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Health Bulletin


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  1. #1241
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    A hearing test that’s a talking point

    Indian couple wins The Rolex Awards for Enterprise 2014 for their innovative device that diagnoses hearing impairments in infancy.

    For Neeti Kailas, industrial design has always been about problem solving. When she and husband Nitin Sisodia learnt about the paucity of affordable solutions for early screening of hearing impairments, they decided to design a product that would screen babies within their first six months to assist early diagnosis. "India has an excellent network of audiologists, speech therapists and rehabilitation experts whose intervention would be more effective if therapy started before a child turns one," says Kailas, revealing that of the 5 lakh hearing-impaired babies born globally every year, 1 lakh are in India.

    Armed with degrees from National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad and INSEAD, France, Kailas became the business and design brain behind the product, while technical inputs came from Nitin, an engineer and 2010 Fellow at Stanford India Biodesign. In 2012, they incorporated Sohum Innovation Lab in Bhopal and are currently working on a third generation prototype, which Kailas hopes to test next year. The product works by measuring auditory brainstem response (ABR) from the outer ear and cochlea to the brainstem and uses non-invasive technology.

    ABR products currently available in India are manufactured abroad, and priced from $10,000 to $29,000; Kailas aims to be available for a fifth of the cost. Today, the couple has won the 2014 edition of The Rolex Awards for Enterprise - a grant of 50,000 Swiss francs and global recognition - which will help see the project through to its implementation stage. "We hope that this screening can be done at vaccination camps to encourage early diagnosis. People don't even know that the hearing impaired can speak. This is what we want to tell them," she says.

    The Rolex Awards have also given to Cameroon's Arthur Zang for Cardio Pad, allowing nurses in rural areas to send cardiac test results to heart specialists via mobile, Hosam Zowawi of Saudi Arabia for his campaign against misuse of antibiotics, Francesco Sauro of Italy who is studying quartzite caves on the Venezuela-Brazil border and Olivier Nsengimana of Rwanda, working to save endangered grey crowned-cranes.


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  2. #1242
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    What turns food to fads?

    Marketing plays a huge role in determining the popularity of everything from croissant doughnut hybrids to bitter vegetables.

    Anyone who doubts the ability of a stalky, bitter brassica to capture the public consciousness, consider this: last year, 262 babies in the United States were named Kale.

    The cruciferous vegetable has become an unavoidable presence on restaurant menus. It has been converted into crisps, popcorn, smoothies and cocktails. You can buy kale hand cream, kale face scrub. There are no records of how many toddlers answer to the name "Cupcake" and "Come here, Kimchi" has yet to take off.

    Nevertheless, all have achieved a similar ubiquity in recent years, becoming dinner party musts, restaurants staples or — in the case of the cronut — the subject of countless halfbaked imitations. We might think of taste as individual — but the way we fall for the same thing at the same time suggests it's anything but. But where do these trends come from?

    "Marketing plays a tremendous role," says the Canadian food writer David Sax. "Industry bodies get chefs to use an ingredient and they'll commission studies into health benefits.

    Then it's featured in the press." Much of Kale's success is down to Oberon Sinclair, who runs the transatlantic creative agency My Young Auntie. Two years ago, the New York-based publicist was hired by the American Kale Association. Exceptionally well-connected, with a background in fashion and music, she targeted New York's coolest eateries, begging chefs to serve it. Before long, it was appearing on menus at Balthazar, the Fat Radish, Babbo and Bar Pitti. But can anything become the next craze? Would turnips succeed? "No," she says, firmly. She believes kale worked because it offers something tasty but wholesome at a time when diners are more healthconscious than ever.

    An entire industry has developed around predicting food fashions. "Retailers are investing more time and resources in keeping on top of trends," Charles Banks, co-founder of the forecasting agency The Food People, says. He's provided reports for most major retailers in UK, as well as restaurant chains and contract caterers. "We do everything from compiling data on menu combinations to travelling overseas." In the US, the National Restaurant Association surveys 1,300 chefs annually to see what they're cooking, using the answers to make predictions.

    The cronut became a word-of-mouth hit after pastry chef Dominique Ansel created the croissant-doughnut hybrid last May. Aside from inviting a few friends in the media to taste it, there was no PR campaign. But before long, queues were forming outside his New York bakery . Getting your hands on a cronut became worth boasting about on Twitter, or capturing on Instagram — much to Ansel's bemusement. "I'm not quite sure anyone can properly explain it," he says. "It went viral overnight."

    And for 2015? Sax is putting his money on black rice: "White has become a staple, but there are lots of people cultivating different strands. I think we'll see it on high-end menus and then it'll work its way out."


  3. #1243
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Studies question need for knee replacements, 3D mammography

    Two American studies have yet again highlighted the growing malaise of unnecessary medical investigations. US journal, Arthritis and Rheumatology, has found that about a third of the total knee replacements (TKR) in US might have been unnecessary. Since processes are more lax in India, the problem could be bigger here.

    In addition to doubts over the need of all knee replacements, US-based National Cancer Institute has questioned the efficacy of digital mammography over conventional mammography in detecting breast cancer. Digital mammography is much more expensive than the conventional one.

    These findings by reputed institutes and journals have added to the raging controversy about unnecessary medical investigations and procedures. An article based on a 270,000-patient study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that though the use of digital mammography increased significantly between 2001-02 and 2008-09, contributing to a 31% increase in screening-related costs for women in the medicare programme, it did not translate into increased breast cancer detection rates.

    The study on knee replacement says, "It seems reasonable to question whether TKR was the most appropriate intervention," while adding that till there was consensus on the key criteria that drive decisions to recommend TKR, there was bound to be variations in how the decision to do the procedure was taken. The criteria the doctors used to determine whether patients needed TKR included age, imaging that showed the extent and location of arthritis and a scale that assessed pain stiffness and extent of loss of physical function of the knee.

    Knee replacement surgeries have become very common in India, and many surgeons specializing in the procedure are said to be particularly knife happy. In India, the surgery can cost Rs 3-4 lakh including the implant, which alone would cost Rs 1 lakh or more.

    In the US, concerns about overuse of knee replacements have cropped up following a tripling of TKR surgeries between 1993 and 2009. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in the US, an estimated 719,000 TKRs are done annually in the US. An editorial accompanying the study stated that the study "raised serious concerns about over-utilization" of a costly procedure like TKR.

    Regarding digital mammography, oncologist Dr K Geeta of Max Hospital said, "In India, we don't have a screening programme. So this finding is not really relevant to us. But even if we were to screen using digital mammography, we would have to be very careful about determining whether what we catch in the screening is clinically relevant to merit intervention. Otherwise, it could lead to significant over-treatment." Digital mammography costs about Rs 2,000-2,500 in India.


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    Re: Health Bulletin

    19,000 protein-producing genes in humans: Study

    In a new research, scientists have found the number of protein generating genes in humans to be 19,000 - 1,700 fewer than the most recent annotation and well below the initial estimations of 100,000 genes.

    The study says that almost all of these genes have ancestors prior to the appearance of primates 50 million years ago.

    "I call it the shrinking human genome. The coding part of the genome (which produces proteins) is constantly moving. No one could have imagined a few years ago that such a small number of genes could make something so complex," explained Alfonso Valencia, vice director of basic research at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO).

    In order to determine a map of human proteins, the researchers integrated data from seven large-scale mass spectrometry studies - from more than 50 human tissues - "in order to verify which genes really do produce proteins."

    They analysed thousands of genes that were annotated in the human genome, but that did not appear in the proteomics analysis - the most powerful tool to detect protein molecules.

    "1,700 of the genes that are supposed to produce proteins almost certainly do not for various reasons, either because they do not exhibit any protein coding features, or because the conservation of their reading frames does not support protein coding ability," informed Michael Tress, a researcher at the CNIO's structural computational biology group.

    According to the findings, more than 90 percent of human genes produce proteins that originated in metazoans or multicellular organisms of the animal kingdom hundreds of millions of years ago.

    The figure, however, is over 99 percent for those genes whose origin pre-dates the emergence of primates 50 million years ago.

    "It indicates that the differences between humans and primates at the level of genes and proteins are very small," researchers noted in a paper published in the journal Human Molecular Genetics.


  5. #1245
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Stay awake to fatten your kid

    Do you stay awake late to catch the World Cup action and let your kids play or watch television with you? You could be contributing to their obesity. Parental sleep is related to child sleep which in turn is linked to an increased risk of childhood obesity, an Illinois-based study has found. And doctors say the situation here is not any different.

    Researchers learned that the number of hours a parent sleeps is related to how much sleep children get, so that a parent's sleep has an effect on the likelihood that their children will be overweight. The effects of sleeplessness go beyond just being tired the next day. Studies show that mothers, fathers and their children are likely to gain weight as they lose sleep.

    "Some parents who let their children stay up late and play games or watch television. And when parents stay awake, children tend to do the same which in turn impacts their metabolic activity. Sleep routines in a family affect all the members of the household," said sleep specialist Dr N Ramakrishnan of Nithra Sleep Institute. He also pointed out that in a culture like ours where co-sleeping of kids is common, it is imperative for parents to have a proper sleep cycle.

    A sleepy brain appears to not only respond more strongly to junk food, but also has less ability to rein that impulse in. Nutrionist Dr Deepa Agarwal of Apollo Hospitals explained that lack of sleep affects our ability to lose weight has a lot to do with our nightly hormones. "The two hormones that are key in this process are ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is the hormone that tells you when to eat, and when you are sleep-deprived, your body secretes more ghrelin," she said. "Leptin is the hormone that tells you to stop eating, and when you are sleep deprived, you have less leptin." Eating more coupled with a slow metabolism when you are sleep-deprived causes weight gain, she added.

    Dr Ramakrishnan advised that parents should make being well rested a family priority. "Limiting children's exposure to electronic devices and turning them off half-an-hour before bedtime, and forming a predictable routine to get the recommended eight hours of sleep at night would go a long way in cutting the risk of obesity," he said.


  6. #1246
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Coming soon, 'Nano-juice' to unravel the secrets of the human gut

    A drink will soon unravel secrets of the human gut and help diagnose irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, Crohn's disease and other gastrointestinal illnesses Researchers from the University of Buffalo in the US are developing a new imaging technique involving nanoparticles suspended in liquid to form a "Nano-juice" that patients would drink.

    On reaching the small intestine, doctors would strike the nanoparticles with a harmless laser light, providing an unparalleled, non-invasive, real-time view of the organ.

    "Conventional imaging methods show the organ and blockages, but this method allows you to see how the small intestine operates in real time," said Jonathan Lovell, UB assistant professor of biomedical engineering. "Better imaging will improve our understanding of these diseases and allow doctors to more effectively care for people suffering from them."

    In laboratory experiments performed with mice, the researchers administered the nano-juice orally. They then used photoacoustic tomography, pulsed laser lights that generate pressure waves which when measured provide a real-time and more nuanced view of the small intestine.

    The researchers plan to continue to refine the technique for human trials and move into other areas of the gastrointestinal tract.

    The average human small intestine is roughly 23 feet long and 1 inch thick. Sandwiched between the stomach and large intestine, it is where much of the digestion and absorption of food takes place. It is also where symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, Crohn's disease and other gastrointestinal illnesses occur.

    To assess the organ, doctors typically require patients to drink a thick, chalky liquid containing barium. Doctors then use X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasounds to assess the organ but these techniques are limited with respect to safety, accessibility and lack of adequate contrast.

    None are highly effective at providing real-time imaging of movement such as peristalsis which is the contraction of muscles that propels food through the small intestine. Dysfunction of these movements may also be side effects of thyroid disorders, diabetes and Parkinson's disease.


  7. #1247
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Red hair is all set to disappear — thanks to climate change

    Hair colour of humans now have a new enemy - climate change.

    Scientists working with human DNA have predicted that the red hair gene, synonymous to UK and Scotland, will soon disappear.

    Dr Alistair Moffat of Scotland has said that a gene mutation that yields red hair and pale skin which is more sensitive to light leaves DNA in skill cells more prone to sun damage and cancer.

    Only 1-2% of the world's population have red hair, though in Scotland 13% of the population are ginger and 40% are thought to carry the gene.

    Rising temperatures — a direct result of climate change will cause it to regress.

    Dr Moffat said, "We think red hair in Scotland, Ireland and in the North of England is adaption to the climate. I think the reason for light skin and red hair is that we do not get enough sun and we have to get all the Vitamin D we can. If the climate is changing and it is to become more cloudy or less cloudy then this will affect the gene. If it was to get less cloudy and there was more sun, then yes, there would be fewer people carrying the gene."

    Why does Britain and Ireland have so many carriers and red-heads? One hypothesis is linked to vitamin D. Red hair and lighter skin tone are related and in an archipelago where the sun shines less than in continental Europe, we can absorb more because of that. But if that were true then the cloudier parts of Britain and Ireland, in the west, would have the highest percentages.

    ScotlandsDNA recently announced the result of a year-long project to discover how red-headed Britain and Ireland are. They have also published the first ever map of the red-headed nations and regions.

    It is based on recent ancestral data, the origins of the grandparents of 2,343 people.

    "Our sample consisted of people with all four grandparents from either England, Scotland, Wales or Ireland. While some will have a few deeper ancestors from elsewhere, it is fair to assume that most of the genetic variants carried by someone with all four grandparents from Scotland are Scottish, including the red-head variants in the MC1R gene," Dr Moffat said.

    Since red hair is recessive, children born with red hair need both parents to be carriers of one of the red hair gene variants. But millions of people in Britain and Ireland have no idea that they are carriers.

    If both parents are carriers of a red hair gene variant, there is a 25% chance that their offspring will have red hair. This is called recessive inheritance. Everyone who carries one of the variants is a direct descendant of the first person ever to have it.

    The most red-headed part of Britain and Ireland is the South-East of Scotland with Edinburgh as a red-hotspot. 40% carry one of the three common red hair gene variants.

    Scotland as whole has a higher percentage than Ireland, 36.5% as against 34.7%.

    Wales is higher than Ireland with 38% - so some preconceptions of the Irish as the most red-headed nation are being reorganized.

    The number of people is Britain and Ireland who are carriers is very large indeed.

    "We estimate a total of 20.4 million people are carriers of the red hair variants. That should help play down ginger jibes. The percentage of red heads is lower but also varies, with about 6% of Scots having red hair, about 300,000. About 4% of English are red-heads, around 2.1 million people.


  8. #1248
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Alzheimer's blood test a step closer

    A simple blood test could soon predict a person's chance of getting Alzheimer's with 87% accuracy. Scientists have identified a set of 10 proteins in blood which can predict the onset of Alzheimer's in a significant step towards developing a blood test for the disease.

    The study, led by King's College London and UK proteomics company Proteome Sciences, analyzed over 1,000 individuals and is the largest of its kind to date.

    The researchers used data from three international studies. Blood samples from a total of 1,148 individuals (476 with Alzheimer's disease; 220 with mild cognitive impairment or MCI and 452 elderly controls without dementia) were analysed for 26 proteins previously shown to be associated with Alzheimer's and made to undergo MRI brain scans.

    Researchers identified 16 of these 26 proteins to be strongly associated with brain shrinkage in either MCI or Alzheimer's.

    They then ran a second series of tests to establish which of these proteins could predict the progression from MCI to Alzheimer's. They identified a combination of 10 proteins capable of predicting whether individuals with MCI would develop Alzheimer's disease within a year with an accuracy of 87%. Abdul Hye from King's College said, "Memory problems are very common but the challenge is identifying who is likely to develop dementia. There are thousands of proteins in the blood, and this study is the culmination of many years' work identifying which ones are clinically relevant."

    Simon Lovestone from the University of Oxford, who led the study, said, "Alzheimer's begins to affect the brain many years before patients are diagnosed with the disease. Many of our drug trials fail because by the time patients are given the drugs, the brain has already been too severely affected. A simple blood test could help us identify patients at a much earlier stage to take part in new trials and develop treatments which could prevent the progression of the disease. The next step will be to validate our findings in further sample sets, to see if we can improve accuracy and reduce the risk of misdiagnosis."

    "We are in the process of selecting commercial partners to combine the protein biomarkers in a blood test for the global market, a key step forward to deliver treatment for the disease," Lovestone added.


  9. #1249
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Whey helps diabetics control blood sugar

    Controlling blood sugar levels may be a lot easier for diabetics as researchers have discovered that consuming whey protein before a regular breakfast reduces the blood sugar spikes seen after meals.

    Whey also improves the body's insulin response.

    "Whey protein may, therefore, represent a novel approach for enhancing glucose-lowering strategies in type-2 diabetes," the researchers noted.

    The study included 15 people with well-controlled type-2 diabetes who were not taking any medications except for sulfonylureas or metformin (oral diabetes drugs).

    Testing participants with type-2 diabetes, 180 minutes after their meal, researchers found that glucose levels were reduced by 28 percent after whey protein pre-load compared with no whey protein.

    Also, the early insulin response (meaning within the first 30 minutes following breakfast) was 96 percent higher after whey protein than without.

    "In summary, consumption of whey protein shortly before a high-glycaemic-index breakfast increased the early and late post-meal insulin secretion, improved GLP-1 responses and reduced post-meal blood sugar levels in type-2 diabetic patients," said the authors of the study.

    The research was conducted in Israel by Daniela Jakubowicz and Julio Wainstein (Wolfson Medical Center, Tel Aviv University), Oren Froy (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Bo Ahren (Lund University, Sweden) and colleagues.

    The research was published in the journal Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.


  10. #1250
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    How gene mutation leads to liver cancer found

    There could soon be a treatment for intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (iCCA), the second most common form of liver cancer, as researchers have have now found how two genetic mutations in liver cells may drive tumour formation in iCCA.

    Two mutant proteins IDH1 and IDH2 are linked to cancer, the findings showed.

    "iCCA is resistant to standard treatments like chemotherapy and radiation," said contributing author Josep Maria Llovet from Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in the US.

    "Our findings provide novel insights into the development of iCCA and offers a possible treatment option for patients suffering from this fatal disease," Llovet added.

    Past studies have found IDH mutations to be among the most common genetic differences seen in patients with iCCA, but how they contribute to cancer development was unknown going into the current effort.

    iCCA strikes bile ducts, tube-like structures in the liver that carry bile, which is required for the digestion of food. With so much still unknown about the disease, there is no first-line, standard of care and no successful therapies.

    The researchers demonstrated that the expression of mutant IDH in the adult liver of genetically engineered mice impairs liver cell development and liver regeneration - a process in which the liver responds to injury - and increases the number of cells to form a tumour.

    Moreover, mutant IDH were found to work with activated KRAS, a gene essential in cancer development, causing the development of premalignant lesions and a progression to metastatic iCCA.

    The study appeared in the journal Nature.


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