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August 20, 2006, 9:36 PM CT

Exam nerves affects students' immune system

Exam nerves affects students' immune system
It is hardly surprising that one of the medical programmes most important exams is stressful for students. However, research now shows that this mental stress also affects the students immune defence systems, especially amongst those suffering from allergies.

While diseases like asthma and allergies are becoming increasingly common in the West, a number of people think that we are living ever stressful lives. A new study from Karolinska Institutet backs up what a number of people have suspected: that there are important links between mental stress and the complex physical inflammation reactions characteristic of allergies.

In order to understand the link between stress and allergy, the researchers have examined how a major medical exam at Karolinska Institutet affects feelings of stress, stress hormone levels, the immune system and lung function amongst students with and without allergies. The extensive tests were made on two occasions, first with the students during a calm period of study with no exam in sight, and then shortly before a major exam. Twenty two students with hayfever and/or asthma and 19 healthy students took part.

For the first time on record, researchers were able to show that a group of cells that are central to the human immune system known as regulatory T cells appear to increase sharply in number in response to mental stress. A regulatory T cell is a kind of white blood cell that controls the activity of many other types of immune cell. This increase was observed in both groups of students.........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source

August 20, 2006, 9:26 PM CT

How HIV 'exhausts' killer T cells

How HIV 'exhausts' killer T cells
American and South African researchers working at the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic in South Africa have discovered how the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) "exhausts" killer T cells that would otherwise attack the virus. The scientists observed that HIV can simply "turn off" fully functional T cells by flipping a molecular switch on the cells. In test tube studies, however, the researchers showed that they could reinvigorate the killer T cells by blocking that inhibitory switch, which is called programmed death-1 (PD-1).

The study's senior author, Bruce Walker, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital, said that clinical testing of drugs that block the PD-1 switch could begin very soon, since such drugs exist already. However, he cautioned that these kinds of drugs could cause serious side effects, including autoimmune reactions that trigger the immune system to attack the body. Walker added that the researchers' findings will also likely have application in understanding other chronic viral diseases.

The findings by Walker and colleagues were published in an advance online publication on August 20, 2006, by the journal Nature. Walker is also at the Partners AIDS Research Center and Harvard Medical School. Other co-authors were from the University of KwaZulu Natal in South Africa, Oxford University, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute of Harvard Medical School, Emory University School of Medicine, and The Wistar Institute.........

Posted by: Mark      Permalink         Source

August 20, 2006, 9:23 PM CT

A New Tool Against Brain Disease

A New Tool Against Brain Disease A shell from the venomous cone snail Conus omaria, which lives in the Pacific and Indian oceans and eats other snails
Credit: Kerry Matz, University of Utah
University of Utah researchers isolated an unusual nerve toxin in an ocean-dwelling snail, and say its ability to glom onto the brain's nicotine receptors may be useful for designing new drugs to treat a variety of psychiatric and brain diseases.

"We discovered a new toxin from a venomous cone snail that may enable scientists to more effectively develop medications for a wide range of nervous system disorders including Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, depression, nicotine addiction and perhaps even schizophrenia," says J. Michael McIntosh.

Discovery of the new cone snail toxin will be published Friday, Aug. 25 in The Journal of Biological Chemistry by a team led by McIntosh, a University of Utah research professor of biology, professor and research director of psychiatry, member of the Center for Peptide Neuropharmacology and member of The Brain Institute.

McIntosh is the same University of Utah researcher who as an incoming freshman student in 1979 discovered another "conotoxin" that was developed into Prialt, a drug injected into fluid surrounding the spinal cord to treat severe pain due to cancer, AIDS, injury, failed back surgery and certain nervous system disorders. Prialt was approved in late 2004 in the United States and was introduced in Europe last month.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source

August 20, 2006, 2:27 PM CT

Trial Of New Asthma Treatment Calls For Volunteers

Trial Of New Asthma Treatment Calls For Volunteers
Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis are seeking participants for the AIR2 (Asthma Interventional Research) international, multi-center clinical trial, which explores whether a new asthma therapy improves asthma care.

The trial, the first test of the procedure in the United States, focuses on a procedure called bronchial thermoplasty to treat asthma. Early patient data from trials outside the United States suggest it may hold promise for moderate and severe asthmatic patients.

"This is an exciting trial because for the first time ever in the U.S., we are looking at a non-pharmacological therapy for asthma," says Mario Castro, M.D., principal investigator of the study at the School of Medicine and associate professor of medicine in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. "Currently, if you suffer from asthma, medicine is the only therapy available to you for relief, so there is the potential this clinical trial may change the way we care for millions of asthma sufferers."

Asthma is one of the most common and costly diseases in the world. It affects more than 20 million people in the United States alone, with an estimated 2 million emergency room visits and 5,000 deaths per year. The prevalence of asthma is on the rise, and there is no cure.........

Posted by: Scott      Permalink         Source

August 20, 2006, 2:21 PM CT

Immune cells protect retina from damage

Immune cells protect retina from damage Abnormal blood vessels and hemorrhage underneath the retina in the wet form of age-related macular degeneration
Eventhough some recent studies have suggested that inflammation promotes retinal damage in age-related macular degeneration (AMD), new work from Washington University ophthalmology scientists has observed that a particular type of inflammation, regulated by cells called macrophages, actually protects the eye from damage due to AMD.

The scientists report in the Aug. 15 issue of Public Library of Science (PLoS) Medicine that in a mouse model of AMD, macrophages help prevent the formation of blood vessels that grow underneath the retina and cause the majority of severe vision loss linked to AMD.

Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in the United States in people over the age of 50. It accounts for more than 40 percent of blindness among the institutionalized elderly, and as baby boomers get older, the problem is expected to grow, with at least 8 million cases of AMD predicted by the year 2020.

There are two varieties of AMD: a "dry" form and a "wet" form. Most patients have the dry form of the disease, and eventhough this can progress and cause severe vision loss in some, between 80 and 90 percent of the blindness and severe vision loss occurs in the wet form of the disease, as per the paper's first author Rajendra S. Apte, M.D., Ph.D.........

Posted by: Mike      Permalink         Source

August 20, 2006, 2:10 PM CT

Technology For Brain Cooling Unlikely To Help Trauma Patients

Technology For Brain Cooling Unlikely To Help Trauma Patients
Attempts to cool the brain to reduce injury from stroke and other head trauma may face a significant obstacle: current cooling devices can't penetrate very deeply into the brain.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis used rats to validate a "cold shielding" effect of blood flow that they previously predicted theoretically. The shielding effect, created by large quantities of warm blood that continually perfuse brain tissue, prevents a drop in temperatures around the head from penetrating beyond a certain depth in the brain.

A number of ongoing clinical trials try to reduce brain temperatures through cooling units incorporated into hats or other devices that surround the head. However, the new findings, published online this month in the Journal of Applied Physiology, suggest in most patients such techniques will be unable to defeat the natural temperature regulation built into the brain via the blood system.

"In adult humans, the characteristic length that this kind of cold assault appears to penetrate is approximately a tenth of an inch, leaving the temperature of approximately 6 inches of brain tissue unchanged," says senior author Dmitriy Yablonskiy, Ph.D., professor of radiology at the School of Medicine and of physics in Arts and Sciences. "Our findings suggest that the reason trials of this kind have so far produced inconsistent results is because we're not cooling enough of the brain."........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source

August 19, 2006, 9:24 PM CT

New Treatment For Dangerous Staph Infections

New Treatment For Dangerous Staph Infections Staphylococcus aureus
Duke University Medical Center scientists have demonstrated in an international clinical trial the effectiveness and safety of a new drug for treating bloodstream and heart infections caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, a major cause of sickness and death worldwide.

Based on the trial, the Food and Drug Administration already has approved the drug -- daptomycin -- for treating heart infections and bacteremia, also known as bloodstream infection or blood poisoning, caused by S. aureus, as per Vance G. Fowler Jr., M.D., an associate professor of infectious diseases who took part in the study.

"This is the first new drug the FDA has approved in two decades for treating these types of potentially life-threatening infections," Fowler said. "This advance adds a new weapon to our dwindling arsenal of antibiotics against these difficult-to-treat infections."

Daptomycin had been approved by the FDA in 2003 for treating skin infections caused by S. aureus. But until now, Fowler said, no one knew definitively whether the drug would be effective against the more serious bloodstream and heart infections.

The scientists published their findings in the August 17, 2006, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Cubist Pharmaceuticals, which manufactures daptomycin, funded the study.........

Posted by: Mark      Permalink         Source

August 19, 2006, 6:51 AM CT

Salads With Some Fat Are Healthier

Salads With Some Fat Are Healthier
Here's some diet advice you don't hear every day -- the next time you prepare a fresh, healthy salad, be sure to throw in some fattening food.

Far from being a dieter's worst enemy, researchers are discovering that a little fat can actually do a lot of good. The researchers aren't saying fry your salad in bacon grease! But they say don't cut all fat out of your diet either. Why? It takes some fat to help your body absorb the cancer fighting nutrients in your vegetables.

Jennifer Jarvis has always tried to stick to a light, healthy diet. But when she volunteered for a food study recently, she learned something that was a little hard to swallow -- that cutting fat completely out of her diet, was actually robbing her body of nutrients.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source

August 18, 2006, 7:10 AM CT

TV is an effective 'painkiller' for kids

TV is an effective 'painkiller' for kids
TV really does act like a painkiller when it comes to kids, reveals a small study published ahead of print in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

The research team assessed 69 children between the ages of 7 and 12, who were randomly divided into three groups to have a blood sample taken.

One group was given no distraction while the sample was being taken. In the second group mothers attempted to actively distract their children by talking to them, soothing, and/or caressing them.

And in the third group, the children were allowed to watch TV cartoons while the procedure was being carried out.

None of the children was given any form of anaesthesia, and after the samples had been taken, all the children and their mothers then rated their pain scores.

The children recording the highest pain scores were in the group for whom no distraction had been provided. These scores were around three times as high as those recorded by children allowed to watch the TV cartoons.

Middling scores were recorded by those children whose mothers had attempted to actively distract them while the sample was taken.

Eventhough on average, the mothers rated pain scores higher than their children had done, and especially for their own attempts at distracting their offspring, they nevertheless recorded the lowest pain scores for children who had been allowed to watch TV cartoons.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source

August 18, 2006, 6:59 AM CT

MRI Can Predict Developmental Delays

MRI Can Predict Developmental Delays
A Washington University pediatrician at St. Louis Children's Hospital has observed that performing MRI scans on pre-term infants' brains assists dramatically in predicting the babies' future developmental outcomes.

Terrie E. Inder, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics, of radiology and of neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and pediatric scientists in New Zealand and Australia observed that the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans were able to determine abnormalities in the white matter and gray matter of the brains of very pre-term infants, those born at 30 weeks or less. Following the infants from birth to age 2, the scientists were able to grade those abnormalities to predict the risk of severe cognitive delays, psychomotor delays, cerebral palsy, or hearing or visual impairments that may be visible by age 2.

The results of the study appear in the Aug. 17 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The scientists studied 167 preterm infants in New Zealand and Australia and at St. Louis Children's Hospital. Inder said the findings are a breakthrough because prior technology -- cranial ultrasounds -- did not show the abnormalities in the infants' brains.

"With the MRI, now we can understand what's going wrong in the developing brain when the baby is born early," Inder said. "We can use the MRI when the baby reaches full-term (40 weeks) to predict neurodevelopmental outcomes." More than 2 percent of all live births are infants born before 32 weeks of gestation. Nationwide, the rate of premature births jumped 13 percent between 1992 and 2002, as per the March of Dimes. Recent data show that 50 percent of children born prematurely suffer some neurodevelopmental challenges, such as crawling, walking upright, running, swinging arms, and other activities that require coordination and balance. Among pre-term infants who survive, 5 percent to 15 percent have cerebral palsy, severe vision or hearing impairment or both, and 25 percent to 50 percent have cognitive, behavioral and social difficulties that require special educational resources.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         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. Archives of health news blog

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