Adult tonsillectomy complications and health care expenses

A study released today of 36,210 adult tonsillectomy patients finds that 20 percent will have a complication, offering valuable new insights to a decades long discussion. The study, featured in the April 2014 issue of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery, examines the prevalence of complications in adult tonsillectomies and the impact on health care expenditures.”Researchers have been examining variation in tonsillectomy for years,” explained corresponding author, Dennis Scanlon, PhD. “Yet most research has been documented in pediatric populations. Much less is known about the safety and risks to adult patients that undergo the procedure.”The study is the first of its kind to examine a large adult population, across institutions and provider practices. Data for the study came from MarketScan, a large insurance database of patients with employer-sponsored insurance who had an outpatient tonsillectomy between 2002 and 2007. Previous studies have focused on small numbers of patients within particular institutions and have not considered a wider spectrum of complications beyond post-tonsillectomy hemorrhage. The findings suggest that of the 20 percent who will have a complication, 10 percent will visit an emergency room, and approximately 1.5 percent will be admitted to a hospital within 14 days of the procedure. Six percent were treated for postoperative hemorrhage, 2 percent for dehydration, and 11 percent for ear, nose or throat pain within 14 days of surgery. These estimated complication rates are significantly higher than those reported in prior studies.The study results highlight the challenges patients face when making informed decisions about medical and surgical treatments, as well as the excess costs and harm incurred due to complications. On average, the amount paid for a tonsillectomy without complication was $3,832 whereas tonsillectomy with hemorrhage resulted in an average expenditure of $6,388.”Patients expect to compare the risks and benefits of treatment options, but as our study shows, credible patient centered information is often lacking, even for a common procedure that has been in practice for many, many years. …

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Hearing loss affects old people’s personality

As people approach old age, they generally become less outgoing. New research from the University of Gothenburg shows that this change in personality is amplified among people with impaired hearing. The findings emphasise the importance of acknowledging and treating hearing loss in the elderly population.The researchers studied 400 individuals 80-98 years old over a six-year period. Every two years, the subjects were assessed in terms of physical and mental measures as well as personality aspects such as extraversion, which reflects the inclination to be outgoing, and emotional stability. The results show that even if the emotional stability remained constant over the period, the participants became less outgoing.Interestingly, the researchers were not able to connect the observed changes to physical and cognitive impairments or to age-related difficulties finding social activities. The only factor that could be linked to reduced extraversion was hearing loss.’To our knowledge, this is the first time a link between hearing and personality changes has been established in longitudinal studies. Surprisingly, we did not find that declining overall health and functional capacity make people less outgoing. But hearing loss directly affects the quality of social situations. If the perceived quality of social interaction goes down, it may eventually affect whether and how we relate to others,’ says Anne Ingeborg Berg, PhD, licensed psychologist and researcher at the Department of Psychology, University of Gothenburg.The study yields interesting knowledge about personality development late in life, and also points to the importance of acknowledging and treating hearing loss among the elderly.The utilisation of hearing aids did not affect the correlation found, which suggests that there is a need for support in the use of aids such as hearing devices.’Our previous studies have shown that outgoing individuals are happier with their lives. It is hypothesised that an outgoing personality reflects a positive approach to life, but it also probably shows how important it is for most people to share both joy and sadness with others. …

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New human trial shows stem cells are effective for failing hearts: Bone marrow-derived stem cells injected directly into heart muscle

Patients with severe ischemic heart disease and heart failure can benefit from a new treatment in which stem cells found in bone marrow are injected directly into the heart muscle, according to research presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 63rd Annual Scientific Session.”Our results show that this stem cell treatment is safe and it improves heart function when compared to placebo,” said Anders Bruun Mathiasen, M.D., research fellow in the Cardiac Catherization Lab at Rigshospitalet University Hospital Copenhagen, and lead investigator of the study. “This represents an exciting development that has the potential to benefit many people who suffer from this common and deadly disease.”Ischemic heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease, is the number one cause of death for both men and women in the United States. It results from a gradual buildup of plaque in the heart’s coronary arteries and can lead to chest pain, heart attack and heart failure.The study is the largest placebo-controlled double-blind randomized trial to treat patients with chronic ischemic heart failure by injecting a type of stem cell known as mesenchymal stromal cells directly into the heart muscle.Six months after treatment, patients who received stem cell injections had improved heart pump function compared to patients receiving a placebo. Treated patients showed an 8.2-milliliter decrease in the study’s primary endpoint, end systolic volume, which indicates the lowest volume of blood in the heart during the pumping cycle and is a key measure of the heart’s ability to pump effectively. The placebo group showed an increase of 6 milliliters in end systolic volume.The study included 59 patients with chronic ischemic heart disease and severe heart failure. Each patient first underwent a procedure to extract a small amount of bone marrow. Researchers then isolated from the marrow a small number of mesenchymal stromal cells and induced the cells to self-replicate. Patients then received an injection of either saline placebo or their own cultured mesenchymal stromal cells into the heart muscle through a catheter inserted in the groin.”Isolating and culturing the stem cells is a relatively straightforward process, and the procedure to inject the stem cells into the heart requires only local anesthesia, so it appears to be all-in-all a promising treatment for patients who have no other options,” Mathiasen said.Although there are other therapies available for patients with ischemic heart disease, these therapies do not help all patients and many patients continue to face fatigue, shortness of breath and accumulation of fluid in the lungs and legs.Previous studies have shown mesenchymal stromal cells can stimulate repair and regeneration in a variety of tissues, including heart muscle. Mathiasen said in the case of ischemic heart failure, the treatment likely works by facilitating the growth of new blood vessels and new heart muscle.The study also supports findings from previous, smaller studies, which showed reduced scar tissue in the hearts of patients who received the stem cell treatment, offering additional confirmation that the treatment stimulates the growth of new heart muscle cells.The researchers will continue to monitor the patients to assess their long-term outcomes.”We hope that the improvements in heart pump function will not only improve the patients’ symptoms but also will result in increased survival for these severely diseased patients,” Mathiasen said.A larger, Phase III clinical trial will be needed to move toward approval of this treatment as a more widely used therapy for ischemic heart failure.”Our results should offer sufficient evidence that a larger trial is indeed warranted as a next step,” Mathiasen said.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by American College of Cardiology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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A more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, methane emissions will leap as Earth warms

While carbon dioxide is typically painted as the bad boy of greenhouse gases, methane is roughly 30 times more potent as a heat-trapping gas. New research in the journal Nature indicates that for each degree that Earth’s temperature rises, the amount of methane entering the atmosphere from microorganisms dwelling in lake sediment and freshwater wetlands — the primary sources of the gas — will increase several times. As temperatures rise, the relative increase of methane emissions will outpace that of carbon dioxide from these sources, the researchers report.The findings condense the complex and varied process by which methane — currently the third most prevalent greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide and water vapor — enters the atmosphere into a measurement scientists can use, explained co-author Cristian Gudasz, a visiting postdoctoral research associate in Princeton’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. In freshwater systems, methane is produced as microorganisms digest organic matter, a process known as “methanogenesis.” This process hinges on a slew of temperature, chemical, physical and ecological factors that can bedevil scientists working to model how Earth’s systems will contribute, and respond, to a hotter future.The researchers’ findings suggest that methane emissions from freshwater systems will likely rise with the global temperature, Gudasz said. But to not know the extent of methane contribution from such a widely dispersed ecosystem that includes lakes, swamps, marshes and rice paddies leaves a glaring hole in climate projections.”The freshwater systems we talk about in our paper are an important component to the climate system,” Gudasz said. “There is more and more evidence that they have a contribution to the methane emissions. Methane produced from natural or humanmade freshwater systems will increase with temperature.”To provide a simple and accurate way for climate modelers to account for methanogenesis, Gudasz and his co-authors analyzed nearly 1,600 measurements of temperature and methane emissions from 127 freshwater ecosystems across the globe.The researchers found that a common effect emerged from those studies: freshwater methane generation very much thrives on high temperatures. Methane emissions at 0 degrees Celsius would rise 57 times higher when the temperature reached 30 degrees Celsius, the researchers report. For those inclined to model it, the researchers’ results translated to a temperature dependence of 0.96 electron volts (eV), an indication of the temperature-sensitivity of the methane-emitting ecosystems.”We all want to make predictions about greenhouse gas emissions and their impact on global warming,” Gudasz said. “Looking across these scales and constraining them as we have in this paper will allow us to make better predictions.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Princeton University. …

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Pesticides make the life of earthworms miserable

Pesticides are sprayed on crops to help them grow, but the effect on earthworms living in the soil under the plants is devastating, new research reveals: The worms only grow to half their normal weight and they do not reproduce as well as worms in fields that are not sprayed.Pesticides have a direct impact on the physiology and behavior of earthworms, a Danish/French research team reports after having studied earthworms that were exposed to pesticides over generations.”We see that the worms have developed methods to detoxify themselves, so that they can live in soil sprayed with fungicide. They spend a lot of energy on detoxifying, and that comes with a cost: The worms do not reach the same size as other worms, and we see that there are fewer of them in sprayed soil. An explanation could be that they are less successful at reproducing, because they spend their energy on ridding themselves of the pesticide,” the researchers, Ph. D. student Nicolas Givaudan and associate professor, Claudia Wiegand, say.Claudia Wiegand is from the Department of Biology at University of Southern Denmark, and she led the research together with Francoise Binet from University Rennes 1 in France. Nicolas Givaudan is doing his Ph. D. as a joint degree between University of Southern Denmark and University of Rennes 1 in France. They researchers reached their findings by metabolomic profiling and energetic parameters.The researchers set up an experiment to study the behavior of the earthworm species Aporectodea caliginosa. They moved two portions of farmed soil with worms into the lab. …

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Life lessons: Children learn aggressive ways of thinking and behaving from violent video games

Children who repeatedly play violent video games are learning thought patterns that will stick with them and influence behaviors as they grow older, according to a new study by Iowa State University researchers. The effect is the same regardless of age, gender or culture. Douglas Gentile, an associate professor of psychology and lead author of the study published in JAMA Pediatrics, says it is really no different than learning math or to play the piano.”If you practice over and over, you have that knowledge in your head. The fact that you haven’t played the piano in years doesn’t mean you can’t still sit down and play something,” Gentile said. “It’s the same with violent games — you practice being vigilant for enemies, practice thinking that it’s acceptable to respond aggressively to provocation, and practice becoming desensitized to the consequences of violence.”Researchers found that over time children start to think more aggressively. And when provoked at home, school or in other situations, children will react much like they do when playing a violent video game. Repeated practice of aggressive ways of thinking appears to drive the long-term effect of violent games on aggression.”Violent video games model physical aggression,” said Craig Anderson, Distinguished Professor of psychology and director of the Center for the Study of Violence at Iowa State and co-author of the report. “They also reward players for being alert to hostile intentions and for using aggressive behavior to solve conflicts. Practicing such aggressive thinking in these games improves the ability of the players to think aggressively. In turn, this habitual aggressive thinking increases their aggressiveness in real life.”The study followed more than 3,000 children in third, fourth, seventh and eighth grades for three years. …

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Ruling with an iron fist could make your child pack on pounds

If you’re rigid with rules and skimpy on affection and dialogue with your kids, they have a greater chance of being obese, according to research presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology & Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity & Metabolism Scientific Sessions 2014.Researchers followed a nationally representative group of 37,577 Canadian children aged 0 to 11. They compared kids whose parents are generally affectionate, have reasonable discussions about behavior with their child and set healthy boundaries (authoritative) with those whose parents were strict about limits without much dialogue or affection (authoritarian).The latter group had a 30 percent higher chance of being obese among kids 2 to 5 years old and a 37 percent higher chance among kids 6 to 11 years.”Parents should at least be aware of their parenting style,” said Lisa Kakinami, Ph.D., a post-doctoral epidemiologist at McGill University in Montreal. “If you’re treating your child with a balance of affection and limits — these are the kids who are least likely to be obese.”Researchers compared parents’ answers to a cross-sectional survey. They then categorized parenting styles and analyzed them with respect to children’s body mass index (BMI) percentile.Researchers also found that poverty was associated with childhood obesity. But parenting style affected obesity regardless of income level.More than one-third of American children are overweight or obese according to the American Heart Association. Exploring factors at home that may be fueling this public health concern could lead to better prevention and interventions, Kakinami said.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by American Heart Association. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Harnessing everyday motion to power mobile devices

Imagine powering your cell phone by simply walking around your office or rubbing it with the palm of your hand. Rather than plugging it into the wall, you become the power source. Researchers at the 247th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) presented these commercial possibilities and a unique vision for green energy.The meeting, attended by thousands of scientists, features more than 10,000 reports on new advances in science and other topics. It is being held at the Dallas Convention Center and area hotels through Thursday.Zhong Lin Wang, Ph.D., and his team, including graduate student Long Lin who presented the work, have set out to transform the way we look at mechanical energy. Conventional energy sources have so far relied on century-old science that requires scattered, costly power plants and a grid to distribute electricity far and wide.”Today, coal, natural gas and nuclear power plants all use turbine-engine driven, electromagnetic-induction generators,” Wang explained. “For a hundred years, this has been the only way to convert mechanical energy into electricity.”But a couple of years ago, Wang’s team at the Georgia Institute of Technology was working on a miniature generator based on an energy phenomenon called the piezoelectric effect, which is electricity resulting from pressure. But to their surprise, it produced more power than expected. They investigated what caused the spike and discovered that two polymer surfaces in the device had rubbed together, producing what’s called a triboelectric effect — essentially what most of us know as static electricity.Building on that fortuitous discovery, Wang then developed the first triboelectric nanogenerator, or “TENG.” He paired two sheets of different materials together — one donates electrons, and the other accepts them. When the sheets touch, electrons flow from one to the other. When the sheets are separated, a voltage develops between them.Since his lab’s first publication on TENG in 2012, they have since boosted the power output density by a factor of 100,000, with the output power density reaching 300 Watts per square meter. …

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Promising results with local hyperthermia of tumors

A combination of iron-oxide nanoparticles and an alternating magnetic field, which together generate heat, have activated an immune system response to tumors in mice according to an accepted manuscript by Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Center researchers in the journal Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine released online on February 24, 2014.“The study demonstrates that controlled heating of one tumor can stimulate an immune response that attacks another tumor that has not had the heat treatment,” said Steve Fiering, PhD, Norris Cotton Cancer Center researcher and professor of Microbiology and Immunology, and of Genetics at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. “This is one way to try to train the immune system to attack metastatic tumors that may not be recognized yet.”Researchers injected iron-oxide nanoparticles into the tumor and then activated those agents with magnetic energy. Researchers were able to activate antigen-presenting dendritic cells in the body’s immune system. Dendritic cells somewhat serve as “quarterbacks” for body’s immune system by calling for quick coordinated protection against an attack. The “quarterback” cells show the defensive “killer” T cells (CD8+ cells) who to attack and these cells then directly attack tumor cells and send out an alert system to engage other cells in the fight against the cancer. The combination of these two aspects of the immune response reduce risk of recurrence and discourage spreading or metastasis of the cancer. This result was observed in sites close to the primary tumor as well as distant sites. In the experiments conducted as part of this study the primary tumor resisted regrowth for one month following overheating.The magnetic hyperthermia system used was developed by co-author P. Jack Hoopes, DVM, PhD co-director of Norris Cotton Cancer Center’s Nanotechnology Working Group. “It enables very precise control of the heating to keep the temperature at a uniform 43 degrees C for as long as desired,” said Fiering. …

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3-D imaging sheds light on Apert syndrome development

Three dimensional imaging of two different mouse models of Apert Syndrome shows that cranial deformation begins before birth and continues, worsening with time, according to a team of researchers who studied mice to better understand and treat the disorder in humans.Apert Syndrome is caused by mutations in FGFR2 — fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 — a gene, which usually produces a protein that functions in cell division, regulation of cell growth and maturation, formation of blood vessels, wound healing, and embryonic development. With certain mutations, this gene causes the bones in the skull to fuse together early, beginning in the fetus. These mutations also cause mid-facial deformation, a variety of neural, limb and tissue malformations and may lead to cognitive impairment.Understanding the growth pattern of the head in an individual, the ability to anticipate where the bones will fuse and grow next, and using simulations “could contribute to improved patient-centered outcomes either through changes in surgical approach, or through more realistic modeling and expectation of surgical outcome,” the researchers said in today’s (Feb. 28) issue of BMC Developmental Biology.Joan T. Richtsmeier, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, Penn State, and her team looked at two sets of mice, each having a different mutation that causes Apert Syndrome in humans and causes similar cranial problems in the mice. They checked bone formation and the fusing of sutures, soft tissue that usually exists between bones n the skull, in the mice at 17.5 days after conception and at birth — 19 to 21 days after conception.”It would be difficult, actually impossible, to observe and score the exact processes and timing of abnormal suture closure in humans as the disease is usually diagnosed after suture closure has occurred,” said Richtsmeier. “With these mice, we can do this at the anatomical level by visualizing the sutures prenatally using micro-computed tomography — 3-D X-rays — or at the mechanistic level by using immunohistochemistry, or other approaches to see what the cells are doing as the sutures close.”The researchers found that both sets of mice differed in cranial formation from their littermates that were not carrying the mutation and that they differed from each other. They also found that the changes in suture closure in the head progressed from 17.5 days to birth, so that the heads of newborn mice looked very different at birth than they did when first imaged prenatally.Apert syndrome also causes early closure of the sutures between bones in the face. Early fusion of bones of the skull and of the face makes it impossible for the head to grow in the typical fashion. The researchers found that the changed growth pattern contributes significantly to continuing skull deformation and facial deformation that is initiated prenatally and increases over time.”Currently, the only option for people with Apert syndrome is rather significant reconstructive surgery, sometimes successive planned surgeries that occur throughout infancy and childhood and into adulthood,” said Richtsmeier. …

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Bisphenol A (BPA) at very low levels can adversely affect developing organs in primates

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical that is used in a wide variety of consumer products, such as resins used to line metal food and beverage containers, thermal paper store receipts, and dental composites. BPA exhibits hormone-like properties, and exposure of fetuses, infants, children or adults to the chemical has been shown to cause numerous abnormalities, including cancer, as well as reproductive, immune and brain-behavior problems in rodents. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have determined that daily exposure to very low concentrations of BPA by pregnant females also can cause fetal abnormalities in primates.”BPA is an endocrine disrupting chemical that has been demonstrated to alter signaling mechanisms involving estrogen, androgen and thyroid hormones,” said Frederick vom Saal, Curators Professor of Biological Sciences in the College of Arts and Science at MU. “Previous studies in rodents have demonstrated that maternal exposure to very low doses of BPA can significantly alter fetal development, resulting in a variety of adverse outcomes in the fetus. Our study is one of the first to show this also happens in primates.”Although BPA is considered a toxic chemical in other countries such as Canada, the U.S. has been slow to address the issue, said vom Saal. Until now, most studies involving BPA have been conducted on laboratory mice and rats, leading U.S. regulatory agencies to call for studies in primates. With funding provided by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), a research institute of the National Institutes of Health, vom Saal and his colleagues studied the chemical’s blood levels in pregnant female rhesus monkeys and their fetuses, which are considered to be very similar to human fetuses.After collecting tissue samples, other researchers analyzed the tissues to determine if BPA exposure was harmful to fetal development. Researchers found evidence of significant adverse effects in mammary glands, ovaries, brain, uterus, lung and heart tissues in BPA exposed fetus when compared to fetuses not exposed to BPA. …

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Smellizing — Imagining a Product’s Smell — Increases Consumer Desire

Seeing is believing, but smellizing — a new term for prompting consumers to imagine the smell of a product — could be the next step toward more effective advertising. Researchers came to this conclusion through four studies of products most of us would like to smellize: cookies and cake.Professor of Marketing Maureen Morrin of Temple University’s Fox School of Business co-authored Smellizing Cookies and Salivating: A Focus on Olfactory Imagery to examine the impact imagining what a food smells like would have on consumer behavior.”Before we started this project, we looked for print ads that asked consumers to imagine the smell of the product, and we found none,” Morrin said. “We think it’s because advertisers don’t think it’ll actually do anything.”But researchers found that smellizing — imagining a smell — increased consumers’ desire to consume and purchase advertised food products.Consumers’ response to advertised food products was measured over several studies that looked at the effect of smellizing on salivation, desire and actual food consumption. The researchers found that imagining what a tasty food smells like increases these types of responses only when the consumer also sees a picture of the advertised product.Participants who looked at print advertisements were prompted by questions such as: Fancy a freshly baked cookie?; Feel like a chocolate cake?; and Feel like a freshly baked cookie? Look for these in a store near you.Morrin found that these types of headlines had a positive impact on desire to consume the product, if they were accompanied by a call to also imagine the smell of the food. This positive impact was strongest when the image of the product could be seen at the same time study participants imagined the smell.According to the study, olfactory imagery processing is different from that of the other senses, especially vision.”It has been shown, for example, that although individuals can discriminate among thousands of different odors and are reasonably good at detecting odors they have smelled before, they are quite poor at identifying the odors they smell,” the study said. “That is, individuals often have difficulty stating just what it is they happen to be smelling at any particular moment, unless they can see the odor referent.”This may be why a picture is so important in activating the effects of smellizing.When asked (versus not being asked) to imagine a scent with a visual, participants’ salivation increased by .36 to .39 grams in two of the studies. In another study, when asked to imagine a scent with a visual, participants consumed 5.3 more grams of the advertised cookies. These effects depended on seeing the advertised food while imaging its smell.The researchers also found that actually smelling the advertised products was even more effective on the various measures of consumer response than merely imagining the smells. But it’s not always feasible to present consumers with product odors in advertisements.According to Morrin, advertisers are not adequately tapping into the power of the sense of smell when developing promotional messages to encourage consumers to buy their products.Morrin’s study, co-authored with Aradhna Krishna of the University of Michigan and Eda Sayin of Ko University in Turkey, appears in the Journal of Consumer Research (PDF).Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Temple University. …

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Clutter cutter: Computer modeling used to understand how messy cells contribute to cancer

Life can be messy at all scales, requiring different organizational strategies — from cleaning the house, to removing damaged or expired cells from the body to avoid cancer progression.In a messy house, people use computers to manage paper and photo clutter; companies use computer systems to track their inventory. Now a team of researchers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., is taking a similar approach to cell-molecular inventory control for cancer. They have created computer models, using their programming framework (PySB), which enable them to explore the complex biochemical processes that drive cancer growth.”Our hypothesis is that understanding how the cell uses their protein inventory will lead to understanding why cells dysregulate and become carcinogenic. We expect model outputs will lead to novel, targeted cancer therapies — possibly by 2019,” explained researcher Carlos F. Lopez, who will present the work at the 58th annual Biophysical Society Meeting in San Francisco, Feb.15-19.Lopez is interested in understanding how cells in multicellular organisms engage programmed cell death — so-called “cell suicide” — for cellular removal. It is a natural part of many cells’ life cycle.When cancer cells avoid programmed cell death, uncontrolled growth fuels tumor progression. The Vanderbilt team expects their computer models to identify what goes wrong in these cases, at a speed and scale never before possible. Lopez noted: “We are bridging the nanoscale molecular-level biochemical interactions with the macroscale cancer tumor outcomes, which is a huge range in scales. Most people don’t realize this, but molecular chemical reactions at the nanometer and nanosecond level affect things that happen at the timescale level of years — nine orders of magnitude in space and time! For comparison, a nanosecond is to a second like a second is to one century.”Rather than listing the cellular biochemical reactions by hand, PySB enables the researchers to “write” the biochemical cellular processes as computer programs. …

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Almost 13 million smoking deaths could be prevented in China by 2050

China is home to about one third of the world’s smokers and reducing smoking in China could have an enormous public health impact, even on a global scale.Even though China raised the tax on tobacco products in 2009, this did not translate to higher retail prices for consumers and the only ban that has been enforced is on public transport. WHO went on to publish a report in 2011 which stated that there were multiple opportunities to improve tobacco control.Using a version of the SimSmoke Tobacco Control Policy model (a model of tobacco smoking prevalence and smoking-related deaths), populated with data from China, researchers from Spain, France and the US estimated the potential health impact of this programme in China from 2015 — 2050.Under current policies, a total of over 50 million deaths due to smoking were estimated from 2012 to 2050.Projecting the status quo scenario forward, the researchers estimate that active smoking in males would fall from 51.3% in 2015 to 46.5% by 2050 — and in females from 2.1% in 2015 to 1.3% in 2050In 2015, the estimated number of deaths from smoking was about one million (932,000 for males and 79,000 for females). In males, annual deaths were expected to peak at 1.5 million in 2040, but then drop to 1.4 million by 2050. In females, annual deaths from smoking were estimated to be 49,000 in 2040 and 42,000 by 2050.Relative to the status quo scenario, increasing cigarette taxes to 75% of the package price was estimated to reduce smoking prevalence by almost 10% for both males and females by 2015. By 2050, smoking prevalence showed a reduction of 13% for males and 12% for females. The researchers estimate that between 2015 and 2050, this tax would save approximately 3.5 million lives.Smoke-free air laws and a well enforced marketing ban also showed “potent and immediate” effects. Comprehensive smoke-free air laws were estimated to show a 9% reduction in smoking rates by 2015, increasing to about a 10% reduction in 2050, potentially averting around 3.4 million deaths. A comprehensive marketing ban would reduce smoking prevalence by about 4% and avert just over two million deaths by 2050.A high intensity tobacco control campaign would lead to a 2.5% relative decline in smoking rates by 2015 and prevent 1.1 million deaths due to smoking by 2050, while stronger health warnings were projected to yield a relative 2.3% reduction in smoking rates by 2050.The researchers estimate that complete implementation of the WHO framework “would lead to as much as a 34% relative reduction in male smoking prevalence by 2020, and a 41% reduction by 2050.” They say, despite the lag time expected between reductions in current smoking and declines in smoking attributable deaths, nearly half a million annual tobacco related deaths could be averted yearly by 2050.These estimates suggest that substantial health gains could be made, say the authors — a 40% relative reduction in smoking prevalence and almost 13 million smoking attributable deaths averted and more than 154 million life years gained by 2050 — by extending effective public health and clinical interventions to reduce active smoking. They add that these policies would be cost effective and say that “without the implementation of the complete set of stronger policies, the death and disability legacy of current smoking will endure for decades in China.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by BMJ-British Medical Journal. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Zebrafish neurons may lead to understanding of birth defects like spina bifida

The zebrafish, a tropical freshwater fish similar to a minnow and native to the southeastern Himalayan region, is well established as a key tool for researchers studying human diseases, including brain disorders. Using zebrafish, scientists can determine how individual neurons develop, mature and support basic functions like breathing, swallowing and jaw movement. Researchers at the University of Missouri say that learning about neuronal development and maturation in zebrafish could lead to a better understanding of birth defects such as spina bifida in humans.”We are studying how neurons move to their final destinations,” said Anand Chandrasekhar, professor of biological sciences and a researcher in the Bond Life Sciences Center at MU. “It’s especially critical in the nervous system because these neurons are generating circuits similar to what you might see in computers. If those circuits don’t form properly, and if different types of neurons don’t end up in the right locations, the behavior and survival of the animal will be compromised.”The scientists studied zebrafish embryos, which are nearly transparent, making internal processes easy to observe. Using modified zebrafish expressing green fluorescent jellyfish protein, Chandrasekhar and his team were able to track neuronal migration.”This approach is used extensively to visualize a group of cells,” Chandrasekhar said. “In our study, clusters of green cells glowed and indicated where motor neurons were located in the brain. Some groupings are shaped like sausages while others are round, but each cluster of 50 to150 cells sends out signals to different groups of jaw muscles.”These motor neurons that Chandrasekhar studied are located in the hindbrain, which corresponds to the human brainstem and controls gill and jaw movement in these tiny fish. Genes controlling the development and organization of these neurons in zebrafish are functionally similar to genes in higher vertebrates including mammals.Chandrasekhar’s work contributes to a better understanding of how neuronal networks are organized and “wired” during development. These studies also may provide insight into birth defects like spina bifida, which affects 1 in every 2,000 births, according to the National Institutes of Health.”One of the hallmarks of spina bifida is an open neural tube in the spinal cord,” Chandrasekhar said. …

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New blood cells fight brain inflammation

Hyperactivity of our immune system can cause a state of chronic inflammation. If chronic, the inflammation will affect our body and result in disease. In the devastating disease multiple sclerosis, hyperactivity of immune cells called T-cells induce chronic inflammation and degeneration of the brain. Researchers at BRIC, the University of Copenhagen, have identified a new type of regulatory blood cells that can combat such hyperactive T-cells in blood from patients with multiple sclerosis. By stimulating the regulatory blood cells, the researchers significantly decreased the level of brain inflammation and disease in a biological model. The results are published in the journal Nature Medicine.Molecule activate anti-inflammatory blood cellsThe new blood cells belong to the group of our white blood cells called lymphocytes. The cells express a molecule called FoxA1 that the researchers found is responsible for the cells’ development and suppressive functions.”We knew that some unidentified blood cells were able to inhibit multiple sclerosis-like disease in mice and through gene analysis we found out, that these cells are a subset of our lymphocytes expressing the gene FoxA1. Importantly, when inserting FoxA1 into normal lymphocytes with gene therapy, we could change them to actively regulate inflammation and inhibit multiple sclerosis, explains associated professor Yawei Liu leading the experimental studies.Activating own blood cells for treatment of diseaseFoxA1 expressing lymphocytes were not known until now, and this is the first documentation of their importance in controlling multiple sclerosis. The number of people living with this devastating disease around the world has increased by 10 percent in the past five years to 2.3 million. It affects women twice more than men and no curing treatment exists. …

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Benefits of high-dose vitamin C for ovarian cancer patients

Scientists at the University of Kansas Medical Center have determined that high doses of vitamin C, administered intravenously with traditional chemotherapy, helped kill cancer cells while reducing the toxic effects of chemotherapy for some cancer patients.By evaluating the therapy in cells, animals, and humans, the researchers found that a combination of infused vitamin C and the conventional chemotherapy drugs carboplatin and paclitaxel stopped ovarian cancer in the laboratory, and reduced chemotherapy-associated toxicity in patients with ovarian cancer. The results of their study have been published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.”In the 1970s, ascorbate, or vitamin C, was an unorthodox therapy for cancer. It was safe, and there were anecdotal reports of its clinical effectiveness when given intravenously. But after oral doses proved ineffective in two cancer clinical trials, conventional oncologists abandoned the idea. Physicians practicing complementary and alternative medicine continued to use it, so we felt further study was in order,” explains the study’s senior author, Qi Chen, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in KU Medical Center’s Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Therapeutics and the Department of Integrative Medicine. “What we’ve discovered is that, because of its pharmacokinetic differences, intravenous vitamin C, as opposed to oral vitamin C, kills some cancer cells without harming normal tissues.”The researchers’ clinical trial involved 27 patients with newly diagnosed Stage 3 or Stage 4 ovarian cancer. All of the participants received conventional therapy with paclitaxel or carboplatin, while some were also treated with high-dose intravenous vitamin C. Researchers monitored the participants for five years. Those patients who received vitamin C tended to experience fewer toxic effects from the chemotherapy drugs.In laboratory rodents, the scientists observed that vitamin C was able to kill cancer cells at the concentrations achievable only by intravenous infusion, with no observable toxicity or pathological changes in the liver, kidney or spleen.Collaborating on the study at KU Medical Center were postdoctoral fellow Yan Ma and graduate student Kishore Polireddy in the Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Therapeutics; Jeanne Drisko, M.D., director of the Integrative Medicine program; and Julia Chapman, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Collaborating with the team was Mark Levine, M.D., at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.High-dose vitamin C is currently administered intravenously to thousands of patients by practitioners of complementary and alternative medicine. …

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Is zinc the missing link for osteoarthritis therapies?

Osteoarthritis is a leading cause of disability, characterized by the destruction of cartilage tissue in joints, but there is a lack of effective therapies because the underlying molecular causes have been unclear. A study published by Cell Press February 13th in the journal Cell reveals that osteoarthritis-related tissue damage is caused by a molecular pathway that is involved in regulating and responding to zinc levels inside of cartilage cells. A protein called ZIP8 transports zinc inside these cells, setting off a cascade of molecular events that result in the destruction of cartilage tissue in mice. The findings could lead to a new generation of therapies for osteoarthritis.”No evidence available to date clearly indicated that zinc plays a causal role in osteoarthritis,” says senior study author Jang-Soo Chun of the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology. “In our study, we revealed the entire series of molecular events in the osteoarthritis zinc pathway, from zinc influx into cells to cartilage destruction.”When the cartilage breaks down in osteoarthritis, the bones rub together, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness. This tissue destruction is caused by proteins called matrix-degrading enzymes, which are produced by cartilage cells and are the key culprits responsible for degrading the extracellular matrix — the structural support system that surrounds cells and holds them together. Because matrix-degrading enzymes require zinc to function, Chun and his team suspected that zinc levels inside of cartilage cells may play a role in osteoarthritis.To test this idea, the researchers first examined cartilage from osteoarthritis patients as well as a mouse model of the disease. They found abnormally high levels of a protein called ZIP8, which is embedded in the plasma membrane of cartilage cells and is involved in transporting zinc inside of these cells from the outside environment. Zinc influx through ZIP8 activated a protein called metal-regulatory transcription factor-1 (MTF1), which in turn increased levels of matrix-degrading enzymes in cartilage cells. Through genetic experiments in mice, the researchers showed that this zinc-ZIP8-MTF1 pathway plays a key role in causing osteoarthritis-related cartilage destruction.”Our findings suggest that local depletion of zinc or pharmacological inhibition of ZIP8 function or MTF1 activity in cartilage tissue would be effective therapeutic approaches for the treatment of osteoarthritis,” Chun says. …

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Revision to rules for color in dinosaurs suggests connection between color and physiology

New research that revises the rules allowing scientists to decipher color in dinosaurs may also provide a tool for understanding the evolutionary emergence of flight and changes in dinosaur physiology prior to its origin.In a survey comparing the hair, skin, fuzz and feathers of living terrestrial vertebrates and fossil specimens, a research team from The University of Texas at Austin, the University of Akron, the China University of Geosciences and four other Chinese institutions found evidence for evolutionary shifts in the rules that govern the relationship between color and the shape of pigment-containing organelles known as melanosomes, as reported in the Feb. 13 edition of Nature.At the same time, the team unexpectedly discovered that ancient maniraptoran dinosaurs, paravians, and living mammals and birds uniquely shared the evolutionary development of diverse melanosome shapes and sizes. (Diversity in the shape and size of melanosomes allows scientists to decipher color.) The evolution of diverse melanosomes in these organisms raises the possibility that melanosome shape and size could yield insights into dinosaur physiology.Melanosomes have been at the center of recent research that has led scientists to suggest the colors of ancient fossil specimens covered in fuzz or feathers.Melanosomes contain melanin, the most common light-absorbing pigment found in animals. Examining the shape of melanosomes from fossil specimens, scientists have recently suggested the color of several ancient species, including the fuzzy first-discovered feathered dinosaur Sinosauropteryx, and feathered species like Microraptor and Anchiornis.According to the new research, color-decoding works well for some species, but the color of others may be trickier than thought to reconstruct.Comparing melanosomes of 181 extant specimens, 13 fossil specimens and all previously published data on melanosome diversity, the researchers found that living turtles, lizards and crocodiles, which are ectothermic (commonly known as cold-blooded), show much less diversity in the shape of melanosomes than birds and mammals, which are endothermic (warm-blooded, with higher metabolic rates).The limited diversity in melanosome shape among living ectotherms shows little correlation to color. The same holds true for fossil archosaur specimens with fuzzy coverings scientists have described as “protofeathers” or “pycnofibers.” In these specimens, melanosome shape is restricted to spherical forms like those in modern reptiles, throwing doubt on the ability to decipher the color of these specimens from fossil melanosomes.In contrast, in the dinosaur lineage leading to birds, the researchers found an explosion in the diversity of melanosome shape and size that appears to correlate to an explosion of color within these groups. The shift in diversity took place abruptly, near the origin of pinnate feathers in maniraptoran dinosaurs.”This points to a profound change at a pretty discrete point,” says author Julia Clarke of The University of Texas at Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences. “We’re seeing an explosion of melanosome diversity right before the origin of flight associated with the origin of feathers.”What surprised the researchers was a similarity in the pattern of melanosome diversity among ancient maniraptoran dinosaurs, paravians, and living mammals and birds.”Only in living, warm-blooded vertebrates that independently evolved higher metabolic rates do we see the melanosome diversity we also see in feathered dinosaurs,” said co-author Matthew Shawkey of The University of Akron.Many of the genes involved in the melanin color system are also involved in other core processes such as food intake, the stress axis, and reproductive behaviors. Because of this, note the researchers, it is possible that the evolution of diverse melanosome shapes is linked to larger changes in energetics and physiology.Melanosome shape could end up offering a new tool for studying endothermy in fossil specimens, a notoriously challenging subject for paleontologists.Because the explosion of diversity in melanosomes appears to have taken place right at the origin of pinnate feathers, the change may indicate that a key shift in dinosaurian physiology occurred prior to the origin of flight.”We are far from understanding the exact nature of the shift that may have occurred,” says Clarke. “But if changes in genes involved in both coloration and other aspects of physiology explain the pattern we see, these precede flight and arise close to the origin of feathers.”It is possible, notes Clarke, that a diversity in melanosome shape (and correlated color changes) resulted from an increased evolutionary role for signaling and sexual selection that had a carryover effect on physiology, or that a change in physiology closely preceded changes in color patterning. At this point, she stresses, both ideas are speculative.”What is interesting is that trying to get at color in extinct animals may have just started to give us some insights into changes in the physiology of dinosaurs.”

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Eat spinach or eggs for faster reflexes: Tyrosine helps you stop faster

A child suddenly runs out into the road. Brake!! A driver who has recently eaten spinach or eggs will stop faster, thanks to the amino acid tyrosine found in these and other food products. Leiden cognitive psychologist Lorenza Colzato publishes her findings in the journal Neuropsychologia.The German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach has already said it: Der Mensch ist was er iβt. You are what you eat. Substances that we ingest through our food can determine our behaviour and the way we experience our environment. Researchers at Leiden University and the University of Amsterdam have carried out the first-ever study to test whether the intake of tyrosine enhances our ability to stop an activity at lightning speed. The findings seem to indicate that this is the case.Stopping taskColzato and her colleagues created a situation in which test candidates had to interrupt a repetitive activity at a given instant. The researchers tested this using a stopping task: the participants were told to look carefully at a computer screen. Whenever a green arrow appeared, they had to press a button as quickly as possible. …

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