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Medical News & Updates
Dec 31
Fish Oil Compound Stops Leukemia in Mice
As per recent reports, it has been revealed that the compound termed as delta-12-protaglandin J3, sometimes also known as D12-PGJ3, attacked and slaughtered the stem cells related to Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML). The trial was conducted on mice.

While expressing his opinion in this regard, Penn State's Associate Professor of Immunology and Molecular Toxicology, Sandeep Prabhu explained that the, "Research in the past on fatty acids has shown the health benefits of fatty acids on cardiovascular system and brain development, particularly in infants, but we have shown that some metabolites of omega-3 have the ability to selectively kill the leukemia-causing stem cells in mice".

The compound is generated by Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA), an omega-3 fatty acid observed in abundance in fish oil.

The researchers further claimed that the most imperative aspect of the study is that the mice were made absolutely free of leukemia and the most shocking aspect was that there was no relapse witnessed after the mice were completely cured of leukemia.

The findings, which have been made available in the journal Blood, have claimed that the compound is highly significant in killing cancer-causing stem cells in the spleen of mice as well as in their bone marrow. Particularly, it tends to spark on a gene dubbed p53 in the leukemia stem cell that has an increased tendency of processing the death of the cell.

During their course of study, the researchers claimed that p53 is a typical sort of tumor suppressor gene having the potential of regulating the reaction to damage caused in the DNA and other than that, it tends to maintain a genomic stability.

By destroying the stem cells in leukemia, which is basically a particular cancer related to the white blood cells, the stem cells can be effectively divided for enhancing the production of more cancer cells other than creating additional stem cells.

Dec 31
Drug use to rise on New Year eve
Consumption of drugs will shoot up this New Year eve, says a survey. Disposable incomes, availability of drugs, pressure to succeed and disjointed families are likely to lead to higher consumption in the age group of 16-30 years, according to the survey conducted in cities like Ahmedabad, Goa, Mumbai, Delhi-NCR, Pune, Bangalore, Chandigarh and Chennai by Assocham Social Development Foundation (ASDF). The findings indicate an almost 100% increase in consumption of drugs in the last 10 years.

The survey of more than 3,000 teenagers found that most of them initially took to drugs to be at par with their peer groups. But, there are many others who say they resorted to drugs as they feel that the intoxicating effect of the drugs sways them away from the tensions of day-to-day life.

"There are at least five places in Ahmedabad where my friends and I get our required dose of drugs from. Drugs like hash and weed is available for as low as Rs 50 a pouch. The price goes up a bit during festive season. I first tried drugs three years ago and it has become a habit now. Most of my friends have taken to drugs to beat stress, get over break-ups and to improve concentration during exams," said Amit Patel (name changed), a third-year engineering student.

"Use of party drugs among youth is very high. Usually, upper class adolescents take this, mostly, girls get influenced by these drugs and they think party drugs are cool, naughty and fashionable," added the survey.

Majority of the respondent believe that only marijuana and heroin are dangerous, while party drugs would just give a high without causing any side effects, which is wrong, according to the survey. The physical effects might be mild in the beginning but later it causes nausea, loss of consciousness, loss of reflexes and impaired breathing.

It is estimated that, in metros, by the time boys reach the 11th grade, about 65% of them have tried at least one of the drugs, said DS Rawat, secretary general, Assocham. The survey also says that 56% of BPO employees consume drugs excessively, at least five to six times in a month. It also indicates that call centre workers are at higher risk because of the size of the salaries they are receiving at a relatively young age. About one in 10 call centre workers smoke drugs during work hours.

The survey further stressed that the professional counseling, workshops, educative film shows in order to create awareness on effects of bad habits.

Dec 30
Why do mosquitoes love you? It's your microbes
Mosquitoes like some people better than others, and differences in the microbes living on our skin may help explain the bloodsuckers' dining preferences.

It turns out men with a large variety of microbes living on their skin make for less attractive meals for the African malaria-carrying mosquito Anopheles gambiae sensu stricto. The mosquito instead appears drawn to men whose skin bacteria are relatively similar to each other.

Those findings come from a study that also found a connection between certain types of microbes and men's status as more or less attractive to a mosquito.
Mosquito bites are more than just an itchy annoyance; they can spread malaria and other fatal diseases. Malaria is caused by a parasite called Plasmodium, and in 2010 it was responsible for an estimated 655,000 deaths, mostly among African children, according to the World Health Organization.
So the relationship between mosquitoes' preference and skin microbes has important health implications.

This study suggests skin microbes could be part of a person's built-in defense system, and this line of research could lead to new tools to protect against the spread of disease, the research team writes in a study published Dec. 28 in the journal PLoS ONE.
The logic behind the effect is simple: Odors from human skin are essential cues that guide mosquitoes to our skin, and the microbes living on our skin play an important role in producing these odors. In fact, without skin bacteria, human sweat would be odorless to the human nose, according to the researchers, led by Niels Verhulst of Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

Verhulst and colleagues collected volatiles - the easily evaporated chemicals responsible for odor - from the left feet of 48 men. They then gave the mosquitoes a choice between each sample and a standard ammonia concentration. (The odor of ammonia is known to attract mosquitos.) They also sequenced DNA from the skin of the left foot; this gave them information on what, and how much of it, was living on the men's feet.

Of the 48 men who volunteered for the study, the researchers classifed nine as "highly attractive", while seven were considered "poorly attractive."

In addition to finding that a greater diversity of skin microbes seems to deter mosquitoes, the researchers came to associate certain types of bacteria with how delicious the mosquitoes found the person to be.

The more tasty men had microbes that were less diverse and were likely to include Leptotrichia, Delftia, Actinobacteria Gp3 and Staphylococcus microbes, the researchers found.

Meanwhile, the volunteers who, for instance, had a diverse array of microbes on their skin, as well as lots of Pseudomonas and possibly Variovorax species, were less attractive.

"We hypothesize that the lower attractiveness to mosquitoes is caused by a selective group of skin microbiota that emanates compounds that interfere with the attraction of mosquitoes to their human hosts," the researchers wrote.

Dec 29
Surgeons meet begins
Surgical care should go beyond financial, social and regional barriers, said Minister K Babu at the inauguration of the 71st annual conference of the Association of Surgeons of India (ASI). The Conference, which is being held in Kerala after 40 years, saw over 5,500 surgeons participate. Highlighting the theme of this year's conference, 'Surgery Sans Frontier', the minister said inclusivity of surgical care was important and surgeons should take care that their services reach the deprived too.

Presenting the annual report, ASI secretary R K Karwasra said that there was a lacuna in interest among the younger generation when it comes to surgical care. One of the reasons for this lack of interest might be the surgical education in the country and the restraints it faces owing to various norms and regulations in the field.

The ASI was growing at a rapid pace, adding as many as 800-900 surgeons every year. "The association which started in 1938 with 112 members now has more than 15,000 members. The association has also spread across every state and has branches in many cities," he said.

One of the highlights of the conference this year was the launch of the Indian Journal of Surgery. A total of 5,741 surgeons from different parts of the country have registered at the conference so far. The number is expected to go up in the coming days. Delegates from neighbouring countries including the UK, the US, Europe, Australia, South East Asia and South Africa are also participating.

Orations, guest lectures, symposia, panel discussions, surgical workshops and paper presentations are held simultaneously at nine different venues. Exhibition on advanced diagnostic equipment and innovations in the field of surgical procedures is also organised.

Dec 28
Found: Gene that controls memory
A team led by an Indian-origin neuroscientist has found a gene that "turns on" when memories are stored in the brain, a discovery they believe could help pinpoint the exact locations of memories in the brain.

It's known that when one witnesses a new event, the brain encodes a memory of it by altering the connections between neurons. This needs turning on many genes in those neurons. Now, neuroscientists at the MIT have identified a gene, called Npas4, which is very active in the hippocampus - a brain structure known to be critical in forming long-term memories.

The findings, described in the journal Science, would be a breakthrough in pinpointing the exact locations of memories in the brain and might open up new avenues for altering or even creating memory, the researchers said.
"We think of Npas4 as the initial trigger that comes on, and then in turn, in the right spot in the brain, it activates all these other downstream targets," a researcher said.

Dec 27
Mind reading no longer in sci-fi's realm!
It may seem like something from a science fiction but scientists claim they have found a way to read the human mind. Researchers at University of California-Los Angeles have developed what they call 'brain reading' method that uses past history to determine future cognitive patterns and
thought process, the Daily Mail reported.

The researchers compare the results to Google's predictive search capability, when the website guesses what search terms users are typing before they finish.

The study, led by author Ariana Anderson, a post-doctoral fellow in the Integrative Neuroimaging Technology lab at the university, was performed on smokers experiencing nicotine cravings.

During the study, MRI brain wave data was analysed to determine which regions of the brain and which neural networks are responsible for resisting nicotine addiction.

Dec 26
Gujarat to add 1,350 medical seats in the next 3 years
The Gujarat government has planned to add 450 medical seats every year in the next three years, Health Minister Jaynarayan Vyas announced here on Sunday.

Claiming that Gujarat was racing ahead of other States in the country, he said that by 2022, when India was expected to have one medical college for every 25 lakh population, Gujarat would have in place one medical college for every 15 lakh people in the State.

Mr. Vyas was speaking at a function organised to celebrate the beginning of the silver jubilee year of the Pramukhswami Medical College at Karamsad.

At the same function, Chief Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the Ramanbhai Gokal Privilege Centre, an extension of the medical facilities being provided at the Shree Krishna Hospital. Once operational, the centre with state-of-the-art infrastructure would cater for the needs of patients from rural areas at an affordable price and the income generated by it would be used for providing subsidy to poor patients at the Shree Krishna Hospital.

The Pramukhswami College was the first private medical college in the State and perhaps first in the country with base in rural areas. Mr. Modi said the State government was committed to laying equal emphasis on preventive healthcare as much as medical care as part of the State's policy for "a healthy Gujarat." He claimed that several welfare schemes of the State government, including measures for providing clean drinking water and pro-active steps to curb pollution, had given Gujarat an edge over other States in terms of public health and family welfare.

Outlining the State's medical education programme, Mr. Vyas said as per present projections, India would need about 6.5 lakh doctors and about 12.5 lakh trained nurses by the year 2025 to meet the demand for skilled medical and para-medical professionals. He said Gujarat was chalking out plans to achieve the goal with focus on quality education and training. He also stressed the need for medical colleges to introduce continuing education and training programmes for doctors and para-medics to keep themselves abreast of the latest advancements in medical technology and procedures.

Dec 24
Fish oil may help cure leukemia
A compound found in fish oil, which apparently kills leukaemia stem cells, may lead to the cure of the disease, a new study including Indian origin researcher has revealed.

The compound, delta-12-protaglandin J3, or D12-PGJ3 targeted and killed the stem cells of chronic myelogenous leukemia, or CML, in mice, according to Sandeep Prabhu, associate professor of immunology and molecular toxicology in the Department of Veterinary and Medical Sciences.

He said that the compound is produced from EPA, Eicosapentaenoic Acid, an Omega-3 fatty acid found in fish and in fish oil.
"Research in the past on fatty acids has shown the health benefits of fatty acids on cardiovascular system and brain development, particularly in infants, but we have shown that some metabolites of Omega-3 have the ability to selectively kill the leukemia-causing stem cells in mice," said Prabhu.
"The important thing is that the mice were completely cured of leukemia with no relapse," he noted.

Penn State researchers said that the compound kills cancer-causing stem cells in the mice's spleen and bone marrow.

Specifically, it activates a gene p53 in the leukemia stem cell that programs the cell's own death.

"p53 is a tumor suppressor gene that regulates the response to DNA damage and maintains genomic stability," Prabhu stated.

Killing the stem cells in leukemia, a cancer of the white blood cells, is important because stem cells can divide and produce more cancer cells, as well as create more stem cells, he explained.

Robert Paulson, associate professor of veterinary and biomedical sciences, who co-directed this research with Prabhu said that the current therapy for CML extends the patient's life by keeping the number of leukemia cells low, but the drugs fail to completely cure the disease because they do not target leukemia stem cells.

Dec 24
How to increase your health insurance cover
On average, normally the health cover people take is Rs 1-3 lakh. For minor hospitalisation or surgery, this amount may be sufficient but what if there's something serious? As health costs soar, you need to review your health insurance needs and cover any shortfall.
When increasing
cover, consider top-up health insurance plans.

Top-up plans

A top-up health insurance plan, also known as add-on plan, is a regular indemnity plan that covers hospitalisation costs but only after a threshold limit. In insurance parlance, this limit is called deductible.

Top-up plans start with a basic deductible of R1 lakh; the deductible can go up to R5 lakh. A deductible of R1 lakh means the first R1 lakh of the hospitalisation bill will have to be borne by the insured himself; the balance will be paid by the insurer. Owing to the deductible, these plans are cheap.

Sample Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Co Ltd's Extra Care, a top-up health insurance policy. For a sum insured of R10 lakh and a deductible of R3 lakh, the policy charges R2,500 from a 30-year-old. But for Health Guard, their regular indemnity policy, the premium is R10,913 for a sum assured of R10 lakh.

"With year-on-year healthcare inflation at 16-20%, a top-up policy is a low-cost investment, which will pay dividends in the long run," said Mahavir Chopra, head (e-business and retail), Medimanage.com, a health insurance portal.

Top-up policies come as individual & floater plans

Limitations: Some top-up plans may not cover pre- and post-hospitalisation expenses. For instance, ICICI Lombard General Insurance Co. Ltd's Healthcare Plus and Star's Super Surplus do not cover pre-and post-hospitalisation expenses. However, Sanjay Datta, head-underwriting and claims, ICICI Lombard General Insurance, said there is a reason why. "Pre-and post-hospitalisation expenses are roughly about 10-15% of the total expenses. This the base policy can cover. The idea behind a top-up cover is to buy extra."

Also, top-up plans cover only "single incidence hospitalisation". If your hospital bill exceeds the deductible during a single incident of hospitalisation, only then does the top-up plan gets triggered.

When do they make sense?

Top-up plans make a lot of sense if you have a comfortable base. "Top-ups are being mis-sold as an immediate extension cover of an existing cover," said Chopra. "But the most important factor that people are unaware of is that the threshold or deductible triggers only when the cost of single hospitalisation goes above the threshold. Hence, in our opinion, one should have a comfortable core cover for the family and a top-up to extend the cover."

In fact, top covers are cost effective the most when the deductible is high. You can afford a higher deductible when your basic cover is decent. "The premiums actually depend on how close you are to the ground," said Datta. "Typically, minor claims that are between R2 lakh and R3 lakh are more frequent than huge claims that are above R4 lakh. So a top-up plan that comes with a higher deductible is cheaper than a top-up plan with a lower deductible."

Other policies

Floater policies: A good time to consider a floater policy is when your family expands. Since a floater policy considers the entire family as one unit, the premiums are lower. But the biggest advantage of a floater policy is also its biggest drawback-in the rare case when the entire family needs medical care, a small floater cover can pinch very hard.

Defined benefit plans: The market does not stop at indemnity policies alone. Health insurance plans that have a defined benefit are equally popular. Since the benefits under these plans are defined, they usually work well as income supplement products.

But if you have enough savings or sufficient health insurance, you could give other defined benefit plans, including hospital cash that pays daily cash during hospitalisation or major surgical benefit that pays a lump sum on major surgical procedures a miss. To make top-up plans work in your favour, ensure you have a comfortable base.

Dec 23
High body weight linked to asthma: Study
We recently came across a report stating an association between obese mothers and high birth weight infants. This study by scientists from the American Academy of Pediatrics has put forward a link between asthma and high body weight.

In this study, the scientists aimed to comprehend the effect of high BMI and alterations in BMI over the first 7 years after birth on sensitivity to asthma and allergies. A birth cohort comprising new born infants was observed for a span of 8 years.

Even parents were surveyed and made to fill in questionnaires regarding their kids' health. The height to weight ratio was attained from school and medical records. Cumulatively, information about nearly 2075 children and their asthma status at the age of 8 was inspected.

As per the outcomes, high BMI at ages 1, 4 and 7 years were apparently related to higher risk of asthma by the onset of the eighth year. However, no such link was seen in kids who lost weight by the seventh year but were overweight as infants or at 4 years of age.

Reportedly, the risk was high for children who were overweight at 7 years irrespective of their initial body mass. Also, 7 year old children with greater BMI seemed to experience an elevated rate of sensitization to allergens present in inhalants.

The scientists concluded that high BMI during the first 4 years of life may not increase risk for asthma and allergy if kids have lost weight by the start of the seventh year. However, high BMI at age 7 seemingly came forward as a risk factor for asthma and reactivity to inhalant allergens.