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Health Bulletin


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  1. #1511
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Scientists cure deafness in mice, findings may help humans

    Scientists have cured deafness in mice.

    A team from the University of Michigan Medical School's Kresge Hearing Research Institute and Harvard University have restored the hearing of mice partly deafened by noise, using advanced tools to boost the production of a key protein in their ears.

    By demonstrating the importance of the protein, called NT3, in maintaining communication between the ears and brain, these new findings pave the way for research in humans that could improve treatment of hearing loss caused by noise exposure and normal aging.

    Their work also illustrates the key role of cells that have traditionally been seen as the "supporting actors" of the ear-brain connection.

    Called supporting cells, they form a physical base for the hearing system's "stars" — the hair cells in the ear that interact directly with the nerves that carry sound signals to the brain. This new research identifies the critical role of these supporting cells along with the NT3 molecules that they produce.

    NT3 is crucial to the body's ability to form and maintain connections between hair cells and nerve cells, the researchers demonstrate.

    "It has become apparent that hearing loss due to damaged ribbon synapses is a very common and challenging problem, whether it's due to noise or normal aging," says Gabriel Corfas, who led the team and directs the U-M institute.

    "We began this work 15 years ago to answer very basic questions about the inner ear, and now we have been able to restore hearing after partial deafening with noise, a common problem for people. It's very exciting".

    Using a special genetic technique, the researchers made it possible for some mice to produce additional NT3 in cells of specific areas of the inner ear after they were exposed to noise loud enough to reduce hearing. Mice with extra NT3 regained their ability to hear much better than the control mice.

    Now, says Corfas, his team will explore the role of NT3 in human ears, and seek drugs that might boost NT3 action or production.


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  2. #1512
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Govt frames stringent rules for airlines to check Ebola spread

    After prolonged laxity, India has finally made stringent rules for airlines to prevent the spread of Ebola virus disease (EVD) here. Now, both Indian and foreign carriers flying into the country will have to limit contact of passengers showing symptoms of this disease and earmark a toilet on the aircraft for their exclusive use.

    Also, airline crew has been directed to use surgical face masks to cover nose and mouth of flyers showing symptoms "compatible with Ebola" like fever, weakness, sore throat, bleeding and vomiting. "Airlines must not allow other passengers to share a toilet with unwell flyers showing symptoms of Ebola. The virus mainly spreads through body fluids. Supposing an undetected Ebola patient showing the symptoms touches the toilet tap and then other flyers also do the same, the disease may spread," said a Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) official.

    "Distancing of other passengers if possible from the symptomatic flyer (re-seating), with the ill travellers preferably near a toilet for his/her exclusive use. Limiting contact with the (suspected) passenger to the minimum necessary. More specifically, only one or two (if ill passenger needs more assistance) cabin crew should be taking care of the ill passenger and preferably only the cabin crew that have been in contact with that passenger," are some of the steps listed by DGCA joint DG Lalit Gupta to airlines on Tuesday.

    The regulator has adopted these guidelines from operational procedures recommended by the International Air Transport Association. Airlines have been directed to have on board additional universal precaution kits for crew cabin crew attending to the ill passengers.

    Airlines have been directed to comply with these directives latest by Friday. DGCA chief Prabhat Kumar has formed special teams at all 25 international airports in the country that will check whether airlines are complying with these directives.

    In case a flyer tests positive for Ebola on arrival, the plane will have to be fumigated.


  3. #1513
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Flu vaccines may help prevent heart attacks

    The easily available flu vaccines may hold the key to developing a vaccine against heart diseases too, researchers have found.

    Flu vaccine stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies that switch on certain processes in cells which lead to the production of molecules that protect the heart, the findings showed.

    "Even though the protective effect of the flu vaccine against heart disease has been known for some time, there is very little research out there looking at what causes it," said lead author of the study Veljko Veljkovic from the University of Belgrade in Serbia.

    "Our proposed mechanism could potentially be harnessed in a vaccine against heart disease, and we plan to investigate this further," Veljkovic added.

    Previous clinical findings show that people that receive the seasonal flu vaccine also benefit from its protective effect against heart disease; the risk of having a heart attack in the year following vaccination is 50 percent lower than people who did not receive the vaccination.

    The exact mechanism underlying this protective effect remained unknown.

    The researchers identified a protein called the bradykinin 2 receptor (BKB2R), which is involved in cellular processes that protect the heart.

    Some of the antibodies the body produces after flu vaccination switch this protein on, thereby protecting against heart disease.

    The researchers analysed 14 flu viruses used in vaccines, and identified four that could be investigated for use in potential heart disease vaccines.

    The study appeared in the journal Vaccine.


  4. #1514
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    24% of global missed TB cases in India: WHO


    One in every four missed cases of tuberculosis (TB) globally is in India.The World Health Organisation has found that India tops the list of the world's missed TB cases. Almost 24% of the world's missed TB cases are from India, according to the Global TB Report 2014 released on Thursday.

    Ten countries accounted for 74% (2.4 million) of the estimated "missed" cases globally in 2013.

    The number of missed cases is defined as the difference between the estimated number of incident cases and notified (new and relapse) cases in 2013.

    Of the nine million incident cases of TB estimated to have occurred in 2013, only 5.7 million were both detected and notified to national TB programmes (NTPs) or national surveillance systems giving a case detection rate of 64%.

    WHO says that this leaves a gap of approximately 3.3 million people with TB who were "missed", either because they were not diagnosed or because they were diagnosed but not reported. WHO said "Improvements in case detection in India would have a global impact, given the size of the TB burden in the countries and the sizeable gap between notified cases and estimated incidence.

    A recent study in India suggests that about 50% of detected cases are not reported to the NTP, a finding confirmed in a recent prevalence survey in Gujarat (unpublished data)".

    Meanwhile, WHO revised its estimate of how many people have TB by almost 5,00,000. In 2013, some 9 million people had developed TB around the world, up from 8.6 million in 2012.

    About 1.5 million people had died in 2013 from TB, including 3,60,000 people who had been HIV positive, the WHO said in its global report. In 2012, there had been 1.3 million tuberculosis deaths.

    The WHO said its report underlined that a "staggering number of lives are being lost to a curable disease and confirms that TB is the second biggest killer disease from a single infectious agent".

    "One of the biggest issues facing organizations tackling the disease was the number of undiagnosed cases. The fact that three million people are missing out on treatment every year explains why there are still so many avoidable deaths from tuberculosis," said TB Alert chief executive Mike Mandelbaum.


    Most people who developed TB in 2013 were in South East Asia and the Western Pacific.

    India accounted for 24% of cases alone while China saw 11% of total cases.

    An estimated 37 million lives have been saved through effective diagnosis and treatment of TB since 2000.

    Dr Mario Raviglione, director of the Global TB Programme, WHO said: "Insufficient funding is hampering efforts to combat the global epidemic. An estimated $8 billion is needed each year for a full response, but there is currently an annual shortfall of $2 billion, which must be addressed. The multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) crisis continues, with an estimated 4,80,000 new cases in 2013. Worldwide, about 3.5% of all people who developed TB in 2013 had this form of the disease, which is much harder to treat and has significantly poorer cure rates".

    Since 2009, with more laboratories rolling out rapid tests, there has been a tripling of MDR-TB cases being diagnosed.

    In 2013, 1,36,000 MDR-TB cases were detected and 97,000 people started treatment. Although the number of patients treated has increased three-fold since 2009, at least 39,000 patients, diagnosed with this form of TB, were not being treated last year and globally only 48% of patients were cured.

    Another key challenge identified by WHO is the co-epidemic of TB and HIV. An estimated 1.1 million (13%) of the 9 million people who developed TB in 2013 were HIV-positive, with 4 out of 5 cases and deaths occurring in the African Region. While the number of TB deaths among HIV-positive people has been falling for almost a decade, from 5,40,000 in 2004 to 3,60,000 in 2013, antiretroviral treatment, preventive therapy and other key interventions still need to be further scaled-up.

    Of the estimated 9 million people who developed TB in 2013, more than half (56%) were in the South-East Asia.

    About 60% of TB cases and deaths occur among men, but the burden of disease among women is also high. In 2013, an estimated 5,10,000 women died as a result of TB, more than one third of whom were HIV-positive. There were 80,000 deaths from TB among HIV-negative children in the same year.


  5. #1515
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Exposure to air toxics may cause autism in kids

    In a new study, scientists have found that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were likelier to have been exposed to high level of certain air toxics while they were in their mothers' womb and in the first 2 years of life.

    Evelyn Talbott, Dr.P.H., principal investigator of the analysis and professor of epidemiology at Pitt Public Health said that despite its serious social impact, the causes of autism were poorly understood. Very few studies of autism have included environmental exposures while taking into account other personal and behavioral risk factors. Their analysis was an addition to the small but growing body of research that considers air toxics as one of the risk factors for ASD.

    Dr. Talbott and her colleagues performed a population-based study of families with and without ASD living in six southwestern Pennsylvania counties. The researchers found links between increased levels of chromium and styrene and childhood autism spectrum disorder, a condition that affects one in 68 children.

    Dr. Talbott and her team interviewed 217 families of children with ASD and compared these findings with information from two separate sets of comparison families of children without ASD born during the same time period within the six-county area.

    For each family, the team used the National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA) to estimate the exposure to 30 pollutants known to cause endocrine disruption or neurodevelopmental issues. NATA is the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) ongoing comprehensive evaluation of air toxics in the U.S., most recently conducted in 2005.

    Based on the child's exposure to concentrations of air toxics during the mother's pregnancy and the first two years of life, the researchers noted that children who fell into higher exposure groups to styrene and chromium were at a 1.4- to two-fold greater risk of ASD, after accounting for the age of the mother, maternal cigarette smoking, race and education. Other NATA compounds associated with increased risk included cyanide, methylene chloride, methanol and arsenic. As these compounds often are found in combination with each other, further study is needed.

    Styrene is used in the production of plastics and paints, but also is one of the products of combustion when burning gasoline in vehicles. Chromium is a heavy metal, and air pollution containing it typically is the result of industrial processes and the hardening of steel, but it also can come from power plants. Cyanide, methylene chloride, methanol and arsenic are all used in a number of industries or can be found in vehicle exhaust.

    Dr. Talbott said that the results added to the growing body of evidence linking environmental exposures, such as air pollution, to ASD.

    The research will be presented at the American Association for Aerosol Research annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.


  6. #1516
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Scientists find missing link between Vitamin D, prostate cancer

    A new research has revealed about the missing link between Vitamin D and prostate cancer, suggesting that Vitamin D suppresses inflammation, which is a bad actor potentially driving prostate cancer.

    The study at the University of Colorado Cancer Center shows that the gene GDF-15, known to be upregulated by Vitamin D, is notably absent in samples of human prostate cancer driven by inflammation.

    Researcher James R. Lambert said that when Vitamin D is taken and put on prostate cancer cells, it inhibits their growth, but it hasn't been proven as an anti-cancer agent and so they wanted to understand what genes Vitamin D is turning on or off in prostate cancer to offer new targets.

    Since demonstrating that Vitamin D upregulates the expression of GDF-15, researchers wondered if this gene might be a mechanism through which Vitamin D works in prostate cancer.

    Lambert added that they thought there might be high levels of GDF-15 in normal tissue and low levels in prostate cancer, but found that in a large cohort of human prostate tissue samples, expression of GDF-15 did not track with either normal or cancerous prostate tissue.

    But then the team noticed an interesting pattern, where GDF-15 was uniformly low in samples of prostate tissue that contained inflammation, which according to Lambert is thought to drive many cancers including prostate, gastric and colon, suggesting GDF-15 may be a good thing in keeping prostate tissue healthy.

    Additionally encouraging is that the gene GDF-15 was shown to suppress inflammation by inhibiting another target, NFkB, which has been previously shown to promote inflammation and contribute to tumor formation and growth.

    The study is published in the journal Prostate.


  7. #1517
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Want to stay sharp? Develop a rich vocabulary

    Possessing a good vocabulary could shield you from incipient dementia when age catches up with you, a study has found.

    A wide vocabulary can help improve the brain's cognitive reserve - the name given to the brain's capacity to compensate for the loss of its functions.

    "A higher level of vocabulary, as a measure of cognitive reserve, can protect against cognitive impairment," the researchers said.

    "We focused on the level of vocabulary as it is considered an indicator of crystallised intelligence (the use of previously acquired intellectual skills)," said study co-author Cristina Lojo Seoane from the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

    The cognitive reserve cannot be measured directly; rather, it is calculated through indicators believed to increase this capacity.

    The study involved 326 people over the age of 50 - 222 healthy individuals and 104 with mild cognitive impairment.

    They then measured their levels of vocabulary, along with other measures such as their years of schooling, the complexity of their jobs and their reading habits.

    The results revealed a greater prevalence of mild cognitive impairment in participants who achieved a lower vocabulary level score.

    The study appeared in the journal Anales de Psicologia (Annals of Psychology).


  8. #1518
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Beetroot boosts athletic performance: Study

    A new study has revealed that beetroot is beneficial for athletes and may help in boosting their performance.

    The study found that the nitrate found in beetroot concentrate increases blood flow to skeletal muscles during exercise.

    In addition to improving athletic performance, the research also found that beetroot juice can improve the quality of life for heart failure patients.

    Scott Ferguson, doctoral student in anatomy and physiology, said that when consumed, nitrate is reduced in the mouth by bacteria into nitrite, which is swallowed again and then reduced to nitric oxide, which is a potent vasodilator. The nitric oxide dilates the blood vessels, similar to turning on a water faucet, and allows blood to go where it needs to go.

    The amount of nitrate in one 70-milliliter bottle of beetroot juice is about the same amount found in 100 grams of spinach and the beetroot juice consumption resulted in a 38 percent higher blood flow to the skeletal muscles during exercise and was preferential to the less-oxygenated, fast-twitch muscles.

    The study was published in the Journal of Nitric Oxide, Biology and Chemistry.


  9. #1519
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Simple test can spot rare insulin disease in infants

    Infants with a rare form of a insulin disease that may lead to brain damage and death can now be identified earlier, thanks to a test developed by researchers from the University of Manchester in Britain.

    Congenital hyperinsulinism starves a baby's brain of blood sugar. The condition occurs when specialised cells in the pancreas release too much of insulin which causes frequent low sugar episodes.

    "We have discovered a new clinical test which can identify congenital hyperinsulinism in some patients with no known genetic cause of the disease," said lead researcher Karen Cosgrove.

    The test measures a pair of hormones called incretins which are released by specialised cells in the gut when food is passing through.

    The hormones normally convey the cells in the pancreas to release more insulin to regulate sugar levels in our blood.

    If the child's body releases too much incretin hormones, the pancreas will release too much insulin causing low blood sugar levels.

    For the study, genes and hormones were analysed in 13 children with congenital hyperinsulisnism at the Manchester Children's Hospital.

    "Although we are the first researchers to report high incretin hormone levels in patients with congenital hyperinsulinism, further studies are needed to see if our test works on a larger group of patients," Cosgrove noted.

    Current treatment of the disease includes drugs to reduce insulin release but in the most serious cases the pancreas is removed.

    "In future the test may influence how these children are treated medically, perhaps even avoiding the need to have their pancreas removed," Cosgrove pointed out.

    The study appeared in The Journal of Pediatrics.


  10. #1520
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Why Down syndrome leads to Alzheimer's disease

    By the age of 40, nearly 100 percent of all individuals with Down syndrome develop changes in the brain associated with Alzheimers disease and researchers have now established the link behind the two disorders.

    Down syndrome is characterized by an extra copy of chromosome 21, the most common chromosome abnormality in humans, and significantly lower levels of protein called sorting nexin 27 (SNX27).

    "Our study reveals how SNX27 regulates the generation of beta-amyloid - the main component of the detrimental amyloid plaques found in the brains of people with Down syndrome and Alzheimer's," said author Huaxi Hu, a professor at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in the US.

    "The findings are important because they explain how beta-amyloid levels are managed in these individuals," Hu said.

    Beta-amyloid is a sticky protein that is toxic for neurons.

    The combination of beta-amyloid and dead neurons form clumps in the brain called plaques. Brain plaques are a pathological hallmark of Alzheimer's disease and are implicated in the cause of the symptoms of dementia.

    "We found that SNX27 reduces beta-amyloid generation through interactions with gamma-secretase - an enzyme that cleaves the beta-amyloid precursor protein to produce beta-amyloid," Xin Wang, a postdoctoral fellow in Xu's lab and first author of the study pointed out.

    "When SNX27 interacts with gamma-secretase, the enzyme becomes disabled and cannot produce beta-amyloid," Wang noted.

    "Lower levels of SNX27 lead to increased levels of functional gamma-secretase that in turn lead to increased levels of beta-amyloid," he pointed out.

    The researchers went on to reveal how lower levels of SNX27 in Down syndrome are the result of an extra copy of an RNA molecule encoded by chromosome 21 called miRNA-155.

    The study was published in the journal Cell Reports.


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