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Medical News & Updates
Sep 30
Warm bottled water may be bad for your health, warn scientists
A new study by scientists from the University of Florida has warned against drinking water from a bottle if it had been left somewhere warm for a long time.

According to the study, since plastic water bottles are made from polyethylene terephthalate, when heated, the material releases the chemicals antimony and bisphenol A, commonly called BPA.

Antimony is considered a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization.

While the US Food and Drug Administration has said BPA is not a major concern at low levels found in beverage containers, it continues to study the chemical's impacts.

However some health officials claim that the chemical can cause negative effects on children's health.

UF soil and water science professor Lena Ma led a research team that studied chemicals released in 16 brands of bottled water kept at 158 degrees Fahrenheit for four weeks, what researchers deemed a "worst-case scenario" for human consumption.

Of the 16 brands, only one exceeded the EPA standard for antimony and BPA. Based on the study, storage at warm temperatures would seem to not be a big problem, Ma said. However, more research was needed to know if other brands were safe.

Ma's study found that as bottles warmed over the four-week period, antimony and BPA levels increased.

Drinking that water occasionally won't be dangerous, but doing so regularly could cause health issues, she said. And it wasn't just water containers, as more attention should be given to other packaged drinks such as milk, coffee and acidic juice, Ma said.

The study is published in the September's edition of the journal Environmental Pollution.

Sep 29
Bioartificial livers come closer to reality
A new research has revealed that bio-artificial liver support system for patients with acute liver failure is under investigation to assess the safety and effectiveness.

Lead investigator Steven D. Colquhoun at Cedars-Sinai said that the quest for a device that can fill in for the function of the liver, at least temporarily, has been underway for decades and a bio-artificial liver (BAL), could potentially sustain patients with acute liver failure until their own livers self-repair.

The majority of the 49 sites currently involved in the investigation are in the United States, but studies are also underway in Europe and Australia and the research involves patients with liver disease caused by acute alcoholic hepatitis, a group with few therapeutic options.

In the bioartificial liver, which is designed by Vital Therapies Inc., blood is drawn from the patient via a central venous line, and then is filtered through a component system featuring four tubes, each about 1 foot long, which are embedded with liver cells.

The external organ support system is designed to perform critical functions of a normal liver, including protein synthesis and the processing and cleaning of a patient's blood, after which the filtered and treated blood is returned to the patient through the central line.

Colquhoun added that if successful, a bioartificial liver could not only allow time for a patient's own damaged organ to regenerate, but also promote that regeneration and in the case of chronic liver failure, it also potentially could support some patients through the long wait for a liver transplant.

Sep 27
Severe pneumonia may permanently damage heart
Severe pneumonia may permanently damage your heart as pneumonia bacterium leaves tiny lesions in the heart, a study suggests.

The researchers found proof that Streptococcus pneumoniae, the leading cause of community-acquired pneumonia, actually physically damages the heart.

The researchers detected tiny lesions that the bacterium leaves in mouse, rhesus macaque and human autopsy tissue samples.

"If you have had severe pneumonia, this finding suggests your heart might be permanently scarred," said study senior author Carlos Orihuela, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, US.

Streptococcus pneumoniae in the blood invaded the heart and formed lesions in the myocardium, the muscular middle layer of the heart wall, the researchers showed.

The team identified mechanisms by which the bacterium is able to spread across endothelial cells in cardiac blood vessels to travel to and infect the heart.

"Fortunately, we have a candidate vaccine that can protect against this," Orihuela noted.

The candidate vaccine acts to stop both the movement of the infection into the heart and the toxin that kills heart muscle cells called cardiomyocytes.

The vaccine protected immunized animals against cardiac lesion formation, the study showed.

The study appeared in the journal PLoS Pathogen.

Sep 27
Exercise may curb chemotherapy side-effects
A new research has suggested that doing exercise might also benefit cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy.

The study conducted by University of Pennsylvania showed that combining exercise with chemotherapy shrunk tumors more than chemotherapy alone.

Joseph Libonati, an associate professor in the School of Nursing and director of the Laboratory of Innovative and Translational Nursing Research, said that the immediate concern for these patients was, the cancer, and they'll do whatever it takes to get rid of it, but one when gets over that hump has to deal with the long-term elevated risk of cardiovascular disease.

Libonati's team set up an experiment with four groups of mice. All were given an injection of melanoma cells in the scruffs of their neck.During the next two weeks, two of the groups received doxorubicin in two doses while the other two groups received placebo injections. Mice in one of the treated groups and one of the placebo groups were put on exercise regimens, walking 45 minutes five days a week on mouse-sized treadmills, while the rest of the mice remained sedentary.

After the two-week trial, the researchers examined the animals' hearts using echocardiogram and tissue analysis. As expected, doxorubicin was found to reduce the heart's function and size and increased fibrosis a damaging thickening of tissue. Mice that exercised were not protected fromthis damage.

Libonati said that further studies will investigate exactly how exercise enhances the effect of doxorubicin, but the Penn team believes it could be in part because exercise increases blood flow to the tumor, bringing with it more of the drug in the bloodstream and if exercise helped in this way, one could potentially use a smaller dose of the drug and get fewer side effects.

The study is published in the American Journal of Physiology.

Sep 26
Blocking immune cells may treat deadly skin cancer
Blocking a certain type of immune cells holds the key to treat melanoma - a deadly form of skin cancer, according to new research.

British scientists have found that chemical signals produced by a type of immune cells, called macrophages, also act as a "survival signal" for melanoma cells.

When researchers blocked the macrophages' ability to make this signal - called TNF alpha - melanoma tumours were much smaller and easier to treat.

"This discovery shows that immune cells can actually help melanoma cells to survive," said Claudia Wellbrock, a cancer research scientist at University of Manchester and member of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre.

During the treatment of patients, immune cells produce more of the survival signal which makes treatment less effective.

"Combining standard treatment with immunotherapy could potentially provide long-lasting and effective treatments to increase survival," Wellbrock added.

When melanoma patients are given chemotherapy or radiotherapy it causes inflammation, increasing the number of macrophages in the body - and raising the levels of TNF alpha.

Drugs which block this "survival signal" have already been developed and using these along with standard treatment may be a promising new approach for melanoma patients, researchers concluded in the journal Cancer Discovery.

Sep 25
New type of brain cell discovered
Researchers have discovered a strange new type of brain cell that sends signals by bypassing the cell body altogether.

Neurons come in different shapes and sizes but the basic blueprint consists of a cell body, from which protrudes spindly appendages called dendrites and axons.

Dendrites are branchlike structures that receive signals from other nerve cells and deliver them to the cell body. The neuron then processes the signals and zaps along information to the next cell via a long projection called the axon.

The newly discovered cells, however, have a different, and until now, unknown process. In these cells, the signals skip the cell body altogether, instead travelling along an axon that projects directly from one of the dendrites.

"We found that in more than half of the cells, the axon does not emerge from the cell body, but arises from a lower dendrite," said study researcher Christian Thome, a neuroscientist at Heidelberg University and the Bernstein Center Heidelberg-Mannheim.

The new cells were discovered in the hippocampus of a mouse.

Humans have the same general brain structure and types of hippocampus cells as mice.

The hippocampus is home to extensively branched neurons called pyramidal cells because of their triangular cell bodies, 'Live Science' reported.

To map out the connections between these cells, researchers used a fluorescent red protein that stuck to the origin of each axon protruding from a cell.

They expected the axons to extend from the cell bodies. Instead, they saw that in many cases, the axons emerged from the branching dendrites instead.

The base of the hippocampus is divided into areas labelled CA1, CA2, CA3 and CA4. The most common site for strangely shaped cells was in the CA1 region, where about 50 per cent of cells had dendrite-originating axons.

About 28 per cent of cells in the CA3 region were the newly discovered shape, researchers said.

Sep 24
Healthy lifestyle may help 4 out of 5 men prevent heart attacks
A new study has revealed 80 percent of men could prevent heart attacks by adopting healthy lifestyle choices.

Following a healthy lifestyle, including maintaining a healthy weight and diet, exercise, not smoking and moderating alcohol intake, could prevent could prevent coronary events in men.

While mortality from heart disease has declined in recent decades, with much of the reduction attributed to medical therapies, the authors said prevention through a healthy lifestyle avoids potential side effects of medication and were more cost effective for population-wide reductions in coronary heart disease.

The researchers found a clear reduction in risk for heart attack for each individual lifestyle factor the participants practiced. For instance having a low-risk diet together with a moderate alcohol consumption led to an estimated 35 percent lower risk of heart attack compared to the high-risk group, those who practice none of the low-risk factors.

Men who combined the low-risk diet and moderate alcohol consumption with not smoking, being physically active and having a low amount of abdominal fat, had 86 percent lower risk. Researchers found similar results in men with hypertension and high cholesterol levels.

The burden of cardiovascular disease could be significantly reduced through programs targeted to men and promoting low-risk lifestyle choices. Even in those who take medication, an additional reduction in risk for chronic heart disease has been observed in those with a healthy lifestyle.

Agneta Akesson, Ph.D., Associate Professor at the Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, said that it was important to note that these lifestyle behaviors are modifiable, and changing from high-risk to low-risk behaviors could have great impact on cardiovascular health; however, the best thing one can do was to adopt healthy lifestyle choices early in life.

The study is published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Sep 23
Nearly 50% of cancers get diagnosed late: Study
A new study has found that nearly half of cancers are diagnosed only when the disease is at an advanced stage, meaning treatment is both more expensive and less likely to succeed.

Cancer Research UK said that tens of thousands of patients could have their survival chances improved if doctors were able to catch cancer before it spreads around the body, adding that early detection would also save the NHS nearly 210 million pounds, the Independent reported.

Cancer Research UK's chief executive Harpal Kumar said that their report "provides a compelling case for substantial investment in efforts to achieve earlier diagnosis" and not to invest in earlier diagnosis is to fail cancer patients.

He said that earlier diagnosis saves lives and it could save critical NHS funds. And in the face of an overstretched NHS and a projected growing number of cancers diagnosed in the years ahead, we need to do everything we can to ensure that all patients have access to the best treatment as early as possible.

Sep 22
New gene associated with 'diabetes' traits found
In a new study, scientists have discovered a gene that is linked to traits involved in diabetes.

According to the collaborative research , which was led by Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) scientist Leah Solberg Woods, the gene called Tpcn2 was associated with fasting glucose and insulin levels in rats, mice and in humans.

The authors said that there was a variant in the gene which was associated with fasting glucose levels in a rat model. Studies in Tpcn2 knockout mice also demonstrated the difference in fasting glucose levels as well as insulin response between the knockout animals and regular mice.

Dr. Woods' team identified variants within Tpcn2 associated with fasting insulin in humans. Tpcn2 was a lysosomal calcium channel that likely played a role in insulin signaling. Glucose tolerance, insulin resistance and beta cell dysfunction were key underlying causes of type 2 diabetes.

According to the American Diabetes Association, 29 million Americans have diabetes, which is more than9 percent of the total population. It is the 7th leading cause of death, and experts estimate diabetes to be an underreported cause of death due to the comorbidities and complications associated with the disease.

The study is published in Genetics.

Sep 20
Wild berry extract booster for pancreatic cancer drug
A wild berry native to North America may strengthen the effectiveness of a chemotherapy drug commonly used to treat pancreatic cancer, reveals new research.

The team at King's College Hospital and University of Southampton tested the effectiveness of the extract of chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) in killing off cancer cells, probably by apoptosis (programmed cell death).

Chokeberry is a wild berry that grows on the eastern side of North America in wetlands and swamp areas.

The berry is high in vitamins and antioxidants, including various polyphenols - compounds that are believed to mop up the harmful by-products of normal cell activity.

"The promising results suggest that these polyphenols have great therapeutic potential not only for brain tumours but pancreatic cancer as well," commented Harcharan Rooprai from the King's College Hospital.

The researchers used a well-known line of pancreatic cancer cells in the laboratory to treat with a combination of gemcitabine drug and chokeberry extract.

The analysis indicated that 48 hours of chokeberry extract treatment of pancreatic cancer cells induced cell death at 1 ug/ml.

The toxicity of chokeberry extract on normal blood vessel lining cells was tested and found to have no effects up to the highest levels used (50 ug/ml).

It suggests that the cell death effect is happening in a way other than through preventing new blood vessel formation (anti-angiogenesis), a process that is important in cancer cell growth.

"These are very exciting results. This could change the way we deal with hard to treat cancers in the future," said Bashir Lwaleed from the University of Southampton.

"Adding nutraceuticals to chemotherapy cycles may improve the effectiveness of conventional drugs, particularly in hard to treat cancers, such as pancreatic cancer," researchers concluded.

The study was published online in the Journal of Clinical Pathology.