Stories tagged health

Oct
04
2009

Sirtuins: Silent Information Regulator Two (Sir2) proteins Sirtuins have been implicated in influencing aging and regulating transcription, apoptosis and stress resistance.
Sirtuins: Silent Information Regulator Two (Sir2) proteins Sirtuins have been implicated in influencing aging and regulating transcription, apoptosis and stress resistance.Courtesy Boghog2

Fountain of Youth

Scientists are extending lifespans of mice and primates from 20 to 40 per cent. A protein called S6 Kinase 1 (S6K1), if reduced, resulted in healthier and longer lived organisms.
When University College London (UCL) professor, Dominic Withers, blocked the action of the S6K1 protein in mice he found:

"The mice lived longer and were leaner, more active and generally healthier than the control group. We added 'life to their years' as well as 'years to their lives.
The mice were leaner, had stronger bones, were protected from type 2 diabetes, performed better at motor tasks and demonstrated better senses and cognition, according to the study.

Metformin and Rapamycin

Another molecule related to S6K1 levels known as AMPK was found to regulate energy levels within cells. AMPK levels were effected by drugs called metformin and rapamycin. Recent studies suggest that these two drugs can extend mice's lifespan.

Eat less and live long

Proteins called sirtuins are thought to help the body survive famines. When an animal is not getting enough food, there is a a survival mechanism that kicks in. Chemicals like AMPK and sirtuins enable an increased efficiency and more effective resistance to disease. Now drugs, rather than famine, have been found that activate sirtuin production.

In mice, sirtuin activators are effective against lung and colon cancer, melanoma, lymphoma, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease, said David Sinclair, a Harvard Medical School researcher and co-founder of Sirtris. The drugs reduce inflammation, and if they have the same effects in people, could help combat many diseases that have an inflammatory component, like irritable bowel syndrome and glaucoma.

Better than wine

A sirtuin activator has been found in some red wines and is known as resveratrol. Sirtris Pharmaceuticals is formulating resveratrol like compounds and is testing them against various diseases.

SRT-501, the company’s special formulation of resveratrol, is being tested against two cancers, multiple myeloma and colon cancer that has spread to the liver. A chemical mimic of resveratrol, known as SRT-2104, is in a Phase 2 trial for Type 2 diabetes, and in a Phase 1 trial in elderly patients.

Sources:
Long Life Gains Scientific Respect New York Times
Scientists find path to 'fountain of youth' Yahoo News

Sep
27
2009

Read my lips
Read my lipsCourtesy flickr-rickr

Machine accuracy - 80 %; Humans - 32%

More than half of people over 60 have a hearing loss (I am in that group). The demand for lip reading skills is driving technology. I foresee that we will soon have portable devices that will "read lips" and either show the words on a display or if the person is deaf and blind it could produce tactile symbols (braille) on a touch pad.

A research team from the School of Computing Sciences at UEA compared the performance of a machine-based lip-reading system with that of 19 human lip-readers. They found that the automated system significantly outperformed the human lip-readers – scoring a recognition rate of 80 per cent, compared with only 32 per cent for human viewers on the same task. Science Daily

Better virtual "talking heads", too

By analyzing results of computerized recognition of facial speech patterns, researchers hope to produce better visual speech synthesis. Computer generated "talking heads" are being evaluated to create the most intelligible and visually appealing system.

Sep
27
2009

H1N1 vaccination
H1N1 vaccinationCourtesy AJC1

How do I know it is safe?

"The recurring question is, 'How do we know it's safe?'" said Dr. Gregory Poland of the Mayo Clinic. What if, after getting a flu shot, a person goes home. then suddenly has a heart attack. Was the heart attack a side effect of the flu shot?

More than 3,000 people a day have a heart attack. This happens when no flu shots are given. When no flu shots are given, from 14,000 to 19,000 miscarriages happen every week.
When we start giving flu shots to 100s of millions of people, how do we differentiate side effects caused by the vaccination, from what would have happened even without the vaccination?

Intensive monitoring of side effects planned

This year there will be intense new monitoring.

Harvard Medical School scientists are linking large insurance databases that cover up to 50 million people with vaccination registries around the country for real-time checks of whether people see a doctor in the weeks after a flu shot and why. The huge numbers make it possible to quickly compare rates of complaints among the vaccinated and unvaccinated, said the project leader, Dr. Richard Platt, Harvard's population medicine chief.

Johns Hopkins University will direct e-mails to at least 100,000 vaccine recipients to track how they're feeling, including the smaller complaints that wouldn't prompt a doctor visit. If anything seems connected, researchers can call to follow up with detailed questions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is preparing take-home cards that tell vaccine recipients how to report any suspected side effects to the nation's Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting system.

However the flu season turns out, the extra vaccine tracking promises a lasting impact.

"Part of what we hope is that it will teach us something about how to monitor the safety of all medical products quickly," said Harvard's Platt.

Source: Associated Press

What's the hottest thing these days in Indonesia? People are flocking to a hospital to get a peek at huge newborn that tipped the scales at 19.2 pounds. Here's the link to more info and an amazing picture of the newborn.

From the helpful folks at the Star Tribune.

How much do you really know about the new H1N1 flu? CNN's testing your knowledge about the virus. Answer these 10 questions and see how you do.

Sep
19
2009

Pancreatic Cancer
Pancreatic CancerCourtesy jasoneppink

Patrick Swayze dies from pancreatic cancer

A close friend of mine died from pancreatic cancer last year. Last week Patrick Swayze died from pancreatic cancer. Approximately 42,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year. Nearly all of them will die within a year of its discovery. My friend had less than 3 months. With pancreatic cancer, by the time you supect something is wrong, it is too late.

Earlier cancer detection needed

What is needed is a test to detect cancer early from a urine, saliva, or blood sample. I recently wrote about a Lung cancer breathalyzer test.

MicroRNA in body fluids provides early cancer detection

A similar approach might work for pancreatic and other types of cancer. Certain small pieces of genetic code called microRNA have been associated with various cancers.

For pancreatic cancer, scientists have cataloged dozens of microRNAs whose levels are different than in healthy samples.
Out of the dozens of choices, researchers at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center picked four microRNAs to measure. Not only did the group detect these microRNAs circulating in the blood, they found their levels were higher in the blood of pancreatic cancer patients compared with healthy control subjects. Their results were published last week in Cancer Prevention Research. Scientific American

Learn more about microRNA markers for pancreatic cancer

MicroRNAs in Blood May be Biomarkers of Pancreatic Cancer National Institue of Health

Sep
19
2009

FluMist inhaler for H1N1 flu
FluMist inhaler for H1N1 fluCourtesy garrisonpao

Vaccine for swine flu is ahead of expectations

October is almost here, and so are more than 3 million doses of H1N1 flu vaccine. The vaccine is a the FluMist nasal spray type which is inhaled rather than injected. The nasal spray contains a weakened live virus, while injections contain killed and fragmented virus. The inhalation method gives a stronger immune reaction and is not recommended for pregnant women, people over 50 or those with asthma, heart disease or several other problems. The earlier than expected delivery will be be great for people in other high-risk groups though (health care workers, people caring for infants, and healthy young people).

Any type of flu can be deadly

In the United States a typical flu season is believed to kill about 36,000. The Asian flu of 1957 was blamed for the deaths of about 70,000 Americans. The pandemic H1N1 or 2009 H1N1 flu (we are not supposed to call it the swine flu) so far has not been bad. Flu activity is now “widespread” in 21 states, up from 11 a week ago. (Read more here - New York Times)

2009 H1N1 flu vaccine approved

"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Sept. 15 that it has approved four vaccines against the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus. The vaccines will be distributed nationally after the initial lots become available, which is expected within the next four weeks.
As with any medical product, unexpected or rare serious adverse events may occur. The FDA is working closely with governmental and nongovernmental organizations to enhance the capacity for adverse event monitoring, information sharing and analysis during and after the 2009 H1N1 vaccination program." FDA News Release

Sep
13
2009

H1N1 vaccination
H1N1 vaccinationCourtesy AJC1

Making sure vacinations are safe

Before giving H1N1 flu vaccinations to millions of people, clinical trials are needed. What is an effective dose for people of various ages and body types. What are the side effects.

No second shot required for H1N1 flu

Clinical trials are showing that the new H1N1 swine flu vaccine protects with only one dose instead of two. This is very good news. The vaccinations can be given to twice as many people at half the cost.

"Healthy adults got one 15-microgram shot, and their blood was tested 21 days later. By that time, 97 percent of the 120 adults had enough antibodies to be considered protected."
“This is definitely a big deal,” said Dr. John J. Treanor, a vaccine expert at the University oRochester. “People had been planning for a scenario that would require two doses.” New York Times

Pregnant women first

The vaccinations are proving to be effective only 8-10 days after being administered. This may allow all 159 million people in the high risk group (pregnant women, people under 24 years old or caring for infants, people with high-risk medical conditions and health-care workers) to be protected before the swine flu reaches its expected mid-winter peak.

Learn more about H1N1 influenza vaccine clinical trials

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) News statement: "Early Results from Clinical Trials of 2009 H1N1Influenza Vaccines in Healthy Adults".

Sep
06
2009

Appendix removal
Appendix removalCourtesy Drvgaikwad

Why we need an appendix

Darwin thought that our appendix was vestigial, a left over organ that no longer served any purpose. Now we know that the appendix can serve as a hiding place for good gut bacteria so they can replenish the colon after unpleasant circumstances like diarrhea or colon cleansing.

"Two years ago, Duke University Medical Center researchers said that the supposedly useless appendix is actually where good gut bacteria safely hide out during some unpleasant intestinal conditions." Scientific American