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Saturday, 3 August 2013

Plant-Based Compound May Inhibit HIV Infection, Research Shows

A compound found in soybeans may become an effective HIV treatment without the drug resistance issues faced by current therapies, according to new research by George Mason University researchers.
It’s in the early stages, but genistein, derived from soybeans and other plants, shows promise in inhibiting the HIV infection, says Yuntao Wu, a professor with the George Mason-based National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases and the Department of Molecular and Microbiology.
Yuntao Wu. Creative Services photoStill, that doesn’t mean people should begin eating large amounts of soy products. “Although genistein is rich in several plants such as soybeans, it is still uncertain whether the amount of genistein we consume from eating soy is sufficient to inhibit HIV,” Wu says.
Genistein is a “tyrosine kinase inhibitor” that works by blocking the communication from a cell’s surface sensors to its interior. Found on a cell’s surface, these sensors tell the cell about its environment and also communicate with other cells. HIV uses some of these surface sensors to trick the cell to send signals inside. These signals change cell structure so that the virus can get inside and spread infection.
But genistein blocks the signal and stops HIV from finding a way inside the cell. It takes a different approach than the standard antiretroviral drug used to inhibit HIV.
“Instead of directly acting on the virus, genistein interferes with the cellular processes that are necessary for the virus to infect cells,” Wu says. “Thus, it makes the virus more difficult to become resistant to the drug. Our study is currently it its early stage. If clinically proven effective, genistein may be used as a complement treatment for HIV infection.”
Wu sees possibilities in this plant-based approach, which may address drug toxicity issues as well. Because genistein is plant-derived, it may be able to sidestep drug toxicity, a common byproduct of the daily and lifelong pharmaceutical regimen faced by patients with HIV to keep the disease at bay, Wu says. Typically, patients take a combination of multiple drugs to inhibit the virus. The frequency can lead to drug toxicity. Plus, HIV mutates and becomes drug-resistant.
Wu and his team are working at finding out how much genistein is needed to inhibit HIV. It’s possible that plants may not have high enough levels, so drugs would need to be developed, Wu says.
Wu’s research is feeling the financial squeeze these days due to sequestration and budget cuts within the National Institutes of Health, he says. His lab has turned to novel ways to fund the HIV research, including the genistein project. A bicycle ride dubbed NYC DC AIDS Research Ride raised money for Wu’s lab a few years ago and has stepped up its efforts with a new fundraiser.
Other George Mason researchers on the genistein project include Jia Guo, Taban Rasheed, Alyson Yoder, Dongyang Yu, Huizhi Liang, Fei Yi and Todd Hawley.Xuehua Xu and Tian Jin from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Rockville, Md., and Binhua Ling from Tulane University Health Sciences Center are also working on the research.
Source:George Mason University

HIV Answers, Ethical Questions

Experts say the approval of Truvada for HIV prevention raises new ethical issues that must be addressed.
The Food and Drug Administration’s approval last year of the drug Truvada for prevention of HIV infection was a milestone in the fight against HIV/AIDS, but experts are cautioning that it is only the beginning of new ethical concerns for health care professionals, policy makers, researchers and those taking Truvada to prevent HIV infection.
AIDS, HIV virus“For the first time, we will have a large number of individuals who are not infected with HIV taking medication for HIV, which introduces ethical concerns of well-being and justice,” says Jeremy Sugarman, Deputy Director for Medicine at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics.  He and Kenneth Mayer, the director of HIV prevention research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, advocate for ethical issues to be considered along with medical data in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.
Sugarman and Mayer argue it is ethically critical to ensure that use of an antiretroviral drug like Truvada for “pre-exposure prophylaxis”(PrEP) does not have the ironic consequence of making individuals and communities less safe and healthy. Inconsistent, rather than daily, use of PrEP could result in HIV transmission and the evolution of drug-resistant strain of HIV, the authors warn. Likewise, misunderstanding of PrEP’s prevention capacity could lead to the spread of other sexually transmitted infections.
“Communication and careful monitoring by health care professionals is essential for PrEP to be successful,” says Sugarman. “Reinforcing the importance of daily dosing, incorporating safer sex counseling and frequent HIV testing will help meet the moral imperative that HIV be prevented and not exacerbated by PrEP,” he says. He and Mayer recommend training programs for health care professionals that include explicit consideration of PrEP’s ethical issues and their management.
Additionally, Sugarman and Mayer highlight what they say are ‘critical, unanswered questions’ of access and allocation. When limited antiretroviral drugs are available, should prevention be prioritized over treatment for those already infected with HIV, or vice-versa? Is a clinic environment the best setting to provide necessary counseling as part of PrEP?  These questions, as well as how much PrEP should cost and who should pay for it, need to be answered as PrEP continues to be used and evaluated, the authors say.
“The fundamental moral claim for using PrEP, or any other HIV prevention strategy, is decreasing the burden of new HIV infections,” Sugarman says.  “For PrEP’s full promise and medicine’s moral obligations to be fulfilled, these complex ethical issues must be monitored along with the performance of PrEP.”
Source :John Hopkin Institute

Study Finds No Link Between Sleep, Fatigue Level

 Study Finds No Link Between Sleep, Fatigue LevelThere is little or no relation between how much sleep people get at night and how tired they feel, say researchers. "The length of sleep is not a good measurement to analyse whether we get enough sleep or not," Torbjoern Aakerstedt told AFP of the studies conducted at the Stress Research Institute of Stockholm University."It's genetically conditioned and dependent on age and health," he said. Aakerstedt's team has conducted three different studies, one of which investigated the sleep patterns of nearly 6,000 individuals. The research suggests that the number of hours slept is of much less importance in determining how a person functions throughout the day. "If you feel fine and dynamic during the day, you've probably slept enough," said Aakerstedt. The research, to be published later this year, found the average number of hours slept during a working week is six hours 55 minutes, with an extra hour's sleep during holidays. The researcher said that 20-year-olds should sleep eight hours on average, whilst 60-year-olds require only six. "But there is no general average," Aakerstedt added. "Twenty-year-olds can sleep even more, but still be tired during the day" as their brain is still developing. Yet, although more sleep does not mean more energy, no one should sleep too little, as it affects one's health, he said. Too little sleep can result in a weak immune system, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, weight gain, workplace incidents and traffic accidents.


Agarbattis are Hazardous to Health: Study

 Agarbattis are Hazardous to Health: StudyA recent study finds that burning incense generates indoor air pollutants that may cause inflammation in human lung cells.Previous studies, some by co-author Karin B. Yeatts, research assistant professor of epidemiology and other University of North Carolina (UNC) colleagues, have associated incense smoke with a number of health problems, including eye, nose, throat and skin irritation; respiratory symptoms, including asthma; headaches; exacerbation of cardiovascular disease; and changes in lung-cell structure. Indoor air pollution is an international health concern. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 1 million people a year die from chronic obstructive respiratory disease (COPD), primarily a result of exposure to pollutants from cook stoves and open hearths. Burning incense releases similar pollutants, including carbon monoxide. In the current study, the authors identified and measured the particles and gases emitted from two kinds of incense typically used in UAE homes. The testing was done over three hours, the typical timeframe during which incense is burned, in a specially designed indoor environmental chamber with a concentration of smoke that might be present in a typical UAE living room. The researchers analyzed both particulate concentrations and levels of gases such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen and formaldehyde. Human lung cells were placed in the chamber to expose them to the smoke, then incubated for 24 hours to allow particulates to settle and the cells to respond. The resulting inflammatory response, a hallmark of asthma and other respiratory problems, was similar to that of lung cells exposed to cigarette smoke. Incense is burned weekly in about 94 percent of households in the UAE as a cultural practice to perfume clothing and air and to remove cooking odors. Since people there spend more than 90 percent of their time indoors, researchers said, indoor air pollution has become a source of increasing concern. Adding to the concern is that charcoal briquettes frequently are used to ignite and burn the incense. That adds significantly to potentially harmful levels of carbon monoxide and other pollutants, they said. The study is published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.




Friday, 2 August 2013

Placebo effects of different therapies not identical

Conditioning, association affect people's responses to placebos

Not all placebos are equal, and patients who respond to one placebo don't always respond to others, according to research published July 31 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Jian Kong from Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School and colleagues from other institutions.
The researchers tested the analgesic effects of genuine acupuncture, sham acupuncture and a placebo pill on healthy participants' pain sensitivity. Participants were not told what treatment they were receiving, but were informed that the pill was Tylenol, a well-known painkiller and different schools of acupuncture: electroacupuncture and manual acupuncture (sham acupuncture). A control group received no treatment at all. Shortly before and after each treatment, a warm electrode was placed on participants' forearms and the temperature gradually increased. They were asked to indicate when the heat first became painful and when it became too hot to tolerate to identify pain thresholds and tolerance.
No significant associations were found between participants' responses to the different treatments, suggesting that none of these individuals could be identified as placebo 'responders' or 'non-responders'. However, participants' expectations that the treatment would help relieve pain correlated with their pain thresholds and tolerance.
According to the authors, these and other parameters in their study suggest that responses to a placebo depend on diverse factors including the route of administration (pills or acupuncture), environmental cues, and learning based on verbal suggestions or conditioning. Kong adds, "It implies that placebo responses may not be dependent on stable individual traits but rather are more a characteristic of the circumstances of individuals or a combination of both trait and state."
In addition, they also found subjects' responses to sham acupuncture correlated significantly with their response to genuine acupuncture. This suggest that people who responded to genuine acupuncture were significantly more likely to experience pain relief from sham acupuncture, but the authors clarify that this does not indicate the two are the same. Instead, they suggest that acupuncture may have non-specific pain-relieving effects that may contribute to this observation.
Source: journal PLOS ONE

Study finds physicians need to better recognize use of herbal supplements while breastfeeding

Pediatrics In Review, researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) stress the importance of physicians recognizing that many mothers use herbal supplements while breastfeeding in order to make accurate health assessments for both mother and child.
In an article published in this month's issue of
In the US, no existing regulatory guidelines set a standardized risk assessment of herbal supplement use during breastfeeding. Because of the highly limited number of studies on herb use during lactation, numerous resources have mixed reports and safety recommendations, making it confusing for both mother and clinician.
After completing a systematic review of human lactation and herbal medicine literature, the researchers found poor methodology in the few available studies and concluded that further research is needed to assess the prevalence, efficacy and safety of commonly used herbs during breastfeeding.
"It is important for physicians and clinicians to be more aware that mothers are using herbal supplements and how vital it is to ask the mothers, who are seeking a doctor's opinion when having trouble breastfeeding, about their use before making an assessment," said senior author Paula Gardiner, MD, MPH, assistant professor at BUSM and a physician of family medicine at Boston Medical Center.
Although there is little scientific evidence to support the efficacy or safety of herbal supplements, it is a common practice both nationally and internationally.
"The use of herbal supplements while breastfeeding is two-sided—there are benefits, but there are also safety concerns," she added. "About 18 percent of the US population use herbs and dietary supplements. We just want to make sure physicians and clinicians are aware of this prevalent use when communicating with breastfeeding mothers about their health."
Herbal remedies may be used to increase the milk supply, relieve engorgement, treat mastitis, or for other therapeutic uses unrelated to lactation.
"Since there is very limited research, it is difficult to develop accurate information on the safety and effectiveness of specific herbs during breastfeeding," said Gardiner. "It is crucial that more research is conducted in this area, including national prevalence studies and safety and efficacy studies."
Source: Pediatrics In Review

ISCR expresses concern over steady drop in approvals for clinical trials

Indian Society for Clinical Research (ISCR), an association of clinical trials professionals, has alleged that there was a slow-down in granting approvals for trials in the recent past and also urged the regulatory authorities to address the issue.“ISCR is fully supportive of the initiatives undertaken to create a more robust and regulated environment in India for the conduct of clinical research, one which ensures the practice of the highest standards of ethics and quality and where patient rights and safety are protected. However, ISCR would like to express its concern with regard to the slowdown in granting approvals for clinical trials in the country which has the greatest impact on patients for many of whom clinical trial provides early access to a new treatment and for others, the last option or hope of a cure. Without clinical trials there can be no new therapies,” a spokesman of ISCR said in a statement.The association pointed that the Working Group on Disease Burden for the 12th Five Year Plan referred to the “triple burden of disease” that developing countries like India were facing arising from communicable diseases, emerging non-communicable diseases related to lifestyles and emerging infectious diseases.“In the larger context of India’s unique healthcare requirements and the growing incidence of endemic diseases and emerging lifestyle diseases, we need clinical research to develop new and effective medicines and vaccines to tackle our mammoth disease burden and unmet medical need. India has 16 per cent of the world’s population and 20 per cent of the global disease burden and yet, less than two per cent of global trials take place in India. Clinical trials should not come to a standstill and impede the process of finding better and more effective medicines for our population,” the statement said.“We hope that in the greater interest of patients, the regulatory authorities will address this concern on priority,” it said.

Specially Empowered Broccoli to Fight Chronic Disease

Specially Empowered Broccoli to Fight Chronic DiseaseChronic diseases for instance, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease can be battled with some secrets from our own kitchen, a special broccoli, which researchers say can do wonders for health .The special broccoli created by scientists at the Institute of Food Research in Norwich is a strengthened variety of broccoli called Beneforte, which is good to fight diseases. Researchers discovered that eating the vegetable that is packed with a compound called glucoraphanin, is capable of fighting diseases like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. The compound is capable of re-tuning cellular processes and can also help fight obesity and some cancers. Prof Richard Mithen, of the IFR, said: "Although this is a pilot study, we think it is significant because it shows in humans a real, measurable effect on our metabolism."Catherine Collins, principal dietitian at St George's Hospital, London, said: "It adds to the evidence that cruciferous vegetables benefit health and possibly reduce the risk of chronic conditions."
Source:St George's Hospital, London

Trends in Back Pain Management Worsening: BIDMC Study

Trends in Back Pain Management Worsening: BIDMC StudyResearch at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center published in the July 29 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine, suggests patient care could be enhanced and the health care system could see significant cost savings if health care professionals followed published clinical guidelines to manage and treat back pain."Back pain treatment is costly and frequently includes overuse of treatments that are not supported by clinical guidelines, and that don't impact outcomes," says lead author John N. Mafi, MD, a fellow in the Division of General Medicine and Primary Care at BIDMC. "Improvements in the management of spine-related disease represent an area of potential for improving the quality of care and for potential cost savings for the health care system." Americans spend approximately $86 billion annually on back or neck pain-related health issues. It is ranked as the fifth most common reason for doctor visits, which accounts for more than 10 percent of all appointments made with primary care physicians. Lost productivity adds approximately another $20 billion per year. It is predicted that expenditures will continue to grow along with the rise of chronic back pain. Published guidelines for routine back pain advise use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or acetaminophen and physical therapy. Prior research shows that within three months of these treatments back pain usually resolves. The guidelines, which have remained consistent since the 1990s, suggest the need for imaging or advanced treatments is typically unnecessary, as most cases of routine back pain improve with these conservative measures. Other discordant recommendations would include prescription of a narcotic or referral to a specialist, presumably for the consideration of a procedure. However, if acute neurological compromise or other warning signs such as past history of malignancy are connected with the back pain, further steps can be taken to investigate. The researchers identified 23,918 visits for spine problems, representing 73 million visits annually using nationally representative data from the National Ambulatory Medicare Care and National Hospital Ambulatory Care surveys between 1999-2010. They studied the changes in utilization of diagnostic imaging, physical therapy or referral to other physicians, and the use of medication when treating patients who complained of back pain or were diagnosed with back pain. "We observed a significant rise in the frequency of treatments that are considered discordant with current guidelines including the use of advanced imaging, such as CT or MRI, referrals to other physicians (presumably for procedures or surgery), and the use of narcotics," says Mafi. "We also have observed a decline in the use of first-line medications such as NSAIDs or acetaminophen, but no change in referrals to physical therapy." "Although opiate prescriptions increased markedly over this time period, we also observed lower odds of receiving narcotics among female, Black, Hispanic, and other race/ethnicity patients, which may signify the potential disparities in pain management that have also been noted previously." Unnecessary treatment is not only expensive, but also can come with complications. A meta-analysis concluded that narcotics offer minimal benefit to relieve acute back pain and have no proven efficacy in treating chronic back pain. The data also revealed that 43 percent of the patients had concurrent substance abuse disorders. Researchers believe that the increase in narcotic prescriptions is connected with the rise of narcotic overdose deaths, which is creating a public health crisis. The steady increase of doctors' request for advanced diagnostic imaging has become a concern as well. Overuse of imaging may not result in immediate problems but exposure to ionizing radiation can lead to further health complications such as cancer, Mafi notes, adding a study that linked regions with higher MRI use found an increase in back surgeries, which can be a very costly process and require recovery time. "Increased use of advanced imaging represents an area of particular concern" says senior author Bruce Landon, MD. "Early in the course of back pain, such imaging is almost always wasteful. Moreover, there are almost always some abnormalities, which increases the likelihood that a patient will undergo expensive spine surgery that might not improve their outcomes over the longer term." "Despite numerous published national guidelines, management of routine back pain increasingly has relied on advanced diagnostic imaging, referrals to other physicians, and use of narcotics, with a concomitant decrease in NSAIDs or acetaminophen use and no change in physical therapy referrals. With healthcare cost soaring, improvements in the management of back pain represent an area of potential cost savings for the healthcare system while also improving the quality of care," says Mafi. 
Source: JAMA Internal Medicine



NGO Says Baby Food Giants Mislead Mothers About Breastfeeding

Many baby food giants promote supplementary baby food, undermine breastfeeding and natural foods, says an NGO."Putting profits before children's health, baby food giants like Nestle, Heinz and Abott woo mothers to give their supplementary food through the label on the container and various websites from four months which is unhealthy and unscientific as it can lead to health risks, including diarrhoea," Arun Gupta, co-ordinator of the NGO, Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI), and member of the Prime Minister's Council on India's Nutrition Challenges said. BPNI said Nestle Nutrition Institute is continuing to organise doctors' meetings despite objections from the government. Heinz asks new mothers to give cereal food "Oat and Apple" to more than four-month baby through container label and various websites. Abbott claims brain development and promotes a product 'Similac advance infant formula stage 1" for babies up to six months and "Similac infant formula stage one" for zero to six months babies. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that artificial feeding is an established risk factor for child's health, causing diarrhoea, respiratory or newborn infections, allergies as well as obesity and adult health diseases like diabetes and heart disease. "While attending a workshop during my pregnancy days on labour and delivery organised by my hospital, I was surprised to see promotion of baby feeding products. Such promotions, particularly through web and at hospital settings, affect the choice of young parents and influence them to adopt artificial feeding, harmful for babies," Institute of Home Economics (Delhi University) assistant professor Yuki Azad said. "In a country like India where clean drinking water is not available, a bottle-fed baby is more likely to die of diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections than breastfeed babies. Why on earth government of India should allow this?" asked Azad. BPNI also asked the government to strictly enforce the IMS Act (Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles and Infant Foods Regulation of Production, Supply and Distribution Act, 1992) and Amendment Act, 2003. "There should be 'zero tolerance' for misleading mothers in the interest of children's health and survival and the government should ensure that such violations end," BPNI national coordinator J.P. Dadhich said. The IMS Act bans all kinds of baby food and feeding bottle promotion, including advertisements, inducements on sales, pecuniary benefits to doctors or their associations, including sponsorship, commission to salesmen, and prescribe labelling requirements for babies aged zero to two years. "This is just the tip of the iceberg. It's high time that government puts effective enforcement machinery in place to monitor and implement IMS Act right at the district and state levels," Gupta said.  

Exercise Cuts Alzheimer's Disease Risk

In people at risk for Alzheimer's disease, exercise was found to improve cognitive function, shows study. Memory loss leading to Alzheimer's disease is one of the greatest fears among older Americans.While some memory loss is normal and to be expected as we age, a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, signals more substantial memory loss and a greater risk for Alzheimer's, for which there currently is no cure. The study, led by Dr. J. Carson Smith, assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology, provides new hope for those diagnosed with MCI. It is the first to show that an exercise intervention with older adults with mild cognitive impairment (average age 78) improved not only memory recall, but also brain function, as measured by functional neuroimaging (via fMRI). The findings are published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.


'Super Plants' That Resist Drought Created

 'Super Plants' That Resist Drought CreatedGenetically engineered plants that can live longer and resist long periods of drought have been developed by a group of researchers in Israel.In what could be the solution to world food crisis, scientists from the Faculty of Biology at Technion University in Haifa have created what they call "super plants" by modifying a longevity hormone in the genes known as zytokinin.

The research has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the US, Xinhua reported. "Let's take a staple food, for example rice, when the photosynthesis ends, the rice stops growing, it's a natural process with every plant," said Technion University Biology professor and president of the Kinneret College Simon Gepstein, who led the research. "But by extending the juvenile hormone, we have managed to extend the life of the plant, therefore producing more crops." In plants, ageing comes about when zytokinin levels drops, so the researchers prevented the breakdown of the juvenile hormone and made it stay higher for a longer period, preventing the ageing. "We not only extended the plant's life and managed to make it yield more, but we have also extended the shelf life of the vegetables and fruits it gives," Gepstein said. "The vegetables and fruits now last double and sometimes three times more after they are cut if they come from the genetically modified plants. I took a modified lettuce home and it took 21 days for it to start getting brown, whereas normal lettuces go bad in five or six days," he said. Gepstein believes the super plants can be the solution for food shortage in the world, not only because the plants live longer and give more vegetables that can last more on the shelf, but also because they hardly need any water. "These plants can survive droughts, they can go on for a month without water and even if you water them, they only need 30 percent the amount of liquid normal plants do," he said. Gepstein discovered this feature of his genetically modified plants by sheer chance, when he forgot to water them for a few weeks. "We found out that after a month of not getting any water they were as good as when they do get it, so we could take their seeds to arid zones or areas where there is severe drought risks and feed the population with them," the researcher said. His team is now exploring other possible features these "super plants" may have, like their resilience to pests and parasites and heat as well as cold. "Despite all the bad the word 'genetically modified' has, I can tell our plants are not dangerous for human health, because we have altered them using their own components, they have nothing added to them," Gepstein said. Currently, the researcher said, seed companies from all over the world are running field tests with the seeds to verify that these plants can grow outdoors as well, as they did in the greenhouses of Technion University. "If all goes well, we may be able to see these super plants growing in fields worldwide," Gepstein said.

World's Largest Coral Reef System Offers a Clue to Development of a Super Sunscreen

Australian scientists have come out with a new sunscreen by studying the Great Barrier Reef, which is the world's largest coral reef system.
It was amazing to study the way the reef's corals protect themselves from ultraviolet light for millions of years. Scientists found the presence of natural filters which keep away the damaging rays. Researchers came out with a safe and powerful sunscreen which can protect against harmful UV radiation which causes sunburn and skin cancer. "The filters are clear in color, virtually odourless and very stable, which makes them easy to be incorporated into any emulsion," said scientist Dr Mark York.Scientists hope that the sunscreen will be available globally within five years.



Practice Yoga and Stay Healthy

Yoga is an ancient Indian art of staying fit and harnessing internal powers.The best time to practice yoga is in the morning. Practicing Yoga can help treat various health-associated diseases. Sounds unbelievable, but this is true. Yoga is known to proactively change people's life for the better. Today's life is full of stress and anxiety, which are the leading factors of deteriorating mental and physical health. Yoga has multiple benefits to offer such as it facilitates weight management, enhances concentration, reduces stress, increases flexibility of joints, and facilitates movements of joints. Early mornings have much more to offer than gentle breeze, beautiful sunrise and soothing atmosphere. It is also the perfect time to meditate through yoga. While being in the lap of Mother Nature, practice yoga to keep your mind and body revived and rejuvenated. Yoga refers to the 'union with the divine' and comprises of exercises called the 'Asanas'. It includes an array of structural poses and breathing exercises. Regular practice of yoga can increase your fitness level and mitigate work-related stress and anxiety. A yoga session affects every part of your body and calms down your mind and thoughts. It is one of the most impactful and effective method of acquiring peace. Unlike the fake artificial techniques claiming to provide peace of mind, yoga is the natural way to successfully attain mental peace and establish a harmonious relationship between mind, body and soul. Yogic exercises have impressed the western world and yoga is becoming widely popular across the globe. Being non-competitive, yoga is suitable for almost everyone regardless of age and fitness levels. 


Maternal Stress During Pregnancy can Negatively Impact Child's Health R

Maternal stress during pregnancy has negative outcomes and children born to such mothers could be victims of obesity and Type 2 diabetes. This risk is more pronounced if the child copes with the stress passively.Studies conducted on rodents have pointed to substantial risk of obesity and Type 2 diabetes in offspring that coped with stress passively.The risk of diabetes and obesity in the children of stressed mothers also depended upon how the child coped with the stress.Children of stressed mothers who adopted a passive coping style portrayed increased weight gain and also developed impaired glucose tolerance. This was not the case in children of stressed mothers who portrayed proactive coping styles. It is time to focus on teaching pregnant women to avoid stress as well as ways to cope with it if they are under stress. Children of stressed mothers who react passively to stress also need to be trained to adopt different coping skills so that they can keep the health risks at bay.


Monday, 29 July 2013

Glucose intolerance, diabetes or insulin resistance not linked with pathological features of AD

Glucose intolerance or insulin resistance do not appear to be associated with pathological features of Alzheimer disease (AD) or detection of the accumulation of the brain protein β-amyloid (Αβ), according to a report published by JAMA Neurology, a JAMA Network publication.
Glucose intolerance and diabetes mellitus have been proposed as risk factors for the development of AD, but evidence of this has not been consistent, the study background notes.
Madhav Thambisetty, M.D., Ph.D., of the National Institute on Aging, Baltimore, and colleagues investigated the association between glucose intolerance and insulin resistance and brain Αβ burden with autopsies and imaging with carbon 11-labeled Pittsburgh Compound B positron emission tomography.
"The relationship among diabetes mellitus, insulin and AD is an important area of investigation. However, whether cognitive impairment seen in those with diabetes is mediated by excess pathological features of AD or other related abnormalities, such as vascular disease, remains unclear," the authors comment.
Two groups of participants were involved in the study. One group consisted of 197 participants enrolled in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging who had two or more oral glucose tolerance tests (OGTT) while they were alive and then underwent a brain autopsy when they died. The second group included 53 living study participants who had two or more OGTTs and underwent imaging.
"In this prospective cohort with multiple assessments of glucose intolerance and insulin resistance, measures of glucose and insulin homeostasis are not associated with AD pathology and likely play little role in AD pathogenesis," the study concludes. "Long-term therapeutic trials are important to elucidate this issue."
Source:JAMA Neurology

NIH math model predicts effects of diet, physical activity on childhood weight

 Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have created and confirmed the accuracy of a mathematical model that predicts how weight and body fat in children respond to adjustments in diet and physical activity. The results will appear online July 30 in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.While the model may help to set realistic expectations, it has not been tested in a controlled clinical trial to determine if it is an effective tool for weight management.

The model evolved from one developed at the NIH in 2011 to predict weight change in adults. The model for children considers their unique physiology, including changes in body composition as they grow.
"Creating an accurate model of energy balance in children was challenging, because they are still growing," said Kevin Hall, Ph.D., a researcher at the NIH's National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and the paper's first author. "Our model, which takes growth into consideration, helps quantify realistic goals for weight management in children and adolescents."
The researchers analyzed data from children ages 5-18 years to create the model, and tested it by comparing predictions to actual changes in children as measured in clinical studies that were not used to build the model. The model accurately simulated observed changes in body composition, energy expenditure, and weight.
Model simulations also suggest that obese children may be eating far more calories for each pound gained, compared to adults. For example, children under age 10 were predicted to require more than twice the calories per pound of extra weight than an adult would need to gain a pound. Additionally, the model suggests that there may be therapeutic windows of weight management when children can "outgrow" obesity without requiring weight loss, especially during periods of high growth potential in males who are not severely obese at the onset of treatment.
More than one-third of children and adolescents in the United States are overweight or obese. Excess weight in children can lead to lifelong health problems such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. As recommendations for managing weight may vary based on health and age, parents should work with a health professional before beginning any weight-loss regimen for their overweight or obese child.
"Obese children are much more likely to become obese adults, which makes achieving or maintaining a healthy weight early in life vitally important," said NIDDK Director Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D. "This study suggests that we may need to approach weight management and obesity prevention differently in youth than in adults."
Looking forward, NIDDK is exploring options for developing a user-friendly online tool for health professionals and others, and the code for the model is available on request through NIDDK's Technology Advancement Office.
Source:NIH/National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Could sleeping stem cells hold key to treatment of aggressive blood cancer?

Scientists studying an aggressive form of leukaemia have discovered that rather than displacing healthy stem cells in the bone marrow as previously believed, the cancer is putting them to sleep to prevent them forming new blood cells.
The finding offers the potential that these stem cells could somehow be turned back on, offering a new form of treatment for the condition, called Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML). The work was led by scientists at Queen Mary, University of London with the support of Cancer Research UK's London Research Institute.
Around 2,500* people are diagnosed with AML in the UK each year, both young and old. Although AML is curable in some the majority die from this disease.
Normally, the bone marrow produces haematopoietic stem cells which mature into "adult" blood cells. In people with AML the bone marrow is invaded by leukaemic myeloid cells which aren't able to develop into normal functioning blood cells.
The result is that the body does not have enough red blood cells or platelet cells, which can cause symptoms of anaemia, such as tiredness, and increase the risk of excessive bleeding. Patients are also more vulnerable to infection as the white blood cells, which fight bacteria and viruses, are not properly formed.
Dr David Taussig, from the Barts Cancer Institute at Queen Mary, University of London, who led the research, said: "The widely accepted explanation has held that AML causes bone marrow failure by depleting the bone marrow of normal haematopoietic stem cells by killing or displacing them.
"However, we have found that samples of bone marrow in both mice models and patients with AML contain the same, or more, of these normal stem cells than usual. So the cancer isn't getting rid of them, instead it appears to be turning them off so they aren't going on to form healthy blood cells.
"If we can find out how the cancer cells are doing this, we can look at exploiting it to find ways to wake these stem cells up. This is very important as, while the cure rate for younger patients can be around 40 per cent, in older patients it is much lower. The treatments we have, such as chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants, just aren't very successful in this older patient group."
The scientists studied the levels of haematopoietic stem cells (HSC) in the bone marrow of mice transplanted with human AML. They found the numbers of normal mouse HSCs stayed the same, however what did change was that the HSCs were no longer going through the stages of development which finally results in the formation of new blood cells.
The findings were confirmed by the analysis of bone marrow from 16 patients with AML.
Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK's chief clinician, said: "Although major progress has been made in treating AML over the years, there's still an urgent need for more effective treatments to improve long-term survival. This study takes us an important step forwards in our understanding of what's going on in the bone marrow of people with AML, an area that we have not known enough about previously, and the challenge now is to turn this understanding into new treatments for patients."

Dr Taussig added: "Usually when the body is stressed, the stem cells become very active. For example, if you have a haemorrhage, they will jump into action to produce more new blood cells. The cancer cells are somehow over-riding this and our next phase of work will concentrate on how they are doing this."
Source:Queen Mary, University of London 

Cell Phones Could Increase Cancer Risk

Saliva from heavy cell phone users shows increased risk factors for cancer, says a TAU researcher
Scientists have long been worried about the possible harmful effects of regular cellular phone use, but so far no study has managed to produce clear results. Currently, cell phones are classified as carcinogenic category 2b — potentially carcinogenic to humans — by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). A new Tel Aviv Universitystudy, though, may bring bad news.To further explore the relationship between cancer rates and cell phone use, Dr. Yaniv Hamzany of Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery Department at the Rabin Medical Center, looked for clues in the saliva of cell phone users. Since the cell phone is placed close to the salivary gland when in use, he and his fellow researchers, including departmental colleagues Profs. Raphael FeinmesserThomas Shpitzer and Dr. Gideon Bahar and Prof. Rafi Nagler and Dr. Moshe Gavish of the Technion in Haifa, hypothesized that salivary content could reveal whether there was a connection to developing cancer.Comparing heavy mobile phone users to non-users, they found that the saliva of heavy users showed indications of higher oxidative stress — a process that damages all aspects of a human cell, including DNA — through the development of toxic peroxide and free radicals. More importantly, it is considered a major risk factor for cancer.The findings have been reported in the journal Antioxidants and Redox Signaling.
Source:Tel Aviv University

Be happy: Your genes may thank you for it

But different types of happiness have different effects, UCLA study shows

A good state of mind — that is, your happiness — affects your genes, scientists say. In the first study of its kind, researchers from UCLA's Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology and the University of North Carolina examined how positive psychology impacts human gene expression.
What they found is that different types of happiness have surprisingly different effects on the human genome.
People who have high levels of what is known as eudaimonic well-being — the kind of happiness that comes from having a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life (think Mother Teresa) — showed very favorable gene-expression profiles in their immune cells. They had low levels of inflammatory gene expression and strong expression of antiviral and antibody genes.
However, people who had relatively high levels of hedonic well-being — the type of happiness that comes from consummatory self-gratification (think most celebrities) — actually showed just the opposite. They had an adverse expression profile involving high inflammation and low antiviral and antibody gene expression.
The report appears in the current online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
For the last 10 years, Steven Cole, a UCLA professor of medicine and a member of the UCLA Cousins Center, and his colleagues, including first author Barbara L. Fredrickson at the University of North Carolina, have been examining how the human genome responds to stress, misery, fear and all kinds of negative psychology.
In this study, though, the researchers asked how the human genome might respond to positive psychology. Is it just the opposite of stress and misery, or does positive well-being activate a different kind of gene expression program?
The researchers examined the biological implications of both hedonic and eudaimonic well-being through the lens of the human genome, a system of some 21,000 genes that has evolved fundamentally to help humans survive and be well.
Previous studies had found that circulating immune cells show a systematic shift in baseline gene-expression profiles during extended periods of stress, threat or uncertainty. Known as conserved transcriptional response to adversity, or CTRA, this shift is characterized by an increased expression of genes involved in inflammation and a decreased expression of genes involved in antiviral responses.
This response, Cole noted, likely evolved to help the immune system counter the changing patterns of microbial threat that were ancestrally associated with changing socio-environmental conditions; these threats included bacterial infection from wounds caused by social conflict and an increased risk of viral infection associated with social contact.
"But in contemporary society and our very different environment, chronic activation by social or symbolic threats can promote inflammation and cause cardiovascular, neurodegenerative and other diseases and can impair resistance to viral infections," said Cole, the senior author of the research.
In the present study, the researchers drew blood samples from 80 healthy adults who were assessed for hedonic and eudaimonic well-being, as well as potentially confounding negative psychological and behavioral factors. The team used the CTRA gene-expression profile to map the potentially distinct biological effects of hedonic and eudaimonic well-being.
And while those with eudaimonic well-being showed favorable gene-expression profiles in their immune cells and those with hedonic well-being showed an adverse gene-expression profile, "people with high levels of hedonic well-being didn't feel any worse than those with high levels of eudaimonic well-being," Cole said. "Both seemed to have the same high levels of positive emotion. However, their genomes were responding very differently even though their emotional states were similarly positive.

"What this study tells us is that doing good and feeling good have very different effects on the human genome, even though they generate similar levels of positive emotion," he said. "Apparently, the human genome is much more sensitive to different ways of achieving happiness than are conscious minds."
Source:UCLA/ journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers Explore Water Molecules Control Inactivation and Recovery of Potassium Channels

 Researchers Explore Water Molecules Control Inactivation and Recovery of Potassium ChannelsThe long post-activation recovery period required by potassium ion channels before they can function again is caused by just 12 molecules of water. Using molecular simulations that modeled a potassium channel and its immediate cellular environment, atom for atom, University of Chicago scientists have revealed this new mechanism in the function of a nearly universal biological structure, with implications ranging from fundamental biology to the design of pharmaceuticals. Their findings were published online July 28 in Nature."Our research clarifies the nature of this previously mysterious inactivation state. This gives us better understanding of fundamental biology and should improve the rational design of drugs, which often target the inactivated state of channels" said Benoît Roux, PhD, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Chicago. 
Potassium channels, present in the cells of virtually living organisms, are core components in bioelectricity generation and cellular communication. Required for functions such as neural firing and muscle contraction, they serve as common targets in pharmaceutical development. 
These proteins act as a gated tunnel through the cell membrane, controlling the flow of small ions into and out of cells. After being activated by an external signal, potassium channels open to allow ions through. Soon after, however, they close, entering an inactive state and are unable to respond to stimuli for 10 to up to 20 seconds. 
The cause of this long recovery period, which is enormously slow by molecular standards, has remained a mystery, as structural changes in the protein are known to be almost negligible between the active and inactivated states—differing by a distance equivalent to the diameter of a single carbon atom. 
To shed light on this phenomenon, Roux and his team used supercomputers to simulate the movement and behavior of every individual atom in the potassium channel and its immediate environment. After computations corresponding to millions of core-hours, the team discovered that just 12 water molecules were responsible for the slow recovery of these channels. 
They found that when the potassium channel is open, water molecules quickly bind to tiny cavities within the protein structure, where they block the channel in a state that prevents the passage of ions. The water molecules are released slowly only after the external stimulus has been removed, allowing the channel to be ready for activation again. This computer simulation-based finding was then confirmed through osmolarity experiments in the laboratory. 
"Observing this was a complete surprise, but it made a lot of sense in retrospect," Roux said. "Better understanding of this ubiquitous biological system will change how people think about inactivation and recovery of these channels, and has the potential to someday impact human health." 

Regions Near Refineries and Plants That Release Benzene Have High Cancer Incidence

New research published online in CANCER says that the incidence of a particular type of blood cancer is significantly higher in regions near facilities that release the chemical benzene into the environment. This and other studies like it will be critical to identifying and enacting public health policies to decrease or prevent cancer.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma has been on the rise over the past few decades as industrial production in the United States has expanded. Benzene is one chemical carcinogen linked to blood cancers. Working with Dr. Christopher Flowers and colleagues in the Lymphoma Program at Emory University in Atlanta, Catherine Bulka, MPH, used publicly available data from the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Census Bureau to analyze the geographic patterns of non-Hodgkin lymphoma cases in the state of Georgia between 1999 and 2008. This group examined the associations between new cases of lymphoma and the locations of facilities—such as petroleum refineries and manufacturing plants—that released benzene into the surrounding air or water. 
The investigators found that the metro-Atlanta region, Augusta, and Savannah had the highest incidences of non-Hodgkin lymphoma even when controlling for population size as well as for age, sex, and race demographics of the local region. Also, the incidence of non-Hodgkin lymphoma was significantly greater than expected surrounding benzene release sites located in the metro-Atlanta area and surrounding one benzene release site in Savannah. For every mile the average distance to benzene release sites increased, there was a 0.31 percent decrease in the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. 
"Our study is the first to examine the relationship between passive benzene exposure and the incidence of non-Hodgkin lymphoma at the state population level," said Bulka. "Our findings are limited without similar studies to corroborate our results, but we hope that our research will inform readers of the potential risks of living near facilities that release carcinogens into the air, groundwater, or soil," she added. 

Source: CANCER 


Sugar More Addictive Than Drugs, Say Health Experts

 Sugar More Addictive Than Drugs, Say Health ExpertsHealth experts say that sugar has been branded more addictive than heroin.While foods high in fat were once accused of increasing our waistlines, experts said it was foods high in sugar, such as cereals and yoghurts, that are making us fatter and more prone to long-term illness, the Daily Telegraph reported. 
Nutritionist Jacqueline Alwill said foods high in refined sugar increased our risk of diabetes, caused us to age faster, sapped our energy levels and often led to obesity. 
She said that the impact of sugar on our hormones is a huge issue and we can see this with the increasing number of individuals with obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease. 
The average Australian consumes about 53kg of sugar per year, or 29 teaspoons a day, according to health fund NIB. 
Alwill likened our dependency on sugar to a junkie's drug addiction - with each hit only feeding a craving before the body screams out for more.



World Hepatitis Day 2013

The World Hepatitis Day is celebrated every year on 28th July. This is the 6th consecutive year that we are celebrating it. This particular day was chosen in honor of the birthday of Nobel Laureate Professor Dr. Baruch Samuel Blumberg (1925-2011), who discovered the hepatitis B virus in 1967 and two years later developed the first hepatitis B vaccine.This significant day was marked to increase awareness and understanding about viral hepatitis and the diseases that it causes. World Health Organisation (WHO) initiated this in order to encourage prevention of the epidemic. 
The hepatitis A, B, C, D and E viruses can cause acute and chronic infection and inflammation of the liver, leading to liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. Hepatitis A and E are typically caused due to ingestion of contaminated food or water; while hepatitis B, C and D usually occur as a result of parenteral contact with infected body fluids. As it has been so far this year the theme continues to be: 'This is hepatitis. Know it. Confront it'. The campaign emphasizes the fact that hepatitis remains largely unknown as a major health threat across the globe. Millions of people are living with viral hepatitis and millions are at the risk of becoming infected. Most people with chronic infection of hepatitis B or C are unaware that they carry the virus. They are therefore at a higher risk of developing severe chronic liver disease and can unknowingly transmit the virus to other people. Every year around 240 million people are being chronically infected with hepatitis B and around 150 million people are being chronically infected with hepatitis C. Approximately 1 million people die each year from the causes related to viral hepatitis, most commonly cirrhosis and liver cancer. 
Evidently, the wide impact of the viral Hepatitis has not been addressed in many countries. The reasons being: 

 Most people do not develop any symptoms when they become infected and remain free of symptoms often for decades until they develop chronic liver disease 

 The cost of treatment for liver cancer and liver failure from cirrhosis is very high 

The World Hepatitis Day provides an opportunity to focus on: 

 Strengthening the prevention, screening and control of viral hepatitis and its related diseases 

 Increasing hepatitis B vaccine coverage and integration into national immunization programs 

 Co-ordinating a global response to hepatitis 

Thus, the World Hepatitis Day campaign enables policymakers, health workers and the public to have better awareness of hepatitis and help tackle the silent epidemic we are experiencing today. 




When Fruits and Vegetables are Bad

Probably every website, tabloid and publication are screaming about the innumerable benefits of consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. True, fresh fruits and veggies do have enormous health benefits and play an important role in warding away many potentially dangerous health issues, there's a flip side to it that most of us don't really know about.A new study, conducted by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, claims that fruits and vegetables were responsible for 46 percent of all food poisoning cases, as opposed to meat and poultry foods, which caused just 22 percent of food poisoning cases. 
Green leafy vegetables like lettuce, spinach etc are the main culprits behind food poisoning in a majority of cases, the researchers claim. This is mostly because these veggies are often consumed raw, and the bacteria residing on these veggies are very much alive when they enter the gastrointestinal system. Pre-cut greens, which are packed in plastic bags and sold in supermarkets may carry a number of foodborne illnesses, the research claims. 
While meats are needed to be cooked at high temperatures and for a longer duration of time, most of the bacteria that reside in them, get killed due to high pressure and temperatures. Fresh veggies, on the other hand, are consumed raw, which spikes up the risk of the bacteria infecting an individual. 
Director of the University of Georgia's Center for Food Safety, Dr Michael Doyle, explained how lettuce, in particular can be extremely harmful. According to Doyle, harmful bacteria can form and grow within the plant tissue of lettuce. 
E.coli, Salmonella and Listeria are common gastro-intestinal organisms that lead to health issues. These enter the body chiefly through green leafy vegetables. 
In certain extreme cases, bagged salad can also lead to kidney failure. 
"Steps are needed to be taken to ensure bacteria-free foods", Doyle says. "New bacteria-killing techniques are needed". 
Source:University of Georgia's Center for Food Safety

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