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Jul 31
Breathtaking: lung transplant service advertised on Facebook and Google
Some days, I'm completely blown away by the advances we've made in medical science. A few weeks ago, I wrote about a technology that transports a still-beating heart over long distances until it reaches the intended transplant recipient.

That's why it's so disconcerting when the healthcare industry shows its more crass side. Take, for example, a $20,000 advertising campaign on Facebook and Google for ... wait for it ... a lung transplant service.

Yes, right next to the ad for local pizza delivery that shows up on the side of your Facebook wall, might well be an ad for lung transplants performed by the University of Pennsylvania Health System. After all, lung transplants are big money, netting the medical center $100,000 or more per procedure.

Hospitals and medical practitioners are governed by HITECH and HIPAA regulations, preventing them from sharing your confidential medical information with anyone without your approval. But if you've ever written to a friend or family member about deeply personal medical information using a keyword or phrase bought by one of the very same medical facilities, you might well be presented with a very personal advertisement.

Now, don't get me wrong. Advertising makes sites like ZDNet possible. Advertising also helps businesses sell products, employ people, and keep the engine of commerce turning. If you have a job, you may owe it -- in some obvious or distant way -- to advertising.

Jul 31
New biotech company launches after discovery
A scientific discovery made at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine has helped launch a new biotech company in Mobile.

The business, Exscien -- which in Latin means 'for science' -- was recently awarded a grant by the National Institutes of Health to support the development of a new drug aimed at preventing and reversing acute lung injury.

Led by Steve and Christine Cumbie, the biotech company's co-founder is Dr. Mark Gillespie, a professor and member of the Center for Lung Biology at USA's College of Medicine.

Medical school staffers are collaborating with Exscien in an effort to quickly develop the treatments that initially will be used in lung transplantation surgeries.

There are no drugs available to effectively manage acute lung injury, Gillespie said, adding that the condition can complicate medical disorders ranging from trauma and infection to transplants.

The $148,000 grant will help fund research to examine the effectiveness of a drug in increasing the number of lungs available for transplant and in reducing lung rejection, school officials said.

Gillespie said most lungs available for transplant arent used, sometimes because of concerns that they will fail after transplantation. As a result, of the 14,000 or so people waiting for a lung transplant in the U.S., only about 2,500 surgeries are performed each year.

Maneuvering through the heavy lifting of basic research to the expensive proposition of drug trials is a daunting task, Gillespie said. Because of the high cost of medical trials, many new drugs and other therapies never make it to market.

The concept behind this new therapy to treat injured lungs has been at least a decade in the making. About 10 years of basic research by USA investigators pointed to the idea that the new drug, when administered to donor lungs, could increase the number of lungs available to be safely transplanted by treating them prior to a transplantation.

Gillespie said he hopes the drug will eventually be used to target a major complication of lung transplantation called primary graft dysfunction, an issue that arises when the lung fails within the first two days after being transplanted.

In the past decade, multiple studies by Gillespie and colleague Dr. Glenn Wilson showed that damage to the DNA of mitochondria known as the powerhouse of a cell functions like a fuse box, killing off lung cells in various diseases when a bad cell is detected.

This new drug targets a repair enzyme to fix the DNA and protect the lung cells from injury, Gillespie said. It has real potential to emerge as a treatment for acute lung injury.

During the first year of the grant, researchers hope to verify the effectiveness of the drug.

If all goes as planned, the researchers should be ready to begin experimenting in lung transplant patients in as soon as two years, Gillespie said.

The FDA and good science requires that it be tested in animal models and also tested in human lungs that cannot be used for transplant because they are too diseased, he said. If that happens, we are a very short step away from launching clinical trials.

Most of development and research, including the manufacturing processes to make the drug, will take place in Mobile, Gillespie said.

The grant and new company are developments that emerged from an earlier five-year grant of about $1.75 million awarded by NIH to a team of pulmonary scientists at USA's Center for Lung Biology.

That grant was recently renewed to examine the causes and consequences of pneumonia. Its stuff like this, Gillespie said, that keeps you passionate and excited about your job.

Jul 30
Are you hooked on fish oil yet? The natural wonder drug proven to treat a range of conditions
The experts reveal everything you need to know about the supplement that can fight heart disease, ease arthritis - and even stave off blindness.
All fish oils contain omega-3s, types of polyunsaturated fatty acid which are essential for health.
Fish such as mackerel, salmon, trout, sardines, pilchards and fresh tuna, which are known as oily fish, are the richest sources.
Dr Carrie Ruxton, nutritionist for the Health Supplements Information Service, says: 'There are different types of omega-3 fatty acids, but the key health benefits are believed to come from the very long chain omega-3s, called docosahexaenoic acid [DHA] and eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA].'
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) recommends we eat a minimum of two portions of fish each week, one of which should be an oily fish (one portion is about 140g). This provides a daily intake of 450mg of EPA and DHA.
Today many supplements will specify which type they contain and in what concentration.
EPA and DHA have different roles in the body. Dr Ruxton says: 'Studies suggest DHA is more important for the brain, retina and infant development, while EPA is more important for vascular health [blood vessels].'
'The difficulty we have in the UK is that two-thirds of people don't eat oily fish,' she says. 'The main source of long chain omega-3s in the diet is oily fish, and if we can't get them from that, we need to consider a supplement to top up our diet.'

Jul 30
Lack of Sleep Slows You Down
Even if you don't feel tired, a lack of sleep may slow you down on the job and affect how well you work, and that drag on performance tends to snowball the longer and later you stay awake, a new study finds.

Researchers set out to study how workers' productivity is affected if they sleep on an irregular schedule and get less than the recommended 8 hours of shut-eye per night. During the first week of the study at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, participants slept 10 to 12 hours per night. But for the next three weeks, they were allotted only five to six hours of slumber on a 28-hour cycle that mirrored chronic jet lag, according to the hospital.

Throughout the research, participants were unaware of the time and they took visual search tests on a computer that recorded how quickly and accurately they could find important information. The team tested visual search performance because those tasks are common in jobs such as air-traffic control, baggage screening and monitoring power plant operations, Jeanne Duffy, a neuroscientist at BWH, explained in a statement. "These types of jobs involve processes that require repeated, quick memory encoding and retrieval of visual information, in combination with decision making about the information."

The longer the participants were awake, the more slowly they identified the important information in the test, according to the hospital. Participants also performed tasks more slowly from 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. considered the biological nighttime than they did during the daytime.

"The longer someone is awake, the more the ability to perform a task, in this case a visual search, is hindered, and this impact of being awake is even stronger at night," said Duffy, who published her results in the Journal of Vision.

As the weeks went on, the participants were increasingly slower to identify the important information in the tests. And though their test scores were getting worse during their sleep-deprived schedule, the participants only rated themselves to be slightly sleepier than their first well-rested week. Duffy said this suggests your perception of how tired you are does not always match your actual ability.

Sleep deprivation and an irregular sleep cycle have been linked to health problems. Previous research at Brigham and Women's Hospital found that a skewed sleep schedule similar to the one used in this new study may increase your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. That said, scientists admit they don't really know how much sleep you need, as each person's requirements vary based on many factors.

Jul 28
Diabetic Women Less Satisfied with Sex
Women with diabetes engaged in sexual activity about as often as women who don't have diabetes, but they enjoy it less, researchers found.

Diabetic women were more likely to report low sexual satisfaction (OR 1.42, 95% CI 1.03 to 1.94), and the effect was even stronger for diabetic women on insulin (OR 2.04, 95% CI 1.32 to 3.15), Alison Huang, MD, of the University of California San Francisco, and colleagues reported online in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Diabetic women on insulin were also less likely to report at least monthly sexual activity than diabetics not on insulin and women without the disease -- but overall there were no significant differences in sexual desire or activity by diabetes status, the researchers noted.

"While many diabetic women are interested and engaged in sexual activity, diabetes is associated with a markedly decreased sexual quality of life in women," they wrote.

Diabetes is a risk factor for sexual dysfunction in men, but its impact on women's sex lives hasn't been as clear.

So Huang and colleagues looked at a cohort of 2,270 women from Kaiser Permanente Northern California who completed questionnaires on sexual activity.

Their mean age was 55, and 486 women had diabetes -- about 6% of them were taking insulin.

Almost two-thirds of the women (63.7%) reported some sexual activity in the previous 3 months, and for about half who had not had sex within that time period, it was because they did not have a partner or the partner had issues that precluded sexual activity.

Among the sexually active women, diabetics who were on insulin were more likely to report problems with lubrication (OR 2.37, 95% CI 1.35 to 4.16) and orgasm (OR 1.80, 95% CI 1.01 to 3.20) than women without diabetes or diabetics who were not taking insulin.

They were also more likely to report that their health status limited their sexual activity "quite a bit" or "extremely" compared with nondiabetic women (OR 2.29, 95% CI 1.49 to 3.51).

Complications of diabetes -- including heart disease, stroke, renal dysfunction, and peripheral neuropathy -- were associated with diminished sexual function among diabetic women, suggesting that "prevention of diabetic complications may be helpful in preventing sexual dysfunction," in these patients, the researchers wrote.

The study was limited by its cross-sectional nature, its reliance on self-reported data, and a lack of generalizability in that it only pertains to women with type 2 and not type 1 diabetes.

Still, Huang and colleagues concluded that physicians may want to "consider actively assessing for sexual problems in diabetic women, particularly those taking insulin."

Jul 28
Cheese 'beats diabetes': Just two slices a day could reduce risk of developing the disease, study cl
If you are trying to slim down, you may have crossed cheese off the menu.

But scientists have discovered it may actually help prevent diabetes an illness often triggered by being overweight.

They claim that eating just two slices of cheese a day cuts the risk of type 2 diabetes by 12 per cent.

The findings go against current health guidelines, which advise cutting back on dairy products and other high-fat foods to help prevent the illness.

Around 2.5million Britons have diabetes. Of these, 90 per cent suffer from type 2, which is often caused by being very overweight.

But experts fear another million have the condition, which can cause heart attacks, strokes, blindness and nerve problems, without yet having been diagnosed.

British and Dutch researchers looked at the diets of 16,800 healthy adults and 12,400 patients with type 2 diabetes from eight European countries, including the UK.

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that those who ate at least 55g of cheese a day around two slices were 12 per cent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. The risk fell by the same amount for those who ate 55g of yoghurt a day.

For years NHS guidelines have advised against eating too much dairy, cake or red meat as they are high in saturated fat. This is thought to increase cholesterol and raise the risk of diabetes.

But the researchers including academics from the Medical Research Council, Cambridge say not all saturated fats are as harmful as others, and some may even be beneficial.

One theory is that the so-called 'probiotic' bacteria in cheese and yoghurt lower cholesterol and produce certain vitamins which prevent diabetes.

And cheese, milk and yoghurt are also high in vitamin D, calcium and magnesium, which may help protect against the condition.

Diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough of the hormone insulin to control its blood sugar levels. Symptoms of type 2 diabetes include feeling very thirsty, needing to pass water frequently and constant tiredness.

Although the illness is treatable through methods such as dietary changes, tablets and injections, it can cause serious complications if not properly looked after.

But despite the latest findings, campaigners warned against gorging on cheese and other dairy products in the hope of warding off diabetes.

Dr Iain Frame, director of research at the charity Diabetes UK, said: 'It is too simplistic to concentrate on individual foods.

'We recommend a healthy balanced diet, rich in fruit and vegetables and low in salt and fat.

'This study gives us no reason to believe that people should change their dairy intake in an attempt to avoid the condition.'

Jul 27
New kit to aid teachers spot dyslexia early
A screening test for dyslexia launched recently will, for the first time in India, enable teachers to assess students and help detect the learning disability early.

Pearson Clinical and Talent Assessment launched the Indian edition of the popular Dyslexia Screening Test-Junior (DST-J), which was authored by Dr Angela Fawcett in the UK. The 30-minute test assesses students' motor and cognitive skills, and tests them on reading, spelling, phonology and writing.

Dr Nitin Anand, senior product development leader, Pearson Clinical and Talent Assessment, said that with the 'no fail' policy for students of Stds I to VIII, schools are unable to recognise if a child is having difficulty learning until s/he reaches Std IX or X. "It's too late by then," he said. "It [learning disability] should ideally be detected when a child is five or six years old. At this age, s/he has received enough stimulation to start to acquire languages."

To make the test relevant in India, a project was conducted by assessing children from across 11 cities and five geographic regions. From the city, students of Auxillium Convent, DAV Public School, Northpoint High school, Radcliffe School, Christ Academy, St Stanislaus High School and Smt Savitribai Mahatma Phule Vidyamandir were surveyed.

Dr Nita Mehta, clinical psychologist, said the test is a good idea, but in a packed timetable, teachers may not get the time to administer it. "With as many as 60 students in a class, how will teachers find the 30 minutes for this test?" she said, adding that teachers need to be made aware of the importance of the test.

Jul 27
Why growing up in a loving home boosts children's brains and makes them more intelligent
A loving family helps a child's brain to grow and increases their intelligence and mental abilities, a study suggests.

Researchers found that children in care have less grey and white matter - the two components of the central nervous system - than those brought up in a typical home environment.

Children in foster families have normal levels of white matter, which relays messages in the brain, but less of the grey matter which contains nerve cells and controls muscles, memory, emotions and speech.

Scientists believe the findings could explain why children who spend time in care are statistically more likely to develop issues such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and mental health problems.

People who have been in care also have, on average, lower IQ and language skills than those who grew up in loving homes.

The differences in levels of grey and white matter is most likely to be due to varying levels of stimulation required for normal brain development, researchers said.

Many children in care have been exposed to deprivation and neglect, which could be linked to their lower levels of grey and white matter.

The improvement among those who were moved to foster families, however, indicates that it is possible to recover in terms of white matter, which affects learning ability.

The study team, led by researchers from Harvard University and Boston Children's Hospital, examined MRI scans from Romanian orphans aged between eight and 11, some of whom had been transferred to quality foster care homes.

It has published almost 50 research papers since the project began.

Reporting their latest findings in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the reesearchers wrote: 'In most forms of institutional rearing, the ratio of caregivers to children is low, care is highly regimented and caregiver investment in children is low.

'One of the most likely explanations for the wide range of developmental problems observed among children exposed to institutional rearing is that the deprived environment of an institution does not provide adequate experience on which to scaffold normal brain development.'

One of the study's authors, Dr Charles Nelson, a developmental neuroscientist in Boston, said the findings suggested that there was a sensitive period in the first two years of a child's life, when foster care has the greatest impact on their progress.

'The younger a child is when placed in foster care, the better,' he added.

Jul 26
Kids eat healthier when asked 'what would Batman do?'
A team of US researchers has found that equating healthy eating habits with superheroes like Spider-Man and Batman could be an effective tool in getting kids to eat their veggies.

The strategy they propose is simple. When kids were presented with food choices, researchers from Cornell University found that invoking the names of superhero role models helped sway them away from junk food towards healthier foods.

In their small sample study, researchers presented 22 children ages 6 to 12 with photos of real and fictional superheroes and role models before asking, "Would this person order apple fries or French fries?"

"Apple fries" -- or raw apple slices -- are available at some fast-food restaurants like McDonald's and Burger King as an alternative to deep-fried potatoes.

When the children were given no prompts, only 9 percent (or 2 kids) chose the apple fries. Following the superhero cues, however, that figure rose to 45 percent or 10 children who passed over the potato fries.

The study, published in the journal Pediatric Obesity, comes as Christopher Nolan's film The Dark Knight Rises rakes in millions at the box office and just weeks after the release of The Amazing Spider-Man.

'Shave three pounds of weight a year'

Swapping fries for apples can add up to a lot less when it comes to calorie intake. On average, kids who selected apple fries consumed 34 calories per meal, compared to 227 calories when they opted for French fries.

"If you eat fast food once a week, a small switch from French fries to apple fries could save your children almost 3 lbs (1.4 kg) of weight a year," said lead researcher Brian Wansink in a statement.

"Fast food patronage is a frequent reality for many children and their parents. Simply instructing a parent to order healthier food for a child is neither empowering for a child nor easy for a parent," Wansink added. "Advising a parent to ask their child 'What would Batman eat?' might be a realistic step to take in what could be a healthier fast-food world."

Another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition this spring found one of the best ways to get kids to get their vegetables was for parents to do the same, leading by example. Similarly, stocking the kitchen with healthy snacks, maintaining regular meal times and taking kids to the grocery store so they become engaged with their food are also recommended strategies.

Jul 26
The myth of the physically unfit Indian
Indians are among the most physically active people in the world

Are Indians some of the most physically unfit people in the world?

Well, doctors will tell you that with the country riding a diabetes and heart disease epidemic, most Indians are physically unfit. As the middle class swells, more Indians are leading desk-bound sedentary lives in cities, where pavements are scarce and there is no culture of walking. Fat-rich diets don't help matters.

But an exhaustive new study by the medical journal Lancet measuring global physical activity explodes the "myth" about the unfit Indian. The study measured physical activity in adults - aged 15 years or older - from 122 countries, comprising over 88% of the world's population.

India, according to the study, is agile and kicking. Only 15.6% of Indians were found to be physically inactive. The British (63.3%), Japanese (60.2%), Italians (54.7%), Irish (53.2%) and Americans (40.5%) were found to be more physically inactive than Indians.

Is it any surprise that Indians appear to be more physically fit than their counterparts in more prosperous parts of the world?

Not really. As the study suggests, physical inactivity is more common in countries of high income than in those of low income. In high income countries, physical activity dwindles as people use more technology and are less engaged in labour-intensive work.

In India, where the overwhelming majority of people are engaged in back-breaking farming, it is little wonder that they are more physically active than their counterparts in more prosperous countries.

More women (18.4%) in India were found to be more physically inactive than men (12.7%), perhaps pointing to a society moored in traditions where men work and women look after the home.

So which, according to the Lancet study, is the most physically active country in the world?

No prizes for guessing this, but yes, it is Bangladesh where only 4.7% are physically unfit.