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Health Bulletin


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  1. #761
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    IIT-Madras setting up bank to store tumour tissue samples

    Questions that shroud cancer are many, the answers few. A key to unlock some of the mysteries is in the making with IIT Madras setting up a bank to store cancer tissues for research purposes.

    Most tumours find their way out of hospital premises as biomedical waste, but a group of researchers have decided to bank them. Professor S Mahalingam of IIT-M's biotechnology department said the tissues would be sourced from various hospitals in the city with patients' consent.

    "As soon as the tumour is removed, a portion of it will be transported to our facility and stored in liquid nitrogen at -190 degrees Celsius," said Mahalingam, who is spearheading the project. The facility can accommodate 25,000 cancer tissue samples in a 10,000 sq ft space.

    Genome sequencing will be done to determine the DNA structure of the tissues. "This will be different from a biopsy done in a hospital. While a biopsy can only give skeletal details like what stage the cancer is at, genome sequencing can tell what changes have happened at the cellular level," he said. While some hospitals have banking facilities on a smaller scale, doctors say this will be the first such initiative at the national level. The centre — a collaborative effort between IIT Madras and the department of science and technology — will help record cancer incidence, and improve diagnosis and treatment.

    "Why do some patients respond to a particular mode of treatment, while others don't? How are cancer cells in India different from those in the West? What caused the tumour? All the answers to these questions can be found at the molecular level," said Dr C S Mani of Cancer Research and Relief Trust, which will work with IIT. Research organisations can access the stored tissue samples. "The centre will target application oriented research and provide a crucial link between scientific data collated and how clinicians could use the inferences in their treatment of cancer," said Dr Mani.


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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Tricking cancer cells into suicide

    Trick cancer cells into committing suicide — that's the new ploy in gene therapy and a team of scientists in Chennai have waded into it, looking for a cure for eye cancer in children.

    'Suicide gene therapy' is a method of introducing genetic material into cancerous tumours and then ensuring the programmed death of the cells. It is not a standard treatment method for cancer but scientists across the world are working on it and finding encouraging results.

    In Chennai, a team from eye hospital Sankara Nethralaya has found that the herpes virus can be used to treat childhood eye cancer or retinoblastoma.

    About 2,000 children across the country are diagnosed with this rare form of eye cancer every year, say doctors. Many lose their vision. Traditional treatment includes radiation and chemotherapy, and the Chennai scientists are hoping their work will help find a cure for childhood eye cancer with a lower risk of damage to normal cells.

    In the lab, biomedical and genetics researchers programmed a gene from the herpes virus — herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase (HSV-tk) — to enter only the eye cancer cells. Then, they injected the anti-viral drug used to treat herpes, ganciclovir, into the tumour. The ganciclovir fought the HSV-tk and in the process caused an orderly, programmed death of cancer cells.

    "When this happens, the cells break down into tiny bits of material that other cells can absorb or recycle. What we do here is programme the death of the cancer cell by manipulating it a bit. That's a reason why it is called suicide gene therapy," said Dr S Krishnakumar, corresponding author of the study that was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal PlosOne.

    The study was funded by Indian Council of Medical Research and the department of biotechnology. Researchers across the globe have done similar studies and some are conducting human trials that are proving successful. The Chennai research team hopes its work will open up avenues in retinoblastoma treatment. "We want to develop treatment methods that effectively kill cancer cells and leave the healthy ones alone. If we achieve this, we will be able to preserve vision in many children with retinoblastoma," said K Gopinath, a PhD student in the team.

    "If we manage to trick the eye cancer cells, we could be opening the doors for cures to other cancers too," said Dr Krishnakumar.


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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Brain area unique to humans linked to cognitive powers

    British scientists from Oxford University have for the first time identified an area of the human brain that appears unlike anything in the brains of some of our closest relatives.

    MRI imaging of 25 adult volunteers was used to identify key components in the area of the human brain called the ventrolateral frontal cortex. The study also investigated how these components were connected up with other brain areas. The results were then compared with equivalent MRI data from 25 macaque monkeys.

    The ventrolateral frontal cortex area of the brain is involved in many of the highest aspects of cognition and language, and is only present in humans and other primates.

    Scientists then found one area of the cortex that had no equivalent in the macaque monkeys - an area called the lateral frontal pole prefrontal cortex.
    "We have established an area in human frontal cortex-the brain area known to be intimately involved in some of the most advanced planning and decision-making processes that we think of as being especially human, which does not seem to have an equivalent in the monkey at all. This area has been identified with strategic planning and decision making as well as multi-tasking," says author Franz-Xaver Neubert of Oxford University.

    "We tend to think that being able to plan into the future, be flexible in our approach and learn from others are things that are particularly impressive about humans. We've identified an area of the brain that appears to be uniquely human and is likely to have something to do with these cognitive powers," says professor Matthew Rushworth of Oxford University's department of experimental psychology.

    From the MRI data, the researchers were able to divide the human ventrolateral frontal cortex into 12 areas that were consistent across all the individuals. The researchers were then able to compare the 12 areas in the human brain region with the organisation of the monkey prefrontal cortex.

    Overall, they were very similar with 11 of the 12 areas being found in both species and being connected up to other brain areas in very similar ways.


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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Human skin cells help regrow hair in mice

    In a breakthrough, scientists claim to have successfully transformed human skin cells into hair-follicle-generating stem cells for the first time.

    Xiaowei "George" Xu from the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, and colleagues have found a method for converting adult cells into epithelial stem cells (EpSCs), the first time anyone has achieved this in either humans or mice.

    The epithelial stem cells, when implanted into immunocompromised mice, regenerated the different cell types of human skin and hair follicles, and even produced structurally recognizable hair shaft, raising the possibility that they may eventually enable hair regeneration in people.

    Xu and his team started with human skin cells called dermal fibroblasts. By adding three genes, they converted those cells into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), which have the capability to differentiate into any cell types in the body. They then converted the iPS cells into epithelial stem cells, normally found at the bulge of hair follicles.

    The team demonstrated that by carefully controlling the timing of the growth factors the cells received, they could force the iPSCs to generate large numbers of epithelial stem cells.


  5. #765
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Scientists create embryonic-type stem cells without embryos

    In experiments that could open a new era in stem cell biology, scientists have found a cheap and easy way to reprogramme mature cells from mice back into an embryonic-like state that allowed them to generate many types of tissue.

    The research, described as game changer by experts in the field, suggests human cells could in future be reprogrammed by the same technique, offering a simpler way to replace damaged cells or grow new organs for sick and injured people.

    Chris Mason, chair of regenerative medicine bioprocessing at University College London, who was not involved in the work, said its approach was "the most simple, lowest-cost and quickest method" to generate so-called pluripotent cells — able to develop into many different cell types — from mature cells.

    "If it works in man, this could be the game changer that ultimately makes a wide range of cell therapies available using the patient's own cells as starting material — the age of personalized medicine would have finally arrived," he said.

    The experiments, reported in two papers in the journal Nature on Wednesday, involved scientists from the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Japan and Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in the United States.

    Beginning with mature, adult cells, researchers let them multiply and then subjected them to stress "almost to the point of death", they explained, by exposing them to various events including trauma, low oxygen levels and acidic environments.

    Within days, the scientists found that the cells survived and recovered from the stressful stimulus by naturally reverting into a state similar to that of an embryonic stem cell.

    These stem cells created by this exposure to stresses — dubbed STAP cells by the researchers — were then able to differentiate and mature into different types of cells and tissue, depending on the environments they were given.

    "If we can work out the mechanisms by which differentiation states are maintained and lost, it could open up a wide range of possibilities for new research and applications using living cells," said Haruko Obokata, who lead the work at RIKEN.

    Stem cells are the body's master cells and are able to differentiate into all other types of cells. Scientists say that, by helping to regenerate tissue, they could offer ways of tackling diseases for which there are currently only limited treatments - including heart disease, Parkinson's and stroke.

    There are two main types of stem cells: embryonic ones, harvested from embryos, and adult or iPS cells, which are taken from skin or blood and reprogrammed back into stem cells.

    Because the harvesting of embryonic stem cells requires the destruction of a human embryo, the technique has been the subject of ethical concerns and protests from pro-life campaigners.

    Dusko Ilic, a reader in stem cell science at Kings College London, said the Nature studies described "a major scientific discovery" and predicted their findings would open "a new era in stem cell biology".

    "Whether human cells would respond in a similar way to comparable environmental cues ... remains to be shown," he said in an emailed comment. "I am sure that the group is working on this and I would not be surprised if they succeed even within this calendar year."


  6. #766
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Scientists create embryonic-type stem cells without embryos

    In experiments that could open a new era in stem cell biology, scientists have found a cheap and easy way to reprogramme mature cells from mice back into an embryonic-like state that allowed them to generate many types of tissue.

    The research, described as game changer by experts in the field, suggests human cells could in future be reprogrammed by the same technique, offering a simpler way to replace damaged cells or grow new organs for sick and injured people.

    Chris Mason, chair of regenerative medicine bioprocessing at University College London, who was not involved in the work, said its approach was "the most simple, lowest-cost and quickest method" to generate so-called pluripotent cells able to develop into many different cell types from mature cells.

    "If it works in man, this could be the game changer that ultimately makes a wide range of cell therapies available using the patient's own cells as starting material the age of personalized medicine would have finally arrived," he said.

    The experiments, reported in two papers in the journal Nature on Wednesday, involved scientists from the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Japan and Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in the United States.

    Beginning with mature, adult cells, researchers let them multiply and then subjected them to stress "almost to the point of death", they explained, by exposing them to various events including trauma, low oxygen levels and acidic environments.

    Within days, the scientists found that the cells survived and recovered from the stressful stimulus by naturally reverting into a state similar to that of an embryonic stem cell.

    These stem cells created by this exposure to stresses dubbed STAP cells by the researchers were then able to differentiate and mature into different types of cells and tissue, depending on the environments they were given.

    "If we can work out the mechanisms by which differentiation states are maintained and lost, it could open up a wide range of possibilities for new research and applications using living cells," said Haruko Obokata, who lead the work at RIKEN.

    Stem cells are the body's master cells and are able to differentiate into all other types of cells. Scientists say that, by helping to regenerate tissue, they could offer ways of tackling diseases for which there are currently only limited treatments - including heart disease, Parkinson's and stroke.

    There are two main types of stem cells: embryonic ones, harvested from embryos, and adult or iPS cells, which are taken from skin or blood and reprogrammed back into stem cells.

    Because the harvesting of embryonic stem cells requires the destruction of a human embryo, the technique has been the subject of ethical concerns and protests from pro-life campaigners.

    Dusko Ilic, a reader in stem cell science at Kings College London, said the Nature studies described "a major scientific discovery" and predicted their findings would open "a new era in stem cell biology".

    "Whether human cells would respond in a similar way to comparable environmental cues ... remains to be shown," he said in an emailed comment. "I am sure that the group is working on this and I would not be surprised if they succeed even within this calendar year."


  7. #767
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Artificial retina may help restore ‘vision’

    Doctors in US have successfully implanted an artificial retina in two near-blind patients to allow them to see objects, light and people standing before them.

    Thiran Jayasundera and David N Zacks, from the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center performed the surgeries for patients with end-stage retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a degenerative and blinding eye disease.

    "We are pleased with both patients' progress at this point, and we are hopeful and optimistic that the artificial retina will enable them to see objects, light and people standing before them," Jayasundera said.

    "We believe the device will help them navigate a little better at home, be more independent, and have the pleasure of seeing things that the rest of us take for granted," said Jayasundara.

    The device Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration last year. The retinal prosthesis is not activated until the patient has sufficiently recovered from surgery.

    The patient then undergoes training to adapt to the new vision, a process that can take from one to three months.


  8. #768
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Scientists appear to have located the conscience

    The part of the brain that makes humans superior to all known animals, and which also functions as the voice from within — popularly called conscience — has finally been found.

    Scientists from the Oxford University have for the first time identified an area of the human brain that appears unlike anything in the brains of other primates. It is part of the Ventrolateral Frontal Cortex, a region of the brain known for over 150 years for being involved in many of the highest aspects of cognition and language.

    To look into which part of this region actually controls our superior decision making , scientists carried out MRI scans in both humans and monkeys. They found one area of the cortex that had no equivalent in the macaque monkeys — an area called the lateral frontal pole prefrontal cortex.

    "We have established an area in human frontal cortex — the brain area known to be intimately involved in the most advanced planning and decision-making processes — that we think of as being especially human. It does not seem to have an equivalent in the monkey. This area has also been identified with multi-tasking ," says author Franz-Xaver Neubert of Oxford University.

    Scientists also believe that lateral frontal pole prefrontal cortex is the loud (inner ) voice that pricks whenever we are inclined towards evil or blunder in our lives. Oxford scientists say this is the region that tells us when we go wrong and whether we have been well advised to do something better.

    MRI imaging of 25 adult volunteers was used to identify key components in the cortex area of the human brain, and how these components were connected up with other brain areas.

    The results were then compared to equivalent MRI data from 25 macaque monkeys.


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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Reverse diabetes and hypertension

    What causes diabetes and hypertension? How can they be prevented? A one-day seminar will answer these questions and enlighten participants on reversing these conditions through nutritional changes.

    Organized by The Times Foundation in collaboration with Sharan, the event is a step towards making India diabetes-free. At the seminar, Reversing Diabetes and Hypertension, visitors will learn about diabetes and hypertension and how to ward off the ailments: What cooking techniques to use, how to eat out and how to cut down on medication with the help of tests. Once you adopt a healthy lifestyle, complications can be reduced and reversed. For details, call Rani (09820221998) or Gouri (08879385913).

    Where: Carrot Restaurant, Koramangala When: February 8, 9am to 5.30pm


  10. #770
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Sleeping more than normal can cause depression: Study

    Less or more sleep than normal can cause depression, a new study of adult twins and adolescents has found. One major cause of depression is genetic, but the study found that short and long sleep durations activated the genes related to depressive symptoms. The studies are published in the Feb 1 issue of the journal Sleep.

    "We were surprised that the heritability of depressive symptoms in twins with very short sleep was nearly twice the heritability in twins sleeping normal amounts of time," said principal investigator Dr Nathaniel Watson, associate professor of neurology and co-director of the University of Washington Medicine Sleep Center in Seattle, Wash. "Both short and excessively long sleep durations appear to activate genes related to depressive symptoms," added Watson, who also serves on the board of directors of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

    A study of 1,788 adult twins is the first to demonstrate a gene by environment interaction between self-reported habitual sleep duration and depressive symptoms. Results suggest that sleep durations outside the normal range increase the genetic risk for depressive symptoms. Among twins with a normal sleep duration of seven to 8.9 hours per night, the total heritability of depressive symptoms was 27 percent. However, the genetic influence on depressive symptoms increased to 53 percent among twins with a short sleep duration of five hours per night and 49 percent among those who reported sleeping 10 hours per night.

    Another study of 4,175 individuals between 11 and 17 years of age is the first to document reciprocal effects for major depression and short sleep duration among adolescents using prospective data. Results suggest sleeping six hours or less per night increases the risk for major depression, which in turn increases the risk for decreased sleep among adolescents.

    "Healthy sleep is a necessity for physical, mental and emotional well-being," said American Academy of Sleep Medicine President Dr M Safwan BaDr "This new research emphasizes that we can make an investment in our health by prioritizing sleep."

    According to Watson, the study suggests that optimizing sleep may be one way to maximize the effectiveness of treatments for depression such as psychotherapy.

    "These results are important because they suggest that sleep deprivation may be a precursor for major depression in adolescents, occurring before other symptoms of major depression and additional mood disorders," said principal investigator Dr Robert E Roberts, professor of behavioral sciences in the School of Public Health at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, Texas. "Questions on sleep disturbance and hours of sleep should be part of the medical history of adolescents to ascertain risk."

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about nine percent of adults in the US meet the criteria for current depression, including four percent with major depression. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that depressive disorders have affected approximately 11 percent of U.S. teens at some point during their lives, and three percent have experienced a seriously debilitating depressive disorder.

    The monthly, peer-reviewed, scientific journal Sleep is published online by the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC, a joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society.


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