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Friday, 31 August 2012

Medical Students Should Consider Evidence-Based Medicine

Patients of all ages put a lot of faith in the medical community. When they're sick, they go to the doctor, and the doctor makes them feel better. However, patients frequently leave the doctor's office with little understanding of how or why their physician made a particular diagnosis.Traditionally, doctors have made decisions regarding the best care for their patients based upon what their medical school and residency professors taught them. Often this has meant that the reasons for treating a patient a certain way were based upon information that had been passed down through several generations. But modern medicine has evolved—which is where something called evidence-based medicine comes in.Today's top physicians and surgeons are empowered with real data, not dogma, and are practicing evidence-based medicine. This requires a collaborative effort between scientific researchers, physicians, and patients, so that the diagnosis and treatment provided at the clinical level lead to better patient outcomes. This group effort creates a solid foundation that is based upon physicians' observation of both patients and scientific data and offers a reasonable, more definite outlook on how the patient will respond.
[Learn why M.D. students should study patients' cultural diversity.]
What exactly is evidence-based medicine? Evidence-based medicine (EBM) uses real data to help determine the best mode of treatment for patients. It often requires young physicians to question treatments that they have been taught and to think outside the box. It also integrates expertise at the clinical research level, using physician knowledge and recorded patient outcomes to help make treatment decisions.
Most instances involving evidence-based medicine will, in fact, be wrapped around known patient-based experiences and results. But evidence-based medicine can also be focused on basic anatomic or biomechanical studies, which compare one patient to another in order to determine the effects of restoring normal body function.
For example, say you are treating a complex knee injury. Historically, your patient would be put in a cast and eventually would have recurrent knee instability. However, a physician who practices evidence-based medicine would apply anatomically-based techniques to reconstruct the torn ligaments, which studies have shown deliver better outcomes for patients.
[Read about when to consider a joint M.D. degree.]
How does evidence-based medicine affect students? EBM has been incorporated into the medical school experience at several institutions, including the Medical School at University of Minnesota—Twin Cities and Dartmouth Medical School.
For example, at Dartmouth's medical school and at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center have infused EBM into teaching at a variety of levels. In addition to a biostatistic and epidemiology course taught in the second year of medical school, Dartmouth maintains a resource website, which students and residents use frequently.
EBM has also permeated the curriculum at many levels. As more and more faculty have become comfortable with the concepts that underlay EBM, the conversational domain of EBM has informed lectures, as well as bedside teaching. Learners at Dartmouth are constantly pushed to use evidence to back up their clinical decisionmaking.
Here's how to get started: Evidence-based medicine can be performed in a university setting; in a private practice associated with a residency program, research institute, or foundation; or it can even be practiced in a solo-based practitioner model. The only requirement is that one who wants to practice EBM obtain Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval for any studies based on patients, due to laws stipulating that all patients must consent to participation in any study prior to completing any questionnaires that document outcomes scores.
[Learn whether you should go to medical or nursing school.]
The most effective EBM studies are prospective, double-blinded—when neither the researcher nor the patient is aware of which treatment the patient is receiving—and compare one form of treatment to another. In these circumstances, whether the study is comparing one drug to another for a specific condition, or comparing a surgical approach to a nonsurgical approach, it can often definitively answer the best means to treat a patient with a specific condition or illness.
There are endless opportunities for prospective physicians to choose the course of medicine in which they will practice. While every physician enters the world of medicine with a specific specialty in mind, it cannot be debated that the evidence-based medicine approach is gaining momentum. There are even specific medical facilities and institutes throughout the world that specifically teach and guide their students and fellows based on this method.
Evidence-based medicine is becoming a specialty in its own right, and it's an area that medical students should pay close attention to when determining their path.
Robert LaPrade, M.D., Ph.D., is a complex orthopedic knee surgeon at The Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colo., and director of biomechanics research for the Steadman Philippon Research Institute. Consistently selected as one of the "best doctors in America" by his peers, he is an expert in treating difficult and compound knee injuries such as posterolateral knee injuries, PCL tears, revision ACL reconstructions, and MCL injuries. He is also an adjunct professor of orthopedic surgery at theUniversity of Minnesota—Twin cities Medical School.
Source:US News Education

Australians implant 'world first' bionic eye

Australian scientists said Thursday they had successfully implanted a "world first" bionic eye prototype, describing it as a major breakthrough for the visually impaired.Bionic Vision Australia (BVA), a government-funded science consortium, said it had surgically installed an "early prototype" robotic eye in a woman with hereditary sight loss caused by degenerative retinitis pigmentosa.Described as a "pre-bionic eye", the tiny device is attached to Dianne Ashworth's retina and contains 24 electrodes which send electrical impulses to stimulate her eye's nerve cells.Researchers switched on the device in their laboratory last month after Ashworth had fully recovered from surgery and she said it was an incredible experience."I didn't know what to expect, but all of a sudden, I could see a little flash -- it was amazing," she said in a statement."Every time there was stimulation there was a different shape that appeared in front of my eye.Penny Allen, the surgeon who implanted the device, described it as a "world first".Ashworth's device only works when it is connected inside the lab and BVA chairman David Penington said it would be used to explore how images were "built" by the brain and eye.Feedback from the device will be fed into a "vision processor" allowing doctors to determine exactly what Ashworth sees when her retina is subjected to various levels of stimulation."The team is looking for consistency of shapes, brightness, size and location of flashes to determine how the brain interprets this information," explained Rob Shepherd, director of the Bionics Institute which was also involved in the breakthrough.The team is working towards a "wide-view" 98-electrode device that will provide users with the ability to perceive large objects such as buildings and cars, and a "high-acuity" 1,024-electrode device.Patients with the high-acuity device are expected to be able to recognise faces and read large print, and BVA said it would be suitable for people with retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration.Penington said the early results from Ashworth had "fulfilled our best expectations, giving us confidence that with further development we can achieve useful vision"."The next big step will be when we commence implants of the full devices," he said

Sam Pitroda urges healthcare professionals to create road map covering universal heath

Sam Pitroda, advisor to the Prime Minister of India on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations has urged healthcare professionals to create a road map for covering universal heath. The main aim to create road map is to  focus on improving existing health institutions and infrastructure especially in rural areas, strengthening human resources by having more doctors, nurses and paramedics, using ICT to create a health information network, giving due attention to traditional forms of medicine and practices and encouraging innovation to foster home grown solutions and business models.
At the FICCI HEAL 2012 Conference on ‘Universal Healthcare: Dream or Reality?’ Sam Pitroda said, “A great deal of work needs to be done in addressing the challenge of upgrading and modernising India’s Primary Health Centres and medical facilities in rural areas in the next 10 years. Unless we do this, our dream of achieving universal health cover will not become a reality.”
Pitroda further added, “I am a firm believer in low-cost solutions for common ailments that afflict millions of Indians and there is therefore a need for marrying the advances in modern, western system of medicine with India’s traditional medicine.”
The Indian healthcare system, he said, is riddled with problems of corruption, bureaucracy, procedures, and above all of attitudes. “We have all the expertise and the capability and are making huge investments in healthcare. Yet, we fail in execution of schemes and programmes” that will ultimately reach healthcare to the bottom of the pyramid, he pointed out.

Delhi Tells Court to Put a Stop to Ads Promising Magical Cures

The Delhi government has written a letter to the information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry and others to stop misleading commercials in media claiming magical cures to diseases. 
A division bench of Acting Chief Justice A.K. Sikri and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw was shown a letter by the Delhi government counsel which stated that these commercials were often published with a view to mislead public.

Delhi government counsel Najmi Wajiri said: "It has come to the notice of the drugs control department that several persons/firms are giving advertisement in the electronic media as well as in the print media about certain drugs/articles/machines whose usage, as per their claims, would lead to the cure of such diseases, disorder or condition. These advertisements are often published with a view to mislead the general public." 
Apart from the ministry, the letter was also written to the Press Information Bureau, the Press Council of India and the Advertising Standards Council of India, a regulatory voluntary organisation. 
Going through the letter of the state, the court disposed of a public interest litigation seeking action against a self-styled baba who advertised offering "magic treatment" to patients. 
The government told the court that no material was found to prosecute the self-styled city-based godman Nirmaljeet Singh Narula or Nirmal Baba. 
The petition was filed by A.K. Jain alleging that Nirmal Baba had been advertising in different electronic and print media claiming to offer "magical treatment" while claiming himself to be a "representative of god".



People in Britain Keep on Lying in Their Everyday Life

Telling a lie is turning a second nature among Britons, and a new research has described the country as a nation of fibbers. 
The survey found a quarter of drivers having lied on car insurance policies to try to get a cheaper deal, Daily Express reported. 

Showing how people in Britain keep on lying in their everyday life, the study says nearly 20 percent of of the Britons think pulling a "sickie" from work is fine while 13 percent feel that lying to a partner about cheating on them does no harm. 
It says men are generally bigger liars than women. The average man tells three lies a day or a whopping 1,092 times a year. Women fib just twice a day or 728 times a year. 
The roles are, however, reversed when it comes to hiding new clothes from a partner. In that situation, 39 percent of the women feel the need to lie about their latest wardrobe additions, in comparison to just 26 percent of the men fraternity. 
Women are also most likely to pretend to be busy to avoid a phone call. Half admit to this opposed to just over a third of men, according to the research by BMW Financial Services. 
Though lying causes a moral dilemma, Karen Pine, professor of Developmental Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, says it is an essential trait in mankind. 
"We think lying is bad, but actually the ability to deceive others has helped humans survive as a species," said Pine.


Fizzy Drinks, too Few Bedtime Stories Reasons for Lack of Quality Sleep for Today’s Youngsters

Lack of good bedtime stories and consumption of fizzy drinks may be the reason why current generation of youngsters do not get the same quality of sleep their grandparents did. 
Research by the Sleep Council found that today's seven to 14-year-old children go to bed almost 40 minutes later than their grandparents.
 They are also much more likely to snack on crisps and fizzy drinks before bedtime while their grandparents enjoyed cocoa or hot milky drinks such as Horlicks. 

Around 54 per cent of the older generation either had a story read to them or had a quiet time to read independently - whereas only 27 per cent of today's youngsters read before bedtime and 58 per cent watch television. 
If parents ditched the bad habits, bedtime would be less stressful and their offspring would sleep better, experts claimed. 
According to the survey - which asked 1,006 grandparents with grandchildren aged seven to 14, to compare their early lifestyle with that of their grandchildren - 21 per cent spent more than three hours each day playing outside. 
That compares to the 28 per cent who said their grandchildren now spend less than 30 minutes playing outside on a school day. 
Seventy per cent of grandparents ate dinner before 6pm but only 38 per cent of youngsters do so now. Just over half, 51 per cent, eat between 6pm and 7.30pm. 
For 95 per cent of the older generation, the evening meal was home cooked but now a quarter of children eat ready-made meals. 
"Seven to 14-year-olds still need a good nine or 10 hours sleep a night," the Daily Express quoted Jessica Alexander, of The Sleep Council, as saying. 
"Not eating too close to bedtime and avoiding caffeine-fuelled fizzy pop is also important, as is a well balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables," she suggested.


New Tool Indicates When to Worry About Kids’ Temper Tantrums

Annoyance among young children seems to be a premature sign of mind problems. Finding a solution for children’s’ disruptive behavior is a challenge for parents and pediatricians. 
New Northwestern Medicine research will give parents and professionals a new tool to know when to worry about young children's misbehavior. Researchers have developed an easy-to-administer questionnaire specifically designed to distinguish the typical misbehavior of early childhood from more concerning misbehavior. This will enable early identification and treatment of emerging mental health problems, key to preventing young children struggling with their behavior from spiraling downward into chronic mental health problems. The new tool also will prevent rampant mislabeling and overtreatment of typical misbehavior.
In a surprising key finding, the study also debunks the common belief temper tantrums are rampant among young children. Although temper tantrums among preschoolers are common, they are not particularly frequent, the research shows. Less than 10 percent of young children have a daily tantrum. That pattern is similar for girls and boys, poor and non-poor children and Hispanic, white and African-American children. 
"That's an 'aha!' moment, "said Lauren Wakschlag, professor and vice chair in the department of medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and lead author of a paper, published August 29 in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. "It gives a measurable indicator to tell us when tantrums are frequent enough that a child may be struggling. Perhaps for the first time, we have a tangible way to help parents, doctors and teachers know when the frequency and type of tantrums may be an indication of a deeper problem." 
Until recently, the only diagnostic tools available for preschool behavior problems were those geared to older children and teens with more severe, aggressive behavior. More recently, there has been emphasis on measures developed specifically for preschool children. 
For the study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, researchers developed the new questionnaire, the Multidimensional Assessment of Preschool Disruptive Behavior (MAP-DB), to ask parents of almost 1,500 diverse preschoolers, age three to five, to answer questions about their child's behavior. The questionnaire asked about the frequency, quality and severity of many temper tantrum behaviors and anger management skills over the past month. 
The results allowed researchers to rate children along a continuum of behavior from typical to atypical, rather than focusing only on extreme behavior. Having a continuum will allow mental health professionals to intervene before there is a serious problem or watch and wait if a child is in the middle range. Early childhood is a critical period to identify a problem, because once negative problems become entrenched, they are harder to treat. This continuum also provides a barometer for determining when a child is improving on his/her own or through treatment. 
"We have defined the small facets of temper tantrums as they are expressed in early childhood. This is key to our ability to tell the difference between a typical temper tantrum and one that is problematic," Wakschlag said. 
For example, the study found that a typical tantrum may occur when a child is tired or frustrated or during daily routines such as at bedtime, mealtime or getting dressed. An atypical tantrum may be one that occurs "out of the blue" or is so intense that a child becomes exhausted. While any of these behaviors may occur in some children from time to time, when these atypical forms of tantrums occur regularly, they become a red flag for concern. 
This developmentally-based approach is in stark contrast to the commonly used Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which does not provide age-specific markers for determining clinical significance. 
For example, a symptom of behavior problems in DSM is defined as "often loses temper." 
"The definition of 'often' may vary substantially for younger and older children and depend on family stress levels and other mitigating factors," Wakschlag said. "Since most preschool children tantrum, this vague criteria makes it exceptionally difficult for providers to determine when behavior is of clinical significance in early childhood." 
"There's been a real danger of preschool children with normal misbehavior being mislabeled and over-treated with medication," Wakschlag said. "On the other hand, pediatricians are hampered by the lack of standardized methods for determining when misbehavior reflects deeper problems and so may miss behaviors that are concerning. This is why it's so crucial to have tools that precisely identify when worry is warranted in this age group." 
Linking Tantrums to Mental Health Problems, Social Functioning and Brain Reactivity in Early Childhood To establish the clinical significance of these findings, Wakschlag, colleague Margaret Briggs-Gowan, from the University of Connecticut Health Center, and their collaborators are now examining how these tantrum patterns are linked to a range of mental health problems and problems in daily functioning such as getting along in school, with siblings and general social skills. In collaboration with Northwestern neuroscientist, Joel Voss, the study also is beginning to use brain-imaging techniques to uncover links between particular patterns of brain reactivity and these early problem behaviors. 
Replicating Findings in Larger Sample In addition, Wakschlag and colleagues are replicating their findings about the developmental pattern of misbehaviors in a second sample of 2,200 children, with the next step being disseminating the tool. The questionnaire is now 118 questions but researchers hope to use state-of-the-art measurement science to crunch it down to about 25 key questions. An ultimate goal of the research team is to widely disseminate the MAP-DB questionnaire in a brief computerized form for parents to fill out in pediatric waiting rooms, with the computer generating immediate feedback to pediatricians prior to the appointment. 


Ayurveda gaining popularity in NE

Ayurvedic therapies are slowly gaining popularity in the state as people are finding them effective in treating various ailments ranging from slip disc to cancer.
Sri Sri Ayurveda Panchakarma Centre of the Art of Living Foundation in the city is trying to popularise such therapies. The centre offers treatment for joint pain, arthritis, spondylitis, sciatica, paralysis, insomnia, diabetes, sinusitis, migraine and respiratory ailments with different panchakarma therapies. To name a few, shirodhara is for anxiety and shirobasti is meant to arrest hair fall.
Savita Bhutani, the administrator of the centre, said, "The treatment and therapies offered by us are authentic. Unlike other ayurvedic centres mushrooming everywhere, we follow the original panchakarma ways of treating ailments as prescribed in the Vedas and Samhitas." She added that research on diseases like cancer is also on. For working professionals, there are special treatments for anxiety, hypertension and insomnia which are quite common these days.
"The main problem with people today is their diet as foodstuff is laced with pesticides nowadays. Even their eating habits are not right for which most of the problems arise. Proper diet can solve half of the problems," she said.
Sangeeta Dhar, an ayurvedic practitioner at the centre, said there is special treatment for eye ailments and infertility. Regarding treatment of cancer, the stress is more on reducing the pain.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Men Tell More Lies Than Women: Study


Men are more likely to lie than women, reveals study. The average man tells 3 lies a day - or a whopping 1,092 a year, whereas women in comparison fib just twice a day or 728 times a year, the Daily Express reported.But a role reversal happens when it comes to hiding new clothes from a partner, in that situation, 39 percent of women feel the need to lie about their latest wardrobe additions, compared to just 26 percent of men. 
Women are also most likely to pretend to be busy to avoid a phone call, 50 percent admit to this opposed to just over a 33.33 percent of men, the research by BMW Financial Services revealed.
But although lying causes a moral dilemma, Karen Pine, Professor of Developmental Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, says it is an essential trait in mankind.
"We think lying is bad, but actually the ability to deceive others has helped humans survive as a species. Our primitive ancestors had to compete for resources and would have needed to be deceitful to outwit their enemies," she said.
"Everybody lies, but we have to know when it's OK to do it and when not. It might be OK to say you like your friend's new hairdo when you don't really, because the fib could be good for the friendship. But telling lies to escape from life's difficulties can cause harm and will have long-term consequences. In some people it could even lead to compulsive behaviour, as one untruth has to be kept going with more lies.
"Who lies? Everyone does it but some people are naturally better at lying than others. Socially skilled people make better liars. Extroverts also tend to lie more often than more introverted people," she added.




New study evaluates noninvasive technology to determine heart disease

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – August 29, 2012 – A study published in the most recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) presented encouraging news regarding physicians' ability to determine blood flow and associated coronary artery disease (CAD) using noninvasive CT scanning technology. Data from the Determination of Fractional Flow Reserve by Anatomic Computed Tomographic Angiography (DeFACTO) study were presented on August 26 at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Munich, Germany. John R. Lesser, MD, a Cardiologist and senior researcher at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, served as a principal investigator for the DeFACTO study and Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation Cardiologist and senior researcher Robert Schwartz, MD directed the Integration Core Lab coordinating data from 17 sites worldwide.
"The study showed improved diagnostic accuracy with CT scanning when we also use a new technique called fractional flow reserve that identifies the rate of coronary blood flow and possible blockages in the arteries that may interfere with flow," said Robert Schwartz, MD.
Fractional flow reserve (FFR) has been identified as a procedure that may help to reduce unnecessary angiography and stenting when used. It requires a minimally invasive procedure. FFR with CT scanning requires no invasive procedure and has the potential to deliver equally useful data.
The objective of the DeFACTO study was to assess the diagnostic performance of CT with and without FFR for diagnosis of significant coronary stenosis. In its conclusion, the use of noninvasive FFRCT among patients with CAD was associated with improved diagnostic accuracy and discrimination.
"DeFACTO is worthy of note because, while it did not achieve it's endpoint, it definitely showed improved diagnostic accuracy using FFRCT vs. CT alone," stated Schwartz. "We are always looking to use the least invasive procedures to get the best results and DeFACTO indicates that we may soon have another useful tool in evaluating and treating heart disease."
In an editorial in JAMA, Manesh R. Patel, MD, Duke Clinical Research Institute, Duke University Medical Center, wrote, "The current report describes an important noninvasive technology that may improve existing care and has the potential to outperform established noninvasive technologies."
DeFACTO is a multi-center diagnostic performance study involving 252 stable patients with suspected or known CAD from 17 centers in 5 countries who underwent CT, invasive coronary angiography (ICA), FFR, and FFRCT between October 2010 and October 2011. The primary study outcome assessed whether FFRCT plus CT could improve the per-patient diagnostic accuracy. Among study participants and compared with obstructive CAD diagnosed by CT alone, FFRCT was associated with improved diagnostic accuracy and discrimination.
Source: Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation 

Vitamin B3 may offer new tool in fight against 'superbugs'

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new study suggests that nicotinamide, more commonly known as vitamin B3, may be able to combat some of the antibiotic-resistance staph infections that are increasingly common around the world, have killed thousands and can pose a significant threat to public health.
The research found that high doses of this vitamin increased by 1,000 times the ability of immune cells to kill staph bacteria. The work was done both in laboratory animals and with human blood.
The findings were published today in the Journal of Clinical Investigation by researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, UCLA, and other institutions. The research was supported by several grants from the National Institutes of Health.
The work may offer a new avenue of attack against the growing number of "superbugs."
"This is potentially very significant, although we still need to do human studies," said Adrian Gombart, an associate professor in OSU's Linus Pauling Institute. "Antibiotics are wonder drugs, but they face increasing problems with resistance by various types of bacteria, especially Staphylococcus aureus.
"This could give us a new way to treat staph infections that can be deadly, and might be used in combination with current antibiotics," Gombart said. "It's a way to tap into the power of the innate immune system and stimulate it to provide a more powerful and natural immune response."
The scientists found that clinical doses of nicotinamide increased the numbers and efficacy of "neutrophils," a specialized type of white blood cell that can kill and eat harmful bacteria.
The nicotinamide was given at megadose, or therapeutic levels, far beyond what any normal diet would provide - but nonetheless in amounts that have already been used safely in humans, as a drug, for other medical purposes.
However, there is no evidence yet that normal diets or conventional-strength supplements of vitamin B3 would have any beneficial effect in preventing or treating bacterial infection, Gombart said, and people should not start taking high doses of the vitamin.
Gombart has been studying some of these issues for more than a decade, and discovered 10 years ago a human genetic mutation that makes people more vulnerable to bacterial infections. In continued work on the genetic underpinnings of this problem, researchers found that nicotinamide had the ability to "turn on" certain antimicrobial genes that greatly increase the ability of immune cells to kill bacteria.
One of the most common and serious of the staph infections, called methicillin-resistant S. aureus, or MRSA, was part of this study. It can cause serious and life-threatening illness, and researchers say the widespread use of antibiotics has helped increase the emergence and spread of this bacterial pathogen.
Dr. George Liu, an infectious disease expert at Cedars-Sinai and co-senior author on the study, said that "this vitamin is surprisingly effective in fighting off and protecting against one of today's most concerning public health threats." Such approaches could help reduce dependence on antibiotics, he said.
Co-first authors Pierre Kyme and Nils Thoennissen found that when used in human blood, clinical doses of vitamin B3 appeared to wipe out the staph infection in only a few hours.
Serious staph infections, such as those caused by MRSA, are increasingly prevalent in hospitals and nursing homes, but are also on the rise in prisons, the military, among athletes, and in other settings where many people come into close contact.
Source:Oregon State University 

Scientist creates new cancer drug that is 10 times more potent

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Legend has it that Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door." University of Missouri researchers are doing just that, but instead of building mousetraps, the scientists are targeting cancer drugs. In a new study, MU medicinal chemists have taken an existing drug that is being developed for use in fighting certain types of cancer, added a special structure to it, and created a more potent, efficient weapon against cancer.
"Over the past decade, we have seen an increasing interest in using carboranes in drug design," said Mark W. Lee Jr., assistant professor of chemistry in College of Arts and Science. "Carboranes are clusters of three elements — boron, carbon and hydrogen. Carboranes don't fight cancer directly, but they aid in the ability of a drug to bind more tightly to its target, creating a more potent mechanism for destroying the cancer cells."
In the study, Lee and his research team used carboranes to build new drugs designed to shut off a cancer cell's energy production, which is vital for the cell's survival. All cells produce energy through complex, multi-step processes. The key to an effective drug is targeting the process that cancer cells depend on more than healthy cells. By increasing the binding strength of a drug, a smaller dose is required, minimizing side effects and increasing the effectiveness of the therapy. With carboranes, Lee found that the drug is able to bind 10 times more powerfully.
"The reason why these drugs bind stronger to their target is because carboranes exploit a unique and very strong form of hydrogen bonding, the strongest form of interactions for drugs," Lee said.
Lee said that this discovery also will lead to further uses for the drug.
"Too often, after radiation or chemotherapy, cancer cells repair themselves and reinvade the body," Lee said. "This drug not only selectively shuts off the energy production for the cancer cells, but it also inhibits the processes that allow those cancer cells to repair themselves. When we tested our carborane-based drugs, we found that they were unimaginably potent. So far, we have tested this on breast, lung and colon cancer, all with exceptional results."
According to Lee, this is the first study to show systematically how carboranes can improve the activity of a drug. Lee believes this discovery will open additional possibilities of improving drugs that are used to treat other diseases, not just cancer.
"The end result is that these new drugs could be many thousands of times more potent than the drugs that are used in the clinics today," Lee said.
While it will be several years before the new drug would be available on the market, Lee said that clinical trials could begin within the next two years. Additionally, further testing on other types of cancer is underway. The study was published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, a publication of the American Chemical Society.
Source:University of Missouri-Columbia 

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Low-calorie Diet Good for Your Health, Say Researchers

Low-energy diet can have long term benefits, say researchers. 
Researchers at Britain-based Robert Gordon University (RBU) reviewed over 30 studies investigating effects of controversial very-low-energy-diet (VLEDs) on obesity and associated disorders.
 "The evidence suggests that VLEDs can help obese people achieve long-term weight loss and improvements in fertility, respiratory disorders and cardiovascular risk," the review said. 

The review was carried out by members of the Centre for Obesity Research and Epidemiology (CORE) which is part of RGU's Institute for Health and Welfare Research. 
"A VLED is usually comprised of synthetic and food-based formula diets. Despite some concerns about the negative effects of such rapid weight loss, previous studies have confirmed the benefits of VLEDs in the short term for obese patients," the review said. 
"However, the review found there is less evidence of the long-term effects of VLEDs," it said. 
The review analysed studies which have looked into long-term effects, ultimately aiming to improve treatment of obese patients through the use of VLEDs. 
Catherine Rolland, a member of the research team, said: "We have found that long-term benefits such as weight-loss and improvements in cardiovascular risk, respiratory disorders and fertility are achievable with the use of these short-burst, low calorie diets."


Research: Histone-modifying Proteins, Not Histones, Remain Associated With DNA Through Replication

It's widely accepted that molecular mechanisms mediating epigenetics include DNA methylation and histone modifications. Despite this, a team from from Thomas Jefferson University has evidence to the contrary regarding the role of histone modifications. 
A study of Drosophila embryos from Jefferson's Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology published ahead of print in Cell August 23 found that parental methylated histones are not transferred to daughter DNA. Rather, after DNA replication, new nucleosomes are assembled from newly synthesized unmodified histones.
 "Essentially, all histones are going away during DNA replication and new histones, which are not modified, are coming in," said Alexander M. Mazo, Ph.D., professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Jefferson, and a member of Jefferson's Kimmel Cancer Center. "In other words, what we found is that histone modifying proteins are hiding on the way over replicating DNA, instead of histones 'jumping' over as currently thought." 

"What this paper tells us," he continues, "is that these histone modifying proteins somehow are able to withstand the passage of the DNA replication machinery. They remained seated on their responsive binding sites, and in all likelihood they will re-establish histone modification and finalize the chromatin structure that allows either activation or repression of the target gene." 
The team suggests that since it appears these histone modifying proteins—the Trithorax-group (TrxG), which maintain gene expression, and the Polycomb-group (PcG), which plays a role in epigenetic silencing of genes—re-establish the histone code on newly assembled unmethylated histones, they may act as epigenetic marks. 
Epigenetics is the study of heritable changes in gene expression caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence. Epigenetic marks have become an important focus in recent years because they are thought to have the potential to explain mechanisms of aging, human development, and the origins of diseases, like cancer, heart disease, and mental illness. 
According to widely-accepted models applied today, the tails of methylated histones turn genes in DNA "on" or "off" by loosening or tightening nucleosome structure, thus changing the accessibility of transcription factors and other proteins to DNA. 
"People believe that everything gets worked off of DNA during the replication process and that these methylated histones act as epigenetic marks, since they are believed to rapidly jump from parental to daughter DNA" said Dr. Mazo. "But there is no experimental evidence to back this up." 
The researchers used chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assay, and developed several new approaches to analyze protein interactions with newly synthesized DNA, tracking both modified and unmodified histones, and non-histone proteins to determine their presence and role from the initial split of DNA through the various embryonic stages. 
This new evidence that TrxG and PcG proteins but not methylated histones remain associated with DNA through replication could have significant impacts on how scientists study epigenetic marks. 
Instead of focusing on numerous types of modified histones, it is probably more practical to assess which non-histone proteins remain stably associated with their sites on DNA following DNA replication, as they may potentially carry essential epigenetic information by restoring the state of histone modifications in the daughter cell, according to Dr. Mazo. 
"It is also important to understand whether the way nucleosomes are assembled in mammalian cells is similar to that detected in Drosophila embryos and whether these mechanisms remain unchanged during cell differentiation in development and disease," he added. 

Ten year decline in ischemic stroke after AMI

The analysis of data from two Swedish registries was presented by Dr Anders Ulvenstam, and suggests that the reduction is due to improvements in AMI care.
Ischemic stroke is a well known, relatively rare but potentially devastating complication following myocardial infarction. It can lead to severe neurological handicap and death for the patient and it is associated with great costs for society.
"The risk of ischemic stroke after myocardial infarction has been studied previously, but there are many questions that remain unanswered," said Dr Ulvenstam. "Many studies have been conducted within clinical trials but these trials tend to focus on a particular patient group. Few, if any, studies have been done on the broader group of patients seen in day to day clinical practice. We based our analysis on two registries which include all AMI patients in Sweden."
"Great variation in the incidence of ischemic stroke after AMI has been found in previous studies, which tells us that we do not have a realistic estimate of the risk of suffering from ischemic stroke after myocardial infarction," he added.
"Furthermore, many of the earlier studies were done before modern AMI care -with different drugs and interventional procedures- was established, which is why we do not know how this has affected the risk over time. There is also conflicting data regarding independent predictors of stroke risk."
The study presented at ESC Congress 2012 was based on 173,233 Swedish AMI patients between 1998-2008, from the Register of Information and Knowledge about Swedish Heart Intensive Care Admissions (RIKS-HIA). In order to identify which of these AMI patients suffered an ischemic stroke within one year, the RIKS-HIA database was merged with the Swedish National Registry, which contains diagnoses for all patients at discharge from hospital care.
Dr Ulvenstam said: "Based on this patient information we were able to answer the questions raised above, regarding the incidence, time trends and independent predictors of ischemic stroke at one year after AMI."
The researchers found that during 1998-2008 the average risk of ischemic stroke one year after AMI was 4.1%. This was nearly twice as high as the incidence found in an important meta-analysis performed by Witt et al. in 2006 which showed an average risk of 2.1% (1). Dr Ulvenstam said: "The higher incidence in our study could be explained by the fact that we have such an unselected patient group. The registries used exclude very few AMI patients which means that there are more potential stroke victims."
A second finding from the study was that the risk of ischemic stroke one year after AMI fell by 21% over a ten year period, from 4.7% in 1998-2000 to 3.8% in 2007-2008. "We are the first to show that the risk of suffering from stroke after AMI seems to be diminishing," said Dr Ulvenstam. "This is probably a direct result of the great improvement in AMI care which has taken place during the last two decades. For the first time we can see the impact of different drugs and interventional procedures on stroke risk after AMI."
The researchers also conducted an analysis of independent predictors of stroke risk. Multiple regression analysis showed for the first time that each of the following factors independently reduced stroke risk: reperfusion therapy with percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), blood clot dissolving therapy (fibrinolysis), thrombocyte aggregation inhibitors (aspirin and P2Y12-inhibitors) and statins. Dr Ulvenstam said: "The finding that PCI actually reduces stroke risk is somewhat surprising, being an invasive procedure. It has traditionally been associated with an increased stroke risk. We speculate that early reperfusion of the myocardium reduces infarction size and thereby leads to a reduced burden of atrial fibrillation and heart failure and in turn, reduced stroke risk."
He concluded: "The risk of stroke after myocardial infarction is higher than previously thought, but seems to be decreasing with the modernization of coronary care. We predict that this risk will continue to decline if clinicians treat their AMI patients with the recommended drugs and interventions."
Source:European Society of Cardiology 

Study finds gene that predicts happiness in women

A new study has found a gene that appears to make women happy, but it doesn’t work for men. The finding may help explain why women are often happier than men, the research team said.Scientists at the University of South Florida (USF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute reported that the low-expression  form of the gene monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) is associated with higher self-reported happiness in women.  No such association was found in men.The findings appear online in the journal Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry.“This is the first happiness gene for women,” said lead author Henian Chen, MD, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, USF College of Public Health.“I was surprised by the result, because low expression of MAOA has been related to some negative outcomes like alcoholism, aggressiveness and antisocial behavior,” said Chen, who directs the Biostatistics Core at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine’s Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute. “It’s even called the warrior gene by some scientists, but, at least for women, our study points to a brighter side of this gene.”While they experience higher rates of mood and anxiety disorders, women tend to report greater overall life happiness than do men.  The reason for this remains unclear, Chen said. “This new finding may help us to explain the gender difference and provide more insight into the link between specific genes and human happiness.”The MAOA gene regulates the activity of an enzyme that breaks down serontin, dopamine and other neurotransmitters in the brain — the same “feel-good” chemicals targeted by many antidepressants.  The low-expression version of the MAOA gene promotes higher levels of monoamine, which allows larger amounts of these neurotransmitters to stay in the brain and boost mood.The researchers analyzed data from a population-based sample of 345 individuals – 193 women and 152 men – participating in Children in the Community, a longitudinal mental health study. The DNA of study subjects had been analyzed for MAOA gene variation and their self-reported happiness was scored by a widely used and validated scale.After controlling for various factors, ranging from age and education to income, the researchers found that women with the low-expression type of MAOA were significantly happier than others. Compared to women with no copies of the low-expression version of the MAOA gene, women with one copy scored higher on the happiness scale and those with two copies increased their score even more.While a substantial number of men carried a copy of the “happy” version of the MAOA gene, they reported no more happiness than those without it.So, why the genetic gender gap in feeling good?The researchers suspect the difference may be explained in part by the hormone testosterone, found in much smaller amounts in women than in men.  Chen and his co-authors suggest that testosterone may cancel out the positive effect of MAOA on happiness in men.The potential benefit of MAOA in boys could wane as testosterone levels rise with puberty, Chen said. “Maybe men are happier before adolescence because their testosterone levels are lower.”Chen emphasizes that more research is needed to identify which specific genes influence resilience and subjective well-being, especially since studies of twins estimate genetic factors account for 35 to 50 percent of the variance in human happiness.While happiness is not determined by a single gene, there is likely a set of genes that, along with life experiences, shape our individual happiness levels, Chen said. “I think the time is right for more genetic studies that focus on well-being and happiness.”“Certainly it could be argued that how well-being is enhanced deserves at least as much attention as how (mental) disorders arise; however, such knowledge remains limited.”The study by Chen and colleagues was supported by the National Institutes of Health and a USF proposal enhancement grant.
Article citation:Henian Chen, Daniel S. Pine, Monique Ernst, Elena Gorodetsky, Stephanie Kasen, Kathy Gordon, David Goldman, Patricia Cohen; The MAOA gene predicts happiness in women; Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry, online in advance of print Aug. 4, 2012;
Source:UCF Health

20 state ayurveda colleges told not to enrol students

 It might be empty classrooms in many ayurveda colleges across the state this academic year. For, the central government has denied 20 colleges the permission to admit students for academic year 2012-13.
These colleges failed to meet requirements like qualified faculty, at least one teacher in each department and hospital facilities.
Karnataka has the dubious distinction of having the maximum number of ayurveda colleges being denied permission for admission. There are 58 ayurveda colleges in the state, 57 of which are under the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences (RGUHS).
The prescribed norms also include parameters like the number of beds, out-patient department (OPD) attendance and in-patient department (IPD) bed occupancy.
"We haven't received any intimation yet on denial of permission for admission. The UG admission in these colleges doesn't come under our purview. As far as PG courses are concerned, we take admission only after the seat matrix is released by the Ayush directorate, which is still awaited," said D Prem Kumar, registrar, RGUHS.
Experts said denial of permission is nothing new and things will be back to normal. "Karnataka's oldest college, Government Ayurveda College in Mysore, too, was denied permission a couple of years ago. But when even MBBS private colleges have less staff and other facilities, why are only ayurveda colleges being singled out? Inability to meet basic parameters is the ugly truth in many colleges. The staff shortage can be attributed to the phenomenal growth of the education sector in the last few years," said KI Vasu, founder president, Vijnana Bharati, an organization promoting ayurveda.
"These colleges should be allowed to run. Let the strength of students swell and they will get the staff sooner or later," he added.
"Every year the government denies admission permission for many colleges and these colleges manage to escape. Denial of permission on the grounds of not meeting basic parameters is good and welcome, but the government should not be so lenient," JSD Pani, president, Karnataka India Medicine Manufacturers Association.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Popular Cartoon Characters Could Help Guide Kids Towards Healthier Food Choices

Using stickers of popular cartoon characters could help influence children’s dietary habits and make them choose healthier foods according to a new study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. 
The study was conducted by researchers at Cornell University. The researchers offered the choice of cookies or apples during lunch to a group of 208 children between 8 and 11 years of age at suburban and rural schools over a period of one week. The researchers used cartoon stickers featuring Elmo on the apples or cookies on some days and offered them without any stickers on other days. The researchers found that when there was no sticker, more than 91 percent of the children chose cookies compared to less than a quarter who chose apples. But when the cartoon stickers were used on apples, more than 37 percent of the children took the fruit. 

“Branding has tremendous potential to promote healthier eating. We tend to associate mascots and characters with junk food, but they can also be used to build excitement around healthy foods. This is a powerful lesson for fast food companies, food activists and people involved in school food service”, lead researcher Brian Wansink said. 


Genetic Disease Related to Vitamin B12 Deficiency Discovered

Researchers have discovered a novel genetic disease associated with vitamin B12 deficiency. Researchers have identified a gene that is vital to the transport of vitamin into the cells of the body. 
This new discovery is expected to help doctors better diagnose this rare genetic disorder and open the door to new treatments.
Vitamin B12 is essential to human health but some people have inherited conditions that leave them unable to process vitamin B12. As a result they are prone to serious health problems, including developmental delay, psychosis, stroke and dementia. 
"We found that a second transport protein was involved in the uptake of the vitamin into the cells, thus providing evidence of another cause of hereditary vitamin B12 deficiency," Dr. David Rosenblatt, one of the study's co-authors from McGill University, said. 
"It is also the first description of a new genetic disease associated with how vitamin B12 is handled by the body," he said, 
These results build on previous research by the same team from the RI MUHC and McGill University, with their colleagues in Switzerland, Germany and the United States. 
In previous work, the researchers discovered that vitamin B12 enters our cells with help from of a specific transport protein. In this study, they were working independently with two patients showing symptoms of the cblF gene defect of vitamin B12 metabolism but without an actual defect in this gene. 
Their work led to the discovery of a new gene, ABCD4, associated with the transport of B12 and responsible for a new disease called cblJ combined homocystinuria and methylmalonic aciduria (cblJ-Hcy-MMA). 
Using next generation sequencing of the patients' genetic information, the scientists identified two mutations in the same ABCD4 gene, in both patients. 
"We were also able to compensate for the genetic mutation by adding an intact ABCD4 protein to the patients' cells, thus allowing the vitamin to be properly integrated into the cells," Dr. Matthias Baumgartner, senior author of the study, said. 
"This discovery will lead to the early diagnosis of this serious genetic disorder and has given us new paths to explore treatment options. It also helps explain how vitamin B12 functions in the body, even for those without the disorder," Dr. Rosenblatt added. 
The study has been published in the journal Nature Genetics.



Books can Keep You Healthy: Study

Books act as a tonic for the brain, states study. 
Neuroscientist Susan Greenfield suggests that reading helps to expand attention spans in kids. "Stories have a beginning, a middle and an end - a structure that encourages our brains to think in sequence, to link cause, effect and significance," she says."It is essential to learn this skill as a small child, while the brain has more plasticity, which is why it's so important for parents to read to their children. The more we do it, the better we get at it," Greenfield added.  

Reading can enrich our relationships by increasing our understanding of other cultures and helping us learn to empathise, the Daily Mail reports. 
"In a computer game, you might have to rescue a princess, but you don't care about her, you just want to win," explains Greenfield. "But a princess in a book has a past, present and future, she has connections and motivations. We can relate to her. We see the world through her eyes." 
John Stein, emeritus professor of neuroscience at Magdalen College, Oxford, says reading is far from a passive activity. "Reading exercises the whole brain," he explains. Reading stories to children will help their brains develop the ability to analyse the cause, effect and significance of events 
In 2009, a brain-imaging study in the US showed that reading about landscapes, sounds, smells and tastes, activates brain areas tied to these experiences in real life, creating new neural pathways. Simply stated, our brains simulate real experiences, which doesn't happen when you're watching TV or playing computer games. 
In 2009, University of Sussex researchers showed how six minutes of reading can slash stress levels by more than two-thirds, more than listening to music or going out for a walk.

Lack of sleep found to be a new risk factor for aggressive breast cancers

Lack of sleep is linked to more aggressive breast cancers, according to new findings published in the August issue of Breast Cancer Research and Treatment by physician-scientists from University Hospitals Case Medical Center's Seidman Cancer Center and Case Comprehensive Cancer Center at Case Western Reserve University.
Led by Cheryl Thompson, PhD, the study is the first-of-its-kind to show an association between insufficient sleep and biologically more aggressive tumors as well as likelihood of cancer recurrence. The research team analyzed medical records and survey responses from 412 post-menopausal breast cancer patients treated at UH Case Medical Center with Oncotype DX, a widely utilized test to guide treatment in early stage breast cancer by predicting likelihood of recurrence.
All patients were recruited at diagnosis and asked about the average sleep duration in the last two years. Researchers found that women who reported six hours or less of sleep per night on average before breast cancer diagnosis had higher Oncotype DX tumor recurrence scores. The Oncotype DX test assigns a tumor a recurrence score based on the expression level of a combination of 21 genes.
"This is the first study to suggest that women who routinely sleep fewer hours may develop more aggressive breast cancers compared with women who sleep longer hours," said Dr. Thompson, who is Assistant Professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and lead author. "We found a strong correlation between fewer hours of sleep per night and worse recurrence scores, specifically in post-menopausal breast cancer patients. This suggests that lack of sufficient sleep may cause more aggressive tumors, but more research will need to be done to verify this finding and understand the causes of this association."
The authors point out that while the correlation of sleep duration and recurrence score was strong in post-menopausal women, there was no correlation in pre-menopausal women. It is well known that there are different mechanisms underlying pre-menopausal and post-menopausal breast cancers. The data suggest that sleep may affect carcinogenic pathway(s) specifically involved in the development of post-menopausal breast cancer, but not pre-menopausal cancer.
"Short sleep duration is a public health hazard leading not only to obesity, diabetes and heart disease, but also cancer," said Li Li, MD, PhD, a study co-author and family medicine physician in the Department of Family Medicine at UH Case Medical Center and Associate Professor of Family Medicine, Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. "Effective intervention to increase duration of sleep and improve quality of sleep could be an under-appreciated avenue for reducing the risk of developing more aggressive breast cancers and recurrence."
Source:University Hospitals Case Medical Center 

In war with 'superbugs,' Cedars-Sinai researchers see new weapon: Immune-boosting vitamin

Cedars-Sinai researchers have found that a common vitamin may have the potential to provide a powerful weapon to fight certain "superbugs," antibiotic-resistant staph infections that health experts see as a threat to public health.
The research, published in the September 2012 edition of The Journal of Clinical Investigation, found that high doses of the nicotinamide form of vitamin B3 stimulated a specific gene (CEBPE), enhancing white blood cells' ability to combat staph infections, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA.
With research ongoing, including possible clinical trials in humans, the scientists caution consumers not to treat a suspected infection by taking vitamin B3. Instead, a physician should be consulted.
"It's critical that we find novel antimicrobial approaches to treat infection and not rely so heavily on antibiotics," said George Liu, MD, PhD, a pediatric infectious disease physician at Cedars-Sinai's Maxine Dunitz Children's Health Center and co-senior author of the study. "That's why this discovery is so exciting. Our research indicates this common vitamin is potentially effective in fighting off and protecting against one of today's most concerning public health threats."
Staph infections commonly cause serious, sometimes life-threatening illness. Health officials fear that indiscriminate use of antibiotics has undercut their effectiveness, leading to the rapid rise and threatening spread of resistant germs.
In laboratory tests with mice and human blood, Cedars-Sinai scientists found that vitamin B3 increased by up to 1,000 fold the ability of the immune system to kill staph bacteria. Beyond its findings related to vitamin B3, the study indicates that similar targeting of the CEBPE gene with other compounds may offer a new immune-boosting strategy to fight bacterial infections.
The researchers have been investigating a rare disease called neutrophil-specific granule deficiency, a hematologic disorder afflicting only a handful of people in the world. Due to a mutation of the gene CEBPE, patients with this disease have significantly weakened immune systems, leaving them prone to severe, chronic and life-threatening infections, including staph. The CEBPE gene regulates several antimicrobial factors in the body.
"Our goal in studying a rare disorder is that it may give us broad insight into the immune mechanisms that protect healthy individuals against staph infections," said Pierre Kyme, PhD, a researcher in the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases in the Maxine Dunitz Children's Health Center and the Immunobiology Research Institute, and co-first author of the study with Nils Thoennissen, MD, who is now with the Department of Medicine at University of Muenster in Germany. "We found that if you over-express the gene in normal individuals, the body's immune cells do a better job of fighting off infection."
Kyme and Thoennissen turned to vitamin B3, which has been shown to increase the expression of some other genes in the CEBP family. The results: When studied in human blood, clinical doses of the vitamin appeared to virtually wipe out the staph infection in only a few hours.
Formal testing in clinical trials with patients is called for, based on these outcomes in the laboratory and in laboratory mice studies, said Phillip Koeffler, MD, professor of medicine at Cedars-Sinai and co-senior author of the study.
"There's more research to be done, but we believe that vitamin B3, and other compounds that are able to increase the activity of this particular gene, have the potential to be effective against other antibiotic-resistant bacteria in addition to strains of staph," he said.
Source:Cedars-Sinai Medical Center 

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Pregnant Women Warned in US Against Taking Ayurvedic Pills

A study by US researchers have warned pregnant women against taking Ayurvedic medicine, after they found high levels of lead in some of the traditional pills. 
New York City health authorities probed six cases since last year of women -- all but one born in India -- found to be at high risk of lead poisoning due to Ayurvedic medicine, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Ayurveda, or long-life science, is a system of traditional medicine developed over thousands of years in India. 

The pills -- none made in the United States -- are occasionally contaminated during manufacturing but some are "rasa shastra," the Indian practice of intentionally adding metals, minerals or gems to medicine. 
The medicines are advertised as helping with pregnancy and at least one boasted that it would boost the chances of having a boy instead of a girl, said the report by the US government health organization. 
While the six women have not shown symptoms, authorities found them to be at high risk of lead poisoning, which can damage the brain, kidneys and nervous and reproductive systems. 
"Pregnant women present a unique concern, because lead exposure can adversely affect the health of both mother and child. Fetal lead exposure increases the risks for low birth weight, developmental delay, reduced intelligence and behavioral problems," it said. 
The products contained up to 2.4 percent lead and some also contained mercury and arsenic, which are also considered dangerous for consumption. 
The US Food and Drug Administration warned in 2008 to use caution when taking Ayurvedic medicines -- especially those sold over the Internet -- as they are generally not approved by regulators. 
The researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that health care providers should ask patients about their use of foreign-made medicine and consider administering tests for metal exposure. 
"The cases of lead poisoning among the six pregnant women underscore the importance of risk assessment for lead exposure and blood lead testing in at-risk populations," the report said. 


Ayurveda Tourism In Kerala to Be Taken To The Next Level

Ayurveda is the ancient Indian system of medicine and well-being. Kerala has now set its eyes on pushing tourism centred around ayurveda to the next level by promoting its curative and cosmetic properties. 
"Beaches, backwaters, hills and ayurveda are the four pillars of tourism in Kerala. We realise there is still a large potential within ayurveda to attract people to our state," says state Tourism Secretary Suman Billa.
 "So far, when it came to ayurveda, we mainly focused on well-being. But there are also the curative and cosmetic sides, and these are what we now also intend to promote," Billa told IANS in an interview. 

"What we will offer is the art and science of living, and living well." 
He said while ayurvedic massages were hugely popular, attracting tourists from India and abroad, the system also offered cures for ailments such as back pain, rheumatism and psoriasis that needed to be advertised better. 
"Similarly, we have also promoted the integration of ayurveda with yoga so that when a tourist goes back after undergoing a treatment, he or she also maintains a healthy lifestyle on a daily basis," Billa said. 
"Surva namaskar, for example, is known to exercise as much as 97 percent of the muscles. So when a person undergoes an ayurvedic therapy, it seeks to restore a balance in your system, and yoga can help in maintaining it." 
Billa said a pilot project would also be started on a public-private partnership mode where all forms of medicine and well-being -- allopathy, ayurveda, unani and siddha -- will come under one roof to offer an integrated system. 
Towards this, he said, 25 acres had already been acquired and that the project would be showcased prominently at the upcoming Emerging Kerala conclave in Kochi in September to attract potential partners. 
The location, he said, was at Nelliyampathy in Palaghat district, which is also a popular hill station surrounded by tea and coffee plantations with some breathtaking views. 
Billa said Ayurveda was endemic to the entire region but there was now some emerging competition from neighbouring Sri Lanka. This was being countered by branding and maintaining the quality of service, he said. 
The Kerala government already extends its approval to treatment-centres and resorts, and rates them as green leaf or olive leaf -- five-star and three-star and above categories, respectively -- based on the service quality and facilities. 
Explaining how well the four pillars of tourism were intertwined in Kerala, Billa said visitors to the state generally seek to experience more than just one of these offerings by the state. 
"The average period of stay is 16.1 days for an international visitor and 6.8 days for domestic. You can see the average period of stay is high and allows people to experience more than just a beach, backwater, hill or ayurveda." 
Kerala received 10 million tourists last year, of which 9.2 million were from within India and 800,000 were from overseas. Britain, France, Russia were the main overseas markets. 

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