18th May 2015, 12:34 PM #1911
Re: Health Bulletin
Probiotics often contain traces of gluten, study finds
More than half of popular probiotics contain traces of gluten, meaning they have the opposite effect on certain people hoping to achieve digestive health, a new study has found.
Tests on 22 top-selling probiotics showed that 12 of them (or 55 per cent) had detectable gluten, according to an analysis performed by investigators at the Columbia University Medical Centre (CUMC).
Probiotics are commonly taken by patients for their theoretical effect in promoting gut health, though evidence of benefits is limited to a few clinical situations.
"Many patients with celiac disease take dietary supplements, and probiotics are particularly popular," said Dr Samantha Nazareth, a gastroenterologist at CUMC and the first author of the study.
"We have previously reported that celiac patients who use dietary supplements have more symptoms than non-users, so we decided to test the probiotics for gluten contamination," said Nazareth.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, and patients with celiac disease need to eliminate it from their diet or face pain, bowel symptoms, and an increased risk of cancer.
The investigators used liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, a sensitive detection technology, to quantify gluten content.
Most of the probiotics that tested positive for gluten contained less than 20 parts per million of the protein, and would be considered gluten-free by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards. However, four of the brands (18 per cent of the total) contained in excess of that amount.
More than half of the 22 probiotics were labelled gluten-free, but this had no bearing on whether or not traces of gluten were present. Two probiotics that did not meet FDA standards carried the label.
"We have been following reports in the scientific literature and news media on inaccurate labeling of nutritional supplements, and it appears that labels claiming a product is gluten-free are not to be trusted, at least when it comes to probiotics," said Dr Peter Green, professor of medicine and director of the Celiac Disease Centre.
"This is a potential hazard for our patients, and we are concerned," said Green.
It is uncertain whether these trace amounts of gluten could cause symptoms or otherwise harm patients with celiac disease.
19th May 2015, 01:30 PM #1912
Re: Health Bulletin
Why do men exist? Scientific study offers an explanation
Since in many species, sperm is males' only contribution to reproduction, biologists have long puzzled about why evolutionary selection, known for its ruthless efficiency, allows them to exist.
Now British scientists have an explanation: Males are required for a process known as "sexual selection" which helps species to ward off disease and avoid extinction.
A system where all offspring are produced without sex — as in all-female asexual populations — would be far more efficient at reproducing greater numbers of offspring, the scientists said.
But in research published in the journal Nature on Monday, they found that sexual selection, in which males compete to be chose by females for reproduction, improves the gene pool and boosts population health, helping explain why males are important.
An absence of selection — when there is no sex, or no need to compete for it — leaves populations weaker genetically, making them more vulnerable to dying out.
"Competition among males for reproduction provides a really important benefit, because it improves the genetic health of populations," said professor Matt Gage, who led the work at Britain's University of East Anglia.
"Sexual selection achieves this by acting as a filter to remove harmful genetic mutations, helping populations to flourish and avoid extinction in the long-term."
Almost all multi-cellular species reproduce using sex, but its existence is not easy to explain biologically, Gage said, because sex has big downsides — including that only half of the offspring, the daughters, will produce offspring themselves.
"Why should any species waste all that effort on sons?" he said.
In their study, Gage's team evolved Tribolium flour beetles over 10 years under controlled laboratory conditions, where the only difference between populations was the intensity of sexual selection during each adult reproductive stage.
The strength of sexual selection ranged from intense competition — where 90 males competed for only 10 females — through to the complete absence of sexual selection, with monogamous pairings in which females had no choice and males no competition.
After seven years of reproduction, representing about 50 generations, the scientists found that populations where there had been strong sexual selection were fitter and more resilient to extinction in the face of inbreeding.
But populations with weak or non-existent sexual selection showed more rapid declines in health under inbreeding, and all went extinct by the tenth generation.
19th May 2015, 01:34 PM #1913
Re: Health Bulletin
E-cigarette flavourings can alter lung function
Certain flavourings used in electronic cigarette liquid may alter important cellular functions in lung tissue, according to a new research.
"The effects of the various chemical components of e-cigarette vapour on lung tissue are largely unknown," said lead author Temperance Rowell, a graduate student in the Cell Biology and Physiology Department of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
"In our study using human lung epithelial cells, a number of cell viability and toxicity parameters pointed to 5 of 13 flavours tested showing overall adverse effects to cells in a dose-dependent manner," Rowell said.
In the study, cultured human airway epithelial cells were exposed to various doses of the 13 e-cigarette liquid flavours for 30 minutes or 24 hours.
During the 30 minute exposure test, the flavours Hot Cinnamon Candies, Banana Pudding (Southern Style), and Menthol Tobacco elicited a dose-dependent calcium response and were toxic to the cells at higher doses.
During the 24 hour exposure test, these same three flavours decreased cell proliferation and cell viability in a dose-dependent manner.
The toxic effects of these flavourings were not seen with either nicotine or the e-liquid vehicle, which consisted of propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin, researchers said.
"The specific chemical components underlying the toxic effects of these e-cigarette flavours on cell viability, proliferation, and calcium signalling in airway epithelia are undergoing further study in our lab," said Rowell.
"Given the increasing popularity of flavoured e-cigarettes, a better understanding of their ingredients, the potential health risks of these ingredients, and the causes of these risks is urgently needed," she said.
The research was presented at the 2015 American Thoracic Society International Conference in Colorado.
19th May 2015, 01:34 PM #1914
Re: Health Bulletin
One-jab universal flu shot in offing
Scientists have uncovered how human immune cells remember previously encountered strains of influenza, a discovery that may pave the way for a single universal flu shot to immunize people for their entire lives.
The "extraordinary breakthrough" shows how 'killer' CD8 + T cells - the body's 'army of hitmen' tasked with taking out new viruses - retain memories of virus strains they encounter.
The Australia-Sino collaboration began during the first outbreak of the avian-derived H7N9 virus in China in 2013.
That contagion saw 99 per cent of people infected hospitalised, with a 30 per cent mortality rate, researchers said.
"We'd never seen anything like H7N9," University of Melbourne's Associate Professor Katherine Kedzierska said.
"The virus was infecting more people rapidly and nobody had immunity. Thankfully, we did manage to contain the virus but we knew we had come face-to-face with a potential pandemic that could kill millions of people around the world if the virus became able to spread between humans," she said.
"After collecting samples from infected patients we found that people who couldn't make these T cell flu assassins were dying. These findings lead to the potential of moving from vaccines for specific influenza strains towards developing a protection, which is based on T-cells," she said.
"From the 30 per cent mortality rate in China we knew the clock was ticking on the situation. Had the contagion spread broken out globally, we're talking about a history-altering event on the Spanish Flu scale. As it turns out, boosting the T cell adaptive memory capacity is our way in," Kedzierska said.
"Our extraordinary breakthrough could lead to the development of a vaccine component that can protect against all new influenza viruses, with the potential for future development of a one-off universal flu vaccine shot," she said.
"This work will also help clinicians to make early predictions of how well a patient's immune system will respond to viruses so they can manage early interventions such as artificial ventilation more effectively, particularly in cases where the patient is at risk of dying," said Kedzierska.
The research was published in the Nature Communications journal.
20th May 2015, 02:13 PM #1915
Re: Health Bulletin
New gene therapy can help blind see
Scientists might be able to change the cells in blind people's eyes, giving them the power to see again.
If the rods and cones that make up the photoreceptors of the eye fail because of injury or illness, then people I can lose their sight entirely . Now, scientists hope that they can use gene therapy to transform nerves in the eye to replace those lost photoreceptors.
The technique, developed by Zhuo-Hua Pan of Wayne State University in Detroit, is part of a new field called optogenetics, which uses molecules from algae or other mi croorganisms that respond to light and put them into nerve cells to transform them so that they can receive light.
Apart from helping blind people see, the new field has also given in sight into how the brain works.
It can even be used to alter me mories. Experts hope that they can use the technique to restore the sight of blind people -a technique that has al ready worked on animals.
Studies in humans could be gin next year.
20th May 2015, 02:14 PM #1916
Re: Health Bulletin
Antibiotics back as alternative for appendicitis
Every year, 300,000 Americans with appendicitis are rushed into emergency surgery. Most think that if the appendix is not immediately removed, it will burst -with potentially fatal consequences.But now some doctors say there may another option: antibiotics.
Five small studies from Europe, involving a total of 1,000 patients, indicate that antibiotics can cure some patients with appendicitis; about 70% of whom took the pills did not require surgery . Those who wound up having an appendectomy after trying antibiotics first did not face any more complications than those who had surgery immediately .
"These studies seem to indicate that antibiotics can cure appendicitis in many patients," said Dr David Talan, a specialist in emergency medicine and infectious diseases at the University of California, Los Angeles."You at least have the chance of avoiding surgery altogether."
Talan and others are planning a large clinical trial to compare people with appendicitis who receive antibiotics or surgery.
In preparation, Talan and his colleague Dr David Flum, a surgeon at the University of Washington, spent much of the past year asking patients if they would be interested in participating. Nearly half said yes. In another survey , nearly three-quarters of those who had already had an appendectomy said they would have preferred to try antibiotics first. By suggesting an antibiotic alternative, the researchers are bucking longstanding medical tradition.
Surgical treatment for appendicitis began in the 1880s, when surgery itself was something of a new idea. As surgery and anesthesia improved, however, the appendectomy became the treatment of choice. According to the medical thinking of the day , it made sense. But surprising as antibiotics might seem, this is not the first time they have emerged as a possible alternative.
When antibiotics became available in the 1940s and '50s, doctors in England began giving them to patients with appendicitis, reporting excellent results.During the Cold War, when American sailors spent six months or more on nuclear submarines prohibited from surfacing, those who developed appendicitis were given antibiotics. "Those submariners did great and no deaths or complications were reported," Flum said. But that did not put a dint in the perception of surgery as the top choice.
The planned clinical trial will attempt to answer important questions. Are antibiotics as good as surgery in curing appendicitis? Could they do so at less cost, avoiding a hospitalization afterward? It's even not clear how the drugs should be administered.
Giana Davidson, surgeon at University of Washington, said, "We don't have the answers to questions that matter to patients.What are the chances of it coming back? I just have a lot of hesitation to go away from a 30-minute operation that cures them for the rest of their lives."
20th May 2015, 02:43 PM #1917
Re: Health Bulletin
US sounds alarm on 3 new diabetes drugs
Three new type-2 diabetes medicines, two of which were recently launched in India, have come under the scanner of the US drug regulator for potential risk of causing acidosis that could require hospitalization.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned medical professionals and patients that type-2 diabetes medicines - canagliflozin, dapagliflozin, and empagliflozin - may cause high levels of blood acids which can lead to serious adverse effects.
The three drugs, all belonging to a new class known as SGLT2 inhibitors, work by lowering blood sugar by making the kidneys remove sugar from the body through the urine. The other existing medicines for type-2 diabetes do not work through kidneys and rather use pancreas as a pathway.
Though the US FDA has not yet banned the medicines, it has asked doctors to evaluate for the presence of acidosis, and patients to keep a close watch for any signs of ketoacidosis and seek medical attention immediately if they experience symptoms such as difficulty in breathing, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, confusion, and unusual fatigue or sleepiness.
"FDA is continuing to investigate this safety issue and will determine whether changes are needed in the prescribing information for this class of drugs, called sodium-glucose cotransporter-2 (SGLT2) inhibitors," the US drug regulator said in an alert issued last week. It, however, advised patients to not stop or change diabetes medicines without consulting the prescriber.
While canagliflozin and dapagliflozin were launched in India recently, adverse effects have not been observed or reported here so far. Doctors say though patients have been taking these medicines in India, it is too early to get surveillance data.
"These are promising medicines and we have been prescribing them. However, after the FDA alert, we will keep a close watch on how patients are behaving after using these medicines," said Dr Anoop Misra, a leading endocrinologist and chairman of Fortis-CDOC for diabetes and allied sciences.
According to Misra, it is surprising how these medicines are likely to impact pancreas even as they do not work through that route and instead use kidney as the pathway. "The major positive of these medicines is that these are independent of action of body insulin," he said.
The US FDA said its Adverse Event Reporting System database identified 20 cases of acidosis reported as diabetic ketoacidosis or ketosis in patients treated with SGLT2 inhibitors between March 2013 to June 6, 2014. It said all the affected patients required emergency visits or hospitalization to treat the condition. It had continued to receive adverse event reports of diabetic ketoacidosis and ketoacidosis in patients treated with SGLT2 inhibitors.
All the three drugs have been available in developed countries like the US and Europe since around 2012-13. While clinical trials were conducted for the drugs around the globe prior to their approval, it is one of the rare instances when the regulator has issued warnings in such a short span after the launch of the drugs in the market.
22nd May 2015, 01:00 PM #1918
Re: Health Bulletin
Finally, drug for Ebola in sight
Scientists, including one of Indian-origin, have found new potential drug candidates for Ebola that successfully treated up to 90% of mice exposed to the deadly virus.
Since December 2013, Ebola has infected more than 25,000 people and taken the lives of more than 10,000, researchers said. However, the US Food and Drug Administration is yet to approve any therapeutic drugs or %vaccines against the virus, they said.
While some researchers are developing vaccines to prevent Ebola infections, others are focusing on treatments for the disease. They are investigating a number of compou8nds, including existing malaria and flu drugs.
Rekha G Panchal from the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and colleagues have been looking into possible treatments by studying a class of small molecules called diazachrysenes.
These molecules have been found in la8boratory tests to be non-toxic and effective against the most potent bacterial toxin, bo8tulinum neurotoxin. They wanted to sc-%reen this family of compounds for possible %anti-Ebola drug candidates.
The researchers narrowed down their search to a handful of diazachrysenes. In %their study, 70%-90% of the mice that re-%ceived one of three of the experimental %compounds survived infection and did not show any obvious side effects. The finding was published in the journal ACS Infectious Diseases.
22nd May 2015, 07:02 PM #1919
Re: Health Bulletin
Scientists in Chhattisgarh develop high-zinc rice that may play crucial role in fighting malnutrition
Scientists here have developed a high zinc-enriched variety of rice that is expected to play a crucial role in fighting malnutrition in tribal-dominated Chhattisgarh where nearly seven lakh children are still malnourished.
The new paddy seed, called "Chhattisgarh Zinc Rice-1", the first zinc biofortified rice variety in India, was launched by the state variety release committee, the authority for official release of new varieties of seeds, in March and its production is likely to begin from the next kharif season.
Similarly, researchers from Indira Gandhi Agriculture University (IGAU), Raipur, led by Professor Girish Chandel, have rolled out two varieties of high zinc rice, of which one has been released.
"We focused on increasing our crop production since the inception of the 'green revolution' in the country aiming to eliminate hunger. In the process, we managed to yield high production, but the quality of crop did not improve," Chandel told PTI.
In 2000, the Centre, along with, health organizations in a survey found that 60-70 per cent of population was suffering from malnutrition because of deficiency of micronutrients, particularly iron, zinc and vitamin A.
Following this, the government decided to come out with a research programme to improve the variety of three staple crops — rice, wheat and maize — in different states, he said.
Under the programme, Chhattisgarh, considered as the rice bowl of the country, decided to work on the quality aspect and took up "Rice Bio Fortification Research Project".
In the first phase of the project in 2003-05, some 200 rice germplasm lines with high grain nutritive values but low-yielding quality were identified, he said.
Subsequently, in the next phase of 2006-11, seeds were multiplied and subjected to genetic improvement exercise, which led to seven high-yielding zinc-enriched rice varieties.
In 2013, the Centre decided to conduct a separate exercise coordinated by Directorate of Rice Research (DRR), Hyderabad, to analyse the outcome of the researches being conducted in different parts of the country.
Finally, four varieties were adjudged best in terms of quality, of which the top two came from Chhattisgarh.
"Currently, we have 100kg seeds of this new variety and we are further planning to multiply it in 10 acres. By November-December this year, we will distribute it to around 5,000 farmers across the state. Its sowing would be started in the next kharif season," he said.
23rd May 2015, 12:11 PM #1920
Re: Health Bulletin
Scientists turn blood cells into neurons
In a breakthrough, scientists, led by an Indian-origin researcher, have successfully converted adult human blood cells into neurons.
Researchers can now directly convert adult human blood cells to both central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) neurons as well as neurons in the peripheral nervous system (rest of the body) that are responsible for pain, temperature and itch perception.
This means that how a person's nervous system cells react and respond to stimuli, can be determined from his blood, researchers said.
The breakthrough was led by Mick Bhatia, director of the Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute at McMaster University.
Currently, scientists and physicians have a limited understanding of the complex issue of pain and how to treat it.
The peripheral nervous system is made up of different types of nerves - some are mechanical (feel pressure) and others detect temperature (heat).
In extreme conditions, pain or numbness is perceived by the brain using signals sent by these peripheral nerves.
"The problem is that unlike blood, a skin sample or even a tissue biopsy, you can't take a piece of a patient's neural system. It runs like complex wiring throughout the body and portions cannot be sampled for study," said Bhatia.
"Now we can take easy to obtain blood samples, and make the main cell types of neurological systems - the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system - in a dish that is specialised for each patient," said Bhatia.
"Nobody has ever done this with adult blood. Ever," Bhatia said.
"We can actually take a patient's blood sample, as routinely performed in a doctor's office, and with it we can produce one million sensory neurons, that make up the peripheral nerves in short order with this new approach.
We can also make central nervous system cells, as the blood to neural conversion technology we developed creates neural stem cells during the process of conversion," said Bhatia.
The team's revolutionary, patented direct conversion technology has "broad and immediate applications," said Bhatia.
It also paves the way for the discovery of new pain drugs that don't just numb the perception of pain, Bhatia said.
Bhatia's team successfully tested their process using fresh blood, but also cryopreserved (frozen) blood.
Since blood samples are taken and frozen with many clinical trials, this allows them "almost a bit of a time machine" to go back and explore questions around pain or neuropathy to run tests on neurons created from blood samples of patients taken in past clinical trials where responses and outcomes have already been recorded."
The study was published in the journal Cell Reports.