Health Bulletin


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Baldness may lead to increased prostate cancer risk

Baldness is associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer, according to a new study of African-American men.

US researchers found that among African-American men baldness was associated with a 69 per cent increased risk of prostate cancer.

"Early-onset baldness may be a risk factor for early-onset prostate cancer in African-American men, particularly younger men," said Charnita Zeigler-Johnson, research assistant professor at the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

In particular, those with frontal baldness, and not vertex baldness, were more than twice as likely to have been diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, according to the study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

This association was even stronger among men who were diagnosed when younger than 60, with a sixfold increase in high-stage prostate cancer and a fourfold increase in high-grade prostate cancer.

In addition, among younger men with prostate cancer, those with frontal baldness were more likely to have a high prostate-specific antigen level at diagnosis.
The research examined 318 men with prostate cancer and 219 controls who enrolled in the Study of Clinical Outcomes, Risk and Ethnicity (SCORE) between 1998 and 2010.
"We focused on African-American men because they are at high risk for developing prostate cancer and are more than twice as likely to die from prostate cancer than other groups in the United States," Zeigler-Johnson said.

"Although this is a high-risk group for poor prostate cancer outcomes, no published study had focused on evaluating baldness as a potential risk factor in a sample of
African-American men," Zeigler-Johnson said.


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WHO issues new guidance on dietary salt and potassium

According to new guidelines issued by the WHO, adults should consume less than 2,000 mg of sodium, or 5 grams of salt, and at least 3,510 mg of potassium per day. A person with either elevated sodium levels or low potassium levels could be at risk of raised blood pressure which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Sodium is found naturally in a variety of foods, including milk and cream (approximately 50 mg of sodium per 100 g) and eggs (approximately 80 mg/100 g). It is also found, in much higher amounts, in processed foods, such as bread (approximately 250 mg/100 g), processed meats like bacon (approximately 1,500 mg/100 g), snack foods such as pretzels, cheese puffs and popcorn (approximately 1,500 mg/100 g), as well as in condiments such as soy sauce (approximately 7,000 mg/100 g), and bouillon or stock cubes (approximately 20,000 mg/100 g).
Potassium-rich foods include: beans and peas (approximately 1,300 mg of potassium per 100 g), nuts (approximately 600 mg/100 g), vegetables such as spinach, cabbage and parsley (approximately 550 mg/100 g) and fruits such as bananas, papayas and dates (approximately 300 mg/100 g). Processing reduces the amount of potassium in many food products.

Currently, most people consume too much sodium and not enough potassium.

‘Elevated blood pressure is a major risk for heart disease and stroke – the number one cause of death and disability globally,’ says Dr Francesco Branca, Director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development. ‘These guidelines also make recommendations for children over the age of 2. This is critical because children with elevated blood pressure often become adults with elevated blood pressure.’

The guidelines are an important tool for public health experts and policymakers as they work in their specific country situations to address noncommunicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases. Public health measures to reduce sodium and increase potassium consumption and thereby decrease the population’s risk of high blood pressure and heart disease can include food and product labelling, consumer education, updating national dietary guidelines, and negotiating with food manufacturers to reduce the amount of salt in processed foods.

WHO is also updating guidelines on the intake of fats and sugars associated to reduced risk of obesity and noncommunicable diseases.


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Laproscopic surgery to cure diabetes gaining popularity

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Laparoscopic ileal interposition surgery or metabolic surgery to control of type 2 diabetes is catching up in many more countries showing interest in adopting the advance technique, said laparoscopic surgeon Surendra Ugale. Ugale of Kirloskar Hospital, who is the pioneer of this technique in India, hopes increasing awareness about an alternative available to control diabetes would make it popular around the world.

A team of doctors led by Ugale is performing ileal interposition (also known as metabolic surgery) at select centres in Hyderabad, Kolkata and Istanbul (Turkey). Under the technique pioneered by Brazilian surgeon Aureo de Paula 10 years ago, a part of stomach is removed, a long segment of the last part of small bowel (ileum) is cut and joined very close to the stomach. After a patient undergoes the surgery, undigested food first enters ileum to stimulate the increased secretion of a hormone called GLP-I, which in turn stimulates beta cells in pancreas to secrete increased amounts of insulin.

The team led by Ugale, who learnt the technique from Paula, has performed 250 surgeries during last five years with 90 to 95 percent remission rate (patients who don’t depend on medicines after the surgery). Ugale, the second surgeon in the world to perform metabolic surgeries, told reporters that Alper Celik, a surgeon trained by him, has so far performed 150 surgeries in Istanbul.

He said several Gulf countries, including the UAE, were taking interest in the technique. He plans to train surgeons in Australia next month. Three patients including Ugale’s wife Meena Ugale, a gynaecologist, shared their experiences at the press conference. They no longer depend on medication and the surgery also helped them control their weight.

The surgery costs Rs.4 lakh. Ugale said if the government reduces duty on the advanced equipment used for the surgery, this could bring down the cost. He also offered to train government surgeons so that the government hospitals can offer this treatment free of cost.He also wants the insurance companies to extend their support considering the fact that diabetes is more dangerous than even heart problems. He pointed out that mortality rate due to diabetes and obesity is increasing across the world.

Ugale explained that the metabolic surgery is different from bariatric surgery. While bariatric surgeries are done to control obesity, they were not free from side-effects like malabsorption, malnutrition and recurrence of diabetes as the various procedures are meant for weight loss and not for diabetes.Claiming that metabolic surgery is free from side-effects, Ugale said it caters to the requirements of Indian diabetic patients, 60 to 80 percent of whom are not obese.

He attributed lack of awareness among people and the tendency among surgeons to look for shortcuts rather than learning an advanced technique for the metabolic surgery not becoming popular during last one decade.He believes that the technique offers an ideal solution to India, which has 62 million diabetic. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that the economic burden of diabetes on India would be $350 billion by 2020.


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Gestational hypertension killing more and more women

A recent study conducted by the BMC has revealed that hypertension is the second-largest killer of pregnant women after excessive bleeding. According to data collected by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, of the 248 women who died in city hospitals – 11 % were due to excessive bleeding, 10% due to hypertension, 8 % due to tuberculosis and 5% due to sepsis. The remaining deaths were caused by other conditions.

The World Health Day theme this year is high blood pressure or hypertension and along with diabetes is considered one of the two silent killers that are plaguing people all over the developed and developing world as well. Both of these conditions are mainly caused due to changing lifestyle habits, eating more junk food, rapid urbanisation, a more sedentary lifestyle and increase in smoking and drinking.

In pregnant women, hypertension can lead to a serious condition called preeclampsia where women start passing protein in their urine. This leads to the disease called eclampsia which is characterised by seizures and a coma. This condition also affects other vital organs like the kidneys, liver and brain.

What is even more shocking is many of these women don’t suffer from high blood pressure pre-pregnancy. However, during pregnancy, there are a host of hormonal changes that goes on in the body which alters the mechanism of controlling blood pressure. This results in various pregnancy-related conditions. Hypertension in pregnant women or gestational hypertension can be caused due to a variety of reasons. Women who have a family history of preeclampsia are more prone to the disease. Also women suffering from kidney disease, diabetes, women are older than 35 or very young are all prone to gestational hypertension.

What is hypertension?
Hypertension or high blood pressure is one of the most common lifestyle diseases. Blood flows through our arteries with pressure. This pressure is determined by the pumping of the heart as well as resistance to the flow of blood by the arteries. Due to genetics, high cholesterol or other reasons, the wall of the blood vessels get thickened leading to increased resistance for the blood to flow. This causes the blood pressure to go up causing hypertension. Elevated blood pressure is linked to a variety of diseases – coronary artery diseases, heart diseases, stroke, kidney diseases, vision loss and erectile dysfunction. High BP can be curtailed by exercising more, eating right, with anti-hypertensive medicine and by keeping stress at bay.


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Can a diabetic person have honey instead of sugar?

Clinical studies have shown that pure honey is a healthier choice for diabetics than sugar and other sweeteners.

Honey has a lower Glycaemic Index i.e. it does not raise blood sugar levels as quickly as sugar.

It also requires lower levels of insulin compared to regular white sugar. However, the key consideration is the total carbohydrates in your diet and not the amount of sugar.

One tablespoon of honey has approximately 17 grams of carbohydrate.
Honey is higher in calories, and is sweeter than sugar.

This way you can add less honey to get the same sweetness

. But before you decide to make the switch, make sure to first consult your doctor or dietician

. An important fact you should keep in mind while using honey, is to be sure that you are using pure and unadulterated honey.


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After menopause, cells less willing to part with fat

Why do women put on weight around their abdomen after menopause? The answer lies in the sudden dip in the levels of female hormone, estrogen. But for the first time, Canadian researchers have mapped just how this deficiency in estrogen leads to deposits of fat around the abdomen.

Concordia University 's assistant professor Sylvia Santosa has shown that menopause changes fat storage process at a cellular level. Just when there is a drop in production of estrogen due to menopause, the body also experiences a change in activity of certain proteins and enzymes. Santosa's research, which was published in the March 2013 journal of Diabetes, shows that these other chemicals become more active and, as their task is to store fat cells, the women puts on more weight.

Moreover, cellular metabolism is slower in menopausal women than their pre-menopausal counterparts. These changes mean that their cells are not only storing more fat, but are also less willing to part with it. The result is rapid weight gain

In young women, there is a tendency for the excess fat to get deposited in their hips and thighs, while men tend to carry it on their stomachs. But after menopause, things start to change: many women's fat storage patterns start to resemble those of men. This indicates that there's a link between estrogen and body fat storage. "The fat stored on our hips and thighs, is relatively harmless," said Santosa in a press release, "but the fat stored around the abdomen is more dangerous. It has been associated with diabetes, heart disease, stroke and even some cancers.''


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Diabetics likely to get TB, doctors look for fix

Diabetics are three times more likely to contract tuberculosis (TB) than others, say doctors and medical researchers looking for a treatment plan to mitigate the threat.

Doctors have proposed that the programme include the screening of all diabetes patients for TB and vice versa.

Speaking at a meeting here on Sunday on dealing with TB and diabetes, doctors said HIV and TB co-infection had been a challenge for several years, yet compulsory screening of TB patients for AIDS was included in the national TB control programme only in 2010. "Now we need to come up with a plan for care and cure of DM-TB co-infection," said health secretary J Radhakrishnan.

Presenting a paper on the double burden of diabetes and tuberculosis, Dr Vijay Viswananthan said an estimated 25.3% of all tuberculosis patients had diabetes mellitus (DM) as compared to a TB prevalence of only 10.4% among the general population.

Lifestyle changes, including an increase in the number of people who smoke and drink, have contributed to the rise in diabetes and tuberculosis co-infection, Dr Viswanathan said.

"Diabetes is often not detected in TB patients and TB may not be diagnosed in diabetics," he said. "This is a major challenge in dealing with DM-TB co-infection."

Explaining the diagnostic problems involved in diabetes and TB co-infection, National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis director Soumya Swaminathan said, "Diabetes delays sputum culture conversion. So it takes up to three months to get diagnostic results."

"Recurrence of TB and relative risk of death in diabetes patients is high," Dr Swaminathan said. "The only positive is that we have not found cases of drug-resistant TB in diabetics."

Patients with tuberculosis and diabetes co-infection have reduced immunity levels that may lead to complications such as renal failure, stroke and heart disease.

"We need to study the effect of controlling glucose levels and try a different regimen for patients with the co-infection," Dr Swaminathan said, adding that outreach workers have to be trained to check for diabetes in TB patients.

"Administering Isoniazid, an anti-TB drug, to diabetics can help prevent the onset of tuberculosis," she said. "Like at HIV-treatment centres, we can use active tuberculosis cough as an indicator to screen patients."


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Now, contact lenses to restore near vision

Scientists claim to have developed new contact lenses that can restore age-related loss of near vision when worn by the user every night.

Most people have age-related declines in near vision (presbyopia) requiring bifocals or reading glasses.

The emerging technique called hyperopic orthokeratology (OK) may provide a new alternative for restoring near vision without the need for glasses, according to a study,

For middle-aged patients with presbyopia, wearing OK contact lenses overnight can restore up-close vision in one eye, according to the study by Paul Gifford and Helen A Swarbrick from the University of New South Wales, Sydney.

The study included 16 middle-aged patients (43 to 59 years) with age-related loss of near vision, or presbyopia.

Orthokeratology is a clinical technique to correct vision using specially designed rigid contact lenses to manipulate the shape of the cornea.

Gifford and Swarbick evaluated a "monocular" technique, with patients wearing a custom-made OK lens in one eye overnight for one week. To preserve normal distance vision, the other eye was left untreated.

In all patients, the monocular OK technique was successful in restoring near vision in the treated eye. The improvement was apparent on the first day after overnight OK lens wear, and increased further during the treatment week.

Eye examination confirmed that the OK lenses altered the shape of the cornea, as they were designed to do.

Vision in the untreated eye was unaffected, and all patients retained normal distance vision with that eye, essentially this gives the patient the dequivalent of 'monovision' that is usually done with contact lenses or surgery.

To retain the correction in near vision, patients had to continue wearing their OK lenses every night.

As expected, when patients stopped wearing their OK lens after the treatment week, presbyopia rapidly returned.

By about age 45 to 50, most people need bifocals or some other form of vision correction to restore vision for reading and other up-close tasks, according to the study published in the journal Optometry and Vision Science.

The new study suggests that overnight OK lenses are a feasible alternative for correction of presbyopia, "sufficient to provide functional near vision correction white retaining good distance visual acuity," researchers said.


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Are you prone to putting on kilos? Your breath can tell

The content of your breath may indicate how susceptible you are to weight gain, according to a new study led by an Indian-origin researcher. People whose breath has high concentrations of both hydrogen and methane gases are more likely to have a higher body mass index and percentage of body fat, according to the study.

The combination of the two gases signals the presence of a micro-organism that may contribute to obesity.

A person exhales larger amounts of hydrogen and methane gases when a microorganism called Methanobrevibacter smithii (M smithii) colonises the digestive tract. Previous research has shown that M smithii is the predominant organism in the human gastrointestinal tract responsible for methane production.

"Normally, the collection of micro-organisms living in the digestive tract is balanced and benefits humans by helping them convert food into energy," said lead author Ruchi Mathur, director of the Outpatient Diabetes Treatment and Education Center in the Division of Endocrinology at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles.

"When M smithii becomes overabundant, it may alter the balance in a way that makes the human host more likely to gain weight and accumulate fat," Mathur said.


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Walnuts can slash diabetes risk in women: study

Eating walnuts two or three times a week can lower the risk of developing type two diabetes in women by a almost a quarter, new research has claimed.

Researchers studied nearly 140,000 women in the US and found that those who ate a 28 gramme packet of walnuts at least twice a week were 24 per cent less likely to develop type two diabetes than those who rarely or never ate them.

While previous research has shown the anti-diabetic effects of walnuts, the new study is believed to be one of the largest to find that regularly snacking on them can help prevent the condition.

Although the latest research was conducted on female nurses, it's likely that the same benefits apply to men, researchers said.

Scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, tracked 137,893 nurses aged from 35 to 77 over a ten year period to see how many developed type two diabetes, The Telegraph reported.

Their dietary habits were closely monitored, including details on how often they ate nuts, particularly walnuts.

After allowing for body fat and weight, the researchers found eating walnuts one to three times a month curbed the risk by four per cent, once a week by 13 per cent and at least twice a week by 24 per cent.

"Our results suggest higher walnut consumption is associated with a significantly lower risk of type two diabetes in women," researchers said in the study published in the Journal of Nutrition.


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Eating fish could help you to live longer

Eating fish twice a week could help you live at least two years longer, a new study has claimed.
Older people who have higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish and seafood may lower the overall mortality risk by 27 per cent and death risk from heart disease by about 35 per cent.

Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and the University of Washington found that older adults who had the highest blood levels of fish fatty acids lived, on average, 2.2 years longer than those with lower levels.

"Our findings support the importance of adequate blood omega-3 levels for cardiovascular health, and suggest that later in life these benefits could actually extend the years of remaining life," said lead author Dariush Mozaffarian.

Researchers examined 16 years of data from about 2,700 US adults aged 65 or older who participated in the Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS).

"The findings suggest that the biggest bang-for-your-buck is for going from no intake to modest intake, or about two servings of fatty fish per week," said Mozaffarian.

Participants came from four US communities in North Carolina, California, Maryland, and Pennsylvania and all were generally healthy.

The researchers analysed the total proportion of blood omega-3 fatty acids, including three specific ones, in participants' blood samples at baseline.

They found that the three fatty acids - both individually and combined - were associated with a significantly lower risk of mortality.

One type in particular - docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA- was most strongly related to lower risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) death (40 per cent lower risk), especially CHD death due to arrhythmias (electrical disturbances of the heart rhythm) (45 per cent lower risk).

Of the other blood fatty acids measured – eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) - DPA was most strongly associated with lower risk of stroke death, and EPA most strongly linked with lower risk of nonfatal heart attack.

Overall, study participants with the highest levels of all three types of fatty acids had a 27 per cent lower risk of total mortality due to all causes.

The study was published in Annals of Internal Medicine.


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Study to detect cause of sleep disorders

Alarmed by the high prevalence of sleep disorders among the Indian population and the lack of specific data on this, an Indian-Norwegian group that is running a chain of clinics across the country to treat the disorders will now conduct detailed research on them and recommend remedial measures.

Despite an estimated 15 per cent of Asians suffering from one or the other kind of sleep disorder, there is lack of India-specific data which is hampering research and treatment, said Ashim Desai, senior ENT consultant with Nova Specialty Surgery (NSS), which has tied up with world leader in sleep treatment, Eurosleep of Norway, for the study.

"Although there is a lot of global data, there is no comprehensive India-specific data available. The need of the hour is to conduct research studies in this area for the Indian population. We shall conduct research over a large geographic area into the demographics, causes and management of sleep disorders," Desai said.

He said sleep disorders are a new area of interest globally, as studies have shown that an increasing number of lifestyle diseases are directly attributable to lack of proper sleep.

Eurosleep global CEO Magne Tvinnereim said that globally validated set protocols are being instituted at all NSS centres.

"NSS's involvement in this research aims to achieve complete online data integration, to generate meaningful insights from the data collected on the Indian population," Tvinnereim explained.

NSS co-founder Mahesh Reddy said that the Nova-Eurosleep Sleep Clinics are the largest provider of diagnostic and therapeutic modalities for the comprehensive study and management of sleep-related disorders in India.

NSS has 10 clinics in Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad and one in Muscat. The treatment is mostly day-care but for serious cases requiring surgery, it can be as long as a week. The treatment can cost anything between RS.50,000 and Rs.200,000.

Referring to the dangers of sleep disorders, Eurosleep Asia CEO Mohan Nair said these can give rise to several physiologival and psychological changes.

"Besides, sleep disorders heighten the risk of developing hypertension, Type II diabetes and increased body weight. These factors aggrevate the risk of cardiovascular diseases," Nair warned.

While there are some 80 kinds of sleep disorders, the World Association of Sleep Medicine, the organisers of the World Sleep Day every year, says one of the most common is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) that causes the throat muscles to relax too much, cutting off or restricting the airway.

Nair quoted an international study which proved that OSA respresents a stress that promotes insulin resistance and hence, atherogenesis, or narrowing of the blood vessels.

The study, published in the prestigious American Jorunal of Respiratory & Critical Care Medicine, investigated the relationship between sleep-disordered breathing and insulin resistance.

It found that OSA subjects were more insulin resistant, as indicated by higher levels of fasting serum insulin that was present in both obese and non-obese participants.

An analysis of the relationship of insulin resistance and hypertension confirmed that insulin resistance was a significant factor for hypertension in this group and OSA may provide a stress stimulus that triggers or aggravates hypertension. Upto 40 percent patients suffering from OSA had increased blood pressure.

Among the younger population, sleep-disordered breathing in children is a public health concern, given the increasing rates of obesity and hyperactivity in this segment.

According to research studies, 3-12 per cent of children snore; OSA affects one-10 percent, leading to a host of health problems which may continue to cause concern or aggravate as they grow.

Since the past one year, Eurosleep Asia has been strengthening its operations in India with focus on spreading technological advancements and know-how, which would facilitiate the proposed research on sleep disorders among Indians.

Contrary to the general perception that sleep apean is a problem associated with the elderly population, Desai said it is prevalent even among children.

"Consequences of untreated obstructive sleep apnea among children include failure to thrive, enuresis, attention-deficit disorder, behavior problems, poor academic performance, and cardiopulmonary disease," Desai cautioned.


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‘Breathprint’ to end blood & urine tests?

Exhaled breath carries a molecular 'breathprint' unique to each individual , which may be used as a more convenient tool to diagnose disease, replacing the conventional blood and urine tests, researchers say.

Doctors routinely have blood and urine analysed in order to obtain hints for infectious and metabolic diseases, to diagnose cancer and organ failure, and to check the dose of medication , based on compounds present in these body fluids.

Researchers at ETH Zurich and at the University Hospital Zurich now propose to extend such analyses to breath, and in particular to take advantage of modern high-resolution analytical methods that can provide real-time information on the chemical composition of exhaled breath.

The scientists developed an instrument-based version of a principle by which doctors draw conclusions about the health state of a patient based on the smell of the exhaled breath.

It is also known that trained dogs and rats can distinguish the smell of the breath of people suffering from certain variants of cancer. In these cases the entire smell of the patient's exhaled breath is gauged, which can give rise to bias.

The scientists, led by Renato Zenobi, professor at the Laboratory for Organic Chemistry, aim at eliminating this bias and identifying the chemical compounds in breath. Like this, doctors should be able to use specific compounds , which are present in breath, for diagnosis.


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‘Breathprint’ to end blood & urine tests?

Exhaled breath carries a molecular 'breathprint' unique to each individual , which may be used as a more convenient tool to diagnose disease, replacing the conventional blood and urine tests, researchers say.

Doctors routinely have blood and urine analysed in order to obtain hints for infectious and metabolic diseases, to diagnose cancer and organ failure, and to check the dose of medication , based on compounds present in these body fluids.

Researchers at ETH Zurich and at the University Hospital Zurich now propose to extend such analyses to breath, and in particular to take advantage of modern high-resolution analytical methods that can provide real-time information on the chemical composition of exhaled breath.

The scientists developed an instrument-based version of a principle by which doctors draw conclusions about the health state of a patient based on the smell of the exhaled breath.

It is also known that trained dogs and rats can distinguish the smell of the breath of people suffering from certain variants of cancer. In these cases the entire smell of the patient's exhaled breath is gauged, which can give rise to bias.

The scientists, led by Renato Zenobi, professor at the Laboratory for Organic Chemistry, aim at eliminating this bias and identifying the chemical compounds in breath. Like this, doctors should be able to use specific compounds , which are present in breath, for diagnosis.


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Radiation therapy new cancer cure

Scientists have developed a new form of radiation therapy that successfully put cancer into remission in mice, without producing harmful side-effects of conventional chemo and radiation cancer therapies. Scientists from the University of Missouri found that mice treated with the radiation therapy showed no signs of cancer afterwards.

"Since the 1930s, scientists have sought success with a cancer treatment known as boron neutron capture therapy (BNCT)," said lead researcher professor M Frederick Hawthorne.

"Our team at MU's International Institute of Nano and Molecular Medicine finally found the way to make BNCT work by taking advantage of a cancer cell's biology with nanochemistry," Hawthorne said.

Cancer cells grow faster than normal cells and in the process absorb more materials than normal cells. Hawthorne's team took advantage of that fact by getting cancer cells to take in and store a boron chemical designed by Hawthorne.

When those boron-infused cancer cells were exposed to neutrons, a subatomic particle, the boron atom shattered and selectively tore apart the cancer cells, sparing neighbouring healthy cells. The physical properties of boron made Hawthorne's technique possible. A particular form of boron will split when it captures a neutron and release lithium, helium and energy. Like pool balls careening around a billiards table, the helium and lithium atoms penetrate the cancer cell and destroy it from the inside without harming surrounding tissues.

"The technique worked excellently in mice. We are ready to move on to trials in larger animals, then people. However, before we can start treating humans, we will need to build suitable equipment and facilities. When it is built, MU will have the first radiation therapy of this kind in the world," Hawthorne said.


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Fat people risk kidney disease in old age

Those who are overweight starting in early adulthood (ages 26 or 36 years) may be twice as likely to have chronic kidney disease at age 60 to 64 years than those who are not overweight, according to a new study.

Larger waist-to-hip ratios ("apple-shaped" bodies) during middle age are also linked with chronic kidney disease at age 60 to 64 years.

The findings emphasize the importance of excess weight as a risk factor for chronic kidney disease (CKD).

Because many populations across the globe continue to gain excess weight, Richard Silverwood, PhD, Dorothea Nitsch, MD (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, in England), and their colleagues conducted a study to see what sort of effect being overweight or obese might have on kidney health.

The researchers analyzed information from the Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development, a sample of children born in one week in March 1946 in England, Scotland, and Wales. A total of 4,584 participants had available data, including body mass index at ages 20, 26, 36, 43, 53, and 60 to 64 years.

They found that participants who were overweight beginning early in adulthood (ages 26 or 36 years) were twice as likely to have CKD at age 60 to 64 years compared with those who first became overweight at age 60 to 64 years or never became overweight.

The link between overweight and CKD was only in part explained by taking diabetes and hypertension into account.

Larger waist-to-hip ratios ("apple-shaped" bodies) at ages 43 and 53 years were also linked with CKD at age 60 to 64 years.

"We estimated that 36 per cent of CKD cases at age 60 to 64 in the current US population could be avoided if nobody became overweight until at least that age, assuming the same associations as in the analysis sample," said Dr. Nitsch.

"To our knowledge we are the first to report how age of exposure to overweight across adulthood may affect kidney disease risk," she added.

It is unclear whether the timing of overweight onset or the duration of being overweight drives the link with CKD seen in the study. Either explanation suggests that preventing excess weight gain in early adulthood could have a considerable effect on the prevalence of CKD.

Doing so appears to have a larger effect than any treatment for CKD known to date, the researchers said.

The study will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Society of


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Now, glass and plastic mix implants to mend broken bones

The idea is to give bones a scaffold to grow on so they can heal properly. As the bones heal, the polymer dissolves.

A novel implants designed by mixing glass and plastic could make the steel pins that are often employed today to hold the bones together after fracture a thing of past, and reduce the number of surgeries patients with big breaks have to go through.

To make implants that can hold bones together and then dissolve when the implants aren’t needed anymore, scientists have been working on a composite of polymer and glass (called “bioglass”), according to Discovery News.

The idea is to give bones a scaffold to grow on so they can heal properly. As the bones heal, the polymer dissolves. Polymers aren’t stiff and strong enough to hold bone together, and so scientists added glass particles, which gives the polymer extra strength.

But the plastic and glass particle mix has to be heat-treated, which is the problem scientists have been facing until now as at higher temperatures the glass particles react with the polymer, making chemicals that you don’t want inside your body.

Now, Jose Ramon Sarasua and Aitor Larranaga, researchers in the materials engineering department of the University of the Basque Country, have proposed a way around this problem: treat the glass particles with a plasma, an ionized gas that alters the chemistry of the particles’ surface.

The result is better thermal stability for the implant material — meaning it can be heat-treated like other plastics, and still be safe for use in the body
Sarasua told Discovery News that the implant his team designed isn’t meant for breaks bigger than an inch or so, at least not yet.

The results were published in the journal Polymer Degradation and Stability.


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Low blood pressure a myth created by doctors: Experts

This World Health Day on April 7, a slew of programmes will seek to raise awareness about hypertension. But in the din over the travails of high blood pressure and concomitant diseases such as diabetes, chronic low blood pressure has gone out of focus.

Low blood pressure without any symptoms, experts say, is not a cause for concern; it may, in fact, be a sign of health. Since there is a close link between a person's build and blood pressure, small people tend to have lower blood pressure. Indeed, pressure as low as 90/60 can be "normal" provided the person is able to go about her routine without problem.

Theories that linked low blood pressure with chronic malnutrition have been effectively junked, but the diagnosis continues to be a money spinner for physicians in small towns and major cities.

"Low blood pressure is a myth created by doctors. Blood pressure as low as 90/60 can be considered normal provided there are no other related symptoms," says Dr D Prabhakaran, executive director of Centre for Chronic Disease Control.

The definition of normal blood pressure has seen a continuous downward revision over the years. In 1960s, 160/95 was the upper limit of normal pressure in an adult but now even 115/75 is considered "undesirable high blood pressure". This has effectively narrowed the "low blood pressure" band to a wafer, that too only if it is accompanied by other complaints.

It is only a sudden fall in blood pressure that may cause a person to lose consciousness or experience severe dizziness that can indicate an inherent pathological condition. There is a known phenomenon called orthostatic hypotension, where sudden postural changes are associated with a feeling of giddiness that may sometimes be a cause for concern. However, low pressure in most cases is no more than one of the symptoms of a range of conditions, from pregnancy to heart failure, erroneous heart beat rate to heat stroke. Besides, prescription medicines for high blood pressure, depression or Parkinson's can precipitate a bout of hypotension, as can hormonal conditions such as thyroid imbalance.


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'Artificial ovary could replace missing sex hormones'

A bio-artificial ovary could make hormone replacement therapy (HRT) a thing of the past for women with damaged ovaries, a new study has found.

Researchers from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center's Institute for Regenerative Medicine demonstrated that in the laboratory setting, engineered ovaries showed sustained release of the sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone.

"Our goal is to develop a tissue - or cell-based hormone therapy - essentially an artificial ovary to deliver sex hormones in a more natural manner than drugs," said Emmanuel C Opara, professor of regenerative medicine and senior author.

"A bio-artificial ovary has the potential to secrete hormones in a natural way based on the body's needs, rather than the patient taking a specific dose of drugs each day," Opara said in a statement.

The loss of ovarian function can be due to surgical removal, chemotherapy and radiation treatments for certain types of cancer, and menopause.

The effects of hormone loss can range from hot flashes and vaginal dryness to infertility and increased risk of osteoporosis and heart disease.

"This research project is interesting because it offers hope to replace natural ovarian hormones in women with premature ovarian failure or in women going through menopause," Tamer Yalcinkaya, associate professor and section head of reproductive medicine at Wake Forest Baptist.

"The graft format would bring certain advantages: it would eliminate pharmacokinetic variations of hormones when administered as drugs and would also allow body's feedback mechanisms to control the release of ovarian hormones," said Yalcinkaya.

The project to engineer a bio-artificial ovary involves encapsulating ovarian cells inside a thin membrane that allows oxygen and nutrients to enter the capsule, but would prevent the patient from rejecting the cells.


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Red meat boosts gut bacteria that raise heart disease risk

A compound that is abundant in red meat and is added as a supplement to popular energy drinks has been found to promote atherosclerosis - or the hardening or clogging of the arteries, a new study has revealed.

The study showed that the bacteria living in the human digestive tract metabolize the compound carnitine, turning it into trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), a metabolite that in a previous study was found to promote atherosclerosis in humans.

Further, the research found that a carnitine high diet promoted the growth of the bacteria, which metabolize carnitine, compounding the problem by producing even more of TMAO.

The research team led by Stanley Hazen, MD, PhD, vice-chair of Translational Research for the Lerner Research Institute and section head of Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation in the Miller Family Heart and Vascular Institute at Cleveland Clinic, and Robert Koeth, a medical student at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University tested the carnitine and TMAO levels of omnivores, vegans and vegetarians, and examined the clinical data of 2,595 patients undergoing elective cardiac evaluations.

They team examined the cardiac effects of a carnitine-enhanced diet in normal mice compared to mice with suppressed levels of gut microbes, and discovered that TMAO altered cholesterol metabolism at multiple levels, explaining how it enhanced the problem.

The researchers found that increased carnitine levels in patients predicted increased risks for cardiovascular disease and major cardiac events such as heart attack, stroke and death, but only in subjects with concurrently high TMAO levels.

While carnitine occurs naturally in red meats, including beef, venison, lamb, mutton, duck, and pork, it's also a dietary supplement available in pill form and a common ingredient in energy drinks.

The study has been published in the journal Nature Medicine.

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