Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[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.

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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] MyChart use skyrocketing among cancer patients, UT Southwestern study finds

From the 9-Jul-2014 EurkAlert

 

 IMAGE: From left to right are: Drs. David Gerber and Simon J. Craddock Lee.

Click here for more information. 

DALLAS – July 9, 2014 – There has been a sharp increase in the number of cancer patients at UT Southwestern Medical Center using MyChart, the online, interactive service that allows patients to view laboratory and radiology results, communicate with their healthcare providers, schedule appointments, and renew prescriptions.

Over a six-year period, the number of patients actively using MyChart each year increased five-fold, while the number of total logins each year increased more than 10-fold, according to a study by Dr. David Gerber, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, and Dr. Simon J. Craddock Lee, Assistant Professor of Clinical Sciences.

“This pattern suggests that not only are far more patients using this technology, but also that they are using it more intensively,” Dr. Gerber said.

These findings, published in the Journal of Oncology Practice, are noteworthy because no prior study has systematically examined the use of electronic patient portals by patients with cancer, even though use of this technology is surging nationwide, creating new terrain in clinical care and doctor-patient relationships.

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In 2009, Congress allotted $27 billion to support the adoption of Electronic Medical Records. The Department of Health and Human Services began allocating the funding in 2011. UT Southwestern started offering these services years earlier.

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“I was struck by the immediacy of the uptake and the volume of use,” Dr. Gerber said. “I suspected that the volume would be high. I did not think that it was going to be multi-fold higher than other patient populations.”

Use of MyChart was greater among cancer patients than among another other patient groups except for children with life threatening medical conditions, according to the study.

“We undertook this study because we suspected that the volume of electronic portal use might be greater among patients with cancer than in other populations,” Dr. Gerber said.

While the study did not directly compare use patterns with non-cancer groups, the average use in the current study was four to eight times greater than has been reported previously in primary care, pediatric, surgical subspecialty, and other populations.

Dr. Gerber explained that patient use of electronic portals to receive and convey information may have particular implications in cancer care. Laboratory and radiology results may be more likely to represent significant clinical findings, such as disease progression.

“I think we are still learning how patients understand and use the complex medical data, such as scan reports, that they increasingly receive first-hand electronically,” Dr. Gerber said.

Furthermore, symptoms reported by patients with cancer may be more likely to represent medical urgencies. Notably, the study found that 30 percent of medical advice requests from patients were sent after clinic hours.

 

July 11, 2014 Posted by | health care | , , , , , | Leave a 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

[Reblog] 9 out of 10 health entries on Wikipedia are inaccurate, study finds

From the 14 May 2014 post at Venture Beat News

Millions of people around the world immediately go to the Web for information after feeling a mysterious ache, pain, rash, or bump. This often results in either a panic attack or a false sense of calm. Doctors have warned against this practice since the days of Netscape, and now a new report puts some science behind their fears.

Researchers at Campbell University in North Carolina compared Wikipedia entries on 10 of the costliest health problems with peer-reviewed medical research on the same illnesses. Those illnesses included heart disease, lung cancer, depression, and hypertension, among others.

The researchers found that nine out of the 10 Wikipedia entries studied contained inaccurate and sometimes dangerously misleading information. “Wikipedia articles … contain many errors when checked against standard peer-reviewed sources,” the report states. “Caution should be used when using Wikipedia to answer questions regarding patient care.”

At Wikipedia anybody can contribute to entries on health problems — no medical training (or even common sense) is required.

“While Wikipedia is a convenient tool for conducting research, from a public health standpoint patients should not use it as a primary resource because those articles do not go through the same peer-review process as medical journals,” said the report’s lead author, Dr. Robert Hasty in a statement.

And there’s a lot of health information on Wikipedia. The site contains more than 31 million entries, and at least 20,000 of them are health-related, the report says.

The study findings were published in this month’s Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. You can see the full text of the study here.

Via: Daily Mail

More about the companies and people from this article:

Wikipedia is a project operated by a non-profit organization, the Wikimedia Foundation, and created and maintained by a strong community of 80,000 international active volunteer editors. Founded in 2001 by Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia has be… read more »

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Related Resources

How to evaluate health information (flahiff.google.com)

Evaluating health information (MedlinePlus)

How to evaluate health information (NIH)

July 11, 2014 Posted by | Health Education (General Public) | , , , | Leave a comment

   

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