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Jul 30
Experts Suggest Antioxidants to Treat Infertility
Nutritional therapies including antioxidants may have significant potential to deal with infertility issues in both women and men, including erectile dysfunction, suggested a recent study.

During the study course, the lead study author, Francesco Visioli, at the Madrid Institute for Advanced Studies in Spain and Tory Hagen, in the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University observed that infertility problems are an early indicator of other degenerative diseases, including atherosclerosis, high blood pressure and congestive heart failure.

"If oxidative stress is an underlying factor causing infertility, which we think the evidence points to, we should be able to do something about it", notified Tory Hagen. "This might help prevent other critical health problems as well, at an early stage when nutritional therapies often work best".

While explaining the findings, Hagen said that previous work on same issue was too small or failed to focus on antioxidants. Tory Hagen claimed that successful development of new approach will play a crucial role to treat erectile dysfunction in men, egg implantation and endometriosis in women, and reduce the often serious and sometimes fatal condition of pre eclampsia during pregnancy. In addition, the technique is expected to be used for improving the quality of semen and eggs.

Jul 30
WHO: Hepatitis toll 'in millions'
Medical experts are calling for global action to tackle the viruses that cause the liver disease hepatitis.

The first worldwide estimates in drug users show 10 million have hepatitis C while 1.3 million have hepatitis B.

Writing in the Lancet, experts say only a fraction of those who could benefit are receiving antiviral drugs.

Only one in five infants around the world are vaccinated against hepatitis B at birth, they say.

The figures, published in the Lancet, show about 67% of injecting drug users in the world have been exposed to hepatitis C, while around 10% have come into contact with hepatitis B.

In the UK, around half of injecting drug users have been infected with the hepatitis C virus, while the rate for exposure to hepatitis B is 9% - the highest in western Europe.

The research was led by Prof Louisa Degenhardt of the Centre for Population Health, Burnet Institute, Melbourne, Australia, and Paul Nelson from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales.

They say: "The public-health response to blood-borne virus transmission in injecting drug users has mainly centred on HIV.

"Maintenance and strengthening of the response to HIV in injecting drug users remains crucial, but the significance of viral hepatitis needs to receive greater attention than it does at present."

Commenting on the study in the Lancet, Dr Joseph Amon, of Human Rights Watch, New York City, US, said: "This study provides us with a first step and powerful data to draw attention to the problem of viral hepatitis in people who use drugs.

"The next step is to challenge governments to act, and hold them accountable for implementation of rights-respecting and evidence-based programmes."
Health risks

Hepatitis is caused by five main viruses - A, B and C, and, more rarely D and E.

Hepatitis B is the most common, and can be passed from mother to baby at birth or in early childhood as well as through contaminated injections or injected drug use.

Hepatitis C is also spread through using unsterile needles and less commonly through unsafe sex or sharing razors or toothbrushes.

The E virus, caught from infected water or food, is a common cause of outbreaks of the disease in developing countries, said the World Health Organization.

Many of those carrying hepatitis are not aware they have it and can unknowingly transmit it to others.

Jul 29
Schizophrenia dulls brain's rewards
A new study has identified the neural mechanism that hinders reward identification and decision-making in people suffering from schizophrenia, highlighting the need for more effective drug therapies to help people with the disease manage their daily lives.

The study led by Dr Thomas Weickert, of UNSW's School of Psychiatry, and published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, found that an area deep in the brain called the ventral striatum, which usually lights up with activity in response to rewards in healthy adults, was relatively unresponsive in people suffering from schizophrenia.

Specifically, the study showed that people with schizophrenia were unable to distinguish between expected and unexpected rewards, frustrating their efforts to deal with unpredictability in daily life and making it difficult for them to make decisions in their own best interests.

Reward responses are important in many areas of learning because they help us to redirect attention and behaviour towards things that are beneficial to us, Dr Weickert said. The ventral striatum is connected to other parts of the brain that are important in decision making, planning and cognition and is, consequently, attracting increasing interest from researchers.

Dr Weickert said healthy adults in the study had no trouble dealing with unpredictability, whereas people suffering from schizophrenia were not able to tell the difference between expected and unexpected rewards.

"Using functional MRI images we could see that this region of the brain wasn't firing correctly. People with schizophrenia often have difficultly determining what is beneficial for them and what is not, so they have trouble taking cues from their environment and, consequently, can make some bad decisions," Dr Weickert said.

"This work may help us understand the neurological underpinnings of symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions since we found a relationship between brain activity in this reward region and psychotic symptom severity."

"As the people we studied were on medication we found that current drug treatments for schizophrenia are not helping this part of the brain function any better. Ultimately, we would like to see some new medications that will improve ventral striatum function," Dr Weickert said.

"These results should help direct further studies on the ventral striatum in which we can look at the effect of therapies and, potentially, genetic influences on this particular region of the brain."

Researchers believe the onset of schizophrenia is triggered by a complex interaction between genetic susceptibilities and environmental factors. It is a lifelong, chronic disease currently without a cure. One in 100 young people will develop schizophrenia, and many will be permanently disabled; at a cost of about 2 billion dollars a year in Australia in direct medical bills and loss of productivity.

The research was supported by a grant from the National Health & Medical Research Council of Australia, Neuroscience Research Australia and the Australian Schizophrenia Research Bank.

Jul 28
1 out of 12 in the world are hepatitis victims
Did you know that one in 12 people across the world suffer from chronic Hepatitis B or C?

The 'Am I Number 12?' campaign launched by World Hepatitis Alliance this year, aims at disseminating the message that one must be cautious of the virus. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared July 28 as World Hepatitis Day this year onwards.

The WHO estimates that around 40 million Indians are carriers of Hepatitis B virus and over a lakh die from chronic Hepatitis B virus infection like cirrhosis, liver cancer, etc, each year, despite vaccine for the virus being available.

Fresh cases

To check fresh cases. especially among children, the Hepatitis B vaccination was included in the Universal Immunisation Programme three years ago, with Karnataka receiving 75 lakh vaccines that are administered along with six other vaccines.

However, what is causing concern is adults contracting the infection due to low awareness. Dr Dinesh Kini, gastroenterologist, Manipal Hospital, siad nearly 60 per cent of the liver cancers were due to Hepatitis B and the most common cause of liver cirrhosis was attributed more to Hepatitis B than alcohol. Yet, not many people tested for the virus as the awareness was low.

"However, people who are said to be carriers of Hepatitis B (protein of the virus) do not need treatment but should be routinely monitored," he said.

Dr Ravindra B S, consultant, Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist, BGS Global Hospital, said that while there were five types of Hepatitis viruses, B and C were dangerous.

"Many children are detected with Hepatitis B and in 90 per cent of the cases, the virus affects their liver. In adults, the infection rate is 10-15 per cent," he said. He emphasised that when a person was found to have Hepatitis B, the immediate family members should also undergo the test and if negative, must take the vaccine.

Advanced liver cancer

Citing an example, he said recently a 30-year-old software engineer came with his 65-year-old father, who had advanced liver cancer. "We found the father to be Hepatitis B-positive. Tests showed that other family members too were positive," he recalled.

Although the father, like many other Hepatitis B patients, came in an advanced stage when no treatment could be given, the engineer has been put on medication.

The myth among patients that Hepatitis B was similar to HIV was another major issue that needed to be addressed. "Hepatitis B is a virus which affects the liver, nothing else. You can wear his clothes, hug him or even eat from his plate," he stressed.

Vaccination was another important component which needed attention. "For adults, the hepatitis B vaccine is usually given in three shots over six months," said Dr Kini. The vaccination was recommended for uninfected sexual partners and household members of anyone infected with Hepatitis B, as well as, for people with certain risk factors and medical conditions. However, if a person is already infected with Hepatitis B virus, the vaccine does not provide protection against the disease, he said.

Free liver check up camp

BGS Global Hospitals has organised free liver check up camp and to launch Jaudice clinic at 67, Uttarhalli Main Road, Kengeri, 10 am Bangalore Baptist Hospital will hold vaccination camp under the aegis of its AHBAAS (A Hepatitis B Awareness And Safety) programme.

Jul 27
Painkiller Abuse Can Lead to Heroin, Study Reveals
Abuse of prescription drugs may be a gateway to abuse of hard, illegal drugs such as heroin, a new study says.

The study looked at a high risk group of adolescents who abused both injection drugs and prescription drugs. About 85 percent of the teens said they abused opioid painkillers, which include Vicodin and OxyContin, before trying heroin. On average, the painkiller abuse started two years before heroin use.

The key sources of the prescription drugs were the teens' family members. About 60 percent of participants grew up in or visited households where opioids were prescribed, and about 30 percent said they started misusing the drugs after stealing them from a family member.

The findings may represent a new pattern in drug abuse, the researchers said. Before prescription drugs were as commonplace as they are today, the typical trajectory for an injection drug user was to use hard drugs before turning to prescription pain medication, said study researcher Stephen Lankenau, an associate professor in the School of Public Health at Drexel University.

Public health officials may want to try to reach adolescent opioid abusers before they progress to illegal drug use, the researchers said. In addition, parents should be vigilant and prevent their prescriptions from falling into the hands of their children.

"They're powerful drugs - we're not talking about an aspirin," Lankenau said. "These are medications that are potent. I think they need to be treated accordingly, particularly by parents."

Drug abuse
In recent years, there has been an uptick in the number of adolescents who abuse prescription drugs. About 1in 5 high school students say they have abused prescription drugs, according to a 2009 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The researchers interviewed 50 injection drug users ages 16 to 25 living in New York City or Los Angeles, who had also abused perception drugs in the last 3 months. They asked the teens open-ended questions, such as "Why did you use it that first time?" and "Where did you get it?"

Forty-three of the participants said they had misused prescription opioids before using heroin. Adolescents most commonly obtained opioids from friends, family or their own medical prescriptions, which they later abused.

Typically, adolescents began taking the drugs orally. They would later crush the drugs and snort them to get a faster, more powerful high. Finally, they would inject the opioid drugs.

High risk group

The researchers said that the teens in the study were not typical.

While about 20 percent of high school students say they have misused prescription drugs, only about 0.1 percent have used injection drugs, Lankenau said.

Therefore, the study's findings are likely to be true only for the high-risk group, the researchers said. These adolescents have other factors that put them at risk for illegal drug use, including living with a family member that misuses drugs or having a psychiatric disorder, such as depression or anxiety.

"We're not suggesting that if you pop a Vicodin once you're going to wind up being an injection drug user," Lankenau said. Instead, the study "shows how these prescription drugs are involved in this pathway towards becoming an injection drug user," he said.

The study will be published in an upcoming issue of the International Journal of Drug Policy.

Jul 26
Study Claims Surly Teens Make for Sicker Adults
Surly youths are more likely to suffer ill health in later life, claims a new study.

However, adolescents with a sunny outlook on life may have better health in their adult years.

According to the study, teenagers are known for their angst-ridden ways, but those who remain happy and positive during the tumultuous teenage years report better general health when they are adults.

The researchers also found that teens with high positive well-being had a reduced risk of engaging in unhealthy behaviour such as smoking, binge drinking, using drugs and eating unhealthy foods.

The study is one of the first to focus on the effect positive psychological characteristics in adolescence can have on long-term health.

"Our study shows that promoting and nurturing positive well-being during the teenage years may be a promising way to improve long-term health," the Daily Mail quoted Study author Lindsay Hoyt, at Northwestern University, as saying.

The results come from the analysis of data collected from 10,147 young people as part of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, known as Add Health.

Co-author Emma Adam, an associate professor of education and social policy, said: "Our results show that positive well-being during adolescence is significantly associated with reporting excellent health in young adulthood.

"Positive well-being is more than just the absence of depression; the influence of a teenager's positive well-being on long-term good health is present even after accounting for the negative health effects of experiencing depressive symptoms in adolescence," added Adam.

The study has been published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Jul 25
Cancer Drug May Help Relieve Schizophrenia Symptoms: Study
A cancer drug currently in advanced clinical trials was found to alleviate symptoms of schizophrenia in mice, according to a new study.

Schizophrenia is one of the most common serious mental health conditions and affects about 24 million people worldwide.

The illness is a long-term mental health condition that causes a number of psychological symptoms, including hallucinations and delusions as well as behaviour changes.

The new study also revealed the molecular pathway that is affected during the onset of schizophrenia.

"For the first time we have found that an enzyme activator called p35 is reduced in patients with schizophrenia and moreover, modelling this reduction in mice led to cognitive impairment typical for this disease," said Professor Peter Giese at King's College London, who led the study.

"This gives us a better understanding of the changes that occur in the brain during the onset of schizophrenia.

"We noted that the reduction in p35 affects the same molecular changes targeted by a cancer drug called MS-275, so we administered this drug to the mice.

"We were excited to find that MS-275 not only addressed the molecular changes but also alleviated the symptoms associated with schizophrenia.

"Our findings encourage the future exploration of these types of drugs for treating impaired cognition in schizophrenia," he added.

The study has been published online in the journal Brain.

Jul 25
Do Dolphins hold the cure for human injuries?
A scientist has explored the "remarkable" and "mysterious" wound healing abilities of dolphins from a shark bite, a phenomenon that might provide insights for the cure of human injuries.

Michael Zasloff, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) and former Dean of Research explained the dolphin healing process by synthesizing scattered reports of known aspects of dolphin biology.

For example, he proposed that the same diving mechanism (diving reflex) that diverts blood from the periphery of the body during a dolphin's deep plunge down in water depths also could be triggered after an injury. Less blood at the body's surface means less blood loss.

As for pain, Zasloff's review suggested that the dolphin's apparent indifference "clearly represents an adaptation favourable for survival." Still, he said, the neurological and physiological mechanisms engaged to reduce pain remain unknown.

Despite gaping wounds and deep flesh tears, those who observe dolphins following shark bites have not noted significant rates of infection. Zasloff said it's likely that the animal's blubber holds key answers.

"It's most likely that the dolphin stores its own antimicrobial compound and releases it when an injury occurs," Zasloff said.

"This action could control and prevent microbial infection while at the same time prevent decomposition around the animal's injury," added Zasloff.

Finally, Zasloff explored the ability of the dolphin's wound to heal in a way that restores the dolphin's body contour. He said that the dolphin's healing ability is less like human healing and more like regeneration.

"The repair of a gaping wound to an appearance that is near normal requires the ability of the injured animal to knit newly formed tissues with the existing fabric of adipocytes, collagen and elastic fibers," he explained.

"The dolphin's healing is similar to how mammalian fetuses are able to heal in the womb," he added.

"My hope is this work will stimulate research that will benefit humans," he said.

"I feel reasonably certain that within this animal's healing wounds we will find novel antimicrobial agents as well as potent analgesic compounds," he added.

The study has been published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

Jul 21
Obesity 'leading driver' of breast cancer
Obesity is the biggest driving force behind the most common form of breast cancer in older women, say researchers.

Alcohol and then cigarettes are the next largest culprits, according to Cancer Research UK.

One in eight women in the UK develop breast cancer in their lifetime, data shows, and the majority of these tumours are "hormone sensitive" meaning their growth is fuelled by hormones.

Too much stored fat in the body raises the level of these "sex" hormones.

Studies show that post-menopausal women with high levels of oestrogen and testosterone have between two and three times the risk of breast cancer than women with the lowest levels.

Experts have known for some time that factors that influence hormone levels - like pregnancy, the oral contraceptive pill and the menopause - can change a woman's breast cancer risk.

This latest work, published in the British Journal of Cancer, suggests obesity should go at the top of this list, not least because it is a lifestyle factor that women can have some control over.

The Oxford University team, funded by Cancer Research UK, studied the health records of nearly 6,300 post-menopausal women, looking for factors that might explain why some developed hormone sensitive breast cancer when others did not.

A woman's weight had the greatest bearing on a woman's sex hormone levels, shortly followed by smoking and alcohol consumption.

Women who are overweight or obese - meaning they have a body mass index of 25 or more - had high levels of hormones like oestrogen and progesterone.

So too did women who drank more than two and a half units of alcohol a day or smoked more than 15 cigarettes daily.

Experts say women should be made aware of these modifiable risk factors.

Dr Julie Sharp, of Cancer Research UK, said: "This is an important study as it helps to show how alcohol and weight can influence hormone levels. Understanding their role in breast cancer is vital and this analysis sheds light on how they could affect breast cancer risk.

"We know that the risk of the disease can be affected by family history and getting older, but there are also things women can do help reduce the risk of the disease. Maintaining a healthy body weight and reducing alcohol consumption are key to reducing breast cancer risk."

Jul 19
How the brain generates empathy for someone else's pain
A study has mapped out the way the brain generates empathy, even for those who differ physically from themselves.

USC researcher Lisa Aziz-Zadeh found that empathy for someone to whom one can directly relate, for example, because they are experiencing pain in a limb that one possesses, is mostly generated by the intuitive, sensory-motor parts of the brain.

However, empathy for someone to whom one cannot directly relate relies more on the rationalizing part of the brain.

Aziz-Zadeh, assistant professor at USC's Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, said though they are engaged to differing degrees depending on the circumstance, it appears that both the intuitive and rationalizing parts of the brain work in tandem to create the sensation of empathy.

"People do it automatically," she said.

In an experiment, Aziz-Zadeh and a team from USC showed videos of tasks being performed by hands, feet, and a mouth to a woman who had been born without arms or legs and also to a group of 13 typically developed women.

Videos showed activities such as a mouth eating and a hand grasping an object. Researchers also showed videos of pain, in the form of an injection, being inflicted on parts of the body.

While the participants watched the videos, their brains were scanned using functional magnetic imaging (fMRI), and then those scans were compared, revealing the differing sources of empathy.

In an additional finding, Aziz-Zadeh discovered that when the congenital amputee viewed videos of tasks being performed that she could also perform but using body parts that she did not have, the sensory-motor parts of her brain were still strongly engaged.

For example, the participant can hold objects, but uses a stump in conjunction with her chin to do so rather than a hand.

If the goal of the action was impossible for her, then another set of brain regions involved in deductive reasoning were also activated.

The findings have been published online by Cerebral Cortex.

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