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Health Bulletin


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  1. #1731
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Close friends know how long you'll live

    Want to know how long you'll live? Ask %your closest friends.

    Best friends are the most accurate judges of when a person might die and which personality traits will send them to an early grave, a new research suggests.

    "You expect your friends to be inclined to see you in a positive manner, but they also are keen observers of the personality traits that could send you to an early grave," said Joshua Jackson, assistant professor of psychology in arts and sciences from Washington University in St Louis.

    The study demonstrates that your personality at an early age, in about your twenties, can predict how long %you will live across 75 years and that close friends are usually better than you at recognizing these traits.

    Male participants seen by their friends as more open and conscientious ended up living longer. Female participants whose friends rated them as high on emotional stability and agreeableness also enjoyed longer life-%spans, the study found. pti"Our study shows that people are able to observe and rate a friend's personality accurately enough to predict early mortality decades down the road," Jackson said.

    "It suggests that people are able to see important characteristics related to health even when their friends were, for the most part, healthy and many years from death," said Jackson.

    It's no secret that a person's personality traits can have an impact on health. Traits such as depression and anger have been linked to an increased risk of various diseases and health concerns, including an early death, researchers said.

    Men who are conscientious are more likely to eat right, stick with an exercise routine and avoid risks, such as driving without a seat belt.

    Women who are emotionally stable may be better at fighting off anger, anxiety and depression, Jackson suggests.

    Jackson and colleagues analysed data from a longitudinal study that in the 1930s began following a group of young people in their mid-20s, most of whom were engaged to be married.

    The longitudinal study included extensive data on participant personality traits, both self-reported and as reported by close friends, including bridesmaids and groomsmen in the study participants' wedding parties.

    Using information from previous follow-up studies and searches of death certificates, Jackson and colleagues were able to document dates of death for all but a few study participants.

    Peer ratings of personality were stronger predictors of mortality risk than were self-ratings of personality.

    "There are two potential reasons for the superiority of peer ratings over self ratings," Jackson said.

    "First, friends may see something that you miss; they may have some insight that you do not. Second, because people have multiple friends, we are able to average the idiosyncrasies of any one friend to obtain a more reliable assessment of personality," Jackson added.


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  2. #1732
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    A paper clip sized implant to lower blood pressure

    A revolutionary device - a paper clip sized implant which is inserted between the artery and vein in the upper thigh have been found to tremendously lower blood pressure among patients with uncontrolled high blood pressure.

    Queen Mary University of London has developed a device called Coupler which has been found to be more beneficial compared to those treated with usual drug measures.

    The procedure of putting the implant lasts around 40 minutes under local anaesthetic.

    Researchers led a randomised, blinded endpoint clinical trial with patients from multiple European Centres of Hypertension Excellence - including the Barts Blood Pressure Clinic at Barts Health NHS Trust in east London - all of whom had resistant high blood pressure and had not responded to at least three types of drug treatment.

    The team compared the effects of the Coupler versus usual medical treatment in 83 patients of whom 44 received the ROX Coupler therapy.

    Patients who received the Coupler experienced a significant and durable reduction in blood pressure.

    There was also a reduced number of hypertensive complications and hospital admissions for high blood pressure crises.

    Dr Melvin Lobo, lead author sad "This is an entirely new and highly promising concept in high blood pressure treatment. Existing drugs focus on hormonal or neurological regulation of blood pressure, and newer treatments such as renal denervation are uniquely centred on the renal nervous system. The Coupler effectively targets the mechanical aspects of how blood circulation works - so it's a totally new approach to controlling blood pressure. The Coupler also highlights the importance of arterial stiffness as a major cause of resistant high blood pressure and it targets this issue both safely and successfully. Once the Coupler is placed, the results are also immediate, which again is unique to this treatment."

    The study findings show that blood pressure treatment with the ROX Coupler can give both patients and doctors an alternative option for treating high blood pressure in the future - particularly when standard therapies have failed.

    The study has also put the spotlight on how dangerous uncontrolled high blood pressure truly is. During the study there were five hospital admissions for hypertensive crises among the control group and none in the Coupler group. However, the Coupler, like all therapies, did have a side effect.

    Around 29% of patients who received the Coupler did go on to develop leg swelling which meant another short procedure was needed to deal with this (usually a stent in the vein).

    Dr Lobo concludes "High blood pressure is very dangerous and leads to hospital treatment, stroke, heart attack and chronic kidney disease. We must find better means of treating high blood pressure as drugs do not work for everyone and the Coupler is a big step forward in our search for alternative treatment".


  3. #1733
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Chewing gum helps fight oral bacteria

    Just 10 minutes of chewing gum can remove 100 million bacteria from your mouth, according to a new study which suggests chewing gum may be as good as flossing. Researchers at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands found that chewing gum can trap and remove bacteria from the oral cavity.

    In the study, five biomedical engineering students were recruited to chew two different standard types of spearmint gum for various lengths of time ranging from 30 seconds to 10 minutes. Afterward, the gum was spit into a cup filled with sterile water to be analysed, 'Medical Daily' reported. There were were about 100 million bacteria detected on each piece of chewed up gum, with the number increasing as chewing time increased. However, after 30 seconds of chewing, the gum starts to lose its adhesiveness, meaning it traps fewer bacteria overall. "Trapped bacteria were clearly visualised in chewed gum using scanning-electron-microscopy," researchers said in the paper published in the journal PLOS ONE.

    Previous research has shown that using a new, clean toothbrush without any toothpaste can remove around 100 million colony-forming units per brush, which would put chewing of gum on a par with mechanical action of a toothbrush.


  4. #1734
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Three weeks of heart burn has now associated with cancer

    Heart burn - a common phenomenon globally, thanks to over eating or spicy food has now been associated with cancer.

    Having heartburn most days for three weeks or more can be a sign of cancer, according to the Public Health England.

    A new survey commissioned by PHE reveals only one in two people (55%) would visit their doctor if they had heartburn most days for three weeks or more.

    Having the complaint this often can be a sign of oesophageal or stomach cancer, PHE warned.

    Around 67% of people diagnosed with oesophago-gastric cancers at the earliest stage survive for at least five years, but this figure drops to around 3% for those diagnosed at a late stage.

    The survey of 1,046 people found 59% of respondents did not know that heartburn could be a sign of cancer, with just 15% saying they were certain that it is a symptom.

    Latest figures released by Public Health England show that around 12,900 people in England are diagnosed with oesophago-gastric cancers each year, with approximately 10,200 people dying from these diseases annually. This equates to 28 people dying from either oesophageal or stomach cancer every day.

    According to the survey findings, 59% of respondents did not know that heartburn could be a sign of cancer with just 15% saying they were certain that it is a symptom.

    Oesophago-gastric cancers are the fourth and fifth most common cause of cancer death in men and women respectively.

    It has been estimated that around 950 lives could be saved in England each year if our survival rates for oesophago-gastric cancers matched the best in Europe.

    The UK, with the Netherlands, has the joint highest incidence rate of oesophageal cancer in males in the European Union and the highest incidence rate of oesophageal cancer in females in the European Union. This may be due to smoking, low consumption of fruit and vegetables over time, rising obesity levels and consuming alcohol on a regular basis.

    Of those diagnosed with oesophago-gastric cancers, more than 9 out of 10 people are over the age of 50, making this the target age group for the campaign.

    Professor Kevin Fenton from PHE said "People may be reluctant to visit their doctor about persistent heartburn, thinking that it's something they just have to live with. But heartburn most days for 3 weeks or more could be a sign of cancer. The earlier cancer is diagnosed, the higher the chance of survival".


  5. #1735
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Flexible work hours can improve employees’ health

    Giving employees more control over their work schedules may help curb sleep deficiency and improve health, according to new research.

    "In the absence of sufficient sleep, we are not as attentive or alert, we process information more slowly, miss or misinterpret social and emotional cues and decision making is impaired," said Orfeu M Buxton from the Pennsylvania State University. "For example, we may misjudge risks by undervaluing negative consequences and overvaluing potential rewards," he said. Sleep deficiency has been linked to increased risk of automobile crashes, chronic disease and early mortality.

    Buxton and colleagues looked to see if a workplace intervention improved sleep quantity and quality.

    Researchers followed 474 employees as part of a study conducted at an information technology company.

    A year after the intervention, the researchers found that employees experienced an average of eight minutes more sleep per night, which is nearly an hour more sleep per week, than the control group. Intervention participants' perceptions of their sleep sufficiency also improved.


  6. #1736
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Stem cell breakthrough may lead to baldness cure

    Scientists have successfully used human stem cells to generate new hair, paving the way for a potential new cure for baldness.

    The study from Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham) in US represents the first step towards the development of a cell-based treatment for people with hair loss, researchers said.

    "We have developed a method using human pluripotent stem cells to create new cells capable of initiating human hair growth. The method is a marked improvement over current methods that rely on transplanting existing hair follicles from one part of the head to another," said Alexey Terskikh, associate professor in the Development, Ageing and Regeneration Programme at Sanford-Burnham.

    "Our stem cell method provides an unlimited source of cells from the patient for transplantation and isn't limited by the availability of existing hair follicles," said Terskikh.

    The research team developed a protocol that coaxed human pluripotent stem cells to become dermal papilla cells.

    They are a unique population of cells that regulate hair-follicle formation and growth cycle.

    Human dermal papilla cells on their own are not suitable for hair transplants because they cannot be obtained in necessary amounts and rapidly lose their ability to induce hair-follicle formation in culture.

    "In adults, dermal papilla cells cannot be readily amplified outside of the body and they quickly lose their hair-inducing properties," said Terskikh.

    "We developed a protocol to drive human pluripotent stem cells to differentiate into dermal papilla cells and confirmed their ability to induce hair growth when transplanted into mice," said Terskikh.

    "Our next step is to transplant human dermal papilla cells derived from human pluripotent stem cells back into human subjects," Terskikh added. The research was published in the journal PLOS One.


  7. #1737
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Discovered: Way to unboil an egg

    A major study backed by the US and Australian governments has made a revolutionary breakthrough — they have managed to unboil an ordinary egg. And while that may sound like a monumental waste of time and money, the results actually have huge implications for cancer treatments, biotechnology and a broad range of food production processes.

    "Yes, we have invented a way to unboil a hen egg," said Gregory Weiss, the lead research author and professor of chemistry and molecular biology and biochemistry at the University of California Irvine. The discovery is significant because a hard-boiled egg white represents proteins that have been cooked, tangled up and - so we thought — irreversibly changed.

    Yet by adding a urea substance to break down the cooked egg and then applying a high-powered machine called a "vortex fluid device", scientists were able to force the proteins apart into their untangled, reusable form.

    "It's not so much that we're interested in processing the eggs; that's just demonstrating how powerful this process is," Weiss said. "The real problem is there are lots of cases of gummy proteins that you spend way too much time scraping off your test tubes, and you want some means of recovering that material."

    Having an effective and quick method for reusing wasted proteins could revolutionize a vast range of scientific and manufacturing processes.

    Cancer antibody creation, for instance, is carried out using expensive hamster ovary cells because they only rarely waste proteins. Doing away with this could ultimately make cancer research and treatments cheaper.

    The team's research was funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences in the US and the Australian Research Council, and published last week in the journal ChemBioChem.

    The researchers wrote: "This method... could transform industrial and research production of proteins."


  8. #1738
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    'Mini brain' in spinal cord helps us balance

    WASHINGTON: US researchers have discovered a "mini brain" hidden in our spinal cord that helps us remain balanced while maneuvering our way through crowd or walking across an icy parking lot in winter so that we do not slip and fall.

    Such a task happens unconsciously, thanks to a cluster of neurons in our spinal cord that integrate sensory information and make the necessary adjustments to our muscles.

    "When we stand and walk, touch sensors on the soles of our feet detect subtle changes in pressure and movement. These sensors send signals to our spinal cord and then to the brain," explained Martyn Goulding, professor from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, a California-based independent scientific research institute.

    "The study opens what was essentially a black box, as of until now, we did not know how these signals are encoded or processed in the spinal cord," he added.

    Every millisecond, multiple streams of information, including signals from the light touch transmission pathway that Goulding's team has identified, flow into the brain.

    One way the brain handles this data is by preprocessing it in sensory way stations such as the eye or the spinal cord.

    But until now, it has been exceedingly difficult to precisely identify the types of neurons involved and chart how they are wired together.

    In their study, the Salk scientists demystified this fine-tuned, sensory-motor control system.

    Using cutting-edge imaging techniques, they traced nerve fibres that carry signals from the touch sensors in the feet to their connections in the spinal cord.

    They found that these sensory fibers wire together in the spinal cord with another group of neurons known as RORI neurons.

    The RORI neurons, in turn, connect with neurons in the motor region of brain, suggesting they might serve as a critical link between the brain and the feet.

    When Goulding's team disabled the RORI neurons in the spinal cord using genetically modified mice developed at Salk, they found that these mice were substantially less sensitive to movement.

    When the researchers had the animals walk across a narrow, elevated beam - a task that required more effort and skill - the animals struggled.

    "We think these neurons are responsible for combining all of this information to tell the feet how to move," added Steeve Bourane, postdoctoral researcher in Goulding's lab.

    The work offers a robust view of neural pathways and processes that underlie the control of movement and how the body senses its environment, the team concluded.

    The paper was published in the journal Cell.


  9. #1739
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Biological clock predicts human lifespan

    Scientists can now almost accurately predict a person's lifespan.

    A team of researchers from the University of Edinburgh have identified a biological clock that provides vital clues about how long a person is likely to live.

    Researchers studied chemical changes to DNA that take place over a lifetime, and can help them predict an individual's age.

    By comparing individuals' actual ages with their predicted biological clock age, scientists saw a pattern emerging.

    People whose biological age was greater than their true age were more likely to die sooner than those whose biological and actual ages were the same.

    Four independent studies tracked the lives of almost 5,000 older people for up to 14 years. Each person's biological age was measured from a blood sample at the outset, and participants were followed up throughout the study.

    Researchers found that the link between having a faster-running biological clock and early death held true even after accounting for other factors such as smoking, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

    Scientists from the University of Edinburgh, in collaboration with researchers in Australia and the US, measured each person's biological age by studying a chemical modification to DNA, known as methylation.

    The modification does not alter the DNA sequence, but plays an important role in biological processes and can influence how genes are turned off and on.

    Methylation changes can affect many genes and occur throughout a person's life.

    Dr Riccardo Marioni of the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, said "The same results in four studies indicated a link between the biological clock and deaths from all causes. At present, it is not clear what lifestyle or genetic factors influence a person's biological age. We have several follow-up projects planned to investigate this in detail".

    The study's principal investigator professor Ian Deary said "This new research increases our understanding of longevity and healthy ageing. It is exciting as it has identified a novel indicator of ageing, which improves the prediction of lifespan over and above the contribution of factors such as smoking, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease".


  10. #1740
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Not bad luck, pollutants & lifestyle cause most cancers

    American scientists recently stirred a hornet's nest by linking bad luck to the occurrence of cancer, but Indian oncologists would rather turn the equation on its head to say that as far as cancer is concerned, it's lucky to be in India.

    Doctors tout two reasons. First, most cancers here are linked to lifestyle and environment, say doctors, and have little to do with bad luck. It means malignancies could be prevented to an extent. The food we eat, the air we breathe and the choices we make—be it to smoke, drink alcohol or not exercise regularly—are more linked to our chances of getting cancer. "Tobacco is the cause for 40% to 50% of cancers in India as it increases the risk of cancers of the oral cavity, lungs, gastrointestinal tract and urinary bladder," said Dr S D Banavali who heads medicinal oncology in Tata Memorial Hospital in Parel.

    Second, as Tata Memorial Hospital director Dr Rajendra Badwe says, the rate of cancers in India is very low in comparison to the West. "The incidence of cancer is 90 per 1,00,000 persons in Indian cities and 45 per 1,00,000 in rural India. The West, on the other hand, has a rate of 350 per 1,00,000,'' he said.

    The happy picture does get blurry when one considers that India's population is so high that even a low cancer rate means a high number of patients. On the eve of World Cancer Day on February 4, the fact is that 10 lakh Indians get diagnosed with cancer every year while seven lakh others succumb to it.



    Cancer surgeon Pankaj Chaturvedi said, "By blaming genes, we cannot suppress the fact that the majority of cancers are caused by industry. Tobacco is a big industry, ditto with the fast food industry that is making us obese and thus increasing the risk of cancer."

    Theories about the exact reasons for cancer and why it affects certain people and not others has eluded scientists. Genetic reasons hold true only for around 5% of all cancers. The most heart-wrenching cancers—read pediatric cancers—account for only 3% of the total incidence. Moreover, what about cases in which a woman teacher, who has never smoked or chewed tobacco, gets oral cancer or a young father gets brain cancer? There seems to be no common thread linking all cancers.

    In this backdrop, when on January 1, renowned scientists Bert Vogelstein Bert Volgelstein and Christian Tomasetti from Johns Hopkins University in the US mentioned "random bad luck" in their paper on cancer epidemiology, it made headlines across the world. It piqued several experts and the duo, who are reworking their presentation, clarified that "two-thirds of the variations in cancer rates in different tissues could be explained by random bad luck".

    Cancer is a complex disease. Cancer surgeon Dr P Jagannath from Lilavati Hospital, Bandra, said, "Human cells, a trillion of them, keep dividing while fatihfully replicating a complex DNA. While this is a super-precise process, even a 'cell' can make errors." The cell, though, has a remarkable ability to either fix the problem or eliminate the bad gene. "However, some of the changes can occur in critical parts of the DNA, near the oncogenes, which trigger uncontrolled growth and replication of cells that is 'cancer'," he added.

    The University of Oxford has, since 2011, been studying why cancer rates in India while lower than in the West, are suddenly rising. For instance, incidence of colon cancer is 60 to 70 per l,00,000 in the West, but only five per 1,00,000 in India. "It is our Indian diet (rich in fibre) that has prevented colon cancer,'' said Dr Badwe.

    Indeed, studies in the West, too, have shown that if one stops smoking, the risk of cancer (as well hypertension and heart disease) reduces. The incidence of lung cancers is different for smokers and non-smokers. The US noticed a drop in breast cancer incidence within two years of banning hormone-replacement therapy.

    Some say luck comes into play only among subsets of people: Those who smoke versus those who don't or those who drink versus those who don't. "Every smoker doesn't get cancer, but there is a matter of luck in who among the smokers will get cancer," said Dr Badwe.

    Dr Jagannath has another take: "What do we then do about the 'bad luck' or the 'bolt from the blue' genetic mutation? Very few of them (mutations) are hereditary and can be detected in families that have clusters of cancers like colon or breast cancer but many of them are again 'random unfortunate events'."


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