Stress could worsen nerve disorder

US scientists have said that chronic social stress could worsen neuro-degenerative disorder — a condition where cells of the brain and spinal cord are destroyed. The brain and spinal cord are composed of neurons that do different functions such as controlling movements, processing sensory information, and making decisions.

In experiments on mice, researchers at Texas A&M University found that social stress increased the inflammation of the central nervous system (CNS) that consists of the brain and spinal cord, reported health portal Health Central. Stress appeared to elevate levels of protein cytokine called interleukin-6 (IL-6), which led to increased severity of multiple sclerosis-like illnesses in the mice.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a serious and incurable neurological disease that causes blindness and paralysis. Cytokines are pro-inflammatory proteins that regulate immunity and inflammatory functions.The researchers also found that giving the mice IL-6 neutralising antibody treatments during stressful events prevented the stress-related worsening of the MS-like diseases.

"People exposed to chronic social conflict experience high levels of stress and consequent dysregulation of the immune system, thereby increasing vulnerability to infectious and auto-immune diseases," lead researcher Mary Meagher said.

An Implantable Telescope (in Retina) to Reverse Vision Loss

Washington: A small telescope-like device developed by ophthalmologists in the US may be able to halt and even reverse vision loss caused by macular degeneration, an age-related eye disease.

--- Picture: An illustration of how the miniature telescope projects data back to the eye ---
According to a new study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology, the tiny optical prosthetics dramatically improved the vision of about 140 patients studied in a clinical trial over two years.
Macular degeneration is a medical condition found in elderly people. Due to the disease, the centre of the inner lining of the eye, known as the macula area of the retina, suffers thinning, atrophy and also bleeding in some cases. This can result in loss of central vision, which leads to inability in seeing fine details, reading or recognising faces. There is no known treatment to correct macular degeneration yet.
Now, the new Implantable Miniature Telescope (IMT), developed by US-based VisionCare Ophthalmic Technologies, could offer relief to those suffering from the disease.“This is a good device and it offers hope for people with no other options,” says Kathryn Colby, lead author of the study and an ophthalmologist. The IMT is a compound telescope system which consists of a glass cylinder that is 4.4mm in length and 3.6mm in diameter, and houses wide-angle micro-optics.
The prosthetic telescope is implanted by an ophthalmic surgeon in the eye that provides central vision. The device works with the eye’s cornea like a telephoto system, rendering an enlarged retinal image designed to reduce the area of diminished vision, reported the online edition of Scientific American. Doctors caution that this is not an easy fix, and they are developing special techniques to properly implant the device without damaging the eye. However, the regulatory body for medicine in the US has given the green signal to ophthalmologists for implanting the device.

High-Intensity Ultrasound could be the answer to combating Cancer

Researchers believe that using High-Intensity Ultrasound could be the answer to combating cancer using the body’s inbuilt immune system...

An intense form of ultrasound that shakes a tumour until its cells start to leak can trigger an “alarm” that enlists immune defences against the cancerous invasion, according to a study led by researchers at US’ Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering. The new findings from animal experiments suggest that once activated by the ultrasound, the immune system might even seek and destroy cancer cells, including those that have spread through the bloodstream to lurk in other parts of the body.

--- Picture: Pei Zhong, a professor at Duke’s mechanical engineering and materials science department, poses besides an ultrasound machine. Zhong along with his team have found that doctors could possibly use High-Intensity Ultrasound to launch an attack on cancer, wherever it lurks ---

Creating a Toxic Spill
High-intensity focused ultrasound, or HIFU, is in use or testing in China, Europe and the United States to kill tumours by heating them. But Duke researchers now find that HIFU might work even better if it is first delivered in a manner that just shakes the cells. That shaking ruptures tumour cell membranes, causing them to spill their contents. The toxic spill then alerts the immune system to the cancer threat, leading to the production of tumour-fighting white blood cells.

If the effect seen in mice holds true in human patients, such a treatment could be an important advance in many cancer therapies because of its potential to tackle both primary tumours and metastatic cancers that have spread to other organs – all without the need for surgery, the research team reported in the Journal of Translational Medicine on August 3. The work, done by the engineers in collaboration with cancer immunologists and physicians at the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Centre, was supported by US’ National Institutes of Health.

“In most cancers, what actually ends up killing the patient is the spread of the cancer from its original site to other parts of the body,” said Pei Zhong, an associate professor in Duke’s mechanical engineering and materials science epartment. “If the patient has a tumour in the kidney or liver, several treatment options - Including surgery, radiation or HIFU – can be used to get rid of the cancerous tissues. However, if the cancer cells spread to other vital organs such as the lung or brain, the outcomes are often much worse.

“HIFU in the current form can only be used to treat the primary tumour,” he continued. “We now think that HIFU delivered in a different mode, with emphasis on using mechanical vibration to break apart the tumour cells, may have an even more significant impact in suppressing cancer metastasis by waking up the immune system.”

Road blocks ahead
For reasons that are still not completely understood, cancer cells often go largely undetected by the immune system, Zhong said. For an anti-tumour immune response to be effective, it may need to recognise not only the surface proteins of cancer cells, but some of the other proteins locked inside those cells, which Zhong called “danger signals.”

Preliminary tests show potential
The researchers found in mice with colon cancer that mechanical HIFU delivered to the animals’ tumours sparked an immune response twice as strong as did thermal HIFU, presumably by releasing a much more diverse range of danger signals.“Our results show that mechanical HIFU has the potential to induce a stronger anti-tumour immune response,” Zhong said. “These preliminary findings open up the possibility that we could use heat from HIFU to treat the primary tumour and HIFU-boosted immunotherapy for combating any residual and metastatic tumour cells.”

Source: Various newspaper articles

Anti Ageing Injections Will Soon Be A Reality!

London: French researchers believe an injection to erase the health problems associated with ageing is near at hand.

The injection manipulates a body’s mitochondria - the sausage-shaped ‘powerhouses’ in every cell of the body (except red blood cells) - which turns the food we eat into energy that can be used by the heart, muscles, brain and other parts of the body. Past research has suggested that mitochondrial deterioration is an important cause of ageing. But attempts to introduce normal genes into mitochondria to replace defective ones have so far failed: Researchers have been unable to transport genes across the mitochondrial membrane into the mitochondria.

But now, Marisol Corral-Debrinski and colleagues at the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris have met with some success. The team selected two mitochondrial gene mutations - one that causes muscle weakness and another that causes blindness. They then successfully inserted the normal versions of these genes into diseased cells grown in a lab. Both mutations were reversed.The experiments will now be conducted on rats, and eventually humans may get the ‘elixir of life’.

“It is not a panacea but, if successful, it might potentially correct part of this age-associated damage to mitochondria which might be important in slowing down ageing,” said Professor Patrick Chinnery, a leading British expert on mitochondrial disorders.

Source: Mumbai Mirror

Software calculates heart attack risk

Pioneering computer software is helping doctors to decide how best to treat patients admitted to hospital with heart attacks. An international consortium of researchers, led by the University of Edinburgh, has developed a programme that enables doctors to swiftly assess the severity of a patient’s condition. The new ‘risk calculator’ is already being used in UK hospitals.

Doctors using the new system take key data from patients at their bedside, and input it into the specially-devised programme. Key facts—such as a patient’s age, medical history and blood pressure—are recorded by doctors, as well as information derived from on-the-spot blood samples and kidney tests.

The new patient’s statistical profile is then input into a computer and matched with data derived from thousands of other coronary cases. Using the outcomes of these previous cases as a guide, the computer will not only give an accurate assessment of the new patient’s conditions, but also recommend possible treatment. Significantly, it will be able to predict the likelihood the patient suffering a heart attack, and even their chances of dying in the next months.

Chest pain accounts for more than a quarter of all emergency medical admissions in the United Kingdom. Spotting high risk heart patients quickly can be difficult, but Professor Keith Fox, of the University of Edinburgh, says the new tool will help: “Identifying those with threatened heart attack from the very many patients with chest pain is a real clinical challenge, but critically important in guiding emergency and subsequent patient care. Higher risk patients need more intensive medical and interventional treatment.”

An international group of cardiologists and statisticians have spent several years producing the Global Registry of Acute Coronary Events (GRACE) calculator. The complex statistical model has been developed using data derived from six-year study of more than 40,000 coronary patients worldwide.

Scientists crack gene code of breast and colon cancers

US scientists have cracked the entire genetic code of breast and colon cancers, offering new treatment hopes, reports BBC News

The genetic map shows that nearly 200 mutated genes, most previously unknown, help tumours emerge, grow and spread. The discovery could also lead to better ways to diagnose cancer in its early, most treatable stages, and personalised treatments, Science reports. The Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center say the findings suggest cancer is more complex than experts had believed.

The mutated genes in breast and colon cancers were almost completely distinct, suggesting very different pathways for the development of each of these cancer types. Each individual tumour appeared to have a different genetic blueprint, which could explain why cancers can behave very differently from person to person, the scientists said.

No two patients are identical,” co-author Victor Velculescu explained.

Now researchers will study how these mutations occur in breast and colon cancers. Previous cancer gene discoveries have already led to successful detection and treatment strategies. For example, the breast cancer drug Herceptin targets a breast cancer cell receptor made by the Her2-neu gene. Blood tests for hereditary bowel cancer are based on the APC gene. Anna Barker of the National Cancer Institute said: “Maximising the numbers of targets available for drug development in a specific cancer means that patients will ultimately receive more personalised, less toxic therapies.”

Ed Yong of Cancer Research UK, said: “This is potentially a very important piece of research. “Most of the cancer genes identified in this study have not been previously linked to cancer. “These newly identified genes could provide rich hunting grounds for scientists looking for new ways of treating or detecting cancers. “In the future, scientists hope to be able to tailor plans for preventing or treating cancer to each person’s individual genetic profile. Studies like this can help us to accomplish this goal.”

So can sunshine beat heart disease?

This Easter, it's not over-indulging in chocolate you should be worrying about, but your lack of exposure to the sun over the past six months.

All through winter, your vitamin D stores will have been declining, and by now you will have a fraction of what you need — not just for strong bones but to fight off a range of diseases, including cancer, heart disease and infections.

Last month, a study of 7,500 men and women found that most don't have enough vitamin D in their bloodstream for at least six months of the year. Although our bodies absorb some vitamin D from the food we eat, it can't absorb enough— the body has to manufacture the rest through sunlight.

Fewer UVB rays reach the ground during the winter months, and less so the further north you go. The Scots, according to the new study, are twice as likely to suffer from dangerously low levels of vitamin D. Researchers have suggested that by ensuring we get adequate amounts, breast, prostate and colon cancer rates would be reduced by more than 50 per cent. Other research has found that improved intake would help to prevent osteoporosis.

Inadequate levels of the vitamin have also been linked to depression and weight gain.

What's so controversial about this research, conducted at some of the world's top scientific centres, is that it suggests the current recommended daily amount for vitamin D is way too low. The official advice is that we need between 200 and 400 iu (international units of concentration) a day, some of which we can get from food — notably fatty fish and cod liver oil, but also lard, butter and egg yolk — and the rest from sunlight.

It's long been known that people in some immigrant groups are more likely to be deficient, but it now appears that most white middle-aged people, the ones thought to be fine, are seriously lacking in vitamin. Over 2,000 iu, according to some sources, puts you at risk of absorbing too much calcium, leading to liver, kidney and heart damage. Other side-effects of overdosing includes increased thirst, nausea and vomiting.

However, one of the authors of the recent study linking vitamin D and flu, takes 5,000iu daily in the winter, and advises people to take 2,000 iu for each kilo of their body weight daily for three days at the first sign of infection.

There are other examples of people who have taken large doses with no ill-effect. For instance, an American study of wheelchair-bound patients with severe weakness and fatigue, who were given very high doses totalling 50,000 iu a week. They suffered no problems and were walking after six weeks. Another described how a group of adolescents with a severe deficiency were given single monthly doses of 100,000 iu with no ill effects.

As yet, it's too early to say who is right about all of this; the one thing everyone agrees on is that these new ideas about vitamin D need further testing. So it is probably too early to start going for mega-doses of 10,000 iu. But modern-day living does seem designed to reduce our vitamin D intake to a minimum.

We're Dracula-like when it comes to sunlight, terrified by the fear of skin cancer into spending our days indoors, and when we do venture out, we are urged to slap on the sun block.

As for our diet, the low-fat mantra discriminates against foods with vitamin D, most of which come with high doses of fat and cholesterol. Since our food is unlikely to be fortified any time soon, should you be taking a supplement? No one can tell you for certain, but it's certainly worth making sure you get enough sun. It's time to book that holiday.

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