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Jan 31
New breakthrough could help cure children of peanut allergy
Scientists believe that children, suffering from peanut allergy, can be cured of the problem by giving them small daily doses of peanut protein.

The new trial showed that allergic kids were able to tolerate small daily doses of peanut protein in the form of flour mixed in with their food.

50 per cent of kids, aged between seven and 16, were randomly chosen to be given peanut flour mixed with their food, starting with small amounts and gradually raising to 800mg daily. The other group avoided peanuts, as they normally would.

In six months, 84 percent kids given peanut protein were able to tolerate 800mg a day without suffering a significant reaction.

All the kids were then given a peanut allergy test, and most of the kids (62 percent) given peanut protein tolerated the equivalent of five peanuts, but none in the control group did.

The control group were then given daily peanut protein for six months and had similar results.

The study has been published in the Lancet medical journal.

Jan 31
Third-hand smoke just as lethal as first-hand smoke
A scientist at the University of California, Riverside suggests that second-hand smoke and third-hand smoke are just as deadly as first-hand smoke.

While first-hand smoke refers to the smoke inhaled by a smoker and second-hand smoke to the exhaled smoke and other substances emanating from the burning cigarette that can get inhaled by others, third-hand smoke is the second-hand smoke that gets left on the surfaces of objects, ages over time and becomes progressively more toxic.

"We studied, on mice, the effects of third-hand smoke on several organ systems under conditions that simulated third-hand smoke exposure of humans," Manuela Martins-Green, a professor of cell biology who led the study, said.

"We found significant damage occurs in the liver and lung. Wounds in these mice took longer to heal. Further, these mice displayed hyperactivity," the researcher said.

The results of the study provide a basis for studies on the toxic effects of third-hand smoke in humans and serve to inform potential regulatory policies aimed at preventing involuntary exposure to third-hand smoke.

Third-hand smoke is a potential health threat to children, spouses of smokers and workers in environments where smoking is, or has been, allowed.

Contamination of the homes of smokers by third-hand smoke is high, both on surfaces and in dust, including children's bedrooms.

Re-emission of nicotine from contaminated indoor surfaces in these households can lead to nicotine exposure levels similar to that of smoking.

Third-hand smoke, which contains strong carcinogens, has been found to persist in houses, apartments and hotel rooms after smokers move out.

The team led by Martins-Green found that the mice exposed to third-hand smoke in the lab showed alterations in multiple organ systems and excreted levels of a tobacco-specific carcinogen similar to those found in children exposed to second-hand smoke (and consequently to third-hand smoke).

In the liver, third-hand smoke was found to increase lipid levels and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a precursor to cirrhosis and cancer and a potential contributor to cardiovascular disease.

In the lungs, third-hand smoke was found to simulate excess collagen production and high levels of inflammatory cytokines (small proteins involved in cell signaling), suggesting propensity for fibrosis with implications for inflammation-induced diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma.

In wounded skin, healing in mice exposed to third-hand smoke showed many characteristics of the kind of poor healing observed in human smokers who have gone through surgery.

Finally, in behavioral tests the mice exposed to third-hand smoke showed hyperactivity.

"The latter data, combined with emerging associated behavioral problems in children exposed to second- and third-hand smoke suggests that with prolonged exposure, they may be at significant risk for developing more severe neurological disorders," Martins-Green said.

The study is published in PLOS ONE.

Jan 30
Scientists identify protein that can fight against MERS virus infection
Scientists have identified a protein within the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus that blocks further infection in cells.

Shibo Jiang at Fudan University in Shanghai and his colleagues found that a type of small protein, also known as a peptide, prevents the virus from fusing with human respiratory cells.

MERS-CoV enters into host cell mainly through membrane fusion mechanism and hijack its cellular machinery in order to reproduce.

The peptide, called heptad repeat 2 (HR2P), has "good potential" for development into a future drug against MERS.

So far, HR2P's effects have only been studied on cells in a lab dish and not yet on animals -- the next step in a long process to validate any new drug for safety and effectiveness.

The first case of MERS surfaced in Saudi Arabia April 2012.

It is considered a more virulent but less transmissible cousin of SARS, a so-called coronavirus that erupted in Asia in 2003 and infected 8,273 people, nine percent of whom died.

There have been 180 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS, including 77 deaths, according to a World Health Organisation (WHO) toll issued on Tuesday.

The study is published in the journal Nature Communications.

Jan 30
Antioxidants speed lung cancer growth: Study
People who smoke or have lung cancer should think twice about taking vitamin supplements, according to a Swedish study Wednesday that showed certain antioxidants may make tumours grow faster.

Lab mice that already had cancer were given vitamin E and a drug called acetylcysteine, which sped the growth of their tumours and made them die faster than mice that did not ingest supplements.

"Antioxidants caused a three-fold increase in the number of tumours and also tumour aggressiveness, and the antioxidants caused the mice to die twice as fast," said study author Martin Bergo of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

"If we gave a low dose, tumours increased a little bit. And if we gave a high dose, tumours increased a lot."

Research on human lung cancer cells growing in a lab dish also showed that the antioxidants caused the cells to multiply faster than they would have alone, suggesting the same might happen in human patients.

While more work needs to be done to confirm the effect in people, Bergo urged those with lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and smokers to take caution.

"You can walk around with an undiagnosed lung tumor for a long time," he said.

"If you are in this patient group, then taking extra antioxidants might be harmful and it could speed up the growth of that tumour."

The body produces its own antioxidants to prevent DNA damage from chemicals known as free radicals, but needs more from healthy foods like leafy greens, vegetables and fruits to stay healthy.

However, a large body of research on antioxidant supplements in humans has returned mixed results.

Some studies have suggested that people who take antioxidant supplements actually face a higher risk of cancer than those who do not.

One such study of nearly 30,000 men in Finland, which concluded in 1993, found that smokers who took the antioxidant beta carotene had a higher rate of cancer and greater risk of dying.

Other studies, such as the SELECT trial which enrolled 35,000 US and Canadian men beginning in 2001, found that men who took vitamin E were more likely to get prostate cancer.

"We haven`t completely ironed out which vitamins, if any, may prevent cancer and which may cause cancer development or growth," said Benjamin Levy, director of thoracic medical oncology at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in New York.

"This study may help explain the negative findings from prior clinical lung cancer studies, including the ATBC and SELECT studies," said Levy, who was not involved in the research.

Researchers said their findings suggest antioxidants help tumors cut down on harmful free radicals, just as they do in normal cells, allowing the tumors to grow faster.

Free radicals can damage cells and possibly lead to cancer. But free radicals exist in cancer cells, too, explained Bergo.

"So it is also in the tumor`s interest to suppress free radicals, and that is what we are doing when we take extra antioxidants -- or give it to the mice in this case," he told reporters.

A protein called p53 can sense when DNA has been damaged by the buildup of molecules called reactive oxygen species (ROS).

P53 can stop the growth of the cell and thereby stop the cancer.

When extra antioxidants reduce the level of ROS, this "allows the cancer cells to escape their own defense system," said co-author Per Lindahl from the University of Gothenburg.

Of particular concern is the finding that acetylcysteine increased tumor growth, since the drug is often given to patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) as a way to help them breathe better and clear mucus from their lungs.

"We think that the use of acetylcysteine in this patient group should probably be carefully evaluated," said Bergo.

He added that researchers are now combing through data registries to find out if COPD patients -- including people with chronic bronchitis and emphysema -- have higher cancer rates after taking the drug.

The research appears in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Jan 29
Yoga reduces fatigue and inflammation in breast cancer survivors
A new study has revealed that practicing yoga for as little as three months can reduce fatigue and lower inflammation in breast cancer patients.

At the six-month point of the study- three months after the formal yoga practice had ended- results showed that on average, fatigue was 57 percent lower in women who had practiced yoga compared to the non-yoga group, and their inflammation was reduced by up to 20 percent.

The participants had completed all breast cancer treatments before the start of the study and only yoga novices were recruited for the randomized, controlled clinical trial.

Participants practiced yoga in small groups twice a week for 12 weeks. Women making up the control group were wait-listed to receive the same yoga sessions once the trial was over. During the study, they were instructed to go about their normal routines and not to do yoga.

Lead author Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychiatry and psychology at The Ohio State University said the study that modest yoga practice over a period of several months could have substantial benefits for breast cancer survivors.

The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Jan 29
Now, a blood test that can detect early diabetes risk
Researchers at Tel Aviv University have revealed a simple blood test that can help detect the risk of developing type-2 diabetes by an individual at an early stage.

Doctors conducted the test to determine the levels of glycated haemoglobin, or A1c, in the blood and found that more amount of A1c is produced when the blood glucose levels are high in the body.

The researchers further studied the medical history of over 10,000 patients, to evaluate the A1c test's ability to screen for diabetes in patients who are at high-risk.

As per the results, overall, 22.5 percent of the patients developed diabetes within five to eight years.

Every 0.5 percent increase in A1c levels up to 7 percent doubled the patients' risk of developing diabetes.

The findings have been published in the European Journal of General Practice.

Jan 28
Quitting smoking may not result in weight gain: Study
A new study has revealed that quitting smoking may not result in a person putting on weight.

The study, conducted by University of Otago, followed the progress of about 1000 people born in Dunedin in 1972-1973 and measured their smoking habits and weight regularly from the age of 15 to 38, Stuff.co.nz reported.

According to the findings, both male and female quitters were likely to gain about 5 kilograms more than those who carried on smoking, but their weight returned to the same level as those who had never smoked.

The study also found that being a smoker did not prevent long-term weight gain, and all the groups in the study put on weight as they aged, regardless of their smoking status.

Head researcher Lindsay Robertson said that a previous study had suggested people might gain large amounts of weight after quitting, but these studies were unreliable.

The study was published in the Nicotine and Tobacco Research journal.

Jan 28
Laugh your way to good health
Laughter is the best medicine, is an age-old saying, and about 10,000 laughter clubs in India are a testimony to the fact that the therapy works.

A combination of group laughter exercises with yoga breathing, which allows people to laugh without cracking jokes, should be performed for at least 15 to 20 minutes, says Hasya yoga guru Jiten Kohi.

"The good chemical changes in the body can happen only if you spend time on it. The effects won't be great if you finish your asanas quickly," Kohi said.

"Such asanas are good for depressed people or those who lead stressful lives," he added.

Rahul Chandhok, senior consultant psychiatrist at Gurgaon's Fortis Hospital, pointed out that while work pressure has always been there, other factors like commuting and traffic are adding to the woes of people.

"In the metros one needs to commute for long hours; therefore, people are unable to give time to their families or even take out time for themselves. This causes stress," Chandhok said.

Another reason is that everyone is competing with everyone for everything. In big cities, day-to-day life is getting more and more hectic and target, desire and deadline driven and the fight against stress overload multiplies.

"People end up comparing themselves to others, they want something that is way beyond their reach. All this causes stress," Chandhok said.

"Unlike big cities, the smaller ones are at an advantage as far as distance is concerned. People don't take long to commute from home to the workplace. But, yes, there are comparison factors that cause stress," he added.

Kohi formed Hasya Yoga Kendra in 2000 because he felt that laughter - the healthiest gesture in people's lives - is missing.

"As people grow up, they forget to laugh. Nowadays they just exercise. Don't take it as exercise and laugh like a child. Take things lightly without pressurising your brain. This way you will be less stressful and that will help to stay fit in some way," said Kohi.

His team holds around 52 yoga classes per day in areas like Model Town, Kalkaji and Janakpuri in the capital, apart from monthly sessions in Tihar Jail, in schools and at corporate houses.

With 300 centres in the country in places like Lucknow, Mumbai, Jaipur and Indore, Kohi gets better response in tier-II cities.

"People in small towns are more interested. Thousands of them turn up in the morning. In metropolitan cities, people lead busy lives; so maybe there are people who are able to join us in parks," said Kohi, who believes it's best to do asanas early morning in view of the relatively fresh air.

Apart from other recreational activities, laughter exercises help in improving the well-being of people.

"If you laugh wholeheartedly, your facial muscles will gain benefits and there will be a feeling of well-being, especially when you do such exercises in a group. Your body releases chemicals that help to relieve stress," Ravindra Gupta, consultant in internal medicine at Gurgaon's Columbia Asia Hospital, said.

However, he clarified that laughter can de-stress, but it can't cure ailments.

"It can't treat ailments. It can reduce blood pressure to some extent, but medication is required," said Gupta.

Echoing this, Madan Kataria, founder of Laughter Yoga International, says laughter-based exercises help the immune system.

"When you laugh, the stress level goes down and you don't easily fall sick," said Kataria, who started his institution with his wife Madhuri in 1995 in Mumbai.

"In people with blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, we have noticed a 50 percent improvement in their health due to laughter exercises. I am not saying it completely cures diseases, but there is reduction in medication," he explained.

Kataria said there are around 10,000 laughter clubs in India and the demand is increasing in other parts of the world too.

"They are present in around 72 countries like Japan, Germany and US," he said.

Chandhok said that yoga or meditation or laughter sessions are important for a healthy life, but medical treatment is equally vital.

"Treatment is essential. Complete it and then continue with these healthy activities," he said.

So, step out and have a hearty laugh.....ha, ha, ha, ha!

Jan 27
Olive oil may help prevent breast cancer
A new study led by an Indian origin researcher has found that a major component of olive oil, hydroxytyrosol, may help prevent breast cancer in postmenopausal women.

"We know there is a correlation between breast density and breast cancer," Tejal Patel, M.D., breast medical oncologist with Houston Methodist Cancer Center said. "A decrease in density of one percent can potentially translate into a nearly two percent reduced risk of developing breast cancer."

Previous research has shown that olive oil provides many health benefits including lowering the risk for heart disease, high blood pressure and possibly stroke.

Houston Methodist will enroll 100 patients -- 50 premenopausal and 50 postmenopausal women. Each patient will take one 25 mg hydroxytyrosol capsule for 12 months and undergo checkups every three months. There is no placebo control.

In addition to looking at whether hydroxytyrosol has an impact on breast density, researchers will also note possible side effects of the chemical.

Jan 27
Fresh hope for hay fever sufferers
Researchers are set to discuss and make recommendations on the safety and efficacy of oral tablets used to treat ragweed allergy symptoms, during a public meeting of the Allergenic Products Advisory Committee, organized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

There is more to seasonal allergies than a little congestion and sneezing. If you notice eating watermelon, cantaloupe or avocado make you cough and itch, it may be a symptom of ragweed allergy. But more help might be on the way for some of the 23 million hay fever sufferers.

"The committee is likely to approve these tablets which will mark great improvement in the fight against allergy," allergist Michael Foggs, MD, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), said. "Once the committee and then the FDA approve the tablets, allergy sufferers will have another form of treatment available to them."

If the committee, which granted approval for grass allergy tablets in December, also approves the ragweed allergy tablets, the FDA will then have to approve both the grass and ragweed tablets before they can be made available to allergy sufferers.

Currently, the best treatment for those with moderate-to-severe allergy symptoms is allergy shots, also known as immunotherapy. This treatment requires tiny injections of purified allergen extracts.

A pill a day may seem more appealing than getting shots. So why bother with allergy shots anymore?

Dr. Foggs said that allergy shots can be customized to provide relief to multiple allergens, including tree, grass, weed, mold, house dust, dander, and mold, while offering the assurance of more than 100 years of experience in causing remission, not just symptom relief in allergy.

The researchers think there may be pros and cons of these differing forms of treatments. Board-certified allergists can help patients make good short-term and long-term choices.