Bothered by hot flashes? Acupuncture might be the answer, analysis suggests

In the 2,500+ years that have passed since acupuncture was first used by the ancient Chinese, it has been used to treat a number of physical, mental and emotional conditions including nausea and vomiting, stroke rehabilitation, headaches, menstrual cramps, asthma, carpal tunnel, fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis, to name just a few. Now, a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials which is being published this month in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS), indicates that acupuncture can affect the severity and frequency of hot flashes for women in natural menopause.An extensive search of previous studies evaluating the effectiveness of acupuncture uncovered 104 relevant students, of which 12 studies with 869 participants met the specified inclusion criteria to be included in this current study. While the studies provided inconsistent findings on the effects of acupuncture on other menopause-related symptoms such as sleep problems, mood disturbances and sexual problems, they did conclude that acupuncture positively impacted both the frequency and severity of hot flashes.Women experiencing natural menopause and aged between 40 and 60 years were included in the analysis, which evaluated the effects of various forms of acupuncture, including traditional Chinese medicine acupuncture (TCMA), acupressure, electroacupuncture, laser acupuncture and ear acupuncture.Interestingly, neither the effect on hot flash frequency or severity appeared to be linked to the number of treatment doses, number of sessions or duration of treatment. However, the findings showed that sham acupuncture could induce a treatment effect comparable with that of true acupuncture for the reduction of hot flash frequency. The effects on hot flashes were shown to be maintained for as long as three months.Although the study stopped short of explaining the exact mechanism underlying the effects of acupuncture on hot flashes, a theory was proposed to suggest that acupuncture caused a reduction in the concentration of β-endorphin in the hypothalamus, resulting from low concentrations of estrogen. These lower levels could trigger the release of CGRP, which affects thermoregulation.”More than anything, this review indicates that there is still much to be learned relative to the causes and treatments of menopausal hot flashes,” says NAMS executive director Margery Gass, MD. “The review suggests that acupuncture may be an effective alternative for reducing hot flashes, especially for those women seeking non- pharmacologic therapies.”A recent review indicated that approximately half of women experiencing menopause-associated symptoms use complementary and alternative medicine therapy, instead of pharmacologic therapies, for managing their menopausal symptoms.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by The North American Menopause Society (NAMS). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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How Schizophrenia affects the brain

Sep. 11, 2013 — It’s hard to fully understand a mental disease like schizophrenia without peering into the human brain. Now, a study by University of Iowa psychiatry professor Nancy Andreasen uses brain scans to document how schizophrenia impacts brain tissue as well as the effects of anti-psychotic drugs on those who have relapses.Andreasen’s study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, documented brain changes seen in MRI scans from more than 200 patients beginning with their first episode and continuing with scans at regular intervals for up to 15 years. The study is considered the largest longitudinal, brain-scan data set ever compiled, Andreasen says. Schizophrenia affects roughly 3.5 million people, or about one percent of the U.S. population, according to the National Institutes of Health. Globally, some 24 million are affected, according to the World Health Organization.The scans showed that people at their first episode had less brain tissue than healthy individuals. The findings suggest that those who have schizophrenia are being affected by something before they show outward signs of the disease.”There are several studies, mine included, that show people with schizophrenia have smaller-than-average cranial size,” explains Andreasen, whose appointment is in the Carver College of Medicine. “Since cranial development is completed within the first few years of life, there may be some aspect of earliest development — perhaps things such as pregnancy complications or exposure to viruses — that on average, affected people with schizophrenia.”Andreasen’s team learned from the brain scans that those affected with schizophrenia suffered the most brain tissue loss in the two years after the first episode, but then the damage curiously plateaued — to the group’s surprise. The finding may help doctors identify the most effective time periods to prevent tissue loss and other negative effects of the illness, Andreasen says.The researchers also analyzed the effect of medication on the brain tissue. …

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Good asthma control during pregnancy is vital

Sep. 6, 2013 — Good asthma management during pregnancy is vital during pregnancy as poor asthma control can have adverse effects on maternal and fetal outcomes, says a new review published today in The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist (TOG).Asthma is a common condition that affects around 10% of pregnant women, making it the most common chronic condition in pregnancy.The review notes that the severity of asthma during pregnancy remains unchanged, worsens or improves in equal proportions. For women with severe asthma, control is more likely to deteriorate (around 60% of cases) compared to women with mild asthma (around 10% of cases). However, the authors conclude that all pregnant women with asthma need to be closely reviewed throughout pregnancy, irrespective of disease severity.National guidelines recommend the management and treatment for asthma in pregnant women should be generally the same as for non-pregnant women and men, with the intensity of antenatal maternal and fetal surveillance to be based on the severity of their condition.The authors also note that poor asthma control can lead to adverse effects on maternal and fetal outcomes, with previous studies suggesting poor asthma control is associated with hypertension in pregnancy, a higher frequency of caesarean section and low birth weight. However, the authors emphasise that in most women with well-controlled asthma there are no or minimal additional risks.The review states the concerns held by mothers and healthcare providers on the potential adverse effects that asthma drugs can have on both the women and their babies, but concludes that it is still safer for women to use asthma therapy in pregnancy to avoid uncontrolled asthma.Furthermore, asthma does not usually affect labour or delivery with less than a fifth of women experiencing an exacerbation during labour. Additionally, in the postpartum period there is no increased risk of asthma exacerbations and within a few months after delivery a woman’s asthma severity typically reverts to its pre-pregnancy level.Professor Chris Brightling, Professor of Respiratory Medicine and Honorary Consultant Physician, University Hospitals of Leicester and co-author of the paper said:”Asthma is a widespread condition and poor management during pregnancy can lead to adverse maternal and fetal outcomes.”Good asthma management to maintain tight control is vital and standard therapy may be safely used in pregnancy to achieve this along with close surveillance from midwives, obstetricians and for women with severe asthma a respiratory physician.”Jason Waugh, TOG Editor-in-chief added:”Education is key for anyone, especially pregnant women, to manage their asthma. This includes understanding the condition and its treatment options, trigger avoidance, asthma control, adequate use of devices and the importance of adherence to medication.”Any women who have concerns about their asthma management and management during pregnancy should contact their GP or midwife for further advice.”

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Clues in coral bleaching mystery

Sep. 5, 2013 — Coral reefs are tremendously important for ocean biodiversity, as well as for the economic and aesthetic value they provide to their surrounding communities. Unfortunately they have been in great decline in recent years, much of it due to the effects of global climate change. One such effect, called bleaching, occurs when the symbiotic algae that are essential for providing nutrients to the coral either lose their identifying photosynthetic pigmentation and their ability to perform photosynthesis or disappear entirely from the coral’s tissue. Without a healthy population of these algae, the coral cannot survive.There has been much attention given to the environmental conditions that trigger a reef’s demise due to bleaching, but little is certain about the precise cellular and molecular mechanisms of the bleaching process. New research from Carnegie’s Arthur Grossman brings into question the prevailing theory for how bleaching occurs on a molecular level. It is published in Current Biology.Photosynthesis, the process by which plants, algae, and select bacteria convert the sun’s light energy into chemical energy, takes place in a cellular organelle called the chloroplast. It has been theorized that the major cause of bleaching is the result of chloroplast damage due to heat stress, which results in the production of toxic, highly reactive oxygen molecules during photosynthesis.Grossman and his team — led by Carnegie’s Dimitri Tolleter and in collaboration with John Pringle and Steve Palumbi of Stanford University — demonstrated that bleaching still occurs if the algae are heat stressed in the dark, when the photosynthetic machinery is shut off. This is surprising since it means that toxic oxygen molecules formed in heat-damaged chloroplasts during photosynthetic reactions during the light are likely not the major culprits that cause bleaching.Therefore other, as yet unexplored, mechanisms for bleaching must exist. This work suggests the existence of potentially novel mechanisms associated with coral bleaching. …

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Migraine may permanently change brain structure

Aug. 28, 2013 — Migraine may have long-lasting effects on the brain’s structure, according to a study published in the August 28, 2013, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.”Traditionally, migraine has been considered a benign disorder without long-term consequences for the brain,” said study author Messoud Ashina, MD, PhD, with the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. “Our review and meta-analysis study suggests that the disorder may permanently alter brain structure in multiple ways.”The study found that migraine raised the risk of brain lesions, white matter abnormalities and altered brain volume compared to people without the disorder. The association was even stronger in those with migraine with aura.For the meta-analysis, researchers reviewed six population-based studies and 13 clinic-based studies to see whether people who experienced migraine or migraine with aura had an increased risk of brain lesions, silent abnormalities or brain volume changes on MRI brain scans compared to those without the conditions.The results showed that migraine with aura increased the risk of white matter brain lesions by 68 percent and migraine with no aura increased the risk by 34 percent, compared to those without migraine. The risk for infarct-like abnormalities increased by 44 percent for those with migraine with aura compared to those without aura. Brain volume changes were more common in people with migraine and migraine with aura than those with no migraines.”Migraine affects about 10 to 15 percent of the general population and can cause a substantial personal, occupational and social burden,” said Ashina. “We hope that through more study, we can clarify the association of brain structure changes to attack frequency and length of the disease. We also want to find out how these lesions may influence brain function.”

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Young or old, song sparrows experience climate change differently from each other

Aug. 12, 2013 — What’s good for adults is not always best for the young, and vice versa. At least that is the case with song sparrows and how they experience the effects of climate change, according to two recent studies by scientists at the University of California, Davis, and Point Blue Conservation Science.Both studies show the importance of considering the various stages and ages of individuals in a species — from babies to juveniles to adults — to best predict not only how climate change could affect a species as a whole, but also why.”To learn how climate change is expected to affect an individual population, you have to look at demography,” said lead author Kristen Dybala, a postdoctoral scholar in the UC Davis Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology. “If you don’t break it down by these different stages, you get a different understanding that may be misleading, or worse, that’s just wrong.”For example, in the study published in print today in the journal Global Change Biology, climate change had opposite projected effects for adult and juvenile song sparrows in central coastal California. The researchers found, not surprisingly, that adult survival was sensitive to cold winter weather.”Even though we rarely see freezing temperatures on the coast of California, it was clear that an adult bird’s chances of survival were lowest in the coldest winters,” said co-author Tom Gardali, Pacific Coast and Central Valley Group director of Point Blue Conservation Science.They expected a similar response from the young. However, warmer, drier winters translated to less food for the juvenile sparrows during the following summer.”Before they can get to winter, the juveniles have to survive their first summer, when they’re sensitive to how much food is available,” said Dybala. “So as winters get warmer, we expect adults and juveniles to respond in opposite directions.”In another recent study of song sparrows published in the journal Ecology, lead author Dybala found that parents provided a buffer against the weather for baby sparrows still dependent on them for food. However, independent juveniles that were newly out on their own were more sensitive to changes in the weather because they lacked the skills and experience of their parents.While that vulnerability has existed for as long as offspring have been leaving the nest, climate change is expected to exacerbate those already uncertain conditions, Dybala said. This sort of variation in juvenile survival can significantly impact a species’ population growth.Both studies were conducted at Point Blue’s Palomarin Field Station in the Point Reyes National Seashore in California. While song sparrows are found throughout North America, the local population is nonmigratory, and Point Blue (formerly PRBO Conservation Science) biologists have collected survivorship data on them for 34 years. …

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New target for the fight against cancer as a result of excessive blood vessel formation

Aug. 1, 2013 — New blood vessel formation (angiogenesis) stimulates the growth of cancer and other diseases. Anti-angiogenic inhibitors slow down cancer growth by disrupting the blood supply to the tumor. To date, the success of these treatments is limited by resistance, poor efficiency and harmful side effects. In the journal Cell, Peter Carmeliet (VIB-KU Leuven) and his team reported that sugar metabolism (a process that we call glycolysis) also plays an essential role in the formation of new blood vessels. These totally revolutionary insights open up many new therapeutic opportunities for the treatment of cancer and diseases as a result of excessive blood vessel formation.Share This:Every growing cell in our body is provided with oxygen and nutrients via our blood vessels. Blood vessels are formed by endothelial cells which line the inside wall of the vessel. These cells require energy to be able to form new blood vessels. However, it was not known how these cells produced the required energy and it was never considered to inhibit the energy production process in order to block angiogenesis.Under the guidance of Peter Carmeliet, a team consisting of Katrien De Bock, Maria Georgiadou and Sandra Schoors discovered that glycolysis is the most important mechanism for endothelial cells to supply energy for blood vessel formation. Peter Carmeliet and his team demonstrated that endothelial cells can be paralyzed by blocking glycolysis and consequently stop to form blood vessels. …

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Feeling left out can lead to risky financial decisions

Aug. 1, 2013 — People who feel isolated are more inclined to make risker financial decisions for bigger payoffs, according to new research presented at the American Psychological Association’s 121st Annual Convention.In a presentation entitled “Effects of Social Exclusion on Financial Risk-Taking,” Rod Duclos, PhD, assistant professor of marketing at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, described several experiments and a field survey that found the more often people felt excluded, the more they chose the longer odds for bigger lottery payoffs, took greater risks with their finances, bet on horse races and gambled in casinos.”In the absence of social support, forlorn consumers apparently place more value on the power of money to secure what they want socially,” he said.In one experiment, 59 students played an online ball-tossing game designed to make them feel socially included or excluded. In a separate setting, they chose between two hypothetical gambles with very different odds, Duclos said. The socially excluded participants favored the riskier option more strongly than their included counterparts.A second experiment used essay writing to make 168 students feel either excluded or included and found that the socially excluded participants were twice as likely to gamble as the students who felt included, he said. Another experiment with 35 students ruled out lower self-esteem as a trigger for risk-taking, through essay writing and a choice of lotteries. In a fourth experiment with 128 students, researchers found those who felt isolated did not take more risks than others if they were told that having more money would no longer result in social benefits.For a real-world demonstration, a team of trained research assistants interviewed individuals at malls, parks and subway stations, according to Duclos. They asked participants to choose between two lotteries, one that offered an 80 percent chance to win $200 and a 20 percent chance to win nothing and another that offered a 20 percent chance to win $800 and an 80 percent chance to win nothing. The research assistants then asked participants what proportion of their disposable income they had in low versus high-risk investments, how often they bet on horse racing, how often they gambled in casinos, and how often on a scale of 1-4 (1 = never, 4 = often) they felt socially excluded. There were clear positive relationships between the degree to which participants felt socially excluded and how much risk they took, Duclos said.”Some marketers with questionable ethics may target demographic groups likely to suffer from social exclusion, such as the elderly, divorcees, and widows or widowers,” Duclos said. “Others may be tempted to isolate, physically or psychologically, prospective clients during financial negotiations since doing so may result in larger commissions. …

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Exercise may be the best medicine for Alzheimer’s disease

July 30, 2013 — New research out of the University of Maryland School of Public Health shows that exercise may improve cognitive function in those at risk for Alzheimer’s by improving the efficiency of brain activity associated with memory. Memory loss leading to Alzheimer’s disease is one of the greatest fears among older Americans. While some memory loss is normal and to be expected as we age, a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, signals more substantial memory loss and a greater risk for Alzheimer’s, for which there currently is no cure.The study, led by Dr. J. Carson Smith, assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology, provides new hope for those diagnosed with MCI. It is the first to show that an exercise intervention with older adults with mild cognitive impairment (average age 78) improved not only memory recall, but also brain function, as measured by functional neuroimaging (via fMRI). The findings are published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.”We found that after 12 weeks of being on a moderate exercise program, study participants improved their neural efficiency — basically they were using fewer neural resources to perform the same memory task,” says Dr. Smith. “No study has shown that a drug can do what we showed is possible with exercise.”Recommended Daily Activity: Good for the Body, Good for the BrainTwo groups of physically inactive older adults (ranging from 60-88 years old) were put on a 12-week exercise program that focused on regular treadmill walking and was guided by a personal trainer. Both groups — one which included adults with MCI and the other with healthy brain function — improved their cardiovascular fitness by about ten percent at the end of the intervention. …

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Estrogen’s effects on fat depends on where it’s located

July 26, 2013 — Women have long bemoaned the fact that they tend to store more fat than men, particularly after menopause. Although it’s well established that estrogen, the primary sex hormone present during women’s childbearing years, is responsible for this effect, exactly how estrogen exerts this influence has been unknown. Previous research has shown that body fat both absorbs estrogen and other sex hormones circulating in the blood as well as produces its own sex hormones, though researchers have been unsure what role that plays in fat accumulation. Also not completely understood is why women tend to accumulate fat in the stereotypical “pear” shape, with more fat in the buttocks and thighs — a shape that’s thought to be healthier than men’s stereotypical “apple” shape, with more fat around the belly.Gathering clues to answer these questions, Kathleen M. Gavin and her colleagues at East Carolina University examined how estrogen locally affects fat accumulation in these key areas by slowly infusing the hormone into the buttocks and belly in overweight women while also giving them drugs or having them exercise to speed up fat breakdown. They found that estrogen’s effects on these fat deposits was highly dependent on the deposits’ specific location and the fat-burning interventions themselves.The article is entitled “Estradiol Effects on Subcutaneous Adipose Tissue Lipolysis in Premenopausal Women are Adipose Tissue Depot Specific and Treatment Dependent.” It appears in the June edition of the American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism, published by the American Physiological Society.MethodologyGavin and her colleagues recruited 17 overweight-to-obese premenopausal women, all between the ages of 18 and 44 years old. After an initial visit to the lab to gather a variety of information on each study participant, including weight, height, percent fat and lean mass, and VO2 max (a measure of physical fitness), the researchers subjected each participant to a variety of interventions meant to speed up lipolysis, or fat breakdown/mobilization. Through probes inserted directly in the fat of the participants’ buttocks and abdomen, the researchers slowly infused two drugs, either individually or together, that encourage lipolysis. They also had participants perform a bout of exercise at an intensity similar to a standard exercise session. Such “submaximal” exercise is known to optimally break down fat.Participants performed this exercise both by itself and while the drugs were being infused. …

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Drinking alcohol during pregnancy affects learning and memory function in offspring?

July 19, 2013 — Maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy has detrimental effects on fetal central nervous system development.Share This:Maternal alcohol consumption prior to and during pregnancy significantly affects cognitive functions in offspring, which may be related to changes in cyclin-dependent kinase 5 because it is associated with modulation of synaptic plasticity and impaired learning and memory.Prof. Ruiling Zhang and team from Xinxiang Medical University explored the correlation between cyclin-dependent kinase 5 expression in the hippocampus and neurological impairments following prenatal ethanol exposure, and found that prenatal ethanol exposure could affect cyclin-dependent kinase 5 and its activator p35 in the hippocampus of offspring rats.These findings, which reported in the Neural Regeneration Research, propose new insights into the mechanisms underlying the role of ethanol exposure in central nervous system injuries, and provide a new strategy for treating the consequences of prenatal ethanol exposure.Share this story on Facebook, Twitter, and Google:Other social bookmarking and sharing tools:|Story Source: The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Neural Regeneration Research, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above. Journal Reference:shuang Li, Yan Zhang, Feng Zhu, Bin Zhang, Jianying Lin, Chunyang Xu, Wancai Yang, Wei Hao, Ruiling Zhang. A new treatment for cognitive disorders related to in utero exposure to alcohol. Neural Regeneration Research, Vol. 8, No. 18, 2013 DOI: 10.3969/j.issn.1673-5374.2013.18.008 Need to cite this story in your essay, paper, or report? Use one of the following formats: APA MLA Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

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BPA and chlorine means bad news: Modified forms of bisphenol A found to alter hormone signaling in new, disturbing ways

July 17, 2013 — The ubiquity of the endocrine-disrupting chemical bisphenol A led researchers to ask what it might be doing in publicly supplied, chlorinated drinking water. The answer: Chlorinated BPA has different, but no less profound effects on cell-signaling networks than unmodified BPA.For years, scientists have been worried about bisphenol A. The chemical is known as an “endocrine disruptor,” a substance that interferes with the body’s hormone signaling system, and it’s found in everything from plastic drink bottles to the linings of food and drink cans to the thermal paper used for cash register receipts — not to mention the urine of 92.6 percent of Americans over the age of six. BPA has been associated with the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma and ovarian dysfunction. In 2012, the FDA banned BPA from use in the production of baby bottles and drinking cups.BPA’s ubiquity in the environment led researchers to ask what it might be doing in publicly supplied drinking water, which is contaminated at its source by BPA-laden discarded plastic and later picks up more of the chemical when it passes through PVC plastic pipes. Most public water supplies are chlorinated to kill bacteria, and the BPA in the water also becomes chlorinated, acquiring one or more chlorine atoms from the water around it. The question was, how does this chlorinated BPA behave in the body?The answer, generated from cell-culture experiments, was that it produced different but no less profound effects. “We found that when you modify the BPA it works just as dramatically but in different ways on the same systems,” said University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston professor Cheryl Watson, senior author of a paper on the study now online in Endocrine Disruptors.Watson and graduate student René Viñas examined both chlorinated BPA and BPA that had undergone sulfonation and glucuronodation — two processes the body uses to make a compound easier to excrete. In all three cases the modified forms of BPA worked through membrane estrogen receptors to deactivate key signaling enzymes known as ERK and JNK kinases.”These kinases are major control centers, gathering all the cell signals, making decisions and then expediting them,” Watson said. “If you change the dynamic by inactivating kinases, you can mess up cell signaling.”Very low levels of modified BPA were sufficient to produce the results — a phenomenon commonly seen with membrane receptors. …

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‘Bath salts’ stimulant could be more addictive than meth, study shows

July 10, 2013 — Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have published one of the first laboratory studies of MDPV, an emerging recreational drug that has been sold as “bath salts.” The TSRI researchers confirmed the drug’s powerful stimulant effects in rats and found evidence that it could be more addictive than methamphetamine, one of the most addictive substances to date.”We observed that rats will press a lever more often to get a single infusion of MPDV than they will for meth, across a fairly wide dose range,” said TSRI Associate Professor Michael A. Taffe, who was the principal investigator of the study.The findings are described by the journal Neuropharmacology online ahead of the publication’s August 2013 print issue.A New Threat from an Old SourceMDPV (3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone) and other “bath salts” drugs are actually derived from cathinone, the principal active ingredient in khat, a leaf chewed for its stimulant effects throughout northeast Africa and the Arabian peninsula. Synthesized by pharmaceutical companies decades ago but never used, cathinone derivatives were rediscovered by underground chemists in the early 2000s. The drugs have been sold as “bath salts” or “plant food” to skirt laws against marketing them for internal use, but in the U.S., UK, Canada and many other countries, their sale for any purpose is now banned.Cathinone derivatives inhibit the normal removal of the neurotransmitters dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin from synapses (the small gap separating neurons that enables cell-to-cell communication). In this way, the derivatives disturb the activity of brain networks that mediate desire, pleasure, muscle movements and cognition. Users have described classic stimulant effects such as an initial euphoria, increased physical activity, an inability to sleep and a lack of desire for food or water — plus almost irresistible cravings to take more of the drug. Higher doses bring a strong risk of paranoid psychoses, violence and suicide.A few years ago, the sudden rise in anecdotal reports of these drugs’ dangerous effects prompted Taffe and his TSRI colleague, chemist Associate Professor Tobin J. Dickerson, to set up studies with laboratory animals. “The drugs had not yet been scheduled, and we were able to work out how to synthesize them in sufficient quantities for animal testing,” said Dickerson.”One of the great strengths of TSRI with its multidisciplinary, collaborative environment is that we can get started on researching these drugs even before the drugs are available in pure form from the ordinary scientific suppliers,” Taffe said.In five other studies published over the past year, Taffe, Dickerson and their laboratories have looked at the effects of MDPV and a related “bath salts” cathinone derivative, mephedrone, in a range of animal models.Repetitive BehaviorsIn this new study, the researchers directly compared some of MDPV’s major stimulant effects to those of methamphetamine.In a standard method for evaluating stimulant drugs, the animals were able to dose themselves intravenously by pressing a lever. As is typical for addictive stimulants, the rats maintained a steady self-administration of each drug whenever they could. …

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The sounds of science: Melting of iceberg creates surprising ocean din

July 10, 2013 — There is growing concern about how much noise humans generate in marine environments through shipping, oil exploration and other developments, but a new study has found that naturally occurring phenomena could potentially affect some ocean dwellers.Nowhere is this concern greater than in the polar regions, where the effects of global warming often first manifest themselves. The breakup of ice sheets and the calving and grounding of icebergs can create enormous sound energy, scientists say. Now a new study has found that the mere drifting of an iceberg from near Antarctica to warmer ocean waters produces startling levels of noise.Results of the study are being published this month in Oceanography.A team led by Oregon State University researchers used an array of hydrophones to track the sound produced by an iceberg through its life cycle, from its origin in the Weddell Sea to its eventual demise in the open ocean. The goal of the project was to measure baseline levels of this kind of naturally occurring sound in the ocean, so it can be compared to anthropogenic noises.”During one hour-long period, we documented that the sound energy released by the iceberg disintegrating was equivalent to the sound that would be created by a few hundred supertankers over the same period,” said Robert Dziak, a marine geologist at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Ore., and lead author on the study.”This wasn’t from the iceberg scraping the bottom,” he added. “It was from its rapid disintegration as the berg melted and broke apart. We call the sounds ‘icequakes’ because the process and ensuing sounds are much like those produced by earthquakes.”Dziak is a scientist with the Cooperative Institute for Marine Resources Studies (CIMRS), a collaborative program between Oregon State University and NOAA based at OSU’s Hatfield center. He also is on the faculty of OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.When scientists first followed the iceberg, it encountered a 124-meter deep shoal, causing it to rotate and grind across the seafloor. It then began generating semi-continuous harmonic tremors for the next six days. The iceberg then entered Bransfield Strait and became fixed over a 265-meter deep shoal, where it began to pinwheel. The harmonic tremors became shorter and less pronounced.It wasn’t until the iceberg broke loose and drifted into the warmer waters of the Scotia Sea that the real action began. …

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Adverse effects of phthalates on ovarian response to IVF

July 8, 2013 — Egg donation is now one of the major reasons why couples travel abroad for fertility treatment. Because this growing trend may circumvent regulations at home or raise concerns about financial inducement, it has also become one of the most controversial. Yet little is known about the women who provide the donor eggs in overseas clinics — their characteristics, their motivation and their compensation.A study performed by ESHRE, which surveyed (by questionnaire) 1423 egg donors at 60 clinics in 11 European countries, has now found that the majority of donors are keen to help infertile couples for altruistic reasons, but a large proportion also expect a personal benefit, usually financial.(1,2)The study was performed during 2011 and 2012 by ESHRE’s Task Force on Cross-border Reproductive Care and European IVF Monitoring Consortium, with the results presented today by the chairman of the Task Force, Professor Guido Pennings of the Bioethics Institute Ghent, Belgium. The donor’s age proved an important factor in her motivation to donate. While the overall average age of the donors in this study was relatively young (27.4 years, ranging from 25.6 in Spain to 31 years in France), there was a significant effect of age on altruistic motives: 46% of the donors under 25 noted altruism alone as their motive compared to 79% of those over 35; 12% of those under 25 were purely financially motivated compared to 1% of those older than 35. The younger you are, apparently, the more is money a motivation.Among the donor groups identified in the study population were:Students (18% in Spain, 16% Finland, 13% Czech Republic) Unemployed (24% in Spain, 22% Ukraine, 17% Greece) Fully employed (75% in Belgium, 70% Poland, 28% Spain) Single women (50%+ in Spain and Portugal, 30% Greece) Other findings showed that around one-third of all study donors had a university degree, and around one half all donors had a child of their own. Why do donors go through a demanding IVF treatment cycle to donate eggs? The study firstly found that, while altruism was the principal motive overall, the majority of donors did receive financial compensation. “The fact that a person receives compensation or money does not mean that she is motivated by that money,” said Professor Pennings. However, the study made it clear that financial compensation is still an important motivation for many donors, especially in certain countries. …

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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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Targeted viral therapy destroys breast cancer stem cells in preclinical experiments

June 24, 2013 — A promising new treatment for breast cancer being developed at Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center and the VCU Institute of Molecular Medicine (VIMM) has been shown in cell culture and in animal models to selectively kill cancer stem cells at the original tumor site and in distant metastases with no toxic effects on healthy cells, including normal stem cells. Cancer stem cells are critical to a cancer’s ability to recur following conventional chemotherapies and radiation therapy because they can quickly multiply and establish new tumors that are often therapy resistant.The study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, focuses on a gene originally cloned in the laboratory of primary investigator Paul B. Fisher, M.Ph., Ph.D. The gene, melanoma differentiation associated gene-7 (mda-7), also known as interleukin (IL)-24, has been shown to directly impact two forms of cell suicide known as apoptosis and toxic autophagy, regulate the development of new blood vessels and also play a role in promoting cancer cell destruction by the immune system. In the present study, the researchers used a recombinant adenovirus vector, an engineered virus with modified genetic material, known as Ad.mda-7 to deliver the mda-7/IL-24 gene with its encoded protein directly to the tumor.”Therapy with the mda-7/IL-24 gene has been shown to be safe in a phase I clinical trial involving patients with advanced cancers, and prior studies in my laboratory and with collaborators have shown that the gene could also be effective against breast, prostate, lung, colorectal, ovarian, pancreatic and brain cancers,” says Fisher, Thelma Newmeyer Corman Endowed Chair in Cancer Research and co-leader of the Cancer Molecular Genetics program at VCU Massey, chairman of VCU School of Medicine’s Department of Human and Molecular Genetics and director of the VCU Institute of Molecular Medicine. “Our study demonstrates that this therapy may someday be an effective way to eradicate both early and advanced stage breast cancer, and could even be used to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence.”The researchers found that infection of human breast cancer cells with the adenovirus decreased the proliferation of breast cancer stem cells without affecting normal breast stem cells. It was also shown to induce a stress response in the cells that led to apoptosis by disrupting Wnt/B-catenin signaling, a process cells rely upon to transmit signals that initiate biological functions critical to survival. In mouse models, the therapy profoundly inhibited the growth of tumors generated from breast cancer stem cells and also killed cancer cells in distant, uninjected tumors.Since discovering the mda-7/IL-24 gene, Fisher and his team have worked to develop better ways to deliver it to cancer cells, including two cancer “terminator” viruses known as Ad.5-CTV and Ad.5/3-CTV. Cancer terminator viruses are unique because they are designed to replicate only within cancer cells while delivering immune-modulating and toxic genes such as MDA-7/IL-24. Coupled with a novel stealth delivery technique known as ultrasound-targeted microbubble destruction (UTMD), researchers can now systemically deliver viruses and therapeutic genes and proteins directly to tumors and their surrounding tissue (microenvironment) at both primary and metastatic tumor sites. …

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Austerity cuts to Spanish healthcare system are ‘putting lives at risk’, experts say

June 13, 2013 — A series of austerity reforms made by the Spanish government could lead to the effective dismantling of large parts of the country’s healthcare system, with potentially detrimental effects on the health of the Spanish people, according to new research published in BMJ.National budget cuts of 13.65% (€365m) and regional budget cuts of up to 10% to health and social care services in 2012 have coincided with increased demands on the health system, particularly affecting the elderly, disabled and those with poor mental health. The authors, led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, also highlight the increase in depression, alcohol related disorders and suicides in Spain since the financial crisis hit and unemployment increased.Spain already has one of the lowest public expenditures on healthcare for its GDP in the European Union. Further cuts of €1108m will be made to the dependency fund for elderly and disabled people in 2013, putting these vulnerable people even more at risk.Key changes made by the Spanish government include excluding undocumented immigrants from accessing free healthcare services and increasing co-payments that patients must make for extra treatments such as drugs, prosthetics, and some ambulance trips. Authorities with devolved powers in 17 regions across Spain have also been required to make further cuts. In Madrid and Catalonia this has led to a move towards privatisation of hospitals, increases in waiting times, cutbacks in emergency services and fewer surgical procedures.Lead author Dr Helena Legido-Quigley, Lecturer in Global Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “Our analysis is the first to look at the overall impact of austerity measures in Spain on the healthcare system and the findings are of great concern. Many of the measures taken to save money do not have a strong evidence-base. We are seeing detrimental effects on the health of the Spanish people and, if no corrective measures are implemented, this could worsen with the risk of increases in HIV and tuberculosis — as we have seen in Greece where healthcare services have had severe cuts­ — as well as the risk of a rise in drug resistance and spread of disease.”As part of the analysis, researchers conducted interviews with 34 doctors and nurses across Catalonia. Many reported feeling ‘shocked’, ‘numbed’ and ‘disillusioned’ about the cuts and expressed fears that ‘the cuts are going to kill people’. Some also raised concerns around the ‘clear intention to privatise and… make money on health and social services’ and made allegations of corruption and conflicts of interest.Co-author Martin McKee, Professor of European Public Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “For five years, policies to address the financial crisis have focussed almost entirely on economic indicators. …

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