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Saturday, 29 September 2012

Yoga is just not exercises, gives higher awareness (Special)

Yoga postures are very different from ordinary exercise. It is a mistake even to call the postures exercises, in the usual sense of the word. Their purpose is not to strengthen the muscles. They emphasise relaxation quite as much as they do tension. Unlike most physical exercises, they do not excite; rather, they eliminate excitement from the system.
An important difference between these postures and other systems of exercise is that in yoga practice one must never strain. Relax, never force yourself, into the prescribed positions. Stretch only slightly, if at all, beyond the point of comfort. You will be astonished to see how many poses you can accomplish by progressively deeper relaxation.
The yogi should act always from a centre of poise and calmness, of mental and physical relaxation. When I first met my Guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, he told me that, while sitting in a chair giving interviews, he was not even aware of his body below the chest. To be able so completely to relax the body when not using it, it is necessary first to be in full control of it; to be able at will to be fully conscious of every muscle.
The yoga postures are not only a series of physical positions but exercises in mental awareness. The yogi must try to become conscious of the energy as it directs the muscular movements.
Between poses, he should calmly withdraw his energy from the periphery of his body; he should rest within himself. Savasana, the Corpse Pose, is particularly recommended for these peaceful interludes.
The yogi is enjoined to practise moderation in everything. He should avoid eating too much, or too little. He should not sleep too much, nor too little. (More than seven hours' sleep at night only drugs the nervous system.) He should be especially moderate in his sex life. Sexual over-indulgence causes tremendous drain on natural vitality. Continence, if it has the full consent of the mind, can be a tremendous factor in helping one to achieve full vigour, mentally and physically, and to attain deep spiritual insight.
Yoga practices help one to live in harmony with the forces of nature. The yoga postures should always, if possible, be practised out-of-doors, or by an open window.
They should be practised on an empty stomach or at least three hours after eating. It is preferable that the body be warm when performing them. But don't practise immediately after strenuous activity; or so long that the postures themselves result in over-exertion and fatigue.
Women should use caution if they wish to do yoga postures during the first day or two of the menstrual period.
The postures should not be practised, save with the greatest of caution, when the body is unwell. Any posture that gives rise to a feeling of pain (other than muscular) in the chest, abdomen or brain should be abandoned until the cause has been ascertained. People with high blood pressure should avoid all but the most gentle poses.
The duration of each posture must be increased gradually. People beginning these postures after middle age should be particularly careful to start slowly, with the easier poses, bit by bit working up to the more difficult ones.
(Swami Kriyananda is a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda, founder of Ananda Sangha, and a known authority on Kriya Yoga.)


Why Smokers Shouldn't Be Scared Of The WHO's Global Recommendations For Cigarette Taxes

The World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control said it will discuss creating its own recommendations for member states on cigarette taxes at a November conference in Seoul, South Korea.According to the draft guidelines, "The main objective of the guidelines is to assist Parties in developing efficient and effective tax and price policies that meet their needs in terms of reducing tobacco consumption and prevalence, bearing in mind the significance of revenues gained from taxes on tobacco products."The goals of the policy prescriptions are quite lofty, but any action by the WHO will lack the teeth to enforce them — the transnational organization may be allowed to prescribe recommendations, but it does not have the power to enforces taxes upon sovereign nations.This means that their advice could easily fall on deaf ears — but they don't have to.Many of the recommendations are too vague, and some states do not have the resources to enact or analyze the effect of tobacco taxes. And some don't want to, which is their sovereign right.
Here's one example. The draft guidelines note:
Parties should implement the simplest and most efficient system that meets their health and fiscal 
needs, with the fewest exceptions and taking into account their national circumstances.
This advice does not give specific policy recommendations for a specific state.  The tools to combat or consider "national circumstances" differ widely according to each specific situation. Further, not all states will have the same capacity to enact taxes or to analyze and work around their circumstances.
However, this specific recommendation adds:
From a budgetary as well as a health point of view, Parties should implement specific or mixed excise systems with a minimum specific tax floor, as these systems have considerable advantages over purely ad valorem systems
This provides a more specific policy analysis, but as noted before, not all states have the resources or the time to combat this. Patrick Reynolds, executive director of the Foundation for a Smokefree America, told Business Insider that he thought the discussion was "wonderful" and "exciting.""To say that all taxes are generally bad is foolish," Reynolds, who is the grandson of cigarette company founder RJ Reynolds, added. "Tobacco taxes means less smoking and savings on long term healthcare costs."
In an op-ed with USA Today on Wednesday, Reynolds noted, after a 62¢ federal tobacco tax increase enacted in 2009 caused cigarette sales to drop 11 percent in the first 12 months, and raised more than $10 billion in the first year.
Not all support cigarette taxes, and they have their own data to back their claims.
RTI International released a study in September in which it found that higher cigarette taxes are financially burdensome on low-income smokers in the United States, and do not make them more likely to quit. And according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), almost a third of those who make under $15,000 a year smoke. David Sutton, a spokesperson for the Altria Group — the parent company for some of the biggest tobacco manufacturers in the United States — responded to Business Insider via email. Here's what they had to say:
"Tobacco products are already very heavily taxed. Since 2000, federal and state governments increased cigarette excise taxes over 110 times, more than doubling the price of a pack of cigarettes. Philip Morris USA opposes tobacco product excise tax increases that are unfair to adult tobacco consumers, create additional incentives for contraband and counterfeit tobacco product trafficking, harm states by increasing incentives for adult tobacco consumers to buy tobacco products through lower-tax or untaxed revenues, are costly to legitimate businesses, including retailers and wholesalers, do little to solve systemic state budget problems and can lead to less stability in the states’ finances."
Cigarette taxes have faced their share of opponents in the United States as well. Proposition 29 in California, which would have added a $1 tax per pack, was defeated in a statewide vote in June.
Source:Business Insider

Partially Cooked Frozen Fries Linked to Increased Cancer Risk

They are enjoyed by millions in restaurants, fast-food outlets and pubs.
But the humble frozen chip could be a cause of cancer, a worrying study reveals.
Scientists have found that the kind of partly-cooked fries supplied to many food outlets are most likely to contain higher levels of carcinogenic chemicals.
These oven chips arrive sliced, dried and part-fried, a process of partly cooking them so they are crisp on the outside, but remain raw on the inside.
This means they do not need as long to cook into the final, tasty version that can then get served up to customers.
But it is this factory process that can influence the amount of acrylamide, a 'probable human carcinogen', that remains in the chips by the time they are dished up, said the US study.
Experts from the American Chemical Association called for manufacturers to use more efficient ways to cook potatoes from raw that limits the amount of acrylamide found in them.
Acrylamide is a natural substance found in many different types of food, including potatoes, according to the study for the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.But the process often used to prepare frozen chips for the catering trade does not reduce its levels.
Food chemist Donald Mottram and his team report: 'The commercial process includes potato selection and sorting, cutting, blanching, sugar augmentation, drying, frying and freezing.
'In combination with final cooking, this generates the colour, texture and flavour that consumers expect in french fries.'
It added: 'Acrylamide forms naturally during the cooking of many food products. Acrylamide formation in fried potato products is inevitable.'
A computer model measured how acylamide, amino acids, sugars, fat and other levels varied during the cooking process and what happens when the various ratios are altered.
And the most effective in terms of reducing acrylamide is to reduce the fructose to glucose ratio once the potatoes had been cut into chips, they found.
The report said: 'To minimise the quantities of acrylamide in cooked fries, it is important to understand the impact of each stage on the formation of acrylamide.
'A mathematical model based on the fundamental chemical reaction pathways of the finish-frying was developed, incorporating moisture and temperature gradients in the fries.
'This showed the contribution of both glucose and fructose to the generation of acrylamide and accurately predicted the acrylamide content of the final fries.'
A spokesman from the NHS said: 'This is a complex mathematical modelling study which was not designed to give firm answers regarding the levels of acrylamide in pre-prepared fries, nor to attribute this to particular brands or distributors, tell us about levels that may be in other frozen chips, home-cooked chips or other pre-prepared products that contain potato or cereal products. 
'Most importantly it cannot confirm the potential health risk from acrylamide.'
The Food Standards Agency does not advise people to stop eating processed foods that are high in acrylamide, but do advise that a healthy balanced diet should be followed.
Source:Daily Mail UK


World Heart Day 2012: 'One World, One Home, One Heart'

World Heart Day (WHD) is celebrated all over the world each year on 29th of September. The theme this year is “One world - One home – One heart”. 
For over a decade, the world has come together on World Heart Day to address the pan -global cardiovascular disease epidemic and to promote heart-healthy living all over the world. WHD acts as a platform for action to create awareness regarding heart diseases and prompts individuals, families, communities and governments to tackle the burden of the deadly disease.
 This year, World Heart Day gains greater significance as the 65th World Health Assembly that was held in May this year  saw  governments from 194 different countries make the  first-ever  commitment  to reduce premature deaths due to  non-communicable diseases (NCDs) including cardiovascular diseases (CVD), diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases, by 25% by the year 2025. 

Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are a group of diseases that involve the heart or blood vessels (arteries and veins). These diseases include aneurysm, angina, atherosclerosis, stroke and other cerebrovascular diseases, congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease including heart attack, and peripheral vascular disease. 
With more and more people becoming affluent and with lifestyles changing drastically, CVD is steadily taking its toll all over the world. In the United States alone, it takes more lives than all the cancers combined. 
It is popular belief that CVDs, including heart disease, stroke, and a series of other heart-related conditions, are lifestyle diseases that primarily affect older people. However, nothing can be further from truth. 
CVD can affect anyone of any age group including women and children. It can destabilize life by causing serious illnesses and this can heavily impact families and societies economically. 
Therefore, this year, WHD will focus on the heart health of women and children through heart-healthy actions. 
The most common heart condition in children is congenital heart disease. Each year, 1.5 million new cases are born globally.  With careful monitoring and management, these children can grow up to become productive adults. 
Although heart attack is more often attached to men, it has been revealed that more number of women die each year due to heart attacks. Understanding the symptoms and risk factors is the first step towards controlling CVD. 
In women, the symptoms of heart attack are more subtle and do not necessarily include the crushing chest pain commonly linked to a heart attack. However, the majority of women who have had an attack would have experienced some sort of pain or discomfort – pain in the neck, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, sweating, dizziness or fatigue. 
Risk factors for CVD include metabolic syndrome, stress, depression, smoking, menopause and family history. 
CVD can be kept under check by understanding the risk factors as well as eating a balanced diet, following a regular exercise schedule and regularly monitoring cardiac health. 
It must be remembered that CVD is responsible for nearly 17.3 million deaths each year. Therefore, there is a lot to do before the target of 25% reduction is achieved. 



Lack of sleep leads to insulin resistance in teens

Extending sleep duration may help to reduce diabetes risk in youth

Darien, IL - A new study suggests that increasing the amount of sleep that teenagers get could improve their insulin resistance and prevent the future onset of diabetes.
"High levels of insulin resistance can lead to the development of diabetes," said lead author Karen Matthews, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh Department of Psychiatry. "We found that if teens that normally get six hours of sleep per night get one extra hour of sleep, they would improve insulin resistance by 9 percent."
The study, appearing in the October issue of the journal SLEEP, tracked the sleep duration and insulin resistance levels of 245 healthy high school students. Participants provided a fasting blood draw, and they kept a sleep log and wore a wrist actigraph for one week during the school year. Sleep duration based on actigraphy averaged 6.4 hours over the week, with school days significantly lower than weekends.
Results show that higher insulin resistance is associated with shorter sleep duration independent of race, age, gender, waist circumference, and body mass index. According to Matthews, the study is the only one in healthy adolescents that shows a relationship between shorter sleep and insulin resistance that is independent of obesity.
The authors concluded that interventions to promote metabolic health in adolescence should include efforts to extend nightly sleep duration. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that most teens need a little more than nine hours of sleep each night.
Source:American Academy of Sleep Medicine 

Friday, 28 September 2012

Govt may soon clear launching of National Urban Health Mission

The Union government, seized with a new vigour on the reforms front, may soon push its much-delayed National Urban Health Mission (NUHM) aimed at addressing the healthcare needs of the poor sections of the people tucked to the urban centres.
Despite the commitment by the then-Finance Minister in the last budget to launch the mission, it has been stuck for the want of the final clearance from the Planning Commission which also in principle endorsed the implementation of the same during the current 12th Plan period.
Sources said the Government, which is facing public heat over the price hike in diesel and FDI reforms, wanted to bring out something on the healthcare or education front to placate the general feelings and convey that the reforms were done for boosting the welfare of the people. “NUHM has been pending for long and the government may give a clearance to it at the earliest,” sources said.
During the XIth Five Year Plan, Rs.4,495 crore were allocated for proposed NUHM, but it could not take off. Although proposal on NUHM was approved by the Expenditure Finance Committee (EFC) in September, 2008, the programme could not be launched as the Planning Commission asked this Ministry to consider certain other aspects which influence both access and quality of Public Health Services Delivery including good practices that are followed in some countries.
The Centre proposes to merge the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and the yet-to-be-launched National Urban Health Mission (NUHM) in the 13th Five-Year-Plan period. The two ambitious Missions will be separate entities in the current 12th Five-Year-Plan period.
The Planning Commission is in favour of the Mission as it wants to give thrust to the urban rural health during the 12th Plan period. The NUHM is expected to cover all cities and towns with a population of more than 50,000, broadly covering 779 cities and towns including seven mega cities like Mumbai, New Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad.
The budget allocation for the mission is envisaged to be Rs.30,000 crore and the programme will be implemented by investing in health professionals, creating new and upgradation of existing infrastructure, and strengthening the existing health care service delivery system.

Changes in Gut Bacteria may Cause Diabetes

Diabetes may be caused by harmful pathogens present in the gut, say researchers. "We have demonstrated that people with type 2 diabetes have a high level of pathogens in their intestines," says professor Jun Wang from the University of Copenhagen's Department of Biology and Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research. 
The 1.5 kilograms of bacteria that we each carry in our intestines have an enormous impact on our health and well being. The bacteria normally live in a sensitive equilibrium but if this equilibrium is disrupted our health could suffer. In the new study, scientists examined the intestinal bacteria of 345 people from China, of which 171 had type 2 diabetes. The team managed to identify clear biological indicators that someday could be used in methods that provide faster and earlier diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. 
The research, which was recently published in the scientific journal Nature, also demonstrated that people with type 2 diabetes have a more hostile bacterial environment in their intestines, which can increase resistance to different medicines. 
Similar studies carried out on sufferers of type 2 diabetes in Denmark also discovered a significant imbalance in the function of their intestinal bacteria and composition. Future Danish studies will examine whether intestinal bacteria is already abnormal in people that are deemed to be at risk of developing diabetes. 
"We are going to transplant gut bacteria from people that suffer from type 2 diabetes into mice and examine whether the mice then develop diabetes," says another of the lead scientists behind the project, professor Oluf Borbye Pedersen from the University of Copenhagen and centre director at LuCamp, the Lundbeck Foundation Centre for Applied Medical Genomics in Personalised Disease Prediction, Prevention and Care. 
International research team investigates gut bacteria 
By working together, a team scientists from the University of Copenhagen and the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) was able to make to several breakthroughs in the field of 'metagenomics'. 
Scientists working on the EU research project MetaHIT have uncovered more than 3.3 million genes from gut bacteria found in people from Spain and Denmark. These genes could play a key role in understanding and treating a range of serious illnesses. According to Professor Karsten Kristiansen from the University of Copenhagen's Department of Biology, the recent discovery is an important step in the comprehensive international research that is currently underway to investigate the interplay between intestinal bacteria and health. 
"The European and Chinese working on the MetaHIT project were able to make important new discoveries about the relationship between intestinal bacteria and health. The new discovery indicates a possible connection between type 2 diabetes and the intestinal bacteria in Chinese people," Kristiansen says. 
"It is important to point out that our discovery demonstrates a correlation. The big question now is whether the changes in gut bacteria can affect the development of type 2 diabetes or whether the changes simply reflect that the person is suffering from type 2 diabetes." 
University of Copenhagen 


Eye Movements Aid in the Diagnosis of Neurological Disorder

Researchers have developed a new low-cost method, which can detect neurological disorders by monitoring eye movements.
The researchers at the University of Southern California have revealed that certain neurological conditions can be easily detected by monitoring a patient’s eye movement.
 Neurological conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and Parkinson’s disease involve impairment in ocular control and attention dysfunctions. It is therefore possible to identify these diseases by carefully watching how patients move their eyes while watching television programs. 

According to the researchers, natural attention and the eye movements of the patients are akin to a drop of saliva. It contains a biometric signature of a person and can indicate the state of brain function. 
The conventional methods of diagnosis for these diseases include clinical evaluation, neuroimaging and structured behavioural tasks. These diagnostic methods are costly, involve lot of labor and are heavily dependant on the patient’s ability to follow instructions. 
On the other hand, this new method is a cost-effective screening tool that can be easily put to use in the young and the old alike. It has been designed by Po-He Tseng, a doctoral student, and Professor Laurent Itti of the Department of Computer Science at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and their collaborators at Queen’s University, Canada. 
During the study, participants were told to “watch and enjoy” television clips for a period of 20 minutes. During this time, their eye movements were recorded. 
Eye-tracking data was combined with normative eye-tracking data, along with a computational model of visual attention, to extract 224 quantitative features that allowed the usage of new techniques to differentiate key features that separated patients from control subjects. 
Eye movement data from about 108 subjects were retrieved which allowed the researchers to identify older adults suffering from Parkinson’s with 89.6 percent accuracy and those with ADHD or FASD with 77.3 percent accuracy. 
It is, indeed, for the first time that the neurological state of a person has been evaluated using eye movements. This is a welcome development as it is possible to diagnose the problem subjecting them to time-consuming and difficult tests. 
This research work has been published in the Journal of Neurology.


Withdrawal Symptoms Linked to Relapse for Cannabis Users

According to a recent study, cannabis users have an increased chance of relapse when they experience certain withdrawal symptoms. The authors tested a group of dependent cannabis users over a two week period of abstinence for impairment related to their withdrawal symptoms. Findings were correlated with the probability of relapse to cannabis use during the abstinence period, and the level of use one month later. 
They found that in more dependent users, certain withdrawal symptoms, such as physical tension, sleep problems, anxiety, depression, mood swings and loss of appetite, were more strongly associated with relapse than other symptoms, such as hot flashes, fatigue, or night sweats. Participants with greater dependence before the abstinence attempt reported more severe impairment from the withdrawal. Participants with greater impairment from cannabis withdrawal consumed more cannabis during the month following the abstinence attempt.
If these results extend to treatment seeking cannabis users seeking treatment for withdrawal, the research may help improve counseling and treatment strategies for those looking for support. 
"Tailoring treatments to target withdrawal symptoms contributing to functional impairment during a quit attempt may improve treatment outcomes" says Allsop. 


Hopkins researchers solve key part of old mystery in generating muscle mass

Implications for treating muscular dystrophy and other muscle wasting diseases


Working with mice, Johns Hopkins researchers have solved a key part of a muscle regeneration mystery plaguing scientists for years, adding strong support to the theory that muscle mass can be built without a complete, fully functional supply of muscle stem cells.
"This is good news for those with muscular dystrophy and other muscle wasting disorders that involve diminished stem cell function," says Se-Jin Lee, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of a report on the research in the August issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and professor of molecular biology and genetics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Muscle stem cells, known as satellite cells, reside next to muscle fibers and are usually dormant in adult mammals, including humans. After exercise or injury, they are stimulated to divide and fuse, either with themselves or with nearby muscle fibers, to increase or replace muscle mass. In muscle wasting disorders, like muscular dystrophy, muscle degeneration initially activates satellite cells to regenerate lost tissue, but eventually the renewal cycle is exhausted and the balance tips in favor of degeneration, the researchers explain.
Muscle maintenance and growth under healthy, non-injury conditions have been more of a mystery, including the role of myostatin, a protein secreted from muscle cells to stop muscle growth. Blocking myostatin function in normal mice causes them to bulk up by 25 to 50 percent. What is not known is which cells receive and react to the myostatin signal. Current suspects include satellite cells and muscle cells themselves.
In this latest study, researchers used three approaches to figure out whether satellite cells are required for myostatin activity. They first looked at specially bred mice with severe defects in either satellite cell function or number. When they used drugs or genetic engineering to block myostatin function in both types of mice, muscle mass still increased significantly compared to that seen in mice with normal satellite cell function, suggesting that myostatin is able to act, at least partially, without full satellite cell function.
Second, the researchers guessed that if myostatin directly inhibits the growth of satellite cells, their numbers should increase in the absence of myostatin. The researchers marked the satellite cells with a permanent dye and then blocked myostatin activity with a drug. Mouse muscle mass increased significantly as expected, but the satellite cells did not increase in number, nor were they found fusing with muscle fibers at a higher rate. According to Lee, these results strongly suggest that myostatin does not suppress satellite cell proliferation.
Third, to further confirm their theory that myostatin acts primarily through muscle cells and not satellite cells, the team engineered mice with muscle cells lacking a protein receptor that binds to myostatin. If satellite cells harbor most of the myostatin receptors, removal of receptors in muscle cells should not alter myostatin activity, and should result in muscles of normal girth. Instead, what the researchers saw was a moderate, but statistically significant, increase in muscle mass. The evidence once again, they said, suggested that muscle cells are themselves important receivers of myostatin signals.
Lee notes that, since the results give no evidence that satellite cells are of primary importance to the myostatin pathway, even patients with low muscle mass due to compromised satellite cell function may be able to rebuild some of their muscle tone through drug therapy that blocks myostatin activity.
"Everybody loses muscle mass as they age, and the most popular explanation is that this occurs as a result of satellite cell loss. If you block the myostatin pathway, can you increase muscle mass, mobility and independence for our aging population?" asks Lee. "Our results in mice suggest that, indeed, this strategy may be a way to get around the satellite cell problem."
Source:Johns Hopkins Medicine 


UC Davis investigators have found new evidence that a promising type of stem cell now being considered for a variety of disease therapies is very similar to the type of cells that give rise to cancer. The findings suggest that although the cells -- known as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) -- show substantial promise as a source of replacement cells and tissues to treat injuries, disease and chronic conditions, scientists and physicians must move cautiously with any clinical use because iPSCs could also cause malignant cancer.The article, "Induced pluripotency and oncogenic transformation are related processes," is now online in the journal, Stem Cells and Development."This is the first study that describes the specific molecular pathways that iPSCs and cancer cells share from a direct comparison" said Paul Knoepfler, associate professor of cell biology and human anatomy, and principal investigator of the study. "It means that much more study is required before iPSCs can be used clinically. However, our study adds to a growing knowledge base that not only will help make stem cell therapies safer, but also provide us with new understandings about the cancer-causing process and more effective ways to fight the disease."Since 2007, cell biologists have been able to induce specialized, differentiated cells (such as those obtained from the skin or muscle of a human adult) to become iPSCs. Like embryonic stem cells, iPSCs are a type of stem cell that is able to become any cell type. This "pluripotent" capability means that iPSCs have the potential of being used in treatments for a variety of human diseases, a fundamentally new type of clinical care known as regenerative medicine.iPSCs are considered particularly important because their production avoids the controversy that surrounds embryonic stem cells. In addition, iPSCs can be taken from a patient's own skin and induced to produce other needed tissues, thereby evading the possibility of immunologic rejection that arises when transplanting cells from a donor to a recipient. In contrast to therapies based on ES cells, iPSCs would eliminate the need for patients to take immunosuppressive drugs.Earlier research indicated that both ES cells and iPSCs pose some health risks. Increasing evidence suggests that pluripotency may be related to rapid cellular growth, a characteristic of cancer. iPSCs, as well as embryonic stem cells, are well known by scientists to have the propensity to cause teratomas, an unusual type of benign tumor that consists of many different cell types. The new UC Davis study demonstrates for the first time that iPSCs -- as well as ES cells -- share significant similarities to malignant cancer cells.The investigators compared iPSCs to a form of malignant cancer known as oncogenic foci that are also produced in laboratories; these cell types are used by medical researchers to create models of cancer, particularly sarcoma. Specifically, the scientists contrasted the different cells' transcriptomes, comprised of the RNA molecules or "transcripts."  Unlike DNA analysis, which reflects a cell's entire genetic code whether or not the genes are active, transcriptomes reflect only the genes that are actively expressed at a given time and therefore provide a picture of actual cellular activity.From this transcriptome analysis, the investigators found that the iPSCs and malignant sarcoma cancer cells are unexpectedly similar in several respects. Genes that were not expressed in iPSCs were also not expressed in the cancer-generating cells, including many that have properties that guide a cell to normally differentiate in certain directions. Both cell types also exhibited evidence of similar metabolic activities, another indication that they are related cell types."We were surprised how similar iPSCS were to cancer-generating cells," said Knoepfler. "Our findings indicate that the search for therapeutic applications of iPSCs must proceed with considerable caution if we are to do our best to promote patient safety."Knoepfler noted, for example, that future experimental therapies using iPSCs for human transplants would most often not involve implanting iPSCs directly into a patient. Instead, iPSCs would be used to create differentiated cells -- or tissues -- in the laboratory, which could then be transplanted into a patient. This approach avoids implanting the actual undifferentiated iPSCS, and reduces the risk of tumor development as a side effect. However, Knoepfler noted that even trace amounts of residual iPSCs could cause cancer in patients, a possibility supported by his team's latest research.Encouragingly, the UC Davis team also found important differences between the cell types that could provide clues to making iPSCs safer. As part of this study, the researchers transformed tumor-generating cell types into iPS-like cells by manipulating their genetic make up. Although the reprogrammed cancer cells did not behave identically to iPSCs, and had reduced ability to produce different cell types, the findings are exciting because they suggest that cancer cells can be reprogrammed into more normal cell types, possibly opening the door to new cancer therapies."We found that we could reprogram the cancer cells to behave more akin to normal stem cells," said Knoepfler. "This suggests that such cancer cell reprogramming could become a new way of treating cancer patients, in essence telling their tumors to turn into normal stem cells."Knoepfler said the team is continuing to study the differences and similarities between iPSCs and cancer cells, as well as investigate possible ways to make iPSCs safer. It appears that targeting specific metabolic pathways may enhance iPSC formation, while modulating other pathways may improve safety.Other study authors are John Riggs, Bonnie Barrilleaux, Natalia Varlakhanova, Kelly Bush and Vanessa Chan, all of the UC Davis Department of Cell Biology and Human Anatomy.The study was funded by grants from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine and from the National Institutes of Health (NIH grant 5R01GM100782-01).UC Davis is playing a leading role in regenerative medicine, with nearly 150 scientists working on a variety of stem cell-related research projects at campus locations in both Davis and Sacramento. The UC Davis Institute for Regenerative Cures, a facility supported by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), opened in 2010 on the Sacramento campus. This $62 million facility is the university's hub for stem cell science. It includes Northern California's largest academic Good Manufacturing Practice laboratory, with state-of-the-art equipment and manufacturing rooms for cellular and gene therapies. UC Davis also has a Translational Human Embryonic Stem Cell Shared Research Facility in Davis and a collaborative partnership with the Institute for Pediatric Regenerative Medicine at Shriners Hospital for Children Northern California. All of the programs and facilities complement the university's Clinical and Translational Science Center, and focus on turning stem cells into cures. For more information, visit
Source:News from UC Davis Health Systemm

GAAMA urges govt to bring Ayurveda based food supplements under Schedule T

Gujarat Ayurvedic Aushadh Manufacturers Association (GAAMA) has urged the department of Ayush to bring the Ayurveda based food supplement industry under the preview of the Schedule T of the Drugs and Cosmetics (D&C) Act, so as to ensure uniform implementation of the law across the sector. This appeal was made to ensure that all the Ayurveda based food supplement manufacturers using ayurvedic plants and raw materials in their products should also be made to follow the rules and regulations like the Ayurveda drug manufacturers to safeguard the interest of the ASU industry at large.

The association blamed that it was unfair on the part of the government to adopt double standard within the sector, which requires all ayurvedic drug manufacturers to strictly adhere to the said Act, whereas on the other side exempts ASU food supplement manufacturers from the scrutiny. GAAMA pointed out that lack of uniform regulation in the Ayurveda sector for the ASU drugs manufacturers and Ayurveda based food supplement manufacturers is creating a lot of confusion and distrust in the industry. hampering its growth.
Schedule T of the D&C Act deals with the provisions relating to the rules and regulations that ASU drug manufacturers have to strictly comply with for manufacturing and marketing their products in the country. Interestingly, Schedule T is applicable only to those companies manufacturing products as ASU drugs and not for those who are into manufacturing food supplements, thus exempting them from any regulatory requirements.
Prabodh Shah, president, GAAMA informed that due to lack of clarity in the law, some of the manufacturers who use plant ingredients in their products, also used to make ASU drugs, strategically sell their products as food supplements to escape the regulatory requirement even though their products more or less fall under the category of drugs.
“Since they are exempted from following any regulatory provisions they simply do not ensure that their products meet the highest quality standard as required thus putting the reputation of the whole industry at stake. Our point of contention is, why are they exempted from the law when they too are selling the same products, which are sold as drugs in the market, only because they sell them as food supplements. Government needs to take immediate action to bring in more clarity and transparency on this matter,” Shah argued.
GAAMA stressed that regulating the manufacturers who sell food supplements containing ayurvedic herbs will help in maintaining the standard of the industry. Thus they suggested that to safeguard the industry and its reputation, the government should enforce and bring them under the purview of the law, as this will ensure universal law for all the Ayurveda based products moving in the market.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Bath Salts With Ingredient 10 Times Stronger Than Cocaine

Scientists have discovered the shocking strength of a key ingredient in bath salts that leaves users struggling with the after effects for days together. 
MDPV, commonly found in the street drug is ten times stronger than cocaine, according to the National Science Foundation.
It causes users to become paranoid, violent and agitated, at times leading to hallucinations. 

"They're selling time bombs," Louisiana Poison Control Center Director Dr. Mark Ryan told ABC News. 
"We've had some people show up who are complaining of chest pains so severe that they think they're having a heart attack. They think they're dying. 
"They have extreme paranoia. They're having hallucinations. They see things, they hear things, monsters, demons, aliens.' 
Ryan noticed that upon snorting the powder, labelled with names including Hurricane Charlie, NOLA Diamond and Bayou Ivory Flower, users all suffered repetitive psychotic episodes. 
"Some patients were in the hospital for 5 days, 10 days, 14 days," Ryan said. 
"In some cases, they were under heavy sedation. As you try to taper off the sedation, the paranoia came back and the delusions." 
"MDPV is irreversible, it won't let go," his colleague Louise De Felice said. 
"I don't know of any other drug that has that same feature of not allowing you to escape from it." 
Scientists ran tests to try to determine the drug's chemistry, finding it to be laced with MDPV, ten times the potency of cocaine. 
The dangerous combination of the drug's ingredients 'flood the brain,' they said, leading to repeated episodes of psychotic behaviour.


Spirituality key to Chinese medicine success

Study explores why Chinese medicine has stood the test of time

Are the longevity and vitality of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) due to its holistic approach? Indeed, Chinese medicine is not simply about treating illness, but rather about taking care of the whole person—body, mind, and spirit. According to an analysis¹ of TCM’s origins and development by Lin Shi from Beijing Normal University and Chenguang Zhang from Southwest Minzu University in China, traditional Chinese medicine is profoundly influenced by Chinese philosophy and religion. To date, modern science has been unable to explain the mechanisms behind TCM’s effects. The study is published online in Springer's journal Pastoral Psychology, in a special issue² dedicated to the psychology of religion in China.
The essence of TCM lies in its foundation in spirituality, religion, and philosophy, making it quite different from Western medicine and leading it to be viewed by some as magical and mysterious. Chinese medicine is an ancient discipline with a long developmental history and is very much influenced by religion and spirituality. Shi and Zhang's paper examines in detail six aspects of traditional Chinese medicine: its history; its fundamental beliefs; spirituality in traditional Chinese healing rituals; spirituality in the traditional Chinese pharmacy; spirituality in health maintenance theories; and spirituality of master doctors of traditional Chinese medicine.
This analysis shows, among other things, that the underlying premise of Chinese medicine is that the mind and body of a person are inseparable. To be in good health, a person must have good spirit and pay attention to cultivating their spirit. Chinese doctors see “people” not “diseases” and equate “curing diseases” with “curing people.”
According to the authors: "Good health and longevity are what we pursue. More and more people are concerned about ways to prevent disease and strengthen their bodies, which is the emphasis of traditional Chinese medicine. It pays attention to physical pains, and at the same time is also concerned with spiritual suffering. Therefore, TCM can teach people to be indifferent towards having or not having, to exist with few desires and feel at ease, to keep the body healthy and the mind quiet, and to achieve harmony between the body and the mind and then to achieve harmony with the world and nature."
The special October/December 2012 issue of Pastoral Psychology, guest-edited by Al Dueck from Fuller Theological Seminary, School of Psychology, Pasadena, CA, and Buxin Han from the Institute of Psychology, Beijing, brings together psychologists from China and the United States for an exploration of the psychology of religion. It discusses a wide range of topics on the psychology of religion in China including historical perspectives; religious traditions; religion, healing, and health; and spirituality and human development. This extensive special issue is a testament to the recent emergence and growth of psychology of religion as an academic field in China and to the growing dialogue between Chinese and Western academics and researchers in this field.
1. Shi, L., & Zhang, C. (2012), Spirituality in traditional Chinese medicine, Pastoral Psychology,
DOI 10.1007/s11089-012-0480-x. The article is freely available to the general public at:
2. Dueck, A., & Han, B. (eds.), Psychology of religion in China (special issue), Pastoral Psychology, 61(5 & 6),

Progesterone test can predict viability of pregnancy

Single, non-invasive test can rule out a viable pregnancy

Research: Accuracy of single progesterone test to predict early pregnancy outcome in women with pain or bleeding: meta-analysis of cohort studies
Measuring progesterone levels in women with pain or bleeding during early pregnancy is a useful way to help discriminate between a viable and a non-viable pregnancy, finds a study published on today.
The results suggest that a low level of progesterone in these women can rule out a viable pregnancy in the vast majority of cases.
Vaginal bleeding or pain occurs in around a third of women in early pregnancy. Doctors use ultrasound to test whether it is a viable pregnancy or a non-viable pregnancy, such as a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy, but this can sometimes be inconclusive.
Some studies have suggested that a single progesterone measurement in early pregnancy may be a useful test, but results are conflicting.
So a team of UK and Dutch researchers set out to determine the accuracy with which a single progesterone measurement in early pregnancy can discriminate between a viable and a non-viable pregnancy.
They analysed the results of 26 studies involving 9,436 pregnant women. Seven studies looked at women with pain or bleeding and an inconclusive ultrasound assessment, while 19 studies looked at women with pain or bleeding alone.
Differences in study quality were taken into account to identify and minimise bias.
The results show that a single low progesterone measurement for women in early pregnancy presenting with bleeding or pain can discriminate between a viable and a non-viable pregnancy when an ultrasound investigation proves to be inconclusive.
For women with pain or bleeding who did not have an ultrasound, the progesterone test was less accurate in predicting viability of a pregnancy.
The researchers stress that low progesterone levels may occur in some viable pregnancies and, as such, "the test should be complemented by another test to increase its diagnostic accuracy."
They also suggest that "this test is highly accurate when complemented by ultrasound and could be added to the existing algorithms for the evaluation of women with pain or bleeding in early pregnancy as it can accelerate diagnosis."
Source:BMJ-British Medical Journal 

Obesity-related hormone discovered in fruit flies

Findings open the field up to greater genetic exploration

Researchers have discovered in fruit flies a key metabolic hormone thought to be the exclusive property of vertebrates. The hormone, leptin, is a nutrient sensor, regulating energy intake and output and ultimately controlling appetite. As such, it is of keen interest to researchers investigating obesity and diabetes on the molecular level. But until now, complex mammals such as mice have been the only models for investigating the mechanisms of this critical hormone. These new findings suggest that fruit flies can provide significant insights into the molecular underpinnings of fat sensing.
"Leptin is very complex," said Akhila Rajan, first author on the paper and a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Norbert Perrimon, James Stillman Professor of Developmental Biology at Harvard Medical School. "These types of hormones acquire more and more complex function as they evolve. Here in the fly we're seeing leptin in its most likely primitive form."
These findings will be published September 28 in Cell.
In order for an organism to function normally under varying conditions, its organ systems must learn to maintain a steady state, or "homeostasis." Coordinating food intake and nutrient stores with energy requirements is a key homeostatic mechanism referred to as energy homeostasis. Leptin regulates energy homeostasis by linking the organisms's fat stores with caloric intake. It is the hormone that tells the brain, "You've had enough."
Researchers have known for the better part of a decade that molecules secreted by the fruit fly's fat tissue communicate such nutrition status reports throughout the fly's entire body. However, they have not known the identity of these molecules, or the nature of the signals they transmit. Rajan hypothesized that this signaling molecule most likely resembles the leptin hormone in humans, since flies and mammals share similar nutrient-sensing pathways.
Researchers had predicted that three molecules in flies were likely to be structurally similar to leptin. When Rajan knocked out one of them, a protein called Upd2, the flies behaved, on a metabolic level, as though they were starving—despite consuming their normal caloric content.
"Since leptin is a nutrient sensor, this makes sense," said Rajan. "If you knock out the molecule that senses nutrients, the body thinks there are no nutrients. Blocking this molecule copied the phenotype of starvation."
Further tests showed that when flies were actually starving, levels of Upd2 went down, and when they received adequate nutrition, levels went up. This provided further evidence that, like leptin, Upd2 is a nutrient sensor.
Next, the researchers found that Upd2 uses a neural circuit similar to that of leptin to traffic nutrition information between the brain and fat tissue. When Upd2 reaches the brain, it regulates insulin secretion, in effect "telling" the fly to store nutrition and expend energy on growth.
Finally, Rajan and colleagues engineered a fly that lacked Upd2 altogether and inserted the human leptin gene in its place. The fly fully incorporated this mammalian molecule, and all normal nutrient-sensing functions resumed.
"The key significance here is that we can now take full advantage of the sophisticated genetic tool kit available in fly genetics to address profoundly complex questions pertaining to leptin biology," said Perrimon. "This is good news to scientists studying obesity at the molecular level."
Interestingly, the amino acid sequence of leptin diverges from that of Upd2. However, the proteins produced by each gene share many structural similarities. "There are very few examples of this in the literature," Perrimon said.
"Now that we've identified Upd2 as a fly's nutrient sensor and have begun to work out the brain circuitry, the next step is to go deep into the mechanisms," added Rajan.
Source:Harvard Medical School 

Popular HIV drug may cause memory declines

Johns Hopkins study suggests the commonly prescribed anti-retroviral drug efavirenz attacks brain cells

The way the body metabolizes a commonly prescribed anti-retroviral drug that is used long term by patients infected with HIV may contribute to cognitive impairment by damaging nerve cells, a new Johns Hopkins research suggests.
Nearly 50 percent of people infected with HIV will eventually develop some form of brain damage that, while mild, can affect the ability to drive, work or participate in many daily activities. It has long been assumed that the disease was causing the damage, but Hopkins researchers say the drug efavirenz may play a key role.
People infected with HIV typically take a cocktail of medications to suppress the virus, and many will take the drugs for decades. Efavirenz is known to be very good at controlling the virus and is one of the few that crosses the blood-brain barrier and can target potential reservoirs of virus in the brain. Doctors have long believed that it might be possible to alleviate cognitive impairment associated with HIV by getting more drugs into the brain, but researchers say more caution is needed because there may be long-term effects of these drugs on the brain.
"People with HIV infections can't stop taking anti-retroviral drugs. We know what happens then and it's not good," says Norman J. Haughey, Ph.D., an associate professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "But we need to be very careful about the types of anti-retrovirals we prescribe, and take a closer look at their long-term effects. Drug toxicities could be a major contributing factor to cognitive impairment in patients with HIV."
For the study led by Haughey and described online in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, researchers obtained samples of blood and cerebrospinal fluid from HIV-infected subjects enrolled in the NorthEastern AIDS Dementia study who were taking efavirenz. Researchers looked for levels of the drug and its various metabolites, which are substances created when efavirenz is broken down by the liver. Performing experiments on neurons cultured in the lab, the investigators examined the effects of 8-hydroxyefavirenz and other metabolites and found major structural changes when using low levels of 8-hydroxyefavirenz, including the loss of the important spines of the cells.
Haughey and his colleagues found that 8-hydroxyefavirenz is 10 times more toxic to brain cells than the drug itself and, even in low concentrations, causes damage to the dendritic spines of neurons. The dendritic spine is the information processing point of a neuron, where synapses — the structures that allow communication among brain cells — are located.
In the case of efavirenz, a minor modification in the drug's structure may be able block its toxic effects but not alter its ability to suppress the virus. Namandje N. Bumpus, Ph.D., one of the study's other authors, has found a way to modify the drug to prevent it from metabolizing into 8-hydroxyefavirenz while maintaining its effectiveness as a tool to suppress the HIV virus.
"Finding and stating a problem is one thing, but it's another to be able to say we have found this problem and here is an easy fix," Haughey says.
Haughey says studies like his serve as a reminder that while people infected with HIV are living longer than they were 20 years ago, there are significant problems associated with the drugs used to treat the infection.
"Some people do seem to have this attitude that HIV is no longer a death sentence," he says. "But even with anti-retroviral treatments, people infected with HIV have shortened lifespans and the chance of cognitive decline is high. It's nothing you should treat lightly."
Johns Hopkins Medicine 


Liver Cells, Insulin-Producing Cells, Thymus Tissue Can Be Grown in Lymph Nodes, Pitt/McGowan Team Finds

 Lymph nodes can provide a suitable home for a variety of cells and tissues from other organs, suggesting that a cell-based alternative to whole organ transplantation might one day be feasible, according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and its McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine. In a report recently published online in Nature Biotechnology, the research team showed for the first time that liver cells, thymus tissue and insulin-producing pancreatic islet cells, in an animal model, can thrive in lymph nodes despite being displaced from their natural sites.
 Hepatitis virus infection, alcoholic cirrhosis and other diseases can cause so much damage that liver transplantation is the only way to save the patient, noted senior investigator Eric Lagasse, Pharm. D., Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Pathology, Pitt School of Medicine. Children with DiGeorge syndrome lack functional thymus glands to produce essential immune cells, and diabetes can be cured with a pancreas transplant.
 “However, the scarcity of donor organs means many people will not survive the wait for transplantation,” said Dr. Lagasse, whose lab is at the McGowan Institute. “Cell therapies are being explored, but introducing cells into tissue already ravaged by disease decreases the likelihood of successful engraftment and restoration of function.”
 In the study, his team tested the possibility of using lymph nodes, which are abundant throughout the body and have a rich blood supply, as a new home for cells from other organs in what is called an “ectopic” transplant.
 They injected healthy liver cells from a genetically-identical donor animal into lymph nodes of mice at various locations. The result was an enlarged, liver-like node that functioned akin to the liver; in fact, a single hepatized lymph node rescued mice that were in danger of dying from a lethal metabolic liver disease. Likewise, thymus tissue transplanted into the lymph node of mice that lacked the organ generated functional immune systems, and pancreatic islet cell transplants restored normal blood sugar control in diabetic animals.
 “Our goal is not necessarily to replace the entire liver, for example, but to provide sufficient cell mass to stabilize liver function and sustain the patient’s life,” Dr. Lagasse said. “That could buy time until a donor organ can be transplanted. Perhaps, in some cases, ectopic cell transplantation in the lymph node might allow the diseased organ to recover.”
 Co-authors of the paper include Junji Komori, M.D., Ph.D., Lindsey Boone, Ph.D., and Aaron DeWard, Ph.D., all of Pitt’s Department of Pathology and the McGowan Institute, and Toshitaka Hoppo, M.D., Ph.D., of the McGowan Institute.
Source:University of Pittsburgh

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Shatavari - A Woman’s Best Friend

Shatavari or Asparagus racemosus is a popular herb aptly called the “Female Health Formula”. Asparagus racemosus is the most commonly used Asparagus species in ayurveda and indigenous medicine in India. The plant is called shatawar in Hindi and in Sanskrit this plant is called shatavari which means ‘able to have one hundred husbands’. In Ayurveda this amazing herb is known as the “queen of herbs” because it promotes love and positive emotions and is very useful in strengthening the reproductive system of women. It is also a very important herb for women’s overall health and vitality.
 Asparagus racemosus is a woody climber growing to 1 to 2 meters in height. The leaves are like pine needles, small and uniform and the flowers are white and have small spikes. It is commonly found at low altitudes in shade and in tropical climates throughout India, Asia, Australia and Africa. 

Shatavari has more than 50 organic compounds including steroidal saponins, glycosides, alkaloids, polysaccharides, mucilage, racemosol and isoflavones which are responsible for the multiple medicinal properties exhibited by the herb.
Shatavari is mentioned under six important rasayanas in ayurveda. Rasayanas are those plant drugs which promote general well being of an individual by increasing cellular vitality or resistance. This bitter sweet herb is especially used in Ayurveda to correct Pitta dosha imbalance. 
It is commonly available in the form of tablets or powder under the name of popular ayurvedic medicine manufacturing brands.


Cranberry Juice May Lower Blood Pressure in Healthy Adults

A study presented at the High Blood Pressure Research 2012 conference reported that drinking 2 eight-ounce glass of low calorie cranberry juice regularly may help lower blood pressure in non-hypertensive healthy adults. 
Cranberry, already known for its urinary tract benefits, contains flavonoids (antioxidants) that have been found in other studies to be associated with lower blood pressure and to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease.
In this randomized controlled trial, Janet Novotny at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Beltsville, Maryland, and her colleagues, measured the blood pressure effects of drinking low-calorie cranberry juice on 56 healthy non-hypertensive subjects with mean age of 51 and BMI of 28.4 kg / sqm. The subjects were given two 8-ounce glasses of low calorie cranberry juice every day for 8 weeks. 

Blood pressure was measured and recorded thrice – on day 1, at 4 weeks, and at the end of the study. 
Results showed that blood pressure dropped from an average of 121/73 mmHg to 118/70 mmHg in the cranberry juice group but there were no changes in the placebo group. 
Both systolic and diastolic blood pressure fell by an average of 3 mmHg when the trial ended. Most studies ‘show a systolic effect without a diastolic impact when lowering blood pressure’ according to Novotny. In this study, the researchers found that the average diastolic blood pressure was lower in the cranberry juice group at 69 mmHg whereas in the placebo group it was 72 mmHg at the end of the treatment. 
Cranberry juice is helpful as long as it does not increase the calorie intake. So the researchers suggested drinking low-calorie cranberry juice to get maximum benefits. 
‘If they are trying to reduce blood pressure through diet, low-calorie cranberry juice would be something that would be good and healthful to include in the diet’ says Novotny. 
‘We are trying to replace less healthful fruit juices with more healthful fruit juices. So, we chose cranberry because of more health benefits including blood pressure’, she added. 
‘Regular calorie cranberry juice can be quite high in added sugar and high in calories, so I do recommend that people look for the lower-calorie option in cranberry juice’ advised Dr Rachel Johnson, a professor of nutrition and medicine at the University of Vermont in Burlington and chair of the American Heart Association's nutrition committee. 
This study was published as an abstract and presented at the American Heart Association’s High Blood Pressure Research 2012 Scientific Sessions. The study is yet to be published in a peer reviewed journal. 
The study was funded by Ocean Spray Cranberries, which provided the study drink. Also, one of the co-authors was an employee of Ocean Spray Cranberries. 

1. American Heart Association News Tip - Abstract 299

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