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Health Bulletin


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  1. #2071
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Brain waves blamed for indecisiveness


    How often do you have a problem in making decisions? A new study has suggested that intensity of communication between different regions of the brain dictates whether a person is indecisive or not.

    The more intensive the information flow, the more decisive a person is.

    A team of researchers led by Christian Ruff of the University of Zurich discovered that the key for stable preference choices is the intensity of the communication between two areas of the brain which represent our preferences or are involved in spatial orientation and action planning.

    The researchers using a technique intensified or reduced the information flow between the prefrontal cortex located directly below the forehead and the parietal cortex just above both ears.

    The test subjects had to make preference-based or purely sensory decisions about food.

    Ruff discovered that preference-based decisions were less stable if the information flow between the two brain regions was disrupted.

    Ruff said their test subjects were therefore more indecisive.

    He explained that the communication between the two brain regions is only relevant if a person has to decide whether they like something and not when they make decisions based on objective facts.

    (The study is published in the Journal Nature Communications.)


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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Breastfeeding can expose babies to toxic chemicals

    Breastfeeding may expose babies to a widely used class of industrial chemicals linked with cancer and interfere with their immunity, a new study has claimed.

    Perfluorinated alkylate substances, or PFASs appears to build up in infants by 20 to 30% for each month they're breastfed, according to the study by experts from Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. "We knew that small amounts of PFAS can occur in breast milk, but our serial blood analyses now show a buildup in infants the longer they are breastfed," said professor Philippe Grandjean.

    PFASs are used to make products resistant to water, grease, and stains and have been in use for more than 60 years in products such as stain-proof textiles, waterproof clothing, food packaging, paints, and lubricants, and are known to contaminate drinking water. These compounds, which tend to bio-accumulate in food chains and can persist for a long time in the body, are found in the blood of animals and humans , and have been linked with reproductive toxicity , endocrine disruption, and immune system dysfunction.

    The researchers followed 81 children, born in the Faroe Islands, between 1997-2000, looking at levels of five types of PFASs in their blood at birth and at ages 11 months, 18 months, and 5 years. PFAS levels in mothers of the children at week 32 of pregnancy were also checked. They found that in children who were exclusively breastfed, PFAS concentrations in the blood increased by 20 to 30% each month, with lower increases among children who were partially breastfed.

    In some cases, children's serum concentration levels of PFASs exceeded that of their mothers'. One type of PFAS -perfluorohexanesulfonate -did not increase with breastfeeding.After breastfeeding was stopped, concentrations of all of five types of PFASs decreased.

    "There is no reason to discourage breastfeeding, but these pollutants are transferred to the next generation at a vulnerable age. The current US legislation does not require any testing of chemical substances like PFASs for their transfer to babies and any related adverse effects," Grandjean said.


  3. #2073
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Nano medicine breakthrough a giant leap for India

    National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER), Mohali has put India in the select club of countries that manufacture raw material for generating nano-crystal based medicines.

    Nano-crystals are tiny nanometre-sized particles of the drug that act faster and more efficiently than the conventional ones. The US and Ireland are the only other countries where the technology is available.

    NIPER has already got an Indian patent for the technology and has now applied for the US and the European patents. The indigenous technology will cut the cost of such drugs by almost half, claim experts who have developed the technology in laboratory quantities at NIPER.

    The nanotechnology-enabled drug delivery market is estimated to be $136 billion. Out of this, 60% share is expected to be occupied by nanocrystals.

    "NIPER has developed a technology for generation of nano crystalline solid dispersions called NanoCrySP. More than 60% of the drugs are not easily soluble in water. This prevents their absorption in the blood and tissues and most of the drug is excreted without absorption. Consequently, oral drugs lose their efficiency. Using nano-crystals for medicines this problem of insolubility has been resolved, as the technology to prepare raw material for the production of these crystals has been developed," said Dr K K Bhutani acting director of NIPER.

    He added, "Unlike the available and patented technology abroad, the indigenous process generates the nano-crystals directly as a solid powder, rather than as a nano-suspension in liquid that has to be subsequently converted into a solid. This has helped in cutting down the cost of generating nano-crystal raw material and opening further competition in the pharmaceutical drug development market."

    NIPER has entered into licensing agreement for development and commercialisation, retaining the ownership of the patent, with Windlas Biotech limited, an Indian pharmaceutical company. Currently the technology is in nascent stage of laboratory scale trials. The commercial partner would scale up the technology and go further for clinical trials.

    After commercialization of products based on NanoCrySP, sales linked royalty payment shall be made to NIPER by the company. This technology, if successful, could allow for discovery of new treatments for existing molecules.
    Nano medicine breakthrough a giant leap for India

    National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER), Mohali has put India in the select club of countries that manufacture raw material for generating nano-crystal based medicines.

    Nano-crystals are tiny nanometre-sized particles of the drug that act faster and more efficiently than the conventional ones. The US and Ireland are the only other countries where the technology is available.

    NIPER has already got an Indian patent for the technology and has now applied for the US and the European patents. The indigenous technology will cut the cost of such drugs by almost half, claim experts who have developed the technology in laboratory quantities at NIPER.

    The nanotechnology-enabled drug delivery market is estimated to be $136 billion. Out of this, 60% share is expected to be occupied by nanocrystals.

    "NIPER has developed a technology for generation of nano crystalline solid dispersions called NanoCrySP. More than 60% of the drugs are not easily soluble in water. This prevents their absorption in the blood and tissues and most of the drug is excreted without absorption. Consequently, oral drugs lose their efficiency. Using nano-crystals for medicines this problem of insolubility has been resolved, as the technology to prepare raw material for the production of these crystals has been developed," said Dr K K Bhutani acting director of NIPER.

    He added, "Unlike the available and patented technology abroad, the indigenous process generates the nano-crystals directly as a solid powder, rather than as a nano-suspension in liquid that has to be subsequently converted into a solid. This has helped in cutting down the cost of generating nano-crystal raw material and opening further competition in the pharmaceutical drug development market."

    NIPER has entered into licensing agreement for development and commercialisation, retaining the ownership of the patent, with Windlas Biotech limited, an Indian pharmaceutical company. Currently the technology is in nascent stage of laboratory scale trials. The commercial partner would scale up the technology and go further for clinical trials.

    After commercialization of products based on NanoCrySP, sales linked royalty payment shall be made to NIPER by the company. This technology, if successful, could allow for discovery of new treatments for existing molecules.


  4. #2074
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Most women opting for contraceptive injection are unaware of health risks


    Laura Francis (name changed), 30, has been using contraceptive injections for six months, but she was in the dark about the health risks involved till recently.

    "I have now learnt that they might cause breast cancer, liver problems, cirrhosis and fatal complications during child birth. When I approached the Family Planning Association of India (FPAI) from where I get them, I was informed about certain side-effects like irregular menstruation, nausea, abdominal and chest pain and abnormal bleeding. If I had been told about other high health risks I would have never used it," the homemaker told TOI.

    Sheela B (name changed), also a homemaker, says she was informed only about irregular menstrual cycles and abdominal pain but not any major health complications because of the injections.

    Contraceptive injections are preferred by women for reasons of privacy and confidentiality as they don't want others to know what contraceptives they are using, says Rekha G, branch manager of FPAI, Bengaluru. The injections are administered at all the 35 branches of FPAI across the country.

    Laura thought contraceptive injection was the best bet as the couple wanted to give a gap of at least four years between their first two children. She has had two shots of Depo-Provera. "I won't use it anymore. I definitely don't want to put my next pregnancy at stake," she says.

    FPAI counselor Jayalakshmi M, however, says: "Before injecting contraceptives, we conduct two rounds of counselling where patients are informed about all the pros and cons involved. All our patients are aware of what might be the consequences of using it and make informed choices."

    Dr Lavanya Kiran, senior consultant gynaecologist, Narayana Health, says using contraceptive injections extensively - say for four to five years - might increase the chances of breast cancer, liver cirrhosis, bone depletion, arthritis, migraine, liver tumor and diabetes. "The worst part is, it might lead to temporary infertility and complications during child birth. Using it for a short while won't affect the patients much, but they should be made aware of the advantages and disadvantages of using it," she says.

    Dr Padma S, consultant gynaecologist, BGS Global Hospitals, says contraceptive injections should be used only in small doses and that too, for some time. "Very few patients opt for the contraceptive injection due to its adverse effects," she says.


  5. #2075
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    In major step, experts close in on universal flu vaccine

    cientists have taken a major step towards creating a vaccine that works against multiple strains of influenza, according to two studies published on Monday in top journals. A "universal vaccine" is the holy grail of immunisation efforts against the flu, a shape-shifting virus which kills up to half a million people each year, according the World Health Organization.

    There have been several killer pandemics in the last century -the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak claimed at least 20 million lives. Existing vaccines target a part of the virus that mutates constantly , forcing drug makers and health officials to concoct new anti-flu cocktails every year.

    In the two studies, published in Nature and Science, researchers tested new vaccines on mice, ferrets and monkeys that duplicate another, more stable, part of the virus. Scientists have long known that the stem of haemagglutinin -a spike-like protein, known as HA, on the surface of the virus -remains largely the same even when the tip, or "head", changes. They have now been able to use the stem to provoke an immune reaction in lab animals that would either neutralise the virus, or let the body destroy infected cells.


  6. #2076
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Magnetic stimulation can reduce bedwetting: Study

    Researchers have found that magnetic stimulation of the lower back can reduce the frequency of nighttime bed-wetting and improve quality-of-life for sufferers.

    Bedwetting, or nocturnal enuresis, causes distress in children and young adults. Researchers have found that repeti RELIEF A tive sacral root magnetic stimulation (rSMS) can reduce the frequency of nighttime bedwetting.

    In a study conducted by researchers at the Assiut University Hospital, Egypt, 41 patients experiencing nocturnal enuresis were divided into two groups receiving either real magnetic stimulation or a sham stimulation using the same equipment and procedures. Each participant received 10 sessions, five per week. A magnetic stimulator was placed over the sacral vertebrae in the lower back and 15 Hz pulses were applied for 10 seconds on and 30 seconds off. For the sham proce dure, the stimulator was internally ad justed so that little magnetic stimula tion could reach the T HAND underlying tissue.

    The average num ber of weekly nocturnal bedwetting episodes fell from 5.7 to 0.3 per week af ter the end of the treatment sessions for the real group compared to 6.5 to 1.8 per week after sham stimulation. Although the sham procedure resulted in im provement (placebo effect), improve ment in the real group continued one month later whereas the sham group returned to baseline behaviour.


  7. #2077
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Cancer stalks: Second cases on the rise

    Second cancers are on the rise. Nearly 1 in 5 new cases in the US now involves someone who has had the disease before. When doctors talk about second cancers, they mean a different tissue type or a different site, not a recurrence or spread of the original tumor.

    Judith Bernstein of Philadelphia is an extreme example. She has had eight types over the last two decades, all treated successfully. "There was a while when I was getting one cancer diagnosis after another," including breast, lung, esophageal, and the latest -a rare tumor of her eyelids, Bernstein said. "At one point I thought I had can cer in my little finger."

    About 19% of cancers in the US now are second-or-more cases, a recent study found. In the 1970s, it was only 9%. Over that period, the number of first cancers rose 70% while the number of second cancers rose 300%. Strange as it may sound, this is partly a success story: More people are surviving cancer and living long enough to get it again, because the risk of cancer rises with age.

    Second cancers also can arise from the same gene mutations or risk factors, such as smoking, that spurred the first one. And some of the very treatments that help people survive their first cancer, such as radiation, can raise the risk of a new cancer forming later in life, although treatments have greatly improved in recent years to minimize this problem.

    Psychologically , a second cancer often is more traumatizing than the first.


  8. #2078
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Neurons that help us form habits discovered


    MIT researchers have discovered neurons in the brain that weigh costs and benefits to drive formation of habits.

    Researchers found that habit formation, at least in primates, is driven by neurons that represent the cost of a habit, as well as the reward.

    "The brain seems to be wired to seek some near optimality of cost and benefit," said Ann Graybiel, an Institute Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and also a member of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research.

    Previous work by Graybiel and her colleagues discovered clear beginning and ending signals in the brain when habits are performed.

    These signals appear in the striatum, a part of the brain that, among other things, coordinates body movements; the signals have been observed in mice, rats, and monkeys that have been trained to perform specific tasks.

    A few years ago, Graybiel and Theresa Desrochers, then a doctoral student in her lab, decided to let two monkeys learn a habit on their own, without training, as a way to mimic real-life learning. They also recorded the activity of 1,600 neurons in the striatum during the learning period.

    The primates learned, over several months, to visually navigate a grid of dots on a screen in search of a randomly selected one that has been "baited," meaning that the monkey will receive a squirt of juice when its eyes pass through it.

    When the monkey's eyes land on the "baited" dot, the colour of the grid of dots changes, indicating a reward is coming. Over time the monkey's eyes followed the same path repeatedly, suggesting that the eye movements had became habitual.

    In addition, these habitual eye-scanning patterns became more efficient. The monkeys shortened the paths they used to visit the dots. Graybiel and Desrochers published these findings in 2010.

    The new paper shows the findings of the analysis of the neural recordings captured as the monkeys learned the habit.

    Graybiel along with, Desrochers, now a postdoc at Brown University, and Ken-ichi Amemori, a research scientist in Graybiel's lab, observed the formation of clear beginning and ending signals at the boundaries of the habitual activity. In addition, over time, the ending signals changed dramatically.

    During the early stages of learning, the signals are less precisely timed, firing throughout the time window. But as learning progresses, the neurons begin to fire at almost precisely the same time in that narrow window right after the monkey's habit ends.

    To link the firing of these neurons to habit formation, the team compared the changes in neural activity with changes in behaviour, finding that the two changed in parallel.

    The changes in firing of some neurons tracked with cost, measured in terms of the length of the path of the eye movements during a trial, while others correlated with reward.

    Still others correlated with both cost and reward, and it was these neurons that sharpened their firing as the monkeys learned the habit and settled on a shorter, lower-cost eye movement pattern.


  9. #2079
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    'Smaller men' more prone to violent acts

    Men who feel insecure about their masculinity may be more likely to resort to violence, a research in the US has shown.

    In a survey of 600 men, those who perceived themselves as less masculine and worried what other people thought of them were as likely to say they had committed a violent act as those men who identified themselves as particularly masculine. By contrast, those who considered themselves less masculine than average, but didn't worry about it, were the least likely to act violently, or to engage in other dangerous behaviour, such as drink driving.

    The researchers behind the study, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of Violence Prevention, said violence control efforts should focus on how "gender norms may induce distress in boys and men" that could lead them to "act out" with risk-taking or violence.

    Men are already known to be at greater risk of injury and poor health, and are more likely to take risks like drug-taking, driving under the influence and carrying a weapon, the study said. Those who identify as highly masculine are generally more likely to take part in these behaviours.

    However, the findings indicate that insecurity could also be a factor underlying aggressive or dangerous acts.

    In the survey men were asked how strongly they agreed with statements that tested their own attitudes to their masculinity, such as "I am less masculine than the average guy".

    They were also asked to respond to statements that indicated how worried they were about this — such as "I wish I was more manly" and "I worry that women find me less attractive because I'm not as macho as other guys".

    Finally they were asked to give information on whether they had ever been in a fight, assaulted someone, used a weapon or intentionally caused serious injury.

    Those who both considered themselves less masculine, and worried about others perceptions of them because of this - known as masculine discrepancy stress — were more than three times more likely to have committed an assault that caused injury, than those who had low levels of this kind of stress, the study, published in the journal Injury Prevention, found.

    They were also more likely to have committed assault with a weapon.


  10. #2080
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Indian scientists discover Alzheimer's dark secrets

    In a major breakthrough, Indian scientists have managed to get a glimpse of the protein fragments known as amyloid beta, which hallmark Alzheimer's disease.

    "Everybody wants to make the key to solve Alzheimer's Disease, but we don't know what the lock looks like. We now have a glimpse of something which could be the lock. May be it is still not the real thing, but as of now, this is our best bet," said research co-director Sudipta Maiti from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) here.

    The possible lock looks like a bunch of amyloid beta molecules in the shape of a hairpin, but with a twist, the researchers found.

    Knowing the shape and form of the toxic molecule could lead to better ways of defeating it and evolving an effective therapy for Alzheimer's disease that robs the old of their memory.

    "This has been suspected earlier, but what we found was an unexpected twist in the structure, now becoming a beta-hairpin -- very different from the typical hairpin structure people imagined," said Debanjan Bhowmik from TIFR, the lead contributor of the study.

    "This may allow these bunch of amyloid beta molecules to form toxic pores in the cell membranes," Bhowmik explained.

    The joint team of researchers from TIFR, Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru and the University of Toronto in Canada, cracked the problem that has eluded scientists for years, by using a modified version of Raman Spectroscopy.

    A critical modification in the original Raman Spectroscopy technique allowed the measurement of tiny signals that would otherwise have gone unnoticed.

    They encased silver nanoparticles in a fat layer ("membrane") that mimicked the outer membranes of living cells.

    "While the amyloid beta got fooled by it and stuck to the membrane, the silver inside enhanced the signal to a measurable level and acted as a light beacon to reveal the peptide signature," study co-author Gilbert Walker from University of Toronto pointed out.

    The findings were published in the journal ACS Nano.


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