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Health Bulletin


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  1. #1091
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    'Virtual human body to revolutionize health care'

    The Insigneo Institute at the University of Sheffield on Friday unveiled the first phase of a technology that will lead to the creation of a virtual human body and revolutionize global health care.

    Founded a year ago, the institute is creating an in silico (computer simulated) replica of the human body that will enable the virtual testing of treatments. When complete, the virtual physiological human will transform the economics and practicalities of modern medical treatment and medical research.

    The Virtual Physiological Human (VPH) programme is backed by European Commission (EC) funding. Since 2007, 220 million euros of EC funding has been targeted at collaborative in silico projects across Europe.

    The VPH will enable collaborative investigation of the human body as a single complex system using integrated computer models of the mechanical, physical and biochemical functions of a living human body. It will eventually lead to a better health care system, offering personalized care solutions, a more holistic approach to medicine and a preventative approach to the treatment of disease.

    In time it will lead to treatment that sees the body as a single multi organ system rather than as a collection of individual organs. Observations made in laboratories, hospitals and the field anywhere in the world will be collected, catalogued, organised, shared and combined within the VPH.

    "What we're working on here will be vital to the future of health care," said Dr Keith McCormack. "Pressures are mounting on health and treatment resources worldwide. Candidly, without in silico medicine, organizations like the NHS [National Health Service] will be unable to cope with demand. The VPH will act as a software-based laboratory for experimentation and treatment that will save huge amounts of time and money and lead to vastly superior treatment outcomes."

    The Insigneo Institute for in silico Medicine is a multi-disciplinary institute with a membership of more than 120 academics and clinicians who are collaborating to develop computer simulations of the human body and its disease processes. These will be amalgamated eventually to create a holistic in silico model that will be used directly in clinical practice to improve diagnosis and treatment.

    When complete, the virtual human will be the most sophisticated application of computing technology in health care.

    Researchers are currently mapping the human musculoskeletal system that will help create personalized treatment for diseases such as osteoporosis, arthritis and back pain. The engineering-based model of an individual patient's musculoskeletal make-up will be able to reduce soaring treatment costs for chronic bone disorders by predicting disease development and enabling better treatment. It will simultaneously capture processes at a cellular scale right up to the whole body.


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  2. #1092
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Found Jesus on toast? It’s normal

    Whether glimpsing the blessed Maryin a grilled cheese or eyeing up Nebuchadnezzar in a freshly crisped bagel, we all know that Americans are constantly beset by visions of biblical figures in toasted food products.

    Now, however, scientists say they've shed more light on how this happens in the first place.

    The phenomenon is known as facial pareidolia (pronounced pari-DOH-lee-a ) and is a subset as apophenia — a general term that describes our tendency to see patterns in even random data. From shapes in clouds to monsters in shadows we're all familiar with this experience, but the neural mechanisms underpinning are still mostly a mystery.

    Now, a new study undertaken by Canadian and Chinese researchers has added further evidence to the theory that we just can't help seeing faces in random data: we're hard-wired to recognize human faces.

    Using fMRI scanners to monitor brain activity in volunteers, neuroscientists identified the portions of the brain that consistently lit up when glimpsing facial stimuli. The research, published in the April issue of the journal cortex, identified the fusiform face area or FFA as key to this response.

    It's long been known that the FFA is involved in recognizing faces, and some studies have also suggested that it helps us identify any sort of fine distinctions, from different letters to recognizing someone's gender at a distance.

    "Most people think you have to be mentally abnormal to see these types of images, so individuals reporting this phenomenon are often ridiculed," said lead researcher Professor Kang Lee from the University of Toronto.

    "But our findings suggest it's common for people to see nonexistent features because human brains are uniquely wired to recognise faces, so that even when there's only a slight suggestion of facial features the brain automatically interprets it as a face."

    The research is in line with previous studies on the subject, and adds evidence to the theory that facial pareidolia emerged from an evolutionary need to recognize other friends — and foes — in a pinch. Doing so could have meant the difference between life and death tens of thousands of years ago, and modern humans seem to have just hung on to the skill.

    Writing in his 1995 book The Demon-Haunted World, Carl Sagan theorized that "As soon as the infant can see, it recognizes faces, and we now know that this skill is hardwired in our brains. Those infants who a million years ago were unable to recognize a face smiled back less, were less likely to win the hearts of their parents, and less likely to prosper."


  3. #1093
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Marriages within family spawn genetic clinics

    In a region where marriages within the family are common, genetic clinics offering counselling to couples are beginning to sprout up not only in capitals but also in other major cities and towns.

    Most gynaecologists and obstetricians recommend a genetic counselling session the minute they realize it is a marriage between cousins. Senior gynaecologist at Apollo Hospitals, Dr Jayashree Gajaraj, says that though instances of babies being born with anomalies, genetic disorders or metabolic disorders from consanguineous marriages are much less than expected, they do recommend counselling. "They would come under the risk category, a genetic counselling will look deeper into their family history for problems and health issues," she says.

    Doctors say the number of marriages between cousins has increased in the last 7-8 years. "Due to increased awareness about complications that may arise due to such marriages, the numbers had come down drastically in the 1980s and 1990s," says Hyderabad-based gynaecologist Dr Manjula Anagani. "But now with divorces on the rise, and families wanting only well-known or familiar boys or girls, marriages within the family have increased," says Dr Anagani.

    Gynaecologists say 2% to 5% of couples coming for pre-conception check-ups are referred for genetic counselling. "That would be the percentage of couples who are already old, have gone through infertility treatment, have some defects or health problems in their family history, may have lost babies earlier or may have had an earlier child with a genetic problem," says Coimbatore-based gynaecologist and obstetrician Dr Asha Rao. "There is a high risk of a regressive gene can become dominant in such fetuses," says Dr Anagani.

    Genetic clinics now offer services such as pre-natal counselling, in which couples are counselled on the probability of diseases or disorders they might be carrying or passing on, ante-natal counselling where the fetus is checked for chromosomal abnormalities, chromosomal indexes are worked up if an earlier child is born with an abnormality, and fetal autopsy counselling, where a post-mortem is done of the outcome of a bad pregnancy. Almost all major fertility centres in Hyderabad have on-campus foetal medicine centres or genetic clinics. "It is important for parents to know the risks involved," says consultant paediatrician and geneticist Dr M Pradeepkumar, who will launch his genetic clinic Gene Omm in Coimbatore on Sunday. "Based on the genetic abnormality found, they should be given an option to abort the pregnancy," he says.

    Doctors say an increasing number of parents are deciding to abort the pregnancy once they realise the fetus has developed a genetic abnormality or disorder. "Once they realise an abnormality in the scan and start understanding the complications which could arise for the baby when it is born, they opt to abort the baby," says Dr Sujatha Jagadish of Mediscan, Chennai. "They do not want the child to suffer for life," she says. "This is especially common where the first child has also been born with abnormality," she says.

    Doctors say, detection of other treatable disorders detected during pregnancy by geneticists has made management easier for the parents. "There are cases where we have detected a cleft lip and palate which is manageable," says Dr Jagadish. "Before the baby is born, the parents are educated about the plastic surgery required, surgeons they can approach and how best to manage the baby till it is surgically corrected," she says.

    While a simple counselling and diagnosis can cost from 1,000 to 2,500, chromosomal and gene tests could cost from Rs 8,000 to even 1 lakh depending on the rarity of the disease, says Dr Pradeepkumar. "If it's a rare disease which is tested only by a few laboratories abroad, it becomes expensive," he says.


  4. #1094
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    First planes land on runway across Adyar

    Planes have started to roll on the country's first runway with a bridge. Two flights — an A320 and a B737 — landed on the secondary runway at Chennai airport on Saturday, for the first time after it was extended across Adyar river at a cost of 550 crore.

    The pilots had to peer out of the cockpit to control the plane's altitude, speed and navigate because instrument landing system (ILS), which sends out signals that help a jetliner to home in on a runway, has not been installed.

    An Air India Port Blair-Chennai flight was the first to land on the runway at 2.42pm and a Jet Airways flight from Goa to Chennai landed at 4.16pm. It was part of Airports Authority of India's (AAI) efforts to commission the runway for use.

    "Pilots followed visual flight rules as the runway does not have ILS. The runway was found to be fine and the landing proved that A320 and B737 can use it for landing without hassle," said a senior AAI official.

    The AAI has decided to use the second runway only when main runway is closed for maintenance. Besides the fact that it does not have ILS, there are restrictions on its usable length and available space for flight movement.

    Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) cleared the runway as safe for use in March. Officials were satisfied with the third-party study conducted by Anna University after aviation experts raised concerns on safety of the runway bridge.

    The bridge was built to extend the runway length to 11,500ft. In June 2013, DGCA asked the AAI to appoint an independent agency to evaluate the structural safety of the runway bridge.


  5. #1095
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    US fugitive wanted for killing ex-lover held in Hyderabad

    An Indian-American fugitive, facing 23-year imprisonment for murdering his former girlfriend, was tracked down to a penthouse in Sainikpuri by Crime Investigation Department (CID) sleuths and arrested on Saturday. He was remanded in judicial custody and sent to the Charlapalli jail. He may be extradited to the US after the necessary paperwork.

    CID officials, in an official release, said Amit Muddamalle Livingston, 46, had shot dead his former lover, Hermila Garcia Hernandez, a mother of three, in 2007. After the murder, he reportedly abandoned her nude body on the beach of South Padre Island in Texas. Amit, who moved to the US when he was a child, is a medical transcriptionist.

    After the trial in a district court in Texas, Livingston was sentenced to undergo 23 years imprisonment. However, before the sentence commenced, Amit escaped from the US with the connivance of judicial officers there and entered India using fake documents. He also rechristened himself as Sanjay Kumar. After landing in Hyderabad, he started working again as medical transcriptionist for Neon Transcriptionist at Jade Arcade in Secunderabad. He used to work from home mostly and was staying alone, CID sources said.

    In 2008, a 'Red Corner' notice was issued against him by the US authorities. He moved to Sainikpuri and took shelter in a penthouse. Sources said the CID had been tracking him for the past one year. "Based on the information forwarded by CID, Cyberabad police arrested Sanjay Kumar (Amit) from Madhavipuri colony and registered a case. He was remanded in judicial remand,'' CID officials said in the release.

    As the 'Red Corner' notice is pending against the fugitive, his arrest has been notified to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Union ministry of home affairs. The convict would be sent to the Patiala court in Delhi, from where he might be deported to the US.

    According to CID, the convict, a US citizen, had bribed a judge and prosecutor for buying 60 days time. However, he fled to India. Incidentally, the US judge and prosecutor were jailed for their alleged connivance in the case.


  6. #1096
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Electrical stimulation of brain alters dreams: study

    Scientists on Sunday said they had used a harmless electrical current to modify sleep so that an individual has "lucid dreams," a particularly powerful form of dreaming.

    The discovery provides insights into the mechanism of dreaming — an area that has fascinated thinkers for millennia — and may one day help treat mental illness and post-trauma nightmares, they said.

    Lucid dreams are considered by many psychologists to be an intermediate stage between two forms of consciousness. They lie between so-called rapid eye movement (REM) dreams — which are concerned with the immediate present and have no access to past memories or anticipated events in the future — and being awake, which brings into play abstract thought and other cognitive functions.

    In lucid dreaming, a state believed to be unique to humans, elements of secondary consciousness combine with REM dreams.

    A characteristic is that the dreamer becomes aware that he or she is dreaming and is sometimes able to control the dream's plot. They may dream, for instance, of putting an aggressor to flight or of averting a catastrophic accident.

    Researchers led by Ursula Voss at the J.W. Goethe University Frankfurt, used a technique called transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) to explore the causes of lucid dreaming. The gadget comprises two small boxes with electrodes that are placed next to the skull and send a very weak, low-frequency electrical signal across the brain.

    The team recruited 15 women and 12 men aged 18 to 26, who spent up to four nights in a sleep laboratory.

    After the volunteers had experienced between two and three minutes of REM sleep, the scientists applied tACS, or a "sham" procedure that produced no current, for around 30 seconds. The current was below the sensory threshold, so that the subjects did not wake up. They then woke up the volunteers and asked them what they had been dreaming.

    "The dream reports were similar, in that most subjects reported to 'see myself from the outside' and the dream was watched from the outside, as if it was displayed on a screen," Voss told AFP.

    "Also, they often reported to know that they were dreaming." The volunteers were tested at frequencies of two herz (Hz), six Hz, 12 Hz, 25 Hz, 60 Hz and 100 Hz.

    "The effect... was only observed for 25 and 40 Hz, both frequencies in the lower gamma frequency band," Voss said.

    "This band has linked with conscious awareness, but a causal relationship had so far not been established. Now it is."

    When the volunteers were stimulated with 25 HZ, "we had increased ratings for control of the dream plot, meaning they were able to change the action at will," she added.

    The study, reported in the journal Nature Neuroscience, gave several anecdotes from the recruits about what they had dreamt. "I am driving in my car, for a long time," said one. "Then I arrive at this place where I haven't been before. And there are a lot of people there. I think maybe I know some of them but they are all in a bad mood, so I go to a separate room, all by myself."

    The battery-operated tACS was applied so that the current flowed between the frontal and temporal regions, located on the forward top and side of the brain respectively.

    The study suggests that frontotemporal tACS might help to restore dysfunctional brain networks which are fingered in schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Applied during REM sleep, it could also one day help victims of post-traumatic stress disorder to overcome recurrent nightmares by placing them in charge of the dream plot, the paper theorises.

    The tACS gadget itself is a recognised medical invention designed to be used only for research purposes. Voss said, though, that it seemed inevitable that a similar device would one day be invented for consumers, enabling sleepers to latch onto lucid dreaming, for better or worse.

    "Although this is not something I am personally interested in, I am certain that it won't take long until such devices come out. However, brain stimulation should always be carefully monitored by a physician," she cautioned.


  7. #1097
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Unique enzyme discovered by CSIR institution to increase shelf life of fruits and vegetables

    The CSIR-Institute of Himalayan Bio-resource Technology (CSIR-IHBT), Palampur has signed a MoU with its industry partner— Phyto Biotech, Kolkata, to formalize technology transfer for production of unique enzyme which may be used in developing anti-ageing cream.

    Besides cosmetic, the enzyme — Super Oxide Dismutase (SOD) — may also be used in food and pharmaceutical industries for end applications like extending shelf life of fruits and vegetables.

    This unique enzyme will also be useful during cryosurgery and preservation of organelles (specialized sub-unit within cell that has a specific function). The cryosurgery is an application of extreme cold to destroy diseased tissue.

    "The licensing has brought together the CSIR and the industry to enable commercial production of desired standard SOD so as to create a global niche for the country", said an official statement of the ministry of science and technology.

    The enzyme was discovered by CSIR-IHBT during a survey at an altitude of over 10,000 feet in the Western Himalayan region from Potentilaastrosangunia plant growing under snow cover.

    "Persistent hard work over the years has resulted in the isolation of the SOD gene", said the ministry.

    Thereafter, a protocol was developed for cloning of the gene in E Coli. The enzyme, thus produced, retained the same unique feature as that of the native plant.

    "Applying the knowledge of bioinformatics, the enzyme has been further engineered by mutation of a single amino acid to increase its consistency and thermo-stability", it said.

    The characteristic features of this SOD lies in its stability and functionality ranging from sub-zero to high temperature (above 40C) with varying specific activity. Owing to its high antioxidant properties and multiple uses, the SOD enjoys high demand and price in the global market.


  8. #1098
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    Re: Health Bulletin




  9. #1099
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Worms linked to HIV infection in African women

    While around the world a vast majority of people with AIDS are men, Africa has long been the glaring exception: Nearly 60% are women. And while there are many theories, no one has been able to prove one.

    In a public health clinic in Otimati in South Africa, a team of Norwegian infectious disease specialists think they may have found a new explanation. It is far too soon to say whether they are right. But even sceptics say the explanation is biologically plausible. And if it is proved correct, a low-cost solution has the potential to prevent thousands of infections every year.

    The team believes that African women are more vulnerable to HIV because of a chronic, undiagnosed parasitic disease: genital schistosomiasis. The disease is caused by parasitic worms picked up in infested river water. It is marked by sores in the vaginal canal that may serve as entry points for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Also, the the worms and eggs in the sores attract CD4 cells, the immune system's sentinels, and those are the very cells that HIV. attacks. The worms can be killed by a drug that costs as little as 8 cents a pill. The team is trying to determine whether that will heal the sores in young women.

    Some prominent AIDS experts doubt the schistosomiasis theory, pointing out, for example, that urban women raised far from infested water also die of AIDS. But the idea is slowly gaining ground. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the UN, the United States's National Institutes of Health, and the Danish and Norwegian governments have all given some grant support.


  10. #1100
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Pregnancy erases burn scar of woman

    Pregnancy proved to be a boon for a 30-year-old woman, who suffered severe burn injuries on her belly in a fire mishap druing her childhood. She has got back her 'original' skin, almost.

    Sounds strange, but doctors in a private hospital here used foetal growth in her womb as a 'tissue expander' and replaced the disfigured skin surgically with the post-baby loose but unblemished skin.

    "She has got her original look back, thanks to her baby," said Dr Laxmi Kanta Mishra, a senior consultant, cosmetic and plastic surgery, who treated her.

    According to the standard operating procedure in such cases, an inflatable balloon (called a tissue expander) is surgically inserted under the unaffected skin so that extra skin flap is grown over a period of time. When the additional growth is enough to replace the disfigured area, the scarred skin is replaced with the excess flaps. "But in this case, growing baby in the womb acted as the inflatable balloon. Just after delivery, we conducted surgeries on her to remove the post-burn scars and replaced them with skin flaps, which had grown due to pregnancy," Mishra said.

    "Though I was keen to become a mother, I was worried if severe post-burn scars on my tummy will affect such a prospect. Doctors ruled out any such problem. At the same time, they also told me that the baby's growth can actually gift me with new skin. My happiness doubled," she said.

    Dr Sarojini Joshi, consultant, obstetrics and gyanecology, who monitored the woman's pregnancy, said foetal growth in the woman was normal though her pregnant belly was prominent only on one side because of post-burn scars in the middle region. "She was nervous about the prospects of her motherhood though there was no reason to worry," she said.


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