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May 31
Chocolate milk after a hard swim could give swimmers a performance edge
A new research suggests that grabbing chocolate milk after a hard swim could give swimmers a performance edge.

In a sport where seconds and even tenths of a second can make a big difference and intense practice routines are the norm, Indiana University researchers found that when collegiate, trained swimmers recovered with chocolate milk after an exhaustive swim, they swam faster in time trials later that same day.

On average, they shaved off 2.1 seconds per 200 yard swim, and 0.5 seconds per 75 yard sprint, compared to when they recovered with a traditional carbohydrate sports drink or calorie-free beverage.

"Chocolate milk is an ideal recovery drink. It's a 'real food,' has the right carb to protein ratio athletes need and it's less expensive than many alternatives," Joel Stager, PhD, lead researcher at Indiana University said.

"From cyclists to runners to soccer players, there's a strong body of research supporting the benefits of recovering with chocolate milk. Now, our research suggests these same benefits extend to swimmers - a sport that relies on quick recovery for multiple races within a single day," he said.

May 31
Stress degrades sperm quality
Psychological stress is harmful to sperm and semen quality, affecting its concentration, appearance, and ability to fertilise an egg, according to a new study.

The study was led by researchers from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and Rutgers School of Public Health.

"Men who feel stressed are more likely to have lower concentrations of sperm in their ejaculate, and the sperm they have are more likely to be misshapen or have impaired motility," said senior author Pam Factor-Litvak, associate professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health.

"These deficits could be associated with fertility problems," Factor-Litvak said.

The researchers studied 193 men, ages 38 to 49, enrolled in the Study of the Environment and Reproduction at the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan in Oakland, California, between 2005 and 2008.

The men completed tests to measure work and life stress on subjective scale (how they felt overall) and objective scale (life events behind the stress).

They also provided semen samples. Technicians at the University of California, Davis, used standard methods employed in fertility testing to assess the samples for semen concentration, and sperm appearance and motility.

Measured subjectively or objectively, life stress degraded semen quality, even after accounting for men's concerns about their fertility, their history of reproductive health problems, or their other health issues.

Workplace stress was not a factor, however the researchers said it may still affect reproductive health since men with job strain had diminished levels of testosterone.

Unemployed men had sperm of lower quality than employed men, regardless of how stressed they were.

It is not fully understood how stress affects semen quality, researchers said.

It may trigger the release of steroid hormones called glucocorticoids, which in turn could blunt levels of testosterone and sperm production. Another possibility is oxidative stress, which has been shown to affect semen quality and fertility, they said.

"Stress has long been identified as having an influence on health. Our research suggests that men's reproductive health may also be affected by their social environment," said Teresa Janevic, the study's first author and an assistant professor at the Rutgers School of Public Health.

The study was published in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

May 29
Cure for dry eye closer to reality
Researchers have said that computer simulations that map the way tears move across the eye's surface could one day lead to the treatment for dry eye - a burning, gritty condition that can impair vision and damage the cornea.

To understand dry eye, Kara Maki, assistant professor in Rochester Institute of Technology's School of Mathematical Sciences, had to begin with the physics and chemistry of tears. Tear film consists of a layer of water sandwiched between an oily layer of lipids on the outside to prevent evaporation and an inner mucous layer to spread the water over the eye.



Maki developed a mathematical model to simulate the direction tear film travels when entering the eye from the lacrimal glands above the upper eyelid. Using the software program Overture, she recreated the flow of tears on the surface of an open eye, moving from the upper corner and draining through the ducts at the opposite corner.

The tears, Maki explains, climb up the eyelid and join a column of fluid that travels along the lids. Lower pressure sucks the fluid into the meniscus and away from the center, creating the black line and dry spots in the tear film that can compromise vision and irritate the cornea.

Maki saturated the eye with liquid to penetrate the black line. She wanted to know if the fluid would travel down the front of the eye and relieve the thinning of the tear film.

She said they found that they had to really flood the eye in our simulations. The fluid would rather travel in the meniscus.

Maki said it splits traveling along the upper lid and the lower lid and confirmed that blinking is necessary to stop this thinning from happening. Every time they blink, the tear film gets repainted on the front of the eye.

The study has been published in the journal Physics of Fluids.

May 29
Obesity rates climbing worldwide: The Lancet
Researchers have claimed that there has been a startling increase in rates of obesity and overweight in both adults (28 per cent increase) and children (up by 47 per cent) in the past 33 years, with the number of overweight and obese people rising from 857 million in 1980 to 2.1 billion in 2013.

However, the rates vary widely throughout the world with more than half of the world's 671 million obese individuals living in just ten countries-the USA (more than 13 per cent), China and India (15 per cent combined), Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Germany , Pakistan, and Indonesia, and (listed in order of number of obese individuals).

Over the past three decades, the highest rises in obesity levels among women have been in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Honduras and Bahrain, and among men in New Zealand, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the USA.

In high-income countries, some of the highest increases in adult obesity prevalence have been in the USA (where roughly a third of the adult population are obese), Australia (where 28 per cent of men and 30 per cent of women are obese), and the UK (where around a quarter of the adult population are obese).

The findings come from a comprehensive new analysis of the global, regional, and national prevalence of overweight and obesity in adults aged 20 years and older and children and adolescents aged 2-19 years between 1980 and 2013.

Led by Professor Emmanuela Gakidou from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in the USA, a team of international researchers performed a comprehensive search of the available data from surveys, reports, and the scientific literature to track trends in the prevalence of overweight (body mass index of 25kg/m2 or higher) and obesity (BMI of 30kg/m2 or higher) in 188 countries in all 21 regions of the world from 1980 to 2013.

The study finding also revealed that in the developed world, men have higher rates of obesity than women, while the opposite is true in developing countries. Currently, 62 per cent of the world's obese people live in developing countries.

The greatest gain in overweight and obesity occurred globally between 1992 and 2002, mainly among people aged between 20 and 40.

The study has been published in journal The Lancet.

May 28
Hot flashes and night sweats solutions revealed
Researchers have compared low-dose oral estrogen and low-dose non-hormonal venlafaxine hydrochloride extended release (XR) to placebo were both found effective in reducing the number of hot flashes and night sweats reported by menopausal women.

Hadine Joffe, MD, MSc, director of the Women's Hormone and Aging Research Program at BWH, and lead author of the paper, said since the publication of the Women's Health Initiative findings, which demonstrated risks associated with ET and led to our current recommendations - that ET be used only at the lowest possible dosage for the shortest possible duration - there has been increased interest in non-hormonal treatments.

In total, 339 perimenopausal and postmenopausal women with bothersome VMS were recruited from the community to Menopause Strategies: Finding Lasting Answers for Symptoms and Health (MsFLASH), National Institutes of Health (NIH)-sponsored clinical trial network sites between December 5, 2011 and October 15, 2012.

The objective of the study was to determine the therapeutic benefit and tolerability of low-dose estradiol and low-dose venlafaxine in alleviating hot flashes and night sweats. Participants were randomized to double-blind treatment with low-dose treatments for eight weeks. The primary outcome was the daily number of hot flashes and night sweats after treatment. After eight weeks, the frequency of hot flashes/night sweats decreased by 52.9 percent with estradiol, 47.6 percent with venlafaxine, and by 28.6 percent with placebo.

On average, estradiol reduced the frequency of symptoms by 2.3 more per day than placebo, and venlafaxine reduced the frequency of symptoms by 1.8 more per day than placebo. The ameliorative effect on hot flashes/night sweats was statistically significant for each of the medications compared to placebo. Low-dose estradiol reduced the frequency of symptoms by 0.6 more per day compared to venlafaxine on average, although this difference was not statistically significant. While the benefit of low-dose estradiol was found to be slightly superior to venlafaxine in this study, the difference was found to be small and likely of limited clinical relevance.

The study has been published in the JAMA Internal Medicine.

May 28
How DNA is 'edited' to correct genetic diseases
Researchers have taken a major step forward understanding how enzymes 'edit' genes, which has paved the way for correcting genetic diseases in patients.

Researchers at the Universities of Bristol, Munster and the Lithuanian Institute of Biotechnology have observed the process by which a class of enzymes called CRISPR - pronounced 'crisper' - bind and alter the structure of DNA.

The results have provided a vital piece of the puzzle if these genome editing tools are ultimately going to be used to correct genetic diseases in humans.

CRISPR enzymes were first discovered in bacteria in the 1980s as an immune defence used by bacteria against invading viruses. Scientists have more recently shown that one type of CRISPR enzyme - Cas9 - can be used to edit the human genome - the complete set of genetic information for humans.

These enzymes have been tailored to accurately target a single combination of letters within the three billion base pairs of the DNA molecule. This is the equivalent of correcting a single misspelt word in a 23-volume encyclopaedia.To find this needle in a haystack, CRISPR enzymes use a molecule of RNA - a nucleic acid similar in structure to DNA. The targeting process requires the CRISPR enzymes to pull apart the DNA strands and insert the RNA to form a sequence-specific structure called an 'R-loop'.

The global team tested the R-loop model using specially modified microscopes in which single DNA molecules are stretched in a magnetic field. By altering the twisting force on the DNA, the researchers could directly monitor R-loop formation events by individual CRISPR enzymes.

This allowed them to reveal previously hidden steps in the process and to probe the influence of the sequence of DNA bases.

The results have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

May 27
'Smart' pills your gateway to super health?
Do you know that smart pills carrying miniature chips, sensors, cameras and robots can analyse your body from the inside?

These implantable chips that claim to help patients track the condition of their bodies in real time have sparked debate among experts, a Washington Post report says.

"There is something very troubling about a chip being placed in a person that they cannot remove," Marc Rotenberg, executive director of Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Centre, was quoted as saying.

For instance, what kind of warnings should users receive about the risks of implanting chip technology inside a body, for instance?

"How will patients be assured that the technology won't be used to compel them to take medications they don't really want to take?" the report asked.



But those behind these smart pills argue that the devices could save countless lives and billions of dollars in unnecessary medical bills.

"The way a car works is that it has sensors and it tells you what's wrong. Why not put the same type of technology in the body? It could warn you weeks or months or even years before something happens," said Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute in California.

Soon, nanosensors would live in the bloodstream and send messages to smart phones whenever they saw signs of an infection, an impending heart attack or another issue.

Armies of tiny robots with legs, propellers, cameras and wireless guidance systems are being developed to diagnose diseases, administer drugs in a targeted manner and even perform surgery, the report added.

May 27
Soon, pill to wipe out bad memories?
Scientists have found that a drug used to treat multiple sclerosis may pave the way for a pill that can erase bad memories.

Researchers have found that mice given fingolimod, a drug approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for treatment of multiple sclerosis, had enhanced 'memory extinction' of previous experiences that had caused pain.

If the effects of the drug apply to humans, it may offer new treatment options for sufferers of post-traumatic stress, phobias and eating disorders.

Fingolimod, available as a tablet under the brand name Gilenya, treats remitting forms of MS by suppressing the immune system.

Sarah Spiegel, of the Virginia Commonwealth University, in Richmond, and colleagues found that it can also inhibit an enzyme called histone deacetylase, a key protein that regulates gene expression, 'The Times' reported.

When fed to mice, fingolimod crossed the blood-brain barrier and was faster at extinguishing "previously acquired fear memories".

The mice were put in a chamber where their feet were exposed to a mild electric shock, and when returned to the cage the extent to which they froze to the spot was recorded as a measure of anxiety.

This complete lack of movement, known as "freezing" - a fear response in rodents providing a good indication of memory - subsided rapidly after receiving the drug.

The study is published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

May 26
New way to treat aggressive breast cancer reported
Researchers have reported a discovery that they hope will lead to the development of a powerful new way of treating an aggressive form of breast cancer.

The breast cancer subtype in question is commonly called "HER2-positive"; it's a subset of the disease affecting about one patient in four, in which tumor cells overexpress a signaling protein called HER2.

The blockbuster drug Herceptin is a treatment of choice for many women with HER2-positive breast cancer, but in most cases, resistance to the treatment develops within several years. The prognosis for HER2-positive breast cancer patients is worse than for those with other subtypes of the illness.

In the paper, a multi-institution team led by CSHL Professor Nicholas Tonks reports that it has found a means of inhibiting another protein, called PTP1B, whose expression is also upregulated in HER2-positive breast cancer. PTP1B has been shown to play a critical role in the development of tumors in which HER2 signaling is aberrant.

When they treated mice modeling HER2-positive breast cancer with a PTP1B inhibitor called MSI-1436 (also called trodusquemine), Tonks and colleagues inhibited signaling by HER2 proteins.

The new paper by Tonks and collaborators importantly reveals an alternative binding site, called an allosteric site, that does not present the biochemical difficulties that the active, or "catalytic," binding site does. This allosteric site is a target of the candidate drug trodusquemine.

The paper has been published online in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.

May 26
Mental illnesses can reduce life expectancy more than heavy smoking
An analysis by Oxford University psychiatrists has shown that serious mental illnesses reduce life expectancy by 10-20 years - a loss of years that's equivalent to or worse than that for heavy smoking.

Yet mental health has not seen the same public health priority, despite these stark figures and the similar prevalence of mental health problems, the Oxford scientists said.

1 in 4 people in the UK will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year, it is estimated. Around 21 percent of British men and 19 percent of women smoke cigarettes.

The researchers said that the figures should galvanise governments and health and social services to put a much higher priority on how mental health services can prevent early deaths.

The average reduction in life expectancy in people with bipolar disorder is between 9 and 20 years, it's 10-20 years for schizophrenia, between 9 and 24 years for drug and alcohol abuse, and around 7-11 years for recurrent depression.

The loss of years among heavy smokers is 8-10 years.

All diagnoses studied showed an increase in mortality risk, though the size of the risk varied greatly. Many had risks equivalent to or higher than heavy smoking (see table in notes for editors).

"We found that many mental health diagnoses are associated with a drop in life expectancy as great as that associated with smoking 20 or more cigarettes a day," Dr Seena Fazel of the Department of Psychiatry at Oxford University said.

"There are likely to be many reasons for this. High-risk behaviours are common in psychiatric patients, especially drug and alcohol abuse, and they are more likely to die by suicide. The stigma surrounding mental health may mean people aren't treated as well for physical health problems when they do see a doctor," Dr Fazel said.

The findings are published in the open access journal World Psychiatry.