Friday, October 7, 2011
I will leave the posts from this site up for a few months; however, no new posts will be appearing.
I look forward to your comments.
Friday, September 30, 2011
An Apple a Day Really May Keep the Doctor Away Fruits and vegetables with white flesh associated with drop in stroke risk, study finds
Friday, September 23, 2011
Saturday, September 17, 2011
8:00AM BST 11 Sep 2011
It is one of the signs of reaching middle-age: the need to wear reading glasses.An estimated 23 million Britons suffer from presbyopia, or age-related longsightedness.Now a revolutionary new treatment, involving an operation to insert a plastic implant into the eye, could allow millions to abandon their spectacles.
Saturday, September 10, 2011
The study, released today in the journal PLoS Medicine, looked at data on alcohol consumption among 121,700 femalenurses who were part of the Nurses' Health Study. Of those participants, 13,894 lived to the age of 70 or older. Among them, 1,491 were considered to have aged successfully, defined as having no heart disease, diabetes or other chronic diseases, and no substantial cognitive declines, mental impairment or physical limitations at age 70 and older.
Among the study participants, about one-fourth were non-drinkers, about 62% drank one drink per day, almost 10% drank one to two drinks per day, and 3% drank two to three drinks per day.
Overall, moderate drinking was linked with having better odds of successful aging. Looking at both the amount and frequency of drinking, women who drank five or more grams of alcohol (between one-third and one drink) per day and spread their drinking out over three to seven days a week had better odds of successful aging compared with non-drinkers.
Looking just at frequency, researchers found that spreading out drinking throughout the week was linked with better general health, but drinking just one to two days a week was not.
Compared with teetotalers, women who drank several days out of the week had a 50% better chance of overall good health later in life.
Friday, September 2, 2011
The results come from a meta-analysis released online Monday in the British Medical Journal. Researchers from the United Kingdom and Colombia focused on seven studies looking at the link between eating chocolate and a reduction in heart disease that included 114,009 people.
Of those seven, five showed an association between higher levels of chocolate consumption and a lowered risk of cardiometabolic illness. The highest levels were linked with a 37% drop in cardiovascular disease and a 29% reduction in stroke, compared to the lowest levels. There was no significant association seen between chocolate consumption and heart failure, and only one study drew a link between eating chocolate and a lowered risk of diabetes. None of the studies, including the meta-analysis, were funded by a chocolate company or a related industry.
But before you dash to the supermarket to buy that five-pound bag of M&Ms, the study authors caution about eating chocolate with abandon. After all, they point out, chocolate isn't exactly calorie-free. Although the participants in the studies ate a variety of chocolate products, including chocolate bars, drinks, nutritional supplements and desserts, all chocolate is not created equal, and eating too much of the stuff that's filled with fat and sugar can put on pounds, possibly upping the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes -- the very stuff that can lead to cardiovascular problems.
The study authors noted that among the studies there was no obvious dose-response relationship between chocolate and the risk of cardiometabolic disorders, so for now, everything in moderation, as they say.
And although the studies reviewed did control for a number of factors, including age, body mass index, physical activity, smoking and aspects of diet, there still may be other factors at work causing the heart benefits.
If chocolate is the root of these heart-healthy advantages, it may be due to its polyphenol content, anti-oxidants that could improve endothelial function (which may affect the risk of stroke and heart attack) as well as have a positive effect on blood pressure and insulin resistance.
More studies are needed, the authors wrote, to go beyond just an association and determine causation. We guess that means scientists will need more study participants willing to eat chocolate. That's going to be tough.
Sunday, August 28, 2011
By SELENA ROSS
Wed, Aug 17 - 4:54 AM
IF YOU’VE EVER wanted to look through someone else’s eyes, you can do it right here in Halifax at Dalhousie’s medical school.
Or, more specifically, you can look through the retina of a mouse. The retina is being kept artificially alive in a dish, fed with oxygen and glucose, and its optic nerve is hooked up to a computer. If you visit Dr. Gautam Awatramani’s lab, you can watch the computer screen and see what the mouse would see if it still had its retina.
Sounds like sci-fi? In fact, Awatramani’s research into vision is so cutting-edge that he was turned down for grants only a few years ago. He said the Canadian Institute of Health Research told him he was crazy and should stick to basic science. Now the neurobiologist’s work, which offers some of science’s best prospects for restoring sight to the blind, is feeding into a booming academic field that is slowly being taken up by biotechnology companies around the world.
Awatramani’s specialty is called optogenetics. Like it sounds, it combines optics, or light, with genes that are tweaked to respond to that light.
In 2008, with friends in a lab in Switzerland, he was part of a scientific breakthrough when his team took genes from green algae, a plant that responds to light, and injected them into the retinas of mice that were predisposed to go blind later in life.
The mice that had been treated with algae genes kept some of their vision while the others went completely blind. The effects of the gene therapy also lasted in the long term as the part of the eye that had degenerated began to express the new gene on its own. Down the road, Awatramani said, he hopes to see a new surgery developed that could do the same for human eyeballs.
"The operation should be very simple. That’s the beauty of the system," he said. "I think it’ll form its own niche, for sure."
The business world might take some time to catch up. Companies have been busy over the last few years developing visual prosthetics, or implants that can help stimulate parts of the eye.
It’s a small field but has attracted a fair amount of attention and investment.
The commercial leader in visual prosthetics, Second Sight Medical Products Inc. in California, made Fast Company magazine’s top-10 list of innovative health companies this year and counts billionaire bioengineer Alfred Mann, who helped develop the cochlear implant for the deaf, among its investors.
Optogeneticists’ attempts to do the same thing — restore some vision to the blind — are slowly starting to win some of that attention, Awatramani said. While the prosthetics stimulate an entire layer of the retina more indiscriminately, feeding the brain information that it finds harder to decipher, algae genes work in a more specific and natural way since they build on the retina’s existing structure.
"It’s a little bit of a crazy idea, but I think people find it less crazy now than they did a handful of years ago," said Alan Horsager, co-founder of a tiny Los Angeles firm called Eos Neuroscience Inc., one of the only companies trying to usher the research through clinical trials.
Horsager said some of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies are also looking at gene therapy for the blind. Incorporating genetics into medicine is becoming a more common idea, he said, although no type of gene therapy has been approved for humans yet.
He and his two co-founders at Eos are talking to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and could bring research like Awatramani’s to market in five to eight years.
"People are coming around and saying, OK, gene therapy isn’t so weird," Horsager said. "You have some data here."
For the medical industry, being able to "light up" specific neurons has far-reaching applications, especially understanding the brain’s more complex patterns.
"The retina’s a piece of brain," Awatramani said in his lab.
"It’s the most accessible part of the brain. We can get to it fast and easily, and from a business perspective, that’s why it’s so attractive for treating neurological disease, because you don’t have to open the skull to get to it."