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May 30
Weight gain in teens linked to low hormone levels
Researchers, including one of Indian-origin, have discovered that lower levels of a hormone may make teenagers vulnerable to gaining unhealthy weight.

"Our study is the first to look at levels of spexin in the pediatric population," said one of the study authors Seema Kumar from Mayo Clinic Children's Centre in Minnesota, US.

Potentially tied to weight management, spexin is also believed to have a role in controlling arterial blood pressure as well as salt and water balance.

"Previous research has found reduced levels of this hormone in adults with obesity. Overall, our findings suggest spexin may play a role in weight gain, beginning at an early age," she added.

The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

The study analysed spexin levels in 51 obese and 18 teenagers of normal weights between ages 12 and 18. The participants had blood samples taken between 2008 and 2010 as part of separate clinical trials.

Researchers tested the blood samples to measure spexin levels. They divided the teenagers into four groups based on their spexin levels.

Among the participants with the lowest levels of spexin, the odds of having obesity were a little more than five times higher than in the group with the highest levels of the hormone.

"It is noteworthy that we see such clear differences in spexin levels between obese and normal weight adolescents," Kumar said.

"Since this is a cross-sectional study, more research is needed to explore the physiological significance of spexin, how it may be involved in the development of childhood obesity, and whether it can be used to treat or manage the condition," she added.

May 28
Scientists discover new way to kill cancer cells
In a finding that could lead to new drugs to treat cancer and autoimmune diseases, researchers, including one of Indian-origin, have discovered a new way of triggering cell death.

Programmed cell death, also called apoptosis, is a natural process that removes unwanted cells from the body. Failure of apoptosis can allow cancer cells to grow unchecked or immune cells to inappropriately attack the body.

The protein known as Bak is central to apoptosis. In healthy cells Bak sits in an inert state but when a cell receives a signal to die, Bak transforms into a killer protein that destroys the cell.

In this study, researcher Sweta Iyer from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Victoria, and colleagues discovered a novel way of directly activating Bak to trigger cell death.

The researchers discovered that an antibody they had produced to study Bak actually bound to the Bak protein and triggered its activation.

"We were excited when we realised we had found an entirely new way of activating Bak," said Ruth Kluck who is also from Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Australia.

The researchers hope to use this discovery to develop drugs that promote cell death.

"There is great interest in developing drugs that trigger Bak activation to treat diseases such as cancer where apoptosis has gone awry," she said.

"This discovery gives us a new starting point for developing therapies that directly activate Bak and cause cell death," Kluck pointed out.

The researchers used information about Bak's three-dimensional structure to find out precisely how the antibody activated Bak.

The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.

"The advantage of our antibody is that it can't be 'mopped up' and neutralised by pro-survival proteins in the cell, potentially reducing the chance of drug resistance occurring," Kluck said.

May 27
Consume lots of fruits during pregnancy to have smart kids!
This is definitely a good health tip which all would-be-mothers should follow.

A new study reveals that women should eat lots of fruits during pregnancy as it helps to have a smart kids.

They should consume more fruits as doing so the IQ levels of the kids would be higher.

If pregnant mothers eat six or seven servings of fruit or fruit juice a day on average then their infants placed six or seven points higher on the IQ scale at one year of age, the study showed.

"We found that one of the biggest predictors of cognitive development was how much fruit moms consumed during pregnancy. The more fruit moms had, the higher their child's cognitive development," said lead study author Piush Mandhane from University of Alberta in Canada

The team examined data from 688 children and controlled for factors that would normally affect a child's learning and development such as family income, paternal and maternal education and the gestational age of the child.

The mothers who consumed more fruit during pregnancy gave birth to children who performed better on developmental testing at age one.

"We know that the longer a child is in the womb, the further they develop -- and having one more serving of fruit per day in a mother's diet provides her baby with the same benefit as being born a whole week later," Mandhane stated in the paper published in the journal EbioMedicine.

To further build on the findings, Mandhane teamed with co-author Francois Bolduc who researches the genetic basis of cognition in humans and fruit flies.

"Flies are very different from humans but, surprisingly, they have 85 percent of the genes involved in human brain function, making them a great model to study the genetics of memory," Bolduc stated.

The findings indicated that flies born after being fed increased prenatal fruit juice had significantly better memory ability, similar to the results shown by Mandhane with one-year-old infants.

May 23
Nearly half of all heart attacks may be 'silent'
Nearly half of all heart attacks may not have classic symptoms, such as chest pain, shortness of breath and cold sweats but are likely to be silent, reveals new research.

A silent heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart muscle is severely reduced or cut off completely.

"The outcome of a silent heart attack is as bad as a heart attack that is recognised while it is happening," said Elsayed Z. Soliman, director of the epidemiological cardiology research centre at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre, in the US.

The findings showed that silent heart attacks are made up 45 percent of all heart attacks.

Also, these are more commonly found in men but are more likely to cause death in women.

Further, the risk of dying from heart disease increases by three times in case of a silent heart attack.

The chance of dying from all other causes rises by 34 percent.

Silent heart attacks are usually detected when patients undergo an electrocardiogram (ECG) -- a process to check heart's electrical activity.

"Doctors need to help patients who have had a silent heart attack quit smoking, reduce their weight, control cholesterol and blood pressure and get more exercise," the researchers noted in the paper published in the journal Circulation.

For the study, the team analysed the records of 9,498 middle-age adults.

For over an average of nine years after the start of the study, 317 participants had silent heart attacks while 386 had heart attacks with clinical symptoms.

May 21
Keep busy to boost your mental health!
Do you keep yourself occupied most of the time by either doing or thinking about the things on our to-do list. If yes, then take heart, for a new study suggests that a busy daily lifestyle can boost mental functioning in adults.

The study found that older adults who are packed with schedules fare better in brain health, specifically cognitive function, than their less busy peers.

The findings showed that at any age, and regardless of education, a busier lifestyle can lead to superior processing speed of the brain, working memory, reasoning, and vocabulary.

"We show that people who report greater levels of daily 'busyness' tend to have better cognition, especially with regard to memory for recently learned information," said lead author Sara Festini, postdoctoral researcher at University of Texas in the US.

Also, the busiest an individual is, the better can be his/her episodic memory -- the ability to remember specific events in the past.

Busy people are likely to have more opportunities to learn as they are exposed to more information and encounter a wider range of situations in daily life.

However, it is also possible that people with better mental functioning seek out a busier lifestyle, or that busyness and cognition reinforce each other, resulting in reciprocal strengthening, the researchers said.

For the study, the team surveyed 330 healthy women and men aged between 50 and 89.

The participants took part in a long series of neuropsychological tests to measure their cognitive performance.

"Living a busy lifestyle appears beneficial for mental function, although additional experimental work is needed to determine if manipulations of busyness have the same effect," Festini noted.

The findings have been published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

May 20
Program participation can help keep weight off
Shedding the extra kilos is difficult and keeping it off over years is even harder, but a team of researchers has found one group that has defied the trend of regaining weight.

The research from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus demonstrated the effectiveness of long-term participation in a national weight-loss program.

The investigators followed over 65,000 overweight or obese people who joined Take Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS) between 2005 to 2010. In the first year, half of participants in the nonprofit weight-loss support group had significant weight loss.

Of the patients with significant weight loss in the first year who participated in a second year, 80 percent kept off the weight. Each year, during years three to seven, roughly 90 percent of patients who continued participation in the program maintained their weight loss.

The researchers concluded that after one year of significant weight loss, consistent participation in the program helped participants sustain their new healthy weight.

"Maintaining long-term weight loss is a critical challenge in treating obesity and related health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease," said lead author Nia S. Mitchell, adding "Just losing the weight isn't enough. Since the health benefits of weight loss disappear when weight creeps back on, we need more research into effective strategies for maintaining a healthier weight once it is reached."

Mitchell concluded that further studies of the TOPS program should examine which populations will succeed at weight loss and weight-loss maintenance and determine factors that can improve sustainable weight loss and maintenance.

May 18
Mom's voice activates different regions in children's brains
The mother's voice can lighten up and engage the child's brain far more than the voices of women they do not know, say researchers including an Indian-origin scientist.

The findings showed that brain regions that respond more strongly to the mother's voice extend beyond regions of hearing.

It included regions of emotion and reward processing, social functions, detection of what is personally relevant and face recognition.

Also, the strength of connections between the brain regions activated by the voice of own mother predicted the child's social communication abilities.

"Many of our social, language and emotional processes are learned by listening to our mom's voice," said lead author Daniel Abrams from Stanford University in the US.

"But surprisingly little is known about how the brain organises itself around this very important sound source. We didn't realise that a mother's voice would have such quick access to so many different brain systems," Abrams said.

"We wanted to know: Is it just auditory and voice-selective areas that respond differently, or is it more broad in terms of engagement, emotional reactivity and detection of salient stimuli," added Vinod Menon, professor at Stanford University.

For the study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team examined 24 children ages 7 to 12. None had any developmental disorders, and were raised by their biological mothers.

Each child's mother was recorded saying three nonsense words and two other women also were recorded saying the three nonsense words. The children's brains were then scanned using MRIs.

The results revealed that the children could identify their own mother with 97 percent accuracy, even after listening to recordings less than 1 second long.

"The study can be an important new template for investigating social communication deficits in children with disorders such as autism," Menon noted.

May 17
Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce aggression in kids!
A new study suggests that children should consume foods that contains rich amount of Omega-3 fatty acids in it as it helps to reduce extreme aggression in them.

Kids should eat fatty fish such as tuna, seafood and some nuts and seeds as they contains rich amount of Omega-3 fatty acids.

Incorporating Omega-3 vitamins and mineral supplements into the diets of children can decrease their aggressive and antisocial behaviour, as showed in the findings.

Also, the participants getting the combination of cognitive behavioural therapy and Omega-3s reported less aggression than the control group and the therapy-only group.

"Immediately after three months of the nutritional intervention rich in Omega-3s, we found a decrease in the children's reporting of their aggressive behaviour," said Therese Richmond from the University Of Pennsylvania, US.

For the study, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, the randomised trial included 290 children who were aged between 11-12 year olds with a history of violence.

They were divided into four groups. The first received Omega-3 in the form of juice, as well as multivitamins and calcium for three months.

The second group participated in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which focused on the links between thoughts, feelings and behaviours and also practicing alternative actions the children could take to deal with difficult situations rather than to emotionally react to something.

The third group took the supplements and participated in CBT, and the fourth received resources and information targeted at reducing aggressive behaviour.

Blood samples at the experiment's start and conclusion measured Omega-3 levels in each child.

May 16
Kids who walk early likely to have stronger bones
Children who start walking at the age of 18 months are likely to develop stronger bones and are physically more active as they get older, according to a new study which links bone strength with good early life movement.

Researchers from Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) and the University of Bristol in the UK have demonstrated an association between children's abilities in common movements like jumping, running and walking at 18 months and stronger bones as an adolescent.

"The findings are intriguing as they provide a link which was not previously understood, primarily that how we move as a young child can have ramifications for our bone strength even 16 years later," said Alex Ireland from MMU.

"We believe that stronger muscles could act as a 'marker' for this. Being more active gives you stronger muscles which can then apply bigger forces to the bones as we walk, run or jump, helping to strengthen bones as we grow older," Ireland said.

It is thought that these movements in toddlers place a stress on the bones, causing them to react by becoming wider and thicker, thereby making them stronger than those in children who may not be moving as much, researchers said.

They believe the results could also be partly attributed to children with good early life movement being more physically active as they get older.

Researchers demonstrated that around half of the differences in bone strength at 17-years-old associated with movement could be explained by muscle size differences.

"Importantly, the results could have implications for later life by helping medical practitioners to anticipate and detect those who are at a greater risk of osteoporosis or fractures, thus helping them to devise prevention and coping strategies," Ireland said.

"For example, attainment of these movement skills at an early age can be easily improved even by simple parent-led walking practice at home," he added.
Researchers analysed data from 2,327 participants from children of the 90s, a lifelong study of health and wellbeing that has been charting the lives of 14,500 people since they were born in the early 1990s.

Movement was assessed at 18 months, and hip and shin bone size, shape and mineral density was measured at 17 years of age, for both males and females, by scanning with X-ray absorptiometry and peripheral computed tomography.

The study found the effect was more pronounced in males than in females, suggesting early movement plays less of a role in female bone strength, researchers said. The findings were published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.

May 14
Common cold may increase diabetes risk in kids
Viral respiratory tract infections -- like the common cold, flu, tonsillitis, bronchitis and pneumonia -- during the first six months of life are likely to increase the risk for Type-1 diabetes in children, says a new study.

The findings suggest that the first half-year of life is crucial for the development of the immune system and of autoimmune diseases such as Type-1 diabetes (T1D).

According to researchers, T1D risk increased in children who had a respiratory tract infection between birth and 2.9 months or between three and 5.9 months of age compared with children who had no respiratory tract infections in these age intervals.

"Our findings show that viral respiratory tract disorders during the first six months of life significantly increase the risk of children developing Type-1 diabetes," said one of the researchers, Andreas Beyerlein, from Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen in Germany.

Infants are particularly susceptible to respiratory tract infections like the common cold, flu, tonsillitis, bronchitis and pneumonia, because, unlike adults, their immune systems have not acquired the immunity to stave off some of the viruses that cause them.

The study included 295,420 infants, of whom 720 were diagnosed with T1D over a median follow-up of 8.5 years, for an incidence of 29 diagnoses per 100,000 children annually.

At least one infection was reported during the first two years of life in 93 percent of all children, and in 97 percent of children with T1D.

Most children experienced respiratory and viral infections.

T1D risk was also found increased among children who experienced a viral infection between birth and 5.9 months of age.

The study was published in the journal JAMA.

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