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Aug 31
Breakthrough in breast cancer treatment: Researchers starve cells
An Indian origin researcher along with other colleagues have indicated that the most common breast cancer uses the most efficient, powerful food delivery system known in human cells and blocking that system kills it.

This method of starving cancer cells could provide new options for patients, particularly those resistant to standard therapies such as tamoxifen, according to Georgia Health Sciences University researchers.

Human estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer cells thriving in a Petri dish or transplanted onto mice die when exposed to a drug that blocks the transporter, called SLC6A14, said Dr. Vadivel Ganapathy, Chairman of GHSU's Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

"It basically starves the cancer cell," Mr. Ganapathy, corresponding author of the study, said. The transporter can carry 18 of the known 20 amino acids, fuel all cells need in some combination. Amino acids enable cells to make proteins, which they need to function and survive. The cell type determines its amino acid needs and delivery system. Rapidly growing, dividing estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer needs nearly every amino acid so it makes the smart choice of utilizing the transporter that can deliver the biggest load, Mr. Ganapathy said.

SLC6A14 is the only transporter known to carry all 10 essential amino acids, essential because the body can't make them so they have to be delivered via the bloodstream from food. The transporter also takes eight of the nonessential amino acids along for the ride. And it is a fast ride. The transporter has three energy sources instead of the usual one or two, Mr. Ganapathy said.

While that may seem like a loss for healthy cells, it bolsters the cancer-fighting potential for drugs that block SLC6A14 by making it a more specific cancer target. "Since the normal cells do not depend on this transporter, you can use a drug that selectively blocks it to target cancer cells," said Mr. Ganapathy.

The compound they used is alpha-methyl-DL-tryptophan, already used in humans for short periods when the get a PET scan in certain areas of the brain. When the researchers treated estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer cells with it or put it in the drinking water of the mice with the cells, rapid growth stopped and the cancer cells died. The study has been published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Aug 30
6 new genes that trigger type-2 diabetes in South Asians identified
A new study led by an Indian-origin researcher has identified six new genes that are responsible for the early onset of type-2 diabetes in South Asians (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh).

The findings give scientists new leads in the search for diagnostic markers and drug targets to prevent and treat this major disease.

People of South Asian ancestry are up to four times more likely than Europeans to develop type 2 diabetes, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

The researchers from around the world examined the DNA of 18,731 people with type 2 diabetes and 39,856 healthy controls. The genomes of the participants were analysed to look for locations where variations were more common in those with diabetes.

The results identified six positions where differences of a single letter in the genetic code were associated with type 2 diabetes, suggesting that nearby genes have a role in the disease.

"This is the first genome-wide association study in South Asians, who comprise one-quarter of the globe"s population, and who carry a high burden of the disease and its complications, including heart attack and stroke," said Professor Jaspal S Kooner, from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London, the lead author for the study.

"We have shown that the genetic variants discovered here in South Asians also exist and contribute to diabetes in Europeans.

"Our studies in Asians and European populations highlight the importance and gain in examining the same problem in different ethnic groups," he added.

The study has been published in Nature Genetics.

Aug 29
Scientists crack riddle of why people overeat
Scientists have unlocked the key to why people overeat, which could hold vital clues for combating the scourge of obesity.

In a study of brain circuits that control hunger and satiety, Yale School of Medicine researchers have found that molecular mechanisms controlling free radicals-molecules tied to aging and tissue damage-are at the heart of increased appetite in diet-induced obesity.

The study found that elevating free radical levels in the hypothalamus directly or indirectly suppresses appetite in obese mice by activating satiety-promoting melanocortin neurons.

"It's a catch-22," said senior author Tamas Horvath, the Jean and David W. Wallace Professor of Biomedical Research, chair of comparative medicine and director of the Yale Program on Integrative Cell Signaling and Neurobiology of Metabolism.

"On one hand, you must have these critical signalling molecules to stop eating. On the other hand, if exposed to them chronically, free radicals damage cells and promote aging," added Horvath.

"That's why, in response to continuous overeating, a cellular mechanism kicks in to suppress the generation of these free radicals," added lead author Sabrina Diano, associate professor of Ob/Gyn, neurobiology and comparative medicine.

"While this free radical-suppressing mechanism-promoted by growth of intracellular organelles, called peroxisomes-protects the cells from damage, this same process will decrease the ability to feel full after eating," added Diano.

The study has been published in the advanced online issue of Nature Medicine. (ANI)

Aug 27
Undernutrition in teenage years can lead to heart disease
Teenage girls who starve themselves in an attempt to lose weight could raise their risk of heart disease later in life by up to a third, a new study suggests.

Severe undernutrition during adolescence, even for short periods, can have severe consequences later in life according to researchers from the University Medical Centre in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

A study of almost 8,000 women found that those were seriously deprived of food during their teens, through no fault of their own, went on to have a significantly higher risk of heart disease in future years.

Doctors recommend women eat 2000 calories a day to stay healthy, but some modern-day celebrities have reportedly chosen to undergo periods of starvation in a bid to make themselves thinner.

Victoria Beckham is alleged to have eaten 600 calories a day after adopting a diet of little more than mineral water and strawberries before becoming pregnant with her third son, Cruz.

Even more severe was the diet of Portia De Rossi, the former Ally McBeal and Arrested Development actress, who last year claimed to have dropped six stone during an earlier period of anorexia in which she ate just 300 calories a day.

Healthy eating campaigners expressed concerns that negative images in the media could prove seriously damaging to young people having trouble with their own eating habits.

A study of almost 8,000 women found that those exposed to severe underlnutrition and weight loss at some point during their childhood and adolescence had a 27 per cent higher risk of coronary heart disease in later life, rising to 38 per cent in those who had been aged 10 to 17.

Women who had suffered moderate hunger and weight loss had a slightly higher risk of heart disease, although the study also found that the risk of stroke was lower for women who had been undernourished than for those who had not.

Annet van Abeelen, who led the study, said: "Our study pinpoints the crucial role childhood plays in adult health.

"Growth that has been hampered by undernutrition in later childhood, followed by a subsequent recovery, may have metabolic consequences that contribute to an increased risk of diseases later in adulthood."

A spokesperson for Beat, the eating disorder charity, said: "Daily, young people are surrounded by images of so-called role models in the media which can be unhelpful to someone who is struggling with their eating habits.

"Eating disorders and yo-yo dieting can certainly have long term health consequences which can lead to organ failure."

Researchers studied almost 7,845 women who had been aged up to 21 during the Dutch famine in 1944-45, during which official rations slumped as low as 400-800 calories a day before the country was liberated from Nazi occupation.

Writing in the European Heart Journal, researchers said: "The Dutch famine of 1944-45 is a 'natural experiment' in history, which gave us the unique possibility to study the long-term effects of acute undernutrition during childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood in otherwise well-nourished girls and women."

The participants were divided into three groups - those who had been "severely" exposed to famine, those who had been "hardly" exposed and those whose experience fell in between.

Figures showed that women who were severely exposed to the famine had a 27 per cent higher risk of coronary heart disease than those who were unexposed, rising to 38 per cent in those who were aged 10-17 at the start of the famine.

The researchers observed that stress during the famine may also have led to changes in behaviour which could impact on a person's risk of heart disease later in life.

But in an editorial accompanying the study, Prof Kausik Ray and colleagues at St George's University of London wrote that the paper, along with seperate research into Chinese and Russian famines, provided "consistent data showing that nutritional status in childhood may impact significantly on chronic diseases processes in later life."

Aug 26
Anna weaker but says no to hospitalisation
Doctors tracking Anna Hazare's health said the 73-year-old anti-graft crusader might need hospitalisation over the next 24 to 48 hours, but the spunky old Gandhian - on his 16th long fast - refused to even consider the idea. On the eighth day of his fast against corruption at Ramlila Ground, Hazare's health showed signs of deterioration. "We told him, if need be we could put him on drip right there, but he said no to that also. He says he feels fine," Dr Naresh Trehan, chairperson and managing director Medanta-the Medicity, told HT.

A team of five doctors, two nurses and two paramedics from Medanta are present in two shifts at the fasting venue to keep a close watch on Hazare's condition.

"He has lost more than 5 kgs. His blood sugar levels are marginally low as well, so we need to monitor him closely," he added. Currently, Hazare's blood and urine samples are taken twice a day and his blood pressure and pulse rate is checked after every three hours.

"He's a frugal eater and his body is used to fasting for long durations, which helps. His body functions will get affected after some time, but there is nothing to worry about just yet," said one of the doctors monitoring Hazare.

"Except for slight pain in the knees due to old age, he has no major illnesses," said Guddu Bhaiya, a close aide of Hazare.

Aug 25
Stress really does turn your hair grey
Grey hair really is a sign of stress, say scientists. Stress really does turn your hair grey


When the going gets tough chemicals are triggered which damage DNA and leads us to look older and also increases the risk of diseases.

Mice given an adrenalin-like compound to trigger stress had reduced amounts of a protein that keeps us healthy by protecting our cells from developing abnormalities.

Professor Robert Lefkowitz, of Duke University, North Carolina, said: "This could give us a plausible explanation of how chronic stress may lead to a variety of human conditions and disorders, which range from merely cosmetic, like greying hair, to life-threatening disorders like malignancies."

In experiments the researchers whose findings are published in Nature discovered a molecular mechanism through which adrenaline acted to destroy DNA.

Over four weeks the mice were inhected with the compound which led to degradation of the protein called p53 - dubbed the "guardian of the genome" for its role in preventing cancer - which was present in lower levels over time.

Prof Lefkowitz said: "We believe this paper is the first to propose a specific mechanism through which a hallmark of chronic stress, elevated adrenaline, could eventually cause DNA damage that is detectable."

The study also showed DNA damage was prevented in mice lacking a protein known as beta-arrestin 1.

Loss of it stabilised levels of p53 both in the thymus, an organ that strongly responds to acute or chronic stress, and in the testes where paternal stress might affect an offspring's genome.

Co-researcher Dr Makoto Hara said: "The study showed chronic stress leads to prolonged lowering of p53 levels. We hypothesize this is the reason for the chromosomal irregularities we found in these chronically stressed mice."

The team is planning future studies in which mice are placed under stress by restraining them to creating their own adrenaline or stress reaction to show if their physical reactions also lead to DNA damage.

Aug 23
Brain signals ready when it is prepared to learn, reveals study
Is it that only when the brain is ready, we have a better memory? Well, MIT scientists have shown that responses of a specific portion of the brain called the parahi-ppocampal cortex (PHC) seem to suggest the extent of recalling a visual scenario.

As part of the study, individuals were presented 250 color images of indoor and outdoor instances through an fMRI scanner. The team then showed them 500 scenes apart from the 250 they already visualized, as a trial for gauging their reminiscence. As per the outcomes, if the PHC was not preoccupied when the images appeared before the participants, then they seemingly remembered them better. The exact region varied with persons but was apparently located in the PHC.

Gabrieli, the Grover Hermann Professor of Health Sciences and Technology and Cognitive Neuroscience and a principal investigator at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT shared, "When that area is busy, for some reason or another, it's less ready to learn something new."

PHC is known to be an essential component of the brain associated with memory formation. This analysis basically puts forth that PHC activity prior to the appearance of any visual seems to affect how efficiently the instance can be brought back to mind. For the second trial, the scientists used real-time fMRI which can inspect brain condition of subjects at regular intervals. Precisely, the device will comprehend the time when the brain is 'ready' or 'not ready' to remember pictures. These states apparently boosted the arrival of new visual photos.

The results showed that the brain supposedly recollected better when the brain was in the ready state. These revelations may explain why some things are summoned back to mind easily than others. According to Turk-Browne, the above tests show that besides the inherent capability of memory and efficacy of recalling systems, there also appears to be a lot of influence by the degree of a person's preparedness for visualizing the scene. This knowledge will help to measure the amount of reciprocity to learning or readiness for the same.

The findings are published in the journal NeuroImage.

Aug 23
Practice a Healthy Habit to Live Longer
It is no secret that our habits and behavior can have a large impact on our health. Now, a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that our lifestyle behaviors can predict lifespan too.


The study looked at four healthy behaviors - not smoking, eating a healthy diet, limiting alcohol, and getting regular physical activity - and found that people who followed all four habits were 63 percent less likely to die early when compared to those who didn't follow any of these healthy habits. In fact, the most protection from dying early was exhibited in the habit of not smoking.



"If you want to lead a longer life and feel better, you should adopt healthy behaviors - not smoking, getting regular physical activity, eating healthy, and avoiding excessive alcohol use," explained CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.



Besides all-cause mortality, the study also took into account specific causes of death. Specifically, the study found that people who practiced all four healthy behaviors "were 66 percent less likely to die early from cancer, 65 percent less likely to die early from cardiovascular disease, and 57 percent less likely to die early from other causes," when compared to those who followed none of the healthy habits studied.



The study was published today online on the American Journal of Public Health and is titled "Low Risk Behaviors and All-Cause Mortality: Findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III Mortality Study."



Data from the CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III Mortality Study was analyzed by the researchers. As a follow-up to the NHANES III, survey participants ages 17 and older were recruited between 1988 to 1994 and followed through 2006. Among the study participants, "47.5 percent had never smoked, 51 percent were moderate drinkers, 39.3 percent had a healthy diet, and 40.2 percent were adequately physically active." There was no significant difference in healthy behaviors between genders; Mexican-Americans had more healthy behaviors compared to whites and African-Americans.



The bottom line is simple: the more healthy habits you follow, the more you protect your body from degradation and disease. However, the authors discussed the challenges of encouraging large numbers of the population in adopting healthy habits. Despite studies showing that only a small fraction of people practice all of the above healthy behaviors, a respectable amount of progress has been observed in the decreased rate of smokers. Without a doubt, this study is a beacon of hope for the general public and emphasizes the role of cooperation between the clinical a public health industries in promoting a larger adoption of healthy behaviors.

Aug 20
Government planning new mental health care bill
The government is considering a new mental healthcare bill to replace the old Mental Health Act, 1987, Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said on Friday.

"The Bill aims to provide access to mental healthcare for persons with mental illness and to protect and promote the rights of persons with mental illness during the delivery of mental healthcare," Azad told the Lok Sabha in a written reply.

He said epidemiological studies have indicated that the prevalence of mental disorders in the country is six to seven percent.

To address the huge burden of mental disorders, government is targeting 123 districts in 20 states with the aim to reach out to the people suffering from mental disorders.

Aug 19
Boys maturing sexually earlier than ever
A new study has revealed that boys are maturing physically earlier than ever before with the age of sexual maturity decreasing by about 2.5 months each decade at least since the middle of the 18th century.

Joshua Goldstein, director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock (MPIDR), has used mortality data to prove this trend, which until now was difficult to decipher.

What had already been established for girls now seems to also be true for boys: the time period during which young people are sexually mature but socially not yet considered adults is expanding.

"The reason for earlier maturity for boys, as with girls, is probably because nutrition and disease environments are getting more favourable for it," said demographer Goldstein.

It has long been documented by medical records that girls are experiencing their first menstruation earlier and earlier.

But comparable data analysis for boys did not exist. Goldstein resolved this gap by studying demographic data related to mortality.

When male hormone production during puberty reaches a maximum level the probability of dying jumps up. This phenomenon, called the "accident hump", exists in almost all societies and is statistically well documented.

Goldstein discovered that the maximum mortality value of the accident hump shifted to earlier age by 2.5 months for each decade since the mid-1700s, or just over two years per century.

Accordingly, the age of boys' sexual maturity decreased at the same rate.

Essentially, the data showed that the age of sexual maturity is getting younger and younger since the accident hump is occurring earlier and earlier.

In respect to the developmental stage of the body "being 18 today is like being 22 in 1800," stated Goldstein.