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Health Bulletin


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  1. #1451
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Blindness could soon be reversed

    In a major discovery that could cure blindness, British scientists have discovered a region on the front surface of the eye which harbours special stem cells that could be used to reverse blindness.

    Scientists at the University of Southampton have discovered that a part of the eye called the 'corneal limbus' is a narrow gap lying between the transparent cornea and white sclera.

    Their research showed that these stem cells can be cultured from the corneal limbus in vitro. Under the correct culture conditions, these cells could be directed to behave like the cells needed to see light — photoreceptor cells.

    The loss of photoreceptors cells causes irreversible blindness and researchers hope that this discovery could lead to new treatments for conditions such as age related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the developed world which affects around one in three people in the UK by age of 75.

    Professor Andrew Lotery an ophthalmologist at Southampton General Hospital who led the study said "These cells are readily accessible, and they have surprising plasticity, which makes them an attractive cell resource for future therapies. This would help avoid complications with rejection or contamination because the cells taken from the eye would be returned to the same patient. More research is now needed to develop this approach before these cells are used in patients".

    What excited the scientists most was that these stem cells were also found in aged human eyes, and can be cultured even from the corneal limbus of 97 year olds.

    Therefore this discovery opens up the possibility of new treatments for the older generations, researchers believe.

    India is now home to the world's largest number of blind people. Of the 37 million people across the globe who are blind, over 15 million are from India. What's worse, 75% of these are cases of avoidable blindness. India faces an acute shortage of optometrists and donated eyes for the treatment of corneal blindness. While India needs 40,000 optometrists, it has only 8,000. On the other hand, while India needs 2.5 lakh donated eyes every year, the country's 109 eye banks manage to collect a maximum of just 25,000 eyes, 30% of which can't be used.

    Of the 15 million blind people in India, three million, 26% of whom are children, suffer due to corneal disorders.


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  2. #1452
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Weight loss surgeries are not a ‘cure’ for diabetes, some ethics experts say

    Weight-loss surgeries should not be promoted as a diabetes 'cure', say some ethics experts, as they are not without risks

    As obesity rates in India continue to rise, more and more people are seeking surgery for weight loss. And while the procedure is safe and effective for most people, complications can occur as in the case of a senior cabinet minister who was recently hospitalized due to an infection that developed after undergoing a gastric bypass in Delhi.

    But are patients and their relatives getting enough warning before they opt for the surgical route to weight loss? Gopal Agrawal, a Mumbai-based banker, says he wasn't aware of these risks till he lost his father in 2012 to a complication developed after undergoing a sleeve gastrectomy. Agrawal alleges that the surgeon — a reputed name in Mumbai — did not brief his family about risks of the surgery. "The surgeon never mentioned to us that there are chances of infection or complications with this surgery," says Agrawal. His 56-year-old father who suffered from high blood pressure, knee pain and sleep issues was operated in a private hospital in Mumbai. Within 48 hours of surgery, Agrawal's father — who weighed 116kg — developed breathing problems due water accumulation in lungs. He never recovered from this complication and died four months later. Agrawal has filed a case in consumer court and with the Maharashtra Medical Council against the bariatric surgeon as well as a physician and an endoscopist.


    Earlier this year, 48-year-old TV actor Rakesh Diwana also succumbed to complications after undergoing weight-loss surgery at a hospital in Indore. There are more such cases of weight-loss surgery gone wrong, and they all raise worrying questions about its safety.

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    "The way bariatric surgery is promoted as 'cure' for diabetes is unethical," says Dr Arun Bal, a diabetic foot surgeon and member of the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics. "It is a fairly new technique and we still don't know its long-term effects on the body. This surgery should be considered as just one of the treatment options, that too only for patients who have uncontrollable diabetes and the risk of developing co-morbidities," adds Dr Bal. He further warns against unscrupulous surgeons who advise this surgery, which costs up to Rs 3 lakh or more, to obese, diabetic patients who don't have the time or patience to make lifestyle changes like diet correction to manage their condition.

    Even teenagers below the age of 15 are undergoing this surgery despite international guidelines against this. Short-term risks associated with the surgery include respiratory problems, infection, lung collapse, haemorrhage etc while long-term risks include nutritional deficiency and complications that may require future surgery.

    But there are many in the medical community who favour this method. Dr Mufazal Lakdawala, a well-known metabolic surgeon claims a 96% remission rate in his diabetic patients who have undergone surgery.

    Dr Satish Kumar, consultant endocrinologist at Bangalore's Narayana Health City, says trials to test the safety of this procedure are ongoing. "We can't say what will be its long-term effects until we get confirmed results," says Dr Kumar. Patients above the age of 65 and below 18 should not be advised this surgery as well as those with untreated thyroid condition, hormonal imbalances and depression, he cautions. "The patient should be emotionally stable and not have eating issues," he adds. Dr Kumar is currently treating patients who underwent bariatric surgery three to five years ago and now are again putting on weight. "These patients were not able to follow the strict nutritional guidelines associated with bariatric surgery and hence are now back to battling weight," says Dr Kumar.

    While the jury is still out, it may be best to exercise caution. Dr Bruce M Wolfe, a digestive health surgeon at Oregon Health and Science University, sums it up in a 2013 editorial published in JAMA: "Bariatric surgery does result in substantial weight loss with excellent diabetes control but is offset by initial high cost and risks for surgical complications. The optimal approach for treatment of obesity and diabetes remains unknown. The answer will only come from more well designed, randomized trials."


  3. #1453
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Worried, jealous women at higher risk of Alzheimer’s

    Women who are anxious, jealous, or moody and distressed in middle age may be at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease later in life, according to a new study. "Most Alzheimer's research has been devoted to factors such as education, heart and blood risk factors, head trauma, family history and genetics," said study author Lena Johannsson, of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

    "Personality may influence the individual's risk for dementia through its effect on behaviour, lifestyle or reactions to stress," Johannsson said. For the study, 800 women with an average age of 46 were followed for 38 years and given personality tests that looked at their level of neuroticism . Of those, 19% developed dementia.

    Neuroticism is traits such as worrying, jealousy or moodiness. People who are neurotic are more likely to express anger, guilt, envy, anxiety or depression. Stress referred to feelings of irritability, tension, nervousness, fear, anxiety or sleep disturbances. Responses were categorised as zero to five, with zero representing never experiencing any period of stress, to five, experiencing constant stress during the last five years. Women who chose responses from 3 and 5 were considered to have distress. The study found that women who scored highest on the tests for neuroticism had double the risk of developing dementia compared to those who scored lowest on the tests. However, the link depended on long-standing stress.


  4. #1454
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Dining with obese people can make you eat more

    The body type of your dining partner, or that of those eating nearby, may influence how much you serve yourself and how much you eat, according to a new study.

    The study found that people are likely to serve more and eat more unhealthy food and less healthy food when eating with or near someone who is overweight. The finding supports a theory that when eating with or near an overweight person, you may be less likely to adhere to your own health goals. "This finding emphasizes the importance of pre-committing to meal choices before entering the restaurant," said lead author Mitsuru Shimizu, assistant professor of psychology at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville who conducted the study with Brian Wansink, PhD director of Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab.

    The researchers recruited 82 undergraduate college students to eat a spaghetti and salad lunch. They also enlisted an actress to wear a prosthesis that added 50 pounds to her normally average weight.

    The research found that people may serve and eat larger portions of unhealthy foods when eating with an overweight person because they are less in tune with their own health goals.


  5. #1455
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Viagra may damage your vision

    An ingredient in Viagra could cause blindness in both men with eye problems and those with seemingly normal vision, according to a new study. Sildenafil, the active ingredient in the erectile dysfunction medication, could permanently damage the vision of a man with a hereditary eye condition, but also those who have normal sight and carry one gene linked to the eye problem, Australian researchers said.

    The ingredient, Sildenafil, can inhibit an enzyme which is important for transmitting light signals from the retina to the brain, and it is already known from clinical trials of Viagra that its use in high doses can cause transient disturbances in the vision of some healthy people.

    Scientists claim that the drug could cause permanent damage to the eyes of people with retinitis pigmentosa — a rare inherited disease which causes the cells in the retina to gradually die.

    People suffering from the condition can find it difficult to see in dim light, lose their peripheral vision, and can sometimes go blind.

    Around one in 50 people carry the genes which can trigger the retinal cell death.

    To make their findings published in the journal 'Experimental Eye Research', researchers from the University of New South Wales, Australia, gave a dose of sildenafil to healthy mice and ones with a copy of the mutant gene.

    The scientists discovered that the healthy mice experienced problems with their eyes for around two days. But mice with the gene had eye problems for a fortnight, the Mail Online reported. The researchers also identified early signs of cell death in the mices' retinas, indicating that the drug may cause loss of vision in people who carry the gene for the disease but have normal vision.

    Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith, of the UNSW School of Optometry and Vision Science, said: "If cells actually die in the retina that would lead to blindness." She went on to explain that people who have normal vision, but carry a single copy of the mutant gene for retinitis pigmentosa, could be more susceptible to changes caused by sildenafil. th e independent


  6. #1456
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Ibuprofen may lower lung inflammation

    Ibuprofen may lower lung inflammation and help elderly fight tuberculosis bacteria, a new study has found.

    Immune cells from old mouse lungs fought tuberculosis bacteria as effectively as cells from young mice after lung inflammation was reduced by ibuprofen, researchers from Ohio State University found.

    The ibuprofen had no effect on the immune response to TB in young mice, the study found.

    "Very few researchers have linked inflammation to infectious disease in old age, even though TB in particular will drive that inflammation even further," said Joanne Turner, associate professor of microbial infection and immunity at Ohio State and senior author of the study.

    In the study, the researchers compared lung cells from old and young mice and found that in the old mice, genes that make three classic pro-inflammatory proteins, called cytokines, were more active in the lungs of old mice.

    The cytokines are interleukin-1 (IL-1), interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a).

    In addition, immune system cells called macrophages in the lungs from old mice were in an advanced state of readiness to fight an infection - a status that signals inflammation. Macrophages in young mouse lungs were in a normal, resting state.

    In test tubes, the scientists exposed mouse lung macrophages to TB bacteria. The macrophages from old mouse lungs were quicker to absorb the bacteria than were immune cells from young mice, but that initial robust immune response from the cells of old mice could not be sustained.

    The researchers gave old and young mice ibuprofen in their food for two weeks and then examined their lung cells.

    After this diet modification, several pro-inflammatory cytokines in the lungs of old mice had been reduced to levels identical to those in the lungs of young mice, and the macrophages in old mouse lungs were no longer in a primed state.

    "Essentially, ibuprofen made the lungs of old mice look young. Putting young mice on ibuprofen had no effect because they had no lung inflammation, which implies the ibuprofen reduced the inflammation and changed the immune response in the old mice," Turner said.

    "It might be that ibuprofen works on specific pathways to lower inflammation, and that might help with control of TB," she said.

    Though this line of work might someday support the use of ibuprofen as an adjunct therapy for elderly people with TB, Turner emphasised that she and colleagues are not recommending use of the drug for the purposes of lowering inflammation.

    The research is published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology.


  7. #1457
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Sense of smell may predict death: Study

    A study by US scientists has suggested that losing the ability to smell could be linked to a greater risk of death.

    The study of more than 3,000 people aged 57 to 85 found that 39% of subjects who failed a simple smelling test died within five years. The results were published in the science journal PLOS ONE.

    "Compared to a person with a normal sense of smell, a person with an absent sense of smell has three times greater risk of dying within a five-year span," Jayant Pinto, the study's lead author, told Reuters. Pinto is an associate professor of surgery at the University of Chicago's medical department.

    The 39% who had passed away within the five-year study scored low test scores in the smell test, making four or five errors. This compares with 19% who had a moderate sense of smell and just 10% who had a healthy sense of smell. The smells in the test included rose, leather, peppermint, fish and orange. Those with the poorest sense of smell were still at the greatest risk even after factors such as age, nutrition, smoking habits and poverty were taken in to account.

    However, Pinto said: "We think the loss of the sense of smell is like the canary in the coal mine. It doesn't directly cause death, but it's an early warning that something has gone badly wrong."

    The scientists say that they are now doing more research to study the link.One possibility is that losing the ability to smell could mean less regeneration and cell repair in the body . Also, a poor sense of smell might mirror a lifetime's exposure to bugs and pollution, they say .

    However, Nir mal Kumar, a consultant head and neck surgeon, told the Daily Mail that people losing their sense of smell should not panic.He said the study was interesting but questioned the reliability of the smell test used. THE INDEPENDENT


  8. #1458
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Energy drinks may ruin your sleep: Study

    Although energy drinks may enhance athlete's performance, they also cause insomnia and nervousness, a study said.

    The study carried out by experts from the Camilo Jose Cela University (UCJC), Spain evaluated the positive and negative effects of energy drinks on athletes.

    "Athletes felt they had more strength, power and resistance with the energy drink than with the placebo drink," said Juan Del Coso Garrigas, in-charge of the Exercise Physiology Laboratory at UCJC.

    "However, the energy drinks increased the frequency of insomnia, nervousness and the level of stimulation in the hours following the competition," Juan Del Coso added.

    For the study, sportsmen (football, basketball, rugby, volleyball, tennis and hockey players) took the equivalent of three cans of energy drink or an energy drink placebo before a sports competition.

    Athletes increased their sporting performance by between three to seven percent but at the same time, the consumption also led to side effects typically found with other caffeinated drinks, the findings showed.

    The concentration of caffeine (32 mg/100 ml of product) present in energy drinks provides a total of 80 mg of caffeine per 250 ml can, the authors noted.

    Energy drinks mainly contain carbohydrates, caffeine, taurine and B vitamins, with little difference in ingredients amongst the main energy drink brands, the researchers explained.

    Energy drinks do not provide more energy than other soft drinks, but they do have an "energizing" effect related to the stimulation provided by caffeine, the authors concluded.

    The study appeared in the British Journal of Nutrition.


  9. #1459
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Scientists discover nearly 700 new genetic variations that determine height

    A new study has revealed that nearly 700 genetic variations determine human height, which could aid researchers fight stature-related diseases.

    The study, from the international Genetic Investigation of Anthropometric Traits (GIANT) Consortium, shared and analyzed data from the genomes of 253,288 people. They checked about two million common genetic variants (those that showed up in at least 5 percent of their subjects). From this pool, they pinned down 697 (in 424 gene regions) as being related to height, the largest number to date associated with any trait or disease.

    Joel Hirschhorn, MD, PhD, of Boston Children's Hospital and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, leader of the GIANT Consortium and co-senior investigator on the study, said that height is almost completely determined by genetics, but their earlier studies were only able to explain about 10 percent of this genetic influence and now, by doubling the number of people in their study, they have a much more complete picture of how common genetic variants affect height-how many of them there are and how much they contribute.

    Researchers said that they can now explain about 20 percent of the heritability of height, up from about 12 percent where they were before and their study also narrows down the genomic regions that contain a substantial proportion of remaining variation-to be discovered with even larger sample sizes.

    The study found that many of the genes identified are likely to be important regulators of skeletal growth, but was not known to be involved until now. Some may also be responsible for unexplained syndromes of abnormal skeletal growth in children.

    The study was published in the Nature Genetics.


  10. #1460
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Alcohol increases risk of HPV infection in men

    Men, who consume alcohol have a greater risk of contracting human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, a study said.

    HPV is a common sexually transmitted virus, with over six million new cases reported in the US each year.

    Men, who consumed on an average over 9.9 grams of alcohol per day, had a significantly higher risk of HPV infection, the findings showed.

    Men, who drank more alcohol, had an increased risk of HPV infection, independent of the number of sexual partners they had.

    This suggests that increased consumption of alcohol may impair men's immune responses to HPV, the study noted.

    "Our findings provide additional support to current public health messaging regarding the importance of moderate alcohol consumption, smoking cessation and safe sex practices," said researcher Matthew Schabath from the Moffitt Cancer Center in the US.

    HPV causes genital warts in both men and women and is a contributing factor to a number of different cancers in women, including cervical, vaginal and anal cancers.

    More recent studies have shown that HPV can also cause penile, anal and oropharyngeal cancer in men.

    For the new study, the researchers analysed potential risk factors for HPV infection in over 1,300 men in the US.

    DNA analysis was used to confirm the presence of HPV and the participants answered detailed surveys about alcohol consumption, smoking and sexual activity.

    The study appeared in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections.


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