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Jul 31
Snake venom may harbour heart disease, cancer cure
n a study on how the body responds to toxins in snake venom, Japanese scientists have reported that their findings could help in the development of therapies for heart disease and cancer.

The researchers claimed that inhibiting a protein found on the surface of blood cells known as platelets may combat both irregular blood clotting and the spread of certain cancers throughout the body.

"The finding that platelets not only play a role in blood clotting but also in the development of vessels that allow tumors to flourish was quite unexpected and paves the way for new research on the role or roles of platelets," said Katsue Suzuki-Inoue, the associate professor at the University of Yamanashi.

"When a blood clot, or thrombus, forms during the body's normal repair process, it's doing its job. But, thrombotic diseases, such as heart attack and stroke, are leading causes of death in developed countries. Understanding and manipulating the underlying chemical reactions could help us save many lives," said Suzuki-Inoue.

"Snake venom contains a vast number of toxins that target proteins in platelets. Some of those toxins prevent platelets from clotting, which can lead to profuse bleeding in snake bite victims. Others, like the one we've focused this research on, potently activate platelets, which results in blood clots. Identification of the molecular targets of many of these toxins has made an enormous contribution to our understanding of platelet activation and related diseases," said Yonchol Shin, an associate professor at Kogakuin University who specializes in snake toxins.

Intrigued by the then-recent discovery that elements in snake venom can promote irregular aggregation of platelets - the kind that leads to clots and stroke - the researchers set out in 1997 to understand better the molecular underpinnings of those chemical reactions.

In 2000, another set of investigators came across a protein on the surface of platelets and dubbed it C-type lectin-like receptor 2, or CLEC-2.

After six years of research and collaborations with British investigators, the team in 2006 discovered how rhodocytin-a molecule purified from the venom of the Southeast Asia pit viper Calloselasma rhodastoma-binds to the CLEC-2 receptor protein on the platelet surface, spurring the platelet to clot with others like it.

Then, in 2007, the researchers reported how a separate molecule, called podoplanin, binds to the CLEC-2 platelet receptor protein very much like the venom molecule does.

Using a mouse model, the team in 2008 showed that blocking the tumour protein podoplanin from binding with the platelet receptor protein CLEC-2 could prevent tumours from metastasizing to the lung.

The recent investigations hinged on the generation and study of genetically engineered mouse embryos that lacked the platelet receptor protein CLEC-2.

In the end, the experiments showed that CLEC-2 is not only necessary for blood clotting but also necessary for the development of a different type of vessel, specifically lymphatic vessels that carry fluid away from tissues and prevent swelling, or edema.

"During fetal development, the CLEC-2 deficiency disturbed the normal process of blood clotting and, in fact, the normal development and differentiation of blood and lymphatic vessels. They had disorganized and blood-filled lymphatic vessels and severe swelling," said Masanori Hirashima, an associate professor at Kobe University. "

Podoplanin is also expressed on the surface of certain types of lymphatic cells and is known to play a role in the development of lymphatic vessels, explained Hirashima.

"These findings suggest that the interaction between CLEC-2 and podoplanin in lymphatic vessels is necessary for the separation between blood vessels and lymphatic vessels," added Hirashima.

"We speculate that the interaction between the platelet's CLEC-2 protein and the podoplanin molecule in lymphatic cells plays an essential role in the creation of lymphatic vessels, thereby facilitating tumour growth. If this is the case, a drug that blocks that interaction would prevent the spread of tumours through lymphatic vessels," said Osamu Inoue, an assistant professor at the University of Yamanashi.

The study has been published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. (ANI)

Jul 31
Malaria claims 18th victim in Mumbai in July
A 33-year-old man has died in Mumbai due to Malaria, taking the death toll due to disease in the city to 18 in July, health officials said.

The deceased, a resident of Parel in central Mumbai, was admitted at KEM hospital on Thursday and died on Thursday night.

More than 3,500 patients - 3,759 patients to be precise - are admitted at various hospitals due to malaria, officials said, adding, 170 patients were admitted on Friday.

Meanwhile, a 35-year-old man died due to Leptospirosis, taking the death toll to seven this month.

Sixty-seven patients have been admitted at various hospitals due to Lepto, the officials said adding that 20 persons have been admitted to various hospitals with swine flu symptoms.

Mumbai Mayor Shraddha Jadhav said a core committee will be formed at the earliest to curb Malaria-menace.

"A committee comprising BMC doctors, private practitioners, officers from the conservancy and Pest Control department will be formed to ensure that a clean and hygienic surrounding is maintained and thereby preventing Malaria cases," Jadhav said.

Jul 30
New dental gel to rejuvenate decayed teeth
Here is some heartening news for all those who break into a cold sweat just at the thought of going to the dentist.

A gel that can help restore teeth to their original state without enduring the pain of drilling, scraping and filling of cavities is now on its way.

Researchers, at the National Institute for Health
and Medical Research in Paris developed a gel which contains MSH (melanocyte-stimulating hormone) that plays a crucial role in bone generation and poly-L-glutamic acid that is often used to transport drugs through the bodies because it can ward off stomach acids.

They found that the gel so formed triggered the growth of new cells and also helped with adhesion - the process by which new dental cells 'lock' together.

The researchers stated, "This is important because it produces strong tooth pulp and enamel which could make the decayed tooth as good as new."

Experiment on rodents
In a bid to investigate the regenerative properties of the gel, the researches conducted an experiment on mice with dental cavities.

They application of the the gel on mice led to the disappearance of the dental cavities within just four weeks time.

Gel tested on human teeth
In a separate study the scientists rubbed the gel on cells taken from extracted human teeth.

The researchers found that the gel generated the growth of new cells in the decayed tissues and also helped in the restoration of the teeth to their original healthy state.

The scientists stated that the new tooth cells would be stronger and a permanent solution.

The gel which is still undergoing testing will not be available for commercial use for another three to five years.

However, the researchers have said that the treatment will not be suitable for severe decayed teeth.

The scientists reiterate the importance of oral hygiene in dental care. Meanwhile, they are in the process of developing a 'tongue' gel to tackle bad breath and prevent tooth decay.

Professor Damien Walmsley, the British Dental Association's scientific adviser stated, "There are a lot of exciting developments in this field, of which this is one.

"It looks promising, but we will have to wait for the results to come back from clinical trials and its use will be restricted to treating small areas of dental decay."

Their findings are published in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano.

Jul 29
Sleep can prevent chronic conditions
Too much or too little sleep may increase your risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Researchers studied 56,507 American adults aged 18 to 85 years, to find out the association between short sleep duration (less than 7 hours) and long sleep duration (more than 8 hours) with obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Data was collected from the study participants regarding their exercise, smoking, family environment and geographic location.

It was found that, compared with sleeping between seven to eight hours every night, sleeping less than six hours or more than nine hours was associated with a higher risk of developing chronic conditions like obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. The researchers concluded that seven to eight hours of sleep each night appeared to be the ideal amount to maximise health benefits and minimise the risk of developing any chronic disease.

These findings emphasise the importance of sleep in keeping people healthy, and indicate that sleep may have a larger influence on development of chronic diseases than diet or exercise.

Jul 29
Middle-aged women 'more sexually active'
Researchers found that more than half of 18 to 30 year-olds struggle to find satisfaction between the sheets - a much higher proportion than those aged between 31 and 54.

And the most sexually active groups is 31 to 45 year-olds (87 per cent) - ahead of 18 to 30 year-olds (85 per cent) and 46 to 54 year-olds (74 per cent).

But an alarming two-in-three women suffer from sexual dysfunction with the problems rising with age in all categories - apart from orgasm.

This bucked the trend with problems higher among 18 to 30 year-olds (54 per cent) than in the 31 to 45 (43 per cent) and 46 to 54 (48 per cent) age groups. It then soared to 66% in 55 to 70 year-olds and 87 per cent for the over 70s.

The survey asked 587 women of all ages attending a urology clinic in New Jersey about six key areas of female sexual dysfunction (FSD) and discovered problems are widespread from disinterest to frustration.

Study leader Dr Debra Fromer said: "We found 63 per cent of the women suffered from FSD and there were significant links between FSD and age, menopausal status and use of selective anti-depressants.

Overall the main concern was lack of desire (47 per cent) followed by orgasm problems (45 per cent), arousal issues (40 per cent), lack of satisfaction (39 per cent), lack of lubrication (37 per cent) and pain (36 per cent).

Dr Fromer, of Hackensack University Medical Centre, New Jersey, said: "FSD can have a major effect on women's quality of life.

"Self-esteem, sense of wholeness and relationships can be seriously and adversely affected, exacting a heavy emotional toll.

"Researchers have found significant associations between major categories of sexual dysfunction, reduced physical and emotional satisfaction and general well-being.

"That is why it is so important to ensure problems are identified and tackled wherever possible. For example a number of hormone and other drug treatments have been shown to benefit women with FSD."

Known risk factors for FSD include age, a history of sexual abuse or sexually transmitted infections, depression, lower socioeconomic status, lifestyle, overall physical health and sexual experience.

Dr Fromer, whose findings are published in BJUI (British Journal of Urology), said: "Interestingly, our study found very similar levels of dysfunction to an age-matched Turkish study.

"This suggests a biological cause for FSD rather than societal or cultural factors, although they make some contribution to certain psychological aspects of the disorder."

Jul 28
Alarm over chemical-laden fruits & vegetables
New Delhi: Looking to include shiny, green, leafy vegetables in your meal? Think again! The 'perfect-looking' veggies may not good for your health after all.

In a letter to the Union Health Secretary, Minister of State for Health, Dinesh Trivedi has warned that the vegetables on sale in the market may be leading to "nervous breakdowns, sterility and neurotic complications" among unsuspecting consumers.

"The health benefits of consuming green vegetables as a staple diet finds a sharp contradiction in the present-day context. Farmers are using hormone shots to expedite the growth of their vegetables. The disturbing part is that these hormones may cause irreparable damage to our health, if taken through these vegetables, over a period of time. The even more shocking element is that the public/authorities may also be aware of this malpractice," Trivedi said in the letter, seeking action against such farmers.

The minister's warning has come at a time when it has become a common practice among farmers to inject vegetables with oxytocin, also called 'love hormone'. Farmers use the chemical to help fruits and vegetables grow faster.

Oxytocin is a hormone that also acts as a neurotransmitter to the brain. It is used clinically to induce labour, control bleeding after delivery and stimulate secretion of breast milk.

The chemical is mostly injected in pumpkin, watermelon, brinjal, gourd and cucumber to help them grow faster and look perfect. The irony is that oxytocin is a Schedule-H drug, which is banned in the country for use on animals.

Trivedi, in his letter, also mentioned the use of chemicals like copper sulphates for colouring fruits and vegetables. "The adverse effects of these toxins are being investigated. Both these hazardous chemicals and their use needs to be urgently monitored and looked into immediately," the minister said.

Jul 27
Paresh Rawal, wife Swaroop to donate skin
In a rare gesture, actor Paresh Rawal and his wife Swaroop Sampat have signed up to donate their skin.

The couple have taken up the brand ambassadorship for skin donation awareness to help the cause of burn victims.

The celebrity couple are closely associated with the National Burn Institute's (NBI) Skin Bank and had recently signed up to donate their skin, Dr Shilpa Karnik said.

"Skin donation can be done after a person's death and our retrieval team take out one eighth of the skin from lower extremities and back," she said.

"Through the brand ambassadorship of Rawal and Sampath and their gesture to donate skin could go a long way in creating awareness about skin donation to burn patients to relieve them from their pain and infection," said Karnik, who is in-charge of the skin donation section of the NBI.

"We are observing August one as the Skin Donation Day since last year but so far only 15 to 20 calls have for skin donation," she said.

Rawal and Sampath, a former Miss India and actress, conduct awareness campaigns and talk about the importance of skin donation and will be active in the upcoming skin donation drive planned by NBI.

After skin donation, the harvested skin is preserved and processed for skin grafting purposes.

The grafting is done for three to four weeks on the burned skin which helps the patient to reduce the pain as well as helps in preventing infection.

During this period, the burned person's own skin starts growing (self-generation) and automatically the grafted skin comes out after accomplishing its work, Karnik said.

Since only one eighth thickness of the skin is removed (which does not have cells) from the donor's dead body, there is no question of rejection of grafted skin, said Karnik.

The skin bank of NBI works in collaboration with the 33 year-old Euro skin Bank.

"We expect more pledges for skin donation this year as we have already started our mass awareness campaign through various modes of communication," said Karnik

Jul 27
6,000 affected with dengue in Dominican Republic
Over 6,000 people have been affected with dengue in the Dominican Republic, out of which 24 have died, a minister has said. But the number of cases reported in hospitals and clinics has declined over the past few days, which shows people have become aware of the danger and are seeking medical help
and taking necessary precautions, Public Health Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez said.

Authorities are also trying to stop the spread of other diseases like malaria, he said.

Jul 26
Most patients with cardio problems can fly safely
Most people with cardiovascular diseases who are not critically ill can safely fly, a new report says.

The study, conducted by the British Cardiovascular Society, says that such people can undertake air travel provided they drink plenty of fluids, wear compression stockings and take a blood thinner.

However, the fluid intake should exclude alcohol, tea and coffee.

Consultant cardiologist David Smith of National Health Service (NHS) Foundation and colleagues explain that the main impact of air travel is the inhalation of air with reduced oxygen content in a pressurized environment.

This results in lower circulating oxygen levels in the blood, known as hypobaric hypoxia, says a society release.

Passengers already at high risk of angina, heart failure or abnormal heart rhythms might be adversely affected by hypoxia.

Otherwise, the blood oxygen levels induced by flying appear to have little or no adverse circulatory effects, certainly not for short-and medium-haul flights, for heart patients, the report says.

Jul 26
Doubt cast on arthritis-related back pain management
A new research suggests that slavishly following long-held guidelines for diagnosing the cause of arthritis-related back pain is resulting in excessive tests, delays in pain relief and wasteful spending of as much as 10,000 dollars per patient.

Arthritis is a common cause of back pain, though difficult to precisely diagnose, experts say, because of the poor correlation between a finding of arthritis on an X-ray or MRI and the degree of a patient's back pain.

"The whole way we're doing this is wrong," says study leader Steven P. Cohen, M.D., an associate professor of anaesthesiology and critical care medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

"If we just do the radio frequency procedure first, we're going to help more people and we're going to save a lot of money."

The study revealed that among those who had radio-frequency treatment, success rates were higher in those who had the diagnostic blocks first because they were more likely to actually have arthritis.

"When you do two blocks, you may be wrongly weeding out many people who would actually benefit from radio-frequency denervation," said Cohen.

Cohen notes that radiofrequency denervation is as safe as giving a diagnostic block and need only be done once for relief of symptoms.

The relief can last many months and sometimes years, but often must be repeated when pain returns.

Cohen and colleagues believe that making diagnostic accuracy a higher priority than pain relief may be misguided.

"If you ask patients what their main goal of treatment is, the answer is typically that they want to be able to pick up their grandkids or play golf. It's not, 'I want to know if it's my arthritic joints or my discs.'"

Cohen cautions that diagnostic nerve blocks are called for in some cases.

For example, they should be used to determine whether surgery is the right option for relieving certain kinds of back pain in people without a clear-cut anatomical problem in order to avoid an unnecessary, risky operation.

The new study is published in the August issue of the journal Anaesthesiology.

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