World's first medical networking and resource portal

News & Highlights
Please make use of the search function to browse preferred content
Medical News & Updates
Sep 20
New genetic test to spot 6-fold increased risk of prostate cancer
A new study has found 23 new genetic variants that can identify men with 6-fold increased risk of prostate cancer.

Scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), London, University of Cambridge, and University of Southern California led a huge search for new genetic variants including almost 90,000 men.

Researchers found that assessing the top 100 variants identified 10 percent of men with a risk almost three times as high as the population average, and said that this was high enough to investigate whether targeted genetic screening was merited.

In the research, scientists examined the genetic information of 87,040 men from all over the world. They combined genetic population studies of 43,303 men with prostate cancer and 43,737 controls from European, African, Japanese or Latino heritage to improve statistical power and increase their chances of identifying new variants.

From the combined population, they identified 16 new genetic markers linked to prostate cancer risk in European men, one of them associated with increased risk of early-onset disease, and seven in men of mixed heritage.

The study enabled the scientists to explain 33 percent of the inherited origins of prostate cancer in European men. A new clinical trial called BARCODE, which aimed to genetically screen 5,000 men for prostate cancer, would investigate if these genetic markers could improve on other tests for the disease.

The new study showed that for European men assessed for the 100 common variants, the 10 percent at highest risk were 2.9 times more likely than the average person to develop prostate cancer, while the top 1 percent were 5.7 times more likely to develop the disease.

The research is published in Nature Genetics.

Sep 19
Fat jibes on obese people don't spur them to lose weight
A new study has revealed that discrimination against overweight and obese people does not help them to lose weight.

According to the study of 2,944 UK adults over four years by UCL, people who reported experiencing weight discrimination gained more weight than those who did not, while on average, after accounting for baseline differences, people who reported weight discrimination gained 0.95kg whereas those who did not lost 0.71kg, a difference of 1.66kg.

The research that contradicts the common perception that discrimination or 'fat shaming' might encourage weight loss. The study asked people whether they experienced day-to-day discrimination that they attributed to their weight. Examples of discrimination include being treated disrespectfully, receiving poor service in shops, and being harassed.

The data are from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, a study of adults aged 50 or older. Of the 2,944 eligible participants in the study, 5 percent reported weight discrimination. This ranged from less than 1percent of those in the 'normal weight' category to 36 percent of those classified as 'morbidly obese'. Men and women reported similar levels of weight discrimination.

Researchers said that the results show that weight discrimination does not encourage weight loss , and suggest that it may even exacerbate weight gain and previous studies have found that people who experience discrimination report comfort eating. Stress responses to discrimination can increase appetite, particularly for unhealthy, energy-dense food. Weight discrimination has also been shown to make people feel less confident about taking part in physical activity, so they tend to avoid it.

The study was published in the journal Obesity.

Sep 18
Supportive partner at home key to avoid job stress
Do not just blame tough deadlines, demanding bosses or abusive colleagues for burnouts at work. Having an understanding partner at home is just as important as having a supportive boss for a satisfying work experience.

"It turns out that mental health in the workplace does not exist in a vacuum; it is deeply affected by the rest of a person's day-to-day life and vice versa," said Alain Marchand, a professor from the school of industrial relations at the University of Montreal.

"To maintain a truly healthy workforce, we need to look outside the office or home in simple terms to combat mental health issues in the workplace," he added.

To reach this conclusion, the team from the University of Montreal and Concordia University surveyed 1,954 employees from 63 different organisations to measure factors like parental status, household income, social network, gender, age, physical health and levels of self-esteem.

They studied these elements alongside stressors typically seen in the workplace such as emotional exhaustion, poor use of skills, high psychological demands, job insecurity and lack of authority.

"The study shows that fewer mental health problems are experienced by those living with a partner, in households with young children, higher household incomes, less work-family conflicts and greater access to the support of a social network outside the workplace," Marchand explained.

Of course, factors within the workplace like supportive employees, job recognition and security are still important.

"But this is a call to action. Researchers need to expand their perspective so that they get a full picture of the complexity of factors that determine individuals' mental health at workplace," added senior author Steve Harvey, a professor of management and dean of Concordia University's John Molson School of Business.

The study appeared in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.

Sep 17
Soon, a novel way to spot dyslexia in kids!
Researchers have found a way that could predict the onset of dyslexia in young kids, giving clinicians a possible tool to spot children with learning disorder and other reading difficulties before they experience the challenges.

According to UC San Francisco researchers, the developmental course of children's white matter volume may be used to predict his/her ability to read.

"We show that white matter development during a critical period in a child's life, when they start school and learn to read for the very first time, predicts how well the child ends up reading," said Fumiko Hoeft, a senior author and an associate professor at the University of California, San Francisco in the US.

Doctors commonly use behavioural measures of reading readiness for assessments of ability.

Other measures such as cognitive ability, early linguistic skills, measures of the environment such as socio-economic status and whether there is a family member with reading problems or dyslexia are all common early factors used to assess risk of developing reading difficulties.

"What was intriguing in this study was that brain development in regions important to reading predicted above and beyond all of these measures," Hoeft added.

To come to the conclusion, researchers examined brain scans of 38 kindergarteners as they were learning to read formally at school and tracked their white matter development until third grade.

The researchers found that left hemisphere white matter in the temporo-parietal region just behind and above the left ear - thought to be important for language, reading and speech - was highly predictive of reading acquisition.

The research is published online in the journal Psychological Science.

Sep 16
How genes keep body clock in proper rhythm
Sixteen years after scientists found the genes that control the circadian clock in all cells, US researchers have now discovered how genes keep the circadian clocks in all human cells in time and in proper rhythm within the 24-hour period.

A circadian rhythm is any biological process that displays an oscillation of about 24 hours.

They found that two genes - Period and Cryptochrome - have complementary roles.

The finding has implications for the development of drugs for various diseases such as cancers and diabetes, as well as conditions such as metabolic syndrome, insomnia, seasonal affective disorder, obesity and even jet lag.

"We have known for a while that four proteins were involved in generating daily rhythmicity but not exactly what they did. Now we know how the clock is reset in all cells. So we have a better idea of what to expect if we target these proteins with therapeutics," explained Aziz Sancar, professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of North Carolina's school of medicine.

In all human cells, there are four genes - Cryptochrome, Period, CLOCK, and BMAL1 - that work in unison to control the cyclical changes in human physiology such as blood pressure, body temperature and rest-sleep cycles.

The way in which these genes control physiology helps prepare us for the day.

This is called the circadian clock. It keeps us in proper physiological rhythm.

CLOCK and BMAL1 bind to a pair of genes called Period and Cryptochrome and turn them on to express proteins, which - after several modifications - wind up suppressing CLOCK and BMAL1 activity.

Then, the Period and Cryptochrome proteins are degraded, allowing for the circadian clock to begin again.

"It is a feedback loop. The inhibition takes 24 hours. This is why we can see gene activity go up and then down throughout the day," said Sancar.

The paper was published in the journal Genes and Development.

Sep 15
'Mindfulness' can improve adults' poor health caused by childhood adversity
A new study has revealed that mindfulness and accepting the present moments can help in improving the health of adults who were mistreated or ignored as kids.

Nearly one-fourth people reported three or more types of adverse childhood experiences, and almost 30 percent reported having three or more stress-related health conditions like depression, headache, or back pain, noted the researchers.

However, the risk of having multiple health conditions was nearly 50 percent lower among those with the highest level of mindfulness compared to those with the lowest. This was true even for those who had multiple types of childhood adversity.

Regardless of the amount of childhood adversity, those who were more mindful also reported significantly better health behaviors, like getting enough sleep, and better functioning, such as having fewer days per month when they felt poorly, either mentally or physically.

Many smaller studies have shown that learning mindfulness practices like meditation could improve psychological and physical symptoms such as depression and pain, more research would be needed to see if interventions to increase mindfulness could improve the health and functioning of those who have had adverse childhood experiences.

The study will be published in the October issue of Preventive Medicine.

Sep 13
Vitamin B1 deficiency can damage your brain
Include more vitamin B1-rich food in your diet as neurologists have underlined that deficiency of a single vitamin B1 (or thiamine) can cause a potentially fatal brain disorder.

The brain disorder called Wernicke encephalopathy typically occurs in people who have disorders such as alcoholism and anorexia that lead to malnourishment.

"Wernicke encephalopathy is an example of the wide range of brain diseases called encephalopathies that are caused by metabolic disorders and toxic substances," said Matthew McCoyd, a neurologist at Loyola University Medical Center in the US.

Untreated, the condition can lead to irreversible brain damage and death, the researchers said.

Symptoms of the disorder can include confusion, hallucinations, coma, loss of muscle coordination and vision problems such as double vision and involuntary eye movements.

"Toxic and metabolic encephalopathies may range in severity from the acute confusional state to frank coma," McCoyd added.

Wernicke encephalopathy is a medical emergency that requires immediate thiamine treatment either by injection or IV.

"In the absence of treatment, deficiency can lead to irreversible brain damage and death with an estimated mortality of 20 percent," the Loyola neurologists wrote.

Vitamin B1 is found in a wide variety of foods including watermelon, cereal grains, oatmeal, potatoes and eggs.

The report appeared in the journal Scientific American Medicine.

Sep 12
Binge drinking in pregnancy hurts child's mental health
A new study has revealed that binge drinking during pregnancy can negatively affect mental health of child aged 11 and deteriorates his school performance.

The study at University of Bristol showed that this was the case even after a number of other lifestyle and social factors were taken into account, including the mother's own mental health, whether she smoked tobacco, used cannabis or other drugs during the pregnancy, her age, her education, and how many other children she had.

This builds on earlier research on the same children that found a link between binge drinking in pregnancy and their mental health when aged four and seven, suggesting that problems could persist as a child got older.

Lead author Kapil Sayal said that women who are pregnant or who are planning to become pregnant should be aware of the possible risks associated with episodes of heavier drinking during pregnancy, even if this only occurs on an occasional basis.

Sayal added that the consumption of four or more drinks in a day might increase the risk for hyperactivity and inattention problems and lower academic attainment even if daily average levels of alcohol consumption during pregnancy are low.

Sayal continued that the study highlighted the need for clear policy messages about patterns of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, whereby women who chose to drink occasionally should avoid having several drinks in a day.

The study is published in the journal European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Sep 11
Race, ethnicity linked with heart disease risk
A man's likelihood of accumulating fat around his heart might be better determined if doctors were to consider his race and ethnicity as well as where on his body the excess fat is deposited, new research shows.

Higher volumes of fat around the heart are associated with greater risk of heart disease.

"So if you are an African-American man and carry excess weight mainly around the mid-section, then you have a higher likelihood of more fat around the heart than if you gain weight fairly evenly throughout your body," explained lead author Samar El Khoudary, an assistant professor from the University of Pittsburgh in the US.

"But the reverse is true for Koreans. Their heart disease risk is greater with overall weight gain. Knowing this can help doctors specify the right physical training for each racial, ethnic group to reduce their heart disease risk," El Khoudary noted.

For the study, researchers took a closer look at 1,199 men who were white or black from Allegheny County (south-western part of Pennsylvania), Japanese-American from Hawaii, Japanese and Korean.

The study looked at the amount of fat around the heart called ectopic cardio-vascular fat.

For white men, an increase in body mass index (BMI), which is a measure of overall body fat, and abdominal fat are equally likely to indicate an increase in fat around the heart.

Black men who carry disproportionally more weight around their mid-section are at similar risk of having more fat around their hearts. Increases in BMI have lower impact.

Japanese and Japanese American men are also at similar risk of having more fat around their hearts if they have more fat in their abdomens, with BMI having less of an impact.

Korean men with higher BMIs have a higher likelihood of fat around the heart, whereas abdominal fat matters less.

"What we now need to determine is whether concentrating efforts to reduce overall body fat or fat in the abdomen will actually decrease fat around the heart more in people of certain racial or ethnic groups," El Khoudary noted.

The findings appeared in the International Journal of Obesity.

Sep 10
Fathers who smoke before conception risks having asthmatic kids
A new study has revealed that men who smoke before the conception could give asthma to their babies.

The results showed that non-allergic asthma (without hayfever) was significantly more common in children with a father who smoked prior to conception. This risk of asthma increased if a father smoked before the age of 15 and this risk grew the longer the duration of smoking. The researchers observed no link between the mother's smoking prior to conception and a child's asthma.

Dr Cecile Svanes, from the University of Bergen, Norway, said that this study was important as it was the first study looking at how a father's smoking habit pre-conception can affect the respiratory health of his children.

Given these results, it could be presumed that exposure to any type of air pollution, from occupational exposures to chemical exposures, could also have an effect, so it would be important for policymakers to focus on interventions targeting young men and warning them of the dangers of smoking and other exposures to their unborn children in the future.

Browse Archive