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U-M researchers find those with severe H1N1 at risk for pulmonary emboli

Flu • • Respiratory ProblemsOct 14 09

University of Michigan researchers have found that patients with severe cases of the H1N1 virus are at risk for developing severe complications, including pulmonary emboli, according to a study published today in the American Journal of Roentgenology.

A pulmonary embolism occurs when one or more arteries in the lungs become blocked. The condition can be life-threatening. However, if treated aggressively, blood thinners can reduce the risk of death.
“The high incidence of pulmonary embolism is important. Radiologists have to be aware to look closely for the risks of pulmonary embolism in severely sick patients,” said Prachi P. Agarwal, M.D., assistant professor of radiology at the U-M Medical School and lead author of the study.

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Faulty gene may explain sudden deaths in epilepsy

Epilepsy • • GeneticsOct 14 09

A common gene that can cause abnormal heart rhythms can also trigger epileptic seizures in the brain and may explain the sudden, unexplained deaths that often occur in people with epilepsy, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday.

Testing epileptics for a mutation in this gene could give doctors the information they need to prevent some of these deaths, said Dr. Jeffrey Noebels of Baylor College of Medicine, whose study appears in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Doctors have long known that patients with a mutation in the gene KvLQT1—which makes structures called ion channels that regulate electrical activity in the heart—have a greater risk of sudden death from abnormal heart rhythms.

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Study charts links between mobile phones, tumors

Cancer • • Public HealthOct 14 09

Studies on whether mobile phones can cause cancer, especially brain tumors, vary widely in quality and there may be some bias in those showing the least risk, researchers reported on Tuesday.

So far it is difficult to demonstrate any link, although the best studies do suggest some association between mobile phone use and cancer, the team led by Dr. Seung-Kwon Myung of South Korea’s National Cancer Center found.

Myung and colleagues at Ewha Womans University and Seoul National University Hospital in Seoul and the University of California, Berkeley, examined 23 published studies of more than 37,000 people in what is called a meta-analysis.

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Relaxation Methods

NeurologyOct 14 09

For some people, relaxing is the last thing they have on their minds. They are too busy to take the time to relax. There are not enough hours in the day to allow the time to relax. Relaxation has gotten a bad name in the recent years. People tend look at relaxing as the lazy person’s activity. But in fact, relaxation is an important part of the regenerating process for the body. Most people lead very busy lives and feel that they can’t just sit down and relax even for fifteen minutes. They work each day, take care of a family and a home or go to school. Then they need to cook, clean, shop and enjoy a social life. When do they possibly have time to relax?

Relaxation does not have to take up a large portion of your day. By giving yourself just ten to fifteen minutes each day to relax, you are boosting your health. Relaxation does not mean napping. Many people confuse the two and believe that in order to relax, you need to take a nap. Relaxation means allowing yourself a few minutes to recoup and focus on you.

There are a lot of ways in which a person can relax. What works for you might not work for the next person. Try various methods and see what you like and what you don’t.

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Do Mobile Phone Radiations Affect the Human Body

Public HealthOct 14 09

Millions of Americans use the Mobile phone handsets as an integral part of their life. These Mobile Phones use the Electromagnetic Radio waves as the means of communication. There are several claims of these waves being energetic and harmful to the body. This article tries to gain further insight.

How Radio Waves Affect our Body: The Radio waves are placed on the extreme right corner of the electromagnetic spectrum. It is because they are the least energetic electromagnetic waves. Research shows that exposure to radio waves for long duration can only heat up the body tissues. The process of Thermoregulation in our body is competent enough to bring back the normalcy quickly. Apart from this aspect of mobile phone radiation, all the claims made are mostly speculations without credible research facts to substantiate. This fact is endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO) too. However, it is keeping a close look on this topic of Mobile Phone Radiation and Human Health. It established the International Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) Project to gather more scientific evidence on the possible health effects of electromagnetic waves on humans.

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Personalized Telephone Counselling Helps Teens Kick the Butt

Public Health • • Tobacco & MarijuanaOct 14 09

Intervention programmes dedicated to eliminating cigarette smoking among teenagers have shown promising results with the impact rate of six-month continuous quitting, say researchers.

The trial launched by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center could successfully recruit and retain a large number of adolescent smokers from the general population.

Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the study involved 2,151 teenage smokers. Half of the schools were randomly assigned to the experimental intervention; teens in these schools were invited to take part in confidential, personalized telephone counseling designed to help motivate them to quit.

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Why Are Most Nobel Laureates Americans? Or Are They Really?

Public HealthOct 14 09

Cash-rich US researchers have again dominated this year’s Nobel awards, but it seems identifying the nationality of laureates is not an exact science, and change may be on the way.

On the face of things, the United States would top an Olympic-style medals table of Nobel prize wins. Eleven of this year’s 13 laureates are citizens of the United States, winning five of the six Nobel awards up for grabs.

Even President Barack Obama pocketed a medal.

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White House blasts health insurance sector report

Public HealthOct 12 09

The White House Monday blasted a report from the health insurance industry that said Senate healthcare legislation would lead to increases in annual insurance premiums of as much as $4,000 by 2019.

The report for the industry trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans represented a shot across the bow at Democratic plans to overhaul the $2.5 trillion healthcare system as President Barack Obama has been gaining momentum on the issue.

A top goal of Obama in seeking to revamp healthcare is to rein in costs that have soared in recent decades. The report, prepared by consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers and posted on the industry group’s website over the weekend, said costs would increase for Americans rather than decline.

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Tiny chip can measure estrogen in breast tissue

Cancer • • Breast CancerOct 08 09

A new pocket-sized device may allow doctors to check a woman’s breast cancer risk in minutes with just droplets of blood or a sliver of breast tissue, Canadian researchers said on Wednesday.

They said the microchip device can measure levels of the hormone estrogen using far smaller samples than conventional methods, making it possible to quickly screen for breast cancer risk or check to see if breast cancer treatments are working.

“The new device is compatible with extremely small samples—around 1,000 times smaller than the amount needed for conventional analyses,” said Aaron Wheeler of the University of Toronto, whose study appears in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

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Radiation costs vary widely by delivery, U-M study finds

Cancer • • Breast CancerOct 08 09

When cancer spreads to the bone, radiation treatments can help relieve the pain caused by the tumor. But how best to deliver the radiation may vary widely from one oncologist to the next.

A new analysis from researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center shows cost also varies widely from one delivery method to the next. Costs can range from around $1,700 for a single treatment with conventional radiation techniques to more than $16,000 for four treatments using a system of radiation delivery called Cyberknife.

“Some of the technologies that have been shown to be safe and effective, but have not been shown to be superior, can cost up to 10 times what a single dose of conventionally delivered radiation costs,” says David D. Howell, M.D., assistant professor of radiation oncology at the U-M Medical School and medical director of radiation oncology at the Norval K. Morey Cancer Center in Mt. Pleasant, Mich., part of the U-M Radiation Oncology Network.

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PMH clinicians map group at high risk for aggressive, ‘hidden’ prostate cancer

Cancer • • Prostate CancerOct 08 09

Clinical researchers at Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) can now answer the question that baffles many clinicians – why do some men with elevated prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels who are carefully monitored and undergo repeated negative biopsies still develop aggressive prostate cancer?

The answer is hidden tumours located on the top of the prostate that evade traditional diagnostic procedures, including ultrasound-guided needle biopsy. The PMH research, published online today in the British Journal of Urology International (BJU 8938), demonstrates that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the best tool to reveal such tumours.

“Our findings identify a specific high-risk group whose tumours are difficult to diagnose because of location. These men benefit from MRI, which guides the biopsy procedure with a high degree of accuracy,” says author Dr. Nathan Lawrentschuk, Urologic Oncology Fellow, PMH Cancer Program, University Health Network. “The research team calls the clinical presentation of elevated PSA and repeated negative biopsy results in ‘prostate evasive anterior tumour syndrome’ (PEATS).”

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Too much of a good thing? Scientists explain cellular effects of vitamin A overdose and deficiency

Public HealthOct 08 09

If a little vitamin A is good, more must be better, right? Wrong! New research published online in the FASEB Journal (http://www.fasebj.org) shows that vitamin A plays a crucial role in energy production within cells, explaining why too much or too little has a complex negative effect on our bodies. This is particularly important as combinations of foods, drinks, creams, and nutritional supplements containing added vitamin A make an overdose more possible than ever before.

“Our work illuminates the value and potential harm of vitamin A use in cosmetic creams and nutritional supplements,” said Ulrich Hammerling, co-author of the study, from the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research in New York. “Although vitamin A deficiency is not very common in our society, over-use of this vitamin could cause significant disregulation of energy production impacting cell growth and cell death.”

Although the importance of vitamin A to human nutrition and fetal development is well-known, it has been unclear why vitamin A deficiencies and overdoses cause such widespread and profound harm to our organs, until now. The discovery by Hammerling and colleagues explains why these effects occur, while also providing insight into vitamin A’s anti-cancer effects. The scientists used cultures from both human and mice cells containing specific genetic modifications of the chemical pathways involved in mitochondrial energy production. The cells were then grown with and without vitamin A, and scientists examined the impact on the various steps of energy production. Results showed that retinol, the key component of vitamin A, is essential for the metabolic fitness of mitochondria and acts as a nutritional sensor for the creation of energy in cells. When there is too much or too little vitamin A, mitochondria do not function properly, wreaking havoc on our organs.

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Geisinger Physician to Chair Pediatric Obesity Symposium

Obesity • • Public HealthOct 08 09

William Cochran, M.D., vice chairman of Geisinger Health System’s Janet Weis Children’s Hospital, will chair and speak at a symposium on pediatric obesity and prevention on Oct. 17 in Washington, D.C., during the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“I am tremendously excited to represent Geisinger at this event,” Dr. Cochran said. “Childhood obesity is becoming an increasingly important topic to discuss, and this symposium will be a great opportunity for professionals to share findings and ideas on the issue.”

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Ethnic Background May Be Associated with Diabetes Risk

DiabetesOct 06 09

Fat and muscle mass, as potentially determined by a person’s ethnic background, may contribute to diabetes risk, according to a new study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM).

Obesity, a worldwide health concern, is associated with increased insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The prevalence of obesity is increasing in all populations across the globe, yet past research has found that body fat distribution varies widely among different ethnic groups. Researchers in this study investigated which ethnic groups were most likely to be at increased risk for diabetes due to higher total body fat and lower muscle mass.

“We know certain ethnic backgrounds show significant differences in amounts of body fat and lean mass,” said Scott Lear, PhD, of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada and lead author of the study.

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Future Diabetes Treatment May Use Resveratrol to Target the Brain

DiabetesOct 06 09

Resveratrol, a molecule found in red grapes, has been shown to improve diabetes when delivered orally to rodents. Until now, however, little has been known about how these beneficial changes are mediated in the body. A new study accepted for publication in Endocrinology, a journal of The Endocrine Society, shows that the brain plays a key role in mediating resveratrol’s anti-diabetic actions, potentially paving the way for future orally-delivered diabetes medications that target the brain.

Resveratrol activates sirtuins, a class of proteins that are thought to underlie many of the beneficial effects of calorie restriction. Previous studies in mice have provided compelling evidence that when sirtuins are activated by resveratrol, diabetes is improved. Sirtuin activators are now being tested in humans as anti-diabetic compounds.

Sirtuins are expressed virtually everywhere throughout the body and until now, little has been known about what tissues mediate resveratrol’s beneficial effects. Knowing where in the body the beneficial effects of activated sirtuins are mediated could help in the development of more effective targeted diabetes medications.

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