Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[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

[Reposte Food fights back: London researchers tap yogurt as toxin defender | Metro

Biggest concern for me is what happens to the toxins after they leave one’s body? How do they impact our environment???

English: Nonfat Yogurt

English: Nonfat Yogurt (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Food fights back: London researchers tap yogurt as toxin defender | Metro.

From the 8 October article

f you want to defend yourself against poison, eat yogurt.

That’s the – simplified – idea behind research published by experts in London.

A study led by scientists at Lawson Health Research Institute showed that probiotic yogurt can reduce the absorption of certain heavy metals and environmental toxins by as much as 78 per cent in pregnant women. They have said it’s the first clinical evidence that yogurt can cut the health risks of mercury and arsenic.

But don’t race to the grocery store just yet. This is a scientific study, so its results don’t suggest a miracle cure. Also, it was a specific type of yogurt, with specific bacteria, so it’s not so easy to find on the shelves.

“It’s not something you can take as a preventative measure,” Bisanz, the first author on the paper.

He warned that acute poisoning would mean different, more conventional treatments. But these findings about yogurt are exciting, the researchers said, and a “starting point” for further research about foodstuffs as a defence against environmental toxins. It could have a “massive” impact on the quality of life for many people, Bisanz added.

“When we try and get funding for this kind of stuff, it’s difficult because people think it’s farcical, or it’s too simple, or it’s Africa; it’s not here,” Reid said. “We kind of go out on a limb to say, ‘Let’s do the study and not worry so much about how to do it,’ but then you get the results back and you think, ‘This is cool’.”

Next up is more study into more strains of bacteria, the scientists said. Other types could block other toxins, and Bisanz is spearheading more research.

October 16, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Report]What has research over the past two decades revealed about the adverse health effects of recreational cannabis use?

Cannabis sativa

Cannabis sativa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the 2014 article in the journal Addiction

Research in the past 20 years has shown that driving while cannabis-impaired approximately doubles car crash risk and that around one in 10 regular cannabis users develop dependence. Regular cannabis use in adolescence approximately doubles the risks of early school-leaving and of cognitive impairment and psychoses in adulthood. Regular cannabis use in adolescence is also associated strongly with the use of other illicit drugs. These associations persist after controlling for plausible confounding variables in longitudinal studies. This suggests that cannabis use is a contributory cause of these outcomes but some researchers still argue that these relationships are explained by shared causes or risk factors. Cannabis smoking probably increases cardiovascular disease risk in middle-aged adults but its effects on respiratory function and respiratory cancer remain unclear, because most cannabis smokers have smoked or still smoke tobacco.

 

October 15, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

[Repost] Yay for BMJ journal news release for caveats about observational study!

An example of a heart attack, which can occur ...

An example of a heart attack, which can occur after the use of a performance-enhancing drug. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yay for BMJ journal news release for caveats about observational study!.

From the 19 August 2014 post at HealthNewsReview

I’ve criticized them many times, so now it’s time to salute them.

And let’s hope the news release writers for BMJ journals continue this practice.

This week, in a news release about a paper in one of the journals published by the BMJ, the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, was this caveat:

“This is an observational study so no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, and the researchers admit that some potentially important risk factors, such as family history of heart disease/stroke and genetic influences were not known.”

Such a statement of limitations has been missing many times in past news releases from/about BMJ journals.

I can’t see everything, so I may have missed other good examples in the past.

Here is the full text of the news release in question:

Good neighbours and friendly local community may curb heart attack risk

Might extend social support network which is also linked to lower cardiovascular disease risk, say researchers

[Perceived neighbourhood social cohesion and myocardial infarction Online First doi 10.1136/jech-2014-204009]

Having good neighbours and feeling connected to others in the local community may help to curb an individual’s heart attack risk, concludes research published online in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

Current evidence suggests that the characteristics of an area in which a person lives can negatively affect their cardiovascular health. This includes, for example, the density of fast food outlets; levels of violence, noise, and pollution; drug use; and building disrepair.

But few studies have looked at the potential health enhancing effects of positive local neighbourhood characteristics, such as perceived neighbourhood social cohesion, say the authors.

They therefore tracked the cardiovascular health of over 5000 US adults with no known heart problems over a period of four years, starting in 2006. Their average age was 70, and almost two thirds were women and married (62%).

All the study participants were taking part in the Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative study of American adults over the age of 50, who are surveyed every two years.

In 2006 participants were asked to score on a validated seven point scale how much they felt part of their local neighbourhood; if they felt they had neighbours who would help them if they got into difficulty; whether they trusted most people in the area; and felt they were friendly.

Potentially influential factors, such as age, race, gender, income, marital status, educational attainment, outlook and attitude, social integration, mental health, lifestyle, weight, and underlying health issues, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, were all taken into account.

During the four year monitoring period, 148 of the 5276 participants (66 women and 82 men) had a heart attack.

Analysis of the data showed that each standard deviation increase in perceived neighbourhood social cohesion was associated with a 22% reduced risk of a heart attack. Put another way, on the seven-point scale, each unit increase in neighbourhood social cohesion was associated with a 17% reduced risk of heart attack.*

This association held true even after adjusting for relevant sociodemographic, behavioural, biological, and psychosocial factors, as well as individual-level social support.

The researchers say their findings echo those of other studies which have found a link between well integrated local neighbourhoods and lower stroke and heart disease risk.

This is an observational study so no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, and the researchers admit that some potentially important risk factors, such as family history of heart disease/stroke and genetic influences were not known. But a strong social support network of friends and family has been linked to better health, so friendly neighbourhoods might be an extension of that, they say.

“Perceived neighbourhood social cohesion could be a type of social support that is available in the neighbourhood social environment outside the realm of family and friends,” they write.

And tight-knit local communities may help to reinforce and ‘incentivise’ certain types of cohesive behaviours and so exclude antisocial behaviours, they suggest.

——————–

October 15, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Repost] Active aging is much more than exercise

Active aging is much more than exercise

“30 years ago, the elderly were not expected to be active at all – they were actually advised not to exercise as it was considered dangerous. Playing cards were seen as a more fitting activity. Today, we are all expected to live active, healthy lives until the day we die – in good health – at the age of 90. Old age has, in a sense, been cancelled, says PhD Aske Juul Lassen from University of Copenhagen’s Center for Healthy Aging.

Aske Juul Lassen has just defended his PhD thesis entitled Active Ageing and the Unmaking of Old Age for which he has conducted field work in two activity centres for the elderly in Greater Copenhagen and analysed WHO’s and EU’s official policy papers on active ageing.

“I compare the EU and WHO perceptions of ageing with the everyday activities I have observed among the elderly. The elderly do a lot of things, which I consider active ageing and which give them an enhanced quality of life, but they are also activities that would never be characterized as “healthy” by health authorities. The question is how we define “good ageing” and how we organise society for our ageing generations.”

Billiards and beer can also be active ageing

One of the everyday activities Aske Juul Lassen observed was billiards: In one of the activity centres for the elderly, in which he conducted field work, 10-15 men between the ages of 70 and 95 meet to play billiards four times a week.

“Playing billiards often comes with a certain life style – drinking beer and drams for instance – and I am quite sure this was not what WHO and EU meant when they formulated their active ageing policies. But billiards does constitute active ageing. Billiards is, first of all, an activity that these men thoroughly enjoy and that enhances their quality of life while immersing them in their local community and keeping them socially active. And billiards is, secondly, very suitable exercise for old people because the game varies naturally between periods of activity and passivity and this means that the men can keep playing for hours. Not very many old people can endure physical activity that lasts five hours, but billiards enables these men to spread their physical activity out through the day,” says Aske Juul Lassen.

“We therefore need a broader, more inclusive concept of healthy and active ageing that allows for the communities the elderly already take part in and that positively impact their everyday lives, quality of life, and general health. It must also allow for the fact that the elderly do not constitute a homogenous group of people: activities that for some seem insurmountable will be completely natural for others.”

According to Aske Juul Lassen, one of the positive side effects of the activities at the activity centres for the elderly is that the activities take their minds off illness; they do not focus as much on their ailments when they are engaged in billiards or some of the other activities that the centres have on offer.

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Contact
Contact: Aske Juul Lassen
ajlas@hum.ku.dk
45-22-92-02-12
University of Copenhagen – Faculty of Humanities

Press officer Carsten Munk Hansen
Faculty of Humanities, University of Copenhagen
Cell: +45 28 75 80 23

October 13, 2014 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , | Leave a comment

[Repost] The mathematics behind the Ebola epidemic

The isolation ward of Gulu Municipal Hospital,...

The isolation ward of Gulu Municipal Hospital, Gulu, Uganda, during an outbreak of Ebola hemorrhagic fever in October 2000 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the 9 October 2014 EurekAlert

……

“A major benefit of our method is that we can use it to calculate unreported cases and therefore the true scale of the epidemic,” asserts Stadler. Official patient figures only take into account those cases reported to the health authorities. The actual number of infected persons is generally significantly higher. Using the data made available to them, the ETH researchers were able to calculate an unreported case rate of 30% (i.e. patients of which blood samples were not taken). “However, this applies only to the situation analysed in Sierra Leone in May and June. We do not have any blood samples since June at all,” claims Stadler.

Virus family tree created

The researchers were also able to calculate the incubation period for Ebola (five days – this value is subject to significant uncertainty) and the infectious time. Patients can pass on the virus from 1.2 to 7 days after becoming infected.

…….

October 13, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Patient condition terminology: Do you really know what ‘critical’ means?

Excerpts from the 2 October 2014 post at Covering Health: Monitoring the Pulse of Healthcare Journalism

English: CORINTO, Nicaragua (July 6, 2009) Lt....

English: CORINTO, Nicaragua (July 6, 2009) Lt. Kendra Pennington and Sgt. Dustin Turvild check the vital signs of a patient in the post anesthetic care unit aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20). Comfort is supporting Continuing Promise 2009, a four-month humanitarian and civic assistance mission to Latin America and the Caribbean. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Nashaunda Tilghman/Released) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

…standards provide the basis of understanding what kind of condition a patient is in. In this brief on privacy regulations, the American Hospital Association (AHA) recommends that all providers use the following definitions when describing a patient’s condition:

Undetermined: The patient has not yet been assessed, diagnosed or treated.

Good: The patient’s vital signs are stable and within normal limits. He or she is conscious and comfortable, with excellent indicators for recovery.

Fair: The patient’s vital signs are stable and normal, and the patient is conscious, but he or she might be uncomfortable. Indicators for recovery are favorable.

Serious: The patient is very ill, and might have unstable vital signs outside the normal limits. Indicators are questionable.

Critical: The patient has unstable vitals that are not normal, and could be unconscious. Indicators for recovery are unfavorable.

Treated and released: The patient was treated but not admitted to the hospital.

Treated and transferred: The patient received treatment at one facility and was then transferred to another facility.
…..

October 7, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , | Leave a comment

[Blog Post] Half Of Americans Believe One Of These 6 Medical Conspiracy Theories

Half Of Americans Believe One Of These 6 Medical Conspiracy Theories 

From the 16 July 2014 article at Think Progress

Are companies dumping large quantities of dangerous chemicals into our water supply under the guise of fluoridation? Did a U.S. spy agency infect African Americans with HIV? Does the government tell parents to give vaccines to their children even though that could increase their risk of developing autism? Are U.S. health officials withholding information about natural cures for cancer so that pharmaceutical companies can continue to profit, or pretending they don’t know that cell phones can cause cancer? Are genetically modified foods a plot to shrink the global population?

About half of the American public believes at least one of those medical conspiracy theories, according to a study conducted by University of Chicago researchers. The greatest proportion of respondents, 37 percent, believes that the FDA is deliberately suppressing information about natural treatments for cancer. On top of that, less than a third of participants were willing to say they actively disagreed with this theory, leaving everyone else somewhere in the middle.
…..

August 21, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , | 4 Comments

[Press release] Zip code better predictor of health than genetic code

Zip code better predictor of health than genetic code | HSPH News | Harvard School of Public Health.

From the 4 August 2014 Harvard School of Public Health News item

In St. Louis, Missouri, Delmar Boulevard marks a sharp dividing line between the poor, predominately African American neighborhood to the north and a more affluent, largely white neighborhood to the south. Education and health also follow the “Delmar Divide,” with residents to the north less likely to have a bachelor’s degree and more likely to have heart disease or cancer.

Pointing to Delmar as an example, Melody Goodman, an assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis, recently spoke to a Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) audience about the links between segregation and poor health. An HSPH alumna, Goodman gave the keynote address at the first annual symposium sponsored by the Department of Biostatistics Summer Program in Quantitative Sciences. She told the audience at the July 24, 2014 event, which was held at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, “Your zip code is a better predictor of your health than your genetic code.”

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

[Reblog] Clearing the air on a WHO study

From the 17 July 2014 Association of Health Care Journalists post

Last week, I encountered yet another example of why it’s so important to always read the whole study — not just the press release. In this case, it was actually a report, not a study. A press release from Alzheimer’s International with the somewhat misleading headline, “Smoking Increases Risk Of Dementia” arrived in my inbox, citing a new World Health Organization report that put smokers at a 45% higher risk for developing the disease than non-smokers.

 

It’s a good reminder that regardless of the reputation of the organization or institution issuing a report, study or press release, read the source information yourself. You never know what you may find.

WHO

WHO (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

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

[Press release] Youth regularly receive pro-marijuana tweets

 

Researchers say pro-pot messages set stage for drug use

 AUDIO: Twitter has become one of the most popular social media sites among young people, and researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have been looking at Twitter….

Click here for more information. 

Hundreds of thousands of American youth are following marijuana-related Twitter accounts and getting pro-pot messages several times each day, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found.

The tweets are cause for concern, they said, because young people are thought to be especially responsive to social media influences. In addition, patterns of drug use tend to be established in a person’s late teens and early 20s.

In a study published online June 27 in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, the Washington University team analyzed messages tweeted from May 1 through Dec. 31, 2013, by a Twitter account called Weed Tweets@stillblazintho. Among pro-marijuana accounts, this one was selected because it has the most Twitter followers — about 1 million. During the eight-month study period, the account posted an average of 11 tweets per day.

“As people are becoming more accepting of marijuana use and two states have legalized the drug for recreational use, it is important to remember that it remains a dangerous drug of abuse,” said principal investigator Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg, PhD. “I’ve been studying what is influencing attitudes to change dramatically and where people may be getting messages about marijuana that are leading them to believe the drug is not hazardous.”

Although 19 states now allow marijuana use for medical purposes, much of the evidence for its effectiveness remains anecdotal. Even as Americans are relaxing their attitudes about marijuana, in 2011 marijuana contributed to more than 455,000 emergency room visits in the United States, federal research shows. Some 13 percent of those patients were ages 12 to 17.

A majority of Americans favor legalizing recreational use of the drug, and 60 percent of high school seniors report they don’t believe regular marijuana use is harmful. A recent report from the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said that more Americans are using cannabis as their perception of the health risk declines. The report stated that for youth and young adults, “more permissive cannabis regulations correlate with decreases in the perceived risk of use.”

 IMAGE: This is another recent marijuana-related message from the Weed Tweets Twitter account.

Click here for more information. 

Cavazos-Rehg said Twitter also is influencing young people’s attitudes about the drug. Studying Weed Tweets, the team counted 2,285 tweets during the eight-month study. Of those, 82 percent were positive about the drug, 18 percent were either neutral or did not focus on marijuana, and 0.3 percent expressed negative attitudes about it.

Many of the tweets were meant to be humorous. Others implied that marijuana helps a person feel good or relax, and some mentioned different ways to get high.

With the help of a data analysis firm, the investigators found that of those receiving the tweets, 73 percent were under 19. Fifty-four percent were 17 to 19 years old, and almost 20 percent were 16 or younger. About 22 percent were 20 to 24 years of age. Only 5 percent of the followers were 25 or older.

“These are risky ages when young people often begin experimentation with drugs,” explained Cavazos-Rehg, an assistant professor of psychiatry. “It’s an age when people are impressionable and when substance-use behaviors can transition into addiction. In other words, it’s a very risky time of life for people to be receiving messages like these.”

Cavazos-Rehg said it isn’t possible from this study to “connect the dots” between positive marijuana tweets and actual drug use, but she cites previous research linking substance use to messages from television and billboards. She suggested this also may apply to social media.

“Studies looking at media messages on traditional outlets like television, radio, billboards and magazines have shown that media messages can influence substance use and attitudes about substance use,” she said. “It’s likely a young person’s attitudes and behaviors may be influenced when he or she is receiving daily, ongoing messages of this sort.”

The researchers also learned that the Twitter account they tracked reached a high number of African-Americans and Hispanics compared with Caucasians. Almost 43 percent were African-American, and nearly 12 percent were Hispanic. In fact, among Hispanics, Weed Tweets ranked in the top 30 percent of all Twitter accounts followed.

“It was surprising to see that members of these minority groups were so much more likely than Caucasians to be receiving these messages,” Cavazos-Rehg said, adding that there is particular concern about African-Americans because their rates of marijuana abuse and dependence are about twice as high as the rate in Caucasians and Hispanics.

The findings point to the need for a discussion about the pro-drug messages young people receive, Cavazos-Rehg said.

 AUDIO: Twitter has become one of the most popular social media sites among young people, and researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have been looking at Twitter….

Click here for more information. 

“There are celebrities who tweet to hundreds of thousands of followers, and it turns out a Twitter handle that promotes substance use can be equally popular,” she said. “Because there’s not much regulation of social media platforms, that could lead to potentially harmful messages being distributed. Regulating this sort of thing is going to be challenging, but the more we can provide evidence that harmful messages are being received by vulnerable kids, the more likely it is we can have a discussion about the types of regulation that might be appropriate.”

 

July 11, 2014 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Only 25 minutes of mindfulness meditation alleviates stress

 PITTSBURGH—Mindfulness meditation has become an increasingly popular way for people to improve their mental and physical health, yet most research supporting its benefits has focused on lengthy, weeks-long training programs.

New research from Carnegie Mellon University is the first to show that brief mindfulness meditation practice – 25 minutes for three consecutive days – alleviates psychological stress. Published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, the study investigates how mindfulness meditation affects people’s ability to be resilient under stress.

“More and more people report using meditation practices for stress reduction, but we know very little about how much you need to do for stress reduction and health benefits,” said lead author J. David Creswell, associate professor of psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

For the study, Creswell and his research team had 66 healthy individuals aged 18-30 years old participate in a three-day experiment. Some participants went through a brief mindfulness meditation training program; for 25 minutes for three consecutive days, the individuals were given breathing exercises to help them monitor their breath and pay attention to their present moment experiences. A second group of participants completed a matched three-day cognitive training program in which they were asked to critically analyze poetry in an effort to enhance problem-solving skills.

Following the final training activity, all participants were asked to complete stressful speech and math tasks in front of stern-faced evaluators. Each individual reported their stress levels in response to stressful speech and math performance stress tasks, and provided saliva samples for measurement of cortisol, commonly referred to as the stress hormone.

The participants who received the brief mindfulness meditation training reported reduced stress perceptions to the speech and math tasks, indicating that the mindfulness meditation fostered psychological stress resilience. More interestingly, on the biological side, the mindfulness mediation participants showed greater cortisol reactivity.

“When you initially learn mindfulness mediation practices, you have to cognitively work at it – especially during a stressful task,” said Creswell. “And, these active cognitive efforts may result in the task feeling less stressful, but they may also have physiological costs with higher cortisol production.”

Creswell’s group is now testing the possibility that mindfulness can become more automatic and easy to use with long-term mindfulness meditation training, which may result in reduced cortisol reactivity.

 

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In addition to Creswell, the research team consisted of Carnegie Mellon’s Laura E. Pacilio and Emily K. Lindsay and Virginia Commonwealth University’s Kirk Warren Brown.

The Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse Opportunity Fund supported this research.

For more information, visit http://www.psy.cmu.edu/people/creswell.html.

July 11, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Sandalwood scent facilitates wound healing and skin regeneration

 Olfactory receptors in the skin detected

Skin cells possess an olfactory receptor for sandalwood scent, as researchers at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum have discovered. Their data indicate that the cell proliferation increases and wound healing improves if those receptors are activated. This mechanism constitutes a possible starting point for new drugs and cosmetics. The team headed by Dr Daniela Busse and Prof Dr Dr Dr med habil Hanns Hatt from the Department for Cellphysiology published their report in the “Journal of Investigative Dermatology“.

The nose is not the only place where olfactory receptors occur

Humans have approximately 350 different types of olfactory receptors in the nose. The function of those receptors has also been shown to exist in, for example spermatozoa, the prostate, the intestine and the kidneys. The team from Bochum has now discovered them in keratinocytes – cells that form the outermost layer of the skin.

Experiments with cultures of human skin cells

The RUB researchers studied the olfactory receptor that occurs in the skin, namely OR2AT4, and discovered that it is activated by a synthetic sandalwood scent, so-called Sandalore. Sandalwood aroma is frequently used in incense sticks and is a popular component in perfumes. The activated OR2AT4 receptor triggers a calcium-dependent signal pathway. That pathway ensures an increased proliferation and a quicker migration of skin cells – processes which typically facilitate wound healing. In collaboration with the Dermatology Department at the University of Münster, the cell physiologists from Bochum demonstrated that effect in skin cell cultures and skin explants.

Additional olfactory receptors in skin detected

In addition to OR2AT4, the RUB scientists have also found a variety of other olfactory receptors in the skin, the function of which they are planning to characterise more precisely. “The results so far show that they possess therapeutic and cosmetic potential,” says Prof Hanns Hatt. “Still, we mustn’t forget that concentrated fragrances should be handled with care, until we have ascertained which functions the different types of olfactory receptors in skin cells have.”

 

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Bibliographic record

Daniela Busse et al. (2014): A synthetic sandalwood odorant induces wound healing processes in human keratinocytes via the olfactory receptor OR2AT4, Journal of Investigative Dermatology, DOI: 10.1038/JID.2014.273

Further information

Prof Dr Dr Dr Hanns Hatt, Department for Cellphysiology, Faculty of Biology and Biotechnology at the Ruhr-Universität, 44780 Bochum, Germany, phone: +49/234/32-24586, email:Hanns.Hatt@rub.de

July 11, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | 1 Comment

[Press release] In the gut, immunity is a 2-way street

 

The time-course of an immune response begins w...

The time-course of an immune response begins with the initial pathogen encounter, (or initial vaccination) and leads to the formation and maintenance of active immunological memory. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that many diseases are triggered or maintained by changes in bacterial communities in the gut. However, the general view up into now has been rather simple: bacteria stimulate the immune system, leading to inflammation or autoimmune disorders in a single direction.

Now, in work published in Immunity, scientists led by Sidonia Fagarasan from the RIKEN Center for Integrative Medical Science in Japan have painted a more complex picture: the gut immune system does not simply prevent the influx of pathogens, but is actively involved in the maintenance of a rich and healthy community of gut bacteria. They propose that faults in the immune regulation lead to changes in the bacterial community that in turn feed back into the immune system.

In the study, the group demonstrated that the regulation by immune T cells of immunoglobulin A (IgA), an antibody that plays a key role in immunity in the gut, is critical for the maintenance of rich bacterial communities in mammal guts.

They began by studying mice with various immune deficiencies and attempted to restore the mice by providing the missing components. They monitored the bacterial communities in the mice’s guts with or without the reconstitutions and evaluated the flow of information between the immune system and bacteria. They discovered that the precise control of IgA production by regulatory T cells is critical for keeping a rich and balanced bacterial community.

To investigate how bacteria feed back to the host, they looked at germ-free mice (mice born and maintained sterile in special incubators) and young pups that had been transplanted with different bacterial communities (either by injection of bacteria or by painting the fur with fecal bacteria extracts from normal or immune-deficient mice). They discovered that the immune system “sees” and responds differently to different bacterial communities. Rich and balanced bacterial communities seem to be perceived as “self” and induce a quick maturation of the immune system and gut responses (induction of regulatory T cells and IgA), while a poor and unbalanced bacterial community is apparently perceived as “non-self” and induces responses aimed at eliminating it (T cells with inflammatory properties and IgG or IgE responses).

According to Sidonia Fagarasan, who led the work, “This study should have an impact on the way we understand immune-related disorders associated with bacteria dysbiosis in the gut. In order to reestablish a healthy state we need to interfere not only with the bacteria, by providing probiotics or through fecal transplantation, but also with the immune system, by correcting the faults caused either by inherited deficiencies or by aging.”

“It was surprising,” she continues, “to see how the reconstitution of T cell-deficient mice with a special regulatory T cell type leads to dramatic changes in gut bacterial communities. It was spectacular to see how the immune system perceives and reacts to different bacteria communities. It gives us hopes that with a better knowledge of the symbiotic relationships between the immune system and bacteria in the gut, we could intervene and induce modifications aiming to reestablish balance and restore health.”

July 11, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

BBC News – 30,000-year-old giant virus ‘comes back to life’

Thinking this would be great fodder for an global warming/climate change exploitation movie. Something along the lines of the giant virus that killed human civilization…..

 

BBC News – 30,000-year-old giant virus ‘comes back to life’.

From the July 2014 article

An ancient virus has “come back to life” after lying dormant for at least 30,000 years, scientists say.

It was found frozen in a deep layer of the Siberian permafrost, but after it thawed it became infectious once again.

The French scientists say the contagion poses no danger to humans or animals, but other viruses could be unleashed as the ground becomes exposed.

The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Professor Jean-Michel Claverie, from the National Centre of Scientific Research (CNRS) at the University of Aix-Marseille in France, said: “This is the first time we’ve seen a virus that’s still infectious after this length of time.”

Biggest virus

The ancient pathogen was discovered buried 30m (100ft) down in the frozen ground.

Called Pithovirus sibericum, it belongs to a class of giant viruses that were discovered 10 years ago.

Pithovirus sibericumThe virus infects amoebas but does not attack human or animal cells

These are all so large that, unlike other viruses, they can be seen under a microscope. And this one, measuring 1.5 micrometres in length, is the biggest that has ever been found.

The last time it infected anything was more than 30,000 years ago, but in the laboratory it has sprung to life once again.

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

Neuroreductionism about sex and love

Neuroreductionism about sex and love | Brian D. Earp – Academia.edu.

Excerpt from the 2014 paper **

Abstract
“Neuroreductionism” is the tendency to reduce complex mental phenomena to brainstates, confusing correlation for physical causation. In this paper, we illustrate thedangers of this popular neuro-fallacy, by looking at an example drawn from the media: astory about “hypoactive sexual desire disorder” in women. We discuss the role of folkdualism in perpetuating such a confusion, and draw some conclusions about the role of“brain scans” in our understanding of romantic love.
* * *There has been a surge of interest in recent years in “the neuroscience of love.” Bylooking at images of people’s brains when they are gazing pictures of their romantic partner, forexample, and comparing those against images of the same people looking at pictures of aplatonic friend, scientists have begun to construct a picture of “what is going on in our brains”when we we’re in love. They’re also starting to identify a number of brain chemicals—such asoxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin—that seem to play in role in whether and how we formromantic and other social attachments.
For some people, this research is exciting—opening upnew frontiers for how we understand some of our most basic human experiences. For others, it’sa little bit unsettling. Doesn’t it suggest that “love”—our most prized and mysterious emotion—is really just a bunch of stupid brain chemicals swirling around in our skulls?The answer is yes and no.
At one level of description,everything that we experience,from, yes, falling in love, to, say, getting a stomach ache after eating a burrito, is (at least in principle) explainable in terms of microscopic events playing out between our neurons. But there are many different levels of description—including psychological, social, cultural, and even philosophical—that are just as important if we want to have a more complete understanding ofthe sorts of things that matter to us in our daily existence.
“Brain chemicals” only get us so far…….
***
Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 5.45.26 AM

July 2, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] BBC – Future – Does wearing glasses weaken your eyesight?

BBC – Future – Does wearing glasses weaken your eyesight?.

From the May 2014 article

…A study from Nigeria published last year found 64% of students believed that wearing glasses can damage eyes. Research in the Indian state of Karnataka put the figure at 30%, and in Pakistan 69% of people feel the same way. In Brazil, even medical staff believed that your eyes would gradually get weaker as a consequence of wearing glasses. Is there any evidence to suggest they are right?

There are, of course, two very different reasons why people wear glasses – short-sightedness, or myopia, where things in the distance are blurry; and long-sightedness, or hyperopia, where you can’t focus on things close up. Long-sightedness is often age-related: many people begin noticing in their 40-50s that it’s difficult to read in low lighting. As we age the lenses in our eyes gradually stiffen, making it harder to adjust to different distances. When people get to the stage where their arms aren’t long enough to hold a book or menu far enough away to focus on the text, they opt for reading glasses.

What’s surprising is how few trials have been conducted on the prolonged effect of wearing glasses. And from what we know there’s no persuasive evidence that wearing reading glasses affects your eyesight….

July 2, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

snopes.com: Reuse of Plastic Bottles

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 4.53.47 AM

snopes.com: Reuse of Plastic Bottles.

From the 13 April 2004 article

….such claims are inaccurate on two counts: DEHA is not used in the manufacture of PET bottles (nor is it created through the breakdown of such bottles), and DEHA is not classified as a human carcinogen:

DEHA is neither regulated nor classified as a human carcinogen by the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, the National Toxicology Program or the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the leading authorities on carcinogenic substances.

In 1991, on the basis of very limited data, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classified DEHA as a “possible human carcinogen.” However, in 1995, EPA again evaluated the science and concluded that ” … overall, the evidence is too limited to establish that DEHA is likely to cause cancer.”

Further, DEHA is not inherent in PET as a raw material, byproduct or decomposition product.

Moreover, DEHA has been cleared by FDA for food-contact applications and would not pose a health risk even if it were present.

Finally, in June 2003, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research conducted a scientific study of migration in new and reused plastic water bottles from three countries. The Swiss study did not find DEHA at concentrations significantly above the background levels detected in distilled water, indicating DEHA was unlikely to have migrated from the bottles. The study concluded that the levels of DEHA were distinctly below the World Health Organization guidelines for safe drinking water.

The American Cancer Society also debunked such claims, stating:

In fact, DEHA is not inherent in the plastic used to make these bottles, and even if it was the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says DEHA “cannot reasonably be anticipated to cause cancer, teratogenic effects, immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity, gene mutations, liver, kidney, reproductive, or developmental toxicity or other serious or irreversible chronic health effects.” Meanwhile, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), says diethylhexyl adipate “is not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans.”

As for the notion that freezing water in plastic bottles releases dioxin, the American Chemical Council asserted:

There simply is no scientific basis to support the claim that PET bottles will release dioxin when frozen. Dioxins are a family of chemical compounds that are produced by combustion at extremely high temperatures. They can only be formed at temperatures well above 700 degrees Fahrenheit; they cannot be formed at room temperature or in freezing temperatures. Moreover, there is no reasonable scientific basis for expecting dioxins to be present in plastic food or beverage containers in the first place.

Johns Hopkins researcher Dr. Rolf Halden also said of such claims that:

Q: What do you make of this recent email warning that claims dioxins can be released by freezing water in plastic bottles?

A: This is an urban legend. There are no dioxins in plastics. In addition, freezing actually works against the release of chemicals. Chemicals do not diffuse as readily in cold temperatures, which would limit chemical release if there were dioxins in plastic, and we don’t think there are.

Dr. Halden did note that drinking water from plastic bottles that had been exposed to high temperatures could be problematic, though:

There is another group of chemicals, called phthalates that are sometimes added to plastics to make them flexible and less brittle. Phthalates are environmental contaminants that can exhibit hormone-like behavior by acting as endocrine disruptors in humans and animals. If you heat up plastics, you could increase the leaching of phthalates from the containers into water and food.

Another common type of plastic bottle is made with bisphenol A, also known as BPA. These products are typically rigid plastic bottles intended for multiple re-use, such as baby bottles or water bottles carried by cyclists. Concerns about tests that may link BPA ingestion with cancer and reproductive damage in some animals and the possibility that BPA could leach out of plastic bottles and into the liquids they contain has led to bans on the use of BPA in plastic products intended for children (such as baby bottles), and has prompted some consumers to seek out non-BPA alternatives.
Read more at http://www.snopes.com/medical/toxins/plasticbottles.asp#uD3X2UPBl0L8LhsG.99

July 2, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press Release] A milestone in protection from influenza

A milestone in protection from influenza.

From the 17 June 2014 HHS press release

A statement from Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) Director and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) Robin Robinson, Ph.D.

This week, our nation reached a milestone in battling influenza, with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s first approval to manufacture seasonal influenza vaccine using cell-based technology in a U.S. facility. That facility, owned by Novartis of Basel, Switzerland, and located in Holly Springs, N.C., now can manufacture cell-based vaccine against seasonal as well as pandemic influenza viruses. This new capability demonstrates the effectiveness of a multi-use approach to emergency preparedness.

…..

 

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

[Reblog] Marijuana’s Clinical Risks, Benefits, and Uncertainties

Marijuana’s Clinical Risks, Benefits, and Uncertainties.

From the Director’s comments

Jerome Groopman, M.D., Harvard University Medical School, notes there is recent clinical evidence regarding marijuana’s health risks, benefits, tradeoffs, as well as uncertainties. Dr. Groopman, who often writes about biology, health, and medicine for lay audiences, adds the supporting evidence on all sides is important in view of current efforts to make marijuana legal for medicinal and/or recreational use across the U.S.

Currently, marijuana is available for medicinal use in 20 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Colorado now permits the sale of marijuana for recreational use (in small quantities). The state of Washington also will permit the sale of marijuana (or cannabis) for recreational use (also in small quantities) for the first time this spring.

Dr. Groopman, an internist, reports two systematic reviews (involving about 6,100 patients with a variety of medical conditions) suggest marijuana is useful to treat a number of diseases and conditions including: anorexia, nausea and vomiting, glaucoma, and irritable bowel disease. Marijuana also is clinically useful to treat: muscle spasticity, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Tourette’s syndrome, and symptoms of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).

However, Dr. Groopman emphasizes there is a tradeoff of health risks versus benefits from marijuana use — similar to other medical drugs and procedures. For example, he notes current evidence suggests marijuana’s clinical risks include: decreased reaction time, reduced attention and concentration, a decline in short term memory, and an ability to assess external risks.

Dr. Groopman, who is a member of the Institute of Medicine, adds one study found marijuana impaired the performance of pilots on a flight simulator for as much as 24 hours. Similarly, Dr. Groopman notes studies on drivers suggest a strong association between cannabis and collisions. He adds research suggests drivers who use marijuana are two to seven times more likely to be responsible for accidents compared to motorists who do not use drugs or alcohol.

In addition, Dr. Groopman reports some evidence suggests a statistical association between marijuana use and the development of schizophrenia and other psychosis later in life. Dr. Groopman reports these findings are based on meta-analyses (from studies of the health records of young persons in Sweden, New Zealand, and Holland, who did and did not smoke marijuana).

Dr. Groopman explains the latter research does not suggest there is a causal link between marijuana use and psychosis’ development. Dr. Groopman, who has published five books about health and medicine, argues the state of current evidence suggests a need for more definitive research (via double blind, randomized, placebo-controlled approaches) to better assess the possible relationship between marijuana and psychosis’ development.

Moreover, Dr. Groopman notes there is some evidence that marijuana is associated with possible addiction and compulsive cravings that foster user dependence. Nevertheless, he reports other street drugs, such as cocaine or heroin, seem to retain comparatively higher risks of user addiction and dependence than marijuana.

Dr. Groopman continues the current evidence is somewhat equivocal about marijuana’s impact on pain reduction. He writes (and we quote): “While chronic pain seems amenable to amelioration by marijuana, its impact on reducing acute pain, such as after surgery, is minimal’ (end of quote).

Overall, Dr. Groopman explains if the arguments of marijuana’s critics and supporters are assessed through a clinical research perspective, some positions may not be supported by a robust evidence-base, some positions may be one-dimensional, and others might or might not be sustained. He concludes (and we quote): ‘.. as more studies are conducted on marijuana for medical or recreational uses, opponents and enthusiasts may both discover that they were neither entirely right nor entirely wrong’ (end of quote).

The essay, which includes a review of recent books about marijuana’s health risks and benefits, can be found at: nybooks.com.

Meanwhile, a website (from the National Institute on Drug Abuse) devoted to the topic whether marijuana is or is not medicine is available in the ‘related issues’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s marijuana health topic page. Some tips for parents about teen and adult marijuana use (also from the National Institute on Drug Abuse) are found in the ‘overviews’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s marijuana health topic page.

MedlinePlus.gov’s marijuana health topic page also provides links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the ‘journal articles’ section. Links to relevant clinical trials that may be occurring in your area are available in the ‘clinical trials’ section. You can sign up to receive updates about marijuana and health as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.

To find MedlinePlus.gov’s marijuana topic page type ‘marijuana’ in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov’s home page. Then, click on ‘marijuana (National Library of Medicine).’ MedlinePlus.gov also has health topic pages on drug abuse and substance abuse problems.

Marijuana Small Amount

Marijuana Small Amount (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

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May 10, 2014 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Cannabis chemistry: How scientists test pot for potency and safety (video)

From the 22 April 2014 EurkAlert

WASHINGTON, April 22, 2014 — Marijuana is in the headlines as more and more states legalize it for medicinal use or decriminalize it entirely. In the American Chemical Society’s (ACS’) newest Reactions video, we explain the chemistry behind marijuana’s high, and investigate what scientists are doing to ensure that legalized weed won’t send users on a bad trip. The video is available at http://youtu.be/4ukdUDCE56c

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

[Press release] The Lancet: Reducing just 6 risk factors could prevent 37 million deaths from chronic diseases over 15 years

From the 2 May 2014 press release

Reducing or curbing just six modifiable risk factors—tobacco use, harmful alcohol use, salt intake, high blood pressure and blood sugar, and obesity—to globally-agreed target levels could prevent more than 37 million premature deaths over 15 years, from the four main non-communicable diseases (NCDs; cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory disease, cancers, and diabetes) according to new research published in The Lancet.

Worryingly, the findings indicate that not reaching these targets would result in 38.8 million deaths in 2025 from the four main NCDs, 10.5 million deaths more than the 28.3 million who died in 2010.

This is the first study to analyse the impact that reducing globally targeted risk factors will have on the UN’s 25×25 target to reduce premature deaths from NCDs by 25% relative to 2010 levels by 2025.

Using country-level data on deaths and risk factors and epidemiological models, Professor Majid Ezzati from Imperial College London, UK, and colleagues estimate the number of deaths that could be prevented between 2010 and 2025 by reducing the burden of each of the six risk factors to globally-agreed target levels—tobacco use (30% reduction and a more ambitious 50% reduction), alcohol use (10% reduction), salt intake (30% reduction), high blood pressure (25% reduction), and halting the rise in the prevalence of obesity and diabetes.

Overall, the findings suggest that meeting the targets for all six risk factors would reduce the risk of dying prematurely from the four main NCDs by 22% in men and 19% for women in 2025 compared to what they were in 2010. Worldwide, this improvement is equivalent to delaying or preventing at least 16 million deaths in people aged 30󈞲 years and 21 million in those aged 70 years or older over 15 years.

The authors predict that the largest benefits will come from reducing high blood pressure and tobacco use. They calculate that a more ambitious 50% reduction in prevalence of smoking by 2025, rather than the current target of 30%, would reduce the risk of dying prematurely by more than 24% in men and by 20% in women.

…….

 

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

[News article] Edible flowers may inhibit chronic diseases — ScienceDaily

 

Salad with candied walnuts, persimmon slice, c...

Salad with candied walnuts, persimmon slice, cheese (feta?), dried cranberries and pansies. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Edible flowers may inhibit chronic diseases — ScienceDaily.

From the April news article

Common edible flowers in China are rich in phenolics and have excellent antioxidant capacity, research has shown. Edible flowers, which have been used in the culinary arts in China for centuries, are receiving renewed interest. Flowers can be used as an essential ingredient in a recipe, provide seasoning to a dish, or simply be used as a garnish. Some of these flowers contain phenolics that have been correlated with anti-inflammatory activity and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.

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May 2, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Nutrition | , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] Marijuana use may increase heart complications in young, middle-aged adults — ScienceDaily

 

English: Close up shot of some high quality ma...

English: Close up shot of some high quality marijuana. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Marijuana use may increase heart complications in young, middle-aged adults — ScienceDaily.ews

From the April report

Marijuana use may result in heart-related complications in young and middle-aged adults. Nearly 2 percent of the health complications from marijuana use reported were cardiovascular related. A quarter of these complications resulted in death, according to a study. Surveillance of marijuana-related reports of cardiovascular disorders should continue and more research needs to look at how marijuana use might trigger cardiovascular events, researchers say.

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May 2, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

[Report] 40% of Children Miss Out on the Parenting Needed to Succeed in Life

Janice Flahiff:

Father and child, Dhaka.

Father and child, Dhaka. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Originally posted on Full Text Reports...:

40% of Children Miss Out on the Parenting Needed to Succeed in Life
Source> Sutton Trust

Four in ten babies don’t develop the strong emotional bonds – what psychologists call “secure attachment” – with their parents that are crucial to success later in life. Disadvantaged children are more likely to face educational and behavioural problems when they grow older as a result, new Sutton Trust research finds today.

The review of international studies of attachment, Baby Bonds, by Sophie Moullin (Princeton University), Professor Jane Waldfogel (Colombia University and the London School of Economics) and Dr Liz Washbrook (University of Bristol), finds infants aged under three who do not form strong bonds with their mother or father are more likely to suffer from aggression, defiance and hyperactivity when they get older.

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May 2, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] In the cloud: How coughs and sneezes float farther than you think

From the 8 April 2014 MIT news article

Novel study uncovers the way coughs and sneezes stay airborne for long distances.

The next time you feel a sneeze coming on, raise your elbow to cover up that multiphase turbulent buoyant cloud you’re about to expel.

That’s right: A novel study by MIT researchers shows that coughs and sneezes have associated gas clouds that keep their potentially infectious droplets aloft over much greater distances than previously realized.

“When you cough or sneeze, you see the droplets, or feel them if someone sneezes on you,” says John Bush, a professor of applied mathematics at MIT, and co-author of a new paper on the subject. “But you don’t see the cloud, the invisible gas phase. The influence of this gas cloud is to extend the range of the individual droplets, particularly the small ones.”

Indeed, the study finds, the smaller droplets that emerge in a cough or sneeze may travel five to 200 times further than they would if those droplets simply moved as groups of unconnected particles — which is what previous estimates had assumed. The tendency of these droplets to stay airborne, resuspended by gas clouds, means that ventilation systems may be more prone to transmitting potentially infectious particles than had been suspected.

With this in mind, architects and engineers may want to re-examine the design of workplaces and hospitals, or air circulation on airplanes, to reduce the chances of airborne pathogens being transmitted among people….

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May 2, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Pitfalls of retrospective database studies

Originally posted on Health Services Authors:

As you know a part of my work consists to participate in studies based on the extraction from retrospective databases and the analysis of the informations thus retrieved. The eligibility of the beneficiaries to the provision that represents the study’s outcome is always a major concern. There is two explanations for a beneficiary not having access to a care according to the data retrieved from the reimbursement base: either a real lack of access or a non eligibility of the care for a record in the reimbursement data base (for example if the insured is covered by another insurance or has lost his coverage and has exited from the health plan)*. I have always to keep in mind that I work on secondary data which are only a reflection of the primary data the reality of which I try to apprehend.
The dilemma is pretty well addressed in this article:

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March 31, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , | Leave a comment

[News item] Religion, spirituality influence health in different but complementary ways — ScienceDaily

Religion, spirituality influence health in different but complementary ways — ScienceDaily.

Date:
March 28, 2014
Source:
Oregon State University
Summary:
Religion and spirituality have distinct but complementary influences on health, new research indicates. A new theoretical model defines the two distinct pathways. “Religion helps regulate behavior and health habits, while spirituality regulates your emotions, how you feel,” explains one of the authors.

 

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March 31, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychology | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News Article] Gulf war illness not in veterans’ heads but in their mitochondria — ScienceDaily

Disclaimer: My husband’s cousin developed diabetes after serving in Afghanistan. Diabetes did not run in the family nor did he have a lifestyle that predisposed him to this disease (in our opinion, of course).  The VA did pay for his treatment, no questions asked.
Am thankful that research is being done to show just how war related chemicals, and even preventive agents are very harmful and deadly.

 

Gulf war illness not in veterans’ heads but in their mitochondria — ScienceDaily.


Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 5.25.56 AM

Date:
March 27, 2014
Source:
University of California, San Diego Health Sciences
Summary:
Veterans of the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War who suffer from “Gulf War illness” have impaired function of mitochondria – the energy powerhouses of cells, researchers have demonstrated for the first time. The findings could help lead to new treatments benefitting affected individuals — and to new ways of protecting servicepersons (and civilians) from similar problems in the future.

Golomb noted that impaired mitochondrial function accounts for numerous features of Gulf War illness, including symptoms that have been viewed as perplexing or paradoxical.
“The classic presentation for mitochondrial illness involves multiple symptoms spanning many domains, similar to what we see in Gulf War illness. These classically include fatigue, cognitive and other brain-related challenges, muscle problems and exercise intolerance, with neurological and gastrointestinal problems also common.”
There are other similarities between patients with mitochondrial dysfunction and those suffering from Gulf War illness: Additional symptoms appear in smaller subsets of patients; varying patterns of symptoms and severity among individuals; different latency periods across symptoms, or times when symptoms first appear; routine blood tests that appear normal.
“Some have sought to ascribe Gulf War illness to stress,” said Golomb, “but stress has proven not to be an independent predictor of the condition. On the other hand, Gulf veterans are known to have been widely exposed to acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, a chemical class found in organophosphate and carbamate pesticides, nerve gas and nerve gas pre-treatment pills given to troops.
“These inhibitors have known mitochondrial toxicity and generally show the strongest and most consistent relationship to predicting Gulf War illness. Mitochondrial problems account for which exposures relate to Gulf War illness, which symptoms predominate, how Gulf War illness symptoms manifest themselves, what objective tests have been altered, and why routine blood tests have not been useful.”

Civilians Also Trace Illness to Work in Gulf War

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March 31, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Stigmas, once evolutionarily sound, are now bad health strategies

Cannot but think of the New Testament headings, especially of lepers.

Stigmas, once evolutionarily sound, are now bad health strategies.

Stigmatization may have once served to protect early humans from infectious diseases, but that strategy may do more harm than good for modern humans, according to Penn State researchers.

“The things that made stigmas a more functional strategy thousands of years ago rarely exist,” said Rachel Smith, associate professor of communication arts and sciences and human development and family studies. “Now, it won’t promote positive health behavior and, in many cases, it could actually make the situation worse.”

Stigmatizing and ostracizing members stricken with infectious diseases may have helped groups of early humans survive, said Smith, who worked with David Hughes, assistant professor of entomology and biology. Infectious agents thrive by spreading through populations, according to Smith and Hughes, who published an essay in the current issue of Communication Studies.

For early humans, a person who was stigmatized by the group typically suffered a quick death, often from a lack of food or from falling prey to a predator. Groups did not mix on a regular basis, so another group was unlikely to adopt an ostracized person. Infectious disease stigmas may have evolved as a social defense for group-living species, and had adaptive functions when early humans had these interaction patterns.

However, modern society is much larger, more mobile and safer from predators, eliminating the effectiveness of this strategy, according to Smith.

“In modern times, we mix more regularly, travel more widely, and also there are so many people now,” Smith said. “These modern interaction patterns make stigmatization unproductive and often create more problems.”

Hughes studies disease in another successful society, the ants, which have strong stigma and ostracism strategies that serve group interests at the cost to individuals.

“Ants are often held up as paragons of society and efficiency but we certainly do not want to emulate how they treat their sick members, which can be brutal,” said Hughes.

Stigmatization could actually make infectious disease management worse. The threat of ostracization may make people less likely to seek out medical treatment. If people refuse to seek treatment and go about their daily routines, they may cause the disease to spread farther and faster, according to the researchers, who are both investigators in the Center of Infectious Disease Dynamics in Penn State Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences.

Stigmatization may harm a person’s ability to survive a disease. Ostracization may increase stress, lessening the body’s ability to fight off diseases and infections.

“People are very sensitive to rejection and humans worry about being ostracized,” said Smith. “These worries and experiences with rejection can cause problematic levels of stress and, unfortunately, stress can compromise the immune system’s ability to fight off an infection, accelerating disease progression.”

Once applied, a stigma is difficult to remove, even when there are obvious signs that the person was never infected or is cured. Health communicators should make sure they intentionally monitor if their public communication or intervention materials create or bolster stigmas before using them, Smith said.

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March 31, 2014 Posted by | health care, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Obesity: Not just what you eat

Obesity: Not just what you eat.

Tel Aviv University research shows fat mass in cells expands with disuse

Over 35 percent of American adults and 17 percent of American children are considered obese, according to the latest survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Associated with diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and even certain types of cancer, obesity places a major burden on the health care system and economy. It’s usually treated through a combination of diet, nutrition, exercise, and other techniques.

To understand how obesity develops, Prof. Amit Gefen, Dr. Natan Shaked and Ms. Naama Shoham of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, together with Prof. Dafna Benayahu of TAU’s Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, used state-of-the-art technology to analyze the accumulation of fat in the body at the cellular level. According to their findings, nutrition is not the only factor driving obesity. The mechanics of “cellular expansion” plays a primary role in fat production, they discovered.

By exposing the mechanics of fat production at a cellular level, the researchers offer insight into the development of obesity. And with a better understanding of the process, the team is now creating a platform to develop new therapies and technologies to prevent or even reverse fat gain. The research was published this week in the Biophysical Journal.

Getting to the bottom of obesity

“Two years ago, Dafna and I were awarded a grant from the Israel Science Foundation to investigate how mechanical forces increase the fat content within fat cells. We wanted to find out why a sedentary lifestyle results in obesity, other than making time to eat more hamburgers,” said Prof. Gefen. “We found that fat cells exposed to sustained, chronic pressure — such as what happens to the buttocks when you’re sitting down — experienced accelerated growth of lipid droplets, which are molecules that carry fats.

“Contrary to muscle and bone tissue, which get mechanically weaker with disuse, fat depots in fat cells expanded when they experienced sustained loading by as much as 50%. This was a substantial discovery.”

The researchers discovered that, once it accumulated lipid droplets, the structure of a cell and its mechanics changed dramatically. Using a cutting-edge atomic force microscope and other microscopy technologies, they were able to observe the material composition of the transforming fat cell, which became stiffer as it expanded. This stiffness alters the environment of surrounding cells by physically deforming them, pushing them to change their own shape and composition.

“When they gain mass and change their composition, expanding cells deform neighboring cells, forcing them to differentiate and expand,” said Prof. Gefen. “This proves that you’re not just what you eat. You’re also what you feel — and what you’re feeling is the pressure of increased weight and the sustained loading in the tissues of the buttocks of the couch potato.”

The more you know …

“If we understand the etiology of getting fatter, of how cells in fat tissues synthesize nutritional components under a given mechanical loading environment, then we can think about different practical solutions to obesity,” Prof. Gefen says. “If you can learn to control the mechanical environment of cells, you can then determine how to modulate the fat cells to produce less fat.”

The team hopes that its observations can serve as a point of departure for further research into the changing cellular environment and different stimulations that lead to increased fat production.

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

[Press release] Future generations could inherit drug and alcohol use

Future generations could inherit drug and alcohol use.

HUNTSVILLE, TX (3/20/14) — Parents who use alcohol, marijuana, and drugs have higher frequencies of children who pick up their habits, according to a study from Sam Houston State University.

The study, “Intergenerational Continuity of Substance Use,” found that when compared to parents who did not use substances, parents who used alcohol, marijuana, and other illicit drugs were significantly more likely to have children who used those same drugs. Specifically, the odds of children’s alcohol use were five times higher if their parents used alcohol; the odds of children’s marijuana use were two times higher if their parents used marijuana; and the odds of children’s other drug use were two times higher if their parent used other drugs. Age and other demographic factors also were important predictors of substance use.

HarmCausedByDrugsTable

HarmCausedByDrugsTable (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Source “Scoring drugs”, The Economist, data from “Drug harms in the UK: a multi-criteria decision analysis”, by David Nutt, Leslie King and Lawrence Phillips, on behalf of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs. The Lancet. 2010 Nov 6;376(9752):1558-65. d

“The study is rare in that it assesses the extent to which parent’s substance use predicts use by their children within age-equivalent and developmentally-specific stages of the life course,” said Dr. Kelly Knight of the College Criminal Justice’s Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology. “If a parent uses drugs, will their children grow up and use drugs? When did the parent use and when did their children use? There appears to be an intergenerational relationship. The effect is not as strong as one might believe from popular discourse, but when you measure it by developmental stage, it can provide important information on its impact in adolescence and early adulthood, specifically.”

The study examined the patterns of substance use by families over a 27-year period. It documents substance use over time, giving a more complete understanding of when substance use occurs, when it declines, and the influence of parents in the process.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2011, about 22.6 million Americans age 12 years and older said they used illicit drugs in the last month. Other studies show that drug use is associated with reduced academic achievement, lower employment rates, poorer health, dependency on public assistance, neighborhood disorganization, and an increase in the likelihood of involvement in crime, criminal victimization and incarceration. The cost of drug use in this country from lost productivity, healthcare, and criminal justice is nearly $600 billion.

By plotting the life course of substance use within families, the study may be a valuable tool for the development of intervention programs. The study suggests that if substance use can be curtailed in adolescence, it may help to curb its prevalence in future generations.

The study also helps pinpoint the use of different illicit substances over the span of a lifetime, including its emergence in adolescence and when that use may decline. For example, marijuana and other drug use is most prevalent in adolescence and generally declines before or at age 24. Alcohol use continues to increase throughout adolescence and young adulthood, and then remains relatively steady over the lifetime.

These findings come from the National Youth Survey Family Study, which has collected data from three generations over a 27-year period. The analysis is based on 655 parents and 1,227 offspring from 1977 to 2004.

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

[Press release] Can ‘love hormone’ protect against addiction?

Can ‘love hormone’ protect against addiction?.

Addictive behavior such as drug and alcohol abuse could be associated with poor development of the so-called “love hormone” system in our bodies during early childhood, according to researchers at the University of Adelaide. The groundbreaking idea has resulted from a review of worldwide research into oxytocin, known as the “love hormone” or “bonding drug” because of its important role in enhancing social interactions, maternal behavior and partnership. This month’s special edition of the international journal Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior deals with the current state of research linking oxytocin and addiction, and has been guest edited by Dr Femke Buisman-Pijlman from the University of Adelaide’s School of Medical Sciences. Dr Buisman-Pijlman, who has a background in both addiction studies and family studies, says some people’s lack of resilience to addictive behaviors may be linked to poor development of their oxytocin systems.

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 7.35.56 AM
“We know that newborn babies already have levels of oxytocin in their bodies, and this helps to create the all-important bond between a mother and her child. But our oxytocin systems aren’t fully developed when we’re born – they don’t finish developing until the age of three, which means our systems are potentially subject to a range of influences both external and internal,” Dr Buisman-Pijlman says. She says the oxytocin system develops mainly based on experiences. “The main factors that affect our oxytocin systems are genetics, gender and environment. You can’t change the genes you’re born with, but environmental factors play a substantial role in the development of the oxytocin system until our systems are fully developed,” Dr Buisman-Pijlman says. IMAGE: This photo shows Dr. Femke Buisman-Pijlman from the University of Adelaide. She is the guest editor of the April 2014 edition of Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior, which is focused on… Click here for more information. “Previous research has shown that there is a high degree of variability in people’s oxytocin levels. We’re interested in how and why people have such differences in oxytocin, and what we can do about it to have a beneficial impact on people’s health and wellbeing,” she says. She says studies show that some risk factors for drug addiction already exist at four years of age. “And because the hardware of the oxytocin system finishes developing in our bodies at around age three, this could be a critical window to study. Oxytocin can reduce the pleasure of drugs and feeling of stress, but only if the system develops well.” Her theory is that adversity in early life is key to the impaired development of the oxytocin system. “This adversity could take the form of a difficult birth, disturbed bonding or abuse, deprivation, or severe infection, to name just a few factors,” Dr Buisman-Pijlman says. “Understanding what occurs with the oxytocin system during the first few years of life could help us to unravel this aspect of addictive behavior and use that knowledge for treatment and prevention.”

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

[Press release] Honey is a new approach to fighting antibiotic resistance: How sweet it is!

Honey is a new approach to fighting antibiotic resistance: How sweet it is!.

DALLAS, March 16, 2014 — Honey, that delectable condiment for breads and fruits, could be one sweet solution to the serious, ever-growing problem of bacterial resistance to antibiotics, researchers said here today.

Medical professionals sometimes use honey successfully as a topical dressing, but it could play a larger role in fighting infections, the researchers predicted. Their study was part of the 247th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society.

The meeting, attended by thousands of scientists, features more than 10,000 reports on new advances in science and other topics. It is being held at the Dallas Convention Center and area hotels through Thursday.

Honey Reclamation Program

Honey Reclamation Program (Photo credit: The Rocketeer)

“The unique property of honey lies in its ability to fight infection on multiple levels, making it more difficult for bacteria to develop resistance,” said study leader Susan M. Meschwitz, Ph.D. That is, it uses a combination of weapons, including hydrogen peroxide, acidity, osmotic effect, high sugar concentration and polyphenols — all of which actively kill bacterial cells, she explained. The osmotic effect, which is the result of the high sugar concentration in honey, draws water from the bacterial cells, dehydrating and killing them.

In addition, several studies have shown that honey inhibits the formation of biofilms, or communities of slimy disease-causing bacteria, she said. “Honey may also disrupt quorum sensing, which weakens bacterial virulence, rendering the bacteria more susceptible to conventional antibiotics,” Meschwitz said. Quorum sensing is the way bacteria communicate with one another, and may be involved in the formation of biofilms. In certain bacteria, this communication system also controls the release of toxins, which affects the bacteria’s pathogenicity, or their ability to cause disease.

Meschwitz, who is with Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I., said another advantage of honey is that unlike conventional antibiotics, it doesn’t target the essential growth processes of bacteria. The problem with this type of targeting, which is the basis of conventional antibiotics, is that it results in the bacteria building up resistance to the drugs.

Honey is effective because it is filled with healthful polyphenols, or antioxidants, she said. These include the phenolic acids, caffeic acid, p-coumaric acid and ellagic acid, as well as many flavonoids. “Several studies have demonstrated a correlation between the non-peroxide antimicrobial and antioxidant activities of honey and the presence of honey phenolics,” she added. A large number of laboratory and limited clinical studies have confirmed the broad-spectrum antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties of honey, according to Meschwitz.

She said that her team also is finding that honey has antioxidant properties and is an effective antibacterial. “We have run standard antioxidant tests on honey to measure the level of antioxidant activity,” she explained. “We have separated and identified the various antioxidant polyphenol compounds. In our antibacterial studies, we have been testing honey’s activity against E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, among others.”

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

[News item] Ruling with an iron fist could make your child pack on pounds — ScienceDaily

Ruling with an iron fist could make your child pack on pounds — ScienceDaily.

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 5.41.28 AM

Date:
March 19, 2014
Source:
American Heart Association
Summary:
Kids whose parents are demanding but not emotionally responsive are about one-third more likely to be obese than kids whose parents set healthy boundaries, are affectionate and discuss behavior. Researchers compared kids whose parents are generally affectionate, have reasonable discussions about behavior with their child and set healthy boundaries (authoritative) with those whose parents were strict about limits without much dialogue or affection (authoritarian).

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

[News story] Commonly used pain relievers have added benefit of fighting bacterial infection — ScienceDaily

Commonly used pain relievers have added benefit of fighting bacterial infection — ScienceDaily.

Summary:
Some commonly used drugs that combat aches and pains, fever, and inflammation are also thought to have the ability to kill bacteria. New research reveals that these drugs, better known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, act on bacteria in a way that is fundamentally different from current antibiotics. The discovery could open up new strategies for fighting drug-resistant infections and ‘superbugs.’

“We discovered that some anti-inflammatory drugs used in human and veterinary medicine have weak antibiotic activity and that they exert this secondary activity by preventing bacteria from copying their DNA, which they need to do in order to multiply,” explains senior author Dr. Aaron Oakley of the University of Wollongong, in Australia. The researchers analyzed three NSAIDs: bromofenac, carprofen, and vedaprofen. The more commonly known NSAIDs, which include aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen, were not tested.

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

Bayesian Reasoning, False Positives, and Breast Cancer

Originally posted on robertbyron22:

A nice introduction to probability, using an important example. [h/t Sobering Thoughts] Posted as another example of public health in action for Lexi who is considering a major in the topic, but thinks she is done with math.

I remember when the BRCA genes were discovered and first used in screening for cancer. Estimates were that approximately 10 times the number of the women who could possibly have developed breast cancer chose to have mastectomies. Many of these were undoubtedly prophylactic surgeries, but still … Now the test is recommended to be used in the context of family histories, rather than in testing the general population. Here is a current factsheet from the National Cancer Institute:

Who should consider genetic testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations?

Because harmful BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations are relatively rare in the general population, most experts agree that mutation testing of individuals…

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March 13, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eat less protein in middle age, more when over 65, experts suggest

Originally posted on Public Health View:

Low protein consumption in middle age and moderate to high consumption in older adults works best for health and longevity, researchers said in a new study. Adverse effects of proteins were mostly due to animal proteins rather than plant-based proteins, they added.

Image courtesy of Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The study, which included over 6,000 participants aged 50 and above, found that those aged 50-65 reporting high-protein diets had a 75% higher risk of death and 4 times the risk of cancer death than those who did not. Conversely, it found that this risk turned into a protective effect for those who were 65 and older. These older individuals had a lower risk of death overall and death from cancer if they consumed more proteins.

Both adult groups, however, were 5 times more at risk of death from diabetes if their lifestyle included a high-protein diet.

Also, when animal-based…

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March 13, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Nutrition | | Leave a comment

Accelerating Medicines Partnership – National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Accelerating Medicines Partnership – National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Great component – sharing data! Note below the bolded underlined portion

From the 4 March 2014 press release

The Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP) is a bold new venture between the NIH, 10 biopharmaceutical companies and several non-profit organizations to transform the current model for developing new diagnostics and treatments by jointly identifying and validating promising biological targets of disease. The ultimate goal is to increase the number of new diagnostics and therapies for patients and reduce the time and cost of developing them.

AMP will begin with three to five year pilot projects in three disease areas:

For each pilot, scientists from NIH and industry have developed research plans aimed at characterizing effective molecular indicators of disease called biomarkers and distinguishing biological targets most likely to respond to new therapies.

Through this cross-sector partnership, which will be managed through the Foundation for the NIH (FNIH), NIH and industry partners are sharing expertise and resources — $230 million — in an integrated governance structure that enables the best informed contributions to science from all participants. A critical component of the partnership is that industry partners have agreed to make the AMP data and analyses publicly accessible to the broad biomedical community. These pilot projects will set the stage for broadening AMP to other diseases and conditions.

AMP Partners

Government Industry Non-Profit Organizations
FDA

NIH

AbbVie

Biogen Idec

Bristol-Myers Squibb

GlaxoSmithKline

Johnson & Johnson

Lilly

Merck

Pfizer

Sanofi

Takeda

Alliance for Lupus Research

Alzheimer’s Association

American Diabetes Association

Lupus Foundation of America

Lupus Research Institute

Foundation for the NIH

Geoffrey Beene Foundation

PhRMA

Rheumatology Research Foundation

USAgainstAlzheimer’s

Budget: 5 years [$230 Million (Rounded) Total Project Funding]

($Millions) Total Project Total NIH Total Industry
Alzheimer’s Disease 129.5 67.6 61.9
Type 2 Diabetes 58.4 30.4 28
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus 41.6 20.9 20.7
Total 229.5 118.9 110.6

 

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March 13, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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