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Health Bulletin


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  1. #2051
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Male, female brains operate differently: Study

    A new study of a brain region involved in learning and memory, responses to stress and epilepsy has found that male and female brains operate differently at a molecular level.

    The findings suggest that female and male brains may respond differently to certain drugs.

    "The importance of studying sex differences in the brain is about making biology and medicine relevant to everyone, to both men and women," said senior author of the study Catherine Woolley, professor at Northwestern in Illinois, US.

    "It is not about things such as who is better at reading a map or why more men than women choose to enter certain professions," Woolley explained.

    Among their findings, the scientists found that a drug called URB-597, which regulates a molecule important in neurotransmitter release, had an effect in females that it did not have in males.

    While the study was done in rats, it has broad implications for humans because this drug and others like it are currently being tested in clinical trials in humans.

    To find out what is the same and what is different between males and females, scientists need to study both sexes, Woolley maintained.

    Currently, about 85 percent of basic neuroscience studies are done in male animals, tissues or cells.

    "We are not doing women — and specifically women's health — any favours by pretending that things are the same if they are not," Woolley said.

    "If the results of research would be different in female animals, tissues and cells, then we need to know. This is essential so that we can find appropriate diagnoses, treatments and, ultimately, cures for disease in both sexes," she pointed out.

    The study was published in The Journal of Neuroscience.


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  2. #2052
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Coming, a weight-loss pill from cannabis


    A weight loss pill may be available in five years, suggest researchers who found that a combination of extracts taken from cannabis and vitamin A shows promise as a drug to tackle obesity.

    "The results of our study show, for the first time, that particular compounds in cannabis and vitamin A can work together to reduce the deposit of lipids (fats)," said Dr Yann Gibert, head of Metabolic Genetic Diseases Research Laboratory, Deakin University, Australia. "This opens up exciting opportunities to potentially treat obesity without invasive surgery," Gibert said.

    Researchers used zebrafish and human cells to test the effect of the Endocannabinoid system (an active compound of cannabis which plays a role in appetite regulation and fat formation) and the Retinoic Acid Pathway (an active component of vitamin A) on reducing the deposit of fat.

    "The complementary actions of the Endocannabinoid system and Retinoic Acid Pathway in reducing fat deposits have the potential to treat obesity in a safer and more effective way than if they were used independently," he said. "This approach only focuses on fat, and avoids effects on brain, which has been a concern in previous research involving cannabis," he said.


  3. #2053
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Soon, ‘medical passport’ for people with Down Syndrome

    Revathi spends most of her time in a special school. She is looked after by her elder brother. She is 70 and has Down Syndrome, a genetic condition characterised by low IQ. A caretaker, who may have to replace her elder brother, would find it difficult as Revathi wouldn't be able to explain her condition .

    A team of doctors is working on a 'medical passport' for such people who outlive their parents and relatives. This will be discussed at the 12th World Down Syndrome Congress to be held in the city from August 18 to 21. "We advise people to carry their name and contact details in their pockets so that it may help them in times of emergency. People with Down Syndrome and other medical conditions would find the medical passport useful when they have a problem," said Surekha Ramachandran, founder, Down Syndrome Federation of India. The passport will carry complete medical details of an individual with Down Syndrome. "The design of the passport would be ready by the end of the Congress. We will also see how to make it available, may be in a downloadable form online," said Mediscan director Dr S Suresh. Representatives from 38 countries, including people with Down Syndrome, will be part of the congress with the theme 'panch tatvas' (five norms).


  4. #2054
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Cleft lip awareness programme launched in Tamil Nadu


    Smile Train, an NGO, and Sri Ramachandra Medical College and Research Institute, Chennai, have collaborated with Tamil Nadu Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) to reach out to schools in rural areas to create awareness on cleft lip and palate.

    They have chosen 432 block level government schools in the region to raise awareness as part of the celebrations of 'Cleft Week' in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry which will be on till August 18.

    The programme will focus on increasing awareness on the cleft amongst the society, parents and care givers by organizing rallies, walks and distributing leaflets at schools.

    Smile Train has already announced that it will be facilitating free corrective surgeries for children suffering from this problem. Free examination, counselling and free cleft lip and palate surgeries will be provided by the partner hospitals throughout the year.

    Apart from SRMC in Chennai, Smile Train has partnered with Meenakshi Mission Hospital and Research Centre in Madurai, Jipmer in Puducherry, Ganga Medical Centre and Hospitals in Coimbatore, ML Hospital in Nagercoil, Vinayaka Mission Hospital in Salem and CMC Hospital in Vellore.


  5. #2055
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    New approach kills cancer cells' defence

    Researchers have developed a novel approach to defeat the defence mechanism of ovarian cancer cells, making it easier to permanently eliminate them.

    Researchers at Oregon State University used photodynamic therapy to combat ovarian cancer in laboratory animals, using a combination of techniques that achieved complete cancer cell elimination with no re-growth of tumours.

    "Cancer cells are very smart. They over express certain proteins, including one called DJ1, that help them survive attack by reactive oxygen species that otherwise might kill them," said study author, Oleh Taratula.

    "We believe a key to the success of this therapy is that it takes away those defensive mechanisms," Taratula explained.

    Ovarian cancer has a high mortality rate because it often has metastasised into the abdominal cavity before it is discovered.

    Surgery and chemotherapy are the traditional approaches to ovarian cancer, but it is very difficult to identify all of the places where a tumour has spread.

    "Photodynamic therapy is a different approach that can be used as an adjunct to surgery right during the operation, and appears to be very safe and non-toxic," Taratula said.

    In the new approach, a patient is first given a photosensitizing compound called phthalocyanine, which produces reactive oxygen that kills cells when they are exposed to near-infrared light.

    In addition, a gene therapy is administered that lowers the cellular defence against reactive oxygen species.

    Using photodynamic therapy alone, some tumours in laboratory animals began to re-grow after two weeks.

    But with the addition of the combinatorial genetic therapy to weaken the cancer cell defences, there was no evidence of cancer recurrence.

    "The tumours exposed to a single dose of a combinatorial therapy were completely eradicated from the mice," Taratula concluded.

    During the procedures, mice receiving the gene therapy also continued to grow and gain weight, indicating a lack of side effects.

    The findings were published in the journal, Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and M


  6. #2056
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Indian-American scientist discovers wake-sleep mechanism

    An Indian-American scientist has found a simple mechanism controlling the sleep-wake process in animals, which appears to have been conserved over several hundred million years and could be possible in humans.

    Ravi Allada, circadian rhythms expert at the Northwestern University in the US state of Illinois, has discovered how an animal's biological clock wakes it up in the morning and sends it to sleep at night.

    A simple two-cycle mechanism turns key brain neurons on or off during a 24-hour day, according to the findings published in journal Cell. The clock's mechanism is much like a switch.

    In the study of brain circadian neurons that govern the daily sleep-wake cycle timing, Allada and his research team found high sodium channel activity in these neurons during the day turn the cells on and ultimately awakes an animal.

    Similarly high potassium channel activity at night turn them off, allowing the animal to sleep.

    The researchers were surprised to discover the same sleep-wake switch in flies and mice as well.

    "This suggests the underlying mechanism controlling our sleep-wake cycle is ancient," Allada was quoted as saying in a report on the website of Northwestern University.

    "This oscillation mechanism appears to be conserved across several hundred million years of evolution. And if it's in the mouse, it is likely in humans, too," said Allada, professor and chair of neurobiology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

    Better understanding of this mechanism could lead to new drug targets to address sleep-wake trouble related to jet lag, shift work and other clock-induced problems.

    Eventually, it might be possible to reset a person's internal clock to suit his or her situation.

    The researchers call it a 'bicycle' mechanism: two pedals that go up and down across a 24-hour day, conveying important time information to the neurons.

    That the researchers found the two pedals — a sodium current and potassium currents — active in both the simple fruit fly and the more complex mouse was unexpected.

    "Our starting point for this research was mutant flies missing a sodium channel who walked in a halting manner and had poor circadian rhythms.

    "It took a long time, but we were able to pull everything — genomics, genetics, behavior studies and electrical measurements of neuron activity — together in this paper, in a study of two species," Allada said.

    "Now, of course, we have more questions about what's regulating this sleep-wake pathway, so there is more work to be done," he added.


  7. #2057
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Exercise all you want but a bad diet will doom you: Experts


    Think clocking those miles every morning religiously and sweating it at the gym for a couple of hours every day makes you feel fit? Not always, say doctors, as being overweight is all down to bad diet rather than a lack of exercise.

    According to a recently published study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, it is argued that diet matters much more than physical activity, and all the exercise that people do won't help them stay healthy if they continue to eat a diet high in sugar and carbohydrates. The study has debunked the popular belief that exercise alone can be the key to weight loss.

    Dr Vijay Viswanathan, chief diabetologist at M V Hospital for Diabetes, said that despite exercising regularly and enjoying a normal weight, healthy-looking people can still be very unhealthy due to poor diet - a diet which has an abundance of sugar and carbohydrates. "Up to 40% of those with a normal body mass index (BMI) may have health problems typically associated with obesity, such as hypertension, dyslipidaemia, fatty liver disease and cardiovascular disease," the doctor pointed out. Exercise with an active lifestyle should always be accompanied by a healthy diet. Both are equally important, he added.

    Nutritionist Dr Patricia Trueman says that it is a myth that it is alright to consume a junk diet as long as one exercises; the source of calories is equally crucial. "For example, sugar calories promote fat storage and hunger, while fat calories induce fullness or 'satiation' but can also cause heart disease. For every additional 150 calories in sugar that people consume daily, the risk of type 2 diabetes goes up 11-fold, in comparison to the same number of calories obtained from fat or protein," she said. So there is an urgent need to rethink the role of sugary drinks and fat rich foods in our diet, she added.

    Changing food habits from sugary foods to complex carbohydrates like millets will do far more for public health than counselling or education, argues Dr Viswanathan. "Reducing sugar content in one's diet can have long-term positive impact on health. There are artificial sweeteners available, which add sweetness to food without the health penalties of crystallized sugar so commonly used in our day-to-day food," he said.

    The single most important thing that people can do for their weight is to restrict calories and carbohydrates, pointed out Dr Trueman. Whole natural foods are the best bet for good health. Trying to lose weight with only a restricted calorie intake results in a loss of muscle mass and not fat. "Physical exercise with an active lifestyle ensures muscle health. Therefore a good diet should always be accompanied with an active lifestyle," she added.


  8. #2058
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Soon, single scan to detect blood clots anywhere in body


    Researchers have developed a new method that could one day be used to detect blood clots anywhere in the body with a single scan. To treat a blood clot, doctors need to find its exact location.

    However, current clinical techniques can only look at one part of the body at a time, slowing treatment and increasing the risk for complications.

    If a person suffers a stroke that stems from a blood clot, the their risk for a second stroke skyrockets, said researcher Peter Caravan at Massachusetts General Hospital.The initial blood clot can break apart and cause more strokes if it is not quickly found and treated. Depending on where the blood clot is located, the treatment varies - some of them respond well to drugs, while others are better addressed with surgery. To locate a blood clot, a physician may need to use three different methods.: ultrasound to check the carotid arteries or legs, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to scan the heart and computed tomography to view the lungs.

    "It's a shot in the dark. Patients could end up being scanned multiple times by multiple techniques in order to locate a clot. We sought a method that could detect blood clots anywhere in the body with a single whole-body scan," Caravan said.

    In previous work, Caravan's team at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital identified a peptide that binds specifically to fibrin - an insoluble protein fibre found in blood clots. In the current study, they developed a blood clot probe by attaching a radionuclide to the peptide. Radionuclides can be detected anywhere in the body by an imaging method called positron emission tomography (PET).The researchers used different radionuclides and peptides, as well as different chemical groups for linking the radionuclide to the peptide, to identify which combination would provide the brightest PET signal in blood clots.

    They ultimately constructed and tested 15 candidate blood clot probes. The researchers first analysed how well each probe bound to fibrin in a test tube, and then they studied how well the probe detected blood clots in rats.

    "The probes all had a similar affinity to fibrin in vitro, but, in rats, their performances were quite different," said Caravan.

    He attributed these differences to metabolism. Some probes were broken down quickly in the body and could no longer bind to blood clots, but others were resistant to metabolism.

    The team is moving forward into the next phase of research with the best-performing probe called FBP8. It contained copper-64 as the radionuclide. Caravan said that the group is hoping to start testing the probe in human patients in the fall, but it could take an additional five years of research before the probe is approved for routine use in a clinical setting.


  9. #2059
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Web overuse may make you forgetful


    Whether sitting on a train or having dinner at a restaurant, many people find it hard to stop fiddling with their mobile phones — firing off a never-ending stream of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts. If this online hyperactivity looks exhausting, it's no surprise to discover that these high-frequency internet users find it much more difficult to pay attention to what's going on around them than the rest of us - even when they are not consumed by the web.

    New research finds that the most frequent mobile phone and internet users are the most likely to be distracted, for example by being prone to missing important appointments and daydreaming while having a conversation. In the first study of its kind, an academic from Leicester's De Montfort University has found that the more times a person uses the internet or their mobile phone, the more likely they are to experience "cognitive failures".

    These include a whole range of blunders, and a general lack of awareness of a person's surroundings that stretches as far as people forgetting why they have just gone from one part of the house to the other says Dr Lee Hadlington, author of the research. The study draws the same conclusions among users of mobile phones without internet access as with it - suggesting that mobile phone conversations and surfing the web are similarly associated with distraction.

    But whether the most digitally active people are more distracted because their excessive online activity makes them jittery or hyperactive, or whether it is the other way around - that they are more drawn to these activities because they naturally have short "attentional control" - is unclear at this stage, he says.

    Dr Hadlington does have a theory, however: that it is a mix of the two. In other words, those people already suffering from short attention spans are drawn to the distractions of modern technology, which makes it even harder for them to pay attention to their surroundings.

    His research has been published in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour. He is now working on research to answer this question more comprehensively and to look for ways to solve the problem.

    "This is a very underexamined area and a very important one. We are using technology on a daily basis but we don't understand its effect on us," Dr Hadlington said.

    "We don't know what's actually happening to our cognition when we are using this technology and that's the important thing. What we do know from this research is that there are some statistically significant numbers of people who say they use the internet or their phone a lot and who experience cognitive failures," he added. Health news: in pictures

    The study asked people a series of questions to determine whether they experienced certain types of "blunders" - defined as factors relating to their ability to focus, physical blunders such as bumping into things, and memory.

    The study was conducted among 107 men and 103 women between the ages of 18 and 65, who spent an average of 22.95 hours a week online.


  10. #2060
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    How DNA can store digital data for thousands of years

    Researchers claimed to have made a breakthrough discovery on how to store information for years without using the modern-day hard drives – courtesy, DNA.

    In a new research, scientists successfully demonstrated that a massive amounts of digital information can be saved in a single molecule of DNA, which will store the data safely for up to 1 million years.

    At the 250th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the team demonstrated that DNA-encapsulated information had endured the equivalent of 2,000 years with no decoding errors.

    To come to this conclusion, scientists used a small amount of data for the encoded DNA, around 80 kilobytes of text from the Swiss National Charter and the work of Archimedes.

    They then used a machine to synthesize DNA molecules and warmed it to 71C for a week, or the equivalent of being stored at 50C for 2,000 years. The team decoded the DNA and found that it was intact and error-free.

    The research was conducted by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH).

    “A little after the discovery of the double helix architecture of DNA, people figured out that the coding language of nature is very similar to the binary language we use in computers,” Dr Robert Grass of Swiss university ETH Zurich and who led the team was quoted as saying.

    “On a hard drive, we use zeros and ones to represent data, and in DNA we have four nucleotides, A, C, T and G,” Grass added.

    It is said that DNA holds significant advantages over hard drives, in the bigger picture. In theory, while an external hard drive can hold up to 5 terabytes of data, a fraction of DNA could store more than 300,000 terabytes.


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