24th May 2014, 04:02 PM #1131
Re: Health Bulletin
New software to help identify autism
US researchers have developed a new software that can help spot behavioural markers of autism in infants.
Researchers at Duke University have developed a software that tracks and records infants' activity during videotaped autism screening tests.
Their results show that the programme is as good at spotting behavioural markers of autism as experts giving the test themselves, and better than non-expert medical clinicians and students in training.
"We're not trying to replace the experts," said Jordan Hashemi, a graduate student in computer and electrical engineering at Duke.
"We're trying to transfer the knowledge of the relatively few autism experts available into classrooms and homes across the country.
"We want to give people tools they don't currently have, because research has shown that early intervention can greatly impact the severity of the symptoms common in autism spectrum disorders," Hashemi said.
The study focused on three behavioural tests that can help identify autism in very young children.
In one test, an infant's attention is drawn to a toy being shaken on the left side and then redirected to a toy being shaken on the right side.
Clinicians count how long it takes for the child's attention to shift in response to the changing stimulus.
The second test passes a toy across the infant's field of view and looks for any delay in the child tracking its motion.
In the last test, a clinician rolls a ball to a child and looks for eye contact afterward — a sign of the child's engagement with their play partner.
In all of the tests, the person administering them isn't just controlling the stimulus, he or she is also counting how long it takes for the child to react — an imprecise science at best.
The new programme allows testers to forget about taking measurements while also providing more accuracy, recording reaction times down to tenths of a second.
"The great benefit of the video and software is for general practitioners who do not have the trained eye to look for subtle early warning signs of autism," said Amy Esler, an assistant professor of pediatrics and autism researcher at the University of Minnesota.
"The software has the potential to automatically analyse a child's eye gaze, walking patterns or motor behaviours for signs that are distinct from typical development," Esler said.
Later this year, researchers plan to test a new tablet application that could do away with the need for a person to administer any tests at all.
The programme would watch for physical and facial responses to visual cues played on the screen, analyse the data and automatically report any potential red flags.
24th May 2014, 09:50 PM #1132
Re: Health Bulletin
Women not immune from snoring-stroke connection: Study
It is not only men who are at risk of stroke linked to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). A study has found that the link between OSA and stroke may be just as strong among women too.
Snoring is a cardinal feature of the OSA syndrome.
Previous studies have attributed most significant risks of stroke and OSA links to male patients perhaps because men tend to develop OSA earlier than women.
Women are just as susceptible as men when it comes to the vascular effects of OSA, the findings of the study showed.
"Our results could have a substantial impact on our thinking of the risks associated with sleep apnea in women," said Suzie Bertisch, research faculty member at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in the US.
From a clinical standpoint, the results could help clinicians provide more proactive treatment for reducing cardiovascular risk in their female OSA patients, she noted.
For the study, the researchers re-examined the association between OSA and stroke using data from 5,442 participants.
The researchers not surprisingly found a significant association between stroke risk and OSA.
What was surprising was that they also found that the risk of stroke was equal among male and female participants.
The study was presented at the 2014 American Thoracic Society International Conference.
25th May 2014, 08:17 PM #1133
Re: Health Bulletin
New machine can extract images from your mind
Researchers claim to have developed a revolutionary machine that can extract images from people's brains and display them on a screen.
The powerful technology could one day be used to generate images of criminals from the minds of witnesses.
The system, developed by US researchers, has been used to accurately reconstruct human faces based only on data from the brain scanner.
The scientists said the same approach could allow them to reconstruct images from people's dreams, memories and imagination in future.
"Our methods yield strikingly accurate neural reconstructions of faces," said Alan Cowen, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Berkeley.
"This represents a novel and promising approach for investigating face perception, but also suggests avenues for reconstructing 'offline' visual experiences — including dreams, memories and imagination," Cowen was quoted as saying by 'The Sunday Times'.
In the study, researchers showed six volunteers 300 faces while they lay in an MRI scanner. This process showed how their brains responded to dozens of different features ranging from blond hair and blue eyes to dark skin and beards.
Once they had built up the database of responses, across several areas of the brain, they showed the volunteers a set of new faces.
Then they measured how each volunteer's brain responded to the new image and, by comparing those responses to the database, reconstructed the image they were looking at.
Cowen and his co- researchers, Brice Kuhl of New York University and Professor Marvin Chun of Yale, believe that extracting facial images from people's brains is just the first step in a process that will one day produce machines able to read minds in a far more detailed way.
26th May 2014, 02:22 PM #1134
Re: Health Bulletin
How cancer cells spread
Researchers have found a signaling pathway in cancer cells that controls their ability to invade nearby tissues in a finely orchestrated manner.
To migrate from a primary tumor, a cancer cell must first break through surrounding connective tissue known as the extracellular matrix (ECM). The cancer cell does so by forming short-lived invadopodia--foot-like protrusions these cells use to invade.
Invadopodia release enzymes that degrade the ECM, while other protrusions pull the cancer cell along, much like a locomotive pulls a train. The invading cancer cell relies on the cycle of invadopodium formation/disappearance to successfully travel from the tumor and enter nearby blood vessels to be carried to distant parts of the body.
Study leader Louis Hodgson, Ph.D., assistant professor of anatomy and structural biology at Einstein, said they've known for some time that invadopodia are driven by protein filaments called actin, adding but exactly what was regulating the actin in invadopodia was not clear.
Using this biosensor in highly invasive breast cancer cells taken from rodents and humans, the Einstein team discovered that when an individual invadopodium forms and is actively degrading the ECM, its Rac1 levels are low; on the other hand, elevated Rac1 levels coincide with the invadopodium's disappearance.
"So high levels of Rac1 induce the disappearance of ECM-degrading invadopodia, while low levels allow them to stay-which is the complete opposite of what Rac1 was thought to be doing in invadopodia," said Dr. Hodgson.
To confirm this observation, the researchers used siRNA s (molecules that silence gene expression) to turn off the RAC1 gene, which synthesizes Rac1 protein. When the gene was silenced, ECM degradation increased.
Conversely, when Rac1 activity was enhanced-using light to activate a form of the Rac1 protein-the invadopodia disappeared.
The study has been published online in the journal Nature Cell Biology.
27th May 2014, 01:35 PM #1135
Re: Health Bulletin
Sugary drinks in UK to carry health warning
In an opinion to be published in the British Medical Journal on Tuesday, Professor Simon Capewell, professor of public health at the University of Liverpool thinks there should be health warning labels on sugary drinks.
Capewell highlights that the State of California is considering a new health bill; one which will see sugary drinks labelled with health warnings, vending machines to bear warning labels and "fines of between $50 and $500 per failed inspection".
Professor Capewell thinks this is a good idea and one that the UK public would support.
He says that many other harmful products already carry warnings such as insecticides, other toxic products and cigarettes-the effectiveness of which he says is "now agreed by almost everyone".
Professor Capewell believes that public support for warnings is high, suggesting that labelling is feasible.
"A recent survey found that 60% of adults would support health warnings similar to those on cigarette packets on food packaging. Even more, 70%, would support banning sugary drinks in UK schools, or limiting the amount of sugar allowed in certain foods. Sugar is increasingly being implicated as a specific causal factor for overweight, obesity and heart disease and current UK and US obesity policies are failing to reverse obesity trends."
He wonders whether "calorie control strategies could learn from previous successful lessons in tobacco control and alcohol control".
Professor Capewell says the industry is now moving positively. The campaigning group Action on Sugar has recently persuaded Tesco to "write to all suppliers asking them to remove all added sugars from children's soft drinks," while the Co-op "also plans to slash added sugar from products" with Asda agreeing "that innovation of healthy new products was fundamental".
He says that warning labels represent an "interesting natural experiment" that "may offer an effective new strategy to complement existing, potentially powerful interventions like marketing bans and sugary drinks duties".
Professor Capewell concludes that "proposals may herald a tipping point in public attitudes and political feasibilities" and that "investors, industrialists, and international health groups will all be watching closely".
Britain is considering slapping a hefty sugar tax to curb rocketing obesity rates in UK.
The country's chief medical officer has told a parliamentary committee of MPs that sugar was addictive and the introduction of a sugar tax was needed urgently.
27th May 2014, 01:36 PM #1136
Re: Health Bulletin
Soon, pill to wipe out bad memories?
Scientists have found that a drug used to treat multiple sclerosis may pave the way for a pill that can erase bad memories.
Researchers have found that mice given fingolimod, a drug approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for treatment of multiple sclerosis, had enhanced 'memory extinction' of previous experiences that had caused pain.
If the effects of the drug apply to humans, it may offer new treatment options for sufferers of post-traumatic stress, phobias and eating disorders.
Fingolimod, available as a tablet under the brand name Gilenya, treats remitting forms of MS by suppressing the immune system.
Sarah Spiegel, of the Virginia Commonwealth University, in Richmond, and colleagues found that it can also inhibit an enzyme called histone deacetylase, a key protein that regulates gene expression, 'The Times' reported.
When fed to mice, fingolimod crossed the blood-brain barrier and was faster at extinguishing "previously acquired fear memories".
The mice were put in a chamber where their feet were exposed to a mild electric shock, and when returned to the cage the extent to which they froze to the spot was recorded as a measure of anxiety.
This complete lack of movement, known as "freezing" - a fear response in rodents providing a good indication of memory - subsided rapidly after receiving the drug.
The study is published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
27th May 2014, 01:38 PM #1137
Re: Health Bulletin
Having ice cream may not lift your mood
Do you often rush for comfort foods such as chocolate or ice cream in order to boost your mood?
Scientists have found the idea that eating certain foods makes us feel better when we are in a bad mood may be a myth.
On the other hand, people may simply feel better after some time has passed, regardless of what they eat, according to a new study.
Researchers asked study participants to pick foods that they thought would make them feel better if they were in a bad mood, such as chocolate, cookies or ice cream.
They were also asked to choose foods that they liked, but that they did not think would boost their mood, 'Live Science' reported.
Participants then watched a 20-minute video intended to elicit feelings of sadness, anger and fear. They rated their mood immediately after the video, and three minutes later.
In those three minutes, they were served either their comfort food, a food they liked, a granola bar, or no food at all.
As expected, participants were in a bad mood immediately after watching the video. Three minutes later, their mood improved, regardless of whether they had their comfort food, another food, or no food at all.
"We were incredibility surprised by those results," said researcher Heather Scherschel Wagner, a doctorate candidate at the University of Minnesota.
Before the study was conducted, the researchers believed that there was something to eating comfort food, said Wagner.
"Whether it's your comfort food, or it's a granola bar, or if you eat nothing at all, you will eventually feel better. Basically, comfort food can't speed up that healing process," Wagner said.
28th May 2014, 06:11 PM #1138
Re: Health Bulletin
Grind teeth at night? Try yoga
Do you clench and grind teeth while sleeping? That could be owing to stress and yoga and meditation may help, experts say.
While many people may not realise it, teeth-grinding is not just simply annoying, it could also be causing headaches, jaw pain and wearing down of your teeth.
"Called 'nocturnal bruxism', teeth-grinding occurs as a response to the teeth not fitting quite right," said Ohio dentist Matthew Messina from the American Dental Association.
Stress is a known aggravator of bruxism.
When you are stressed, you gain energy that needs to be released somehow - and for certain people, that "somehow" comes in the form of muscle contractions.
"Everyone responds to stress in a different way - what stresses you out may stress me differently," Messina was quoted as saying by Huffington Post.
If you have an existing bite issue and you throw in some stress, the body may find clenching and grinding as a relief, he added.
Meditation, yoga and mindfulness could be your ticket to less grinding, said Messina, as these techniques help lower stress and reduce tension and muscle activity.
Also, cut out the caffeine and alcohol and avoid chewing gum, he noted.
29th May 2014, 01:33 PM #1139
Re: Health Bulletin
17,000 proteins mapped in human body
For the first time in the world, a group of Indian scientists working in Bangalore, along with their American counterparts, have mapped more than 17,000 proteins in 30 organs of the human body. Just like the human genome was sequenced around the turn of the millennium, this is an equivalent mapping of the human proteome.
The work, done by scientists of the Institute of Bioinformatics, National Institute of Mental Health and NeuroSciences (Nimhans), Bangalore and Johns Hopkins University, will be published in the renowned journal Nature. Of the 72 people who worked on the project, 46 are Indians.
The discovery is important as it will throw open the doors to find the root of many diseases. "We have the profile of normal proteins. We could get profiles of proteins of a person diagnosed with a particular condition. By comparing, we can know what went wrong. This could be a phenomenal step in medicine," said Keshava Prasad, scientist at the Institute of Bioinformatics.
It's estimated there are around 20,500 proteins in the human body. These scientists have profiled around 17,294, which account for around 84% of the total proteins. Apart from this, the team also traced around 2,500 of 3,000 proteins that had been categorised as "missing proteins".
The scientists also discovered around 200 new proteins and believe there could be more proteins yet to be discovered.
"Indians were not part of the genome project. But, here for the mapping of proteomes, Indians have led the way. Even though some proteins from various parts of the body were profiled by various teams of scientists, a comprehensive mapping of around 84% of human proteins has been done for the first time," said Dr P Satishchandra, director-vice chancellor, Nimhans.
The team took over two years to complete the project. "It was the perfect combination of technology and know-how. After the genome profiling, proteomes were the most obvious thing to do. Proteome profiling is more difficult because they show varied expression in different organs," said Harsha Gowda, a scientist at the Institute of Bioinformatics.
The work was done on 30 different human tissues, including brain, liver and blood cells, some of which were also provided by the brain bank at Nimhans. "It differed in fetuses and adults. This could give us an idea on the roles of some of these proteins in development," said Harsha.
The institutes now plan to do more work on brain proteomes. The work was done on Orbitrap Velos mass spectrometer that cost the institute Rs 5 crore. Another Rs 3.5 crore was spent on the project. Another world-class instrument, Orbitrap Fusion Mass Spectrometer, worth Rs 7.5 crore, is being imported from Germany for work in the area.
29th May 2014, 01:34 PM #1140
Re: Health Bulletin
30% of world is now fat, no country immune: Study
Almost a third of the world is now fat, and no country has been able to curb obesity rates in the last three decades, according to a new global analysis.
Researchers found more than 2 billion people worldwide are now overweight or obese. The highest rates were in the Middle East and North Africa, where nearly 60 percent of men and 65 percent of women are heavy. The U.S. has about 13 percent of the world's fat population, a greater percentage than any other country. China and India combined have about 15 percent.
"It's pretty grim," said Christopher Murray of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, who led the study. He and colleagues reviewed more than 1,700 studies covering 188 countries from 1980 to 2013. "When we realized that not a single country has had a significant decline in obesity, that tells you how hard a challenge this is."
Murray said there was a strong link between income and obesity; as people get richer, their waistlines also tend to start bulging. He said scientists have noticed accompanying spikes in diabetes and that rates of cancers linked to weight, like pancreatic cancer, are also rising.
The new report was paid for by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and published online Thursday in the journal, Lancet.
Last week, the World Health Organization established a high-level commission tasked with ending childhood obesity.
"Our children are getting fatter," Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO's director-general, said bluntly during a speech at the agency's annual meeting in Geneva. "Parts of the world are quite literally eating themselves to death." Earlier this year, WHO said that no more than 5 percent of your daily calories should come from sugar.
"Modernization has not been good for health," said Syed Shah, an obesity expert at United Arab Emirates University, who found obesity rates have jumped five times in the last 20 years even in a handful of remote Himalayan villages in Pakistan. His research was presented this week at a conference in Bulgaria. "Years ago, people had to walk for hours if they wanted to make a phone call," he said. "Now everyone has a cellphone."
Shah also said the villagers no longer have to rely on their own farms for food.
"There are roads for (companies) to bring in their processed foods and the people don't have to slaughter their own animals for meat and oil," he said. "No one knew about Coke and Pepsi 20 years ago. Now it's everywhere."
In Britain, the independent health watchdog issued new advice on Wednesday recommending heavy people be sent to free weight-loss classes to drop about 3 percent of their weight, reasoning that losing just a few pounds improves health and is more realistic. About two in three adults in the U.K. are overweight, making it the fattest country in Western Europe.
"This is not something where you can just wake up one morning and say, `I am going to lose 10 pounds,'" said Mike Kelly, the agency's public health director, in a statement. "It takes resolve and it takes encouragement."