problems. 
He said carrot is useful in different cases like stomach disorder, peptic ulcers, gastritis, crohn's disease (chronic inflammatory disease affecting the whole of the alimentary tract), diarrhea, celiac disease (defective digestion found in children). 
Carrot juice, combined with spinach and a little lemon juice, is very effective in the treatment of constipation, he added. 
The juice cleanses the bowels, he said and added that this effect could not be expected soon after taking the juice but within two months, the bowel starts emptying regularly. 
Family Physician Dr. Syed Hasnain Ali Johar, added that appropriate use of carrot is helpful in fighting obesity, poisoning of the blood, gum disease, insomnia, inflamed kidney, liver, gallbladder, Alzheimer's disease, colitis, ulcer and painful urination. 
He said it is an excellent source of pro-vitamin A, vitamins C, D, E, K, B1 and B6, adding that carrot is also rich with biotin, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, organic sodium and some trace minerals. 
The doctor said carrot could enhance the quality of mother's milk, improving the appearance of skin, hair and nails. 
He noted the carrot soup has been found as an effective natural remedy for diarrhea, which supplies fluid to combat dehydration, replenishes sodium, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, sulfur and magnesium.
Source-ANI
 
 

Harmful Effects Attached To Preventing Prostate Cancer Through Androgen Deprivation

According to data, the use of androgen deprivation therapies to prevent precancerous prostate abnormalities developing into aggressive prostate cancer may have adverse effects in men with precancers with specific genetic alterations. The data was collected from a preclinical study that was recently published in Cancer Discovery, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research."The growth and survival of prostate cancer cells are very dependent on signals that the cancer cells receive from a group of hormones, called androgens, which includes testosterone," said Thomas R. Roberts, Ph.D., co-chair of the Department of Cancer Biology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and professor of biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass. 
Previous findings from two major randomized, placebo-controlled prostate cancer chemoprevention trials revealed that androgen deprivation therapy reduced the overall risk for low-grade prostate cancer. However, both trials also revealed a high cumulative risk for high-grade prostate cancers that has caused concern among experts. 
High-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia is a prostate abnormality that is considered to be a major precursor to prostate cancer. Loss of the tumor suppressor PTEN is detected in 9 to 45 percent of clinical cases. 
Using a mouse model of PTEN-driven high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia, Roberts and his colleagues investigated whether surgical or chemical androgen deprivation could prevent the cancer precursor from progressing to more aggressive disease. 
"When we castrated the animals, we thought the tumors would shrink and they did initially," Roberts said. "However, they then grew back and became invasive." 
The results of this preclinical study suggest that prophylactic reduction of the most active form of androgen, or blocking androgen receptor function, might have unintended consequences in some men. 
"Stretching our data even further, these findings suggest that as men age and their testosterone levels decrease, loss of testosterone might actually encourage indolent prostate tumors to become more aggressive," Roberts said. "This suggests that testosterone supplements might be a good thing for the prostate, even though current wisdom suggests the opposite." 
Roberts noted that these results should be interpreted with caution because the prostate glands of mice are different from their human counterparts. More data on human tumors are needed to evaluate whether the data from this mouse study are applicable to men.
Source-Newswise

 
 

In the Pipeline Is A Test to Detect Pre-menstrual Syndrome

Researchers say that unified criteria for defining and diagnosing pre-menstrual disorder have yet to be agreed on "and so it is difficult to develop suitable interventions to treat women suffering from these symptoms."Even though there are many women who do not notice any special symptoms, there are some whose pre-menstrual disorders hamper their everyday lives - depressive mood, anxiety, excessive emotional sensitivity, fatigue, lack of concentration and headache. 
Leire Aperribai from the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country, has sought to fill this gap through her PhD thesis. Her first task was to define the disorder, and to do this she took as her basis the 4th version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association. 
This manual defines premenstrual dysphoric disorder and proposes criteria for diagnosing it. For example, it explains that the symptoms are sufficiently serious to cause clear damage, socially as well as in the workplace, and points out that this takes place during the luteal phase, in other words, during the period between ovulation and menstruation. 
The manual also explains that the symptoms disappear at the onset of menstruation, and for it to be regarded as a disorder, it is necessary to display at least 5 symptoms related to it, and one of them has to be among the following - depressive mood, feelings of desperation or self-rejection; clear internal anxiety, tension, a feeling of not being able to take any more; clear emotional lability, in other words, sadness, bursting into tears or manifestations of emotional over-sensitiveness towards rejection by other people; and irascibility or irritability. 
In Aperribai's view, the manual gives a special identity to premenstual dysphoric disorder, despite the fact that it is still classified among those described as "non-specific depressive disorders," so it constitutes a firm proposal as it takes the main groups of symptoms into consideration. Aperribai also added that among the current classifications, this is the one that has been most welcomed. 
So, taking as the starting point the definitions and criteria provided by the manual, Aperribai has produced a set of questions and has validated them through interviews given by women who are either working or studying on any of the UPV/EHU's three campuses. 
And this way she has verified its reliability. In fact, and in accordance with current calculations, premenstrual dysphoric disorder is suffered by between 3 percent and 10 percent of the population; in the study done by Aperribai, by contrast, it has been found to affect 15 percent. 
The author has explained that this difference is "normal because it concerns test screening. In other words, this is not a diagnostic tool, but a filter to distinguish those who suffer from the disorder from those who do not." 
In this respect, she has stressed its usefulness, both in the area of research and in health centres. It takes 10 minutes or less to do the test and a lot of progress can be made with it. After that, diagnostic tests are carried out in positive cases and these can take up to two months.
Source-ANI


 


 

NYU biologists identify proteins vital to chromosome segregation


New York University biologists have identified how a vital protein is loaded by others into the centromere, the part of the chromosome that plays a significant role in cell division. Their findings shed new light on genome replication and may offer insights into the factors behind the production of abnormal numbers of chromosomes.
Their findings appear in the latest issue of the journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers focused on the organization and functioning of the centromere, which is responsible for chromosome segregation—a process that ensures that replicating cells receive a complete copy of the genome. Disruption of this process can lead to the production of an abnormal number of chromosomes—a condition evident in 90 percent of cancer cases.
To explore the mechanics of the centromere, the researchers examined fission yeast. This species of yeast is a model organism in cell biology because its chromosome replication and the regulation of its centromere are similar to that of humans.
In the PNAS study, the researchers focused on a protein, CENP-A, present in both humans and fission yeast. They specifically examined how it is incorporated into the centromere during cell division in order to better understand its role in this process.
Their results identified that a trio of proteins—Dos1, Dos2, and Cdc20—work together to assemble CENP-A at centromeres as they duplicate. They further observed that any disruption of this process subsequently places this vital protein outside of the centromere—thereby preventing it from performing its role of ensuring proper chromosome segregation.
"CENP-A is the engineer of the centromere," explained Fei Li, an assistant professor in NYU's Department of Biology and the study's senior author. "Without this protein, the centromere simply can't function."
Li noted that many forms of cancer have been linked to malfunctioning CENP-A.
"Hopefully, these findings can contribute toward the development of improved strategies for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer," he added.
Source:New York University 

Elevated levels of C-reactive protein appear associated with psychological distress, depression


Elevated levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammatory disease, appear to be associated with increased risk of psychological distress and depression in the general population of adults in Denmark, according to a report published Online First by Archives of General Psychiatry, a JAMA Network publication.
Depression is one of the leading causes of disability and previous studies suggest that low-grade systemic inflammation may contribute to the development of depression. C-reactive protein (CRP) is a commonly used marker of inflammation, and inflammatory disease is suspected when CRP levels exceed 10 mg/L. Researchers are unclear whether and to what extent elevated CRP levels are associated with psychological distress and depression in the general population, according to the study background.
Marie Kim Wium-Andersen, M.D., of Herlev Hospital and Copenhagen University Hospital, Denmark, and colleagues examined whether elevated plasma levels of CRP were associated with distress and depression. Researchers analyzed CRP levels using data from two general population studies in Copenhagen, which included 73,131 men and women ages 20 to 100 years.
"The main finding of this study consisted of an association of elevated CRP levels with an increased risk for psychological distress and depression in the general population," the authors comment.
Increasing CRP levels were associated with increasing risk for psychological distress and depression in analyses. For self-reported antidepressant use, the odds ratio was 1.38 for CRP levels of 1.01 to 3 mg/L, 2.02 for 3.01 to 10 mg/L, and 2.7 for greater than 10 mg/L compared with 0.01 to 1 mg/L. For prescription of antidepressants, the corresponding odds ratios were 1.08, 1.47 and 1.77, respectively; for hospitalization with depression they were 1.30, 1.84 and 2.27 respectively. Other analyses suggest that increasing CRP levels also were associated with increasing risk for hospitalization with depression, according to the study results.
"More research is needed to establish the direction of the association between CRP and depression because this study and others are primarily cross-sectional. The results also support the initiation of intervention studies to examine whether adding anti-inflammatory drugs to antidepressants for treatment of depression will improve outcome," the authors conclude.
Source:JAMA and Archives Journals 

Monday, 24 December 2012

Insight Ayurveda 2013

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Sunday, 23 December 2012

Progress in Quest to Create Objective Method of Detecting Pain Reported By Stanford Researchers

 Progress in Quest to Create Objective Method of Detecting Pain Reported By Stanford ResearchersA new study by researchers used a method of analyzing brain structure using advanced computer algorithms accurately predicted 76 percent of the time whether a patient had lower back pain. The researchers are from the Stanford University School of Medicine.The study, which will be published online Dec. 17 in Cerebral Cortex, reported that using these algorithms to read brain scans may be an early step toward providing an objective method for diagnosing chronic pain. 
"People have been looking for an objective pain detector — a 'pain scanner' — for a long time," said Sean Mackey, MD, PhD, chief of the Division of Pain Medicine and professor of anesthesiology, pain and perioperative medicine, and of neurosciences and neurology. "We're still a long way from that, but this method may someday augment self-reporting as the primary way of determining whether a patient is in chronic pain." 
The need for a better way to objectively measure pain instead of relying solely on self-reporting has long been acknowledged. But the highly subjective nature of pain has made this an elusive goal. Advances in neuroimaging techniques have initiated a debate over whether this may be possible. Such a tool would be particularly useful in treating very young or very old patients or others who have difficulty communicating, Mackey said. 
In a study published last year in PLoS ONE, Mackey and colleagues used computer algorithms to analyze magnetic resonance imaging scans of the brain to accurately measure thermal pain in research subjects 81 percent of the time. But the question remained whether this could be a successful method for measuring chronic pain. 
The goal of the new study was to accurately identify patients with lower back pain vs. healthy individuals on the basis of structural changes to the brain, and also to investigate possible pathological differences across the brain. 
Researchers conducted MRI scans of 47 subjects who had lower back pain and 47 healthy subjects. Both groups were screened for medication use and mood disorders. The average age was 37. 
The idea was to "train" a linear support vector machine — a computer algorithm invented in 1995 — on one set of individuals, and then use that computer model to accurately read the brain scans and classify pain in a completely new set of individuals. 
The method successfully predicted the patients with lower back pain 76 percent of the time. 
"Lower back pain is the most common chronic condition we deal with," Mackey said. "In many cases, we don't understand the cause. What we have learned is that the problem may not be in the back, but in the amplification coming from the back to the brain and nervous system. In this study, we did identify brain regions we think are playing a role in this phenomena." 
An estimated 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, and chronic low back pain, in particular, is the most common cause for activity limitation in those younger than 45, according to the study. The prevalence of lower back pain among the U.S. population has also risen significantly, from 3.9 percent in 1992 to 10.2 percent in 2006. 
"Previous studies have shown that there are functional changes in the brain of a chronic pain patient, and we show that structural changes may be used to differentiate between those with chronic lower back pain and those without," said former research assistant Hoameng Ung, the first author of the study who is now an MD/PhD student at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. "This observation also suggests a role of the central nervous system in chronic pain, and that some types of chronic low back pain may reflect pathology not within the back, but instead within the brain." 
Study results suggested that lower back pain is characterized by a pattern of structural changes in the gray matter, the nervous tissue of the brain, showing indication of disease. 
"Our investigation ... suggests that the pathology of lower back pain involves changes in gray matter that are present throughout a distributed system of pain processing and pain-associated areas within the brain," the study stated. 

Source:PLoS ONE
 



 

Detox Diets Offer No Health Benefits: Study

 Detox Diets Offer No Health Benefits: StudyDetox diets offer no health benefits and could even be harmful for those suffering from established liver disease, according to experts.About 70 per cent of more than 600 people surveyed by Hepatitis Australia thought liver cleansing diets or detox products, such as those available from pharmacies, were beneficial. 
But Associate Professor Simone Strasser of the Gastroenterological Society of Australia said liver-cleansing products have no proven medical benefits and can even be harmful. 
"Just doing a one-off detox, which people like to do around New Year particularly because of all the excesses of the Christmas period, has absolutely no value for the liver at all," the Herald Sun quoted her as telling a foreign news agency. 
"Fat builds up in the liver cells but these diets don't do anything for that. They are called detox diets, but there are no toxins that actually build up in the liver," she said. 
Instead, people should use this time of year to look at their overall lifestyle habits, the Sydney specialist said. 
Eating a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight and limiting alcohol consumption all year round was the key to a healthy liver. 
Detox diets could even be harmful, especially for people with established liver disease, Associate Prof Strasser said. 
Sudden and rapid weight loss could lead to an increase in the accumulation of fat in the liver, worsening fatty liver disease, she said. 
The disease causes inflammation and scar tissue and can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer, the same conditions caused by excessive alcohol consumption. 
"People often believe the hype about rejuvenating their liver by detoxing in January however a quick fix is not the way to approach liver health," said Hepatitis Australia chief executive Helen Tyrrell.
Source-ANI


 

 

Gout study offers genetic insight into 'disease of kings'


Scientists have shed light on why some people are more susceptible to gout than others. A study has identified 18 new genetic variations that increase levels of uric acid in the blood, which is the main cause of the disease. High levels of uric acid form small crystals in joints and tissues, causing pain and swelling – the main symptoms of the condition once known as the 'disease of kings'.
Gout is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis, affecting up to two per cent of the world's population. Understanding how these common genetic variants increase uric acid levels in the blood may lead to improvements in the treatment and prevention of the disease. It could also help research into urate-lowering drugs.
The international team of researchers, including scientists from the University of Edinburgh and Queen Mary, University of London, say gout is becoming more common in the developed world.
They attribute its rise in part to increasing levels of obesity and an aging population.
This painful joint inflammation affects at least one in seventy adults in the UK with approximately 900,000 people suffering at least one attack of gout in their lifetime.
The work, published in Nature Genetics, was carried out by analysing the genetic data of more than 140,000 people, from more than 70 individual studies from Europe, the U.S., Japan and Australia and represents the largest study worldwide on this topic.
Dr Veronique Vitart, from the Medical Research Council Human Genetics Unit at the University of Edinburgh, and one of the lead authors of the study said: "Abnormal levels of uric acid have been associated with various common diseases and conditions, but causal relationships are not always clear. Gaining insight into the genetic components of uric acid levels offers a very useful tool to tackle these issues and to further our understanding of these conditions."
Professor Mark Caulfield, from the William Harvey Research Institute at Queen Mary, and a lead author said: "Existing therapies to avoid attacks of gout sometimes cause side effects. Our findings identify new potential mechanisms for gout and offer opportunities for new therapies which may improve prevention of this debilitating condition in the future.
Source:University of Edinburgh 

New findings in the search for genetic clues to insulin production


In research published online Dec. 23, 2012 in the journal Nature Genetics, scientists have found three new and relatively rare genetic variants that influence insulin production, offering new clues about the genetic factors behind diabetes..
"Studying genetic variants — even rare ones — helps us learn how genes affect health and disease," said Karen Mohlke, PhD, one of the study's senior authors and associate professor of genetics at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. "In this study, we've implicated new genes as playing a role in insulin processing and secretion."
The study is also the first time genetic insights have been reported using exome array genotyping, a new tool that is less costly than genetic sequencing. This analysis allows scientists to quickly screen DNA samples for known variants in specific genes. It is especially helpful for testing variants that are rare.
"The exome array allowed us to test a large number of individuals — in this case, more than 8,000 people — very efficiently," said Mohlke. "We expect that this type of analysis will be useful for finding low-frequency variants associated with many complex traits, including obesity or cancer."
The scientists pulled data from a large health study directed by researchers at the University of Eastern Finland. A research team including postdoctoral scientist Jeroen Huyghe at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor led the statistical analysis, which integrated genetic data and detailed health records for a sample of 8,229 Finnish males.
Diabetes, which affects more than 25 million people in the United States, results from problems with the body's ability to produce or use insulin. Rather than pinpointing one gene behind the disease, scientists believe there are a whole host of genes that interact with health and lifestyle factors to influence a person's chances of getting the disease.
The study revealed that certain variants of three genes — called TBC1D30, KANK1 and PAM — are associated with abnormal insulin production or processing, even in people without diabetes. The genes may predispose such individuals to developing the disease.
As a next step, the researchers plan to continue to investigate how these genes may lead to diabetes. They also expect the results will inspire other scientists to use exome analysis to look at the genetic factors behind other complex diseases.
Source:University of North Carolina School of Medicine

Decision to give a group effort in the brain


 A monkey would probably never agree that it is better to give than to receive, but they do apparently get some reward from giving to another monkey.
During a task in which rhesus macaques had control over whether they or another monkey would receive a squirt of fruit juice, three distinct areas of the brain were found to be involved in weighing benefits to oneself against benefits to the other, according to new research by Duke University researchers.
The team used sensitive electrodes to detect the activity of individual neurons as the animals weighed different scenarios, such as whether to reward themselves, the other monkey or nobody at all. Three areas of the brain were seen to weigh the problem differently depending on the social context of the reward. The research appears Dec. 24 in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
Using a computer screen to allocate juice rewards, the monkeys preferred to reward themselves first and foremost. But they also chose to reward the other monkey when it was either that or nothing for either of them. They also were more likely to give the reward to a monkey they knew over one they didn't, preferred to give to lower status than higher status monkeys, and had almost no interest in giving the juice to an inanimate object.
Calculating the social aspects of the reward system seems to be a combination of action by two centers involved in calculating all sorts of rewards and a third center that adds the social dimension, according to lead researcher Michael Platt, director of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences and the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience.
The orbital frontal cortex, right above the eyes, was activated when calculating rewards to the self. The anterior cingulate sulcus in the middle of the top of the brain seemed to calculate giving up a reward. But both centers appear "divorced from social context," Platt said. A third area, the anterior cingulate gyrus (ACCg), seemed to "care a lot about what happened to the other monkey," Platt said.
Based on results of various combinations of the reward-giving scenario the monkeys were put through, it would appear that neurons in the ACCg encode both the giving and receiving of rewards, and do so in a remarkably similar way.
The use of single-neuron electrodes to measure the activity of brain areas gives a much more precise picture than brain imaging, Platt said. Even the best imaging available now is "a six-second snapshot of tens of thousands of neurons," which are typically operating in milliseconds.
What the team has seen happening is consistent with other studies of damaged ACCg regions in which animals lost their typical hesitation about retrieving food when facing social choices. This same region of the brain is active in people when they empathize with someone else.
"Many neurons in the anterior cingulate gyrus (ACCg) respond both when monkeys choose a drink for themselves and when they choose to give a drink to another monkey," Platt said. "One might view these as sort of mirror neurons for the reward system." The region is active as an animal merely watches another animal receiving a reward without having one themselves.
The research is another piece of the puzzle as neuroscientists search for the roots of charity and social behavior in our species and others. There have been two schools of thought about how the social reward system is set up, Platt said. One holds that there is generic circuitry for rewards that has been adapted to our social behavior because it helped humans and other social animals like monkeys thrive. Another school holds that social behavior is so important to humans and other highly social animals like monkeys that there may be some special circuits for it, Platt said.
This finding, in macaques that have only a very distant common ancestor with us and are "not a particularly prosocial animal," suggests that "this specialized social circuitry evolved a long time ago presumably to support cooperative behavior," Platt said.
Source:Duke University 

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Number of Avoidable Errors Made by Doctors on the Rise

 Number of Avoidable Errors Made by Doctors on the RiseResearchers at John Hopkins University studying national malpractice claims in recent years found that the number of avoidable errors made by surgeons and doctors continue to rise at an alarming rate.The study, published in the journal Surgery, revealed that more than 80,000 of such “never events” occurred between 1990 and 2010 with researchers adding that around 39 incidents of doctors leaving a foreign object inside the body of a patient during surgery occurs every week while a wrong procedure is performed 20 times a week. “There are mistakes in health care that are not preventable. Infection rates will likely never get down to zero even if everyone does everything right, for example. But the events we've estimated are totally preventable. This study highlights that we are nowhere near where we should be and there's a lot of work to be done”, lead researcher Marty Makary said. 
Source:John Hopkins University 
 

 

Brain imaging insight into cannabis as a pain killer


 The pain relief offered by cannabis varies greatly between individuals, a brain imaging study carried out at the University of Oxford suggests.

The researchers found that an oral tablet of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, tended to make the experience of pain more bearable, rather than actually reduce the intensity of the pain.
MRI brain imaging showed reduced activity in key areas of the brain that substantiated the pain relief the study participants experienced.
'We have revealed new information about the neural basis of cannabis-induced pain relief,' says Dr Michael Lee of Oxford University's Centre for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain (FMRIB).
He adds: 'Our small-scale study, in a controlled setting, involved 12 healthy men and only one of many compounds that can be derived from cannabis. That's quite different from doing a study with patients. My view is the findings are of interest scientifically but it remains to see how they impact the debate about use of cannabis-based medicines. Understanding cannabis' effects on clinical outcomes, or the quality of life of those suffering chronic pain, would need research in patients over long time periods.'
The researchers report their findings in the journal Pain. The study was funded by the UK Medical Research Council and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Oxford Biomedical Research Centre.
Long-term pain, often without clear cause, is a complex healthcare problem. Different approaches are often needed to help patient manage pain, and can include medications, physiotherapy and other forms of physical therapy, and psychological support. For a few patients, cannabis or cannabis-based medications remain effective when other drugs have failed to control pain, while others report very little effect of the drug on their pain but experience side-effects.
'We know little about cannabis and what aspects of pain it affects, or which people might see benefits over the side-effects or potential harms in the long term. We carried out this study to try and get at what is happening when someone experiences pain relief using cannabis,' says Dr Lee.
The Oxford research team carried out a series of MRI scans with each of the 12 volunteers at the FMRIB centre in Oxford.
Before a scan, participants were given either a 15mg tablet of THC or a placebo. THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is the active psychotropic compound in cannabis – the ingredient that's responsible for the high that drives recreational use of the drug.
To induce a certain level of pain, the volunteers also had a cream rubbed into the skin of one leg. This was either a dummy cream or a cream that contained 1% capsaicin, the ingredient of chillis that causes a hot, burning and painful sensation.
Each participant had four MRI tests to cover each combination of THC or placebo, and chilli pain-inducing cream or dummy cream.
'The participants were asked to report the intensity and unpleasantness of the pain: how much it burned and how much it bothered them,' says Dr Lee. 'We found that with THC, on average people didn't report any change in the burn, but the pain bothered them less.'
While this average effect was statistically significant, there was great variability among the participants in THC's effect on the pain they experienced. Only six out of the 12 reported a clear change in how much the pain bothered them, for example.
The brain imaging results substantiate the reports of the participants. The change in unpleasantness of pain was matched with a suppression of activity in the part of the brain called the anterior mid-cingulate cortex. This structure sits in a deep part of the brain and is involved in many functions, and has previously been implicated in the emotional aspects of pain.
There were also changes in activity of the right amygdala that correlated with the lessening in the unpleasantness of the pain with THC. It is already known that the right side of the amygdala can be 'primed' by pain.
Of most interest to the researchers, however, was the strength of the connection in individuals between their right amydala and a part of the cortex called the primary sensorimotor area. The strength of this connection in individual participants correlated well with THC's different effects on the pain that that volunteer experienced.
This is suggestive that there might be a way of predicting who would see benefits from taking cannabis for pain relief.
'We may in future be able to predict who will respond to cannabis, but we would need to do studies in patients with chronic pain over longer time periods,' says Dr Lee.
He adds: 'Cannabis does not seem to act like a conventional pain medicine. Some people respond really well, others not at all, or even poorly. Brain imaging shows little reduction in the brain regions that code for the sensation of pain, which is what we tend to see with drugs like opiates. Instead cannabis appears to mainly affect the emotional reaction to pain in a highly variable way.
Source:University of Oxford 

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