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Saturday, 8 February 2014

Female Circumcision Renounced by Mali Communities

Community leaders gathered in Mali on Thursday to publicly renounce the practice of female genital mutilation to mark an international day of campaigning against female circumcision though the practice is still legal in the deeply-conservative west African nation.
 Female Circumcision Renounced by Mali CommunitiesMoussocoura Sidibe, the spokesman for 14 communities representing numerous ethnic groups in the Muslim-majority country, said they were taking "the solemn commitment to abandon the practice of FGM and early and forced marriage involving girls in our communities".

The participants in the announcement at a sports stadium in the capital Bamako represented about 1,000 people, according to organizers Tostan -- or "breakthrough" in the west African language of Wolof -- a US-registered development charity.

Female genital mutilation, or female circumcision, involves the ritual removal of the external genitalia of young girls with the aim of ensuring their chastity as women.

The painful and sometimes fatal operation is usually carried out on girls between infancy and age 15. It can cause infections and, later, infertility and childbirth complications.

Fanta Kourouma, a housewife from Yirimadio, a south-eastern suburb of the capital, said she had been campaigning against FGM since 1982.

"I lost a girl because of circumcision. I have a second daughter, who continues to live with the side-effects... I am very proud of what is happening today in my own neighbourhood," she said.

Thursday's announcement was the result of several years of campaigning targeting 90 women's associations in Yirimadio with Tostan seeking the backing of community elders, the charity's coordinator Mah Cisse said.

"We encountered many difficulties because it is not easy to change people's behaviour," she added.

Youssouf Bagayogo, a government official attending the ceremony, welcomed the announcement and said that "soon, the government will legislate to ban the practice", without giving a timetable.

In the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where FGM is concentrated, more than 125 million girls and women have been subjected to FGM, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

The agency says a further 86 million young girls worldwide are likely to experience some form of the practice by 2030, if current trends continue.

"Human development cannot be fully achieved as long as women and girls continue to suffer from this human rights violation or live in fear of it," UNFPA executive director Babatunde Osotimehin said in a statement to mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.

"It is an affront to their human dignity, an assault on their health and an impediment to the well-being of their families, communities and countries.

"Human development cannot be fully achieved as long as women and girls continue to suffer from this human rights violation or live in fear of it."

While FGM remains legal in Mali, Uganda, Kenya and Guinea-Bissau have recently adopted laws criminalising the practice.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlighted the need to "strive to preserve the best in any culture, and leave harm behind," in a statement to mark the day.

"Although some would argue that this is a 'tradition', we must recall that slavery, so-called honour killings and other inhumane practices have been defended with the same weak argument," he saidSl

4:12pm Prime Time for Indulging in Unhealthy Food, Finds Survey

 4:12pm Prime Time for Indulging in Unhealthy Food, Finds SurveyAccording to the study by Seasonal Berries, over a third of Britons have succumbed to the daily afternoon hunger slump and admit they have already broken healthy diets that they started at the beginning of the year, the Daily Star reported.

Crisps, biscuits, cake and chocolate were named as the biggest downfalls, with half of Britons saying afternoon snacking was the main reason they break their New Year diets.

But it's not just the time of day that brings on the hunger pangs, as more than half of those questioned blamed other people for their diet failures.

Over a third blamed their partner and one in ten blame colleagues for "forcing" unhealthy snacks on them in the workplace.

Although both sexes are prone to giving in to temptation, men actually seem to have more willpower, with 69 percent sticking to their diet for one month, compared to 63 percent of women.

Over a quarter attributed lack of flavour in their healthy meals as the reason they craved salty, sugary snacks and others said seeing other people pigging out made it harder to curb the cravings.
 Source: Daily Star

Body Odour may Now be Your ID!

Researchers at Spain's Universidad Politecnica de Madrid, in collaboration with tech firm IIia Sistemas SL, are developing a system that can verify people by their scent signatures.

Recognisable body odour patterns remain constant enough over time to allow people to be identified with an accuracy rate of 85 percent.

Researchers believe this paves the way for creating less aggressive ways to ID people than the intrusive measures currently being used, according to a press release by the university.

While iris and fingerprint scan may have a higher accuracy rate, the researchers contend these techniques are commonly associated with criminal records, perhaps making people reluctant to participate with the process. And facial recognition has a high error rate.

Therefore, the release said, the development of scent sensors that could identify a person as they walk through a system stall could provide less invasive solutions with a relatively high accuracy rate.

Researchers believe such technology could be used in airports, border checkpoints or anyplace where photo identification is required.

Security agents may have reputations for being gruff grouches who love nothing more than to nose through your bags, but their rotten tempers might be because of all the body odour they're forced to smell, day in, day out.

At least with a scent-detecting security system, someone else could sniff out the bad guys, the release added.
Source:Universidad Politecnica de Madrid

New Insights in Cell Division Could Boost Understanding of Cancer

A study suggests that new insights into how the cells in our bodies divide could improve our knowledge of a condition linked to cancer.
Errors in the cell division process - which allows us to grow and stay healthy - can lead to a genetic disorder called aneuploidy, which is also associated with birth defects and infertility.
 New Insights in Cell Division Could Boost Understanding of Cancer
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh have pinpointed the key role played by a protein in ensuring that cells separate correctly.

During cell division, chromosomes containing our DNA duplicate and then separate to form two identical copies of the original cell. Aneuploidy arises when chromosome pairs fail to separate properly.

Scientists say that a protein - called shugoshin - serves two important functions. It recruits other parts of the cell which are needed for chromosome separation and enables an in-built error correction system to monitor cells as they divide.

Researchers studied the effect that disabling shugoshin had on cell division in yeast. The team found that in the absence of a working shugoshin protein, cells were more likely to contain abnormal numbers of chromosomes.

Cell division in yeast is very similar to that of humans, making it an excellent model in which to study the role that shugoshin plays in preventing aneuploidy in people.

The study, published in the journal eLife, was funded by the Wellcome Trust, the European Molecular Biology Organisation, the Scottish Universities Life Sciences Alliance and the Darwin Trust of Edinburgh.

Dr Adele Marston, of the University of Edinburgh's School of Biological Sciences, who led the study, said: "Faults in these proteins are linked to some types of cancer, and our new discoveries about how they function in yeast could help us understand how they can sometimes contribute to disease in humans."


Blood Vessel Plaques Exactly Identified by Nanoparticle

 Blood Vessel Plaques Exactly Identified by NanoparticleA multifunctional nanoparticle that enables magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been developed that can now pinpoint blood vessel plaques caused by atherosclerosis, by a team of researchers, led by scientists at Case Western Reserve University. The technology is a step toward creating a non-invasive method of identifying plaques vulnerable to rupture-the cause of heart attack and stroke—in time for treatment. Currently, doctors can identify only blood vessels that are narrowing due to plaque accumulation. A doctor makes an incision and slips a catheter inside a blood vessel in the arm, groin or neck. The catheter emits a dye that enables X-rays to show the narrowing.

However, Case Western Reserve researchers report online today in the journal Nano Letters that a nanoparticle built from a rod-shaped virus commonly found on tobacco locates and illuminates plaque in arteries more effectively and with a tiny fraction of the dye.

More importantly, the work shows that the tailored nanoparticles home in on plaque biomarkers. That opens the possibility that particles can be programmed to identify vulnerable plaques from stable, something untargeted dyes alone cannot.

"From a chemist's point of view, it's still challenging to make nanoparticles that are not spherical, but non-spherical materials are advantageous for medical applications" said Nicole F. Steinmetz, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Case Western Reserve. "Nature is way ahead of us. We're harvesting nature's methods to turn them into something useful in medicine."

The rod-shaped nanoparticles are made from tobacco mosaic virus, tiny tubular organisms that infect plant cells but are benign outside the plant.

Steinmetz, a specialist in bioengineering plant viruses, teamed with Xin Yu, a professor of biomedical engineering, who specializes in developing MRI techniques to investigate cardiovascular diseases. They created a device that transports and concentrates imaging agents on plaques.

The research team includes: Michael A. Bruckman, a postdoctoral researcher, and Lauren N. Randolph, an undergraduate student, in the Steinmetz lab; Kai Jiang, a PhD student in Yu's lab; and Leonard G. Luyt, assistant professor, and Emily J. Simpson, a PhD candidate, both at department of chemistry at Western University, in London, Ontario.

Elongated nanoparticles have a higher probability of being pushed out of the central blood flow and targeting the vessel wall compared to spheres. Further the shape allows more stable attachment to the plaque, the researchers said.

The virus surface is modified to carry short chains of amino acids, called peptides, that make the virus stick where plaques are developing or already exist. Luyt and Simpson synthesized the peptides.

"The binding allows the particle to stay on the site longer, whereas the sheer force is more likely to wash away a sphere, due to its high curvature," said Yu, an appointee of the Case School of Engineering.

The virus surface was also modified to carry near-infrared dyes used for optical scanning, and gadolinium ions (which are linked with organic molecules, to reduce toxicity of the metal) used as an MRI contrasting agent. They used optical scans to verify the MRI results.

By loading the surface with gadolinium ions instead of injecting them and letting them flow freely in the blood stream, the nanoparticle increases the relaxivity—or contrast from healthy tissue—by more than four orders of magnitude.

"The agent injected in the blood stream has a relaxivity of 5, and our nanoparticles a relaxivity of 35,000," said Steinmetz who was appointed by the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine.

That's because the nanorod carries up to 2,000 molecules of the contrast agent, concentrating them at the plaque sites. Secondly, attaching the contrast agent to a nanoparticle scaffold reduces its molecular tumbling rates and leads to additional relaxivity benefit, the researchers explained.

While the view is better, they are able to use 400 times less of the contrast agent because it's delivered directly to plaques.

The tobacco virus-based nanoparticle, they said, offers another advantage: Most nanoparticles that have been developed to carry contrast agents are based on synthetic materials, some of which may stay in the body a while.

The tobacco virus is made of protein, which the body is well equipped to handle and flush from the system rapidly.

Steinmetz and Yu, members of the Case Center for Imaging Research, are now proposing to take the work a step further. They want to tailor the nanoparticles to show doctors whether the plaques are stable and require no treatment, or are vulnerable to rupture and require treatment. A rupture sets off the cascade of events that lead to heart attack and stroke.

To do this, they must first find different biomarkers of stable versus vulnerable plaques and coat the nanoparticles with different peptides and contrast agents that enable the MRI to tell one from the other.

"Our understanding of vulnerable plaques is incomplete, but once we can diagnose vulnerable plaques from stable plaques, it will be a paradigm shift in diagnosis and prognosis," Yu said.

In addition to using the technology to find vulnerabilities, it may also useful for delivering medicines and monitoring treatment, the researchers say.
 Source: Case Western Reserve School of Medicine.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Many bills related to health, pharma will go into oblivion with final session of current House

In view of the elections scheduled in April-May this year and several pressing issues before the government, the fate of several pending bills related to health, biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors are unlikely to get any consideration in the budget session of the House, thus sealing the fate of several crucial legislations in the pipeline.

The main business during session of the Parliament, beginning from February 5 and scheduled till February 21, will be to present and pass the vote-on-account and railways vote-on-account, ahead of the elections to complete the Constitutional obligation. The session is in fact will be an extended Winter session as both Houses were not prorogued.

In view of the elections, the present government may also press a few other bills which can gain the fancy of the masses. This will mean that several bills pending for years would be pushed into the cold storage as the revival of the same would depend fully on the preferences and policies of the next government. Some of these bills after prolonged wait were even introduced in the House.

One of the main bills, which was in fact almost through, is the Central Drugs Authority Bill which was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in August last year and then was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee.  The panel, which submitted its report in December, has virtually turned down most of the main proposals, putting the government in a spot to redraft the bill.

Revising the now-defunct bill of 2007, the new bill seeks to centralise licensing in 17 categories of very critical drugs included in the proposed Third Schedule of the Act. A separate Chapter containing regulatory provisions for medical devices and more comprehensive provisions for regulating clinical trials and exports are included in the bill.

Another bill, after long wait, that came upto the Parliament was the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority Bill. But the term for examining the bill has been extended upto March 2014, thus making it impossible for the current session to take it up and pass the bill.

One important bill that will also go into the cold storage will be the HIV/AIDS bill, which has been pending since 2006. The HIV/AIDS (Prevention & Control) Bill 2013 is still to be vetted by the Ministry of Law and Justice. No time frame has been kept for its introduction yet.

Plant Compound Could Help Inhibit Alzheimer's Disease

 Plant Compound Could Help Inhibit Alzheimer's DiseaseIn mice, antioxidant found in fruits and vegetables stops memory loss that accompanies Alzheimer's disease, reveals research.            
 Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have discovered in experiments on mice which normally develop Alzheimer's symptoms less than a year after birth, that a daily dose of the compound----a flavonol called fisetin----prevented the progressive memory and learning impairments.

The drug, however, did not alter the formation of amyloid plaques in the brain, accumulations of proteins which are commonly blamed for Alzheimer's disease.

The new finding suggests a way to treat Alzheimer's symptoms independently of targeting amyloid plaques.

"We had already shown that in normal animals, fisetin can improve memory," Pamela Maher, a senior staff scientist in Salk's Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory who led the new study, said.

"What we showed here is that it also can have an effect on animals prone to Alzheimer's," she said.

More than a decade ago, Maher discovered that fisetin helps protect neurons in the brain from the effects of aging. She and her colleagues have since----in both isolated cell cultures and mouse studies----probed how the compound has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects on cells in the brain. Most recently, they found that fisetin turns on a cellular pathway known to be involved in memory.

"What we realized is that fisetin has a number of properties that we thought might be beneficial when it comes to Alzheimer's," Maher said.

The research is published in the journal Aging Cell.
 Source: journal Aging Cell

How to Get Different Parts of the Brain "Talking" to Each Other

 How to Get Different Parts of the Brain For the first time scientists have identified a way in which decreased functional connectivity between different parts of the brain can come about.
 In a study published online today in Nature Neuroscience, scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Monterotondo, Italy, and collaborators at the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT), in Rovereto, and La Sapienza University in Rome, demonstrate that it can be caused by cells called microglia failing to trim connections between neurons.

"We show that a deficit in microglia during development can have widespread and long-lasting effects on brain wiring and behaviour," says Cornelius Gross, who led the study. "It leads to weak brain connectivity, decreased social behaviour, and increased repetitive behaviour, all hallmarks of autism."

The findings indicate that, by trimming surplus connections in the developing brain, microglia allow the remaining links to grow stronger, like high-speed fibre-optic cables carrying strong signals between brain regions. But if these cells fail to do their job at that crucial stage of development, those brain regions are left with a weaker communication network, which in turn has lifelong effects on behaviour.

Yang Zhan, a postdoctoral fellow in Gross' lab at EMBL, analysed the strength of connections between different areas of brain in mice that were genetically engineered to have fewer microglia during development. Working with Alessandro Gozzi's lab at IIT and Davide Ragozzino at La Sapienza University, the EMBL scientists combined this approach with high-resolution fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans of the mice's brains, taking full advantage of a novel technique developed at IIT, which enables scientists to obtain detailed, three-dimensional maps of the brain's functional connections. The team found that mice with fewer microglia had weaker connections between neurons, and less cross-talk between different brain regions. When Rosa Paolicelli, a PhD student in Gross' lab, studied the mice's behaviour, she discovered that mice with fewer microglia and decreased connectivity displayed behaviours commonly associated with autism spectrum disorders. These mice spent more time repeatedly grooming themselves, and avoided social interactions.

"This is an exciting time to be studying microglia," Gross concludes: "they're turning out to be major players in how our brain gets wired up."

 Source:Nature Neuroscience

Think Before Enjoying Loud Music, It can Lead to Hearing Loss: Study

 Think Before Enjoying Loud Music, It can Lead to Hearing Loss: StudyListening to music without adhering to safe decibel limits can cause irreversible hearing damage, says a poll conducted by a Scottish charity.

 It says the high volume of iPods and MP3 players ups the chance of tinnitus. One out of 10 people across the UK get tinnitus daily that includes "light buzzing" and "constant roar" in ears and head, said Campaign group Action on Hearing Loss.

DJ and record producer Paul Oakenfold has asked people to use ear defenders to gigs and not play music at high volume on personal music players.

Fifty per cent of those surveyed said they listened to music for between one and six hours a day which accounts for up to a third of their waking day. But one in five never cared to take any extra measure to protect their hearing.

Paul Breckell, chief executive of Action on Hearing Loss, said, "Listening to loud music for a long time can trigger tinnitus and is an indication of damaged hearing. Most people have experienced tinnitus, but those who are severely affected can experience fear, anxiety and feelings of helplessness that affect their quality of life."

The study also revealed that after youngsters do not understand the risks of attending a night out. It also said that almost 70 per cent of them suffered from ringing in their ears or dulled hearing after a night out and this increased their risk of getting tinnitus.


Heart Disease Warning at Age 18 Identified

Heart Disease Warning at Age 18 IdentifiedElevated blood pressure when a person is as young as age 18 is a warning sign of cardiovascular disease developing later in life and the time to begin prevention is from age 18 onwards, suggests a large national Northwestern Medicine study. That's decades earlier than clinicians and patients generally start thinking about heart disease risk.            
 The study also found distinct blood pressure patterns from ages 18 to 55 that reveal people at high risk for calcification of coronary arteries -- a marker for heart disease -- by middle age. Also known as hardening of the arteries, these calcium deposits can narrow coronary arteries and increase heart attack risk.

The 25-year study is the first to identify different long-term patterns of blood pressure levels and resulting cardiovascular risk.

"This shows that your blood pressure in young adulthood can impact your risk for heart disease later in life," said Norrina Allen, lead study author and assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "We can't wait until middle age to address it. If we can prevent their blood pressure from increasing earlier in life we can reduce their risk of future heart attacks and stroke."

More than 33 percent of U.S. adults have hypertension. Currently, the clinical approach is to evaluate blood pressure risk in middle or older age and not consider how it may have changed or increased with age.

The paper will be published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Tracking the long-term patterns in blood pressure starting in young adulthood will more accurately identify individuals at risk for heart disease. It also will enable earlier and more effective prevention, scientists said.

"If we see someone who is 25 or 30 and they fall into one of these patterns, we can predict where they'll be later in middle age," Allen said. "Then we can prescribe lifestyle changes such as increased physical activity or a better diet that can prevent them from developing hypertension and a higher risk of disease."

"In people with higher blood pressure, earlier intervention with lifestyle and with medication, when needed, is important," noted senior author Donald Lloyd-Jones, M.D., chair of preventive medicine at Feinberg and a cardiologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. "Although blood pressure can be quickly lowered with medication, the damage to the heart and blood vessels that is caused by time spent with elevated blood pressure tends to remain. We can't put the horse all the way back in the barn."

The study used data from 4,681 participants in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study from baseline years 1985-1986 through 25 years of follow-up. The participants (black and white men and women) were 18 to 25 years old when the study began and from four urban sites including Chicago, Birmingham, Minneapolis, and Oakland.

The highest risk group had elevated blood pressure compared to their peers at age 18, but it was still within the range considered normal; this tended to develop into hypertension by middle age. They were four times more likely to have coronary artery calcification.

The study identified five patterns in blood pressure from young adulthood to middle age:

  • 22 percent of participants maintained low blood pressure throughout follow-up (low-stable group)
  • 42 percent had moderate levels (moderate-stable group)
  • 12 percent started with moderate levels which increased at an average age of 35 years (moderate-increasing group)
  • 19 percent had relatively elevated levels throughout (elevated-stable group)
  • 5 percent started with elevated blood pressure, which increased during follow-up (elevated-increasing group).

Groups with elevated or increasing blood pressure were at the highest risk for developing calcification of coronary arteries. The study also found African Americans and smokers were more likely to experience rapid increases in blood pressure during middle age, placing them at higher risk of heart disease.

 Source:Journal of the American Medical Association.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Study Links Aspartame To Fast-Paced Decline in Kidney Function

diet_sodaA study published in the Clinical Journal of  the American Society of Nephrology determined that sugar sweetened soda increases the odds for kidney function decline. You can read the entire study here. 3,318 women participated in the study for  a number of years as they consumed diet soda that contained artificial sweeteners, most notably Aspartame.  Two or more diet drinks a day led to a double risk in fast-paced kidney decline. The study was conducted by scientists from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
Another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that aspartame is lniked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma and leukaemia. You can read the full study here, and we also wrote an article on it that you can read here.
The dangers of aspartame, like many other things have been prominent since its inception. If one actually does the research instead of simple believing the marketing, it’s not uncommon to come to the conclusion that at the very least Aspartame provides us no benefit and has great risks attached. There are other options available, so why bother with Aspartame? Below is an excerpt from a previously posted article on Collective Evolution. Similar to fluoride in our water, it’s evident of our lack of public knowledge that we still allow a tremendous amount of harmful additives and toxins into what we choose to consume. It’s clear that aspartame should not be used in foods, and if you’re wondering why it continues to be used, you can find out below.
It all starts in the mid 1960′s with a company called G.D. Searle. One of their chemists accidentally creates aspartame while trying to create a cure for stomach ulcers. Searle decides to put aspartame through a testing process which eventually leads to its approval by the FDA. Not long after, serious health effects begin to arise and G.D. Searle comes under fire for their testing practices. It is revealed that the testing process of Aspartame was among the worst the investigators had ever seen and that in fact the product was unsafe for use. Aspartame triggers the first criminal investigation of a manufacturer put into place by the FDA in 1977. By 1980 the FDA bans aspartame from use after having 3 independent scientists study the sweetener. It was determined that one main health effects was that it had a high chance of inducing brain tumours. At this point it was clear that aspartame was not fit to be used in foods and banned is where it stayed, but not for long.
Early in 1981 Searle Chairman Donald Rumsfeld (who is a former Secretary of Defense.. surprise surprise) vowed to “call in his markers,” to get it approved. January 21, 1981, the day after Ronald Reagan’s inauguration, Searle took the steps to re-apply aspartame’s approval for use by the FDA. Ronald Reagans’ new FDA commissioner Arthur Hayes Hull, Jr., appointed a 5-person Scientific Commission to review the board of inquiry’s decision. It did not take long for the panel to decide 3-2 in favor of maintaining the ban of aspartame. Hull then decided to appoint a 6th member to the board, which created a tie in the voting, 3-3. Hull then decided to personally break the tie and approve aspartame for use. Hull later left the FDA under allegations of impropriety, served briefly as Provost at New York Medical College, and then took a position with Burston-Marsteller. Burstone-Marstella is the chief public relations firm for both Monsanto and GD Searle. Since that time he has never spoken publicly about aspartame.
It is clear to this point that if anything the safety of aspartame is incredibly shaky.  It has already been through a process of being banned and without the illegitimate un-banning of the product, it would not be being used today. Makes you wonder how much corruption and money was involved with names like Rumsfeld, Reagan and Hull involved so heavily. In 1985, Monsanto decides to purchase the aspartame patent from G.D. Searle. Remember that Arthur Hull now had the connection to Monsanto. Monsanto did not seem too concerned with the past challenges and ugly image aspartame had based on its past. I personally find this comical as Monsanto’s products are banned in many countries and of all companies to buy the product they seem to fit best as they are champions of producing incredibly unsafe and untested products and making sure they stay in the market place.
 Since then, aspartame has been under a lot of attack by scientists, doctors, chemists and consumers about it’s safety and neurotoxic properties. Piles of comprehensive studies have been completed that show aspartame is a cause for over 90 serious health problems such as cancer, leukemia, headaches, seizures, fibromyalgia, and epilepsy just to name a few. We have written several articles discussing various affects of aspartame.

UCLA Study Reveals Sugar In Your Diet Is Lowering Your IQ

This might make you think twice about grabbing that can of soda.
A UCLA study funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke is the first to show how a diet steadily high in fructose slows the brain, hampering memory and learning — and how omega-3 fatty acids can counteract the disruption. The peer-reviewed Journal of Physiology published the findings back in May of 2012. [1]
Fernando Gomez-Pinilla,  Professor of Neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA , Professor of Integrative Biology and Physiology in the UCLA College of Letters and Science.
Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, Professor of Neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA , Professor of Integrative Biology and Physiology in the UCLA College of Letters and Science.
“Our findings illustrate that what you eat affects how you think,” said Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, a professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a professor of integrative biology and physiology in the UCLA College of Letters and Science. “Eating a high-fructose diet over the long term alters your brain’s ability to learn and remember information. But adding omega-3 fatty acids to your meals can help minimize the damage.”
While earlier research has revealed how fructose harms the body through its role in diabetes, obesity and fatty liver, this study is the first to uncover how the sweetener influences the brain. Sources of fructose in the Western diet include cane sugar (sucrose) and high-fructose corn syrup, an inexpensive liquid sweetener. The syrup is widely added to processed foods, including soft drinks, condiments, applesauce and baby food. The average American consumes roughly 47 pounds of cane sugar and 35 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup per year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. [2]
“We’re less concerned about naturally occurring fructose in fruits, which also contain important antioxidants,” explained Gomez-Pinilla, who is also a member of UCLA’s Brain Research Institute and Brain Injury Research Center. “We’re more concerned about the fructose in high-fructose corn syrup, which is added to manufactured food products as a sweetener and preservative.”
Gomez-Pinilla and study co-author Rahul Agrawal, a UCLA visiting postdoctoral fellow from India, studied two groups of rats that each consumed a fructose solution as drinking water for six weeks. The second group also received omega-3 fatty acids in the form of flaxseed oil and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which protects against damage to the synapses — the chemical connections between brain cells that enable memory and learning.
“DHA is essential for synaptic function — brain cells’ ability to transmit signals to one another,” Gomez-Pinilla said. “This is the mechanism that makes learning and memory possible. Our bodies can’t produce enough DHA, so it must be supplemented through our diet.”
The animals were fed standard rat chow and trained on a maze twice daily for five days before starting the experimental diet. The UCLA team tested how well the rats were able to navigate the maze, which contained numerous holes but only one exit. The scientists placed visual landmarks in the maze to help the rats learn and remember the way. Six weeks later, the researchers tested the rats’ ability to recall the route and escape the maze. What they saw surprised them.
“The second group of rats navigated the maze much faster than the rats that did not receive omega-3 fatty acids,” Gomez-Pinilla said. “The DHA-deprived animals were slower, and their brains showed a decline in synaptic activity. Their brain cells had trouble signalling each other, disrupting the rats’ ability to think clearly and recall the route they’d learned six weeks earlier.”
The DHA-deprived rats also developed signs of resistance to insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar and regulates synaptic function in the brain. A closer look at the rats’ brain tissue suggested that insulin had lost much of its power to influence the brain cells.
“Because insulin can penetrate the blood–brain barrier, the hormone may signal neurons to trigger reactions that disrupt learning and cause memory loss,” Gomez-Pinilla said.
He suspects that fructose is the culprit behind the DHA-deficient rats’ brain dysfunction. Eating too much fructose could block insulin’s
ability to regulate how cells use and store sugar for the energy required for processing thoughts and emotions.
 “Insulin is important in the body for controlling blood sugar, but it may play a different role in the brain, where insulin appears to disturb memory and learning,” he said. “Our study shows that a high-fructose diet harms the brain as well as the body. This is something new.”
Gomez-Pinilla, a native of Chile and an exercise enthusiast who practices what he preaches, advises people to keep fructose intake to a minimum and swap sugary desserts for fresh berries, which he keeps within arm’s reach in a small refrigerator in his office. An occasional bar of dark chocolate that hasn’t been processed with a lot of extra sweetener is fine too, he said.
Still planning to throw caution to the wind and indulge in a hot-fudge sundae? Then also eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, walnuts and flaxseeds, or take a daily DHA capsule. Gomez-Pinilla recommends one gram of DHA per day.
“Our findings suggest that consuming DHA regularly protects the brain against fructose’s harmful effects,” said Gomez-Pinilla. “It’s like saving money in the bank. You want to build a reserve for your brain to tap into when it requires extra fuel to fight off future diseases.”

Effect of lowering blood pressure on risk for cognitive decline in patients with diabetes

Intensive blood pressure and cholesterol lowering was not associated with reduced risk for diabetes-related cognitive decline in older patients with long-standing type 2 diabetes mellitus, according to a study by Jeff D. Williamson, M.D., M.H.S., of the Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, N.C., and colleagues.
Patients with type 2 diabetes (T2DM) are at increased risk for decline in cognitive function, for reduced brain volume and increased white matter lesions on brain imaging, according to the study. The authors examined the effect of intensive treatment to lower blood pressure (BP) and lipid levels as part of the Memory in Diabetes (MIND) substudy of the Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes (ACCORD) trial.
The trial randomized 2,977 participants without baseline cognitive impairment or dementia and with hemoglobin A 1C levels less than 7.5 percent to a systolic BP goal of less than 120 or less than 140 mm Hg (n=1,439) and to a fibrate or placebo in patients with statin-treated, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels less than 100 mg/dL (n=1,538).
Researchers assessed cognition at baseline, 20 and 40 months. Also, 503 participants underwent baseline and 40-month brain magnetic resonance imaging to look for changes in total brain volume (TBV) and other structural measures of brain health.
There were no differences in cognitive function in the intensive BP-lowering trial (<120 40="" a="" at="" b="" bp="" compared="" effect="" fibrate="" group.="" group="" groups.="" had="" in="" intensive="" intervention="" lower="" months="" no="" on="" or="" standard="" target="" tbv.="" tbv="" the="" therapy="" with="">
"During the past two decades, the belief that more intensive treatment strategies for controlling T2DM-related comorbidities [related illnesses], such as hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia and hypertension, would reduce clinical complications has driven large investment in new medications for this disease syndrome," the study concludes. "These results do not negate other evidence that intensive strategies to control BP and lipid levels may be indicated for other conditions such as stroke or coronary heart disease. However, this randomized clinical trial in 2,977 older adults with a mean baseline Mini-Mental State Examination score higher than 27, a mean HbA 1c level of 8.3 percent, and long-term T2DM shows no overall reduction of the rate of T2DM-related cognitive decline through intensive BP therapy or adding a fibrate to well-controlled LDL-C levels."
Source:JAMA Internal Medicine

NIH study describes new method for tracking T cells in HIV patients

Researchers use a naturally occurring HIV variant to trace a T cell lineage for 17 years

A team of researchers has reported a novel method for tracking CD4+ T cells in people infected with HIV. CD4+ T cells are critical for immune defense against an array of pathogens and are a primary target of HIV. In the study, researchers used a unique, replication-incompetent (defective) form of HIV identified in a patient in the early 1990s. The defective virus had integrated into the genome of a single CD4+ T cell. Like a barcode, this "provirus" marked the originally infected CD4+ T cell and its progeny, enabling researchers to track its lineage for 17 years. This new method allows scientists to distinguish dividing cells from dying ones, something that has not been possible with existing labeling techniques, but is essential for studying how immune cells survive HIV infection.
The study, published in the online issue of AIDS, was conducted by Hiromi Imamichi, Ph.D., H. Clifford Lane, M.D., and others in the Laboratory of Immunoregulation at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. The cell lineage is part of a subset of CD4+ T cells called "effector memory" (TEM) cells. This distinction is significant because it is currently believed that TEM cells last for only days or weeks. The NIAID investigators demonstrated that this subpopulation of T cells can persist for at least 17 years.

The researchers also observed in the blood cells of patients a higher frequency of defective HIV proviruses than what has been reported in previous work. Although these defective variants cannot produce an infectious virus, many retain the ability to generate small pieces of HIV, leading the researchers to speculate that these "foreign materials" within CD4+ T cells may play a key role in the ongoing immune activation that is characteristic of HIV infection, including in patients with "undetectable" virus in their blood.

ISMGA urges TN govt to allot more fund to Govt Siddha Medical College at Palayamkottai

The Indian Siddha Medical Graduates Association (ISMGA) has requested the Commissionerate of Indian System of Medicines in Chennai to favourably consider development activities at the 50 years old Government Siddha Medical College at Palayamkottai in Thirunelveli district in Tamil Nadu. The college is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
In a telephonic talk with Pharmabiz, Dr Padmaram Chandra, the national secretary of ISMGA said he has submitted a memorandum to the Commissioner of Indian Medicine demanding more funds to the medical college this year because so many developmental projects have been chalked out by the former students of the college, of them a major chunk are their members. He said the government should give priority to develop the infrastructure facilities of the college before initiating future programmes.
Although there have been complaints from students, teachers, former students and well-wishers about the poor situation of the college, the authorities are keeping mum over the issue even on the golden jubilee time.  Miffed over the apathetic attitude of the state government, the Chennai based Centre for Traditional Medicines and Research (CTMR) last week met the state health secretary and briefed him of the deplorable condition of the Siddha medical college and wanted his intervention in the matter. Due to lack of space, the consulting rooms of the hospitals are invariably overcrowded and often creates inconveniences to the patients visiting the hospital.
“In general both the two Siddha medical colleges in the government sector are lacking infrastructural facilities and the students are facing serious problems. The situation of the private Siddha medical colleges is also not better.  If the Central Council of Indian Medicine (CCIM) follows strict rules during their inspection, no college in Chennai would be able to run the courses and all of them have to close down.  Much worse is the situation prevailing in each college. Either through compromise or because of influence these colleges, both in the private and government sectors, are surviving each year”, Dr Padmaram Chandra told Pharmabiz.
There are two government colleges and five private colleges in Tamil Nadu to teach the Siddha system to the students. The two government colleges are located in northernmost and southernmost parts of the state. Both of them are facing shortage of faculties and essential medicines also.
Akhila Thiruvithamcore Siddha Vaidya Kalloory in Kanyakumari,      Sri Sai Ram Siddha Medical College & Research Centre in Chennai, Velumailu Siddha Medical College in Kancheepuram, R V S Siddha Medical College in Coimbatore and Sivaraj Siddha Medical College in Salem are the five institutions in the private sector running the course of traditional system.
Regarding the activities of ISMGA, the national secretary said the Chennai zonal committee is not active and not functioning well. Otherwise, the problems of the academic institutions would have been intimated to the government on time. He said a CME program for the Chennai members of the association would be conducted in the third week of this month. Dr Stanely John, vice-president (Siddha) of CCIM would participate in the programme.


Genes Associated With Cerebral Palsy and Death in Very Preterm Babies

 Genes Associated With Cerebral Palsy and Death in Very Preterm BabiesResearchers will report that a variant in SERPINE1, a gene involved in inflammation and blood clotting, is associated with cerebral palsy and death in very preterm babies.
This gene has been associated with increased risk of cerebral palsy in one previous study of preterm babies. The study will be presented on Feb. 6 at 2:45 p.m. CST, at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine's annual meeting, The Pregnancy Meeting™, in New Orleans. 

Previous genetic studies of very preterm babies have suggested several genetic variations that might predispose to brain injury and developmental problems. However, different studies have had different results. 

This study, titled Genetic Predisposition to Adverse Neurodevelopmental Outcome After Early Preterm Birth: A Validation Analysis, was a collaborative effort between the Eunice Kennedy Shriver NICHD Maternal-Fetal Medicine Units and Neonatal Research Networks. 

Researchers evaluated two different populations of very early preterm births (earlier than 32 weeks) with the goal of confirming the same genetic risk factors in both groups. The first population of preterm births was enrolled in a large Neonatal Research Network study, and the other group was of births that were enrolled in a Maternal Fetal Medicine Units Network study of magnesium sulfate before preterm birth for prevention of cerebral palsy. 

Results revealed a variant in the gene SERPINE1, a gene involved in inflammation and blood clotting, was associated with cerebral palsy and death after early preterm birth in both populations of preterm babies. 

"Preterm birth is the leading cause of childhood brain injury in otherwise normal children. The earlier a baby is born, the higher the risk of brain injury. However, even among the tiniest preemies, some babies develop quite normally, while others have devastating brain injury and life-long disability," said Erin Clark, M.D., the study's author. "The reason for this difference in outcomes is not well understood. Genetics may allow identification of babies at increased risk so that we can target those babies for prevention and treatment strategies. These results add to the evidence that genes may play a role in risk of brain injury and death in preterm babies." 

Clark, assistant professor of Maternal Fetal Medicine, University of Utah School of Medicine's Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, also noted that additional research is necessary to further evaluate genes that may influence risk and to determine how to apply these results to clinical care. 

Source:Maternal Fetal Medicine, University of Utah School of Medicine's Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Cancer is Curable If Addressed Timely

Many people believe cancer is incurable, quite a few think it is contagious and many others feel it can be caused by hair-dyes and anti-perspirants. 

Myths like these expose our little knowledge about the much-feared disease which, if addressed timely, can be cured, doctors say.
One of the biggest myths about cancer, according to Rajeev Kumar, senior consultant oncologist, Rockland Hospital, Qutab Institutional Area, is that cancer is incurable. 

"Rather, cancer is the most curable of all chronic diseases," Kumar told IANS. 

"One can never cure diabetes or hypertension, but cancer, if detected early and treated well, can be cured," Kumar added. 

Agreed Preeti Jain, consultant oncology surgeon, Columbia Asia Hospital, who said that people with cancer can live "happier lives" if detected early. 

"Neither is it true that surgery increases the risk of cancer," Jain said, adding that surgeries rather help combat the disease. 

Explaining the reasons behind the lack of awareness related to cancer, Manish Singhal, senior consultant medical oncology, IOSPL at Fortis Hospital, Noida, said that it is because people believe in self-medication. 

"Such misconceptions prevail despite information being available, because a majority of the population believes in self-medication with little or no access to complete information on the disease," Singhal told IANS. 

Jain added that lack of information can be attributed to cancer being a mass disease. 

"If we penetrate India geographically, we will find that many people are still unaware about the disease. They know that cancer is a disease; but its type or detection, is not known to many," she said. 

Singhal further said that neither is cancer hereditary or contagious, nor is caused by hair dyes and anti-perspirants. 

"Only in five to 10 percent of cases, cancers are hereditary. But the most common symptoms of cancer are caused by genetic changes that occur throughout a person's lifetime," he said. 

Singhal added that such changes are caused by tobacco use, too much ultraviolet radiation and exposure to certain chemicals. 

Another myth, according to experts, is that women fear one of the causes of breast cancer are "underwire brassieres", though there is no substantial evidence to 

support this theory. 

Suggesting a comprehensive campaign to help raise awareness, Kumar said that apart from the media, doctors and health workers should also participate. 

"Cancer survivors are probably the best source of spreading awareness," he said. 

According to Singhal, diligently following eight norms, including maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, protecting oneself from the sun and getting screening tests done, can help lower one's risk of cancer. 

"Diet can also influence some cancers. Cancers of the stomach, bowel, lung, prostate and uterus are more likely to develop if your diet is high in fat and low in fruit, vegetables and fibre," Singhal told IANS.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Red alert: Body kills 'spontaneous' blood cancers on a daily basis

Immune cells undergo 'spontaneous' changes on a daily basis that could lead to cancers if not for the diligent surveillance of our immune system, Melbourne scientists have found.

The research team from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute found that the immune system was responsible for eliminating potentially cancerous immune B cells in their early stages, before they developed into B-cell lymphomas (also known as non-Hodgkin's lymphomas). The results of the study were published today in the journal Nature Medicine.

This immune surveillance accounts for what researchers at the institute call the 'surprising rarity' of B-cell lymphomas in the population, given how often these spontaneous changes occur. The discovery could lead to the development of an early-warning test that identifies patients at high risk of developing B-cell lymphomas, enabling proactive treatment to prevent tumours from growing.

Dr Axel Kallies, Associate Professor David Tarlinton, Dr Stephen Nutt and colleagues made the discovery while investigating the development of B-cell lymphomas.

Dr Kallies said the discovery provided an answer to why B-cell lymphomas occur in the population less frequently than expected. "Each and every one of us has spontaneous mutations in our immune B cells that occur as a result of their normal function," Dr Kallies said. "It is then somewhat of a paradox that B cell lymphoma is not more common in the population.

"Our finding that immune surveillance by T cells enables early detection and elimination of these cancerous and pre-cancerous cells provides an answer to this puzzle, and proves that immune surveillance is essential to preventing the development of this blood cancer."

B-cell lymphoma is the most common blood cancer in Australia, with approximately 2800 people diagnosed each year and patients with a weakened immune system are at a higher risk of developing the disease.

The research team made the discovery while investigating how B cells change when lymphoma develops. "As part of the research, we 'disabled' the T cells to suppress the immune system and, to our surprise, found that lymphoma developed in a matter of weeks, where it would normally take years," Dr Kallies said. "It seems that our immune system is better equipped than we imagined to identify and eliminate cancerous B cells, a process that is driven by the immune T cells in our body."

Associate Professor Tarlinton said the research would enable scientists to identify pre-cancerous cells in the initial stages of their development, enabling early intervention for patients at risk of developing B-cell lymphoma.

"In the majority of patients, the first sign that something is wrong is finding an established tumour, which in many cases is difficult to treat" Associate Professor Tarlinton said. "Now that we know B-cell lymphoma is suppressed by the immune system, we could use this information to develop a diagnostic test that identifies people in early stages of this disease, before tumours develop and they progress to cancer. There are already therapies that could remove these 'aberrant' B cells in at-risk patients, so once a test is developed it can be rapidly moved towards clinical use."
Source:Nature Medicine

Split decision: Stem cell signal linked with cancer growth

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have identified a protein critical to hematopoietic stem cell function and blood formation. The finding has potential as a new target for treating leukemia because cancer stem cells rely upon the same protein to regulate and sustain their growth.
Hematopoietic stem cells give rise to all other blood cells. Writing in the February 2, 2014 advance online issue of Nature Genetics, principal investigator Tannishtha Reya, PhD, professor in the Department of Pharmacology, and colleagues found that a protein called Lis1 fundamentally regulates asymmetric division of hematopoietic stem cells, assuring that the stem cells correctly differentiate to provide an adequate, sustained supply of new blood cells.
Asymmetric division occurs when a stem cell divides into two daughter cells of unequal inheritance: One daughter differentiates into a permanently specialized cell type while the other remains undifferentiated and capable of further divisions.
"This process is very important for the proper generation of all the cells needed for the development and function of many normal tissues," said Reya. When cells divide, Lis1 controls orientation of the mitotic spindle, an apparatus of subcellular fibers that segregates chromosomes during cell division.
"During division, the spindle is attached to a particular point on the cell membrane, which also determines the axis along which the cell will divide," Reya said. "Because proteins are not evenly distributed throughout the cell, the axis of division, in turn, determines the types and amounts of proteins that get distributed to each daughter cell. By analogy, imagine the difference between cutting the Earth along the equator versus halving it longitudinally. In each case, the countries that wind up in the two halves are different."
When researchers deleted Lis1 from mouse hematopoietic stem cells, differentiation was radically altered. Asymmetric division increased and accelerated differentiation, resulting in an oversupply of specialized cells and an ever-diminishing reserve of undifferentiated stem cells, which eventually resulted in a bloodless mouse.
"What we found was that a large part of the defect in blood formation was due to a failure of stem cells to expand," said Reya. "Instead of undergoing symmetric divisions to generate two stem cell daughters, they predominantly underwent asymmetric division to generate more specialized cells. As a result, the mice were unable to generate enough stem cells to sustain blood cell production."
The scientists next looked at how cancer stem cells in mice behaved when the Lis1 signaling pathway was blocked, discovering that they too lost the ability to renew and propagate. "In this sense, the effect Lis1 has on leukemic self-renewal parallels its role in normal stem cell self-renewal," Reya said.
Reya said the findings shed new light on the fundamental regulators of cell growth both in normal development and in cancer.
"Our work shows that elimination of Lis1 potently inhibits cancer growth, and identifies Lis1 and other regulators of protein inheritance as a new class of molecules that could be targeted in cancer therapy."

In the long term, Reya noted, it remains to be determined whether inhibiting Lis1 in cancer cells would produce unacceptable consequences in normal cells as well. "A number of commonly used hemotherapy agents target the machinery that controls cell division. Although these agents can be toxic, their effects on cancer cells are much more potent than their effects on normal cells, and so they continue to be used. Agents that target Lis1 might be more specific and less toxic, which would give them significant clinical value."
Source:Nature Genetics

Making your brain social

Failure to eliminate links between neurons produces autistic-like mice

In many people with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders, different parts of the brain don't talk to each other very well. Scientists have now identified, for the first time, a way in which this decreased functional connectivity can come about. In a study published online today in Nature Neuroscience, scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Monterotondo, Italy, and collaborators at the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT), in Rovereto, and La Sapienza University in Rome, demonstrate that it can be caused by cells called microglia failing to trim connections between neurons.
"We show that a deficit in microglia during development can have widespread and long-lasting effects on brain wiring and behaviour," says Cornelius Gross, who led the study. "It leads to weak brain connectivity, decreased social behaviour, and increased repetitive behaviour, all hallmarks of autism."
The findings indicate that, by trimming surplus connections in the developing brain, microglia allow the remaining links to grow stronger, like high-speed fibre-optic cables carrying strong signals between brain regions. But if these cells fail to do their job at that crucial stage of development, those brain regions are left with a weaker communication network, which in turn has lifelong effects on behaviour.
Yang Zhan, a postdoctoral fellow in Gross' lab at EMBL, analysed the strength of connections between different areas of brain in mice that were genetically engineered to have fewer microglia during development. Working with Alessandro Gozzi's lab at IIT and Davide Ragozzino at La Sapienza University, the EMBL scientists combined this approach with high-resolution fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans of the mice's brains, taking full advantage of a novel technique developed at IIT, which enables scientists to obtain detailed, three-dimensional maps of the brain's functional connections. The team found that mice with fewer microglia had weaker connections between neurons, and less cross-talk between different brain regions. When Rosa Paolicelli, a PhD student in Gross' lab, studied the mice's behaviour, she discovered that mice with fewer microglia and decreased connectivity displayed behaviours commonly associated with autism spectrum disorders. These mice spent more time repeatedly grooming themselves, and avoided social interactions.
"This is an exciting time to be studying microglia," Gross concludes: "they're turning out to be major players in how our brain gets wired up."
Source:Nature Neuroscience

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