Sunday, January 15, 2012

Brain power can decline from age 45

So, should age of retirement be adjusted?

Posted: 06 January 2012

Brain model
PARIS: Cognitive skills can start to fall from the age of 45, not from around the age of 60 as is commonly thought, according to research published on Friday by the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Researchers led by Archana Singh-Manoux from the Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health in France and University College London observed 5,198 men and 2,192 women over a 10-year period from 1997.

The volunteers were London civil servants aged between 45 and 70 who had been enrolled in a long-term health study.

Over the 10 years, the participants were tested three times - for memory, vocabulary, and skills in aural and visual comprehension.

During this time, there was a 3.6-percent decline in mental reasoning in men aged 45-49 and a 9.6-percent fall in those aged 65-70. The corresponding figures for women were 3.6 and 7.4 percent.

"Cognitive decline is already evident in middle age," says the paper, which defines this as the years from 45 to 49.

The findings should spur further research into spotting and braking cognitive deterioration, the authors hope.

Many societies face an "exponential increase" in the number of elderly people as a result of increases in life expectancy, they note.

"These changes are likely to have a profound influence on individuals' lives and society at large. Poor cognitive status is perhaps the single most disabling condition in old age."

- AFP/de

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Brain power can decline from age 45

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Gastric bypass cuts death risk

Posted: 04 January 2012

An obese women walks down the street on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Illinois, USA. (AFP FILE PHOTO/JEFF HAYNES)
WASHINGTON: Obese people who undergo gastric bypass surgery are less likely to die from heart attack and stroke than people who receive more conventional treatment for their weight condition, a Swedish study said on Tuesday.

The study, published in the January 4 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, included about 4,000 patients in Sweden who were recruited between 1987 and 2001.

The surgery patients either had gastric bypass (13.2 percent), banding (18.7 percent), or vertical banded gastroplasty (68.1 percent), and all lost 16-23 percent of their body weight in subsequent years.

The control group did not have any type of surgery and showed a 0-1 percent weight loss at follow-up periods of two, 10, 15 and 20 years.

"Bariatric surgery was associated with reduced number of fatal heart attack deaths (22 in the surgery group versus 37 in the control group)," said the study led by Lars Sjostrom of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Bariatric surgery was also linked to a lower number of heart attacks overall, fewer strokes, and fewer fatal strokes.

But when the researchers looked at weight change alone, they could find no significant relationship to cardiovascular events in either group, suggesting that the weight loss itself might not be the driver of fewer deaths.

"There are many benefits to bariatric surgery and that some of these benefits are independent of the degree of the surgically induced weight loss," said the study.

Other studies have shown that the benefits of gastric surgery for extremely obese people can include long-term changes of body weight, better quality of life, and fewer incidences of diabetes and cancer.

"The message is clear - bariatric surgery saves lives," said Mitchell Roslin, chief of obesity surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, who was not involved in the study.

Roslin noted that the most common type of surgery in the study, vertical banded gastroplasty, has been replaced by newer methods that are even more effective, so the cardiovascular death risk is likely even lower today.

As many as 200,000 gastric bypass operations, in which the stomach is sectioned off so that the smaller amounts of food can fit inside, are done annually in the United States, where about a third of people are obese.

- AFP/de

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Gastric bypass cuts death risk

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Single gene links rare cancers

One of a kind, that's what this is!

Posted: 22 December 2011

Researcher with test tube of sample
WASHINGTON - Canadian researchers have discovered that a common gene links a number of rare reproductive cancers, a finding that could lead to new approaches for treatment, said a study published on Wednesday.

Ovarian, uterine and testicular cancer were all found to have the same mutation in a gene called DICER, said the research in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Scientists have known about DICER for many years, but its exact role in sparking tumour cells to grow has been unclear.

When the gene mutates, DICER's function is changed "so that it participates directly in the initiation of cancer, but not in a typical 'on-off' fashion," said co-author Gregg Morin, a lead scientist from the Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre at the British Columbia Cancer Agency.

"DICER can be viewed as the conductor for an orchestra of functions critical for the development and behavior of normal cells," explained co-author Gregg Morin, a lead scientist from the Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre at the British Columbia Cancer Agency.

"The mutations we discovered do not totally destroy the function of DICER, rather they warp it - the orchestra is still there but the conductor is drunk."

Researchers are examining whether DICER plays a role in other cancers, and will investigate if mutant DICER can be manipulated to treat the cancers it causes.

Ovarian cancer kills about 15,000 women in the United States each year, and about 22,000 new cases are diagnosed annually.

More than 46,000 cases of uterine cancer and 8,100 deaths arise each year in the United States. Testicular cancer is more rare, with 8,300 new cases per year and 350 US deaths, according to the American Cancer Society.

"This breakthrough will be of interest to both the clinical and the fundamental science communities," said Phillip Sharp, Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for the discovery of the structure of genes.

"Huntsman, Morin and colleague's very exciting discovery of specific mutations in DICER, a factor essential for syntheses of small regulatory RNAs in ovarian and other human tumors, could lead to new approaches to treatment."

- AFP/al

Taken from; source article is below:
Single gene links rare cancers

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Blood pressure meds "prolong life"

Hope this really works!

Posted: 21 December 2011

WASHINGTON: People who took blood pressure medicine during a 1980s clinical trial showed longer life expectancy two decades later than people who took a placebo, a US study said on Tuesday.

The randomised trial included 4,736 patients aged 60 and over who had high blood pressure. Some were given a drug called chlorthalidone and others were given a sugar pill for a 4.5 year period beginning in 1985.

At the end of the Systolic Hypertension in the Elderly Program (SHEP) trial, all participants were advised to begin following the drug regimen.

Recently, researchers in New Jersey decided to go back over the data, in consultation with the National Death Index, to see if the therapy had any impact on long-term life expectancy.

Indeed, they found that those who had taken chlorthalidone lived several months longer than those who had taken the placebo, according to the findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Those who took the drug lived 158 days longer before dying of cardiovascular causes than people who had taken the placebo, and 105 days longer when it came to dying of any cause.

"The gain in life expectancy free from cardiovascular death corresponds with one day (0.89 days) gained per month of treatment," said the study.

"For all-cause mortality, the gain in life expectancy from one month of antihypertensive drug treatment was estimated at a half day (0.59 days)."

The study, led by John Kostis of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, should send a "strong message" to patients and doctors about the benefits of anti-hypertensive therapy, it concluded.

Left uncontrolled, high blood pressure -- defined as 140/90 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) or above most of the time -- can lead to heart failure, stroke, and kidney disease.

About one in three US adults has hypertension, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

The research was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Institute on Aging, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

- AFP/wk

Taken from; source article is below:
Blood pressure meds "prolong life"
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Monday, January 2, 2012

Israeli scientists develop cancer 'cluster bomb'

Now this is a very good promise; hope that it works when everything is done.

Posted: 14 December 2011

Researcher with test tube
JERUSALEM: Israeli medical researchers say they have developed a new technique for blasting cancer tumours from inside out which reduces the risk of the disease returning after treatment.

Tel Aviv University professors Yona Keisari and Itzhak Kelson are about to start clinical trials of a pin-sized radioactive implant that beams short-range alpha radiation from within the tumour.

Unlike conventional radiation therapy, which bombards the body with gamma rays from outside, the alpha particles "diffuse inside the tumour, spreading further and further before disintegrating," a university statement quoted Keisari as saying.

"It's like a cluster bomb -- instead of detonating at one point, the atoms continuously disperse and emit alpha particles at increasing distances."

The university said that the process takes about 10 days and leaves behind only non-radioactive and non-toxic amounts of lead.

"Not only are cancerous cells more reliably destroyed, but in the majority of cases the body develops immunity against the return of the tumour," the statement said.

The wire implant, inserted into the tumour by hypodermic needle, "decays harmlessly in the body," it added.

It went on to say that in pre-clinical trials on mice, one group had tumours removed surgically while another was treated with the radioactive wire.

"When cells from the tumour were reinjected into the subject, 100 percent of those treated surgically redeveloped their tumour, compared to only 50 percent of those treated with the radioactive wire," it said.

"The researchers have had excellent results with many types of cancer models, including lung, pancreatic, colon, breast, and brain tumours."

It added that the procedure would begin clinical trials at Beilinson hospital, near Tel Aviv, "soon."

- AFP/wk

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Israeli scientists develop cancer 'cluster bomb'

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"No heart attack risk" from ADHD drugs

Posted: 13 December 2011

WASHINGTON: Most adults do not face a higher risk of heart attack when taking stimulant medications to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, US researchers said on Monday.

The study is the largest and among the first to look specifically at the risks of taking ADHD drugs for people aged 25-64, and is published in an early online version of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Previous studies have shown that some ADHD drugs can raise blood pressure and heart rate, but follow-up research has been unable to find any higher risk of death or major complications.

A separate study last month in the New England Journal of Medicine found no higher risk among youths aged two to 24 who take stimulant medications like Ritalin, after concerns were raised years ago about potential links.

The JAMA observational study, funded by the US Food and Drug Administration and the Agency for Health Research Quality, was based on pharmacy data and medical records for 150,000 people at four clinical sites in the United States.

Comparing those who used the drugs to those who did not, and honing on one the specific subgroups of ADHD drugs, researchers found no higher risk of heart attack, sudden cardiac death or stroke.

However, the study did have some limitations, such as spanning a relatively short period -- about one year -- and excluding people over 65.

"It's important to note that this is an observational study and not a randomised clinical trial," said lead author Laurel Habel, a research scientist with the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research.

The drugs included in the study were stimulants such as methylphenidate, dextroamphetamines, amphetamine salts and pemoline; and the non-stimulant atomoxetine.

All were labelled for treatment of ADHD in children or adults as of December 31, 2005.

According to the latest FDA data from 2005, about 1.5 million US adults are taking ADHD medication. Of all the US prescriptions issued to children and adults, grownups account for nearly one third.

- AFP/wk

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"No heart attack risk" from ADHD drugs

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Doc uses glove instead of port in colon surgery

Another one of those firsts, from Singapore

By Wendy Wong
Posted: 12 December 2011

Doctors performing a surgery
SINGAPORE: A surgeon from the Tan Tock Seng Hospital has become the first in Singapore to perform a new colon re-sectioning surgery using a common glove.

The Single Incision Laparoscopic Surgery, or SILS for short, usually involves an expensive equipment costing up to $2,000.

With SILS, a small incision of about 4cm is made to reach the colon with robotic arms.

But the robotic arms need a port - which is expensive - to fit the needles for the surgery.

However, Dr Leong Quor Meng, a consultant of general surgery, learnt from South Korean doctors a technique to replace the mechanical port with a glove. And it works just as well.

He said he picked up the technique during his overseas training in Korea to learn robotic surgery last year. He noticed that surgeons used a non-powdered glove, which costs only around a dollar, amongst other cheaper equipment.

By using a glove, equipment cost for SILS is cut by nearly 90 percent to just S$65.

Dr Leong said the technique can be useful if the tumour isn't large.

And he is confident one third of his patients can benefit from the approach of using gloves as modified "ports" and emerge with minimal scarring.

He said: "The advantages of this surgery are that it is cheap, the ports are cheap, and the outcome is very good. The patients recover fast, the cosmesis is excellent and we can provide it to all patients."

- CNA/ir

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Doc uses glove instead of port in colon surgery

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In mice, a step towards a vaccine for HIV

And why not frustrating, since this is being chased wrongly? Let me now reserve my judgement...

Posted: 01 December 2011

PARIS: Tests on lab mice have opened up a new path towards a vaccine against HIV, one of the most frustrating quests in the 30-year history of AIDS, scientists reported on Wednesday.

Genetically modified mice fought back the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) after they had been injected with genes to make antibodies, the first line of defence in the immune system, the report said in the journal Nature.

First identified in 1981, AIDS has claimed at least 25 million lives, although the annual toll is falling sharply from the peak of the pandemic in response to drug treatment.

But AIDS campaigners say the pandemic will only be crushed once a vaccine emerges. So far, in clinical trials, only one candidate formula has had even a modest effect, providing a shield of only 31 percent against the risk of HIV infection.

This has prompted researchers to return to the drawing board, to look for "broadly neutralising antibodies" -- Y-shaped proteins that are the immune system's foot soldiers -- among the tiny number of people with an innate ability to resist HIV.

So far, this trawl has turned up around 20 so-called "bNAbs," but there are big unknowns as to how they work and, if so, whether they can be made into a deliverable vaccine.

Delving into this, a team led by David Baltimore at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) says it has developed a way to deliver bNAb-making genes to lab mice.

The rodents were engineered to carry human cells that allow HIV to penetrate and reproduce.

The approach, called Vectored ImmunoProphylaxis, or VIP, entails using a harmless virus as a "Trojan horse" in which they tucked the genes able to turn out specific bNAbs.

They then injected the virus into the leg muscles of the mice, where it holed up in cells, enabling the bNAb genes to produce antibodies in response to HIV.

The mice were first challenged with just one nanogram of AIDS virus -- enough to infect most non-treated mice that received it -- but the dose was eventually cranked up to 125 nanograms without problems. There were no signs of any side effects.

"VIP has a similar effect to a vaccine but without ever calling on the immune system to do any of the work," said Alejandro Balazs, lead author of the study, in a press release issued by Caltech.

"Normally, you put an antigen or killed bacteria or something into the body, and the immune system figures out how to make an antibody against it. We've taken that whole part out of the equation."

The team stressed that the jump from mice to humans is large.

"We're not promising that we've actually solved the human problem," said Baltimore. "But the evidence for prevention in these mice is very clear."

He added the team was drawing up plans to cautiously test the method in small-scale human clinical trials.

Baltimore co-won the 1975 Nobel Prize for Medicine at the age of 37 for his work on reverse transcriptase, a key enzyme in the reproduction of retroviruses -- the family that includes HIV.

In an email exchange with AFP, he said VIP was "like gene therapy, but distinct."

Gene therapy entails slotting a gene into the patient's DNA that corrects a flawed, disease-causing counterpart.

Hopes for this field of research were clouded by several reverses, notably the death of a young volunteer, Jesse Gelsinger, in 1999.

The tragedy raised doubts about where genes should be inserted in the genome and about the safety of the virus that delivered them.

Baltimore explained that VIP used a small, harmless vector, an adeno-associated virus (AAV), which took up residence in the muscle cells but did not slot genes into the mouse's DNA code.

"It's not an 'insertion' but a free plasmid-like element that will exist in muscle cells," he said.

Publication of the study coincided with the eve of World AIDS Day.

The number of people living with HIV currently stands at about 34 million, according to the latest UN figures.

- AFP/cc

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In mice, a step towards a vaccine for HIV

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More S'poreans now aware of HIV/AIDS preventive measures

I'd say this is good in the sense that the business is a medium for sex education as well... but to me, the best prevention is abstinence - you don't expect to play with fire and don't get burned, or seared, or at least, be singed...

By Wendy Wong and Monica Kotwani
Posted: 27 November 2011

HIV testing
SINGAPORE: According to a survey by the Health Promotion Board (HPB), Singaporeans now have greater knowledge of HIV/AIDS preventive measures compared to just few years ago.

The preventive measures are known as the ABCs - Abstinence from casual sex, Being faithful to one uninfected sexual partner and using a Condom correctly.

Last year, about 67 per cent of respondents were aware of the ABCs, compared to just 37 per cent in 2007.

The HPB survey also found a greater acceptance for individuals with HIV/AIDS.

In 2007, only 22 per cent of those surveyed were willing to share a meal with a person with HIV/AIDS.

Last year, this doubled to almost 41 per cent responded in the affirmative.

Minister of State for Health and Chairperson of the National HIV Policy Committee Dr Amy Khor said over 400 people are diagnosed with HIV every year and late testing and detection of the HIV infection remain a worrying trend.

She said education and outreach programmes will help to demystify and de-stigmatise the condition, and encourage at-risk individuals to take proper protective measures and come forward for regular HIV tests.

She added that regular HIV testing will allow for early detection and management of any HIV infection, delay the onset of AIDS and help ensure an active and productive life.

Dr Khor said her committee will focus on three areas in the short to medium-term.

They are awareness of HIV preventive measures, enhancing support for those living with HIV/AIDS, and adopting guidelines to remove stigma and discrimination in the workplace.

Dr Khor said, "We've had feedback, and also through patients who go for treatment to Communicable Disease Centre, and they've shared that there is some stigma and discrimination, and I think it probably arises because of a lack of understanding of HIV infection and how the disease can be spread.

"We need to have these guidelines, and the HR managers to ensure that they do not, unwittingly for instance, have Human Resource policies or employment policies that discriminate against people with HIV infection.

"I mean, we've also heard stories of people getting dismissed because they were found to be HIV positive. And really, if they are treated and cared for, they can continue to work and contribute to the company, and to the economy, constructively and productively."

Dr Khor said employers are coming on board to raise awareness at the workplace, through organisations such as the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) and AIDS Business Alliance.

Dr Khor was speaking at a World AIDS Day commemoration event called "Hairdressers Against Aids".

Meanwhile, HPB said it would unveil revamped HIV/AIDS guidelines together with SNEF, in January next year.

This would include a "Frequently Asked Questions" template, which tells HR managers what to do when a staff is infected with HIV.

HPB is working with L'Oréal Singapore to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS through hairstylists from more than 100 local hair salons, which have pledged to initiate talk and discussions with customers on the issue.

HPB CEO Ang Hak Seng: "The salon was chosen because hairdressers usually have long-standing relationships with their customers. And when customers have their hair done in the salon, it usually takes a long time, and this gives the opportunity to hair-stylists to give HIV preventive measures and education to their customers."

HPB is targeting some 30,000 Singaporeans and residents.

Future collaborations include HPB working with pubs and DJs to spread the word and initiate conversation on HIV/AIDS awareness.

It said five pubs have so far come on board.

- CNA/ck/wk

Taken from; source article is below:
More S'poreans now aware of HIV/AIDS preventive measures

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