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Saturday, 18 August 2012

India to become first country in the world to disassociate healthcare from affluence: Dr Devi Shetty

India is undergoing a revolution in the health sector and will become the first country in the world to disassociate healthcare from affluence, according to Devi Prasad Shetty, founder and chairman, Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospitals and chairman, Healthex International 2012.
Seven to ten years from now, there will be an interesting scenario in India where millions of people living in slums with no amenities will have access to high tech healthcare with dignity, he pointed out.
India will prove to the world that a country does not need to be affluent to offer affordable healthcare to its citizens. For this transformation to take place, there is a need for us to create over two to three million beds in hospitals around the country. Along with each bed, the equipment required and the industry size needs to be determined, he said.
The reason for my optimism regarding this massive transformation in India in the near future is because the Indian Government is in talks to conceptualize a law called ‘Right to Healthcare’. In my opinion, 'Right to Healthcare' will soon become a reality just as the Right to Information or the Right to Education. Political parties, political leaders and citizens of the country support this initiative and I believe that there will not be any opposition for them when this campaign begins.
The question that would arise is whether we have that kind of money to pay for healthcare for everyone in the country. Interestingly, healthcare need not be as expensive as it is today as this is one industry that is not dependent on any natural resource like steel, petrol or cement. We do not need any of those. All we need is human skill.
We produce the highest number of doctors, nurses and medical technicians in the world. We also have the largest number of US FDA approved drug manufacturing units outside the US. In fact, we have the capacity to make medicines for the whole world. In spite of these positives, we are still in a mess as people do not have available cash to pay for healthcare. Right to Healthcare will insure that the government comes up with various schemes to suit the working class and underprivileged.
A simple example of how this will happen is that of what Karnataka did 10 years ago with the insurance called Yashaswini. 1.7 million farmers initially paid Rs. 5 per month and the Government paid Rs. 2.5, today the premium has increased to Rs. 10 and we are close to three million people contributing money. People in Karnataka have many schemes available to them like Yashaswini, Vajpayee Arogya, Suvarna Arogya Yojana, etc.
But in North India, such schemes do not exist. For instance, if the police force is unwell they could access any of the 400 network hospitals and get any treatment free of cost. The Arogya Bhagya scheme of Police will provide cashless service. Even though North India has the same amount of police force, such schemes are not available to them making healthcare a financial burden. They are entitled for reimbursement but unfortunately it is very hard for them to get the reimbursement money from the Government. The whole purpose to create this system of Right to Healthcare’, is to encourage the Government to come up with schemes which will allow underprivileged people to participate in the delivery of healthcare.
Source:Pharmabiz

Measurement of Body Parameters in Long-distance Runners

A study published in BMC Medicine 2012 indicates that measurement of various body parameters in long-distance runners is possible though difficult 
The human body is designed to adapt to stress and strain. A recent study attempted to assess the adaptive responses of different tissues, organs and functional systems of the body exposed to enduring periods with limited time for regeneration. 
The study was conducted on athletes participating in the TransEurope FootRace 2009 (TEFR09), which was one of the longest ultramarathons of nearly 4500 km in 64 days. The runners had an average of 7 to 13 hours of rest per day. The race took place between 19 April and 21 June 2009 and extended from South Italy to Norway. An ultramarathon is defined as a footrace of 50 kilometers or more. Multistage ultramarathons are races in which each stage has a distance of an ultramarathon. 
This study was conducted on 44 volunteers. The volunteers were subjected to baseline tests and measurements. They also underwent regular MRI imaging with the help of a mobile MRI unit. MRIs of the muscles, joints, functional MRIs of the brain, heart and blood vessels, and total body MRI were obtained. Besides, other tests were also conducted on the subjects during the study like ice-water pain test (which tests pain perception), psychometric questionnaires, bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA), skinfold thickness and limb circumference measurements, daily urine samples, periodic blood samples and electrocardiograms (ECG). The tests were designed to detect changes due to injury, adaptation, regeneration, reparation and overuse processes in the musculoskeletal system; brain, mind and pain perception; cardiovascular system and body composition. The tests were also conducted at the end of the race or when an athlete dropped out. In addition, 15 out of the 44 athletes underwent the tests again 8 months after the race. 
The researchers were able to complete more than 95% of the planned MRI investigations during the study. They conducted 741 MR-examinations with 2,637 MRI sequences, 5,720 urine samples, 244 blood samples, 205 ECG, 1,018 BIA, 539 anthropological measurements and 150 psychological questionnaires. 
The study thus shows the feasibility of conducting such a study in long-distance runners. Data obtained from such studies is useful in studying various aspects of stressful conditions on the human body.
ReferenceUwe HW Schütz et al. The Transeurope Footrace Project: Longitudinal data acquisition in a cluster randomized mobile MRI observational cohort study on 44 endurance runners at a 64-stage 4,486km transcontinental ultramarathon. 
 

Key Molecular Target for Wound-healing Discovered

Scientists have identified an important molecular mechanism that pushes the body into wound-repair mode. 
The findings, which appear in an advance, online version of the Immunity on August 16, 2012, focus on cells known as γδ (gamma delta) T cells. The new study demonstrates a skin-cell receptor hooks up with a receptor on γδ T-cells to stimulate wound healing. 
"This is a major activation pathway for γδ T cells, and it may be a key to treating slow-wound-healing conditions, such as we see in diabetes," said Scripps Research Professor Wendy L. Havran, senior author of the study. "Chronic non-healing wounds among diabetics and the elderly are an increasing clinical problem." 

Rounding and Multiplying 
Havran's laboratory specializes in the study of γδ T cells, and the team has produced many of the findings in this research field, including the discovery of these cells' major role in epithelial wound repair. Epithelial tissues are barrier tissues to the outside world, such as skin and the inner surfaces of the gut and lungs. 
Normally, γδ T cells reside in these tissues and extend finger-like projections, called dendrites, that contact neighboring epithelial cells. When injury or infection occurs, the epithelial cells signal their damaged condition to the γδ T cells. In response, the T cells retract their dendrites, become round, start proliferating, and secrete growth-factor proteins that stimulate the production of new epithelial cells in the vicinity—thus helping to repair the wound. 
Researchers know of very few interactions between epithelial cells and γδ T cells that are involved in this process. Two, however, are known to be crucial. One of these is through the  T cell receptor and the other was described in a 2010 Science paper, whose first author was Havran laboratory Senior Staff Scientist Deborah A. Witherden. But these two interactions don't fully explain the transformation that γδ T cells undergo in the vicinity of wounds. "We've wanted to learn more about the molecules that mediate this dramatic change," Havran said. 

Signaling a Transformation 
To do that, Witherden identified an antibody that could block keratinocytes' ability to activate γδ T cells in culture. She found that the antibody bound to a keratinocyte surface receptor called plexin B2. She also found that when lab mice have small skin wounds, their injured keratinocytes express more plexin B2 soon after the wounding occurs—pointing to a role for plexin B2 in signaling skin-cell damage. 
The next step was to find plexin B2's signaling partner on γδ T cells. "Plexin B2 is very similar to other plexin B family members, including plexin B1, which previously has been shown to bind the CD100 receptor on T cells," said Witherden. "So we thought that perhaps plexin B2 and CD100 can interact as well."
Further tests revealed that plexin B2 and CD100 do indeed bind tightly together; moreover, γδ T cells can't go fully into wound-repair mode when they lack CD100. Witherden found as well that skin wounds in mice take an extra day or two to heal when the mice don't have this receptor. "This is very similar to what we see in mice that lack γδ T cells altogether," she said. 
Removing CD100 from other types of T cells had no effect on wound healing time, indicating that the absence of this receptor specifically on γδ T cells is the reason for the slower healing. 
By stimulating CD100 with plexin B2 molecules or even with CD100-binding antibodies, the team showed that this receptor is the principal trigger for the dramatic appendage-retraction and rounding phenomenon seen in γδ T cells after nearby wounds. Without it, the T cells are largely unable to undergo this transformation. "This rounding process seems to be vital for these T cells to function normally in wound healing," said Witherden. 

Potential Clinical Significance 
In early follow-on work, the team has found evidence that this same plexin B2-CD100 interaction is also needed for the prompt activation of γδ T cells and wound healing in the lining of mouse intestines—which suggests that this receptor helps govern wound healing in epithelial tissues generally. 
The finding clearly is important for the basic scientific understanding of T cells and their functions. But it is likely to have medical significance, too. Non-healing wounds affect more than 4 million people in the United States and are the leading cause of amputations. These chronic wounds have a major impact on patient's lives and result in enormous health care costs. "If deficiencies in this γδ T cell activation pathway are even partly responsible, then we may be able to develop drugs to boost this pathway and treat conditions involving chronic non-healing wounds," said Havran. 
The γδ T cell population appears to be involved not just in wound healing, but also in defending against other threats to epithelial tissues. "One of the future directions of our research will be to understand the roles of these molecules in T cell activation pathways in fighting infections and tumors," she added. 
Source-Eurekalert
 

Study examines the relationship between marriage and alcohol


New research examining relationships and the use of alcohol finds that while a long-term marriage appears to curb men's drinking, it's associated with a slightly higher level of alcohol use among women. The study, led by the University of Cincinnati (UC), will be presented at the 107th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.
Based on survey data and interviews, the authors revealed that married men reported consuming the lowest number of drinks, compared with single, divorced, and widowed men. That's in part because of their wives' lower levels of drinking, write the authors. Men also were more likely than women to turn to drinking after a divorce.
On the other hand, the researchers found that married women consumed more drinks than long-term divorced or recently widowed women, in part because they lived with men who had higher levels of alcohol use.
The authors of the study are Corinne Reczek, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Cincinnati; Tetyana Pudrovska, an assistant professor of sociology and demography at The Pennsylvania State University; Deborah Carr, a professor of sociology at Rutgers University; and Debra Umberson, a professor of sociology at University of Texas at Austin.
The researchers analyzed survey data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study to explore population trends in the relationship between marriage and alcohol. They also analyzed data from two in-depth interview studies, the Marital Quality Over the Life Course Project, conducted between 2003-2006, and the Relationships and Health Habits Over the Life Course Study, conducted between 2007-2010.
The researchers also found that:

  • In each marital status category, men consumed a greater average number of drinks than women.
  • Across every marital status category, a higher proportion of men than women also reported having at least one drinking-related problem.
  • Recently divorced men reported consuming a significantly greater average number of drinks than men in long-term marriages.
  • Reporting at least one drinking-related problem was significantly higher among long-term divorced and recently divorced women than long-term married women.
The researchers gauged alcohol consumption by total number of drinks consumed in a month.
The researchers suggest that future research should examine more closely how widowhood shapes alcohol use over time, as well as explore alcohol use differences across race-ethnicity.
Source:American Sociological Association 

'Ayurvedic drugs may have toxic effect'

Doctors in Mumbai  warn that ayurvedic medicines may contain high levels of toxic metals, which could lead to poisoning, besides leading to side effects like depression, memory loss, loss of sensation and renal failure.Various city nephrologists, neurologists and endocrinologists come across cases where patients opt for ayurvedic medication, and it worsens their condition.Experts feel most people assume that ayurvedic medicines do not have side effects.Dr Shashank Joshi, endocrinologist, Bhatia Hospital, said, “Some of the ayurvedic medicines, which are scientifically proven, are good to prevent diseases like diabetes, but not to cure ailments. Most of the time, people go by advertisements and buy medicines, instead of going to qualified ayurvedic doctors. I come across cases were patients taking ayurvedic medicines face major health problems. There are a lot of ayurvedic products selling in the market which are not scientifically proven.”Dr Nirmal Surya, a neurologist at Bombay Hospital, said, “One patient, who was well educated, came to me with complaints of depression and memory loss. This patient had a habit of using ayurvedic medicines. We sent his blood sample to the Indian Institute of Environmental Medicine, which detected abnormal levels of lead, copper, gold, arsenic and mercury in it. The mercury present probably caused the depression and memory loss.”He added that many people randomly take ayurvedic medicines as a supplementary or to increase their appetite.“I have seen many cases of renal failure due to ayurvedic medicines. Heavy metals get deposited on kidneys, leading to chronic kidney failure cases,” said Dr Jatin Kothari, nephorologist at Hinduja Hospital.However, Dr KR Kohli, director, Directorate of Ayurveda, said, “It is complete wrong to say the ayurvedic medicines contain heavy metals. Allopathic doctors are saying such things due to professional jealousy. First, 90% herbal medicines don’t have any kind of metal, and the remaining 10% get refined in the making process. There is a lot of research done at different levels to prove that the medicine is safe. People should buy only scientifically prepared drugs approved by the Food and Drugs Administration, and take them under medical supervision.”
Source:DNA News

Friday, 17 August 2012

External Stimulation Impacts White Matter Development in the PostNatal Brain: Study


A team has found that external stimulation has an impact on the postnatal development of a specific region of the brain. The team is from the Children's National Medical Center. Published in Nature Neuroscience, the study used sensory deprivation to look at the growth and collection of NG2-expressing oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (NG2 cells) in the sensory cortex of the brain. This type of research is part of the Center for Neuroscience Research focus on understanding the development and treatment of white matter diseases. 
NG2 cells can develop into oligodendrocytes progenitor cells that generate myelin, the protective material around the axons of neurons, but this is based on functional and developmental interactions with outside stimuli. With this kind of plasticity, or ability to change and mold a cell in different ways, the researchers were able to determine that sensory stimuli can control the number and positioning of developing NG2 cells. 
"Understanding how external stimulation and experience impact the development of NG2 cells means that we can try to modulate these factors to help regulate and promote the expansion of these cells. This could ultimately have an impact on white matter diseases," statedVittorio Gallo, PhD, study coordinator and Director of the Center for Neuroscience Research at the Children's Research Institute. "We will now investigate in more detail how sensory experience can regulate NG2 cell development, particularly how experience activates specific genes and molecular pathways in these cells." 
Collectively called NG2 progenitors, these cells also serve as the primary source of cells to regenerate oligodendrocytes and myelin in the postnatal brain. Without myelin, the brain does not function properly. Myelination can be impaired for a number of reasons, resulting in mental retardation and developmental disabilities. Myelination, white matter growth and repair, and the study of complex mechanisms of pre- and postnatal brain development are a key focus of the Center for Neuroscience Research at Children's National, which also houses the White Matter Diseases Program, one of the largest clinical programs in the country for treating children with disorders that cause the brain's white matter to degenerate. 
Source-Eurekalert


 

Walnuts Improve Sperm Quality

According to a recent study, daily intake of walnuts boosts sperm quality in healthy young men. 
According to a new study by UCLA researchers, eating 75 grams of walnuts a day improves the vitality, motility, and morphology of sperm in healthy men aged 21 to 35. 
Dr. Wendie Robbins and her colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles decided to investigate whether increasing polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), which are critical for sperm maturation and membrane function, would increase sperm quality in men consuming a Western-style diet. 
The best sources of dietary PUFAs in a Western-style diet include fish and fish oil supplements, flax seed, and walnuts, the latter of which are rich sources of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a natural plant source of omega-3. 
With support by the California Walnut Commission, Dr. Robbins' team selected 117 healthy men between the ages of 21 and 35 who ate a Western-style diet and split them into two groups: one (58 men) who would avoid eating tree nuts and another (59 men) who would eat 75 grams of walnuts per day. 
Previous studies had indicated that 75 grams of walnuts would be a dose at which blood lipid levels would change, but at which healthy young men would not gain weight. 
Before the experiment began and then again 12 weeks later, the men's semen quality was analyzed according to conventional parameters of male fertility, including sperm concentration, vitality, motility, morphology, and chromosome abnormalities. 
After 12 weeks, the team found no significant changes in body-mass index, body weight, or activity level in either group. 
The men consuming walnuts, however, had significantly increased levels of omega-6 and omega-3 (ALA) fatty acids and experienced improvement in sperm vitality, motility, and morphology. 
Those eating walnuts also had fewer chromosomal abnormalities in their sperm following the walnut dietary intervention. The control group, on the other hand, experienced no changes. 
Although this research indicates that eating 75 grams of walnuts per day can positively affect a young man's sperm quality, it is still unknown whether the benefits would apply to young men with fertility problems and whether they would actually translate into increased fertility. 
The study has been published in Biology of Reproduction's Papers-in-Press
Source-ANI


 

Resistance to Dementia May Run in the Family: Study

A new study found that people free of dementia having high levels of a protein that indicates the presence of inflammation have relatives who are more likely to avoid the disease. 
"In very elderly people with good cognition, higher levels of C-reactive protein, which is related to inflammation, are associated with better memory," said study author Jeremy M. Silverman, PhD, with Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. "Our results found that the higher the level of this protein in the study participant, the lower the risk for dementia in their parents and siblings." 
For the study, researchers identified 277 male veterans age 75 and older and free of dementia symptoms. They were given a test that measured levels of the protein. Next, the group was interviewed about 1,329 parents and siblings and whether they had dementia. A total of 40 relatives from 37 families had dementia. A secondary, independent group of 51 men age 85 and older with no dementia symptoms were given an interview about 202 relatives for dementia. Nine of the relatives had dementia. 
Study investigators found that participants who had higher amounts of the protein were more than 30 percent less likely to have relatives with dementia. Similar results were found in the secondary group. Since the protein levels were not associated with years of education, marital status, occupation and physical activity, these factors could not account for the lower risks seen. 
"This protein is related to worse cognition in younger elderly people. Thus, for very old people who remain cognitively healthy, those with a high protein level may be more resistant to dementia," said Silverman. "Our study shows that this protection may be passed on to immediate relatives." 
The study was supported by the National Institute on Aging, United States Department of Veterans Affairs, the Berkman Charitable Trust and the Alzheimer''s Association. 
Source-Newswise


 

Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of wheeze and asthma in preschool children


Maternal smoking during pregnancy is associated with wheeze and asthma inpreschool children, even among children who were not exposed to maternal smoking late inpregnancy or after birth, according to a new study.
"Epidemiological evidence suggests that exposure to maternal smoking during fetal andearly life increases the risk of childhood wheezing and asthma, but earlier studieswere not able to differentiate the effects of prenatal and postnatal exposure," said lead author Åsa Neuman. MD, of the Institute of Environmental Medicine at the KarolinskaInstitutet in Stockholm, Sweden. "Our study, a large pooled analysis of eight birth cohorts with data on more than 21,000 children, included 735 children who were exposed to maternal smoking only during pregnancy."
"These childrenwere at increased risk for wheeze and asthma at preschool age. Furthermore, the likelihood of developing wheeze and asthma increased in a significant dose-response pattern in relation to maternal cigarette consumption during the first trimester."
The findings were published online ahead of print publication in the American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
The eight European birth cohorts included in the study included a total of 21,600 children. Exposure information and information on symptoms of wheeze and asthma were derived from parental questionnaires.
In analyses adjusted for sex, parental education, parental asthma, birth weight and siblings, maternal smoking only during pregnancy was associated with increased risks for wheeze (odd ratio 1.39, 95 % CI 1.08-1.77) and asthma (odds ratio 1.65, 1.18-2.31) at age four to six years. Moreover, maternal smoking during the first trimester of pregnancy, but not during the third trimester or the first year following birth, was associated with increased risks for subsequent wheeze and asthma.
"These results indicate that the harmful effects of maternal smoking on the fetal respiratory system begin early in pregnancy, perhaps before the women is even aware that she is pregnant," said Dr. Neuman.
The study has some limitations, including the use of parental questionnaires to obtain exposure and outcome information.
"Our large pooled analysis confirms that maternal smoking during pregnancy, particularly duringthe first trimester, is associated with a greater risk of offspring developing wheeze and asthma when they reach preschool age," concluded Dr. Neuman. "Teens and young women should be encouraged to quit smoking before getting pregnant."
Source:American Thoracic Society 

A urine based 'potion' can act as a CO2 absorbent


The ocean, the ground, rocks and trees act as carbon drains but are far from places where greenhouses gases are concentrated, especially CO2. A Spanish researcher has proposed human, agricultural and livestock waste, such as urine, as a way to absorb this gas.
Absorbing the large quantities of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases present in cities would require millions of tonnes of some naturally occurring substance. A study published in theJournal of Hazardous Materials suggests urine as a reactive. As a resource available across all human societies, it is produced in large quantities and is close to the pollution hubs of large cities.
"For every molecule of urea in urine, one mole (a chemical unit used to measure the quantity of a substance) of ammonium bicarbonate is produced along with one mole of ammonia, which could be used to absorb one mole of atmospheric CO2," as explained to SINC by the author of the study, Manuel Jiménez Aguilar of the Institute of Agricultural and Fisheries Research and Training of the Regional Government of Andalusia.
After absorbing the CO2 another unit of ammonium bicarbonate is produced, which is used in China as a nitrogen fertilizer for 30 years. Jiménez Aguilar points out that "if applied to basic-calcium rich soils this would produce calcium carbonate thus encouraging gas-fixation in the ground.
To avoid the urine from decomposing, the researcher suggests the possibility of including a small proportion of olive waste water (a black, foul-smelling liquid obtained from spinning the ground olive paste). This acts as a preservative. The researcher confirms that "the urine-CO2-olive waste water could be considered an NPK fertilizer (ammonia-nitrate-phosphorous-potassium)."
The result is that the urine mixed with a small percentage of olive waste water can absorb various grams of CO2 per litre in a stable manner and over more than six months. According to Jiménez Aguilar, "CO2 emissions could be reduced by 1%."
The fluid created can be inserted into domestic and industrial chimneys (reconverted into containers to accumulate the urine-olive waste water mixture) so that the greenhouse gas passes through the liquid, increasing the pressure exerted on the CO2 and thus increasing its absorption capacity.
As the scientist makes clear "these containers or chimneys should have a urine filling and emptying system and a control system to detect when the mixture has become saturated with gas." When taken out of the chimney, the urine is stored in another container or can be channelled for its distribution and use as an agricultural fertilizer.
Making the most of urine
By applying this methodology as a greenhouse gas absorbent, the way in which industrialised countries use waste water and solid waste would never be the same again. The author hints that the whole water and waste treatment system would be reviewed to adapt newly built areas to a waste recycling and waste management system.
"In developing countries this nutrient recovery system could be implemented thanks to its environmental advantages," says the expert.
Furthermore, urine recycling in every home would allow for nutrients to be recovered, leading to a lesser need for artificial fertilizers. Jiménez emphasises that "if urine and faeces are recycled there and then, as much as 20 litres of water per person per day could be saved and this would reduce waste water treatment costs."
The study suggests that urine should be recycled for it to be used as fertilizer liquid and that faeces should be treated with solid organic waste to produce compost or solid fertilizers. The researcher also states in another study that is pending publication that the urine-olive waste water mixture can also be used to reduce the CO2 and NOx emissions of vehicles.
Source:FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology 

Princeton study reveals the brain's mysterious switchboard operator


A mysterious region deep in the human brain could be where we sort through the onslaught of stimuli from the outside world and focus on the information most important to our behavior and survival, Princeton University researchers have found.The researchers report in the journal Science that an area of our brain called the pulvinar regulates communication between clusters of brain cells as our brain focuses on the people and objects that need our attention. Like a switchboard operator, the pulvinar makes sure that separate areas of the visual cortex — which processes visual information — are communicating about the same external information, explained lead author Yuri Saalmann, an associate research scholar in the Princeton Neuroscience Institute (PNI). Without guidance from the pulvinar, an important observation such as an oncoming bus as one is crossing the street could get lost in a jumble of other stimuli.
Saalmann 1
Princeton University researchers have found that the pulvinar, a mysterious region deep in the human brain, acts like a switchboard operator to make sure that separate areas of the brain are communicating about the same external information most important to our behavior at a given moment. The pulvinar uses electrical impulses to synchronize and allow more effective communication between brain cells in the visual cortex, which processes visual information. The researchers produced neural connection maps that show the pulvinar's connection to these brain regions. In this scan, the pulvinar communicates with the occipital lobe (yellow) and the temporal lobe (red) individually, and with both (green). Image courtesy of Science/AAAS
Saalmann said these findings on how the brain transmits information could lead to new ways of understanding and treating attention-related disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and schizophrenia. Saalmann worked with senior researcher Sabine Kastner, a professor in theDepartment of Psychologyand the Princeton Neuroscience Institute; and PNI researchers Xin Li, a research assistant; Mark Pinsk, a professional specialist; and Liang Wang, a postdoctoral research associate.
The researchers developed a new technique to trace direct communication between clusters of neurons in the visual cortex and the pulvinar. The team produced neural connection maps using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), then placed electrodes along those identified communication paths to monitor brain signals of macaques. The researchers trained the monkeys to play a video game during which they used visual cues to find a specific shape surrounded by distracting information. As the macaques focused, Saalmann and his colleagues could see that the pulvinar controlled which parts of the visual cortex sent and received signals.
Saalmann explains the Princeton findings as follows:
"A fundamental problem for the brain is that there is too much information in our natural environment for it to be processed in detail at the same time. The brain instead selectively focuses on, or attends to, the people and objects most relevant to our behavior at the time and filters out the rest. For instance, as we cross a busy city street, our brain blocks out the bustle of the crowd behind us to concentrate more on an oncoming bus."The transmission of behaviorally relevant information between various parts of the brain is tightly synchronized. As one brain area sends a signal about our environment, such as that a bus is approaching, another brain area is ready to receive it and respond, such as by having us cross the street faster. A persistent question in neuroscience, though, is how exactly do different brain areas synchronize so that important information isn't lost in the other stimuli flooding our brains."Our study suggests that a mysterious area in the center of the brain called the pulvinar acts as a switchboard operator between areas on the brain's surface known as the visual cortex, which processes visual information. When we pay attention to important visual information, the pulvinar makes sure that information passing between clusters of neurons is consistent and relevant to our behavior."These results could advance the understanding of the neural mechanisms of selective attention and how the brain transmits information. This is a necessary step in developing effective treatment strategies for medical disorders characterized by a failure of attention mechanisms. These conditions include ADHD, schizophrenia and spatial neglect, which is an inability to detect stimuli often observed following stroke.
"For our study, we trained monkeys to play a video game in which they paid attention to visual cues in order to detect different target shapes. We simultaneously recorded brain activity in the pulvinar and two different areas of the visual cortex. We could see a clear connective path from one portion of the cortex to another, as well as connective paths from the pulvinar to the cortex. When the monkeys paid attention to the visual cues, the pulvinar sent electrical pulses to synchronize particular groups of brain cells in the visual cortex to allow them to communicate effectively."A challenge in this study was that we needed to record the activity of cells that were 'speaking' directly with each other so we could trace the line of communication. But there are billions of brain cells. Traditionally, finding a cell-to-cell connection is as likely as randomly selecting two people talking on cell phones in different parts of New York City and discovering that they were speaking to each other."To 'listen in' on a direct cell conversation, we developed a new approach of using electrodes to record groups of brain cells that were anatomically connected. We first mapped neural connections in the brain via diffusion tensor imaging, which uses an MRI scanner to measure the movement of water along neural connections. We then used these images to implant electrodes at the endpoints of the neural connections shared by the pulvinar and the visual cortex."Our mapping of these communication networks and our finding that the pulvinar is vital to attention prompts a new consideration of the mechanisms behind higher cognitive function. We challenge the common notion that these functions depend exclusively on the cerebral cortex, the outermost layer of the brain responsible for decision-making, attention and language, among other abilities. It also suggests that the prevailing view that visual information is transmitted solely through a network of areas in the visual cortex needs to be revised to include the pulvinar as an important regulator of neural transmission."The paper "The Pulvinar Regulates Information Transmission Between Cortical Areas Based on Attention Demands" was published Aug. 10 by Science, and was supported by the National Science Foundation and the National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health.
Saalmann 2
After producing neural connection maps, the researchers used electrodes (blue arrows and green crosshairs) to monitor the direct communication paths (yellow-orange) between the pulvinar and clusters of brain cells, which in this case are in the temporal lobe. 
Image courtesy of Science/AAAS
Source:Princeton University


Thursday, 16 August 2012

Study in mice raises hopes for birth control pill for men


U.S. researchers have stumbled on a compound that may finally lead to a birth control pill for men.
In lab experiments, male mice given the pill were rendered completely infertile during treatment as they produced fewer and less mobile sperm. The drug, originally tested as part of a broader cancer research project, does not affect the hormone system or sex drive, the team said on Thursday.
"There is no effect on the mouse's mojo. The animals exhibit the normal sexual behaviors and frequency of copulation," said Dr. James Bradner of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, whose study appears in the journal Cell.What's more, the effect is completely reversible. Once doctors stopped giving the drug to mice, they were able to sire healthy litters, with no apparent side effects, Bradner said.Scientists say the research is exciting because it applies a unique approach to the problem of male contraception, which is now largely comprised of less reliable methods like condom use, or more permanent procedures like vasectomies.Bradner's lab focuses on developing new drugs to undermine the molecular memory of cancer cells that tell them to divide. Those memory markers are distributed throughout the genome, the DNA that makes up a person's genetic code, and Bradner likens them to post-it notes that give cells instructions.The team was experimenting with a compound developed in Bradner's lab called JQ1, which was originally synthesized at Dana-Farber to block BRD4, a cancer-causing gene.They discovered that it appears to target a protein specific to the testes called BRDT that instructs sperm to mature. Bradner said the compound does not appear to do damage to sperm-making cells, but they forget how to create mature sperm while under the influence of the drug.
DRUG IMPEDES SPERM PRODUCTION
Bradner reached out to reproductive health expert Martin Matzuk of Baylor College of Medicine, another author of the report, and his team tested the compound in mice.What they found is that the animals began producing fewer sperm, and the ones they did produce were poor swimmers."When the drug is removed, these instructions return," Bradner said.The finding was surprising because few drugs are able to cross a protective firewall known as the blood-testes barrier that protects the testicles from substances floating around in the blood stream.William Bremner from the University of Washington in Seattle, who was not involved in the research, said in a commentary the finding was "a breakthrough new approach," noting that there has not been a new reversible contraceptive for men since the development of the condom centuries ago."It's exciting basic science that provides a new approach to think about how a contraceptive for men might be designed," Bremner said in a telephone interview. "At the same time, it's a long ways from being in clinical trials in men, let alone being on pharmacy shelves."Other teams have developed hormonal pills that are effective, but they disrupt hormone balance in men, and drug companies so far have not picked up on this approach, Bremner said.Professor Moira O'Bryan, head of the Male Infertility and Germ Cell Biology Laboratory at Monash University in Australia, said the study was "an exciting report that could have major scientific and social impacts."O'Bryan said the strong similarity between sperm production in mice and humans suggest that a variation of the drug may ultimately result in a human contraception for men.Bradner said his team is working to refine the drug so that it only acts on cells in the testes, and not on cancer cells.And while there are many more tests ahead before it can be a drug, the researchers believe the new approach can be "completely translated to men, providing a novel and efficacious strategy for a male contraceptive."
Source:Reuters

Exercise may Improve Quality of Life for People With Cancer: Study

Physical activity improves quality of life before and after cancer, say Cochrane researchers. In two separate Cochrane systematic reviews, the authors gathered together evidence showing that activities such as walking and cycling can benefit those who are undergoing or have completed treatment for cancer. 
People with cancer suffer from many different physical, psychological and social effects related to cancer, as well as treatment-related symptoms. There has been much interest in the effects of exercise on physical and psychological well-being in people with cancer. However, no previous systematic reviews have comprehensively examined the potential benefits of exercise on health-related quality of life, or on treatment-related symptoms. Cancer treatments and survival rates continue to improve, but quality of life remains a priority for people with cancer who are undergoing or have completed treatment. 
The first review focused on 56 trials involving a total of 4,826 people undergoing treatment for different types of cancer, including breast and prostate cancer. The second focused on 40 trials involving a total of 3,694 people who had completed treatment for cancer. Exercise programmes in both reviews included walking, cycling, yoga, Qigong, resistance training and strength training. The results show that exercise can improve health-related quality of life for people with cancer. Further, results from both reviews show that exercise improved social functioning and tiredness. Benefits were also seen in the physical well-being of participants undergoing treatment and in self-esteem, emotional well-being, sexuality, sleep, anxiety and pain in people who had completed treatment. 
"Together, these reviews suggest that exercise may provide quality of life benefits for people who are undergoing or have undergone treatment for cancer," said lead author Shiraz I. Mishra of the Prevention Research Center at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, US. 
"However, we need to treat these findings with caution because the trials we included looked at many different kinds of exercise programmes, which varied by type of exercise, length of the programme and how hard the participants had to exercise. We need to understand from future trials how to maintain the positive impacts of exercise in the longer term and whether there are particular types of exercise that are suited to particular types of cancer." 
Source-Eurekalert


 

Secrets of 'SuperAger' brains


Elderly SuperAgers have brains that look and act decades younger than their age

Researchers have long chronicled what goes wrong in the brains of older people with dementia. But Northwestern Medicine researcher Emily Rogalski wondered what goes right in the brains of the elderly who still have terrific memories. And, do those people – call them cognitive SuperAgers --- even exist?
Rogalski's new study has for the first time identified an elite group of elderly people age 80 and older whose memories are as sharp as people 20 to 30 years younger than them. And on 3-D MRI scans, the SuperAger participants' brains appear as young -– and one brain region was even bigger –- than the brains of the middle-aged participants.
She was astounded by the vitality of the SuperAgers' cortex – the outer layer of the brain important for memory, attention and other thinking abilities. Theirs was much thicker than the cortex of the normal group of elderly 80 and older (whose showed significant thinning) and closely resembled the cortex size of participants ages 50 to 65, considered the middle-aged group of the study.
"These findings are remarkable given the fact that grey matter or brain cell loss is a common part of normal aging," said Rogalski, the principal investigator of the study and an assistant research professor at the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
Rogalski is senior author of the paper, which is published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society.
By identifying older people who seem to be uniquely protected from the deterioration of memory and atrophy of brain cells that accompanies aging, Rogalski hopes to unlock the secrets of their youthful brains. Those discoveries may be applied to protect others from memory loss or even Alzheimer's disease.
"By looking at a really healthy older brain, we can start to deduce how SuperAgers are able to maintain their good memory," Rogalski said. "Many scientists study what's wrong with the brain, but maybe we can ultimately help Alzheimer's patients by figuring out what goes right in the brain of SuperAgers. What we learn from these healthy brains may inform our strategies for improving quality of life for the elderly and for combatting Alzheimer's disease."
By measuring the thickness of the cortex – the outer layer of the brain where neurons (brain cells) reside – Rogalski has a sense of how many brain cells are left.
"We can't actually count them, but the thickness of the outer cortex of the brain provides an indirect measure of the health of the brain," she said. "A thicker cortex, suggests a greater number of neurons."
In another region deep in the brain, the anterior cingulate of SuperAger participants' was actually thicker than in the 50 to 65 year olds.
"This is pretty incredible," Rogalski said. "This region is important for attention. Attention supports memory. Perhaps the SuperAgers have really keen attention and that supports their exceptional memories."
Only 10 percent of the people who "thought they had outstanding memories" met the criteria for the study. To be defined as a SuperAger, the participants needed to score at or above the norm of the 50 to 65 year olds on memory screenings.
"These are a special group of people," Rogalski said. They aren't growing on trees."
For the study, Rogalski viewed the MRI scans of 12 Chicago-area Superager participants' brains and screened their memory and other cognitive abilities. The study included 10 normally aging elderly participants who were an average age of 83.1 and 14 middle-aged participants who were an average age of 57.9. There were not significant differences in education among the groups.
Most of the SuperAger participants plan to donate their brains to the study. "By studying their brains we can link the attributes of the living person to the underlying cellular features," Rogalski said.
Source:Northwestern University 

Meditation reduces loneliness


UCLA study also finds that mindfulness technique benefits immune system

Many elderly people spend their last years alone. Spouses pass and children scatter. But being lonely is much more than a silent house and a lack of companionship. Over time, loneliness not only takes a toll on the psyche but can have a serious physical impact as well.
Feeling lonely has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, depression and even premature death. Developing effective treatments to reduce loneliness in older adults is essential, but previous treatment efforts have had limited success.
What to do? Researchers at UCLA now report that a simple meditation program lasting just eight weeks reduced loneliness in older adults. Further, knowing that loneliness is associated with an increase in the activity of inflammation-related genes that can promote a variety of diseases, the researchers examined gene expression and found that this same form of meditation significantly reduced expression of inflammatory genes.
In the current online edition of the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity,senior study author Steve Cole, a UCLA professor of medicine and psychiatry and a member of the Norman Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at UCLA, and colleagues report that the two-month program of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), which teaches the mind to simply be attentive to the present and not dwell in the past or project into the future, successfully reduced the feelings of loneliness.
Remarkably, the researchers said, MBSR also altered the genes and protein markers of inflammation, including the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP) and a group of genes regulated by the transcription factor NF-kB. CRP is a potent risk factor for heart disease, and NF-kB is a molecular signal that activates inflammation.
Inflammation is a natural component of the immune system and can help fight a wide variety of bodily insults, ranging from infections to a whack by a hammer. But chronic inflammation is now known to be a primary player in the pathology of many diseases and psychological disorders.
"Our work presents the first evidence showing that a psychological intervention that decreases loneliness also reduces pro-inflammatory gene expression," Cole said. "If this is borne out by further research, MBSR could be a valuable tool to improve the quality of life for many elderly."
In the study, 40 adults between the ages of 55 and 85 were randomly assigned to either a mindfulness meditation group or a control group that did not meditate. All the participants were assessed at the beginning and the end of the study using an established loneliness scale. Blood samples were also collected at the beginning and end to measure gene expression and levels of inflammation.
The meditators attended weekly two-hour meetings in which they learned the techniques of mindfulness, including awareness and breathing techniques. They also practiced mindfulness meditation for 30 minutes each day at home and attended a single daylong retreat.
These MBSR participants self-reported a reduced sense of loneliness, while their blood tests showed a significant decrease in the expression of inflammation-related genes.
"While this was a small sample, the results were very encouraging," said Dr. Michael Irwin, a professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA and director of the Cousins Center. "It adds to a growing body of research that is showing the positive benefits of a variety of meditative techniques, including tai chi and yoga."
Just last month, for example, Dr. Helen Lavretsky, a UCLA professor of psychiatry and a Cousins Center member, published a study showing that a form of yogic meditation involving chanting also reduced inflammatory gene expression, as well as stress levels, among individuals who care for patients with Alzheimer's disease.
"These studies begin to move us beyond simply connecting the mind and genome, and identify simple practices that an individual can harness to improve human health," Irwin said.
Source:University of California - Los Angeles 

Yoga: a cost-effective treatment for back pain sufferers?


Yoga class for people with low back pain. Photo by Ian MartindaleSpecialised group yoga classes could provide a cost-effective way of treating patients with chronic or recurrent low back pain, according to the UK's largest ever study of the benefits of yoga. Led by the University of York, and funded by Arthritis Research UK, the study provides an evaluation of a specially-developed 12-week group yoga intervention programme compared to conventional general practitioner (GP) care alone.The results published in Spine, show that the yoga intervention programme – ‘Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs’ - is likely to be cost effective for both the UK National Health Service (NHS) and wider society.The cost assumed for yoga intervention is important in determining whether this is an efficient use of NHS resources. As yoga classes are not currently available through the NHS, the researchers examined a range of possible costs. They conclude that if the NHS was to offer specialist yoga and managed to maintain the cost below £300 per patient (for a cycle of 12 classes), there is a high probability (around 70 per cent) of the yoga intervention being cost effective.Researchers also found that those taking part in the yoga programme had far fewer days off work than those in the control group. On average, a control group participant reported 12 days off due to back pain, whereas those in the yoga group had four days off. The cost associated with taking time off was £1,202 for a control group member, compared with £374 for a yoga group member.The study was carried out by researchers from the University of York’s Department of Health Sciences and the Centre for Health Economics, and the Hull York Medical School.Chief Investigator Professor David Torgerson, Director of York Trials Unit, in the University of York’s Department of Health Sciences, said: “Back pain represents a significant burden to the NHS in the UK and to society as a whole. As well as the associated health care costs, it is also a major cause of work absenteeism which leads to a productivity loss to society. “While yoga has been shown as an effective intervention for treating chronic and low back pain, until now there has been little evidence on its cost effectiveness. In our study we evaluated a specially-designed yoga class package by using individual-level data from a multi-centred randomized controlled trial. On the basis of the 12-month trial, we conclude that 12 weekly group classes of specialised yoga are likely to provide a cost-effective intervention for the treatment of patients with chronic or recurrent low back pain.”
Source:The University of York


Turmeric Spices Up Virus Study


The popular spice turmeric packs more than just flavor — it shows promise in fighting devastating viruses, Mason researchers recently discovered.Curcumin, found in turmeric, stopped the potentially deadly Rift Valley Fever virus from multiplying in infected cells, says Aarthi Narayanan, lead investigator on a new study and a research assistant professor in Mason’sNational Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases.Mosquito-borne Rift Valley Fever virus (RVF) is an acute, fever-causing virus that affects domestic animals such as cattle, sheep and goats, as well as humans. Results of the study were publishedthis month in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.“Growing up in India, I was given turmeric all the time,” says Narayanan, who has spent the past 18 months working on the project. “Every time my son has a throat infection, I give (turmeric) to him.”There’s more work to do before curcumin-based pharmaceuticals become commonplace, Narayanan emphasizes. She plans to test 10 different versions of curcumin to determine which one works the best. She also intends to apply the research to other viruses, including HIV.Narayanan has long wanted to explore the infection-fighting properties of turmeric, in particular its key component, curcumin. “It is often not taken seriously because it’s a spice,” she says.But science is transforming the spice from folk medicine to one that could help a patient’s body fight off a virus because it can prevent the virus from taking over healthy cells. These “broad-spectrum inhibitors” work by defeating a wide array of viruses.
Turmeric is often used as a spice in curry dishes. Photo by Sanjay Acharya from Wikipedia Commons
“Curcumin is, by its very nature, broad spectrum,” Narayanan says. “However, in the published article, we provide evidence that curcumin may interfere with how the virus manipulates the human cell to stop the cell from responding to the infection.”Kylene Kehn-Hall, a co-investigator on the study, adds, “We are very excited about this work, as curcumin not only dramatically inhibits RVFV replication in cell culture but also demonstrates efficacy against RVFV in a mouse model.”Narayanan and her colleagues study the connection between a virus and how it impacts the host — human or animal. Symptoms clue in the researcher about the body’s inner workings. Rift Valley Fever and Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis kick off with flu-like symptoms.Symptoms can make it challenging for someone to recover. The body usually starts with an exaggerated inflammatory response because it doesn’t know where to start to rid itself of the virus, she says.
“Many times, the body goes above and beyond what is necessary,” Narayanan says. “And that’s not good because it’s going to influence a bunch of cells around the infection, which haven’t seen the bug. That’s one way by which disease spreads through your body. And so it is very important to control the host because a lot of times the way the host responds contributes to the disease.”Controlling the symptoms means more than simply making the patients feels better. “You’re giving the antiviral a chance to work. Now an antiviral can go in and stop the bug. You’re no longer trying to keep the host alive and battling the bug at the same time.”
Narayanan works with a graduate student in Mason’s National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases. Photo by Evan CantwellOnce Narayanan knows how the body responds to a virus, it’s time to go after the bug itself.
She’s applying this know-how to a family of viruses called Bunyaviruses, which feature Rift Valley fever, and such alphaviruses as Venezuelan equine encephalitis and retroviruses, which notably include HIV.
She delves into uncovering why and how each virus affects the patient. “Why are some cell types more susceptible to one type of infection than another?”
HIV goes after the immune system. Bunyaviruses will infect a wide range of cells but do maximum damage to the liver. “What is it about the liver that makes it a sitting duck compared to something like the brain?” Narayanan asks.Ultimately, curcumin could be part of drug therapies that help defeat these viruses, Narayanan says.“I know this works. I know it works because I have seen it happen in real life,” Narayanan says. “I eat it every day. I make it a point of adding it to vegetables I cook. Every single day.”Other Mason researchers involved in the study are Charles Bailey, Ravi Das, Irene Guendel, Lindsay Hall, Fatah Kashanchi, Svetlana Senina and Rachel Van Duyne. Several researchers from other institutions also collaborated.
Source:George Mason University

Why are elderly duped?


Everyone knows the adage: “If something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.” So, why, then, do some people fall for scams and why are older folks especially prone to being duped?An answer, it seems, is because a specific area of the brain has deteriorated or is damaged, according to researchers at the University of Iowa. By examining patients with various forms of brain damage, the researchers report they’ve pinpointed the precise location in the human brain, called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, that controls belief and doubt, and which explains why some of us are more gullible than others.
person looks at ad for luggage on computer screen
Patients with damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex were roughly twice as likely to believe a given ad, even when given disclaimer information pointing out it was misleading. And, they were more likely to buy the item, regardless of whether misleading information had been corrected. Photo by Bill Adams.
“The current study provides the first direct evidence beyond anecdotal reports that damage to the vmPFC (ventromedial prefrontal cortex) increases credulity. Indeed, this specific deficit may explain why highly intelligent vmPFC patients can fall victim to seemingly obvious fraud schemes,” the researchers wrote in the paper published in a special issue of the journalFrontiers in Neuroscience.
A study conducted for the National Institute of Justice in 2009 concluded that nearly 12 percent of Americans 60 and older had been exploited financially by a family member or a stranger. And, a report last year by insurer MetLife Inc. estimated the annual loss by victims of elder financial abuse at $2.9 billion.The authors point out their research can explain why the elderly are vulnerable.“In our theory, the more effortful process of disbelief (to items initially believed) is mediated by the vmPFC, which, in old age, tends to disproportionately lose structural integrity and associated functionality,” they wrote. “Thus, we suggest that vulnerability to misleading information, outright deception and fraud in older adults is the specific result of a deficit in the doubt process that is mediated by the vmPFC.”The ventromedial prefrontal cortex is an oval-shaped lobe about the size of a softball lodged in the front of the human head, right above the eyes. It’s part of a larger area known to scientists since the extraordinary case of Phineas Gage that controls a range of emotions and behaviors, from impulsivity to poor planning. But brain scientists have struggled to identify which regions of the prefrontal cortex govern specific emotions and behaviors, including the cognitive seesaw between belief and doubt.The UI team drew from its Neurological Patient Registry, which was established in 1982 and has more than 500 active members with various forms of damage to one or more regions in the brain. From that pool, the researchers chose 18 patients with damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and 21 patients with damage outside the prefrontal cortex. Those patients, along with people with no brain damage, were shown advertisements mimicking ones flagged as misleading by the Federal Trade Commission to test how much they believed or doubted the ads. The deception in the ads was subtle; for example, an ad for “Legacy Luggage” that trumpets the gear as “American Quality” turned on the consumer’s ability to distinguish whether the luggage was manufactured in the United States versus inspected in the country.Each participant was asked to gauge how much he or she believed the deceptive ad and how likely he or she would buy the item if it were available. The researchers found that the patients with damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex were roughly twice as likely to believe a given ad, even when given disclaimer information pointing out it was misleading. And, they were more likely to buy the item, regardless of whether misleading information had been corrected.“Behaviorally, they fail the test to the greatest extent,” says Natalie Denburg, assistant professor in neurology who devised the ad tests. “They believe the ads the most, and they demonstrate the highest purchase intention. Taken together, it makes them the most vulnerable to being deceived." She added the sample size is small and further studies are warranted.Apart from being damaged, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex begins to deteriorate as people reach age 60 and older, although the onset and the pace of deterioration varies, says Daniel Tranel, neurology and psychology professor at the UI and corresponding author on the paper. He thinks the finding will enable doctors, caregivers, and relatives to be more understanding of decision making by the elderly.“And maybe protective,” Tranel adds. “Instead of saying, ‘How would you do something silly and transparently stupid,’ people may have a better appreciation of the fact that older people have lost the biological mechanism that allows them to see the disadvantageous nature of their decisions.”The finding corroborates an idea studied by the paper’s first author, Erik Asp, who wondered why damage to the prefrontal cortex would impair the ability to doubt but not the initial belief as well. Asp created a model, which he called the False Tagging Theory, to separate the two notions and confirm that doubt is housed in the prefrontal cortex.“This study is strong empirical evidence suggesting that the False Tagging Theory is correct,” says Asp, who earned his doctorate in neuroscience from the UI in May and is now at the University of Chicago.Kenneth Manzel, Bryan Koestner, and Catherine Cole from the UI are contributing authors on the paper. The National Institute on Aging and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke funded the research.
Source:Eurekalert

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Addiction to heroin can be blocked: research


Researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia worked with colleagues at the University of Colorado in the United States to pinpoint a key mechanism in the body's immune system that amplifies addiction to opioid drugs."Our studies have shown conclusively that we can block addiction via the immune system of the brain, without targeting the brain's wiring," said Mark Hutchinson from Adelaide's School of Medical Sciences."Both the central nervous system and the immune system play important roles in creating addiction, but our studies have shown we only need to block the immune response in the brain to prevent cravings for opioid drugs."The results, to be published Thursday in the Journal of Neuroscience, reveal that laboratory studies showed that the drug known as plus-naloxone, which is not yet in clinical use, will selectively block the immune-addiction response.The researchers said that opioid drugs such as morphine and heroin bind to immune receptors in the brain known as TLR4 which then act as amplifiers for addiction, ramping up the "reward" effect of drugs of abuse to a high degree.The new drug automatically shuts this effect down, Hutchinson said."It really reduces the reward level down to the equivalent of food, sex, and hugs," he told AFP.Professor Linda Watkins, from the Center for Neuroscience at the University of Colorado, said the work fundamentally changed understanding about opioids, reward and addiction."We've suspected for some years that TLR4 may be the key to blocking opioid addiction, but now we have the proof," she said in a statement.The researchers believe the discovery could prove useful if plus-naloxone could become a co-formulated drug with morphine, to allow patients who need pain relief to take the drug without fear of addiction.But it could have a second application."It can be used by itself potentially in addicted people to help their addiction," Hutchinson said.The research team says clinical trials could be underway within 18 months.
Source:AFP

International scientific meet calls for concerted drive by all countries for HIV vaccine

Different ministries, political leaders, NGOs and scientists have called for accelerating the research to develop a vaccine against HIV, integrating and involving different researches and programmes going on around the world on various platforms and cutting across the geographical boundaries.
The pledge for the international cooperation came at a two-day symposium on “Accelerating India’s Response to Research for a Preventive HIV Vaccine”, devoted exclusively to HIV vaccine design and development.
The seminar was organized by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), in partnership with the Department of AIDS Control (DAC) and the Department of Health Research (DHR), the Forum of Parliamentarians on HIV/AIDS (FPA); the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI); the Regional Centre for Biotechnology (RCB) and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI).
Inaugurating the event, former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam called upon the government and the scientists to launch a national mission to develop a vaccine for HIV/AIDS. Tapping herbal solutions, timely review of findings and leads, checking contamination of blood and mounting awareness campaign should be part of this mission, he suggested.
HIV infections have declined by 56 per cent during the last decade from 2.7 lakh in 2000 to 1.2 lakh in 2009 in our country, informed Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad. “HIV was detected in India over 25 years ago. Valuable knowledge and experience has been accumulated as a result of extensive interventions for control of the epidemic and it seems to be stabilizing now. India is among the few countries which have made significant reductions in HIV infections,” he said, while addressing the gathering.
“We must find ways of developing vaccines that help us overcome the difficulties posed by nature. Insights and lessons from recent advances in the field of HIV Vaccine R&D, particularly the findings of the RV-144 and the discovery of the broadly neutralizing antibodies give us hope and a sense of optimism. Given the complexity of the task, the best minds must work together in furtherance of the objective of collaborative science. India remains committed to working towards the development of new technologies and we will provide necessary support to scientists and clinicians for this purpose,” he said.
“Our political objective is to provide our scientists with adequate resources to meet this global challenge,” Union Minister for Science and Technology Vayalar Ravi said.
“Although the right to health is a universal aspiration, the key barrier to ensuring the fulfilment of this aspiration is the inadequate development of technologies to prevent, diagnose and treat the disease. The challenges at the same time are enormous. Even if the number of new HIV infections continues to decline at current rates, there will still be more than 22 million new infections by 2015. Fewer than one in five people at greatest risk of infection have access to effective prevention programmes, such as education, condom distribution, prevention of mother to child HIV transmission, and HIV testing,” said Union Minister of State for Planning, Science and Technology Ashwani Kumar.
Source:Pharmabiz

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