Testing It Up » October 2011

Monthly Archives: October 2011

Early Disease Detection

Understanding of Pythons May Help in Treatment of Heart Failure

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A study conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado provides insight into the biological process that goes on in the python, as it digests its prey after a meal. This understanding, scientists reveal, may have important implications in humans, especially when it comes to heart failure.

In the current issue of Science, the researchers reported that the python expands its heart when gorging by enlarging existing cells, through a process called hypertrophy. In addition, they found that that there is a specific combination of three fatty acids that produces enlargement of the heart, intestines, liver, and kidneys of the python.

The significance of these findings, the researchers said, lies in the fact that these may be used in the development of ways to delay, prevent, treat, or reverse hereditary, as well as acquired, human illnesses.

Leslie A. Leinwand, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute professor at the University of Colorado and a senior member of the research team, shared that the focus of the research is heart failure. In addition, the results of the study may also serve as a springboard for the development of treatments towards the prevention of sudden death among young athletes; diabetes; high blood pressure; and obesity.

There are two types of occurrence of hypertrophy in humans. One is triggered by such health conditions as high blood pressure and heart attacks, while the other is beneficial as it occurs due to exercise.

Researchers determined that the enlargement in the heart of a python is similar to the growth that is seen in human athletes.

Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

More Things to Remember for an Allergy-Free Halloween

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In a previous post, we have shared how seemingly innocent candies, sweet treats, and costume can spoil your child’s Halloween fun, in the event that allergies occur. Here are a few more things to watch out for.

Make-up. Halloween is an excuse to do fun things kids do not normally get to do: staying out late, receiving (and eating!) more candy than usual, and dressing up in the eccentric, the flamboyant, and the bizarre. In addition to all these, Halloween is also an excuse to wear make-up or face paint.

Allergy experts warn, however, that parents should keep an eye on the products that kids put on their faces. Choose face paints that wash off easily, and use good quality theater make-up. If a child is prone to eczema, it is best to avoid any greasy face paint.

It also helps to test make up on a small area of the skin before Halloween, to see if any reactions will occur.

Fog. Fog – man-made or otherwise – can trigger asthma attacks, according to the ACAAI. Dr. Clifford Bassett of the ACAAI shared that simulated fog “may often aggravate allergies (nasal and/or eye), sinus problems, and asthma.” Dr. Bassett suggests that children avoid direct or prolonged exposure to fog.

Haunted houses and other spooky places. Being scared out of one’s wits has become part and parcel of the Halloween experience, for the young and old alike. However, the emotions associated with these places may actually trigger asthma attacks in some children, according to the National Jewish Medical Center.

This does not mean, however, that children should be banned from experiencing the thrill of going inside the neighborhood haunted mansion – or Ghost Ship Barry, for instance. Parents are just advised to be prepared and have inhalers and medications on hand, should an asthma attack occur.

Early Disease Detection Home Health Hazards

Things to Remember for an Allergy-Free Halloween

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It is that time of the year once again when the young and old alike find an excuse to dress up in costumes, stay out late, and have all the candy they could eat. It should also be a time to be careful, especially when it comes to childhood allergies.

ABC News shares the top triggers that we – especially those among us who are parents to kids who will go out trick-or-treating – should watch out for on All Hallow’s Eve.

Costumes. Children are bound to wear things that they don’t normally wear on Halloween, and it is recommended that parents pay attention to the little things in their child’s costume that might trigger allergies. If your child will re-use or borrow someone else’s old Halloween costumes, wash these in hot water.

The American College of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology (ACAAI) issued the following warning regarding costumes: “Watch out for nickel in costume accessories, from cowboy belts and pirate swords to tiaras and magic wands… Nickel is one of the most common causes of allergic contact dermatitis, which can make skin itchy and spoil trick or treating fun.”

Candies and goodies. When the kids set out with their plastic pumpkin baskets and pails on Halloween, the objective is pretty clear: get as much candy as they could. While we would like our children to have fun, it is important to keep their safety in mind.

Remind your kids to refrain from sneaking into the stash without checking with you first. Ensure that any candy or sweet treat that they eat does not contain ingredients that your child is allergic to. It will also help if you have non-allergy-causing snacks on hand for your kids to munch on while trick-or-treating, and to bring medication with you – just in case.

Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

Natural Protein May Be Used to Fight Flu

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According to a Scottish-based group of scientists, antimicrobial host defence peptides, which are found in the body, could “possess potent antiviral activity” to fight off flu troubles. The said peptides increase in number when infection and inflammation conditions occur in the body.

Together with the American Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr.’s Peter Barlow from the Edinburgh Napier University and Donald Davidson from Edinburgh University conducted the research, and they are aiming to hopefully modify the protein to come up with alternative treatment options for influenza.

Initial testing done on mice subjects showed that one of the antimicrobial peptide, LL-37, protected the animals from the influenza virus attacks, and that they had stronger lungs compared to the samples that were not given the treatment.

Dr. Barlow is the principal investigator in toxicology at the Edinburgh Napier University’s Centre for Nano Safety. He has confirmed that the peptides could possible destroy the influenza virus. “Our study demonstrates that antimicrobial peptides possess potent antiviral activity against the influenza virus.”

Dr. Barlow admits that the development of a peptide-based treatment still has a long way to go. Yet the amount of data that they have gathered is enough to suggest that increasing the number of the peptides in a human body infected with the influenza virus is a very promising option of treatment. The peptides already displayed very potent antimicrobial activities that may help protect humans from the virus too.

“There are a limited number of antiviral drugs for influenza A, and the nature of the virus is that it constantly mutates to build up resistance, so we need to find new ways to combat it,” Dr. Barlow continued.

Early Disease Detection Pregnancy & Fertility

Fertility Treatments Linked to Increased Risk of Ovarian Tumors

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In the wake of E! News host Giuliana Rancic’s revelation of her breast cancer diagnosis, while in the midst of undergoing fertility treatments in an attempt to conceive, some people have begun to question the link between fertility treatments and cancer.

The results of a study conducted by Dutch researchers and published in the journal Human Reproduction found a link between fertility treatments and an increased risk of developing borderline ovarian tumors.

It was found that women undergoing in-vitro fertilization (IVF) were twice as likely to develop malignancies in their ovaries, which may either be cancer or borderline tumors, when compared against sub-fertile women who did not undergo treatment.

The risk, however, was focused on borderline tumors, described as “having abnormal cells that may become cancerous, but usually do not.”

Flora van Leeuwen of the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam, lead researcher for the study, shared that the findings of the study were significant as it is the first that considered a comparison group of sub-fertile women who had not undergone treatment. The study involved observing 25,000 women, 19,000 of whom underwent IVF.

Peter Braude of Kings College London, who was not involved in the study, shared: “This … goes some way to answering the questions that so many IVF patients ask. However, the results should be kept in proportion as the increase shown was from around five in a thousand to seven per thousand women.”

Richard Kennedy, general secretary of the International Federation of Fertility Societies (IF), gave the following statement: “The IF remains of the view that the long-term risks are low but calls for continued vigilance through reporting of long-term outcomes with international collaboration.”

Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

Strawberry Daiquiri to Protect Stomach from Harm of Alcohol

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Scientists have found a new remedy for upset stomach after consuming alcohol: strawberry daiquiris.

Researchers have discovered that strawberries shield the stomach lining from the effects of alcohol. This could pave the way for the development of cures for stomach ulcers.

In a lab activity, scientists used rats to determine the effect of strawberry on their stomach mucous membrane after they were given ethanol. They noted that rats that have eaten strawberry extract (at 40mg/day per kilo of body weight) for 10 days prior to ethanol administration had less ulcerations in their stomach compared to those who did not have any.

They found that the strawberry extract helped prevent gastric illnesses and slowed down formation of ulcers. The study revealed that having ample amount of strawberry servings in one’s diet can be very beneficial especially for the prevention of gastric illnesses and the formation of free radicals in the body.

Researcher Maurizio Battino clarified, though, that their research “was not conceived as a way of mitigating the effects of getting drunk.” He emphasized that their study should not be used to promote drinking, but that it should be used for the formulation of new drugs for gastric problems and ulcers.

Health & Wellness

Study Associates Violence in Teens with Soda Consumption

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Soda is one of the beverages that teenagers love, and may very well be counted as among the things that are consumed when one is craving for comfort food.

A new study, published in the British journal Injury Prevention, however, associated soda consumption among teens with violent behavior.

David Hemenway, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, shared: “What we found was that there was a strong relationship between how many soft drinks that these inner-city kids consumed and how violent they were, not only in violence against peers but also violence in dating relationships, against siblings… It was shocking to us when we saw how clear the relationship was.”

The study found that teens who consumed more than five cans of non-diet soda on a weekly basis were 9 to 15 percent more likely to act aggressively, when compared against teens their age who do not consume as much soda.

The study involved an analysis of answers to questionnaires that were filled out by 1,878 students, aged 14 to 18, in the inner Boston area. Most of the respondents were Hispanic, African-American, or mixed; only a few of the respondents were Asian or white. According to Prof. Hemenway, crime rates in this area higher when compared against the wealthier suburbs.

In addition to being asked about their soda consumption, the teens were also asked if they drank alcohol or smoked, or were violent towards their peers or family members.

Prof. Hemenway pointed out, however, that further work is needed to confirm, or disprove, whether the consumption of more sweet sodas led to violent behavior.

Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

Asthma Drugs May Increase Kids’ Risk of Hospitalization due to Attacks

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Drugs that are prescribed to prevent wheezing and shortness of breath may pose a risk for children, based on an analysis conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The analysis indicated that drugs called long-acting beta-antagonists (LABAs) may increase children’s risk of being hospitalized due to an asthma attack. This risk however, may be prevented if LABAs are used in combination with inhaled corticosteroid medications, although the researchers revealed that they are not completely convinced that the risk disappears completely with the inhalation of corticosteroids.

Study lead Dr. Ann McMahon shared: “These studies confirm our recommendations at the FDA that are already (on drug labels) for children and adolescents to use inhaled corticosteroids and LABAs together in one asthma product.”

The FDA report involved the consolidation of data from more than a hundred studies, which include 60,000 people suffering from asthma. The LABAs included in the study were Foradil (Merck) and Serevent (GlaxoSmithKline).

The data revealed that patients who were prescribed with LABAs were 27 percent more likely to be hospitalized because of an asthma attack. In rare cases, patients may even need intubation – or die.

The risk of such an occurrence was found to be higher in kids; patients aged 4 to 11, who were taking a LABA, were 67 percent more likely to end up in a hospital due to an asthma attack, as opposed to those who did not take the drug.

There are asthma medications, such as Advair (GlaxoSmithKline) and Symbicort (AstraZeneca), contain both LABA and corticosteroid, and the FDA recommends these products for kids.

Early Disease Detection

HPV May Also Cause Heart Attack and Stroke in Women

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The human papillomavirus (HPV) is more commonly known as the culprit behind most cases of cervical cancer, but a new study indicates that it may also increase a woman’s risk for heart attack and stroke.

The results of a new research indicate that the same types of HPV that leads to cervical cancer may also increase a woman’s risk for heart attack and stroke, even without other risk factors.

The study, the findings of which were published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, involved an analysis of information gathered from 2,500 women, aged 20 to 59. The study participants included women who tested positive for HPV (44.6%) and women who tested positive for HPV strains linked to cervical cancers (23.2%).

Researcher Hsu-Ko Kuo, MD, MPH, of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, shared that the study showed that women infected with HPV are 2.3 times more likely to suffer from a heart attack or a stroke, when compared against women who are not infected.

Dr. Kuo said: “For every 55 females with HPV, there will be one heart attack or stroke,” despite the absence of their other commonly-known risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and high body mass index.

Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, director of women and heart disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, shared that the study “sheds a new light on the assessment and risk factor analysis of heart disease in women, many of whom have HPV, and lends a new direction into the understanding of who is at risk for heart disease and therefore another means for us to prevent it.”

Health & Wellness Pregnancy & Fertility

Pregnant Women’s Exposure to BPA Linked to Negative Behavior in Kids

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Exposure of pregnant women to the industrial chemical bisphenol A (BPA) has been linked to such behaviors as anxiety, depression, and hyperactivity in 3-year old children, specifically in girls.

The findings of the study, published online in Pediatrics, suggested that gestational exposure to BPA may have a negative effect on the behavior of children.

Joe M. Braun, MSPH, PhD, from the Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, said: “At this point, we don’t know what these findings mean in terms of clinical disorders of behavior… Future studies will need to determine if BPA exposures are associated with clinical behavior disorders.”

A previous study conducted by Dr. Braun and colleagues determined a link between gestational exposure to BPA and increased hyperactivity and aggression in 2-year-old girls. In this new study, the researchers were able to establish the same results in 3-year-old girls.

The research involved an analysis of a cohort consisting of 244 mothers, and their 3-year-old daughters. At 16 and 26 weeks’ gestation, and when the children were at the ages of 1, 2, and 3 years old, the researchers determined mean urinary BPA concentrations. The Behavior Assessment for Children 2 and the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function – Preschool was then used to measure behavior and executive function.

The researchers were able to detect BPA in more than 97 percent of gestational and childhood urine samples, with concentrations of 2.0 μg/L and 4.1 μg/L, respectively.

Dr. Braun warned: “People who are concerned about BPA exposure could decrease or eliminate their consumption of canned or packaged foods; they could also avoid contact with thermal receipts.”