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Friday, 24 January 2014

More benefits emerging for one type of omega-3 fatty acid: DHA

 A study of the metabolic effects of omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA, concludes that these compounds may have an even wider range of biological impacts than previously considered, and suggests they could be of significant value in the prevention of fatty liver disease.
The research, done by scientists at Oregon State University and several other institutions, was one of the first of its type to use “metabolomics,” an analysis of metabolites that reflect the many biological effects of omega-3 fatty acids on the liver. It also explored the challenges this organ faces from the “Western diet” that increasingly is linked to liver inflammation, fibrosis, cirrhosis and sometimes liver failure.
The results were surprising, researchers say.
Supplements of DHA, used at levels that are sometimes prescribed to reduce blood triglycerides, appeared to have many unanticipated effects. There were observable changes in vitamin and carbohydrate metabolism, protein and amino acid function, as well as lipid metabolism.
Supplementation with DHA partially or totally prevented metabolic damage through those pathways often linked to the Western diet – excessive consumption of red meat, sugar, saturated fat and processed grains.
The findings were published last month in PLOS One, an online professional journal.
“We were shocked to find so many biological pathways being affected by omega-3 fatty acids,” said Donald Jump, a professor in the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences. “Most studies on these nutrients find effects on lipid metabolism and inflammation.
“Our metabolomics analysis indicates that the effects of omega-3 fatty acids extend beyond that, and include carbohydrate, amino acid and vitamin metabolism,” he added.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been the subject of much recent research, often with conflicting results and claims. Possible reasons for contradictory findings, OSU researchers say, are the amount of supplements used and the relative abundance of two common omega-3s – DHA and EPA. Studies at OSU have concluded that DHA has far more ability than EPA to prevent the formation of harmful metabolites. In one study, it was found that DHA supplementation reduced the proteins involved in liver fibrosis by more than 65 percent.
These research efforts, done with laboratory animals, used a level of DHA supplementation that would equate to about 2-4 grams per day for an average person. In the diet, the most common source of DHA is fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel or sardines.
The most recent research is beginning to break down the specific processes by which these metabolic changes take place. If anything, the results suggest that DHA may have even more health value than previously thought.
“A lot of work has been done on fatty liver disease, and we are just beginning to explore the potential for DHA in preventing or slowing disease progression,” said Jump, who is also a principal investigator in OSU’s Linus Pauling Institute.
“Fish oils, a common supplement used to provide omega-3, are also not prescribed to regulate blood glucose levels in diabetic patients,” he said. “But our studies suggest that DHA may reduce the formation of harmful glucose metabolites linked to diabetic complications.”
Both diabetes and liver disease are increasing steadily in the United States.
The American Liver Foundation has estimated that about 25 percent of the nation’s population, and 75 percent of those who are obese, have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. This can progress to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, cirrhosis and cancer.
This study established that the main target of DHA in the liver is the control of inflammation, oxidative stress and fibrosis, which are the characteristics of more progressively serious liver problems. Omega-3 fatty acids appear to keep cells from responding to and being damaged by whatever is causing inflammation.
Collaborators on this research were from OSU, the Baylor College of Medicine, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and Metabolon, Inc. It was supported by the USDA and the National Institutes of Health.

From one cell to many: How did multicellularity evolve?

The evolutionary path from unicellular life to multicellularity is varied, but all lead to complex organisms


In the beginning there were single cells. Today, many millions of years later, most plants, animals, fungi, and algae are composed of multiple cells that work collaboratively as a single being. Despite the various ways these organisms achieved multicellularity, their conglomeration of cells operate cooperatively to consume energy, survive, and reproduce. But how did multicellularity evolve? Did it evolve once or multiple times? How did cells make the transition from life as a solo cell to associating and cooperating with other cells such that they work as a single, cohesive unit?
Karl Niklas (Cornell University, Ithaca, NY), a plant evolutionary biologist, is interested in how plants have changed over the past few million years, in particular their size, shape, structure, and reproduction. As the first article in a series of Centennial Review papers celebrating 100 years of the American Journal of Botany, Niklas reviews the history of multicellularity and the changes that cells must have had to go through—such as aspects of their shape, function, structure, and development—in order to be able to functionally combine with other cells. He also explores the underlying driving forces and constraints (from natural selection to genetics and physical laws) that influence the evolution of multicellularity.
As a student, Niklas started out being interested in mathematics, but then turned to studying plants because of their "mathematical-like structure." "Multicellularity is a fundamental evolutionary achievement that is capable of mathematical description," comments Niklas, "and one that has occurred multiple times in different plant lineages."
Indeed, no matter how it is defined, scientists agree that multicellularity has occurred multiple times across many clades. Defined in the loosest sense, as an aggregation of cells, multicellularity has evolved in at least 25 lineages. However, even when defined more strictly—requiring that cells be connected, communicate, and cooperate in some fashion or another—it has still notably evolved once in animals, three times in fungi, six times in algae, and multiple times in bacteria.
Multicellularity could have been achieved numerous times based on the premise that selection acts on phenotypes and how well certain combinations of traits work. In other words, even if cells adhere together using different mechanisms, or via different developmental pathways, if the results are cooperative aggregations of cells that function well and thus are able to survive better and, critically, produce more offspring than their unicellular counterparts, then these various evolutionary pathways could all be possible.
"The curtail point," emphasizes Niklas, "is that the evolution of multicellular organisms occurred multiple times and involved different developmental 'motifs,' such as the chemistry of the 'glues' that allow cells to stick together."
Certainly, one of the themes that Niklas drives home in his review is that natural selection acts on functional traits, so multicellularity could have evolved many times via different mechanisms and modes of development, and using different aspects of cellular biology.
However, there are certain sets of requirements that must be met in order for multicellularity to evolve. These include that cells must adhere to, communicate with, and cooperate with each other, and that cells must specialize in their functions (i.e., that not all cells do exactly the same thing, otherwise they would just be a group of cells or a colony). In order to make these things happen, cells must not reject each other. In other words, they must be genetically compatible to some extent—analogous to how our human bodies reject foreign items that are not recognized by our cells. This first step is termed "alignment-of-fitness."
Interestingly, this "alignment-of-fitness" requires a "bottleneck" or unicellular stage when the organism consists of just one cell—a spore, zygote, or uninucleate asexual propagule. This is necessary so that all subsequent cells share similar genetic material.
The "export-of-fitness" stage is the second step necessary to the evolutionary process of multicellularity. This requires that cells work together for a common goal of reproducing more cohesive units, or individuals, like themselves and thereby work in a concerted way toward increasing their fitness. Once this is achieved, a distinct phenotype, or form, of organism exists.
How exactly steps such as cell-to-cell adhesion or communication were achieved in plants, animals, fungi, and algae differs among the major eukaryotic clades, yet an important aspect is that these multicellular organisms all went through a similar series of steps on their way to becoming multicellular, functional organisms.
As Niklas puts it: "This convergent evolution is well summarized by the saying 'There are many roads to Rome, but Rome is not what it used to be'."
In fact, these stages can be mapped on to theoretically possible body plans, illustrating the most plausible series of evolutionary steps—unicellular to colonial to multicellular—that is seen in algae, land plants, and animals. Niklas also posits a plausible alternate evolutionary route, starting with a single cell containing multiple nuclei (e.g., from a siphonous to multicellular form) and finds support for this in the observed forms of some fungi and algae.
"This review of the literature has now brought my attention to 'cooperation'" concludes Niklas, "because multicellularity requires cells to work together. Cheating cells cannot be tolerated over the long run because like a cancer they can gain the upper hand and kill a multicellular organism."
Source:American Journal of Botany,

RSSDI to conduct study to highlight role of indigenous methods for prevention of diabetes

In order to highlight the role of indigenous methods for prevention of diabetes, Research Society for Study of Diabetes in India (RSSDI), an association of Diabetologists in India, is planning to conduct a three-year national multi-centric study on 1,500 border line diabetics from across the country.
Approved by, a service of the US National Institutes of Health which provides database of publicly and privately supported clinical studies of human participants conducted globally, the study would be conducted from five diabetes centres in the country located at University College of Medical Sciences, Delhi under Dr Madhu SV; Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER), Puducherry under Dr A K Das; Nizam's Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS), Hyderabad under Dr PV Rao; Center for Diabetes and Endocrine Care, Bengaluru under Prof KM Prasanna Kumar; and Diabetes Endocrine Nutrition Management and Research Centre (DENMARC), Mumbai under Dr Hemraj Chandalia.
Estimated to cost Rs.2 crore, the study would select 300 participants between 20 and 70 years of age in each centre on the basis of recruitment process from amongst the borderline diabetics. 
Speaking about the study, Dr Hemraj Chandalia, Diabetologist at DENMARC and Jaslok Hospital said, “Study will involve following a conventional diet, exercise, yoga and consumption of 10 to 15 gms of fenugreek (methi) powder. There will be no medication involved in the study. Study will entail constant monitoring of diet regimen of the candidates with periodic tests every three months for three years. This will help us determine the rate of conversion from borderline diabetics to diabetics.”
Information on is provided and updated by the sponsor or principal investigator of the clinical study. Studies are generally registered with the Web site when they begin, and the information on the site is updated throughout the study. includes information about medical studies in human volunteers. Most of the records in describe clinical trials (also called interventional studies). The site was created as a result of the Food and Drug Administration Modernization Act of 1997 (FDAMA).

Heptares completes research phase of antibody discovery collaboration with MedImmune

Heptares Therapeutics, the leading GPCR structure-guided drug discovery and development company, has successfully completed the research phase of its antibody drug discovery collaboration with MedImmune, the global biologics research and development arm of AstraZeneca. In achieving this milestone, Heptares has delivered StaR proteins (thermostabilised G protein-coupled receptors, GPCRs) for its targets nominated by MedImmune for antibody discovery as part of the research collaboration initiated in May 2011. For each project, nomination of the target and delivery of the StaR protein resulted in milestone payments to Heptares from MedImmune.

Malcolm Weir, Heptares CEO, said: “The delivery of a StaR for each nominated target is an important achievement in the successful research phase of our collaboration with MedImmune. The StaR proteins will now be used by MedImmune as antigens to which novel therapeutic antibodies can be generated. The ability of our StaR platform to generate antigen for antibody drug discovery, as exemplified by the success of our collaboration with MedImmune, highlights the potential of this technology to transform GPCR-targeted drug design and development.”

The Heptares StaR technology provides a solution to the central challenge associated with obtaining antigens for raising antibodies against GPCR targets: generating purified, properly folded and functional protein which has been removed from the cell membrane. StaR proteins also preserve epitopes from the desired pharmacological state (active or inactive) of the GPCR, thereby enabling generation of panels of functional antibodies targeting the disease-relevant form of the receptor.

By the end of 2012, 37 therapeutic antibodies had been approved and are being marketed in countries around the world, generating sales of $64.5 billion in 2012. Of the ten best-selling drugs in 2012, six were monoclonal antibody drugs, each with annual sales exceeding $5 billion. However, only one GPCR-targeting antibody has been approved (Poteligeo mogamulizumab, an anti-CCR4 antibody approved in Japan), which reflects the central technical challenge of accessing reliable high-quality GPCR antigen.

Heptares has determined that approximately 100 GPCR targets across a range of diseases (cancer, fibrosis, inflammation, respiratory, pain) are suitable and commercially compelling as antibody targets. Heptares is now leveraging its StaR platform to generate antigens for GPCR antibody drug discovery via partnerships with MedImmune and other companies. To date, Heptares has achieved all scientific milestones in its drug discovery collaborations on or ahead of schedule.

New Antioxidant can Keep Skin Looking Younger and Fresher for Longer Period of Time

 New Antioxidant can Keep Skin Looking Younger and Fresher for Longer Period of TimeNewcastle University researchers have found that antioxidant Tiron can provide total protection against sun damage and can help the skin stay younger looking and wrinkle free for a longer period of time.   
"To discover that Tiron offers complete protection against ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation damage is exciting and promising. This finding provides us with a platform to study an antioxidant - preferably a naturally occurring compound with a similar structure which could then be safely added to food or cosmetics," said Mark Birch-Machin, professor of molecular dermatology at Newcastle University.

The team found that the most potent anti-oxidants were those that targeted the batteries of the skin cells - known as the mitochondria.

They found that the most potent mitochondrial targeted anti-oxidant was Tiron - providing 100 percent protection of the skin cell against UVA sun damage and stress-induced damage, said a new study published in the FASEB Journal.

To reach this conclusion, the researchers treated skin cells exposed to a physiological dose of UVA radiation with a panel of antioxidants.

They used four antioxidants - resveratrol found in red wine, NAC, a frequently used laboratory-based anti-oxidant, curcumin found in turmeric and chemically composed antioxidant Tiron.

They resveratrol was found to protect against 22 percent of both UVA radiation and stress-induced damage, NAC offered 20 percent protection against oxidative stress and 8 percent against UVA.

Curcumin offered 16 percent protection against oxidative stress and 8 percent against UVA.

In comparison, Tiron offered 100 percent protection against UVA radiation and 100 percent protection against oxidative stress, said the study.

While ultraviolet B radiation easily causes sunburn, UVA radiation penetrates deeper, damaging our DNA by generating free radicals which degrades the collagen that gives skin its elastic quality.

Our skin ages due to the constant exposure to sunlight as ultraviolet radiation from the sun penetrates cells and increases the number of damaging free radicals.

Over the time, this can lead to the accumulation of mutations which speed up ageing and destroy the skin's supportive fibres, collagen and elastin, causing wrinkles, concluded the study.
 Source:Newcastle University researchers/FASEB Journal

Doctors in India Now Recommend Botox to Treat Urinary Incontinence

Doctors in India Now Recommend Botox to Treat Urinary IncontinenceDoctors in different hospitals in India recommend botox, better known as the miracle aid to fight wrinkles, to treat urinary incontinence saying that the success rate till now has been 100 percent. Botox is currently used worldwide to treat incontinence - a condition in which one loses bladder control, leading to involuntary urination - that affects both women and men. Approved by the Drug Controller General of India (DGCI) last year, doctors in different hospitals recommending botox to treat their patients say that the success rate till now has been 100 percent.

Although doctors find it difficult to put a number, a large number of people in India silently suffer from incontinence. In women, it often happens after childbirth, when apart from going through mental and physical stress, there is a loss of support of the urethra, leading to small amount of urine leakage while coughing, sneezing and lifting. At times it's also age related and can affect any individual.

"Increased urinary frequency, urgency and urge incontinence are a part of an overactive bladder that can happen to any normal individual. A person suffering from a neurological disease like spinal cord injury, spinal cord deformity, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinsons disease, cerebral atrophy and ageing may also suffer from these conditions," Sanjay Pandey of the Urology-Andrology department of Mumbai's Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital told IANS on the phone.

How Botulinum Toxin Type A, or Botox, works in such cases is as a purified protein, which, once injected into the detrusor muscle, blocks the overactive nerve impulses that trigger excessive muscle contractions in the bladder.

It is pertinent to mention here that the effect of Botox in such cases lasts upto 10 months. And while one may question the temporary relief, doctors list its advantages over other line of treatments.

"Take a condition where a person has to take medicine every day. There is the cost you bear with long intake of the medicine, plus if you forget to take the medicine, it will impact the effect. In this case, with one injection of Botulinum Toxin Type A, the effect lasts up to 10 months, depending on the individual's condition, providing ample relief from the debilitating ailment," N. K. Mohanty, head of the Urology department at Delhi's Saket City Hospital told IANS.

"The injection is at the place of the problem, hence it doesn't affect any other part of the body, and is a non-invasive procedure that doesn't take more than 15 minutes," he added.

Pandey further explained: "Lasting up to nine-ten months, the bladder's over-activity is vastly decreased (by Botox) and thus returns to the reorganized activity of the concerted bladder contractions in response to stimuli of bladder filling at more appropriate times of complete bladder fullness. It is very helpful in cases where oral and conventional therapy have failed as first line of medical management".

"The gross urgency and possible urge incontinence that was the agony of the past is therefore gone and the patient is dry and free from wetness and urinary leakages, which ultimately improves the quality of life," Pandey added.

Usually when a patient comes with such a complaint, doctors first suggest lifestyle changes, weight reduction (in obese patients), quitting alcohol and coffee, reduction of fluid consumption, bladder training and pelvic floor exercises, before delving into other forms of medical therapies, or Botox.

Mohanty recalls the case of his florist who shared his dilemma of an unsatisfied marriage because of his wife's habit of frequent urination and a "constant foul smell". "I suggested him to get his wife checked, and after a few round of tests, we found that she was suffering from Neurogenic Detrusor Overactivity and put her on medication. After two months, there was about 40 percent improvement in her condition, but the problem persisted. Then I suggested the other route and gave her Botolinum Toxin Type A injection, after which there was a dramatic improvement in her condition, and as he says, in their lives," he noted.

With continued complaints of incontinence, some hospitals in India, like the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, now also have a dedicated clinic for such patients in the Urology department in which Botox is used as a line of treatment in case conventional therapies fail. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also approved the use of Botox to treat overactive bladders in adults last year.



Link Between Folic Acid and Breast Cancer Risk Identified


Synthetic Marijuana Use Linked to More Illnesses, Deaths

A new research from the Colorado School of Medicine found that the US must now prepare for more illnesses and deaths from designer drugs including synthetic marijuana.
 The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, illustrates a wide range of dangers associated with these increasingly popular drugs.

In the fall of 2013, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment learned of an unusually large increase in emergency department visits related to synthetic marijuana use in the Denver metro area. Between Aug. 21 and Sept. 19, 263 people visited area emergency rooms with similar symptoms including altered mental status, irregular heart beat and seizures. Approximately 10 percent were admitted to intensive care breathing with the assistance of a ventilator.

Synthetic marijuana is sometimes labeled as incense, potpourri, or herbal smoking blend. It is sold in gas stations and convenience stores, under a variety of brand names including Black Mamba, K2 and Spice. It is a mixture of dried herbs and spices sprayed with chemicals that, when smoked, create a high that is supposed to be similar to THC, the main active ingredient in marijuana. In reality, these agents can cause much more severe symptoms than traditional marijuana.. The package labels often warn that it is not for human consumption.

"These substances are not benign," said the paper's lead author Andrew Monte, MD, an assistant professor in emergency medicine and medical toxicology at CU School of Medicine. "You can buy designer drugs of abuse at convenience stores and on the internet. People may not realize how dangerous these drugs can be -- up to 1,000 times stronger binding to cannabis receptors when compared to traditional marijuana." In addition, synthetic marijuana has effects on serotonin and other stimulant receptors in the brain which can lead to delirium, seizures and strokes.

"Synthetic marijuana is illegal under DEA law, but companies that make it are a step ahead with new chemicals and packaging on standby all the time." said Monte. He goes on to say there has been a significant increase in the use of synthetic marijuana in the last 5 years.

Determining which substance made people in Colorado ill required significant resources from hospitals, Poison Control, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, law enforcement agencies and the Centers for Disease Control.

"Outbreaks like :this are likely to keep happening," Monte said. "We need better testing to identify these substances, open communication with public health officials when outbreaks occur and we need to make sure physicians ask patients the right questions about their drug use."
 Source:New England Journal of Medicine,

Nicotine Exposure in Pregnancy Increases Obesity Risk in Babies

Nicotine exposure during pregnancy and lactation may lead to higher triglyceride levels in the offspring with adverse outcomes including metabolic syndrome and obesity later in their life, say researchers from University of Western Ontario, Canada.
Nicotine replacements such as nicotine gum, patches, nasal spray, and lozenges have long been used to get off nicotine addiction, but new research shows that even these replacements could be dangerous to both, mother and child. This study, published in the journal Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, comes in the wake of earlier studies from Canada which found that babies born to mothers who smoked had 47 percent increased chances of becoming overweight.

Daniel Hardy and his team injected pregnant experimental animals with nicotine equivalent to one cigarette (nicotine bitartrate at 1mg/kg/day) for two weeks prior to mating until weaning. They found that babies born had a lower birth weight and six months after birth, the male offspring showed significantly high levels of circulating and liver triglycerides.

Side Effects of Nicotine

Obesity and metabolic syndrome are not the only harmful effects of nicotine in children born to
smoking or NRT moms.

· Nicotine lowers the availability of oxygen to the fetus.
· It increases the
heart rate in the baby.
· It lowers the birth weight of the baby born.
· It increases the risk of
respiratory problems in the child.
· Nicotine also increases the risk for developing certain
cancers, heart disease, allergies and other health problems.
· Babies exposed to nicotine, especially as second hand smoke, are at a greater risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Adults too are affected by nicotine exposure including nicotine replacements. They are at a higher risk for -

· Arrhythmia and other cardiovascular disease including chances of heart attack
Sore throat and respiratory problems, especially in people with asthma
· Convulsions (
seizures) and tremors
· Extreme exhaustion
· Disturbed hearing and vision
· Gastrointestinal problems

Nicotine Replacement Therapy

To relieve cravings and reduce withdrawal symptoms from discontinuing the use of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, products are used that provide low doses of nicotine seemingly without the harmful toxins found in smoke. This type of therapy of using alternative products to wean one off smoking or chewing tobacco is called nicotine replacement therapy.

The FDA has approved 5 types of nicotine replacement therapy, viz. gum, patch, lozenges, nasal spray and inhalers. However, even nicotine replacement therapy has its share of harmful side effects. Various studies have shown that -

· Approximately 6 percent of people with nicotine exposure get side effects such as
dyspepsia, heartburn, dry mouth, and diarrhea with the patch and gum formulations.
Heart burn is associated with 5 to 6 percent of people who use lozenges.
· Nicotine inhaler produces local irritant effects including coughing and rhinitis.
· Long term use of nicotine gum can cause hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance.
· Nicotine gums can also cause vision problems in some people.

Obesity and Smoking Habits
Although it is true that smoking increases energy expenditure and may
reduce appetite, which explains why smokers tend to have a lighter body weight and gain weight when they quit smoking, research indicates that smoking affects body fat distribution and that it is associated with central obesity and insulin resistance.

A Japanese study investigating whether smoking habits influenced waist circumference (central adiposity) and obesity-related disorders in obese and non-obese men, found that nonobese smokers had a higher incidence of obesity-related disorders. They also found that
obese smokers were younger than obese nonsmokers and had a larger girth.

Effects of Maternal Smoking

The situation is worse where pregnant women are concerned. They harm not only themselves but create health risks for their babies as well. A review of data on hospitalization and infant deaths in America revealed that infants of mother who smoked were 50 percent more likely to die from a wide variety of infectious diseases than babies whose mothers did not smoke. This is because maternal smoking impairs the infant immunity.

Low birth weight,
premature births, and still births are other consequences of maternal smoking. Psychiatric disorders such as bipolar disorder has also been noted in infants of mothers who smoke. These findings send out a clear message for expecting mothers to quit smoking well in advance of conception to save themselves and their babies from nicotine related health risks. Incidentally, they must also be wary of nicotine replacement therapies because of reasons revealed by this new research.



Scientists Unearth Secrets of 11,000-Year-Old Living Dog Cancer

The genome of the world's oldest continuously surviving cancer, a transmissible genital cancer that affects dogs, has been sequenced by scientists.
 This cancer, which causes grotesque genital tumours in dogs around the world, first arose in a single dog that lived about 11,000 years ago. The cancer survived after the death of this dog by the transfer of its cancer cells to other dogs during mating.
The genome of this 11,000-year-old cancer carries about two million mutations - many more mutations than are found in most human cancers, the majority of which have between 1,000 and 5,000 mutations. The team used one type of mutation, known to accumulate steadily over time as a "molecular clock", to estimate that the cancer first arose 11,000 years ago. 
"The genome of this remarkable long-lived cancer has demonstrated that, given the right conditions, cancers can continue to survive for more than 10,000 years despite the accumulation of millions of mutations", says Dr Elizabeth Murchison, first author from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the University of Cambridge.
The genome of the transmissible dog cancer still harbours the genetic variants of the individual dog that first gave rise to the cancer 11,000 years ago. Analysis of these genetic variants revealed that this dog may have resembled an Alaskan Malamute or Husky. It probably had a short, straight coat that was coloured either grey/brown or black. Its genetic sequence could not determine if this dog was a male or a female, but did indicate that it was a relatively inbred individual.
"We do not know why this particular individual gave rise to a transmissible cancer," says Dr Murchison, "But it is fascinating to look back in time and reconstruct the identity of this ancient dog whose genome is still alive today in the cells of the cancer that it spawned."
Transmissible dog cancer is a common disease found in dogs around the world today. The genome sequence has helped scientists to further understand how this disease has spread.
"The patterns of genetic variants in tumours from different continents suggested that the cancer existed in one isolated population of dogs for most of its history," says Dr Murchison. "It spread around the world within the last 500 years, possibly carried by dogs accompanying seafarers on their global explorations during the dawn of the age of exploration."

Transmissible cancers are extremely rare in nature. Cancers, in humans and animals, arise when a single cell in the body acquires mutations that cause it to produce more copies of itself. Cancer cells often spread to different parts of the body in a process known as metastasis. However, it is very rare for cancer cells to leave the bodies of their original hosts and to spread to other individuals. Apart from the dog transmissible cancer, the only other known naturally occurring transmissible cancer is an aggressive transmissible facial cancer in Tasmanian devils that is spread by biting.

"The genome of the transmissible dog cancer will help us to understand the processes that allow cancers to become transmissible," says Professor Sir Mike Stratton, senior author and Director of the Sanger Institute. "Although transmissible cancers are very rare, we should be prepared in case such a disease emerged in humans or other animals. Furthermore, studying the evolution of this ancient cancer can help us to understand factors driving cancer evolution more generally."
 Source:Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the University of Cambridge.


Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Walking As An Exercise

Walking As An ExerciseBiologically, exercise and walking should be a part of our daily routine. But owing to the increasing dependence on technology and with the changing nature of our daily lifestyle, we have started using assistance for the simplest of activities in our daily life. In the medieval period, people were involved in activities like hunting, soldiering, animal husbandry, and weaving which provided enough mobility to their joints and helped them keep themselves fit and healthy. But with increasing white collar jobs, technology driven lifestyle and dependence on help for activities such as washing and cooking, we are making our bodies weak and unfit.
Walking is an exercise in which you don’t have to go the gym or use expensive equipments. It is the best mode of local transportation without harmful emissions. Further, walking acts as a tranquilizer without drugs. It can be the best psychotherapy without the need of a couch and an inexpensive mode of rejuvenation. Walking is a kind of moving meditation and a great stimulant to the mental activity that is accessible to all ages and economic groups. Most importantly, walking is a symphony of body movement which has a phenomenal impact on the mind and soul.

Walking perhaps is the best mode of spending time with friends, children and family, which is otherwise not possible in today's hectic life schedule.

Walking can be done anywhere anytime, both alone and with a companion. This easy exercise aids in weight loss, strengthening of bones, and also lessens the degree of severity of osteoporosis (the disease of bone-thinning that commonly occurs in older, inactive people). Since walking imparts very less strain to the lower back, hips, knees, ankles and feet, it is more grounded and balanced as compared to others forms of physical exercise and henceforth more safe for all ages.
 Walking has many benefits associated with it. The most important of all is that it’s the easiest form of exercise to stay fit. Walking helps in burning calories. Walking around helps a person get exposed to the beautiful natural surroundings and take a relaxing break from the routine activities. It is the only natural physical activity to mobilize your joints. Pipe in an audio while taking a walk and relax yourself.

Unlike other forms of exercise, you don’t need special equipments or a special corner, you can fit it into your day by changing few habits like walking your dog or walking down to a canteen rather then eating at your desk. Walk around while chatting on phone or gossiping with a friend. The health benefits of walking are just plentiful.

Walking is a bench mark of a low-intensity workout. Walking would first burn your calories and then burn off the fat. If you want to lose a few pounds and build up lean muscle mass, then walking is a better option as compared to jogging or aerobic exercise. Walking burns off around 5 to 8 percent of protein, 70 percent of carbohydrates and 15 percent of fat.

Study Reveals Science Behind How Humans Walk

 Study Reveals Science Behind How Humans WalkThe science behind how humans and some of our hominid ancestors such as Homo erectus have been walking for more than a million years has been figured out by scientists. But new findings outline a specific interaction between the ankle, knee, muscles and tendons that improve the understanding of a leg moving forward in a way that maximizes motion while using minimal amounts of energy.

The research could find some of its earliest applications in improved prosthetic limbs, researchers in the College of Engineering at Oregon State University, said.

Later on, a more complete grasp of these principles could lead to walking or running robots that are far more agile and energy-efficient than anything that exists today.

"Human walking is extraordinarily complex and we still don't understand completely how it works," Jonathan Hurst, an OSU professor of mechanical engineering and expert in legged locomotion in robots, said.

There's a real efficiency to it - walking is almost like passive falling. The robots existing today don't walk at all like humans, they lack that efficiency of motion and agility.

"When we fully learn what the human leg is doing, we'll be able to build robots that work much better," Hurst added.

Researchers have long observed some type of high-power "push off" when the leg leaves the ground, but didn't really understand how it worked. Now they believe they do.

The study concluded there are two phases to this motion. The first is an "alleviation" phase in which the trailing leg is relieved of the burden of supporting the body mass.

Then in a "launching" phase the knee buckles, allowing the rapid release of stored elastic energy in the ankle tendons, like the triggering of a catapult.

Source:The findings are published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.


Eat Nuts to Lower Risks of Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome

There is a slim chance that carrying a lot of weight, literally, can help you stay healthy. Being overweight with a high degree of body weight is termed obesity. Being just 20 percent over your ideal weight can seriously jeopardize your health, warns the National Institutes of Health. Obesity drastically ups your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Body mass index (BMI) is widely used to assess obesity. A BMI of 25 to 29 is considered overweight, BMI of 30 to 40 is obese and a BMI of more than 40 is considered morbidly obese. Another way to assess obesity, especially abdominal obesity, is measuring your waist. Waist measuring 94 cm in men and 80 cm in women can lead to obesity-related health problems.

Obesity Causes and Treatment

A sedentary lifestyle, that is, being inactive, and unhealthy diet and eating habits are the most common causes of obesity. There are, however, other causes to being obese. Not being able to lose weight after pregnancy, getting less than seven hours of sleep at night, certain medications such as antidepressants, steroids and beta-blockers, and certain medical problems can make you obese, and these can be treated through medication and behavioral therapies.

The only way you can resolve the obesity issue is through a committed weight loss program that involves changing your eating habits and increasing your physical activity. Even a modest weight loss of 5 to 10 percent of your total weight can make you start feeling better and see improvements in your health.

So, what foods can you include to lose weight and consequently reduce risk of diseases? Nutritionists recommend the following-

* Increase fruits and vegetables in your diet to cut down on calories. Fruits and vegetables contain fiber that help feel full and in addition provide sufficient vitamins and minerals for good health.

* Eat protein-rich breakfast. Eggs are a healthy way to start your day. Studies have shown that protein ingestion results in higher satiety rates than carbohydrates or fat. For example, starting the day with 35g of proteins, can help you stay full almost till evening.

* Choose whole grain foods over processed foods. That way you'll get more fiber with less calories.

* Avoid fatty and sugary foods. Start every meal with a cup of soup. Then you will consume less calories with your main course.

* Snack on nuts in between meals. Nuts are a rich source of proteins, omega3 fatty acids, and fiber, all of which help with weight loss.

Health Benefits of Nuts

Nuts are energy dense. They are high in fat content ranging from 45 to 75 percent of weight, but this fat is mostly unsaturated or polyunsaturated. Nuts also contain protein, dietary fiber, and an array of vitamins such as folic acid, niacin, vitamins E and B-6, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, copper, zinc, selenium, phosphorus, arginine, and potassium. They are low in sodium content. Nuts also rich in antioxidants.

The nutritional benefits vary with each type of nut. For example, omega-3 fatty acids present in walnuts have been found to prevent the development of erratic heart rhythms. Tree nuts such as walnuts, pecans and chestnuts have the highest contents of antioxidants that help fight chronic degenerative diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Peanuts are also a rich source of antioxidants.

Apart from these diseases, nuts are also beneficial for fighting obesity. Researchers at Loma Linda University found that consuming nuts, especially tree nuts, can significantly lower the risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome (MetS).

'We found that high tree nut consumers had significantly lower prevalence of obesity compared to the low tree nut consumers,' said lead researcher Karen Jaceldo-Siegl. 'And, high consumers of tree nuts had the lowest prevalence of obesity when compared to the low peanut/tree nut groups.'

In their experiment, they studied 803 adults who consumed tree nuts with an average intake of 16g/day among the high tree nut consumers and 5g per day among low tree nut consumers. Results showed that one serving (28g or 1 ounce) of tree nuts per week was significantly associated with 7 percent less metabolic syndrome. Doubling nut consumption could potentially reduce the risk if metabolic syndrome by 14 percent, they hypothesized. 'Interestingly, while overall nut consumption was associated with lower prevalence of MetS, tree nuts specifically appear to provide beneficial effects on MetS, independent of demographic, lifestyle and other dietary factors,' said Dr. Jaceldo-Siegl.

What is Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors that doubles your risk for cardiovascular disease, and increases your risk for type 2 diabetes fivefold. You have metabolic syndrome if any three of the five following conditions are diagnosed in you-

* Abdominal obesity
* Elevated triglycerides
* Low HDL (good) cholesterol
* High blood pressure
* High blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia)

Metabolic Syndrome Diet Plan

There are a variety of diet plans to combat metabolic syndrome. In general, it is more beneficial if a personalized eating plan is worked out with the help of a registered dietitian. A sustainable weight loss is preferable through a balanced diet that is restricted in calories - 1200 to 1400 calories for women and 1500 to 1800 for men.

* Include a variety of foods.

* Include nuts, seeds, and olive oil or canola oil in your diet plan. These are rich in unsaturated but healthy fats.

* Eat at least 4 cups of fruits and vegetables daily depending on your calorie needs. Opt for colorful fruits and vegetables.

* Choose whole grain foods such as brown rice and whole wheat bread.

The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet can also be used to tackle metabolic syndrome. The diet plan includes-

* Foods low in cholesterol and saturated fats
* Plenty of fruits and vegetables
* Fat-free or low-fat milk and dairy products
* Whole grain foods, fish, poultry, nuts, beans and seeds
* Avoiding sugary foods, sugars, red meats
* Limiting salt (sodium) intake

Mediterranean diet is also healthy diet plan for lowering risk of Metabolic Syndrome. This diet is similar to any other heart healthy diet except that it lays stress on olive oil, variety of colorful fruits and vegetables per meal, fatty fish, and a moderate amount of red wine.

Whatever diet plan you choose, make sure that you stick to the diet for a reasonable amount of time. Also there is no point of just healthy dieting if you do not exercise regularly.

The FDA recommends 1.5 ounces of nuts every day, so don't forget to consume a handful of nuts daily but take care of the calories you consume. After all, nuts are high calorie foods.



Study Indicates Monitoring Inactive Hepatitis B Patients is Cost-Effective Strategy

Monitoring inactive chronic hepatitis B (HBV) carriers is a cost-effective strategy for China, according to a new study.However, results published in Hepatology, a journal of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, show that increasing treatment, monitoring and adherence to therapy are necessary to achieve significant health benefits at the population level.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that roughly 2 billion individuals worldwide have been infected with HBV—a virus causing acute or chronic liver disease that may lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma, HCC). WHO reports that 240 million are living with chronic HBV, with 1.4 million of those individuals in the U.S. according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Previous research shows that 60% of the population in China has been infected with HBV and up to 10% are chronically infected, placing them at risk for life-threatening liver disease. In fact, medical evidence estimates that 500,000 Chinese die each year from HBV-related causes.

"China has the largest concentration of people infected with chronic HBV and understanding the health and economic impact is extremely important," explains Dr. Mehlika Toy from the Asian Liver Center at Stanford University School of Medicine who spearheaded the study while she was a Takemi Fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts. "Our study is the first to analyze cost and cost-effectiveness of monitoring inactive CHB patients in Shanghai."

Using simulation models, the research team compared the current strategy of not monitoring inactive chronic HBV patients to a monitor and treat (M&T) strategy. The M&T strategy would include twice-yearly assessment of HBV and alanine transaminase (ALT) levels in patients with chronic HBV. For active HBV cases the researchers suggest treatment with entecavir, which evidence shows to be a cost-effective antiviral therapy in China.

 Results show that there were 1.5 million adult carriers of HBV in Shanghai, with 63% of those hepatitis B virus e antigen (HBeAg) positive. The number of active cases of chronic HBV, were 258,139 HBeAg-positive group and 152,384 in the HBeAg-negative group. Researchers estimated that the M&T strategy would cost $20,730 (U.S.) and result in 15.45 quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs) per patient, compared to $20,455 and 15.35 QALYs for the current practice.

"Our findings suggest that monitoring of chronic HBV patients is cost-effective, but relies on identifying more cases of HBV infection, and increasing treatment, monitoring, and antiviral adherence to achieve health gains," concludes Dr. Toy. "We estimate that with adherence to monitoring and treatment, HCC could be reduced by 70% and mortality caused by chronic HBV by 83%." 


Brain Exercises to Improve Memory

Brain Exercises to Improve MemoryBrain is the most complex and mysterious and yet a very unique and powerful organ of the body. The human brain is unique in terms of possessing the capacity of higher cognitive functions like thinking, judging, manipulating etc.. Learning and memory are significant & vital functions of the brain. Learning new skills and memorizing them for future use is represented as neural pathways in brain. 
We have all at some stage in our lives experienced some extra-ordinary moments, thanks to our memory. Sometimes the faintest waft of smell or an odd sound or a picture, can transport us back in time to a long-forgotten moment in our life. And in that moment we can get overwhelmed and then slowly the the moment slowly evaporates. Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses writes -"Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains; another, a moonlit beach; a third, a family dinner of pot roast and sweet potatoes during a myrtle-mad August in a Midwestern town. Smells detonate softly in our memory like poignant land mines hidden under the weedy mass of years. Hit a tripwire of smell and memories explode all at once. A complex vision leaps out of the undergrowth."Understanding memory and how its power can be enhanced can be a very fruitful endevour. Memory can be managed, organized and enhanced significantly by exercising our brain. It is akin to exercising our physical body to tone up and maintain our muscles. As the physical workout increases body stamina, the brain workout improves the memory power. There are two main categories of brain exercises that are available to optimize the memory power. These are called "Mnemonics & Neurobics". There are several exercises also available which can be help build our memory. These exercises or tasks create new neural connections in brain, or associate two different already created neural pathways in a unique fashion, so that it becomes a memory unit. Regular use of these exercises lead to amplification of these pathways and thus resulting in a good intact memory.


Music Helps Elderly Increase Their Memory

 Music Helps Elderly Increase Their MemoryMusic won't cure dementia or Alzheimer's disease, but it can nevertheless help sufferers "wake up" their memories, reveals a moving documentary presented at the Sundance Film Festival."Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory," the debut feature film by Michael Rossato-Bennett, follows the efforts of one man to convince Americans of the benefits of music on people with dementia or Alzheimer's.

Dan Cohen, founder of the non-profit organization Memory & Music, arms himself with headphones and music players as he shows -- to the surprise of care-givers -- how patients locked in silence and lost in the maze of dementia seem to find some memories and feelings when they hear the music they love.

With the cameras watching on, many patients begin to talk, smile, sing and even dance, as their families look on stunned.

"It's not a cure," stressed Rossato-Bennett, whose film went on show at the independent film festival in Utah, the United States, at the weekend.

"And there is no way to get (back) these memory cells that have been destroyed."

But he says music has the ability to penetrate into the recesses of the brain less affected by dementia, which affects five million Americans.

Cohen's vision when he founded Memory & Music was a simple one: to bring a better quality of life to the elderly through music.

The fate of the elderly and infirm is one Rossato-Bennett shows an intense passion for.

"We live in a time, in a culture, where we're not really sure how much we care about humanity anymore," he told AFP at Sundance, which runs until January 26 in Park City.

"We know we care about industry, progress, commerce. But maybe elders are no longer useful. We're done with them."

He added: "Humanity is at a turning point. With our technology, we're gods.

"I really think we need to rethink almost everything and we'll have to, eventually. If we are creating global warming, at some point, we can't ignore it. If we are overfishing our oceans, at some point we can't ignore it.

"If our elders are not having a human life, at some point we cannot ignore it. So we will change.

"In 10-15 years in the US, we're gonna need to double the beds in nursing homes if we do it that way. We can't do it. We can barely afford what we have now. Double would literally bankrupt this country. People are gonna have to live at home longer, that's the only solution.

"When you have Alzheimer's or dementia, the world becomes overwhelming, you can't differentiate what's happening outside and inside, you can't do it."

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