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Jul 28
New drug to speed-up post heart attack recovery
There is good news for heart attack patients. Australian researchers have formulated a new drug called Dz13 that can prove really beneficial in enhancing a patient’s cardiac [pertaining to the heart.] health after surviving a heart attack.

Heart attack or Myocardial Infarction (MI), as it is medically known, is a life threatening condition. Even if one survives it, the quality of life afterwards suffers a lot. Hence, the new research assumes all the more significance.

Dz13 works by affecting the genes [basic, functional units of heredity, each occupying a specific place on a chromosome.] responsible for inflammation, thereby decreasing the muscle impairment following a heart attack. This in turn puts the patient on the fast track to recovery.

Study findings:
The study was conducted by a team of researchers headed by Levon Khachigian from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

As per researchers, the Dz13 drug keeps a check on the number of cells that die because of angioplasty and stents. Besides, it enhances the pumping action of the heart.

Khachigian was quoted as saying, “While this drug doesn’t prevent the heart attack, it does reduce the damaging effects of the blockage on the heart once it’s happened. It’s a targeted therapy that can be used to complement other procedures and improve chances of a normal recovery.”

Elaborating on Dz13, Ravinay Bhindi, a study co-author from Royal North Shore Hospital said, “This drug not only structurally reduces heart attack size but it protects heart muscle function. Both those things in combination improve outcomes and give hope to patients.”

Heart surgeries can damage heart muscles Khachigian further explained that surgeries performed to resurrect blocked arteries like angioplasty are as much responsible for impairment of heart muscles as the heart attack itself.

“At both these times a range of potentially damaging coordinated molecular responses kick in. We have been able to develop a drug to silence a disease-triggering gene. The drug improves heart function, regardless of whether it’s administered at the time of the heart attack, or at the time of the revascularization process,” remarked Khachigian.

India is home to 60 percent heart patients:
The latest study holds a lot of promise for India in particular, considering the fact that it accounts for 60 percent of the total heart patients in the world.

Jul 28
Hormone Therapy Use Associated With Increased Risk Of Ovarian Cancer
Compared with women who have never taken hormone therapy, those who currently take it or who have taken it in the past are at increased risk of ovarian cancer, regardless of the duration of use, the formulation, estrogen dose, regimen or route of administration, according to a study.

Primary prevention of ovarian cancer is challenging because little is known about its cause. Studies have suggested an increased risk of ovarian cancer among women taking postmenopausal hormone therapy (HT), according to background information in the article. Data have been limited on the differing effects of formulations, regimens and routes of administration.

Lina Steinrud Mørch, M.Sc., of Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen University, Denmark, and colleagues conducted a study to examine the risk of ovarian cancer associated with hormone therapy use. The study included all Danish women age 50 through 79 years from 1995 through 2005 through linkage to Danish national registers. Prescription data from the National Register of Medicinal Product Statistics provided individually updated information on HT use. The National Cancer Register and Pathology Register provided ovarian cancer incidence data. The analysis included a total of 909,946 women without hormone-sensitive cancer or who had not had both ovaries removed. At the end of follow-up, 63 percent of the women had not been taking HT, 22 percent were previous users of hormones, and 9 percent current users of hormones. Among the current users, 46 percent had used hormones for more than 7 years.

During an average of 8 years of follow-up, 3,068 ovarian cancers were detected . Of these, 2,681 were epithelial tumors (a type of ovarian cancer). Compared with never users, current users of HT had an overall 38 percent increased risk of ovarian cancer. When restricting the analyses to epithelial ovarian cancer, the relative risk among current HT users was 44 percent higher, with previous HT users having a 15 percent increased risk compared with women who had never used HT. The risk for ovarian cancer and epithelial ovarian cancer did not increase significantly with increasing durations of HT.

The risk of ovarian cancer declined with longer time since last HT use. The risk of ovarian cancer did not differ significantly by formulation, regimen, type of progestin or route of administration.

The absolute risk indicated approximately 1 extra ovarian cancer for roughly 8,300 women taking hormone therapy each year. "If this association is causal, use of hormones has resulted in roughly 140 extra cases of ovarian cancer in Denmark over the mean follow-up of 8 years, i.e., 5 percent of the ovarian cancers in this study. Even though this share seems low, ovarian cancer remains highly fatal, so accordingly this risk warrants consideration when deciding whether to use HT," the authors write.

Jul 28
HIV Transmission Safely Reduced In Babies, Mothers By ART Therapy
Giving daily antiretroviral syrup to breastfeeding infants or treating their HIV-infected mothers with highly active antiretroviral drugs is safe and effective in preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission through breast milk, a study led by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill investigators has found.

"This is an exciting development," said Charles van der Horst, M.D., a professor in the UNC School of Medicine and the study's lead investigator. "We may be able to spare mothers in the developing world a horrible choice by offering them an effective method for preventing transmission of HIV during breastfeeding."

Approximately 420,000 infants are infected with HIV annually, half through breast milk. HIV-infected women in resource-constrained areas face a terrible dilemma: provide the many health and nutritional benefits of breast milk but face a 20 percent chance of transmitting the virus to their baby or choose costly formula, which relies on an unsafe water supply and carries a higher risk of morbidity and mortality, and avoid transmitting HIV.

The Breastfeeding, Antiretrovirals and Nutrition (BAN) study is the only large-scale, randomized trial comparing infant prophylaxis or maternal treatment to an enhanced standard-of-care arm in the prevention of HIV transmission through breast milk. The study was conducted in Lilongwe, Malawi at a single site. Investigators randomly assigned at total of 2,367 mother-infant pairs to one of three treatment arms. For both the interventions, the probability of HIV-infection was significantly lower than in the enhanced control arm.

Of the randomized infants, 4.9 percent were found to be HIV positive at birth. Among infants who were HIV-free at one week old, 6.4 percent on the enhanced control arm were infected by 28 weeks, compared to 3.0 percent of the infants on the maternal treatment arm and 1.8 percent of the infants who received daily nevirapine syrup. Upon examining the probability of HIV infection or death by 28 weeks postpartum, 7.6 percent of the infants on the enhanced control arm were HIV-infected or died compared to 4.7 percent of the infants on the maternal treatment arm, and 2.9 percent of the infants on the infant prophylaxis arm.

Jul 28
Scents Really Can Soothe Stress
Feeling stressed? Then try savoring the scent of lemon, mango, lavender, or other fragrant plants. Scientists in Japan are reporting the first scientific evidence that inhaling certain fragrances alter gene activity and blood chemistry in ways that can reduce stress levels.

In the new study, Akio Nakamura and colleagues note that people have inhaled the scent of certain plants since ancient times to help reduce stress, fight inflammation and depression, and induce sleep. Aromatherapy, the use of fragrant plant oils to improve mood and health, has become a popular form of alternative medicine today. And linalool is one of the most widely used substances to soothe away emotional stress. Until now, however, linalool's exact effects on the body have been a deep mystery.

The scientists exposed lab rats to stressful conditions while inhaling and not inhaling linalool. Linalool returned stress-elevated levels of neutrophils and lymphocytes - key parts of the immune system - to near-normal levels. Inhaling linalool also reduced the activity of more than 100 genes that go into overdrive in stressful situations. The findings could form the basis of new blood tests for identifying fragrances that can soothe stress, the researchers say.

Jul 25
Tips For Older Adults To Combat Heat-Related Illnesses
As we age, our ability to adequately respond to summer heat can become a serious problem. The National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health, has some advice for helping older people avoid heat-related illnesses, known collectively as hyperthermia, during the summer months.

Hyperthermia can include heat stroke, heat fatigue, heat syncope (sudden dizziness after exercising in the heat), heat cramps and heat exhaustion. The risk for hyperthermia is a combination of the outside temperature along with the general health and lifestyle of the individual. Health-related factors that may increase risk include:

- Age-related changes to the skin such as poor blood circulation and inefficient sweat glands
- Heart, lung and kidney diseases, as well as any illness that causes general weakness or fever
- High blood pressure or other conditions that require changes in diet. For example, people on salt-restricted diets may increase their risk. However, salt pills should not be used without first consulting a doctor.
- The inability to perspire, caused by medications such as diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers and certain heart and blood pressure drugs
- Taking several drugs for various conditions. It is important, however, to continue to take prescribed medication and discuss possible problems with a physician.
- Being substantially overweight or underweight
- Drinking alcoholic beverages
- Being dehydrated

Lifestyle factors can also increase risk, including extremely hot living quarters, lack of transportation, overdressing, visiting overcrowded places and not understanding how to respond to weather conditions. Older people, particularly those at special risk, should stay indoors on particularly hot and humid days, especially when there is an air pollution alert in effect. People without fans or air conditioners should go to places such as shopping malls, movie theaters, libraries or cooling centers which are often provided by government agencies, religious groups, and social service organizations in many communities.

Heat stroke is an advanced form of hyperthermia that occurs when the body is overwhelmed by heat and unable to control its temperature. Someone with a body temperature above 104 degrees is likely suffering from heat stroke and may have symptoms of confusion, combativeness, strong rapid pulse, lack of sweating, dry flushed skin, faintness, staggering, possible delirium or coma. Seek immediate medical attention for a person with any of these symptoms, especially an older adult.

If you suspect that someone is suffering from a heat-related illness:

- Get the person out of the sun and into an air-conditioned or other cool place.
- Offer fluids such as water, fruit and vegetable juices, but avoid alcohol and caffeine.
- Encourage the individual to shower, bathe or sponge off with cool water.
- Apply a cold, wet cloth to the wrists, neck, armpits, and/or groin, places where blood passes close to the surface and the cold cloths can help cool the blood.
- Urge the person to lie down and rest, preferably in a cool place.

The NIA leads the federal effort supporting and conducting research on aging and the medical, social and behavioral issues of older people.

Jul 25
Fresh Meats Often Contain Additives Harmful To Kidney Disease Patients
Uncooked meat products enhanced with food additives may contain high levels of phosphorous and potassium that are not discernable from inspection of food labels, according to a study appearing in an upcoming issue of the Clinical Journal of the American Society Nephrology (CJASN). This can make it difficult for people to limit dietary phosphorous and potassium that at high levels are harmful to kidney disease patients.

Kidney disease patients on dialysis must watch their intake of dietary phosphate so that their blood phosphate levels do not rise. This is important because high blood phosphate levels may cause premature death in dialysis patients. Kidney disease patients also must limit their intake of potassium, because high blood potassium levels can cause sudden death.

One growing source of dietary phosphorous and potassium is through "enhanced" fresh meat and poultry products. These foods are injected with a solution of water with sodium and potassium salts (particularly phosphates) as well as antioxidants and flavorings. While ingesting phosphates and potassium can be dangerous for dialysis patients, there is no requirement that these ingredients be included in nutrition labels. There also have been no studies on the levels of phosphates and potassium contained in fresh meat and poultry products that have been "enhanced."

Richard Sherman, MD, and Ojas Mehta, DO (University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School), examined the potassium and phosphate content in a variety of "enhanced" and additive-free meat and poultry products available in local supermarkets. They found that products that were labeled as "enhanced" had an average phosphate concentration that was 28% higher than additive-free products, with some products almost 100% higher.

Potassium content was variable. Additive-free products all contained < 387 mg of potassium per 100 gm of protein while 5 of the 25 products with additives that were studied contained at least 692 mg of potassium per 100 gm of protein (maximum 930 mg/100 gm). Most foods with phosphate and potassium additives reported the additives on the labeling; however, 8 of the 25 "enhanced" products included in the study did not list the additives.

"The burden imposed on those seeking to limit dietary phosphorus and potassium could be ameliorated by more complete food labeling by manufacturers," the authors wrote.

Jul 25
Higher Risk Of Cataract Surgery With The Use Of Drugs To Reduce Blood Pressure
A research published ahead of print in the British Journal of Ophthalmology suggests certain types of drugs prescribed to lower blood pressure seem to increase the risk of corrective cataract surgery.

Cataracts cause blurred vision, and if left untreated can lead to blindness. They cloud over the lens at the front of the eye. In order to produce a sharp image, the lens must be transparent for light to pass through to the retina at the back of the eye. Around a third of the UK population over the age of 65 has a cataract in one or both eyes. Approximately 300,000 corrective procedures are carried out each year.

During five to ten years Australian researchers tracked the eye health of over 3,500 people. When the study began between 1992 and 1994, all participants were at least 49 years old.

There was confirmation of a borderline association between the use of beta blockers and calcium channel blockers, and the risk of cataract. Both of them are classes of blood pressure lowering drug.

For two other types of drug used to lower blood pressure, diuretics (water pills) and ACE inhibitors, no such connection was found.

The researchers studied influential factors, such as age, smoking, and use of steroids, which are known to increase cataract risk. They found that ACE inhibitors and beta blockers considerably predicted the likelihood of cataract surgery.

The likelihood for individuals taking beta blockers to undergo cataract surgery was 61 percent. And for those taking ACE inhibitors to lower their blood pressure, the likelihood was 54 percent.

Patients taking beta blockers for conditions other than high blood pressure were more than twice as likely to have the procedure.

The authors remark there has been argument that high blood pressure itself could be responsible for the development of cataracts, but the evidence to verify this has been inconsistent.

According to experimental research, beta blockade could have an effect on the lens transparency by modifying the proteins and altering the delicate cellular balance of the lens.

Jul 25
Stress in short sharp bursts can be good for health
Stress is being increasingly blamed for society's ills, but short, sharp bursts can be good for your health, research suggests.

A short burst of stress, for example by having to give a speech in public, may actually strengthen the body's immune system. While long term stress, such as living with a permanent disability or chronic illness, can reduce the ability to fight infections, some psychological stress can have the opposite effect.

Dr Suzanne Segerstrom of the University of Kentucky and Dr Gregory Miller looked at 300 scientific papers covering nearly 19,000 people. They found that stressful situations which lasted only short periods appeared to tap into the primeval 'fight or flight' instincts of early man threatened by predators. That response boosted the body's front-line defence against infections from traumas like bites and scratches.

But long-term anxiety has the opposite effect. Situations that cause permanent stress, like caring for someone with dementia, appear to wear out the immune system leaving the person vulnerable to infection. The same effect could be caused by other damaging experiences, such as losing a spouse or suffering abuse as a child.

The key factor seemed to be knowing that the event causing the stress would end soon. Older people and those already suffering an illness were more likely to suffer damage to their immune systems.

Dr Miller says: 'Older people are definitely more vulnerable to stress. Either the mind or the body seems to lose some of its ability to fight back.

The issue now is whether the changes are severe enough and long enough to actually influence people's vulnerability to disease.'

Similar results have been achieved by British researchers. Dr Veronica Manyande, senior lecturer in psychology at Thames Valley University, tested patients facing surgery at St Mark's Hospital, Islington. One group was simply given information about their operations, the other was instructed in relaxation techniques before and after surgery.

All these patients were facing stressful medical procedures,' Dr Manyande says. 'Those in the relaxation group had much higher stress levels and they recovered more quickly.'

She concludes: 'Some levels of stress are good for you. You have to have some level of stress if you are a living human being. It really does strengthen your immune system which often doesn't get exercised enough.'

Her research shows that acute levels of stress are helpful, but chronic levels are likely to be harmful.

Philip Hodson, a fellow of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, agrees. He says it is well understood that healthy organisms respond well to relieved stress. But unrelieved stress can be bad for your health.

IIf you are forced to do an exam and you do well, or you go for a job interview and get the job, or perform in a play and the audience applauds - you feel great.'

But if you fail in any of those events, the results may be different. Depending on the individual and the personality, such defeats can be good because lessons are learned from them.

Jul 25
Younger People at Greater Risk of Catching Swine Flu, WHO Says
Younger people are at greater risk of catching swine flu, with most cases occurring in teenagers, the World Health Organization said.

The median age of those infected with the pandemic H1N1 virus is 12 to 17 years, WHO said in a statement yesterday, citing data from Canada, Chile, Japan, U.K. and U.S. Patients requiring hospitalization and those with fatal cases may be slightly older, the Geneva-based United Nations agency said.

“As the disease expands broadly into communities, the average age of the cases is appearing to increase slightly,” WHO said. “This may reflect the situation in many countries where the earliest cases often occurred as school outbreaks but later cases were occurring in the community.”

World health officials are trying to determine which groups are most likely to get severely ill so measures to best protect them can be taken. Drugmakers are developing vaccines to fight the scourge, which WHO says may result in 2 billion infections.

Cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, diabetes and cancer put people infected with the new H1N1 virus at greater risk of developing severe complications, the UN agency said. Asthma and other forms of respiratory disease have been consistently reported as underlying conditions associated with more severe illness in several countries, it said.

Obesity has also been reported as a risk factor, and there is mounting evidence that pregnant women are at higher risk for more severe symptoms, WHO said. Some minority populations may also be more vulnerable, “but the potential contributions of cultural, economic and social risk factors are not clear.”

Vaccine Supply

Humans trials of a pandemic vaccine began in Australia this week, helping regulators gauge the safety and efficacy of shots.

The most common way to make flu vaccine is by growing the virus in fertilizer chicken eggs. The virus is then extracted, purified and killed for injection into humans, prompting the immune system to generate antibodies that fend off any infection.

WHO said yesterday that the yields for pandemic vaccine viruses are 25 percent to 50 percent of those of normal seasonal flu viruses for some manufacturers.

A network of WHO collaborators is trying to develop higher- yielding vaccine virus candidates, the agency said, adding that it will be able to revise its estimate of pandemic vaccine supply once it has the new yield information.

Jul 24
Scientists find new way to fix a broken heart
A new way to mend damage to the heart has been found by scientists.

The boffins have devised a method to coax heart muscle cells into re-entering the cell cycle, allowing the differentiated adult cells to divide and regenerate healthy heart tissue after a heart attack, according to studies in mice and rats by Children's Hospital Boston reported in the July 24th issue of the journal Cell.

If the same mechanisms identified by the researchers can be shown to work in the human heart, it opens up real possibilities for new and more efficient ways to treat people with heart disease, reports The BBC.

Theoretically, it could be used to treat heart attack patients, those with heart failure and children with congenital heart defects.

The key ingredient is a growth factor known as neuregulin1 (NRG1).

Previously, it was believed that the heart was incapable of repairing itself. During prenatal development, heart muscle cells (cardiomyocytes) proliferate but were thought to lose that ability shortly after birth. But, recent research has indicated that the adult cells do have some ability to replace themselves at a low level.