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Jan 31
Body clock receptor linked to diabetes: Research
Melatonin is known as the body clock hormone which regulates the sleep-wake phases of a person. In this research by Imperial College London scientists, it came to light that there is a link between the body clock hormone melatonin and type 2 diabetes.

As part of the analysis, almost 7,632 individuals were examined for the presence of MT2 gene, which is the receptor for melatonin. The scientists stumbled upon 40 variants related to type 2 diabetes, out of which 4 of the rare ones seemed to render the receptor incapable for melatonin response. In another set of 11,854 individuals, this link was affirmed.

Professor Philippe Froguel, from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, who led the trial, remarked, "Blood sugar control is one of the many processes regulated by the body's biological clock. This study adds to our understanding of how the gene that carries the blueprint for a key component in the clock can influence people's risk of diabetes."

Basically the results implied that individuals possessing any of the 4 rare variants of the MT2 gene could encounter a 6-fold rise in the risk for type 2 diabetes. Insulin is apparently regulated by melatonin, and therefore any abnormality in the MT2 gene may impede the association between the body clock receptor and insulin release. This process often leads to abnormal regulation of blood sugar.

The trial could help the team evaluate personal diabetes risk and may pave the path to personalized therapeutic options for the same. The revelations are consistent with researches which showed that people who work in night shifts or those with disoriented sleep continuously for 3 days are at higher risk for type 2 diabetes.

Jan 31
Grape seed extract kills cancer cells
Cancer cells, which kill nearly 12,000 people in the US alone every year and affect more than half a million worldwide, could be eradicated with grape seed extract, reveals a study.

The extract creates conditions unfavourable for the cancers growth by damaging both their cells DNA and stops the pathways that allow repair.
"It's a rather dramatic effect," said Rajesh Agarwal, study investigator at the University of Colorado Cancer Centre and professor at the Skaggs School of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

"Cancer cells are fast-growing cells. Not only that, but they are necessarily fast growing. When conditions exist in which they can't grow, they die," said Agarwal, according to a university statement.

"I think the whole point is that cancer cells have a lot of defective pathways and they are very vulnerable if you target those pathways. The same is not true of healthy cells," added Agarwal.

Jan 30
How cholera bug invades the gut
Scientists have figured out how cholera bugs invade our guts, infecting millions and killing more than 100,000 people worldwide every year, reveals a study.

The discovery potentially paves the way for more effective treatments against the bug, Vibrio cholerae, which is able to colonise the gut after consumption of contaminated water or food.

The bug secretes a toxin that causes watery diarrhoea and ultimately death if not treated rapidly, the Journal of Biological Chemistry reported.

Colonisation of the intestine is difficult for incoming bugs as they have to compete to gain a foothold among the trillions of other bacteria already on the site.

A team led by biologist Gavin Thomas from the University of York, England, investigated how Vibrio cholera gains this foothold with the help of sialic acid, a sugar, present on the gut cells surface, according to a university statement.

Their associates, led by Fidelma Boyd, professor at the University of Delaware, US, had shown previously that eating sialic acid was important for the bug's survival in animal models, but the mechanism by which it recognises and takes up the sialic was unknown.

The York research demonstrates that the pathogen uses a particular kind of transporter called a TRAP transporter to recognise sialic acid and take it up into the cell.

The transporter has particular properties that are suited to scavenging the small amount of sialic acid available. The research also provided some important basic information about how TRAP transporters work in general.

"This work continues our discoveries of how bacteria that grow in our body exploit sialic acid for their survival and help us to take forward our efforts to design chemicals to inhibit these processes in different bacterial pathogens," said Thomas.

Jan 30
Protein key to storing long-term memories
Some billions of synapses connect our nerve cells and keep our memories intact and alive for decades with the help of self-copying clusters or oligomers of a synapse protein, a study has revealed.
It supports a surprising new theory about memory and may have a profound impact on explaining other oligomer-linked functions and diseases in the brain, including Alzheimer's disease and prion diseases, the journal Cell reported.

"Self-sustaining populations of oligomers located at synapses may be the key to the long-term synaptic changes that underlie memory," said Kausik Si, associate investigator at the Stowers Institute.

Kausik's investigations in this area began nearly a decade ago during his doctoral research in the Columbia University lab of Nobel-winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel, according to a univesity statement.

He found that in the sea slug Aplysia californica-long been favoured by neuroscientists for memory experiments because of its large, easily-studied neurons, a synapse-maintenance protein CPEB, (Cytoplasmic Polyadenylation Element Binding protein) has an unexpected property.

In the new study, Kausik and his colleagues examined a Drosophila fruit fly CPEB protein known as Orb2. Like its counterpart in Aplysia, it forms oligomers within neurons (nerve cells).

"We found that these Orb2 oligomers become more numerous in neurons whose synapses are stimulated, and that this increase in oligomers happens near synapses," said Amitabha Majumdar, postdoctoral researcher in Si's lab, who led the study.

Jan 28
Diabetes in children
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that there are more than 346 million people worldwide suffering from diabetes. According to International Diabetes Federation (IDF), India tops the list with more than 50 million people with diabetes.

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) states that there are about 10 lakh children with type I diabetes in India. Type II diabetes among children is also on the rise because of an increase in obesity among children. It is high time we understand the burden of this disease and spread awareness among everyone to combat this menace.

Prior to the discovery of insulin, children with diabetes did not live for longer than six months from the onset of symptoms. Thanks to Banting, and his team at the University of Toronto, this amazing discovery has changed the lives of millions of diabetic patients. Diabetic patients these days can lead a reasonably normal life provided they follow their diet plan and insulin regimen.

Diabetes is a condition that causes high sugar in our blood. This happens due to a lack of or resistance to insulin, a hormone required for the transport of glucose to different parts of our body. There are different types of diabetes. Children almost always develop Type I diabetes (juvenile diabetes). However, more recently, because of the obesity epidemic worldwide, Type II diabetes is also on the rise among children.

How do children develop diabetes?

As mentioned earlier, diabetes is characterised by increased levels of glucose in blood. Glucose is a source of energy. Normally, when glucose level in the blood increases (after eating), insulin is secreted for the absorption of glucose into the liver, muscles etc. Type I diabetes results when our body makes too little/ no insulin. Even though the exact cause for diabetes in children is not clear, an autoimmune mechanism (where parts of the pancreas (islets) which make insulin are destroyed by the body's own immune system) is proposed. Some environmental factors or simple viral illness can trigger this. Genetic factors also play a role. Children do not develop Type I diabetes by eating too much sweets.

What are the symptoms?

Passing more urine and more frequently, drinking water too much and more often, weight loss, weakness and lethargy, excessive hunger (sometimes loss of appetite), infections such as 'thrush' (candidiasis), bedwetting at night in a previously 'dry at night' child. Some of the symptoms (excessive drinking, passing more urine, bed wetting at night) may be difficult to notice in a very young child. These symptoms may be present for one week to six months prior to the presentation at the hospital.

Some patients (about 25%) with Type 1 diabetes may present Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) - a more serious form of symptom. In this case, the child will have vomiting, tummy pain and dehydration (dry mouth, lips, sunken eyes etc). Awareness of diabetes helps parents recognise the symptoms early and prevents their child going into DKA.

Diagnosis

Diabetes is diagnosed based on the symptoms mentioned above and is confirmed with a blood test. A urine test (to check for glucose and ketones) and a few other blood tests also may be required at the time of diagnosis.

Treatment of Type 1 diabetes

Type I diabetes cannot be cured, but can be kept under control. Insulin is the only treatment for this type of diabetes. Insulin, diet and exercise play an important part in the management of diabetes. Insulin is administered in the form of an injection.

Depending on the timing of the onset, various types of insulin are available. These are classified as short-acting, intermediate acting and long-acting insulin. In addition, there are rapidly-acting and slow-acting insulin analogues. Availability of various forms of insulin gives flexibility to how we treat diabetes. Insulin injections can be given using various devices. The simplest and most cost-effective way is to inject using a needle and a syringe. A more expensive device but easy to use is 'insulin pens'. Using these devices require guidance.

Diabetes and schools

A majority of Type I diabetics are school children and schools should be sensitive to their condition. Teachers and school nurses should be able to recognise diabetic emergencies and perform first-aid treatment. This is very important when a diabetic child is hypoglycaemic (having low blood sugars). Two spoons of sugar, glucose or a sugary drink should be given to the child while awaiting medical help. Parents should always inform the teacher or concerned authorities about the diagnosis. Medical care of a child with diabetes does not stop at school.

Obesity among children

Type II diabetes, which was rare among children in the past, is becoming very common these days due to a rapid rise in overweight and obese children. Obesity can lead to insulin resistance. This results in improper working of insulin in the body. Rapidly changing lifestyle with imbalanced dietary habits with excess consumption of calories, simple sugars, saturated fats and consumption of less fibre, and markedly reduced physical activity may be blamed for this condition.

Professionals should help to increase awareness in their community regarding this matter. Healthy eating and physical activity can prevent obesity and its disastrous consequences. Parents should set an example for their children in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Jan 28
Electric shock treatment could boost brain abilities
Ever imagined using a device to make learning those mathematical tables easier? Well, if this report by scientists from the University of Oxford is to be believed, then we are close to using a device that can apparently boost the brain.

In this method namely transcranial direct current stimulation or TDCS, electrodes are transfixed outside the head, after which weak currents are passed through certain portions of the brain for a span of 20 minutes. These currents having an intensity of 1-2mA make firing of neurons in specific regions of the brain simpler. Experts believe that this causes an improvement in memory and learning capacities.

"I can see a time when people plug a simple device into an iPad so that their brain is stimulated when they are doing their homework, learning French or taking up the piano," commented Dr Roi Cohen Kadosh.

This kind of technology could be used for enhancing language, maths, attention, memory, problem solving and movement. Importantly, this avenue could be used to help individuals with impaired abilities and normal persons trying to learn something. Basically, most of the studies related to this technique were carried out in healthy individuals as a means of boosting their cognitive abilities.

The investigators believe that the TDCS kit is cheap enough to be accessed by all schools. They cautioned that the kit is not a way of making things very simple for children, they still have to put in a lot of effort for learning something new such as piano or football or even math sums.

Jan 27
Chocolate cuts bowel cancer risk
Here's good news for chocoholics - munching on the sweet treat regularly may stave off your risk of developing bowel cancer, a new study has claimed. Researchers at the Science and Technology Institute of Food and Nutrition in Spain found that eating a diet high in cocoa could reduce risk of the cancer which kills more than 655,000 people worldwide every year.

Past studies have found the seed is rich in particularly powerful natural antioxidants that destroy harmful molecules known as free radicals. The new findings are the latest to highlight the health benefits of the cocoa bean, most of which is harvested in West Africa.

"Foods like cocoa, which is rich in polyphenols, seems to play an important role in protecting against disease," Maria Arribas, who led the latest study, was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail. For the study, Arribas and her team investigated if the food could stop rats from developing bowel cancer when exposed to tumour-causing chemicals. One group of rats were fed a daily diet consisting of 12% of cocoa for eight weeks, while another group were given a diet containing no cocoa. After a period of time, both groups were exposed to a carcinogen called azoxymethane, which is used to induce colon cancer.

Within four weeks of exposure rats began to develop intestinal cancers. However, the researchers discovered the rats on the cocoa diets had a reduced number of pre-cancerous lesions compared to the control group. It is believed that the study, published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, is the first to suggest that cocoa could help prevent bowel cancer.

However, further research is now needed to explore how the raw material could benefit humans, the researchers said. It has already been suggested that eating chocolate with a high cocoa content could help to control diabetes, blood pressure and heart disease.

Sarah Williams, a spokesperson from Cancer Research UK, meanwhile, warned that too much chocolate can also have a negative impact. She said: "This study involved rats in the lab who were fed very large quantities of cocoa over a number of weeks, so it's impossible to conclude that that eating chocolate or drinking cocoa protects people against bowel cancer. "But we do know that chocolate is high in fat and calories, so eating too much of it could lead you to put on weight. "And being obese has been shown to increase the risk of bowel cancer, so eating lots of chocolate is unlikely to be a good way to cut the risk." She highlighted that eating a healthy diet with "lots of fruit, veg and fibre and limiting red and processed meat, cutting down on alcohol, staying physically active and not smoking" are other ways to reduce the risk of cancer.

Jan 27
What is medical massage therapy
The word 'massage' generally conjures up images of soothing and relaxing gentle pampering, maybe by the beach, with a tall glass of chilled, rejuvenating lemonade by your side.

But did you know that massage therapy is a more serious science than just holiday relaxation? A treatment oriented massage, medical massage varies in type and provides fitness recovery solutions for injuries and muscle tempering. A massage that requires a referral from a doctor or a chiropractor, massage therapy calls for a high level of training. Let's understand the concept of medical massage therapy in detail, and see how you can benefit from it too.

What is medical massage therapy? It is a therapy in which a massage therapist uses a wide gamut of modalities and procedures to give a massage in order to sooth the painful area of the body. The massage therapist closely follows the doctor's prescription and works on all the touch receptors in your skin by restoring suppleness and rendering strength to your muscles. By alleviating stress and inflammation, the main aim of a massage therapy session is to improve blood circulation of the body.

Types of medical massage therapy. A session of medical massage therapy can be extremely therapeutic if done by a certified and knowledgeable therapist with the right technique. Popular types of medical massage therapy are trigger point therapy, stretching procedures, myofascial release, muscle testing, neuromuscular therapy and positional release. However, please note that it is different from ordinary relaxing massages as it is an amalgamation of art and science, which combines the intuitive and scientifically proven principles.

The practice of massage therapy. Medical massage therapists work in many settings such as nursing homes, spas, hospitals and sports and fitness centres. An authentic therapist will always ask the patient about his symptoms, medical history and desired results, before starting the session. Generally, the therapy is done when the patient is comfortably lying on a table, wearing loose-fitted or no clothes. Special massage oils and hand movements are performed in an hour long session to alleviate the pain from the body.

Benefits of medical massage therapy. Some of the main benefits of a medical massage therapy session are:

- Releasing the tight and sore muscles of the body by removing inflammation from the body.
- Working on the painful trigger points and working on the areas of high neurological activity.
- Helping release toxins, such as lactic acid that is produced by muscle tissue when one is exercising.
- Scientifically speaking, medical massages are also beneficial for the digestive system of the body.
- It also helps in calming the nervous system by working on better posture and coordination of body parts. And not to mention, massages are always overall relaxing.

Things to take care of when going for medical massage therapy. Here's a low-down of a few things you should keep in mind when going for medical massage therapy:

- Ensure that you do not skip any doctor or general medical care sessions because the medical massages make you feel better.
- Be sure of your therapist's credentials and authenticity. Ask about your therapist's experience, cost, on-job training and testimonials.
- Also, consult your doctor about your health condition, before paying a visit to a medical massage therapist.
- If your therapist is recommending herbs or other home remedies, always consult a doctor before trying them out. Massage therapists are not meant to prescribe any drugs or remedies as this is not part of their qualification or permitted practice.

Jan 25
Fish & chicken diet unhealthy for women
Health conscious women, who limit their diet to mainly chicken and fish, may face as many problems as those who binge on junk foods due to the presence of too little iron in both the diets, a new study has warned.

Researchers revealed that a lack of understanding of the significance of iron could be endangering women's health and hindering children's performance at school.

Switching a few meals to foods high in iron, such as steak, liver and watercress could make all the difference, the Daily Express reported.

"The high rate of iron deficiency among women in a developed country like the UK is a real concern," said TV doctor and health campaigner Christian Jessen.

"The side effects are subtle and can creep on up you - you can end up feeling tired, lethargic with no get up and go."

According to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, conducted by YouGov for industry body MeatMatters, a quarter of British women and teenage girls suffer from a low intake of iron.

Less than a third of the 2,000 women polled were aware of the fact that lack of iron could decrease a child's attention span and learning ability.

Jan 25
Fruit and veg diet can block cancer cells
Want to stave off bowel cancer? Make sure that your daily diet is packed with fruit and vegetables, recommends a new study. This is because researchers in South Korea say that a potent super-nutrient found in a range of everyday healthy foods can block the way cancer cells communicate and
instruct cells to grow and spread.

They have found that the flavonoid, called luteolin, found in foods such as celery, green pepper, thyme, chamomile tea, carrots, olive oil, peppermint, rosemary, navel oranges and oregano, can halt cancer spread, the 'Daily Express' said.

The findings show that luteolin inhibits the activity of cell signal pathways which lead to the growth of colon cancer cells. And, according to the researchers, this could pave the way for development of new treatments to tackle bowel cancer.

Luteolin has been shown in laboratory tests to have anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-cancer properties. Previous studies looking at the causes of cancer had failed to pick up the positive effect luteolin can give.

But, now researchers have discovered that the flavonoid is able to stop the colon cancer cells secreting a so-called pathway receptor.

Professor Jung Han Yoon Park, who led the study, said: "Blocking these pathways stops cancer cells from dividing and leads to cell death. Our study, showing that luteolin interferes with cell signalling in colon cancer cells, is a step forward in understanding how this flavonoid works."

Experts have welcomed the findings published in the 'BMC Gastroenterology' journal.

Dr Joanna Owens, science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: "This study is a really early exploratory step towards finding chemicals that could be used to develop cancer-preventing drugs. Fruits and vegetables contain many compounds that could help protect against cancer." PTI MOT