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Saturday, 16 June 2012

Health awareness, rise in life style diseases noted as key drivers for pharma sector: Dun & Bradstreet

Favourable demographics, rising income levels, growing health awareness and increasing incidence of lifestyle diseases are the key growth drivers of the pharma industry in India, according to the Dun & Bradstreet: Sector Analysis Report: 12th edition of Top 500 companies 2012. The sector has clocked a turnover of Rs.100,000 crore in 2011-12 with a growth rate of 15 per cent. Sales growth is propelled primarily by exports, said the report. The 24 featured pharmaceutical companies' share in the overall industry turnover is estimated to be 57 per cent. The total gross turnover of the 24 pharmaceutical companies stood at Rs.571.7 billion during FY11, registering Y-o-Y growth of nearly 17 per cent. This growth is mainly fuelled by growing consumption levels in India and increasing demand from export markets. Although the domestic market continues to account for a larger share of 53 per cent of the total gross turnover, the proportion of exports in total turnover has been increasing gradually. This is driven by faster growth in the export market of 18 per cent Y-o-Y compared with 16 per cent Y-o-Y growth of domestic market. The growth in the export market can be attributed to its strength in the generic drugs market. Further, with many branded drugs slated to go off patent over the next few years, there is growing opportunity for Indian generic drug manufacturers. Moreover, foreign pharmaceutical companies are perusing opportunities to reduce their research cost, said the report. Armed with the low-cost advantage, the Indian contract research and manufacturing services stands to benefit from this trend. Further, export growth is also supported by increasing alliances of Indian companies with global players, according to the report. Although the Union government is working to boost innovation by encouraging R&D investment in India., the reality is that total R&D expenditure of the 24 pharmaceutical companies as a percentage of the total gross turnover stood at 5.3 per cent during FY11, inching 0.04 per cent compared with the previous year, according to the report. R&D is the backbone that drives the future of the pharmaceutical industry globally. The expenditure varied widely between 1–11 per cent of the turnover in case of individual companies. Out of the 22 companies, expenditure of nine companies was more than or equal to 5 per cent during FY11 compared with 11 companies during FY10. Within the featured pharmaceutical companies, during FY11 domestic pharmaceutical companies were revealed to be spending 5.5 per cent of sales on R&D, crawling up by 0.3 per cent as compared to 4.4 per cent of sales in case of foreign companies, which noted a Y-o-Y drop by around one per cent concludes the report. Thus, the near-term outlook for Indian pharmaceutical industry seems to be challenging. This is largely due to volatility in forex and rising raw material cost. However, despite these challenges, the Indian pharmaceutical industry is expected to emerge strongly in the long-term supported by robust demand, recovery in the domestic market, potential opportunities in generic segment and other outsourcing opportunities. Furthermore, large number of patent expirations will continue to offer growth prospects for the industry players, stated the report. Source:Pharmabiz

Rare Medical Condition Affects Normal Life of a Teenager

Fifteen-year-old Stacey Comerford is like any teenager except that she experiences unusual fatigue and keeps falling asleep. What began as sleeping spells for couple of days progressively got worse, and extended to two months without a break. The 15-year-old, from Telford, missed celebrating her birthday and could not take her exams. Doctors have diagnosed it to be a rare ‘Sleeping Beauty’ condition, affecting about one in thousand people, called Kleine-Levin Syndrome. This condition causes her to sleep for weeks and the longest alarming episode lasted two months. Earlier mistaken for depression and moodiness during the teenage years, it took doctors a while to diagnose her with this rare condition even though the symptoms had begun a year ago. There’s never any warning. I’ve even found her fast asleep on the kitchen floor. When she’s in an episode, she might get up to go to the toilet or get a drink but she’s not awake. I call it sleep mode. When she wakes, she thinks it is the following day. She doesn’t have any memory of it,” her mother said. Source:Medindia

U of M researchers find natural antioxidant can protect against cardiovascular disease

University of Minnesota Medical School researchers have collaborated with the School of Public Health and discovered an enzyme that, when found at high levels and alongside low levels of HDL (good cholesterol), can dramatically reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The enzyme – glutathione peroxidase, or GPx3 – is a natural antioxidant that helps protect organisms from oxidant injury and helps the body naturally repair itself. Researchers have found that patients with high levels of good cholesterol, the GPx3 enzyme does not make a significant difference. However, those patients with low levels of good cholesterol, the GPx3 enzyme could potentially be a big benefit. The enzyme's link to cardiovascular disease may also help determine cardiovascular risk in patients with low levels of good cholesterol and low levels of the protective GPx3. The new research, published today by PLoS One, supports the view that natural antioxidants may offer the human body profound benefits. "In our study, we found that people with high levels of the GPx3 enzyme and low levels of good cholesterol were six times less likely to develop cardiovascular disease than people with low levels of both," said lead author Jordan L. Holtzman, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pharmacology and medicine within the University of Minnesota Medical School. "This GPx3 enzyme gives us a good reason to believe that natural antioxidants like GPx3 are good for heart health." The combination of low HDL and low GPx3 affects an estimated 50 million people – one in four adults – in the U.S. This condition can lead to fatal heart attacks and strokes. Researchers continue to look for new ways to better predict who is at risk for these diseases and how patients can limit the impact of the disease once it's diagnosed. "It's important to point out that people should not rush out to their doctors and demand testing for the GPx3 enzyme," said Holtzman. "But in time, we hope that measuring this enzyme will be a common blood test when determining whether a patient is at risk for cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes." To arrive at his results, Holtzman and his colleagues studied the three major risk factors for cardiovascular disease: hypertension, smoking and high cholesterol. Data suggests that those with low levels of HDL and GPx3 were six times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease, including heart attack or stroke, than those with low levels of HDL and high levels of GPx3. The study examined 130 stored samples from the Minnesota Heart Survey from participants who died of cardiovascular disease after 5-12 years of follow-up care. The ages of patients studied ranged from 26-85 years old. Their data was compared to 240 control samples. "This is an important enzyme for people with low HDL cholesterol," said Holtzman. "We think further research will be important in determining the future role of GPx3 and what drugs may serve to increase its activity in the blood." Source:Eurekalert

Freud's theory of unconscious conflict linked to anxiety symptoms in new U-M brain research

Link between unconscious conflicts and conscious anxiety disorder symptoms shown, lending empirical support to psychoanalysis An experiment that Sigmund Freud could never have imagined 100 years ago may help lend scientific support for one of his key theories, and help connect it with current neuroscience. Today at the 101st Annual Meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association, a University of Michigan professor who has spent decades applying scientific methods to the study of psychoanalysis will present new data supporting a causal link between the psychoanalytic concept known as unconscious conflict, and the conscious symptoms experienced by people with anxiety disorders such as phobias. Howard Shevrin, Ph.D., emeritus professor of psychology in the U-M Medical School's Department of Psychiatry, will present data from experiments performed in U-M's Ormond and Hazel Hunt Laboratory. The research involved 11 people with anxiety disorders who each received a series of psychoanalytically oriented diagnostic sessions conducted by a psychoanalyst. From these interviews the psychoanalysts inferred what underlying unconscious conflict might be causing the person's anxiety disorder. Words capturing the nature of the unconscious conflict were then selected from the interviews and used as stimuli in the laboratory. They also selected words related to each patient's experience of anxiety disorder symptoms. Although these words differed from patient to patient, results showed that they functioned in the same way. These verbal stimuli were presented subliminally at one thousandth of a second, and supraliminally at 30 milliseconds. A control category of stimuli was added that had no relationship to the unconscious conflict or anxiety symptom. While the stimuli were presented to the patients, scalp electrodes record the brain responses to them. In a previous experiment Shevrin had demonstrated that time-frequency features, a type of brain activity, showed that patients grouped the unconscious conflict stimuli together only when they were presented subliminally. But the conscious symptom-related stimuli showed the reverse pattern – brain activity was better grouped together when patients viewed those words supraliminally. "Only when the unconscious conflict words were presented unconsciously could the brain see them as connected," Shevrin notes. "What the analysts put together from the interview session made sense to the brain only unconsciously." However, the experimental design in this first experiment did not allow for directly comparing the effect of the unconscious conflict stimuli on the conscious symptom stimuli. To obtain evidence for that next level, the unconscious conflict stimuli were presented immediately prior to the conscious symptom stimuli and a new measurement was made, of the brain's own alpha wave frequency, at 8-13 cycles per second, that had been shown to inhibit various cognitive functions. Highly significant correlations, suggesting an inhibitory effect, were obtained when the amount of alpha generated by the unconscious conflict stimuli were correlated with the amount of alpha associated with the conscious symptom alpha -- but only when the unconscious conflict stimuli were presented subliminally. No results were obtained when control stimuli replaced the symptom words. The fact that these findings are a function of inhibition suggests that from a psychoanalytic standpoint that repression might be involved. "These results create a compelling case that unconscious conflicts cause or contribute to the anxiety symptoms the patient is experiencing," says Shevrin, who also holds an emeritus position in the Department of Psychology in U-M's College of Literature, Science and the Arts. "These findings and the interdisciplinary methods used – which draw on psychoanalysis, cognitive psychology, and neuroscience -- demonstrate that it is possible to develop an interdisciplinary science drawing upon psychoanalytic theory." He notes that a prominent critic of psychoanalysis and Freudian theory, Adolf Grunbaum, Ph.D., professor of the philosophy of science at the University of Pittsburgh, has expressed satisfaction that the new results, when added to previous evidence, show that fundamental psychoanalytic concepts can indeed be tested in empirical ways. For more than 40 years, Shevrin has led a team that has pushed at the boundaries between the disciplines of neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and psychoanalysis, looking for evidence that Freudian concepts such as the unconscious and repression could be documented through physical measures of brain activity. His work has explored the territory where neurobiology, thoughts, emotions and behavior meet. In 1968 he published the first report of brain responses to unconscious visual stimuli in Science, thus providing strong objective evidence for the existence of the unconscious at a time when most scientists were skeptical of Freud's ideas. In that same study, he showed that unconscious perceptions are processed in different ways from conscious perceptions, a finding consistent with Freud's views on how the unconscious works. In recent years, exchanges between Grunbaum and Shevrin explored the nature of the evidence for the existence and impact of unconscious conflicts. In a 1992 publication, the first study referred to, Grunbaum agreed that Shevrin had obtained objective brain based evidence for the existence of unconscious conflict, but Grunbaum noted that he had not shown that these conflicts caused psychiatric symptoms. His response to being informed of the new findings was an email stating: "I am satisfied". Source:Eurekalert

Friday, 15 June 2012

Vitamin D Plus Calcium May Extend Life

Seniors who take calcium supplements along with vitamin D may lengthen their lives, a new analysis suggests. However, only the combination of the two appears to be effective; vitamin D by itself had no benefit, the researchers noted. "Our study provides evidence of a cause-effect relationship -- that calcium and vitamin D causes beneficial effects to general health," said study author Dr. Lars Rejnmark, an assistant professor at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark. "Calcium with vitamin D has now been proven to reduce risk of osteoporotic fractures and death in the elderly." The report will be published in the August issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. For the study, Rejnmark's team collected data on more than 70,000 people who were around 70 years old and had taken part in one of eight trials that pitted vitamin D or vitamin D plus calcium against an inactive placebo by randomly assigning participants to one of the treatments. The investigators found that, over three years, vitamin D alone did not reduce the risk of death (mortality), but when taken with calcium mortality was reduced 9 percent. It is known that the combination of vitamin D and calcium can reduce bone fractures in older people. However, Rejnmark's group noted that the reduction in mortality seen in this analysis was not due to fewer fractures, but an effect of these supplements that went beyond bone health. Recently there has been data tying calcium supplements to an increased risk of heart attack. A study in the May edition of Heart found that calcium supplementation increased the risk of heart attack by 86 percent. But the risk was not increased with calcium from foods. On Tuesday, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force proposed that postmenopausal women not take low-dose calcium and vitamin D supplements daily to ward off bone fractures, because the effect is negligible. Dr. Michael Holick, a professor of medicine, physiology and biophysics at Boston University School of Medicine, said that "other studies have shown that if you have adequate vitamin D, [it] can reduce the risk of mortality by about 7 percent." Although the exact mechanism of why these supplements prolong life isn't known, Holick believes that both improve cell function and cardiovascular health, he said. Holick also believes the task force misunderstood the data on the benefit of vitamin D and calcium. He said the amount of these supplements taken in the studies they looked at were too low to have any beneficial effect. Knowing what to do about supplements can be confusing, Holick said. He recommends adults take 1,500 to 2,000 international units of vitamin D daily with 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium from both diet and supplements in combination. "By doing so, you will preserve your bone health, you will improve muscle strength and you may have additional health benefits including [lowering the] risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, type 2 diabetes and infectious diseases," Holick said. "There is no downside to increasing your vitamin D intake." More information For more information on calcium and vitamin D, visit the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Tamarind:The calcium pump

We all know tamarind as just a sweet and sour food used to make chutneys or add to curry preparations. But in terms of nutrition, it is by far a highly precious fruit for mankind.Tamarind is a fruit that grows on the Tamarindus indica tree (a tropical fruit tree) in dry climates. The fruits are long and approximately 2 cm wide. The ripe fruit is filled with a sticky pulp. As the fruit pods mature, they fill out a juicy brown or reddish-brown acidulous pulp. When fully ripe, the shells are brittle and can be easily broken. The pulp eventually dehydrates to a sticky paste enclosed by coarse stands of fiber. This indigenous fruit tree grows well in semi-arid tropical harsh climatic conditions. It grows throughout India and is found in the states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Rajasthan and northeastern Indian states. Unlike other fruits, the amazing facts about tamarind is that it is one of the richest sources of calcium and phosphorous amongst fruits and vegetables. On top of it, the fruit is extensively available and economical too. The fruit contains up to 73% edible pulp. Pulp is a rich source of calcium, phosphorous, and B vitamins like riboflavin, niacin and thiamine. Due to various nutrient inhibitors present in the fruit, all of the calcium from the fruit is not available for absorption. But even if 50 percent of calcium is available to the body, we by far meet our daily recommendations by consuming less than 100 grams in a day. Pulp of tamarind in India is used in several ways. It is used in the preparations of chutney, tamarind powder, puree, juice concentrate, jam, jelly, candies and pickles. Nutrient content of Tamarind (per 100 grams of edible pulp) Protein 2.3 g Fiber 2.9 g Calcium 3494 mg Phosphorous3478 mg Vitamin C44 mg Generally most fruits contain 150 to 600 mg of calcium per 100 grams. On the other hand, tamarind contains nearly 3000 mg of calcium per 100 grams of edible fruit. Consumption of a tamarind beverage, sherbet, can easily meet the daily calcium recommendations and help keep bones and joints healthy. Other Health Benefits Other health benefits of tamarind are: Digestion: The pulp of the ripe fruit is beneficial in the treatment of flatulence, vomiting and indigestion. An infusion of the pulp prepared by softening it in water is particularly useful for loss of appetite and lack of inclination for food intake. Immunity: Tamarind, which is rich in vitamin C, helps to build immunity and keep infections away. Common cold: Tamarind pepper rasam- a clear soup is considered an effective home remedy for colds in South India. It is prepared by boiling dilute tamarind water in a teaspoon of hot ghee and half a teaspoon of black pepper powder for a few minutes. The hot rasam has flushing effects. As one takes it, the nose and eye water and the nasal blockage is cleared. Fever: The pulp of tamarind is useful in treating fevers. A sherbet made by boiling 30 grams of pulp in half a liter of milk with the addition of a few dates, cloves, sugar, cardamom and a little camphor is found to be effective in fevers. Sore throat: Gargle of tamarind water is beneficial in the treatment of sore throat. Source:Medindia

Dutch Study Says Meditation can Help People Reach into Hidden Regions of the Brain

A new study conducted by a team of Dutch researchers suggests that people who practice meditation can tap into the hidden sections of the brain which cannot be usually reached through conscious awareness. The brain registers subliminal messages, but we are often unable to recall them consciously. To test whether meditation has an effect on our ability to pick up subliminal messages, Madelijn Strick of Utrecht University in the Netherlands and colleagues recruited 34 experienced practitioners of Zen meditation and randomly assigned them to either a meditation group or a control group. The meditation group was asked to meditate for 20 minutes in a session led by a professional Zen master. The control group was asked to merely relax for 20 minutes. The volunteers were then asked 20 questions, each with three or four correct answers - for instance: "Name one of the four seasons". Just before the subjects saw the question on a computer screen one potential answer - such as "spring" - flashed up for a subliminal 16 milliseconds. While the meditation group gave 6.8 answers, on average, that matched the subliminal words, the control group gave just 4.9, New Scientist reported. Strick thinks that the explanation lies in the difference between what the brain is paying attention to and what we are conscious of. She said meditators are potentially accessing more of what the brain has paid attention to than non-meditators. Source-ANI

AMMOI seeks Antony's intervention to include ASU drugs in AFMS

The Ayurvedic Medicine Manufacturers Organisation of India (AMMOI) has demanded immediate intervention of A K Antony, the defence minister, to push for inclusion and recognition of the Indian traditional system of medicines in the Indian Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS). This demand was made with a view to ensure that even Ayurveda and other traditional system of medicines are introduced in the Indian AFMS along side allopathic system which has been conspicuously ignored till now. In the representation that was sent to the ministry on June 13, the association urged to formulate clear guidelines for the inclusion of Ayurveda so that it can be authorised for medical reimbursement by members of the Indian armed forces. The association stressed that to encourage the growth of the ASU industry and to ensure that the patients are not refrained from getting treatment under this segment, the government should take appropriate steps on this issues latest by March 31, 2013. This demand was made by the AMMOI after it came to know the fact that the members of the Indian armed forces were not reimbursed for treatment done under Indian traditional system of medicine. Surprisingly this act is done in contravention of the central government’s national policy on Indian system of medicines and homoeopathy-2002 which clearly states that all central government employees are eligible for reimbursement under other systems of medicines. Dr Ramanathan Devaraj Iyer, general secretary of AMMOI, pointed out, “We are very concerned with this attitude which sidelines the importance of this industry that have been ardently practised over centuries in the country. What is more surprising is that there is not even one ASU doctor or hospital set up for the treatment of the patients coming from the Indian armed forces in spite of the demand for ASU treatment.” Interestingly, even though ASU sector has not been recognised by AFMS till now, it is approved by central government health scheme (CGHS), state government health scheme (SGHS), and by many of the medical insurance companies. It is understood that even the rashtriya swasthya bima yojana (RSBY), a flagship scheme to cover the below poverty line (BPL) citizens of the country under a comprehensive medical insurance scheme is soon expected to cover Ayurveda too. NABH accreditation as applicable for allopathic hospitals is now possible for Ayurveda hospitals too, in fact there are several Ayurveda hospitals that are already NABH accredited in different parts of the country. Dr Iyer further informed that it is surprising that even though there are over 200,000 professionally qualified ASyurveda doctors in the country and over 10,000 fresh graduates passing out each year, there are not even single ayurvedic doctors appointed under AFMS. AMMOI in its two point representation stressed that Indian systems of medicine should be streamlined in the AFMS so that the sector is given its due. But most importantly it wants the government to take immediate steps to recruit ASU doctors under AFMS so that they can also get their rightful place to work in AFMS. Source:Pharmabiz

Answer isn't always on the 'tip of the tongue' for older adults

Has your memory failed you today, such as struggling to recall a word that's "on the tip of your tongue?" If so, you're not alone. New University of Michigan research indicates that "tip-of-the-tongue" errors happen often to adults ages 65-92. In a study of 105 healthy, highly-educated older adults, 61 percent reported this memory mishap. The study's participants completed a checklist of the memory errors made in the last 24 hours, as well as several other tests. About half of them reported making other errors that may be related to absent-mindedness, such as having to re-read a sentence because they forgot what it said, or forgetting where they placed an item. The findings, which appear in the journal Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition, may help brain-training programs target the memory problems people experience in daily life. "Right now, many training programs focus on the age differences in memory and thinking that we see in laboratory studies," said Cindy Lustig, U-M psychology professor and the study's senior author. "However, those may not translate to the performance failures that are most common in everyday life." When people are tested in the lab and have nothing to rely on but their own memories, young adults typically do better than older adults, she said. However, when these studies are conducted in real-world settings, older adults sometimes outperform young adults at things like remembering appointments because the former are likely to use memory supports such as calendars, lists and alarms. "When we looked at how people performed on standard laboratory tests, we found the usual age differences," she said. "People in their 80s and 90s performed worse than those in their 60s and early 70s." In contrast, no increase in daily memory errors was found based on age. Meanwhile, researchers hope that a better understanding of the errors people are still making can improve training program efforts. "We wanted to identify which errors still occur despite changes people might be making in their environment and routine," Lustig said. "That's where it may be especially important to change the person." Lustig cautioned that an elderly person occasionally forgetting a name does not mean he's in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease or other dementias. "Everybody forgets," she said. "However, our findings suggest that certain types of memory errors may be especially important to monitor for increases, which then should be discussed with a clinician." Lustig said future research should identify how people change their lives to avoid errors. If people restrict their activities to avoid memory errors, it could affect their independence. Source:Eurekalert

Nanoparticles engineered at Notre Dame promise to improve blood cancer treatment

Researchers from the University of Notre Dame have engineered nanoparticles that show great promise for the treatment of multiple myeloma (MM), an incurable cancer of the plasma cells in bone marrow. One of the difficulties doctors face in treating MM comes from the fact that cancer cells of this type start to develop resistance to the leading chemotherapeutic treatment, doxorubicin, when they adhere to tissue in bone marrow. "The nanoparticles we have designed accomplish many things at once," says Başar Bilgiçer, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and chemistry and biochemistry, and an investigator in Notre Dame's Advanced Diagnostics and Therapeutics (AD&T) initiative. "First, they reduce the development of resistance to doxorubicin. Second, they actually get the cancer cells to actively consume the drug-loaded nanoparticles. Third, they reduce the toxic effect the drug has on healthy organs." A sequence of images showing multiple myeloma cells internalizing the engineered nanoparticles The nanoparticles are coated with a special peptide that targets a specific receptor on the outside of multiple myeloma cells. These receptors cause the cells to adhere to bone marrow tissue and turn on the drug resistance mechanisms. But through the use of the newly developed peptide, the nanoparticles are able to bind to the receptors instead and prevent the cancer cells from adhering to the bone marrow in the first place. The particles also carry the chemotherapeutic drug with them. When a particle attaches itself to an MM cell, the cell rapidly takes up the nanoparticle, and only then is the drug released, causing the DNA of cancer cell to break apart and the cell to die. "Our research on mice shows that the nanoparticle formulation reduces the toxic effect doxorubicin has on other tissues, such as the kidneys and liver," adds Tanyel Kiziltepe, a research assistant professor with the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and AD&T. "We believe further research will show that the heart is less affected as well. This could greatly reduce the harmful side-effects of this chemotherapy." The group had to tackle three important problems associated with all nanoparticle-based therapies, explains Jonathan Ashley, one of the leading researchers of the project. "There was some complex bioengineering involved in developing the particles. We were able to precisely control the number of drug and targeting elements on each nanoparticle, achieve homogeneous nanoparticle size distribution and eliminate the batch-to-batch variability in particle production." Before advancing to human clinical trials, the team plans further research and testing to improve the design of the nanoparticles and to find the optimum amount and combination of chemotherapy drugs for this new treatment. The research is described in greater detail in a recent edition of Nature's Blood Cancer Journal. It was supported by funding from the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute. Source:Eurekalert

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Homeopathic remedies put in sporting spotlight

SHE might not know it but local marathon runner Ann Storr has something in common with the likes of David Beckham, Boris Becker and Martina Navratilova. Like the big-name trio, Ann depends on homeopathic medicines to keep herself fit and on the move. Ann, who has completed six marathons - including the 2012 London marathon - works closely with local homeopath Carolyn Warren. As part of this year’s Homeopathy Awareness Week from June 14 to 21, Carolyn will be holding two sessions to outline the benefits of her treatment. Carolyn said: “Because this is an Olympic year, the theme of the awareness week is treatment for sports injuries. “Anyone who takes part in sport knows that occasional sprains, strains or bruising will occur, but few are aware of just how helpful homeopathic medicines (known as remedies) can be to relieve pain and speed up healing. “Six million people in the UK regularly use homeopathic medicine to keep healthy. “It is a safe alternative, suitable for all ages and a qualified homeopath can offer help for most health and emotional problems.” Source:Horncastle News

More people seek Ayurveda treatment

Age old ayurveda seems to be relevant in the world of modern medicine as many Mysoreans are approaching doctors and hospitals extending the ancient Indian system of medicine for treatment. When parents of K Shwetha, hailing from Belthday in Periyapatna taluk, got her diagnosed, they realized that she is suffering from arthritis. They approached doctors in Mysore and Bangalore but the bone problem persisted. "My daughter is feeling good after we favoured ayurvedic system of medicine. She is now slowly recovering," says Shwetha's mother Mahima. "Patients find ayurveda as a solution after trying other kinds of modern medicines. They come in wheelchair but go away walking" said Dr Gurubasavaraj, chief medical officer, JSS ayurvedic hospital. "Ayurveda is not merely a science of treating but is also an art of living," he added. More patients are turning to age-old treatment. On an average, some 100 patients visit the hospital from all walks of life. Ayurveda has most of the answers even for modern-day illnesses, he said. Arthritis is major health problems among Mysoreans which is direct result of change in lifestyle and food habits, he adds. Even youths are developing health problems like obesity, he stated. World Health Organization has considered ayurveda as part of healthcare system and $ 65,000 million is the turnover of the herbal marketing across the world. Even the MNCs find ayurveda worthy of investment, he added. "Modern system of medicine can only work in emergencies like cardiac arrest. But for diseases related to skin and complaints like headaches and migrane or for ortho problems like arthiritis and splondiosis ayurveda is favoured," emphasized Dr N V Krishnamurthy, professor and HOD of post graduation in Panchakarma. Panchakarma treatment has more demand among all ayurvedic treatment and even foreigners opt for it.70 per cent patients from Mysore surrounding opt for ayurveda and 15 per cent are foreigners, he said. Ayurveda treatment response is slow compared to modern medicine but nevertheless it treats completely and has no side effect. It is also low cost, he added. Corporates and techies find ayurveda as best stress buster and demand is substantially increasing from past 10 years, he added. Ebin, a business man hailing from Kottyam in Kerala who has moved his father suffering from disk complaints to an ayurvedic hospital in Mysore, said: "I tried all possible treatments in Kerala but it was not helpful. Now here my father is recovering," he smiled. Source:TNN

Bogus doctor who called himself 'the Big Bad Wolf' tricked women into letting him carry out intimate examinations and may have 'treated' up to 700 'patients'

A bogus GP who called himself the ‘Big Bad Wolf’ faces jail after he was found guilty yesterday of sexually assaulting four women. Antonio Gobbato, 51, used a cosmetic spatula to examine patients, and told one victim she was not pregnant after tweaking her nipples. Brazilian-born Gobbato convinced three parents their children needed expensive and urgent medical treatment abroad, conning the families into paying for ‘all expenses paid’ trips to Italy. He told one anxious father his daughter could contract leukaemia, and another mother: ‘You have to go to Italy next week, this boy is going to lose a kidney and it’s going to be your fault.’ Calling himself an ‘NHS doctor, gynaecologist, paediatrician and a psychiatrist’, he fooled victims with his white coat, framed certificates, a stethoscope and microscope he kept in his surgery. Yesterday a jury at Inner London Crown Court convicted him of five charges of sexual assault in respect of four patients, and three fraud charges. Judge Peter Grobel adjourned sentence but Gobbato, of Pinner, North London, is likely to face years behind bars. His first trial had collapsed in May last year after he had what was thought to be a minor stroke. More...Woman, 24, 'posed as teenage boy to trick girl, 15, into having sex with her... using prosthetic manhood and a back brace to cover her breasts' New immigration clampdown demands £20,000 salary for Brits to marry a foreigner But Judge Grobel later ruled he was fit to plead and stand trial, saying: ‘Medical experts for both the prosecution and the defence are in agreement that sadly the defendant is malingering.’ The court heard that Gobbato referred to himself as the ‘Big Bad Wolf’ in messages while arranging trips to Italy. One woman paid for him to accompany her family to Italy so he could treat her husband’s alcoholism. When the husband pulled out of the trip, Gobbato said her daughter should go instead for treatment of depression. He racked up a £726 bill for flights on her credit card, plus food, accommodation and car hire, jurors heard. But far from helping them in Italy, he made three visits to his dentist. The 51-year-old's 'consultation room' in south London, where the police fear he may have 'treated' up to 700 patients Linda Strudwick, prosecuting, said: ‘That this whole process was a charade to fleece money from [this woman] becomes very clear when one views the text sent by Mr Gobbato to someone who appears to be his secretary or wife, called Christina, in Italy.’ The text said: ‘Our hero did not want to travel. I am going with [the daughter] and her mother. I have to invent some treatment for them. X papao (Big Bad Wolf).’ Another woman, who flew from Brazil to give evidence, was studying at Westminster University in 2009 when she met Gobbato. She told the court that when she visited his office he had said she was depressed simple because she was wearing a black outfit on a sunny day. Gobbato then pricked her finger and looked at her blood under his microscope before asking to see her breasts. ‘I was wearing a bra but he pulled them out of it and started squeezing my nipples, very hard. It was very painful,’ she said. ‘Then he said, “Don’t worry, you are not pregnant”. I felt really awkward. I just wanted to get out of there, and that was when I realised he was not a doctor.’ Police believe Gobbato could have claimed hundreds of victims. Speaking after he was convicted, Detective Superintendent Andy Craig said: ‘We spoke to 160 women, but he said he treated up to 700.’ Source:Daily Mail

Indian drugs and vaccines have a global impact: Azad

Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Ghulam Nabi Azad has said that vaccines and drugs manufactured in India have had a far reaching impact not only on improving global access to life saving interventions but also on dramatically reducing the costs by making high quality drugs and vaccines highly affordable. Two out of every three children in the world receive an Indian vaccine in the case of measles and DTP, he said. He co-convened the Child Survival Call to Action Forum along with Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State, in the US and addressed the meeting along with Hillary Clinton and Health Minister of Ethiopia, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The forum aims to raise global awareness of child survival challenges, celebrate the 70 per cent reduction in child mortality over the past half-century and establish a global roadmap to end preventable child deaths in a generation. Azad said that meningococcal vaccine produced in India has saved many lives in Africa at an un-believable cost of a mere 50 cents. In many poor and middle and income countries, anti HIV drugs supplied by India have transformed the quality of lives of millions of people living with HIV/AIDS, he stated. While, women and children facing the scourge of TB from across the globe have benefited greatly by anti TB drugs made in India. Source:Pharmabiz

Western Diet Increases Colitis Risk

Certain saturated fats in Western diet triggers inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in people with a genetic predisposition, reveals study published in the journal Nature. The finding helps explain why once-rare immune-mediated diseases have become more common in westernized societies in the last half century. It also provides insights into why many individuals who are genetically prone to these diseases are never affected and how certain environmental factors can produce inflammation in individuals already at risk. Researchers at the University of Chicago found that concentrated milk fats, which are abundant in processed and confectionary foods, alter the composition of bacteria in the intestines. These changes can disrupt the delicate truce between the immune system and the complex but largely beneficial mix of bacteria in the intestines. The emergence of harmful bacterial strains in this setting can unleash an unregulated tissue-damaging immune response that can be difficult to switch off. "This is the first plausible mechanism showing step-by-step how Western-style diets contribute to the rapid and ongoing increase in the incidence of inflammatory bowel disease," said study author Eugene B. Chang, MD, PhD, the Martin Boyer Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago. "We know how certain genetic differences can increase the risk for these diseases, but moving from elevated risk to the development of disease seems to require a second event which may be encountered because of our changing lifestyle." The researchers worked with a mouse model that has many of the characteristics of human IBD. Genetically deleting a molecule, interleukin 10, which acts as a brake on the immune system''s response to intestinal bacteria, caused about 20 percent of mice to develop colitis when fed a low-fat diet or a diet high in polyunsaturated fats. But when exposed to a diet high in saturated milk fats, the rate of disease development within six months tripled, increasing to more than 60 percent. In addition, the onset, severity and extent of colitis were much greater than that observed in mice fed low-fat diets. Why would milk fat - a powdered substance that remains when fat has been separated from butter and dehydrated - trigger inflammation when polyunsaturated fat did not? The researchers traced the answer to the gut microbiome, the complex mix of hundreds of bacterial strains that reside in the bowels. The researchers found that an uncommon microbe called Bilophila wadsworthia was preferentially selected in the presence of milk fat. Previous studies had found high levels of B. wadsworthia in patients with appendicitis and other intestinal inflammatory disorders, including inflammatory bowel disease. "That piqued our interest," Chang said. "These pathobionts, which are usually non-abundant, seem to be quite prominent in these diseases." Indeed, while Bilophila wadsworthia levels were almost undetectable in mice on a low-fat or unsaturated-fat diet, the bacteria made up about 6 percent of all gut bacteria in mice fed a high milk-fat diet. "Here we show how the trend in consumption of Western-type diets by many societies can potentially tip the mutualistic balance between host and microbe to a state that favors the onset of disease," Chang said. As its name implies, Bilophila wadsworthia has an affinity for bile, a substance produced by the liver and released into the intestines to help break down ingested fats. Milk fats are particularly difficult to digest and require the liver to secrete a form of bile that is rich in sulfur. B. wadsworthia thrives in the presence of sulfur. So when the bile created to dissolve milk fats reaches the colon, it enables wadsworthia to blossom. "Unfortunately, these can be harmful bacteria," Chang said. "Presented with a rich source of sulfur, they bloom, and when they do, they are capable of activating the immune system of genetically prone individuals." The byproducts of B. wadsworthia''s interaction with bile also can amplify the effect. They serve as "gut mucosal barrier breakers," said Suzanne Devkota, PhD, a member of Chang''s laboratory and first author of the study. "By increasing the permeability of the bowel, they enhance immune-cell infiltration, and that can induce tissue damage." Much of the recent progress in understanding the biology of inflammatory bowel disease has focused on gene variants that can increase risk, beginning with the discovery in 2001 of Nod2 by researchers at the University of Chicago. But the new study puts the focus on changing environmental factors that might trigger the disease in high-risk patients. "Right now we can''t do much about correcting genes that predispose individuals to increased risk for these diseases," Chang said, "and while we could encourage people to change their diets, this is seldom effective and always difficult." "However, the balance between host and microbes can be altered back to a healthy state to prevent or treat these diseases," he added. "In essence, the gut microbiome can be ‘re-shaped'' in sustainable and predictable ways that restore a healthy relationship between host and microbes, without significantly affecting the lifestyles of individuals who are genetically prone to these diseases. We are testing that right now." The National Institutes of Health, the Gastrointestinal Research Foundation, the Crohn''s & Colitis Foundation of America, the Peter D. and Carol Goldman Foundation, and the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust supported this research. Additional authors include Yunwei Wang, Mark Musch, Vanessa Leone, Hannah Fehlner-Peach, Anuradha Nadimpalli and Bana Jabri from the University of Chicago, and Dionysios Antonopoulos from the Institute for Genomics and Systems Biology at Argonne National Laboratory. Source-Newswise

Ayurveda: Latest Trend To Catch Dubai

The Dubai Ministry of Health and the Dubai Health Authority has approved Ayurveda, a 5,000-year-old Indian health system that is believed to cure all internal and external ailments by a combination of its eight branches. Those who use it believe it to be a complete system of medicine, whether the area for treatment is internal and external. "The basic principle of Ayurveda is that there are three energies in our body, Vata, Pitta and Kapha, which are controlling all of our functions," Gulf News quoted Dr Asha Jones, an Ayurvedic Practitioner at the Dubai Herbal Treatment Centre (DHTC), as saying. Vata is responsible for all movement in the body and is the most important of the three doshas. Pitta is responsible for all metabolisms in the body. Kapha provides the structures and the lubrication that the body needs. "If they are balanced, our body will be perfectly healthy. "When we see a patient, we see what energies have gone up or down with the main purpose of balancing these energies. "The main aim of treatment is to remove toxins from the body and healing from ourselves. "It is very popular in India and now it is accepted worldwide. Ayurveda has no side effects if you are diagnosed properly," she said. More and more patients are beginning to realise the benefits of traditional healing.People are becoming aware of the side effects of medicines they take. "Ayurveda has no side effects. I think that is the main reason people are getting attracted to Ayurveda," Jones said. Durga M., a 47-year-old marketing researcher and professor, suffered from severe sciatica for two years. She was limping from pain and could barely walk.. for months, she had used pain pills in an effort to find relief. Then she discovered Ayurveda. "I wanted something that would help me now and in the future as well," Durga said. "I was told that pain pills would mess up my sciatica even worse," she said. She took Ayurvedic medicines and 14 therapy sessions. She will return to DHTC next winter to continue treatment and permanently expel sciatica from her life. "I did believe in Ayurveda, but the problem was it was expensive-but my friend dragged me there and I could tell immediate results. I was living with knee pains for a couple years. I didn't go for knee pains but this treatment helped in curing my knee pains as well," Durga added. Source-ANI

Nomophobia - No Mobile Phone Phobia

In today’s busy life mobile phones or cell phones are quite indispensible. Some of us check our cell phones innumerable times a day and even carry it to the washrooms. People are often obsessed with their cell phones. Nomophobia or ‘no mobile phone phobia’ is a rising lifestyle ailment that is affecting people’s lives. A survey done in UK found that 53 percent of the surveyed population admitted to having this cell phone phobia. The common symptoms include fear of losing reception, fear of running out of battery and even fear of losing sight of phone. A nomophobic person starts having pangs of anxiety due to the irrational fear of losing her/his mobile phone. Some Important Warning Signs of Nomophobia are: • Confined spaces (claustrophobia) • Fear of having no network coverage • Difficulty in switching off the cell phone • Carrying cell phones to the bathroom • Recharging the battery again and again A survey conducted by SecureEnvoy revealed 53 percent people being affected by the fear of losing cell phones. Recently another study was done in UK that involved 1,000 individuals. In this study 66 percent people admitted to having this fear. The study showed that young adults aged between 18 and 24 years were more addicted to their cellular phones. About 77 percent of them found it difficult to stay away from their mobile phones even for a few seconds. About 68 percent of people, in the age group of 25 to 54 years, found it difficult to keep away from their mobile phones. Another important finding of study was that people checked their mobile phone approximately 34 times a day while 75 percent carried cell phones to bathrooms. Andy Kemshall, co-founder of SecurEnvoy, mentioned: 'The first study into nomophobia, conducted four years ago, revealed that 53 per cent of people suffered from the condition and our study reveals this has now risen to 66 per cent in the UK and shows no sign of abating.’ Mr Kemshall further added: 'With 58 per cent of the respondents using at least one device for business use, this lack of security is a worrying trend that needs addressing.' An expert said, "Our phone is like our lifeline. It contains all of our most sensitive information, so naturally here's a lot of fear we have about losing it." The study concluded that young people are more likely to be affected with nomophobia and women are more prone to develop this fear than men. References: 1. 2. 3.

Fish Oil Fails to Stave Off Mental Decline

Dietary supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids did not prevent cognitive decline in older individuals, a Cochrane review determined. For instance, the mean difference in scores on mini-mental state examinations given before and after the intervention was a nonsignificant −0.07 (95% CI −0.25 to 0.10), according to Emma Sydenham, MSc, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and colleagues. "Global estimates suggest that by the year 2040 more than 80 million people will be affected with dementia, and more than 70% of these people will live in low-income countries," the reviewers wrote. Accordingly, there is increasing interest in identifying dietary factors that could help diminish these numbers. Some previous observational studies have suggested that consuming high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids may reduce the likelihood of cognitive decline with aging. In addition, evidence exists suggesting an important role for fatty acids in brain health, such as through the maintenance of neuronal functioning and acting as mediators of inflammation and oxidative stress. So Sydenham and colleagues undertook a literature search, identifying three trials of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation in which 3,536 participants were randomized to the intervention or placebo and had assessments of cognitive function at baseline and study conclusion. The three studies were high in methodologic quality, the researchers noted. One study included 302 Dutch participants ages 65 and older who received 1,940 mg or 400 mg omega-3 fatty acids, or placebo, each day for 6 months. The second study included 744 U.K. men and women ages 70 to 79 given 700 mg omega-3 fish oil daily, or olive oil as placebo, for 24 months. In these two studies, cognitive function was assessed by a series of tests of memory, executive function, and processing speed. Participants in the British study also completed the mini-mental status examination. The third study randomized 2,911 participants ages 60 to 80 to use margarine fortified with 400 mg docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), 2 g of alpha linolenic acid (ALA), DHA plus AHA, or placebo for 40 months. This study was primarily intended to assess the cardiovascular effects of the fortified margarine among patients who had previously experienced a myocardial infarction. The omega-3 sub-study evaluated cognitive functioning on the mini-mental status examination. Overall, no differences were seen in cognitive function in the three studies. On tests of immediate word recall involving 1,043 individuals, the standardized mean difference for the intervention was 0.01 (95% CI −0.11 to 0.14), while the difference for delayed word recall was −0.04 (95% CI −0.16 to 0.09). For tests of verbal fluency, the standardized mean difference was 0.06 (95% CI −0.06 to 0.18), the researchers reported. On the digit span tests of executive function, forward repeating of series of numbers was associated with a mean difference of 0.03 (95% CI −0.25 to 0.31), while backward repeating was associated with a mean difference of 0.12 (95% CI −0.12 to 0.36). In all three studies, mild gastrointestinal symptoms were the most common side effects, and were reported with equal frequency in treatment and placebo groups. The reviewers concluded that further studies are needed. "Longer-term studies may identify greater change in cognitive function in study participants which may enhance the ability to detect the possible effects of omega-3 [polyunsaturated fatty acid] supplementation in preventing cognitive decline in older people," they stated. And while cognitive benefits were not demonstrated in this review, Sydenham and colleagues emphasized that consumption of two servings of fish each week, with one being an oily fish such as salmon or sardines, is widely recommended for overall health benefits.

Mindful multitasking: Meditation first can calm stress, aid concentration

Need to do some serious multitasking? Some training in meditation beforehand could make the work smoother and less stressful, new research from the University of Washington shows. Work by UW Information School professors David Levy and Jacob Wobbrock suggests that meditation training can help people working with information stay on tasks longer with fewer distractions and also improves memory and reduces stress. Their paper was published in the May edition of Proceedings of Graphics Interface. Levy, a computer scientist, and Wobbrock, a researcher in human-computer interaction, conducted the study together with Information School doctoral candidate Marilyn Ostergren and Alfred Kaszniak, a neuropsychologist at the University of Arizona. “To our knowledge, this is the first study to explore how meditation might affect multitasking in a realistic work setting,” Levy said. The researchers recruited three groups of 12-15 human resource managers for the study. One group received eight weeks of mindfulness-based meditation training; another received eight weeks of body relaxation training. Members of the third, a control group, received no training at first, then after eight weeks were given the same training as the first group. Before and after each eight-week period, the participants were given a stressful test of their multitasking abilities, requiring them to use email, calendars, instant-messaging, telephone and word-processing tools to perform common office tasks. Researchers measured the participants’ speed, accuracy and the extent to which they switched tasks. The participants' self-reported levels of stress and memory while performing the tasks were also noted. The results were significant: The meditation group reported lower levels of stress during the multitasking test while those in the control group or who received only relaxation training did not. When the control group was given meditation training, however, its members reported lower stress during the test just as had the original meditation group. The meditation training seemed to help participants concentrate longer without their attention being diverted. Those who meditated beforehand spent more time on tasks and switched tasks less often, but took no longer to complete the overall job than the others, the researchers learned. No such change occurred with those who took body relaxation training only, or with the control group. After the control group's members underwent meditation training, however, they too spent longer on their tasks with less task switching and no overall increase in job completion time. After training, both the meditators and those trained in relaxation techniques showed improved memory for the tasks they were performing. The control group did not, until it too underwent the meditation training. "Many research efforts at the human-technology boundary have attempted to create technologies that augment human abilities," Wobbrock said. "This meditation work is unusual in that it attempts to augment human abilities not through technology but because of technology — because of the demands technology places on us and our need to cope with those demands.” Levy added: "We are encouraged by these first results. While there is increasing scientific evidence that certain forms of meditation increase concentration and reduce emotional volatility and stress, until now there has been little direct evidence that meditation may impart such benefits for those in stressful, information-intensive environments.” By Peter Kelley and Catherine O'Donnell Source:University of Washington

How aging normal cells fuel tumor growth and metastasis

It has long been known that cancer is a disease of aging, but a molecular link between the two has remained elusive. Now, researchers at the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson (KCC) have shown that senescence (aging cells which lose their ability to divide) and autophagy (self-eating or self-cannibalism) in the surrounding normal cells of a tumor are essentially two sides of the same coin, acting as "food" to fuel cancer cell growth and metastasis. Michael P. Lisanti, M.D., Ph.D., Professor and Chair of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University and a member of the KCC, and his team previously discovered that cancer cells induce an oxidative stress response (autophagy) in nearby cells of the tumor microenvironment to feed themselves and grow. In this study, senescent cells appear to have many of the characteristics of these autophagic cancer-associated fibroblasts and to be part of the same physiological process. In other words, normal neighboring cells that are becoming senescent or "old" are directly making food to "feed" the cancer. Aging literally fuels cancer cell growth. Since senescence is thought to reflect biological aging, this research on autophagy-induced senescence may explain why cancer incidence dramatically increases exponentially with advanced age, by providing a "fertile soil" to support the anabolic growth of "needy" cancer cells. The findings were reported in the June 15 issue of Cell Cycle. "This research merges the two paradigms of aging and cancer, and it also brings in cell metabolism," said Dr. Lisanti. "We provide genetic support for the importance of 'two-compartment tumor metabolism' in driving tumor growth and metastasis via a very simple energy transfer mechanism. Senescence and autophagy metabolically support tumor growth and metastasis." Simply put, aging is the metabolic engine that drives cancer growth. To test this link, the researchers developed a genetically tractable model system to directly study the compartment-specific role of autophagy in tumor growth and metastasis. First, they took human fibroblasts immortalized with telomerase and transfected them with autophagy genes. Next, they validated that these fibroblasts show features of mitophagy, mitochondrial dysfunction and a shift toward aerobic glycolysis, with increases in lactate and ketone production, mimicking the behavior of cancer-associated fibroblasts. They observed that autophagic-senescent fibroblasts promoted metastasis, when co-injected with human breast cancer cells, by more than 10-fold. Thus, metastasis may be ultimately determined by aging or senescent cells in the tumor microenvironment, rather than by the cancer cells themselves. This finding completely changes how we view cancer as a disease. This observation directly calls into question the longstanding notion that cancer is a cell-autonomous genetic disease. Rather, it appears that cancer is really a disease of host aging, which fuels tumor growth and metastasis, thus, determining clinical outcome. Normal aging host cells are actually the key to unlocking effective anti-cancer therapy. In the study, the autophagic fibroblasts also showed features of senescence. What's more, the senescent cells shifted toward aerobic glycolysis, and were primarily confined to the tumor stromal compartment. Autophagy action is also clearly compartment specific, since the researchers showed that autophagy induction in human breast cancer cells resulted in diminished tumor growth. Therefore, selective induction of self-cannibalism in cancer cells is a new therapeutic target for the prevention of tumor growth and metastasis. In this strategy, cancer cells actually eat themselves, reversing tumor growth and metastasis. To stop tumor growth and metastasis, researchers will need to "cut off the fuel supply" which is provided by aging senescent cells, before it gets to cancer cells by targeting autophagy and senescence in the tumor microenvironment. These findings are paradigm shifting and will usher in a completely new era for anti-cancer drug development, according to the researchers. Such approaches for targeting the "autophagy-senescence transition" could have important implications for preventing tumor growth and metastasis, and effectively overcoming drug resistance in cancer cells. "Rapidly proliferating cancer cells are energetically dependent on the aging host tumor stroma," Dr. Lisanti said. "As such, removing or targeting the aging tumor stroma would then stop tumor growth and metastasis. Thus, the aging stroma is a new attractive metabolic or therapeutic target for cancer prevention." A clear byproduct of this research would also be the development new anti-aging drugs to effectively combat, stop or reverse aging, thereby preventing a host of human diseases, particularly cancer. Source:Eurekalert

Soft drink consumption not the major contributor to childhood obesity

Ottawa, Ontario (June 14, 2012) – Most children and youth who consume soft drinks and other sweetened beverages, such as fruit punch and lemonade, are not at any higher risk for obesity than their peers who drink healthy beverages, says a new study published in the October issue of Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. The study examined the relationship between beverage intake patterns of Canadian children and their risk for obesity and found sweetened beverage intake to be a risk factor only in boys aged 6-11. "We found sweetened drinks to be dominant beverages during childhood, but saw no consistent association between beverage intake patterns and overweight and obesity," says lead author Susan J. Whiting. "Food and beverage habits are formed early in life and are often maintained into adulthood. Overconsumption of sweetened beverages may put some children at increased risk for overweight and obesity. Indeed, boys aged 6-11 years who consumed mostly soft drinks were shown to be at increased risk for overweight and obesity as compared with those who drank a more moderate beverage pattern." The authors determined beverage consumption patterns among Canadian children aged 2󈝾 years using cluster analysis where sociodemographics, ethnicity, household income, and food security were significantly different across the clusters. Data were divided into different age and gender groups and beverage preferences were studied. For this study the sweetened, low-nutrient beverages, categorized according to Canada's Food Guide, consisted of fruit-flavoured beverages, beverages with less than 100% fruit juice, lemonades, regular soft drinks, and sweetened coffees or teas. The authors found the main predictors of childhood obesity in Canadian children were household income, ethnicity, and household food security. Source:Eurekalert

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

10,000 germ species live in and on healthy people

They live on your skin, up your nose, in your gut — enough bacteria, fungi and other microbes that collected together could weigh, amazingly, a few pounds. Now scientists have mapped just which critters normally live in or on us and where, calculating that healthy people can share their bodies with more than 10,000 species of microbes. Don't say "eeew" just yet. Many of these organisms work to keep humans healthy, and results reported Wednesday from the government's Human Microbiome Project define what's normal in this mysterious netherworld. One surprise: It turns out that nearly everybody harbors low levels of some harmful types of bacteria, pathogens that are known for causing specific infections. But when a person is healthy — like the 242 U.S. adults who volunteered to be tested for the project — those bugs simply quietly coexist with benign or helpful microbes, perhaps kept in check by them. The next step is to explore what doctors really want to know: Why do the bad bugs harm some people and not others? What changes a person's microbial zoo that puts them at risk for diseases ranging from infections to irritable bowel syndrome to psoriasis? Already the findings are reshaping scientists' views of how people stay healthy, or not. "This is a whole new way of looking at human biology and human disease, and it's awe-inspiring," said Dr. Phillip Tarr of Washington University at St. Louis, one of the lead researchers in the $173 million project, funded by the National Institutes of Health. "These bacteria are not passengers," Tarr stressed. "They are metabolically active. As a community, we now have to reckon with them like we have to reckon with the ecosystem in a forest or a body of water." And like environmental ecosystems, your microbial makeup varies widely by body part. Your skin could be like a rainforest, your intestines teeming with different species like an ocean. Scientists have long known that the human body coexists with trillions of individual germs, what they call the microbiome. Until now, they've mostly studied those that cause disease: You may recall health officials saying about a third of the population carries Staphylococcus aureus harmlessly in their noses or on their skin but can infect others. But no one knew all the types of microbes that live in healthy people or where, and what they do. Some 200 scientists from nearly 80 research institutions worked together for five years on this first-ever census to begin answering those questions by unraveling the DNA of these microbes, with some of the same methods used to decode human genetics. The results were published Wednesday in a series of reports in the journals Nature and the Public Library of Science. First, the researchers had to collect tissue samples from more than a dozen body sites — the mouth, nose, different spots of skin, the vagina in women, and from feces. Then they teased apart the bacterial DNA from the human DNA, and started analyzing organisms with some daunting names: Lactobacillus crispatus, Streptococcus mitis, Corynebacterium accolens. Our bodies are thought to be home to about 10 bacterial cells for every human cell, but they're so small that together microbes make up about 1 percent to 3 percent of someone's body mass, explained Dr. Eric Green, director of NIH's National Human Genome Research Institute. That means a 200-pound person could harbor as much as 6 pounds of bacteria. There are about 22,000 human genes. But the microbes add to our bodies the power of many, many more — about 8 million genes, the new project estimated. Those bacterial genes produce substances that perform specific jobs, some of which play critical roles in the health and development of their human hosts, said Dr. Bruce Birren of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, another of the project's investigators. Genes from gut bacteria, for example, lead to digestion of certain proteins and fats. They also produce certain beneficial compounds, like inflammation-fighting chemicals. Another surprise: There isn't one core set of bacteria that perform those functions. A wide variety can do the same jobs, the researchers found. That's fortunate considering people carry a customized set of microbes, one that varies dramatically depending on where you live, your diet and a host of other factors. Your microbial zoos also can change, such as when taking antibiotics that kill infection-causing germs as well as good intestinal bacteria that may be replaced with different but equally effective bugs. "We don't all have the same bacteria although they all seem to have been organized to do the same things," Birren said. It may be that our lifestyle and environment "induces each of us to have arrived at a solution that works for us." With this first snapshot of what normal looks like, studies now are under way to see how the microbes differ in people with certain diseases, in hopes of learning how to prevent or treat the illnesses. Consider the intestinal superbug named C. difficile that people all too often catch while they're in the hospital, and that sometimes kills. Washington University's Tarr wants to know what mixture of gut bacteria can fend off the diarrhea-causing germ or make it more likely to infect — so that doctors might one day know who's more vulnerable before they enter a hospital. Also, researchers at Baylor College of Medicine reported Wednesday that the kind of bacteria living in the vagina changes during pregnancy, perhaps to give the fetus as healthy a passage as possible. Previous research has found differences in what first bacteria babies absorb depending on whether they're born vaginally or by C-section, a possible explanation for why cesareans raise the risk for certain infections. All new information in some ways is humbling, because it shows how much more work is needed to understand this world within us, noted infectious disease specialist Dr. David Relman of Stanford University, who wrote a review of the project's findings for the journal Nature. For example, the project included mostly white volunteers who live around Houston and St. Louis. Relman said more work is needed to define a normal microbiome in people with different racial, ethnic and geographic backgrounds. And there are many remaining questions about how these microbes interact with human genetics. "We are essentially blind to many of the services that our microbial ecosystems provide — and on which our health depends," Relman wrote. Source:AP

Research Explores Why Some Baby Names Become More Popular Than Others

Songs, movies, and first names often become popular. Though popularity may seem arbitrary, recent research suggests that fashion may not be as random as we think and that there is a method behind popularity. Researcher Jonah Berger, from the University of Pennsylvania, and his colleagues investigated whether baby names were connected to popularity. "We were interested in understanding cultural evolution or whether it is possible to predict what things will become popular next," said Berger. "Songs, movies, and first names often become popular, but little is known about why some things become more popular than others," he stated. The scientists used data from the US Social Security Administration to collect the first names of babies born between 1882 and 2006. Using the over seven thousand names they collected, they broke the names down into phonemes, or distinct units of sound. For example, the name 'Karen' can be broken down into 'K EH R AH N.' The phonemes from each year were compared to determine if there were any correlations between phoneme popularity and name popularity. The researchers discovered that names were more popular when the phonemes that make up the name were popular in other names the previous year. So the name Karen probably became popular in 2000 because names that began with the K sound, ended with the N sound, or had a EH, R or AH sound in the middle of the name were popular in 1999. "The similarity between cultural items influenced what became popular next. If the name Katie was popular, similar sounding names like Karen, Carl, and Katrina were more likely to become popular in the future," said Berger. To demonstrate that an increase in hearing a particular phoneme could influence the popularity of names that shared that phoneme, Berger and his colleagues did a second study in which they looked for correlations between phonemes in hurricane names and baby names. When hurricanes cause substantial damage, their names are mentioned more frequently, exposing more people to the phonemes in the name. They found that the names of more destructive hurricanes influenced the popularity of certain phonemes in baby names after the storm. For example, after Hurricane Katrina-the Category 5 storm that wreaked havoc on the Gulf Coast- there was a 9 percent increase in names that began with the letter 'K.' Overall, the findings provide insight into how culture evolves over time. Songs, movies, and technology may not become popular based on their unique characteristics, but because they share common features with other popular items, whether it's a similar look, sound, or name. The study will be published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. Source-ANI

Statins Linked to Fatigue

Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs cause fatigue upon exertion, say researchers. The researchers suggest that these findings should be taken into account by doctors when weighing risk versus benefit in prescribing statins. Statin drugs are among the best selling and most widely used prescription drugs on the market. Recently, increasing attention has focused on statins'' side effects, particularly their effect on exercise. While some patients have reported fatigue or exercise intolerance when placed on statins, randomized trials had not previously addressed occurrence of fatigue-with-exertion or impaired energy in patients on statins relative to placebo. In the June 11 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, Beatrice Golomb, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine, and colleagues present randomized trial data which show that these side effects were significantly greater in persons placed on statins than those on a placebo. More than 1,000 adults from San Diego were randomly allocated to identical capsules with placebo, or one of two statins at relatively low potencies: pravastatin (Pravachol) at 40mg, or simvastatin (Zocor) at 20mg - chosen as the most water-soluble and most fat-soluble of the statins, at doses expected to produce similar LDL ("bad cholesterol") reduction. According to the researchers, the cholesterol reduction would be similar to that expected with atorvastatin (Lipitor) at 10mg, or rosuvastatin (Crestor) at 2.5-5mg. Persons with heart disease and diabetes were excluded. Neither subjects nor investigators knew which agent the subject had received. Subjects rated their energy and fatigue with exertion relative to baseline, on a five-point scale, from "much worse" to "much better." Those placed on statins were significantly more likely than those on placebo to report worsening in energy, fatigue-with-exertion, or both. Both statins contributed to the finding, though the effect appeared to be stronger in those on simvastatin. (Simvastatin led to significantly greater cholesterol reduction.) "Side effects of statins generally rise with increasing dose, and these doses were modest by current standards," said Golomb. "Yet occurrence of this problem was not rare - even at these doses, and particularly in women." The magnitude of the effect observed (an average .4 decrease in fatigue, as reported in this study) can be seen in the research findings if, for example, 4 of 10 treated women on simvastatin cited worsened energy or exertional fatigue; 2 in 10 cited worsening in both, or rated either one as "much worse"; OR 1 in 10 study participants rated energy and exertional fatigue as "much worse." "Energy is central to quality of life. It also predicts interest in activity," said Golomb. "Exertional fatigue not only predicts actual participation in exercise, but both lower energy and greater exertional fatigue may signal triggering of mechanisms by which statins may adversely affect cell health." For these reasons, the researchers state that decreases in energy, and increases in exertional fatigue on statins represent important findings which should be taken into account in risk-benefit determinations for statins. According to Golomb, this is particularly true for groups for whom evidence does not support mortality benefit on statins - such as most patients without heart disease, and women and those over 70 or 75, even if heart disease is present. Additional contributors to the paper include Marcella A. Evans, Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, UC Irvine; Joel E. Dimsdale, MD, UC San Diego Department of Psychiatry; and Halbert L. White, UC San Diego Department of Economics. This study was funded by the NHLBI, NIH # RO1 HL63055; and supported by the UCSD General Clinical Research Center, NIH # MO1 RR00827. Source-Newswise

Researchers Discover Compound That may Motivate You to Work Harder |

Erythropoietin hormone improves motivation for higher exercise performance, reveals study. A team of Swiss researchers found that when a hormone in the brain, erythropoietin (Epo), was elevated in mice, they were more motivated to exercise. In addition, the form of erythropoietin used in these experiments did not elevate red blood cell counts. Such a treatment has obvious benefits for a wide range of health problems ranging from Alzheimer's to obesity, including mental health disorders for which increased physical activity is known to improve symptoms. "Here we show that Epo increases the motivation to exercise," Max Gassmann, a researcher involved in the work from the University of Zurich in Switzerland, said. "Most probably, Epo has a general effect on a person's mood and might be used in patients suffering from depression and related diseases," he said. To make this discovery, Gassmann and colleagues used three types of mice - those that received no treatment, those that were injected with human Epo, and those that were genetically modified to produce human Epo in the brain. As compared with mice that did not have any increase in Epo, both mouse groups harbouring human Epo in the brain showed significantly higher running performance without increases in red blood cells. "If you can't put exercise in a pill, then maybe you can put the motivation to exercise in a pill instead," Gerald Weissmann, Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal, said. "As more and more people become overweight and obese, we must attack the problem from all angles. Maybe the day will come when gyms are as easily found as fast food restaurants," he added. The study has been published in the FASEB journal. Source-ANI

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Sahaj Yoga promotes physical and mental health

Sahaja Yoga founded by Mata Nirmala Devi, that is gaining greater acceptance worldwide for calming the mind and busting stress, contributes to promoting mental and physical health, according to a new study conducted in Australia. The essence of Sahaja Yoga, described as mental silence, is much more than mere tranquillity, having several dimensions, including medically beneficial ones, Ramesh Manocha, senior lecturer of psychiatry at the University of Sydney Medical School, said. "We found that the health and well-being profile of people who had meditated for at least two years was significantly higher in the majority of health and well-being categories when compared to the (general) population", says Manocha. Manocha was referring to his latest study on Sahaja Yoga, which focussed on meditation as mental silence, involving more than 348 people, conducted with colleagues Deborah Black and Leigh Wilson at the Sydney Medical School. Fifty-two per cent of the volunteers experienced mental silence "several times per day or more" while 32 per cent were experiencing it "once or twice per day", according to Manocha, who is at the forefront of research into meditative disciplines. "Our survey also demonstrated that practitioners had not only better mental and physical health but also a consistent relationship between health, especially mental health, and self-reported experience of mental silence", says Manocha. Elaborating on mental silence, Manocha says: "As one learns to slow down the thoughts, the practitioner will start to perceive a small gap between each thought. With practice and by applying specific techniques, the meditator can widen the gap so that he experiences a thought or two and then a space of silence and then another thought or two." "In this way, the gap between thoughts can be widened until there are long moments of no thoughts. Ultimately, the thoughts stop completely and the meditator remains fully alert and aware, but experiencing no thinking activity. This is 'mind emptiness' or mental silence of Sahaja Yoga", he said. The outcome is a quietly joyful state rather than an extreme of manic happiness. Mental peace and emotional equilibrium in turn reduce levels of adrenaline and cortisol in the blood stream, decreasing blood pressure and lowering brain activity and slowing down the thinking processes, says Manocha. "The first ever quality-of-life survey of long-term meditators we conducted involved almost every Sahaja Yoga practitioner in Australia, which points to the findings being more concrete than individual stories", informs Manocha. Manocha's stressful life as a medical student turned his attention towards meditation and Sahaja Yoga. "I found the experience of mental silence distinctly powerful. The traditional western ways of dealing with stress, such as alcohol and tobacco consumption, were damaging my health", he recalls. Since western scientists had overlooked this phenomenon, Manocha decided that he would subject it to scientific evaluation to determine whether it could help people in the west facing common mental and physical problems. "We have actually done considerable research on the impact of Sahaja Yoga on work stress, bronchial asthma, menopause and mental health, involving hundreds of participants in many different contexts, all of which indicate its effectiveness", Manocha said. Two separate observational studies of participants suffering from menopausal symptoms and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder demonstrated promising outcomes. These were followed by a small but well-designed randomized controlled trial (RCT) of meditation for asthma, then a much larger RCT of meditation for occupational stress, said Manocha. Their outcomes provided strong evidence that mental silence is associated with a specific, therapeutic effect. An RCT is one of the simplest but most powerful research tools to test the efficacy of a new drug, procedure or treatment on human health. "There is credible evidence to support the idea that Sahaja Yoga meditation, and hence the mental silence experience that typifies it, is associated with unique effects", concludes Manocha. Source:TNN

Yoga Is Not Just Posing as Sport at World Event

Silence prevailed during the yoga asana routines of the ninth annual Bishnu Charan Ghosh Cup — except for one distinct sound: the low engine rumble of airplanes lifting off and landing at the Los Angeles airport.This international competition has made the noise of momentum, too, but just where it is heading is hard to predict. Will it become a sport recognized on the Olympic stage as Rajashree Choudhury, the founder of USA Yoga and the International Yoga Sports Federation, hopes? Or is it destined to remain a quirky transplant from India practiced by an exclusive set of Bikram yogis? “All are welcome here,” said Choudhury, the wife of Bikram and a five-time national champion in India. “We need as many yogis and styles as possible to make this dream a reality.” The event was held at the LAX Radisson, where the mirrored ballroom became a competitive yoga stadium and runway-like hallways morphed into warm-up rooms for yogis. Onstage, a garland-draped image of Bishnu Ghosh, Bikram’s guru, looked on while seven judges sat with pencils raised, critiquing the routines. “The quality of the athletes has evolved tremendously,” said Jon Gans, an organizer and former judge of the event. “Postures, like peacock, that seemed to be a pinnacle pose the first year would now seem normal.” The Bishnu Charan Ghosh Cup in 2003, before the federation took the reins, was a Bikram affair. The sprawling Staples Center featured hundreds of yoga vendors, and the competition got lost in the merchandise. Fewer than 10 countries were represented, and it is said that Bikram lost a quarter-million dollars. Though the event is more focused now — and often serves as a platform for yogis to tell their stories — the number of competitors has grown. At a Friday night dinner, Choudhury welcomed the 75 competitors from 24 countries. Throughout the weekend, Bikram’s monogrammed Rolls-Royce sat at the hotel’s entrance, and he remained front and center, changing his outfit six times over the weekend. One silver sequined jacket, said to have inspired Michael Jackson, sparkled so much that one female competitor confessed that it distracted her onstage. At first, Choudhury avoided the word “competition,” urging the participants to accept whatever happened with humility and a smile. “Shine on that stage,” she said. “That should be your mantra. ...There are no rivals, only fellow coaches.” But later she compared the Ghosh Cup to other sporting events, and the ethereal gave way to the mundane. Mary Jarvis, a coach of seven world champions, reported last-minute changes in the grace score methodology. When coaches politely grumbled about the late notice and lack of organization, Jarvis said, “This is a work in progress.” Competitors had three minutes to complete five compulsory poses from the Bikram beginner series and two optional poses, which typically came from the advanced series. Judges considered the posture’s degree of difficulty and “how well the body reveals the therapeutic benefits of the practice.” The national anthem kicked off Saturday’s qualifying round, but little else resembled an Olympic event except for the impressive athletic ability. Judges were paraded on stage in cocktail dresses, events ran up to two hours behind, and the 800-person ballroom was sometimes half empty. The online viewership throughout the weekend exceeded 10,000 hits. Ten men and 10 women moved from Saturday’s qualifying round to Sunday’s finals, including seven Americans. The United States, with a developed network of studios, presented four representatives from the highly attended national competition, while others, like China, sent only one, and she lives in Boulder, Colo. Bishnu Ghosh’s granddaughter, Muktamala Mitra, said Americans seemed more ambitious in their practice. “They struggle more and are harder working,” she said. Rumors that someone might attempt a one-handed, bowlegged peacock, a pose that judges say would have been unimaginable nine years ago, spread throughout the hotel. It was performed by Dipannita Mondal, 17 the girls youth division winner from India. The Ghosh Cup’s role is to build momentum for yoga asana, providing an “I can do that, too” energy among observers, particularly young ones. Of the 13 competitors in the youth division (11- to 17-year-olds), five were from India, and three were siblings from Canada. “When I first started two years ago, I couldn’t straighten my knees in a forward bend,” said Toby Killick, 13, who placed fourth. “Everything was pretty sad, you could say.” A few of his friends find it cool that he can do backbends, and another joined him for class once, but threw up in the hot studio after guzzling too much water. “I warned him, but it takes some getting used to,” Killick said. Participants from India, where yoga competitions have been around for a century, swept the youth competition, drawing gasps from the crowd as they bent like rubber into their postures. They hustled on and off the stage, sometimes with more than 30 seconds to spare. “They are very shy,” Choudhury said, noting that some are from rural villages and most do not speak English. “I bring them to the West to teach them about performance.” When she competed in India, she said, the audience would bang pots and pans to cause distraction, not unlike what an opposing team does during the pressure-filled moment of a free-throw shot. In the ballroom, the M.C. encouraged silence before promising the audience a lifetime of psychological torment if their cellphones went off. The men’s finals featured a surprising number of falls, something Choudhury chalked up to mental stress. The American champion, Jared McCann, placed third after slipping from his handstand scorpion into a full wheel. Gloria Suen, 35, from Singapore, took the women’s gold medal with a full standing bow, her arms spread wide like airplane wings. Juan Manuel Martin-Busutil, 33, from Spain, won the men’s title after pressing into an inverted palm tree that mirrored the landscape outside. “Being upside down is a way to suspend my mind and let go,” he said. “But yoga is also my tangible grasp on reality.” Will competitive yoga asana lift off as a sport as gracefully as the champions’ bodies did on stage? Time will tell. Among the duties of the champions is to travel the world promoting and demonstrating yoga asana. “Every one of you is making history, and evolving this sport,” said Joseph Encinia, of the United States, the men’s world champion last year. “We’re doing well, but we’re not at an Olympic level yet.” Source:NewYork Times

Time for Indian pharma industry to spend more on R&D, say experts

Indian pharmaceutical industry should wake up to the need of increased spending on research to create new molecules and it is high time to approach patent filing aggressively as done by China and Japan, says Deputy Controller of Patents and Designs K S Kardam. “Our Indian companies are just beginning to realise that they also need an R&D department as merely quality control would not help. Unless spending on R&D is scaled up, it will be difficult to create new molecules. It is time to go for aggressive research and patent filing just like China and Japan,” he said, while addressing a workshop on 'patenting pharmaceuticals in India' here on June 8. The workshop was held by the Drug Information Associates (DIA), India, familiarise industry on the basic theory and practice of IP regimes in an organization and responsibilities involved in IP trade. The event was attended by the policy makers, scientists, academicians, IPR professionals and entrepreneurs. Participants included eminent personalities such as Dr Ramesh Krishnamurti, head, Corporate Patents India, Novo Nordisk, Gabriel Kleiman, assistant general counsel, Pfizer Inc., USA, Raghavendra Lal Saha, former advisor and Head Science & Society Division, National Good Laboratory Practice (GLP), Compliance Monitoring Authority, Patent Facilitating Centre (PFC), TIFAC, Government of India and Krishna Sarma, managing partner, Corporate Law Group, Delhi, India. “The next stage of development for the Indian pharmaceutical sector will definitely lie in the aspect of value creation, for which Intellectual Property becomes indispensable. Over the next few years, it is expected that the patent laws will provide impetus to the launch of patent-protected products. Such products have the potential to capture up to 10 per cent share of the market by 2015, implying the market size of US$ 2bn,” said Krishna Sarma. Gabriel Kleiman, assistant general counsel, Pfizer Inc., USA said, “A patent system is supposed to be about creating more incentives for innovation but it is equally important that innovation reaches to the society.” Source:Pharmabiz

Liquid glucagon formulation discovered for potential use in artificial pancreas systems

JDRF-funded researchers from Oregon Health and Science University and Legacy Health discovered a method to stabilize liquid glucagon for automated pump delivery JDRF-funded researchers at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) and Legacy Health have discovered a liquid glucagon formulation that may be useable in standard diabetes pumps. Such a formulation could broaden the use of glucagon to help prevent hypoglycemia in people with type 1 diabetes (T1D) who are treated with insulin. It could also open a path to future-generation artificial pancreas systems that dispense more than just insulin for optimizing glucose control. "Our previous studies have shown that the injections of small amounts of glucagon prevent hypoglycemia, which is a frequent and serious complication of type 1 diabetes that can lead to seizures, loss of consciousness, and even death," said W. Kenneth Ward, M.D., associate professor of medicine (endocrinology, diabetes, and clinical nutrition) at OHSU School of Medicine and senior scientist at Legacy Health, the two Portland, OR-based organizations that collaborated on the study. The research was presented at the American Diabetes Association's (ADA) 72nd Scientific Sessions on Friday, June 8, and on Sunday, June 10, in Philadelphia. Dr. Ward continues: "Current forms of glucagon cannot be kept for long periods of time in a portable pump, and therefore could not be used as part of an artificial pancreas system. While it is important to note that additional studies will be undertaken in animals and humans before FDA approval can be sought, we have found that the alkaline glucagon compound we discovered can be kept in liquid form for long periods of time, potentially opening pathways for use in bi-hormonal diabetes pumps and toward better therapies for people with diabetes." The research is a key step forward toward the routine delivery of glucagon for people with T1D, and toward the development of a multi-hormonal, fully-automated closed loop artificial pancreas system. Such future-generation artificial pancreas systems would automatically deliver both insulin and glucagon, or other drugs. Glucagon is a naturally occurring hormone that responds to hypoglycemia (extreme low blood sugar) by raising blood sugars, but its regulation is impaired in people with T1D. It works to complement the function of insulin to provide the natural fine-tuning of blood glucose control. Previous studies have shown that the addition of glucagon to insulin treatment reduces the frequency of hypoglycemia in T1D, more closely mimicking the physiology of someone without diabetes. Commercially available glucagon does not maintain its liquid form after the powder and solution are combined, making it suitable only for immediate use. Dr. Ward and his team found that raising the pH of the glucagon allowed the hormone to maintain liquid form, and concluded that this formulation could be suitable for use in a closed-loop bi-hormonal pump. "We have seen very promising results in our studies of artificial pancreas systems that utilize both insulin and glucagon. But for people with diabetes to realize this potential benefit, we need glucagon that is stable and can be used in a pump," said Sanjoy Dutta, Ph.D., JDRF's senior director of treat therapies. "Dr. Ward's research is promising and steers us toward more tangible solutions along the path toward a multi-hormonal, fully-automated closed loop artificial pancreas." The artificial pancreas combines a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) and an insulin pump via sophisticated computer software, to provide the right amount of insulin at the right times for people with diabetes. In March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first artificial pancreas outpatient trial in the United States. Researchers envision future generations of the device to automatically deliver more than one hormone, in addition to insulin, to more closely perform the functions of a non-diabetic human pancreas. Source:Eurekalert

Tiny 'speed bump' device could sort cancer cells

In life, we sort soiled laundry from clean; ripe fruit from rotten. Two Johns Hopkins engineers say they have found an easy way to use gravity or simple forces to similarly sort microscopic particles and bits of biological matter -- including circulating tumor cells. In the May 25 online issue of Physical Review Letters, German Drazer, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, and his doctoral student, Jorge A. Bernate, reported that they have developed a lab-on-chip platform, also known as a microfluidic device, that can sort particles, cells or other tiny matter by physical means such as gravity. By moving a liquid over a series of micron-scale high diagonal ramps -- similar to speed bumps on a road -- the device causes microscopic material to separate into discrete categories, based on weight, size or other factors, the team reported. The process described in the journal article could be used to produce a medical diagnostic tool, the Whiting School of Engineering researchers say. "The ultimate goal is to develop a simple device that can be used in routine checkups by health care providers," said doctoral student Bernate, who is lead author on the paper. "It could be used to detect the handful of circulating tumor cells that have managed to survive among billions of normal blood cells. This could save millions of lives." Ideally, these cancer cells in the bloodstream could be detected and targeted for treatment before they've had a chance to metastasize, or spread cancer elsewhere. Detection at early stages of cancer is critical for successful treatment. How does this sorting process occur? Bernate explained that inside the microfluidic device, particles and cells suspended in liquid flow along a "highway" that has speed-bump-like obstacles positioned diagonally, instead of perpendicular to the path. The speed bumps differ in height, depending on the application. "As different particles are driven over these diagonal speed bumps, heavier ones have a harder time getting over than the lighter ones," the doctoral student said. When the particles cannot get over the ramp, they begin to change course and travel diagonally along the length of the obstacle. As the process continues, particles end up fanning out in different directions. "After the particles cross this section of the 'highway,'" Bernate said, "they end up in different 'lanes' and can take different 'exits,' which allows for their continuous separation." Gravity is not the only way to slow down and sort particles as they attempt to traverse the speed bumps. "Particles with an electrical charge or that are magnetic may also find it hard to go up over the obstacles in the presence of an electric or magnetic field," Bernate said. For example, cancer cells could be "weighted down" with magnetic beads and then sorted in a device with a magnetic field. The ability to sort and separate things at the micro- and nanoscale is important in many industries, ranging from solar power to bio-security. But Bernate said that a medical application is likely to be the most promising immediate use for the device. He is slated to complete his doctoral studies this summer, but until then, Bernate will continue to collaborate with researchers in the lab of Konstantinos Konstantopoulos, professor and chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and with colleagues at InterUniversity Microelectronics Center, IMEC, in Belgium. In 2011, Bernate spent 10 weeks at IMEC in a program hosted by Johns Hopkins' Institute for NanoBioTechnology and funded by the National Science Foundation.His doctoral adviser, Drazer, said, the research described in the new journal article eventually led Jorge down the path at IMEC to develop a device that can easily sort whole blood into its components. A provisional patent has been filed for this device. Source:Eurekalert

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