30th Dec 2014, 06:57 PM #1671
Re: Health Bulletin
Chicken flu virus can help spot deadly influenza strain
Warning signs of the avian influenza A (H7N9) virus could be traced in flu viruses circulating in poultry farms, research suggests.
With a few changes in the H9N2 chicken virus flu virus, researchers were able to create the novel avian H7N9 influenza A virus.
"Sequencing the viral genome allowed us to track how H9N2 evolved across time and geography to contribute to the H7N9 virus that emerged as a threat to human health in 2013," said Robert Webster from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in the US.
The results underscore the need for continued surveillance of flu viruses circulating on poultry farms.
The research identified changes in the H9N2 virus that could serve as an early warning sign of emerging flu viruses with the potential to trigger a pandemic and global health emergency.
"Tracking genetic diversity of H9N2 on poultry farms could provide an early warning of emerging viruses with the potential to spark a pandemic," said Webster.
The H9N2 chicken virus causes egg production to drop and leaves chickens vulnerable to deadly co-infections.
For the study, the researchers used whole genome sequencing to track the evolution of the H9N2 chicken virus between 1994 and 2013.
The analysis also provided insight into the creation of the H9N2 virus that emerged as the predominant subtype in 2010.
"The emergence of this dominant H9N2 virus was the first step in the genesis of the H7N9 viruses because it greatly increased the likelihood of reassortment between H9N2 and other flu subtypes," co-corresponding author Jinhua Liu from China Agricultural University pointed out.
Reassortment refers to the tendency of flu viruses to swap genes.
30th Dec 2014, 07:01 PM #1672
Re: Health Bulletin
Why red meat causes cancer revealed
A new study has examined that Neu5Gc, a non-human sugar found in red meat, promotes inflammation and cancer progression in rodents.
The study conducted at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine found that feeding Neu5Gc to mice engineered to be deficient in the sugar (like humans) significantly promoted spontaneous cancers. The study did not involve exposure to carcinogens or artificially inducing cancers, further implicating Neu5Gc as a key link between red meat consumption and cancer.
Principal investigator Ajit Varki, MD, Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Cellular and Molecular Medicine, said that until now, all of their evidence linking Neu5Gc to cancer was circumstantial or indirectly predicted from somewhat artificial experimental setups and this is the first time we have directly shown that mimicking the exact situation in humans feeding non-human Neu5Gc and inducing anti-Neu5Gc antibodies increases spontaneous cancers in mice.
The researchers had previously discovered that animal Neu5Gc can be absorbed into human tissues. In this study, they hypothesized that eating red meat could lead to inflammation if the body's immune system is constantly generating antibodies against consumed animal Neu5Gc, a foreign molecule. Chronic inflammation is known to promote tumor formation.
Varki added that the final proof in humans will be much harder to come by but on a more general note, this work may also help explain potential connections of red meat consumption to other diseases exacerbated by chronic inflammation, such as atherosclerosis and type 2 diabetes.
The study is published in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
31st Dec 2014, 02:44 PM #1673
Re: Health Bulletin
31st Dec 2014, 02:45 PM #1674
Re: Health Bulletin
1st Jan 2015, 03:20 PM #1675
Re: Health Bulletin
New drug combo may free kids of malaria
A new drug combination therapy may help treat malaria in children, a new study has found. Artemisinin-naphthoquine drug-combo should be considered for the treatment of children with uncomplicated malaria in settings where multiple parasite species cause malaria, according to Tim Davis from the University of Western Australia.
Malaria is a mosquito-borne parasitic disease that kills approximately 600,000 people every year. Several different parasite species cause malaria and in some settings, such as Papua New Guinea, two species, Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax, are responsible for majority of malaria infections.However, the two species respond differently to currently available anti-malarial drugs.
The study compared the current recommended therapy for uncomplicated malaria in children in Papua New Guinea, artemether-lumefantrine, with a different combination therapy , artemisinin-naphthoquine and found that it was more effective than the former for treating Plasmodium vivax.
1st Jan 2015, 03:21 PM #1676
Re: Health Bulletin
Bats may have triggered Ebola outbreak: Study
Toddler infected by creatures while playing inside a hollow tree in Guinea likely 1st case of disease
The toddler in Guinea who is thought to have been the first case in the current outbreak of Ebola in West Africa may have caught the virus from bats in a hollow tree near his village, scientists said on Tuesday.
A study, led by scientists from the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin and published online by the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine, could not prove the link because the tree in Meliandou, a village of 31 houses in the Gueckedou district, caught fire in late March causing a "rain of bats" to pour out of the free. The bats were destroyed or gone before the researchers arrived in mid-April — a bad break for the researchers, lead author Fabian Leendertz said. The fire took place shortly after Guineans were warned that the virus might come from bats. By then, at least 10 local people were dead.
However, the scientists found enough residual DNA in the charred trunk and fecal DNA in nearby soil to identify the animals as Mops condylurus, longtailed insect-eating bats that were previously suspected in an outbreak of the Sudan strain of Ebola virus, which is related to the Zaire strain that has infected over 20,000 West Africans.
The study is important because scientists have wondered how a boy named Emile Ouamouno, who died in December 2013 and whom various reports describe as one or two years old, could have been the index patient.
Most human outbreaks have started in adults: hunters or charcoal-burners finding sick apes or forest antelopes and butchering them for food, for example, or miners working in bat-filled caves. In one case, an outbreak is thought to have come from bats roosting in a cotton mill. But there was no large number of deaths among chimpanzees or other animals in Me liandou, the scientists said.
Large fruit bats have been suspected because they are hunted for meat in Guinea, where a peppery bat soup was popular before the outbreak.
Some scientists think that humans can contract Ebola by picking up fruit that fruit bats have contaminated with saliva or faeces. But there are no fruit bat colonies near Meliandou, the study said.
Villagers said children, including Emile, often caught and played with bats in the tree, which was about 50 yards from Emile's house and near a path women used to fetch water.
2nd Jan 2015, 03:07 PM #1677
Re: Health Bulletin
Lift ban on cannabis for medical research: Oncologists
Marijuana or ganja may be frowned upon as a banned recreational drug, but could offer an effective cure for cancer, say top oncologists of Bengaluru. They have now decided to lobby with the Centre to lift the ban on cannabis to allow them to explore the medicinal uses of the plant.
They point out that the US allows its use for medicinal purposes, following several validations of the plant's derivatives giving a healing touch to cancer patients.
Their interest in cannabis research was stirred up during recent debates on tobacco farming. "We are encouraging cultivation of tobacco that causes various types of cancer. At the other end, we are ignoring the medicinal properties of a plant that can help cancer patients. We are not even able to take up research as procurement of the plant is illegal in India, whereas oncologists in 21 states of the US are prescribing derivatives of cannabis for cancer treatment," Dr Vishal Rao, surgical oncologist, HCG, told TOI.
Cannabis derivatives prevent blood supply to the cancer tumour. "Cancer cells are hungry cells, once there is break in the blood supply, they shrink due to lack of glucose. It is also helpful in reducing nausea and vomiting sensation for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy," he said.
Pointing out how India is lagging behind other countries in cannabis research, Dr B S Ajai Kumar, chairman of HCG Enterprises, said, "We want to take up research on medicinal benefits of cannabis derivatives. But to take it up we need the plants, which is not available in India. We are approaching the government with a proposal to legalize medicinal use of cannabis."
But oncologists make it clear that they are not for encouraging recreational use of marijuana. "Isolated compounds in cannabis have medicinal properties. In the US, it is also used for treating Alzheimer's, Glaucoma and multiple sclerosis. Currently, there is a lack of understanding of the topic even among the medical fraternity, and even speaking about it is avoided. We have to overcome that," Dr Rao said.
Dronabinol: Is a drug made of cannabis and used to treat loss of appetite among HIV positive and AIDS patients who have suffered drastic weight loss. It is also used to treat cancer patients to avoid severe nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy.
Nabilone: The drug approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and marketed since 2006 is used for treating cancer patients and vomiting sensation and nausea induced by chemotherapy. It is also used for chronic pain management.
2nd Jan 2015, 03:19 PM #1678
Re: Health Bulletin
Patient stem cells used to make dementia in a dish
Scientists have for the first time ever created dementia on a dish.
Belgian researchers have turned stem cells derived from patients into the neurons most affected by the disease.
Under the new strategy for treating an inherited form of dementia, while using a patient derived stem cells carrying a mutation predisposing them to front temporal dementia, which accounts for about half of dementia cases before the age of 60, the scientists found a targetable defect that prevents normal neurodevelopment.
These stem cells partially return to normal when the defect is corrected.
Use of induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology -- which involves taking skin cells from patients and reprogramming them into embryonic-like stem cells capable of turning into other specific cell types relevant for studying a particular disease -- makes it possible to model dementias that affect people later in life, says senior study author Catherine Verfaillie of KU Leuven.
Frontotemporal disorders are the result of damage to neurons in parts of the brain called the frontal and temporal lobes, gradually leading to behavioural symptoms or language and emotional disorders.
Mutations in a gene called progranulin (GRN) are commonly associated with front temporal dementia, but GRN mutations in mice do not mimic all the features of the human disorder, which has limited progress in the development of effective treatments.
"iPSC models can now be used to better understand dementia, and in particular front temporal dementia, and might lead to the development of drugs that can curtail or slow down the degeneration of cortical neurons," Verfaillie says.
Verfaillie and Philip Van Damme of the Leuven Research Institute for Neuroscience and Disease created iPSCs from three patients carrying a GRN mutation. These immature cells were impaired at turning into mature, specialized cells called cortical neurons -- the most affected cell type in frontotemporal dementia.
One of the top defective pathways in the iPSCs was the Wnt signalling pathway, which plays an important role in neuronal development. However, genetic correction or treatment with a compound that inhibits the Wnt signalling pathway restored the ability of the iPSCs to turn into cortical neurons.
"Our findings suggest that signalling events required for neurodevelopment may also play major roles in neurodegeneration," Van Damme says. "Targeting such pathways, as for instance the Wnt pathway presented in this study, may result in the creation of novel therapeutic approaches for front temporal dementia".
2nd Jan 2015, 03:19 PM #1679
Re: Health Bulletin
Physical inactivity can damage blood vessels
Even a few days of inactivity can cause damage to blood vessels in the legs that can take a prolonged period of time to repair, scientists have found.
The researchers from the University of Missouri School of Medicine found that reducing daily physical activity for even a few days leads to decreases in the function of the inner lining of blood vessels in the legs of young, healthy subjects causing vascular dysfunction that can have prolonged effects.
Paul Fadel, associate professor of medical pharmacology and physiology, and John Thyfault, associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology, also found that the vascular dysfunction induced by five days of inactivity requires more than one day of returning to physical activity and taking at least 10,000 steps a day to improve.
"We know the negative consequences from not engaging in physical activity can be reversed," said Fadel.
"There is much data to indicate that at any stage of a disease, and at any time in your life, you can get active and prolong your life.
"However, we found that skipping just five days of physical activity causes damage to blood vessels in the legs that can take a prolonged period of time to repair," said Fadel.
The researchers studied the early effects on the body's blood vessels when someone transitions from high daily physical activity - 10,000 or more steps per day - to low daily physical activity, less than 5,000 steps per day.
The researchers found going from high to low levels of daily physical activity for just five days decreases the function of the inner lining of the blood vessels in the legs.
"The impairment we saw in just five days was quite striking. It shows just how susceptible the vascular system is to physical inactivity," Fadel said.
The research was published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.
2nd Jan 2015, 03:22 PM #1680
Re: Health Bulletin
Scans replace the scalpel in post mortem examinations
There is finally some good news for families not wanting their dead relatives to be opened up for a post mortem.
A British company has decided to replace the scalpel with a scanning machine.
In what is a much needed leap in technology to carry out post mortems, the company iGene has now opened up a series of digital autopsy centres across UK - post-mortems carried out with a scanner.
They have now three digital autopsy centres in England - Sheffield, Bradford and Sandwell. Each is equipped with CT scanners like those used to scan patients in hospitals. The company is now planning to open up in London and Wales.
Digital Autopsies offer a significant, humanitarian step forward in establishing the cause of unnatural death. They use sophisticated, 3D visualisation software and a scanner rather than a scalpel.
iGene is investing £50 million in a network of Digital Autopsy facilities across England and Wales in the next couple of years.
So what is a digital autopsy?
It works by creating a computerised 3D image of the body. The computer system then peels off layer after layer from the body - first the skin, then fat, muscle and bone - using a "digital scalpel" to give a radiologist an insight into what might have caused the death.
Talking about the benefits, the company says it will ease the emotional burden on bereaved families at a time of intense stress with a dignified, non-invasive investigation, improved speed of examination, investigation and subsequent autopsy results, minimising delays in releasing the body for burial or cremation and accuracy of results.
Some findings that are difficult to spot during a conventional process can be more easily identified and examined in line with the needs of forensic pathologists.
Approximately 550,000 deaths are recorded in England and Wales each year alone, of which more than 200,000 are classified as medico legal.
iGene believes that digital autopsies will become the first line intervention in post mortem investigation and more than 70% of the cases could be concluded with digital autopsy alone.
During the launch of the new digital autopsy facility in Sheffield recently, the chief coroner of England and Wales Judge Peter Thornton said "It goes without saying that bereaved families must always been put at the heart of the coroner service. For many of them the autopsy, the so-called invasive post-mortem examination by a pathologist, brings additional stress at a difficult time. CT imaging - computed tomography imaging - provides a different way of ascertaining the cause of death. Sometimes an autopsy may be necessary. But where a scan can, properly and in the right case, be used as a viable alternative to an autopsy, the preservation of the body intact is often greatly valued by the family".