28th May 2015, 01:19 PM #1931
Re: Health Bulletin
Machine that unboils eggs now being used to improve cancer treatment
A machine that can be used to uncook eggs is now being used to dramatically improve the effectiveness of a cancer treatment.
The device can rip things apart with great accuracy, allowing it to separate the proteins of a boiled egg and take it back to how it was before it was cooked. But the same technique could be used to improve the efficacy of cancer drugs, as well as many other research applications.
Using the invention on carboplatin — a common cancer treatment drug, used against ovarian and lung cancers — has boosted the potency by almost five times.
The machine, known as a "vortex fluidic device", was invented during a flight between Los Angeles and Sydney.
"The design was actually put together on that 15-hour flight and the rest is history," Colin Raston, the Australian who invented it, told ABC News. "We now have these devices that are delivering stunning results."
The tool can be used to take away the wastage in a drug, meaning that you need less of it to do the same work. That can reduce the side effects, making treatment less difficult for patients, and could mean that the drugs treat tumours much more effectively.
As well as helping with treatment, the tool could cut down the wastage created during the process of making drugs. That could make the pharmaceutical much more sustainable and reduce their impact on the environment.
More of the devices are being made, reports ABC News, and will be sent to other researchers in Australia and elsewhere. Soon after that, the devices could start being sold worldwide — Flinders University, where it was created, has already formed a company to sell the devices.
"There are 10,000 universities in the world and this has got applications in chemistry, engineering, biology, medicine, so there's a lot of potential there and that's just for research purposes," Raston told ABC News.
29th May 2015, 06:18 PM #1932
Re: Health Bulletin
Your smoking habit can put your child into poverty: Study
Smoking is so addictive that parents are likely to forgo basic food necessities of the family in order to fund their addiction, said a new study published in open access journal BMC Public Health. In fact, the study conducted by the University of Nottingham calculated that smoking puts nearly four lakh children into povert
The study's lead author, Dr Tessa Langley from the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies at the University of Nottingham, said, "Smoking reduces the income available for families to feed, clothe and otherwise care for their children living in low-income households. She said that there is an urgent need for the government health services to prioritize treating smoking dependence to wipe out childhood poverty as well as health.
American studies have already established smokers spend less on housing than non-smokers and recent research in India showed that smoking cuts spending on food, education, and entertainment.
This new British study estimates that 1.1 million children in the UK, almost half of all children in poverty, were living with at least one parent who smokes. A further 4,00,000 would be classed as being in poverty if parental tobacco expenditure were subtracted from household income. "The poverty threshold income level for a two-parent household with two children is £392. If both parents are smokers, these households will spend an average of £50 on tobacco per week, which is a big drain on an already tight budget," a university release quoted Langley as saying.
29th May 2015, 06:18 PM #1933
Re: Health Bulletin
Check typhoid to control gallbladder carcinoma: Study
By controlling bacterial infection causing typhoid fever could dramatically reduce the risk of gallbladder cancer in India and Pakistan. A study conducted by researchers of the Institute of Medical Sciences, Banaras Hindu University (BHU) and the Netherland Cancer Institute, was published in CELL HOST & Microbe journal on Thursday. The study was done by Gopal Nath of the department of Microbiology, Institute of Medical Sciences, and Jacques and Neefjes Tiziana Scanu of Netherlands Cancer Institute.
According to Nath, the findings establish for the first time the causal link between bacterial infection and gall bladder cancer, explaining why this type of cancer is rare in the West but common in Indian subcontinent where typhoid fever is endemic. Public policy changes inspired by this research could have an immediate impact on preventing a type of cancer that currently has a very poor prognosis. While viruses are among the established causal factors for particular cancers, bacteria are largely ignored as direct contributors. Accepting that bacterial infections can directly contribute to cancer formation makes these tumors preventable in principle. If Salmonella Typhi infections are cured immediately antibiotics and chronic infection are prevented or cured by some means or if vaccination programme to eradicate S. Typhi work, a major reduction is expected in the incidence of a tumor that represents the third commonest gastrointestinal tumor in India and Pakistan.
Gall bladder cancer is hard to diagnose in its early stages because there are no signs or symptoms. By the time cancer is detected, it is often too late to save the patients. Professor VK Shukla, a gastrointestinal surgeon, said that usual survival period of such patients hardly exceeds 6 months after the detection. Because the prognosis is so poor, the researchers set out to gain insight into how to combat this tumor by identifying causal factors underlying its unique global distribution. They zeroed in on S. Typhi because this — causing bacterium is endemic in India and have been associated with gallbladder cancer in many of epidemiological studies including one which was published by Gopal Nath and his research group in 2008. Moreover, proteins that Salmonella injects into host cells activate cancer related signaling pathways called AKT and MAPK, which support not only bacterial infection and survival but also the growth and proliferation of cancer cells.
According to them, to explore the role of S. Typhi in cancer in the new study, Neefjes and Scanu compared tumor samples from Indian and Dutch patients with gall bladder cancer. While both group showed signs of AKT and MAPK activation and an inactive TP53 cancer gene, only Indian patients showed strong evidence of S. Typhi infection and over activating mutation in cancer gene c-Myc. To mimic the features of tumor samples from India, the researchers transplanted Salmonella- infected cells with mutations affecting TP53 and c- Myc activity in mice. These mice latter developed tumors, demonstrating that Salmonella causes cancer in genetically at-risk host as a result of the collateral damage induced by its normal infection cycle.
Additional experiments suggested that Salmonella infection sets genetically predisposed host cells on the cancerous path by secreting proteins that increase AKT and MAPK activity, which remains elevated and perpetuates the cancer trajectory long after the bacteria have disappeared. These same two host signaling pathways are activated by bacterial pathogens implicated in cervical and lung cancer, suggesting that a direct contribution of bacteria to tumor formation could be more common than previously anticipated. The findings also suggest that the use of antibiotic treatment to control these bacterial infections may come too late for individuals who have already developed cancer. Instead, the main goal should be prevention through proper treatment with different antibacterial modalities, vaccination program and better sanitary conditions.
In future studies, the researcher will investigate whether Salmonella contributes to tumors in other tissues, identify other cancer causing bacteria, and determine how these pathogens leave an imprint of infection in host cells. "Our findings may now be used to urge policy makers to take appropriate measures to eliminate or better control these infections," Dr Nath says adding, "If typhoid fever is controlled, gallbladder carcinoma in Indian subcontinent could be prevented and become as rare as in the Western world".
2nd Jun 2015, 03:07 AM #1934
Re: Health Bulletin
Scientists grow tiny brain cortex in lab
Scientists have perfected mini cultured 3-D structures that grow and function much like the key working tissue or cortex of the brain from which they were derived, an advance that may lead to personalised medicine.
Strikingly, these "organoids" buzz with neuronal network activity. Cells talk with each other in circuits, much as they do in our brains.
This evolving "disease-in-a-dish" technology is bringing closer the day when patients can ask for personalised medicines, researchers said.
"The cortex spheroids grow to a state in which they express functional connectivity, allowing for modelling and understanding of mental illnesses," said Thomas R Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health.
"They do not even begin to approach the complexity of a whole human brain. But that is not exactly what we need to study disorders of brain circuitry. As we seek advances that promise enormous potential benefits to patients, we are ever mindful of the ethical issues they present," said Insel.
Prior to the new study, scientists had developed a way to study neurons differentiated from stem cells derived from patients' skin cells - using a technology called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).
They had even produced primitive organoids by coaxing neurons and support cells to organise themselves, mimicking the brain's own architecture.
But these lacked the complex circuitry required to even begin to mimic the workings of our brains.
Based on an improved, streamlined method for producing iPSCs, the team's cortex-like spheroids harbour healthier neurons supported by a more naturalistic network of supporting glial cells, resulting in more functional neural connections and circuitry.
Like the developing brain, the neurons layers and talk with each other via neural networks.
The spheroid technology is more consistent than earlier organoids in generating the same kinds of cortex-like structures in repeated experiments.
The budding cortex also lends itself to analysis using conventional brain slice methods.
"While the technology is still maturing, there is great potential for using these assays to more accurately develop, test safety and effectiveness of new treatments before they are used in individuals with a mental illness," said David Panchision, programme director for stem cell research.
The study was published in the journal Nature Methods.
2nd Jun 2015, 03:09 AM #1935
Re: Health Bulletin
Groups press FDA to approve 'women’s viagra'
Is sexual desire a human right? And are women entitled to a little pink pill to help them feel it?
Those questions are being raised in a campaign that is pressing the Food and Drug Administration to approve a pill aimed at restoring lost libido in women. The campaign, backed by the drug's developer and some women's groups, accuses the FDA of gender bias for approving and 25 other drugs to help men have sex, but none for women.
"Women have waited long enough," the effort, known as Even the Score, says in an online petition that has gathered more than 40,000 signatures. "In 2015, gender equality should be the when it comes to access to treatments for sexual dysfunction."
The drug, flibanserin, has been rejected twice by the FDA on the grounds that its very modest effectiveness was outweighed by side effects like sleepiness, dizziness and nausea. The first rejection, in 2010, followed a decision by a committee of outside advisers to the agency who unanimously opposed approval.
On Thursday, FDA advisers will once again consider whether flibanserin should be approved.
Sprout Pharmaceuticals, which now owns the drug, has submitted new data, including a study to demonstrate that the pill does not impair driving. Still, approval might hinge on whether the FDA agrees to interpret the old data in a new way and whether the politics of such drugs has changed.
Even the Score is backed by, among others, the National Council of Women's Organizations, the Black Women's Health Imperative, Jewish Women International and some medical groups like the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals. It has persuaded some members of Congress to write to the FDA and has also created a wicked spoof of a Viagra commercial.
A spokeswoman for the FDA said the agency "strongly rejects claims of gender bias." She said that in 2012 the agency identified female sexual dysfunction as a priority and held a two-day public workshop on drug development for the condition in October.
But the path to a drug for women's sexual dysfunction has been difficult. Pfizer gave up testing Viagra for women in 2004, the same year an FDA advisory committee voted against a testosterone skin patch for women developed by Procter & Gamble. A testosterone gel for women being developed by BioSante failed in clinical trials in 2011.
Some other women's groups, including the National Women's Health Network and Our Bodies Ourselves, say that Even the Score is making a mockery of the drug approval process under the guise of women's rights.
"I don't think there is anything sexist about denying approval for drugs that don't have an adequate risk-to-benefit ratio," said Thea Cacchioni, an assistant professor of women's studies at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, who is writing a book about the issue called "Big Pharma, Women, and the Labor of Love."
Leonore Tiefer, a psychologist at the New York University School of Medicine, said Sprout and its allies were trying to make low desire into a medical problem treatable by drugs when "most of these problems are psychological or relational."
Lack of spontaneous desire, she said, is not necessarily a problem in itself. The American Psychiatric Association no longer lists hypoactive sexual desire disorder, the condition flibanserin is designed to treat, in its manual of mental health disorders. Low desire is now combined with low arousal in a broader diagnosis on the grounds that some women do not feel desire until they are aroused.
Even the Score does exaggerate somewhat. Most of the 26 drugs for men are different formulations of the same substance, testosterone. And none are approved to treat low sexual desire, though that can be one symptom of testosterone deficiency. Viagra improves blood flow to the penis needed for an erection. For women, estrogens and a drug called ospemifene have been approved to treat pain during intercourse that can occur after menopause.
Still, even many members of the FDA advisory committee that rejected flibanserin in 2010 acknowledged then that lack of desire was a genuine condition and that drugs should be developed for it.
Some sexual medicine experts say the condition causes emotional distress and interferes with relationships.
"Our usual patient is someone who is fearful of losing the relationship they have been in for years," said Dr. Irwin Goldstein, director of sexual medicine at Alvarado Hospital in San Diego and a consultant to many drug companies. "It's tragedy after tragedy after tragedy."
One of his patients, Jodi Cole, 33, of Porter, Okla., said her lack of desire "tends to cloud my thoughts of everything related to my husband." She said that "replacing the dread I have for intimacy with desire would be life-changing."
About 10 percent of American women suffer from a lack of desire that causes distress, according to a conducted by an academic researcher but financed by Boehringer Ingelheim, the original developer of flibanserin. The drug, taken daily, would be for premenopausal women whose loss of desire was not from known causes like disease or the side effect of a drug.
Dr. Goldstein said it was gender bias to categorize male sexual dysfunction as a simple physical problem and women's as complex, psychological and unamenable to drugs. He noted that antidepressants that increase the level of serotonin in the brain can have a side effect of decreasing libido. Flibanserin does the opposite — transiently decreasing serotonin while raising levels of two other neurotransmitters, dopamine and norepinephrine.
Susan Scanlan, chairwoman of Even the Score, said the side effects of flibanserin, like sleepiness and dizziness, were not so serious. By contrast, she said, Viagra and some other drugs for men can cause blindness, penile rupture and other serious side effects.
"The implication is that men can be trusted to make a rational decision of risk reward and women can't," she said.
Ms. Scanlan said Even the Score was brought together by Audrey Sheppard, who once headed the office of women's health at the FDA and was retained as a consultant by Sprout.
Ms. Sheppard said she introduced Cindy Whitehead, Sprout's co-founder and now chief executive, to Washington activists on women's rights in 2013, when it looked like the drug might be approved. After it was rejected a second time and a meeting with the FDA incensed the advocates, the campaign started "in a spontaneous combustion kind of way."
Much of the coalition's activities are run by a public relations company, Blue Engine Message and Media. Officials declined to discuss the budget and how much is paid for by Sprout and two other companies developing drugs for female sexual dysfunction — Palatin Technologies and Trimel Pharmaceuticals.
One participant in the coalition, the International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health, urged its members to recruit their patients suffering from low libido to testify at the public workshop in October, saying that money would be available to pay for transportation. A spokeswoman for Even the Score said the coalition provided that money.
Boehringer Ingelheim gave up on flibanserin after the first FDA rejection in 2010. Cindy and Robert Whitehead, a couple running a company that made a testosterone product for men, started Sprout to acquire flibanserin. Based in Raleigh, N.C., and privately held, Sprout has raised $50 million, Ms. Whitehead said.
Judging how effective a drug is can be difficult. In one clinical trial, women taking flibanserin reported having an average of 4.4 "satisfying sexual experiences" a month, compared to 3.7 for women getting a placebo and 2.7 before the study began. While the difference between the drug and placebo of a little less than one event a month was statistically significant, there was debate at the 2010 advisory meeting on whether it was meaningful.
But the drug was not significantly better than the placebo in raising desire, as recorded in a daily diary.
Still, more women on the drug than on the placebo said they had experienced less distress and a meaningful change. And some women have said the drug had a big effect.
"I was the one initiating sex, much to the surprise of my husband," Barbara Gattuso of San Diego said at the FDA workshop in October. Ms. Gattuso, who said she had had low desire for 25 years, said she was "devastated" when the trial ended.
At the workshop, some sexual medicine experts said the best measure of a drug would be a monthly questionnaire asking about their desire levels.
Dr. James A. Simon, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at George Washington University and an investigator in flibanserin clinical trials, said in an interview that the number of sexually satisfying events depended on a woman's partner, so it was not a true measure of desire. And some women got annoyed at being asked to rate their level of desire every single day. The monthly questionnaire, he said, gauged "the gestalt of the overall."
Using the monthly questionnaire, flibanserin beat placebo in most trials. If the FDA accepts that measure, the drug could win approval.
5th Jun 2015, 11:34 AM #1936
Re: Health Bulletin
Online test to tell if you will live beyond next 5 years
Will you live beyond the next five years? Take the death test which can tell you with 80% certainty.
Scientists have devised a score based on a set of simple questions that they say will be able to gauge your health accurately and predict your chance of making it till 2020.
The score to predict the mortality risk is especially applicable to those aged between 40 and 70 years. The score does not require a physical check-up but is all about answering basic questions like self-rated health and usual walking speed.
Scientists said that self-reported walking pace is a stronger predictor of death risk in both men and women than smoking habits and biological measurements such as pulse rate and blood pressure.
The score also helps calculate what scientists call an 'Ubble age', the age where the average mortality risk in the population is most similar to the estimated risk of the individual through an online questionnaire. "The Ubble website allows anybody in the UK between 40 and 70 years to calculate their risk of dying within the next five years compared to the general population," said study co-author Erik Ingelsson from Uppsala University, Sweden. The questionnaire consists of 13 questions for men and 11 for women.
5th Jun 2015, 11:35 AM #1937
Re: Health Bulletin
Blood type may determine Alzheimer's risk
People with an 'O' blood type have more grey matter in their brain, which helps to protect against diseases such as Alzheimer's, than those with 'A', 'B' or 'AB' blood types, scientists have found.
Researchers at the University of Sheffield in UK found that blood types play a role in the development of the nervous system and may cause a higher risk of developing cognitive decline.
Research fellow Matteo De Marco and professor Annalena Venneri, from the university's department of Neuroscience, made the discovery after analysing the results of 189 Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans from healthy volunteers.
The researchers calculated the volumes of grey matter within the brain and explored the differences between different blood types.
The study, carried out in collaboration with the IRCCS San Camillo Hospital Foundation in Venice, showed that individuals with an 'O' blood type have more grey matter in the posterior proportion of the cerebellum.
In comparison, those with 'A', 'B' or 'AB' blood types had smaller grey matter volumes in temporal and limbic regions of the brain, including the left hippocampus, which is one of the earliest part of the brain damaged by Alzheimer's disease.
These findings indicate that smaller volumes of grey matter are associated with non-'O' blood types.
As we age a reduction of grey matter volumes is normally seen in the brain, but later in life this grey matter difference between blood types will intensify as a consequence of ageing, researchers said.
"The findings seem to indicate that people who have an 'O' blood type are more protected against the diseases in which volumetric reduction is seen in temporal and mediotemporal regions of the brain like with Alzheimer's disease for instance," said De Marco.
"However additional tests and further research are required as other biological mechanisms might be involved," said De Marco.
The study was published in The Brain Research Bulletin.
6th Jun 2015, 10:17 PM #1938
Re: Health Bulletin
A blood test can tell every virus you've ever had
Test detects every known human virus from single drop of blood Washington: Researchers have developed a new test that can detect every known human virus that currently or previously infected a person from a single drop of blood.
The method, called VirScan, developed by Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) researchers can test for current and past infections with any known human virus, including HIV and hepatitis C. The method, called VirScan, is an efficient alternative to existing diagnostics that test for specific viruses one at a time. With VirScan, scientists can run a single test to determine which viruses have infected an individual, rather than limiting their analysis to particular viruses. The comprehensive analysis can be performed for about USD 25 per blood sample.
Stephen Elledge, an HHMI investigator at Brigham and Women's hospital and his colleagues have already used VirScan to screen the blood of 569 people in the US, South Africa, Thailand, and Peru. VirScan works by screening the blood for antibodies against any of the 206 species of viruses known to infect humans. The immune system ramps up production of pathogen-specific antibodies when it encounters a virus for the first time, and it can continue to produce those antibodies for years or decades after it clears an infection. PTI That means VirScan not only identifies viral infections that the immune system is actively fighting, but also provides a history of an individual's past infections.
To develop the new test, Elledge and his colleagues synthesised more than 93,000 short pieces of DNA encoding different segments of viral proteins. They introduced those pieces of DNA into bacteria-infecting viruses called bacteriophage. Each bacteriophage manufactured one of the protein segments - known as a peptide - and displayed the peptide on its surface. As a group, the bacteriophage displayed all of the protein sequences found in the more than 1,000 known strains of human viruses. To perform the VirScan analysis, all of the peptide-displaying bacteriophage are allowed to mingle with a blood sample.
Antiviral antibodies in the blood find and bind to their target epitopes within the displayed peptides. The scientists then retrieve the antibodies and wash away everything except for the few bacteriophage that cling to them. By sequencing the DNA of those bacteriophage, they can identify which viral protein pieces were grabbed onto by antibodies in the blood sample. That tells the scientists which viruses a person's immune system has previously encountered, either through infection or through vaccination.
The study was published in the journal Science.
8th Jun 2015, 04:47 PM #1939
Re: Health Bulletin
World's first 'feeling' leg prosthesis offers new hope to amputees
The world's first artificial leg capable of simulating the feelings of a real limb and fighting phantom pain will be unveiled by researchers in Vienna on Monday.
The innovation is the result of a two-fold process, developed by Professor Hubert Egger at the University of Linz in northern Austria.
Surgeons first rewired remaining foot nerve endings from a patient's stump to healthy tissue in the thigh, placing them close to the skin surface.
Six sensors were then fitted to the foot sole of a lightweight prosthesis, and linked to so-called stimulators inside the shaft where the stump sits.
"It's like a second lease of life, like being reborn," Austrian amputee Wolfgang Rangger, told AFP ahead of Monday's media launch.
The former teacher, who lost his right leg in 2007 after suffering a blood clot caused by a cerebral stroke, has spent the last six months testing the new prosthesis.
"It feels like I have a foot again. I no longer slip on ice and I can tell whether I walk on gravel, concrete, grass or sand. I can even feel small stones," he said.
The 54-year-old also runs, cycles and goes climbing. When he moves, the limp is barely noticeable.
Every time Rangger takes a step or applies pressure, the small sensor devices send signals to the brain.
"In a healthy foot, skin receptors carry out this function but they are obviously missing here. However, the information conductors the nerves are still present, they're just not being stimulated," Egger said.
"The sensors tell the brain there is a foot and the wearer has the impression that it rolls off the ground when he walks. All things considered, the procedure is a very simple one given the results."
This is not the first time the Austrian scientist has caused a stir with his research.
In 2010, he presented a mind-controlled prosthetic arm, which the user directed with motor neurons previously connected to the lost limb.
For the artificial leg, the principle remains the same except that the process works in reverse: information is guided from the prothesis to the brain, rather than the other way around.
In addition to increasing balance and safety, the prosthesis provides another remarkable function: it has helped eradicate the excruciating pain Rangger had experienced for years following his amputation.
"I was barely able to walk with a conventional prosthesis, didn't sleep for more than two hours a night and needed morphine to make it through the day," he recalled.
But within days of undergoing the operation last October, the pain vanished.
As Egger points out, phantom pain occurs because the brain gets increasingly sensitive as it seeks information about the missing limb.
"Plus the amputation is often tied to a traumatic experience like an accident or illness, and the mind keeps reliving these memories," he noted.
The advantage of the "feeling prosthesis" is that the brain once again receives real data and can stop its frantic search.
"Rangger is a very different person now to the one I met in 2012," Egger said.
The two men were introduced to each other at a support group for amputees.
"It struck me that he never laughed and he had these dark rings under his eyes. It was awful."
Importantly, post-surgery recovery is quick and there are no known health dangers associated with the intervention, he added.
"The only risk is that the nerves don't reconnect properly and the feelings fail to return," he said.
With the new technology ready, Egger now hopes that small companies will join his venture and start building the prosthesis to help bring down the market price.
At the moment, a high-tech foot model costs between 10,000 euros ($11,240) and 30,000 euros.
Egger believes his latest project could vastly improve quality of life for amputees, including in developing countries.
"People with amputations aren't patients in the traditional sense, they aren't sick, they're just missing a limb," he said.
"By giving them back mobility, they also regain their independence and are able to reintegrate into society. That's what I work for."
10th Jun 2015, 12:36 AM #1940
Re: Health Bulletin
Diabetes rate up 45% since 1990
The global diabetes rate has risen by nearly half over the past two decades, according to a new study, as obesity and the health problems it spawns have taken hold across the developing world.
The prevalence of diabetes has been rising in rich countries for several decades, largely driven by increases in the rate of obesity. More recently, poorer countries have begun to follow the trend, with major increases in countries like China, Mexico and India. The study, published on Monday in the British medical journal The Lancet, reported a 45% rise in the prevalence of diabetes worldwide from 1990 to 2013. Nearly all the rise was in Type 2, which is usually related to obesity and is the most common form of the disease.
A major shift is underway in the developing world, in which deaths from communicable diseases like malaria and tuberculosis have declined sharply, and chronic diseases like cancer and diabetes are on the rise. The pattern is linked to economic improvement and more people living longer, but it has left governments in developing countries scrambling to deal with new and often more expensive ways to treat illnesses.
The study measured the burden of disability by calculating the proportion of a population living with any given disorder in a year.