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Saturday, 18 May 2013

For Effective Speed Control, Cells Must Accelerate Their Brakes Moderately

 For Effective Speed Control, Cells Must Accelerate Their Brakes ModeratelyWhen new intelligent medicines are being developed, how cells regulate their own function by "accelerating and braking" is important basic knowledge, or when plant cells are tweaked to produce more bioenergy.
n a study published by Nature Communications 14 May, researchers at Uppsala and Umeå universities show a model of how cells' regulatory systems work. 

All living cells have a regulatory system similar to what can be found in today's smartphones. Just like our phones process a large amount of information that we feed them, cells continuously process information about their outer and inner environment. Inside the cells, information is sent and processed via a large network of interactions between signalling molecules. 
In electronic circuits it is common with negative feedback, inhibiting functions, to make signals clearer and to reduce noise that can obscure important information. Cells also use this technique for reducing unwanted noise. Almost half of all signalling molecules that regulate which genes should be on or off, regulate their own genetic expression through biochemical reactions acting as inhibitors. 
"If the number of signalling molecules is more than necessary, they shut down their own production for a short while, to later resume it. The difference between feedback in electronic systems and biological systems is that biological systems are much more imprecise and slow", explains Andreas Grönlund, lead author, currently active at Umeå University. 
Together with professors Per Lötstedt and Johan Elf, both at Uppsala University, he has used new data and mathematical models to calculate how long the molecules must remain in their binding sites to make the feedback exactly strong enough to reduce noise as much as possible. 
The calculations showed that the molecules ideally should bind significantly weaker than previously believed, a characteristic that turned out to correspond well to the binding strength found in global regulatory molecules in E. coli bacteria. 
"A car driver needs to know when and how hard to press the brake in different situations and which way to turn the steering wheel in a left turn. In the same way, we need to increase our understanding of regulatory systems in cells to be able to develop new intelligent medicines when the regulation system doesn't work or to be able to control plant cells to produce green energy through more efficient production of bio mass", says Johan Elf. 
Source:Nature Communications

Gene Behind the Circadian Clock

A gene involved in neurodegenerative disease also plays a critical role in the proper function of the circadian clock, according to Northwestern University scientists.In a study of the common fruit fly, the researchers found the gene, called Ataxin-2, keeps the clock responsible for sleeping and waking on a 24-hour rhythm. Without the gene, the rhythm of the fruit fly's sleep-wake cycle is disturbed, making waking up on a regular schedule difficult for the fly. 
The discovery is particularly interesting because mutations in the human Ataxin-2 gene are known to cause a rare disorder called spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA) and also contribute to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. People with SCA suffer from sleep abnormalities before other symptoms of the disease appear. 
This study linking the Ataxin-2 gene with abnormalities in the sleep-wake cycle could help pinpoint what is causing these neurodegenerative diseases as well as provide a deeper understanding of the human sleep-wake cycle. 
Ravi Allada, M.D., professor of neurobiology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, and Chunghun Lim, a postdoctoral fellow in his lab, are authors of the paper. 
Period (per) is a well-studied gene in fruit flies that encodes a protein, called PER, which regulates circadian rhythm. Allada and Lim discovered that Ataxin-2 helps activate translation of PER RNA into PER protein, a key step in making the circadian clock run properly. 
"It's possible that Ataxin-2's function as an activator of protein translation may be central to understanding how, when you mutate the gene and disrupt its function, it may be causing or contributing to diseases such as ALS or spinocerebellar ataxia," Allada said. 
The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster is a model organism for scientists studying the sleep-wake cycle because the fly's genes are highly conserved with the genes of humans. 
Ataxin-2 is the second gene in a little more than two years that Northwestern researchers have identified as a core gear of the circadian clock, and the two genes play similar roles. 
Allada, Lim and colleagues in 2011 reported their discovery of a gene, which they dubbed "twenty-four," that plays a role in translating the PER protein, keeping the sleep-wake cycle on a 24-hour rhythm. 
Allada and Lim wanted to better understand how twenty-four works, so they looked at proteins that associate with twenty-four. They found the twenty-four protein sticking to ATAXIN-2 and decided to investigate further. In their experiments, Allada and Lim discovered the Ataxin-2 and twenty-four genes appear to be partners in PER protein translation. 
As is the case in a mutation of the twenty-four gene, when the Ataxin-2 gene is not present, very little PER protein is found in the circadian pacemaker neurons of the brain, and the fly's sleep-wake rhythm is disturbed. 
The findings will be published May 17 in the journal Science.


Research:Liver can be Damaged by Cinnamon

A compound called coumarin present in cinnamon is toxic to the liver even in small amounts, shows study.Cinnamon is a spice with a pungent aroma and is obtained from the inner bark of trees of the genus Cinnamomum used extensively for flavoring both savory and sweet cuisine. 
Cinnamon and cinnamon flavored food items, supplements and beverages contain some natural ingredient that can be deleterious for liver in susceptible people. 
Prof Ikhlas Khan and team conducted a research to highlight the adverse effects caused by coumarin, a naturally occurring substance in cinnamon. Their study was published in ACS Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 
The experts said that Ceylon cinnamon, the original and authentic cinnamon is quite expensive. In the United States most of the breads, sticky buns, etc. are made from dried cassia bark or cassia cinnamon. 
Coumarin a natural ingredient found in cinnamon is very harmful for liver. This substance is present in high amount in cassia cinnamon while Ceylon variety contains small amount of the harmful ingredient. 
The researchers said, "As found in this study, coumarin was present, sometimes in substantial amounts, in cinnamon-based food supplements and cinnamon-flavored foods." 
Avoid eating too much of cinnamon in order to protect your liver from any unexpected damage.

Source:ACS Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 

Friday, 17 May 2013

Physical & emotional impairments common, often untreated in people with cancer

A new review finds cancer survivors suffer a diverse and complex set of impairments, affecting virtually every organ system. Writing in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, Julie Silver, M.D., associate professor at Harvard Medical School, and colleagues say a majority of cancer survivors will have significant physical and psychological impairments as a result of treatments, and that these often go undetected and/or untreated, resulting in disability.
Current data shows more than four in ten people will develop cancer during their lifetime. Due to advances in diagnosis, treatment, and supportive care for cancer, more than two out of three cancer patients now live at least 5 years after diagnosis. The American Cancer Society estimates that the number of cancer survivors in the United States will increase from 13.6 million to 18 million by 2022. However, increased survival brings with it a growing need to address the long-term effects of cancer and its treatment. Cancer survivors report a much worse health-related quality of life for both physical and emotional health compared with population norms.
The review outlines data showing poor physical health is reported by one in four cancer survivors, compared to about one in ten of those without a history of cancer. Meanwhile, poor mental health is reported by ten percent of cancer survivors compared with six percent of adults without a cancer diagnosis. Those numbers suggest that 3.3 million cancer survivors in the United States may have poor physical health and 1.4 million may have poor mental health. The authors say physical and psychological impairments often overlap and influence each other, and a leading cause of emotional distress in cancer survivors is physical disability.
Studies show multidisciplinary cancer rehabilitation, which involves a team of rehabilitation professionals that typically includes physiatrists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, and rehabilitation nurses, improves pain control, physical function, and quality of life in cancer survivors. The authors say "prehabilitation," the precursor to rehabilitation, is recommended at the time of diagnosis, up until treatment begins. The goal of prehabilitation is to improve both physical and emotional health prior to cancer therapy so that people tolerate treatments with fewer problems.
The authors say it is critical that survivors are screened for both psychological and physical impairments and then referred appropriately to trained health care professionals, including rehabilitation specialists, for evaluation and treatment. To ensure all cancer patients have their rehabilitation needs met, everyone involved throughout their care – oncologists, mental health professionals, nurses and primary care physicians-- should have knowledge of the proper screening questions, tools, and procedures. Impairment-driven cancer rehabilitation appears to be cost-effective and may actually reduce both direct and indirect health care costs, and reduce the enormous financial burden of cancer.
The authors conclude: "Delivering quality, patient-centered care requires that all cancer patients and survivors be screened for psychological and physical impairments throughout the care continuum in order to preserve and/or improve their functioning and quality of life."
Source:American Cancer Society 

More and More People Turning to Ayurveda for Treating Eye Diseases

 More and More People Turning to Ayurveda for Treating Eye DiseasesThe number of people who are opting to get their eye problems treated with ayurveda has increased over the last few years, according to the world's first ayurvedic ophthalmic hospital in Kerala.Doctors at the Sreedhareeyam Ayurvedic Eye Hospital and Research Centre near Kochi assert that ayurveda can easily cure many eye diseases without surgery. 
"Before we came in, there was no ayurvedic medicine in this field," says N.P.P. Namboothiri, the hospital's managing director and chief physician. "We have become the pioneers." 
Kerala draws every year tens of thousands of Indians and foreigners in search of ayurvedic treatment. But few beyond Kerala appear to know what ayurveda can do in the field of ophthalmology. 
Eye diseases are rampant today, caused in part by long hours of work on computers, poor eating habits, long and frequent journeys, inadequate hours of sleep and so on. 
Eye disorders can also result from watching TV for long hours, reading small print continuously, inappropriate head position while lying on the bed, heavy sneezing and even overindulgence in sex. 
Television is to blame for most myopic disorders in children. 
"Many of these diseases can be completely cured through simple treatments we offer," Namboothiri told IANS at his office, which is part of the family's ancestral home. 
Hailing from a family of ayurvedic practitioners, Namboothiri set up Sreedhareeyam with five beds in 1999. It has expanded to 350 beds and also gets around 200 daily patients. 
The hospital is located at a site where the Namboothiri family ran an informal clinic for a very long time. 
Sreedhareeyam has 16 centres in Kerala and elsewhere in India, including major cities such as Mumbai, Bangalore, New Delhi and Chennai. 
In Kerala, it also has a presence in Ernakulam, Kozhikode, Thodupuzha and Thiruvananthapuram. 
Unlike earlier times when many turned to ayurveda only as the last resort, today many prefer ayurvedic ophthalmic treatment right away, doctors with Sreedhareeyam say. 
"Early detection of eye ailments helps in faster and better recovery," Namboothiri said. "If treated early, ayurveda strengthens the nervous system and prevents degeneration of the optic nerves." 
According to him, even complicated and rare diseases that affect the optic nerve and retina that lead to blindness can be treated with great success with ayurveda. 
"Thousands of people are today resorting to ayurveda for effective cure," he said. 
Major eye diseases treated at Sreedhareeyam include diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataract and detachment of retina. 
The hospital also manufactures all medicines and formulations utilized in eye and other treatment. 
Shalakya Tantra is the branch of ayurveda that deals with ailments above the neck. Ayurvedic texts deal with 76 eye, 28 ear and 31 nose diseases. 
Sreedhareeyam boasts of a large collection of ancient ayurvedic manuscripts of medicinal preparations and treatment methods. 
These inscriptions in old Tamil and Malayalam are on palm leaves and have been handed down by ancestors of the Namboothiri family. 
"We even treat and cure eye problems not normally curable by other medical sciences," Namboothiri says. 
"Today, our hospital has brought new respect to the science of ayurvedic ophthalmology." 



Kava Plant may Offer a Natural Remedy for Anxiety Disorders

 Kava Plant may Offer a Natural Remedy for Anxiety DisordersThe South Pacific kava plant is found to provide a natural remedy for treatment of anxiety, Australian scientists have revealed.
 Anxiety disorder- a state when a person worries abnormally and excessively- is known to affect many in Australia. Statistics show that nearly 14% of the population is affected by anxiety disorders. 

According to lead researcher Jerome Sarris, from University of Melbourne, Kava seems to offer a strong natural alternative for the treatment of chronic clinical anxiety with reduced risk for dependency. It also had fewer side effects. 
The research so far has shown a lot of promise, but more clinical trials are required to confirm it as a first-line treatment for generalized anxiety disorders (GAD).
"We are not saying kava is a replacement for integrated care. People with anxiety should seek appropriate advice from a health professional, which could include a GP, a psychologist or a degree-qualified naturopath," says Dr Sarris.
The study looked at 75 patients with clinically diagnosed GAD for eight weeks. Some patients were given kava while some others got a placebo. The study found that there was a marked reduction in anxiety for the Kava group. 
However, people should consult their doctor before they take any medication for anxiety.

Source: University of Melbourne


Tumor-activated Protein Promotes Cancer Metastasis: Researchers

Cancers physically alter cells in the lymphatic system - a network of vessels that transports and stores immune cells throughout the body - to promote the spread of disease, a process called metastasis, according to researchers.Roughly 90 percent of all cancer deaths are due to metastasis - the disease spreading from the original tumor site to multiple, distant tissues and finally overwhelming the patient's body. 
Lymph vessels are often the path of transmission, with circulating tumor cells lodging in the lymph nodes - organs distributed throughout the body that act as immune system garrisons and traps for pathogens and foreign particles. 
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center found that a protein growth factor expressed by tumors called VEGF-C activates a receptor called integrin a4beta1 on lymphatic vessels in lymph node tissues, making them more attractive and sticky to metastatic tumor cells. 
"One of the most significant features of this work is that it highlights the way that tumors can have long-range effects on other parts of the body, which can then impact tumor metastasis or growth," said principal investigator Judith A. Varner, PhD, professor of medicine at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center. 
Varner said a4beta1 could prove to be a valuable biomarker for measuring cancer risk, since increased levels of the activated protein in lymph tissues is an indirect indicator that an undetected tumor may be nearby. 
She said whole-body imaging scans of the lymphatic network might identify problem areas relatively quickly and effectively. 
"The idea is that a radiolabeled or otherwise labeled anti-integrin a4beta1 antibody could be injected into the lymphatic circulation, and it would only bind to and highlight the lymphatic vessels that have been activated by the presence of a tumor," she explaned. 
Varner noted that a4beta1 levels correlate with metastasis - the higher the level, the greater the chance of the cancer spreading. With additional research and clinical studies, doctors could refine treatment protocols so that patients at higher risk are treated appropriately, but patients at lower or no risk of metastasis are not over-treated. 
The researchers noted in their studies that it is possible to suppress tumor metastasis by reducing growth factor levels or by blocking activation of the a4beta1 receptor. 
Varner said an antibody to VEGF-R3 is currently in Phase 1 clinical trials. An approved humanized anti-a4beta1 antibody is currently approved for the treatment of multiple sclerosis and Crohn's disease. 
Varner said her lab at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center is investigating the possibility of developing one for treating cancer. 
The findings are published in this week's online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


The herbal way to boosting sex life

A study involving over 100 men has found individuals with erectile dysfunction improved their sexual performance after taking tabletsmade from ginseng, a plant used for long by the Chinese as an aphrodisiacThe South Korean study found men with erectile dysfunction improved their performance in the bedroom after taking the tablets for just a few weeks. Although some previous studies have suggested ginseng can help tackle impotence, many have been conducted in mice, Daily Mailreported. 
The latest research involved more than 100 men who had been diagnosed with erection problems. Impotence affects one in 10 men in Britain at some point in their lives. 
While herbal remedies like ginseng have been touted as alternative treatments, the evidence to support their use has been lacking. Ginseng's root contains several active substances, called either ginsenosides or panaxosides, that are thought to be responsible for the medicinal effects of the herb. 
Scientists at the Yonsei University College of Medicine in Seoul, South Korea, recruited 119 men with mild to moderate erectile dysfunction. The group was split into two, while half took four tablets a day containing extracts of Korean ginseng berry, the rest took identical dummy pills
After eight weeks, researchers measured improvements by using a recognised scale. 
The results, published in the International Journal of Impotence Research, showed a small but significant improvement in sexual function in the ginseng group compared to those on the dummy tablets. 
"Korean ginseng berry extract improved all domains of sexual function... It can be used as an alternative to medicine to improve sexual life in men," said the researchers in a report on their findings.


Smithsonian to showcase visual history of yoga

Smithsonian, the world's largest museum and research complex here, is launching a major crowdfunding campaign May 29 to support what it calls the world's first exhibition on the visual history of yoga"Yoga: The Art of Transformation" Opens Oct 19 at its Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington and would be on view through Jan 26, 2014. It will be supported by a crowdfunding campaign, "Together We're One" running from May 29 through July 1. 
The exhibition explores "yoga's philosophies and its goals of transforming body and consciousness, its importance within multiple religious and secular arenas, and the varied roles that yogis played in society, from sages to spies," Smithsonian said. 
Exhibition curator Debra Diamond worked with an interdisciplinary team of scholars to compile a remarkable survey of Indian art, with more than 130 objects from 25 museums and private collections in India, Europe and the US. 
"These works of art allow us to trace, often for the first time, yoga's meanings across the diverse social landscapes of India," said Diamond, curator of South Asian art at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art. 
Renowned masterpieces of painting and sculpture, as well as popular images, weave parallel stories of yoga as an individual path and as a cultural force, both in India and abroad. 
The exhibition features 90 stone and bronze sculptures, richly illustrated manuscripts and lavish court paintings created from the third to the early 19th century. 
Later 19th- and early 20th-century materials -including photographs, missionary postcards, magic posters, medical illustrations, iconographic manuals and early films - chart the vilification of yoga in the colonial period and the subsequent emergence of the modern discipline in India. 
Exhibition highlights include an installation that reunites for the first time three monumental stone yogini goddesses from a 10th century south Indian temple, 10 folios from the first illustrated compilation of asanas (yogic postures) made for a Mughal emperor in 1602 and never before exhibited in the US and a Thomas Edison film, Hindoo Fakir (1906), the first movie produced about India. 


Thursday, 16 May 2013

Tiny preemies get a boost from live music therapy

Music therapist Elizabeth Klinger, right, quietly plays guitar and sings for Augustin as he grips the hand of his mother, Lucy Morales, in the newborn intensive care unit at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago on Monday, May 6, 2013. Research suggests that music may help those born way too soon adapt to life outside the womb. Recent studies and anecdotal reports suggest the vibrations and soothing rhythms of music, especially performed live in the hospital, might benefit preemies and other sick babies. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)As the guitarist strums and softly sings a lullaby in Spanish, tiny Augustin Morales stops squirming in his hospital crib and closes his eyes.This is therapy in a newborn intensive care unit, and research suggests that music may help those born way too soon adapt to life outside the womb.Some tiny preemies are too small and fragile to be held and comforted by human touch, and many are often fussy and show other signs of stress. Other common complications include immature lungs, eye disease, problems with sucking, and sleeping and alertness difficulties.Recent studies and anecdotal reports suggest the vibrations and soothing rhythms of music, especially performed live in the hospital, might benefit preemies and other sick babies.Many insurers won't pay for music therapy because of doubts that it results in any lasting medical improvement. Some doctors say the music works best at relieving babies' stress and helping parents bond with infants too sick to go home.But amid beeping monitors, IV poles and plastic breathing tubes in infants' rooms at Chicago's Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital, music therapist Elizabeth Klinger provides a soothing contrast that even the tiniest babies seem to notice"What music therapy can uniquely provide is that passive listening experience that just encourages relaxation for the patient, encourages participation by the family," Klinger said after a recent session in Augustin's hospital room.The baby's parents, Lucy Morales and Alejandro Moran, stood at the crib and whispered lovingly to their son as Klinger played traditional lullabies, singing in Spanish and English."The music relaxes him, it makes him feel more calm" and helps him sleep better too, Lucy Morales said. "Sometimes it makes us cry."Some families request rock music or other high-tempo songs, but Klinger always slows the beat to make it easier on tender ears."A lot of times families become afraid of interacting with their children because they are so sick and so frail, and music provides them something that they can still do," Klinger said, who works full time as a music therapist but her services are provided for free.Music therapists say live performances in hospitals are better than recorded music because patients can feel the music vibrations and also benefit from seeing the musicians.More than two dozen U.S. hospitals offer music therapy in their newborn intensive care units and its popularity is growing, said Joanne Loewy, a music therapist who directs a music and medicine program at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York.Preemies' music therapy was even featured on a recent episode of the hit TV show "American Idol," when show finalist Kree Harrison watched a therapist working with a tiny baby at Children's Hospital Los Angeles."Music is such a huge part of our lives and to do something like this, make it a sort of healing process, is a cool thing," Harrison said on the April 25 episode.Dr. Natalia Henner, a newborn specialist at Lurie hospital, said studies in nursing journals show music therapy for preemies "does help with promoting growth. And there's some good literature ... saying that the time to discharge is a little bit shorter in babies who've been exposed to more music therapy."
She said it "definitely facilitates bonding" between parents of preemies and other babies too sick to go home.Loewy led a study published last month in the journal Pediatrics, involving 11 U.S. hospitals. Therapists in the study played special small drums to mimic womb sounds and timed the rhythm to match the infants' heartbeats. The music appeared to slow the infants' heartbeats, calm their breathing, and improve sucking and sleeping, Loewy said.Soozie Cotter-Schaufele, a music therapist at Advocate Children's Hospital-Park Ridge near Chicago, says soothing rhythmic sounds of music can mimic womb sounds and provide a comforting environment for preemies. She sings and plays a small harp or guitar, and says the sounds help calm tiny babies while they're undergoing painful medical procedures.Cotter-Schaufele said she recently heard from a woman whose daughter was born prematurely at her hospital six years ago. She had played the 1960s folk song "Today" for the infant.The mother reported her daughter "'still loves that song," She said 'She didn't learn that song from me, she learned it from you,'" Cotter-Schaufele said.

Health Research Dept plans 10 model rural units to take health technology to end users

Department of Health Research is planning to set up at least 10 Model Rural Health Research Units (MRHRU) to enable the end users in the rural areas to get benefits of specialized healthcare systems which are now available only for the urban population.
The expenditure finance committee has recently given approval to the long pending proposal which was initially planned for the 11th Five Year Plan and the target is to set up at least ten units by the end of this financial year, sources said.
“There is a wide gap between the available specialized health care technology and the technology being developed vis-a-vis their utilisation in the State health systems. This is particularly true for rural health settings. It is generally felt that technology application needs specialized infrastructure and can be done only in urban settings. In order to develop models for transfer of such technology to the end care users, the Department has planned to establish model rural health research units in all the States,” according to the proposal.
The original plan is to set up at least 50 units -- one in smaller States and more than one in larger States - so that technology transfer and the research targeting health interventions will be done in partnership with the States.
This was one of the five new schemes that the Department was planning to launch during the last five year plan period. But due to the lack of approval, none of them could be initiated. This also led to a massive financial under performance against the approved outlay for the department.
The long delay in the approval of the project has also come in for sharp criticism by the Parliamentary standing committee on health. “The Committee has been exhorting the Department to pay focused attention for completing all pre-project formalities and obtaining necessary approvals on time so that the budgeted funds are not locked up for want of approvals and surrendered later. The Committee is, however, constrained to note that little attention seems to have been paid to its advice in this regard which has resulted in persistent and substantial under-utilisation of budgeted funds,” it said.
“The first year of the 12th Plan Period has already elapsed and the current year is the 2nd year of the 12th Plan. The Committee notes that the EFC approval for the three new Schemes were accorded, albeit belatedly. Two of the five new schemes have not been approved as yet. The Committee, therefore, recommends to the Department to make more rigorous efforts and pro-actively pursue approval of the remaining two schemes with the agencies concerned,” a recent report by the panel said.


New research shows what raises and lowers blood pressure: Cell phones, salt and saying ॐ

Presented at the 28th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Society of Hypertension

Considered the "silent killer," high blood pressure affects approximately one billion people worldwide, including one in three adults in the United States. From May 15 – 18, 2013, members of the medical community from across the globe gather at the 28th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Society of Hypertension (ASH) in San Francisco to discuss the epidemic. During the conference, more than 200 new studies about hypertension will be shared, with the goal of increasing the understanding of hypertension and one day curing it altogether.
Among the findings from the ASH meeting is research that suggests mobile phone calls may cause a rise in blood pressure; yoga may lower it; and despite the need to cut back on sodium to lower blood pressure, hypertensive individuals may have an increased desire for saltier foods.
William B. White, MD, ASH President and 2013 Scientific Program Committee Chair adds, "The ASH meeting brings together the country's top scientists in clinical hypertension to give numerous state-of-the-art lectures on a wide variety of topics in hypertension and related clinical concerns."
Mobile Phone Calls Acutely Increase Blood Pressure
As of December 2012, 87% of American adults had a mobile phone1. According to a recent study from doctors G. Crippa; D. Zabzuni; A. Cassi; and E. Bravi of Guglielmo da Saliceto Hospital, talking on those mobile phones causes a significant rise in blood pressure. During a phone call, blood pressure readings jumped significantly from 121/77 to 129/82.
Systolic blood pressure rise was less drastic in patients who were used to participating in more than 30 phone calls per day. While the reason behind this is not known, Dr. Crippa speculates two possible reasons: "The subset of patients who were more accustomed to phone use were younger, which could show that younger people are less prone to be disturbed by telephone intrusions. Another possibility is that people who make more than 30 calls per day may feel more reassured if the mobile phone is activated since they are not running the risk of missing an opportunity."
Saying ॐ: Yoga Can Lower Blood Pressure
Yoga calms the mind and works out the body, but now, a study on the effects of yoga on hypertension concluded that yoga can significantly lower blood pressure. The 24-week study, conducted by Debbie L. Cohen, MD; Anne Bowler, BA and Raymond R. Townsend, MD of the University of Pennsylvania, showed that people who practiced yoga 2 – 3 times per week saw their blood pressure decrease significantly: an average of three points for both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, from 133/80 to 130/77. Participants who only followed a controlled diet—and did not practice yoga—saw only a decrease of one point, from 134/83 to 132/82.
Higher Salt Preference in Hypertensive People, but Using Other Seasonings Can Curb Desire
A new study shows that hypertensive individuals actually prefer more salt in their food than do normotensive individuals. The study of 44 adults aged 73.5 +/- 7.0 years was conducted by a team at Sao Paolo University in Brazil.
Initially, participants were given three pieces of bread with varying amounts of salt on each. In this tasting, 68% of hypertensive and 31% of normotensive patients (those with normal blood pressure levels) preferred the bread with the highest concentration of salt. Fifteen days later, the patients underwent an identical taste test—the only difference being that other seasonings had been added to the salted bread. In that case, only 14% of hypertensive and 0% of normotensive patients preferred the bread with the highest salt content. Not only did this show that hypertensive patients prefer a higher salt content, but that, across the board, use of other seasonings diminished the preference for salt.
Healthier Medical Practitioners Strive for Healthier Patients
Healthy lifestyle behaviors are associated with a reduced risk of hypertension in adults—but a new study conducted by J. Fang, C. Ayala and F. Loustalot of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reveals that a primary care physician's (PCP) healthy lifestyle behaviors may be linked to his or her recommendations for hypertension prevention. The study looked at what percentage of physicians recommended one of six key healthy lifestyle recommendations for hypertension prevention: consume a healthy diet (89.4%); reduced salt intake (89.9%); attain or maintain a healthy weight (90.3%); limit alcohol intake (69.4%); be physically active (95.1%); and stop smoking (90.4%).
Fifty-six percent of practitioners recommended all six healthy habits. Of note, the probability of recommending all six lifestyle behaviors increased when PCPs engaged in regular physical activity or consumed the recommended amount of produce (five or more cups per day) for four or more days each week—showing that a PCP's own behavior was associated with clinical recommendations to prevent hypertension for their adult patients.
Source:American Society for Hypertension, Inc. 

Endothelium, heal thyself

New research explains how the endothelium maintains its highly efficient barrier function

The endothelium, the cellular layer lining the body's blood vessels, is extremely resilient. Measuring just a few hundred nanometers in thickness, this super-tenuous structure routinely withstands blood flow, hydrostatic pressure, stretch and tissue compression to create a unique and highly dynamic barrier that maintains the organization necessary to partition tissues from the body's circulatory system.
It's also extremely adaptable. In instances when the barrier must be physically breached to enable immune cells to reach various regions of the body to fight infection, the endothelium cooperates with leukocytes to create openings to provide the infection-fighting cells ready access to their targets. By and large, these ensuing "micro -wounds" are short-lived; as soon as the cells have crossed the endothelium, these pores and gaps quickly heal, restoring the system's efficient barrier function. In cases when these gaps fail to close – and leakage occurs – the results can be devastating, leading to dramatic pathologies including sepsis and acute lung injury.
The mechanism underlying this highly intuitive capability has not been well understood. Now a research team led by Christopher V. Carman, PhD, of the Center for Vascular Biology Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), using a combination of advanced fluorescence imaging and electron microscopy to monitor intracellular signaling dynamics, has amassed real-time information that shows that biomechanical signals are what sets this healing process in motion. Described in The Journal of Cell Biology, the new findings suggest that rather than structural robustness per se, the barrier function of the endothelium relies on an enormous self-restorative capacity. (The JCB Bioinsights video podcast highlights this new discovery.
"When people talk about biomechanics, they're saying that cells are able to sense and respond to changes in force," says Carman, who is also an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. "In other words, it's not only hormones and chemical signals that influence cell behaviors. Cells can actually sense physical cues and thereby modulate their function." Specifically, the new findings demonstrate that the endothelium senses an acute loss of preexisting isometric tension, and that downstream of this biomechanical signal, the ensuing recovery response generates reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are responsible for coordinating the micro-wound closure process.
Carman's previous work explored precisely how leukocytes generate vascular micro-wounds in the first place, uncovering a novel endothelial piercing activity – "invasive podosomes" – that are generated by the leukocytes. In this new paper, he hypothesized an equally active role for the endothelium in closing the pores and gaps made by the leukocytes.
To test this hypothesis, his laboratory set up experimental models that mimicked acute, intense inflammation. Using dynamic time-lapse and high-resolution confocal microscopy, the investigators could see the process by which leukocytes were breaching the endothelial cell. In the course of a 10-minute span, they observed that a single endothelial cell tolerated the passage of at least seven leukocytes directly through its body, and that within this brief period, the gaps closed, leaving no sign of the pores.
"The cell's restorative capacity was just so striking," says Carman. "But these early investigations were still inadequate to tell us how the breaches were being closed. We had to dig down to the sub-cellular level to understand the underlying activities and the molecular signaling mechanisms that were orchestrating these activities."
Subsequent experiments, led by co-first author Roberta Martinelli, PhD, revealed that in response to micrometer-scale disruptions caused by the transmigrating leukocytes, the endothelial cells were generating unique ventral lamellipodia structures, which were then migrating to the sites of the micro-wounds to close them up. "The ventral lamellipodia were responding to the sensation of an acute loss of preexisting isometric tension," explains Martinelli, a senior scientist in the Carman laboratory, who compares the cell to a circus tent tethered in place by strategically placed ropes and stakes.
"If you cut one of the ropes holding up the tent, two things will happen," she adds. "First the part of the tent that was under tension will undergo a recoil which will lead to a relaxation, leaving one part of the tent untethered and flapping in the breeze. At the same time, the remaining sets of ropes and stakes will have to bear the extra load. In the case of the endothelial cells, this translates to a force loading event."
Existing studies have focused almost exclusively on force loading (physical pulling or tugging on cells) as response triggers. But by using new devices, the team was able to push, prod, stretch and unstretch cells in very specific ways. "Our experiments told us that endothelial micro-wounding is actually a tension-loss signal [i.e. force unloading] and that this signal cued the recovery response," adds Carman. This response, he adds, is fundamentally dependent on proteins (i.e. NADPH oxidases) that can generate reactive oxygen species (ROS), specifically hydrogen peroxide.
ROS are widely implicated in causing cellular, tissue and organ damage when present at excessive levels in the body. But, these findings show that low levels of these molecules – when produced in discrete locations within the cell – are highly protective. "It's tempting to speculate that excess ROS causes vascular breakdown by short-circuiting the recuperative response process and creating 'white noise' that dis-coordinates and disrupts micro-wound healing," adds Carman. "It appears that we've got an essential homeostatic self-repair mechanism that is completely dependent on the generation of intracellular ROS, which is opposite to our typical thinking about ROS in cardiovascular health and disease."
Adds William Aird, MD, PhD, Director of BIDMC's Center for Vascular Biology Research, "These findings suggest a new way of thinking about how to deal with pathologic breakdown of the endothelial barrier. We know that a 'leaky endothelium' is a central part of the pathogenesis of a number of serious diseases, including sepsis, acute lung injury, and ischemic cardiovascular diseases, as well as chronic inflammatory conditions such as diabetes and arthritis. In addition to the presence of excessive barrier insults, it now appears that leakage can result when the endothelium loses its self-restorative capacity and its dynamic reserve to heal micro-wounds."
Source:Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center 

Most Scientists Agree: Humans are Causing Global Climate Change

Do most scientists agree that human activity is causing global climate change?  Yes, they do, according to an extensive analysis of the abstracts or summaries of scientific papers published over the past 20 years, even though public perception tends to be that climate scientists disagree over the fundamental cause of climate change. To help put a stop to the squabbling, two dozen scientists and citizen-scientists from three continents--including Sarah Green, professor and chair of chemistry at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Mich.— analyzed the abstracts of nearly 12,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers on climate change published between 1991 and 2011. They also surveyed the authors of those papers, to find out how well the analysis agreed with the authors’ own views on how their papers presented the cause of climate change.They found that more than 97 percent of the scientists who expressed any opinion in their papers about the primary cause of global climate change believed that human activity was the cause. Approximately the same percentage of authors who responded to the survey said that their papers endorsed anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change. Nine of the scientists who analyzed the abstracts--including Green--reported their findings today in the journal Environmental Research Letters, published by the Institute of Physics.    Green says she got involved because she was curious about the apparent disconnect between the general public’s lack of concern about climate change and what she calls “the clear scientific evidence that humans are changing the planet's atmosphere.” That led her to, a web site that tracks and addresses common myths about climate change. She has since contributed several articles. John Cook, who maintains the web site, is a climate communications fellow for the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland in Australia.  He found that one dominant myth about climate change is the idea that scientists disagree about the cause.  To investigate how much disagreement there really is in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, Cook set up an on-line system that enabled a group of authors to rate nearly 12,000 abstracts from the Web of Science database (1991-2011) on whether they report human activities as the main contributors to climate change.“John cleverly set up the rating process so it felt like a game to me,” says Green. “After I rated five abstracts, another five would quickly appear, and counters showed how many each person had done, making it like a contest.”   The abstract raters were a combination of professional and citizen-scientists from Australia, Canada, the UK, Finland, the US and Germany. The group was organized through the skeptical science web site. “I read and rated 4,146 abstracts for this study, over about 4 months in winter/spring 2012,” Green explains. “This is the first time I’ve published a paper where all the research was accomplished sitting on my couch.”  Green adds, “I found it fascinating to see the array of implications of climate change identified in the abstracts—beyond the usual ones we hear about.  They examined everything from production of tea in Sri Lanka, the stripes on salamanders, child undernutrition, frequency of lightning strikes, distribution of prickly pear cactus (and pine trees, kelp beds, wild boars, penguins, arctic fishes, canine leishmaniasis, and many, many others), mitochondrial electron transport activity in clams, copper uptake by minnows, lake effect snowfall, the rotational speed of the Earth and the prevalence of naked foxes in Iceland.”Green also found a large number of papers addressing mitigation of climate change through alternative energy and other ways to limit carbon emissions.“It is critical to raise public awareness of the scientific consensus on climate change, so the public can make policy decisions based on factual evidence,” she says. “Typically, the general public thinks that only around 50 percent of climate scientists agree that humans are causing global warming. This research has shown that the reality is 97 percent.” 
Source:Michigan Technological University

Nanotechnology could help fight diabetes

 Injectable nanoparticles developed at MIT may someday eliminate the need for patients with Type 1 diabetes to constantly monitor their blood-sugar levels and inject themselves with insulin. The nanoparticles were designed to sense glucose levels in the body and respond by secreting the appropriate amount of insulin, thereby replacing the function of pancreatic islet cells, which are destroyed in patients with Type 1 diabetes. Ultimately, this type of system could ensure that blood-sugar levels remain balanced and improve patients’ quality of life, according to the researchers. 
“Insulin really works, but the problem is people don’t always get the right amount of it. With this system of extended release, the amount of drug secreted is proportional to the needs of the body,” says Daniel Anderson, an associate professor of chemical engineering and member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and Institute for Medical Engineering and Science.
Anderson is the senior author of a paper describing the new system in a recent issue of the journal ACS Nano. Lead author of the paper is Zhen Gu, a former postdoc in Anderson’s lab. The research team also includes Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT, and researchers from the Department of Anesthesiology at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Mimicking the pancreas
Currently, people with Type 1 diabetes typically prick their fingers several times a day to draw blood for testing their blood-sugar levels. When levels are high, these patients inject themselves with insulin, which breaks down the excess sugar.
In recent years, many researchers have sought to develop insulin-delivery systems that could act as an “artificial pancreas,” automatically detecting glucose levels and secreting insulin. One approach uses hydrogels to measure and react to glucose levels, but those gels are slow to respond or lack mechanical strength, allowing insulin to leak out.
The MIT team set out to create a sturdy, biocompatible system that would respond more quickly to changes in glucose levels and would be easy to administer.
Their system consists of an injectable gel-like structure with a texture similar to toothpaste, says Gu, who is now an assistant professor of biomedical engineering and molecular pharmaceutics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University. The gel contains a mixture of oppositely charged nanoparticles that attract each other, keeping the gel intact and preventing the particles from drifting away once inside the body.
Using a modified polysaccharide known as dextran, the researchers designed the gel to be sensitive to acidity. Each nanoparticle contains spheres of dextran loaded with an enzyme that converts glucose into gluconic acid. Glucose can diffuse freely through the gel, so when sugar levels are high, the enzyme produces large quantities of gluconic acid, making the local environment slightly more acidic.
That acidic environment causes the dextran spheres to disintegrate, releasing insulin. Insulin then performs its normal function, converting the glucose in the bloodstream into glycogen, which is absorbed into the liver for storage.

Long-term control
In tests with mice that have Type 1 diabetes, the researchers found that a single injection of the gel maintained normal blood-sugar levels for an average of 10 days. Because the particles are mostly composed of polysaccharides, they are biocompatible and eventually degrade in the body.
The researchers are now trying to modify the particles so they can respond to changes in glucose levels faster, at the speed of pancreas islet cells. “Islet cells are very smart. They can release insulin very quickly once they sense high sugar levels,” Gu says.
Before testing the particles in humans, the researchers plan to further develop the system’s delivery properties and to work on optimizing the dosage that would be needed for use in humans. 
The research was funded by the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and the Tayebati Family Foundation.

Source:journal ACS Nano

Men With Deep Voices More Successful in Their Career

A recent research seems to suggest that getting ahead in their career for men lay not so much in their work, but their vocal chords and how deep their voice is.
Scientists from Duke University in North Carolina found that men with lower voices end up earning much more, manage larger organizations and stay in their jobs much longer. Deep voices portray masculinity and also enhances their sex appeal with women. 

In a study of 792 male chief executives of American companies, there was a direct association between wages and the pitch of voices. The study found that men with deeper voices had a clear edge over their high-pitched peers, and certainly earned more. 
'The thought was that this might transfer to leadership positions, but no one had ever investigated it in the real world…this led to the genesis of our project. These findings suggest that the effects of a deep voice are salient even for the upper echelons of management in Corporate America,' researchers said.
'It wasn't clear to us going in that voice pitch would convey any meaningful information about a CEO given the extent to which boards of directors screen CEOs as part of the hiring and compensation decisions.'
'While a deep voice appears to correlate with various measures of labor market success, we still have little understanding of the precise mechanism by which a deep voice adds value. Our results advance a relatively new area of research known as biological economics by documenting that a trait known to indicate success in biological competition is also associated with success in the competition for top corporate employment.' 
Source: Duke University


Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Study Says Talking on Cell Phones Raises Blood Pressure

A new study says you can add a commonplace activity to the list of things that raise blood pressure: talking on a cell phone.
According to Science Daily, findings of a study presented at the 28th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Hypertension suggest that mobile phone calls could be the cause of a rise in blood pressure. Other findings from the meeting conclude that practicing yoga might lower it, while individuals suffering from hypertension could have an elevated desire for foods on the salty side even though they need to cut back on sodium.
Researchers from Italy's Guglielmo da Saliceto Hospital found that subjects' blood pressure readingsjumped to 129/82 from 121/77 while they were on mobile phone calls. For those who were involved in more than 30 calls each day, the rise in systolic (the top number) blood pressure was less dramatic, however.
The scientists did not identify cause and effect and merely speculated that those who made so many calls were apt to be younger patients used to telephone intrusions. They also cited the possibility that someone who makes more than 30 calls feels reassured by the knowledge that the phone is working and that missed calls are unlikely.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that nearly a third of U.S. adults have high blood pressure, or hypertension. It's linked to conditions like heart attacks, strokes, and kidney disease and is responsible for $47.5 billion a year in direct medical expenses.
Healthcare providers measure blood pressure as a force against the walls of arteries while the heart pumps blood. According to PubMed Health, when considering hypertension, the significant readings include:
  • Normal: Lower than 120/80 mmHg
  • High/hypertension: 140/90 or higher
  • Pre-hypertension: At least 120/80 but lower than 140/90.
All categories apply to what the patient's readings are most of the time.
I discovered I had high blood pressure when I visited a new doctor shortly after breaking my ankle and getting a cast that stretched to my knee. At first, I wondered if the culprit behind the elevated numbers was a cast that was too tight. However, when I returned a few weeks later without the cast, the numbers were the same.
I spent the next year trying half a dozen drugs for hypertension. The same drug has successfully controlled my blood pressure most of the time for the last 10 years, although I sometimes have to alter the dose.
Initially, the idea that merely talking on a cell phone would raise my blood pressure didn't seem cause for concern, since I make and get few calls. However, I soon realized that every time my cell phone rings, I experience physical stress and can actually feel my blood pressure rising. Maybe there's something to it. Or maybe time to add yoga.
Courtesy:Vonda J. Sines has published thousands of print and online health and medical articles. She specializes in diseases and other conditions that affect the quality of life.

Thirty Percent Improvement in Yields With Superwheat

Thirty Percent Improvement in Yields With SuperwheatA mix of an age old variety of wheat with a modern one in a bid to improve the production of wheat, has led to some amazing results.
The National Institute of Agricultural Botany has come out with this new strain without employing genetic modification.
To acquire the character and traits of a 10,000 year old strain, botanists used cross-pollination and seed embryo transfer technology. 
Botanists are happy with the resulting crop as it is bigger and stronger. They are optimistic that productivity can be increased by 30% with this new process.
The outcome of initial trials has showed a lot of promise. We may need to wait for another five years during which time more tests on the crop and mandatory approvals will give an improved yield.

Source:National Institute of Agricultural Botany


Glutamate Responsible for Insomnia Associated With Restless Leg Syndrome: Hopkins Study

The neurotransmitter glutamate may play an important role in sleep loss in patients with restless leg syndrome, according to a study published in the Neurology Journal.Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a condition where a person feels an irresistible urge to move the legs due to abnormal and uncomfortable sensations in the legs. These sensations can interfere with sleep and result in insomnia.  
Medications that are used to treat restless leg syndrome currently do not significantly improve sleep. These medications increase the levels of dopamine in the brain, which is a neurotransmitter implicated in the development of restless leg syndrome. 
Researchers now believe that another neurotransmitter called glutamate may be associated with restless leg syndrome. Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that glutamate levels in the brain increased in people with restless leg syndrome. Glutamate is a neurotransmitter that is involved in arousal.  The levels of glutamate were increased in a part of the brain called the thalamus, in patients suffering from insomnia. The thalamus plays an important role in regulation of sleep and alertness. This could possibly explain the sleeplessness that these patients experience. 
The researchers also suggest that the high glutamate levels could explain the lack of excessive daytime sleepiness in these individuals, despite suffering from reduced sleep duration at night. 
Thus, targeting the excessive glutamate could possibly help people with restless leg syndrome to get a good night's sleep.  
Insomnia is the worst side effect of RLS. The findings may change the way RLS is treated, according to the researchers. 
"There are already drugs on the market, such as the anticonvulsive gabapentin enacarbil, that can reduce glutamate levels in the brain, but they have not been given as a first-line treatment for RLS patients," says Richard Allen, associate professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the lead investigator of the study. 
"We may have solved the mystery of why getting rid of patients' urge to move their legs doesn't improve their sleep," he continued. "We may have been looking at the wrong thing all along, or we may find that both dopamine and glutamate pathways play a role in RLS." 
Further research is, however, required before glutamate antagonists can be used for insomnia in restless leg syndrome patients.

Source:Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine


Study Says Salt in Foods is Still High

 Study Says Salt in Foods is Still HighSalt levels in processed foods or foods sold at fast food restaurants are high despite calls by medical experts, finds US study.Americans on average eat more than twice the recommended daily allowance of salt, and as much as 80 percent of sodium consumption comes from salt that is added by restaurants or in the making of convenience foods, experts say. 
High salt is considered a leading factor in the development of high blood pressure, which affects as many as 90 percent of Americans in their lifetimes and is linked to heart disease and stroke, said the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. 
Some research has suggested that lowering salt intake could save up to 150,000 lives a year in the United States, but controversy persists over whether consumers can reduce sodium or if the food industry should face tighter regulations. 
The study found that little has changed in terms of sodium content in a sample of 480 processed and restaurant foods from 2005 to 2011. 
Some products did show decreases -- including sliced cheddar cheese, canned tomato soup, canned diced tomatoes, tuna fish and deli turkey slices -- but others showed increases. 
Restaurant french fries and cheese pizza were found to have higher sodium in 2011 than 2005, as did whole wheat bread, Caesar dressing and barbecue sauce. 
Some of the products studied showed decreases of at least 30 percent, but a greater number showed increases of at least 30 percent, said the study. 
The study's overarching finding was "the absence of any appreciable or statistically significant changes in sodium content during six years," it said. 
"The voluntary approach has failed," said Stephen Havas, co-author of the paper and a research professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. 
"The study demonstrates that the food industry has been dragging its feet and making very few changes. This issue will not go away unless the government steps in to protect the public. The amount of sodium in our food supply needs to be regulated." 
An Institute of Medicine (IOM) committee concluded in 2010 that voluntary reductions would not be enough, and found that Americans were consuming almost 1,200 milligrams a day more of sodium in 2007-2008 than they had in the 1970s. 
The US Department of Agriculture's dietary guidelines of 2010 say that about two-thirds of all adults -- including middle-aged or older people, African-Americans, and anyone with high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney disease -- should limit their sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams per day. 
Others are urged to consume less than 2,300 milligrams per day. 
The current per capita sodium consumption in America is about 3,300 milligrams per day, according to the research in JAMA. 
The US Food and Drug Administration declined to comment on the JAMA study. 
"FDA has not exercised its regulatory authority to limit the amount of salt added to processed foods; however, the agency is conducting research in this area," said the FDA website, on a page last updated in May 2010. 
Salt is a substance that is generally recognized as safe and substances that contain it do not need FDA approval prior to use. 
However, the FDA does require sodium content be listed in food labels, and urges consumers to choose options that contain less than five percent of the daily value of sodium per serving. 
The National Restaurant Association said the study sampled only a limited number of products, and did not include new options available after 2005 so its results "do not accurately reflect all available choices." 
"Restaurants have made significant progress in developing lower sodium menu options," said Joy Dubost, director of nutrition at the National Restaurant Association. 
"The industry's proactive and ongoing efforts will better enable the gradual reduction of sodium in the food supply."


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