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Nov 30
World's first root canal treatment on working elephant
Three senior doctors were called in from one of India's top dental colleges after the elephant's owner said it had suffered with chronic "tusk ache" for several years and that the infection was getting worse.

The 27-year-old tuskar, Devidasan, hired out for wedding processions and religious festivals, was examined by the team led by Dr CV Pradeep, professor at PSM Dental College in Thrissur, Kerala, who ordered root canal treatment.

Although the painful procedure is common for humans it is believed to be unprecedented for elephants.

The dentists decided to carry out the procedure without using anaesthetic drugs and instead relied on the elephant's 'mahout' or driver to keep it calm.

In a two-and-a-half hour operation, the dentists cleaned a six centimetre cavity which was heavily infected and filled it with almost half a pound of resin - more than 40 times needed for a human filling.

"This is the first surgery of its kind in the world. We are filing a patent for the treatment procedure - there may be some similar cases which need treatment," said Dr Pradeep.

He and his team are now planning to develop a new range of elephant dentistry instruments based on the ouitsized ones they improvised for the operation.

Devidasan is now back at work.

Nov 30
Removing tobacco displays makes smoking less tempting
Putting away tobacco displays makes puffing less tempting to young people, a study says.

Conducted by the University of Nottingham Centre for Tobacco Control Studies in Britain, the researchers found that the number of teenagers who recalled tobacco displays dropped from 81 percent to only 22 percent after the displays were removed, reports the journal Tobacco Control.

Similarly, fewer young people believed smoking is widespread among their peers. Before the displays were removed, 62 percent thought that more than one in five people of their age group smoked, which fell to 46 percent afterwards.

After displays were covered up, 38 percent of teenagers thought the measure would make it easier for children not to smoke and 14 percent of adults thought the law made it easier to quit smoking.

The research also showed support for putting tobacco out of sight rose from 58 percent to 66 percent after the measure came into force.

Prof. Ann McNeill, who led the study, said: 'Our research shows that removing point of sale displays of tobacco has a measurable impact on how young people think about tobacco, and helps underline that they are not normal consumer products.'

Nov 29
Lung cancer cases on rise in the Kashmir Valley
Smoking has taken its toll among the males in the Kashmir Valley with the highest number of lung cancer cases being reported in the state so far this year.

Till October this year, 316 cases of lung cancer have been registered at SK Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS). There were 363 cases reported in 2009 and the number of such patients was 265 in 2008.

This year the number of lung cancer cases registered at SKIMS, the main oncology facility in the Valley, was a record high and surpassed the number of oesophagal cancer cases which was previously the most common cancer here.

More than 7,000 cancer patients registered at SKIMS in last three years who suffer from among 80 variants of the disease, around 1000 patients had developed lung cancer with nearly 900 cases blamed on smoking.

"Lung cancer is mostly caused by smoking, all types of smoking, but 90% lung cancer cases are caused by cigarettes," Dr Maqbool Lone, head of the Oncology department, said.

Since smoking is more prevalent among the men here, it is they who suffer the most. The statistics of last three years show that among the two, majority of the cancer cases are male patients.

In 2008, the number of cancer patients registered here were 1,467 against 922 female patients. In 2009, the number of male patients suffering from cancer were 1,705 compared to 1,168 female patients. So far this year, 1285 males have been confirmed of the disease as against 822 women patients.

Apart from smoking, dietary habits of Kashmiris are another reason for the growing number of cancer cases.

Lone said pickles, which are not preserved properly, very hot tea and the sun-dried vegetables meant for consumption during the harsh winters in the valley, can also cause this cancer.

He said one of the causes of breast cancer, which is on rise in the valley with 148 cases in 2008, 162 cases in 2009 and 132 cases registered till this October end, is also poor dietary habits in the valley.

"Even though we produce lots of fruits, most of it is exported and not consumed here. That is also a problem because eating fresh fruits and vegetables decreases the chances of cancer," Dr Syed Ashiq H Naqshbandi, vice-chairman of Cancer Society of Kashmir, said.

Nov 27
Your organ donation will save many lives
Human organ donation, which was legalised in India way back in 1994, is an endeavour that not only saves precious lives, but also creates goodwill in society.

Did you know that a brain-dead person, by means of a multi-organ donation, can save as many as 12 lives?

Various organs of the human body, including the kidneys, lungs, heart, heart valves, blood vessels, middle ear, liver, pancreas, skin, eyes and bone marrow, can be used to save precious lives - provided the relatives of the patient consider organ donation seriously and make it happen.

Unfortunately, 16 years after the country passed the Transplantation of Human Organs Act 1994, only kidney donations by live donors are in vogue - cadaver donations have still not picked up.

At present, out of the 1,50,000 patients requiring kidney transplants across India every year, only 200 get kidneys by way of donations from the deceased.

"To bridge this gap, the states of Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka have started various awareness drives to promote cadaveric donation. And due to their efforts, the country has seen a small leap from 0.08 per million in 2008 to 0.1 in 2010 - which is promising," says Sunil Shroff, managing trustee of the support group Multi Organ Harvesting Aid Network (MOHAN) Foundation in Chennai.

Shroff estimates the total number of kidney transplants done in the country annually to be in the range of 6,000. "If the cadaveric donation rate is pushed to 1 per million, we can get 1,100 donors and 2,200 kidneys for transplants," he added.

About 1,40,000 road accident deaths occur annually in India, of which, 67 percent are due to severe head injuries, says Shroff.

"However, not even 1% of potential organ donors are tapped for cadaveric multi-organ donations," said Lalitha Raghuram, country director for MOHAN Foundation.

"On the other hand, in most developed countries, the cadaveric conversion is approximately 25% to 30%. This results in 90% of all organs for transplants coming from brain-dead donors," he said, adding that successfully undertaking such a donation process requires organising brain death certification and consent from relatives, followed by procurement of different organs and transplant by different teams of surgeons within a critical time limit.

Due to lack of a regional or national registry in place with accurate statistics on requirement of organs waiting to be transplanted or donated for transplantation, the medical fraternity has to rely on guesstimates. And the recent estimates portray an alarming rise in requirement for organ transplants in India.

According to the estimated statistics, every three minutes, a patient is added to the list of people requiring a transplant in the country.

"And to meet this rising demand, raising awareness regarding cadaveric organ donation is the only option," said Dr HL Trivedi from the city's Institute of Kidney Diseases and Research Centre, which is actively involved in promoting this cause.

Nov 27
Diabetes drug 'may treat Alzheimer's'
A new study by scientists from Berlin, Bonn and Dundee has shown that the diabetes drug Metformin has an effect against one of the main causes of the Alzheimer's disease.

Metformin, a drug used in type 2-diabetes, might have the potential to also act against Alzheimer's disease. This has been shown in a study from scientists of the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE), the University of Dundee and the Max-Planck-Institute for Molecular Genetics.

The researchers have found that the diabetes drug metformin counteracts alterations of the cell structure protein Tau in mice nerve cells. These alterations are a main cause of the Alzheimer's disease
. Moreover, they uncovered the molecular mechanism of metformin in this process.

"If we can confirm that metformin shows also an effect in humans, it is certainly a good candidate for an effective therapy on Alzheimer's diseases," says Sybille Kraua from DZNE.

Neurons in their brains die, leading to cognitive impairment. At the molecular level, the disease is characterized amongst others by the formation of Tau protein deposits in nerve cells. Tau is a molecule that usually binds to the supportive cytoskeleton and performs a function in the transport system of the cell. In Alzheimer's disease, Tau is tipped too strongly with phosphate groups. This phosphorylation causes removal of Tau from the cytoskeleton and aggregation.

To counteract this problem, researchers aimed at regulating the protein PP2A. This protein is normally responsible for removing phosphate groups from Tau protein. In Alzheimer's disease, PP2A is not active enough - leading to an increased phosphorylation and deposition of Tau. The scientists around Sybille Kraua and Susann Schweiger (University of Dundee) therefore looked for a drug that increases the activity of PP2A.

In cell culture experiments with mouse nerve cells, the researchers showed that metformin directly protects PP2A against degradation by preventing the binding to special degradation proteins. This mechanism of metformin has been unknown so far. In addition, an increase in PP2A activity leads to a reduction in Tau phosphorylation. In a next step, the scientists added metformin to drinking water of healthy mice. This also led to a reduction of Tau-phoshorylation in brain cells.

The results have been published in the scientific journal PNAS.(ANI)

Nov 25
No Link Between Heartburn Drugs and Birth Defects: Study
Babies born to women who took a popular class of heartburn drugs while they were pregnant did not appear to have any heightened risk of birth defects, a large Danish study finds.

This class of drugs, known as proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs), include blockbusters such as Prilosec (omeprazole), Prevacid (lansoprazole) and Nexium (esomeprazole). All were available by prescription-only during most of the study period (1996-2008), but Prilosec and Prevacid are now sold over-the-counter.

While the authors and an editorialist, publishing in the Nov. 25 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, called the results "reassuring," experts still recommend using drugs as little as possible during pregnancy.

"In general, these are probably safe but it takes a lot of time and a lot of exposures before you see some of the abnormalities that might exist," explained Dr. Eva Pressman, professor of obstetrics and gynecology and director of maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center. "My recommendations are always to avoid medication exposure if at all possible. There are very few life-threatening disorders that require these PPIs," she noted.

"There are other ways to get the same effect," added Pressman, who was not involved in the study. "Most pregnant women have heartburn but most of it is relatively easy to treat with simple antacids such as Tums and Maalox and Mylanta, all of which are locally acting and absorbed, and don't pose any risk to the fetus."

Even propping yourself up so you're in a semi-vertical position, as opposed to lying flat, can help, said Dr. Michael Katz, senior vice president for research and global programs at the March of Dimes.

The research was funded by the Danish Medical Research Council and the Lundbeck Foundation.

The authors of the new study used linked databases to glean information on almost 841,000 babies born in Denmark from 1996 through 2008, as well as on the babies' mothers' use of PPIs during pregnancy.

PPI use by expectant women was the highest between 2005 and 2008, when about 2 percent of fetuses were exposed, but exposure during the critical first trimester was less than 1 percent.

Babies were followed until they were one year old.

The proportion of babies with birth defects hovered at about 3 percent in both groups -- 3.4 percent of those who had been exposed to a PPI in utero, and 2.6 percent for unexposed babies.

In an unexpected finding, there was a 39 percent increased risk of major birth defects among children whose mothers had taken PPIs in the month before conception, a finding the authors are attributing to either chance or to another factor, perhaps the reason the mother was taking the medication in the first place. This could have been infection with Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria that causes most ulcers.

In addition to Prilosec, Prevacid and Nexium, the authors also looked at Aciphex (rabeprazole) and Protonix (pantoprazole).

Prilosec was the only drug not associated with an increase in birth defects when taken during the month before conception, leading the editorial author to suggest this drug as a first line of treatment.

A related journal editorial, written by Dr. Allen A. Mitchell, director of the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University School of Medicine, also noted some caveats. These included the fact that even this big of a sample may not have been large enough to detect specific birth defects (such as heart defects) or to ascertain the effect of specific drugs within the class. Nor can the influence of other factors be ruled out, Mitchell wrote. Perhaps folic-acid supplementation during pregnancy is hiding the true effects of the PPIs, Mitchell said.

The bottom line, according to the experts, is that it's still not clear whether these drugs are safe or not for pregnant women.

"Having negative observations is never absolutely reassuring," Katz said. "All you can say is that within that range [in this case, 800,000 infants], the probability is that it is safe," he explained.

"The balance in pragmatic terms is how important is it to treat the symptoms that any drug is designed to treat versus the safety of pregnancy," he added. "That's a very difficult decision to make."

Nov 25
Soon, a pill to wipe out painful memories!
Often there are moments that we wish to forget because they cause us so much pain like the death of a loved one or a childhood trauma - now it might be possible to do so just by popping a pill.

US researchers have discovered that proteins can be removed from the brain's fear centre to wipe out traumatic memories.

Their findings could be of benefit to soldiers who have experienced distressing events and victims of violence, or even help couples get over the hurt of painful break-ups.

Break upProfessor Richard Huganir and his colleagues discovered a 'window of vulnerability' when unique receptor proteins are created in the brain as painful memories are made. Because the proteins are unstable, they could be removed with drugs to eliminate the memory forever.

"When a traumatic event occurs, it creates a fearful memory that can last a lifetime and have a debilitating effect on a person's life," the Daily Mail quoted him as saying.

He said his findings "raise the possibility of manipulating those mechanisms with drugs to enhance behavioural therapy for such conditions as post-traumatic stress disorder."

However, Kate Farinholt, of a mental health support group in Maryland, is not entirely convinced by the idea.

"Erasing a memory and then everything bad built on that is an amazing idea. But completely deleting a memory is a little scary. How do you remove a memory without removing a whole part of someone's life, and is it best to do that, considering that people grow and learn from their experiences?" she asked.

Paul Root Wolpe, of the Centre for Ethics, at Emory University in Atlanta, said, "Human identity is tied into memory. It creates our distinctive personalities. It's a troublesome idea to begin to be able to manipulate that, even if for the best of motives."

Nov 23
IANS Sickle cell patients number rising globally: Experts
The number of patients suffering from sickle cell anaemia - a form of blood disorder - are increasing across the world due to lack of awareness about it, experts at an international meet here on the disease said Monday.

Citing the lack of screening facilities in interior areas as well as less awareness about the disease, the experts suggested that a time-bound strategy be worked out to reach out to the rural patients so that they can't transmit the disease to the next generation.

They said thousands of people were succumbing to sickle cell anaemia annually in poor countries because most of the patients who live in illiteracy-hit pockets are not turning up at health centres for blood tests and thus end up passing on the disease to their children.

The six-day 4th International Sickle Cell Congress was inaugurated by former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in the presence of Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, Governor Shekhar Dutt and state Health Minister Amar Agrawal.

Over 250 experts from India and abroad are attending the convention is being organised by the Sickle Cell Disease International Organisation and the Chhattisgarh government.

Around 15-18 percent of the Chhattisgarh's 20.08 million population is affected by the disease. More than 50 percent of the affected children in the state die before the age of five.

Experts from Chhattisgarh confessed that though the disorder is prevalent in all the 18 districts of the state, it is alarming in 10 of them which have a high population of certain Other Backward Classes (OBC) communities and tribes. The main bottleneck to tackle the disease is that rural masses are not much aware about it, they admitted.

P.K. Patra, head of the state government's Centre for Genetic Diseases and Molecular Biology, said: 'The sickle cell disorder is an inherited genetic lifelong blood disorder characterised by red blood cells assuming an abnormal, rigid, sickle shape. Sickling decreases the cell's flexibility and results in a risk of serious complications.'

'Chhattisgarh should be considered a nucleus of the sickle cell disorder in India, though it is also prevalent in Maharashtra, Orissa, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and parts of Andhra Pradesh,' he added.

Nov 23
Dental Implants That can Reduce Costs Developed
A group of Indian dentists have successfully created a new dental implant which could cut down the cost for dental treatment by more than 60 percent.

The titanium based implant was the product of a five year research funded by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and developed in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.

Lead researcher Professor Mahesh Varma revealed that the new implants not only replace a lost tooth, but also allow the users to chew with as much force as it could have been possible with natural teeth.

"The implants can not only replace missing teeth, they allow the individual to bite with a force equal to, if not more than, that possible with natural teeth. Toothless people no longer need to struggle with their complete dentures. Implant supported dentures address all the common complaints of instability and looseness", he said.

Currently the price for a dental implant is anywhere between Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 but the new dental implant could cut down the cost to as low as Rs 7,000. According to latest reports, more than 12 percent of the population over 60 years of age have no teeth with many unable to afford the expense of teeth replacement.

Nov 22
Eating a variety of fruit cuts lung cancer risk: study
Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables regularly could slash the risk of developing lung cancer by almost a quarter, a new study has claimed.

Experts often recommend to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables daily as a means to prevent cancer. Now, the new study carried out by researchers from 10 European nations showed that regular consumption of a variety of fruits and vegetables cuts the risk of lung cancer by up to 23 per cent.

"This research looks more deeply into the relationship between diet and lung cancer", said Maria Jose Sanchez Perez, director of the Granada Cancer Registry in Spain and co-author of the study.

"Aside from the amount consumed, it's also important to take into account the variety. A varied diet reduces the risk of developing this cancer, above all in smokers," she said.
The results of this study, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, showed that eating "more than eight sub-groups" of vegetables cuts this risk by 23 per cent compared with eating "less than four sub-groups".

In addition, this risk falls by a further four per cent for each unit added to the diet from another sub-group.

"A significant link was only found in smokers", the researcher stressed. "For every two additional units of different kinds of fruits and vegetables in the diet, the risk of lung cancer falls significantly by 3 per cent.

"So if smokers increase the variety of fruit they eat they could have a lower risk of developing this type of cancer".

The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study involved 23 centres from 10 European countries and a sample of 500,000 European subjects.
Lung cancer continues to be one of the most common cancers in developed countries. For this reason, despite the encouraging results of this study, Sanchez Perez said "the most effective way of preventing it continues to be reducing the prevalence of tobacco consumption among the populace".

Greater variety in fruit and vegetable consumption is associated with a lower risk of developing epidermoid carcinoma of the lung, with an additional two units of fruit and vegetable consumption leading to a 9 per cent reduction in risk. This effect is clearer among smokers (where the risk falls by 12 per cent).

No significant association between fruit and vegetable consumption and the risk of developing lung cancer was seen for the other kinds of tissues affected (adenocarcinoma and small and large cell carcinoma).