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May 8, 2008, 9:11 PM CT

Major shift in HIV prevention priorities needed

Major shift in HIV prevention priorities needed
As per a new policy analysis led by scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and the University of California, Berkeley, the most common HIV prevention strategiescondom promotion, HIV testing, therapy of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), vaccine and microbicide research, and abstinenceare having a limited impact on the predominantly heterosexual epidemics found in Africa. Furthermore, some of the assumptions underlying such strategiessuch as poverty or war being major causes of AIDS in Africaare unsupported by rigorous scientific evidence. The scientists argue that two interventions currently getting less attention and resourcesmale circumcision and reducing multiple sexual partnershipswould have a greater impact on the AIDS pandemic and should become the cornerstone of HIV prevention efforts in the high-HIV-prevalence parts of Africa.

The paper appears in the May 9, 2008 issue of the journal Science.

Despite relatively large investments in AIDS prevention efforts for some years now, including sizeable spending in some of the most heavily affected countries (such as South Africa and Botswana), its clear that we need to do a better job of reducing the rate of new HIV infections. We need a fairly dramatic shift in priorities, not just a minor tweaking, said Daniel Halperin, lecturer on international health in the HSPH Department of Population and International Health and one of the papers lead authors.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


May 8, 2008, 9:08 PM CT

Drink and drugs for better sex

Drink and drugs for better sex
Teenagers and young adults across Europe drink and take drugs as part of deliberate sexual strategies. Findings published recently in BioMed Centrals open access journal, BMC Public Health, reveal that a third of 16-35 year old males and a quarter of females surveyed are drinking alcohol to increase their chances of sex, while cocaine, ecstasy and cannabis are intentionally used to enhance sexual arousal or prolong sex.

The study was conducted by scientists in public health and social sciences from across Europe. More than 1300 people aged between 16 and 35 and who routinely socialise in nightlife settings completed anonymous questionnaires.

Virtually all of the survey participants had drunk alcohol with most having had their first drink when 14 or 15 years old. Three quarters of the respondents had tried or used cannabis, while around 30 percent had at least tried ecstasy or cocaine.

Overall, alcohol was most likely to be used to facilitate a sexual encounter, while cocaine and cannabis were more likely to be utilised to enhance sexual sensations and arousal.

Despite these perceived sexual benefits, drunkenness and drug use were strongly linked to an increase in risk taking behaviour and feeling regretful about having sex while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Thus, participants who had been drunk in the past four weeks were more likely to have had five or more partners, sex without a condom and to have regretted sex after drink or drugs in the past 12 months. Cannabis, cocaine or ecstasy use was associated with similar consequences.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


May 8, 2008, 9:00 PM CT

Do antidepressants enhance immune function?

Do antidepressants enhance immune function?
Infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which leads to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), is an epidemic of global concern. As per the most recent estimates, released in November 2007, by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 33.2 million worldwide are living with HIV infection currently. Eventhough the rates of infection appear to be decreasing, there are obviously immense implications for achieving improvements in HIV/AIDS therapy.

The functioning of natural killer (NK) cells, which are a major element of the innate immunity system and are involved in the bodys first line of defense against infections such as HIV, is decreased in both HIV and depression. A group of scientists who have previously observed that stress and depression impair NK cell function and accelerate the course of HIV/AIDS are now publishing a new report in the May 1st issue of Biological Psychiatry.

In this study, they recruited both depressed and non-depressed HIV-infected women and studied the ex vivo effects of three drugs, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), a substance P antagonist, and a glucocorticoid antagonist, on their NK cell activity. These drugs were selected because, as the authors state, each affect[s] underlying regulatory systems that have been extensively investigated in both stress and depression research as well as immune and viral research. The researchers observed that the SSRI citalopram, and the substance P antagonist CP 96,345, but not the glucocorticoid receptor antagonist RU486, increased NK cell activity. As per Dr. Dwight Evans, corresponding author of the article: The present findings provide evidence that natural killer cell function in HIV infection may be enhanced by selective serotonin reuptake inhibition and also by substance P antagonism in both depressed and non-depressed individuals.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


May 8, 2008, 8:47 PM CT

New Cancer Gene Discovered

New Cancer Gene Discovered
Scientists at the OU Cancer Institute have identified a new gene that causes cancer. The ground-breaking research appears Monday in Nature's cancer journal Oncogene.

The gene and its protein, both called RBM3, are vital for cell division in normal cells. In cancers, low oxygen levels in the tumors cause the amount of this protein to go up dramatically. This causes cancer cells to divide uncontrollably, leading to increased tumor formation.

Scientists used new powerful technology to genetically "silence" the protein and reduce the level of RBM3 in malignant cells. The approach stopped cancer from growing and led to cell death. The new technique has been tested successfully on several types of cancers - breast, pancreas, colon, lung, ovarian and prostate.

"We are excited about this discovery because most cancers are thought to come from mutations in genes, and our studies, for the first time, have shown that too much of this type of protein actually causes normal cells to turn into cancer cells," said Shrikant Anant, Ph.D., a cancer biologist at the OU Cancer Institute and principal investigator on the project.

Anant said they found RBM3 protein in every stage of a number of cancers, and the amount of protein increased as the cancer grew. The protein helped the cancer grow faster, avoid cell death and was part of the process that formed new blood vessels to feed the tumor.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


May 8, 2008, 8:43 PM CT

Benign Lesions Needs 6-month Mammogram Follow Up

Benign Lesions Needs 6-month Mammogram Follow Up
Radiologists can, with confidence, recommend a six-month follow-up diagnostic mammogram rather than an immediate biopsy for patients with probably non-malignant breast lesions, a new study emphasizes.

The study observed that six-month short-interval follow-up examinations had an 83% sensitivity, which is similar to the sensitivity of other diagnostic mammograms, said Erin J. Aiello Bowles, MPH, lead author of the study from the Group Health Center for Health Studies. High sensitivity means identifying a high proportion of true positives (actual cancer cases) and a low proportion of false negatives (cases mistakenly deemed benign).

The study included 45,007 initial short-interval follow-up mammograms. Short-interval follow-up mammograms are done to monitor for changes in probably non-malignant breast lesions (findings seen on mammograms that have a very low probability of being cancer). Because the probability of cancer is so low, we dont want to put the patient through an unnecessary biopsy, which is an invasive procedure that increases both patient anxiety and medical costs, said Aiello Bowles. At the same time, we want to closely monitor these patients, because changes in probably non-malignant lesions occasionally mean cancer, and we want to detect the cancers as early as possible, she said. In the study, 360 women with probably non-malignant lesions were diagnosed with breast cancer within six months; and 506 women were diagnosed with cancer within 12 months (altogether about one in 100 of the probably non-malignant lesions), Aiello Bowles said.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


May 7, 2008, 6:56 PM CT

Mental Fitness and Multi-Lingualism

Mental Fitness and Multi-Lingualism
Dr. Gitit Kave
Children who speak a second or third language may have an unexpected advantage during the later part of life, a new Tel Aviv University study has observed. Knowing and speaking a number of languages may protect the brain against the effects of aging.

Dr. Gitit Kave, a clinical neuro-psychology expert from the Herczeg Institute on Aging at Tel Aviv University, together with her colleagues Nitza Eyal, Aviva Shorek, and Jiska Cohen-Manfield, discovered recently that senior citizens who speak more languages test for better cognitive functioning. The results of her study were reported in the journal Psychology and Aging.

However, Kave says that one should approach these findings with caution. "There is no sure-fire recipe for avoiding the pitfalls of mental aging. But using a second or third language may help prolong the good years," she advises.

Exercising the Brain

A person who speaks more languages is likely to be more clear-minded at an older age, she says, in effect "exercising" his or her brain more than those who are monolingual. Languages may create new links in the brain, contributing to this strengthening effect.

The research was based on a survey taken in 1989 on people between the ages of 75 and 95. Each person was asked how a number of languages he or she knew, what his or her mother tongue was, and which language he or she spoke best. The scientists compared bilingual speakers to tri- and multilingual speakers.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


May 7, 2008, 6:44 PM CT

Caution on new anti-obesity drug in kids

Caution on new anti-obesity drug in kids
Anti-obesity drugs that work by blocking brain molecules similar to those in marijuana could also interfere with neural development in young children, as per a new study from MITs Picower Institute for Learning and Memory.

Marijuana is known to be an appetite stimulant, and a new class of anti-obesity drugssuch as rimonabant (trade name Acomplia) developed by Sanofi-Aventis and awaiting approval for use in the United Stateswork by blocking brain receptors that bind to marijuana and other cannabinoids.

Marijuana, derived from the plant Cannabis sativa, contains special active compounds that are referred to collectively as cannabinoids. But other cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) are generated naturally inside the body.

The MIT study, which was done in mice, observed that blocking cannabinoid receptors could also suppress the adaptive rewiring of the brain necessary for neural development in children. The work is published in the May 8 issue of Neuron.

Our finding of a profound disruption of cortical plasticity in juvenile mice suggests caution is advised in the use of such compounds in children, wrote lead author Mark F. Bear, director of the Picower Institute and Picower Professor of Neuroscience.

The scientists investigated plasticitythe brains ability to change in response to experienceby temporarily depriving newborn mice of vision in one eye soon after birth. This well-known experiment induces a long-lasting loss of synapses that causes blindness in the covered eye, while synapses shift to the uncovered eye. How and where this synaptic shift occurs in the primary visual cortex has remained controversial.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


May 7, 2008, 6:40 PM CT

Speedier Precise Cancer Therapy

Speedier Precise Cancer Therapy
The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) this month became the first U.S. medical center to offer a speedier cancer radiation treatment. The new technique can turn a 20-minute radiotherapy session into a 90-second session for selected patients.

Additionally, the new treatment saves healthy human tissue from unwanted radiation exposure at rates that are the same or better than other radiotherapy techniques, as per doctors at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The new treatment is called RapidArc, which is the next-generation of intensity-modulated radiation treatment (IMRT). Conventional IMRT was introduced in the 1990s as a way to deliver multiple beams of radiation to a tumor, and minimize damage to nearby healthy tissues. RapidArc is an advancement on the earlier technology with radiation delivery times up to eight times faster than conventional IMRT, said the system's manufacturer Varian Medical Systems, Inc.

"RapidArc is an important advance for us and our patients," said John Fiveash, M.D., an associate professor of radiation oncology at UAB and Cancer Center scientist. "Knowing that we can reduce delivery times to less than two minutes per day is important considering what cancer care involves emotionally and physically".

ALABAMIAN FIRST IN NATION TO BENEFIT........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


May 6, 2008, 10:41 PM CT

Hunger hormone: makes food look more attractive

Hunger hormone: makes food look more attractive
A new brain-imaging study by scientists at the Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University reveals that ghrelin - a stomach hormone, acts on specific regions of the brain to enhance our response to food related cues and eating for pleasure. This study, reported in the May 7 issue of Cell Metabolism, is critical to advance understanding and treating obesity, a condition affecting millions world-wide.

Appetite was previously thought of as being controlled by two separate mechanisms: homeostatic and non-homeostatic or hedonic food consumption. Homeostatic feeding is controlled by hormones such as ghrelin, that act on the brain to tell the body when to eat in an attempt to keep a constant body weight. Hedonic consumption is triggered by visual or smell cues. For example, wanting to eat a piece of cake just because it looks good and will bring pleasure when eaten. This study demonstrates that both food consumption behaviours are inter-connected and a key player in their regulation is the stomach hormone ghrelin.

"Our study demonstrates that ghrelin actually activates certain regions of the brain to be more responsive to visual food cues, thereby enhancing the hedonic and incentive responses to food-related cues,' says Dr. Alain Dagher, neurologist at the Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University and principal investigator in the study. "Ghrelin is a hormone that triggers hunger, and is secreted by the stomach [when it is empty]. An easy analogy would be to think about when you go shopping on an empty stomach, you tend to buy more food and products higher in calories. The reason is that your brain views the food as more appealing, largely due to the action of ghrelin on the brain".........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


May 6, 2008, 9:54 PM CT

Safety Of Gene Therapy Using Adult Stem Cells

Safety Of Gene Therapy Using Adult Stem Cells
A new study by UC Davis scientists provides evidence that methods using human bone marrow-derived stem cells to deliver gene treatment to cure diseases of the blood, bone marrow and certain types of cancer do not cause the development of tumors or leukemia. The study was published online in the May 6, 2008 issue of Molecular Therapy.

"The results of our decade-long study of adult human stem cell transplantation shows that there is little risk of adverse events caused by gene transfer, and that adult human stem cells do not pose a cancer risk when implanted into different organs," said Jan Nolta, senior author of the study and director of the UC Davis Stem Cell Program.

Nolta and her colleagues tested the safety of gene transfer into bone marrow stem cells from human donors in more than 600 mice. None of the transplanted mice developed leukemia or solid tumors caused by the gene treatment therapy, during the evaluation period of up to 18 months.

"These data are critical for advancing stem cell research leading toward therapies," Nolta said. "We've shown that adult stem cells follow natural cues to reach target locations, they function normally when they get there and do not exhibit the unchecked cell growth that is the hallmark of cancer."

Gene treatment trials using human bone marrow cells began in the early part of 1990s and have since included roughly 1,000 patients worldwide. In 2000, a leukemia-like condition emerged in three participants in a clinical trial in France, halting the trial and calling into question the safety of the method. Scientists suspected that the gene transferred in this trial gave the transplanted cells an enhanced growth capacity that led to the cancers.........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source



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Did you know?
Studies in monkeys and women suggest that unlike traditional estrogen therapy, a diet high in the natural plant estrogens found in soy does not increase the risk of uterine cancer in postmenopausal women, according to Mark Cline, D.V.M., Ph.D., an associate professor of comparative medicine at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

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