November 10, 2017

Health Roundup: Colon cancer, chronic fatigue, Tylenol, gut bacteria Vit D, magnesium cream

New System for Treating Colorectal Cancer Can Lead to Complete Cure

Researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston have developed a new, three-step system that uses nuclear medicine to target and eliminate colorectal cancer. In this study with a mouse model, researchers achieved a 100-percent cure rate—without any treatment-related toxic effects. The study is reported in the November featured article in The Journal of Nuclear Medicine.

Until now, radioimmunotherapy (targeted therapy) of solid tumors using antibody-targeted radionuclides has had limited therapeutic success. “This research is novel because of the benchmarks reached by the treatment regimen, in terms of curative tumor doses, with non-toxic secondary radiation to the body’s normal tissues,” explains Steven M. Larson, MD, and Sarah Cheal, PhD, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “The success in murine tumor models comes from the unique quality of the reagents developed by our group, and the reduction to practice methodology, including a theranostic approach that can be readily transferred, we believe, to patients.”  Theranostics, a term derived from therapy and diagnostics, is the use of a single agent to both diagnose and treat disease. The theranostic agent first finds the cancer cells, then destroys them, leaving healthy cells unharmed—minimizing side effects and improving quality of life for patients.

People With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Are Exhausted at a Cellular Level, Study Shows

If you're one of the millions of people worldwide who deals with the symptoms of CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome, sometimes also called myalgic encephalomyelitis, ME), it can often feel like your entire body is drained of energy.  New research has found immune cells taken from the blood of volunteers diagnosed with the condition show clear signs of low energy production, not only adding details to a complex and confusing condition....Scientists have begun to identify stark distinctions in immune cells, gut bacteria, and blood biomarkers among those diagnosed with the disease. Now it seems as if there is a clear metabolic difference between the peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) in individuals with CFS and healthy controls.

Tylenol is as effective as addictive opioids, study claims

Researchers at Northwestern University gave 411 patients either a drugstore painkiller or a prescription opioid to treat broken bones and sprains. All groups reported the same pain levels after two months. Though the study only assessed short-term pain relief, experts say the paper is crucial as more than two million Americans are hooked on opioids.

Healthy gut bacteria could help protect you from almost EVERY age-related disease, study finds

Changing your diet to maintain healthy gut bacteria could help to protect you from nearly all age-related diseases, new research suggests. Imbalanced gut bacteria may to blame for many age-related diseases, according to the new study from University Medical Center Groningen, The Netherlands. The researchers found that the poorly balanced gut bacteria in older mice could induce ‘inflammaging’ in younger mice when it was transplanted to them. Inflammaging is a chronic inflammation condition associated with aging, which is linked to most serious age-related health conditions, like stroke, dementia and cardiovascular disease.

Do you know where your adrenal glands are?  Only 15% of adults know the right answer

When it comes to knowledge of the human body, many of us do not know our adrenal glands from our elbows. In a survey that asked people to mark on a diagram of the body where various organs were, the only part of body 100 per cent of participants got right was the brain. The organ we get wrong most is the adrenal glands – only 15 per cent of us know where these are. Many people wrongly thought they were in the neck. ‘We also thought everybody knows where the heart is. But that wasn’t the case.’

Women with low levels of vitamin D are nearly 50 per cent more likely to develop multiple sclerosis

The findings could help to explain why there are higher rates of the disease among those in the North who get less sunlight, which helps the body make vitamin D.  It is believed the 'sunshine vitamin', also found in eggs, red meat and oily fish, may help to suppress immune cells that attack the body to cause MS. The disease can leave people wheelchair-bound by severely damaging their muscles.

Magnesium cream could combat high blood pressure without the need to take pills

People with higher than average blood pressure can be deficient in magnesium which is thought to help the body to regulate blood flow.  However some people do not like taking pills or have difficulty ingesting them.    A new study has found that topical application of magnesium lotion absorbed through skin significantly boosts levels of the mineral in the blood.  Magnesium cream could be used as an alternative or in addition to medication to combat high blood pressure.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:53 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Food and Drink Edition

In a Major Warning, Top US Cancer Doctors Are Asking People to Drink Less Alcohol

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) outlined research tying alcohol to two types of cancer and told Americans to drink less....This summer, two major research groups found strong evidence that drinking alcohol - as little as one glass of wine or beer a day - increases the risk of developing both pre- and postmenopausal breast cancer.....Research highlighted by the National Cancer Institute suggests that the more alcohol you drink - particularly the more you drink regularly - the higher your risk of developing cancer.

Cancer Doctors Cite Risks of Drinking Alcohol

Heavy drinkers face much higher risks of mouth and throat cancer, cancer of the voice box, liver cancer and, to a lesser extent, colorectal cancers, the group cautions. “The message is not, ‘Don’t drink.’ It’s, ‘If you want to reduce your cancer risk, drink less. And if you don’t drink, don’t start.”...Heavy drinkers face roughly five times the risk of mouth and throat cancers and squamous cell esophageal cancers than nondrinkers, nearly three times the risk of cancers of the voice box or larynx, double the risk of liver cancer, as well as increased risks for female breast cancer and colorectal cancer. One way alcohol may lead to cancer is because the body metabolizes it into acetaldehyde, which causes changes and mutations in DNA, Dr. Gapstur said. The formation of acetaldehyde starts when alcohol comes in contact with bacteria in the mouth, which may explain the link between alcohol and cancers of the throat, voice box and esophagus, she suggested.

Italian researchers have created a pasta that could help us survive heart attacks

In a newly published study, medical researchers at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna’s Institute of Life Sciences in Pisa developed a special kind of pasta enriched with barley flour. The barley contains a substance called beta-glucan that is known to help the body form new blood vessels – which could serve as a “natural bypass” in the event of a heart attack, the researchers said.

Study: Coffee may help kidney disease patients avoid early death

A new study that found that among more than 2,300 Americans with chronic kidney disease, those who drank the most caffeinated drinks reduced their risk of premature death by 24 percent.

The 10 reasons why everyone should drink coffee:

Expert nutritionist Fiona Hunter reveals how how coffee can add years to your life, slash the risk of cancer and help you lose weight. She also busts common myths surrounding coffee: It doesn't dehydrate you or cause heart palpitations/irregular heartbeats nor does it trigger high blood pressure.

Certain foods can prevent inflammation that can lead to gut diseases like colon cancer and Crohn's disease.

Researchers at the University of Warwick published a study  in Nature Communications that demonstrated a new link between inflammation and a natural cellular process known as autophagy, an essential process where cells break down and recycle damaged elements to keep the body healthy.  They discovered that autophagy can lead to inflammation, which increases a person's risk of developing certain diseases of the gut, including colon cancer, Crohn's disease and other gut-related diseases....The team identified a protein which is regulated by autophagy called Kenny, which contains amino acids that causes it to be broken down by autophagy.  They identified fruits and vegetables such as pomegranates, red grapes, pears, mushrooms, lentils, soybeans and green peas that contain natural compounds that can activate autophagy to prevent inflammation and disease of the gut.

Eating Brussels sprouts and drinking green tea could make aggressive breast cancers treatable by 'turning off' tumor genes

Vegetables and green tea make breast cancer treatable. Results reveal feeding mice compounds found in cruciferous vegetables and green tea converts aggressive breast cancers into more treatable tumors. Compounds in cruciferous vegetables influence tumor response to treatment. Such compounds can 'turn off' cancerous genes, changing therapy outcomes.

Study author Professor Trygve Tollefsbol from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said: 'Your mother always told you to eat your vegetables, and science now tells us she was right.  'Unfortunately, there are few options for women who develop ER-negative breast cancer.'  Study author Yuanyuan Li added: 'The results of this research provide a novel approach to preventing and treating ER-negative breast cancer, which currently takes hundreds of thousands of lives worldwide.'

The Icelandic-inspired three-ingredient breakfast a Harvard physician says you should eat EVERY day for optimum health

Monique Tello revealed that having a bowl of cereal, a bagel or a piece of toast first thing is no different to having dessert for breakfast. Instead, she opts for an Icelandic-esque breakfast of three nutrient-dense ingredients: berries, high protein yogurt, and oats.  Tello says this meal is perfect to kick off the day because it's packed with two key ingredients: protein and fibre. These nourishing ingredients fuel our muscles, keep us full and regulate digestion.  Berries: Packed with fibre, as well as Vitamins A, C, and K. Plain yoghurt: Packed with protein but low sugar. Oats or nuts and seeds: High in fibre and protein.

 Icedlandic Breakfast

Eating spicy foods can make your low-salt food taste saltier

Actually, just about any spicy food will likely impact the amount of salt a person eats, according to new research published this week in Hypertension, the journal of the American Heart Association. That’s because salt and spice appear to activate brain activity in overlapping parts of the brain, enhancing sensitivity to either taste.
Researchers at the Third Military Medical University in Chongqing, China asked 606 local adults about their taste preferences, and then tested participants’ blood pressure. They found that people with a high preference for spicy foods had lower blood pressure numbers and consumed less salt, in general.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:33 PM | Permalink

November 5, 2017

Some recent articles on medical research and technology

Nintendo Wii-inspired microchip turns 2D ultrasound machines into 3D imaging devices

A Nintendo Wii controller has inspired scientists to convert a portable ultrasound into a cheap 3D scanner. Scientists used a common microchip costing just £7 ($10) that tracks how your smartphone or controller is oriented to convert current hospital ultrasound machines. It produced an instant 3D model similar in quality to a CT scan or MRI that are five times more expensive. It is also portable enough to be used in casualty to let doctors instantly know if a patient suffers internal bleeding or provide pregnant women with cheaper 3D scans of their babies.

The fingernail sized chip mounts onto a traditional plastic ultrasound probe that slides over a patient's skin, relaying two dimensional pictures of internal organs or unborn babies. Just like the Wii video game controller, the chip registers the probe's orientation and ten uses software to seamlessly stitch hundreds of individual slices of the anatomy together in 3D.

Professor Joshua Broder, lead researcher from of Duke University, North Carolina, explained: 'With 2D technology you see a visual slice of an organ, but without any context, you can make mistakes.'These are problems that can be solved with the added orientation and holistic context of 3D technology. Professor Broder said the idea came to him while playing with a Nintendo Wii gaming system with his son. With the game console's ability to accurately track the exact position of the controller, he wondered about just sticking the controller to an ultrasound probe with duct tape.  The technology is now being tested in clinical trials to determine how it fits in the flow of patient care.

Doctors replace boy’s skin using breakthrough gene therapy, stem cells

In a breakthrough treatment, researchers at a burn unit in Europe found a way to replace 80 percent of a boy’s skin using a combination of gene therapy and stem cells. The grafted skin attached to his body has continued to replace itself, even months later.  The patient –- a boy who was 7 years old at the time of the treatment –- was born with a rare skin condition called junctional epidermolysis bullosa. The condition causes the outer layer of the skin to peel away easily from the lower skin layers, making it incredibly fragile and prone to injury....In this case, the treatment may have been lifesaving. The patient arrived at the hospital with a life-threatening bacterial skin infection spread over much of his body. Over the following weeks, his doctors tried everything they could to treat him without success.  Out of options, his treatment team was preparing to start end-of-life care when his parents pleaded with them to try an experimental therapy.

Single injection of stem cells could banish back pain for up to three years

Stem cell injections into the spine ease the discomfort of around half of chronic lower back pain sufferers for two years, with some even being symptom-free three years later, a study found. Researchers believe injected stem cells re-inflate vertebrae that have dried and cracked by causing water to trap between discs. Such treatments could resolve the opioid endemic that killed 33,000 people in the US in 2015 alone, with half of such painkiller prescriptions being due to chronic lower back pain.

Researchers from the drug manufacturer Mesoblast in Melbourne injected stem cells into 100 people with degenerative disc disease, which accounts for around 22 percent of cases of chronic lower back pain. The stem cells were extracted from the bone marrow of donors and grown in a lab to create large quantities. Results reveal one stem cell injection helped around half of the study's participants to experience no back pain for two years. Some of the participants have been pain-free for three years. Almost half of those treated became mobile and dropped 15 points on a 100-scale disability score versus just 13 percent receiving a placebo.

Feeling hungry or full is down to our BONES

We've long been told that a part of our brain controls our appetite – but a new study suggests that our bones also play a key role. A hormone they produce, called osteocalcin, has been shown to affect how we metabolize sugar and fat. It has also been associated with insulin sensitivity, which is linked to developing type 2 diabetes.

Professor Mathieu Ferron, of the Montreal Clinical Research Institute (IRCM), spent the last decade studying osteocalcin. ... He says osteocalcin is produced by osteoblasts, the same cells responsible for making our bones. The hormone builds up in bone, and then, through a series of chemical reactions, is released into the blood.  'When it is first produced in osteoblasts, osteocalcin is in an inactive form,' he explained. 'What interested us was understanding how osteocalcin becomes active so as to be able to play its role when released into the blood.' His lab demonstrated that an enzyme, which acts like molecular scissors, is required
Professor Ferron's team succeeded in identifying the protein furin which causes osteocalcin to become active and the hormone is then released into the blood. He said: 'We demonstrated that when there was no furin in bone cells, inactive osteocalcin built up and was still released, but this led to an increase in blood glucose levels and a reduction in energy expenditure and insulin production.' Professor Ferron explained that deleting these 'scissors' also had an unexpected effect: it reduced the mice's appetite.

The iPhone ultrasound device that can spot CANCER

Dr John Martin diagnosed his own stage four cancer last summer - using only his iPhone. The 59-year-old doctor is a vascular surgeon and the chief medical officer at Butterfly Network, a company that has invented a handheld ultrasound machine that can connect to an iPhone called the Butterfly iQ.  While the product was being tested for FDA clearance in July, Dr Martin decided to scan his own neck using the device because he felt a mass in his throat. The results that popped up on his phone screen revealed he had metastatic cancer. It had started in his tongue and throat and spread to his neck. After surgery, it was downgraded to stage three and now, coming to the end of six weeks of radiation, doctors say he looks set to be cured.

A new blood test could predict from the earliest stage of pregnancy whether a woman will go on to suffer a miscarriage.

The test, carried out in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, can also predict if a woman is at risk of giving birth prematurely or developing pre-eclampsia, a potentially fatal condition causing high blood pressure. Researchers from the Laboratory for Reproductive Medicine and Immunology in San Francisco discovered molecules in the blood that predict these birth complications with up to 98 per cent accuracy.  More research is needed before the test could be rolled out – but the findings have been hailed as 'very promising'.

Algorithm can identify suicidal people using brain scans

Scientists have trained a computer program to identify people with suicidal thoughts based on their brain scans. The study is small, but the method could one day be used for diagnosing mental health conditions, researchers say....The algorithm isn't perfect — and a medical test would have to be. It may also not become widely used since brain scans are expensive. But “it’d be nice to have this additional method,” says study author Marcel Just, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University.

Thirty-four volunteers participated in the study: 17 with suicidal thoughts and 17 without. The volunteers read 30 words that were either positive (“bliss”), negative (“cruelty”), or related to death (“suicide”) and thought about the meanings while undergoing a type of brain scan called fMRI.  Researchers found that the responses to six words — “death,” “trouble,” “carefree,” “good,” “praise,” and “cruelty” — showed the biggest differences between the two groups of participants. So, they gave a machine-learning algorithm these results for every person except one.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:36 PM | Permalink

November 4, 2017

Health Roundup: Alzheimer's Edition

New 'plaque destroying' light therapy could prevent Alzheimer's disease by blitzing dangerous proteins

Researchers from Rice University in Houston, Texas, developed a probe to target proteins in the brain that cause Alzheimer's disease. An optic probe has been developed by scientists that glows over 100 times more brightly when it identifies the fine fibers, or fibrils, of amyloid beta that kill neurons. The light then oxidizes the fibers to prevent them from clumping together in patients' brains, which inhibits memory and makes them confused.

Bizarre Cucumber-based vaccine to treat Alzheimer's  Works on mice.

A cucumber-based vaccine that protects against Alzheimer's disease, cat allergies and psoriasis could be in the pipeline, researchers claim. Scientists believe they have created a 'magic bullet' by using a virus that normally affects the vegetable in their quest for a cure against several conditions. They hailed the results of their trial as a breakthrough which could lead to 'hundreds of thousands of people being spared the ravages of chronic diseases'.

The bizarre technique, proven to work on mice, is also expected to protect against many common allergies and even types of chronic pain. Scientists at Dundee and Oxford universities used the protein coat of the cucumber mosaic virus - which can cause lumps to appear on the vegetable - for their vaccine. It was then combined with a protein structure from the tetanus vaccine - which is already known to stimulate the immune system.The British research team, who published their work in Nature Vaccine, say more trials are required to properly test the vaccines.

Alzheimer's Patients Have Altered Gut Bacteria

Overall, Alzheimer's patients had reduced microbial diversity, as well as a few noteworthy differences in bacterial abundance.  ....The current study is only correlational, so the differences in gut bacteria may result from Alzheimer's disease rather than contribute to it. However, research published earlier this year showed that transferring the intestinal bacteria of mice afflicted with Alzheimer's into the guts of germ-free mice caused the germ-free mice to develop more beta-amyloid plaques in the brain compared to if they had received bacteria from healthy mice. Beta-amyloid plaques are a hallmark sign of Alzheimer's, accruing on the neurons of people afflicted with the disease.

Alzheimer's could begin outside the brain:

Toxic proteins behind the disease can develop anywhere in the body before invading grey matter like cancer, reveals study. Researchers at the University of British Columbia in Canada found the toxic proteins that lead to the neurodegenerative illness can develop in the liver or even kidneys before invading grey matter. The discovery could lead to drugs that target dementia in organs that are much easier to treat - years before the onset of symptoms.  Alzheimer's, the most common form of dementia, has long been assumed to originate in the brain. But this new research indicates it could be started by breakdowns elsewhere.

Doctors Have Trouble Diagnosing Alzheimer's. AI Doesn't

Algorithms can look at brain scans of people exhibiting memory loss and tell who will develop Alzheimer's disease and who won't Separate teams of scientists at the University of Bari in Italy and McGill University in Canada have created artificial intelligence algorithms that can look at brain scans of people who are exhibiting memory loss and tell who will go on to develop full-blown Alzheimer's disease and who won't.  The difference in amyloid between the two groups is too subtle for humans to detect, but the AI system, called AIDDementia (short for Artificial Intelligence for Diagnosing Dementia), had no problem. When it analyzed a new set of 82 brain scans, it identified who would develop Alzheimer’s in the next two years with 84 percent accuracy.

Alzheimer’s Risk Determined By Spit? New Test Shows Promise, Study Finds

The study, conducted by the Beaumont Research Institute, hopes to be among the first that could spot the potential for Alzheimer’s early on, allowing for increased prevention methods among patients. Treatment for the disease is far more effective when started earlier in a patient’s life. The study finds that a person’s risk of suffering from Alzheimer’s disease may be accurately detected from their spit. Researchers examined 29 people — eight of whom had mild cognitive impairment (MCI), nine who suffered from Alzheimer’s, and 12 who were considered healthy — and collected saliva samples from each. Using what’s called “metabolomics,” a new process that probes molecules involved in metabolism, the researchers were able to find and identify 57 metabolites. Twenty-two of those biomarkers from the participants with either MCI or Alzheimer’s showed significant differences from those examined in the control group. The team believes those biomarkers could signal a higher likelihood of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Forget  Young People's Blood as Dementia Treatment

Despite the hype, giving dementia patients the blood of young donors hasn't turned out to be the silver bullet in the heart of Alzheimer's - not yet, at any rate.The small, controversial and much hailed human clinical trial that began in 2014 has concluded - and found that the rich, juicy blood of the young makes no changes to the cognitive state of dementia patients.

"The scientific basis for the trial is simply not there," said neurologist Irina Conboy of the University of California, Berkeley, who has performed parabiosis experiments. The effects of young blood on cognition have not been replicated by an independent group, and there has never been a test with a mouse model of Alzheimer's."

Cup Of Tea A Day Keeps Dementia Away,

Drinking tea as a senior citizen — especially those at higher risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s — could help prevent serious mental decline, concludes a new study from the National University of Singapore after looking at 957 Chinese individuals who were 55 years of age or older in a longitudinal study.  The study’s findings were rather promising: those who drank tea daily reduced their risk of cognitive decline by 50 percent. Participants who carried the gene associated with Alzheimer’s disease saw a diminished risk of cognitive impairment by up to 86 percent. This finding held regardless of the type of tea that one drank— e.g. black, green, oolong. As long as the tea leaves had been freshly brewed, consuming tea was found to help protect the brain. Despite “tea [being] one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world,” its tremendous health benefits are often overlooked, argues lead researcher Feng Lei.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:36 AM | Permalink

November 3, 2017

Health Roundup: Heart Edition

‘Unbelievable’: Heart Stents Fail to Ease Chest Pain

Heart disease is still the leading killer of Americans — 790,000 people have heart attacks each year — and stenting is a mainstay treatment in virtually every hospital. More than 500,000 heart patients worldwide have stents inserted each year to relieve chest pain, according to the researchers. Other estimates are far higher. The new study, published in the Lancet, stunned leading cardiologists by countering decades of clinical experience. The findings raise questions about whether stents should be used so often — or at all — to treat chest pain.

For the study, Dr. Justin E. Davies, a cardiologist at Imperial College London, and his colleagues recruited 200 patients with a profoundly blocked coronary artery and chest pain severe enough to limit physical activity, common reasons for inserting a stent. All were treated for six weeks with drugs to reduce the risk of a heart attack, like aspirin, a statin and a blood pressure drug, as well as medications that relieve chest pain by slowing the heart or opening blood vessels. Then the subjects had a procedure: a real or fake insertion of a stent.

The stents did what they were supposed to do in patients who received them. Blood flow through the previously blocked artery was greatly improved.When the researchers tested the patients six weeks later, both groups said they had less chest pain, and they did better than before on treadmill tests. But there was no real difference between the patients, the researchers found. Those who got the sham procedure did just as well as those who got stents. ...“It was impressive how negative it was,” Dr. Redberg said of the new study. Since the procedure carries some risks, including death, stents should be used only for people who are having heart attacks, she added.

Afternoon heart surgery 'is 50% more successful'

Heart surgery is 50 per cent more successful if done in the afternoon, a major study has found conducted by study leader Professor David Montaigne, of the University of Lille in France found. Experts believe this is because the heart is better at repairing itself later in the day. Researchers tracked 596 people who had undergone heart valve replacement surgery – half of them who had surgery in the morning, half in the afternoon

Research on mice. Just ONE dose of new wonder drug can 'melt away' the fat inside arteries that causes heart attacks

Trodusquemine shows promising results for treating breast cancer and diabetes. Now researchers have found it reverses the effects of atherosclerosis where arteries become clogged with fat, causing heart disease. Researchers believe the drug 'mimics' the effects of exercise and activates a protective enzyme while inhibiting another enzyme that causes prolonged inflammation and hardens arteries.

Professor Mirela Delibegovic from the University of Aberdeen’s Institute of Medical Sciences, who led the study, said ‘We know this drug has been shown to have beneficial effects on reducing prolonged inflammation in type 2 diabetes and because this is also a factor in atherosclerosis we wanted to know if it had cardiovascular benefits too. And our initial tests on mice show that it does, so this is potentially a big breakthrough....‘Essentially, when it comes to the key enzymes in play here, trodusquemine is stopping the bad guy and helping the good guy. We will now need to carry out further research to see if the same effect is replicated in humans and it can be proven to be safe.’

Heart Attacks More Likely When It’s Cold Out, Study Finds

Researchers in Sweden examined a study of 280.873 heart attack patients from the country between January 1998 and December 2013. The team checked the weather conditions for the area where each attack was suffered...Specifically, the likelihood of a heart attack was higher when temperatures were below 0°C (32°F). About four more heart attacks per day are suffered under those conditions compared to days when the average minimum temperature was above 10°C (50°F).

The FDA Warns That Black Licorice Can Cause Heart Problems in Adults

In a report released Monday, the FDA warns, "if you're 40 or older, eating 2 ounces of black licorice a day for at least two weeks could land you in the hospital with an irregular heart rhythm or arrhythmia." Two ounces is only about five Twizzler-sized ropes of licorice, or nine Red-Vine-sized pieces. The sweetening compound in licorice root, glycyrrhizin, is the danger: Glycyrrhetic acid can elevate sodium levels and reduce potassium in the body. That temporary potassium drop can cause some people to experience abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure, swelling, lethargy, and congestive heart failure. According to the FDA's Linda Katz, potassium levels in licorice-eaters are usually restored with no permanent health problems once people stop eating the black stuff.

Tai Chi helps heart attack patients to recover:

Tai Chi should be recommended to heart attack patients to help them recover, new research suggests. The ancient Chinese martial art may provide a more enjoyable option to traditional rehab, which three fifths refuse to take part in because they deem it unpleasant. But deciding against taking part in rehabilitation can be fatal, increasing the risk of dying from a subsequent heart attack by 18 per cent. Used for more than 1,000 years, it could help to form part of the essential care that all heart attack patients require, Brown University experts believe.

Dr Elena Salmoirago-Blotcher, lead author, said: 'We thought that tai chi might be a good option for these people because you can start very slowly and simply. 'As their confidence increases, the pace and movements can be modified to increase intensity. Tai Chi exercise can reach low-to-moderate intensity levels. 'The emphasis on breathing and relaxation can also help with stress reduction and psychological distress.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:04 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Psoriasis Edition

Psoriasis sufferers are up to TWICE as likely to die early

Psoriasis affects around two percent of people in the US and UK. Severe psoriasis is defined as red, scaly patches that cover 10% of the body. Patients with severe psoriasis have nearly double the risk of dying prematurely as they are at increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.  Since the affected body surface area can be easily evaluated during patient's doctor visits, doctors are able to determine the patients most at risk of medical problems.

Our Skin Can 'Remember' Inflammation, And It Could Help Us Understand Psoriasis

Wounds, and even other harmful attacks that cause inflammation, are 'remembered' by stem cells in the skin, according to new research, and those 'memories' are used to heal our bodies faster the next time around. While stem cells don't suddenly have brain-like memory-forming capabilities, this research has shown these amazing cells log past experiences to improve their wound-healing capabilities in the future. And at times this ability could actually have a negative result.

"By enhancing responsiveness to inflammation, these memories help the skin maintain its integrity, a feature that is beneficial in healing wounds after an injury," says one of the team, Elaine Fuchs. "This memory may also have detrimental effects, however, such as contributing to the relapse of certain inflammatory disorders such as psoriasis."

New steroid-free cream clears up the scaly skin of psoriasis within weeks without any of the side effects

More than two million people in Britain suffer from psoriasis. Skin condition sees cells replaced every few days, instead of three to four weeks. It can form raised silvery scales which can become inflamed and painful. The new treatment, Soratinex, can reduce redness and scaling skin within weeks.

Scientists reveal there is an at-home device to tackle psoriasis that does work

Blue-light therapy reduces symptoms of the scaly skin condition in 84% of sufferers. The chronic, itchy condition is caused by too many skin cells being made. Philips BlueControl shown to decrease thickness of plaques, redness and scaling. The blue LED light works by slowing down the accelerated production of cells and it also educes the inflammation that causes the red plaques on sufferers. Sold in the UK and Germany, the device was given FDA approval in July.

Diet cure for Psoriasis and Eczema Sufferers Helps Thousands

A woman whose 20-year battle with psoriasis and eczema was so severe she was told her only treatment option was chemotherapy has found a 'cure' through diet. Hanna Sillitoe was in such agony she even had to resort to going out with her red-raw skin wrapped in clingfilm to stop her clothes rubbing against it. Having tried 'every cream under the sun' and at her wits end, the 38-year-old, from Manchester, began researching about anti-inflammatory foods and devised her own diet. She cut out caffeine, alcohol, sugar, dairy and wheat. The interior designer then found her heavily scaly and crusted skin cleared up completely and as a 'bonus' lost five stone (31kg). She also says her 'whole health has been boosted'.

She published a blog and book to help others and has shared their astounding before and after pictures. One US mother of a psoriasis-covered toddler used Hanna's diet plan and revealed her daughter 'has her life back'

 Before After Diet Cure Psorasis

Ashley – who said some people have accused her of being 'a bad parent' when they've mistaken
her daughter's psoriasis for severe sunburn – reports Charlie has found relief

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:15 AM | Permalink

November 1, 2017

Health Roundup: Parkinson's edition

Diabetes drug cuts Parkinson's risk by helping the body to self-clean damaged or aging brain cells

A drug prescribed for diabetes patients reduces the risk of developing Parkinson's disease by more than a quarter, a major study has found.  Researchers from the University of Bergen in Norway discovered glitazones (GTZs) had a protective effect against the degenerative neurological disease.  GTZs users saw a 28 percent drop in their chances of developing it compared with people on metformin, which is the most common medication for type 2 diabetes.  GTZs – also known as thiazolidinediones – are approved in the US and the UK for the metabolic disorder, but are not the primary treatment. They are thought to work by helping the body to self-clean damaged or aging brain cells....The study by a team from the University of Bergen in Norway analyzed data from the Norwegian Prescription Database, which holds data on all medications dispensed in pharmacies across Norway, and found more that 100,00 that met the study criteria but there were a number of limitations to their study so the findings cannot be generalized to the population as a whole.

Is a CURE for Parkinson's disease in the pipeline?

Scientists crack the secret behind the enzyme thought to be responsible for the condition.  In early-onset Parkinson’s, a PINK1 mutation causes it to lose its protective function, leading to the degeneration of cells in the brain that control movement.  PINK1 encodes a special class of enzyme, known as a kinase, that plays a critical role in protecting brain cells against stress. Previous research has shown that the main role of the PINK1 enzyme is to sense damage to the energy centers, or mitochondria, of cells.  This then switches on a protective pathway involving two key proteins, known as ubiquitin and Parkin, to reduce the damage. Scottish experts have now worked out the 3D structure of the PINK1 enzyme.  Their findings have been dubbed 'vital' and 'fantastic' by the medical community.

Using asthma inhalers HALVES the risk of developing Parkinson's disease in old age,

Asthma inhalers may protect patients from Parkinson's disease, a major new study suggests. Full of salbutamol, researchers found the medication halves the risk of developing the devastating neurological condition.  It is believed the drug, used in blue inhalers, stops abnormal clumps of a protein from accumulating in the brain - a hallmark of Parkinson's.  The 'landmark' findings, made by Norwegian and US scientists, could open up new avenues for potential new treatments for the incurable disease. Study author Professor Trond Riise said: 'These medicines have never been studied in relation to Parkinson's disease.  'Our discoveries may be the start of a totally new possible treatment for this serious disease. We expect that clinical studies will follow these discoveries.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:31 PM | Permalink

October 30, 2017

Health Roundup: Lungs

'My mysterious, incurable lung condition was mistaken for asthma'

All the while, Phillips’s breathing inhibited his lifestyle more and more. Doctors had their theories, but eventually a CT scan revealed the true cause: Phillips had idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a vicious and terminal condition in which the lungs build up scar tissue, restricting a person’s breathing as lung capacity shrinks. Anybody, asthma sufferer or not, can get it, and there is no known cure, explanation, nor many effective treatments. Its existence baffles doctors.

Toby Maher, Professor of Respiratory Research at Imperial College.  "For sufferers of IPF, the scar tissue builds up and refuses to heal, so become constantly, progressively injured. It is almost a premature aging of the lungs, and we believe analogous to Alzheimer’s. With IPF, your lungs are dying and your breath is lost. But we don’t know why.”

Pulmonary Fibrosis Causes

Pulmonary fibrosis (PF) is a respiratory disease characterized by the presence of scarred tissue in the lungs. The disease starts to cause the thickening and stiffening of the tissue, which ends up turning into fibrosis and causing difficulties in the lungs to properly transport the oxygen into the bloodstream. The lack of oxygen is responsible for symptoms like shortness of breath, a persistent dry and hacking cough, fatigue and weakness, discomfort in the chest, loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss, and clubbing of the fingers.

Pulmonary Fibrosis Prognosis

According to the study “Clinical Course and Prediction of Survival in Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis,” median survival of patients who suffer from pulmonary fibrosis is 2.5 years, but some patients live much longer than that. The most common cause of death among patients is respiratory failure.

Breathlessness and Cough Signal Pulmonary Fibrosis Years Before Diagnosis, Study Reports

University of Nottingham researchers analyzed symptoms in the medical charts of newly diagnosed patients.  A key underpinning of the study is that by the time a lot of people with IPF are diagnosed, the disease has already reached an advanced stage.  The team tracked all doctor consultations that the patient and control groups had for The team tracked all doctor consultations that the patient and control groups had for breathlessness, cough, fatigue, and weight loss. They also noted which patients had consultations for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or heart failure — because IPF is often mistaken for these conditions. They also noted which patients had consultations for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or heart failure — because IPF is often mistaken for these conditions...Early diagnosis of IPF can improve patients’ survival by allowing them to start treatment early.

Agonizing mystery lung disease twice more widespread than previously thought

The number of people suffering from an agonising mystery lung disease responsible for 1 per cent of all UK deaths is more than double what was previously feared, new research reveals....While some clinicians speculate that the debilitating disease may be down to a combination of genetic predisposition and exposure to pollution such as dust, no causal link has been definitively proved. The average life expectancy following a diagnosis is three years, although two drugs, each with significant side-effects, have recently come on the market which extend patients' post-diagnosis life-span by an average of two years compared to no treatment. Currently the only way of surviving an IPF diagnosis is a lung transplant.

People with arthritis are nearly 50% more likely to develop a deadly lung disease,

Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-term illness in which the immune system causes the body to attack itself, causing painful, swollen and stiff joints. The 400,000 people with rheumatoid arthritis in Britain, and 50 million in the US, are almost 50 per cent more likely to end up with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to the results of a new study.  COPD is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs and is the umbrella term for diseases from emphysema to acute bronchitis.  These are the findings of a study of almost 25,000 people with arthritis, monitored over a decade by Canadian researchers.

Taking a vitamin D supplement 'can halve the risk' of an asthma sufferer having a severe attack

The British study, funded by the research arm of the NHS, found people who took the daily tablets alongside their normal asthma treatment were 50 per cent less likely to suffer attacks so severe that they had to be taken to A&E. And they saw a 30 per cent reduction in attacks requiring treatment with steroids. Lead researcher Professor Adrian Martineau of Queen Mary University London, said: ‘These results add to the ever growing body of evidence that vitamin D can support immune function as well as bone health.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:42 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Cancer Edition

A Nine-Year Collaboration Has Just Shown How Sugar Influences Cancer Cell Growth

We know that almost all the cells in the human body require energy, and they derive this energy from the sugars in the food we eat. Cancer cells also require sugars to grow. But their glucose intake is a lot higher than that of healthy cells, as is the rate at which they ferment that glucose into lactic acid. This is known as the Warburg effect, and it may, scientists have hypothesized, have something to do with cancer's rapid growth rate. Our research reveals how the hyperactive sugar consumption of cancerous cells leads to a vicious cycle of continued stimulation of cancer development and growth," said researcher Johan Thevelein from KU Leuven in Belgium. "Thus, it is able to explain the correlation between the strength of the Warburg effect and tumor aggressiveness. This link between sugar and cancer has sweeping consequences."

Aspirin 'cuts risk of several types of cancer by up to half':

A trial involving more than half a million people found long-term aspirin users cut their risk of liver and esophageal cancer by almost half, while their odds of getting bowel cancer fell by a quarter. Aspirin, already known to protect against heart attacks and strokes, is thought to block enzymes which help cancer tumous to grow.

The study, which followed patients for 14 years, was led by the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Lead author Professor Kelvin Tsoi said: ‘The findings demonstrate that the long-term use of aspirin can reduce the risk of developing many major cancers."

Aspirin may reduce risk for liver cancer in hepatitis B patients, study says

Immunotherapy Treatments for Cancer Gain Momentum (WSJ)

The National Cancer Institute's prominent cancer researcher and chief of surgery, Steven A. Rosenberg, detailed for the first time an immunotherapy success against metastatic breast cancer, in a talk earlier this month. In the lecture at a Boston meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research, Dr. Rosenberg reported on the first patient with metastatic breast cancer who is disease-free nearly two years after her first immunotherapy treatment. In the therapy, a person’s own cells are multiplied billions of times and reinfused into the patient. Dr. Rosenberg’s lab has already reported successes in treatment of melanoma, lymphoma, colorectal cancer and bile-duct cancer....“Our hypothesis,” says Dr. Rosenberg, “is that immunotherapies work because they target unique mutations in that person’s cancer.”

Immunotherapy, or immune-cell therapy, describes a range of treatments that harness a patient’s own immune system to target cancer. The approach doesn’t work in all patients, but its success against some hard-to-treat cancers makes it the most closely watched area in cancer pharmaceuticals. Underscoring the rapid advances, the National Institutes of Health and the NCI Thursday announced a $215 million medical collaboration with 11 medical companies, including AbbVie , Novartis AG and Johnson & Johnson . The NIH will contribute $160 million over five years to the research, and the companies will contribute $55 million.

Treatment causes cancer to self-destruct without affecting healthy cells

Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine have discovered a compound that makes cancer cells self-destruct while sparing healthy cells. Acute myeloid leukemia accounts for nearly one-third of all new leukemia cases and kills more than 10,000 Americans each year.

The new compound fights cancer by triggering apoptosis, the process that rids the body of unwanted or malfunctioning cells. Some chemotherapy drugs kill cancer cells by indirectly inducing apoptosis by damaging DNA. Apoptosis happens when BAX, the "executioner protein" in cells, is activated by pro-apoptotic proteins. BAX molecules punch lethal holes in mitochondria once activated, but cancer cells produce anti-apoptotic proteins that prevent BAX from killing them.

"Our novel compound revives suppressed BAX molecules in cancer cells by binding with high affinity to BAX's activation site," Gavathiotis said. "BAX can then swing into action, killing cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unscathed."

FDA approves second ever gene therapy to fight aggressive form of blood cancer

The new therapy, called Yescarta uses the same CAR-T technology as the first to fight an non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The therapy uses a patient's own immune system cells and reprograms them to find and fight aggressive cancers. Yescarta was approved on Wednesday and will cost $373,000 per patient In tests, Yescarta shrunk cancer for 72 percent of patients, and about half of those treated were disease-free eight months later. This approval comes two years after the FDA approved the first gene therapy to fight leukemia.

Both gene therapies are approved to treat cancers that have been virtually unresponsive to all other treatments.  CAR-T treatment uses gene therapy techniques not to fix disease-causing genes but to turbocharge T cells, immune system soldiers that cancer can often evade. The T cells are filtered from a patient's blood, reprogrammed to target and kill cancer cells, and then hundreds of millions of copies are grown. Returned to the patient, all the revved-up cells can continue multiplying to fight disease for months or years. That's why these immunotherapy treatments are called 'living drugs.'

An Unprecedented Study Has Revealed 72 New Breast Cancer Gene Variants

Two genes already commonly associated with breast cancer are BRCA1 and BRCA2.  Mutations in these genes prevent them from repairing changes in other sections of DNA in breast tissue, raising the risk of further mutation. In what's being billed as the world's largest collective study on the genetics of breast cancer, researchers have discovered 72 new gene variants that appear to be responsible for increasing the risk of developing the disease.

The additions nearly double the number of genetic markers known to scientists, providing a trove of data for future studies to investigate in search of better understanding, new detection methods, and potentially more effective treatments.  More than 300 research groups were involved in the analysis, which pooled the genetic data of over 275,000 women from all around the globe. By comparing the genes of those diagnosed with the condition with those who had no history of breast cancer, the researchers were able to identify 65 variations of genes that contributed to the disease's development.

Ovarian cancer starts developing in the fallopian tubes 6 YEARS before it becomes deadly,

A new study from Johns Hopkins Medicine has found that ovarian cancers begin in the fallopian tubes and take 6.5 years to develop. This could change the way the disease, which is the fifth deadliest cancer among women, is diagnosed. It could also lead to more women getting their fallopian tubes rather than their ovaries removed to prevent the illness.  But once the cancers reached their ovaries the progression of the disease was estimated to have occurred within two years.

Dr Velculescu said: 'This aligns with what we see in the clinic, that newly-diagnosed ovarian cancer patients most often already have widespread disease.'  He said bigger studies are required to validate the new findings before there can be a change in clinical practice. There are already ongoing trials involving the removal of fallopian tubes instead of ovaries in women with the cancer-causing BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations.

Eating Brussels sprouts and drinking green tea could make aggressive breast cancers treatable by 'turning off' tumor genes,

Eating sprouts and drinking green tea could make aggressive breast cancers treatable, new research suggests. Compounds in cruciferous vegetables, such as sprouts, and the traditional herbal drink 'turn off' genes for ER-negative forms of the disease, which is notoriously unresponsive to therapy, a study found. Study author Professor Trygve Tollefsbol from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said: 'Your mother always told you to eat your vegetables, and science now tells us she was right.

'Unfortunately, there are few options for women who develop ER-negative breast cancer.' Study author Yuanyuan Li added: 'The results of this research provide a novel approach to preventing and treating ER-negative breast cancer, which currently takes hundreds of thousands of lives worldwide.'

New lung cancer cure fixes patients in just four days

Advanced technique to remove tumors via a matchstick-sized incision in the chest is hailed by NHS surgeons as an effective alternative to risky open surgery. A small tube – known as a port – is inserted to allow access to the lungs, through a gap in the rib cage. Surgeons are then able to carefully remove the part of the lung containing the tumor without causing damage to surrounding tissue. The procedure replaces older methods which involve a large incision in the chest, or a keyhole operation that uses three separate incisions, and the advance has slashed time spent in hospital from two weeks to as little as four days for some, as patients recover faster and are in less pain.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:27 PM | Permalink

October 28, 2017

Health Roundup: Aussie flu and more

No border can protect against viruses.  Australia is in the grip of its worst season on record with more than 70,000 cases of flu and standing room only in some emergency departments.  Great Britain and North America likely to be hit by the Aussie flu.

What Australia's bad flu season might mean for us and other flu facts you need to know

The culprit in Australia is the H3N2 strain of flu, which is included in this year’s vaccine and dates back to Hong Kong in 2014,  H3N2 strains are the hardest ones for the flu vaccine to combat. All flu viruses make frequent genetic changes that help them slip around a vaccine. Influenza H3N2 viruses are particularly adept at changing as the vaccine is being made, rendering the vaccine less effective against them, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

You should get the flu shot—even if it won’t keep you from getting sick 

Get it for all the people who can’t. Even if you are healthy, you can still become ill. And if you do become ill and are around someone who is at higher risk — such as a baby too young for vaccination or a person with a compromised immune system — you could put them at risk.  Vaccination is recommended for everyone over the age of six months.

Cheap yoghurt drinks can make the flu jab work better:

Taking probiotic supplements when you get home from having your flu jab could make it work better, research suggests. University of Melbourne researchers reviewed 26 trials to make the conclusion. The review, which involved 3,812 participants, highlighted benefits of probiotics in around half of the studies. Scientists claim the yoghurt drinks offer a cheap boost, as the dreaded Aussie flu begins its journey in time for Britain's winter.

Advice to patients to fast before surgery may be scrapped after pilot scheme finds drinking tea, coffee or juice helps recovery

Current guidelines were developed by the Royal College of Nursing in conjunction with the Royal College of Anesthetists in 2005 after a major review examined evidence from 22 studies and found that healthy patients fasting for shorter periods and given drinks just a few hours before surgery were at no greater risk.Official guidance states that healthy adults having elective surgery can drink water up to two hours before anesthesia, and should not have food, including solids, milk and milk-containing drinks for at least six hours before.

Staff at Nottingham University NHS Trust began pioneering a new approach in 2014 after a survey revealed patients fasted for an average of nine hours, and overwhelmingly disliked the experience which left them anxious and thirsty.Patients on the pilot scheme were allowed liquids – including tea and coffee with no more than a fifth milk, diluted squash and still energy drinks – until up to two hours before surgery. Solid food could be eaten up to six hours before, and if patients had an afternoon operation this meant they were allowed a light breakfast.

Dr Arani Pillai, consultant anesthetist at Nottingham who is involved in the pilot, said: 'Fasting really was a belt and braces approach. If there were delays with an operation, it could mean patients went for hours without a drink.This can leave them dehydrated, nauseous and anxious, and with low blood sugar and increases the risk of electrolyte imbalance and kidney injury."

Antihistamine shown to improve function in MS patients

Taking statins raises the risk of Type 2 diabetes by nearly a third

A decade-long study of more than 3,200 patients found those who took statins were 30 per cent more likely to develop the condition...The researchers, from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, think this may be because statins impair insulin production. These findings reopens the debate about the benefits and side effects of statins.

One in nine American men has oral HPV

Researchers from the University of Florida analyzed data of people who contracted HPV in the United States. They found an estimated 11.5 million men had oral HPV compared to 3.2 million women. Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection. Washington D.C. ranked at the top of the list for the highest rate of STDs based on population according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

'Never thought a stupid lil wrist computer would save my life':

Apple Watch notification spots 28-year-old’s life-threatening blood clot.

Men are at-risk of an early death if they receive blood from mothers - but experts are clueless as to why

The most common cause of such death is transfusion-related acute lung injury. Women are unaffected by receiving blood from females who have been pregnant. Researchers are unsure why such blood donations solely cause male mortality
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:42 AM | Permalink

New Med research and Tech: Pasta, diabetes Type 3c, blindness breakthrough, new pneumonia vaccine, OCD genes and more

Italian researchers have created a pasta that could help us survive heart attacks

In a newly published study, medical researchers at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna’s Institute of Life Sciences in Pisa developed a special kind of pasta enriched with barley flour. The barley contains a substance called beta-glucan that is known to help the body form new blood vessels – which could serve as a “natural bypass” in the event of a heart attack, the researchers said.

Wanted: 1 million people to study genes, habits and health

U.S. researchers are getting ready to recruit more than 1 million people for an unprecedented study to learn how our genes, environments and lifestyles interact — and to finally customize ways to prevent and treat disease....The NIH's massive "All Of Us" project will push what's called precision medicine, using traits that make us unique in learning to forecast health and treat disease. Partly it's genetics. What genes do you harbor that raise your risk of, say, heart disease or Type 2 diabetes or various cancers? But other factors affect that genetic risk: what you eat, how you sleep, if you grew up in smog or fresh air, if you sit at a desk all day or bike around town, if your blood pressure is fine at a check-up but soars on the job, what medications you take.

Pilot testing is under way and if it  goes well, NIH plans to open the study next spring to just about any U.S. adult who's interested, with sign-up as easy as going online. It's a commitment. The study aims to run for at least 10 years.
The goal is to enroll a highly diverse population, people from all walks of life — specifically recruiting minorities who have been under-represented in scientific research. And unusual for observational research, volunteers will get receive results of their genetic and other tests, information they can share with their own doctors.

There's a Totally New Type of Diabetes And It's Being Misdiagnosed as Type 2

Type 3c diabetes might be surprisingly widespread.  Researchers from the University of Surrey studied medical records on people diagnosed with pancreatic diseases.  They found that most were misdiagnosed and actually had type 3c diabetes. The records used were taken from the Royal College of General Practitioners Research and Surveillance Database (RCGP RSC). This database, mainly used for flu surveillance, contains the anonymized healthcare records of people of all ages for a sample of GP practices spread out across England..... In adults, type 3c diabetes was more common than type 1 diabetes. We found that 1 percent of new cases of diabetes in adults were type 1 diabetes compared with 1.6 percent for type 3c diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is where the body's immune system destroys the insulin producing cells of the pancreas. It usually starts in childhood or early adulthood and almost always needs insulin treatment.  Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas can't keep up with the insulin demand of the body. It is often associated with being overweight or obese and usually starts in middle or old age, although the age of onset is decreasing. Type 3c diabetes is caused by damage to the pancreas from inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), tumors of the pancreas, or pancreatic surgery. The onset of type 3c diabetes could occur long after the onset of pancreas injury. In many cases more than a decade later. This type of damage to the pancreas not only impairs the organ's ability to produce insulin but also to produce the proteins needed to digest food (digestive enzymes) and other hormones.  However, our latest study has revealed that most cases of type 3c diabetes are being wrongly diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. Only 3 percent of the people in our sample – of more than 2 million – were correctly identified as having type 3c diabetes.

FDA approves first blood sugar monitor for diabetics that DOESN'T need a finger prick

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved Abbott Laboratories' glucose monitoring device for adults with diabetes, allowing millions of people to track their blood sugar levels without having to prick their fingers. The Abbott's FreeStyle Libre Flash uses small sensor wire inserted below the skin that continuously measures and monitors glucose levels throughout the day.  The device can be worn for up to 10 days before being replaced

Blindness breakthrough: Single gene injected into the back of the eye reverses retinitis pigmentosa

Scientists have used gene therapy to reverse one of the most common causes of blindness. A single gene injected into the back of the eye restores vision, by fixing a problem which stops the retina detecting light. The breakthrough, in mice experiments, saw the animals' blindness cured so that they again responded to beams of light and could see objects placed in their cage. Crucially, the eye continued to make a vital protein which restores sight for 15 months after the initial injection. Researchers at the University of Oxford says the gene therapy goes further than other work on retinitis pigmentosa. It could be available for patients in five to 10 years. The results lasted into old age, although trials on humans are needed to ensure the results are permanent, and are hoped to go ahead within five years.

Scientists may have found a cause of dyslexia

A duo of French scientists said Wednesday they may have found a physiological, and seemingly treatable, cause for dyslexia hidden in tiny light-receptor cells in the human eye.  In non-dyslexic people, the cells are arranged asymmetrically, allowing signals from the one eye to be overridden by the other to create a single image in the brain.  In non-dyslexic people, the blue cone-free spot in one eye -- the dominant one, was round and in the other eye unevenly shaped.In dyslexic people, both eyes have the same, round spot, which translates into neither eye being dominant, they found.

"The lack of asymmetry might be the biological and anatomical basis of reading and spelling disabilities," said the study authors. Dyslexic people make so-called "mirror errors" in reading, for example confusing the letters "b" and "d". The team used an LED lamp, flashing so fast that it is invisible to the naked eye, to "cancel" one of the images in the brains of dyslexic trial participants while reading. In initial experiments, dyslexic study participants called it the "magic lamp," said Ropars, but further tests are required to confirm the technique really works.

In development - New Vaccine promises to wipe out pneumonia, sepsis and meningitis

The current pneumonia vaccine targets only 32 forms of bacteria, with others causing death.  The new jab destroys 72 of the 90 known strains, including the 32 most deadly. In many instances, the vaccine in development outperformed existing injections. Yet, the new vaccine does not target all of the gut's bacteria; therefore keeps healthy strains.  By targeting pneumonia bacteria, it protects against septicemia and meningitis. Study author Dr Blaine Pfeifer from the University at Buffalo, said: 'We can potentially provide universal coverage against bacteria that cause pneumonia, meningitis, sepsis and other types of pneumococcal disease. It holds the promise of saving hundreds of thousands of lives each year."

Researchers Have Finally Discovered Genes That Are Linked to OCD

We were seeking ways to take advantage of information from other species in order to inform and focus the study in humans," says computational biologist Hyun Ji Noh from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Noh's team compiled a list of genetic associations observed in previous studies of human OCD, and also analyzed the results of research into compulsive behavior in mice, and in dogs, where it's called canine compulsive disorder (CCD).

They ended up with an array of around 600 genes that looked to be tied to OCD or its variants, which can urge people to do things like obsessively check or clean items around the house, or wash their hands – and, in animals like dogs, it provokes similarly compulsive acts.  "Dogs, it turns out, are surprisingly similar to people," one of the researchers, geneticist Elinor Karlsson told NPR.  This helped them to cull the list down to just four genes expressed in the brain – called NRXN1, HTR2A, CTTNBP2, and REEP3 – which, when they undergo mutations, are significantly associated with human OCD.

Teens who suffer concussions are 22% more likely to develop multiple sclerosis,

Scientists at Orebro University and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden studied every person in the country who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) between 1964 to 2012.  They found 7,292 patients in the national database who were diagnosed with the autoimmune disease.  The findings showed that adolescents increased their risk of having multiple sclerosis as adults and adds to the growing evidence about the dangers of high-impact sports.

Evidence Is Mounting That The Drug Ketamine Can Actually Treat Chronic Migraines

The latest study focussed on 61 patients, all male, who had been suffering chronic migraines that did not respond to any of the treatments available. This type of migraine is known as a refractory headache or intractable migraine. Even though it only affects less than 1 percent of all migraine sufferers, this version tends to be an especially severe form, causing debilitating episodes that last for days at a time or even longer.  Using an intravenous ketamine infusion for stubborn migraines is not an entirely new concept, but it's considered to be a "last resort" treatment and is not widely available. It does make sense, though, because research has indicated that ketamine infusions can help with other stubborn pain conditions that don't respond to more conventional treatments.  Patients in this study all received ketamine infusions at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, a hospital that not only offers this option to patients, but also works to investigate its clinical benefits.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:28 AM | Permalink

October 24, 2017

Health Roundup: Obesity consequences, belly fat and 'magic' pills

40 percent of US cancers linked to excess weight

The findings by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "are a cause for concern," said the agency's director Brenda Fitzgerald....Carrying excess weight has been shown to boost the risk of 13 types of tumors, including cancers of the esophagus, thyroid, postmenopausal breast, gallbladder, stomach, liver, pancreas, kidney, ovaries, uterus, colon and rectum.

Being overweight makes your heart larger and heavier

Researchers at Queen Mary University of London and the University of Oxford examined MRI scans for 4,561 people from the UK Biobank database.  They found an increase of 4.3 in BMI, which could take someone from a healthy weight to the brink of obesity, made their heart substantially heavier, raising the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.  A bigger, heavier heart raises the risk of conditions from an irregular heartbeat to a heart attack, and the organ should in fact grow smaller with age. A larger heart stretches its upper chambers, disrupting the electrical signal needed to keep it beating regularly.

Experts Raise Red Flag over Fatty Liver Disease

An increasing epidemic of fatty liver disease in the U.S. is likely to ruin the health of millions and cost billions of dollars a year, experts said here. Some 65 million Americans have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and that number will reach 100 million by 2030,.  Rising rates of obesity are the force behind the epidemic of NAFLD, an umbrella term covering a spectrum that begins with accumulation of fat in the liver, followed by ballooning, scarring, cirrhosis, and eventually liver failure, cancer, and death.

Yale University researchers have found that belly fat is linked to inflammation

They discovered a new type of macrophage that resides on the nerves in belly fat, which becomes inflamed with age. These inflamed cells do not allow signals to be sent to fat cells telling them to burn their stored energy. The report's researchers concluded that drugs that target this inflammation could spike their metabolism and help them burn more fat, which decreases their risk of chronic illnesses.  Study author Christina Camell said: 'The purpose of our research is to achieve greater understanding of immune cell interactions with nerves and fat cells to potentially reduce belly fat, enhance metabolism and improve performance in the elderly.'

This Needle-Covered Patch Dissolves Excess Body Fat Wherever You Stick It

Developed by researchers at Columbia University and the University of North Carolina, the medicated patch uses an array of skin-piercing microneedles to deliver nanoparticles of drugs to the body, and while it hasn't yet been tested on humans, trials with mice show it reduces fat by as much as 20 percent in treated areas by converting energy-storing white fat into energy-burning brown fat.

Is this exercise pill the real deal?

Biologist claims he has found the only formula to burn fat and grow muscle with one tablet.  Ronald Evans developed a drug to stimulate what the body feels during aerobic endurance. The chemical PPARD is released during aerobic exercise. Sedentary mice were injected with the chemical and 70 percent experienced a decrease in fat and an increase in stamina. Athletes have previously abused earlier forms of this drug to boost their endurance levels

Too much exercise can kill you - especially if you're a white man

Researchers in Chicago assessed exercise patterns over the course of 25 years. They found that very active white men are 86 percent more likely to experience a buildup of plaque in the heart arteries by middle age. This was not the case in black men, based on 3,175 participants. They found that  7.5 hours a week of fitness DOUBLES your risk of heart disease.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:29 PM | Permalink

Health roundup of the latest news for expectant and new mothers UPDATED

Take vitamins to cut autism risk, mothers-to-be are told

Supplements could halve chance of children developing the condition.  Scientists from Philadelphia, Stockholm and Bristol, examined data for 273,107 mothers. But the team cautioned that although they had found a possible association, more research was needed.

Pregnant vegetarians are three times more likely to have kids who abuse drugs and alcohol, study finds

A new study has found that the children of pregnant women who are vegetarian have a higher risk of struggling with addiction....A study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism For the study researchers analyzed the habits of 5,109 women and their offspring. The report's researchers observed 15-year-old children whose mothers did not eat meat during their pregnancies and found those children were twice as likely to engage in underage drinking and smoking.  Most vegetarians have a B12 deficiency while pregnant. Vitamin B12 is essential for the body to metabolize folic acid, a nutrient vital for the development of a healthy fetus. The vitamin is mainly available from meats and shellfish.

Paracetamol in pregnancy could DOUBLE a child's risk of ADHD, major study finds

Norwegian researchers analyzed data on 113,000 child and parent pairs.  Mothers who took paracetamol for 29 days had a 220% increased risk of having a child with ADHD, the study found.  One limitation of the study is that long-term use of acetaminophen during pregnancy might indicate a more serious illness or injury.

Using the drug during just one trimester was associated with 7 percent higher odds of having a child with ADHD, while the increased risk was 22 percent for women who used acetaminophen in two trimesters and 27 percent with use in all three trimesters, the study found.  Short-term use didn't appear to increase the risk for ADHD. In fact, when women took acetaminophen for less than eight days, they were 10 percent less likely to have kids with ADHD than mothers who didn't use the drug at all during pregnancy, the study found.
Paracetamol, also known as acetaminophen is used to mild to moderate pain and is the most commonly used medication for pain and fever in both the United States and Europe. Paracetamol is available as a generic medication with trade names including Tylenol and Panadol among others.  Paracetamol is classified as a mild analgesic. It does not have significant anti-inflammatory activity and how it works is not entirely clear.

Mother shares astonishing photo showing how her body turned her breast milk YELLOW in order to protect her baby as she battled a fever

Ashlee Chase, from the US, posted a photo of a pouch containing her milk three days before baby Elliot became ill next to an image of her milk the day after she had 'comfort nursed' all night. Her pediatrician says baby's fever prompted an immune response from mother as her body made milk with 'more fat and antibodies' to help infant fight infection. Says she's asked why she's still nursing seven-month-old and says '100% why'...'It is medicine at its finest'

 Breast Milk-Color Change

The benefits of breast feeding

Breastfeeding has long-term benefits for your baby, lasting right into adulthood. Any amount of breast milk has a positive effect. The longer you breastfeed, the longer the protection lasts and the greater the benefits. Breastfeeding reduces your baby's risk of:
  • Infections, with fewer visits to hospital as a result
  • Diarrhea and vomiting, with fewer visits to hospital as a result
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • Childhood leukemia
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Cardiovascular disease in adulthood
Breastfeeding and making breast milk also has health benefits for you. The more you breastfeed, the greater the benefits. Breastfeeding lowers your risk of:
  • Breast cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Osteoporosis (weak bones)
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Obesity

BPA, a chemical found in everyday products from baby bottles to banknotes could increase children's risk of obesity,

BPA exposure also raises fat levels in the blood, the research adds -  previous studies have found this increases the risk of heart disease. These results occur even when BPA exposure occurs in amounts below the recommended levels. Known as the gender-bending chemical for its effects on male breast growth, the researchers believe BPA may cause obesity by altering the hormones responsible for fat metabolism.  Researchers from Brunel University London, New York University and Vrije University in Amsterdam analyzed 61 studies investigating the link between BPA exposure and weight, fat deposition and circulating lipid levels in mice and rats.

Breastfeeding reduces the risk of endometriosis by up to 40%:

Natural feeding alters hormones associated with the painful gynecological disorder that affects 10% of women in the US.  Breastfeeding for three years across a woman's life reduces risk by nearly 40%. Every three additional months of natural feeding lowers the risk by 8% and exclusive breastfeeding reduces a diagnosis risk by 14% per pregnancy. The hormonal changes that occur during breastfeeding as women temporarily stop having periods are likely responsible.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:24 PM | Permalink

October 11, 2017

Health Roundup: Food Edition

Low-Carbohydrate Diet Superior to Antipsychotic Medications - Two remarkable personal stories, as told by their Harvard psychiatrist.

Ketogenic diets are special low-carbohydrate diets that have been used to treat epilepsy for almost 100 years and show great promise in the management of a wide variety of other brain disorders.

Want to make your salad healthier? Add FAT! Just a drizzle of oil could DOUBLE the absorption of 8 nutrients

Adding fat to your salad makes it healthier, new research reveals.Tucking into a plate of lettuce and cucumber with a drizzle of oil could increase the absorption of eight nutrients that are linked to human health, a study found. Such nutrients include vitamins A, E and K, which have previously been associated with cancer prevention and improved vision, the research adds.
Lead author Professor Wendy White from Iowa State University, said: 'The best way to explain it would be to say that adding twice the amount of salad dressing leads to twice the nutrient absorption.'  Maximum absorption occurs when around two tablespoons of oil is added.  Previous research reveals oil boosts the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients

It really IS the most important meal of the day!

Skipping breakfast 'leads to increased risk of heart attacks', study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology finds. Those skipping breakfast were 25.7 times more likely to have atherosclerosis, or stiff and narrow arteries and were more likely to be obese and to suffer high blood pressure and cholesterol.  Participants who skipped breakfast were also more likely to have an overall unhealthy lifestyle, including poor overall diet, frequent alcohol consumption and smoking.  The study by researchers from Tufts University was carried out on a group of 4000 people in Spain free from cardiovascular or chronic kidney disease.

Saving carbs for last at mealtime may help control blood sugar levels for diabetics  Don't eat the bread first.

Diabetics should save bread for last at mealtime to keep their blood sugar under control, new research suggests. Weill Cornell Medicine researchers said adopting this technique and saving carbs for last is comparable to the effects of insulin.  Carbohydrates trigger a surge in blood sugar levels in sufferers - hence many avoid such foods completely. But scientists have found that leaving bread, potatoes and pasta til the end helps to control these spikes after eating. The carbohydrate-last meal was also associated with lower insulin secretion and higher levels of a gut hormone that helps regulate glucose and satiety.

Just ONE extra banana or avocado a day could prevent heart attacks and stroke

It's all down to one key nutrient - potassium -  reveals study author Dr Paul Sanders from the University of Alabama, Birmingham. Potassium-rich foods may stop fatal blockages from occurring by preventing arteries from hardening and maintains artery flexibility.  Previous research reveals stiff, inflexible arteries increase a person's risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.  The researchers studied mice and found the animals given high potassium had substantially less artery hardening and reduced stiffness in their aorta, the body's main artery.  This is thought to be due to low-potassium levels in the blood preventing the expression of genes that maintain artery flexibility.

English breakfast tea may aid weight loss by boosting metabolism - so long as it's drunk without milk.

Black tea molecules are larger and therefore less well absorbed by the intestine.  This encourages the growth of metabolism-boosting bacteria in mice studies. They reduce intestinal bacteria associated with obesity and boost lean mass. Black and green tea extracts cause weight loss similar to following a low-fat diet. Experts believe both teas are prebiotics that feed wellbeing-related organisms.

Boy, 11, is left blind after following a strict diet of potato, meat, apples, cucumber and Cheerios due to his allergies and eczema

The Canadian child, who remains anonymous, suffered irreversible damage to his vision from a lack of vitamin A. Alongside his progressive vision loss, the boy also suffered from dry eyes and night blindness - both hallmarks of a vitamin A deficiency.  By the time the boy was taken to hospital, eight months after his eye sight began to falter, he was only able to see 30cm from his face. Doctors gave the patient three super-strength doses of the vitamin over the course of two weeks, they wrote in the journal JAMA Pediatrics Clinical Challenge. The boy's vision improved to 20/800 within six weeks, but it means he is still legally blind.

Do YOU need more zinc? From brittle nails to dry skin - this body map shows the warning signs and how you can fix it.

 Bodymap Zinc Deficiency

‘Signs of low zinc status include a weakened immune system, more colds and poor wound healing, tiredness, and low sex drive’. Zinc deficiency could be the reason your hair isn’t as thick as it used to be.  Zinc is not called the beauty vitamin for nothing. It’s second only to iron as the most abundantly found mineral in the human body and among its key functions are keeping skin, hair, teeth and nails healthy, not to mention the functioning of our libidos and immune systems. ‘Zinc is required for the activity of over 300 body enzymes, and these enzymes help to bring about biochemical reactions in the body that are essential to protein synthesis, hormone production, as well overall radiance and wellbeing,’ says public health nutritionist Emma Derbyshire. Most at risk: ‘Strict vegetarians and vegans, Other people at risk could be those who drink lots of alcohol.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:43 AM | Permalink

October 6, 2017

Health Roundup: Alzheimer's edition

FIVE key smells? It could mean you have dementia

Scientists at the University of Chicago develop a new diagnosis test to spot symptoms before they develop.  Those who can't identify 4 out of 5 common odors are twice at risk of dementia. The worse someone's sense of smell, the greater their risk of being diagnosed. The aromas in order of increasing difficulty were: peppermint, fish, orange, rose and leather.  .....'Loss of the sense of smell is a strong signal that something has gone wrong and significant damage has been done."

A good night's rest is your best defense against dementia

All this week, a pair of Alzheimer’s researchers have been sharing their expertise with Mail readers and revealing how simple lifestyle tweaks can help fend off the disease.  We have seen hundreds of patients use our simple plan of lifestyle changes to reverse what seemed to be an imminent Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and our findings have formed the basis of our life-changing new book, The Alzheimer’s Solution. .. This is when the brain undergoes its routine repairs, and the regeneration of neurons and their supporting cells can occur. The cocktail of chemicals released during sleep calm inflammation and bolster immunity — better sleep leads to fewer colds and immune-related disorders, and even a lower risk of cancer.  The ‘brain fog’ you might get after a really bad night’s sleep is the same in early Alzheimer’s. Lack of sleep impairs your ability to function during the day, slowing your focus, your processing speed and your short-term memory.

Women in their 40s with high blood pressure face dementia danger

The risk of dementia increased 73 per cent among women who started having blood pressure problems in their 40s . There was no evidence that having high blood pressure in one’s 30s or 40s increased the risk of dementia for men. The findings, based on a study of more than 7,200 people in the US by Kaiser Permanente research institute in California, reinforces growing evidence that lifestyle in middle age has a marked impact on health in retirement.  The study involved 7,238 people, tracked from the mid-1960s...They found women who already had high blood pressure in their 30s were at 31 per cent increased risk of dementia, when compared to women with stable, normal blood pressure. But among those who developed it in their 40s, the increased risk soared to 73 per cent.  The results were the same when researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect risk of dementia, such as smoking, diabetes and body mass index.

Alzheimer's sufferer, 55, describes agony of becoming violent and losing his memories because of the disease

Greg O'Brien is a former newspaper editor who has early-onset Alzheimer's. He currently lives in Massachusetts with his wife and three children. O'Brien wrote an essay in Psychology Today that details what it is like to live with a disease that hijacks his emotions and induces fits of rage. He describes the heartbreak that comes with this, as, at times, this anger is unintentionally directed at his family members.

A List of The Most Hopeful Alzheimer's Treatments Currently in The Works  After many failures, there's still hope.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:21 AM | Permalink

September 28, 2017

Health Roundup: Food Edition

Eat SALMON for good gut health:

Omega-3 boosts the diversity of the microbiome to ward off diabetes, obesity and Crohn's disease. For years, scientists have touted the fish as a potential way to boost gut health. The largest study to date, by British experts, has now confirmed their suspicions. Salmon can boost the diversity of bacteria in the stomach.

Type 2 diabetes IS reversible

Type 2 diabetes can be reversed by going on a low calorie diet, new research shows. Consuming just 600 calories a day for eight weeks can save the lives of millions of sufferers of the preventable condition.  Newcastle University scientists said that excess calories lead to a fatty liver, which causes the liver to produce too much glucose. The excess fat is then passed to the pancreas, which causes the insulin-producing cells to fail and thus causing diabetes. Losing less than one gram of fat from the pancreas can re-start insulin production, reversing type 2 diabetes, the researchers found.  This reversal of diabetes remains possible for at least ten years after the onset of the condition, lead author Professor Roy Taylor said.

Sirloin steak, chicken, mackerel and avocados make people feel fuller and could help dieting.

Scientists at the University of Warwick have identified cells in the brain - called tanycytes - which detect nutrients in food and help trigger feelings of satiety. ..Crucially some foods contain types of amino acids which stimulate the tanycytes more than others.  Pork shoulder, beef sirloin steak, chicken, mackerel, plums, apricots, avocados, lentils and almonds were all found to contain amino acids that activate tanycytes and therefore make people feel fuller quicker.

Proof that red wine IS good for you?

One expert says red wine can improve memory, decrease your chance of stroke and reduce risk of heart disease.Creina Stockley, from the Australian Wine Research Institute, has shared that drinking wine with a meal could decrease your chance of having a stroke, heart attack and could increase brain longevity."People that drink a moderate amount of wine regularly, particularly with food, have a 30 percent reduced risk of heart diseases," she said. "Red wine is good for you in moderation – with one to two glasses a day there is a reduced risk of heart disease."

Red wine can also reduce the risk of a multitude of cancers. "Alcohol is a risk factor for certain cancers, but we also know wine reduces the risk of other cancers like bowel and lung cancer and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma."  She also said that studies have revealed that red wine can also reduce the risk of aero-digestive tract, lung cancers and non-Hodgkin's

Porridge or Oatmeal is Better than Statins say experts

 Oatmeal

Eating a simple bowl of porridge every day could transform the health of the nation, in one single step, says Chris Seal, professor of food and human nutrition at Newcastle University....A bowl provides more fibre than a slice of wholemeal bread, is low in fat, virtually sugar-free and provides a wealth of minerals such as manganese, copper and iron, as well as the B vitamins.

However, the real benefit of porridge comes from the soluble fibre in the oats. The fibre, a form known as beta glucan, is present in other grains such as barley and rye, but is found in highest quantities in oats. It forms a thick gel in the gut, which is what gives you that full, satisfied feeling. But as well as helping switch off appetite, it has many other specific health benefits, including feeding the healthy bacteria in your gut, so helping your immune system, lowering cholesterol, and even potentially protecting against cancer....

‘That’s similar to the results you might get from taking a statin,’ says Dr George Grimble, principal research fellow in the division of medicine at University College London. Yet unlike a statin it has no potential side-effects. ‘Beta glucan forms acids, including butyric acid which works on the DNA of cells in the colon and has an anti-cancer effect.’

HIV patients who drink 3 cups of coffee a day DOUBLED their survival chances

Patients living with both HIV and hepatitis C who drank three or more daily cups of coffee were twice as likely to survive than those that drank less coffee, a new study found. About one quarter of HIV patients also have hepatitis C (HCV), which attacks the liver. Coffee is known to help protect the liver, and to act as an anti-inflammatory.  The French National Institute of Health and National Agency for AIDS and Hepatitis Research studied 1028 patients.

How soya and almond milk may put health at risk

Trendy dairy alternatives such as soya and almond milk may be putting people’s health at risk, researchers say. Consumption of milk-alternative drinks is soaring as part of a ‘clean-eating’ fad. But scientists at the University of Surrey warn that these products do not contain nearly enough iodine – a crucial mineral. Dairy milk is the main source of iodine in our diet, providing 40 per cent of the average daily intake, so switching to plant-based alternatives may impact health...

An estimated 70 per cent of teenage girls in Britain are iodine-deficient, and doctors are also concerned that pregnant women are not consuming enough of it. Iodine is required to make thyroid hormones, which help keep cells and the metabolic rate healthy. It is especially important for the brain development of babies, particularly while they are in the womb.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:53 PM | Permalink

September 14, 2017

Roundup: Medical Research and Technology

A 25-year-old student has come up with a way to fight drug-resistant superbugs without antibiotics.

The new approach has so far only been tested in the lab and on mice, but it could offer a potential solution to antibiotic resistance, which is now getting so bad that the United Nations recently declared it a "fundamental threat" to global health.  Antibiotic-resistant bacteria already kill around 700,000 people each year, but a recent study suggests that number could rise to around 10 million by 2050.

But Shu Lam, a 25-year-old PhD student at the University of Melbourne in Australia, has developed a star-shaped polymer that can kill six different superbug strains without antibiotics, simply by ripping apart their cell walls.  Before we get too carried away, it's still very early days. So far, Lam has only tested her star-shaped polymers on six strains of drug-resistant bacteria in the lab, and on one superbug in live mice. But in all experiments, they've been able to kill their targeted bacteria - and generation after generation don't seem to develop resistance to the polymers.  The polymers - which they call SNAPPs, or structurally nanoengineered antimicrobial peptide polymers - work by directly attacking, penetrating, and then destabilizing the cell membrane of bacteria.

Scientists honor Chad Carr, 5, who died of incurable brain tumor as tests on his donated tissue lead to major cancer research breakthrough

Chad died in 2015 aged 5, just 14 months after he was diagnosed with DIPG. Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) is a lethal and untreatable brain tumor which predominantly affects children under the age of nine.  An analysis of his brain has led to a major breakthrough in understanding the genetic mutations that drive DIPG. Experts say the unprecedented finding is the first concrete result of any study into the little-understood disease. 

Zika virus used to treat aggressive brain cancer

Using viruses to fight cancer is not a new idea, but using Zika as the weapon of choice is. But the latest research shows the virus can selectively infect and kill hard-to-treat cancerous cells in adult brains. Zika injections shrank aggressive tumors in fully grown mice, yet left other brain cells unscathed.  While human trials are still a way off, experts believe Zika virus could potentially be injected into the brain at the same time as surgery to remove life-threatening tumors.  The Zika treatment appears to work on human cell samples in the lab.

New device accurately identifies cancer in seconds

A team of scientists and engineers at The University of Texas at Austin has invented a powerful tool that rapidly and accurately identifies cancerous tissue during surgery, delivering results in about 10 seconds— more than 150 times as fast as existing technology. The MasSpec Pen is an innovative handheld instrument that gives surgeons precise diagnostic information about what tissue to cut or preserve, helping improve treatment and reduce the chances of cancer recurrence.

New class of drugs targets aging to help keep you healthy

The researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, are calling for senolytic drugs to make the leap from animal research to human clinical trials.  As we age, we accumulate senescent cells, which are damaged cells that resist dying off but stay in our bodies. They can affect other cells in our various organs and tissues. Senolytic drugs are agents capable of killing problem-causing senescent cells in your body without harming your normal, healthy cells. Senescent cells play a role in many age-related chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, most cancers, dementia, arthritis, osteoporosis and blindness.

Gut germs play role in multiple sclerosis, studies show

Two teams of scientists have found the strongest evidence yet that intestinal bacteria play a role in multiple sclerosis, an incurable disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the myelin coating on neurons, causing tremors, fatigue, cognitive problems, and more.

Gut germs that were unusually abundant in people with MS changed white blood cells in a way that made them more likely to attack the body’s own cells, including neurons, one study reported on Monday; the other experiment found that gut germs from people with MS made mice more likely to develop the disease than did gut germs from their identical but healthy twins.
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Together, the two studies advance the idea that gut microbes play a role in turning the immune system against nerve cells, causing MS. It will take a lot more work to develop cures or preventive strategies based on that, but the research raises the intriguing possibility of treating an often-devastating disease with something as low-tech as fecal transplants or probiotics.

How infection can trigger autoimmune disease

Australian scientists have confirmed a ‘weak link’ in the immune system – identifying the exact conditions under which an infection can trigger an autoantibody response, a process not clearly understood until now.

We May Have Finally Discovered The Trigger That Starts Autoimmune Diseases

The chain reaction, discovered after four years of research in mice, has been described as a "runaway train" where one error leads the body to develop a very efficient way of attacking itself.  The study focused on B cells gone rogue. Ordinarily these cells produce antibodies and program the immune cells to attack unwanted antigens (or foreign substances), but scientists found an 'override switch' in mouse B cells that distorted this behavior and caused autoimmune attacks.

"Once your body's tolerance for its own tissues is lost, the chain reaction is like a runaway train," says one of the team, Michael Carroll from Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School (HMS). "The immune response against your own body's proteins, or antigens, looks exactly like it's responding to a foreign pathogen."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:47 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Alzheimer's Edition

A healthy lifestyle builds brain resilience and really WILL keep dementia at bay

Alzheimer's disease really can be avoided by following a healthy lifestyle - even if you're predisposed to get it, the largest study of its kind has revealed. Exercising, monitoring blood pressure and watching less TV are the three key factors that will help build brain resilience and keep the disease at bay.  

Researchers at the University of California in Irvine began the '90+ Study' in 2003. Tests were carried out on the 1,700 participants every six months to monitor their cognitive ability. Post-mortems were conducted upon their death. Astonishingly half of the dementia-free patients had the hallmark brain plaques - which lead to memory loss and dementia - when they died.  Meanwhile half of the dementia patients did develop symptoms of memory loss - even without having these build-ups in their brain.

Professor Claudia Kawas, lead researcher, suggested the reason for such 'cognitive resilience' in those who should have developed dementia but remained free of it was down to a healthy lifestyle. It follows Cambridge University research three years ago which found just one hour's exercise a week cuts the chance of Alzheimer's by almost half.  And earlier this year a study suggested more than a third of dementia cases could be avoided by exercising more and controlling blood pressure.

Those with a higher level of education were found to have greater protection even if OET scans revealed plaque in the brain typical of Alzheimer's. People with a low level of education had quadruple the risk of contracting dementia, the researchers said. But among those without plaque in the brain, the educational difference was irrelevant....There's currently no evidence of the efficacy of commercial computer-based brain training exercises.

An Alzheimer’s Diagnosis—Before Any Symptoms in the WSJ

An effort is under way that could redefine the way Alzheimer’s is diagnosed, putting the focus on biological changes in the brain rather than on symptoms such as confusion and forgetfulness. Supporters say if their plan moves forward, it could help ensure that experimental therapies are tested on the correct population, accelerating research. Earlier detection also one day could make it easier to target people with more effective therapies.

The diagnosis of Alzheimer’s has long hinged on a doctor’s assessment of a person’s cognitive skills and symptoms. But in a recent report, a committee convened by the National Institute on Aging and the Alzheimer’s Association recommended that researchers instead use tests of the biological markers of disease, such as brain imaging and the measurement of substances in cerebrospinal fluid, when seeking to study participants.

A Case of Rapidly Progressive Dementia--and the Surprisingly Easy Fix

The daughter went into the hall closet and brought out this bag of medicines. There were 21 different bottles of 14 different medications, including multiple antipsychotics and anticholinergics, as can be seen in the handwritten list shown above. I had been unaware that she had been taking any of these. For reference, in the right-hand column, I have included the list that was in her electronic medical record the day I last saw her in clinic. I performed a full medication reconciliation and left her with only three medications, plus insulin, at her home. I took all of the others back to the hospital, called her pharmacy, and stopped those prescriptions.

Three months later, Ms R followed up with me in clinic and reported that she was feeling great. Her daughter said that she is doing wonderfully at home and has returned to her baseline. Both of them felt that she was back to her normal self. We repeated the MoCA, which was a 17 out of 30. She had increased from a 6 to a 17 over the course of 3 months, with the only intervention being a home visit with the removal of medications from her house.

The cost of this? The base Medicare reimbursement for her multiple hospital admissions was more than $30,000. The cost of the home visits, including billing for the visit, gas to and from, and a couple of lattes for my mentor and me: $127. Patient-centered care? Priceless.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:34 AM | Permalink

September 13, 2017

The cognitive differences between men and women

From Stanford Medicine Two minds,  The cognitive differences between men and women

Over the past 15 years or so, there’s been a sea change as new technologies have generated a growing pile of evidence that there are inherent differences in how men’s and women’s brains are wired and how they work.....Not how well they work

There was too much data pointing to the biological basis of sex-based cognitive differences to ignore.  For one thing, the animal-research findings resonated with sex-based differences ascribed to people. These findings continue to accrue. In a study of 34 rhesus monkeys, for example, males strongly preferred toys with wheels over plush toys, whereas females found plush toys likable......

Women excel in several measures of verbal ability — pretty much all of them, except for verbal analogies. Women’s reading comprehension and writing ability consistently exceed that of men, on average. They out­perform men in tests of fine-motor coordination and perceptual speed. They’re more adept at retrieving information from long-term memory.

Men, on average, can more easily juggle items in working memory. They have superior visuospatial skills: They’re better at visualizing what happens when a complicated two- or three-dimensional shape is rotated in space, at correctly determining angles from the horizontal, at tracking moving objects and at aiming projectiles.

Navigation studies in both humans and rats show that females of both species tend to rely on landmarks, while males more typically rely on “dead reckoning”: calculating one’s position by estimating the direction and distance traveled rather than using landmarks. Many of these cognitive differences appear quite early in life.

Why our brains differ

1. The sex-steroid hormones. In female mammals, ...estrogens, along with ... progesterone; and in males, testosterone and ...androgens. Importantly, males developing normally in utero get hit with a big mid-gestation surge of testosterone...
2. The sex chromosomes, which form one of the 23 pairs of human chromosomes in each cell. Generally, females have two X chromosomes in their pair, while males have one X and one Y chromosome.  Every cell in a man’s body (including his brain) has a slightly different set of functioning ​sex-​chromosome genes from those operating in a woman’s.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:45 AM | Permalink

September 12, 2017

Health Roundup: Vaccines, heart disease, stroke victims, melanoma, hormone therapy, osteoarthritis, COPD, Suramin + autism

Vaccines Have Saved Nearly 20 Million Children's Lives in Poor Countries Since 2001

Researchers investigated the impact of Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance - a global organization whose explicit goal is to improve access to vaccination in world's poorest countries. By 2020, vaccines for just 10 diseases will have saved 20 million lives, prevented 500 million cases of illness, and 9 million cases of long-term disability.  The researchers even put a dollar figure on that value  - for all the countries in the study, by 2020 vaccination will have brought a benefit that can be equated to US $820 billion.

Rivaroxaban, when taken with aspirin slashes the risk of death from heart disease by 22%

The 'ground-breaking' trial, based on 27,000 patients from 33 countries, has since been halted - 12 months ahead of schedule....In clinical experiments, the tablet, which is already used for other cardiovascular problems, also reduced strokes by 42 per cent.

Stroke survivors are at DOUBLE the risk of cancer:

Doctors say patients should be closely monitored for 18 months after having a blood clot.

Immune-focused drug may be new weapon against advanced melanoma

New research suggests that Opdivo -- a drug that works with the immune system to fight melanoma -- is more effective than the current standard of care for patients who've had surgery to remove advanced tumors.  The international study was funded by Opdivo's maker, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and included more than 900 patients with stage III and stage IV melanoma.

Dr. Michele Green, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City,  said any advance in the care of aggressive melanomas is welcome news for patients."It is amazing that there is now an alternative that is superior to conventional chemotherapy for advanced metastatic disease," Green said after reviewing the new study findings. "With these advanced melanomas -- that have high risks of recurrences and have poor outcomes -- it is vital to look at alternative treatments. The future in cancer treatments lies in immunotherapy and other targeted options."

Hormone therapy does NOT increase risk of cancer, heart disease or premature death in menopausal women

A study in the 90s showed women having an increase in diseases after taking hormonal therapy drugs for five to seven years.  Researchers from Harvard Medical School in Boston analyzed mortality rates for more than 27,000 women aged 50 to 79 in the United States who were part of the original research in the 1990s.  That research showed that women are at equal risk to develop these disease as those who don't take the hormones -  close to 27 percent died in the group that took the dummy pills and those who took the hormones.  Experts say hormones are safe to take to relieve symptoms of menopause.

Australian scientists discover new drug to help cure osteoarthritis

The medication, called Pentosan Polysulfate Sodium, is being hailed as a breakthrough to those suffering from the degenerative disorder of osteoarthritis, an illness that causes a person pain when the cartilage in bones begins to wear thin and the leading cause of hip and knee replacement surgery.  A new study, to be published in the BioMed Central's Journal of Musculoskeletal Disorders shows a 70 per cent reduction in pain using the new medication. Pentosan Polysulfate Sodium has been prescribed by doctors for years, however it is usually used to treat blood clots and urinary tract infections.  Australian scientist Dr Jegan Krishnan helped discover the new use for the drug and said it could work by looking at the cause of osteoarthritis. "'It may have anti-inflammatory activities, it seems addressing the bone marrow lesions gives symptomatic relief."

Relief for victims of lung disease is found in a ketchup bottle

Breathlessness caused by long-term lung disease can be crippling, leaving patients housebound and unable to take even a few steps without gasping for air.  But now those blighted by the distressing condition could see their lives transformed – thanks to a tiny valve implant which works in a similar way to easy-squeeze ketchup bottle tops. The alloy and silicone device is being offered to NHS patients with emphysema and other incurable respiratory problems, collectively known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.  In these patients, deformity and loss of elasticity in lung tissue means that air enters the lung but cannot be pushed back out.

The valve, placed deep in the tiny branches within the lungs known as bronchioles, allows air to flow but in one direction only. The concept is similar to the way rubber tops of ketchup bottles work.  This effectively cuts off the diseased areas of the lungs. Despite the volume of the lungs being smaller, the valve actually improves breathing because air flows through the healthy areas of the organ only.  The new procedure allows surgeons to close off damaged sections of lung without removing or causing further harm to tissue.

The Zephyr valves consist of a collapsible nickel and titanium alloy wire outer 'basket' – not unlike a stent used in heart surgery – which surrounds the silicone inner valve.  The flexible material is constructed in such a way as to form a one-way valve. The implantation takes about 45 minutes and the procedure may be done under sedation or general anesthetic.

A 100-Year-Old Drug Shows Extremely Promising Results For Treating Autism Symptoms

Suramin has been around since 1916, and is used in the treatment of the parasitic disease African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness).  The first promising results came in pre-clinical mouse studies, when the researchers successfully reversed autism-like symptoms with a single dose of the drug. These studies paved the way to the first human trial, and the results are now in.

This pilot study was double-blinded and placebo-controlled, and involved 10 boys with diagnosed ASD aged 5-14 years, each of whom received a single dose of either suramin or a placebo.  All five boys who received the drug showed a steady improvement of symptoms within just seven days, while the placebo group showed no change at all.  "The 6- and 14-year-old who received suramin said their first sentence of their lives about one week after the single suramin infusion," says Naviaux. "This did not happen in any of the children given placebo."

"We have plans for five additional studies over the next five years to collect all the data the FDA will need to decide about the approval of suramin for autism," says Naviaux. Unfortunately, these improvements were only temporary - as the drug gradually left their systems over the course of six weeks, the severity of the symptoms returned, which the participating families had been warned about. But apart from the dramatic improvement of symptoms, what's most important to the researchers is that the positive results further bolster the hypothesis that metabolic dysfunction contributes to autism, and that this dysfunction is treatable.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:54 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

September 1, 2017

Roundup of Medical Research and Technology: Restoring nerve cells in Parkinson's, nanomachines, reversing memory loss, AAV2 and Blat

Scientists devise 'promising' new stem cell treatment that has the 'potential to cure Parkinson's disease' and stop tremors

In trials on laboratory monkeys, researchers were able to restore nerve cells. In humans, Parkinson's causes a loss of neurons, which affects movement. Experts hailed the findings of the Japanese study to be 'extremely promising'  It is believed that the team of scientists are just a short step away from testing the stem cell treatment in clinical trials.  Lead author Professor Jun Takahashi said that they are hoping to start looking for suitable patients within the next 15 months.

Dr Tilo Kunath, a Parkinson’s UK-funded researcher at the Medical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine, saying, 'This is extremely promising research demonstrating that a safe and highly effective cell therapy for Parkinson’s can be produced in the lab...Such a therapy has the potential to reverse the symptoms of Parkinson’s in patients by restoring their dopamine-producing neurons."

Nanomachines which drill into cancer cells killing them in just 60 seconds, developed by scientists

The tiny spinning molecules are driven by light, and spin so quickly that they can burrow their way through cell linings when activated. In one test conducted at Durham University the nanomachines took between one and three minutes to break through the outer membrane of prostate cancer cell, killing it instantly.

A daily jab of a bone hormone could reverse age-related memory loss, study finds

Scientists restored a hormone produced by bone cells back to youthful levels. This reversed memory loss in mice, which are biologically similar to humans.  Researchers say injecting osteocalcin has no toxic side effects as it's natural. This finding paves the way for a novel approach to treating age-related cognitive decline in a safe way, say the scientists.

Professor Gerard Karsenty from Columbia University Medical Center in New York said: "In previous studies, we found that osteocalcin plays multiple roles in the body, including a role in memory. We also observed that the hormone declines precipitously in humans during early adulthood. 'That raised an important question: Could memory loss be reversed by restoring this hormone back to youthful levels? The answer, at least in mice, is yes."

Scientists may have stumbled across a cure for cancer

Craig M. Meyers, a distinguished professor of microbiology and immunology at Penn State, has made a career out of studying the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). In 2008, he was conducting an experiment to see the effect another virus, called adeno-associated virus type 2 (AAV2), would have on HPV. The team introduced AAV2 into the cell lines of a cancerous HPV specimen and left them to incubate for a week.

BYU Magazine reports, the results of this test left the team convinced they had made a mistake. All the cancerous cells had died.  The success of AAV2 against cancerous HPV cells led the team to begin testing on other forms of cancer. They found that AAV2 worked on breast cancer, prostate cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma, and mesothelioma.

It has been a long road since 2008, but Meyers still has further to go. The research still has more trials to run before the FDA will allow it to go to human testing. It is possible we might see this new treatment in hospitals within the next 5 years.

Cholesterol Crystals Are A Sign Heart Attack Is Imminent according to new study

After examining materials that were blocking the coronary arteries of a number of patients, a team of scientists and medical experts at Michigan State University confirmed that it was cholesterol - in the form of crystals. They found that this particular type of hardened cholesterol was found in over 89 per cent of emergency room cases.

Dr George Abela, professor of medicine at Michigan State University, said “In previous studies, we showed that when cholesterol goes from a liquid to a solid, or crystal state, it expands in volume like ice and water. This expansion inside the wall of the artery can tear it and block blood flow causing a heart attack or stroke.”

Meet Blat: The Barcelona dog that can detect lung cancer from sniffing a person’s breath

 Blat+Owner-1

Blat, a labrador retreiver mixed with an American Staffordshire pit bull, had a success rate of 95 percent in detecting cases of lung cancer and was even able to do so in very early stages – identifying cancer when the tumor was a mere four millimeters in diameter.  His owner and trainer, Ingrid Ramón, runs Barcelona-based Argus Detection Dogs, which trains dogs to specifically identify types of illness.

”Blat's 'spectacular' results indicate that there are molecules that are specific to lung cancers and that some of these molecules are detectable in the exhaled air," explained Laureano Molins, a thoracic surgeon at Hospital Clinic and co-author of trial.  "At the moment the olfactory skills of a dog are superior to any technology we have today," said Molins. "Our goal now is to identify the molecules (detected by Blat) and develop a diagnostic test that acts as an electronic nose."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:33 AM | Permalink

August 31, 2017

Health Roundup: Fat and low fat, pacemaker cyberflaw, ecstasy + PTSD, cocoa +diabetes

Low-fat diet could kill you, major study shows

Low-fat diets could raise the risk of early death by almost one quarter, a major study has found.  Published in The Lancet, the Canadian study of 135,000 adults found those who cut back on fats had far shorter lives than those enjoying plenty of butter, cheese and meats.
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Consultant cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra said it was time “for a complete U-turn” in Britain’s approach to diet, and demonization of fat. “The sooner we do that the sooner we reverse the epidemic in obesity and diabetes and the sooner start improving health.”

Fat has a PROTECTIVE effect:

Major Canadian study challenges decades of advice focused on cutting fat.  It showed that people who eat the least fat have the highest mortality rates and were 23% more likely to die young.  The latest Canadian findings were based on a huge study of 135,000 people aged 35 to 70, from 18 countries in Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa.

Dr Mahshid Dehghan of McMaster University, speaking at the European Society of Cardiology congress in Barcelona, said: 'For decades, dietary guidelines have focused on reducing total fat and saturated fatty acid.'
But she added: 'The body needs fat. It carries vitamins, it provides essential acids, it has a role in the body. When you reduce fat to very low levels, you're affecting these important minerals.'

She stressed that people should not eat unlimited fat – and if people actually hit the British guidance of getting 35 per cent of energy from fat, they will give themselves the best health.  But she said the focus on 'low-fat' dieting – a drive supported by UK authorities - means people often go below this level. And when people try to cut fat they replace it in the diet with carbohydrates and sugar, increasing their heart risk.

Cyber-flaw affects 745,000 pacemakers

A total of 745,000 pacemakers in the U.S. and elsewhere have been confirmed as having cyber-security issues that could let them be hacked. The flaws could theoretically be used to cause the devices to pace too quickly or run down their batteries....Patients are being advised to ask their doctors about an available firmware update at their next scheduled appointment. The pacemakers can receive the revised code by being placed close to a radio wave-emitting wand in a process that lasts about three minutes.

Ecstasy Was Just Labelled a 'Breakthrough Therapy' For PTSD by The FDA

Men who get fit in middle age can halve their risk of strokes

Chocolate could PREVENT diabetes: Cocoa stimulates the release of insulin

A compound in cocoa, known as epicatechin monomers, enhances the secretion of insulin from specific cells, a study found. It also reduces obesity and increases animals' ability to cope with high blood glucose levels.

Although the study was only conducted in animals, the researchers add humans may require large quantities of the compound in order to benefit.  Study author Professor Jeffery Tessem from Brigham Young University (BYU), said 'You probably have to eat a lot of cocoa, and you probably don't want it to have a lot of sugar in it. It's the compound in cocoa you're after.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:03 PM | Permalink

"We've never seen anything like this before" about the "living drug" , tailor-made to each patient

Historic 'living drug' gets go-ahead

The US has approved the first treatment to redesign a patient's own immune system so it attacks cancer.
The regulator - the US Food and Drug Administration - said its decision was a "historic" moment and medicine was now "entering a new frontier".

The "living drug" is tailor-made to each patient, unlike conventional therapies such as surgery or chemotherapy.
It is called CAR-T and is made by extracting white blood cells from the patient's blood. The cells are then genetically reprogrammed to seek out and kill cancer. The cancer-killers are then put back inside the patient and once they find their target they multiply.

Dr Stephan Grupp, who treated the first child with CAR-T at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said the new approach was "enormously exciting" --"We've never seen anything like this before."

That first patient had been near to death, but has now been cancer-free for more than five years. Out of 63 patients treated with CAR-T therapy, 83% were in complete remission within three months and long-term data is still being collected. However, the therapy is not without risks....

US clears breakthrough gene therapy for childhood leukemia

Made from scratch for every patient, it's one of a wave of "living drugs" under development to fight additional blood cancers and other tumors, too. Novartis Pharmaceuticals set the price for its one-time infusion of so-called "CAR-T cells" at $475,000, but said there would be no charge for patients who didn't show a response within a month.

"This is a brand new way of treating cancer," said Dr. Stephan Grupp of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, who treated the first child with CAR-T cell therapy — a girl who'd been near death but now is cancer-free for five years and counting. "That's enormously exciting."

CAR-T treatment uses gene therapy techniques not to fix disease-causing genes but to turbocharge T cells, immune system soldiers that cancer too often can evade. Researchers filter those cells from a patient's blood, reprogram them to harbor a "chimeric antigen receptor" or CAR that zeroes in on cancer, and grow hundreds of millions of copies. Returned to the patient, the revved-up cells can continue multiplying to fight disease for months or years.

It's a completely different way to harness the immune system than popular immunotherapy drugs called "checkpoint inhibitors" that treat a variety of cancers by helping the body's natural T cells better spot tumors. CAR-T cell therapy gives patients stronger T cells to do that job.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:49 PM | Permalink

August 30, 2017

Health Roundup: Alzheimer's edition

Huge increase in Alzheimer's-related deaths in the first few months of 2017, CDC report reveals  In the first quarter of 2017 there were 1.13 as many deaths from the disease as in the first quarter of 2016.

'Ground zero' of Alzheimer's 

Researchers from the UNC Medical School may have discovered how brain cells go bad in Alzheimer's patients. They found bead-like structures that form and indicate the disease are caused by two proteins -MMP-9 and HDAC6.

Alzheimer's disease causes abnormal deposits of amyloid beta protein and tau protein in the brain, as well as swarms of activated immune cells. The team of researchers used different experiments to look at how the proteins and activated immune cells attack the brain and cause Alzheimer's-related symptoms. They also found that one medicine currently in development that blocks a specific protein - HDAC6, which originates from within neurons - show progress in preventing the damage that causes those symptoms.  The drug, called tubastatin A, is currently undergoing late stage clinical trials at a number of hospitals around the United States. 

Led by Dr Todd Cohen, assistant professor of neurology, UNC scientists used human cell cultures to show how amyloid beta can trigger a dramatic inflammatory response in immune cells and how that interaction damages neurons. The team then showed how that kind of neuron damage leads to the formation of bead-like structures filled with abnormal tau protein.  Similar bead-like structures are known to form in the brain cells of people with Alzheimer's disease.

The UNC researchers also identified two proteins - MMP-9 and HDAC6 - that help promote this harmful, amyloid-to-inflammation-to-tau cascade. These proteins and others associated with them could become drug targets to treat or prevent Alzheimer's.'It's exciting that we were able to observe tau - the major Alzheimer's protein - inside these beaded structures,' said Dr Cohen, who is also a member of the UNC Neuroscience Center. 'We think that preventing these structures from forming would leave people with healthier neurons that are more resistant to Alzheimer's.'

Higher risk of Alzheimer's associated with:

1. Bad sleep could raise the risk of dementia by 10%

Deep sleep - also called rapid eye movement sleep - could fight off dementia Scientists believe that the dreaming stage of sleep boosts connections in the brain, helping to protect it against the onset of the disease... The authors of the study said it did not show cause and effect – so it was not possible to confirm whether a lack of REM sleep was causing dementia or whether it was simply an early predictor of the disease.

2. Adults with bad eyesight have higher risk of dementia

A significant link between vision loss and a decline in cognitive function has been uncovered by researchers at Stanford University.  The team of researchers analyzed two sets of data covering about 33,000 people to connect the dots between poor sight and dementia risks. The link wasn't weakened even after scientists adjusted for demographics, health and other factors....The researchers said their study was observational and could not establish exactly why vision loss is linked to cognitive decline. However, both symptoms are known to occur as people become older - suggesting they may both go hand-in-hand.

3. Lower serotonin levels are linked to dementia according to brain scan study.

Results suggest serotonin loss may be a key player in cognitive decline, not just a side-effect of Alzheimer's disease.  In a study looking at brain scans of people with mild loss of thought and memory ability, Johns Hopkins researchers report evidence of lower levels of the serotonin transporter -- a natural brain chemical that regulates mood, sleep and appetite....."Now that we have more evidence that serotonin is a chemical that appears affected early in cognitive decline, we suspect that increasing serotonin function in the brain could prevent memory loss from getting worse and slow disease progression," says Gwenn Smith, Ph.D., director of geriatric psychiatry and neuropsychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

4. Spinach may cause Alzheimer's disease in at-risk people, research suggests.

The salad leaf's iron-rich content may damage the brain similar to how the compound causes metal to rust, according to new research. People with high levels of iron alongside the protein amyloid, which has previously been associated with Alzheimer's, are more likely to experience rapid cognitive decline, a study found while those with high amyloid but low iron levels are less at-risk of the disease.

Removing such 'rust' from the brain could prevent or delay the degenerative condition, the researchers add. Although iron is important for energy, it can cause cellular stress and their subsequent death. The researchers plan to conduct a five-year trial investigating whether an anti-iron drug could treat Alzheimer's.  Do not cut back on dietary iron. The researchers do not recommend people cut back on their dietary iron intake to reduce their Alzheimer's risk. This is because the amount of the iron in the brain appears unrelated to levels in the blood or a person's food intake.

5. Women face a greater risk of developing dementia during a crucial 10-year span, between 65 and 75

The team of researchers from the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, analyzed 27 independent studies, featuring data on a total of 57,979 individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer's from North America and Europe. They found women are more at risk during the crucial 10-year span from 65-75. But contrary to past studies, there is no difference between the sexes from 55-85...Study co-author Dr Judy Pa,  said: 'The bottom line is women are not little men. A lot more research needs to target women because gender-specific variations can be so subtle that scientists often miss them. Most research today is ignoring a big part of the equation.'

Draper develops technique to predict cognitive decline in Alzheimer's

When patients are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it is often difficult to know how rapidly the disease will progress. But researchers at Cambridge-based Draper say that they can help researchers answer that very question, using artificial intelligence to study MRI data from Alzheimer’s patients....“This is one step forward to making better use of the biological data we have in order to obtain more informed insights into the mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease.” ....The technique is intended for researchers more than clinicians, and likely won’t be available to patients anytime soon

New eye test could spot Alzheimer's disease 20 YEARS before symptoms emerge  Retinal scan

Researchers at Cedars-Sinai developed an eye test as a non-invasive method. Comparing their results to brain scans, the eye test was just as successful at spotting those with twice the amount of plaque build-up in their brains....

For the study, the researchers conducted a clinical trial on 16 AD patients who drank a solution that includes curcumin, a natural component of the spice turmeric. The curcumin causes amyloid plaque in the retina to "light up" and be detected by the scan. The patients were then compared to a group of younger, cognitively healthy individuals.

The researchers found their results were as accurate as those found via standard invasive methods.  Until about a decade ago, the only way to officially diagnose someone with Alzheimer's disease was to analyze their brain posthumously. In recent years, physicians have been able to use positron emission tomography (PET) scans of the brains of living people, to identify markers of the disease. However, the technology is expensive, and the test is invasive, since the patient needs to be injected with radioactive tracers. Experts say the finding is one of the biggest breakthroughs in Alzheimer's research to date, offering the first sign of a cost-effective and non-invasive test.
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'This study adds to existing evidence pointing to the possibility of detecting this feature of Alzheimer's in the retina, by using equipment that already helps ophthalmologists diagnose problems like glaucoma or macular degeneration.

Blocking enzyme HDAC2, which is linked to Alzheimer's may reverse memory loss

In the brains of Alzheimer's patients, many of the genes required to form new memories are shut down by a genetic blockade, contributing to the cognitive decline seen in those patients.  MIT researchers have now shown that they can reverse that memory loss in mice by interfering with the enzyme that forms the blockade. The enzyme, known as HDAC2, turns genes off by condensing them so tightly that they can't be expressed.

Scientists believe they have found a drug that could treat childhood Alzheimer's

The disease is called Niemann-Pick type C (NPC) and causes enlarged organs, dementia and difficulty speaking. The study shows that a sugar molecule called cyclodextrin slows progression and can return some brain function in NPC patients.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:48 PM | Permalink

August 27, 2017

Health Roundup: Opioids, wonder drug for hearts, loneliness, chronic fatigue, peanut allergy and coffee

More than a third of US adults prescribed opioids in 2015.

That's 92 million people.  ....Opioid overdose is now the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50, claiming more than 60,000 lives per year.

New wonder drug hailed as biggest breakthrough in fight against heart attacks and cancer

Cholesterol-busting statins are given to millions of adults deemed to be at risk of heart disease. But half of heart attacks occur in people who do not have high cholesterol at all. Now scientists have found that reducing inflammation in the body can protect against a host of conditions - with a “really dramatic effect” on cancer deaths. The drug canakinumab, given by injection every three months - cut repeat heart attacks by one quarter. Statins cut the risk by around 15 per cent.


Professor Paul Ridker of Harvard Medical School,  said it opens up a “third front” in the war on heart disease.  The landmark study tracked 10,000 heart attack victims who were given canakinumab, a drug which targets inflammation. The four-year study found those given the new treatment saw a 24 per cent reduction in heart attacks and 17 per cent fall in angina, while those on the highest dose saw cancer deaths fall by 51 per cent.

Loneliness, Social Isolation Greater Health Problem In US Than Obesity

Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology at Brigham Young University conducted two meta-analyses of previous studies to determine how social isolation, loneliness, and living alone plays a role in a person’s risk of dying. In an analysis of 148 studies that included more than 300,000 people total, her research team found that “a greater social connection” cuts a person’s risk of early death by 50 percent.

“Being connected to others socially is widely considered a fundamental human need — crucial to both well-being and survival. Extreme examples show infants in custodial care who lack human contact fail to thrive and often die, and indeed, social isolation or solitary confinement has been used as a form of punishment...There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators,” says Holt-Lunstad.

Caregiving Is Hard Enough. Isolation Can Make It Unbearable.

“Don’t invite me for lunch — you know I can’t go,” Ms. Sherman-Lewis said. “Just bring a pizza and a bottle of wine and come by.”....Though tangible help counts ...so do regular texts, calls or visits. They help keep caregivers from feeling invisible and forgotten. Counselors in the NYU program once had the friendly inspiration, since they kept caregivers’ information in their database, to send clients a card on their birthdays.  It sounds sweet, if trivial. But often, Dr. Mittelman said, “they’d call up, so grateful, and say, ‘You’re the only one who remembered.’”

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Appears to Leave a 'Chemical Signature' in The Blood

And it's similar to that of hibernating species.... Senior researcher Mark Davis from Stanford University said, "Our findings show clearly that it's an inflammatory disease and provide a solid basis for a diagnostic blood test."  Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Linked to 7 Specific Gut Bacteria.  The study adds to research from last year, which showed that up to 80 percent of patients with ME/CFS could be accurately diagnosed by looking at their gut bacteria. And it's also known that up to 90 percent of ME/CFS patients have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Peanut allergy treatment 'lasts up to four years'

An oral treatment for peanut allergy is still effective four years after it was administered, a study conducted at the Murdoch Childrens' Research Institute in Melbourne has found. Children were given a probiotic, with a peanut protein, daily for 18 months. When tested one month later, 80% could tolerate peanuts without any allergic symptoms and after four years, 70% of them were still able to eat peanuts without suffering any side-effects.

Researchers say you might as well be your own therapist

A meta-analyses of 15 studies found no significant difference in the treatment outcomes for patients who saw a therapist and those who followed a self-help book or online program. The findings  suggest, as the researchers write, that self-help “has considerable potential as a first-line intervention.” For those who can’t get a therapy appointment right away, self-help CBT exercises can still have a powerful effect.

Four cups of coffee a day could slash chance of early death

Research on 20,000 middle-aged men and women found that those who drank it regularly had mortality rates almost two thirds lower. Previous studies have found that coffee can improve liver function, reduce inflammation and boost the immune system.

13 Health Benefits of Coffee, Based on Science

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:10 PM | Permalink

August 26, 2017

Alzheimer's Roundup: Singing and Dancing edition

“Most people associate music with important events and a wide array of emotions.
The connection can be so strong that hearing a tune long after the occurrence evokes a memory of it.”
— Alzheimer's Foundation of America

Line-dancing is better than a walk to fight Alzheimer's:

Pensioners who learn to line dance, take up jazz or square dancing are better protected from memory loss and dementia than those who walk or cycle, a study shows. Dancing can help fight off the loss of brainpower as we age and brain scans show that it works better over a period of 18 months than spells of cycling or Nordic walking.

....The study’s lead author, Dr Kathrin Rehfeld from the German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases, said: ‘Everybody would like to live an independent and healthy life, for as long as possible.  I think dancing is a powerful tool to set new challenges for body and mind, especially in older age.’

Singing and Music have Benefits to those with Alzheimer's

A growing body of research suggests that music — like art and other creative forms of therapy — can stir emotions and memories, enhance enjoyment and self-esteem, and enrich the lives of people with dementia....Music may even play a role in helping to ward off Alzheimer’s. Researchers from Loyola University in Chicago found that retired orchestra musicians who had spent a lifetime of playing musical instruments were less likely to develop dementia in old age.

....Singing as part of a group led to improvements in the thinking and memory skills and boost mood in those with dementia....“These data show that participation in an active singing program for an extended period of time can improve cognition in patients with moderate to severe dementia,” the researchers wrote.

Alzheimer's patients' brains boosted by belting out Sound of Music

The sessions appeared to have the most striking effect on people with moderate to severe dementia, with patients scoring higher on cognitive and drawing tests, and also on a satisfaction-with-life questionnaire at the end of the study....Jane Flinn, a neuroscientist at George Mason University in Virginia, said care homes that did not hold group singing sessions should consider them, because they were cheap, entertaining and beneficial for patients with Alzheimer's.

Choir of Alzheimer's patients sings tunes from memory

They're the songs that get stuck in our heads – and not nearly so annoying when placed in the context of a choir made up of Alzheimer's patients.  "That's where the magic comes in." ...Suddenly patients who entered the room having difficulty holding a thought or stringing even a few words together, belt out tunes from Rodgers and Hammerstein and the Beatles...."We know that music is stored in a part of the brain that's last affected by Alzheimer's disease."

Alzheimer's Disease: Music Brings Patients 'Back to Life'

"When I end up in a nursing home, I'll want to have my music with me," said Dan Cohen, executive director of Music & Memory. ...Personalized playlists, chosen by loved ones, make patients light up. "They're more alert, more attentive, more cooperative, more engaged," he said. "Even if they can't recognize loved ones and they've stopped speaking, they hear music and they come alive."

Remind music app helps Alzheimer's patients bring back memories

After being inspired by the documentary Alive Inside, a group of student designers in Sweden created Remind which allows families to curate playlists that help people with Alzheimer's remember parts of their lives through music .

The design team created a simplified MP3 player that feels like a smooth stone to make it easier for patients with any form of dementia to use.  A smartphone application allows the patient's family to personalize playlists.  Unfortunately, this award-winning design has yet to be produced.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:35 PM | Permalink

August 23, 2017

Health Roundup, Cancer Edition: Blood cancer, alternative medicine, Vit C, HIV as cancer cure, gum disease, clinical trials

New treatment approved for deadly blood cancer

The U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration on Thursday approved the anti-cancer drug Besponsa, or inotuzumab ozogamicin, to treat B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL...Besponsa was evaluated in clinical studies involving 326 people with relapsed or refractory B-cell ALL who had received one or two prior treatments with other medication. More than 35 percent of people evaluated achieved complete remission for about eight months after taking Besponsa, compared with about 17 percent of those who took a different chemotherapy drug.

Treating Cancer With Alternative Medicine More Than Doubles Your Risk of Dying

Choosing alternative medicine to treat curable cancer instead of conventional cancer treatments more than doubles your risk of dying in five years, according to researchers from Yale University who analyzed 10 years of records in the National Cancer Database from 2004 to 2013 and identified 281 patients who had presented with early-stage breast, prostate, lung, or colorectal cancer – but decided to forgo conventional treatments in favor of alternative approaches.

Cancer survivors share incredible pictures of themselves before and after they beat the disease

 Cancer Survivors Before After

'I survived': This woman faced 4 surgeries, 55 chemos and 28 radiation treatments and has come through to live a happy, healthy life

Vitamin C May Encourage Blood Cancer Stem Cells to Die

Vitamin C may “tell” faulty stem cells in the bone marrow to mature and die normally, instead of multiplying to cause blood cancers. This is the finding of a study led by researchers from Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone Health.  The scientists warned it is impossible to get the required amount through fruit, and that such high quantities would be given intravenously. By injecting patients with it, sufferers can get up to 500 times the amount than they would through eating fruit and vegetables. Super-strength vitamin C doses could be a way to fight leukemia, 'exciting' early trials suggest.

How HIV Became a Cancer Cure
The immunologist behind the revolutionary new treatment set to win approval from the FDA.

In 2011, a team of researchers led by immunologist Carl June, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, reported stunning results after genetically altering the T-cells of three patients with advanced chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a cancer that affects white blood cells. The results, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in August 2011, opened the field of cancer immunotherapy.
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About 15 years ago June first considered using HIV to kill cancer cells. It turns out the HIV works better with human T-cells than the mouse virus does.”  A CAR T-cell is a “chimera”—Greek for a fusion of two animals. It combines the “killing machinery” of T-cells with the precise antibody targeting of B-cells. A CAR T-cell is designed to bind to a particular site on the cancer cell. That means, unlike with chemotherapy and radiation, other cells in the body aren’t damaged when patients receive CAR T-cell infusions. The result is fewer unpleasant long-term side effects.

The characteristic that makes HIV so deadly—it incorporates its DNA directly into host cells’—also makes it pliable for gene therapy. In the 1990s, Dr. June’s lab at Penn experimentally treated HIV patients using a re-engineered form of the virus. The researchers used modified HIV cells as a tool to alter the DNA of T-cells, which prevented the virus from replicating. Dr. June calls the cut-and-paste job “an anti-HIV molecular scissors.”“When we started in 2010, there were only three groups in the world trying to treat cancer with CAR T-cells,” he says. “Now there are over 200 trials.”

A Cancer Conundrum: Too Many Drug Trials, Too Few Patients

With the arrival of two revolutionary treatment strategies, immunotherapy and personalized medicine, cancer researchers have found new hope — and a problem that is perhaps unprecedented in medical research. There are too many experimental cancer drugs in too many clinical trials, and not enough patients to test them on. The logjam is caused partly by companies hoping to rush profitable new cancer drugs to market, and partly by the nature of these therapies, which can be spectacularly effective but only in select patients.

Gum disease raises a woman's risk of cancer by up to 14% as oral inflammation promotes tumor development

Researchers from the University of Buffalo analyzed 65,869 postmenopausal women with an average age of 68.  They found that periodontal disease is associated with both esophageal and gallbladder cancer. Pathogens from the mouth are thought to easily infect the nearby esophagus. Inflammation has previously been linked to both gum disease and cancer onset.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:49 AM | Permalink

August 20, 2017

New Medical Research and Tech: Vaccine breakthroughs, Watson, probiotics, type 1 diabetes and balding

New treatment cures, vaccinates mice against cancer

Researchers at Duke University have successfully cured and vaccinated mice against cancer in a recent small study using nanotechnology and immunotherapy. The study combined a Food and Drug Administration-approved cancer immunotherapy treatment with a new tumor-killing nanotechnology to improve the effectiveness of both therapies. Researchers developed the photothermal immunotherapy using lasers and gold nanostars to heat and destroy tumors in combination with an immunotherapy drug.

Plants 'hijacked' to make polio vaccine

Plants have been "hijacked" to make polio vaccine in a breakthrough with the potential to transform vaccine manufacture, say scientists. The team at the John Innes Centre, in Norfolk,U.K., says the process is cheap, easy and quick.  As well as helping eliminate polio, the scientists believe their approach could help the world react to unexpected threats such as Zika virus or Ebola.

Experts said the achievement was both impressive and important. The vaccine is an "authentic mimic" of poliovirus called a virus-like particle. Outwardly it looks almost identical to poliovirus but - like the difference between a mannequin and person - it is empty on the inside. It has all the features needed to train the immune system, but none of the weapons to cause an infection.

IBM Watson Makes a Treatment Plan for Brain-Cancer Patient in 10 Minutes; Doctors Take 160 Hours

In treating brain cancer, time is of the essence....IBM Watson’s key feature is its natural-language-processing abilities. This means Watson for Genomics can go through the 23 million journal articles currently in the medical literature, government listings of clinical trials, and other existing data sources without requiring someone to reformat the information and make it digestible. Other Watson initiatives have also given the system access to patients’ electronic health records, but those records weren’t included in this study.

At Last, a Big, Successful Trial of Probiotics

A large Indian study of 4,500 newborn babies found that the right microbes can prevent a life-threatening condition called sepsis.  Sepsis is one of the biggest killers of newborn babies, ending around 600,000 lives every year when they’ve barely begun. ...in Panigrahi’s trial, just 5.4 percent of the infants who took the synbiotic developed sepsis in their first two months of life, compared to 9 percent of those who received a placebo. That’s a reduction of 40 percent....The effect was twice as large as what the team expected, especially since the infants took daily doses of the synbiotic for just one week. And given the clear evidence of benefits, independent experts who were monitoring the study decided to stop the trial early: It would have been unethical to continue depriving half the newborns of the treatment...

The treatment also reduced the risk of infections by both the major groups of bacteria: the Gram-positives, by 82 percent; and the Gram-negatives, which are harder to treat with antibiotics, by 75 percent. It even reduced the risk of pneumonia and other infections of the airways by 34 percent. That was “completely unexpected,” says Panigrahi, and it’s the result he’s especially excited about. It suggests that the synbiotic isn’t just acting within the gut, but also giving the infants’ immune systems a body-wide boost.

Immune systems of type 1 diabetics can be ‘retrained’ to stop destroying insulin, scientists show

Researchers at King’s College London and Cardiff University showed that injecting patients with tiny protein fragments prevented immune cells from targeting vital insulin. Type 1 diabetes develops when a patient's immune system mistakenly attacks the insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas. Without treatment the number of beta cells will slowly decrease and the body will no longer be able to maintain normal blood sugar (blood glucose) levels, leading to patients needing daily injections. But a trial involving 27 people showed it was possible to halt the loss of  beta cells with fortnightly or monthly injections for six months. There were also no toxic side-effects.

A cure for balding could be on the horizon after scientists have found a new way to make hair grow.

Increasing lactate production genetically accelerates the stem cells in dormant hair follicles to get them growing again, a study on mice showed. Researchers believe the discovery may lead to new drugs to help people who suffer from alopecia, the medical term for hair loss. Receding hairlines and thinning crowns can be caused by aging, genetics, hormone imbalance, stress, illness and medications.

'Before this, no one knew that increasing or decreasing the lactate would have an effect on hair follicle stem cells,' said William Lowry, a professor of molecular, cell and developmental biology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). The researchers - whose work was published in the journal Nature Cell Biology - stress that these medications were used in preclinical tests only.  They have not been tested on humans or approved by the Food and Drug Administration as safe and effective.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:55 PM | Permalink

August 18, 2017

Health Roundup: Food edition: Watercress, Vit B3, wine, walnuts, peanut allergy, probiotics and magnesium

You are what your grandmother ate

Parents' own prenatal environment has a detectable impact on their children's weight, new research indicates.


Watercress can boost sperm count and reduce stress.

Watercress can dampen the body's response to stress and help fight obesity. Both these are factors blamed for declining sperm count levels, studies show. The superfood has been found to reduce stress-related damage to DNA. The vegetable also has vitamins C and E shown to maintain sperm count levels.

Landmark Vitamin Discovery Could Prevent Miscarriages And Birth Defects

Vitamin B3 could have the potential to prevent miscarriages and birth defects, according to a 12-year study by scientists in Australia....It's the first time that NAD (aka nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) has been linked to congenital abnormalities, identifying a previously unknown cause of birth defects – along with the supplement that might treat the problem... research has shown that up to one third of women in the US have low levels of vitamin B3 during their pregnancy. Vitamin B3, also known as niacin, is usually found in meats and green vegetables, along with condiments such as Vegemite and Marmite....."The most important discovery for pregnant women since folate."

A daily glass of wine helps to protect the heart and can cut the risk of an early death by up to a fifth.

Drinking a glass of wine or a bottle of beer a night could slash your risk of an early death by a fifth.
Moderate drinking – defined as up to seven drinks a week for women and 14 for men – significantly cuts the risk of dying from heart disease and other problems, a study has found. Scientists from the University of Texas and Shandong University in China tracked 333,247 Americans for an average of 8.2 years. Researchers stressed there was a ‘delicate balance’ between the benefits and dangers of alcohol.

Walnuts boost the willpower of dieters

Walnuts reduce food cravings and promote a feeling of fullness, new research from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston suggests. Eating the healthy snack boosts brain activity in the region associated with control which suggests people will have more discipline when faced with unhealthy food.  Study author Dr Christos Mantzoros said, "When participants eat walnuts, [a] part of their brain lights up, and we know that's connected with what they are telling us about feeling less hungry or more full.'

Cure to deadly peanut allergy?

Peanut allergy is the most common cause of anaphylaxis, a deadly allergic reaction, and one of the most common causes of food allergy deaths.  Immunologist and allergist Professor Tang from Murdoch Children's Research Institute in Australia has pioneered a new form of treatment that combines a probiotic with peanut oral immunotherapy, known as PPOIT.  Instead of avoiding the allergen, the treatment is designed to reprogram the immune system response to peanuts and over the longer term develop tolerance. It's thought combining probiotics with the immunotherapy gives the immune system the 'nudge' it needs.

A small clinical trial found two-thirds of children were rid of their allergy after undergoing an experimental immunotherapy treatment. The kids were given a probiotic treatment called lactobacillus rhamnosus, with a peanut protein, once daily for 18 months. Professor Tang said they found 70 per cent of children were able to stomach peanuts without suffering any reactions.  Astonishingly, their desensitisation to peanuts persisted for up to four years after treatment.

Will popping magnesium pills cure your aches and pains?  Are you getting enough Magnesium?

Guidelines suggest we should consume 375mg per day of magnesium, primarily from nuts and seeds, pulses, whole grains and leafy vegetables. Men take in 283mg a day on average, while women get just 226mg, says a UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey, published in February...‘After 40 ‘You are more likely to be overweight, and muscle mass starts to deteriorate. You are also more likely to have other conditions which affect the uptake of magnesium by the body."
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U.S. researchers said the tablets improved mood in depressed patients. Bristol University experts found  that middle-aged people with low levels of magnesium in their blood had an increased risk of bone fractures.... Many clinical studies have shown magnesium deficiency contributes to osteoporosis.

Migraine sufferers get relief from daily magnesium supplements, says Dr Andrew Dowson, a headache specialist and chairman of the Migraine Action Medical Advisory Board. ‘There is definitely evidence that it works as a preventative,’ he said....In a large study published in 2013, researchers found that magnesium intake protected people against the Type 2 diabetes. And magnesium deficiency has been linked to insulin resistance and poor glucose regulation.

A study published in the journal Stroke said it had been found men and women reduced their stroke risk with a higher intake of magnesium. ‘We don’t know exactly why this happens, but one theory is magnesium reduces inflammation in the body,’ says Professor Welch.  Studies also show higher levels of dietary magnesium can help to reduce hypertension and cholesterol levels — both risk factors for stroke....

Eating foods rich in magnesium is linked with a positive impact on heart disease risk factors such as lowering blood pressure.’ Magnesium also plays a role in the heart’s electrical functioning by which it beats, and studies show it can relieve atrial fibrillation, or unusual heart rhythms.

Several studies also suggest the supplements can help you sleep better....‘Magnesium is a relaxer of muscles, so this can help to calm the body,’.... Magnesium deficiency has also been linked to restless leg syndrome,
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:12 PM | Permalink

August 13, 2017

Health Roundup: Breakthrough in CF, recovery from vegetative stroke, oxygen therapy and counter-productive drugs

'Breakthrough in treating cystic fibrosis

Vertex Pharmaceuticals scored a major win Tuesday with the release of data from three clinical trials testing three different triple combinations of cystic fibrosis drugs. Patients genetically resistant to all treatments now on the market showed unprecedented gains in lung function on all three experimental therapies - a 10 percentage point improvement, adjusted for placebo, in FEV1, an important measure of lung capacity. ....To put the 10 percentage point improvement in lung function in perspective, Vertex CEO Jeff Leiden points to the company’s first approved cystic fibrosis drug, Kalydeco, which demonstrates similar efficacy. “We have Kalydeco patients that call to tell us that they used to only be able to walk one block, but now they can run several miles, or they couldn’t walk up the stairs to their apartment and now they just run up and down those stairs every day,” he said. “This is life-changing for these patients.”

Vegetative stroke patient, 36, was able to speak and move just 16 DAYS after being given a Parkinson's disease drug

A vegetative stroke patient who was completely unresponsive to what was going on around her, regained complete consciousness just 16 days after being given a Parkinson's disease drug, a case report reveals. The unnamed woman, 36, who was only being kept alive by medical intervention, was able to speak in short sentences after being given the dopamine-boosting drug, known as amantadine. Unable to move, doctors thought her only option was to be admitted to a nursing home, yet the woman, believed to be from Berlin, can now eat and stand.

Experts believe the drug may have pushed the woman, who was diagnosed with unresponsive wakefulness syndrome, 'above the threshold' for recovery. Amantadine is used to treat Parkinson's disease and 'flu. It is thought to increase levels of the 'feel-good' hormone dopamine in the brain which is involved in regulating movement.

Oxygen therapy revives brain of toddler who nearly drowned

In one of the first such confirmed cases, an Arkansas toddler who suffered severe brain injury after nearly drowning has had that brain damage reversed, using a new treatment. The treatment is known as hyperbaric oxygen therapy, or HBOT. It exposes a patient to pure oxygen within the confines of a carefully controlled pressurized chamber. During the therapy, the body gets three times the normal amount of oxygen, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The saga began with every parent's nightmare. Just one day shy of her 2nd birthday, Eden Carlson nearly drowned in the family pool. The little girl was found floating face down, unresponsive. Alive, but just barely.  The initial prognosis, noted Dr. Paul Harch, wasn't good. The little girl's heart had stopped beating.  "It took 100 minutes of CPR at both the house and the emergency room to get a return of circulation," he said. "And when they did, she had lab values that you rarely see in a living human being."  MRI scans revealed significant brain injury. Her brain had started to shrink. She was losing both gray matter -- critical to muscle control, sensory perception and speech -- and white matter, the network of central nervous system wiring that makes up the lion's share of the brain.Over the next two months, Eden progressively lost muscle control as well as her ability to speak, walk and respond properly to commands.

The tide only started to turn at the two-month mark, when under the guidance of Harch, Eden started undergoing HBOT, the therapy that he describes as the "most misunderstood therapy in the history of science."  One reason hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been met with skepticism is that it's been difficult to explain how this treatment works, he said. But several recent studies involving adult acute injury patients have indicated that even a single session of HBOT can have an immediate impact on the activity of thousands of genes critical to the promotion of tissue recovery, Harch explained. What that means, he said, is that "every time you [have HBOT], we are manipulating gene expression in a beneficial way, inhibiting cell death and inflammation while promoting tissue growth and repair."

And Eden's experience perfectly drives home that point.  He said Eden's mother reported that by the 10th round, her child appeared to be "near normal." "She was able to walk again," said Harch. "Her language development accelerated and ended up improving to the point that it was better than it had been before the accident." And subsequent MRI scans confirmed what Harch suspected: "The shrinkage of her brain had almost completely re-grown," he said.

Chemotherapy could cause cancer to SPREAD and grow back even more aggressive,

The drug is often regarded as the first option for breast cancer patients. But scientists at New York's Albert Einstein College of Medicine have found evidence that this is only a short-term solution - and can be dangerous. While shrinking the tumors, it opens a gateway for tumors to spread.  Cancer becomes almost impossible treat once it spreads to other organs

Lead author Dr George Karagiannis says the findings, should not deter patients from seeking treatment, but suggests we could create a way to better monitor tumor movement in patients undergoing chemotherapy. 'One approach would be to obtain a small amount of tumor tissue after a few doses of preoperative chemotherapy.'

Drugs used to treat osteoporosis could have the opposite effect and make you more prone to fractures

US health officials recommend that patients use bisphosphonates for no more than three to five years.  The study of 50 women aged 65 to 93 found using the drugs long-term can make bones more mineralized and harder. Older women were found to be most at risk of taking the cheap pills, which include Fosamax, Boniva and Reclast. Such pills protect millions of osteoporosis patients from potentially fatal fractures if they are taken daily.  The findings have potential implications for the treatment of osteoporosis which affects some 44 million in the US.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:14 PM | Permalink

August 9, 2017

Astonishing advances in medical technology

Groundbreaking skin patch the size of a penny can regrow organs, restore brain function, and heal wounds by injecting genetic code into the damaged area

 Tissue Nanotransfection

The technology, known as Tissue Nanotransfection (TNT), uses a nanochip the size of a penny, which is placed on the skin for a second and then removed. In that time, the chip injects genetic code into skin cells, turning them into any type of cell needed to restore wounded blood vessels. And a new study reveals its effects can be seen within days. The researchers at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center restored brain function to mice after strokes and rescued badly injured legs on mice in just three weeks with a single touch of this device. ...
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'What's even more exciting is that it not only works on the skin, but on any type of tissue,' Sen said. In fact, researchers were able to grow brain cells on the skin surface of a mouse, harvest them, then inject them into the mouse's injured brain.  Just a few weeks after having a stroke, brain function in the mouse was restored, and it was healed. Because the technique uses a patient's own cells and does not rely on medication, researchers expect it to be approved for human trials within a year.

This miracle medical chip could one day heal almost anything

The future implications for such a device are limitless, though some examples include reprogramming brain cells in Alzheimer’s or stroke patients, regenerating limbs or helping injured soldiers or car crash victims at the scene.

“This technology does not require a laboratory or hospital and can actually be executed in the field,” said Chandan Sen, the director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine and Cell-Based Therapies. “It’s less than 100 grams to carry and will have a long shelf life.” The technology is currently waiting for FDA approval, but Sen expects the device to enter human trial within the year.

Cutting edge procedure uses your own cells to repair cartilage

It's called MACI, which is a procedure that repairs damaged cartilage using a person’s own cartilage cells. Doctors say cartilage is harvested from the patient and sent to a lab in Massachusetts. It's then soaked into a patch and applied to the damaged area.

"You stimulate the cells in the right environment and they make cartilage around themselves. It's kind of like they make a cushion around themselves,” Dr. Zak Knutson said. "The cells start to stick 24 hours to the bone. Once they stick, then we're good because then we start motion and a little bit of weight-bearing to stimulate them to grow and make cartilage around them.”

Mind-controlled hearing aids filter out background noise by tracking the wearer's brain activity

Scientists have created a hearing aid that is controlled by the mind, new research reveals. The technology filters out background noise, allowing the wearer to focus on just one conversation, a study found. Such a hearing aid works by monitoring the user's brain activity to determine who they are conversing with and amplifying that voice, the research adds. Current hearing aids can filter out background noise but are unable to determine specifically who the wearer is listening to.

Researchers from Columbia University in New York are behind the technology, which picks up several speakers before separating them into individual voices thus combining speech engineering and auditory decoding.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:12 AM | Permalink

August 8, 2017

Antiibiotics: Closthioamide, superbugs, and vaccines

Vaccines are part of the solution to the emerging crisis of antibiotic resistance

Preventing infections in the first place will also reduce the need for antibiotics. That’s where vaccines come in as an important part of the solution.  Vaccines have a unique quality among health interventions by benefiting both the individuals who are vaccinated and the larger community.

Vaccines that prevent bacterial diseases such as pneumococcal infections, bacterial meningitis, or pneumonia reduce antibiotic use by directly preventing these types of bacterial infections, for which antibiotics are the recommended treatment. Vaccines against viral diseases can reduce antibiotic use by preventing the occurrence of influenza and other viral infections that are commonly lumped together as “the flu,” which are often mistreated with antibiotics.

New antibiotic has potential to transform 'arms race' against resistant diseases - including super-gonorrhea

A new antibiotic has been found in the ‘arms race’ against incurable superbugs. While still at least five years away from being available to patients, closthioamide cured 98 per cent of gonorrhea samples taken from British patients.  The antibiotic, only discovered seven years ago, has also been found to tackle hospital superbug MRSA and deadly E.coli and could go on to be tested against other bacteria, including drug-resistant TB.
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Closthioamide was a lucky discovery by researchers trying to stimulate harmless bacteria to provide useful treatments. When they added ordinary soil to the bacteria, they came up with the antibiotic – a type of drug never seen before. It is thought to work by blocking the action of certain enzymes that maintain DNA inside bacterial cells.

You SHOULDN'T always take full course of antibiotics: Experts now say taking drugs after you feel well may encourage risk of superbugs

The report from ten specialists in infectious diseases from Oxford University and Brighton and Sussex Medical School said the current advice is not backed up by evidence. Instead, they say there is evidence that stopping antibiotics sooner is a safe and effective way to reduce overuse of the drugs....In hospitals, patients are often treated with antibiotics only until tests show they have recovered from infection. The authors said more trials were needed to establish what advice should be given to patients about how long to take the drugs.

Professor Martin Llewelyn, the report’s lead author, said: ‘Historically, antibiotic courses were set by precedent, driven by fear of under-treatment, with less concern about overuse… Completing the course goes against one of the most fundamental and widespread medication beliefs people have, which is that we should take as little medication as necessary.’

But Professor Stokes-Lampard said: ‘Recommended courses of antibiotics are not random – they are tailored to individual conditions and, in many cases, courses are quite short. ‘We are concerned about the concept of patients stopping taking their medication midway through a course once they “feel better”, because improvement in symptoms does not necessarily mean the infection has been completely eradicated.’

Don't jump the gun.  Why You Probably Should Still Take Your Full Course of Antibiotics

The advice needs to be clear. No one wants to take medication unnecessarily, but sometimes feeling better doesn't mean you are better....More research and clinical trials (as also noted in the BMJ article) are required in order to fully understand and adjust the lengths of antibiotic courses, but, in my opinion as a microbiologist, the risks of taking an insufficient course significantly outweigh the benefits.

You Still Have to Finish Your Antibiotics, But Ask These Questions First

  1. Do I really need antibiotics for this? I always ask this question, and you’d be surprised how often the answer is something like “This could you either way, actually. Would you like a paper prescription that you can get filled in a few days if you’re not feeling better?”
  2. Could we do a short course of antibiotics? Sometimes this is an option.
  3. It’s been a few days and I’m feeling better. Could I stop taking the antibiotics? Again, it depends on the specifics, but sometimes the answer will be yes.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:14 PM | Permalink

August 4, 2017

Health Roundup: Alcohol & Food

Moderate to heavy drinkers are more likely to live to 85 without developing dementia

A 30-year study by the University of California, San Diego has concluded that over-65s who indulge in up to three alcoholic drinks a day can look forward to a happy and healthy retirement. In fact, they said, moderate to heavy drinkers (1-3 drinks a day) are more likely to live to the age of 85 without dementia or other cognitive impairments than non-drinkers. The study, which tracked more than 1,000 middle class white men and women in California, builds on a swell of recent research linking alcohol intake to longevity.  Ninety-nine percent of them were white with at least some college education....

The researchers warned that the study does not suggest drinking is responsible for increased longevity and cognitive health. They make the point that people who drink moderate amounts of wine on a regular basis tend to have higher incomes and education levels. They also tend to smoke less and have better access to health care....However, the researchers warned excessive alcohol intake is known to cause alcohol-related dementia.

Queen Elizabeth, 91, knocks back four drinks a day

In the morning, when she downs a gin and Dubonnet cocktail with lemon and ice...Next, the queen enjoys a glass of wine or champagne with her lunch... she unwinds in the evening with a dry martini and a glass of champagne....The four drinks technically add up to six units of alcohol, which makes the queen a binge drinker by British “government standards.”

Regular Alcohol Drinkers Have a Lower Risk of Diabetes

According to a new study that looked at more than 70,000 Danish people, those who drink small to moderate amounts of alcohol on a frequent basis are less likely to develop diabetes than people who don't drink at all.

Alcohol Helps You Remember What You Learned Earlier, a small study shows.

Drinking booze after learning new information can help our brains store away what we took in when we were still sober, according to new research, even though alcohol is traditionally linked to problems forming memories.... it seems that when alcohol intake blocks the short-term memory circuits in the brain, long-term memories can then be consolidated. So after a few drinks, you stop taking in any new information, which means anything you learned earlier in the day has more chance to take root.

Alcohol increases the risk of skin cancer by up to 11% by causing irreparable DNA damage

For every 10g of alcohol a day, the risk of a form of skin cancer increases by 11%. Basal cell carcinoma increases by 7% and the risk of cutaneous squamous by 11%.  It is unclear if alcohol is linked to melanoma; the most deadly form of skin cancer. Past research suggests the ethanol in alcohol metabolizes into acetaldehyde, a chemical compound that damages DNA and prevents repair.

Reach for tea, red wine and blueberries to prevent flu taking hold.

Natural compounds found in berries, tea and red wine are known to have protective properties that help regulate the immune system to fight infections. Now, a new study shows that the flavonoids in these products works with a particular gut microbe to prevent severe flu infections. In their tests on mice, scientists explained that this did not stop the highly contagious infection being contracted. But the mechanism boosted the immune system and prevented the flu from harming the lung tissue.The new research, carried out at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, aimed to identify the exact gut microbes that might provide that protection.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:53 PM | Permalink

Medical research and technology roundup: Lung fibrosis, cancer, depression gene, MS, aging cells, bio-glue

Stem cell therapy for lung fibrosis conditions

A team of scientists from the UNC School of Medicine and North Carolina State University (NCSU) has developed promising research towards a possible stem cell treatment for several lung conditions, such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and cystic fibrosis -- often-fatal conditions that affect tens of millions of Americans.

Discovery points to drugs that would 'short-circuit' deadly leukemia

Researchers at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital have discovered that survival of a particularly aggressive form of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) depends on production of a small molecule called heme that is a kind of molecular "battery." The researchers said discovery of this vulnerability points the way to new targeted drug therapies that block heme synthesis, killing the leukemic cells.

Nearly 25% of people carry a gene that makes it more likely they will develop depression as they age, a new study claims

The study, conducted at the University of Central Florida, found that a gene variant called apolipoprotein-E4 (ApoE4), makes it 20 percent more likely that people will develop depression later in life than people without it. The study was conducted on a pool of 3,203 participants, following them as they aged from 53 to 71 years old.

New blood test can check for 13 types of cancers

A research team led by the Tokyo-based National Cancer Center Japan has developed a new test to diagnose 13 kinds of cancers from a single drop of blood, including relatively early stage 1 cancers, with more than 95 percent accuracy. Breast cancer was diagnosed with 97 percent accuracy....The new test utilizes microRNA (miRNA), a substance that is secreted from cells into the blood and regulates the movements of genes and which differ between cancer cells and normal cells.

Pioneering test can predict whether breast cancer will return

Patients with clustered immune cells, known as 'hotspots', were 25 per cent more likely to relapse within 10 years. The likelihood of cancer returning within five years was 23 per cent higher in women with the hotspots, a study found. The new method gives doctors the opportunity to dish out better preventative drugs to help keep the disease at bay. An automated computer tool on tissue samples searches for 'hotspots' by assessing how cells are organized spatially.

Small green sponge found in the icy waters off Alaska could CURE pancreatic and ovarian cancer

Scientists say a molecule from the sponge selectively killed malignant cells in both types of diseases in laboratory tests....The molecule in the sponge is structurally and chemically unique, said researchers...The discovery came after researchers spent the last two decades researching natural products that could be used for drugs....Any clinical trials would likely be about six years away

Resistance training SLOWS the progression of multiple sclerosis and even REVERSES brain shrinkage

Specifically, resistance exercise - also known as strength or weight training - has been shown to result in less brain shrinkage in patients. Furthermore, brain atrophy - classically considered as a measure of the disease's progression - appeared to be reversed in small areas....The team say they are unable to explain why training had a positive effect on the brain in people with MS. Previous research suggests exercise boosts two proteins - brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and nerve growth factor (NGF) - which help repair neurons in MS.  Study author associate professor Ulrik Dalgas at Aarhus University in Denmark, said, "The fact that physical training also seems to have a protective effect on the brain in people with multiple sclerosis is new and important knowledge.'  Dr Dalgas said further - and larger - research was necessary.  He stressed that the aim is not to replace medication with physical training.

Harvard develops medical bio glue based on slug secretions

As any gardener who has observed the revolting pests scaling a wet flowerpot will know, the sticky mucus exuded by the revolting pests has the power to stick to wet surfaces....[while]  most glues invented by humans require nice dry surfaces to stick, or are often too toxic to use on a human wound......The bio-glue was developed by experts at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. The researchers say that in laboratory tests they successfully repaired a hole in a pig heart that was slick with blood.  The sealant did not leak when the pig's heart beat, highlighting how the glue was flexible enough to cope with stretching. Tests revealed it bound together skin, cartilage, heart, artery, and liver with significantly greater strength than other medical adhesives. It is also non-toxic and does not cause tissue damage or adhesions. Professor Donald Ingber, who worked on the project, said: "Nature has frequently already found elegant solutions to common problems...'We are excited to see how this technology, inspired by a humble slug, might develop into a new technology for surgical repair and wound healing."

Brain cells found to control aging

Scientists have found that stem cells in the brain's hypothalamus govern how fast aging occurs in the body. In mice, when adult stem cells were injected, the signs of aging were reversed. The crucial hypothalamus stem cells are 'mother cells' that mature to produce new neurons. Researchers  believe that humans are likely to respond to the influence of hypothalamus stem cells in just the same way. The finding could lead to new strategies for warding off age-related diseases and extending lifespan.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:59 AM | Permalink

July 31, 2017

Alzheimer's Roundup: Ninja drug, losartan, risks start in childhood, brain diet, and care using virtual realty

‘Ninja drug’ prevents Alzheimer’s by destroying harmful cells in the brain

The drug, known as PMN310 antibody, is effective as the brain can regenerate. Experiments reveal the treatment stops the process that kills brain cells in dementia patients, while also protecting against short-term memory loss, a study found. Developed by Toronto-based ProMIS Neurosciences, the treatment is thought to neutralize harmful cells in the brain, which can then be cleared out. Unlike other medications, the drug is cell-specific and does not have side effects.  If successful in future trials, the medication could be available in 2025

Common blood pressure drug could halt progression of Alzheimer's

British researchers believe losartan – which has been available for more than two decades – could reduce the rate of brain shrinkage that normally occurs with the incurable condition. We already know people with high blood pressure have raised risk of Alzheimer's, but some are protected by the blood pressure drugs they take. The group of inhibitors losartan belongs to cuts disease risk by up to 50%.  Earlier research suggests losartan may improve blood flow and stop the chain reactions that cause brain cell damage and memory problems.

A ground-breaking £2 million trial is underway to test whether a common blood pressure drug could halt or slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease. The study, known as RADAR, is being led by the Universities of Bristol, Cambridge, Queen's University Belfast and University College, London.

Is it Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia? New test differentiates between the two with up to 90% accuracy

The test  distinguishes between Alzheimer's and frontotemporal dementia and can tell between Alzheimer's and a healthy brain with 87% reliability. The analysis involved placing an electro-magnetic coil, known as transcranial magnetic stimulation, against the study's participants' scalps.
Researchers hope this will avoid expensive brain scans and spinal fluid samples. Early detection helps to treat patients quickly and greatly improves the management of the disease.

Alzheimer's might not destroy memories completely

It has long been thought that Alzheimer's disease, which is the most common form of dementia, completely erases a sufferer's memories over time. However, according to a new study conducted on a group of mice at Columbia University, memories might not be completely wiped out by the disease, but instead made harder to access. The new data, also from tests on mice, suggests these 'lost' memories can be reawakened by artificially activating the neurons with lasers where the memories are stored.

About one-third of dementia cases could be prevented by actions that begin in childhood.

More than 1 in 3 cases of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia can be traced to factors — such as inadequate education, obesity, hearing loss and smoking....The commission found that stunted educational attainment — specifically, the failure to complete more than eight years of school — is childhood’s most potent risk factor for developing dementia. This alone is responsible for 8% of one’s lifetime risk for the disease. That makes lack of education a more powerful driver than the ApoE-e4 gene variant, which predisposes carriers to dementia and is estimated to be responsible for 7% of its incidence....Stresses that begin in early childhood severely impair brain health in later life. Those stresses — including poverty, family fractures, and poor prenatal healthcare — and their cognitive effects are disproportionately seen in African Americans, the studies found.  In midlife, the commission found that one of the most powerful — and fixable — drivers of dementia risk is hearing loss. In fact, as much as 9% of lifetime risk for dementia lies with hearing loss during midlife.

Stroke risk increases dementia risk

Dementia is far more common in the 'stroke belt' of America's Deep South, where rates of high blood pressure and diabetes are far above the national average. The nine states considered high stroke mortality states in the study are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, South Carolina and West Virginia. Experts warn it is no coincidence that these states also have a high proportion of black residents, significant levels of poverty, and poor access to healthcare.

The MIND diet is designed to prevent dementia and loss of brain function as you age.

It combines the Mediterranean diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet to create a dietary pattern that focuses specifically on brain health.

Virtual reality tried to treat dementia effects

Three or four decades ago, when nursing homes tied unruly patients to chairs or their beds to keep them from hurting themselves or others...Later, drugs took the place of restraints...Now virtual reality can be a novel diversion for patients and even can evoke nostalgia, serenity and wonder...

Black-and-white-striped angelfish glide past Mary Spencer as she scuba dives for the first time in her 84 years. Above, the sun glows white at the top of the Thai sea. Below, a school of bright orange fish darts by. “Oh, it’s a beautiful blue ocean,” the Orlando native said. “There goes a diver. He’s floating by.”....The retired Walt Disney World worker’s next adventure could take her to the Grand Canyon or on a safari without ever leaving her home in an east Orange County assisted-living facility.

How Virtual Reality Is Brightening up Dementia Patients’ Lives with video

The footage shows three dementia patients using a virtual reality headset that surrounds them with peaceful settings like beaches and forests. The experience helps to instantly calm the patients and significantly improves their mood.  Feeling as if they are actually in the surrounding they’re being shown, the patients all remark on how pleasing the experience is and how happy it’s made them feel. They also report feeling calm and relaxed hours after using the virtual reality headsets.

How virtual reality is transforming dementia care in Australia

For people living with dementia, VR can offer relief by triggering memories and positive emotions, even for those in the later stages who are often responsive to very little.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:40 PM | Permalink

July 28, 2017

Health: Degenerative CTE linked to playing football

Biggest ever NFL brain study diagnoses CTE in 99% of deceased players' brains

Boston University is leading the groundbreaking and ambitious research project to identify whether there is a direct link between concussions on the field and neurodegenerative diseases in players - including the late Aaron Hernandez.  They are focusing on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a little-understood condition a progressive neurodegeneration associated with repetitive head trauma. It has been linked to ALS (also called 'locked-in syndrome') and Alzheimer's.

Now, the team has released their first major findings from post-mortem examinations on 202 deceased players' brains, which were donated to research. The players, who lived to an average of 66 years old, had all played for a median of 15 years - from high school to professional leagues.  Overall, 177 of the brains they analyzed (87 percent) had CTE.  It was by far the most prevalent among NFL players: they found 110 of the 111 NFL players in the study (99 percent) had the hallmarks of CTE.

Ravens star, 26, who is also pursuing a PhD in math at MIT, RETIRES abruptly after shock study shows 99% of NFL players' brains are affected by degenerative disease CTE

Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel has quit the NFL just days after the world's biggest study into a degenerative brain disease showed that it affects 99 per cent of players. That news so shook Urschel - who is studying for a mathematics PhD at MIT in the off-season - that he quit on Thursday

Stunning CTE study message clear — play football at your own risk

87 percent of all players, 99 percent of NFL players, 91 percent of college players studied all came away with their brains dented.  You like those odds? Then send little Johnny on out there.

 Brain Scans Normal Encephalopathy
Normal brain on top, stage IV of chronic traumatic encephalopathy on bottom

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:38 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: coffee, walnuts, Ketamine, Tai Chi, green tea, tumeric and prayer

Drinking More Coffee Is Associated With a Longer Life

Two major studies that involved more than 700,000 people and found that the more coffee individuals consumed, the less likely they were to die an early death from a number of diseases including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.  Decaf seems to offer the same health benefits.

Caffeine IS harmless: It's safe to take and even boosts mental performance

A review of 44 trials dispelled the widespread myth that caffeine, found in tea, coffee and fizzy drinks, is bad for the body. It found that sticking to the recommended daily amount of 400mg - the equivalent four cups of coffee or eight cups of tea - has no lasting damage on the body.

Eat WALNUTS to avoid heart disease, cancer and dementia

While walnuts have been hailed a 'superfood' for years, just why they are so good for us has been a mystery. Now an industry-funded experiment on rats has shed light on the reason why – they promote the growth of good bacteria which have anti-inflammatory properties.  Chronic inflammation is now considered to be central – among other factors – to many illnesses including heart disease, cancer and dementia.

Just two ounces – about 28 walnut halves, or a small bag – improve digestive health by nourishing friendly bacteria in the gut, helping them multiply. Walnuts are the only nut that contain a significant amount of omega-3 fatty acid as well as protein and fibre.
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Our microflora has also increasingly been linked to many aspects of health including aging, arthritis, depression, cancer and heart conditions. Physiologist Professor Lauri Byerley, of Louisiana State University, said: 'The health of the gut is related to overall health in the rest of the body.

Ketamine has 'truly remarkable' effect on depression and is effective in elderly patients, scientists say

After six months, 43% of the subjects said they had no significant symptoms of depression....Colleen Loo, a professor at the University of New South Wales in Australia, led the world’s first randomised control trial into the drug’s effect on people over 60 with treatment-resistant depression....Ketamine was discovered in 1962 and is licensed for medical use in the UK as an anesthetic, but is also used illegally as a recreational drug.

Tai Chi reduces the risk of deadly falls by 43%

'Falls are the primary cause of traumatic death in older adults...Taking up Tai Chi can prevent falls that lead to fractures and broken bones in the elderly, new research suggests. The ancient Chinese practice slashes the risk of pensioners having a tumble by 43 per cent, compared to other interventions. Used for more than 1,000 years, it combines deep breathing and slow and gentle movements to boost muscle health.

The Athletes Turning to Prayer for a Performance Boost

Skeptics might dismiss it as religious posturing, but science is revealing that prayer works. When believers pray, something happens in their brains that actually makes them better athletes.  Neuroscientist Andrew Newberg, direc­tor of research at Thomas Jefferson Univer­sity Hospital’s Marcus Institute of Integrative Health, has spent a large portion of his career studying the effects of religious faith on our mental hardware. “When you pray, it changes your brain,” he says. “The mindfulness movement is really more of a secular approach.  We sort of cleaned it up and secularized it so that it’s more available to everyone, which is good. But in many ways it isn’t as good or as power­ful as prayer.”

10 science-based benefits of Green Tea extract

Like green tea, green tea extract is a great source of antioxidants. These have been credited with a range of health benefits, from promoting heart, liver and brain health to improving your skin and even reducing the risk of cancer. ...What’s more, many studies have looked at green tea extract’s ability to aid weight loss. In fact, many weight loss products list it as a key ingredient.

Tumeric, a curry spice, helped a dying woman beat cancer

After five years of living with cancer and the ravages of side-effects from repeated unsuccessful treatment, Dieneke Ferguson thought she was finally losing the battle. She had a serious relapse and there seemed little hope. She had been diagnosed with the blood cancer myeloma in 2007 and had undergone three rounds of chemotherapy as well as four stem cell transplants.  ‘I have been on all sorts of toxic drugs and the side-effects were terrifying,’ she says. ‘At one point I lost my memory for three days, and in 2008 two of the vertebrae in my spine collapsed so I couldn’t walk. They injected some kind of concrete into my spine to keep it stable.’
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She tried Curcumin, a component of turmeric, and five years on, her cancer cell count is negligible, with her recovery featuring in the British Medical Journal. Curcumin has been linked to a host of benefits, including for heart disease. Dieneke is still taking 8g of curcumin in tablet form daily — the equivalent of about two teaspoonfuls of pure powdered curcumin. As kitchen turmeric contains 2 per cent curcumin, it would be physically impossible to eat enough of the curry spice to get the same dose of curcumin.

For although it is widely used in Eastern medicine, and has been studied for its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic effects, for curcumin to be widely prescribed it must be tested in large-scale trials.  These cost millions, and the investment could never be repaid as there is no money to be made from sales of a natural compound that cannot be patented.

Doctors Found 27 Contact Lenses Lost in a Woman's Eye

The lenses were clumped together in a "blueish mass" and were "bound together by mucus," according to the journal. "She was quite shocked," Morjaria, who worked on the patient, told Optometry Today. "When she was seen two weeks after I removed the lenses she said her eyes felt a lot more comfortable."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:02 PM | Permalink

The 16 Positive Emotions That Boost Health

Positive thinking could extend your lifespan:

Stanford University researchers tracked data on more than 60,000 Americans. Those who saw themselves as less active were 71% more likely to die years later. According to Stanford University, people who view themselves as less healthy than others are at risk of suffering a premature death - no matter how active they actually are.  The study is the latest of many to show how our thoughts, feelings and beliefs have a direct impact on our health.

Lead author Professor Anthony Ong from Weill Cornell Medicine, said: "There are many kinds of happiness, and experiencing a diversity of emotional states might reduce a person's vulnerability to psychopathology  by preventing any one emotion from dominating their emotional life.....The simple daily practice of labeling and categorizing good feelings in specific terms may help us experience more differentiated emotions in different contexts." 

Experiencing a wide range of positive emotions significantly reduces a person's inflammation level.  Inflammation has previously been linked to premature death and chronic diseases, such as diabetes and osteoporosis. A person's experience of negative emotions has no effect on their inflammation.

The 16 Positive Emotions That Boost Health Are:
Enthusiasm
Interest
Determination
Excitement
Amusement
Inspiration
Alertness
Activeness
Strength
Pride
Attentiveness
Happiness
Relaxation
Cheerfulness
Being at ease
Calmness
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:38 AM | Permalink

July 24, 2017

Health Roundup: Alzheimer's Edition

Bacteria Found in Alzheimer’s Brains

Researchers from the University of Bristol in the UK have used DNA sequencing to examine bacteria in post-mortem brains from patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Unexpectedly, Alzheimer’s brains gave on average an apparent 7-fold increase in bacterial sequences above that seen in the healthy brain. Their findings suggest increased bacterial populations and different proportions of specific bacteria in Alzheimer’s, compared with healthy brains. The findings may support evidence that bacterial infection and inflammation in the brain could contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.

“Alzheimer’s brains usually contain evidence of neuroinflammation, and researchers increasingly think that this could be a possible driver of the disease, by causing neurons in the brain to degenerate,” says David Emery, a researcher from the University of Bristol, and an author on the study.

Snoring linked to Alzheimer's:

Difficulty breathing while asleep accelerates memory decline in people at-risk of the condition, a study found. Daytime sleepiness and sleep apnea is also linked to impaired attention, memory and thinking in people who are genetically susceptible to the degenerative condition, the research adds.  Researchers hope the findings will support sleep-based treatments in people at-risk of developing Alzheimer's.

The researchers from Harvard University analyzed 1,752 people with an average age of 68. People were identified as being at-risk of Alzheimer's if they carried a certain variation of a gene known as APOE, which carries cholesterol and supports brain injury repair in healthy people. Previous studies have demonstrated one-fifth of the population who carry the APOE genetic variation are at an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Many people being treated for Alzheimer's may not actually have it

The Washington Post reports doctors tested 4,000 Medicare patients with mild cognitive impairment or dementia and discovered many of them definitively do not have Alzheimer's. Using PET scans, the study revealed only 54.3 percent of mild cognitive impairment patients and 70.5 percent of dementia patients had brains containing amyloid plaques. These plaques can be a sign of Alzheimer's.
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The findings show many people are potentially taking unnecessary Alzheimer's medication, and doctors may want to change their treatment to something cheaper or more effective. Unfortunately, the only ways to test for amyloid plaques while a patient is alive are expensive PET scans, which aren't usually covered by insurance, or invasive spinal taps.

This new blood test could potentially reveal the plaques. 

Blood test detects Alzheimer’s plaques building up in brain

A blood test can detect whether plaques of beta-amyloid are building up in a person’s brain – a sign that they may develop Alzheimer’s disease. ...Now a team has developed a simple blood test that may make it possible for family doctors to screen for Alzheimer’s risk during health check-ups. “This kind of test could be used to screen many thousands of patients to identify those at risk for Alzheimer’s disease, and to start treatments before memory loss and brain damage,” says Randall Bateman, of Washington University in St Louis, who unveiled the test at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in London today.
Bateman says the test could be used in a similar way to annual checks on cholesterol. The test works by measuring the relative amounts of different forms of beta-amyloid, a sign of whether plaques are likely to be building in a person’s brain. They developed the test by comparing ratios of beta-amyloid types in 41 people’s blood with PET scans showing how much beta-amyloid had aggregated in their brains.

“I’m very positive about the test, but would like to see it validated,” says Dean Hartley of the Alzheimer’s Association. “It was a very small sample, and they’re trying to confirm it in an additional 180 people. But in time, if we can get a blood test, it will take us further, just as cholesterol tests did in the cardiovascular field.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:49 PM | Permalink

July 21, 2017

Waste, Fraud & Abuse in Medicaid

The Facts about Medicaid Fraud

In September, the Department of Health and Human Services sent out a warning that improper payments under Medicaid have become so common that they will account this year for almost 12 percent of total Medicaid spending — just shy of $140 billion
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As the Wall Street Journal has reported, we don’t even verify that doctors billing Medicaid for services rendered are actually doctors. In many cases, we do not do much to verify that their patients actually, you know, exist. We’ve paid untold billions of dollars to “clinics” that turn out to be little more — or nothing more — than post-office boxes and prepaid cell phones. And as bad as that 12 percent rate is, some policy scholars believe that it is in fact probably worse.
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...the real problem with the welfare state is not the poor people receiving checks — it’s everybody in the middle, the vast array of government employees, their union allies, contractors, and third parties who earn six-, seven-, eight-, or nine-figure paydays taking their cuts of money we think we’re spending on the poor. This is an enormous criminal conspiracy against the American people and the public fisc.

The Great American Rip-Off

According to The Economist: Some criminals are switching from cocaine trafficking to prescription-drug fraud because the risk-adjusted rewards are higher: the money is still good, the work safer and the penalties lighter.
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Without indulging in black-helicopter stuff, we should squarely face the fact that organized-crime syndicates are being permitted to use our medical entitlements to loot the Treasury, and that not very much is being done about that, which suggests the possibility — only a possibility — that there is political collusion in this at some level.

U.S. Charges 412, Including Doctors, in $1.3 Billion Health Fraud

Nearly one-third of the 412 charged were accused of opioid-related crimes. The health care providers, about 50 of them doctors, billed Medicare and Medicaid for drugs that were never purchased; collected money for false rehabilitation treatments and tests; and gave out prescriptions for cash, according to prosecutors.

Some of the doctors wrote more prescriptions for controlled substances in a single month than entire hospitals wrote in that time...“This event again highlights the enormity of the fraud challenge we face,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:38 PM | Permalink

July 17, 2017

Health Roundup: Cancer + immunology

Cancer vaccines help patients get tumor-free in 2 studies

Cancer vaccines — which are intended to help patients fight cancer by enlisting the individuals' own immune systems to attack cancer cells —showed promise in two small new studies.  In both studies, researchers used experimental cancer vaccines to treat patients who had the deadly skin cancer melanoma . And in both studies, tumors completely disappeared in more than half of the patients after they were given their cancer vaccines.
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Both studies were phase I clinical trials, meaning they were carried out with a small number of patients to test the safety of the treatment, and find the best dose of a new treatment with the fewest side effects. "These are small-scale studies that need to be confirmed with larger numbers of patients."

Researchers are developing similar vaccines against other cancers as well, including a type of brain cancer called glioblastoma, kidney cancer, blood cell cancers and ovarian cancer, said Dr. Catherine Wu, a physician-scientist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, who led one of the new studies. "Many other cancers might benefit from this approach," Wu said. ...

More detail Custom cancer vaccines safely fight and kill tumors in early human trials

It’s early and there are many hurdles, but data so far suggests safety, efficacy.

A cancer treatment that one expert called the 'most exciting thing I’ve seen in my lifetime' just got closer to approval.

A  US Food and Drug Administration  (FDA) advisory committee just gave a critical recommendation for a cutting-edge cancer therapy...Novartis...  CTL019, a treatment for pediatric acute lymphoblastic lymphoblastic leukemia. The panel voted unanimously 10-0 in favor of recommending the treatment.

The highly personalized treatment is called CAR T-cell therapy. It's a type of cancer immunotherapy — or a therapy that harnesses the body's immune system to take on cancer cells.  Short for chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy, CAR-T treatment takes a person's own cells, removes them from the body, re-engineers them, and then puts the cells back in the body where they can attack cancer cells. Novartis' therapy is one of two cutting-edge treatments for blood cancers are poised to get approved by the end of the year.


More detail
Why CAR T-cell immunotherapy is such a big deal for cancer treatment

The FDA will likely approve the gene-altering therapy.

Scientists Find New Biomarker to Guide Cancer Immunotherapy

Scientists said on Monday they had pinpointed a particular type of immune system cell that could predict more precisely if cancer patients are likely to respond to modern immunotherapy medicines. The discovery, reported in the journal Nature Immunology, suggests doctors and drug developers will need to get smarter in zeroing in on those people who stand to benefit from the expensive new drugs, which are revolutionizing cancer care.  Drugs such as Merck's Keytruda, Bristol-Myers Squibb's Opdivo, Roche's Tecentriq and AstraZeneca's Imfinzi can boost the immune system's ability to fight tumors, but they only work for some patients.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:57 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Oral sex, omega 3, Mediterranean diet, artificial sweeteners, toxic sunscreen, Vit D heals sunburnt skin and medical marijuana

Oral sex is causing the spread of untreatable 'SUPER gonorrhea',

Oral sex is causing the spread of a dangerous gonorrhea superbug, experts have warned. The untreatable strain of gonorrhea is rapidly spreading across the world putting millions of lives at risk, the World Health Organization has warned.

Experts said that incurable gonorrhea has started to spread after becoming resistant to antibiotics, which has been partly caused by oral sex and a decline in condom use.The sexually transmitted bacteria can live at the back of the throat and, because of this, has been evolve immunity to antibiotics used to treat common throat infections.

An omega-3 rich diet really can fight bowel cancer:

Eating salmon, walnuts and chia seeds boosts the body's ability to stop deadly tumors, reveals first study of its kind. Omega-3 fatty acids prevent deadly tumors from spreading across the body. When broken down, these then go onto release cancer-fighting molecules.

Diet rich in oily fish, fresh vegetables and nuts cuts the risk of dementia by 35%

Is there anything a Mediterranean diet can't do?

Powerful compounds in tomatoes  HALVE skin tumors in male mice but not female  mice.

Compounds responsible for the fruit's red color may protect against UV rays. A trial showed mice fed a daily diet of tomato powder had their tumors shrink. Lead author Professor Tatiana Oberyszyn said: 'The study showed us that we do need to consider sex when exploring different preventative strategies.  'What works in men may not always work equally well in women and vice versa.'

Medical Marijuana Is Preferred by 93% of Patients for Pain Management

Patients managing pain vastly prefer using medical marijuana to opioid-based medications. They reported fewer side effects, and the majority found cannabis more effective.

Long-term use of artificial sweeteners increases the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

A wide-ranging review has found that long term use of the sweeteners – including aspartame, sucralose and stevia – may have negative effects on our metabolism and appetite, as well as our gut bacteria.  And contrary to expectation based on the belief cutting out sugar would prevent weight gain, evidence that taking artificial sweeteners reduces weight was mixed. Researchers at the University of Manitoba's George & Fay Yee Centre for Healthcare Innovation reviewed 37 studies that followed over 400,000 people for an average of 10 years.  The researchers said there was no consistent weight loss seen in people who took artificial sweeteners.

Swimming can turn your sunscreen toxic!

The compound used in the protective lotions becomes deadly when it reacts with chlorine and the sun, increasing risk of cancer. Avobenzone is widely considered to be the most popular sunscreen in the world. The compound works by making UV rays safer so that they don't damage the skin. But scientists say it becomes poisonous when exposed to both sun and chlorine

High doses of vitamin D help heal sun-burnt skin

Vitamin D 'significantly' reduces skin redness and swelling, a new study has found. And not only did it suppress inflammation, the 'sunshine vitamin' was also discovered to activate skin repair genes.
With participants who took a supplement an hour after a burn, the higher their vitamin d levels, the more the burn had healed 48 hours later. The findings of the trial – the first of its kind – suggest vitamin D increases levels of an anti-inflammatory enzyme in skin.

Study author Professor Kurt Lu from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center said 'We hypothesize that vitamin D helps promote protective barriers in the skin by rapidly reducing inflammation.'What we did not expect was that at a certain dose, vitamin D not only was capable of suppressing inflammation, it was also activating skin repair genes.'

Common disinfectant found in soap and toothpaste could be causing antibiotic resistance

Researchers found that triclosan, a chemical found in soap, toothpaste and cleaning products, could be making bacteria more immune to antibiotics. A new British study found that bacteria exposed to triclosan could become more resistant to a group of antibiotics known as quinolones. Quinolones are a common antibiotic used to treat urinary tract infections, sinusitis, bronchitis and pneumonia. The warning comes just a year after the use of triclosan in antibacterial soap was banned by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:54 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Statins, prostate surgery, OTC for MS and 'dry AMD'

Statins have 'no consistent evidence' of improving heart attack patients' survival:

Statins have 'no consistent evidence' of improving heart attack patients' survival, researchers from around the world conclude after analyzing dozens of studies over two decades. Taking a daily statin for five years after a heart attack extends your life by just four days, new research reveals. The researchers add that statins' supposed benefits are based on 'cherry-picked science' and are unjustly promoted by pharmaceutical giants. Heart attack survivors should instead aim to improve their health through diet and exercise, according to the researchers.

Prostate removal in cancer sufferers does not increase a patient's survival prospects,

Some 7.4 percent of prostate cancer sufferers who have the gland removed die as a result of their disease versus 11.4 per cent who leave it intact, which is not a significant difference, a study found. Men who have the surgery report greater urinary incontinence, greater erectile and sexual dysfunction and greater limitations in their daily activities. Lead author Dr Timothy Wilt from the Minneapolis VA Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research, said: 'Men currently diagnosed with prostate cancer will have even better long-term overall and prostate cancer survival with observation.'

Over-the-counter lipoic acid may slow the progression of multiple sclerosis, study finds

Also known as thioctic acid, it is a naturally occurring compound that is synthesised in small amounts by humans, which is available in supplement form.  The effects were seen on patients with the secondary progressive form (SPMS) of the common neurological disease.  In a pilot study, researchers found that taking a high dose of lipoic acid every day for two years reduced whole brain atrophy by 68 percent compared with a placebo.

The research, published in the journal Neuroimmunology & Neuroinflammation, noted that the reduction of brain atrophy by 68 percent with lipoic acid was greater than the reported impact of the drug ocrelizumab. Known as brand name Ocrevus, the medication was recently approved by the FDA for the treatment of primary progressive MS – improving whole brain atrophy by 18 percent in clinical trials.  Furthermore, the new study revealed participants treated with lipoic acid had fewer falls and better walking times, compared with those who were given the placebo.
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However, the researchers caution that further trials involving a larger number of patients is necessary before lipoic acid can be recommended as a safe and effective treatment for the disease.

Drug May Help with Common Form of Vision Loss

An experimental drug reduces eye damage in people with a common form of vision loss for which there is currently no available treatment, a new study finds. The new study included 129 participants ages 60 to 89 in the United States and Germany. All of the participants had a particular type of AMD called geographic atrophyAMD, or "dry AMD." In the 18-month trial, the participants who were given monthly injections of a drug called lampalizumab had a 20 percent reduction, on average, in the size of the area of the retina that is affected by the disease.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:51 PM | Permalink

Good news in the Alzheimer's roundup UPDATED

Sharp focus on Alzheimer's may help target drugs

Abnormal deposits that build up in the brain during Alzheimer's have been pictured in unprecedented detail by UK scientists at The Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB), a research institute in Cambridge, England.

The researchers used brain tissue from a 74-year-old woman who died after having Alzheimer's disease. The form of dementia leads to tangles of a protein called tau spreading throughout the brain. The more tau tangles there are, the worse the symptoms tend to be. Doctors have known this has happened for decades but what has been missing is a detailed understanding of what the tangles look like.

The team took advantage of the "resolution revolution" in microscopy to take thousands of highly detailed images of the tau inside the woman's brain tissues. Using computer software, they figured out the tangles look like this:

 Tau Tangles Pictured

It is pretty meaningless to an untrained eye, but to scientists this could be one of the most important recent discoveries in tackling dementia. Attempts to develop a drug to slow the pace of dementia have been met by repeated failure. But it is hard to come up with a drug when you do not know the precise chemical structure of what you are targeting.

Dr Sjors Scheres, one of the researchers, told the BBC News website: "It's like shooting in the dark - you can still hit something but you are much more likely to hit if you know what the structure is."We are excited - it opens up a whole new era in this field, it really does."

A Common Epilepsy Drug Can Fix Abnormal Brain Activity in Alzheimer's Disease

A team from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) at Harvard Medical School turned to an anti-seizure medication to see whether it might have any effect on the brain activity of patients with mild Alzheimer's disease. The drug in question was levetiracetam (LEV for short), commonly used for treating seizures in epilepsy patients. It's been tested before in mouse models of Alzheimer's disease, showing benefits for normalizing brain activity and even reversing some cognitive deficits. Even though this was just a small feasibility study, the results look promising indeed.

New Alzheimer's Drug Trial Clears Toxic Brain Proteins And Slows Memory Loss

The drug targets amyloid deposits - toxic proteins linked to the onset of Alzheimer’s - and after just 12 months, patients on the highest dose had no detectable signs of these deposits. Not only that, but for the 20 early-stage Alzheimer’s patients who took the highest dose of the drug for more than six months, there were indications that their cognitive decline and memory loss had been slowed down.

Nothing is confirmed until the results are replicated in a much longer trial with a larger and more diverse sample set, so while we can be excited about the incredible potential of this drug, we need to wait for follow-up trials. So with that in mind, here’s what happened. The team recruited 165 participants who had been diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease to test the efficacy of a drug based on an antibody called aducanumab.Aducanumab has been shown to naturally occur in people who age without experiencing significant cognitive decline, so the researchers decided to see what would happen if they injected high doses of the antibody into people with early-stage Alzheimer’s.

"This is the best news we’ve had in my 25 years of doing Alzheimer’s research, and it brings hope to patients and families affected by the disease," one of the researchers, neurologist Stephen Salloway from Butler Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island.

Experts excited by brain 'wonder-drug'

In 2013, a UK Medical Research Council team stopped brain cells dying in an animal for the first time, creating headline news around the world. But the compound used was unsuitable for people, as it caused organ damage.  Now two drugs have been found that should have the same protective effect on the brain and are already safely used in people. These two drugs were shown to prevent both a form of dementia and prion disease by stopping brain cells dying.

"It's really exciting," said Prof Giovanna Mallucci, from the MRC Toxicology Unit in Leicester.  "Both were very highly protective and prevented memory deficits, paralysis and dysfunction of brain cells." She wants to start human clinical trials on dementia patients soon and expects to know whether the drugs work within two to three years.

Adults with ADHD are more than THREE TIMES as likely to develop dementia

Researchers studied 600 adults from Taiwan with ADHD over a 10-year period.They found adults with ADHD are 3.4 times more likely to develop dementia.  While it is unclear why, studies suggest both disorders are caused by problems with brain messengers.

Pauses in speech may indicate Alzheimer's disease: Taking longer to talk is an early sign of mental decline

Research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that people with a family history of Alzheimer's disease who are at-risk of developing the condition are less able to express their ideas and have reduced 'fluency' when speaking, a study found. They also use words such as 'it' or 'they' rather than specific names for things and speak in shorter sentences, the research adds.

Orange a day cuts the risk of dementia by a quarter:

Daily intake of citrus fruits can cut chances of developing dementia by almost a quarter, according to a study by scientists at Tohuku University in Japan. Citric acid contains nobiletin, shown to slow or reverse impairment of memory. It's the first major study to investigate the effects citrus fruit consumption might have on large numbers of those most at risk.

People who complete daily crosswords have sharper brains as they grow older

Doing the tricky word puzzles helps boost attention, reasoning and memory. The 'exciting' findings were based on data from more than 17,000 participants in research led by Exeter University and Kings College London.

UPDATE: Two new genes which could be linked to Alzheimer's found in ground-breaking study
Until now, these genes were seen as protectors, since they are part of the brain's immune system.  However, scientists at Cardiff University have demonstrated that they can also create fertile ground for the neurodegenerative disease. Crucially, they said there are clear ways to target these genes - potentially blocking them from triggering dangerous activity. 

The study compared the DNA of tens of thousands of individuals with Alzheimer's with aged-matched people who are free from the disease, building on their previous work of identifying 24 susceptibility genes

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:21 PM | Permalink

Roundup of exciting medical research and new medical technologies

Scientists stumble across a solution to deadly antibiotic resistance by CHANCE

Deemed to be one of the biggest threats to humanity, antibiotic resistance has previously been cited as severe as terrorism and global warming. It is causing usually harmless infections to turn into deadly superbugs that don't respond to a range of medications.  But Salford University scientists claim they may have stumbled across a very simple way forward – even though they weren't looking for antibiotics. And they have created several of the drugs already – many of which are as potent, or more so, than amoxicillin.

Study author Professor Michael Lisanti told MailOnline they were looking into ways of inhibiting mitochondria, the 'powerhouse' of cells which fuel fatal tumors, when they made the discovery. 'These broad-spectrum antibiotics were discovered, by simply screening candidates first on mitochondria in cancer cells.
'Mitochondria and bacteria have a lot in common. We began thinking that if what we found inhibited mitochondria, it would also kill bacteria.' 'So, these new anti-cancer agents should also be potential antibiotics.'

Their results showed that these synthetic compounds - without any additional chemical engineering - inhibited a broad spectrum of five types of common bacteria. This included Streptococcus, Pseudomonas, E. coli and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). They also killed the pathogenic yeast, Candida albicans.
Dubbed as 'mito-riboscins', they are equally, if not more, potent than standard antibiotics, the researchers said.

Johns Hopkins researchers say they've unlocked key to cancer metastasis and how to slow it

Hasini Jayatilaka was a sophomore at the Johns Hopkins University working in a lab studying cancer cells when she noticed that when the cells become too densely packed, some would break off and start spreading....Seven years later, the theory Jayatilaka developed early in college is now a bona fide discovery that offers significant promise for cancer treatment.

Jayatilaka and a team at Johns Hopkins discovered the biochemical mechanism that tells cancer cells to break off from the primary tumor and spread throughout the body, a process called metastasis. Some 90 percent of cancer deaths are caused when cancer metastasizes. The team also found that two existing, FDA-approved drugs can slow metastasis significantly....The drugs the team used were Tocilizumab, a rheumatoid arthritis treatment, and Reparixin, which is being evaluated for cancer treatment. The drugs bind to the Interleukin receptors and block their signals, slowing metastasis.  The next step for the team is to test the effectiveness of the drugs in human subjects.

New vaccine providing '100% protection' against life-wrecking Lyme disease is in the pipeline

Experts at UMass Medical School in Boston have prevented mice getting Lyme disease.  A single jab injects an antibody that targets bacteria inside the tick's gut as soon as the tick bites, thus preventing the illness from being transmitted to the body.

The seasonal injection of the single antibody could be given in the spring, and could last through the fall, when ticks are most active. The developers say it has shown virtually no adverse side effects, but more testing needs to be done. And this means that it could take another two-to-three years before it is available and it has passed the clinic trials required for approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Until then, the sweetener Stevia might work even better than antibiotics to treat Lyme disease

A professor who has battled with the illness for 15 years, believes to have found a solution.  Dr Eva Sapi, an academic and researcher at the University of New Haven, conducted tests on the sweetener Stevia and found that it combats the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria that causes Lyme disease.  "We did some research, and found out it's been used in Japan for centuries as a microbiotic agent."  The sugary substance has proven much more effective in killing the bacteria than antibiotics. Clinical trials are being conducted in Hyde Park, New York, by Dr Richard Horowitz, a doctor specializing in Lyme disease and curing patients with the illness. 

Geko 'wristwatch' may help speed up healing of leg injuries and aid patients who have surgery for broken bones

The neuromuscular electro-stimulation device reduces swelling in broken limbs.  Around 75 per cent of patients using Geko were treated successfully and went home in one or two days.

Rapidly expanding biofoam will save soldiers' lives.

Bleeding to death is the leading cause of fatalities on the battlefield.  Dubbed ResQ Foam, this remarkable biofoam rapidly expands inside the body (up to 35 times the original volume) and seals off the wound.  The foam which must be injected doesn’t repair the injury, but stabilizes the wounded, buying the patient about three more hours to get to a surgeon which can be the critical difference between life and death.

Silk patch that heals a burst eardrum

Called ClearDrum, the contact lens-sized implant is stitched over the hole in the eardrum and acts as a ‘scaffold’ on to which the patient’s own healthy new tissue can grow. It can also transmit sound just as a healthy eardrum would do. Trials on patients are due to begin in Australia within the next year and if these prove successful, ClearDrum could be widely available in three to five years.

The titanium 'butterfly' device which can cut the risk of a stroke after being placed in your neck

A tiny titanium ‘butterfly’ implanted in the neck could give hope to half a million British patients blighted by drug-resistant high blood pressure, dramatically reducing their risk of stroke, heart attacks and dementia.
In American trials, the baked-bean-size device – a featherlight, four-sided wire cage – has been able to improve patients’ prospects where medication had failed to do so.  Some, who still suffered high blood pressure despite being on the highest doses of medication, saw their readings drop to normal levels within months..... 

Dutch cardiologist Dr Jan van der Heyden, who has been using the device on patients, said: ‘We’ve been following patients for more than two years and have seen dramatic improvements....The implant remains in place permanently and the patient is unable to feel it.  Studies suggest that there is an initial effect within 24 hours, and that blood pressure continues to fall over three months and then remain stable.

Given European approval last year, the device, called MobiusHD, is now set to be offered to a select group of patients as part of a trial led by British experts. The procedure is set to go on trial at University College London Hospitals in a study expected to gain approval and begin recruiting later this year.

'Microneedle' Patch Promises Painless Flu Vaccine

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:22 PM | Permalink

June 22, 2017

Health Roundup: Anesthesia, white teeth, sleeping pills, cancer clinical trials, oral sunscreens and BPA

Anesthesia: what we still don't know about the 'gift of oblivion'

Halting, almost apologetic, I explained to the receptionist that I had spent some years researching the process known as anesthesia, and that I was now rather nervous about what was going to happen to me. "I think I know too much," I said.

"Oh dear," they said. "That's not good."

Some Americans spend billions to get their teeth whiter.  Some wait in line to get them pulled.

Teeth generally are treated separately from the rest of the body, a tradition that dates to dentistry’s origins as a specialty of barbers, who performed oral surgery and pulled teeth. Today, many public health officials view that division as a mistake. Poor oral health can lead to heart disease and other serious medical problems, and tooth loss can lead to depression and difficulty eating and speaking.

Sleeping pills are as dangerous as smoking a packet of cigarettes a day, expert claims

Recent studies have seen them linked to cancer, falls and even heart attacks.  Over recent years, scientists have conducted various studies to assess the true side-effects and risks of taking sleeping pills.  They have found an increased risk of: heart attacks, broken bones, dementia and infections. 

Why cancer patients must look for their own clinical trials

"Oncologists can barely keep up. My sister found a trial I was a perfect candidate for, and my doctors didn’t even know it existed.”...She was referring to the rapidly changing landscape of clinical trials for immunotherapy drugs. These medicines are not working for all advanced cancer patients but they are proving effective for some like her – even if sometimes only briefly. Researchers are racing to figure out for whom they work and why.

‘This is not the end’: Using immunotherapy and a genetic glitch to give cancer patients hope

The oncologist was blunt: Stefanie Joho’s colon cancer was raging out of control and there was nothing more she could do....But her sister couldn’t accept that... Jess opened her laptop and began searching frantically for clinical trials, using medical words she’d heard but not fully understood. An hour later, she came into her sister’s room and showed her what she’d found. “I’m not letting you give up,” she told Stefanie. “This is not the end.”

That search led to a contact at Johns Hopkins University, and a few days later, Joho got a call from a cancer geneticist co-leading a study there. “Get down here as fast as you can!” Luis Diaz said. “We are having tremendous success with patients like you.”

What followed is an illuminating tale of how one woman’s intersection with experimental research helped open a new frontier in cancer treatment — with approval of a drug that, for the first time, capitalizes on a genetic feature in a tumor rather than on the disease’s location in the body.
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The breakthrough, made official last week by the Food and Drug Administration, immediately could benefit some patients with certain kinds of advanced cancer that aren’t responding to chemotherapy. Each should be tested for that genetic signature, scientists stress....In August 2014, Joho stumbled into Hopkins for her first infusion of the immunotherapy drug Keytruda.

The new pills that promise protection from UV rays

Heliocare and Sunsafe Rx offer 'sun protection' in the form of oral capsules. Heliocare claims to 'maintain skin's ability to protect against sun-related effects'. Sunsafe Rx, on the other hand, promises to 'defend against UVA and UVB rays'. Neither of these products have been approved by the FDA.

BPA, the'gender bending' chemical used in a wide range of plastics is finally named as a 'substance of very high concern' by European health officials

BPA is used to make plastics, including materials that come into contact with food, toys and cosmetics. It is most widely found in refillable drinks bottles and food storage containers, as well as the protective coatings and linings for food and drinks cans. Bisphenol A has been widely linked to cancer, birth defects and male infertility.

The new ruling on the chemical was made by the European Chemicals Agency based on 'its endocrine disrupting properties' that harm human health. Experts warn the chemical must now be phased out across the continent. However, the Food Standards Agency and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have said the chemical is not a safety concern.  The most recent statement from EFSA, in January 2015, said there is no risk posed to human health at current exposure levels. It said the highest estimates for exposure in the diet and from other sources are three to five times lower than the maximum recommended level.  In the US, the Food and Drug Administration's most recent ruling on the chemical was that it was 'safe at current levels'.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:23 AM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Olive oil good, lack of sleep bad for brain, Parkinson's, exercising spiritual muscles good

Extra-virgin olive oil prevents dementia by prompting the brain to clear out harmful debris, reveal scientists

Lead researcher Professor Domenico Pratico, from Temple University in Pennsylvania, said: 'We found that olive oil reduces brain inflammation but most importantly activates a process known as autophagy.' Autophagy is the process by which cells break down and clear out unwanted debris left in the body. Mice with induced Alzheimer's who were fed a diet of olive oil had higher levels of autophagy in the brain, according to researchers.  Professor Pratico said: 'One thing that stood out immediately was synaptic integrity - the integrity of the connections between neurons, known as synapses, were preserved in animals on the extra-virgin olive oil diet.

Your brain may eat itself when you’re overtired: study

Sleep deprivation actually causes the brain to feed off of neurons and synaptic connections, a new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience says.  In other words, when you don’t get enough sleep, your brain starts to eat itself.

Neuroscientist Michele Bellesi, from the Marche Polytechnic University in Italy, led a study examining the brain’s response to poor sleep habits using well-rested and overtired mice....“We show for the first time that portions of synapses are literally eaten by astrocytes because of sleep loss,” ... “But it may cause harm in the long term, and could explain why a chronic lack of sleep puts people at risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological disorders.”
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During sleep, glial cells, or astrocytes, clear the brain of  synapses to rejuvenate the brain while  the microglial cell destroys “old and worn out cells via a process called phagocytosis — meaning ‘to devour’ in Greek,”...These processes have a positive effect while you sleep, rewiring and replenishing the brain for the next day. Essentially, the brain is eliminating what’s irrelevant, holding onto what’s vital, and making room for new memories....However, when you stay awake, the cells actually go into overdrive and start hurting the brain instead.

Fat-soluble statins may increase risk of Parkinson's disease

The team examined medical insurance claim data from 50 million people. Of these, they selected 22,000 people living with Parkinson's disease, 2,322 of whom were newly diagnosed with the disease....

"Statin use was associated with higher, not lower, Parkinson's disease risk, and the association was more noticeable for lipophilic statins, an observation inconsistent with the current hypothesis that these statins protect nerve cells," she says. Although more studies are needed to better understand these results, Prof. Huang advocates for a cautious use of statins, particularly for those patients at higher risk of developing Parkinson's disease.

Parkinson's is partly an autoimmune disease, study finds

Researchers have found the first direct evidence that autoimmunity—in which the immune system attacks the body's own tissues—plays a role in Parkinson's disease, the neurodegenerative movement disorder. The findings raise the possibility that the death of neurons in Parkinson's could be prevented by therapies that dampen the immune response.

The study, led by scientists at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, was published in Nature.  Study co-leader David Sulzer, PhD, professor of neurobiology (in psychiatry, neurology and pharmacology) at CUMC said. "The idea that a malfunctioning immune system contributes to Parkinson's dates back almost 100 years.. "But until now, no one has been able to connect the dots. Our findings show that two fragments of alpha-synuclein, a protein that accumulates in the brain cells of people with Parkinson's, can activate the T cells involved in autoimmune attacks."

Can church services extend your lifespan? 

Behavioral scientists at Vanderbilt University studied 5,500 people of all races and both genders. Two-thirds of them (64 percent) regularly attended worship sessions. The team found the religious participants scored better in terms of heart health, nutrition, and metabolic health. The effects of attendance at worship services remained after education, poverty, health insurance, and social support status were all taken into consideration.

The study was led by Marino Bruce, a behavioral scientist and ordained Baptist Minister, who worked with nine co-authors on the study, including Keith Norris, professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. 'We've found that being in a place where you can flex those spiritual muscles is actually beneficial for your health.' ....'We found that they go to church for factors beyond social support,' Bruce said. 'That's where we begin to think about this idea of compassionate thinking, that we're trying to improve the lives of others as well as being connected to a body larger than ourselves.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:06 AM | Permalink

June 21, 2017

Roundup of latest med research and tech: Pond-scum, science of diarrhea, real tans without sun, health-monitoring tattoos and more

How oxygen-producing pond scum could save your life after a heart attack

That’s because thee lowly bacteria in pond scum are capable of producing something a stricken heart desperately needs --- oxygen.  In fact, when Stanford scientists injected massive doses of cyanobacteria into the hearts of rats who suffered the equivalent of a “widow-maker” heart attack, oxygen levels ballooned by a factor of 25.

The results, published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances, suggest a truly original approach to reducing the damage done to heart muscle when it is suddenly deprived of oxygen.....Woo sees the new research as a “proof of principle” that photosynthesis, in some form, might someday be used as a bridge treatment for patients who have had blood flow cut off to any organ.

New study finds that diarrhea serves a purpose and flushes the body of certain infections

The study, conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), looked at the immune mechanisms that drive diarrhea.  They conducted a study in mice to find out if diarrhea serves a purpose by  infecting mice with the human equivalent of E.coli and analyzing their stools.  They found the infected mice produced proteins that caused tiny leaks in their intestinal wall which allowed more water to enter the intestines, making the mouse poop looser and limiting disease severity.

MIT Has Developed Color-Changing Tattoo Ink That Monitors Your Health in Real Time

Using a liquid with biosensors instead of traditional ink, scientists want to turn the surface of the human skin into an "interactive display, say for diabetics.  "The Dermal Abyss creates a direct access to the compartments in the body and reflects inner metabolic processes in a shape of a tattoo," the team writes on the project website

Scientists Have Discovered a Chemical That Causes Any Skin Type to Tan

It's the complete package: a chemical that can trigger the release of dark pigment in any type of skin tone - even in redheads - while also boosting the body's natural defenses against skin cancer.The new compound, which would work in conjunction with sunscreen, offers a temporary boost in melanin production - the pigment that gives human skin, hair, and eyes their color. If it proves effective in human trials, it could see the end of bad fake tans, and give fair-skinned people better protection when out in the elements.

"It would not actually be a fake tan, it would be the real thing," one of the team, David Fisher from the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University, told The Guardian. "It would just be sunless."

New discovery could get everyone a tan without the sun damage

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital have discovered a compound that can darken the skin without the sun’s damaging UV rays, according to a new study published in Cell Reports. “Our real goal is a novel strategy for protecting skin from UV radiation and cancer,” David Fisher, lead author of the study, told the BBC. “Dark pigment is associated with a lower risk of all forms of skin cancer – that would be really huge.”

The study notes that more safety testing is needed, especially when it comes to the MITF gene, which regulates skin pigment and could possibly cause cancer on its own if it’s messed around with. Fisher told Smithsonian magazine that it could be another three to five years before the product is close to hitting shelves. .... Fisher stressed that whatever form the eventual product takes, it wouldn’t be a replacement for sunscreen, merely an extra layer of protection.

The one drop flu blood test that could save your life 

The patented test, called The High-risk Influenza Screen Test (HIST), requires a drop of blood and a few hours to predict, with 91 per cent accuracy, which influenza patients are most as risk of deadly secondary infections such as pneumonia. The test was developed by Dr Bejamin Tang and his team, based at Australia's Westmead Institute for Medical Research, and runs on equipment available in most pathology laboratories.

'By using the High-risk Influenza Screen Test we're eavesdropping on the immune system to pick up when the body first mounts a defense against a serious, life-threatening, infection....'The early warning means we have a greater chance to treat the patient's infection before it overwhelms them and potentially kills them.'

A new drug that 'switches off' food cravings is on the horizon

Researchers at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard University used a tiny periscope to access part of brain not accessed before which allowed them to gain deeper understanding of how we react to food cues.

Certain hunger-promoting neurons can be artificially turned on even when full.  If these same neurons can be turned off to reduce food cravings, it could help obese people with a 'faulty' hard wiring that causes overeating.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:50 AM | Permalink

June 14, 2017

Medical Research and Technology: Ipsiihand, weak bladder, allergies, ovarian cancer, endometriosis and PTSD

"Ipsihand" lets 10 stroke patients regain control of their paralyzed hands

 Ipsihand

The technology called Ipsihand comprises a cap that contains electrodes to detect electrical signals in the brain, a computer that amplifies them and a movable brace that fits over the hand. The device detects the wearer's intention to open or close the paralyzed hand moving it in a pincer-like grip, with the second and third fingers bending to meet the thumb....The machine, developed by the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, targets a small part of the brain that is needed to send the first 'movement signal' to our fingers.

After 12 weeks of using the device, 10 patients increased their grasp ability by 6.2 on the 57-point scale.  While it may sound like a small number, experts insist it was a huge step in stroke research. For some, it even provided enough strength to put on a pair of pants.  Neuroscientist Professor Eric Leuthardt said: 'An increase of six points represents a meaningful improvement in quality of life.

Found, the gene that causes a weak bladder:

One in four women suffer ‘stress incontinence’ associated with laughing, sneezing, coughing, exercising or movements that put pressure on the bladder.  In more than half of all cases, the problem appears to be inherited. This discovery leads to hope that existing drugs can be adapted to treat condition that affects millions.

Researchers studied 9,000 women from three groups in Finland and the UK. They found that the genes affecting incontinence were in a similar area to those connected with pulmonary hypertension and Raynaud’s syndrome – where spasms of the arteries reduce blood flow. Dr Cartwright said: ‘Previous studies had failed to confirm any genetic causes for incontinence.

Scientists make breakthrough that could lead to cure for ALL allergies with a single treatment

Researchers say a single treatment giving life-long protection from severe allergies such as asthma could be made possible by immunology research.  A team led by Associate Professor Ray Steptoe, at The University of Queensland in Australia, has been able to 'turn-off' the immune response which causes allergic reaction in animals.

'The challenge in asthma and allergies is that these immune cells, known as T-cells, develop a form of immune 'memory' and become very resistant to treatments. 'We have now been able to 'wipe' the memory of these T-cells in animals with gene therapy, desensitizing the immune system so that it tolerates the protein. Dr Steptoe said the findings would be subject to further pre-clinical investigation, with the next step being to replicate results using human cells in the laboratory. 

In ‘Enormous Success,’ Scientists Tie 52 Genes to Human Intelligence

A team of European and American scientists announced on Monday that they had identified 52 genes linked to intelligence in nearly 80,000 people. These genes do not determine intelligence, however. Their combined influence is minuscule, the researchers said, suggesting that thousands more are likely to be involved and still await discovery. Just as important, intelligence is profoundly shaped by the environment.

Hope for thousands of women with ovarian cancer:

The first results from a landmark trial have found that the treatment dramatically shrank tumors in seven out of 15 women patients in the terminal stages of the illness, extending their lives by 6 months or more.  The team of doctors and scientists from the Institute of Cancer Research in London have described the results as ‘rare’ and ‘very promising’.

The drug BTG945 is given intravenously – as a drip – and patients have 12 doses every two weeks. It is able to penetrate tumors by disguising itself as folic acid – a naturally occurring vitamin that is particularly beneficial to pregnant women. Ovarian cancer tumors are particularly receptive to folic acid and the disguise enables the treatment to enter the cells and attack. This means the surrounding healthy cells are left alone, which is why the treatment causes so few side effects.

Cancer drugs that could help end the monthly agony of women with endometriosis:

Endometriosis occurs when the tissue that normally forms the lining of the womb each month occurs elsewhere in the body. This can cause extreme pain, as every month the tissue is expelled at the time of menstruation, but has nowhere to go. It also triggers inflammation, which can lead to the development of scar tissue that sticks to internal organs, causing even more pain. If endometriosis forms around the reproductive organs, it can affect fertility.  The discovery that endometriosis cells behave in the same way could lead to new way to treat the condition

Can a Single Injection Conquer PTSD?

The U.S. Army has commissioned a study to determine whether an anesthetic injection to the neck alleviates symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder—a treatment that, if proven effective, could be a big step toward easing an affliction affecting hundreds of thousands of troops who have returned from combat.

The $2 million Army study constitutes the first large-scale randomized control research into use of the shots—called stellate ganglion blocks—to treat PTSD. The injections have been used for decades for arm pain and shingles.  Early clinical experience has produced promising results, with troops experiencing near-immediate relief of anxiety, hyper-vigilance, social withdrawal and other symptoms, said military doctors who have administered the treatment.
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“Once people have the shot, they get dramatically better immediately,” Dr. Lynch said. The shot isn’t a cure, he said, but eases symptoms enough to allow talk therapy, pharmaceuticals and other approaches to achieve long-term improvements.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:34 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup - Food Edition: Salt, fatty fish, broccoli and gelatin

Top scientist says all you've been told about salt is WRONG:

By Dr James Dinicolantonio -a leading cardiovascular research scientist — based at Saint Luke’s Mid-America Heart Institute, Missouri — I’ve contributed extensively to health policy and medical literature. I am associate editor of the British Medical Journal’s Open Heart, published in partnership with the British Cardiovascular Society, and I sit on the editorial advisory board of several other medical journals.
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The dangerous myth that salt raises blood pressure began more than 100 years ago, with French scientists Ambard and Beauchard. They based their findings on studies of just six patients. Successive researchers misinterpreted and misused their data, building on a theory that earned media attention without any solid foundation in fact.
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In my work, I’ve examined data from more than 500 medical papers and studies about salt. And this is what I’ve learned: there was never any sound scientific evidence to support this low salt idea. What’s more, as I explain in my new book, eating too little of it can cause insulin resistance, increased fat storage and may even increase the risk of diabetes — not to mention decreasing our sex drive.

Yet salt is an essential nutrient that our bodies depend on to live. And those limits go against all our natural instincts. When people are allowed as much salt as they fancy, they tend to settle at about a teaspoon-and-a-half a day. This is true all over the world, across all cultures, climates and social backgrounds.
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Current daily guidelines limit you to 2.4g of sodium yet the average Korean, for instance, eats over 4g of sodium a day and they have some of world’s lowest rates for hypertension and coronary heart disease.

Brain scans reveal for the first time that eating plenty of salmon, mackerel and sardines protects against Alzheimer's by boosting blood flow and memory

Eating oily fish boosts our overall mental and emotional health, study reveals.  Omega-3 makes people better at acquiring and understanding new information. Simple dietary changes could prevent our risk of developing the condition.Past research suggests dementia could even be treated via high omega-3 intake

Lead study author Professor Daniel Amen, of Amen Clinics in Costa Mesa, California, said: 'This is very important research because it shows a correlation between lower omega-3 fatty acid levels and reduced brain blood flow to regions important for learning, memory, depression and dementia.'

Broccoli could be key to treating diabetes

A compound - sulforaphane -  in the broccoli helps to lower blood sugar levels.  Research has found that eating or drinking broccoli in the form of juice could help stop type 2 diabetes.

The Benefits of Gelatin 

Gelatin is a protein product derived from collagen with important health benefits due to its unique combination of amino acids. There is evidence that gelatin may reduce joint and bone pain, increase brain function and help reduce the signs of skin aging. Because gelatin is colorless and flavorless, it’s super easy to include in your diet. 

Who can resist a delicious panna cotta?    Especially after all that fish and broccoli/

 Panna-Cotta

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:24 PM | Permalink

May 25, 2017

Health Roundup: Anabolic steroids, ALS, Vit D, arthritis, cancer drug, dietary fat, and walking

Long-term use of anabolic steroids damages the heart

Anabolic steroids are manufactured drugs that mimic the effects of the male hormone testosterone. There are an estimated 2.9 million to 4 million steroid users in Americans, the researchers said. 'Most people relate anabolic steroids to cheating among athletes and fail to realize that there is a large population of men who have developed dependence upon these drugs, but who are not readily visible,' Dr Pope said. 'The oldest members of this population are only now reaching middle age.'

Use of anabolic steroids appears to contribute to artery-clogging, elevated blood pressure and cholesterol levels, a team of US scientists have discovered. ...According to NHS Choices, effects of anabolic steroids in men can include reduced sperm count, infertility, shrunken testicles, erectile dysfunction and breast development. They also also risking baldness, increased risk of developing prostate cancer, severe acne and stomach pain.

The FDA just approved the first new drug to treat ALS in 22 years

The drug, known chemically as edaravone, is already sold by Japanese pharmaceutical company Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corp (MTPC) in Japan and South Korea....After six months of treatment with edaravone on top of standard-of-care, data showed the intravenous drug reduced the rate of functional decline in patients by about a third.

FDA approves first cancer drug to target a tumor's genetic traits, rather than body parts

Until now, cancer care in the US has been categorized by body part, but in many cases that treatment is not specific enough and does not target a patient's tumor as it should. The new wave in treatment targets specific biomarkers of tumors. Keytruda is the first such drug approved by the FDA.

High fiber diets reduces risk of developing arthritis by up to 61%

Researchers from Tuft University, Boston and the University of Manchester conducted a review of two studies.  Their findings may debunk the theory that arthritis occurs due to 'wear and tear' as damaged cartilage is unable to properly repair itself. The findings also showed that consuming more fibre, particularly from cereals, reduced the risk of knee pain worsening.

This comes after researchers from the University of Surrey found a good diet and regular exercise can prevent arthritis. Eating poorly and being inactive reprograms cells in the joints, leading to an overproduction of glucose that causes inflammation and immobility, they found.

Walking linked to improved brain function

A moderate-intensity walking regimen may reduce symptoms of mild cognitive impairment that are linked to poor blood vessel health in the brain, a small study suggests.....Vascular cognitive impairment, or VCI, refers to mildly impaired thinking or more advanced dementia that’s due to the same kinds of blood vessel damage seen with heart disease elsewhere in the body. It is the second most common cause of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease.

Vitamin D in pregnancy may protect babies from asthma

'Sunshine supplements' boost infants' immune response

Government’s “Dietary fat guidelines have no evidence base”

Publishing in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, Dr Zoë Harcombe of the Institute of Clinical Exercise and Health Science of the University of the West of Scotland researched both the origins and the results of following the dietary fat guidelines that have prevailed in the US and the United Kingdom for almost 40 years. The evidence provides no support for the assertion that low-fat diets are healthier, especially as the incidences of obesity and diabetes have escalated dramatically during the same four decades of the guidelines’ implementation.

....First, the case against eggs was cracked. Recently, salt has been shown to lower blood pressure. Based on the new report, I am having steak and eggs for breakfast tomorrow!
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:09 PM | Permalink

May 24, 2017

Health Roundup: Pain relievers + heart, ice packs, skin patch for stroke, navigating the ER

Pain Relievers Tied to Immediate Heart Risks

Researchers did a systematic review of studies involving more than 446,000 people ages 40 to 79, of whom more than 61,000 had heart attacks. In those who used Nsaids one to seven days, the risk of heart attack increased 24 percent for celecoxib (Celebrex), 48 percent for ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), 50 percent for diclofenac (Voltaren), and 53 percent for naproxen (Aleve).

The study, in BMJ, found that the risk increases with higher doses and duration of treatment, but there was no significant increase in risk after one month of taking the drugs.  The lead author, Michèle Bally, an epidemiologist at the University of Montreal Hospital, said that the absolute increase in risk is quite small, since the risk of heart attack for most people is small to begin with.

Insty comments As a population, though, Americans are taking these at much higher rates than a few decades ago, yet heart attacks aren’t more common, in fact they’re less so. So what gives?

Wrap your loved ones in ICE PACKS to save their brain after cardiac arrest, new guidelines advise

Body cooling is now advised by medical professionals for cardiac arrest patients. Experts say it will limit brain injury from those who suffered a heart arrest. Cooling is done by placing packs and blankets on the body or through devices.

A cardiac arrest is when the heart malfunctions and suddenly stops beating unexpectedly. They will lose consciousness and will stop breathing normally. More than 400,000 Americans experience out-of-hospital cardiac arrest every year.  The survival statistics are bleak: approximately 50 percent of people who arrest are revived and only about 10 percent of these people leave the hospital.  Of those who do survive, around half suffer some level of brain impairment from the brain not getting enough oxygen.

Skin patch can halve the risk of death of stroke

A small skin patch costing only 39p (about 50 cents) 'can halve the risk of death after a stroke' by lowering blood pressure and relaxing veins and arteries to improve circulation to the brain.  The patch which delivers glyceryl trinitrate (GTN) usually used to treat high blood pressure, must be applied to the shoulder or arm of the patient within hours of the stroke. Experts believe it can improve survival rates and reduce the effects of a stroke dramatically if administered quickly. In a pilot study by the University of Nottingham, patients who were given the patch by paramedics had a 16 per cent risk of dying – less than half the 38 per cent mortality rate among those not given the patch.

Strategies to Navigate the Emergency Room

The most important fact every E.R. visitor should know can be that will true medical emergencies —-patients which has a potentially life-threatening problem like a heart attack, stroke, respiratory distress or uncontrolled bleeding —- take precedence over a broken bone, headache or stomach pain.

Also important to know: If faced which has a true emergency, call 911. The responding ambulance will take you to the nearest hospital equipped to deal with your problem. Don’t follow the example of two friends of mine who walked themselves to the hospital while inside throes of a heart attack. in addition to don’t drive or have someone drive you. If you come by ambulance, you will be evaluated in addition to given emergency treatment immediately, even before reaching the hospital. however if your problem turns out to be less than urgent, once there you’ll be sent to the back of the line.

Assuming that will an emergency room can be your best option, there are many things you can do to make the visit more efficient in addition to less anxiety-provoking. Along with your insurance card, keep a card in your wallet or a list on your phone with all the medications in addition to supplements you take in addition to any allergies or chronic health problems you have. If available, also take copies of recent laboratory or diagnostic test results.

Try to have someone come with you or meet you at the E.R. who can serve as your advocate in addition to helpmate. A friend who recently spent many hours inside E.R. with an elderly woman who had fallen in addition to broken her nose was able to get her a needed drink, refill her ice pack, find out when she might be admitted in addition to offer moral support.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:03 PM | Permalink

May 15, 2017

Health Roundup: Sleep skills, kiwis, nod to beat dizziness, too much exercise, gardening for fat kids, octopus toys for premies

Sleep Is the New Status Symbol

If sleep used to be the new sex, as Marian Salzman, a trend spotter and chief executive of Havas PR North America, proclaimed 10 years ago, today it is a measure of success — a skill to be cultivated and nourished — as a “human potential enhancer,” ....“Sleep is the single most effective thing you can do to reset your brain and body,” Dr. Walker of U.C. Berkeley said.

Kiwi fruit, the surprise secret to nodding off:

Eating two of them one hour before bedtime 'helps people sleep more soundly'.  It is not understood why, but it could be linked to high antioxidant and serotonin levels in the fruit.

Do you want to beat dizziness? Nod your head:

One in three pensioners suffer from dizziness caused by inner ear problems. Researchers at Southampton University found five minutes of simple head movements a day can solve problem. The home remedy was found to be twice as effective as seeing a family doctor.  After only six weeks, 40 per cent of dizziness sufferers felt much better or completely well. The exercises were twice as effective as conventional care for adults aged 50 and older. They showed significantly lower levels of dizziness symptoms after three and six months.

The researchers say the exercises must be followed precisely as directed through a freely available internet program called Balance Retraining.  Paul Little, a GP and professor of primary care research at the University of Southampton, said: ‘Balance Retraining intervention has huge potential to provide effective and easily accessible treatment for a really under-served patient group.’

Volunteering more than doubles your protection against dementia by keeping your brain engaged

Researchers from the University of Calgary analyzed 1,001 retired Swedish citizens over five years....Results revealed those who never volunteered were around 2.4 times more likely to develop dementia than those who consistently did so for at least an hour a week....

Study author Yannick Griep, from the University of Calgary, said, '[Volunteering] brings a structure to the day. It offers social contact with people outside of our family. It makes us feel like we're making a meaningful contribution to society.'

TOO much exercise causes a leaky gut and increases health risks

The first study to investigate gut bacteria during military training found that intense physiological stress can change the composition of our gut microbiota.  Imbalances in the gut are linked to diabetes, obesity and some cancers. Findings raise concerns for endurance athletes and military personnel

Gardening helps reduce childhood obesity

Researchers from the University of California studied the impact of gardening lessons to children aged nine to 10-years-old at four schools in California. The results, published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, revealed that the gardening classes dramatically improved student's health.

Octopus toys improves health of premature babies

Hospital sees an improvement in health of premature babies in intensive care after using knitted octopus toys with woolly tentacles that feel like an umbilical cord which appear to replicate the feeling of being inside the womb.  The fluffy sea creatures - which each take two hours to make - calm the agitated newborns by making it feel like they are attached to an umbilical cord.

According to medical staff in Curitiba Maternity Hospital in Brazil, where the initiative has been launched, the donated toys are working wonders and nurses have seen an improvement in the infants.  Each baby receives two octopuses which are sterilized at temperatures of 375ºF which they can take home when they are discharged from hospital. A team of 50 knitting volunteers has produced nearly 150 octopuses in a month
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:46 PM | Permalink

New medical research and technology: Cure for baldness and greying, breast milk substance, anorexia partially genetic, UpnRide vertical wheelchair and more

Skin cell discovery could spell cure for baldness and grey hair:

Researchers were investigating how certain tumors form when they discovered the identity of the cells that produce hair and turn it grey.  The study found the protein called KROX20, more commonly associated with nerve development, turned on in skin cells that become the hair shaft. These hair precursor, or progenitor, cells then produce a protein called stem cell factor (SCF) which is essential for hair pigmentation.

Dr Lu Le, professor of Dermatology at UT Southwestern Medical Centre in Texas, said the chance discovery could lead to an effective treatment to cure baldness and stop greying.

Swedish scientists discover that breast milk contains a substance that kills cancer cells

Breast milk is being used to fight cancer after scientists accidentally discovered it contains a substance that kills tumor cells.Trials in patients with bladder cancer have already yielded promising results and researchers believe the compound breast milk contains – nicknamed Hamlet – will also help tackle bowel cancer and cervical cancer. They also say it homes in on cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed – so it has none of the debilitating side effects of chemotherapy.

The substance attacks cancer cells in numerous ways – first evading the cell’s outer defenses, then targeting the ‘power station’ mitochondria and the ‘instruction manual’ nucleus. These actions cut off the cell’s energy source and ‘program’ it to commit suicide, in a process called apoptosis.

Professor Catharina Svanborg, who made the initial discovery, said last night: ‘There’s something magical about Hamlet’s ability to target tumor cells and kill them.’ She said human breast milk contained a protein called alpha-lactalbumin, which is transformed into a cancer-fighting agent when in the gut. An immunologist at Lund University in Sweden, she made the chance discovery that the substance kills tumor cells when working on antibiotics.

Early trials in patients with bladder cancer show those injected with Hamlet start shedding dead tumour cells in their urine within days. A full-scale trial pitting Hamlet against a placebo ‘dummy drug’ is now planned.

Anorexia is partly genetic and eating disorder risk could be passed on to children, study finds

An international collaboration of scientists found that many people who suffer from anorexia nervosa have mutated DNA on a particular chromosome.

Apple's watch really can save your live: Study finds its sensors can spot signs of a stroke with 97% accuracy

The Apple Watch has been found to detect a heart condition that affects some 2.7 million people in the US, a new study has revealed. By pairing the smartwatch's heart rate sensors with artificial intelligence, researchers developed an algorithm capable of distinguishing an irregular heartbeat, known as atrial fibrillation, from a normal heart rhythm - and with 97 percent accuracy. Atrial fibrillation, although easily treatable, has been difficult to diagnose.

CCM disease, a common hard-to-treat brain disease starts in the GUT, study reveals

Cerebral cavernous malformations (CCMs) are clusters of dilated, thin-walled blood vessels in the brain that can cause stroke and seizures.  Tests on mice showed certain gut bacteria triggered the formation of clusters that cause these seizures. Looking at human models it seems the same is true for people. Currently there is not drug available to treat CCM. The only treatment option is surgical removal.

In 2016, Dr Mark Kahn, a professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, discovered the molecular mechanism in cells that underlies CCM formation. These studies identify an unexpected, direct link between the microbiome and a common cerebrovascular disease.'This suggests that treatments designed to block TLR4 signaling or alter the microbiome may be used to treat this disease,' Dr Kahn said.

Looks like a Segway, acts like a wheelchair

Introducing the UPnRIDE convertible wheelchair from the Israeli makers of the ReWalk robotic exoskeleton....UPnRIDE will enable many wheelchair users to be fully mobile in standing position anywhere, including in an urban environment.

As a category, the standing wheelchair is not a new product. These devices have been shown to improve circulation, elimination and bone density, and could also improve overall quality of life and independence among wheelchair users.  What’s different about the UPnRIDE?“The twist we bring here is the stabilization,” said says Oren Tamari, CEO of RehaMed Technologies.

A new laser imaging technique now allows for a real time look inside the the body of a small animal.

The technique, which uses light and ultrasound, provides enough resolution to see active organs, flowing blood, circulating melanoma cells and firing neural networks.  The researchers, based at the Duke University and The California Institute of Technology (Caltech), used a technique called 'single-impulse photoacoustic computed tomography (SIP-PACT)' to produce the images.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:40 PM | Permalink

May 10, 2017

Medical research and technology: Skin gun for burns, 'capsule robot', depression gene, tequila study and MRIs from newborns

Remarkable advance in treating burns with the 'magic' skin gun

Burns victims are making incredible recoveries thanks to a revolutionary ‘gun’ that sprays stem cells on to their wounds, enabling them to rapidly grow new skin. People who suffer extensive burns usually have to endure weeks or even months of treatment, with surgeons taking large sheets of skin from elsewhere on the body and grafting them. The process is painful, and patients are often left with permanent, unsightly scars.

Now, US doctors are using a new technique that allows patients to regrow a new layer of healthy skin in as little as four days. One man,  45, with horrific hot-water burns was sprayed with 17 million cells and within six days new skin had formed over whole wound and he was discharged;

 Skin Gun Before After-1

Patients who have benefited say their new skin is virtually indistinguishable from that on the rest of the body. Thomas Bold, chief executive of RenovaCare, the company behind SkinGun, said: ‘The procedure is gentler – and the skin that regrows looks, feels and functions like the original skin.’

Colonoscopy 'capsule robot' could make the diagnosis of bowel conditions more comfortable

Despite its potential to save lives, many people fear the discomfort of having a colonoscopy. But in the future, tiny robots could be deployed to search for pre-cancerous lesions and tumors in the bowel, resulting in less discomfort for patients. Researchers have shown an 18mm magnetized capsule colonoscope can perform intricate and sometimes autonomous movements inside the colon for the first time. The 'capsule robot' was guided by an external magnet attached to a robotic arm.

'Not only is the capsule robot able to actively maneuver  through the GI tract [digestive tract] to perform diagnostics, it is also able to perform therapeutic maneuvers, such as biopsies of tissue or polyp removal, due to the tether - something that other capsule devices are unable to do,' said Keith Obstein, the study's corresponding author and associate professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Centre, in Nashville, Tennessee.

Scientists discover 'depression gene' that takes effect in childhood

Scientists at the University of Texas Health Science Center found a gene linked to childhood depression that appears to be linked to variations that have long been linked to bipolar disorder. Studying children that had the gene, researchers found they were more prone to depression and had severe reactions to stressful situations.

Tequila study: Drinking tequila could be good for your bones and help fight osteoporosis:

At the Centre for Research and Advanced Studies in Mexico, researchers conducted experiments with mice and found that substances from the tequila plant may help boost levels of calcium and magnesium, minerals that help keep your bones strong.  Dr Mercedes López, leader of the project, said 'The consumption of fructans contained in the agave, in collaboration with adequate intestinal micriobiota, promotes the formation of new bone, even with the presence of osteoporosis.'  ...Osteoporosis occurs when the body fails to replace old bone with new. As a result, the skeleton becomes porous and weak.
The researchers hope to perform clinical studies on humans to prove that agave sugars can be used as a treatment.

Newborn MRI scans reveal the growth of TRILLIONS of neural connections

A ground-breaking project  has released its first images which researchers from around the world can download to study how the brain develops its wiring. The images could help scientists understand how conditions such as autism, cerebral palsy and attention deficit disorders arise.

The Developing Human Connectome Project is a collaboration between researchers from King's College London, Imperial College London and the University of Oxford. It aims to make major scientific progress by creating the first 4-dimensional brain map of early life.  The goal of the project is to create a dynamic map of human brain connectivity from 20 to 44 weeks post-conceptional age, which will link together imaging, clinical, behavioral, and genetic information.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:41 AM | Permalink

May 9, 2017

Health Roundup: Pot for elderly, salt to lower blood pressure, coffee for pain, cheese and dairy good

Could marijuana hold a key to keeping our brains forever young? .

There are many indications that weed can impair the developing adolescent brain....But what does cannabis do to the elderly brain?  A coalition of researchers from Germany and Israel published a study in Nature Medicine that examined the different effects of tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive compound in weed that's also known as THC, on young and old mice.

Their findings were provocative: A low dose of THC... "reversed the age-related decline in cognitive performance of mice aged 12 and 18 months." ...The experiment focused on learning, spatial skills and memory. While older mice typically did not perform as well as young ones in mazes or with location-recognition tasks — an outcome consistent with the decline of brain function in aged individuals — they performed just as well as their younger cohort under the influence of THC. Meanwhile, younger mice given doses of THC demonstrated worse performance, more in line with that of average old mice

Clinical trials on humans will start later this year.

'A toke a day keeps the dementia away.'

Marijuana could help reverse brain aging in senior citizens, especially Alzheimer’s patients, according to a new study....“We repeated these experiments many times,” Andreas Zimmer, head author of the study, told The New Scientist. “It’s a very robust and profound effect.” The findings were published May 8 in Nature Medicine.

“If we can rejuvenate the brain so that everybody gets five to 10 more years without needing extra care then that is more than we could have imagined,” said Andras Bilkei-Gorzo, one of the study’s co-authors. "The treatment made the young brain old and the old brain young," he said. "So that was something that was above our imagination."  If it is shown to help the memories of aging adults, Bilkei-Gorzo says the psychoactive ingredient could be taken in the form of an herbal tea.

Higher sodium, lower blood pressure. You read that right.

In another blow against decades of accepted medical wisdom, one of the most prestigious, long-running studies reports that lowering sodium intake doesn’t reduce blood pressure.

The study also implies that most Americans are consuming a perfectly healthy amount of salt, the main source of sodium. But those who are salt-sensitive, about 20 to 25 percent of the population, still need to restrict salt intake. Consuming fewer than 2,500 milligrams of sodium daily is actually associated with higher blood pressure, according to the Framingham Offspring Study report, given today. The study is an offshoot of the groundbreaking Framingham Heart Study. Both are projects of the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute and Boston University.
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The report directly contradicts advice from the American Heart Association, which recommends consuming less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day to reduce blood pressure and risk of heart disease.

Why Everything We Know About Salt May Be Wrong  New York Times

Forget ibuprofen - grab a coffee:

Coffee is far better treatment for chronic pain than over-the-counter pills, new research shows. Feeling tired drastically increases pain sensitivity, the study found. To counteract that, scientists from Boston Children's Hospital gave exhausted lab mice either painkillers, coffee or more time asleep. They found the most wide-awake mice - after a jolt of caffeine or a long sleep - were more impervious to pain than those on painkillers.In the caffeine-drinking mice, they saw a rush of dopamine to the brain's pleasure center, which alleviated their feelings of pain.  Sleep also abated pain sensitivity better than over-the-counter pills

Why eating cheese will not harm your health:

Eating dairy does not raise the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke, a team of international experts have found. Scientists analyzed 29 previous studies to find a link between dairy and disease. They found foods containing milk had a 'neutral' impact on human health. Even full-fat cheese, milk and yoghurt do not increase the danger, the meta-analysis of 29 studies found. The findings contradict warnings that dairy can be harmful because of its high saturated fat content.

Eat your butter, it’s good for you!

According to a new editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the belief that saturated fat in foods such as butter, cheese and meat clogs arteries is “just plain wrong.” Instead, the focus should be on eating a Mediterranean-style diet, taking a brisk walk daily and minimizing stress.

The editorial identifies coronary heart disease as a “chronic inflammatory condition.” Malhotra explains that eating too much white bread, pasta, and potatoes — carbohydrates, essentially — raises blood glucose rapidly, and the body responds by creating too much insulin.When the body is constantly flooded with insulin, it can’t do its job of getting glucose into cells for energy. This initiates an inflammatory response, which in turn begins to harden your arteries.
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Not since doctors touted smoking as a digestive aid has there been such a medically sanctioned public health debacle. The rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease have skyrocketed since low-fat diets were universally recommended, while those suffering from diet-induced ill health have been blamed and shamed. It’s about time doctors spoke up and put the blame where it belongs, on processed and refined “low-fat” foods.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:27 PM | Permalink

May 4, 2017

New Medical research and technology: Exercise in a pill, brain in a dish, robotic brain surgeon and more

Artificial 'brain in a dish'

Scientists have grown the first working 'mini-brains' in a dish which could provide future treatments for autism and epilepsy. The lab-grown organs have their own brain cells, formed into circuits similar to those of a two-month-old baby in the womb. Described as 'thrilling science', it is the first time a human forebrain has been seen in action outside the body. Scientists hope to use the mini-brains to watch in real time the triggers for epilepsy, when brain cells become hyperactive, and autism, where they are thought to form bad connections.

An artificial womb successfully grew baby sheep — and humans could be next

The lambs spent four weeks in the external wombs and seemed to develop normally
Alan Flake, fetal surgeon at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and lead author of today’s study, said the point of developing an external womb — which his team calls the Biobag — is to give infants born months too early a more natural, uterus-like environment to continue developing in.

The robotic brain surgeon will see you now: drill can perform complex procedures 50 times faster

Scientists have revealed a robotic drill that can cut the most sensitive brain surgery down from two hours to two and a half minutes. The machine, developed at the University of Utah, is being hailed as a potential breakthrough in survival for brain patients as the reduced time they spend in surgery will drastically cut the chances of infection....It has so far not been tested on a human patient.

One Day, a Machine Will Smell Whether You’re Sick

Each of us has a unique “odorprint” made up of thousands of organic compounds. These molecules offer a whiff of who we are, revealing age, genetics, lifestyle, hometown — even metabolic processes that underlie our health....
Researchers have been trying for decades to figure out how to build an inexpensive odor sensor for quick, reliable and noninvasive diagnoses. The field finally seems on the cusp of succeeding.  “You’re seeing a convergence of technology now, so we can actually run large-scale clinical studies to get the data to prove odor analysis has real utility,” ...

Scientists discover key genes that control our immune response to chlamydia

Scientists may be one step closer to discovering a cure for the silent but devastating sexually transmitted infection (STI) chlamydia...Often called the 'silent disease', as it rarely produces symptoms early on, chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility if untreated. ...

Switching off' two key genes makes immune cells more susceptible to infection. The genes could be a useful target for new chlamydia therapies, helping to combat antibiotic resistance that increasingly limits STI treatment options. The researcher's model demonstrates how chlamydia interacts with our immune system, which could also have important implications for other infections

Muscle-building 'exercise pill' one step closer, scientists say

A muscle-building “exercise pill” that could reduce visits to the gym has come a step closer with the publication of a new study focusing on a protein that keeps us weak. Scientists found that suppressing production of the protein myostatin increased muscle mass and led to significant improvements in markers of heart and kidney health. Although the research was conducted in mice, the team hopes that further down the road it will lead to human treatments.
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“A pill that inhibits myostatin could also have applications for muscle-wasting diseases, such as cancer, muscle dystrophy and Aids.”  Myostatin is known to be a powerful “brake” that holds back skeletal muscle growth.

“Exercise-in-a-pill” boosts athletic endurance by 70 percent

Salk Institute scientists, building on earlier work that identified a gene pathway triggered by running, have discovered how to fully activate that pathway in sedentary mice with a chemical compound, mimicking the beneficial effects of exercise, including increased fat burning and stamina. The study, which appears in Cell Metabolism on May 2, 2017, not only deepens our understanding of aerobic endurance, but also offers people with heart conditions, pulmonary disease, type 2 diabetes or other health limitations the hope of achieving its benefits pharmacologically.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:46 PM | Permalink

May 3, 2017

Health roundup: Older sleep, dementia, hepatitis, chronic fatigue linked to gut, colon, stomach and bladder cancers

Older people need as much sleep as those who are younger - but don't get it due to brain deterioration

A scientific review has concluded that we cannot get away with less sleep as we age, as many experts believe.  Older people appear to need less sleep because they are less exhausted after missing out on it, seeing less of a drop in their ability to carry out normal tasks than the young. But a review by US scientists has found they may simply have just adjusted to a life without proper rest. But this has a mental and physical price too, increasing the risk of dementia and other illnesses.

Study author Professor Matthew Walker, of the University of California, Berkeley, said ... as the brain ages, neurons and circuits in the areas that regulate sleep slowly degrade, resulting in a decreased amount of non-REM sleep.  Writing in the journal Neuron, Professor Walker said: 'Sleep changes with aging, but it doesn't just change with aging, it can also start to explain aging itself.

Drugs already in medicine cabinets may fight dementia, early data suggests

In mouse and cell studies, two drugs shut down damaging stress response, protected brain....The two drugs—trazodone hydrochloride, used to treat depression and anxiety, and dibenzoylmethane (DBM), effective against prostate and breast tumors—could shut down a devastating stress response in brain cells, known to be critical for the progression of brain diseases. The drugs both protected brain cells and restored memory in mice suffering from brain diseases.

More people are dying from hepatitis than AIDS and tuberculosis, warns World Health Organization

In its first global report on hepatitis, WHO found deaths from the infection, often caused by alcohol and drug abuse, is rising. Viral hepatitis is believed to have killed 1.34 million people in 2015, it warned. This is a similar amount to those who have died from HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis; but while those are both falling, hepatitis deaths continue to rise globally

The two most common forms, which are responsible for 96 per cent of deaths from the disease, are hepatitis B (HBV) and hepatitis C (HCV). HBV can be passed on through unprotected sex and bodily fluids. It requires life-long treatment with a drug commonly used to battle HIV. New infections of this type of the disease are falling, thanks to a vaccine given to 84 per cent of newborns across the world....HCV, usually spread through blood-to-blood contact with an infected person, can be cured relatively swiftly. But four fifths of those infected with this type of the disease are unaware they are suffering.

Another Study Just Linked Chronic Fatigue Syndrome to Gut Bacteria

It was only in 2015 that the US Institute of Medicine detailed a comprehensive way to diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS), and earlier this year, scientists linked the condition to faulty cell receptors in immune cells for the first time - which explains why the side effects can be so varied and hard to pin down.

But there are still no effective treatments for the disease, and no cure - some commonly prescribed treatments for the condition have been cognitive behavioral therapy and exercise, neither of which have any evidence to support they work, and could actually be doing more harm than good. Now, new research has shown that patients with ME/CFS have abnormal levels of specific gut bacteria - and those levels change depending on the severity and type of symptoms they have.

Scientists Halt Growth of Colon, Stomach Cancers

Protein-inhibiting drug possible within 3 years say Australian researchers.  "Our discovery could potentially offer a new and complementary approach to chemotherapy and immunotherapy as options for treating gastrointestinal cancers."

The FDA just approved a new drug that uses the body's immune system to treat bladder cancer

AstraZeneca Plc's immuno-oncology drug treats a type of bladder cancer in patients whose disease progressed despite chemotherapy. The drug, called Imfinzi, works by helping the body's immune cells kill cancer, offering an alternative to toxic chemotherapy.  While not without side effects, immuno-oncology is a kinder option that also promises longer-lasting efficacy, although it costs more.  Imfinzi, chemically known as durvalumab, belongs to a new class of oncology drugs called PD-L1 inhibitors that block a mechanism tumors use to evade detection from the immune system.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:14 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Food Edition: Gluten-free, cauliflower, sparkling water, broccoli, espresso, beer and snot

Gluten-free is not so great: People who avoid grains increase the risk of developing heart disease

The Harvard researchers, whose work was published last night in the British Medical Journal, tracked more than 110,000 people for 26 years, found  slightly more heart problems in the fifth that ate least gluten compared with those who ate most. Looking only at the difference in gluten intake resulting from whole grains, those who ate most had a 15 per cent lower risk of heart attacks.  ‘The promotion of gluten-free diets among people without coeliac disease should not be encouraged.’ ‘

Separate research, also by experts at Harvard, concluded in March that people with a low-gluten intake were also at greater risk of developing type two diabetes.They found that people with the highest 20 per cent of gluten consumption had a 13 per cent lower risk of developing diabetes than those with the lowest 20 per cent. Researcher Dr Geng Zong, who led that study, said: ‘Gluten-free foods often have less dietary fibre and other micronutrients, making them less nutritious and they also tend to cost more.

The Gas in Sparkling Water is Acidic,

Adam Thorne, a dentist in Harley Street, warns fizzy water is extremely acidic, more than wine, fruit juice and even vinegar. 'The bubbles erode your tooth enamel – and over time this causes painful, yellow cracked teeth.'

Cauliflower is the new kale:

 Caulifflower

'It is replacing kale as the "new" sweetheart vegetable because of its ability to substitute for rice and potatoes in recipes,' ...'Its texture is so versatile that you could puree it and add it to any soup or casserole.... The cruciferous vegetable is also packed with nutrients that keep you full, help digestion, strengthen your body against cancer, and strengthen your bones

How broccoli helps beat strokes:

A powerful daily pill that harnesses a potent chemical in broccoli could soon be given to patients to protect against the most damaging effects of a stroke. British researchers have proved that a molecule called sulforaphane, which occurs naturally in the vegetable, turns on a protective enzyme in the brain. Scientists at King’s College London found this ‘scavenger’ enzyme then removes dangerous free radical cells that damage and kill other cells in a process known as oxidative stress.

Three espressos a day cuts prostate cancer risk by 50%, study claims

The study, conducted by the Istituto Neurologico Mediterraneo Neuromed (IRCCS) in Pozzilli, Italy, looked at about 7,000 men residing in central Italy and found that drinking three espressos daily can cut your risk of prostate cancer by 53% The drink was also found to suppress the growth of tumor cells.  Caffeine has been linked to a decreased risk of disease, suicide and depression. Espresso was also shown to improve exercise performance. A 2014 study from the University of California found that drinking two espressos a day enhanced the process of memory consolidation. This process, in turn, improved long-term memory among the participants.

Energy drinks ARE more dangerous than other caffeine-laden options and raise blood pressure in just 2 hours

Researchers found drinking 32 fluid ounces - just under a litre - of an unnamed but commercially-available energy drink resulted in profound changes to the heart's electrical activity and blood pressure. The drink was packed with 108g of sugar - roughly 27 teaspoons - and 320mg of caffeine, close to the daily recommended daily limit, along with other 'natural' substances such as taurine, ginseng and carnitine.

Two pints of beer are better than paracetamol (Tylenol) for pain relief

The analysis, published in The Journal of Pain, observed 18 studies involving 404 participants who were experiencing chronic pain. The studies provided alcohol versus no-alcohol comparisons for 13 tests of pain threshold...
Dr Trevor Thompson, who headed the study at London's Greenwich University, told The Sun: '[Alcohol] can be compared to opioid drugs such as codeine and the effect is more powerful than paracetamol.' Now the experts are planning to find out if alcohol either lowers anxiety of pain, which then reduces the perception of discomfort, or if it numbs the sensation of pain by affecting the brain receptors.

Why picking your nose and eating it may be good for you!

Austrian lung specialist Professor Friedrich Bischinger, said: 'Eating the dry remains of what you pull out is a great way of strengthening the body's immune system. Medically it makes great sense and is a perfectly natural thing to do. 'In terms of the immune system, the nose is a filter in which a great deal of bacteria are collected, and when this mixture arrives in the intestines it works just like a medicine.' 

Scientists from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that nasal mucus' rich reservoir of 'good' bacteria prevents cavity-causing bacteria from sticking to teeth. Published in the American Society for Microbiology, their findings also suggest snot could defend against respiratory infections, stomach ulcers and even HIV.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:32 AM | Permalink

April 25, 2017

New medical research and technology: malaria vaccine, at home DNA tests, smart gut pills and more

After Decades of Work, a Malaria Vaccine Is Here

Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi will begin piloting the injectable vaccine next year with young children. The vaccine, which has partial effectiveness, has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives if used with existing measures. The vaccine, developed by pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, will be tested on children five to 17 months old to see whether protective effects shown in clinical trials can hold up under real-life conditions. The vaccine has taken decades of work and hundreds of millions of dollars to develop. Kenya, Ghana, and Malawi were chosen for the vaccine pilot because all have strong prevention and vaccination programs but continue to have high numbers of malaria cases, WHO said.

Scientists uncover the possible cause of Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Scientists may be one step closer to discovering a cure for the debilitating lifelong condition multiple sclerosis (MS). Researchers have shown MS sufferers have high levels of a certain protein in their brain cells, which is virtually nonexistent in healthy people. This protein alters the cells' energy supply, triggering the disabling symptoms.The finding may enable scientists to create protein-targeting treatments for the incurable disease.

Scientists at the Universities of Exeter and Alberta analysed human brain tissue samples.  They discovered high levels of a protein, known as Rab32, in MS patients. Rab32 is thought to cause the part of the brain cell that stores calcium to get too close to the cell's so-called energy supplier. This causes miscommunication within the cell, leading to brain cell damage. Although it is established that MS occurs due to nervous system damage, the cause of this was less clear. 

FDA Approves At-Home DNA Tests For Ten Diseases

The Food and Drug Administration approved the first home DNA tests Thursday that let people find out if they have a genetic risk for certain diseases. The FDA decision allows home DNA test company 23andMe to directly market its gene tests for 10 diseases, including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, celiac disease and some rare blood diseases. “It is important that people understand that genetic risk is just one piece of the bigger puzzle”

Harvard study breakthrough on genetics of parenting behavior across species

Why is it that some species seem to be particularly attentive parents while others leave their young to fend for themselves? For years, scientists have believed one of the major drivers is experience — an animal raised by an attentive parent, the argument goes, is likely to be an attentive parent itself.

A Harvard study is challenging that idea, and breaking new ground by uncovering links between the activity of specific genes and parenting differences across species...the study found not only that different genes may influence behaviors in males and females, but also that the gene for the hormone vasopressin appears to be closely tied to nest-building behavior in parenting mice.

Guts and glory for RMIT smart pills

Researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, have successfully completed phase one human trials of ingestible capsules that have the potential to revolutionize the prevention and diagnosis of gut disorders and diseases. The ingestible smart capsules (the size of a vitamin pill)  journey through and measure gas levels in the gastrointestinal tract. The ingestible technology has demonstrated several thousand -times more sensitivity to gut gases than alternative techniques.

"Currently, one of the only methods for diagnosing gut disorders, such as mal-absorption of carbohydrates, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammable bowel disease, is to measure hydrogen concentrations in the breath," Kalantar-zadeh said. "However, breath tests are mired by a lack of sensitivity and specificity and are unable to provide the necessary gold standard for diagnosis."

Co-inventor Dr Kyle Berean said: "Ingestible sensors also offer a reliable diagnostic tool for colon cancer, meaning that people won't have to undergo colonoscopies in future."  Smart pills are harmless and there is no risk of capsule retention," Berean said. An added advantage is that the capsules can be synched with smartphones, meaning results are easily accessible by users and doctors online.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:40 AM | Permalink

Health Roundup - Food Edition

Is your diet good for your gut bacteria?  Probably not as Adam Rutherford found when he had his tested

...the results? To be honest, pretty crap....“You are near bottom of the class. You’re in the lowest 10% of the population for diversity,”....How many of these beneficial bacteria did I have? Zero.

Diversity is one of the keys to a healthy gut, he explained, the idea being that different microbes perform different tasks, and a diverse workforce brings more skills to the table. We contain, on average, around one thousand different species of bacteria inside our guts. And in total: well, it’s difficult to count, but there are trillions. And they are almost all doing useful work for us.
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Fermented foods are especially good for encouraging a healthy microbiome. “People know about live yoghurts, but the next stage up which has five times as many microbes is kefir, a Persian soured milk,” Spector told me. Other fermented foods like miso soup and kimchi (pickled cabbage) are a delicious feast for your internal lodgers.
If that all sounds a bit rich, then garlic, artichokes, bananas and whole grains are also good fibrous fodder.

Drinking beetroot juice has important brain benefits.

Drinking beetroot juice before working out makes older adults’ brains perform more efficiently, a new study by Wake Forest University has found. “It resembles more of a brain of a younger adult than it does an older adult,"
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Beets have a high level of dietary nitrate, which is converted to nitrite and then nitric oxide when consumed, Rejeski said. Nitric oxide increases blood flow in the body, and previous studies have shown it can improve exercise performance in people of varying ages. The study found that combining beetroot juice with exercise delivers more oxygen to the brain and strengthens the somatomotor cortex, which processes information from the muscles.

Gluten-free diets may cause serious health problems

including CANCER due to the high levels of toxic metals found in gluten-free foods. Two major studies from the US reveal that those choosing gluten-free foods have twice as much arsenic in their urine as those who eat gluten. They also have 70 per cent more mercury in their blood and worryingly high levels of other metals such as lead and cadmium. Contamination comes mainly from rice flour, which is used as a substitute in products such as bread, spaghetti and cereals.

Why pasta and bread lower the risk of dementia and cognitive decline. How carbs are good for your brain.

The NBA’s Secret Obsession with Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches

With little fanfare, PB&Js have become a locker room staple for multiple teams in the league for over a decade. ...
One reason for the PB&Js popularity is that calorie-dense foods that are high in fats, sugars, starches, proteins, and salts trigger both dopamine and serotonin releases in humans. Any food that gives rushes of energy and happiness is an obvious boon to professional athletes, and those same foods also lower the body’s heart rate. In other words, PB&Js a unique combination of performance enhancer and comfort food.

Sneaky mind tricks that make us splash out on more food

From scrunchy crisp packets to heavy cutlery in restaurants and French music in the wine aisle, an Oxford psychologist reveals how you're manipulated every time you leave home

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:21 AM | Permalink

April 20, 2017

Roundup of medical research and technology:

Restoring the sense of touchSolar-Powered Graphene Skin Enables Prosthetics to Feel

Several products are in development, including this haptic system at Case Western Reserve University, which would enable upper-limb prosthetic users to, say, pluck a grape off a stem or pull a potato chip out of a bag. It sounds simple, but such tasks are virtually impossible without a sense of touch and pressure.

Now, a team at the University of Glasgow that previously developed a flexible ‘electronic skin’ capable of making sensitive pressure measurements, has figured out how to power their skin with sunlight. That renewable energy could be used to power an array of sensors to add feeling to an artificial limb, the authors describe this month in Advanced Functional Materials.


Organs on chips technology
The FDA just struck a deal that could replace animal testing with a tiny chip

On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration inked a collaborative research and development agreement with Emulate, a company that makes "organs-on-chips" technology.  The hope is that instead of testing new drugs or supplements on animals, researchers can use Emulate's chips. Each chip is about the size of a human thumb, and contains tiny channels filled with living human cells that imitate the functions of different organs.
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To start, the collaboration between the FDA and Emulate will focus on the company's Liver-Chips, which are meant to show how an animal's liver might react to a certain drug. The liver is where most drugs get broken down on their way out of the body.

Cancer-detecting CHEWING GUM to replace blood tests:

A biotech company has created a chewing gum that detects cancer. Volatile organic compounds, unique to each type of cancer, are produced in the body. The gum traps the compounds, which will then be analyzed for different cancers. It could mean the end of blood tests, urine samples and biopsies. The gum absorbs what are called 'volatiles' in a person's saliva as they chew it - chemical compounds which are released by certain forms of cancer.  After it has been chewed for 15 minutes, the product is then analyzed to determine whether or not it contains these specific chemicals. So far, scientists at the Alabama-based firm Volatile Analysis have developed different types of gum can detect pancreatic cancer, lung cancer and breast cancer

Synthetic Blood Is About To Go Through Human Trials

There have been decades of failure in making a usable blood substitute but now, scientists from the universities of Bristol, Cambridge, and Oxford have isolated and manipulated stem cells in labs to produce red blood cells.

Their goal is to make red cells for patients with complex blood types because it can be hard for them to find donors. In the future, lab-grown blood could revolutionize medical care by providing a far reaching solution to keeping people in need supplied with blood regardless of type or donor.

Paralyzed man moves his legs and STANDS for the first time

A man paralyzed from the waist down has moved his legs for the first time after doctors inserted an electrode sending an electrical current to the spinal cord. The electrode is connected to a computer-controlled device under the skin in the 28-year-old patient's abdomen. The electrical stimulation on his spinal cord, along with intense physical therapy, enabled him to move his legs, stand and make step-like motions for the first time in three years.....Mayo Clinic researchers, who tested the pioneering treatment, say these results offer further evidence that a combination of this technology and rehabilitation may help patients with spinal cord injuries regain control. 'We're really excited, because our results went beyond our expectations,' says neurosurgeon Kendall Lee, principal investigator and director of Mayo Clinic's Neural Engineering Laboratory.

A blind man sobs as he sees his wife for the first time in decades - after having his TOOTH inserted into his eye

A blind man who had his sight restored earlier this year in an incredible procedure using one of his own teeth said the best part was being able to see his wife again, "Gorgeous"

The amazing procedure saw a lens inserted into one of his teeth, which was extracted and then placed into his cheek so tissue would grow around it, enabling its own blood supply...After three months surgeons removed the tooth and inserted it into Mr Ings' old cornea. Skin was then removed from his mouth and placed over the new cornea to seal it. An opening was made to allow the new lens to work. It was the first time the surgery, called osteo-odonto kerato-prosthesis, has been performed in Australia. Mr Ing damaged his right eye in a childhood accident, and gradually lost vision in the other over the past 16 years because of the herpes simplex virus.

Chinese doctors grow a new ear on a man's ARM and transplant it to his head

Mr Ji, whose age is unknown, lost his right ear in a traffic accident in 2015.  He yearned to have the organ back because he no longer 'felt complete'. A plastic surgeon took cartilage from the patient's ribs to build an artificial ear that was modeled with the help of 3D-printing technology. It was then attached to his forearm under a piece of expanded skin. There it was allowed to grow for several months until experts deemed it ready for the transplant.  Once fully grown, it was finally transplanted from his arm to his head.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:45 AM | Permalink

April 5, 2017

"Americans must be suffering from an awful lot of pain."

Existing political proposals, Republican or Democratic, for solving the problem are based in economics.  The problem runs much deeper Damon Linker writes in The spiritual agony behind America's opioid crisis

One might even call them spiritual.  Imagine, for a moment, that addiction is a response to spiritual agony. Then consider the role of substance abuse in our lives.

A 2015 study showed that 32 million Americans (one out of every seven adults) struggled with a serious alcohol problem during the previous year — and that nearly a third of all Americans will exhibit signs of an alcohol-use disorder at some point in their lives. That's an astonishingly high rate of alcohol abuse....As of the end of 2015, the rate of fatal opioid overdoses was more than five times higher than [the crack epidemic] — 10.3 per 100,000. ...

Then there are prescription medications for depression and anxiety. The United States leads the world in per capita consumption of these drugs, with roughly 11 percent of the population over the age of 12 using them.....

What is clear is that the United States is filled with people pursuing various forms of relief from various forms of profound unhappiness, discontent, malaise, agitation, and emotional and/or physical pain....

Americans must be suffering from an awful lot of pain.

"The more often we’ve heard in this century about white privilege, the more often white people have dropped dead in despair, writes Steve Sailer in White Privilege, White Death.

The charts below shows how bad it is.

From Death Rates Rise for Wide Swath of White Adults, Study Finds in the WSJ

Increases in ‘deaths of despair’—from drugs, alcohol-related liver diseases and suicide

 White Deaths


 Death Rates Despair Comparison

 Death Opiods2000-2016

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:33 PM | Permalink

What do cucumbers and olives have in common with blueberries?

Tomatoes, winter squash, avocados, cucumbers, peppers, eggplants, corn, olives, pumpkins, pea pods and zucchini are ALL FRUITS. 

What’s the Difference Between Fruits and Vegetables?

Botanically, fruits and vegetables are classified depending on which part of the plant they come from. A fruit develops from the flower of a plant, while the other parts of the plant are categorized as vegetables.  Fruits contain seeds, while vegetables can consist of roots, stems and leaves.

From a culinary perspective, fruits and vegetables are classified based on taste. Fruits generally have a sweet or tart flavor and can be used in desserts, snacks or juices.Vegetables have a more mild or savory taste and are usually eaten as part of a side dish or main course.

Than again, you can classify them by color

 Fruitveggiecolorwheel

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:08 AM | Permalink

April 1, 2017

Preparing for Ticks

Prepare for a Bad Summer for Ticks (WSJ)
Mild winters and big deer and mice populations mean more ticks and higher rates of Lyme disease diagnoses

Symptoms can include a ring-like rash, along with flulike symptoms, muscle and joint aches and swollen lymph nodes. It is usually diagnosed based on symptoms or a blood test. It is treated with antibiotics. Longer-term infections can cause more serious symptoms, including arthritis, severe muscle pain and headaches, heart palpitations, brain inflammation and nerve pain. Diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease is controversial with many differences of opinion between patient groups and doctors.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there are more than 300,000 new cases of Lyme disease a year, about triple the rate from two decades ago. Most cases are centered in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic region and Upper Midwest states, such as Minnesota and Wisconsin.

On average 10 to 30% of deer nymphal ticks are infected with Lyme disease...Ticks typically feed on humans for three to five days, said Jorge Parada, a medical director of infection prevention and control at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois. A tick that latches on for only a few hours is unlikely to transmit infection. For Lyme disease to be transmitted, a tick usually has to be attached for 24 to 48 hours, said Dr. Parada, though for some other diseases it is less time. Thus, “the importance of doing tick checks.”

Best Advice You're Probably Going to Get a Tick This Summer. Good Luck.

Try to grab the tick near the skin and pull it out from there. Don’t have the fortitude to execute such a precise maneuver with tweezers? The Tick Twister and Tick Key make the job almost foolproof....

You certainly can pick up a tick from the woods, but you’re also likely to find them in parks and backyards. Ticks bury themselves in damp soil or leaf litter, and climb up on grass or brush to wait for their prey. You can make your yard less of a tick haven by keeping your grass short, removing any rotten leaves or similar debris, and get rid of brush piles where mice like to live. 

When you go to tick-prone areas, wear shoes that you’ve thoroughly sprayed with permethrin. This is an insecticide that is very safe for humans but stops ticks from crawling up your legs. Treat your favorite hiking boots, socks, and pants with the stuff; consider it for the shoes you use for yard work, too. To finish the job, spritz on a DEET-based spray whenever you head out to the backyard or park. It’s also safe when used properly, even for kids, and it will repel mosquitoes as well as ticks.

When you plan to work outside or walk in the wood, you're best of wearing long sleeves and long pants.  Since the little buggers like to climb up your leg, tuck your pants inside your socks.  When you're done shower well.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:47 PM | Permalink

March 31, 2017

Roundup of new research and medical tech

Unprecedented HIV vaccine breakthrough as researchers discover 'on-off switch'

Scientists say they've engineered an 'on-off switch' into a weakened form of HIV, enhancing the safety and effectiveness of a potential vaccine for the virus. HIV needs a specific amino acid to replicate so researchers replaced the code that does this with a 'nonsense' version that halts amino acid production.  When the supply of amino acids stopped, so did the replication....HIV has killed 35 million people since the beginning of the epidemic in the 1980s.

A wheelchair that can climb STAIRS could hit the market by the end of next year Video at the link.

Scewo is the brainchild of a group of masters students from Switzerland. Rigid rubber tracks allow the chair to safely travel up and down staircases. Self-balancing technology also enables the chair to turn on the spot, as well as to mount curbs without getting stuck. Users will be able to control the chair with a joystick orsimply by shifting their body weight. The team hopes to launch a mass market version be the end of 2018

The 'triple threat' cancer capsule that can navigate itself towards tumors before exploding and releasing drugs

Researchers have designed tiny cancer-fighting microcapsules that can navigate themselves towards cancerous tumors in the body. The multilayer capsule contains an anti-cancer drug which can be released via an ultrasound trigger, working as a guided drug delivery system....The capsule, designed by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), has three traits that have been difficult to achieve all together in a single cancer drug. They're easily detectable via low-power ultrasound, they can safely and efficiently encapsulate the cancer drug doxorubicin, and a dose of ultrasound can trigger the release of the drug. Doxorubicin is a chemotherapy drug that's used to treat several types of cancer. 

The new technology could offer a noninvasive alternative to cancer surgeries or chemotherapy. Next step - animal testing.

Speaking of animal testing - Tiny human liver-on-a-chip could help put an end to animal drug testing

Sleek microchip uses real organ tissue to mimic a liver in the human body that could be used to test drugs, eliminating the need for animal testingResearcher Dr Lawrence Vernetti, from the University of Pittsburgh developed the miniature human liver using  human liver cells that were taken from patients during medical procedures, or livers intended for organ donation that weren't used.....Missing however is a vital part of the organ - the bile duct. Bile is a fluid made in the liver that facilitates the digestion of fats in the small intestine.
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Mark Donowitz, a scientist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, is working on an intestinal chip using human stem cells....One group, based at Harvard University's Wyss Institute in Boston, is adapting 'bone marrow on a chip' to study the effects of radiation....Researchers at Harvard University have been able to create kidneys, gut, bone marrow and lungs on a chip.

Dr Donald Ingber, a bioengineer at Harvard University's Wyss Institute who has been leading much of the work, said the idea was to mimic the chemical and mechanical function of the organs with little micro-engineered devices that are lined with human cells and reconstitute organ level functions.' 
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:38 AM | Permalink

Health Roundup Birth control app, life-saving virus, new cholesterol drug, most cancer random, depression and pine tree bark

Female Physicist Creates World’s First Government-Approved Birth Control App

If approved in the United States, Natural Cycles would provide Americans a drug-free alternative in a market saturated with hormonal and abortive birth control....In typical use, a peer-reviewed study of 4,000 women found Natural Cycles was 93 percent effective at preventing pregnancy, meaning of 100 women using the app to prevent pregnancy, 7 got pregnant in a given year of use and 93 did not. For comparison, the pill is 91 percent effective, injectable birth control is 94 percent effective, and IUDs are 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy in typical use, according to the CDC.  Another well-established non-hormonal NFP method called Creighton has been rated in a federal study as 98 percent effective at preventing pregnancy.

A virus, fished out of a lake, may have saved a man’s life — and advanced science

Earlier this year, in an experimental treatment, doctors put 100 million OMKO1 viruses into a man’s chest to save his life...Dr. Ali Khodadoust, an ophthalmologist in New Haven, is 80 years old  had spent the past four years fighting a devastating infection.

Khodadoust ended up having a coronary artery bypass; his cardiologist patched a section of his aorta with a piece of plastic mesh. The whole procedure went off without a hitch, after which Khodadoust went home to recover. But things quickly went south. Within 48 hours, he had developed a raging fever and had to be rushed back to the hospital. When surgeons opened his chest, they discovered that an infection had destroyed his sternum, and his chest cavity was filled with blood and pus.... There was a moss-green patch on his aorta. It had to be an infection with a common species of bacteria called Pseudomonas aeruginosa...

Before the  doctors could even think about treating the infection, they had to save Khodadoust’s life.  “He was beyond ill — his heart actually burst on the table,”....When Khodadoust thinks back to that time, he remembers being in absolute darkness. “A tiny string was stretching from me to infinity,” he said.....

[After phage therapy} Khodadoust showed up at Narayan’s office over the summer, without an IV port in his chest and off antibiotics. He had recovered completely from his four-year infection. “I couldn’t believe it,” Narayan said. “He looked like a million bucks.”

Cholesterol-Slashing Drug Can Protect High-Risk Heart Patients, Study Finds

The drug, Repatha, is called a PCSK9 inhibitor and can make cholesterol tumble to levels almost never seen naturally in adults, or even in people taking cholesterol-lowering statins. The Amgen drug and a similar one, sold by Sanofi and Regeneron, were approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2015 with the hope — and expectation — that they would lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and not just reduce levels of LDL cholesterol, the dangerous kind.
That hope has now been realized for the Amgen drug.

“This is like the era of the statins coming in,” said Dr. Eugene Braunwald, a cardiologist at Harvard Medical School . ... Like statins, which were introduced in the 1980s, the new class of drugs has the potential to improve the health and longevity of millions of Americans with heart disease, the nation’s leading killer, accounting for one in four deaths.“It’s a new ballgame,” he said.....But cost will be an issue. Statins are available as cheap generics. The new drugs have a list price of $14,523 a year. “The next big challenge is financial: how to pay for it.”

Most cancer mutations arise from ‘bad luck,’ but many cases still preventable, researchers say

Using health records from 69 countries, they conclude that 66 percent of cancer-causing genetic mutations arise from the “bad luck” of a healthy, dividing cell making a random mistake when it copies its DNA.

AI that detects cancer in blood and pinpoints its location before symptoms appear 'could be ready in one year'

Scientists from the University of California developed the new software that works by looking for specific molecular patterns in cancer DNA. The algorithm was able to correctly detect cancer in 80 per cent of cases

Depression Is Now the Leading Cause of Illness and Disability Worldwide

Depression has become the leading cause of ill health and disability across the world, now affecting more than 300 million people globally, the World Health Organization said Thursday. However, half of people suffering from depression don’t get treatments they need to live healthy, productive lives.

How pine tree bark could revolutionize your trip to the dentist:

Resin fillings typically last for seven to ten years at most before they crack and fall out. Scientists have discovered that an extract from the bark of pine tree roots alters the chemical structure of teeth to make them stronger and allow fillings to bind to them better. Dr Guido Pauli, of the University of Illinois at Chicago, said compounds in the pine tree extract work by strengthening dentine – the tissue layer beneath the enamel in teeth. Tests show the tree extracts can increase the strength of dentine by up to ten times.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:05 AM | Permalink

March 29, 2017

Roundup of Medical Technology: Robots in surgery, diagnosis and active aging companion, 'body on a chip' and heart tissue from a spinach leaf

Robot-assisted surgery is reaching an incredible level of precision!

Watch the video at the link and see for yourself how it peels a grape and then sews it back on!  It's astounding.

Robot Worm could be miniaturized to help doctors spot digestive issues

The robot that can move forwards or backwards in a wave-like motion is known as the single actuator wave-like robot (SAW) and was developed by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Israel.

Artificial Intelligence Will Help the Elderly  Watch the video at the link to see how ElliQ works

For the past month or so, a small group of older adults in San Francisco has been learning to engage with a talking device named ElliQ. It’s more desk lamp than archetypal robot—think of the hopping light at the beginning of Pixar movies. But while ElliQ is meant to sit on a table or nightstand, it’s all about movement, or more accurately, body language.

 Elio Robot For Elderly

ElliQ talks. But it also moves, leaning toward the person with whom it’s speaking. It lights up, too, as another means of engagement, and uses volume and sound effects to distinguish its messages. “If ElliQ is shy, she will look down and talk softly, and her lights will be soft,” explains Dor Skuler, CEO and founder of Intuition Robotics, the Israeli company behind the device. “If she tries to get you to go for a walk, she will lean forward and take a more aggressive tone, and her lights will be bright....

ElliQ keeps learning...One of the first steps in establishing a relationship with this particular robot is to set some goals, such as how many times a week a person wants to go out for a walk or be reminded to see friends. Then, it’s up to ElliQ to determine the most effective way to do its job. In other words, it will learn that one person responds better to “It’s nice out, why don’t you go for a walk,” while another needs to be prodded more aggressively with “You’ve been on the couch watching TV for four hours. Time to get up and take a walk.”  “That’s where the emotive side kicks in,” he says. “ElliQ can set a whole different tone, and use different body language and gestures based on what works and what doesn’t work. The machine fine-tunes itself.”

“Mass-Produced” Blood Now Possible,

Researchers at the University of Bristol and NHS Blood and Transplant....developed a method to freeze stem cells in their early development — while they are still replicating — which has the effect of “immortalizing” them such that scientists can produce infinitely more stem cells. They will harvest the excess stem cells to produce blood.  Right now the new method is cost-prohibitive. For the foreseeable future, it will mostly be used to provide hard-to-source blood for patients with rare blood types.

Spinach Leaf Transformed Into Beating Human Heart Tissue

Using the plant like scaffolding, scientists built a mini version of a working heart, which may one day aid in tissue regeneration.

Menstrual cycle recreated 'in a dish'

US scientists say they have made a mini working replica of the female reproductive tract using human and mouse tissue...to construct a palm-sized device that ooks nothing like a womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries.  Researchers say it should help with understanding diseases of these organs and tissues and a novel way  to test new treatments.

The work is part of a project to create the entire human "body on a chip". The ultimate goal would be to take cells from any given individual in order to create a personalized model of their body to test drugs and treatments on.

We Were Wrong - the Testes Are Connected to the Immune System

Some parts of the body – including the tissues of the brain and testes – have long been considered to be completely hidden from our immune system....Last year scientists made the amazing discovery that a set of previously unseen channels connected the brain to our immune system; now, it appears we might also need to rethink the immune system's relationship with the testes...potentially explaining why some men are infertile and how some cancer vaccines fail to provide immunity.

An Unexpected New Lung Function Has Been Found - They Make Blood!  Video at the link shows how

In experiments involving mice, the team found that they produce more than 10 million platelets (tiny blood cells) per hour, equating to the majority of platelets in the animals' circulation. This goes against the decades-long assumption that bone marrow produces all of our blood components.

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco also discovered a previously unknown pool of blood stem cells that makes this happen inside the lung tissue - cells that were incorrectly assumed to mainly reside in bone marrow....Scientists have now watched megakaryocytes functioning from within the lung tissue to produce not a few, but most of the body's platelets. So how did we miss such a crucial biological process this whole time?  The discovery was made possible by a new type of technology based on two-photon intravital imaging - a similar technique to one used by a separate team this week to discover a previously unidentified function of the brain's cerebellum.

10 Human Body Modifications You Can Expect in the next Decade

1. RFID Chips implanted in the body
2. Exoskeletons
3. Real-time Language Translation
4. Augmented Vision
5. Smart Contact Lenses
6. 3D Printed Body Parts
7. Smarter Drugs
8. Brain-computer Interfaces
9. Designer Babies
10. Enhanced Sexual Organs

UPDATE:  Paralyzed man moves his arm and hand with the power of his mind and a microchip

A cycling accident left Bill Kochevar unable to move from the shoulders down, but  he can now feed himself in his wheelchair, using a microchip in his brain. He is the first quadriplegic to have his movement restored by the system...
‘For somebody who’s been injured eight years and couldn’t move, being able to move just that little bit is awesome’...Researcher Dr Bob Kirsch said: ‘He’s really breaking ground for the spinal cord injury community. This is a major step toward restoring some independence.’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:49 AM | Permalink

March 20, 2017

Health round-up: Exercise and cancer, cystic fibrosis, statins, tea, coffee and vitamins

Cystic fibrosis patients living 10 years longer in Canada than U.S. thanks to a high fat diet

Researchers identify differences in diet, health insurance and access to lung transplants...A spike in Canadian survival rates noted in 1995 may be due to a high fat diet, emphasizing cheeses, fish and nuts, recommended for Canadians with cystic fibrosis since the 1970s.  "The Canadians tried high fat diets, more calories, more palatable, and this really had an impact on the nutritional status, particularly with children, and that seems to set the trajectory for the disease."

Antidepressants can stop prostate cancer from spreading to the bones where it kills 90% of patients

Prostate cancer metastasises, or spreads, to the bones in 9 out of 10 fatal cases.  Scientists found a reducing a protein in the brain stopped the cancer spreading.  Discovery could pave the way to a treatment for advanced forms of the disease

How exercise reduces the risk of cancer.

Exercising is known to reduce the risk of breast, bowel, colon and womb cancer.  But how?  Scientists say active people are better at removing a by-product - lactate -  that fuels tumors. Lactate – which makes muscles stiffen after exercise – is a key driver of cancer growth and spread, experts claim.

Dr Inigo San Millan, of the University of California, Berkeley, said: 'With this paper, we open a whole new door for understanding cancer, showing for the first time that lactate is not only present, but mandatory for every step in its development. 'We hope to sound the alarm for the research community that to stop cancer you have to stop lactate.'

Gene in some people which makes their brains 12 YEARS older than they should be

Researchers at Columbia University found a certain gene is present in people with prematurely aged brains
Just as some people physically age faster than others, the same goes for brains. The study examined autopsy data from almost 2,000 people without diseases.  They found those with older-looking brains had two copies of a certain gene - TMEM106B.  The common genetic variant greatly impacts normal brain aging from around the age of 65.  It may also increase one's risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson's disease or dementia.

Just ONE cup of tea a day lowers the risk of toxic clumps forming in the brain

Researchers found that drinking tea reduces the risk of dementia by some 50% while those who carry a 'dementia gene' can slash their chances by around 86%.  Tea leaves are considered to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. And it doesn't matter whether you prefer green tea or black.

Researchers at the National University of Singapore assessed the tea consumption of 957 adults over the age of 55 over a period of 12 years.  Every two years, the participants were assessed on their cognitive function using standardized tools.  "A simple and inexpensive lifestyle measure such as daily tea drinking can reduce a person’s risk of developing neurocognitive disorders in late life," said Dr Feng Lei and help  protect the brain from vascular damage and neurodegeneration.

Coffee 'stops vitamin pills working'

Scientists claim swallowing tablets with your morning cup of caffeine wipes out all of the good they do because the heat in the drinks can dramatically reduce the effects of tablets. It can even kill the ‘friendly’ bacteria in probiotic foods such as yoghurts..Now experts suggest waiting at least an hour before consuming hot food or drink after taking tablets.

City-dwellers should stock up on B vitamins, experts claim.

A new study suggests that the supplements may play a critical role in reducing the devastating impact of air pollution. In a trial on humans, scientists found just small doses could offset the deadly damage caused by tiny, toxic particles. Experts believe the findings could have a significant public health benefit in heavily polluted cities across the world.

Mediterranean diet 'as effective as statins' in reducing heart attack risk

“For most middle-aged people wishing to avoid heart disease, a healthy diet offers a far more powerful, sustainable and enjoyable plan than lifelong statin tablets,” said Prof Simon Capewell, vice-president of the UK Faculty of Public Health.

Taking high dosages of statins raises the risk of developing diabetes in older women by 50%

Australian scientists have carried out one of the first studies of its kind focusing on the effects of statins on more than 8,000 female pensioners....The team found over-75s face a 33 per cent higher chance of getting diabetes if they are taking them.  But the risk rose to more than 50 per cent for those on higher doses. It follows research last year which showed people with naturally higher levels of cholesterol, paradoxically, are less likely to suffer diabetes.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:42 AM | Permalink

March 16, 2017

Ambient music in the ICU ' to induce calm and a space to think'

Tripping in the ICU  For those suffering the trauma of intensive care, the soothing swoosh of otherworldly ambient music can be a welcome gift.

The noise of life-support machines and vital-sign monitors is a constant background. Phones ring, bin lids bang, staff call for help and doctors are constantly being paged to the next emergency. The racket frequently exceeds World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for safe noise levels......In patients who are heavily sedated and on ventilators, rates of ICU delirium are as high as 80 per cent. ...An intensive-care stay can be a psychological and physical trauma; invaded on all sides, the body feels like it is being murdered....

A recent study showed that a quarter of ICU patients with a particular life-threatening respiratory condition had signs of PTSD six months after discharge...The evidence points to sedation as the culprit....Good reason, then, for reversing the policy of heavy sedation. But, for all the worthy intentions, critically ill patients were now coming to their senses in a suburb of hell. The former patient Taylor noted the horrible irony that her hearing was pretty much the only one of her senses that was preserved.
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Music has begun to emerge as a specifically powerful therapeutic medium. ...A problem is that one person’s easy listening is another’s aural poison. ....

Ambient music. Instead of distinctive rhythms, it gives us shifting periodicities. The melodies of pop command the attention, and we want our ambient performance to be there and yet not there at the same time. In the words of its greatest modern pioneer, Brian Eno, ‘ambient music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.’ This is music aimed simultaneously at both the centre and the periphery of experience. It’s about what you don’t play as much as what you do.

Brian Eno wrote that ambient music ‘is intended to induce calm and a space to think’. It is not music for tapping your foot to. It’s music designed to take you into another mental space....

Rhythmic unpredictability is only one of the things going on. By not commanding the listener’s attention, ambient music frees the mind to wander.  It’s that potential to set minds wandering that lies behind our art project. Behind the chilled-out purveyor of ambient sounds, there’s an inquiring researcher looking for what might just lead to a clinical development. In my part-time academic post, I research inner experience: everyday phenomena such as mind-wandering, and more unusual mental happenings such as hallucinations. Both of these extremes can be encompassed in the experience of ICU patients, whose bodies can appear to be doing not very much at all, but whose minds are often far from restful.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:07 PM | Permalink

March 14, 2017

Health Roundup: Dizzy spells, CML, artificial retina, cannabis, second-hand smoke and bad news for bald men

From Authority Nutrition 13 Simple and Natural Ways to Lower Your Triglycerides

Cancer Pill Gleevec Keeps Patients Alive and Well for a Decade

The once-a-day pill turned chronic myelogenous leukemia, or CML, from a certain death sentence into a manageable disease. Now data shows it's helped 83 percent of patients live 10 years or longer...."It's the first targeted personalized medicine that had ever been used. It was also the most successful," ...Gleevec is targeted to a mutation specific to CML...."It's a 10-year survival of 83 percent, which is extraordinary," Silver said. "It has led to what we call biologic cures." Patients still have leukemia, but it's not affecting their blood cell counts.

Dizzy spells in middle age may be a warning sign of dementia 20 years before symptoms appear

Scientists think sudden drops in blood pressure - often signaled by dizziness when standing up - could cause lasting damage to the brain that raises the risk of dementia. A study of 11,000 middle-aged people found that those who suffered this problem, known as orthostatic hypotension, were 40 per cent more likely to develop dementia later in life.

Study leader Dr Andreea Rawlings, from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the US, said: 'Even though these episodes are fleeting, they may have impacts that are long lasting. 'We found that those people who suffered from orthostatic hypotension in middle age were 40 per cent more likely to develop dementia than those who did not. 'It's a significant finding and we need to better understand just what is happening.'

Scientists Have Created an Artificial Retina Implant That Could Restore Vision to Millions

Scientists have developed a retinal implant that can restore lost vision in rats, and are planning to trial the procedure in humans later this year.  The implant, which converts light into an electrical signal that stimulates retinal neurons, could give hope to millions who experience retinal degeneration – including retinitis pigmentosa – in which photoreceptor cells in the eye begin to break down, leading to blindness.


For the Blind, an Actual-Reality Headset  Not just Star Trek fiction, a new visor from eSight is a lightweight, high-contrast vision system for legally blind people.

Artist Yvonne Felix recalls the first time she saw “Starry Night” with her eSight visor on, it made her cry. “I saw every little stroke. When I saw the color mixtures and how thick the paint was, it was the most overwhelming moment of my life,” she says. “I thought that never in my life would I be able to see something so beautiful.”

Secondhand smoke isn’t as bad as we thought. The relevant question, however, should not be merely whether there are any dangers from secondhand smoke but also how big they are.

If the alarmist claims made by anti-smoking groups were true, we’d be justified in avoiding secondhand smoke as if it were the plague. But we know now that those claims were exaggerated, so it’s worth asking whether contemporary bans have gone too far.... Now that’s not nothing, but other recent research may be even more surprising. “No clear link between passive smoking and lung cancer,” read a 2013 headline in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, hardly a pro-tobacco publication. That was a report on a cohort study tracking 76,000 women that failed to detect a link between the disease and secondhand smoke. The finding comports with existing literature suggesting that the effect is borderline and concentrated on long-term, high levels of exposure.

Cannabis boosts risk of stroke and heart attack, independent of tobacco, new study finds

Data taken from more than 1,000 US hospitals found that people who used the drug had a 26 per cent higher chance of suffering a stroke than those who did not, and a 10 per cent higher chance of having a heart attack....They indicate there is something intrinsic about cannabis which can damage the proper functioning of the human heart.  The research was published Wednesday at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology in Washington DC.

Bad news for bald men: Hair loss drugs cause erectile dysfunction that lasts for years

Those taking a popular growth stimulant were left impotent for an average of four years after finishing the medication, a study found.  Sufferers were left unable to maintain an erection despite being given Viagra to try and solve their problem.  Experts now say that taking finasteride is a bigger risk factor for the condition than diabetes, high blood pressure and smoking.  The drug, sold as Propecia, lowers prostate specific antigen levels and is used for treating male-pattern hair loss.

Researchers from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine assessed the effects of the hair growth stimulant. Of the 11,909 men who were studied, 1.4 per cent went on to develop persistent erectile dysfunction. This continued for an average of 1,348 days.  But the researchers found men under the age of 42 who used either drug for seven months had a 4.9-fold higher risk.

This comes after Turkish scientists last week found blood type could influence a man's performance under the sheets. Those with blood types A, B or AB are up to four times more likely to suffer from impotence than men who have blood type O.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:13 PM | Permalink

March 10, 2017

Two powerful articles on Opiod Addiiction

American Carnage: The New Landscape of Opiod Addiction by Christopher Caldwell

The best way for a society to avoid the dangers of addictive and dangerous drugs is to severely restrict access to them. That is why, in the twentieth century, powerful opiates and opioids (an opioid is a synthetic drug that mimics opium) were largely taboo—confined to patients with serious cancers, and often to end-of-life care. But two decades ago, a combination of libertarian attitudes about drugs and a massive corporate marketing effort combined to instruct millions of vulnerable people about the blessed relief opioids could bring, if only mulish oldsters in the medical profession could get over their hang-ups and be convinced to prescribe them.
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OxyContin was only the most commercially successful of many new opioids. ...The American Pain Foundation, which presented itself as an advocate for patients suffering chronic conditions, was revealed by the Washington Post in 2011 to have received 90 percent of its funding from medical companies.
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The calamity of the 1990s opioid revolution is not so much that it turned real pain patients into junkies—although that did happen. The calamity is that a broad regulatory and cultural shift released a massive quantity of addictive drugs into the public at large. Once widely available, the supply “found” people susceptible to addiction. ...Relaxed taboos and ready supply created a much wider appetite for opioids. Once that happened, heroin turned out to be very competitively priced.
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In state after state, voters have chosen to liberalize drug laws regarding marijuana. If you want an example of mass media–induced groupthink, Google the phrase “We cannot arrest our way out of the drug problem” and count the number of politicians who parrot it. It is true that we cannot arrest our way out of a drug problem. But we cannot medicate and counsel our way out of it, either, and that is what we have been trying to do for almost a decade.
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Calling addiction a disease usefully describes certain measurable aspects of the problem—particularly tolerance and withdrawal...Addiction is different. Addicts resist known cures—even to the point of death
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In 1993, Francis F. Seeburger, a professor of philosophy at the University of Denver, wrote a profound book on the thought processes of addicts called Addiction and Responsibility. We tend to focus on the damage addiction does. A cliché among empathetic therapists, eager to describe addiction as a standard-issue disease, is that “no one ever decides to become an addict.” ....“Addiction itself . . . is tempting; it has many attractive features.” In an empty world, people have a need to need. Addiction supplies it. “Addiction involves the addict. It does not present itself as some externally imposed condition. Instead, it comes toward the addict as the addict’s very self.” Addiction plays on our strengths, not just our failings. It simplifies things. It relieves us of certain responsibilities. It gives life a meaning. It is a “perversely clever copy of that transcendent peace of God.”

The founders of Alcoholics Anonymous thought there was something satanic about addiction. The mightiest sentence in the book of Alcoholics Anonymous is this: “Remember that we deal with alcohol—cunning, baffling, powerful!” The addict is, in his own, life-damaged way, rational. He’s too rational. He is a dedicated person—an oblate of sorts, as Seeburger puts it. He has commitments in another, nether world.
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The deeper problem, however, is at once metaphysical and practical, and we’re going to have a very hard time confronting it. We in the sober world have, for about half a century, been renouncing our allegiance to anything that forbids or commands. Perhaps this is why, as this drug epidemic has spread, our efforts have been so unavailing and we have struggled even to describe it. Addicts, in their own short-circuited, reductive, and destructive way, are armed with a sense of purpose. We aren’t. It is not a coincidence that the claims of political correctness have found their way into the culture of addiction treatment just now. This sometimes appears to be the only grounds for compulsion that the non-addicted part of our culture has left.

Turn Off, Tune Out, Drop In, Die Off: Medicaid Funds the White Death

In a massive and extensively researched article for Commentary, Nicholas Eberstadt shows how Medicaid is funding the gateway drugs — opioid prescription painkillers — which lead people towards deadly heroin and early death.
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Eberstadt’s citation of 2013 Census Bureau data is sobering: 21 percent of all civilian men between 25 and 55 years of age are now Medicaid beneficiaries.....Further, a jaw-dropping 57 percent of non-working white males in the same age bracket are now collecting disability benefits. Some of them are receiving benefits from multiple government programs.
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Princeton economics professors Angus Deaton and Anne Case “calculate that if the death rate among middle-aged whites had continued to decline at the rate it fell between 1979 and 1998, half a million deaths would have been avoided over the years from 1999 through 2013. That, they note, is about the same number of deaths as those caused by AIDS through 2015,”
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Eberstadt also briefly touches on the hollowing out of the civil society resources which normally cope with stress and loss:... the overwhelming majority of the prime-age men in this un-working army generally don’t “do civil society” (charitable work, religious activities, volunteering), or for that matter much in the way of child care or help for others in the home either, despite the abundance of time on their hands. Their routine, instead, typically centers on watching—watching TV, DVDs, Internet, hand-held devices, etc.—and indeed watching for an average of 2,000 hours a year, as if it were a full-time job.

The Left has largely accomplished its grand 50-year mission, destroying the nuclear family, organized religion, and masculine values such as self-reliance, leaving many dependent on government functionaries for sustenance and hope. We aren’t supposed to be competitive anymore, and we aren’t meant to feel even a twinge of shame about long-term dependency on welfare programs or about dropping by the local Medicaid clinic for more pain pills. We have been strictly instructed to place no particular value on traditional marriage — not for its role in healthy child-rearing, or for the vital and different benefits it brings to men and women.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:23 PM | Permalink

March 9, 2017

"The cure for anything is salt water — sweat, tears, or the sea," Isak Dinesen

 Salt

Can Salted Doorknobs Prevent Superbug Infections?

It was a casual conversation with a former butcher that led Brayden Whitlock, a graduate student at the University of Alberta, to design a pilot study that put salt and copper head to head. Coupon-sized strips of pure, compressed sodium chloride were covered in an MRSA culture, alongside similar strips of antimicrobial copper and stainless steel. Whitlock found that salt killed off the bug 20 to 30 times faster than the copper did, reducing MRSA levels by 85 percent after 20 seconds, and by 94 percent after a minute.
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The salt-covered doorknobs, meanwhile, are already in the market. Doug Olson, the former butcher who first told Whitlock about the idea, has already received a patent for the technology in nine different countries, and registered the trade name Outbreaker. Prototypes have been built by local salt companies—the compression process is identical to how salt licks for livestock are made—and discreetly installed in a handful of settings around Edmonton, Alberta’s capital, over the past few years. Compressed and smooth, with a feel akin to ceramics, Whitlock says most users have no idea that what they’re really grabbing is a fistful of table salt.

From the website for Outbreaker

OUTBREAKER is a patented, self-sanitizing, antimicrobial surface made of compressed sodium chloride (CSC). This solid, durable, versatile surface can be installed on anything frequently touched by hands. The technology is simple, all natural, and completely safe and non-toxic, while remaining very cost effective.

OUTBREAKER  recently had a pilot study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection (October, 2016). In a parallel bacterial elimination study between OUTBREAKER and antimicrobial copper, OUTBREAKER eliminated the drug-resistant superbug MRSA 20-30 times faster.

OUTBREAKER is made by a specialized compression process that turns simple, safe and non-toxic salts into a versatile surface, using over 250 tons of pressure. The resulting product is strong and durable, and can take any shape.  This simple new product is amazingly effective.  Independent laboratory tests have shown that OUTBREAKER kills between 95% and 99.9% of common germs like E. coli and Salmonella in just one minute. It has recently been shown to be extremely effective against drug resistant superbugs like MRSA and VRE.

Salt kills microorganisms in three main ways: Recrystallization, dehydration and denaturation.

“Salt of the Earth”: Is science picking up on what the Church has long believed?

The ancient world used salt much as butchers today do, as a disinfectant, purifier, and preservative. These physical uses became ritualized in many early religions. In the Old Testament, the prophet Elisha uses salt to purify a polluted spring, both materially and spiritually. The ritual use of salt has been part of Catholic tradition since the earliest days.
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Blessed salt is a sacramental. It is used in the blessing of holy water and in the exorcism of evil spirits. (The folk custom of tossing spilled salt over one’s left shoulder to drive away the Devil is a popular superstition derived from the Rite of Exorcism.) A mixture of blessed salt, holy water, and wine is used to reconsecrate an altar that has been desecrated. Placing salt on the tongue of those to be baptized was a frequent part of the catechumenate at the time of St. Augustine, and it is still an optional part of the Rite of Baptism today.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:25 AM | Permalink

March 8, 2017

Digital brain disorders and tips for easy stress-relief

5 new brain disorders that were born out of the digital age

1. Nomophobia - the feeling of panic one has upon being separated from one's phone or tablet. In one U.K. survey, 73 percent of respondents felt panic when they misplaced their phone. And for another 14 percent, that panic spiraled into pure desperation.
2. Technoference - It could also be dragging down our relationships. In one 2014 study, more than half of the 143 participants said that tech devices interrupt their leisure time, conversations, and meals with their significant other. The researchers gave these interruptions a name: "technoference." Not surprisingly, higher technoference correlated directly with lower relationship and life satisfaction.
3. The phantom ring - Fauxcellarm, phantom ringing, and ringxiety are new to our lexicon, thanks to the universal presence of our buzzing, pinging smartphones. These terms refer to the perception that one's mobile device is ringing (or, more precisely, vibrating) when, in fact, it is not.
4. Cyberchondria - Hypochondria is not a new disorder, but the internet has taken it to the next level. In the broadest definition, cyberchondria refers to people who research and diagnose their own illnesses online. Sure, we've probably all done that — in fact, one in three American adults say they have used the internet to self-diagnose. But for some people who might already be prone to hypochondria, this can be detrimental.
5. Truman Show Delusion. Do you ever have that spooky feeling that someone's watching you? In the 1998 film The Truman Show, Truman Burbank had that feeling too, only his turned out to be true.---while it isn't directly caused by our digital devices, Truman Show Delusion is a product of our overly connected, reality-TV obsessed, social media–driven lifestyles that nurture our most narcissistic qualities.

The last one, #5, may not be a delusion at all given the latest Wikileaks drop, Vault #7, which show the CIA tapping just about everyone through our phones, smart TVs, and deliberately insecure software.                                                 

New Neuroscience Reveals 4 Easy Rituals That Will Make You Stress-Free

1. Clench your facial muscles and relax them: (If you use Botox, just skip to the next tip.)

2. Take slow, deep breaths: If it gets Navy SEALs through Hell Week, it’ll get you through tax season.

3. Splash your face with cold water: Wakes you up, calms you down and cleans your mug. Now that’s efficiency.

4. Play some music and do a little dance: Add a “neuroscience” playlist to Spotify.

Even easier ways to  kill stress and be happier with almost no effort whatsoever.

Research shows that owning a dog reduces stress. In fact, the effect is so powerful that just watching a video of a cute animal reduces heart rate and blood pressure in under a minute.

Watch nature documentaries to instantly boost your mood

A new study has found even watching small clips of shows such as Planet Earth II boosts people's emotions of awe, contentedness, joy and amusement.  It also can instantly help reduce anxiety, fear and tiredness.

Findings come from the BBC research, in collaboration with University of California, Berkeley.
Reviewing 150 further studies as part of the project, Berkeley's Professor Dacher Keltner found that our connection to nature enhanced our attention, cognitive performance and sense of calm. This made us more social and effective teamworkers and could even improve our physical health.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:04 PM | Permalink

Heath Roundup: Hairspray, coffee, vegetables and Millennial problems

Pregnant women warned against using hairspray

New evidence suggests that chemicals they contain may be linked to an increasingly common birth defect in boys called hypospadias which  disrupt male hormones and interfere with the developed of the male genitalia in the crucial first three months of the pregnancy.
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The study at Amiens University Hospital in France involved comparing the use of hair cosmetics, chemicals and pesticides in 250 women who had given birth to boys with and without hypospadias. No association was found between hypospadias and the use of chemicals such as paint, solvents, gasoline, ink, glue and household products, but the use of hair cosmetic was found to raise the risk by 80 per cent.

How coffee could protect you from dementia: Caffeine helps to boost enzyme that shields you from the disease

Scientists say the drug boosts the power of an enzyme in the brain that protects neurons and fights misfolded proteins.  They found that the enzyme, called NMNAT2, plays two roles in the brain. The first is a protective function to guard neurons from stress and the second is a 'chaperone function' to combat misfolded proteins called tau, which accumulate in the brain as 'plaques' due to aging.  Plaque build-up in the brain is a known precursor to serious neurodegenerative diseases.

The study, conducted by Indiana University Bloomington, screened over 1,280 compounds, including existing drugs, and tested them on mice.  The team identified 24 compounds - and caffeine in particular - to have an increase on the production of NMNAT2 in the brain.  Caffeine had previously been shown to improve memory function in mice with high levels of misfolded tau proteins.

More vegetables, less stress! Study reveals every extra veggie you add to your plate lowers your stress levels by 5%

The study, conducted at the University of Sydney in Australia, looked at 60,000 Australians who were age 45 or older. Researchers measured the participants' fruit and vegetable consumption, lifestyle factors and psychological distress at two time points: 2006-08 and 2010.

The benefits were even more pronounced when it came to women. Women eating three to four daily servings of vegetables had an 18 percent lower risk of stress. But women who ate five to seven servings had a 23 percent lower risk of stress than women who ate one or less servings a day.

Millennial bowel cancer crisis:

Unprecedented numbers of young people are being diagnosed with bowel cancer - due to poor diets and lack of exercise, a study warns.  Millennials - those born between 1980 and 1995 - are four times more likely to develop rectal tumors stemming from the large intestine compared to those born around 1950.

Epidemiologist Dr Rebecca Siegel, of the American Cancer Society, said: 'Trends in young people are a bellwether for the future disease burden. 'Our finding that colorectal (bowel) cancer risk for millennials has escalated back to the level of those born in the late 1800s is very sobering.

Social Justice Syndrome: ‘Rising Tide of Personality Disorders Among Millennials’

A 2016 UK survey found that, since 1990, rates of depression and anxiety among the young have increased by 70%, while the American Counseling Association has reported a “rising tide of personality disorders among millennials.”....In 2014, a survey of 100,000 college students at 53 U.S. campuses by the American College Health Association found that 84% of U.S. students feel unable to cope, while more than half experience overwhelming anxiety.  That such disorders appear to be an acute problem with this generation may be an unintended outcome of the unprecedented experiment conducted in the 1990s and 2000s by progressive parents.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:17 PM | Permalink

March 6, 2017

Health Roundup - Food

WALNUTS make men more fertile:

Scientists claim the crunchy snack is essential for boosting sperm quality. In about 40% of cases, the male is the sole or contributing cause of infertility. Eating 2.5 ounces of walnuts a day could improve fertility in males, study claims.  Walnuts reduce lipid peroxidation - a process that damages sperm cells and they are the only tree nut made up of fats that are destroyed by the damage

Eating foods rich in omega-3 can reduce harm caused by air pollution by up to half.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School discovered that toxic particles can penetrate through the lungs into other organs, including the brain and testicles.  Poor air quality is a major cause of disease and death – increasing the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma. But the study found omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish, soy beans and spinach can be used to prevent and treat the damage caused by polluted air.

Grab a MOCHA! Caffeine combined with cocoa can enhance your brain function

Researchers studied participants who drank coffee and hot chocolate for a year.  They found that while coffee boosts energy levels, hot chocolate relieves anxiety. Combining the two drinks is the best way to improve your attention span


Could fruit and steak cure epilepsy?
Study claims that a low-carb, high-fat diet is the key to controlling seizures as it alters the activity of brain cells.

Super-refractory status epilepticus (SRSE) is the most severe classification of the brain condition, killing 60 per cent of sufferers....  new research [from John Hopkins University] suggests that a ketogenic diet, high in fruit and steak,  could be used in future as a life-saving treatment for patients.  High in fats and low in carbohydrates, the diet alters the activity of brain cells to prevent deadly fits, scientists claim.

Study author Mackenzie Cervenka said: 'We can only state that it appears to work in some patients to halt status epilepticus and reduces the frequency of their seizures... What we can say is that the ketogenic diet is promising for at least a subset of patients... Any safe means we have of getting patients off of anesthesia and out of a coma quickly will be welcome."

9 Reasons You Should Eat Dark Chocolate Every Single Day

1. Dark chocolate just makes you happy.  It contains tryptophan, an amino acid that’s used by the brain to make serotonin, the neurotransmitter that makes us feel happiness.

2. Dark chocolate with a high cocoa content contains a solid amount of soluble fiber. A 100-gram bar of 70-85 percent chocolate has 11 grams of fiber. Soluble fiber helps keep cholesterol down, keeps you feeling fuller longer, and is good for your digestive health.

3. Eating dark chocolate might be good for your brain. That’s right, eating chocolate may keep your brain sharp and help you ward off dementia. A four-decade long study found that people with frequent chocolate consumption preformed better on brain-powered tests.

4. It’s good for your heart, too. Eating dark chocolate may lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. One study showed that eating chocolate five or more times a week lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease by 57 percent.

5. Dark chocolate makes for happier babies. And who doesn’t want a happy baby? A Finnish study found that mothers who ate more chocolate during pregnancy had happier, less fussy babies. This is great news for pregnant women everywhere.

6. It’s got the flavonoids we all want and need. Flavonoids are a plant-based antioxidant found in cocoa, and are one of the main reasons that dark chocolate is so good for you. These antioxidants may lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and also maintain the health of your blood vessels.

7. Dark chocolate is also good for your skin. Eating it can actually help protect you from sunburn thanks to two antioxidants, phenols and catechins, found in dark chocolate.

8. It’s a natural stress reliever ― Dark chocolate is found to lower the levels of stress hormones, which could very well be part of the reason you crave the stuff when feeling stressed out.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:25 PM | Permalink

Round-up of new technologies in the field of medicine

Computers Turn Medical Sleuths and Identify Skin Cancer, Wall St Journal

When it comes to melanoma, early detection is a matter of life and death. But it takes a trained eye to distinguish a harmless blemish from cancer, and many people around the world lack ready access to a dermatologist...Researchers at Stanford University have found a way to get a computer, using its algorithm, to identify skin cancer as reliably as board-certified dermatologists can. The hope is that, eventually, scientists can get this to happen on a smartphone anywhere in the world.

Google's artificial intelligence can diagnose cancer faster than human doctors

The system is able to scan samples to determine whether or not tissues are cancerous...it's unlikely to replace human pathologists just yet. The software only looks for one thing - cancerous tissue - and is not able to pick up any irregularities that a human doctor could spot.

Scientists Have Stored a Movie, a Computer OS, and an Amazon Gift Card in a Single Speck of DNA
    "The highest-density data-storage device ever created."

Israeli technology revolutionizes heart attack detection with one drop of blood

Israeli technology has changed the face of heart attack detection with a kit so small it fits in the palm of your hand...

A health professional needs only one drop of blood to let a patient know if a heart attack has occurred. If two stripes appear on the kit, the result is positive and the patient must immediately receive additional care. The test is easy, noninvasive and takes less than 15 minutes to perform.

Many people believe they can identify classic heart attack symptoms, which include chest pain, dizziness, nausea, pain traveling particularly to the left arm, wheezing and extreme anxiety similar to a panic attack. In reality, these can be symptoms of heartburn, but until now, in order to find out, a patient would have to wait in an emergency room and undergo at least six hours of testing, including blood tests and an EKG.

On the other hand, less than 50 percent of heart attack victims experience classic symptoms. Many people have atypical symptoms such as shoulder or stomach pain or exhaustion. By the time they  have finished with the classic tests, precious hours will have passed, which can lead to unnecessary heart damage and even heart failure

A blood test for cancer? Simple liquid biopsy could identify where in the body a tumor exists

'Liquid biopsies' are hoped to revolutionize cancer treatment, by identifying people with slow-growing tumors and those most in danger. They work by detecting the DNA released by dying tumor cells. Now, for the first time, US scientists can also pinpoint the part of the body affected. That is because the normal cells killed off by cancer also release DNA into the bloodstream, which has its own unique signature. A team from the University of California San Diego have found the DNA patterns for 10 different types of tissue, including from the liver, lung and kidneys.  Next step is a clinical trial.

Scientists Reverse Sickle Cell Disease for the First Time Using Gene Therapy

While this is just one case study involving a single French teenager, the early signs are encouraging, and the therapy could eventually lead to an effective treatment for the millions of people with this crippling disease worldwide. Sickle-cell disease occurs when one of the proteins making up a type of hemoglobin we use to carry oxygen through our body takes a slightly different form. This small change is enough to make the red blood cells they occupy lose elasticity, deforming them into a curved 'sickle' shape and risking clumps of cells piling up as they struggle to slip through blood vessels.

But by using a virus to insert genes for the correct form of this protein into the bone marrow of a French teenager, researchers have been able to restore the elasticity to the patient's blood cells.  After 15 months of therapy, the patient is off medication, and while it's far too early to say he's been functionally cured, it's a case of 'so far so good' for this pioneering kind of treatment.

In this case scientists removed bone marrow stem cells from the teen's body and added a specially made virus, designed to recode the cells to produce normal hemoglobin again. The cells were then transfused back into the patient. Doctors are reporting that half the patient's red blood cells are now regular and healthy, and he hasn't needed any blood transfusions since three months after his first treatment.

Heart failure Breakthrough: Stem cells trial offers hope to millions.

A method of repairing damaged heart muscles that have been scarred as a result of disease or earlier heart attacks has been called the “biggest breakthrough since transplants”. British scientists have found a way to use stem cells to repair damaged tissue which could help millions living with heart failure. The data, presented at the European Society of Cell and Gene Therapy in Florence, showed an average of 40 per cent reduction in heart damage in those on the treatment.  Next year global trials involving 500 people will begin.

New 'silver bullet' pill powered by your own stomach acid sends data straight to your phone while it works

A 'silver bullet' pill powered by your own stomach acid will send health data from inside your body to your phone.  It is believed the tiny pill could revolutionize medicine by constantly monitoring your health and administering medicine.  The pill powers up when a zinc electrode interacts with stomach acid.  Small sensors continually monitor temperature and heart rate and it administers medicine. The creation was unveiled at the world's biggest science conference in Boston

Scientists at the University of Ottawa have developed a way of growing human cells and tissue on apples
    Video at the link shows how the biohacking was done and the new possibilities it opens.

Bad Hospital Design Is Making Us Sicker  Evidence-based medical care will require evidence-based hospital design.

It’s no secret that hospital-acquired infections are an enormous contributor to illness and death, affecting up to 30 percent of intensive care unit patients. But housing patients together very likely exacerbates the problem. Research suggests that private rooms can reduce the risk of both airborne infections and those transmitted by touching contaminated surfaces. One study reported that transitioning from shared to private rooms decreased bacterial infections by half and reduced how long patients were hospitalized by 10 percent. Other work suggests that the increased cost of single-occupancy rooms is more than offset by the money saved because of fewer infections.  Installing easier-to-clean surfaces, well-positioned sinks and high-quality air filters can further reduce infection rates.

Falls in the hospital are another major problem, leading to serious injuries, longer hospital stays and significant costs. Trying to navigate the unfamiliar space of a hospital room, often while disoriented by pain and medications, makes many patients susceptible to falling. A number of design factors contribute: poorly lit areas, slippery floors, toilets that are too high or too low......And then there’s the problem of noise. The average noise level in hospitals far exceeds guideline-based recommendations, making it hard for patients to sleep. ....when it comes to recovering from illness, the more nature the better. But too often patients and physicians find themselves cooped up in dim rooms and sterile hallways with little access to natural light or views of nature: too much concrete, not enough jungle.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:11 PM | Permalink

March 2, 2017

Sounds that make us happy

Sounds that make the nation happy.

According to the World Health Organization, there are 360 million people living with disabling hearing loss worldwide.
Hearing loss is a major public health issue and its impact is set to increase. 'In adulthood hearing loss is associated with greater unemployment, increased risk of poor health, depression and increased risk of other conditions including dementia.'

March 3 is designated World Hearing Day.  To mark the occasion, Cochlear commissioned a poll of 1000 people in the UK to reveal the top 5 happy sounds:
 

1. Children laughing
2. Birds singing
3. Being told 'I love you'
4. Waves crashing
5. Music

Others which missed the top five included the revving of a car engine, walking on gravel and the sound of skis on fresh snow as well as the grind of a coffee machine and rain on a tin roof.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:25 PM | Permalink

February 28, 2017

Health Roundup: Simple new ways to detect ovarian and lung cancers, treat common vertigo, prevent stroke and prevent serious migraines

Blood test spots ovarian cancer in nine of ten cases.

Women at high genetic risk should have a blood check every four months.  A mutated BRCA1 gene raises the risk of ovarian cancer from 1.3 per cent to 39 per cent. Women with such gene, like Angelia Jolie, are advised to have their ovaries removed. A number of other genes, if mutated, also increase the risk.

A simple and cheap nose swab could soon detect lung cancer in smokers, scientists claim.

Detecting these changes can accurately predict whether the patients have tumors without having to perform a biopsy.
Smoking damages the cells in the lining of the nostrils involved in smell, research shows.  A persistent cough, coughing up blood, persistent breathlessness and unexplained tiredness are symptoms of what may be lung cancer. Those suspected of having it are given a chest x-ray and then scans - but these are unable to differentiate between benign and malignant lesions.

Those believed to be at risk then have to undergo an invasive bronchoscopy to take a tissue sample. Boston University School of Medicine researchers found a biomarker in the nasal passages can determine the likelihood of a lung lesion being malignant. The simple swab of their nose can determine if they have the disease sparing them from costly and risky procedures.

Colorado Doctor Finds Way To Treat Common Vertigo

Dr. Carol Foster, Director of the Balance Laboratory at the University of Colorado School of Medicine has experienced vertigo, the most common form called positional vertigo. It happens when particles in the ear that sense gravity get dislodged and end up in spinning sensors....vertigo.  She describes it thus, “You’re rolling over in bed and suddenly you’re hit with this incredible spinning and you see the room going around like you’re in the inside of a washing machine.”

One morning, in treating herself, she came up with her own spin on how to fix vertigo at home. It’s called the “Half Somersault Maneuver.” Patients put their head upside down like they are going to do a somersault. They wait for dizziness to end then raise their head to back level. They then wait again for dizziness to end and then sit back quickly “And that causes the particles to leave the semicircular canal,” Foster said.

A six-month study showed patents preferred the exercise over the one commonly used by doctors. Foster’s recently published research is a breakthrough in the treatment of vertigo and could be life-changing for people who are disabled at times by extreme dizzy spells. “I was surprised at how well it worked,” Foster said.

Hope for migraine sufferers? Epilepsy drug relieves seizure-like symptoms that cause blinding headaches

Lyrica relieves a seizure-like phenomenon believed to be the cause of migraines.  It works by stopping a wave of brain cells, preventing symptoms and was found to boost calcium levels, with low amounts causing headaches.  The findings by a team at the British Columbia University, Canada, were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

More evidence ties gum health to stroke risk 

Adults with gum disease may be twice as likely as people with healthy gums to suffer a stroke, new research suggests...."The higher the level of gum disease, the worse the risk."  Floss your teeth and use a water pic.  Regular dental check-ups can spot and treat early gum disease.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:03 AM | Permalink

February 24, 2017

Health Roundup: Chronic fatigue syndrome, gene therapy for blood cancer and Alzheimer's

One of the Biggest Myths About Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Just Got Debunked. Chronic fatigue IS a real disease.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) is one of the most perplexing conditions out there. It affects up to 1 million Americans and as much as 2.6 percent of the global population, often triggering exhaustion so severe that patients can't work or study.

But for decades, researchers have struggled to find an underlying cause, leading to an assumption by many doctors that it's 'not a real disease'. Now, Australian researchers have blown that myth wide open, showing for the first time that CFS is linked to a faulty cell receptor in immune cells. Not only is this the first research to show how the faulty cell receptor causes the immune system changes seen in CFS/ME, it also offers researchers a long-sought-after target for future treatments and tests.

It was two years ago that the US officially listed CFS/ME as a disease, [renaming it  ‘systemic exertion intolerance disease’, or SEID for short....There's still no way to test for the disease, and no effective treatment.  In fact, the two most commonly prescribed treatments for the condition are cognitive behavioral therapy and exercise, neither of which have any evidence to support they work - and many feel could actually be doing more harm than good.
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The new research suggests that all of the common CFS/ME symptoms can be explained by these faulty calcium ion channels.

"We now know that this is a dysfunction of a very critical receptor and the critical role that this has, which causes severe problems to cells in the body," said Don Staines, co-director of Griffith University's National Centre for Neuroimmunology and Emerging Diseases.  Already, Staines and his team are working to figure out the best markers that can be used to test for these faulty receptors, so they can begin to create a CFS/ME test. They're also looking for medications that act on these specific calcium ion channels in the hopes of finding potential treatments for the disease.

Gene therapy 'seems extraordinary' at fighting blood cancer, US drug firm study claims

An experimental gene therapy that turns a patient's own blood cells into cancer killers has worked with 'extraordinary' results in a major study.  More than one-third of very sick lymphoma patients showing no sign of disease six months after a single treatment, its maker said on Tuesday.  In all, 82 percent of patients had their cancer shrink at least by half at some point in the study.
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The therapy is not without risk. Three of the 101 patients in the study died of causes unrelated to worsening of their cancer, and two of those deaths were deemed due to the treatment. ...The treatment involves filtering a patient's blood to remove key immune system soldiers called T-cells, altering them in the lab to contain a gene that targets cancer, and giving them back intravenously.

Doctors call it a 'living drug' - permanently altered cells that multiply in the body into an army to fight the disease...Its sponsor, California-based Kite Pharma, is racing Novartis AG to become the first to win approval of the treatment, called CAR-T cell therapy, in the U.S. It could become the nation's first approved gene therapy.  It was developed at the government's National Cancer Institute and then licensed to Kite. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society helped sponsor the study.

Is the Leading Theory About Alzheimer's Wrong?  Yet another failed drug trial has prompted soul-searching about the “amyloid hypothesis.”

The “amyloid hypothesis” began with a simple observation: Alzheimer’s patients have an unusual buildup of the protein amyloid in their brains. Thus, drugs that prevent or remove the amyloid should slow the onset of dementia. Yet all drugs targeting amyloid—including solanezumab from Eli Lilly and bapineuzumab from Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, to add a few more high-profile flameouts to the fail pile—have not worked so far.
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Other skeptics of the amyloid hypothesis are coming back to tau, the protein Selkoe left decades ago to focus on amyloid. In the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, tau gets twisted into tangles that block the internal transport system of neurons. A recent failed trial aside, several drugs targeting tau are in early phases of clinical trials.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:22 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Alzheimer's, MS, Parkinsons, cooling caps and holding hearts

Too much sugar causes Alzheimer's: Study reveals 'tipping point' link between blood glucose and brain disease.

The study by the University of Bath and King's College London builds on previous research showing diabetes appears to increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia.  They found a 'tipping point' when glucose levels start to inhibit a protein that fights the early stages of Alzheimer's.  Once levels pass the threshold, they restrict the performance of a vital protein, which normally fights the brain inflammation associated with dementia.  This is the first evidence showing link between sugar and the brain disease.

Radical stem cell treatment for MS could stop the disease in its tracks for 5 years and even allow some sufferers to walk again

Imperial College London experts used chemotherapy to kill faulty immune cells. They then replaced them with stem cells in a bid to 'reset' the body's defenses. They found that Nearly half of patients saw the disease stop progressing for 5 years. Some patients went for as long as ten years with no worsening in their condition. Experts say the findings offer hope of the first lasting treatment for MS patients.

Doctors, however, stressed the treatment is more likely to 'stabilize' rather than 'reverse' the disease - and has better outcomes for patients whose disabilities are not severe. The Imperial study is the largest trial to date of autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation - or AHSCT - widely considered the most promising treatment for MS.

Is this the 'master switch' that prevents Parkinson's disease? Scientists discover key gene that stops brain cells from dying

Researchers from the University of Leicester found that a gene known as ATF4 plays a key role in the onset of Parkinson's in fruit flies. Acting as a switch, ATF4 helps to control the energy stations of cells - known as mitochondria - including neurons. The discovered gene boosts the energy of neurons, preventing their destruction.  This groundbreaking discovery could help to prevent or delay Parkinson symptoms.  Dr Martins said: 'Studying the roles of genes such as ATF4 in human neurons could lead to tailored interventions that could one day prevent or delay the neuronal loss seen in Parkinson's.' 

This comes after groundbreaking research in December found that Parkinson's disease may start in the stomach. Scientists from California Institute of Technology found the first ever conclusive link between gut microbes and the development of Parkinson's-like movement disorders in mice.

Studies: Cooling Caps Help Chemo Patients Keep Hair Up to two-thirds of breast cancer patients kept more than half their hair.

Cooling caps are affixed to patients' heads before, during, and after chemo; a machine cycles cooling liquid through the caps. While researchers aren't exactly sure how the caps prevent hair loss, one theory is they restrict blood vessels in the scalp, reducing the amount of chemo that reaches the hair follicles. About half of breast cancer patients say hair loss is the most daunting part of chemo, and 8% say they would turn down chemo in order to keep their hair. One breast cancer survivor who used a cooling cap says it has psychological benefits. She tells the Times that losing their hair makes people "think they're sicker than they actually are.

Would YOU want to hold your heart? Texas hospital lets transplant patients clutch their removed organs after surgery

Normally, hospitals dispose of surgically-removed organs after testing them and taking records. However, Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, has launched an unusual scheme called the 'Heart-to-Heart' program. It has offered more than 70 people the virtually unheard-of opportunity to see their ailing body part, and to hold it, before it is stored for further study. It all started with Dr William C Roberts, a cardiac pathologist at Baylor, who has been storing every removed heart to study for further study since he joined the institution in 1993.  The patients are overcome with emotion when they hold their own hearts in their hands.

 Holding Hearts

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:32 AM | Permalink

February 23, 2017

"With enough butter, anything is good," Julia Child

 Barbra Buttah Meme Large

"The difference between a good cook and a great cook is a quarter pound of butter," said my mother who cooked and baked
simple and utterly delicious meals for her seven children.  The vegetables served with every meal with plenty of butter were so tasty, we gobbled them up.  When recalling to one another any of a number of dishes she made, our mouths water.  I never even heard of margarine until I went to college and when I tasted it, I knew it was an abomination.  My mother never said, “As for butter or margarine, I trust cows more than chemists,” but it sounds like her.  Despite decades of people saying it was bad for you, I never gave up on butter.

I feel vindicated now the pendulum has swung the other way.

Cooking with butter may be more heart-healthy than vegetable oil: Study.

Data from a 1970s survey of mental hospital patients had never been analyzed until researchers from the University of North Carolina published published their findings in the British Medical Journal.  The findings come from subjects who had a carefully regimented and documented diet, if not altogether of their own will.  The research team analyzed unpublished nutritional data gathered between 1968 and 1973 in a controlled study of more than 9,400 men and women in one nursing home and six state mental hospitals in Minnesota that concluded that there was 22 percent greater risk of death for those on the vegetable oil diet.

Authority Nutrition: Why Grass-Fed Butter is Good For You

1. The saturated fat in butter can actually improve the blood lipid profile by raising the levels in HDL (the good) cholesterol which is associated with a lower risk of heart disease and changing the LDL rom small, dense (bad) to Large LDL – which is benign and not associated with heart disease. 
2. Grass-Fed Butter is Loaded With Vitamin-K2, The Missing Nutrient That De-Calcifies Your Arteries.  High-fat dairy products from grass-fed cows are among the best sources of Vitamin K2 in the diet.  Studies consistently show that Vitamin K2 dramatically reduces the risk of both osteoporosis and heart disease.
3. Butter is Loaded With an Anti-Inflammatory Fatty Acid Called Butyrate. 
4. In Countries Where Cows Are Grass-Fed, Butter Consumption is Associated With a Dramatic Reduction in Heart Disease Risk. ...According to one study from Australia, where cows are grass-fed, individuals who ate the most high-fat dairy products had a 69% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, compared to those who ate the least.

I swear by Kerrygold grass-fed butter, made in Ireland where as its website says:
The winds, rain and warming influence of the Gulf Stream all contribute to the lush grass our cows feed on year-round. They produce the sweetest, richest milk in the world, which makes our grass-fed cow’s milk Irish butter taste silky and creamy and glow a healthy, golden yellow.

 Kerrygold Salted Butter

Kerrygold butter is sold in every state, except for Wisconsin which is cracking down on 'Illegal butter'.

Butter protectionism in the Dairy State has made this foreign butter illegal.  An obscure regulation turns “ungraded butter” into contraband. Since Kerrygold isn’t produced in the good ole U.S. of A., it’s not graded and hence, illegal. Selling illicit butter bears a fine up to $1,000 and a possible six-month stint in the slammer.

Wisconsinites who enjoy Kellygold Irish butter have been forced to venture across state lines to buy the gold foil packaged dairy goodness....If you haven’t tasted Kerrygold, I can assure you it is definitely worth the drive...... It’s pricey, but worth every penny. [Editor's note: Buy it at Costco for best value].

Colcannon or Champ
Colcannon is Irish mashed potatoes with cooked kale or cabbage, milk and plenty of butter.  Recipe here.  Irish Champ is mashed potatoes with scallions and plenty of butter.  Here's a good recipe.  I most often combine both.  With a sprinkle of parsley on the top, the greens add a lovely Springtime taste. 

 Irish Champ Potatoe

While your unpeeled potatoes are boiling until tender, finely chop scallions (white and green parts) and mix with cold milk.  Then heat them gently.  When the potatoes are done, peel, then mash, and while still hot mix with the boiled milk and scallions. Then add some of the butter and season with salt and pepper. Serve with a knob of butter on the top.  Eat from the outside in, dipping each forkful into the melted butter.

"With enough butter, anything is good," Julia Child.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:35 PM | Permalink

February 2, 2017

Health roundup: Eczema, chilies, back pain and "breathprints"

Petroleum Jelly May Reduce Risk of Eczema

Applying inexpensive petroleum jelly to a new baby daily for the first six months of life may reduce the risk that the infant will develop eczema, which can be a lifelong torment, according to a new analysis....The theory is that moisturizers “seal” a baby’s skin against some invader that triggers inflammation.

Chillies could help beat cancer as research finds capsaicin destroys diseased cells

Capsaicin, the active component that gives chillies their trademark kick, can switch on specialized channels surrounding cancer cells causing them to die....However, capsaicin isn't effective if it's eaten, inhaled or injected, and researchers think it will only be effective as a pill attached to another drug that targets cancer cells.

Back pain? Only exercise will give you long-lasting relief..Ibuprofen DOESN'T work for back pain: Only 1 in 6 feel any benefit from taking the drug (and exercise is the only effective treatment)

Scientists from the George Institute for Global Health in Australia examined 35 trials involved more than 6,000 patients taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in the study published in the journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. They found its benefits were minimal and were as ineffective as paracetamol (Tylenol). In fact, the cheap pills made adults 3 times more likely to have stomach ulcers
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Yoga can help relieve the agony of back pain, a major review of medical evidence last month found.The practice, which includes stretching and breathing exercises, is an effective way to improve mobility and ease the chronic discomfort, experts said.  Researchers at the University of Maryland found yoga was twice as likely to improve the condition than simply doing back exercises.

Researchers Can Now Diagnose Parkinson’s, Cancer Via Patient’s ‘Breathprints’    The breath test could be the next blood test.

A promising new technique allows scientists to identify the presence of 17 different diseases based on the smell of somebody’s breath. While groundbreaking, the concept of studying the chemical makeup of human byproducts like sweat, urine, tears, and breath has been around since Hippocrates hypothesized about it in 400 B.C

Exhaled breathe contains oxygen, carbon dioxide, and a small amount of over 100 different chemical compounds that, when analyzed in relation to one another, can reveal a lot about the state of someone’s health.

In the hopes of advancing this prospect, scientists have created “breathprints,” distinct patterns found in one’s breath, for illnesses. “Just as each of us has a unique fingerprint that distinguishes us from others, each disease has a chemical signature that distinguishes it from other diseases and from a normal state of health,” Professor Hossam Haick of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, who led the research group, said. “

The “breathprints” were created based on samples collected from 1,404 subjects diagnosed with one of 17 different diseases. Using artificial intelligence to analyze the results, scientists learned that each disease had a unique chemical marker based on the various amounts of 13 chemical compounds.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:19 PM | Permalink

January 30, 2017

Health roundup: Growing back teeth, appendix, stem cells, cats + Alzheimers, marijuana studies

End of fillings in sight as scientists find Alzheimer's drug makes teeth grow back

Researchers at King's College London found that the drug Tideglusib stimulates the stem cells contained in the pulp of teeth so that they generate new dentine – the mineralized material under the enamel.....Scientists showed it is possible to soak a small biodegradable sponge with the drug and insert it into a cavity, where it triggers the growth of dentine and repairs the damage within six weeks. The tiny sponges are made out of collagen so they melt away over time, leaving only the repaired tooth.

Appendix Isn't Useless At All: It's A Safe House For Good Bacteria

Long denigrated as vestigial or useless, the appendix now appears to have a reason to be – as a "safe house" for the beneficial bacteria living in the human gut.

Drawing upon a series of observations and experiments, Duke University Medical Center investigators postulate that the beneficial bacteria in the appendix that aid digestion can ride out a bout of diarrhea that completely evacuates the intestines and emerge afterwards to repopulate the gut

Scientists can now grow a beating human heart from stem cells

A team of scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School have used adult skin cells to regenerate functional human heart tissue. The study, published in the journal Circulation Research, detailed that the team took adult skin cells, using a technique called messenger RNA to turn them into pluripotent stem cells, before inducing them to become two different types of cardiac cells.  Then for two weeks they infused the hearts with a nutrient solution, allowing them to develop under the same circumstances a heart would grow inside a human body. After the two week period, the hearts contained well-structured tissue, which appeared similar to that contained in developing human hearts. When shocked with electricity, they started beating.

Could your CAT give you Alzheimer's? Parasite found in feline feces 'increases risk of developing the crippling brain disease'

Scientists claims cats are putting their owners at risk of Alzheimer's.  The focus of investigation is Toxoplasma gondii, a single-cell parasite in cat feces. The parasite has been linked to brain cancer, anxiety and schizophrenia. Now researchers have found the parasite can lead to Alzheimer's disease

About one-third of people worldwide are suspected of having a T. gondii infection, and many more are at risk.  This includes cat owners, who don't wash their hands thoroughly after handling contaminated litter, and pregnant women, who can pass the infection to a child in the womb.  Once infection occurs, the parasite moves to the brain.

When Kale, coconuts, and avocados could be bad for you.

Experts say there’s something metallic lurking in those foods, in our water, and elsewhere that could be making us feel miserable. Anxiety, trouble focusing, exhaustion, and an all around mental funk are familiar symptoms for a lot of people....After some investigation Dr. Kogan — an internist — said she found that copper is increasingly the culprit. “These are wonderful things to have as part of our diet, but if somebody is consuming excess they could certainly be at risk,” she said.  At risk for a condition known as ‘copper toxicity.’  “If you had six cups of coffee and you’re feeling jittery, that’s the feeling to describe copper toxicity,” she explained.

Marijuana DOES cause schizophrenia and triggers heart attacks, experts say in landmark study that slams most of the drug's medical benefits as 'unproven'

In fact, the current lack of scientific information 'poses a public health risk,' said the report, released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.  The report lists nearly 100 conclusions about marijuana and its similarly acting chemical cousins, drawing on studies published since 1999.

It found strong evidence, for example, that marijuana can treat chronic pain in adults and that similar compounds ease nausea from chemotherapy, with varying degrees of evidence for treating muscle stiffness and spasms in multiple sclerosis.  Limited evidence says marijuana or the other compounds can boost appetite in people with HIV or AIDS, and ease symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, the report concluded.

Turning to potential harms, the committee concluded:  Strong evidence links marijuana use to the risk of developing schizophrenia and other causes of psychosis, with the highest risk among the most frequent users.  Some evidence suggests a small increased risk for developing depressive disorders, but there's no evidence either way on whether it affects the course or symptoms of such disorders, or the risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder....Substantial evidence links pot smoking to worse respiratory symptoms and more frequent episodes of chronic bronchitis.

Marijuana is far more damaging to young teenage brains than we thought, a new study claims.

They found adolescents who smoked pot as early as 14 fared far in cognitive tests when they reached 20 - and dropped out of school at a much higher rate than non-smokers.  There has been a surge in teen cannabis smokers in the last few years, with a 2014 report saying about a third of teenagers try the drug before they reach 15.  But scientists warn new research shows that it is far better for their brains if they wait until after they turn 17.

Planned Parenthood Caught Denying Women Prenatal Care: 92 of 97 Abortion Clinics Turned Them Away

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:46 PM | Permalink

Health roundup: Incremental care, healing wounds without scars and burns without skin grafts

The Heroism of Incremental Care by Atul Gawande in The New Yorker

We devote vast resources to intensive, one-off procedures, while starving the kind of steady, intimate care that often helps people more.....

Surgery was a definitive intervention at a critical moment in a person’s life, with a clear, calculable, frequently transformative outcome. Fields like primary-care medicine seemed, by comparison, squishy and uncertain. ...

Observing the care, I began to grasp how the commitment to seeing people over time leads primary-care clinicians to take an approach to problem-solving that is very different from that of doctors, like me, who provide mainly episodic care....  "It's the relationship."
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We’d begun collecting the data, developing the computational capacity to decode the patterns, and discovering the treatments that could change them. Seemingly random events were becoming open to prediction and alteration. Our frame of medical consideration could widen to encompass our entire life spans.

There is a lot about the future that remains unpredictable. Nonetheless, the patterns are becoming more susceptible to empiricism—to a science of surveillance, analysis, and iterative correction. The incrementalists are overtaking the rescuers. But the transformation has itself been incremental. So we’re only just starting to notice.

Scientists have figured out how to make wounds heal without scars

"Essentially, we can manipulate wound healing so that it leads to skin regeneration rather than scarring," said one of the team, "The secret is to regenerate hair follicles first. After that, the fat will regenerate in response to the signals from those follicles."

If you've ever wondered why scar tissue looks so different from regular skin, it's because scar tissue doesn't contain any fat cells or hair follicles. ...If hair follicles were induced to grow where a wound was healing, the resulting skin was found to be indistinguishable from pre-existing skin.

On the horizon.  Revolutionary burn treatment uses stem cell spray  Spray heals with little to no scarring

“Burns are absolutely one of the most devastating diseases known to man," said Dr. David N. Herndon, chief of staff and director of research at the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Galveston. When they're over 30 percent of the body they can be lethal. The list of physical and emotional complications from burn wounds goes on and on, and Herndon said with standard care (mesh skin grafting), the pain can last for weeks or even months.
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The SkinGun claims to take a postage-size sample of skin and extract the patient's own stem cells, then spray them onto the wound, avoiding skin grafts entirely. Plus, RenovaCare said, this does not have any legal limitations because the stem cells are not manipulated.  “I think this should work, in my mind, without exposing the patients to risk," Herndon said. "(There's) nothing but benefit, so I feel strongly this will be approved."

The company that makes the product is based in Berlin. By Skype, the CEO and president of RenovaCare, Thomas Bold, said the treatment is not yet available in the United States, but it should be.  “Normally, a wound heals from the edges to the middle, and the larger the wound and the longer the process takes, the higher is the risk for inflammation and scarring," Bold said. "What we are doing with our system, we are placing thousands and thousands of little regenerative islands throughout the wound. Those islands, those stem cells, connect to each other and close the wound really faster."

Next steps “Our next steps will be figuring out the efficiency and safety of the product and with the relevant clinical studies, but this we need to discuss and negotiate with the FDA, but these will be our next steps,” Bold said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:38 PM | Permalink

January 4, 2017

The Mesentery or the human organ you never heard of

It's official: A brand-new human organ has been classified

Researchers have classified a brand-new organ inside our bodies, one that's been hiding in plain sight in our digestive system this whole time. Although we now know about the structure of this new organ, its function is still poorly understood, and studying it could be the key to better understanding and treatment of abdominal and digestive disease.

Known as the mesentery, the new organ is found in our digestive systems, and was long thought to be made up of fragmented, separate structures. But recent research has shown that it's actually one, continuous organ. The evidence for the organ's reclassification is now published in The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology.

So what is the mesentery? It's a double fold of peritoneum — the lining of the abdominal cavity — that attaches our intestine to the wall of our abdomen, and keeps everything locked in place.

One of the earliest descriptions of the mesentery was made by Leonardo da Vinci, and for centuries it was generally ignored as a type of insignificant attachment. Over the past century, doctors who studied the mesentery assumed it was a fragmented structure made of separate sections, which made it pretty unimportant.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:41 AM | Permalink

December 30, 2016

Health Roundup: Alzheimer's, man flu, autism+Vitamin D

Statins link to reduced chance of Alzheimer's - major new study

A review of 400,000 patients established that those who took the tablets regularly slashed their chances of succumbing to the condition by between 12 and 15 per cent. Scientists behind the study say the link may be explained by an interplay between cholesterol, which is regulated by the drug, and beta-amyloid, which plays a role in dementia, or that an anti-inflammatory property of statins themselves could be protecting against the disease.

Man flu DOES exist! Viruses want to kill men more than women, study finds

Viruses such as HPV and TB are more likely to kill men than women, study shows. Researchers at Royal Holloway University found the pathogens had adapted to target men and cause less-severe disease in women. They believe it is because women are 'more valuable hosts' to pathogens. Women are more likely to pass the virus on to others such as babies by nursing

Could autism be linked to a lack of vitamin D?

Research reveals women who are deficient in it during pregnancy are more likely to have children who display 'autistic traits'
Lead researcher Professor John McGrath, from the University of Queensland, said this suggested vitamin D supplements could reduce the incidence of autism.  The study, led by researchers from the Queensland Brain Institute, looked at blood samples from more than 4,000 pregnant women and their children.

Women who had low vitamin D levels at 20 weeks' pregnant were more likely to have children displaying autistic traits by the age of six, the study found.  Professor McGrath said: 'This study provides further evidence that low vitamin D is associated with neuro-developmental disorders. 'Just as taking folate in pregnancy has reduced the incidence of spina bifida, the result of this study suggests that prenatal vitamin D supplements may reduce the incidence of autism.'

Homeopathy effective for 0 out of 68 illnesses, study finds

Treatment has 'no discernible convincing effects beyond placebo'

Though placebos can have an astonishing effect.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:15 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Beer edition

Don't want to go deaf? Have a pint of Guinness each day: High levels of iron helps to prevent hearing loss, study finds

Around 30 per cent of the world's population are believed to be anaemic - leaving them at risk of losing their ability to hear
A study of more than 300,000 people found a link between iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) and hearing loss. Pennsylvania State University researchers found a lack of the mineral can cause sensorinerual hearing loss - damage to the cochlea or nerve pathways. They also discovered it could also cause conductive hearing loss - problems with the bones in the middle of the ear.

A pint of Guinness each day may help to prevent you from going deaf, new research suggests. The popular beverage contains high levels of iron, which scientists believe helps to ward off hearing loss. In England, post operative patients used to be given Guinness because of its high iron content.  Although Guinness and its parent company, Diageo, make no such claims today, its advertising slogan from the 1920's was 'Guinness is good for you!' But nutritionists warn a pint contains less than three per cent of the iron needed daily.

Previous research suggested it may work as well as a low dose aspirin to prevent heart clots that raise the risk of heart attacks. It is believed antioxidant compounds in the drink, similar to those found in certain fruits and vegetables, are responsible for the health benefits because they slow down the deposit of harmful cholesterol on the artery walls.

How to cook healthy with BEER: Replace oil with ale when cooking it has nearly HALF the calories

Beer has around 75 calories per tablespoon while oil has up to 120 calories. Food fans suggest braising your meat in dark beer or add it to chili, stew or even your homemade burgers to give it a rich, dark flavor.

Toby Amidor, a registered dietician and author, says that beer can be considered a healthier alternative. She goes on to explain that beer can actually boost your health because it is packed with B vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus and selenium.  As well as claims from the University of Pennsylvania that with moderation dark ale or stout can protect you from heart attacks, beer can also strengthen your bones because it contains silicon which can help promote growth.

Don’t want a hangover on New Year’s Day? Then you should avoid spirits and just stick to beer, study finds

Hops in beer can lessen the harm done to the liver after a night of heavy drinking. They reduce the production of toxins that occur from alcohol such as spirits. Some of these molecules are believed to cause a headache the following day

Can music change the flavor of beer? Different sounds can transform your tastebuds.

High pitch notes from piano or flute and harmonies enhance the sweetness. Lower pitch tones made by brass instruments makes beer taste more bitter. The highest pitch notes along with some percussion like chimes or clapping can add a hint of sourness to an ale while dissonant notes can make it seem stronger.

Have some nuts with your beer.  Snacking On Nuts Can Reduce Risk Of Heart Disease, Cancer

A new study from European researchers in the journal BMC Medicine says eating a handful of nuts a day can cut down on several health risks. Data from more than 800,000 people who ate all kinds of nuts, including hazelnuts, walnuts and peanuts, shows they cut their risk of dying from heart disease by nearly 30 percent and cancer by 15 percent. The risk of premature death was also 22 percent lower for people who ate nuts. “It’s quite a substantial effect for such a small amount of food,” study co-author Dagfinn Aune said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:50 PM | Permalink

Easy-peasy resolutions for a healthier New Year

Don't eat too much kale or spinach.  How one woman's obsession with spinach and kale smoothies almost caused her to go BLIND after a build-up of a healthy compound clouded her vision

An Asian woman in her 60s was found to have high levels of lutein in her eye. She was taking supplements with her daily smoothies of leafy green vegetables. It caused her to develop crystalised deposits in her eyes - affecting her vision which can trigger age-related macular degeneration - a cause of blindness.  After stopping taking her supplements, her vision improved straight away

The advice to eat a diet rich in fruit and vegetables certainly still stands, but this study serves as an indicator that there can be too much of a good thing when it comes to eye-healthy foods. People should only be taking large doses of added supplements if their eye doctor has detected signs of age-related macular degeneration. Taking more than your body needs can potentially cause more harm than good.'

Don't obsess over a few extra pounds.  Why being chubby could help you live longer...and other fascinating reasons why fat isn't always your enemy, from a book by a top biochemist 

Obesity warnings are well-founded but we should not treat fat like the enemy. Having extremely low body fat can lead to deficiencies in vital vitamins. Researchers found that low body mass index (less than 20) in middle-age is linked to a 34 per cent higher risk for dementia later in life. ... Plump patients may live longer....Embrace extra fat after the menopause.

Take a quick break every hour or so to move around.  Work. Walk 5 Minutes. Work.

Stuck at your work desk? Standing up and walking around for five minutes every hour during the workday could lift your mood, combat lethargy without reducing focus and attention, and even dull hunger pangs, according to an instructive new study. Frequent, brief walking breaks were more effective at improving well-being than a single, longer walk before work.

Time your showers.  Shower in the morning to boost creativity and at night if you want to fall asleep:

Morning showers can help those who are feeling stressed due to work or under pressure to be creative.  Showering helps you relax but also makes you alert, so washing in the morning can stimulate creativity.  Night-time showers are helpful because they regulate body temperature which can help you fall asleep more easily.


Swim in the ocean. 
From soothing your skin to clearing up sinuses, expert reveals the benefits of swimming in the ocean

Historically, doctors would recommend their patients go to the seaside to improve various ills.  Using seawater for medical purposes even has a name: thalassotherapy.

Take care of someone elseGrandparents can enjoy 5 extra years of life if they occasionally care for their grandchildren

Experts assessed survival rates of more than 500 people between 70 and 103. They were split into 2 groups based on if they cared for their grandchildren. Half of those who cared for their young family members were alive 10 years later while around the same amount of those who didn't died within just 5 years.  Providing care to anyone was associated with 3 years of extra life.

Get more sleep.  You'll be happier, healthier and slimmer too.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:49 PM | Permalink

Health roundup: heartburn, 'sugar-free' and Parkinson's

Popular heartburn medications linked to higher risk of stroke

Millions of Americans take proton pump inhibitors to treat acid reflux and heartburn. Known as PPIs, they are among the most prescribed drugs in the United States and are widely available over the counter. The research was conducted in Denmark among a quarter-million patients who suffered from stomach pain and indigestion, and were taking one of four PPIs: Prilosec, Protonix, Prevacid or Nexium.  Overall stroke risk increased 21% among patients who were taking a PPI, according to the study. At the lowest doses, the authors found either no or minimal increased risk of stroke. At the highest doses, they found that stroke risk increased 33% for Prilosec and Prevacid patients, 50% for Nexium patients and 79% for Protonix patients.

Parkinson's could start in the GUT not the brain:

Scientists at California Institute of Technology find first ever link between the disease and gut microbes.  Studying mice, they managed to treat their symptoms with antibiotics.  The discovery, published today in the journal Cell, could overhaul medical research and treatment of Parkinson's.

Sugar-free products stop us getting slimmer

Researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital said,"We found that aspartame blocks a gut enzyme called intestinal alkaline phosphatase (IAP)," and its beneficial aspects.  IAP is produced in the small intestine. "We previously showed [this enzyme] can prevent obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

DNA linked to sugar cravings also leads to binge drinking, study finds. Is THIS the booze gene?

Beta-Klotho is activated in the brain by a hormone produced in the liver.  Around 60% of the population carry a variation, researchers found. Having the variant made adults drink an extra 0.97g of alcohol each day.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:16 PM | Permalink

December 29, 2016

Health Roundup - Good news

MS breakthrough: Doctors hail the discovery of a 'landmark' drug that alters the immune system

Ocrelizumab reported positive results in the treatment of one form of MS, primary progressive. It works by preventing the body's immune system from malfunctioning.  It was found only 33% of primary progressive patients deteriorated over time. However, 39% suffered from worsening symptoms after taking a placebo drug
The research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, involved testing on more than 700 patients across Europe and the US.

New antibiotic mined from human gut reverses drug resistance in superbugs

Using DNA sequences, scientists decode new antibiotics used in gut warfare.....The microbes bustling in our bellies may be gold mines for new antibiotic drugs, researchers report this week in Nature Chemical Biology. As proof of gut-bugs’ potential, the authors dug up a new bacteria-busting drug that can reverse resistance in pathogens and help kill off methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria. In mice with lethal MRSA infections, the drug helped cure 100 percent of infections.

Scientists have figured out how to help nerve fibers repair themselves

A team of scientist from the German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) began their research with the hypothesis that such a molecular brake naturally exists - something that stops neurons growing when we become adults and our bodies are fully formed.  But finding such a mechanism was like "looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack", according to lead researcher Frank Bradke.  By using a data-crunching approach called bioinformatics - where computers analyze and interpret biological information - the team eventually zeroed in on the gene they were looking for.

They have identified a gene that inhibits fibre regrowth when nerve connections become damaged. This gene, called Cacna2d2, acts as 'molecular brake', but now that we know how to turn the brake off, it could help us to develop treatments for conditions like paralysis and other spinal cord injuries.

Over 60,000 People Every Year Get Adult Stem Cell Treatments, Embryonic Cells Help No One

To date there is no proven success with human embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are the least likely type of stem cell to help any patients. Their very nature—a tendency to incessant growth—means that they are much more likely to form a tumor than to form healthy tissue, and so embryonic stem cells risk the life and health of those who are injected with them.

Even some embryonic stem cell advocates are beginning to admit failure. The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, charged with spending $3 billion of state taxpayer dollars primarily for embryonic stem cell and human cloning research, has lately been funding mostly grants for non-embryonic stem cell research, hoping that they will have something to show for their expenditures which so far have yielded nothing from embryonic stem cells.
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Adult stem cells remain the gold standard among stem cells when it comes to helping patients. For the latest facts on adult stem cell transplants see lozierinstitute.org.

In the last year, adult stem cells have been shown the potential to re-grow damaged heart muscle and reduce scars in the heart tissue.  They have been used to regrow new windpipes in patients with cancer or other tracheal problems. French scientists showed for the first time that a few adult stem cells from a patient could be used to grow enough red blood cells in the lab for a transfusion. The adult stem cells efficiently produced new cells that survived transfusion back into the patient’s body and functioned normally.

Ebola breakthrough as vaccine trial shows 'historic' 100% success rate

11,300 people died in West Africa's 2013-2016 epidemic of the virus.  New vaccine was found to be 100% successful in 2015 Guinea trial 
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:51 PM | Permalink

December 22, 2016

Health Roundup - sniff test Alzheimer's, aluminum, saunas, aging

A simple 'sniff test' is accurate in diagnosing Alzheimer's early on

The sense of smell is known to decline sharply in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.  Experts believe this is because the build-up of toxic clumps in the brain - the signature hallmark of dementia - affects the memory region. Asking people at risk to try and identify a range of odors could provide an accurate early diagnosis, a new study found.  The 5-minute test could also be used to detect mild cognitive impairment - the pre-cursor to the debilitating disease, it suggested.

The 5-minute test could also be used to detect mild cognitive impairment - the pre-cursor to the debilitating disease, it suggested. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania asked 728 elderly people to detect 16 different odors using the Sniffin' Sticks test - which was developed in Germany and available to buy online.

Saunas Help Your Brain, Says Deeply Finnish Study

Published in Age and Ageing and highlighted by the New York Times’ Well blog, the study tracked 2,315 healthy guys between the ages of 42 and 60 over the course of about 20 years.

After controlling for lots of things — age, alcohol, smoking, diabetes, resting heart rate, body mass index, and the like — the analysis found that the dudes who bathed in saunas four to seven times a week had a 65 percent lower risk of Alzheimer’s and a 66 percent lower risk of dementia compared to those who went just once a week.

Aluminum DOES cause Alzheimer's: Expert says new findings confirm the metal plays a role in the devastating brain disease

A link between aluminium and Alzheimer's disease has long existed.But many scientists says there is not enough evidence to blame the metal, used by thousands for everyday purposes to cook and store food.

However, Professor Chris Exley, from Keele University, says his latest research confirms it does indeed play a role in cognitive decline.  Alzheimer’s disease has a much earlier age of onset, for example, fifties or early sixties, in individuals who have been exposed to unusually high levels of aluminium in their everyday lives. We now show that some of the highest levels of aluminium ever measured in human brain tissue are found in individuals who have died with a diagnosis of familial Alzheimer’s disease.

Scientists reverse aging in mammals and predict human trials within 10 years

Using a new technique which takes adult cells back to their embryonic form, US researchers at the Salk Institute in California, showed it was possible to reverse aging in mice, allowing the animals to not only look younger, but live for 30 per cent longer.
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Dr Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a professor in Salk's Gene Expression Laboratory. “With careful modulation, aging might be reversed. Obviously, mice are not humans and we know it will be much more complex to rejuvenate a person. But this study shows that aging is a very dynamic and plastic process, and therefore will be more amenable to therapeutic interventions than what we previously thought."
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The breakthrough could also help people stay healthier for longer.  The aging population means that the risk of developing age-related diseases, such as dementia, cancer and heart disease also rises. But if the body could be kept younger for longer then it could prevent many deadly diseases for decades.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:45 PM | Permalink

December 10, 2016

Health Roundup - Good News

U.S. Dementia Rates Are Dropping Even as Population Ages

Dementia is actually on the wane. And when people do get dementia, they get it at older and older ages....The new study found that the dementia rate in Americans 65 and older fell by 24 percent over 12 years, to 8.8 percent in 2012 from 11.6 percent in 2000. That trend is “statistically significant and impressive.”

Playing harmonicas helps people with limited lung capacity breathe easier

The COPD Foundation helped 25 treatment centers offer weekly classes as part of its new Harmonicas for Health initiative? All that breathing in and out strengthens the diaphragm, allowing the patients in the program to breathe deeper. The harmonica players also say they experience reduced anxiety, a renewed sense of purpose, a decrease in social isolation and just plain old fun .

The Many Benefits of Choir Singing When You’re Older  It's a way to improve memory, reduce stress and make breathing easier

Using Ecstasy to treat PTSD: ‘I felt like my soul snapped back into place’ said Jessi Appleton after three sessions. 

Appleton, 32, was treated in Boulder, Colorado, in a study arranged and funded by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), an organization that has long pursued a strategy of supporting rigorous scientific research into otherwise illegal drugs. On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the treatment an important boost, when agency officials met with officials from MAPS to start clearing the way for one or more large-scale research studies.

Man 'cured' of prostate cancer after doctors shock tumor to death with testosterone

Professor Sam Denmeade, from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, US, who led the study, said: ""Our goal is to shock the cancer cells by exposing them rapidly to very high followed by very low levels of testosterone in the blood. The results are unexpected and exciting. ...The treatment is revolutionary because testosterone is generally assumed to fuel prostate cancer.

Tasmanian devil's milk can KILL the most deadly drug-resistant bacteria known - including golden staph

The Tasmanian devil, the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world is the size of a small dog and can be found only on the Australian island state of Tasmania.  Biologist Emma Peel was inspired by the fact that under-developed Tasmanian Devils don't get sick in the pouch.

Sydney University researchers found that the milk of the Tasmanian Devil has been shown to kill some of the most deadly bacterial and fungal infections, including golden staph.  This is due to the peptides contained in the milk having six naturally occurring anti-microbes which researches have set about replicating.  'We showed that these devil peptides kill multi-drug resistant bacteria, which is really cool,' Ms Peel told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:29 PM | Permalink

September 22, 2016

Chronic fatigue syndrome

Researchers just linked chronic fatigue to changes in gut bacteria

Researchers have identified biological markers in both gut bacteria and blood that can be used to diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome - also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis, or ME/CFS - in more than 80 percent of patients tested.  ME/CFS is currently difficult to diagnose – it was only last year that it was properly classified as a real disease, and the existing treatment options are limited and controversial... the researchers found that ME/CFS patients had less diversity in their gut bacteria than the control group - specifically, fewer bacterial species that were anti-inflammatory and more which were pro-inflammatory....

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The CDC reports that  one million Americans have CFS. This illness strikes more people in the United States than multiple sclerosis, lupus, and many forms of cancer....CFS occurs four times more frequently in women than in men;... The illness occurs most often in people in their 40s and 50s...CFS occurs in all ethnic and racial groups and in countries around the world....People of all income levels can develop CFS.  With his son terribly ill, a top scientist takes on chronic fatigue syndrome

The Implosion of a Breakthrough Study on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

In 2011, a study published in The Lancet claimed that it had done exactly that: The data, the authors declared, showed that a combination of exercise and talk therapy could significantly alleviate the symptoms of the disease, and even cure it fully in up to 20 percent of cases. Immediately, the study (also called the PACE trial) was both hailed as a great leap forward and criticized as bad science.

And now, definitive proof has emerged that the latter camp was correct. In a column published in Stat today, writer Julie Rehmeyer — herself a CFS patient — explained how a supposed breakthrough blew up so spectacularly. Soon after the study was published, Rehmeyer wrote, she and other CFS patients, skeptical of the study’s claims, began to examine it more closely. What they found looked a lot like manipulated data:

Bad science misled millions with chronic fatigue syndrome. Here’s how we fought back by Julie Rehmeyer

But patients like me were immediately skeptical, because the results contradicted the fundamental experience of our illness: The hallmark of ME/CFS is that even mild exertion can increase all the other symptoms of the disease, including not just profound fatigue but also cognitive deficits, difficulties with blood pressure regulation, unrestorative sleep, and neurological and immune dysfunction, among others.

Soon after I was diagnosed in 2006, I figured out that I had to rest the moment I thought, “I’m a little tired.” Otherwise, I would likely be semi-paralyzed and barely able to walk the next day.

Research published the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggest Chronic fatigue syndrome may be a human version of 'hibernation'

After looking at the 612 different metabolites...They found that 80 percent of the metabolites were lower in those with CFS. They also found what they described as “abnormalities” in 20 of the metabolic pathways. All this suggests that the metabolism of people with CFS is markedly slowed down.....although humans do not, in fact, hibernate, he said the “metabolic signature” is similar to that of animals in hibernation.... If that were the case, he explained, curing people of CFS may be akin to waking the body up. Davis said it’s possible that the treatment may not be anything radical; it might involve putting the body back in balance with the right mix of diet and supplements.

But even Davis cautioned that however alluring the paper’s implications are, “it is only a hypothesis.”  The scientists are now trying to replicate the PNAS study with a larger sample size.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:08 PM | Permalink

September 18, 2016

Let them eat dirt

In the Wall Street Journal, more evidence on the importance of the microbes in our gut to our health.

Get Your Children Good and Dirty

Most human communities have experienced the benefits of medical advances like antibiotics, vaccines and sterilization, which have radically reduced the number and severity of infections that we suffer throughout life. Dying from a microbial infection is now a very rare event in the Western world, and, in the U.S., lifespans have increased by some 30 years since 1915—in large part because of success against infectious diseases.

Our anti-microbe mission has been accompanied, in industrialized countries, by an explosion in the prevalence of chronic noninfectious diseases and disorders. Diabetes, allergies, asthma, inflammatory bowel diseases, autoimmune diseases, autism, obesity and certain types of cancer are at an all-time high. The incidence of some of these disorders is doubling every 10 years, and they are starting to appear sooner in life, often in childhood.

The practical upshot of all this research is clear: Our health depends to a large degree on maintaining a robust and diverse community of microorganisms in our bodies—and establishing good gut-health as children is especially important.

Inflammatory diseases (such as asthma, allergies and inflammatory bowel disease) and metabolic diseases (such as obesity and diabetes) are characterized by alterations in our immune system and our metabolic regulation. Knowing what we do now about the role of the microbiota, it is not surprising that these diseases are being diagnosed in more children. They are, to a great extent, a consequence of relatively recent changes in our lifestyle—modern diet, oversanitization, excessive use of antibiotics—that have altered the specific microbes that affect our metabolism early on.

Never before in human history have babies and children grown up so cleanly, and our diets have lost many of the elements most crucial to the health of our guts. We have become very bad hosts to our microbes.  By preventing babies and children from following their innate impulse to get dirty, we shield them from the microbial exposure that is essential for the development of a healthy immune system.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:34 PM | Permalink

September 17, 2016

Health Roundup: HRT triples breast cancer risk, new lung cancer drug and new CLL cancer drug,

HRT triples the risk of breast cancer, longest ever study shows

Now new findings by the Institute of Cancer Research and Breast Cancer Now suggest the original risk had actually been underestimated.  A study of 100,000 women over 40 years found those who took the combined estrogen and progestogen pill for around five years were 2.7 times more likely to develop cancer compared to women who took nothing, or only the estrogen pill. The risk rose to 3.3 times for women who took the drugs for 15 years or more. “We found that current use of combined HRT increases the risk of breast cancer by up to threefold, depending on how long HRT has been used.

Breakthrough lung cancer drug could detect it early and stop the deadly disease from spreading around the body

Melbourne researchers discovers new drug that could stop lung cancer. They identified an inflammation-causing molecule (Interleukin 6 or Il-6) that triggers the lung disease.  Lung cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the lung grow in an uncontrolled way. It often spreads (metastasizes) to other parts of the body before the cancer can be detected in the lungs.

The drug, which is currently undergoing clinical human trials to fight inflammatory bowel disease in Europe, appears to shut the signaling system down that is responsible for developing lung cells.  The drug contains a naturally occurring receptor that could potentially block the molecule from attaching itself to lung cells - the most aggressive form of the disease - and stop tumor growth.

German collaborators at the University of Kiel have developed a radical new drug sgp130Fc in a bid to target a similar signaling process in inflammatory bowel disease. The drug contains a naturally occurring receptor that could potentially block the molecule from attaching itself to lung cells - the most aggressive form of the disease - and stop tumor growth.

Prof Jenkins, who is monitoring the European trials, said the existing drug has been effective in halting the disease that could help the tens of thousands of lung-cancer patients. "You see a dramatic reduction in the amount of tumors forming - they just don't seem to grow anywhere near as well as the tumors would if sgp130Fc was not there. It is very effective at blocking and retarding the growth of these tumors."

The US has given fast-track approval to a surprising new cancer drug for CLL  "Even when it's killing cells, you feel great."

A new cancer drug called Venetoclax is causing quite a stir in the medical community, with the announcement that the US FDA has given it fast-track approval for the treatment of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).  CLL is one of the most common types of leukemia in adults, and during a recent clinical trial, 80 percent of patients treated with Venetoclax experienced complete or partial remission of their cancer. Developed in Australia over several decades, Venetoclax is taken in pill-form, and of the small sample of patients who have been treated with it so far, some reported no adverse side-effects at all.
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So, how does the drug work? Venetoclax is one of a new generation of immunotherapy cancer drugs that are designed to address certain failings of a person’s own immune system - such as missing portions of chromosomes that inhibit the cells’ ability to fight the spread of cancer...."Venetoclax works by specifically blocking the action of that BCL2, and allows the cells to die in the way that they were destined to." So rather than killing off the cancer cells - and a bunch of healthy cells in the vicinity - like current treatments like chemo and radiotherapy do, the drug reestablishes the balance of the body’s immune system, and effectively allows the cancer cells to die on their own.

Cancer 'smoke detector' test can spot the disease 10 years before symptoms appear

A revolutionary blood test, which acts like a smoke detector to spot cancer up to 10 years before symptoms appear, could be available within five years. Scientists at Swansea University have discovered that mutations occur in red blood cells way before any signs of cancer are evident. They have devised a simple test which hunts for the mutations and can indicate if cancer is present in just a couple of hours.
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The scientists look for mutated blood cells that have lost sticky Velcro-like proteins, which help other proteins attach to the cell. In healthy people only a few mutated cells are found per million. But in people with cancer the figure jumps by more than ten fold.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:54 PM | Permalink

The Fight Against Superbugs

The breath test that proves which patients really DO need antibiotics - and could help slow the drug resistance crisis

A simple breath test could soon help doctors in the war against superbugs.  Scientists have worked out how to instantly tell whether someone needs antibiotics for a chest complaint. Compounds were found in patients' breath who have respiratory infections; those who exhaled certain compounds also had specific bug in their lungs  The research, which experts hope will eventually be used to build a licensed breath test, could slash the rate of antibiotics prescribed for coughs and colds.  Experts fear that the overuse of antibiotics is driving a superbug epidemic that will kill more people than cancer by 2050.

Scientists just found a compound that kills 98% of a drug-resistant bacteria

Researchers have discovered a compound in an Antarctic sea sponge that's capable of killing 98 percent of the drug-resistant superbug, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus - better known as MRSA - which is rapidly spreading throughout the US.

The discovery of this new compound, which has been named 'darwinolide', is so exciting. Researchers found it inside an Antarctic sponge, Dendrilla membranosa, and initial lab tests have shown that it's able to kill 98.4 percent of MRSA cells.

Could this be the end of SUPERBUGS? Scientists create a protein which 'rips apart' and destroys antibiotic-resistant bacteria

The star-shaped 'peptide polymers' - dubbed SNAPPs - tear down cell walls in their attempts to defeat mutated bugs, experts claim.  They aren't toxic to the body and pose no risk to patients.  Genetically engineered, the molecules kill bacteria in different ways than most antibiotics which are designed to halt growth. Images appear to show bacteria exploding when attacked by the proteins.  Lead researcher Shu Lam said: 'This discovery could potentially be developed as an antibiotic replacement for treating bacterial infections that do not respond to currently available antibiotics anymore.We are still at a preliminary stage and need to perform more detailed assessments on the star peptide polymers."

Your Next Antibiotic Might Be a Virus

When a 43-year-old Chicago woman caught a sinus infection in 2009, she never imagined it could kill her. But five years later, after multiple antibiotics had failed to work, her body began to shut down: She could barely eat, her vision suffered, her head spun, and her joints ached. She had contracted methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), one of about 20 multidrug-resistant superbugs that together infect about two million people in the United States every year, killing 23,000 of them. 

Desperate, the woman turned to the internet, where she discovered a treatment called phage therapy, an alternative to antibiotics that is not currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration but is attracting excitement as our national stockpile of antibiotics grows increasingly less potent. In July of last year, the world's first scientific trial of the therapy began in Europe. In January, the National Institutes of Health dedicated funds to studying it here. And this month, a startup called AmpliPhi Biosciences, in partnership with the U.S. Army, released the results of the first major FDA study of the treatment's safety. 

This is a coup for a medical technique that was popular before the discovery of penicillin and which has for years only been available in countries like Russia, Georgia, and Poland. It's a lot like returning to old warplanes from modern fighter jets and realizing that the original planes had certain advantages all along.

The "phage" in phage therapy is short for bacteriophage, which is a type of virus that infects bacteria rather than people.  "Phages are extremely specific for the bacteria we want to kill," says Robert Ramig, a microbiologist at Baylor College of Medicine. Each virus prefers a single species, so doctors can target bad bacteria and spare beneficial strains. In cases where bacteria develop resistance to the phages, doctors just create a new cocktail. Or they can give patients phages and antibiotics at the same time. "For some reason, when bacteria become resistant to phages, they lose their resistance to antibiotics, which often become effective again," says Ramig. "The bacteria lose either way.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:55 PM | Permalink

Revolutionary Alzheimer's Drug

Alzheimer's: New drug that halts mental decline is 'best news for dementia in 25 years'

The first drug that can prevent Alzheimer’s disease is finally on the horizon after scientists proved they can clear the sticky plaques from the brain which cause dementia and halt mental decline.  Hailed as the "best news" in dementia research for 25 years, the breakthrough is said to be a potential "game changer" for people with Alzheimer’s.

Scientists said they were amazed to find that patients treated with the highest dose of the antibody drug aducanumab experienced an almost complete clearance of the amyloid plaques that prevent brain cells communicating, leading to irreversible memory loss and cognitive decline.

Crucially they also found that after six months of the treatment, patients stopped deteriorating compared with those taking a placebo, suggesting that their dementia had been halted. "The results of this clinical study make us optimistic that we can potentially make a great step forward in treating Alzheimer's disease," said Prof Roger Nitsch, at the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Zurich.“In the high dose group the amyloid has almost completely disappeared. The effect size of this drug is unprecedented.

Could this be the end of Alzheimer's? Revolutionary drug 'may stop the disease from ever developing'

While current therapies ease the symptoms, aducanumab tackles the underlying damage in the brain, raising hopes it will be the first to alter the course of the disease.  It contains an antibody that homes in on amyloid, the protein that clogs the brain in Alzheimer's, poisoning and killing the cells. In future, healthy pensioners could be prescribed the drug to ward off dementia, in much the same way as statins are given today to those at risk of heart attacks.

FDA fast-tracks Biogen drug, Aducanumab

The Massachusetts-based biotech company Biogen will bring the product  to market.  The drug which targets brain plaque in Alzheimer’s has been granted a speedier process based on its success, and is now undergoing phase III trials, which doctors say will determine how effective the drug is in large populations.  If successful, it would be the first Alzheimer’s treatment approved by the Food and Drug Administration in over a decade.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:22 PM | Permalink

August 15, 2016

Health Roundup Alzheimer's

Marijuana compound removes toxic Alzheimer's protein from the brain

An active compound in marijuana called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has been found to promote the removal of toxic clumps of amyloid beta protein in the brain, which are thought to kickstart the progression of Alzheimer's disease. The finding supports the results of previous studies that found evidence of the protective effects of cannabinoids, including THC, on patients with neurodegenerative disease.

David Schubert from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California and his colleagues  tested the effects of THC on human neurons grown in the lab that mimic the effects of Alzheimer's disease.  He said, "Although other studies have offered evidence that cannabinoids might be neuro-protective against the symptoms of Alzheimer's, we believe our study is the first to demonstrate that cannabinoids affect both inflammation and amyloid beta accumulation in nerve cells."

Decrease in blood flow to the brain is 'earliest sign of Alzheimer's'

A landmark study has identified the first physiological sign of late-onset Alzheimer's.  Contrary to previous understanding, brain scans show a decrease in blood flow through the brain is the earliest indicator that a patient has the disease. An increase in amyloid protein was thought to be the number one sign. But while amyloid plays a role, experts at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital have determined that blood flow decreases first in the most thorough study ever published on Alzheimer's. They also found that changes in cognition begin earlier than previously thought.

Scientists REVERSE memory loss 'for the first time' in Alzheimer's patients with changes to sleep, diet, medication and exercise

The new research was a collaboration between the Buck Institute for Research on Aging and the UCLA Easton Laboratories for Neurodegenerative Disease Research.  A study of 10 patients found they all showed memory improvements; all have since been able to return to their jobs or continue working.

Study leader Dr Dale Bredesen hopes it could pave the way for the first effective treatment for the disease since it was first described more than 100 years ago.  He said his approach is personalized, tailored to each individual patient - and is based on extensive testing to help determine the best therapies for each patient's brain.

'Imagine having a roof with 36 holes in it, and your drug patched one hole very well,' he said. 'The drug may have worked, and a single hole may have been fixed, but you still have 35 other leaks, and so the underlying process may not be affected much.' He went on: 'All of these patients had either well-defined mild cognitive impairment (MCI), subjective cognitive impairment (SCI) or had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's before beginning the regimen. 'But follow up testing showed some of the patients going from abnormal to normal.'

Vaccine to halt dementia in its tracks 'is five years away': Treatment will target problem that triggers condition and one that causes it to worsen

A vaccine which protects against dementia could be available within five years.  Scientists believe they have made a breakthrough development which could stop Alzheimer’s disease in its tracks when given to people diagnosed in the early stages. They hope it will allow patients to carry on their lives much as normal while the progression of the condition is delayed by years – and perhaps for good.
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As a preventative measure, the drug could even be given like a flu jab to over-50s or at risk groups. Experts believe delaying the development of Alzheimer’s by just five years could halve the number of people dying with the condition. The vaccine formula, worked on by researchers in the US and Australia, is the first to target both the protein believed to trigger Alzheimer’s and one which causes it to worsen.  These proteins tend to become misshapen and group together to form ‘clumps’ in the brain.

The vaccine is designed to stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies which dissolve the clumps, latch on to the proteins and take them out of the brain and into the blood stream, where they can be broken down. Researchers said the formula is boosted by a ‘turbo charger’ which makes it between 100 and 1,000 times more effective than previously tested vaccines.  Their work showed the vaccine was successful on mice. It will now be tested in humans in the US and, if trials go well, it could be available in five to six years.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:05 PM | Permalink

August 1, 2016

"47% of Americans have had their medical record hacked in the past 12 months."

On The Dark Web, Medical Records Are A Hot Commodity

More than 113 million medical records were hacked in 2015 alone, according to data compiled by the Health and Human Services. A newly released report from the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology, a cybersecurity think tank, found that some 47% of Americans have had their medical record hacked in the past 12 months. As cardiologist and author Eric Topol points out, the majority of patients haven't ever accessed their medical record before that happens.
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On the dark web, medical records draw a far higher price than credit cards. Hackers are well aware that it's simple enough to cancel a credit card, but to change a social security number is no easy feat. Banks have taken some major steps to crack down on identity theft. But hospitals, which have only transitioned en masse from paper-based to digital systems in the past decade, have far fewer security protections in place.
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On the dark web, complete medical records typically contain an individual's name, birthdate, social security number, and medical information. These records can sell for as much as (the bitcoin equivalent) of $60 apiece, whereas social security numbers are a mere $15. Stolen credit cards sell for just $1 to $3. During the tour, we spotted one hacker who claimed to have a treasure trove of just shy of 1 million full health records up for grabs.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:28 PM | Permalink

June 11, 2016

Health Roundup: Missing Y chromosome, Alzheimer's, Migraines

Revealed, why women live longer: Male genes that may protect against dementia and cancer 'often go missing with age'

Researchers say that the Y chromosome, or more specifically, the loss of it, may be to blame for men’s shorter lifespans. Only found in men, the Y chromosome contains the DNA that makes males male and is present in almost every cell in the body. But, in some men, it starts to disappear from some of their blood cells as they get older. Previous research has shown these men are more likely to die young and to suffer from a range of cancers.

Now, scientists have also linked loss of the Y chromosome to Alzheimer’s disease. And they say that while the missing DNA has no effect on a man’s manliness, it may help explain why males, as a whole, tend to die younger. The researchers, from Uppsala University in Sweden, came up with the theory after studying more than 3,200 men aged between 37 and 96. Tests showed the Y chromosome to be missing from white blood cells in roughly one in five men. And the older they were, the more common it was....Health records showed Alzheimer’s disease to be almost three times as common in men affected by the phenomenon.

Rowan Led Research Team Develops Highly Accurate Blood Test For Alzheimer’s Disease

Early detection of Alzheimer’s Disease may be more possible than ever thanks to a group of researchers from Rowan University.  The group announced that they have developed a blood test that uses the immune system to find early stage Alzheimer’s in patients. The study included 236 subjects.  In terms of identifying early Alzheimer’s in patients with mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, the overall accuracy rate was 100 percent, according to the researchers.

Cassandra DeMarshall, the lead author of the study, said that 60 percent of patients with MCI, have it due to an early stage of Alzheimer’s. “Our results show that it is possible to use a small number of blood-borne autoantibodies to accurately diagnose early-stage Alzheimer’s. These findings could eventually lead to the development of a simple, inexpensive and relatively noninvasive way to diagnose this devastating disease in its earliest stages.”

What's the best thing you can do to avoid dementia? EXERCISE!

Regular exercise from the age of 40 can help prevent Alzheimer's disease.  Researchers at the University of Melbourne, tracked 387 women aged 45 to 55 over 20 years.  They assessed a range of lifestyle factors over the course of 20 years including exercise, diet, education, smoking, height, weight and BMI.  They found  exercise was the most important factor in preventing dementia. Any intensity from walking the dog to mountain climbing has benefits. Experts say every year counts, so the sooner a person exercises the better.

New drug for migraines.  injection 'halves' the number of attacks by blocking chemical to blame

Trials of the new drug, which is delivered via a monthly injection, suggests it could halve the number of attacks for at least 53 per cent of people. ..Study author Dr Marcelo Bigal, of American firm Teva Pharmaceuticals which developed the TEV-48125 drug, said: ‘Most people who receive preventive medication for chronic migraine stop using them, and one reason for that is the drugs can take a long time to become effective.

Described as one of the few true ‘holy grails’ of medical research, an injection to truly tackle migraines is being pursued by drugs giants Amgen, Eli Lilly and Alder, who are each competing with Teva to get the first license for the medication.  The four companies are each developing variants of a drug which tackles a protein called calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), which triggers the pain and nausea associated with a migraine....

CGRP causes the swelling of blood vessels intertwined with nerve endings on both sides of the head. Researchers have found that monoclonal blood proteins – antibodies specifically engineered to bind to CGRP – were able to ‘mop up’ the chemical, meaning it did not trigger a migraine.

Are migraines triggered by a lack of sunshine? Those who suffer attacks are 'often lacking vitamin D'

A lack of the sunshine could be triggering migraine attacks in children, teenagers and young adults, a study has found. Migraine attacks cause dizziness, nausea and headaches - and although painkillers and other drugs can ease the symptoms, they only work for some patients. Now a study has found a lack of vitamin D, vitamin B2 or riboflavin and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) - an enzyme the body produces to help energy for cell growth and maintenance - in a high percentage of migraine sufferers.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:32 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Cannabis, autism and depression

Smoking cannabis ALTERS your DNA 'causing mutations that can trigger serious illness, including cancer'

Dr Stuart Reece, and Professor Gary Hulse from the University of Western Australia's School of Psychiatry, analyzed literary and research material to understand the likely causes.  Dr Reece said: 'Through our research we found that cancers and illnesses were likely caused by cell mutations resulting from cannabis properties having a chemical interaction with a person's DNA. With cannabis use increasing globally in recent years, this has a concerning impact for the population.'

While a person may appear healthy and lead a normal life, the unseen damage to their DNA could also be passed on to their children, and cause illness for several generations to come.'Even if a mother has never used cannabis in her life, the mutations passed on by a father's sperm can cause serious and fatal illnesses in their children,' Dr Reece said. 'The parents may not realize that they are carrying these mutations, which can lie dormant and may only affect generations down the track, which is the most alarming aspect.'

Smoking pot 'increases baby's risk of asthma, premature birth and mother's risk of high blood pressure'

Smoking both cannabis and tobacco during pregnancy creates a greater health risk to your unborn baby, than cigarettes alone, experts have warned. Though the statement may sound obvious, more women are using cannabis while they are expecting, as it becomes legal in more places.    Between 2 and 11% of pregnant American women smoke pot, experts say.

Cannabis IS addictive - and smoking it harms the brain permanently research suggests

Researchers showed long term marijuana users pictures of the drug or fruit. Brain circuit controlling pleasure was more active when they saw drug. This suggests using cannabis regularly over years changes the brain.

Now, scientists have discovered why: smoking cannabis long term disrupts certain brain circuits, leading to cravings and dependency. These changes mark the difference between occasional users and people who have become dependent, researchers said. Despite the drug causing problems in people's lives - such as family and relationship issues - they carried on using it, a sign of psychological dependence, researchers said.

Autism is NOT just a disease of the brain: Sensitivity to touch, anxiety and difficulty socializing 'may be caused by nerve problems in the legs, arms and hands'

Until now, it was believed autism was cause by abnormal brain development.  Now, scientists believe some aspects of the disorder may occur as a result of problems with nerves found in the arms, legs, hands, fingers and skin that send sensory information to the brain.

Symptoms including being sensitive to touch, having difficulties with social interaction and anxiety might be caused by defects in the sensory nerves that run through the body.  Harvard Medical School experts believe that in people with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), these sensory nerves are defective due to gene mutations.  This means the 'volume' is turned up all the way in these nerve cells, meaning touch is felt at an exaggerated, heightened level - and this can lead to anxiety and behavioral problems. Defects in touch processing may help to explain some of the behaviors observed in patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Blood test to personalize depression treatment for the first time

Scientists at King's College London have developed a blood test that accurately and reliably predicts whether depressed patients will respond to common antidepressants, which could herald a new era of personalized treatment for people with depression. Guided by this test, patients with blood inflammation above a certain threshold could be directed towards earlier access to more assertive antidepressant strategies, such as a combination of antidepressants, before their condition worsens.

Approximately half of all depressed patients do not respond to first-line antidepressants and a third of patients are resistant to all available pharmacological treatments. Until now, it has been impossible to establish if individual patients will respond to common antidepressants or if they need a more assertive antidepressant treatment plan, which may include a combination of more than one medication.

As a result, patients are treated with a trial-and-error approach whereby one antidepressant is tried after another, often for 12 or more weeks for every type of antidepressant. This can result in long periods of ineffective antidepressant treatment for individuals who may not show an improvement in symptoms anyway.

Giving young people antidepressants 'may do more harm than good' and increase the risk of suicide

Most available antidepressants do not help children and teenagers with serious mental health problems and some may be unsafe, experts have warned.  A review of clinical trial evidence found that of 14 antidepressant drugs only one, fluoxetine - marketed as Prozac - was better than a 'dummy' placebo at relieving the symptoms of young people with major depression.
Another drug, venlafaxine, was associated with an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.

Researchers recommended close monitoring of young people on antidepressants, regardless of what drugs they were prescribed, especially at the start of treatment.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:14 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Stem cell breakthroughs in treating stroke, MS and Bubble Baby disease

Major breakthrough as doctors REVERSE symptoms of a stroke- up to 3 YEARS later

Doctors have reversed the symptoms of stroke in a major medical breakthrough. Patients regained the ability to walk, speak and have a normal family life, thanks to a procedure requiring only local anesthetic and a single night in hospital.  Remarkably, the stem cell treatment was shown to work even three years after someone had suffered a stroke - meaning that millions of people could potentially benefit from the treatment.

Eighteen patients underwent the procedure in an initial trial - with stunning results. Despite the long gap between stroke and treatment, all 18 patients in the pilot showed increasing improvement for the 12 months they were tracked after the operation. Nearly half showed ‘clinically meaningful’ results - which meant the procedure had a significant impact on their lifestyle.
One patient who relied on a wheelchair, unable to properly use her legs, has since taken up jogging. Another woman, who could barely get to her feet before the operation, has since walked down the aisle and is now expecting a baby with her new husband.  And another, completely paralyzed apart from the use of her left thumb, has regained the ability to walk.

The treatment, carried out by scientists at Stanford University in California, is thought to be so effective because it triggers the rapid regeneration of brain circuits damaged during a stroke. But the team has already started on work to replicate their results on a larger scale, and if that is successful the technique has great potential to revolutionize life for stroke patients.

Hope for multiple sclerosis cure as 23 seriously ill patients recover after 'breakthrough' stem cell treatment

Multiple sclerosis patients who were severely disabled are walking, working and even downhill skiing again following a breakthrough therapy which completely destroys, then rebuilds, the immune system.  The trial, which is the first in the world to show complete long-term remission from the debilitating disease has been hailed by experts as ‘exciting’ ‘unprecedented,’ and ‘close to curative.’

Although it is unclear what causes MS it is thought that the immune system attacks the protective coating which surrounds nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord leading to inflammation, pain, disability and in severe cases, early death.

The new technique, which is a treatment usually used to fight leukemia, involves using chemotherapy to entirely eradicate the damaged immune system, before rebooting it with a transfusion of bone marrow cells.

Out of the 24 patients who were given the treatment at least seven years ago, the majority have seen significant improvements . 70 per cent of patients saw a complete stop to the progression of the disease, while 40 per cent saw a reversal in symptoms such as vision loss, muscle weakness and balance loss.

Dr Mark Freedman, of the University of Ottawa and Ottawa Hospital, where the trials were carried out, said: “Jennifer, she freaked me out one day when she came to the clinic wearing high heels. This was a girl who could barely walk.”

Stem Cell Breakthrough: UCLA Researcher Pioneers Gene Therapy Cure for Children with “Bubble Baby” Disease

UCLA stem cell researchers cured 18 children born without a working immune system due to life-threatening ADA-deficient Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) Breakthrough stem cell gene therapy developed by Dr. Donald Kohn and team identifies and corrects faulty gene in children with ADA-deficient SCID using child’s own cells

Children born with adenosine deaminase (ADA)-deficient severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), often called “Bubble Baby” disease, a life-threatening condition that if left untreated can be fatal within the first year of life. To date, 18 children with SCID have been cured of the disease after receiving the stem cell gene therapy in clinical trials at UCLA and the National Institutes of Health.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:47 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Health Roundup: Arthritis and Cataracts

Could tiny worm hold the key to treating arthritis?

A tiny worm could help bring relief to millions of chronic arthritis sufferers, scientists claim.A study has found that the immune response triggered by infection with a parasite called N. brasiliensis eases rheumatoid arthritis.  Experiments with the parasite could bring hope of new treatments for people with the debilitating condition, and cut the need for expensive hip and knee replacements.
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One of the most common forms of the disease, rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system attacks the joints by mistake. The wrists, fingers, toes, ankles and knees are particularly susceptible.  Current drugs do not work for everyone, and one in three sufferers give up work within ten years of diagnosis. Those whose joints have been very badly damaged can undergo hip or knee replacements. However this involves a major operation, as well as months of rehabilitation, and the new joints have a limited lifespan.

When the German researchers infected arthritis-stricken mice with the worm, the creatures’ health improved. Inflammation was cut and damage to cartilage reduced, the journal Nature Communications reports.  It is thought that the immune response triggered by the worm – which normally lives in rats’ stomachs – counteracts the rogue immune response behind the disease. Parasitic worms have already been used to successfully treat other illnesses in which the immune system turns on the body, including Crohn’s disease.

Researchers Develop ‘Holy Grail’ Eye Drop to Prevent, Treat Cataracts Without Surgery

Researchers at Louisiana State University have formulated drops made of nanoparticles that are able to efficiently deliver into the eye lens the natural substance called lutein–which is plentiful in youthful eyes, but diminishes in old age....  Cataracts are a common condition in older adults that causes the lens of the eye to become cloudy and block light from the retina. There were more than 24 million cases of cataracts in the U.S. in 2010.

Professor Cristina Sabliov and assistant professor Carlos Astete in the LSU AgCenter Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering found a way to use nanoparticles to make the plant-based anti-oxidant more absorbent for humans. “The nanoparticle matrix can deliver lutein to the eye efficiently, which improves its effect against cataracts,” Sabliov said. This new product would have the unique advantage of both being able to prevent cataracts before they start or to treat cataracts after they form,” she said.

Tests on rats have been successful in reducing the size of cataracts in just one week, but the team expects further animal tests and human tests to take years before the eye drops can hit the market
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:56 PM | Permalink

May 27, 2016

Health Roundup: Superbug, antibiotics, fecal transplant, natural killer immune cells, adult ADHD

Superbug resistant to ALL drugs reaches the US

A woman in Pennsylvania has become the first American to test positive for a strain of bacteria that is resistant to all antibiotics, even those used as the last line of defense....

CDC director, Dr Tom Frieden, said: 'It basically shows us that the end of the road isn't very far away for antibiotics, that we may be in a situation where we have patients in our intensive-care units, or patients getting urinary tract infections for which we do not have antibiotics.
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Dr Gerry Wright, director of the Michael G.DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at McMaster University said while serious, the discovery of the strain in the US was to be expected. 'The mcr-1 gene has been reported across the globe since it was first reported in November of last year. The US was actually not an anomaly in not finding it until now. I expect it's been around for some time, just not detected.  Because the patient has no reported travel history, you can predict with certainty that mcr-1 is established in the USA.'

Antibiotics that kill gut bacteria also stop growth of new brain cells

"We found prolonged antibiotic treatment might impact brain function," says senior author Susanne Asu Wolf of the Max-Delbrueck-Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin, Germany. "But probiotics and exercise can balance brain plasticity and should be considered as a real treatment option."

Fecal transplant found to wipe out symptoms of ulcerative colitis

Scientists have found fecal microbiota transplantation is an effective approach to helping individuals who suffer from ulcerative colitis. The condition is an inflammatory bowel disease, which causes long-term inflammation and ulcers in the digestive tract. It affects the innermost lining of the large intestine and rectum, which can lead to rectal bleeding, diarrhea and abdominal discomfort.

After carrying out the transplants on a group of patients, researchers at the University of New South Wales in Australia, found marked improvement in their symptoms. One in four patients who were resistant or intolerant to conventional treatment - steroid or anti-inflammatories - reported their symptoms had disappeared and showed signs that their digestive tracts improved. Furthermore, more than half of patients reported an improvement in their symptoms after undergoing fecal transplant.

Researchers in Australia identified a mechanism that causes natural killer (NK) immune cells to show mercy to cancer.

Switching it off had a dramatic effect on mice with normally lethal skin, prostate and breast cancers.  NK action against the tumors was stepped up, preventing deadly metastasis, the spread of cancer to vital organs in the body. In the case of breast cancer, tumor growth in the mammary glands was significantly reduced.

Natural killer cells are specialized white blood cells that act as the immune system's assassins. Like murderous agents working for a totalitarian state, their job is to locate and eradicate 'deviant' cells in the body that may pose a threat.

Ground-breaking new study finds a poor immune system can lead to 'serious mental illness'

The study, from the University of Sydney and Perth-based charity Meeting for Minds, found immune treatment had already worked for a large number of mental health sufferers.

One person’s cancer can be fought using someone else’s immune cells, study finds

For the first time, scientists have shown that even if a patient’s own immune cells are incapable of recognizing and attacking tumors, someone else’s immune cells might be able to.  In a new study, scientists have shown that by inserting certain components of healthy donor immune cells (or T cells) into the malfunctioning immune cells of a cancer patient, they can 'teach' these cells how to recognize cancer cells and attack them.
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While this is just a proof-of-concept study with only three participants, the results are promising enough that the treatment will hopefully be tested in a much wider clinical study in the future.

ADHD May Not Show Up Until Adulthood

It’s not just for schoolkids. A new U.K. study may uproot everything researchers believed they knew about when attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder presents itself.
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“Although ADHD occurs in approximately 4 percent of adults, relatively few adults receive a diagnosis or treatment for the disorder,” Agnew-Blais said. “It is crucial that we take a developmental approach to understanding ADHD, and that the absence of a childhood diagnosis should not prevent adults with ADHD from receiving clinical attention.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:31 PM | Permalink

May 24, 2016

Health Roundup: Cheese, potatoes, church, belonging, 'hidden killers', long life personality traits and Oct4, the 'fountain of youth' gene

Cheese triggers the same part of the brain as hard drugs, say scientists

Researchers from the University of Michigan have revealed that cheese contains a chemical found in addictive drugs. Casein, a chemical, which is found in all dairy products, can trigger the brain’s opioid receptors, producing a feeling of euphoria linked to those of hard drug addiction.

Scientists studying dairy products found that in milk, casein has a minuscule dosage. But producing a pound of cheese requires about 10 pounds of milk — with addictive casein coagulating the solid milk fats and separating them from the liquids.  As a result the super-strength chemical becomes concentrated when in solid dairy form, so you’ll get a higher hit of addictive casein by tucking into a cheese sandwich than you will in your morning bowl of cereal.

Eating potatoes four times a week raises risk of high blood pressure: Baked are as bad as fries - but chips  have no effect

Baked, boiled, or mashed potatoes raises the risk of high blood pressure.  Researchers, from Harvard Medical School, think eating any form of potato too often can cause blood pressure problems. They suspect the starch in potatoes is to blame. Because potatoes have a high glycaemic index, these starchy carbohydrates rapidly transform into sugars in the body, triggering a sharp rise in blood sugar levels.  Over time, this may cause blood sugar problems, the researchers said.

The experts, whose work was published in the British Medical Journal, analyzed data from 187,000 men and women tracked in three large US projects for 20 years.  The results suggest women who eat regularly eat potatoes may be at slightly higher risk of suffering high blood pressure than men. Overall, however, they found men or women who ate four or more servings a week of baked, boiled, or mashed potatoes had an 11 per cent increased risk of high blood pressure compared to those who ate potatoes less than once a month.

New Harvard Study: Women Live Longer if They Go to Church

A new Harvard study published in JAMA Internal Medicine shows that women who regularly attend church services live longer. In the study, titled “Association of Religious Service Attendance With Mortality Among Women,” researchers found that women who attended church more than once per week had a 33% lower mortality rate, compared with women who never attended church.  The self-reported research took place over a 20-year period and investigated the church-going habits of 74,534 women who participated in the U.S. Nurses’ Health Study. The average baseline age of the women studied was 60 and most were Catholic or Protestant.

Tyler VanderWeele, Harvard professor and author of the study, said church attendance was an under-appreciated health resource. “Religious attendance is a relatively good determinant of health,” he said. Women who attended church regularly were more optimistic, had greater social support, lower rates of depression, were less likely to smoke and suffered less from anxiety.

A sense of belonging makes you happier:

If you feel you belong with your social group, chances are you are likely to be a happy soul.  Psychologists have found that people the more people feel connected to a group and connect with others, the more satisfied they were with their lives.  The findings show that identifying as part of a group may give people a stronger sense of purpose and security, as well as providing support them when times are tough.

Researchers from Nottingham Trent University focused on how connected people felt to certain groups, measuring the impact this had on their happiness and life satisfaction. They looked at almost 4,000 people, and focused on how much they identified with their family and local community. Additionally, participants added a group of their choice, such as a sports team, or a hobby group.

Managing your emotions can save your heart    The negative impact of emotions when your heart is already vulnerable

There are two kinds of stress that impact your brain. Helpful stress (also known as eustress) can assist you with getting things done by helping you focus your attention. Unhelpful stress (distress), on the other hand, can be so severe that it can lead to fatigue and heart disease.

If you have coronary artery disease (CAD), your heart may be deprived of oxygen. This deprivation of oxygen, called myocardial ischemia, can occur in as many as 30% to 50% of all patients with CAD.  It can be further exacerbated by emotional stress. In fact, if you have any type of heart disease, any strong emotion such as anger may also cause severe and fatal irregular heart rhythms. Expressions like “died from fright” and “worried to death” are not just hyperbole — they are physiologic possibilities. Furthermore, when patients with newly diagnosed heart disease become depressed, that depression increases the risk that a harmful heart-related event will occur within that year.

Revealed, the five 'hidden killers' that could send you to an early grave

Writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Chicago University researchers said we must look at a person as a whole if we are to accurately judge their health. Lead author Martha McClintock said: ‘The new comprehensive model of health identifies constellations of health completely hidden by the medical model.’
The team, which included psychologists, sociologists and doctors specializing in the care of the elderly, analyzed a mountain of data on the health and habits of 3,000 men and women aged between 57 and 85 and discovered the 'hidden killers':

Loneliness
Losing your sense of smell
Broken sleep
Breaking a bone in middle age
Difficulty in walking

The researchers say these factors are just as important as obvious medical conditions such as weight, blood pressure and heart disease.  In fact, being obese won’t necessarily send people to an early grave. And age, it seems, really is just a number. These contained some surprises.  For instance, the members of the healthiest group were all overweight. And despite them having only a 6 per cent chance of dying or becoming very unwell, high blood pressure was also common.However, psychological health, mobility and the sense of smell were all good and the researchers said that if an older adult is otherwise healthy, obesity ‘seems to pose very little risk’.

Scientists have discovered 5 personality traits linked with a long life

For their 75-year study of 300 engaged couples who enrolled in the study in their mid-20s, researchers found that men who were seen by their friends as more conscientious, meaning they were less likely to take risks but also tended to be more thorough and efficient, lived longer.  In sum, the five traits are:

Conscientiousness
Openness
Emotional stability
Friendliness
The ability to express feelings

'Fountain of youth' gene prevents heart attacks, stroke - and could lead to drugs that DELAY aging

A single gene is thought to protect against heart attacks and stroke as well as delay aging, scientists have discovered. The strand of DNA responsible - dubbed the 'fountain of youth' gene - had previously been thought to be inactive in adults.
Scientists believed the gene, named Oct4, was active in embryos but silenced as a person reached adulthood.

However, the new discovery is now hoped to open a new avenue for those battling deadly conditions, and raises the tantalizing prospect that doctors could one day use the gene to protect or delay the effects of aging. Dr Owens and his colleagues have determined the gene plays a crucial protective role in the formation of key plaques inside the blood vessels. The rupturing of these plaques is the underlying cause of many heart attacks and strokes.

The researchers found Oct4 controls the creation of protective fibrous 'caps' inside the plaques - caps that make the plaques less likely to rupture. In addition to this finding, the scientists believe the gene promotes a number of changes in gene expression that help to stabilize these plaques
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:38 PM | Permalink

May 17, 2016

Health roundup: Risks of tylenol and heartburn drugs, daily beer good, so are gardens, advances in breast cancer, Alzheimers and depression

Acetaminophen doesn't just kill pain - it makes us less CARING

Acetaminophen may be a more powerful painkiller than we realize.  Research shows that the popular pills don’t just ease our pain, they also stop us from feeling others’ pain.  It is thought by dulling the part of the brain that feels pain, we also find it harder to imagine what others are going through.

With previous research crediting acetaminophen with blunting joy, the researchers say we have a lot to learn about the drug....Previous research has found it to take some of the pain out of making difficult choices.  The team is now starting to study ibuprofen, to see if it produces similar results.

Popular heartburn tablets 'may increase risk of dementia, heart attacks and kidney problems'

Indigestion pills taken daily by millions of people around the globe may increase the risk of dementia, heart attacks and kidney problems, research suggests. Scientists found proton pump inhibitors - available in supermarkets and pharmacies without a prescription – accelerate the aging of cells which line blood vessels. Researchers said that the discovery was a ‘smoking gun’ which backs up previous reports linking long-term use of PPI medicines to several serious illnesses. Sold in bottles and packets, the drugs are used to treat gastroesophageal reflux, a severe form of heartburn.
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In the new study, lab tests at Houston Methodist Research Institute found long-term exposure to PPIs accelerated the aging of the human endothelial cells which line the inside of blood vessels.  Writing in the journal Circulation Research, they said: ‘When healthy, these cells create a Teflon-like coating that prevents blood from sticking. ‘But older and diseased, the endothelium becomes more like Velcro, with blood elements sticking to the vessel to form blockages.’
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But the findings are supported by a German study of 74,000 people, published in the journal JAMA Neurology in February, which suggested that elderly people who used PPIs at least once every three months had a 44 percent increased risk of dementia compared with those who did not take the drugs.  And a Stanford study of 3million people, published last July, suggested that people who took PPIs were 16 to 21 per cent more likely to have a heart attack.

FORTY mutated genes are to blame for the 10 different forms of breast cancer, experts at the University of Cambridge discover

Only a fraction of these genes were previously known to be involved in the development of the disease....The information could, in the future, help design clinical trials for breast cancer patients, or give researchers more flags to look out for in liquid biopsies, a type of test used to detect genetic material in the blood that is released by dying cancer cells.

Brain scan spots Alzheimer's 15 YEARS before symptoms appear: Early detection will help delay onset of disease

Scientists are using positive emission tomography (PET) scans that can identify clumps of destructive proteins that form in the brain. These clumps build up for years  before symptoms of Alzheimer's appear.

A beer a day keeps a heart attack at bay: Even one can reduces risk of disease by a quarter

A review of 150 studies found that drinking 1.4 pints a day  reduces risk of heart problems and does not increase risk of dementia or cancers.
Alcohol and other chemicals in the drink protects heart and blood vessels.  But researchers warned binge drinking is known to harm our health

Green thumb?  Expect to see a ripe old age: Having access to a garden or living near the countryside 'helps people live longer'

Research conducted by Harvard University explored the link between higher amounts of vegetation and mortality rates. Published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, it studied the well-being of 108,630 women and adds further weight to the suggestion urban living takes a greater physical toll.  Specifically, researchers found those who live in the urban jungle had a 12 per cent higher death rate than those with access to green spaces. In addition, they also had higher chances of developing cancer or respiratory illnesses.

Those in the greenest areas had a 34 per cent lower rate of respiratory disease-related mortality and a 13 per cent lower rate of cancer mortality. The increased opportunity to get out and be active, along with breathing in less air pollution or suffering noise pollution were factors in reducing death rates.

Scientists think they've found the key to ketamine's unprecedented anti-depressant effects

Back in February, we reported how patients with severe depression have been reporting "unbelievable" relief from taking the psychedelic party drug, ketamine, with symptoms being treated within hours, and doctors reporting response rates of 75 percent.
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Now a new study, published in Nature, brings us closer to an answer. Researchers in the US report that a breakdown product of ketamine - not the drug itself - appears to be responsible for the anti-depressant effects seen in a mouse study....One of these breakdown molecules, a chemical called (2R,6R)-hydroxynorketamine, appears to be behind the benefits. 

Fountain of Youth? Drug Trial Has Seniors Scrambling to Prove They’re Worthy

What if there were a way to stave off the creaks and calamities of old age? Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, is working on it. With word leaking out, seniors from all over the globe have been hounding Dr. Barzilai and his colleagues to get in on the action—with many writing to prove their worthiness. Never mind that formal patient recruitment is still perhaps a year away.
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Behind the mania is a widely used, inexpensive generic pill for Type 2 diabetes called metformin. Scientists are planning a clinical trial to see if the drug can delay or prevent some of the most devastating diseases of advanced age, from heart ailments to cognitive decline to cancer. To test the pill, gerontologists at 14 aging centers around the U.S. will follow 3,000 seniors for six years. Half the seniors involved would get the drug, while the others would receive a placebo.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:43 PM | Permalink

May 7, 2016

Health Roundup: Cancer Cure 'on the brink', Alzheimers stopped in its tracks, heartburn drugs, light therapy, reversing tooth decay and chocolate for your brain

Cancer Cure 'on the brink'  Starving Cancer Cells by cutting off key supply routes  'eradicates tumors'

To arrive at their findings, a team from The Australian National University, blocked gateways through which the cancer cell was obtaining the amino acid glutamine.  They found the cells almost completely stopped growing.

Professor Stefan Bröer, who led the study, said: 'This is likely to work in a wide range of cancers, because it is a very common mechanism in cancer cells.'  'Better still, this should lead to chemotherapy with much less serious side-effects, as normal cells do not use glutamine as a building material. ...Crucial white blood cells, which current treatments damage, could be spared, and it could cut out the hair loss that chemotherapy causes.'
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Lead author Angelika Bröer spearheaded the effort to identify and genetically knock out glutamine transporters.'It is an exciting time to do cancer research,' she said. ...Now the importance of glutamine gateways have been identified in cancer, the hunt is on to find drug treatments that will lock them down and kill the disease....: 'we have developed a set of tests, which make it very easy to determine if a drug is targeting glutamine transporters.This means we can set robots to work that will test tens of thousands of drugs for us over the next year or two.'  The results are published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

First drug that can stop Alzheimer's in its tracks 

A new breakthrough study shows a drug can stop the progression of Alzheimer's disease - and it could be available within five years.  Tests have shown that a cheap drug commonly used to treat diabetes called Liraglutide stopped the brain disease from advancing and in some cases even gave sufferers a cognitive boost.  No study has ever before shows such dramatic results, and it could mean those who detect the disease at an early stage could live a lifetime of normal brain function.

The breakthrough was made a Denmark's Aarthus University and trials have now begun at Imperial College London, with neuroscientists said to be 'really excited', reports The Express.  Professor Jorgen Rungby, who led the study in Denmark, said: 'This is a significant step. We now have a drug that appears to have some kind of effect on how the brain works in Alzheimer’s.

The drug is commonly used to treat diabetes and scientists recognize a link between type 2 of the disease and Alzheimer's, as the brain being unable to utilize sugar is a symptom of dementia.  A 26-week test on 38 patients resulted in 'proof in principle' that the drug halted the progression of the disease, with patients maintaining their brain metabolism.  It is now being tested on 206 people in 20 hospitals around the UK, who will be given the drug via insulin pen, then have their memory and thinking assessed by doctors.

Dr Paul Edison, consultant physician at Imperial College, London, is leading the UK trials and expects the results by 2018.  He said: 'If effective, there could be a potential new and safe treatment for Alzheimer’s in the next five years.'

WSJ A Simple Tool to Ease Cancer’s Side Effects

In a test, researchers at Mount Sinai try light therapy to help the fatigue and depression that many cancer patients feel...“We know that cancer patients are light-deprived,” says William Redd, a Mount Sinai psychologist and professor of medicine and another of the lead researchers in the trial. “You feel lousy, you stay at home, you feel even worse.” Light therapy “has had a major impact on cancer patients with fatigue and depression,”

WSJ Simple Dental Treatments May Reverse Decay

Some fillings may not be necessary.  A recent study led by Wendell Evans at the University of Sydney supports growing evidence that early tooth decay, before a cavity forms, can often be arrested and reversed with simple treatments that restore minerals in the teeth, rather than the more typical drill-and-fill approach.

The randomized, controlled trial followed 19 dental practices in Australia for three years, then researchers checked up on the patients again four years later. The result: After seven years, patients receiving remineralization treatment needed on average 30% fewer fillings.  In the study, patients in the experimental group with early decay received a fluoride varnish to the site. Dentists also gave those patients fluoride varnish preventively two to four times a year, and encouraged them to brush well and avoid sugary snacks between meals.

Commonly used heartburn drugs may lead to kidney damage

Long-term use of a common type of medication used to treat heartburn, acid reflux, and ulcers may lead to an increased risk of kidney disease and kidney failure, new research shows. The study, published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, adds to prior research that suggests proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs), a group of drugs which reduces gastric acid production, can lead to serious kidney damage.

The paper notes that an estimated 15 million Americans were prescribed PPIs in 2013, though the authors point out that the number is likely higher as many, including Prilosec, Nexium, and Prevacid, are available over the counter. ....After controlling for other factors, including age and other diseases, this translated to a 28 percent increased risk of developing kidney disease for PPI users.

Could PROBIOTICS ward off cancer? Increasing levels of 'good' bacteria in the intestines 'slows and stops the disease developing'

New study found anti-inflammatory bacteria lowers risk of cancer.  Experts at UCLA found the bacteria, used to make yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut 'slows and stops the development of lymphoma'

Eating chocolate regularly ‘improves brain function’ according to new study

Researchers used data collected from a Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study (MSLS), in which 968 people aged between 23 and 98 were measured for dietary intake and cardiovascular risk factors, as well as cognitive function.  They found that regularly eating chocolate was significantly associated with cognitive function “irrespective of other dietary habits”.  More frequent chocolate consumption was “significantly associated with better performance on [cognitive tests including] visual-spatial memory and organization, working memory, scanning and tracking, abstract reasoning, and the mini-mental state examination”.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:52 PM | Permalink

Art is Good for your Heart

A scientific study confirms the obvious, Art is Good for your Heart.

Experts recently studied 100 people during a visit to the monumental Basilica of Vicoforte in northern Italy's Cuneo - with surprising results.
Prior to entering the 18th century church, participants had their saliva tested for presence of the stress hormone cortisol.  The volunteers - men and women of different ages and with varying IQ levels - climbed 200 ft to the apex of the building as part of their two-hour experience. Then, following their tour of the building - which is famed for its elliptical cupola, the world's largest - the test was performed again.

 Oval-Cupola Basilica-Vicoforte


Professor Enzo Grossi, who studies the relationship between culture and physical health, told La Repubblica newspaper: 'On average, we found that cortisol levels dropped by 60 per cent. More than 90 per cent of the participants said they felt much better at the end of the experience.

'The idea of art as therapy is not new. But this is the first time that the beneficial effect of art on health has been measured.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:38 PM | Permalink

May 6, 2016

"Every industry gets worse when government gets involved"

The cost of federal regulations each year for each household is about $15,000.     Economy Hit With Hidden $1.9 Trillion Tax From Federal Regulations.

More than 3,400 rules were issued by agencies, while Congress only enacted 114 laws in 2015, the report said. That means there were about 30 regulations for every law passed

No one can keep up, no matter how many administrators are hired.

 Growth Drs Admin

"I am a general surgeon with more than three decades in private clinical practice. And I am fed up," wrote Jeffrey Singer in How Government Killed the Medical Profession  in Reason, 2013

Government interventions over the past four decades have yielded a cascade of perverse incentives, bureaucratic diktats, and economic pressures that together are forcing doctors to sacrifice their independent professional medical judgment, and their integrity. The consequence is clear: Many doctors from my generation are exiting the field. Others are seeing their private practices threatened with bankruptcy, or are giving up their autonomy for the life of a shift-working hospital employee. Governments and hospital administrators hold all the power, while doctors—and worse still, patients—hold none.
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Once free to be creative and innovative in their own practices, doctors are becoming more like assembly-line workers, constrained by rules and regulations aimed to systemize their craft. It’s no surprise that retirement is starting to look more attractive. The advent of the Affordable Care Act of 2010, which put the medical profession’s already bad trajectory on steroids, has for many doctors become the straw that broke the camel’s back.
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A June 2012 survey of 36,000 doctors in active clinical practice by the Doctors and Patients Medical Association found 90 percent of doctors believe the medical system is “on the wrong track” and 83 percent are thinking about quitting. Another 85 percent said “the medical profession is in a tailspin.” 65 percent say that “government involvement is most to blame for current problems.” In addition, 2 out of 3 physicians surveyed in private clinical practice stated they were “just squeaking by or in the red financially.”
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As old-school independent-thinking doctors leave, they are replaced by protocol-followers. Medicine in just one generation is transforming from a craft to just another rote occupation.

Every Industry Gets Worse When Government Gets Involved

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:17 PM | Permalink

April 20, 2016

Health Roundup: Migraines, Parkinson's, prostrate cancer and the dangers of common medicines including cold and flu tablets

The cholesterol drug 'that kills prostate cancer':

An experimental drug designed to lower cholesterol may turn out to be an effective weapon against prostate cancer, research has shown.
Tumors need cholesterol to build their cell walls. By cutting their cholesterol production a chemical compound known as RO 48-8071 causes the cancerous cells to fall apart and die. 

Professor Salman Hyder, from the University of Missouri in the US, who led the research said: 'Often, cancer patients are treated with toxic chemotherapies.  The study, to appear in the journal OncoTargets and Therapy, tells how Professor Hyder's team found that the drug killed cancer cells in the laboratory.  The compound was originally developed by the drug company Roche for the treatment of high cholesterol.

Common medicines including cold and flu tablets, heartburn drugs and sleeping pills 'SHRINK the brain and slow down thinking'

Common over-the-counter medicines should be avoided by older people as they have been linked to memory loss and problems in thinking, scientists have discovered.  Treatments for colds and flu, hay fever, allergy and heartburn tablets containing anti-cholinergic drugs had the effect for one month after treatment, a study found.  Effects associated with taking the drugs included having slower brain processing times and smaller brains overall.  Well known treatments including the heartburn medicine Zantac, Night Nurse Liquid containing Promethazine and the sleeping tablet Nytol, containing diphenhydramine, are included among drugs that may result in the effects, the research said.

The drugs block the chemical acetylcholine, which is involved in the transmission of electrical impulses between nerve cells.  The treatments are prescribed for a wide range of conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, overactive bladder, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, nausea and vomiting, sleeping problems, high blood pressure, depression and psychosis.  But the authors warn: ‘Use of AC [anti-cholinergic] medication among older adults should likely be discouraged if alternative therapies are available.’

Previous studies have linked the drugs with cognitive impairment, increased risk of dementia and falls. However, the new study by Indiana University School of Medicine, is the first to explore their impact on brain metabolism and atrophy through brain scans.

Parkinson's disease drugs 'are likely to turn more sufferers into sex and gambling addicts than previously feared'

Parkinson's disease drugs are more likely to turn patients into sex and gambling addicts than was previously thought, according to new research.
Scientists at Loyola University found the pills can also increase the risk of compulsive shopping and binge eating leading to disastrous consequences.
Previous research has suggested up to one in seven people taking the medications develop these impulse control disorders (ICDs) - but the problem is 'probably more prevalent', according to a review.

The jab that could end the misery of migraines  New 'holy grail' drug slashes the number of attacks by up to 75%

Millions of people who suffer migraines have finally been offered hope of an effective treatment, after trials showed that a new injection could prevent attacks.  In a trial of 600 people, the drug, code-named ALD403, significantly slashed attacks in a third of patients, Alder BioPharmaceuticals  claims

Described as one of the few true ‘holy grails’ of medical research, an injection to truly tackle migraines is the being pursued by drugs giants Amgen, Eli Lilly and Teva, who are each competing with Alder BioPharmaceuticals to get the first license for the medication.  Each of the four companies are developing variants of a drug which tackles a protein called calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), which triggers the pain and nausea associated with a migraine.  CGRP causes the swelling of blood vessels intertwined with nerve endings on both sides of the head.

Researchers have found that monoclonal blood proteins – antibodies specifically engineered to bind to CGRP – were able to ‘mop up’ the chemical, meaning it did not trigger a migraine.The research has now come to a point where we understand the condition enough that we have worked out how to treat it.

‘All the studies that have been done are positive, and there has been an almost-embarrassing lack of side effects.For a group of people who have never had a proper treatment, this is fantastic news.’

On the horizon.  Flexible spinal cord implants will let paralyzed people walk

Doctors dream of helping the paralzyed walk through implants that stimulate their spinal cords, but current technology makes that impossible; these stiff, unnatural gadgets usually end up damaging or inflaming nervous tissue over time. Swiss researchers may have just solved this problem once and for all, though. Their bendy e-Dura implant combines flexible electrodes (made of platinum and silicon microbeads), cracked gold electronic tracks and fluidic microchannels to deliver both electrical impulses and chemicals while mimicking the spine's movements and avoiding friction. Paralyzed rats in lab tests could both walk again after a few weeks and keep wearing their implants after two months.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:36 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup with news you can use

Chocolate, cheese and red wine: Key to weight loss is the bugs in YOUR gut rather than counting calories

Professor Tim Spector, of King’s College London, said that everything we think we know about diets is wrong.  He says bacteria in the stomach is more important than calorie counting.  By eating the right foods we can cultivate more good bacteria to stay slim. ‘The more diverse foods we eat, the more varieties of microbes in our bodies, which makes us healthier.’  That includes cheese, chocolate, dairy, nuts and red wine are all on the menu.  But avoid processed foods and they are limited in microbe levels because they are mainly made up of chemicals.

A handful of walnuts a day keeps heart disease at bay:

Doctors from the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona and Loma Linda University in Barcelona tracked cholesterol levels in more than 700 elderly men and women. Half added around 2oz of walnuts – roughly a handful - to their daily diet while the others ate as normal. After a year, levels of LDL cholesterol, the harmful form blamed for clogging arteries had fallen in the walnut-eaters. Those given the nuts as part of their diet did not experience weight gain.

How brushing your teeth can ward off Pancreatic Cancer. Bacteria found in the mouth 'linked to deadly strains of the disease'

Since childhood we are told to brush our teeth twice a day, or risk painful cavities and rotting teeth.  But new research suggests that properly cleaning our teeth may also help ward off a pancreatic cancer.  Pancreatic cancer has the worst survival rate of all 22 common cancers - at just 3 per cent.  Scientists have discovered that pancreatic cancer is linked to two types of bacteria that also cause gum disease.  A team in the US found that people who had these two bugs in their mouths were up to twice as likely to develop pancreatic cancer over the next decade.

Why being in a choir could help the body fight cancer:

Singing in a choir boosts the immune system and even helps the body fight cancer, according to research.  Scientists found that just one hour of singing significantly increased levels of the immune proteins that the body uses to battle serious illnesses including cancer.

The new research, conducted by scientists at Imperial College London, University College London and the Royal College of Music, found that it also has a profound impact on the immune system.  The team found that singing for an hour resulted in significant reductions in stress hormones, such as cortisol, and increases in cytokines, immune proteins that boost the body’s ability to fight serious illness.  Doctors suspect that reducing stress and anxiety takes strain off the immune system, allowing it to better use its resources at fighting disease.

Never get blisters again! Scientists spend two years studying runners to discover a single strip of surgical tape is all you need

Researchers studied 128 runners participating in an 155-mile ultramarathon.. They applied paper tape to just one of each of the runners' feet and the untaped areas of the same foot served as a control.  For 98 of the runners, no blisters formed where the tape had been applied

Watercress could be an unlikely weapon in the fight against smoking, experts have revealed.

Taking the plant extract several times a day significantly inhibits the activation of a tobacco-derived carcinogen in smokers, a new study suggests.
The findings also show how the extract detoxifies environmental carcinogens and toxicants found in cigarette smoke.  Furthermore, scientists at the University of Pittsburgh say the effect is stronger in people who lack certain genes involved in processing carcinogens.....Dr Yuan warned that while eating cruciferous vegetables, such as watercress and broccoli, is good for people, they are unlikely to have the same profound effect as the extract.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:20 AM | Permalink

April 7, 2016

Good and Rogue Immune Cells Affect the Brain

From the MIT Technology Review, The Rogue Immune Cells That Wreck the Brain

Beth Stevens thinks she has solved a mystery behind brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia.

Microglia are part of a larger class of cells—known collectively as glia—that carry out an array of functions in the brain, guiding its development and serving as its immune system by gobbling up diseased or damaged cells and carting away debris.
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In one groundbreaking paper, in January, Stevens and researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard showed that aberrant microglia might play a role in schizophrenia—causing or at least contributing to the massive cell loss that can leave people with devastating cognitive defects. Crucially, the researchers pointed to a chemical pathway that might be targeted to slow or stop the disease. Last week, Stevens and other researchers published a similar finding for Alzheimer’s.

This might be just the beginning. Stevens is also exploring the connection between these tiny structures and other neurological diseases—work that earned her a $625,000 MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant last September.  All of this raises intriguing questions. Is it possible that many common brain disorders, despite their wide-ranging symptoms, are caused or at least worsened by the same culprit, a component of the immune system? If so, could many of these disorders be treated in a similar way—by stopping these rogue cells?

Not so long ago, it was accepted that the immune system had little effect on the brain.  But in the past two years, that assumption has blown up. 

Already this year, a coalition of Alzheimer's researchers have urged scientists to reassess the evidence that Alzheimer's could be spread by microbes.  The herpes virus - the kind that causes cold sores - and two types of bacteria, all of which have already been linked to Alzheimer's disease. ..."We are saying there is incontrovertible evidence that Alzheimer’s Disease has a dormant microbial component," said Douglas Kell, a chemist from the University of Manchester in the UK, who was one of the editorial's authors. "We can’t keep ignoring all of the evidence."

A new study at the University of California, Irvine, new study revealed key immune cells located outside of the brain actually help rid the brain of the plaques that build up and trigger the disease.  Study co-author Dr Mathew Blurton-Jones said: ‘We were very surprised by the magnitude of this effect.

A study last year  shows that our immune system,… plays a part in the debilitating disease.  The Duke University study in mice found that in Alzheimer's disease, certain immune cells that normally protect the brain begin to abnormally consume an important nutrient: arginine.  Blocking this process with a small-molecule drug prevented the characteristic brain plaques and memory loss in a mouse model of the disease.

Alzheimer's could be prevented and even cured by boosting the brain's own immune response, scientists at Stanford University believe.  Researchers discovered that nerve cells die because cells which are supposed to clear the brain of bacteria, viruses and dangerous deposits, stop working.  These cells, called 'microglia' function well when people are young, but when they age, a single protein called EP2 stops them operating efficiently.  Now scientists have shown that blocking the protein allows the microglia to function normally again so they can hoover up the dangerous sticky amyloid-beta plaques which damage nerve cells in Alzheimer's disease.  The researchers found that, in mice, blocking EP2 with a drug reversed memory loss and myriad other Alzheimer’s-like features in the animals.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:11 AM | Permalink

April 6, 2016

What an untreated strep infection could lead to

Catching’ a mental illness: one family’s story 

Connor was in the midst of full-blown obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Bewildered by the dramatic change, his parents were trying desperately to help him, and to figure out what had happened to their son.
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OCD is a common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to complete over and over. .....Connor had been exhibiting increasing and multiplying signs of the disorder, launched by an overwhelming fear of germs. He developed rituals to rid himself of perceived contaminants by taking multiple, lengthy showers a day, and washing his hands until “they looked like he was wearing red gloves,” Lucia recalls. He began avoiding conversations, fearful that traces of spittle might fall on him from the other person. At times, he would only touch light switches and other objects around the house with his shirtsleeves wrapped over his hands, so some family members wore rubber gloves to help buffer Connor’s fears. Midnight runs to the grocery store for special soaps and scrubbing utensils that Connor needed became frequent.
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Saving Sammy: A Mother’s Fight to Cure Her Son’s OCD by Beth Alison Maloney is the story of a mother who fought to find a cure for her son, who had inexplicably been afflicted with OCD and Tourette’s syndrome. In her mission to heal her child, Maloney uncovered research that linked his mental illnesses to a previously unknown strep infection. Despite ignorance and some opposition from parts of the medical community, Maloney found doctors who were willing to help treat Sammy with the crucial assistance of prolonged antibiotics to rid his system of the strep virus.

As soon as Lucia cracked open the pages of Saving Sammy, she felt like she’d found the missing puzzle piece that had been eluding her for so long: Connor’s OCD might be rooted in a simple strep infection....Controversy or not, when Lucia Odom stumbled upon Beth Maloney and her book, it unlocked a once impenetrable door. With antibiotic treatment and behavioral therapies, Connor has emerged, saying he feels like a new person.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:36 PM | Permalink

April 4, 2016

Health Roundup: Breast cancer, melanoma patch, gut bacteria, sugar, chocolate and exercise

Bombshell Study Finds 58-108% Increased Breast Cancer Risk for Women Having Abortions

The most recent study is yet another one from India, making the total number of South Asian studies (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka) 15, all since 2008. Every one of them reports increased breast cancer risk with abortion, with risk increases as high as almost 2,000 percent (20-fold)

On the horizon.  A skin patch to treat melanoma..

Scientists developed a revolutionary skin patch with microneedles, filled with antibodies to help T cells attack cancer cells and delivering slow-releasing cancer immunotherapy directly to the site of melanoma.  Scientists say patch is more effective than injections or drug cocktails.

Tweaking our gut bacteria could help protect our brain from strokes   Experiments with animals saw 60% less brain damage.

Recent research has shown how fundamentally important the bacteria in our gut are to the rest of our mental and physical health, affecting everything from our appetite to our state of mind.  Now a new study suggests that our gut bacteria could even play a role in protecting us from brain damage, with an experiment involving mice showing that certain types of stomach microbes can actually help reduce the severity of strokes.
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The findings, reported in Nature Medicine, suggest that the microbiota do not interact with the brain chemically, but somehow influence immune cells to promote neural survival. These immune cells end up making their way to the meninges – the outer covering of the brain – where they organize a response to mitigate the stroke.

Revealed, your body on sugar:

From weakening the immune system to triggering thrush, this terrifying tool reveals exactly how the white stuff harms our health.  Beneden, a healthcare insurance provider, has created an online tool showing how sugar affects the body which shows the differing effects of too much sugar on men, women and children.  The sugar bowl tells you everything you need to know about sugar from how much sugar is in our grocery carts, how sugar affects our mental performance to breaking the sugar addiction and healthy alternatives

Chocolate Can Boost Your Workout. Really.

Adding a little dark chocolate to a training diet may effortlessly improve endurance performance, according to a new study of sports nutrition  by researchers at Kingston University in England.
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For some time, dark chocolate has been touted as a relatively healthy treat, with studies showing that small amounts may have benefits for the heart and brain. Most of this research has focused on the role of a substance called epicatechin, a plant nutrient found in cocoa. Dark chocolate is generally rich in epicatechin, though levels vary, depending on how the sweet was produced. Levels of epicatechin tend to be much lower in milk chocolate, which contains little cocoa.

Statin intolerance is real, researchers find. Another (more costly) drug may get around the problem.

The Food and Drug Administration approved PCSK9 inhibitors last year, but only for small groups of people, including those with an inherited disease that dramatically elevates their LDL cholesterol levels.
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The PCSK9 inhibitor works by blocking a substance that hinders the liver’s ability to remove cholesterol from the blood. Ezetemibe, by contrast, decreases cholesterol absorption in the small intestine.  The monthly injections of the PCSK9 inhibitor proved far more effective after 24 weeks, cutting patients’ LDL cholesterol by an average of 52.8 percent, compared with 16.7 percent for the other drug.
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PCSK9 inhibitors, she added, are “going to be, possibly, an option for patients who are statin-intolerant.” But that may not happen for a while. In addition to requiring FDA approval, the drugs are much more expensive — from $10,000 to $15,000 a year. And because evidence of statin intolerance is largely subjective, insurance companies may balk until there are ways to more conclusively prove that patients are unable to take the cheaper drugs.

EXERCISE is the fountain of youth: Secret to feeling young is 'superb fitness and young muscles'

The true secret to remaining youthful has been right under our nose the whole time - exercise. Scientists say it is 'superb' fitness that keeps people young. Experts from University of Guelph, in Canada, revealed elderly people who were elite athletes in their youth – or later in life – have much ‘younger muscles.’ ...Their legs were 25% stronger and had 14% more muscle mass

The Amazing Links Between Exercise & Anti-Aging from Yahoo Beauty

Aside from the obvious perks (better mood, weight loss, toned muscles), recent studies indicate a direct link between your skin’s ability to stay young-looking and your exercise schedule. Here, we pulled together five ways your skin’s health is linked to exercise....
1. Sweat Is Antibacterial....recent studies have shown that perspiration contains a natural antibiotic known as Dermcidin, which kills E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:06 PM | Permalink

March 30, 2016

Impact of Vaccines

I've yet to see a more startling and convincing set of graphs than those published in the Wall St Journal showing  The Impact of Vaccines in Battling Infectious Diseases in the 20th century

 Impact Of Vaccines-2

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:31 PM | Permalink

March 24, 2016

“We’re attacked about every 7 seconds, 24 hours a day,” CIO Beth Israel Deaconess hospital

5 Major Hospital Hacks: Horror Stories from the Cybersecurity Frontlines

In real-world war, combatants typically don’t attack hospitals. In the cyber realm, hackers have no such scruples. “We’re attacked about every 7 seconds, 24 hours a day,” says John Halamka, CIO of the Boston hospital Beth Israel Deaconess. And the strikes come from everywhere: “It’s hacktivists, organized crime, cyberterrorists, MIT students,” he says.
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These attacks may all sound like nightmare scenarios, but the experts say they’re becoming almost routine. And hospitals have not made cybersecurity a priority in their budgets, Halamka says: “In healthcare, we spent about 2 percent on IT, and security might be 10 percent of that.” Compare that percentage to the security spending by financial firms: “Fidelity spends 35 percent of its budget on IT,” he says. 
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:23 AM | Permalink

March 23, 2016

Health roundup: Switching off Cancer, Reversing Osteoporosis, Reversing Diabetes and Hope for Stroke Victims

Cancer breakthrough as scientists uncover HOW diseased cells take first steps away from their tumor to spread through the body

Cancer cells remodel their environment in order to reach nearby blood vessels, scientists have revealed. Doing so allows them to more easily spread – or metastasize – throughout the body. Cancer metastasis is responsible for 90 per cent of cancer deaths, according to experts from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. And, scientists have found that high levels of a certain protein – called MenaINV - are linked to metastasis and earlier death among breast cancer patients, in particular. Thus, finding a way to block that protein could help prevent metastasis, experts revealed.

Scientists discover how to 'switch off' cancer: Remarkable breakthrough means diseased cells can be made healthy again

Scientists have found a code for turning off cancer, it was announced today. In exciting experiments, they made cancerous breast and bladder cells benign again. And they believe many other types of cancer should be in their grasp. They said that their work reveals ‘an unexpected new biology that provides the code, the software for turning off cancer’. Most importantly, it uncovers ‘a new strategy for cancer therapy’.

The work is still at an early stage but brings with it hope that cancer will take fewer lives in the future. Unlike conventional cancer drugs, which work by killing cancer, the US work aims to disarm it and render them harmless. The breakthrough focuses on a protein called PLEKHA7 that helps healthy cells clump together.

The research, from the Mayo Clinic in Florida, showed it to be missing or faulty in a range of cancers. When this happens, key genetic instructions to the cells are scrambled and they turn cancerous. A research team, led by Panos Anastasiadis, was able to reset the instructions – turning off the cancer. Experiments in a dish showed that human cells from highly dangerous bladder cancers can be made normal again.
Dr Anastasiadis said: ‘Initial experiments in some aggressive types of cancer are indeed very promising.’ He thinks the approach, detailed in the journal Nature Cell Biology, would apply to most cancers, other than brain and blood cancers.

However, much more research is needed before the technique is tried out on people for the first time. And even if the therapy did help patients, it is likely they would still need chemotherapy. British experts described the research as ‘beautiful’ and ‘absolutely fascinating’. But they cautioned that it is still a long way from helping people.

Henry Scowcroft, Cancer Research UK’s senior science information manager, said: ‘This important study solves a long-standing biological mystery, but we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves. 'There’s a long way to go before we know whether these findings, in cells grown in a laboratory, will help treat people with cancer.’ He added that such work is ‘crucial’ if ‘the encouraging progress against cancer we’ve seen in recent years’ is to continue.

Hope for stroke victims: Zapping the brains of patients with electricity can restore strength and grip after just nine treatments

Zapping the brains of stroke patients with electricity could greatly improve their recovery, Oxford University research suggests.
Men and women whose arms and hands had been weakened by a stroke found it easier to reach, lift and grasp after nine short sessions of electrical brain stimulation.  One was able to peel a banana and another could cut a steak for the first time in years.

While such improvements may seem small to the able-bodied, they could have a big impact on quality of life.
Even small changes strength or dexterity that allow people to do up their buttons or brush their teeth could boost independence.
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The technique trialled in Oxford involved a technique called transcranial direct current stimulation, or tDCS.  It involves passing a gentle 'tingling' current through the damaged part of the brain, in the hope of increasing the number of messages passed between brain cells.....
Tests showed the improvements lasted for three months and the patients say they are still feeling the benefit today, four years on.

Osteoporosis in mice reversed with single injection of stem cells

Age-related osteoporosis, where the bone structure deteriorates and becomes more vulnerable to fracture, is said to affect more than 200 million people worldwide. Drugs are available to treat or delay the condition, but a cure has remained elusive. Much-needed help may now be on the way, however, with scientists discovering healthy bone structure can be restored in mice with a single injection of stem cells.

Researchers at the University of Toronto and The Ottawa Hospital had previously found a causal effect between mice developing age-related osteoporosis and a deficiency in mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). One of the promising attributes of MSCs is that, while they can grow into different cells in the body just like other stem cells, they can be transplanted without the need for a match.  "We reasoned that if defective MSCs are responsible for osteoporosis, transplantation of healthy MSCs should be able to prevent or treat osteoporosis," says William Stanford, senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital and Professor at the University of Ottawa.

To put this reasoning to the test, the scientists injected MSCs into mice with the condition. Six months later, which is one quarter of the life span of the animal, they observed a healthy functional bone in place of the damaged one. "We had hoped for a general increase in bone health," says John E. Davies, co-author of the study. "But the huge surprise was to find that the exquisite inner 'coral-like' architecture of the bone structure of the injected animals – which is severely compromised in osteoporosis – was restored to normal."

According to the scientists, these results could form the basis for new ways of treating or indefinitely postponing the onset of osteoporosis. The team is currently waiting on the results of trials where elderly patients were injected with MSCs to investigate various outcomes. If these show improvements to bone health, the team hopes dedicated trials will commence in the next five years.

Dieting for just eight weeks can reverse your diabetes: Experts say restricting food for two months could eradicate the disease

A crash diet lasting just eight weeks can reverse type 2 diabetes, experts have found.  Even people who had suffered with diabetes for a decade saw their condition eradicated after they restricted their eating for two months.  And six months after stopping the diet, participants in the Newcastle University trial were still free of the disease, suggesting that the condition had effectively been reversed.

Type 2 diabetes occurs either when the body does not produce enough insulin to control the blood sugar – or the cells don’t react to it. The condition is often linked to obesity and usually occurs in middle age, coming with a risk of limb amputations, heart attacks and vision loss.
Experts used to think that once the disease had taken hold, it was incurable. But a growing body of evidence suggests that losing weight could reverse the condition. Scientists think that this is because removing fat from the pancreas allows insulin production to return to normal, eradicating the problem at the root of the disease.  Now, a British trial has suggested that the condition could not only be reversible – but that the reverse could come in a matter of weeks.
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‘Type 2 diabetes can now be understood to be a metabolic syndrome potentially reversible by substantial weight loss, and this is an important paradigm shift.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:43 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Alzheimer's

Breakthrough MIT study: Memories lost to Alzheimer’s may be recovered

An MIT neuroscientist has made a breakthrough discovery that researchers say will open countless doors for future treatments: memories obscured by the devastating illness have the potential to be restored.  “The big message is that there is a way to strengthen these memory cells,” said Dheeraj Roy, doctoral student at MIT and lead author on the study. “If we had a way of restoring the memory of patients, we think this could have a huge impact on society.”

A paper published today online in the science journal “Nature” outlines the study by Roy and his colleagues, which found genetically engineered mice with early-stage Alzheimer’s could recall seemingly “lost” events when memory cells in the brain were stimulated. The study involved both healthy and memory-impaired mice that were put in boxes and given a shock. Those that did not suffer from memory-loss froze out of fear when placed back in the box. The Alzheimer’s mice were not afraid. The researchers used a technique known as optogenetics on the mice with memory loss: They injected the memory cells, called “engram cells,” with a light-sensitive protein and activated them using blue light. The mice immediately showed fear.

The MIT researchers noted that the engram cells of Alzheimer’s mice were missing tiny buds called dendritic spines, which allow neurons to communicate with each other. The study’s revelations have sent a ripple through the Alzheimer’s research community, and have effectively “shattered a 20-year paradigm of how we’re thinking about the disease,” said Rudy Tanzi, a Harvard neurology professor, who is not involved in the research.  “Since the mid-’80s, it’s been thought that these memories just weren’t getting stored,” Tanzi said. “This paper shows that the information is getting stored — we just can’t access it.”

Another reason to floss.  Gum disease may signal faster Alzheimer’s decline

For people with Alzheimer’s disease, having gum disease is tied to faster cognitive decline, according to a new study. “What we have shown is that regardless of the severity of dementia (within this mild to moderate impaired group) that patients with more severe gum disease are declining more rapidly,” said senior author Clive Holmes of the University of Southampton in the UK.

Could this implant PREVENT Alzheimer's? Capsule under the skin 'releases antibodies to fight the disease'

Scientists develop an implantable capsule that can prevent Alzheimer's.  The capsule is implanted in tissue under the skin before cognitive symptoms appear and releases a steady flow of antibodies into the bloodstream that target Alzheimer's plaque in the brain. Tests on mice found that the antibodies prevent the plaques from forming.
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A team of experts at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland developed the implantable bioactive capsule to deliver a steady and safe flow of antibodies to clear the brain of amyloid plaques. The capsule  is made of two permeable membranes that are sealed together with a polypropoylene frame – and contains a hydrogel that facilitates cell growth. The capsule’s cells must be compatible with the patient, so that the immune system isn’t triggered against them – just like a transplant. The capsule’s membranes shield the cells from being identified and attacked by the immune system.

The cells are taken from muscle tissues – and permeable membranes allow them to interact with surrounding cells, so that they are able to get the necessary nutrients and molecules. The team of scientists tested the device on mice genetically modified with Alzheimer’s disease. The results showed a ‘dramatic reduction’ of the plaque load. Furthermore, the constant flow of antibodies produced by the capsule over 239 weeks prevented the formation of amyloid plaques in the brain. The team found that the capsule also reduced the altering of a protein called tau – which is another hallmark of Alzheimer’s. The study was published in the journal Brain.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:17 PM | Permalink

March 16, 2016

Health Roundup: Astonishing breast cancer treatment, Talc, Viagra, Chronic stress, Antibiotic fail, Happy gardeners, Curing blindness with stem cells and more

Terminal breast cancer could be wiped out by tweaking an EXISTING treatment, 'astonishing' study declares

Terminal breast cancer has been wiped out, in ‘astounding’ research that raises hope of a cure for thousands of women with the disease.
In tests on mice, their cancer vanished completely for at least eight months.  This is the equivalent of 24 years for a woman and would be judged a lasting cure.  In contrast, current treatments extend life by as little as six months.....Mauro Ferrari, president of the Houston Methodist Research Institute, said: ‘I would never want to over-promise to the thousands of patients looking for a cure but the data is astounding.’
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While the initial tumor that appears on a woman’s breast rarely kills, once the disease starts to eat away at other parts of the body it becomes incurable. Drugs struggle to get to tumors hidden deep in the lungs or liver and once there, they risk being pumped out by cells that have become resistant to treatment.

Dr Ferrari, of the Houston Medical Research Institute, has found an ingenious way of getting round these defenses - and so of potentially curing metastatic cancer. He has taken a widely-used cancer drug called doxorubicin and packed it in microscopic discs made of silicon. The silicon packaging hides the drug from the cancer, allowing it to sneak into its cells. Once inside, the silicon is broken down, releasing the drug, which is in an inactive form. The drug then moves out of reach of the pumps that are poised to eject it and towards the very heart of cell. Once there, the drug is activated and the cell is killed. In tests on mice with terminal disease, all the animals given conventional treatment died. In contrast, half of the creatures given the new treatment were still cancer-free after eight months – roughly 24 years in human terms.

Dr Ferrari says that in future, women with metastatic breast cancer could be given a jab of billions of drug-filled silicon discs into their arm.
This would home in on the tumors riddling their lungs or liver and destroy them.  He hopes to test the treatment on women for the first time next year and says that some of the early drug trials could be in the UK.

Talc 'IS linked to ovarian cancer': Risk of disease is ONE THIRD higher for women who use talcum powder on their genitals.

Women who regularly powder their genitals with talc have a one-third higher risk of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer, scientists have warned. A new study asked 2,041 women with ovarian cancer - and 2,100 free of the disease - about their talcum powder use. Those who routinely apply talc to their genitals, sanitary napkins, tampons and underwear were found to have a 33 per cent higher risk of ovarian cancer.

Lead study author Dr Daniel Cramer, of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, told Reuters that there must be warning labels on talcum powder. He said: 'This is an easily modified risk factor."  The study comes a week after a St. Louis jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $72 million in damages to the family of a woman who allegedly died of the disease after using their baby powder.

Chronic stress turns cancer deadly by opening up new routes for the disease to spread quickly through the bloodstream' 

Chronic stress accelerates the spread of cancer, scientists have revealed. A new study found that stress builds lymphatic ‘highways’ that allow cancer cells to move around the body faster. The lymphatic system normally transports immune cells throughout the body to fight illness.

A global wake-up call: common antibiotics are failing in up to half of all children

The most common antibiotics are failing in up to half of children, a study published in the British Medical Journal has found.  The researchers, from Bristol University and Imperial College London, reviewed 58 studies from 26 countries involving 78,000 E.coli patients — in particular those with urinary tract infections, which are common in children. In half of the children the bacteria were resistant to ampicillin. In a quarter of the children the bacteria were resistant to trimethoprim, while co-trimoxazole failed in a third of the children.  The figures were higher still in developing countries. The researchers say that if the trend continues, future treatments could be rendered ineffective.

Viagra promotes the growth of aggressive skin cancer

The drug, sildenafil which is marketed as Viagra and Revatio, is commonly prescribed to treat erectile dysfunction,  A long-term study, published in 2014, of nearly 15,000 men in the US suggested that sildenafil increased the risk of malignant melanoma.
The correlation was confirmed in 2015 in a study of nearly 24,000 men in Sweden.

A new study by researchers at the University of Tübingen in Germany found that sildenafil  has a stimulating effect on the messenger molecule cyclic guanosine monophosphate - or cGMP, cGMP, in turn, promotes the growth of existing malignant melanomas. The scientists reached this conclusion through animal experiments and human cell cultures.

Obese women on the Pill are '30 times more likely to suffer a rare type of stroke

Obese women taking oral contraceptives are up to 30 times more at risk of suffering a rare type of stroke, a new study warned.
Dutch researchers found women with a body mass index is above 30 were at a greater risk of cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT) - a blood clot on the brain.  Although the risk is still low, scientists said women should be informed of the risk and offered alternative contraceptives that are not linked to thrombosis.

How Dirt Makes You Happy: Antidepressant Microbes In Soil

Did you know that there’s a natural antidepressant in soil? It’s true. Mycobacterium vaccae is the substance under study and has indeed been found to mirror the effect on neurons that drugs like Prozac provide. The bacterium is found in soil and may stimulate serotonin production, which makes you relaxed and happier. Studies were conducted on cancer patients and they reported a better quality of life and less stress.

Lack of serotonin has been linked to depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and bipolar problems. The bacterium appears to be a natural antidepressant in soil and has no adverse health effects. These antidepressant microbes in soil may be as easy to use as just playing in the dirt.

Is Your Medicine Right for Your Metabolism?

People can respond to drugs very differently. A medication that brings relief for some patients might show no benefit at all in others, or even cause harmful side effects.  A growing array of genetic tests is designed to help predict how people are likely to respond to many common medications, from antidepressants and antihistamines to pain relievers and blood thinners. The tests, which are controversial, look for tiny variations in genes that determine how fast or slow we metabolize medications.

Because of such gene variations, codeine, frequently prescribed to relieve pain, has little effect on as much as 20% of the population, while 2% of people have such a strong reaction that a normal dose can be life-threatening. About 25% of people can’t effectively absorb Plavix, a clot-busting drug, putting them at increased risk for a heart attack or stroke. Even everyday drugs such as Advil and Motrin, for pain relief, and Zocor, to lower cholesterol, can have widely varying effects.
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How people’s genes affect their response to medications is called pharmacogenetics. One of the first such drug-gene interactions was identified at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., in the 1970s. Researchers discovered that about 1 in 300 children being treated for childhood leukemia had a gene variation that made the drug thiopurine destroy their bone marrow. Now, children are routinely tested before undergoing treatment with the drug.

Scientists have since discovered that about 75% of prescription and over-the-counter drugs depend on a handful of liver enzymes to be absorbed and eliminated from the body. Minor variations in the genes that regulate those enzymes are very common—95% of people have at least one.

On the horizon. New technique to detect cancer and HIV 'could prove 10,000 TIMES more effective, and lead to earlier diagnosis', experts claim

Early detection of most diseases significantly increases the chance of successful treatment.  While one aspect of early diagnosis is luck - whether a patient is screened at the right time, another important aspect is that tests are sensitive enough to pick up on the minuscule changes that diseases leave in the blood stream.  Now scientists at Stanford University have developed a new technique, which they hope will prove thousands of times more sensitive than those currently used in lab experiments.

When a disease, whether it is cancer or a virus like HIV, begins growing in the body, the immune system responds by producing antibodies.
Fishing these antibodies or related biomarkers out of the blood is one way that scientists can discover the presence of a disease.  The new technique looks for a short strand of DNA.  Experts say the new technique is much more sensitive and is better at picking up subtle changes in the blood stream. These changes indicate the presence of disease, they say. Noticing small changes earlier 'increases the chances treatment will work'

The researchers tested their technique, with its signature DNA flag, against four commercially available, FDA-approved tests for a biomarker for thyroid cancer. The new technique outperformed the sensitivity of all of them, by at least 800 times, and as much as 10,000 times.
By detecting the biomarkers of disease at lower concentrations, doctors could theoretically catch diseases far earlier in their progression, the chemists noted.

On the horizon Pioneering stem cell op 'could bring back sight for millions'

A revolutionary technique that harnesses the power of stem cell therapy promises to restore the sight of millions.
Taking as little as 45 minutes, the procedure offers hope to those with age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in adults globally.  In the breakthrough developed at University College London, doctors inserted a patch of stem cells into the retina of a woman who has lost her central vision.

The procedure, which has attracted the support of medical giant Pfizer, is carried out under local anaesthetic. It involves taking a single embryonic stem cell and growing it into a 6mm patch of 100,000 retinal pigment cells. That patch is then rolled into a thin tube, which is injected through a tiny slit in the eye. Once unfurled, it is placed behind the retina where scientists hope it will replace the faulty cells.

Retinal surgeon Professor Lyndon Da Cruz, who conducted the operation, said at the time: ‘There is real potential that people with wet age-related macular degeneration will benefit in the future from transplantation of these cells.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:29 PM | Permalink

Children need lots of 'free play' to ward off anxiety and depression

There's a reason kids are more anxious and depressed than ever.  They don't play enough.  In 2010,  Lenore Skenazy wrote Free-Range Kids, How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry) and started a movement which she documents on her blog. Free Range Kids.  In 2014 The Atlantic examined The Overprotected Kid and the preoccupation with safety that has stripped childhood of independence, risk taking, and discovery—without making it safer

Now psychologist Peter Gray looks at the statistics and the studies.  The Decline of Play and Rise in Children's Mental Disorders

Rates of depression and anxiety among young people in America have been increasing steadily for the past 50 to 70 years. Today... five to eight times as many high school and college students meet the criteria for diagnosis of major depression and/or anxiety disorder as was true half a century or more ago. ...
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The increased psychopathology seems to have nothing to do with realistic dangers and uncertainties in the larger world. The changes do not correlate with economic cycles, wars, or any of the other kinds of world events that people often talk about as affecting children's mental states. Rates of anxiety and depression among children and adolescents were far lower during the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, and the turbulent 1960s and early ‘70s than they are today. The changes seem to have much more to do with the way young people view the world than with the way the world actually is.
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One thing we know about anxiety and depression is that they correlate significantly with people's sense of control or lack of control over their own lives. People who believe that they are in charge of their own fate are less likely to become anxious or depressed than those who believe that they are victims of circumstances beyond their control. ---- Yet the data indicate that young people's belief that they have control over their own destinies has declined sharply over the decades.

The standard measure of sense of control is the Internal-External Locus of Control Scale developed by Juien Rotter.  Modified for use with children 9-14 is the Nowicki-Strickland Scale. 

Many studies over the years have shown that people who score toward the Internal end of Rotter's scale fare better in life than do those who score toward the External end. They are more likely to get good jobs that they enjoy, take care of their health, and play active roles in their communities—and they are less likely to become anxious or depressed.
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Julien Twenge analyzed many previous studies from 1960-2002 and the dramatic shift from the Internal to the External end of the scale...the same linear trend as did the rise in depression and anxiety.  The average young person in 2002 was more External than were 80% of young people in the 1960s....

Twenge's own theory is that the generational increases in anxiety and depression are related to a shift from "intrinsic" to "extrinsic" goals. Intrinsic goals are those that have to do with one's own development as a person—such as becoming competent in endeavors of one's choosing and developing a meaningful philosophy of life. Extrinsic goals, on the other hand, are those that have to do with material rewards and other people's judgments. They include goals of high income, status, and good looks. ...

We have much less personal control over achievement of extrinsic goals than intrinsic goals. I can, through personal effort, quite definitely improve my competence, but that doesn't guarantee that I'll get rich. I can, through spiritual practices or philosophical delving, find my own sense of meaning in life, but that doesn't guarantee that people will find me more attractive or lavish praise on me. To the extent that my emotional sense of satisfaction comes from progress toward intrinsic goals I can control my emotional wellbeing. To the extent that my satisfaction comes from others' judgments and rewards, I have much less control over my emotional state.

Of course this shift from intrinsic to extrinsic goals reflects our increasing materialistic culture.  How could it not with constant ads and shows delivering the message that happiness depends on good looks, popularity and material goods.  The author suggests another: Play.

As I pointed out ....children's freedom to play and explore on their own, independent of direct adult guidance and direction, has declined greatly in recent decades. Free play and exploration are, historically, the means by which children learn to solve their own problems, control their own lives, develop their own interests, and become competent in pursuit of their own interests.

By depriving children of opportunities to play on their own, away from direct adult supervision and control, we are depriving them of opportunities to learn how to take control of their own lives. We may think we are protecting them, but in fact we are diminishing their joy, diminishing their sense of self-control, preventing them from discovering and exploring the endeavors they would most love, and increasing the odds that they will suffer from anxiety, depression, and other disorders.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:00 AM | Permalink

Alzheimer's Roundup : Herpes virus a cause? Strong immune system, blueberries, maple syrup and exercise wards off

Scientists identify a virus and two bacteria that could be causing Alzheimer's

An international group of 31 Alzheimer's researchers has published an editorial urging the science world to change its focus when it comes to Alzheimer's disease. The message is clear - after a decade of failed attempts to treat and prevent the disease, it's time to reassess the evidence that Alzheimer's could be spread by microbes. The editorial specifically implicates the herpes virus - the kind that causes cold sores - and two types of bacteria, all of which have already been linked to Alzheimer's disease.
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Right now, the leading hypothesis is that Alzheimer's is caused by the build-up of sticky amyloid plaques and mis-folded tau proteins in the brain, which break down communication between neurons and lead to memory loss, cognitive decline, and eventually death.

Now the editorial claims it's time to consider the idea that certain viruses or bacteria are triggering this plaque build-up in the first place, and investigate whether antimicrobial drugs could help stop it. They say that the first microbes we should investigate are the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1), the chlamydia bacteria, and a type of spiral-shaped bacteria called spirochaetes. ....

"We are saying there is incontrovertible evidence that Alzheimer’s Disease has a dormant microbial component," said Douglas Kell, a chemist from the University of Manchester in the UK, who was one of the editorial's authors. "We can’t keep ignoring all of the evidence."

Remember when stomach ulcers were thought to be caused by spicy food?    Well, in 2005, the Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to 2 Australian scientists who showed that  inflammation of the stomach and stomach ulcers result from an infection of the stomach caused by H. pylori bacteria. 

Immune cells found to be vital in protecting against Alzheimer's

It was long thought that the immune system does not have much of an effect on Alzheimer’s disease. However, a new study revealed key immune cells located outside of the brain actually help rid the brain of the plaques that build up and trigger the disease.   A team of scientists from the University of California, Irvine genetically modified a group of mice with Alzheimer's to lack those immune cells - B-cells, T-cells and NK-cells.  They were found to have a far larger accumulation of Alzheimer's plaque than mice whose immune systems were intact.
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Study co-author Dr Mathew Blurton-Jones said: ‘We were very surprised by the magnitude of this effect.  We expected the influence of the deficient immune system on Alzheimer’s pathology to be much more subtle.’

Brain scan to diagnose Alzheimer's disease developed by US scientists

Alzheimer’s disease could be definitively diagnosed for the first time after scientists proved brain scans can pick up the condition in its earliest stages.  Currently the only way to determine whether Alzheimer’s is present is to look at the brain of a patient after death.
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Researchers at the University of California have proven that it is possible to spot the sticky amyloid plaques and tau protein tangles which cause the disease and pinpoint the moment that they trigger Alzheimer’s disease.
The US scientists were able to track the progressive stages of Alzheimer’s disease, even in adults who showed no symptoms. It means that people at risk from the condition – such as one in five of the population who carry the APOE gene variant – could be regularly screened.

What you can do.  Eat more blueberries

Snacking on blueberries from middle age could prevent dementia developing decades later, scientists say.
Experts told a major US conference that a compound in the berries may strengthen the brain’s defenses against Alzheimer’s....
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....The  benefits are due to anthocyanins, the plant chemicals that give the berries their deep blue/purple color.  They are thought to act on the brain in various ways, including boosting blood flow, cutting inflammation, and enhancing the passage of information between cells. The chemicals may also boost cells’ defenses, an American Chemical Society conference heard. In a second study of people who hadn’t been diagnosed with any memory problems, but simply felt they were becoming more forgetful, the berries also helped boost cognition, although to a lesser extent.

Maple Syrup is another food that could ward off Alzheimer's by protecting the brain against rogue proteins which destroy memory'

Just like blueberries, broccoli and fish, maple syrup  is rich in antioxidants that boost immunity.  Already linked with reducing the risk of cancer and diabetes, maple syrup has been included at the annual American Chemical Society meeting in a list of healthy natural products that could prevent the kind of damage found in dementia.
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The effect was similar to resveratrol, a chemical found in red wine which has been found to help slow dementia. The findings come after scientists from the University of Cincinnati told the same conference in San Diego earlier this week that regularly eating blueberries from middle age could prevent dementia developing decades later. Researchers found an extract of maple syrup may help prevent the misfolding and clumping of two types of proteins found in brain cells - beta amyloid and tau peptide.

In Europe, the LipiDiDiet project is investigating how nutrition impacts the development of Alzheimer's. We have known for a while that diet can reduce the risk of developing dementia. Indeed, certain nutrients have been found to have a neuroprotective effect on the brain," said researcher Tobias Hartmann from Saarland University in Germany and coordinator of the LipiDiDiet project. Nutrient drink helps protect memory in early Alzheimer's patients, study finds

Early results from an ongoing study into Alzheimer's disease in Europe suggest that a commonly available, over-the-counter nutritional supplement could help conserve memory function in patients with the early stages of the disease.  Scientists in Finland have been examining the effects of regular consumption of 'Fortasyn Connect', a patented combination of nutrients, sold under the brand name Souvenaid. While the early findings offer mixed results, the two-year clinical trial of 311 Alzheimer's patients suggests drinking Souvenaid daily does confer benefits to the memory function of people with prodomal (early stage) Alzheimer's...Just one drink a day brought back personal memories.

Don't forget that regular exercise can protect the brain.

In their quest to discover how to prevent the onset of the debilitating condition, a team of experts from University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center, found that those who are physically active cut their risk of dementia by 50 per cent...Virtually any form of exercise, including jogging, walking, dancing and even gardening, boosts brain volume in older people.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:00 AM | Permalink

March 12, 2016

Medical breakthroughs: leukemia, organ transplants, breast cancer, schizophrenia and HIV

With all the bad news in the world, it's good to realize how much good news there is in the medical field.

The breakthrough that could halt leukemia in its tracks

Eliminating a protein essential for leukemia cell growth can stop the disease from progressing, scientists have revealed. The protein Hhex is produced in excess in patients with the disease – enabling cancerous cells to ‘grow uncontrollably'; however, the protein isn’t needed by healthy blood cells.  Removing this protein essential for leukemia cell growth can stop the disease from progressing, scientists have revealed and does not cause patients any harm, researchers noted.


And so, scientists from Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne targeted Hhex in preclinical disease models. They found they can put a ‘handbrake’ on acute myeloid leukemia cell growth and division. This finding could pave the way for new therapies for leukemia, they said...Acute myeloid leukemia is an aggressive blood cancer that develops suddenly, grows quickly and has a poor prognosis.  Currently, AML treatments are associated with serious side-effects. Nearly three-quarters of patients relapse after only a short period of treatment.

New therapy 'alters the immune system, allowing the body to accept incompatible kidneys'.  Breakthrough means patients could receive organs from ANY donor.

The breakthrough procedure, known as desensitization therapy, allows patients to receive kidneys from live donors, who are not exact matches. Desensitization therapy filters out antibodies that would attack the non-matched organ, from the patient's blood.  Patients who undergo the procedure are more likely to be alive after eight years than those who wait for a kidney from a deceased donor - or don't receive a transplant, according researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Senior study author Dr Dorry Segev, of Johns Hopkins University, told Reuters: 'We used to say if you had a compatible donor, you could do a transplant.  'Now you can say, if you have an incompatible donor, we can make that transplant happen. That's very exciting to those on the waiting list.'

More than 100,000 people are currently on the waiting list in the US for a kidney, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.

Breast cancer Tumors shrunk 'dramatically' in 11 days

 Breast Cancer, Mri Scan-Spl-1

A pair of drugs can dramatically shrink and eliminate some breast cancers in just 11 days, UK doctors have shown.
They said the "surprise" findings, reported at the European Breast Cancer Conference, could mean some women no longer need chemotherapy.  The drugs, tested on 257 women, target a specific weakness found in one-in-ten breast cancers.
Experts said the findings were a "stepping stone" to tailored cancer care. The doctors leading the trial had not expected or even intended to achieve such striking results. They were investigating how drugs changed cancers in the short window between a tumor being diagnosed and the operation to remove it.

The drugs were lapatinib and trastuzumab, which is more widely known as Herceptin.They both target HER2 - a protein that fuels the growth of some women's breast cancers. Herceptin works on the surface of cancerous cells while lapatinib is able to penetrate inside the cell to disable HER2.

Breast cancer is now thought of as at least ten separate diseases, each with a different cause, life expectancy and needing a different treatment.  Matching the specific errors in a tumor to targeted drugs is considered the future of cancer medicine.

Scientists crack what causes schizophrenia: Process that 'tidies the brain' in the teenage years goes haywire, landmark study reveals

A game-changing study described as a 'turning point' in tackling mental illness has revealed the biological cause of schizophrenia. For the first time scientists have linked the devastating disease to a physical process, the 'pruning' of unwanted connections between brain neurons.  During the teenage years, the brain undergoes widespread re-wiring that involves 'synaptic pruning'.
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The new study, based on a genetic analysis of nearly 65,000 people from around the world, pinpointed a defective gene that appears to trigger excessive pruning.  Scientists believe it is this that underlies the symptoms of schizophrenia, a severe psychotic condition marked by a loosening grip on reality, delusions, paranoia and hallucinations.

They hope the discovery will lead to more effective treatments targeting the disorder's roots rather than its symptoms. Schizophrenia affects more than 21 million people worldwide and typically begins in late adolescence or early adulthood.

Breakthrough as researchers find HIV virus manipulates 400 genes

HIV produces a key protein call Tat that directly binds to 400 human genes which in turn creates an environment in which HIV can thrive and cause AIDS, scientists found at the UT Southwestern Medical Center. Study author Dr Ivan D’Orso said: ‘The findings clearly suggest that blocking Tat activity may be of therapeutic value to HIV patients.’

HIV causes AIDS to develop by hijacking immune cells and killing off cells that normally fight disease.
Also, HIV hides in cells and undermines the host’s immune system – even if antiretroviral therapy is being used.
An estimated 1.2 million people in the US were living with HIV in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:55 PM | Permalink

More on how foods increase or decrease your risk for developing certain diseases

White bread, bagels and rice 'increase the risk of lung cancer by 49%

Many studies suggest carbohydrates are bad for your waistline.  But a new study has warned they may also be bad for your lungs.  Specifically, foods with a high glycemic index - such as white bread or bagels, corn flakes and puffed rice - may increase the risk of lung cancer, scientists say. And non-smokers, who account for 12 per cent of those killed by the disease, appear to be particularly at risk.

The glycemic index is a measure of the quality of dietary carbohydrates - and is defined by how quickly blood sugar levels are raised after a meal. The theory now is that a high-GI diet triggers higher levels of blood glucose and insulin. This, in turn, increases levels of a type of hormone called Insulin-Like Growth Factors (IGFs).  Elevated levels of IGFs have previously been linked with a higher risk of lung cancer.

Lead study author Dr Stephanie Melkonian, of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, said: 'We observed a 49 per cent increased risk of lung cancer among subjects with the highest daily GI compared to those with the lowest daily GI.'
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Previous studies have found that dietary factors may have an influence on a person's risk of developing lung cancer.
Diets high in fruits and vegetables were found to decrease the risk - while increased consumption of red meat, saturated fats and dairy products are know to increase the risk of the disease.
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The study recommended that people limit foods and beverages with high GI.
Examples of low GI foods include whole-wheat or pumpernickel bread, rolled or steel-cut oatmeal and pasta.

Grapes that are great for your eyes - and could reduce the risk of blindness later in life

The fruit protects against a chemical process known as oxidative stress, which releases harmful molecules called free radicals into the retina, the study found. Grapes are rich in antioxidants that protect healthy cells from DNA damage and it is believed these compounds are behind the eyesight benefits.
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Widely recognized as a superfood, grapes are packed with vitamins C and K and beta- carotene, which help rid the body of free radicals, by-products of oxygen use that cause cellular damage.  Previous research by scientists at the University of Glasgow found that the antioxidant benefits of drinking purple grape juice could also reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Another study, by scientists at Washington State University, found that eating grapes can help prevent weight gain. They contain a compound called resveratrol – also found in blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and apples – that converts bad, white fat in the body into good ‘beige fat’, which burns up calories.


 Grapes-Bunches

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:14 AM | Permalink

The continuing failure of Obamacare

NPR and Harvard agree: Obamacare is a complete failure.

National Public Radio collaborated with Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to survey Americans’ recent experience with health care. As to the Affordable Care Act, the survey’s findings are damning. They suggest that Obamacare has been worse than a complete waste of money.
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The survey says more people think health care has gotten worse (26%) than better (15%).  Forty-nine percent of people think health care has stayed about the same.
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Remember how we were all supposed to save $2,500 a year in health insurance premiums? Only 4% say they have saved anything, and those respondents are probably wrong. For the vast majority, Obamacare has either done nothing, or has increased the cost of health care, counting premiums, deductibles and co-pays. Good going, Barry!
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The federal government has had its share of failures over the years, but it is hard to think of a federal program that has proved such a comprehensive disaster, in such a short period of time, as the Affordable Care Act. Which, by the way, still hasn’t been fully implemented, as the Democrats have postponed some of its more baleful effects until 2017. So the number of people who are hurt by Obamacare, e.g. by losing the employer-based coverage with which they were content, is destined to rise.

Over half of the nonprofit health insurance co-ops formed by Obamacare have failed.

These failed ObamaCare co-ops have not repaid $1.2B in federal loans. and still owe more than $1 billion in additional liabilities, according to recent financial statements cited Thursday at a congressional hearing.

“In some states, these losses will be absorbed by other insurance companies—which means, by the policyholders of other insurance companies who have to pay increased … premiums,” he said. “In other states, doctors, hospitals and individual patients stand to suffer large out-of-pocket losses due to the co-op failures—as our report details
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:08 AM | Permalink

March 7, 2016

Health Roundup - Food

Citrus fruit intake has been associated with reduced stroke risk.

The key may lie with a citrus phytonutrient called hesperidin, which appears to increase blood flow throughout the body, including the brain....When subjects drank straight orange juice instead of the hesperidin solution, their blood flow was even better. In other words, the stroke-reducing effects of oranges extend beyond just the hesperidin. When it comes to food, the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts.

 Cruciferous

Forget wonder drugs, you need broccoli and spinach to protect against deadly diseases

Broccoli is incredible. It can prevent DNA damage and metastatic cancer spread; activate defenses against pathogens and pollutants; help to prevent lymphoma; boost the enzymes that detox your liver; target breast cancer stem cells; and reduce the risk of prostate cancer progression.

The component responsible for all this is thought to be sulforaphane, which is formed almost exclusively in cruciferous vegetables — including rocket, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, spring greens, horseradish, kale, mustard greens, radishes, turnip tops and watercress. Sulforaphane may also help protect your brain and your eyesight, reduce nasal allergy inflammation and manage type 2 diabetes. It was even recently found to help treat autism....
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Popeye was right about spinach: dark green, leafy vegetables are the healthiest food on the planet. As whole foods go, they offer the most nutrition per calorie.  Of all the food groups analyzed by a team of Harvard University researchers, greens turned out to be associated with the strongest protection against major chronic diseases.  That meant about a 20 per cent reduction in risk for heart attacks and strokes for every additional daily serving. Yet today, only about one in every 25 people even eat a dozen servings in a month, let alone a week.

A healthy diet slows the damaging effects of smoking and helps to prevent lung cancer from spreading 

Lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma are the biggest killers.  One potential cause of lung cancer may be the fumes from frying food

A healthy diet may help mitigate the DNA-damaging effects of tobacco smoke, as well as perhaps helping prevent lung cancer from spreading...In one study of long-term smokers, as little as a single stalk of broccoli a day resulted in  41 per cent fewer DNA mutations in their bloodstream over ten days — and it seems the broccoli wasn't just helping their livers work better, but making them more resilient at a subcellular level. ...
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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema, makes it difficult to breathe and gets worse over time. Data going back 50 years show that a high intake of fruit and vegetables aids good lung function. Just one extra serving of fruit each day may mean a 24 per cent lower risk of dying from COPD.
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Researchers in Sweden decided to test out a plant-based diet on a group of 35 severe asthmatics who weren't getting better despite the best medical therapies.  Of the 24 patients who stuck with the plant-based diet, 70 per cent improved considerably after four months and 90 per cent improved within a year.

Lack of vitamin D 'significantly speeds up the growth of breast cancer tumors and causes the disease to spread'

The Stanford University School of Medicine study highlights a direct link between circulating vitamin D levels and the expression of a gene called ID1, known to be associated with tumor growth and breast cancer metastasis.
It adds to previous findings that a vitamin D deficiency not only increase a person's risk of developing breast cancer, but are also correlated with more aggressive tumors and worse prognoses.

Vitamin pills don't have the cancer-fighting effects of real food

After following more than 60,000 people for more than a dozen years, University of Oxford researchers found those who consume a plant-based diet were less likely to develop all forms of cancer combined.  The greatest protection appeared to be against blood cancers. The incidence of leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma among those eating vegetarian diets is nearly half that of meat-eaters.  Green, leafy vegetables - including salad and cooked greens - and citrus fruits seemed to offer the most protection

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:30 AM | Permalink

February 18, 2016

Health Roundup: T-cell immunotherapy, liquid biopsy for cancer, statins for the brain, breast cancer, heartburn drugs and sleep

T-cell immunotherapy.  Is this the cure for cancer? Genetically modified blood turned into 'living drug' in stunning new therapy that hunts down and destroys diseased cells and prevents them from returning - possibly FOREVER

The treatment is created from T-cells – white blood cells that normally fight off viruses and bacteria – which are removed from the patient and genetically tweaked to recognize and attack their cancer.  The genetically-modified cells are then grown in their millions in a lab before being infused back into the patient, where they hunt down and destroy the cancer cells.
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Two landmark studies have revealed the therapy’s stunning potential. One suggests it will last for at least 14 years in the body, raising the tantalizing prospect of a permanent cure for cancer.  In the other, 94 per cent of terminally ill patients saw the disease vanish completely. Scientists around the world are perfecting the technique, and a series of trials have shown it to have remarkable potential.

Liquid Biopsy: A new 10-minute test for cancer developed by scientists can be taken at home with just a drop of saliva.

David Wong, a professor of oncology at California State University says it is possible to detect tumor DNA when is it circulating in bodily fluids – an approach known as a liquid biopsy.  The saliva test is 100 per cent accurate and is so simple that it could be carried out at a pharmacist, the dentist or even in the privacy of someone's own home.  The test is non-invasive and cheap, costing around just $22.  It is due to enter full clinical trials in lung cancer patients later this year, and is expecting approval within two years from the Food and Drug Administration in America.

Too much diversity New test 'accurately' spots the most deadly forms of breast cancer BEFORE they spread

According to initial trials of the test, developed by the Institute of Cancer Research in London, doctors were able to spot women at the highest risk of dying from their disease. The test could now be used to tailor treatment for women at the highest risk.

Scientists modified methods initially developed by wildlife experts to identify ecological diversity in the natural world. They adapted the ecologists’ computer algorithm to use it on tumor samples.  Tumors with a greater diversity of types of cell tend to be the most aggressive, and most likely to eventually become fatal.  The cancer team found that they could use the naturalists’ approach to give each tumor a ‘diversity score’ - which they showed was an accurate predictor of how dangerous it would become.  In a trial of 1,000 women, they found that those whose tumors had the highest diversity score were three times more likely to die within three five than those with the lowest score.

Common antibiotics may trigger DELIRIUM:  Drugs can cause confusion, hallucinations and agitation for weeks.

The research suggests antibiotics may be more strongly linked to delirium than was previously believed
....Dr Shamik Bhattacharyya, of Harvard Medical School, and the study's author reviewed all available scientific literature on delirium and found case studies on 391 patients, over seven decades, who were given antibiotics and later developed the condition as well as other brain problems....A total of 54 different antibiotics were involved.  Some 47 per cent of people taking the drugs had delusions or hallucinations, 14 per cent had seizures, 15 per cent had involuntary muscle twitching and 5 per cent had loss of control of body movements.  Data from electroencephalograms (EEG) - a test that detects electrical activity in the brain - was also abnormal in 70 per cent of the cases. Additionally, 25 per cent of people who developed delirium

Heartburn Drugs Tied to Dementia Risk

The popular heartburn drugs known as proton pump inhibitors have been linked to a range of ills: bone fractures, kidney problems, infections and more. Now a large new study has found that they are associated with an increased risk for dementia as well.  Proton pump inhibitors, or P.P.I.s, are widely available both by prescription and over the counter under various brand names, including Prevacid, Prilosec and Nexium.

German researchers found that regular use of P.P.I.s increased the risk for dementia in men by 52 percent and in women by 42 percent, compared with nonusers....“Our study does not prove that P.P.I.s cause dementia,” said the senior author, Britta Haenisch of the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases. “It can only provide a statistical association. This is just a small part of the puzzle.

'Statins for the brain' may prevent the proteins that cause Alzheimer’s from ever forming

Cambridge University scientists have discovered drugs that could stop the cruel disease ever developing.
After searching the medical literature for a drug that interfered with the very first stage of the process, they tested this drug, bexarotene, in a test-tube and it stopped the clumps from forming.

Good as bexarotene was, Professor Vendruscolo has since found several that are even more powerful.  Much more research is needed before their Alzheimer’s prevention powers are tested on people but the professor is optimistic that it will one day be possible to stop the amyloid-beta protein from poisoning the brain.

One per cent. Reversing the symptoms of schizophrenia for some (about 1%) who carry a genetic mutation known as the 22q11.2 microdeletion.

Scientists have found people with schizophrenia carry key mutations in DNA.  These, in turn, disrupted genes involved in the transmission of chemical messengers across the brain.

The balance of the messengers plays a crucial role in ensuring the brain develops healthily and functions normally.
Some chemical messengers, known as neurotransmitters, 'excite' brain cells into an action, whereas other 'inhibit' the activity of cells.  Disruptions to neurotransmitters can therefore change whether cells function, and researchers believe this may be what causes schizophrenia.

Using a drug candidate designed to block the activity of Gsk3β in mice, researchers found it prompted neurons in the animals' brains to branch out and form new connections. Test showed the communication between brain regions was restored. Although the findings have yet to be replicated in human patients, the scientists behind the study said the compound could eventually lead to new treatments for schizophrenia.

One per cent. Reversing autism 'at the flick of a switch': 'Turning on' a single gene in mice has been found to reduce autistic behaviors

Autism is a complex spectrum of disorders caused by numerous underlying factors. But around one per cent of cases are caused by a missing gene called Shank3. Neuroscientists report that by switching on this single gene they were able to reverse changes to the brain in animals with the condition.
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Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that in mice lacking the gene, switching it back on later in life could reverse some of the autism-like behaviors in the animals.  According to the team, the findings show that the brain may be capable of adapting to genetic changes even after it is fully developed and can make and break connections.

Too much sleep 'is a bigger stroke risk than too little': More than eight hours a night can increase risk by 146%

A study of nearly 290,000 people found seven to eight hours’ sleep a night may protect against the chance of a stroke.
But the US researchers, from the New York University School of Medicine, found that those who sleep for longer than this increase their risk of having a stroke by 146 per cent. And less than seven hours of sleep also increases the risk, by 22 per cent.

Sleeping seven to eight hours a night and taking 30 to 60 minutes of exercise three to six times a week gave the maximum benefits for stroke prevention.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:00 PM | Permalink

February 4, 2016

Health roundup: Fats and garlic for your heart, Statins, new uses for old drugs and more

How eating fat could SAVE one million lives: Adding nuts, seeds and tofu to diets 'prevents early death from heart disease'

Study author Dr Dariush Mozaffarian, of the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, said: ‘Worldwide, policymakers are focused on reducing saturated fats. ‘Yet, we found there would be a much bigger impact on heart disease deaths if the priority was to increase the consumption of polyunsaturated fats as a replacement for saturated fats and refined carbohydrates, as well as to reduce trans fats.’
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Polyunsaturated fats help reduce bad cholesterol levels in the blood. That, in turn, can lower the risks of heart disease and stroke. Furthermore, oils that are rich in polyunsaturated fats provide essential fats that the body needs – including long chain fatty acids. Polyunsaturated fats can be found in foods including soybeans, corn and sunflower oils, tofu, nuts and seeds. They are also contained it fatty fishes, such as salmon, mackerel, herring and trout.

The study sought to estimate the number of annual deaths related to various patterns of fat consumption.
The team of scientists used 2010 data from 186 countries....eating too little healthy omega-6 polyunsaturated fats  accounted for 10.3 per cent of total global heart disease deaths.... excess consumption of trans fats accounted for 7.7 per cent of global heart disease deaths.

Garlic REALLY is good for you: Extract 'reverses build-up of deadly plaque that clogs arteries and triggers heart attacks'

Aged garlic extract reduces dangerous plaque buildup in arteries, according to the study from Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.  That helps prevent the progression of heart disease – which is the leading cause of death worldwide. 

The study involved 55 patients between the ages of 40 and 75, each of whom were diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.  The participants were screened at the beginning of the study to measure their total coronary plaque volume as was their dense calcium, non-calcified plaque and low-attenuation plaque using cardiac computed tomography angiography (CCTA), an imaging technology that measures deposits and build up in arteries.

One year later, a follow-up screening was conducted. The study determined those who had taken aged garlic extract had slowed the total plaque accumulation by 80 per cent. Furthermore, they reduced soft plaque and demonstrated regression for low-attenuation plaque.
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The findings fall in line with a study last year from the University of Missouri. That study revealed garlic offers the brain protection against aging and disease.It also suggested garlic could even prevent age-related neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Antidepressants can raise the risk of suicide, biggest ever review finds

Antidepressant use doubles the risk of suicide in under 18s and the risks to adults may have been seriously underestimated, researchers find after an analysis of 70 trials of the most common antidepressants - involving more than 18,000 people.

Like mother, like daughter: 'Emotional' brain circuit is passed down through the female line and may be a factor in depression

It has been long suspected that mothers can 'pass on' depression to their daughters. Researchers believe the wiring in the brain structure, known as the corticolimbic system, may be an inherited factor contributing to risk, or resistance to depression being passed on.


Teenagers who use sunbeds are up to SIX times more likely get lethal skin cancer by the age of 40

132,000 cases of the often-fatal melanoma occur globally every year.  Those under diagnosed with melanoma began using sunbeds at about 16 and used them more frequently than older women.  All but 2 of 63 diagnosed with melanoma under 30 reported tanning indoors

Two energy drinks a day 'increases the risk of heart palpitations, fast heart rate and chest pain in healthy people'

70% of patients at emergency department with heart palpitations had consumed an energy drink - 36% in the last 24 hours.

Statins DOUBLE the risk of diabetes according to 'alarming' 10-year study

Healthy patients taking the heart drug statins have a significantly higher risk of new diabetes and a very high risk of serious diabetic complications, a study has found.
The research, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine in May 2015, tracked individuals in a database for almost ten years. It discovered statin users had a higher incidence of diabetes and also weight gain.
Patients using the drugs were also more likely than the others to develop diabetes with complications including eye, nerve and kidney damage.

But Statins found to clear away deposits that cause blindness in the elderly

An estimated 20 million people worldwide suffer with dry age-related macular degeneration - known as dry AMD - a disease which causes blurred vision and eventually blindness.  Known as the ‘Alzheimer’s of the eye’ because of the way it robs elderly people of their sight, the condition affects a quarter of British over-60s.  Until now there have been very few treatments for the condition, but experts have discovered that statins - a cheap cholesterol drug already taken by millions - may provide a solution....

Scientists at Harvard Medical School in the US found that high-dose treatment with the statin Lipitor cleared away fatty deposits behind the retina, leading to visual improvement in ten patients with dry AMD.  They hope that future larger trials will show that the drug has the potential to halt progression and even reverse the disease in some cases.

A pound-a-day pill that has revolutionized the treatment of malaria – and is based on a Chinese herbal remedy – could be the latest weapon against bowel cancer.

Scientists say artesunate could be effective for the estimated 40,000 Britons who are diagnosed with the disease every year. ..Artesunate is derived from the leaves of sweet wormwood, an aromatic herb used to treat fever for more than 2,000 years. Chinese scientist Tu Youyou was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Medicine for her discovery that the herb could be used to treat malaria.

Early trials show that bowel-cancer patients who took the drug for two weeks before surgery were six times less likely to have a recurrence of the disease compared to those who took a placebo.  Patients taking the drug did not suffer any side effects, giving hope that the pill could provide a safe, affordable treatment....Only one patient taking artesunate had a recurrence of cancer after three-and- a-half years, compared to six in the placebo group.  Now the treatment is being rolled out in a larger UK trial involving 140 patients.

Could a pill help people with autism chat more easily? Drugs used to treat high blood pressure 'improve social skills'

One of the most commonly recognized symptoms of autism is problems with social interaction and communication including difficulty understanding and being aware of other people's emotions and feelings as well as problems taking part in, or starting, conversations

But a new study used a common drug taken for high blood pressure pill helped to improve the both verbal and non verbal conversational skills.  Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia gave 20 volunteers either a 40-milligram dose of propranolol or a placebo pill....It found the total communication scores were significantly greater when the individual took propranolol compared to the placebo.

'Though more research is needed to study its effects after more than one dose, these preliminary results show a potential benefit of propranolol to improve the conversational and nonverbal skills of individuals with autism,' associate professor Dr David Beversdorf.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:39 PM | Permalink

January 21, 2016

On the health horizon

In five or so years. The gastric bypass in a PILL:

Capsule filled with natural oils suppresses appetite and stops 'even the hungriest person from eating'. Fish oil-type capsule is thought to trick the stomach into thinking it's full. Scientists: 'It should have the same effect as gastric bypass surgery' but will not be expensive or carry the risks of major invasive surgery.  Developers hope the product could be on the market within five years.

Or there's this new operation that's  less invasive and cheaper than gastric bypass surgery - and 'reduces weight by 54%'

Gastric bypass surgery is invasive, costly and carries risks. Only two per cent of people who need the surgeries actually get them.  Doctors from Mayo Clinic have developed an alternative procedure called endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty.  By inserting a flexible tube with a light and camera attached to it, doctors can reduce the size of a stomach by creating a ‘sleeve’ with sutures, a new study revealed.  The procedure falls under the umbrella of endoscopy – the nonsurgical procedure that gastroenterologists use to examine a person’s digestive tract.

The Mayo Clinic conducted a study on 25 obesity patients who underwent the procedure. They found it reduced excess body weight within one year.  Additionally, the procedure delayed solid food emptying from the stomach – creating an earlier feeling of fullness during a meal.  That feeling of fullness resulted in a more significant and long-lasting weight loss.

It required less than two hours of procedure time – and patients returned to their normal lifestyles within one to three days.  The doctors utilized standard ‘off-the-shelf’ endoscopic tools instead of specific weight loss devices or platforms. The procedure ended up costing just one-third the price of typical bariatric surgeries.  But, the study authors said randomized control studies with longer follow-up must be conducted to confirm the findings in a larger patient population.

'Invisibility cloak' makes chemotherapy drug '50 TIMES more powerful - and shields patients from grueling side effects'

The new technique involves packaging the drug paclitaxel in containers derived from a patient's own immune system.  By doing so, scientists believe they can protect the drug from being destroyed by the body's own defenses, and as a result direct the full-force of the medication at the tumor.
Dr Elena Batrakova, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina's School of Pharmacy, said: 'That means we can use 50 times less of the drug and still get the same results.

Researchers focused on exosomes, tiny spheres harvested from the white blood cells that protect the body against infection. The exosomes are made of the same material as cell membranes, meaning the patient's body does not recognize them as a foreign body.  Researchers said this has been one of the toughest hurdles to overcome in the last decade, using plastic-based nanoparticles to deliver drugs into the body. Paclitaxel is a potent drug used in the United States as a first- and second-line treatment for breast, lung and pancreatic cancers

Dr Batrakova said: 'Exosomes are engineered by nature to be the perfect delivery vehicles.
'By using exosomes from white blood cells, we wrap the medicine in an invisibility cloak that hides it from the immune system. 'We don't know exactly how they do it, but the exosomes swarm the cancer cells, completely bypassing any drug resistance they may have and delivering their payload.'

Dissolvable Brain Sensors Disintegrate Once Their Job Is Done

They can measure pressure, temperature, and much more before being safely absorbed into the body.

A Microrobotics Army to Defend Your Health

Remember the movie Fantastic Voyage from way back in 1966? In that film, a submarine with its crew was somehow shrunk to microscopic size and injected into the bloodstream of an injured scientist to repair damage to his brain. In addition to featuring Raquel Welsh in a clingy body suit, the film had great special effects showing the sub passing through various parts of the body.

Miniaturized tools that move through the bloodstream to repair damage was science fiction then, but they may now be on the verge of becoming reality. Instead of a mini sub with a crew, a swarm of microrobots (also called nanobots or nanorobots) could be injected into the body to deliver a highly targeted dose of a drug or radioactive seeds to treat cancer, or to clear a blood clot, or perform a tissue biopsy, or to build a scaffold around an area where new cells need to be grown.

Tomorrow’s Heart Drugs Might Target Gut Microbes

Scientists can stop gut bacteria in mice from making a chemical that causes arterial disease.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:13 PM | Permalink

January 19, 2016

Poop in the News

Ed Driscoll writing on Instapundit :

THE 21st CENTURY ISN’T TURNING OUT THE WAY I HAD EXPECTED: Scientists Think Eating Poop May Help You Lose Weight.
Or as Iowahawk recently tweeted:  Eat Shit and Diet

Gut bacteria from the stool samples of thin people could help treat obesity

In March 2016, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston will launch a clinical trial (“Fecal Microbiota Transplant for Obesity and Metabolism”) to study the impact of gut bacteria on weight....using freeze-dried poop pills.

How Gut Bacteria Help Make Us Fat and Thin

....researchers found that the gut community in lean people was like a rain forest brimming with many species but that the community in obese people was less diverse—more like a nutrient-overloaded pond where relatively few species dominate. Lean individuals, for example, tended to have a wider variety of Bacteroidetes, a large tribe of microbes that specialize in breaking down bulky plant starches and fibers into shorter molecules that the body can use as a source of energy.

In the New Yorker, Emily Eakin writes about Bacteria on the Brain  A brilliant surgeon offered an untested treatment to dying patients. Was it innovation or overreach?

....before he replaced the “bone flap”—the section of skull that is removed to allow access to the brain—he soaked it for an hour in a solution teeming with Enterobacter aerogenes, a common fecal bacterium. Then he reattached it to Egan’s skull, using tiny metal plates and screws. Muizelaar hoped that inside Egan’s brain an infection was brewing.....
The procedure was heretical in principle: deliberately exposing a patient to bacteria in the operating room violated a basic tenet of modern surgery, the concept known as “maintaining a sterile field,” which, along with prophylactic antibiotics, is credited with sharply reducing complications and mortality rates.
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“I know several neurosurgeons who would say, ‘If I ever have a glioblastoma, I would have it infected.’ ”
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The prognosis for glioblastoma is grim. Even with the standard treatment—surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy—the median survival time from diagnosis is little more than fourteen months. But for decades talk has circulated in the field about glioblastoma patients who, despite hospitals’ efforts to keep the O.R. free of germs, acquired a “wound infection” during surgery to remove their tumors. These patients, it was said, often lived far longer than expected. A 1999 article in Neurosurgery described four such cases: brain-tumor patients who developed postoperative infections and survived for years, cancer-free.

Three of the patients were infected with Enterobacter, the fecal bacterium, and although the cases were anecdotal, and the alleged connection between the bacterium and survival was unproven, the notion became operating-room lore. One neurosurgeon, currently in private practice, told me that his former boss would joke during operations, “If I ever get a GBM, put your finger in your keister and put it in the wound.”

The Rise of the Do-It-Yourself Fecal Transplant  something I do not recommend.

Because the stool is about 50% bacteria, the theory behind the transplant is that it can replace bacteria that have gone missing from the gut. It can have dramatic results, even after a single treatment.The process of doing it at home is surprisingly simple.
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Fecal transplants, in which stool is obtained from a healthy friend or relative and injected into the colon during a colonoscopy procedure, have been shown to cure C. diff about 90% to 95% of the time. It’s a cure rate that Silverman and other experts call “utterly remarkable.”

Fecal transplants have become standard care for people who have repeated bouts of C. diff. It’s much easier to get them in a medical setting than it was even 2 years ago. And the stool doesn’t even have to be delivered via colonoscopy anymore. Doctors can order new capsules of carefully screened, freeze-dried donor stool made by a biotech startup company called OpenBiome that patients swallow to get nearly the same benefits.

Quiz: The Scoop on Poop

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:26 PM | Permalink

January 7, 2016

Health Roundup: Another reason to...

Another reason to floss.:    GUM DISEASE increases your risk of breast cancer:

In a study that monitored 73,737 postmenopausal women without breast cancer, those with gum disease had a 14% higher chance of breast cancer.  Researchers from the University of Buffalo suggest that bacteria ‘enters the blood stream triggering the disease’.  Periodontal disease – or gum disease – is a common condition that is known to be associated with heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Previous studies also found links between gum disease in oral, esophageal, head and neck, pancreatic and lung cancers.

Another reason to get enough sleep:.  A lack of sleep can increase YOUR risk of dementia.

During sleep the brain clears out toxins that trigger Alzheimer's..  Too little sleep and the toxins build up and damage the brain.  Dr Jeffrey Illif, a brain scientist at Oregon Health and Science University, told NPR that ‘changes in sleep habits may actually be setting the stage’ for dementia.  With previous research showing deep sleep to ‘power cleanse’ beta-amyloid from the brain, the researchers believe lack of sleep to be a key part of a vicious circle in which memory gets worse and worse. University of California, Berkley researcher Matthew Walker said: ‘The more beta-amyloid you have in certain parts of your brain, the less deep sleep you get and, consequently, the worse your memory.

Another reason to take vitamin C:  Migraine breakthrough  the process that triggers EVERY symptom

Jonathan Borkum, a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Maine, studied 2,000 papers on migraines to look at a range of triggers, such as dehydration or air pollution, and compared how each of them affected the brain. He concluded that a surplus of free radicals, the corrosive molecules produced by our bodies as we process oxygen, were at the root of all headaches.  The surplus creates an imbalance in the body called ‘oxidative stress’ when there are not enough antioxidant defenses to fend off the free radicals.  The discovery means that headaches could be prevented or alleviated using supplements such as beta carotene and vitamin C which bind and shut down free radicals. However they may have health risks and one study found that antioxidant supplements were associated with higher risk of death than those who did not take them.

Another reason to exercise:  Regular exercise may be the best medicine for prostate cancer:

Exercise could be the best medicine for many men with prostate cancer if the disease is caught early, doctors believe.
Walking, cycling, swimming and other regular physical activity may have the power to keep the disease in check, they suggest. This would mean that fewer men would need radiotherapy, chemotherapy and other powerful treatments that can have distressing and long-lasting side effects.  A world-first trial underway at  Sheffield Hallam University in the U.K.

Another reason to take vitamin D:  82% of IBS sufferers 'are deficient in vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin'

Scientists found a link between irritable bowel syndrome and vitamin D when their findings revealed that  82% of IBS patients are vitamin D deficient.  Doctors suggest people with IBS,  a chronic disorder of the gastrointestinal tract, take vitamin D supplements.

Another reason to maintain a healthy weight:  Being overweight raises the risk of 10 different types of cancer

Being overweight, which is defined as having a Body Mass Index of more than 25, increases the risk of developing 10 different cancers including esophagus, bowel, breast, liver and pancreatic cancer. It also raises the risk of kidney, womb, ovary, gallbladder and advanced prostate cancer.  The World Cancer Research Fund says a third of the most common cancers could be prevented through choosing a healthy diet, being physically active and maintaining a healthy body weight.

'It doesn't have to be anything too difficult – cutting down on high calorie foods and sugary drinks, drinking less alcohol, or even 10 to 15 extra minutes each day of physical activities such as brisk walking could all decrease a person's cancer risk.'

Another reason to maintain and nourish your relationships: Loneliness is 'AS deadly as a lack of exercise and diabetes': Poor social network 'drastically increases risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer'

Previous studies found that aging adults live longer if they have more social connections.  Scientists from the University of North Carolina  builds on that research with a new study that demonstrates how social relationships reduce the risk of poor health at each stage of life.  They determined that weak relationships in younger years can increase your risk of inflammation – at the same rate as lack of exercise.  Furthermore, hypertension in old age is more likely to occur as a result of loneliness than clinical risk factors, including diabetes.  Yet, people who have the support of loved ones are less likely to develop health conditions – and more likely to have a longer life expectancy.
Dr Kathleen Mullan Harris, of UNC and the Carolina Population Center, said: ‘Based on these findings, it should be as important to encourage adolescents and young adults to build broad social relationships and skills for interacting with others as it is to eat healthy and be physically active.’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:31 AM | Permalink

December 15, 2015

Identity Politics is Poison

In Spiked, Brendan O'Neill examines identity politics and the death of the individual in The Crisis of Character

The subjectivity of human identity in the 21st century is striking, and alarming. Today, to feel something is to be something....Politics has become an arena for the pitting of personalized identities against one another: a new caste system, in effect...

This desire to treat the world as a mirror, as a thing that must validate our self-esteem, is far more pronounced today than it was in the 1970s. The cult of self-identification, the insistence that grammar, education and institutions reorganize themselves around what individuals feel themselves to be, takes to the extreme the reduction of public life to the level of mere validator for insecure individuals.
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Where earlier celebrators of the individual emphasised our capacity for autonomy and for governing our own minds and sense of ourselves, today’s self-identifiers cannot exist without the blessing of new forms of therapeutic authority.....The self-identifiers are enslaved by the 21st-century validation machine, their esteem locked in a danse macabre with the self-esteem industry
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What is today referred to as the rise of identity politics is in truth the hollowing out of the institutions, beliefs and freedoms around which life and identity were shaped and cohered for centuries. It is a crisis not merely of politics, or class, or the left; it is a crisis of character, a questioning of what it means to be human, an uncertainty as to how we become fully human. Addressing the emergence of new, weak identities, and the corresponding creation of a therapeutic industry and new forms of moral censure to prop up these identities, will require more than ridiculing the new left or the so-called ‘identitarian movement’. It demands nothing less than the reconstruction of public life, and the rediscovery of our faith in the strong individual who both makes and is made by the world, rather than simply needing to be consoled by it. It requires that we refuse to acquiesce to alienated, subjective identity-making, and instead recreate the conditions in which people can develop their identity through the exercise of moral autonomy, and through creating and engaging in new institutions, new ideas and new societies.

As Bill Clinton said,

"I believe that in ways large and small, peaceful and sometimes violent, that the biggest threat to the future of our children and grandchildren is the poison of identity politics that preaches that our differences are far more important than our common humanity,"

And Christopher Hitchens wrote,

"People who think with their epidermis or their genitalia or their clan are the problem to begin with. One does not banish this specter by invoking it. If I would not vote against someone on the grounds of "race" or "gender" alone, then by the exact same token I would not cast a vote in his or her favor for the identical reason. Yet see how this obvious question makes fairly intelligent people say the most alarmingly stupid things."
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“For years, I declined to fill in the form for my Senate press credential that asked me to state my 'race,' unless I was permitted to put 'human.' The form had to be completed under penalty of perjury, so I could not in conscience put 'white,' which is not even a color let alone a 'race,' and I sternly declined to put 'Caucasian,' which is an exploded term from a discredited ethnology. Surely the essential and unarguable core of King's campaign was the insistence that pigmentation was a false measure: a false measure of mankind (yes, mankind) and an inheritance from a time of great ignorance and stupidity and cruelty, when one drop of blood could make you 'black.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:00 AM | Permalink

December 9, 2015

New evidence for the body-brain connection: Fit body, fit mind

NYT Does Exercise Help Keep Our Brains Young?

Physical fitness may be critical for maintaining a relatively youthful and nimble brain as we age, according to a new study of brain activation patterns in older people.

For most of us, our bodies begin to lose flexibility and efficiency as we enter our 40s....our thinking becomes less efficient. We don’t toggle between mental tasks as nimbly as we once did or process new information with the same aplomb and clarity.
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The results suggest that “higher aerobic fitness is associated with improved cognitive function.” Fit older people’s brains require fewer resources to complete tasks than do the brains of older people who are out of shape....
..... daily mild exercise such as walking and mild jogging may affect the way the brain works, so that an older person’s brain “acts like a younger brain.”

Strong legs contribute to a healthier brain in old age, study finds

Researchers find leg muscle force to be more closely linked to age-related changes in mental function than any other lifestyle factor tested...Researchers found a “striking protective relationship” between high leg power and better preserved mental ability and brain structure over a period of 10 years.

Dancing, Sudoku, fish and fruit – the keys to a mentally alert old age

Researchers in Finland tested more than 1,000 people aged 60 to 77 in a long-term study that could improve treatments for Alzheimer’s and dementia.....Researchers in Finland recruited 1,260 people aged between 60 and 77, and effectively re-organized the lives of half of them. They were given regular gym sessions with physiotherapists to strengthen their muscles one to three times a week and took part in aerobic exercises, sometimes in groups, two to five times a week. They had brain training using computer programs not unlike commercial games, where success leads to another layer of difficulty. And they were advised to eat a Nordic diet – not dissimilar to the Mediterranean diet – containing fish at least twice a week, lots of fruit and vegetables, and olive and other vegetable oils. The other group were given standard health advice.

At the end of two years, those who had been eating a better diet, getting active and training their brains scored on average 25% higher in mental tests than those in the other group. In some of the tests, the difference was even more striking. For executive function – the brain’s ability to organize and regulate thought processes – the intervention group scored 85% higher and in processing speed, 150% higher.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:13 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: High blood pressure, Alzheimer's, loneliness, popcorn lung, 2 minute exercise bursts

Persistent high blood pressure could be cured by 'dirt cheap' drug that's been around for 50 years, doctors discover

Spironolactone was first used in 1959 as a water pill to treat fluid retention.  New study shows it works in 60% of patients with unregulated high blood pressure. Experts today said the finding offered hope of 'spectacular' cost savings.  New findings 'should now lead to a re-writing of current guidelines'

How Loneliness Wears on the Body  study by researchers from the Universities of California and Chicago

The results suggested that people suffering from social isolation may be more prone to inflammation and less able to fight viral infections—which could be one reason why lonely elderly people are more susceptible to illnesses ranging from the common cold to dementia, and why they have higher mortality rates than their peers.

Anti-depressants 'no more effective than counselling'

New research published in the BMJ suggests that for moderate to severe depression, talking therapies can be just as effective as anti-depressants...Researchers led by Danube University analyzed the results of 11 randomized controlled trials, involving more than 1,500 patients.

Men undergoing testosterone-lowering therapy for prostate cancer are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease,

Androgens are male hormones that play a key role in stimulating prostate cell growth.  And as a result, therapies that suppress androgen activity are a common treatment for prostate cancer....Nearly half a million men in the US receive androgen deprivation therapy at any given time.....Scientists are not yet sure precisely how low testosterone would lead to increased Alzheimer’s risk.  However, there is some evidence that testosterone has a 'general protective effect' on brain cells.

Pill that may wash away the cause of Alzheimer's: Treatment dissolves toxic plaques on the brain that are warning sign of the disease

Scientists say they have taken the first steps towards developing a pill that could one day stop Alzheimer’s in its tracks.  The treatment, tested on mice, dissolved toxic plaques in the brain that can be a warning sign of the incurable disease.  The animals, genetically engineered to develop symptoms of Alzheimer’s, also showed improvements in memory and learning....
Experts say more work needs to be carried out before the drug, known as EPPS, can be tested on humans.  Korean researchers say the treatment could be best targeted at those at risk from inherited forms of the disease.

Worrying about getting old 'increases the risk of dementia'  Positive thinking is the key to a healthy brain in old age

Dreading growing old may raise your risk of Alzheimer’s, scientists have warned.  They have shown that middle-aged people who view aging as a handicap are more likely to have dementia-like changes to their brain decades later. It is thought the stress generated by such thoughts and fears eats away at the brain over time.

The US researchers said while there has been a lot of focus on how a healthy diet can help keep the mind young, we should also consider the benefits of positive thinking.  Easier than exercise and cheaper than drugs, it could help stem the rise in Alzheimer’s disease. ....Dr Levy has previously shown that thinking positive adds an average of seven and a half years to life – more than exercising or not smoking.

Men with big muscles cut cancer risk by 40 per cent

Men with stronger muscles from regular weight training are up to 40 per cent less likely to die from cancer than men who do not pump iron, according to new research.  The findings, by an international team of researchers, suggest muscular strength is as important as staying slim and eating healthily when it comes to protecting the body against deadly tumors....A team of experts, led by scientists from Sweden's Karolinska Institute, tracked the lifestyles of 8,677 men aged between 20 and 82 for more than two decades.

Vegetarianism can come with some unexpected side effects.

"I hear from vegetarians every day; they have this terrible depression and anxiety, and they don't understand why," says Lierre Keith, author of The Vegetarian Myth. "People think they're eating a beautiful, righteous diet, but they don't realize there's a potential dark side."

Smokers who use e-cigs 'are risking harm to their lungs'- Popcorn lung.:

Tests on 50 types of device find most contain chemical responsible for incurable condition known as 'popcorn lung'.....The chemical diacetyl... is used to give popcorn its buttery taste and found in many other artificial flavorings. But, when inhaled, it is thought to scar tiny air sacs within the lungs, causing coughing and shortness of breath. In severe cases, only a lung transplant will help.The condition came to light in popcorn factories, leading it to be nicknamed 'popcorn lung'.

Just two minutes of hopping a day can strengthen bones and reduce the risk of suffering a fracture, scientists have found

It may not be the most dignified form of exercise, but hopping may help protect older people from hip fractures.
Just two minutes a day can strengthen bones in the area and reduce the risk of breakage in a fall, scientists believe.....Researchers at Loughborough University in The Hip Hop study saw 34 men aged between 65 and 80 perform a program of hopping exercises on a randomly assigned exercise leg only. They were told to avoid any other changes to their physical activity or dietary habits during the year-long trial…..Increases of up to 7 per cent were identified in the bone mass of some parts of the outer shell (cortex) and in the density of the layer of spongy bone underneath this. They said that, importantly, there were improvements in the thinnest areas of the bone most at risk of fracture after a fall.

Just TWO-MINUTE bursts of exercise can help fight heart disease

'Strong benefits’ in repeated short bouts of intense activity like star jumps. ‘The key is to get your heart rate up,’ Newcastle University experts said.  Patients asked to do short spells on a cycling machine, repeated five times, three times a week for 12 weeks

Cure for alcoholism now one step closer: Scientists pinpoint specific cells in the brain that make drinkers crave more booze

Scientists have discovered the specific neurons that incite cravings. Dopamine D1 receptors are part of a 'go' pathway in the brain. When D1 neurons are stimulated they compel us to perform an action. By suppressing D1 neurons experts suppressed the compulsion to drink
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:21 PM | Permalink

November 8, 2015

Medical Quarterbacking

WSJ Medical Quarterbacking.  A review of The Patient's Playbook by Leslie Michelson
Providers are drowning in patients. As a result, you need to fight tenaciously to make sure that you get the best care.

As Leslie D. Michelson explains  in “The Patient’s Playbook,” people who are confronted by a serious illness discover that “there is no map.” There is no one with the time, information and stamina to coordinate, or “quarterback,” their care.

Mr. Michelson seeks to change all this. He isn’t a physician, but he has spent the past decade delivering what might be called concierge medical quarterbacking—helping patients, generally people with a high net worth, manage complex medical challenges. Now he’s ready to share his “playbook” with the rest of us.

The advice is often disarmingly simple. Prepare for illness when you are healthy. Get hold of your medical records. (You have a legal right to them.) Figure out which hospital you would want to go to in an emergency. He tells the harrowing story of parents who brought their jaundiced 2-day-old infant to the hospital where she was born, only to discover that the emergency-room staff there were used to adult patients and had minimal experience taking care of children.

Above all, Mr. Michelson implores patients to be intensely involved in their own care. Many people, when speaking with a doctor about a health problem, “behave as if they were powerless,” he writes. Some become deferential; others just want to leave as fast as possible. He urges patients instead to “bring their A-game” to the doctor’s office. Use a trusted resource like the National Institutes of Health or the UpToDate medical website to educate yourself about your condition; then, during your appointment, take notes and ask questions.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:38 PM | Permalink

November 2, 2015

"I see firsthand in my company why not enough people are signing up and premiums are rising."

The Wall Street Journal  on the The Slow-Motion Implosion of ObamaCare by Andy Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants.

I see firsthand in my company why not enough people are signing up and premiums are rising.

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced recently that she expects 10 million people to be enrolled in health-care coverage through ObamaCare’s exchanges by the end of next year. What she didn’t mention was that in March of last year the Congressional Budget Office predicted that 21 million people would be enrolled in 2016—more than double the new estimate.
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Supporters credit ObamaCare with helping nine million uninsured Americans find coverage in 2014. But a new paper from the Heritage Foundation, however, suggests that nearly all of the increase came from adding nearly nine million people to the Medicaid rolls.

In other words, ObamaCare expanded coverage in 2014 to the extent that it gave people free or nearly free insurance. That goal could have been accomplished without the Affordable Care Act. To justify its existence, ObamaCare must make affordable private insurance available to a broad cross-section of uninsured Americans who are ineligible for Medicaid.

But with fewer people buying insurance through the exchanges, the economics aren’t holding up. Ten of the 23 innovative health-insurance plans known as co-ops—established with $2.4 billion in ObamaCare loans—will be out of business by the end of 2015 because of weak balance sheets.

One problem is that nearly half of the 10.5 million uninsured people eligible for ObamaCare are between the ages of 18 and 34—and young people tend to be healthy and unwilling to pay for pricey coverage they don’t need.

But propping up ObamaCare requires this group’s subsidizing the medical costs of the aging and ill. So far, no luck. It makes sense for healthy young people to pay a penalty rather than purchase the insurance. And in 2015 that’s what 6.6 million people did, according to the IRS. Next year the minimum penalty increases to $695 or 2.5% of income above $10,000, whichever is greater. In many cases, that’s still much cheaper than insurance.
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It is easy to avoid or limit exposure to the penalty with some simple tax planning, as there are 30 different exemptions (which 12 million people claimed last year) and the IRS collects the penalty by reducing an employee’s tax refund.

The uninsured also know they can receive medical care at the emergency room. And if they fall ill, they can always purchase insurance during the next enrollment period, because ObamaCare eliminated existing conditions as a justification for denying coverage.

Our employees are smart enough to figure this out. Of our company’s 5,453 eligible employees, only 420 enrolled.

How have things changed under ObamaCare? Wealthy Americans continue to have health insurance, albeit at a higher price. But they can afford it. Many middle-class Americans are paying higher premiums they can hardly afford. And then millions more low-income Americans have heavily subsidized insurance or Medicaid coverage.

However, millions of other Americans who enjoyed good individual insurance before ObamaCare have found themselves forced out of affordable plans, with their new premiums rising rapidly. Other middle- and working-class Americans who were uninsured are still uninsured and paying the penalty or claiming an exemption. That isn’t affordable care. In many cases, it isn’t care at all.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:39 PM | Permalink

September 30, 2015

Musical medicine

Byron Janis pens a personal account of the power of music in the Wall Street Journal, How Music Soothes the Troubled Soul.

What an extraordinary gift music has given us besides its beauty. It has a scientifically proven ability to help heal both physical and psychological problems. Listening to your favorite music does help, but playing an instrument has a greater success. Playing well or badly doesn’t matter; just using one finger to plunk out a tune is sufficient—you can come away with a feeling of well-being. Music’s healing powers, which Pythagoras called “musical medicine,” have been the leitmotif of my career.
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Music has also helped me conquer physical challenges. From an accident at age 11 that left me with a permanently numb little finger to living with arthritis for 40-plus years, music has been a constant healing force. In the late 1980s after a botched operation on my arthritic left thumb, I fell into a devastating depression lasting many months. Then one day my wife, Maria, asked me to compose a theme for a film documentary on her father entitled “Gary Cooper: American Life, American Legend” (1989). I didn’t feel up to it, but as it was “family” I wanted to try.

After a few days I came up with a theme and played it for her. She suddenly began crying. “Why are you crying?” I asked. “Because your music totally captures my father’s spirit.” It also recaptured me! That wonderful feeling of hope was coming back, and my depression slowly began to lift. Music had started working its magic.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:45 AM | Permalink

September 11, 2015

Heart Health Roundup: Hearts older than bodies, Rx, intermittent fasting, vitamin C, pros and cons of statins

Nearly three out of four U.S. adults have a heart that is older than the rest of their body, CDC report reveals.

The average U.S. man's heart age is nearly eight years older than his real age  Meanwhile, average woman's heart is about five-and-a-half years higher.  Mississippi is the state with highest proportion of adults with advanced heart age, followed by West Virginia, Kentucky, Louisiana and Alabama.

 Heart Age Us

This is alarming. Heart disease is the nation's number one killer,' said the report's lead author, CDC scientist Quanhe Yang.
'But the bottom line is you can do some very simple things' to become younger at heart, he said..  Rx for a young heart

 Rx For Young Heart

Live Science Does Intermittent Fasting Have Benefits? Science Suggests Yes

Instead of eating three square meals a day, an eating schedule that involves "intermittent fasting" could help fight not just obesity but many related diseases of modern life, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer's, researchers say….

Mounting evidence reveals that other key aspects of diet — when and how often people eat — can also play a major role in health. In fact, the most common eating pattern in modern societies of three meals daily, plus snacks, is abnormal from the perspective of human evolution, an international group of researchers wrote in an article published online Nov. 17 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Fasting alone is more powerful in preventing and reversing some diseases than drugs," said Satchidananda Panda, an associate professor of regulatory biology at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, California, and one of the co-authors of the article.

Could vitamin C be a replacement for EXERCISE?   

A daily vitamin C supplements of 500mg 'is as effective as walking in improving the heart health of obese people', claims a study of 35 overweight and sedentary people. 

The blood vessels of people who are overweight or obese show elevated activity of the small vessel-constricting protein, endothelin (ET)-1. Narrowed blood vessels mean it is harder to pump blood around the body.  While past studies have show that exercise helps to reduce ET-1 activity, many overweight use a lack of time as an excuse for not incorporating exercise into their daily routines.

Scientists at the University of Colorado examined whether vitamin C supplements, which have been found in the past to improve vessel function, can also lower ET-1 activity. Their findings, which will be presented at the 14th International Conference on Endothelin: Physiology, Pathophysiology and Therapeutics, suggest the supplement can have similar benefits to a person's heart health as exercise.

Giving patients statins before ANY operation could halve the risk of dying and slash complications dramatically

Statins, the cholesterol-busting drugs are usually prescribed for at risk cardiac patients.  When given  before planned heart surgery to prevent complications, statins were linked to a 43 per cent lower chance of dying from any cause and a 52 per cent reduced risk of dying from a heart-related problem.

While Healthy patients using statins are 'more likely to suffer side-effects than gain health benefits'

Fewer than one in every 200 healthy patients who take statins actually benefit, doctors have warned.  Reigniting the debate over the cholesterol-busting drugs, the experts warn that too many patients are given statins without proper information about their drawbacks.
They say people should stop using them if they are suffering side effects - and call for patients to have a greater choice over taking the pills in the first place.

People should be advised to take up more exercise and improve their diet before they are directed towards statins, the experts say.
Their editorial, published last night in the Prescriber medical journal, points to industry-sponsored studies which found that only 0.5 per cent of healthy people avoided a heart attack or stroke by taking statins for five years.

While accepting that those with a history of heart disease can benefit from statins, they say that a tiny minority of people who take it as a ‘preventative’ medicine will actually live longer.

The authors - London cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra, Canadian pharmacist Professor James McCormack, and US physician Professor David Newman - called for a complete rewrite of British and American guidance.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:37 PM | Permalink

August 31, 2015

Health roundup: Naps, steak or salmon daily, aspirin, antibiotics + type 2 diabetes, mutant head lice + selfies

The blood test that predicts if breast cancer will return:

Breakthrough can detect warning signs eight months before a relapse.  Test detects uncured cancer eight months before the patient feels a lump,  That extra time could be used to delay or prevent breast cancer’s return Experts hope the test can also be used to detect others types of tumors

Taking antibiotics increases the risk of type 2 diabetes:

People who receive more than four courses of antibiotic  drugs over 15 years are 53 per cent more likely to get the disease, according to the results of a large study of 1.4 million Danish patients

The authors of the new study suspect that this is the reason for the between antibiotics and diabetes, with alterations in gut bacteria meaning people absorb sugar and fat in different ways. But an alternative explanation could be that people with as-yet undiagnosed diabetes may be more prone to infection, and therefore use more antibiotics, the scientists said.  ‘This latest study only shows a possible link between the two, rather that proving that antibiotics could cause diabetes.’

Selfies are causing a rise in MUTANT head lice:

Physician Sharon Rink warns trend for touching heads in pictures is to blame for increase in treatment-resistant nits.  She dubbed the phenomenon 'social media lice'  has It is being caused by group selfie snaps that cause friends to bump heads
Recent research suggests head lice have developed a 'high level' of resistance to some of the most popular treatments

Hormone jabs cut bone fractures:

Growth hormone injections reduced the risk of brittle bone fractures in older women long after treatment was stopped, a ten-year study found. They halved the fracture rate in those with osteoporosis over the period.  Osteoporosis is a progressive condition that causes the bones to become weak and more likely to break.  Women are three times more likely to experience an osteoporosis-related bone fracture in their lifetimes than men.

During an 18-month-long trial, 80 post-menopausal women with osteoporosis received daily injections of either a placebo, a single unit of growth hormone or a 2.5-unit dose of growth hormone. Researcher Doctor Emily Krantz, of Sodra Alvsborgs Hospital in Sweden, said: ‘Our study is the largest and longest controlled study of growth hormone treatment for osteoporosis in postmenopausal women to date.  ‘Years after treatment stopped, women who were treated with growth hormone still experienced improved bone density and reduced fracture risk.’


A nap a day could save your life

It is the news that nap afficionados have been waiting for.  A mid-day snooze doesn’t just have the power to revive – it could reduce blood pressure and prevent a future heart attack.

Research involving almost 400 middle-aged men and women found that those who had a nap at noon later had lower blood pressure than those who stayed awake through the day. The findings, presented at the European Society of Cardiology annual conference in London, showed pressure was lower both when awake and later, during their night time sleep.  The small difference – of around 5 per cent – was enough to have a significant impact on rates of heart attack, researchers said.  Far smaller reductions have been found to reduce the chance of cardiovascular events by 10 per cent, the cardiologists said……Longer naps of up to an hour achieved the best results, the study found.

Eating steak or salmon every day or drinking a pint of milk could be 'as good for your heart as giving up smoking'

Eating a small steak every day could be as good for you as stopping smoking, scientists say. People who eat lots of protein-rich food were found to have lower blood pressure and more healthy arteries, significantly lowering the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Scientists say the benefit is down to amino acids - the building blocks of proteins - which help strengthen the cells, tissues and muscles in our body.  People who ate high levels of certain amino acids saw benefits on similar scale to those expected for stopping smoking, reducing salt intake or increasing exercise.

The team, from the University of East Anglia, said that protein-rich foods including meat, fish, dairy produce, beans, lentils, broccoli and spinach all contain the beneficial compounds.Their study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, was based on health data from 2,000 British women.  Different food source had different benefits, they found. Amino acids from vegetables and pulses - such as beans, lentils, broccoli and spinach - were associated with lower blood pressure.  Whereas amino acids from dairy, meat and fish were linked to lower levels of arterial stiffness.  Lead researcher Dr Amy Jennings, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: ‘This research shows a protective effect of several amino acids on cardiovascular health.

A daily dose of aspirin appears to cut the risk of a common type of cancer  But you have to make if a habit and do it for 5 years.

Colorectal cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, and researchers say they have found a way to reduce one’s risk of it by up to 45% – by taking aspirin, Advil, Motrin, Aleve or certain other painkillers.
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NSAIDs, appeared to reduce the risk even more. People who took non-aspirin NSAIDs for at least five years were 30% to 45% less likely to have colorectal cancer than those who didn’t take the painkillers. Ibuprofen (the active ingredient in Advil and Motrin, among others) and naproxen (the active ingredient in Aleve) are two examples of this type of NSAIDs.

Cancer up close: Stunning 3D simulations show tumors growing in treatment breakthrough

Videos reveal the growth, mutation and evolution of a lethal cancer and shed new light on how cancers develop resistance to drugs and chemotherapy.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:05 PM | Permalink

August 26, 2015

Health Roundup: Programming cancer cells, stomach bug and lung disease, coffee and tea

Cancer cells programmed back to normal by US scientists

Scientists have turned cancerous cells back to normal by switching back on the process which stops normal cells from replicating too quickly.  For the first time aggressive breast, lung and bladder cancer cells have been turned back into harmless benign cells by restoring the function which prevents them from multiplying excessively and forming dangerous growths.

Scientists at the Mayo Clinic in Florida, US, said it was like applying the brakes to a speeding car.  So far it has only been tested on human cells in the lab, but the researchers are hopeful that the technique could one day be used to target tumors so that cancer could be ‘switched off’ without the need for harsh chemotherapy or surgery.

New hope for lung disease sufferers… in a stomach bug

Bacteria that is common among patients with pulmonary conditions can be detected by a simple breath test and can treated with antibiotics.  The bacteria helicobacter pylori often found in pulmonary disease patients with levels of the bacteria up to three times higher in COPD patients

Why a splash of milk in your tea keeps teeth white: Protein found in dairy prevents staining - and is BETTER than whitening toothpaste

Tea contains dark-colored tannins that make it bitter and stain the teeth. Casein, the main protein in milk, binds to the tannin and prevents staining. Milk is more effective than whitening toothpaste and as good as bleaching

Why green tea could prevent colon cancer

Green tea could lower the risk of colon cancer, say researchers at Seoul National University Hospital in South Korea. Compounds in green tea prevent rogue cells that could lead to polyps from developing. They are testing this in a study involving 180 people who have had polyps - benign growths - removed from their colon; these polyps can be a precursor to colon cancer. The patients will be given a daily green tea extract pill (nine cups of green tea) or no treatment. The researchers believe compounds in green tea prevent the rogue cells that could lead to polyps from developing

How coffee could help fight bowel cancer:

Coffee could prove to be a powerful medicine for bowel cancer patients.  A study of 1,000 patients that looked at caffeinated coffee and cancer recurrence found the disease was almost half as likely to return in men and women who drank at least four or five mugs a day.  It is thought the caffeine cuts inflammation which the cancer feeds on.

The research, from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, found that consuming around 460mg of caffeine a day cut the odds of bowel cancer coming back by 42 per cent.It also made people 33 per cent less likely to die from cancer or any other cause.
Smaller amounts of caffeine brought lower benefits.  A mug of instant coffee contains around 100mg of caffeine and an espresso, the base for many High Street coffees, 80mg.

'You'd have to drink six glasses of almond milk to get the same amount of protein as just half a cup of nuts' New video reveals truths about six 'healthy' eating habits

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:02 PM | Permalink

August 13, 2015

Health Roundup: Universal plaque-busting drug, saturated fat and fish oil for psychosis

Great news Universal plaque-busting drug could treat various brain diseases

A virus found in sewage has spawned a unique drug that targets plaques implicated in a host of brain-crippling diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD).

Results from tests of the drug, announced this week, show that it breaks up plaques in mice affected with Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease, and improves the memories and cognitive abilities of the animals. Other promising results in rats and monkeys mean that the drug developers, NeuroPhage Pharmaceuticals, are poised to apply for permission to start testing it in people, with trials starting perhaps as early as next year.

The drug is the first that seems to target and destroy the multiple types of plaque implicated in human brain disease. Plaques are clumps of misfolded proteins that gradually accumulate into sticky, brain-clogging gunk that kills neurons and robs people of their memories and other mental faculties. Different kinds of misfolded proteins are implicated in different brain diseases, and some can be seen within the same condition (see “Proteins gone rogue”, below).

More good news. 'No link' between eating fatty food and early death: Findings raise further doubts over advice to avoid butter, full-fat milk and other meat and dairy products

Researchers trawled through the health records of hundreds of thousands of patients and found no statistical link between eating saturated fat and falling ill with heart disease, strokes or type 2 diabetes. The findings, published in the British Medical Journal, raise further doubts about 32-year-old guidelines that warn people to avoid butter, full-fat milk and other meat and dairy products with high levels of saturated fats.

Academics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, looked at 12 previous studies, involving between 90,000 and 340,000 patients in each study, and calculated the overall link between saturated fat and different health conditions.

But Cutting saturated fat doesn't necessarily reduce heart disease risk

It's just that people who reduce their intake of fat usually end up eating more sugar, white flour and empty calories, said co-author Russell de Souza, an assistant professor and registered dietitian at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. His review, which examined 73 earlier studies, was published in the BMJ, formerly known as the British Medical Journal.
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For children, the government still advises diet sodas anytime, milk once in a while

David Ludwig, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital said  the government still hasn’t completely caught up with the science.

The National Institute of Health’s We Can! program, which aims to help children maintain a healthy weight, steers families toward low-fat foods. The program lists diet soda and ketchup as foods to eat “almost anytime,” but says low-fat milk should be consumed only “sometimes.” The NIH program puts whole milk in the most restricted category as cookies, doughnuts and French fries, to be consumed only “once in a while'.

Could fish oil protect against psychosis? Taking omega-3 for 12 weeks 'lowers the risk of developing schizophrenia' for up to 7 years afterwards

Young people who take omega-3 are at lower risk of schizophrenia. Those at risk of the mental illness were four times less likely to suffer psychotic episodes up to 7 years after three months taking supplement. Scientists say no other intervention - including drugs - are as effective
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:20 PM | Permalink

August 11, 2015

Roundup: Eating and drinking

Drink pear juice for a hangover. Pear juice can reduce effects of a night's drinking by up to a fifth

Eating a juicy pear before a night of heavy drinking could help alleviate the effects of a hangover, scientists claim.
Researchers say those who are suffering from the consequences of the evening before could feel up to 21 per cent better thanks to the fruit's juice. It helps increase concentration, reduces memory loss and even decreases the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream, according to Australian government scientists. Pears also reduce a person's sensitivity to light and sound.
The only type of pear tested in the study was the Asian pear, but researchers are now planning to widen their scope to see whether varieties of Western pear produce the same results.

More is not better, Woman 'going blind' after drinking 28 Red Bulls every day.

Lena Lupari, 26, has gained so much weight from drinking seven liters  of the energy drink that her brain has swollen. The mother-of-three was ingesting 3,000 calories every day and was unaware of the harm she was doing to her body until she collapsed in June.

Eat celery, beetroot , lettuce, spinach and parsley They're rich in nitrates which help lower blood pressure

It's already known that nitric oxide, a gas produced naturally by the body and carried in the blood, tells your blood vessels to expand, so lowering blood pressure. That's why beetroot in particular is so good for blood pressure — the body converts the nitrites in this veg into nitric oxide. Researchers have since found nitric oxide does a lot more, including helping you to sleep and fight off infections. And now it turns out we have large, totally unexpected stores of it under our skin, and that our blood cells don't work properly without it.

Until a few years ago, no one knew that blood cells even carried nitric oxide. Now we realize that it plays a vital role in ensuring cells get the oxygen they need, as research at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland in the U.S. has found.
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The thinking is that a lack of the gas could cause problems generally linked to poor blood flow, such as heart attack, heart failure, stroke, damage to the kidneys and poor circulation in the legs. Nitric oxide is thought to be particularly important for older people, whose levels drop with age,

But the best way to keep your supplies topped up is through diet, especially foods rich in nitrates, which your body turns into nitric acid with the help of bacteria found in your saliva. These include beetroot (particularly rich in nitrates), along with celery, lettuce, rocket, spinach, celeriac and parsley.Our bodies can also make nitric oxide from an amino acid called L-arginine, found in nuts, meat, fruits, dairy products, chocolate and raisins.

Eat spicy food. Three times a week reduces the risk of early death from cancer or heart disease'

A study of nearly 500,000 middle-aged people found that those who ate a spicy meal every one or two days were far less likely to die than those who infrequently ate the food. Scientists suspect that capsaicin — a chemical contained in chili peppers — has anti-obesity, antioxidant, anti-inflammation and cancer fighting properties.

The research, published in the British Medical Journal, was based on a study of 487,000 Chinese people, each aged between the ages of 30 and 79 who were tracked for 7 years.

Drink coffee. Science: Coffee is The World’s Biggest Source of Antioxidants

Coffee is Linked to a Reduced Risk of Many Diseases:  A 23-50% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes and a much lower risk of liver cirrhosis. Coffee may also lower the risk of liver and colorectal cancer, and several studies have shown a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke. Consuming coffee on a regular basis may also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease by 32–65%. Some studies have shown that coffee may also benefit mental health. Women who drink coffee are less likely to become depressed and commit suicide.  Above all, drinking coffee has been linked to a longer lifespan and up to a 20–30% lower risk of premature death.

However, keep in mind that most of these studies are observational. They cannot prove that coffee caused the reduction in disease risk, only that coffee drinkers were less likely to get these diseases.

Then take a 15-minute walk everyday and reduce chance of dying in over-60s by 22%

Regular exercise reduces obesity, increases bone strength and cuts the risk of heart disease, stroke, type two diabetes and cancer. The World Health Organization recommends all adults do 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week,  but the latest research suggests that the guidelines are too stringent - and the authors suggest halving the recommendations to just 75 minutes a week for over-60s.  Advising people instead to go for a brisk 15-minute walk five times a week will be far more achievable, and will still have a beneficial effect on health, enough  to extend life expectancy for the over 60s, experts say.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:57 PM | Permalink

August 7, 2015

Health roundup: Breast cancer test, HIV, depression, placebo effect and French kissing

Breast cancer: Test that could predict breast cancer nine years before it strikes

Measuring levels of methyl in women's blood could show if they will suffer the disease later. Those with low levels in white blood cells most likely to get breast cancer

The team from Imperial College London analysed blood samples from around 2,600 women from the UK, Norway, Australia and Italy, looking at changes to the DNA of white blood cells.  In a series of studies that tracked the women for an average of nine years, they found that those who went on to contract breast cancer had lower levels of a chemical called methyl in their white blood cells’ make-up compared to those who did not.

HIV: Cocktail of drugs stops HIV in its tracks: Treatment is 93% successful in preventing virus being transmitted through sex

A combination of drugs known as antiretroviral therapy (ART) stops HIV from being passed on from infected men and women to their uninfected partners, the results of a landmark study show.  Antiretroviral therapy (ART) consists of the combination of at least three antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to suppress the HIV virus and stop the progression of the disease.  Researchers found the drugs were able to reduce the transmission of the virus by 93 per cent in couples assigned to ART treatment.

Depression: Could depression be triggered by a stomach bug?

Imbalance of bacteria in the gut 'may lead to mental health problems'. Scientists say the roots of depression may lie in the gut and the trillions of bacteria that live there.

Although you might not realize it, the average human stomach is home to around 2 pounds of microbes – roughly the same weight as a bag of sugar.  Some members of this ‘gut microbiome’ help with digestion. But others are increasingly being linked to overall health, with conditions from autism to multiple sclerosis said to have links to the bugs in our bodies. 

Now, a series of animal experiments suggests that intestinal bugs play an important role in triggering depression. Canadian researchers showed that if newborn mice are subjected to the stress of being repeatedly separated and reunited with their mothers, they appear anxious and depressed.  However, if their guts are germ-free, the stress does not affect their mental health. But give them a transplant of bugs and depression strikes.

It is thought that severe stress, particularly in childhood, affects the chemistry of the stomach, allowing some bugs to thrive more than others. These then produce compounds that affect the chemistry of the brain, leading to symptoms of depression. Researcher Premysl Bercik said: ‘We have shown for the first time…that bacteria play a crucial role in inducing this abnormal behavior.  But it's not only bacteria, it's the altered bi-directional communication between the stressed host - mice subjected to early life stress - and its microbiota, that leads to anxiety and depression."  Writing in the journal Nature Communications, Dr Bercik said small changes in the balance of the bugs in the gut could have ‘profound’ effects on behavior.

Matter over mind The placebo effect IS real - even when patients know the treatment they are getting is fake

Scientists found patients given a fake painkiller continued to feel benefits from it after they were told it was not genuine…. Scientists applied 47.5C heat on subjects' forearms and gave 'cooling gel'.  Individuals needed four sessions to believe the placebo gel worked
But there was a catch. In order to feel these effects, the subjects had to be conditioned into thinking that the treatment was real – and needed enough time for this belief to become ingrained.  Those told it was fake after just one session did not continue to experience pain relief, the US study found, but those told after four sessions still felt the benefits.

Senior author Tor Wager, of the University of Colorado Boulder, said: "We’re still learning a lot about the critical ingredients of placebo effects. …What we think now is that they require both belief in the power of the treatment and experiences that are consistent with those beliefs….Those experiences make the brain learn to respond to the treatment as a real event….After the learning has occurred, your brain can still respond to the placebo even if you no longer believe in it.’

French Kissing  KISSING overtakes smoking as leading risk for head and neck cancers

The humble French kiss can pass on human papilloma virus (HPV). A top doctor, Head of Maxillofacial and Head and neck Surgery at the Royal Darwin Hospital, warns of 'tsunami' of oral human papilloma virus cases.  The virus was responsible for 70% of head and neck cancer cases…. If you became infected by HPV in the oropharynx, your risk of developing head and neck cancer was 250 times higher than that of someone without the virus.

Dangers of some OTC drugs Over-the-counter medicines for hayfever and insomnia raise the risk of serious falls in older men.

Men over 65 were twice as likely to have been hurt like this if they took one of a powerful class of drugs called anticholinergics, says a study of 2,700 pensioners. The medicines under scrutiny affect the brain by blocking a key chemical messenger called acetylcholine which moderates many brain functions including moods, behavior and response to pain.  Up to half of elderly Britons are prescribed at least one medication with anticholinergic properties, including anti-depressants, antihistamines, sleeping pills and antipsychotics…..
A previous study suggested that people who regularly took the drugs in high doses for three years or more had an increased risk of dementia.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:46 PM | Permalink

July 30, 2015

It's healthier to cook with LARD than sunflower oil

 Lard

From the BBC    It's healthier to cook with LARD than sunflower oil

A team from BBC's Trust Me, I'm A Doctor conducted new research that revealed what we thought we knew about cooking oils is plain wrong. Most people had come to the seemingly obvious, conclusion that frying with vegetable oils has to be healthier than cooking with animal fat. But is it?  For the problem is that when fats and oils are heated they change, and as they do so they produce chemicals that may cause heart disease and cancer.

When fats and oils are heated to a high temperature, they undergo what is called oxidation: they react with oxygen in the air to form substances such as aldehydes and lipid peroxides. At room temperature something similar happens, though more slowly. When fats go rancid they have been oxidized, and it results in the same by-products. It is these aldehydes they form that are the problem. Consuming or inhaling them, even in small amounts, has been linked to increased risk of cancer and heart disease.

'We found that oils which were polyunsaturated-rich - corn oil and sunflower oil - generated very high levels of aldehydes,' Professor Grootveld told me….Aldehydes, which are known promoters of cancer, heart disease and dementia when eaten or inhaled, were present in levels up to 20 times higher than recommended by the World Health Organization.

Sunflower and corn oil are fine, but only as long as you don't subject them to heat, such as frying or cooking,' said Professor Grootveld. 'It's a simple chemical fact that something which is thought to be healthy for us is converted into something that is unhealthy at frying temperatures.'

They advise:

• To reduce production of harmful aldehydes, go for a product high in mono or saturated fat (preferably greater than 60 per cent) and low in polyunsaturates (less than 20 per cent).
• The ideal compromise for cooking purposes is olive oil 'because it is about 76 per cent monunsaturates, 14 per cent saturates and 10 per cent polyunsaturates'.
• In view of its high saturate content, coconut oil is also recommended.

Lard vs. Coconut Oil

if you mix 1 part olive oil with 1 part coconut oil, the resulting mixture of fats will match lard’s fat composition numbers almost exactly. Butter and ghee are a little more balanced than olive oil and coconut oil but they have nearly twice the percentage of saturated fat that lard has.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:47 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Longevity and Well-being

Want Great Longevity and Health? It Takes a Village in the Wall Street Journal
The secrets of the world’s longest-lived people include community, family, exercise and plenty of beans.

In a string of whitewashed villages in the mountains of the Italian island of Sardinia, there are 21 centenarians in a population of 10,000. Only about four in 10,000 Americans reach the 100-year mark. So what do the Sardinians know that our own diet-and-health obsessed country doesn’t?
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The notion of a genetic advantage has been called into question. According to Dr. Pes, several studies have shown that the genetic markers of the centenarians—including markers associated with cardiovascular mortality, cancer and inflammation—don’t diverge significantly from those of the general population.
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The cornerstone of every longevity diet in the world was the humble bean. One five-country study showed that beans were the only food that predicted a longer life—for each 20-gram serving (about two tablespoons) eaten a day, the chance of dying dropped by 8%. Fava beans in Sardinia, black beans in Costa Rica, lentils in Ikaria, soybeans in Okinawa. Seventh-Day Adventists, America’s longest-lived subculture, eat all kinds of beans, taking their cue from God’s injunction, in the book of Genesis, to eat the fruits of “seed-bearing plants.”
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When it comes to longevity, the long-standing support of a community is significant. In the U.S., you’re likely to die eight years earlier if you’re lonely, compared with people who have strong social networks. In Sardinia, “One hand washes the other, and they both wash the face,” as Mr. Pinna told me, summing up the social symbiosis.
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A fanatic zeal for family has also survived here. Neither work, hobbies, friends nor a sports team would ever divert serious attention away from a spouse or children. In turn, parents and grandparents move serenely into old age, secure in the knowledge that their children will care for them. There are no retirement homes here.
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they lived in cultures that made the right decisions for them. They lived in places where fresh vegetables were cheap and accessible. Their kitchens were set up so that making healthy food was quick and easy. Almost every trip to the store, a friend’s house, work or school occasioned a walk. Their houses didn’t have mechanized conveniences to do house work, kitchen work or yard work; they did it by hand. People in the blue zones were nudged into physical activity every 20 minutes, my team estimated. This activity not only burned 500 to 1,000 calories a day; it also kept their metabolisms humming at a higher rate.

Drink tea.  Warm or iced Two cups of tea a day "dramatically increases longevity in women". It's the flavonoids that seem to protect against the ravages of heart disease and cancer.  Flavonoids are health-boosting plant compounds that are found in chocolate, fruit, red wine and coffee; however, tea made the biggest contribution to the flavonoid count in the 1000 women over 75 studied….Previous research has credited flavonoids a host of health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, cutting the risk of dangerous blood clots and strengthening bones. 

Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation 'as bad as smoking'

Prof Russell Foster, a neuroscientist from the University of Oxford, said lack of sleep is damaging the health of the nation, with too many early risers trying to function with brain skills so damaged they could be drunk.
The comments follow studies which suggest that working night shifts speeds up the ageing process, and is linked to increasing risks of cancer, heart disease and type two diabetes.
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“We see this too much with really senior people,” he said. “Lack of sleep damages a whole host of skills - empathy, processing information, ability to handle people, but right at the top of the chain you get overly impulsive, impaired thinking, because of this problem.”
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Last year French research showed the brains of workers who had done night shifts for about 10 years had aged by an extra 6 and a half years…..Lack of sleep has been linked with factors such as disrupted metabolism and raised levels of the ‘stress hormone’ cortisol, all of which may lead to higher blood pressure and increased stroke risk.

Shape up .Unhealthy lifestyle can knock 23 years off lifespan

Suffering from heart disease, stroke and type two diabetes could knock 23 years off life and yet they are preventably for eight out of 10 people. It is estimated that around 80 per cent of cases could be prevented by keeping weight under control, exercising more, eating a healthy diet, and not smoking or drinking too much.

For a man in his 40s, suffering from all three conditions reduces life by 23 years. It means that a 40-year-old's life expectancy would drop from 78 to just 55. Likewise someone in their 60s could lose 15 years, meaning a 60-year-old man might have just three years of life left.

Drinking and smoking 'raises dementia risk'
Drinking and smoking may raise the risk of dementia in later life because they shrink key parts of the brain.
Obesity, diabetes, smoking and drinking are each associated with smaller volumes of grey matter in crucial parts of the brain linked to memory, the researchers found.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:37 PM | Permalink

Medical miracles

Doctors save man's hand by grafting it on to his leg for a month

Chinese surgeons have saved a hand severed in an industrial accident by grafting it on to the man’s ankle for a month before reattaching it to his arm….The surgical team were unable to reattach the hand to Zhou’s arm straight away as the severed nerves and tendons needed time to heal.  So his hand was sewn onto his leg in order to keep it “alive” until the arm was ready.

 Hand-Attached To Leg

Baltimore's Zion Harvey who lost both of his hands at the age of two when an infection turned to gangrene receives  double hand transplant.

An 8-year-old Baltimore boy who lost his limbs to a serious infection has become the youngest patient to receive a double-hand transplant, surgeons said Tuesday.  Zion Harvey received the hands earlier this month at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, though doctors did not publicly disclose the 11-hour operation until now.

A 40-person medical team used steel plates and screws to attach the old and new bones. Surgeons then delicately reconnected arteries, veins, muscles, tendons and nerves.

 Zion Harvey Double Hand Transplant

Zion is currently working with occupational therapists several times a day, and is not allowed to move his hands when not in their presence.  Right now they are working on small movements, like picking up light objects.
However, he appears to be transitioning back to life with hands just find, and has started instinctively scratching his nose with his new fingers.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:34 AM | Permalink

July 29, 2015

Health Roundup: Heart disease

Good fat Fat 'helps FIGHT heart disease': Discovery could explain why some obese patients live LONGER after a heart attack than their slimmer peers

Certain types of body fat can help a person fight heart disease…..A team at the University of Oxford found the fat surrounding a person's blood vessels can help protect the body, triggering a defense against heart disease.  They discovered how the heart, and the arteries supplying blood to it, send out an SOS to the fat surrounding these tissues.  The result is, that the body stimulates a defense mechanism against the early stages of coronary heart disease.

The study, led by the British Heart Foundation, revealed that during oxidative stress, a process that leads to the furring of the arteries, known as atherosclerosis, the fat surrounding the vessels and heart releases chemicals that minimize this oxidative stress and help prevent the development of coronary heart disease.  These chemicals are anti-inflammatory to minimize the inflammation triggered by oxidative stress and anti-oxidant to target the damaging process itself. Researchers are now focusing on how these healthy processes can be weakened if the fat is unhealthy, as can be the case if a person has type 2 diabetes.

Good News   As hospitals get more efficient, heart attack deaths are reduced.

The NYT reports on how U.S. hospitals have dramatically lowered the time it takes to treat a heart attack patient, with lower times contributing to the 38 percent reduction in heart attack deaths we saw between 2003 and 2013. The lower wait times happened “with no new medical discoveries, no new technologies, no payment incentives”—rather, hospitals made a systematic effort to locate places where different stages of care could be undertaken more quickly and efficiently, and acted on that knowledge.

Yes to grapefruit. Daily glass of grapefruit juice 'protects against heart disease',

A daily glass of grapefruit juice keeps blood vessels healthy and could protect against heart disease, a new study shows.
Just half a pint a day was enough to improve circulation.  Scientists have identified that health-boosting chemicals, called flavanones, that are naturally found in citrus fruits are responsible for the benefits.  Flavanones help to improve the structure of blood vessel walls. The more elastic blood vessels are, the better blood flow to the heart is

The findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggest regular grapefruit juice consumption could play a vital part in warding off heart disease.  However, patients with existing heart disease should be careful about drinking grapefruit juice as it can interfere with medication.  Levels of drugs used to treat raised cholesterol or high blood pressure can increase significantly after just one glass of the juice, exposing patients to a greater risk of side-effects.

No to cocaine. How cocaine damages the heart:  

Gruesome video shows barely functioning organ swollen to 3 times its normal size due to drug use…..
Dr Klaus Witte, a consultant cardiologist at Leeds General Infirmary, said cocaine causes changes to the structure of the arteries and the heart - and this, in turn, causes the heart to swell.  Studies have shown cocaine users have higher blood pressure, stiffer arteries and thicker heart muscle walls than non-users – all of which can cause a heart attack.

"Every tablet I use for treating cardiac conditions, cocaine does the opposite,’ Dr Witte continued. ‘Cocaine changes the body’s lipid [fat] profiles, makes the blood sticky, makes the heart work harder and faster, changes the body’s hormonal profile. It leads to heart attacks, strokes and heart failure."  The class A drug is much more dangerous than alcohol and cigarettes in terms of toxicity to the heart, he added.
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The American Heart Association warns that cocaine kills 15,000 people each year in the US due to overuse or related accidents.  And many more deaths occur due to heart damage.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:59 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Alzheimer's

Alzheimers Scientists just took a major step forward in understanding Alzheimer's

Alzheimer's is a terrible disease that is slowly damaging the brains of an estimated 5.3 million Americans, most of them over age 65, according to the Alzheimer's Association….Many years before any symptoms of Alzheimer's show up, amyloid has already begun to build up in the brain. Progressive brain damage and the various symptoms of the disease only show up after the amount of amyloid in the brain has stabilized.

MIT Technology Review:  The earlier Alzheimer’s disease is treated, the better. Maybe even before symptoms arise. That’s the idea behind experimental drugs designed to remove plaques from the brain and prevent cognitive changes.

Eli Lilly (solanezumab) and Biogen (aducanumab.) presented new data suggesting that antibodies designed to break up or clear the beta-amyloid plaques can slow the advancement of Alzheimer’s, particularly in patients with the mildest form of the disease.  The drugs are based on the “amyloid hypothesis,” that the buildup of starchy amyloid in the brain is the cause of Alzheimer’s.

The brain scans are a key innovation, and a recent one. In 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a fluorescent imaging dye made by Lilly that sticks to the plaques and makes them light up in a PET scanner (see “Brain Scan for Alzheimer’s”). Before that, Alzheimer’s plaques were usually diagnosed with certainty after death, during an autopsy.

That has meant as many as 25 percent of patients in drug studies haven’t actually had Alzheimer’s, but instead a different form of dementia. What’s more, scientists have discovered that the plaques start building up 10 to 20 years before outward symptoms arise, suggesting that drugs ought to be given much sooner.

Two early detection tests for Alzheimers on the horizon 

New saliva test may catch Alzheimer’s disease early

The saliva test was presented at the 2015 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Washington this week.  Once validated, the saliva test once would be a good screening tool, indicating a patient’s need for further, more invasive testing.

“This is important because the earlier you detect this disease,” said Sherzai, “the more we can have an effect on the outcome.”.  The study was presented at the conference but has not been published or peer-reviewed, which is the gold standard of scientific research. As a result, experts emphasize more research is needed before the saliva test can be used as a detection tool. Alzheimer’s risk reduction and prevention is the new frontier in the disease, according to Isaacson. So the only way to put a dent in the disease is to find some sort of biomarker decades before symptoms start.

15-year-old schoolboy develops test for Alzheimer's disease

A 15-year-old British boy has developed a potential test for Alzheimer’s disease which could allow the condition to be diagnosed 10 years before the first symptoms appear.  Currently Alzheimer’s can only be detected through a series of cognitive tests or by looking at the brain after death.

But Krtin Nithiyanandam, of Epsom, Surrey, has developed a ‘trojan horse’ antibody which can penetrate the brain and attach to neurotoxic proteins which are present in the very first stages of the disease, some of which can occur a decade before symptoms are prevalent.  The antibodies, which would be injected into the bloodstream are also attached to fluorescent particles which can then be picked up on a brain scan.

Krtin submitted his test to the Google Science Fair Prize and learned that he had made it through to the final last week. He will find out next month if he has won a prestigious scholarship and mentoring to take his idea further.

Major Alzheimer's breakthrough as scientists unveil new drug that slows progression of the disease by 30%

Landmark drug to stop Alzheimer's disease has been unveiled today.  Solanezumab has been shown to slow or even halt the illness by tackling beta amyloid, the toxic protein that clogs the brain in Alzheimer's, destroying vital connections between cells.  Existing drugs simply address the symptoms - and failure to deal with the underlying causes means they quickly wear off, and the disease soon takes its devastating course.

Patients with mild Alzheimer's disease who took solanezumab early in the course of their disease preserved more of their cognitive and functional ability, the company said. Results suggest that if given to patients early enough, the antibody therapy will be able to slow cognitive decline - by around 30 per cent.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:59 PM | Permalink

July 21, 2015

Health Roundup: Medical Breakhroughs

5 Exciting Ways Health-Tech Startups Are Improving Lives

1. Expanding access to healthcare knowledge
2. Building communities
3. Increasing accountability
4. Advancing research
5. Driving personalization


HIV / AIDS
Experimental Vaccine 'completely protects against the HIV virus and could have an enormous impact,' say experts

An experimental vaccine completely prevented HIV infection in half of monkeys given the jab, a new study found.
The monkeys were given the vaccine and then exposed to high doses of an aggressive virus that is the equivalent of HIV in humans.The results were so positive they spurred Johnson & Johnson to test the vaccine in people.
The international trial is underway in 400 healthy volunteers in the United States, East Africa, South Africa and Thailand.

Since it began spreading 30 years ago, AIDS has killed 40 million people worldwide.  Today, some 35 million people are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.  Despite progress in treatments, experts believe a vaccine is the best hope for eradicating the disease.

Cystic Fibrosis Breakthrough for cystic fibrosis sufferers as scientists use gene therapy to significantly improve the function of patients' lungs

A breakthrough treatment for cystic fibrosis has offered hope for thousands of patients. A landmark British study showed the gene therapy treatment significantly improved the working of patients’ lungs. The condition, which is caused by the faulty gene CFTR, leads to recurring chest infections and patients have to undergo physiotherapy up to four times a day to clear their lungs.

Scientists from Oxford University and Imperial College London have developed a treatment which repairs the faulty CFTR gene by adding a healthy gene on top, the Lancet Respiratory Medicine journal reported.  Patients inhale a virus, delivered via a nebuliser, which contains the healthy gene and ensures it reaches the cells in the lungs where it is needed.
Once inside the cells, the healthy genes help them function properly and clear mucus from the lungs.

The treatment is still in the early stages of development and has been tested on only a few patients. Professor Eric Alton, of Imperial College London, said: ‘Patients who received the gene therapy showed a significant, if modest, benefit. The results are encouraging.’ Current treatments include enzymes, proteins, or salt solutions which are inhaled through nebulisers to help thin and clear mucus from the lungs.

Pancreatic cancer.  Blood Test IDs Pancreatic Cancer in 250 of 250 Patients

“This study creates enthusiasm that early detection of pancreatic cancer, which is incurable unless removed during very early stages, might become a reality.”

Medical advance.  Blood Test The simple blood test that reveals ANY virus you've ever had - and could help doctors diagnose patients with 'mystery illnesses'

A simple test could reveal any viruses a person has ever had - allowing for better diagnosis of disease. The new tool can detect hundreds of viruses at a time from just a single drop of blood.  The test, called VirScan, makes it possible to test for all current and past infections, rather than testing for specific viruses at a time. It also only costs $25 (£16), a fraction of the cost of existing tools, and uses smaller samples of blood, US researchers say. VirScan works by screening the blood for antibodies against any of the 206 species of viruses known to infect humans.

Testing for a wider range of viruses can uncover unexpected factors affecting individual patients' health – and can help doctors make better diagnoses. It also allows researchers to see similarities and differences in large populations. This could be helpful when studying conditions such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which is suspected to be caused by viruses, although the link has not been established

Tuberculosis Could a common heartburn drug cure TUBERCULOSIS? Prevacid offers 'excellent' hope of new treatment, say scientists

TB continues to be a global pandemic, second only to Aids as the greatest single-agent killer in the world.
In 2013 alone, the TB bug mychobacterium tuberculosis was responsible for 1.5 million deaths and almost nine million new infections. Resistance to TB drugs is widespread, creating an urgent need for new medicines.
Swiss scientists screened a number of existing drugs in hope of finding new treatments to counter TB, which caused 1.5 million deaths in 2013. Lansoprazole, marketed as Prevacid, is an antacid used to treat heartburn. They say the class of drug offers 'an excellent opportunity to treat TB'

Lansoprazole belongs to a class of drugs known as 'proton-pump inhibitors' that keep the stomach from pumping too much acid, thus preventing heartburn and ulcers.  Professor Stewart Cole, who led the research, said: 'Proton-pump inhibitors are both safe and widely sold around the world.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:31 PM | Permalink

July 12, 2015

Health Roundup: Cancer Edition: immuno-oncology, skin, breast and lung cancers

The Economist Doctors are trying—with some success—to recruit the immune system to help with the war on cancer .  There are four ways of dealing with cancer: surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and targeted therapies.  Now scientists are adding a fifth: "immuno-oncology" like Bristol Myers' Opdivo or the arthritis vaccine currently in trials.

Like targeted treatments, these new approaches often use antibodies—proteins that match up to other proteins with great specificity. Unlike the targeted therapies, though, the new treatments do not directly attack cancerous cells, but instead unleash the immune system on them.


Skin cancer
Skin cancer jab 'can give TEN more years of life':

Trials have shown that Opdivo boosts average survival rates by 56 per cent.  Doctors said it marked a ‘major milestone’ in the fight against skin cancer. Trials have shown that Opdivo – a brand name for the drug nivolumab – boosts average survival rates by 56 per cent and some patients who had been given months to live have since returned to work.

It is one of a new type of drugs in so-called immunotherapy, which work by teaching the body’s immune system to attack cancerous cells. Experts describe them as a ‘paradigm shift’ in the war against cancer and they are particularly effective against some of the deadliest tumors.

The FDA granted accelerated approval for Skin Cancer Drug Opdivo in Dec 2014

The drug developed by Bristol-Myers Squibb costs about  $12,500 per month, or  $150,000 annually.  Opdivo, is a PD-1 inhibitor. PD-1 helps cancer cells masks their presence in the body, which allows them to grow and metastasize before the immune system can detect and attack them.

Lung cancer  The FDA expanded the approved use of Opdivo (nivolumab) to treat patients with advanced (metastatic) squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with progression on or after platinum-based chemotherapy.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, with an estimated 224,210 new diagnoses and 159,260 deaths in 2014.

Arthritis. Jab that targets agony of arthritis using patient's own cells: Could help hundreds of thousands by preventing painful swelling

Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by immune system mistakenly attack joints. The Vaccine 're-educates' the immune system not to attack healthy tissue and the jab is also said to be kinder to the body than existing drugs.  While longer trials of the drug are needed,  experts are so far excited by results.

Breast cancer Fresh doubts over breast cancer tests: Harvard finds routine screening fails to cut deaths

A Harvard study of 16 million women has cast doubt on the benefits of routinely offering breast cancer screening.
The data suggests that routine screening is leading to significant numbers of ‘false positives’ – in which women are wrongly told they might have breast cancer when, in fact, they do not. Other women might undergo grueling chemotherapy to treat small, slow-growing tumors which might never have troubled them if they lived on in ignorance.

Breast cancer Hormone in The Pill 'shrinks tumors in half of cases', say scientists

Progesterone could help treat half of all breast cancer patients, say experts.  The hormone, found in many contraceptive pills, is involved in signals between cell molecules that can hold back tumor growth
Experts reveal progesterone receptor 'talks to' other receptors sensitive to estrogen, which fuels breast cancer in many cases Has the effect of applying a brake on the estrogen receptor's ability to stimulate tumors, research reveals.

Breast Cancer: Eradicating a single protein in the blood could stop breast cancer in its tracks, scientists say

Scientists have identified a key molecule, a single protein which triggers the growth of blood vessels in tumors that have spread to the brain - a common secondary site for breast cancer to spread. By withholding the protein, called DOCK4, a particular part of the blood vessel did not form as quickly, meaning tumors grew at a slower rate, scientists found.
Dr Georgia Mavria, from the University of Leeds, said the discovery could help develop new drugs and identify people at risk of their breast cancer spreading.


Melanoma. Deadly Melanoma May Not Show Up as a Mole

But a new study finds that the sometimes-deadly skin cancer melanoma usually arises in normal skin, where there is no dark spot or sign of cancer until the melanoma suddenly shows up.  Moreover, melanomas that arise in non-mole areas of the skin tend to be more aggressive and deadly than those that do arise from moles, the study found.
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People whose melanomas did not arise from moles (called de novo melanomas) tended to do worse than people with mole-associated melanoma, the researchers said in their findings, presented June 1 at the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting…..In general, between 20 and 30 percent of melanomas are mole-associated, but themajority of melanoma cases are de novo cases — they arise in skin that looks normal until the melanoma forms.

How being obese could help you FIGHT cancer 

Overweight patients survive 3 months longer than thinner peers surprising study reveals. While the study does not indicate that being overweight is in any way protective for patients undergoing cancer treatment, Dr Zafar said…. the results suggest that there could be an aspect of biology that could put thinner patients at a higher risk for poor outcomes.. Dr Zafar continued,  'There may be a relationship between having a lower BMI and how much treatment patients can tolerate.'I would hypothesise that the lowest weight patients in our analysis received or tolerated less treatment, or received adequate treatment at first, but became too sick to receive additional therapy.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:40 PM | Permalink

July 11, 2015

Health Roundup: Autism, depression, diabetes, dementia, hospital stays and delirium

Mental Illness: Schizophrenia. Have scientists discovered what causes schizophrenia? Condition may occur because 'gene mutations disrupt chemical balance of the brain'

Autism. People with autism have 'supercharged' brains: Those with the condition are 'over-sensitive to the world - and not impaired'

Scientists found rats reared in a predictable environment were less likely to exhibit some of the symptoms of autism
Findings consistent with the theory that autism is the consequence of supercharged brains that make the world an intensely painful place  Experts hope their findings will help develop new therapies to treat autism.

Can autism be diagnosed by a child's sense of SMELL? Children with the disorder continue to sniff a bad odor for longer than those without

Children without autism have a sniff response in which they try and limit the flow of air through their nose when they smell something bad But children with the disorder continue to smell the odor . New sniff test was accurate in diagnosing autism in 81% of children.  Increasingly abnormal sniff response was associated with more severe symptoms of autism

Depression Depression SHRINKS key part of the brain responsible for creating new memories, scans reveal

The large study of nearly 9000 people compared brain volumes in those with/without depression.
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Those who suffer chronic depression have a significantly smaller hippocampus than healthy individuals, researchers discovered.  The mental illness tends to shrink this area of the brain which is  associated with creating new memories, storing memories and connecting them to our emotions.  The study highlights the need to treat depression in teenagers to stop further bouts.


Diabetes. Is type 2 diabetes caused by BACTERIA in the gut? Toxins trigger insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels, study finds

Bacteria responsible for common skin infections, food poisoning and MRSA could also trigger one of the most prevalent diseases of our time - type 2 diabetes.  Type 2 diabetes comprises 90 per cent of all people with diabetes. Scientists at the University of Iowa  discovered exposure to Staphylococcus aureus bacteria causes  insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, and systemic inflammation - hallmark symptoms of the disease in rabbits.  Professor Patrick Schlievert, who led the study, said: 'We basically reproduced type 2 diabetes in rabbits simply through chronic exposure to the staph superantigen."

Obesity,  a known risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes, alters a person's microbiome - the ecosystem of bacteria that colonize a person's gut, and affect their health.  Professor Schlievert said: 'What we are finding is that as people gain weight, they are increasingly likely to be colonized by staph bacteria - to have large numbers of these bacteria living on the surface of their skin.  'People who are colonized by staph bacteria are being chronically exposed to the superantigens the bacteria are producing.'  Professor Schlievert's past research has shown that superantigens - the toxins produced by all strains of staph bacteria - disrupt the immune system.

Diabetes and Dementia Could diabetes trigger DEMENTIA? People with type 2 suffer 'memory loss and declining decision-making skills'

People with type 2 diabetes lose brain power as their ability to regulate blood flow drops, research suggests.
A study by experts at Harvard Medical School suggests that the impact can be seen in memory and cognition tests - with the decrease in thinking skills dropping over just two years.  They found a significant decrease in cognitive power, which impacted their ability to cook and bathe themselves.

The study size was small. The US researchers tracked 40 people over two years.  Of those, 19 had type two diabetes and 21 did not have diabetes.Study leader Dr Vera Novak, whose work was published in the journal Neurology, said: ‘Normal blood flow regulation allows the brain to redistribute blood to areas of the brain that have increased activity while performing certain tasks.

Dementia.  Blocking a protein that builds up in the blood 'helps combat memory loss'

A protein that accumulates in the blood as we age may provide the basis for new treatments to reverse dementia, research has shown. The molecule, dubbed B2M, is found in higher concentrations in the blood and cerebral spinal fluid of aging humans, scientists said.  And in mice, inhibiting B2M improved learning and memory in laboratory experiments.  And mice genetically bred not to have B2M did not develop memory decline
'We are very excited about the findings because it indicates that there are two ways to potentially reverse age-related cognitive impairments,' study co-author Dr Saul Villeda of the University of California, San Francisco.

Delirium Delirium: A Surprising Side Effect of Hospital Stays

Often misdiagnosed as dementia, delirium can cause hallucinations and delusions…….Turpin’s experience illustrates the consequences of delirium, a sudden disruption of consciousness and cognition marked by vivid hallucinations, delusions and an inability to focus that affects 7 million hospitalized Americans annually. The disorder can occur at any age — it has been seen in preschoolers — but disproportionately affects people older than 65 and is often misdiagnosed as dementia.

While delirium and dementia can coexist, they are distinctly different illnesses. Dementia develops gradually and worsens progressively, while delirium occurs suddenly and typically fluctuates during the course of a day. Some patients with delirium are agitated and combative, while others are lethargic and inattentive.
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Patients treated in intensive care units who are heavily sedated and on ventilators are particularly likely to become delirious; some studies place the rate as high as 85 percent. But the condition is common among patients recovering from surgery and in those with something as easily treated as a urinary tract infection. Regardless of its cause, delirium can persist for months after discharge.
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A recent meta-analysis led by Harvard researchers found that a variety of non-drug interventions — which included making sure patients’ sleep-wake cycles were preserved, that they had their eyeglasses and hearing aids and that were not dehydrated — reduced delirium by 53 percent. These simple fixes had an added benefit: They cut the rate of falls among hospitalized patients by 62 percent.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:56 AM | Permalink

June 4, 2015

Health Roundup: Cancer edition

Ovarian cancer is very difficult to detect in the early stages because there are so few symptoms, yet ovarian cancer is the 5th most common cancer among women and fewer than 50% survive more than 5 years.New ovarian cancer test diagnoses twice as many cases as previous tests.

In the world's largest ovarian cancer screening trial, the new method correctly diagnosed 86 per cent of women with invasive epithelial ovarian cancer (iEOC). The new technique tracks changing levels of a protein in the blood called CA125 which is linked to ovarian cancer.  It then uses a computer program to interprets the variations, predicting the risk of developing the disease based on factors including age, the original level of the protein and how that changed over time.

Breast Cancer  Cheap osteoporosis drugs could stop breast cancer from spreading to bones.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the UK, with around 50,000 cases a year, and 12,000 deaths. Almost nine in ten deaths occur because disease has spread to the bone.

A study at the Institute of Cancer Research has an identified an enzyme which causes disease to spread to the bone, causing the majority of breast cancer deaths.  The new trials, in mice, identified an enzyme which is triggered by tumours in the breast, causing holes in the bones, which make them susceptible to the spread of disease. Tests found that a cheap class of drugs, already used to prevent osteoporosis, could prevent the changes in the bone, blocking the spread of disease.

The research, conducted at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, found that the enzyme LysYl Oxidase (LOX) released from the primary tumour causes holes in bone and prepares the bone for the future arrival of cancer cells.
Identifying LOX in oestrogen receptor negative (ER negative) breast cancer patients early, could allow doctors to block the enzyme’s activity, preventing bone damage and the spread of tumour cells to the bone (metastasis), halting the progression of the disease.

Prostate Cancer Study finds men with 'untreatable tumors' could be helped by drugs already on hospital shelves

Prostate cancer treatment could be transformed by a landmark study described as the disease’s 'Rosetta Stone'.
The breakthrough in cancer genetics means that many men whose illness was thought untreatable could be given drugs that are already on hospital shelves
. Some patients have already benefited and are alive more than a year on, despite only having been given weeks to live.
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Professor Bono, who led the British team, said: ‘We're describing this study as prostate cancer's Rosetta stone - because of the ability it gives us to decode the complexity of the disease, and to translate the results into personalized treatment plans for patients…..What's hugely encouraging is that many of the key mutations we have identified are ones targeted by existing cancer drugs

Skin Cancer Genetically engineered virus 'cures' patients of skin cancer

Currently most cancers are treated with using invasive chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery, all of which carry the risk of further harm.  In a breakthrough which raises hopes of an end to chemotherapy, a genetically engineered virus has ‘cured’ patients of cancer for the first time

In a worldwide study which was led by the Institute of Cancer Research in the UK, scientists showed that the new treatment allowed some patients with skin cancer to live for more than three years – the benchmark many oncologists use to define a cure. The therapy – called T-VEC - works by infecting and killing cancer cells while also sparking the immune system into action against tumors.  T-VEC is a modified form of herpes virus which multiplies inside cancer cells and bursts them from within. It has been genetically engineered to produce a molecule called GM-CSF, which stimulates the immune system to attack and destroy the tumor. The new therapy has far fewer side effects and does not damage healthy tissue or cells.

The clinical trials, which have been ongoing for more than three years, have been conducted in 64 centres across the UK, US, Canada and South Africa. The results show that 163 patients with stage three and early stage four melanoma who were treated with T-VEC lived for an average of 41 months. That was compared with an average survival of 21.5 months for 66 patients who were given the current best immunotherapy drugs.  And the response was most pronounced in patients with less advanced cancers, underlining the potential benefit as a first-line treatment for metastatic cancers which cannot be surgically removed.

Melanoma New Cancer Drug Combination Shrinks Tumors in 60% of Patients with Advanced Melanoma

Two cancer drugs, when taken in concert, can shrink tumors in nearly 60% of people with advanced-stage melanoma, according to a new study.  The trial, which enrolled 945 patients at 137 sites worldwide, found that treating the cancer with medications ipilimumab and nivolumab stopped its advance for almost a year in more than half of cases, the BBC reports.....While the immune system is generally a potent agent in combatting disease, certain built-in “brakes” keep the body from attacking its own tissue — a loophole that cancers can use to continue growing unchecked. But both medications turn those “brakes” off.

Liquid biopsies. New blood tests, liquid biopsies may transform cancer care

A new type of blood test is starting to transform cancer treatment, sparing some patients the surgical and needle biopsies long needed to guide their care. The tests, called liquid biopsies, capture cancer cells or DNA that tumors shed into the blood, instead of taking tissue from the tumor itself. A lot is still unknown about the value of these tests, but many doctors think they are a big advance that could make personalized medicine possible for far more people.

They give the first noninvasive way to repeatedly sample a cancer so doctors can profile its genes, target drugs to mutations, tell quickly whether treatment is working, and adjust it as the cancer evolves.  Two years ago, these tests were rarely used except in research. Now, several are sold, more than a dozen are in development, and some doctors are using them in routine care.

Chemo brain. Researchers find first evidence cancer treatment can lead to 'chronically wandering mind'

Researchers have found the first clear evidence that 'chemo brain' where patients find it difficult to concentrate after undergoing chemotherapy, is real.  The new research shows that chemotherapy can lead to excessive mind wandering and an inability to concentrate. The negative cognitive effects of the cancer treatment have long been suspected, but the study is the first to explain why patients have difficulty paying attention.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:37 AM | Permalink

Health roundup: oral edition

Not brushing your teeth can trigger dementia and heart disease: A unique experiment shows how bad dental hygiene wrecks your entire body’s immune system.  For a two-part BBC series on dental health, Dr Van Tulleken put a gum guard on one side of his mouth whenever he brushed his teeth so that side didn't get cleaned.  When he took it off after two weeks, his gums bled a bit and there was pink, blood- spattered spit in his bathroom washbowl. He had developed mild gum disease.

Tests showed that not brushing his teeth for two weeks had damaged Dr Van Tulleken's immune system ...Lab tests using my white blood cells — the soldiers of the immune system — showed they had become less effective at moving towards an infectious invader when it was introduced to them.  Instead of heading straight towards the invader to attack it, the white cells were heading there slowly in random, inefficient ways.  This result indicated that my whole body had become inflamed as a result of an infection in my gums.

Inflammation is the medical term for our body’s reaction to infection — typically seen on the outside of the body as red, swollen tissue....A swathe of recent science has revealed that if you have chronic inflammation, it will seriously affect the rest of your health and your life.  It is strongly linked with the development of illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, stroke and cancer.

Professor Chapple reassured me this inflammation is completely reversible if you induce it for only a couple of weeks.
But if you leave gum disease for significantly longer, you will be doing yourself chronic, irreversible damage. Gum disease isn’t just bad for your teeth, it shortens your life — simple as that. So, looking after your teeth is one of the most important health interventions you can make....Yet, this  crucial connection between the health of your gums and the health of your entire body is relatively neglected by doctors.

New toothbrush technology. Toothbrush that checks your DNA for onset of cancer and Alzheimer's could revolutionise health care  Tiny microchips in toothbrushes could warn us about onset of diseases. Nanopore sequencers analyse DNA as it passes through tiny hole on chip and that decodes it into digital format that can be assessed against genetic markers.

Protect your toothbrush Brush your teeth but never leave your toothbrush in communal bathrooms.  Study discovers toothbrushes in shared bathrooms contain feces other than your own.

A new study held in bathrooms at the Quinnipiac University in Connecticut claims to have found there is a 60 per cent chance your toothbrush is covered in poop.  Even more concerning, the study found people using communal bathrooms with an average of nine people had around an 80 per cent chance that the faeces belonged to another person.

They discovered that these coliforms made contact with toothbrush after spreading through the air as a result of actions such as flushing the toilet. Researcher Lauren Aber said the phenomenon presented a dangerous health risk.
“The main concern is not with the presence of your own fecal matter on your toothbrush, but rather when a toothbrush is contaminated with fecal matter from someone else, which contains bacteria, viruses or parasites that are not part of your normal flora,"

Regularly rinsing your toothbrush with mouthwash, hot water or cold water had no effectiveness in decontamination, nor did toothbrush covers.

Whether you floss before or after brushing your teeth doesn't matter so long as you floss once a day and brush twice.

From WikiHow, How to Brush Your Teeth

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:13 AM | Permalink

June 3, 2015

Health Roundup: Asthma, malaria vaccine, Alzheimer's, anorexia and leaky gut

Asthma Asthma could be cured within five years after drug breakthrough

Asthma could cured within five years after scientists discovered what causes the condition and how to switch it off.
In a breakthrough which could change the lives of Britain’s five million sufferers, researchers at Cardiff University and Kings College London identified which cells cause the airways to narrow when triggered by irritants like pollution.
Crucially, drugs already exist which can deactivate the cells. They are known as calcilytics and are used to treat people with osteoporosis.

The scientists are hopeful that in the future asthmatics take the drug to prevent an attack ever happening and ending the need to constantly carry an inhaler."Our findings are incredibly exciting," said Professor Daniela Riccardi, from Cardiff University School of Biosciences.

Scientists knew that asthma was caused by inflammation in the small tubes which carry air and out of the lungs, but did not know what was triggering it. However experiments on mice and human airway tissue found that calcium sensing receptor (CaSR ) cells - which detect changes in the environment - go into overdrive in asthmatics, triggering airway twitching, inflammation, and narrowing.But when calcilytic drugs are inhaled, it deactivates the cells and stops all symptoms.

Vaccine for Malaria. Malaria vaccine that will prevent millions of young children catching disease could be available within months

The vaccine named RTS,S could be available by October.  Designed for use in children in Africa, it can prevent up to half of cases.  Experts hail 'extraordinary achievement' for British firm  - GlaxoSmithKline - that developed it.  Scientists have worked on the vaccine for more than 20 years – at a cost of more than £330million, but experts say there is a long way to go.

The disease is difficult to treat because the malaria parasite has a complicated life cycle and has learned how to evade the human immune system over hundreds of years.  The latest World Health Organisation figures show that of the 198 million cases in 2013, 584,000 people died. Most victims are children in Africa, where one dies every minute.
Currently, the most effective prevention measure is the use of mosquito nets

Among those who had three doses of RTS,S and a booster shot, the number of clinical cases of malaria – those confirmed by a doctor – was reduced by 36 per cent after four years.  But the protection waned over time, boosters worked less well than the initial dose and the vaccine was not as effective in younger children, a report in The Lancet journal says.

Alzheimer's Alzheimer hope in epilepsy drug:

Brivaracetam, an epilepsy drug used to reduce severity of seizures, was found to completely reverse memory loss in rats suffering from Alzheimer's.  Previous trials on rats and humans found the anti-convulsant drug levetiracetam could slow some Alzheimer's symptoms.  Brivaracetam which is still in clinical development for epilepsy is ten times more potent than levetiracetam.  The study, in the journal Alzheimer's Research & Therapy, reinforces a theory that brain hyperexcitability plays an important role in the disease.

Dr Haakon Nygaard, of the University of British Columbia in Canada who tested the effects of brivaracetam said:
"Now we have many different research groups using anti-epileptic drugs that engage the same target, and all point to a therapeutic effect in both Alzheimer's disease models, and patients with the disease. Both of these drugs are likely to be tested in larger clinical trials in Alzheimer's disease over the next five to 10 years."

Anorexia Scientists claim they have discovered the gene responsible for eating disorders

While the Western 'obsession' with thinness plays a role, scientists believe 50 to 70% of the risk of developing anorexia is genetic. Experiments on mice have located the defective gene

High Blood Pressure Scientists discover how the body regulates blood pressure - and say discovery could slash risk of heart attacks and stroke  Scientists found release of protein ERAP1 lowers blood pressure. ERAP1 breaks down a hormone which causes blood vessels to constrict.  Drugs prompting the natural release of ERAP1 could be developed which wil lower blood pressure and thus lower the risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes

Leaky Gut  The Cure for Brain Diseases Is in Your Gut

Researchers are just now starting to link inflammation in your gut with some of the most deadly and debilitating diseases we have...This is beyond groundbreaking, it is iconoclastic in that it represents a break from the long-held mentality that brain disease must arise in the brain.
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Dr. Christopher B. Forsyth and his team have recently demonstrated significant gut permeability, more commonly referred to as “leaky gut” in Parkinson’s patients. Their research has further revealed that this increase in gut leakiness enhances inflammation as well as the production of a unique protein—alpha-synuclein—both of which are characteristic of this disease.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:34 PM | Permalink

April 28, 2015

Treating patients at home

Great idea Admitted to Your Bedroom: Some Hospitals Try Treating Patients at Home

When Martin Fernandez came into Mount Sinai Hospital’s emergency room one recent afternoon, with high fever and excruciating abdominal pain, he and his family were asked an unexpected question. Mr. Fernandez, 82, would have to be officially admitted to receive intravenous antibiotics for his urinary tract infection. But he could stay at Mount Sinai, or he could receive treatment at home.

If he chose to be hospitalized at home, doctors and nurses would visit daily. He would receive lab draws and intravenous medications, even X-rays or ultrasound scans if he needed them. The costs to him would be no greater than if he were physically in the hospital. In three or four days, he would be discharged — and he would not have to go anywhere….He was hospitalized at his daughter’s apartment, just a couple blocks away, a few hours later.

He had a urinary catheter, but Mr. Fernandez could still wear his own clothes during the day and his pajamas at night. His wife and his daughter cooked him meals of arepas, vegetables and black beans, and served them to him in bed.

“Hospitals help you, but there’s so much noise that you can’t sleep and you’re lonely,” said Mr. Fernandez’s daughter, Ana Vanessa Fernandez. “Here, there was no timing for visitors. There was no curfew. It’s like being at home, but the hospital is home with you.”
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Dr. Bruce Leff noticed that back in the late 1980s while making house calls to homebound patients, part of his primary care training at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. When some of his patients fell ill, they simply refused to go to a hospital.

He understood why: He had seen firsthand the delirium, infections and deconditioning that too often land older patients in nursing homes after hospitalization. “Being in the hospital could be toxic,” said Dr. Leff, a geriatrician who is now a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins.
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Dr. Leff and his colleagues settled on four diagnoses that could be treated without the patient’s being physically in the hospital: heart failure, exacerbations of emphysema, certain types of pneumonia, and a bacterial skin infection called cellulitis.
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The findings, published in The Annals of Internal Medicine, were promising. Offered the opportunity, most patients agreed to be treated at home. They were hospitalized for shorter periods, and their treatments cost less. They were less likely to develop delirium or to receive sedative medications, and no more likely to return to the emergency room or be readmitted.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:44 PM | Permalink

April 22, 2015

Health roundup: Depression, Alzheimer's, MS, Cancer, Genetic Treatments and Vaccinations

Depression.
Probiotics May Help Ease Pain of Negative Thoughts/Depression.    Linking probiotics and mood
Probiotics are live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, are fundamental in improving digestion and immune function.  A new study found that people focus less on bad feelings and experiences from the past (i.e. rumination) after four weeks of probiotics administration.  The study was published in the journal, Brain, Behavior and Immunity.

Mindfulness therapy as good as medication for chronic depression - study
"Whilst this study doesn't show that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy works any better than maintenance anti-depressant medication in reducing the rate of relapse … these results suggest a new choice for the millions of people with recurrent depression on repeat prescriptions," said Willem Kuyken of Oxford University, who worked with Byng on the research.

Alzheimer's

WSJ A Diet Might Cut the Rick of Developing Alzheimer's. Researchers at Chicago's Rush University Medical Center spent two years developing the MIND diet, which includes many brain-healthy foods like berries and greens.  The MIND diet combines elements of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, which aims to reduce high blood pressure. The MIND diet also includes ‘brain-healthy’ foods such as lots of green leafy vegetables, blueberries and nuts. A study found adhering strictly to any of the three diets lowered the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. But only the MIND diet had significant benefits - a 53% reduced risk for developing Alzheimer's.

Alzheimer's 'breakthrough': Addenbrooke's Hospital recruits first humans for testing diabetes drug
Patients over 50 with early Alzheimer's recruited for research in Cambridge after study finds drug Liraglutide might reverse some damage caused in later stages of disease.  A landmark study last autumn on mice found that the drug Liraglutide, which is already used in the treatment of diabetes – appeared to reduce the damage caused by dementia and result in memory improvements.  Mice with late-stage Alzheimer's given the drug performed significantly better on an object recognition test and their brains showed a 30 per cent reduction in the build-up of toxic plaques.

If the drug is found to reverse damage to the brain, or to stall disease progression, the drug could be the first treatment to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, and offered more widely within five years, scientists said.

MS

Creams used to treat athlete's foot and eczema 'could REVERSE multiple sclerosis'
Active ingredients in creams were found to cure multiple sclerosis (MS). They prompted stem cells to reverse the nerve damage caused by MS
and regenerate myelin, the coating around nerve fibers that MS destroys.

Miconzanole is sold over the counter in most pharmacies as a cream to treat athlete's foot, while clobetasol cream is commonly prescribed to treat eczema.  Although both drugs are widely used, a way must be found to use them safely as internal human treatments rather than creams or ointments before clinical trials can be considered.
The researchers are confident this problem can be solved, but have warned patients not to jump the gun by using the drugs prematurely.

Cancer

Exceeding the recommended daily amount of vitamins can do more harm than good.  Taking too many vitamins 'increases risk of heart disease and cancer', study warns

Compound in the green cruciferous veg broccoli is found to 'stop the growth of tumors'
Broccoli has long been hailed as a superfood, and it could soon protect people from cancer of the mouth, throat, neck and head, a study claims.  Scientists are developing a new treatment known as 'green chemoprevention' in which broccoli and other vegetables are used to prevent the disease. They explained that cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and garden cress have a high concentration of sulforaphane – which is why they have a slightly bitter taste. Previous studies, including large-scale trials in China, have shown sulforaphane helps 'undo' the effects of cancer-causing agents in the environment.

Hope for prostate cancer patients as scientists discover breast cancer drug can also prolong the lives of men
Olaparib is the first cancer drug to target inherited genetic mutations. Up to 30 per cent of men with advanced prostate cancer have tumors with genetic defects - and they responded well to olaparib which prolongs the time a sufferer can live without disease getting worse.

Cancer patient's giant tumor is 'completely destroyed' and 'dissolves' after doctors trial pioneering new drugs cocktail to treat melanoma
Doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York were trialling a new combination of drugs to treat advanced skin cancer
Combined standard drug ipilimumab with new drug nivolumab
Woman, 49, had one dose of the therapy and within weeks her tumor had completely disappeared, leaving a hole in the skin under her left breast

This is one of the most astonishing responses I have seen,' said medical oncologist Paul Chapman.
'It reminds us of the potential power of the immune system if we can remove the "brakes" that keep it from attacking cancer cells.'

In Wired, The Future of Cancer Treatment is (Almost) Here

One of the newest developments in cancer detection and monitoring is something called a liquid biopsy. It’s a test that can detect tumor DNA circulating in the blood. I think it’s the most exciting thing I’ve seen since I started my career.

Genetic Treatments

New era of medicine begins as first children cured of genetic disorder  The pioneering therapy offers hope to the hundreds thousands of people suffering from inherited conditions.

British doctors have cured youngsters of a deadly inherited disorder using a ground-breaking stem cell treatment which heralds a new dawn for genetic therapies. Patients with the most severe form of the rare blood condition Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome have now been free of the disease for four years.

The treatment works by removing bone marrow stem cells – the type of cells which create new blood cells – and replacing the faulty part of the genetic code with a healthy gene. When the stem cells are replaced in the patient they then begin producing healthy blood cells, free from disease.

Vaccinations

There is NO link between MMR and autism - even in high-risk children, landmark study declares
The findings, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, are based on a study of about 95,000 young people. Some children in the study had elder siblings with autism but researchers found vaccines had no effect on autism risk, whether or not a sibling in the family was diagnosed

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:55 PM | Permalink

April 20, 2015

Health roundup: Turbo-charging cancer-killing T cells, MS drug repairs myelin, how Alzheimher's is caused, increased risks for dementia, talking therapy and more

New drug could reverse the damage of multiple sclerosis
A new experimental drug, called anti-LINGO-1, has been found to repair myelin, radically improving nerve signalling.

Scientists find key to 'turbo-charging' immune system to kill all cancers
In a breakthrough described as a ‘game-changer’ for cancer treatment, researchers at Imperial College found a previously unknown molecule which boosts the body’s ability to fight off chronic illnesses…..This is a completely unknown protein. Nobody had ever seen it before or was even aware that it existed. It looks and acts like no other protein.”  The protein – named lymphocyte expansion molecule, or LEM, promotes the spread of cancer-killing ‘T cells’ by generating large amounts of energy.

Normally when the immune system detects cancer it goes into overdrive trying to fight the disease, flooding the body with T cells. But it quickly runs out of steam.  However the new protein causes a massive energy boost which makes T cells in such great numbers that the cancer cannot fight them off.  It also causes a boost of immune memory cells which are able to recognize tumors and viruses they have encountered previously so there is less chance that they will return.

Alzheimer's breakthrough as researchers say they may have discovered how disease is caused and say it 'opens new doors' in search for a treatment.  Researchers have made a major breakthrough in discovering how Alzheimer's is caused - and say it could lead to new treatments. The new study shows that our immune system,… plays a part in the debilitating disease.  The Duke University study in mice found that in Alzheimer's disease, certain immune cells that normally protect the brain begin to abnormally consume an important nutrient: arginine.  Blocking this process with a small-molecule drug prevented the characteristic brain plaques and memory loss in a mouse model of the disease.

Having depression or diabetes raises the risk of dementia by up to 80% - and even more if you suffer both
Having diabetes is associated with a 20% greater risk of developing dementia.  A depression diagnosis was associated with an 83% increased risk.  Being diagnosed with both conditions increases the risk by 117%
As many as one in five people with type 2 diabetes also have depression.

Antidepressants? You might be better off TALKING: Psychotherapy can 're-wire' the brain - without the side-effects of drugs
People with depression show hyperactivity in certain areas of the brain. Eight weeks of psychotherapy was shown to correct this hyperactivity . The talking treatment can 're-wire' the brain without drugs, said the researchers, using brain-imaging technology at the University of Kassel in Germany.

Prescriptions for anti-depressants have more than trebled since 1998 in the world’s richest countries, a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found.Some 62 per cent of depression sufferers are now treated with drugs. However, many anti-depressants have side effects including nausea, a dry mouth, blurring of vision, constipation, dizziness, drowsiness, insomnia and sexual dysfunction.

The popular painkiller Tylenol can reduce feelings of sadness AND happiness, claims study
Previous research has shown that when people take acetaminophen for three weeks, their feelings get hurt less when they are socially rejected. That could be because pain is pain; whether it comes from a bump or a break-up, pain seems to travel through the same neurochemical pathways. In another study published in 2013, people who took acetaminophen thought about their own death less negatively than those who weren’t on anything. And a study this year found that when faced with a tough choice, acetaminophen helps dull the discomfort

Contraceptive pill can 'make women more anxious by shrinking part of their brain', study warns
UCLA study found the Pill shrinks two parts of the brain linked to emotion.  Synthetic hormones found in the contraceptive are thought to be at blame. Neuroscientists at UCLA believe it could account for increased anxiety and depressive episodes

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:01 AM | Permalink

April 10, 2015

Health Roundup: Cancer vaccine, more eggs, cheese and knitting, over-prescription of anti-depressants

Israeli Company's Vaccine Blocks 90% of Cancer Types Vaxil BioTherapeutics's ImMucin trains immune system to fight cancer cells and prevent the disease's return for early stages and remission.

The secret to staving off diabetes? Eat four eggs a week and plenty of cheese and yogurt

Researchers claim eating an egg every other day may keep diabetes at bay. Regular consumption cut the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by a third, according to a new study. A second study found similar health benefits from eating high fat dairy foods, such as cheese.  Second study found eating high fat cheese and yogurt lowered risk by 25%

French cheese diet 'reduces the risk of a heart attack'.  Experts claim that brie, camembert, roquefort - and any other variety - helps cut the amount of dangerous cholesterol in people's bodies, leading to a reduced risk of suffering a heart attack. The discovery is being hailed a new piece in the 'French paradox' puzzle which already shows that drinking red wine cuts cardiovascular disease rates.  Researchers found that those who consumed cheese had higher levels of butyrate, a compound produced by gut bacteria.  Higher levels of the chemical were linked to a reduction in cholesterol.

A passion for knitting and crocheting could protect against dementia  Arts and crafts enthusiasts are 75% less likely to suffer memory loss…Scientists at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota believe the findings highlight the importance of engaging the mind.  They found people who participate in arts and crafts, and those who socialize in middle and old age, were 73 per cent less likely to develop memory loss, which often leads to dementia.  The key, they believe, lies in the fact the activities stimulate the mind and help protect vital neurons - the building blocks of the brain.

So can middle-age spread

While traveling in certain foreign countries, think about a daily handful of peanuts a day. Handful of peanuts a day can shield you from food poisoning: Nuts found to improve health in the gut and body's ability to ward off bugs including E.Coli

Binge drinking as a teenager 'may damage the brain for life': Alcohol puts young people at risk of anxiety disorders and addiction
Binge drinking as a teenager can cause long-lasting damage to the brain well into adulthood, a new study has warned.
This is because drinking excessive amounts of alcohol when young can damage the brain and cause permanent changes to DNA.  This, in turn, can put teenagers at risk of anxiety disorders and alcoholism, researchers found.  Alcohol changes genes in brain cells, which stop the cells developing connections between them, altering behavior.

More than two thirds of people taking antidepressants 'may NOT actually have depression': Doctors discover many do not meet the official criteria

A study analyzed those taking selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and found that  69% did not meet the criteria for clinical depression and 38% did not meet the criteria for other mental conditions like anxiety
Experts: 'Drugs are prescribed without an evidence-based diagnosis'

Commenting on the study, Dr Howard Forman, medical director of the Addiction Consultation Service at Montefiore Medical Center, said clinical depression is distinct from temporary feelings of sadness. 'We all experience periods of stress, periods of sadness, and periods of self-doubt. These don’t make us mentally ill, they define us as human.'

In the U.S., official guidelines say clinical depression should be diagnosed if a person has five or more depressive symptoms over a two week period, most of the day, nearly every day. The symptoms include a depressed mood; a loss of interested or pleasure in activities; weight loss, weight gain or changes in appetite; insomnia or increased desire to sleep.  Other symptoms included restlessness or slowed behavior; fatigue or loss of energy; feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt; difficulty making decisions or trouble concentrating, and thoughts of death or suicide.

Prescriptions for anti-depressants have more than trebled since 1998 in the world’s richest countries, a study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:06 PM | Permalink

March 31, 2015

Health Roundup: Anger, power naps, milk, spinach, chocolate and a 1000 year old remedy for MRSA

WSJ Angry Outbursts Really Do Hurt Your Health, Doctors Find From heart disease to sleep problems, medical researchers increasingly are finding just how toxic anger can be

New evidence suggests people increase their risk for a heart attack more than eightfold shortly after an intensely angry episode. Anger can also help bring on strokes and irregular heartbeat, other research shows. And it may lead to sleep problems, excess eating and insulin resistance, which can help cause diabetes.
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Over time, chronic anger can cause long-term damage to the heart, according to Dr. Williams of Duke.
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Strong anger releases the hormones adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream, which can trigger an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and sugar metabolism. This is useful if the body requires a burst of energy to mount a physical attack…..But too much anger can be harmful, especially for people already at risk for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S.

Cosmic radiation exposure, an atmosphere drier than a desert and the dangers of DVT: The scary ways air travel affects your health

Yes! A power nap of just 45 minutes can boost the memory five-fold, according to new research

The scientists, from Saarland University in Germany, said that during sleep, bursts of brain activity known as sleep spindles play an important role in consolidating newly learned information.

Three glasses of milk a day 'to beat dementia': People who drink large amounts of the white stuff have higher levels of antioxidant that helps protects brain cells

A new US study shows a link between milk consumption and higher levels of a naturally-occurring antioxidant called glutathione in the brain in older, healthy adults.  The powerful antioxidant may minimize damage to brain cells from free radicals, destructive groups of atoms made as a by-product of metabolism that can damage cells.
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A study from Oxford University suggested milk drinking might mitigate neurological damage leading to diseases such as Alzheimer’s due to its vitamin B12 content.  A randomized, controlled trial that seeks to determine the precise effect of milk consumption on the brain is still needed and is a logical next step, the researchers said.

1,000-year-old onion and garlic eye remedy kills MRSA

Scientists recreated a 9th Century Anglo-Saxon remedy using onion, garlic and part of a cow's stomach.
They were "astonished" to find it almost completely wiped out methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, otherwise known as MRSA…..They found the remedy killed up to 90% of MRSA bacteria and believe it is the effect of the recipe rather than one single ingredient.
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"We were absolutely blown away by just how effective the combination of ingredients was,"

Popeye was right. Eat spinach to stay sharp: Two helpings a day knocks 11 YEARS off your brain age

Men and women who had just one or two helpings a day had the brainpower of people 11 years younger….Men and women who had just one or two helpings a day had the brainpower of people 11 years younger.
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The researchers, from Rush University in Chicago, quizzed 950 men and women about their diet.  The volunteers, who had an average age of 81, then did a battery of mental tests every year for up to ten years.  The brains of those who ate leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and kale, aged more slowly, the Experimental Biology conference in Boston heard…..It is thought that vitamin K, folate or vitamin B9, and the natural colourings lutein and beta-carotene were behind the effects.

Chocolate is so good and good for you. New study reveals that eating chocolate doesn't affect your Body Mass Index … and can even help you LOSE weight!

This research only adds to the reputation amongst medical studies that now suggest chocolate is good for you in a myriad of ways. It's been found to help your heart by reducing the risk of atherosclerosis (thickening and hardening of the arteries), boost your brain power by enhancing blood flow to the brain (associated with enhancing memory) and also reduces stress levels by correcting chemical imbalances related with stress.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:11 AM | Permalink

Health roundup: New drugs for cholesterol, heart failure, leukemia and Alzheimer's

NYT Tests of Cholesterol Drugs Offer Hope of Reducing Heart Attacks and Strokes

A new class of experimental cholesterol drugs might sharply reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, researchers reported on Sunday, citing what they described as preliminary evidence.  The drugs, one being developed by Amgen and the other by Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, are already known to sharply reduce so-called bad cholesterol, sometimes to levels lower than those achieved by statins like Lipitor, the mainstay lipid-lowering medicines.

How stem cells can fix a broken heart – with just one jab 15-minute procedure could transform lives of patients with heart failure

The 15-minute procedure involves cells taken from a patient’s own body, which are then re-injected into their heart to repair damaged muscle.  It is hoped that the procedure could improve the quality of life for patients suffering from heart failure, the condition caused by the heart failing to pump enough blood around the body at the right pressure because the heart muscle has become too weak or stiff to work properly.
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First, bone marrow is removed from the patient – via a needle inserted into the hip bone – from which it is possible to separate stem cells. These cells have the unique ability to change into different cell types. The cells are processed in a laboratory before being injected back into the patient’s heart to repair the damaged tissue. The procedure is carried out under general anesthetic.

Alzheimer's Drug Shows Startling Promise

Biogen Idec's drug aducanumab has been shown to slow mental decline in patients with early or mild Alzheimer's disease in a small drug trial…the drug proved to be the first to both ease plaque and slow cognitive decline.

Pill Used To Treat Parkinson's Disease Makes People More Empathetic

Researchers at UC Berkley and UCSF say Tolcapone prolongs the effects of dopamine, a chemical in the brain associated with reward and motivation in the prefrontal cortex

A miracle cancer vaccine? Scientists hail breakthrough cancer treatment as a 'game changer'

Scientists have worked out how to teach the body’s immune system to identify cancer cells, allowing patients to be primed to destroy cancer.  In one case an American woman given just weeks to live  was cleared of advanced blood cancer. She is still alive three years later, and her doctor says she is not a one-off.

British and American researchers are working on two related approaches …Both methods involve taking T-cells, which fight infection, and giving them the ability to recognize a special tag on the surface of cancer cells, called the WT1 protein. ..
The research is being carried out on patients with leukemia.

Doctors hail drug that can 'turn off cancer' : Once-a-day tablet could spare blood cancer patients effects of traditional chemotherapy

Ibrutinib has shown to be 'extremely effective' in treating mantle cell lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia after 2 trials in 28 British hospitals.  Professor Stephen Devereux, consultant hematologist at King’s College Hospital in London, says it is a new class of targeted medications, known as a Bruton’s tyrosine kinase inhibitor. It works by targeting and switching off a protein in the cancer cells.

‘Chemotherapy kills cancer cells but it also kills normal cells and therefore has lots of side effects,’ he says.
‘As this drug is targeted at the B-cells, the side effects are minor. In addition, patients don’t have to go into hospital to have it administered.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:48 AM | Permalink

March 26, 2015

Roundup of Alzheimer's news

Unconscionable. Most Alzheimer's patients not given diagnosis by their doctors say 55% of patients and their caregivers.

The reasons doctors give range from diagnostic uncertainty and fear of causing emotional distress to time constraints, lack of support, and stigma…

Alzheimer's advocates stress the importance of giving a patient all the facts, as early as possible, so they can work with their family to organize legal and health directives and have time to fulfill life-long desires. It's just as important for the caregiver…. "Right now, the big studies that are underway in prevention are really looking at people in the early stages of Alzheimer's, so by waiting, they can lose out on clinical trials as well."

 Alzheimer's

A large Mayo Clinic study has found that when it comes to what causes Alzheimer’s disease, researchers may have been barking up the wrong tree.

Every 67 seconds someone develops Alzheimer’s, and it remains an elusive, incurable disease for now. However, a new breakthrough in Alzheimer’s research may make the path clearer for diagnosing and even preventing the disease one day. 

Amyloid – a sticky, toxic protein found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients — has been the focus of research and diagnosis for decades. But a new Mayo Clinic study published in the journal Brain shows that another toxic protein, called tau, may be a bigger culprit in cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s over the lifetime of the disease.  Researchers say the discovery could lead to better diagnosis, treatments, and prevention tools.

Biogen's Alzheimer's drug slows mental decline in early study

An experimental drug from Biogen Idec Inc became the first Alzheimer's treatment to significantly slow cognitive decline and reduce what is believed to be brain-destroying plaque in patients with early and mild forms of the disease, according to a small study likely to reignite hopes of a treatment…..
…"It's a bigger treatment effect than we had hoped for,"  said Alfred Sandrock, Biogen's chief medical officer
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The Biogen treatment led to reductions in brain amyloid and the plaque reduction was more pronounced as the dose of the drug increased and over time.

Biogen will begin enrolling patients later this year for a large Phase III trial, whose results could be used to seek approval of its drug.  The Biogen drug faces years of testing and would not reach the market much before 2020, even if all goes well, analysts said.

More on that new treatment - New Alzheimer’s treatment fully restores memory function Of the mice that received the treatment, 75 percent got their memories back.

Australian researchers have come up with a non-invasive ultrasound technology that clears the brain of neurotoxic amyloid plaques - structures that are responsible for memory loss and a decline in cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients.

If a person has Alzheimer’s disease, it’s usually the result of a build-up of two types of lesions - amyloid plaques, and neurofibrillary tangles. Amyloid plaques sit between the neurons and end up as dense clusters of beta-amyloid molecules, a sticky type of protein that clumps together and forms plaques.

Neurofibrillary tangles are found inside the neurons of the brain, and they’re caused by defective tau proteins that clump up into a thick, insoluble mass. This causes tiny filaments called microtubules to get all twisted, which disrupts the transportation of essential materials such as nutrients and organelles along them, just like when you twist up the vacuum cleaner tube.

Publishing in Science Translational Medicine, the team describes the technique as using a particular type of ultrasound called a focused therapeutic ultrasound, which non-invasively beams sound waves into the brain tissue.  By oscillating super-fast, these sound waves are able to gently open up the blood-brain barrier, which is a layer that protects the brain against bacteria, and stimulate the brain’s microglial cells to move in. Microglila cells are basically waste-removal cells, so once they get past the blood-brain barrier, they’re able to clear out the toxic beta-amyloid clumps before the blood-brain barrier is restored within a few hours.

The team reports fully restoring the memories of 75 percent of the mice they tested it on, with zero damage to the surrounding brain tissue. They found that the treated mice displayed improved performance in three memory tasks - a maze, a test to get them to recognize new objects, and one to get them to remember the places they should avoid.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:55 PM | Permalink

March 19, 2015

Cheap, mobile and drug-free way to treat Alzheimer's in the works

Let's hope this works.  Hope for Alzheimer's sufferers with scientists developing a treatment to RESTORE memory loss

Australian scientists have made a major breakthrough in treating Alzheimer's with a new drug-free method that can restore memory loss.  Researchers at the University of Queensland's Brain Institute hope to be able to trial their new 'cheap and mobile' ultrasound device within two years on humans.

The treatment attacks the neurotoxic amyloid plaques that cause memory loss and cognitive failure with ultrasound waves.

Research director Professor Jürgen Götz hopes the new method will revolutionize Alzheimer's treatment by restoring memory for sufferers.

'We're extremely excited by this innovation of treating Alzheimer's without using drug therapeutics,' Professor Götz said, according to The Australian. 'The word 'breakthrough' is often misused, but in this case I think this really does fundamentally change our understanding of how to treat this disease, and I foresee a great future for this approach.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:34 AM | Permalink

March 16, 2015

Health roundup: Double chins, classical music, IGT, the Pill+Crohn's, brain cancer+tetanus, HIV+cellular scissors

New drug that gets rid of double chins WITHOUT surgery receives unanimous recommendation for FDA approval
ATX-101 is a noninvasive, in-office procedure that takes five minutes and patients heal in 2-3 days and can walk out without wearing a bandage.  The  drug is injected in grid of tiny dots where 'max amount of fat' under chin is
destroying membranes of fat cells, causing them to burst and permanently disappear. Side effects include short-term swelling, bruising and numbness. The drug now just needs final FDA approval 

Classical music can help slow down the onset of dementia say researchers after discovering Mozart excerpts enhanced gene activity in patients
Classical music can help slow down the onset of dementia, new research has found.  Scientists discovered that patients who listened to experts of Mozart had enhanced gene activity in the brain in areas including memory and learning. The music also affected the activity of a risk gene connected to Parkinson's disease.

The Finnish researchers found the changed activity was only present in 'musically-experienced' patients, who listened to music regularly, suggesting the importance of familiarity with music.

A new class of drugs will dramatically slow the aging process
The new medicines, known as senolytics, have been shown to alleviate symptoms of frailty, improve heart function and extend a healthy life. …Senior author and Mayo Clinic Professor James Kirkland:  "It may eventually become feasible to delay, prevent, alleviate or even reverse multiple chronic diseases and disabilities as a group, instead of just one at a time."

The problem they faced was how to identify these cells without harming other healthy cells.  They discovered that like cancer cells, senescent cells have increased expression of "pro-survival networks" that help them resist apoptosis or programmed cell death. So they used a cancer drug dasatanib and an antihistamine and anti-inflammatory known as quercetin to target senescent cells.The combination wiped out these cells, leaving the healthy ones untouched.

High cholesterol LOWERS the risk of diabetes: New study reveals why taking statins may be harmful
A study of 25,000 found that patients with hypercholesterolemia were half as likely to have diabetes.

New York Times: Protection Without a Vaccine

Scientists at Scripps Research Institute said they had developed an artificial antibody that, once in the blood, grabbed hold of the virus and inactivated it. The molecule can eliminate H.I.V. from infected monkeys and protect them from future infections.  But this treatment is not a vaccine, not in any ordinary sense. By delivering synthetic genes into the muscles of the monkeys, the scientists are essentially re-engineering the animals to resist disease. Researchers are testing this novel approach not just against H.I.V., but also Ebola, malaria, influenza and hepatitis.

….The first human trial based on this strategy — called immunoprophylaxis by gene transfer, or I.G.T. — is underway, and several new ones are planned. I.G.T. is altogether different from traditional vaccination. It is instead a form of gene therapy. Scientists isolate the genes that produce powerful antibodies against certain diseases and then synthesize artificial versions. The genes are placed into viruses and injected into human tissue, usually muscles…..The viruses invade human cells with their DNA payloads, and the synthetic gene is incorporated into the recipient’s own DNA. If all goes well, the new genes instruct the cells to begin manufacturing powerful antibodies.

Women on the Pill face increased risk of Crohn's disease
New study of 230,000 women suggests women may be three times as likely to develop the bowel condition if they are on the Pill and have high-risk genetics

Woman with brain cancer who was given just two months to live has survived for NINE years and seen five grandchildren born after being given experimental vaccine      Sandra Hillburn, 68, was diagnosed with terminal glioblastoma in April 2006.  She was offered to be in a experimental 12-patient study at Duke University

The patients were treated with a combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy and tetanus-diphtheria shot 
Study found that patients who got the tetanus shot lived years longer than those who didn't

Scientists find a way to cut out the HIV virus from infected areas with ‘cellular scissors’
Scientists claim they are one step closer to creating a drug that can cure HIV. A team of researchers has been customizing a defense system used by bacteria and training this scissor-like machinery to recognize the HIV virus.  In their tests, they found that the technique could completely remove up to 72 per cent of cells that had been infected with HIV.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:46 AM | Permalink

March 10, 2015

Health roundup; Everyday pills, game-changing drugs, peanuts and nuts

The professor who 'cured' his cancer with a cocktail of everyday pills. 20 years on, he remains disease-free
Ben Williams' aggressive brain tumor was treated with conventional therapies - and with a mix of common drugs, including those for acne, insomnia and high blood pressure, as revealed in a new documentary. Could this approach work for others?

Pancreatic disease successfully targeted with 'game-changing' drugs
Treatment of the most deadly type of cancer could be revolutionized after scientists achieved ‘exceptional’ results with a platinum-based therapy.  Currently just 1 per cent of all people with pancreatic cancer survive for ten years after diagnosis. Most die within weeks or months because symptoms haven’t shown until the disease is well-advanced.

But researchers say they have now discovered what makes pancreatic cancer ‘tick’ by looking at the DNA of its tumors. They found these can be classified into four types, and the 15 per cent of patients with one of these types could be helped with platinum-based drugs that are already used to treat ovarian and testicular cancer.
Scientists said the results of early trials had been so dramatic that they had never expected to see them ‘in their lifetimes’.

Anti-depressant can also help repair failing hearts: Widely-used pill found to work 'far better' than standard treatments
Researchers from Temple University in Philadelphia gave the widely-used anti-depressant Seroxat to mice that had suffered heart attacks. Tests showed it to be far superior to beta-blockers, the drugs routinely used to treat heart failure.The damaged heart started to heal itself – and continued to improve after the Seroxat was stopped.
Experiments showed that the benefits had nothing to do with the pills’ effect on the brain chemicals involved in mood. Instead, they are due to a fortuitous side-effect of the drug, in which it happens to block a protein that weakens already-damaged hearts.  The effects were seen at doses similar to those used to treat depression in people, although the researchers caution there is no guarantee that Seroxat, which is also known as paroxetine, will work as well on human hearts.

In the WSJ  About-Face on Preventing Peanut Allergies
Study finds introducing peanuts in many infants’ diets could help avoid the allergies later in childhood. A diet that includes peanuts in the first year of life may greatly reduce the chance of developing peanut allergies in children at risk for getting them, according to a highly anticipated new study.

The findings appear to be the most definitive evidence yet to discount the medical community’s longtime recommendation that parents avoid giving peanut products to young children. That practice has failed to stem the growing rate of peanut allergies. Some doctors now suggest that not eating peanuts may actually have helped spur more allergies.

“We have had a whole ethos within the practice of pediatrics and pediatric allergy that the way to avoid any allergy was avoidance,” said Gideon Lack, a professor of pediatric allergy at King’s College London and senior author of the study, which was published online Monday in the New England Journal of Medicine. “At least with respect to peanuts, avoidance may actually worsen the problem.”

How NUTS could be nature's statin: Even peanuts reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and early death
Eating nuts and peanuts reduces the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke, a new study claims.  Researchers found they were linked with a reduced risk of death from heart disease across different ethnic groups and among people on low incomes. They said their findings suggest peanuts may be a cost-effective measure to improve cardiovascular health because they are so cheap.

The study, led by Dr Xiao-Ou Shu, of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Tennessee, analyzed various groups of people. One involved 72,000 low-income black and white men and women living in the US, the other 134,000 men and women living in Shanghai, China.  In the US, the highest consumption resulted in a risk reduction of 21 per cent - in the Chinese group, 17 per cent. The research was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Nuts are rich in nutrients and peanuts, although classified as legumes, have nutrients similar to tree nuts.  They add to the diet a valuable source of protein, dietary fiber, healthy fats, vitamins B1, B6, folic acid, vitamin E, magnesium and zinc.

Early signs of Alzheimer's disease found in patients as young as 20: 'Unprecedented' findings say disease eats away at cells 50 years before symptoms develop
Researchers, from Northwestern University in Chicago, examined the brains of elderly people with and without Alzheimer’s, as well as samples taken from 13 people aged between 20 and 66. These younger people were free of memory problems when they died.  Tests showed that beta-amyloid, the toxic protein that clogs up the brain in Alzheimer’s, had started building up in people as young as 20. Lead researcher Professor Changiz Geula said: ‘Discovering that amyloid begins to accumulate so early in life is unprecedented.’

I'm fitter at 70 than I was at 25
Age is no barrier to exercise, as Liz Hodgkinson shows - even if you don't need to go to the gym at 6.30am every morning.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:54 PM | Permalink

For men only: Off-label uses for pregnancy tests

Teenager diagnosed with testicular cancer after pregnancy test

A teenager was diagnosed with testicular cancer after taking a pregnancy test that came back positive. Byron Geldard, then 18, had finished school and had just returned from a summer holiday with friends when he received the diagnosis the day before he was due to get his A’ Level results.

Pregnancy tests are increasingly used to diagnose, or rule out, testicular cancer as the illness produces the same hCG hormone that is produced by the developing placenta.
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The Teenage Cancer Trust said pregnancy tests had been used to diagnose testicular cancer for around six years.  A spokeswoman said they were considered reliable as the same proteins are detected in the urine of testicular cancer patients and of pregnant women. “It is relatively unknown as patients don’t really talk about it,” she said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:34 AM | Permalink

March 6, 2015

Who do you depend on for nutrition advice?

NYT Op Ed by Nina Teicholz The Government’s Bad Diet Advice

First, last fall, experts on the committee that develops the country’s dietary guidelines acknowledged that they had ditched the low-fat diet. On Thursday, that committee’s report was released, with an even bigger change: It lifted the longstanding caps on dietary cholesterol, saying there was “no appreciable relationship” between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol. Americans, it seems, had needlessly been avoiding egg yolks, liver and shellfish for decades.

How did experts get it so wrong? Certainly, the food industry has muddied the waters through its lobbying. But the primary problem is that nutrition policy has long relied on a very weak kind of science: epidemiological, or “observational,” studies in which researchers follow large groups of people over many years. But even the most rigorous epidemiological studies suffer from a fundamental limitation. At best they can show only association, not causation. Epidemiological data can be used to suggest hypotheses but not to prove them.
Instead of accepting that this evidence was inadequate to give sound advice, strong-willed scientists overstated the significance of their studies.
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In 2013, government advice to reduce salt intake (which remains in the current report) was contradicted by an authoritative Institute of Medicine study. And several recent meta-analyses have cast serious doubt on whether saturated fats are linked to heart disease, as the dietary guidelines continue to assert.

Uncertain science should no longer guide our nutrition policy. Indeed, cutting fat and cholesterol, as Americans have conscientiously done, may have even worsened our health. In clearing our plates of meat, eggs and cheese (fat and protein), we ate more grains, pasta and starchy vegetables (carbohydrates).
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Since the very first nutritional guidelines to restrict saturated fat and cholesterol were released by the American Heart Association in 1961, Americans have been the subjects of a vast, uncontrolled diet experiment with disastrous consequences. We have to start looking more skeptically at epidemiological studies and rethinking nutrition policy from the ground up.

Until then, we would be wise to return to what worked better for previous generations: a diet that included fewer grains, less sugar and more animal foods like meat, full-fat dairy and eggs. That would be a decent start.

What you can - and can't - eat  We speak to experts to consider the latest findings that flip our food wisdom on its head

Butter can be good for you in small amounts.
Full-fat milk is fine to drink. It is still less than four per cent fat and contains some healthy fats
• Dietary cholesterol has little impact on blood cholesterol levels. Eggs are full of all sorts of nutrients and vitamins, and are very good for you. They are rich in protein, so may also keep you fuller for longer and help with appetite control.”
Olive oil  Olive oil is fine on salads but not necessarily for frying. “Olive oil is very good for you but some olive oils have a very low smoke point, and produce small amounts of carcinogens when heated,”
Yoghurt. Switch to full-fat.  When you get rid of the fat, you lose a lot of the fat-soluble vitamins, so you lose the goodness,

Red cabbage is the new health craze: Sales soar 50% as consumers seek to benefit from ten times more vitamin A than its green counterpart and twice the iron

Study says salt may not be all bad for you  Sodium fights infections; health drawbacks exaggerated.

I depend on Authority Nutrition and its evidence-based approach where I learned today that the Healthiest Oil for Deep Frying is Coconut Oil. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:33 AM | Permalink

February 25, 2015

Recent advances in medical and health technology

Apple's Health Kit Apple is taking over healthcare: Firm's HealthKit tracking system now being trialled in more than HALF of top US hospitals

Apple's HealthKit which acts as a repository for patient-generated data Health information like blood pressure, weight or heart rate stored

Printing prosthetic hands. Hand of a Superhero  3-D Printing Prosthetic Hands That Are Anything but Ordinary
The proliferation of 3-D printers has had an unexpected benefit: The devices, it turns out, are perfect for creating cheap prosthetics. Surprising numbers of children need them: One in 1,000 infants is born with missing fingers, and others lose fingers and hands to injury. Each year, about 450 children receive amputations as a result of lawn mower accidents, according to a study in Pedatrics..

E-nable, an online volunteer organization, aims to change that. Founded in 2013 by Jon Schull, the group matches children like Dawson in need of prosthetic hands and fingers with volunteers able to make them on 3-D printers. Designs may be downloaded into the machines at no charge, and members who create new models share their software plans freely with others.  The materials for a 3-D-printed prosthetic hand can cost as little as $20 to $50, and some experts say they work just as well, if not better, than much costlier devices. Best of all, boys and girls usually love their D.I.Y. prosthetics.

Thought-controlled robotic hands  Researchers Find Way to Harness Brain to Control Bionic Hands

Fitted With Robotic Hands, Three Austrian Men Are Able to Perform Tasks Such as Buttoning a Coat

Man-made blood?  A major component of blood has been grown in the laboratory by scientists, bringing man-made blood transfusions a step closer.
Biomedical engineers have for the first time produced functional blood platelets - the cells that cause clots to form - from human bone marrow grown in the laboratory.
The achievement raises hopes that it will soon be possible to produce fully functional blood in a similar way.

Scientists hope that by using a patient's stem cells, it should be possible to grow blood that is a perfect match.  The new research demonstrates that it is possible to use human stem cells to grow bone marrow on a matrix of porous silk, which then create blood cells.  The scientists from Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, and the University of Pavia in Italy were able to produce millions of human platelets.

New chocolate reduces wrinkles. Anti-aging chocolate which reduces wrinkles developed by Cambridge University spin-off
A daily 7.5g bar of the chocolate can change the underlying skin structure of a 50 year old to that of someone in their 30s, say developers

Map of human epigenomes. Recipe for the human body revealed could lead to personalized medicine
Epigenome differentiates cells, telling heart muscle cells to not make brain chemicals, for instance.  The human genome is the blueprint for building an individual person.
The epigenome can be thought of as the cross-outs and underlinings of that blueprint: if someone's genome contains DNA associated with cancer but that DNA is 'crossed out' by molecules in the epigenome, for instance, the DNA is unlikely to lead to cancer.

Scientists have for the first time mapped out the molecular 'switches' that can turn on or silence individual genes in the DNA in more than 100 types of human cells.  The groundbreaking accomplishment,  that reveals the complexity of genetic information and the challenges of interpreting it . Researchers unveiled the map of the 'epigenome' in the journal Nature, alongside nearly two dozen related papers. The mapping effort is being carried out under a 10-year, $240 million U.S. government research program, the Roadmap Epigenomics Program, which was launched in 2008.

'The only way you can deliver on the promise of precision medicine is by including the epigenome,' said Manolis Kellis of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who led the mapping that involved scientists in labs from Croatia to Canada and the United States.

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:08 PM | Permalink

February 24, 2015

Health Roundup: Coffee, slumping, saunas, Vit D + diabetes, statins, anti-depressants, donating eggs risky, new anti-HIV drug

Britain's National Health Service is rationing hearing aids. - To save money, patients are getting only one device to to be worn on left OR right ear.

Government panel recommends FIVE CUPS of coffee a day to ward off heart disease, liver cancer and Parkinson's
A panel of experts from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which convenes every five years, did a detailed assessment of the caffeinated beverage for the first time. They recommend drinking three to five cups a day or 400 mg.For pregnant women, the report suggests limiting coffee consumption to two cups a day

SLUMPING could be causing your headaches: Increased pressure on the neck not stress or dehydration is to blame, experts say
But experts suggest most headaches are actually caused increased pressure on the neck, made worse by bad posture.  Experts say 80 per cent of all tension-type headaches - the most common type of headache - are caused by muscles in the neck.

Regular SAUNAS could save your life: Getting sweaty even once a week halves the risk of dying from heart disease
Regular sessions appear to protect against early deaths from any cause and those who visit saunas most often get the greatest benefit.
Study: 'Time spent in the sauna is time well spent, but it's not clear why'

The vanishing cream for TATTOOS: Lotion offers pain-free alternative to laser removal by targeting pigmented blood cells  created by a Alec Falkenham, a PhD student in Pathology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Lack of sunshine increases the risk of diabetes MORE than being obese
The new Spanish study, published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, found it was a deficiency in vitamin D - dubbed the 'sunshine vitamin' - rather than what a person weighs that increased their risk of diabetes.  This is because there was a direct link between low vitamin D levels and how the body metabolized glucose.  Dr Manuel Macías-González, of the University of Malaga, Spain, said: 'Our findings indicate that vitamin D is associated more closely with glucose metabolism than obesity.

Pill that could help tell if you have CANCER: Scientists hope drug will allow blood tests to replace painful biopsies
The latest research by John Ronald and Sanjiv Gambhir is to be published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences……The Stanford team’s approach involves giving people a drug containing circular pieces of DNA which are to break into tumor cells.  The DNA - called minicircles - prompts the cancerous cells to secrete a specific protein into the bloodstream.

The benefits of taking statins have been exaggerated, two leading experts claim.
Although they can dramatically cut cholesterol levels, they have ‘failed to substantially improve cardiovascular outcomes’, says an analysis of data in clinical trials….The two authors say in the analysis, published in the Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology: ‘The adverse effects suffered by people taking statins are more common than reported in the media and at medical conferences…‘Increased rates of cancer, cataracts, diabetes, cognitive impairments and musculoskeletal disorders more than offset the modest cardiovascular benefits of statin treatment.’…Statin advocates have used statistical deception to create the illusion that statins are “wonder drugs,” when the reality is that their modest benefits are more than offset by their adverse effects’, they claim.

The science behind commonly used anti-depressants appears to be backwards, researchers say

The authors of the paper, published by the journal Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, combed existing research for evidence to support the theory that has dominated nearly 50 years of depression research: that depression is related to low levels of serotonin in the gaps between cells in the brain.

The low-serotonin theory is the basis for commonly prescribed serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI) anti-depressant medications which keep the neurotransmitter's levels high by blocking its re-absorption into the cells that release it.  Those serotonin-boosting medications actually make it harder for patients to recover, especially in the short term

Young women Don’t donate your eggs for research. The risks are too great
Young women are being exploited. Clinics are offering hefty compensation to donors despite the fact that donating for mitochondrial research offers NO medical benefit to the donor.  Even the tiniest risk of complication needs to be taken seriously especially when dealing with perfectly healthy young women, who have no need to undergo a potentially life-threatening procedure. Procedures with risk are performed on sick patients with the understanding that the benefits of the procedure outweigh the risks or the consequences of doing nothing. But in egg donation for mitochondrial research there is no medical benefit, only risk.
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In the U.S. Dr Suzanne Parisian, former Chief Medical Officer at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), warns, in this short, two minute video, about the harms, risk and lack of studies done on egg donors, from both the drugs and the procedures to get the eggs: ‘There are no numbers. [The donor] doesn’t appear anywhere, in the medial literature, tracking or Government oversight…The studies have never been done.’
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In England The Government admits that there is no definitive data on the number of women who have been hospitalized for ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) after egg donation. But we do know that just under half of 864 reported clinical incidents between 2010-2012 were due to OHSS. And: ‘Each year approximately 60 instances of severe OHSS and 150 cases of moderate OHSS are reported to the HFEA.’

Scientists say they have created an anti-HIV drug so powerful that it could work as a vaccine.
Macaque monkeys given the drug were able to fend off high, repeated doses of the simian version of the disease.
The protein-based drug (ECD4-LG} has been 'astonishingly effective' at blocking every major strain of HIV tested, marking a major step towards a cure for AIDS, the researchers claim.  The technique works by using gene therapy to introduce a new section of DNA inside healthy cells.  How the ECD4-LG Drug Works

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:41 AM | Permalink

February 19, 2015

Nevermind

Our government has been wrong about cholesterol for 40 years and is finally admitting it. The U.S. government is poised to withdraw longstanding warnings about cholesterol

The nation’s top nutrition advisory panel has decided to drop it