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Dec 31
Why red meat causes cancer revealed
A new study has examined that Neu5Gc, a non-human sugar found in red meat, promotes inflammation and cancer progression in rodents.

The study conducted at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine found that feeding Neu5Gc to mice engineered to be deficient in the sugar (like humans) significantly promoted spontaneous cancers. The study did not involve exposure to carcinogens or artificially inducing cancers, further implicating Neu5Gc as a key link between red meat consumption and cancer.

Principal investigator Ajit Varki, MD, Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Cellular and Molecular Medicine, said that until now, all of their evidence linking Neu5Gc to cancer was circumstantial or indirectly predicted from somewhat artificial experimental setups and this is the first time we have directly shown that mimicking the exact situation in humans feeding non-human Neu5Gc and inducing anti-Neu5Gc antibodies increases spontaneous cancers in mice.

The researchers had previously discovered that animal Neu5Gc can be absorbed into human tissues. In this study, they hypothesized that eating red meat could lead to inflammation if the body's immune system is constantly generating antibodies against consumed animal Neu5Gc, a foreign molecule. Chronic inflammation is known to promote tumor formation.

Varki added that the final proof in humans will be much harder to come by but on a more general note, this work may also help explain potential connections of red meat consumption to other diseases exacerbated by chronic inflammation, such as atherosclerosis and type 2 diabetes.

The study is published in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dec 30
Targeted drug therapy for cardiac health soon
Researchers have discovered that a new set of proteins called ion channels can help doctors develop new drugs for people suffering from cardiac arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat.

They found that ion channels generate the electrical signals of the heart differently than previously thought.

Proteins called ion channels generate the electrical signals of the heart by opening a gate or pore for charged ions to cross the cell membrane.

It is like if the ion channels are the musicians of an orchestra, the membrane voltage is the conductor.

That is, the membrane voltage signals to the channels the proper time to open and keeps them all in rhythm.

For one important channel in the heart, called KCNQ1, the membrane voltage not only causes the channel to open, but also determines the properties of the electrical signals - acting as both conductor and composer rather than only conductor as previously believed, the findings showed.

"This knowledge we are providing is to revise the model built in the 1950s," said Jianmin Cui, professor of biomedical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis.

KCNQ1 is so important to the heart's rhythm that there are more than 250 mutations of the channel that have been associated with cardiac arrhythmia, Cui added.

"The trouble was that without an accurate model of how the channel gating works, we were limited in our understanding of why these mutations lead to fatal arrhythmias and in our ability to design therapeutic interventions that can specifically fix the defect in the afflicted tissues," he noted.

This discovery could lead to new drug therapy for the disorder, the researchers pointed out in a paper that appeared in the journal eLife.

Dec 29
Probiotic supplements may ease anxiety and depression
Supplements to boost probiotics -- the helpful micro-organisms that reside in our bodies -- can alter the way people process emotional information and ease anxiety and depression, new research suggests.

Gut bacteria may also affect the immune system, which could in turn, influence the brain, Philip Burnet, researcher at the University of Oxford was quoted as saying.

For the study, researchers recruited 45 healthy people aged 18 to 45 years to take either a probiotic supplement to "good" bacteria or a placebo, every day for a period of three weeks.

They completed several computer tests to assess how they processed emotional information such as negative and positive words.

During one test, people who took the supplement paid less attention to negative information and more attention to positive information, compared with people who took a placebo, the findings showed.

A similar effect was seen in people who took drugs for depression or anxiety and the findings suggested that the people in the supplement group had "less anxiety about negative or threatening stimuli," Burnet added.

Researchers are not sure of how changes in gut bacteria might affect the brain. Some researchers suspect that the vagus nerve -- which conveys sensory information from the gut to the brain -- plays a role, LiveScience reported.

The study appeared in the journal Psychopharmacology.

Dec 27
Extra dose of vitamin E may help protect against pneumonia
A new study has recently revealed that extra vitamin E may help protect against common type of Pneumonia in humans, as it showed promising results in protecting older mice from the disease.

Microbiologists and nutrition researchers from Tufts University reported that the extra vitamin E helped regulate the mice's immune system.

The reduced numbers of bacteria and white blood cells resulted in less lung damage in the older mice who received extra vitamin E. These mice were able to control the infection as efficiently as young mice.

A 2013 report on antibiotic resistance threats from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified infections from Streptococcus pneumoniae as a serious concern that requires "prompt and sustained action."

The bacterium causes 1.2 million drug-resistant infections, 19,000 excess hospitalizations, 7,000 deaths, and 96 million dollars in excess medical costs per year. Older adults and young children are at most risk for developing these drug-resistant infections.

The study is published in the Journal of Immunology.

Dec 26
Scientists reveal how 'lung cancer spreads'
Scientists have revealed the mystery behind spreading of lung cancer.

The researchers at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute discovered that the ties which lash cells together - controlled by a protein called TIAM1 - were chopped up when cell maintenance work goes wrong.

Healthy cells routinely scrap old cell parts so they could be broken down and used again. But this process spiraled out of control in lung cancer cells, which scraped too many TIAM1 ties.

Targeting this recycling process could stop lung cancer from spreading by keeping the cells stuck firmly together.

Lead researcher, Dr Angeliki Malliri, at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute at the University of Manchester, said that the research showed for the first time how lung cancer cells severed ties with their neighbours and start to spread around the body, by hijacking the cells' recycling process and sending it into overdrive. Targeting this flaw could help stop lung cancer from spreading.

The research published in Cell Reports.

Dec 25
Multi-vitamin supplement improves pregnancy outcomes
A multi-vitamin administered daily to pregnant women can help curb infant mortality in developing countries as it reduces the risk of premature births and increases infant birth weight, shows a trial carried out in rural Bangladesh.

Premature birth is a leading cause of infant mortality in many parts of the world.

The findings suggest that the supplement contains 15 essential micronutrients is superior to the supplements available in many developing countries.

"Our study shows that women in undernourished societies should be given a multiple micronutrient supplement during pregnancy," said study leader Keith West Jr, professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

"It increases birth size because the babies stay in the womb longer and when that happens they are born a little larger and better equipped to handle life outside the womb," West added.

For this study, the researchers recruited roughly 45,000 pregnant women in rural Bangladesh beginning in December 2007, and assigned them to receive either a daily multi-vitamin or an iron-folic acid supplement.

The babies born in the multi-vitamin group were 12 percent less likely to be born at a low birth weight (under 2.5 kg) and 11 percent less likely to be stillborn.

On average, the infants born to mothers in the multi-vitamin group were born two to three days later than those in the iron-folic acid group, giving them more time to bulk up before birth, and were born an average of 55 grams larger.

The findings were published in JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Dec 24
How red wine keeps you stress free revealed
A new study has revealed that resveratrol, the red-wine ingredient powerfully activates an evolutionarily ancient stress response in human cells.

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) said that the finding should dispel much of the mystery and controversy about how resveratrol really works.

Senior investigator Paul Schimmel, professor and member of the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at TSRI said that this stress response represents a layer of biology that has been largely overlooked, and resveratrol turns out to activate it at much lower concentrations than those used in prior studies.

Resveratrol is a compound produced in grapes, cacao beans, Japanese knotweed and some other plants in response to stresses including infection, drought and ultraviolet radiation. It has attracted widespread scientific and popular interest over the past decade, as researchers have reported that it extended lifespan and prevented diabetes in obese mice and vastly increased the stamina of ordinary mice running on wheels.

Earlier study had begin to find hints that a tRNA synthetase called TyrRS, which links the amino acid tyrosine to the genetic material that codes for it, can move to the cell nucleus under stressful conditions-apparently taking on a protective, stress-response role. Sajish noted that resveratrol appeared to have broadly similar stress-response properties and also resembled TyrRS's normal binding partner tyrosine.

The new study put TyrRS and resveratrol together and showed with tests including X-ray crystallography that resveratrol does indeed mimic tyrosine, well enough to fit tightly into TyrRS's tyrosine binding pocket.

That binding to resveratrol, the team found, takes TyrRS away from its protein translation role and steers it to a function in the cell nucleus.

Tracking the resveratrol-bound TyrRS in the nucleus, the researchers determined that it grabs and activates the protein, PARP-1, a major stress response and DNA-repair factor thought to have a significance influence on lifespan. The scientists confirmed the interaction in mice injected with resveratrol. TyrRS's activation of PARP-1 led, in turn, to the activation of a host of protective genes including the tumor-suppressor gene p53 and the longevity genes FOXO3A and SIRT6.

The study was published in Nature.

Dec 23
India unlikely to meet infant mortality rate target of 2015
Going by the current pace of decline, India is unlikely to achieve its target of reducing the infant mortality rate to less than 39 per 1,000 live births by 2015-end, said a senior UNICEF official.

"The current Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) of India, as per the Sample Registration System (SRS) 2013, is 40 per 1,000 live births while the Under-5 Mortality Rate (U5MR) as per SRS 2012 is 52 per 1,000 live births.

"At this current rate of decline it seems it will be difficult for India to reach the target of less than 39 per 1,000 live births by the end of 2015," UNICEF's Health Specialist in India, Dr Gagan Gupta told PTI.

Though India accounts for the highest burden of Under-5 deaths in the world, there has been a faster decline in its reduction as compared to the global fall, he added.

"Globally the U5MR reduced by 49 per cent from 90 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 46 per 1,000 live births in 2013, while India achieved a reduction of 59 per cent in the Under-5 mortality from 126 in 1990 to 52 in 2012, which is higher than the global decline," Gupta said, citing the Levels and Trends in Child Mortality Report 2014, estimates developed by the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation.

"Neo-natal deaths account for 56 per cent of Under-5 deaths in India which is much higher than the global average of 44 per cent. The progress in reduction of neo-natal mortality has been slow," he noted.

In fact, four states- Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan account for half of the Under-5 deaths in India, Dr Gupta said.

Assam with 75 per 1,000 live births tops the chart among states having Under-5 mortality above the national average of 52, followed by Madhya Pradesh (73), Odisha (68), UP (68), Rajasthan (59), Bihar (57) and Chhattisgarh (55), he said.

However, as per SRS report, Andhra Pradesh has shown 17 per cent decline in the Under-5 mortality between 2009 and 2012 and Rajasthan has shown 20 per cent decline during the same period, Dr Gupta added.

Quoting the above mentioned report, Gupta said that in India every year, 1.34 million children die before completing five years, of which 7,48,000 die within the first month of their life. "This means more than 2,000 newborn die each day in India," he said.

"Three common causes of neo-natal deaths are prematurity, birth asphyxia and sepsis. In the post newborn period, two major killers are pneumonia and diarrhoea and under-nutrition is an underlying factor in nearly 45 per cent of such deaths," the UNICEF health official said.

Talking about the gender differences in child mortality due to preference for sons in India, Dr Gupta said the UNICEF has been working towards improving access to the care of girl child supporting national efforts.

"The infant mortality rate of male in India is 39 per 1,000 while that of female is 42 per 1,000 live births. At present, UNICEF is supporting national efforts for improving access to the care for girl child through the Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakaram (JSSK) scheme which has made free health care an entitlement for pregnant women and infant," he said.

The UNICEF, Dr Gupta said, has also played a key role in evidence generation through Special Newborn Care Unit (SNCU) which showed that despite free care there are more male admissions in SNCUs as compared to females.

SNCUs are effective to address problems of low-birth, pre-term deliveries simulating the environment of the womb. A baby is provided warmth, protected from infection and carefully fed to ensure for proper development of its body parts which have stopped growing on account of premature delivery.

According to Dr Gupta's suggestions, India, in order to achieve a reduction in the Under-5 deaths, should focus on reducing neonatal deaths, which account for 56 per cent of total such deaths, by integrating quality maternal care with newborn care.

"In addition, addressing forgotten killers like pneumonia and diarrhoea will be critical besides improving immunisation coverage to address mortality due to vaccine-preventable diseases. As under-nutrition is an underlying factor in 45 per cent of Under-5 deaths addressing adolescent and maternal nutrition will also be critical," he added.

Dec 22
Wild blueberries negate high-fat diet risks
The adverse effects of a high-fat diet - high blood pressure and nutrition derived inflammation - can be reduced by eating bilberries, a study says.

For the first time, bilberries, also known as wild blueberries were shown to have beneficial effects on both blood pressure and nutrition-derived inflammatory responses.

"Bilberries reduce the development of systemic inflammation and prevent the progression of chronic hypertension, thus supporting their potential role in alleviating the adverse health effects associated with developing obesity," said the researchers from University of Eastern Finland.

The beneficial health effects of bilberries are thought to be explained by a component called polyphenols, especially anthocyanins, the levels of which are significantly higher in bilberries than in commercially cultivated blueberries.

The study focused on the health effects of bilberries on mice that were fed high-fat diet for a period of three months.

Some of the mice were fed either five percent or 10 percent of freeze-dried bilberries in the diet.

Bilberries diminished the pro-inflammatory effects of the high-fat diet, indicated by an altered cytokine protein profile and a reduced relative prevalence of inflammation supporting T-cells.

Bilberries also prevented elevated blood pressure caused by the high-fat diet, the findings showed.

The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Dec 20
Check your weight once a week to lose fat!
It may seem a bit bizarre but researchers have found that how often you step on the scale to measure weight is linked to weight loss - the more is the frequency, the faster you slim down.

The more frequently dieters weighed themselves the more weight they lost, and if participants went more than a week without weighing themselves, they gained weight, the findings showed.

"The more often you weigh yourself the more weight you lose," said lead author Elina Helander from Tempere Univeristy of Technology in Finland.

For the study, the researchers analysed 2,838 weight measurements from 40 overweight individuals who indicated that weight loss was a personal goal or concern.

The researchers found that weight loss was related to how often individuals weighed themselves.

It may be that less serious dieters weight themselves less or that dieters who stop losing weight stop weighting themselves, the researchers noted, adding that this observational study does not indicate a cause and effect relationship between weigh-ins and weight loss.

The study appeared in the journal PLOS ONE.