Watch Online the Live Sessions of ISWWTA 2015 Rishikesh on Youtube.Visit:
Previous issues of AYUSH DARPAN in Hindi is now available online visit:

Search Engine

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Why belief in the supernatural is only natural

From disguises to belief in magic, Halloween is rich with stories that share insight into human behavior. Check out this new research to be presented at the SPSP annual convention in Austin, Feb. 13-15, 2014.
Why Belief in the Supernatural is Only Natural
In many parts of the world, belief in witchcraft and magic is alive and well, with people relying on rituals for everything from treating asthma to curbing infidelity. Even if you don't believe in witchcraft outside of Halloween, chances are you believe in some form of the supernatural, even if just the power of the ritual -- whether wearing a lucky jersey to bestow luck on your favorite sports team or praying for a sick friend.
From a young age, many people develop beliefs in the supernatural, often through participation in rituals, to influence events in the natural world. By studying real-life Brazilian rituals, Cristine Legare and André Souza of the University of Texas at Austin were able to create their own rituals to examine why people think they work. They are now finding that rituals help people gain a sense of control over their environment.
Source: Society for Personality and Social Psychology 15th Annual Meeting

Link Between Blood Sugar and Cognitive Function Identified

People with high blood sugar levels are more likely to have memory problems, reveals study published in Neurology. The study involved 141 people with an average age of 63 who did not have diabetes or pre-diabetes, which is also called impaired glucose tolerance. People who were overweight, drank more than three-and-a-half servings of alcohol per day, and those who had memory and thinking impairment were not included in the study.The participants'' memory skills were tested, along with their blood glucose, or sugar, levels. Participants also had brain scans to measure the size of the hippocampus area of the brain, which plays an important role in memory. People with lower blood sugar levels were more likely to have better scores on the memory tests. On a test where participants needed to recall a list of 15 words 30 minutes after hearing them, recalling fewer words was associated with higher blood sugar levels. For example, an increase of about seven mmol/mol of a long-term marker of glucose control called HbA1c went along with recalling two fewer words. People with higher blood sugar levels also had smaller volumes in the hippocampus. "These results suggest that even for people within the normal range of blood sugar, lowering their blood sugar levels could be a promising strategy for preventing memory problems and cognitive decline as they age," said study author Agnes Fll, MD, of Charit University Medicine in Berlin, Germany. "Strategies such as lowering calorie intake and increasing physical activity should be tested." The study was supported by the German Research Foundation, the Else Kraner-Fresenius Foundation and the German Ministry of Education and Research. To learn more about brain health, please visit The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 26,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer''s disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, brain injury, Parkinson''s disease and epilepsy. Source-Newswise

Common Human Virus Confirms Ancient Human 'out-Of-Africa' Migration Saga

 Common Human Virus Confirms Ancient Human 'out-Of-Africa' Migration SagaStudy of the full genetic code of a common human virus has offered proof of the "out-of-Africa" pattern of human migration, which earlier had been documented by anthropologists and studies of the human genome.Senior author Curtis Brandt, a professor of medical microbiology and ophthalmology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison said that the virus under study, herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), usually causes nothing more severe than cold sores around the mouth. Brandt said that the virus under study, herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), usually causes nothing more severe than cold sores around the mouth. Brandt and co-authors Aaron Kolb and Cecile Ane compared 31 strains of HSV-1 collected in North America, Europe, Africa and Asia, and the result was fairly stunning. He said that the viral strains sort exactly as you would predict based on sequencing of human genomes. Brandt asserted that they found that all of the African isolates cluster together, all the virus from the Far East, Korea, Japan, China clustered together, all the viruses in Europe and America, with one exception, clustered together. He said that what they found follows exactly what the anthropologists have said, and the molecular geneticists who have analyzed the human genome have said, about where humans originated and how they spread across the planet. Brandt said that the researchers broke the HSV-1 genome into 26 pieces, made family trees for each piece and then combined each of the trees into one network tree of the whole genome. The study has been published online in the journal PLOS ONE.
 Source:PLOS ONE.

Simple Blood Test to Detect Pancreatic Cancer

Simple blood test may reveal the earliest signs of pancreatic cancer, say Johns Hopkins researchers. The findings of their research, if confirmed, they say, could be an important step in reducing mortality from the cancer, which has an overall five-year survival rate of less than 5 percent and has seen few improvements in survival over the last three decades.
 Simple Blood Test to Detect Pancreatic Cancer "We have mammograms to screen for breast cancer and colonoscopies for colon cancer but we have had nothing to help us screen for pancreatic cancer," says Nita Ahuja, M.D., an associate professor of surgery, oncology and urology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and leader of the study described online this month in the journal Clinical Cancer Research. "While far from perfect, we think we have found an early detection marker for pancreatic cancer that may allow us to locate and attack the disease at a much earlier stage than we usually do."
For their study, Ahuja and her colleagues were able to identify two genes, BNC1 and ADAMTS1, which together were detectable in 81 percent of blood samples from 42 people with early-stage pancreatic cancer, but not in patients without the disease or in patients with a history of pancreatitis, a risk factor for pancreatic cancer. By contrast, the commonly used PSA antigen test for prostate cancer only picks up about 20 percent of prostate cancers.
Ahuja and her colleagues found that in pancreatic cancer cells, it appears that chemical alterations to BNC1 and ADAMTS1 -- epigenetic modifications that alter the way the genes function without changing the underlying DNA sequence -- silence the genes and prevent them from making their protein product, the role of which is not well-understood. These alterations are caused by the addition of a methyl group to the DNA.
Using a very sensitive method called Methylation on Beads (MOB) developed by Jeff Tza-Huei Wang, Ph.D., a professor at the Whiting School of Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the researchers were able to single out, in the blood, even the smallest strands of DNA of those two genes with their added methyl groups. The technique uses nanoparticle magnets to latch on to the few molecules being shed by the tumors, which are enough to signal the presence of pancreatic cancer in the body, the researchers found.
Specifically, researchers say, they found BNC1 and ADAMTS1 in 97 percent of tissues from early-stage invasive pancreatic cancers. Surgery is the best chance for survival in pancreatic cancer, because radiation and chemotherapy are not very effective against it. The smaller the cancer -- the earlier it is detected -- the more likely surgery will be successful and the patient will survive.
Ahuja says the practical value of any blood test for cancer markers depends critically on its sensitivity, meaning the proportion of tumors it detects, and its specificity, meaning how many of the positive results are false alarms. The specificity of this new pair of markers is 85 percent, meaning 15 percent would be false alarms. Ahuja says she hopes further research will help refine the test, possibly by adding another gene or two, in order to go over 90 percent in both sensitivity and specificity.
Ahuja also cautions that her team still needs to duplicate the results in a larger sample of tumors, but is encouraged by the results so far. She says she doesn't envision the blood test as a means of screening the general population, the way mammograms and colonoscopies are used to find early breast and colon cancers. Instead, she imagines it would be best used in people at high risk for developing the disease, such as those with a family history of pancreatic cancer, a previous case of pancreatitis, long-term smokers or people with the BRCA gene mutations, which are linked to breast, ovarian and pancreatic cancers.
"You have to optimize your medical resources," says Ahuja, who hopes a commercial blood test might one day only cost $50.
She also notes that once BNC1 and ADAMTS1 are identified in a patient's blood, further tests will be needed to locate an actual cancer.
People who test positive will likely undergo CT scanning and/or endoscopic ultrasound tests
-- whereby a tube is placed down the throat into the stomach to image the pancreas -- to search for the cancer. Surgery to remove it would presumably have a better chance of curing the disease owing to its small size and early stage. 
Source: Clinical Cancer Research.

Suicide Genes Promise New Hope for Life-Saving Transplants

 Suicide Genes Promise New Hope for Life-Saving TransplantsFor the first time doctors have given kids' life-saving transplants of immune cells, engineered to carry suicide genes in case things go wrong.3 kids at Great Ormond Street received the transplants that may have been considered too risky without what doctors called a genetic "insurance policy". The kids needed bone marrow transplants and the doctors had not been able to find a perfect match and a normal transplant had risked life-threatening complications, with donor cells turning against the kids' body, Sky News reported. So doctors tweaked cells from donors to carry a suicide gene and a unique 'flag' on their outer surface. At the first sign of complication the doctors would have injected a drug that homed in on the flag, which would have triggered the suicide gene. The cells would then have been destroyed before causing further damage. Dr Waseem Qasim, a paediatric immunologist who led the study, said that they were reluctant to use certain donors as the risks of complications after a mismatch transplant are much higher The technique has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.Source-ANI

Genetic Variation Alters the Efficacy of Antidepressant Drug

Having a different form of a gene that regulates the brain chemical noradrenaline influences how well men remember negative memories after taking the antidepressant drug reboxetine.This is according to a study published in the October 23 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. The findings demonstrate how genes can influence antidepressant response. While it is normal for our strongest memories to be associated with emotional experiences, previous studies suggest the heightened recall of negative events may be linked to depression and anxiety disorders. Research also shows that reboxetine, which exclusively affects brain levels of noradrenaline, reduces the tendency of people with depression to recall negative memories. In the current study, Ayana Gibbs, MD, PhD, Theodora Duka, MD, PhD, and others at the University of Sussex examined how reboxetine influences emotional memories in healthy men with a variant form of the α-2B adrenoceptor gene (ADRA2B), which contains the instructions for a type of noradrenaline receptor. The researchers found that while reboxetine weakened aversive memory in people with the common form of ADRA2B, the drug did not change aversive memory in people with the variant gene form. "Researchers are increasingly interested in how antidepressants like reboxetine affect the way emotional information is processed and how this information could be used to predict the drugs that are most likely to be successful antidepressants," Gibbs said. "Our study suggests genetic makeup is another important piece of the puzzle." More than 100 healthy white men participated in the University of Sussex study, where they received a genetic test to see if they had the ADRA2B variant (30 percent of whites do). They were then randomly assigned to receive a single dose of reboxetine or a sugar (placebo) pill. After waiting a couple of hours for the drug to be absorbed into the bloodstream, the men viewed a series of positive, negative, and neutral images on a computer screen. Such images included pictures of children riding a rollercoaster ride, the scene of an accident, and a man looking out of a window. Thirty minutes later, they were asked to write descriptions of as many pictures as they could remember. While all participants remembered the positive and negative pictures better than the neutral ones, the participants with the ADRA2B variant recalled more negative pictures � an effect that remained even in those who received the reboxetine treatment. "This study is good news for the scientific community, which has struggled for decades to identify factors influencing the admittedly moderate efficacy of antidepressants," explained Andreas Papassotiropoulos, MD, who studies how genes influence memory at the University of Basel and was not involved with this study. "This study elegantly demonstrates the importance of the concept of aversive memory in psychiatric disease and paves the way for further experiments dealing with the molecular underpinnings of antidepressant efficacy," he added. According to Gibbs, future studies will explore whether the ADRA2B variant influences the effectiveness of reboxetine in other groups, including women, and establish whether similar effects are observed in patients with depression or anxiety disorders.
Source:The Journal of Neuroscience

Thursday, 24 October 2013

First child 'functionally cured' of HIV remains in remission, scientists announce

In March, a team of medical researchers revealed that a 2-year-old patient had been "functionally cured" of HIV after undergoing unusually early treatment with antiretroviral drugs. The instance marked the second documented case of HIV remission, and was the first such case involving a child.
Hiv_virus : Virus and bacterium medical symbol represented by a single microscopic bacteria intruder cell causing sickness and disease. Stock PhotoToday, the same team behind that landmark case are announcing yet another promising development: writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, they report that 7 months since the initial announcement, this same child remains free of any signs of HIV infection. "We're thrilled that the child remains off medication and has no detectable virus replicating," Hannah Gay, the child's pediatrician, said in a statement. "She continues to do very well. There is no sign of the return of HIV, and we will continue to follow her for the long term."
"There is no sign of the return of HIV."
The child's aggressive treatment on a three-drug regimen started when she was merely 30 hours old. After being delivered prematurely to an HIV-positive mother, the baby was tested for infection almost immediately after being born. Over a one month treatment period, researchers noted rapidly declining levels of the virus. Treatment ended when the child was 18-months-old and her mother stopped bringing her in for medical care.
Researchers speculate that early, aggressive treatment stops the formation of what are known as viral reservoirs — pockets of dormant HIV that lurk in immune cells and reactivate infection when drug therapy ends. "Prompt antiviral therapy in newborns that begins within hours or days of exposure may help infants clear the virus," Deborah Persaud, the report's lead author, explained. "[We can] achieve long-term remission without the need for lifelong treatment by preventing such viral hideouts from forming in the first place."
Early treatment deserves credit for the functional cure
The team's latest findings also discount one hypothesis regarding the child. Some medical experts had suggested that she may have been an "elite controller" — a rare case wherein individuals are able to contain the virus without requiring ongoing treatment. Researchers involved in her treatment note, however, that the child doesn't exhibit immune system characteristics associated with that scenario, further bolstering the idea that early treatment deserves credit for the functional cure.
Some 260,000 children are infected with HIV each year, but this aggressive protocol — if validated in future cases — could drastically reduce that figure. Indeed, a federally-funded study set to start in 2014 will evaluate the method in more newborns.
Courtesy: By Katie Drummond
Source:The Verge

Swasthya Adhikar Manch asks Health Min for position paper on how trials benefiting Indians

Swasthya Adhikar Manch, the NGO fighting against the irregularities in clinical trials, has asked the government to come out with a position paper on how the new chemical entities (NCEs) and new molecule entities (NMEs) are cleared for trials in the country.The NGO spokesman said they made the demand for the position paper in the affidavit filed in the Supreme Court on Monday, during the hearing of its petition filed in February 2012 alleging that the NCEs and NMEs were benefiting the multinationals at the cost of human lives in India.The petitioner, which pushed the government to the wall on clinical trials issue and prompted Supreme Court to take a harsh view about the alleged irregularities in trials, also wanted the Union Health Ministry to provide details of 162 approved clinical trials-- name of molecule, indication, name of sponsor, protocol, sites, number of subjects, name of investigators and minutes of New Drug Advisory Committee, apex and technical committee meetings.“When the Court enquired on how many out of 162 trials had molecules  patented outside country and benefited MNCs instead of development of new drug, Additional Solicitor General representing the government could not give the answer,” the NGO said.The Supreme Court has ordered the re-examining of 157 trials approved by the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) during 2012 while pointing out that the trials should benefit the people and not the MNCs. The Bench headed by R M Lodha also directed the government to put in place fool-proof mechanism including audio-video recording before allowing the commencement of five trials, approved by the DCGI this year.Sanjay Parikh, counsel for the petitioner, also pointed out contradictions in data given in affidavit filed by Ministry on July 26 wherein it was stated that 26 global clinical trials were approved while in current affidavit of October 18, it was stated that only five trials are approved after January, 2013 by the apex and the technical committee.The petitioner also raised serious concerns about Ranjit Roy Chaudhry expert Committee report on issues like conflict of interest etc. The Ranjit Roy Committee also was not able to explain benefits to India by allowing NCEs/NMEs testing within the country, the counsel said.

ICMR to conduct comparative study of Indian drug eluting stents with US FDA approved stent soon

Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is planning to assess safety and efficacy of indigenous drug eluting latest generation stents and US FDA-approved drug eluting stent for a comparative study that may give a push to local manufacturers in the domestic stent market that is now dominated by foreign players now.ICMR will evaluate two latest generation Indian stents against one FDA-approved stent through sponsored trial with a view to give fillip to the development of indigenous technologies, products and gather data about safety and efficacy.Technologies have to reach the people at an affordable cost without a compromise on safety and efficacy. It is very important in the era of evidence based medicine to generate good scientific evidence so that it can be stated that indigenous products are not only cost effective but also efficacious and are of equally good standards, according to ICMR sources.ICMR is planning to sponsor a randomized controlled, non-inferiority multi-centric clinical trial comparing the identified indigenous stents with a standard US FDA approved stent with the best  outcomes data. The results of this study will allow clinicians practicing in India to make informed decisions while choosing between the indigenous and standard FDA approved drug eluting stents.ICMR has already asked the manufacturers to send expression of interest to take part in this sponsored trial. Besides supplying the stents free of the cost to the participating centres, the manufacturers would also support the implementation of the trial.Drug eluting stents are now categorized as drugs as per the existing regulatory framework. But the new Drugs and Cosmetics (Amendment) Bill, 2013 which is under the consideration of the Parliament, has a separate chapter to put such medical devices into a new category with separate rules.The domestic market of stents has been dominated by international device manufacturers like Abbott (Abbott Park, Illinois), Boston Scientific (Nattick, Massachusetts) and Medtronic (Minneapolis). These companies produce most of the three million stents used in India every year. Only few local manufacturers are into the sector.There is also huge different in prices between the indigenous and foreign stents. Indian companies like Translumina Therapeutics produce stents and sell them at prices about 50 per cent lower than those made by international device manufacturers.

Low Vitamin D Levels Raise Anemia Risk in Children

Low levels of vitamin D increase the risk of anemia in children, finds research published in the Journal of Pediatrics.The researchers caution that their results are not proof of cause and effect, but rather evidence of a complex interplay between low vitamin D levels and hemoglobin, the oxygen-binding protein in red blood cells. The investigators say several mechanisms could account for the link between vitamin D and anemia, including vitamin D's effects on red blood cell production in the bone marrow, as well as its ability to regulate immune inflammation, a known catalyst of anemia. To capture the interaction between the two conditions, researchers studied blood samples from more than 10,400 children, tracking levels of vitamin D and hemoglobin. Vitamin D levels were consistently lower in children with low hemoglobin levels compared with their non-anemic counterparts, the researchers found. The sharpest spike in anemia risk occurred with mild vitamin D deficiency, defined as vitamin D levels below 30 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml). Children with levels below 30 ng/ml had nearly twice the anemia risk of those with normal vitamin D levels. Severe vitamin D deficiency is defined as vitamin D levels at or below 20 ng/ml. Both mild and severe deficiency requires treatment with supplements. When investigators looked at anemia and vitamin D by race, an interesting difference emerged. Black children had higher rates of anemia compared with white children (14 percent vs. 2 percent) and considerably lower vitamin D levels overall, but their anemia risk didn't rise until their vitamin D levels dropped far lower than those of white children. The racial difference in vitamin D levels and anemia suggests that current therapeutic targets for preventing or treating these conditions may warrant a further look, the researchers say. "The clear racial variance we saw in our study should serve as a reminder that what we may consider a pathologically low level in some may be perfectly adequate in others, which raises some interesting questions about our current one-size-fits-all approach to treatment and supplementation," says lead investigator Meredith Atkinson, M.D., M.H.S., a pediatric kidney specialist at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center. Untreated, chronic anemia and vitamin D deficiency can have wide-ranging health consequences, including organ damage, skeletal deformities and frequent fractures, and lead to premature osteoporosis in later life. Long known for its role in bone development, vitamin D has recently been implicated in a wide range of disorders. Emerging evidence suggests that low vitamin D levels may play a role in the development of certain cancers and heart disease and lead to suppressed immunity, the researchers note. Anemia, which occurs when the body doesn't have enough oxygen-carrying red blood cells, is believed to affect one in five children at some point in their lives, experts say. Several large-scale studies have found severe vitamin D deficiency in about a tenth of U.S. children, while nearly 70 percent have suboptimal levels. "If our findings are confirmed through further research, low vitamin D levels may turn out to be a readily modifiable risk factor for anemia that we can easily tackle with supplements," says senior study investigator Jeffrey Fadrowski, M.D., M.H.S., also a pediatric kidney specialist at Johns Hopkins. 
Source: Journal of Pediatrics



Component in Breast Milk Can Protect Babies Against HIV

 Component in Breast Milk Can Protect Babies Against HIVRecent research has found that breast milk has the ability to protect babies from getting infected with HIV. Researchers say that they have found a component in breast milk which has the power to destroy the virus that causes AIDS."Even though we have anti-retroviral drugs that can work to prevent mother-to-child transmission, not every pregnant woman is being tested for HIV, and less than 60 percent are receiving the prevention drugs -- particularly in countries with few resources. There is still a need for alternative strategies to prevent mother-to-child transmission, which is why this work is important," study senior author Dr. Sallie Permar, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Duke University.The protein called as Tenascin-C or TNC has the ability to fight germs. The researchers came to this conclusion after testing samples of breast milk from uninfected women to check if could effectively tackle HIV strains."TNC is a component of the 'extracellular matrix' that is integral to how tissues hold themselves together," Permar said. "This is a protein involved during wound healing, playing a role in tissue repair. It is also known to be important in fetal development, but its reason for being a component of breast milk or its antiviral properties had never been described." Dr. Barton Haynes, director of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute, added: "The discovery of the HIV-inhibiting effect of this common protein in breast milk provides a potential explanation for why nursing infants born to HIV-infected mothers do not become infected more often than they do."
Source: Duke Human Vaccine Institute

Internet Therapy may Help Postnatal Depression, Say Researchers

Online therapy can effectively treat postnatal depression, say University of Exeter researchers. Rates of postnatal depression (PND) are high -- between 10 to 30 percent of mums are affected -- but many cases go unreported and few women seek help.The team from the University of Exeter, supported by the National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care in the South West Peninsula (NIHR PenCLAHRC) and with significant input from Netmums, have for the first time investigated the feasibility of an internet-based Behavioural Action (BA) treatment modified to address PND in two studies. Those who received the internet based treatment reported better results for depression, work and social impairment, and anxiety scores immediately after they had received the treatment. They also reported better results for depression six months after treatment. The results, published in the journal Psychological Medicine, indicate that such an internet-based facility for treatment could have a positive effect on PND as a whole, providing new mums with support at times which are convenient to them and allowing them to complete a course of therapy. Dr. Heather O'Mahen from the University of Exeter who led the study said: "The high number of cases of PND, and the comparatively poor take up of help from those affected by it, are worrying. This study, and another recently published study by our team, which looked at a self-help version of the treatment delivered online and had 910 women sign up, 364 of whom completed, are the first to investigate the effectiveness of using an internet-based therapy to provide mums with PND with the support they would have traditionally received in a clinic-based environment. The results are enough to convince us that such an approach is indeed a feasible one." She added: "Our hope is that this will allow more women to access and benefit from support, with all the knock-on positives that come from that: happier families, improved quality of life for mums; and a reduction in the demands such cases can bring to stretched health services around the world. This treatment is an accessible and potentially cost-effective option, and one that could easily be incorporated into mental healthcare provision." The team designed and assessed a 12-session, modular, internet BA treatment that was supported by telephone calls with a mental health worker. A total of 249 mums were recruited via UK parenting site, The mothers received information about the program through Netmums newsletter adverts, emails, and online adverts. They completed online forms and were asked questions about their mood in a telephone interview with a research assistant. Of those, 83 met the necessary criteria for 'major depressive disorder' and they were randomly split into two groups: one received 'treatment as usual'; the other the internet based treatment. Women in the treatment group could sign onto the online program and chose modules relevant to their needs. For example, there were modules on 'being a good enough mum', 'changing roles and relationships', 'sleep' and 'communication'. The participants had weekly telephone sessions with a support worker who helped support the women through the program. Mothers report favouring therapy over drug-based solutions, especially if they are breastfeeding, but for many new mums accessing traditional clinic-based therapy is difficult: transportation, childcare, variable feeding and nap times, all conspire to make it hard to keep appointments. It is critical to provide new mothers with treatments that work for them; however a recent NSPCC report noted that there is no specialist perinatal provision or training in Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT), the main providers of mental health care in primary care.
Source:Psychological Medicine

Poor Sleep may Increase Alzheimer's Disease Risk

In older adults, poor sleep quality is associated with abnormal brain imaging suggesting Alzheimer's disease (AD), says study published in JAMA Neurology.Deposits of β-Amyloid (Αβ) plaques are one of the hallmarks of AD. Fluctuations in Αβ levels may be regulated by sleep-wake patterns, the authors write in the study background. Adam P. Spira, Ph.D., of The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, and colleagues used data from 70 adults (average age 76 years) in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging to examine whether self-reported sleep factors were associated with Αβ deposition, which was measured by imaging of the brain. Study participants reported sleep that ranged from more than seven hours to no more than 5 hours. Reports of shorter sleep duration and lower sleep quality were both associated with greater Αβ buildup. The authors acknowledge their study design does not allow them to determine whether sleep disturbance precedes Αβ deposition, so they are unable to say that poor sleep causes AD. "In summary, our findings in a sample of community-dwelling older adults indicate that reports of shorter sleep duration and poorer sleep quality are associated with a greater Αβ burden. As evidence of this association accumulates, intervention trials will be needed to determine whether optimizing sleep can prevent or slow AD progression," the study concludes.
Source:JAMA Neurology


Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Vegetarianism Can Reduce Your Risk of Death Over 30 Percent And Add 9 Years To Your Life

According to two large studies, vegetarians are a third less likely to need hospital treatment for heart disease or die from it, and the diet could mean living nine additional years than you might consuming meat based diets according the the findings.
The largest study of its kind found vegetarians have healthier hearts than those who eat meat or fish.
It is thought the benefits come from lower blood pressure and improved cholesterol levels through eating low-fat diets based on vegetables, whole grains and fruit.
In the first study of almost 45,000 volunteers included a high proportion of vegetarians — 34 per cent — and mostly women, which resulted in ‘clear findings’, said researchers.
Co-author Professor Tim Key, deputy director of the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford, said: ‘The results clearly show the risk of heart disease in vegetarians is about a third lower than in non-vegetarians.’The study recruited English and Scottish volunteers who completed questionnaires on health and lifestyle, diet, exercise, smoking habits and alcohol consumption.
Almost 20,000 also had their blood pressures recorded and gave blood samples for cholesterol testing.
Over an average follow-up period of 11.6 years, scientists recorded 1,066 hospital admissions due to heart disease, and 169 deaths.
Being vegetarian reduced the risk of death or hospital admission from heart disease by 32 per cent, after adjusting for factors such as age, sex, physical activity, smoking, alcohol consumption, education and social background.
In the second study, data released by researchers at the Loma Linda University, USA, found that people following a vegetarian diet have a number of health benefits compared to those who consume meat — and top of those benefits is a longer lifespan, with vegetarian men living an average of 9.5 and women an average of 6.1 years longer than meat munching counterparts.
The data — presented at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ 2012 Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo — come from the Adventist Health Study-2 cohort, which is currently midway to completion. The study is following 96,000 US and Canadian citizens — including thousands of Seventh-day Adventists — to ascertain the potential health implications of vegetarian and meat based diets.
Seventh-day Adventists have long been known as advocates of a vegetarian diet.
Lead researcher, Gary Fraser revealed that the preliminary findings from the new study show that vegans are, on average, 13 kilograms lighter than meat eaters and five units lighter on the Body Mass Index (BMI) scale than meat-eaters.
Fraser also claimed that pesco-vegetarians and semi-vegetarians who limit animal products, but still eat meat once a week or so, have ‘intermediate protection’ against lifestyle diseases.
The study data suggests that vegetarian Adventist men tend to live to an average of 83.3 years, while vegetarian women live 85.7 years — this is an average of 9.5 and 6.1 years respectively longer than other Californian citizens, Fraser explained.
- Vegans are, on average, 30 pounds lighter than meat eaters.
- Vegans are also five units lighter on the BMI scale than meat-eaters.
- Vegetarians and vegans are also less insulin resistant than meat-eaters.
Tim Key’s study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The main reason for the difference is thought to be the effect of a low-fat vegetarian diet on cholesterol and blood pressure.
Vegetarians had lower levels of harmful cholesterol in their blood and reduced systolic, or maximum, blood pressure. In addition they tended to be slimmer, with a lower body mass index, and they were less likely to be affected by diabetes.
Dr Francesca Crowe, author of the study at the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford, said: ‘Most of the difference in risk is probably caused by effects on cholesterol and blood pressure, and shows the important role of diet in the prevention of heart disease.’
Red meat, especially processed meat, contains ingredients that have been linked to increased risk of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.
These include heme iron, saturated fat, sodium, nitrites and certain carcinogens that are formed during cooking.
Eating more vegetables and fruit may also help through their antioxidant effects, combating harmful naturally occurring chemicals in the body.
A lifelong commitment to a vegetarian diet may also lower a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer, as well as preventing and treating chronic diseases including heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and other cancers.
Courtesy:Natasha Longo has a master’s degree in nutrition and is a certified fitness and nutritional counselor. She has consulted on public health policy and procurement in Canada, Australia, Spain, Ireland, England and Germany.
Source: Prevent Disease 

Effects of TM practice on trait anxiety: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

A new meta-analysis published today in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (2013;19(10):1-12)1 found the Transcendental Meditation® technique (TM) has a large effect on reducing trait anxiety for people with high anxiety. Trait anxiety is a measure of how anxious a person usually is, as opposed to state anxiety, which refers to how anxious we are at the moment. A meta-analysis is an objective means to draw conclusions from all the research in a field.
This meta-analysis covered 16 randomized-controlled trials, the gold standard in medical research, and included 1295 subjects from various walks of life, age groups, and life situations. TM was compared with various control groups, including treatment-as-usual, individual and group psychotherapy, and various relaxation techniques. Studies on high stress groups, such as veterans suffering from PTSD and prison inmates, showed dramatic reductions in anxiety from TM practice, whereas studies of groups with only moderately elevated anxiety levels, such as normal adults and college students, showed more modest changes.
A chart shows that studies of individuals with anxiety levels in the 90th percentile (higher than 90% of the rest of the adult population) showed dramatic reductions in anxiety down to the 57th percentile from TM practice. This is just a little higher than the average anxiety level, which is the 50th percentile. Study groups that started in the 60th percentile, a little above average, showed more modest reductions, to the 48th percentile, a little below average.
Lead author on the meta-analysis, Dr. David Orme-Johnson, an independent research consultant, commented: "It makes sense that if you are not anxious to begin with, that TM practice is not going to reduce your anxiety that much. Groups with elevated anxiety received significant relief from TM, and that reduction occurred rapidly in the first few weeks of practice."
TM was also found to produce significant improvements in other areas worsened by anxiety, such as blood pressure, insomnia, emotional numbness, family problems, employment status, and drug and alcohol abuse.
Co-author Dr. Vernon Barnes of the Georgia Prevention Center, Georgia Regents University, Augusta, Georgia explains what happens with control groups in these studies. "Control groups who received usual treatment did not show dramatic reductions in anxiety. In fact, control groups that were highly anxious to begin with, if anything, tended to become more anxious over time."
When asked about the effect of other approaches to reduce anxiety, he added, "However, progressive muscle relaxation was also effective in reducing anxiety. But, it did not have the other side benefits of TM, such as increasing overall mental health, and increasing the rate of recovery of the physiology from stressors."
Dr. Orme-Johnson answered a commonly asked question about placebo effects. He said: "Since anxiety is a self-reported measure, one might wonder whether the effects of TM practice or any other treatment program were a placebo effect. Placebos are great. If you give a person a sugar pill and tell them that it will reduce anxiety, it probably will, but only for a little while before the effect wears off. But the effects of TM were shown to be lasting and include objective benefits. For example a recent study showed that TM reduces heart attacks, strokes, and death over a ten-year period. So we know its effects are real and are not just due to a placebo."
The meta-analysis also examined the issue of bias with TM studies on anxiety. There was no evidence of missing studies and studies conducted by scientists who were in any way associated with Maharishi University of Management or any of its sister universities did not have stronger effects than research conducted at independent universities.
Two previous meta-analyses on TM have found that it is highly effective in reducing trait anxiety, and is more effective than other meditation and relaxation techniques, including mindfulness meditation.2,3
Background Information on Transcendental Meditation The Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique is a simple, natural, effortless procedure practiced 20 minutes twice each day while sitting comfortably with the eyes closed. It is not a religion, philosophy, or lifestyle. It is the most widely practiced, most researched, and most effective method of self-development. For more information visit:
Background information on anxiety Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problem in the United States, affecting 40 million adults (about 18% of the population) and costing more than $42 billion a year.4,5 Anxiety is considered a negative mood disturbance that results from failure to predict, control, and obtain desired goals6 and is associated with dysfunctional cognition, behavior, and physiologic over-activity.7 Anxiety further impairs health by motivating increased use of tobacco and alcohol8 and predisposes the individual to chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease.7,8
  1. Orme-Johnson DW, Barnes VA. Effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique on Trait Anxiety: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. J Altern Complement Med 2013;19(10):1-12.
  2. Eppley K, Abrams AI, Shear J. Differential effects of relaxation techniques on trait anxiety: A meta-analysis. J Clin Psychol 1989;45(6):957-974.
  3. Sedlmeier P, Eberth J, Schwarz M, et al. The psychological effects of meditation: A meta-analysis. Psychol Bull 2012;138(6):1139-1171.
  4. ADAA. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America. 2013; Accessed January 10, 2013.
  5. Greenberg PE, Sisitsky T, Kessler RC, et al. The economic burden of anxiety disorders in the 1990's. J Clin Psychiatry 1999;60(7):472-435.
  6. Barlow DH. Unraveling the mysteries of anxiety and its disorders from the prespective of emotion theory. Am Psychol 2000;55:1247-1263.
  7. Kolzet JA, Inra M. Anxiety. In: Allan R, Fisher J, eds. Heart and Mind: The Practice of Cardiac Psychology. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association; 2012.
  8. Sawchuk CN, Olatunji BO. Anxiety, health risk factors, and chronic disease. Am J Lifestyle Med 2011;5(6):531-541.

Gene Copy Numbers Implicated in Complex Diseases

By duplicating them in zebrafish, very rare and precise duplications and deletions in the human genome have been connected by Duke researchers to their complex disease consequences.
The findings are based on detailed studies of five people missing a small fragment of their genome and suffering from a mysterious syndrome of craniofacial features, visual anomalies and developmental delays. When those patient observations were coupled to analyses of the anatomical defects in genetically altered zebrafish embryos, the researchers were able to identify the contribution specific genes made to the pathology, demonstrating a powerful tool that can now be applied to unraveling many other complex and rare human genetic conditions. The findings are broadly important for human genetic disorders because copy-number variants (CNVs) -- fragments of the genome that are either missing or existing in extra copies -- are quite common in the genome. But their precise contribution to diseases has been difficult to determine because CNVs can affect the function of many genes simultaneously. "Because a CNV can perturb many genes, it is difficult to know which of them is responsible," said Nicholas Katsanis, a professor of cell biology who directs the Center for Human Disease Modeling and the Task Force for Neonatal Genomics at Duke University. Last year, Katsanis and his colleagues found that they could trace recurrent copy-number variants and dissect the consequences of each perturbed gene to particular features in patients. The new study goes one step further by showing that they can also do this in more challenging cases, when CNVs differ in size from one individual to the next. In this case, "each person has his or her own private deletion or duplication," he said, with the potential to affect a different number of genes. The researchers showed that partially overlapping microdeletions found in the human patients include a region that contains three genes. By manipulating those genes in zebrafish, first one at a time and then in combination, they were able to connect the genes to specific features of the human syndrome. One of the study's first authors, post-doctoral researcher Christelle Golzio, recalled what it was like to see the characteristics of those human patients reflected in their laboratory fish for the first time. "The zebrafish had coloboma," she said, referring to holes in the iris or other parts of of the eye seen in these patients. "It was clear cut." Similar to the patients with the deletions, the zebrafish embryos also had kidney defects, small heads and defects in the development of the skeleton of the face. "This is a faster, cheaper, more efficient method to study and decipher copy-number variants, and the zebrafish model looks pretty robust in terms of recapitulating what the physicians observe in people," Golzio said. The findings also show just how complicated the consequences of copy-number variants can be. In some instances, the abnormalities seen in both patients and the fish were tied to copy number changes to individual genes, as that gene's "dosage" varied. At the same time, other characteristics were only observed when those genetic aberrations were combined, a pattern that would be nearly impossible to see in studies of humans themselves. In principle, the researchers say they can now examine the role of copy-number variants in any human syndrome, so long as the condition is associated with features that are measurable in the fish. "We will need to study lots of CNVs to find the edges of our capabilities," Katsanis said. "As we add this layer of dissection and interpretation, we will have prediction, diagnosis and the beginnings of biological understanding." 
Source:Duke University.



Dietitian Reveals Eating Tips to Boost Fertility

 Dietitian Reveals Eating Tips to Boost FertilityWomen who are looking to conceive can follow a Mediterranean-style diet that is rich in vegetables, vegetable oils, fish and beans, says dietitian.Brooke Schantz, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, LUHS said that not only will a healthy diet and lifestyle potentially help with fertility, but it also may influence foetal well-being and reduce the risk of complications during pregnancy. Schantz said that reduced intake of foods with trans and saturated fats while increasing intake of monounsaturated fats, like avocados and olive oil could help women who are looking to conceive. Another tip was lower intake of animal protein and adding more vegetable protein and fibre to their diet. She also said that incorporating more vegetarian sources of iron like legumes, tofu, nuts, seeds and whole grains may help women in their endeavour.

Simple Tips to Cut Down Stress Revealed

Doing aerobic exercise, breathing slowly could help reduce your stress, say health experts.
 Simple Tips to Cut Down Stress Revealed
 Jane Roy, Ph.D., associate professor of human studies in the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Education and her human studies colleagues, Larrell Wilkinson, Ph.D., assistant professor, and Retta Evans, Ph.D., associate professor, put heads together to share stress-management tips:
The experts have said that movement is a great, natural way to de-stress, asserting that it serves as a distractor from the stressor. Another way to reduce stress is to take about 10 to 15 minutes to walk around the neighbourhood. Having fun is another way to de-stress yourself. Wilkinson said that searching for the positives in situations can help cut down on tensions plaguing your mind.

Scientists Discover Secrets Behind HIV Long-term Immunity

 Scientists Discover Secrets Behind HIV Long-term ImmunityA critical new clue about why some people are able to control the HIV virus long term without taking antiviral drugs was discovered by scientists. The finding may be useful in shortening drug treatment for everyone else with HIV.
These rare individuals who do not require medicine have an extra helping of a certain type of immune protein that blocks HIV from spreading within the body by turning it into an impotent wimp, Northwestern Medicine® scientists report. The new finding comes from analyzing cells from these rare individuals and HIV in the lab. Scientists have been trying to solve the mystery of why 1 percent of people with HIV -- called "controllers" -- have enduring control of the virus without medications, in some cases for life. The controllers' early defense against HIV is quickly extinguished by the virus, so how do they have long-term immunity? The Northwestern discovery represents what scientists have long sought: a second line of defense deep in the immune system backing up the short-lived early defense. This discovery suggests a novel approach involving much earlier treatment that could potentially make every HIV-infected person into a controller for the long term by protecting the reserves of this defensive immune protein. The goal would be for them to eventually be free from anti-retroviral drugs. Currently most HIV patients need to take powerful anti-retroviral drugs every single day for life. If the medicines are stopped, the virus quickly reactivates to harmful levels even after years of treatment. "Preserving and even increasing this defense in cells may make more HIV-infected persons into controllers and prevent HIV from rebounding to high and damaging levels when anti-HIV medications are stopped," said Richard D'Aquila, M.D., the director of the Northwestern HIV Translational Research Center. He is the senior author of the study, which will be published Oct. 16 in the journal PLOS ONE. D'Aquila also is the Howard Taylor Ricketts Professor of Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. D'Aquila and colleagues now are working to develop a medicine that would boost this defensive immune protein called APOBEC3G, or A3 for short.

The Missing Second Defensive Line

Much is known about how the immune system of controllers initially fights the virus. But HIV quickly escapes from that first line of defense by mutating and evading the adaptive immune system. How these individuals control HIV long term without medications to keep from developing AIDS has been under study by many researchers. It seemed there must be a second defensive line in the immune system.

Turning HIV Into a Wimp

In the new study, D'Aquila and his team have found that controllers, long after they have acquired HIV, have a more abundant supply of the critical immune protein A3 in specific white blood cells called resting memory T cells. This is where the virus lies silently in an inactive form and roars back when anti-retroviral drugs are stopped. In controllers, though, their bounty of A3 means that any new HIV made from those cells inherits a helping of A3, which turns the new viruses into harmless wimps that can't infect other cells.
You Can't Fool A3 The feisty A3 is a critical part of the newly characterized intrinsic immune system, and it resides in many cells of the immune system including resting T cells. Unlike the adaptive immune system, which fails to recognize the virus once it mutates its pieces, the intrinsic immune system can't be fooled. "The intrinsic immune system recognizes the basic guts of the virus -- the nucleic acids -- that HIV can't change and then damages those nucleic acids," D'Aquila said. D'Aquila theorizes that the controllers' first line of defense slows down the ability of HIV to destroy all the A3. "Perhaps starting anti-HIV drugs very soon after HIV is caught, rather than the current practice of waiting until later to start, would work like the controllers' first line of defense," D'Aquila suggested. "If we preserve A3, it could minimize HIV's spread through the body as this protein seems to do in controllers." Otherwise, D'Aquila theorizes, all reserves of the protein are wiped out if HIV replicates unchecked for several months.

Babies and Other Controllers

D'Aquila pointed to several recent examples of early treatment sometimes resulting in lasting control of HIV in humans that are consistent with this theory. In January 2013, a baby was born to an HIV-positive woman in Memphis who didn't take preventive medicines that are routinely given to these women. The baby got infected, and doctors began anti-HIV drug treatment within 36 hours of birth. After some treatment, the baby is now off anti-HIV medicines and appears to be cured of HIV. Two studies published earlier this year show the protective effect of starting the medicines within three to four months after infection for a relatively short course, resulting in a lower level of HIV in the blood and better control of the virus for some who stopped the anti-retroviral medication. A group of patients in a European study were started on anti-HIV drugs very early after infection. Their medications were stopped after three years but some continued to have a suppressed virus at such low levels it did not cause any damage.

Earlier Detection Just Got Easier

"Early-as-possible detection -- much easier with our new technology -- and early drug treatment will be the future of HIV therapy," D'Aquila said. He added that the Affordable Care Act mandates that insurance companies pay for routine HIV testing, which they did not always cover in the past.

D'Aquila Helped Developed Personalized Approach to HIV Medicine

D'Aquila is a leading HIV scientist who began investigating AIDS in 1982, the first year it was identified. He was a senior resident in Philadelphia when the early cases appeared at the hospital where he was working. D'Aquila began investigating, calling other area hospitals to see if they had seen similar cases. He discovered there were lots of them. The same month, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report sounded the first alarm that a new disease had erupted. Over the last 30 years, D'Aquila has helped develop anti-HIV medicines and resistance testing for HIV -- the latter is the first widely used clinical application of DNA sequencing in personalized medicine. Since the 1990s, HIV patients have their virus sequenced to determine which medicines are going to work best for them at that time -- a result of research done by D'Aquila and others. D'Aquila was also a leader and virologist for many NIH-supported clinical trials in the AIDS Clinical Trials Group. His laboratory studies were also among the first to characterize effects of resistance mutations on HIV's replicative fitness and to show that resistant virus persisted in HIV's latent reservoir. The new study was done in collaboration with MariaPia De Pasquale and Yordanka Kourteva, formerly at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, where D'Aquila did the experiments. 

Facebook Badge