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Thursday, 13 February 2014

6 Year Old Girl Stops 300 Seizures A Week Using Cannabis

What was once heavily portrayed as an unhealthy, dangerous and destructive drug is now considered a miracle medicinal gift from nature. Hundreds of studies have surfaced proving the medical efficacy of cannabis, and more stories are surfacing everyday of people who have used this plant for healing. Below is the story of a 6 year old girl, Charlotte Figi who stopped her some 300 seizures a week by using cannabis. When pharmaceutical drugs failed, her mom turned to cannabis oil in desperation. Charlotte was unable to walk, talk or eat, but after her treatment she was able to do all of those things. Cannabis reduced her seizures to two to three per week, and she is now completely off all of her pharmaceuticals. There are a number of reported cases where cannabis has been effective in reducing and stopping seizure activity. A member of the CE team, Shelley M. White wrote about her experience with using cannabis to stop her seizures. 
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Harvard scientists find cell fate switch that decides liver, or pancreas?

Harvard stem cell scientists have a new theory for how stem cells decide whether to become liver or pancreatic cells during development. A cell’s fate, the researchers found, is determined by the nearby presence of prostaglandin E2, a messenger molecule best known for its role in inflammation and pain. The discovery, published in the journal Developmental Cell, could potentially make liver and pancreas cells easier to generate both in the lab and for future cell therapies.
Wolfram Goessling, MD, PhD, and Trista North, PhD, both principal faculty members of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI), identified a gradient of prostaglandin E2 in the region of zebrafish embryos where stem cells differentiate into the internal organs. Experiments conducted by postdoctoral fellow Sahar Nissim, MD, PhD, in the Goessling lab showed how liver-or-pancreas-fated stem cells have specific receptors on their membranes to detect the amount of prostaglandin E2 hormone present and coerce the cell into differentiating into a specific organ type.
“Cells that see more prostaglandin become liver and the cells that see less prostaglandin become pancreas,” said Goessling, a Harvard Medical School Assistant Professor of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. “This is the first time that prostaglandin is being reported as a factor that can lead this fate switch and essentially instruct what kind of identity a cell is going to be.”
The researchers next collaborated with the laboratory of HSCI Affiliated Faculty member Richard Maas, MD, PhD, Director of the Genetics Division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, to see whether prostaglandin E2 has a similar function in mammals. Richard Sherwood, PhD, a former graduate student of HSCI Co-director Doug Melton, was successfully able to instruct mouse stem cells to become either liver or pancreas cells by exposing them to different amounts of the hormone. Other experiments showed that prostaglandin E2 could also enhance liver growth and regeneration of liver cells.
Goessling and his research partner North, a Harvard Medical School Assistant Professor of Pathology at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, first became intrigued by prostaglandin E2 in 2005, as postdoctoral fellows in the lab of HSCI Executive Committee Chair Leonard Zon, MD. It caught their attention during a chemical screen exposing 2,500 known drugs to zebrafish embryos to find any that could amplify blood stem cell populations. Prostaglandin E2 was the most successful hit —the first molecule discovered in any system to have such an effect—and recently successfully completed Phase 1b clinical trials as a therapeutic to improve cord blood transplants.
“Prostaglandin might be a master regulator of cell growth in different organs,” Goessling said. “It’s used in cord blood, as we have shown, it works in the liver, and who knows what other organs might be affected by it.”
With evidence of how prostaglandin E2 works in the liver, the researchers next want to calibrate how it can be used in the laboratory to instruct induced pluripotent stem cells—mature cells that have been reprogrammed into a stem-like state—to become liver or pancreas cells. The scientists predict that such a protocol could benefit patients who need liver cells for transplantation or who have had organ injury.
Source:Developmental Cell

Exercise Keeps Your Heart Healthy

Exercising regularly keeps our heart healthy and even reduces the risk of developing cancer and other diseases by targeting the heart cells' powerhouses - the mitochondria, finds a new study.

 Exercise Keeps Your Heart HealthyEduard Sabido, Francisco Amado and colleagues explain that despite the well-documented benefits of exercise, the exact way that it helps the heart is not well understood. Sure, it helps strengthen the heart muscle so it can pump more blood throughout the body more efficiently.

And people who get off the couch and exercise regularly have a reduced risk of developing heart problems and cardiovascular disease.

One estimate even claims that 250,000 deaths every year in the U.S. are at least partially due to a lack of exercise, but how this all happens in the body at the molecular level has perplexed researchers - until now.

The team found that laboratory mice (stand-ins for humans) that exercised for 54 weeks on a treadmill-running regimen had higher levels of certain proteins in the mitochondria of their heart cells than mice that did not exercise.

Mitochondria produce energy for the body's cells. In particular, they identified two proteins, kinases called RAF and p38, which "seem to trigger the beneficial cardiovascular effects of lifelong exercise training", they said.

Source:The study is published in the ACS' Journal of Proteome Research.


Keep Yourself Warm in Cold Conditions to Avoid Chance of Stroke

Cold weather and high humidity increase the chance of stroke and can prove to be so fatal that people might have to be hospitalised, says a new study.
Study leader Judith Lichtman, associate professor in Epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health, said, "Weather is not something people would typically associate with stroke risk; however, we've found weather conditions are among the multiple factors that are associated with stroke hospitalisations."

The study also revealed that the risk of a stroke reduced by 3 per cent for every 5 degrees rise in temperature.

Experts say blood pressure rises and vessels contract in cold conditions. They say blood becomes stickier and its tendency to clot rises in extreme conditions because in such weather heart is forced to work more.

Every year, about 800,000 Americans suffer from stroke and in most of the cases, clots block a blood vessel to the brain with high blood pressure causing a major risk factor.

Larry Goldstein, a Duke stroke specialist who worked on the study, said, "High humidity may cause dehydration and this can raise the risk for clots." Doctors say one should stay in heater during cold to minimise the risk of any hospitalisation due to stroke.

The research team analysed a sample of 1,34,510 people, who were 18 years and older and were hospitalised in 2009-10 for ischemic stroke. This is the most common type of stroke caused due to blood clot.
 Source:  Yale School of Public Health,


Special Goggles Help Identify Cancer Cells Better

 Special Goggles Help Identify Cancer Cells BetterA team of researchers at Washington University School of Medicine has come up with an eyewear that helps in identifying cancer cells better and distinctly.
Naked eyes cannot see the cancer cells so clearly, but when seeing the tumour through the new glasses, the cancer cells glow blue. This helps in distinguishing the healthy cells from the cancer cells. So now even the most tiny of cancer cells can be removed during surgery, thus minimising the need of follow-up surgeries.

The new system was developed by a team led by Samuel Achilefu, a professor of radiology and biomedical engineering. Dr. Julie Margenthaler, a breast surgeon and associate professor of surgery at the university, was the first to use the technology.

"We're in the early stages of this technology, and more development and testing will be done, but we're certainly encouraged by the potential benefits to patients," said Dr Margenthaler.

The entire system comprises custom video technology, a head-mounted display and a chemical that helps cancer cells glow when viewed with the eyewear. The glasses can detect tumours as small as 1 millimetre in diameter. Achilefu hopes the technology can one day be used in telemedicine.

Achilefu said the idea of these glasses is inspired from the night vision goggles used in the Persian Gulf War.

Experts said around 25 per cent of breast cancer patients who have undergone a surgery to get the lumps removed need a second operation as the present method and technology is not so accurate in spotting all cancer cells. But the new hi-tech glasses will go along way in helping cancer patients avoid second surgeries.

Surgeons use MRI images to plan the removal of tumours. And to be extra careful and to check the spread of cancer, doctors remove extra surrounding tissue and nearby lymph nodes.

 Source:The study was published in Journal of Biomedical Optics.

ICMR issues guidelines on code of conduct for research scientists engaged in life sciences

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has issued guidelines on code of conduct for research scientists engaged in the field of life sciences to ensure that all research activities involving microbial or other biological agents, or toxins whatever their origin or method of production, are only of types and in quantities that have justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes.

According to the guidelines, in order to prevent the use of scientific research for purposes of bio-terrorism or bio-warfare, all persons and institutions engaged in all aspects of scientific research should abide by this code of conduct which are governed by a set of principles including principles of non-maleficence to ensure that the discoveries of biomedical research scientists and knowledge generated do no harm to humans, animals, plants and environment.

The scientists have to refrain to engage in any research that is intended or likely to facilitate, bio-terrorism or bio-warfare, and should not contribute to the development, production or acquisition of microbial or other biological agents or toxins, whatever their origin or method of production, of types and/or in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective, therapeutic, or other peaceful purposes.

As per the guidelines, the scientists should take due precautions to protect self and others from any harmful effects and reporting immediately to concerned authorities if any untoward incident happens or likely to happen.

Under the principles of beneficence, the scientists have to ensure that legitimate benefits are being sought and that they out-weigh the risks and harms. The scientists work for the ethical and beneficent advancement, development and use of scientific knowledge.

The code of conduct is also governed by principles of risk minimization, principle of confidentiality, principle of ethical review, principles of transmission of ethical values, principles of voluntariness, principles of compliance, principles of institutional arrangements, principles of totality of responsibility and principles of research integrity.

Ethical considerations in this code of conduct would be binding on all laboratory scientists involved in scientific research concerning dangerous organisms and toxic weapons against any living being or environment.

The ICMR's guideline is significant as advances in laboratory technologies in the recent times have created new and complex ethical dilemmas in their wake. Laboratory services are an integral part of disease diagnosis, treatment, response monitoring, surveillance programmes and research. Therefore, personnel working in clinical and/or research laboratories should be aware of their ethical responsibilities. It is necessary to comply with the ethical code of conduct prescribed by national and international organisations, and address the emerging ethical, legal and social concerns in the field of biological and biomedical sciences.

Men Do Have Bigger Brains Than Women

 Men Do Have Bigger Brains Than WomenFirst analysis into sex differences in brain structure after reviewing over 20 years of neuroscience research has been carried out by Cambridge University researchers.

 The team, led by doctoral candidate Amber Ruigrok and Professors John Suckling and Simon Baron-Cohen in the Department of Psychiatry, performed a quantitative review of the brain imaging literature testing overall sex differences in total and regional brain volumes.

They searched all articles published between 1990 and 2013. A total of 126 articles were included in the study, covering brains from individuals as young as birth to 80 years old.

They found that males on average have larger total brain volumes than women (by 8-13 percent). On average, males had larger absolute volumes than females in the intracranial space (12 percent), total brain (11 percent), cerebrum (10 percent), grey matter (9 percent), white matter (13 percent), regions filled with cerebrospinal fluid (11.5 percent), and cerebellum (9 percent).

Looking more closely, differences in volume between the sexes were located in several regions. These included parts of the limbic system, and the language system.

Specifically, males on average had larger volumes and higher tissue densities in the left amygdala, hippocampus, insular cortex, putamen; higher densities in the right VI lobe of the cerebellum and in the left claustrum; and larger volumes in the bilateral anterior parahippocampal gyri, posterior cingulate gyri, precuneus, temporal poles, and cerebellum, areas in the left posterior and anterior cingulate gyri, and in the right amygdala, hippocampus, and putamen.

By contrast, females on average had higher density in the left frontal pole, and larger volumes in the right frontal pole, inferior and middle frontal gyri, pars triangularis, planum temporale/parietal operculum, anterior cingulate gyrus, insular cortex, and Heschl's gyrus; bilateral thalami and precuneus; the left parahippocampal gyrus, and lateral occipital cortex.

The results highlight an asymmetric effect of sex on the developing brain.

"For the first time we can look across the vast literature and confirm that brain size and structure are different in males and females. We should no longer ignore sex in neuroscience research, especially when investigating psychiatric conditions that are more prevalent in either males or females," Amber Ruigrok, who carried out the study as part of her PhD, said.

The research is published in the prestigious journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews.
  Source:journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews.

Victory Over Polio for India!

 Victory Over Polio for India!One of India's biggest public health success stories, which was believed to be impossible to achieve- the eradication of polio, will now be celebrated on Tuesday by Indian leaders.            

President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as well as the health minister and the head of the World Health Organisation are all due at a New Delhi stadium to celebrate "India?s victory over polio", the information ministry says.

India, long one of the biggest sources of the paralysing virus, has gone three years without a new case, which means it will soon be certified as having wiped out the scourge.

On the three-year anniversary of the last case, on January 13, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad hailed the "monumental milestone" and promised a celebration in honour of the officials, volunteers, NGOs and UN agencies which made it possible.

Polio is a virus spread through faecal matter that affects the central nervous system and can leave its victims with withered limbs or paralysis.

There is no cure but it can be prevented through mass vaccination programmes.

India's poor sanitation, mass internal migration and dilapidated public health system made experts once fear it would be the last country to eradicate the disease.

There are now only three countries where polio is endemic -- Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria -- and health workers say progress is being made towards global eradication.

Isolated polio outbreaks in the Horn of Africa and war-racked Syria emerged as new causes for concern in 2013, however, and polio vaccination workers in Pakistan are still being killed by the Taliban.

The wretched sight of crippled street hawkers or beggars on wheeled trolleys will also endure in India as a legacy of the country's time as an epicentre of new cases.

In the absence of official data, most experts agree there are several million survivors left with withered legs or twisted spines who face discrimination and often live on the margins of society.

India reported 150,000 cases of paralytic polio in 1985 and still accounted for half of all cases globally in 2009, with 741 infections that led to paralysis.

In 2010 the number of victims fell to double figures before the last case on January 13, 2011, when an 18-month-old girl in a Kolkata slum was found to have contracted it.

The girl, Rukshar Khatoon, is now attending school and leads a "normal life", although she still suffers pain in her right leg, doctors and her parents have told AFP.

Tuesday's celebration in New Delhi will be held in the Talkatora indoor stadium at 05:00 pm (1130 GMT).

Official certification by the World Health Organisation that India has eradicated polio is likely to come next month.

Virtual World Personality Affects Your Behaviour in Real Life: Study

The role played by a person in the virtual world of video games affects a person's behaviour in the real world, says a new study.    The report says that virtual environments give "a vehicle for observation, imitation, and modelling". It gives them a chance to act or behave in a certain manner that they cannot do in a real life.

"Our results indicate that just five minutes of role-play in virtual environments as either a hero or villain can easily cause people to reward or punish anonymous strangers," says lead researcher Gunwoo Yoon of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

To understand the relationship between the behaviour in the virtual world and that in everyday life, researchers made 194 students participate in two different studies. The participants were randomly made to play a five-minute game as Superman (a hero), Voldemort (a villain) or circle (a neutral). Later, they were asked to taste and then give either chocolate or chilli sauce to a future participant. It was found that those who played Superman, poured double the amount of chocolate sauce and in fact more compared to the one who had played Voldemort, who poured more of chilli sauce.

Yoon said, "People are prone to be unaware of the influence of their virtual representations on their behavioural responses." So the good or the evil personality continues to stay with you even when you have moved out of the video game world.

The study was published in the journal Psychological Science.

 Source: journal Psychological Science

Fat Production is Regulated by Recycling of 'Chauffeur Protein'

Johns Hopkins researchers have discovered a biological switch that regulates a protein that causes fatty liver disease in mice. This discovery was made while studying a cycle of protein interactions needed to make fat.
Their findings, they report, may help develop drugs to decrease excessive fat production and its associated conditions in people, including fatty liver disease and diabetes.

A summary of the research appeared online on Jan. 29 in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

"We've learned how the body finely tunes levels of a protein called SCAP that is required to turn on fat production in cells," says Peter Espenshade, Ph.D., professor of cell biology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "We hope this new information will eventually lead to interventions that could help people suffering from obesity-induced fatty liver disease and diabetes."

Espenshade explains that fats, which include cholesterol, are essential to the life of organisms, but too much can sabotage systems that rid the body of toxins and regulate hormones, among other functions. Crucial to the right balance of fats is a family of proteins called sterol regulatory element-binding proteins (SREBPs), which turn on fat-making genes when fat levels in cells are low.

SREBPs are made and embedded in the membrane of the cellular compartment called the endoplasmic reticulum, or ER. To get to the cell's nucleus to turn on genes, the business end of SREBPs has to be clipped away from the membrane. Two different proteins, S1P and S2P, make those clips in sequence. But S1P and S2P live in a different cellular compartment, known as the Golgi.

To safely make the trip to the Golgi, says Espenshade, cells give each SREBP a chauffeur — the protein SCAP — which binds to SREBP before they both make their way to the Golgi. Once there, S1P and S2P free SREBP from the membrane so that it can move to the nucleus.

"We knew lots about this first part of the cycle, but we didn't know what happened to SCAP after it 'dropped off' the SREBP," says Espenshade.

While testing a chemical inhibitor of S1P activity, Espenshade says, he and his team added the chemical to hamster cells and were surprised to find that SCAP disappeared from the cells. That meant that it was either no longer being made or was being broken down somehow, he says.

When they added both the S1P inhibitor and a chemical that prevents SCAP from leaving the ER, SCAP reappeared. This suggested that SCAP was still being made but that the S1P inhibitor was somehow encouraging the destruction of SCAP once SCAP left the safety of home base. Further testing revealed that SCAP was indeed being broken down — in another part of the cell called the lysosome.

Tweaking the components of the cycle again, they engineered cells to keep SREBP in the ER while allowing SCAP to move to the Golgi on its own. This time, even though S1P was blocked, SCAP was no longer broken down by the lysosome, suggesting that what determines the fate of SCAP is the clipping of SREBP by S1P. SCAP can only cycle back to the ER for more rounds of SREBP transport if S1P is able to do its job.

"We don't know what is responsible for freeing SCAP from SREBP, but we now understand that SCAP keeps the cycle going," says Espenshade. "Since SCAP is so central to fat production and all of its consequences, we hope this improved understanding of its activity will help others develop drugs to better regulate the process."

The other author of the report is Wei Shao, Ph.D., of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
 SourceJournal of Biological Chemistry:           

Monday, 10 February 2014

Teens who consume energy drinks more likely to use alcohol and drugs

Widespread adolescent energy drink/shot use strongly associated with substance use, says study in Journal of Addiction Medicine

Philadelphia, Pa. (February 4, 2014) – Nearly one-third of US adolescents consume high-caffeine energy drinks or "shots," and these teens report higher rates of alcohol, cigarette, or drug use, reports a study in the January/February Journal of Addiction Medicine, the official journal of the American Society of Addiction Medicine. The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health.
The same characteristics that attract young people to consume energy drinks—such as being "sensation-seeking or risk-oriented"—may make them more likely to use other substances as well, suggests the new research by Yvonne M. Terry-McElrath, MSA, and colleagues of the Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
High Use of Energy Drinks/Shots by US Teens…
The researchers analyzed nationally representative data on nearly 22,000 US secondary school students (eighth, tenth, and twelfth graders). The teens were participants in the University of Michigan's "Monitoring the Future" study, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
In response to questionnaires, about 30 percent of teens reported using caffeine-containing energy drinks or shots. More than 40 percent said they drank regular soft drinks every day, while 20 percent drank diet soft drinks daily.
Boys were more likely to use energy drinks than girls. Use was also higher for teens without two parents at home and those whose parents were less educated. Perhaps surprisingly, the youngest teens (eighth graders) were most likely to use energy drinks/shots.
Students who used energy drinks/shots were also more likely to report recent use of alcohol, cigarettes, and illicit drugs. Across age groups and with adjustment for other factors, teens who used energy drinks/shots were two or three times more likely to report other types of substance use, compared to those who didn't use energy drinks.
Soft drink consumption was also related to substance use. However, the associations were much stronger for energy drinks/shots.
…May Have Implications for Risk of Substance Use
Energy drinks and shots are products containing high doses of caffeine, marketed as aids to increasing energy, concentration, or alertness. Studies in young adults suggest that consumption of energy drinks is associated with increased use of alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco.
In young adults, energy drinks have been linked to behavioral patterns of "sensation-seeking or risk orientation." Energy drinks are often used together with alcohol, which may "mask" the intoxicating effects of alcohol. The new study is one of the first to look at consumption of energy drinks by US adolescents, and how they may be related to other types of substance use.
"The current study indicates that adolescent consumption of energy drinks/shots is widespread and that energy drink users also report heightened risk for substance use," Terry-McElrath and colleagues write. They emphasize that their study provides no cause-and-effect data showing that energy drinks lead to substance abuse in teens.
However, the researchers believe that the findings linking energy drinks to substance use in young adults are likely relevant to adolescents as well. They write, "[E]ducation for parents and prevention efforts among adolescents should include education on the masking effects of caffeine in energy drinks on alcohol- and other substance-related impairments, and recognition that some groups (such as high sensation–seeking youth) may be particularly likely to consume energy drinks and to be substance users."
Even without the possible link to substance use, Terry-McElrath and coauthors note that, with their high caffeine and sugar content, energy drinks and shots aren't a good dietary choice for teens. They cite a recent American Academy of Pediatrics report stating that "[C]affeine and other stimulant substances contained in energy drinks have no place in the diet of children and adolescents."
Source: Journal of Addiction Medicine

Mind Over Matter: Beating Pain and Painkillers

With nearly one-third of Americans suffering from chronic pain, prescription opioid painkillers have become the leading form of treatment for this debilitating condition. Unfortunately, misuse of prescription opioids can lead to serious side effects—including death by overdose. A new treatment developed by University of Utah researcher Eric Garland has shown to not only lower pain but also decrease prescription opioid misuse among chronic pain patients.
Results of a study by Garland published online Feb. 3 in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, showed that the new treatment led to a 63 percent reduction in opioid misuse, compared to a 32 percent reduction among participants of a conventional support group. Additionally, participants in the new treatment group experienced a 22 percent reduction in pain-related impairment, which lasted for three months after the end of treatment.
The new intervention, called Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement, or MORE, is designed to train people to respond differently to pain, stress and opioid-related cues.
MORE targets the underlying processes involved in chronic pain and opioid misuse by combining three therapeutic components: mindfulness training, reappraisal and savoring.
  • Mindfulness involves training the mind to increase awareness, gain control over one’s attention and regulate automatic habits.
  • Reappraisal is the process of reframing the meaning of a stressful or adverse event in such a way as to see it as purposeful or growth promoting.
  • Savoring is the process of learning to focus attention on positive events to increase one’s sensitivity to naturally rewarding experiences, such as enjoying a beautiful nature scene or experiencing a sense of connection with a loved one.
“Mental interventions can address physical problems, like pain, on both psychological and biological levels because the mind and body are interconnected,” Garland said. “Anything that happens in the brain happens in the body—so by changing brain functioning, you alter the functioning of the body.”
To test the treatment, 115 chronic pain patients were randomly assigned to eight weeks of either MORE or conventional support group therapy, and outcomes were measured through questionnaires at pre- and post-treatment, and again at a three-month follow-up. Nearly three-quarters of the group misused opioid painkillers before starting the program by taking higher doses than prescribed, using opioids to alleviate stress and anxiety or another method of unauthorized self-medication with opioids.
Among the skills taught by MORE were a daily 15-minute mindfulness practice session guided by a CD and three minutes of mindful breathing prior to taking opioid medication. This practice was intended to increase awareness of opioid craving—helping participants clarify whether opioid use was driven by urges versus a legitimate need for pain relief.
“People who are in chronic pain need relief, and opioids are medically appropriate for many individuals,” Garland said. “However, a new option is needed because existing treatments may not adequately alleviate pain while avoiding the problems that stem from chronic opioid use.”
MORE is currently being tested in a pilot brain imaging trial as a smoking cessation treatment, and there are plans to test the intervention with people suffering from mental health problems who also have alcohol addiction. Further testing on active-duty soldiers with chronic pain and a larger trial among civilians is planned. If studies continue to demonstrate positive outcomes, MORE could be prescribed by doctors as an adjunct to traditional pain management services.
Garland is an associate professor of social work at the University of Utah, research fellow of the National Center for Veterans Studies and associate director of integrative medicine in the Supportive Oncology and Survivorship Program at the U’s Huntsman Cancer Institute. He conducted this early-stage trial with Eron Manusov, physician at Duke Southern Regional Area Health Education Center; Brett Froeliger, assistant professor of neuroscience at the Medical University of South Carolina; Amber Kelly, social work doctoral candidate at Smith College; Jaclyn Williams, social work doctoral student at Florida State University; and Matthew Howard, Frank Daniels Distinguished Professor of Social Work at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Source:The study was published by the American Psychological Association and was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, grant R03DA032517.

Need strong regulatory framework to monitor and implement D&C Act effectively: Experts

Stressing the need to strengthen the initiatives towards better implementation of the Drugs & Cosmetics (D&C) Act and Rules across the country, experts in the pharmacy field have asked the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) to take immediate steps towards reducing the problem of availability of prescription drugs without a prescription. To ensure safety and health of the patients further, they wanted the Centre to urgently work on a short and long term, multi-pronged national strategy by taking all the stakeholders into confidence.

This demand comes in the wake of high incidents of improper implementation of the D&C Act and Rules, especially lack of any uniform implementation as the extent and strictness of the same varies from the competence of the state drug licensing authorities (SLAs). This they fear is leading to malpractices like medical stores and pharmacies selling prescription only medicines without any prescription or proper prescription.

Raj Vaidya, an expert in this field, pointed out that in many instances it has been found that while medical stores or pharmacy shops do not dispense psychotropic medicines without a prescription, they dispense all other drugs without a prescription. At the same time, some do not dispense psychotropic medicines, antibiotics, and some other medicines having a misuse potential without a prescription, but dispense all other Rx drugs without a prescription. To make matters worse, some chemists do give at times the above, to clients they know without any prescription, at their discretion.

In his representation to the DCGI, Vaidya stressed that it has come into notice that some pharmacists and medical shops sell prescription medicines against telephonic orders and also conduct door delivery, while many have been found to be practically selling medicines without a prescriptions or without the presence of a pharmacist. Experts feel that while some state FDAs do make efforts to ensure strict control on sale of psychotropic medicines, many other crucial prescription medicines remain out of proper control.

It is understood that the difficulty in controlling may be due to socio-economic reasons, but at the same time, misuse of medicines taking place because of sale without a prescription can also lead to health hazards even with medicines which are not for misuse or abuse. Ironically, people rampantly self-medicate anti-depressants, anti-hypertensives, anti-diabetics, NSAIDs, anti-ulcer medicines all of which are prescription medicines, because it was once previously prescribed to them or their family members. Vaidya pointed out that such actions are major cause of concern as it can lead to medication errors and ADRs.

He said, “Overnight change will not happen, and a sudden, knee-jerk implementation will only lead to boomerang and failure. Therefore, a gradual strategy will have to adopted, first tackling the drugs with more misuse potential, and step wise tackling of the others. There is an urgent need for massive awareness and education campaign amongst all the stakeholders and the public in particular, across the country to bring about the change. I sincerely hope that the Centre will take up the problem on a war footing, in the best interest of public health and safety.”

He further stressed that while ill effects of wrong use of medicines is an alarming public health issue, it is also puts India in poor light at the global stage for having a not so effective drug regulatory system in the country.

India to press for simplification of laws on generics during meeting with US FDA commissioner

India is expected to press for simplifying the guidelines and clauses for generic exports to the United States during the talks with US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) Commissioner Margaret A Hamburg, who is slated to visit India from February 10 to 18.

The matter of simplification of laws for generics would be taken up in the wake of the recent instances of increased scrutiny by the US authorities on Indian companies putting pressure on the generic export. The issue is expected to come up in her meeting with her counterpart and also the industry captains from India.

However, Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) Dr G N Singh told Pharmabiz that as it was the meeting between the regulators of two countries, issues similar to the warnings to some particular companies like Ranbaxy would not figure in the talks. “We will be discussing the broader issues around the statutory guidelines and how to improve the systems by sharing the knowledge,” he said.

Dr Singh and US FDA commissioner will hold meeting here on Monday. This is her first visit to India and she would also hold discussions with several Ministers including the Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. She would also visit Mumbai and Cochin during her week-long trip.

“US has a very strong system and we will have many things to learn. Likewise, they will also look to pick up lessons from Indian regulatory system. No formal agreement with US is planned at my level, but will be touching a number of regulatory issues including the clinical trials,” he said, indicating that he would take up the issue of simplifying the guidelines for generics in the US.

The industry, it is learnt, would be taking up with the US regulator the recent developments of increased regulatory enforcements on generic drug manufacturing facilities. She will meet them separately. While Ranbaxy's active pharmaceutical ingredient-manufacturing factory in Toansa (Punjab) is the latest to come under the US FDA scanner, other major drug makers such as Wockhardt, RPG Life Sciences and Agila Specialities have faced enforcements from the US regulator in the past year.

Reports also claimed that Indian officials would be discussing the issue of clinical trials, especially the suggestion to give equal consideration and protection to Indian subjects by the multinational companies, as they extend the same to those in the US.

Confirming the visit, the US FDA has issued a statement which said the trip by the Commissioner is aimed at further strengthening cooperation between the FDA and its Indian regulatory counterparts. “Indian regulators are important strategic partners to the FDA and regular engagement is essential. Currently, India is the second largest provider of finished drug products and the eighth largest exporter of food products to the United States,” the statement said.

“The FDA’s ongoing engagement with our regulatory counterparts in India is critical to our ability to effectively promote the health and safety of American and Indian consumers,” said Commissioner Hamburg. “I look forward to enhancing our existing relationship and identifying additional opportunities for collaboration,” she said.

“The cooperation of United States and Indian food and drug officials is wide ranging, from sharing information on the conduct of clinical trials to jointly addressing product safety issues that may have an impact on both American and Indian consumers. Commissioner Hamburg will also meet with industry leaders in India to discuss the importance of maintaining high-quality standards in producing goods to ensure consumers have access to safe products,” the statement said.

Dietary Supplement can Boost Older Adults' Brain

A nutritional supplement high in natural components and antioxidants can help boost the speed at which the brains of older adults process information.The nutritional supplement, containing extracts from blueberries and green tea combined with vitamin D3 and amino acids - including carnosine - is developed by researchers at the University of South Florida.

The researchers tested the supplement, named NT-020, in a clinical trial enrolling 105 healthy adults aged 65 to 85.

"After two months, test results showed modest improvements in two measures of cognitive processing speed for those taking NT-020 compared to those taking placebo," said professor Brent Small, school of aging studies, the University of South Florida.

"Processing speed is most often affected early on in the course of cognitive aging. Successful performance in processing tasks often underlines more complex cognitive outcomes, such as memory and verbal ability," Small added.

Blueberries, a major ingredient in the NT-020 formula, are rich in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant containing a polyphenolic, or natural phenol substructure, said the study published in the journal Rejuvenation Research.

Therapies to improve the cognitive health of older adults are critically important for lessening declines in mental performance as people age.

While physical activity and cognitive training are among the efforts aimed at preventing or delaying cognitive decline, dietary modifications and supplements have recently generated considerable interest.

"The basis for the use of polyphenol-rich nutritional supplements as a moderator of age-related cognitive decline is the age-related increase in oxidative stress and inflammation," said study co-principal and investigator Paula C. Bickford, professor at the university's Health Morsani College of Medicine.
 Source: University's Health Morsani College of Medicine.

Manipal University and Xerox Innovation Group to Test Remote-Sensing Healthcare Technologies

The technology is currently being tested out at the neonatal unit in Bangalore where doctors are able to analyze and detect any respiratory illness or other medical conditions in the infants without the need of attaching contact probes to the skin. The technology makes use of a camera whose lights penetrate the skin and the information is captures and converted into health indicators. With the process being absolutely safe for the patients, long observation periods is possible and it also allows greater mobility to the patients. "Our partnership with Manipal University Hospital is helping us move the technology closer to reality. This research can have great implications for the future of healthcare and telemedicine in the country. As Xerox conducts research in the area of healthcare, not only are Xerox scientists learning about anatomy and physiology but also gaining knowledge in the medical field by interacting with medical practitioners. We appreciate Manipal University Hospital's cooperation with us to partner, learn and conduct research with real patients", the vice president of Xerox Corp and Director of Xerox Research Centre in India, Dr Manish Gupta said.


Sunday, 9 February 2014

New Stem Cell Information from Bundles of Nerves and Arteries

Interaction of bundles of nerves and arteries with stem cells uncovered showcasing revolutionary techniques for following the cells as they function in living animals, in a study by Ostrow School of Dentistry.
 New Stem Cell Information from Bundles of Nerves and Arteries Principal investigator Yang Chai, director of the Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology at the Ostrow School of Dentistry, and research associate Hu Zhao authored the article, which appears February 6, 2014 in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

The study focused on neurovascular bundles (NVB) - groupings of nerves and blood vessels intertwined throughout the body - and their interactions with mesenchymal stem cells, or MSC. The team specifically examined how the cells operated in the incisors of mice; those teeth continually regrow over a mouse's lifespan, indicating that stem cells are present.

Typically, MSC are studied in vitro, or harvested from animals and examined outside of their natural environment. However, Chai and his team used a different molecular marker to highlight the cells' expression of the protein Gli1 and follow MSC in living mice. They discovered that the bundles are rich in stem cells - including MSC that wouldn't have been detected using conventional markers and techniques.

It turns out that this newly uncovered population of MSC helps maintain a normal cellular environment, while stem cells normally detected by the more well-known markers focus on injury repair, Chai said.

"We have basically developed a system in which we can follow MSC in their natural environment and see how they contribute to homeostasis," he said.

The study revealed that the MSC populations within NVB are located around arterioles, or small arteries that branch off to bring blood to tissues. Sensory nerves within the bundles secrete a protein called Shh to regulate the stem cells, demonstrating a practical reason for the bundling of the nerves and blood vessels. Such bundles are a ubiquitous anatomical feature and are found in every organ in humans, Chai said.

The study not only highlights the need to cast a wider net in order to identify all stem cells but also emphasizes the need to understand the environment around the cells, he added.

"This study has great implications for tissue regeneration in general," Chai said. "If you want to regenerate tissue, you have to not only provide stem cells but also the proper neighborhood for them to carry out their function." 
Source:e journal Cell Stem Cell.

Histones may Hold the Key to the Generation of Totipotent Stem Cells: Study

 Histones may Hold the Key to the Generation of Totipotent Stem Cells: Study A pair of histone proteins that enhance the generation of induced pluripotent stem cells may be the key to generating induced totipotent stem cells, say researchers.
Differentiated cells can be coaxed into returning to a stem-like pluripotent state either by artificially inducing the expression of four factors called the Yamanaka factors, or as recently shown by shocking them with sublethal stress, such as low pH or pressure. However, attempts to create totipotent stem cells capable of giving rise to a fully formed organism, from differentiated cells, have failed.

The study, published today in the journal Cell Stem Cell and led by Dr. Shunsuke Ishii from RIKEN, sought to identify the molecule in the mammalian oocyte that induces the complete reprograming of the genome leading to the generation of totipotent embryonic stem cells. This is the mechanism underlying normal fertilization, as well as the cloning technique called Somatic-Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT).

SCNT has been used successfully to clone various species of mammals, but the technique has serious limitations and its use on human cells has been controversial for ethical reasons.

Ishii and his team chose to focus on two histone variants named TH2A and TH2B, known to be specific to the testes where they bind tightly to DNA and affect gene expression.

The study demonstrates that, when added to the Yamanaka cocktail to reprogram mouse fibroblasts, the duo TH2A/TH2B increases the efficiency of iPSC cell generation about twentyfold and the speed of the process two- to threefold. And TH2A and TH2B function as substitutes for two of the Yamanaka factors (Sox2 and c-Myc).

 Source:journal Cell Stem Cell

Scientists Identify Protein That Promotes Repair of Damaged Brain Tissue in Multiple Sclerosis

'Potentially novel therapeutic target' to reduce the rate of deterioration and to promote growth of brain cells damaged by multiple sclerosis (MS) has been discovered by a team of researchers.
 Scientists Identify Protein That Promotes Repair of Damaged Brain Tissue in Multiple Sclerosis
Vittorio Gallo, PhD, Director of the Center for Neuroscience Research at Children's National Health System, and other researchers have found a "potentially novel therapeutic target" to reduce the rate of deterioration and to promote growth of brain cells damaged by multiple sclerosis (MS).

The brain produces new cells to repair the damage from MS years after symptoms appear. However, in most cases the cells are unable to complete the repair, as unknown factors limit this process.

In MS patients, brain inflammation in random patches, or lesions, leads to destruction of myelin, the fatty covering that insulates nerve cell fibers called axons in the brain, and aids in transmission of signals to other neurons.

Gallo reported identifying a small protein that can be targeted to promote repair of damaged tissue, with therapeutic potential. The molecule, Endothelin-1 (ET-1), is shown to inhibit repair of myelin.

The study demonstrates that blocking ET-1 pharmacologically or using a genetic approach could promote myelin repair.

"We demonstrate that ET-1 drastically reduces the rate of remyelination," Gallo said. As such, ET-1 is "potentially a therapeutic target to promote lesion repair in deymyelinated tissue." It could play a "crucial role in preventing normal myelination in MS and in other demyelinating diseases," the researcher added.

Source:The study was published in the journal Neuron.


Down Syndrome Detection During Pregnancy Increases in Younger Women

 Down Syndrome Detection During Pregnancy Increases in Younger WomenThe proportion of Down syndrome cases diagnosed antenatally has increased considerably in younger women, figures from a new study revealed. Furthermore, Down syndrome diagnoses are occurring earlier in pregnancy for women of all ages. The NDSCR is the only national source of data on pre and postnatal diagnoses of Down, Patau and Edwards syndrome cases in England and Wales. The latest figures are captured in the new NDSCR Annual Report 2012.

Key findings from the report (all figures from 2012):

  • There were 1,982 diagnoses of Down syndrome, 64% of which were made during pregnancy.

  • There were an estimated 775 babies born with Down syndrome (an increase from 739 in 2011 and 734 in 2010).

  • The proportion of women under 35 receiving a diagnosis of Down syndrome during pregnancy has increased from 54% in 2008 to 66% in 2012. The proportion for women 35 and over remained constant at 71% from 2008 to 2012.

  • The proportion of women receiving a diagnoses of Down syndrome during pregnancy after screening in the first three months of pregnancy (first trimester) increased from 45% in 2008 to 77% in 2012 for women under 35 and from 68% in 2008 to 80% of 2012 for women 35 and over.

  • The proportion of women having a termination after a diagnosis of Down syndrome during pregnancy has decreased from 92% in 1989-2010 to 90% in 2011-12.

The data also shows there were regional differences in the type of screening women were offered. In all the English regions the majority of women were diagnosed after first trimester screening (81%), compared to less than a third of women (31%) in Wales. These differences may arise not only due to service factors, but also maternal factors including age, social deprivation and cultural beliefs influencing the take up of screening and diagnostic tests.

Joan Morris, Professor of Medical Statistics at Queen Mary University of London, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, comments:

"It is positive to see that antenatal screening for Down syndrome is improving, particularly for women under 35. We are now seeing Down syndrome being detected at an earlier stage of pregnancy for all women, usually within the first three months."

"It is very important that women are given the facts around Down syndrome and pregnancy as early as possible so they can make the right decision for their personal circumstances. We are now seeing more women choosing to continue with the pregnancy after receiving a diagnosis of Down syndrome during pregnancy."

 Source: NDSCR Annual Report 2012.

Cholesterol may Play a Pivotal Role in Hantavirus Infection

Viruses tend to quickly become resistant to anti-viral drugs as they mutate very fast. But viruses also depend on proteins and nutrients provided by their hosts, and therefore one strategy to identify new anti-viral drugs is to identify and target such host-cell components. A paper published on February 6th in PLOS Pathogens reports that proteins involved in the regulation of cholesterol are essential for hantavirus entry into human host cells. There are only about 30 known human cases of hantavirus infection in the US per year (with the 2012 cluster in Yosemite National Park a recent example), but hanta is among the most deadly known human viruses: between 30 and 40% of people who are diagnosed die from hantavirus pulmonary fever. People who have hantavirus are not contagious, transmission only occurs when humans breath in small particles that carry excrements from infected rodents.

Together with colleagues, Paul Bates and Kenneth Briley, from the University of Pennsylvania, USA, set out to identify factors and pathways in human cells that were important for hantavirus infection. They focused on a member of the hantavirus group called Andes virus (ANDV). For their experiments they used mostly less dangerous viruses that were genetically engineered to share some characteristics with ANDV, and then used ANDV itself to confirm that the results were true for hantavirus as well.

In two independent genetic screens (systematic searches), they identified four proteins that were involved in hantavirus infection, and all of them were part of a protein complex that regulates cholesterol production in mammalian cells. The scientists next tested whether an experimental drug that targets one of the four proteins could prevent viral entry. They found that treating cells that originated from human airways with this drug before exposing them to virus resembling hanta made the cells less susceptible to virus infection.

Since one of the effects of this experimental drug is that it lowers cholesterol levels in cells, the researchers asked whether statins, a well-known group of cholesterol-lowering drugs that are taken daily by millions of people around the world, could also protect against hantavirus infection. Indeed, pre-treatment of human cells with mevastatin (a member of the statin group that lowers cholesterol by mechanisms that do not involve the proteins they had identified in their screen) made them less susceptible to ANDV infection.

The researchers say "The sensitivity of ANDV to safe, effective cholesterol-lowering drugs may suggest new treatments for ANDV infection and pathogenesis." Moreover, as cellular cholesterol balance has been found to be important for a

  Source:Journal PLOS ONE


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