18th Jan 2016, 02:54 PM #2321
Re: Health Bulletin
Diabetes drug may slow growth of pancreatic cancer: Study
Researchers including those of Indian-origin may have uncovered a novel mechanism behind the ability of the diabetes drug metformin to inhibit the progression of pancreatic cancer.
Researchers found that metformin decreases the inflammation and fibrosis characteristic of the most common form of pancreatic cancer.
The findings indicate that this beneficial effect may be most prevalent in overweight and obese patients.
The study by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in US focused on pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, the most common form of pancreatic cancer.
Half of those diagnosed with this form of pancreatic cancer are overweight or obese, and up to 80 per cent have type 2 diabetes or are insulin resistant.
Diabetic patients taking metformin - a common medication for type 2 diabetes - have a reduced risk of developing pancreatic cancer; and among patients who develop the tumour, those taking the drug may have a reduced risk of death.
However, previously the mechanism of metformin's action against pancreatic cancer was unclear, and no potential biomarkers of response to metformin had been reported.
The researchers first found that levels of hyaluronan, a component of the extracellular matrix, were 30 per cent lower in tumour samples from overweight or obese patients who were taking metformin to treat diabetes than in those who did not take the drug.
In an obese animal model of pancreatic cancer, those that received metformin had reduced expression of both hyaluronan and collagen-1 and fewer activated pancreatic stellate cells (PSCs).
Studies in cultured cells identified the signalling pathway by which metformin reduces the production of hyaluronan and collagen-1 by PSCs and also prevents the recruitment of tumour-associated macrophages, which increase the inflammatory environment.
In obese mouse models, researchers including Rakesh K Jain and Priya Suboj from MGH found that metformin treatment reduced levels of tumour-associated macrophages by 60 per cent and reduced expression of genes involved in remodelling the extracellular matrix of tumour tissue.
The tumours of animals treated with metformin also had reductions in a metastasis-associated change in cellular characteristics called epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) and in the overall level of metastasis.
These tumour-related effects of metformin appear to be independent of the drug's effects on metabolic pathways involved in glucose metabolism and body weight.
"We found that metformin alleviates desmoplasia - an accumulation of dense connective tissue and tumour-associated immune cells that is a hallmark of pancreatic cancer - by inhibiting the activation of the pancreatic stellate cells that produce the extracellular matrix and by reprogramming immune cells to reduce inflammation," said Dai Fukumura from MGH.
The study was published in PLOS one.
19th Jan 2016, 03:23 PM #2322
Re: Health Bulletin
Multiple sclerosis patients may walk again
A new treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS) has enabled some patients to walk again by "rebooting" their immune systems.
As part of a clinical trial at Sheffield's Royal Hallamshire Hospital involving around 20 patients, scientists used stem cells to carry out a bone marrow transplant. The method, known as an autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT), works by using chemotherapy to destroy the area of the immune system which causes MS. The trial has been documented as part of a BBC Panorama programme. The trial has been so effective for some patients that they have been able to walk once more.
Professor John Snowden, consultant haematologist at Royal Hallamshire Hospital, said that the patients' immune systems were "reset or rebooted" back to a time point before it caused MS. "It's clear we have made a big impact on patients' lives, which is gratifying."
Professor Basil Sharrack of the Royal Hallamshire described the treatment as a "major achievement". MS affects the central nervous system, and is generally diagnosed when a person is in the 20s or 30s. More than 100,000 people in the UK are currently living with the incurable neurological disease.
Clinial trial patient Holly Drewry was diagnosed with MS aged 21, but her condition became worse after she gave birth to her daughter Isla and she began using a wheel chair."Within a couple of months I got worse and worse. I couldn't dress or wash myself; I didn't even have the strength to carry my daughter," she told the BBC.
Following the treatment, Drewry was able to walk out of the hospital, and there is no evidence of the active disease in her scans. She said, "It's been a miracle. I got my life and my independence back and the future is bright again in terms of being a mum and doing everything with Isla."
Amy Bowen, director of service development at the MS Trust, said the treatment is "very powerful" but has "significant risks as well as potential benefits". "It's a long way from being a routine treatment for MS," Bowen said."We still need more clinical trials to understand who is most likely to benefit from treatment, to develop safer treatment procedures and understand what the long-term effects of treatment might be."
Dr Emma Gray , head of clinical trials at UK's MS Society, said, "Ongoing research suggests stem cell treatments such as HSCT could offer hope, and it's clear that, in the cases highlighted by Panorama, they've had a life-changing impact.However, trials have found that, while HSCT may be able to stabilise or improve disability in some people with MS, it may not be effective for all types of the condition."
19th Jan 2016, 03:26 PM #2323
Re: Health Bulletin
How often should you be showering?
There are conflicting views as to how many times a week we should shower.
Depending on your hair and skin type, you may be told that showering every day could be better for your skin - or, in fact, worse for your skin if it's particularly sensitive.
Overshowering can cause adverse effects to hair such as causing split-ends, while excessive use of product could result in product build-up.
A survey last year revealed that four out of five women don't shower every day, while a third said they could go three days without washing.
Another study, conducted by researchers at the Universities of Manchester, Edinburgh, Lancaster and Southampton, showed that three-quarters of respondents had at least one shower or bath a day.
But are we overshowering? And is there a 'correct' number of showers or baths we should be having a week?
According to Professor Stephen Shumack, President of the Australasian College of Dermatologists, you should only shower when you need to.
Speaking to the Sunday Morning Herald, he said: "It's only in the last fifty to sixty years (since the advent of bathrooms with showers) that the idea of a daily shower has become commonplace. The pressure to do that is actually social pressure rather than actual need. It's become popular because of the social need to smell good. But it's only the glands in your armpit and groin that produce body odour. They're not all over the body."
Shumack also warned that a hot daily shower could do more damage than good, saying: "Overwashing causes 'defatting' of the skin - getting rid of the natural body oils we produce to protect the skin cells. This can cause actual damage making them more permeable to bacteria or viruses, precipitating itchy skin, dryness, flakiness and worsening conditions like eczema."
22nd Jan 2016, 12:26 PM #2324
Re: Health Bulletin
Zika virus: Hundreds of thousands may be infected by dangerous 'shrunken brain' disease
The Mosquito-borne Zika virus is sweeping through South America — and could infect hundreds of thousands of people, governments have warned.
The virus can lead to common symptoms like headaches and joint pains. But if it hits pregnant women it can lead to huge problems for their children, leading to birth defects like microcephaly or abnormally small heads.
The disease has already infected thousands of people across Colombia and Brazil, governments there have said. And if it follows the spread of other similar viruses those numbers could reach into the hundreds of thousands.
In Brazil, the disease is thought to have led to as many as 4,000 babies being born with microcephaly since October. That number was only 150 throughout 2014, and experts put the huge rise down to the spread of the virus.
The Colombian government has warned women that they should delay becoming pregnant for six to eight months, until the disease is under control. No newborns in Colombia are yet reported to have suffered from microcephaly, though of the 13,500 people already infected some 560 are pregnant women.
"We are the second country [in Latin America] after Brazil in the number of reported cases," Health Minister Alejandro Gaviria said.
He advised women in the country not to get pregnant for the rest of the outbreak - which he said could last until July.
The US Center for Disease Control has also warned women not to travel to 14 countries, including Colombia and other countries in South America, for fear that they may be struck by the virus. Brazil is experiencing the largest outbreak of the disease.
"With the recent outbreaks in the Americas, the number of Zika virus disease cases among travelers visiting or returning to the United States likely will increase," the travel alert reads. "These imported cases may result in local spread of the virus in some areas of the continental United States, meaning these imported cases may result in human-to-mosquito-to-human spread of the virus."
The effects of Zika are usually mild. And only one in five of those people that are infected with it actually experience symptoms.
But experts say that the disease could also lead to microcephaly. That leads to a smaller than average head size when the brain grows at a slower rate, and can lead to problems like intellectual disability, developmental delays and can even be fatal.
The Brazilian government is working to diagnose and fight the disease faster. The country is funding new vaccines and testing kits.
At the moment, the only way to stop the spread of the disease is to clear the stagnant water that mosquitoes breed in, and to work to stop people getting b
22nd Jan 2016, 12:30 PM #2325
Re: Health Bulletin
Five warning signs that show young people might have cancer
Almost a third of young cancer patients are diagnosed when their health deteriorates to the point of being admitted to Accident and Emergency, research from the Teenage Cancer Trust has found.
Cancer in young people is notoriously difficult to diagnose. Around 2,500 young people aged between 13 and 24 are diagnosed each year, meaning that cancer is unusual and suspicion small.
Almost a third of young patients have to visit a GP three times or more before getting a referral, according the Teenage Cancer Trust.
To mark Teenager Cancer Action Week, which aims to raise awareness of the #5signs of cancer in young people, the trust revealed the five most common warning signs of cancer in young people are persistent and unexplained.
They said the signs can often be mistaken for common illnesses, but knowing them could save a life. They are:
Lump, bump or swelling
Significant weight loss
Changes in a mole
If you are worried you have cancer the Teenage Cancer Trust advise you see a doctor, remaining persistent if you feel that your issues are not being solved.
Jess Terry, 19, a former teenage cancer patient who had Hodgkin's Lymphoma said: "I felt really unwell for nearly a year. I had a lump in my neck and felt constantly tired. My skin was unbearably itchy and I had night sweats. Looking at photos I'd lost loads of weight too, but I didn't notice at the time."
"I was diagnosed with stress and told I'd feel better if I put my mind to it. It took 8 months for me to be diagnosed with cancer. It's so important for everyone to be more aware of the signs and for young people to be persistent with the doctors if they are not getting any better."
Siobhan Dunn, Chief Executive of Teenage Cancer Trust said: "Young people must be educated about the signs of cancer to ensure they seek help early and we need to work with GPs to try and develop a safe system for quick diagnosis."
Dr Angel Edgar, National Cancer Research Institute Teenage and Young Adult Clinical Studies Group Chair, said: "Delay in diagnosis in teenagers and young adults with cancer may be one factor contributing to the lower reduction in cancer mortality rates compared with children or older adults in recent years."
"Early detection, clearly defined referral pathways and equitable access to specialist services will avoid delays and enable treatment to start as promptly as possible."
22nd Jan 2016, 12:33 PM #2326
Re: Health Bulletin
Beards may be more hygienic and bacteria-resistant than shaven skin, study finds
Beards may contain bacteria which could potentially be developed into new antibiotics, a study has found.
Researchers found that clean-shaven men were actually more likely to harbour infection-causing bacteria resistant to antibiotics when compared to bearded men.
The study, published in the Journal of Hospital Infection, tested swabs from the faces of 408 hospital staff with and without facial hair.
According to the results, clean-shaven men are more than three times as likely to be carrying methicillin-resistant staph auerus (MRSA) on their cheeks as their bearded counterparts.
Clean-shaven men were also more than 10 per cent more likely to have colonies of Staphylococcus aureus on their faces, a bacterium that causes skin and respiratory infections, and food poisoning.
Researchers suggest this may be due to micro-abrasians caused by shaving in the skin, "which may support bacterial colonisation and proliferation".
The report reads: "Overall, colonisation is similar in male healthcare workers with and without facial hair, however, certain bacterial species were more prevalent in workers without facial hair."
Dr Adam Roberts, a microbiologist from University College London, was able to grow over 100 different bacteria from beard swab samples in a separate analysis.
Among the petri dishes, he found the presence of a microbe that appeared to be killing the other bacteria.
Dr Roberts isolated the microbe and tested it against a form of E. coli that causes urinary tract infections, and found the microbes killed the bacterium efficiently.
He told BBC Radio 4's Today presenter Mishal Husain that this analysis does have potential for further research for the future.
The current stock of antibiotics is quickly becoming ineffective, with antibiotic-resistant infections killing at least 700,000 people a year.
No new antibiotics have been released in the past 30 years.
Dr Roberts compared the findings to Alexander Fleming's success with penicillin, which was discovered by chance when a fungus spore was accidentally blown into his lab onto a petri dish.
Fleming noticed the bacteria he was growing in the dish had died around the area the spore had landed, and subsequent research led to penicillin as it is known today.
25th Jan 2016, 03:11 PM #2327
Re: Health Bulletin
It's never too late: Lifestyle changes can prevent diabetes at any age, weight
Old or fat, it's never too late to offset the risk of diabetes. With a low-carb diet and a half-hour workout five times a week, at least three out of 10 people across age and bodyweight profiles have managed to delay or prevent onset of diabetes, doctors have found. This, they say, turns on its head the popular perception that lifestyle changes yield better results when made early in life.
Doctors who pored through data from 700 case sheets of prediabetics said they did nothing dramatic to help these patients improve their health status.These case sheets were part of two other studies done in 2006 and 2013 for the Indian Diabetes Prevention Programme. The study was published in a recent edition of the UK-based medical journal Diabetic Medicine.
While one group of a little more than half of these people were given basic information about the risks of diabetes, and ways to prevent the disorder, the other group received periodic reminders and counselling as a part of the lifestyle modification programme. In the second group, or the intervention group, members sat around a table and talked about what worked for them and what did not. They spoke about walking on treadmills versus strolls on roads and parks, on substitutes for food like ghee and butter, and sometimes how they overcame lethargy . "We just helped them keep track of what they ate and how they exercised," said diabetologist Dr Nanditha Ramachandran.
However commonplace the conversation, the results were impressive. In two years, doctors found those in the intervention group managed to reduce the incidence of the disease by nearly 35% when compared to those in the first group who managed to reduce it only by 14%. It happened to people in all age groups irrespective of their weight," said diabetologist Dr Arun R. Studies conducted in countries like the US showed better results in older Americans than younger ones. "We don't know exactly why lifestyle changes bring in good results across age groups, but we know it happens," he said.
Doctors are so fascinated with the results that they say that health policies in the country should adopt this low-cost intervention to reduce the burden of diabetes. As per International Diabetes Federation, more than 65 million people in India are diabetic. The prevalence has been steadily rising for the last three decades. With lesser age and lower body mass index, Indians have been found to be more at risk for diabetes when compared to their western counterparts.Experts say urbanisation, unhealthy eating habits and physical inactivity , besides the genetic predisposition, are contributory factors.
Statistically, less than 10% of Indians do any kind of physical activity such as cycling, walking, swimming and workouts. Studies show one in two Indians is inactive."More than half of our population is physically inactive, putting them at the risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiac diseases and cancer," said diabetologist Dr Anjana Mohan, quoting the paper that is part of the Indian Council of Medical Research India Diabetes (ICMR-INDIAB) study.
On the brighter side, studies show even moderate weight loss reduce the odds of progression to diabetes by nearly half. "It's important to extend intervention as a programme across the country . It could be one of our largest national health efforts for prevention of non-communicable diseases," said diabetologist Dr A Ramachandran."It's not just about telling people what they should eat. The intention is to help them adopt healthy habits and to look at it as a way of life," he said.
25th Jan 2016, 03:16 PM #2328
Re: Health Bulletin
New superbug reaches 19 countries
Just two months ago, re searchers in China identified a gene that can make bacteria resistant to a last-resort antibiotic called colistin. It was a bombshell discovery for people who follow superbugs.Now that gene has been detected in at least 19 countries, and scientists are alarmed.
Colistin is what doctors give you in the US when nothing else works. Because it's toxic, it can have some harmful side effects, but colistin can help defeat infections that shrug off every other antibiotic in their arsenal.
Since the paper identifying colistin-resistant E Coli in China was published in the the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, the gene has been detected in 19 countries in bacteria from farm animals, retail meat, or humans, according to a tally by the Natural Resources Defense Council, which advocates for reducing the use of antibiotics in farm animals. It is in Southeast Asia, Europe, Canada, and Japan. That doesn't mean the gene, known as MCR-1, has spread to all those places in two months.
But scientists fear that colistinresistant bugs will become more widespread. The bacteria them selves can travel on people, live animals and food. The gene that makes a bug resistant to colistin is particularly slippery because it can jump easily from one type of bacteria to another. "I say it's shopping for a home," said Lance Price, a professor at George Washington University . "The thing that frightens a lot of us is that it's going to find its way into a bacterium resistant to everything but colistin."
That's a dark scenario. Colistin is used to treat the kind of infections that the CDC calls "nightmare bacteria," which kill half the people who get them. These bugs typically spread in health-care settings whose patients are already vulnerable, though healthy people can carry the bacteria in their gut without knowing it. Add to the mix colistin-resistance, conferred by a gene that's easy to spread, and the nightmare gets worse. "We have the fuel to set off a fire," Price said.
Drugmakers used the World Economic Forum in Davos this week to call for more investment to develop new antibiotics. The NRDC says widening resistance to a last-resort medicine is the latest urgent warning that the world needs to use the medicines we have more carefully, particularly in raising livestock. The drugs are widely deployed on industrialscale farms, not just to treat sick animals but to prevent disease and promote faster growth. Price agrees. "When you misuse antibiotics in food animal production, there are major potential risks to human health," he said. Colistin isn't used in farm animals in the US, but it is used in China and elsewhere.
25th Jan 2016, 03:16 PM #2329
Re: Health Bulletin
Your brain has as much memory as entire internet
The human brain might be able to hold 10 times more information than had previously been thought, and we can store information roughly equivalent with the entire internet. The findings also help show why the brain is quite so efficient. The information could help scientists build efficient computers, as well as allowing them to learn far more about how the human brain works.
"We discovered the key to unlocking the design principle for how hippocampal neurons function with low energy but high computation power," said Terry Sejnowski, Salk professor. The electrical and chemical activity that flows through the brain does through synpases."Our data suggests there are 10 times more discrete sizes of synapses," said Tom Bartol, a Salk staff scientist. "In computer terms, 26 sizes of synapses correspond to about 4.7 `bits' of information." These move through those various sizes, adjusting themselves with the signals they receive.
"Hidden under the brain's apparent chaos is an underlying precision to the size and shapes of synapses that was hidden from us," adds Sejnowski.
25th Jan 2016, 03:17 PM #2330
Re: Health Bulletin
Scientists claim breakthrough in cell treatment
British scientists have achieved a remarkable breakthrough in the transformation of human cells that paves the way for a new range of treatments for a variety of medical conditions.
They demonstrated creation of a system that predicts how to create any human cell type from another cell type directly, without the need for experimental trial and error.
The ability to produce numerous types of human cells will lead directly to tissue therapies of all kinds, to treat conditions from arthritis to macular degeneration, to heart disease, the findings revealed.
"This represents a significant breakthrough in regenerative medicine and paves the way for life-changing medical advances within a few years from now and the possibility in the longer term of improving the quality of longer lives as well as making them longer," said Julian Gough, professor at the University of Bristol.
The fuller understanding, at the molecular level of cell production leading on from this, may allow the researchers to grow whole organs from somebody's own cells, the findings, published in Nature Genetics, showed.
Pluripotent stem cells -- that can give rise to all of the cell types that make up the body -- can be used to treat many different medical conditions and diseases.
The researchers tested two new human cell conversions, and succeeded first time for both.
The speed with which this was achieved suggests Mogrify -- a system that predicts how to create any human cell type from any other cell type directly -- will enable the creation of a great number of human cell types in the lab.