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Health Bulletin


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  1. #1061
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Stress sends young spinning into vertigo

    Vertigo has been considered a condition among the middle-aged and the elderly with ear problems, but city doctors say they now see a surge in vertigo cases among youngsters.

    Madras ENT Research Foundation (MERF) registers an average of 10 patients with migrainal vertigo everyday, and most of them are women between 20 and 40 years of age. Vertigo patients feel their surroundings are moving when there is no actual movement. You may feel as though you are off balance, spinning, whirling, falling, or tilting. When you have severe vertigo, one may feel nauseated.

    "Seen in as much as 30% of adult population, vertigo is a highly under-diagnosed ailment with varied causes. It is essential that sufficient time is spent on each patient to ensure correct diagnosis and effective treatment," said MERF managing director Dr Mohan Kameshwaran.

    Dr Satya Murali, who is in-charge of the vertigo clinic at MERF, said stress is the new villain. "Stress triggers migrainal and positional vertigo. Lifestyle issues like skipping meals and lack of proper sleep can aggravate the condition," she said. The ailment appears to affect more young women who were under a lot of stress and pressure at work and at home. "Being on medication for the prescribed period and making certain lifestyle changes can bring down the problem," she said.

    ENT specialists said contrary to popular notion, vertigo is not caused merely by inner ear ailments. The brain and connected organs can be the trigger. Dr Ravi Ramalingam of KKR ENT clinic said vertigo could also be a result of medication overdose, overweight or lack of proper blood flow to brain.

    Some people may experience vertigo even if they stand up too fast or spring up from the bed in a swift motion. This is due to the blood rushing to the feet and not to the brain, he explained.

    Dr Ramalingam added that apart from being an ailment, vertigo could be a symptom of other conditions like tumor. "A tumor in the head can block the blood flow. Hence timely and precise diagnosis is important," the doctor said.


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  2. #1062
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    New molecule may allow for faster dental treatments

    Good news for those who dread a visit to the dentist! Researchers have created a new dental filling material that allows for faster dental procedures.

    In modern dentistry, white composite materials are commonly used, which at first glance can hardly be distinguished from the tooth.

    The majority of these composites are based on photoactive materials that harden when they are exposed to light.

    But as the light does not penetrate very deeply into the material, the patients often have to endure a cumbersome procedure in which the fillings are applied and hardened in several steps.

    The Vienna University of Technology, in collaboration with the dental company Ivoclar Vivadent, has now developed a new generation of photoactive materials based on the element Germanium.

    Similar to natural tooth enamel, modern dental composites consist of a mixture of different material components.

    In addition to inorganic fillers they can also contain photoactive organic resins which react to light of a particular wavelength and readily solidify.

    Professor Robert Liska and his team at the Vienna University of Technology (TU Vienna) said the new Germanium-based molecule makes up 0.04 per cent of the composite material, but it plays a crucial role.

    The molecule is split into two parts by blue light, creating radicals, which initiate a chain reaction: molecular compounds, which are already present in the filling, assemble into polymers, and the material hardens.

    Using this new compound, the hardening depth could be increased from 2 mm to 4 mm, which considerably reduces the duration of the medical procedure, researchers said.


  3. #1063
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    New technique developed which can trace DNA back 1000 years

    A new ground breaking technique has been developed which can locate the village your ancestors lived 1,000 years ago and hence trace back DNA formation.

    Previously scientists had been able to link DNA formation to within a 700 km area which in a continent like Europe is very unreliable.

    The Geographic Population Structure (GPS) tool created by Eran Elhaik from the University of Sheffield and Tatiana Tatarinova from the University of Southern California works similarly to a satellite navigation system.

    The new technique has been 98% successful in locating worldwide populations to their right geographic regions down to their village and/ or island of origin.

    The breakthrough has massive implications for life-saving personalized medicine, advancing forensic science and for the study of populations whose ancestral origins are under debate such as African Americans, Roma gypsies and European Jews.

    Genetic admixture occurs when individuals from two or more previously separated populations interbreed. This results in the creation of a new gene pool representing a mixture of the founder gene pools.

    Elhaik said, "What we have discovered here is a way to find not where you were born but where your DNA was formed up to 1,000 years ago by modelling these admixture processes. What is remarkable is that we can do this so accurately that we can locate the village where your ancestors lived hundreds and hundreds of years ago — until now this has never been possible."

    Such processes were extremely common in history during migrations and invasions. When the Vikings invaded Britain and Europe in the 11th century and settled with locals some of them formed a new Viking-Anglo-Saxon gene pool but some married other Vikings and maintained their original gene pool allowing GPS to trace their Scandinavian origins.

    Discovery of a certain genotype might indicate the potential for a genetic disease and suggest that diagnostic testing be done. Also as scientists learn more about personalized medicine there is evidence that specific genotypes respond differently to medications — making this information potentially useful when selecting the most effective therapy and appropriate dosage.

    To demonstrate how accurate GPS predictions are, Elhaik analyzed data from 10 villages in Sardinia and over 20 islands in Oceania. The team was able to place a quarter of the residents in Sardinia directly to their home village and most of the remaining residents within 50km of their village.

    The results for Oceania were no less impressive with almost 90% success of tracing islanders exactly to their island.

    Tatarinova has now developed a website making GPS accessible to the public. "To help people find their roots, I developed a website that allows anyone who has had their DNA genotyped to upload their results and use GPS to find their ancestral home," Tatarinova said


  4. #1064
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Pill to switch off hunger on the horizon

    The world's first pill to make you stop eating is set to become a reality.

    In a study led by Imperial College London and the Medical Research Council (MRC), an international team of researchers identified an anti-appetite molecule called acetate that is naturally released when we digest fibre in the gut. Once released, the acetate is transported to the brain where it produces a signal to tell us to stop eating.

    The research confirms the natural benefits of increasing the amount of fibre in our diets to control overeating and could also help develop methods to reduce appetite.

    The study found that acetate reduces appetite when directly applied into the bloodstream, the colon or the brain.

    Dietary fibre is found in most plants and vegetables but tends to be at low levels in processed food. When fibre is digested by bacteria in our colon, it ferments and releases large amounts of acetate as a waste product. The study tracked the pathway of acetate from the colon to the brain and identified some of the mechanisms that enable it to influence appetite. This is the first demonstration that acetate released from dietary fibre can affect the appetite response in the brain.

    Using positron emission tomography (PET) scans, the researchers tracked the acetate through the body from the colon to the liver and the heart and showed it eventually ended up in the hypothalamus region of the brain, which controls hunger.

    "The average diet in Europe today contains about 15 g of fibre per day," said lead author of the study Professor Gary Frost from Imperial College London. "In stone-age times we ate about 100g per day but now we favour low-fibre ready-made meals over vegetables, pulses and other sources of fibre. Unfortunately our digestive system has not yet evolved to deal with this modern diet and this mismatch contributes to the current obesity epidemic. Our research has shown that the release of acetate is central to how fibre suppresses our appetite and this could help scientists to tackle overeating."

    The study analyzed the effects of a form of dietary fibre called inulin that comes from chicory and sugar beets and is also added to cereal bars. Using a mouse model, researchers demonstrated that mice fed on a high fat diet with added inulin ate less and gained less weight than mice fed on a high fat diet with no inulin. Further analysis showed the mice fed on a diet containing inulin had a high level of acetate in their guts.

    "The major challenge is to develop an approach that will deliver the amount of acetate needed to suppress appetite but in a form that is acceptable and safe for humans," Professor Frost said. "Acetate is only active for a short amount of time in the body so if we focused on a purely acetate-based product we would need to find a way to drip-feed it and mimic its slow release in the gut."

    Professor David Lomas from MRC said: "It's becoming increasingly clear that the interaction between the gut and the brain plays a key role in controlling how much food we eat. Being able to influence this relationship, for example using acetate to suppress appetite, may in future lead to new, non-surgical treatments for obesity."


  5. #1065
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Asthma tightens stranglehold, but 90% still undiagnosed'

    Even as 2.5 crore people in the country are being treated for asthma, experts say a substantial 90% of asthma patients continue to remain undiagnosed, indicating the sheer spread of the condition.

    Further, adherence to the medication regime is very poor, with around 70% of patients, including children and adults, not adhering to the prescribed treatment. In view of this, the theme for the World Asthma Day on May 6 has remained the same for the last seven years - 'You can control your own asthma'.

    Asthma remains the most common chronic disease in children. Estimates suggest that 9.5% of the patients in outpatient departments suffering from asthma. Among adults, women are more prone to the condition. "According to a study, 9.2% of asthma patients in the OPD happen to be women, while 7.5% happen to be men," said Dr Kiran Grandhi, a consultant chest physician.

    Doctors add that women generally visit pulmonologists and emergency departments more often than men and are hospitalised at the rate of 19 per one lakh women as against 14 per one lakh men. "Improper sleeping habits, consumption of packaged food, excess usage of air coolers are among the reasons that precipitate asthma. Also, Asians have genetic predisposition for asthma," said Dr Grandhi.

    Senior paediatrician Dr P Sudershan Reddy said that if three decades ago, 1-2% of the cases coming to the outpatient department were children suffering from asthma, now the number has sharply increased to around 15% in Hyderabad.


  6. #1066
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Control BP, do exercise to prevent second stroke: Study

    Survived a stroke? Now is the time to control blood pressure, cholesterol and weight and do moderate physical activity daily to avoid another stroke.

    According to a statement by American Heart Association, such patients should also receive other evidence-based therapy specific to their individual health, which may include aspirin therapy or a surgical procedure to keep neck arteries open.

    "A vast amount of new research is revealing new and improved ways to protect patients with an ischemic stroke or transient ischemic attack from having recurrent events and further brain damage," said Walter Kernan, a professor of medicine at Yale University School of Medicine.

    Treating high blood pressure is possibly most important for secondary prevention of ischemic stroke, according to the statement.

    About 70 percent of people who have had a recent ischemic stroke also have high blood pressure.

    Intensive cholesterol-lowering therapy is also important for survivors whose stroke was caused by hardened arteries.

    However, the association no longer recommends niacin or fibrate drugs to raise good cholesterol, due to sparse data establishing their effectiveness at reducing secondary stroke risk, the statement added.

    It is also good for stroke survivors to have three to four sessions per week of moderate-vigorous intensity aerobic physical exercise, such as walking briskly or riding a bike.

    "Following a Mediterranean-type diet that emphasises vegetables, fruits, whole grains and includes low-fat dairy, poultry, fish, legumes and nuts and limits sweets and red meat is also beneficial," the statement read.

    The statement titled 'Guidelines for the Prevention of Stroke in Patients with Stroke and Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)', was published in the American Heart Association's journal Stroke.


  7. #1067
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Don't destroy last smallpox stockpiles, scientists urge

    Even though smallpox has not infected anyone since 1977, important research on the virus is still going on and the world's remaining stockpiles should not be destroyed, scientists have said.

    The appeal from a trio of researchers in the United States and Brazil came on Thursday as the decision-making body of the World Health Organisation is preparing to discuss the fate of smallpox research later this month.

    Stockpiles of the live variola virus — which causes the illness that includes a bumpy rash and can lead to blindness or death — are currently held at high-security labs in Russia and the United States.

    "Despite considerable advances," the scientists wrote in the journal PLOS Pathogens, "we argue that the research agenda with live variola virus is not yet finished and that significant gaps still remain."

    The opinion article was authored by Inger Damon of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Clarissa Damaso of Universidade Federale do Rio de Janeiro, and Grant McFadden of the University of Florida College of Medicine.

    They said there is a limited supply of vaccines against smallpox, and since those were developed in the 1960s and 1970s they "were associated with what we now consider an unacceptable high rate of adverse events, some severe."

    Also, diagnostic tests that could distinguish smallpox from other related diseases are not complete, nor is the development of drugs to treat the illness in case a new outbreak occur.

    Researchers also want a better understanding of how the virus works, since it only infects people. Animal models of the virus do not accurately mimic the human illness.

    The World Health Assembly is scheduled to meet this month to decide whether to destroy the remaining stocks of live variola virus or to allow research to continue.

    Expressing concern that opinion may be tilting toward getting rid of the stockpiles, the scientists called the ongoing research "vital."

    "The original goals of the WHO agenda for newer and safer vaccines, fully licensed antiviral drugs, and better diagnostics have still not been fully met," they wrote.

    Smallpox was declared eradicated in 1980 and is the only human disease to have been formally eliminated, according to the WHO.

    The last US case was documented in 1949 and the world's last naturally occurring case was in Somalia in 1977.


  8. #1068
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Antidepressants linked to self-harm in youth

    Children and young adults who start antidepressant therapy at high doses, rather than the average or typical prescribed doses, appear to be at greater risk for suicidal behaviour during the first 90 days of treatment, a new study has warned.

    A previous meta-analysis by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of antidepressant trials suggested that children who received antidepressants had twice the rate of suicidal ideation and behaviour than children who were given a placebo.

    The authors of the new study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, sought to examine suicidal behaviour and antidepressant dose, and whether risk depended on a patient's age.

    The study used data from 162,625 people (between the ages of 10 to 64 years) with depression who started antidepressant treatment with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor at modal (the most prescribed doses on average) or at higher than modal doses from 1998 through 2010.

    The rate of suicidal behaviour (deliberate self-harm or DSH) among children and adults (24 years or younger) who started antidepressant therapy at high doses was about twice as high compared with a matched group of patients who received generally prescribed doses.

    The authors suggest this corresponds to about one additional event of DSH for every 150 patients treated with high-dose therapy.

    For adults 25 to 64 years old, the difference in risk for suicidal behaviour was null.

    The study does not address why higher doses might lead to higher suicide risk, researchers said.


  9. #1069
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    World’s biggest human organ scanning project starts in UK

    In what is the world's biggest scanning project, 100,000 Britons are now undergoing detailed imaging of their brain, heart and vital organs to help researchers study a wide range of common, chronic and life-threatening conditions like diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

    Scientists say that the UK Bio-bank imaging study is one of the most ambitious and exciting health research opportunities in recent years.

    It will provide an unprecedented level of information to help scientists and doctors working on a wide range of illnesses, including dementia, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, depression and eye and lung disorders over very many years.

    DNA has been collected from all the volunteers who will be compared and cross-referenced with the scans.
    Prof Sir Rory Collins Chief Exec, UK Biobank said, "The aim is to try to improve the diagnosis and treatment of a huge range of diseases. We are trying to understand why one person gets a disease and another does not." The Bio bank said, "The project will collect pictures of participants' brains, hearts and bones.

    Many thousands of UK Bio bank participants will be invited to take part over the coming year. We are grateful to all participants who have given up so much of their time to help medical research so far. Their contribution is already helping innovative research studies."

    "We hope many will join this scanning project and provide more information for research which will benefit future generations," said Professor Collins.

    The project will include Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of the brain, heart and body to determine the structure of internal organs and the distribution of body fat. Ultrasound - scan of the carotid (neck) arteries will be carried out to study the build-up of fat in the vessels. Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA) scan using low-energy X-rays will then measure bone density and risk of osteoporosis and arthritis.

    Scientists have already begun to analyze the DNA of all 500,000 participants.

    These will be identifying 850,000 biomarkers, many of which are associated with diseases.


  10. #1070
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Scientists develop nanovehicle for targeting diseased tissues

    Two Indian scientists have developed a "gold nanovehicle" that can be used to deliver drugs specifically to diseased tissues without affecting other healthy organs, according to a recent study.

    The extraordinary proof-of-concept study, published by American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists in AAPS PharmSciTech journal, is a collaborative effort of Dr Subho Mozumdar of University of Delhi, and Dr Arnab De of Columbia University, USA.

    The study estimates that the "cost of synthesising the nanovehicle is only about $1 per mg, a very cost-effective solution."

    Dr De, who has been honoured with the Young Investigator Award by the American Peptide Society, explained, "The increase in the cost of the nanovehicle is marginal as small amounts of nanoparticles can have a very large surface area for attaching the drugs.

    "The main reason for unwarranted side-effects of a drug is that it is very difficult to deliver the drug molecule directly to the target diseased tissue while bypassing healthy organs. Side effects of drugs are often seen on these healthy tissues."

    The study shows that the nanovehicle specifically targets diseased tissue thereby reducing the side effects of the drug.

    Another benefit of this is that the "therapeutic efficacy of the drug is substantially increased as the entire drug is delivered to the diseased tissue alone."

    To design this nanovehicle, Dr Mozumdar, an Associate Professor of Chemistry at University of Delhi said: "We simultaneously modified the surface of the nanovehicle with drugs and tissue-specific ligands."

    The "tissue-specific ligands targets the nanovehicle to the correct tissue, where the drug is then released. The nanovehicle was especially useful in delivering a model drug to the liver."

    Professor Omid Farokhzad from Harvard Medical School said— "targeting the drug molecule specifically to the diseased tissue without affecting the healthy tissues remains a formidable challenge. Targeted and responsive nanotechnology platforms such as those developed in this study can in principle achieve that goal in an elegant manner".

    Dr De, however, has warned that the lack of toxicity does not guarantee that the nanovehicle will be non-immunogenic and additional optimisation to reduce immunogenic concerns might be necessary.


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