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Saturday, 10 March 2012

'Cinnamon Challenge' Sparks Health Concerns

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, Mary Poppins famously sang, but a spoonful of cinnamon can cause dangerous side effects.
That is the warning from concerned parents, school administrators and medical experts alike in response to the "Cinnamon Challenge," a game challenging people to swallow a teaspoon of cinnamon without water in 60 seconds.
The game has gone viral, spurred on by teens uploading thousands of videos on YouTube and Facebook showing them gagging, choking and spitting while trying to complete the challenge.
Doctors say the challenge is impossible because the cinnamon cannot be digested without water and warn that by inhaling the cinnamon dust teens run the risk of inflaming or scarring their lungs.
"If you have some fine particles, like cinnamon in your lungs, it may be hard to clear out," said Dr. Robert Zaid of Providence Hospital in Mobile, Ala. "Your lungs can kind of collapse on you. There have been several cases reported where kids needed ventilator support because they weren't able to maintain their airway."
In Michigan school administrators are sending advisories to parents alerting them to the dangers the challenge could pose to their children after four apparently related cases were reported to the Children's Hospital of Michigan Regional Poison Control Center in the last month alone, according to the Detroit News.
Dejah Reed, a freshman at Huron High School in Ann Arbor, Mich., spent four days in the hospital with an infection and a collapsed right lung after she ingested cinnamon two week ago.
"She was going in and out of consciousness. She couldn't breathe. She was turning pale," her father, Fred Reed, told local affiliate WXYZ. "I hope parents and kids learn that it's not fun and games. She could have died."
Source:abc News

Karnataka Cabinet gives nod to constitute state Health Systems Commission

Karnataka Cabinet has approved creation of a state Health Systems Commission to suggest ways and means to improve medical education, promote healthcare research and integration of Indian system of medicine with modern medicine.
Principal Secretaries in the Departments of Health and Finance would be among the ten-member team of Karnataka Health Systems Commission.
The commission would come out with recommendations on creating awareness and strengthening of health systems, enhance medical education quality and promote healthcare research, among others.
The announcement came in after a Cabinet meeting, chaired by Chief Minister D V Sadananda Gowda, Law and Urban Development Minister S Suresh Kumar.
“It will suggest ways and means to integrate Indian system of medicine with modern medicine,” stated the Law and Urban Development Minister Suresh Kumar.
The Cabinet also cleared the proposal of M S Ramaiah Group of Institutions to start a private university on applied sciences, which would offer courses in technical and medical education, management and life sciences, among others. Under the system, 50 per cent of seats in the proposed self-financing varsity would be reserved for students hailing from the State.
The Law and Urban Development Minister said that the M S Ramaiah Group of Institutions had already invested Rs.100 crore for creating education infrastructure here and plans to pump in another Rs.150 crore in the next five years.
Meanwhile, the budget session of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly would be begin on March 20, with the State budget to be presented on March 21.

Happiness Not Influenced by Aging or Obesity

A new study says that gathering years and obesity are no bar to happiness or well-being.
Researchers from the University of Warwick Medical School found that people reported better mental quality of life as they age, despite aches and stiff bones.
They analysed lifestyle and health patterns of more than 10,000 people in the US and Britain and their links to participants' mental and physical quality of life and health status, the European Journal of Epidemiology reported.
Saverio Stranges, who led the study at Warwick, with Kandala Ngianga-Bakwin, said: "It's obvious that people's physical quality of life deteriorates as they age, but what is interesting is that their mental well-being does not deteriorate - in fact, it increases."
Quality of life was evaluated using a measure which takes in eight different factors, including perception of general health, pain, social functioning and mental health, according to a university statement.
This is in line with previous research, for example by Andrew Oswald, professor at Warwick, which suggests that happiness levels follow a U-shape curve with their lowest point in the mid-40s after which they rise as people move into older age.
Supportive results were found in this cross-cultural comparison study in the US and Britain - two countries which have different welfare and health-care systems, factors which could impact on people's quality of life.
Researchers also found that being overweight or obese did not have a significant impact on mental well-being levels, with people having a body mass index (a height to weight ratio) of more than 30 showing similar mental quality of life levels to those considered to be a healthy weight.
For women in the US, low levels of physical exercise did not appear to impact on their mental well-being. This was not the case for men, where limited physical exercise had a significant adverse impact on their mental quality of life.

Repeated Stress Linked to Impaired Memory

A natural mechanism associates repeated stress with impaired memory, reveals research.
Stress hormones are known to influence the prefrontal cortex (PFC), a brain region that controls high level "executive" functions such as working memory and decision making. "Previous work has shown that chronic stress impairs PFC-mediated behaviors, like mental flexibility and attention. However, little is known about the physiological consequences and molecular targets of long-term stress in PFC, especially during the adolescent period when the brain is more sensitive to stressors," explains the author this study, Dr. Zhen Yan, from the State University of New York at Buffalo. "
Dr. Yan and colleagues examined whether repeated stress had a negative influence on glutamate receptors in juvenile rats. Glutamate signaling plays a critical role in PFC function. They found that in response to repeated stress, there was a significant loss of glutamate receptors, which resulted in a deficit of PFC-mediated cognitive processes. The researchers went on to identify the molecular mechanisms that linked stress with the decrease in glutamate receptors and demonstrated that if they blocked these mechanisms, the stress-induced decrease in both glutamate receptors and recognition memory could be prevented.
Taken together, the findings identify a loss of glutamate receptors as an important target of repeated stress and link chronic stress with abnormal PFC function. "Since PFC dysfunction has been implicated in various stress-related mental disorders, delineating molecular mechanisms by which stress affects the PFC should be critical for understanding the role of stress in influencing the disease process," concludes Dr. Yan.

Research Reveals the Reasons Why Women are More Attracted to Bad Men

The so-called bad men have always charmed their way into women's hearts and now researchers seem to know the reason behind this preference.
Scientists have revealed that women find it hard to resist callous, self-obsessed and deceitful men.
During a discussion on America's NPR, human rights lawyer Arsalan Iftikhar expressed his surprise that singer Rihanna still reportedly liked Chris Brown, who he said 'didn't only hit Rihanna, he made her look like Buster Douglas'.
National Review writer Kevin D Williamson however, pointed out, that she might not be able to help it because it's in her genes to like men like Chris Brown.
Writing in a blog following the show this week he cited several pieces of research that back up his view, including the much quoted 'Dark Triad' work of Professor Peter Jonason.
This combines the self-obsession of narcissism, the impulsive, thrill-seeking and callous behaviour of the psychopath and the deceitful and exploitative nature of Machiavellianism.
However unattractive the combination might appear, women often equate it with masculinity and the ability to father healthy children.
As a result, those looking for the thrill of an affair, or hoping to become pregnant, are very often drawn to 'bad boys'.
The men, in return, raise their chances of passing their genes on to the next generation.
Scientist Jonason said James Bond is the perfect example of a ladykiller with a rather questionable personality.
"He's clearly disagreeable, very extroverted and likes trying new things - killing people, new women," the Daily Mail quoted the researcher as telling the New Scientist.
Jonason, of New Mexico State University in the U.S., subjected 200 college students to personality tests designed to rank them for each of their dark triad traits.
The subjects were also quizzed about their attitudes to sexual relationships and about their sex lives, including how many partners they had and whether they sought out flings.
The results revealed that men who scored higher on the trio of traits tended to have more partners and more interest in short-term relationships.
A second U.S. study of 35,000 people in 57 countries also found a clear link between the dark triad traits in men and success with women.
"It's universal across cultures for high dark triad scorers to be more active in short-term mating. They are more likely to try and poach other people's partners for a brief affair," researcher Professor David Schmitt, of Bradley University in Illinois, said.
The researchers also claimed that at their most extreme, the traits would be highly unattractive, leading to men being shut off from society.
But one possibility is that the strategy is most successful when dark triad personalities are rare.
Otherwise others would become more wary and guarded and the strategy would backfire.
Dr Gayle Brewer, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Central Lancashire, said that while women tend to like cads for flings, they usually settle down with more caring types.


The curtain -raiser event of official announcement for Ayurveda Today Conference and Arogya Expo 2012 was held at Golden Jubilee Hall of R.A. Podar Ayurveda College, Worli on 15th of Feb 2012. It was a precursor for the upcoming mega event from 20th -22nd Apr 2012 scheduled at MMRDA grounds, Bandra Kurla Complex, Mumbai.
The evening witnessed the presence of eminent personalities from Ayurvedic academia & industry along with media personals. Amongst the chief guests were Dr. K. R. Kohli (Director of Ayurveda, Govt. of Maharashtra), Dr. Dilip Wange (Registrar, MCIM), Mr. Chandrakant Bhanushali (Gen.Secretary ADMA), Dr. Anil Nandode (Assistant Director NRHM,Mumbai), Mr.Shashank Sandu (MD Sandu Pharmacy Pvt Ltd), Mr.Omprakash Sehegal (Chairman, Inorbit Tours Pvt. Ltd), Dr. Pradip Awale (HOD Dept. of AYUSH,MUHS Nashik).
Directorate of Ayurveda, Govt. of Maharashtra in association with Maharashtra University of Health Sciences Nashik and Bombay Municipal Corporation have collaborated actively with Ayurveda Today Group for holding this event. The show will be managed by ExhiCon Events Media Solutions Pvt. Ltd.
Arogya Expo and Conference will surely prove beneficial to Ayurvedic fraternity as well as common masses. It will provide a platform for direct interaction between industry, medical practitioners and the common man in the form of consumers at one place. Citizens of Mumbai will be able to know more about the Indian system of medicine & draw benefits out of it. Free Ayurveda Clinics under expert Vaidyas, public lectures & yoga demonstrations will be a special attraction of the fair.
The proposed outcome of this mega event including MAHA AGENDA, an Agenda of Ayurveda for Maharashtra State, focuses on current issues related to Research, Education, Profession, Industry and Mainstreaming of Ayurveda.
Chairman-Organising committee of Ayurved Today Conference Dr. K. R. Kohli opined that this conference would provide an effective platform for taking Ayurved from local to global level. This event would result in a healthy dialogue between the Regulatory Authorities and Ayurvedic Pharma Industry was the view shared by Mr.Chandrakant Bhanushali.
Dr.Satish Valekar (Founder of Ayurved Today Group) said that this event will prove to be a milestone in the Ayurvedic industry by benefiting all related stake holder and making a long lasting impact.AYUSH DARPAN Team feel proud to be associated with this mega-event as Media Partner.
Source:Dr Satish Valekar,Founder,AYURVEDA TODAY GROUP

Friday, 9 March 2012

Coke, Pepsi make changes to avoid cancer warning

Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. are changing the way they make the caramel coloring used in their sodas as a result of a California law that mandates drinks containing a certain level of carcinogens come with a cancer warning label.
The companies said the changes will be expanded nationally to streamline their manufacturing processes. They've already been made for drinks sold in California.
Coca-Cola and PepsiCo account for almost 90 percent of the soda market, according to industry tracker Beverage Digest. A representative for Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc. said all its caramel coloring now meet the new California standard.
The American Beverage Association, which represents the broader industry, said its member companies will continue to use caramel coloring in certain products but that adjustments were made to meet California's new standard.
"Consumers will notice no difference in our products and have no reason at all for any health concerns," the association said in a statement.
A representative for Coca-Cola, Diana Garza-Ciarlante, said the company directed its caramel suppliers to modify their manufacturing processes to reduce the levels of the chemical 4-methylimidazole, which can be formed during the cooking process and, as a result, may be found in trace amounts in many foods.
"While we believe that there is no public health risk that justifies any such change, we did ask our caramel suppliers to take this step so that our products would not be subject to the requirement of a scientifically unfounded warning," Garza-Ciarlante said in an email.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group, in February filed a petition with the Food and Drug Administration to ban the use of ammonia-sulfite caramel coloring.
A spokesman for the Food and Drug Administration said the petition is being reviewed. But he noted that a consumer would have to drink more than 1,000 cans of soda a day to reach the doses administered that have shown links to cancer in rodents.
The American Beverage Association also noted that California added the coloring to its list of carcinogens with no studies showing that it causes cancer in humans. It noted that the listing was based on a single study in lab mice and rats.

Scientists to save pregnant mother’s lives with bananas

New strains of bananas will be developed to address iron-deficiency anaemia in India, a major cause of maternal death during childbirth, after a Letter of Intent was signed at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) this week (March 8).
The agreement, signed by QUT Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Coaldrake and Dr Renu Swarup of India's Department of Biotechnology yesterday, sees the Indian government investing in the project over four years to generate bananas rich with iron.
Distinguished Professor James Dale, director of the Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities at QUT, will head the project, along with Dr Rakesh Tuli, who is the scientific program coordinator for India.
Professor Dale said iron-deficiency anaemia was common in India because many of the population were vegetarian and struggled to get enough iron in their normal diet.
"Iron-deficiency anaemia is a major problem for pregnant mothers, especially during child birth, and is one of the major causes of maternal death during child birth," Professor Dale said.
"Developing bananas, an important dietary component in India, to be iron-rich could really have a big impact on solving the problem of iron-deficiency anaemia."
Professor Dale said Indian scientists were so impressed with QUT's existing project to increase nutrients in bananas for Uganda, they asked the university to help develop iron-rich bananas for India.
He said QUT scientists would develop the technique to generate Australian bananas to be rich in iron and then transfer this technology to India so that Indian scientists could generate Indian banana cultivar rich in iron, while training Indian scientists in all aspects of this development.
"After the initial four-year development phase, it could take just another four to five years to prepare the bananas for release to Indian farmers," he said.
Dr Renu Swarup said the Indian government would be watching this research project with interest.
"This is the first such project in agriculture India has undertaken with another country. It means a lot to us," she said.
"Iron-deficiency is a problem for all developing countries, associated with low nutrition, not just vegetarianism.
"Bananas are one of the important foods, especially in the southern part of the country. They will play an important role in our effort to address iron-deficiency. "
The Letter of Intent was signed at Old Government House at QUT yesterday afternoon.

Gene Behind Neck Twisting Disorder Identified

Gene that causes adult-onset primary cervical dystonia (a neck twisting disorder) has been identified by researchers. The discovery by a team from the Jacksonville, Fla., campus of Mayo Clinic and the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center sheds light on a movement disorder that physicians previously could seldom explain. Their research appears in the Annals of Neurology.
In 1990, a man with a crooked neck came to see Ryan Uitti, M.D., a neurologist then at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Dr. Uitti knew about adult-onset primary cervical dystonia, which results in involuntary twisting of the neck to the left or right, backward or forward. Most people who have it suffer from muscle pain and abnormalities in head position. Some don't think it is all that unusual and may not seek medical help, Dr. Uitti says.
"They think they slept wrong at some point, or, because the twisting might straighten out with another maneuver, such as walking backwards, they might actually be accused of being a little crazy," Dr. Uitti says.
Dr. Uitti had been taught that there is usually no explanation for the disorder, when it shows up in adulthood. But working with a team of neurologists who have found the genetic causes of other rare conditions, Dr. Uitti began to investigate.
His patient first said no one in his family had the same problem. Dr. Uitti soon found out that his patient had an identical twin whose head was also twisted, but in the opposite direction. And when Dr. Uitti went to visit their sister, she had the same kind of dystonia. Eventually, seven people in the extended family were diagnosed with this mysterious condition. "I heard a lot of explanations by the family for it, such as that one member got hit by lightning," he says.
In 1994, when Dr. Uitti relocated to Mayo Clinic's campus in Florida, he continued his research into the genetic basis of this neurological disorder, which is also known as spasmodic torticollis. He used the research infrastructure provided by the Morris K. Udall Center of Excellence for Parkinson's Disease Research, funded by the National Institutes of Health, and collaborated with a Mayo team that included Parkinson's gene hunter Zbigniew Wszolek, M.D.
They and researchers from the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center, with Mark LeDoux, M.D., Ph.D., as the lead neurogeneticist, are reporting the first gene that causes primary cervical dystonia. Their finding is based on genetic material donated by this family — the first extended "cohort" identified — and others with the condition.
The researchers found a mutation in the CIZ1 gene that makes a protein expressed in certain nerve cells in the brain and which seems to be involved in cell cycle activities. The actual mechanism has not yet been identified, Dr. Uitti says: "It is interesting because the brain tissue of folks with this disorder looks absolutely normal."
Textbooks say that adult-onset primary cervical dystonia affects about 30 of every 100,000 people, but Dr. Uitti believes it is not that rare. "Cervical dystonia is the most common focal, fixed, adult-onset dystonia. But I suspect most people don't seek medical attention for a little bit of neck twisting or tilting," he says.
There are several treatments. Most common is the use of botulinum toxin injections to incapacitate the nerve in the affected muscle, eliminating chronic pain and muscle pulling/contraction.
Dr. Uitti believes CIZ1 is one genetic cause of this disorder, and that other genes will be found. But he is elated that at least one explanation for it has been found. "While it took over 20 years, at least it took place in my lifetime," he says. "This discovery reflects the first genetic cause for this condition ever identified."
The work at Mayo Clinic in Florida was funded by the Institute of Neurodegenerative Disorders and Stroke, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Short Lives for Ambitious Ones

People viewed as ambitious go to the best colleges and universities, have prestigious careers and earn high salaries, but such people don't necessarily lead more successful lives, say researchers.
Timothy Judge, professor of management at the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business, seeks to create a better understanding of ambition -a commonly mentioned but poorly understood concept in social science research- and its consequences.
"If ambition has its positive effects, and in terms of career success it certainly seems that it does, our study also suggests that it carries with it some cost," said Judge.
"Despite their many accomplishments, ambitious people are only slightly happier than their less ambitious counterparts, and they actually live somewhat shorter lives," he stated.
Tracking 717 high-ability individuals over seven decades, Judge uses multiple criteria to measure ambition during periods of participants' lives ranging from childhood to young adults just beginning their careers.
Their education ranged from attending some of the world's best universities - Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Columbia, Cornell, Northwestern, Berkeley, Oxford, and Notre Dame - to more modest educations, including high school diplomas and community college degrees.
"Ambitious kids had higher educational attainment, attended highly esteemed universities, worked in more prestigious occupations, and earned more," Judge stated.
"So, it would seem that they are poised to 'have it all.' However, we determined that ambition has a much weaker effect on life satisfaction and actually a slightly negative impact on longevity (how long people lived). So, yes, ambitious people do achieve more successful careers, but that doesn't seem to translate into leading happier or healthier lives," he explained.
Judge's new ambition study tracks individuals born in the early part of the last century and continued to follow them throughout their lives, which is how the mortality measure was derived, however it doesn't address the underlying reasons for the higher mortality of ambitious people.
"Perhaps the investments they make in their careers come at the expense of the things we know affect longevity: healthy behaviours, stable relationships and deep social networks," he said.
Most parents want their kids to be ambitious, attend the best schools and eventually have successful careers, and while it certainly isn't wrong to have those parental hopes and dreams, Judge cautions that we shouldn't delude ourselves into thinking they will make our kids happier.
"If your biggest wish for your children is that they lead happy and healthy lives, you might not want to overemphasize professional success. There are limits to what our ambitions bring us or our children," he added.
The study will be published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Ayush Dept to set up Homoeopathic Medicines Pharmaceutical Corpn as PSU

The Department of Ayush is planning to set up Homoeopathic Medicines Pharmaceutical Corporation Ltd (HPCL) to manufacture homoeopathic medicines in the public sector, on the lines of the Indian Medicine Pharmaceutical Corporation Ltd (IMPCL) which is into the production of ayurvedic drugs.
The Department has already started initial discussions on the matter and prepared feasibility report for the public sector company that would require Rs.75 crore for land, equipment, recurring costs and manpower, sources said.
“Presently, the Homoeopathic industries participating in government supplies by and large are not GMP-compliant and are not equipped with qualified technical staff or quality control facilities. This amounts to violation of Drugs & Cosmetics Act and it is very difficult to ensure that quality of medicines is supplied to Government dispensaries and hospitals. Other important factor is that private industries mainly manufacture patent & proprietary medicines discouraging classical pharmacopoeial products,” according to the proposal made by the Department.
There is only one unit in the public sector now -- Kerala Co-operative Homoeopathic Manufacturing Unit having annual turnover of Rs.10 crore which is not sufficient to meet the requirement of Government Departments and supplies under NRHM.
“It is, therefore, felt necessary to set up an IMPCL like public sector enterprise for manufacturing of homoeopathic medicines to ensure quality and timely supplies to CGHS, State dispensaries and Homoeopathic facilities under NRHM,” sources said.
The IMPCL is into manufacturing of Ayurveda and Unani products and supplies medicines to Central Government hospitals, Central Government research units all over the country and to some State government related departments. Besides, its products are also in the open market and plans are afoot to boost the sales in the market. With a portfolio of 185 ayurvedic and 100 Unani drugs, the company has made a total sale of Rs.19.90 crore during the financial year of 2009-10, against Rs.13.96 crore of 2008-09.

Discovery of hair-cell roots suggests the brain modulates sound sensitivity

The hair cells of the inner ear have a previously unknown "root" extension that may allow them to communicate with nerve cells and the brain to regulate sensitivity to sound vibrations and head position, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine have discovered. Their finding is reported online in advance of print in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The hair-like structures, called stereocilia, are fairly rigid and are interlinked at their tops by structures called tip-links.When you move your head, or when a sound vibration enters your ear, motion of fluid in the ear causes the tip-links to get displaced and stretched, opening up ion channels and exciting the cell, which can then relay information to the brain, says Anna Lysakowski, professor of anatomy and cell biology at the UIC College of Medicine and principal investigator on the study.
The stereocilia are rooted in a gel-like cuticle on the top of the cell that is believed to act as a rigid platform, helping the hairs return to their resting position.
Lysakowski and her colleagues were interested in a part of the cell called the striated organelle, which lies underneath this cuticle plate and is believed to be responsible for its stability. Using a high-voltage electron microscope at the National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research at the University of California, San Diego, Florin Vranceanu, a recent doctoral student in Lysakowski's UIC lab and first author of the paper, was able to construct a composite picture of the entire top section of the hair cell.
"When I saw the pictures, I was amazed," said Lysakowski.
Textbooks, she said, describe the roots of the stereocilia ending in the cuticular plate. But the new pictures showed that the roots continue through, make a sharp 110-degree angle, and extend all the way to the membrane at the opposite side of the cell, where they connect with the striated organelle.
For Lysakowski, this suggested a new way to envision how hair cells work. Just as the brain adjusts the sensitivity of retinal cells in the eye to light, it may also modulate the sensitivity of hair cells in the inner ear to sound and head position.
When the eye detects light, there is feedback from the brain to the eye. "If it's too bright the brain can say, okay, I'll detect less light -- or, it's not bright enough, let me detect more," Lysakowski said.
With the striated organelle connecting the rootlets to the cell membrane, it creates the possibility of feedback from the cell to the very detectors that detect motion. Feedback from the brain could alter the tension on the rootlets and their sensitivity to stimuli. The striated organelle may also tip the whole cuticular plate at once to modulate the entire process.
"This may revolutionize the way we think about the hair cells in the inner ear," Lysakowski said.Source:Eurekalert

Researchers show influence of nanoparticles on nutrient absorption

Nanoparticles are everywhere. From cosmetics and clothes, to soda and snacks. But as versatile as they are, nanoparticles also have a downside, say researchers at Binghamton University and Cornell University in a recent paper published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. These tiny particles, even in low doses, could have a big impact on our long-term health.
According to lead author of the article, Gretchen Mahler, assistant professor of bioengineering at Binghamton University, much of the existing research on the safety of nanoparticles has been on the direct health effects. But what Mahler, Michael L. Shuler of Cornell University and a team of researchers really wanted to know was what happens when someone gets constant exposure in small doses – the kind you'd get if you were taken a drug or supplement that included nanoparticles in some form.
"We thought that the best way to measure the more subtle effects of this kind of intake was to monitor the reaction of intestinal cells," said Mahler. "And we did this in two ways – in vitro, through human intestinal-lining cells that we had cultured in the lab; and in vivo, through the intestinal linings of live chickens. Both sets of results pointed to the same thing – that exposure to nanoparticles influences the absorption of nutrients into the bloodstream."
The uptake of iron, an essential nutrient, was of particular interest due to the way it is absorbed and processed through the intestines. The way Mahler and the team tested this was to use polystyrene nanoparticles because of its easily traceable fluorescent properties.
"What we found was that for brief exposures, iron absorption dropped by about 50 percent," said Mahler. "But when we extended that period of time, absorption actually increased by about 200 percent. It was very clear – nanoparticles definitely affects iron uptake and transport."
While acute oral exposure caused disruptions to intestinal iron transport, chronic exposure caused a remodeling of the intestinal villi – the tiny, finger-like projections that are vital to the intestine's ability to absorb nutrients – making them larger and broader, thus allowing iron to enter the bloodstream much faster.
"The intestinal cells are a gateway that ingested nanoparticles must go through to get to the body," said Mahler. "We monitored iron absorption both in vivo and in vitro and found that the polystyrene nanoparticles affected the absorption process and caused a physiological response."
The next step for Mahler and the team is to take a look at whether similar disruptions in nutrient absorption could be possible in other inorganic elements such as calcium, copper and zinc. Also on the research agenda is the reaction of other nutrients such as fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. And chickens and their intestines will definitely be part of this next phase of the study.
"The gastrointestinal tract of chickens have very similar features to that of humans," said Mahler. "We can learn a great deal from the way chicken tissue works which means we can make better predictions about how humans will react."
And humans certainly consume enough nanoparticles – about 100 trillion of them every day. Their ultra-small size and amazing qualities makes them increasingly common in food and pharmaceutical products. Although the impact of chronic exposure remains somewhat unknown, the ingestion of dietary particles is thought to promote a range of diseases, including Crohn's disease. With so many nanomaterials under development and with so much yet to be learned about nanoparticle toxicity and potential human tissue reactivity, Mahler and the team are hoping that their work, particularly the in vitro model, will provide an effective low-cost screening tool.

Learning About Human Speech Disorders from a Bird's Song

Can the song of a small bird provide valuable insights into human stuttering and speech-related disorders and conditions, including autism and stroke? New research by UCLA life scientists and colleagues provides reason for optimism.
The scientists discovered that some 2,000 genes in a region of the male zebra finch's brain known as "Area X" are significantly linked to singing. More than 1,500 genes in this region, a critical part of the bird's song circuitry, are being reported for the first time. Previously, a group of scientists including the UCLA team had identified some 400 genes in Area X. All the genes' levels of expression change when the bird sings.
"We did not know before that all of these genes are regulated by singing," said Stephanie White, a UCLA associate professor of integrative biology and physiology and senior author of the new study. She believes the 2,000 genes — at least some of which she believes are also shared by humans — are likely important for human speech.
The research is published in the online edition of the journal Neuron, a leading neuroscience journal, and will appear in an upcoming print edition.
"A method that (UCLA co-author) Steve Horvath developed lets us see what genes are changing together and, therefore, which genes are linked in a network," White said. "We can see which are the hub genes that are the most connected to other genes, as in a social network — the popular kids. We can also identify the genetic equivalent of the lonely kids. Steve's analysis lets us group the genes together and see who is interacting with whom."
Many more genes are involved in vocalization than scientists had previously known. While language is uniquely human, it has components — such as the ability to create new sounds — that songbirds and other animals share with us. The zebra finch may create new sounds using the same genes as humans, said White, who is also a member of UCLA's Brain Research Institute.
Male zebra finches learn to sing a courtship song between 35 days and 100 days after hatching, at which point they are sexually mature. Area X is located in the male finch's basal ganglia, beneath the brain's cortex. Only males have the full set of circuitry that allows them to mimic sounds. Female zebra finches don't learn the courtship song and don't have a brain region similar to Area X. Humans don't have an Area X either.
"In your brain, I know that the basal ganglia is involved in your speech, but I don't know exactly which cells," White said. "If I knew which cells, I could see what the genes are. We can't do that in humans, but we can in zebra finches — and we have."
Two genes that seem to be especially important are FoxP2, a "master gene" that directs many other genes to turn on and off and which is critical for both human speech and birdsong, and reelin, a gene that is suspected of causing autism susceptibility in humans. Autistic children often have language difficulties. Both reelin and FoxP2 may play a critical role in human speech and speech disorders.
"No one had ever thought that reelin has a role in vocalization," White said. "We have now found that it is likely important for vocal learning."
A study published in 2001 revealed a single mutation in FoxP2 in each member of a family in England with a severe speech disorder. Over four generations, half the members of this family had the speech and language disorder, and each of these family members had the mutation. Those family members without the disorder didn't have the mutation.
Recent neuroscience research has provided insights into the connection between the brain and our behavior, including the ways in which our behavior can influence gene expression.
"Everybody knows the brain controls our behavior, but in neuroscience, more recently, we have been learning that our behaviors also control our brain and change the way our brain operates," White said. "If you're a professional pianist, for example, you actually expand the territory in your brain that is devoted to playing the piano. When you practice the piano, a suite of genes gets turned on. When you practice hitting a tennis serve or a baseball, a suite of genes gets turned on. Our findings suggest different suites of genes get activated for different behaviors.
"How does behavior change the brain? One way is by changing the expression of genes. A specific behavior can activate many, many genes. How we behave can, over time, actually change genes in our brain and affect how we subsequently behave."
White's laboratory showed in earlier research that when adult male zebra finches sing, there is a dramatic decrease in the amount of FoxP2 in Area X.
In the current study, Julie Miller, a UCLA assistant researcher in integrative biology and physiology who conducts research in White's laboratory, let 27 male zebra finches sing as much as they wanted (18 of them sang) for two hours in the morning — an activity that reduces FoxP2.
She then removed Area X from the zebra finches' basal ganglia. She also removed the tissue next to Area X, which is still part of the basal ganglia and contains the same genes but is not important for singing; this tissue is involved in movements such as flying and perching.
Miller and Austin Hilliard, a graduate student in UCLA's neuroscience interdepartmental program who also conduct research in White's lab, then studied whether the same genes were changing in Area X and in the other tissue. Genes can be "on" or "off," but there are degrees, like with a light dimmer, White noted.
"You ask, 'Is it the same suite of molecules going up and down when the bird sings as when the bird hops?' The answer is no; they are very different," White said. "We know exactly what neurons are controlling this behavior. We can isolate them."
Overall, the scientists studied 20,000 genes in Area X (to determine which genes are involved in song) and outside of Area X (to learn which genes are involved in flying and perching).
"When we looked across the two parts of the basal ganglia — Area X, which is important for song, and just outside of Area X, which is important for other behaviors — we saw surprisingly similar overall levels of gene expression," White said. "There was no significant difference. It was just how those genes are changing relative to one another that was different."
There are approximately 9,000 species of birds, approximately half of which are songbirds. Dolphins, elephants and some bat species also mimic vocalizations, White said.
There are important similarities between the human brain and the songbird's brain.
"I'm very interested in human behavior," White said, "but humans are too complicated to study rigorously at the cellular and synaptic level. To study problems of speech, we need a model that specializes in learned sounds, like the songbird."
In future research, White's laboratory will study the role of reelin in the zebra finch and in mice. She and her colleagues will also continue to study FoxP2. She also plans to study hundreds of genes that move together.

Male Breast Cancer

Breast cancer normally affects women. However, there are rare cases where cancer develops in the male breast. Just as in the case of other cancers, an abnormal and uncontrolled cell division in the breast tissue leads to male breast cancer. The cancer is rare and accounts for less than 1% of all breast Though male breast cancer can occur at any age, it is most common in older men. Most of the cases are diagnosed between the ages of 60 and 70 years. Diagnosis is usually confirmed by biopsy. An early diagnosis ensures complete cure. Unfortunately most cases of male breast cancers are diagnosed when the disease is advanced. Treatment of male breast cancer often involves surgery. Alternative options such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy are also available.

Cause of Male Breast Cancer

The exact cause of male breast cancer is not known. A cancer is the result of abnormal and uncontrolled cell division. Rapidly dividing abnormal breast tissue cells accumulate producing a tumor. The tumor may spread to adjacent tissues, to lymph nodes or to any other part of the body. Tumor spread to a region of the body other than its origin is called metastasis.

A small amount of breast tissue is present during birth irrespective of gender. Women develop more breast tissue during puberty while men do not. Thus, men carry a small amount of nonfunctioning breast tissue. Breast tissue comprises of milk-producing glands (lobules), ducts that carry milk to the nipples, and fat.

Based on the structure in which cancer originates, male breast cancer may be of three types (there are other types apart from these, but are much rarer):

1) Ductal carcinoma: This cancer begins in the milk ducts and is the most common type of male breast cancer.

2) Lobular carcinoma: This cancer begins in the lobules, i.e. milk-producing glands. It is rare in men, since male breast tissue has few lobules.

3) Paget’s disease of the nipple: Paget’s disease of the nipple is a cancer in and around the nipple. It is usually associated with an underlying cancer of the breast.

Mutations in a protective gene called BRCA2 may increase the risk of acquiring breast cancer. These genes are inherited from parents.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Can't Resist High-fat Food? Blame It on Your Genes!

A new study has found a gene involved in fat taste that may explain why some people crave for fatty foods and others prefer low-fat diets.
About five years ago, animal studies first revealed the presence of entirely novel types of oral fat sensors or receptors on the tongue.
Prior to this time, it was believed that fats were perceived only by flavour and texture cues. With this new information, "everything that we thought we knew about fat perception got turned on its head," said Beverly Tepper, a professor in the Department of Food Science at Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.
Tepper has been studying consumer preferences for high-fat versus low-fat foods, and has been intrigued by the questions: "Why are some people more sensitive and others less sensitive to fat?" "Is this a personal trait?" "And do genes contribute to these differences?"
Those new discoveries suggest that fats are perceived on the tongue as a "taste" sensation by binding to specialized receptors on taste buds.
More specifically, Tepper explained, "fats are broken down in the mouth to fatty acids, and it's the fatty acids that bind to these receptors."
One oral fat receptor that has attracted a great deal of recent attention is CD36, a carrier protein that helps fatty acids traverse cell membranes in many tissues of the body.
But how is CD36 related to consumer fat preferences and the possible genetic differences that Tepper and colleagues are so keen on understanding?
The answer lies in a new study by Tepper, in conjunction with her former student Kathleen Keller, who received her Ph.D. in 2002 from Rutgers' graduate program in nutritional sciences
Keller, now an assistant professor of nutritional sciences at The Pennsylvania State University and lead author on the article, studied an overweight population of African-American adults and found those who had a specific change or variation in the CD36 gene perceived the creaminess and fattiness of salad dressings quite well, but they were less able to differentiate the high-fat from the low-fat versions.
Despite this insensitivity, these same individuals reported by questionnaire that they liked added fats such as salad dressings, spreads, butter and margarine more than those who did not have this variation in their CD36 gene.
"This is the first time that a gene involved in fat taste has been linked to fat preference in humans," said Tepper.
This latest finding came out of years of research on PROP-tasting, a different genetic trait that seems to be an index of general food preferences, including liking of fat.
PROP (short for propylthiouracil) is a bitter-tasting compound that is strong-tasting to some people and tasteless to others. The ability to taste PROP is controlled by a gene called TAS2R38. People who are taste-blind to PROP are called "non-tasters" and those who perceive PROP to be strongly bitter are called "super-tasters." Those in the middle of the pack, not surprisingly, are called "medium tasters."
"Several things became very clear from our studies and those from other labs," says Tepper.
"Non-tasters were insensitive to a wide range of oral sensations such as bitterness, sweetness, chili pepper heat and the texture of fats, and they avidly consumed foods with these characteristics."
At the other end of the spectrum were "super-tasters, who disliked strong tasting foods because they were too intense for them."
One area Tepper began focusing on was the perception and preference of fat since this has obvious implications for obesity development, a fact that is highlighted in her recent review in The Scientist magazine.
In a series of studies, she asked participants to use their own words to describe dairy products that varied in fat content such as ice cream, sour cream, whole milk and skim milk. Super-tasters used a rich and varied vocabulary to describe these foods, whereas non-tasters used very few, simple words.
However, said Tepper, "even though the non-tasters had difficulty describing the foods, they knew what they liked, and they preferred the higher-fat products."
Until recently, it was unclear why a genetic trait that controls the ability to taste bitterness plays a role in fat perception. Why should these two behaviors be related at all?
According to Tepper, "the key linking these two factors together is differences in tongue anatomy." Super-tasters have more taste buds and more nerve fibers that carry signals to the brain about oral texture; non-tasters have fewer taste buds and nerve fibers.
Since the perception of fat is due mostly to its texture-flavour being the second component-differences in the ability to sense the texture of fats seem to distinguish non-tasters from super-tasters.
The ability to taste fatty acids provides important signals about the type of fat being consumed and the implications of this could be far reaching, suggested Tepper.
"We could use this information to design more healthful fats that also give foods the high sensory appeal that consumers want."
"Using these two genetic markers, CD36 and PROP, we could identify those who are insensitive to oral fat and who may be more susceptible to high-fat diets and obesity," said Tepper.
The study has been published in the journal Obesity


AMMOI wants Ayush Dept to clarify its short notice for CRAV exam in Delhi

The Ayurvedic Medicine Manufacturers Organisation of India (AMMOI) recently sent a representation to the Department of Ayush expressing their discontent over its decision to conduct exams for Certificate of Rashtriya Ayurveda Vidyapeeth Course (CRAV) under the Guru Shishya Parampara in Delhi on March 11 at a short notice. In its representation, the association highlighted the difficulties that the students from across the country will have to face due to this hasty decision that came in the last minute.
The representation was sent by AMMOI on March 1, as response to the circular issued by Ayush Department on February 28 which informed prospective students about the date and venue of the entrance exam. Unlike last year, wherein the walk in interview was conducted in the respective states, this year the Department changed its rules again, making it mandatory to give entrance exam for all the students interested in applying for Guru Shishya Parampara to travel all the way to Delhi.
Dr Ramanathan Devaraj Iyer, president of AMMOI, pointed “We are not opposed to going to Delhi for the examination if it needs be, but what is surprising is that the circular was issued by the department in the last minute making it almost impossible for students to make it to Delhi for the exams. All we ask is to postpone the date so that they can arrange for tickets and finances, to travel this long.”
He further added that since the examination is being conducted only in Delhi it was the moral responsibility of the Department to inform the students about the same before hand so that they could have booked their tickets in advance. “Now the whole process is going to be extremely tedious and costly for the students residing far way. This act by the Department is going to seriously impact the selection procedure as most of the applicants will not be able to make it either due to non availability if tickets to Delhi or because of cost expenditure related with the same.”
He said that the whole industry, especially the students fraternity is clearly annoyed with this lacklustre attitude of the Government in not providing equal opportunity for all the candidates. Dr Iyer pointed out that this shows that they have overlooked the needs of the students residing in other parts of the country for this informative one year programme.
However, officials from the department clarified that they have re-adopted the entrance exam pattern, because they where not able to get the desired result in the previous year wherein interview was conducted state wise. He said, “This year we have enacted common entrance exam to ensure that there is uniformity in the selection procedure while selecting the students. Since each states had their own procedure, we were not able to get the desired result last year, wherein students where selected based on their final results than their over all performance creating inequality in the selection procedure.”
Dr Iyer insisted that there has been a great discord in the whole issue which is going to affect the over all participation in the exams. He suggested that, the only solution to ensure maximum participation is to conduct simultaneous entrance exam in major cities for the time being and urged them to ensure that at least in future such information to be imparted in a professional manner.
However, when asked to clarify there delayed announced of the examination date which caused all the confusion, officials from the department said that it was a ministerial decision which had to be followed as per the rules.

Yoga Helps Ease Stress, Cuts Depression and Heart Disease Risk

A research article review reveals yoga may be effective in treating patients with stress-related psychological and medical conditions such as depression, anxiety, high blood pressure and cardiac disease.The article by researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), New York Medical College (NYMC), and the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons (CCPS) reviews evidence of yoga's health impact on stress related psychological and medical conditions. Their theory, which currently appears online in Medical Hypotheses, could be used to develop specific mind-body practices for the prevention and treatment of these conditions in conjunction with standard treatments. It is hypothesized that stress causes an imbalance in the autonomic nervous system (parasympathetic under-activity and sympathetic over-activity) as well as under-activity of the inhibitory neurotransmitter, gamma amino-butyric acid (GABA). Low GABA activity occurs in anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, epilepsy, and chronic pain. According to the researchers, the hypothesis advanced in this paper could explain why vagal verve stimulation (VNS) works to decrease both seizure frequency and the symptoms of depression.
"Western and Eastern medicine complement one another. Yoga is known to improve stress-related nervous system imbalances," said Chris Streeter, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at BUSM and Boston Medical Center, who is the study's lead author. Streeter believes that "This paper provides a theory, based on neurophysiology and neuroanatomy, to understand how yoga helps patients feel better by relieving symptoms in many common disorders." An earlier study by BUSM researchers comparing a walking group and a yoga group over a 12-week period found no increase in GABA levels in the walking group, whereas the yoga group showed increased GABA levels and decreased anxiety. In another BUSM 12-week study, patients with chronic low back pain responded to a yoga intervention with increased GABA levels and significant reduction in pain compared to a group receiving standard care alone.In crafting this neurophysiological theory of how yoga affects the nervous system, Streeter collaborated with Patricia Gerbarg, MD, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at NYMC, Domenic A. Ciraulo, MD, chairman of psychiatry at BUSM, Robert Saper, MD MPH, associate professor of family medicine at BUSM, and Richard P. Brown, MD, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at CCPS. They are beginning test these theories by incorporating mind-body therapies such as yoga in their clinical studies of a wide range of stress-related medical and psychological conditions.

Postmenopausal women at greater risk of stroke from high trans fat intake

New research shows an increased risk of ischemic stroke in postmenopausal women who consume higher amounts of trans fatty acids, commonly found in baked goods, fried foods, and packaged products. Study findings now available in Annals of Neurology, a journal published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the American Neurological Association and Child Neurology Society, suggest aspirin use may moderate the stroke risk caused by a diet high in trans fats.
Ischemic stroke is a result of a blockage in an artery leading to the brain. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), 795,000 people have a new or recurrent stroke in the U.S. each year. Reports from the AHA indicate that stroke is the fourth cause of death in the U.S., killing more than 137,000 Americans each year with 60% of those deaths in women. Previous research suggests that increased incidence of cardiovascular disease—one of the risk factors for stroke—is associated with trans fat consumption. However, in other prior studies no significant association was found between dietary fat intake and stroke.
In the largest study of stroke in postmenopausal women to date, Dr. Ka He and colleagues analyzed data from the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study (WHI-OS)—a prospective cohort study of 87,025 women between the ages 50 and 79 who are generally in good health. At the time of enrollment participants were given a self-administered food frequency questionnaire and again three years later to assess their diet. The questionnaire asked about frequency of intake and portion size for 122 goods and food groups during a 3-month period and included questions related to fat consumption from meat, dairy, cooking, and reduced fat food items.
Results show 1,049 incident cases of ischemic stroke over 663,041 person-years of follow-up. Women who had the highest trans fat intake (6.1 grams/day) had a 39% greater incidence of stroke compared to those who consumed less (2.2 grams/day). Researchers found no significant associations between total fat , other types of fat, or dietary cholesterol. Aspirin use was shown to reduce the association between trans fat intake and stroke.
Additionally, researchers determined that of the ischemic stroke cases, there were 101 atherotherombotic, 234 cardioembolic and 269 lacunar infarctions, with another 445 unspecified cases that were not included in the subtype analysis. After adjusting for clinical, lifestyle and dietary factors results showed trans fat intake was associated with a higher risk of lacunar infarction.
"Our findings confirm that postmenopausal women with higher trans fat intake had an elevated risk of ischemic stroke, but aspirin use may reduce the adverse effects," concludes Dr. He. "We recommend following a diet low in trans fat and adding an aspirin regimen to help women reduce their risk of stroke, specifically following the onset of menopause."

Study shows mean screens prime the brain for aggression

Research over the past few decades has shown that viewing physical violence in the media can increase aggression in adults and children. But a new study, co-authored by an Iowa State University psychology professor, has also found that onscreen relational aggression -- including social exclusion, gossip and emotional bullying -- may prime the brain for aggression.
Douglas Gentile, an associate professor of psychology at Iowa State, was one of four authors of the study "'Frenemies, Fraitors, and Mean-em-aitors': Priming effects of viewing physical and relational aggression in the media on women," which was recently published by the journal Aggressive Behavior. The study of 250 college women showed that mean screens may also activate the neural networks that guide behavior.
"What this study shows is that relational aggression actually can cause a change in the way you think," said Gentile, who runs the Media Research Lab at Iowa State. "And that matters because of course, how you think can change your behavior."
Sarah Coyne and David Nelson, both researchers in Brigham Young University's School of Family Life; and Jennifer Ruh Linder, a professor of psychology at Linfield College (Ore.), were the study's other authors.
In the study, the researchers evaluated the cognitive patterns of the college women after they viewed one of three fictional video clips. One clip depicted physical aggression, including a gun and knife fight that ended in murder. A second clip portrayed relational aggression, where girls steal boyfriends, spread malicious gossip and kick someone out of their social circle. The third clip was simply a scary scene, one that would raise the heartbeat.
Researchers assessed physiological arousal, finding that all three films produced similar levels of excitement. They then measured reaction times when aggressive or neutral words flashed on a screen. Participants who had watched either aggressive film clip ascribed more meaning to words connected with aggression.
"Past research has shown that viewing physical violence on TV activates aggressive scripts in the brain, but our findings suggest that watching both onscreen physical or relational aggression activates those cognitive scripts," Linder said. "Viewers don't simply choose to imitate TV characters or make a conscious decision to engage in aggressive behavior. Aggressive reactions are more automatic and less conscious than most people assume."
Gentile sees the study having significance to today's societal norms.
"This matters because relational aggression tends to be considered more socially acceptable -- it's often portrayed on television as funny and how friends treat each other," he said. "Yet, several studies are starting to show that relational aggression can cause long-term harm."
And some of the most highly publicized effects have been a result of the rising incidence of cyberbullying, which Gentile says is a classic case of relational aggression.
"We're treating cyberbullying as if it's something totally different and totally new. It's actually relational aggression and it does all the things that relational aggression does," Gentile said. "You can spread rumors, you can ignore people, I can unlike you on Facebook, I can tell your secrets, and I can lie and make up stuff. So this study relates to cyberbullying."
The researchers say more research is needed to determine whether their results are gender-specific, and whether this script activation indeed changes behavior.

HIV/AIDS vaccine shows long-term protection against multiple exposures in non human primates

An Atlanta research collaboration may be one step closer to finding a vaccine that will provide long-lasting protection against repeated exposures to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Scientists at Emory University and GeoVax Labs, Inc. developed a vaccine that has protected nonhuman primates against multiple exposures to simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) given in three clusters over more than three years. SIV is the nonhuman primate version of HIV.
Harriet L. Robinson, PhD, chief scientific officer at GeoVax Labs, Inc., and former director of the division of microbiology and immunology at Yerkes National Primate Research Center, has been leading the research team with Rama Rao Amara, PhD, associate professor of microbiology and immunology, Yerkes National Primate Research Center and the Emory Vaccine Center.
The research was presented Wednesday at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Seattle, Wash.
The vaccine regimen included a DNA prime vaccine that co-expressed HIV proteins and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF). GM-CSF is a normal protein that promotes the initiation of immune responses and thus enhances the ability of the vaccine to elicit blocking antibodies for the SIV virus before it enters cells.
Vaccination consisted of two DNA inoculations at months 0 and 2 to prime the vaccine response and then two booster inoculations at months 4 and 6. The booster vaccine was MVA, an attenuated poxvirus expressing HIV proteins. Six months after the last vaccination, both vaccinated and unvaccinated animals were exposed to SIV through 12 weekly exposures, resulting in an 87 percent per exposure efficacy and 70 percent overall protection. Over the next two years uninfected animals were exposed multiple times in two more series, resulting in an 82 percent per exposure efficacy during the second series and an 84 percent per exposure efficacy during the third series.
"Repeated challenges in animals are used to mimic sexual transmission," says Robinson. "The hope is that the results in the nonhuman primate models will translate into vaccine-induced prevention in humans."
"It is impressive to note that protection could be observed against both neutralization sensitive and neutralization resistant viruses," says Amara. Neutralization is the process by which some antibodies can block virus infection.
A first generation GeoVax DNA/MVA vaccine that does not co-express GM-CSF has shown excellent safety and reproducible vaccine responses in Phase 1 and 2a clinical trials in more than 400 uninfected people. These trials, supported and conducted by the National Institutes of Health HIV Vaccine Trials Network, have set the stage for the second-generation GM-CSF co-expressing vaccine to move from its initial Phase 1 safety testing slated to start in March of this year to a Phase 2b efficacy trial in participants who are at high risk of exposure to HIV. The vaccine is designed for a version of the virus prevalent in the Americas.
Robinson and Amara began their work at Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory and the Emory Vaccine Center. Robinson now leads the effort at GeoVax on manufacture and human testing of the vaccine while Amara leads the nonhuman primate component at Emory. The MVA component of the vaccine was developed at the National Institutes of Health by Bernard Moss, PhD.
The intellectual property for the vaccine has been exclusively licensed from Emory by GeoVax for clinical development. Emory University has an equity interest in GeoVax and is entitled to sales royalties for the vaccine technologies being studied. Emory and GeoVax, and Drs. Robinson and Amara, may financially benefit if GeoVax is successful in developing and marketing its vaccines.

Study Says Exercise Changes Your DNA

Exercise brings an immediate change in DNA molecules, reveals study published in the March issue of Cell Metabolism.
The underlying genetic code in human muscle isn't changed with exercise, but the DNA molecules within those muscles are chemically and structurally altered in very important ways. Those modifications to the DNA at precise locations appear to be early events in the genetic reprogramming of muscle for strength and, ultimately, in the structural and metabolic benefits of exercise.
"Our muscles are really plastic," says Juleen Zierath of Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. "We often say "You are what you eat." Well, muscle adapts to what you do. If you don't use it, you lose it, and this is one of the mechanisms that allows that to happen."
The DNA changes in question are known as epigenetic modifications and involve the gain or loss of chemical marks on DNA over and above the familiar sequence of As, Gs, Ts, and Cs. The new study shows that the DNA within skeletal muscle taken from people after a burst of exercise bears fewer chemical marks (specifically methyl groups) than it did before exercise. Those changes take place in stretches of DNA that are involved in turning "on" genes important for muscles' adaptation to exercise.
When the researchers made muscles contract in lab dishes, they saw a similar loss of DNA methyl groups. Exposure of isolated muscle to caffeine had the same effect.
Zierath explained that caffeine does mimic the muscle contraction that comes with exercise in other ways, too. She doesn't necessarily recommend anyone drink a cup of joe in place of exercise. It's nevertheless tempting to think that athletes who enjoy a coffee with their workout might just be on to something.
Broadly speaking, the findings offer more evidence that our genomes are much more dynamic than they are often given credit for. Epigenetic modifications that turn genes on and back off again can be incredibly flexible events. They allow the DNA in our cells to adjust as the environment shifts.
"Exercise is medicine," Zierath says, and it seems the means to alter our genomes for better health may be only a jog away. And for those who can't exercise, the new findings might point the way to medicines (caffeinated ones, perhaps?) with similar benefits.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Cancer Risk Among Women Taking Contraceptives Measured in Study

Women who have used injectable or oral birth control in the past are at a significantly higher relative risk of invasive breast cancer, but they are at significantly lower risk of ovarian cancer, according to a new study based on black women in South Africa. As more time passed after a woman stopped using the contraceptives, her increased risk diminished.
The study, published in PLoS Medicine, pulled self-reported data from 5,702 participants with newly diagnosed invasive breast, cervical, ovarian or endometrial cancers. There were 1,492 women in the study who served as controls. They had other types of cancers, including colon, rectal and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which are not influenced by contraceptive use.Among the participants, 26 percent of women had used injectable hormones and 20 had used pills. After adjusting for confounding factors, including age, education, smoking and number of sexual partners, researchers found women were 1.7 times more likely to develop breast cancer and 1.4 times more likely to get cervical cancer than women who had never taken the contraceptives.
About 50 percent of women with breast cancer had used oral or injectable contraceptives whereas 26 percent of women with ovarian cancer had used the contraceptives and 17 percent with endometrial cancer had used them.
In women who had used birth control pills or injectable contraceptives, the cancer risk diminished with time after a woman’s last use of the birth control, the authors wrote.
Injectable contraceptives are very common among black women in South Africa, the authors noted. In the U.S., birth control pills are a more commonly used form of female contraceptive.
Hormone medications are among the most commonly prescribed and taken medications in the world. About 9 percent of women ages 15 to 49 took oral contraceptive pills and 4 percent used injectable contraceptives or implants in 2007, according to a 2009 United Nations report. Combined injectable contraceptives provide a monthly dose of hormones to prevent pregnancy in the same way that oral contraceptives do. Brand names include Cyclofem and Novafem.
But despite the numbers, Dr. Diane Harper, director of the Gynecologic Cancer Prevention Research Group at University of Missouri at Kansas, said women should not necessarily be deterred from using oral or injectable hormones, in South Africa or anywhere else.
The authors of the study in South Africa did not return ABC News’ requests for comment.
“The very large benefit of contraceptives for women of reproductive age in preventing maternal deaths due to childbearing are largely overlooked by this study,” said Harper. ”Any increased risk of breast or cervical cancer due to short-term use of contraceptives must be weighed by the quality of the data coming from the self-reports, by the large number of deaths prevented during childbearing, and by the multiple factors in addition to hormone exposure that play into pre-menopausal versus post-menopausal breast cancer and cervical [cancer].
Source:abc News

Even mild concussions can cause lingering symptoms

Children with even relatively mild concussions can have persistent attention and memory problems a year after their injuries, according to a study that helps identify which kids may be most at risk for lingering symptoms.
In most kids with these injuries, symptoms resolve within a few months but the study results suggest that problems may linger for up to about 20 percent, said study author Keith Owen Yeates, a neuropsychologist at Ohio State University's Center for Biobehaviorial Health.
Problems like forgetfulness were more likely to linger than fatigue, dizziness and other physical complaints, the study found.
Forgetfulness, difficulty paying attention, headaches and fatigue were more common in study children who lost consciousness or who had other mild head trauma that caused brain abnormalities on imaging tests, compared with kids who didn't get knocked out or who had normal imaging test results.
The study looked at symptoms up to a year after injury so it doesn't answer whether any kids had longer-lasting or permanent problems.
"What parents want to know is if my kid is going to do OK. Most do OK, but we have to get better at predicting which kids are going to have problems," Yeates said.
Those who do may need temporary accommodations, including extra time taking school tests, or wearing sunglasses if bright light gives them headaches, he said.
Most children studied had concussions from playing sports or from falls. About 20 percent had less common mild brain trauma from traffic accidents and other causes.
Concussions involve a blow to the head that jostles the brain against the skull, although imaging scans typically show no abnormalities. Other mild brain trauma can cause tissue damage visible on these scans.
The study included 186 children aged 8 to 15 with mild concussions and other mild brain injuries treated at two hospitals, in Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. The reports are based on parents' reports of symptoms up to 12 months after the injuries.
The brain injuries studied were considered mild because they involved no more than half an hour of unconsciousness; 60 percent of kids with concussions or other brain trauma — 74 children — had no loss of consciousness.
Overall, 20 percent — 15 children — who lost consciousness had lingering forgetfulness or other non-physical problems a year after their injury; while 20 percent who had abnormal brain scans — six kids — had lingering headaches or other physical problems three months after being injured.
The results were published online Monday in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
The study adds to research showing that mild traumatic brain injuries, including concussions "should not necessarily be treated as minor injuries," Dr. Frederick Rivara, Archives' editor, said in a journal editorial. More information is needed to determine who is most at risk for lingering problems after these injuries, and to determine what type of treatment and activity restriction is needed, said Rivara, a pediatrician and University of Washington researcher.

Vitamin D-Rich Diet may Help Reduce Risk of Stress Fractures in Teen Girls

Teenage girls who participate in active sport may avoid stress fractures by following a diet rich in vitamin D according to a new study conducted by researchers from Children's Hospital Boston.
The dietary habits of more than 6,700 girls aged between 9 and 15 years were recorded by the researchers who looked into the amount of calcium and vitamin D that the girls were eating every day. The researchers then compared the data with the number of stress fractures caused due to sports activities.
At the end of seven years, the researchers found that around 4 percent of the participants suffered from stress fractures. On comparing them with the dietary habits the researchers found that following a calcium rich diet or eating dairy products had no bearing on the amount of stress fractures but those who followed a vitamin D rich diet were 50 percent less likely to suffer from stress fractures.
“This study can add to the existing thought that adolescent girls and young women should be particularly cognizant of getting their vitamin D”, Kendrin Sonneville, from Children's Hospital Boston, said. The study has been published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

UN Reports Nepal's City Children as Latest Underclass

As early as 13 years of age Pia Rai started taking drugs with her friends during classes, unnoted by her teacher who was struggling with a class of 75 students in a hard-up inner-city school.
She had been introduced to heroin by classmates in Dharan, a city of 120,000 people in the foothills of the Mahabharat mountains in eastern Nepal, after starting smoking and then moving onto cannabis.
"What made it so simple for me to get into drugs was my family not being that aware," said Pia.
"My classroom was so big that the teacher could not pay attention to all the children, so the kids on the back benches could take drugs in class and the teacher wouldn't even know about it."
Pia, now 17, was one of the lucky ones. She received help from a dependence treatment centre and is catching up with her lost schooling and working as a "peer educator" to warn others of the dangers of drugs.
Police in Dharan estimate that around half of the city's youth are drug users, part of an emerging "urban poor" often overlooked by aid agencies and government ministries focusing the fight against poverty on the countryside.
Hundreds of thousands of children like Pia are growing up in Nepal's towns and cities unable to access basic services on their doorsteps, the United Nations Children's Fund said in a report launched this week.
"When people think of poverty, they tend to focus on a child in a remote rural village," UNICEF Nepal representative Hanaa Singer said.
"But today, an increasing number of children living in urban centres are among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in the world.
"They live tantalisingly close to essential, basic services but are deprived of most of them."
More than half of Nepal's urban under-fives are not registered at birth, meaning they have no official name, identity or nationality, and little access to services provided by the state or protection under the law.
Life in city slums is particularly hazardous in Kathmandu, where there are regular outbreaks of diarrhoea and cholera in the thousands of shanties on the banks of the Bagmati river, which is used as a dump for toxic industrial and hospital waste.
"Urbanisation is a fact of life and one of the greatest challenges we all face today," Singer said.
"We must all invest more in cities as the emerging and growing problems associated with the disparities of wealth and access to essential services in cities will not solve themselves."
At the last count in 2004, Nepal had around 5,000 street children, although the number is believed to have grown fast since then.
Nearly half have been sexually abused while up to 30 percent are HIV positive and 40 percent are drug-users, according to UNICEF.
Many are engaged in "the worst forms of child labour", UNICEF says, including garbage collection, begging and loading trucks.
Niraj Malla, 12, works in a plant nursery, packing soil into bags for 200 rupees ($2.50) a day in Biratnagar, a city on Nepal's border with India.
He is a member of a UNICEF-backed "working children's club" which gives youngsters the opportunity to get together to discuss work-related problems and learn about their rights.
He told journalists at the launch of the UNICEF report in Kathmandu on Monday of children he knew who were made to work so hard washing dishes that "the flesh was rotting from their hands".
"You don't have to go to the villages... to find poverty or deprivation," he said. "You can find it right in the city, in the little hut beside the big mansion."

Listening to Music can Improve Health: Study

Listening to music could be an effective way to enhance the health and well-being of an individual, says study.
The new doctoral thesis in psychology from the University of Gothenburg is based partly on a survey study involving 207 individuals, partly on an intervention study where an experiment group consisting of 21 persons listened to self-chosen music for 30 minutes per day for two weeks while an equally sized control group got to relax without music.
The results of the studies show that positive emotions were experienced both more often and more intensively in connection with music listening.
The experiment group did also perceive less stress and had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The more the participants in the survey study liked the music, the less stress they experienced.
"But it should be pointed out that when studying emotional responses to music it is important to remember that all people do not respond in the exact same way to a piece of music and that one individual can respond differently to the same piece of music at different times, depending on both individual and situational factors," said the author of the thesis Marie Helsing.
"To get the positive effects of music, you have to listen to music that you like," Helsing added.

Monday, 5 March 2012

World queues up to learn ayurveda in Coimbatore

For the last few weeks, Cinzia Catalfamo Akbaraly has been learning about and researching the different herbs used in ayurveda. The founder and president of Madagascar's Akbaraly Foundation is hoping to take ayurveda to the Indian Ocean island nation.
"I am exploring the possibility of this traditional Indian system being a viable alternative to modern expensive medicines. People there use herbal medicines. ayurveda will not be an alien concept to them," says Akbaraly, who has been studying ayurveda at Arya Vaidya Pharmacy (AVP) in R S Puram in the city.Like her, a number of foreigners are coming to Coimbatore to do short-term courses in ayurveda and take the system back to their country. Most of them come to know about ayurveda after reading about it or visiting centres in their countries, and see the scope for a career in the field.Holger Sehramm from Hawaii in the US says he is thinking of setting up a centre in his hometown once he completes his course here. He is doing a three-month course at AVP. "Many Americans and Japanese come to Hawaii to learn yoga. I learnt yoga there for 10 years but wanted to deepen my knowledge and get an introduction to ayurveda," he says.An introduction is what these students get during the courses that run from three to 12 months. "In the given period, we may not be able to teach ayurveda in a comprehensive manner, but we are able to educate them and generate an interest," says Dr A Rajendra Prasad, assistant director, AVP. "Many of them return to learn more."Though they get students from across the world, most are from the US, UK, South America and, more recently, Latvia. They also run an ayurveda college that trains people to be fully qualified ayurveda doctors.
Though many countries' laws may not allow doctors to practice ayurveda, a number of dieticians and nutritionists incorporate ayurvedic practices into their prescriptions. "ayurveda helps allopathic doctors see another perspective in treating patients.
For instance, a western doctor who thinks of conducting a knee replacement surgery may reflect on other options," he says giving the example of Simone Hunziker, a doctor from Switzerland, who came to the centre to learn about ayurveda. "He is now the president of the Swiss ayurveda Medical Academy (SAMA)," Prasad says.
Dr U Indulal, deputy director at AVP, says most students have already done courses in other countries. "They come here when those centres are unable to help them further," he says.
That's the reason why Deema Koval has come to Coimbatore all the way from Ukraine to learn ayurveda. "I went to some training centres there, but they what they taught seemed confusing and contradictory. So, I came to India to five years back to learn more about the subject," says Koval who plans to make a career of it.
Oliver Mulliez who was working in the hospitality industry now wants to start a yoga and ayurveda centre in Paris. He heard about yoga from his wife. "But my wife is a bad teacher," he smiles. "I am doing a six-month course here," he says.
Dorian Millich, an architect from Brussels, who is learning ayurveda for eight months, says yoga helped him overcome depression. "Since yoga helped me so much, I wanted to learn more about Indian systems and spread the good I received," he says.

India-US clinical study on HIV type 1 protease suggest darunavir as choice of third-line regimen

An India –US clinical study has revealed that majority of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) type 1 protease (PR) patients receiving second-line anti retroviral therapy have begun to show drug resistance.
PR, essential for the viral replication and the mutation profiles, suggest that darunavir might be the drug of choice for third-line regimens in India for HIV, according to the study carried out by the India and US researchers.
The team represents YRG Centre for AIDS Research and Education, Chennai, Department of Medicine, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, and Division of Infectious Diseases, Stanford University, California.
PR inhibitors (PIs) like indinavir (IDV), ritonavir (RTV), saquinavir (SQV), nelfinavir (NFV), fosamprenavir (FPV), lopinavir (LPV), atazanavir (ATV), and darunavir (DRV) have been approved by the US FDA and commercially available. In India, these drugs are often used as second-line treatment for those where first-line treatment failed, they reported.
A clinical study was carried out on 107 patients at the YRG Centre in Chennai receiving second-line antiretroviral treatment which was conducted to report on types of drug resistance mutations among those with detectable HIV type 1 plasma viral loads (PVLs). The PVLs were measured using Abbott m2000rt real-time polymerase chain reaction. The genotyping was performed with the ViroSeq genotyping system, version 2.0, and ViroSeq analysis software, version 2.8.
Of 45 patient plasma specimens consecutively analysed, 30 cases had undetectable PVLs and 77 cases of the 107 patients had a median PVL. Sequencing was done for 45 samples with PVLs. Based on the mutational profiles observed, all 45 sequences were susceptible to darunavir and tipranavir, whereas 47 per cent showed resistance to lopinavir, 58 per cent showed resistance to atazanavir, and 60 per cent showed resistance to saquinavir, indinavir, nelfinavir, and fosamprenavir.
According to Prof. Suniti Solomon, director, YRG CARE, although India has seen increased access to second-line anti retroviral since January 2009, there are few studies on PR drug resistance to these drugs from this region.
YRG CARE, is a tertiary HIV referral centre for southern India which has provided a continuum of care for 12,000 individuals infected with HIV. All patients are treated according to World Health Organization (WHO) treatment guidelines and are advised to initiate highly active ART before CD4 cell counts drop to 200 cells with an AIDS-defining illness.
This study which is also published early this month in the Clinical Infectious Diseases Advance Access Journal aimed to characterize the pattern of PR resistance mutations among southern Indian patients who have been exposed to PI-based, second-line therapy.
At present, with few third-line antiretroviral options for subsequent therapy in India, DRV might be the choice for third-line regimens. In contrast, it is important to strengthen the development of technologies for affordable PVL monitoring for early detection of virologic failure and genotype-guided switching regimens could improve treatment outcomes, according to the research report.

Electricity Generated from Wastewater With New Device

What may be considered a fortunate sign to developing countries, US researchers claim to have created a prototype device that can generate electricity from waste water.
The team at Pennsylvania State University says the technology would simultaneously treat the water and suggest the process could be adopted in developing countries, providing clean water and power for homes.
Scientists in the Netherlands have for some years been exploring the idea of generating renewable power along the country's coastline, where fresh water from rivers meets the salt water of the sea.
Using a process called reverse electrodialysis (RED), fresh water and seawater are placed in intermittent chambers separated by membranes, and an electrochemical charge is created.
A Norwegian company is developing a similar technology using saline and fresh water.
The Penn State team says RED technology is problematic because of the large number of membranes required, and because power plants have to be located by the sea.
They claim the number of membranes can be reduced and the power output boosted by combining the technology with what are called microbial fuel cells (MFCs). These use organic matter in solution to create an electric current - in this instance waste water.
The prototype technology also bypasses the need for salt water by using ammonium bicarbonate solution as a substitute, meaning the system could work in communities far from the sea.
The ammonium bicarbonate solution would be constantly recycled, using waste heat from local industry.
"If we treat waste water in just a microbial fuel cell, we don't create much power and it takes a long time," lead researcher Professor Bruce Logan told BBC News.
"In our process, we have the MFC part which is treating waste water and creating energy, and we have the RED stack which is just boosting that process, it's making it happen more efficiently," he explained.
He says the process could potentially be used anywhere, but could provide both clean water and power to communities in developing countries.
"The main application right now is in waste water treatment where you could effectively treat the water, but also gain some extra energy from waste heat. Instead of having a net drain, we have a net gain," he added.
Professor Logan and colleagues have previously reported on how the combination of microbial fuel cells and electrodialysis could generate hydrogen supplies.
Details of the study are published in the journal Science.

Hiking Cell Production May Help Treat Liver Disease

Scientists have explained how the liver restores itself with research that could facilitate in developing drugs to treat liver disease.
Researchers at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh have discovered how to enhance the production of key cells needed to repair damaged liver tissue.
The study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, could help heal livers affected by diseases such as cirrhosis or chronic hepatitis.
Scientists were able to unpick the process of how different cells in the liver are formed.
When the liver is damaged it produces too many bile duct cells and not enough cells called hepatocytes, which the liver needs to repair damaged tissue.
They found they could increase the number of hepatocyte cells – which detoxify the liver – by encouraging these cells to be produced instead of bile duct cells.
Understanding how liver cells are formed could help to develop drugs to encourage the production of hepatocytes to repair liver tissue. This could eventually ease the pressure on waiting lists for liver transplants.
Professor Stuart Forbes, Associate Director at the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, who is a consultant hepatologist and was the academic leader of the study, said: "Liver disease is on the increase in the UK and is one of the top five killers. Increasing numbers of patients are in need of liver transplants, but the supply of donated organs is not keeping pace with the demand. If we can find ways to encourage the liver to heal itself then we could ease the pressure on waiting lists for liver transplants."
Liver disease is the fifth biggest killer in the UK. There are almost 500 people waiting for a liver transplant, compared to just over 300 five years ago.
The production of hepatocyte cells was increased by altering the expression of certain genes in early stage liver cells.
Dr Luke Boulter, of the University of Edinburgh's MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine and first author on the paper, said: "This research helps us know how to increase numbers of cells that are needed for healthy liver function and could pave the way for finding drugs that help liver repair. Understanding the process in which cells in the liver are formed is key in looking at ways to repair damaged liver tissue."
Dr Rob Buckle, Head of Regenerative Medicine at the MRC, said: "Liver transplants have saved countless lives over the years, but demand will inevitably outstrip supply and in the long term we need to look beyond replacing damaged tissues to exploiting the regenerative potential of the human body. The MRC continues to invest heavily across the breadth of approaches that might deliver the promise of regenerative medicine, and this study opens up the possibility of applying our increasing knowledge of stem cell biology to stimulate the body's own dormant repair processes as a basis for future therapy."

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Even 5,000-Year-Old Iceman Suffered Hardening Arteries

The way Otzi, the 5,000-year-old ice mummy, suffered from hardening of arteries and was genetically prone to cardiovascular diseases has been decoded by scientists.
Surprisingly, in his lifetime, Otzi was not exposed to the risk factors which today are known to trigger cardiovascular disease. He was neither overweight nor stranger to exercise.
Roughly 18 months ago, a team of scientists succeeded in decoding the full genome of Otzi, the mummified Iceman, discovered by two hikers Sep 19, 1991, revealing his entire genetic make-up, the journal Nature Communications reports.
The team comprised Albert Zink and Angela Graefen from Bolzano's EURAC Institute for Mummies and the Iceman in Italy; and Carsten Pusch and Nikolaus Blin, geneticists from the University of Tubingen in Germany; along with Andreas Keller and Eckart Meese from the Institute of Human Genetics at Saarland University in Germany, according to an EURAC statement.
"The evidence that such a genetic predisposition already existed in Otzi's lifetime is of huge interest to us. It indicates that cardiovascular disease is by no means an illness chiefly associated with modern lifestyles. We are now eager to use these data to help us explore further how these diseases developed," says anthropologist Albert Zink with bioinformatics expert Andreas Keller.
Apart from this genetic predisposition, the scientists were able to identify traces of bacteria from the genus Borrelia, which are responsible for causing infections and are transmitted by ticks.
Pusch, who led the genetic investigations in Tubingen, comments: "This is the oldest evidence for borreliosis (Lyme disease) and proof that this infection was already present 5,000 years ago."
The full genome sequencing was supported by the National Geographic Society and Life Technologies of the US and Comprehensive Biomarker Centre, Germany.

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