Health Technology Research Synopsis 96th Issue Date 27 DEC 10
Compiled By Ralph Turchiano www.vit.bz
Editors Top Five:
- 1. New research shows virus previously linked to chronic fatigue syndrome is a lab contaminant
- 2. Study shows how flu infections may prevent asthma
- 3. Study shows garlic could protect against hip osteoarthritis
- 4. Allergy treatment may cause new allergy
- 5. Beetroot juice could help people live more active lives In This Issue:
- 1. Pomegranate juice components inhibit cancer cell migration; in vivo testing planned
- 2. High levels of ‘good’ cholesterol may be associated with lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease
- 3. Study shows how flu infections may prevent asthma
- 4. The key to being attractive (and looking healthy)? A good night’s sleep
- 5. Allergy treatment may cause new allergy
- 6. Compound derived from curry spice is neuroprotective against stroke and traumatic brain injury
- 7. Scientists decode secrets of a very common virus that can cause cancer
- 8. Study links increased BPA exposure to reduced egg quality in women
- 9. Study supports gluten-free diet in potential celiac disease patients
- 10. Does fluoride really fight cavities by ‘the skin of the teeth?’
- 11. Study shows garlic could protect against hip osteoarthritis
- 12. New study suggests almonds may help reduce risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease
- 13. Researcher finds proximity to freeway associated with autism
- 14. Beetroot juice could help people live more active lives
- 15. FDA Panel Calls for Safety Review of Mercury in Dental Fillings
- 16. Study finds injectable and oral birth control do not adversely affect glucose and insulin levels
- 17. New research shows virus previously linked to chronic fatigue syndrome is a lab contaminant
- 18. Training the best treatment for tennis elbow
- 19. Boosting supply of key brain chemical reduces fatigue in mice
- 20. Prenatal micronutrient supplementation boosts children’s cognition in Nepal
- 21. Blue-green algae tested for treating ALS
- 22. Placebos work — even without deception
- 23. Designer probiotics could reduce obesity
Pomegranate juice components inhibit cancer cell migration; in vivo testing planned
Research presented at American Society of Cell Biology’s 50th annual meeting in Philadelphia
Researchers at the University of California, Riverside (UCR), have identified components in pomegranate juice that seem to inhibit the movement of cancer cells and weaken their attraction to a chemical signal that has been shown to promote the metastasis of prostate cancer to the bone, according to a presentation today at the American Society for Cell Biology’s 50th Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.
The researchers in the UCR laboratory of Manuela Martins-Green, Ph.D., plan additional testing in an in vivo model for prostate cancer to determine dose-dependent effects and side effects of the two components.
The effect, if any, of pomegranate juice on the progression of prostate cancer is controversial.
In a 2006 study of prostate cancer patients who daily drank an eight-ounce glass of pomegranate juice, UCLA researchers detected a decline in prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels that suggested a potential slowing of cancer progression.
The UCLA researchers did not try to define the potential biological mechanism behind pomegranate juice’s effects in the study.
In Sept. 2010, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed suit against Pom Wonderful, the natural foods company that provided the pomegranate juice for the UCLA research and has supported other research on pomegranate juice. The FTC charged the company with making false and misleading claims about the juice’s effects on health.
In previous studies, Martins-Green and her research team used a standardized concentration of pomegranate juice on two types of laboratory-cultured prostate cancer cells that were resistant to testosterone.
Resistance to the hormone indicates a potentially strong metastatic potential. The researchers noted not only increased cell death among the pomegranate juice-treated tumor cells but also increased cell adhesion and decreased cell migration in those cancer cells that had not died.
The Martins-Green lab next analyzed the fruit juice to identify the active ingredients that had a molecular impact on cell adhesion and migration in metastatic prostate cancer cells. Martins-Green, graduate student Lei Wang and undergraduate student Jeffrey Ho identified phenylpropanoids, hydrobenzoic acids, flavones and conjugated fatty acids.
“This is particularly exciting because we can now modify these naturally occurring components of the juice to improve their functions and make them more effective in preventing prostate cancer metastasis,” said Martins-Green.
“Because the genes and proteins involved in movement of prostate cancer cells are essentially the same as those involved in movement of other types of cancer cells, the same modified components of the juice could have a much broader impact in cancer treatment,” she said.
Public release date: 13-Dec-2010
High levels of ‘good’ cholesterol may be associated with lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease
High levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as “good” cholesterol, appear to be associated with a reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease in older adults, according to a report in the December issue of Archives of Neurology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
“Dyslipidemia [high total cholesterol and triglycerides] and late-onset Alzheimer’s disease are highly frequent in western societies,” the authors write as background information in the article. “More than 50 percent of the U.S. adult population has high cholesterol. About 1 percent of people age 65 to 69 years develop Alzheimer’s disease, and the prevalence increases to more than 60 percent for people older than 95 years.”
Christiane Reitz, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues at Columbia University’s Taub Institute, New York, studied 1,130 older adults to examine the association of blood lipid (fat) levels with Alzheimer’s disease. The study included a random sampling of Medicare recipients 65 or older residing in northern Manhattan, with no history of dementia or cognitive impairment. The researchers defined higher levels of HDL cholesterol as 55 milligrams per deciliter or more.
To determine this association, data were collected from medical, neurological and neuropsychological evaluations. Additionally, the authors assigned a diagnosis of “probable” Alzheimer’s disease when onset of dementia could not be explained by any other disorder. A diagnosis of “possible” Alzheimer’s disease was made when the most likely cause of dementia was Alzheimer’s disease but there were other disorders that could contribute to the dementia, such as stroke or Parkinson disease.
During the course of follow-up, there were 101 new cases of Alzheimer’s disease, of which 89 were probable and 12 were possible. The mean (average) age of individuals at the onset of probable and possible Alzheimer’s disease was 83 years, and compared with people who were not diagnosed with incident Alzheimer’s disease, those who did develop dementia were more often Hispanic and had a higher prevalence of diabetes at the start of the study. Higher plasma levels of HDL cholesterol were associated with a decreased risk of both probable and possible Alzheimer’s disease, even after adjusting for vascular risk factors and lipid-lowering treatments. Although higher plasma total cholesterol, non-HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels also were associated with decreased risks of probable and possible Alzheimer’s disease, these associations became non-significant after adjusting for vascular risk factors and lipid-lowering treatments.
“In this study, higher levels of HDL cholesterol were associated with a decreased risk of both probable and possible Alzheimer’s disease,” the authors conclude. “An important consideration in the interpretation of the results is that it was conducted in an urban multiethnic elderly community with a high prevalence of risk factors for mortality and dementia. Thus, our results may not be generalizeable to cohorts with younger individuals or to cohorts with participants with a lower morbidity [disease] burden.”
Public release date: 13-Dec-2010
Study shows how flu infections may prevent asthma
Boston, Mass. – In a paper that suggests a new strategy to prevent asthma, scientists at Children’s Hospital Boston and their colleagues report that the influenza virus infection in young mice protected the mice as adults against the development of allergic asthma. The same protective effect was achieved by treating young mice with compound isolated from the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a bacterium that colonizes the stomach and is best known for causing ulcers and increasing the risk of gastric cancers.
The findings, published online December 13 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, provide a potential immunological mechanism in support of the “hygiene hypothesis,” an idea that attributes the increasing rate of asthma and allergies to the successful reduction of childhood infections with vaccines and antibiotics. The hygiene hypothesis is also supported by epidemiological studies associating certain childhood infections, such as respiratory viral infections or gastrointestinal infection with H. pylori, with a lower risk of developing asthma.
“Some infections appear to result in important protective effects against asthma,” says Dale Umetsu, MD, PhD, of Children’s Division of Immunology, a senior author of the paper, and Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. “But we certainly don’t want to give people dangerous infections to prevent asthma. So if we can understand how infections prevent asthma, we may be able to replicate the good parts and avoid the bad parts of infection and develop new treatments for children to prevent asthma.”
In mice, influenza A infection appeared to confer its benefits by expanding an immature cell type in the lung known as natural killer T (NKT) cells, part of the innate immune system. The same beneficial NKT cells in the lung could be expanded by several NKT-stimulating molecules known as glycolipids, including one isolated from H. pylori.
The active infectious agents protected against asthma only if the mice were exposed when very young (2 weeks). “Flu infection in adult mice makes the allergic reaction worse,” says Ya–Jen Chang, PhD, first author and a postdoctoral fellow in Umetsu’s lab.
Previous studies examining the hygiene hypothesis have focused on the adaptive immune system, which features immune cells that are slow to respond but are able to develop long-term memory, such as those stimulated by each year’s flu vaccine or those involved in seasonal allergies.
In contrast, the new paper examines the innate immune system, which responds rapidly to infections and shapes adaptive immune responses. This study specifically focuses on NKT cells, one of the first responders to many infections. Previous work by Umetsu’s team implicated NKT cells as a cause of asthma. http://www.childrenshospital.org/newsroom/Site1339/mainpageS1339P1sublevel194.html. In contrast, the latest study reports on a new subset of inhibitory NKT cells that seem to prevent allergic reactions in the airways — if stimulated at the right time by the right infectious agents or the right glycolipid.
“In the absence of influenza A or the H. pylori compound, we see an expansion of NKT cells that cause asthma and allergies,” says Umetsu. “We’re now trying to understand how to specifically activate the inhibitory subset of NKT cells. Treatments focused on specifically expanding this inhibitory subset of cells in children might prevent the development of asthma.”
The researchers want to explore the therapeutic applications of the H. pylori glycolipid compound, synthesized by British lipid biochemist Petr Illarionov, PhD. “It might be a good candidate for an asthma vaccine,” says Chang. Umetsu wants to test the next generation of glycolipid compounds, and to illuminate their specific mechanism of action, with a more detailed characterization of the inhibitory NKT cells.
Public release date: 14-Dec-2010
The key to being attractive (and looking healthy)? A good night’s sleep
Research: Beauty sleep — experimental study on the perceived health and attractiveness of sleep deprived people
If you want to look attractive and healthy, the best thing you can do is get a good night’s sleep, finds research in the Christmas issue published on bmj.com today.
For the first time, say the authors, there is scientific backing for the concept of beauty sleep.
The study, led by John Axelsson from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, investigated the relationship between sleep and perceptions of attractiveness and health. The authors believe this research is important in today’s 24 hour society with the number of people suffering from sleep disorders and disturbed sleep on the rise.
Twenty-three participants between the ages of 18 to 31 took part in the study. They were photographed between 2pm and 3pm on two occasions, once after normal sleep and once after being deprived of sleep. Smokers were excluded from the research and no alcohol was allowed for two days prior to the experiment.
The photographs were taken in a well-lit room and the distance to the camera was fixed. During both photography sessions participants wore no make-up, had their hair loose (combed back if they had long hair) and underwent similar cleaning or shaving procedures. They were asked to have a relaxed, neutral facial expression for both photos.
Sixty-five observers, who were blinded to the sleep status of the subjects, rated the photographs for attractiveness and whether the individuals looked healthy/unhealthy or tired/not tired.
The observers judged the faces of sleep-deprived participants as less healthy, less attractive and more tired.
The authors conclude that the facial signals of sleep deprived people affect facial appearance and judgments of attractiveness, health and tiredness.
Allergy treatment may cause new allergy
‘Pruritic nodules’ are small lumps under the skin that cause itching and which, according to some studies, can remain for several years. A study of whooping cough vaccinations in Gothenburg a few years ago showed that almost one per cent of the children developed pruritic nodules in the area of the vaccination. Threeoutoffourof the children who had a reaction with nodulesalso developed an allergy to aluminium.
“This was completely unexpected. Aluminium has been used as an adjuvant, intensifier, in vaccines for over 70 years with only a small number of reports of pruritic nodules and allergic contact dermatitis”, says Eva Netterlid. Her research has been carried out at the Occupational and Environmental Dermatology Unit in Malmö.
There are a number of possible explanations as to why aluminium allergy has become more common.
There is new technology for identifying the allergy, the type of aluminium compounds used in vaccines and other treatments may have changed, and the number of vaccinations has increased with the increase in international travel.
Eva Netterlid only found a very small number of pruritic nodules in a study of diphtheria vaccinations of Swedish 10-year-olds. She then went on to study hyposensitisation, a treatment in which gradually higher doses of an allergenic substance are given to patients who are allergic to pollen, mites, etc. to habituate them to the substance.
This treatment also uses aluminium as an intensifier. The follow-up in this case showed a higher number of reactions. Of 37 children treated, allergic contact dermatitis from aluminium was seen in 8 children and pruritic nodules in 13 children. The 24 children with allergies who were included in the study but who were not given the treatment had neither pruritic nodules nor aluminium allergy.
Another study was of hyposensitisation of children and adults with allergic respiratory diseases. It was found that almost four per cent of the subjects had allergic contact dermatitis from aluminium. There were individuals with aluminium allergy in both the treated and the untreated group, and the allergy could therefore not be conclusively linked to the treatment. However, examination of the patients’ arms before and one year after the treatment showed that the number of people with nodules had increased significantly, and the proportion who had pruritic nodules had also increased.
Eva Netterlid and her colleagues hope to be able to continue with their research in the area. One important issue is whether different aluminium compounds produce different outcomes; another is whether those who have had a positive result in the test for aluminium allergy also have clinical symptoms when exposed to drugs and cosmetics containing aluminium.
Ralph’s Note – The original article title did not mention vaccine at all.
Public release date: 14-Dec-2010
Compound derived from curry spice is neuroprotective against stroke and traumatic brain injury
LA JOLLA, CA–A synthetic derivative of the curry spice turmeric, made by scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, dramatically improves the behavioral and molecular deficits seen in animal models of ischemic stroke and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Two new studies suggest that the novel compound may have clinical promise for these conditions, which currently lack good therapies.
Ischemic stroke is the leading cause of disability and the third leading cause of death of older people in the United States, while TBI is the leading cause of death and disability in both civilians and military personnel under the age of 45; in particular, it is the major cause of disability in veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. In both conditions, those who survive frequently have serious behavioral and memory deficits. The only FDA-approved treatment for stroke is tissue plasminogen activator (TPA), which is effective only in about 20 percent of cases. There is no clinically documented treatment for TBI.
In earlier studies, David R. Schubert. Ph.D., and Pamela Maher, Ph.D., in the Salk Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory had developed a series of new compounds using a novel drug discovery paradigm that starts with natural products derived from plants; it then calls for selecting synthetic derivatives that show efficacy in multiple assays testing protection against various aspects of the nerve cell damage and death that occur in brain injuries and in age-associated neurodegenerative diseases. One compound, called
CNB-001, which was derived from curcumin, the active ingredient in the spice turmeric, proved highly neuroprotective in all of the assays; it also enhanced memory in normal animals.
While the Salk group has a great deal of expertise in age-associated neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, they do not run animal models of TBI and stroke. “To test the prediction that drugs from our new drug discovery scheme will work in multiple models of CNS disease and trauma,” Schubert explains, “we undertook a series of experiments to assay the drugs in collaboration with researchers at Cedars-Sinai and UCLA, who are leaders in the fields of stroke and TBI, respectively, and appreciate the potential for therapeutics based on natural products and their derivatives.”
Employing the same animal model of stroke that was used to develop TPA, Paul Lapchak, Ph.D., of the Department of Neurology at the Burns and Allen Research Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, collaborated with Schubert’s team in a study that showed that CNB-001 was at least as effective as TPA in preventing the behavioral deficits caused by stroke. The study, published in the Dec. 2, 2010 edition of the Journal of Neurochemistry, also demonstrated that unlike TPA, which reduces clotting in the blood vessels of the brain, the Salk compound has a direct protective effect on nerve cells within the brain. Maher has found that it maintains specific cell signaling pathways required for nerve cell survival.
Similarly, in a study to be published in early 2011 in Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair, Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, Ph.D., and his colleagues in the Department of Physiological Science and Division of Neurosurgery at the University of California, Los Angeles used a rodent model of TBI to demonstrate that CNB-001 dramatically reversed the behavioral deficits in both locomotion and memory that accompany the brain injury. As with stroke, CNB-001 was again found to maintain the critical signaling pathways required for nerve cell survival, as well as the connections between nerve cells that are lost with the injury.
The results of these two studies, which used two distinct models of brain injury, indicate that the Salk compound has clinical potential in conditions where there is currently no effective treatment.
“Existing drug therapies for complex neurological conditions such as stroke and Alzheimer’s disease target only one aspect of the condition, while in fact many different factors contribute to the pathology,” observes Schubert. “In the drug discovery program our lab uses at Salk, drug candidates must show efficacy in tissue culture models of several aspects of the condition before they are introduced into animal models. We believe that this approach is making an important difference in the discovery of effective drugs.”
In related work, Maher used the same drug discovery paradigm to identify a compound that is effective in animal models of Huntington’s disease. “Although these brain disorders appear very different, they share common changes in the nerve cells, which suggests that compounds that prevent these changes will be effective in multiple disorders,” she notes.
Public release date: 15-Dec-2010
Scientists decode secrets of a very common virus that can cause cancer
DURHAM, N.C. – About 90 percent of people are infected at some time in their lives with Epstein- Barr virus (EBV), usually with no ill effects. But individuals with compromised immune systems, such as people with organ transplants or HIV infection, have a greater risk of cancer occurring because of this virus.
Scientists at the Duke Cancer Institute have discovered a pathway that infected cells use to root out EBV infections, a finding that has implications for understanding the human response to cancer-causing viruses in general.
“Using cell culture studies, we have uncovered a major pathway that the infected host cell activates to prevent an oncogenic virus from causing cancer,” said senior author Micah Luftig, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology. “We proposed that the cell was sensing that the virus
is trying to take over. When this oncogenic stress response is activated, it keeps the virus in check, and now we know why.”
The Luftig group also learned how the Epstein-Barr virus overcomes the cell’s response. “The findings may eventually yield therapies to benefit people who don’t have good immune systems and who need protection from a threatening EBV infection,” Luftig said.
This work appears in the Dec. 15 online issue of Cell Host and Microbe.
Very early in many people’s lives, there is a huge expansion of immune system B cells infected with EBV. But thanks to the oncogenic stress response and a strong immune system, the majority of these infected cells are killed off and the person remains healthy. Luftig and his group, including lead authors Pavel Nikitin and Chris Yan, found two enzymes, called kinases, which were critical in mediating this oncogenic stress response and preventing unchecked B-cell cell growth, called immortalization.
When the scientists blocked the ATM and Chk2 kinases, unchecked growth resulted in 10 times more infected cells. This burgeoning cell growth is related to several types of cancer, including post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder, in which a transplant patient gets a form of lymphoma because of B-cell proliferation, and HIV-associated B-cell lymphomas among others.
“This finding can be extended to the general case of any oncogene being activated that might start the process of tumor formation,” Luftig said. “About 20 percent of all human cancers are caused by infectious agents, where about 80 percent of these infections are viral.” Another example of a viral infection leading to cancer is the human papillomavirus, implicated in cervical cancer.
Epstein-Barr virus infection can mean different courses for different people. In children 4-5 years old, a first infection with the virus may cause a mild illness, but if this primary infection happens during adolescence, the person may suffer a case of mononucleosis with heavy fatigue and other symptoms. In immune-compromised people, the virus can do much worse damage and cause forms of lymphoma.
Study links increased BPA exposure to reduced egg quality in women
A small-scale University of California, San Francisco-led study has identified the first evidence in humans that exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) may compromise the quality of a woman’s eggs retrieved for in vitro fertilization (IVF). As blood levels of BPA in the women studied doubled, the percentage of eggs that fertilized normally declined by 50 percent, according to the research team.
The chemical BPA, which makes plastic hard and clear, has been used in many consumer products such as reusable water bottles. It also is found in epoxy resins, which form a protective lining inside metal food and beverage cans.
“While preliminary, the data indicate the negative effect of BPA on reproductive health and the importance of allocating more funding to further investigate why such environmental contaminants might be disrupting fertility potential,” said Victor Y. Fujimoto, MD, lead study author and professor in the UCSF Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences, who also is on the faculty of the UCSF Center for Reproductive Health.
Findings are available online in the journal Fertility and Sterility at http://j.mp/fyjTFF.
In the study, BPA levels and fertilization rates were analyzed for 26 women undergoing IVF during 2007 and 2008 at the UCSF Center for Reproductive Health. The women were a subgroup of a larger study evaluating the effect on reproductive health of trace exposures to toxic metals – mercury, cadmium and lead.
“Given the widespread nature of BPA exposure in the U.S., even a modest effect on reproduction is of substantial concern,” said Michael S. Bloom, PhD, senior author and an assistant professor in the departments of Environmental Health Sciences, and Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the School of Public Health of the University at Albany, State University of New York. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found BPA in the urine of nearly everyone tested in a 2004 analysis of the U.S. population.
BPA is gaining global attention as an environmental contaminant that impacts health owing to its widespread exposure and endocrine-disrupting properties, according to the researchers. An endocrine disruptor is a synthetic chemical that when absorbed into the body either mimics or blocks hormones and interferes with the body’s normal functions.
Previous studies in mouse models have indicated that BPA levels alter the DNA of eggs, and a 2010 study in humans demonstrated BPA urinary concentrations to be inversely associated with the number of eggs retrieved during an IVF cycle.
“Unfortunately, at this time there is no clinically-available test to determine BPA levels in women,” Fujimoto said. “Despite the limited evidence, a cautious approach for women who are considering IVF treatment would be to reduce their exposure to BPA through modifications in lifestyle and diet.”
Earlier this year, an alliance of partners led by the UCSF Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment launched an online resource called Toxic Matters (available at http://prhe.ucsf.edu/prhe/toxicmatters.html) to help consumers make smarter decisions about substances that can harm general and reproductive health.
The brochure and web page include tips on reducing exposure to metals and synthetic chemicals in everyday life—at home, at work, and in the community—and provide links to other sources with more detailed information.
Public release date: 15-Dec-2010
Study supports gluten-free diet in potential celiac disease patients
Findings from a new study of 141 adults add to an ongoing medical debate over which patients with symptoms of celiac disease should go on a gluten-free diet. Published in ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research, the study concludes that people currently diagnosed as “potential” celiac disease patients and not advised to follow a gluten-free diet may not be “potential” patients at all. Rather, the scientists found that these patients have the same distinctive metabolic fingerprint as patients with full-blown disease who do benefit from gluten-free diets.
In the study, Ivano Bertini and colleagues explain that celiac disease is an autoimmune digestive disorder characterized by the inability to digest a protein called gliadin, a component of gluten, which is found in wheat, rye, and barley. The condition causes diarrhea, bloating, and other symptoms in over 3 million people in the United States alone. Treatment is avoidance of foods containing gluten. But the disease is often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Definitive diagnosis involves biopsy of the small intestine, showing tissue damage. People with a positive blood test for the condition but no positive biopsy usually are diagnosed as “potential” celiac patients and may or may not be advised to follow a gluten-free diet.
The scientists used magnetic resonance metabolic profiling to analyze the biochemical markers in the
blood and urine of 61 patients with celiac disease, 29 with potential celiac disease, and 51 healthy people. They found that those with potential disease largely shared the same profile as those with the confirmed disease and that the biochemical markers in both groups differed significantly from those of the healthy individuals. “Our results demonstrate that metabolic alterations may precede the development of small intestinal villous atrophy and provide a further rationale for early institution of gluten-free diet in patients with potential celiac disease, as recently suggested by prospective clinical studies,” the scientists conclude.
Public release date: 15-Dec-2010
Does fluoride really fight cavities by ‘the skin of the teeth?’
In a study that the authors describe as lending credence to the idiom, “by the skin of your teeth,” scientists are reporting that the protective shield fluoride forms on teeth is up to 100 times thinner than previously believed. It raises questions about how this renowned cavity-fighter really works and could lead to better ways of protecting teeth from decay, the scientists suggest. Their study appears in ACS’ journal Langmuir.
Frank Müller and colleagues point out that tooth decay is a major public health problem worldwide. In the United States alone, consumers spend more than $50 billion each year on the treatment of cavities. The fluoride in some toothpaste, mouthwash and municipal drinking water is one of the most effective ways to prevent decay. Scientists long have known that fluoride makes enamel — the hard white substance covering the surface of teeth — more resistant to decay. Some thought that fluoride simply changed the main mineral in enamel, hydroxyapatite, into a more-decay resistant material called fluorapatite.
The new research found that the fluorapatite layer formed in this way is only 6 nanometers thick. It would take almost 10,000 such layers to span the width of a human hair. That’s at least 10 times thinner than previous studies indicated. The scientists question whether a layer so thin, which is quickly worn away by ordinary chewing, really can shield teeth from decay, or whether fluoride has some other unrecognized effect on tooth enamel. They are launching a new study in search of an answer.
Ralph’s Note – Maybe Flouride is just highly over rated.
Public release date: 16-Dec-2010
Study shows garlic could protect against hip osteoarthritis
Researchers at King’s College London and the University of East Anglia have discovered that women who consume a diet high in allium vegetables, such as garlic, onions and leeks, have lower levels of hip osteoarthritis.
The findings, published in the BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders journal, not only highlight the possible effects of diet in protecting against osteoarthritis, but also show the potential for using compounds found in garlic to develop treatments for the condition.
A relationship between body weight and osteoarthritis was previously recognised, although it is not yet completely understood. This study is the first of its kind to delve deeper into the dietary patterns and influences that could impact on development and prevention of the condition.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in adults, affecting around 8 million people in the UK, and women are more likely to develop it than men. It causes pain and disability by affecting the hip, knees
and spine in the middle-aged and elderly population. Currently there is no effective treatment other than pain relief and, ultimately, joint replacement.
The study, funded by Arthritis Research UK, the Wellcome Trust and Dunhill Medical Trust, looked at over 1,000 healthy female twins, many of whom had no symptoms of arthritis.
The team carried out a detailed assessment of the diet patterns of the twins and analysed these alongside x-ray images, which captured the extent of early osteoarthritis in the participants’ hips, knees and spine.
They found that in those who consumed a healthy diet with a high intake of fruit and vegetables, particularly alliums such as garlic, there was less evidence of early osteoarthritis in the hip joint.
To investigate the potential protective effect of alliums further, researchers studied the compounds found in garlic. They found that that a compound called diallyl disulphide limits the amount of cartilage- damaging enzymes when introduced to a human cartilage cell-line in the laboratory.
Dr Frances Williams, lead author from the Department of Twin Research at King’s College London, says: “While we don’t yet know if eating garlic will lead to high levels of this component in the joint, these findings may point the way towards future treatments and prevention of hip osteoarthritis.
“It has been known for a long time that there is a link between body weight and osteoarthritis. Many researchers have tried to find dietary components influencing the condition, but this is the first large scale study of diet in twins. If our results are confirmed by follow-up studies, this will point the way towards dietary intervention or targeted drug therapy for people with osteoarthritis.”
Professor Ian Clark of the University of East Anglia said: “Osteoarthritis is a major health issue and this exciting study shows the potential for diet to influence the course of the disease. With further work to confirm and extend these early findings, this may open up the possibility of using diet or dietary supplements in the future treatment osteoarthritis.”
Public release date: 16-Dec-2010
New study suggests almonds may help reduce risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease
Modesto, CA (Dec. 16, 2010) – With nearly 16 million Americans living today with prediabetes, a condition that is the precursor to type 2 diabetes, and half of all Americans expected to have either prediabetes or type 2 diabetes by the year 2020, nutritional approaches to maintaining healthy blood sugar levels are essential.1,2 The findings of a scientific study examining the health promotion and disease prevention benefits of almond consumption were published in the June, 2010 Journal of the American College of Nutrition. The study, one of the first of its kind to quantify prevention data, illustrates that consuming an almond-enriched diet may help improve insulin sensitivity and decrease LDL-cholesterol levels in those with prediabetes.3,4
The study looked at the effects of consuming an almond-enriched diet on factors linked to the progression of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in adults with prediabetes. After 16 weeks of consuming either an almond-enriched or regular diet, both in accordance with American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommendations, the group that consumed an almond-enriched diet showed significantly improved LDL- cholesterol levels and measures of insulin sensitivity, risk factors for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. A caveat is that although study participants in both groups were instructed to consume the same amount of calories from carbohydrates, there was less self-reported carbohydrate intake among those in the almond group.4
“We have made great strides in chronic disease research from evidence of effective treatment to evidence of effective prevention” said Dr. Michelle Wien, Assistant Research Professor in Nutrition at Loma Linda University’s School of Public Health and Principal Investigator for this study, which was conducted at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Wien adds, “It is promising for those with risk factors for chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, that dietary changes may help to improve factors that play a potential role in the disease development. It would be beneficial to conduct tightly controlled metabolic feeding studies and postprandial studies that feature controlled amounts of carbohydrate to confirm the findings of this study, which was performed in a free-living population.”
Study at a Glance:
•The People: 65 adults with prediabetes (48 women and 17 men) with an average age of 53.5 +10y.4
•The Diet: The study population was randomly divided into either the intervention or control group. The control group consumed a diet that conformed with the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommendations, which consists of 15-20% calories from protein, 10% total energy from saturated fat, 60-70% from carbohydrate and monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and cholesterol < 300mg/day for 16 weeks, excluding all nuts. The intervention group consumed the ADA-recommended diet with 20% of the calories from almonds.4
•The Results: The intervention group, who were on an almond-enriched diet, showed greater improvements in insulin levels (-1.7µU/ml vs. +1.47µU/ml, p=0.002), homeostasis model analysis for insulin resistance (-0.48 vs. +0.30, p=0.007), homeostasis model analysis for beta-cell function (-13.2 vs.
+22.3, p=0.001) and clinically significant reductions in LDL-cholesterol (-12.4 mg/dl vs. -0.4 mg/dl) as compared to the nut-free group.4
This study suggests that consuming an ADA-recommended diet consisting of 20% of the total calories from almonds for 16 weeks is effective in improving LDL cholesterol levels and measures of insulin sensitivity in individuals with prediabetes.4 Nutrients in almonds, such as fiber and unsaturated fat, have been shown to help reduce LDL-cholesterol levels, increase insulin sensitivity and increase beta- cell function, all of which can help to prevent the development of type 2 diabetes and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
This study contributes to the growing body of evidence that suggests that almonds contribute to heart health. However, this study adds a new dimension to the existing research as it shows that almond consumption not only aids in disease management, but may contribute to risk reduction for certain chronic diseases through their nutrient composition. Almonds offer 3.5 grams of fiber, 13 grams of unsaturated fat and only 1 gram of saturated fat per one-ounce serving.5
Public release date: 16-Dec-2010
Researcher finds proximity to freeway associated with autism
Study demonstrates connection between autism and traffic pollution
LOS ANGELES (December 16, 2010) – Living near a freeway may be associated with increased risk of autism, according to a study published by a team of researchers from Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the
Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) and the UC Davis MIND Institute.
The paper will appear online in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives this week.
“Children born to mothers living within 309 meters of a freeway appeared to be twice as likely to have autism,” said Heather Volk, PhD, MPH, and first author on the study. Dr. Volk holds a joint appointment at the Community, Health Outcomes & Intervention Research Program at The Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute and the Department of Preventative Medicine at USC.
Autism is a developmental disorder that has long been ascribed to genetic factors. While changes in diagnostic criteria and increased awareness have been thought to contribute to the rising incidence of the disorder, these factors alone cannot explain the dramatic increase in the number of children affected. The Centers for Disease Control reported a 57 percent increase between 2002 and 2006. This study supports the theory that environmental factors, in conjunction with a strong genetic risk, may be one possible explanation for the increase.
While little is known about the role of environmental pollutants on autism, air pollution exposure during pregnancy has been seen to have physical and developmental effects on the fetus in other studies.
Exposure to air pollution during the first months of life has also been linked to cognitive developmental delay. However, the authors said that this study is the first to link exposure to vehicular pollutants with autism risk, though direct measurements of pollutants were not made.
Data from children with autism and typically developing children, who served as controls, were drawn from the Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment (CHARGE) study, a population- based case-control study of preschool children. Children were between the ages of 24 and 60 months at the start of the study and lived in communities around Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento.
Population-based controls were recruited from state of California birth files, and were frequency matched to the autism cases by age, gender, and broad geographic area. Each participating family was evaluated in person. All children were assessed; assessment of autism was done using well-validated instruments.
The study examined the locations where the children’s families’ lived during the first, second and third trimesters of their mothers’ pregnancies, and at the time of the baby’s birth and looked at the proximity of these homes to a major road or freeway. The participants’ gestational ages were determined using ultrasound measurements and prenatal records.
Dr.Volkandhercolleaguesfoundthatlivingwithin309 meters of a freeway (or just over 1000 feet) at birth was associated with a two-fold increase in autism risk. This association was not altered by adjustment for child gender or ethnicity, maximum education in the home, maternal age, or prenatal smoking. The researchers found no consistent pattern of association of autism with proximity to a major road.
Traffic-related air pollutants have been observed to induce inflammation and oxidative stress in toxicological and human studies. The emerging evidence that oxidative stress and inflammation are involved in the pathogenesis of autism supports the findings of this study.
“We expect to find many, perhaps dozens, of environmental factors over the next few years, with each of them probably contributing to a fraction of autism cases. It is highly likely that most of them operate in conjunction with other exposures and/or with genes,” said Irva Hertz-Picciotto, PhD, chief of the division of environmental and occupational health in the Department of Public Health Sciences at UC Davis, and principal investigator on the CHARGE study.
Public release date: 17-Dec-2010
Beetroot juice could help people live more active lives
New research into the health benefits of beetroot juice suggests it’s not only athletes who can benefit from its performance enhancing properties – its physiological effects could help the elderly or people with heart or lung-conditions enjoy more active lives.
Beetroot juice has been one of the biggest stories in sports science over the past year after researchers at the University of Exeter found it enables people to exercise for up to 16% longer. The startling results have led to a host of athletes – from Premiership footballers to professional cyclists – looking into its potential uses.
A new piece of research by the university in conjunction with the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry has revealed the physiological effects of drinking beetroot juice could help a much wider range of people.
In the latest study, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, the researchers looked at low intensity exercise and found that test subjects used less oxygen while walking – effectively reducing the effort it took to walk by 12%.
Katie Lansley, a PhD student from the university’s Sport and Health Sciences department and lead author of the study, said: “As you get older, or if you have conditions which affect your cardiovascular system, the amount of oxygen you can take in to use during exercise drops considerably. This means that, for some people, even simple tasks like walking may not be manageable.
“What we’ve seen in this study is that beetroot juice can actually reduce the amount of oxygen you need to perform even low-intensity exercise. In principle, this effect could help people do things they wouldn’t otherwise be able to do.”
Whenconsumed,beetrootjuicehastwomarked physiological effects. Firstly, it widens blood vessels, reducingbloodpressureandallowingmorebloodflow.Secondly,it affects muscle tissue, reducing the amount of oxygen needed by muscles during activity. The combined effects have a significant impact on performing physical tasks, whether it involves low-intensity or high-intensity effort.
So far the research on the impacts of beetroot juice has only been carried out on younger people who are in good health, but the researchers believe there is no reason why the effects of beetroot juice wouldn’t help others.
“While we haven’t yet measured the effects on the elderly or those with heart or lung conditions, there is the potential for a positive impact in these populations which we intend to go on and investigate further,” Katie Lansley added.
Beetroot juice contains high levels of nitrate. The latest study has proved that this is the key ingredient which causes the increase in performance, rather than any other component of the beetroot juice.
Professor Andy Jones, the senior scientist on the study and a pioneer of research into beetroot juice, said: “In this study, we were able to use – for the first time – both normal beetroot juice and beetroot juice with the nitrate filtered out. Test subjects didn’t know which one they were getting. The drinks both looked and tasted exactly the same. Each time the normal, nitrate-rich juice was used, we saw a marked improvement in performance which wasn’t there with the filtered juice – so we know the nitrate is the active ingredient.”
Public release date: 17-Dec-2010
Interactions cause seniors to drop antidepressants
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – More than half of older Americans taking an antidepressant for the first time were already taking another drug that could interact with it and cause side effects, researchers reported on Friday.
And a quarter of patients who suffered side effects stopped taking antidepressants altogether, the study by a team at Thomson Reuters, the University of Southern California, Sanofi Aventis and elsewhere found.
“We found a concerning degree of potentially harmful drug combinations being prescribed to seniors,” Dr. Tami Lee Mark of Thomson Reuters, parent company of Reuters, said in a statement.
Other studies have found that older adults are often taking dangerous combinations of prescription drugs, but doctors are not getting the message, the researchers report in the American Journal for Geriatric Psychiatry.
The research team used a Thomson Reuters database of claims for Medicare, the federal health insurance plan for people over 65.
They found more than 39,000 patients who started antidepressants between 2001 and 2006. “Twelve commonly reported antidepressant side effects were identified in the month after drug initiation,” Mark’s team writes.
More than 25 percent of the patients were prescribed antidepressants and another drug that could cause a major interaction. Another 36 percent had potential moderate interactions.
“The most common side effects were insomnia, somnolence and drowsiness, which occurred in 1,028 (2.6 percent) patients. The next most common side effect was dizziness, which was documented in 416 (1.1 percent) patients,” the researchers report.
The side effects meant patients often dropped the drug they were taking. Only 45 percent of those with documented side effects refilled the prescription for the same antidepressant, and a quarter quit taking antidepressants altogether.
Many adults are at risk of this problem, the researchers point out — other studies show that 25 percent of older adults with chronic illnesses such as arthritis or heart disease also have depression, and they have also been shown to be helped by antidepressants.
“Olderadultsoftenneed to be on many medications, some of which may contribute to depression and/or interact with antidepressants. Finally, older adults metabolize medications slowly and are more sensitive to side effects than younger patients,” the researchers conclude.
SOURCE: http://link.reuters.com/qyf72r The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, online November 14, 2010
Public release date: 17-Dec-2010
FDA Panel Calls for Safety Review of Mercury in Dental Fillings
By Amanda Gardner
WEDNESDAY, Dec. 15 (HealthDay News) — U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisers urged the agency to take a new look at data that may indicate potential safety problems with dental fillings that include mercury.
The FDA had ruled in 2009 that mercury used in so-called amalgam dental fillings is safe.
“We need to see where the science is and if there are gaps,” said the panel’s chairwoman, Dr. Marjorie Jeffcoat, a dentist and researcher with the University of Pennsylvania, CNN reported.
The advisory panel noted that the FDA’s 2009 decision was solid, based on scientific findings available at the time. The panel also stressed that more studies need to be done on the fillings, especially in children, CNN said.
The FDA advisory panel met in response to challenges from consumer and dental groups that contended the FDA relied on flawed data when it set the guidelines for mercury safety levels. Critics of fillings that use mercury as a component contend that they can pose neurotoxic health risks, especially to fetuses and young children.
In July 2009, the FDA placed tighter safety controls on the use of mercury dental fillings, but said they were safe for most people.
Since that time, the agency has categorized the fillings as Class II devices, which puts them into the middle range of risk. Class II devices usually carry some kind of precautions regarding their use.
But FDA officials said at the time of the 2009 vote that the fillings pose no real harm to most people.
“Patients are not at risk for long-term, mercury-related adverse health events,” Dr. Susan Runner, of the FDA’s Division of Anesthesiology, General Hospital, Infection Control and Dental Devices, said during a July 28, 2009, news conference. “There have only been 141 adverse event reports over 20 years. None resulted in death.”
The FDA did recommend in 2009 the following labeling changes: a warning against the use of these fillings in patients with mercury allergy; a warning that dental professionals use adequate ventilation when handling the material for the fillings; and a statement discussing the scientific evidence on the benefits and risks of dental amalgam.
“We’re not contraindicating dental amalgam in any patient group [other than those who have allergies],” Runner said at the news conference.
The 2009 ruling brought an angry reaction from the consumer organization Consumers for Dental Choice.
“I’m outraged. FDA broke its word,” Charles Brown, the group’s national counsel, said at the time of the 2009 vote. “They put a warning a year ago on the Web site and promised to keep those warnings on the Web site that warned of neurological damage to children and unborn children.
Bowing to the dental products industry, FDA has, for the first time in memory, withdrawn a warning about neurological harm to children and the unborn. It’s a contemptuous attitude toward lower income and minority children because they’re the ones that get amalgam. The rich get resin.”
The agency decision followed a lengthy debate on the supposed dangers of these fillings, which included a
lawsuit filed in 2006 against the FDA by several consumer groups, including Moms Against Mercury and Consumers for Dental Choice.
As part of that settlement, the FDA agreed to classify mercury fillings, also known as dental amalgam, by July 28, 2009, and posted a notice on its Web site that said: “Dental amalgams contain mercury, which may have neurotoxic effects on the nervous systems of developing children and fetuses.”
Dental amalgam contains elemental mercury combined with other metals such as silver, copper, tin and zinc. The fillings, about 50 percent mercury, have been used for generations to stabilize decaying teeth. Dental experts contend that when mercury is bound to the other metals, it’s “encapsulated” and doesn’t pose a health risk. Consumer groups, however, contend that mercury, a known neurotoxin, does leak out in the form of mercury vapor and then gets into the bloodstream.
According to the American Dental Association, the use of amalgam is declining. In 1990, dental amalgams made up 67.6 percent of all dental restorations, but by 1999 it was 45.3 percent and, in 2003, an estimated 30 percent. Cavities that previously would have been treated with dental amalgam are now mostly filled with a resin composite.
Several countries have already either banned or advised against the use of mercury fillings.
Study finds injectable and oral birth control do not adversely affect glucose and insulin levels
GALVESTON, December 17, 2010 – Fasting glucose and insulin levels remain within normal range for women using injectable or oral contraception, with only slight increases among women using depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA), commonly known as the birth control shot, according to new research from the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB Health) in Galveston.
The study, published in the January 2011 issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology and conducted over three years, is the largest to measure fasting glucose and insulin levels among women using DMPA, oral (desogestrel) contraception and non-hormonal (bilateral tubal ligation, condom or abstinence) methods. Researchers found that DMPA users’ glucose levels increased steadily during the first 30 months of use, with the greatest increase occurring during the first six months. The observed increases, which were less than those reported in previous studies, were not significant enough to cause concern.
There are 62 million women of reproductive age in the United States. More than two million American women use DMPA, including approximately 400,000 teens, and more than 11 million use oral contraception.
“Previous studies were limited in scope and offered conflicting results, which led physicians to question whether hormonal contraception could lead to diabetes,” says lead author Dr. Abbey Berenson, professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Women’s Health. “Further studies are needed to determine how women with diabetes are affected by DMPA and oral contraception, but these results are reassuring for non-diabetic women already receiving the shot or on the pill.”
A Body of Research on the Effects of Contraception
The findings are the fourth in a series of UTMB Health studies published in Obstetrics and Gynecology that add to the growing literature enabling physicians to better counsel women accurately about the
positive and adverse side effects associated with widely used forms of contraception.
Other studies included in the series examined the effect of contraception on weight gain and bone density loss. All of the studies followed a sample of 703 African-American, Hispanic and white women between the ages of 16 -33 years-old from 2001 through 2004 who chose their own contraception method.
Researchers also examined such variables as: race and ethnicity, age, parity, duration of use, previous use of contraceptive method, lifestyle behaviors like diet, smoking, drinking and physical exercise, and socioeconomic status.
Findings include: Contraception and Bone Loss
In a study published in January 2010, Berenson and UTMB Health co-author Dr. Mahbubur Rahman, assistant professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Women’s Health, examined the relationship between contraception and bone mineral density (BMD) loss. They found:
•Nearly half of women using DMPA experienced high BMD loss in the hip or lower spine within two years of beginning the contraceptive.
•Women using DMPA who smoke, have low levels of calcium intake and never gave birth were at the highest risk for BMD loss.
•High-risk women continued to experience significant loss in BMD during the third year of DMPA use, especially in the hip – the most common fracture site in elderly women.
•Age, race or ethnicity, previous contraceptive use and body mass index (BMI) were not associated with higher BMD loss.
Contraception and Weight Gain
In two separate studies on weight gain and contraception use, published in March and August 2009, Berenson and Rahman found:
Women using DMPA gained an average of 11 pounds and increased their body fat by 3.4 percent over three years.
•Women who switched from DMPA to non-hormonal contraception began to slowly lose the weight and fat mass they gained – nearly four pounds over two years, while those who used oral contraception after the shots gained an average of four additional pounds in the same time span. Theamountofweight gained was dependent on length of time DMPA was used, as the rate of weight gain slowed over time.
•Twenty-fivepercent of DMPA users whose weight increased by five percent within the first six monthsofuse,called “early gainers,” were at risk for continued, excessive weight gain. The remaining 75 percent (“regular gainers”) gained only a small amount of weight or did not observe any change in their weight.
•Early gainers – who went on to gain an average of 24 pounds over three years – exhibited three major risk factors: a body mass index under 30; having children before starting DMPA; and a self- reported increase in appetite after six months of DMPA use.
•On average, early gainers increased their body weight an average of 19 pounds more than the regular gainers, who saw an average increase of five and a half pounds over three years.
A More Informed Physician-Patient Relationship
“Taken together, this body of research helps dispel myths surrounding birth control and shed light on side effects that had been anecdotally reported but not yet proven,” says Berenson. “Physicians can now better
explain the risks and benefits of various birth control methods and take appropriate action to protect patients’ long-term health, which may include switching to another contraception method.”
Ralph’s Note: Am I missing something here? The Title of the report is totally off topic. Then the Conclusion seems to totally gloss over some very serious long term side effects.
Public release date: 20-Dec-2010
New research shows virus previously linked to chronic fatigue syndrome is a lab contaminant
A virus previously thought to be associated with chronic fatigue syndrome is not the cause of the disease, a detailed study has shown. The research shows that cell samples used in previous research were contaminated with the virus identified as XMRV and that XMRV is present in the mouse genome.
XMRV was first linked to chronic fatigue syndrome – also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) – in a study published in October 2009, where blood samples from chronic fatigue syndrome patients were found to have traces of the virus. XMRV had also been identified previously in samples from certain prostate cancer patients.
The new study, published in Retrovirology, identifies the source of XMRV in chronic fatigue syndrome samples as being cells or mouse DNA rather than infection by XMRV. The research does not rule out a virus cause of chronic fatigue syndrome – it is simply not this virus.
The research team developed improved methods to detect XMRV against the genetic noise of other sequences and make recommendations for future study of virus causes of human disease.
“Our conclusion is quite simple: XMRV is not the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome,”says Professor Greg Towers, a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow at University College London (UCL). “All our evidence shows that the sequences from the virus genome in cell culture have contaminated human chronic fatigue syndrome and prostate cancer samples.
“It is vital to understand that we are not saying chronic fatigue syndrome does not have a virus cause – we cannot answer that yet – but we know it is not this virus causing it.”
The team, from University College London, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and University of Oxford, showed clearly that the experimental design of previous studies would pick up sequences that resembled XMRV; however, in this improved study, they could prove that the signal was from contamination by a laboratory cell line or mouse DNA. The sequences from the contaminated cell line and chronic fatigue patient samples were extremely similar, contrary to the pattern of evolution expected during the infectious spread of a virus in a human population.
They also showed that the existing methods would indicate that one in fifty human cell lines they examined were infected with XMRV-related viruses: they showed that contamination of human tumour cells with XMRV-related viruses is common and that a principal prostate cancer line used is contaminated.
“When we compare viral genomes, we see signs of their history, of how far they have travelled in space or time,” says Dr Stéphane Hué, Post Doctoral Researcher at UCL. “We would expect the samples from patients from around the world, collected at different times, to be more diverse than the samples from within a cell line in a lab, where they are grown under standard conditions. During infection and transmission in people, our immune system would push XMRV into new genetic variants.
“Viral infection is a battle between the virus and the host and XMRV does not have the scars of a virus that transmits between people.”
Together the results demonstrate that XMRV does not cause chronic fatigue syndrome or prostate cancer in these cases. The team’s methods suggest ways to ensure that virus contamination does not confound the search for a cause of disease in future work.
The authors propose that more rigorous methods are used to prevent contamination of cell and DNA samples. They also suggest that consistent and considered standards are needed for identifying viruses and other organisms as cause of a disease.
“Increasingly, we are using DNA-based methods to accelerate our understanding of the role of pathogens in disease,” explains Professor Paul Kellam, Virus Genomics group leader from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. “These will drive our understanding of infection, but we must ensure that we close the circle from identification to association and then causation.
The strongest lesson is that we must fully use robust guidelines and discriminatory methods to ascribe a cause to a disease.”
Ralph’s Note: That’s a very big woops.
Public release date: 20-Dec-2010
Training the best treatment for tennis elbow
Training and ergonomic advice are more effective than anti-inflammatory drugs and cortisone injections in treating tennis elbow, and give fewer side effects. This is the conclusion of a thesis presented at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
The thesis describes, among other topics, the selection of treatment by healthcare personnel, their experiences when treating patients with tennis elbow, and the results from
a training programme for tennis elbow. Healthcare personnel in Halland, including GPs, orthopaedic surgeons and physiotherapists, replied to a questionnaire.I”It became clear that treatment with medication has side effects in many cases. Most side effects were reported from just those treatments that are often the treatment of choice for tennis elbow by GPs, which are cortisone injections and anti-inflammatory drugs”, says Pia Nilsson, physiotherapist and scientist at the Sahlgrenska Academy.
She has also studied the results from a new structured training programme for tennis elbow. Seventy-eight patients were included in the first pilot study, which lasted for four months, while 297 patients took part in the follow-up study, which was carried out two years later. Their treatment involved following a home-training programme in order to build up strength in the elbow muscles. The patients need to increase their strength, since these muscles are fixed to the hand. This means that a patient’s grip strength becomes weaker when these muscles are weakened.
This can lead to the patient experiencing difficulty in his or her work, and being forced to take sick leave. Pia Nilsson explains that ergonomic advice can enable the patient to adapt to any difficulties at work, and many can continue to work with the aid of wrist support.
“It may be painful at night since manypeople sleep with a bent elbow, leading to difficulty straightening it in the morning. The bending of the elbow can be prevented with a simple night bandage and this facilitates the healing of the muscles”, says Pia Nilsson. She continues:
“A treatment programme designed by a physiotherapist and occupational therapist together reduces the patients’ pain, increases the function of the elbow and hand, and reduces the duration of sick leave. This programme heals tennis elbow better than cortisone injections. The method can provide benefits to the patient, the employer and society in general.”
Boosting supply of key brain chemical reduces fatigue in mice
Vanderbilt study could lead to new treatments for neuromuscular diseases Researchers at Vanderbilt University have “engineered” a mouse that can run on a
treadmill twice as long as a normal mouse by increasing its supply of acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter essential for muscle contraction.
The finding, reported this month in the journal Neuroscience, could lead to new treatments for neuromuscular disorders such as myasthenia gravis, which occurs when cholinergic nerve signals fail to reach the muscles, said Randy Blakely, Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt Center for Molecular Neuroscience.
Blakely and his colleagues inserted a gene into mice that increased the production of a
protein called the choline transporter at the neuromuscular junction.
The choline transporter is vital to the capacity for muscle contraction – including the ability to breathe – because it regulates the supply of choline, the precursor to acetylcholine. “We reasoned that giving more of this protein might enhance muscle function and reduce nerve-dependent fatigue,” Blakely said.
Other researchers have manipulated the gene for the muscle tissue growth factor myostatin to produce animals with greater strength and endurance, but Blakely said this may be the first time “neural endurance” was enhanced by manipulating the nerves that innervate muscle.
Drugs that increase choline transporter activity “could represent a novel therapeutic strategy” for myasthenia gravis and a wide range of other disorders that involve cholinergic signaling deficits, Blakely said.
These disorders include muscular dystrophy, congestive heart failure, depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). “The brain uses acetylcholine for a wide variety of functions, including the ability to sustain attention,” Blakely noted.
Last year, Blakely and his colleagues reported that a variation in the choline transporter gene is associated with the “combined” type of ADHD, which is characterized by both inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity.
Prenatal micronutrient supplementation boosts children’s cognition in Nepal
In developing countries where iron deficiency is prevalent, prenatal iron-folic acid supplementation increased offspring intellectual and motor functioning during school age, according to researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
They examined the intellectual and motor functioning of children whose mothers received micronutrient supplementation during pregnancy and found that aspects of intellectual functioning including working memory, inhibitory control, and fine motor functioning were positively associated with prenatal iron and folic acid supplementation. The results are published in the December 22/29 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
“Iron is essential for the development of the central nervous system,” said Parul Christian, DrPH, MSc, lead author of the study and an associate professor with the Bloomberg School’s Department of International Health. “Early iron deficiency can alter neuroanatomy, biochemistry, and metabolism, leading to changes in neurophysiologic processes that support cognitive and sensorimotor development.”
Researchers conducted a cohort study in rural Nepal, following 676 children aged 7 to 9 years from June 2007 to April 2009 who were born to women in a community-based, double-blind, randomized controlled trial of prenatal micronutrient supplementation between 1999 and 2001. Child participants were randomly assigned to receive daily iron, folic acid and zinc, or multiple micronutrients containing these plus 11 other micronutrients. All received vitamin A, as did a control group of vitamin A alone from early pregnancy through 3 months postpartum. Researchers assessed intellectual functioning using the universal nonverbal intelligence test (UNIT) and motor function was assessed using the Movement Assessment Battery for Children (MABC). The study found evidence that maternal prenatal supplementation with iron and folic acid was positively associated with general intellectual ability, some aspects of executive function, and fine motor control compared to offspring of mothers in the control group.
“This innovative study shows that in very low-income settings, children’s cognitive performance is influenced by their mother’s iron+folic acid status during pregnancy, along with school attendance, illustrating the importance of both nutritional and environmental interventions,” said Maureen Black, PhD, professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and an adjunct professor with the Bloomberg School’s Department of International Health.
“Few studies have examined whether micronutrient supplementation during gestation, a critical period of central nervous system development, affects children’s later functioning,” adds Christian. “Considering the significant role of iron and folic acid in the development of both intellectual and motor skills, antenatal use per international guidelines should be expanded in many low and middle-income settings where program coverage continues to be poor.”
Blue-green algae tested for treating ALS
Ancient food source may offer neuroprotection
Nutritional supplementation with Spirulina, a nutrient-rich, blue-green algae, appeared to provide neuroprotective support for dying motor neurons in a mouse model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, University of South Florida neuroscientists have found. Although more research is needed, they suggest that a spirulina-supplemented diet may provide clinical benefits for ALS patients.
A spirulina dietary supplement was shown to delay the onset of motor symptoms and disease progression, reducing inflammatory markers and motor neuron death in a G93A mouse model of ALS. Spirulina, an ancient food source used by the Aztecs, may
have a dual antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect on motor neurons, the researchers said.
Their study is published in the current issue of The Open Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Journal (3:36-41).
“ALS is a degenerative motor neuron disease,” said the study’s lead author, Svitlana Garbuzova-Davis, PhD, DSc, assistant professor in the Department of Neurosurgery and Brain Repair at USF. “Most available treatments relieve symptoms without altering the underlying disease. However, evidence for oxidative stress has been associated with ALS and, in our past studies, we demonstrated potent decreases in markers of oxidative damage and inflammation in aged rats fed diets supplemented with spirulina or spinach. In this initial study, the diet supplement was fed only to pre-symptomatic mice. Further studies showing the diet supplement’s effect on the lifespan of symptomatic ALS mice are needed to prove the treatment’s effectiveness.”
Specifically, when the USF researchers tested compounds found in blueberries and spirulina for effectiveness in animal models of stroke and aging in past experiments, they noted neuroprotective effects of the nutritional supplements.
The current study compared ALS mice receiving a spirulina-supplemented diet over a 10- week period with mice that did not receive the diet supplementation. The spirulina-fed ALS mice showed reduced inflammatory markers and motor neuron degeneration over that period.
“The focus of our future ALS experiments will include motor neuron counts and an examination of lifespan following dietary spirulina supplementation in symptomatic ALS mice,” said study co-author Paula C. Bickford, PhD, a professor in the USF Department of Neurosurgery and Brain Repair and a senior research biologist at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Florida.
Placebos work — even without deception
BOSTON, Mass. (December 22, 2010)—For most of us, the “placebo effect” is synonymous with the power of positive thinking; it works because you believe you’re taking a real drug. But a new study rattles this assumption.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School’s Osher Research Center and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) have found that placebos work even when administered without the seemingly requisite deception.
The study is published December 22 in PLoS ONE.
Placebos—or dummy pills—are typically used in clinical trials as controls for potential new medications. Even though they contain no active ingredients, patients often respond to them. In fact, data on placebos is so compelling that many American physicians (one study estimates 50 percent) secretly give placebos to unsuspecting patients.
Because such “deception” is ethically questionable, HMS associate professor of medicine Ted Kaptchuk teamed up with colleagues at BIDMC to explore whether or not the power of placebos can be harnessed honestly and respectfully.
To do this, 80 patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) were divided into two groups: one group, the controls, received no treatment, while the other group received a regimen of placebos—honestly described as “like sugar pills”—which they were instructed to take twice daily.
“Not only did we make it absolutely clear that these pills had no active ingredient and were made from inert substances, but we actually had ‘placebo’ printed on the bottle,” says Kaptchuk. “We told the patients that they didn’t have to even believe in the placebo effect. Just take the pills.”
For a three-week period, the patients were monitored. By the end of the trial, nearly twice as many patients treated with the placebo reported adequate symptom relief as compared to the control group (59 percent vs. 35 percent). Also, on other outcome measures, patients taking the placebo doubled their rates of improvement to a degree roughly equivalent to the effects of the most powerful IBS medications.
“I didn’t think it would work,” says senior author Anthony Lembo, HMS associate professor of medicine at BIDMC and an expert on IBS. “I felt awkward asking patients to literally take a placebo. But to my surprise, it seemed to work for many of them.”
The authors caution that this study is small and limited in scope and simply opens the door to the notion that placebos are effective even for the fully informed patient—a hypothesis that will need to be confirmed in larger trials.
“Nevertheless,” says Kaptchuk, “these findings suggest that rather than mere positive thinking, there may be significant benefit to the very performance of medical ritual. I’m excited about studying this further. Placebo may work even if patients knows it is a placebo.”
Designer probiotics could reduce obesity
Specially designed probiotics can modulate the physiology of host fat cells say scientists writing in Microbiology. The findings could lead to specialised probiotics that have a role in the prevention or treatment of conditions such as obesity.
Scientists from the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre (APC), Cork, University College Cork and Teagasc, in Ireland engineered a strain of Lactobacillus to produce a version of a molecule called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). When this engineered bacterial strain was fed to mice, the researchers found that the composition of the mice’s fat tissue was significantly altered, demonstrating that ingesting live bacteria can influence metabolism at remote sites in the body.
CLA is a fatty acid that is produced in different versions by different bacteria. One type, called t10, c12 CLA, has been shown to be associated with decreased body fat in humans and other animals. t10, c12 CLA also has the ability to inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells and induce their death. However, this type of CLA is only produced by certain types of bacteria including Propionibacterium acnes – a skin bacterium that can cause acne.
In this study, an enzyme-encoding gene from P. acnes was transferred to the Lactobacillus strain allowing it to produce t10, c12 CLA. Lactobacillus strains are common inhabitants of the normal gut flora and are often found in probiotic products. The researchers found that the level of t10, c12 CLA in the mice’s fat tissue quadrupled when they were fed this recombinant probiotic. Thus, this study demonstrates that gut microbes have an impact on host metabolism, and in particular fat composition.
Dr Catherine Stanton, from Teagasc who led the study explained the significance of the results. “CLA has already been shown to alleviate non-alcoholic fatty liver disease that often accompanies obesity. Therefore, increasing levels of CLA in the liver by ingestion of a probiotic strain is of therapeutic relevance,” she said. “Furthermore, fat is not an inert layer around our bodies, it is active and proinflammatory and is a risk factor for many diseases, including cancers. The work shows that there is potential to influence this through diet-microbe-host interactions in the gut.”
Thesamegroupof researchers previously found that microbially produced CLA was able to reduce the viability of colon cancer cells by 92%. “It is possible that a CLA-producing probiotic may also be able to keep colon cancer cells in check. All our findings to date demonstrate that the metabolism of gut bacteria can modulate host cell activity in ways that are beneficial to the host,” explained Dr Stanton. “We need to further investigate the effects of CLA-producing bacteria on human metabolism, but our work so far certainly opens up new possibilities for the use of probiotics for improvement of human health.”
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