Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Some Health Research Should Focus On The Positive

Some Health Research Should Focus On The Positive

From the 2 March 2012 article at Medical News Today

Political Studies professor Colin Farrelly wants to see more research into remarkable examples of health – such as why some people live 100 years disease-free.

He describes the current pathology-based approach that emphasizes what causes specific diseases as “negative biology” and suggest more resources should be focused on “positive biology.”

“Currently the medical sciences presume that answering the question ‘what causes disease?’ is the most significant question to ask and answer,” says Professor Farrelly. “Positive biology encourages us to invest just as much time, energy and resources into understanding the causes of health and happiness. This more balanced approach might lead to significant medical breakthroughs.”

His research is currently focused on aging and longevity, an area he says is underfunded and often misunderstood. One of his recent papers urges the scientific community to address the obstacles facing researchers studying the biology of aging, because this research could help us learn how to slow the process down.

“Periodically we should stand back and consider the possibility that the questions we are trying the hardest to answer (such as what causes disease) are perhaps not the most important questions to answer.”

March 5, 2012 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | | Leave a comment

Effects of environmental toxicants reach down through generations

Effects of environmental toxicants reach down through generations

From the 2 March 2012 article at Science News Daily

 Washington State University researcher has demonstrated that a variety of environmental toxicants can have negative effects on not just an exposed animal but the next three generations of its offspring.

English: Environmental contamination with pest...

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The animal’s DNA sequence remains unchanged, but the compounds change the way genes turn on and off — the epigenetic effect studied at length by WSU molecular biologist Michael Skinner and expanded on in the current issue of the online journalPLoS ONE.

While Skinner’s earlier research has shown similar effects from a pesticide and fungicide, this is the first to show a greater variety of toxicants — including jet fuel, dioxin, plastics and the pesticides DEET and permethrin — promoting epigenetic disease across generations…

The field opens new ground in the study of how diseases develop. While toxicologists generally focus on animals exposed to a compound, Skinner’s work further demonstrates that diseases can also stem from older, ancestral exposures that are then mediated through epigenetic changes in sperm.

The study was funded by the U.S. Army to study pollutants that troops might be exposed to. Skinner and his colleagues exposed pregnant female rats to relatively high but non-lethal amounts of the compounds and tracked changes in three generations of offspring.

The researchers saw females reaching puberty earlier, increased rates in the decay and death of sperm cells and lower numbers of ovarian follicles that later become eggs. Future studies can use the molecular tools for risk assessment analysis

March 5, 2012 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cocoa may enhance skeletal muscle function

This image was selected as a picture of the we...

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March 5, 2012 Posted by | Nutrition | , | Leave a comment

Depression: An evolutionary byproduct of immune system?

Depression: An evolutionary byproduct of immune system?

From the 3 March 2012 article at Science News Daily

 Depression is common enough — afflicting one in ten adults in the United States — that it seems the possibility of depression must be “hard-wired” into our brains. This has led biologists to propose several theories to account for how depression, or behaviors linked to it, can somehow offer an evolutionary advantage

Some previous proposals for the role of depression in evolution have focused on how it affects behavior in a social context. A pair of psychiatrists addresses this puzzle in a different way, tying together depression and resistance to infection. They propose that genetic variations that promote depression arose during evolution because they helped our ancestors fight infection….

“The basic idea is that depression and the genes that promote it were very adaptive for helping people — especially young children — not die of infection in the ancestral environment, even if those same behaviors are not helpful in our relationships with other people,” Raison says.

Infection was the major cause of death in humans’ early history, so surviving infection was a key determinant in whether someone was able to pass on his or her genes. The authors propose that evolution and genetics have bound together depressive symptoms and physiological responses that were selected on the basis of reducing mortality from infection. Fever, fatigue/inactivity, social avoidance and anorexia can all be seen as adaptive behaviors in light of the need to contain infection, they write.

The theory provides a new explanation for why stress is a risk factor for depression. The link between stress and depression can be seen as the byproduct of a process that preactivates the immune system in anticipation of a wound, they write….

March 5, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , | Leave a comment

   

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