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Friday, 20 January 2012

Clinical Trial Using Stem Cell in Parkinson's Disease - Likely in Near Future

Parkinson’s Disease - Medical world has struggled in finding permanent cure for this condition that usually affects men over the age of 50 years, but now this maybe changing with the advent of stem cell based research in regenerative medicine. A significant clinical human trial using these technique now seems feasible in the near future.
Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenenerative disorder of the brain that leads to shaking (tremors) and difficulty with walking, movement, and coordination. This disease most often develops after age 50.
Nerve cells use a brain chemical called dopamine to help control muscle movement. Parkinson's disease occurs when the nerve cells in the brain that make dopamine are slowly destroyed. Without dopamine, the nerve cells in that part of the brain cannot properly send messages. This leads to the loss of muscle function. The damage gets worse with time.
Current treatments methods gives temporary relief in relieving the motor symptoms. It includes the use of oral preparations of dopamine receptor agonists, L-DOPA and in more advanced cases, the use of apomorphine. L-DOPA can be made to reach the brain through oral intake of the drug through intestinal absorption, and via surgical electrodes stimulation to deliver dopamine to sub-thalamic nucleus and globuspallidus. But the present treatment methods are not without adverse effects that can sometimes be more debilitating than the disease itself.
Stem Cells and its Potential:
Stem cells have the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types in the body during early life and growth. In addition, in many tissues they serve as a sort of internal repair system, dividing essentially without limit to replenish other cells as long as the person or animal is still alive. When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential either to remain a stem cell or become another type of cell with a more specialized function, such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell.
Stem cell therapy in Parkinson’s disease:
The race to find permanent cure for Parkinson’s disease seems to be on with many exciting and rapid developments taking place in stem cell based regenerative research. However on a cautious note it remains to be shown whether stem cell-derived dopamine neurons can efficiently reinnervate the regions of the brain like the striatum and provide functional recovery in Parkinson’s patients.
The transplantation of the human foetal midbrain tissue in animals and humans has provided knowledge of a number of requirements for establishing a clinically competitive Stem Cell-based therapy in Parkinson’s disease.
The stem cell grafts should:
• Exhibit a regulated release of dopamine and molecular, electrophysiological, and morphological properties similar to those of substantia nigra neurons(substantianigra lies in the midbrain immediately dorsal to the cerebral peduncles);

• Enable survival of more than 100,000 dopamine neurons per human putamen(round structure located at the base of the forebrain);

• Re-establish the dopamine network within the striatum and restore the functional connectivity with host extra-striatal neural circuitries;

• Reverse the motor deficits resembling human symptoms in animal models of Parkinson’s disease and induce long-lasting andmajor symptomatic relief in patients;

• Produce no adverse-effects such as tumor formation, immune reactions and gastric disorders.

Another source of stem cells is adult fibroblasts that are reprogrammed to so called induced pluripotent (capable of differentiating into one of many cell types) stem cells (iPSCs), and then differentiated to dopaminergic neurons. Recently, dopaminergic neurons were also produced from iPSCs derived from fibroblasts in adult humans and Parkinson’s disease patients. Such neurons survived transplantation into the striatum of Parkinson’s disease rodents and produced some degree of functional recovery.
Fetal brain neural stem cells (NSC)-derived dopaminergic neurons are associated with lower risk of tumor formation and immune rejection than ESCs. Early studies reported that non-differentiated NSCs taken from a human source and transplanted in rats have limited differentiation in vivo and only partially affect PD-like symptoms. A more recent study showed that non-differentiated NSCs implanted into Parkinson’s primates survived, migrated, and had a functional impact. A small number of NSC progeny differentiated into Dopamine phenotypes.
Bone marrow-derived stromal cells and mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have beenproposed as potential cell sources for transplantation in Parkinson’s. It has beenreported that non-differentiated murine (a medical laboratory animal) MSCs are able to differentiate into tyrosinehydroxylase-positive neurons and improve motor performance in mice. Also, it has been demonstrated that cells with Dopaminergic properties can be produced from bothrat and human mesenchymal stem cells, and thattransplantation of these cells gave rise to improvement of motor function in an animal model of Parkinson’s.
Although the ability to restore function in Parkinson’s patients by dopaminergic neuron replacement has been demonstrated to some extent with hfVM tissue, the focus is now on producing standardized dopaminergic neuroblasts from stem cells for transplantation. ESCs and iPSCs seem the simplest to manipulate towards a dopaminergic fate and to produce large numbers of dopaminergic neurons in vitro, but fetal brain NSCs could also be useful for clinical application. Both iPSC-derived and directly converted dopaminergicneurons have one more advantage as they potentially can be used for autologous transplantation in Parkinson’s patients.
Several important properties will be decisive for the success or failure of a clinical trial in Parkinson’s in humans. These include the ability of the Stem Cell-derived dopaminergic neurons to substantially re-innervate striatum, restore dopamine release and markedly improve Parkinson’s symptoms. Before human trials using the method of transplantation of stem cell-derived dopaminergic neurons are started exclusion of the risks for tumor formation, immune reactions, and development of gastro-intestinal disorders need to be proven. However this major research effort is not too far in the distant future and the current evidence will help in the development of a clinically competitive stem cell-based therapy. If this happens it will opens up the possibility for an effective restorative treatment for Parkinson’s patients.
Reference: Clinical application of stem cell therapy in Parkinson's disease; Marios et al; BMC Medicine 2012.

Anti-Aging Formula Possible From Permafrost Bacteria: Scientists

Russian scientists claimed on Tuesday a hardy type of bacteria recently discovered in the permafrost of Siberia has clues to slow down the aging process.
The species of bacteria -- given the name Bacillius F -- was found in laboratory tests to have shown signs of slowing down the process of aging on mice, the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAN) said.
The Siberian branch of the RAN said Bacillius F lags 3 million years behind similar bacteria in evolutionary terms, according to the characteristics of proteins and some other factors.
"Taking into consideration the unusual living environment, one can only marvel at the resilience of these bacteria," it said.
It added that the organisms found in Russia's northern region of Yakutia -- home to the coldest inhabited area on the planet -- reproduce at just 5 degrees Celsius.
"We just thought: since the bacteria were found in the permafrost where they were successfully preserved they will possibly have mechanisms of retaining viability," added Nadezhda Mironova, senior research scientist at the Institute of Chemical Biology and Fundamental Medicine of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
"This is what happened," she was quoted as saying.
Injections of the bacteria into mice have helped boost the natural defences of the animals as they grew older.
"Bacillius F injections have favourably affected the quality of being of the aging animals," the Russian scientists said.
"First and foremost, this concerns immunity and the speed of its activation."
Experiments have shown that metabolism in the tested mice have increased by 20 to 30 percent, the scientists said, adding that the bacterium may also reduce instances of senile blindness but not the emergence of tumours.
The Russian Academy of Sciences did not say how many mice were tested, adding more animals were needed for the experiments to be more reliable. The mice from a test group lived longer than those in a control group however, it said, calling the results "impressive."

Thursday, 19 January 2012

International health experts call for a special UN session on MNS disorders

International health experts have called for a special session of the United Nations General Assembly to focus global attention on mental, neurological, and substance use (MNS) disorders as a core development issue.

As the world is moving faster in every domain, there is little space for the people to live a relaxed healthy life. In the recent past, there have been growing incidents of people committing suicide due to excess mental stress and other psychological disorders. Mental stress leads to depression which is further regarded as the cause for many other related diseases.
In view of this, a group of international health experts has called for a special session of the United Nations General Assembly to focus global attention on mental, neurological, and substance use (MNS) disorders as a core development issue requiring commitments to improve access to care, promote human rights, and strengthen the evidence on effective prevention and treatment.
“The time has come for recognition at the highest levels of global development, namely the UN General Assembly, of the urgent need for a global strategy to address the global burden of MNS disorders,” health experts say.
The health experts, led by Vikram Patel from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (UK) and Judith Bass from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health (USA) said, MNS disorders – a relatively new acronym coined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to refer to the complete range of disorders of the brain and the mind - are leading contributors to the global burden of disease and profoundly impact the social and economic well-being of individuals and communities.
Yet the majority of people affected by MNS disorders globally do not have access to evidence-based interventions and many experience discrimination and abuses of their human rights.
Experts feel that there are three broad areas of action needed for urgent investment. One is to enhance access to evidence-based packages of care for the treatment of MNS disorders. Second is to realize the human rights commitment enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to ensure that people with MNS disorders live a life with dignity and the third is to expand knowledge about MNS disorders.
Health experts also encourage support for the development of a “People's Charter for Mental Health” that intends to identified priority needs into practical actionable steps for country implementation. “This charter will be developed in consultation with the organizations from 96 countries who have signed up to the “Great Push” initiative so far, representing over one million people including consumers, family members, advocates, researchers, professional organizations, and policy makers,” they said.
“Together, this grand coalition of local, national, and global actors will converge their energies towards the UN special session to achieve the ultimate goal of reducing the global burden of MNS disorders,” opined the experts.

Survey Shows Poland Tops in Eating Fruit and Vegetables in Europe

Known as Europe's most avid consumers of pork chops and sausage, Poles now eat the most fruit and vegetables according to a new study of 19 mostly northern European states.
Poles topped the charts in the European Food Information Council survey with an average 577 grams (1.26 pounds) daily intake of fruit and veg, with Italians munching their way into second spot with an average daily intake of 452 grams.
"Only in Poland, Germany, Italy and Austria the recommendation of consuming 400 grams of fruit and vegetables per day was met," the study published on the EFIC website revealed.
France ranked a distant ninth in the survey with an average daily intake of 342 grams, trailing the above mentioned top four as well as Hungary, Estonia, Ireland and Belgium.
Icelanders got the lowest marks, eating just 186 grams of fruit and vegetables a day, behind Swedes (237 grams) and Czechs (253 grams).
The EFIC survey noted that geography played a surprising role in the way vegetables were eaten, with more vitamin-rich raw vegetables being consumed in the north.
"In the north, consumption of raw vegetables was higher, while vegetable soups were the main sources of vegetables in the south," the study noted.
It also wagged its finger, insisting "a majority of Europeans do not meet the WHO recommendations (400 grams minimum) for fruit and vegetable intake" increasing their risk of illnesses like cancer and cardio-vascular disease.

Eating Grapes may Help Prevent Age-related Blindness

If certain kinds of food can promote well being, can eating grapes slow or help prevent the onset of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a debilitating condition affecting millions of elderly people worldwide?
Results from a new study published in Free Radical Biology and Medicine suggest this might be the case. The antioxidant actions of grapes are believed to be responsible for these protective effects.
The study compared the impact of an antioxidant-rich diet on vision using mice prone to developing retinal damage in old age in much the same way as humans do. Mice either received a grape-enriched diet, a diet with added lutein, or a normal diet.
The result? Grapes proved to offer dramatic protection: the grape-enriched diet protected against oxidative damage of the retina and prevented blindness in those mice consuming grapes. While lutein was also effective, grapes were found to offer significantly more protection.
"The protective effect of the grapes in this study was remarkable, offering a benefit for vision at old age even if grapes were consumed only at young age," said principal investigator Silvia Finnemann, PhD, Department of Biological Sciences, Fordham University in New York.
Dr. Finnemann noted that results from her study suggest that age-related vision loss is a result of cumulative, oxidative damage over time. "A lifelong diet enriched in natural antioxidants, such as those in grapes, appears to be directly beneficial for RPE and retinal health and function."
Age-related macular degeneration is a progressive eye condition, leading to the deterioration of the center of the retina, called the macula. It is the leading cause of blindness in the elderly. Aging of the retina is associated with increased levels of oxidative damage, and oxidative stress is thought to play a pivotal role in the development of AMD.
In AMD, there is a known decline in the function of retinal pigment epithelium cells (RPE), which are the support cells for the photoreceptors in the retina that are critical to the process of converting light into sight. The RPE dysfunction is caused by 1) a build-up of metabolic waste products (known as lipofuscin) in the RPE itself and 2) an oxidation burden on the RPE that compromise important metabolic pathways. The resulting dysfunction, distress and often death of the RPE cells leads to AMD.
This study showed that adding grapes to the diet prevented blindness in mice by significantly decreasing the build-up of lipofuscin and preventing the oxidative damage to the RPE, thus ensuring optimal functioning of this critical part of the retina.
"Preserving eye health is a key concern as we age and this study shows that grapes may play a critical role in achieving this," said Kathleen Nave, president of the California Table Grape Commission. "This is good news for consumers of all ages who enjoy grapes, and adds to the growing body of evidence that grapes offer an array of health benefits."

Walk at a Speed of 5 Km Per Hour to Live Long

Men should walk at a speed of five km an hour or more to enjoy long life.
The study which analyzed the walking patterns of 1705 men aged 70, found that men who walked at a speed of 1.36 meters per second or about 5 km/h were greatly benefited. They lived long as they suffered fewer health issues.
'Interestingly, no men with walking speeds of 1.36 m/s or above had contact with the grim reaper. The results support our theory that faster speeds are protective against mortality, because fast walkers can maintain a safe distance from the grim reaper,' Dr Danijela Gnjidic, who co-authored the study said.

Arthritis Treated With Umbilical Cord Cells

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can be treated by using umbilical cord stem cells, claim scientists.
Animal and in vitro experiments have shown that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) taken from umbilical cord blood can suppress inflammation and attenuate collagen-induced arthritis.
Professor Zhan-guo Li worked with a team of researchers, from Peking University People's Hospital, China, to carry out the study.
"Very little is known about umbilical cord MSCs, and there has been no previous report about their use in the treatment of RA. MSCs can exert profound immunosuppression, which encourages their use in the treatment of autoimmune diseases, such as RA. At present, the most common source of MSCs has been bone marrow," he said.
"However, aspirating bone marrow is an invasive procedure and the number and the differentiating potential of bone marrow MSCs decrease with age. In contrast, the collection of umbilical cord MSCs does not require any invasive procedure," he added.
The researchers took immune cells from RA patients and showed that the umbilical MSCs were able to suppress the cells' proliferation, invasive behavior and inflammatory responses.
Systemic infusion of the umbilical MSCs into mice was shown to significantly reduce the severity of collagen-induced arthritis.
"RA imparts a massive burden on health services worldwide and none of the currently used agents reaches long term drug-free remission. Therefore, a new and more effective therapy for RA will be very welcome," Professor Li said.
The study has been described in BioMed Central's open access journal Arthritis Research and Therapy.

Stem Cell Breakthrough

For the first time scientists transformed umbilical cord stem cells into other types of cells, which in future may have several therapeutic applications for multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injuries.
The breakthrough could come as a favourable alternative to embryonic stem cells.
"This is the first time this has been done with non-embryonic stem cells," said James Hickman, a University of Central Florida bioengineer and leader of the research group.
"We're very excited about where this could lead because it overcomes many of the obstacles present with embryonic stem cells."
Stem cells from umbilical cords do not pose an ethical dilemma because the cells come from a source that would otherwise be discarded.
Another major benefit is that umbilical cells generally have not been found to cause immune reactions, which would simplify their potential use in medical treatments.
The main challenge in working with stem cells is figuring out the chemical or other triggers that will convince them to convert into a desired cell type.
When the new paper's lead author, Hedvika Davis, a postdoctoral researcher in Hickman's lab, set out to transform umbilical stem cells into oligodendrocytes - critical structural cells that insulate nerves in the brain and spinal cord - she looked for clues from past research.
Davis learned that other research groups had found components on oligodendrocytes that bind with the hormone norephinephrine, suggesting the cells normally interact with this chemical and that it might be one of the factors that stimulates their production. So, she decided this would be a good starting point.
In early tests, she found that norepinephrine, along with other stem cell growth promoters, caused the umbilical stem cells to convert, or differentiate, into oligodendrocytes. However, that conversion only went so far. The cells grew but then stopped short of reaching a level similar to what's found in the human nervous system.
Davis decided that, in addition to chemistry, the physical environment might be critical.
To more closely approximate the physical restrictions cells face in the body, Davis set up a more confined, three-dimensional environment, growing cells on top of a microscope slide, but with a glass slide above them. Only after making this change, and while still providing the norephinphrine and other chemicals would the cells fully mature into oligodendrocytes.
"We realized that the stem cells are very sensitive to environmental conditions," Davis said.
This growth of oligodendrocytes, while crucial, is only a first step to potential medical treatments. There are two main options the group hopes to pursue through further research. The first is that the cells could be injected into the body at the point of a spinal cord injury to promote repair.
Another intriguing possibility for the Hickman team's work relates to multiple sclerosis and similar conditions.
"Multiple sclerosis is one of the holy grails for this kind of research," Hickman added.
The study has been recently published in the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience.

Combining Traditional Chinese Medicine With New Fertility Treatments Increases Pregnancy Rates

A recent study shows that using Chinese herbs and acupuncture with intrauterine insemination (IUI), a common fertility treatment, increases the number of pregnancies and births.
Lorne Brown Dr. TCM, clinical director of the Acubalance Wellness Centre, will discuss recent research on Chinese Medicine and fertility as well as a new study on how CoQ10 may improve egg quality, in a free public talk entitled “Age and Fertility: Can You Turn Back the Reproductive Clock?” on February 7, 2012, at the Pekoe Tea Lounge in Vancouver.
This study was conducted at Tel Aviv Medical Center’s Fertility Research Institute, where they treated one group of women with infertility using IUI alone and another group with a combination of IUI and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), specifically acupuncture and Chinese herbs. Among the 29 women in the IUI plus TCM group, 65.5% conceived and 41.4% delivered healthy infants, while in the control group, only 39.4% conceived and 26.9% delivered healthy babies.
This research follows a recent study from Adelaide University where women using Chinese herbal medicine doubled their pregnancy rate, achieving “on average, a 60% pregnancy rate over 4 months compared with 30% achieved with standard western drug treatment or IVF over 12 months.” The study also found that the same improvement in pregnancy rates was true whether Chinese herbal medicine was used alone or in conjunction with either Western drugs or IVF.
“The surprising thing about the Tel Aviv study is that the TCM group, which had more pregnancies and live births, was made up of older women .This suggests that acupuncture and herbs may make a bigger difference for older women who are having difficulty conceiving,” says Brown.According to the authors, Dr. Shahar Lev-Ari and Keren Sela of TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, “the average age of the women in the study group was 39.4, while that of the control group was 37.1. Normally, the older the mother, the lower the pregnancy and delivery rates.”
“It is not clear exactly why women who received TCM had a higher pregnancy rate than the control IUI group, but acupuncture and herbal treatments are known to balance stress hormones, enhance blood flow to the reproductive organs, regulate fertility hormones and affect the uterine lining – all which may improve the chances of getting pregnant and having a full term birth,” says Brown.
Brown will discuss the science supporting how acupuncture and Chinese herbal treatments can have a significant positive effect on western fertility treatments such as IUI and IVF, as well as practical tips and strategies that women (and men) can take to improve egg and sperm quality and boost overall fertility.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Global Ayurveda meet to focus on lifestyle health problems

Leading practitioners, academicians and researchers of Ayurveda from across the globe will take part in the six-day Global Ayurveda Festival beginning here from February 6.
The event, “Ayurveda Keralam 2012,” will be focusing on the potential this ancient Indian system of medicine holds in addressing health challenges in modern times.
Organised jointly by the Kerala government and the Centre for Innovation in Science and Social Action (CISSA), an NGO working in the field of Ayurveda, the event will witness over 2,500 delegates take part in discussion on around 120 research papers likely to be presented during the conference, the Secretary General of the festival, Mr M.R. Vasudevan Namboodiri, said.
The major theme of discussions will be the role of Ayurveda in tackling non-communicable diseases with emphasis on lifestyle health problems like hypertension, heart ailments and diabetes, the organisers said.
The event will also showcase the expertise of Kerala in Ayurveda, where it flourished as an authentic medicinal system over the centuries.
Prominent speakers who will address conference include former director of Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute of Medical Sciences, Mr M.S. Valiyathan, former Vice-Chancellor of Manipal University, Dr B M Hegde, and the CEO of the European Academy of Ayurveda in Germany, Dr Mark Rosenberge, among others.
Infosys co-founder and CEO, Mr S D Shibulal, will be a special invitee to one of the sessions of the event.
Source:Business Line

Why heavy coffee drinkers may have a lower risk of diabetes

Research shows that heavy coffee drinkers have a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, and now scientists in China may have discovered why.
Prior studies have shown that people who drink four or more cups of coffee a day have a 50 percent lower risk of Type 2 diabetes, and that every extra cup of coffee brings another decrease in risk of almost seven percent.
Researchers from Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan University, and Wuhan Institute of Biotechnology in China have cited the protective benefits of compounds in coffee that inhibit a substance called human islet amyloid polypeptide (hIAPP), which has been linked to diabetes, stated science and health news website Science Daily last week in a report on the new study. The study appears in the latest issue of the Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemisty.
Last year, a Harvard University study in the US found that drinking coffee, either decaf or regular, can ward off the risk of deadly prostate cancer. Another recent study found that women who drank five or more cups of coffee a day were 57 percent less likely to develop estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer.
More good news for coffee lovers? Coffee has also been shown to improve brain function in mice studies, with researchers probing the possibility of using coffee as a treatment for people with Alzheimer's disease.
Still health experts don't recommend too much coffee. The US-based Mayo Clinic suggests no more than two to four cups a day, since more than that can cause insomnia, upset stomach, and anxiety.

Health ministry asks state drug controllers to closely monitor misleading ads on vitamins, creams

The union health ministry has asked the state drug control authorities to strictly monitor the exaggerated product advertisements making tall claims regarding efficacy of certain anti-ageing creams, dietary supplements and vitamins.
The direction comes in the wake of complaints lodged with the ministry regarding the 'significant' rise in the number of such advertisements about fairness creams, weight loss programmes and vitamins, sources said without specifying any particular advertisement or case.
The state drug control departments were instructed to keep a close tab on such advertisements and file regular reports to the Centre so that further action could be chalked out. “The monitoring will be a continuous activity and based on the inputs, option of further amending the rules would be taken,” sources in the ministry said.
“The regulatory control over manufacture of cosmetics is exercised by the state governments under the provisions of the Drugs & Cosmetics Act, 1940 and the Drugs & Cosmetics Rules, 1945. The Drugs & Cosmetics Rules, 1945 were amended in 2009 by inserting rule 148-B which provides prohibition against false and misleading claims for cosmetics. Complaints about tall or unsubstantiated claims are examined by the concerned state authorities under whose jurisdiction the manufacturer is located,” sources said.
The Drugs Consultative Committee (DCC), held in November last year, also had discussed the issue in detail and the drug controllers from the states were alerted on taking stern action on misleading advertisements originating from the states.
As regards the advertisement of food items, Section 24 of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 provides for restriction on advertisement of any food which misleads or contravenes the provisions of the Act or the rules and regulations made thereunder. Under Section 53 of the said Act, there is a provision for penalty for misleading advertisement, which makes it liable to a fine which may extend to Rs.10 lakh.

UN Must Adopt Mental Health, Insist World Experts

Mental illness and drug abuse can inflict chaos in global societies and economies hence the UN General Assembly ought to allot a special session to the issue, global health experts agreed on Tuesday.
Every country in the world is affected by the burden of mental, neurological and substance use (MNS) disorders, but often sufferers face discrimination and human rights abuse, said the article in PLoS Medicine.
"The time has come for recognition at the highest levels of global development, namely the UN General Assembly, of the urgent need for a global strategy to address the global burden of MNS disorders," said the article.
Lead authors were Vikram Patel from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Judith Bass from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in the United States.
Investment is needed in three key areas, they argued: expanding knowledge about mental health disorders, better access to evidence-based programs of care and treatment, and protection of human rights.
A list of key needs to be addressed and steps to take could be enshrined in a "People's Charter for Mental Health" accounting for input from policy makers, families, researchers and other advocates.
The article said neuropsychiatric disorders will account for the loss of some $16.1 trillion US dollars globally over the next two decades, with "dramatic impacts on productivity and quality of life," particularly as the population ages.
About 25 million people have dementia worldwide, a number set to skyrocket to 80 million by 2040, with close to three quarters of dementia patients concentrated in low and middle income countries.
Meanwhile, suicide claims at least one million lives per year and nearly four percent of all deaths around the world are attributable to alcohol.
Mental illness can also boost risky behaviors that result in disease.
"Depressive disorders markedly increase the risk for noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes, coronary artery disease, stroke, and dementia," said the article.
"Conflict, displacement, poverty, gender-based violence, and other social determinants of ill health increase the risk for MNS disorders," it added.
"MNS disorders are, in turn, associated with worsening of social and economic circumstances, setting up a vicious cycle of poverty and illness."
A majority of world governments would have to agree that the issue is important enough that it deserves a special session at the UN General Assembly.
"The fact that MNS disorders affect people in all countries should offer considerable incentive for investments by both public and private sectors in this initiative," the authors wrote.

Thinking About Yoga? Make Sure to Think the Right Thoughts...!

Yoga is in the news again, though no longer as a panacea for all the world(s)' problems, or as a benign souvenir from the so-called mystical "East," but as an easy way to injure one's body. If you are a yoga practitioner who believes that your practice (or your guru's practice) has its roots in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (or as some yoga teachers call him, "Pot and Jolly") then be warned: there are dangers when yoga is practiced incorrectly that are far greater than mere bodily injury. In fact, if one fosters the wrong cognitive habits while doing yoga then the danger is rebirth in this mundane reality (samsara). Thinking the wrong thoughts while doing a downward facing dog pose (adho mukha shvanasana) (or while observing someone else do a downward facing dog pose!) will delay release from the cycle of birth and rebirth, known in the Yoga Sutras as the preeminent state of kaivalya (isolation).
You should be.
According to Patanjali, the root cause of suffering and rebirth is an incorrect cognitive habit, namely the misidentification of consciousness (purusha) with the material world (prakriti). The body, one's body, of course, is included in this. In fact, it is only when one isolates, separates and distinguishes consciousness from materials stuff, from one's body, that one can achieve liberation. This goal of reaching and maintaining the right cognitive habit is attainable by following the practices enjoined in the ashtanga (eight limbs) of yoga, only one of which is asana (posture).
So for Patanjali the postures (asana) of yoga are a mere means to an end, and not an end in and of themselves. The body is used, then, as an instrument for attaining the right cognitive habit, divorcing and detaching consciousness (purusha) from the material world (prakriti), from the body. In the same way that some poetry serves to move the reader outside of language, the body can be used to transcend the body.
It is thus ironic that so many do yoga as a mere physical practice, or as a way to meet other body-aware people wearing spandex, or expensive and politically correct, but nonetheless sexy, yoga outfits. Practicing yoga this way leads to rebirth and suffering. In fact, obsession with one's body (and with the person's on the mat in front of you!) conflicts fundamentally with what is prescribed by Patanjali.
So, while it is true that yoga can wreck your body, Patanjali thought that obsession with your body in yoga (and with the bodies of others) can wreck your mind, reinforce your undesirable cognitive habits, and can sabotage your chances for breaking out of the cycle of birth and rebirth!
Deepak Sharma: associate professor of South Asian religions and philosophy at Case Western Reserve University, is the author of "Classical Indian Philosophy: A Reader" (2011), "Hinduism: A Reader" (2008), "Epistemologies and the Limitations of Philosophical Inquiry: Doctrine in Madhva Vedanta" (2005) and "An Introduction to Madhva Vedanta" (2003). He was a guest curator of Indian Kalighat Paintings, an exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art. After earning a BA in religion from Reed College, Sarma attended the University of Chicago Divinity School, where he received a PhD in the philosophy of religions.

Dietary Resolution 2012: I’ll ‘Meal’ Well

Hard to come by a New Year resolution list of 2012 without a tilt towards health, fitness, dietetic regimen meticulously compiled from magazine snippets or bookmarking web pages on fruit mélange, vegetable combo, ‘poulet’ for ‘protein-intake’, ‘selective consumption’ for ‘specific purpose’ (intriguing!). Point is whatever drove you to make the list where you allotted a space for your health and wellbeing, Medindia applauds you and wishes you to stay motivated with expert guidance from Dr. Dharini Krishnan Ph.D, Registered Dietitian, and Former National President of Indian Dietetic Association.
Q. What goes into diet counselling?
A. Diet counselling involves lot of skills, dieting techniques, the nutritional part of it plus you need to know psychology. Sometimes patients, for example diabetics, are actually in a state of shock when they walk in. You have to calm people before you tackle diet counselling. When talking of diet, you have to make sure that the person is at ease to listen to what you are saying. So diet counselling involves lot of psychological counselling even if not for any particular medical attention.
Q. In general what is taken into consideration to prescribe a diet?
A. ‘A’ stands for Anthropometric measurements – height, weight, body fat, skin fold thickness. ‘B’ for Biochemical measurements, if one has any reports of their blood profile we look into it and ‘C’ for Clinical analysis where a person’s eyes, hair are observed. By looking into a person’s eyes a trained health professional will know if one is anemic, by examining the hair it can be inferred if the person has protein deficiency, nails give away the health of a person. And then we arrive at ‘D’ for Diet.
Q. How is a diet prescribed?
A. Before suggesting a diet, we ask the person about their current diet and then take detailed dietary calls. We take inputs on what the person eats on a weekday and what on weekends. We also take inputs on the person’s allergy; it’s imperative since food allergies are common today. Family also matters, so we find out what they do? How much oil they use per month? How much vegetable they eat per day, per week? How often they eat out? if they do where is it they eat? Do they eat at restaurants where only fried stuff is available or where salads are available? We need to know people’s lifestyles.
Q. Does physical appeal impact on a diet?
A. We follow certain parameters and formulas, with their height and weight. Then we decide how overweight or underweight they are, so formula used is customised for the person. Just because somebody wants to lose or gain weight we are not going to help. Suppose in a hospital, a burn patient needs attention, we look into the surface area of the burn, the area that is burnt, the depth of the burn, according to the need the diet changes. Even for a normal person, height and weight are normal parameters from which we need to start off.
Q. Is natural food sufficient or does a person need supplements?
A. As long as a person is eating properly, regularly, traditional meals cooked daily, there is no need for supplements. Supplements have a role only in people who are not eating properly anddepend on processed foods. For example, if a person is staying in a PG (Paying Guest) accommodation, if the place does not allow them to cook, they are dependent on outside food, always. Unfortunately, in India you get food stuff only of two types that are rich in carbohydrates and fats. You don’t get vegetables and fruits in large quantities for an average Indian which is hygienic and can be eaten outside. For such a person, if the hemoglobin is unbalanced then we may have to resort to supplements. In a normal family, cooking sensibly and regularly it is not needed.
Q. An ideal balance between meat and vegetable – how does one decide?
A. Meat is not equated to vegetables at all. If you take any meal, let’s leave breakfast alone because it does not have all the five food groups. However lunch and dinner are two major meals. The first part is cereal which is rice or chapatti. The second is dal or meat which is the protein source and the third being vegetables. The fourth is dairy which is optional, because in a vegetarian diet, whether it is curd or milk or paneer it adds to the protein value. It gives you high biological value. Hence meat can be equated only to dals. Recent trends promote a wrong thought - where non-vegetarians on a day they take non-vegetarian food do not take vegetables and this is not the best practice. A decade ago non-vegetarians ate vegetarian food in a meal with meat. But because of affluence and other influences people eat only meat which is not a good turn.
Q. Is it safe to quit meat all of a sudden and become a vegetarian?
A. Does not matter as long as you take care of the total protein. A non-vegetarian family does not take as much dal or milk as much as a vegetarian. So if a person moves from non-vegetarian to vegetarian food they have to take care of these two things and the person will do fine.
Q. And what if a vegetarian shifts to non-vegetarian diet?
A. It does not matter as long as vegetable intake continues. So if dal is replaced by fish or chicken or egg it doesn’t matter. But if you leave vegetables and go headway with meat then the balance will flip.
Q. When is the ideal time to visit a dietician?
A. Back in 1987 when my name board went up people did not understand who I was or what I did but today women before they get pregnant come asking, What food is good for healthy pregnancy? What do I eat before the baby is born, What food should I give the baby until six months? After six months? At every stage people are concerned about the right diet. Many kids who are taking their Board exams, starting December till March don’t go to school. After giving their exams, they hang at home, eat and put on weight. The moment 10th standard and 12th standard exams are over they come to us saying, “Suddenly we have put on so much weight, we have to go live in the hostels, what diet do we follow?”. So, different age groups come to us. For kids parents accompany them but right from teenagers onwards people come to us either to put on weight or lose weight. “Is it the right balanced meal that we eat?” is another common question.
Q. At what intervals do you change a person’s diet?
A. We take a pattern of the family and we give them dietary options. We give them options of vegetables, fruits and quantity for each person. People who are losing or gaining weight we see them at an interval of two weeks, at least for five visits until they fall into the pattern. Those who want to lose 20 kgs or 40 kgs come every 15 days. They want new advice, re-iteration, they want to check their weight in the same scale. They want to take measurement of their hands and thighs and waist so the fat is going down and not the lean body mass. Every 15 days there’s a change of diet, if they want a change, then there’s travelling and what diet to follow while travelling. The change in weight and measurements shows in 15 days, if they follow the advice strictly. Weekend and week day options are worked out.
Q. How safe is comfort food?
A. Comfort differs from one person to another. Some say I have to have a chocolate truffle. I have a ‘sweet tooth’ is a very common statement. We give them options of the right sweet. We use sweet for people who need to put on weight. We use it so that they eat a little more of the right things. If a person looking to put on weight delights in ‘payasam’, we allow the sweet dish if it is made with green gram/Bengal gram , that’s high in protein, along with sugar and milk. We develop comfort food which can be used judiciously. So the rest of the time they follow the diet we are very happy. We teach them to share their dessert or sweets. The size of a laddu used to be like a ping pong ball today it resembles a tennis ball. Somehow in India we take one serving of any food; size does not seem to worry people.
On a general note Dr. Dharini Krishnan commented on people making sweeping statements that they don’t like vegetables at all, which is not fashionable at all. Vegetable and fruits are the sustainers. These are the ones which give you vitamins you don’t get enough from cereals or pulses. Dietary fibres you get more in fruits and vegetables. More intake of vegetables and fruits the less of diseases. Because the greater the intake of fruits and vegetables the lesser would be the calorie load on the body. Whether we are heavy or light or fat or thin it doesn’t matter as long as we can avoid illness from healthy eating. Vegetable and fruits build immunity, and provide anti-cancer properties. Fibre makes you eat less of high calorie food. When asked how a person remains disciplined, she said, “If you love yourself, you will take care of yourself”.

New Report: Facebook Causes Stress, Depression, Anxiety

According to a new study from Edinburgh Napier University, the more friends people have on Facebook, the more likely they were to be stressed out.
The researchers who conducted the analysis noted that “for a significant number of users, the negative effects of Facebook outweigh the benefits of staying in touch with friends and family,”
Approximately 200 students were utilized in this particular study.
Dr. Kathy Charles, the woman who led this particular research, brought up the following points in relation to her study in a prepared statement:
“For instance, although there is great pressure to be on Facebook, there is also considerable ambivalence among users about its benefits,” she said.
It was noted that certain actions and activities that Facebook users have to put up with on a regular basis cause psychological strain.
Things like rejected friend requests caused 32 percent of the people who participated in the study to feel guilty -- and 12 percent of the people said that Facebook just made them generally anxious.
“The other responses we got in focus groups and one-to-one interviews suggest the survey figures actually under-represent aspects of stress and anxiety felt by some Facebook users, whether it’s through feelings of exclusion, pressure to be entertaining, paranoia or envy of others’ lifestyles.” Charles added.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

US Doctor Prescribes Food as Medicine

When patients go to see Dr. Daphne Miller, they are more likely to leave with a recipe for a wholesome meal than a drug prescription.
In 2000, Ronnie Sampson, 52, was diagnosed with neurosarcoidosis, a disease that tricks the immune system into attacking certain parts of the body.
Sampson’s doctor put him on prednisone, a corticosteroid that helps to suppress the immune system.
Combination healing approach
Sampson started seeing Miller in late 2001. The family physician combines conventional and alternative healing approaches in her San Francisco medical practice.
After taking an in-depth look at Sampson’s medical history and lifestyle, Miller designed a customized regimen of nutrition and exercise she believed would improve his health and make him less dependent on medication.
Sampson says it's done both. “My regular doctor had been focusing on making sure that I take my medication, and I think that Dr. Miller’s approach of combining medicine and lifestyle is really what turned things around for me.”
Miller originally pursued traditional medical training. She studied at the prestigious Harvard Medical School and did a two-year research fellowship, funded by the National Institutes of Health, at the University of California, San Francisco.
Filling the gaps
But after she finally opened her own practice in 2000, she recognized significant gaps in her

“I got into my private practice and suddenly realized that I really did not have the proper training to take care of the most salient issues that I was seeing every day," Miller says, "which were issues related to heart disease and diabetes and cancer, all of which in some way could be traced back to nutrition and lifestyle issues.”Motivated by a desire to offer her patients more holistic medical treatment, Miller set out on a three-year journey around the globe to study the traditional diets of her patients’ ancestors - time-tested food combinations which, in many cases, had demonstrable health benefits.
“I really was surprised to see how different different cultures were in their approach to food," she says. "From Iceland, which really had a fairly high animal product-based diet, to a place like Okinawa in Japan, where it really was a lot of vegetables, to a place like Copper Canyon in Mexico where it was a lot of whole-grain carbohydrates.”
For example, Miller found that Icelanders use their traditional fish diet, rich in omega-3 oils, to fight depression. Impressed by this kind of indigenous medical knowledge, she decided to organize it and use it in her practice. She started modifying traditional recipes with easy-to-find local ingredients to help her patients eat more nutritiously.
The Jungle Effect
She also chronicled her journey in a book called "The Jungle Effect," which serves as both a nutrition cookbook and a personal travelogue.But while Miller uses food for the prevention and treatment of modern illnesses, she believes that drugs can still play an important role in her patients’ lives.
“In some instances, I feel that diet can absolutely replace medication, and then there are other times where medication is necessary and diet is there to enhance or augment it. And that is the art of medicine.”
According to Miller, many medical studies have shown the important role nutrition plays in overall well-being.
“So, for example, there are studies showing that nutrition, in particular within Japan, has a lot to do with the lower rates of breast cancer amongst the elderly female population, and that nutrition, in particular in western South Africa, has a lot to do with the low rates of colon cancer amongst the rural, traditional African populations.”
Food as medicine
A growing number of physicians agrees with Miller’s approach, including Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and associate professor at Brigham Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School.
Scientists are discovering that a diet rich in omega-3 fats is linked to less depression and other psychiatric problems, including bipolar disease, schizophrenia and aggressive or anti-social behaviors.
“There’s lots of research which has come together to tell us that our focus should be on healthy foods, and those overall healthy, food-based dietary patterns should really be the focus of our priorities in the U.S. and globally,” says Mozaffarian.
Ronnie Sampson would certainly agree. After a short time on his personalized nutrition and exercise program, the San Francisco native started feeling better. And although his neurosarcoidosis is not cured, Sampson has been able to reduce his reliance on prednisone by half, and has essentially reversed his diabetes.
“I feel better than I’ve felt in many, many years," he says. "At 52, I feel healthier than I did at 40.”
Sampson continues to see Miller about twice a year for checkups. He believes everyone could benefit from her holistic, integrated approach, in which food is often the best medicine.


Wikipedia's blackout protest

Wikipedia, the fifth most visited site in the world, will black out the English language version of its website Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012, to protest anti-piracy legislation under consideration in Congress, the foundation behind the popular community-based online encyclopedia said in a statement.

US wants effective Alzheimer's treatment by 2025

Effective treatments for Alzheimer's by 2025? That's the target the government is eyeing as it develops a national strategy to tackle what could become the defining disease of a rapidly aging population.
It's an ambitious goal — and on Tuesday, advisers to the government stressed that millions of families need better help now to care for their loved ones.
"What's really important here is a comprehensive plan that deals with the needs of people who already have the disease," said Alzheimer's Association president Harry Johns, one of the advisers.
Already families approach the advisory committee "reminding us of the enormity of our task," said Dr. Ron Petersen, an Alzheimer's specialist at the Mayo Clinic who chairs the panel.
The Obama administration is developing the first National Alzheimer's Plan to address the medical and social problems of dementia — not just better treatments but better day-to-day care for dementia patients and their overwhelmed caregivers, too.
The plan still is being written, with the advisory panel's input. But a draft of its overall goals sets 2025 as a target date to have effective treatments and ways to delay if not completely prevent the illness.
Some advisory members said that's not aggressive enough, and 2020 would be a better target date.
"We want to be bold," said Dr. Jennifer Manly of Columbia University. "We think the difference of five years is incredibly meaningful."
Regardless, an estimated 5.4 million Americans already have Alzheimer's or similar dementias — and how to help their families cope with day-to-day care is a priority, the advisory committee made clear Tuesday.
The disease is growing steadily as the population ages: By 2050, 13 million to 16 million Americans are projected to have Alzheimer's, costing $1 trillion in medical and nursing home expenditures. That doesn't count the billions of dollars in unpaid care provided by relatives and friends.
Today's treatments only temporarily ease some dementia symptoms, and work to find better ones has been frustratingly slow. Scientists now know that Alzheimer's is brewing for years before symptoms appear, and they're hunting ways to stall the disease, maybe long enough that potential sufferers will die of something else first. But it's still early-stage work.
Meanwhile, as many as half of today's Alzheimer's sufferers haven't been formally diagnosed, a recent report found. That's in part because of stigma and the belief that nothing can be done. Symptomatic treatment aside, a diagnosis lets families plan, and catching Alzheimer's earlier would be crucial if scientists ever find a way to stall it, the advisory panel noted.
Among the goals being debated for the national plan:
—Begin a national public awareness campaign of dementia's early warning signs, to improve timely diagnosis.
—Give primary care doctors the tools to assess signs of dementia as part of Medicare's annual check-up.
—Have caregivers' health, physical and mental, regularly checked.
—Improve care-planning and training for families so they know what resources are available for their loved one and themselves.
A training program in New York, for instance, has proved that caregivers who are taught how to handle common dementia problems, and given support, are able to keep their loved ones at home for longer.
Such programs "are dirt cheap compared to paying for nursing home care," said David Hoffman, who oversees Alzheimer's programs for the New York State Department of Health.
But hanging over the meeting was the reality of a budget crunch. The government hasn't said how much money it will be able to devote to the Alzheimer's plan, and states have seen their own Alzheimer's budgets cut.
"We're not going to fix this without substantial resources," Hoffman said. "In New York, we're hanging on by our nails," he added.

Asia Looks Forward to Lunar Year 'Dragon Baby' Boom

Cassandra Cheong's bulging belly highlighted by a black maternity dress glorifies her status as an imminent mother of a ‘dragon baby’.
Cheong, 26, has been carrying her daughter for 38 weeks and is due to give birth after January 23, the start of the Year of the Dragon which comes every 12 years in the Chinese almanac and traditionally triggers a baby boom in Asia."Of course I am happy," a smiling Cheong told AFP after emerging from her gynaecologist's clinic in a Singapore hospital.
"But my mother and the elder relatives are more excited about the dragon baby than I am."
The dragon year is regarded as the most auspicious in the almanac because it is the only mythical creature among the dozen animals that represent each year in the Chinese cosmic cycle.
Superstitious Chinese believe children born during the Year of the Dragon -- the symbol of ancient emperors -- will possess courage and wisdom and bring luck to the entire family.
Doctors estimate that couples gunning for a lucky baby will have to conceive by May 2 in order to stand a chance of giving birth by the tail end of the dragon year, which lasts until February 9, 2013.
Past dragon years saw a spike in birth rates in China and other places with predominantly ethnic Chinese populations such as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore, and this year is likely to be no different.
In China, state news agency Xinhua said in December that the country was expecting a five percent rise in births, boosting a population that now stands at 1.3 billion despite an official policy of allowing only one child per couple.
"There will be promotions to say 'come have your baby in this special year at this special hospital,'" Masoud Afnan, obstetrics and gynecology chief at the private Beijing United Family Hospital, told AFP.
In Hong Kong, where mainland Chinese mothers try to deliver their babies to gain rights of abode and education in the semi-autonomous territory and circumvent China's one-child policy, steps are being taken to contain the phenomenon.
Hong Kong health authorities have capped the number of deliveries by mainland and non-local mothers to 3,400 in public hospitals this year. Places are capped at 31,000 at private hospitals.
"The priority for the Hospital Authority is to ensure that Hong Kong residents are given proper and adequate obstetrics services as well as the priority to use such services," a spokesman for the Health Authority said.
In the previous dragon year in 2000, a total of 54,134 births were registered in Hong Kong, up 5.6 percent from a year earlier, official data showed.
For countries like Singapore, whose declining fertility rates have been a persistent headache for the government, the Year of the Dragon provides a break from its population woes.
"It will help temporarily," said Shirley Sun, assistant professor of sociology at Nanyang Technological University.
"But for Singapore's total fertility rates to increase in the long run, it would be due to more long-term structural forces, not the Chinese zodiac cycle," she said.
Historic data show spikes of more than 10 percent in the city-state's total births during the most recent dragon years, 2000 and 1988.
Singapore's fertility rate in 2010 fell to a record low of 1.15 babies per female, far below the 2.1 babies needed for the population to replenish itself naturally.
This, combined with longer lifespans, is turning it into a fast-ageing society like Japan, and about a quarter of Singapore's 5.2 million people are foreigners as a result of increased immigration to address a labour shortage.
Tan Kok Hian, chairman of the obstetrics and gynaecology division of the government-run KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) is expecting an eight percent year-on-year rise in deliveries in 2012.
Despite 2012 falling under the auspices of the dragon, fengshui masters predict a rocky road for the global economy in the coming year in the shadow of the eurozone crisis, together with a prevalence of disease, natural disasters and political reform.
They say that this is due to the dragon's pairing with the Chinese water element for 2012, which they say symbolises a strong driving force in nature as well as political will and dampens the fire of economic optimism.
But a grim global reality is unlikely to temper couples' quest for a "dragon baby", even in Malaysia, where ethnic Chinese are in the minority.
Obstetrician-gynaecologist M Devindran, who runs a fertility clinic, expects an increase in pregnancies among Chinese Malaysians.
"The dragon sign is a very powerful cosmic sign and in my practice, I have seen a 10 to 15 percent increase in Chinese couples who are trying to conceive a dragon baby," he told AFP.

Kiwi Docs Say Natural Health Products are a Waste of Time and Money

Some of New Zealanders' favorite natural health products have been branded as ineffective by Kiwi doctors.In the latest New Zealand Medical Journal Digest, doctors Shaun Holt and Sarah Jeffries and health psychologist Andrew Gilbey claimed colloidal silver, deer velvet, arnica and rescue remedy are a "waste of time and money" and sometimes harmful.
Holt told The Press that of the "hundreds" of therapies and products, about 95 per cent were either not biologically plausible or not supported by research evidence.
Popular but ineffective products and therapies included deer velvet, rescue remedy, arnica, propolis, magnets, shark cartilage, the lemon detox diet, and megadoses of vitamin C to treat cancer.
Some products, such as colloidal silver, which is marketed as being beneficial for the immune system and in fighting diseases such as cancer, HIV and pneumonia, could be dangerous, he said.
"Silver does have some anti-microbial actions, but not only is there no clinical evidence of an efficacy for these serious indications, products have been shown to contain widely variable amounts of silver and can cause argyria - dangerous and untreatable silver poisoning," quoted him as saying.
"The difficulty for people is, which are the 5 per cent of products and therapies worth trying? Use the ones with evidence behind them.
"The problem is people go on the internet, which is not reliable," he sated.
People often assumed a product or therapy worked because reputable people endorsed it in advertisements, he said.
"There is no reason deer velvet would work for anything, though it might produce a placebo effect. It's quite shocking how little research there is, and it's a reasonably big industry," Holt said.
Gilbey said people were paying big money for products and therapies that did nothing.
"I think people would be quite surprised. It would be lovely if you could get something out of the garden, or scrape something off a tree, and it will fight off cancer, but there are not many of those things around," he said.

'Yoga can Damage Your Body'- Says an Article from NYT

The New York Times prestigious Sunday magazine quoted that yoga can damage the body. This article was written by senior science writer William Broad, under the headline, 'How yoga can wreck your body'.Mr. William feels that yoga practitioners as well as tutors might be injuring themselves 'in droves' by over-ambitious and under-taught yoga moves. The article also carried views of local yoga veteran Glenn Black, who seriously hurt his back after years of practice. Mr. Black said, "The vast majority of people should give up yoga altogether because it's too likely to cause them serious damage."
Mr. Broad quoted doctors who claimed that they were increasingly seeing patients who had been injured from practicing yoga. He also spoke of crowded yoga classes and unqualified yoga teachers.
Anatomy experts also warn about the risks of inverted poses, which can strain cervical vertebrae or restrict blood flow into the head, either acutely or progressively.
Owner of Manhattan practice Reflections Yoga, Paula Tulsi said, "The controversy is massive. People in the circles I run in are going crazy, because lots of people who were going to try yoga - the people you can bring in and heal - are going to be afraid now and they'll think yoga's bad. That's so tragic and angering. It's not yoga, it's the bad translation or teaching of yoga that's the problem."
The yoga industry is outraged over this New York Times article.
According to the Centers for Disease Control Injury Center- more than 10,000 people receive treatment in the nation's emergency departments (ED) each day for injuries sustained in sports, recreation, and exercise. At least 1 of every 5 ED visits for an injury results from participation in sports or recreation. Therefore yoga, like any exercise, should be practiced with caution.

Role of Streams, Rivers in Global Climate Change

Methane gas in rivers and streams contribute more to global warming than nitrous oxide (N2O), say scientists.
Nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions have been the leading area of concern for scientists investigating the role of streams and rivers in global climate change for the past decadeA potent greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide is produced in riverbed sediments through nitrification and denitrification. Efforts to understand the rate at which nitrous oxide diffuses through the water to the atmosphere have dominated the field, yet diffusion is not the only relevant mechanism nor is nitrous oxide the only relevant gas.
Now, observations by Baulch et al. suggest that the global warming potential of methane gas, which they measured bubbling up from several riverbeds, exceeds that of nitrous oxide.
Gases produced in river sediments can travel to the atmosphere by diffusing through the water column, escaping as bubbles, or through plant-facilitated transport.
The researchers measured methane and nitrous oxide concentrations in the water and in riverbed bubbles and measured bubble accumulation in surface bubble traps for four Ontario streams to sort out whether diffusion or ebullition is dominant for each gas.
They find that 10 to 80 percent of methane emissions are in the form of bubbles, while nitrous oxide emissions are almost completely through diffusion.
They also found that methane bubbles surpass diffused nitrous oxide in terms of global warming potential, which they suggest could warrant a rethinking of the importance of streams and rivers to global warming.
The research has been recently published in Journal of Geophysical Research- Biogeosciences (JGR-G).

Exercise Boosts Heart Health

Exercise plays key role in making our heart stronger by improving blood flow, say researchers
According to Joseph Libonati, PhD, associate professor of nursing at Penn Nursing, exercise improves the ratio between the heart's demand for oxygen and its supply through the coronary arteries.
With exercise, the heart gets stronger because it gets bigger and is able to pump more efficiently.
Exercise allows your heart to push out a greater volume of blood with every beat and it does so at a lower heart rate. It also improves the blood flow to the heart by improving the heart's ability to have its coronary blood vessels dilate. These changes in parallel improve both the supply and demand of the heart.
Exercise helps lower high blood pressure by improving the ability of your blood vessels to dilate, making the pressure on those vessels less.
Exercise also improves your blood sugar levels and makes you leaner; this allows your heart to pump blood at lower pressures, thereby making your heart work less.
Using large muscle mass repetitively is best for heart health. The general recipe for exercise toward a healthy heart is FIT: (Frequency Intensity Time)
For frequency: You should exercise five days a week. Find something you like so you are more likely to stick with it.
For intensity: You should do the talk test. If you can hold a normal conversation with little breathing trouble while exercising, this is the right intensity.
For time: You should exercise 30 to 60 minutes per day, and it doesn't have to be all at once. The important factor is that you do as much physical activity as you can throughout the day.

Monday, 16 January 2012

B M Shah College & ICMR to organise national seminar on quality control and herbal drug development

B M Shah College of Pharmaceutical Education & Research, Gujarat, will be organising a national seminar on quality control and regulatory deliberation of herbal drug development on February 4 at college auditorium. The seminar is sponsored by Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR).
The seminar is arranged for pharmacy teachers or PG students and for research scholars of pharmacy college and industry.
The seminar will focus on subjects like pharmacognostic study of drug, phytochemistry, pharmacological screening, medicinal plant biotechnology, standardization of herbal drugs or formulation resource persons. Eminent resource persons from academia and industry will deliver in-depth information in the scientific session.
Dr N M Patel, principal, B M Shah College of Pharmaceutical Education & Research, Dr A A Patel, HOD and chief coordinator of the college, D D Prajapati, co-ordinator of the seminar along with the invited speakers who will be attending the seminar are experts in respective fields of quality control and herbal drug development.
WHO still prefers herbal formulations as its major source of medication. Presently the people are searching for safer remedies from nature because the use of synthetic drugs has resulted in higher incidence of adverse drug reaction, and there is a need to have effective regulation, regulatory set up and screening process so that patients should get only standard, safe, efficacious herbal formulations.
The lack of quality control of herbs and formulations is a major problem, which affects the efficacy and reproducibility of final products. Scientifically validated and technological standardized herbal medicine can definitely play an important role in advancement of health care. There is need to ensure the quality of medicinal plants products by using modern quality control techniques and applying suitable standards.
The focus on the most critical aspects of quality control and regulatory deliberation of herbal drug development will definitely provide a platform for interaction between students, researchers and academicians.

Study: Babies try lip-reading in learning to talk

Babies don't learn to talk just from hearing sounds. New research suggests they're lip-readers too.
It happens during that magical stage when a baby's babbling gradually changes from gibberish into syllables and eventually into that first "mama" or "dada."
Florida scientists discovered that starting around age 6 months, babies begin shifting from the intent eye gaze of early infancy to studying mouths when people talk to them.
"The baby in order to imitate you has to figure out how to shape their lips to make that particular sound they're hearing," explains developmental psychologist David Lewkowicz of Florida Atlantic University, who led the study being published Monday. "It's an incredibly complex process."
Apparently it doesn't take them too long to absorb the movements that match basic sounds. By their first birthdays, babies start shifting back to look you in the eye again — unless they hear the unfamiliar sounds of a foreign language. Then, they stick with lip-reading a bit longer.
"It's a pretty intriguing finding," says University of Iowa psychology professor Bob McMurray, who also studies speech development. The babies "know what they need to know about, and they're able to deploy their attention to what's important at that point in development."
The new research appears in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It offers more evidence that quality face-time with your tot is very important for speech development — more than, say, turning on the latest baby DVD.
It also begs the question of whether babies who turn out to have developmental disorders, including autism, learn to speak the same way, or if they show differences that just might provide an early warning sign.
Unraveling how babies learn to speak isn't merely a curiosity. Neuroscientists want to know how to encourage that process, especially if it doesn't seem to be happening on time. Plus, it helps them understand how the brain wires itself early in life for learning all kinds of things.
Those coos of early infancy start changing around age 6 months, growing into the syllables of the baby's native language until the first word emerges, usually just before age 1.
A lot of research has centered on the audio side. That sing-song speech that parents intuitively use? Scientists know the pitch attracts babies' attention, and the rhythm exaggerates key sounds. Other studies have shown that babies who are best at distinguishing between vowel sounds like "ah" and "ee" shortly before their first birthday wind up with better vocabularies and pre-reading skills by kindergarten.
But scientists have long known that babies also look to speakers' faces for important social cues about what they're hearing. Just like adults, they're drawn to the eyes, which convey important nonverbal messages like the emotion connected to words and where to direct attention.
Lewkowicz went a step further, wondering whether babies look to the lips for cues as well, sort of like how adults lip-read to decipher what someone's saying at a noisy party.
So he and doctoral student Amy Hansen-Tift tested nearly 180 babies, groups of them at ages 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 months.
How? They showed videos of a woman speaking in English or Spanish to babies of English speakers. A gadget mounted on a soft headband tracked where each baby was focusing his or her gaze and for how long.
They found a dramatic shift in attention: When the speaker used English, the 4-month-olds gazed mostly into her eyes. The 6-month-olds spent equal amounts of time looking at the eyes and the mouth. The 8- and 10-month-olds studied mostly the mouth.
At 12 months, attention started shifting back toward the speaker's eyes.
It makes sense that at 6 months, babies begin observing lip movement, Lewkowicz says, because that's about the time babies' brains gain the ability to control their attention rather than automatically look toward noise.
But what happened when these babies accustomed to English heard Spanish? The 12-month-olds studied the mouth longer, just like younger babies. They needed the extra information to decipher the unfamiliar sounds.
That fits with research into bilingualism that shows babies' brains fine-tune themselves to start distinguishing the sounds of their native language over other languages in the first year of life. That's one reason it's easier for babies to become bilingual than older children or adults.
But the continued lip-reading shows the 1-year-olds clearly still "are primed for learning," McMurray says.
Babies are so hard to study that this is "a fairly heroic data set," says Duke University cognitive neuroscientist Greg Appelbaum, who found the research so compelling that he wants to know more.
Are the babies who start to shift their gaze back to the eyes a bit earlier better learners, or impatient to their own detriment? What happens with a foreign language after 12 months?
Lewkowicz is continuing his studies of typically developing babies. He theorizes that there may be different patterns in children at risk of autism, something autism experts caution would be hard to prove.

India on the road to becoming a Pharma Powerhouse: Apotex India chief

India can be known as the Pharma Powerhouse going by the industry’s maturity to meet the challenges of regulated regimes of the developed countries and provide cost competitive drugs, said Dr P M Akbarali, managing director, Apotex Pharmachem India Pvt. Ltd., Bengaluru.
In a recap on the performance of Indian pharma so far, Dr Akbarali pointed out that the current scene is quite upbeat from an industry growth point of view. Today, the knowledge base is strong and the critical mass in terms of skilled personnel are making significant contributions for the growth of the sector. The presence of a dedicated US FDA office here for the South Asia recognizes India’s prowess in the regulated regions.
“Therefore, there is no second thought on the capability of Indian pharma industry and Bangalore too is gearing up to play its role to emerge as a pharma destination for the future. Companies like Biocon, Strides Arcolab and Micro Labs have exercised their strengths not just in exports of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and formulations but portray their expertise and reliability in adhering to timeline deliveries in contract research and manufacturing services(CRAMS). Even Apotex Pharmachem, an associated company of Apotex Pharmachem Inc., Canada, made its mark by expanding its operations here. We have set up an integrated operations for API research and manufacturing formulations to clinical studies, committing over US$ 100 million and to create over 1,000 jobs in Bengaluru,” he added.
“The country and the city specifically complement the supportive knowledge-based environment created for the growth of the pharma industry,” said Dr Akbarali.
Supply of quality students from the academic institutions could be a differential as far as sourcing the intellectual capital required to support the foundation is concerned. The technical support in solid state chemistry from research centres have chipped in the necessary inputs for Intellectual Property that could help challenge patents and give the companies an edge in the developed market of US, EU, Japan. The advanced information technology industry too makes up for the much-needed support. Many companies from abroad setting up R&D centres in India and Bengaluru are a testimony to the recognition, he said.
“Indian pharma has depicted the features of being attuned to globalization. It is not just the mergers and acquisitions but the clinical research organizations (CROs) and CRAMS which have facilitated the industry to prove its acumen in collaborative assignments which has helped the country to elevate to a status of a knowledge leader in this sector. In the Year 2011, India has been on the road to becoming a Pharma Powerhouse,” said Dr Akbarali.

Hungary seeks Jaipur’s help for Ayurveda cure

Confronted with rising cases of incurable muscular dystrophy among children and growing elderly population, Hungary is now looking towards Jaipur for properly managing this health problem.
A five-member delegation from Hungary was at National Institute of Ayurveda (NIA-Jaipur) on Monday to explore possibility of collaboration in elderly care, besides care of neuro-musculo-degenerative diseases like muscular dystrophy as well as care of autistic children.
The delegation headed by Dr Ivan Szalkai, manager of South-Borsod Health and Social Cluster, a consortium of top hospitals and medical institutes of Hungarian capital Budapest along with Dr Edit Hajdu, president of Labour Court in Supreme Court of Hungary and Gabriella Csillik, a social politician held discussions with NIA-Jaipur team led by its director professor Ajay Sharma.
“Around 20-25 per cent population owing to increasing life expectancy represents the elderly lot, while 20 per cent children are afflicted with the incurable genetic disorder of muscular dystrophy, autism or other neuro-muscular degenerative diseases,” Sharma said.
The Hungarian team is keen at collaborating with NIA to tap Ayurveda for dealing with geriatric problems, besides the same Indian system of medicine for managing and improving the life of muscular dystrophy patients, the NIA director added.
While the Hungarian team is keen at striking a tie-up with NIA not only for managing geriatric and neuro-muscular degenerative problems, but also starting a year long course in Ayurveda in the European nation, the modality of the tie-up (country-to-country or institution-to-institution will be decided by the department of Ayush, Union ministry of health and family welfare).
Dr Abhimanyu Kumar, the head of Bal Roga (Paediatrics Department at NIA), said that Ayurveda has shown to improve the quality of life of otherwise bed-ridden muscular dystrophy patients, which is why the Hungarian experts representing their hospitals are keen at replicating the Ayurvedic model of India in their country.
Source:Daily Bhaskar

How long will you live? A new set of assessment tools may be able to tell

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) have come up with new assessment tools to determine the likelihood of death within a certain period of time.
For this, they established a number of prognostic indices to predict the life expectancy in older and terminally ill patients. The main purpose of this project is to provide doctors, care givers as well as patients and their family members with information that can help prevent overtesting and overt reatment.
The UCSF team has also posted an interactive website online, called “,” which can be used to calculate a person’s mortality risk based on specific data, including age, health conditions, cognitive status, functional ability, etc.
“This is the first time such tools have been assembled for physicians in a single online location,” wrote Paula Span of the New York Times who reported on the project (1/11/2012) after a review was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association last week.
Among experts, responses have so far been mostly positive. “This kind of synthesis is very helpful for [health care] providers, researchers and some patients,” said Dr. Susan L. Mitchell, a geriatrician at Harvard University and researcher at Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston who was quoted in the Times article.
“A more frank discussion of prognosis in the elderly is sorely needed,” said Dr. Sei Lee, a geriatrician at UCSF and one of the authors of the review. A more accurate assessment of a patient’s life expectancy could help doctors and families evaluate, for example, whether an older person with a terminal disease should continue receiving treatments that may cause more pain and discomfort than relief, according to Dr. Lee. It may also be useful in determining how vigilant a patient has to be in observing and maintaining certain treatment- and lifestyle measures.
Since no calculation of life expectancy – other than based on data collected by U.S. Census Bureau – has so far existed, there is now hope that relatively easily accessible assessment tools like ePrognosis will be able to better assist health care providers with their decision making process.
In fact, many clinical decisions for older and terminally ill patients include considerations of life expectancy. But “at present, physicians are often shooting in the dark when they recommend tests, treatments and medications for older patients. […] Even when interventions do work, the benefits can be years away. Doctors have no easy way to know whether their elderly patients will live long enough to experience them. The potential for complications and side effects, however, is immediate,” wrote Ms. Span.
While it is true that with declining life expectancy some treatments may do more harm than good, it is not altogether clear whether accurate predictions can ever be made for an individual patient, cautioned Dr. Kenneth Covinsky, professor at the Department of Medicine, Division of Geriatrics at UCSF. “The accuracy of prognostic indices is often tested under ideal and controlled conditions,” he said. “When you see a research report of a prognostic index, you see how well it did in a group of patients specified by the researchers. But how accurate will the index be in your patient? […] Your patients are never quite the same as the patients in the research study.”
As a prognostic aid, programs like ePrognosis may turn out to be quite valuable, “if used to supplement clinical judgment,” said Dr. Covinsky. “Clinicians (and patients too) now have easy access to these prognostic indices. […] But perhaps the danger of ePrognosis is that it is too easy. In a matter of minutes, you can input a few elements of patient data and the calculator will spit out a probability of survival,” he added.
Some critics have pointed out that the very idea of basing decisions in medical care on calculations such as these may be a slippery slope. They say that assessing a patient’s life expectancy should never be the starting point of any form of treatment. Dr. Lee freely admitted there are potential problems. Because it is not clear whether calculating prognostic indices will ultimately improve patient care in clinical settings, he said, the researchers stopped short of urging widespread use at this time, according to the Times.

Eating from Red Color Plate may Aid Weight Loss Initiatives

Opting to eat from a red colored plate could aid in your fight against excess weight after a new study found that using a red colored plate will mean that you are likely to eat less than normal
Swiss and German researchers conducted two separate experiments to test whether color has any bearing on a person’s appetite. The first test included 41 male participants who were given a choice of drinking tea from cup labeled red or blue and found that those who drank tea from red cups consumed 44 percent less tea compared to those who drank from blue cups.
In the second experiment the researchers asked 109 volunteers to eat 10 pretzels from red, blue or white plates and found that those who ate from red plates consumed less pretzels compared to other two plates. On average, the researchers found that those who used red color plates or cups consumed 40 percent less compared to others.
Writing in their report, which has been published in the journal Appetite, the researchers said that one of the reasons for lower consumption could be the fact that people associated red color with danger and hence ate less.

Swine Flu Drug Tamiflu’s 14 New Side Effects, Detected

Many in Britain administered with Tamiflu during the swine flu pandemic may well have suffered a series of side-effects they were not cautioned about, the revelations are leaking now.
14 new adverse reactions were added to the drug's profile in November - more than two years after the scare.Among the conditions are back, joint and muscle aches, fever, menstrual pain, herpes, sinusitis and earache.
These revelations come as a team of the world's leading scientists prepare to release a report about the drug's safety and effectiveness.
The renowned Cochrane Collaboration is set to release its findings on Wednesday and will claim that the drug's makers, Roche, withheld vital data during its investigation.
Several patients are also said to be preparing legal action after suffering alleged reactions.
The Daily Star revealed that Samantha Millard, 20, from Bicester, Oxon, who was left blind after taking the drug, is suing NHS Direct. Experts believe the legal cases could open the floodgates to more litigation.
But the Department of Health and the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) say the "potential benefits of the medicine outweigh the potential risks".
In a letter to GPs the Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies revealed a change in policy this winter to allow healthy people to be prescribed Tamiflu. In 2009 the drug's use was limited to those with underlying medical conditions.
The MHRA has had 2,084 suspected adverse reactions reported. The drug is being linked to 13 deaths, psychotic episodes, convulsions and suicidal thoughts.
Of the 2,084 reactions there were 219 reports of nervous system disorders. And of the 435 different side effects reported to the MHRA, just 41 were included on the information leaflets with the drug.
The decision to add 14 new side effects was made by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) - in charge of licensing the drug - on November 3.
The EMA said "arthralgia, influenza, back pain, myalgia, dysmenorrhea, pyrexia, herpes simplex, and sinusitis" must be added under "common" side effects.
Following additional clinical data from Roche the EMA also asked for "earache, nasopharyngitis, influenza-like illness, pain in limb, nasal congestion, and sore throat" to also be included.
Roche said all new packs being sent out will include the latest side-effect information.
"The update to the information for Tamiflu was routine and did not change the way this medicine is used," said the EMA.
"There is inevitably a delay between the decision to update the product information and the time it takes to reach all patients," it added.
The MHRA also commented on the investigation.
"The discrepancy you noticed during your investigation will be due to leaflets possibly being out of date while stock moves through the supply chain," said the MHRA.
"This is likely given that the variation to amend the text in the Patient Information Leaflet and Summary of Product Characteristics was granted in November 2011," it added.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Blogs bring new era to medicine

An expectant mother was due to deliver soon at the hospital, and her doctor found out that she was still a virgin, reads a post micro-blogged by her doctor.
Doctor Zhang Rongya at the renowned Peking Union Medical College Hospital posted the case on Jan 6 at Sina Weibo, one of China's most popular micro-blogging websites.
Zhang noted in the post that coitus interruptus (withdrawal) is not reliable in preventing pregnancy.
The entry received a lot of attention and has been forwarded by online readers nearly 15,000 times.
Among the more than 3,400 comments left by viewers, there were exclamations - and also accusations against Zhang who has about 70,000 followers, saying that the post was a potential breach of patient privacy.
With many useful tips like how to scientifically feed a baby and how to cope with postpartum depression, her micro-blogging site is among the most popular maintained by medical workers.
Zhang is among hundreds of Chinese medical workers who have taken up micro-blogging on the mainland.
There is no official count of the number of physicians using the Sina micro blog site, but doctors treating chronic diseases and cancer are among the most popular at the site, said Li Na, an editor in the health news department of Sina, which is in charge of the routine maintenance and management of health-related micro blogs.
"The popularity of a physician on a micro blog is largely decided by his or her communication skills, and very active users are usually relatively young, like doctor Zhang," she said.
Li said that among all their medical worker users, 50 percent had registered on their own while others were invited by the website.
Gu Zhongyi, a dietitian at the Beijing Friendship Hospital who has been using the Sina micro blog for more than a year, told China Daily that he was happy having more than 270,000 followers.
"Micro-blogging has helped substantially improve the doctor-patient relationship through enhanced mutual understanding and in my case, it also served as a useful tool helping to schedule patients' visits," he said.
Zeng Xiaopeng, deputy director of the Beijing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who micro-blogs at Sohu, another major micro-blogging service provider on the mainland, said: "I constantly write micro-blog posts to spread knowledge such as ways to keep bugs out of the house. My fans can read the blog and leave their questions, which I can answer later."
He has now nearly 22,600 fans on his Sohu micro blog.
"The micro blog facilitates more interactive communication between me and the public, which is quite different from health seminars only attended by professionals," he said.
At the Sohu micro blog, the number of registered doctors exceeds 200, coming from various disciplines from pediatrics to stomatology.
"The number has kept rising," said Yu Haitao, an employee at the Sohu micro blog.
"Based on our rough calculations, most of our doctor users are about 50 years old and have extensive experience in health promotion and education," he said.
"They are extremely cautious not to reveal any private information about their patients and so far we have not received any complaints concerning the doctors' blogging," he added.
Concerns persist
However, many experts still worry about the potential risks and challenges surrounding doctors' blogging, and they urge proper guidance and management.
"Privacy is one major concern. Another is that doctors may use the mass communication tools to promote certain medicines and hospitals," said Ding Junjie, a professor with the Communication University of China.
"Although we already have strict rules regulating such advertisements in traditional media, we have no such rules for micro blog use," he said.
So far, there are no evidence-based guidelines or regulations to guide medical professionals on the use of social media in general.
Potential challenges from medical micro-blogging are not unique to China.
According to a US survey published in 2009 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 60 percent of the medical school deans polled reported incidents by their students involving unprofessional postings on various social networking sites.
Some 13 percent admitted to incidents that violated patient privacy, it said.
Regarding doctor Zhang and the virgin birth, "that was a bit inappropriate and might cause lawsuits", Chen Wei, a lawyer from the Yingke Law Firm in Beijing, told China Daily.
"If she mentioned clearly that the woman was one of her patients, others might easily track her, which might be against her will and cause her trouble," she explained.
In such a case, the patient could sue the doctor for violation of privacy, she said.
Also, posting photos of patients, even without showing the face, is risky, she added.
"Platforms like micro blogs are actually powerful public forums and doctors should use them with caution," she said.
Ding agreed, though he said that he recognized the merits of doctors' micro-blogging activity.
"Since quality medical resources are limited, micro-blogging as a means to relieve the ever-increasing pressure on public hospitals could be a good alternative," he said.
For example, Liu Weizhong, health bureau chief of Gansu province, pioneered in getting more than 10,000 local veteran doctors to micro-blog, which helps the public with scientific know-how and disease prevention knowledge.
"That would surely benefit people, but it could not replace seeing a doctor at a hospital," Liu said.
Ding agreed, saying: "What we need is just a little more regulation, for example restricting qualification evaluations on doctors' micro blogs".
Solutions developing
On Jan 10, Deng Haihua, spokesman of the Ministry of Health, said: "We've noticed that a rising number of health-related micro blogs were well-received by the general public."
However, "management and supervision over them have to be strengthened", he noted.
Despite a lack of related laws and regulations, the ministry takes the basic view that doctors could not practice medicine on a micro blog, he stressed.
Ma Changsheng, a cardiologist at Anzhen Hospital in Beijing, however, thought otherwise.
"Even if it's not exactly on a micro blog, online health service represents a trend. Most patients don't actually need to come to the hospital", he said.
"A regulated, fee-charging online service might be a good way to make medical resources more efficient," he said.
Last week, the Beijing health bureau convened its first meeting on micro-blogging by doctors and hospitals.
According to an employee surnamed Chen from the Peking Union Medical College Hospital's information office, who attended the meeting, the capital health authorities generally encourage medical micro-blogging.
"But they are at the same time mulling over guidelines and regulations", she said.
At the Peking Union hospital, self-management and supervision has already begun, she noted.
She said that since May, the hospital has assigned special staff to maintain and update the hospital's official micro blog and follow micro blogs, especially by active doctors.
Unprofessional conduct such as breaching patient privacy and making a diagnosis is prohibited on micro blogs, she said.
"Given that it's a new phenomenon we are still groping for better use of the platform," she added.
Source:China Daily

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