3rd Feb 2014, 03:08 PM #771
Re: Health Bulletin
Cervical cancer vaccine can also benefit boys?
The UK government could save thousands of lives and hundreds of millions of pounds for the National Health Service by vaccinating boys against a cancer-causing virus at a cost of around £20 million a year, a coalition of health experts and campaigners says.
HPV Action, which has attracted the backing of leading charities and a medical royal college, wants the national vaccination programme against the human papilloma virus (HPV), currently only available to girls aged 12 to 13 and used against cervical cancer, to be extended to boys, amid growing evidence of the virus's role in causing cancers of the mouth and throat.
Girls have been given the vaccine since 2008 to protect them against cervical cancer , which is known to be caused by HPV infection in most cases. But it is now well established that the sexually transmitted virus is responsible for a significant proportion of cancers in other parts of the body, including the throat, anus and penis. Many scientists suspect it may be the root cause of rising rates of oral and throat cancers in both women and men.
The campaign group will this week present new evidence from Denmark which counters the UK government's assessment that vaccinating boys is unnecessary — and will argue that the human rights of British boys are being infringed by denying them the vaccine.
Government experts last month began a probe into the cost-effectiveness of extending the vaccine to boys and men who have sex with men. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization established a subcommittee for the purpose last October.
Jamie Rae, founder of the Throat Cancer Foundation, which support HPV Action, said there was no financial argument against extending the vaccine to boys. HPV Action pegs the cost of vaccinating 367,000 12-year-old boys every year at 0.02% of the NHS's annual budget.
3rd Feb 2014, 05:34 PM #772
Re: Health Bulletin
Cells from dead people's eyes may enable blind to see: Study
Cells taken from the donated eyes of the dead may enable blind people to see the world, a new study has found.
Researchers, who conducted tests on rats, have found that a special kind of human cells found in the back of everyone's eyes could restore partial vision in completely blind rats.
Similar results in humans would improve quality of life, but would not give enough vision to read, researchers from the University College London (UCL) said.
Researchers said human trials should begin within three years, the BBC reported.
The research team extracted a special kind of cell called Muller glial cells.
They are a type of adult stem cell capable of transforming into the specialised cells in the back of the eye and may be useful for treating a wide range of sight disorders, researchers said.
"This interesting study shows that Muller glial cells are another viable avenue of exploration for cell therapy in retinal diseases," Dr Paul Colville-Nash from the Medical Research Council, UK, said.
These cells in the laboratory were chemically charmed into becoming rod cells which detect light in the retina.
Injecting the rods into the backs of the eyes of completely blind rats partially restored their vision.
Brain scans showed that 50 per cent of the electrical signals between the eye and the brain were recovered by the treatment, the report said.
Researchers believe the cells might be able to help patients with disorders such as macular degeneration or retinitis pigmentosa.
4th Feb 2014, 12:30 AM #773
Re: Health Bulletin
Cancer cases set to rise by half by 2030: UN
New cases of cancer will rise by half by 2030, reaching 21.6 million per year compared to 14 million in 2012, the UN said on Monday in a global analysis of the scourge.
Cancer deaths, meanwhile, will likely rise from 8.2 million to 13 million per year as the world's population grows and ages and more people adopt risky lifestyle habits, said the report compiled by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
It took aim at Big Tobacco, saying its sales drive was "inextricably linked" to a likely surge in lung cancer.
Released on the eve of World Cancer Day, the report was compiled by more than 250 scientists from over 40 countries. It is the first such overview in six years.
World Health Organisation (WHO) Director General Margaret Chan, whose agency oversees the IARC, said the overall impact from cancer would "unquestionably" hit developing countries the hardest.
These nations are already grappling with poverty-associated cancers caused by infection or disease, she said.
Added to that will be cancers blamed on more affluent lifestyles -- high tobacco and alcohol use, eating processed foods and not exercising enough.
IARC director Christopher Wild said the focus should be on prevention.
"The particularly heavy burden projected to fall on low- and middle-income countries makes it implausible to treat our way out of cancer, even the highest-income countries will struggle to cope with the spiralling costs of treatment and care," he said.
Cancer overtook heart disease as the number one cause of death in the world in 2011.
New cases will likely rise to 19.3 million in 2025, with 11.4 million deaths, said Wild. By 2035, new cases would number about 24 million per year.
The report found a slight gender bias: 53 percent of cancer cases and 57 percent of deaths were among men.
In men, cancer most often attacked the lungs (16.7 percent) followed by the prostate (15 percent), colorectum (10 percent), stomach (8.5 percent), and liver (7.5 percent).
For women, cancer was most common in the breast (25.2 percent), colorectum (9.2 percent), lung (8.7 percent), cervix (7.9 percent) and stomach (4.8 percent).
There were also regional imbalances: more than 60 percent of the world's cancer cases and 70 percent of deaths occurred in Africa, Asia and Central and South America, said the World Cancer Report.
Measured as a proportion of the population, however, high-income countries in North America and western Europe as well as Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, had higher figures.
Cancers of the breast, colorectum and prostate were more typical of the industrialized world, said the report, and those of the liver, stomach and oesophagus more common in low-income countries.
China bears brunt of new cases
Almost half the new cases diagnosed in 2012 were in Asia, most of them in China, said the report. Europe had nearly a quarter of cases, the Americas about a fifth, and Africa and the Middle East just over eight percent.
But when it came to deaths, Asia's share jumped to more than 50 percent and that of Africa and the Middle East to nearly 10 percent, while the Americas' share shrank to under 16 percent and that of Europe to 21.4 percent.
Cancer is typically diagnosed at a more advanced stage in less developed countries, and treatment is less readily available, said the report.
Globally, lung cancer was the biggest killer with 19.4 percent of the total, followed by cancer of the liver with 9.1 percent and stomach with 8.8 percent.
The report said lung cancer was "inextricably linked to the global tactics of tobacco companies aiming to expand their sales."
A smoking "epidemic" was evolving in poor countries, it said, "potentially impeding human development by consuming scarce resources, increasing pressures on already weak health-care systems, and inhibiting national productivity."
The report said the total, annual economic cost of cancer to the world was estimated at about $1.16 trillion in 2010, "yet about half of all cancers could be avoided" through prevention, early detection and treatment.
Prevention includes vaccination against hepatitis B and the human papillomavirus, which can reduce cancers of the liver and cervix, the promotion of physical activity to counter obesity -- thought to be a factor in bowel and breast cancer, and tougher anti-tobacco campaigns.
5th Feb 2014, 11:08 AM #774
Re: Health Bulletin
Gamers can now join hunt for cancer cure
Gaming enthusiasts across the world can from Tuesday join the search for cancer cures with a citizen science project using a smartphone game to help researchers analyse vast volumes of genetic data from tumour samples. Called 'Play to Cure: Genes in Space', the spaceship game is designed for smartphones and was launched by the charity Cancer Research UK (CRUK), which hopes it will speed up the decoding of data to reveal patterns of the genetic faults that cause cancers to grow and spread.
Travelling in a world set 800 years in the future, players guide a fastpaced spaceship safely through a hazard-strewn intergalactic assault course, gathering along the way a fictional precious cargo called 'Element Alpha'. Each time a player steers the ship to follow the Element Alpha path, they also reveal patterns and, unwittingly, provide analysis of variations in the genetic data, explained Hannah Keartland, who led the project for CRUK and unveiled the game at a London launch on Tuesday.
It is this information that will be fed back to CRUK scientists. And to ensure accuracy, each section of gene data will be tracked by several different players. "We want anyone, anywhere, at any age, to download this game and play it," said Keartland.
If everyone around the world were to play the game for even a couple of minutes each, she said, "we could have an absolutely mind-blowing impact in terms of accelerating research".
An estimated 14 million people worldwide are diagnosed with cancer each year and that toll is expected to rise to 22 million a year within the next 20 years, according to a WHO report. Scientists will use the information gathered from 'Genes in Space' players to work out which genes are faulty in cancer patients. This in turn should help them develop new drugs that target specific genetic faults, and new ways to figure out how to stop cancer developing in the first place.
5th Feb 2014, 11:10 AM #775
Re: Health Bulletin
Study finds human papillomavirus in tongue cancer patients
It has been established in recent years that oral sex could have been the cause of some forms of throat cancer, through the transmission of the human papillomavirus (HPV). Now, a study by the Cancer Institute in Chennai has found high incidence of HPV in patients with tongue cancer.
Doctors have found a "strong presence of HPV" among some patients with tongue cancer, which is the most common oral cancer in India. "We are trying to find a link between HPV and tongue cancer," said Arvind Krishnamurthy, consultant at Adyar Cancer Institute, who undertook the study published in Lancet recently.
A virus with more than 40 types, HPV is sexually transmitted and connected to diseases that mainly affect the genital parts of men and women. In some cases, it is found to be the cause of cancers of the upper and lower parts of the throat. The virus transmitted through oral sex infects cells, making them cancerous in turn. "Throat cancer has also been related to HPV because the pharynx is like a soil where HPV settles down and multiplies. We need to prove it in case of tongue cancer because mere presence doesn't mean it is the cause," said Krishnamurthy.
Some others outside the study also suspect HPV. "Nearly 30% of oral cancer patients who came to me didn't consume alcohol or smoke. They didn't have the sharp tooth problem either. We suspect HPV to be the reason," said Saravanan Periasamy, surgical oncologist with the Global Hospitals Group.
Dr Krishnamurthy said such cases were found more among youngsters. "Unlike cancer caused due to tobacco or alcohol use, this type is responding well to treatment," Dr Krishnamurthy said. The study, conducted on 458 patients with tongue cancer (two-thirds of them males), found that more than 85% of the patients were non-alcoholics and around 50% never smoked, defying the usual causes cited for oral cancer. Though in many cases HPV was detected, doctors are yet to pinpoint the causative agent in these groups. Sharp tooth poking into the tongue and causing non-healing ulcers also lead to oral cancer, say doctors. However, HPV is increasingly being a suspect in patients who don't show this symptom as well.
HPV is mostly linked to oral cancer in the western countries probably due to their lifestyle, said Dr T Raja, senior consultant and medical oncologist at Apollo Hospitals. "Oral cancer in India is predominantly due to tobacco usage. There is an emerging interest in studying HPV-related oral cancer and studies are in the nascent stage," said Raja. "I am aware of patients who had HPV presence, but have not come across such a case myself."
5th Feb 2014, 11:32 AM #776
Re: Health Bulletin
New insights link key protein in cell division with cancer
As the world observes Cancer Day on Tuesday, a ground-breaking research gives new insights into how the cells in our bodies divide which could improve our knowledge of a condition linked to cancer.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Britain have suggested the key role played by a protein in ensuring that cells separate correctly.
Errors in the cell division process - which allows us to grow and stay healthy - can lead to a genetic disorder called aneuploidy, which is also associated with birth defects and infertility.
During cell division, chromosomes containing our DNA duplicate and then separate to form two identical copies of the original cell.
Aneuploidy arises when chromosome pairs fail to separate properly.
Scientists say that a protein - called shugoshin - serves two important functions.
It recruits other parts of the cell which are needed for chromosome separation and enables an in-built error correction system to monitor cells as they divide.
Researchers studied the effect that disabling shugoshin had on cell division in yeast.
The team found that in the absence of a working shugoshin protein, cells were more likely to contain abnormal numbers of chromosomes.
"Faults in these proteins are linked to some types of cancer, and our new discoveries about how they function in yeast could help us understand how they can sometimes contribute to disease in humans," said Adele Marston of the University of Edinburgh's school of biological sciences.
Cell division in yeast is very similar to that of humans, making it an excellent model in which to study the role that shugoshin plays in preventing aneuploidy in people, said the study published in the journal eLife.
5th Feb 2014, 11:34 AM #777
Re: Health Bulletin
US study links sugar, heart disease deaths
Could too much sugar be deadly? The biggest US study of its kind suggests the answer is yes, at least when it comes to fatal heart problems.
It doesn't take all that much extra sugar, hidden in many processed foods, to substantially raise the risk, the researchers found, and most Americans eat more than the safest amount.
Being in the highest risk category in the study means your chance of dying prematurely from heart problems is nearly three times greater than for people who eat only foods with little added sugar.
For someone who normally eats 2,000 calories daily, even consuming two 12-ounce (340-gram) cans of soda substantially increases the risk. For most American adults, sodas and other sugary drinks are the main source of added sugar.
Lead author Quanhe Yang of the US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention called the results sobering and said it's the first nationally representative study to examine the issue.
Scientists aren't certain exactly how sugar may contribute to deadly heart problems, but it has been shown to increase blood pressure and levels of unhealthy cholesterol and triglycerides; and also may increase signs of inflammation linked with heart disease, said Rachel Johnson, head of the American Heart Association's nutrition committee and a University of Vermont nutrition professor.
Yang and colleagues analyzed national health surveys between 1988 and 2010 that included questions about people's diets. The authors used national death data to calculate risks of dying during 15 years of follow-up.
Overall, more than 30,000 American adults aged 44 on average were involved.
Previous studies have linked diets high in sugar with increased risks for non-fatal heart problems, and with obesity, which can also lead to heart trouble. But in the new study, obesity didn't explain the link between sugary diets and death. That link was found even in normal-weight people who ate lots of added sugar.
"Too much sugar does not just make us fat; it can also make us sick," said Laura Schmidt, a health policy specialist at the University of California, San Francisco. She wrote an editorial accompanying the study in Monday's JAMA Internal Medicine.
The researchers focused on sugar added to processed foods or drinks, or sprinkled in coffee or cereal. Even foods that don't taste sweet have added sugar, including many brands of packaged bread, tomato sauce and salad dressing. Naturally occurring sugar, in fruit and some other foods, wasn't counted.
Most health experts agree that too much sugar isn't healthy, but there is no universal consensus on how much is too much.
US government dietary guidelines issued in 2010 say "empty" calories including those from added sugars should account for no more than 15 percent of total daily calories.
The average number of daily calories from added sugar among US adults was about 15 percent toward the end of the study, slightly lower than in previous years.
The authors divided participants into five categories based on sugar intake, from less than 10 percent of daily calories — the safest amount — to more than 25 percent.
Most adults exceed the safest level; and for 1 in 10 adults, added sugar accounts for at least 25 percent of daily calories, the researchers said.
The researchers had death data on almost 12,000 adults, including 831 who died from heart disease during the 15-year follow-up. They took into account other factors known to contribute to heart problems, including smoking, inactivity and excess weight, and still found risks for sugar.
As sugar intake increased, risks climbed steeply.
Adults who got at least 25 percent of their calories from added sugar were almost three times more likely to die of heart problems than those who consumed the least — less than 10 percent.
For those who got more than 15 percent — or the equivalent of about two cans of sugary soda out of 2,000 calories daily — the risk was almost 20 percent higher than the safest level.
Sugar calories quickly add up: One teaspoon has about 16 calories; one 12-ounce can of non-diet soda contains has about 9 teaspoons of sugar or about 140 calories; many cinnamon rolls have about 13 teaspoons of sugar; one scoop of chocolate ice cream has about 5 teaspoons of sugar.
Dr Jonathan Purnell, a professor at Oregon Health & Science University's Knight Cardiovascular Institute, said while the research doesn't prove "sugar can cause you to die of a heart attack", it adds to a growing body of circumstantial evidence suggesting that limiting sugar intake can lead to healthier, longer lives.
5th Feb 2014, 04:41 PM #778
Re: Health Bulletin
Is high blood pressure the new HIV epidemic?
Hypertension or high blood pressure could be as devastating to global health as HIV.
This is a warning spelt out in the International Journal of Epidemiology this week. Experts from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have warned that the response of most governments and international aid agencies to hypertension is little better than the reaction of HIV\AIDS 20 years back - too little, too late.
Mayo Clinic describes high blood pressure as a common condition in which the force of the blood against the artery walls is high enough that it may eventually cause health problems, such as heart disease and stroke. In India, hypertension is one of the largest epidemics along with diabetes and is believed to affect 25% of the country's adult population.
Experts believe that the number of deaths attributable to hypertension over the next 20 years may substantially exceed the number resulting from HIV/AIDS.
Writing in the International Journal of Epidemiology this week, Prof Peter Lloyd-Sherlock from the University of East Anglia (UEA), Prof Shah Ebrahim and Prof Heiner Grosskurth of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, say there is "denial" and misunderstanding about the impact of hypertension, despite the two conditions (HIV and hypertension) having a number of things in common. Both diseases can be treated and managed as chronic conditions through a combination of drug treatment and lifestyle changes.
"It has been suggested that valuable lessons for hypertension could be taken from HIV/AIDS policies. Yet there is little indication that these are being taken on board. Our response to the global epidemic of hypertension seems little better than our response to HIV/AIDS two decades ago: too little too late. Can
we not wake up earlier this time, before millions have died?
"HIV is a major global health priority and is recognised as a serious threat to public health and development in many poorer countries. Hypertension is seen as a disease of the West, of prosperity and therefore of little relevance to poorer countries. This is despite the growing body of evidence that prevalences in poorer countries are quickly catching up."
Obesity, lack of physical exercise and poor diet are responsible for the epidemic of hypertension sweeping across nations. "While hypertension is not an infectious disease, the risky behaviours associated with it are spreading fast and seem to be as effectively transmitted as infectious agents,'' the authors wrote.
"HIV was faced with political denial and public misunderstanding in the early years of the pandemic, especially in some poorer countries. There is a similar pattern of denial with hypertension...This denial is based on the misguided view that hypertension does not affect poorer social groups. Yet there is substantial evidence that hypertension is highly prevalent among poorer groups and that they are less likely to have access to effective treatment. As with HIV, hypertension can be both a cause and a consequence of poverty.
"Recent debate about the extent to which global health policy priorities should shift from infectious diseases such as HIV to non-communicable diseases such as hypertension...has mainly pivoted on a social gradient 'beauty contest', disputing the pace at which conditions such as hypertension affect the poor ... Rather than framing policy as a choice between competing priorities, the key challenge is to roll out services and interventions which address both."
6th Feb 2014, 12:56 PM #779
Re: Health Bulletin
Bionic hand allows amputee to feel again
Dennis Aabo Sorensen lost his left hand when a firework rocket he was holding exploded during New Year's Eve celebrations 10 years ago, and he never expected to feel anything with the stump again.
But for a while last year he regained his sense of touch after being attached to a "feeling" bionic hand that allowed him to grasp and identify objects even when blindfolded.
The prototype device, which was wired to nerves in the 36-year-old Dane's left arm, blurs the boundary between body and machine and scientists hope it could one day revolutionize the lives of many amputees.
There is still work to be done in miniaturizing components and tidying away trailing cables that mean the robotic hand has so far only been used in the lab, but Sorensen said the European research team behind the project had got the basics right.
"It was a great experience. It's amazing to feel something you haven't been able to feel for so many years," he told Reuters in a telephone interview. "It was pretty close to having the same feeling as in my normal hand."
Details of his month-long use of the bionic hand, including results from a week of concentrated daily tests, were reported by researchers from Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Britain and Denmark in the journal Science Translational Medicine on Wednesday.
Alastair Ritchie, a bioengineering expert at the University of Nottingham, who was not involved in the research, said the device was a logical next step but more clinical trials were now needed to confirm the system's viability.
"It's very exciting preliminary data but it's a one-case study and we now need to see more cases," he said.
Despite notable advances with prosthetic limbs, current artificial hands fall down when it comes to providing sensory feedback - a key element in human dexterity.
In his everyday life Sorensen uses a commercial prosthetic hand that can detect muscle movement in his stump to open and close his hand, but provides no sense of touch and requires him to watch constantly to prevent objects being crushed.
The new so-called LifeHand 2 prosthesis is far more sophisticated in combining intra-nerve wiring, robotics and computer science to create life-like feeling.
Ultra-thin electrodes the width of a human hair were surgically implanted into the ulnar and median nerves of Sorensen's arm before he was attached to the robotic hand, which is equipped with various artificial sensors.
These sensors measure the tension in man-made tendons on each finger to assess the force used to grasp different objects, while computer algorithms transform this information into an electrical signal that the nerves can interpret.
The result is real-time sensation, including a gradation in feelings that allowed Sorensen in tests to detect both shape and consistency. In a series of experiments, he was able to recognize the basic shapes of objects, such as the cylinder of a bottle, and also feel differences in the stiffness between a mandarin orange and a baseball.
It is a big advance on an initial LifeHand 1 device unveiled in 2009, which was less refined and was not implanted on the patient but only connected through electrodes.
There is still a need for further work, however, in order for the new hand to differentiate between more detailed textures, as well as between hot and cold.
Silvestro Micera, an engineer at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne and the Cuola Superiore Sant'Anna in Pisa, said the challenge now was to ensure the system could remain implanted on multiple patients for "many months".
"Our final goal is to have this in clinical practice in five, six or seven years time - but the next step is to show in two to three years that this can work long term not just in one patient but in several patients," he said.
Assuming further clinical trials go well, the research team is likely eventually to bring in a commercial partner, although Micera said this was not on the cards just yet.
One big unknown is cost. The high-tech device will not be cheap but Micera said the surgery to implant the electrodes was relatively straightforward, which should limit hospital bills.
6th Feb 2014, 01:06 PM #780
Re: Health Bulletin
Now, a syringe to help seal gunshot wounds in 15 second
A new pocket-sized syringe that can seal gunshot wounds within just 15 seconds has been developed by scientists.
The syringe Called XStat, developed by Oregon-based RevMedx, injects specially coated sponges into wounds.
The device could boost survival and spare injured soldiers from additional pain by plugging wounds faster and more efficiently than gauze, 'Popular Science' reported. "That is what we pictured as the perfect solution: something you could spray in, it would expand, and bleeding stops," said John Steinbaugh, former US army special operations medic.
The team used ordinary sponges and cut them into 1cm circles. They then injected the bits of sponge into an animal injury. "The bleeding stopped. Our eyes lit up. We knew we were onto something," said Steinbaugh.
Researchers settled on a sponge made from wood pulp and coated with chitosan, a blood-clotting, antimicrobial substance found in shrimp shells. They added X-shaped markers that make each sponge visible on an x-ray image in order to ensure that no sponges are left inside the body accidentally, the report said. The sponges expand to fill the entire wound cavity in just 15 seconds, creating enough pressure to stop heavy bleeding.