Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Press release] Why Scientists Are Blaming Cilia for Human Disease – Scientific American

Why Scientists Are Blaming Cilia for Human Disease – Scientific American.

Hairlike structures on cells may play a role in a host of genetic disorders, including kidney degeneration, vision impairment and even some cancers

Hairlike cilia may be at the roots of of several genetic disorders.
Image Courtesy of StudyBlue.com

Scientists now believe that a number of genetic disorders, from polycystic kidney disease to some forms of retinal degeneration, can ultimately be traced back to cilia—bristly, hairlike structures that dot cell surfaces.

In a review article published in the December 1 BioScience, George B. Witman, a cellular biologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, highlighted the growing body of evidence that abnormal or absent cilia can cause a wide range of human disorders, dubbed “ciliopathies.”

“Kidney disease and blindness, multiple digits, shortened bones or extremities, obesity—all of these things, it turns out, are due to defects in cilia,” he says. Experts add that the discovery of a common thread between these disparate disorders may eventually help researchers develop gene-based therapies to combat those conditions.

At first blush, cilia seem relatively innocuous. As they beat back and forth outside the cell, coordinated brushes of so-called motile cilia regulate fluid flow nearby. But almost all human cells also have one primary, or nonmotile, cilium that functions more like a molecular antenna. The primary cilium is an internally dynamic structure, packed with proteins that detect and convey important messages to its cell about the local environment. “The signaling machinery is concentrated in the cilia,” Witman says. “All in this very tightly controlled, constrained space.”

December 12, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] People with opioid dependence in recovery show ‘re-regulation’ of reward systems — ScienceDaily

People with opioid dependence in recovery show ‘re-regulation’ of reward systems

Newswise — December 9, 2014 – Within a few months after drug withdrawal, patients in recovery from dependence on prescription pain medications may show signs that the body’s natural reward systems are normalizing, reports a study in the 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.

English: Source: The National Institute on Dru...

English: Source: The National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Image taken from http://www.drugabuse.gov/pubs/teaching/Teaching2/Teaching4.html http://www.drugabuse.gov/pubs/teaching/Teaching2/largegifs/slide18.gif (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The study by Scott C. Bunce, PhD, of Penn State University College of Medicine, Hershey, and colleagues provides evidence of “physiological re-regulation” of disrupted brain and hormonal responses to pleasurable stimuli—both drug- and nondrug-related.

Signs of Reward System Disruption After Drug Withdrawal…
The pilot study included two groups of seven patients in residential treatment for dependence on opioid pain medications. One group had recently gone through medically assisted opioid withdrawal—within the past one to two weeks. The other group was in extended care, and had been drug-free for two to three months. A group of normal controls were studied for comparison.

The researchers performed several tests to assess changes in the “brain reward system” during early recovery. After drug withdrawal, many people with opioid dependence have “persistent changes in the reward and memory circuits”—they may experience heightened “rewards” or “pleasure” in response to drugs and related stimuli, but greatly reduced responses to naturally pleasurable stimuli (such as good food, or friendship).

Dr Bunce explains, “This is thought to occur because opiates are potent stimulators of the brain’s reward system; over time, the brain adapts to the high level of stimulation provided by opiates, and naturally rewarding stimuli can’t measure up.” Such dysregulation of the natural reward system may contribute to the high risk of relapse during recovery.

The test results showed several significant differences in the reward system between groups. A test of startle reflexes showed that patients with recent drug withdrawal had reduced pleasure responses to “natural reward” stimuli—for example, pictures of appetizing foods or people having fun.

In brain activity studies, patients with recent drug withdrawal showed heightened responses to drug-related cues, such as pictures of pills. In the extended-care patients, these increased responses to drug cues—in a region of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, involved in attention and self-control —were significantly reduced.

…May Lead to New Objective Measures of Recovery
Patients who had recently withdrawn from opiates also had high levels of the stress hormone cortisol (adrenaline). In the patients who had been drug-free for a few months, cortisol levels were somewhat reduced, although not quite as low as in healthy controls. The recently withdrawn group also had pronounced sleep disturbances, while sleep in the extended care group was similar to controls.

All of these changes—brain and hormonal responses to drug cues and natural rewards, as well as sleep disturbances—were correlated with abstinence time. The more days since the patient used drugs, the lower the abnormal responses.

The study supports past research showing dysregulation of the reward system during early recovery from opioid dependence. It also provides evidence that these responses may become re-regulated during several weeks in residential treatment—a period of “clinically documented” abstinence from opioids.

That’s a potentially important step forward in addiction medicine research, Dr Bunce believes. “It shows that if the patient remains in treatment and off drugs for several months, the body’s natural reward systems may have the capacity to return toward normal, making it easier for them to remain drug-free outside the treatment setting.” With further study, tests of the natural reward system might provide useful, objective markers of recovery—clinical tests that help to evaluate how the patient’s recovery is proceeding.

Such tests might help in managing the difficult problem of prescription opioid dependence—an ongoing epidemic associated with a high risk of relapse after drug withdrawal. Dr Bunce and colleagues are conducting a follow-up study, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, to determine whether measures of the brain’s reward system, sleep and the stress response system indicate the capacity for re-regulation and the patient’s risk of relapse during recovery.

Click here to read “Possible Evidence for Re-regulation of HPA Axis and Brain Reward Systems Over Time in Treatment in Prescription Opioid-Dependent Patients.”

December 12, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] Friendly bacteria are protective against malaria

From the 4 December 2014 ScienceDaily article

Date: December 4, 2014
Source: Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia
Summary:
In a breakthrough study, a research team discovered that specific bacterial components in the human gut microbiota can trigger a natural defense mechanism that is highly protective against malaria transmission. It is estimated that 3.4 billion people are at risk of contracting malaria and WHO data from 2012 reveal that about 460,000 African children died from malaria before reaching their fifth birthday. The present study argues that if one can induce the production of antibodies against alpha-gal in those children one may be able to revert these grim numbers.
Over the past few years, the scientific community became aware that humans live under a continuous symbiotic relationship with a vast community of bacteria and other microbes that reside in the gut. These microbes, know as the gut microbiota, do not necessarily cause disease to humans and instead can influence a variety of physiologic functions that are essential to maintain health. Some of these microbes, including specific strains of Escherichia coli (E. coli) that are usual inhabitant of the human gut, express on their surface sugar molecules (known as carbohydrates or glycans). These glycans can be recognized by the human immune system, which results in the production of high levels of circulating natural antibodies in adult individuals. It has been speculated that natural antibodies directed against sugar molecules expressed by the microbiota may also recognize perhaps similar sugar molecules expressed by pathogens, that is, parasites that can cause diseases in humans.
It was well established before these studies, that onlya fraction of all adultindividuals thatare confronted to the bite of mosquitoes in endemic areas of malaria do become infected by the Plasmodium parasite and eventually go on to contract malaria. This argued that adults might have a natural defense mechanism against malaria transmission, which is in sharp contrast with children under 3-5 years old that are much more susceptible to contract malaria. When analyzingindividuals from an endemic area of malaria in Mali,in collaboration with a research team lead by Peter D. Crompton at National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (Maryland; USA) and at the University of Sciences, Techniques and Technologies of Bamako (Bamako, Mali), the research team lead by Miguel Soares established that thoseindividuals that have the lowest levels of circulating anti-alpha-gal antibodies are also those that are the most susceptible to contract malaria. In contrast those individuals that have the highest levels of circulating anti-alpha-gal antibodies are less susceptibleto be infected and to develop malaria. They conclude thatthe reason why young infants are so susceptible to contract malaria is probably due to the fact that they have not yet generatedsufficient levels of circulating natural antibodies directed against the alpha-gal sugar molecule….

Miguel Soares adds: “We observed that children under 3 years old do not have sufficient levels of circulating anti-alpha-gal antibodies, which might be one of the reasons for their exquisite susceptibility to malaria. One of the beauties of the protective mechanism we just discovered is that it can be induced via a standard vaccination protocol, leading to the production of high levels of anti-alpha-gal antibodies that bind and kill the Plasmodium parasite. If we can vaccinate these young children against alpha-gal, many lives might be saved.”

December 9, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Drugs in the environment affect plant growth

From the 3 December 2014 University of Exeter press release

The drugs we release into the environment are likely to have a significant impact on plant growth, finds a new study nled by the University of Exeter Medical School and Plymouth University.

By assessing the impacts of a range of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, the research has shown that the growth of edible crops can be affected by these chemicals – even at the very low concentrations found in the environment.

Published in the Journal of Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, the research focused its analysis on lettuce and radish plants and tested the effects of several commonly prescribed drugs, including diclofenac and ibuprofen. These drugs are among the most common and widely used group of pharmaceuticals, with more than 30 million prescribed across the world every day.

The potential for these chemicals to influence plants is becoming increasingly relevant, particularly as waste management systems are unable to remove many compounds from our sewage. Drugs for human use make their way into soil through a number of routes, including the use of sewage sludge as fertiliser and waste water for irrigation.

Crop_research_main

Crop image via Shutterstock.

This study looked for a number of changes in edible plants, assessing factors such as water content, root and shoot length, overall size and how effectively the plants photosynthesised.

Each drug was shown to affect the plants in very specific ways, with marked differences between drugs that are closely related. For example, drugs from the fenamic acid class affected the growth of radish roots, whilst ibuprofen had a significant influence on the early root development of lettuce plants.

Dr Clare Redshaw, one of the scientists leading the project at the Medical School’s European Centre for Environment & Human Health, said: “The huge amounts of pharmaceuticals we use ultimately end up in the environment, yet we know very little about their effects on flora and fauna. As populations age and generic medicines become readily available, pharmaceutical use will rise dramatically and it’s essential we take steps towards limiting environmental contamination. We haven’t considered the impact on human health in this study, but we need to improve our understanding quickly so that appropriate testing and controls can be put in place.”

There have been growing concerns about the presence of pharmaceuticals in the environment, particularly as evidence emerges of the effects they can have on the development of animals and antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Yet their ability to affect plant growth is poorly understood.

December 9, 2014 Posted by | environmental health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] Injectable 3-D vaccines could fight cancer, infectious diseases

From the 8 December 2014 ScienceDaily article

Date:December 8, 2014
 Source:Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard
Summary:
A non-surgical injection of programmable biomaterial that spontaneously assembles in vivo into a 3-D structure could fight and even help prevent cancer and also infectious disease such as HIV, scientists have demonstrated. Tiny biodegradable rod-like structures made from silica, known as mesoporous silica rods (MSRs), can be loaded with biological and chemical drug components and then delivered by needle just underneath the skin, they explain.

3DVaccine2H-875A

Their findings are reported in Nature Biotechnology.

“We can create 3D structures using minimally-invasive delivery to enrich and activate a host’s immune cells to target and attack harmful cells in vivo,” said the study’s senior author David Mooney, Ph.D., who is a Wyss Institute Core Faculty member and the Robert P. Pinkas Professor of Bioengineering at Harvard SEAS.

Tiny biodegradable rod-like structures made from silica, known as mesoporous silica rods (MSRs), can be loaded with biological and chemical drug components and then delivered by needle just underneath the skin. The rods spontaneously assemble at the vaccination site to form a three-dimensional scaffold, like pouring a box of matchsticks into a pile on a table. The porous spaces in the stack of MSRs are large enough to recruit and fill up with dendritic cells, which are “surveillance” cells that monitor the body and trigger an immune response when a harmful presence is detected.

December 9, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] Don’t worry, be happy: Just go to bed earlier — ScienceDaily

Don’t worry, be happy: Just go to bed earlier — ScienceDaily.

Excerpt

Date: December 4, 2014
Source: Springer Science+Business Media
Summary: Researchers link late evenings to repetitive negative thoughts. When you go to bed, and how long you sleep at a time, might actually make it difficult for you to stop worrying. So say researchers, who found that people who sleep for shorter periods of time and go to bed very late at night are often overwhelmed with more negative thoughts than those who keep more regular sleeping hours.

December 5, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychology | , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Undiagnosed, undertreated Chagas disease emerging as U.S. public health threat — ScienceDaily

English: Rhodnius prolixus

English: Rhodnius prolixus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Undiagnosed, undertreated Chagas disease emerging as U.S. public health threat

From the 4 December 2014 press release

New research: Undiagnosed, undertreated Chagas disease emerging as US public health threat

ASTMH Annual Meeting presentations highlight massive treatment gap

NEW ORLEANS (November 4, 2014)–Across a broad swath of the southern United States, residents face a tangible but mostly unrecognized risk of contracting Chagas disease–a stealthy parasitic infection that can lead to severe heart disease and death–according to new research presented today at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) Annual Meeting.

Chagas disease (American trypanosomiasis) is typically spread to people through the feces of blood-sucking triatomine bugs sometimes called “kissing bugs” because they feed on people’s faces during the night. The disease, which can also be spread through blood supply, affects 7 to 8 million people worldwide and can be cured–if it is caught early. Often considered a problem only in Mexico, Central America and South America, Chagas disease is being seen in Texas and recognized at higher levels than previously believed, reported researchers from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Among those infected are a high percentage believed to have contracted the disease within the U.S. border, according to the scientists whose findings will also be published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

“We were astonished to not only find such a high rate of individuals testing positive for Chagas in their blood, but also high rates of heart disease that appear to be Chagas-related,” said Baylor epidemiologist Melissa Nolan Garcia, one of the researchers who presented findings from a series of studies. “We’ve been working with physicians around the state to increase awareness and diagnosis of this important emerging infectious disease.”

And while this research was conducted in Texas, kissing bugs are found across half of the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Bites from these insects may be infecting people who are never diagnosed, due to a lack of awareness of Chagas disease by healthcare personnel and the U.S. healthcare system.

Chagas Infection Rate Underreported; Often Overlooked as Risk Factor For Heart Disease

Garcia’s team conducted an analysis of routine testing of Texas blood donors for Chagas between 2008 and 2012. In that study published in Epidemiology and Infection (August 2014), the researchers found that one in every 6,500 blood donors tested positive for exposure to the parasite that causes Chagas disease. That figure is 50 times higher than the CDC’s estimated infection rate of one in 300,000 nationally, but according to Garcia, a rate that is consistent with other studies in the southern United States indicating a substantial national disease burden. Since 2007, all potential blood donors within the United States are screened for exposure to the Chagas disease parasite.

“We think of Chagas disease as a silent killer,” Garcia said. “People don’t normally feel sick, so they don’t seek medical care, but it ultimately ends up causing heart disease in about 30 percent of those who are infected.”

Symptoms can range from non-existent to severe with fever, fatigue, body aches, and serious cardiac and intestinal complications. Positive blood donors, who would likely develop chronic Chagas disease over time, could cost about US $3.8 million for health care and lost wages for those individuals, according to the researchers’ calculations. And according to a recent study published in the The Lancet Infectious Diseases, societal and healthcare costs for each infected person in the United States averages $91,531.

“We’re the first to actively follow up with positive blood donors to assess their cardiac outcomes and to determine where southeastern Texas donors may have been exposed to Chagas,” Garcia said. “We are concerned that individuals who test positive are not seeking medical care or being evaluated for treatment. And even if they do seek medical care, we heard from some patients that their primary care doctors assumed the positive test represented a ‘false positive’ due to low physician awareness of local transmission risk.”

Garcia shared the findings from separate pilot studies conducted by the Baylor team, which followed 17 Houston-area residents who were infected. They found that 41 percent of them had signs of heart disease caused by the infection, including swollen, weakened heart muscle and irregular heart rhythms caused by the parasite burrowing into heart tissue. Most of these individuals lived in rural areas or spent a significant amount of time outside. One of the individuals was an avid hunter and outdoorsman. At least six of them had insignificant travel outside the United States and they didn’t have mothers from foreign countries, indicating they had likely become infected locally in Texas.

As blood donor screening is currently the only active screening program in the United States, they provide an insight into the characteristics of who might be at risk for disease. “People who give blood are usually generally healthy adults. The people that we worry about in terms of burden of disease here are from rural settings and people who live in severe poverty. So the burden of disease may be even higher than what we see in this study,” said Kristy Murray, DVM, PhD, a co-author on the study and associate professor of tropical medicine at Baylor.

Local Kissing Bugs Spreading Disease

Kissing bugs emerge at night to feed. Once they have bitten and ingested blood, they defecate on their victim and the parasites then enter the body through breaks in the skin. While no firm data exists on how many bugs in the United States may carry the parasite, another pilot study conducted by the research team at Baylor, and presented as a poster during the ASTMH meeting, may shed some light on the issue. In that study, researchers collected a random sample of 40 kissing bugs found near homes in 11 central-southern Texas counties. They found 73 percent of the insects carried the parasite and half of the positive bugs had dined on human blood in addition to a dozen types of animals including dogs, rabbits, and raccoons.

“The high rate of infectious bugs, combined with the high rate of feeding on humans, should be a cause of concern and should prompt physicians to consider the possibility of Chagas disease in U.S. patients with heart rhythm abnormalities and no obvious underlying conditions,” said Murray.

New Analysis of CDC Data and National Blood Bank Data Uncovers Large Treatment Gap

Another ASTMH Annual Meeting presentation shows people who test positive for Chagas disease mostly go untreated. Jennifer Manne-Goehler, MD, a clinical fellow at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, collected data from the CDC and the American Association of Blood Banks and compared the almost 2,000 people who tested positive through the blood banking system to the mere 422 doses of medications administered by the CDC from 2007 to 2013.

“This highlights an enormous treatment gap,” said Manne-Goehler. “In some of the areas of the country we know there are a lot of positive blood donors, yet people still don’t get care. We don’t know what happens to them because there is no follow up.”

In the United States, most physicians are unfamiliar with the disease, and some who have heard of it mistakenly dismiss Chagas disease as a not-so-serious health concern, even in parts of the country where many people may be living with Chagas symptoms, she said at an ASTMH presentation on access to treatment. Further complicating the situation, in the United States the currently available medicines used to treat Chagas disease have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Physicians seeking treatment for their patients are referred to the CDC, which makes two drugs–nifurtimox and benznidazole–available, both of which carry the risk of side effects including nausea, weight loss and possible nerve damage.

In addition to data collection, Manne-Goehler conducted interviews with physicians, state health directors, and other healthcare workers treating patients diagnosed with Chagas disease in states with higher numbers of cases: Texas, California, Florida, Virginia, New York and Massachusetts. The findings revealed a disjointed, ad hoc approach to both diagnosing and treating the disease. Most of the doctors interviewed had never treated a patient whose infection had been identified through the blood donor system.

Manne-Goehler and her colleagues Michael Reich, PhD, of the Harvard School of Public Health and Veronika Wirtz PhD, of the Boston University Center for Global Health and Development, are calling for the creation of an independent expert panel to define clinical screening guidelines to help improve identification of patients with Chagas disease in the United States. In addition, they argue for creation of a physician-referral network so that physicians who are unfamiliar with the disease can send patients to providers who regularly diagnose and treat cases of Chagas disease.

Several ASTMH presenters also argued for a more comprehensive system of surveillance beyond testing of blood donors.

“So little surveillance has been done that we don’t know the true disease burden here in the United States,” said Murray. “The next step is to study populations considered high risk. There is still a lot to be learned in terms of who is contracting the disease within the United States.”

###

About the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

ASTMH, founded in 1903, is a worldwide organization of scientists, clinicians and program professionals whose mission is to promote global health through the prevention and control of infectious and other diseases that disproportionately afflict the global poor.

About the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

Continuously published since 1921, AJTMH is the peer-reviewed journal of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, and the world’s leading voice in the fields of tropical medicine and global health. AJTMH disseminates new knowledge in fundamental, translational, clinical and public health sciences focusing on improving global health.

December 5, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Distrust of police is top reason Latinos don’t call 911 for cardiac arrest

Distrust of police is top reason Latinos don’t call 911 for cardiac arrest.

From the 4 December 2014 EurkAlert

WASHINGTON – Fear of police, language barriers, lack of knowledge of cardiac arrest symptoms and financial concerns prevent Latinos – particularly those of lower socioeconomic status – from seeking emergency medical help and performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), according to a study published online yesterday in Annals of Emergency Medicine (“Barriers to Calling 911 and Learning and Performing Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) for Residents of Primarily Latino, High-Risk Neighborhoods in Denver, Colorado”).

English: CPR training

English: CPR training (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Residents of low-income, minority neighborhoods have two strikes against them: the incidence of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is much higher than average and rates of bystander CPR are below average,” said lead study author Comilla Sasson, MD, PhD, FACEP of the American Heart Association and the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora, Colo. “We need to do a better job of overcoming the significant barriers to timely medical care for Latinos suffering cardiac arrest. Culturally sensitive public education about cardiac arrest and CPR is a key first step.”

Researchers conducted focus groups and interviews with residents of primarily lower-income Latino neighborhoods in Denver to determine why they underutilize 9-1-1 emergency services and how to increase knowledge and performance of CPR on people suffering cardiac arrest. General distrust of law enforcement, of which 9-1-1 services are bundled, was cited as a top reason for not calling 9-1-1 by most participants.

Many subjects also believed – incorrectly – that they would not be able to ride an ambulance to the hospital without first paying for it, as that is the practice in Mexico where many participants came from. Subjects also expressed a lack of understanding about the symptoms of cardiac arrest and how CPR can save a life. Strong reticence about touching a stranger for fear that it might be misconstrued was a unique cultural barrier to performing CPR. Language barriers – either with 9-1-1 dispatchers or first responders – also inhibited subjects from getting involved with someone experiencing cardiac arrest.

In the interest of educating more people on how to perform CPR, participants widely supported policy changes that would make CPR either a high school graduation requirement or a pre-requisite for receiving a driver’s license.

“Future research will need to be conducted to better understand how targeted, culturally-sensitive public education campaigns may improve the provision of bystander CPR and cardiac arrest survival rates in high-risk neighborhoods,” said Dr. Sasson.

###

Annals of Emergency Medicine is the peer-reviewed scientific journal for the American College of Emergency Physicians, the national medical society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research, and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies. For more information, visit http://www.acep.org.

December 5, 2014 Posted by | health care, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News item] Mapping human disease: ‘Not all pathogens are everywhere’ — ScienceDaily

Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 6.48.18 AM

Mapping human disease: ‘Not all pathogens are everywhere’ — ScienceDaily.

From the news item

Date: December 3, 2014
Source: North Carolina State University
Summary: For the first time, researchers have mapped human disease-causing pathogens, dividing the world into a number of regions where similar diseases occur. The findings show that the world can be separated into seven regions for vectored human diseases — diseases that are spread by pests, like mosquito-borne malaria — and five regions for non-vectored diseases, like cholera.
The article is freely available here

December 5, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , | Leave a comment

[News article] Ciliopathies lie behind many human diseases — ScienceDaily

Ciliopathies lie behind many human diseases — ScienceDaily.

Excerpt

Date:December 1, 2014
Source: American Institute of Biological Sciences
Summary: Growing interest in cilia, which are finger-like organelles that extend from the bodies of individual cells, has revealed their role in a number of human ailments. As a result of cilia’s presence in a wide variety of cells, defects in them cause diverse human diseases that warrant further study.

Cilia perform a broad range of functions, including a starring role in cell signalling. Motile ones wiggle and so move fluids within the body, including cerebrospinal fluid in the brain. In humans, cilia are found on almost every cell in the body. Because of this, ciliopathies often make themselves known as syndromes with widely varying effects on a number of tissue types. For instance, the ciliopathy Jeune asphyxiating thoracic dystrophy involves the development of abnormally short ribs, accompanied by short limbs and, occasionally, the development of extra digits.

In primary ciliary dyskinesia, motile cilia are dysfunctional and fail to beat. This can lead to bronchitis resulting from the failure to clear mucus from the sufferer’s airways. Male patients with primary ciliary dyskinesia are infertile because of impaired motility of the sperm’s flagellum (flagella and cilia are structurally similar).

The article’s authors point to a number of other human diseases in which cilia may play a role; for example, some cancers and neurological diseases may be related to ciliopathies. Because of the limitations placed on research involving humans, the authors propose the use of model species ranging from the green alga Chlamydomonas to the house mouse to further study the role of cilia. They write, “We can anticipate that new and improved techniques will open new avenues for gaining further insight into these immensely important and ever more fascinating cell organelles.”

December 5, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Why We May Need Viruses More Than Vaccines | The GOLDEN RULE

 

Why We May Need Viruses More Than Vaccines | The GOLDEN RULE.Posted on by

 

An article by Sayer Ji,  Activist Post, provides some thought-provocation and a lateral approach to a science, vaccination, that is currently in the news for its controversial issues concerning adverse reactions.

A groundbreaking study published this month in Nature challenges a century-old assumption about the innate pathogenicity of these extremely small, self-replicating particles known as viruses. 

Titled, “An enteric virus can replace the beneficial function of commensal bacteria,” researchers found that an “enteric RNA virus can replace the beneficial function of commensal bacteria in the intestine.” Known as murine (mouse) noravirus (MNV), researchers found that infecting germ-free or antibiotic-treated mice infection with MNV “restored intestinal morphology and lymphocyte function without inducing overt inflammation and disease.”

The researchers found:

Importantly, MNV infection offset the deleterious effect of treatment with antibiotics in models of intestinal injury and pathogenic bacterial infection. These data indicate that eukaryotic viruses have the capacity to support intestinal homeostasis and shape mucosal immunity, similarly to commensal bacteria. Despite the commonly held belief that viruses are vectors of morbidity and mortality that must be vaccinated against in order to save us from inevitable harm and death, the new study dovetails with a growing body of research showing that our own genome is 80% viral in origin.

Find the full article here.

December 5, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Has the brain-zap backlash begun?

A fMRI scan showing regions of activation in o...

A fMRI scan showing regions of activation in orange, including the primary visual cortex (V1, BA17). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the 28 November 2014 post at The New Scientist

Stimulating the brain with electricity improves working memory, mental mathsfocused attention, creativity and could help treat depression. You can even buy DIY kits online. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the most recent investigation has found it has almost no measurable effect on the brain.

It’s a conclusion that is likely to be controversial. Over the past decade, thousands of studies have reported a beneficial effect of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) on the brain, as well as on behaviour and cognition – so much so that it has become something of a hot topic in neuroscience.

The idea behind tDCS is that passing a weak current through the brain changes the electrical potential of nerve cell membranes. This alters the strength of connections between neurons, making the circuit more, or less likely to fire. It’s a tricky thing to measure directly, so any physiological effect is inferred by blood flow changes on functional MRI scans, changes in brainwaves measured by EEG, or in the strength of muscle contraction when the motor cortex is stimulated, known as an MEP.

But when Jared Horvath and his colleagues at the University of Melbourne in Australia, pooled the results of more than 100 studies reporting any or all of these measures, they found that only one was convincingly changed after tDCS. The other two were inconsistent at best.

And what are the DIY stimulation enthusiasts to make of all this? “There are two options,” says Horvath. “The first is that tDCS is doing something, but we don’t know what, so take that on board. The second is a bit more innocuous: tDCS might not be doing anything to the brain, so have a good time, but temper your expectations.”

November 29, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , | Leave a comment

[News item] Only half of patients take their medications as prescribed: Are there interventions that will help them? — ScienceDaily

Only half of patients take their medications as prescribed: Are there interventions that will help them? — ScienceDaily.

From the news article

Date:November 20, 2014
Source:Wiley
Summary:The cost of patients not taking their medications as prescribed can be substantial in terms of their health. Although a large amount of research evidence has tried to address this problem, there are no well-established approaches to help them.

The cost of patients not taking their medications as prescribed can be substantial in terms of their health. Although a large amount of research evidence has tried to address this problem, there are no well-established approaches to help them, according to a new systematic review published in The Cochrane Library. The authors of the review examined data from 182 trials testing different approaches to increasing medication adherence and patient health. Even though the review included a significant number of the best studies to date, in most cases, trials had important problems in design, which made it hard to determine which approaches actually worked.

Only about half of all patients who are prescribed medication that they must administer themselves actually take their medication as prescribed. Many stop taking medication all together and others do not follow the instructions for taking it properly. This has been the case in many different diseases for at least the last half a century. In conditions where effective drug treatments are available, patients who take their medications as per their provider’s instructions can see a real difference to their health. However, when researchers in the field have tried to draw together evidence on this, they have found it unreliable and inconsistent.

November 28, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do probiotics work? | Science Life

Do probiotics work? | Science Life.

From the 25 November 2014 University of Chicago press release

probiotic-yogurt

Walk past the dairy case or health food section of any grocery store and you’ll see a variety of yogurts, milk, shakes and even granola bars that say they contain probiotics. These “good” bacteria are added to foods to promote a healthy environment of microorganisms in the digestive tract, supposedly to aid in digestion and promote good gastrointestinal health. Are these claims based in real science, or are they just another food fad to squeeze money out of consumers?

We spoke to Stefano Guandalini, MD, Section Chief of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition and Medical Director of the Celiac Disease Center at the University of Chicago, about probiotics and prebiotics, the precursor that provides fuel for the supposedly beneficial bacteria. He and his colleagues published a review paper recently looking at various studies and clinical trials that used pre- and probiotics to treat symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in children. The following is an edited version of that conversation.

Many people are familiar with the term probiotics, but what are prebiotics?

Prebiotics are basically the metabolic fuel for probiotics. It’s a term that encompasses a number of mostly carbohydrates that are present in vegetables and grains, for instance in wheat, artichokes, legumes, etc. They are only partially digested by the human intestinal tract, so they reach the colon where they are fermented by bacteria. We have trillions of bacteria happily living in our colon, and they ferment these substrates. They’re happy with them, and so they thrive. The idea of taking prebiotics is that you can encourage the growth of good bacteria in the gut by providing them the food they like.

Can you do that by changing your diet? Or is there a pill you can take?

You can do in both ways. If your diet is rich in things like onions, garlic, wheat, legumes and artichokes, then you ingest a lot of prebiotics already. But there are also chemically identifiable supplements that also serve the same purpose.

Are prebiotics effective for treating digestive diseases?

In theory these are a good way of promoting a healthy microflora in your gut, and one would expect beneficial effects, but in reality it has been quite disappointing. There’s not a lot of practical use for prebiotics as we speak, in terms of clinical effectiveness. The only niche in which we found them to be successful is as an additive to formula for premature babies, because human milk actually contains plenty of prebiotics. Other than that, there hasn’t been much practical use. In fact, in our review, we saw that prebiotics have been tried for treating irritable bowel syndrome, but actually with mostly negative results.

With inflammatory bowel disease, it’s likely different. Several preparations have been tried with mixed results, but again, nothing sticks out as important or with clinical relevance. So in spite of good conceptual reasons to expect good results, they have not been proven very effective.

How are probiotics different from prebiotics?

Probiotics are microorganisms that, if ingested in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit to the host beyond the nutritional value. In practical terms, it’s a class of mostly live bacteria that have been studied for a long time and found useful for treating or preventing a number of clinical conditions.

Our review paper focuses on the efficacy of probiotics for IBS and IBD, including both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. For IBS, we have some good evidence in adults that some probiotics actually seem to be effective in relieving some of the symptoms, mostly the bloating and abdominal pain that accompanies IBS, especially when there is either diarrhea or constipation that goes along with it.

And in the case of ulcerative colitis, there is a growing body of evidence supporting the efficacy of some specific strains as an adjuvant in the course of the therapy. Crohn’s disease is different, however. People have tried multiple ways of addressing the problem with different strains of probiotics, different clinical settings, different endpoints, but none of the researchers were able to show any efficacy with probiotics in Crohn’s disease patients.

You can go into any grocery store and find yogurt and other foods that have probiotics added to them. Do those products do any good?

Not all probiotics are equal, that’s an important thing to stress. People think they can walk into a store and pick any probiotic from the shelf and they’re just the same. That is not the case. Different probiotics have different strains and concentrations of bacteria that have different properties. Only a minority of them has been tested properly in clinical trials to find if they were indeed effective.

In reality, yogurt by definition has to have two strains of bacteria—Lactobacillus bulgaricus andStreptococcus thermophilus—to create the yogurt. However these strains do not pass the gastrointestinal tract intact. They are destroyed by the acidity of the stomach and the enzymes of the pancreas, so nothing reaches the colon and it’s not beneficial. However, like you said, some yogurts are now enriched with other live bacteria of different strains. Some of them indeed include strains that survive the passage through the intestinal tract and then can be beneficial, and some make that claim but they don’t, and it’s hard for the general public to discriminate. Activia, for instance, is one of the good preparations. These yogurts actually do have strains of live Bifidobacteria that have been studied and may be beneficial. Yakult, containing well-studied strains of Lactobacilli, is another one that does the same.

Is a food product the best way to treat symptoms of IBS or IBD, or do you need a special preparation in a pill?

The best way is to use specific strains that have been validated through clinical trials and published in peer-reviewed journals to show efficacy, and if possible reproduced by different groups using the same preparations. So the list of probiotics that have gone through this process is actually very short:

  • There is a product called Align, based on a specific Bifidobacterium, which is mostly for adults with IBS.
  • For infants and colicky babies there is some proof of effectiveness for a product called Biogaia, which has the bacterium Lactobacillus reuteri in it.
  • Then we have Culturelle with Lactobacillus GG, another one with a long record of scientific, well conducted studies, which has been found effective in treating diarrheal diseases.
  • Florastor, which contains a yeast [Saccharomyces boulardii] instead of bacteria, is also effective in treating and preventing antibiotic associated diarrhea. Children who get antibiotics often develop diarrhea, and in many cases that can be prevented by the use of Florastor.
  • Finally there is a preparation called VSL #3, which is a highly concentrated preparation of 8 different strains of probiotics. This has received a great deal of attention by the scientific world to treat a number of conditions. It seems to be effective for ulcerative colitis, both in adults and children, and it has been found effective in irritable bowel syndrome as well.

Outside of this incredibly short list, however, there is nothing else. There is no other probiotic that has been found to be effective in rigorous, controlled clinical trials. This is not to say they aren’t working, it’s just to say we don’t have any scientific proof yet.

Are probiotics safe?

One thing that all these probiotics have in common is that they are relatively safe. They are very tolerable and basically create no side effects. One caveat is for premature babies and people with profoundly depressed immune systems. Some of these preparations might be contaminated by yeasts, which can be dangerous in those cases. But with these two exceptions, probiotics have been used in large amounts for generations now. So they are safe, but if there is no clear cut indication, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend them. That’s a question I often get from patients, “Could we use probiotics?” And if it’s not to treat a specific condition and they just think it will improve health, I tell them it’s not necessary.

Where is the research on prebiotics and probiotics headed?

It’s interesting. There was a boom for years and then it died down quite a bit. From a laboratory standpoint, we don’t understand a lot about how the probiotics work. So I think the attention of scientists now is more focused on understanding the mechanisms of the interactions between these bacteria and the host, which are different between different individuals. Each one of us has a unique composition of intestinal flora. The same probiotics may have a different effect for you and me, because they interact with trillions of other bacteria, which are different for each person. So all of these nuances are going back to basic science before moving further to the clinical arena.

That seems to be a theme of microbiome research. Everyone agrees on its profound effect on our health, but getting to where you could change something meaningfully to treat a disease is a different thing.

Right, we are not there yet. It’s very complicated. As we have said many times, the genome of the microbes is thousands of times more complex and more numerous than the human genome. When we are talking about personalized medicine, we are really talking about the microbiome: how to understand all the subtle interactions with the human host, and how to possibly exploit this for health reasons. It’s an incredibly interesting area, and my colleagues here at the University of Chicago,David RubinEugene ChangCathryn NaglerBana Jabri and others are actively working on this. We aren’t there yet, but we will. I have great enthusiasm in this. I think this is the medicine of the future.

November 28, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Nutrition | , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] Web-savvy older adults who regularly indulge in culture may better retain ‘health literacy’ — ScienceDaily

Web-savvy older adults who regularly indulge in culture may better retain ‘health literacy’ — ScienceDaily.

From the news article

Date:November 25, 2014
Source:BMJ-British Medical Journal
Summary:Older people who are active Internet users and who regularly indulge in a spot of culture may be better able to retain their health literacy, and therefore maintain good health, suggests research.

There was a link between age and declining health literacy, and being non-white, having relatively low wealth, few educational qualifications, and difficulties carrying out routine activities of daily living.

Poorer memory and executive function scores at the start of the study were also linked to greater health literacy decline over the subsequent six years.

Around 40% of the entire sample said they never used the internet or email, while one in three (32%) said they did so regularly. Similar proportions said they had consistently engaged in civic (35%) and/or leisure (31%) activities over the six year follow-up period.

Almost four out of 10 (39%) said they had regularly engaged in cultural activities, such as going to the cinema, theatre, galleries, concerts or the opera, during this time.

Across all time points, internet use and engagement in civic, leisure, or cultural activities were lower among those whose health literacy declined.

After taking account of influential factors, only the links between regular internet use and engaging in cultural activities remained statistically significant.

But each factor appeared to exert an additive effect, and a combination of all four seemed to afford the best protection against health literacy decline, a finding that was independent of any tailing off in cognitive function.

This is an observational study so no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect.

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November 28, 2014 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release]NIH scientists determine how environment contributes to several human diseases

NIH scientists determine how environment contributes to several human diseases.
From the 25 November 2014 NIH Press Release

Using a new imaging technique, National Institutes of Health researchers have found that the biological machinery that builds DNA can insert molecules into the DNA strand that are damaged as a result of environmental exposures. These damaged molecules trigger cell death that produces some human diseases, according to the researchers. The work, appearing online Nov. 17 in the journal Nature, provides a possible explanation for how one type of DNA damage may lead to cancer, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular and lung disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Time-lapse crystallography was used by National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) researchers to determine that DNA polymerase, the enzyme responsible for assembling the nucleotides or building blocks of DNA, incorporates nucleotides with a specific kind of damage into the DNA strand. Time-lapse crystallography is a technique that takes snapshots of biochemical reactions occurring in cells.

Samuel Wilson, M.D., senior NIEHS researcher on the team, explained that the damage is caused by oxidative stress, or the generation of free oxygen molecules, in response to environmental factors, such as ultraviolet exposure, diet, and chemical compounds in paints, plastics, and other consumer products. He said scientists suspected that the DNA polymerase was inserting nucleotides that were damaged by carrying an additional oxygen atom.

DNA polymerase

After the DNA polymerase (gray molecule in background) inserts a damaged nucleotide into DNA, the damaged nucleotide is unable to bond with its undamaged partner. As a result, the damaged nucleotide swings freely within the DNA, interfering with the repair function or causing double-strand breaks. These steps may ultimately lead to several human diseases. (Graphic courtesy of Bret Freudenthal)

 

“When one of these oxidized nucleotides is placed into the DNA strand, it can’t pair with the opposing nucleotide as usual, which leaves a gap in the DNA,” Wilson said. “Until this paper, no one had actually seen how the polymerase did it or understood the downstream implications.”

November 28, 2014 Posted by | environmental health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Brookings Report] Pharma Pays $825 Million to Doctors and Hospitals, ACA’s Sunshine Act Reveals | Full Text Reports…

Pharma Pays $825 Million to Doctors and Hospitals, ACA’s Sunshine Act Reveals 

From the report

Disclosure of the financial relationships between the medical industry and health care providers is a very important step toward transparency. Patients heavily rely on the recommendations of their doctors to make any kind of decision regarding their health and thus should have full awareness of payments between their doctors and the medical industry. Patients have a right to be informed about possible conflicts of interests.

A not so well-known provision of the Affordable Care Act is the Sunshine Act. The purpose of this act is to increase the transparency in the health care market by requiring doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and medical device manufacturers to disclose their financial relationships. Mandated by the Sunshine Act, on September 30th, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) publicly released the first set of data, under the Open Payments title. This data includes $3.5 billion paid to over half a million doctors and teaching hospitals in the last five months of 2013.

A subset of Open Payments data that is individually identifiable  includes two categories of payments. The first category are the payments that are made for other reasons such as travel reimbursement, royalties, speaking and consulting fees and the second are payments which are made as research grants. These datasets together include more than 2.3 million financial transactions which amount to a total of more than $825 million.

Total Payments by Manufacturers of Drugs, Medical Devices, and Biologicals

General Payments

Teaching hospitals and physicians together received $669,561,563 in general payments from 949 different medical manufacturers. Interestingly, close to 70 percent ($460,369,403) of this amount was paid to individual physicians and the rest was paid to teaching hospitals. More than half of the total general payments were made by only 20 companies led by Genentech, which paid $130,065,012 in general grants to various hospitals and doctors and in particular, City of Hope National Medical Center.

Research Payments

Two hundred and ninety-four manufacturers awarded 23,225 research grants to teaching hospitals and physicians. The total value of these grants was $155,815,828. About 70 percent ($107,969,961) of these grants were awarded to teaching hospitals and the rest were awarded to physicians. The top 20 manufacturers contributed more than 75 percent of the total value of these grants. By awarding $17,973,563 in research grants Bristol-Myers Squibb, leads the pack.

The following chart breaks down the payments of the top 20 most generous manufacturers of drugs, medical devices and biologicals to teaching hospitals and individual physicians.

Not surprisingly, the release of the payments data was not immune from criticism. The harshest ones were from the American Medical Association (AMA). In particular, the AMA cited “inadequate opportunity for physician review” and “inaccuracy of the data” as the main problems with the release of open payments data. Moreover, AMA was so concerned about the “misinterpretation” of the data that it released an official “Guide for Media Reporting” in which it “strongly encourage[s] members of the media to… help the public understand the important role that appropriate relationships between physicians and industry has in advancing the practice of medicine.”

November 28, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] eScienceCommons: Athletes’ testosterone surges not tied to winning, study finds

eScienceCommons: Athletes’ testosterone surges not tied to winning, study finds.
From the press release

Friday, November 21, 2014

Athletes’ testosterone surges not tied to winning, study finds

Kathleen Casto, number 1931 in the center, shown competing in cross country as an undergraduate in North Carolina. She is now a graduate student in psychology at Emory, studying the hormonal correlates of competition in women.

By Carol Clark

A higher surge of testosterone in competition, the so-called “winner effect,” is not actually related to winning, suggests a new study of intercollegiate cross country runners.

The International Journal of Exercise Science published the research, led byDavid Edwards, a professor of psychology at Emory University, and his graduate student Kathleen Casto.

“Many people in the scientific literature and in popular culture link testosterone increases to winning,” Casto says. “In this study, however, we found an increase in testosterone during a race regardless of the athletes’ finish time. In fact, one of the runners with the highest increases in testosterone finished with one of the slowest times.”

The study, which analyzed saliva samples of participants, also showed that testosterone levels rise in athletes during the warm-up period. “It’s surprising that not only does competition itself, irrespective of outcome, substantially increase testosterone, but also that testosterone begins to increase before the competition even begins, long before status of winner or loser are determined,” Casto says.

November 28, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Healthy gut microbiota can prevent metabolic syndrome, researchers say

Healthy gut microbiota can prevent metabolic syndrome, researchers say.

From the press release

intestinal_party

ATLANTA—Promoting healthy gut microbiota, the bacteria that live in the intestine, can help treat or prevent metabolic syndrome, a combination of risk factors that increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke, according to researchers at Georgia State University and Cornell University.

Their findings are published in the journal Gastroenterology.

The study, a follow-up to the research team’s previous paper in Science, uses an improved technical approach, making the results more significant.

The research team includes Dr. Andrew Gewirtz, a professor in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State; Dr. Benoit Chassaing, a post-doctoral student at Georgia State; and Dr. Ruth Ley of the departments of Microbiology and Molecular Biology at Cornell.

“These results suggest that developing a means to promote a more healthy microbiota can treat or prevent metabolic disease,” Gewirtz said. “They confirm the concept that altered microbiota can promote low-grade inflammation and metabolic syndrome and advance the underlying mechanism. We showed that the altered bacterial population is more aggressive in infiltrating the host and producing substances, namely flagellin and lipopolysaccharide, that further promote inflammation.”

Metabolic syndrome is a serious health condition that affects 34 percent of American adults, according to the American Heart Association. A person is diagnosed with metabolic syndrome when he or she has three of these risk factors: a large waistline, high triglyceride (type of fat found in the blood) level, low HDL cholesterol level, high blood pressure and high fasting blood sugar. A person with metabolic syndrome is twice as likely to develop heart disease and five times as likely to develop diabetes, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Because metabolic syndrome is becoming more common, scientists are exploring possible causes. In their previous study in Science, Gewirtz, Ley and other researchers showed altered gut microbiota play a role in promoting metabolic syndrome.

Gut microbiota perform key functions in health and when it becomes deregulated it can promote chronic inflammatory diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. In addition, altered gut microbiota promote inflammation that leads to metabolic syndrome.

“We’ve filled in a lot of the details about how it works,” Gewirtz said. “It’s the loss of TLR5 on the epithelium, the cells that line the surface of the intestine and their ability to quickly respond to bacteria. That ability goes away and results in a more aggressive bacterial population that gets closer in and produces substances that drive inflammation.”

Normally, the bacteria are in the mucous layer at a certain distance away from epithelial cells. The researchers showed altered gut microbiota is more aggressive in infiltrating the host and gets very close to the epithelium. This altered population produces flagellin and lipopolysaccharide, which further promote inflammation.

The research team improved the study by comparing mice that were siblings and littermates, making all conditions in the study the same. The mice only differed by whether they were missing a specific gene, TLR5. Previously, the researchers studied mice that were from two different strains and lived in separate environments. In this study, they found the absence of TLR5 on the intestinal surface leads to alterations in bacteria that drive inflammation, leading to metabolic syndrome.

This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America.

November 28, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Nutrition | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] A green transformation for pharmaceuticals — ScienceDaily

From the news article

Date:November 21, 2014
Source:The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)

Summary:


A more sustainable approach to a bond-forming reaction extensively used in the pharmaceutical and fine chemical industries has now been developed. The team used the solvent-free, catalytic reaction to produce high yields of a wide range of amides, including the antidepressant moclobemide and other drug-like molecules.

November 28, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

[News item] Finding new ways to make drugs — ScienceDaily

Finding new ways to make drugs — ScienceDaily

Excerpt

Date:November 18, 2014
Source:Australian National University
Summary:Chemists have developed a revolutionary new way to manufacture natural chemicals by clipping smaller molecules together like Lego. They have used the new method to assemble a scarce anti-inflammatory drug

November 25, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Complementary and alternative medicine for veterans and military personnel — update from Medical Care

Complementary and alternative medicine for veterans and military personnel — update from Medical Care.

From the 17 November 2014 press release

Special issue reports progress, but more work needed to incorporate CAM into military health settings

November 17, 2014 – A growing body of research evidence shows that complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has health benefits for US military veterans and active duty personnel, according to a special December supplement to Medical Care. [All articles are free].The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health.

The special issue presents new studies and commentaries on the benefits and increasing use of CAM techniques in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and other military health settings. “The papers in this supplement represent promising steps to improve the health of veterans and active military personnel,” according to an introductory article by Guest Editors Stephanie L. Taylor, PhD, of Greater Los Angeles VA Healthcare System and A. Rani Elwy, PhD, of Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital, Bedford, Mass. “They mirror the countless stories we hear from veterans and their providers about the positive effect that CAM is having on their lives.”

Studies Show Value of CAM for Improving Health of Military Personnel

The supplement presents 14 original studies reporting on specific CAM therapies and on the current use, perceptions, and acceptance of CAM in veterans and current military personnel. The special issue of Medical Care is sponsored by the VHA’s Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation.

Complementary and alternative medicine therapies are increasingly available, used, and appreciated by military patients, according to Drs Taylor and Elwy. They cite statistics showing that CAM programs are now offered at nearly 90 percent of VA medical facilities. Use CAM modalities by veterans and active military personnel is as at least as high as in the general population.

 

Previous systematic reviews have reported benefits of CAM treatments for many of the important problems seen in military populations, including chronic pain, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression. Those prior results suggest that CAM therapies are “moderately effective” for these conditions–although these conclusions must be weighed against the weaknesses of the evidence base.

Highlights of the research included in the special issue include:

  • Studies reporting benefits of specific types of meditation practices. One study finds that a mindfulness-based intervention reduced depression and improved psychological well-being in veterans with PTSD. A study of mindfulness-based stress reduction for veterans shows reductions in anxiety and depression, as well as suicidal thoughts.
  • A report showing beneficial effects of acupuncture for veterans with PTSD. In addition to reduced severity of PTSD symptoms, the study shows improvements in depression, pain, and physical and mental health functioning. Another study finds that most veterans use vitamins and nutritional supplements, often substituting them for prescription drugs.
  • Studies showing high rates of use and favorable perceptions found of CAM modalities among veterans of the Gulf War and Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom. Veterans with PTSD are more likely to be accepting of CAM therapies.
  • Reports describing the rates and preferred types of CAM mind-body and other modalities among military members and veterans, as well as on health care providers’ attitudes toward CAM. While VA providers vary in their knowledge of CAM, many perceive benefits for their patients.

A commentary by Laura P. Krejci, MSW, and colleagues of the VA’s Office of Patient Centered Care & Cultural Transformation discusses the role of CAM in meeting the “number one strategic priority” of providing “personalized, proactive, patient-driven health care to veterans.” Dr Wayne B. Jonas and colleagues of the Samueli Institute, Alexandria, Va., draw attention to several bodies of research on CAM in the US military. They conclude that current policy and priorities leave “the majority of active duty service members, veterans, and their families to fend for themselves, to pay for or go without the beneficial effects of CAM and integrative medicine practices.”

While the studies in the special issue show progress, Drs Taylor and Elwy stress the need for additional rigorous research to better understand CAM’s potential for managing important conditions seen in military populations. They conclude, “It is time for more funding to be awarded to CAM …to improve the capacity of the field to carry out rigorous CAM research, which in turn will benefit veterans and military personnel, as well as the general population.”

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Click here to read “Building the Evidence Base for Complementary and Integrative Medicine Use among Veterans and Military Personnel.”

November 25, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

3D printed personalized medicine, prescribed by the doctor and yourself | Meet the biomarker pioneers

3D printed personalized medicine, prescribed by the doctor and yourself | Meet the biomarker pioneers.

Excerpt from the 11 November 2014 post at MyCartis blog

“When I go to a doctor now, he will examine me, diagnose me, write a prescription which I will take to the pharmacist, who will then give me my medicines that are mass-produced. In the future, I will still consult a doctor, and together, we will decide about the treatment. Based on my genome sequence, the doctor can choose the right dose, design a blueprint, send that to the pharmacist who will 3D print my medicines.”

Will this be the future of healthcare? It will be, according to the medical futurist, Dr. Bertalan Meskó. In his book The Guide to the Future of Medicine: Technology and the Human Touch he discusses 22 trends that are going to shape the future of healthcare.

Personalized medicine is one of them. “We are at the verge of a truly meaningful use of personalized medicine”, Meskó said. “All around the world you see promising examples in the fields of lung cancer, breast cancer and many other research areas.”

- See more at: http://www.mycartis.net/blog/?p=59#sthash.opDwHiJW.dpuf

November 24, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

HHS and NIH take steps to enhance transparency of clinical trial results

From the HHS Press Release,  Wednesday, November. 19, 2014

 The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), which proposes regulations to implement reporting requirements for clinical trials that are subject to Title VIII of the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act of 2007 (FDAAA). The proposed rule clarifies requirements to clinical researchers for registering clinical trials and submitting summary trial results information to ClinicalTrials.gov, a publicly accessible database operated by the National Library of Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health. A major proposed change from current requirements is the expansion of the scope of clinical trials required to submit summary results to include trials of unapproved, unlicensed, and uncleared products.

clinicatrials

….

ClinicalTrials.gov currently contains registration information for more than 178,000 clinical trials and summary results for more than 15,000. These numbers include trials that are not subject to FDAAA. Among the primary benefits of registering and reporting results of clinical trials, including both positive and negative findings, is that it helps researchers prevent unnecessary duplication of trials, particularly when trial results indicate that a product under study may be unsafe or ineffective, and it establishes trust with clinical trial participants that the information from their participation is being put to maximum use to further knowledge about their condition.

Developed by NIH in close coordination with the FDA, the proposed rule details procedures for meeting the requirements established by FDAAA to improve public access to clinical trial information. FDAAA and the proposed rule apply to certain interventional studies of drugs, biological products, and devices that are regulated by the FDA, but, generally, not to phase 1 trials of drugs and biological products and small feasibility studies of devices. The proposed rule specifies how data collected and analyzed in a clinical trial would be required to be submitted to ClinicalTrials.gov. It would not affect requirements for the design or conduct of clinical trials or for the data that must be collected during clinical trials.

“This proposed rule would close an important gap, making additional information about clinical studies of investigational drugs, medical devices and biological products available to the public,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “It would help eliminate unnecessary duplicative trials, advance biomedical innovation, and provide the public with a much richer understanding about the clinical trials for these products.”

Notable changes from current requirements and practice that are outlined in the proposed rule include:

A streamlined approach for determining which trials are subject to the proposed regulations and who is responsible for submitting required information.

Expansion of the set of trials subject to summary results reporting to include trials of unapproved products.

Additional data elements that must be provided at the time of registration (not later than 21 days after enrolling the first participant) and results submission (generally not later than 12 months after completion).

Clarified procedures for delaying results submission when studying an unapproved, unlicensed, or uncleared product or a new use of a previously approved, licensed, or cleared product and for requesting extensions to the results submission deadline for good cause.

More rapid updating of several data elements to help ensure that users of ClinicalTrials.gov have access to accurate, up-to-date information about important aspects of a clinical trial.

Procedures for timely corrections to any errors discovered by the responsible party or by the Agency as it processes submissions prior to posting.

 

 

Read a summary of the proposed changes: http://www.nih.gov/news/health/nov2014/od-19_summary.htm.

Read the entire text of the proposed regulations here. Options are available for comment submission electronically or in written form.

 

November 21, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , | Leave a comment

[News article] Vaccination leads to decline in pneumococcal disease and antibiotic resistance | Daily Science News

Vaccination leads to decline in pneumococcal disease and antibiotic resistance | Daily Science News.

Wits University and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) released a new study, led by Wits academics, showing rates of invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) – including cases caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria – have fallen substantially in South Africa following the introduction of a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) in 2009.

The release of the results of the study coincides with World Pneumonia Day, commemorated annually on 12 November.

The study, titled: Effects of Vaccination on Invasive Pneumococcal Disease in South Africa, published in the latest edition of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), compares IPD incidence after the introduction of PCV (post-introduction: 2011 and 2012) to incidence prior to its introduction (2005-2008), focusing on high-risk groups.

Although the majority of childhood pneumococcal deaths occur in Africa, evidence of the potential impact of pneumococcal vaccines in routine use has largely been drawn from high-income countries. However, two recent publications from South Africa have demonstrated PCVs to be effective in preventing pneumococcal disease among South African children, in conditions of routine vaccine use.

“The results show that the vaccine works as rolled out in our immunization program and this supports the hard work of our national and provincial Departments of Health. However, much still remains to be done in South Africa, other countries in Africa and elsewhere to prevent children from developing and dying from pneumonia,”said Dr Anne von Gottberg, lead author of the paper, Clinical Microbiologist, Head of the Centre for Respiratory Diseases and Meningitis at the NICD and Associate Professor in the School of Pathology at Wits.

This study demonstrates significant declines in pneumococcal disease cases caused by bacteria resistant to one or more antibiotics, a phenomenon of growing concern among health professionals. In fact, the rate of infections resistant to two different antibiotics declined nearly twice as much as infections that could be treated with antibiotics. This proportionately greater effect of vaccination on antibiotic-resistant strains points to a very valuable added benefit of immunization.

“These are very compelling results,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, a Geneva-based global health organization that part-funded the research. “Not only does it add significant weight to the growing body of evidence that PCV prevents disease, but it suggests that vaccines may have a role to play in the fight against antibiotic resistance.”

“Vaccination is one of the most effective and underappreciated tools available to reduce antibiotic resistance. The majority of resistant strains of pneumococcus are of types which are included in the vaccine, for this reason, vaccine introduction in South Africa, has led to a substantial decline in antibiotic resistant invasive pneumococcal disease,” said Dr Cheryl Cohen, co-author of the paper, Clinical Epidemiologist at the NICD and senior lecturer in the School of Public Health at Wits.

In 2009, South Africa became the first African country – and the first nation in the world with a high HIV prevalence – to introduce PCV7 into its routine immunization program. The current study shows a significant decline in IPD in children and in unvaccinated adults, which demonstrates the indirect protection conferred by herd immunity. Among children under two years of age, overall incidence of IPD declined nearly 70% after PCV introduction, and rates of IPD caused by bacteria specifically targeted by the vaccine plummeted nearly 90%.

A recent study published by the researchers in the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal found that the risk of IPD in South African children increased with HIV exposure, as well as with underlying medical conditions, malnutrition, tuberculosis, upper-respiratory tract infections and exposure to other children.

“We have shown that HIV-infected and HIV-exposed children experience a disproportionate burden of pneumococcal disease. The vaccine has also been shown to be highly effective in HIV-exposed children and disease reductions have been observed in both HIV-infected and uninfected children,” said Dr Claire von Mollendorf, a medical epidemiologist from the NICD. “This study reinforces what the scientific community has known – that the pneumococcal vaccine saves lives.”

Although incidence of HIV among infants is decreasing in South Africa due to improved prevention of the mother-to-child HIV transmission and the use of anti-retrovirals, a large number of HIV-exposed yet uninfected children remain, for whom vaccination against pneumococcal disease may be of particular importance to ensuring reduced risk of life-threatening infections in childhood.

November 14, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] ‘Nudges’ try to help college students live healthier

‘Nudges’ try to help college students live healthier 

 

College-weight-111214-300x199

Students run up the bleachers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on the University of Florida campus. A new national study aimed at preventing college students from gaining weight used Internet lessons and “nudges” to try to get them to live healthier lifestyles. Karla Shelnutt, a UF/IFAS assistant professor in family, youth and community sciences and a study investigator, considers the web messages successful if they helped students progress from thinking about eating more fruits and vegetables to actually doing so.Credit: UF/IFAS file photo.

From the 14 November 2014 University of Florida press release:

From the 12 November 2014 University of Florida press release

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Internet lessons and “tailored” text alerts can help some young people adopt healthier lifestyles, according to a national study aimed at preventing weight gain.

Although experimental group students didn’t gain or lose more weight than their control group counterparts, researchers remain hopeful the Internet-message approach can work because it helped college students progress from what researchers call the “contemplative stage” to the “action stage.”

An example of the contemplative stage would be someone who’s thinking about trying to eat fatty foods less frequently, but hasn’t taken action to do so, while someone at the action stage would choose to eat a salad, instead.

In the study, students aged 18-24 received individually targeted messages. Some students were in the “pre-contemplative” stage; others fell into the “action” stage, while others were in various stages between those two.

The study, published online last week in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, found more students who received the Web messages ate more fruits and vegetables and were more physically active than those in the control group.

Researchers weren’t as concerned about students losing weight as they were with giving them strategies to lead healthier lives to prevent weight gain, said Karla Shelnutt, a University of Florida assistant professor in family, youth and community sciences.

 

 

November 14, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] Understanding natural compounds when antibiotics no longer work — ScienceDaily

Understanding natural compounds when antibiotics no longer work — ScienceDaily.

Excerpts

Date:November 12, 2014
Source:ETH Zürich
Summary:Medicine is drifting towards a major problem. An increasing number of bacteria is no longer sensitive to known antibiotics. Doctors urgently need to find new ways of fighting these multi-resistant pathogens. To address the problem, pharmaceutical research is turning back to the source of most of our drugs: nature.

Although hundreds of thousands of known active agents are found in nature, exactly how most of them work is unclear. A team of researchers from ETH Zurich has now developed a computer-based method to predict the mechanism of action of these natural substances. The scientists hope this method will help them to generate new ideas for drug development. “Natural active agents are usually very large molecules that often can be synthesized only through very laborious processes,” says Gisbert Schneider, a professor of computer-aided drug design at the Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences at ETH Zurich. An understanding of the exact mechanism of action of a natural substance enables the design of smaller, less complex molecules that are easier to synthesize. Once a substance is chemically synthesized, it can be optimized for medical applications.

In order to understand the mechanism of action, researchers are studying which parts of a pathogen interact with the natural substance to inhibit its growth for example. In the past, this involved highly complex laboratory tests through which scientists usually identified only the strongest effect of a substance. However, this interaction alone is often unable to explain the entire effect of a natural substance. “Minor interactions with other target structures can contribute to the overall effect as well,” explains Schneider.

“By using the computer to break down the molecules, which can be quite large, into separate building blocks, we discover which parts might be essential for the mechanism of action,” says Schneider. Thus, it might be possible to design less complex molecules that chemists could synthesize instead of the laborious process of isolating them from the natural source.

Analysis of 210,000 natural substances

Using the computer-based method, the researchers led by Gisbert Schneider were able to predict a variety of potential target structures for 210,000 known natural substances.

November 14, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Study shows integrative medicine relieves pain and anxiety for cancer inpatients

 

Study shows integrative medicine relieves pain and anxiety for cancer inpatients.

From the 6 November 2014 EurekAlert!

 

Study shows integrative medicine relieves pain and anxiety for cancer inpatients

Pain is a common symptom of cancer and side effect of cancer treatment, and treating cancer-related pain is often a challenge for health care providers.

The Penny George Institute for Health and Healing researchers found that integrative medicine therapies can substantially decrease pain and anxiety for hospitalized cancer patients. Their findings are published in the current issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute Monographs.

“Following Integrative medicine interventions, such as medical massage, acupuncture, guided imagery or relaxation response intervention, cancer patients experienced a reduction in pain by an average of 47 percent and anxiety by 56 percent,” said Jill Johnson, Ph.D., M.P.H., lead author and Senior Scientific Advisor at the Penny George Institute.

“The size of these reductions is clinically important, because theoretically, these therapies can be as effective as medications, which is the next step of our research,” said Jeffery Dusek, Ph.D., senior author and Research Director for the Penny George Institute.

The Penny George Institute receives funding from the National Center of Alternative and Complementary Medicine of the National Institutes of Health to study the impact of integrative therapies on pain over many hours as well as over the course of a patient’s entire hospital stay.

“The overall goal of this research is to determine how integrative services can be used with or instead of narcotic medications to control pain,” Johnson said.

Researchers looked at electronic medical records from admissions at Abbott Northwestern Hospital between July 1, 2009 and December 31, 2012. From more than ten thousand admissions, researchers identified 1,833 in which cancer patients received integrative medicine services.

Patients were asked to report their pain and anxiety before and just after the integrative medicine intervention, which averaged 30 minutes in duration.

Patients being treated for lung, bronchus, and trachea cancers showed the largest percentage decrease in pain (51 percent). Patients with prostate cancer reported the largest percentage decrease in anxiety (64 percent).

November 9, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Swallowing sponge on a string could replace endoscopy as pre-cancer test

 

From the 4 November 2014 Cancer Research UK press release

Swallowing a sponge on a string could replace traditional endoscopy as an equally effective but less invasive way of diagnosing a condition that can be a forerunner of oesophageal cancer.

“[The Cytosponge test] should be considered as an alternative to endoscopy for diagnosing the condition and could possibly be used as a screening test in primary care.” – Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald, lead author.

The results of a Cancer Research UK trial involving more than 1,000 people are being presented at the National Cancer Research Institute’s annual conference (link is external) in Liverpool.

The trial invited more than 600 patients with Barrett’s Oesophagus – a condition that can sometimes lead to oesophageal cancer – to swallow the Cytosponge and to undergo an endoscopy. Almost 500 more people with symptoms like reflux and persistent heartburn did the same tests.

The Cytosponge proved to be a very accurate way of diagnosing Barrett’s Oesophagus. More than 94 per cent of people swallowed the sponge and reported no serious side effects. Patients who were not sedated for endoscopy were more likely to rate the Cytosponge as a preferable experience.

Lead author Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald, based at the MRC Cancer Unit at the University of Cambridge, said: “The Cytosponge test is safe, acceptable and has very good accuracy for diagnosing Barrett’s Oesophagus. It should be considered as an alternative to endoscopy for diagnosing the condition and could possibly be used as a screening test in primary care.”

Barrett’s Oesophagus is caused by acid coming back up the food pipe from the stomach – known as acid reflux – which can cause symptoms like indigestion and heartburn. Over time people with these symptoms may develop changes in the cells that line the oesophagus. These cells can become cancerous and so patients with Barrett’s Oesophagus are tested every couple of years.

Barrett’s Oesophagus is usually diagnosed by having a biopsy during an endoscopy. This can be uncomfortable and carries some risks – and it’s not always practical for everyone who has symptoms like reflux and heartburn.

Oesophageal cancer is the thirteenth most common cancer in the UK. Around 5,600 men develop the disease each year compared with 2,750 women. And each year around 5,200 men and 2,460 women die from the disease.

Dr Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK’s head of health information, said: “These results are very encouraging and it will be good news if such a simple and cheap test can replace endoscopy for Barrett’s oesophagus.

“Death rates are unacceptably high in oesophageal cancer so early diagnosis is vital. Tackling oesophageal cancer is a priority for Cancer Research UK and research such as this will help doctors to diagnose people who are at risk quickly and easily.”

 

November 9, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Flu infection has long-ranging effects

From the Rockefeller University Press  4 November 2014 press release

English: Main symptoms of influenza. (See Wiki...

English: Main symptoms of influenza. (See Wikipedia:#Influenza#Symptoms_and_diagnosis). Model: Mikael Häggström. To discuss image, please see Template talk:Häggström diagrams References Centers for Disease Control and Prevention > Influenza Symptoms Page last updated November 16, 2007. Retrieved April 28, 2009 (Diarrhea is not mentioned, since it is mainly a symptom in children) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Flu infection has long-ranging effects beyond the lung that can wreak havoc in the gut and cause a dreaded symptom, diarrhea, according to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Gastrointestinal symptoms are often seen with flu infection, but because the virus only grows in lung cells, it’s unclear how intestinal symptoms develop. Researchers in China now show that flu infection in mice prompts responding immune cells in the lung to alter their homing receptors, causing them to migrate to the gut. Once there, they produce the antiviral mediator IFN-γ, which alters the natural composition of gut bacteria. In turn, the bacterial changes lead to inflammation that promotes tissue injury and diarrhea. Blocking inflammatory molecules in the intestine or treating mice with antibiotics to deplete bacteria attenuated flu-induced intestinal injury without affecting immune responses in the lung.

Why some flu infected patients develop gastrointestinal symptoms while others do not remains unknown. However, these findings suggest ways to directly relieve intestinal symptoms like diarrhea during flu infection without interfering with the body’s ability to fight the virus in the lung.

Reference: Wang, J., et al. 2014. J. Exp. Med. doi:10.1084/jem.20140625

November 9, 2014 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , | Leave a comment

[Magazine article] Sorry, Your Gut Bacteria Are Not the Answer to All Your Health Problems | Mother Jones

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Sorry, Your Gut Bacteria Are Not the Answer to All Your Health Problems | Mother Jones.

Excerpts

In 2001, Joshua Lederberg, a Nobel Prize-winning biologist, coined the term “microbiome,” naming the trillions of microorganisms that reside in and on our bodies. Today, if you type that word into Google, you’ll turn up thousands of hits linking gut bacteria to a laundry list of health problems, from food allergies to Ebola. Between 2007 and 2012, the number of journal articles published on the microbiome increased by nearly 250 percent. Our bodily inhabitants are quickly being cast as culprits or saviors for a diverse array of ailments.

Still, despite the optimism, some researchers caution that much of what we hear about microbiome science isn’t always, well, science. Dr. Lita Proctor heads the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Human Microbiome Project (HMP), an outgrowth of the Human Genome Project. “We are discovering a whole new ecosystem,” she says. But “I do have some fear—we all do in the field—that the hype and the potential overpromise, and the idea that somehow this is going to be different—there is a terrific fear that it will all backfire.”

he goal of the first phase of the HMP was to identify the microbial makeup of a “healthy” microbiome. And, in a study published earlier this year, researchers made an important discovery—that there is no such thing. Even among people who were examined and found to be perfectly healthy, each person’s microbiome was unique.

“We were going about it all wrong,” Proctor explains. “It is not the makeup—these communities come together and they actually become bigger than the sum of their parts…It almost doesn’t matter who is present, it just matters what they are doing.”

Jonathan Eisen, a professor and biologist who studies the ecology of microbes at the University of California-Davis, shares Proctor’s concerns. In a series on his blog called “The Overselling the Microbiome Awards,” Eisen highlights what he considers to be skewed science. He has taken on transplants purported to treat multiple sclerosis, celiac disease, and Crohn’s disease. He casts doubt on a study claiming there’s a connection between a mother’s oral hygiene during pregnancy to the health of her newborn. He critiques the notion that you can use bacteria to battle breast cancer, prevent stroke, and cure Alzheimer’s.

Eisen says that one of the most common errors in studies is confusion between correlation and causation. [My emphasis!]  “The microbiome has 400 million different variables that you can measure about it,” Eisen explains. “The different sites, the different species, the relative abundance of those species, the variation—if you have that many variables, I can guarantee statistically that some of them will be perfectly correlated with Crohn’s disease and have nothing to do with it.”

November 4, 2014 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] Clean smell doesn’t always mean clean air — ScienceDaily

Clean smell doesn’t always mean clean air — ScienceDaily.

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Excerpts from the 29 October 2014 article

Source: Drexel University
Summary: Scientists are taking a closer look at aerosol formation involving an organic compound — called limonene — that provides the pleasant smell of cleaning products and air fresheners. This research will help to determine what byproducts these sweet-smelling compounds are adding to the air while we are using them to remove germs and odors.
… while researchers are still striving to fully understand the health and environmental impact of increased levels of secondary organic aerosols in the atmosphere, studies have linked exposure to outdoor aerosols generally to morbidity and mortality outcomes.”
Related Resource
    This is a screenshot, go to Household Products Database for the actual Website
Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 7.01.22 AM

November 4, 2014 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety, Medical and Health Research News | , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Can social media help stop the spread of HIV?

Pinmap of Tweets Related to HIV

Caption: This is a map showing the origins of tweets related to HIV.

Credit: Sean Young

Usage Restrictions: Credit required.
[Sean Young, Center for Digital Behavior at the University of California,
http://www.uclahealth.org/main.cfm?id=2341, scroll down for short bio]

 

From the 30 October 2014 UCLA press release

In addition to providing other potential benefits to public health, all of those tweets and Facebook posts could help curb the spread of HIV.

Although public health researchers have focused early applications of social media on reliably monitoring the spread of diseases such as the flu, Sean Young of the Center for Digital Behavior at the University of California, Los Angeles, writes in an October 29th article in the Cell Press journal Trends in Microbiology of a future in which social media might predict and even change biomedical outcomes.

“We know that mining social media will have huge potential benefits for many areas of medicine in the future, but we’re still in the early stages of testing how powerful these technologies will be,” Young said.

With the right tools in place, he says, social media offers a rich source of psychological and health-related data generated in an environment in which people are often willing to share freely.

His recent work on Behavioral Insights on Big Data (BIBD) for HIV offers the tantalizing possibility that insights gleaned from social media could be used to help governments, public health departments, hospitals, and caretakers monitor people’s health behaviors “to know where, when, and how we might be able to prevent HIV transmission.”

Young details a social-media-based intervention in which African American and Latino men who have sex with men shared a tremendous amount of personal information through social media, including when or whether they had ‘come out,’ as well as experiences of homelessness and stigmatization. What’s more, they found that people who discussed HIV prevention topics on social media were more than twice as likely to later request an HIV test.

In the context of HIV prevention, tweets have also been shown to identify people who are currently or soon to engage in sexual- or drug-related risk behaviors. Those tweets can be mapped to particular locations and related to actual HIV trends.

What’s needed now is the updated infrastructure and sophisticated toolkits to handle all of those data, Young said, noting that there are about 500 million communications sent every day on Twitter alone. He and a team of University of California computer scientists are working to meet that challenge now.

Although privacy concerns about such uses of social media shouldn’t be ignored, Young says there is evidence that people have already begun to accept such uses of social media, even by corporations looking to boost profits.

“Since people are already getting used to the fact that corporations are doing this, we should at least support public health researchers in using these same methods to try and improve our health and well being,” he said. “We’re already seeing increased support from patients and public health departments.”

November 4, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Public Health | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] From age 8 to 80, expert reveals the price we pay for not sleeping

From the 28 October 2014 Ohio State University press release

 

““For children, sleep deprivation can lead to behavior problems, trouble focusing and learning in school and it can affect their immune systems,” said Dr. Aneesa Das, a sleep medicine specialist at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center. “Chronic tiredness makes it harder to cope and process what’s going on around you.”

When children enter the teen years, sleep becomes a bigger issue. Das says a teen’s circadian rhythm, or internal body clock, tells them to stay awake later and sleep later than children and adults do. She says only 15 percent of teenagers get the recommended sleep they need.

“Sleep is time the body uses to restore itself. Muscles and other tissues repair themselves, hormones that control growth, development and appetite are released. Energy is restored and memories are solidified, so we need to try to get regular sleep on a regular basis,” Das said.

For adults, sleep loss is even more serious. It accumulates over the years and has been shown to contribute to several chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression and obesity.”

….

To improve the chances of getting a good night’s sleep, Das offers a few tips: don’t perform vigorous exercise within four hours of bedtime; have a wind down routine that includes dim light; avoid using tablets, phones and laptops before bed because they emit blue light that interferes with sleep; try a warm bath two hours before bedtime and beware of sleep aid medications because they can have side effects.

 

November 4, 2014 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , | Leave a comment

[News article] High milk intake linked with higher fractures and mortality, research suggests — ScienceDaily

High milk intake linked with higher fractures and mortality, research suggests — ScienceDaily.
A glass of milk Français : Un verre de lait

Excerpts from the 28 October 2014 article

Source:
BMJ-British Medical Journal
Summary:
A high milk intake in women and men is not accompanied by a lower risk of fracture and instead may be associated with a higher rate of death, suggests observational research. Women who drank more than three glasses of milk a day had a higher risk of death than women who drank less than one glass of milk a day.
“there may be a link between the lactose and galactose content of milk and risk, although causality needs be tested.

“Our results may question the validity of recommendations to consume high amounts of milk to prevent fragility fractures,” they write. “The results should, however, be interpreted cautiously given the observational design of our study. The findings merit independent replication before they can be used for dietary recommendations.”

Michaëlsson and colleagues raise a fascinating possibility about the potential harms of milk, says Professor Mary Schooling at City University of New York in an accompanying editorial. However, she stresses that diet is difficult to assess precisely and she reinforces the message that these findings should be interpreted cautiously.

“As milk consumption may rise globally with economic development and increasing consumption of animal source foods, the role of milk and mortality needs to be established definitively now,” she concludes.”

A glass of milk Français : Un verre de lait (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

November 4, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Nutrition, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

[News item] Vitamin supplements may lower exercise endurance (but the jury seem to be out)

Vitamin supplements may lower exercise endurance |BBC Health

Excerpts:

Taking some types of vitamin supplement may make it harder to train for big endurance events like marathons, researchers in Norway suggest.

They said vitamins C and E should be used with caution as they may “blunt” the way muscles respond to exercise.

However, actual athletic performance was not affected in the 11-week trial leading other experts to questions the research.

The findings were published in The Journal of Physiology.

The team at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences in Oslo argued vitamin supplements were readily taken and available, but were unsure if they affected athletic ability.

Endurance runs

There was no difference in their performance during a Beep test – running faster and faster between two points 20m apart.

However, blood samples and tissue biopsies suggested there were differences developing inside the muscle.

Each muscle cell contains lots of tiny mitochondria which give the muscle cell its energy.

Those taking the supplements seemed to be producing fewer extra mitochondria to cope with the increasing demands placed on the muscle.

Hmmm

However, Mike Gleeson, a professor of exercise biochemistry at Loughborough University, is not convinced.

He said the biggest factor in performance was how fast the heart and lungs could get oxygen to the muscle, not mitochondria.

 

November 3, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Nutrition | , , , | Leave a comment

Persistent pain estimated in 19 percent of U.S. Adults — ScienceDaily

Persistent pain estimated in 19 percent of U.S. Adults — ScienceDaily.

Date:
October 27, 2014
Source:
American Pain Society
Summary:
39 million people in the United States, or 19 percent have persistent pain, and the incidence varies according to age and gender, a new study reports. The authors noted that persistent pain correlated with other indices of health-related quality of life, such as anxiety, depression and fatigue. Individuals with those conditions were far more likely to report persistent pain.
Excerpt from the news story:

n 2011, the Institute of Medicine reported that 100 million Americans have chronic pain. The authors explained that the disparity between the estimated pain incidence in their study and what the IOM reported is attributable almost entirely to differences in operational definitions of persistent pain.

In the 2010 NHIS, an estimated 60 percent of adults reported lower back pain in the past three months, and all of them would have been described in the IOM report as having chronic pain. However, only 42 percent of the NHIS study respondents with back pain described their pain as frequent or daily and lasting more than three months.

From a public health perspective the difference is significant. Those with persistent pain have high rates of work disability, fatigue, anxiety and depression. They also are at higher risk for long-term exposure to and dependency on pain medications.

The authors concluded that measuring pain persistence has policy implications because persistent pain is an indicator of an unmet medical need for pain management in the general population, as well as a risk factor for anxiety and depression.

November 3, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

Letting patients change their own meds using apps and connected devices

Letting patients change their own meds using apps and connected devices.

Aneroid sphygmomanometer with stethoscope, use...

Aneroid sphygmomanometer with stethoscope, used for auscultatory blood pressure measurement. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the 18 September 2014 post at iMedicalapps

A recent trial published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has demonstrated the efficacy of self-titration of blood pressure medications by patients with hypertension.

Personally, I’m a proponent of giving patients self-titration schedules, particularly in my patients with systolic heart failure in whom I’m trying to maximize medical therapy. It’s a strategy I use somewhat sparingly though in part because of the difficulty to follow the home monitoring these patients are doing between clinic visits.

In this study, the self-titration plan was agreed upon in a clinic visit and then transcribed onto a paper given to the patient. The patient then used an unconnected blood pressure cuff at home with pre-set parameters for the patient to notify their primary care physician if their readings were too high or too low. Notifications of self-titration were accomplished by having the patient send in paper notifications to their primary care physician.

There are clearly a number of opportunities here to streamline the process to help make it less cumbersome for the patient and improve the monitoring of patients undertaking this kind of self-titration strategy. There are a number of wireless blood pressure cuffs on the market as well as wired devices that can transmit data through USB connections to a computer.

With the coming standardization of health data being captured by personal health devices thanks to Google Fit and Apple HealthKit, this data can then be readily transferred into the electronic health record. Practice Fusion already does that with some personal health devices; Apple and Epic are working on developing that integration as well. Trials and pilots underway at institutions like Stanford and Duke are exploring the creation of automated alert systems to help filter the data being collected with pre-specified rules as it flows into their EHR.

There are a number of limitations in this study.

November 3, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] A gut bacterium that attacks dengue and malaria pathogens and their mosquito vectors — ScienceDaily

 

A gut bacterium that attacks dengue and malaria pathogens and their mosquito vectors — ScienceDaily.

From the 23 October 2014 article

Just like those of humans, insect guts are full of microbes, and the microbiota can influence the insect’s ability to transmit diseases. A new study reports that a bacterium isolated from the gut of an Aedes mosquito can reduce infection of mosquitoes by malaria parasites and dengue virus. The bacterium can also directly inhibit these pathogens in the test tube, and shorten the life span of the mosquitoes that transmit both diseases.

….

 

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by PLOS. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jose Luis Ramirez, Sarah M. Short, Ana C. Bahia, Raul G. Saraiva, Yuemei Dong, Seokyoung Kang, Abhai Tripathi, Godfree Mlambo, George Dimopoulos. Chromobacterium Csp_P Reduces Malaria and Dengue Infection in Vector Mosquitoes and Has Entomopathogenic and In Vitro Anti-pathogen Activities. Plos Pathogens, October 23, 2014 DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1004398

October 24, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News Article] Head injury causes immune system to attack brain, new study finds — ScienceDaily

Head injury causes immune system to attack brain, new study finds — ScienceDaily.

Date: October 20, 2014
 Source: BioMed Central
Summary:  Scientists have uncovered a surprising way to reduce the brain damage caused by head injuries — stopping the body’s immune system from killing brain cells. A new study showed that in experiments on mice, an immune-based treatment reduced the size of brain lesions. The authors suggest that if the findings apply to humans, this could help prevent brain damage from accidents, and protect players of contact sports like football, rugby and boxing.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by BioMed Central. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Richard P Tobin, Sanjib Mukherjee, Jessica M Kain, Susannah K Rogers, Stephanie K Henderson, Heather L Motal, M Rogers, Lee A Shapiro. Traumatic brain injury causes selective, CD74-dependent peripheral lymphocyte activation that exacerbates neurodegeneration. Acta Neuropathologica Communications, 2014; 2 (1): 143 DOI: 10.1186/s40478-014-0143-5

October 21, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] Designer viruses could be the new antibiotics | Ars Technica

Designer viruses could be the new antibiotics | Ars Technica.by Luc Henry Oct 16 2014, 11:30am EDT

From the news article

Bacterial infections remain a major threat to human and animal health. Worse still, the catalog of useful antibiotics is shrinking as pathogens build up resistance to these drugs. There are few promising new drugs in the pipeline, but they may not prove to be enough. Multi-resistant organisms—also called “superbugs”—are on the rise, and many predict a gloomy future if nothing is done to fight back.

The answer, some believe, may lie in using engineered bacteriophages, a type of virus that infects bacteria. Two recent studies, both published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, show a promising alternative to small-molecule drugs that are the mainstay of antibacterial treatments today.

From basic to synthetic biology

Nearly every living organism seems to have evolved simple mechanisms to protect itself from harmful pathogens. These innate immune systems can be a passive barrier, blocking anything above a certain size, or an active response that recognizes and destroys foreign molecules such as proteins and DNA.

An important component of the bacterial immune system is composed of a family of proteins that are tasked specifically with breaking down foreign DNA. Each bug produces a set of these proteins that chew the genetic material of viruses and other micro-organism into pieces while leaving the bacterial genome intact.

In vertebrates, a more advanced system—called the adaptive immune system—creates a molecular memory of previous attacks and prepares the organism for the next wave of infection. This is the principle on which vaccines are built. Upon introduction of harmless pathogen fragments, the adaptive immunity will train specialist killer cells that later allow a faster and more specific response if the virulent agent is encountered again.

Crisp news

Until recently, people thought bacteria were too simple to possess any sort of adaptive immunity. But in 2007, a group of scientists from the dairy industry showed that bacteria commonly used for the production of cheese and yogurts could be “vaccinated” by exposure to a virus. Two years earlier, others noticed similarities between repetitive sections in bacterial genomes and the DNA of viruses. These repetitive sequences—called CRISPR for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats”—had been known for 20 years, but no one could ever explain their function.

October 21, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] Sugar Accelerates Aging Process as Much as Smoking Does, U.S. Study Says | Natural Products News and Updates

Sugar Accelerates Aging Process as Much as Smoking Does, U.S. Study Says | Natural Products News and Updates.

Source: sheknows

Source: sheknows

From the National Post news item by Lindsey Bever, The Washington Post, National Post Wire Services | October 20, 2014 | Last Updated: Oct 20 11:26 AM ET

You knew that drinking sugary sodas could lead to obesity, diabetes and heart attacks — but, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, it may also speed up your body’s aging process.

What does cancer eat? Sugar, mostly, and other lessons from my dinner with a professor of pathology

What got my attention was his remark about celery.

You know: the dieters’ wishful thinking on whether eating celery is a sum negative activity, or not.

He was certainly entitled to speak. His name is Dr. Gerald Krystal and he’s a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at University of British Columbia, as well as Distinguished Scientist at the Terry Fox Laboratory at the BC Cancer Agency.

We were perched like vultures over a buffet table, commenting on the many ways to die. Fats, salts, sugars, alcohol: pick your delicious poison. I like ’em all.

Read more…

As you age, caps on the end your chromosomes called telomeres shrink. In the past several years, researchers at the University of California at San Francisco, have analyzed stored DNA from more than 5,300 healthy Americans in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from some 14 years ago. And they discovered that those who drank more pop tended to have shorter telomeres.

The shorter the telomere, the harder it is for a cell to regenerate — and so, the body ages.

“We think we can get away with drinking lots of soda as long as we are not gaining weight, but this suggests that there is an invisible pathway that leads to accelerated aging, regardless of weight,” psychiatry professor Elissa Epel, senior author of the study, told CBS San Francisco….

The findings were reported online October 16, 2014 in the American Journal of Public Health.

October 21, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Did Nigeria Quash Its Ebola Outbreak So Quickly? – Scientific American

How Did Nigeria Quash Its Ebola Outbreak So Quickly? – Scientific American.

From the 18 October 2014 article

What we can learn from the boot leather, organization and quick response times that stopped Ebola from spreading in this African nation
ebola in Nigeria

Empty ebola ward in Nigeria.
Credit: CDC Global via flickr

On July 20 a man who was ill flew on commercial planes from the heart of the Ebola epidemic in Liberia to Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city. That man became Nigeria’s first Ebola case—the index patient. In a matter of weeks some 19 people across two states were diagnosed with the disease (with one additional person presumed to have contracted it before dying).

But rather than descending into epidemic, there has not been a new case of the virus since September 5. And since September 24 the country’s Ebola isolation and treatment wards have sat empty. If by Monday, October 20 there are still no new cases, Nigeria, unlike the U.S., will be declared Ebola free by the World Health Organization (WHO).

What can we learn from this African country’s success quashing an Ebola outbreak?

Authors of a paper published October 9 in Eurosurveillance attribute Nigeria’s success in “avoiding a far worse scenario” to its “quick and forceful” response. The authors point to three key elements in the country’s attack:

  • Fast and thorough tracing of all potential contacts
  • Ongoing monitoring of all of these contacts
  • Rapid isolation of potentially infectious contact

October 19, 2014 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] Emergency aid for overdoses — ScienceDaily

Emergency aid for overdoses — ScienceDaily.

From the 17 October 2014 news article

Every minute counts in the event of an overdose. ETH professor Jean-Christophe Leroux and his team have developed an agent to filter out toxins from the body more quickly and efficiently. It can also be used for dialysis in patients suffering from hepatic failure.

To date, antidotes exist for only a very few drugs. When treating overdoses, doctors are often limited to supportive therapy such as induced vomiting. Treatment is especially difficult if there is a combination of drugs involved. So what can be done if a child is playing and accidentally swallows his grandmother’s pills? ETH professor Jean-Christophe Leroux from the Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences at ETH Zurich wanted to find an answer to this question. “The task was to develop an agent that could eliminate many different toxic substances from the body as quickly as possible,” he says.

Leroux and his team knew that lipid emulsions can bind to drugs when injected into the blood stream. The researchers pursued this approach in their own studies, developing an agent based on liposomes, which are tiny bubbles with a lipid membrane as an outer layer. Instead of an intravenous injection, the agent is used as a dialysis fluid for so-called peritoneal dialysis. This method of dialysis is less common than haemodialysis, which is mainly used as a long-term form of treatment of kidney failure.

October 19, 2014 Posted by | health care, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Research summary] New Research Review Looks at Effectiveness and Risks of Long-Term Opioid Treatment of Chronic Pain

From the AHRQ Web site

A new research review from AHRQ’s Effective Health Care Program  found that while the evidence on the effectiveness and harms of opioid therapy for chronic pain treatment is limited, there is an increased risk of serious harms based on the opioid dose given. The research review assesses observational studies that suggest that use of long-term opioids for chronic pain is associated with increased risk of abuse, overdose, fractures and heart attack, when compared with patients who are not being prescribed opioids. The review noted that more research is needed to understand the long-term benefits, risk of abuse and related outcomes, and effectiveness of different opioid prescribing methods and strategies. The review is titled, “The Effectiveness and Risks of Long-Term Opioid Treatment of Chronic Pain.” AHRQ has also released a statistical brief from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project titled, “Hospital Inpatient Utilization Related to Opioid Overuse Among Adults, 1993-2012.” According to the brief, hospitalization rates for opioid overuse more than doubled from 1993 to 2012 and increased at a faster rate for people age 45 and older. In addition, AHRQ Director Rick Kronick, Ph.D., has published a blog about opioids.

October 17, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New study shows that yoga and meditation may help train the brain

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http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-10/ws-nss100314.php

From the October 2014 EurkAlert!

New research by biomedical engineers at the University of Minnesota shows that people who practice yoga and meditation long term can learn to control a computer with their minds faster and better than people with little or no yoga or meditation experience. The research could have major implications for treatments of people who are paralyzed or have neurodegenerative diseases.

The research is published online in Technology, a new scientific journal featuring cutting-edge new technologies in emerging fields of science and engineering.

In the study, researchers involved a total of 36 participants. One group of 12 had at least one year of experience in yoga or meditation at least two times per week for one hour. The second group included 24 healthy participants who had little or no yoga or meditation experience. Both groups were new to systems using the brain to control a computer. Both groups participated in three, two-hour experiments over four weeks in which they wore a high tech, non-invasive cap over the scalp that picked up brain activity. The participants were asked to move a computer cursor across the screen by imaging left or right hand movements.

The participants with yoga or meditation experience were twice as likely to complete the brain-computer interface task by the end of 30 trials and learned three times faster than their counterparts for the left-right cursor movement experiments.

“In recent years, there has been a lot of attention on improving the computer side of the brain-computer interface but very little attention to the brain side,” said lead researcher Bin He, a biomedical engineering professor in the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering and director of the University’s Institute for Engineering in Medicine. “This comprehensive study shows for the first time that looking closer at the brain side may provide a valuable tool for reducing obstacles for brain-computer interface success in early stages.”

Researchers have been increasingly focused on finding ways to help physically disabled individuals who are paralyzed, have lost limbs, or suffer from diseases such as ALS or cerebral palsy. In these cases, brain function remains intact, but these people have to find a way to bypass muscular control to move a wheelchair, control an artificial limb, or control other devices.

Professor He gained international attention in 2013 when members of his research team were able to demonstrate flying a robot with only their minds. However, they found that not everyone can easily learn to control a computer with their brains. Many people are unsuccessful in controlling the computer after multiple attempts. A consistent and reliable EEG brain signal may depend on an undistracted mind and sustained attention. Meditators have shown more distinctive EEG patterns than untrained participants, which may explain their success.

Professor He said he got the idea for the study more than five years ago when he began his brain-computer interface research and noticed one woman participant who was much more successful than other participants at controlling the computer with her brain. The woman had extensive experience with yoga and mediation, referred to by researchers as Mind-Body Awareness Training (MBAT).

The next step for He and his team is to study a group of participants over time who are participating in yoga or meditation for the first time to see if their performance on the brain-computer interface improves.

“Our ultimate goal is to help people who are paralyzed or have brain diseases regain mobility and independence,” He said. “We need to look at all possibilities to improve the number of people who could benefit from our research.”

###

This research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the University of Minnesota’s Institute for Engineering in Medicine. In addition to He, the University of Minnesota research team included research lab technician Kaitlin Cassady, biomedical engineering undergraduate student Albert You, and biomedical engineering master’s and medical student Alex Doud.

Corresponding author for this study in Technology is Professor Bin He, Ph.D., binhe@umn.edu. This study can be found at http://www.worldscientific.com/doi/abs/10.1142/S233954781450023X.

October 17, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , | Leave a comment

[Journal article]Pollution from drug manufacturing: review and perspectives

Pollution from drug manufacturing: review and perspectives.

From the article at Philosophical Society of the Royal Society

As long ago as the sixteenth century, Paracelsus recognized that ‘the dose makes the poison’. Indeed, environmental concentrations of pharmaceuticals excreted by humans are limited, most importantly because a defined dose is given to just a fraction of the population. By contrast, recent studies have identified direct emission from drug manufacturing as a source of much higher environmental discharges that, in some cases, greatly exceed toxic threshold concentrations. Because production is concentrated in specific locations, the risks are not linked to usage patterns. Furthermore, as the drugs are not consumed, metabolism in the human body does not reduce concentrations. The environmental risks associated with manufacturing therefore comprise a different, wider set of pharmaceuticals compared with those associated with risks from excretion. Although pollution from manufacturing is less widespread, discharges that promote the development of drug-resistant microorganisms can still have global consequences. Risk management also differs between production and excretion in terms of accountability, incentive creation, legal opportunities, substitution possibilities and costs. Herein, I review studies about industrial emissions of pharmaceuticals and the effects associated with exposure to such effluents. I contrast environmental pollution due to manufacturing with that due to excretion in terms of their risks and management and highlight some recent initiatives.

October 17, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] New approaches needed for people with serious mental illnesses in criminal justice system — ScienceDaily

New approaches needed for people with serious mental illnesses in criminal justice system — ScienceDaily.

From the 14 October 2014 article

esponding to the large number of people with serious mental illnesses in the criminal justice system will require more than mental health services, according to a new report.

In many ways, the criminal justice system is the largest provider of mental health services in the country. Estimates vary, but previous research has found that about 14 percent of persons in the criminal justice system have a serious mental illness, and that number is as high as 31 percent for female inmates. Researchers are defining serious mental illnesses to include such things as schizophrenia, bipolar spectrum disorders and major depressive disorders.

“It has been assumed that untreated symptoms of mental illness caused criminal justice involvement, but now we’re seeing that there is little evidence to support that claim,” said Matthew Epperson, assistant professor at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. Specialized interventions for people with mental illness in the criminal justice system have been developed over the past 20 years, such as mental health courts and jail diversion programs, Epperson said.

“But we need a new generation of interventions for people with serious mental health issues who are involved in the criminal justice system, whether it be interactions with police, jails, probation programs and courts,” he said. “Research shows that people with serious mental illnesses, in general, display many of the same risk factors for criminal involvement as persons without these conditions.”

: Criminal Justice Center

: Criminal Justice Center (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

October 17, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News Article] Take note: Jazz and silence help reduce heart rate after surgery, study shows — ScienceDaily

Showing 13.5φEX Headphone with noise cancellat...

Showing 13.5φEX Headphone with noise cancellation from Sony Walkman Series NW-S705F (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Take note: Jazz and silence help reduce heart rate after surgery, study shows — ScienceDaily.

 

From the 13 October 2014 article

Jazz is good for you. Patients undergoing elective hysterectomies who listened to jazz music during their recovery experienced significantly lower heart rates, suggests a study presented at the ANESTHESIOLOGY™ 2014 annual meeting.

But the research also found that silence is golden. Patients who wore noise-cancelling headphones also had lower heart rates, as well as less pain.

The results provide hope that patients who listen to music or experience silence while recovering from surgery might need less pain medication, and may be more relaxed and satisfied, note the researchers.

“The thought of having a surgical procedure — in addition to the fears associated with anesthesia — creates emotional stress and anxiety for many patients,” said Flower Austin, D.O., anesthesiology resident, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Hershey, Pa., and lead study author. “Physician anesthesiologists provide patients with pain relief medication right after surgery. But some of these medications can cause significant side effects.”

 

October 17, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Results of study of the human mind and consciousness at the time of death available

Artist's depiction of the separation stage of ...

Artist’s depiction of the separation stage of an out-of-body experience, which often precedes free movement. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-10/e-ros100714.php

From the 7 October 2014 EurkAlert!

he results of a four-year international study of 2060 cardiac arrest cases across 15 hospitals published and available now on ScienceDirect. The study concludes:

  • The themes relating to the experience of death appear far broader than what has been understood so far, or what has been described as so called near-death experiences.
  • In some cases of cardiac arrest, memories of visual awareness compatible with so called out-of-body experiences may correspond with actual events.
  • A higher proportion of people may have vivid death experiences, but do not recall them due to the effects of brain injury or sedative drugs on memory circuits.
  • Widely used yet scientifically imprecise terms such as near-death and out-of-body experiences may not be sufficient to describe the actual experience of death. Future studies should focus on cardiac arrest, which is biologically synonymous with death, rather than ill-defined medical states sometimes referred to as ‘near-death’.
  • The recalled experience surrounding death merits a genuine investigation without prejudice.

Recollections in relation to death, so-called out-of-body experiences (OBEs) or near-death experiences (NDEs), are an often spoken about phenomenon which have frequently been considered hallucinatory or illusory in nature; however, objective studies on these experiences are limited.

In 2008, a large-scale study involving 2060 patients from 15 hospitals in the United Kingdom, United States and Austria was launched. The AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation) study, sponsored by the University of Southampton in the UK, examined the broad range of mental experiences in relation to death. Researchers also tested the validity of conscious experiences using objective markers for the first time in a large study to determine whether claims of awareness compatible with out-of-body experiences correspond with real or hallucinatory events.

Results of the study have been published in the journal Resuscitation and are now available online on ScienceDirect.

Dr Sam Parnia, Assistant Professor of Critical Care Medicine and Director of Resuscitation Research at The State University of New York at Stony Brook, USA, and the study’s lead author, explained: “Contrary to perception, death is not a specific moment but a potentially reversible process that occurs after any severe illness or accident causes the heart, lungs and brain to cease functioning. If attempts are made to reverse this process, it is referred to as ‘cardiac arrest'; however, if these attempts do not succeed it is called ‘death’. In this study we wanted to go beyond the emotionally charged yet poorly defined term of NDEs to explore objectively what happens when we die.”

Thirty-nine per cent of patients who survived cardiac arrest and were able to undergo structured interviews described a perception of awareness, but interestingly did not have any explicit recall of events.

“This suggests more people may have mental activity initially but then lose their memories after recovery, either due to the effects of brain injury or sedative drugs on memory recall”, explained Dr Parnia, who was an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Southampton when he started the AWARE study.

Among those who reported a perception of awareness and completed further interviews, 46 per cent experienced a broad range of mental recollections in relation to death that were not compatible with the commonly used term of NDE’s. These included fearful and persecutory experiences. Only 9 per cent had experiences compatible with NDEs and 2 per cent exhibited full awareness compatible with OBE’s with explicit recall of ‘seeing’ and ‘hearing’ events.

One case was validated and timed using auditory stimuli during cardiac arrest. Dr Parnia concluded: “This is significant, since it has often been assumed that experiences in relation to death are likely hallucinations or illusions, occurring either before the heart stops or after the heart has been successfully restarted, but not an experience corresponding with ‘real’ events when the heart isn’t beating. In this case, consciousness and awareness appeared to occur during a three-minute period when there was no heartbeat. This is paradoxical, since the brain typically ceases functioning within 20-30 seconds of the heart stopping and doesn’t resume again until the heart has been restarted. Furthermore, the detailed recollections of visual awareness in this case were consistent with verified events.

“Thus, while it was not possible to absolutely prove the reality or meaning of patients’ experiences and claims of awareness, (due to the very low incidence (2 per cent) of explicit recall of visual awareness or so called OBE’s), it was impossible to disclaim them either and more work is needed in this area. Clearly, the recalled experience surrounding death now merits further genuine investigation without prejudice.”

Further studies are also needed to explore whether awareness (explicit or implicit) may lead to long term adverse psychological outcomes including post-traumatic stress disorder.

Dr Jerry Nolan, Editor-in-Chief of Resuscitation, stated: “The AWARE study researchers are to be congratulated on the completion of a fascinating study that will open the door to more extensive research into what happens when we die.”

###

Notes to editors:

The paper is, “AWARE—AWAreness during REsuscitation—A prospective study” (http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.resuscitation.2014.09.004), Resuscitation, published by Elsevier. Available on ScienceDirect: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0300957214007394

[Full text of this article may be available at your local public, academic, or hospital library. Call ahead and ask for a reference librarian. Many academic and hospital libraries have at least some services for the public]

 

October 17, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

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