This week we review disturbing vaccine study requirements, CBD an incredible gem if possibly protecting the lungs and restoring oxygen levels, and a strong correlation as to shoes being an unrecognized major disease vector. In addition to looking at COVID data correlations to which countries are locking down in response Sars-COV-2 to those which have not or have done little. #covidvaccine #covidvector #covidnews Data Sources API for DataFrames: The COVID Tracking Project Our wold in Data (Oxford) Links: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-10/uoo-ecw102220.php#.X5N_7_DuPM0.wordpress https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-10/b-cvt102020.php#.X5OGbCHAYR8.wordpress https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-10/mcog-chr101620.php#.X45lOsCeu4k.wordpress https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/7/20-0885_article
Vitamin D may be more effective than masks and distancing combined for COVID ?
In patients older than 40 years they observed that those patients who were vitamin D sufficient were 51.5 percent less likely to die from the infection compared to patients who were vitamin D deficient or insufficient with a blood level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D less than 30 ng/mL.
Holick, who most recently published a study which found that a sufficient amount of vitamin D can reduce the risk of catching coronavirus by 54 percent, believes that being vitamin D sufficient helps to fight consequences from being infected not only with the corona virus but also other viruses causing upper respiratory tract illnesses including influenza. “There is great concern that the combination of an influenza infection and a coronal viral infection could substantially increase hospitalizations and death due to complications from these viral infections.”
#covid19 #sarscov2 #vitaminD
Kaufman HW, Niles JK, Kroll MH, Bi C, Holick MF (2020) SARS-CoV-2 positivity rates associated with circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels. PLOS ONE 15(9): e0239252. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0239252
We are led to question whether the recommended social distancing measures to prevent SARS-CoV-2 transmission could increase the number of other serious instabilities. The breaking of the contagion pathways reduces the sharing of microorganisms between people, thus favoring dysbiosis, which, in turn, may increase the poor prognosis of the disease. #covid #microbiome #dysbiosis Célia P. F. Domingues, João S. Rebelo, Francisco Dionisio, Ana Botelho, Teresa Nogueira. The Social Distancing Imposed To Contain COVID-19 Can Affect Our Microbiome: a Double-Edged Sword in Human Health. mSphere, 2020; 5 (5) DOI: 10.1128/mSphere.00716-20 https://msphere.asm.org/content/5/5/e00716-20
Is there a correlation between Positive cases and Hospitalizations? Below is the API for python access, open to all who desire to filter the data. I want to just give easy access to all the beginner students data scientists out there, such as myself..Explore and Discover: **My Apologies It says High Def, but does not look High Def on video here**
Code: import matplotlib.pyplot as plt import pandas as pd from scipy import stats import statsmodels.api as sm import requests import time from IPython.display import clear_output response = requests.get(“https://covidtracking.com/api/v1/us/daily.csv”) covid = response.content ccc = open(“daily.csv”,”wb”) ccc.write(covid) ccc.close() df = pd.read_csv(“daily.csv”, index_col = ‘date’) df.head() data = df[[‘positiveIncrease’,’hospitalizedIncrease’]] dataT = df[[‘positiveIncrease’,’hospitalizedIncrease’,’hospitalizedCurrently’]] dataD = df[[‘hospitalizedIncrease’,’deathIncrease’]] dataT.head(20) plt.figure(figsize=(20,10)) Y = data[‘positiveIncrease’] X = data[‘hospitalizedIncrease’] plt.scatter(X,Y) plt.ylabel(“Tested Positive Increase”) plt.xlabel(“Hospitalization Increase”) plt.show() Y1 = sm.add_constant(Y) reg = sm.OLS(X, Y1).fit() reg.summary() data.plot(y=[‘hospitalizedIncrease’,’positiveIncrease’],xticks=data.index[0:len(data):30], rot=90, figsize=(20,10) ) for x in range(len(data)): plt.figure(figsize=(20,10)) plt.xticks( data.index.values[0:len(data):30], rotation = 90, fontsize=20 ) plt.plot(data.tail(x))
In a new study in Cell Discovery, Chen-Yu Zhang’s group at Nanjing University and two other groups from Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Second Hospital of Nanjing present a novel finding that absorbed miRNA MIR2911 in honeysuckle decoction (HD) can directly target SARS-CoV-2 genes and inhibit viral replication. Drinking of HD accelerate the negative conversion of COVID-19 patients.
#mir2911 #sarcov2 #honeysuckle
Zhou, L., Zhou, Z., Jiang, X. et al. Absorbed plant MIR2911 in honeysuckle decoction inhibits SARS-CoV-2 replication and accelerates the negative conversion of infected patients. Cell Discov 6, 54 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41421-020-00197-3
The highest production was found in the rice bran (ca. 742 ng/g dw), followed by the buckwheat bran (ca. 631 ng/g dw), after fermentation. Meanwhile, the addition of L. brevis was able to dominate indigenous microbes during fermentation and thus greatly improve microbial safety during the fermentation of different grain materials. #b12 #vegan #fermentation https://helda.helsinki.fi/bitstream/handle/10138/317682/insitufo.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y In situ fortification of vitamin B12 in grain materials by fermentation withPropionibacterium freudenreichii, Chong Xie ISBN 978-951-51-6355-4 (PAPERBACK) ISBN 978-951-51-6356-1 (PDF, http://ETHESIS.HELSINKI.FI) ISSN 0355-1180 UNIGRAFIA HELSINKI 2020
More COVID Research Censored CDC and the WHO, to my dismay, are either directly or indirectly controlling the flow of information and research, possibly creating an echo chamber of bias. The level of censorship is getting so out of control; it is highly likely now it may be resulting in harm in a variety of societal dimensions. As well as the Freedom to Speech is becoming rapidly stratified among those in positions of wealth, power, or fame, It is becoming painfully apparent that self-proclaimed thought leaders may not be behooving us in times of crisis, manufactured, self-inflicted, or real. At the very least, by not reviewing and growing from our errors, we are, in all essence, committed to repeating them. Freedom of Speech, in its most basic form, is simply the freedom to speak. Take that right away from one, and you build a case to take it away from all, for, of course, your own protection. #censorship #freedomofspeech #covid
Recent Nutraceutical Research into RNA virus infections including influenza and coronavirus
“Therefore, it is clear that certain nutraceuticals have antiviral effects in both human and animal studies,” commented Dr. DiNicolantonio. “Considering that there is no treatment for COVID-19 and treatments for influenza are limited, we welcome further studies to test these nutraceuticals as a strategy to help provide relief in those infected with encapsulated RNA viruses.”
#covid19 #coronavirus #protocolresearched
M.F. McCarty and J.J. DiNicolantonio, Nutraceuticals have potential for boosting the type 1 interferon responseto RNA viruses including influenza and coronavirus Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases,https: //doi.org/10.1016/j.pcad.2020.02.007
#covid19 #coronavirus #protocol
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have erased and reactivated memories in rats, profoundly altering the animals’ reaction to past events.
The study, published in the June 1 advanced online issue of the journal Nature, is the first to show the ability to selectively remove a memory and predictably reactivate it by stimulating nerves in the brain at frequencies that are known to weaken and strengthen the connections between nerve cells, called synapses.
“We can form a memory, erase that memory and we can reactivate it, at will, by applying a stimulus that selectively strengthens or weakens synaptic connections,” said Roberto Malinow, MD, PhD, professor of neurosciences and senior author of the study. Continue reading “How to erase a memory — and restore it”
PULLMAN, Wash. – Researchers in Washington State University’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science have developed a method to allow a computer to give advice and teach skills to another computer in a way that mimics how a real teacher and student might interact.
The paper by Matthew E. Taylor, WSU’s Allred Distinguished Professor in Artificial Intelligence, was published online in the journal Connection Science. The work was funded in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Researchers had the agents – as the virtual robots are called – act like true student and teacher pairs: student agents struggled to learn Pac-Man and a version of the StarCraft video game. The researchers were able to show that the student agent learned the games and, in fact, surpassed the teacher.
Continue reading “Knowledge transfer: Computers teach each other Pac-Man”
– nearly all had at least 1 discrepancy in the study group
– Our findings raise questions about accuracy of both ClinicalTrials.gov and publications, as each source’s reported results at times disagreed with the other.
During a one year period, among clinical trials published in high-impact journals that reported results on a public clinical trial registry (ClinicalTrials.gov), nearly all had at least 1 discrepancy in the study group, intervention, or results reported between the 2 sources, including discrepancies in the designated primary end points for the studies, according to a study in the March 12 issue of JAMA.
The 2007 Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Amendments Act expanded requirements for ClinicalTrials.gov, mandating results reporting within 12 months of trial completion for all FDA-regulated medical products. “To our knowledge, no studies have examined reporting and accuracy of trial results information. Accordingly, we compared trial information and results reported on ClinicalTrials.gov with corresponding peer-reviewed publications,” write Jessica E. Becker, A.B., of the Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn., and colleagues. Continue reading “Discrepancies between trial results reported on clinical trial registry and in journals ( nearly all had discrepancies )”
Research: The Brady Bunch? New evidence for nominative determinism in patients’ health: Retrospective, population based cohort study
Patients named Brady could be at an increased risk of requiring a pacemaker compared with the general population, say researchers in a paper published in the Christmas edition of The BMJ this week.
“Nominative determinism” describes how certain people are more likely to choose a profession because of the influence of their surname with a study by Pelham et al concluding that people have a preference for things “that are connected to the self” and are disproportionately more likely to find careers whose “label is closely related to their name”. Continue reading “Should your surname carry a health warning?”
This is part 1 of the most ignored medical breakthroughs since I started accumulating research. There is far more research that never made any of the major media outlets. Healthcare does not need to be scary nor expensive if science not profit were held in a higher esteem.
Please share this list…It can make a significant difference in more ways than one.. 😉
- Inula helenium ( elecampane ) 100% Effective against MRSA in vitro, 200 Strains
- LSUHSC research finds combo of plant nutrients killed 100% of sample breast cancer cells
- Milk thistle extract stops lung cancer in mice
- MS reversed in mice / Single dose ( Calcitriol ) Vitamin D followed by Vitamin D supplements
- Purple periwinkles battle inflammatory diseases – COPD
- Rectal vitamin E induced remission in patients with mild to moderate ulcerative colitis?
- Researchers show cystic fibrosis defect in mice corrected with turmeric extract
- Researchers show that Liver Fibrosis can be stopped, cured and reversed
- Study finds vitamin C can kill drug-resistant TB
- The real culprit behind hardened arteries? Stem cells, says landmark study (NC)
- Thymoquinone, an extract of nigella sativa seed oil, blocked pancreatic cancer cell growth and killed the cells by enhancing the process of programmed cell death.
- Vitamin B3 ( NIacin ) may offer new tool in fight against ‘superbugs’ – increased by 1,000 times the ability of immune cells to kill staph bacteria
- Vitamin C: A potential life-saving treatment for sepsis
As the science of brain stimulation forges ahead, neuroscientists and psychologists face tough ethical decisions
Five years later, brain stimulation research has moved far and fast. A fascinating new issue of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience includes a timely review on the various ways brain stimulation can enhance thought and behaviour – with special consideration of applications in the security services and military.
Different forms of neurostimulation in humans have now been shown to boost our ability to learn and perform motor actions, to pay attention to events in the environment, to recall information in memory, and to exercise self-control. At the same time, evidence is mounting for more complex effects on cognition. For instance, stimulation of the human prefrontal cortex can enhance or inhibit our tendency to lie, improve our ability to lie successfully, and can encourage us to comply with social norms that carry a punishment for disobedience.
Most of these findings stem from two basic forms of brain stimulation. The first, called transcranial magnetic stimulation (or TMS), uses the physics of electromagnetism to activate brain cells. How this activity influences behaviour depends on what the brain cells are important for in the first place. So, were I to apply TMS to a particular part of your motor cortex then it would make your finger twitch, but if I instead stimulated Broca’s area then it would disrupt your ability to speak.
The second major approach, called transcranial direct current stimulation (or TDCS), works quite differently. TDCS is generally too weak to make brain cells fire – instead it alters the sensitivity of the cells, making them more or less active in response to something that stimulates them later. Both TMS and TDCS can have aftereffects lasting from minutes to hours, sometimes even days, causing changes in neurophysiology and neurochemistry.
As the scientific questions being asked by brain stimulation expand, so too are the methods becoming more sophisticated. One exciting new technique, called transcranial pulsed ultrasound, theoretically allows precise stimulation of any neural region. So far it hasn’t been tested in the human brain but such studies seem only a matter of time. Together, these techniques and their applications hold great promise for understanding the machinery of human mental processes, with hope for treating patients suffering from brain injury and disease.
Well, at least that’s the line that we use in our grant applications and press releases. And it’s true, except that it doesn’t tell the whole story because anything that can boost or rehabilitate human abilities could also be exploited for military or security purposes, as well as by questionable private enterprises. Predictably, some of the major innovations in brain stimulation research are being funded by the US military.
So far the applications of brain stimulation proposed by the military are far-fetched, but what happens when the science catches up with their ambitions? What army wouldn’t take advantage of a method that could make soldiers more alert, faster to react, faster to learn, less likely to binge-drink off duty, and more compliant with authority? What intelligence agency wouldn’t embrace a technology that could help their operatives become better liars, or which limits the ability of prisoners to lie under interrogation?
Applications like these, in turn, raise ethical questions. Would a soldier be able to refuse brain stimulation, and if not, wouldn’t that violate the principle of consent underlying ‘medical’ interventions? Would soldiers under the influence of brain stimulation still be accountable for their actions in conflict? Would a prisoner subjected to brain stimulation lose their right to silence?
Going deeper we might ask whether it is ethical for neuroscientists and psychologists to collaborate with organisations whose ultimate research objective is to develop more efficient ways of killing people. How, we might wonder, do such activities fit with the benign aims of the Society for Neuroscience or the British Psychological Society?
Fortunately we’re still some distance from a future of routine neuro-enhancement and, as always, we should be wary of hype that suggests otherwise. Among the cognitive neuroscience community there is much valid scepticism about the potential of brain stimulation to genuinely improve neural function. It could be that, like a zero-sum game, improving any one function necessarily impairs another.
Even so, the dazzling pace of brain stimulation research warns us not to downplay the interests of the military and private industry. Whether such concerns should hinder the progress of basic science is a vexed issue. Few of my colleagues would accept that advances in neuroscience should be limited beyond consideration of whether the research itself is ethical. After all, they would say, who can possibly foresee all the unethical applications of basic science? I agree, but the argument has one problem: when it comes to brain stimulation, there is a foreseeable future in which the neuroscience becomes enmeshed with the politics of security and war.
As Western governments cut basic science funding and push academics toward working with industry, it is easy to see why those in my position may be tempted to align with wealthy defence contractors. Yet in the race to achieve REF impact, society may well ask who is assessing the risk of that impact being harmful
Patient participation in high-risk research could benefit novel drug trials
Published on September 19, 2013 at 2:47 AM ·
Individuals have a right to participate in risky research trials, which might harm their health or even kill them, and institutional review boards (known as research ethics committees in the UK) – which are responsible for deciding whether a particular research trial can take place in a given institution – are potentially impeding the progress of research by rejecting such studies on ethical grounds, according to a Viewpoint published in The Lancet today [Wednesday 18 September].
Dr David Shaw, of the Institute for Biomedical Ethics, at the University of Basel, Switzerland, argues that “Institutional review boards should never reject a study because it poses too high a risk to participants, and that their role should be confined to ensuring that risks and any potential benefits are fully explained to potential participants. Everyone should have the right to participate in research without paternalistic decisions about risk being made on their behalf.”
It has been argued that patients who participate in trials – particularly those who are terminally ill – are often under what is termed “the therapeutic misconception”, whereby they wrongly believe that they will benefit from participation in a study, even if they are told they might not. Ethics committees frequently deny approval for trials where patients are seen as unlikely to benefit from treatment offered during the trial.
However, Dr Shaw argues that instead of this overly paternalistic approach, institutional review boards should instead ensure that trial participants fully understand the risks involved, and if they still want to take part, they should not be prevented from doing so. Furthermore, he suggests that relaxing attitudes towards patient participation in risky research could greatly benefit some research programmes, particularly for novel drugs where, in the early stages of development, trials are often difficult or impossible to approve, because of uncertainty about prospective harm or benefit.
“Why potential participants should be denied the opportunity to participate in trials that pose even higher risks if they wish to do so, is unclear,” says Dr Shaw. “Competent adults can, for example, go skydiving, potholing, or bungee jumping. All of these sports are highly dangerous and, unlike research, confer no benefit to society. For example, skydivers have a one in 100 000 risk of death at each jump, and the injury rate is about one in 200. Almost half of bungee jumpers sustain at least minor injury. Why should people not be allowed to run similar or higher risks by participating in societally beneficial clinical research? Although a lot less fun, and also potentially fatal, participation in such research has the potential to help people and demonstrates solidarity with one’s community.”
“To stop people participating in high-risk research denies them the right to help their communities, patients worldwide, and future generations of patients…Assisted dying is increasingly regarded as acceptable in many developed countries; if healthy people are allowed to participate in high-risk sports that might kill them, and sick people can be assisted in ending their lives, why should both groups not be able to risk dying in a way that potentially benefits society?”
Modern cities and improved hygiene could be behind rising rates of Alzheimer’s in Britain and the rest of the developed world, scientists have said.
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By Laura Donnelly and agencies
4:00PM BST 04 Sep 2013
Researchers have linked the “hygiene hypothesis” – the idea that lack of exposure to germs, viruses and parasites harms the immune system – to rising rates of dementia in richer nations.
A new study by Cambridge University compared dementia cases in 192 countries and found it was more common in those with better sanitation and less disease.
Countries where everyone has access to cleaning drinking water, such as the UK and France, have nine per cent higher Alzheimer’s rates then average.
In comparison those where less than half have access, such as Kenya and Cambodia, have a significantly lower incident rate.
Taken together, infection levels, sanitation and urbanisation account for 43 per cent of the variation in rates of Alzheimer’s between different countries, the study found.
Dr Molly Fox, from Cambridge University, who led the new research published in the journal Evolution, Medicine and Public Health, said: “The ‘hygiene hypothesis’, which suggests a relationship between cleaner environments and a higher risk of certain allergies and autoimmune diseases, is well established.
“We believe we can now add Alzheimer’s to this list of diseases. There are important implications for forecasting future global disease burden, especially in developing countries as they increase in sanitation.”
The charity The Alzheimer’s Society said the theory was interesting, but did not demonstrate the cause of the variation.
Dr James Pickett, head of research, said: ‘We have known for some time that the numbers of people with Alzheimer’s varies between countries. That this discrepancy could be the result of better hygiene is certainly an interesting theory and loosely ties in with the links we know exist between inflammation and the disease. However it is always difficult to pin causality to one factor and this study does not cancel out the role of the many other lifestyle differences such as diet, education and wider health which we know can also have a role to play.”
Experts said that although the study allowed for the fact that people live far longer in Western countries, it did not take account of the fact that such countries had better reporting systems and were more likely to document cases of Alzheimer’s disease.
In the Cambridge study, scientists looked at the link between hygiene and Alzheimer’s rates in 192 rich and poor countries. They adjusted the findings to take account of differences in birth rate, life expectancy and age structure.
Access to clean drinking water was one area said to have a high impact on Alzheimer’s rates. Countries such as the UK and France, where this is universal, had a 9 per cent higher incidence of Alzheimer’s than countries such as Kenya and Cambodia where less than half the population can access clean water.
A similar pattern emerged from comparisons between countries with low and high rates of infectious disease.
Switzerland and Iceland, with very low rates, were 12 per cent more affected by Alzheimer’s than China and Ghana, whose infection rates are high.
The more urbanised countries also experienced higher rates of Alzheimer’s irrespective of life expectancy.
In the UK and Australia, where more than three quarters of the population lived in urban areas, Alzheimer’s incidence was 10% higher than in Bangladesh and Nepal, where less than a 10th of people had their homes in towns and cities.
Previous research has shown that Alzheimer’s affects fewer people in Latin America, China and India than it does in Europe.
Even within those regions, prevalence is lower in urban than in rural areas, according to the new findings.
The hygiene hypothesis is based on the assumption that lack of contact with “dirt” in the form of bacteria and other infectious agents upsets the development of white blood cells, key elements of the immune system.
In particular, T-cells are said to be affected. T-cells have a variety of functions, including attacking and destroying foreign invaders and marshalling other parts of the immune system.
Some, known as “regulatory” T-cells, reign in the immune system when it starts to get out of control. Dysfunctional regulatory T-cells can lead to inflammation and autoimmune disorders.
Regulatory T-cell deficiency is linked to the type of inflammation commonly found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers wrote: “Exposure to micro-organisms is critical for the regulation of the immune system.”
Since the turn of the 19th century, such exposure had increasingly diminished in wealthier nations due to lack of contact with “animals, faeces and soil”.
“The increase in adult life expectancy and Alzheimer’s prevalence in developing countries is perhaps one of the greatest challenges of our time,” said Dr Fox.
“Today, more than 50 per cent of people with Alzheimer’s live in the developing world, and by 2025 it is expected that this figure will rise to more than 70 per cent.
“A better understanding of how environmental sanitation influences Alzheimer’s risk could open up avenues for both lifestyle and pharmaceutical strategies to limit Alzheimer’s prevalence.”
The hygiene hypothesis is normally thought to be most relevant in childhood, when the immune system is still developing. But in the case of Alzheimer’s, exposure to microbes across a person’s lifetime might be important, say the scientists. This is because regulatory T-cell numbers peak at various points in life, for example at adolescence and middle age.
An international team of researchers, led by physicists from Lund University, have confirmed the existence of what is considered a new element with atomic number 115. The experiment was conducted at the GSI research facility in Germany. The results confirm earlier measurements performed by research groups in Russia.
“This was a very successful experiment and is one of the most important in the field in recent years”, said Dirk Rudolph, Professor at the Division of Atomic Physics at Lund University.
Besides the observations of the new chemical element, the researchers have also gained access to data that gives them a deeper insight into the structure and properties of super-heavy atomic nuclei.
By bombarding a thin film of americium with calcium ions, the research team was able to measure photons in connection with the new element’s alpha decay. Certain energies of the photons agreed with the expected energies for X-ray radiation, which is a ‘fingerprint’ of a given element.
The new super-heavy element has yet to be named. A committee comprising members of the international unions of pure and applied physics and chemistry will review the new findings to decide whether to recommend further experiments before the discovery of the new element is acknowledged.
The new evidence for the chemical element with atomic number 115 will be presented in the scientific journal The Physical Review Letters on 27 August.
EEV: Science sometimes is not politically correct. This is in no way a promotion of drugs. In addition there are very deadly side effects as well as a nasty rebound effect.
- Previously thought coke caused loss because it suppressed the appetite
- But a new study found that the class A drug prevents fat storage
- However the slimming effect stops when users stop taking the drug
- Some people are thought to relapse because they are upset by the weight gain caused abstinence
PUBLISHED: 08:43 EST, 9 August 2013 | UPDATED: 08:43 EST, 9 August 2013
Taking cocaine prevents the body storing fat, new research has revealed.
Previously experts believed cocaine users were slim because the class A drug was suppressing their appetites.
The new research, by scientists at the University of Cambridge, also found that the slimming effects stop when users ‘go clean’ and that this can lead to dramatic weight gain.
Taking cocaine prevents the body storing fat, new research has revealed
The findings support theories that body-conscious drug users sometimes relapse because they become so unhappy at gaining weight when they stop taking cocaine.
Dr Karen Ersche, from the Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute at the University of Cambridge, compared 30 cocaine-dependent men to 30 healthy ones.
She found that cocaine users actually choose worse diets than healthy men – opting to eat fatty foods and carbohydrates – but that they lose weight regardless.
Meanwhile, levels of appetite-controlling hormone leptin in the drug-users’ bodies were cut leading to severe over-eating.
Previously experts believed cocaine users were slim because the class A drug was suppressing their appetites
Researchers believe the habitual overeating, and poor diet, only confound the weight-gain when users’ metabolisms slow when they come off the drug.
Dr Ersche said: ‘We were surprised how little body fat the cocaine users had in light of their reported consumption of fatty food.
‘It seems that regular cocaine abuse directly interferes with metabolic processes and thereby reduces body fat.
‘This imbalance between fat intake and fat storage may also explain why these individuals gain so much weight when they stop using cocaine.
‘For most people, weight gain is unpleasant but for people in recovery, who can gain several stone, this weight gain goes far beyond an aesthetic concern but involves both psychological and physiological problems.
‘The stress caused by this conspicuous body change can also contribute to relapse.
‘It is therefore important that we better understand the effects of cocaine on eating behaviour and body weight to best support drug users on their road to recovery.
‘Notable weight gain following cocaine abstinence is not only a source of major personal suffering but also has profound implications for health and recovery.
‘Intervention at a sufficiently early stage could have the potential to prevent weight gain during recovery, thereby reducing personal suffering and improving the chances of recovery.’
The research was published in the August edition of the scientific journal, Appetite.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2387739/Cocaine-doesnt-just-curb-appetite-suppresses-bodys-ability-store-fat-scientists.html#ixzz2bU8QY4mx Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook
Monday, July 22, 2013
TAU research finds that breastfed children are less likely to develop ADHD later in life
We know that breastfeeding has a positive impact on child development and health — including protection against illness. Now researchers from Tel Aviv University have shown that breastfeeding could also help protect against Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), the most commonly diagnosed neurobehavioral disorder in children and adolescents.
Seeking to determine if the development of ADHD was associated with lower rates of breastfeeding, Dr. Aviva Mimouni-Bloch, of Tel Aviv University‘s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Head of the Child Neurodevelopmental Center in Loewenstein Hospital, and her fellow researchers completed a retrospective study on the breastfeeding habits of parents of three groups of children: a group that had been diagnosed with ADHD; siblings of those diagnosed with ADHD; and a control group of children without ADHD and lacking any genetic ties to the disorder.
The researchers found a clear link between rates of breastfeeding and the likelihood of developing ADHD, even when typical risk factors were taken into consideration. Children who were bottle-fed at three months of age were found to be three times more likely to have ADHD than those who were breastfed during the same period. These results have been published in Breastfeeding Medicine.
Understanding genetics and environment
In their study, the researchers compared breastfeeding histories of children from six to 12 years of age at Schneider’s Children Medical Center in Israel. The ADHD group was comprised of children that had been diagnosed at the hospital, the second group included the siblings of the ADHD patients, and the control group included children without neurobehavioral issues who had been treated at the clinics for unrelated complaints.
In addition to describing their breastfeeding habits during the first year of their child’s life, parents answered a detailed questionnaire on medical and demographic data that might also have an impact on the development of ADHD, including marital status and education of the parents, problems during pregnancy such as hypertension or diabetes, birth weight of the child, and genetic links to ADHD.
Taking all risk factors into account, researchers found that children with ADHD were far less likely to be breastfed in their first year of life than the children in the other groups. At three months, only 43 percent of children in the ADHD group were breastfed compared to 69 percent of the sibling group and 73 percent of the control group. At six months, 29 percent of the ADHD group was breastfed, compared to 50 percent of the sibling group and 57 percent of the control group.
One of the unique elements of the study was the inclusion of the sibling group, says Dr. Mimouni-Bloch. Although a mother will often make the same breastfeeding choices for all her children, this is not always the case. Some children’s temperaments might be more difficult than their siblings’, making it hard for the mother to breastfeed, she suggests.
While researchers do not yet know why breastfeeding has an impact on the future development of ADHD — it could be due to the breast milk itself, or the special bond formed between mother and baby during breastfeeding, for example — they believe this research shows that breastfeeding can have a protective effect against the development of the disorder, and can be counted as an additional biological advantage for breastfeeding.
Dr. Mimouni-Bloch hopes to conduct a further study on breastfeeding and ADHD, examining children who are at high risk for ADHD from birth and following up in six-month intervals until six years of age, to obtain more data on the phenomenon.
For more news about pediatric medicine research from Tel Aviv University, click here.
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Researchers identify risk factor for autism in a subset of children: Maternal Antibody-Related autism
Researchers with the UC Davis MIND Institute have found that prenatal exposure to specific combinations of antibodies found only in mothers of children with autism leads to changes in the brain that adversely affect behavior and development.
The researchers said that the highly specific immunoglobulin-G (IgG) autoantibodies cross the placenta during pregnancy to impact fetal brain development, resulting in a form of autism that the researchers now are calling maternal antibody-related (MAR) autism. The researchers said that MAR autism cases could represent as much as 23 percent of all autism cases.
The research is published online today in Translational Psychiatry, a Nature journal.
During gestation, maternal IgG antibodies normally cross the placenta and protect the fetus, conferring the mother’s immunities to the developing child. However, in addition to protective antibodies, autoantibodies that react to fetal proteins can also cross the placenta, essentially attacking fetal tissue.
The current study is an extension of an earlier study conducted in 2008. It explores the effects of the autism-specific IgG antibodies in a non-human primate model. Non-human primates live in complex social groups and use many forms of social communication. In addition, portions of the human brain, such as the prefrontal cortex, are poorly developed in other animal models, such as rodents, but are highly developed in the rhesus monkey.
For the study, a group of pregnant female monkeys were exposed to IgG purified from mothers of children with autism that exhibited fetal brain reactivity — the IgG-ASD group; a second group of pregnant female monkeys received IgG antibodies from the mothers of typically developing children. The third group included untreated animals that did not receive antibodies.
The study’s lead researcher is Melissa D. Bauman, UC Davis assistant adjunct professor in the UC Davis Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and a faculty member at the MIND Institute. To evaluate development in the IgG-ASD offspring, Bauman and her colleagues carried out a comprehensive evaluation of behavioral development and periodically conducted longitudinal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the monkeys’ brain development during the first two years of life.
“The offspring of IgG-ASD antibody treated mothers consistently deviated from species-typical behavioral development of young rhesus monkeys,” Bauman said. Early in development, the monkey mothers treated with IgG-ASD antibodies were much more protective of their offspring. For example, the IgG-ASD treated mothers more frequently approached and contacted their infants and remained in close proximity to them.
The mothers may have detected behavioral abnormalities in their IgG-ASD offspring that were so subtle that they escaped the researchers’ attention, Bauman said. “The heightened protectiveness of the monkey mother’s was observed only when other animals were present, suggesting that the mothers perceived a greater risk to their IgG-ASD treated infants,” she said.
Other alterations in behavior were observed as the animals matured. For example, the offspring of the IgG-ASD antibody-treated animals more frequently approached other infants in their rearing group. “Even more strikingly, as they grew older, the IgG-ASD offspring increased their approaches to unfamiliar peers,” she said. “Inappropriately approaching a novel animal is highly unusual and potentially dangerous for young rhesus monkeys.”
Social interactions such as grooming or playing often occur when a young rhesus monkey approaches a peer. Despite the higher frequency of their approaches, the IgG-ASD offspring did not interact socially with peers more often than did the offspring whose mothers did not receive IgG-ASD antibodies. “In fact, there actually was a trend for the IgG-ASD offspring to receive less grooming from their same-age peers,” she said. “It is possible that there were subtleties in the demeanor of the IgG-ASD offspring that dissuaded their peers from interacting with them.”
These new behavioral findings build upon previous studies exploring the role of maternal antibodies in autism, including a pilot study conducted in non-human primates in 2008. During the past five years, study co-author Judy Van de Water and her colleagues have made substantial progress in characterizing which maternal antibodies are highly specific to autism. Van de Water with colleagues Rob Berman and Daniel Braunschweig recently reported that mouse offspring prenatally exposed to these autism-specific antibodies exhibit altered physical and social development, including anxiety and social behavior.
“The non-human primate study provides an exciting look at the pathologic effect of these autism-specific maternal antibodies,” said Judy Van de Water, who originally described the association between maternal antibodies to fetal brain proteins and ASD.
In addition to the behavioral changes, MRI analysis of the brains revealed altered patterns of neurodevelopment in the monkey offspring exposed to the IgG-ASD antibodies. The rate of brain growth was significantly faster in the male, but not female, IgG-ASD offspring, when compared with that of the control offspring. The total brain volume of the male IgG-ASD offspring also was significantly greater than normal, the researchers found.
While it is not clear why prenatal exposure to these antibodies only alters brain volume in the male offspring, a similar trajectory of abnormal brain development has been observed in male children with autism. Recent research from the MIND Institute has reported that boys with autism who were exposed prenatally to the same antibodies have significantly larger brains than boys with autism born to mothers without the IgG-ASD antibodies and typically developing control groups.
“The combination of brain and behavioral changes observed in the nonhuman primate offspring exposed to these autism-specific antibodies suggests that this is a very promising avenue of research.” Bauman adds that this unique interdisciplinary study requires a team of researchers with expertise in immunology, animal behavior and neuroscience thus “highlighting the collaborative efforts that characterize research at the UC Davis MIND Institute.”
David Amaral, research director of the MIND Institute and senior author of the paper, noted “that much research remains ahead of us to identify the mechanisms by which the antibodies affect brain development and behavior. But, this program of research is very exciting, because it opens pathways to potentially predicting and preventing some portion of future autism cases.”
Other study authors are Ana-Maria Iosif, Paul Ashwood, Daniel Braunschweig, Aaron Lee, Cynthia M. Schumann, Judy Van de Water and David G. Amaral, all of UC Davis.
This study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health Grant # R01M H80218; the California National Primate Research Center Grant # RR00169. Human subject serum collection was supported by The UC Davis MIND Institute Pilot Grant Program and the National Center for Research Resources, National Institutes of Health, through Grant #UL1 RR024146.
But No Link to Celiac Disease
June 20, 2013
NEW YORK—Researchers have found elevated antibodies to gluten proteins of wheat in children with autism in comparison to those without autism. The results also indicated an association between the elevated antibodies and the presence of gastrointestinal symptoms in the affected children. They did not find any connection, however, between the elevated antibodies and celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder known to be triggered by gluten. The results were e-published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Gluten, a group of more than 70 proteins in wheat and related grains, consists of gliadins and glutenins. Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that negatively affects communication and social interaction. Although the mechanisms that cause autism are poorly understood, there is mounting evidence that the immune system plays a role in a subset of patients. In addition, autistic children commonly have gastrointestinal symptoms. In recent years, diets that exclude gluten have become increasingly popular in the autism community. The effectiveness of such diets, however, has not been confirmed in controlled and blinded studies.
The study, headed by Armin Alaedini, PhD, assistant professor of medical sciences (in the Department of Medicine and the Institute of Human Nutrition) at Columbia University Medical Center, looked at blood samples and medical records of 140 children. Thirty-seven of the children were diagnosed with autism and the rest were unaffected siblings or healthy control subjects. To increase diagnostic accuracy, only patients identified as having autism according to two well-recognized diagnostic instruments, the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule and the Autism Diagnostic Interview, Revised, were selected. The blood samples were tested for antibodies to tissue transglutaminase, a sensitive and specific marker of celiac disease, as well as antibodies to gliadin. The patients also were tested for genes encoding certain human leukocyte antigens, which are strongly associated with celiac disease.
“This is the first study to systematically look at serologic and genetic markers of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity in such well-characterized cohorts of autism patients and controls,” said Peter H. R. Green, MD, director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University Medical Center and one of the study authors. “But the findings need to be confirmed in larger cohorts.”
The authors suggest that further research is needed to understand the relevance of the described antibodies in autism. “The IgG antibody response to gluten does not necessarily indicate sensitivity to gluten or any disease-causing role for the antibodies in the context of autism,” said Dr. Alaedini. “But the higher levels of antibody to gluten and their association with gastrointestinal symptoms point to immunologic and/or intestinal permeability abnormalities in the affected children.” Dr. Alaedini noted that a better understanding of the immune response to gluten may yield novel clues about autism or offer biomarkers to identify a subset of patients that would respond to certain treatment strategies.
Reference: Lau et al., PLOS ONE; June 18, 2013: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0066155.
This research was supported by resources provided by the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE) Consortium and the participating AGRE families. The Autism Genetic Resource Exchange is a program of Autism Speaks and is supported, in part, by grant 1U24MH081810 from the National Institute of Mental Health. It was also supported by a grant from the Department of Defense, award number W81XWH 10-1-0887, to Armin Alaedini (PI).
The authors report no financial or other conflicts of interest.
Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University Medical Center provides comprehensive medical care for adults and pediatric patients with celiac disease, including nutrition and attention to the multiple associated conditions that occur in celiac disease. The Center is involved in the care of thousands of patients with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, providing better access to proper testing, diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up care. Additional information is available online at http://www.celiacdiseasecenter.org/.
Columbia University Medical Center provides international leadership in basic, preclinical, and clinical research; medical and health sciences education; and patient care. The medical center trains future leaders and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, scientists, public health professionals, dentists, and nurses at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions. Columbia University Medical Center is home to the largest medical research enterprise in New York City and State and one of the largest faculty medical practices in the Northeast. For more information, visit cumc.columbia.edu or columbiadoctors.org.
June 6, 2013 — Researchers have been able to teleport information from light to light at a quantum level for several years. In 2006, researchers at the Niels Bohr Institute succeeded in teleporting between light and gas atoms. Now the research group has succeeded in teleporting information between two clouds of gas atoms and to carry out the teleportation — not just one or a few times, but successfully every single time.
The results are published in the scientific journal, Nature Physics.
“It is a very important step for quantum information research to have achieved such stable results that every attempt will succeed,” says Eugene Polzik, professor and head of the research center Quantop at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen.
The experiments are conducted in the laboratories of the research group in the basement under the Niels Bohr Institute. There are two glass containers, each containing a cloud of billions of caesium gas atoms.
The two glass containers are not connected to each other, but information is teleported from the one glass cloud to the other by means of laser light. The light is sent into the first glass container and then that strange quantum phenomenon takes place, the light and gas become entangled. The fact that they are entangled means that they have established a quantum link — they are synchronised.
Both glass containers are enclosed in a chamber with a magnetic field and when the laser light (with a specific wavelength) hits the gas atoms, the outermost electrons in the atoms react -like magnetic needles — by pointing in the same direction. The direction can be up or down, and it is this direction that makes up quantum information, in the same way that regular computer information is made up of the numbers 0 and 1.
The gas now emits photons (light particles) containing quantum information. The light is sent on to the other gas container and the quantum information is now read from the light and registered by a detector. The signal from the detector is sent back to the first container and the direction of the atoms’ electrons are adjusted in relation to the signal. This completes the teleportation from the second to the first container.
The experiments are carried out at room temperature and the gas atoms therefore move at a speed of 200 meters per second in the glass container, so they are constantly bumping into the glass wall and thus lose the information they have just been encoded with. But the research group has developed a solution for this.
“We use a coating of a kind of paraffin on the interior of the glass contains and it causes the gas atoms to not lose their coding, even if they bump into the glass wall,” explains Professor Eugene Polzik. It sounds like an easy solution, but in reality it was complicated to develop the method. Another element of the experiment was to develop the detector that registers the photons. Here the researchers developed a particularly sensitive detector that is very effective at detecting the photons. The experiments therefore works every single time.
But it is one thing to perform tests in a laboratory and quite another to apply it in wider society! In the experiment, the teleportation’s range is ½ meter — hardly impressive in a world where information must be transported around the world in no time.
“The range of ½ meter is entirely due to the size of the laboratory,” explains Eugene Polzik with a big smile and continues — “we could increase the range if we had the space and, in principle, we could teleport information, for example, to a satellite.” The stable results are an important step towards the quantum communication network of the future.
Research reveals possible reason for cholesterol-drug side effects
University of Arizona researchers have identified a clue to explain the reversible memory loss sometimes caused by the use of statins, one of the most widely prescribed medications in the world.
|IMAGE: Of 1,040 drugs tested, only four caused nodules to form inside the neurites, resembling beads on a string. All four drugs were statins.|
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and physicians continue to document that some patients experience fuzzy thinking and memory loss while taking statins, a class of global top-selling cholesterol-lowering drugs.
A University of Arizona research team has made a novel discovery in brain cells being treated with statin drugs: unusual swellings within neurons, which the team has termed the “beads-on-a-string” effect.
The team is not entirely sure why the beads form, said UA neuroscientist Linda L. Restifo, who leads the investigation. However, the team believes that further investigation of the beads will help inform why some people experience cognitive declines while taking statins.
“What we think we’ve found is a laboratory demonstration of a problem in the neuron that is a more severe version for what is happening in some peoples’ brains when they take statins,” said Restifo, a UA professor of neuroscience, neurology and cellular and molecular medicine, and principal investigator on the project.
Restifo and her team’s co-authored study and findings recently were published in Disease Models & Mechanisms, a peer-reviewed journal. Robert Kraft, a former research associate in the department of neuroscience, is lead author on the article.
Restifo and Kraft cite clinical reports noting that statin users often are told by physicians that cognitive disturbances experienced while taking statins were likely due to aging or other effects. However, the UA team’s research offers additional evidence that the cause for such declines in cognition is likely due to a negative response to statins.
The team also has found that removing statins results in a disappearance of the beads-on-a-string, and also a restoration of normal growth. With research continuing, the UA team intends to investigate how genetics may be involved in the bead formation and, thus, could cause hypersensitivity to the drugs in people. Team members believe that genetic differences could involve neurons directly, or the statin interaction with the blood-brain barrier.
“This is a great first step on the road toward more personalized medication and therapy,” said David M. Labiner, who heads the UA department of neurology. “If we can figure out a way to identify patients who will have certain side effects, we can improve therapeutic outcomes.”
For now, the UA team has multiple external grants pending, and researchers carry the hope that future research will greatly inform the medical community and patients.
“If we are able to do genetic studies, the goal will be to come up with a predictive test so that a patient with high cholesterol could be tested first to determine whether they have a sensitivity to statins,” Restifo said.
Detecting, Understanding a Drugs’ Side Effects
Restifo used the analogy of traffic to explain what she and her colleagues theorize.
The beads indicate a sort of traffic jam, she described. In the presence of statins, neurons undergo a “dramatic change in their morphology,” said Restifo, also a BIO5 Institute member.
“Those very, very dramatic and obvious swellings are inside the neurons and act like a traffic pileup that is so bad that it disrupts the function of the neurons,” she said.
It was Kraft’s observations that led to team’s novel discovery. Restifo, Kraft and their colleagues had long been investigating mutations in genes, largely for the benefit of advancing discoveries toward the improved treatment of autism and other cognitive disorders.
At the time, and using a blind-screened library of 1,040 drug compounds, the team ran tests on fruit fly neurons, investigating the reduction of defects caused by a mutation when neurons were exposed to different drugs. The team had shown that one mutation caused the neuron branches to be curly instead of straight, but certain drugs corrected this. The research findings were published in 2006 in the Journal of Neuroscience.
Then, something serendipitous occurred: Kraft observed that one compound, then another and then two more all created the same reaction – “these bulges, which we called beads-on-a-string,'” Kraft said. “And they were the only drugs causing this effect.”
At the end of the earlier investigation, the team decoded the library and found that the four compounds that resulted in the beads-on-a-string were, in fact, statins.
“The ‘beads’ effect of the statins was like a bonus prize from the earlier experiment,” Restifo said. “It was so striking, we couldn’t ignore it.”
|IMAGE: Neurons whose mitochondria are labeled with green fluorescent protein (GFP) reveal that statins cause mitochondria to pile up inside the branches that neurons use to connect with each other.|
In addition to detecting the beads effect, the team came upon yet another major finding: when statins are removed, the beads-on-a-string effect disappears, offering great promise to those being treated with the drugs.
“For some patients, just as much as statins work to save their lives, they can cause impairments,” said Monica Chaung, who has been part of the team and is a UA undergraduate researcher studying molecular and cellular biology and physiology.
“It’s not a one drug fits all,” said Chaung, a UA junior who is also in the Honors College. “We suspect different gene mutations alter how people respond to statins.”
Having been trained by Kraft in techniques to investigate cultured neurons, Chuang was testing gene mutations and found variation in sensitivity to statins. It was through the work of Chuang and Kraft that the team would later determine that, after removing the statins, the cells were able to repair themselves; the neurotoxicity was not permanent, Restifo said.
“In the clinical literature, you can read reports on fuzzy thinking, which stops when a patient stops taking statins. So, that was a very important demonstration of a parallel between the clinical reports and the laboratory phenomena,” Restifo said.
The finding led the team to further investigate the neurotoxicity of statins.
“There is no question that these are very important and very useful drugs,” Restifo said. Statins have been shown to lower cholesterol and prevent heart attacks and strokes.
But too much remains unknown about how the drugs’ effects may contribute to muscular, cognitive and behavioral changes.
“We don’t know the implications of the beads, but we have a number of hypotheses to test,” Restifo said, adding that further studies should reveal exactly what happens when the transportation system within neurons is disrupted.
Also, given the move toward prescribing statins to children, the need to have an expanded understanding of the effects of statins on cognitive development is critical, Kraft said.
“If statins have an effect on how the nervous system matures, that could be devastating,” Kraft said. “Memory loss or any sort of disruption of your memory and cognition can have quite severe effects and negative consequences.”
Restifo and her colleagues have multiple grants pending that would enable the team to continue investigating several facets related to the neurotoxicity of statins. Among the major questions is, to what extent does genetics contribute to a person’s sensitivity to statins?
“We have no idea who is at risk. That makes us think that we can use this genetic laboratory assay to infer which of the genes make people susceptible,” Restifo said.
“This dramatic change in the morphology of the neurons is something we can now use to ask questions and experiment in the laboratory,” she said. “Our contribution is to find a way to ask about genetics and what the genetic vulnerability factors are.”
The Possibility for Future Research, Advice
The team’s findings and future research could have important implications for the medical field and for patients with regard to treatment, communication and improved personalized medicine.
“It’s important to look into this to see if people may have some sort of predisposition to the beads effect, and that’s where we want to go with this research,” Kraft said. “There must be more research into what effects these drugs have other than just controlling a person’s elevated cholesterol levels.”
And even as additional research is ongoing, suggestions already exist for physicians, patients and families.
“Most physicians assume that if a patient doesn’t report side effects, there are no side effects,” Labiner said. “The paternalistic days of medication are hopefully behind us. They should be.”
“We can treat lots of things, but the problem is if there are side effects that worsen the treatment, the patient is more likely to shy away from the medication. That’s a bad outcome,” he said. “There’s got to be a give and take between the patient and physician.”
Patients should feel empowered to ask questions, and deeper questions, about their health and treatment and physicians should be very attentive to any reports of cognitive decline for those patients on statins, she said.
For some, it starts early after starting statins; for others, it takes time. And the signs vary. People may begin losing track of dates, the time or their keys.
“These are not trivial things. This could have a significant impact on your daily life, your interpersonal relationships, your ability to hold a job,” Restifo said.
“This is the part of the brain that allows us to think clearly, to plan, to hold onto memories,” she said. “If people are concerned that they are having this problem, patients should ask their physicians.”
Restifo said open and direct patient-physician communication is even more important for those on statins who have a family history of side effects from statins.
Also, physicians could work more closely with patients to investigate family history and determine a better dosage plan. Even placing additional questions on the family history questionnaire could be useful, she said.
“There is good clinical data that every-other-day dosing give you most of the benefits, and maybe even prevents some of the accumulation of things that result in side effects,” Restifo said, suggesting that physicians should try and get a better longitudinal picture on how people react while on statins.
“Statins have been around now for long enough and are widely prescribed to so many people,” she said. “But increased awareness could be very helpful.”
BOSTON (April 3, 2013) — Researchers from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine have discovered a statistical association between the injection of local dental anesthesia given to children ages two to six and evidence of missing lower wisdom teeth. The results of this epidemiological study, published in the April issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association, suggest that injecting anesthesia into the gums of young children may interrupt the development of the lower wisdom tooth.
“It is intriguing to think that something as routine as local anesthesia could stop wisdom teeth from developing. This is the first study in humans showing an association between a routinely- administered, minimally-invasive clinical procedure and arrested third molar growth,” said corresponding author, Anthony R. Silvestri, D.M.D., clinical professor in the department of prosthodontics and operative dentistry at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine.
Wisdom teeth are potentially vulnerable to injury because their development – unlike all other teeth – does not begin until well after birth. Between two and six years of age, wisdom tooth (third molar) buds begin to develop in the back four corners of the mouth, and typically emerge in the late teens or early adulthood. Not everyone develops wisdom teeth, but for those who do, the teeth often become impacted or problematic.
The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons reports that nine out of 10 people will have at least one impacted wisdom tooth, which can cause bad breath, pain, and/or infection. For this reason, many dentists recommend surgery to remove wisdom teeth to prevent disease or infection.
A developing wisdom tooth, called a bud, is vulnerable to injury for a relatively long time because it is tiny, not covered by bone, and only covered by a thin layer of soft tissue. When a tooth bud first forms, it is no bigger than the diameter of the dental needle itself. The soft tissue surrounding the budding tooth is close to where a needle penetrates when routine dental anesthesia is injected in the lower jaw, for example when treating cavities.
Using the Tufts digital dental record system, the researchers identified records of patients who had received treatment in the Tufts pediatric dental clinic between the ages of two and six and who also had a dental x-ray taken three or more years after initial treatment in the clinic. They eliminated records with confounding factors, such as delayed dental development, and analyzed a total of 439 sites where wisdom teeth could develop in the lower jaw, from 220 patient records.
Group one, the control group (376 sites), contained x-rays of patients who had not received anesthesia on the lower jaw where wisdom teeth could develop. Group two, the comparison group (63 sites), contained x-rays from patients who had received anesthesia.
In the control group, 1.9% of the sites did not have x-ray evidence of wisdom tooth buds. In contrast, 7.9% of the sites in the comparison group – those who had received anesthesia – did not have tooth buds. The comparison group was 4.35 times more likely to have missing wisdom tooth buds than the control group.
“The incidence of missing wisdom teeth was significantly higher in the group that had received dental anesthesia; statistical evidence suggests that this did not happen by chance alone. We hope our findings stimulate research using larger sample sizes and longer periods of observation to confirm our findings and help better understand how wisdom teeth can be stopped from developing,” Silvestri continued. “Dentists have been giving local anesthesia to children for nearly 100 years and may have been preventing wisdom teeth from forming without even knowing it. Our findings give hope that a procedure preventing third molar growth can be developed.”
Silvestri has previously published preliminary research on third molar tooth development, showing that third molars can be stopped from developing when non- or minimally-invasive techniques are applied to tooth buds.
Additional authors of the study are Gerald (Jerry) Swee, D.M.D., M.S., clinical instructor in the department of pediatric dentistry; Matthew Finkelman, Ph.D., assistant professor; Alfred Rich, D.M.D., M.D.S., clinical associate professor in the department of pediatric dentistry; Stanley Alexander, D.M.D., chair and professor of the department of pediatric dentistry; Cheen Loo, B.D.S., M.P.H., Ph.D., D.M.D., associate professor in the department of pediatric dentistry, all of Tufts University School of Dental Medicine.
No external funding supported this research.
Swee J, Silvestri AR, Finkelman MD, Rich AP, Alexander SA, Loo CY. 2013. Inferior Alveolar Nerve Block and Third-Molar Agenesis: A Retrospective Clinical Study. The Journal of the American Dental Association, 144(4), 389-395.
About Tufts University School of Dental Medicine
Founded in 1868, Tufts University School of Dental Medicine (TUSDM) is committed to leadership in education, patient care, research, and community service. Students obtain an interdisciplinary education, integrated with medicine, with access to training in dental specialties. Clinics managed at TUSDM provide quality comprehensive care to more than 18,000 diverse individuals annually, including those requiring special needs. Nationally and internationally, the School promotes health and educational programs and researches new procedures, materials and technologies to improve oral health.
If you are a member of the media interested in learning more about this topic, or speaking with a faculty member at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine or another Tufts health sciences researcher, please contact Siobhan Gallagher at 617-636-6586.
- Brains’ reactions to exercise could be 50 per cent determined by genetics
- Some people are ‘benign masochists’ and enjoy the pain of exercise
- Others have a low threshold and could be tired out by cooking a meal
By Emily Davies
PUBLISHED: 12:04 EST, 30 March 2013 | UPDATED: 12:06 EST, 30 March 2013
If you dread exercising and feel lousy after a physical work out, it might not be because you are lazy, new research has suggested.
While some people experience euphoria from endorphins after exercise, others will find their moods plummet due to their psycho-biological ‘inner voice’, scientists claim.
The physical effects of exercising such as puffing an panting, sweating and pain can trigger varying responses in the brain depending on the person.
Our responses to exercise may be genetic, according to research by Associate Professor Panteleimon Ekkekakis of Iowa State University
Associate Professor Panteleimon Ekkekakis, an exercise psychologist at Iowa State University carried out an experiment where people’s moods were tested when they exercised.
He found that people’s tolerance to the pain factors caused by exercise could be up to 50 per cent genetic.
Participants were made to exercise until they were out of breath and reached a point known as their ‘ventilatory threshold’.
Some participants enjoyed the experience the harder they worked, while others found their mood dropped and they gave up on the workout early.
Elite athletes were described as ‘benign masochists’ by researchers because they appear to enjoy the pain of exertion.
The research showed that some people’s physical capacity is much lower than they realise so even low-impact tasks like cooking dinner could be enough to tire them out.
Our response to the physical effects of exercise could be up to 50 per cent genetic, according to research done by Dr Ekkekakis
Dr Ekkekakis said: ‘As soon as they get up and take a few steps they are above their threshold. People do things that make them feel better and avoid things that make them feel worse. So they stop.’
But the research found that by using tricks such as listening to music, people can continue to feel good even slightly past their ventilatory threshold.
Research done at the University of Essex found that exercising when surrounded by green natural scenes, as opposed to red, or black and white surroundings influenced people’s sense of how hard they were working.
As people approach their maximum capacity, however, a negative reaction is unavoidable.
For most people this occurs when their bodies are exerted to 60 per cent of the maximum capacity their body can cope with.
For elite athletes they may be able to work at 80 per cent capacity before reaching their ‘ventilatory threshould’, while sedentary people would reach a barrier at just 35 per cent
Fruit flies raised on diets based on organic foods performed better on a variety of health tests, including fertility and longevity
A new study looking at the potential health benefits of organic versus non-organic food found that fruit flies fed an organic diet recorded better health outcomes than flies fed a nonorganic diet.
The study from the lab of SMU biologist Johannes H. Bauer, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, found that fruit flies raised on diets of organic foods performed better on several tests for general health.
“While these findings are certainly intriguing, what we now need to determine is why the flies on the organic diets did better, especially since not all the organic diets we tested provided the same positive health outcomes,” said Bauer, principal investigator for the study.
Fruit flies on organic diets showed improvements on the most significant measures of health, namely fertility and longevity, said high school student researcher Ria Chhabra.
“We don’t know why the flies on the organic diet did better. That will require further research. But this is a start toward understanding potential health benefits,” said Chhabra, a student at Clark High School in Plano, Texas, who led the experiment.
Chhabra sought to conduct the experiments after hearing her parents discuss whether it’s worth it to buy organic foods to achieve possible health benefits.
Bauer, an assistant professor in SMU’s Department of Biological Sciences, mentored Chhabra by helping guide and design her research experiments. The research focus of Bauer’s fruit fly lab is nutrition and its relationship to longevity, health and diabetes.
“It’s rare for a high school student to have such a prominent position in the lab. But Ria has tremendous energy and curiosity, and that convinced me to give this research project a try,” Bauer said.
The findings, “Organically grown food provides health benefits to Drosophila melanogaster,” have been published in the open access journal PLOS One. Buaer and Chhabra co-authored the paper with Santharam Kolli, a research associate at SMU. The article is available from PLOS One online at http://bit.ly/RGB8LJ.
Flies on organic food performed better on some health tests “The data demonstrated that flies raised on organic food extracts by-and-large performed better on the majority of health tests,” reported the researchers.
It remains unclear why organic diets delivered better health, the researchers said.
The Bauer lab results come at a time when the health effects of organic food are widely debated.
Prior studies by other researchers have found conflicting results when reviewing the scientific literature for data. While several studies have shown elevated nutrient content and lower pesticide contamination levels in organic food, a recent publication reporting a large-scale analysis of all available studies concluded no clear trend was apparent.
Fruit flies were fed extracts from produce purchased at a grocery store In order to investigate whether organic foods are healthier for consumers, the lab utilized one of the most widely used model systems, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Because of the low costs associated with fly research and the fly’s short life cycle, researchers use fruit flies to study human diseases, from diabetes to heart function to Alzheimer’s disease.
The Bauer lab fruit flies were fed organic and nonorganic produce purchased from a leading national grocery retailer of organic and conventional foods. The flies were fed extracts made from organic and conventional potatoes, soybeans, raisins and bananas. They were not fed any additional nutritional supplements. The researchers tested the effects of each food type independently and avoided any confounding effects of a mixed diet.
The health tests measured longevity, fertility, stress and starvation resistance.
Findings suggest beneficial health effects dependent on specific foods Some negative or neutral results were obtained using diets prepared from organic raisins, which suggests the beneficial health effects of organic diets are dependent on the specific food item, Bauer said. That might explain some of the inconsistent results in the published studies in the scientific literature, he said, noting some studies suggest there is a nutritional benefit from organic food, while others suggest there is not.
“To our surprise, in the majority of our tests of flies on organic foods, the flies fed organic diets did much better on our health tests than the flies fed conventional food,” Bauer said. “Longevity and fertility are the two most important aspects of fly life. On both of these tests, flies fed organic diets performed much better than flies fed conventional diets. They lived longer, had higher fertility, and had a much higher lifetime reproductive output.”
Factors such as soil condition and latitude where the produce was grown weren’t considered, mimicking a typical grocery store shopping experience. — Margaret Allen
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STANFORD, Calif. — Does eating too much sugar cause diabetes? For years, scientists have said “not exactly.” Eating too much of any food, including sugar, can cause you to gain weight; it’s the resulting obesity that predisposes people to diabetes, according to the prevailing theory.
But now the results of a large epidemiological study suggest sugar may also have a direct, independent link to diabetes. Researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine, the University of California-Berkeley and the University of California-San Francisco examined data on sugar availability and diabetes rates from 175 countries over the past decade. After accounting for obesity and a large array of other factors, the researchers found that increased sugar in a population’s food supply was linked to higher diabetes rates, independent of obesity rates. Their study will be published Feb. 27 in PLOS ONE.
“It was quite a surprise,” said Sanjay Basu, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center and the study’s lead author. The research was conducted while Basu was a medical resident at UCSF.
The study provides the first large-scale, population-based evidence for the idea that not all calories are equal from a diabetes-risk standpoint, Basu said. “We’re not diminishing the importance of obesity at all, but these data suggest that at a population level there are additional factors that contribute to diabetes risk besides obesity and total calorie intake, and that sugar appears to play a prominent role.”
Specifically, more sugar was correlated with more diabetes: For every additional 150 calories of sugar available per person per day, the prevalence of diabetes in the population rose 1 percent, even after controlling for obesity, physical activity, other types of calories and a number of economic and social variables. A 12-ounce can of soda contains about 150 calories of sugar. In contrast, an additional 150 calories of any type caused only a 0.1 percent increase in the population’s diabetes rate.
Not only was sugar availability correlated to diabetes risk, but the longer a population was exposed to excess sugar, the higher its diabetes rate after controlling for obesity and other factors. In addition, diabetes rates dropped over time when sugar availability dropped, independent of changes to consumption of other calories and physical activity or obesity rates.
The findings do not prove that sugar causes diabetes, Basu emphasized, but do provide real-world support for the body of previous laboratory and experimental trials that suggest sugar affects the liver and pancreas in ways that other types of foods or obesity do not. “We really put the data through a wringer in order to test it out,” Basu said.
The study used food-supply data from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization to estimate the availability of different foods in the 175 countries examined, as well as estimates from the International Diabetes Foundation on the prevalence of diabetes among 20- to 79-year-olds. The researchers employed new statistical methods derived from econometrics to control for factors that could provide alternate explanations for an apparent link between sugar and diabetes, including overweight and obesity; many non-sugar components of the food supply, such as fiber, fruit, meat, cereals and oils; total calories available per day; sedentary behavior; rates of economic development; household income; urbanization of the population; tobacco and alcohol use; and percentage of the population age 65 or older, since age is also associated with diabetes risk.
“Epidemiology cannot directly prove causation,” said Robert Lustig, MD, pediatric endocrinologist at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital and the senior author of the study. “But in medicine, we rely on the postulates of Sir Austin Bradford Hill to examine associations to infer causation, as we did with smoking. You expose the subject to an agent, you get a disease; you take the agent away, the disease gets better; you re-expose and the disease gets worse again. This study satisfies those criteria, and places sugar front and center.”
“As far as I know, this is the first paper that has had data on the relationship of sugar consumption to diabetes,” said Marion Nestle, PhD, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University who was not involved in the study. “This has been a source of controversy forever. It’s been very, very difficult to separate sugar from the calories it provides. This work is carefully done, it’s interesting and it deserves attention.”
The fact that the paper used data obtained over time is an important strength, Basu said. “Point-in-time studies are susceptible to all kinds of reverse causality,” he said. “For instance, people who are already diabetic or obese might eat more sugars due to food cravings.”
The researchers had to rely on food-availability data for this study instead of consumption data because no large-scale international databases exist to measure food consumption directly. Basu said follow-up studies are needed to examine possible links between diabetes and specific sugar sources, such as high-fructose corn syrup or sucrose, and also to evaluate the influence of specific foods, such as soft drinks or processed foods.
Another important future step, he said, is to conduct randomized clinical trials that could affirm a cause-and-effect connection between sugar consumption and diabetes. Although it would be unethical to feed people large amounts of sugar to try to induce diabetes, scientists could put participants of a study on a low-sugar diet to see if it reduces diabetes risk.
Basu was cautious about possible policy implications of his work, stating that more evidence is needed before enacting widespread policies to lower sugar consumption.
However, Nestle pointed out that the findings add to many other studies that suggest people should cut back on their sugar intake. “How much circumstantial evidence do you need before you take action?” she said. “At this point we have enough circumstantial evidence to advise people to keep their sugar a lot lower than it normally is.”
This study received no external funding. Information about Stanford’s Department of Medicine is available at http://medicine.stanford.edu.
[After the embargo lifts, the paper will be available online at: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0057873]
The Stanford University School of Medicine consistently ranks among the nation’s top medical schools, integrating research, medical education, patient care and community service. For more news about the school, please visit http://mednews.stanford.edu. The medical school is part of Stanford Medicine, which includes Stanford Hospital & Clinics and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. For information about all three, please visit http://stanfordmedicine.org/about/news.html.
Broadcast media contact: M.A. Malone at (650) 723-6912 (email@example.com)
The email specifies that potential participants must be: ‘Fit and well, have no past medical history and not be users of recreational drugs’
A prestigious London university has asked for volunteers to take part in an experiment where they will be required to take cocaine.
An email sent by a professor at King’s College London asks for ‘healthy male volunteers, 25 – 40 years of age, to take part in a clinical study involving nasal administration of cocaine.’
The email, which was sent on Thursday afternoon to hundreds of postgraduate and undergraduate students at the university, is in seven sections, each titled with a question.
Under the section, ‘What will happen?’, the email states: ‘After cocaine administration, repeated biological samples (blood, urine, hair, sweat, oral fluid) will be taken to compare and investigate how cocaine and its metabolites are spread through the human body.’
The email, which was first reported on the Huffington Post website this morning, specifies that potential participants must be: ‘Fit and well, have no past medical history and not be users of recreational drugs.
According to the university the project has been approved by London Westminster Research Ethics Committee and “contributes to the College’s role in conducting research, and teaching research methods”.
A spokesperson for Kings College London said today: “This is an important scientific study to investigate how cocaine and its metabolites are spread through the human body. All the relevant ethical approvals were received for this study. The study will be conducted under the highest level of medical supervision in a dedicated clinical research suite.”
HEALTHY VOLUNTEERS NEEDED
Who are we looking for?
Healthy male volunteers, 25 – 40 years of age, to take part in a clinical study involving nasal administration of cocaine. Medical and dental students will not be enrolled to this study.
What will happen?
After cocaine administration, repeated biological samples (blood, urine, hair, sweat, oral fluid) will be taken to compare and investigate how cocaine and its metabolites are spread through the human body.
What are the requirements?
Potential participants must be fit and well, have no past medical history and not be users of recreational drugs. They must be happy not to cut or dye their hair for 120 days during the study follow up period.
How long will it take?
During the first visit we will check your suitability for the study. The second visit (main experiment) will be around thirty days later and will take most of the day. We would then like to see you 5 more times over a 90 day period so that some repeat biological samples can be taken.
Will you benefit from taking part in this study?
There is no direct benefit from taking part. Reasonable financial compensation will be made for your time, effort and expenses incurred from completing the study.
Who is overseeing the study?
The study will be supervised by the Clinical Toxicology department from St Thomas’ Hospital, London. The research team includes a medical doctor (registrar or consultant) who will be present at all times.
All participant information will be anonymised and held confidentially. All participant information will be anonymised and held confidentially. If you are interested in taking part and would like to find more information please primarily address any enquires to the Chief Scientific Officer) at [email address deleted] were you will be provided with a full participant information sheet.
GI tract bacteria may protect against autoimmune disease
Researchers show that altering gut microbes protects against disease, supporting the ‘hygiene hypothesis’
This press release is available in German.
Toronto — Early life exposure to normal bacteria of the GI tract (gut microbes) protects against autoimmune disease in mice, according to research published on-line in the January 17 edition of Science. The study may also have uncovered reasons why females are at greater risk of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus compared to males.
Researchers from The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) found that when female mice at high risk of autoimmune (type 1) diabetes were exposed to normal gut bacteria from adult male mice, they were strongly protected against the disease. In this type of mouse strain, more than 85% of females develop autoimmune diabetes due to strong genetic risk factors. In contrast, only 25% of the females developed the disease after they were given normal male gut microbes early in life.
“Our findings suggest potential strategies for using normal gut bacteria to block progression of insulin-dependent diabetes in kids who have high genetic risk,” says principal investigator Dr. Jayne Danska. She is Senior Scientist in Genetics & Genome Biology at SickKids and Professor in the Departments of Immunology and Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto.
A second unexpected finding was the effects of the gut microbe treatments on sex hormones. “We were surprised to see that when young female mice received normal gut microbes from adult males, their testosterone levels rose. We then showed that this hormone was essential for the gut microbe treatment to protect against the disease. It was completely unexpected to find that the sex of an animal determines aspects of their gut microbe composition, that these microbes affect sex hormone levels, and that the hormones in turn regulate an immune-mediated disease,” says Dr. Danska.
She adds, “We don’t know yet how transfer of male gut microbes into females increases their testosterone, or how this process protects against autoimmunity. This study opens up a new research arena to explore the clinical potential of altering the gut microbe community to prevent or treat immune-mediated diseases.”
The hygiene hypothesis
The findings support the ‘hygiene hypothesis,’ which suggests that the dramatic increase in autoimmune and inflammatory diseases over the past 50 years results from changes in our exposure to microbes. Gut microbes are essential for normal development and training of the immune system, for extracting nutrients from our food, and for protecting us from some infectious diseases. “Our gut microbial community is an essential part of ourselves – bacterial cells outnumber human cells in our bodies by more than ten to one – and we live with them as partners,” explains Dr. Danska.
Previous research has shown that children living on farms, exposed to a denser and more complex microbial environment, have fewer immune-mediated diseases compared to their village or urban-dwelling peers.
Today’s publication is the first to identify a difference between normal gut microbes in males and females reared in identical conditions, and to show that transfer of male-sourced gut bacteria protects against autoimmune disease in females with high genetic risk.
“Our findings point to a direct relationship between normal gut microbe composition and prevention of autoimmune disease. From these discoveries we can move on to characterize the relationships between gut microbes, sex hormones, and ways to control unwanted immune responses,” says Dr. Danska.
Implications for diabetes and other autoimmune diseases
The researchers’ success in preventing type 1 diabetes from developing in high-risk mice suggests that similar approaches may be applicable in preventing and treating other immune diseases, particularly those showing a female sex bias, Dr. Danska says.
The paper is titled “Sex-specific differences in the gut microbiome drive testosterone-dependent protection from autoimmunity.”
The paper’s co-authors are from the University of Colorado Denver, the Helmholtz Centre in Leipzig, Germany, and the University of Bern in Switzerland. The study was funded by JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation), Canadian Institutes of Health Research, National institutes of Health (US), Genome Canada-Ontario Genomics Institute, and SickKids Foundation.
Janet G. M. Markle, Daniel N. Frank, Steven Mortin-Toth, Charles E. Robertson, Leah M. Feazel, Ulrike Rolle-Kampczyk, Martin von Bergen, Kathy D. McCoy, Andrew J. Macpherson, Jayne S. Danska (2012): Sex Differences in the Gut Microbiome Drive Hormone-Dependent Regulation of Autoimmunity. SCIENCE, 17 January 2013, DOI: 10.1126/science.1233521 http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/recent
For more information, please contact:
Polly Thompson The Hospital for Sick Children Toronto, Ontario, Canada 416-813-7654 ext. 2059 firstname.lastname@example.org
Matet Nebres The Hospital for Sick Children Toronto, Ontario, Canada 416-813-6380 email@example.com
Tilo Arnhold Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ press office) Leipzig, Germany http://www.ufz.de/index.php?de=640
Functional metaproteome of the microbiota http://www.ufz.de/index.php?en=20158
About The Hospital for Sick Children
The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) is recognized as one of the world’s foremost paediatric health-care institutions and is Canada’s leading centre dedicated to advancing children’s health through the integration of patient care, research and education. Founded in 1875 and affiliated with the University of Toronto, SickKids is one of Canada’s most research-intensive hospitals and has generated discoveries that have helped children globally. Its mission is to provide the best in complex and specialized family-centred care; pioneer scientific and clinical advancements; share expertise; foster an academic environment that nurtures health-care professionals; and champion an accessible, comprehensive and sustainable child health system. SickKids is proud of its vision for Healthier Children. A Better World. For more information, please visit www.sickkids.ca.
About SickKids Centre for Research and Learning
The SickKids Centre for Research and Learning will bring together researchers from different scientific disciplines and a variety of clinical perspectives, to accelerate discoveries, new knowledge and their application to child health — a different concept from traditional research building designs. The facility will physically connect SickKids science, discovery and learning activities to its clinical operations. Designed by award-winning architects Diamond + Schmitt Inc. and HDR Inc. with a goal to achieve LEED® Gold Certification for sustainable design, the Centre will create an architectural landmark as the eastern gateway to Toronto’s Discovery District. The SickKids Centre for Research and Learning is funded by a grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Government of Ontario, philanthropist Peter Gilgan and community support for the ongoing fundraising campaign. For more information, please visit www.sickkidsfoundation.com/bepartofit.
About the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research
At the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) scientists are researching the causes and consequences of far-reaching changes to the environment. They are concerned with water resources, biological diversity, the consequences of climate change and adaptability, environmental and biotechnologies, bioenergy, the behaviour of chemicals in the environment, their effect on health, modelling and social science issues. Their guiding theme: Our research contributes to the sustainable use of natural resources and helps to secure this basis for life over the long term under the effects of global change. The UFZ employs 1,000 people in Leipzig, Halle and Magdeburg. It is financed by the federal government and the federal states of Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt. http://www.ufz.de/
The Helmholtz Association contributes towards solving major and pressing social, scientific and economic issues with scientific excellence in six research areas: Energy, Earth and Environment, Health, Key Technologies, Structure of Matter, Aeronautics, Aerospace and Transport. The Helmholtz Association is Germany’s largest scientific organisation with over 33,000 employees in 18 research centres and an annual budget of approximately 3.4 billion euros. Its work stands in the tradition of the naturalist Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894). http://www.helmholtz.de
Painful side effects
Up to 75 per cent of patients who take statins to treat elevated cholesterol levels may suffer from muscle pain. Scientists at the Center for Healthy Aging at the University of Copenhagen have now identified a possible mechanism underlying this unfortunate side effect. The results have just been published in the well-reputed Journal of American College of Cardiology.
Statin is a class of drugs which are used to treat high levels of blood cholesterol by way of inhibiting the liver’s ability to produce cholesterol. Statins are the most potent drugs on the market for lowering low-density cholesterol (LDL). At present 600,000 Danes with elevated cholesterol levels take statins daily. 30-40 per cent of the older Danish population (ages 65+) are currently undergoing treatment.
From 30-40% of the older Danish population (ages 65+) are currently undergoing treatment with statins.
“A well-known side effect of statin therapy is muscle pain. Up to 75 per cent of the physically active patients undergoing treatment for high cholesterol experience pain. This may keep people away from either taking their medicine or from taking exercise – both of which are bad choices,” says Professor Flemming Dela from the Center for Healthy Aging at the University of Copenhagen. He continues:
“We have now shown that statin treatment affects the energy production in muscles. We are working on the assumption that this can be the direct cause of muscle weakness and pain in thepatients.”
Scientists also showed that the patients examined who were being treated with statins had low levels of the key protein Q10. Q10 depletion and ensuing lower energy production in the muscles could be the biological cause of the muscle pain that is a problem for many patients.
Side effects of statin therapy
About 40 per cent of the patients being treated with statins in Denmark are in so-called ’mono therapy’ and thus are prescribed only this one drug. Presumably these are people who ‘only’ have high cholesterol and no other risk factors that could influence heart health:
“The effect of statins is marginal for these patients – in a previous published Cochrane analysis only 0.5% reduction in all-cause mortality was detected, indicating that for every 200 patients taking statins daily for five years, one death would be prevented. This patient group is obviously interesting in light of the side effects of statin therapy,” comments Professor Flemming Dela.
The media influence patients
“The new study is the basis for a large planned research project, where we will focus broadly on patients undergoing statin treatment. We will look at statin consumption from a medical point of view, and will also investigate the media’s influence on patients’ acceptance or rejection of statins as a treatment option. Many contradictory views find their way into the public forum, and it can be difficult for patients to distinguish between fact and fiction,” continues Professor Flemming Dela.
Scientists will also be looking at how home-monitoring of cholesterol levels influences patients – for example, does it make patients feel more or less secure when they take responsibility for their own health in this manner? The Center for Healthy Aging is currently seeking funding for the research project.
Professor Flemming Dela Phone: +45 35 32 74 25
2010 study posted for filing
SLU Geriatrician Collaborates on Year-Long Study of Chinese Older Men
ST. LOUIS — Low levels of the male sex hormone, testosterone, in older men is associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, according to research by a team that includes a Saint Louis University scientist.
John Morley, M.D.
“Having low testosterone may make you more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease,” said John E. Morley, M.D., director of the division of geriatric medicine at Saint Louis University and a study co-investigator. “The take-home message is we should pay more attention to low testosterone, particularly in people who have memory problems or other signs of cognitive impairment.”
The study was published electronically prior to its print publication in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and led by Leung-Wing Chu, M.D., who is chief of the division of geriatric medicine at Queen Mary Hospital at the University of Hong Kong.
Researchers studied 153 Chinese men who were recruited from social centers. They were at least 55 years and older, lived in the community and didn’t have dementia. Of those men, 47 had mild cognitive impairment – or problems with clear thinking and memory loss.
Within a year, 10 men who all were part of the cognitively impaired group developed probable Alzheimer’s disease. These men also had low testosterone in their body tissues; elevated levels of the ApoE 4 (apolipoprotein E) protein, which is correlated with a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease; and high blood pressure.
“It’s a very exciting study because we’ve shown that a low level of testosterone is one of the risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease,” Morley said.
The findings corroborate findings in previous studies of older Caucasian men that show low testosterone is associated with impaired thinking and Alzheimer’s disease. They suggest that testosterone may have a protective value against Alzheimer’s disease.
The next step, Morley said, is to conduct a large-scale study that investigates the use of testosterone in preventing Alzheimer’s disease. Morley and his co-authors advocate studying the effectiveness of testosterone replacement in older men who have both mild memory problems and low testosterone in staving off Alzheimer’s disease.
University of Colorado Boulder Assistant Professor Nikolaus Correll likes to think in multiples. If one robot can accomplish a singular task, think how much more could be accomplished if you had hundreds of them.
Correll and his computer science research team, including research associate Dustin Reishus and professional research assistant Nick Farrow, have developed a basic robotic building block, which he hopes to reproduce in large quantities to develop increasingly complex systems.
Recently the team created a swarm of 20 robots, each the size of a pingpong ball, which they call “droplets.” When the droplets swarm together, Correll said, they form a “liquid that thinks.”
To accelerate the pace of innovation, he has created a lab where students can explore and develop new applications of robotics with basic, inexpensive tools.
Similar to the fictional “nanomorphs” depicted in the “Terminator” films, large swarms of intelligent robotic devices could be used for a range of tasks. Swarms of robots could be unleashed to contain an oil spill or to self-assemble into a piece of hardware after being launched separately into space, Correll said.
Correll plans to use the droplets to demonstrate self-assembly and swarm-intelligent behaviors such as pattern recognition, sensor-based motion and adaptive shape change. These behaviors could then be transferred to large swarms for water- or air-based tasks.
Correll hopes to create a design methodology for aggregating the droplets into more complex behaviors such as assembling parts of a large space telescope or an aircraft.
In the fall, Correll received the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development award known as “CAREER.” In addition, he has received support from NSF’s Early Concept Grants for Exploratory Research program, as well as NASA and the U.S. Air Force.
He also is continuing work on robotic garden technology he developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2009. Correll has been working with Joseph Tanner in CU-Boulder’s aerospace engineering sciences department to further develop the technology, involving autonomous sensors and robots that can tend gardens, in conjunction with a model of a long-term space habitat being built by students.
Correll says there is virtually no limit to what might be created through distributed intelligence systems.
“Every living organism is made from a swarm of collaborating cells,” he said. “Perhaps some day, our swarms will colonize space where they will assemble habitats and lush gardens for future space explorers.”
For a short video of Correll’s team developing swarm droplets visit http://www.colorado.edu/news/multimedia/researchers-creating-team-tiny-robots. For more information about CU-Boulder’s computer science department visit http://www.colorado.edu/engineering/academics/degree/computer-science.
Homicide moves through a city in a process similar to infectious disease, according to a new study that may give police a new tool in tracking and ultimately preventing murders.
Using Newark, N.J., as a pilot case, a team of Michigan State University researchers led by April Zeoli successfully applied public health tracking methods to the city’s 2,366 homicides between 1982 and 2008. They found the killings were not randomly located but instead followed a pattern, evolving from the city’s center and moving southward and westward over time.
Like a flu bug that spreads to susceptible groups such as children and the elderly, homicide clusters in Newark – often fueled by gangs and guns – spread to areas consisting largely of poor and minority residents. Over time, the concentration of homicides effectively disappeared from one area and settled in another.
“By using the principles of infectious disease control, we may be able to predict the spread of homicide and reduce the incidence of this crime,” said Zeoli, public health researcher in MSU’s School of Criminal Justice.
The study is one of the first to use analytic software from the field of medical geography to track long-term homicide trends. Zeoli said the method can be done in real time which would allow police to identify emerging hotspots.
The researchers also identified areas of Newark that had no homicide clusters during the 26-year time frame of the study, despite being surrounded by deadly violence.
“If we could discover why some of those communities are resistant,” Zeoli said, “we could work on increasing the resistance of our communities that are more susceptible to homicide.”
Joining Zeoli on the study were criminal justice researchers Jesenia Pizarro and Christopher Melde and medical geographer Sue Grady.
The study is published in Justice Quarterly, a research journal.
Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012
Writer: James E. Hataway, 706/542-5222, firstname.lastname@example.org Contact: Biao He, 706/542-2855, email@example.com
Athens, Ga. – Researchers at the University of Georgia have discovered that a virus commonly found in dogs may serve as the foundation for the next great breakthrough in human vaccine development.
Although harmless in humans, parainfluenza virus 5, or PIV5, is thought to contribute to upper respiratory infections in dogs, and it is a common target for canine vaccines designed to prevent kennel cough. In a paper published recently in PLOS ONE, researchers describe how this virus could be used in humans to protect against diseases that have eluded vaccine efforts for decades.
“We can use this virus as a vector for all kinds of pathogens that are difficult to vaccinate against,” said Biao He, the study’s principal investigator and professor of infectious diseases in UGA’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “We have developed a very strong H5N1 flu vaccine with this technique, but we are also working on vaccines for HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.”
PIV5 does not cause disease in humans, as our immune system is able to recognize and destroy it. By placing antigens from other viruses or parasites inside PIV5, it effectively becomes a delivery vehicle that exposes the human immune system to important pathogens and allows it to create the antibodies that will protect against future infection.
This approach not only ensures full exposure to the vaccine but also is much safer because it does not require the use of attenuated, or weakened, pathogens. For example, an HIV vaccine delivered by PIV5 would contain only those parts of the HIV virus necessary to create immunity, making it impossible to contract the disease from the vaccine.
“Safety is always our number one concern,” said He, who is also a Georgia Research Alliance distinguished investigator and member of the Faculty of Infectious Diseases. “PIV5 makes it much easier to vaccinate without having to use live pathogens.”
Using viruses as a delivery mechanism for vaccines is not a new technique, but previous efforts have been fraught with difficulty. If humans or animals already possess a strong immunity to the virus used for delivery, the vaccine is unlikely to work, as it will be destroyed by the immune system too quickly.
“Pre-existing immunity to viruses is the main reason most of these vaccines fail,” He said.
But in this latest study, He and his colleagues demonstrate that immunity to PIV5 does not limit its effectiveness as a vaccine delivery mechanism, even though many animals-including humans- already carry antibodies against it.
In their experiments, the researchers found that a single dose inoculation using PIV5 protected mice from the influenza strain that causes seasonal flu. Another single dose experimental vaccine also protected mice from the highly pathogenic and deadly H5N1 virus commonly known as bird flu.
This recent work is a culmination of more than fifteen years of research and experimentation with the PIV5 virus, and He has confidence that it will serve as an excellent foundation for vaccines to treat diseases in both animals and humans.
“I believe we have the best H5N1 vaccine candidate in existence,” He said. “But we have also opened up a big field for a host of new vaccines.”
UGA Faculty of Infectious Diseases The University of Georgia Faculty of Infectious Diseases was created in 2007 to address existing and emerging infectious disease threats more effectively by integrating multidisciplinary research in animal, human and ecosystem health. Researchers from across the university focus on epidemiology, host-pathogen interactions, the evolution of infectious diseases, disease surveillance and predictors and the development of countermeasures such as vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics. For more information about the Faculty of Infectious Diseases, see fid.ovpr.uga.edu.
UGA College of Veterinary Medicine The UGA College of Veterinary Medicine, founded in 1946, is dedicated to training future veterinarians, to conducting research related to animal and human diseases, and to providing veterinary services for animals and their owners. Research efforts are aimed at enhancing the quality of life for animals and people, improving the productivity of poultry and livestock, and preserving a healthy interface between wildlife and people in the environment they share. The college enrolls 102 students each fall out of more than 800 who apply.
2010 study posted for filing
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)
Checks have not reduced number of deaths from cardiovascular disease or cancer
Research: General health checks in adults for reducing morbidity and mortality from disease: Cochrane systematic review and meta-analysis
Editorial: The value of conducting periodic health checks
Researchers have found that routine general health checks, which have become common practice in some countries, do not reduce the number of deaths from cardiovascular disease or cancer. They do, however, increase the number of new diagnoses.
Health checks were defined as screening for more than one disease or risk factor in more than one organ system offered to a general population unselected for disease or risk factors.
Health checks were introduced with the intention of reducing morbidity and prolonging life and there are many potential benefits, including: detection of both increased risk factors and precursors to disease (thus preventing cancer from developing); counselling on diet, weight and smoking; reassuring healthy people thus reducing worry about potential disease.
However, screening healthy people can be harmful and can lead to overdiagnosis and overtreatment, a topic which was featured in the BMJ in October. The researchers also point out that invasive diagnostic tests may cause harm. Being labelled as having a disease may also negatively impact healthy people’s views of themselves and their health behaviour.
Few of the individual tests commonly used in health checks have been adequately studied in trials and it is not clear whether they do more harm than good. When tests have been studied in trials, the results have been varied. Authors from the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Denmark therefore carried out a review of a total of 14 trials that looked at systematic health checks. The studies had between 1 and 22 years of follow-up.
Nine of the 14 trials had data on mortality and included 182,880 participants, 11,940 of whom died during the study period. 76,403 were invited to health checks and the remainder were not. All participants were over 18 years old and the study excluded trials specifically targeting older people or trials that only enrolled people aged 65 or over.
Despite some variation regarding the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer, no evidence was found for a reduction of either total mortality, cardiovascular mortality, or cancer mortality. Unsurprisingly, the researchers found that health checks led to more diagnoses and more medical treatment for hypertension, although this was infrequently studied.
The lack of beneficial effects indicates that the interventions did not work as intended in the included trials. Health checks are likely to increase the number of diagnoses, but in the absence of benefits, this suggests over-diagnosis and overtreatment.
The researchers also note that people who accept a health check invitation are often different from those who do not, so the checks might not reach those who need prevention the most. Plus, many physicians already carry out testing for cardiovascular risk factors or diseases in patients that they judge to be at risk when they see them for other reasons.
In conclusion, the results do not support the use of general health checks aimed at the general population. The researchers say that further research should “be directed at the individual components of health checks e.g. screening for cardiovascular risk factors, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, or kidney disease”.
In an accompanying editorial, Professor Macauley, Primary Care Editor at the BMJ, agrees that although health checks are “seductive” and “seem sensible” there is little evidence to show that they reduce morbidity and mortality. As well questioning whether they do more harm than good, Dr Macauley says that Krogsbøll and colleagues’ study finds that “regular health checks are ineffective” and show “evidence of little effect” and adds that policy should be based on “wellbeing rather than […] well meant good intentions”.
- Study found rats eating GM corn NK603 suffered higher risk of tumours
- Researchers hit back at critics who they suggest are too close to industry
By Lewis Smith
PUBLISHED: 07:12 EST, 21 November 2012 | UPDATED: 10:51 EST, 21 November 2012
The team of researchers who caused uproar when they claimed a variety of genetically modified corn causes cancer has insisted the crop ‘cannot be regarded as safe’.
Leading scientists lined up to condemn the study after it was published two months ago, saying it lacked scientific rigour and had made a series of basic errors.
Russia banned the import of the corn and a group of six French scientific institutions carried out an investigation which accused the study authors of playing on public fears to hype their own reputations.
But French scientist Dr Gilles-Eric Séralini and his colleagues have now hit back maintaining the safety of the NK603 variety of GM corn remains unproven.
They accused many of their critics of lacking credibility because of links to the GM industry and said much of the criticism was led by ‘plant biologists, some developing patents on GMOs, and from Monsanto Company owning these products’.
Refusing to give in to demands to withdraw their study, they said their findings represented ‘the most detailed test’ of genetically modified crops that are ‘ independent from the biotech and pesticide companies’ which develop them.
They said in their rebuttal, published as a letter to the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, that unlike many other scientists involved in researching GM foods they were free from industry influence because they had no intention of ‘commercialising a new product’.
It was also pointed out by the team that the research represented a ‘first step’ rather than a final conclusion about the potential impacts of NK603 corn and that further experiments may be able to establish its safety.
For their original study they carried out experiments on rats and concluded that the GM corn, developed by US biotech company Monsanto, increased the risks of breast cancer and liver and kidney damage.
Controversial: The introduction of GM foods to our shops has been met with horror by some consumers
Experiments carried out by the team also suggested that tiny quantities of the widely available weedkiller Roundup, also developed by Monsanto, was also associated with an increased risk of cancer.
The experiments were carried out over two years whereas, they pointed out, biotech companies have usually based claims that their GM products are safe after feeding new varieties to rats for 90 days.
After publication of the study, in the peer reviewed Food and Chemical Toxicology, a dozen senior scientists signed a letter to the journal saying it should never have been published.
GM FOOD REGULATION
GM food and feed is strictly regulated within the EU.
Labels must indicate to consumers when GM ingredients are included in food
All products that are GM or include GM ingredients must meet traceability rules so that all retailers are able to identify their suppliers.
Risk assessments for all new GM products are carried out by the European Food Safety Authority before they can be sold in Europe
‘This study does not provide sound evidence to support its claims. Indeed, the flaws in the study are so obvious that the paper should never have passed review,’ they wrote.
‘This appears to be a case of blatant misrepresentation and misinterpretation of data to advance an anti-GMO agenda by an investigator with a clear vested interest.’
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) ordered a French University to carry out a review of the research while in Russia the Institute of Nutrition was asked to conduct a similar exercise.
Monsanto said in a statement in September: ‘Based on our initial review, we do not believe the study presents information that would justify any change in EFSA’s views on the safety of genetically modified corn products or alter their approval status for genetically modified imports.’
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2236219/GM-corn-variety-regarded-safe-Dr-Gilles-Eric-S-ralini-hits-critics.html#ixzz2CwWWuJHb Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook
2010 study posted for filing
Contact: Joana Casas firstname.lastname@example.org 212-479-7560 Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International
NEW YORK, April 5, 2010 – Alpha cells in the pancreas, which do not produce insulin, can convert into insulin-producing beta cells, advancing the prospect of regenerating beta cells as a cure for type 1 diabetes. The findings come from a study at the University of Geneva, co-funded by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, that is published today in the online edition of the scientific journal Nature.
The researchers, led by Dr. Pedro L. Herrera, demonstrated that beta cells will spontaneously regenerate after near-total beta cell destruction in mice and the majority of the regenerated beta cells are derived from alpha cells that had been reprogrammed, or converted, into beta cells. Using a unique model of diabetes in mice, in which nearly all of the beta cells are rapidly destroyed, the researchers found that if the mice were maintained on insulin therapy, beta cells were slowly and spontaneously restored, eventually eliminating the need for insulin replacement. Alpha cells normally reside alongside beta cells in the pancreas and secrete a hormone called glucagon, which works opposite to insulin to regulate the levels of sugar in the blood. Alpha cells are not attacked by the autoimmune processes that destroy beta cells and causes type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic, autoimmune disease that affects children, adolescents and adults, in which the immune system attacks the beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, a hormone that enables people to convert food into energy. People with type 1 diabetes are dependent on insulin treatment for the rest of their life.
Dr. Herrera’s results are the first to show that beta cell reprogramming can occur spontaneously, without genetic alterations. Previous efforts to reprogram non-beta cells into beta cells relied on genetic manipulations – processes that can not be easily translated into therapies.
According to Dr. Andrew Rakeman, JDRF Program Manager in Beta Cell Therapies, the breakthrough in Dr. Herrera’s work is the demonstration that alpha- to-beta-cell reprogramming can be a natural, spontaneous process., “If we can understand the signals that are triggering this conversion, it will open a whole new potential strategy for regenerating beta cells in people with type 1 diabetes,” he said. “It appears that the body can restore beta cell function either through reprogramming alpha cells to become beta cells or, as previously shown by others, by increasing growth of existing beta cells. This path may be particularly useful in individuals who have had the disease for a long time and have no, or very few, remaining beta cells.”
Role of Removing Beta Cells
Dr. Herrera’s team genetically engineered the animals to be susceptible to a toxin that would destroy only their beta cells. When the mice were exposed to the toxin, the beta cells were rapidly and efficiently destroyed – greater than 99% just 15 days after treatment. Then, to track the source of newly regenerated beta cells, Dr. Herrera’s team used another genetic manipulation to permanently label mature alpha cells and all their descendents with a fluorescent protein. This “genetic lineage tracing” approach allowed the scientists to track the fate of the alpha cells and their progeny; the presence of fluorescently labeled beta cells in the recovered animals gave conclusive evidence that alpha cells had reprogrammed into beta cells.
The Geneva researchers pointed out that the critical factor in sparking the alpha-to- beta-cell reprogramming was removing (or ablating) nearly all the original insulin-producing cells in the mice. In mice where the loss of beta cells was more modest, the researchers either found no evidence of beta cell regeneration (when only half the cells were destroyed) or less alpha cell reprogramming (when less than 95% of cells were destroyed).
“The amount of beta-cell destruction thus appears to determine whether regeneration occurs. Moreover, it influences the degree of cell plasticity and regenerative resources of the pancreas in adult organisms,” said Dr. Herrera.
In type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks beta cells, stopping a person’s pancreas from producing insulin, the hormone that enables people to get energy from sugar. JDRF has been at the forefront of diabetes research looking to develop therapeutics to drive the regeneration of insulin-producing cells within a person’s body (as an alternative to transplanting insulin-producing cells from other sources). Beta cell regeneration involves triggering the body to grow its own new insulin producing cells, either by copying existing ones – some are usually still active, even in people who have had diabetes for decades – or causing the pancreas to create new ones.
This study is another step forward for JDRF’s research focus on Regeneration as a potential pathway to restore insulin production – and normal blood sugar in people with type 1 diabetes. JDRF has become a leader in this new and exciting research field, funding a wide range of research projects, including studies like Dr. Herrera’s, and an innovative diabetes drug discovery and development partnership with the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Foundation (GNF), focused on regeneration approaches.
In addition to regenerating or replacing insulin producing cells, a cure for type 1 diabetes will also require stopping the autoimmune attack that causes diabetes, and reestablishing excellent glucose control.
JDRF is a leader in setting the agenda for diabetes research worldwide, and is the largest charitable funder and advocate of type 1 research. The mission of JDRF is to find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research. Type 1 diabetes is a disease which strikes children and adults suddenly and requires multiple injections of insulin daily or a continuous infusion of insulin through a pump. Insulin, however, is not a cure for diabetes, nor does it prevent its eventual and devastating complications which may include kidney failure, blindness, heart disease, stroke, and amputation.
Since its founding in 1970 by parents of children with type 1 diabetes, JDRF has awarded more than $1.4 billion to diabetes research, including more than $100 million in FY2009.
2010 study posted for filing
The team identified beta-sitosterol – a steroid that can inhibit the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine – as the main constituent of pomegranate seed extract. The research suggests that pomegranate extract could be used as a natural stimulant to encourage the uterus to contract during labour.
Pomegranate juice is thought to have a number of health benefits, from lowering cholesterol and blood pressure to protecting against some cancers, but until now there has been no evidence to demonstrate its effects on the uterus. Researchers investigated pomegranate seed extract – more highly concentrated than pomegranate juice – and its effect on uterine smooth muscle samples.
Professor Sue Wray, from the University’s Department of Physiology, said: “Previous study has suggested that the pomegranate’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties have a positive impact on health. We wanted to understand its effect on uterine contractions to help us explore new ways of treating women who may experience difficult labours. Currently the only available drug to treat women with a poorly contracting uterus is oxytocin, a hormone which only works approximately 50% of the time.
“It is important for us to investigate how the uterus works and what happens when it does not contract normally so that women experiencing problems during labour do not have to undergo major surgery to deliver a healthy baby.”
Dr Sajeera Kupittayanant, from Suranaree’s Institute of Science, explains: “We found that beta-sitosterol was the main constituent of pomegranate extract, a steroid present in many plant species, but particularly rich in pomegranate seed. We added the extract to uterus tissue samples from animals and found that the muscle cells increased their activity. Our work suggests that the increase is due to a rise in calcium, which is necessary in order for any muscle to contract, but is usually affected by hormones, nerve impulses and some drug treatments.
“The next step is to investigate how beta-sitosterol in pomegranate extract could increase calcium, but it could prove to be a significant step forward in identifying new ways of treating dysfunctional labour.”
The research, published in Reproductive Sciences, will support work being conducted at a new centre dedicated to improving experiences in pregnancy and childbirth for women across the world. The Centre for Better Births will bring together researchers and clinicians to improve understanding in areas such as premature labour, recurrent miscarriage and prolonged labour.
Notes to editors:
1. Advice to patients: Researchers used pomegranate seed extract, which is more highly concentrated than pomegranate juice. More research is needed to understand if eating the fruit or drinking its juice has any impact on uterine contractions.
2. The University of Liverpool is a member of the Russell Group of leading research-intensive institutions in the UK. It attracts collaborative and contract research commissions from a wide range of national and international organisations valued at more than £93 million annually.
Contact: Kim Irwin email@example.com 310-206-2805 University of California – Los Angeles Health Sciences
Natural compound blocks hepatitis C infection
Finding may lead to a new treatment
Researchers have identified two cellular proteins that are important factors in hepatitis C virus infection, a finding that may result in the approval of new and less toxic treatments for the disease, which can lead to liver cancer and cirrhosis.
An estimated 270 to 300 million people worldwide are infected with hepatitis C and the conventional treatments – interferon and ribavirin – can have significant side effects. A new drug targeting cellular proteins rather than viral proteins would be a valuable addition to the treatment arsenal, said Samuel French, an assistant professor of pathology and senior author of the study.
French and his team set out to identify the cellular factors involved in hepatitis C replication and, using mass spectrometry, found that heat shock proteins (HSPs) 40 and 70 were important for viral infection. HSP 70 was previously known to be involved, but HSP 40 was linked for the first time to hepatitis C infection, French said. They further showed that the natural compound Quercetin, which inhibits the synthesis of these proteins, significantly inhibits viral infection in tissue culture.
“This is an important finding because we can block these proteins with the idea of reducing the level of the virus in people and, ideally, completely eliminate it,” said French, who also is a researcher at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The study appeared in the most recent issue of the journal Hepatology.
Since Quercetin has been shown to inhibit hepatitis C infection, French said, a Phase I clinical trial will be launched at UCLA to determine if the compound is safe and effective.
Quercetin is a plant-derived bioflavonoid, and is used by some people as a nutritional supplement. Laboratory studies show it may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and it is being investigated for a wide range of potential health benefits. Currently, there are early-stage clinical trials testing quercetin for safety and efficacy against sarcoidosis, asthma and glucose absorption in obesity and diabetes.
“Because Quercetin targets cellular proteins rather than viral proteins, there is less likelihood of developing viral resistance,” French said. “Cellular proteins cannot change like viral proteins can.”
Many patients in the United States have a type of hepatitis C virus that does not respond to the standard treatments. In these cases, if the virus can’t be blocked, end-stage liver disease and, ultimately, death may occur. Once HSP 40 and 70 were identified, French and his team used Quercetin in an attempt to block the proteins and found that the compound “reduced infectious particle production at non-toxic concentrations,” according to the study.
“Quercetin may allow for the dissection of the viral life cycle and has potential therapeutic use to reduce virus production with low associated toxicity,” the study states.
The UCLA clinical trial will most likely target those with type 1 hepatitis C, which is the non-responsive type prevalent in this country. Only about 50 percent of those with type 1 hepatitis C respond to treatment, French said.
Volunteers with type 1 hepatitis C who opt not to undergo conventional therapies would be recruited for the study. In other studies in other diseases, Quercetin has resulted in no significant side effects, French said.
“A non-toxic treatment for chronic hepatitis C would be great because our current therapies have significant side effects and only a certain percentage of the patient population responds,” French said.
The three-year study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Cure Digestive Diseases Research Center and the Stein Oppenheimer Endowment Award.
UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center has more than 240 researchers and clinicians engaged in disease research, prevention, detection, control, treatment and education. One of the nation’s largest comprehensive cancer centers, the Jonsson center is dedicated to promoting research and translating basic science into leading-edge clinical studies. In July 2009, the Jonsson Cancer Center was named among the top 12 cancer centers nationwide by U.S. News & World Report, a ranking it has held for 10 consecutive years. For more information on the Jonsson Cancer Center, visit our website at http://www.cancer.ucla.edu.
2009 study posted for filing
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Researchers from the University of Washington and the University of Florida used gene therapy to cure two squirrel monkeys of color blindness — the most common genetic disorder in people.
Writing online Wednesday in the journal Nature, scientists cast a rosy light on the potential for gene therapy to treat adult vision disorders involving cone cells — the most important cells for vision in people.
“We’ve added red sensitivity to cone cells in animals that are born with a condition that is exactly like human color blindness,” said William W. Hauswirth, Ph.D., a professor of ophthalmic molecular genetics at the UF College of Medicine and a member of the UF Genetics Institute and the Powell Gene Therapy Center. “Although color blindness is only moderately life-altering, we’ve shown we can cure a cone disease in a primate, and that it can be done very safely. That’s extremely encouraging for the development of therapies for human cone diseases that really are blinding.”
The finding is also likely to intrigue millions of people around the world who are colorblind, including about 3.5 million people in the United States, more than 13 million in India and more than 16 million in China. The problem mostly affects men, leaving about 8 percent of Caucasian men in the United States incapable of discerning red and green hues that are important for everyday things like recognizing traffic lights.
“People who are colorblind feel that they are missing out,” said Jay Neitz, Ph.D., a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Washington. “If we could find a way to do this with complete safety in human eyes, as we did with monkeys, I think there would be a lot of people who would want it. Beyond that, we hope this technology will be useful in correcting lots of different vision disorders.”
The discovery comes about 10 years after Neitz and his wife Maureen Neitz, Ph.D., a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Washington and senior author of the study, began training two squirrel monkeys named Dalton and Sam.
In addition to teaching the animals, the Neitz research group worked with the makers of a standard vision-testing technique called the Cambridge Colour Test to perfect a way the monkeys could “tell” them which colors they were seeing.
The tests are similar to ones given to elementary children the world over, in which students are asked to identify a specific pattern of colored dots among a field of dots that vary in size, color and intensity. The researchers devised a computer touch screen the monkeys could use to trace the color patterns. When the animals chose correctly, they received a reward of grape juice.
Likewise, decades were spent by Hauswirth and colleagues at the University of Florida to develop the gene-transfer technique that uses a harmless adeno-associated virus to deliver corrective genes to produce a desired protein.
In this case, researchers wanted to produce a substance called long-wavelength opsin in the retinas of the monkeys. This particular form of opsin is a colorless protein that works in the retina to make pigments that are sensitive to red and green.
“We used human DNAs, so we won’t have to switch to human genes as we move toward clinical treatments,” said Hauswirth, who is also involved in a clinical trial with human patients to test gene therapy for the treatment of Leber congenital amaurosis, a form of blindness that strikes children.
About five weeks after the treatment, the monkeys began to acquire color vision, almost as if it occurred overnight.
“Nothing happened for the first 20 weeks,” Neitz said. “But we knew right away when it began to work. It was if they woke up and saw these new colors. The treated animals unquestionably responded to colors that had been invisible to them.”
It took more than a year and a half to test the monkeys’ ability to discern 16 hues, with some of the hues varying as much as 11-fold in intensity.
Dalton is named for John Dalton, an English chemist who realized he was colorblind and published the first paper about the condition in 1798.
“We’ve had Dalton and Sam for 10 years. They are like our children,” Neitz said. “This species are friendly, docile monkeys that we just love. We think it is useful to continue to follow them — it’s been two years now that they’ve been seeing in color, and continuing to check their vision and allowing them to play with the computer is part of their enrichment.”
With the discovery, the researchers are the first to address a vision disorder in primates in which all photoreceptors are intact and healthy, providing a hint of gene therapy’s full potential to restore vision.
About 1 in 30,000 Americans have a hereditary form of blindness called achromatopsia, which causes nearly complete color blindness and extremely poor central vision. “Those patients would be targets for almost exactly the same treatment,” Hauswirth said.
Even in common types of blindness such as age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, vision could potentially be rescued by targeting cone cells, he said.
“The major thrust of the study is you can ameliorate if not cure color blindness with gene therapy,” said Gerald H. Jacobs, Ph.D., a research professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who was not involved in the research. “There are still questions about safety, but in these monkeys at least, there were no untoward effects. Those who are motivated to ameliorate their color defect might take some hope from the findings.
“This is also another example of how utterly plastic the visual system is to change,” Jacobs said. “The nervous system can extract information from alterations to photopigments and make use of it almost instantaneously.”
2009 study posted for filing
Study Shows Common Pain Cream Could Protect Heart During Attack
CINCINNATI—New research from the University of Cincinnati shows that a common, over-the-counter pain salve rubbed on the skin during a heart attack could serve as a cardiac-protectant, preventing or reducing damage to the heart while interventions are administered.
These findings are published in the Sept. 14 edition of the journal Circulation.
Keith Jones, PhD, a researcher in the department of pharmacology and cell biophysics, and scientists in his lab have found that applying capsaicin to specific skin locations in mice caused sensory nerves in the skin to trigger signals in the nervous system. These signals activate cellular “pro-survival” pathways in the heart which protect the muscle.
Capsaicin is the main component of chili peppers and produces a hot sensation. It is also the active ingredient in several topical medications used for temporary pain relief.
Capsaicin is approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Jones is working with Neal Weintraub, MD, a UC Health cardiologist and director of UC’s cardiovascular diseases division, and other clinicians to construct a translational plan to test capsaicin in a human population.
“Topical capsaicin has no known serious adverse effects and could be easily applied in an ambulance or emergency room setting well in advance of coronary tissue death,” Jones says. “If proven effective in humans, this therapy has the potential to reduce injury and/or death in the event of a coronary blockage, thereby reducing the extent and consequences of heart attack.”
Researchers observed an 85 percent reduction in cardiac cell death when capsaicin was used.
They also found that a small incision made on the abdomen triggered an 81 percent reduction.
“Both this and the capsaicin effect are shown to work through similar neurological mechanisms,” Jones says. “These are the most powerful cardioprotective effects recorded to date.
“This is a form of remote cardioprotection, using a skin stimulus that activates cardioprotection long before the blocked coronary artery is opened.”
Weintraub adds that this finding offers an important distinction between existing therapies.
“All of the current interventions require the vessel to be opened before doctors can act, and since it takes time to elicit protection, tissue dies,” he says. “This treatment will protect the heart before the vessel is opened while producing a strong protective effect that is already active when we open the vessel.”
Jones and Weintraub think that skin—the main sensor and largest human body organ—has evolved to protect animals, including humans, in a variety of ways.
“By activating these sensors in the nervous system, via skin, we think that a response to preserve and protect the heart is triggered,” Weintraub says.
“We think that this technique is fooling the body into sending out protective signals,” Jones adds. “This may be similar to the way certain acupuncture treatments work; there may be a neurological basis. In a broad sense, this work may provide a ‘Rosetta stone’ for translating alternative medicine techniques—like acupuncture—to Western medicine. Perhaps we can understand the biological mechanisms of how alternative treatments may be successful for patients.”
Now, researchers will further explore this concept by investigating which sensors are associated with certain aspects of organ protection—and how much of specific stimuli are needed to produce the desired responses.
“This could help create favorable outcomes for those who are experiencing stroke, shock or are in need of an organ transplant, and the best part is that it is done non-invasively and is relatively inexpensive,” Jones says.
But he warns against rubbing capsaicin on your belly if you feel like you are having a heart attack.
“We don’t know if it will work for all indications, for all patients, and we don’t know if it will work over an extended amount of time,” he says. “A major goal is testing this therapy in clinical trials, but we still need to study more about dosage and application—where we put it on the body for the best results. However, this has tremendous clinical potential and could eventually save lives.”
This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and by the University of Cincinnati. Jones and Weintraub have filed a patent for this funding but have received no honoraria from the makers of capsaicin.
Contact: Emily Ng firstname.lastname@example.org 516-562-2670 North Shore-Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Health System
Feinstein Institute researchers discover that bean used in Chinese food could protect against sepsis
MANHASSET, NY – Researchers at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research have discovered that a bean commonly used in Chinese cuisine protects against the life-threatening condition sepsis. These findings are published in the current issue of Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (eCAM).
It has been found that a deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) protein, HMGB1, mediates inflammation. Inflammation is necessary for maintaining good health – without inflammation, wounds and infections would never heal. However, persistent and constant inflammation can damage tissue and organs, and lead to diseases such as sepsis. Sepsis affects approximately 750,000 Americans each year, 28 to 50 percent of whom die from the condition, and costs the nation’s healthcare system nearly $17 billion annually. It is a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection or injury, and occurs when chemicals released into the bloodstream to fight the infection trigger inflammation throughout the body. The result is that organs become damaged, including liver, heart, lungs, kidney, and brain. If excessive damage occurs, it may be irreversible. Therefore, it is important to identify ways in which persistent and constant inflammation can be halted.
Neutralizing the protein HMGB1 protects against persistent and constant inflammation that results in damage to tissue and organs. Haichao Wang, PhD, and his colleagues, including Shu Zhu, MD and PhD, and Andrew E. Sama, MD, at the Feinstein Institute found that a bean native to India and commonly used in Chinese food and traditional medicine, reduced the release of HMGB1, thereby increasing survival rates in mice from 29.4 percent to 70 percent (P < 0.05).
“Many traditional medicinal herbs have been successfully developed into effective therapies for various inflammatory ailments, and now we have validated the therapeutic potential of another medicinal product, mung bean extract,” said Dr. Wang. “Demonstrating that mung bean extract has a positive effect on septic mice shows promise that this bean can also have a positive effect on septic humans – of course, additional studies are required to prove the safe and effective use in humans.”
The Feinstein Institute and its parent company, the North Shore-LIJ Health System, have been dedicated to studying and treating sepsis. In 2010, the Feinstein Institute hosted an international Merinoff Symposium dedicated to sepsis. This symposia attracted researchers, policymakers and other opinion leaders from around the world who identified that sepsis should be categorized as a medical emergency treatable with fluids and antibiotics within one hour of recognition. The health system mounted an aggressive sepsis prevention and early identification initiative that has reduced the health system’s sepsis mortality rate by 35 percent in the last four years, which translates into thousands of saved lives.
About The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research
Headquartered in Manhasset, NY, The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research is home to international scientific leaders in many areas including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, psychiatric disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, sepsis, human genetics, pulmonary hypertension, leukemia, neuroimmunology, and medicinal chemistry. The Feinstein Institute, part of the North Shore-LIJ Health System, ranks in the top 5th percentile of all National Institutes of Health grants awarded to research centers. For more information visit www.FeinsteinInstitute.org
Triclosan — Harmful to Ecological Status of Rivers — Needs to Be Monitored, Researchers Say
ScienceDaily (Oct. 25, 2012) — Researchers from Germany and Slovakia have pointed out that the chemical triclosan is one of those substances that are particularly harmful to the ecological status of rivers that are still not sufficiently monitored.
With extensive monitoring conducted in the Elbe river basin that was more comprehensive than standard monitoring procedures, concentrations of the chemical at numerous test sites exceeded the predicted no-effect concentration (PNEC) for algal communities up to a factor of twelve. From the 500 river basin-specific pollutants investigated, triclosan (normally used as an anti-bacterial agent) ranked sixth as one of the most particularly harmful substances in Europe. It is therefore imperative to include this substance in routine monitoring programmes at the European scale, according to what researchers from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the Environmental Institute in Slovakia have written in the journal Environmental Science Pollution Research.
It is intended that the list of priority substances that have to be monitored by the authorities in Europe will be extended from its current 33 to 45 substances. The chemical triclosan is not one of these new candidates however. This chemical has been on the market since 1972 and it was not until 1998 that the first serious effects were discovered. Until now triclosan has been used as an antibacterial and antifungal agent in personal care products (e.g. toothpaste) and sportswear. Scientists were also very concerned about the fact that nowadays triclosan cannot only be detected in organisms living in wastewater but also in human plasma and in breast milk. Therefore, harmful effects extending beyond water organisms cannot be excluded.
Approximately 350 tons of triclosan were used in the European Union in 2005. However, it is still not monitored in many parts of Europe. ” Substances that are not on the list of priority substances do not have to be monitored and substances that are not monitored are usually not included on the list, because too little is known about their environmental relevance,” Dr. Peter von der Ohe from the UFZ portrays this dilemma. Within the EU-research project MODELKEY scientists have therefore been closely examining several hundred pollutants in different European river catchment areas and have come up with suggestions on how the monitoring of rivers for chemicals could be improved.
2009 study posted for filing
This release is available in Chinese.
Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs) are considered the ‘gold standard’ research method for assessing new medical treatments. But research published in BioMed Central’s open access journal Trials shows that the design of a remarkable 93 percent of 2235 so-called RCTs published in some Chinese medical journals during 1994 to 2005 was flawed, casting doubt on the reliability of research that is likely to influence medical decision-makers.
Researchers led by Taixiang Wu of the Chinese Cochrane Centre at Sichuan University, China and Ottawa Hospital Research Institute investigated clinical trials published in China between 1994 and 2005, searching the China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) electronic database for RCTs on 20 common diseases. To determine how many of these met recognised standards for randomly allocating participants to treatment groups, trained investigators interviewed the first or co-authors of 2235 trial reports by phone.
Less than seven percent of self-described RCTs published in some Chinese medical journals meet criteria for authentic randomisation. The researchers looked at both conventional and traditional Chinese medicine trials, but there was no difference between these in terms of study authenticity rates. However, all RCTs of pre-market drug clinical trial were authentic, and RCTs conducted at hospitals affiliated with medical universities were more likely to be authentic than trials conducted at lower tier level three and level two hospitals. More than half of the trials at university-affiliated hospitals met RCT criteria, which means lower-tier hospital research is the least rigorous in design terms.
“The fact that so many non-RCTs were published as RCTs reflected that peer-review needs to be improved and a Good Practice of Peer Review, including how to identify the authenticity of the study, urgently needs to be developed,” says Wu.
Misleading reporting of medical research is not unique to China. Studies labelled as RCTs are more likely to influence health policy-makers meaning falsely reported RCTs have the potential to mislead health care providers, consumers and policy-makers. The results of this study suggest authors of systematic reviews – articles that combine the results of multiple RCTs – need to be aware that RCTs in some Chinese journals may not be RCTs at all.
The approximately 1100 medical journals now active in China are rapidly increasing their output of research reports, including many identified by their authors as RCTs. But these trials present mostly positive results (they favour the treatment being investigated), which can be influenced by inadequate randomisation of patients when designing the study.
Notes to Editors
1. Randomized trials published in some Chinese journals: How many are randomized? Taixiang Wu, Youping Li, Zhaoxiang Bian, Guanjian Liu and David Moher Trials (in press)
During embargo, article available here: http://www.trialsjournal.com/imedia/1756122426222937_article.pdf?random=263457
After the embargo, article available at the journal website: http://www.trialsjournal.com/
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2009 study posted for filing
First test in humans gets dramatic results from blood sugar control and antioxidant
Researchers at the Harold Hamm Oklahoma Diabetes Center have found a way to stop the damage caused by Type 1 diabetes with the combination of insulin and a common vitamin found in most medicine cabinets.
While neither therapy produced desired results when used alone, the combination of insulin to control blood sugar together with the use of Vitamin C, stopped blood vessel damage caused by the disease in patients with poor glucose control. The findings appear this week in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
“We had tested this theory on research models, but this is the first time anyone has shown the therapy’s effectiveness in people,” said Michael Ihnat, Ph.D., principal investigator and a pharmacologist at the OU College of Medicine Department of Cell Biology.
Ihnat said they are now studying the therapy in patients with Type 2 diabetes.
The goal of the work being done by Ihnat and British scientists from the University of Warwick led by Dr. Antonio Ceriello is to find a way to stop the damage to blood vessels that is caused by diabetes. The damage, known as endothelial dysfunction, is associated with most forms of cardiovascular disease such as hypertension, coronary artery disease, chronic heart failure, peripheral artery disease, diabetes and chronic renal failure.
By reducing or stopping the damage, patients with diabetes could avoid some of the painful and fatal consequences of the disease that include heart disease, reduced circulation and amputation, kidney disease and diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to blindness.
Insulin and many other drugs have long been used to control blood sugar, but Ihnat – in an earlier project with scientists in Italy and Hungary – found that cells have a “memory” that causes damage to continue even when blood sugar is controlled. By adding antioxidants like Vitamin C, Ihnat found that cell “memory” disappeared and cell function and oxidation stress were normalized.
“We have speculated that this happens with endothelial dysfunction, but we did not know until now if it was effective in humans. We finally were able to test it and proved it to be true,” Ihnat said. “For patients with diabetes, this means simply getting their glucose under control is not enough. An antioxidant-based therapy combined with glucose control will give patients more of an advantage and lessen the chance of complications with diabetes.”
While researchers do suggest diabetic patients eat foods and take multivitamins rich in antioxidants like Vitamin C, they warn that additional study is needed. The Vitamin C utilized in their study was given at very high doses and administered directly into the blood stream, so it is unlikely someone would get similar results with an over-the-counter vitamin supplement.
The team is now working to determine how antioxidants work at the molecular level to halt the destructive chain reaction set in motion by high blood sugar levels. In addition, they are evaluating several other antioxidants with an ultimate hope that their work will translate into simple, effective and inexpensive treatments for the control of diabetes.
The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism is the world’s leading peer-reviewed journal for endocrine clinical research and cutting-edge clinical practice reviews.
Dr. Ihnat’s latest work, which is funded by the VA Medical Center, can be found online at http://jcem.endojournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/jc.2009-0762v1.
ScienceDaily (Oct. 18, 2012) — Perceive first, act afterwards.The architecture of most of today’s robots is underpinned by this control strategy. The eSMCs project has set itself the aim of changing the paradigm and generating more dynamic computer models in which action is not a mere consequence of perception but an integral part of the perception process. It is about improving robot behaviour by means of perception models closer to those of humans. Philosophers at the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country are working to improve the systems of perception of robots by applying human models.
“The concept of how science understands the mind when it comes to building a robot or looking at the brain is that you take a photo, which is then processed as if the mind were a computer, and a recognition of patterns is carried out. There are various types of algorithms and techniques for identifying an object, scenes, etc. However, organic perception, that of human beings, is much more active. The eye, for example, carries out a whole host of saccadic movements — small rapid ocular movements — that we do not see.Seeing is establishing and recognising objects through this visual action, knowing how the relationship and sensation of my body changes with respect to movement,” explains XabierBarandiaran, a PhD-holder in Philosophy and researcher at IAS-Research (UPV/EHU) which under the leadership of Ikerbasque researcher Ezequiel di Paolo is part of the European project eSMCs (Extending Sensorimotor Contingencies to Cognition).
Until now, the belief has been that sensations were processed, and the perception was created,and this in turn then led to reasoning and action. As Barandiaran sees it, action is an integral part of perception: “Our basic idea is that when we perceive, what is there is active exploration, a particular co-ordination with the surroundings, like a kind of invisible dance than makes vision possible.”
The eSMCs project aims to apply this idea to the computer models used in robots, improve their behaviour and thus understand the nature of the animal and human mind. For this purpose, the researchers are working on sensorimotor contingencies:regular relationships existing between actions and changes in the sensory variations associated with these actions.
An example of this kind of contingency is when you drink water and speak at the same time, almost without realising it. Interaction with the surroundings has taken place “without any need to internally represent that this is a glass and then compute needs and plan an action,” explains Barandiaran, “seeing the glass draws one’s attention, it is coordinated with thirst while the presence of the water itself on the table is enough for me to coordinate the visual-motor cycle that ends up with the glass at my lips. “The same thing happens in the robots in the eSMCs project, “they are moving the whole time, they don’t stop to think; they think about the act using the body and the surroundings,” he adds.
The researchers in the eSMCs project maintain that actions play a key role not only in perception, but also in the development of more complex cognitive capacities. That is why they believe that sensorimotor contingencies can be used to specify habits, intentions, tendencies and mental structures, thus providing the robot with a more complex, fluid behaviour.
So one of the experiments involves a robot simulation (developed by Thomas Buhrmann, who is also a member of this team at the UPV/EHU) in which an agent has to discriminate between what we could call an acne pimple and a bite or lump on the skin. “The acne has a tip, the bite doesn’t. Just as people do, our agent stays with the tip and recognises the acne, and when it goes on to touch the lump, it ignores it. What we are seeking to model and explain is that moment of perception that is built with the active exploration of the skin, when you feel ‘ah! I’ve found the acne pimple’ and you go on sliding your finger across it,” says Barandiaran. The model tries to identify what kind of relationship is established between the movement and sensation cycles and the neurodynamic patterns that are simulated in the robot’s “mini brain.”
In another robot, built at the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory of Zürich University, Puppy, a robot dog, is capable of adapting and “feeling” the texture of the terrain on which it is moving (slippery, viscous, rough, etc.)by exploring the sensorimotor contingencies that take place when walking.
The work of the UPV/EHU’s research team is focusing on the theoretical part of the models to be developed. “As philosophers, what we mostly do is define concepts.Our main aim is to be able to define technical concepts like the sensorimotor habitat, or that of the pattern of sensorimotor co-ordination, as well as that of habit or of mental life as a whole. “Defining concepts and giving them a mathematical form is essential so that the scientist can apply it to specific experiments, not only with robots, but also with human beings. The partners at the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf, for example, are studying in dialogue with the theoretical development of the UPV/EHU team how the perception of time and space changes in Parkinson’s patients.
- Violent crime increased 18% from last year
- First year-to-year increase in such crime since 1993
- Household burglaries also on the rise from 3.2million last year to 3.6million this year
By Beth Stebner
PUBLISHED:13:49 EST, 17 October 2012| UPDATED:13:50 EST, 17 October 2012
For the first time in 20 years, the number of violent crimes increased, up 18 percent from last year, a new report reveals.
It was the first year-to-year increase for violent crime since 1993, marking the end of a long string of declines. Violent crime fell by 65 percent since 1993, from 16.8 million to 5.8 million last year.
In addition, household burglaries rose 14 percent, from 3.2million to 3.6million. Similarly, the number of thefts jumped by 10 percent, from 11.6 million to 12.8 million.
On the rise: For the first time since 1993, the number of violent crimes increased, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics’ annual national crime victimization survey; here, a teenager is arrested in Camden, New Jersey
Rising: An NYPD patrol car in Brooklyn; the increase was the result of an upward swing in assaults, which rose 22 percent, from 4million in 2010 to 5million last year
According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics’ annual national crime victimization survey, the size of the percentage increases in both violent crime and property crime for last year was driven in large part by the historically low levels seen in 2010.
The increase in violent crime was the result of an upward swing in assaults, which rose 22 percent, from 4million in 2010 to 5million last year.
But the incidence of rape, sexual assault and robbery remained largely unchanged, as did serious violent crime involving weapons or injury.
The increases in violent crime experienced by whites, Hispanics, younger people and men accounted for the majority of the increase in violent crime.
In the latest survey, property crime was up for the first time in a decade, from 15.4million in 2010 to 17million last year.
The victimization figures are based on surveys by the Census Bureau of a large sample of people in order to gather data from those who are victims of crime.
They are considered the government’s most comprehensive crime statistics because they count both crimes that never are reported to the police as well as those reported.
Trends: Violent crime went up this year, though it has steadily dropped since 1993
A history of violence: Total violent crime has risen slightly, though serious violent crimes have leveled
Historically, less than half of all crimes, including violent crimes, are reported to police.
Last May, the FBI’s preliminary crime report for 2011, which counts only crimes reported to police, concluded that crime dropped again last year, down 4 percent for violent crime and 3.7 percent for property crime.
The declines slowed in the second half of last year, a sign to academic experts that the many years of lowering crime levels might be nearing an end.
‘While it’s cause for concern, I would caution against forecasting future crime trends based on a one-year fluctuation,’ Chris Melde, an assistant professor at Michigan State University’s school of criminal justice, told the Associated Presss.
‘You can have percentage changes that seem quite large, but unless you put them in a longer-term perspective you can sometimes misinterpret the overall seriousness of the problem,’ Mr Melde added.
The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, the most anticipated report of its kind, is due out at the end of the month.