World's first medical networking and resource portal

News & Highlights
Please make use of the search function to browse preferred content
Medical News & Updates
Jun 29
What Is Menopause? What Are The Symptoms Of Menopause?
The menopause marks the time in a woman's life when her menstruation stops and she is no longer fertile (able to become pregnant). In the UK the average age for the menopause is 52 (National Health Service), while in the USA it is 51 (National Institute of Aging). About one fifth of women in India experience menopause before the age of 41, a study found. The menopause is a normal part of like - it is a milestone, just like puberty - it is not a disease or a condition. Even though it is the time of the woman's last period symptoms may begin many years earlier. Some women may experience symptoms for months or years afterwards.

According to Medilexicon's medical dictionary, the menopause is the "Permanent cessation of the menses due to ovarian failure; termination of the menstrual life." (menses = shedding of blood during a woman's menstrual period). The peri-menopause is the 3 to 5 year period before the menopause when a woman's estrogen levels begin to drop. Let's recap the meaning of these two words:

* Menopause - when periods (menstruation) stop forever.
* Peri-menopause - the years before the menopause when estrogen levels start to drop.

News on Menopause

For the latest news and research on Menopause, and to sign up to newsletters or news alerts, please visit our Menopause News Section.
A study revealed that some British women are in denial when it comes to the menopause.
What are the symptoms of menopause and peri-menopause?
Experts say that technically the menopause is confirmed when a woman has not had a menstrual period for one year. However, the symptoms and signs of menopause generally appear well before the one-year anniversary of the final period. They may include:

* Irregular periods - this is usually the first symptom; menstrual pattern changes. Some women may experience a period every two to three weeks, while others will not have one for months at a time.

* Lower fertility - during the peri-menopausal stage of a woman's life her estrogen levels will drop significantly, lowering her chances of becoming pregnant.

* Vaginal dryness - this may be accompanied by itching and/or discomfort. It tends to happen during the peri-menopause. Some women may experience dyspareunia (pain during sex). The term vaginal atrophy refers to an inflammation of the vagina as a result of the thinning and shrinking of the tissues, as well as decreased lubrication, caused by a lack of estrogen. About 30% of women experience vaginal atrophy symptoms during the early post-menopausal period, while 47% do so during the later post-menopausal period. There are cases of women who experience vaginal atrophy more than a decade after their final period. The majority of post-menopausal women are uncomfortable talking about vaginal dryness and pain and are reluctant to seek medical help, a study found.

Interesting related articles

What is osteoporosis? What causes osteoporosis?

What is menstruation? What are periods?
* Hot flashes (UK term: hot flushes) - this is a sudden feeling of heat in the upper body. It may start in the face, neck or chest, and then spreads upwards or downwards (depending on where it started). The skin on the face, neck or chest may redden and become patchy, and the woman may start to sweat. The heart rate may suddenly increase (tachycardia), or it may become irregular or stronger than usual (palpitations). Hot flashes generally occur during the first year after a woman's final period.

* Night sweats - if the hot flashes happen in bed they are called night sweats. Most women say their hot flashes do not last more than a few minutes.

* Disturbed sleep - sleeping problems are generally caused by night sweats, but not always. Sleep disturbance may be caused by insomnia or anxiety. Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep increase as women go through menopause, this study revealed.

* Urinary problems - women tend to be more susceptible to lower urinary tract infections, such as cystitis. Having to urinate may also occur more frequently.

* Moodiness - this often goes hand-in-hand with sleep disturbance. Experts say that most mood disturbances are triggered by poor sleep.

* Problems focusing and learning - Some women may also have short-term memory problems, as well as finding it hard to concentrate on something for long. A very large study found that women may not be able to learn as well shortly before menopause compared to other stages in life.

* More fat building up in the abdomen.

* Hair loss (thinning hair).

* Loss of breast size

If left untreated, these symptoms will usually taper off gradually over a period of two to five years. However, some women may experience symptoms for much longer. Most women who experience vaginal dryness, itching or discomfort may find symptoms either persist or get worse with time if left untreated.
What causes the menopause and peri-menopause?
The hormones estrogen and progesterone regulate menstruation - more specifically, estrogen regulates menstruation while progesterone is more involved with preparing the body for pregnancy. When the ovaries start producing less of these two hormones the peri-menopause will start. In fact, by the time a woman is in her late 30s the ovaries start producing less progesterone and estrogen. By the time she is n her 40s the post-ovulation spike in progesterone becomes less emphasized. A woman's fertility starts to decline a long time before she may notice any menopausal or peri-menopausal symptoms.

As time passes and the ovaries produce less and less estrogen and progesterone the ovaries eventually shut down completely and the woman no longer has any more menstrual periods. The vast majority of women experience a gradual change in menstrual activity, while some go on normally until they suddenly stop.

Some women may experience premature menopause - their ovaries fail earlier than they are supposed to (before the age of 45). Ovarian failure can occur at any age - but very rarely - and often the doctor and patient will never find out why. Some women who experience ovarian failure may still have periods and some degree of fertility for a while. Premature menopause may be caused by:

* Enzyme deficiencies

* Down's syndrome

* Turner's syndrome

* Addison's disease

* Hypothyroidism

* Removal of the ovaries (bilateral oophorectomy surgery)

* Radiotherapy to the pelvic area

* Chemotherapy

* Hysterectomy surgery (the uterus - womb - is surgically removed)

* Some infections - such as mumps or TB (tuberculosis), malaria and varicella. However, in all cases risk of ovarian failure is extremely small.

* Genetic factors - scientists have been able to identify genetic factors that influence the age at which natural menopause occurs in women, as explained in this article.

* Being a twin - twins are more likely to have a premature menopause than other women, a study found.

How is menopause diagnosed?
A GP (general practitioner, primary care physician) should be able to diagnose menopause or peri-menopause if he knows the age of the patient, has information about her menstrual patterns, and receives feedback from her on her symptoms.

Apart from a blood test which can measure levels of FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone), there is no definitive test to diagnose menopause or peri-menopause. FSH blood levels rise when a woman is in the menopause. However, as FSH levels tend to fluctuate a lot during the menopause and peri-menopause, a FSH blood test may provide a little data, but may not be that helpful for a diagnosis. Under certain circumstance a doctor may order a blood test to determine the level of estradiol (estrogen). As hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) can cause menopause-like symptoms, the doctor may order a blood test to determine the woman's level of thyroid-stimulating hormone.
What is the treatment for menopause or peri-menopause?
According to the National Health Service, UK, only about 10% of women seek medical advice during the menopause. Many women require no treatment. However, if symptoms are affecting the woman's daily life she should see her doctor. The kind of treatment the patient should have depends on her symptoms, her medical history, as well as her own preferences. Available treatments include:

* HRT (hormone replacement therapy) - this is very effective for many of the symptoms that occur during the menopause, including vaginal dryness, vaginal itching, vaginal discomfort, urinary problems, bone-density loss, hot flashes and night sweats. HRT tops up the woman's levels of estrogen. However, as with many treatments, HRT has its risks and benefits:

Benefits of HRT

o Effectively treats many troublesome menopausal symptoms.
o Helps prevent osteoporosis.
o Lowers colorectal cancer risk (cancer of the colon or rectum)

Risks of HRT

o Raises breast cancer risk
o Raises ovary cancer risk
o Raises uterine cancer risk (cancer of the womb)
o Raises coronary heart disease risk
o Raises stroke risk
o HRT was found to slightly accelerate loss of brain tissue in areas important for thinking and memory among women aged 65 and over, according to a study.

A quote from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/136655.phpan interesting article, "Not all women need HRT, but many with troublesome symptoms were needlessly scared away from that option due to misunderstandings about the actual risks associated with it."

Older women who take hormone therapy to relieve menopausal symptoms may get the added benefit of reduced body fat if they are physically active, a study revealed.

* Low-dose antidepressants - SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) have been shown to decrease menopausal hot flashes. Drugs include venlafaxine (Effexor), fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem), paroxetine (Paxil, others), citalopram (Celexa) and sertraline (Zoloft).

* Omega 3s - Researchers from the Universite Laval's Faculty of Medicine found that Omega-3s ease psychological distress and depressive symptoms often suffered by menopausal and peri-menopausal women.

* Gabapentin (Neurontin) - this medication is effective in treating hot flashes. It is commonly used for treating seizures (epilepsy).

* Clonidine (Catapres) - can be taken either orally as a pill or placed on the skin as a patch. It is effective in treating hot flashes. The drug is commonly used for treating high blood pressure (hypertension). However, unpleasant side-effects are common.

* Osteoporosis treatments - go to this article "What is osteoporosis?" which has a section on treatments.

* Vaginal estrogen - may be applied locally using a tablet, ring or cream. This medication effectively treats vaginal dryness, discomfort during intercourse, as well as some urinary problems. A small amount of estrogen is released and absorbed by the vaginal tissue.

* Soybeans - soy aglycons of isoflavone (SAI), a group of soybean constituent chemicals, have been shown to promote health in a rat model of the menopause, according to a study by scientists at National Chiayi University, Taiwan.

* Exercise - a study found that slow exercise is better for post-menopausal women than fast exercise.

Complications
After the menopause it is common for the following chronic conditions to appear. Chronic, in medical English, means long-term, continuous (as opposed to "acute").

* Cardiovascular disease - a drop in estrogen levels often goes hand-in-hand with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Heart disease is not exclusively a male problem, it is the main cause of death among both men and women. In order to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease a woman should quit smoking, try to keep her blood pressure within normal levels, do plenty of regular exercise, sleep at least 7 hours each night, and eat a well-balanced healthy diet.

* Osteoporosis - a woman may lose bone density rapidly during the first few years after menopause. The lower a person's bone density gets the higher their risk is of developing osteoporosis. For more information on osteoporosis, go to "What is osteoporosis?". The absolute risk of a second clinical fracture is highest in the five years after any first clinical fracture for post-menopausal women, a study found.

* Urinary incontinence - the menopause causes the tissues of the vagina and urethra to lose their elasticity, which can result in frequent, sudden, strong urges to urinate, followed by urge incontinence (involuntary loss of urine - peeing by mistake). Stress incontinence may also become a problem - urinating involuntarily after coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting something, or suddenly jerking the body as may happen when we temporarily lose our balance.

* Low libido - this is probably linked to disturbed sleep, depression symptoms, and night sweats, a study found.

* Overweight/obesity - during the menopausal transition women are much more susceptible to weight gain. Experts say women may need to consume about 200 to 400 fewer calories each day just to prevent weight gain - or burn of that number of calories each day with extra exercise. The chances of becoming obese rise significantly after the menopause, according to this article.

* Breast cancer - women are at a higher risk of breast cancer after the menopause. However, as this article explains, regular exercise after menopause significantly reduces breast cancer risk.

Self help
Unless your symptoms are severe, you may find that some changes in your lifestyle and diet are all you need to deal with the symptoms.

* Hot flashes and night sweats

o Do plenty of exercise.
o Avoid wearing tight clothing.
o Make sure the bedroom is not hot.
o Try to reduce your levels of stress.
o Remember the following commonly trigger symptoms for susceptible people: spicy food, caffeine, smoking, and alcohol.

* Sleep disturbance

o Exercise regularly. However, do not exercise too late during the day. Exercising too late may keep you awake longer.
o Go to bed and get up at the same time each day - even during weekends.
o Cut out all drinks and foods that contain caffeine.
o Learn how to do deep breathing, guided imagery, and progressive muscle relaxation.

* Moodiness

o Make sure you do not get tired - get plenty of rest.
o Do regular exercise. If you can, do strenuous exercise - check with your doctor whether this is OK for you.
o Practice yoga. Make sure you have a well qualified trainer.

* Vaginal discomfort and dryness

o Get some OTC (over the counter) water-based vaginal lubricants or moisturizers.
o Stay sexually active.

* Urinary incontinence

Practice pelvic floor muscle exercises - Kegel exercises. If you practice three or four times a day you will most probably notice a difference after a few weeks. This review of studies explains that women suffering from urinary incontinence can benefit from pelvic floor muscle training.

* Overweight/obesity and osteoporosis prevention

Eat a well balanced diet that includes plenty of vegetables, fruits, wholgrains, good quality fats, fiber, and unrefined carbohydrates. Try to consume 1,200 to 1,500 milligrams of calcium and 800 IUs of vitamin D per day. Do plenty of exercise. Make sure you sleep at least 7 hours each night.

Written by Christian Nordqvist

Jun 29
Dietary Fat, Especially From Red Meat, Dairy, Linked To Pancreatic Cancer
New research from the US that studied the diet and health outcomes of over half a million people suggests that high consumption of dietary fat, especially from red meat and dairy food, is linked to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer.

However, some experts suggest that while this is a good study that contributes to our understanding of the disease, it does not prove a link with animal fats per se (it could be some other dietary or lifestyle factor that is common to people who eat lots of animal fat) and that more work is needed before we can be sure.

The study was the work of Dr Rachael Z Stolzenberg-Solomon, from the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, and colleagues and was published in the advanced access online issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute on 26 June 2009.

In their background information, Stolzenberg-Solomon and colleagues wrote that they decided to carry out the investigation because up to now research on the link between pancreatic cancer and dietary fat, a risk factor that people can do something about, has been inconclusive.

For this prospective study (ie one that follows a certain group over a period of time) the researchers used data from the National Institutes of Health AARP Diet and Health Study, a large US-based group of 308,736 men and 216,737 women aged 50-71 years who filled in a 124-item food frequency questionnaire in during 1995 and 1996.

The group was then followed for an average of 6.3 years to see what happened to their health, including whether any were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

After that, the researchers used statistical tools to search for any links between fat consumption, including different types of fat and where it came from, and pancreatic cancer, while taking into account potential confounders like smoking/not smoking, body mass index (BMI), and diabetes.

The key results showed that:

* 865 men and 472 women developed pancreatic cancer (an incident rate 45.0 and 34.5 cases per 100 000 person-years, respectively).

* Men and women with the highest total fat consumption were 53 per cent and 23 per cent more likely to receive a pancreatic cancer diagnosis than with men and women with the lowest fat consumption.

* There were positive links between pancreatic cancer and intakes of total, saturated and monounsaturated fat overall.

* The links were strongest for those whose fat came primarily from red meat and dairy foods.

* Those who consumed high levels of saturated fats had were 36 per cent more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than those who consumed low levels.

The authors wrote that:

"We did not observe any consistent association with polyunsaturated or fat from plant food sources."

They concluded:

"In this large prospective cohort with a wide range of intakes, dietary fat of animal origin was associated with increased pancreatic cancer risk."

"Altogether, these results suggest a role for animal fat in pancreatic carcinogenesis," they wrote.

In an editorial in the same issue of the journal, Drs Brian M. Wolpin from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, and Meir J Stampfer from the Harvard School of Public Health, also in Boston, said this was a well-performed study that contributed to our understanding of pancreatic cancer, but there wasn't enough information to be sure that it was animal fats or fat from red meat that was linked to pancreatic cancer and not something else that is common to people who eat lots of red meat and animal fats.

Jun 27
Examines Effects Of Maternal Mortality On Infants In Tanzania
The New York Times on Thursday examined the effects of maternal mortality on infants in Tanzania, many of whom live in village orphanages after their mothers' deaths. The article is the last in a three-part series on pregnancy- and childbirth-related deaths in the country.

The Times reports that 250,000 women die annually during pregnancy or childbirth in Africa as the result of bleeding, infection, high blood pressure, prolonged labor and botched abortions. Although many of these problems can be treated or prevented with basic obstetrical care, Tanzania has too few physicians, nurses and drugs -- and is short on equipment, ambulances and paved roads -- to address the issue.

Women who die during pregnancy often are survived by their infants. The newborns do not have access to breastmilk, and formula and baby food are not widely available in the country. To avoid malnutrition and infection, the infants often are taken to orphanages that can provide basic care until they reach age two or three, and then they are returned to their extended families.

Jun 27
New Gene Discovery Links Obesity To The Brain
A variation in a gene that is active in the central nervous system is associated with increased risk for obesity, according to an international study in which Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University played a major role. The research adds to evidence that genes influence appetite and that the brain plays a key role in obesity.

Robert Kaplan, Ph.D., associate professor of epidemiology & population health, helped direct the international study, which involved 34 research institutions and is published online in PLoS Genetics. Dr. Kaplan and his U.S. and European colleagues found that people who have inherited the gene variant NRXN3 have a 10-15 percent increased risk of being obese compared with people who do not have the variant.

The researchers examined data from eight studies involving genes and body weight. These studies included more than 31,000 people of European origin, ages 45 to 76, representing a broad range of dietary habits and health behaviors.

After analyzing more than two million regions of the human genome, the researchers found that the NRXN3 gene variant previously associated with alcohol dependence, cocaine addiction, and illegal substance abuse also predicts the tendency to become obese. Altogether, researchers found the gene variant in 20 percent of the people studied.

"We've known for a long time that obesity is an inherited trait, but specific genes linked to it have been difficult to find," says Dr. Kaplan. "A lot of factors the types and quantity of foods you eat, how much you exercise, and how you metabolize foods, for example affect your body shape and size. So we are looking for genes that may have a small role to play in a complex situation."

NRXN3 is the third obesity-associated gene to be identified. The fact that all three genes are highly active in encoding brain proteins is significant, says Dr. Kaplan. "Considering how many factors are involved in obesity, it is interesting that research is increasingly pointing to the brain as being very important in its development," he said.

Identifying obesity genes could help in preventing the condition and lead to treatments for it. "Someday we may be able to incorporate several obesity genes into a genetic test to identify people at risk of becoming obese and alert them to the need to watch their diet and to exercise," Dr. Kaplan said. "Also, we may eventually see drugs that target the molecular pathways through which obesity genes exert their influence."

Jun 27
Fish Protein Link To Controlling High Blood Pressure, New Study
Medical scientists at the University of Leicester are investigating how a species of fish from the Pacific Ocean could help provide answers to tackling chronic conditions such as hereditary high blood pressure and kidney disease.

They are examining whether the Goby fish can help researchers locate genes linked to high blood pressure. This is because a protein called Urotensin II, first identified in the fish, is important for regulating blood pressure in all vertebrates- from fish to humans.

The study is being carried out in the University's Department of Cardiovascular Sciences. Researcher Dr Radoslaw Debiec said: "The protein found in the fish has remained almost unaltered during evolution".

"This indicates that the protein might be of critical importance in regulation of blood pressure and understanding the genetic background of high blood pressure.

"Uncovering the genetic causes of high blood pressure may help in its better prediction and early prevention of its complications. My research at the University of Leicester has shown how variation in the gene encoding the protein may influence risk of hypertension."

He added: "Drugs affecting the protein might be a novel alternative to the available therapies in particular in those patients who have chronic kidney disease coexisting with high blood pressure.

"Analysis of large cohort of families has provided us with evidence that genetic information encrypted in the protein travels together with the risk of high blood pressure across generations. Furthermore, the same genetic variant responsible for elevated blood pressure is responsible for the development of chronic kidney disease in this group of patients.

"The present findings may have an impact on the development of new blood pressure-lowering medications."

Jun 27
Researchers Identify A Novel Mechanism That Could Be Targeted To Prevent Cancer Spread
Researchers have discovered a key to the function of a specific protein that helps control the levels of other critical proteins within cells, including a protein that suppresses the spread of cancer. The new information about the mechanism of action of the protein, called gp78, may enable researchers to explore new types of therapies to prevent the spread of cancer. The study, by researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, was published in the June 26, 2009, issue of Molecular Cell.

In all human cells, damaged or unnecessary proteins are destroyed through a complex process that involves their being tagged with chains of a small protein called ubiquitin. The ubiquitin-tagged proteins are then directed to a sophisticated cellular structure known as the proteasome, which degrades the proteins.

The addition of ubiquitin to targeted proteins, a process called ubiquitylation, takes place in a multistep process in which several types of proteins, or enzymes, function in a sequential, bucket brigade-like manner. First, ubiquitin is activated by an enzyme known as E1. The activated ubiquitin is then transferred to E2, another enzyme. The E2 binds in turn to another protein known as E3, or ubiquitin protein ligase, which is critical for the transfer of ubiquitin to the targeted protein. This process occurs in a highly regulated manner that allows the recognition and targeting of specific proteins. To achieve the necessary specificity, human cells have about 40 different types of E2 enzymes and more than 500 E3 proteins.

A majority of E3s have an internal structural component, or domain, known as a RING finger, which binds weakly to E2s and allows ubiquitylation to proceed. An earlier study by one of the lead authors of the current report, Allan M. Weissman, M.D., of NCI's Center for Cancer Research (CCR), discovered that a RING finger E3, known as gp78, has a unique region called G2BR that strongly binds to its E2. Weissman and other NCI scientists previously showed that higher levels of gp78 promote the spread of cancer by tagging a protein for degradation that suppresses metastasis and that the ubiquitin ligase activity of gp78 was required for this degradation. Other targets of gp78 include proteins that are involved in cystic fibrosis and in the regulation of lipid metabolism.

In this new work, a team of CCR researchers, led by R. Andrew Byrd, Ph.D., Xinhua Ji, Ph.D., and Weissman, used advanced structural techniques to study the structure of gp78 and its associated E2 enzyme to gain insight into how the complex functions in cells. The researchers determined the structural basis for the interaction between gp78 and its E2 and uncovered a previously unknown mechanism by which ubiquitylation can be regulated. They found that the gp78 G2BR binds its E2 in an area that is distinct from the sites where the gp78 RING finger domain binds to the E2. This binding causes subtle changes in the shape of the E2 that allow the gp78 RING finger domain and the E2 to join together 50 times more tightly than they otherwise would. Further research showed that this increased binding strength enhances ubiquitylation of target proteins by gp78.

This discovery may allow researchers to consider possible approaches to blocking the function of gp78 in cancer cells, leading to new types of treatment for cancer and other diseases. "Our study provides a previously unappreciated mechanism by which ubiquitylation can be regulated," said Weissman. "It is likely that other pairs of E2s and E3s interact through domains, which have yet to be characterized, that are similar to the gp78 G2BR and its corresponding binding site on its E2. This introduces the possibility of entirely new therapeutic avenues in cancer and other diseases."

This team is currently working to further define the interactions of E2s and RING finger domains. They also are collaborating with other NCI scientists to design and construct potential inhibitors of gp78, based on their discovery, for testing in animal models.

Jun 24
New plasma torch may improve root canal treatment, reduce infection rates
Melbourne, June 24 : Scientists at the University of Southern California (USC) have come up with the world''s smallest plasma torch that may one day make root canal treatment faster and less painful, besides reducing the chance of infection after the procedure.

"Our goal is to guarantee that you won''t have to see a doctor for a follow-up visit," ABC Science quoted says Professor Chunqi Jiang Jiang, who has reported this work in the online edition of the journal Plasma Processes and Polymers, as saying.

"One problem is that between 8 per cent and 10 per cent of patients have an infection post-operation. This is intended to eliminate the chance of an infection," the researcher added.

Plasma, or ionized gas, is one of the four basic states of matter, the other three being solid, liquid and gas.

The researchers reveal that the trick to creating plasma at room temperature is to pulse it. They say that a continuous stream of plasma very quickly heats up the surrounding air.

According to them, pulsing the plasma allows the tiny electrons in it to heat up and move around, while keeping the much larger and heavier atom nucleus from heating up.

"If you have a piece of paper with bacteria on it and you apply cold plasma to it, the paper won''t burn but the bacteria will die," says Professor Mounir Laroussi, of Old Dominion University in Virginia, who has studied the effect of cold plasmas for years.

"Cold plasma can kill bacteria on a variety of surfaces such as teeth or skin," Laroussi adds.

The researchers say that upon being used in the mouth, the free electrons of plasma create single atoms of pure oxygen, ozone and other reactive forms of oxygen, all of which search for other atoms to bind with in the organic biofilms inside decayed teeth.

Biofilms are basically walled colonies of bacteria. In the human body, they can trigger the onset of an infection, and even protect the harmful bacteria from the most powerful antibiotics.

The researchers have revealed that cool, pulsed and purple plasma takes about five to ten minutes to clear an infected tooth of biofilms as compared to bleach, the conventional method for cleaning an infected tooth, which takes 30 minutes.

While about 10 per cent of patients treated with bleach are still infected, tests using the plasma torch on a few dozen human teeth have shown no signs of infection.

The plasma torch is also not as expensive as laser systems that are used as high-tech solutions to biofilms.

While laser systems costing up to 25,000 dollars, the plasma torch could retail for as little as 1,000 dollars, provided it passes official clinical trials.

Laroussi, who used to test cold plasmas effect on teeth, skin and wound healing, says that the trick to regulatory acceptance and commercialisation is ensuring that only harmful cells are killed.

"We can kill bacteria on teeth and on wounds. But we have to ensure that we are not creating a worse problem in nearby healthy cells as well," says Laroussi.

Initial tests have shown that surrounding healthy tissue remains intact, although more testing is needed to definitively prove this.

Meanwhile, the USC researchers are concentrating on getting the funding necessary to continue with their research. (ANI)

Jun 24
Four Out Of Ten Skin Disease Sufferers Bullied
A shocking four out of every ten people who suffer from a skin disease in the UK have been bullied as a result of their condition, a new snapshot survey reveals.

23% said that they had suffered from an isolated incident of bullying, with a further 18% revealing that they suffered from regular bullying from their workplace or school. A staggering 92% had been on the receiving end of unwanted remarks and stares. The online survey, conducted by the skin disease research charity the British Skin Foundation, gives a thought provoking insight into the nine million people who live with a skin disease in the UK.

The survey was conducted to better understand how skin disease affects sufferers in the UK. 256 people were asked a series of questions relating to their skin disease and the impact it had on their life. The results show that the effects of skin disease go far beyond that of simply having to apply some cream. Four out of every ten people who took part said that their skin disease was a cause of high levels of stress and anxiety. One in ten participants said they had been hospitalized for their skin problems, 11% said they had taken time off work or education and 19% said they had regular loss of sleep as a direct result of their disease.

The results also highlighted the effects felt by those around the sufferer. When asked if they felt they were affected by someone else's skin disorder, 33% said they suffered from a lack of sleep and just under half of respondents stated they felt stressed or anxious by the other person's skin disease.

Worryingly, when asked about what forms of support they relied on for dealing with their skin disease, a quarter said they didn't rely on anyone or any service for help. Only 6 people out of the 256 relied on a patient support group, with the majority opting for friends and family (51%) and over a third relied on their GP for support.

The British Skin Foundation's Chief Executive, Matthew Patey, is determined to change the situation. He says: "It's about time people took skin disease seriously. We need to break down the misconception that skin disease is nothing to be concerned about. On the contrary, thousands of people will die this year alone from a skin disease. Although the survey offers only a tiny glimpse at what sufferers go through on a daily basis, we often forget that the effects are not limited to the symptomatic issues, but often branch out into discrimination and unfair treatment outside of the home."

Jun 24
Weight-loss surgery cuts cancer risks in women
Weight-loss surgery may help obese women lower their risk of developing cancer, Swedish researchers said on Tuesday.

They found women who had weight-loss surgery were 42 percent less likely to develop cancer during a 10-year study published in the journal Lancet Oncology.

Men in the study did not benefit, possibly because many cancers are driven by female hormones such as estrogen, they said, or simply because fewer men get weight-loss surgery.

Obesity has long been known to raise the risk of cancer, and the evidence continues to mount.

A study released on Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association found people who were obese as young adults had twice the risk of developing pancreatic cancer, an especially aggressive kind.

Weight-loss operations -- in which doctors change the digestive system's anatomy to cut the volume of food a person can eat -- have been shown to reverse diabetes and reduce the risks of dying from heart disease.

The Swedish study, led by Lars Sjostrom of Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg, compared 2,010 obese patients who had weight-loss surgery with 2,037 obese patients who got standard diet and exercise treatment.

Overall, they found the surgery helped people maintain an average weight loss of 19.9 kg or about 43 pounds over 10 years. People in the diet and exercise group gained an average of 1.3 kg or nearly 3 pounds during the study period.

The surgery cut the rates of cancer by a third, but women enjoyed most of that benefit. Among women, there were 79 first-time cancers in the surgery group, and 130 among those who got standard treatment.

Dr. Andrew Renehan of the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom said in a commentary the absence of a benefit in men could simply reflect the number of men who were in the study.

He said for women, the greatest cancer prevention effects were likely to be post-menopausal breast and endometrial cancers -- cancers sensitive to hormone levels.

Renehan said the effects of weight-loss surgery may take longer to show up in men, who are more prone to colon, rectal and kidney cancers, which take longer to become apparent.

Dr. Leena Khaitan, a bariatric surgeon at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, said the fact that men did not benefit likely reflected who gets the surgery.

"We know 80 percent of patients who undergo weight-loss surgery tend to be women. I suspect if we had larger numbers of men, we would probably see a difference," Khaitan said.

She said the study and others like it suggested bariatric, or weight-loss, surgery may be an important way to prevent costly, chronic diseases like cancer.

"It's a strong argument for preventive medicine."

She said many patients who qualify for the surgery do not get it because of problems with insurance coverage, but that may be short-sighted.

A study last year in the American Journal of Managed Care funded by Johnson & Johnson, a maker of bariatric surgery instruments, found insurers recoup the costs of weight-loss surgery within two to four years as obese patients become healthier and have fewer medical problems.

Jun 24
Deaths From Heart Disease In Canada Decreased 30 Percent: 10-year National Study
Rates of death and hospital admissions for cardiovascular disease declined 30% over a 10-year period in Canada, according to a new study in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal), pointing to successful efforts to prevent heart disease, the leading cause of death globally. However, for the first time, more women than men are dying of cardiovascular causes.

The study, the first of its kind in Canada, looked at data from the Canadian Mortality Database, Statistics Canada's national death registry which contains information on the cause of all deaths in the country. It also looked at hospital admissions for heart attacks, heart failure and stroke.

A major finding was the rapid decline in death rates from heart attacks, with 4000 fewer Canadians dying from acute myocardial infarction in 2004 than in 1994. This could reflect declines in risk factors such as smoking and increased use of statins to control cholesterol.

However, the study showed high rates of death and hospital admission related to cardiovascular disease in elderly women. "This highlights the need for increased investment in education and research on cardiovascular health and disease in women," write Dr. Jack Tu from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) and coauthors.

The authors caution that despite the 30% decrease, "these findings are not grounds for complacency. They suggest that previous efforts to prevent cardiovascular events have been successful, but in many cases they may have delayed the occurrence of such events until people are older and potentially more difficult to treat."