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Health Bulletin


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  1. #2181
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Genetic blueprint of inner ear cell development created

    Using a sensitive new technology, scientists have created the first high-resolution gene expression map of the newborn mouse inner ear.

    The findings provide new insight into how hair cells and supporting cells in the inner ear develop and differentiate into specialized cells that serve critical functions for hearing and maintaining balance.

    Understanding how these important cells form may provide a foundation for the potential development of cell-based therapies for treating hearing loss and balance disorders.

    "Age-related hearing loss occurs gradually in most of us as we grow older. It is one of the most common conditions among older adults, affecting half of people over age 75," said James F. Battey, director of the US National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD).

    Hair cells and supporting cells can be damaged by medications, infections or disease, injury and ageing, leading to hearing loss and balance problems.

    In humans, these cells cannot naturally repair themselves, so effective treatments are limited.

    To gain a better understanding of inner ear cell development, the team used single-cell RNA-seq - a new technology that can extract comprehensive gene activity data from just one cell.

    The team analyzed 301 cells - some hair cells and some supporting cells - taken from the cochlea and utricle of newborn mice.

    By comparing the cells' gene activity profiles, the researchers found unique patterns in hair cells and supporting cells.

    The data also allowed the scientists to identify distinct developmental patterns of gene activity.

    By analyzing the cells' gene activity profiles, the scientists were able to identify genes that are active at each stage of development, bringing to light important clues about how the specialized hair cells are formed.

    "Using this single-cell profiling technique provides a new option to identify the genetic activity of cells, particularly in systems with limited numbers of cells, like the inner ear," noted Matthew Kelley, senior study author from NIDCD.

    Identifying the gene expression maps for the development of inner ear cells is essential to understanding how they form, and may help scientists create ways to regenerate these cells.

    The paper appeared in the journal Nature Communications.


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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Ahmedabad institute develops new diabetes markers

    Of India's 559,718 diabetics, at least a quarter or some 161,578 are in Gujarat. Retinopathy is one of the most serious microvascular complications of diabetes, resulting in blindness for over 50% patients across the country. In such a scenario, National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (Niper), Ahmedabad has not only developed new markers to predict such secondary complications but also modified an antidiabetic molecule to reduce the cost of drugs.

    Present anti-diabetic drugs cost between Rs 100 to Rs 650 per mg. But the one developed by Niper costs only Rs 20 per mg and will benefit millions of diabetes patients in the country. Niper has also secured a patent for the invention which promises to be a revolution in the healthcare sector. Led by institute director Prof Kiran Kalia, the team has also created proteomic and genomic markers to predict onset of secondary complications in diabetics like retinopathy and nephro pathy ."Presently , secondary complications are diagnosed at an advanced stage. But, we've developed bio markers that can predict such serious complications by urine and blood tests at an initial level," she said.

    Senior diabetologist Dr Mayur Patel said: "Reducing the cost of therapy will be a boon. In India, nearly 60% of patients have to mortgage their property to keep their blood sugar under control. If we can predict future complications, it can reduce the financial burden on millions of patients."

    He said: "When cost of therapy falls, physical and physiological suffering also reduces not of just the patient but the entire family ."

    Prof Kalia said: "With a rise in lifestyle diseases, an anti-diabetic molecule is one of the largest-selling formula tions in the domestic pharma retail market. Thus, reducing its cost will be a boon for several patients. The new molecule is a new class of compound than drugs available in the market." She said: "The same product is being chemically synthesized and further modified to improve its efficacy ."


  3. #2183
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Dengue in childhood can increase early heart attack risk

    Infectious diseases such as typhoid, measles, chicken pox, bronchitis, tuberculosis and dengue in childhood can increase risk of getting a heart attack in adulthood, suggests new research.

    The researchers found that unhealthy lifestyles in adulthood appear to compound the risk.

    "One explanation is that infection initiates chronic inflammation and atherosclerosis in the arteries," said researcher Andriany Qanitha from Academic Medical Centre of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

    "It could (also) be that infection modifies cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors and leads to ACS," Qanitha noted.

    This was a population-based case-control study of 153 patients with a first acute coronary syndromes (ACS) or heart attacks before the age of 56 years and 153 age- and sex-matched controls with no history of ACS in Makassar, Indonesia.

    Severe infection was defined as fever for three days or more, or hospitalisation due to infectious disease.

    The researchers used a detailed questionnaire and interviews with patients and controls, plus family members, to obtain information on history of infection during four periods of early life: infancy and pre-school (zero-five years), elementary school (six-13 years), junior high school (14-17 years), and senior high school (18-21 years).

    The researchers found that infection experienced in childhood and adolescence was associated with a three-fold higher occurrence of premature heart attack later in life.

    "Our findings may apply to other countries in South-East Asia where infectious disease is still prevalent," Qanitha noted.

    The study is scheduled to be presented at an Acute Cardiovascular Care Association meeting to be held from October 17 -19 October in Vienna, Austria.


  4. #2184
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Food porn may be making you fat

    So-called 'food porn' could be helping make us fatter, scientists have warned. The practice of glamourizing food by posting attractive, colourful pictures of mouth-watering meals on Instagram or other social media sites may well be playing havoc with people's waistlines, according to a new study. This is because the sight of appealing food is "a powerful cue" to the brain.

    Researchers at Oxford University have highlighted that even amid Britain's obesity crisis, "it feels as though we are being exposed to ever more appetizing (and typically high calorie) images of food" everyday.

    The study, published in the Brain and Cognition, noted that people are "bombarded with gastroporn" via social media, books on food, advertising and cookery shows. "It has been suggested that those currently living in the Western world are watching more cookery shows on TV than ever before," the researchers said.

    They noted that sight is one of the most important senses when it comes to seeking out food, traditionally helping humans know what to eat and what to avoid.


  5. #2185
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Money trouble: Currency notes are laced with infections

    Money can buy everything. But what it gives for free is surely no one wants. A study conducted by microbiology department of King George's Medical University suggests that currency notes and coins could be a source of infections.

    Researchers gathered currency notes and coins from different sources like auto-rickshaw pullers, medical stores, vendors etc. and found them laced with bacteria and viruses. However, this source of infections is not addressed well in disease prevention protocols.

    "Our results showed that currency is contaminated with microbes and this contamination may play a role in transmission of antibiotic resistant or potentially harmful organisms," said study's principal author Dr Sunita Singh from KGMU's microbiology department.

    The researchers, including experts in microbiology and pulmonary medicine, aimed to determine presence, type and nature of bacterial contamination on paper currency and coins in circulation.

    The researchers randomly collected 96 paper currency and 48 coins of different denominations from butcher shops, vegetables vendors, auto-rickshaw drivers, rickshaw pullers, chemist stores, tuberculosis chest outpatient department (OPD) and general OPD from different parts of Lucknow.

    On conducting a microbial isolation test of the samples collected, they found that almost all of them were contaminated with bacteria, fungus and parasite. Also, majority of the currency was laced with more than one microbial contaminant.



    This is significantly high when seen on a global scale. A study published in Biomedicine and Biotechnology , an open access peer-reviewed journal, pointed to high levels of pathogenic or potentially pathogenic bacteria contamination in bank notes around the world -96.25% in Palestinian notes, 91% in Colombia, 90% in South Africa, 88% in Saudi one Riyal paper notes and 69% in Mexico's polymer notes.

    In all isolates, Bacillus (a vast group of hardy spore forming species that live in soil and are found in the environment could also be transferred on money) had the highest incidence.

    The most common prevalence was observed in the market places; the highest being at the butcher shops. Besides bacteria, fungal isolates were also found on the currency notes and coins.

    "Bacteria like E. coli, Proteus species, K pneumoniae, Salmonella species, Shigella species and Enterococcus species were found, which are an indication of fecal contamination," researchers noted.


  6. #2186
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Blood cancer develops from prior blood disorder

    Researchers have discovered how an incurable type of blood cancer develops from an often symptomless prior blood disorder.

    The findings could lead to more effective treatments and ways to identify those most at risk of developing the cancer.

    All patients diagnosed with myeloma, a cancer of the blood-producing bone marrow, first develop a relatively benign condition called 'monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance' or MGUS.

    "Our findings show that very few changes are required for a MGUS patient to progress to myeloma as we now know virtually all patients with myeloma evolve from MGUS," said lead researcher Daniel Tennant from University of Birmingham in England.

    "A drug that interferes with these initial metabolic changes could make very effective treatment for myeloma, so this is a very exciting discovery," Tennant explained.

    MGUS is fairly common in the older population and only progresses to cancer in approximately one in 100 cases.

    However, currently there is no way of accurately predicting which patients with MGUS are likely to go on to get myeloma.

    It specifically affects antibody-producing white blood cells found in the bone marrow, called plasma cells.

    For the study, the researchers compared the cellular chemistry of bone marrow and blood samples taken from patients with myeloma, patients with MGUS and healthy volunteers.

    Surprisingly, the researchers found that the metabolic activity of the bone marrow of patients with MGUS was significantly different to plasma from healthy volunteers, but there were very few differences at all between the MGUS and myeloma samples.

    The research team found over 200 products of metabolism differed between the healthy volunteers and patients with MGUS or myeloma, compared to just 26 differences between MGUS patients and myeloma patients.

    The findings suggest that the biggest metabolic changes occur with the development of the symptomless condition MGUS and not with the later progression to myeloma.

    The researchers believe that these small changes could drive the key shifts in the bone marrow required to support myeloma growth.

    The study was published in Blood Cancer Journal.


  7. #2187
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Good dietary habits help bone strength: Docs

    Even the most health and diet conscious ones among us pay little attention to our bone health. A little focus on this aspect of one's health can help a person avoid many bone diseases and accidents in later life. This can be done easily through ensuring one has calcium-rich food and sufficient exercise during teenage, say doctors.

    Bone health can easily be maintained with the help of proper diet consisting of calcium, proteins, vitamin D and important micronutrients. For the World Osteoporosis Day this year, International Osteoporosis Foundation has chosen the theme 'Serve Up Bone Strength'.

    "Typically, Indian women don't give much attention to the food they eat, consuming whatever is left after the entire family is done eating. For others also, taste usually takes precedence over the benefits provided by a foodstuff. Even when someone is asked to take supplements to strengthen their bones, they avoid taking them due to misconceptions like it would cause kidney stones," said well-known orthopaedician Dr Ashutosh Apte. He added that it is advisable for most people, especially women, above 40 years of age to take calcium supplements.

    Orthopaedic surgeon Dr Makrand Dhopavkar said that good dietary habits must start from early childhood. "These habits include consumption of adequate dairy products. During the growth spurt or puberty, nutritional supplements that will help strengthen bones are also necessary as they will ensure a healthy peak bone density. Pregnant women should also take calcium and vitamin D supplements," he said. He added that sufficient sun exposure can also help get more vitamin D and, therefore, healthier bones.

    Agreed orthopaedician Dr Amol Kadu who added, "One achieves peak bone mass during 20s, after which bone health deteriorates with age. If the peak bone mass is good, brittle and unhealthy bones can be avoided during one's old age as well." He adds that another myth prevalent among Indians is that they don't need to exercise if they have been moving throughout the day.

    "Those tasks are not aimed at building strong muscles or bones. Good weight bearing exercises are needed for that," he said.


  8. #2188
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Most of world’s population have no access to pain-relieving drugs: Report


    Around three-fourths of the world's population have no access to any pain-relieving drugs according to a report. This means most people, in late stages of cancers and/or enduring severe forms of acute or chronic pain, simply do not have access to pain relief, despite these medicines being included in the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines.

    The report, titled The Global Crisis of Avoidable Pain: The Negative Impact of Drug Control on Public Health, was released by the Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP) on Monday.

    The report says 99% of the world's supply of morphine is consumed by just 17% of the global population with consumption primarily concentrated in the global north.

    Over the past five years, the Global Commission has strongly advocated for a change in the international drug policy agenda, redirecting the conversation away from prohibition to a more balanced and purposeful discussion. The Commission's 2014 report broke ground by advancing and globalizing the debate over drug control measures and its alternatives, including regulation.

    "States must recognize they have an obligation under international law to ensure equitable access to controlled medicines for their populations. This obligation has equal importance as drug control measures to reduce illegal diversion. There should be a review of the 1961 and 1971 drug conventions' schedules in light of scientific evidence of the medical benefits of controlled substances, including cannabis," the report says.

    The report further states that the reasons for this has little to do with issues of cost or scarcity of supplies - and everything to do with with the prohibition and repressive stand the world has taken on drugs. States are obsessed by the fear that people will use controlled medicines, such as morphine as drugs, thereby neglecting the important medical uses.

    Former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Anand Grover, told TOI, "Basically the Global Commission's Report says, namely that criminalization and the consequent fear does impede access of medicines (morphine for pain; opiates like methadone or buprenorphine for opioid substitution therapy; ketamine for anaesthia), who desperately need them.

    In fact even companies do not want to engage in legal production of drugs covered under the NDPS Act, in India. Traditionally very few health facilities would make say, opium available or accessible because of the fear. Recently, civil society (Palliative care groups and lawyers) were able to get amendments so that now the regulations would be Centre based. However the regulations, once drafted would not eliminate the fear. That is the main problem."

    Former UN secretary general and Global Commission member Kofi Annan said in a release, "We know that 90% of morphine is prescribed in North America and Europe. In many developing countries, patients with terminal cancer suffer needlessly because doctors cannot prescribe medication due to the misapplication or misunderstanding of the UN drug conventions. But we must make sure that access to the essential medicines on the WHO model lists does not become a casualty of the 'war on drugs'. I hope that evidence-based decision making on drug policies will prevail."

    "The provision of opioid substitution therapy (OST) such as methadone and buprenorphine, which are also on the WHO List of Essential Medicines for people with heroin dependence, is similarly affected by this imbalance in the international drug control system and demonstrates the failure of the international drug control system. Guaranteeing the medical and scientific use of controlled medicines has been forgotten within current drug policies, but this can be corrected through the proper measures," the statement read.


  9. #2189
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Arm mole count could indicate skin cancer risk: Study

    Counting the number of moles on a person's right arm could indicate vulnerability to skin cancer, with 11 or more moles being a "strong predictor" of melanoma, research published on Monday suggested.

    The study in the British Journal of Dermatology found that the number of moles on the right arm was the closest predictor of the number on the entire body.

    The greater the total number of moles on the body, the higher the risk from melanoma, or skin cancer.

    Scientists at King's College London said the findings could help doctors more easily identify patients at risk, by using the arm as a "proxy" area.

    Researchers studied 3,594 female Caucasian twins, using data collected over an eight-year period, with each person undergoing a mole count on 17 body areas.

    The exercise was then repeated on a group of around 400 men and women with melanoma.

    Women with more than 11 moles on their right arm were more likely to have over 100 on their body in total, which was a "strong predictor" of melanoma, researchers said.

    A previous study conducted in Australia suggested that 10 moles on the arms represents an 11-fold increase in the risk of melanoma.

    Lead author Simone Ribero, of the department of twin research and genetic epidemiology at King's College, said the findings could have a "significant impact", allowing doctors to "more accurately estimate the total number of moles in a patient extremely quickly via an easily accessible body part".

    "This would mean that more patients at risk of melanoma can be identified and monitored," Ribero added.

    The appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing one are the most common signs of the disease.

    Claire Knight of Cancer Research UK said the study could be helpful but warned: "It's important to know what's normal for your skin and to tell your doctor about any change in the size, shape, colour or feel of a mole or a normal patch of skin.

    "Don't just look at your arms -- melanoma can develop anywhere on the body, and is most common on the trunk in men and the legs in women."


  10. #2190
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    New eye lens may spell end of reading glasses


    An Indian-origin researcher in the UK is developing an adjustable artificial lens, made from the same material found in smartphone and TV screens, which could improve vision in older people with presbyopia and cataracts.

    As people age, their lenses lose flexibility and elasticity. This leads to a condition known as presbyopia, common in people over 45 years old, and can require optical aids, such as reading glasses.

    Devesh Mistry, a postgraduate research student in the School of Physics and Astronomy, at the University of Leeds is working with liquid crystal to create a truly adjustable artificial lens.

    "As we get older, the lens in our eye stiffens, when the muscles in the eye contract they can no longer shape the lens to bring close objects into focus," he said.

    "Using liquid crystals, which we probably know better as the material used in the screens of TVs and smartphones, lenses would adjust and focus automatically, depending on the eye muscles' movement," he added.

    Using these liquid crystal-based materials, Mistry's research is developing synthetic replacements for the diseased lens in the eye - a new generation of lenses and intra-ocular lens implants to rejuvenate sight.

    Mistry is currently researching and developing the lens in the lab and aims to have a prototype ready by the end of his doctorate in 2018.

    Within a decade, the research could see the new lens being implanted into eyes in a quick and straightforward surgical procedure under local anaesthetic.

    Eye surgeons would make an incision in the cornea and use ultrasound to break down the old lens. The liquid crystal lens would then be inserted, restoring clear vision.

    The lens could also have application in tackling cataracts - the clouding of natural lenses - which affect many people in later life and which can seriously affect vision. A common treatment is to remove and replace the natural lens.

    "Liquid crystals are a very under-rated phase of matter," Mistry told 'The Times'.

    "Everybody's happy with solids, liquids and gases and the phases of matter, but liquid crystals lie between crystalline solids and liquids. They have an ordered structure like a crystal, but they can also flow like a liquid and respond to stimuli," he said.

    Mistry is working in collaboration with the Eurolens Research at the University of Manchester and with UltraVision CLPL, a specialist contact lenses manufacturer headed by two University of Leeds alumni.

    His research builds upon previous work by the same collaborators, who developed a prototype contact lens with an electrically-controllable focus using liquid crystals.

    The first commercially-available liquid crystal lenses could be on sale between six and ten years' time.


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