Halliburton pleads guilty to destroying Gulf spill evidence

Thursday Sep 19, 2013   |   Reuters

Aerial photograph shows continuing preparations to drill a relief well at the Macondo oil spill site in the Gulf of Mexico

Credit: Staff Photographer / Reuters/Reuters
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) – Halliburton Co pleaded guilty on Thursday to federal charges of destroying evidence, stemming from its role in the 2010 BP oil disaster that killed 11 men and sent more than 4 million barrels of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico.A former Halliburton cementing technology director in Texas also was charged on Thursday with destroying evidence.

U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo in New Orleans accepted the company’s guilty plea from Halliburton legal counsel Marc Mukasey, imposed the agreed-upon maximum fine of $200,000 and placed the company on a three-year probation term.

Mukasey did not make a statement on the company’s behalf.

The Macondo disaster, the worst-ever offshore oil spill in U.S. history, so far has cost BP about $42.4 billion in charges on its balance sheet from payouts, cleanup and restoration costs and ongoing litigation.

The plea deal with Halliburton was first announced by the company and the U.S. Department of Justice on July 25. The U.S. Justice Department revealed the single count of destroying evidence filed against the former Halliburton manager, Anthony Badalamenti, of Katy, Texas, on Thursday.

In its plea, Halliburton admitted to the misdemeanor charge of “intentionally causing damage without authorization to a protected computer.”

Halliburton provided cementing services for BP at the ill-fated Macondo drilling operation. Those services included placing “centralizers,” or huge plugs, at various points in piping as it was placed inside the drilled well. Centralizers help ensure cement properly seals a well.

Halliburton had recommended BP use 21 centralizers in the Macondo well, and BP chose to use six. Halliburton later claimed that if BP had followed its recommendation to use more, the well would have been more stable.

According to court documents, the government alleged that in May 2010, as part of Halliburton’s review of the disaster, Badalamenti directed another manager to run computer simulations comparing performance of 21 centralizers with that of six. In June that year, Badalamenti allegedly directed a second manager to run a similar comparison.

Both times, the simulations indicated there was little difference between use of 21 centralizers as opposed to six. Prosecutors allege that both times, Badalamenti ordered the managers to delete the simulation results from their computers, and both complied.

The judge noted that a company executive had directed employees to preserve material related to Macondo.

In an ongoing, multi-phase civil trial over the cause of the well explosion in federal court in New Orleans, both the government and BP contend that faulty cement work by Halliburton contributed to the disaster.

BP also contends that Halliburton destroyed computer evidence that would have shown those errors.

Brain-eating amoeba found in water supply of New Orleans suburb

  • The amoeba was found in the water supply  in four separate locations
  • Testing was done after a four-year-old  boy died after contracted the deadly organism on a slip and  slide
  • Despite being filled with deadly amoebas,  the water is safe to drink, according to officials

By  Ryan Gorman

PUBLISHED: 13:16 EST, 16  September 2013 |  UPDATED: 13:17 EST, 16 September 2013

The notorious brain-eating amoeba responsible  for multiple deaths has been found in the suburban New Orleans water  supply.

Found last week in St Bernard Parish, LA., to  the east of New Orleans, officials began testing for the amoeba after a child  died of encephalitis. Officials insist the water is safe to drink, but are  flushing the supply with increased levels of chlorine to be safe.

The Parish supervisor even drank tap water  during a televised interview to prove the point, though he did look a little  uneasy after swallowing.

Killer: This brain eating amoeba, found in a suburban New Orleans public water supply, killed a four-year-old boy 

Killer: This brain eating amoeba, found in a suburban  New Orleans public water supply, killed a four-year-old boy

 

‘Two sites from fire hydrants came up with  the presence and two sites at water bibs, which is the water facets at people  houses,’ Peralta explained to  WWL.

Conducted after a four-year-old boy died  after contracting the lethal amoeba while on a slip and slide, authorities  confirmed the amoeba was found in four locations tested from the municipal water  supply.

‘It was the only time where he was in contact  with some water that could have penetrated all the way up into his nose,’  Louisiana State Epidemiologist Raoult  Ratard said.

‘If there is even the slightest risk, I have  to treat it and I have to treat the entire system,’ Parish President Dave  Peralta told Fox 8, explaining the increased levels of chlorine in the  supply.

The Parish head further explained that the  testing shouldn’t be a complete cause for concern. ‘Not  all of the sites that the CDC tested came back positive,’ he told Fox  8.

Further defending the Parish’s water supply,  Peralta said ‘this parasite exists all over, it’s not unique to St. Bernard  Parish.’

SafeSafe

Would you drink this water?: Officials insist it is safe  to drink, despite being filled with brain eating amoebas

 

 

For now, officials are cautioning locals to  be cautious with sprinklers, slip and slides and pools.

‘You just have to be a little more careful,’  said Mr Ratard.

‘The only way you can get the amoeba is to  get inside the nose,’ Mr Ratard explained  to WGNO.

‘Yes your nose. It`s got to go up your nose,’  local Edgar Brown said to WGNO. ‘That could happen in the shower you know? I`m  trying to be very careful.’

Actions speak louder: Parish President Dave Peralta drank a glass of tap water on television to prove it's safe 

Actions speak louder: Parish President Dave Peralta  drank a glass of tap water on television to prove it’s safe

 

‘When you take a shower water usually goes  down. It does not go up.’ Mr Ratard confirmed to WGNO. ‘If you take a bath,  don`t put your head under water. You want to be sure the amoeba is not there?  You make sure there is enough chlorine in the water.’

Almost 120 people have died of the deadly  organism since the early 1960s, most notably a 12-year-old Florida boy this  summer.

Local schools have turned off water fountains  and closed pools as a precaution.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2422554/Brain-eating-amoeba-water-supply-New-Orleans-suburb.html#ixzz2f7P1UZlq Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Epicenter of Gulf Oil Spill Says BP Hasn’t Paid It 1 Cent

 

By SABRINA CANFIELD

 

 

NEW ORLEANS (CN) – Plaquemines Parish, the “epicenter” of the BP oil spill, sued the company in Federal Court, claiming BP has not paid a single one of its claims for damages arising from the worst oil spill in history.

Plaquemines Parish “was the epicenter of the damage and clean-up operations following the blowout, explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon,” the parish says in its complaint. A parish is Louisiana’s equivalent of other states’ counties.

Plaquemines Parish is the long tongue of land and water that extends into the Gulf of Mexico south of New Orleans.

The parish says it has complied with all terms for compensation from BP under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA).

Yet, “despite filing a presentment of claims under OPA, and despite numerous attempts by parish representatives to resolve those claims amicably through BP’s ‘Government Entity Claims Team,’ BP has failed to counter or formally respond to a single one of these claims,” the complaint states.

The catastrophe, which began with the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig on April 20, 2010, “caused massive, pervasive, temporary, permanent damage to coastal property owned and controlled by PPG [Plaquemines Parish]; the reduction of parish tax revenues; direct and indirect damage to wetland properties; the necessity for long-term coastal monitoring to predict, prevent and intervene in future re-contamination of wetland properties; the added increased cost of ongoing and planned coastal restoration projects; the increased administrative costs for caring for mental and physical effects of the spill on Plaquemines populous; the need to market the parish to mitigate the loss of tourism and to reverse stigma damages; and the investigative costs necessary to survey, assess and compile the harm caused by BP,” the complaint states.

The parish adds: “Continuing through today and into the foreseeable future, the chain of events which culminated in the blowout and explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon, caused extensive and pervasive damage to one of the most sensitive and vital estuaries in the world. The wildlife in the parish is dependent upon the marine estuaries for proliferation and propagation and so too are the residents and the economy of Plaquemines Parish. In fact, PPG’s dependency upon its natural resources for its economic viability is unmatched in Louisiana. By BP’s own accounts, over 44,000 acres of parish owned wetlands and beaches were directly impacted by oiling caused by BP. Documented oil mats lay off the coast of the parish causing re-oiling of marshes with each new storm. The parish has suffered and will continue to suffer economic damages in the form of past and future lost revenues, lost business opportunities, diminution in asset values, loss and damage to wetlands, costs of coastal monitoring, increased costs of coastal projects due to delay and damage to wetlands, increased administrative medical and psychiatric costs, administrative costs for BP’s use of parish facilities, administrative costs of PPG in response to the disaster, wear and tear on parish infrastructure, costs to implement marking campaign to reverse stigma damages and investigative costs in preparing the presentment to BP and all other damages set forth and categorized in PPG’s October 30, 2012 presentment to BP.”

The parish seeks compensatory and punitive damages, civil and criminal penalties and attorneys’ fees.

It is represented by Scott Bickford with Martzell & Bickford of New Orleans

 

Long-term use of vitamin E may decrease COPD risk

2010 study posted for filing

Contact: Keely Savoie
ksavoie@thoracic.org
212-315-8620
American Thoracic Society

ATS 2010, NEW ORLEANS— Long-term, regular use of vitamin E in women 45 years of age and older may help decrease the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) by about 10 percent in both smokers and non-smokers, according to a study conducted by researchers at Cornell University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

“As lung disease develops, damage occurs to sensitive tissues through several proposed processes, including inflammation and damage from free radicals,” said Anne Hermetet Agler, doctoral candidate with Cornell University’s Division of Nutritional Sciences. “Vitamin E may protect the lung against such damage.”

The results of the study will be presented at the ATS 2010 International Conference in New Orleans.

“The findings from our study suggest that increasing vitamin E prevents COPD,” said Ms. Agler. “Previous research found that higher intake of vitamin E was associated with a lower risk of COPD, but the studies were not designed to answer the question of whether increasing vitamin E intake would prevent COPD. Using a large, randomized controlled trial to answer this question provided stronger evidence than previous studies.”

Ms. Agler and colleagues reviewed data compiled by the Women’s Health Study, a multi-year, long-term effort ending in 2004 that focused on the effects of aspirin and vitamin E in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer in nearly 40,000 women aged 45 years and older. Study participants were randomized to receive either 600 mg of vitamin E or a placebo every other day during the course of the research.

Although fewer women taking vitamin E developed COPD, Ms. Agler noted the supplements appeared to have no effect on asthma, and women taking vitamin E supplements were diagnosed with asthma at about the same rate as women taking placebo pills. Importantly, Ms. Agler noted the decreased risk of COPD in women who were given vitamin E was the same for smokers as for non-smokers.

Ms. Agler said further research will explore the way vitamin E affects the lung tissue and function, and will assess the effects of vitamin E supplements on lung diseases in men.

“If results of this study are borne out by further research, clinicians may recommend that women take vitamin E supplements to prevent COPD,” Ms. Agler noted. “Remember that vitamin E supplements are known to have detrimental effects in some people; for example vitamin E supplementation increased risk of congestive heart failure in cardiovascular disease patients. Broader recommendations would need to balance both benefits and risks. ”

 

###

 

“Randomized Vitamin E Supplementation and Risk of Chronic Lung Disease (CLD) in the Women’s Health Study” (Session C103, Tuesday, May 18, 1:30- 4:00 p.m., CC-Room 353-355 (Third Level), Morial Convention Center; Abstract 3727)

82nd Health Research Report 31 MAY 2010 – Reconstruction

Health Research Report

82nd Issue 31 May 2010

Compiled By Ralph Turchiano

www.healthresearchreport.me www.vit.bz

www.youtube.com/vhfilm www.facebook.com/engineeringevil

www.engineeringevil.com

In this Issue:

1. Long-term use of vitamin E may decrease COPD risk

2. Eating processed meats, but not unprocessed red meats, may raise risk of heart disease and diabetes

3. Most patients survive common thyroid cancer regardless of treatment

4. ‘Fountain of youth’ steroids could protect against heart disease. Such as Pregnenolone and DHEA

5. New evidence caffeine may slow Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, restore cognitive function

6. High-fat ketogenic diet effectively treats persistent childhood seizures

7. Study: Yogurt-like drink DanActive reduced rate of common infections in daycare children

8. Estrogen-lowering drugs minimize surgery in breast cancer patients

9. Prenatal exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals linked to breast cancer

10. Anti-aging supplements may be best taken not too late in life

11. Folate prevents alcohol-induced congenital heart defects in mice

12. LSUHSC researcher finds surprising link between sugar in drinks and blood pressure

13. Dangerous lung worms found in people who eat raw crayfish

14. Some bisphosphonates users unfamiliar with drug’s possible side effects on oral health

15. You have no natural right to food

 

Public release date: 16-May-2010

Long-term use of vitamin E may decrease COPD risk

ATS 2010, NEW ORLEANS— Long-term, regular use of vitamin E in women 45 years of age and older may help decrease the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) by about 10 percent in both smokers and non-smokers, according to a study conducted by researchers at Cornell University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

“As lung disease develops, damage occurs to sensitive tissues through several proposed processes, including inflammation and damage from free radicals,” said Anne Hermetet Agler, doctoral candidate with Cornell University’s Division of Nutritional Sciences. “Vitamin E may protect the lung against such damage.”

The results of the study will be presented at the ATS 2010 International Conference in New Orleans.

“The findings from our study suggest that increasing vitamin E prevents COPD,” said Ms. Agler. “Previous research found that higher intake of vitamin E was associated with a lower risk of COPD, but the studies were not designed to answer the question of whether increasing vitamin E intake would prevent COPD. Using a large, randomized controlled trial to answer this question provided stronger evidence than previous studies.”

Ms. Agler and colleagues reviewed data compiled by the Women’s Health Study, a multi-year, long-term effort ending in 2004 that focused on the effects of aspirin and vitamin E in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer in nearly 40,000 women aged 45 years and older. Study participants were randomized to receive either 600 mg of vitamin E or a placebo every other day during the course of the research.

Although fewer women taking vitamin E developed COPD, Ms. Agler noted the supplements appeared to have no effect on asthma, and women taking vitamin E supplements were diagnosed with asthma at about the same rate as women taking placebo pills. Importantly, Ms. Agler noted the decreased risk of COPD in women who were given vitamin E was the same for smokers as for non-smokers.

Ms. Agler said further research will explore the way vitamin E affects the lung tissue and function, and will assess the effects of vitamin E supplements on lung diseases in men.

“If results of this study are borne out by further research, clinicians may recommend that women take vitamin E supplements to prevent COPD,” Ms. Agler noted. “Remember that vitamin E supplements are known to have detrimental effects in some people; for example vitamin E supplementation increased risk of congestive heart failure in cardiovascular disease patients. Broader recommendations would need to balance both benefits and risks. ”

Public release date: 17-May-2010

Eating processed meats, but not unprocessed red meats, may raise risk of heart disease and diabetes

Boston, MA – In a new study, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) have found that eating processed meat, such as bacon, sausage or processed deli meats, was associated with a 42% higher risk of heart disease and a 19% higher risk of type 2 diabetes. In contrast, the researchers did not find any higher risk of heart disease or diabetes among individuals eating unprocessed red meat, such as from beef, pork, or lamb. This work is the first systematic review and meta-analysis of the worldwide evidence for how eating unprocessed red meat and processed meat relates to risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

“Although most dietary guidelines recommend reducing meat consumption, prior individual studies have shown mixed results for relationships between meat consumption and cardiovascular diseases and diabetes,” said Renata Micha, a research fellow in the department of epidemiology at HSPH and lead author of the study. “Most prior studies also did not separately consider the health effects of eating unprocessed red versus processed meats.”

The study appears online May 17, 2010, on the website of the journal Circulation.

The researchers, led by Renata Micha, a research fellow in the department of epidemiology, and HSPH colleagues Dariush Mozaffarian, assistant professor in the department of epidemiology and Sarah Wallace, junior research fellow in the department of epidemiology, systematically reviewed nearly 1,600 studies. Twenty relevant studies were identified, which included a total of 1,218,380 individuals from 10 countries on four continents (United States, Europe, Australia, and Asia).

The researchers defined unprocessed red meat as any unprocessed meat from beef, lamb or pork, excluding poultry. Processed meat was defined as any meat preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or with the addition of chemical preservatives; examples include bacon, salami, sausages, hot dogs or processed deli or luncheon meats. Vegetable or seafood protein sources were not evaluated in these studies.

The results showed that, on average, each 50 gram (1.8 oz) daily serving of processed meat (about 1-2 slices of deli meats or 1 hot dog) was associated with a 42% higher risk of developing heart disease and a 19% higher risk of developing diabetes. In contrast, eating unprocessed red meat was not associated with risk of developing heart disease or diabetes. Too few studies evaluated the relationship between eating meat and risk of stroke to enable the researchers to draw any conclusions.

“Although cause-and-effect cannot be proven by these types of long-term observational studies, all of these studies adjusted for other risk factors, which may have been different between people who were eating more versus less meats,” said Mozaffarian. “Also, the lifestyle factors associated with eating unprocessed red meats and processed meats were similar, but only processed meats were linked to higher risk.”

“When we looked at average nutrients in unprocessed red and processed meats eaten in the United States, we found that they contained similar average amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol. In contrast, processed meats contained, on average, 4 times more sodium and 50% more nitrate preservatives,” said Micha. “This suggests that differences in salt and preservatives, rather than fats, might explain the higher risk of heart disease and diabetes seen with processed meats, but not with unprocessed red meats.”

Dietary sodium (salt) is known to increase blood pressure, a strong risk factor for heart disease. In animal experiments, nitrate preservatives can promote atherosclerosis and reduce glucose tolerance, effects which could increase risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Given the differences in health risks seen with eating processed meats versus unprocessed red meats, these findings suggest that these types of meats should be studied separately in future research for health effects, including cancer, the authors said. For example, higher intake of total meat and processed meat has been associated with higher risk of colorectal cancer, but unprocessed red meat has not been separately evaluated. They also suggest that more research is needed into which factors (especially salt and other preservatives) in meats are most important for health effects.

Current efforts to update the United States government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are often a reference for other countries around the world, make these findings particularly timely, the researchers say. They recommend that dietary and policy efforts should especially focus on reducing intake of processed meat.

“To lower risk of heart attacks and diabetes, people should consider which types of meats they are eating. Processed meats such as bacon, salami, sausages, hot dogs and processed deli meats may be the most important to avoid,” said Micha. “Based on our findings, eating one serving per week or less would be associated with relatively small risk.”

Public release date: 17-May-2010

Most patients survive common thyroid cancer regardless of treatment

Individuals with papillary thyroid cancer that has not spread beyond the thyroid gland appear to have favorable outcomes regardless of whether they receive treatment within the first year after diagnosis, according to a report in the May issue of Archives of Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Papillary thyroid cancer is commonly found on autopsy among individuals who died of other causes, according to background information in the article. “Studies published as early as 1947 demonstrated it, and more recently, a report has shown that nearly every thyroid gland might be found to have a cancer if examined closely enough,” the authors write. “The advent of ultrasonography and fine-needle aspiration biopsy has allowed many previously undetected cancers to be identified, changing the epidemiology of the disease. Over the past 30 years, the detected incidence of thyroid cancer has increased three-fold, the entire increase attributable to papillary thyroid cancer and 87% of the increase attributable to tumors measuring less than 2 centimeters.”

Louise Davies, M.D., M.S., of Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, N.H. and Gilbert Welch, M.D., M.P.H., both also of Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, White River Junction, Vt., and The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, Hanover, studied cancer cases and individual treatment data from National Cancer Institute registries. They then tracked cause of death through the National Vital Statistics System.

The researchers identified 35,663 patients with papillary thyroid cancer that had not spread to the lymph nodes or other areas at diagnosis. Of these, 440 (1.2 percent) did not undergo immediate, definitive treatment. Over an average of six years of follow-up, six of these patients died of their cancer. This was not significantly different from the rate of cancer death among the 35,223 individuals who did undergo treatment (161 over an average of 7.6 years of follow-up).

The 20-year survival rate from cancer was estimated to be 97 percent for those who did not receive treatment and 99 percent for those who did. “These data help put management decisions about localized papillary thyroid cancer in perspective: papillary thyroid cancers of any size that are confined to the thyroid gland, have no lymph node metastases at presentation and do not show extraglandular extension [reach beyond the thyroid gland] are unlikely to result in death due to the cancer,” the authors write.

“Thus, clinicians and patients should feel comfortable considering the option to observe for a year or longer cancers that fall into this category,” they conclude. “When treatment is elected, the cancers in this category can be managed with either hemithyroidectomy [removal of part of the thyroid] or total thyroidectomy [removal of the complete gland], and the prognosis will be the same.”

Public release date: 17-May-2010

‘Fountain of youth’ steroids could protect against heart disease

Such as Pregnenolone and DHEA

A natural defence mechanism against heart disease could be switched on by steroids sold as health supplements, according to researchers at the University of Leeds.

The University of Leeds biologists have identified a previously-unknown ion channel in human blood vessels that can limit the production of inflammatory cytokines – proteins that drive the early stages of heart disease.

They found that this protective effect can be triggered by pregnenolone sulphate – a molecule that is part of a family of ‘fountain-of-youth’ steroids. These steroids are so-called because of their apparent ability to improve energy, vision and memory.

Importantly, collaborative studies with surgeons at Leeds General infirmary have shown that this defence mechanism can be switched on in diseased blood vessels as well as in healthy vessels.

So-called ‘fountain of youth’ steroids are made naturally in the body, but levels decline rapidly with age. This has led to a market in synthetically made steroids that are promoted for their health benefits, such as pregnenolone and DHEA. Pregnenolone sulphate is in the same family of steroids but it is not sold as a health supplement.

“The effect that we have seen is really quite exciting and also unexpected,” said Professor David Beech, who led the study. “However, we are absolutely not endorsing any claims made by manufacturers of any health supplements. Evidence from human trials is needed first.”

A chemical profiling study indicated that the protective effect was not as strong when cholesterol was present too. This suggests that the expected benefits of ‘fountain of youth’ steroids will be much greater if they are used in combination with cholesterol-lowering drugs and/or other healthy lifestyle strategies such as diet and exercise.

“These ‘fountain of youth’ steroids are relatively cheap to make and some of them are already available as commercial products. So if we can show that this effect works in people as well as in lab-based studies, then it could be a cost-effective approach to addressing cardiovascular health problems that are becoming epidemic in our society and world-wide,” Professor Beech added.

The paper is published in Circulation Research.

Public release date: 17-May-2010

New evidence caffeine may slow Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, restore cognitive function

Researchers explore potential benefits of caffeine in special supplement to the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease

Amsterdam, The Netherlands, May 17, 2010 – Although caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive drug worldwide, its potential beneficial effect for maintenance of proper brain functioning has only recently begun to be adequately appreciated. Substantial evidence from epidemiological studies and fundamental research in animal models suggests that caffeine may be protective against the cognitive decline seen in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). A special supplement to the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, “Therapeutic Opportunities for Caffeine in Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Neurodegenerative Diseases,” sheds new light on this topic and presents key findings.

Guest editors Alexandre de Mendonça, Institute of Molecular Medicine and Faculty of Medicine, University of Lisbon, Portugal, and Rodrigo A. Cunha, Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology of Coimbra and Faculty of Medicine, University of Coimbra, Portugal, have assembled a group of international experts to explore the effects of caffeine on the brain. The resulting collection of original studies conveys multiple perspectives on topics ranging from molecular targets of caffeine, neurophysiological modifications and adaptations, to the potential mechanisms underlying the behavioral and neuroprotective actions of caffeine in distinct brain pathologies.

“Epidemiological studies first revealed an inverse association between the chronic consumption of caffeine and the incidence of Parkinson’s disease,” according to Mendonça and Cunha. “This was paralleled by animal studies of Parkinson’s disease showing that caffeine prevented motor deficits as well as neurodegeneration “Later a few epidemiological studies showed that the consumption of moderate amounts of caffeine was inversely associated with the cognitive decline associated with aging as well as the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. Again, this was paralleled by animal studies showing that chronic caffeine administration prevented memory deterioration and neurodegeneration in animal models of aging and of Alzheimer’s disease.”

Key findings presented in “Therapeutic Opportunities for Caffeine in Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Neurodegenerative Diseases”:

•Multiple beneficial effects of caffeine to normalize brain function and prevent its degeneration

•Caffeine’s neuroprotective profile and its ability to reduce amyloid-beta production

•Caffeine as a candidate disease-modifying agent for Alzheimer’s disease

•Positive impact of caffeine on cognition and memory performance

•Identification of adenosine A2A receptors as the main target for neuroprotection afforded by caffeine consumption

•Confirmation of data through valuable meta-analyses presented

•Epidemiological studies corroborated by meta-analysis suggesting that caffeine may be protective against Parkinson’s disease

•Several methodological issues must be solved before advancing to decisive clinical trials

Mendonça and Cunha also observe that “the daily follow-up of patients with AD has taught us that improvement of daily living may be a more significant indicator of amelioration than slight improvements in objective measures of memory performance. One of the most prevalent complications of AD is depression of mood, and the recent observations that caffeine might be a mood normalizer are of particular interest.”

Public release date: 17-May-2010

 

High-fat ketogenic diet effectively treats persistent childhood seizures

The high-fat ketogenic diet can dramatically reduce or completely eliminate debilitating seizures in most children with infantile spasms, whose seizures persist despite medication, according to a Johns Hopkins Children’s Center study published online April 30 in the journal Epilepsia.

Infantile spasms, also called West syndrome, is a stubborn form of epilepsy that often does not get better with antiseizure drugs. Because poorly controlled infantile spasms may cause brain damage, the Hopkins team’s findings suggest the diet should be started at the earliest sign that medications aren’t working.

“Stopping or reducing the number of seizures can go a long way toward preserving neurological function, and the ketogenic diet should be our immediate next line of defense in children with persistent infantile spasms who don’t improve with medication,” says senior investigator Eric Kossoff, M.D., a pediatric neurologist and director of the ketogenic diet program at Hopkins Children’s.

The ketogenic diet, made up of high-fat foods and few carbohydrates, works by triggering biochemical changes that eliminate seizure-causing short circuits in the brain’s signaling system. It has been used successfully in several forms of epilepsy.

A small 2002 study by the same Hopkins team showed the diet worked well in a handful of children with infantile spasms. The new study is the largest analysis thus far showing just how effective the diet can be in children with this condition.

Of the 104 children treated by the Hopkins team, nearly 40 percent, or 38 children, became seizure-free for at least six months after being on the diet for anywhere from just a few days to 20 months. Of the 38, 30 have remained so without a relapse for at least two years.

After three months on the diet, one-third of the children had 90 percent fewer seizures, and after nine months on the diet, nearly half of the children in the study had 90 percent fewer seizures. Nearly two-thirds had half as many seizures after six months on the diet.

Nearly two-thirds of the children experienced improvement in their neurological and cognitive development, and nearly 30 percent were weaned off antiseizure medications after starting the diet.

Most of the children continued taking their medication even after starting the diet, the researchers say, because the two are not mutually exclusive and can often work in synergy.

Researchers also used the diet as first-line therapy in18 newly diagnosed infants never treated with drugs, 10 of whom became seizure free within two weeks of starting the diet. The finding suggests that, at least in some children, the diet may work well as first-line therapy, but the researchers say they need further and larger studies to help them identify patients for whom the diet is best used before medications. Hopkins Children’s neurologists are actively using the ketogenic diet as first-line treatment in children with infantile spasms with promising results.

Side effects, including constipation, heartburn, diarrhea and temporary spikes in cholesterol levels, occurred in one-third of the children, with six percent of them experiencing diminished growth.

Despite these side effects, a recent study by Kossoff and his team showed that the ketogenic diet is safe long term.

Conflict of interest disclosure: Dr. Kossoff has received grant support from Nutricia Inc., for unrelated research. The terms of these arrangements are being managed by the Johns Hopkins University in accordance with its conflict-of-interest policies.

Public release date: 19-May-2010

Study: Yogurt-like drink DanActive reduced rate of common infections in daycare children

Washington, DC – The probiotic yogurt-like drink DanActive reduced the rate of common sicknesses such as ear infections, sinusitis, the flu and diarrhea in daycare children, say researchers who studied the drink in the largest known probiotic clinical trial to be conducted in the United States. An additional finding, however, showed no reduction in the number school days missed. The study led by Daniel Merenstein of Georgetown University School of Medicine (GUSOM), was funded by The Dannon Company, Inc., and published today online in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Probiotic foods are continuing to increase in popularity and some are marketed for the potential benefits of probiotics such as Lactobacillus casei (L. casei) DN-114 001, the probiotic in DanActive. Studies in other countries have found that probiotics, which are live micro-organisms, produce positive health benefits in children, including the reduction of school days missed due to infections. However, most of the research was conducted outside the United States in structured conditions not comparable to normal everyday living.

“We were interested in a study that resembled how children in the U.S. consume drinks that are stored in home refrigerators and consumed without study personnel observation,” says the study’s lead author Daniel Merenstein, MD, director of research in the Department of Family Medicine at GUSOM.

“…To our knowledge this is the largest probiotic clinical trial conducted in the U.S. and provides much needed data,” say the authors of the study. “We studied a functional food, not a medicinal product; parents will thus feed their children without any physician input and we felt it was best to assess [the drink] under similar conditions.”

The study, titled DRINK (Decreasing the Rates of Illness in Kids), was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study – the gold standard in clinical research design. It included 638 healthy children, aged three to six, who attended school five days a week. Parents were asked to give their child a daily strawberry yogurt-like drink. Some of the drinks were supplemented with the probiotic strain L. casei DN-114 001 (DanActive), while others had no probiotics (placebo). Neither the study coordinators, the children, nor the parents knew which drink was given to which participant until the study ended. In addition to phone interviews with researchers, parents kept daily diaries of their child’s health and the number of drinks consumed.

Researchers found a 19 percent decrease of common infections among the children who drank the yogurt-like drink with L. casei DN-114 001 compared to those whose drink did not have the probiotic. More specifically, those who drank DanActive had 24 percent fewer gastrointestinal infections (such as diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting), and 18 percent fewer upper respiratory tract infections (such as ear infections, sinusitis and strep). However, the reduction in infections did not result in fewer missed school days or activities – also a primary outcome of the study.

“Our study had mixed results,” says Merenstein. “Children in school or daycare are especially susceptible to these illnesses. We did find some differences in infection rates but this did not translate to fewer missed school days or change in daily activity. It is my hope that safe and tolerable ways to reduce illnesses could eventually result in fewer missed school days which means fewer work days missed by parents.”

“It is important that more of these products are put under the microscope by independent academic researchers,” he concludes.

Public release date: 20-May-2010

Estrogen-lowering drugs minimize surgery in breast cancer patients

A nationwide study has confirmed the benefit of giving estrogen-lowering drugs before surgery to breast cancer patients. The treatment increased the likelihood that women could undergo breast-conservation surgery, also called lumpectomy, instead of mastectomy.

The study’s chair, Matthew J. Ellis, MD, PhD, the Anheuser-Busch Endowed Chair in Medical Oncology and a breast cancer specialist with the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, will present the findings June 7 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Sponsored by the American College of Surgeons Oncology Group, the study took place at 118 hospitals across the country and involved 352 postmenopausal women with estrogen-receptor positive (ER+) breast tumors. The participants received aromatase inhibitors for 16 weeks before surgery for breast cancer, and the extent of their tumors was monitored before and after the drug treatment.

The lead investigator at the Washington University site was Julie A. Margenthaler, MD, assistant professor of surgery and a breast surgeon at the Siteman Cancer Center.

Aromatase inhibitors are also referred to as estrogen-lowering agents because they interfere with the body’s production of estrogen, a hormone that stimulates the growth of ER+ breast tumors. ER+ is the most common breast cancer, accounting for three-quarters of cases.

All women in the study had stage II or III breast cancer, in which tumors are about an inch or larger in size and may have spread to the lymph nodes in the underarm area. Participants were placed in one of three groups at the study’s start:

•marginal, meaning breast-conservation surgery was possible but likely to be disfiguring or to require several surgical procedures;

•mastectomy-only, meaning breast-conservation surgery was not possible; and

•inoperable, meaning mastectomy would not completely remove the cancer.

After the 16-week aromatase inhibitor therapy, the women were reevaluated to see which surgical option was appropriate for them. The results showed that 82 percent of women in the marginal group, 51 percent in the mastectomy-only group and 75 percent in the inoperable group had successful breast-conservation surgery instead of mastectomy.

“Aromatase inhibitor therapy shrank the tumors in many of these women and improved surgical outcomes,” Ellis says. “These results will encourage a change in practice across the country so that more women can benefit from the currently underutilized approach of administering estrogen-lowering agents before surgery.”

The study participants were randomly assigned to receive one of three estrogen-lowering agents: exemestane (25 mg daily), letrozole (2.5 mg daily) or anastrozole (1 mg daily). No statistically significant difference in effectiveness was found among the three drugs.

Ellis explains that there are other benefits to using estrogen-lowering agents before surgery.

“ER+ breast cancer can be thought of as a chronic disease because patients generally take estrogen-lowering agents for many years after surgery to repress recurrence,” Ellis says. “In other chronic diseases, such as hypertension or diabetes, a patient’s response to treatment is continually monitored. But we’ve never done that with breast cancer. By treating breast cancer patients with estrogen-lowering drugs for three or four months before surgery, we can monitor treatment response and then specifically tailor surgical and post-surgical treatment based on this response.”

 

Public release date: 21-May-2010

Prenatal exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals linked to breast cancer

A study in mice reveals that prenatal exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, like bisphenol-A (BPA) and diethylstilbestrol (DES), may program a fetus for life. Therefore, adult women who were exposed prenatally to BPA or DES could be at increased risk of breast cancer, according to a new study accepted for publication in Hormones & Cancer, a journal of The Endocrine Society.

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals are substances in the environment that interfere with hormone biosynthesis, metabolism or action resulting in adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological and immune effects in both humans and wildlife. These chemicals are designed, produced and marketed largely for specific industrial purposes.

“BPA is a weak estrogen and DES is a strong estrogen, yet our study shows both have a profound effect on gene expression in the mammary gland (breast) throughout life,” said Hugh Taylor, MD, of the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn. and lead author of the study. “All estrogens, even ‘weak’ ones can alter the development of the breast and ultimately place adult women who were exposed to them prenatally at risk of breast cancer.”

In this study, researchers treated pregnant mice with BPA or DES and then looked at the offspring as adults. When the offspring reached adulthood, their mammary glands still produced higher levels of EZH2, a protein that plays a role in the regulation of all genes. Higher EZH2 levels are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer in humans.

“We have demonstrated a novel mechanism by which endocrine-disrupting chemicals regulate developmental programming in the breast,” said Taylor. “This study generates important safety concerns about exposures to environmental endocrine disruptors such as BPA and suggests a potential need to monitor women exposed to these chemicals for the development of breast lesions as adults.”

Ralph’s Note – How many more warnings do we need ? If this stuff is not banned now. We may be responsible for the deaths of many generations to come.

 

Public release date: 24-May-2010

Anti-aging supplements may be best taken not too late in life

Anti-aging supplements made up of mixtures might be better than single compounds at preventing decline in physical function, according to researchers at the University of Florida’s Institute on Aging. In addition, it appears that such so-called neutraceuticals should be taken before very old age for benefits such as improvement in physical function.

The findings from rat studies, published last week in the journal PLoS One, have implications for how dietary supplementation can be used effectively in humans.

“I think it is important for people to focus on good nutrition, but for those of advanced age who are running out of energy and not moving much, we’re trying to find a supplement mixture that can help improve their quality of life,” said Christiaan Leeuwenburgh, Ph.D., senior author of the paper and chief of the biology of aging division in the UF College of Medicine.

Scientists do not fully understand all the processes that lead to loss of function as people age. But more and more research points to the mitochondrial free radical theory of aging, that as people age, oxidative damage piles up in individual cells such that the energy-generation system inside some cells stops working properly.

To address that problem, many anti-aging studies and supplements are geared toward reducing the effects of free radicals.

The UF researchers investigated the potential anti-aging benefits of a commercially available mixture marketed for relieving chronic fatigue and protecting against muscle aging. The supplement contains the antioxidant coenzyme Q10, creatine — a compound that aids muscle performance — and ginseng, which also has been shown to have antioxidant properties.

The study gauged the effects of the mixture on physical performance as well as on two mechanisms that underlie the aging process and many age-related disorders: dysfunction of the cells’ energy producing powerhouses, known as mitochondria, and oxidative stress.

The researchers fed the supplement to middle-aged 21-month-old and late-middle-aged 29-month-old rats — corresponding to 50- to 65-year-old and 65- to 80-year-old humans, respectively — for six weeks, and measured how strongly their paws could grip. Grip strength in rats is analogous to physical performance in humans, and deterioration in grip strength can provide useful information about muscle weakness or loss seen in older adults.

Grip strength improved 12 percent in the middle-aged rats compared with controls, but no improvement was found in the older group.

Measurements of the function of mitochondria corresponded with the grip strength findings. Stress tests showed that mitochondrial function improved 66 percent compared with controls in middle-aged rats but not in the older ones. That suggests that supplementation might be of greater effect before major age-related functional and other declines have set in, the researchers said.

“It is possible that there is a window during which these compounds will work, and if the intervention is given after that time it won’t work,” said Jinze Xu, Ph.D., first author of the paper and a postdoctoral researcher at UF.

The researchers are working to identify the optimal age at which various interventions can enhance behavioral or physical performance. Very few studies have been done to show the effect of interventions on the very old.

Interestingly, although the older rats had no improvement in physical performance or mitochondrial function, they had lowered levels of oxidative damage.

That shows that reduction of oxidative stress damage is not always matched by functional changes such as improvement in muscle strength.

As a result, research must focus on compounds that promote proper functioning of the mitochondria, since mitochondrial health is essential in older animals for reducing oxidative stress, the researchers said. And clinical trials need to be performed to test the effectiveness of the supplements in humans.

“It’s going to be very important to focus less on oxidative stress and biomarkers, and focus on having sufficient energy,” Leeuwenburgh said. “If energy declines, then you have an increased chance for oxidative stress or failure of repair mechanisms that recognize oxidative damage — we’re seeing that the health of mitochondria is central to aging.”

It is possible that although the supplement could help reduce the oxidative stress damage, because damage in much older animals was too great, energy could not be restored.

The different compounds in the mixture acted to produce effects that single compounds did not, because each component affected a different biochemical pathway in the body, addressing both oxidative stress and mitochondrial function, researchers said.

“People are catching on that using a single compound is not a good strategy — you have to use multiple compounds and target one or multiple pathways,” Leeuwenburgh said.

Public release date: 24-May-2010

Folate prevents alcohol-induced congenital heart defects in mice

University of South Florida study suggests high dose needed very early in pregnancy to protect developing heart

Tampa, FL (May 24, 2010) — A new animal study has found that high levels of the B-vitamin folate (folic acid) prevented heart birth defects induced by alcohol exposure in early pregnancy, a condition known as fetal alcohol syndrome.

Researchers at the University of South Florida College of Medicine and All Children’s Hospital report that the protection was afforded only when folate was administered very early in pregnancy and before the alcohol exposure. The dose that best protected against heart defects in mice was considerably higher than the current dietary recommendation of 400 micrograms (0.4 milligrams) daily for women of child-bearing age.

The findings were published online earlier this month in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

While more research is needed, the study has implications for re-evaluating folate supplementation levels during early pregnancy, said principal investigator Kersti Linask, PhD, the Mason Professor of Cardiovascular Development at USF and Children’s Research Institute/All Children’s Hospital.

“Congenital heart defects can occur in the developing embryo at a time when women typically do not even know they are pregnant – 16 to 18 days following conception. They may have been drinking alcohol or using prescription drugs without realizing this could be affecting embryonic development,” Dr. Linask said.

“We found that we could prevent alcohol-associated defects from arising in the mice — provided folate was given in relatively high concentrations very early in pregnancy around conception.”

In the USF study, two randomly assigned groups of pregnant mice were fed diets supplemented by folate in adjusted doses known from epidemiological studies to rescue human embryos from craniofacial birth defects. From the day after conception, one group received a high dose of folate supplementation (10.5 milligrams/kilogram) and the second received a moderate dose (6.2 mg/kg). A third control group ate a normal folate-supplemented diet (3.3 mg/kg) determined to maintain the general health of the pregnant mice, but not to rescue embryos from birth defects.

During the first week of pregnancy, the mice in all three groups were then administered injections of alcohol simulating a single binge drinking event in humans.

Following this alcohol exposure, Doppler ultrasound confirmed that 87 percent of the embryos of pregnant mice in the third group – those not receiving folate supplementation beyond what was present in their normal diets – had developed heart valve defects. The affected embryos were also smaller in size and their heart muscle walls appeared thinner.

Between days 15 and 16 of pregnancy in the mice – equal to 56 days of gestation in humans — ultrasound also showed that the high-folate diet protected heart valve development against lasting defects and restored heart function and embryonic size to near-normal levels. The moderate-folate diet provided only partial protection; in this group 58 percent of the mouse embryos developed heart valves that functioned abnormally, with a back flow of blood.

The researchers suggest that folate fortification may be most effective at preventing heart birth defects when administered at significantly higher levels than the doses currently recommended to prevent pregnancy complications — both in normal women (0.4 milligrams recommended daily) and even in women who have delivered an infant with a spinal birth defect (4 milligrams daily). Although higher folate levels did not cause adverse side effects in the pregnant mice, Dr. Linask notes, the safety and effectiveness of higher doses must be proven with human trials.

The heart is the first organ to form and function during embryonic development of vertebrates. The USF researchers suggest that folate supplementation thwarts alcohol’s damaging effect on an important early signaling pathway that plays a vital role in early heart development and subsequently in valve formation.

 

Public release date: 24-May-2010

LSUHSC researcher finds surprising link between sugar in drinks and blood pressure

New Orleans, LA – Research led by Liwei Chen, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Public Health at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans, has found that there is an association between sugary drinks and blood pressure and that by cutting daily consumption of sugary drinks by just one serving a day, people can lower their blood pressure. The research is published online in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

“We found no association for diet beverage consumption or caffeine intake and blood pressure,” notes Dr. Chen, “suggesting that sugar may actually be the nutrient that is associated with blood pressure and not caffeine which many people would suspect.”

The research, which was supported by a grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health, analyzed dietary intake and blood pressure of 810 adults measured at baseline, 6 and 18 months. After known risk factors of high blood pressure were controlled for, a reduction in sugar-sweetened beverage consumption of one serving per day was associated with a drop of 1.8 mm Hg in systolic pressure and 1.1 mm Hg in diastolic blood pressure over 18 months.

After additional adjustment for weight change over the same period, a reduction in the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages was still significantly associated with blood pressure reduction.

“By reducing the amount of sugar in your diet, you are also reducing the number of calories you consume and may lose weight,” adds Dr. Chen. “But even among those whose weight was stable, we still found that people who drank fewer sugary sodas lowered their blood pressure.”

Elevated blood pressure continues to be one of the most common and important problems in the United States. According to the American Heart Association, about 74.5 million people in the United States, or one in three people, age 20 and older have high blood pressure. It is estimated that high blood pressure killed 56,561Americans in 2006. From 1996 to 2006, the death rate from high blood pressure increased 19.5 percent, and the actual number of deaths rose 48.1 percent.

Normal blood pressure, measured in millimeters of mercury, is defined as systolic (top number) less than 120 and diastolic (bottom number) less than 80. High blood pressure (hypertension) is a systolic pressure of 140 or higher and a diastolic pressure of 90 or higher. Pressures falling in the range between are considered to be prehypertension.

High blood pressure, which usually has few symptoms, if any, is an established risk factor for stroke, cardiovascular disease, kidney failure, and shortened life expectancy.

“More research is needed to establish the causal relationship, but in the meantime, people can benefit right now by reducing their intake of sugary drinks by at least one serving per day,” concludes Dr. Chen.

Public release date: 25-May-2010

Dangerous lung worms found in people who eat raw crayfish

If you’re headed to a freshwater stream this summer and a friend dares you to eat a raw crayfish – don’t do it. You could end up in the hospital with a severe parasitic infection.

Physicians at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have diagnosed a rare parasitic infection in six people who had consumed raw crayfish from streams and rivers in Missouri. The cases occurred over the past three years, but three have been diagnosed since last September; the latest in April. Before these six, only seven such cases had ever been reported in North America, where the parasite, Paragonimus kellicotti, is common in crayfish.

“The infection, called paragonimiasis, is very rare, so it’s extremely unusual to see this many cases in one medical center in a relatively short period of time,” says Washington University infectious diseases specialist Gary Weil, MD, professor of medicine and of molecular microbiology, who treated some of the patients. “We are almost certain there are other people out there with the infection who haven’t been diagnosed. That’s why we want to get the word out.”

Paragonimiasis causes fever, cough, chest pain, shortness of breath and extreme fatigue. The infection is generally not fatal, and it is easily treated if properly diagnosed. But the illness is so unusual that most doctors are not aware of it. Most of the patients had received multiple treatments for pneumonia and undergone invasive procedures before they were referred to Barnes-Jewish Hospital or St. Louis Children’s Hospital at Washington University Medical Center.

The half-inch, oval-shaped parasitic worms at the root of the infection primarily travel from the intestine to the lungs. They also can migrate to the brain, causing severe headaches or vision problems, or under the skin, appearing as small, moving nodules.

Some of the patients had been in and out of the hospital for months as physicians tried to diagnose their mysterious illness and treat their symptoms, which also included a buildup of fluid around the lungs and around the heart. One patient even had his gallbladder removed, to no avail.

“Some of these invasive procedures could have been avoided if the patients had received a prompt diagnosis,” says Michael Lane, MD, an infectious diseases fellow at the School of Medicine who treated some of the patients. “We hope more doctors will now have this infection on their radar screens for patients with an unexplained lingering fever, cough and fatigue.”

Once the diagnosis is made, paragonimiasis is easily treated with an oral drug, praziquantel, taken three times a day for only two days. Symptoms begin to improve within a few days and are typically gone within seven to 10 days. All the patients have completely recovered, even one patient who temporarily lost his vision when parasites invaded the brain.

The recent infections, which occurred in patients ages 10-32, have prompted the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services to issue a health advisory alerting doctors across the state. The department also printed posters warning people not to eat raw crayfish and placed them in campgrounds and canoe rental businesses near popular Missouri streams. Thoroughly cooking crayfish kills the parasite and does not pose a health risk.

Paragonimiasis is far more common in East Asia, where many thousands of cases are diagnosed annually in people who consume raw or undercooked crab that contain Paragonimus westermani, a cousin to the parasite in North American crayfish.

While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an antibody test to identify Paragonimus westermani infection, the test is not sensitive for patients with P. kellicotti parasite, and this makes diagnosis a real challenge. Diagnostic clues include elevated levels of white blood cells called eosinophils. These cells typically are elevated in patients with worm parasites, but they can also occur in more common illnesses, including cancer, autoimmune disease and allergy. X-rays also show excess fluid around the lungs and sometimes the heart.

“You have to be a bit of a detective and be open to all the clues,” says Washington University infectious diseases specialist Thomas Bailey, MD, professor of medicine, who diagnosed and treated the first case at the School of Medicine.

As a case in point, the first patient who sought treatment at Washington University had had a fever and cough for several weeks. His chest X-ray showed fluid around the lungs, and blood tests showed elevated levels of eosinophils.

The “aha moment” for Bailey occurred when the patient’s wife mentioned that his symptoms developed about a week after he ate raw crayfish from a Missouri river, and Bailey recalled that in Asia eating raw or undercooked crabs can lead to a paragonimus infection. With a quick search of the medical literature, Bailey learned that rare cases of North American paragonimiasis had been described in patients eating raw crayfish. The scenario fit perfectly with his patient.

“That’s the interesting thing about being an infectious diseases doctor,” Bailey says. “Every time you see a new patient you have to be open to the possibility that the diagnosis could be something highly unusual.”

Crayfish are common throughout North America, where hundreds of species live in rivers, streams, lakes and ponds. The parasite P. kellicotti has a complex life cycle. It lives in snails and crayfish but only causes a dangerous infection if it ingested by mammals, including dogs, cats and humans, who eat it raw.

No one knows why more cases of paragonimiasis are being diagnosed now, but doctors and researchers at Washington University are studying the parasite and hope to develop a better diagnostic test for the infection. For now, the message for physicians is to consider paragonimiasis in patients with cough, fever and eosinophilia. The simple message for the public is: “Do not eat raw crayfish,” Weil says.

 

Public release date: 26-May-2010

Some bisphosphonates users unfamiliar with drug’s possible side effects on oral health

CHICAGO, May 26, 2010 – People undergoing bisphosphonate therapy to prevent or treat osteoporosis (a thinning of the bones) may be unfamiliar with the drug and possible adverse side effects on oral health, according to a study in the May issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA).

Use of bisphosphonates has been associated with a small risk of developing bisphosphonate-associated osteonecrosis of the jaw (BON) that occurs spontaneously or after the patient has undergone dental surgery. BON is a rare but serious condition that can cause severe damage to the jaw bone. The prevalence of BON is between three and 12 percent for patients who receive bisphosphonates intravenously for cancer therapy and less than one percent for patients who receive bisphosphonates orally for osteoporosis or osteopenia.

In the study, the authors sought to determine whether patients taking bisphosphonates had knowledge about the medical indication for the therapy and how long the treatment would last. They also wanted to know whether participants’ physicians told them about possible adverse reactions.

The researchers interviewed 73 participants (71 women, two men) seeking routine care in a dental clinic. These participants, with an average age of 66 years that ranged from 44 to 88 years, also were undergoing bisphosphonate treatment. Eighty-four percent of the participants stated they knew why they were receiving bisphosphonate therapy. However, 80 percent said they were unsure about the duration of the therapy and 82 percent could not recall receiving information about the risk of experiencing adverse reactions, including oral osteonecrosis, by their physicians.

“The results of our small study show that patients who take bisphosphonates may not be aware that BON can develop after they undergo invasive dental care,” the authors wrote. “We believe that a more effective communication process between prescribing physicians, dentists and patients using bisphosphonates is needed.”

The American Dental Association Advisory Committee on Medication-induced Osteonecrosis of the Jaw recommends that dental patients on bisphosphonate therapy advise their dentist. The Committee believes that it is always appropriate for physicians to encourage patients to visit the dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams, as recommended by their dentist. This is especially important for patients whose oral health is put at risk from medications or medical problems.

Public release date: 26-May-2010

 

You have no natural right to food

The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF), an organization whose mission includes “defending the rights and broadening the freedoms of family farms and protecting consumer access to raw milk and nutrient dense foods”, recently filed a lawsuit against the FDA for its ban on interstate sales of raw milk. The suit alleges that such a restriction is a direct violation of the United States Constitution. Nevertheless, the suit led to a surprisingly cold response from the FDA about its views on food freedom (and freedoms in general).

In a dismissal notice issued to the Iowa District Court where the suit was filed, the FDA officially made public its views on health and food freedom. These views will shock you, but they reveal the true evil intent of the FDA and why it is truly a rogue federal agency.

The FDA essentially believes that nobody has the right to choose what to eat or drink. You are only “allowed” to eat or drink what the FDA gives you permission to. There is no inherent right or God-given right to consume any foods from nature without the FDA’s consent.

This is no exaggeration. It’s exactly what the FDA said in its own words.

You have no natural right to food

The FTCLDF highlighted a few of the key phrases from the FDA’s response document in a recent email to its supporters. They include the following two statements from the FDA:

“There is no ‘deeply rooted’ historical tradition of unfettered access to foods of all kinds.” [p. 26]

 

“Plaintiffs’ assertion of a ‘fundamental right to their own bodily and physical health, which includes what foods they do and do not choose to consume for themselves and their families’ is similarly unavailing because plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to obtain any food they wish.” [p.26]

There’s a lot more in the document, which primarily addresses the raw milk issue, but these statements alone clearly reveal how the FDA views the concept of health freedom. Essentially, the FDA does not believe in health freedom at all. It believes that it is the only entity granted the authority to decide for you what you are able to eat and drink.

The State, in other words, may override your food decisions and deny you free access to the foods and beverages you wish to consume. And the State may do this for completely unscientific reasons — even just political reasons — all at their whim.

 

Ralph’s note – Who would of ever guessed that we would lose our freedom to eat? It’s not lost yet, but obviously some would let to see that happen.

________________________________

 

These reports are done with the appreciation of all the Doctors, Scientist, and other

Medical Researchers who sacrificed their time and effort. In order to give people the

ability to empower themselves. Without the base aspirations for fame, or fortune.

Just honorable people, doing honorable things.

Regular use of aspirin increases risk of Crohn’s disease by 5 times

2010 study posted for filing

 

Contact: Simon Dunford s.dunford@uea.ac.uk 44-160-359-2203 University of East Anglia

People who take aspirin regularly for a year or more may be at an increased risk of developing Crohn’s disease, according to a new study by the University of East Anglia (UEA).

Led by Dr Andrew Hart of UEA’s School of Medicine, the research will be presented for the first time at the Digestive Disease Week conference in New Orleans today.

Crohn’s disease is a serious condition affecting 60,000 people in the UK and 500,000 people in the US. It is characterized by inflammation and swelling of any part of the digestive system. This can lead to debilitating symptoms and requires patients to take life-long medication. Some patients need surgery and some sufferers have an increased risk of bowel cancer.

Though there are likely to be many causes of the disease, previous work on tissue samples has shown that aspirin can have a harmful effect on the bowel. To investigate this potential link further, the UEA team followed 200,000 volunteers aged 30-74 in the UK, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Italy. The volunteers had been recruited for the EPIC study (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) between 1993 and 1997.

The volunteers were all initially well, but by 2004 a small number had developed Crohn’s disease. When looking for differences in aspirin use between those who did and did not develop the disease, the researchers discovered that those taking aspirin regularly for a year or more were around five times more likely to develop Crohn’s disease.

The study also showed that aspirin use had no effect on the risk of developing ulcerative colitis – a condition similar to Crohn’s disease.

“This is early work but our findings do suggest that the regular use of aspirin could be one of many factors which influences the development of this distressing disease in some patients,” said Dr Hart.

“Aspirin does have many beneficial effects, however, including helping to prevent heart attacks and strokes. I would urge aspirin users to continue taking this medication since the risk of aspirin users possibly developing Crohn’s disease remains very low – only one in every 2000 users, and the link is not yet finally proved.”

Further work must now be done in other populations to establish whether there is a definite link and to check that aspirin use is not just a marker of another risk factor which is the real cause of Crohn’s disease. The UEA team will also continue its wider research into other potential factors in the development of Crohn’s disease, including diet.

American Academy of Pediatrics Weighs In For the First Time on Organic Foods for Children ( Actual Press Release from AAP)

10/22/2012
AAP report cites lower pesticides in organic produce and potentially lower risk of exposure to drug-resistant bacteria, but says the most important thing for children is to eat a wide variety of produce, whether it’s conventional or organic

Article Body
NEW ORLEANS – Parents know it’s important for children to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains. But it’s less clear whether spending the extra money on organic foods will bring a significant benefit to their children’s health.
To offer guidance to parents – and the pediatricians caring for their children’s health – the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has conducted an extensive analysis of scientific evidence surrounding organic produce, dairy products and meat. The conclusion is mixed: While organic foods have the same vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, proteins, lipids and other nutrients as conventional foods, they also have lower pesticide levels, which may be significant for children. Organically raised animals are also less likely to be contaminated with drug-resistant bacteria because organic farming rules prohibit the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics.
However, in the long term, there is currently no direct evidence that consuming an organic diet leads to improved health or lower risk of disease. However, no large studies in humans have been performed that specifically address this issue.
“What’s most important is that children eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products, whether those are conventional or organic foods. This type of diet has proven health benefits,” said Janet Silverstein, MD, FAAP, a member of the AAP Committee on Nutrition and one of the lead authors of the report. “Many families have a limited food budget, and we do not want families to choose to consume smaller amounts of more expensive organic foods and thus reduce their overall intake of healthy foods like produce.”
The AAP report, “Organic Foods: Health and Environmental Advantages and Disadvantages,” will be released at a news conference at 1 p.m. CT Monday, Oct. 22 at the AAP National Conference & Exhibition in New Orleans. It will be published in the November 2012 issue of Pediatrics (published online Oct. 22).
The report outlines the research that has been conducted on organic foods, including convincing evidence of lower exposure to pesticides and less contamination of livestock with drug-resistant bacteria.
“At this point, we simply do not have the scientific evidence to know whether the difference in pesticide levels will impact a person’s health over a lifetime, though we do know that children – especially young children whose brains are developing – are uniquely vulnerable to chemical exposures,” said Joel Forman, MD, FAAP, a member of the AAP Council on Environmental Health and one of the lead authors of the AAP clinical report.
If cost is a factor, families can be selective in choosing organic foods, Dr. Forman said. Some conventionally grown fruits and vegetables tend to have lower pesticide residues. The AAP cites organic shopper’s guides like those provided by Consumer Reports and the Environmental Working Group as references for consumers.
The AAP found no individual health benefit from purchasing organic milk, but emphasizes that all milk should be pasteurized to reduce the risk of bacterial infections. Raw milk increases the risk of serious infection with bacteria including Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, Campylobacter and Brucella.
Purchasing meat from organic farms that do not use antibiotics for nontherapeutic uses has the potential to reduce antibiotic resistance in bacteria that infect people. The AAP calls for large, well-designed, prospective cohort studies that directly measure environmental exposures such as estrogen at low levels to understand the impact of hormonal exposure of children through milk and meat.
The AAP report also notes that the motivation to choose organic produce, meat and dairy products may be reasonably based on larger environmental issues, as well as human health impacts like pollution and global climate change.
“Pediatricians want families to have the information they need to make wise food choices,” said Dr. Forman. “We hope that additional research will improve our understanding of these issues, including large studies that measure environmental exposures and neurodevelopment.”
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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org.

Cyberbullying only rarely the sole factor identified in teen suicides

Contact: Debbie Jacobson djacobson@aap.org 847-434-7084 American Academy of Pediatrics

NEW ORLEANS – Cyberbullying – the use of the Internet, phones or other technologies to repeatedly harass or mistreat peers – is often linked with teen suicide in media reports. However, new research presented on Saturday, Oct. 20, at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans, shows that the reality is more complex. Most teen suicide victims are bullied both online and in school, and many suicide victims also suffer from depression.

For the abstract, “Cyberbullying and Suicide: A Retrospective Analysis of 41 Cases,” researchers searched the Internet for reports of youth suicides where cyberbullying was a reported factor. Information about demographics and the event itself were then collected through searches of online news media and social networks. Finally, descriptive statistics were used to assess the rate of pre-existing mental illness, the co-occurrence of other forms of bullying, and the characteristics of the electronic media associated with each suicide case.

The study identified 41 suicide cases (24 female, 17 male, ages 13 to 18) from the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. In the study, 24 percent of teens were the victims of homophobic bullying, including the 12 percent of teens identified as homosexual and another 12 percent of teens who were identified as heterosexual or of unknown sexual preference.

Suicides most frequently occurred in September (15 percent) and January (12 percent) although these higher rates may have occurred by chance. The incidence of reported suicide cases increased over time, with 56 percent occurring from 2003 to 2010, compared to 44 percent from January 2011 through April 2012.

Seventy-eight percent of adolescents who committed suicide were bullied both at school and online, and only 17 percent were targeted online only. A mood disorder was reported in 32 percent of the teens, and depression symptoms in an additional 15 percent.

“Cyberbullying is a factor in some suicides, but almost always there are other factors such as mental illness or face-to-face bullying,” said study author John C. LeBlanc, MD, MSc, FRCPC, FAAP. “Cyberbullying usually occurs in the context of regular bullying.”

Cyberbullying occurred through various media, with Formspring and Facebook specifically mentioned in 21 cases. Text or video messaging was noted in 14 cases.

“Certain social media, by virtue of allowing anonymity, may encourage cyberbullying,” said Dr. LeBlanc. “It is difficult to prove a cause and effect relationship, but I believe there is little justification for anonymity.”

Now puberty starts at 9! Boys in U.S. reaching adolescence younger, study says

By Associated Press Reporter

PUBLISHED:18:57 EST, 20  October 2012| UPDATED:23:16 EST, 20 October 2012

 

When it comes to the birds and the bees, some  parents may want to have that talk with their boys a little sooner than they  expected.

Researchers have found signs of puberty in  American boys up to two years earlier than previously reported – age 9 on  average for blacks, 10 for whites and Hispanics. Other studies have suggested  that girls, too, are entering puberty younger.

Why is this happening? Theories range from  higher levels of obesity and inactivity to chemicals in food and water, all of  which might interfere with normal hormone production. But those are just  theories, and they remain unproven.

Puberty 

Early: Researchers have found signs of puberty in  American boys up to two years earlier than previously reported (stock photo)

Doctors say earlier puberty is not  necessarily cause for concern. And some experts question whether the trend is  even real.

Dr William Adelman, an adolescent medicine  specialist in the Baltimore area, says the new research is the first to find  early, strong physical evidence that boys are maturing earlier. But he added  that the study still isn’t proof and said it raises a lot of  questions.

Earlier research based on 20-year-old  national data also suggested a trend toward early puberty in boys, but it was  based on less rigorous information. The new study involved testes measurements  in more than 4,000 boys. Enlargement of testes is generally the earliest sign of  puberty in boys.

The study was published online Saturday in  Pediatrics to coincide with the American Academy of Pediatrics’ national  conference in New Orleans.

Dr Neerav Desai, an adolescent medicine  specialist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, said he’s seen a subtle trend  toward slightly earlier puberty in boys. He said it’s important for parents and  doctors to be aware so they can help children emotionally prepare for the  changes that come with puberty.

Doctors generally consider puberty early if  it begins before age 8 in girls and before age 9 in boys.

Boys are more likely than girls to have an  underlying physical cause for early puberty. But it’s likely that most, if not  all, of the boys in the study were free of any conditions that might explain the  results, said lead author Marcia Herman-Giddens, a researcher at the University  of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

Puberty 

Sooner: Other studies have suggested that girls, too,  are entering puberty younger (stock photo)

Problems such as thyroid abnormalities and  brain tumors have been linked to early puberty. But boys with chronic medical  conditions or who were using medicines that could affect puberty were excluded  from the research.

In girls, early puberty has been linked with  increased chances for developing breast cancer, but whether it poses health  risks for boys is uncertain. Some scientists think early testes development may  increase the risk for testicular cancer, but a recent research analysis found no  such link.

‘If it’s true that boys are starting puberty  younger, it’s not clear that means anything negative or has any implications for  long-term,’ said Adelman, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’  committee on adolescence.

For the new study, researchers recruited  pediatricians in 41 states who participate in the academy’s office-based  research network. Doctors asked parents and boys aged 6 to 16 to take part  during regular checkups. The visits took place between 2005 and  2010.

Half of the boys were white. The rest were  almost evenly divided among blacks and Hispanics.

On average, white boys started puberty at age  10, a year and a half earlier than what has long been considered the normal  average. For black boys, the average age of 9 was about two years earlier than  in previous research. Among Hispanics, age 10 was similar to previous research  that only involved Mexican-American boys. The new study included boys from other  Hispanic backgrounds.

Testes enlargement was seen at age 6 in 9  percent of white boys, almost 20 percent of blacks and 7 percent of  Hispanics.

Pubic hair growth, another early sign of  puberty, started about a year after testes enlargement in all groups but still  earlier than previously thought.

In girls, breast development is the first  sign, and recent research suggested that it starts at age 7 in about 10 per cent  of white girls, 23 per cent of blacks and 15 per cent of Hispanics. That’s  substantially higher than rates reported more than a decade ago.

But some experts have questioned methods used  in studies in girls, noting that the age when girls start menstruating has not  changed much and remains around age 12 on average.

Dr Dianne Deplewski, a pediatric  endocrinologist at the University of Chicago, has not seen any increase in boys  referred to her for signs of early puberty. She said it’s possible that the new  study results were skewed by families who brought their boys to the doctor  because they already had concerns about their health.

The study had other limitations. Testes were  measured just once, and doctors weren’t randomly recruited but volunteered to  participate. That means it’s possible that those with early maturing patients  were overly represented, but Herman-Giddens said it’s unlikely boys in the study  were different from those in the general U.S. population.

She said the research methods weren’t perfect  but that they’re the best to date. She also stressed that the results shouldn’t  be used to establish a ‘new normal’ for the start of puberty in  boys.

‘Just because this is happening doesn’t mean  this is normal or healthy,’ the researcher said.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2220832/Boys-U-S-entering-puberty-younger-new-study-shows.html#ixzz29x8sZQOe Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Brain scans during sleep can decode visual content of dreams.

Scientists read dreams

 

Scientists have learned how to discover what you are dreaming about while you sleep.

A team of researchers led by Yukiyasu Kamitani of the ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto, Japan, used functional neuroimaging to scan the brains of three people as they slept, simultaneously recording their brain waves using electroencephalography (EEG).

Researchers in Japan can predict certain features of dreams by looking at the brain activity of sleeping volunteers.

Glowimages

The researchers woke the participants whenever they detected the pattern of brain waves associated with sleep onset, asked them what they had just dreamed about, and then asked them to go back to sleep.

This was done in three-hour blocks, and repeated between seven and ten times, on different days, for each participant. During each block, participants were woken up ten times per hour. Each volunteer reported having visual dreams six or seven times every hour, giving the researchers a total of around 200 dream reports.

Perchance to dream

Most of the dreams reflected everyday experiences, but some contained unusual content, such as talking to a famous actor. The researchers extracted key words from the participants’ verbal reports, and picked 20 categories — such as ‘car’, ‘male’, ‘female’, and ‘computer’ — that appeared most frequently in their dream reports.

Kamitani and his colleagues then selected photos representing each category, scanned the participants’ brains again while they viewed the images, and compared brain activity patterns with those recorded just before the participants were woken up.

The researchers analysed activity in brain areas V1, V2 and V3, which are involved in the earliest stages of visual processing and encode basic features of visual scenes, such as contrast and the orientation of edges. They also looked at several other regions that are involved in higher order visual functions, such as object recognition.

In 2008, Kamitani and his colleagues reported that they could decode brain activity associated with the earliest stages of visual processing to reconstruct images shown to participants. Now, they have found that activity in the higher order brain regions could accurately predict the content of the participants’ dreams.

“We built a model to predict whether each category of content was present in the dreams,” says Kamitani. “By analysing the brain activity during the nine seconds before we woke the subjects, we could predict whether a man is in the dream or not, for instance, with an accuracy of 75–80%.”

The findings, presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans, Louisiana, earlier this week, suggest that dreaming and visual perception share similar neural representations in the higher order visual areas of the brain.

“This is an interesting and exciting piece of work,” says neuroscientist Jack Gallant at the University of California, Berkeley, of the work presented at the meeting. “It suggests that dreaming involves some of the same higher level visual brain areas that are involved in visual imagery.”

“It also seems to suggest that our recall of dreams is based on short-term memory, because dream decoding was most accurate in the tens of seconds before waking,” he adds.

Kamitani and his colleagues are now trying to collect the same kind of data from the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep, which is also associated with dreaming. “This is more challenging because we have to wait at least one hour before sleeping subjects reach that stage,” Kamitani says.

But the extra effort will be worth it, he says. “Knowing more about the content of dreams and how it relates to brain activity may help us to understand the function of dreaming.”

Journal name: Nature DOI: doi:10.1038/nature.2012.11625
 
http://www.nature.com/news/scientists-read-dreams-1.11625

Young blood really is the key to youth

HUMANS are constantly searching for an elixir of youth – could it be that an infusion of young blood holds the key?

18 October 2012 by Helen Thomson, New Orleans

Magazine issue 2887Subscribe and save

This seems to be true for mice, at least. According to research presented this week at the Society for Neuroscience conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, giving young blood to old mice can reverse some of the effects of age-related cognitive decline.

Last year, Saul Villeda, then at Stanford University in California, and colleagues showed they could boost the growth of new cells in the brains of old mice by giving them a blood infusion from young mice (Nature, doi.org/c9jwvm).

“We know that blood has this huge effect on brain cells, but we didn’t know if its effects extended beyond cell regeneration,” he says.

Now the team has tested for changes in cognition by linking the circulatory systems of young and old mice. Once the blood of each conjoined mouse had fully mixed with the other, the researchers analysed their brains.

Tissue from the hippocampus of old mice given young blood showed changes in the expression of 200 to 300 genes, particularly in those involved in synaptic plasticity, which underpins learning and memory. They also found changes in some proteins involved in nerve growth.

The infusion of young blood also boosted the number and strength of neuronal connections in an area of the brain where new cells do not grow. This didn’t happen when old mice received old blood.

To find out whether these changes improved cognition, the team gave 12 old mice eight intravenous shots of blood plasma either from a young or an old mouse, over the course of one month. They used plasma rather than whole blood to exclude any effect produced by blood cells.

The mice then took part in a standard memory task to locate a hidden platform in water. The old mice that had received young blood plasma remembered where to find the platform much quicker than the mice on the old plasma.

To find out which brain area was involved in this reversal of cognitive decline, the team performed fear conditioning tests. Mice that had been given young blood were better at remembering fear associated with tasks that activated the hippocampus, suggesting that young blood has a specific effect on this area of the brain.

But the mystery remains: what exactly is it about young blood that old blood doesn’t have? “We have not identified any individual factors responsible for the rejuvenating effects of young plasma yet,” says Tony Wyss-Coray, also at Stanford. His team is now trying to identify possible candidates such as lipids and hormones.

Villeda is hopeful the results might one day translate to humans since the components of blood that change with age in mice mirror those in humans.

While “it’s plausible that similar mechanisms operate in humans,” says Joseph Quinn at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, there is no evidence yet to support this.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21628874.000-young-blood-really-is-the-key-to-youth.html

Oral Contraceptives Impair Muscle Gains In Young Women

 

 

New study looks at effect of oral contraceptive use in resistance exercise training

 

NEW ORLEANS—Many active young women use oral contraceptives (OC) yet its effect on their body composition and exercise performance has not been thoroughly studied. A team of researchers has now examined the effects of OC on female muscle mass, and found that oral contraceptive use impairs muscle gains in young women, and is associated with lower hormone levels.

 

The findings are contained in a new study entitled Oral Contraceptive Use Impairs Muscle Gains in Young Women. It was conducted by Chang-Woock Lee and Steven E. Riechman, Department of Health and Kinesiology, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX; and Mark A. Newman, Human Energy Research Laboratory, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA. The researchers will present their findings at the 122nd Annual Meeting of the American Physiological Society (APS; http://www.the-aps.org/press), which is part of the Experimental Biology 2009 scientific conference. The meeting will be held April 18-22, 2009 in New Orleans.

 

The Study

 

Seventy-three generally healthy women between the ages of 18-31 were assigned to two groups and completed a 10-week whole-body resistance exercise training (RET). Group 1 consisted of 34 women who used oral contraceptives (OC). Group 2 consisted of 39 women who did not take birth control pills (non-OC).  The women were encouraged to consume at least 0.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day (a third more than is called for by the U.S. government nutritional guidelines) to make sure they consumed enough calories and protein to promote muscle growth.

 

The participants exercised three times per week for ten weeks under the supervision of exercise physiologists. They performed a variety of exercises to include  chest press, lat pull down, leg extension, triceps extension, arm curl and abdominal crunch. Exercise was done using standard exercise machines and each volunteer performed three sets of 6-10 repetitions per exercise at 75 percent of their maximum strength. Body composition was determined using hydrostatic weighing.

 

Blood samples were taken before and after the training and assessed to measure anabolic (muscle building) and catabolic (muscle breaking) hormone levels in blood. Resting and fasting blood concentrations were measured for three anabolic hormones: DHEA, DHEAS and IGF1.

 

Findings

 

The researchers found that:

 

there were significant differences in lean mass gains (OC: 2.1±2.1%  vs. non-OC: 3.5±3.2% / OC: 1.0±1.0kg vs. no-OC: 1.6±1.4kg, p<0.05).  However, other muscle responses such as strength gains and arm/leg circumferences were similar between the OC and non-OC users.

 

resting/fasting blood concentrations of the anabolic hormones were significantly lower in women taking OC vs. non-OC users throughout the study period.  At the same time, plasma concentrations of cortisol (catabolic hormone) were elevated.

 

those OC users had reduced DHEA hormone at the end of the training period. By contrast, the other participants’ levels did not change.

 

Conclusion

 

According to the researchers, “We were surprised at the magnitude of differences in muscle gains between the two groups, with the non-OC women gaining more than 60% greater muscle mass than their OC counterpart.” They added that even though the study has observed negative effects of oral contraceptive use on muscle gain in the context of resistance exercise training, “future studies are needed to help explain the reasons behind the results.”

Social contact can ease pain related to nerve damage, animal study suggests

Contact: Adam Hinzey
Adam.Hinzey@osumc.edu
Ohio State University

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Companionship has the potential to reduce pain linked to nerve damage, according to a new study.

Mice that were paired with a cage-mate showed lower pain responses and fewer signs of inflammation in their nervous system after undergoing surgery that affected their nerves than did isolated mice, suggesting that the social contact had both behavioral and physiological influences.

The social contact lowered the pain response and signs of inflammation even in animals that had experienced stress prior to the nerve injury.

These mice experienced a specific kind of nerve-related pain called allodynia, which is a withdrawal response to a stimulus that normally would not elicit a response – in this case, a light touch to the paw.

“If they were alone and had stress, the animals had increased inflammation and allodynia behavior,” said Adam Hinzey, a graduate student in neuroscience at Ohio State University and lead author of the study. “If the mice had a social partner, both allodynia and inflammation were reduced.”

More than 20 million Americans experience the nerve pain known as peripheral neuropathy as a consequence of diabetes or other disorders as well as trauma, including spinal cord injury. Few reliable treatments are available for this persistent pain.

“A better understanding of social interaction’s beneficial effects could lead to new therapies for this type of pain,” Hinzey said.

Hinzey described the research during a press conference Monday (10/15) in New Orleans at Neuroscience 2012, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.

In the study, researchers paired one group of mice with a single cage-mate for one week while other mice were kept socially isolated. For three days during this week, some mice from each group were exposed to brief stress while others remain nonstressed.

Researchers then performed a nerve surgery producing sensations that mimic neuropathic pain on one group of mice and a sham procedure that didn’t involve the nerves on a control group.

After determining a baseline response to a light touch to their paws, researchers tested all groups of mice behaviorally for a week after the surgery. Mice that had lived with a social partner, regardless of stress level, required a higher level of force before they showed a withdrawal response compared to isolated mice that were increasingly responsive to a lighter touch.

“Animals that were both stressed and isolated maintained a lower threshold – less force was needed to elicit a paw withdrawal response. Animals that were pair housed and not stressed withstood a significantly greater amount of force applied before they showed a paw withdrawal response,” Hinzey said. “Within animals that were stressed, pairing was able to increase the threshold required to see a withdrawal response.”

He and colleagues examined the animals’ brain and spinal cord tissue for gene activation affecting production of two proteins that serve as markers for inflammation. These cytokines, called interleukin-1 beta (IL-1B) and interleukin-6 (IL-6), are typically elevated in response to both injury and stress.

Compared to animals that received a sham procedure, isolated mice with nerve damage had much higher levels of IL-1B gene expression in their brain and spinal cord tissue. The researchers also observed a significant decrease in gene activity related to IL-6 production in the spinal cords of nonstressed animals compared to the mice that were stressed.

“We believe that socially isolated individuals are physiologically different from socially paired individuals, and that this difference seems to be related to inflammation,” said Courtney DeVries, professor of neuroscience at Ohio State and principal investigator on this work. “These data showed very nicely that the social environment is influencing not just behavior but really the physiological response to the nerve injury.”

###

This work was supported by funds from the National Institute of Nursing Research. Additional co-authors include Brant Jarrett and Kathleen Stuller of Ohio State’s Department of Neuroscience.

Contact: Adam Hinzey, Adam.Hinzey@osumc.edu

Written by Emily Caldwell, (614) 292-8310; Caldwell.151@osu.edu

(Hinzey will be at Neuroscience 2012 from Oct. 13-17; during this time, contact Hinzey via email or by calling Emily Caldwell at (614) 893-4261.)

Editor’s note: Hinzey will present his poster (No. 786.04) between 11 a.m. and noon (CT) Wednesday (10/17) in Hall F-J at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.

The Cancer “Breakthroughs” that Cost Too Much and Do Too Little

Author

Laura Beil, Newsweek

Aug 27, 2012 1:00 AM EDT

‘Death panels’ are a bad idea. But asking hard questions about health care is not.

In his more than 35 years of practice, Dr. Lowell Schnipper has seen a lot of women die from breast cancer. A patient’s options start to dwindle by the time tumor cells set up outposts in the bones, lungs, and other organs, defying all attempts to keep them under control. But in June, when the government approved Perjeta, Schnipper had something new to offer. The drug is one of an innovative class of drugs known as “targeted therapies.”

As the chief of oncology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Schnipper knew Perjeta was not a cure: added to a standard treatment with Herceptin—another targeted therapy that was hailed as a breakthrough in 1998—Perjeta gives the average woman only about six months more of calm before her disease starts to stir again. Given the limited benefit, the price was startling. For most women, a full course of the drug combination will cost $188,000—enough, he says, “to give anybody a cold sweat.”

Americans spent more than $23 billion last year for cancer drugs, more than we paid for prescriptions to treat anything else. But many oncologists are starting to question what we are getting in return for that bill, whether the war on cancer has become too much of a race to produce the next blockbuster. “In general, progress for cancer has been halting and slow,” says David Howard of the Department of Health Policy and Management at Emory University. So far, most new drugs offer only marginal extensions of life and few cures. Howard says new so-called breakthroughs “overpromise and underdeliver.” Consider the popularity of Avastin, a targeted drug approved for metastatic colon cancer in 2004. A recent study found that almost 70 percent of patients on chemotherapy were receiving Avastin within a year of its release. In clinical trials, the drug increased survival by about five months. The cost? About $10,000 a month.

Treating cancer has never been cheap, but today, the price of each new treatment seems to outpace the one before, with little bearing on its efficacy. According to figures from insurer United Healthcare, a standard cocktail of drugs for treating lung cancer used to run about $1,000 a month. Today’s regimens cost from more than $6,000 to almost $10,000—for about two more months of life. “There is no such thing as a cancer drug coming on the market that is some sort of regular drug price,” says Dr. Peter Bach of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, who studies the impact of cancer costs on U.S. health care. “They’re all priced at spectacularly high levels.” Which leads to an unsettling question: how much is a little more time worth? Would you spend $50,000 for four more months? How about $15,000 for two weeks?

Of three frontiers in cancer treatment, targeted therapies like Perjeta are widely seen as the best hope for a cure. Traditional chemotherapy is notorious for side effects because it wields destruction indiscriminately throughout the body. Targeted therapies are designed to hit cancer cells only. Perjeta, for example, targets a protein produced in excess amounts in some breast cancers; Avastin hinders the ability of a tumor to form new blood vessels to feed itself.

Dan Dunkley / Gallerystock.com

Doctors envision the day when every patient will have therapy precisely matched to the genetic bull’s-eyes of their own cancers. The holdup has been that cancer has proven to be more genetically crafty than researchers once imagined. Scientists may build a drug to hit one target, but a tumor may also employ lots of yet-undiscovered genetic tricks to keep itself alive. Instead of a magic bullet, scientists now know that any particular tumor may need lots of magic bullets. With so many targets unknown, a lot of patients end up getting drugs that barely touch their cancers, which is why the effectiveness of many new drugs remains underwhelming.

Not that this keeps a drug from becoming a blockbuster. Patients with advanced cancer, and their physicians, are hungry for progress. As a result, almost all of the 10 bestselling cancer drugs are targeted therapies, many less than a decade old. All came on the market at thousands of dollars a month, a trend that continues today with gusto. The drug Afinitor, a daily pill, was approved in July for patients with breast cancer. It costs more than $200 a tablet. But price rarely matters to patients or even doctors, says Dr. Oliver Sartor, medical director of the Tulane Cancer Center in New Orleans. “People have already been told there is no cure for their disease,” he says. “Every increment, every improvement, gives hope, and when options are extremely limited, we all focus on the positive possibilities.”

In addition to targeted therapies, drugs have come on the market that can spur the body’s own immune cells to lead the charge. Significant hurdles have hindered this kind of treatment for years. But they are finally being overcome. The prostate cancer drug Provenge, which came on the market in 2010, was the first immune-therapy drug to gain governmental approval. It was followed the next year by Yervoy, when approved the only drug ever shown to extend survival in advanced melanoma. Men with a common kind of advanced prostate cancer who used Provenge lived an average of four months longer than the comparison group; patients on Yervoy got an average of 3.6 months. The gains are modest, but not the cost. When Sartor learned Provenge would run $93,000 per patient, “I was stunned,” he says. And even that was cheaper than Yervoy, which appeared the following year at $120,000 for four injections. He predicts the pricing of immune therapies may be seen as “a watershed moment” in the debate over health-care costs.

The third area of touted breakthroughs has been in radiation, most recently by using protons instead of traditional X-rays to kill cancer cells. It’s a controversial undertaking: many doctors believe that protons offer better precision, able to get rid of tumors without collateral damage to nearby healthy tissues. But whether protons can treat with fewer side effects than traditional radiation is, to date, a matter of debate for almost all but pediatric and certain neurological tumors.

As with new drugs, proton-beam radiation is expensive—it can run roughly twice as much as the current state-of-the-art form of radiation that uses X-rays. In the case of proton beams, much of the cost has to do with building a cyclotron to harvest the protons—a construction project that can cost upwards of $150 million. In 2001 just three centers in the country offered proton treatment, but that number is now up to 10, with a half dozen more planned. About three quarters of the proton patient population covered by Medicare are men with prostate cancer, which, because of the length of their therapy, are the most lucrative to treat.

Why do new drugs cost so much? Pharmaceutical companies say it’s payment for scientific creativity, that high prices are necessary to recover the expense of developing and manufacturing their products and to encourage more research. A spokeswoman for Bristol-Myers Squibb, which makes Yervoy, says the cost of drugs is “based on a number of factors, including the value they deliver to patients, the scientific innovation they represent, and the cost to develop them.” Part of the price is also an investment in drug discovery. “We look at not only the past research and development, but development in the future,” says Krysta Pellegrino, a spokeswoman for Genentech, which developed Perjeta.

That said, many cancer experts remain skeptical of the notion that drug companies are simply passing along the cost of doing business and funding the incubation of new drugs. In 2004 researchers tried to test the relationship between a drug’s development and its final asking price. In the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the scientists concluded “that the drug companies are not pricing their drugs to recuperate losses associated with research and development, marketing, and operating prices, but rather [the average wholesale price] depends on what the market itself can bear.”

“It’s a marketplace where the seller has all of the control,” says Bach, from Memorial Sloan-Kettering, because private insurance companies and Medicare—the largest purchasers of drugs—are powerless to bargain for a less expensive deal. “Prices are high because they can be,” Bach says. As one doctor observed, “we are always paying for a Ferrari but often getting a Ford.” The occasional Ferrari does exist. The targeted drug Gleevec, which treats certain forms of leukemia and intestinal tumors, has allowed patients to live for years with their cancer in check.

But while the track record for some new treatments is expected to improve, Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical and scientific officer of the American Cancer Society, says that in most cases, “new cancer treatments cost an awful lot of money, and there is usually a very small incremental benefit.” Brawley, author of How We Do Harm: A Doctor Breaks Ranks About Being Sick in America, likes to cite the case of Tarceva, a targeted therapy approved for pancreatic cancer in 2005 to piggyback on the traditional drug gemcitabine. “The median survival of Tarceva and gemcitabine compared to gemcita-bine alone was 14 to 16 days greater. Seven months versus seven and a half months.” A 2007 analysis in the Journal of Clinical Oncology determined that those extra days add around $15,000 to the cost of care. “Instead of talking about rationing care,” Brawley says, “we need to talk about rational use of care.”

If new cancer treatments continue to push the boundaries of affordability, Americans will eventually be forced into dilemmas we have largely postponed. Innovative cancer treatments, says Emory’s Howard, “really symbolize the tradeoff that we face between improving health and saving money. At some point, society—including employers, the government, patients, and clinicians—have to make a tradeoff. I think if these drugs cured the disease, which none of them do, then no one would be questioning these prices. But we are seeing very high cost for relatively little return in patient benefit and survival.”

Other countries already consider a treatment’s effectiveness in national discussions about whether to pay for it. For example, this summer in Israel, a panel of radiation oncologists advised the Israeli Ministry of Health that, because of the unproven benefits, spending public money on proton-beam treatment is not yet warranted. “We can’t say it is a justifiable expense,” says Dr. Abraham Kuten, director of oncology at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. The United Kingdom affirmed in July, for the second time, that it will not cover Avastin for advanced breast cancer. Australia, which has one of the world’s highest incidences of melanoma, decided in March that the benefits of Yervoy are not worth the cost to the country’s national health-care system; it based its decision on an independent government advisory committee, which cited the questionable benefit to patients and the drug’s “uncertain clinical place in therapy.”

Then there is the United States, where wider access to drugs may be one of the reasons our cancer survival times rank among the highest worldwide. But the question is how long we can afford what we’re getting. “I think we are the only industrialized country that doesn’t look at the cost balanced somehow with effectiveness in making decisions about drugs,” says Dr. Thomas Smith of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center in Baltimore. “What we have now are a bunch of blockbuster-ette drugs that give a little bit of benefit. If you’re that person, it could be a really big benefit to have three extra months before your disease starts growing again, but as a society we simply can’t pay for that for everybody.”

Yet aside from academics and insurance-company executives, few Americans are willing to consider the price of time, says Dr. Lee Newcomer, senior vice president for oncology at United Healthcare. This means that the government sinks further into debt, and insurance companies keep raising premiums to keep up. “If we’re going to continue to have a sustainable health system, we have to talk about that as a society. In 15 years, you will have to earn the equivalent of a year’s salary today to pay your health-insurance premiums,” he says. “We’re going to have to have the discussion.”

Laura Beil is an independent journalist based in Dallas

Study of insecticide neurotoxicity yields clues to onset of Parkinson’s Disease, permethrin

BLACKSBURG, Va., March 24, 2003 — A grant from the U.S. Army has led Virginia Tech researchers to discover that exposure to some insecticides may cause a cascade of chemical events in the brain that could lead to Parkinson’s Disease.

Jeffrey R. Bloomquist, a neurotoxicologist and associate professor in the university’s Department of Entomology, will describe his findings as part of the International Award for Research in Agrochemicals, a symposium honoring Robert M. Hollingworth, at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in New Orleans this week.

“We found low-level exposures set in motion a process with an early onset that develops slowly and is persistent,” Bloomquist said. “More surprising is that high-level exposures resulted in few immediate effects that we could observe, but in the longer term there was a delayed effect.”

The Virginia Tech researchers studied the levels of dopamine, dopamine transporter protein expression, and the levels of a synaptic protein (alpha-synuclein) in mice exposed to various doses of the insecticide permethrin. The increase in dopamine uptake indicated the mouse’s system was reacting to a neurochemical insult caused by the presence of the insecticide. The slow response to high levels of exposure to pesticides is caused, Bloomquist thinks, by the system being overloaded and only after a period of a few weeks is it capable of responding to the insult in the same way as low doses.

In some individuals, dopamine-producing neurons may be challenged by genetic factors or by previous exposure to other neurotoxins. For individuals with a genetic predisposition, exposure to permethrin may trigger chemical events in the brain that result in an increased risk for damage to the area of the brain that is selectively damaged in Parkinson’s disease.

The loss of motor skills, resulting in symptoms such as muscle rigidity, shuffling gait, and a rhythmic tremor, has been linked to the loss of dopamine production in the brain. That loss of dopamine is the major neurochemical expression of Parkinson’s Disease.

“Our studies have documented low-dose effects of permethrin, doses below one-one thousandth of a lethal dose for a mouse, with effects on those brain pathways involved in Parkinson’s Disease,” he said. “We have found effects consistent with a pre-parkinsonsian condition, but not yet full-blown parkinsonism.”

Bloomquist also found permethrin exposure resulted in an overproduction of the protein alpha-synuclein at low doses. The accumulation of the protein is a major component of the formation of the Lewy bodies, fibrous tangles observed in the brains of patients with Parkinson’s Disease.

The studies so far have concentrated on two-week exposures in mice. Bloomquist hopes to continue the work, looking at longer-term exposure. He is also studying the effects of another widely used pesticide, chlorpyrifos.

Bloomquist and his co-investigator, Dr. Bradley Klein, are supported by a five year, $584,558 grant from the United States Army Medical Research and Materiel Command. One purpose of the Neurotoxin Exposure Treatment Research Program, under which the project was funded, is to determine if military operational and deployment exposures increase risks for neurodegenerative disease and, if so, determine means of protecting troops.

“Permethrin is used worldwide in agriculture and urban settings,” Bloomquist said. “Widespread human exposure to this compound occurs, so its effects are not limited to soldiers.”

The talk, “Low-dose effects of insecticides to dopaminergic pathways involved in parkinsonism” (AGRO 31) will be presented at 2 p.m. Monday, March 24, in the Hampton Inn Convention Center Fulton room.