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Sep 30
A 10-minute walk break can reverse vascular dysfunction
By breaking up desk time with a short 10-minute walk, you can offset the harm that prolonged sitting causes to vascular health, suggests new research.

"Our study found that when you sit for six straight hours, or the majority of an eight-hour work day, blood flow to your legs is greatly reduced," said lead author of the study Jaume Padilla, assistant professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at University of Missouri School of Medicine in the US.

"We also found that just 10 minutes of walking after sitting for an extended time reversed the detrimental consequences," Padilla noted.

During the study, the researchers compared the vascular function of 11 healthy young men before and after a period of prolonged sitting.

The findings indicated that blood flow in the popliteal -- an artery in the lower leg -- was greatly reduced after sitting at a desk for six hours.

Researchers then had the participants take a short walk, and found that 10 minutes of self-paced walking could restore the impaired vascular function and improve blood flow.

"When you have decreased blood flow, the friction of the flowing blood on the artery wall, called shear stress, is also reduced," Padilla said.

"Moderate levels of shear stress are good for arterial health, whereas low levels of shear stress appear to be detrimental and reduce the ability of the artery to dilate. Dilation is a sign of vascular health. The more the artery can dilate and respond to stimuli, the healthier it is," Padilla noted.

The findings appeared in the journal Experimental Physiology.

Sep 29
Losing sense of smell linked with earlier death
People who have problems with their sense of smell may be at increased risk for dying sooner than those who don't have trouble smelling, a new study suggests.

Researchers analyzed information from more than 1,100 adults in New York City whose average age was 80. The participants took a "scratch and sniff" test in which they attempted to identify 40 common odors. People who scored less than 18 points out of 40 were said to have anosmia, or an inability to smell.

The study found that the people with scores in the low range (zero to 20 points) were nearly four times more likely to die over a four-year period than those with scores in the high range (31 to 40 points). About 45 percent of participants with scores in the low range died during the study period, compared with 18 percent of those with scores in the high range. [7 Ways the Mind and Body Change with Age]

The results held even after the researchers took into account factors that could affect people's risk of death, such as age, alcohol use, head injury, smoking or having dementia.

Therisk of death "increased progressively with worse performance in the smell identification test and was highest in those with the worst smelling ability," study co-author Dr. Davangere Devanand, a professor of psychiatry and neurology at Columbia University, said in a statement.

The results agree with those of a study published last year, which also found a link between smell loss and an increased risk of dying in older adults.

People tend to perform worse on smell tests as they age, and impairments in sense of smell have been linked with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. But the new study suggests that dementia and other medical conditions, by themselves, are not enough to explain the link between problems with smell and increased risk of death.

The researchers noted that a loss of sense of smell could put people at risk for certain hazards, such as ingestion of spoiled food or an inability to smell a natural gas leak or a fire.

A loss of a person's sense of smell may also mean that the cells in the individual's body are not able to regenerate as well as they used to (since the cells responsible for smell detection regenerate throughout life). This could put a person at higher risk of death from other causes.

There remains a need for larger studies looking at whether other factors may explain the link, the researchers said. More work is also needed to determine if the same link can be found in younger populations, the researcher said.

The study is published in the journal Annals of Neurology.

Sep 28
Alcohol, drug addicts far likelier to smoke
A team of researchers has revealed that around the world, those who are treated for addiction are far more likely to smoke.

People in addiction treatment programs around the world use tobacco at two to three times the rate of people who are not being treated for addiction, according to a review of research studies from 20 countries other than the United States.

UC San Francisco's Joseph R. Guydish said that when people come into treatment for drugs and alcohol, they are not treating another addiction that has a significant chance of eventually killing them, which is tobacco use, adding that at a public health level, this means that the addiction treatment efforts should address smoking and tobacco use better than they do now.

Every person who enters substance abuse treatment ought to have their tobacco use evaluated and treated, noted Guydish, adding that if they don't want to be treated and quit right away, they should have some education to help them think more about quitting.

Guydish observed that "there are data from a number of studies which strongly suggest that you can improve substance treatment outcomes by addressing smoking among the patients in treatment. That's what we should be doing."

The World Health Organization (WHO) has created a policy package called MPOWER, noted Guydish, which is designed to assist countries in implementing anti-smoking initiatives.

"We would recommend that WHO pay attention to this finding and use it to extend their MPOWER strategies," said Guydish. "Anyone who is interested in smoking reduction internationally could use this information at the policy level."

The study is published in the journal Addiction.

Sep 26
Brain control helps paralysed man walk again
In a world's first such experiment, scientists have used non-invasive direct brain control system to get a person - with complete paralysis in both legs owing to spinal cord injury - to walk again.

The participant, who had been paralysed from both legs (a condition called paraplegia) for five years, walked along a 3.66 metre long course using an electroencephalogram (EEG) based system.

Mental training was initially needed to reactivate the brain's walking ability.

"Even after years of paralysis, the brain can still generate robust brain waves that can be harnessed to enable basic walking," said An Do, one of the lead researchers from University of California-Irvine.

The system takes electrical signals from the participant's brain which then travel down to electrodes placed around his knees to create movement.

This is the first time that a person with complete paralysis in both legs was able to walk without relying on manually-controlled robotic limbs, as with previous walking aid devices.

"We showed that you can restore intuitive, brain-controlled walking after a complete spinal cord injury," Dr Do added.

Seated and wearing an EEG cap to read his brainwaves, the participant trained to control an avatar in a virtual reality environment.

He also required physical training to recondition and strengthen his leg muscles.

The participant later practiced walking while suspended five cm above ground, so he could freely move his legs without having to support himself.

On his 20th visit, he translated these skills to walk on the ground and wore a body-weight support system for aid and to prevent falls.

Over the 19-week testing period, he gained more control and performed more tests per visit.

"This non-invasive system for leg muscle stimulation is a promising method and is an advance of our current brain-controlled systems that use virtual reality or a robotic exoskeleton," Dr Do noted.

"Once we have confirmed the usability of this non-invasive system, we can look into invasive means such as brain implants," informed Dr Zoran Nenadic, senior lead researcher of the study.

In addition, such an implant could deliver sensation back to the brain, enabling the user to feel their legs.

The research was published in the open access Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation.

Sep 25
Powdered ginger may ease seasonal allergy symptoms
Adding small amounts of powdered ginger to food may help take the edge off seasonal allergy symptoms, according to an animal study published online in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. Daily intake of dried ginger significantly reduced sneezing and other signs of allergy in rodents with induced allergic rhinitis, or hay fever.

A major component in ginger, 6-gingerol, suppresses the activation of T lymphocytes, or T cells, a type of white blood cell that plays an important role in sensitizing people to specific allergens, the researchers said.

Ginger is a popular spice produced from the root of the ginger plant, Zingiber officinale. Some herbal remedies for nausea and other ailments also contain ginger.

Experiments in Japan involved mice fed a normal diet containing 2 percent powdered ginger or a control diet without ginger. After two weeks on the diets, the ginger-fed mice received two injections of purified egg proteins called ovalbumin (OVA) to stimulate allergic rhinitis symptoms. Control mice received either OVA or placebo injections.

The mice underwent an immune challenge two weeks later in which a small amount of OVA was inserted into the nose. Allergic symptoms, such as sneezing and nasal rubbing, were counted for the next 10 minutes.

Mice in the ginger-fed group sneezed 2.1 times each, on average. This compares with 15.2 sneezes per mouse in the OVA-injected controls and roughly one sneeze in the placebo-injected animals. Fewer nasal rubbing movements were recorded in the ginger-fed mice compared with OVA-injected controls, but not the placebo group.

Sep 23
Probiotics can reverse cow's milk allergies in infants
A probiotic formula when given to infants who developed intolerance to cow's milk has reversed the food allergy by increasing gut bacteria associated with good health, new research shows.

The newly tolerant infants had higher levels of several strains of bacteria that produce short chain fatty acids, such as butyrate, which help maintain gut health.

There has been an unprecedented increase in food allergies in developed countries, rising by as much as 20 percent in the past decade.

Allergy to cow's milk is one of the most common, occurring in up to three percent of children worldwide.

"The discovery of bacteria that drive tolerance to problem foods like cow's milk could be crucial to developing new treatments to help children with food allergies," said Cathryn Nagler from the University of Chicago and lead author of the study.

For the study, Nagler and colleagues identified bacteria in stool samples collected from healthy infants, infants with cow's milk allergy who had been fed the Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG)-enriched probiotic formula and those who had been fed the formula without added probiotics.

Overall, the gut microbiome of infants with a cow's milk allergy was significantly different than healthy controls, suggesting that differences in the structure of the bacterial community indeed influence the development of allergies.

Infants treated with the LGG probiotic formula who developed tolerance to cow's milk had higher levels of bacteria that produce butyrate than those who were fed the probiotic formula but did not develop tolerance.

This further suggests that tolerance is linked to the acquisition of specific strains of bacteria which produce butyrate.

"The gut bacteria of infants who developed tolerance to cow's milk after treatment with probiotic formula showed significant differences from those who remained allergic," the researchers noted.

"The ability to identify bacterial strains that could be used as novel therapeutics for treating food allergies is a fundamental advance," noted Jack Gilbert from the University of Chicago.

The paper was published in The ISME Journal.

Sep 22
Eating oily fish may help kids avoid nasal allergies
Children who eat certain types of fish may be less likely to develop nasal allergies, according to a study from Sweden.

Researchers studied what children ate at age eight and then monitored whether they developed nasal inflammation due to allergies or colds by age 16. Regular consumption of oily fish like salmon was linked a reduced risk of allergic rhinitis, or inflammation of the mucus membrane inside nasal passages.

While it's possible that fish consumption may help prevent the development of rhinitis, a healthy diet complete with a variety of items from all food groups may have a similar effect in promoting general wellbeing, said Diana Di Fabio, a pediatric dietician at Cleveland Clinic Children's in Ohio.

"Fish consumption at eight years old may simply serve as an indicator of high dietary quality," Di Fabio, who wasn't involved in the study.

"Children who are picky eaters may avoid foods high in omega-3 polyunsaturated fats including fish and seafood, walnuts, spinach and soybeans," she added. "Similarly, children who are more likely to consume those foods may also have a more adventurous palate and be more likely to consume a balanced diet."

Rhinitis is one of the most common chronic diseases in childhood, note lead study author Jessica Magnusson, a nutritionist at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, and colleagues in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

At the start of the study, parents and kids completed questionnaires detailing how often the children consumed 98 foods and beverages common in Sweden. For fish, they were asked specifically about oily varieties such as herring, mackerel and salmon, as well as less oily alternatives like codfish, Pollock, pike, tuna and fish fingers.

They also asked parents if kids had symptoms of rhinitis, such as sneezing or runny nose or eye symptoms in contact with furry pets or pollens after age four, and 19 percent of the children did.

Among the 1,590 children who didn't have rhinitis symptoms at age eight, 21 percent of them developed allergic rhinitis and 15 percent developed non-allergic rhinitis by age 16.

Total fish consumption didn't appear related to the development of rhinitis between the ages of 8 and 16. Nor did fish fingers, or the less-oily options like tuna and cod.

But eating oily fish was linked to a drop in risk of allergic rhinitis by roughly half. It was also tied to lowered risk of non-allergic rhinitis but not enough to rule out the possibility that the reduction was due to chance.

It's possible that fish consumption during infancy, or how much fish mothers ate during pregnancy might have influenced the odds that children developed rhinitis later in life, the researchers acknowledge, and they didn't measure these things in their study.

"Since we don't eat single nutrients, the take-home message is one that people hear all the time: eat more plants, less animals," Samantha Heller, a nutritionist at New York University's Center for Musculoskeletal Care and Sports Performance who wasn't involved in the study.

Sep 21
How brain progresses towards Alzheimer's Disease
A new research has shed light on brain's progression from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to Alzheimer's-type dementia by showing the typical patterns.

The team of Sylvie Belleville of the Research Centre at the Institut universitaire de geriatrie de Montreal compared changes that occurred over many years in people with stable MCI with changes in people for whom MCI progressed to a diagnosis of Alzheimer's.

The study showed that different cognitive areas (language, inhibition, visuo-spatial processing, working memory, executive functions, etc.) do not change in a uniform way. Cognitive decline does not occur in a linear fashion; instead, the path to dementia is complex and may sometimes be characterized by periods of stability followed by accelerated decline one or two years before diagnosis.

Researchers have identified a profile of changes that characterizes people who progress towards dementia. In reality, a quick decline in episodic and working memory associated with language problems appears to be the typical profile of people who have a high risk of developing dementia within a short amount of time, the researcher explained.

Instead of seeing this as bad news, Belleville views these results as hope for seniors who are worried about their memories.

Alzheimer's disease is diagnosed late in its progression and sometimes up to fifteen years after its first effects on the brain. It is important to identify the early indicators so that patients can receive treatment as soon as possible.

The study is published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

Sep 19
Natural defence against HIV found
Researchers have discovered a protein that may slow the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), thereby revealing a target for developing natural therapies against the deadly virus.

"In earlier studies, we knew that we could interfere with the spread of HIV-1, but we couldn`t identify the mechanism that was stopping the process," said study co-author Yong-Hui Zheng, associate professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at Michigan State University in the US.

The researchers found that the protein ERManI prevents the HIV virus from replicating.

"We now know that ERManI is an essential key, and that it has the potential as a antiretroviral treatment," Zheng noted.

Currently, there is no cure for HIV-1. Once patients have it, they have it for life. While there are antiretroviral therapies available, they can only prolong life, albeit dramatically, but they cannot cure the disease.

Current drug treatments have to be taken for a lifetime, which causes side effects and many other issues, Zheng said.

"We see a way to treat this disease by helping the body protect itself," he noted.

While it could be decades before an ERManI-based treatment can be prescribed for HIV-1 patients, these results provide a strong path for future research involving human cells, and later, clinical tests.

The next steps will be to test if HIV resistance can be promoted by increasing ERManI levels, Zheng pointed out.

The findings were detailed in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Sep 18
Organic pollutant exposure ups gestational diabetes risk in moms-to-be
A new study has revealed that women exposed to organic pollutants in early pregnancy have more than four-times increased risk of gestational diabetes.

The University of Crete study shows that a 10-times increased exposure to organic pollutants in early pregnancy is associated with a 4.4 times increased risk of a pregnant woman developing gestational diabetes.

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are a group of diverse substances, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and organochlorine pesticides that are resistant to biodegradation and present almost everywhere in the environment.

Exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals such as POPs has been linked to type 2 diabetes and metabolic disturbances in epidemiological and animal studies, but little is known about POPs exposure during pregnancy and the development of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM).

Dichlorodiphenyldichloroethene (DDE-a breakdown product of DDT) and hexachlorobenzene (HCB) are synthetic chemicals that were used widely as pesticides, while PCBs were used in many industrial processes. These chemicals have been banned for decades but remain in the environment where they bioaccumulate in the bodies of animals and humans.

The authors determined the concentrations of several PCBs, DDE, and HCB in first trimester maternal serum by mass spectrometry. Pregnant women were screened for gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) between 24 and 28 weeks of gestation.

The authors conclude that these findings suggest that women with high PCBs levels in early pregnancy had higher risk for gestational diabetes. Further studies are needed to replicate these results and to evaluate potential biological mechanisms underlying the observed associations.

The study is presented at the meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes in Stockholm.