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Saturday, 9 June 2012

India needs to increase its share of clinical research as it has one fifth of global disease burden

In an awareness workshop held here in Hyderabad, the ISCR (Indian Society for Clinical Research), stressed on the need for increasing the number of clinical trials conducted in India. It said only, two per cent of clinical trials are held in India, while 98 per cent clinical research is being conducted in the rest of the world.
The main objective of the workshop was to weed out misconceptions and create more awareness about clinical research among the general public.  “Unless there is a proper understanding about the clinical research among the population, it becomes difficult for the CROs to come forward to carry out trials. Today India is burdened by one fifth of global diseases and  in this scenario the need for evolution of better medicines and treatment technologies is of utmost importance. Given the conducive environment and ample resources available, India should tap the opportunity of being the best destination for clinical research in the world,” said Dr Arun Bhatt, executive member ISCR.
The clinical research Industry in India is valued at $300 million, while only two per cent of global trials are done in the country. Last year about 200 to 300 trials were held in India against 50,000 trials held elsewhere in the world. The US and European Union are in the forefront in conducting large number of clinical research in the world. US itself constitutes 50 per cent of global clinical trials among 178 countries in the world.
Unless there are enough clinical trials done, it will become difficult to discover new medicines for the ever evolving diseases among the masses. Clinical research plays a vital role in the betterment of treatment of diseases and to invent newer medicines and treatment techniques for future diseases.  In fact, a large part of clinical research is directed towards confirming the effectiveness and safety of new medicines and systematically gathering information that will help maximize the benefits while minimizing the risks associated with the use of medicines to treat disease. Applying this information to medical practice helps the doctors to use medicines to their best advantages.
While interacting with Pharmabiz and other media about the media reports on CROs which had flouted the rules with the selection of poor and illiterate as their research subjects, Dr Senthil Jagannathan Rajappa, senior consultant in Medical Oncology, Indo American Cancer Hospital responded, “It may be true that certain companies might have overstepped certain ethical aspects, but CROs just do not select any body who volunteers as subjects of research. There is a lot of scrutiny, inclusion criteria and deletion process that undergoes before the subjects are finally selected. The trials are conducted only after the scientific, ethical and budget committees give their consent. More over the regulations are very much stringent in India. In cases of illiterate patients, they are selected as the subjects of research only after he or she is clearly briefed about the possible consequences affecting the health.  After the subject agrees and signs a clear decree of consent only the person is selected as the subject of research. Every subject has his right to withdraw from the research any time without informing the concerned organization. If  in case of any untoward incident occurs during the trial to the patient, there will be a financial package to the subject’s family. As clinical trials are experiments to determine the safety and efficacy of a new molecule on human being, there will be some percentage of risk involved. Otherwise how one will be able to know which medicine will work and which will not.  Therefore we must encourage more clinical trials and research in our country to help us to discover newer drugs for combating dreadful diseases like cancer and HIV/AIDS.”
The human trials are done only after the drug under development is subjected to intense animal testing. Only if it passes all the safety parameters of animal trials, the drug will be tested in humans that too with utmost care keeping safety of the subject.
“Drug development is a long and complex process which can take even 10 to 15 years. It involves about 100 to 200 millions dollars to bring in a new drug in to the market. Currently for just passing through all the regulations and to get a nod from the authorities to go ahead for a clinical trial approval, it takes at least 16 to 20 weeks,” said Suneela Thatte, executive director, customer operations, Quintiles India.

Scientists Reprogram Skin Cells into Brain Cells

For the first time, scientists transform skin cells into a functional network of brain cells. 
The breakthrough research offers new hope in the fight against many neurological conditions because scientists expect that such a transformation-or reprogramming-of cells may lead to better models for testing drugs for devastating neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's disease. 
This research comes at a time of renewed focus on Alzheimer's disease, which currently afflicts 5.4 million people in the United States alone-a figure expected to nearly triple by 2050. Yet there are no approved medications to prevent or reverse the progression of this debilitating disease. 
Researchers in the laboratory of Gladstone Investigator Yadong Huang, MD, PhD, described how they transferred a single gene called Sox2 into both mouse and human skin cells. Within days the skin cells transformed into early-stage brain stem cells, also called induced neural stem cells (iNSCs). These iNSCs began to self-renew, soon maturing into neurons capable of transmitting electrical signals. Within a month, the neurons had developed into neural networks. 
"Many drug candidates-especially those developed for neurodegenerative diseases-fail in clinical trials because current models don't accurately predict the drug's effects on the human brain," said Dr. Huang, who is also an associate professor of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), with which Gladstone is affiliated. 
"Human neurons-derived from reengineered skin cells-could help assess the efficacy and safety of these drugs, thereby reducing risks and resources associated with human trials," he added. 
Dr. Huang's findings build on the work of other Gladstone scientists, starting with Gladstone Investigator, Shinya Yamanaka, MD, PhD. In 2007, Dr. Yamanaka used four genetic factors to turn adult human skin cells into cells that act like embryonic stem cells-called induced pluripotent stem cells. 
Also known as iPS cells, these cells can become virtually any cell type in the human body-just like embryonic stem cells. Then last year, Gladstone Senior Investigator Sheng Ding, PhD, announced that he had used a combination of small molecules and genetic factors to transform skin cells directly into neural stem cells. Today, Dr. Huang takes a new tack by using one genetic factor-Sox2-to directly reprogram one cell type into another without reverting to the pluripotent state. 
Avoiding the pluripotent state as Drs. Ding and Huang have done is one approach to avoiding the potential danger that "rogue" iPS cells might develop into a tumor if used to replace or repair damaged organs or tissue. 
"We wanted to see whether these newly generated neurons could result in tumor growth after transplanting them into mouse brains. Instead we saw the reprogrammed cells integrate into the mouse's brain-and not a single tumor developed," said Karen Ring, UCSF Biomedical Sciences graduate student and the paper's lead author. 
This research has also revealed the precise role of Sox2 as a master regulator that controls the identity of neural stem cells. In the future, Dr. Huang and his team hope to identify similar regulators that guide the development of specific neural progenitors and subtypes of neurons in the brain. 
"If we can pinpoint which genes control the development of each neuron type, we can generate them in the petri dish from a single sample of human skin cells. We could then test drugs that affect different neuron types-such as those involved in Parkinson's disease-helping us to put drug development for neurodegenerative diseases on the fast track," said Dr. Huang. 
The findings appeared online in Cell Stem Cell.


Early menopause predicts a milder form of rheumatoid arthritis

Study results show these patients are 50% less likely to develop severe rheumatoid arthritis

Berlin, Germany, June 8 2012 : A new study presented today at EULAR 2012, the Annual Congress of the European League Against Rheumatism, shows that early menopause predicts a milder form of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). New insights on factors influencing RA are good news for sufferers of the chronic inflammatory disease that currently affects over 2 million women in Europe. 1,2
The study, based on 134 incident RA cases, found that patients aged over 45 years with a history of early menopause were 50% less likely to develop severe RA (16% versus 35%) and more likely to develop a mild/moderate rheumatoid factor (RF) negative phenotype (58% versus 20%). There was no major difference in RA severity depending on oral contraceptive use or history of breast feeding. This study highlights that hormonal changes may influence pathways that are distinct from those leading to severe, progressive disease.
Dr. Mitra Pikwer from Skåne University Hospital, Sweden, and lead study author commented: "We already know that hormonal factors may influence the risk of RA, but this is the first study we know of that investigates the impact of menopausal age on the severity of RA. This is an important breakthrough, both in helping us understand the impact that hormones may have on the development of this disease and potentially also in helping us predict the long-term prognosis for our patients."
The study identified patients who answered a questionnaire in a community based health survey (conducted between 1991 and 1996) and later developed RA. Information on hormonal predictors including breastfeeding history, history of oral contraceptive use and menopausal age (early menopause ≤45 years or normal/late menopause > 45 years) was obtained via the questionnaire. By a structured review of the patients medical records, relevant information such as use of disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) including biological treatment, radiographic erosions, rheumatoid factor (RF) status as well as Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ*) data was collected. These variables were added to the SPSS TwoStep Cluster Analysis in order to reveal natural groupings of RA severity.

Does cooperation require both reciprocity and alike neighbours?

Evolution by definition is cold and merciless: it selects for success and weeds out failure. It seems only natural to expect that such a process would simply favour genes that help themselves and not others. Yet cooperative behaviour can be observed in many areas, and humans helping each other are a common phenomenon. Thus, one of the major questions in science today is how cooperative behaviour could evolve. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Biology in Plön, Harvard University, and the University of Amsterdam have now developed a new model combining two possible explanations - direct reciprocity and population structure - and found that both repetition and structured population are essential for the evolution of cooperation. The researchers conclude that human societies can best achieve high levels of cooperative behaviour if their individuals interact repeatedly, and if populations exhibit at least a minor degree of structure.
The scientists addressed the question how cooperative behaviour could evolve using a game called the prisoner’s dilemma, which considers two types of players: co-operators who pay a cost to help others; and defectors who avoid paying the cost, while reaping benefits from the co-operators they interact with. In general, everyone would be better off if they had engaged in cooperation, but from the point of view of the individual, defection is more beneficial. Selection will therefore always favour the defectors, and not cooperation. Researchers have used population structure and direct reciprocity to explain why cooperation has nevertheless evolved. In structured populations, co-operators are more likely to interact with other co-operators and defectors with defectors. Direct reciprocity involves the repetition of interaction and is therefore based on experiences gained from prior events involving cooperation. In the past, both approaches have been regarded separately.Using computer simulations and mathematical models, a group of scientists around Julian Garcia from the Max-Planck Institute of Evolutionary Biology in Plön have developed a new model that is taking both concepts into account. They discovered that direct reciprocity alone is not enough, and that population structure is necessary in order to reach a high level of cooperation. When there is some reciprocity, the average level of cooperation increases because alike types are more likely to interact with each other. Additionally, the researchers observed that cooperation occurs if cooperative and defective individuals are highly clustered and repetition is rare. And surprisingly, too much repetition can even harm cooperation in cases when the population structure makes cooperation between individuals very likely. This is due to the fact that reciprocity can protect defectors from invasion by defectors in a similar manner that it prevents cooperation from being invaded by defectors.“Without population structure, cooperation based on repetition is unstable”, Garcia explains one of the main findings. This is especially true for humans, where repetition occurs regularly and who live in fluid, but not totally unstructured populations. A pinch of population structure helps a lot if repetition is present. “Therefore, the recipe for human cooperation might be: a bit of structure and a lot of repetition”, says Julian Garcia. This phenomenon results in a high average level of cooperation.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Medical Council to take action against doctors

 To check the alarming growth in foeticide cases in the state, the Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC) has decided to take suo-motu action in glaring cases instead of waiting for courts to pass a judgment. “Incases like that of Beed’s Dr Sudam Munde, where it is clear that a doctor has indulged in this illegal act,  we will immediately suspend their membership. After that, they can go to court, and, if proved guilty, there will be a five-year suspension. In case they repeat the mistake, their registration can be permanently withdrawn,” said Shivkumar Utture, executive member, MMC.tture clarified that a decision on Munde is expected to be taken in the next meeting.
According to Suresh Shetty, Maharashtra’s health minister, there have been 342 court cases till date against doctors who were found linked to cases related to sex determination and female foeticide. Of these, 42 doctors have been convicted, 52 acquitted, and 248 cases are pending in different courts.Of the 41 cases which have been referred to the Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC) for suspension of doctors from its list, the MMC has been able to suspend only five doctors, of whom one is absconding and two have got a stay from the court, he said.Also, in the last two days, 115 sonography centres have been raided and 22 sealed, while 403 unauthorised Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) centres have been raided and six have been closed down, he said.Shetty, who met members of MMC, Indian Medical Association (IMA) and representatives of radiology, homeopathy and ayurvedic associations, said: “Some of the decisions we took are providing legal help for speeding up cases and pushing for appeal and a monthly meeting for follow ups.”

Delhi zoo uses AYUSH medicine to treat animals

It's not part of the regular treatment but in a pinch, AYUSH  medicine in the form of homeopathy, ayurveda or herbal concoctions, does the trick. And the doctors responsible for animals at the National Zoological Park, Delhi, find, that they sometimes work when allopathy doesn't."We started using them seven-eight years ago," says Delhi zoo veterinary officer Paneer Selvam. "We get them wheneve necessity arises." The zoo's standard line of treatment is allopathy but whenever a particularly difficult case comes up, Selvam consults practitioners of alternative medicine. 'About two years ago, one of the Asiatic lions had hind-quarter paralysis. Another one developed the condition some time back.

Menopausal Age May Affect Rheumatoid Arthritis Severity

Women who experience early menopause have a reduced risk of developing a severe form of rheumatoid arthritis, a new study suggests.Researchers looked at 134 women with rheumatoid arthritis and found that those who had early menopause (before age 45) were only half as likely to develop severe arthritis as those who had normal/late menopause (16 percent versus 35 percent), and were more likely to develop mild/moderate arthritis (58 percent versus 20 percent).The use of birth control pills or a history of breast-feeding were not associated with major differences in severity of rheumatoid arthritis, the study authors noted.Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease that's more common in women than in men. The disorder attacks joint tissues and sometimes organs, causing swelling, inflammation, fever and fatigue. It usually develops between the ages of 30 and 60 but can occur at other ages, according to the Arthritis Foundation.The new study was presented Friday at the European League Against Rheumatism annual meeting, in Berlin."We already know that hormonal factors may influence the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, but this is the first study we know of that investigates the impact of menopausal age on the severity of rheumatoid arthritis," lead author Dr. Mitra Pikwer, of Skane University Hospital in Sweden, said in a league news release."This is an important breakthrough, both in helping us understand the impact that hormones may have on the development of this disease and potentially also in helping us predict the long-term prognosis for our patients," Pikwer added.Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal. And the study only found an association between early menopause and rheumatoid arthritis severity, not a cause-and-effect relationship.
More information
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about rheumatoid arthritis

Drink Developed by NASA can Reverse Signs of Aging

Researchers at University of Utah have found that a drink developed by NASA to protect their astronauts from radiation can also reverse the signs of aging in less than four months. 
The researchers tested the drink, known as AS10, on 180 people who were affected by skin problems. 
The researchers found that it reduced the number of wrinkles by 17 percent and UV spots by 30 percent. 
The drink is made up of a number of exotic fruits including yumberry, prickly pear, acai, pomegranate, acerola and grapes. “Our study shows it greatly benefits from a reduction in this stress. The effects of oxidative stress on the skin can be quickly modified and the skin can heal itself by drinking AS10”, lead researcher Dr Aaron Barson said. 


Home-cooked Food Aids Longer Living: Study

Eat home-cooked meals for longer life, says study. 
Researchers from Monash University, the National Defence Medical Centre and the National Health Research Institute, Taiwan, found that people who cooked at home at least five times a week were 47 percent more likely to still be alive after 10 years. 
The study looked at the cooking habits of Taiwanese living independently aged over 65 years. When researchers followed up 10 years later, they found of the surviving participants that frequent cooking was a significant factor in their health and long life, the journal Public Health Nutrition reported. 
Of the participants, 31 percent reportedly prepared meals at home at least five times per week, 17 percent cooked no more than twice a week, nine percent cooked at home three to five times per week, while the remainder (43 percent) reported that they never cooked at home, according to a university statement. 
Mark Wahlqvist, emeritus professor from Monash University's Asia Pacific Health and Nutrition Centre at the Monash Asia Institute, who led the study, said those who cooked more often had a better diet. 
"We found those that cooked more frequently had a better sense of nutritional knowledge than those who didn't. Cooking is an activity that requires both good mental and physical health," Wahlqvist said. 
"We found that those who cooked more frequently had a better diet and more favourable nutrient densities," he said. 
"It is therefore possible that cooking is related to longevity through food choice and quality," added Wahlqvist.


'Special K' may Help Relieve Depression

Special K could be the answer in the fight against depression, say scientists. 
University of NSW researcher Prof Colleen Loo said the drug prompted improvements in people suffering clinical depression from within hours to a day later, reported. 
Given intravenously to people with moderate to severe clinical depression, the drug has been trialled in a handful of patients as part of the Australian-first study. 
Researchers hope to recruit up to 40 patients as part of the ongoing trial, which is comparing people with depression given ketamine with those given a placebo. 
Prof Loo said several international studies had produced similar instantaneous results. 
Although the drug is approved for medical use in Australia for anaesthesia, sedation, and pain relief, the research is investigating the safety and effectiveness of the drug to treat depression before it can be widely used. 
However, the research is still in its very early stages with fewer than 100 patients involved in placebo-controlled trials worldwide, Prof Loo said. 
But if studies proved ketamine to be effective it could provide another avenue to treat depression sufferers within years, she said. 
Prof Loo, from the university's School of Psychiatry and the Black Dog Institute, said ketamine worked in a completely different way in the brain than other treatments. 
All other anti-depressant medications work on serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine, but Ketamine works on a different neurotransmitter system, involving the chemical glutamate. 
Prof Loo said studies in animals showed ketamine worked by promoting the regrowth and regeneration of brain cells. 
"When people are depressed, cells in some parts of the brains ... become unhealthy and shrink. Ketamine reverses those kinds of changes. It's promoting the growth of new nerve projections and new synapses between nerve cells," she explained. 
Participants in the trial are given up to six ketamine treatments intravenously, under strict medical supervision in hospital, a week apart. 
The carefully-controlled doses are low - about one-tenth of the level used in anaesthesia.


Thursday, 7 June 2012

Eating Junk Food During Pregnancy may Transfer That Habit to Offspring

Women who constantly eat junk food during pregnancy may be transferring the habit on to their children according to a new study conducted by researchers at University of South Australia.
The researchers tested the effects of eating junk food during pregnancy in rats and found that their offspring acquired a taste for the sweet and salty treats and continued to seek out junk food even after they had been put on a healthy diet.
“If a mother has everything in moderation -- not too much junk food -- and maintains a healthy diet, that will dictate what her offspring prefers later on. If you give them junk food when they're older, they tend to just go for it and then become fatter easier than those offspring from the healthy mother”, lead researcher Zhi Yi Ong said. 

Ayurveda formulations validated, verified by modern biology

The pharmacologist says his product is evidence-based while that of the vaidya is empirical. But the latter says that his is time-proven science
Modern pharmacology is molecule-based, and often single-molecule based. The molecule is expected to act usually on a single step in the body physiology, occasionally on a ladder of steps. However, disorders such as diabetes affect a variety of biochemical processes and thus the single-molecule approach is inadequate.It is here that a multi-component mixture becomes useful. The million-dollar puzzle is “which components?”Traditional medications of the Ayurvedic, Unani, Siddha, or oriental schools are invariably mixtures, extracts from plants and herbs (and occasionally animals). The approach of the traditional physician is thus qualitatively different from the molecule-wallah.And it is here that the difference of opinion starts and stays.Today's pharmacologist says his product is evidence-based while that of the traditional vaidya or hakim is empirical.The latter, however, contends that his is the time-proven science that works even today. And the hapless patient is willing to try anything to getter better.Will the twain meet? Can we take traditional medications through the rigours of modern biology and pharmacology — so that validation and verification occur?The Chinese have taken this up on a mission mode, and happily enough the renowned medical scholar-statesman Prof. M.S. Valiathan of Manipal University has initiated such a programme on some Ayurvedic practices, by bringing together Ayurvedic schools (Kottakkal Arya Vaidyasala) and modern biologists (immunologists, geneticists, biochemists, cell biologists, material scientists and chemists) on two flagship projects.The first is to evaluate the effects of Panchakarma on body physiology, using immunological and related methods.While the results of this project are being compiled and evaluated, early results of a second project, done in collaboration with the renowned developmental biologist Prof. Subhash Lakhotia of Banaras Hindu University and his associates Vibha Dwivedi, and Mousami Mutsuddi, have just been published in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE 7(5): e37113 doi: 10.1371/journals.pone.0037113.This study has attempted to evaluate the effects of two Ayurvedic formulations: Amalaki Rasayana (AR) and Rasa-Sindoora (RS), on the life processes of the model animal, the common fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster.AR is prepared from gooseberry (amla, nellikai, phylanthus emblica) in a four-step procedure. The dry Amalaki powder obtained in 3 rigorous steps is blended with honey and ghee in a well-defined and quality assured protocol, by Kottakkal. Likewise, Rasa Sindoor or RS is prepared in a 3-step process, and is made up of a highly pulverised (nano-sized) dust of mercury sulphide or cinnabar.The protocols for making AR and RS have been standardised by the Kottakkal group of E.M. Anandan, Rajesh S. Mony, and T.S. Muraleedharan. Both AR and RS have been used as health tonics in Ayurveda.The authors set out their basic premise in a precise, rigorous manner in the paper: “Since the Ayurvedic medicines/formulations are complex integrated derivatives involving several specific preparatory steps, studies using isolated active compounds may not really provide full insight into the efficacy or mode of action of the traditional formulations.In order to undertake scientific investigations on action/s of Ayurvedic drugs/formulations using experimental animals, there is an urgent need to develop good model systems which can permit in depth studies on the in vivo effects and mechanisms of actions of different Ayurvedic formulations.”Why choose the fruit fly as the model? Several reasons: (1) As the nameDrosophila indicates, the fruit fly loves sweets, such as AR (and hopefully RS); (2) the complete developmental cycle, genetic and physiological, is well understood; one can thus follow the effects of the formulations at each stage — larva, pupa, imago, adult insect — on the anatomy, physiology, life cycle and genetic connections, (3) their life spans are in days so that their life histories can be followed through generations quickly, and (4) Prof. Lakhotia has special expertise on the developmental biology and genetics of fruit flies. What did they find?(1) Flies fed on small doses of AR lived longer than those that did not; life span of 40 days when fed on 0.5 per ecnt AR in the feed vs 36 (however higher doses are harmful. 1 per cent reduced the life span to 30 days.)(2) Not only does the fly live longer on AR, it also develops sooner (the egg-larva-pupa-emergence period hastened by a few hours).(3) They also appear to produce more eggs —fecundity rises.(4) When fed with AR or RS, the flies are able to tolerate heat (higher temperatures) better than control flies.(5) Finally, such supplementation also appears to allow them to tolerate starvation better, i.e. can go without food longer.Of the two formulations, AR appears to be somewhat better in some biological effects than RS.However, the worry that some scientists have had, namely that mercury is harmful and poisons the body, does not appear to hold here. One wonders whether the mode of preparations, generating nanoparticles of HgS, has something to do with this is not clear.(A Chinese group has shown that cinnabar does not get converted into poisonous methyl mercury in the human gut). Also, it is not the ghee or honey, used to prepare AR or RS, which are involved in the beneficial effects. Taken by themselves, they do not show any of these effects.Likewise, dry AR powder is not as effective as the paste made with ghee and honey.So, the Valiathan-Kottakkal-Lakhotia trio shows the positive biological effects of AR (and RS) on the fruit fly. In doing so, the fly is a useful and acceptable model for studying the effects of a drug candidate on the body and its parts. But flies are not men, not even mice.Should one not repeat the experiments with mice or rats as experimental mammalian models? I am sure they are on the way to do so.Even as it is now, are there lessons that the flies teach us? Note the value of moderation. Too much of a good thing (1 per cent, not 0.5 per cent supplementation) shortens life span.And this supplementation allows starvation tolerance — a note for hunger-strikers. But more than anything else, the trio has shown that rigorous in depth analysis using modern biological, evidence-based tools and methods can be applied to validate and verify traditional medical practices.
Source:The Hindu

Meditation Could Reduce Cardiovascular Disease Risk in Teens

In teenagers, regular meditation could decrease the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, say Georgia Health Sciences University researchers. In a study of 62 black teens with high blood pressure, those who meditated twice a day for 15 minutes had lower left ventricular mass, an indicator of future cardiovascular disease, than a control group, said Dr. Vernon Barnes, a physiologist in the Medical College of Georgia and the Georgia Health Sciences University Institute of Public and Preventive Health. 
Barnes, Dr. Gaston Kapuku, a cardiovascular researcher in the institute, and Dr. Frank Treiber, a psychologist and former GHSU Vice President for Research, co-authored the study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Half of the group was trained in transcendental meditation and asked to meditate for 15 minutes with a class and 15 minutes at home for a four-month period. The other half was exposed to health education on how to lower blood pressure and risk for cardiovascular disease, but no meditation. Left ventricular mass was measured with two-dimensional echocardiograms before and after the study and the group that meditated showed a significant decrease. 
"Increased mass of the heart muscle's left ventricle is caused by the extra workload on the heart with higher blood pressure," Barnes explained. "Some of these teens already had higher measures of left ventricular mass because of their elevated blood pressure, which they are likely to maintain into adulthood."During meditation, which Barnes likens to a period of deep rest, the activity of the sympathetic nervous system decreases and the body releases fewer-than-normal stress hormones. "As a result, the vasculature relaxes, blood pressure drops and the heart works less," he said. School records also showed behavioral improvements. 
"Transcendental meditation results in a rest for the body that is often deeper than sleep," Barnes said. "Statistics indicate that one in every 10 black youths have high blood pressure. If practiced over time, the meditation may reduce the risk of these teens developing cardiovascular disease, in addition to other added health benefits. "


Music Linked Emotions Understood Thanks to Left Hemisphere Of The Brain

A new study says that language based areas of the brain, primarily on the left, are important for extracting emotional meaning from music. 
Our emotions and feelings are typically linked with the right side of the brain. For example, processing the emotion in human facial expressions is done in the right hemisphere. 
However, the new study is challenging the widely-held view that emotions and feelings are the domain of the right hemisphere only, the journal Neuropsychologia reports. 
"It's known that processing whether a face is happy or sad is impaired in people who lose key regions of the right hemisphere, as happens in people with Alzheimer's and semantic dementia," says Sharpley Hsieh of Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA), who led the study. 
Semantic dementia is the progressive loss of the ability to remember the meaning of words, faces and objects, resulting from shrinkage of the brain's lobes. 
"What we have now learnt from looking at people with semantic dementia is that understanding emotions in music involves key parts of the other side of the brain as well," she says, according to a NeuRA statement. 
"Our findings suggest that the brain considers melodies and speech to be similar and that overlapping parts of the brain are required for both," adds Hsieh. 


By adding VSL#3 probiotic to traditional therapies UC patients can improve remission rates

– As one of the few probiotics with medical food designation for specific illnesses, VSL#3® has been the subject of a collection of more than 80 studies that have demonstrated its use in the dietary management of IBS, ulcerative colitis, and an ileal pouch. Ulcerative colitis patients, in particular, have been shown to benefit from adding VSL#3 medical food to their prescription drug regimen. One particular study shows that the combination of VSL#3 and traditional drug therapy can improve remission rates over drug therapy alone by 10 to 17 percent, and can initiate remission 47 to 69 percent faster. The 8-week study*, conducted in Rome, involved 90 patients who had newly diagnosed or recently relapsed mild-to-moderate UC and compared the effects of the combination of VSL#3 and balsalazine (Colazal®), an anti-inflammatory drug commonly prescribed for the treatment of ulcerative colitis, to the use of balsalazine alone and mesalazine (Canasa®) alone.
The trial results concluded that the use of low-dose balsalazide and VSL#3® was significantly superior (p<0.02) in obtaining remission than just the use of balsalazide alone (10 percent improvement) and mesalazine alone (17 percent improvement). The VSL#3/balsalazine combination also initiated remission faster than the drug therapy alone with an average of 4 days versus 7.5 days (balsalazide only) and 13 days (mesalazine only). The improvement of well-being and reduction in bowel frequency was significant as well1.
"Many UC patients try a variety of methods in order to extend their time between flare-ups and obtain remission," said Mary Berry, senior product manager at Sigma-Tau Pharmaceuticals, Inc., maker of VSL#3®. "By having a personalized regimen with a drug, such as balsalazide, and adding VSL#3® for their dietary management, patients can see a positive and quick remission that will work for them."
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic disease that causes inflammation and sores, called ulcers, in the inner lining of the large intestine, which includes the colon and the rectum. The inflammation causes erosion of the lining of the colon, leading to bleeding, production of pus, diarrhea, and severe abdominal discomfort.
According to Berry, VSL#3® stands apart from other probiotics since it is not a supplement, but a refrigerated medical food that consists of 8 strains of live, freeze-dried lactic acid bacteria. "It is one of the few probiotic preparations supported by Level 1 (double-blind, placebo-controlled) scientific data, and is the only probiotic recognized as an effective tool in the dietary management of ileal pouch by the American College of Gastroenterology1 and by the Cochrane Review2," says Berry.


New data suggests HIV superinfection rate comparable to initial HIV infection

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) superinfection may be as common as initial HIV infection and is not limited to high risk-populations, according to a new study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). In the first large-scale study of HIV superinfection in a general heterosexual population, researchers examined the rate of superinfection among a community of sub-Saharan adults. HIV superinfection occurs when an HIV-infected individual acquires a new viral strain that is phylogenetically different from all other detectable viral strains. Superinfection can have detrimental clinical effects as well as accelerated disease progression, and increased HIV drug resistance even among individuals who were previously controlling their HIV infection. The results are featured online in of theJournal of Infectious Diseases.
"We found it remarkable that the rates of superinfection and underlying new HIV infections were equivalent. This raises many interesting questions about the natural immune response and its inability to generate resistance to HIV reinfection," said Thomas Quinn, MD, MS, co-author of the study, an NIAID senior investigator, a professor with the Bloomberg School's Department of International Health and director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health.
"For years there has been great debate regarding the rate of HIV superinfection among populations, and previous studies have focused on individuals exposed to the virus through high-risk sexual activity or intravenous drug use," said Andrew Redd, PhD, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow at the Laboratory of Immunoregulation at NIAID. "We were looking to determine the rate of HIV superinfection among a broader, general population using a novel technique sensitive enough to detect even the lowest levels of circulating HIV strains."
Researchers, in collaboration with colleagues at the NIAID Rocky Mountain Laboratories, the Johns Hopkins Rakai Health Sciences Program in Kalisizo, Uganda, and Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, used an ultra-deep sequencing technique to examine the blood samples of HIV-infected participants of the Rakai Community Cohort Study. Samples were tested at initial HIV diagnosis and at least one year later, prior to beginning antiretroviral therapy. The rate of superinfection was then compared to an estimated overall HIV incidence rate for HIV-negative individuals during this same time. Of the 149 individuals tested, Quinn and colleagues identified seven cases of HIV superinfection during follow-up and all were initially infected with some variant of HIV subtype D. In addition, the rate of superinfection was 1.44 per 100 persons and consisted of both intersubtype and intrasubtype superinfections, comparable to primary HIV incidence in initially HIV-negative individuals in the general population in Rakai.
"These results also have significant implications for estimations of the age of the HIV epidemic and for phylogenetic modeling of viral evolution because many of these models assume that superinfection is not occurring," suggest the authors. "In addition, the finding that superinfection is common and occurs within and between HIV subtypes suggests that the immune response elicited by primary infection confers limited protection and raises concerns that vaccine strategies designed to replicate the natural anti-HIV immune response may have limited effectiveness."
Redd added, "Our findings suggest that HIV vaccine strategies designed to recreate the natural immune response to HIV may be insufficient to protect an individual from infection. However, the data also provide an interesting new population to explore since it is possible that some individuals will be protected from superinfection. Determining what controls this could lead to new avenues for vaccine research."

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Do We Need to Consume Eight Glasses of Water?

A recent study from Melbourne seems to debunk the theory about consumption of  eight glasses of water daily as a way to stay healthy and maintain weight. 
Researchers recommend a daily fluid intake of about 2.8 litres for women and 3.4 litres for men. They believe that total fluid intake in a day could come from fluids derived from food and intake of other beverages like tea and coffee. 
There is no need to drink water to quench one’s thirst, even a beverage will do. The mandatory requirement of two liters of water regularly is an absolute myth. What is important is to ensure intake of fluids , be it from any source- food, or from beverages. 


Reducing Alcohol Intake to Half a Glass a Day can Save Many Lives

Cutting down daily alcohol intake to just half a glass of wine could save thousands of lives every year, a new study has found. 
With the government in Britain currently reviewing the safe drinking guidelines, researchers led by Professor Martin Jarvis, from University College London have found that limiting the daily intake of alcohol to just half a unit, equivalent to half a glass, could save more than 4,600 lives in England alone. 
The researchers used data from the 2006 General Household Survey which tabulated weekly alcohol consumption of more than 15,000 adults in the country. The researchers found that cutting down on alcohol could reduce the risk of deaths by the 11 conditions that have been linked to alcohol consumption including cirrhosis of the liver, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. 
“The optimum level of reduced chronic disease mortality in England would be achieved at an average alcohol consumption level of around five grammes a day, which should be taken into account in the formulation of health guidance. It is likely that government recommendations would need to be set at a much lower level than the current ’low-risk’ drinking guidelines in order to achieve this level”, the researchers wrote in their report. 


Vegetarian Diet can Meet All Nutritional Requirements

Eating a vegetarian diet without any meat can meet all the nutritional requirements of adults and children and such a diet provides more health benefits compared to risks, a new study revealed. 
Vegetarian diet has often been viewed as an inferior diet as it is may not provide all the nutritional requirements compared to those who eat meat. 
However a new study published in the Medical Journal of Australia found that people who opted for a vegetarian diet continued to receive adequate levels of protein, iron and zinc. 
Nutritionist Rosemary Stanton, who has written an editorial accompanying the study in the journal, said that the health benefits gained by following a vegetarian diet far outweighed any risks. “The evidence is quite good that people who follow a vegetarian diet are likely to have less heart disease, less colorectal cancer, less type-2 diabetes and they're less likely to be obese”, she said. 


Scientists Work Together to Achieve Milestone Against Deadly Diseases

 Source:Seattle BioMed

'Ayurveda could be the healing agent for Afro-Indian partnership'

Trade and commerce apart, aggressive and sustained promotion of India's ancient medicinal science Ayurveda in Africa could help promote the 54-nation continent's "holistic development", a former Ugandan diplomat and educationist said here.Speaking on the sidelines of a conference on 'Decolonization, Development and Diaspora: The Afro-Indian experience' organized by the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) and the Goa government, Kampala University Badru Kateregga also said that both African countries and India needed to pay heed to several historic, religious and colonial commonalities in order to bolster confidence between the people of the two regions as well as enhance trade efforts."There is a need to identify our intellectual properties to be exchanged with the Asian counterparts in order to increase their individual and group intellectual capacity such that when they return home, they can contribute to the holistic development of Africa. For example, the Ayurvedic treatment which is advanced in India is at a small scale in eastern Africa. This could be exchanged," Kateregga told IANS in an interview.The former diplomat said that the scope for Ayurveda is immense in Africa, where a World Health Organisation (WHO)estimate suggests that between 70 and 90 percent of the population still relies on traditional medicines to meet their health needs."The time-tested healing methods in the Ayurveda practice could be explored in Africa," he said.Kateregga also said that there was a need to enhance "intellectual capacitisation" between India and Africa and that both the regions needed to look beyond mere monetary benefits."The promotion of exchange partnerships through capacity building, most especially intellectual capacitation. Exchange partnerships where such intellectualism and skills are acquired would benefit the cooperation partners," he said.Drawing inspiration from historical, religious and post-colonial linkages between Africa, India and Asia, Kateregga said the advent of Islam had changed the Africans' way of life."Islam, as also Asian religions, co-existed with African traditional religions. Islam influenced Africa as it also influenced India when the Moghuls ruled India," he said, once again underlining the importance of Africa-India-Asia connect."Many Asian words, notably Indian (Punjabi, Gujarati, Urdu and Konkani), have been incorporated in the local languages... Even today a wealthy man in Uganda is referred to as 'A man with rupier', derived from the Indian currency Rupee," he said, adding that several cities and urban landscapes in African towns resembled Indian architectural patterns.Kateregga however regretted that with the advent of the colonials, the Afro-Asian collaboration model was temporarily tampered with, when Asians and colonisers bonded to bar the Africans out of the privileged loop. But the dynamics between India and Africa, especially, had changed for the better since."There is a need for more economic partnership in sectors like manufacturing, agro-processing, mining, oil, gas, banking, agriculture, hospitality, leisure, hotels and tourism," he said, stressing on an Asian-African monetary alliance to help Afro-Asian investors.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Masturbation Eases Nasal Congestion: Study

Masturbating or having sex may help men suffering from hay fever clear those bunged noses, say scientists. 
Sina Zarrintan, a neurologist from the Tabriz Medical University in Iran, says that the logic behind this proposition is based on the fact that the nose and the genitals are both connected to the same part of the nervous system that controls certain reflexes - the sympathetic nervous system. 
The researcher points out that swollen and inflamed nasal blood vessels, irritated either by an infection or by pollen in the air, generally lead to blocked nose. 
Zarrintan reckons that a well-timed ejaculation, during which the sympathetic nervous system constricts blood vessels across the body, should soothe the swollen nasal blood vessels and, thereby, free the airway for normal breathing. 
Although no clinical trials have been performed to test Zarrintan's hypothesis, he believes that it may have many benefits over decongestant drugs if proved to work. 
He highlights the fact that decongestant have been known to contribute to hypertension. 
"Furthermore, if used for more than two or three days, they can actually make congestion worse," New Scientist magazine quoted him as saying. 
He recommends masturbating or having sex whenever the symptoms are bad enough to warrant another ejaculation. 
"It can be done (from) time-to-time to alleviate the congestion and the patient can adjust the number of intercourses or masturbations depending on the severity of the symptoms," he said. 
A research article on Zarrintan's suggestion has been published in the journal Medical Hypotheses.


Addressing Reproductive Health Matters

The UN Special Rapporteur on maternal mortality in India points out there is a 'yawning gulf between commendable maternal mortality policies and their urgent, focused, sustained, systematic and effective implementation'. This was pointed out in the May issue of Reproductive Health Matters explores the causes and impact of this gap, but also highlights hopeful signs of progress. 
Two papers from India included in the issue capture both the good and bad news that characterise the gap between rhetoric and reality in maternal health and maternal mortality. In India a range of provisions to support better maternal nutrition and access to subsidised health care are required by law, but there is a wide gap between policy and practice. Preventable deaths are caused by several factors including a shortfall in antenatal care, delays in emergency obstetric care and inappropriate referral. Detailed case studies of women who died point to lack of accountability, discrimination on the grounds of poverty and caste, and according to Subha Sri Balakrishnan, author of one of the papers, "In some cases…quality of care (that) was so poor that it may be considered negligent." 
Both papers follow subsequent action taken to seek government accountability and justice. In one paper, author Jameen Kaur, reports on the way in which a women's family sought redress in the courts, supported by human rights lawyers. The second paper details an investigation lead by Subha Sri Balakrishnan into maternal deaths in response to a public protest about local maternal deaths in Madhya Pradesh. The researchers presented their findings to district and state level health officials which led to some improvements in care. 
Examples of using law to promote accountability and good practice are described in a paper from Latin America reporting on landmark decisions by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) calling for appropriate maternal health care (Brazil) and decriminalisation of abortion to safeguard women's health (Peru). These are promising examples of the application of human rights to demand government responsibility for maternal deaths and to assert the rights of women not to die in pregnancy, childbirth and unsafe abortion. 
Furthermore a new emphasis on evidence-based practice is described in several papers, providing grounds for optimism. It suggests there is a real desire to improve outcomes and the hope that new initiatives may have a greater chance of success in saving women's lives. Without the political commitment to addressing equity, however, important initiatives will continue to fail the poorest and most marginalised women. As one author notes, "The death of a woman due to pregnancy complications is not just a biological fact it is also a political choice." 
Articles in the issue include focus on Brazil, China, Egypt, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Nigeria, Peru, Tanzania and Rwanda. 


Waist circumference linked to diabetes risk, independently of body mass index

A collaborative re-analysis of data from the InterAct case-control study conducted by Claudia Langenberg and colleagues has established that waist circumference is associated with risk of type 2 diabetes, independently of body mass index (BMI). Reporting in this week's PLoS Medicine, the researchers estimated the association of BMI and waist circumference with type 2 diabetes from measurements of weight, height and waist circumference, finding that both BMI and waist circumference were independently associated with type 2 diabetes risk but waist circumference was a stronger risk factor in women than in men.
These findings indicate that targeted measurement of waist circumference in overweight individuals (who now account for a third of the US and UK adult population) could be an effective strategy for the prevention of diabetes because it would allow the identification of a high-risk subgroup of people who might benefit from individualised lifestyle advice. The authors comment: "Our results clearly show the value that measurement of [waist circumference] may have in identifying which people among the large population of overweight individuals are at highest risk of diabetes."

Health and ethics must be included in future climate change talks

Human health and health ethics considerations must be given equal status to economic considerations in climate change deliberations and furthermore, the health community, led by health ministers and the World Health Organization, must play a central role in climate change deliberations, argues an international expert in this week's PLoS Medicine.
Jerome Singh from the University of Kwazulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa, who also works at the University of Toronto, Canada, says: "The gap in ethics governance concerning climate change decision-making underscores the argument that policy-making on a variety of issues impacting climate change, including energy, transport, and development, needs to be underpinned by ethically sound principles, not just economic and legal considerations."
Dr Singh argues that the human health implications of climate change must receive greater prominence and be the main focus of future climate change deliberations. He makes the case for the responsibility of governments, the private sector, financiers, and society to practice socially responsible investment and to mitigate against the impact of climate change, particularly in relation to human health.
Going forward, Dr Singh argues that any ethics-based climate change guidance framework for investors, policymakers, and the private sector should incorporate relevant principles from the fields of bioethics, public health ethics, and global health ethics."
Dr Singh concludes: "Given that deliberations for a binding international treaty commence at [The 18th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change] in Doha 2012, there is an urgent need to devise such a multi-disciplinary synergized framework so that it can influence deliberations at future [Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change] meetings especially in the run-up to 2015, when a legally binding climate change agreement is expected to come into effect, as outlined in the Durban Platform."Source:Eurekalert

Milk ingredient does a waistline good

A natural ingredient found in milk can protect against obesity even as mice continue to enjoy diets that are high in fat. The researchers who report their findings in the June Cell Metabolism, a Cell Press publication, liken this milk ingredient to a new kind of vitamin.
"This is present in what we've all been eating since day one," says Johan Auwerx of École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne.
The researchers identified this ingredient, known as nicotinamide riboside, as they were searching for alternative ways to boost the well-known gene SIRT1, which comes with benefits for both metabolism and longevity. One way to do that is to target SIRT1 directly, as the red wine ingredient resveratrol appears to do, at least at some doses.
Auwerx's team suspected there might be a simpler way to go about it, by boosting levels of one of SIRT1's molecular sidekicks, the cofactor NAD+.
This milk ingredient does just that in a rather appealing way. Not only is it a natural product, but it also gets trapped within cells, where it can do its magic.
Mice that take nicotinamide riboside in fairly high doses along with their high-fat meals burn more fat and are protected from obesity. They also become better runners thanks to muscles that have greater endurance.
The benefits they observe in mice wouldn't be easy to get from drinking milk alone, Auwerx says. It may be more likely that the compound would serve as a new kind of metabolism-boosting supplement. Tests done in people are now needed to help sort out those details.
On the other hand, he says, this milk substance ultimately offers the same benefits attributed to resveratrol, but in a different way. It's possible that many small effects of ingredients found in our diets could add up to slimmer waistlines—perhaps longer lives, too.Source:Eurekalaert

Monday, 4 June 2012

More Fruit, Veggies, Exercise Ups Survival in Older Women

Higher fruit and vegetable intake combined with exercise improves survival in older women, according to a study published in the May issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
Emily J. Nicklett, Ph.D., from the University of Michigan School of Social Work in Ann Arbor, and colleagues analyzed data from 713 women (aged 70 to 79 years) who participated in the Women's Health and Aging Studies. Measurements of kilocalorie expenditure were used to assess physical activity, and total serum carotenoids were a marker of fruit and vegetable intake.
The researchers found that, over five years of follow-up, 82 participants (11.5 percent) died, but physical activity significantly improved survival (hazard ratio [HR], 0.52; 95 percent confidence interval [CI], 0.41 to 0.66). The most active women were more likely to survive than the least physically active women (HR, 0.28; 95 percent CI, 0.13 to 0.59). Survival was also significantly improved with continuous measures of carotenoids (HR, 0.67; 95 percent CI, 0.51 to 0.89). Compared to women in the lowest tertile of total carotenoids, women in the highest tertile were more likely to survive (HR, 0.50; 95 percent CI, 0.27 to 0.91). When assessed together, continuous measures of physical activity (HR, 0.54; 95 percent CI, 0.42 to 0.68) and carotenoids (HR, 0.76; 95 percent CI, 0.59 to 0.98) significantly predicted survival during follow-up.

Mechanism That Maintains Stem Cell Readiness Identified

Researchers have identified that an immune-system receptor plays key role in keeping stem cells from differentiating and in helping blood cancer cells grow. 
"Cancer cells grow rapidly in part because they fail to differentiate into mature cells. Drugs that induce differentiation can be used to treat cancers," said Dr. Chengcheng "Alec" Zhang, assistant professor in UT Southwestern's departments of physiology and developmental biology. "Our research identified a protein receptor on cancer cells that induces differentiation, and knowing the identity of this protein should facilitate the development of new drugs to treat cancers." 
The family of proteins investigated in the study could help open a new field of biology integrating immunology with stem cell and cancer research, he added. 
"The receptor we identified turned out to be a protein called a classical immune inhibitory receptor, which is known to maintain stemness of normal adult stem cells and to be important in the development of leukemia," he said. 
Stemness refers to the blood stem cells' potential to develop into a range of different kinds of cells as needed, for instance to replenish red blood cells lost to bleeding or to produce more white blood cells to fight off infection. Once stem cells differentiate into adult cells, they cannot go back to being stem cells. Current thinking is that the body has a finite number of stem cells and it is best to avoid depleting them, Dr. Zhang explained. 
Prior to this study, no high-affinity receptors had been identified for the family of seven proteins called the human angiopoetic-like proteins. These seven proteins are known to be involved in inflammation, supporting the activity of stem cells, breaking down fats in the blood, and growing new blood vessels to nourish tumors. Because the receptor to which these proteins bind had not been identified, the angiopoetic-like proteins were referred to as "orphans," he said. 
The researchers found that the human immune-inhibitory receptor LILRB2 and a corresponding receptor on the surface of mouse cells bind to several of the angiopoetic-like proteins. Further studies, Dr. Zhang said, showed that two of the seven family members bind particularly well to the LILRB2 receptor and that binding exerts an inhibitory effect on the cell, similar to a car's brakes. 
In the case of stem cells, inhibition keeps them in their stem state. They retain their potential to mature into all kinds of blood cells as needed but they don't use up their energy differentiating into mature cells. That inhibition helps stem cells maintain their potential to create new stem cells because in addition to differentiation, self-renewal is the cells' other major activity, Dr. Zhang said. He stressed that the inhibition doesn't cause them to create new stem cells but does preserve their potential to do so. 
In future research, the scientists hope to find subtle differences between stem cells and leukemia cells that will identify treatments to block the receptors' action only in leukemia. 


New research yields insights into Parkinson's disease

Researchers at the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) used an innovative technique to examine chemical interactions that are implicated in Parkinson's Disease.
The work details how a protein called alpha-synuclein interacting with the brain chemical dopamine can lead to protein misfolding and neuronal death.
Parkinson's Disease is a neurodegenerative disease which results in loss of motor control and cognitive function. Although the cause isn't known precisely, the disease involves the death of brain cells that produce dopamine, a chemical important in neuronal signaling. The disease also involves a protein called alpha-synuclein which aggregates in the neurons of people with the disease.
Kagan Kerman, a chemist in the Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences, and Ian R. Brown, a neuroscientist who founded UTSC's Centre for the Neurobiology of Stress in the Department of Biological Sciences, looked at the way dopamine interacts with alpha-synuclein to form aggregates that may be toxic to neurons.
"This is very fundamental," says Kagan Kerman. "It gives us a new point of view of the misfolding proteins and how they are affected by dopamine."
These sorts of interactions are often studied using microscopy. But the UTSC researchers decided to use an electroanalytic technique called voltammetry. By studying tiny changes in electric current as dopamine and alpha-synuclein interacted they were able to determine details about the early phases of the interaction.
Using the technique, they were able to detail how changes in pH levels and ionic strength of the solution affected the interaction. They found that at higher pH levels and higher ionic strengths, dopamine interacted much more strongly with alpha-synuclein, forming aggregates more quickly.
The results could have implications for understanding and treating the disease. Normally dopamine is contained in structures called vesicles, in which pH levels are low and dopamine is unlikely to interact with alpha-synuclein. Outside of the vesicles dopamine encounters higher pH levels and, according to the new research, is much more likely to interact to create aggregates.
The analysis was done using chemicals deposited onto screen-printed electrodes only 12.5 mm by 4 mm. The electrodes were manufactured at Osaka University, where Kerman completed his PhD work. Because they are so small, the electrodes allowed analysis to be done on tiny samples.
The technique is a potentially quicker and cheaper way to study protein misfolding, and could be automated to screen drugs that might treat the disease, says Brown.
The research was published in Chemical Neuroscience, published by the American Chemical Society.

Acetaminophen overdoses in children can be life-threatening but are avoidable

Acetaminophen, a widely available over-the-counter medication, can cause liver toxicity in children if doses are exceeded, and more public education is needed to warn of potential adverse effects, states an article published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).“Acetaminophen overdose is a major cause of acute liver failure and is the most common identifiable cause of acute liver failure in children,” writes Dr. Rod Lim, Department of Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital, London Health Sciences Centre, London, Ontario, with coauthors. “Repeated supratherapeutic dosing [above the recommended dose], accidental overdose due to error and intentional ingestion can all result in acute liver failure and even death.”
The authors cite a case study of a 22-day-old baby in which the parents misunderstood the correct dose of acetaminophen and administered too much analgesic for a circumcision. After the procedure, when the doctor instructed the parents to give another dose, they discovered the error. In this case, N-acetylcysteine with dextrose was given intravenously, and the child recovered within about 24 hours after ingesting the medication.N-acetylcysteine is the standard treatment for liver toxicity related to an overdose of acetaminophen and is usually successful if started within eight hours after ingesting the drug.Medication errors involving children are a serious issue, and dosing is complicated by the need to dose by the child’s weight and convert this dose to a volume because many medications for children are in liquid form. A report from the US poison control centres and the American Academy of Pediatrics, which analyzed 238 instances of serious medication errors in children under age six, found that 11% of children who are given pharmaceuticals experience a medication error such as an incorrect medication, incorrect dose or method of administering. Acetaminophen overdose was the most common single agent responsible for a life-threatening event, longer-term illness or death.A better approach is needed to prevent these avoidable, and life-threatening, errors.“Although physicians and pharmacists should continue to educate parents and caregivers regarding the medications prescribed, one-to-one communication cannot be the sole approach to reducing errors in medication administration,” write the authors. “Error reduction on a large scale requires systems-based interventions and prevention.”Suggestions include better labelling and dosing information, improved dosing devices — many parents use spoons, which are not standard sizes and can lead to overdoses — and placing acetaminophen behind the counter to ensure that a pharmacist can counsel parents on correct dosing.

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