Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Prototype gel fails to block HIV

Are we simply missing the point, or is this a valid research?

Prototype vaginal gel fails to block HIV: study

A nurse draws blood from a patient for an HIV test
PARIS - A vaginal gel failed to protect women against the AIDS virus, doctors said on Monday, reporting on a major clinical trial that enrolled more than 9,000 women.

The formula, known as PRO 2000, was tested in a Phase III trial, the widest and most exhaustive stage of the process to assess a new drug for safety and effectiveness.

AIDS campaigners have staked huge faith in the search for a vaginally-used gel to thwart the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It would revolutionise the fight on AIDS by empowering women, especially in African countries where coercive sex is a problem.

The first breakthrough in this quest was announced in July at the 18th International AIDS Conference in Vienna.

Scientists reported that a cream tested in a Phase IIb trial in South Africa called CAPRISA 004 cut the risk of HIV infection by 39 per cent overall, and by 54 per cent among those women who used it most consistently.

However, this level of protection may not be enough to get approval for the CAPRISA gel.

The cream incorporates tenofovir, a drug commonly used in tablet form to quell HIV by disrupting its reproduction in immune cells.

The PRO 2000 formula is different, being a so-called large charged polymer, which is intended to disrupt HIV's interaction with targeted cells.

It was tested at two levels of concentration, of two per cent and 0.5 per cent, in 13 clinics in South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia in a trial that was closely monitored for ethical standards.

Volunteers were women who were aged 18 years or older, were sexually active and did not have HIV. They were given either the gel or an inactive dummy cream called a placebo. All were given counselling on safe sex and access to condoms.

Their HIV status was then tested at 12 weeks, 24 weeks, 40 weeks and 52 weeks after starting with the product.

PRO 2000 was found to be safe but ineffective, according to the report card, published online by The Lancet.

"Safety-related events were rare and at similar rates in all three groups... (but) HIV-1 incidence was much the same between groups at study end," it said.

In an important detail, use of the gel - a big challenge in microbicides - was high. Eighty-nine per cent of the women said they used it prior to intercourse.

Twenty-five million people have been killed by AIDS and more than 33 million others today are infected by HIV, which causes the disease.

More than two-thirds of these live in sub-Saharan Africa, where 60 per cent of the estimated 1.9 million new infections in 2008 occurred among women and girls.

- AFP/al

From ChannelNewsAsia.com; source article is below:Prototype vaginal gel fails to block HIV: study

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Another gene clue on women's cancers

New gene clues point to women's "silent killers"

PARIS - Gene detectives said on Sunday they had netted a clutch of tipoffs to help identify women with a higher inherited risk of ovarian and breast cancer, dubbed "silent killers" for the stealthy way they claim lives.

The work gathered experts from the United States, Europe, Canada and Australia, who trawled through the genetic code of tens of thousands of women, looking for single-letter changes found among women with cancer but absent among women who were otherwise healthy.

Their work was published online in the journal Nature Genetics.

One study found telltale DNA on chromosomes 2, 3, 8, 17 and 19 that strongly indicated risk from serious ovarian cancer, the term for the commonest and most aggressive form of this disease.

Another paper found that a variation of DNA on Chromosome 19 amplified the risk of breast cancer associated with a well-known culprit, a faulty copy of the BRCA1 gene, which is located on Chromosome 17.

What role these variants perform in the biology of cancer is unclear, and finding out will probably take many more years of investigation.

Even so, the researchers believe that the clues add powerfully to the basket of genetic telltales for cancer, which thus opens the way to diagnostic tools for women at risk.

"These latest findings raise the possibility that in the future, women in the general population who are at the greatest risk of developing ovarian cancer because they carry these newly discovered DNA variants can be identified and given closer surveillance," said Andrew Berchuck, a professor at Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina, who headed one of the investigations.

"It also suggests that preventive approaches could be targeted towards these women," he added.

Ovarian cancer is the fifth commonest cancer in developed countries and is often detected too late, when the chances of a cure are remote. Each year, about 130,000 women around the world die from the disease.

- AFP/al

From ChannelNewsAsia.com; source article is below:New gene clues point to women's "silent killers"

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Optical Pacemakers: A Breakthrough

A recent breakthrough could save the lives of thousands of newborns suffering from heart conditions. Researchers have successfully used an optical pacemaker to assist the beat of a newborn quail's heart.

Optical Pacemakers Could Hold Key to Affecting Embryonic Heart Development

Dave Greenfield | Date: 09-24-10

One of the greatest medical inventions of the 20th century was the pacemaker. Pacemakers have helped save the lives of countless adults suffering from extreme heart conditions. They keep the pace of the heart at a steady beat when it is unable to do so on its own.

However, the average pacemaker is nearly impossible to use on smaller, underdeveloped hearts such as those of premature babies. Operating on premature babies is extremely dangerous and often results in severe complications. As a result, scientists and research companies are continually working on perfecting the pacemaker in order to create a less-invasive way to affect embryonic heart development and preserve the life of premature babies.

A pacemaker was successfully used on the heart of a 40-hour-old quail (source: Jenkins et. al, Nature Photonics).
Recently, a small team of researchers achieved an impressive breakthrough by pacing the embryonic heart of a quail using an optical laser. The quail was only 40 hours old, and the embryonic heart was less than 2 millimeters long.

Without having to operate or come in direct contact with any organ, the researchers were able to send pulses to the quail's heart using a series of infrared lights. The quail's heart was paced successfully, and the published study recently appeared online in Nature Photonics.

Despite its early stages of development, this breakthrough has the potential to change the way prenatal doctors treat babies who are born prematurely and who suffer from severe heart conditions. It provides both doctors and parents with a workable option that can be achieved without putting the embryonic heart at risk. As it stands now, an "optical pacemaker" is an effective and safe way to keep the heart beating and has been proven to work on embryonic chick hearts.

While the lasting effects are still unknown and the concept of an "optical pacemaker" is still under development, it's a positive step in the direction of understanding the embryonic heart.

From Smarter Technology; source article is below:
Optical Pacemakers Could Hold Key to Affecting Embryonic Heart Development

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Friends With Health - Link On for a longer life

Friends With Health Benefits

Your mother has been urging you to play nice and make friends since playground days. Heck, you're even guilty of pushing your own children toward the sandbox with hopes that they'll thrive socially and make fast pals with the other little girls and boys.

Decades later, if you're lucky enough to have close friendships left over from childhood, there's mom to thank. Her play yard prodding is the reason you have someone to cry, laugh and drink with whenever the need or want should arise. But more than that, new research shows that your friends may be the key to good health. Salute!

"The idea that social interaction is important to mental and physical health has been hinted at and studied for years," says Steven Joyal, M.D., vice president of scientific affairs and medical development for Life Extensions, a nonprofit dedicated to research on extending the human life span. But a meta-study released this summer from researchers at Brigham Young University have determined the link is more direct than previously imagined.

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"We knew that the body of research that had been done on social relationships was large," says Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Ph.D., a co-author of the study. "But no one in the health community seemed to recognize the extent to which social relationships affect mortality." The research was conducted to explore the extent to which social relationships and interactions influence morbidity. And for loners, the outcome wasn't good.

Social isolation, according to the meta-analysis, which included 148 different studies totaling more than 300,000 participants, can have a very serious negative impact on your lifespan. Those with adequate or high social relationships--friends, family, neighbors or colleagues--were found to have a 50% greater likelihood of survival than their friendless counterparts. Some questions used included: Do you have people you can count on in times of need? Do you feel lonely? Do you live alone?

Turns out, social isolation may actually be one of the biggest risk factors for human mortality. As an example, here is how the study corresponds low social interaction to some of the more common risks to our wellbeing:

- As bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

- As dangerous as being an alcoholic.

- As harmful as never exercising.

- Twice as dangerous as obesity.

"I don't know if I'd go so far as to say that given the choice to be healthy, you should keep smoking and just make more friends," says Joyal. "But it's certainly interesting to make the connection between such significant risks."

It's important to note that, because this is a meta-study that looked at studies with various measurements of relationships, there is not a specific threshold or number of friends (or lack thereof) that qualifies you as having adequate social contact. Rather, Holt-Lunstad says, the study looks at different ends of the same scale.

"There's been this notion that it's just those people who are 100% socially isolated who are at risk," she says, "and that if you have one friend, you are OK. But this isn't the case. People who have more, or more complex, social resources vs. people who have less, have higher rates of survival."

But why? Holt-Lunstad points to the many things that friendships afford us in terms of survival, from comfort and companionship to safety. Joyal's view on how social connectivity and longevity are linked is evolutionary. "Social ties have been linked to survival since it became important for humans to work together in a variety of ways thousands of years ago," he says.

"Social contacts are often related to your life-cycle stage," says Claudia Fine, chief professional officer of SeniorBridge, a geriatric care management firm with branches throughout the country. "When you're in college, you are in a bubble of social connectivity. Similarly when you are in middle age and go to the office each day and see co-workers, and then go home to your family and spend weekends with friends, you are equipped with a very large network of people." But for some people, particularly the aging population, it is hard to hold onto those contacts as your life stage or location changes. Fine has seen numerous cases where social isolation has literally been fatal.

"I knew a woman who, at 100, was as sharp as a tack," Fine shares. "One of 10 children, she never married but had created a vast social network for herself. She had worked in millinery and was friends with everyone in her apartment building." Unfortunately at 102, the social butterfly ran out of money to support her lifestyle and moved into a nursing home, where she lost touch with her friends. Fine says that she died less than six month later.

SeniorBridge uses methods of reconnecting the aging population with far-flung family members and other friends, largely with the help of the Web. "We do a lot with Skype," Fine says of the Web-based video phone service, "to connect seniors with adult children who may live across the country."

Similarly, online social networking is playing a huge role, not just for seniors, in building and maintaining relationships with others. Facebook has a particular knack for bringing old friends and flames back onto each other's radar after years apart. "We know that the social relationships we have are important, and it's about the connection, [although social networking is] less concrete than face-to-face contact," says Joyal.

Holt-Lunstad stresses that while her Brigham Young study doesn't take into account Web-based relationships, she is interested in what social networks might mean for the future. "As far as how our online relationships affect our long-term health? We need to do more research," she says. "It may be that there is a positive effect. But I certainly wouldn't say that just because someone has 600 friends on Facebook, they can consider themselves healthy. I just wouldn't."

From ChannelNewsAsia.com; source article is below:Friends With Health Benefits

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Tamiflu-resistant H1N1 superbug found

What will be coming next? Seems like an endless stream of 'invincible' bugs is up against the human race...

Doctors discover Tamiflu-resistant H1N1 superbug

A woman is given a shot during trials of an H1N1 vaccine (file picture)
SINGAPORE: A team of Singapore doctors has found a mutant H1N1 virus resistant to Tamiflu - the antiviral drug used to treat it.

The superbug was detected in a sample from a previously healthy 28-year-old female patient, at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

The mutant strain developed within two days of exposure to the drug. Doctors said less than one per cent of flu is currently resistant.

But they added clinicians should consider resistance when patients who are seriously ill with flu fail to respond to treatment for H1N1.

That's because the strain can evolve almost overnight.

Researchers noted that anti-viral drugs should be given only when necessary as they have limited benefit in mild infections.

Tan Tock Seng Hospital senior consultant in laboratory medicine Timothy Barkham said: "As with all antimicrobial medicines, we should not give patients anti-viral drugs unless it is really necessary, in order to preserve them for patients who really need them".

He noted that antivirals are likely to be most effective in severe flu but are of limited benefit in mild infections.

The research was supported by three A*A*STAR institutes: the Experimental Therapeutics Centre (ETC), the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS), and the Bioinformatics Institute (BII).

ETC developed the method used to chart the evolution of drug resistance in the influenza virus, while GIS provided the technology to sequence the viral genome and BII compared the mutant to previous resistant strains to confirm its novelty.


From ChannelNewsAsia.com; source article is below:Doctors discover Tamiflu-resistant H1N1 superbug

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Gene therapy against anaemia

Gene therapy success for patient with anaemia

This undated handout illustration shows the DNA double helix.
PARIS: In a rare success for the much-headlined vision of gene therapy, scientists said on Wednesday they had corrected flawed DNA in an 18-year-old man suffering from a debilitating form of anaemia.

The unnamed patient received a gene that corrected a blood disorder known as beta-thalassaemia and three years on, his health is "remarkable" and his quality of life good, they said.

Beta-thalassaemia occurs when a patient is unable to produce enough beta-globin, a component in haemoglobin, which is used by red blood cells to transport oxygen around the body.

The body's organs, depriving of sufficient oxygen, can be badly damaged without regular, and lifelong, blood transfusions.

The alternative treatment is bone marrow transplant, but only a small minority of patients have access to this because of difficulties in finding the right type of donor.

Reporting in the science journal Nature, doctors led by Philippe Leboulch of Harvard Medical School, used a virus as a "Trojan horse" to deliver a slice of DNA into cells which corrected for the flawed beta-LCR gene.

"At present, approximately three years post-transplantation, the biological and clinical evolution is remarkable and the patient's quality of life is good," they said.

The patient, who had been received blood transfusions since the age of three, last received donated blood in June 2008, a year after the operation.

Leboulch sounded a note of caution, saying that the Trojan horse, a type of virus that is called a lentivirus, may have altered the function of a gene that controls the behaviour of blood stem cells.

As a result, there has been a mild expansion in the number of these cells.

At present, the increase is benign, but in theory it could be a prelude to leukaemia, which is a factor for doctors weighing whether to use the therapy on other patients.

Gene therapy burst on the medical scene in the late 1990s, offering the allure of blocking or reversing inherited disease.

So far, though, successes have been few, limited to single-gene disorders - as opposed to complex multi-gene disorders that account for the commonest diseases - and they have been carried out under tightly-controlled lab conditions.

They include six children, blighted by a retinal disease called Leber's congenital amaurosis and two adults with a so-called myeloid disorder, a disease of white blood cells.

But there have also been setbacks, including the tragic death of an 18-year-old US volunteer, Jesse Gelsinger, in 1999, and the development of cancer among two French children treated for "bubble baby" syndrome, a chronic lack of immune defences.

Investigations into these failures have focussed especially on the virus used to deliver the gene, amid suspicions that the vector - even if disabled - may unleash an uncontrolled response from the immune system.

- AFP/de

From ChannelNewsAsia.com; source article is below:Gene therapy success for patient with anaemia

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The benefit of non-smoking - to your spouse

Can this be a valid reason for divorce? I'm just thinking out of the box... being a possibility of homicide case, to the extreme extent...

Non-smoking spouse will help Asian women live longer

WASHINGTON: A study believed to be the first to examine the multiplier effect of good habits on mortality in Asian women has found that husbands who smoke at home are shortening their wives' lives.

The study also found that Chinese women with lots of healthy habits tend to live longer than their compatriot peers with less healthy lifestyles.

Researchers led by Sarah Nechuta of Vanderbilt University in the United States used data from the Shanghai Women's Health Study, which gathered information on more than 71,000 non-smoking, non-drinking Chinese women aged 40-70 years between 1996 and 2000, and created a healthy lifestyle score.

The score was based on five factors known to be associated with mortality - weight, waist-to-hip ratio, whether the woman exercised regularly, exposure to second-hand smoke, and fruit and vegetable intake.

The more healthy habits a woman had, the higher her score, while having no or few healthy habits gave her a low score.

The women in the study were followed up for around nine years, during which 2,860 of them died, 1,351 of cancer and 775 of cardiovascular disease.

The women who died were more likely than survivors to be underweight, overweight or obese, had higher waist-to-hip ratios, self-reported that they did not regularly exercise, and ate less fruit and vegetables than survivors, the study published by the Public Library of Science (PLoS) found.

"The good news is that many of these factors can be improved by an individual's motivation to change unhealthy behaviours," said Wei Zheng, a co-author of the study and director of the epidemiology centre at Vanderbilt.

For instance, it would be fairly easy for women in China or elsewhere in Asia to increase energy expenditure by going for a daily walk or joining an exercise group, and to eat more fruit and vegetables, the study said.

But the women who died were also more likely than survivors to have had a spouse who smoked, and that was a tougher nut to crack.

"Environmental tobacco smoke is a particularly important exposure for women living in China and other Asian countries, given the high smoking prevalence among Asian men," the study said.

"Change in exposure to spousal smoking may start with increased awareness by both women and their husbands about the detrimental health effects of smoking," it said.

But getting husbands to kick the habit for their wives will also require "community-based interventions and change in the social environment," including possible bans on smoking at home, the study said.

By focusing on Chinese women, not Westerners, the study breaks from the few studies that have investigated the combined impact of lifestyle factors on mortality.

"Most studies of combinations of established lifestyle factors and mortality have been conducted in the US and Western Europe," where women's lifestyles "differ considerably" from those of their Chinese counterparts, the study said.

Studies of the health habits of Western women and longevity have included women who smoked and drank alcohol, something many Asian women do not do, the researchers said.

- AFP/de

From ChannelNewsAsia.com; source article is below:Non-smoking spouse will help Asian women live longer

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Disinfecting hand gels of no use against H1N1 flu infection

Was it placebo back then, therefore?

Disinfecting hand gels don't affect H1N1 flu infection rate

BOSTON : The regular use of alcohol-based disinfecting hand gels authorities recommended during the A(H1N1) pandemic has little effect on the disease's infection rate, according to a study published Sunday.

The findings suggest that the pandemic virus and similar strains may be most effectively transmitted in the air, rather than by contact with infected surfaces, the authors of the study said.

"An alcohol hand disinfectant with enhanced antiviral activity failed to significantly reduce the frequency of infection with either rhinovirus or influenza," wrote the authors of the study presented Sunday at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC) here.

Participants in the study disinfected their hands roughly every three hours over ten weeks between August 25 and November 9, 2009. Of that group, 42 out of 100 contracted rhinovirus infections, compared to 51 out of 100 in the control group.

Similarly, 12 of those regularly disinfecting their hands contracted the H1N1 flu, compared to 15 in the control group.

"The hand treatment also did not significantly reduce the frequency of illnesses caused by the viruses," said the authors of the study led by Ronald Turner of the University of Virginia.

The study was financed by the Dial Corporation, which makes various care and cleaning products, including alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

"The results of this study suggest that hand transmission maybe less important for the spread of rhinovirus than previously believed," the authors said.

"This study suggests that protection from infection with these viruses may require increased attention to aerosol transmission of virus," they added.

ICAAC, the principal international meeting on infectious diseases, has brought together some 12,000 specialists to Boston for presentations and discussions between September 12-15.

- AFP/il

From ChannelNewsAsia.com; source article is below:Disinfecting hand gels don't affect H1N1 flu infection rate

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Fallopian tubes and ovary

Removing Fallopian tubes cuts ovarian cancer risk

MONTREAL: Removing a woman's Fallopian tubes could cut the number of deaths from ovarian cancer by 30 percent as that is where the illness develops first, Canadian researchers said on Friday.

"Instead of clipping the tubes or burning it, it should be removed. We are warning: stop leaving the tubes in, it is where ovarian cancer begins," said gynaecologic oncologist Sarah Finlayson from Vancouver General Hospital.

She said the discovery that ovarian cancer actually begins in the Fallopian tubes was "one of these moments of luck" during research into women who carry the BRCA gene that can trigger breast cancer.

"We simply hadn't looked there before. Once we looked carefully, we found that ovarian cancer does not begin in the ovaries but in the Fallopian tubes."

Ovarian cancer affects one in 70 women in Canada and the chances of surviving longer than five years after diagnosis are only about 37 percent.

Women with the BRCA mutation have a high risk of developing cancer of the uterus or ovaries and often have them removed as a precaution.

"A woman may have no prior history of ovarian cancer in her family, but we now know that her children and their children could be at risk, and we have the ability to screen them genetically and act proactively," added pathologist Blake Gilks.

- AFP/de

From ChannelNewsAsia.com; source article is below:Removing Fallopian tubes cuts ovarian cancer risk

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And yet ovarian cancer again linked to genes?

Researchers find genes linked to ovarian cancer

WASHINGTON: Researchers said Wednesday they have identified two new genetic mutations linked to the deadliest types of ovarian cancer, which may play a key role in suppressing tumours.

Scientists at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center hope their research will help develop treatments and drugs that will better target ovarian clear-cell carcinoma, which accounts for about 10 per cent of cancers that start in the cells on the surface of the ovaries.

The disease mainly affects women aged 40 to 80 and resists chemotherapy.

Writing in the journal Science, a team of researchers led by Bert Vogelstein named the two genes as ARID1A and PPP2R1A, which have not been previously linked to ovarian cancer.

"They may provide opportunities for developing new biomarkers and therapies that target those genes," said Nickolas Papadopoulos, an associate professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins.

ARID1A mutations were identified in more than half of tumours studied.

"This gene may play a significant role in this type of cancer," noted Sian Jones, a Johns Hopkins research associate.

For their study, the scientists screened mutations in 18,000 protein-encoding genes in ovarian clear-cell tumors from eight patients at Johns Hopkins and institutions in Japan and Taiwan.

They purified the cancer cells and evaluated genes from those cells as well as from normal cells found in the same patients' blood or uninvolved tissues.

Among the eight tumours, the researchers found 268 mutations in 253 genes, or an average of 20 mutations per tumour. They then identified ARID1A mutations in 57 per cent of 42 tumours of 34 additional ovarian clear-cell cancer patients.

PPP2R1A mutations were found in 7.1 per cent of the tumours.

In a separate study published in the New England Journal of Medicine and focusing on ARID1A, Canadian researchers led by David Huntsman of the British Columbia Cancer Agency came to similar conclusions.

They found the gene was mutated in both ovarian clear-cell carcinoma and another type of ovarian tumour linked to endometriosis, a condition in which cells that usually line the uterus grow in other areas, often on the ovaries.

"Overall, 46 per cent of patients with ovarian clear-cell carcinoma and 30 per cent of those with endometrioid carcinoma had... mutations in ARID1A," the researchers said, noting they did not find the mutation in other types of ovarian tumours.

They said the gene was also suspected of playing a role in certain types of breast and lung cancer. - AFP/fa

From ChannelNewsAsia.com; source article is below:Researchers find genes linked to ovarian cancer

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Cockroaches to help?

Cockroaches may hold key to next-generation antibiotics

PARIS: One of the hardiest insects around, the cockroach, may hold the key to next-generation antibiotics, British scientists hope.

The brain and nervous system of the cockroach and the locust hold nine molecules that are toxic to superbugs which are becoming resistant to mainstream drugs, Nottingham University, central England, said in a press release on Monday.

In lab-dish tests, postgraduate researcher Simon Lee found the novel compounds killed more than 90 percent of poisonous Escherichia coli and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) germs.

Work is underway to see how the molecules stand up against emerging superbugs such as Acinetobacter, Pseudomonas and Burkholderia.

Lee, who will be presenting the work at the Society for General Microbiology's meeting this week, said he was unsurprised that insects could naturally secrete their own anti-microbial drugs.

"Insects often live in unsanitary and unhygienic environments where they encounter many different types of bacteria. It is therefore logical that they have developed ways of developing themselves against micro-organism," Lee said.

The research is still at a very early phase. Many years of testing lie ahead if the promise continues to hold true.

- AFP/de

From ChannelNewsAsia.com; source article is below:Cockroaches may hold key to next-generation antibiotics

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Mom's right about sleeping

Young kids who sleep less at risk of obesity

WASHINGTON : Children under the age of five who don't get enough sleep at night are more likely than kids who do get their 40 winks to become obese at a young age, a study published Monday showed.

"We found a robust longitudinal association between duration of nighttime sleep in early life and subsequent obesity measured at five to nine years," wrote the authors of the study in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, a journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers led by Janice Bell of the University of Washington, Seattle and Frederick Zimmerman of the University of California, Los Angeles, studied two lots of data - at baseline and five years later - for 1,930 children in the United States.
The kids were separated into two groups for the study: ages zero to 59 months, and five to 13 years.

The data analysed included information known to influence whether a child develops obesity, including parents' weight and the child's physical activity level, as well as how long the children slept at night and whether they napped during the day.

On average, younger children in the study slept 10 hours a night, and older children slept around 9.5 hours, but some children in both age cohorts got as little as five hours' sleep a night.

The data collected five years after baseline showed that 33 per cent of the younger cohort and 36 per cent of the older cohort of kids were overweight or obese.

"For the younger children, low nighttime sleep at baseline was significantly associated with increased odds of overweight versus normal weight and increased odds of obesity versus overweight at follow-up," the study says.

Nearly one in five US children is obese (17 per cent) and more than a third are overweight, the study says, adding that ensuring that very young children get enough sleep at night could play a key role in preventing obesity.

Napping during the daytime, which the younger kids did but the older ones did not, appeared to have no effect on the children's weight, and getting little sleep at night also did not affect the weight of the older children.

"These findings suggest that there is a critical window prior to age five years when nighttime sleep may be important for subsequent obesity status," the study says.

Why sleep affects weight is not precisely known, but the authors of the study said that getting less sleep could lead to "decreased physical activity due to tiredness and increased energy intake" because the waking child has more opportunities to eat.

Another possible reason why lack of sleep leads to weight gain is that the number of hours of shut-eye influences hormones that affect appetite, hunger and metabolism, the study found.

- AFP/il

From ChannelNewsAsia.com; source article is below:
Young kids who sleep less at risk of obesity

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One-dose malaria drug discovered

Promising new one-dose malaria drug discovered

A mosquito is bloated with blood as it inserts its stinger into human flesh.
WASHINGTON: Researchers have discovered a promising new malaria drug with the potential to treat resistant strains of the deadly disease in a single dose, according to a study published on Thursday in the journal Science.

The drug could be ready for clinical trials as soon as later this year and appears to be more potent than currently used drugs, researchers said.

"We're very excited by the new compound," said study author Elizabeth Winzeler, a professor at the Scripps Research Institute and member of the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation.

"It has a lot of encouraging features as a drug candidate, including an attractive safety profile and potential treatment in a single oral dose."

Current treatment methods require patients to take drugs between one and four times daily for three to seven days. Reducing the treatment to a single dose leaves less opportunity for the parasites to develop a resistance to the drug, researchers said.

There were approximately 247 million cases of malaria in 2008 which caused nearly one million deaths, mostly among young children in Africa, according to the World Health Organisation.

Malaria is contracted when people are bitten by mosquitoes infected with a parasite called Plasmodium.

It causes fever and vomiting and can quickly become life-threatening by disrupting the blood supply to vital organs.

The parasites have developed resistance to a number of malaria medications in many parts of the world and it has been more than a decade since a new class of malaria drugs began to be widely used.

"Malaria remains a scourge," said Mark Fishman, president, Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research.

"The parasite has demonstrated a frustrating ability to outwit new medicines, from quinine to today's unsettling increased tolerance to artemisinin derivatives," he said in a statement.

"We are delighted that our scientists could provide this potential new malaria therapy, based on an unprecedented chemical structure and directed to a novel target."

The drug was tested on mice infected with a strain of malaria that typically kills them within a week.

A single large dose of the drug cured all of the five infected mice which received it. Half of the six mice which received a smaller dose were cured and the cure rate rose to 90 percent when mice were given three doses of the smaller amount.

There has been little economic incentive for developing new malaria drugs because the disease primarily strikes in the world's most impoverished nations.

The compound, dubbed NITD609, was developed through a partnership involving the pharmaceutical giant Novartis, several non-profit organisations, US and Singapore government agencies and researchers at universities in the United States, Switzerland, Thailand, and Great Britain.

The drug was discovered by screening the Novartis library of 12,000 natural products and synthetic compounds to find compounds active against the most deadly malaria parasite.

The first screen turned up 275 compounds and the list was narrowed to 17 potential candidates.

"From the beginning, NITD609 stood out because it looked different, in terms of its structure and chemistry, from all other currently used antimalarials," Winzeler said in a statement.

"The ideal new malaria drug would not just be a modification of existing drugs, but would have entirely novel features and mechanism of action. NITD609 does."

Further animal studies are underway and researchers are in the process of getting approval for early-stage human trials.

- AFP/de

From ChannelNewsAsia.com; source article is below:Promising new one-dose malaria drug discovered

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