Testing It Up

Coffee, Not Caffeine, Linked To Improved Liver Protection

Many studies in the past have linked coffee drinking with better liver health, but new research suggests that it’s not caffeine that is doing the trick.

coffeeAccording to researchers from the U.S. National Cancer Institute led by Dr. Qian Xiao, drinking coffee at least three cups daily can improve the overall health of the liver. What’s peculiar about the findings of the study was that even those who drank decaffeinated coffee also exhibited the same positive effects. “These data suggest that ingredients in coffee, other than caffeine, may promote liver health,” said Xiao in a news release.

The study looked into about 28,000 U.S. residents at least 20 years old. The respondents were asked about their coffee intake, and subjected to blood tests to check the level of enzymes directly linked to liver condition. Results showed that regular coffee drinkers — whether caffeinated or not — were found to have lower enzyme levels, which meant that their livers were running in good condition.

The study proponents recommend more research to look into the active ingredients behind coffee’s liver-protecting capability against alcohol-related diseases. “Further studies are needed to identify these components,” Xiao added.

October 13, 2014 at 12:00 am Comments (0)

Binge Drinking Causes Protein Changes that Increase Risk of Liver Diseases

Several studies have already spotlighted excessive alcohol consumption as a leading cause of liver damage, but a new study reveals that binge drinking makes the damage worse.

binge drinking u.s. liver damageAccording to a study by researchers at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, binge drinking causes changes in protein structures in the liver, leading to a higher risk of liver diseases. Study lead author Shivendra Shukla said that heavy episodic drinking heightens the damage that long-term alcoholism is already doing to the liver.

The study proponents discovered that binge drinking causes changes in the DNA structure not related to heredity or genetics. The “epigenetic” changes are experienced by protein DNA organizers — or histones — that become messed up because of the abnormal rise in alcohol toxicity. “Binge drinking is an environmental trigger that negatively affects histones by altering the correct binding of DNA. The result is unnecessary replication in the copied structure. This initially causes inflammation and damage to the cells as they form, but it is also eventually the cause of more serious diseases such as cirrhosis and cancer,” Shukla said in a news item.

Shukla adds that the changes in histones are not limited to the liver. “Binge drinking can create an inflammatory response in the liver that is like a cluster bomb, sending out various damaging signals to other organ systems in the body. If those organs are working at a lower level of function, then a whole host of physiological processes are affected as a consequence of binge drinking,” the lead author expressed.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers binge drinking as a very costly health issue. In 2011, the cost of binge drinking in the U.S. was estimated at $223 billion annually, primarily due to health care expenses and decrease in productivity at work.

October 12, 2014 at 12:00 am Comments (0)

Alaska, Oregon, District of Columbia Sets Voting On Marijuana Legalization in November

In an unprecedented turn of events, two U.S. states and the capital city are set to vote on the legalization of recreational marijuana by next month.

marijuana legalization alaska oregon district of columbiaAccording to a news release, the month of November will see votes in the states of Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia as the push for legalizing the recreational use of pot is under way. These three areas have already approved the use of medical marijuana, so it’s just logical that the next step would be to say yes to recreational marijuana.

They have all signed on to the “Yes to Marijuana Ballot Measures” movement, which supports the legal use of the illicit drug other than for medical use. The three regions may have the same goal, but are attacking the issue through varying approaches:

  • Alaska pot supporters are pushing for a Marijuana Control Board to facilitate the price regulations on the drug.
  • Oregon wants the state’s Liquor Control Commission to take charge in the regulation of selling marijuana.
  • A proposal in D.C. aims to give adult locals the right to cultivate marijuana in their homes.

Should any of these states vote the affirmative, they will be joining Washington and Colorado as the only U.S. states that have legalized cannabis for all uses.

October 10, 2014 at 3:22 am Comments (0)

Managing Workers’ Compensation Costs Through Advanced Drug Testing

Lab-based oral fluid testing can be a more affordable alternative to urine testing and with the federal government currently working on a set of regulations for saliva tests, more companies are bound to start using them in the near future.drug-free workplace

In addition to being more cost effective than urine testing, lab-based oral fluid testing and drug testing in general can also help a company save money on Workers’ Compensation claims and premiums, according to corporate drug testing expert Bill Current, founder of the Current Consulting Group, and Mark Pew, senior vice president of medical cost management services company PRIUM.

The two recently conducted a webinar detailing how lab-based oral fluid testing could potentially save money for companies for the actual testing process, in lost productivity costs and in Workers’ Compensation premiums.

Because the collection of oral fluid is so much easier than urine collecting, you don’t need to follow all the regulations for urine collecting. It’s also much quicker and you can easily train someone on your staff to do it, meaning you have less employee downtime.

Testing for drugs in the workplace will help companies cut down on employee absenteeism, accidents and Workers’ Compensation (WC) claims. It may even help them save money on their WC premiums.

Visit TestCountry to read the full article on how lab-based oral fluid drug testing can save your company money.

October 9, 2014 at 8:03 am Comments (0)

Dog Owned by Spanish Ebola Patient Set to be Euthanized

Barely two days after the first case of Ebola in Spain was reported, Madrid’s health officials said that they plan to euthanize the patient’s pet dog as a safety precaution.

dog euthanasia spanish ebola patientThe patient’s pet, a mixed-breed dog named Excalibur, was declared by the regional government of Madrid as a possible threat to public health, according to Yahoo! News. The patient and her husband, who is also now admitted to the hospital despite not showing any symptoms yet, have expressed objections to the government’s plan. The story was first published through Facebook and has generated online support for the dog’s owners from pet lovers and dog wellness advocates.

The female patient, 40 years of age, started exhibiting symptoms on September 30 but was admitted to the hospital five days later due to fever. Investigations showed that the woman worked at La Paz-Carlos III Hospital in Madrid with a team of medical professionals working on Spanish missionaries who died due to the virus.

The patient’s husband said he was approached by a local health official about the situation. “He said he was going to ask for a court order to forcibly enter my home and sacrifice Excalibur,” said the husband. “I was asked to give them my consent, but I obviously refused.”

The entry of the virus case onto European soil has baffled local health professionals, who have traced the problem back to lack of training and preparation.

[ Image source ]

October 8, 2014 at 12:00 am Comments (0)

Breakthrough Operation Allows Women Without Womb To Conceive

Stemming from a concept that womb transplantation can help women conceive, a novel experiment has successfully achieved the near-impossible: allowing a woman to bear a child after a womb transplant.

womb transplant successful pregnancyThe concept of transplanting a womb was implemented by researchers from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden over a ten-year span. The concept was initially tested on animals and then on human test subjects in 2013. Nine females diagnosed with absolute uterine factor infertility — a reproductive disorder without any known treatment — were the first people to undergo the operation of receiving a womb that is not theirs.

Tests showed that seven of the human test subjects received the organ well and experienced menstruation about two months after the operation. One of them was a Swedish female, age 36, whose womb donor was a family friend much older that she is. The woman was able to produce eggs, which were extracted for in vitro fertilization (IVF) before the transplant took place.

The baby was delivered via cesarean section at only 31 weeks due to preeclampsia, and was released from neonatal care ten days after.

Study lead author Prof. Mats Brännström emphasized the importance of their breakthrough operation. “Our success is based on more than 10 years of intensive animal research and surgical training by our team and opens up the possibility of treating many young females worldwide that suffer from uterine infertility. What is more, we have demonstrated the feasibility of live-donor uterus transplantation, even from a postmenopausal donor,” Brännström said in a news release. He also added that while two of the women experienced thrombosis and infection, the Swedish mother experienced “only one episode of mild rejection during the pregnancy that was successfully treated with corticosteroids.”

October 7, 2014 at 5:50 pm Comments (0)

First U.S. Ebola Case Receives FDA-Authorized Experimental Drug

The escalating condition of Thomas Eric Duncan, the first case of Ebola virus in the U.S. this season, has prompted the Food and Drug Administration to give authorization to administer an experimental drug to the patient.

brincidofovir-ebola-experimental-drugThe drug is called brincidofovir by Chimerix Inc., a pharmaceutical company based in Durham, North Carolina. Several tests have been conducted using this particular drug against common viruses, including smallpox. According to a news item, the company hopes that the medication can also work on Ebola.

Duncan is currently receiving oral treatment using brincidofovir at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. The treatment comes after the patient’s critical condition, which prompted hospital physicians to ask for permission from the FDA to use the drug. The government agency is equipped with emergency powers to authorize drugs that have not yet been approved, especially when a critical health issue cannot be addressed by existing means.

Several drug companies have been trying to develop a cure for the deadly virus, which has broken out at great lengths in West Africa. Some of the anti-Ebola drugs that have come up in recent months include TKM-Ebola and ZMapp. Johnson & Johnson is also reported to be in the business of developing an experimental Ebola vaccine.

[ Image source ]

October 7, 2014 at 12:00 am Comments (0)

Anti-Parasite Medicine May Help Diabetics

In the fight against type 2 diabetes, it may be a parasite-fighting medication that helps diabetics the most. diabetes in older adults

New research led by Victor Shengkan Jin from Rutgers University, and published in the journal Nature Medicine, shows that a modified version of the drug niclosamide, which is used to kill intestinal parasites, can also attack diabetes at its source. 

Jin and his colleagues managed to eliminate fat in the liver of lab mice using the modified form of niclosamide, called niclosamide ethanolmine salt (NEN). This “improved the animals’ ability to use insulin correctly and reduce blood sugar,” Jin said.

Essentially, type 2 diabetes occurs when excessive fat accumulates in the liver and muscle tissue, rendering the body unable to effectively use insulin to metabolize blood sugar in the body. As a result, glucose remains in the bloodstream, damaging tissue and causing blindness, kidney damage, heart disease, and other health problems.

With this new drug able to rid the liver of excessive fat, it is hoped that it will be able to make it possible for the body to start using insulin effectively again. The drug burned excess fat through a process called mitochondrial uncoupling, which Jin likened to an automobile.

“The cell is like a car and the mitochondria are the engine,” Jin said in a statement. “What we’re doing inside cells is like putting the car’s transmission into neutral by uncoupling it from the transmission. Then you step on the gas so the engine runs full throttle but the car doesn’t move. If too much of the fuel in the cell is fat, you keep burning it until the fuel gauge reaches empty. Without the interference of fat, you hope that sugar will then enter the cell normally.”

Jin theorized that once the fat from the liver and muscle tissues are cleared, the cells will be able to respond to insulin, enabling them to interact with glucose, and reversing diabetes entirely.

The drug hasn’t been tested on humans yet, but its results in mice are seen as highly encouraging.

 

October 6, 2014 at 7:35 am Comments (0)

First U.S. Ebola Patient Struggling For Life, Says CDC

Days after news broke about the first case of Ebola virus in the U.S., the U.S. Centers for Disease Control released a statement saying that the patient is still in critical condition.

ambulance siren ebola virus first case US thomas eric duncan dallas to liberiaCDC Director Tom Frieden was interviewed in CNN’s “State of the Union”. “The man in Dallas, who is fighting for his life, is the only patient to develop Ebola in the United States,” said Frieden as posted by Reuters via Yahoo! News.

The patient is identified as Thomas Eric Duncan, who arrived in Dallas, Texas last September 20. He flew in from Liberia, one of the countries in West Africa stricken with the Ebola virus outbreak. Despite exhibiting some suspicious symptoms, the patient was released but turned up two days after due to more health-threatening signs. Duncan is currently confined in Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where his condition has remained critical.

Apart from the issue of the first Ebola case in the U.S. this season, the more alarming issue according to CDC is the lapse of medical professionals to identify the disease. “The issue of the missed diagnosis initially is concerning,” said Frieden. “We’re seeing more people calling us, considering the possibility of Ebola — that’s what we want to see… We don’t want people not to be diagnosed.”

Close monitoring of people who have come in contact with Duncan is being conducted. Ten people have been confirmed to have direct contact with the patient, and dozens more are being traced as potentials. No symptoms of the Ebola virus have sprung up from any of Duncan’s contacts.

October 6, 2014 at 12:00 am Comments (0)

Alcohol Improves Social Interaction Better In Males Than Females

With no concrete scientific evidence of the effect of alcohol on social behavior, a recent study discovered a link between consumption of booze and improvement in social interactions in men. Catharine Fairbairn, lead author of the study from the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, said that while there have been several claims that alcohol induces better social connections between men, they discovered that the enhancement of social behaviors due to alcohol consumption was more pronounced in men as compared to women.

smile men alcoholThe study looked into the effect of drinking alcohol on a person’s ability to flash a Duchenne smile, which is a special kind of smile that involves muscles around the eyes and mouth and is notable for being a “genuine” facial expression. A total of 720 respondents — equally divided between men and women — were assigned to drink either an alcoholic beverage or a non-alcoholic one. The participants were monitored on video while downing their drinks and interacting with fellow participants in small groups.

The results confirmed what the researchers hypothesized. “We wanted to explore the possibility that social alcohol consumption was more rewarding to men than to women — the idea that alcohol might actually ‘lubricate’ social interaction to a greater extent among men,” said Fairbairn in a news release. Results showed that consuming alcohol posed a significant increase in the contagiousness of a Duchenne smile within the group. However, the results were more obvious in male groups, and no distinct improvement was observed in female groups.

Fairbairn suggests that although alcohol may improve bonding between men, it’s important to allow them to engage with others through non-alcoholic means. “it could be helpful to create more outlets where men can get to know one another socially without alcohol — cultural spaces where creating close relationships doesn’t come into conflict with masculinity,” Fairbairn added.

October 5, 2014 at 8:00 pm Comments (0)

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