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Feb 19
World's first guided anti-cancer 'missile' created by scientists
A new breakthrough discovery has inched closer towards creating a cancer [abnormal cells that divide without control, which can invade nearby tissues or spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to other parts of the body. ] -destroying antibody that may help scientists in eradicating the indestructible cancer cells from body.

Indian and Oz researchers have recently identified a 'RNA aptamer' antibody that acts as an anti-cancer [abnormal cells that divide without control, which can invade nearby tissues or spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to other parts of the body. ] missile.

A team of researchers headed by Wei Duan from the Deakin Medical School's Nanomedicine Program along with scientists from Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore and Barwon Health's Andrew Love Cancer Centre and Chem Genex Pharmaceuticals in Australia initiated the study that claims having discovered a 'cancer bomb'.

"We have created the world's first RNA aptamer, a chemical antibody that acts like a guided missile to seek out and bind only to cancer stem cells. It has the potential to deliver drugs directly to the stem cells and also to be used to develop a more effective cancer imaging system," said Wei Duan, director of the Deakin Medical School.

According to him, the antibody has helped reveal major information on cancer detection and treatment.

"What we have created is the 'guided missile' part of the 'smart bomb'. The aptamer acts like a guided missile, targeting the tumour and binding to the root of the cancer," said Duan.

Benefit of the RNA aptamer
The minuscule size of the aptamer allows it to detect the location of the cancer cells right at the onset and now researchers are focusing on affixing a radioactive compound on it, to help detect cancer before its starts growing.

This would also help in detecting the exact location of the infection caused by cancer, predicting the extent of cure and better follow-up.

"The aim now is to combine the aptamer with the 'bomb' (a microscopic fat particle) that can carry anti-cancer drugs or diagnostic imaging agents directly to the cancer stem cells, creating the ultimate medical smart bomb," said Wei.

Detecting the exact location of the cancer could lead to better and economic treatment against many cancer types.

Non-effective cancer treatments mar medical world
Despite achieving unbound advancements in the technology and medical field, scientists have failed to combat the menace called cancer till now.

Also, cancer deaths have remained a cause of constant worry due to failure in detecting the cancer at an early stage and due to late treatment.

"Current cancer treatments destroy the cells that form the bulk of the tumor, but are largely ineffective against the root of the cancer, the cancer stem cells. This suggests that in order to provide a cure for cancer we must accurately detect and eliminate the cancer stem cells," concluded the lead author.

The study has been detailed in the Feb. edition of the journal 'Cancer Science.'

Feb 19
British Study Finds No Link Between Cell Phones, Brain Tumors
Cell phones do not increase the risk of brain cancer, a new British study contends.

An analysis of data on newly diagnosed cases of brain cancer in England between 1998 and 2007 -- when cell phone use was climbing -- revealed no statistically significant change in the incidence of brain cancers in men or women, said the University of Manchester researchers.

There was a very small increase (0.6 more cases per 100,000 people) in the incidence of cancers of the brain's temporal lobe. That works out to 31 extra cases per year in England's population of nearly 52 million people, the researchers said.

But the study authors also noted that cancers of the brain's parietal lobe, cerebrum and cerebellum in English men fell slightly during the study period.

The study was released online in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the journal Bioelectromagnetics.

"There is an on-going controversy about whether radio-frequency exposure from mobile phones increases the risk of brain cancer. Our findings indicate that a causal link between mobile phone use and cancer is unlikely because there is no evidence of any significant increase in the disease since [the] introduction and rapid proliferation [of cell phones]," lead researcher Frank de Vocht, an occupational and environmental health expert, said in a university news release.

If cell phones did cause brain cancer, there should have been an increase in the number of diagnosed cases within five to 10 years after the technology was introduced and the increase would continue as cell phone use became more widespread, he explained. But no such trend was in evidence.

The 1998 to 2007 study period would therefore relate to the period 1990 to 2002, when cell phone use in the United Kingdom increased from zero to 65 percent of households.

"It is very unlikely that we are at the forefront of a brain cancer epidemic related to mobile phones, as some have suggested," de Vocht concluded.

But he added that the study does not "exclude the possibility that there are people who are susceptible to radio-frequency exposure [from cell phones] or that some rare brain cancers are associated with it but we interpret our data as not indicating a pressing need to implement public health measures to reduce radio-frequency exposure from mobile phones."

Feb 18
Sleep-Wake Cycle Determined by Gene
A research, reported in Nature by scientists in the US, has come to the conclusion that the time we get up or the time we go to sleep is determined by a gene.

Studying the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, Northwestern University scientists in Evanston, Ill., state that the findings can be applied to other organisms, including humans. When the gene, named 'twenty four', is missing, the PER protein in the neurons of the brain, regulating the circadian rhythm, is impacted; and, when there is very little of this protein, the sleep-wake cycles get disturbed.

Dr. Ravi Allada who led the study remarked, "The flies without the twenty-four gene did not become much more active before dawn. The equivalent in humans would be someone who has trouble getting out of bed in the morning."

Feb 17
20% patients at primary healthcare level have mental disorders
Mental health might not be on the priority list of public health practitioners in India, but an analysis of government data shows that around 20 per cent of all patients seen by primary healthcare doctors in India have one or more mental disorders.

The findings show that one in four families is likely to have at least one member with a behavioural or mental disorder.

These disorders account for 10.5 per cent of the global burden of disease in 1990.

This burden increased to 12 per cent in 2000 and an analysis of trends in the World Health Report--2001 indicates this burden will increase to 15 per cent by 2020.

According to the National Family Health survey, in India, at a given point of time, nearly 15 million people suffer from serious psychiatric illness and another 30 million from mild to moderate psychiatric problems.

In order to address these issues, the Government launched the National Mental Health Programme in 1996 in four districts as a pilot project.

Subsequently, in 2003, this was enhanced to include upgrading of psychiatry-wings of Government Medical Colleges or General Hospitals and modernisation of state-run mental hospitals.

The outlay for the National Mental Health Programme has been increased from Rs 140 crore in the last plan to Rs 1,000 crore for the present plan period, senior health ministry officials said.

The government is also planning community mental health camps and is looking to develop partnerships for the same.

Minister for Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad will inaugurate an international conference-cum-workshop on Asia Pacific Community Mental Health.

The conference will be organised in collaboration with Asia Australia Mental Health, a consortium of Department of Psychiatry and Asia Link of University of Melbourne and St Vincent's Health, a leading healthcare provider of Australia.

The workshop-cum-conference will be attended by mental health leaders from 17 countries of Asia and Pacific region as well as state nodal officers of National Mental Health Programme, member secretaries of State Mental Health Authorities, leading mental health institutes, prominent NGOs working in mental health and users of mental health services from India.

The conference will provide an opportunity to the delegates to share their experiences and learn from one another for developing better models of community-based mental health care. It will also strengthen the leadership role of India in community mental health development, the officials said.

Feb 16
Berries May Ward Off Parkinson's Disease
Incorporating berries and other fruits in your diet may pay off by reducing the risk of Parkinson's disease.

A new study shows men who ate the most foods rich in a group of antioxidants known as flavonoids were 35% less likely to develop Parkinson's disease than those who ate the least. Major dietary sources of flavonoids include berries, apples, tea, red wine, chocolate, and citrus fruits.

"This is the first study in humans to examine the association between flavonoids and risk of developing Parkinson's disease," says researcher Xiang Gao, MD, PhD, of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, in a news release. "Our findings suggest that flavonoids, specifically a group called anthocyanins, may have neuroprotective effects. If confirmed, flavonoids may be a natural and healthy way to reduce your risk of developing Parkinson's disease."

Parkinson's disease is a progressive neurological disease that causes symptoms including muscle tremors, shaking, and stiffness. The cause of the disease is unknown, and the risk of developing it increases with age.
Berries Blunt Parkinson's Disease Risk

The study, to be presented in April at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Honolulu, looked at the relationship between flavonoid intake and Parkinson's disease in 49,281 men who participated in the Health Professional Follow-up Study and 80,336 women who participated in the Nurses' Health Study.

The participants were followed for 20-22 years and filled out questionnaires about the foods they ate.

Researchers calculated total flavonoid intake based on the participants' consumption of five flavonoid-rich foods included on the questionnaires: tea, berries, apples, red wine, and oranges/orange juice.

The results showed that men who ate the most foods rich in flavonoids had a 35% lower risk of Parkinson's disease compared with those who ate the least. No link between overall flavonoid consumption and Parkinson's disease risk was found in women.

But when researchers looked at specific sub-groups of flavonoids, they found both men and women who ate the most foods rich in anthocyanins, which are found primarily in berries and apples, had a 22% lower risk of Parkinson's disease compared to those who ate the least.

Feb 16
Mild asthma might not need to be treated daily
A "preventer" inhaler containing corticosteroid is part of many asthma sufferers' daily routine, but it can result in reduced growth and children often forget to take it.

This study, published in The Lancet, shows that it is possible to manage the symptoms without a daily dose.

Asthma UK said daily treatment was still the most effective, and concerned patients should speak to their doctor.

The disease causes inflammation of the tubes which carry air to and from the lungs. If they become irritated, then the airways narrow, sticky mucus is produced and breathing becomes difficult.

More than 5 million people in the UK are being treated for the illness and Asthma UK estimates 1.1 million have asthma which is mild and under control.
Missing doses

Researchers at the University of Arizona believe there is a problem with the way the disease is managed.

Two types of inhalers are used: "relievers" which are used when breathing is difficult and "preventers" which are taken every morning and evening.

However, the researchers said that many children stop taking the daily medication if their symptoms disappear.
Continue reading the main story

If you have any concerns about your asthma treatment, Asthma UK recommends you speak to your doctor or asthma nurse

End Quote Dr Samantha Walker Asthma UK

Professor Fernando Martinez, from the University of Arizona, told the BBC: "If you have a daily drug and a very significant number are not taking it, then that tells you it's a losing strategy."

"We want to find something which is more child- and parent-friendly as well as avoid the growth effect."

In all, 288 children and teenagers with mild and persistent asthma took part in the 44-week trial.

The study showed that taking corticosteroids twice a day was still the most effective treatment, However, those taking the medication grew by 1.1cm (0.5in) less than children not taking the drug during the trial.
Potent combination

Importantly, asthma was also managed without daily treatment if the corticosteroids were combined with the "reliever" inhaler.

This eliminated the effect on growth and the researchers say it would be an easier form of treatment for children.

Further clinical trials will be needed to verify the results.

Professor Martinez said: "I'm continuing to recommend daily corticosteroid to my patients, but I know some of them will not take it."

Asthma UK said the study confirmed that daily inhaled corticosteroids were the most effective treatment.

Dr Samantha Walker, executive director of research and policy at Asthma UK, said: "We know that long-term adherence to medicine treatment plans can be difficult, particularly when a child's asthma seems to be under control.

"The use of combined 'preventer' and 'reliever' medicines as rescue therapy appears to be superior to 'reliever' inhalers alone and offers a new 'step-down' approach to the management of mild, well-controlled asthma in children and young people who find it difficult to adhere to long-term daily treatment with inhaled steroids.

"Many parents have concerns about their child's steroid intake. However, research shows that children on low daily doses of 'preventer' medicines show no difference in growth. At higher doses, the picture is less clear. For all children, treatment plans should be reviewed at least every six months.

"If you have any concerns about your asthma treatment, Asthma UK recommends you speak to your doctor or asthma nurse."

Feb 16
More than 80% of paediatric cancers are curable
Child oncologists in Ahmedabad, non-government organisations working for cancer patients and survivors of the disease will participate in a drive to raise awareness on childhood cancer on February 15, International Childhood Cancer Day.

The programme will be launched by The International Confederation of Childhood Cancer Parent Organisations (ICCCPO), World Child Cancer and the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC).

More than 80 per cent of the cancers, both solid and blood variety, are completely curable in children. Deaths occur mainly due to lack of knowledge about availability of proper treatment.

Dr. Deepa Trivedi, a leading child oncologist, said, "Though there have been tremendous advances made in the treatment of childhood cancer and subsequent improvements in survival rates, it is unfortunate that this knowledge has not yet reached the majority of children diagnosed with cancer in Gujarat."

ICCCPO and UICC, which support more than 40 projects in resource-constrained countries through the 'My Child Matters' initiative, blame lack of awareness, poor access to information, late or no detection and lack of effective treatment to high mortality of child cancer patients for this state of affairs.

Karunakare Foundation, an NGO working for cancer patients and survivors in Gujarat, has formed a Cancer Patients' and Survivors' Club to educate patients.

Feb 15
Study finds link between hearing loss and dementia
A new study suggests that there may be profound connections between hearing impairment and the risk of developing dementia, the degenerative condition which is characterized by a progressive deterioration of cognitive function and the ability to process thought intelligently.

The researchers found the risk of cognitive decline was nearly double in older people with mild hearing loss and it quintupled in those exhibiting severe hearing impairment compared with those with normal hearing.

Lead author of the study, Dr. Luigi Ferrucci, chief of the U.S. National Institute on Aging's Longitudinal Studies Section, as well as director of the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, stated, "This work suggests that there is a strong predictive association between hearing loss as an adult and the likelihood of developing cognitive decline with aging."

Link between hearing loss and dementia assessed
In a bid to determine if hearing loss could be identified as a risk factor for dementia, the researchers conducted a study.

They focused on 639 adults aged 36 to 90 who were without dementia at the onset of the study in 1990.

All the study subjects underwent cognitive and hearing testing over a period of 4 years. They were then monitored for the development of dementia and Alzheimer's through May 31, 2008.

It was noted that 125 had mild hearing loss (25 to 40 decibels), 53 had moderate hearing loss (41 to 70 decibels) while six exhibited severe hearing loss (more than 70 decibels).

Revelations of the study
A follow-up at 11.9 years found 58 participants were diagnosed with dementia, including 37 who had Alzheimer's disease.

It was noticed that the risk of dementia elevated in those with hearing loss of greater than 25 decibels.

After taking into account age and other risk factors, the investigators found that the danger of cognitive decline was two fold higher in those with mild hearing impairment.

Additionally, the risk of being diagnosed with dementia was three times higher in those with moderate hearing loss which rose five-fold for severe impairment compared with normal hearing.

Dr Lin stated, "Hearing loss may be causally related to dementia, possibly through exhaustion of cognitive reserve, social isolation, environmental deafferentation [elimination of sensory nerve fibres or a combination of these pathways.

"If confirmed in other independent cohorts, the findings of our study could have substantial implications for individuals and public health."

The research was published in the 'Archives of Neurology.'

Feb 14
Docs Puzzled By Toddler's 'Disappearing' Brain
A 3-year-old boy from New York is living without a cerebellum - the part of the brain responsible for motor control, balance, coordination and emotional control.

Chase Britton's doctors are bewildered by his condition - but even more puzzling - is the fact that his mother says she has ultrasound pictures that show it was there at some point during her pregnancy, reported.

"That is actually a fundamental part of the dilemma," said Dr. Adre du Plessis, chief of Fetal and Transitional Medicine at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. "If there was a cerebellum, what happened to it?"

Chase is also legally blind and missing his pons, which is the part of the brain stem that controls functions like sleeping and breathing.

Doctors are not sure if Chase's case is the end result of a fetal injury or a genetic abnormality.

The Brittons, who have an older son, Alex, had another son, Trey, who died four weeks after he was born in 2006. But doctors assured them Trey's condition was not genetic, and they were safe to try again.

"We knew this is what we wanted to do," said Chase's mother, Heather Britton. "And they said flukes don't happen twice."

Chase was born at 35 weeks after a complicated pregnancy. His doctors said he was healthy - but throughout his first year, Britton said things "seemed off."

"We knew he was developing a little slower, we thought it was because of the pregnancy," she said.

Chase's parents aren't sure if he will ever be able to live without assistance. Right now, his vocabulary is limited, but he continues to accomplish more each day - like potty training and learning how to use an iPad.

"Our geneticist in Buffalo told us to start a college fund, because you never know," Britton said. "So, that's our hope for him."

Feb 11
Fixodent linked to serious neurological illness
A class action lawsuit has been filed against Procter & Gamble, makers of Fixodent, alleging that the company failed to warn consumers sufficiently about the zinc contained in their denture cream.

According to attorneys, the adhesive contains high levels of zinc which has poisoned the users causing them serious nerve damage.

Fixodent is widely used by millions of people in the United States in order to keep their dentures secure in place.

Many users are completely oblivious of the fact that their denture cream contains zinc or that excessive use of the product can leave them with severe and debilitating neurological damage such as neuropathy, numbness, tingling, pain, loss of sensation, loss of balance, paralysis, and breathing difficulties.

Two customers involved in the lawsuit
Lead plaintiff Mark Jacoby, a 41-year-old construction worker who has worn dentures for 20 years gradually started losing balance, became unsteady and was eventually confined to the wheel chair.

His doctors tied his debilitating neurological illness to the high levels of the zinc found in his body which came from his denture cream, Fixodent.

"I started getting tingling in my fingertips. And then it started happening in my toes," said Mark Jacoby. "I started getting weaker and, you know, I couldn't walk right, off balance and I'm at this point now."

He added, "I can almost guarantee you it was the Fixodent. It's soaked into your body and it messes with the nerves."

Another client, Anne Coffman, 48, is suffering from drowsiness, tingling in the arms and legs and burning sensations. She also has problem maintaining her balance.

According to the doctors, all her symptoms are linked to neuropathy, a nerve disorder that affects the entire central nervous system that has been linked to excessive use of denture cream.

Coffman now uses a wheelchair and finds it difficult to tackle everyday tasks because of the weakness in her limbs.

"I started getting numbness in my toes. I wasn't sure so I kind of didn't do anything about it at first," Coffman said. "Then it started moving over to both feet and then ... up to my knees."

She added,"[Fixodent] is the only product that I've ever used that had zinc in it."

Connection between denture cream and nerve damage made 5 years ago
The connection between the product and zinc was made by researchers at the University of Texas nearly five years ago when they assessed four denture users with neurological disease.

Dr Sharon Nations, author of the study stated, "They had high zinc levels that we could measure in the blood. And all of them reported that they were using very large amounts of denture cream."

The company's defense
Procter & Gamble subsequently updated the Fixodent packaging to list zinc as an ingredient and warn the customers that ""prolonged zinc intake may be linked to adverse health effects."

Even in the face of the lawsuit, Procter & Gamble stand by their product.

They stated, "Procter & Gamble is committed to providing safe and effective products for all consumers. That is who we are and what we stand for. We go to great lengths to ensure that our products safely deliver best-in-class performance, so consumers can choose our products with total confidence.

"Fixodent is safe for use as directed, as supported by the experience of millions of consumers over many years. Our Fixodent formula has undergone extensive scientific testing, and we continuously monitor for its safe use. ...

"We know of no valid scientific evidence that using Fixodent as directed causes any ill health effects."

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