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January 2, 2008, 8:33 PM CT

Where thoughts of familiar objects occur inside the human brain

Where thoughts of familiar objects occur inside the human brain
A team of Carnegie Mellon University computer researchers and cognitive neuroscientists, combining methods of machine learning and brain imaging, have found a way to identify where peoples thoughts and perceptions of familiar objects originate in the brain by identifying the patterns of brain activity linked to the objects. An article in the Jan. 2 issue of PLoS One discusses this new method, which was developed over two years under the leadership of neuroscientist Professor Marcel Just and Computer Science Professor Tom M. Mitchell.

A dozen study participants enveloped in an MRI scanner were shown line drawings of 10 different objects five tools and five dwellings one at a time and asked to think about their properties. Just and Mitchells method was able to accurately determine which of the 10 drawings a participant was viewing based on their characteristic whole-brain neural activation patterns. To make the task more challenging for themselves, the scientists excluded information in the brains visual cortex, where raw visual information is available, and focused more on the thinking parts of the brain.

The researchers observed that the activation pattern evoked by an object wasnt located in just one place in the brain. For instance, thinking about a hammer activated a number of locations. How you swing a hammer activated the motor area, while what a hammer is used for, and the shape of a hammer activated other areas.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


January 2, 2008, 8:31 PM CT

Protein a possible key to allergy and asthma control

Protein a possible key to allergy and asthma control
Activating a protein found on some immune cells seems to halt the cells typical job of spewing out substances that launch allergic reactions, a study by Johns Hopkins scientists suggests. The findings could eventually lead to new therapys for allergic reactions ranging from annoying bouts of hay fever to deadly asthma attacks.

Prior studies by Bruce Bochner and colleagues at the Johns Hopkins Asthma and Allergy Center had zeroed in on the protein, Siglec-8, as an important player in allergic reactions. This protein is found on the surfaces of some types of immune cells, namely eosinophils, basophils and mast cells, which have diverse but cooperative roles in normal immune function and allergic diseases. Eosinophils directly combat foreign invaders, such as parasites. Basophils and mast cells store and release substances such as histamine, prostaglandins and cytokines, which signal other immune system cells to ready for battle.

When functioning correctly, these cells are a valuable aid to keeping the body healthy and infection-free. However, in allergic reactions and asthma attacks, the cells unleash an overwhelming response that typically harms the body more than it helps.

The scientists found in prior studies that when they activated Siglec-8 on the surface of eosinophils, the cells promptly died. Expecting the same suicidal response in mast cells, the researchers tested their theory in a new study on human mast cells and mast-cell-containing tissues.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


January 2, 2008, 8:27 PM CT

Obesity linked to decreased seatbelt use

Obesity linked to decreased seatbelt use
Obese people are less likely to use their seatbelts than the rest of the population, adding to the public health risks linked to this rapidly growing problem.

The connection was made by Vanderbilt University psychology expert David Schlundt and colleagues at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn.

We observed that when weight goes up, seatbelt use goes down, Schlundt, associate professor of psychology and assistant professor of medicine, said. This is an additional public health problem linked to obesity that was not on the radar screen. We hope these new findings will help promote awareness campaigns to encourage people to use their seatbelts and that additional resources, like seatbelt extenders, will be made more readily available.

Schlundt and colleagues examined 2002 data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Controls Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, a telephone survey used to collect data on risky behaviors and health decisions linked to death.

The study observed that approximately 30 percent of individuals with a body mass index (kilograms per meter squared) that qualified them as overweight, obese or extremely obese reported not using a seatbelt, in comparison to approximately 20 percent of the average population. Furthermore, seatbelt use declined as BMI increased, with approximately 55 percent of extremely obese individuals reporting they did not use a seatbelt. The correlation between increased body mass index and decreased seatbelt use held even when controlling for other factors, such as gender, race and seatbelt laws in the respondents state.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


December 28, 2007, 8:11 AM CT

Taxol with avastin for metastatic breast cancer

Taxol with avastin for metastatic breast cancer
The positive results of the first nationwide clinical study showing the benefits of an antiangiogenic agent in breast cancer treatment are published in the Dec. 27 issue of the New England Journal (NEJM).

The study with Avastin showed the biggest improvement in metastatic breast cancer ever reported in a chemotherapy-based clinical trial. It nearly doubled the time between initiation of chemotherapy for metastatic disease and progression of the breast cancer tumors.

The study was coordinated by the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) and Kathy Miller, M.D., associate professor of medicine and Sheila D. Ward Scholar at the Indiana University School of Medicine, is the lead author.

Dr. Miller said she found the results exciting because this was the first study to show that an antiangiogenic agent can delay progression of advanced breast cancer. The study looked at Taxol (paclitaxel), which is one of the standard agents for metastatic disease, with and without the addition of Avastin (bevacizumab).

This study not only achieved the longest progression-free survival in advanced disease but the treatment achieved that improvement without adding to the day-to-day therapy burden and with only minor increases in toxicity, said Dr. Miller.

The study enrolled 722 women with metastatic disease from the United States, Canada, Peru and South Africa. Patients were randomized to one of two arms of the phase III study Taxol alone or Taxol with Avastin. The patients, who joined the study from December 2001 through May 2004, represented a balance of age, disease-free interval, estrogen-positive receptors and sites of disease.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


December 28, 2007, 8:08 AM CT

Treating of ignored non-cancer health issues

Treating of ignored non-cancer health issues
Receiving therapy for non-cancer health issues while being treated by specialists for cancer improves cancer survival rates as per a research studyreported in the December 20 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The study, by scientists from the Indiana University School of Medicine, the Regenstrief Institute and the Roudebush Veterans Administration Medical Center, is the first to look at the effect of primary care on health outcomes in cancer patients.

Receiving care from a primary care doctor (a general internist or family practice doctor) during cancer therapy from an oncologist appears to improve cancer survival rates, likely due to the comprehensiveness of care that is received in primary care, as per study authors Caroline Carney Doebbeling, M.D., M.Sc. and Laura Jones, Ph.D. The scientists focused on lung cancer because of the low one-year lung cancer survival rate in these patients.

We cannot afford to ignore the chronic medical conditions that most cancer patients have because treating these conditions may bring increased longevity as well as improved quality of life. Patients with lung cancer are often faced with a number of additional health issues, such as high blood pressure, emphysema and other respiratory conditions, all of which can and should be treated, said Dr. Carney Doebbeling, associate professor of medicine and of psychiatry at the Indiana University School of Medicine and a Regenstrief Institute research scientist.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


December 28, 2007, 7:54 AM CT

Cost of glaucoma medications may impact treatment

Cost of glaucoma medications may impact treatment
In the United States, the management of glaucoma costs about $2.5 billion per year. Of the $1.9 billion in direct costs, glaucoma medications account for an estimated 38% to 52% of the total. In an article reported in the January 2008 issue of the American Journal of Ophthalmology, scientists from The Texas A&M University System Health Science Center College of Medicine, Temple, Texas; analyzed the economics of medically managing glaucoma. The yearly costs to patients of various topical glaucoma medications were calculated and significant price differences and increases in cost over time were found.

The scientists looked at four classes of pharmaceuticals; -blockers, prostaglandins, α2-agonists and carbonic anhydrase inhibitors. They compared both brand-name and generic formulations, reviewed how accurately the bottles were filled and how accurately the medications could be dispensed by patients. Using results from earlier studies, the increases in Average Wholesale Prices (AWP) were also reviewed from 1999 through 2006.

Nonselective -blockers remain the most inexpensive class of glaucoma medications. For all categories of drugs, calculated yearly cost ranged from $150.81 for generic timolol maleate 0.5% (-blocker), to $697.42 for Cosopt (combination formulation), to as high as $873.98 for a three-times-daily dose of Alphagan P 0.15% (α2-agonist). Among brand name -blockers, yearly cost ranged between $203.47 for Timoptic 0.5% and $657.24 for Betoptic S. Generic -blockers consistently were more economical than their brand-name counterparts. Yearly cost of prostaglandin analogs ranged from $427.69 for Travatan to $577.62 for Lumigan. The two carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, Azopt and Trusopt, yielded similar economic profiles. The generic selective α2-agonist brimonidine tartrate 0.2% costs approximately $352.89 and $529.34 per year for the respective two and three drops daily per eye regimens.........

Posted by: Mike      Read more         Source


December 28, 2007, 7:47 AM CT

LASIK works well in highly myopic patients

LASIK works well in highly myopic patients
Laser surgery to correct vision problems has been in use since the early part of 1990s. Photorefractive Keratotomy (PRK) is typically used to correct low to moderate myopia, while laser in-situ keratomileusis (LASIK) is preferred for high myopia corrections. Eventhough over 18 million LASIK procedures have been performed worldwide, there is still some controversy regarding the maximum correction possible and efficacy with this technique. In an article reported in the January 2008 issue of the American Journal of Ophthalmology, scientists from Miguel Hernandez University, Medical School, Alicante, Spain; and Ankara University School of Medicine, Ankara, Turkey; report on a study of high myopia patients ten years after LASIK surgery. The findings show that LASIK for myopia over -10 D is a safe and effective procedure in the long-term.

196 high myopic eyes of 118 patients, preoperatively needing at least 10 diopter (10 D) corrections to achieve 20/20 vision, were reviewed ten years following surgery. Uncorrected vision was 77% of best-corrected vision (BSCVA) before surgery. BSCVA improved 1 line. Only 5% of eyes lost more than 2 lines of BSCVA and 40% avoided the use of glasses. 119 (61 %) of eyes were within 2.00 Diopters at 10 years. Only 2 eyes (1%) developed corneal ectasia. The retreatment rate was 27%.........

Posted by: Mike      Read more         Source


December 28, 2007, 7:34 AM CT

Handling pesticides associated with asthma

Handling pesticides associated with asthma
New research on farm women has shown that contact with some usually used pesticides in farm work may increase their risk of allergic asthma.

Farm women are an understudied occupational group, said Jane Hoppin, Sc.D., of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and lead author of the study. More than half the women in our study applied pesticides, but there is very little known about the risks.

The study was reported in the first issue for January of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, published by the American Thoracic Society.

The scientists assessed pesticide and other occupational exposures as risk factors for adult-onset asthma in more than 25,000 farmwomen in North Carolina and Iowa. They used self-reports of doctor-diagnosed adult asthma, and divided the women into groups of allergic (atopic) or non-allergic (non-atopic) asthma based on a history of eczema and/or hay fever.

They found an average increase of 50 percent in the prevalence of allergic asthma in all farm women who applied or mixed pesticides. Remarkably, eventhough the association with pesticides was higher among women who grew up on farms, these women still had a lower overall risk of having allergic asthma in comparison to than those who did not grow up on farms, due to a protective effect that remains poorly understood.........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


December 27, 2007, 9:20 AM CT

High triglycerides, other cholesterol raise risk of stroke

High triglycerides, other cholesterol raise risk of stroke
People with high triglycerides and another type of cholesterol tested but not commonly reviewed as part of a persons risk assessment have an increased risk of a certain type of stroke, as per research reported in the December 26, 2007, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

LDL or bad cholesterol has been the primary target for reducing the risk of stroke, but these results show that other types of cholesterol may be more strongly linked with stroke risk, said study author Bruce Ovbiagele, MD, of UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA, and member of the American Academy of Neurology.

The scientists analyzed the records of 1,049 people admitted to a university hospital with a stroke or mini-stroke over four years. Of those, 247 people had a large artery atherosclerotic stroke. This is a type of ischemic stroke caused by a blockage of blood flow to the brain. People with this type of stroke have blockage in the large arteries leading to the brain.

Those with high triglycerides and elevated non-high density lipoprotein cholesterol were more likely to have a large artery atherosclerotic stroke than those with low levels of these fats in the blood.

Those with the highest triglycerides were 2.7 times more likely to have this type of stroke than those with the lowest level. Triglycerides are fatty acids and are the most common type of fat in the blood. Those with the greatest non-high density lipoprotein cholesterol, which is neither the good nor the bad cholesterol, were 2.4 times more likely to have a large artery stroke.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


December 27, 2007, 9:12 AM CT

Brief intervention helps emergency patients reduce drinking

Brief intervention helps emergency patients reduce drinking
Asking emergency department patients about their alcohol use and talking with them about how to reduce harmful drinking patterns is an effective way to lower rates of risky drinking in these patients, as per a nationwide collaborative study supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Emergency department patients who underwent a regimen of alcohol screening and brief intervention reported lower rates of risky drinking at three-month follow-up than did those who received only written information about reducing their drinking. A report of the study by the Academic Emergency Department Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) Research Collaborative* appears in the December, 2007 issue of the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

This encouraging finding raises the prospect of reaching a number of individuals whose alcohol misuse might otherwise go untreated, says NIAAA Director Ting-Kai Li, M.D.

These new findings underscore the importance of using the American Medical Association health care codes for substance abuse screening and brief intervention, said SAMHSA Administrator Terry Cline, Ph.D.

Codes established by the AMA serve as the most widely accepted classification system for reporting medical procedures and services to public and private health insurance programs. In January, 2008 new codes will allow physicians to report services they provide to screen patients for alcohol problems and to provide a behavioral intervention for high-risk drinking.........

Posted by: JoAnn      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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