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Saturday, 6 April 2013

Link Between Mental Illness and Heavy Cannabis Use Identified

 Link Between Mental Illness and Heavy Cannabis Use IdentifiedPeople with mental illnesses are more likely to use cannabis compared to those without a mental illness, finds study.Cannabis is the most widely used illicit substance globally, with an estimated 203 million people reporting use. Although research has found links between cannabis use and mental illness, exact numbers and prevalence of problem cannabis use had not been investigated. 
"We know that people with mental illness consume more cannabis, perhaps partially as a way to self- medicate psychiatric symptoms, but this data showed us the degree of the correlation between cannabis use, misuse, and mental illness," said Dr. Shaul Lev-ran, Adjunct Scientist at CAMH and Head of Addiction Medicine at the Sheba Medical Center, Israel. 
"Based on the number individuals reporting weekly use, we see that people with mental illness use cannabis at high rates. This can be of concern because it could worsen the symptoms of their mental illness," said Lev-ran, who conducted the research as a post-doctoral fellow with the Social Aetiology of Mental Illness (SAMI) Training Program at CAMH. 
Researchers also found that individuals with mental illness were 10 times more likely to have a cannabis use disorder. 
In this new study, published in the journal Comprehensive Psychiatry, CAMH researchers analyzed data from face-to-face interviews with over 43,000 respondents over the age of 18 from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Using structured questionnaires, the researchers assessed cannabis use as well as various mental illnesses including depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol use disorders and personality disorders, based on criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). 
Among those will mental illness reporting at least weekly cannabis use, rates of use were particularly elevated for those with bipolar disorder, personality disorders and other substance use disorders. 
In total, 4.4 per cent of individuals with a mental illness in the past 12 months reported using cannabis weekly, compared to 0.6 per cent among individuals without any mental illness. Cannabis use disorders occurred among 4 per cent of those with mental illness versus 0.4 per cent among those without. 
Researchers also noted that, although cannabis use is generally higher among younger people, the association between mental illness and cannabis use was pervasive across most age groups. 
They emphasize the importance of screening for frequent and problem cannabis use among those with mental illness, so that targeted prevention and intervention may be employed. 

Source: journal Comprehensive Psychiatry



Cell Therapy may be the Next 'Medicine'

 Cell Therapy may be the Next 'Medicine'Drugs made from engineered proteins, antibodies and smaller chemicals make it clear today that one day, treating patients with cells will become common. They outlined their vision of cell-based therapeutics as a "third pillar of medicine" in an article published online April 3 in Science Translational Medicine."Today, biomedical science sits on the cusp of a revolution: the use of human and microbial cells as therapeutic entities," said Wendell Lim, PhD, a UCSF professor and director of the UCSF Center for Systems and Synthetic Biology, and one of the article's co-authors. Cell therapies have the potential to address critical, unmet needs in the treatment of some of the deadliest diseases, including diabetes, cancer and inflammatory bowel diseases, the scientists said. 
The reason, they said, is that cells can carry out functions that can't be performed by small-molecule drugs produced by Big Pharma, or by targeted drugs developed by biotech firms in the wake of the genetic engineering revolution. For one, cells are adaptable. They can sense their surroundings better than today's drugs and can vary their responses to better suit physiologic conditions. 
Continued advances in cellular engineering could provide a framework, according to the co-authors, for the development of cellular therapies that are safe and that act predictably. 
Joining Lim as co-authors of the Science Translational Medicine article are Michael Fischbach, PhD, assistant professor in the UCSF School of Pharmacy and an expert on the human microbiome, and Jeffrey Bluestone, PhD, executive vice chancellor and provost at UCSF and a leading diabetes and transplant rejection researcher. 
The three also have organized a daylong symposium on the potential of cell therapy on April 12, 2013, supported by UCSF and the journal Science Translational Medicine, featuring talks and discussion by some of the nation's leading scientists in stem cell therapy, immunotherapy and the human microbiome - the latter consisting primarily of the many hundreds of interacting species of bacteria that live within and upon us. 
It has been more than four decades since cells were first used successfully in bone marrow and organ transplants, but the strategies envisioned today are more complex, involving manipulating cells based on new knowledge of how genes program their development and inner workings. 
Cells of the immune system are among those that naturally carry out critical functions, but researchers are working on manipulating them to create better-targeted and more effective therapies. For instance, immune responses directed against cancer often are weak, so scientists are engineering and growing populations of immune cells that target specific molecules found on cancer cells. Already, remarkable recoveries from deadly leukemia have been credited to these new experimental treatments. 
Bacterial cells also are showing promise for therapy. In recent years scientists have come to appreciate that 90 percent of the cells living within and on our bodies are bacteria and that these microbes interact with our own cells and affect our health. 
The potential of bacteria to treat disease has been demonstrated dramatically by the recent use of fecal transplants to introduce communities of health-promoting bacteria into patients with recurrent Clostridium difficile infections, a serious gastrointestinal condition that can be life-threatening. Combinations of bacteria that also are engineered to fight inflammation might prove to be even more effective in treating Crohn's disease and other inflammatory bowel diseases, according to the UCSF scientists. 
Other "killer apps" for cell therapies might include combinations of bacterial and human engineered cells. For instance, to control weight gain, gut bacteria might be deployed to convert certain carbohydrates into non-digestible forms, and also to signal engineered human cells lining the epithelial walls to trigger a program that sends a message to the brain that appetite has been satisfied. 
Still, many engineering and regulatory challenges to cell therapy remain, the authors concede. Scientists want to be able to reliably control many aspects of cells, including their activation, population growth, programmed death, migration to specific sites in the body, interactions and communications with other cells, production of small therapeutic molecules, and decision making. 
While the complexity of cells makes many scientists leery of cell therapies, the authors said, this complexity might make cell therapies more predictable than other drugs, because complicated, naturally occurring feedback circuits tend to restrict cellular activity. Just as cells already use molecular circuits to act very precisely, researchers ought to be able develop a systematic understanding of the cell's control modules to tune and reshape how cells behave. 
"If small molecules and biologics are tools, then cells are carpenters — and architects and engineers as well," Fischbach said.

Source:Science Translational Medicine


Chromosome That Leads to Birth of Men is Degrading Rapidly E

An American geneticist claimed that the Y chromosome, which leads to the birth of boys, is degrading rapidly and will disappear over time even if humans still continue to exist.Jenny Graves from Canberra University's Institute for Applied Ecology, said that the process is likely to happen within the next five million years but could have begun in some isolated groups, the Herald Sun reported. 
Graves, who first made the prediction some years ago, has been studying sex-determining genes in Australian animals so as to shed light on human genetics. 
She said that people think that sex is so important that it wouldn't change a lot but it changes all over the place and the Y chromosome sort of self-destructs. 
Y is always in the male and is active mostly in the testicles to make sperm. 
Graves asserted that is a "very dangerous" place as there is a lot of cell division going and with every split there is a chance for a mutation or gene loss. 
She said that the X chromosome is all alone in the male, but in the female it has a friend so it can swap bits and repair itself but if the Y gets a hit it's a downward spiral. 
Graves said that the X has about 1000 genes left, too many relating to sex and intelligence and the smaller Y started with about 1700 genes but only has 45 left, and that's mostly "junk." 
She added that if humans don't become extinct, new sex-determining genes and chromosomes will evolve, maybe leading to the evolution of new hominid species similar to what happened in the Japanese spiny rat, which had survived the loss of its Y. (


Proof of Extra Terrestrial Life may Lie in Our Genes

Researchers suggest that the presence of alien life may be decoded through the messages stored in the cells of our bodies.Vladimir I. shCherbak of al-Farabi Kazakh National University of Kazakhstan, and Maxim A. Makukov of the Fesenkov Astrophysical Institute, have hypothesized that an intelligent signal embedded in our genetic code would be a mathematical and semantic message that cannot be accounted for by Darwinian evolution, the Discovery News reported. 
They researchers call it "biological SETI." And argue that the scheme has much greater longevity and chance of detecting E.T. than a transient extraterrestrial radio transmission. 
Writing in the journal Icarus, they asserted that once fixed, the code might stay unchanged over cosmological timescales and that it is, in fact, the most durable construct known. 
Therefore, they said, it represents an exceptionally reliable storage for an intelligent signature. They added that once the genome is appropriately rewritten the new code with a signature will stay frozen in the cell and its progeny, which might then be delivered through space and time. 
To pass the designer label test, any patterns in the genetic code must be highly statistically significant and possess intelligent-like features that are inconsistent with any natural know process, the authors noted. 
They go on to argue that their detailed analysis that the human genome displays a thorough precision-type orderliness in the mapping between DNA's nucleotides and amino acids. 
"Simple arrangements of the code reveal an ensemble of arithmetical and ideographical patterns of symbolic language," they stated. 
They said that this includes the use of decimal notation, logical transformations, and the use of the abstract symbol of zero. 
"Accurate and systematic, these underlying patterns appear as a product of precision logic and nontrivial computing," they asserted. 
This interpretation leads them to a farfetched conclusion: that the genetic code, "appears that it was invented outside the solar system already several billions years ago."
Source:Kazakh National University of Kazakhstan


New Genetic Factors That Predispose Families to Schizophrenia Identified

 New Genetic Factors That Predispose Families to Schizophrenia IdentifiedA team of American researchers has identified new genetic factors predisposing to schizophrenia among five families with several affected relatives.
Dr. Debby W. Tsuang, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and Dr. Marshall S. Horwitz, professor of pathology, both at the University of Washington in Seattle, led the multi-institutional study. Tsuang is also a staff physician at the Puget Sound Veterans Administration Health Care System. 
The results are published in the April 3 online edition of the JAMA Psychiatry
Loss of brain nerve cell integrity occurs in schizophrenia, but scientists have not worked out the details of when and how this happens. In all five families in the present study, the researchers found rare variants in genes tied to the networking of certain signal receptors on nerve cells distributed throughout the brain. 
These NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptors are widespread molecular control towers in the brain. They regulate the release of chemical messages that influence the strength of brain cell connections and the on-going remodeling of the networks. 
NMDA receptors respond to glutamate, one of the most common nerve-signaling chemicals in the brain. NMDA receptors are also found on brain circuits that manage dopamine release. Dopamine is a nerve signal associated with reward-seeking, movement and emotions. 
Deficits in glutamate and dopamine function have both been implicated in schizophrenia but most of the medications that have been developed to treat schizophrenia have targeted dopamine receptors. 
Tsuang and her groups' discovery of gene variations that disturb NMDA receptor networking functions supports the hypothesis that decreased NMDA receptor-mediated nerve-signal transmissions contributes to some cases of schizophrenia. 
Tsuang pointed out that several hallucinogenic drugs, like ketamine and phencyclidine (PCP or angel dust) block NMDA receptors and can produce symptoms similar to schizophrenia. These are the strongest evidence implicating these receptors in schizophrenia. The drugs sometimes induce psychosis and terrifying sensory detachment. Reports of such effects in recreational drug users fingered faulty NMDA receptor networks as suspects in schizophrenia. 
In all five of their study families, Tsuang's team detected rare protein-altering variants in one of three genes involved with the NMDA receptor network. One of the genes, GRM5, is directly linked with glutamate signaling. In the other two genes, the links are indirect and connected through other proteins synthesized in brain cells. One of these proteins, PPEF2, appears to affect the levels of certain brain nerve-cell signaling mediators, and the other altered protein, LRP1B, may compete with a normal protein for a binding spot on a subunit of the NMDA receptor. 
These discoveries provide additional clues to the molecular disarray that might occur in the brain nerve cells of some patients with schizophrenia, and suggest new targets for therapy for certain patients. In a disease occurring in about 1 percent of the population, the picture of how and why schizophrenia arises in all these people is far from complete. 
"Disorders like schizophrenia are likely to have many underlying causes," Tsuang noted. She added that it might eventually make sense to divide schizophrenia into categories based, for example, on which biochemical pathways in the brain are disrupted. Treatments might be developed to correct the exact malfunctioning mechanisms underlying various forms of the disease. 
Tsuang gave an example: Agents that stimulate NMDA receptor-mediated nerve-signal transmissions include glycine-site blockers and glycine-transport inhibitors have shown some encouraging results in pre-clinical drug trials, but mostly in adjunctive treatment in addition to standard antipsychotic therapy. 
"But perhaps the data we have generated will help pharmaceutical companies target specific subunits of the NMDA receptors and pathways," Tsuang said. She added, however, that effective treatments may lag by many years after these kinds of discoveries. Someday it may make sense to initiate such treatments in people at high genetic risk when early symptoms, such as apathy and lack of motivation, appear, and before brain dysfunction is severe. 
Also, possessing the newly discovered gene mutations does not always mean that a person will become schizophrenic. In the recent family study, three of the five families had relatives with the protein-altering variants who did not have schizophrenia. 
"This isn't surprising," Tsuang observed, "Given that schizophrenia is such a complex disorder, we would expect that not everyone who carries the variants would develop the disease." In the future, researchers will be seeking what triggers the gene variants into causing problems, other mutations within affected individuals' genetic profile that might promote or protect against disease, as well as non-genetic factors in the onset of the illness in genetically susceptible people. 
The researchers also utilized a strategy and selected more distant relatives of affected individuals for genetic sequencing. Distant kin share, a smaller proportion of genes compared to closely related family members. For example, siblings typically on the average share about 50 percent of their genes whereas cousins on the average share 12.5 percent of their genes. The researchers also hypothesized that the causative mutation within each family would be the same variant. 
This strategy helped the researchers decrease the number of genetic variants that were detected by sequencing and thereby concentrate only on the remaining strongest candidates. They also filtered their results against the many publicly available sequencing databases to pick out genetic variants not found in people who don't have psychiatric illness. 
According to Tsuang, the research team was excited by recent advances in technology enabled them to uncover unknown, rare genetic variants not previously found in large populations without psychiatric condition. The ability to rapidly sequence only those portions of the genome that code for proteins made this experiment possible. 
The next step for the researchers will be to screen for the newly discovered genetic variants in a large sample of unrelated cases of schizophrenia compared to controls. They want to determine if the variants are statistically associated with the disease. 

Source:JAMA Psychiatry



Friday, 5 April 2013

Yoga and Accupressure studies take center stage at EuroHeart Care

Yoga and acupressure could both play an important role in helping patients with atrial fibrillation

Yoga and acupressure could both play an important role in helping patients with atrial fibrillation (AF). Two abstracts presented at the at the European Society of Cardiology's EuroHeart Care Congress, which takes place in Glasgow, 22 to 23 March, 2013, show the potential for medical yoga¹ and acupressure², in addition to pharmacological therapies, to reduce blood pressure and heart rates in patients with AF. In a third abstract³, a survey found that complementary and alternative therapies (CATs), were widely used by patients attending cardiology clinics, raising concerns people may not be routinely informing health care staff about their use.
"One of the overall aims of treatment for AF is lowering heart rate because high and irregular heart rates can lead to emboli forming and result in stroke," said Professor Ozlem Ceyhan, a nurse trainer from Erciyes University, Kayseri, Turkey. "In these studies both acupressure and yoga are reducing heart rate, which should have a really beneficial effect. Furthermore, both approaches have the advantage of being easy to administer and cost effective, with no serious side effects."
The ESC guidelines4 have classified AF patients into five types based on duration: first detected (only one diagnosed episode); paroxysmal (recurrent episodes that self-terminate in less than seven days); persistent (recurrent episodes that last more than seven days); long standing (where it has lasted for longer than a year); and permanent (an ongoing long-term episode).
Medical Yoga shows beneficial effect in Paroxysmal AF
In the first abstract Maria Nilsson, a nurse from Danderyd Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden, who has practiced yoga for the last 10 years, set out to investigate whether yoga might help patients with paroxysmal AF (PAF) ¹.
"We chose to use medical yoga, which is a form of yoga involving deep breathing, light movements, meditation and relaxation. The advantage here is that the movements are easy to learn and can be performed while sitting in a chair," said Nilsson. PAF, she added, is thought to involve between 25% and 62% of all cases of AF.
In the prospective study, 80 patients with a diagnosis of PAF were randomized to the usual treatment and yoga (n=40) or just usual treatment (n=40). Patients in the yoga group attended hour long sessions of yoga once a week over the course of three months.
Results show that after three months patients in the yoga group, showed significant decreases in systolic blood pressure (p=0.03), diastolic blood pressure (p=0.007) and heart rate (p=0.02) compared to those in the control group.
Systolic blood pressure for patients in the yoga group dropped from 137 mmHg at the start of the study to 132mmHg after three months; whereas the systolic blood pressure of patients in the control group increased from 138 mmHg at the start of the study to 141 mmHg after three months.
Diastolic blood pressure for patients in the yoga group decreased from 83 mmHg at baseline to 77 mmHg after three months; whereas diastolic blood pressure for patients in the control group rose from 84mmHg at baseline to 87mmHg after three months.
Heart rate decreased in the yoga group from 64 beats/minute at the start of the study to 60 beats per minute after three months; whereas heart rate rose in the control group from 65 beats per minute at the start of the study to 69 beats per minute after three months.
According to the "self reported" health questionnaires, patients who received yoga showed improvements in physical quality of life (p=0.01) and mental quality of life (P=0.02) at three months, compared to those in the control group. "Our study suggests doctors could do worse than prescribing yoga for all patients with hypertension and fast heart rates," said Nilsson.
The team, she added, are now undertaking further research to see if reductions in blood pressure and heart rate result in a decreased frequency of PAF episodes.
Acupressure shows benefit in patients with persistent AF
In the second study ², Professor Ozlem Ceyhan, a nurse trainer from Erciyes University, Kayseri, Turkey, investigated the use of acupressure among patients hospitalized for persistent AF.
In the study 60 patients were randomized to an intervention group (n=30) or a placebo group (n=30). Patients in the intervention group had acupressure performed on acupressure points PC6, HT7 and CV17; while patients allocated to the placebo group underwent a "sham" procedure were the acupressure device was bound in place without applying pressure. Treatments were performed between two and four times a day, with pulse and blood pressure readings taken before, during and after the session, and information on fatigue collected via patient questionnaires.
Results showed that significant decreases in pulse rate, systolic and diastolic blood pressure were found for patients allocated to the intervention group compared to those allocated to the placebo group (p<0 .05="" all="" b="" for="" three="">
Heart rhythm, however, did not turn into sinus rhythm and acupressure was not found to have a statistically significant beneficial effect on symptoms of fatigue.
"One thing that was really notable in our study was that we did not observe that any patients in the intervention group had further attacks of AF while in hospital, compared to 10% of patients in the placebo group suggesting acupressure may be preventing further attacks," says Ceyhan.
Acupressure, she said, was an easy to use technique that patients could administer on themselves at home to reduce the frequency of AF attacks. The team, she added, are now looking to explore other acupressure points to see if they might have an effect on sinus rhythm.
Health care professionals need to routinely ask all CVD patients about CATs and CAMs.
Professor Stephen Leslie, Dr Jenny Jones and colleagues, from the University of Stirling, Scotland, undertook a survey of 116 people attending a cardiology outpatient's clinic over an eight week period about use of complementary and alternative therapies (CATS) ³.
The results showed that 52% of respondents (60 people) reported use of at least one CAT; 66% (77 people) believed that CATs should be available within the NHS; and that 88% (102) believed that more research should be performed in these areas. Furthermore, the investigators found that the top five most popular CATs were reflexology, acupuncture, osteopathy, massage and chiropractic therapies.
"When we looked back at patient notes, we found that very few people had volunteered this clinically important information in consultations, suggesting that they don't often disclose CAT use to cardiology teams," said Leslie.
Information about CATs and complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) use is undoubtedly important. Popular herbal remedies, such as Ginger, Ginko biloba, Ginseng and St John's wort have been shown to affect platelet aggregation, prolong bleeding time, and increase or decrease INR in patients on warfarin. Additionally it is known that extracts of Hawthorne, which are recommended for patients with heart failure and arrhythmia, have digoxin like effects, with the potential to interact with digoxin.
"In light of the potential for adverse interactions we believe that clinicians should routinely ask all their patients whether they use any forms of CATs or CAMs," said Jones.
The survey, she added, highlighted the fact that cardiac patients would like to see further research carried out to assess the risks and benefits of CAM in relation to cardiovascular disease. "This would enable the balance between risks, benefits and efficacy of various CATs and CAMs to be honestly discussed with cardiac patients," said Jones.
Source:European Society of Cardiology

Brain Cancer Treatment Using Genetic Material from Bone Marrow Cells Discovered By Researchers

 Brain Cancer Treatment Using Genetic Material from Bone Marrow Cells Discovered By ResearchersNeurological researchers have discovered a novel approach for treatment of tumor in a a first-of-its-kind experiment using microvesicles generated from mesenchymal bone marrow cells (MSCs) to treat cancer. The researchers are from the Henry Ford Hospital. Specifically, the research team found that introducing genetic material produced by MSCs, significantly reduced a particularly resistant form of malignant brain tumor in living lab rats."This is the first foray of its type in experimental cancer therapy, and it represents a highly novel and potentially effective treatment," says Michael Chopp, Ph.D., scientific director of the Henry Ford Neuroscience Institute and vice chairman of the Department of Neurology at Henry Ford Hospital.The research is published in the current issue Cancer Letters
"I think this is an important and very novel approach for the treatment of cancers, and in this particular case the treatment of glioma," says Dr. Chopp. "We have been at the forefront of developing microRNAs as a means to treat disease, such as cancer and neurological injury."This study shows it is effective in the living brain, and may even lend itself to specific cancer therapy, customized for the individual patient," Chopp addsChopp and his colleagues focused their efforts on glioma, by far the most common type of malignant brain tumor, and one with a notably poor prognosis for survival. 
Tumor cells were surgically implanted in the brains of anesthetized male lab rats and allowed to grow for five days. The tumors then were injected with exosomes containing molecules of a microRNA called miR-146b - found in earlier Henry Ford research to have a strong effect on glioma cells.Exosomes are microscopic "lipid bubbles" that once were thought to carry and get rid of "old" proteins that were no longer needed by the body. After they were more recently found to also carry RNA, whole new fields of study were suggested - including groundbreaking work by Henry Ford researchers.In their rat study, Chopp and his colleagues used MSC bone marrow cells to produce the exosomes containing the miR-146b they injected into the cancerous tumors.Five days after this treatment, the rats were euthanized and their brains were removed, prepared for study, and examined. Tumor size was measured using computer software. 
"We found that one injection of exosomes containing miR-146b five days after tumor implantation led to a significant reduction in tumor volume at 10 days after implant," Chopp says. "Our data suggest that miR-146b elicits an anti-tumor effect in the rat brain, and that MSCs can be used as a "factory" to generate exosomes genetically altered to contain miR-146b to effectively treat tumor. "

Source:Cancer Letters


Demand for ayurvedic treatment and products on decline in Kerala: AMMOI survey

A survey conducted by the Ayurvedic Medicine Manufacturers Organisation of India (AMMOI) indicates that demand for ayurvedic medicines and confidence of the people in the traditional treatment system in Kerala is on the decline for the last several years.
The survey was primarily based on operations of the ayurvedic pharmacies working in all the districts in the state. According to the study, the number of Ayurveda pharmacies has decreased in recent years and no new pharmacy has come up anywhere, said the physician-cum-manufacturer, Dr D Ramanathan of Sitharam Ayurveda super speciality hospital in Thrissur and the secretary of AMMOI.
About five years ago, the number of pharmacies in Kerala was 10,000 and which is reduced to 9000 now. The study reveals that the reason for the closure of stores and sales counters is due to lack of business and financial loss. Room rent, labour cost, shortage of trained and skilled people and poor demand for medicines are the supporting reasons for the closure of shops.
In the case of medication for diseases among youngsters, he said, the new generation is going after modern medicines only. Very few youngsters are following the traditional system, only the age old people are depending on Ayurveda. A comprehensive study has to be done on what kinds of diseases can be cured by the application of ayurvedic system, he said.
Regarding the number of drug manufacturers, he said currently only 800 licensed manufacturers are in Kerala. Previously the number was 1100 and that area is also declining. Whereas the number of ayurvedic graduates is increasing year after year which poses a threat of unemployment opportunities in the ayurvedic sector. The situation has to be addressed.
When asked about other states, he said despite the efforts of about 150 years, Ayurveda has got a foundation only in five states in India including Kerala. The system is followed mainly in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh apart from Kerala. Notwithstanding the efforts of ayush department and the respective governments, these states also could not succeed in achieving the confidence of all the people, especially of the younger generation, in this healing system.
Currently there are 17 ayurveda colleges in Kerala, 12 of them are private colleges, three government colleges and two semi-government colleges (Kottackal and Vaidyaratnam). From these educational institutions 790 graduates are coming out every year. About 500 private nursing homes and 2500 clinics are run by ayurvedic graduates. All over Kerala, about 800 small scale manufacturing units are also working, Dr Ramanathan speaks.
To a question he said the sales of products from his company have also decreased in recent years.


Central Medical Services Society to become fully operational very soon

More than a year after it was registered under Societies Registration Act, 1860 by the Union health ministry to eliminate the existing deficiencies and streamline the drug procurement and distribution system of the department of health and family welfare, the Central Medical Services Society (CMSS) is being made operational shortly.
According to senior health ministry officials, the CMSS will be responsible for procuring health sector goods in a transparent and cost-effective manner and distributing them to the State/UT Governments by setting up IT enabled supply chain infrastructure including State warehouses in 50 locations spread across the country. This central procurement agency of ministry of health and family welfare will be doing all the drug procurement now being done by the dept of Family Welfare.
Officials said that the rules and regulations of the CMSS have been framed and the ministry is providing a one time budgetary support of Rs.50 crore to enable establishment of CMSS.
The main objective of CMSS will be to ensure uninterrupted supply of health sector goods to the state governments. To meet its operational expenses, CMSS has been permitted to charge a service fee on the value of procurement which should be well within an upper ceiling of five per cent of the value of procurement.
The CMSS will function as an independent, professional and autonomous agency for purchasing all medicines, vaccines, contraceptives and medical equipments for all the government's disease control programmes.
At present, the health ministry is procuring drugs, vaccines, contraceptives and medical equipments departmentally and through procurement agents for its various disease control programmes. However, certain deficiencies, such as inadequate professional procurement expertise, absence of supply chain management system, manual collection of data and absence of any credible Management Information System (MIS) have been adversely affecting the procurement system.
The ministry thought of setting up a central procurement agency like CMSS as senior officials in the ministry felt that a professional, autonomous and efficient organisation like CMSS is needed to eliminate the existing deficiencies and streamline the drug procurement and distribution system in the country.
There is a feeling among the senior officials that the establishment of CMSS will enable the union health ministry to efficiently procure and properly distribute quality medicines, vaccines, contraceptives and medical equipments to the state/Union Territory governments and also eliminate shortages and wastages, resulting in considerable savings to the government.


A Once-in-a-Lifetime HIV Test Isn’t Enough

If you happened to be a young adult in the 1980s and 1990s, getting an HIV test was something you probably did if you had any reason to think you might be at risk of infection (e.g., you were having sex). And if you didn’t get tested (and even if you did), you probably worried.These days, though, getting an HIV test isn’t something most people talk (or seem to worry) much about anymore. But it’s something we should be doing much more often, says new research out ofNorthwestern University. The team of researchers, led by Aaron Lucas, a graduate researcher, andBenjamin Armbruster, an assistant professor of industrial engineering and management sciences at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, found that the current HIVscreening recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)—put in place in 2006—are too conservative. The CDC currently recommends that people at low risk of HIV should be tested only once in their lifetime, and that those at highest-risk—people with multiple sex partners, IV drug users, and sex workers—should be tested every three years.Men who have sex with men have the highest rate of new HIV infections; the CDC recommends that this group be tested every three to six months. The CDC says that in 2009, about two in five of all new HIV infections were in people ages 13 to 29. 
Toddler with HIV Is Cured—So What's Next?
The researchers did a mathematical model to figure out the ideal frequency of testing, balancing the health trade-off of delaying diagnosis with the financial cost of testing. The goal: to capture more people with the infection earlier (so they could be treated sooner and would stay in better health) and that would also be worth the money. Their conclusion? Those at the highest risk of being infected with HIV should be screened every three months, and even those at low risk should get the test every three years. People at moderate risk should be tested every nine months. They published their finding in AIDS, the journal of the International AIDS Society.Right now, recommendations for when to start treatment for those who have HIV are based on their counts of a specific type of white blood cell, called CD4+, which helps to fight infection. But more research is showing that the sooner treatment is started, the better patients do. More frequent screening would aim to capture more people earlier in their infection and start them on treatment right away, says Aaron Lucas. This would mean a great number of people in better health and lowerhealthcare costs down the road.
HIV Epidemic in Latin America, Caribbean: Making Progress
In fact, even factoring in all the negative tests (in which people are tested and find out they do not have the virus), it still makes sense to test much more frequently, says Lucas. “Those lost costs from testing negative are still cheap compared to the risk of forgoing an HIV test,” he says. “We would like to see an update of [the CDC’s] current testing recommendations, but we would also like to see physicians and care providers more engaged in recommending their patient test for HIV even for low-risk or moderate-risk groups.”Others agree that HIV testing should be done more often. “The AIDS Healthcare Foundation is strongly in favor of more aggressive HIV testing efforts,” says Lori Yeghiayan Friedman, associate director of communications for the global organization, which has its headquarters in Los Angeles. “We believe that everyone should get tested and know their status,” she says, adding that the group supports efforts to increase recommended frequency of testing for everyone.
Awareness of HIV Risk Has Dropped Among Gay Men Even as Infection Rates Rise
Like others, Friedman links more testing to helping to end the AIDS epidemic: “The best way to…reduce the number of infections is to identify people who are positive and link them to treatment,” she says. “The earlier one is diagnosed with HIV, the better the health outcome.  Too many people are being diagnosed late and are therefore not receiving the full benefit of lifesaving HIV/AIDS treatment.” Especially hard-hit when it comes to early diagnosis are people who don’t have readyaccess to good-quality care, including people of color and those living in rural and poorer areas.Friedman notes that when someone is diagnosed soon after exposure to the infection, they respond better to treatment and are likelier to protect their partner(s) from infection, which further helps eradicate the disease. “It’s estimated that 25 percent of people who are positive are unaware of their HIV-positive status,” says Friedman. “This 25 percent are the unwitting source of the majority of new infections…At an estimated $600,000 lifetime cost for treatment for one person in the U.S., every infection averted equals thousands of dollars saved.” Treatment makes someone less infectious too.
HIV Vaccine Under Study May Last a Lifetime
Like Lucas, Friedman thinks more testing is a crucial step: “Increased HIV testing will lead to a reduction in new infections and, therefore, is a cost-effective strategy in fighting HIV in the U.S.—and will save lives.”

Capture of Circulating Tumor Cells Improved By Third-generation Device

Significant improvement over previously developed devices shown by a new system for isolating rare circulating tumor cells (CTCs) - living solid tumor cells found at low levels in the bloodstream. The system doesn't require prior identification of tumor-specific target molecules as well. Developed at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Center for Engineering in Medicine and the MGH Cancer Center, the device rapidly delivers a population of unlabeled tumor cells that can be analyzed with both standard clinical diagnostic cytopathology and advanced genetic and molecular technology. The MGH team's report has been published in Science Translational Medicine."This new technology allows us to follow how cancer cells change through the process of metastasis," says Mehmet Toner, PhD, director of the BioMicroElectroMechanical Systems Resource Center in the MGH Center for Engineering in Medicine, the paper's senior author. "Cancer loses many of its tissue characteristics during metastasis, a process we have not understood well. Now for the first time we have the ability to discover how cancer evolves through analysis of single metastatic cells, which is a big step in the war against cancer." 
The new device - called the CTC-iChip - is the third microchip-based device for capturing CTCs developed at the MGH Center for Engineering in Medicine. The first two systems relied on prior knowledge of a tumor-specific surface marker in order to sort CTCs from whole blood and required significant adjustment for each different type of cancer. The systems also required four to five hours to process a single blood sample. 
The only U.S. Food & Drug Administration-cleared, commercially available device for capturing and enumerating CTCs - the CELLSEARCH® system developed by Veridex, LLC - relies on magnetic nanoparticles that bind to the same epithelial protein used in the MGH -developed microchip-based devices and cannot always find CTCs present at very low numbers. In January 2011 the MGH entered into a collaborative agreement with Veridex and its affiliate Janssen Research & Development, LLC, to establish a center of excellence in research on CTC technologies. 
Combining elements of both approaches - magnetic labeling of target cells and microfluidic sorting - the CTC-iChip works by putting a blood sample through three stages. The first removes from the sample, on the basis of cell size, all blood components except for CTCs and white blood cells. The second step uses a microfluidic process developed at the MGH to align the cells in a single file, allowing for extremely precise and rapid sorting. In the third stage, magnetically labeled target cells - either CTCs tagged via the epithelial marker or white blood cells tagged on known blood-cell antigens - are sorted out. Tagging white blood cells instead of CTCs leaves behind a population of unlabeled and unaltered tumor cells and doesn't rely on the presence of the epithelial marker or other known tumor antigens on the cell surface. 
The new system was able to process blood samples at the extremely rapid rate of 10 million cells per second, handling a tube of blood in less than an hour Both the mode of sorting out tagged CTCs, called tumor-antigen-dependent, and the technique that depletes white blood cells, called tumor-antigen-independent, recovered more than 80 percent of tumor cells from different types of cancer that had been added to blood samples. Comparison of the antigen-dependent-mode CTC-iChip with existing commercial technology for processing blood samples from patients with prostate, breast, pancreatic, colorectal and lung cancer showed the CTC-iChip to be more sensitive at detecting low levels of CTCs. 
In the antigen-independent mode, the CTC-iChip successfully identified CTCs from several types of cancers that had lost or never had the epithelial marker, including triple-negative breast cancer and melanoma. CTCs isolated through this mode were put through standard cytopathological analysis, which revealed structural similarities to the original tumor, and detailed molecular genotyping of CTCs from a single patient found significant differences in gene expression patterns among individual CTCs. 
"We're only beginning to identify potential applications of the ability to analyze how tumors mutate as they spread, but this should help improve our understanding of the fundamental genetic principles of metastasis," says Toner, the Benedict Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School (HMS). "We hope to develop this technology to the point where it could be used for early diagnosis, which is the 'Holy Grail' that all of us working on CTC technology have been striving for." 
Ravi Kapur, PhD, of the Center for Engineering in Medicine, leader of the innovation team within the MGH Circulating Tumor Cell Center, says, "The CTC-iChip provides a first-in-class device for high-efficiency, high-speed tumor cell sorting from a clinically relevant blood volume. The chip is designed for mass manufacturing, and simple automation for clinical translation." The team is working with collaborators at Veridex and Janssen to refine the system for commercial development. 
Study co-author Daniel Haber, MD, PhD, director of the MGH Cancer Center and Isselbacher/Schwartz Professor of Oncology at HMS, adds, "The study of cancer metastasis has been limited by the inability to quickly and reliably isolate tumor cells in transit in the blood. This new approach is likely to be a game changer in the field." 

Source:Science Translational Medicine.



Ability to 'Think About Thinking' Not Limited to Humans: Scientists

 Ability to 'Think About Thinking' Not Limited to Humans: ScientistsAccording to new research , humans' closest animal relatives, chimpanzees, have the ability to "think about thinking" - what is called "metacognition." The research was led by scientists at Georgia State University and the University at Buffalo.Michael J. Beran and Bonnie M. Perdue of the Georgia State Language Research Center (LRC) and J. David Smith of the University at Buffalo conducted the research, published in the journal Psychological Science of the Association for Psychological Science. 
"The demonstration of metacognition in nonhuman primates has important implications regarding the emergence of self-reflective mind during humans' cognitive evolution," the research team noted. 
Metacognition is the ability to recognize one's own cognitive states. For example, a game show contestant must make the decision to "phone a friend" or risk it all, dependent on how confident he or she is in knowing the answer. 
"There has been an intense debate in the scientific literature in recent years over whether metacognition is unique to humans," Beran said. 
Chimpanzees at Georgia State's LRC have been trained to use a language-like system of symbols to name things, giving researchers a unique way to query animals about their states of knowing or not knowing. 
In the experiment, researchers tested the chimpanzees on a task that required them to use symbols to name what food was hidden in a location. If a piece of banana was hidden, the chimpanzees would report that fact and gain the food by touching the symbol for banana on their symbol keyboards. 
But then, the researchers provided chimpanzees either with complete or incomplete information about the identity of the food rewards. 
In some cases, the chimpanzees had already seen what item was available in the hidden location and could immediately name it by touching the correct symbol without going to look at the item in the hidden location to see what it was. 
In other cases, the chimpanzees could not know what food item was in the hidden location, because either they had not seen any food yet on that trial, or because even if they had seen a food item, it may not have been the one moved to the hidden location. 
In those cases, they should have first gone to look in the hidden location before trying to name any food. 
In the end, chimpanzees named items immediately and directly when they knew what was there, but they sought out more information before naming when they did not already know. 
The research team said, "This pattern of behavior reflects a controlled information-seeking capacity that serves to support intelligent responding, and it strongly suggests that our closest living relative has metacognitive abilities closely related to those of humans.

Source:University of Buffalo


Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Scientists Map Fountain of Youth Enzyme

For the first time, scientists have mapped telomerase, an enzyme which has a kind of rejuvenating effect on normal cell ageing. 
For the study University of Copenhagen researchers collaborated with an international research team.Mapping the cellular fountain of youth - telomerase. This is one of the results of a major research project involving more than 1,000 researchers worldwide, four years of hard work, DKK 55 million from the EU and blood samples from more than 200,000 people. This is the largest collaboration project ever to be conducted within cancer genetics. 
Stig E. Bojesen, a researcher at the Faculty of Health and Medicial Sciences, University of Copenhagen, and staff specialist at the Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Copenhagen University Hospital, Herlev, has headed the efforts to map telomerase - an enzyme capable of creating new ends on cellular chromosomes, the so-called telomeres. In other words, a kind of cellular fountain of youth. 
"We have discovered that differences in the telomeric gene are associated both with the risk of various cancers and with the length of the telomeres. The surprising finding was that the variants that caused the diseases were not the same as the ones, which changed the length of the telomeres. This suggests that telomerase plays a far more complex role than previously assumed," said Stig E. Bojesen. 
The mapping of telomerase is an important discovery, because telomerase is one of the very basic enzymes in cell biology. It relengthens the telomeres so that they get the same length as before embarking on cell division. 
The mapping of telomerase may, among other things, boost our knowledge of cancers and their treatment, and with the new findings the genetic correlation between cancer and telomere length has been thoroughly illustrated for the first time, noted Stig E. Bojesen. 
The human body consists of 50,000,000,000,000 or fifty trillion cells, and each cell has 46 chromosomes, which are the structures in the nucleus containing our hereditary material, the DNA. The ends of all chromosomes are protected by so-called telomeres. The telomeres serve to protect the chromosomes in much the same way as the plastic sheath on the end of a shoelace. But each time a cell divides, the telomeres become a little bit shorter and eventually end up being too short to protect the chromosomes. 
Popularly speaking, each cell has a multi-ride ticket, and each time the cell divides, the telomeres (the chromosome ends) will use up one ride. Once there are no more rides left, the cell will not divide any more, and will, so to speak, retire. But some special cells in the body can activate telomerase, which again can elongate the telomeres. 
Sex cells, or other stem cells which must be able to divide more than normal cells, have this feature. Unfortunately, cancer cells have discovered the trick, and it is known that they also produce telomerase and thus keep themselves artificially young. The telomerase gene therefore plays an important role in cancer biology, and it is precisely by identifying cancer genes that the researchers imagine that you can improve the identification rate and the treatment. 
"A gene is like a country. As you map it, you can see what is going on in the various cities. One of the cities in what could be called Telomerase Land determines whether you develop breast cancer or ovarian cancer, while other parts of the gene determine the length of the telomeres. Mapping telomerase is therefore an important step towards being able to predict the risk of developing different cancers. In summary, our findings are very surprising and point in many directions. But as is the case with all good research, our work provides many answers but leaves even more questions," concluded Stig E. Bojesen. 
The findings have just been published in Nature Genetics.


Research Sheds Light on The Metabolic Weathervane of Cancer

TRAP1 protein has been identified as a potential target for antitumor treatments as it is known for its cell-protective properties.As a result of the research conducted by Len Neckers, from the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, USA, and Didier Picard, from the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, this outlook is now being called into question. The researchers' findings, published in PNAS, describe how TRAP1 disrupts the metabolism of malignant cells, and shows that the quantity of this protein decreases as they progress to a more aggressive stage. The suppression of TRAP1 leads to the transfer from one metabolic pathway to another (more powerful) one, as well as a significant increase in the motility and invasiveness of cells. 
In some situations, a therapy designed to inhibit TRAP1 could actually stimulate tumor progression to a metastatic state.The cells of our body consume various nutrients from which they draw energy for their daily needs, with the help of inhaled oxygen. Glucose, for example, has a maximal energetic yield after complete combustion in mitochondria—genuine intracellular power plants. Even without oxygen, this nutrient may still provide some energy after being partially digested in the cell's cytoplasm. "This is the process—similar to fermentation—that is frequently used by tumor cells, allowing them to proliferate rapidly and free themselves, for the most part, of oxygen. They offset low energy output by consuming more glucose", notes Didier Picard, professor at the Department of cell biology of the Faculty of Science at UNIGE. A shield for malignant cells Some types of tumors are characterized by an excessive expression of TRAP1, a molecule present in mitochondria. This protein, which belongs to the "molecular chaperone" family, plays a role in protecting against cell auto-destruction and the damage done to its DNA in response to free radicals and other types of stress. "The antioxidant and cytoprotective properties of TRAP1, whose malignant cells use as a shield, have designated this protein as a target for antitumor treatments. Furthermore, TRAP1 inhibitors have demonstrated anticancerous activity in preclinical trials," explains Guillaume Mühlebach, first co-author of the article. Alternate methods of energy production…Tumor development occurs in several stages, with distinct metabolic needs. In collaboration with teams in the United States and Japan, researchers in Geneva have demonstrated that the expression of TRAP1 is inversely correlated with tumor stage in various types of human cancers. "In particular, we found that TRAP1 regulates a metabolic 'switch' at the level of glucose digestion. When this protein is overexpressed, as is often the case in primary tumors, the cells use fermentation to generate the resources for growth," explains Didier Picard. …according to current needsOn the other hand, in a more advanced tumor stage, the expression of TRAP1 decreases and the cells mainly proceed to a complete combustion of nutrients in mitochondria. This metabolic pathway, with high energy output and high oxygen consumption, could provide them the energy necessary to form metastases. "The lack of TRAP1 indeed translates into a dramatic increase in cell motility and invasive power," says Evangelia Vartholomaiou, another member of the Geneva group.The anticancerous strategies targeting this protein could therefore have adverse effects on tumors capable of promoting one metabolic pathway over another according to their needs. While simultaneously inhibiting cell proliferation, this type of treatment could actually stimulate progression into a metastatic state.

 Source:University of Geneva (UNIGE)


Immune System May be Enhanced With Fish Oils

 Immune System May be Enhanced With Fish OilsA recent research suggests that fish oils rich in DHA and EPA could boost up the immune system.It is well established that oils rich in DHA and EPA reduce inflammation in many chronic disorder like cancer, heart diseases and autoimmune diseases. However, it was assumed previously that these oils reduce the body immunity, which contradicts the findings of this study. 
Researchers from the Michigan State University experimented with mice to determine the effects of these oils on the immune system. One group of mice was fed with diet containing DHA and EPA oils while those in control group were fed with normal diet. 
After five weeks, researchers cultured B cells, a type of white blood cells, separately and found that B cells from the mice fed with oil rich diet showed increased cell activity. 
Hence, the authors conclude that DHA and EPA containing oils enhance immunity. 

Source:Michigan State University


Group Based Approach With Incentive Helps Workers in Losing Weight

 Group Based Approach With Incentive Helps Workers in Losing WeightThe results of a recent study indicate that employees reduce weight effectively when they participate in groups and when the groups are offered incentives.Jeffrey T. Kullgren, MD, from the Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System, Michigan, and team recruited 105 employees of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia who were obese with body mass index between 30 and 40 and were eager to lose weight. The participants aged between 18 and 70 years old. 
The participants were randomly assigned to one of following three groups, group financial incentives, individual financial incentives, or controls. They were given access to Weight-Control Information Network website of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to refer to diet and exercise suggestions. 
The weight and behavior of the participants were monitored on a monthly basis for six months. The participants were required to lose 0.4 kg every week. Participants in the individual financial incentives group who met the weight loss target received $100 a month. In the group financial incentives group, each group was assigned $500 and that the amount was shared among the members of the group who attained the weight loss goal. The control group received no incentives. 
At the end of the study, it was found that people with group incentives had lost more weight, an average of 4.8kg, while people with individual incentives had lost an average 1.7kg. People in the group had lost only 0.5kg. 
According to the authors, the competitiveness and a chance to win more than $100 had motivated the participants in the group incentives to reduce weight more efficiently. 
The researchers indicate that now different group based approaches need to be compared to figure out the most efficient techniques. This could help save health care cost for the employers and employees may benefit from improved health. 
The findings are published in the Annals of Medicine. 



Monday, 1 April 2013

New Light Shed on Methylation

 New Light Shed on MethylationNew research by UC Davis and University of British Columbia has now revealed important aspects about methylation, a process that controls gene expression. Working with placentas, the team discovered that 37 percent of the placental genome has regions of lower methylation, called partially methylated domains (PMDs), in which gene expression is turned off. This differs from most human tissues, in which 70 percent of the genome is highly methylated.While PMDs have been identified in cell lines, this is the first time they have been found in regular human tissue. In addition to enhancing our understanding of epigenetics, this work could influence cancer research and help illuminate how environmental toxins affect fetal development. The paper was published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). 
Since it was unraveled more than ten years ago, the human genome has been the focus of both popular interest and intense scientific focus. But the genome doesn't act alone; there are many factors that influence whether genes are turned on or off. One of these is an epigenetic process called methylation, in which a group of carbon and hydrogen atoms (a methyl group) attaches to DNA, adjusting how genes are expressed. 
"I like to think of epigenetics as a layer on top of your genetic code," said senior author Janine LaSalle, professor of medical microbiology and immunology. "It's not the DNA sequence but it layers on top of that — and methylation is the first layer. Those layers provide a lot of information to the cells on where and when to turn on the genes." 
How and when genes are activated (or inactivated) can have a profound impact on human development, cancer and the biological legacy of environmental toxins. Prior to this research, PMDs had only been found in cultured cell lines, which led some scientists to wonder if they existed outside the test tube. This study confirms they exist in placental tissue, a critically important window into fetal development. 
"The placenta is the interface between mother and fetus," said LaSalle, who is a researcher affiliated with the UC Davis MIND Institute. "It's a time capsule from when a lot of important methylation events occurred." 
In addition, placental tissue was interesting to study because it has a number of invasive characteristics often associated with cancer. In fact, a number of cancers, such as breast and colon, have widespread PMDs. LaSalle notes that anti-cancer epigenetic therapies that adjust methylation could be refined based on this improved understanding of PMDs. 
This work could also enhance our ability to detect genetic defects. Methylation, and other epigenetic data, provides information that cannot be found in the genome alone. For example, the vast majority of cells in the body contain identical genetic code. However, the added information provided by methylation allows scientists to determine where specific DNA came from. 
"Methylation patterns are like fingerprints, showing which tissue that DNA is derived from," LaSalle said. "You can't get that information from just the DNA sequence. As a result, methylation studies could be a very rich source for biomarkers." 
In the study, PMDs encompassed 37 percent of the placental genome, including 3,815 genes, around 17 percent of all genes. When found in low-methylation regions, these genes were less likely to be transcribed into proteins. Researchers also found that PMDs also contain more highly methylated CpG islands (genomic areas with large numbers of cytosine-guanine pairs), which are often associated with gene transcriptional silencing of promoters. 
Because the placental PMDs contained many genes associated with neuronal development, and specifically autism, LaSalle notes that future research could investigate how epigenetics impacts autism genes at birth. 
"We are looking for biomarkers that predict neurodevelopmental outcomes," LaSalle said. "Now we have a series of snap shots from a critical period where we think environmental factors are playing a role in the developing brain." 


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