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Saturday, 28 January 2012

Black Tea Helps Reduce Blood Pressure

Drinking three cups of black tea daily may considerably help to lower blood pressure, reveals a new study.
Scientists at The University of Western Australia and Unilever based their findings on drinking black tea and the effect of drinking tea with milk is not known."There is already mounting evidence that tea is good for your heart health, but this is an important discovery because it demonstrates a link between tea and a major risk factor for heart disease," the Daily Mail quoted lead author Research Professor Jonathan Hodgson as saying.
Blood pressure measurement comprises two numbers. The first is the systolic and measures blood pressure when the heart beats, or contracts to push blood through the body. The second number is the diastolic and measures the amount of pressure in between beats, when the heart is at rest.
In the study, 95 Australian participants aged between 35 and 75 were asked to drink either three cups of black tea or a placebo with the same flavor and caffeine content, but not derived from tea.
The researchers recorded their readings after six months and found that as compared to the placebo group, participants who drank black tea had a lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure of between 2 and 3 mmHg (millimeters of mercury).
The authors consider that a 2 to 3mmHg drop in blood pressure across the board would lead to a 10 per cent drop in the number of people with hypertension and heart disease.
"A large proportion of the general population has blood pressure within the range included in this trial, making results of the trial applicable to individuals at increased risk of hypertension," Dr Hodgson added.
The study has been published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Business, social media to prevent babies with HIV

Business and social media leaders teamed up Friday to tackle the transmission of HIV from mothers to babies, saying the medicine and the money are largely in place, and with the right organizational skills they can eliminate HIV-infected births by 2015.
John Megrue, CEO of Apax Partners U.S., will chair a business group that includes bankers and consulting experts and will help coordinate work being done by several governments and other international donors, as well as filling in gaps in the funding.
Women need to receive antiretroviral drugs to prevent the virus being passed to their unborn babies.
"There are no technological issues around it. There are no medical issues around it. It does not exist in the wealthy part of the world," Megrue said. "But there are still almost 400,000 children a year born — primarily in sub-Saharan Africa — with HIV."
Ambassador Eric Goosby, a top U.S. AIDS official, said that although the group set a goal of zero transmission by 2015, in reality about 13 percent of babies born to HIV-positive mothers will unavoidably be born with the virus.
Randi Zuckerberg, who founded RtoZ Studios after leaving the Facebook company that her brother Mark started, will lend the power of social media to increase awareness about the issue, by pulling in 1,000 influential Twitter and Facebook users in an expansion of an earlier social media effort to raise $200 million to fight malaria.
"I'm calling this a social good broadcast experiment," she said. "The long-term vision is for this to be a group of thousands or millions of people who can all broadcast in a coordinated manner where there is a global crisis."
Other business leaders involved in the project include Dominic Barton, managing director of consulting firm McKinsey & Co., and Cynthia Carroll, CEO of the mining company Anglo American PLC.
"AIDS," Carroll said, "should not be a disease of children."

Informed consent and compensation to victims set to drive more volunteers and patients for clinical trials

The Union government’s stringent regulations on seeking informed consent and providing compensation to clinical trial victims would increase the number of volunteers and patients going for a trial in India, according to experts.
According to Dr Bhanu Priya, director and head, clinical research, G7 Synergon Life Sciences Consulting, the clause of compensation has now been insisted and therefore it is an assurance for the patients and for clinical research organizations to participate in human study and carry out the trial respectively.
Although Schedule Y of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act (D&C Act) called for compensation, Clinical Research Organizations (CROs) took up insurance policies to protect the patient in the wake of an adversity. But now with the amendment in the Act, the compensation cannot be ignored. There have been several insurance players who have chipped in to support the CROs with a dedicated policy. These include National Insurance, Oriental Insurance and Metflife, to name a few.
There is no doubt that both informed consent and compensation to victims are the two key factors which are giving the Indian volunteers and patients the confidence of participating in a clinical trial. While the former helps the volunteer or patient to understand the risks of the human study, the latter provides the much needed financial and medical support if the medicine turns fatal or reports an adverse drug reaction.
These two features will not just benefit the patients, but both informed consent and compensation for the clinical trial participants give them the option to even withdraw from a human study, Prof. SP Thyagarajan, Pro Vice Chancellor, Sri Ramachandra University, Chennai told Pharmabiz.
But Dr Krathish Bopanna, president & executive director, Semler Research Centre, begs to differ and stated that the move on compensation is a threat to the clinical research companies and we need to challenge this aspect of the law. This is primarily because there is no basis on which the compensation could be based because there are two aspects to the issue on whether it could be the test or the reference drug. Patients in a double blinded study could receive a placebo drug. We need clear cut guidelines and self regulatory norms.

Govt statistics show cases of spurious and sub-standard drugs are coming down in the country

With sterner measures in place to check production and supply of spurious drugs, the instances of sub-standard drugs being sold in the market have come down during the last year, according to the statistics collected by the Health Ministry.
“As per the countrywide survey conducted by the Government in 2009 to assess the extent of spurious drugs in the country, out of 24,136 samples collected for analysis, only 0.046 per cent samples were found spurious. Further, as per the available information received from state drug controllers, the drug samples tested all over the country in four years 2007-2008 to 2010-2011 reveal that only about 0.25 per cent of around 43,000 samples per annum have been found to be spurious/adulterated,” sources said.
During the year 2010-11, the official machinery took 49682 samples through random checks in the chemist shops across the country and 2372 samples were declared not of standard quality. The number of spurious or adulterated drugs stood at 95 while prosecutions were launched against 167 persons in this regard. The officials conducted 1295 raids throughout the country.
During 2009-10, the total number of drugs of substandard quality was 1942 and the total number of spurious or adulterated drugs was 117, out of the total 39248 samples collected. As many as 147 persons were arrested and a total of 2513 raids were mounted on the medical shops.
Likewise, the quantum of fake drugs during the period of 2008-09 was also higher. Out of 45145 total samples collected, as many as 2597 were declared as not of standard quality while 157 samples were found to be either spurious or adulterated in the tests. The officials held 2836 raids and arrested 133 persons during the period, according to the statistics collected.
Responding to recent report in the media that sub-standard drugs worth Rs.5,000 crores are flooding the Indian market creating threat to human lives, an official of the ministry said “the media had been projecting the problem of spurious or sub-standard drugs in the country in a manner which does not provide a balanced perspective.”
The Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 (D&C Act) has been amended under Drugs & Cosmetics (Amendment) Act 2008 and it has come into force since 10th Aug, 2009. Under this Act, stringent penalties for manufacture of spurious and adulterated drugs have been provided. Certain offences have been made cognizable and non-bailable. Guidelines for taking action on samples of drugs declared spurious or not of standard quality in the light of enhanced penalties under the D&C Act have been forwarded to the state drugs controllers for implementation, he said.

16 drug companies lose manufacturing licence

Acting tough against drug manufacturing companies failing to comply with the set norms after obtaining licences, Himachal Pradesh ayurvedic department has cancelled licences of 16 units in the state. All these companies were issued prior notices but they had failed to respond.
Himachal Pradesh has become a drug manufacturing hub in the country with all major brands running their units from Solan and Sirmaur districts. According to an estimate, the state caters to around 30% demand in the domestic market.
According to sources, many of the companies whose licenses were cancelled never bothered to start manufacturing drugs despite obtaining the license, while others never approached the department for renewal of their license after its expiry. Majority of the ayurvedic drug manufacturing units against whom action has been initiated are located in Solan and Sirmaur districts.
Functioning of allopathic drug manufacturing units in the state has also come under the scanner since the directorate of revenue intelligence (DRI) raided some companies at Baddi and Paonta Sahib area of the state.
Director (ayurveda) P S Draik said that action has been initiated against the companies in routine exercise after finding these companies violating the norms. He said 16 licences have been cancelled while others too are being checked.
Himachal Pradesh has 65 units manufacturing ayurvedic medicines, of which 162 are in private sector while three are in the government sector. Most of them are located in Solan, Sirmaur and Kangra districts.

Saliva HIV Test as Accurate as Blood Test for HIV: Study

A saliva test used to diagnose the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), can be compared in accuracy to the traditional blood test, says a new study led by the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) and McGill University.The meta-analysis, which compared studies worldwide, showed that the saliva HIV test, OraQuick HIV1/2, had the same accuracy as the blood test for high-risk populations. The test sensitivity was slightly reduced for low risk populations. The study, published in this week's issue of The Lancet Infectious Diseases, has major implications for countries that wish to adopt self-testing strategies for HIV.
"Testing is the cornerstone of prevention, treatment and care strategies," says the study's lead author, Dr. Nitika Pant Pai, a medical scientist at the RI-MUHC and assistant professor of Medicine at McGill University. "Although previous studies have shown that the oral fluid-based OraQuick HIV1/2 test has great promise, ours is the first to evaluate its potential at a global level."
Dr. Pant Pai and her colleagues analyzed and synthesized real-life field research data from five worldwide databases. Their findings showed that the saliva test is 99 percent accurate for HIV in high risk populations, and about 97 percent in low risk populations.
The oral HIV test has become one of the most popular tests because of its acceptability and ease of use. It is non-invasive, pain-free, and convenient and produces results in 20 minutes. "Getting people to show up for HIV testing at public clinics has been difficult because of visibility, stigma, lack of privacy and discrimination. A confidential testing option such as self-testing could bring an end to the stigmatization associated with HIV testing," says Dr. Pant Pai, whose work is supported by a Grand Challenges Canada's Rising Star in Global Health Award. "There is a huge global momentum for alternate HIV self-testing strategies that can inform people know of their status."
High risk populations fuel the expansion of HIV epidemics but they face widespread discrimination, violence and social marginalization from healthcare services. UNAIDS estimates that globally, 90% of men who have sex with men lack access to the most basic sexual health services. "Oral HIV tests can be a powerful tool for high risk populations, but self-testing must be accompanied by linkage to care to achieve good health outcomes," says the study's co-author Dr. Rosanna Peeling, Professor and Chair of Diagnostics Research at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Doctors Save Stillborn Baby Who Had No Blood in His Body

Doctors at the Maidstone General Hospital in Britain successfully managed to save the life of a stillborn baby who had no blood in his body due to a rare condition.A rare condition during pregnancy meant that Katy, 36, had an additional blood vessel in her womb which burst 37 weeks into her pregnancy, draining all the blood out. Oliver Morgan was stillborn and was without any blood or heartbeat but doctors at the hospital managed to resuscitate him before giving a blood transfusion via his umbilical cord.
Katy revealed that it took her a long time to recover from the traumatic birth and said that the work done by the doctors was nothing short of a miracle. “It's hard to believe, looking back at what he's been through, but Ollie's now a bright, happy boy with his whole life ahead of him. He's a walking tribute to the doctors who worked miracles - and he's a right little battle”, she said.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Skin Hydration may be Improved by French Maritime Pine Bark Extract

A new study has revealed that a natural supplement Pycnogenol reduces visible signs of aging. The former is an antioxidant plant extract from the bark of the French maritime pine tree
Human skin is the body's first line of defense and often mirrors the health, nutritional status and age of a person.ver time, skin shows signs of aging due to the gradual breakdown of collagen and elastin. However, skin can be rebuilt and made healthier no matter one's age.
In a clinical trial conducted at the Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine (IUF) in Dusseldorf, Germany, Pycnogenol was found to improve skin hydration and elasticity in women.
Participants (20 healthy women, aged 55 - 68 years) were given 75 mg of Pycnogenol per day, over a period of 12 weeks.
Skin hydration, skin elasticity and skin fatigue were assessed by non-invasive biophysical methods at trial start and after six and 12 weeks.
In addition, at the beginning and again after 12 weeks of Pycnogenol supplementation, each time, a biopsy was obtained to assess gene expression of HAS-1 and COL1A1 and COL1A2.
The study found that Pycnogenol elevated COL1A1 by 29 percent and COL1A2 by 41 percent and increased hyaluronic acid production in skin by 44 percent.
Hyaluronic acid binds large quantities of water in the skin and in other tissues, such as cartilage. An increased amount of hyaluronic acid explains the increased skin hydration, higher elasticity and overall smoother skin appearance found in women taking Pycnogenol.
It enhanced skin elasticity by 25 percent, in addition to skin hydration by eight percent, and was especially noticeable in women who had dry skin from the start, with an increase of 21 percent.
Pycnogenol also decreased skin fatigue considerably and reduced skin wrinkles by three percent and increased skin smoothness by six percent.
"To date, Pycnogenol is the only natural supplement that stimulates hyaluronic acid production in human skin. And, we are encouraged by the molecular evidence confirmed in this study that shows nutritional supplementation with Pycnogenol benefits human skin," explained Dr. Jean Krutmann, the lead researcher from the Leibniz Research Institute in Dusseldorf, Germany.
The finding was published this month in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology.

Build bridges between Ayurveda and Allopathy

Sam Pitroda, chairman of the National Innovation Council and advisor to the Prime Minister on IT Infrastructure, Public Information and Innovations, said that ayurveda doctors were underutilised in this country where there was a huge shortage of doctors.
He was inaugurating an awareness campaign on ayurveda for children in connection with the Global Ayurveda Festival on Wednesday.
“How we deliver health is very important. We invest huge amounts in modern medicine but we don’t invest in traditional medicine. The challenge is to build bridges between ayurveda and allopathy. Instead we are building walls,” said Sam Pitroda adding that his biggest dream would be to have one ayurveda wing in every modern hospital.Sam Pitroda said his association with ayurveda goes back a long way, as a child who grew up in a tribal village in Orissa when his mother would grind a few leaves for common ailments or fight ear infection with a few drops of oil, all examples of low cost medicine.
“Unfortunately ayurveda is still not mainstream medicine. We follow American model of medicine because it is fashionable.
You should also remember that 15 to 16 percent of the GDP of the US goes for health costs, which is not sustainable or desirable in India,” said Pitroda.
He pointed out that India needs a health system that is both affordable and scalable. It has to come from ayurveda, Unani or traditional medicine. ‘’We have a living and evolving tradition that has been around for millions of years, yet they need trials to make it more acceptable,’’ he said.
Source:The Express News Service

Tainted Heart Drugs Claim 100 Lives In Pakistan

At least 100 people belonging to the Pakistan's Punjab province died after taking spurious heart drugs and more than 200 are in a critical condition in hospital, according to official reports.
"Nearly 100 patients have died due to a reaction to heart drugs," said Shahbaz Sharif, the head of the government in central Punjab province.
The victims were mostly poor patients who received free drugs from the state run Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC), he said.
The government said another 287 people had been admitted to hospitals in Lahore, Pakistan's second largest city, after taking the drugs.
Police have arrested owners of three pharmaceutical companies suspected of supplying the medicine.
"Police registered a case on Tuesday after reports of deaths of people due to reaction of drugs for cardiovascular diseases," police spokesman Haroon Rashid told AFP.
Initial investigations show that drugs supplied by local manufacturers were "sub-standard," police said.
The patients died due to a sudden drop in white blood cells, platelets and bone marrow damage.
The problem was first detected in December when contaminated drugs in at least one batch of medicine caused 23 deaths.
Sharif said samples of the suspect drugs have been sent to laboratories for tests in Pakistan, London and Paris.
"Action will be taken against those found guilty," he said.
Government official Khwaja Salman Rafiq said most of the deaths were due to "at least one of five medicines which PIC had been prescribing".
The medicine has since been removed from hospitals and stores, he told AFP.
Doctor Javed Akram, involved in the investigation, said 46,000 patients receive drugs from PIC every month. "On the basis of this we suspect the number of patients affected by sub-standard drugs may rise," he said.
Lahore the capital of Punjab, last year faced an outbreak of the deadly tropical disease dengue fever which killed more than 130 people.

Hindi introduced in Pennsylvania school district

A school district in Pennsylvania (USA) is offering Hindi, official language of India, to its pupils from the next semester.
Students in this course offered by Bensalem Township School District (BTSD) will reportedly learn speaking and writing Hindi and expressing themselves in Hindi. They will be taught “conversational Hindi using authentic written and visual materials” and will be “consistently engaged in interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational modes of communication”.
Welcoming this development, Indo-American statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, applauded BTSD for introducing Hindi to high schoolers and urged school districts around the country to offer Indian languages like Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Punjabi, etc., in their schools.
Rajan Zed, who is Chairperson of Indo-American Leadership Confederation, further said that besides learning the rich languages and culture of India, it would also make a good business sense to open-up the American children to these as India was on track to become a global power. Moreover, USA being a culturally diverse society, introducing languages of India would bring more cohesiveness and harmony in the communities. In addition, American children of India-descent would be able to keep their languages, traditions and culture alive and intact, Zed added.

Hindustani is reportedly the fourth highly spoken language in the world after Chinese, Spanish and English and has more speakers than Arabic, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese, German, French, Italian, Dutch, etc.
This Hindi course will be offered as an elective for students who have completed two years of another language at the high school level, according to Sharon Doyle, Bensalem High School principal’s secretary, who adds that if it does well, then a higher-level course in Hindi might also be added. Besides English, District already offers Spanish, French, Japanese and Latin.
Heather D. Nicholas, Kim J. Rivera and Yagnesh S. Choksi are President, Vice President and Member of School Board respectively; while Dr. David E. Baugh and Dr. Monica McHale-Small are Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent of BTSD whose Mission includes: "provide a first class education for the whole child”. It has about 6300 students and about 85% of its graduates go for higher education.
Bensalem Township in Pennsylvania, established 1692, is known as "Community of Firsts", “A Model for America” and “1 of 100 Best Communities in the United States to Raise Children”. Joseph DiGirolamo is the Mayor of this town, which is home to Philadelphia Park Racetrack and Mongkoltepmunee Buddhist Temple. Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of USA, often travelled to Bensalem and M. Night Shyamalan movie Signs was partly shot here

New Insight into Tablet Computer Use

Head and neck posture during tablet computer use can be improved by placing the tablet at a higher position to avoid low gaze angle, say scientists.
"Compared to typical desktop computing scenarios, the use of media tablet computers is associated with high head and neck flexion postures, and there may be more of a concern for the development of neck and shoulder discomfort," said lead investigator Jack T. Dennerlein, PhD, of the Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, and Brigham and Women's Hospital.
Fifteen experienced tablet users completed a set of simulated tasks with two media tablets, an Apple iPad2 and a Motorola Xoom. Each tablet had a proprietary case that could be adjusted to prop up or tilt the tablet computer. The Apple Smart Cover allows for tilt angles of 15° and 73°, and the Motorola Portfolio Case allows for tilt angles of 45° and 63°. Four user configurations were tested: Lap-Hand, where the tablet was placed on the lap; Lap-Case, with the tablet placed on the lap in its case set at the lower angle setting; Table-Case, with the tablet placed on a table with its case at the lower angle; and Table-Movie, with the tablet placed on a table with its case at the higher angle.
During the experiment, users completed simple computer tasks such as Internet browsing and reading, game playing, email reading and responding, and movie watching. Head and neck postures and gaze angle and distance were measured using an infrared three-dimensional motion analysis system.
Head and neck flexion varied significantly across the four configurations and across the two tablets tested. The iPad2 was associated with more flexed postures when it was placed in its case. This appeared to be driven by differences in case design, which drastically altered the tablet tilt angle and the corresponding viewing angle. For both tablets, the gaze angle changed in a similar fashion to the head flexion across all configurations, with non-perpendicular viewing angles causing increased head and neck flexion. Head and neck flexion angles were greater, in general, than reported for desktop or notebook computing.
Only when the tablets were used in the Table-Movie configuration, where the devices were set at their steepest case angle setting and at the greatest horizontal and vertical position, did posture approach neutral. This suggests that tablet users should place the tablet higher, on a table rather than a lap, to avoid low gaze angles, and use a case that provides steeper viewing angles. However, steeper angles may be detrimental for continuous input with the hands. "Further studies examining the effects of tablet and configuration on arm and wrist postures are needed to clarify and complete the postural evaluation," noted Dr. Dennerlein.
"Our results will be useful for updating ergonomic computing standards and guidelines for tablet computers. These are urgently needed as companies and health care providers weigh options to implement wide-scale adoption of tablet computers for business operations," Dr. Dennerlein concluded.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Factors Linked to Age of Onset of Menopause Identified

New genetic factors associated with a woman's age when she begins menopause have been identified by an international team of researchers.
Researchers identified 13 loci (specific location of a gene on a chromosome) linked with immune function and DNA repair, which have an effect on when menopause begins, said the researchers from the Boston University Schools of Public Health and Medicine and colleagues.
They also confirmed four previously established loci.
For most women, menopause -- the term for the end of reproductive function of the ovaries -- occurs in the early 50s.
The study was published online Jan. 22 in the journal Nature Genetics.
Most previous studies examining age of onset of menopause have zeroed in on genes associated with the estrogen-production pathway or vascular components, the researchers said.
"Our findings demonstrate the role of genes which regulate DNA repair and immune function, as well as genes affecting neuroendocrine pathways of ovarian function in regulating age at menopause, indicating the process of aging is involved in both somatic and germ line aging," the study authors said.
The new findings "bring us closer to understanding the genetic basis for the timing of menopause. They may also provide clues to the genetic basis of early onset or premature menopause and reduced fertility," team co-leader Kathryn Lunetta, a professor of biostatistics at the BU School of Public Health, said in a university news release.
"We hope that as a better understanding of the biologic effects of these menopause-related variants are uncovered, we will gain new insights into the connections between menopause and cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, osteoporosis and other traits related to aging, and that this will provide avenues for prevention and treatment of these conditions," Lunetta said.
More information:The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about menopause.

Men's hopes for robot prostate surgery unrealistic

Robot-assisted surgery for prostate cancer has been heavily hyped, and a new study suggests that men's expectations of the surgery may be too high.
Researchers found that of 171 men facing prostate cancer surgery, those having robotic surgery expected a shorter hospital stay, and a quicker return to their usual physical activity and sex life.But those hopes may not be realistic.
Prostate removal is one treatment option for prostate cancer, and in the U.S., a majority of those surgeries are now done with the help of a "robot."
During the procedure, the surgeon sits at a console, operating robotic "arms" that extract the prostate gland through small cuts in the abdomen.
The robotic approach is expensive. And after hospitals invest the roughly $1.5 million for the machines, plus the cost of surgeon training and annual service contracts, they often aggressively market the approach -- as do the companies behind the technology.
And that may include claims that robotic surgery is better than the old-fashioned way.
"Since about the mid-2000s, people were thinking that robotic surgery was the greatest thing since sliced bread," said Dr. Judd W. Moul, a prostate surgeon at Duke University Medical Center who led the new study.
There was reason to believe that the better visualization with robotic surgery could lead to some better outcomes, Moul told Reuters Health.
On the other hand, he said, when surgeons actually use their hands, they get "tactile feedback" that's missing with the robotic approach.
And studies have suggested that while robotic surgery may have some short-term advantages -- like a somewhat shorter hospital stay -- there may be no clear difference in the most important outcomes.
So far, there's no good evidence that robotic-surgery patients fare any better as far as cancer recurrence or long-term side effects like urine leakage and erectile dysfunction.
And in an earlier study, Moul and his colleagues found that men who had the robotic procedure were actually less satisfied in the long run than those who had traditional surgery.
They guessed that patients' expectations going into surgery might have something to do with it.
So for the new study, they surveyed 171 men about their expectations heading into prostate cancer surgery. The majority of patients -- 97 -- had opted for robotic surgery, while 74 were going with the traditional route.
Overall, 89 percent men having the robotic surgery expected to stay just one night in the hospital, versus 37 percent of men having traditional surgery.
The robotic-surgery group also thought they would be back to exercising sooner -- typically predicting a five-week wait, versus six weeks in the other group. And they expected to have recovered their erectile function within five months of surgery.
Men having traditional surgery were much less optimistic. They typically assumed it would take nine months to regain their sex life.
On average, Moul said, men having robotic surgery do seem to get out of the hospital eight to 12 hours quicker.
But a small percentage, he noted, end up staying in the hospital for a few days because their bowel function does not return quickly.
As far as physical activity and long-term erectile function, it's not clear if there's any advantage to robotic surgery. At Duke, Moul noted, men are advised to avoid any heavy lifting for six weeks after surgery -- robot or not.
Where are men getting their expectations? Ads, the Internet and the general belief that high-tech must be better may all play a role, according to Moul.
"But I think that probably physician counseling has a lot to do with it," Moul said.
He noted that surgeons do have an incentive to push men toward the new technology in order to "work through their learning curve" -- that is, hone their skills by doing more procedures.
Increasingly, experts are saying that men should put more stock in their surgeon's experience than on the type of prostate surgery.
Moul agreed. That experience, he said, "is what drives the long-term outcomes of urinary and sexual recovery of function."
"Ask your surgeon the tough questions," Moul said. That means asking how many procedures he or she has ever done, and how many per year.
There's no hard-and-fast number that defines a "good" surgeon. But Moul suggested that a doctor who performs at least 40 to 75 procedures a year (of one specific kind -- robot or traditional) would be considered experienced.
Of course, that all assumes a man has decided on having surgery.
Many men with early-stage prostate cancer can decide to hold off on treatment altogether. That's because prostate tumors are often slow-growing and may never advance to the point of threatening a man's life.
One study found that more than 120,000 American men diagnosed with prostate cancer every year are ideal candidates for "watchful waiting" -- which means doctors keep an eye on the cancer to see if it's progressing.
In reality, though, the majority of those men end up having surgery, radiation or other treatment instead.
SOURCE: Journal of Urology, online January 16, 2012.

Create solid clinical trial data to convince international community about efficacy of Ayurveda: Sam Pitroda

Solid documents of clinical trials are required to prove the efficacy of traditional medicines to convince common public, especially the international community. Hence the ayurvedic community of India should strive for organizing and documenting clinical trials for the drugs they are using, said Sam Pitroda, Technical Advisor to Prime Minister of India.
Pitroda was addressing the ayurvedic physicians of Kerala through a video conference from California, during the 14th state conference of the Ayurvedic Medical Association of India (AMAI) at Kozhikode in Kerala.
He said a common platform to facilitate interactions between doctors and researchers of modern medicine and traditional systems of treatment is required to attain international acclaim and equal status for Ayurveda with that of modern medicine. A collaboration between modern medicine and traditional medicines should also be evolved.
“Only with success stories can win international acclaim for any medicine. So, hard data generated through clinical trials are necessary for this system. There are so many diseases that can be cured and prevented with ayurvedic drugs. But we need to prove it with the support of evidence. India is blessed with more than 12,000 medicinal plants with unique climatic conditions. In rural areas, it is easy to find resources for this healing system. Only one lacunae, that is documentation,” he said.
According to him, India learnt a great deal of knowledge in the last 20 years, but we failed to convert them into modern science. The ayurvedic fraternity should think of how to make their system into a science rather than chanting of slokas. But this changing of heritage into modern science is the main challenge the ayurvedic sector is facing today, Pitroda opined.
India is spending about Rs.16000 crore for research and development in various fields utilizing the facilities of Universities, R&D Labs and Medical Research Centres. Ayurveda should take advantage of this, he suggested.
Very soon 2500 village Panchayaths in the country will have digital connectivity with optical fibre cable. This facility can be used for the development of Ayurveda. For the development of Ayurveda, a comprehensive portal can be designed and with the help of domain experts and researchers, this system can be developed and the knowledge can be shared throughout the country. When the trial documents and related data are published in the portal, it will help others believe in Ayurveda. He exhorted the members of AMAI to develop a knowledge portal for their system.
“We have done a lot, but a great deal more need to be done for Ayurveda, which cannot remain in isolation. The 12th five year plan gives emphasize for health, investing more in health system. A significant share can be set apart for Ayurveda provided the ayurvedic lobby in the country presents a comprehensive plan aiming its growth. In the US 16 per cent of the GDP is spent for health, and expensive tests are done for particular treatments. This is affordable in India also provided we create a platform of modern physicians and traditional practitioners with open dialogue and knowledge sharing,” Pitroda said.
New tools, new diagnostic equipments and new methods are required for the development of traditional systems. Likewise, the system needs more doctors, nurses and colleges. For this, we need to establish a bridge between the two systems for interface, dialogue and sharing. Modern physicians must practice Ayurveda also, and the traditional doctors should get opportunities to practice modern systems. The benefit of this joint effort will help the public.
Pitroda suggested that all the government and private hospitals in the country should have facilities for modern system and traditional system. The patients coming to the hospital should have options to select which system of treatment they need for their ailments.

New Dietary Supplements to Boost Brain Power

A brain enhancer dubbed citicoline that supposedly sharpens intelligence is becoming increasingly popular in beverages and dietary supplements and is sought after by people looking forward to boost their brainpower and have a mental edge over others."What you drink when you want to think," says the label of Nawgan, a drink from Nawgan Products LLC. The St. Louis company's website invites consumers to track their mental performance with an online memory and focus test, Fox News reported.
Go GungHo Inc.'s gel packets has the slogan, "Ninja like focus" and the Orem, Utah, company expects that its recently introduced product will become popular with gamers.
Citicoline is an organic molecule found naturally in the body, especially the brain. Scientists consider that citicoline speeds up formation of brain cell membranes and may boost production of neurotransmitters vital to brain function.
In certain countries, citicoline is sold as a prescription drug to help regenerate the brain after a stroke. But attempts to get Food and Drug Administration approval in US were foiled when clinical trials found citicoline was no more effective than a placebo.
Amongst the numerous dietary supplements and energy drinks aimed at healthy people, citicoline is often found under the brand name Cognizin, sold by Kyowa Hakko USA, a unit of Japan's Kirin Holdings.
The popular 5-Hour Energy drink from Living Essentials LLC, Farmington Hills, Mich., contains citicoline in a "proprietary energy blend," but the company did not reveal how much. The company's website mentions that it helps "recapture the bright, alert feeling you need to power through your day."

Researchers Identify Common Mechanism of Hypertension

A novel mechanism that regulates blood pressure of all humans has been identified by researchers.
The findings by an international research team headed by Yale University scientists may help explain what goes wrong in the one billion people who suffer from high blood pressure.The study also demonstrates the power of new DNA sequencing methods to find previously unknown disease-causing genes.
The team used a technique called whole exome sequencing - an analysis of the makeup of all the genes - to study a rare inherited form of hypertension characterized by excess levels of potassium in the blood.
They found mutations in either of two genes that caused the disease in affected members of 41 families suffering from the condition.
The two genes interact with one another in a complex that targets other proteins for degradation, and they orchestrate the balance between salt reabsorption and potassium secretion in the kidney.
"These genes were not previously suspected to play a role in blood pressure regulation, but if they are lost, the kidney can't put the brakes on salt reabsorption, resulting in hypertension," said Richard Lifton, Sterling Professor and chair of the Department of Genetics at Yale and senior author of the paper.
The mutations had previously been difficult to find because there were very few affected members in each family, so traditional methods to map the genes' locations had been ineffective.
"The mutations in one gene were almost all new mutations found in affected patients but not their parents, while mutations in the other gene could be either dominant or recessive. The exome sequencing technology was ideally suited to cutting through these complexities," said Lynn Boyden of Yale, the first author of the paper.
The next step is to establish how these new components are involved in regulating sodium reabsorption in the kidney, which may help find new ways intervene in hypertension, a major global health problem.
"We are finding all the individual parts to a complicated machine, and we need to understand how they are all put together to make the machine work," said Lifton, who is also an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
The finding was recently published in the journal Nature.

Thyroid Function Could be Affected by Use of Iodinated Contrast Media in Imaging Procedures

A new report says that exposure to iodinated contrast media during imaging procedures is associated with changes in thyroid function, and increased risk of developing hyperthyroidism. The report appears in the January 23 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. "Iodinated contrast media (ICM) are commonly administered pharmaceutical agents," the authors write as background information. ICM are frequently used in scans and imaging procedures such as cardiac catheterization and computed tomography (CT scans). "Although certain complications of ICM (e.g., contrast-induced nephropathy) have been extensively studied, there has been little examination of the effect of ICM on thyroid function."
Connie M. Rhee, M.D., and colleagues from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, examined data from patients treated between January 1990 and June 2010 who did not have preexisting hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. Patients were matched with euthyroid (normal thyroid function) controls, and exposure to iodinated contrast media was assessed using claims data.
A total of 178 patients with incident hyperthyroidism and 213 patients with incident hypothyroidism were matched to 655 and 779 euthyroid persons, respectively. The authors found that iodinated contrast media exposure was associated with incident hyperthyroidism, but no statistically significant association was found with incident hypothyroidism.
Secondary analysis indicated an association between iodinated contrast media exposure and incident overt (clinical; diagnosed based on characteristic clinical features) hypothyrodism and incident overt (clinical) hyperthyroidism.
"In summary, these data support association between ICM exposure and incident hyperthyroidism, incident overt hyperthyroidism and incident overt hypothyroidism," the authors conclude. "Given the pervasive use of ICM in contemporary practice and the known sequelae of thyroid functional derangements, further studies are needed to confirm and evaluate generalizability of these findings, to establish causality and to explore mechanisms."
(Arch Intern Med. 2012;172[2]:153-159. Available pre-embargo to the media at
Editor's Note: This study was supported by grants from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health. An author also receives research support from Veracyte, Inc., and Asuragen, Inc. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.
Invited Commentary: Iodine-Induced Thyroid Dysfunction
In an accompanying invited commentary, Elizabeth N. Pearce, M.D., M.Sc., of Boston University School of Medicine writes that Rhee et al "describe significant associations between contrast exposure and the development of hyperthyroidism. While no overall association exists between contrast exposure and all forms of hypothyroidism, an association was noted when cases were restricted to those with overt hypothyroidism."
"These data represent an important contribution to our knowledge about a clinically relevant and understudied area," Dr. Pearce writes. "Rhee et al have demonstrated that a relatively large proportion of individuals who developed iodine-induced thyroid dysfunction were not known to have underlying risk factors. Therefore, patients who may be particularly unable to tolerate thyroid dysfunction, such as those with underlying unstable cardiovascular disease, are also good candidates for monitoring of thyroid function after iodine exposure."
(Arch Intern Med. 2012;172[2]:159-161. Available pre-embargo to the media at

Research Says Pet Love Helps Women Cope With HIV/AIDS

New research indicates that having pets like dog or cat help women with HIV/AIDS manage their chronic illness and stay healthy.The human and animal bond in healing and therapy is being recognized in a study from the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University.
"We think this finding about pets can apply to women managing other chronic illnesses," said Allison R. Webel, instructor of nursing and lead author of the article
Webel set out to better understand how women manage their HIV/AIDS and stay on track to take their medications, follow doctors' orders and live healthy lifestyles.
She conducted 12 focus groups with 48 women to find out what they did to stay healthy. The women had an average age of 42, about 90 percent had children, and more than half were single.
During the focus groups, six predominant social roles emerged that helped and hindered these women in managing their illness: pet owner, mother/grandmother, faith believer, advocate, stigmatized patient, and employee.
All roles had a positive impact except stigmatized patient, which prevented women from revealing their illness and seeking out appropriate supports.
"Much information is available about the impact of work and family roles, but little is known about other social roles that women assume," Webel said.
Being a pet owner was an important surprise, added Webel, who collaborated with co-author Patricia Higgins, a professor of nursing at Case Western Reserve University.
"Pets-primarily dogs-gave these women a sense of support and pleasure," Webel said.
When discussing the effect their pets have on their lives, the women weighed in.
"She's going to be right there when I'm hurting," a cat owner said.
Another said: "Dogs know when you're in a bad mood...she knows that I'm sick, and everywhere I go, she goes. She wants to protect me."
While roles as mothers and workers are well documented, "less-defined social roles also have a positive impact on self-management of their chronic illness," Webel said.
The finding appeared in the online journal Women's Health Issues.

Acupuncture Treats Osteoarthritis of the Knee

Older patients with osteoarthritis of the knee may benefit from acupuncture, suggests a study. Acupuncture serves as a safe alternative to the routine pain-killers, with no associated side-effects. However, researchers warn that it too soon to recommend it as a part of routine care for patients suffering the ailment.Osteoarthritis is the commonest joint disorder that arises due to wear and tear of a joint. This leading cause of disability is mainly related to aging. The most commonly affected joint is the knee. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and paracetamol are used worldwide for pain relief. Paracetamol may be the safer drug as it does not cause gastric damage like NSAIDs. However, it is modestly less effective and its clinical significance is often questioned.
A recent review found that the effects of NSAIDs are probably too small to be meaningful to patients. They were found to be only slightly better than placebo in providing short-term pain relief. NSAIDs cause significant damage to the linings of the stomach leading to gastritis. Gastrointestinal bleeding appears to be the most clinically substantial effect raising concerns about the prescription of NSAIDs for older patients.
Owing to the adverse effects of over-the-counter pain killers, nonpharmacological treatment is eagerly sort after despite lack of conclusive evidence. Exercise and weight loss, though effective are not applicable to all. Some patients with osteoarthritis find it difficult to exercise and lose weight.
Acupuncture originated in China more than 2000 years ago and has been vogue ever since. Thin needles are inserted into specific body parts and manipulated. Acupuncture is claimed to correct imbalances in the flow of an energy-like entity called qi.
Several large scale studies suggested that acupuncture would be effective in treating older patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. The exact underlying mechanism remains in the shadow. Whether acupuncture is nothing but placebo or if it is a biological agent is yet to be known. A recent study compared trials that weighed needle acupuncture against a sham, usual care, or waiting list control group for patients with knee osteoarthritis.
The usual care control group of subjects included those who received some additional standard care therapy that was not provided to the acupuncture group. Waiting list group included subjects who awaited acupuncture, and did not receive any care during this waiting period. The sham group included patients who received sham interventions that were designed to mimic the feel of getting the actual treatment. For example, sham treatment involves using nonpenetrating needles or patch electrodes. A patient receiving sham treatment does not actually know that it is so. Sham treatments are designed to be as credible as actual acupuncture.
The study found out that the effects of acupuncture were clinically relevant when compared with the waiting list and usual care controls. This points out at the placebo effects of acupuncture that may be superior to that of usual care therapies. Certain findings however make the picture confusing. Acupuncture did produce small short-term improvements in pain and function compared with sham, indicating genuine biological effect.
It is too early to advise acupuncture as a part of routine care for patients with osteoarthritis. It is however worth a try, since the studies did not find any adverse events associated with acupuncture. Acupuncture would be a safe bet for older people with osteoarthritis rather than subjecting them to the side effects of pain-killer abuse.
Reference: Acupuncture for Osteoarthritis of the Knee; Eric Manheimer et al; Annals of Internal Medicine

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Mutation helps ovarian cancer survival: study

A genetic mutation appears to help survival rates in women who suffer from a common type of ovarian cancer, a new study released Tuesday found.
The research appearing in the January 25 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showed the mutations were found in six percent to 15 percent of women with epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC).
Kelly Bolton of the National Cancer Institute, in Bethesda, Maryland and colleagues found that five-year overall survival was 36 percent for noncarriers of the gene mutations.
That compared to a 44 percent survival rate for mutations in the BRCA1 gene, and 52 percent in the BRCA2 gene, the research showed.
"BRCA1 carriers had a more favorable survival than noncarriers, which improved slightly after additional adjustment for stage, grade, histology, and age at diagnosis. BRCA2 carriers had a greater survival advantage compared with noncarriers, particularly after adjusting for other prognostic factors," the study found.
The study carried out a pooled analysis of 26 observational studies on ovarian cancer survival rates.
"Our study results have potentially important implications for the clinical management of patients with EOC. Most immediately, our findings can be used by health care professionals for patient counseling regarding expected survival," the authors said.

Students ask PCI to initiate immediate action against erring pharma colleges for fake faculty

Even as the pharmacy colleges are mushrooming in the country, there are serious allegations about the quality of faculty in these colleges. The aggrieved students have raised question marks over the role being played by pharma education regulators like the Pharmacy Council of India (PCI) for failing to control the spreading rot in the pharma education system in the country.
According to sources, several pharmacy colleges in the country are working without qualified faculty. In these colleges, most of the faculty members remain in paper only. In actual practice, these colleges are being run without qualified teachers, which will have an adverse effect on the quality of education imparted by these colleges.
The modus operandi of these colleges is that at the time of inspections by the PCI inspectors, they will provide a list of qualified faculty which will remain on paper only. The list of faculty provided by these pharmacy colleges to the PCI during the time of inspection are fake and most of the faculty members listed by the colleges are in fact not working with the colleges, sources said.
The aggrieved students have alleged that such malpractices are being resorted to by these colleges in collusion with the PCI as the repeated pleas of the students to the PCI to look into the issue did not bear any fruit so far. “Why the PCI doesn't like to take any action on fake document submitted by some fake pharmacy colleges even though PCI have been informed via mail or on phone call? What’s the reason behind? Means PCI taking BRIBE or else reason?,” asked the aggrieved students in their letter to the PCI.
Citing an example of fake faculty, the students have referred to the HIMT College of Pharmacy, Noida, UP.
Among the 16 faculty members mentioned in the website o HIMT, the students said that the faculty No 3 Dr Adnan is working in another company while his name has been shown as regular faculty. Likewise, faculty Nos 14, 15 and 16 Tanu, Manisha Gupta and Nehal Mohsin are not working with HIMT but have been shown as faculty members. Tanu and Manisha had resigned from the college long back and Manisha is working at AIIMS and Tanu and Nehal are working in a company and are not coming to HIMT at all. Faculty No 6 Danish Mahmood is working in Ranbaxy on regular basis and not coming to the college at all. Likewise, faculty No 6 and Abdus and Shabaz are also not working in HIMT even though have been shown as faculty members, the students said.
The fake list does not end here. More interesting faculty No 9 Pravez Ansari is not even in India and the college has shown him as regular faculty.
The aggrieved students have warned the PCI to take immediate action against the erring colleges, otherwise they will be forced to move court.

Ayurvedic Medical Assn demands separate dept for Ayush in Kerala

The Ayurvedic Medical Association of India (AMAI) has demanded to the Kerala government to form a separate department for Ayush in order to promote the system in the state in general and for researches in the field in particular.
A resolution to this effect was passed at the 14th annual state conference of the AMAI at Kozhokode in Kerala.
The resolution said that notwithstanding pressures from the central government to create an Ayush department, the state government is not taking any positive steps. In several other states, separate departments are working for Ayush systems. AMAI has given a representation to the union minister of state for home affairs, Mullappalli Ramachandran in this regard, who was chief guest at the conference. The minister said he would pressurize the state government to realize the demand of the Ayurvedic fraternity in the state which is considered as the hub of Ayurveda. The association felt that the absence of Ayush department is always a hurdle to the growth of Ayurveda system in Kerala.
Apart from a separate department for Ayush, the AMAI has also demanded that ayurvedic dispensaries should be established in all the village Panchayaths in the state. Currently, there are only 182 dispensaries in the state. Steps should be taken to include the traditional healing system of Ayurveda in the state’s Public Health Act whose draft favours only allopathy.
The central as well as the state government should not encourage the quacks to treat Ayurveda in the name of tradition as there are plenty of qualified graduates and postgraduates come out of universities every year. The resolution said as per the Indian Medicine Central Council Act, 1970, the state government must introduce the Kerala Medical Practitioners’ Bill to solve the issues of quacks.
As a promotional step from the central government, Ayush system should also be included in the healthcare services for defence personnel.
Later while inaugurating the scientific session in the conference, the minister said compared to modern system, Ayurveda has no side effects. Plenty of multinational pharma companies are coming into the state which may adversely affect the traditional system of the land. He stressed the need for an Ayurveda Mission for the promotion of the system and requested the practitioners and manufacturers to reduce the prices of the products so as to enable the poor patients to avail its benefit.

Five-day International Arogya Expo 2012 in Bangalore from Feb 9

A five-day international conference on Yoga, Naturopathy and Arogya Expo 2012 would be held in Bangalore from February 9.
The event is expected to attract more than 5,000 delegates from India and abroad, including prominent representatives from USA, China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.
The scheduled five-day conference will witness the presentations of 400 papers. About five lakh people are expected to visit the expo.
It will focus on communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis and preventive health measures. Papers related to cancer, diabetes, heart diseases, food system and change in the life styles would be presented during the conference.
Karnataka’s Medical Education Minister S A Ramdas on Tuesday held interaction meeting with officials of the department and other stakeholders of the conference.
He said 1.98 lakh cases of HIV have been registered in the State till December last and more than one-third cases children have been infected with the disease.
A rehabilitation centre would be established for children infected with the HIV disease. A large number of HIV infected people have been residing in north Karnataka districts, Ramdas said.
The minister said a centre would be opened at the conference to facilitate health check of all visitors. Stalls would be installed to exhibit available naturopathy medicines.
He said a four-day yoga championship will also be held in the City from February 6 as a part of an international conference on Yoga, Naturopathy and Arogya Expo 2012.
The championship would be held at the indoor stadium at Koramangala in the City. Yoga expert B K S Iyengar and other yoga experts would participate in the contest.
The champion in the female category would be given the title “Bhuvana Yoga Sundari” and “Bhuvana Yoga Sundara” in the men category, Ramdas said.
The competition is open to all candidates of all ages, the minister said explaining that the championship will provide a platform to popularise yoga and create awareness about its health benefits.

High Fiber Diet Boosts Diverticulosis Risk

Diet rich in fiber content increases the risk of diverticulosis, reveals research. The findings also counter the commonly-held belief that constipation increases a person's risk of the disease.
"Despite the significant morbidity and mortality of symptomatic diverticulosis, it looks like we may have been wrong, for decades, about why diverticula actually form," said Anne Peery, MD, a fellow in the gastroenterology and hepatology division at UNC and the study's lead researcher. The study appears in the February 2012 issue of the journal Gastroenterology.
"While it is too early to tell patients what to do differently, these results are exciting for researchers," said Peery. "Figuring out that we don't know something gives us the opportunity to look at disease processes in new ways."
Diverticulosis affects about one-third of adults over age 60 in the United States. Although most cases are asymptomatic, when complications develop they can be severe, resulting in infections, bleeding, intestinal perforations and even death. Health care associated with such complications costs an estimated $2.5 billion per year.
Since the late 1960s, doctors have recommended a high-fiber diet to regulate bowel movements and reduce the risk of diverticulosis. This recommendation is based on the idea that a low fiber diet will cause constipation and in turn generate diverticula as a result of increased pressure in the colon. However, few studies have been conducted to back up that assumption. "Our findings dispute commonly-held beliefs because asymptomatic diverticulosis has never been rigorously studied," said Peery.
The UNC study is based on data from 2,104 patients aged 30-80 years who underwent outpatient colonoscopy at UNC Hospitals from 1998-2010. Participants were interviewed about their diet, bowel movements and level of physical activity.
"We were surprised to find that a low-fiber diet was not associated with a higher prevalence of asymptomatic diverticulosis," said Peery. In fact, the study found those with the lowest fiber intake were 30 percent less likely to develop diverticula than those with the highest fiber intake.
The study also found constipation was not a risk factor and that having more frequent bowel movements actually increased a person's risk. Compared to those with fewer than seven bowel movements per week, individuals with more than 15 bowel movements per week were 70 percent more likely to develop diverticulosis.
The study found no association between diverticulosis and physical inactivity, intake of fat, or intake of red meat. The disease's causes remain unknown, but the researchers believe gut flora may play a role.
Peery said more research is needed before doctors change dietary recommendations, but the study offers valuable insights on diverticulosis risk factors. "At this time, we cannot predict who will develop a complication, but if we can better understand why asymptomatic diverticula form we can potentially reduce the population at risk for symptomatic disease," said Peery.

Research Sheds Light on Metastasis of Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer cells in an animal model begin to spread before clinically obvious tumor tissue is detected, says a new research by Ben Stanger, MD, PhD, assistant professor of Medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, and Andrew Rhim, MD, a Gastroenterology Fellow in the Stanger lab.
What's more, they showed that inflammation enhances cancer progression in part by facilitating a cellular transformation that leads to entry of cancer cells into the circulation. They report their findings this week in Cell.
Metastasis has been difficult to study because it involves a series of unpredictable events. To capture these events, the team developed a sensitive method to tag and track pancreatic epithelial cells in a mouse model of pancreatic cancer. Tagged cells invaded and entered the bloodstream unexpectedly early, before overt malignancy could be detected by rigorous analysis of tissue slides.
Pancreatic cancer is among the most lethal of cancers, with no real treatments, and at the time of diagnosis up to three-quarters of patients have metastatic disease, says Stanger. Little is known about how pancreatic cancer cells spread, "What leads to this are rare events that are hard to catch in tissues. Small numbers of cells break off tumors and move, but how can we find them?"These wandering cells are associated with a phenomenon called the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). This change in cell motility is an important process during the development of embryos. But when the transition is aberrantly reactivated in adults it can have dire physiological consequences, leading to cancer metastasis as well as other disease processes. Epithelial cells form a covering or lining of a body surface and are the type of cell from which most solid tumors arise. However, when a molecular switch is turned off or absent, epithelial cells acquire characteristics of another cell type, called mesenchymal cells, and gain the ability to migrate and move away from the primary tumor site.
Using a mouse model of pancreatic cancer developed at Penn in 2005, the team delivered mutations in an oncogene and a tumor suppressor protein, K-ras and p53 respectively, in the pancreas. A green marker was also induced in the embryos' still-forming pancreas. At about one to two months, the juvenile mice developed pre-malignant lesions, and at about four to five months full blown pancreatic cancer.
During this time, the mouse pancreatic epithelial cells lost their epithelial characteristics and became more like mesenchymal cells, blending in and making their way to the bloodstream. True epithelial cells are sticky, keeping linings tightly connected, but these imposter epithelial cells changed identity, becoming less sticky. With the green stain, the researchers were able to detect the transition from epithelial cell to mesenchymal cell in a tissue slide, showing many green cells that had undergone EMT. "We are now able to see what was before before unseeable – the pancreas cells that have taken on a disguise," says Stanger. What spurs the EMT in first place? The team surmised that it was inflammation, so they blocked inflammation with an immunosuppressant, and at about eight to ten weeks, the green cells undergoing EMT disappeared. Conversely, when they induced pancreatitis- associated inflammation, the EMT green cells increased. In trying to relate these findings to metastasis, they looked for green EMT cells outside of the pancreas and found them in the blood and distinct tissues such as the liver at eight to ten weeks of age, long before a pathologist would recognize it as cancer. "These results provide new insight into the earliest events of cellular invasion and suggest that inflammation enhances cancer progression by giving cells increased access to the bloodstream," says Stanger.
The team plans to use the methodology used in this study to enhance the detection of spreading cells in human patients at an early timepoint, when therapy could have a greater impact.Both the development of the pancreatic cancer mouse model and Dr. Stanger's current work were partially funded by research grants from the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. "We are highly encouraged by Dr. Stanger's recent results," said Lynn Matrisian, PhD, vice president of Scientific and Medical Affairs at the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. "A deeper understanding of the disease biology, and in particular metastasis, will move us closer to our goal of doubling the survival rate of pancreatic cancer by the year 2020."

Monday, 23 January 2012

Traditional Chinese medicine technique uses heated glass cups to heal ills

Not long after I moved to China, I learned I had a case of blocked qi. A practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine squeezed the top of my ear and informed me that the obstruction of my qi, or life force, was caused in part by my tendency to overthink. She also said I had some liver stagnation and a weak heart. Until that moment, I had thought I was just fine.
The practitioner suggested I try a remedy called cupping. I’d never heard of it before I moved to Beijing, though I had seen markings of it on others here: bright red circles across bare shoulders and backs that look like painful tattoos or hickeys. (Several years ago Gwyneth Paltrow caused a stir when the cut of her evening gown revealed a row of cupping marks all across her back.)Though cupping, a form of acupuncture, has become something of a fad in Hollywood, it is only slowly catching on among the general public in the West. The aversion is understandable: Cupping involves the suctioning of flesh using warm cups that typically have been heated using a flaming stick. The heat inside the cup creates a vacuum that pulls the skin up a good inch or so in an effort to stimulate circulation, draw out toxins and stimulate the lymphatic system. The procedure is generally done on the back but can also be performed on the neck, legs and hips.
Some clinics opt for plastic cups, and some use oil to move the hot cups up and down the skin. There’s also “wet cupping,” or bleeding, in which a needle is inserted into the flesh before a cup is used to suction out blood from the spot that was pricked.
A dozen or more cups can be used, and the patient rests between five and 20 minutes while the skin inside the cups reddens. The redder the skin, the more proof that harmful toxins needed to be released, say practitioners. The marks disappear in a few days.

An alternative to needles
Cupping is a relatively benign process, although a singer in Taiwan was reportedly burned last year when a therapist accidentally spilled alcohol on his body and the alcohol was ignited by a flaming stick intended to warm a cup.
In the United States, there is no requirement for licensing of cupping therapists, and cupping products are available on In Asia, patients use it both as a home remedy and as part of traditional Chinese medicine treatment in clinics. In the United States, an hour-long session with a therapist costs about $55, according to Jesse Mac-
Lean, director of education for the International Cupping Therapy Association, which is based outside Seattle. (A traditional acupuncture session generally ranges from $70 to $120.)
Lixing Lao, director of the Traditional Chinese Medicine Research Program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Center for Integrative Medicine in Baltimore, said that once his patients learn about cupping, they prefer it to the needles of traditional acupuncture. MacLean said that while it’s difficult to track cupping’s popularity in the United States, her group has seen a “sizable increase in the last few years” of inquiries from both health-care practitioners and consumers wanting to learn more about the procedure.
By Debra Bruno
Source: Washington Post

CU School of Medicine researchers look at effects of 2 common sweeteners on the body

With growing concern that excessive levels of fructose may pose a great health risk – causing high blood pressure, kidney disease and diabetes – researchers at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, along with their colleagues at the University of Florida, set out to see if two common sweeteners in western diets differ in their effects on the body in the first few hours after ingestion. The study, recently published in the journal Metabolism, took a closer look at high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and table sugar (sucrose) and was led by Dr MyPhuong Le (now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Colorado) and Dr Julie Johnson, a Professor of Pharmacogenomics at the University of Florida.
Both HFCS and sucrose have historically been considered to have nearly identical effects on the body. But this study finds that indeed there is a difference between the two. They found that the makeup of the sugars resulted in differences in how much fructose was absorbed into the circulation, and which could have potential impact on one's health. Sucrose is 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose that is bonded together as a disaccharide (complex carbohydrate) and HFCS is a mixture of free fructose (55%) and free glucose (45%). It's the difference in fructose amount that appears to create the ill health effects on the body.
Their study was conducted at the University of Florida, where they evaluated 40 men and women who were given 24 ounces of HFCS- or sugar-sweetened soft drinks. Careful measurements showed that the HFCS sweetened soft drinks resulted in significantly higher fructose levels than the sugar-sweetened drinks. Fructose is also known to increase uric acid levels that have been implicated in blood pressure, and the HFCS-sweetened drinks also resulted in a higher uric acid level and a 3 mm Hg greater rise in systolic blood pressure.
Dr Richard Johnson, a coauthor in the study and Chief of the Division of Renal Diseases and Hypertension at the University of Colorado, commented "Although both sweeteners are often considered the same in terms of their biological effects, this study demonstrates that there are subtle differences. Soft drinks containing HFCS result in slightly higher blood levels of fructose than sucrose-sweetened drinks, "said Johnson. "The next step is for new studies to address whether the long-term effects of these two sweeteners are different."
Source:Eureka Alert

Scratching Ankle Found to be More Satisfactory Than Scratching Back

Ankle has replaced your back as producing the most satisfying sensation when scratched, according to a new study published in the British Journal of Dermatology.
Researchers from the Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina conducted an experiment on a group of male and female volunteers aged between 22 to 59 years. The volunteers were then rubbed with a cowhage, a plant with tiny hairs that irritate the skin, on the back, forearm and the ankle to produce an itching effect. The volunteers were prohibited from scratching the areas for five minutes.
The researchers then used as laboratory brush to scratch the affected areas themselves in order to produce as consistent technique on all the areas and recorded the reaction of the volunteers who were asked how pleasurable the sensation was.
The researchers found that scratching the ankle produced the highest intensity and the longest period of satisfaction while scratching the forearm produced a briefer and lower intensity pleasure sensation.
Commenting on the findings, one of the researchers who took part in the study, Professor Francis McGlone said, “It was interesting that the ankle was the itchiest site and that the most pleasure came from scratching it, because the back has been well-known as a preferred site for scratching.”

Asia Welcomes the Year of the Dragon

A cacophony of fireworks was set off to welcome the Year of the Dragon in Asia on Monday with the continent hoping the mightiest sign in the Chinese zodiac will usher in the wealth and power it represents.From Malaysia to South Korea, millions of people travelled huge distances to reunite with their families for Lunar New Year -- the most important holiday of the year for many in Asia -- indulging in feasts or watching dragon dances.
As the clock hit midnight, Beijing's skyline lit up with colour as families across the Chinese capital set off boxes and boxes of fireworks to ward off evil spirits in the new year -- a scene repeated across the country.
Those living in the Philippines, meanwhile, were able to sleep in on Monday after the Lunar New Year became an official holiday for the first time, despite objections from some in the business community.
The dragon is the most favourable and revered sign in the 12-year Chinese zodiac -- a symbol of royalty, fortune and power that is also used in other cultures that see in the Lunar New Year, such as in Vietnam.
As such, hospitals across China and in Chinese communities are bracing for a baby boom as couples try to have a child this year.
Nannies in Beijing and neighbouring Tianjin are charging more in 2012, and the beds in the capital's Maternity Hospital are all booked up until August, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong even took advantage of the Dragon to call on the country's residents to boost a stubbornly low birth rate, in an attempt to reduce the government's heavy reliance on foreign workers.
"I fervently hope that this year will be a big Dragon Year for babies... This is critical to preserve a Singapore core in our society," he said in his new year message.
But in Hong Kong, where tens of thousands of pregnant mainlanders come to give birth every year to gain residency rights for their babies, the Dragon may not prove such a boon as it could exacerbate problems such as limited beds and soaring delivery costs.
And according to some astrologers and geomancers, the Dragon may bring natural disasters and financial volatility to an already destabilised world.
Hong Kong feng shui master Anthony Cheng warned a "scandalous corruption case" would rock China in the second half of 2012, and also said high-ranking Chinese officials would be forced to step down, thrown behind bars or even die.
But people across Asia disregarded the doomsday predictions over the holiday, preferring to feast and celebrate with their families, and pray at temples or pagodas.
Highways in Malaysia, where 25 percent of the population is ethnic Chinese, were clogged at the weekend while the capital Kuala Lumpur became almost deserted as people travelled home.
In South Korea, which also celebrates the Lunar New Year, more than half of the entire population -- or some 31 million people -- took to roads, railways and planes for the holiday.
But stores in the capital Seoul -- normally quiet at this time of year -- bustled with activity as tens of thousands of tourists from China swamped major shopping areas to spend an expected 100 billion won ($88 million) in January.
"I feel like I'm walking on the street in China. There are so many of them," Park Eun-Yong, a South Korean college student, told AFP.

Even Small Amounts Of Alcohol Doubles Life Span

A study has found found that even very small amounts of ethanol, the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, can more than double the life span of a tiny worm known as Caenorhabditis elegans.The worms normally live for about 15 days and can survive with nothing to eat for roughly 10 to 12 days. But it survive 20 to 40 days when treated with tiny amounts of ethanol.
"This finding floored us - it's shocking," said Steven Clarke, a UCLA professor of chemistry and biochemistry and the senior author of the study.
And if the worms are given much higher concentrations of ethanol, they experience harmful neurological effects and die, other research has discovered.
"We used far lower levels, where it may be beneficial," said Clarke, who studies the biochemistry of aging.
The worms, which grow from an egg to an adult in just a few days, are found throughout the world in soil, where they eat bacteria. Clarke's research team studied thousands of these worms during the first hours of their lives, while they were still in a larval stage.
"Our finding is that tiny amounts of ethanol can make them survive 20 to 40 days," Clarke said.
The scientists fed the worms cholesterol, and the worms lived longer, apparently due to the cholesterol. They had dissolved the cholesterol in ethanol, often used as a solvent, which they diluted 1,000-fold.
"It's just a solvent, but it turns out the solvent was having the longevity effect," Clarke said.
"The cholesterol did nothing. We found that not only does ethanol work at a 1-to-1,000 dilution, it works at a 1-to-20,000 dilution. That tiny bit shouldn't have made any difference, but it turns out it can be so beneficial.
"The concentrations correspond to a tablespoon of ethanol in a bathtub full of water or the alcohol in one beer diluted into a hundred gallons of water," Clarke explained.
But the team could not explain why would such little ethanol have such an effect on longevity.
"We don't know all the answers," Clarke acknowledged. It's possible there is a trivial explanation, but I don't think that's the case. We know that if we increase the ethanol concentration, they do not live longer. This extremely low level is the maximum that is beneficial for them," he added.
In follow-up research, Clarke's laboratory is trying to identify the mechanism that extends the worms' life span.
About half the genes in the worms have human counterparts, Clarke said, so if the researchers can identify a gene that extends the life of the worm, that may have implications for human aging.
The study has been published Jan. 18 in the online journal PLoS ONE, a publication of the Public Library of Science.

The Art of Listening to Your Body – Fitness Workshop

In recent years, the interest Indians have started showing in health and fitness is a clear indicator that Indians are starting to take their body and their physical well being seriously. In this respect, the seminar organized in Chennai on Saturday by Maverick Fitness Studio on the ‘Art of Listening to Our Body’ can surely be seen as a step forward in the right direction.Mrs. Gita Krishna Raj conducted the whole seminar and the diverse audience who attended the seminar, comprised of men and women from all age groups. The seminar started off by explaining the importance of a balanced diet and how a healthy lifestyle, and not just taking health supplements, can ensure lasting health. The seminar touched upon the importance of meditation and yoga along with the practical demonstration of a few simple exercises.
The seminar sought to educate people on a holistic way of looking at the human body, backed by some scientific explanation. The whole event was made lively with the audience given an opportunity to actually perform a few of the exercises under the supervision of health experts. Events such as these focusing on health and fitness are bound to be a healthy treat for all health buffs in Chennai.

Study: Stem cells may aid vision in blind people

Two legally blind women appeared to gain some vision after receiving an experimental treatment using embryonic stem cells, scientists reported Monday.
While embryonic stem cells were first isolated more than a decade ago, most of the research has been done in lab animals. The new results come from the first tests in humans for a vision problem. Researchers caution the work is still very preliminary.
"This study provides reason for encouragement, but plans to now get such a treatment would be premature," said stem cell expert Paul Knoepfler of the University of California, Davis, who had no role in the research.
Last summer, each patient was injected in one eye with cells derived from embryonic stem cells at the University of California, Los Angeles. One patient had the "dry" form of age-related macular degeneration, the most common cause of blindness. The other had a rare disorder known as Stargardt disease that causes serious vision loss. There's no cure for either eye problem.
After four months, both showed some improvement in reading progressively smaller letters on an eye chart. The Stargardt patient, a graphic artist in Los Angeles, went from seeing no letters at all to being able to read five of the largest letters.
However, experts said the improvement of the macular degeneration patient might be mostly psychological, because the vision in her untreated eye appeared to get better too.
Both patients remain legally blind despite their improvements, said experts not connected with the study.
"One must be very careful not to overinterpret the visual benefit," said Vanderbilt University retina specialist Dr. Paul Sternberg, who is also the president-elect of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
The findings were published online Monday by the journal Lancet. This early test was meant to study whether the stem cell therapy was safe in people and not whether it would improve vision.
Scientists at UCLA and Advanced Cell Technology, which funded the work, said they were pleased that there have been no signs of rejection or abnormal growth months after the procedure.
Embryonic stem cells can transform into any cell of the body. Scientists are hoping to harness embryonic stem cells to create a variety of replacement tissues for transplant, but their use has been controversial because human embryos have to be destroyed to harvest the cells.
The latest news comes two months after Geron Corp. halted its stem cell-based experiment for spinal cord injuries, saying it planned to focus instead on two experimental cancer drugs.
Meanwhile, ACT is pushing ahead with its blindness study. The company said Monday that surgeons in London injected a patient with Stargardt disease last week.

Simple Technique to Map Proteins

Penn State University researchers have developed a novel method to map the proteins that read and regulate chromosomes. The specific order in which these proteins attach DNA-containing nucleosomes along the chromosome determines whether a brain cell, a liver cell, or a cancer cell is formed. Until now, it has been exceedingly difficult to determine exactly where such proteins bind to the chromosome, and therefore how they work. The new technique precisely pinpoints their location, and has the potential to take high-resolution snapshots of proteins as they regulate or miss-regulate an entire genome. The research will be published on 18 January 2012 as an Advance Online Publication in the journal Nature . Related research by the Penn State scientists recently was published in the journal Cell.The research process, lead by Willaman Professor of Molecular Biology B. Franklin Pugh with Graduate Student Ho Sung Rhee, began by their using a molecular tool called an exonuclease to remove DNA that is not bound by one of the gene-regulating proteins. They then determined the nucleotide sequence for each of the remaining protein-bound DNA bundles -- the sequence of the four major component bases of DNA, labeled A, T, C, and G. "The advantage over other techniques of this technique, called ChIP-exo, is its ability to narrow down any binding location across millions and billions of nucleotide genomes to a certainty of about one nucleotide," Pugh said. "This improvement is roughly analogous to going from a low-resolution 240p television to a high-definition 1080p home-theater system. It provides an unprecedented view into how genes are regulated."
The ChIP-exo technique also removes a substantial amount of noise in the detection system that plagues other methods. The lower-noise technique reveals 2-to-5 times more binding locations, providing a much-more-complete picture of which genes are regulated by a particular protein, as well as a broader understanding of their structural organization across genomes. Having a more-complete picture allows scientists to understand in more detail how gene pathways work in normal human development, or fail to work in disease.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Kiwis big believers in homeopathy

Most Kiwis believe homeopathy is scientifically proven but probably do not even know what it is, according to new research.
A study by research company UMR, released to the Sunday Star-Times, shows that 51 per cent of New Zealanders believe that homeopathy has been scientifically proven.
Tauranga medical professional Dr Shaun Holt said homeopathy was based on "nonsensical" theories. It is grounded in tenets created by German physician Samuel Hahnemann in 1796 who essentially believed that diluting something and shaking it vigorously would create a potent substance. The water molecules would then "remember" the original substance, Holt said.
He said natural products, which had some medical benefit, could be diluted in homeopathic practise but this could also venture into the bizarre including the dilution and shaking of mobile phone radiation, whale song and dog testes.
"It's absolute nonsense."
The research results came as a surprise to Christchurch homeopath Elizabeth Fink who thought that negative connotations of homeopathy in the media had damaged its reputation.
"We constantly get that it's never been proven and it's not working but that is not true. I am surprised that many people out there are better informed."
She said people could now get their information on the internet and do their own research.
The New Zealand Council of Homeopaths claims that homeopathy can help with mental illness, fertility and behavioural issues. It points to accounts from the 1918 influenza epidemic and cases of success in homeopathic hospitals. It also had an account from New Zealand homeopath Julia Schiller who told of a woman who could not get pregnant after her first child. Schiller gave her a homeopathic remedy. A few weeks later the woman had a positive pregnancy test.
The research showed 59% of women and 59% of people living in rural areas believed homeopathy was scientifically proven. Under 30-year-olds (37%) and Asians (35%) were less inclined to believe that this was the case.
UMR Research Director Gavin White said it seemed likely that many New Zealanders understood the term "homeopathy" to include a much broader range of natural remedies.
Holt agreed with this explanation.
"In general people don't know what it is. They get it confused with naturopathy. It's not just members of the public it's doctors as well."
Holt estimated the vast majority of the public got their information on the treatment from friends or other homeopaths."Homeopaths can sound very convincing to someone who is not an expert."
There had never been one high quality scientific paper done proving the benefits of homeopathy, he said.
There were perfectly natural explanations to explain people getting better without hailing homeopathy as a cure-all. Unless an illness or disease was deadly, people and animals naturally got better over time. He also said if one was sick they would generally take better care of themselves which allowed time for the body to heal.
However, Holt would fall short of banning homeopathy. Holt said homeopaths often had long consultations with patients which made them feel good.

A mountain of medical facts

Did you know that your thumb is the same length as your nose or that your body gives off enough heat in 30 minutes to bring half a gallon of water to boil or that a higher IQ equals more dreams? These are some of the crazy quirky facts that you find on posters exhibited at the Medical College as part of the Medex exhibition organised by the Students’ Union.
One poster even says - ‘Believe it or not - Heart attacks are more likely to happen on Monday.’ But don’t look around for explanations, you won’t find any, in the posters at least. Explanations, you will find, for all your questions on anatomy, physiology, chromosome abnormalities, on how the eye works, how a surgery is done, radiodiagnostics, microbiology, neurology, nephrology and the hundred little things that could go wrong with your skin.
"This is the first time that all the 38 different departments of a medical college are getting together to put up a show of this magnitude. We also have special stalls put up by Regional Cancer Centre, Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology, Dental College, Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology and the Ayurveda College,’’ said Sujith Varghese Abraham, a fourth year medical student who is also the general convenor of the Medex exhibition.
Right from the time you step into the exhibition venue through a skull made of sponge and scaffolding, it will be one whirlwind tour through the human body, the precision with which it works, the factors that affect this precision, what could go wrong where, communicable and non-communicable diseases, how to treat and repair the body and even forensic medicine that explains how a decomposed or mutilated body can be identified scientifically.
If things get too heavy, you can take a break and go watch skeletons do a jig. These skeletons can even play musical instruments, but of course, controlled by human beings.
If the community medicine stall takes you to all tick-borne and mosquito-borne diseases, the microbiology department takes you right to all the microbes - various hues and shapes of bacteria, fungi and viruses. They even have still models of the AIDS virus, influenza virus, rabies virus and cultures of bacteria and fungi. And if you think these microbes are too small for you, you can go watch a cadaver being opened up or the laparoscopic techniques that are demonstrated as part of the exhibition.
The answer to all these germs from the proverbial Pandora’s Box lies in venue number three, that of the Pharmacy College, where you can really see the process of how a drug is made, how it can be modified for various uses and so on. A major part of the pharmacy show is based on plant-derived drugs, though they do give a brief mention about the synthetic drugs.
From the first step of identifying, isolating and purifying the active compound from plants to pre-clinical and finally the clinical trials, the pharmacy students make sure that the visitor understands every intricate process. They also explain with clarity how a tablet or capsule is made, right from making the gelatin coating to drying, weighing, mixing, blending and finally punching the tablets and making it sugar-coated or otherwise.
Besides all these, there are video shows, live demonstrations of machinery, free screening tests and seminars to keep you engaged throughout the day. So, what are you waiting for?
Source:The Express News Service

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