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January 19, 2009, 11:45 PM CT

Stimulating the brain to improve motor skills

Stimulating the brain to improve motor skills
People who received a mild electrical current to a motor control area of the brain were significantly better able to learn and perform a complex motor task than those in control groups. The findings could hold promise for enhancing rehabilitation for people with traumatic brain injury, stroke and other conditions.

The study is presented in the January 20, 2009 early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and was conducted by scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The research team from NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) worked in collaboration with researchers at Columbia University in New York City and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Motor skills, which are used for activities from typing and driving, to sports, require practice and learning over a prolonged period of time. During practice, the brain encodes information about how to perform the task, but even during periods of rest, the brain is still at work strengthening the memory of doing the task. This process is known as consolidation.

Subjects in this study were presented with a novel and challenging motor task, which involved squeezing a "joy stick" to play a targeting game on a computer monitor, which they practiced over five consecutive days. During practice, one group received 20 minutes of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and the other group received only a 30 second "sham" stimulation. tDCS involves mild electrical stimulation applied through surface electrodes on the head, and works by modulating the excitability, or activity, of cells in the brain's outermost layers. In this study, Dr. Cohen and his team directed tDCS to the primary motor cortex, the part of the brain that controls movement.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


January 19, 2009, 6:23 AM CT

Sixty million walk around with deadly heart disease mutation

Sixty million walk around with deadly heart disease mutation
Heart disease is the number one killer in the world and India carries more than its share of this burden. Moreover, the problem is set to rise: it is predicted that by 2010 India's population will suffer approximately 60% of the world's heart disease. Today, an international team of 25 researchers from four countries provides a clue to why this is so: 1% of the world's population carries a mutation almost guaranteed to lead to heart problems and most of these come from the Indian subcontinent, where the mutation reaches a frequency of 4%.

Heart disease has a number of causes, some carried in our genes and others associated with our lifestyle, but all seemingly complex, hard to pin down and incompletely understood. So the newly released study published in Nature Genetics is striking for the size and simplicity of the effect it reports.

The mutation, a deletion of 25 letters of genetic code from the heart protein gene MYBPC3, is virtually restricted to people from the Indian subcontinent. But there, Caste and Tribe, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian and others are all united by this affliction.

The mutation was discovered five years ago in two Indian families with cardiomyopathy, but its significance only became apparent after almost 1500 people from a number of parts of India, some with heart disease and some without, were studied.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


January 19, 2009, 6:18 AM CT

Does water pollution cause male infertility?

Does water pollution cause male infertility?
New research strengthens the link between water pollution and rising male fertility problems. The study, by Brunel University, the Universities of Exeter and Reading and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, shows for the first time how a group of testosterone-blocking chemicals is finding its way into UK rivers, affecting wildlife and potentially humans. The research was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council and is now reported in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives

The study identified a new group of chemicals that act as anti-androgens. This means that they inhibit the function of the male hormone, testosterone, reducing male fertility. Some of these are contained in medicines, including cancer therapys, pharmaceutical therapys, and pesticides used in agriculture. The research suggests that when they get into the water system, these chemicals may play a pivotal role in causing feminising effects in male fish.

Earlier research by Brunel University and the University of Exeter has shown how female sex hormones (estrogens), and chemicals that mimic estrogens, are leading to feminisation of male fish. Found in some industrial chemicals and the contraceptive pill, they enter rivers via sewage therapy works. This causes reproductive problems by reducing fish breeding capability and in some cases can lead to male fish changing sex.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


January 19, 2009, 6:16 AM CT

Some genetic mutations and childhood obesity

Some genetic mutations and childhood obesity
Three new genetic variations that increase the risk of obesity are revealed in a newly released study, published recently in the journal Nature Genetics The authors suggest that if each acted independently, these variants could be responsible for up to 50% of cases of severe obesity.

Together with existing research, the new findings should ultimately provide the tools to predict which young children are at risk of becoming obese. Health professionals could then intervene to help such children before they develop weight problems, say the scientists from Imperial College London, the French National Research Institute CNRS and other international institutions.

In the UK, one in ten children under the age of six is obese, as per the Department of Health's National Child Measurement Programme 2007/08.

For today's ten-year study, researchers looked at the genetic makeup of obese children under six and morbidly obese adults, most of whom had been obese since childhood or adolescence, and compared this with age matched people of normal weight. The study reveals three previously unidentified genetic variations that increase the risk of severe obesity significantly, giving new insight into the reasons why some people become obese and others do not.

The gene variant most strongly linked to childhood obesity and adult morbid obesity in the study is located near the PTER gene, the function of which is not known. This variant is estimated to account for up to a third of all childhood obesity, and a fifth of all cases of adult obesity.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


January 19, 2009, 6:13 AM CT

Progress in cancer treatment

Progress in cancer treatment
Dr. Andr Veillette, a researcher at the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montral (IRCM), and his team led by postdoctoral fellow Dr. Mario-Ernesto Cruz-Munoz, will publish in the upcoming issue of the prestigious journal Nature Immunology of Nature Publishing Group. This discovery could have a significant impact on the therapy of cancers and infectious diseases. Current therapys frequently achieve only limited results with these types of diseases, which affect hundreds of thousands of Canadians.

Dr. Veillette's team identified one of the basic mechanisms controlling NK ("natural killer") cell activity. Produced by the immune system, NK cells are responsible for recognizing and killing cancer cells and cells infected by viruses, such as viruses causing hepatitis and herpes. NK cell deficiency is linked to a higher occurence rate of cancers and serious infections. "Our breakthrough, comments Dr. Veillette, demonstrates that a molecule known as CRACC, which is present at the surface of NK cells, increases their killer function." Using mice, the scientists have shown that CRACC greatly improves the animals' ability to eliminate cancer cells such as melanoma (a skin cancer) and lymphoma (a blood cancer). Mice lacking the CRACC gene, generated in Dr. Veillette's laboratory, were found to be more susceptible to cancer persistence. On the other hand, stimulation of CRACC function was found to improve cancer cell elimination. Thus, stimulating CRACC could boost NK cell activity, helping to fight cancers. In addition, it could improve the ability to fight infections, which are also handled by NK cells.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


January 19, 2009, 6:10 AM CT

Inner secrets of the bleeding heart

Inner secrets of the bleeding heart
The colored area on this MRI scan shows a cross-section of the heart muscle, with the area of bleeding shown in red.

Credit: Imperial College London

Images that for the first time show bleeding inside the heart after people have suffered a heart attack have been captured by scientists, in a newly released study published recently in the journal Radiology

The research shows that the amount of bleeding can indicate how damaged a person's heart is after a heart attack. The researchers, from the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre at Imperial College London, hope that this kind of imaging will be used alongside other tests to create a fuller picture of a patient's condition and their chances of recovery.

The research was funded by the Medical Research Council, the British Heart Foundation and the Department of Health, UK.

People suffer heart attacks when an artery that feeds blood to the heart becomes blocked, stopping the heart's blood supply and depriving the heart muscle of oxygen. Currently, most people treated for a heart attack are fitted with a metal tube called a stent to keep the blocked artery clear.

Recent research has shown that some people experience bleeding inside the heart muscle once blood starts to pump into it again. However, the significance of this bleeding is currently not understood.

For the new small study, the scientists captured images of bleeding inside the heart in 15 patients from Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust who had recently suffered a heart attack, using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Analysis of the MRI scans revealed that the amount of bleeding correlated with how much damage the heart muscle had sustained.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


January 15, 2009, 8:49 PM CT

Spread the net

Spread the net
Every thirty seconds a child dies of malaria. It has just become a statistic. Millions of people around the world are being affected by this deadly disease and until recently little was done to provide relief. Spread The Net, spearheaded by Rick Mercer and Belinda Stronach, is a campaign geared toward raising money for a simple solution: bednets. Bednets are perhaps the most effective method of combating malaria, protecting a child in their sleep for up to five years.

Students from all across Canada have been asked to show their support to this cause by raising awareness and promoting this campaign. Now we ask for your aid in furthering this unique student effort, by donating to this campaign and giving a child the gift of hope. Just 10 bucks can help save a life. The following is a link to donate to the campaign in the official Spread The Net Website........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


January 15, 2009, 7:18 PM CT

What is the key to a healthy lifestyle?

What is the key to a healthy lifestyle?
The main factors influencing the amount of physical exercise people carry out are their self-perceived ability and the extent of their desire to exercise. A study of 5167 Canadians, published in the open access journal BMC Public Health, has shown that psychological concerns are the most important barriers to an active lifestyle.

Sai Yi Pan, from the Public Health Agency of Canada, led a team of scientists who carried out a study which examined data from a nationwide series of telephone interviews. She said "Our findings highlight the need for health promotion programs to enhance people's confidence and motivation, as well as providing education on the health benefits of physical activity".

One interview question asked participants how confident they were that they could regularly do a total of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity (PA) three or four times a week and a total of 60 minutes of light PA each day. This 'self-efficacy' score was consistently found to be correlation to higher PA across gender, age group, education level and family income level. As per the authors, "Confidence in one's personal ability to carry out exercise plays a central role in the direction, intensity and persistence of health-behavior change. People who have higher PA self-efficacy will perceive fewer barriers to PA, or be less influenced by them, and will be more likely to enjoy PA".........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


January 15, 2009, 7:16 PM CT

Genes and pancreatic cancer

Genes and pancreatic cancer
Abnormalities in genes that repair mistakes in DNA replication may help identify people who are at high risk of developing pancreas cancer, a research team from The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center reports in the Jan. 15 issue of Clinical Cancer Research

Defects in these critical DNA repair genes may act alone or in combination with traditional risk factors known to increase an individual's likelihood of being diagnosed with this very aggressive type of cancer.

"We consider DNA repair to be the guardian of the genome," said main author Donghui Li, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology at M. D. Anderson. "If something is wrong with the guard, the genes are more readily attacked by tobacco carcinogens and other damaging agents".

With this in mind, Li and her colleagues set out to identify DNA repair genes that could act as susceptibility markers to predict pancreas cancer risk. In a case-control study of 734 patients with pancreas cancer and 780 healthy individuals, they examined nine variants of seven DNA repair genes. The repair genes under investigation were: LIG3, LIG4, OGG1, ATM, POLB, RAD54L and RECQL.

The scientists looked for direct effects of the gene variants (also called single nucleotide polymorphisms) on pancreas cancer risk as well as potential interactions between the gene variants and known risk factors for the disease, including family history of cancer, diabetes, heavy smoking, heavy alcohol consumption and being overweight.........

Posted by: Sue      Read more         Source


January 15, 2009, 7:13 PM CT

Seniors with disabilities may get help from alcohol

Seniors with disabilities may get help from alcohol
It is well known that moderate drinking can have positive health benefits for instance, a couple of glasses of red wine a day can be good for the heart. But if you're a senior in good health, light to moderate consumption of alcohol may also help prevent the development of physical disability.

That's the conclusion of a new UCLA study, available in the online edition of the American Journal of Epidemiology, which observed that light to moderate drinking among these seniors reduced their odds of developing physical problems that would prevent them from performing common tasks such as walking, dressing and grooming.

"If you start out in good health, alcohol consumption at light to moderate levels can be beneficial," said lead study author Dr. Arun Karlamangla, an associate professor of medicine in the division of geriatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "But if you don't start out healthy, alcohol will not give you a benefit." .

The scientists based their study on data from three waves of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey's Epidemiologic Follow-up Study (1982󈟀, 1987 and 1992). The sample, which included 4,276 people split evenly between male and female, was about 92 percent white, with a mean age of 60.4 years.........

Posted by: Janet      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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