I am off to Canberra as a keynote/guest speaker to talk with our Politicians

Next Monday 14 July 2014 PGARD (Parliamentary Group on Asbestos Related Diseases) have organised a luncheon at Parliament House, Canberra for various party politicians to be present. Also ASEA (Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency) are also supporting this important event to raising awareness about the dangers of asbestos. I have been invited to be a keynote/guest speaker. It is an honour to have been asked and I am looking forward to this event.I will be flying up on Sunday afternoon and staying with good friends for the night rather than an early flight on the Monday morning that could leave me feeling exhausted and a bit short of breath.Our winter weather has well and truly set in today. We were lucky to get above 4 degrees celcius. …

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Survey: Americans struggle with science; respect scientists

While most Americans could be a bit more knowledgeable in the ways of science, a majority are interested in hearing about the latest scientific breakthroughs and think highly of scientists.This is according to a survey of more than 2,200 people conducted by the National Science Foundation, one that is conducted every two years and is part of a report — Science and Engineering Indicators — that the National Science Board provides to the president and Congress.A Michigan State University faculty member served as lead author for the chapter in the report that covers public perceptions of science. John Besley, an associate professor in MSU’s Department of Advertising and Public Relations, reviewed the data, as well as similar surveys from around the world, and highlighted key findings on Feb. 14 during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.According to the survey, more than 90 percent of Americans think scientists are “helping to solve challenging problems” and are “dedicated people who work for the good of humanity.””It’s important for Americans to maintain a high regard for science and scientists,” said Besley, who also is the Ellis N. Brandt Chair in Public Relations. “It can help ensure funding and help attract future scientists.”Unfortunately, Americans still have a tough time answering some basic science questions. Out of a total of nine questions that covered the physical and biological sciences, the average score was 6.5 correct answers.For example, only 74 percent of those queried knew that Earth revolved around the sun, while fewer than half (48 percent) knew that human beings developed from earlier species of animals.Some of the other highlights of the survey include:A majority of Americans — more than 90 percent — say they are “very interested” or “moderately interested” in learning about new medical discoveries. The United States appears to be relatively strong in the use of what’s known as “informal science education.” Nearly 60 percent of Americans have visited a zoo/aquarium, natural history museum or a science and technology museum. Nearly 90 percent of those surveyed think the benefits of science outweigh any potential dangers. About a third of the respondents think science and technology should get more funding. Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Michigan State University. …

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Participation in cardiac rehab program improves recovery in stroke patients

Oct. 16, 2013 — Stroke patients who participate in a cardiac rehabilitation program for six months make rapid gains in how far and fast they can walk, the use of weakened limbs and their ability to sit and stand, according to a study presented today at the Canadian Stroke Congress.On average, participants saw a 21-per-cent improvement in the strength and range of motion of weakened limbs; a 19-per-cent improvement in walking speed; and a 16-per-cent improvement in the distance they could walk.”There should be a seamless referral of patients with mild to moderate effects of stroke to the network of established outpatient cardiac rehab programs in Canada,” says lead researcher Dr. Susan Marzolini of Toronto Rehabilitation Institute/University Health Network. “Early referral is also important. In our study, those who started the cardiac rehab program earlier had the strongest results.”Cardiac rehabilitation incorporates exercise training (aerobic and resistance/strength training), nutrition counseling, risk factor counseling and management (lipids, blood pressure, diabetes, weight management, smoking cessation and psychosocial management,) delivered by an interprofessional health care team.All of the 120 patients who participated in the study saw improved recovery.The largest gains in walking function were among those who were referred to the program the earliest. Participants were, on average, two years post-stroke but the study included people who had experienced a stroke from three months to five years previously.In most cases, rehabilitation ends at three months post-stroke, when it has been assumed that spontaneous recovery is over and people reach a plateau, Dr. Marzolini says.For those who entered the six-month cardiac rehab program after standard care, “we didn’t see a plateau, we saw a huge improvement in the group. We’re finding even more benefits from exercise alone than we ever thought.””We have manufactured these three-month plateaus with our biases about how the brain works,” says Dr. Dale Corbett, Scientific Director of the Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery (CPSR), a joint initiative of the Heart and Stroke Foundation and Canada’s leading stroke research centres, which funded the study. “Recovery continues for months and years after stroke.”A 2011 audit of stroke services in Canada found that only 37 per cent of stroke patients with moderate to severe impairments receive standard rehabilitation in the weeks after stroke, despite overwhelming evidence of its benefits.”The results of this study are exciting because this exercise program is a very cost-effective intervention for improving the quality of life for those living with the effects of stroke,” says Canadian Stroke Congress Co-Chair Dr. …

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Water hidden in the Moon may have proto-Earth origin

Sep. 10, 2013 — Water found in ancient Moon rocks might have actually originated from the proto-Earth and even survived the Moon-forming event. Latest research into the amount of water within lunar rocks returned during the Apollo missions is being presented by Jessica Barnes at the European Planetary Science Congress in London on Monday 9th September.Share This:The Moon, including its interior, is believed to be much wetter than was envisaged during the Apollo era. The study by Barnes and colleagues at The Open University, UK, investigated the amount of water present in the mineral apatite, a calcium phosphate mineral found in samples of the ancient lunar crust.“These are some of the oldest rocks we have from the Moon and are much older than the oldest rocks found on Earth. The antiquity of these rocks make them the most appropriate samples for trying to understand the water content of the Moon soon after it formed about 4.5 billion years ago and for unravelling where in the Solar System that water came from,” Barnes explains.Barnes and her colleagues have found that the ancient lunar rocks contain appreciable amounts of water locked into the crystal structure of apatite. They also measured the hydrogen isotopic signature of the water in these lunar rocks to identify the potential source(s) for the water.“The water locked into the mineral apatite in the Moon rocks studied has an isotopic signature very similar to that of the Earth and some carbonaceous chondrite meteorites,” says Barnes. “The remarkable consistency between the hydrogen composition of lunar samples and water-reservoirs of the Earth strongly suggests that there is a common origin for water in the Earth-Moon system.”This research has been funded by the UK Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC).Share this story on Facebook, Twitter, and Google:Other social bookmarking and sharing tools:|Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by Europlanet Media Centre. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above. Need to cite this story in your essay, paper, or report? …

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Metabolically healthy women have same CVD risk regardless of BMI

Sep. 2, 2013 — Metabolically healthy women have the same cardiovascular disease risk regardless of their BMI, according to research presented at the ESC Congress today by Dr Søren Skøtt Andersen and Dr Michelle Schmiegelow from Denmark. The findings in more than 260,000 subjects suggest that obese women have a window of opportunity to lose weight and avoid developing a metabolic disorder, which would increase their CVD risk.Dr Schmiegelow said: “Obesity and/or metabolic disorders (hypertensive disorders [hypertension, gestational hypertension or pre-eclampsia], disorders in glucose-metabolism [diabetes, gestational diabetes] and elevated cholesterol levels [dyslipidemia]) are well known cardiovascular risk factors. Studies in middle aged men have found that obese and normal weight men have the same cardiovascular risk if they are metabolically healthy. Our study aimed to find out if the same was true for young fertile women.”The study used Danish national health databases and followed 261,489 women who had given birth during 2004-2009 with no prior history of cardiovascular disease. The women were divided into four categories according to their pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI, kg/m2) and presence of metabolic disorders (present/not present) (see figure). The women’s mean age was 31 years.The women were followed for an average of 5 years following childbirth. Discharge diagnoses and data on cause of death were used to determine if the women had a heart attack, a stroke, or died. Metabolic disorders were defined using claimed prescription data related to hypertension, diabetes and dyslipidemia; thus, only disorders being treated were taken into account. The pregnancy-associated metabolic disorders were defined using diagnosis codes.The researchers found that being overweight (BMI≥25 kg/m2) but metabolically healthy was not associated with an increased risk of a heart attack, stroke or a combination of heart attack/stroke/death in comparison with normal weight, metabolically healthy women.Dr Schmiegelow said: “Being overweight but free of metabolic disorders does not seem to be associated with an increased risk in young women in the short term. …

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Impact of AF on stroke risk eliminated with multiple risk factors

Aug. 31, 2013 — Patients with five or more risk factors have the same stroke risk as patients with atrial fibrillation, according to research presented at the ESC Congress today by Dr. Christine Benn Christiansen from Denmark. The study included data on more than 4 million patients from Danish registries over a 10 year period.Dr Benn Christiansen said: “We know that atrial fibrillation increases the risk of ischemic stroke. And in patients with atrial fibrillation or previous ischemic stroke, the risk of stroke increases with the number of risk factors. But until now, little attention has been paid to the association between stroke risk and risk factors in patients without prior stroke or atrial fibrillation. We wanted to explore that association and to quantify if stroke risk was of comparable size in patients with numerous risk factors.”The study included 4,198,119 people aged 18 to 90 years with no history of stroke from nationwide Danish registries during 2000 to 2010. Of these, 161,651 (3.85%) had atrial fibrillation. The investigators compared the risk of stroke in patients with and without atrial fibrillation according to the number of risk factors.The risk factors included in the study were myocardial infarction, peripheral artery disease, arterial embolism, excessive alcohol consumption, heart failure, carotid stenosis, retinal occlusion, chronic systemic inflammation, chronic kidney disease, venous thromboembolism, epilepsy, migraine, diabetes mellitus, hypertension and age >75 years.The rate of stroke was calculated per 100 person-years. Patients with 0 risk factors and no atrial fibrillation had a stroke rate of 0.32 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.31-0.32) per 100 person-years vs. …

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Cancer drug labels missing key information about patients’ symptoms

July 4, 2013 — “As an oncologist, when I sit with patients to discuss starting a new chemotherapy, their first questions are often ‘How will it make me feel?’ and ‘How did patients like me feel with this treatment?'” said Dr. Ethan Basch, MD, director of Cancer Outcomes Research at the University of North Carolina.In the July 10th issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Basch calls for pharmaceutical manufacturers to collect rigorous information on how drugs impact symptoms and quality of life starting early in drug development, and for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to include this information in drug labels.”As patients live longer with cancer, they must increasingly choose among agents with varying efficacy-toxicity balances. And as approved drugs continue to yield only tiny median survival benefits, patients understandably want to know how their peers felt during and after a treatment,” said Dr. Basch.In 2011, the FDA approved 15 new anti-cancer drugs, but only one of them, ruxolitinib, included symptom information in the label — reporting that multiple symptoms improve substantially when patients take the drug. This was actually the first cancer therapy in more than a decade to include symptom information in its label. Cancer labels stand in contrast to non-cancer labels, which describe symptoms about 25 percent of the time.Research has shown that patients who experience worse symptoms and quality of life face a worse prognosis and are more likely not to follow treatment guidelines or may stop treatment altogether. The FDA has taken several steps to include the patient perspective in drug development, issuing guidance, collaborating with industry to develop standardized tools, and requesting funds from Congress to support these efforts.Dr. Basch argues that the culture of pharmaceutical development must shift to include direct patient input during the earliest stages of research. …

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50 percent of rheumatoid arthritis patients discontinue medication within the first two years

June 13, 2013 — Data presented at EULAR 2013, the Annual Congress of the European League Against Rheumatism, show that up to one-third of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients discontinue or change therapy within the first year of treatment.Loss of efficacy was the most common reason given (35.8%), followed by safety (20.1%), physician or patient preference (27.8% and 17.9%, respectively) and access to treatment (9.0%). Rates and rationale for treatment discontinuation were similar for both tumour necrosis factor inhibitors (TNFi) and non-TNFi biologics.RA is a chronic autoimmune disease that principally attacks flexible joints. Affecting approximately 1 in 100 people worldwide, RA can cause pain, stiffness, progressive joint destruction and deformity, and reduce physical function, quality of life and life expectancy. At least 50% of RA patients in developed countries are unable to hold down a full-time job within 10 years of onset.2Lead author of the study, Vibeke Strand, MD, Clinical Professor, Stanford University School of Medicine, Portola Valley, California, USA, said, “RA is a progressive disease which, if left untreated, can significantly and permanently reduce joint function, patient mobility and quality of life. Studies have shown that patients sustain maximum benefit from RA treatment in the first two years3 — yet our data highlight significant discontinuation rates during this time period.”Dr. Strand continued, “While there is no cure for RA, initiating treatment early and improving adherence can enable patients to lead active and productive lives. These data are derived from a US experience, which is associated with a significantly greater prevalence of biologic utilisation than is typically seen elsewhere. The results may, therefore, be different in societies with less prevalent utilization of these agents.”The study was designed to examine initiation of biologic therapies within the US Consortium of Rheumatology Researchers of North America (CORRONA) database and characterise reasons for their discontinuation. Treatment discontinuation was defined as the first report of stopping initial therapy or initiation of a new biologic at/or between visits on a follow-up MD questionnaire, with up to three reasons captured.In total, 6,209 patients meeting the following criteria 2002 from the CORRONA registry were included: age >18 years; RA onset age >16 years; ≥6 months of follow-up available after initiation of first or subsequent biologic therapy, defined as a visit ≥180 days after initiation of biologic therapy. A total of 5,010 patients (80.7%) received TNFi, 1,199 (19.3%) received non-TNFi and 2,693 patients were biologic-naïve.Median time to discontinuation was 26.5 months in those receiving TNFi versus 20.5 months for non-TNFi. …

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Neurostimulation helps children’s intractable constipation, study finds

June 11, 2013 — Home treatment with a simple, battery-operated system that applies four sticky electrode patches to the mid-section allowed a group of children with the most difficult-to-treat, possibly congenital, constipation to reduce soiling and improve elimination, according to results presented today at the 11th World Congress of the International Neuromodulation Society (INS).The study involved 62 patients — 34 girls, 28 boys — at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute of the Royal Childrens Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. They ranged from 2 — 16 years old, with a mean age of 7 years. Results of the three-year project are being presented by the institute’s Bridget Southwell, Ph.D. who became involved in the INS due to its cross-discipline blend of medical research and development. She and pediatric surgeon Dr. John Hutson supervised the lead researcher, Dr. Yee Ian Yik, a surgeon obtaining his Ph.D. in studies of chronic constipation in children on a stipend from the Malaysian government.The study is being expanded to typical causes of chronic constipation, and to adults. The work focused on children with slow transit constipation (STC), a problem of the upper colon.After two to three months of treatment:25 percent of the children completely stopped laxative use and 50 percent reduced it 57 percent of the children who began the study with fewer than three bowel movements per week (56 of the participants) improved bowel movement frequency to more than three times a week 87 percent of the participants decreased bypass soiling from an average of five times a week to once a week 87 percent of the families reported the child had an increase in urge-initiated defecation 95 percent of the patients who began with abdominal pain (39 participants) saw their pain reduced Quality of life scores by the children and parents increased 12 — 13 points In the study, parents were trained to apply electrode patches near the child’s navel and back for an hour a day to administer electrical stimulation called inferential transcutaneous electrical stimulation (TES). TES is commonly used in physical therapy. …

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Frogs, salamanders and climate change

May 18, 2013 — By day, insects provide the white noise of the South, but the night belongs to the amphibians. In a typical year, the Southern air hangs heavy from the humidity and the sounds of wildlife. The Southeast, home to more than 140 species of frogs, toads and salamanders, is the center of amphibian biodiversity in our nation. If the ponds and swamps are the auditorium for their symphonic choruses, the scientists of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative, or ARMI, have front-row seats.

Amphibians, which rely on water for part or all of their life cycle, must adjust to often atypical weather. Some years bring heavy deluges, such as the region’s notorious hurricanes, and others bring the transformations that come with drought. Amphibians around the world seem to be experiencing the worst declines documented among vertebrates. While habitat loss is the number one reason for population declines, research suggests that disease, invasive species, contaminants and perhaps other factors contribute to declines in protected areas.

And then there’s climate change, another stressor for amphibians to contend with. Climate change projections indicate that rainfall will increasingly come in pulses, with greater deluges and longer periods of drought. Scientists have long suspected that climate change is an important factor in amphibian declines, and resource managers are asking whether conservation measures might help species persist or adapt in a changing climate. Three recent U.S. Geological Survey studies offer some insight into the issue.

Why amphibians?

Amphibians, which are declining throughout the world, play an important role in ecological systems. They eat small creatures, including mosquitos, and they are food themselves for larger creatures, such as birds and snakes. Because amphibians are the middle of the food chain — and sensitive to environmental disruption because of their aquatic or semi-aquatic lives — their existence is often used as an indication of ecosystem health.

Scientists in ARMI, a program started by Congress in 2000 in response to concerns about amphibian declines, have been working to unravel the ups and downs of amphibian populations to support effective conservation and resource management decisions. To do this, ARMI scientists and field crews monitor the status of amphibians, research the causes of declines, and scientifically evaluate projects undertaken to sustain these species and their habitats across the country.

Pond life — it’s not easy being green!

ARMI scientists looked at a range of amphibian species found in the Southeast and posed the question, “What will happen to their populations under a scenario of changes in rainfall patterns — more deluges alternating with droughts — which is being predicted by current climate models?”

It turns out that understanding how climate affects amphibians requires “thinking like the ponds” in which they live. Amphibians have unique life cycles — most alternate between living in water as juveniles, to maturing and dispersing on land, then returning to water again as adults to mate and lay eggs.

When USGS scientists reviewed what was known about amphibian responses to rainfall, it turned out that both extremes in rainfall — drought and heavy rainfall events — can decrease the number of amphibians. The amphibians’ response depends on a balance between these two key factors. If ponds dry up while aquatic juveniles are developing, survival of the next generation is lowered. However, if a deluge occurs at that time, nearby pools that often contain fish will be physically connected with the pools containing juvenile amphibians, and the fish will eat the juveniles.

In essence, the study showed that extreme rainfall events are key to predicting amphibian responses to climate, because such events affect the amount and timing of water in ponds that they depend on. The full review of species’ responses was published in March 2013 edition of the journal Biology.

Drought and declining salamanders

Knowing that each species responds to droughts and deluges based on the particulars of their biology, scientists set out to test just how these dynamics played out in the southeastern U.S. by looking at larval mole salamanders in small isolated ponds in St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge, Florida.

Larval mole salamanders have a similar life cycle to the flatwoods salamander, a federally threatened species found on the refuge. Because it is difficult to study the flatwoods salamander directly, and mole salamanders are ecologically similar, scientists study the mole salamander instead, knowing that whatever affects them will likely impact the flatwoods salamander as well.

In the four years of the study, drought consistently decreased salamander occupancy in ponds. To support young salamanders, rain has to fill a pond during the breeding season and then the pond has to stay filled long enough for larvae to transform into the next life stage. Therefore, scientists confirmed that drought did indeed cause short-term declines in mole salamanders — suggesting that the listed flatwoods salamander may face a similar fate under climate change.

The results of the mole salamander study are published in the April 2013 edition of the journal Wetlands.

Can habitat conservation make a difference for frogs and toads?

To answer this question, USGS scientists examined whether the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service Wetlands Reserve Program was helping address the problem. The Wetlands Reserve Program is a voluntary USDA program offering landowners the opportunity to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands on their property. To assess the potential benefit of WRP restoration to amphibians, in this case, frogs and toads, USGS scientists surveyed 30 randomly selected WRP sites and 20 nearby agricultural sites in the Mississippi Delta in northwest Mississippi.

The scientists found that WRP sites had more kinds of species and was home to more numbers of amphibians than the agricultural sites studied. The restoration of wetland hydrology appeared to provide the most immediate benefit to the animals.

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Immigration status affects educational achievement

May 29, 2013 — Mexican American mothers’ formal immigration status affects the educational achievement of their children and even their grandchildren, according to a study written by Penn State and University of California, Irvine, sociologists and released by the US2010 Project at Brown University.

Based on a large-scale survey of second-generation Mexican young adults in Los Angeles, the study finds that those whose mothers were authorized immigrants or U.S. citizens averaged more than two years more schooling than those whose mothers entered the country illegally. The researchers estimate that more than a third of the education gap between third-generation Mexicans and native whites is attributable to the legacy effects of grandparents’ unauthorized status.

“The fact that Mexican-origin children appear to fall behind most of the rest of the population in terms of educational attainment has long been a concern of researchers and policy-makers,” said James Bachmeier, research associate, Population Research Institute, Penn State. “This report indicates that this derives in large part from the fact that many of these children are raised in families in which one or both parents lack legal status.”

This study and future studies may help guide the national debate on immigration reform, said Bachmeier, who worked with Jennifer Van Hook, director of Population Research Institute and professor of sociology and demography, and Mark Leach, former assistant professor of rural sociology and demography, both of Penn State.

“The extent to which parental legal status shapes the opportunities of U.S.-born children warrants more attention in the future, especially as Congress discusses comprehensive immigration reform,” said Bachmeier.

According to the study, legalization may help the children and even grandchildren of immigrants increase their educational attainment.

“The implication of our findings is that clear pathways to legalization can boost Mexican American educational attainment even as late as the third generation,” said Frank D. Bean, professor of sociology at the University of California, Irvine. “Legislation providing the possibility of entry into full societal membership helps not only the immigrants themselves but also their children and their children’s children.”

The study looked closely at the trajectories of parental immigration status. In 10 percent of cases, the mother was U.S.-born but married to an immigrant spouse, and about 44 percent entered the country legally. It is in comparison to the children of these mothers that the researchers found a disadvantage for those whose mothers were unauthorized immigrants — about one third of mothers.

“There are nearly 4 million children of Mexican immigrants living in this country, most of them born here,” said Bean. “At present, with few pathways for their parents’ legalization, they live too long in the shadows. Because America’s future labor force depends so heavily on the children of immigrants, we all have a stake in their progress.”

Susan K. Brown, associate professor of sociology, University of California, Irvine, also worked on the report.

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