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Updated: 3 days 18 hours ago

Explanation found for Alzheimer's risk genes

Thu, 08/18/2016 - 09:00

Washington D.C., Aug. 18 : A recent study has identified a connection between ApoE4 gene and protein build-up associated with Alzheimer's that provides a possible biochemical explanation for how extra ApoE4 causes the disease.

For the uninitiated, for decades, scientists have known that people with two copies of a gene called apolipoprotein E4 (ApoE4) are much more likely to have Alzheimer's disease at age 65 than the rest of the population.

According to researcher Alan Saghatelian of Salk Institute, "The big picture here is that we've found a very different way of thinking about how the proteins in Alzheimer's disease might be regulated."

Late-onset Alzheimer's disease, the subset of the disorder occurring in people age 65 and over, affects more than five million Americans, and is characterized by progressive memory loss and dementia.

Scientists have put forth a variety of hypotheses on its causes, including the accumulation of protein clusters called beta-amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain.

Apolipoprotein E comes in three versions, or variants, called ApoE2, ApoE3 and ApoE4. All the ApoE proteins have the same normal function- carrying fats, cholesterols and vitamins throughout the body, including into the brain.

While ApoE2 is protective and ApoE3 appears to have no effect, a mutation in ApoE4 is a well-established genetic risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer's disease. Previous reports have suggested that ApoE4 may affect how the brain clears out beta-amyloid, but what was happening at the molecular level wasn't clear.

"ApoE4 is the most predictive genetic change for late onset Alzheimer's, but no one has really understood what's going on at the molecular level," said Saghatelian.

Scientists had previously uncovered hints, however, that ApoE4 might degrade differently than the other variants, but the protein that carried out this breakdown of ApoE4 was unknown.

To find the protein responsible for degrading ApoE4, Saghatelian and research associate Qian Chu, first author of the new paper, screened tissues for potential suspects and homed in on one enzyme called high-temperature requirement serine peptidase A1 (HtrA1).

When they compared how HtrA1 degraded ApoE4 with ApoE3, they found that the enzyme processed more ApoE4 than ApoE3, chewing ApoE4 into smaller, less stable fragments. The researchers confirmed the observation in both isolated proteins and human cells.

The finding suggests that people with ApoE4 could have less ApoE overall in their brain cells and more of the breakdown products of the protein.

"There's been an idea tossed around that ApoE4 breakdown products could be toxic. Now, knowing the enzyme that breaks it down, we have a way to actually test this idea," said Saghatelian.

But it's not just a lack of full-length ApoE or an increase in its fragments that may be causing Alzheimer's in people with ApoE4. Saghatelian and Chu also found that ApoE4, because it binds so well to HtrA1, keeps the enzyme from breaking down the tau protein, responsible for tau tangles associated with Alzheimer's.

"People have thought about tau or amyloid beta as things that cause Alzheimer's, but this suggests that we need to think more globally about proteins that could be impacting tau or amyloid through biochemical pathways," Saghatelian said.

The results need be tested and confirmed in animal studies before researchers can be sure that HtrA1 is the link between ApoE4 and Alzheimer's in humans. But if they hold true, they could point toward a better understanding of the disease and potential new treatment strategies.

The study has been published in Journal of the American Chemical Society. (ANI)

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Mayo Clinic, collaborators strategise to use drugs to treat age-linked diseases and disabilities

Wed, 08/17/2016 - 08:46

Washington, Aug.17 : Rochester-based Mayo Clinic and members of the Geroscience Network have published six manuscripts that map strategies for taking new drugs that hold promise for treating multiple age-related diseases and disabilities.

According to Dr. James Kirkland, Director of the Mayo Clinic's Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging, aging is the largest risk factor for most chronic diseases, including stroke, heart disease, cancer, dementias, osteoporosis, arthritis, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, blindness and frailty.

He said that the goal of the Geroscience Network is to accelerate the pace of discovery in developing interventions to delay, prevent or treat these conditions as a group, instead of doing so one at a time.

The first of the six manuscripts have successfully identified new drugs that extend lifespan in animals and the authors discuss the need to develop a consistent preclinical pipeline for drug development that focuses on best practices for drug discovery, development of lead compounds, translational preclinical biomarkers, funding and support for preclinical studies, and integration between researchers and clinicians.

The second manuscript acknowledges that aging therapies may hold "great promise" for enhancing the health of a wide population, with clinical trials being a critical step for translating therapies from animals into humans.

The other four manuscripts published are:

"Strategies and Challenges in Clinical Trials Targeting Human Aging"

"Resilience in Aging Mice"

"Evaluating Health Span in Preclinical Models of Aging and Disease: Guidelines, Challenges, and Opportunities for Geroscience"

"Moving Geroscience into Uncharted Waters"

According to Dr. Felipe Sierra, it has been calculated that care for the elderly currently accounts for 43 percent of the total health care spending in the US, or approximately a trillion dollars a year, and this number is expected to rise as baby boomers reach retirement age.

He also says that reeducing these costs is critical for the survival of society.

The Geroscience Network consists of 18 academic aging centers, along with the participation of more than 100 investigators from across the U.S. and Europe.

The network is funded by the National Institutes of Health.

The articles appear in today's edition of The Journals of Gerontology: Series A - Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences. (ANI)

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Novel protein linked to diabetes identified

Wed, 08/17/2016 - 06:19

Researchers have identified a protein, the lack of which can contribute to development of Type-2 diabetes.

Absence of the PTRF (Cavin-1) protein in model organisms and humans results in a nearly complete loss of fat cells, a condition called lipodystrophy.

This lack of fat cells causes fat to be mis-targeted to other tissues where it causes them to become insulin resistant and eventually Type-2 diabetes develops, said lead author Libin Liu of the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM).

The researchers analysed normal model organisms and compared them to those lacking PTRF.

They also studied fat cells grown in the lab that either had PTRF or lacked it.

Cells need to respond to rapid nutritional challenges by making new proteins to efficiently store fat.

In the absence of PTRF, cells were unable to make sufficient new protein to respond adequately to cycles of fasting and refeeding, the equivalent of the human dietary cycle, showed the study published in the journal eLife.

Describing the role of PTRF and gaining a better understanding of how fat can be distributed in these models may eventually offer new opportunities to treat diabetes in humans.

The researchers believe that the findings could provide a possible explanation as to why most people who are obese develop insulin resistance and Type-2 diabetes.

The authors, however, cautioned that Type-2 diabetes is a complex condition and proteins other than PTRF can also contribute to the development of the disease.

"Diet and exercise continue to be the first choice for preventing and treating Type-2 diabetes," the researchers said. IANS

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Halal meat subsidized in China

Thu, 08/11/2016 - 07:01

Beijing, Aug 11 : Several provincial and local governments throughout China have subsidized Muslims' purchases of halal meat this year.

According to the State Ethnic Affairs Commission, the policy has sparked controversy over whether the State should subsidize religious observance, the Global Times reported on Thursday.

Halal meat subsidies were first instituted in Wuhan, Hubei province in 2012 as meat prices rose, and several cities in China subsequently adopted this policy over the past four years.

The subsidies vary in value across different regions and range from 10 yuan ($1.50) to 20 yuan per month per person.

People from 10 ethnic minority groups that customarily consume halal food - including the Hui, Uyghur, Kazak, Uzbek and Tajik groups - are eligible to receive the subsidy, according to on the commission.

"Lanzhou has provided the subsidy since 2015 following other cities, and the policy will continue in the future," Kou Zhijun, the head of the economic department of the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee in Lanzhou, Gansu province, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

A total of 9,501 Muslims living on minimum subsistence allowances in Lanzhou received the 20-yuan monthly per-person subsidy in the first half of 2016, said Kou.

He noted that the policy was enacted following a rise in the price of beef and mutton and serves as a complementary measure to relieve poverty, as many Muslims live in impoverished rural areas.

"We have not received any complaints from non-Muslims about the government taking only the interests of ethnic minorities into consideration," Kou added.

Although it is praiseworthy to subsidize people from ethnic minority groups who live below the poverty line, the subsidy should not be granted specifically to those following halal practices, Xi Wuyi, an expert on Marxism at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

"Giving subsidies to Muslims, instead of to ethnic minority groups, might strengthen their religious identity and also their separation from non-Muslims, which will hurt communication and integration between peoples of different ethnic groups," Xi added.

Over the past several years, China has been studying whether to draft a law to manage the authenticity of halal food.

The drafting of a law on halal food was not listed in China's legislative work plan for 2016 after proposed consideration of the legislation had met with mixed reactions from the public. IANS

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Possible link between the Zika virus- joint deformities in babies found

Wed, 08/10/2016 - 07:29

Washington D.C., Aug .10 : There might be a possible link between the Zika virus and rare, but severe, joint deformities in babies, said a study by scientists in Brazil.

It has led the experts to warn that the virus could be linked to a host of other problems in babies, some of which might only become apparent as they get older.

Microcephaly (a rare birth defect where a baby is born with an abnormally small head) and other severe fetal brain defects are the main features of congenital Zika virus syndrome.

However, little is still known about other potential health problems that Zika virus infection during pregnancy may cause.

Until recently, there were no reports of an association between congenital viral infection and arthrogryposis. After the outbreak of microcephaly in Brazil associated with Zika virus, two reports suggested an association, but they did not describe the deformities in detail.

So a research team decided to investigate the possible causes of the joint deformities.

They studied detailed brain and joint images of seven children with arthrogryposis and a diagnosis of congenital infection, presumably caused by Zika virus. All children tested negative for the five other main infectious causes of microcephaly - toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus, rubella, syphilis, and HIV.

All children showed signs of brain calcification, a condition in which calcium builds up in the brain. The theory is that the Zika virus destroys brain cells, and forms lesions similar to "scars" on which calcium is deposited.

All the children underwent high definition scanning of the joints and surrounding tissues, but there was no evidence of joint abnormalities.

This led the researchers to say that the arthrogryposis "did not result from abnormalities of the joints themselves, but was likely to be of neurogenic origin"

Based on these observations, the researchers conclude that "congenital Zika syndrome should be added to the differential diagnosis of congenital infections and arthrogryposis."

As this is an observational study, no firm conclusions can be drawn about the effect of the Zika virus on arthrogryposis.

The study has been published in The BMJ. (ANI)

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Diet designed to lower BP cuts risk of kidney disease too

Wed, 08/10/2016 - 07:17

New York, Aug 10 : A diet high in nuts and legumes, low-fat dairy, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and low in red and processed meat, sugar-sweetened beverages and sodium may not only lower blood pressure but also reduce the risk of developing chronic kidney disease, says a study.

This diet, known as DASH for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, was designed primarily to reduce blood pressure.

"In addition to offering other health benefits, consuming a DASH-style diet could help reduce the risk of developing kidney disease," said study leader Casey Rebholz, Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland.

"The great thing about this finding is that we aren't talking about a fad diet. This is something that many physicians already recommend to help prevent chronic disease," Rebholz said.

For their study, the researchers examined records from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study, which in 1987 began following a group of 15,792 middle-aged adults from communities in Maryland, North Carolina, Minnesota and Mississippi for more than 20 years.

The researchers found that participants with the lowest DASH diet scores (those who ate few foods such as fruits, vegetables and nuts, and consumed more red meat and sodium) were 16 percent more likely to develop kidney disease than those with the highest DASH scores (those who ate more of the healthier foods and less of the unhealthy items).

Those who had the highest intake of red and processed meats were at a 22 per cent higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease than those with the lowest intake of those foods.

Those with the highest intake of nuts and legumes were at nine per cent lower risk of developing kidney disease than those with the lowest intake.

The reason that DASH-style diets appear to stave off kidney disease may be that it is known to reduce blood pressure, Rebholz said.

Hypertension has been linked to kidney disease.

Another possibility could be related to the "dietary acid load" in the foods people eat, or the overall acidity of the foods in a diet, she said in the study published online in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases.

High acid foods include meats and cheeses; low acid foods include fruits and vegetables.

Several independent researchers have shown that high dietary acid may be linked to kidney disease. IANS

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Why Zika infection may lead to severe joint condition at birth

Wed, 08/10/2016 - 07:14

London, Aug 10 : Brain cells that control the contraction or relaxation of muscles may be involved in Zika virus infection in the womb leading to a condition known as arthrogryposis, which causes joint deformities at birth, particularly in the arms and legs.

Microcephaly -- a rare birth defect where a baby is born with an abnormally small head -- and other severe foetal brain defects are the main features of congenital Zika virus syndrome. However, little is still known about other potential health problems that Zika virus infection during pregnancy may cause.

Until recently there were no reports of an association between congenital viral infection and arthrogryposis.

After the outbreak of microcephaly in Brazil associated with Zika virus, two reports suggested an association, but they did not describe the deformities in detail.

So a research team based in Recife, the Brazilian city at the centre of the Zika epidemic, decided to investigate the possible causes of the joint deformities and published a study in the journal The BMJ to provides more details of an association between Zika virus infection in the womb and arthrogryposis,

They studied detailed brain and joint images of seven children with arthrogryposis and a diagnosis of congenital infection, presumably caused by Zika virus.

All children tested negative for the five other main infectious causes of microcephaly - toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus, rubella, syphilis, and HIV.

All children showed signs of brain calcification, a condition in which calcium builds up in the brain.

All the children underwent high definition scanning of the joints and surrounding tissues, but there was no evidence of joint abnormalities.

This led the researchers to say that the arthrogryposis "did not result from abnormalities of the joints themselves, but was likely to be of neurogenic origin" - a process involving motor neurones (cells that control the contraction or relaxation of muscles) - leading to fixed postures in the womb and consequently deformities.

This condition might be related to the way motor neurons carry signals to the unborn baby's muscles, or to problems with arteries and veins (vascular disorders), the researchers suggested. IANS

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Here`s how insurance status affects cancer survival

Mon, 08/08/2016 - 08:56

Washington D. C, Aug 8 : Men with testicular cancer, who were uninsured or on Medicaid, had a higher risk of death from what is normally a curable disease than insured patients, suggests two new studies.

Many studies have revealed barriers to cancer care associated with health insurance status. Using population-based data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program of the National Cancer Institute, these latest studies look at two cancers in particular: testicular germ cell tumors and glioblastoma.

In the testicular cancer study, a team led by Christopher Sweeney of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, identified 10,211 men diagnosed with testicular cancer between 2007 and 2011. The researchers found that uninsured and Medicaid-covered patients had an increased risk of having larger testicular cancer tumors or metastatic disease at the time of diagnosis, and they were more likely to die from their disease compared with men with insurance.

Among patients with metastatic disease, those who were uninsured or had Medicaid coverage were more likely to have cancer categorized as "intermediate" or "poor" (rather than "good") risk. Among patients with early stage disease, both uninsured and Medicaid patients were less likely to have lymph nodes removed, a procedure that can cure some patients. Among patients with advanced disease, uninsured (but not Medicaid) patients were less likely to receive radiation therapy.

"Although testis cancer is curable with chemotherapy, this study supports the notion that lack of insurance may lead to delays in diagnosis and more advanced and less curable disease," said Sweeney. "Our findings support the belief that early diagnosis and management is key, and removal of barriers to access to health care should be implemented."

In the study related to glioblastoma, which is the most common malignant primary brain tumor in adults, Judy Huang of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and her colleagues identified 13,665 patients diagnosed between 2007 and 2012. Patients who were uninsured or had Medicaid were more likely to present with larger tumors and to die earlier from their disease compared with insured patients. Patients with Medicaid insurance were less likely to receive surgical treatment, while both Medicaid insurance and uninsured status were associated with a lower likelihood of receiving adjuvant radiotherapy.

Only non-Medicaid insured patients experienced an improvement in survival over time, with patients diagnosed in 2012 living longer than those diagnosed in 2007. "This suggests that while improvements in medical therapy have resulted in longer survival, this benefit is less likely to be accessible to Medicaid-insured or uninsured patients," said Huang.

"This study indicates significant disparities in the management of glioblastoma patients under our existing healthcare insurance framework that need to be addressed," added co-lead author Wuyang Yang.

The findings are published early online in the journal CANCER. (ANI)

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Here`s how insurance status affects cancer survival

Mon, 08/08/2016 - 07:29

Washington D.C, Aug 8 : Men with testicular cancer, who were uninsured or on Medicaid, had a higher risk of death from what is normally a curable disease than insured patients, suggests two new studies.

Many studies have revealed barriers to cancer care associated with health insurance status. Using population-based data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program of the National Cancer Institute, these latest studies look at two cancers in particular: testicular germ cell tumors and glioblastoma.

In the testicular cancer study, a team led by Christopher Sweeney of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, identified 10,211 men diagnosed with testicular cancer between 2007 and 2011. The researchers found that uninsured and Medicaid-covered patients had an increased risk of having larger testicular cancer tumors or metastatic disease at the time of diagnosis, and they were more likely to die from their disease compared with men with insurance.

Among patients with metastatic disease, those who were uninsured or had Medicaid coverage were more likely to have cancer categorized as "intermediate" or "poor" (rather than "good") risk. Among patients with early stage disease, both uninsured and Medicaid patients were less likely to have lymph nodes removed, a procedure that can cure some patients. Among patients with advanced disease, uninsured (but not Medicaid) patients were less likely to receive radiation therapy.

"Although testis cancer is curable with chemotherapy, this study supports the notion that lack of insurance may lead to delays in diagnosis and more advanced and less curable disease," said Sweeney. "Our findings support the belief that early diagnosis and management is key, and removal of barriers to access to health care should be implemented."

In the study related to glioblastoma, which is the most common malignant primary brain tumor in adults, Judy Huang of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and her colleagues identified 13,665 patients diagnosed between 2007 and 2012. Patients who were uninsured or had Medicaid were more likely to present with larger tumors and to die earlier from their disease compared with insured patients. Patients with Medicaid insurance were less likely to receive surgical treatment, while both Medicaid insurance and uninsured status were associated with a lower likelihood of receiving adjuvant radiotherapy.

Only non-Medicaid insured patients experienced an improvement in survival over time, with patients diagnosed in 2012 living longer than those diagnosed in 2007. "This suggests that while improvements in medical therapy have resulted in longer survival, this benefit is less likely to be accessible to Medicaid-insured or uninsured patients," said Huang.

"This study indicates significant disparities in the management of glioblastoma patients under our existing healthcare insurance framework that need to be addressed," added co-lead author Wuyang Yang.

The findings are published early online in the journal CANCER. (ANI)

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Your wit can be major turn-off for your man

Sun, 08/07/2016 - 06:27

London, Aug. 7 : Ladies out there, look before you go out for a date- your intelligence might turn-off your man.

A study has confirmed that the smarter a woman is, the less likely it is a man will fancy her, unless she is highly attractive, reports the Independent.

During the research, done by the Warsaw School of Economics, 4,000 speed dates were studied by the scientists, where 560 people were given four minutes to get to know their date.

Later on, the volunteers were asked to rate each other based on intelligence and attractiveness.

After analysing the results, researchers found that women were impressed by men who were either good looking or intelligent; but men emphasised more on physical appearance.

A woman of good intelligence helped distinguish her from her counterparts, but the cleverer a woman was, they found she had to be equally beautiful to be worth pursuing.

There was a clear line where her intellect went from being a positive factor to a negative one.

Reportedly, relationships expert Pauline Brown said, "This study fits in with what I'm observing and hearing: clever women - graduates - who feel they have to dumb themselves down and hide their brains to be attractive to men."

The study, in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, found that women do not exclude men who are deemed to be less good looking.

"Even those men who are not perceived by women as physically attractive may receive positive speed-dating decisions, if only those men seem intelligent. Males demonstrate a clearly different approach to mate selection. In men's perception, for relatively high values of wo men's perceived intelligence, this personal trait turns out to be an economic bad," said the study. (ANI)

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Is singlehood taking over wedded bliss?

Sun, 08/07/2016 - 06:16

London, Aug. 7 : All single people cherish your days, as a psychologist has claimed the idea of wedded bliss is largely a myth.

According to the study, being single allows the people to "live their best, most authentic and most meaningful life," reports the Independent.

Speaking at the American Psychological Association's annual convention in Denver, researcher Bella DePaulo said that she wanted to challenge the "conventional wisdom" that getting married helped the people live longer, happier and healthier lives.

She said that she had looked more than 800 different academic studies carried out of the last 30 years that mentioned single people.

"The available findings are telling. For example, research comparing people who have stayed single with those who have stayed married shows that single people have a heightened sense of self-determination and they are more likely to experience 'a sense of continued growth and development' as a person," said DePaulo.

"Other research shows that single people value meaningful work more than married people do . another study of lifelong single people showed that self-sufficiency serves them well: the more self-sufficient they were, the less likely they were to experience negative emotions. For married people, just the opposite was true," she added.

There are 16.2 million single people in the UK, compared to 23.7 million married ones, according to Office for National Statistics figures for last year.

DePaulo, who described herself as "single, always have been, always will be," said the reasons behind the relative popularity of unmarried life were "rarely acknowledged."

"Increasing numbers of people are single because they want to be. Living single allows them to live their best, most authentic and most meaningful life," she said.

"Single people are more connected to parents, siblings, friends, neighbours, and coworkers than married people are, and when people marry, they become more insular. The preoccupation with the perils of loneliness can obscure the profound benefits of solitude," she continued.

"It is time for a more accurate portrayal of single people and single life - one that recognizes the real strengths and resilience of people who are single, and what makes their lives so meaningful, added DePaulo.

She further said the married people were bolstered by the "relentless celebration of marriage and coupling and weddings that I call matrimania. Single people, in contrast, are targets of singlism - the stereotyping, stigmatizing, marginalizing and discrimination against people who are single."

But academic studies did not support the prevailing idea of "get married, get happier and healthier."

"People end up about where they were when they were single. In other ways, results are exactly the opposite of what we have been led to believe. Scholars are learning more about the risks of putting too much relationship capital into The One, and the psychological benefits of investing in The Ones. They are also beginning to realize that genuine attachment relationships are not limited to romantic relationships or the bond between parents and young children," she added. (ANI)

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Autistic kids pose disorder risk to siblings

Sat, 08/06/2016 - 05:46

Washington D. C, Aug 6 : Turns out, genetics can place you at risk as according to a recent study, the chances of a kid developing an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is 14 times higher if his or her older sibling has ASD.

The Kaiser Permanente study also found the risk level was consistent across gestational age at birth.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder defined by impairments in social interaction and communication, as well as restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior. It occurs in 1 in 68 children, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The cause of autism is unknown, but research has identified a number of different genetic and environmental factors that may play a role in its development.

"Our study provides additional insights into how autism affects siblings," explained senior author Darios Getahun. "These findings also contribute to a better understanding of the influence of factors such as gender on autism risk."

The researchers focused on at least two siblings born to the same mother between 28 and 42 weeks of gestation from 2001 through 2010. Researchers examined the medical records of the 53,336 children born during this time, of which 592 were diagnosed with ASD, and found that children with older siblings who had ASD had an ASD rate of 11.3 percent compared to 0.92 percent for those with unaffected older siblings.

Compared with gestational age-matched younger siblings without ASD diagnosis, those born at term (37-42 gestational weeks), who had an older sibling diagnosed with ASD, had more than 15 times the increased risk for ASD diagnosis.

Younger siblings, who were born at preterm (28-36 gestational weeks) and had an older sibling diagnosed with ASD, had an almost 10 times increased risk for ASD.

Younger boys with ASD, who had older brothers, were much more likely to be affected by the disorder than younger girls with older sisters (15 percent vs 7 percent, respectively).

"It's possible that parents who have an older child with an autism diagnosis are more likely to have their younger siblings tested, too, resulting in a higher rate of diagnoses among younger siblings, compared with parents who do not have children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder," noted Getahun.

The researchers also noted that the gender difference observed in this study could be due to biases in diagnosis and reporting.

The study is published in Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. (ANI)

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Brain: Use it so you don't lose it

Thu, 08/04/2016 - 09:29

Washington D. C, Aug 4 : When it comes to warding off Alzheimer's disease, a new research suggests a lifetime of mental activity can be good for you.

Iowa State University researchers identified a protein essential for building memories that appears to predict the progression of memory loss and brain atrophy in Alzheimer's patients.

Research assistant Auriel Willette said that the findings also suggest there is a link between brain activity and the presence of the protein neuronal pentraxin-2, or NPTX2.

"NPTX2 seems to exert a protective effect," Swanson said. "The more you have, the less brain atrophy and better memory you have over time."

The discovery is encouraging as it offers an avenue to track the progression of Alzheimer's disease over time, but it also generates a lot of questions. Researchers want to know how best to boost NPTX2 levels and if there is an added benefit. They were struck by a trend in the data that points to a possible answer.

Study participants with more years of education showed higher levels of the protein. Willette noted that people with complex jobs or who stay mentally and socially active could see similar benefits, supporting the notion of "use it or lose it."

"You're keeping the machinery going," Willette said. "It makes sense that the more time spent intensely focused on learning, the more your brain is trained to process information and that doesn't go away. That intense kind of learning seems to make your brain stronger."

The study is published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity. (ANI)

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Brain: Use it so you don't lose it

Thu, 08/04/2016 - 07:26

Washington D.C, Aug 4 : When it comes to warding off Alzheimer's disease, a new research suggests a lifetime of mental activity can be good for you.

Iowa State University researchers identified a protein essential for building memories that appears to predict the progression of memory loss and brain atrophy in Alzheimer's patients.

Research assistant Auriel Willette said that the findings also suggest there is a link between brain activity and the presence of the protein neuronal pentraxin-2, or NPTX2.

"NPTX2 seems to exert a protective effect," Swanson said. "The more you have, the less brain atrophy and better memory you have over time."

The discovery is encouraging as it offers an avenue to track the progression of Alzheimer's disease over time, but it also generates a lot of questions. Researchers want to know how best to boost NPTX2 levels and if there is an added benefit. They were struck by a trend in the data that points to a possible answer.

Study participants with more years of education showed higher levels of the protein. Willette noted that people with complex jobs or who stay mentally and socially active could see similar benefits, supporting the notion of "use it or lose it."

"You're keeping the machinery going," Willette said. "It makes sense that the more time spent intensely focused on learning, the more your brain is trained to process information and that doesn't go away. That intense kind of learning seems to make your brain stronger."

The study is published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity. (ANI)

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Zika outbreak worse than reported, projects study

Wed, 08/03/2016 - 07:22

Washington D. C, Aug 3 : There's a large disparity between the number of reported and projected Zika cases, reveals a new study.

With the report from Florida Governor Rick Scott on Monday that 14 people in the state have been infected with the Zika virus most likely through mosquito transmission, the concern about outA-breaks in the U. S. has intensified.

The news comes on the heels of new research by Northeastern University's Alessandro Vespignani that can help countries in the Americas plan a response.

The study, along with interactive maps, provides current numbers as well projections for the number of Zika cases in the Americas through January 2017. It also provides projections for the number of microcephaly cases associated with the disease through October 2017, a date chosen to allow for the nine months of pregA-nancy. Microcephaly is a serious neurological birth defect characterized by a smaller than normal head.

Tackling Zika has been "a call to arms," said Vespignani. "We've been working on the modeling around the clock since January," added coauthor Matteo Chinazzi.

The team of 14 researchers used large scale computational epidemic models that integrate socio-demographic and travel data of target populations along with simulations of infection transmission among millions of individuals to reconstruct disease spread in the past and project it into the future.

Underreporting is rife in affected countries because up to 80 percent of people with the disease are asymptomatic, noted Vespignani. "Even of those with symptoms, probably only one-third will go to the doctor and get diagnosed," he added.

Indeed, the number of travel associated cases of Zika in the U. S. reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be just the tip of the iceberg, according to the research.

The team, half of which is at Northeastern, projected that as of June 15 there were close to 30,000 cases of travel-related Zika in the U. S., a number 25 times greater than that reported by the CDC on the same date.

The discrepancy results from the difference between reported cases of the mosquito-borne virus, those actually diagnosed and reported to the CDC's surveillance system, and those that fly under the radar but that the researchers' modeling algorithms can project.

The risk of contracting Zika as a result of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro is extremely small, stated Vespignani. That's because the increase in air travel from Zika affected areas will be minimal, less than 1 perA-cent. The number of cases in Brazil, where the virus surfaced between August 2013 and April 2014, reached its peak in the first half of 2015 and has been declining since, affecting close to 10 to 15 percent of the population.

Given all the uncertainties, the researchers cautioned that their findings are "projections," rather than "forecasts."

"We use 'forecast' when we have a level of confidence in past data, such as the origin of the disease and the progression of outbreaks, that allows us, even with some fluctuations, to project into the future," concluded Vespignani. "With Zika we are saying, 'These are the scenarios based on a number of assumptions and an attempt to get some plausible path for the future'." (ANI)

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Now, a skin patch that lets you monitor your booze level

Wed, 08/03/2016 - 06:40

Washington, Aug 3 : Heads up boozers, there's a new breathalyser in town that is wearable and can measure your alcohol history just from the sweat on your skin.

Engineers at the University of California San Diego developed a flexible wearable sensor that can accurately measure a person's blood alcohol level from sweat and transmit the data wirelessly to a laptop, smartphone or other mobile device.

The device can be worn on the skin and could be used by doctors and police officers for continuous, non-invasive and real-time monitoring of blood alcohol content.

The device consists of a temporary tattoo, which sticks to the skin, induces sweat and electrochemically detects the alcohol level, and a portable flexible electronic circuit board, which is connected to the tattoo by a magnet and can communicate the information to a mobile device via Bluetooth.

"Lots of accidents on the road are caused by drunk driving. This technology provides an accurate, convenient and quick way to monitor alcohol consumption to help prevent people from driving while intoxicated," researcher Joseph Wang said.

The device could be integrated with a car's alcohol ignition interlocks or friends could use it to check up on each other before handing over the car keys, he added.

"When you're out at a party or at a bar, this sensor could send alerts to your phone to let you know how much you've been drinking," said co-first author Jayoung Kim.

"What's also innovative about this technology is that the wearer doesn't need to be exercising or sweating already. The user can put on the patch and within a few minutes get a reading that's well correlated to his or her blood alcohol concentration. Such a device hasn't been available until now," researcher Patrick Mercier said.

Researchers tested the alcohol sensor on 9 healthy volunteers who wore the tattoo on their arms before and after consuming an alcoholic beverage (either a bottle of beer or glass of red wine). The readouts accurately reflected the wearers' blood alcohol concentrations.

The device also gave accurate readouts even after repeated bending and shaking. This shows that the sensor won't be affected by the wearer's movements, researchers said.

As a next step, the team is developing a device that could continuously monitor alcohol levels for 24 hours.

The study appears in the journal ACS Sensors. (ANI)

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Even 'non-functional' adrenal tumours up diabetes risk

Tue, 08/02/2016 - 08:02

Washington D. C, Aug 2 : Turns out, adrenal tumours don't have to be functional to increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes as a recent study has suggested that even non-functional ones can take the same toll.

Benign adrenal tumours that don't appear to secrete hormones are labeled as "non-functional" and are currently considered by physicians to pose no health risks, but these new results from Brigham and Women's Hospital challenge that assumption.

Using data from the medical records of 1479 patients, including 242 with non-functional adrenal tumours and 1237 without any adrenal tumour, Anand Vaidya and colleagues assessed the risk of developing cardiometabolic diseases over time between these two groups.

"When we analyzed our results, we were quite surprised," Vaidya said. "Our results indicated that patients with non-functional adrenal tumors developed diabetes twice as often as patients without any adrenal tumors. This suggests that even adrenal tumors we deem to have no health risks are in fact associated with an increased risk of developing diabetes."

These findings suggest that non-functional adrenal tumours may be independent risk factors for developing diabetes and that patients with these tumors should be evaluated for diabetes more vigilantly.

Vaidya and his colleagues also analysed a third category of patients: those with adrenal tumors that secreted small amounts of cortisol, termed subclinical hypercortisolism.

They found that this category of patients had the highest risk of developing type 2 diabetes, illuminating a trend in the relationship between cortisol secretion, even in small amounts, and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

"Our results imply that once you have an adrenal tumour, regardless of its functionality, you should consider recognizing it as a potential risk factor for diabetes," Vaidya said.

The study appears in Annals of Internal Medicine. (ANI)

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This nutrition model may be new weapon against obesity

Mon, 08/01/2016 - 10:17

Washington D. C, Aug 1 : A new framework for human nutrition may be the latest weapon in the war against obesity.

The University of Sydney's researchers, David Raubenheimer and Stephen Simpson, called for a radical rethinking of human nutrition science through a new framework called 'nutritional geometry' - the culmination of more than
20 years of research in the field.

' Nutritional geometry' considers how mixtures of nutrients and other dietary components influence health and disease, rather than focusing on any one nutrient in isolation.

It is hoped this new model will assist health professionals, dietitians and researchers to better understand and manage the complexities of obesity.

"Our framework throws down the gauntlet to the whole field of human nutrition. It shows that the prevailing focus on single nutrients is not able to help us understand complex chronic diseases, and that an approach based on nutrient balance can help solve the problem," said Simpson.

Human nutrition science has historically focused on a single-nutrient approach, which is predicated on a lack of resources or micronutrient deficiency. For instance, the absence of vitamin C in human diets is a known cause of scurvy.

But this traditional approach is no longer useful in the face of modern nutrition-related diseases, the authors argued, which are driven by an overabundance of food, an evolved fondness for foods containing particular blends of nutrients, and savvy marketing by the packaged food industry which exploits these preferences.

"Our new approach provides a unique method to unify observations from many fields and better understand how nutrients, foods and diets interact to affect health and disease in humans," said Raubenheimer.

He added, "The 'nutritional geometry' framework enables us to plot foods, meals, diets and dietary patterns together based on their nutrient composition and this helps researchers to observe otherwise overlooked patterns in the links between certain diets, health and disease."

To illustrate the power of the approach, the researchers plotted data for the composition of 116 diets, compiled from previous published studies examining macronutrient ratios (carbohydrate, fats and protein) and energy intake in humans.

Their model showed that protein was the strongest driver influencing diet, regulating the intake of fat and carbohydrate.

The study appears in the journal Annual Review of Nutrition. (ANI)

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Here`s why some fat risks your health, while others don't

Sat, 07/30/2016 - 07:13

Washington D. C, Jul 30 : If you are trying to shed those extra kilos, you may want to steer clear of lard, butter and fried foods, suggests a recent study. According to the University of Naples Federico II study, a diet high in saturated fat affects a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which helps regulate hunger, making it struggle to control what you eat.

In other words, people struggle to control how much they eat, when to stop and what type of food to eat - symptoms seen in obesity. The study found, through tests in rats, that a meal rich in saturated fat, reduces a person's cognitive function that make it more difficult to control eating habits. "These days, great attention is dedicated to the influence of the diet on people's wellbeing.

Although the effects of high fat diet on metabolism have been widely studied, little is known about the effects on the brain;" explained researchers Marianna Crispino and Maria Pina Mollica. A diet rich in fat can take different forms and in fact, there are different types of fats. Saturated fats are found in lard, butter or fried food. Unsaturated fats are rich in food such as fish, avocado or olive oil.

Consuming fish oil instead of lard makes a significant difference. The research shows that brain function remains normal and manages to restrain from eating more than necessary. "The difference was very clear and we were amazed to establish the impact of a fatty diet onto the brain. Our results suggest that being more aware about the type of fat consumed with the diet may reduce the risk of obesity and prevent several metabolic diseases," concluded Crispino. The study appears in journal Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience. (ANI)

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Few nuts a day can keep inflammation at bay

Sat, 07/30/2016 - 07:05

Washington D.C, Jul 30 : You may want to add a handful of almonds and walnuts to your day as a recent study has linked greater intake of nuts with lower levels of biomarkers of inflammation.

This finding of the Brigham and Women's Hospital study of more than 5,000 people may help explain the health benefits of nuts.

"Population studies have consistently supported a protective role of nuts against cardiometabolic disorders such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, and we know that inflammation is a key process in the development of these diseases," said corresponding author Ying Bao. "Our new work suggests that nuts may exert their beneficial effects in part by reducing systemic inflammation."

The research team performed a cross-sectional analysis of data from the Nurses' Health Study, which includes more than 120,000 female registered nurses, and from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, which includes more than 50,000 male health professionals.

The team assessed diet using questionnaires and looked at the levels of certain telltale proteins known as biomarkers in blood samples collected from the study participants. They measured three well-established biomarkers of inflammation: C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin 6 (IL6) and tumor necrosis factor receptor 2 (TNFR2).

After adjusting for age, medical history, lifestyle and other variables, they found that participants who had consumed five or more servings of nuts per week had lower levels of CRP and IL6 than those who never or almost never ate nuts. In addition, people who substituted three servings per week of nuts in place of red meat, processed meat, eggs or refined grains had significantly lower levels of CRP and IL6.

Peanuts and tree nuts contain a number of healthful components including magnesium, fiber, L-arginine, antioxidants and unsaturated fatty acids such as a-linolenic acid. Researchers have not yet determined which of these components, or if the combination of all of them, may offer protection against inflammation, but Bao and her colleagues are interested in exploring this further through clinical trials that would regulate and monitor diet.

"Much remains unknown about how our diet influences inflammation and, in turn, our risk of disease," said Bao. "But our study supports an overall healthful role for nuts in the diet and suggests reducing inflammation as a potential mechanism that may help explain the benefits of nuts on cardiometabolic diseases."

The study appears in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. (ANI)

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