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Saturday, 1 November 2014

Cancer cell fingerprints in the blood may speed up childhood cancer diagnosis

Newly-identified cancer cell fingerprints in the blood could one day help doctors diagnose a range of children’s cancers faster and more accurately, according to research* presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference(link is external) next week.
"We hope that this early research could eventually lead to the development of non-invasive tests which are faster, more accurate and gentler, transforming the way we make a cancer diagnosis in the future." - Dr Matthew Murray.
The researchers, from the University of Cambridge(link is external) andAddenbrooke’s Hospital(link is external) in Cambridge, found unique molecular fingerprints for 11 types of children’s tumours,** which could be used to develop blood tests to diagnose these cancers.
This may eventually lead to a quicker, more accurate way to diagnose tumours, and could also reduce the need for children to undergo surgery to get a diagnosis one day.
The research was funded by Sparks(link is external), the children’s medical research charity, and Cancer Research UK***.
Each year almost 1,600 children are diagnosed with cancer in the UK. These cancers tend to behave differently to cancers in adults and therefore require different treatments.
The researchers uncovered the fingerprints left by the tumours by analysing blood samples from children when they were diagnosed with cancer. They were looking for molecules that turn genes on and off, called microRNAs, to find common changes linked to different tumours.
In particular they found a very specific fingerprint which identifies different types ofneuroblastoma, a form of childhood cancer which develops from a type of nerve cell. There are around 100 new cases of the disease each year in the UK.
The research suggested that different types of tumour could be identified using a blood test which recognises the unique fingerprints produced by tumours.
The lead researchers were Dr Matthew Murray and Professor Nicholas Coleman, both from the University of Cambridge and Addenbrooke’s Hospital.
Dr Murray said: "Being diagnosed with cancer is often devastating for a child and their family, and the tests involved can be upsetting. We hope that this early research could eventually lead to the development of non-invasive tests which are faster, more accurate and gentler, transforming the way we make a cancer diagnosis in the future.
“Using a blood test instead of surgery to remove a tumour sample could improve diagnosis – such that results take a matter of hours rather than days or weeks. However, before such a test can be incorporated into clinical practice, it will now be important for these findings to be validated in other, larger independent studies.”
Dr Julia Ambler, Director of Medical Research at Sparks, said: “We are delighted to have been able to fund a project that will hopefully lead to much quicker diagnosis and treatment of childhood cancers which has the potential to benefit hundreds of children and their families each year. This project is at a really exciting stage and we are looking forward to seeing the results from the next step.”
Professor Nic Jones, Cancer Research UK’s chief scientist, said: “These early results show promise that one day a blood test could be used to diagnose these cancers. This research is the first step towards a potential test which would be very exciting, but more work needs to be done before we see this in the clinic.
“Making sure that the diagnosis and treatment of children’s cancers is much kinder in the future is urgently needed. Survival from childhood cancers has climbed to 8 in 10 in recent decades – we must continue to push the pace in this area. We need to make sure even more children survive, and there are fewer side effects from their treatment.”

Avivagen publishes evidence for natural alternative to antibiotic use in livestock

Today the leading journal PLOS ONEpublished research that provides underlying scientific support for a fundamentally new type of natural alternative to the use of antibiotics in livestock feeds for growth promotion and disease prevention. The paper is the result of work by both independent and company scientists. Avivagen Inc. is a wellness company developing and delivering products that support and enhance the health and quality of life for animals and the people who care for them.
The discovery that the product formed by full, spontaneous oxidation of beta-carotene, termed OxC-Beta, can beneficially support immune function comes at a time when stakeholders across the globe, including national health regulators, are looking to avoid usage of antibiotics in livestock due to concerns they pose threats to public health.
In-feed trials of OxC-beta appear to be gaining attention from the livestock industry due to emerging evidence that this natural product may be a safe, effective and affordable alternative to antibiotics.
The peer-reviewed, scientific journal article detailing the biological activities of the fully-oxidized carotenoid technology is entitled "Biologically Active Polymers from Spontaneous Carotenoid Oxidation: A New Frontier in Carotenoid Activity."PLOS ONE is an international, peer-reviewed, open-access, online publication that reports on primary research from all scientific disciplines after rigorous peer review for technical soundness.
The article reports on the novel discoveries made by Avivagen scientists and collaborators about the biological activities of products obtained from the full, spontaneous oxidation of carotenoid compounds. Typical examples of carotenoids include common health and feed supplements such as beta-carotene, astaxanthin, canthaxanthin, lutein and lycopene.
Although carotenoids are popularly believed to act as antioxidants, Avivagen's discoveries bring to light the ability of these compounds to be totally transformed by spontaneous reaction with oxygen into entirely different natural products – fully-oxidized carotenoids such as OxC-beta – that appear to have beneficial effects upon immune function. Of particular note is the previously unrecognized and predominant presence of oxygen-copolymer products that are believed to account for the majority of the immunological activity.
The PLOS ONE article describes the ability of OxC-beta to prime the immune system to more effectively respond to microbial challenges. Specific results on immune receptor levels, cytokine levels and phagocytic activity provide mechanistic and function-based evidence of OxC-beta-enhanced innate immunity. Furthermore, the article notes that the effects of fully-oxidized carotenoids may explain the epidemiological evidence for benefits from diets rich in carotenoid-containing fruits and vegetables and the corresponding lack of consistent efficacy from direct dietary supplementation with intact beta-carotene.
Dr. Graham Burton, Director Commercialization Science and co-founder of Avivagen is a co-author of the paper and commented "We're very pleased to have our manuscript published by PLOS ONE, which is one of the world's leading peer-reviewed journals. We believe the publication of this work confirms our assessment that Avivagen's discoveries may have important implications for animal and human health."
Cameron Groome, C.E.O. and President of Avivagen also commented "We believe peer-reviewed publications are important to Avivagen, as they help establish the scientific validity of our products. We look forward to our team and collaborators publishing future manuscripts concerning the properties of OxC-beta and the benefits from its use in companion and livestock animals."
The paper was authored by James B. Johnston, James G. Nickerson, Janusz Daroszewski, Trevor J. Mogg and Graham W. Burton. The article was published on October 31, 2014, and is available via hyperlink from the Avivagen site at  . The journal PLOS ONE is a non-profit organization of scientists and physicians committed to marking the world's scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource. By providing open public access to publications, permitting published papers to be of any length and avoiding editor biases, PLOS ONE has become the largest scientific journal in the world.
Source>Plos One

Drug tests on mothers' hair links recreational drug use to birth defects

Drug tests on 517 mothers in English inner city hospitals found that nearly 15% had taken recreational drugs during pregnancy and that mothers of babies with birth defects of the brain were significantly more likely to have taken drugs than mothers with normal babies. The study found no significant links between recreational drug use and any other type of birth defect.
The study was led by a team of UCL researchers co-ordinating data collection from hospitals across London, Bristol and Birmingham and the results are published in the journal PLOS ONE. The study included 213 women whose baby had a type of birth defect with potential links to recreational drug use, 143 women whose baby had a birth defect with no previously reported links to drug use and 161 women whose baby was normally formed.
77 (14.9%) of the women who agreed to take part tested positive for at least one type of recreational drug, of whom 10 had taken more than one drug. 68 women tested positive for cannabis, 18 for cocaine, 1 for ketamine and 1 for MDMA. Drug use was highest around conception and reduced as the pregnancy progressed, but around half of the women who smoked cannabis continued to do so throughout the second trimester.
Evidence of drug use was found in a significantly higher proportion of women whose babies were born with brain birth defects (35%), compared to women whose babies were normally formed (13%). Brain birth defects included brain anomalies other than spina bifida, such as brain cysts and under-development of the brain. These can have severe consequences and lead to lifelong conditions such as cerebral palsy.
"Our findings suggest a link between brain birth defects and recreational drug use in expectant mothers," Dr Anna David of the UCL Institute for Women's Health, lead author of the study and Consultant in Fetal Medicine at UCLH. "We were unable to identify significant links between specific drugs and brain birth defects. Therefore I would discourage women trying to get pregnant and those in early pregnancy from taking any recreational drugs including cannabis. Since only 20 of the mothers in our study had babies with brain birth defects, a larger study of such cases is now needed to examine the links with specific drug use more closely."
The study set out to investigate the link between drug use around the time of conception and the first trimester and a variety of birth defects. Smaller studies had suggested that drug use might be a primary risk factor for gastroschisis, a defect in the baby's belly that must be surgically repaired at birth. Other known risk factors for this abnormality include young maternal age and smoking. This larger study showed that the young age of the mother rather than recreational drug use was identified as the primary risk factor for gastroschisis. But for brain defects, drug use was a primary risk factor after taking into consideration the mother's age and use of tobacco and alcohol. Larger studies are now needed to investigate the link between the types of drug use and brain birth defects.
"Current evidence linking recreational drug use with birth defects is patchy as it relies on self-reporting which can be unreliable," explains Dr David. "Our anonymised hair testing offers an objective measure of recreational drug use and showed that it is common in pregnancy. The risks of alcohol and tobacco in pregnancy are relatively well-researched, and we hope that research into drug use will catch up now that we have demonstrated its relevance to babies' health and development."
Researchers took hair samples from consenting mothers, which were then tested for evidence of recreational drug use. The laboratory performing the drug tests were not given access to patient clinical data and all results were anonymised.
When someone takes drugs, traces from the bloodstream are deposited in their hair as it grows. Hair grows at an average rate of one centimetre per month, so a 9cm sample of hair from the scalp will give an approximate timeline of drug use from the past 9 months. The researchers divided hair samples into three sections of 3cm each, in order to time drug use to the months before and during conception, the first trimester and the second trimester.

Insomnia increases risk of motor vehicle deaths, other fatal injuries

Results emphasize the importance of healthy sleep for personal health & public safety

DARIEN, IL – New research suggests that insomnia is a major contributor to deaths caused by motor vehicle crashes and other unintentional fatal injuries. The results underscore the importance of the "Sleep Well, Be Well" campaign of the National Healthy Sleep Awareness Project.
Results show that the risk of unintentional fatal injury increased in a dose-dependent manner with the number of insomnia symptoms present. People with all three symptoms of insomnia were 2.8 times more likely to die from a fatal injury than those with no insomnia symptoms, even after adjusting for potential confounders such as alcohol consumption and daily use of sleep medication.
Among the three insomnia symptoms, difficulty falling asleep appeared to have the strongest and most robust association with fatal injuries. People who almost always had difficulty falling asleep were more than two times more likely to die from a motor vehicle injury (hazard ratio = 2.40) and more than 1.5 times more likely to die from any fatal injury (HR = 1.66) than people who never had trouble initiating sleep. Further analysis found that self-reported difficulty falling asleep contributed to 34 percent of motor vehicle deaths and eight percent of all unintentional fatal injuries, which could have been prevented in the absence of insomnia.
"Our results suggest that a large proportion of unintentional fatal injuries and fatal motor vehicle injuries could have been prevented in the absence of insomnia," said lead author Lars Laugsand, MD, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in the department of public health at the Norwegian University of Science in Technology in Trondheim, Norway. "Increasing public health awareness about insomnia and identifying and treating people with insomnia may be important in preventing unintentional fatal injuries."
The study results are published in the November issue of the journal Sleep.
"Healthy sleep is essential for physical health, mental well-being, and personal and public safety," said American Academy of Sleep Medicine President Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler, a national spokesperson for the Healthy Sleep Project. "Sleep is a necessity, not a luxury, and the promotion of healthy sleep should be a fundamental public health priority."
Earlier this year the Healthy Sleep Project launched the "Sleep Well, Be Well" campaign to increase awareness of the importance of sleep as one of the three pillars of a healthy lifestyle. More details are available at
The study involved that analysis of population-based survey data from 54,399 men and women between 20 and 89 years of age. Cause of death was identified using a national registry. During the 13-year follow-up period there were 277 unintentional fatal injuries, including 169 deaths from falls and 57 deaths from motor vehicle crashes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than 126,000 unintentional injury deaths in the U.S. each year, making it the fifth leading cause of death. There are more than 33,000 motor vehicle traffic fatalities and more than 27,000 unintentional fall deaths annually, as well as 29.3 million emergency department visits related to unintentional injuries.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Three Glasses of Milk a Day Linked to Higher Mortality Rate

In women, consumption of three glasses of milk or more a day is linked to higher death rate and risk of fractures, says study published in BMJ.


The findings may warrant questions about recommendations for milk consumption, although further research is needed, its authors said, as the association may be purely coincidental. 

A Swedish team used data taken from 61,000 women aged 39-74 and monitored for about 20 years, and more than 45,000 men aged 45-79 followed for 11 years. 

The volunteers gave details about diet and lifestyle, body weight, smoking habits, exercise frequency, education level and marital status. 

By the end of this long study period, 25,500 of the group had died and 22,000 had suffered a fracture. 

Higher milk intake was not accompanied by a lower risk of fractures but "may be associated with a higher rate of death", the study said. 

Among the women, 180 per 1,000 in the group which drank three glasses of milk or more a day died during a 10-year period, compared to the group average, independent of milk consumption, of 126 per 1,000. 

Among those who drank a glass or less per day, the rate was 110 per 1,000, co-author Karl Michaelsson of Uppsala University told AFP. 

The figures for hip fracture was 42 out of 1,000 women who drank a lot of milk, 35 per 1,000 on average, and 31 per 1,000 of women who drank the least milk. 

"Women who consumed three glasses or more per day had a 90 percent higher risk of death, 60 percent higher risk of hip fracture and 15 percent higher risk of any fracture compared to those who drank less than a glass," said Michaelsson. 

For men, the difference in death rate was less pronounced: 207 per 1,000 among the three-glasses-a-day group over 10 years, 189 per 1,000 on average, and 182 per 1,000 among low consumers. There was no difference in fracture rates. 

"The higher risk of mortality was evident with all types of milk: full-fat, half-fat and skimmed milk," Michaelsson added -- and started from a daily intake of about two glasses of milk. 

At a lower consumption of half a glass to one glass per day, "there was a tendency of slightly reduced hip fracture risk" compared to zero intake, but the same was not true for mortality risk. 
 Three Glasses of Milk a Day Linked to Higher Mortality Rate
The team found that fermented milk products like cheese or yoghurt were associated with lower mortality and fracture rates, particularly in women. 

One reason, the authors speculated, is that milk, but not cheese, is high in D-galactose, a type of sugar that in animal studies was shown to hasten ageing and shorten lifespan. 

- Caution - 

The researchers said it was impossible to draw any conclusions or make recommendations on milk consumption until further work is carried out. 

The results may not apply to people of other ethnic origins with different levels of lactose tolerance, they said. 

Milk also has different nutrient levels that depend on factors like food fortification and cow diet. 

And the results could be skewed by a phenomenon called "reverse causation" -- osteoporosis sufferers at high risk of a bone break increase their milk intake, which then gets blamed when they suffer a fracture. 

In a comment, Mary Schooling of the City University of New York School of Public Health said "the role of milk in mortality needs to be established definitively now" as consumption would rise with economic development. 

Other experts noted shortcomings in the study, including that milk consumption was self-reported, often a flaw in dietary research. 

Nor did the authors define the type of physical activity the men and women did -- whether it was weight-bearing and therefore bone-strengthening, or not. 

The study "creates more questions than provides answers", said Catherine Collins, principal dietitian at St George's Hospital in London.

Heart’s own immune cells can help it heal

The heart holds its own pool of immune cells capable of helping it heal after injury, according to new research in mice at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
Most of the time when the heart is injured, these beneficial immune cells are supplanted by immune cells from the bone marrow, which are spurred to converge in the heart and cause inflammation that leads to further damage. In both cases, these immune cells are called macrophages, whether they reside in the heart or arrive from the bone marrow. Although they share a name, where they originate appears to determine whether they are helpful are harmful to an injured heart.
In a mouse model of heart failure, the researchers showed that blocking the bone marrow’s macrophages from entering the heart protects the organ’s beneficial pool of macrophages, allowing them to remain in the heart, where they promote regeneration and recovery. The findings may have implications for treating heart failure in humans.
The study is now available in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition.
Following injury, neonatal mouse hearts (middle) heal well, appearing similar to healthy heart tissue (top). But adult hearts form scar tissue following injury (bottom).
“Researchers have known for a long time that the neonatal mouse heart can recover well from injury, and in some cases can even regenerate,” said first author Kory J. Lavine, MD, PhD, instructor in medicine. “If you cut off the lower tip of the neonatal mouse heart, it can grow back. But if you do the same thing to an adult mouse heart, it forms scar tissue.”
This disparity in healing capacity was long a mystery because the same immune cells appeared responsible for both repair and damage. Until recently, it was impossible to distinguish the helpful macrophages that reside in the heart from the harmful ones that arrive from the bone marrow.
The new research and past work by the same group — led by Douglas L. Mann, MD, the Tobias and Hortense Lewin Professor of Medicine and cardiologist-in-chief at Barnes-Jewish Hospital — appear to implicate these immune cells of different origins as responsible for the difference in healing capacity seen in neonatal and adult hearts, at least in mice.
“The same macrophages that promote healing after injury in the neonatal heart also are present in the adult heart, but they seem to go away with injury,” Lavine said. “This may explain why the young heart can recover while the adult heart can’t.”
Because they are interested in human heart failure, Lavine and his colleagues developed a method to progressively damage mouse cardiac tissue in a way that mimicked heart failure. They compared the immune response to cardiac damage in neonatal and adult mouse hearts.
The investigators found that the helpful macrophages originate in the embryonic heart and harmful macrophages originate in the bone marrow and could be distinguished by whether they express a protein on their surface called CCR2. Macrophages without CCR2 originate in the heart; those with CCR2 come from the bone marrow, the research showed.
Lavine and his colleagues asked whether a compound that inhibits the CCR2 protein would block the bone marrow’s macrophages from entering the heart.
“When we did that, we found that the macrophages from the bone marrow did not come in,” Lavine said. “And the macrophages native to the heart remained. We saw reduced inflammation in these injured adult hearts, less oxidative damage and improved repair. We also saw new blood vessel growth. By blocking the CCR2 signaling, we were able to keep the resident macrophages around and promote repair.”
Some CCR2 inhibitors are being tested in phase 1 and 2 clinical trials for treating rheumatoid arthritis. But before these drugs can be evaluated in people with heart failure, more work must be done to find out whether the same mechanisms are at work in human hearts, according to the researchers.
“We have identified similar immune cell subtypes that are present in the human heart,” Lavine said. “We need to find out more about their roles in heart failure in patients and understand more about how macrophages that reside in the heart promote repair.”

 Source:Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Himalayan Viagra fuels caterpillar fungus gold rush

Tibetans devise sustainable regulatory management plan

Young people are especially adept at harvesting yartsa gunbu because of their keen eyesight.
Overwhelmed by speculators trying to cash-in on a prized medicinal fungus known as Himalayan Viagra, two isolated Tibetan communities have managed to do at the local level what world leaders often fail to do on a global scale — implement a successful system for the sustainable harvest of a precious natural resource, suggests new research from Washington University in St. Louis.
“There’s this mistaken notion that indigenous people are incapable of solving complicated problems on their own, but these communities show that people can be incredibly resourceful when it’s necessary to preserve their livelihoods,” said study co-author Geoff Childs, PhD, associate professor of anthropology in Arts & Sciences.
Writing in the current issue​ of the journal Himalaya, Childs and Washington University anthropology graduate student Namgyal Choedup describe an innovative community resource management plan that some conservative capitalists might view as their worst regulatory nightmare.
In one remote village, for weeks in advance of the community-regulated harvest season, all able-bodied residents are required to show their faces at a mandatory roll call held four-times daily to ensure that no one is sneaking off into the nearby pastures to illegally harvest the precious fungus.
While regulations such as these might seem overly authoritarian, they’ve been welcomed by community residents desperate to get a grip on chaos associated with feverish demand for yartsa gunbu, a naturally-occurring “caterpillar fungus” prized in China for reported medical benefits. Use of the fungus as an aphrodisiac has earned it the nickname Himalayan Viagra.


Yartsa gunbu (literally ‘summer grass, winter worm’; Ophiocordyceps sinensis) results from a fungal infection that invades the bodies of ground-burrowing ghost moth caterpillars. In early spring, pinky-sized spores of the fungus emerge from the caterpillars’ mummified bodies and pop up in remote grassland pastures across the Tibetan Plateau.
Located high in the Himalayan foothills along Nepal’s northern Gorkha District border with China’s Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), the tiny rural communities of Nubri and Tsum have been ignored by economic developers for decades — schools, roads and medical facilities are few and far between. Residents have long had little access to cash, with most scraping by on meager incomes from farming, grazing, timber sales and odd jobs.
With yartsa gunbu fetching more per ounce than gold in some Chinese markets, many villagers now reap as much as 80 percent of their annual income during the caterpillar fungus spring harvest season. 
Finding a single spore of the fungus could yield the cash equivalent of what local men typically make over several days carrying a heavy backpack of goods across mountain passes.
Although local incomes are still modest by Western standards, residents have seen average annual incomes rise from an average of a few hundred dollars to upwards of $4,000. But along with these riches has come serious concerns about the impact of money and outsiders on local traditions and the fragile alpine environment in which yartsa gunbu thrives.
Recent news coverage has focused on community tensions and infighting over harvesting practices, the flood of outsiders seeking to take part in the harvest and allegations of graft and bribery among community leaders.
In June 2014, a clash with police left two dead in a dispute between members of the local community and a National Park Buffer Zone Management Committee over who has the right to collect and keep fees paid by outsiders for access to yartsa gunbu grounds. Two more people died in a 2013 fight between Tibetan groups near Rebgong, China.
Meanwhile, outside experts warn that over-harvest of the fungus could cause irreparable damage to fragile high-mountain pastures, with some suggesting yartsa gunbu production already had declined by 40 percent.
Despite dire predictions, research by Childs and Choedup suggests that local communities are rising to the challenge. Their study documents how the residents of Tsum and Nubri have built on existing religious and cultural traditions to devise incredibly cooperative and creative systems to self-manage and regulate the community’s annual fungus harvest.
The communities’ harvest protocols, they argue, represent an indigenous form of regulatory management, one that may prove sustainable and equitable over the long-term. 
Grounded in the resident’s traditional rights to use surrounding pasturelands for grazing and other purposes, the yartsa gunbu management plans strive to manage the resource wisely while affording all residents a fair chance to share in the bounty.
Key components of the plans include:
  • Restricting yartsa gunbu harvest to members of local households regardless of where they currently reside.
  • Sizeable penalties for those caught harvesting outside of the community-enforced season; preseason roll calls require able-bodied residents to check in at local meeting house four times daily (7 a.m., 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.)
  • Requiring harvesters to register with their local villages and pay a small tax to finance projects that support the harvest. 
  • Prohibiting yartsa gunbu harvest on mountain slopes long considered sacred, thus establishing conservation sanctuaries that will help preserve fungus breeding populations.
Childs and Choedup’s research documents a rise in social concerns associated with the sudden rise in incomes, but also finds many positive impacts on the lives of local residents. 
The harvest provides an opportunity for people to improve their standard of living, start business ventures, enhance religious life, provide better education for children, and mitigate the economic burden associated with deaths in the family — improvements that have been made without the help of state-sponsored development initiatives, they argue.
“In the case of Nubri and Tsum, management practices that were devised independent of state interference may prove to be sustainable over the long-run,” Childs said. “Although many observers have called for more government intervention in the harvesting and sale of yartsa gunbu, our research demonstrates that, at least in some communities, it is better to allow locals to manage the resource and reap t​he benefits on their own terms.”
​ ​

Link seen between seizures and migraines in the brain

Seizures and migraines have always been considered separate physiological events in the brain, but now a team of engineers and neuroscientists looking at the brain from a physics viewpoint discovered a link between these and related phenomena.
Scientists believed these two brain events were separate phenomena because they outwardly affect people very differently. Seizures are marked by electrical hyperactivity, but migraine auras -- based on an underlying process called spreading depression -- are marked by a silencing of electrical activity in part of the brain. Also, seizures spread rapidly, while migraines propagate slowly.
"We wanted to make a more realistic model of what underlies migraines, which we were working on controlling," said Steven J. Schiff, Brush Chair Professor of Engineering and director of the Penn State Center for Neural Engineering. "We realized that no one had ever kept proper track of the neuronal energy being used and all of the ions, the charged atoms, going into and out of brain cells."
Potassium and sodium contribute the ions that control electricity in the brain. The Penn State researchers added fundamental physics principles of conservation of energy, charge and mass to an older theory of this electricity. They kept track of the energy required to run a nerve cell, and kept count of the ions passing into and out of the cells.
The brain needs a constant supply of oxygen to keep everything running because it has to keep pumping the ions back across cell membranes after each electrical spike. The energy supply is directly linked to oxygen concentrations around the cell and the energy required to restore the ions to their proper places is much greater after seizures or migraines.
"We know that some people get both seizures and migraines," said Schiff. "Certainly, the same brain cells produce these different events and we now have increasing numbers of examples of where single gene mutations can produce the presence of both seizure and migraines in the same patients and families. So, in retrospect, the link was obvious -- but we did not understand it."
The researchers, who also included Yina Wei, recent Penn State Ph.D. in engineering science and mechanics, currently a postdoctoral fellow at University of California-Riverside, and Ghanim Ullah, former Penn State postdoctoral fellow, now a professor of physics at University of South Florida, explored extending older models of brain cell activity with basic conservation principles. They were motivated by previous Penn State experiments that showed the very sensitive link between oxygen concentration with reliable and rapid changes in nerve cell behavior.
What they found was completely unexpected. Adding basic conservation principles to the older models immediately demonstrated that spikes, seizures and spreading depression were all part of a spectrum of nerve cell behavior. It appeared that decades of observations of different phenomena in the brain could share a common underlying link.
"We have found within a single model of the biophysics of neuronal membranes that we can account for a broad range of experimental observations, from spikes to seizures and spreading depression," the researchers report in a recent issue of the Journal of Neuroscience. "We are particularly struck by the apparent unification possible between the dynamics of seizures and spreading depression."
While the initial intent was to better model the biophysics of the brain, the connection and unification of seizures and spreading depression was an emergent property of that model, according to Schiff.
"No one, neither us nor our colleagues anticipated such a finding or we would have done this years ago," said Schiff. "But we immediately recognized what the results were showing and we worked intensively to test the integrity of this result in many ways and we found out how robust it was. Although the mathematics are complex, the linking of these phenomena seems rock solid."
The ability to better understand the difference between normal and pathological activity within the brain may lead to the ability to predict when a seizure might occur.

"We are not only interested in controlling seizures or migraines after they begin, but we are keen to seek ways to stabilize the brain in normal operating regimes and prevent such phenomena from occurring in the first place," said Schiff. "This type of unification framework demonstrates that we can now begin to have a much more fundamental understanding of how normal and pathological brain activities relate to each other. We and our colleagues have a lot on our plate to start exploring over the coming years as we build on this finding."
Source:Journal of Neuroscience

Researchers probe link between newborn health and vitamin A

The impact vitamin A has on newborns is virtually unknown, but Penn State nutrition researchers have published two papers that may provide a framework for future investigations of the vitamin and neonatal health.
After supplementing newborn rats with vitamin A, the researchers found that vitamin A distribution within the body increases suddenly but temporarily, with a significant amount found in tissues other than the liver. Vitamin A in adults is usually found in significant amounts in the liver.
Nutrition experts know that vitamin A is necessary for prenatal growth and development, as well as in older children; but the role of vitamin A remains unclear for the neonatal period. Stores of the vitamin become depleted as the fetus reaches full term, to the point where newborns are nearly depleted of vitamin A. Neonates born in developing countries are likely to have even lower amounts of vitamin A in their bodies.
"The World Health Organization recommends periodic vitamin A supplements to children living in developing countries," said A. Catharine Ross, professor of nutritional sciences and Dorothy Foehr Huck Chair. "Giving large doses of vitamin A to children 6 months to 5 years old has shown to decrease mortality by 23 percent. However, studies in children under 6 months have been inconclusive."
Ross and colleagues studied levels of vitamin A in rat pups for two weeks, from 4 days old to 18 days old, similar to neonatal age in children. Half the pups received a vitamin A supplement while the others did not receive any supplement -- serving as the control.
The researchers measured the pups' rate of vitamin A metabolism by sampling various organs and found that vitamin A was used very quickly. Retinol, which is a form that vitamin A takes in the body, isn't broken down immediately and is recycled between plasma and tissues. The pups that received the supplement experienced lower rates of recycling, however they had greater uptake of vitamin A in extravascular tissues.
The supplemented rats were also found to have an increased uptake of chylomicron retinyl ester -- another form that vitamin A takes in the body -- in the lungs, intestines and remaining tissue, and a decrease in retinol turnover out of the liver, compared to the unsupplemented rats, Ross and colleagues report in two recent articles published in the Journal of Lipid Research.
The researchers speculate that since the neonates are born with a low vitamin A level but have a high demand for it, the uptake of retinyl ester in tissues other than the liver is an adaptive mechanism to make more vitamin A available for use.
"This research provides us with a blueprint for humans, giving us a baseline set of data, in order to let us make comparisons in the future," said Ross. "By being able to better understand infants' nutritional needs, evidence-based dietary intake recommendations could be made and infant mortality could potentially be reduced, particularly in developing countries."
Also working on this research were Libo Tan, graduate student and postdoctoral fellow in nutritional sciences; Amanda E. Wray, research technologist in nutritional sciences; and Michael H. Green, professor of nutritional sciences.
Source:Journal of Lipid Research

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

More research needed to find out the cause of psoriasis: INSTEAD

The cause of psoriasis remains unknown even today and there is a combination of factors including genetic predisposition and environmental factors, said Dr Dinesh Kumar, Secretary of the Indian Society of Teledermatology (INSTEAD). It is common that the disease is found in members of the same family.

He was delivering a lecture on the cause of psoriasis on ‘World Psoriasis Day’ in Chennai.  “This is a truly global event that sets out to give an international voice to the more than125 million people with psoriasis around the world”, he added.

He said INSTED aims to raise the profile of a condition which needs to be taken more seriously by national and international authorities. The main objectives include raising awareness, improving access to treatment, increasing understanding, and building unity among the psoriasis community. By identifying and treating psoriasis patients early, the burden of the person, the family and the community can be reduced to an extent. 

“Psoriasis is a dry, scaly skin disorder. It can also cause intense itching and burning. Normally there is a constant shedding of dead cells. However, due to the acceleration of the replacement process, both dead and live cells accumulate on the skin surface. Often, this causes red, flaky, crusty patches covered with silvery scales, which are shed easily” he added.

He said the Indian Society of Teledermatology (INSTED) was formed to provide access to a number of practitioners in the field of dermatology, not only to facilitate provision of quality clinical care but also as a forum for exchange of views and experience among practitioners of this speciality.

Telemedicine is rapidly evolving as the future of medicine due to continuing advancements in information and communications technologies. The practice of telemedicine has become a channel for exchange of opinions among health-care professionals as well as  real-time consultations between medical practitioners and patients. 


Having Multiple Female Sexual Partners may Reduce Prostate Cancer Risk

Researchers at the University of Montreal and INRS - Institut Armand-Frappier reveal that having sex with more than 20 women is associated with a 28% lower risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer.


However, having more than 20 male partners in one's lifetime is associated with a twofold higher risk of getting prostate cancer compared to those who have never slept with a man. 

Marie-Elise Parent and Marie-Claude Rousseau, professors at university's School of Public Health, and their colleague Andrea Spence, published their findings in the journal Cancer Epidemiology. The results were obtained as part of the Montreal study PROtEuS (Prostate Cancer & Environment Study), in which 3,208 men responded to a questionnaire on, amongst other things, their sex lives. Of these men, 1,590 were diagnosed with prostate cancer between September 2005 and August 2009, while 1,618 men were part of the control group. 

Risk Associated with Number of Partners Overall, men with prostate cancer were twice as likely as others to have a relative with cancer. However, evidence suggests that the number of sexual partners affects the development of the cancer. 

Consequently, men who said they had never had sexual intercourse were almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer as those who said they had.When a man has slept with more than 20 women during his lifetime there is a 28% reduction in the risk of having prostate cancer (all types), and a 19% reduction for aggressive types of cancer. "It is possible that having many female sexual partners results in a higher frequency of ejaculations, whose protective effect against prostate cancer has been previously observed in cohort studies," Parent explained. 

According to some studies, the underlying mechanism of this protective effect is in reducing the concentration of cancer-causing substances in prostatic fluid or lowering the production of intraluminal crystalloids. It should be noted that for all participants, the age at which they first had sexual intercourse or the number of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) they had contracted did not affect the risk of prostate cancer. Moreover, only 12% of all participants reported having had at least one STI in their lifetime, which is few. 

Male Partners and Increased Risk The data indicate that having only one male partner does not affect the risk of prostate cancer compared to those who have never had sexual intercourse with a man.On the other hand, those who have slept with more than 20 men are twice as likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer of all types compared to those who have never slept with a man. And their risk of having a less aggressive prostate cancer increases by 500% compared to those who have had only one male partner. 

Parent and her team can only formulate "highly speculative" hypotheses to explain this association. "It could come from greater exposure to STIs, or it could be that anal intercourse produces physical trauma to the prostate," Parent said. 

Avenues for Further Research Parent, Rousseau, and Spence are specialists in prostate cancer and are the first research team to suggest that the number of female partners is inversely associated with the risk of developing cancer. 

"We were fortunate to have participants from Montreal who were comfortable talking about their sexuality, no matter what sexual experiences they have had, and this openness would probably not have been the same 20 or 30 years ago," Parent explained. "Indeed, thanks to them, we now know that the number and type of partners must be taken into account to better understand the causes of prostate cancer."Does this mean public health authorities will soon be recommending men to sleep with many women in their lives? "We're not there yet," Parent said. 
journal Cancer Epidemiology

Sexual Quality of Life is Not Adversely Affected by CPAP Use for Sleep Apnea

Researchers at Rosalind Franklin University have suggested that patients who use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device to treat obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) often believe that it makes them less sexually attractive.
 Sexual Quality of Life is Not Adversely Affected by CPAP Use for Sleep Apnea
A new study abstract released today in an online supplement of the journal CHEST, to be presented at CHEST 2014, the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians in Austin, Texas, shows that they do not need to worry. 

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is common in sleep apnea patients, but studies have shown that the use of CPAP improves ED. However, patients using CPAP may believe that the use of CPAP will have a negative influence on sexual quality, which can in turn make them less likely to use CPAP. Researchers conducted a survey to determine if sexual quality of life (SQOL) differs between CPAP-compliant and noncompliant patients. Patients were deemed to be compliant if they used CPAP more than 4 hours per night for 70% of days. 

In this study, 52 patients with OSA on CPAP answered 10 questions pertaining to physical and emotional aspects of lovemaking. Of the 52 patients, 27 were compliant with CPAP, 25 were not. Both groups were similar in age, body mass index, ED, use of medication to treat erectile dysfunction, and presence of depression. Results showed that, when adjusting for all confounding variables, CPAP compliance does not predict sexual quality of life. 

"This study found that SQOL scores were similar between the compliant vs noncompliant group," said Mark J. Rosen, MD, Master FCCP, Medical Director, American College of Chest Physicians. "This study suggests that CPAP compliance does not impair sexual quality of life in patients with sleep apnea." 
journal CHEST

Polyunsaturated Oil: Better Option for Weight Management

One bad meal won't make you fat just like one good meal won't make you skinny. If you are fat, then you are a nutritional over achiever in more ways than one. Obesity as they say is the penalty for gluttony and sloth, but it is misleading and misconceived on so many levels.

Since time immemorial, nutritionists and health authorities have preached the benefits of a low-fat diet as the key to losing weight, keeping your cholesterol under check as well as maintaining good health. Despite so much debate and discussion, ultimately "fat" isn't always the culprit in the waistline wars. The fact is that more than just the amount of fat, it is actually the type of fat you eat that ultimately matters. 

Types of Dietary Fat 

Monounsaturated fats and Polyunsaturated fats: They areconsidered as "good fats" because they are good for your heart, cholesterol levels and your overall health. Good fats such as omega-3 fats are essential to physical and emotional health. Examples of monounsaturated fats include olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, olives, and nuts such as almonds, peanuts, hazel nuts etc. Safflower oil, soybean oil, corn oil, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and fishes such as salmon, tuna, mackerel etc are rich sources of polyunsaturated fats. 

Saturated fats and trans fats: These are known as the "bad fats" because they increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and elevate cholesterol levels. High-fat cuts of meat such as beef, lamb, pork; dairy produce such as full fat milk and cream; butter, cheese, ghee, lard etc are examples of saturated fats. Examples of trans fats include margarine, vegetable shortening, commercially-baked pastries, cookies, doughnuts, muffins, fried food such as chicken nuggets, breaded fish etc. 

Recent studies have shown that short-term modest weight gains in healthy, normal weight young adults was associated with more bad cholesterol levels in those who ate muffins cooked using saturated oil, whereas individuals who ate muffins made with polyunsaturated oils had improved blood cholesterol levels. 

Researchers from Sweden conducted a double blind, parallel-group, randomized controlled trial study in 39 adults (average age 27) for about seven weeks. This study was primarily funded by the Swedish Research Council. 

The study participants were made to eat three muffins each day made with either unsaturated sunflower or saturated palm oil, with the aim that the participants would gain about 3 percent of their body weight during the study. All muffins had identical ingredients, except for the fat that was used was either sunflower oil rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) or palm oil rich in saturated fatty acids (SFA). 

During the course of the study, the participants continued their normal diet and physical activity levels and the number of muffins was either added or subtracted according to the weight gained by each individual. The muffins eaten by the participants were quite high in carbohydrates and sugar, but it was seen that only those muffins which were made using saturated oils raised some cholesterol concerns. 

At the end of the study duration, it was seen that all participants had a comparable weight gain and the average weight gain for both groups was about 2.2 percent. The group who ate the muffins made with unsaturated oil reportedly had lower levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL- bad cholesterol) levels as well as a lower ratio between total cholesterol and high-density lipoproteins (HDL-good cholesterol), and also other positive indicators of cardiovascular health. When compared, the LDL levels reportedly differed by 9 percent and the overall cholesterol/HDL cholesterol ratio differed as much as 18 percent between the two groups. 

Ulf Risérus, M.D., Ph.D., principal investigator and associate professor of Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism at Uppsala University, in Uppsala, Sweden commented "Even in early adulthood, it is important to avoid high-calorie foods and weight gain, but also it is important to consume sufficient amounts of polyunsaturated fats from non-hydrogenated vegetable oils. The lowering of the cholesterol/HDL cholesterol ratio by polyunsaturated fat is of special interest because recent large studies have shown this ratio seems to predict heart disease risk even better than LDL levels alone." 

He further added "That the effects were seen in less than two months on a high-calorie diet that was high in fat and some sugars is also important. These short-term metabolic adverse changes might help explain why some overweight people are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in the long-term." 

Researchers said the results of the study have valuable implications for many people who gain weight due to excess calorie intake from both sugars and fats and lack of physical activity. The term "fit and fat" has been used for those obese individuals who despite being fat are physically fit and they actually may be at lower disease risk than a lean but sedentary person. The study clearly shows that gaining weight on a high-calorie diet which is higher in polyunsaturated fat produces a slightly more metabolically favorable weight gain, as compared to the weight gain by consuming saturated fats. 

Risérus, who believes the effects of a high-saturated fat diet are fully reversible, further added "Studies using these oils in weight-stable participants have demonstrated that the adverse effects on LDL seems to disappear shortly after they stop consuming foods with saturated fats, and this may also be the case here. Such data would be important to encourage people who gained weight to lose their weight and lower their metabolic risk." 

The study demonstrated that the excess energy from polyunsaturated fatty acids reduced atherogenic lipoproteins compared with saturated fatty acids in healthy young adults. The researchers strongly believe that the hyperproinsulinemia and increased biomarkers of endothelial dysfunction which happened due to weight gain could be partially offset by the lipid-lowering effects of polyunsaturated fatty acids. 

This study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association

Tips for Choosing Healthy Fats 

 Do not totally give up fat in your diet in an effort to lose weight, but try and replace trans fats and saturated fats with good fats. This might mean just a little change in your diet plan such replacing fried chicken with baked skinless chicken, adding fresh fish rich in omega 3 fatty acids, eating beans and legumes, and replacing ghee/butter with heart healthy olive oil. 

 When grocery shopping, always read the food labels and check for the amount of trans fats before you buy a product. Limit your intake of fast food and try and avoid commercially-baked goods. Home baked goodies are always the best since you have the liberty to make healthy choices while baking. 

 Include omega-3 fatty acids such as fish, walnuts, ground flax seeds, flaxseed oil, canola oil, and soybean oil etc in your diet everyday 

 Cut back on your intake of red meat and full-fat dairy products as these are rich in saturated fats. Substitute red meat with beans, nuts, poultry and fish whenever possible. Replace whole milk and other full-fat dairy foods with lower fat versions. 

To promote health and well being, the answer isn't in cutting out the fat totally from your diet, but it's learning to make healthy choices and to replace bad fats with good ones. Healthy fats play vital role in helping you manage your moods, stay mentally fit, fight fatigue and control your weight. So in your constant endeavor to stay healthy, stop worrying about what you have to lose and start focusing on what you have to gain! 





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