Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Press release] Researchers unravel health/disease map

From the 18 February 2015 Simon Fraser University press release

hotos: http://www.sfu.ca/mbb/People/Jones/

Researchers affiliated with several organizations, including Simon Fraser University, have realized a major scientific achievement that will advance understanding of how the information in our cells is used and processed.

Steven Jones and Marco Marra, SFU Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry professor and adjunct professor, respectively, were among dozens of scientists on the pioneering project. Both SFU alumni, they are also with theCanada’s Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre and BC Cancer Agency.

The scientists are globally celebrating their completion of 20 manuscripts that describe their generation and analysis of reference epigenome maps.

Epigenomes are chemical modifications of DNA and proteins that control the structure and activity of our genome. Ultimately, they cause our genome to stay healthy or develop diseases because they code for cellular properties that distinguish one cell type from another.

The journal Nature has issued a special publication to showcase the researchers’ collection, which contains molecular mark-up language for translating the epigenomes of 111 distinct human cell and tissue types.

“The DNA that makes up a human genome is essentially the same in every cell,” explains Jones, a co-author on the manuscript that integrates all 111 epigenomes into a single comparative analysis.

The project, called the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Roadmap Epigenomics Mapping Consortium, provides a core set of data, methodology and infrastructure for studying the epigenome’s role in human health and disease. The original goal was to map 25 normal reference epigenomes, but new technology allowed the team to produce 111 highly detailed maps on how the epigenome varies and operates in different settings.

February 22, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Brace Yourself: Study Finds People Can Use Different Strategies to Prepare for Stress

From the 18 February 2015 University of North Carolina press release

A pilot study from North Carolina State University finds that people are not consistent in how they prepare mentally to deal with arguments and other stressors, with each individual displaying a variety of coping behaviors. In addition, the study found that the coping strategies people used could affect them the following day.

The findings stem from a pilot study of older adults, which is the first to track the day-to-day coping behaviors people use in advance of stressful events.

“This finding tells us, for the first time, that these behaviors are dynamic,” says Dr. Shevaun Neupert, lead author of a paper describing the study and an associate professor of psychology at NC State. “This highlights a whole new area for researching the psychology of daily health and well-being.

“And these are behaviors that can be taught,” Neupert adds. “The more we understand what’s really going on, the better we’ll be able to help people deal effectively with the stressors that come up in their lives.”

“The findings tell us that one person may use multiple coping mechanisms over time – something that’s pretty exciting since we didn’t know this before,” Neupert says. “But we also learned that what you do on Monday really makes a difference for how you feel on Tuesday.”

Some anticipatory coping behaviors, particularly outcome fantasy and stagnant deliberation, were associated with people being in worse moods and reporting more physical health problems the following day. Stagnant deliberation is when someone tries, unsuccessfully, to solve a problem. Outcome fantasy is when someone wishes that problem would effectively solve itself.

However, stagnant deliberation was also associated with one positive outcome. Namely, stagnant deliberation the day before an argument was correlated with fewer memory failures after the argument.

The researchers also looked at plan rehearsal and problem analysis as anticipatory coping strategies. Plan rehearsal involves mentally envisioning the steps needed to solve the potential problem, and problem analysis is actively thinking about the source and meaning of a future problem. The researchers found that the use of these strategies changed from day to day, but the changes in these strategies were not related to well-being the next day. They were also not related to the way that people responded to arguments the next day.

“This was a pilot study, so we don’t want to get carried away,” Neupert says. “But these findings are very intriguing. They raise a lot of questions, and we’re hoping to follow up with a much larger study.”

February 19, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] New possibilities for curing cancer

From the 17 February 2015 Concordia University press release

A Concordia study has unveiled the massive potential of a natural chemical
Lithocholic acid, a bile acid produced in the liver, is particularly effective in killing cancer cells.
Lithocholic acid, a bile acid produced in the liver, is particularly effective in killing cancer cells.

Montreal, February 17, 2015 — Where can you find the next important weapon in the fight against cancer? Just do a little navel-gazing. New research from Concordia confirms that a tool for keeping the most common forms of cancer at bay could be in your gut.

In a report published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, Vladimir Titorenko, a professor of biology at Concordia, and his colleagues show that lithocholic acid, a bile acid produced in the liver, is particularly effective in killing cancer cells.

For the study, the research team tested thousands of chemicals found in the body with the help of a robot and discovered more than 20 that could delay the aging process, something inevitably linked to cancer.

Most effective was lithocholic acid. When entering a cancer cell, the acid goes to “energy factories” called mitochondria and then sends molecular signals that lead to the cells’ demise.

February 19, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Carnegie Mellon Researchers Reveal How Mindfulness Training Affects Healt

meditation_350x234From the 14 February 2015 press release

Over the past decade, there have been many encouraging findings suggesting that mindfulness training can improve a broad range of mental and physical health problems. Yet, exactly how mindfulness positively impacts health is not clear.

Carnegie Mellon University’s J. David Creswell — whose cutting-edge work has shown how mindfulness meditation reduces loneliness in older adults and alleviates stress — and his graduate student Emily K. Lindsay have developed a model suggesting that mindfulness influences health via stress reduction pathways. Their work, published in “Current Directions in Psychological Science,” describes the biological pathways linking mindfulness training with reduced stress and stress-related disease outcomes.

….

 

February 15, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Smartphone apps just as accurate as wearable devices for tracking physical activity

English: Image of an HTC Touch2 smartphone, al...

English: Image of an HTC Touch2 smartphone, also known as the HTC MEGA or HTC T3333. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Smartphone apps just as accurate as wearable devices for tracking physical activity 

From the 11 February 2015 Penn State press release

JAMA Paper Among the First to Compare Smartphone App vs. Wearable Device Accuracy

PHILADELPHIA — Although wearable devices have received significant attention for their ability to track an individual’s physical activity, most smartphone applications are just as accurate, according to a new research letter in JAMA. The study tested 10 of the top-selling smartphone apps and devices in the United States by having 14 participants walk on a treadmill for 500 and 1,500 steps, each twice (for a total of 56 trials), and then recording their step counts. Led by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine and the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics at the University of Pennsylvania, this study is a follow-up to a recent JAMA viewpoint suggesting that there’s little evidence that wearable devices alone can change behavior and improve health for those that need it mos

“Since step counts are such an important part of how these devices and apps measure physical activity, including calculating distance or calories burned, their accuracy is key,” said senior author Mitesh S. Patel, MD, MBA, MS, assistant professor of Medicine and Health Care Management at Penn and an attending physician at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center. “Compared to the one to two percent of adults in the U.S. that own a wearable device, more than 65 percent of adults carry a smartphone. Our findings suggest that smartphone apps could prove to be a more widely accessible and affordable way of tracking health behaviors.”

 

February 15, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Unwanted impact of antibiotics broader, more complex than previously known

Antibiotics significantly kill intestinal epithelium, the site of nutrient absorption,  a part of our immune system and a place where other biological functions maintain human health.

Unwanted impact of antibiotics broader, more complex than previously known 

From the 10 February 2015 Oregon State University press release

Researchers at Oregon State University have discovered that antibiotics have an impact on the microorganisms that live in an animal’s gut that’s more broad and complex than previously known.

The findings help to better explain some of the damage these medications can do, and set the stage for new ways to study and offset those impacts.

The work was published online in the journal Gut, in research supported by Oregon State University, the Medical Research Foundation of Oregon and the National Institutes of Health.

Researchers have known for some time that antibiotics can have unwanted side effects, especially in disrupting the natural and beneficial microbiota of the gastrointestinal system. But the new study helps explain in much more detail why that is happening, and also suggests that powerful, long-term antibiotic use can have even more far-reaching effects.

Scientists now suspect that antibiotic use, and especially overuse, can have unwanted effects on everything from the immune system to glucose metabolism, food absorption, obesity, stress and behavior.

The issues are rising in importance, since 40 percent of all adults and 70 percent of all children take one or more antibiotics every year, not to mention their use in billions of food animals. Although when used properly antibiotics can help treat life-threatening bacterial infections, more than 10 percent of people who receive the medications can suffer from adverse side effects.

“Prior to this most people thought antibiotics only depleted microbiota and diminished several important immune functions that take place in the gut,” Morgun said. “Actually that’s only about one-third of the picture. They also kill intestinal epithelium. Destruction of the intestinal epithelium is important because this is the site of nutrient absorption, part of our immune system and it has other biological functions that play a role in human health.”

The research also found that antibiotics and antibiotic-resistant microbes caused significant changes in mitochondrial function, which in turn can lead to more epithelial cell death. That antibiotics have special impacts on the mitochondria of cells is both important and interesting, said Morgun, who was a co-leader of this study with Dr. Natalia Shulzhenko, a researcher in the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine who has an M.D. from Kharkiv Medical University.

Mitochondria plays a major role in cell signaling, growth and energy production, and for good health they need to function properly.

But the relationship of antibiotics to mitochondria may go back a long way. In evolution, mitochondria descended from bacteria, which were some of the earliest life forms, and different bacteria competed with each other for survival. That an antibiotic would still selectively attack the portion of a cell that most closely resembles bacteria may be a throwback to that ingrained sense of competition and the very evolution of life.

..

Digestive dysfunction is near the top of the list, with antibiotic use linked to such issues as diarrhea and ulcerative colitis. But new research is also finding links to obesity, food absorption, depression, immune function, sepsis, allergies and asthma.

This research also developed a new bioinformatics approach named “transkingdom network interrogation” to studying microbiota, which could help further speed the study of any alterations of host microbiota interactions and antibiotic impact. This could aid the search for new probiotics to help offset antibiotic effects, and conceivably lead to systems that would diagnose a person’s microbiome, identify deficiencies and then address them in a precise and individual way.

..

February 15, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

[BBC News article] Row over sugar firms’ links to scientists

From the 12 February 2015 article

Sugar
Are scientists in the palms of the sugar industry?

Related Stories

A row has erupted about links between the sugar industry and scientists who advise government on obesity.

Campaigners argue the scientists are so heavily influenced by companies that Dracula is now “in charge of the blood bank”.

The scientists concerned say it is wrong to assume they are biased and critics should “learn proper science”.

Public Health England said it welcomed industry “listening to our best scientists”.

The argument was sparked by a report on the issue in the British Medical Journal.

It claims Prof Susan Jebb – the government’s obesity tsar, a University of Oxford academic and an expert in a recent three-part BBC documentary series on obesity – has attracted more than £1.3m of industry funding.

This includes money from Coca-Cola, Unilever and Cereal Partners.

The article says members of a government advisory panel – the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) – are supported by companies such as PepsiCo, Mars and Nestle.

It also claims that of the 40 scientists affiliated with SACN between 2001 and 2012, just 13 had no connections to the sugar industry.

BMJ editor-in-chief Fiona Godlee said the investigation showed there was a “network of relationships between key public health experts and the sugar industry”.

She said “these sorts of links create bias” and “weaken public health efforts to tackle the harmful effects of sugar on the diet”

….

 

February 15, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

[ Press release] Gator blood contains naturally strong germ fighters, new GMU research finds

Gator blood contains naturally strong germ fighters, new GMU research finds 

From the 11 February 2015 article at George Mason University

Sophisticated germ fighters found in alligator blood may help future soldiers in the field fend off infection, according to new research by George Mason University.

The study, published Feb. 11 in the scientific journal PLOS One, is the result of a fundamental research projectsupported by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) to find bacterial infection-defeating compounds in the blood of the crocodilian family of reptiles, which includes American alligators.

GATOR-Barney-w-Fluffy-300x225

 

Mason professor Barney Bishop with Fluffy, an American alligator. Photo courtesy of St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park.

The project is about to start its fourth year and has received $6 million in funding to date from DTRA. If fully funded over five years, the project will be worth $7.57 million.

Alligators live in bacteria-filled environments and dine on carrion. Yet this ancient reptile rarely falls ill.

“If you look at nature, sometimes we can find pre-selected molecules to study,” says study co-author Monique van Hoek. “I was surprised to find peptides that were as effective as they are in fighting bacteria. I was really impressed.”


February 15, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

[ Press release] Does illness make people lonely?

Does illness make people lonely? 

From the 11 February 2015 Concordia University press release

Concordia University study has discovered a new link between chronic disease and social isolation

Montreal, February 11, 2015 — Difficult circumstances often bring people closer together. But a new Concordia study published in Health Psychology has found that the onset of chronic illness often results in sufferers feeling lonelier — even for those who have had a steady partner for 50 years or more.

Researchers at the Personality, Aging, and Health Lab at Concordia took on the study because they found that, while plenty of research examined the effect of loneliness on illness, there was a lack of empirical evidence about whether or not illness contributes to loneliness.

“We were surprised by the amount of literature that examined whether people who are lonely are more likely to get sick,” says Meaghan Barlow, the study’s first author. “Yet none of them asked the opposite question: ‘Do sick people get lonely?’”

The new study reveals that they often do when they advance in age, and that it happens regardless of being in a long-term relationship when faced with a bleak diagnosis. “The quality of our social ties plays a role when it comes to coping with the effects of serious disease in later life. And just having a partner around may not be enough,” Barlow says.

“Putting a halt to socializing only contributes to a downward spiral,” Barlow says. “Dealing with a chronic illness shouldn’t prevent you from still trying to get out there if you can.”

Naturally, the challenge for society is to help an aging population find motivation to stay engaged, which means recognizing that the psychological side effects of disease can be offset with an increase in inspiring activity.

“The fact that loneliness can lead to further complications means that measures can be taken to prevent the effects from looping back around,” Barlow says. “Finding different ways to connect with other people also means you are less likely to blame yourself for being sick, and you can’t count on a partner to fill that gap.”

..

February 15, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] The other butterfly effect

English: Photograph of a Monarch Butterfly.

English: Photograph of a Monarch Butterfly. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the 10 February eScience commons article

Humans have come up with many ways to protect ourselves from infectious diseases.

“We used to think we were alone with this, but now we know we’re not. Now we know there’s a lot of animals out there that can do it, too,” says Emory biologistJaap de Roode in a TED talk. (TED is currently featuring de Roode’s talk from last November on its national Web site.)

In recent decades, scientists have learned that chimpanzees can use plants to treat their intestinal parasites, as can elephants, sheep, goats and porcupines. “And even more interesting than that is the fact that recent discoveries are telling us that insects and other little animals with smaller brains can use medication, too,” says de Roode.

For the past 10 years, de Roode has studied monarch butterflies and how they get sick from parasites. He discovered that female monarch butterflies are able to use medicinal milkweed plants to reduce the harmful effects of the parasites on the butterflies’ offspring.

“This is an important discovery, I think, not just because it tells us something cool about nature, but also because it may tell us something more about how we should find drugs,” de Roode says. “Most of our drugs derive from natural products, often from plants. In indigenous cultures, traditional healers often look at animals to find new drugs. In this way, elephants have told people how to treat stomach upset and porcupines have told people how to treat bloody diarrhea. Maybe one day we will be treating people with drugs that were first discovered by butterflies. And I think that is an amazing opportunity worth pursuing.”

De Roode is one of the featured speakers for the 2015 Darwin Day Dinner in Atlanta on Sunday, February 15. The title of his talk is “How Darwin laid the groundwork for understanding infectious disease.” Tickets for the event, sponsored by Atlanta Science Tavern, sold out within days after they came available a few weeks ago.

February 11, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Researchers have cracked a code that governs infections by a major group of viruses including the common cold and polio

From the 5 February 2015 University of Leeds press release

 

Researchers have cracked a code that governs infections by a major group of viruses including the common cold and polio.

Until now, scientists had not noticed the code, which had been hidden in plain sight in the sequence of the ribonucleic acid (RNA) that makes up this type of viral genome.

But a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) Early Edition by a group from the University of Leeds and University of York unlocks its meaning and demonstrates that jamming the code can disrupt virus assembly. Stopping a virus assembling can stop it functioning and therefore prevent disease.

Professor Peter Stockley, Professor of Biological Chemistry in the University of Leeds’Faculty of Biological Sciences, who led the study, said: “If you think of this as molecular warfare, these are the encrypted signals that allow a virus to deploy itself effectively.

“Now, for this whole class of viruses, we have found the ‘Enigma machine’—the coding system that was hiding these signals from us. We have shown that not only can we read these messages but we can jam them and stop the virus’ deployment.”

Single-stranded RNA viruses are the simplest type of virus and were probably one of the earliest to evolve. However, they are still among the most potent and damaging of infectious pathogens.

Rhinovirus (which causes the common cold) accounts for more infections every year than all other infectious agents put together (about 1 billion cases), while emergent infections such as chikungunya and tick-borne encephalitis are from the same ancient family.

Other single-stranded RNA viruses include the hepatitis C virus, HIV and the winter vomiting bug norovirus.

This breakthrough was the result of three stages of research:

  • In 2012, researchers at the University of Leeds published the first observations at a single-molecule level of how the core of a single-stranded RNA virus packs itself into its outer shell—a remarkable process because the core must first be correctly folded to fit into the protective viral protein coat. The viruses solve this fiendish problem in milliseconds. The next challenge for researchers was to find out how the viruses did this.
  • University of York mathematicians Dr Eric Dykeman and Professor Reidun Twarock, working with the Leeds group, then devised mathematical algorithms to crack the code governing the process and built computer-based models of the coding system.
  • In this latest study, the two groups have unlocked the code. The group used single-molecule fluorescence spectroscopy to watch the codes being used by the satellite tobacco necrosis virus, a single stranded RNA plant virus.

Read the entire article here

 

February 6, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Forever young: Meditation might slow the age-related loss of gray matter in the brain, say UCLA researchers

From the 5 February 2015 UCLA press release

Meditation and the brain

Courtesy of Dr. Eileen LudersAreas of the brain affected by aging (in red) are fewer and less widespread in people who meditate, bottom row, than in people who don’t meditate.

Since 1970, life expectancy around the world has risen dramatically, with people living more than 10 years longer. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that starting when people are in their mid-to-late-20s, the brain begins to wither — its volume and weight begin to decrease. As this occurs, the brain can begin to lose some of its functional abilities.

So although people might be living longer, the years they gain often come with increased risks for mental illness and neurodegenerative disease. Fortunately, a new study shows meditation could be one way to minimize those risks.

Building on their earlier work that suggested people who meditate have less age-related atrophy in the brain’s white matter, a new study by UCLA researchers found that meditation appeared to help preserve the brain’s gray matter, the tissue that contains neurons

The researchers cautioned that they cannot draw a direct, causal connection between meditation and preserving gray matter in the brain. Too many other factors may come into play, including lifestyle choices, personality traits, and genetic brain differences.

February 6, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Study Helps Predict Pesticide Exposure in Diet

From the 2 February 2015 Boise University press release

While health-conscious individuals understand the benefits of eating fresh fruits and veggies, they may not be aware of the amount of pesticides they could be ingesting along with their vitamin C and fiber. A new study published in the Feb. 5 edition of Environmental Health Perspectives is among the first to predict a person’s pesticide exposure based on information about their usual diet.

FreshFruit620x320

 

The study was led by Cynthia Curl, an  assistant professor in Boise State University’s School of Allied Health Sciences. She recently joined Boise State from the University of Washington.

While Curl’s study is not the first to link organic produce with reduced pesticide exposure, the method she used may have significant implications for future research. By combining self-reported information on typical food consumption with USDA measurements, researchers will be able to conduct research on the relationship between dietary pesticide exposure and health outcomes in bigger populations, without needing to measure urinary metabolites.

“If we can predict pesticide exposure using dietary questionnaire data, then we may be able to understand the potential health effects of dietary exposure to pesticides without having to collect biological samples from people,” Curl said. “That will allow research on organic food to be both less expensive and less invasive.”

 

February 6, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News, Nutrition | , , | Leave a comment

Add nature, art and religion to life’s best anti-inflammatories

Wondering if people with anti-social tendencies, and those who harm others have less anti-inflammatories…

Add nature, art and religion to life’s best anti-inflammatories 

From the 3 February 2015 UC Berkeley repress release

The awe we feel when we're in nature may help lower our inflammatory response, new study suggests
The awe we feel when we’re in nature may help lower levels of pro-inflammatory proteins, a new study suggests (iStockphoto)

Taking in such spine-tingling wonders as the Grand Canyon, Sistine Chapel ceiling or Schubert’s “Ave Maria” may give a boost to the body’s defense system, according to new research from UC Berkeley.

Researchers have linked positive emotions – especially the awe we feel when touched by the beauty of nature, art and spirituality – with lower levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are proteins that signal the immune system to work harder.

“Our findings demonstrate that positive emotions are associated with the markers of good health,” said Jennifer Stellar, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Toronto and lead author of the study, which she conducted while at UC Berkeley.

While cytokines are necessary for herding cells to the body’s battlegrounds to fight infection, disease and trauma, sustained high levels of cytokines are associated with poorer health and such disorders as type-2 diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and even Alzheimer’s disease and clinical depression.

It has long been established that a healthy diet and lots of sleep and exercise bolster the body’s defenses against physical and mental illnesses. But the Berkeley study, whose findings were just published in the journal Emotion, is one of the first to look at the role of positive emotions in that arsenal.

 

February 5, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] A Phone so Smart, it Sniffs out Disease

From the 2 February 2015 American Technion Society press release

A research consortium headed by Professor Hossam Haick of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is developing a product that, when coupled with a smartphone, will be able to screen the user’s breath for early detection of life-threatening diseases.

Funded by a grant from the European Commission, the SNIFFPHONE project will link Prof. Haick’s acclaimed breathalyzer screening technology to the smartphone to provide non-invasive, fast and cheap disease detection. It will work by using micro- and nano-sensors that read exhaled breath and then transfer the information through the attached mobile phone to an information-processing system for interpretation. The data is then assessed and disease diagnosis and other details are ascertained.

The technology is supported by a recent €6 million (US$6.8 million) grant to the consortium to expand the “electronic nose” breathalyzer technology that Prof. Haick has been developing since he joined the Technion in 2006. That technology can identify individuals from the general population who have a higher likelihood for contracting a specific disease, and treat them in advance or at an early stage.

The entities participating in the winning consortium include Siemens; universities and research institutes from Germany, Austria, Finland, Ireland and Latvia; and Israeli company NanoVation-GS Israel. NanoVation-GS is a Technion spin-off headed by Dr. Gregory Shuster and Sagi Gliksman, who are both graduates of Prof. Haick’s laboratory. Prof. Haick serves as Chief Scientific Officer.

“The SNIFFPHONE is a winning solution. It will be made tinier and cheaper than disease detection solutions currently, consume little power, and most importantly, it will enable immediate and early diagnosis that is both accurate and non-invasive,” says Prof. Haick. “Early diagnosis can save lives, particularly in life-threatening diseases such as cancer.”

February 3, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Expert Panel Recommends New Sleep Times

 

sleep-recommendations

http://sciencelife.uchospitals.edu/2015/02/09/and-so-to-bed-new-guidelines-from-the-national-sleep-foundation/

 

From the 2 February 2015 National Sleep Foundation press release

This is the first time that any professional organization has developed age-specific recommended sleep durations based on a rigorous, systematic review of the world scientific literature relating sleep duration to health, performance and safety,”

National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Duration Recommendations:

Age Recommended May be appropriate Not recommended
Newborns0-3 months

 

14 to 17 hours 11 to 13 hours18 to 19 hours Less than 11 hoursMore than 19 hours
Infants4-11 months

 

12 to 15 hours 10 to 11 hours16 to 18 hours Less than 10 hoursMore than 18 hours
Toddlers1-2 years

 

11 to 14 hours 9 to 10 hours15 to 16 hours Less than 9 hoursMore than 16 hours
Preschoolers3-5 years

 

10 to 13 hours 8 to 9 hours14 hours Less than 8 hoursMore than 14 hours
School-aged Children6-13 years

 

9 to 11 hours 7 to 8 hours12 hours Less than 7 hoursMore than 12 hours
Teenagers14-17 years

 

8 to 10 hours 7 hours11 hours Less than 7 hoursMore than 11 hours
Young Adults18-25 years

 

7 to 9 hours 6 hours10 to 11 hours Less than 6 hoursMore than 11 hours
Adults26-64 years

 

7 to 9 hours 6 hours10 hours Less than 6 hoursMore than 10 hours
Older Adults≥ 65 years

 

7 to 8 hours 5 to 6 hours9 hours Less than 5 hoursMore than 9 hours

The recommendations are the result of multiple rounds of consensus voting after a comprehensive review of published scientific studies on sleep and health.

February 3, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] A simple intervention can make your brain more receptive to health advice

From the 2 February 2015 University of Pennsylvania press release

 

Emily Falk, Ph.D.

A new discovery shows how a simple intervention—self-affirmation – can open our brains to accept advice that is hard to hear.

“Self-affirmation involves reflecting on core values,” explained Emily Falk, the study’s lead author and director of the Communication Neuroscience Laboratory at University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication. Has your doctor ever told you to get more exercise?  Has your spouse ever suggested you eat healthier? Even though the advice comes from good intentions, most people feel defensive when confronted with suggestions that point out their weaknesses. Reflecting on values that bring us meaning can help people see otherwise threatening messages as valuable and self-relevant. “Our work shows that when people are affirmed, their brains process subsequent messages differently.”

Past studies have shown that brain activity in VMPFC during health messages can predict behavior change better than individuals’ own intentions, and this study sheds new light on why.  VMPFC is the brain region most commonly activated when participants think about themselves and when they ascribe value to ideas. The new results show that opening the brain in this way is a key pathway to behavior change.  “Understanding the brain opens the door to new health interventions that target this same pathway,” Falk noted.

“We were particularly interested in using self-affirmation to help people become more active because sedentary behavior is one of the biggest health threats faced by both Americans and people around the world,” said Falk.  Overly sedentary lifestyles are becoming a big problem; in some regions nearly 85 percent of an adult population leads an inactive lifestyle. This can cause multiple health problems, including poor heart health, diabetes, and cancer, just to name three. Increasing activity even small amount can have an important impact on both mental and physical health.

….

Psychologists have used self-affirmation as a technique to improve outcomes ranging from health behaviors in high risk patients to increasing academic performance in at risk youth, suggesting that the findings may be applicable across a wide range of interventions.  “Our findings highlight that something as simple as reflecting on core values can fundamentally change the way our brains respond to the kinds of messages we encounter every day,” Falk noted.  “Over time, that makes the potential impact huge.”

February 3, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Gut Bacteria Byproduct Linked to Chronic Kidney Disease for the First Time

From the 29 January 2015 Cleveland Clinic press release

TMAO Found To Be A Contributing Factor To Development Of Chronic Kidney Disease And Associated Mortality Risk

Thursday, January 29th

Cleveland Clinic researchers have, for the first time, linked trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) – a gut metabolite formed during the digestion of egg-, red meat- or dairy-derived nutrients choline and carnitine – to chronic kidney disease.

TMAO has been linked to heart disease already, with blood levels shown to be a powerful tool for predicting future heart attacks, stroke and death. TMAO forms in the gut during digestion of choline and carnitine, nutrients that are abundant in animal products such as red meat and liver. Choline is also abundant in egg yolk and high-fat dairy products.

The research team was led by Stanley Hazen, MD, PhD, Chair of the Department of Cellular & Molecular Medicine for the Lerner Research Institute and section head of Preventive Cardiology & Rehabilitation in the Miller Family Heart and Vascular Institute at Cleveland Clinic, and W.H. Wilson Tang, MD, Department of Cardiovascular Medicine in the Miller Family Heart and Vascular Institute and Lerner Research Institute. The research will be published online on January 29th and in the January 30th print edition of Circulation Research .

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more that 20 million Americans are estimated to have chronic kidney disease, many of whom are undiagnosed. It is caused by a gradual loss of kidney function over time. As the disease worsens, waste products can accumulate in the blood and can be fatal without interventions. It has long been known that patients with chronic kidney disease are at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, but the exact mechanisms linking the two diseases are not known. This newly discovered TMAO link offers further insight into the relationship between cardiovascular disease and chronic kidney disease.

 

February 2, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] DNA clock helps predict lifespan

DNArepair

http://biocomicals.blogspot.com/2011_05_01_archive.html

Biocomicals by Dr. Alper Uzun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

From the 30 January 2015 University of Edinburg press release

Scientists have identified a biological clock that provides vital clues about how long a person is likely to live.

Researchers studied chemical changes to DNA that take place over a lifetime, and can help them predict an individual’s age. By comparing individuals’ actual ages with their predicted biological clock age, scientists saw a pattern emerging.

Biological age

People whose biological age was greater than their true age were more likely to die sooner than those whose biological and actual ages were the same.

Four independent studies tracked the lives of almost 5,000 older people for up to 14 years. Each person’s biological age was measured from a blood sample at the outset, and participants were followed up throughout the study.

Researchers found that the link between having a faster-running biological clock and early death held true even after accounting for other factors such as smoking, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The same results in four studies indicated a link between the biological clock and deaths from all causes. At present, it is not clear what lifestyle or genetic factors influence a person’s biological age. We have several follow-up projects planned to investigate this in detail.

Dr Riccardo Marioni

Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, University of Edinburgh

DNA modification

Scientists from the University of Edinburgh, in collaboration with researchers in Australia and the US, measured each person’s biological age by studying a chemical modification to DNA, known as methylation.

The modification does not alter the DNA sequence, but plays an important role in biological processes and can influence how genes are turned off and on. Methylation changes can affect many genes and occur throughout a person’s life.

This new research increases our understanding of longevity and healthy ageing. It is exciting as it has identified a novel indicator of ageing, which improves the prediction of lifespan over and above the contribution of factors such as smoking, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Professor Ian Deary

Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, University of Edinburgh

International collaboration

The study is published in the journal Genome Biology and was conducted by researchers from the University of Edinburgh, University of Queensland, Harvard University, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Boston University, the Johns Hopkins University Lieber Institute for Brain Development and the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

This study was carried out at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Epidemiology (CCACE), which is supported by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) as part of the Lifelong Health and Wellbeing programme, a collaboration between the UK’s Research Councils and Health Departments which is led by the MRC.

 

February 2, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] UMass Medical School, WPI developing smartphone app to address stress eating

Last week I started using  the USDA nutrition/exercise SuperTracker after a hiatus of three years.
Agree –  stress is indeed a reason for overeating, this app would most likely help me.

From the 2 February 2015 University of Massachusetts press releaseBy Megan Bard, UMass Medical School Communications,and Michael Cohen, WPI Communications

Researchers at UMass Medical School and Worcester Polytechnic Institute are developing a stress-eating smartphone app that will help users better understand why they overeat, with the support of a $2 million award from the National Institutes of Health.

Sherry Pagoto, PhD, and Bengisu Tulu, PhD, are principal investigators for a $2 million NIH grant that will fund the research and development of a state of the art app for weight and stress management.
Sherry Pagoto, PhD
Bengisu Tulu, PhD, of WPI is co-principal with Sherry Pagoto on a $2 million NIH grant that will fund the research and development of a state of the art app for weight and stress management.
Bengisu Tulu, PhD

Development of the “RELAX” application and a pilot clinical study to evaluate its effectiveness will be led by Sherry Pagoto, PhD, associate professor of medicine at UMMS, and Bengisu Tulu, PhD, associate professor in the WPI Foisie School of Business, joint principal investigators on the grant.

“Most commercial apps available today focus on tracking diet and exercise, but do not help the user understand why they are eating so much and/or exercising so little,” Dr. Pagoto said. “Our clinical and research experience suggests that stress is a very common trigger for overeating and it is a barrier to exercise.”

RELAX will have two components: a mobile application that will enable patients to track their daily activities using a smartphone and a web-based tool clinicians can use to access patient information to help inform treatment.

“We want to use technology to help patients in real time, during their daily activities, and also to enhance the effectiveness of the time they spend face-to-face with their physician or counselor,” Dr. Tulu said.

Using text inputs, barcode scanning and GPS technology, the RELAX patient app will track eating patterns, daily activities, exercise, patient-mood and stress inducing events. The app will provide the patient with an itemized list of foods consumed, indicate the times of day identified as high-stress moments and illustrate the relationship between food intake and stress. The information collected will help the user to better understand his or her habits when it comes to emotional or stress eating.

For example, the patient-facing application will provide coaching for dietary choices or guided stress-reduction exercises to lessen the likelihood of overeating.

“Imagine a person driving into the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant, at a certain time of day, and getting prompted with a message asking them to think about what they are feeling and whether or not it is the right time to eat,” Tulu said.

Clinicians will be able to access their patients’ information collected through the RELAX patient app using the web-based application. The web tool will present information as easily digestible visual displays and feedback reports for the clinician to review.

Much of the time during traditional weight-loss counseling sessions is spent reviewing paper self-monitoring records and soliciting information from the patient about factors impacting their adherence, such as stress and stress eating. By using the RELAX web tool, clinicians can more quickly get to the heart of causal factors behind the patient’s eating habits, which can be difficult to identify using traditional counseling. The research team believes RELAX will help patients achieve better outcomes with fewer visits to their doctor or counselor.

The researchers hope the interactive design and the clinician’s ability to engage with the patient in a more data-rich way, both unique features of the RELAX application, will enable a more comprehensive approach to counseling patients about weight and stress management.

Read the entire article here

February 2, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Nutrition | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Precision Medicine Initiative: Some quick resources

 

1.29.15_precision_medicine

From the 30 January 2015 post BY PIA CHRISTENSEN  at Covering Health – Monitoring the Pulse of Healthcare Journalism 

 White House has announced its anticipated “Precision Medicine Initiative,” which it describes as an “emerging field of medicine that takes into account individual differences in people’s genes, microbiomes, environments, and lifestyles – making possible more effective, targeted treatments for diseases like cancer and diabetes. ”

….

The practice of medicine has always been personal regarding the treatment of individual patients, but science has fostered a new era of so-called personalized medicine that takes into account each person’s specific clinical, genetic, genomic and environmental information in designing tailored treatment plans

The White House released this fact sheet today.

This interview with the director of the program in personalized health at the University of Utah offers a good explanation of what personalized care is and examples of what it could do.

For Science magazine, Jocelyn Kaiser writes that the Obama precision medicine plan would create huge U.S. genetic biobank. She follows up with more details about the price tag and budget.

The White House released this fact sheet today.

This interview with the director of the program in personalized health at the University of Utah offers a good explanation of what personalized care is and examples of what it could do.

For Science magazine, Jocelyn Kaiser writes that the Obama precision medicine plan would create huge U.S. genetic biobank. She follows up with more details about the price tag and budget.

 

Related articles

“I have been thinking lately about the cultural and business phenomena that are currently shaping and accelerating the adoption of connected health and, in that context, came up with five accelerants.  The best part of the story is that four of the five are already going on and we can see their early-stage effects.

So, at the risk of ‘dumbing down’ adoption, here is my list of five accelerants.  If we could make these go faster, the adoption of connected health would accelerate too.”

1. Increase value-based reimbursement for providers.
2. Create more mechanisms for provider reimbursement for non face-to-face care (like the new CMS CPT code that just took effect).
3. Accelerate consumer choice in the marketplace as well as ‘consumer-driven health care’ (i.e., high deductible plans, health savings accounts (HSAs), etc.).
4. Make the consumer-facing technology truly frictionless.
5. Create a universal privacy/security technology and make it a public good.

  • Integrated approach to customer relationship management and patient relationship management (From the 28 January 2015 post at Health Care Conversation)

    A comprehensive consumer and patient engagement model should help providers attract and engage individuals in the key areas they value:

    • Help in understanding and navigating the health care system
    • Personalize information and care based on an individual’s needs
    • Easy access and communication with provider and care team
    • Support in managing an acute episode or a chronic illness
    • Secure access to personal health records

 

Read the entire article here

February 1, 2015 Posted by | health care, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Carnegie Mellon, Pitt Ethicists Question Impact of Hospital Advertisi

About 20 years ago I started thinking along similar lines. Now I am at a point questioning if it is ethical to profit from health care. Two years as a Peace Corps volunteer (back in 1980/81 in Liberia, West Africa) changed my views on many topics considerably. Also I think it was the wonderful humanistic/social justice  tone of grade school religious textbooks, notably 8th grade back in 1969.

Summary (from EurkAlert!)
Ethicists question the impact of health information that is available online, specifically hospital advertisements, and argue that while the Internet offers patients valuable data and tools — including hospital quality ratings and professional treatment guidelines – that may help them when facing decisions about where to seek care or whether to undergo a medical procedure, reliable and unbiased information may be hard to identify among the growing number of medical care advertisements online.

From the 30 January 2015 Carnegie Mellon press release

In a commentary piece published in JAMA Internal Medicine, Carnegie Mellon University’s Alex John London and the University of Pittsburgh’s Yael Schenkerquestion the impact of health information that is available online, specifically hospital advertisements. London and Schenker argue that while the Internet offers patients valuable data and tools — including hospital quality ratings and professional treatment guidelines — that may help them when facing decisions about where to seek care or whether to undergo a medical procedure, reliable and unbiased information may be hard to identify among the growing number of medical care advertisements online.

“The marketing objective of selling services by making them seem attractive to consumers can create tensions or outright conflict with the ethical imperative of respect for persons, since the latter requires that patients make medical decisions in light of balanced information about the full range of risks and benefits associated with their care,” said London, professor of philosophy in CMU’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences and director of the Center for Ethics and Policy.

Referencing a research article in the same journal issue that found hospital websites failed to disclose risk information for transaortic valve replacement (TAVR), a recently approved procedure to treat patients whose aortic valve does not open fully, London and Schenker pinpoint four risk concerns for patients seeking medical information online:

1. Identifying Advertising — Hospital websites often have the appearance of an education portal, leaving patients to assume that the information presented is informational, not persuasive.

2. Finding Unbiased Information — Unlike FDA-regulated direct-to-consumer advertising for prescription drugs, hospital advertising is overseen by the Federal Trade Commission and subject to the same “reasonable” standards applied to advertisements for common consumer goods such as cars and cereal. While hospital advertisements may describe specific medical interventions that entail significant
risks, there is no legal requirement that these risks be disclosed.

3. Recognizing Incomplete or Imbalanced Information — Poor-quality medical information is hard to recognize unless the person reading it is a trained clinician.

4. Influence on Health Care Decisions — As patients seek out information online, the quality of their decision-making and care choices will be influenced by the accuracy or inaccuracy of the information they are likely to encounter.

To begin to fix the risk to patients seeking medical information online, London and Schenker recommend to clearly label hospital websites as advertisements; allocate resources to created balanced online informational tools; and focus future attention on not only the content of health care advertising but its impact.

For more information, visit http://www.hss.cmu.edu/philosophy/faculty-london.php.

 

Related Resource

  • Evaluating Health Information (Health Resources for All, Edited by JaniceFlahiff)
    • The Penn State Medical Center Library has a great guide to evaluate health information on the Internet.

      The tips include

      • Remember, anyone can publish information on the internet!
      • If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
        If the Web site is primarily about selling a product, the information may be worth checking from another source.
      • Look for who is publishing the information and their education, credentials, and if they are connected with a trusted coporation, university or agency.
      • Check to see how current the information is.
      • Check for accuracy. Does the Web site refer to specific studies or organizations?
    • How to Evaluate Health Information on the Internet (US National Cancer Institute)

January 31, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] The future of fighting disease could be glycans (video) | EurekAlert! Science News

N-linked protein glycosylation (N-glycosylatio...

N-linked protein glycosylation (N-glycosylation of N-glycans) at Asn residues (Asn-x-Ser/Thr motifs) in glycoproteins. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)The future of fighting disease could be glycans (video)|EurekAlert! Science News.

 

From the 28 January 2015 press relase

WASHINGTON, Jan. 28, 2015 — Like the candy shell on an M&M ®, every cell on the planet has a carbohydrate coating that holds special information. But decoding these coatings has proven elusive. Now Laura Kiessling, Ph.D., and her team at University of Wisconsin-Madison are trying to unlock the mystery of these coatings, known as glycans. In the latest episode of Prized Science, Kiessling explains how glycans could hold the key to new antibiotics and other disease treatments. The video is available at http://youtu.be/D-9utC2fY0k.

Comparative overview of the major types of ver...

Comparative overview of the major types of vertebrate N-glycan subtypes and some representative C. elegans N-glycans. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

January 30, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] New technology makes tissues, someday organs – Science360 News Service | National Science Foundation

New technology makes tissues, someday organs – Science360 News Service | National Science Foundation.

From the 28 January 2015 post

A new device for assembling large tissues from living components could someday be used to build replacement human organs the way electronics are assembled today: with precise picking and placing of parts.
[Go to the above link for the 1 minute, 23 second video]

Provided by Brown University
Runtime: 1:23

January 30, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Among gut microbes, strains, not just species, matter

From the 29 January 2015 University of Washington press release

First large-scale analysis completed of intra-species genetic variation in gut’s resident organisms

By Leila Gray  |  HSNewsBeat  |  Updated 9:00 AM, 01.29.2015

Posted in: Research

  • Gut microbiomes from different people can contain similar microbial species, but different strains, as this cartoon illustrates.Dana C, Thomas

A large community of microorganisms calls the human digestive tract home.  This dynamic conglomerate of microscopic life forms – the gut microbiome – is vital to how people metabolize various nutrients in their food, how their immune systems react to infection, and how they respond to various medications.  Moreover, imbalances in the microbiome are thought to play a significant role in many human diseases.

The collection of species occupying the gut is known to be quite personalized, and people may differ considerably in the set of species they harbor. Now new research suggests that the differences between people may go even deeper. In a paper published Jan. 29 in Cell, researchers at the University of Washington show that even when people share microbes in common, the exact strains each carries might be very different.

“Knowing more about these strain-level variations,” said Elhanan Borenstein, the senior author of this paper and an associate professor of genome sciences at the University of Washington, “is crucial for understanding the complex relationship between the composition of the community of microbes living in the human gut and its influence on health and disease.”

January 30, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Your Immune System Is Made, Not Born

From the 29 January 2015 post at Scientific American

New research dispels the belief that the strength of the body’s defense system is genetically programmed
Cytomegalovirus

Cytomegalovirus infection.
Credit: Yale Rosen via Wikimedia Commons

Some people seem better than others at fighting the flu, and you might suspect they were born that way. A new study of twins, however, suggests otherwise.

In one of the most comprehensive analyses of immune function performed to date, researchers analyzed blood samples from 105 sets of healthy twins. They measured immune cell populations and their chemical messengers—204 parameters in all—before and after participants received a flu shot. Differences in three fourths of these parameters depended less on genetics than on environmental factors, such as diet and prior infections. Genetics had almost no effect on how well individuals responded to the flu vaccine, judged by antibodies produced against the injected material. And among identical twin siblings, who have the same genome, immune system features differed more strikingly within older twin pairs than in younger sets. The findings, published January 15 in Cell, argue that life habits and experiences shape our body’s defenses more than the DNA passed down from our parents.

Although prior twin studies had hinted that nonheritable factors contribute to some autoimmune disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, the recent analysis was one of the first to quantify genetic and environmental effects on the general immune system. “We were surprised by the degree of environmental influence on so many components,” says Mark Davis of Stanford University School of Medicine, senior author on the new study.

One finding was particularly striking. A single environmental factor—a past infection with common cytomegalovirus—affected 58 percent of the tested parameters. Whereas the results don’t show whether these changes produce an overall stronger or weaker immune response, they do indicate “cytomegalovirus has a really profound effect,” Davis says. The Epstein–Barr virus, another microbe that frequently infects people, had no such effect.

Read the entire article at http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/your-immune-system-is-made-not-born/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Science360NewsServiceComplete+%28Science360+News+Service%3A+Complete%29&utm_content=Netvibes

January 30, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Common Pesticide May Increase Risk of ADHD

Usually I don’t reblog posts with commercial advertising.  Please don’t associate me with any of the products! However, the post cited reputable resources.
On another note, I stopped using pesticides about five years ago.  Don’t get me started on RoundUp, even the least potent versions. Sure, I have more weeds. Corn gluten has eradicated the broadleaf grass. Other weeds I just pull out by hand.

map-ever-diagnosed-2011-550px

 

Percent of Youth 4-17 Ever Diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder by State: National Survey of Children’s Health

 

From the undated post at Science Blog

 

A commonly used pesticide may alter the development of the brain’s dopamine system — responsible for emotional expression and cognitive function – and increase the risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children, according to a new Rutgers study.

The research published Wednesday in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), by Rutgers scientists and colleagues from Emory University, the University of Rochester Medical Center, and Wake Forest University discovered that mice exposed to the pyrethroid pesticide deltamethrin in utero and through lactation exhibited several features of ADHD, including dysfunctional dopamine signaling in the brain, hyperactivity, working memory, attention deficits and impulsive-like behavior.
Read more at http://scienceblog.com/76707/common-pesticide-may-increase-risk-adhd/#ZGUbPJch3TbkfGGH.99

 

 

January 30, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] How cancer turns good cells to the dark side

3a42d50d-1a27-4945-8d41-e2ecf924337a-largeImage

 

From the 28 January 2015 item at Science 360

A new computational study by a team of researchers shows how cancer cells take advantage of the system by which cells communicate with their neighbors as they pass messages to “be like me” or “be not like me.” The team decodes how cancer uses a cell-cell interaction mechanism known as notch signaling to promote metastasis. This mechanism plays a crucial role in embryonic development and wound healing and is activated when a delta or jagged ligand of one cell interacts with the notch receptor on an adjacent one.

Visit Website | Image credit: Marcelo Boareto/Rice University

January 29, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Did genetic links to modern maladies provide ancient benefits?

From the 28 January 2015 press release at University at Buffalo

study finds that humanity’s early ancestors had genetic variations associated with modern disease, and now the question is why

The discovery highlights the importance of balancing selection, a poorly understood evolutionary dance in which dueling forces drive species to retain a diverse set of genetic features.
A hyper-realistic recreation of a Neanderthal.

Credit: From Shaping Humanity, by John Gurche. Image may be republished ONLY in conjunction with stories about the research outlined in this press release.

Caption: A reconstruction ofHomo neanderthalensis, as created by artist John Gurche for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. A study led by University at Buffalo biologist Omer Gokcumen compared the DNA of modern humans to Neanderthals and Denisovans (another ancient hominin). The research found that genetic deletions associated with various aspects of human health, including psoriasis and Crohn’s disease, likely originated in a common ancestor of the three species.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Psoriasis, a chronic skin condition, can cause rashes that itch and sting.

So why would a genetic susceptibility to this and other ailments persist for hundreds of thousands of years, afflicting our ancient ancestors, and us?

That’s the question scientists are asking after discovering that genetic variations associated with some modern maladies are extremely old, predating the evolution of Neanderthals, Denisovans (another ancient hominin) and contemporary humans.

The study was published this month in Molecular Biology and Evolution.

“Our research shows that some genetic features associated with psoriasis, Crohn’s disease and other aspects of human health are ancient,” says senior scientist Omer Gokcumen, PhD, a University at Buffalo assistant professor of biological sciences.

Some of humanity’s early ancestors had the telltale features, called deletions, while others did not, mirroring the variation in modern humans, the scientists found. This genetic diversity may have arisen as far back as a million or more years ago in a common ancestor of humans, Denisovans and Neanderthals.

The discovery highlights the importance of balancing selection, a poorly understood evolutionary dance in which dueling forces drive species to retain a diverse set of genetic features.

The research raises the possibility that the diseases in question — or at least a genetic susceptibility to them — “may have been with us for a long time,” Gokcumen says.

Why this would happen is an open question, but one possibility is that certain traits that made humans susceptible to Crohn’s and psoriasis may also have afforded an evolutionary benefit to our ancient ancesto

– See more at: http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2015/01/034.html#sthash.latn4ejg.dpuf

January 29, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Weaponized insulin? These snails have it.

These killer snails use weaponized insulin to stun fish. Video courtesy of  Jason Biggs and Baldomero Olivera at the University of Utah.

That’s a new finding by biologists at the University of Utah, where I work.

Cone snails are abundant in most tropical marine waters, especially around coral reefs. Each species makes a distinct repertoire of venom compounds, mixtures that have evolved to target particular prey.Conus geographus, a cone snail that has killed dozens of people in accidental encounters, traps fish by releasing a blend of immobilizing venoms into the water, according to the prevailing hypothesis. The snail protrudes a stretchy mouth-like part and aims it like a gun barrel at fish, which become disoriented and stop moving even as the snail’s mouth part slowly advances and engulfs the fish.

Seeking to understand how the cone snail springs its slow-motion trap, the Utah researchers searched the gene sequences of all of the proteins expressed in the venom gland of Conus geographus. They found two sequences that looked surprisingly similar to that of the hormone insulin, used by humans and other vertebrate animals to regulate energy metabolism. The insulin genes were more highly expressed in the venom gland than genes for some of the established venom toxins. One sequence proved very similar to that of fish insulin. Chemical analysis of venom confirmed that it contained abundant amounts of this insulin.

….

January 29, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] That’s using your head: Brain regulates fat metabolism, potentially stopping disease

[Press release] That’s using your head: Brain regulates fat metabolism, potentially stopping disease
Jessica Yue poses in her lab.

Jessica Yue

 

From the University of Alberta press release By Cait Wills on January 26, 2015

Recent research into brain control of liver lipid production could cause break in obesity and diabetes treatment

Ways of keeping the heart healthy has widened, with the discovery that the brain can help fight off hardening of the arteries.

Atherosclerosis—hardening and narrowing of the arteries—can be caused by fat build up that causes plaque deposits, and is one of the main causes of cardiovascular disease. Jessica Yue, a newly recruited researcher in the Department of Physiology in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, has shown a link between how the brain can regulate fat metabolism, potentially stopping the development of this disease risk factor in obesity and diabetes.

Her findings, published this month in Nature Communications, the online version of the high-impact Nature publication, outlines how the brain can use the presence of fatty acids, which are building blocks of fat molecules, to trigger the liver to reduce its own lipid production.

“We know that when there is dyslipidemia, or an abnormal amount of fat in the bloodstream, it’s dangerous for health—largely because this can lead to obesity, obesity-related disorders such as Type 2 diabetes, and atherosclerosis,” says Yue, and that “if you can find ways to lower fats in the bloodstream, it helps to lower these chances of diabetes and cardiovascular disease as a result of this atherosclerosis.”

Yue trained at the Toronto General Research Institute under Tony Lam, where she was a recipient of fellowships from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Canadian Diabetes Association. With her associates in Toronto and with Peter Light, professor of pharmacology in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, she looked at how the infusion of oleic acid, a naturally occurring monounsaturated fatty acid, in the brain “triggers” a signal from the hypothalamus to the liver to lower its fat secretion, which Yue says is a “triglyceride-rich, very-low-density lipoprotein. Light is the co-author of Yue’s paper in Nature Communications and is the director of the Alberta Diabetes Institute (ADI), where Yue is applying for membership.

“This fat complex is the kind of lipoprotein that is dangerous when its levels in the blood are elevated because it promotes atherosclerosis,” she says.

The catch, though, is that this “trigger” doesn’t work in obesity, a setting in which blood lipid levels are usually high. “In a model of diet-induced obesity, which then leads to insulin resistance and pre-diabetes, oleic acid no longer provides the fat-lowering trigger to the liver.” Yue’s findings, though, demonstrate how this faulty signal can be bypassed, unveiling potentially other ways to trigger this same function in obese patients.

This study could potentially impact how obesity and diabetes are treated, says Yue, which is the focus of her future research.

The next steps, she says, will be to look at how the brain can sense other compounds to regulate not only liver secretion of fats, but also liver glucose production, a significant contributing factor to diabetes. As a member of the Group on Molecular and Cell Biology of Lipids and with the strength of the ADI, she feels enthusiastic and inspired by her new research environment at the University of Alberta.

January 28, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Are medications’ adverse cognitive effects reversible?

Are medications’ adverse cognitive effects reversible?

From the 26 January 2015 University of Indiana press release

INDIANAPOLIS — Whether the adverse cognitive effects of medications can be reversed is of significant importance to an aging population, their caregivers and their families, as well as to an overburdened health care system.

In a commentary in JAMA Internal Medicine, Noll Campbell, Pharm.D., and Malaz Boustani, M.D., MPH, of the Regenstrief Institute and the Indiana University Center for Aging Research, probe the possibility of reversing the adverse cognitive effects of medications frequently prescribed to older adults for chronic conditions including depression, anxiety and incontinence and sold over the counter as allergy and sleep aids.

It is not unusual for older adults to take two, three or more drugs that have a negative impact on their brain function. Over the past decade, Drs. Boustani and Campbell and colleagues have conducted several studies that have found associations between exposure to anticholinergic medications, which block acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter, and the clinical diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment or dementia. Low levels of acetylcholine have long been implicated in patients with dementia.

In a 2013 study, they reported that drugs with strong anticholinergic effects were associated with a clinical diagnosis of cognitive impairment when taken continuously for as few as 60 days over a one-year period. A similar impact was seen with 90 days of continuous use over a year when taking multiple drugs with weak anticholinergic effect.

In “Adverse Cognitive Effects of Medications: Turning Attention to Reversibility” published in the Jan. 26, 2015, issue of JAMA Internal Medicine, Drs. Campbell and Boustani call for further research to determine whether cognitive impairment caused by the adverse effects of medications can be reversed and to establish the safety risks of discontinuing these medications.

Their commentary accompanies a 10-year observational study by Shelly Gray, Pharm.D., M.S., of the University of Washington and colleagues that reports a higher risk of dementia with increasing dose and duration of exposure to medications with strong anticholinergic activities.

“While the Gray study suggests that adverse cognitive effects of medications were permanent, this may represent the use of dementia as the outcome — a non-reversible condition — rather than a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment which may be reversible in some older adults. Our previous studies have shown a stronger association of these harmful medications with the diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment than with dementia,” Dr. Campbell said.

“We also differed in populations studied. The Gray study was 91 percent Caucasian, and 66 percent were college educated. Fewer than half had hypertension, and only 8 percent were diabetic. Our study subjects were 60 percent African-American, and nearly all subjects were treated for hypertension, and 3 in 10 had a history of stroke. Higher rates of comorbid disease may explain some of the differences between these studies.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5 million people with dementia lived in the United States in 2013, accounting for an estimated $214 billion in care costs. With the growth of the aging population, the association estimates that the number of older adults with dementia will be approximately 16 million by 2050, with $1.2 trillion expected in costs of care.

“While the scientific community is actively engaged in the quest, no drugs currently exist to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other dementing disorders. However, our IU and Regenstrief Institute group has focused on stopping cognitively harmful medications as a safe and cost-effective Alzheimer’s disease prevention,” said Dr. Boustani, who directs the Eskenazi Health Center Healthy Aging Brain Center.

January 28, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Chemists find a way to unboil egg whites: Ability to quickly restore molecular proteins could slash biotechnology costs

From the 23 January 2015 University of California- Irvine press release

UC Irvine and Australian chemists have figured out how to unboil egg whites – an innovation that could dramatically reduce costs for cancer treatments, food production and other segments of the $160 billion global biotechnology industry, according to findings published today in the journal ChemBioChem.

uci_news_image_download

Chemistry major Stephan Kudlacek and professor Greg Weiss have developed a way of unboiling a hen egg.
Credit: Steve Zylius / UC Irvine

“Yes, we have invented a way to unboil a hen egg,” said Gregory Weiss, UCI professor of chemistry and molecular biology & biochemistry. “In our paper, we describe a device for pulling apart tangled proteins and allowing them to refold. We start with egg whites boiled for 20 minutes at 90 degrees Celsius and return a key protein in the egg to working order.”

Like many researchers, he has struggled to efficiently produce or recycle valuable molecular proteins that have a wide range of applications but which frequently “misfold” into structurally incorrect shapes when they are formed, rendering them useless.

“It’s not so much that we’re interested in processing the eggs; that’s just demonstrating how powerful this process is,” Weiss said. “The real problem is there are lots of cases of gummy proteins that you spend way too much time scraping off your test tubes, and you want some means of recovering that material.”

But older methods are expensive and time-consuming: The equivalent of dialysis at the molecular level must be done for about four days. “The new process takes minutes,” Weiss noted. “It speeds things up by a factor of thousands.”

To re-create a clear protein known as lysozyme once an egg has been boiled, he and his colleagues add a urea substance that chews away at the whites, liquefying the solid material. That’s half the process; at the molecular level, protein bits are still balled up into unusable masses. The scientists then employ a vortex fluid device, a high-powered machine designed by Professor Colin Raston’s laboratory at South Australia’s Flinders University. Shear stress within thin, microfluidic films is applied to those tiny pieces, forcing them back into untangled, proper form.

“This method … could transform industrial and research production of proteins,” the researchers write in ChemBioChem.

For example, pharmaceutical companies currently create cancer antibodies in expensive hamster ovary cells that do not often misfold proteins. The ability to quickly and cheaply re-form common proteins from yeast or E. coli bacteria could potentially streamline protein manufacturing and make cancer treatments more affordable. Industrial cheese makers, farmers and others who use recombinant proteins could also achieve more bang for their buck.

UCI has filed for a patent on the work, and its Office of Technology Alliances is working with interested commercial partners.

January 28, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Research article summary] First major analysis of Human Protein Atlas published, could explain many drug side effects

From the 23 January 2015 KTH article

A research article published today in Science presents the first major analysis based on the Human Protein Atlas, including a detailed picture of the proteins that are linked to cancer, the number of proteins present in the bloodstream, and the targets for all approved drugs on the market.

Picture1

The Human Protein Atlas, a major multinational research project supported by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, recently launched (November 6, 2014) an open source tissue-based interactive map of the human protein. Based on 13 million annotated images, the database maps the distribution of proteins in all major tissues and organs in the human body, showing both proteins restricted to certain tissues, such as the brain, heart, or liver, and those present in all. As an open access resource, it is expected to help drive the development of new diagnostics and drugs, but also to provide basic insights in normal human biology.

The analysis shows that almost half of the protein-coding genes are expressed in a ubiquitous manner and thus found in all analysed tissues.

The analysis suggests that approximately 3,000 proteins are secreted from the cells and an additional 5,500 proteins are located to the membrane systems of the cells.

“This is important information for the pharmaceutical industry. We show that 70% of the current targets for approved pharmaceutical drugs are either secreted or membrane-bound proteins,” Uhlén says. “Interestingly, 30% of these protein targets are found in all analysed tissues and organs. This could help explain some side effects of drugs and thus might have consequences for future drug development.”

The analysis also contains a study of the metabolic reactions occurring in different parts of the human body. The most specialised organ is the liver with a large number of chemical reactions not found in other parts of the human body.
…..

The study has been carried out by researchers in Sweden at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Uppsala University, Karolinska Institute, Chalmers University of Technology, Lund University, and Stockholm University.

 

 

January 28, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Unexpected turn in diabetes research suggests reinterpretation of years of research — ScienceDaily

Unexpected turn in diabetes research suggests reinterpretation of years of research — ScienceDaily.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 5.39.56 AM

Excerpts from the press release

Date:January 20, 2015
Source:KU Leuven
Summary:Years of diabetes research carried out on mice whose DNA had been altered with a human growth hormone gene is now ripe for reinterpretation after a new study confirms that the gene had an unintended effect on the mice’s insulin production, a key variable in diabetes research.

Years of diabetes research carried out on mice whose DNA had been altered with a human growth hormone gene is now ripe for reinterpretation after a new study by researchers at KU Leuven confirms that the gene had an unintended effect on the mice’s insulin production, a key variable in diabetes research.

Genetically modified mice have been used in medical research for over thirty years. To expedite the cutting-and-pasting of fragments of DNA, the pioneers of the method inserted a human growth hormone gene alongside other modified DNA. Researchers assumed that the DNA of the human growth hormone would remain tightly encapsulated in the modified DNA of the mouse.

They did not expect the mice to begin producing their own human growth hormone — but that appears to be exactly what happened.

KU Leuven professors Frans Schuit and John Creemers used the genetically modified mice regularly in their lab. To their surprise, they observed that the mice showed pregnancy-like symptoms despite not being pregnant at all.

Digging deeper, the researchers discovered that this pregnancy-like state was being caused by the human growth hormone, explains Professor Schuit: “In mice, the human growth hormone has the same effect as hormones that are produced by the placenta in pregnant mice. Just as in pregnancy, the cells in the pancreas that are responsible for the production of insulin change. They increase in number and begin to produce more insulin. And that happens to be exactly what we study in diabetes research.”

January 27, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reposting] Catching up on sleep science – Science360 News Service | National Science Foundation

Catching up on sleep science – Science360 News Service | National Science Foundation.

From the 21 January 2015 article

[Unfortunately was not able to copy the accompanying 7:37 minute video here]

Humans are the only species that seems to deliberately deprive themselves of sleep. But if you’ve ever uttered a phrase like, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” scientists say it’s time for a wake-up call. Researchers have long known that adequate sleep is critical for good health. Insufficient sleep impairs the immune system, and is associated with everything from obesity to cardiovascular disease, stroke to cancer, depression to schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease. Now scientists are several steps closer to knowing how sleep keeps us healthy.

January 27, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Reducing work-family conflicts in the workplace helps people to sleep better | EurekAlert! Science News

Reducing work-family conflicts in the workplace helps people to sleep better | EurekAlert! Science News.

From the 26 January 2015 press release

New York, NY, January 26, 2015 — A multi-institution team of sleep researchers recently found that workers who participated in an intervention aimed at reducing conflict between work and familial responsibilities slept an hour more each week and reported greater sleep sufficiency than those who did not participate in the intervention. Their study is published inSleep Health, Journal of the National Sleep Foundation.

“Increasing family-supportive supervision and employee control over work time benefited the sleep of hundreds of employees, and even greater effects may be possible if sleep is overtly addressed in workplace interventions,” explained lead author Ryan Olson, PhD, of Oregon Health & Science University. “The Work, Family, and Health Network Study intervention was designed to reduce work-family conflict. It did not directly address sleep, yet sleep benefits were observed.”

The invention focused on the U.S. employees of an information technology firm. Groups of randomly selected managers and employees participated in a three-month, social and organizational change process that included interactive sessions with facilitated discussions, role-playing, and games. Managers were also trained in family supportive supervision and self-monitored how they applied the training on the job. Data were collected through qualitative interviews 12 months after the intervention was introduced and by actigraphy, the measurement of individuals’ sleeping and waking patterns using a monitor attached to participants’ wrists. Actigraphy measures of sleep quality and quantity were taken at the beginning of the intervention, to establish baseline measures for participants, and 12 months after the intervention. Each of the 474 participants’ activity recordings were evaluated by two scorers, who identified periods of sleep relative to each participant’s waking activities.

“I applaud the methodological rigor of Olson and colleagues’ approach to assessing the Work, Family, and Health Network Study’s effect on the sleep duration and quality of a real world population,” commented Dr. Lauren Hale, Editor-in-Chief of Sleep Health. “This study demonstrates that interventions unrelated to sleep can improve sleep in the population. Furthermore, these findings serve as a reminder that there are opportunities to deploy innovative interventions to improve sleep.”

The authors had hypothesized that both sleep duration and insomnia would be improved in the study’s twelfth month; secondarily, they hypothesized that any improvement in sleep quality and duration would be mediated by employees’ enhanced control over their work time and reduced work-family conflict assessed at the sixth month after baseline. Researchers created a statistical mediation model that accounted for the multiple temporal aspects of actigraphic sleep data and participant characteristics.

“Here we showed that an intervention focused on changing the workplace culture could increase the measured amount of sleep employees obtain, as well as their perception that their sleep was more sufficient,” noted lead investigator Orfeu M. Buxton, PhD, Pennsylvania State University (with secondary appointments at Harvard and Brigham and Women’s Hospital). “Work can be a calling and inspirational, as well as a paycheck, but work should not be detrimental to health. It is possible to mitigate some of the deleterious effects of work by reducing work-family conflict, and improving sleep.”

Digicorp workplace

Digicorp workplace (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

January 26, 2015 Posted by | Health News Items, Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry, Psychology, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Flexible work schedules improve health, sleep | EurekAlert! Science News

Flexible work schedules improve health, sleep | EurekAlert! Science News.

From the 22 January 2015 press release

 

Giving employees more control over their work schedules may help curb sleep deficiency, according to health researchers.

“In the absence of sufficient sleep, we are not as attentive or alert, we process information more slowly, miss or misinterpret social and emotional cues and decision making is impaired,” said Orfeu M. Buxton, associate professor of biobehavioral health, Penn State. “For example, we may misjudge risks by undervaluing negative consequences and overvaluing potential rewards.”

About 30 percent of U.S. adults reported not regularly getting a sufficient amount of sleep, a 2012 Centers for Disease Control survey found. Sleep deficiency has been linked to increased risk of automobile crashes, chronic disease and early mortality. Improving adequate sleep within the population is a goal of Healthy People 2020, a federal initiative that sets national objectives and monitors progress concerning the health of the nation.

Buxton and colleagues looked to see if a workplace intervention, designed to increase family-supportive supervision and give employees more control over their work time, improved sleep quantity and quality. They report their results in an article published online today (Jan. 21) in the journal Sleep Health.

The researchers followed 474 employees as part of a Work, Family and Health Network study conducted at an information technology company, with about half of the employees serving as the control while the other half experienced the study intervention. Both employees and their supervisors participated.

The intervention was designed to reduce conflicts between work and personal life, and focused on two main cultural shifts: allowing employees to decide on when and where they worked and training supervisors to support their employees’ personal lives. Those who were assigned to the intervention were encouraged to be completely flexible about when and where they would work — at the office, from home or elsewhere — while still working the same number of hours as the control group. All of the participants wore a sleep-monitoring watch, a device that tracks movement to monitor periods of sleep.

 

January 26, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Why all-nighters don’t work: How sleep and memory go hand-in-hand

Why all-nighters don’t work: How sleep and memory go hand-in-hand 

From the Brandeis University press release

Young Man Studing at Night

Want to ace that test tomorrow? Here’s a tip: Put down the coffee and hit the sack.

Scientists have long known that sleep, memory and learning are deeply connected. Most animals, from flies to humans, have trouble remembering when sleep deprived, and studies have shown that sleep is critical in converting short-term into long-term memory, a process known as memory consolidation.

But just how that process works has remained a mystery.

The question is, does the mechanism that promotes sleep also consolidate memory, or do two distinct processes work together? In other words, is memory consolidated during sleep because the brain is quiet, allowing memory neurons to go to work, or are memory neurons actually putting us to sleep?

h6F72EF3EIn a recent paper in the journal eLife, graduate students Paula Haynes and Bethany Christmann in the Griffith Lab make a case for the latter.

Haynes and Christmann focused their research on dorsal paired medial (DPM) neurons, well-known memory consolidators inDrosophila. They observed, for the first time, that when DPM neurons are activated, the flies slept more; when deactivated, the flies kept buzzing.

These memory consolidators inhibit wakefulness as they start converting short-term to long-term memory. All this takes place in a section of the Drosophila brain called the mushroom body, similar to the hippocampus, where our memories are stored. As it turns out, the parts of the mushroom body responsible for memory and learning also help keep the Drosophila awake.

“It’s almost as if that section of the mushroom body were saying ‘hey, stay awake and learn this,’” says Christmann. “Then, after a while, the DPM neurons start signaling to suppress that section, as if to say ‘you’re going to need sleep if you want to remember this later.’”

Understanding how sleep and memory are connected in a simple system, like Drosophila, can help scientists unravel the secrets of the human brain.

“Knowing that sleep and memory overlap in the fly brain can allow researchers to narrow their search in humans,” Christmann says. “Eventually, it could help us figure out how sleep or memory is affected when things go wrong, as in the case of insomnia or memory disorders.”

To learn more about this and other fly research, check out Christmann’s blog, Fly on the Wall. 

This research was funded by the National Institute of Health

 

January 26, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News]Checklist devised to spot elderly patients most at risk of death — ScienceDaily

Checklist devised to spot elderly patients most at risk of death — ScienceDaily.

English: An elderly patient at St. Elizabeths ...

English: An elderly patient at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Excerpt

Date:January 22, 2015
Source:BMJ-British Medical Journal
Summary:A checklist has been designed to spot elderly hospital patients likely to die within the next three months, a new article outlines. The researchers emphasize that the checklist is not intended to substitute healthcare for the elderly who are terminally ill. Instead, it is meant to “provide an objective assessment and definition of the dying patient as a starting point for honest communication with patients and families about recognizing that dying is part of the life cycle.”
From the journal article
Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 4.26.59 AM

January 26, 2015 Posted by | health care, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] You are what you eat — How gut bacteria affect brain health | EurekAlert! Science News

You are what you eat — How gut bacteria affect brain health | EurekAlert! Science News.

From the 22 January 2015 press release

 

CAPTION
Journal of Medicinal Food is an authoritative, peer-reviewed, multidisciplinary journal published monthly in print and online. Led by Editors-in-Chief Sampath Parthasarathy, MBA, PhD, and Young-Eun Lee, PhD, Wonkwang University, Jeonbuk, Korea, this scientific journal publishes original scientific research on the bioactive substances of functional and medicinal foods, nutraceuticals, herbal substances, and other natural products. The Journal explores the chemistry and biochemistry of these substances, as well as the methods for their extraction and analysis, the use of biomarkers and other methods to assay their biological roles, and the development of bioactive substances for commercial use. Tables of content and a sample issue may be viewed on the Journal of Medicinal Food website.
CREDIT
©Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers

 

New Rochelle, NY, January 21, 2015–The hundred trillion bacteria living in an adult human–mostly in the intestines, making up the gut microbiome–have a significant impact on behavior and brain health. The many ways gut bacteria can impact normal brain activity and development, affect sleep and stress responses, play a role in a variety of diseases, and be modified through diet for therapeutic use are described in a comprehensive Review article in Journal of Medicinal Food, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. The paper is available free on the Journal of Medicinal Food website until February 21, 2015.

In “The Gut Microbiome and the Brain”, Leo Galland, Foundation for Integrated Medicine (New York, NY), presents the most up-to-date understanding of the relationship between the proteins produced by intestinal bacteria and the human central nervous system. The author explores the various mechanisms through which the microbiome can influence the brain: by stimulating and over-stimulating the immune system, producing neurotoxic agents, releasing hormones or neurotransmitters identical to those made by the human body, or through direct neuronal stimulation that sends signals to the brain.

“The microbiome has become a hot topic in many branches of medicine, from immune and inflammatory diseases, such as Crohn’s and IBD to cardiovascular diseases,” says Co-Editor-in-Chief Sampath Parthasarathy, MBA, PhD, Florida Hospital Chair in Cardiovascular Sciences, University of Central Florida, Orlando. “Scientists are not only aware of the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ microbes in the gut but are becoming increasingly aware of how they could alter the metabolism beyond gut.”

 

January 26, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Men and women process emotions differently

Men and women process emotions differently 

From the 21 January 2015 University of Basel press release

Women rate emotional images as more emotionally stimulating than men do and are more likely to remember them. However, there are no gender-related differences in emotional appraisal as far as neutral images are concerned. These were the findings of a large-scale study by a research team at the University of Basel that focused on determining the gender-dependent relationship between emotions, memory performance and brain activity. The results will be published in the latest issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

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Brain activity when viewing negative emotional images: red and yellow indicates the more active areas of the brain when images are rated as highly stimulating. Green indicates the areas that specifically become more active in women (image: MCN, University of Basel).)

It is known that women often consider emotional events to be more emotionally stimulating than men do. Earlier studies have shown that emotions influence our memory: the more emotional a situation is, the more likely we are to remember it. This raises the question as to whether women often outperform men in memory tests because of the way they process emotions. A research team from the University of Basel’s “Molecular and Cognitive Neurosciences” Transfaculty Research Platform attempted to find out.

With the help of 3,398 test subjects from four sub-trials, the researchers were able to demonstrate that females rated emotional image content – especially negative content – as more emotionally stimulating than their male counterparts did. In the case of neutral images, however, there were no gender-related differences in emotional appraisal.

In a subsequent memory test, female participants could freely recall significantly more images than the male participants. Surprisingly though, women had a particular advantage over men when recalling positive images. “This would suggest that gender-dependent differences in emotional processing and memory are due to different mechanisms,” says study leader Dr Annette Milnik.

Increased brain activity
Using fMRI data from 696 test subjects, the researchers were also able to show that stronger appraisal of negative emotional image content by the female participants is linked to increased brain activity in motoric regions. “This result would support the common belief that women are more emotionally expressive than men,” explaines Dr Klara Spalek, lead author of the study.

The findings also help to provide a better understanding of gender-specific differences in information processing. This knowledge is important, because many neuropsychiatric illnesses also exhibit gender-related differences. The study is part of a research project led by professors Dominique de Quervain and Andreas Papassotiropoulos at the University of Basel, which aims to increase the understanding of neuronal and molecular mechanisms of human memory and thereby facilitate the development of new treatments.

Original source
Klara Spalek, Matthias Fastenrath, Sandra Ackermann, Bianca Auschra, XDavid Coynel, Julia Frey, Leo Gschwind, Francina Hartmann, Nadine van der Maarel, Andreas Papassotiropoulos, Dominique de Quervain and Annette Milnik
Sex-Dependent Dissociation between Emotional Appraisal and Memory: A Large-Scale Behavioral and fMRI Study
Journal of Neuroscience (2015) | doi: 10.1523/jneurosci.2384-14.2015

January 23, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Breakthrough may impact flu vaccination

Breakthrough may impact flu vaccination 

SINGAPORE, January 20, 2015 — An analysis of 10 years’ worth of data on human influenza B viruses has shed new light on the pathogen which can cause the seasonal flu. Findings from this study could help make flu immunization programs more effective; by better targeting vaccines or by eventually eliminating one of the flu lineages completely.

What are Influenza B viruses?

Influenza epidemics seriously affect populations worldwide, with an estimated three to five million cases of severe illness and 250,000 to 500,000 deaths, yearly. Four influenza virus lineages co-circulate in the human population to cause seasonal epidemics. Of the four, two are influenza A and two are influenza B virus lineages, named Victoria and Yamagata. To date, most studies have focused on the influenza A virus lineages because they are the more commonly circulating lineages in humans which have also caused occasional pandemics.

Diagram of antigenic shift vs antigenic drift ...

Diagram of antigenic shift vs antigenic drift in influenza virus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A new study, led by Assistant Professor Vijay Dhanasekaran and Associate Professor Gavin Smith from Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School (Duke-NUS), has presented the largest comparative analysis of human influenza B viruses undertaken to date. Results were achieved using advanced computational methodologies to analyze genomic data of the pathogen taken from human hosts. Significantly, this study is also the first to integrate demographic information such as the host’s age.

Findings offer new insight into the evolution and epidemiology of this highly infectious virus, and reveal how the two influenza B virus lineages fundamentally differ from each other and from the influenza A virus lineages.

Flu Vaccine Implications

“Our research shows that school aged children are more susceptible than adults to influenza B virus lineages, especially the Victoria lineage,” explained first author Asst Prof Dhanasekaran from the Emerging Infectious Diseases Program at Duke-NUS. “This younger population should be targeted for the use of the quadrivalent influenza vaccines.”

Commonly administered influenza vaccines are generally composed of two influenza A lineage viruses – but only one influenza B lineage virus. Recently, quadrivalent influenza vaccines, which target all four lineages, have been approved for use. However, they are significantly more difficult to prepare, more expensive and have limited availability. This new study shows that it may be important to use these vaccines for a specific population.

….

January 23, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] NIH researchers tackle thorny side of gene therapy

NIH researchers tackle thorny side of gene therapy 

From the 20 January 2015 press release

 

NIH researchers tackle thorny side of gene therapy

Pre-clinical studies in mice reveal ways to reduce cancer risk with modified treatment

NHGRI researchers conduct laboratory investigations to advance gene therapy. Watch the video featuring Dr. Charles Venditti and Dr. Randy Chandler: YouTube video Methylmalonic Acidemia (MMA) Gene Therapy
Lab technnician with a pipette

Bethesda, Md., Tues., Jan. 20, 2015 – National Institutes of Health researchers have uncovered a key factor in understanding the elevated cancer risk associated with gene therapy. They conducted research on mice with a rare disease similar to one in humans, hoping their findings may eventually help improve gene therapy for humans. Researchers at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), part of NIH, published their research in the Jan. 20, 2015, online issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

“Effective and safe gene therapies have the potential to dramatically reverse diseases that are life-threatening for affected children,” said NHGRI Scientific Director Dan Kastner, M.D., Ph.D. “This study is an important step in developing gene therapies that can be safely used to benefit patients.”

Toxic side effects actually are rarely observed by researchers who have designed gene therapies using an adeno-associated virus (AAV) as a vector to deliver the corrected gene to a specific point in the cell’s DNA. AAVs are small viruses that infect humans but do not cause disease. A vector is a DNA molecule of AAV used as a vehicle to carry corrected genetic material into a cell. AAV viruses are uniquely suited for gene therapy applications.

But one prior study did find an association between AAV and the occurrence of liver cancer. The present research addresses this problem in gene therapy for an inherited disease in children called methylmalonic acidemia, or MMA. For 10 years, NHGRI researchers have worked toward a gene therapy to treat MMA. The condition affects as many as 1 in 67,000 children born in the United States. Affected children are unable to properly metabolize certain amino acids consumed in their diet, which can damage a number of organs and lead to kidney failure. MMA patients also suffer from severe metabolic instability, failure to thrive, intellectual and physical disabilities, pancreatitis, anemia, seizures, vision loss and strokes. The most common therapy is a restrictive diet, but doctors must resort to dialysis or kidney or liver transplants when the disease progresses.

January 23, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Connection between childhood adversity and psychiatric disorders seen at cellular level | EurekAlert! Science News

Connection between childhood adversity and psychiatric disorders seen at cellular level | EurekAlert! Science News.

Logo for mitochondrial DNA

Logo for mitochondrial DNA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the 20 January 2015 press release

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – In a new study published online in Biological Psychiatry on January 16, 2015, researchers from Butler Hospital identify an association between biological changes on the cellular level and both childhood adversity and psychiatric disorders. These changes in the form of telomere shortening and alterations of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), are important in the aging process, and this new research provides evidence that psychosocial factors–specifically childhood adversity and psychiatric disorders– may also influence these cellular changes and could lead to accelerated aging.

Mitochondria convert molecules from food into energy that can be used by cells and also play a key role in cellular growth, signaling, and death. Telomere shortening is also a measure of advanced cellular aging. Recent studies have examined the possible connection between mitochondria and psychiatric disorders, but the research is very limited, and no prior work has examined the relationship of mitochondrial DNA to psychosocial stress. “We are interested in these relationships because there is now clear evidence that stress exposure and psychiatric conditions are associated with inflammation and health conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Identifying the changes that occur at a cellular level due to these psychosocial factors allows us to understand the causes of these poor health conditions and possibly the overall aging process.” said Audrey Tyrka, MD, PhD, Director of the Laboratory for Clinical and Translational Neuroscience at Butler Hospital and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown University.

January 23, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Living longer, not healthier

Living longer, not healthier 

From the press release

New research by UMass Medical School suggests genes that extend lifespan won’t necessarily improve health in advanced age

By Jim Fessenden, UMass Medical School Communications
January 22, 2015

Heidi A. Tissenbaum, PhD
Heidi A. Tissenbaum, PhD

A study of long-lived mutant C. elegans by UMass Medical School scientists shows that the genetically altered worms spend a greater portion of their life in a frail state and exhibit less activity as they age then typical nematodes. These findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest genes that increase longevity may not significantly increase healthy lifespan and point to the need to measure health as part of aging studies going forward.

“Our study reveals that if we want to find the genes that help us remain physically active as we age, the genes that will allow us to play tennis when we’re 70 similar to when we were 40, we have to look beyond longevity as the sole criteria. We have to start looking at new genes that might play a part in ‘healthspan.’” said Heidi A. Tissenbaum, PhD, professor of molecular, cellular & cancer biology and the program in molecular medicine and principal investigator of the study.

Genomic and technological advances have allowed scientists to identify several groups of genes that control longevity in C. elegans, a nematode used as a model system for genetic studies in the lab, as well as in yeast and flies. These genes, when examined, have analogs in mammals. The underlying assumption by scientists has always been that extending lifespan would also increase the time spent by the organism in a healthy state. However, for various reasons, most studies only closely examine these model animals while they’re still relatively young and neglect to closely examine the latter portion of the animals’ lives.

Challenging the assumption that longevity and health are intrinsically connected, Dr. Tissenbaum and colleagues sought to investigate how healthy long-lived C. elegans mutants were as they aged.

January 23, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Genetic changes in Ebola virus could impede potential treatments

Thinking of my Liberia FB friends. One I met (he is a nurse) in 2009 while doing service projects in Liberia. He is a dean of a college near the capital (Monrovia)…while school is out, he is working with Doctors Without Borders in Monrovia.
Another is a former student of mine (1980/81…when I was a Peace Corps volunteer. He is now a Methodist deacon, in Ganta, the second largest city in Liberia. Ganta is 10 miles up the road from where I volunteered. Back in 2009, he recognized me in front of the church in Ganta, where we did some volunteer projects!
Third person is a health screener in Kpain, where I was a Peace Corps volunteer. He put in a FB friend request. He is from Nigeria.
These three men are among my heroes. They are doing so much with so little. Reaffirmed my belief that Liberians are resilient and creative.

USAMRIID Logo

USAMRIID Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Genetic changes in Ebola virus could impede potential treatments

 

Ebola Pathenogensis

Ebola Pathenogensis (Photo credit: Wikipedia

 

 

From the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases 20 January 2015 press release

 

Scientists studying the genetic makeup of the Ebola virus currently circulating in West Africa have identified several mutations that could have implications for developing effective drugs to fight the virus.

In today’s online edition of the journal mBio, senior author Gustavo F. Palacios, Ph.D., and colleagues describe the “genomic drift,” or natural evolution of the virus, and how it may interrupt the action of potential therapies designed to target the virus’s genetic sequence.

According to Palacios, who directs the Center for Genome Sciences at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), three types of genetic sequence-based treatments are being evaluated during the current outbreak: monoclonal antibody, small-interfering RNA (siRNA), and phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomer (PMO) drugs. All were developed using Ebola virus strains from two smaller outbreaks that occurred in 1976 and 1995.

January 23, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Breakthrough may impact flu vaccination

The various strains of influenza that have inf...

The various strains of influenza that have infected the human population in the 20th century. Data taken from figure 2 of Palese P (December 2004). “Influenza: old and new threats”. Nat. Med. 10 (12 Suppl) : S82–7. DOI:10.1038/nm1141. PMID 15577936. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Breakthrough may impact flu vaccination

Excerpts from the 20 January 2015 Duke University press release

SINGAPORE, January 20, 2015 — An analysis of 10 years’ worth of data on human influenza B viruses has shed new light on the pathogen which can cause the seasonal flu. Findings from this study could help make flu immunization programs more effective; by better targeting vaccines or by eventually eliminating one of the flu lineages completely.

What are Influenza B viruses?

Influenza epidemics seriously affect populations worldwide, with an estimated three to five million cases of severe illness and 250,000 to 500,000 deaths, yearly. Four influenza virus lineages co-circulate in the human population to cause seasonal epidemics. Of the four, two are influenza A and two are influenza B virus lineages, named Victoria and Yamagata. To date, most studies have focused on the influenza A virus lineages because they are the more commonly circulating lineages in humans which have also caused occasional pandemics.

A new study, led by Assistant Professor Vijay Dhanasekaran and Associate Professor Gavin Smith from Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School (Duke-NUS), has presented the largest comparative analysis of human influenza B viruses undertaken to date. Results were achieved using advanced computational methodologies to analyze genomic data of the pathogen taken from human hosts. Significantly, this study is also the first to integrate demographic information such as the host’s age.

Findings offer new insight into the evolution and epidemiology of this highly infectious virus, and reveal how the two influenza B virus lineages fundamentally differ from each other and from the influenza A virus lineages.

Flu Vaccine Implications

“Our research shows that school aged children are more susceptible than adults to influenza B virus lineages, especially the Victoria lineage,” explained first author Asst Prof Dhanasekaran from the Emerging Infectious Diseases Program at Duke-NUS. “This younger population should be targeted for the use of the quadrivalent influenza vaccines.”

January 22, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] One nanoparticle, six types of medical imaging – University at Buffalo

One nanoparticle, six types of medical imaging – University at Buffalo.

Tomorrow’s doctors could use this technology to obtain a super-clear picture of patients’ organs and tissues By Charlotte Hsu

Release Date: January 20, 2015

University at Buffalo researchers and colleagues have designed a nanoparticle detectable by six medical imaging techniques. This illustration depicts the particles as they are struck by beams of energy and emit signals that can be detected by the six methods: CT and PET scanning, along with photoacoustic, fluorescence, upconversion and Cerenkov luminescence imaging.

This transmission electron microscopy image shows the nanoparticles, which consist of a core that glows blue when struck by near-infrared light, and an outer fabric of porphyrin-phospholipids (PoP) that wraps around the core. Credit: Jonathan Lovell

“A patient could theoretically go in for one scan with one machine instead of multiple scans with multiple machines.”
Jonathan Lovell, assistant professor of biomedical engineering
University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. — It’s technology so advanced that the machine capable of using it doesn’t yet exist.

Using two biocompatible parts, University at Buffalo researchers and their colleagues have designed a nanoparticle that can be detected by six medical imaging techniques:

  • computed tomography (CT) scanning;
  • positron emission tomography (PET) scanning;
  • photoacoustic imaging;
  • fluorescence imaging;
  • upconversion imaging; and
  • Cerenkov luminescence imaging.

In the future, patients could receive a single injection of the nanoparticles to have all six types of imaging done.

This kind of “hypermodal” imaging — if it came to fruition — would give doctors a much clearer picture of patients’ organs and tissues than a single method alone could provide. It could help medical professionals diagnose disease and identify the boundaries of tumors.

“This nanoparticle may open the door for new ‘hypermodal’ imaging systems that allow a lot of new information to be obtained using just one contrast agent,” says researcher Jonathan Lovell, PhD, UB assistant professor of biomedical engineering. “Once such systems are developed, a patient could theoretically go in for one scan with one machine instead of multiple scans with multiple machines.”

When Lovell and colleagues used the nanoparticles to examine the lymph nodes of mice, they found that CT and PET scans provided the deepest tissue penetration, while the photoacoustic imaging showed blood vessel details that the first two techniques missed.

Differences like these mean doctors can get a much clearer picture of what’s happening inside the body by merging the results of multiple modalities.

– See more at: http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2015/01/015.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Science360NewsServiceComplete+%28Science360+News+Service%3A+Complete%29&utm_content=Netvibes#sthash.uBpXDk8L.dpuf

January 22, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Travelling through blood: science fiction comes to life › Lindau Blog

Travelling through blood: science fiction comes to life › Lindau Blog.

Excerpts from the 19 January 2015 post at Sciblog

An artificial nanomotor makes its first successful “voyage” in human blood.

The fantastic notion of a team of doctors aboard a ship, shrunk so small that they can course through blood and perform critical surgeries, has pervaded science fiction writing and movies for decades. Mathematician Albert Hibbs proposed the “wild idea” of “swallowing the surgeon”, made famous by physicist Richard Feynman who articulated the challenge of fabricating miniature surgical robots in his hugely popular lecture, There’s plenty of room at the bottom. Now, scientists from IISc Bangalore have succeeded, for the very first time, to steer artificial nanostructures through undiluted human blood. Dubbed “nano voyagers” these tiny swimmers could open the doors to a fascinating range of biomedical applications from targeted drug delivery to microsurgery.

Physicist Ambarish Ghosh and his student, Pranay Mandal, from the Centre for Nanoscience and Engineering at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, had previously studied the dynamics of helically shaped micro- or nano- sized swimmers in water. However, maneuvering these structures through unmodified human blood posed a number of new challenges. Other studies that have attempted to manipulate nanostructures either employ methods that are incompatible with living systems (using intense lasers or harmful chemicals) or, at best, work only in significantly diluted blood.

January 22, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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