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Protein that Repairs Alzheimer’s Brain Damage Identified

TRENTON – Scientists from University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey have identified a protein that can repair brain damage in Alzheimer’s patients.

They said that a protein called vimentin normally appears twice in a lifetime – when neurons in the brain are forming during the first years of life and, years later when the brain’s neurons are under siege from Alzheimer’s or other neurodegenerative diseases.

“Vimentin is expressed by neurons in regions of the brain where there is Alzheimer’s damage but not in undamaged areas of the brain,” said Dr Robert Nagele, a professor at UMDNJ and the study’s corresponding author.

“When the patient shows up at the doctor’s office with symptoms of cognitive impairment, the neurons have reached the point where they can no longer keep pace with the ever-increasing damage caused by Alzheimer’s,” he added.

While explaining the study results, Nagele likened neurons to a tree with long strands called dendrites branching off from the main part of the cell.

The dendrite branches are covered with 10,000 tiny “leaves” called synapses that allow neurons to communicate with each other. Vimentin is an essential protein for building the dendrite branches that support the synapses.

“A hallmark of Alzheimer’s is the accumulation of amyloid deposits that gradually destroy the synapses and cause the collapse of dendrite branches,” he said.

“When the dendrites and synapses degenerate, the neuron releases vimentin in an attempt to re-grow the dendrite tree branches and synapses. It’s a rerun of the embryonic program that allowed the brain to develop in the early years of life,” Nagele added.

The researchers also reported some initial findings that indicated a similar damage response mechanism takes place following traumatic brain injury, suggesting the possibility that similar therapeutic agents could be developed to enhance repair both for sudden brain trauma and for progressive neurodegenerative diseases.

The findings are published in journal Brain Research.

Iron Accumulation in a Cell Can Cause Disease

SYDNEY – The build-up of iron in a cell centre may lead to debilitating diseases which can cause brain and cardiac disorders, a study has revealed.

The accumulation of iron in mitochondria, which is the centre for cell respiration and energy production, is toxic. The iron can substantially damage the cell and cause death.

Using a mouse model, University of Sydney (U-S) researchers found that the iron loading was caused by its increased iron uptake and decreased release due to reduced iron utilization in two major mitochondrial pathways.

“The terrible part is that these children (with high iron accumulation in cells) grow up knowing the joys of self-sufficiency, being able to walk and function normally before they are struck down,” said Des Richardson.

Michael Huang, study co-author noted: “It’s great to work on such an intractable disease and by unveiling its underlying nuts and bolts to get results that can potentially help lots of people.”

The study appeared in the latest edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Long Working Hours Make Parents Compromise on Food Choices

ITHICA – Long work hours and irregular schedules are forcing people to compromise on food choices for themselves and their children, suggests a new study.

The research team from Cornell University measured food choice coping strategies in low- to middle-income families in five categories: (1) food prepared at/away from home; (2) missing meals; (3) individualizing meals (family eats differently, separately, or together); (4) speeding up to save time; and (5) planning.

They found that fathers who worked long hours or had nonstandard hours and schedules were more likely to use take-out meals, miss family meals, purchase prepared entrees, and eat while working.

Similarly, mothers were also likely to purchase restaurant meals or prepared entrees or missed breakfast.

About a quarter of mothers and fathers said they did not have access to healthful, reasonably priced, and/or good-tasting food at or near work.

The findings suggest that better work conditions may be associated with more positive strategies such as more home-prepared meals, eating with the family, keeping healthful food at work, and less meal skipping.

 “This study examined how work conditions are related to the food choice coping strategies of low- and moderate-income parents,” said Dr Carol M. Devine, RD, Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University, and colleagues.

 “Study findings will enhance understanding of social and temporal employment constraints on adults’ food choices and may inform workplace interventions and policies…The importance of work structure for employed parents’ food choice strategies is seen in the associations between work hours and schedule and food choice coping strategies, such as meals away from home and missed family meals.

 “Long work hours and irregular schedules mean more time away from family, less time for household food work, difficulty in maintaining a regular meal pattern, and less opportunity to participate in family meals; this situation may result in feelings of time scarcity, fatigue, and strain that leave parents with less personal energy for food and meals,” the researchers added.

Depression Ups Cancer Patients Dying Risk

VANCOUVER – Depression can decrease a cancer patient’s chances of survival, a new research suggests.

Published in the November 15, 2009 issue of Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the finding of an analysis highlights the need for systematic screening of psychological distress and subsequent treatments.

In order to determine the effects of depression on cancer patients’ disease progression and survival, graduate student Jillian Satin, MA, of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and her colleagues analyzed all of the studies to date they could identify related to the topic.

The researchers found 26 studies with a total of 9417 patients that examined the effects of depression on patients’ cancer progression and survival.

“We found an increased risk of death in patients who report more depressive symptoms than others and also in patients who have been diagnosed with a depressive disorder compared to patients who have not,” said Satin.

In the combined studies, the death rates were up to 25 percent higher in patients experiencing depressive symptoms and 39 percent higher in patients diagnosed with major or minor depression.

The increased risks remained even after considering patients’ other clinical characteristics that might affect survival, indicating that depression may actually play a part in shortening survival.

However, the authors say additional research must be conducted before any conclusions can be reached. The authors add that their analysis combined results across different tumor types, so future studies should look at the effects of depression on different kinds of cancer.

The investigators note that the actual risk of death associated with depression in cancer patients is still small, so patients should not feel that they must maintain a positive attitude to beat their disease.

Nevertheless, the study indicates that it is important for physicians to regularly screen cancer patients for depression and to provide appropriate treatments.

Scientists Uncover New Anti-TB Compounds

ITHICA – Scientists from Weill Cornell Medical College have identified certain compounds that would inhibit the sophisticated mechanism used by tuberculosis bacteria for surviving dormant in infected cells.

The researchers said most of the people infected with TB remain symptom-free because the Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the disease-causing bacteria, is kept in check within immune system cells.

These cells produce compounds such as nitric oxide, which scientists believe damage or destroy the bacteria’s proteins. If these compounds are allowed to accumulate, the damaged proteins would kill the bacteria.

However, a protein-cleaving complex known as a proteasome breaks down that damaged proteins and allows the bacteria to remain dormant.

The researchers suggest that finding drugs to disable the proteasome would be a new way to fight TB.

During the study, the researchers examined 20,000 compounds for TB proteasome inhibition activity, and identified and synthesized a group of inhibitors, which they then tested for their ability to inhibit the proteasome inside the mycobacteria.

“We believe these findings represent a new approach for developing antibiotics in the fight against TB,” Nature magazine quoted Dr. Carl Nathan, senior author and chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, R.A. Rees Pritchett Professor of Microbiology and director of the Abby and Howard P.

Milstein Program in Chemical Biology of Infectious Disease at Weill Cornell Medical College, as saying

“This is important because we are running out of effective antibiotics that are currently available. There are few drugs that successfully combat TB in its dormant stage, which makes the bacterium so resilient in the body.

“More important, there are many antibiotics that kill bacteria by blocking the synthesis of proteins, but there are none that kill bacteria by interfering with protein breakdown, as we have found here,” Nathan added.

What is Restless Leg Syndrome?

Also called: RLS

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) causes a powerful urge to move your legs. Your legs become uncomfortable when you are lying down or sitting. Some people describe it as a creeping, crawling, tingling or burning sensation. Moving makes your legs feel better, but not for long.

In most cases, there is no known cause for RLS. In other cases, RLS is caused by a disease or condition, such as anemia or pregnancy. Some medicines can also cause temporary RLS. Caffeine, tobacco and alcohol may make symptoms worse.

Lifestyle changes, such as regular sleep habits, relaxation techniques and moderate exercise during the day can help. If those don’t work, medicines may reduce the symptoms of RLS.

 

Basic Diabetic Diet

If you have diabetes, your body cannot make or properly use insulin. This leads to high blood glucose, or sugar, levels in your blood. Healthy eating helps to reduce your blood sugar. It is a critical part of managing your diabetes, because controlling your blood sugar can prevent the complications of diabetes.

Wise food choices are a foundation of diabetes treatment. Diabetes experts suggest meal plans that are flexible and take your lifestyle and other health needs into account. A registered dietitian can help you design a meal plan.

Healthy diabetic eating includes

  • Limiting sweets
  • Eating often
  • Being careful about when and how many carbohydrates you eat
  • Eating lots of whole-grain foods, fruits and vegetables
  • Eating less fat
  • Limiting your use of alcohol

Home Remedies Series – Leg Cramps

Exact cause of a leg cramp is extremely difficult to pinpoint

The exact cause of a leg cramp is extremely difficult to pinpoint, some of the factors leading to the same are as follows –

Muscle fatigue due to overexertion

Rigorous exercises

Dehydration

Excess weight

Electrolyte, hormonal or fluid imbalances

Side effects of certain medicines such as diuretics.

An unusual or a different exercise than what is done normally.

Diminished blood supply.

Nerve abnormalities.

Nerve and muscle diseases.

Massaging the muscle

What to do when you get a leg cramp?

Stretch the sore muscle, follow your instinct, your body will automatically guide you in the correct manner.

Massage the cramped muscle gently in the natural direction of the muscle. This helps relax the contraction and ease the pain.

A hot shower or warm bath is a good way to relax the muscle.

Use cold packs on the affected muscle. This relaxes the tensed muscles.

For a cramped calf muscle, stretch and massage the leg by straightening it and pointing the toes upward, towards the head.

Use a warm towel or heating pad to alleviate pain or tenderness following a cramp.

Diet rich in potassium and calcium

Increase water consumption to stay well hydrated throughout the day.

Potassium and calcium rich foods will keep the level of these two much required nutrients at optimum levels preventing cramping episodes.

Stay hydrated during work

Some preventive measures –

Dehydration causes leg cramps. It is especially important to stay well hydrated during workouts.

Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after exercising.

Stretching prior to starting your exercise routine is extremely important.

Stretches help relax muscles and thus prevent leg cramps.

When beginning a workout regime, it is imperative that you do so gradually. A sudden increase or changes in physical activity levels can cause leg cramps. Keep rolled up bed sheets or blankets at your feet to prevent your toes and feet from pointing downward while you are asleep. Riding a stationary bicycle for a few minutes before bedtime could prevent cramps from developing during the night.

Introducing – Kava

Latin name: Piper methysticum

Other names: kava kava, kawa, kew, yagona, sakau

Kava is a tall shrub in the pepper family that grows in the South Pacific islands. It has been used there for thousands of years as a folk remedy and as a social and ceremonial beverage.

The part of the plant used medicinally is the root. Although the root was traditionally chewed or made into a beverage, kava is now available in capsule, tablet, beverage, tea, and liquid extract forms.

Why People Use Kava:

    * Anxiety

    * Insomnia

Because kava can cause sedation, and in high amounts, intoxication, kava drinks are consumed in some parts of the world in much the same way as alcohol.

How Kava Works:

The main active components in kava root are called kavalactones. Specific types of kavalactones include dihydrokavain, methysticin, kavain, dihydromethysticin, dihydrokawain, yangonin and desmethoxyyangonin.

Although it’s not clear exactly how kava works, kavalactones may affect the levels of neurotransmitters (chemicals that carry messages from nerve cells to other cells) in the blood. Kava has been found to affect the levels of specific neurotransmitters, including norepinephrine, gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) and dopamine.

Scientific Evidence for Kava:

A number of well-designed studies have examined kava’s ability to relieve anxiety compared to anxiety medication or a placebo. The results have been promising.

In 2003, a review by the Cochrane Collaboration examined the existing research to see how kava fared compared to a placebo in treating anxiety. After analyzing the 11 studies (involving a total of 645 people) that met the criteria, the researchers concluded that kava “appears to be an effective symptomatic treatment option for anxiety.” However, they added that it seemed to be a small effect.

Concerns About Kava and the Liver:

Although rare, case reports have linked kava use with liver toxicity, including hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver failure.

As a result, the FDA issued a warning about kava in 2002. Several countries have banned or restricted the sale of kava.

Clinical trials have not found liver toxicity. Adverse liver reactions appear to be linked to factors such as pre-existing liver disease, alcohol consumption, excessive doses, genetic variations in the cytochrome P450 enzymes, consumption of other drugs or herbs that, combined, may have a toxic effect, or the use of stem or leaf extracts or extracts made with acetone or ethanol.

Potential Side Effects of Kava:

Side effects include indigestion, mouth numbness, skin rash, headache, drowsiness and visual disturbances. Chronic or heavy use of kava has linked to pulmonary hypertension, skin scaling, loss of muscle control, kidney damage, and blood abnormalities.

Kava may lower blood pressure and it also may interfere with blood clotting, so it shouldn’t be used by people with bleeding disorders. People with Parkinson’s disease shouldn’t use kava because it may worsen symptoms.

Kava should not be taken within 2 weeks of surgery. Pregnant and nursing women, children, and people with liver or kidney disease shouldn’t use kava.

Possible Drug Interactions:

Kava shouldn’t be taken by people who are taking Parkinson’s disease medications, antipsychotic drugs, or any medication that influences dopamine levels.

Kava shouldn’t be combined with alcohol or medications for anxiety or insomnia, including benzodiazepines such as Valium (diazepam) or Ativan (lorazepam). It may have an additive effect if taken with drugs that cause drowsiness.

Kava may have an additive effect if combined with antidepressant drugs called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI).

Kava shouldn’t be taken with any drug or herb that impairs liver function. Kava also may interfere with blood clotting, so people taking Coumadin (warfarin) or any drug that influences blood clotting should avoid it unless under a doctor’s supervision.

Kava is a diuretic, so it may have an additive effect if combined with drugs or herbs that have diuretic properties.

Intelligence In Young Children Is Not Influenced By Omega 3 Fatty Acids

SOUTHAHMPTON – Infant intelligence is more likely to be shaped by family environment than by the amount of omega 3 fatty acids, called DHA, fed in breast milk or fortified formula, according to new research funded by the Medical Research Council and the Food Standards Agency.

Omega 3 fatty acids, particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are found in high concentrations in the brain and accumulate during the spurt in brain growth that occurs between the last trimester of pregnancy and the first year of life. Studies in animals have shown that a lack of DHA during periods of rapid brain growth may lead to problems in brain development but trials of the effect of DHA-fortified formula on brain function in babies have produced conflicting results.

In this study, MRC scientists followed 241 children from birth until they reached four years of age to investigate the relationship between breastfeeding and the use of DHA-fortified formula in infancy and performance in tests of intelligence and other aspects of brain function.

Dr Catharine Gale, from the MRC Epidemiology Resource Centre at the University of Southampton, who led the study said:

“This study helps to dispel some of the myths surrounding DHA. We do know that there are clear health benefits to breast feeding but DHA, which is naturally present in breast milk and added into some formulas, is not the secret ingredient that will turn your child into an Einstein. Children’s IQ bears no relation to the levels of DHA they receive as babies. Factors in the home, such as the mother’s intelligence and what mental stimulation children receive, were the most important influences on their IQ.”

– This study is one part of a wider Food Standards Agency project which was commissioned to look at the effect of diet in early childhood on intelligence and physical well being in later life. These results provide a useful addition to the evidence base in this area of research. It does not alter government advice that babies up to 6 months should be exclusively breastfed.

– Omega three fatty acids, often called long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs), which include DHA, are involved in cell signalling, regulation of gene expression and neuronal growth.

– The Southampton Women’s Survey (SWS), a study of a population sample of non-pregnant women aged 20 to 34 years in Southampton, is funded by the Medical Research Council and the Dunhill Medical Trust. Children born to SWS were used to provide the data for this study.

– The four year follow-up of the children was funded by a research contract with the Food Standards Agency.

Genetic Link Between Psychosis and Creativity Revealed

BUDAPEST –  A new study seems to have established a link between psychosis and creativity.

Szabolcs Keri, a psychiatrist at Semmelweis University in Hungary, focused his research on neuregulin 1, a gene that normally plays a role in a variety of brain processes, including development and strengthening communication between neurons.

Writing about the study in the journal Psychological Science, he has revealed that a variant of this gene is associated with a greater risk of developing mental disorders, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

For the study, Keri and his colleagues recruited volunteers who considered themselves to be very creative and accomplished.

The participants underwent a battery of tests, including assessments for intelligence and creativity.

To measure the volunteers’ creativity, the researchers asked them to respond to a series of unusual questions, and scored them based on the originality and flexibility of their answers.

The subjects also completed a questionnaire regarding their lifetime creative achievements before the researchers took blood samples.

According to the researchers, their findings showed a clear link between neuregulin 1 and creativity, for volunteers with the specific variant of this gene were more likely to have higher scores on the creativity assessment, and also greater lifetime creative achievements, than volunteers with a different form of the gene.

Keri claims that his study has for the first time shown that a genetic variant associated with psychosis may have some beneficial functions.

He says: “Molecular factors that are loosely associated with severe mental disorders but are present in many healthy people may have an advantage enabling us to think more creatively.”

His findings also suggest that certain genetic variations, even though associated with adverse health problems, may survive evolutionary selection and remain in a population’s gene pool if they also have beneficial effects.

Low Incomes Leads to Higher Mortality Rate In Prostate Cancer Patients

GENEVA – Prostate cancer patients who belong to low socio-economic status are more likely to die than patients with higher incomes, according to a new study from Swiss researchers.

The study’s findings indicate that poor prostate cancer patients receive worse care than their wealthier counterparts.

The researchers wanted to know how disparities affected prostate cancer mortality in Switzerland, a country with an extremely well developed health care system and where healthcare costs, medical coverage, and life expectancy are among the highest in the world,

Dr. Elisabetta Rapiti, of the University of Geneva, and her colleagues conducted a population-based study that included all residents of the region who were diagnosed with invasive prostate cancer between 1995 and 2005.

The analysis included 2,738 patients identified through the Geneva Cancer Registry.

The researchers found that as compared with patients of high socio-economic status, those of low socio-economic status were less likely to have their cancer detected by screening, had more advanced stages of cancer at diagnosis, and underwent fewer tests to characterize their cancer.

These patients were less likely to have their prostates removed and were more likely to be managed with watchful waiting, or careful monitoring.

Patients with low socio-economic status also had a 2-fold increased risk of dying from prostate cancer compared with patients of high socio-economic status.

“The increased mortality risk of patients of low socio-economic status is almost completely explained by delayed diagnosis, poor work-up, and less complete treatment, indicating inequitable use of the health care system,” said Rapiti.

The authors say lead time and length time biases linked to early detection through PSA screening may partially explain the survival advantage observed among high SES patients.

The study has been published in the latest issue of Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.

New Radioactive Imaging Agent may Revolutionize Skin Cancer Diagnosis

SYDNEY – An Australian Government funded research group has developed a potential new material that can make early diagnosis of malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer possible.

Writing about their work in the ACS’ Journal of the Medicinal Chemistry, the Cooperative Research Consortium for Biomedical Imaging Develop has revealed that the novel material is currently being tested in laboratory animals.

Ivan Greguric, a group member, notes that about 130,000 new cases of malignant melanoma occur each year worldwide.

Although patients do best with early diagnosis and prompt treatment, according to the researcher, the positron emission tomography (PET) scans sometimes used for diagnosis sometimes miss small cancers, delaying diagnosis and treatment.

While searching for better ways of diagnosis, the researchers identified a new group of radioactive imaging agents, known as fluoronicotinamides.

Testing it on laboratory mice that had melanoma, the researchers observed that the novel substance revealed skin cancer cells with greater accuracy than imaging agents currently in use.

Consequently, note the researchers, this substance may become a “superior” PET imaging agent for improving the diagnosis and monitoring the effectiveness of treatment of melanoma.

They have revealed that clinical trials with this new agent are scheduled for 2010.