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Sunday, 4 December 2016

Scientists in Amsterdam Just Destroyed Breast Cancer Tumors in 11 Days Without Chemo

Research presented by Professor Nigel Bundred at the European Breast Cancer Conference in Amsterdam revealed that they had tested the effectiveness of a pair of drugs known as Herceptin (a.k.a trastuzumab) and Lapatinib.
bcancer-ogThe two drugs are commonly used in breast cancer treatment already, but this is the first time they had been combined together and used before surgery and chemotherapy. What they found was they were able to eliminate some types of breast cancer in just 11 days.
Funded by Cancer Research UK, they aimed to use these drugs to combat a protein called HER2 (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2) which affects the growth and division of cancer cells. It’s also more likely to return than other cancer types.
What also makes this treatment so appealing is the fact that it eliminates the need for chemotherapy and surgery. The temporary side effects like hair loss, vomiting and fatigue are also avoided, making treatment less impactful on the body. Chemo is not entirely effective, nor is it the right choice for a lot of patients, so any alternatives are welcomed.


257 women with HER2 positive breast cancer were selected for the study, with half being put on the drug combo and the other half were the control group. What they found was that of those on the drug, 11% had no cancer cells remaining within two weeks and 17% of cases featured dramatically shrunken tumors.
Compared to the control group who were only given Herceptin, they were found to have 0% with no trace of cancer cells and only 3% showed a drop in tumor size. Clearly, the two drugs combined have a major effect on breast cancer cells as opposed to being used on their own.
The problem currently, however, is that Herceptin’s licensing makes it only available for use alongside chemotherapy and not alone. The results of this study may help to change that though.
Although there’s still a lot of work to be done, hopefully, this is a major step in the fight against one of the world’s deadliest diseases. With medical advancements improving every year, it’s entirely possible this could happen sooner than we think!


Musical training creates new brain connections in children

Taking music lessons increases brain fiber connections in children and may be useful in treating autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), according to a study being presented next week at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).
IMAGE"It's been known that musical instruction benefits children with these disorders," said Pilar Dies-Suarez, M.D., chief radiologist at the Hospital Infantil de México Federico Gómez in Mexico City, "but this study has given us a better understanding of exactly how the brain changes and where these new fiber connections are occurring."
The researchers studied 23 healthy children between the ages of five and six years old. All of the children were right handed and had no history of sensory, perception or neurological disorders. None of the children had been trained in any artistic discipline in the past.
The study participants underwent pre- and post-musical-training evaluation with diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) of the brain. DTI is an advanced MRI technique, which identifies microstructural changes in the brain's white matter.
"Experiencing music at an early age can contribute to better brain development, optimizing the creation and establishment of neural networks, and stimulating the existing brain tracts," Dr. Dies-Suarez said.
The brain's white matter is composed of millions of nerve fibers called axons that act like communication cables connecting various regions of the brain. Diffusion tensor imaging produces a measurement, called fractional anisotropy (FA), of the movement of extracellular water molecules along axons. In healthy white matter, the direction of extracellular water molecules is fairly uniform and measures high in fractional anisotropy. When water movement is more random, FA values decrease, suggesting abnormalities.
Over the course of life, the maturation of brain tracts and connections between motor, auditory and other areas allow the development of numerous cognitive abilities, including musical skills. Previous studies have linked autism spectrum and ADHD with decreases in volume, fiber connections and FA in the minor and lower forceps, tracts located in the frontal cortex of the brain. This suggests that low connectivity in the frontal cortex, an area of the brain involved in complex cognitive processes, is a biomarker of these disorders.
After the children in the study completed nine months of musical instruction using Boomwhackers--percussion tubes cut to the exact length to create pitches in a diatonic scale, DTI results showed an increase in FA and axon fiber length in different areas of the brain, most notably in the minor forceps.
"When a child receives musical instruction, their brains are asked to complete certain tasks," Dr. Dies-Suarez said. "These tasks involve hearing, motor, cognition, emotion and social skills, which seem to activate these different brain areas. These results may have occurred because of the need to create more connections between the two hemispheres of the brain."
The researchers believe that the results of this study could aid in creating targeted strategies for intervention in treating disorders like autism and ADHD.

Yogic breathing helps fight major depression, Penn study shows

A breathing-based meditation practice known as Sudarshan Kriya yoga helped alleviate severe depression in people who did not fully respond to antidepressant treatments, reports a new study published today in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry from researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The study bolsters the science behind the use of controlled yogic breathing to help battle depression.
In a randomized, controlled pilot study, led by Anup Sharma, MD, PhD, a Neuropsychiatry research fellow in the department of Psychiatry at Penn, researchers found significant improvement in symptoms of depression and anxiety in medicated patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) who participated in the breathing technique compared to medicated patients who did not partake. After two months, the yoga group cut its mean Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) score by several points, while the control group showed no improvements. HDRS is the most widely used clinician-administered depression assessment that scores mood, interest in activities, energy, suicidal thoughts, and feelings of guilt, among other symptoms.
More than half of the 41 million Americans who take antidepressants do not fully respond. Add-on therapies are often prescribed to enhance the effects of the drugs in these patients, but they typically offer limited additional benefits and come with side effects that can curb use, prolonging the depressive episode. What's more, patients who don't fully respond to antidepressants are especially at risk of relapse.
"With such a large portion of patients who do not fully respond to antidepressants, it's important we find new avenues that work best for each person to beat their depression," Sharma said. "Here, we have a promising, lower-cost therapy that could potentially serve as an effective, non-drug approach for patients battling this disease."
The meditation technique, which is practiced in both a group setting and at home, includes a series of sequential, rhythm-specific breathing exercises that bring people into a deep, restful, and meditative state: slow and calm breaths alternated with fast and stimulating breaths.
"Sudarshan Kriya yoga gives people an active method to experience a deep meditative state that's easy to learn and incorporate in diverse settings," Sharma said.
In past studies, the practice has demonstrated a positive response in patients with milder forms of depression, depression due to alcohol dependence, and in patients with MDD; however, there are no clinical studies investigating its use for depression in an outpatient setting. Past studies suggest that yoga and other controlled breathing techniques can potentially adjust the nervous system to reduce stress hormones. Overall, the authors also note, well-designed studies that evaluate the benefits of yoga to treat depression are lacking, despite increased interest in the ancient Indian practice. Millions of Americans participate in some form of yoga every year.
In the study, researchers enrolled 25 patients suffering from MDD who were depressed, despite more than eight weeks of antidepressant medication treatment. The medicated patients were randomized to either the breathing intervention group or the "waitlist" control group for eight weeks. (The waitlist group was offered the yoga intervention after the study). During the first week, participants completed a six-session program, which featured Sudarshan Kriya yoga in addition to yoga postures, sitting meditation, and stress education. For weeks two through eight, participants attended weekly Sudarshan Kriya yoga follow-up sessions and completed a home practice version of the technique.
Patients in the Sudarshan Kriya yoga group showed a significantly greater improvement in HDRS scores compared to patients in the waitlist group. With a mean baseline HDRS score of 22.0 (indicating severe depression at the beginning of the study), the group that completed the breathing technique for the full two months improved scores by 10.27 points on average, compared to the waitlist group, which showed no improvements. Patients in the yoga group also showed significant mean reductions in total scores of the self-reported Beck Depression (15.48 point improvement) and Beck Anxiety Inventories (5.19 point improvement), versus the waitlist control group.
Results of the pilot study suggest the feasibility and promise of Sudarshan Kriya as an add-on intervention for MDD patients who have not responded to antidepressants, the authors wrote. "The next step in this research is to conduct a larger study evaluating how this intervention impacts brain structure and function in patients who have major depression," Sharma said.

A handful of nuts a day cuts the risk of a wide range of diseases

A large analysis of current research shows that people who eat at least 20g of nuts a day have a lower risk of heart disease, cancer and other diseases.
The analysis of all current studies on nut consumption and disease risk has revealed that 20g a day - equivalent to a handful - can cut people's risk of coronary heart disease by nearly 30 percent, their risk of cancer by 15 percent, and their risk of premature death by 22 percent.
Image resultAn average of at least 20g of nut consumption was also associated with a reduced risk of dying from respiratory disease by about a half, and diabetes by nearly 40 percent, although the researchers note that there is less data about these diseases in relation to nut consumption.
The study, led by researchers from Imperial College London and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, is published in the journal BMC Medicine.
The research team analysed 29 published studies from around the world that involved up to 819,000 participants, including more than 12,000 cases of coronary heart disease, 9,000 cases of stroke, 18,000 cases of cardiovascular disease and cancer, and more than 85,000 deaths.
While there was some variation between the populations that were studied, such as between men and women, people living in different regions, or people with different risk factors, the researchers found that nut consumption was associated with a reduction in disease risk across most of them.
Study co-author Dagfinn Aune from the School of Public Health at Imperial said: "In nutritional studies, so far much of the research has been on the big killers such as heart diseases, stroke and cancer, but now we're starting to see data for other diseases.
"We found a consistent reduction in risk across many different diseases, which is a strong indication that there is a real underlying relationship between nut consumption and different health outcomes. It's quite a substantial effect for such a small amount of food."
The study included all kinds of tree nuts, such as hazel nuts and walnuts, and also peanuts - which are actually legumes. The results were in general similar whether total nut intake, tree nuts or peanuts were analysed.
What makes nuts so potentially beneficial, said Aune, is their nutritional value: "Nuts and peanuts are high in fibre, magnesium, and polyunsaturated fats - nutrients that are beneficial for cutting cardiovascular disease risk and which can reduce cholesterol levels.
"Some nuts, particularly walnuts and pecan nuts are also high in antioxidants, which can fight oxidative stress and possibly reduce cancer risk. Even though nuts are quite high in fat, they are also high in fibre and protein, and there is some evidence that suggests nuts might actually reduce your risk of obesity over time."
The study also found that if people consumed on average more than 20g of nuts per day, there was little evidence of further improvement in health outcomes.
The team are now analysing large published datasets for the effects of other recommended food groups, including fruits and vegetables, on a wider range of diseases.

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