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Jul 27
This embryonic gene may help fight ageing
The fountain of youth may reside in an embryonic stem cell gene named Nanog, suggests new research that may lead to treatments for conditions due to reduced bone strength, Alzheimer's and other age-related disorders.

In a series of experiments at the University at Buffalo in New York, the gene kicked into action dormant cellular processes that are key to preventing weak bones, clogged arteries and other telltale signs of growing old.

"Our research into Nanog is helping us to better understand the process of ageing and ultimately how to reverse it," said the study's lead author Stelios Andreadis, Professor at the University at Buffalo School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

The findings, published in the journal Stem Cells, also showed promise in counteracting premature ageing disorders such as Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome.

To battle ageing, the human body holds a reservoir of non-specialised cells that can regenerate organs.

These cells are called adult stem cells, and they are located in every tissue of the body and respond rapidly when there is a need.

But as people age, fewer adult stem cells perform their job well, a scenario which leads to age-related disorders.

Reversing the effects of ageing on adult stem cells, essentially rebooting them, can help overcome this problem.

In the new study, Panagiotis Mistriotis, a graduate student in Andreadis' lab and first author of the study, introduced Nanog into aged stem cells.

He found that Nanog opens two key cellular pathways that jumpstarts dormant proteins into building cytoskeletons that adult stem cells need to form muscle cells that contract.

Force generated by these cells ultimately helps restore the regenerative properties that adult stem cells lose due to ageing.

"Not only does Nanog have the capacity to delay aging, it has the potential in some cases to reverse it," Andreadis said.

The researchers are now focusing on identifying drugs that can replace or mimic the effects of Nanog. This will allow them to study whether aspects of aging inside the body can also be reversed.

Jul 25
New compound may help fight epilepsy
A team of researchers have developed neuroprotective compounds that may help prevent the development of epilepsy in humans.

Epilepsy is a disorder in which nerve cell activity in the brain is disturbed, causing seizures.

Researchers from Louisiana State University in the US, discovered and patented the compounds known as LAU that prevented the seizures and their damaging effects on dendritic spines in an experimental model of epilepsy in mice.

"In the study, preservation of dendritic spines and subsequent protection from seizures, were observed up to 100 days post-treatment, suggesting the process of epilepsy development has been arrested," said professor Nicolas Bazan.

These compounds were found to act by blocking a neuro-inflammatory signalling receptor, which results in the protection of dendritic spines.

LAU compounds also lessened seizure susceptibility and onset, as well as hyper-excitability of brain circuits known to cause seizures.

"Most of the anti-epileptic drugs currently available treat the symptom - seizures- not the disease itself. Understanding the potential therapeutic usefulness of compounds that may interrupt the development process may pave the way for disease-modifying treatments for patients at risk for epilepsy," informed Bazan.

The results were published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Jul 23
Female smokers at higher risk of brain bleed
London: Women indulging in smoking are more at risk of developing bleeding inside the lining of the brain, also known as subarachnoid hemorrhage, a study has warned.

Subarachnoid hemorrhage is a condition of bleeding in the lining between the brain's surface and underlying brain tissues.

The findings showed that although cigarette smoking was linked to an increased risk of subarachnoid hemorrhage among both sexes, women faced the highest risk.

"Female sex has been described as an independent risk factor for subarachnoid hemorrhage, but we found strong evidence that the elevated risk in women is explained by vulnerability to smoking," said lead author Joni Valdemar Lindbohm, Physician at the University of Helsinki in Finland.

Further, among light smokers (1 to 10 cigarettes per day), women were 2.95 times more likely to have subarachnoid hemorrhage compared to non-smokers, while men who smoked comparable amounts of cigarettes were 1.93 times more likely.

Women who smoked 11 to 20 cigarettes per day were 3.89 times more likely to have subarachnoid hemorrhage compared to non-smokers, while men who smoked comparable amounts of cigarettes were 2.13 times more likely.

Women who smoked 21 to 30 cigarettes per day were more than 8.35 times likely to have subarachnoid hemorrhage compared to non-smokers, while men who smoked comparable amounts of cigarettes were 2.76 times more likely.

"Our results suggest that age, sex and lifestyle risk factors play a critical role in predicting which patients are at risk for subarachnoid hemorrhage and emphasise the importance of effective smoking cessation strategies," Lindbohm explained.

However, quitting smoking has been found to significantly decrease the risk among former smokers.

"There is no safe level of smoking," Lindbohm said, adding "naturally the best option is never to start. Quitting smoking, however, can reduce the risk for subarachnoid hemorrhage in both sexes."

In addition, subarachnoid hemorrhage also accounts for three per cent of all strokes, according to the American Heart Association.

Smoking is perhaps the most important modifiable risk factor in preventing subarachnoid hemorrhage, with the highest population attributable risk of any subarachnoid hemorrhage risk factor, the researchers noted.

For the study, published in the journal Stroke, the team included 65,521 adults from Finish national surveys.

Slightly more than half of participants were women, and their average age was 45 years. The average follow-up was 21 years from study enrolment until first stroke, death or study completion on December 31, 2011.

Jul 22
Can antibiotics slow Alzheimer's progression?
Researchers, including one of Indian-origin, have found that long-term antibiotic treatment in mice decreases levels of amyloid plaques, a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease.

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, also showed significant changes in the gut microbiome after antibiotic treatment, suggesting the composition and diversity of bacteria in the gut play an important role in regulating immune system activity that impacts progression of Alzheimer's disease.

"We're exploring very new territory in how the gut influences brain health," said senior author of the study Sangram Sisodia, Professor of Neurosciences at the University of Chicago.

Two of the key features of Alzheimer's disease are the development of amyloidosis, accumulation of amyloid-beta peptides in the brain, and inflammation of the microglia, brain cells that perform immune system functions in the central nervous system.

For this study, Sisodia and his team administered high doses of broad-spectrum antibiotics to mice over five to six months.

At the end of this period, genetic analysis of gut bacteria from the antibiotic-treated mice showed that while the total mass of microbes present was roughly the same as in controls, the diversity of the community changed dramatically.

The antibiotic-treated mice also showed more than a two-fold decrease in amyloid-beta plaques compared to controls.

While the mechanisms linking these changes is unclear, the study points to the potential in further research on the gut microbiome's influence on the brain and nervous system.

Sisodia cautioned that while the current study opens new possibilities for understanding the role of the gut microbiome in Alzheimer's disease, it iss just a beginning step.

"There's probably not going to be a cure for Alzheimer's disease for several generations, because we know there are changes occurring in the brain and central nervous system 15 to 20 years before clinical onset," he said.

"We have to find ways to intervene when a patient starts showing clinical signs, and if we learn how changes in gut bacteria affect onset or progression, or how the molecules they produce interact with the nervous system, we could use that to create a new kind of personalized medicine," he noted.

Jul 18
Happy cows give you more nutritious milk
When cows are happy, they produce more nutritious milk with higher levels of calcium, new research suggests.

The researchers found that daily infusions with a naturally-occurring chemical commonly associated with feelings of happiness increased calcium levels in the milk of Jersey cows that had just given birth.

The results, published in the Journal of Endocrinology, could lead to a better understanding of how to improve the health of dairy cows, and keep the milk flowing.

Demand is high for milk rich in calcium and dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt are primary sources of the mineral.

But this demand can take its toll on milk-producing cows as evident from the fact that a large number of dairy cow population suffers from hypocalcaemia -- in which calcium levels are low.

A team of researchers led by Laura Hernandez from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US investigated the potential for serotonin (a naturally occurring chemical commonly associated with feelings of happiness) to increase calcium levels in both the milk and blood of dairy cows.

The team infused a chemical that converts to serotonin into 24 dairy cows, in the run up to giving birth.

Half the cows were Jersey and half were Holstein -- two of the most common breeds. Calcium levels in both the milk and circulating blood were measured throughout the experiment.

While serotonin improved the overall calcium status in both breeds, this was brought about in opposite ways.

Treated Holstein cows had higher levels of calcium in their blood, but lower calcium in their milk (compared to controls).

The reverse was true in treated Jersey cows and the higher milk calcium levels were particularly obvious in Jerseys at Day 30 of lactation -- suggesting a role for serotonin in maintaining levels throughout lactation.

"By studying two breeds we were able to see that regulation of calcium levels is different between the two," Hernandez said.

"Serotonin raised blood calcium in the Holsteins, and milk calcium in the Jerseys. We should also note that serotonin treatment had no effect on milk yield, feed intake or on levels of hormones required for lactation," she noted.

Jul 13
Water can be the new secret to losing weight: Study
We all might have tried many things like to get rid of those excess fats in our body. But have you ever thought of water being the reason of your weight loss.

Well, recently a study revealed that water can be the potential secret weapon in the fight against the ever-burgeoning waistline.

Researchers said that drinking lots of water helps in reducing weight as it contains no carbohydrates, fat or protein which are the key factors for obesity. Water may also help avoid overeating and thus lead to a healthier weight.

Lead author Tammy Chang, Assistant Professor at University of Michigan, in the US said, 'Staying hydrated is good for you no matter what, and our study suggests it may also be linked to maintaining a healthy weight''.

'He further added that ''Our findings suggest that hydration may deserve more attention when thinking about addressing obesity on a population level''.

The findings showed that people who are obese and have a higher body mass index (BMI) are more likely to be inadequately hydrated.

On the other, people with inadequately water content are also likely to be obese and have a higher BMI.

Staying hydrated by drinking water and eating more water-loaded fruits and vegetables can help with weight management, specially in obese individuals.

However, "the link between hydration and weight is not clear. Our study further explains this relationship on a population level using an objective measure of hydration," Chang noted.

In addition, people with higher BMIs, who are expected to have higher water needs might also demonstrate behaviours that lead to inadequate hydration, the researchers said.

For the study, published in Annals of Family Medicine journal, the team looked at a nationally representative sample of 9,528 adults. Roughly a third of the adults, who spanned ages 18 to 64, were inadequately hydrated.

Jul 11
Brisk walk may improve memory in breast cancer survivors
A new study has revealed that doing moderate-to-vigorous physical exercises such as brisk walking or jogging may boosts memory in breast cancer survivors.

The findings found that physical activity reduces stress and benefits women psychologically, which in turn aids their memory.

Memory problems appear to be related to the high stress load cancer survivors experience and may not be specific to chemotherapy or radiation treatments.

Siobhan Phillips, Assistant Professor, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago said, "Our research suggests these self-reported memory problems may be emotionally related. These women are frightened, stressed, fatigued, tapped out emotionally and have low self-confidence, which can be very mentally taxing and can lead to perceived memory problems".

The study were published in the journal Psycho-Oncology.

The researchers looked at memory and exercise in breast cancer survivors in two study arms - one in self-reported data for 1,477 women; the other in accelerometers worn by 362 women.

The findings linking improved memory to higher levels of physical activity were consistent across both groups.

In the study, more physical activity was associated with higher levels of self-confidence, lower distress and less fatigue, which in turn is associated with lower levels of perceived memory impairment.

Breast cancer survivors who had higher levels of moderate and vigorous physical activity - brisk walking, biking, jogging or attending an exercise class -- had fewer subjective memory problems. Subjective memory is an individual's perception of his/her memory.

Jul 07
New screening tool to predict causes of fainting
Canadian researchers, including one of Indian-origin, have developed a new screening tool that could help emergency physicians uncover the sometimes dangerous hidden conditions that cause some people to faint.

The findings showed that syncope, or fainting, accounts for between 1 per cent and 3 per cent of all emergency department visits.

In most cases, it is benign, but for about 10 per cent of people who visit the emergency room for fainting it can be a symptom of a potentially life-threatening condition like arrhythmia, or heart rhythm disturbance.

The nine-question Canadian Syncope Risk Score helps emergency doctors predict the risk of a patient experiencing an adverse event, such as potentially fatal irregular heart rhythm, heart attack and other cardiac events, gastrointestinal bleeding, and even death within a month after fainting.

"Fainting is a big problem. The way fainting patients are examined in emergency rooms varies greatly between physicians and hospitals," said Venkatesh Thiruganasambandamoorthy, Assistant Professor at the University of Ottawa in Canada.

"We hope that this screening tool will make the process more consistent and improve the detection of serious conditions related to fainting," Thiruganasambandamoorthy added.

For the study, the team looked at 4030 patients. Of the total patients, 147 experienced a serious event in the month following discharge.

Signs of a common and harmless variety of fainting, such as being in a warm or crowded place, standing for a long time, or feeling intense fear, emotion or pain; a history of heart disease; abnormal electrocardiogram (ECG) measurements; higher levels of troponin, a protein specific to heart muscle are some of the factors that physicians can plug in to a screening tool.

When combined, these factors give the patient's total risk of an adverse event, from very low to very high.

Most fainting patients admitted to hospital do not need to be there. These patients can spend four to seven hours in the emergency department before a decision to discharge them is made, the researchers noted.

"If our tool can discharge low-risk patients quickly and safely, then I think we can reduce emergency room wait times and open up those resources to other patients," Thiruganasambandamoorthy noted.

Jul 01
This gene puts you at increased kidney disease risk
A new study has linked a gene, which forms part of our body's first line of defence against infection, to an increased risk of a type of kidney disease.

The University of Nottingham study found that the difference in the number of copies of the alpha-defensin genes was a major genetic factor in developing the condition IgA nephropathy, also known as Berger's Disease.

Researcher John Armour said that the observation that variation in the gene numbers for these alpha-defensin genes is strongly correlated with risk of IgA nephropathy creates an interesting puzzle.

He added that the data overwhelmingly support the association, but researchers still don't understand what the connection might be between alpha-defensins and molecular events that cause the kidney problems.

The team looked at genetic variation in more than 1,000 patients with IgA nephropathy, compared with more than 1,000 people without the condition, and found a significant difference in the numbers of alpha-defensin genes between the two groups.

Alpha-defensins are proteins that kill bacteria as part of the innate immune system, our first line of defence against infection.

Although the findings do not immediately suggest new therapies for the disorder, they will improve our chances of identifying those who are most at risk and offer a new line of investigation to understand exactly how the defensin gene copy number variants lead to kidney disease. The team is already undertaking the next stage of research to further develop our knowledge.

The study is published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.