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Health Bulletin


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  1. #1951
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    'Virtual reality' therapy could treat alcoholism

    A form of 'virtual-reality' therapy may help people with alcohol dependence reduce their craving, a new study suggests. The findings come from a small study of 10 patients but researchers said they are optimistic about the potential for virtual reality as a therapy for alcohol use disorders.

    "This technology is already popular in the fields of psychology and psychiatry," said senior researcher Doug Hyun Han of Chung-Ang University Hospital in Seoul. Virtual-reality therapy has been used to treat phobias and posttraumatic stress disorder, Han said.

    The idea is to expose people to situations that trigger fear and anxiety, in a safe and controlled space. Then, hopefully, they learn to better manage those situations in real life.

    Less is known about whether virtual reality can help with substance use disorders. But there has been some evidence that it can reduce people's craving for tobacco and alcohol, according to Han.

    For the new study, Han's team recruited 12 patients being treated for alcohol dependence. All went through a week-long detox programme, then had 10 sessions of virtual-reality therapy — done twice a week for five weeks.

    The sessions involved three different virtual scenes — one in a relaxing environment; another in a 'high-risk' situation in which the patients were in a restaurant where other people were drinking; and a third, 'aversive', situation. In that aversion scene, patients were surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells of people getting sick from too much alcohol.

    Before they began the programme, all of the patients underwent positron emission tomography (PET) and computerised tomography (CT) brain scans, which allowed the researchers to study the patients' brain metabolism. It turned out that, compared with a group of healthy people, the alcohol-dependent patients had a faster metabolism in the brain's limbic circuit — which indicates a heightened sensitivity to stimuli, like alcohol. After the virtual-reality therapy, however, the picture changed. Patients' revved-up brain metabolism had slowed — which, Han said, suggests a dampened craving for alcohol.

    According to Han, the therapy is a promising approach to treating alcohol dependence. That is partly because it puts patients in situations similar to real life and requires their active participation. The sessions are also 'tailor-made' for each individual, he added. However, larger, long-term studies are still needed to show whether virtual reality ultimately helps patients remain abstinent and avoid relapses. The study was published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.


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  2. #1952
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Artificial blood transfusion may be reality by '17

    The world's first human trial of artificial blood grown in a lab from stem cells is set to take place in the UK by 2017.

    The UK's NHS (National Health Service) Blood and Transplant has announced that the manufactured blood will be used in clinical trials with human volunteers within two years.

    Research led by scientists at the University of Bristol and NHS Blood and Transplant used stem cells from adult and umbilical cord blood to create a small volume of manufactured red blood cells.

    It is hoped that when the production of this lab-produced blood is successfully scaled up, it will offer an alternative to patients with blood disorders such as sickle cell Anaemia and Thalassemia who require treatment with regular transfusions and for whom it is difficult to find compatible donors.

    The clinical trial of manufactured red blood cells is designed to compare the survival of red cells manufactured from stem cells with that of standard blood donor red blood cells. This will involve a group of 20 volunteers who will receive a small volume transfusion of between five and ten millilitre of the lab-produced blood. "Scientists across the globe have been investigating for a number of years how to manufacture red blood cells to offer an alternative to donated blood to treat patients," said Dr Nick Watkins, NHS Blood and Transplant's assistant director of research and development."We are confident that by 2017 our team will be ready to carry out the first early phase clinical trials in human volunteers," Watkins said.

    "These trials will compare manufactured cells with donated blood. The intention is not to replace blood donation but provide specialist treatment for specific patient groups," he said.



    "Research has laid the foundation for current transfusion and transplantation practices. Continued investment in research and development is critical to our role in saving and improving lives through blood and organ donation," said Dr Nick Watkins, NHS Blood and Transplant's assistant director of research and development.


  3. #1953
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Potential treatment to cure MERS identified

    In a first, researchers have discovered therapeutics that have successfully protected and treated mice infected with the virus that causes the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

    In the current MERS outbreak, around 180 people have been infected by the deadly virus in South Korea, and nearly 30 have died.

    "Though early, this is very exciting and has real potential to help MERS patients," said lead researcher Matthew Frieman, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM).

    The virus has killed more than 400 people since it was first discovered three years ago in Saudi Arabia.

    In the study, the researchers found that two antibodies, REGN3051 and REGN3048, showed an ability to neutralise the virus.

    "We hope that clinical study will progress on these two antibodies to see whether they can eventually be used to help humans infected with the virus," Frieman pointed out.

    This research, done in collaboration with Regeneron, a biopharmaceutical company based in Tarrytown, New York, used several of the company's proprietary technologies to search for and validate effective antibodies targeting the virus.

    MERS was first discovered in 2012 in Saudi Arabia. It appears that the disease spread to humans from camels, who may themselves been infected by bats.

    Research has shown that it is similar to Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS); both are caused by Coronaviruses, both cause respiratory problems, and both are often fatal.

    The paper also announced the development a novel strain of mice that can be infected with MERS.

    "This new mouse model will significantly boost our ability to study potential treatments and help scientists to understand how the virus causes disease in people," Frieman said.

    The study appeared in the latest issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).


  4. #1954
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Osteoporosis linked to heart disease in elderly

    Scientists have found a link between heart disease and osteoporosis, suggesting both conditions could have similar causes in the elderly.

    The team from the University of Southampton found that people with a history of heart disease had substantially lower bone mineral density in their wrist bone than those without.

    The technique was used on 350 men and women aged 70-85 suffering from coronary heart disease such as angina, heart attack or heart failure.

    The results showed that bone mineral density was lower among participants with coronary heart disease.

    The effect was more prominent in women than in men.

    "The results highlight the need to evaluate a history of heart disease in the management of osteoporosis in older people," said professor Cyrus Cooper, professor of rheumatology at the University of Southampton.

    Further research is needed to provide a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms which explain the link between osteoporosis and heart disease, the team said.

    The results were published in the journal Osteoporosis International.


  5. #1955
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    10-year-old girl gets heart of an adult at AIIMS

    In a rare first for India's premier medical institute, doctors at AIIMS have transplanted the heart of a 26-year-old man into a 10-year-old girl suffering from end-stage heart failure.

    Cardiologists said the adult heart measured 53mm (end-diastolic dimension), nearly double the size of a child's heart. However, surgeons could still fit the organ into the girl's chest cavity because her diseased heart had swollen and was occupying a similar space.

    "The operating surgeon removed the recipient's heart after matching the cavity to the donor heart," said Dr Sandeep Seth, professor of cardiology at AIIMS. He said the girl has recovering well.

    Doctors said the 10-year-old from Kolkata was admitted in AIIMS in December last year with complete heart failure. Her heart muscles were weak and she was suffering from jaundice.

    Despite all medications, the girl's heart function had not improved and the family had lost all hope of her survival.

    "Initially, we did not put her in the main list for transplant because she was too ill to undergo the procedure. Also, it's rare for us to get a child's heart from cadaver donors," said a senior doctor. He said the girl's case was considered for transplant only when the hospital could not identify any matching recipient for a heart from a 26-year-old cadaver donor.

    "Finally, we decided to take a chance on her. We are happy that it worked and the girl has survived," said Seth. The transplant team was led by cardiac surgeon Balram Airan.

    Seth said the heart size mismatch was not the only challenge in the case. "The girl suffered from jaundice. We feared losing her after the transplant if the girl did not tolerate heavy immuno suppressive medicines given to check rejection of the transplanted organ. This could be overcome by keeping the dosage of the medicine low initially," he added.

    The world's first heart transplant took place in Cape Town, South Africa in 1967. In India, AIIMS was the first to conduct the procedure in 1994. Officials said AIIMS has performed nearly 35 transplants over the last two decades but this was the first case of child heart transplant.

    "The long term survival in children is good and excellent 10-year survival data is available. Late complications and the long-term effects of immuno-suppression need to be anticipated and addressed as they arise," said a doctor. He said the longest survival period after a heart transplant is 33 years.


  6. #1956
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Sugary drinks may cause 184,000 global deaths a year: Study

    Sodas and other sugary drinks may cause up to 184,000 deaths a year worldwide, according to a study published Monday in the journal Circulation.

    Billed as a first, the report analyzed the global risks of death due to diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancers linked to the consumption of sugary drinks.

    Researchers estimated that around 133,000 people died from diabetes due to the consumption of what the report called "sugar-sweetened beverages." Around 45,000 people died globally from cardiovascular diseases arising from sugary drink consumption and 6,450 people died from cancers linked to the beverages, researchers estimated.

    "Many countries in the world have a significant number of deaths occurring from a single dietary factor, sugar-sweetened beverages. It should be a global priority to substantially reduce or eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages from the diet," said study author Dariush Mozaffarian from Tufts University in Boston.

    Mexico had the highest death rate due to sugary beverages with a rate of 450 deaths per million adults, the report said. It was followed by the United States with 125 estimated deaths per million adults.

    Researchers also said the general quantity of sugar available in a nation correlated with the country`s frequency of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

    The report also found 76 percent of deaths related to soda and other sugary drink consumption occurred in low to middle income countries.
    Fruit juices were not included in the research, which analyzed 62 dietary surveys conducted between 1980 and 2010 in 51 countries.


  7. #1957
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Special protein in brain may up stroke risk

    A special protein found in the brain's tiniest blood vessels may increase the risk of stroke, find researchers.

    The protein called FoxF2 is found in the brain's smallest blood vessels called capillaries and are essential for the development of the blood-brain barrier.

    In a study done on mice, the team found how the blood-brain barrier develops and what makes the capillaries in the brain different from small blood vessels in other organs.

    "Mice that have too little or too much FoxF2 develop various types of defects in the brain's blood vessels," said Peter Carlsson, professor at the University of Gothenburg's department of chemistry and molecular biology.

    The brain's smallest blood vessels differ from those in other organs in that the capillary walls are much more compact.

    The nerve cells in the brain get the nutrients they need by molecules actively being transported from the blood, instead of passively leaking out from the blood vessels.

    This blood-brain barrier is vital, because it imposes strict control over the substances with which the brain's nerve cells come into contact.

    "It has a protective function that, if it fails, increases the risk of stroke and other complications," the authors noted.

    The FoxF2 gene is an extremely interesting candidate.

    "The research is now underway in collaboration with clinical geneticists to investigate the extent to which variations in the FoxF2 gene affect people's risk of suffering a stroke," Carlsson said.

    The findings appeared in the journal Developmental Cell.


  8. #1958
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Drinking excessive water may be fatal for sportspersons


    Drinking excessive water is not good for your health as this weakens the ability of the kidneys to excrete excess water load and sodium in the body becomes diluted. This leads to swelling in cells, which can be life-threatening.

    According to new guidelines from an international expert panel, you should drink only when you are thirsty in order to avoid exercise-associated hyponatremia (EAH).

    Using the innate thirst mechanism to guide fluid consumption is a strategy that should limit drinking in excess and developing hyponatremia while providing sufficient fluid to prevent excessive dehydration.

    Symptoms of mild EAH include lightheadedness, dizziness, nausea, puffiness and gaining weight during an athletic event. Symptoms of severe EAH include vomiting, headache, altered mental status (confusion, agitation, delirium, etc.), seizure and coma.

    EAH has occurred during endurance competitions such as marathons, triathlons, canoe races, swimming and military exercises.

    Athletes often are mistakenly advised to "push fluids" or drink more than their thirst dictates by, for example, drinking until their urine is clear or drinking to a prescribed schedule.

    But excessive fluid intake does not prevent fatigue, muscle cramps or heat stroke.

    "Muscle cramps and heatstroke are not related to dehydration," said James Winger, sports medicine physician at Loyola University Medical Center and a member of the 17-member expert panel.

    "Modest to moderate levels of dehydration are tolerable and pose little risk to otherwise healthy athletes. An athlete can safely lose up to three percent of his or her body weight during a competition due to dehydration without loss of performance," Winger said.

    The guidelines say EAH can be treated by administering a concentrated saline solution that is three percent sodium - about three times higher than the concentration in normal saline solution.

    The guidelines were published in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine.


  9. #1959
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Excess vitamin A disrupts immune system

    Too much Vitamin A shuts down the body's trained immunity, opening door to infections to which we would otherwise be immune, says a new study.

    According to the study, excess Vitamin A makes the body 'forget' past infections.

    The findings suggest that although Vitamin A supplementation can have profound health benefits when someone is deficient, supplementation of the vitamin above and beyond normal levels may have negative health consequences.

    Two different types of Vitamin A are found in the diet. While animal products such as meat, fish, poultry and dairy foods have preformed Vitamin A, plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables contain the other type -- Pro-Vitamin A.

    "This study helps to explain the mechanisms of anti-inflammatory effects of vitamin A and by doing so opens the door to identifying novel ways to modulate the immune response and restore its function in situations in which it is dis-regulated," said one of the researchers Mihai Netea from the Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
    To make this discovery, Netea and colleagues stimulated immune cells, isolated from volunteers, with Vitamin A and saw that the cells produced fewer cytokines, key proteins that help ward off microbes, upon stimulation with various mitogens and antigens.

    Furthermore, the cells were also stimulated with various microbial structures, which resulted in long-term activation or training of the cells.
    When the same experiments were performed in the presence of vitamin A, the microbial structures were no longer able to activate the immune cells.

    The study was published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology.


  10. #1960
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Scientists find potential new HIV therapy


    Scientists have discovered a way to block replication of the most common form of HIV at a key moment when the infection is just starting to develop.

    Transmitted through bodily fluids, the HIV-1 virus infects and destroys key immune cells, known as CD4 T cells, that would ordinarily mount a defense against the virus and initiate the antiviral activity of other immune cells.

    Scientists have long known that a substance produced by CD4 T cells called Interleukin-21 (IL-21) plays an important role in the immune system by activating immune cells that specialise in killing viruses like HIV-1 and driving the production of antibodies that attack them.

    However, it was unclear how IL-21 might affect the early stages of HIV-1 infection that allows the virus to grow and spread unabated soon after a person is exposed.

    Researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College, the Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University conducted two studies to uncover this effect.

    The researchers created a culture from human tissues, primarily spleen and lymph node tissue. After exposing the cells to IL-21, they introduced HIV-1 and found that after 72 hours, cultures with IL-21 contained more than two-thirds less virus than those that didn't receive the treatment.

    The second model tested IL-21 in mice transplanted with human stem cells to create a physiological environment as close as possible to that in people.

    Over the course of two weeks, the mice began producing IL-21. After 14 days, more than half of the mice with IL-21 did not display a detectable level of HIV-1.

    An analysis of the results suggested that IL-21 not only jump starts the immune system but also stops the HIV-1 virus from replicating during a critical, early window of its development, when it is concentrated in one location and has not yet started to spread throughout the body.

    "This study highlights components of the human immune system that are capable of mounting an antiviral response and driving intrinsic resistance to HIV-1," said senior author Dr Laurie H Glimcher, of Weill Cornell Medical College.

    "We are hopeful that this knowledge will help bring us one step closer to shielding patients from this deadly and complex virus," Glimcher said.

    The reduction in viral load is due to the cascade of events initiated by IL-21.

    The investigators found that IL-21 instructs CD4 T cells to increase the amount of a small RNA molecule. That molecule, microRNA-29 (miR-29), inhibits the replication of HIV-1, limiting the amount of virus produced from infected cells.

    "Our study has uncovered a potentially potent arsenal that patients have against the virus. We think IL-21 is one of those arsenals and that deploying it early will be very powerful in fighting the infection," said lead author Dr Stanley Adoro, a postdoctoral associate in medicine in Glimcher's lab.

    The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.


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