Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Head–banging tunes can have same effect as a warm hug

Head–banging tunes can have same effect as a warm hug.

heavy-metal-boy

From the 23 June 2015 University of Queensland news release

Extreme music – such as heavy metal – can positively influence those experiencing anger, a study by The University of Queensland has revealed.

In contrast to previous studies linking loud and chaotic music to aggression and delinquency, research by UQ’s School of Psychology honours student Leah Sharman and Dr Genevieve Dingle showed listeners mostly became inspired and calmed.

“We found the music regulated sadness and enhanced positive emotions,” Ms Sharman said.

“When experiencing anger, extreme music fans liked to listen to music that could match their anger.

“The music helped them explore the full gamut of emotion they felt, but also left them feeling more active and inspired.

“Results showed levels of hostility, irritability and stress decreased after music was introduced, and the most significant change reported was the level of inspiration they felt.”

The study was published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience and involved 39 regular listeners of extreme music, aged 18-34 years.

Participants were monitored during a baseline period, after a 16-minute “anger induction”.

Participants then spent 10 minutes listening to songs of their choice and 10 minutes of silence, and were monitored once more.

The “anger induction” involved the interviewees describing angering events in their life, with prompts around relationships, employment and finances.

While the majority (74 per cent) of participants were Australian-born, the remainder were born in locations as diverse as Oman, Sweden, Indonesia, South Africa, New Caledonia, New Zealand and the USA.

“A secondary aim for the study was to see what music angry participants would select from their playlist,” Ms Sharman said.

“It was interesting that half of the chosen songs contained themes of anger or aggression, with the remainder containing themes like – though not limited to – isolation and sadness.

“Yet participants reported they used music to enhance their happiness, immerse themselves in feelings of love and enhance their well-being.

“All of the responses indicated that extreme music listeners appear to use their choice of music for positive self-regulatory purposes.”

Source: UQ News

July 17, 2015 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The mysterious way your body changes with the weather

Everything from your risk of a heart attack to the sex of your unborn child may depend on the forecaster’s predictions

From the 17 July 2015 BBC post

In 2013, neuroscientists reported one of the strangest case reports in the history of medicine: a man who claimed to be able to smell the weather. An approaching storm, he said, produced an almost unbearable odour of skunk excrement, mixed with onions.  The scientists were at a loss to explain what could be causing these strange symptoms.

 

Most of us are thankfully lacking this rather unwelcome talent, but even subtle shifts in the atmosphere seem to correlate with changes in our bodies. While scientists have yet to confirm many of these proposed links, the evidence so far is intriguing. If true, it would mean everything from your risk of a heart attack to the sex of your unborn child may, to a greater or lesser extent, depend on the forecaster’s predictions.

Read on to discover the myths and the genuine mysteries.

1) Rain gives you rheumatism… maybe

July 17, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , | Leave a comment

Recalling happier memories can reverse depression

Recalling happier memories can reverse depression 

From the 17 June 2015 MIT news release

MIT neuroscientists have shown that they can cure the symptoms of depression in mice by artificially reactivating happy memories that were formed before the onset of depression.

The findings, described in the June 18 issue of Nature, offer a possible explanation for the success of psychotherapies in which depression patients are encouraged to recall pleasant experiences. They also suggest new ways to treat depression by manipulating the brain cells where memories are stored. The researchers believe this kind of targeted approach could have fewer side effects than most existing antidepressant drugs, which bathe the entire brain.

“Once you identify specific sites in the memory circuit which are not functioning well, or whose boosting will bring a beneficial consequence, there is a possibility of inventing new medical technology where the improvement will be targeted to the specific part of the circuit, rather than administering a drug and letting that drug function everywhere in the brain,” says Susumu Tonegawa, the Picower Professor of Biology and Neuroscience, director of the RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, and senior author of the paper.

Memory control

In 2012, Tonegawa, former MIT postdoc Xu Liu, Ramirez, and colleagues first reported that they could label and reactivate clusters of brain cells that store specific memories, which they called engrams. More recently, they showed that they could plant false memories, and that they couldswitch the emotional associations of a particular memory from positive to negative, and vice versa.

In their new study, the researchers sought to discover if their ability to reactivate existing memories could be exploited to treat depression.

To do this, the researchers first exposed mice to a pleasurable experience. In this case, all of the mice were male and the pleasurable experience consisted of spending time with female mice. During this time, cells in the hippocampus that encode the memory engram were labeled with a light-sensitive protein that activates the neuron in response to blue light.

After the positive memory was formed, the researchers induced depression-like symptoms in the mice by exposing them to chronic stress. These mice show symptoms that mimic those of human sufferers of depression, such as giving up easily when faced with a difficult situation and failing to take pleasure in activities that are normally enjoyable.

However, when the mice were placed in situations designed to test for those symptoms, the researchers found that they could dramatically improve the symptoms by reactivating the neurons that stored the memory of a past enjoyable experience. Those mice began to behave just like mice that had never been depressed — but only for as long as the pleasant memory stayed activated.

July 17, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry, Psychology, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Not-so-guilty pleasure: Viewing cat videos boosts energy and positive emotions

Not-so-guilty pleasure: Viewing cat videos boosts energy and positive emotions.

From the 16 June 2015 EurkAlert
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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — If you get a warm, fuzzy feeling after watching cute cat videos online, the effect may be more profound than you think.

The Internet phenomenon of watching cat videos, from Lil Bub to Grumpy Cat, does more than simply entertain; it boosts viewers’ energy and positive emotions and decreases negative feelings, according to a new study by an Indiana University Media School researcher.

The study, by assistant professor Jessica Gall Myrick, surveyed almost 7,000 people about their viewing of cat videos and how it affects their moods. It was published in the latest issue of Computers in Human Behavior. Lil Bub’s owner, Mike Bridavsky, who lives in Bloomington, helped distribute the survey via social media.

“Some people may think watching online cat videos isn’t a serious enough topic for academic research, but the fact is that it’s one of the most popular uses of the Internet today,” Myrick said. “If we want to better understand the effects the Internet may have on us as individuals and on society, then researchers can’t ignore Internet cats anymore.

“We all have watched a cat video online, but there is really little empirical work done on why so many of us do this, or what effects it might have on us,” added Myrick, who owns a pug but no cats. “As a media researcher and online cat video viewer, I felt compelled to gather some data about this pop culture phenomenon.”

Internet data show there were more than 2 million cat videos posted on YouTube in 2014, with almost 26 billion views. Cat videos had more views per video than any other category of YouTube content.

In Myrick’s study, the most popular sites for viewing cat videos were Facebook, YouTube, Buzzfeed and I Can Has Cheezburger.

Among the possible effects Myrick hoped to explore: Does viewing cat videos online have the same kind of positive impact as pet therapy? And do some viewers actually feel worse after watching cat videos because they feel guilty for putting off tasks they need to tackle?

Of the participants in the study, about 36 percent described themselves as a “cat person,” while about 60 percent said they liked both cats and dogs.

Participants in Myrick’s study reported:

  • They were more energetic and felt more positive after watching cat-related online media than before.
  • They had fewer negative emotions, such as anxiety, annoyance and sadness, after watching cat-related online media than before.
  • They often view Internet cats at work or during studying.
  • The pleasure they got from watching cat videos outweighed any guilt they felt about procrastinating.
  • Cat owners and people with certain personality traits, such as agreeableness and shyness, were more likely to watch cat videos.
  • About 25 percent of the cat videos they watched were ones they sought out; the rest were ones they happened upon.
  • They were familiar with many so-called “celebrity cats,” such as Nala Cat and Henri, Le Chat Noir.

Overall, the response to watching cat videos was largely positive.

“Even if they are watching cat videos on YouTube to procrastinate or while they should be working, the emotional pay-off may actually help people take on tough tasks afterward,” Myrick said.

The results also suggest that future work could explore how online cat videos might be used as a form of low-cost pet therapy, she said.

July 17, 2015 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Revealed: why GM food is so hard to sell to a wary public

Revealed: why GM food is so hard to sell to a wary public.

epa03907292 Belgian activists protest against the US chemical corporation Monsanto and their role in making Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Brussels, Belgium, 12 October 2013. Belgian anti-GMO activists joined a global protest against Monsanto who make GMOs as well as many toxic chemicals including pesticides, plastics and artificial food additives.  EPA/THIERRY ROGE

epa03907292 Belgian activists protest against the US chemical corporation Monsanto and their role in making Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Brussels, Belgium, 12 October 2013. Belgian anti-GMO activists joined a global protest against Monsanto who make GMOs as well as many toxic chemicals including pesticides, plastics and artificial food additives. EPA/THIERRY ROGE

 

From the 30 June 2015 article at The Conversation

Whether commanding the attention of rock star Neil Young or apparently being supported by the former head of Greenpeace, genetically modified food is almost always in the news – and often in a negative light.

GM divides opinion, and even individual people can find themselves pulled in two different ways. On the one hand it is a largely new technology and new tech often brings prosperity, solves problems and offers hope for the future. But this also makes it a step into the unknown and people are frightened of what they do not know, or what cannot be known.

In a study recently published in the journal Appetite, colleagues and I examined why some people reject GM technology. We were neither arguing for nor against GM, but rather we wanted to look at the characteristics which determine people’s views.

Specifically, we examined attitudes in the EU to two different types of genetic modifications made to apples. Both involve the introduction of genes to make them resistant to mildew and scab. The first is a gene that exists naturally in wild/crab apples. This is an example of what is called “cisgenesis”. In the second one the gene is from another species such as a bacterium or animal, and is an example of “transgenesis”.

As an idea of the gains available from this process, the production of a new apple cultivar may take 50 years or more. Gene transfer technologies can substantially shorten this. At the same time they may introduce characteristics from totally alien species which is virtually impossible to do naturally. This may then introduce many desirable qualities into the apple – for instance, in the hypothetical case we are analysing, the apples were made more resistant to disease.

We found people’s attitudes tend to be driven by their fears of risk, and their hopes of gain, with hopes being more important for cisgenesis (introduced genes from other apples) and the former for transgenesis (genes from other species).

But quite separate to risk and gain are perceptions that the technologies are “not natural”. Evidently people are disturbed when science takes us away from what they see as the laws of nature. People are also concerned about environmental impact.


People are more united in their disapproval of transgenesis (adding genes from other species). But, again, more educated people tend to be more approving as do men and the more prosperous, while older people tend to be more wary. Finally, for both technologies studying science, or having a father who studied science, impacted favourably on attitude

July 17, 2015 Posted by | Nutrition | , | Leave a comment

Productivity of authors in the field of diabetes: bibliographic analysis of trial publications | The BMJ

Productivity of authors in the field of diabetes: bibliographic analysis of trial publications | The BMJ.

From the paper

Objective -To determine whether trial publications of glucose lowering drugs are dominated by a small group of highly prolific authors (“supertrialists”) and to identify some of their characteristics.

Conclusion The past two decades have seen an explosive increase in the number of published clinical trials regarding glucose lowering treatment. Some authors have made a disproportionate contribution to the therapeutic evidence base; one third of the RCT evidence base on glucose lowering drug treatment for diabetes was generated by <1% of authors. Of these, 44% were company employees and 56% were academics who work closely with the pharmaceutical companies.

What is already known on this topic

  • Honorary authors (authors with little or no contribution to the work described) and ghost authors (professional writers whose contribution is not acknowledged) threaten the integrity of the evidence base in medicine

  • Honorary authorship is known to be more frequent in research articles than in reviews

  • Anecdotally, a few highly prolific authors with multiple conflicts of interest have appeared to dominate clinical trial publications, but this has not previously been quantified

What this study adds

  • This analysis shows that 110 highly prolific authors contributed to one third of the evidence base for glucose lowering treatment; of these, 44% were company employees and 56% were academics who work closely with the pharmaceutical companies

  • Eleven authors, including nine academics—here designated supertrialists—contributed 10% of the entire evidence base

  • This concentration of influence adds to concerns about the independence and integrity of the evidence base for treatment for diabetes.

July 17, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , | Leave a comment

Anxiety increases the risk of gastrointestinal infection and long-term complications | EurekAlert! Science News

Anxiety increases the risk of gastrointestinal infection and long-term complications | EurekAlert! Science News.

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From the 2 July 2015 news release

A team comprised of scientists at VIB, KU Leuven and UZ Leuven has made significant progress in uncovering the connection between psychological factors and the immune system. Their findings are based on an investigation of a massive drinking water contamination incident in Belgium in 2010, and are now published in the leading international medical journal Gut.

In December 2010, the Belgian communities of Schelle and Hemiksem in the province of Antwerp faced an outbreak of gastroenteritis, with more than 18,000 people exposed to contaminated drinking water. During the outbreak, VIB and KU Leuven set up a scientific task force to study the incident’s long-term effects, led by Guy Boeckxstaens (UZ Leuven / KU Leuven) and Adrian Liston (VIB / KU Leuven).

Seizing an unexpected opportunity

Adrian Liston (VIB/KU Leuven): “The water contamination in Schelle and Hemiksem was an ‘accidental experiment’ on a scale rarely possible in medical research. By following the patients from the initial contamination to a year after the outbreak we were able to find out what factors altered the risk of long-term complications.”

Anxiety and depression affect immune system

The scientists found that individual with higher levels of anxiety or depression prior to the water contamination developed gastrointestinal infections of increased severity. The same individuals also had an increased risk of developing the long-term complication of irritable bowel syndrome, with intermittent abdominal cramps, diarrhea or constipation a year after the initial contamination.

Guy Boeckxstaens (UZ Leuven / KU Leuven): “Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a condition of chronic abdominal pain and altered bowel movements. This is a common condition with large socio-economic costs, yet there is so much that still remains to be discovered about the causes. Our investigation found that that anxiety or depression alters the immune response towards a gastrointestinal infection, which can result in more severe symptoms and the development of chronic irritable bowel syndrome.”

Psychological factors key in preventing long-term complications

The study’s results provide valuable new insight into the cause of irritable bowel syndrome, and underscoring the connection between psychological factors and the immune system.

Adrian Liston (VIB/KU Leuven): “These results once again emphasize the importance of mental health care and social support services. We need to understand that health, society and economics are not independent, and ignoring depression and anxiety results in higher long-term medical costs.”

July 17, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Safety, Medical and Health Research News, Psychology | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Profiling the Adventurous Eater | Food and Brand Lab

Profiling the Adventurous Eater  – From the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab***.

Think you’re a foodie? Adventurous eaters, known as “foodies,” are often associated with indulgence and excess. However, a new Cornell Food and Brand Lab study shows just the opposite –adventurous eaters weigh less and may be healthier than their less-adventurous counterparts.

The nationwide U.S. survey of 502 women showed that those who had eaten the widest variety of uncommon foods — including seitan, beef tongue, Kimchi, rabbit, and polenta— also rated themselves as healthier eaters, more physically active, and more concerned with the healthfulness of their food when compared with non-adventurous eaters. “They also reported being much more likely to have friends over for dinner,” said lead author Lara Latimer, PhD, formerly at the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and now at the University of Texas.

“These findings are important to dieters because they show that promoting adventurous eating may provide a way for people –especially women – to lose or maintain weight without feeling restricted by a strict diet,” said coauthor Brian Wansink, (author of Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life). He advises, “Instead of sticking with the same boring salad, start by adding something new. It could kick start a more novel, fun and healthy life of food adventure.” The article is published in the journal Obesity. It is authored by former Cornell researchers, Lara Latimer, PhD, (currently a Lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin) and Lizzy Pope, PhD, RD (currently Assistant Professor at the University of Vermont), and Brian Wansink, (Professor and Director of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University.

Summary by Brian Wansink

***The Food and Brand Lab is an interdisciplinary group of graduate and undergraduate students from psychology, food science, marketing, agricultural economics, human nutrition, education, history, library science, and journalism along with a number of affiliated faculty.

Links to

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Beating Mindless Eating

Grocery Shopping Psychology

Restaurant Confidential

and other research areas with summaries of findings for us nonscientists!

July 17, 2015 Posted by | Nutrition, Psychology | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Consumers understand supplements help fill nutrient gaps, new survey shows | EurekAlert! Science News

Consumers understand supplements help fill nutrient gaps, new survey shows | EurekAlert! Science News.

From the 1 July 2015 news release

Washington, D.C., July 1, 2015–The vast majority of consumers recognize that multivitamins, calcium and/or vitamin D supplements can help fill nutrient gaps but should not be viewed as replacements for a healthy diet, according to a new survey conducted on behalf of the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN). Conclusions from the survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults were published in Nutrition Journal in a peer-reviewed article titled, “Consumer attitudes about the role of multivitamins and other dietary supplements: report of a survey,” authored by CRN consultant Annette Dickinson, Ph.D.; Douglas (Duffy) MacKay, N.D., senior vice president, scientific & regulatory affairs, CRN; and Andrea Wong, Ph.D., vice president, scientific & regulatory affairs, CRN.

“Our data suggest that policy makers and health professionals can recommend dietary supplements to help improve nutrient intakes without being concerned that this will cause consumers to discount the importance of eating a healthy diet,” Dr. Dickinson noted.

In the Nutrition Journal article, the authors cited U.S. government statistics indicating that a considerable percentage of U.S. adults fall short of recommended intakes for several nutrients, such as vitamins C, D and E. At the same time, Dr. Dickinson noted, “Surveys find that dietary supplement users tend to have better diets and adopt other healthy habits–suggesting that they view supplements as just one strategy in an array of health habits to help ensure wellness.” Further, CRN noted in the report that evidence demonstrates that incidence of over-nutrification with micronutrients is low.

Co-author Dr. MacKay advises the importance of CRN conducting this type of consumer research, noting, “As Americans continue to seek ways to stay healthy, dietary supplements play an important role, therefore, it’s important for our industry, as well as those in scientific, academic, health care practitioner and policy circles, to understand how consumers view that role.”

Related resources
MedlinePlus Trusted Health Information for You

Learn about your prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines. Includes side effects, dosage, special precautions, and more.

Browse dietary supplements and herbal remedies to learn about their effectiveness, usual dosage, and drug interactions.

Information about label ingredients in more than 17,000 (most of 55,000 by 2016). selected brands of dietary supplements.  It enables users to compare label ingredients in different brands. Information is also provided on the “structure/function” claims made by manufacturers.
Features include historic information on supplements, calculators to compare nutrients and Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs).
These claims by manufacturers have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Companies may not market as dietary supplements any products that are intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Longwood Herbal Task Force
This site has in-depth monographs about herbal products and supplements written by health professionals and students. It provides clinical information summaries, patient fact sheets, and information about toxicity and interactions as well as relevant links. The task force is a cooperative effort of the staff and students from Children’s Hospital, the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

 

July 17, 2015 Posted by | Nutrition | , | Leave a comment

European Americans embrace positive feelings, while Chinese prefer a balance

European Americans embrace positive feelings, while Chinese prefer a balance.

From the 6 July 2015 article at San Diego Newscape

“Culture teaches us which emotional states to value, which can in turn shape the emotions we experience,” said Stanford psychology Professor Jeanne Tsai, director of the Culture and Emotion Lab on campus. Stanford psychology postdoctoral fellow Tamara Sims was the lead author on the research paper, which was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Sims noted that a number of studies by other researchers have shown that people from Chinese and other East Asian cultures are more likely to feel both negative and positive – or “mixed emotions” – during good events, such as doing well on an exam.

On the other hand, Americans of European descent are more likely to just feel positive during good events. Tsai said this is explained by cultural differences in models of the “self.” Americans tend to be more individualistic and focus on standing out, whereas Chinese tend to be more collectivistic, focusing on fitting in.

“In multicultural societies like ours, this can lead to deep misunderstandings,” Tsai said.

For instance, Americans might view Chinese who feel bad during good events as being depressed, when in fact they are feeling how their culture expects them to feel.

In an interview, Sims said, “Although Americans know what it’s like to look for the good in the bad – the silver lining – they are less likely to see the bad in the good, compared to Chinese.”

July 17, 2015 Posted by | Psychology, Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Should scientists be allowed to genetically alter human embryos?

From the 1 July 2015 EurekAlert

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Scientists have at their disposal a way to explore the possible prevention of genetic diseases before birth. But should they? Currently, the most promising path forward involves editing the genes of human embryos, a procedure rife with controversy. An article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, parses the explosive issue.

Britt E. Erickson, a senior editor at C&EN, reports that at least one team of scientists has already published a study on altering disease-related genes of human embryos. The experiment was largely unsuccessful, but it stoked fears that such research on embryos could lead to potentially dangerous or unethical applications. Would parents start demanding designer babies engineered to be smarter or more attractive? What would be the long-term consequences of changing people’s genes before they’re born?

Without answers yet to these critical questions and others, many European countries have banned gene editing of human reproductive cells. In the U.S. — where federal dollars cannot go toward this type of work — and in China, scientists are allowed to pursue this type of research. But the landscape is likely going to change as scientists, ethicists and lawmakers hash out a path forward.

July 17, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FDA cracks down on unapproved ear drops

FDA cracks down on unapproved ear drops.

Agency Also to Examine Children’s Use of Cough, Cold Medications With Codeine

From the 7 July 2015 AAFP news release

On July 1, FDA officials moved to shut down the manufacture and sale of 16 unapproved prescription otic products used to relieve ear pain, inflammation and infection. Specifically, the agency notified(www.fda.gov) companies that produce and/or distribute these products that it will take enforcement action against them if they continue to make and market the ear drops.

In separate action, the agency said it also plans to scrutinize safety data pertaining to the use of codeine-containing products used to treat cough or colds in children younger than 18 years.

Prescription Ear Drops

Otic drops are frequently given to young children suffering from ear infections and other ailments that cause ear pain and swelling. A number of FDA-approved prescription otic products are available to manage these symptoms, as are legally marketed OTC ear drops. Those products are not affected by the agency’s action.

Products that have not been evaluated by the FDA for safety, quality and efficacy, on the other hand, increase patients’ risk for adverse effects, such as those due to contamination or varying dosage levels that stem from improper manufacturing practices. The unapproved products covered by this action contain the following ingredients:

  • benzocaine;
  • benzocaine and antipyrine;
  • benzocaine, antipyrine and zinc acetate;
  • benzocaine, chloroxylenol and hydrocortisone;
  • chloroxylenol and pramoxine; and
  • chloroxylenol, pramoxine and hydrocortisone.

Patients who are using these unapproved products (or their parents) are advised to consult with their physician regarding other treatment options.

Codeine-containing Cough-and-Cold Products

In a Drug Safety Communication(www.fda.gov) issued July 1, FDA officials announced that the agency is investigating the safety of using cough-and-cold medications that contain codeine in children younger than 18 years. The agency cited concerns about the potential for severe side effects associated with use of these products, including slowed or difficult breathing.

Children with existing respiratory problems, such as asthma or other breathing disorders, may be particularly susceptible to these adverse effects.

The FDA’s action comes on the heels of an April announcement(www.ema.europa.eu) from the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which declared that the use of codeine-containing cough-and-cold medications was contraindicated in children younger than 12 years because of the risk of side effects. The agency also noted at the time that use of these products was not recommended in children ages 12-18 who have breathing problems.

Furthermore, EMA officials warned, patients of any age who are considered “ultra-rapid metabolizers” of the drug, which is converted into morphine in the body, must not use codeine to treat cough or colds.

The FDA announcement states that the agency will continue to evaluate the safety of using codeine products to treat cough or colds in children and young teens — including reviewing the EMA’s action and the evidence on which it was based — and will release final conclusions when that investigation is completed.

In the meantime, agency officials recommend caution when prescribing these medications for young patients, and they urge both physicians and patients to report adverse effects(www.accessdata.fda.gov) linked to use of the drugs via MedWatch, the FDA’s Safety Information and Adverse Event reporting Program.

July 17, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Safety | , , , , | Leave a comment

Age-related cognitive decline tied to immune-system molecule

Age-related cognitive decline tied to immune-system molecule.

From the 6 July 2015 University of San Francisco news release

Deleterious Effects of ‘Pro-Aging Factor’ Can Be Reversed in Mice

A blood-borne molecule that increases in abundance as we age blocks regeneration of brain cells and promotes cognitive decline, suggests a new study by researchers at UC San Francisco and Stanford School of Medicine.

The molecule in question, known as beta-2 microglobulin, or B2M, is a component of a larger molecule called MHC I (major histocompatibility complex class I), which plays a major role in the adaptive immune system. A growing body of research indicates that the B2M-MHC I complex, which is present in all cells in the body except red blood cells and plasma cells, can act in the brain in ways not obviously related to immunity—guiding brain development, shaping nerve cell communication, and even affecting behavior.

“We are in the process of elucidating the exact mechanism by which B2M works,” said Saul A. Villeda, PhD, a UCSF Faculty Fellow and co-senior author of the new study. “Since B2M increases with age, both in the blood and in the brain, we want to know what is the ‘traditional’ immune contribution to effects on cognition, and what is the non-traditional neural contribution.”

In 2014, highly publicized work in the laboratories of Villeda and Tony Wyss-Coray, PhD, professor of neurology at Stanford, showed that connecting the circulatory system of a young mouse to that of an old mouse could reverse the declines in learning ability that typically emerge as mice age.

Over the course of their long-term research on so-called young blood, however, the researchers had noted an opposite effect: blood from older animals appears to contain “pro-aging factors” that suppress neurogenesis—the sprouting of new brain cells in regions important for memory—which in turn can contribute to cognitive decline.

In the new research, published online on July 6, 2015 in Nature Medicine, Villeda and co-senior author Wyss-Coray again joined forces to follow up on these findings, as well as a range of studies correlating high B2M blood levels with cognitive dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease, HIV-associated dementia, and as a consequence of chronic dialysis for kidney disease.

Members of the Villeda and Wyss-Coray labs first showed that B2M levels steadily rise with age in mice, and are also higher in young mice in which the circulatory system is joined to that of an older mouse. These findings were confirmed in humans, in whom B2M levels rose with age in both blood and in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that bathes the brain.

When B2M was administered to young mice, either via the circulatory system or directly into the brain, the mice performed poorly on tests of learning and memory compared to untreated mice, and neurogenesis was also suppressed in these mice.

These experiments were complemented by genetic manipulations in which some mice were engineered to lack a gene known as Tap1, which is crucial for the MHC I complex to make its way to the cell surface. In these mice, administration of B2M in young mice had no significant effect, either in tests of learning or in assessments of neurogenesis.

The group also bred mice missing the gene for B2M itself. These mice performed better than their normal counterparts on learning tests well into old age, and their brains did not exhibit the decline in neurogenesis typically seen in aged mice.

Villeda emphasized that the effects on learning observed in the B2M-administration experiments were reversible: 30 days after the B2M injections, the treated mice performed as well on tests as untreated mice, indicating that B2M-induced cognitive decline in humans could potentially be treated with targeted drugs.

“From a translational perspective, we are interested in developing antibodies or small molecules to target this protein late in life,” said Villeda. “Since B2M goes up with age in blood, CSF, and also in the brain itself, this allows us multiple avenues in which to target this protein therapeutically.”

July 17, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

Public expectations about screening still don’t match what screening programs can deliver

Public expectations about screening still don’t match what screening programs can deliver.
From senseaboutscience.org

A guide to weighing up the benefits and harms of health screening programmes

Public expectations about screening don’t match what screening programmes can deliver. By addressing misconceptions about how screening works, its limitations and the calculation of benefits and harms, scientists and clinicians hope to bridge the gap between the active debates of the scientific community and the concerns raised by the public.

Download the guide (PDF) below.

Author: Sense About Science

Document type: Making Sense Of

Published: 3 July 2015

Downloads

– See more at: http://www.senseaboutscience.org/resources.php/7/making-sense-of-screening#sthash.bv0cknq7.dpuf

July 17, 2015 Posted by | health care | | Leave a comment

Extra DNA acts as a ‘spare tire’ for our genomes

Extra DNA acts as a ‘spare tire’ for our genomes.

From the  6 July 2015 American Chemical news release

Carrying around a spare tire is a good thing — you never know when you’ll get a flat. Turns out we’re all carrying around “spare tires” in our genomes, too. Today, in ACS Central Science, researchers report that an extra set of guanines (or “G”s) in our DNA may function just like a “spare” to help prevent many cancers from developing.

Various kinds of damage can happen to DNA, making it unstable, which is a hallmark of cancer. One common way that our genetic material can be harmed is from a phenomenon called oxidative stress. When our bodies process certain chemicals or even by simply breathing, one of the products is a form of oxygen that can acutely damage DNA bases, predominantly the Gs. In order to stay cancer-free, our bodies must repair this DNA. Interestingly, where it counts — in a regulatory DNA structure called a G-quadruplex — the damaged G is not repaired via the typical repair mechanisms. However, people somehow do not develop cancers at the high rate that these insults occur. Cynthia Burrows, Susan Wallace and colleagues sought to unravel this conundrum.

The researchers scanned the sequences of known human oncogenes associated with cancer, and found that many contain the four G-stretches necessary for quadruplex formation and a fifth G-stretch one or more bases downstream. The team showed that these extra Gs could act like a “spare tire,” getting swapped in as needed to allow damage removal by the typical repair machinery. When they exposed these quadruplex-forming sequences to oxidative stress in vitro, a series of different tests indicated that the extra Gs allowed the damages to fold out from the quadruplex structure, and become accessible to the repair enzymes. They further point out that G-quadruplexes are highly conserved in many genomes, indicating that this could be a factory-installed safety feature across many forms of life.

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Due to a premature posting of this paper online, the embargo is now lifted as of July 6.

The authors acknowledge funding from the National Institutes of Health.

The paper will be available July 8, 2015, at this link: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/acscentsci.5b00202.

July 17, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Babys first stool can alert doctors to future cognitive issues, new study finds

Babys first stool can alert doctors to future cognitive issues, new study finds.
babyCredit: Anna Langova/public domain

From the 15 July 2015 Case Western news release

A newborn’s first stool can signal the child may struggle with persistent cognitive problems, according to Case Western Reserve University Project Newborn researchers.

In particular, high levels of fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEE) found in the meconium (a newborn’s first stool) from a mother’s alcohol use during pregnancy can alert doctors that a child is at risk for problems with intelligence and reasoning.

Left untreated, such problems persist into the teen years, the research team from the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences found.

“We wanted to see if there was a connection between FAEE level and their cognitive development during childhood and adolescence—and there was,” said Meeyoung O. Min, PhD, research assistant professor at the Mandel School and the study’s lead researcher. “FAEE can serve as a marker for fetal alcohol exposure and developmental issues ahead.”

Detecting prenatal exposure to alcohol at birth could lead to early interventions that help reduce the effects later, Min said.

July 17, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Opinion: Will The Joint Commission’s New Standards Keep You Safe from Unnecessary Medical Imaging? | mHealthWatch

Opinion: Will The Joint Commission’s New Standards Keep You Safe from Unnecessary Medical Imaging? | mHealthWatch.

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Mature doctor talking to his patient who is about to receive an MRI Scan.url=http://www.istockphoto.com/search/lightbox/9786662][img]http://dl.dropbox.com/u/40117171/medicine.jpg[/img][/url]

From the 14 July 2015 mHealth post

The following is a guest contributed post by Karen Holzberger, Vice President and General Manager for Diagnostics at Nuance.

The Joint Commission standards for diagnostic imaging, which recently went into effect, are designed to help prevent duplicate and unnecessary medical imaging of patients, and reduce potentially harmful exposure to radiation when patients need CT scans, MRI or a combination of these and other diagnostic tests. Beginning July 1, 2015, these standards require protocols, documentation and data collection, staff education and other criteria that raise the bar for quality and safety at ambulatory imaging sites, critical access hospitals and accredited hospitals.  What do these standards really mean to the patient?

The new imaging standards focus primarily on the radiation dose index. There are a number of uncertainties tied to the long-term impact of imaging on patients, but researchers agree it impact patients differently depending upon sensitivities to radiation, age, body parts being tested, absorption rates and other factors and these are still being studied. In the meantime, to prevent undue risk, The Joint Commission has put a stake in the ground with these specific standards to help improve patient safety.  The Joint Commission joins other accredited healthcare organizations, such as the American College of Radiology (ACR) and other clinical associations that are releasing new quality-focused recommendations,enhanced education tools and technologies to make it easier for healthcare teams to keep you safe from unintended risks while you receive diagnostic imaging that could shed light on serious health conditions.

July 17, 2015 Posted by | health care | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Smart capsule is potential new drug-delivery vehicle

Smart capsule is potential new drug-delivery vehicle

 

From 14 July 2015  Purdue University new item

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 1.23.48 PM

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A new “smart capsule” under development could deliver medications directly to the large intestines to target certain medical conditions.

“Usually, when you take medication it is absorbed in the stomach and small intestine before making it to the large intestine,” said Babak Ziaie, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue University. “However, there are many medications that you would like to deliver specifically to the large intestine, and a smart capsule is an ideal targeted-delivery vehicle for this.”

Such an innovation might be used to treat of irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease and a potentially life-threatening bacterial infection called Clostridium difficile in which the body loses natural microorganisms needed to fight infection.

Findings are detailed in a research paper that appeared online and will be published in a future print issue of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Transactions on Biomedical Engineering. The paper was authored by graduate students Wuyang Yu, Rahim Rahimi and Manuel Ochoa; Rodolfo Pinal, an associate professor of industrial and physical pharmacy; and Ziaie.

July 17, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Finding and Using Health Statistics : A Tutorial

Finding and using health statistics has become requisite for a number of careers in the past several decades. It’s also a worthwhile skill for anyone navigating the increasingly complex world of health care and medicine. This free online course from the U.S. National Library of Medicine is divided into three related parts: About Health Statistics, Finding Health Statistics, and Supporting Material. Selecting any of these tabs opens to a table of contents. From there, readers can follow the course page by page. For instance, About Health Statistics begins by reviewing the importance of health stats, moves on to their uses, and then speaks about sources for the gathering of statistics, such as population surveys and registers of diseases.
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July 17, 2015 Posted by | Health Statistics, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

   

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