Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wish You A Very Happy 2009

I Wish All of You a Happy, Prosperous and a Smiling New Year!



Gold Particles Could Deliver Pharma Drugs in Future!

Using tiny gold particles and infrared light, MIT researchers have developed a drug-delivery system that allows multiple pharmaceutical drugs to be released in a controlled fashion.

Such a system could one day be used to provide more control when battling diseases commonly treated with more than one drug, according to the researchers.

"With a lot of diseases, especially cancer and AIDS, you get a synergistic effect with more than one drug," said Kimberly Hamad-Schifferli, assistant professor of biological and mechanical engineering and senior author of a paper on the work that recently appeared in the journal ACS Nano.

Delivery devices already exist that can release two drugs, but the timing of the release must be built into the device -- it cannot be controlled from outside the body. The new system is controlled externally and theoretically could deliver up to three or four drugs.

The new technique takes advantage of the fact that when gold nanoparticles are exposed to infrared light, they melt and release drug payloads attached to their surfaces.

In the ACS Nano study, the researchers tested the particles with a payload of DNA. Each nanoparticle can carry hundreds of strands of DNA, and could also be engineered to transport other types of drugs.

In theory, up to four different-shaped particles could be developed, each releasing its payload at different wavelengths.

MIT news

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Recession and Prescription Drug Abuse

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Recession and Prescription Drug Abuse

These are perhaps the worst times for the economy since the Great Depression of 1929. With many stressors looming large, coping with the down turn may be causing many people to abuse prescription drugs.

A major effect of recession is that of unemployment and as per the latest statistics by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, both the number of unemployed persons (10.3 million) and the unemployment rate (6.7 percent) has continued to increase in November. After the recession started in December 2007, the number of unemployed persons increased by 2.7 million, and the unemployment rate rose by 1.7 percentage points.

Prescription Drug Abuse

While most people consume medicines only for the reasons their doctors prescribe them. However, an estimated 20 percent of people in the United States at some point in time have taken pharmaceutical drugs for non-medical reasons. And the problem of prescription drug abuse is a serious and growing.

In the context of recession, experts believe that quite a few stressors have surfaced including job loss, health problems caused by stress, gloomy weather, bounced checks, a declining job market, increased heating bills, etc. The American Psychological Association (APA) recently reported that people report financial issues related to money (82 percent), the economy (82 percent) and work (69 percent) as sources of stress. The households with children are more likely to report money (88 percent v. 80 percent without children) and work (74 percent v. 67 percent without) as significant stressors this holiday season.

While some abusers, especially the poor depend on street narcotics and alcohol, others choose narcotic painkillers , sedatives and tranquilizers and stimulants. Also, the declining pharmaceutical industry sales figures might be a consequence of people postponing expensive medications for illnesses such as heart disease. However, this foregoing of treatment shows up as increases in sales of pain killers and mood elevators.

Experts don't exactly know why the problem of drug abuse is increasing, in general. Some point to the increased availability of drugs. And that doctors today, prescribe more drugs for more health problems than ever before. Part of the reason is also the existence of online pharmacies that make it easy to get prescription drugs without a prescription – a tactic that works even for youngsters.

Even more surprising is the fact that how some school students who've used amphetamines, tranquilizers, or narcotics other than heroin are able to get hold of these pharmaceutical drugs. An investigation by the University of Michigan in 2007 found that the most common source was getting them free from a friend or relative, followed by being sold the drugs by a friend or relative! And lastly by purchasing them from a dealer or stranger.

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Caution: High-Fat Diet Can Disrupt Your Biological Clock!

Indulgence in a high-fat diet can not only lead to overweight because of excessive calorie intake, but also can affect the balance of circadian rhythms – everyone's 24-hour biological clock, Hebrew University of Jerusalem researchers have shown.

The biological clock regulates the expression and/or activity of enzymes and hormones involved in metabolism, and disturbance of the clock can lead to such phenomena as hormone imbalance, obesity, psychological and sleep disorders and cancer.

While light is the strongest factor affecting the circadian clock, there is a cause-and-effect relation between diet and biological clock imbalance.

In an article soon to be published by the medical industry journal Endocrinology, the researchers suggest that this high-fat diet could contribute to obesity, not only through its high caloric content, but also by disrupting the phases and daily rhythm of clock genes. They contend also that high fat-induced changes in the clock and the adiponectin signaling pathway may help explain the disruption of other clock-controlled systems associated with metabolic disorders, such as blood pressure levels and the sleep/wake cycle.

EurekaAlert!

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Is Greater use of Imaging Technology Justified?

During the past several years, the availability of computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanning has grown rapidly. An estimated number of CT diagnostic equipment units grew more than 50 percent between 1995 and 2004, while the estimated number of MRI units more than doubled. Apparently, the use of imaging technologies has associated costs and benefits, the question is whether the benefits are more than costs or not? An insightful study conducted by Stanford University researchers recently published brought the issue into the limelight.

Read More at: Themedica

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Top 10 Cosmetic Surgery Trends for 2009

The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), offers its predictions for cosmetic surgery in 2009. Predictions are based on interviews with leading plastic surgeons around the country.

1. Aesthetic Medicine has seen a dramatic increase in the diversity of the patients treated over the past decade and this trend is expected to continue to grow stronger than ever, with applications that cater to all people. The appeal of both aesthetic surgery and cosmetic medicine will continue to spread across the spectrum of our population, as plastic surgeons from the medical industry further tailor treatments to meet the sometimes unique needs of that expanding population.

2. The growth and popularity of cosmetic fillers (Evolence, Juvederm, Restylane, etc.) will continue to increase as products continue to evolve and new players enter the market.

3. As our population increasingly realizes the dangers and health consequences of obesity, the number of patients seeking plastic surgery procedures for body contouring after dramatic weight loss (abdominoplasty, lower body lift, upper arm lift, etc.) will rise in 2009.

4. Reloxin (an injectable form of Botulinum Toxin Type A) will gain FDA approval and compete with Botox (the most popular cosmetic procedure for the past 5 years) and other similar products may begin to enter pre-market clinical trials.

5. Consumers looking for a bargain on cosmetic procedures will unfortunately lead to an increase in horror stories about “discount injectables” bought offshore and cosmetic medicine and cosmetic surgical procedures performed by untrained or poorly trained practitioners.

6. Experimental techniques for non-invasive fat removal (SonoScultpt, UltraShape) as a future alternative or adjunct to liposuction (lipoplasty) surgery, will continue be tested in clinical trials.

7. Men will represent a growing segment of the aesthetic surgery market. (According to a February 2008 consumer survey commissioned by ASAPS, 57 percent of men approve of cosmetic surgery, and 20 percent would consider having cosmetic surgery. Seventy-nine percent (79%) of American men surveyed said they would not be embarrassed if people in addition to their family and close friends knew they had undergone cosmetic surgery.)

8. As the popularity of non surgical and minimally invasive procedures continues to grow; surgeons and manufacturers will develop new techniques and products that advance the science, produce even better results and lessen recovery time.

9. Cosmetic surgery “vacations” will become less popular as educated consumers understand the safety and risk issues associated with surgical procedures and travel. Surgery performed by board-certified aesthetic plastic surgeons, in accredited facilities where follow-up care is available will continue to be the safest option and the best value.

10. Following the trend in increased consumer sophistication regarding healthcare choices, board certification of practitioners, and accreditation of surgical facilities will play an even more important role in choosing a cosmetic surgeon.

American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery

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Friday, December 26, 2008

How Harmful Bacteria Can Fight off Cancer?

Back in 2004, an experimental cancer vaccine using modified listeria bacteria showed great promise in animal studies by successfully treating new cancers in mice. At present human clinical trials - a pharmaceutical service, are underway.

Listeria monocytogenes is a deadly bacterium commonly found in soil, stream water, sewage, plants, and food and is responsible for causing listeriosis – a lethal food-borne infection with a fatality rate of 25%. On the other hand, the Salmonella bacterium, which, some time back, made headlines by tainting tomatoes nationwide, has a less than 1% mortality rate. Further, the deadliness of listerosis is to some extent attributed to the infection's ability to spread to the nervous system causing meningitis.

Nevertheless, a genetically altered version of the scary pathogen raises hopes that an engineered listeria vaccine can target cancers such as pancreatic and ovarian cancer, and perhaps leukemia as well.

The Bacteria Therapy's Modus Operandi

The bacteria rev up our immune system's engines to act fiercely against cancer cells. First they incite an “inherent” response from the immune system, and second, cause the cancer antigens to seep into the cells, which stimulate a potent "acquired" immune response. Thus causing the immune system to step on the gas real hard.

This immune response so generated induce both inflammation and an immune response to specific tumor antigens thereby attacking the tumor with generalized antitumor chemicals including interferon and tumor necrosis factor, coupled with activated T-cells that attack and kill the tumor. And experts believe that Listeria is by far the best bug to induce that kind of a response, i.e. activating both the innate and acquired immunity to work in tandem.

Phase I/II clinical trials pharmaceutical service results have shown that the live Listeria cancer vaccine “Lovaxin” by Advaxis is safe for humans. The trials though meant to assess safety also found that six of the 15 treated patients were still alive 2 years compared to their their life expectancy at the beginning of the trial that was six months or less.

As research continues, the deadly bacteria may eventually turnout to be a helpful buddy.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

How Some Vegetables Fight Cancer

Women should go for the broccoli when the relish tray comes around during holiday celebrations this season.

While it has been known for some time that eating cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, can help prevent breast cancer, the mechanism by which the active substances in these vegetables inhibit cell proliferation was unknown — until now.

Scientists in the UC Santa Barbara laboratories of Leslie Wilson, professor of biochemistry and pharmacology, and Mary Ann Jordan, adjunct professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, have shown how the healing power of these vegetables works at the cellular level. Their research is published in this month's medical industry journal Carcinogenesis.

"Breast cancer, the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women, can be protected against by eating cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage and near relatives of cabbage such as broccoli and cauliflower," said first author Olga Azarenko, who is a graduate student at UCSB. "These vegetables contain compounds called isothiocyanates which we believe to be responsible for the cancer-preventive and anti-carcinogenic activities in these vegetables. Broccoli and broccoli sprouts have the highest amount of the isothiocyanates.

Sulforaphane or SFN,.. has already been shown to reduce the incidence and rate of chemically induced mammary tumors in animals. It inhibits the growth of cultured human breast cancer cells, leading to cell death.

SFN like the more powerful anticancer agents,..[works] in a similar manner to the more powerful anticancer drugs. However SFN is much weaker than these other plant-based drugs, and thus much less toxic.

"SFN may be an effective cancer preventive agent because it inhibits the proliferation and kills precancerous cells," said Wilson. It is also possible that it could be used as an addition to taxol and other similar drugs to increase effective killing of tumor cells without increased toxicity.

EurekaAlert

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Least Heart Failure Risk for the Lean and Active

According to research conducted by doctors of the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and their colleagues assessing heart failure risk, found that the lean and active groups had the least risk, while the inactive group had the highest risk.

Also, even engaging in vigorous physical activity just about 1 to 3 times a month can make a difference by reducing risk of heart failure by a good 18 percent.

The results will be published in the Jan. 6 issue of the medical publication - Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.


Do Vitamin Supplements Prevent Cancer?

During the last decade, vitamin supplements appeared to be quite encouraging as potential remedies against cancer, heart disease, stroke and several other maladies. Recently, long-term studies carried out to determine their efficacy against cancer showed that vitamin dietary supplements weren't effective. So now do we have definitive evidence against the use of vitamin supplements in preventing cancer, some experts disagree.

More at: Themedica

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Cough Drug Ingredient May Treat Prostate Cancer

A study published today in the December issue of the European medical journal Anticancer Research demonstrates that an ingredient used in a common cough suppressant may be useful in treating advanced prostate cancer. Researchers found that noscapine, which has been used in cough medication for nearly 50 years, reduced tumor growth in mice by 60% and limited the spread of tumors by 65% without causing harmful side effects.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that 186,320 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008 and 28,660 will die from it. One man in 6 will get prostate cancer during his lifetime. Although slow-growing in most men, the cancer is considered advanced when it spreads beyond the prostate. There is no known cure. And low income men are at an increased risk of advanced prostate cancer

Noscapine is a naturally-occurring substance, a non-addictive derivative of opium found in cough medicines. As a natural substance, noscapine cannot be patented, which has limited the potential for clinical trials.

Hormone therapy and chemotherapy, along with radiation and surgery, are currently used to slow the progression of advanced prostate cancer. Side effects resulting from these treatments include impotence, incontinence, fatigue, anemia, brittle bones, hair loss, reduced appetite, nausea and diarrhea. No toxic side effects were observed in the laboratory study of noscapine.

Find the story at EurekaAlert!

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Robotic Pharmacists – Drug Dispensing Made Easy

Pharmacists have a tough job, aside from reading illegible prescriptions, and ensuring that only the right pharmaceutical drugs are dispensed, they have to constantly run around stockrooms looking for drugs. However, some pharmacies may have already found a solution in the form of robotic pharmacists.

Recently, a new set of robotic dispensers, christened as “robodispensers,” were introduced at Leicester's hospitals' pharmacies. These robots are big machines, about eight meters in size, and are costly too, with each piece costing about US$ 463,530.

The New Age Dispensers

The new age pharmacists seem to be clever and efficient machines, as they can tirelessly work round the clock and not need even a cat's nap. They can accurately locate and dispense 700 medicines a day - 60 per hour, in addition to storing 25,000 packs of medicines.

When a pharmacy technician asks the robots to fetch a pack of a particular pharmaceutical – patent or a generic drug, the on-board computer swings into action, calculating where the medicines are stocked. Next, the picking head gets to right spot, and using a suction arm pulls the pack from the shelf. After which the pack find its way onto a conveyor belt and the drugs are delivered to the technician.

Bulky and pricey they may be, however they have a number of advantages over human pharmacists. For instance, they can save many pharmacists the pain of rushing about stockrooms in search of medicines, and they can better focus on ensuring that the right medicines are dispensed. Also, these robotic dispensers are highly accurate because rely on the barcodes on the prescription drugs packs to identify medicines, thus reducing errors. And, a reduced turnaround time is yet another benefit.

Perhaps, reduced costs and widespread installations of such machines will take care of the woes of pharmacy technicians around the world.

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Study: Lower Death Rates Linked to Drug Eluting Stents

Patients receiving drug eluting stents (DES) — stents coated with medication to prevent narrowing of the artery — as part of an angioplasty had better outcomes one year later than patients with bare metal stents, according to a new study to be published in CMAJ http://www.cmaj.ca/press/080050.pdf.

(A stent is a device placed in the artery to keep the inner wall of the artery open.)

Mortality in the first 30 days for people with pharmaceutical drug eluting stents was significantly lower than for those with bare metal stents. However, in this prospective cohort study of 6440 patients, there was an increased risk of repeat revascularization procedures or death in the DES group after 3 years.

Patients with drug eluting stents were more likely to be female, with higher rates of kidney disease, diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension.

"Our study findings suggest that drug eluting stents, despite recent concerns surrounding drug eluting stent safety, the long-term survival (to 3 years) of patients receiving drug eluting stents remains globally favourable, and certainly not measurably worse than that of patients treated with bare metal stents," state Dr. William Ghali, coauthors from the University of Calgary and Dr. Andrew Philpott. "However, we did observe a concerning risk trend toward accelerating adverse events in the DES group late in the follow-up period — a finding that underlines the need for ongoing surveillance of longer-term outcomes," write the authors.

Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) , via, EurekaAlert!

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Smoking May Up Colorectal Cancer Risk & Death

An analysis of previous studies indicates that smoking is significantly associated with an increased risk for colorectal cancer and death, according to an article in the December 17 issue of JAMA.

Colorectal cancer, often treated with cancer drugs, includes cancerous growths in the colon, rectum and appendix.

Although tobacco was responsible for approximately 5.4 million deaths in 2005, there are still an estimated 1.3 billion smokers in the world. While a number of cancers are attributable to smoking, the link between cigarette smoking and colorectal cancer (CRC) has been inconsistent among studies. "Because smoking can potentially be controlled by individual and population-related measures, detecting a link between CRC and smoking could help reduce the burden of the world's third most common tumor, which currently causes more than 500,000 annual deaths worldwide. In the United States alone, an estimate of approximately 50,000 deaths from CRC would have occurred in 2008," the authors write.

Edoardo Botteri, M.Sc., of the European Institute of Oncology, Milan, Italy, and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis to review and summarize published data examining the link between smoking and CRC incidence and death.

The researchers identified 106 observational studies, and the meta-analysis was based on a total of nearly 40,000 new cases of CRC. For the analysis on incidence, smoking was associated with an 18 percent increased risk of CRC. The researchers also found a statistically significant dose-relationship with an increasing number of pack-years (number of packs of cigarettes smoked/day, multiplied by years of consumption) and cigarettes per day. However, the association was statistically significant only after 30 years of smoking.

Source: JAMA & Archives

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Acupuncture without Puncture – Is it Better?

Alternative medicines are becoming increasingly popular by the day, a recent NCCAM survey showed that approximately 38 percent of adults in the United States aged 18 years and over and nearly 12 percent of U.S. children aged 17 years and under use some form of complementary and alternative medicines. However, there are also concerns about effectiveness, and the safety of some treatments.

Acupuncture is an age-old traditional Chinese therapy that's helped millions of people over centuries, see for instance, see how acupuncture can help women. And now even animals benefit from acupuncture. But it seems that scientists have begun exploring newer renditions of this traditional complementary medicine – “Acupuncture without needle penetration.”

Acupuncture Sans “Puncture”

Recently, studies involving cancer patients suffering from nausea during radiotherapy were conducted to see if the patients were relieved by “acupuncture without insertion” just as they were with “acupuncture with penetration.”

All of the four studies conducted at the Department of Medicine and Health Sciences at Linköping University and the Vårdal Institute in Sweden. One of the studies involved 215 patients who were undergoing radiation treatment to undergo one of these two acupuncture types.

While, 109 received traditional acupuncture, with needles penetrating the skin in particular points, the other 106 patients got only a simulated acupuncture with telescopic, blunt placebo needles barely touching the skin.

The results were startling, about 95 percent of the patients in both groups felt that the acupuncture treatment had helped relieve nausea.

Unlike many other forms of alternative medication, acupuncture scores better on proven efficacy in relieving several maladies. However, it's also well-known that when it's not administered properly, it can cause serious adverse effects, including infections and punctured organs.

But with this new study showing acupuncture without penetration being just as effective as it's traditional counterpart, there's hope that some of the risks such as that of infections, can almost be eliminated at source.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Low-income men more likely to be diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer

Low-income men are more likely to present with advanced prostate cancers, most likely because they don't receive screening services shown to reduce the diagnosis of later-stage cancers, a UCLA study found.

Treated with cancer drugs, prostate cancer is a disease in which abnormal tumor cells develop in the prostate gland of men.

Researchers found that of the 570 men studied, 19 percent had metastatic cancer at diagnosis, compared to 4 percent of men from the general population who were followed in other studies.

The study also found that the diagnosis rates for lower-risk, less advanced cancers in the IMPACT (Improving Access, Counseling and Treatment for Californians with Prostate Cancer) patients did not increase over time, while the diagnosis rates of lower-risk, less advanced cancers did go up for men in more affluent populations.

The study will be Published in the February 2009 issue of The Journal of Urology.

Dr. William Aronson, the senior author of the study, a clinical professor in the UCLA Department of Urology and a researcher at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center said, "...the persistent preponderance of metastatic and higher risk localized cancers in these men suggests that more comprehensive strategies are needed to eliminate the disparities in prostate cancer morbidity and mortality."

...these findings "serve as a reminder that for disadvantaged men, under-detection and under-treatment of prostate cancer remains a significant concern," the study states.

"Improving access to the preventive and treatment aspects of health care will go a long way toward reducing the disparities in disease morbidity and mortality suffered by poor and minority communities," writes Dr. M. Norman Oliver, director of the University of Virginia Center of Health Disparities.

Source: University of California - Los Angeles

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Phony Patients may Avert Adverse Drug Events

On May 20, 1999 Rofecoxib, better known as “Vioxx,” was approved as safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), on September 30, 2004, the manufacturer voluntarily recalled the drug from the market because of concerns of increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Clinical trials or drug testing, a pharmaceutical service, is complex. And while the criticism of the US FDA over monitoring of product safety continues, there may already exist solutions that may help the federal agency to better prevent similar debacles from recurring.

The Virtual Patient Platform

One such predictive computer model of human physiology is known as the Cardiovascular PhysioLab(R). Developed by Entelos, this platform can aid in drug discovery and development by offering a comprehensive large-scale computer simulation of cholesterol regulation, atherogenesis, and cardiovascular risk.

In fact, it may also help evaluate combination therapies, identify and interpret biomarker patterns, and predict a drug's long-term clinical efficacy in managing cholesterol, atherosclerosis, and heart disease.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both women and men in the United States. For instance, in 2002, 696,947 people died of heart disease, about half of them women. This is a big number because it made up for 29% of all U.S. deaths.

Now, while these man-made patients might serve as a powerful and innovative means towards diagnosis, treatment, monitoring and prevention of complex, chronic diseases, modern controlled clinical trials are still the best way for evaluating safety and efficacy of drugs, according to pharmaceutical service industry experts.

Nevertheless, technology such as this which enables a broad range of "virtual patients" to be tried for different drugs, does seem to make the job of drug development easy and safe. Perhaps with time as the technology advances, it may include many more functions, reducing dependence on human subjects. Making it even safer.

And to the FDA, it might provide an invaluable tool to better monitor ongoing cardiovascular trials before their submission for approval, and also help it to determine possible adverse events in advance. Possibly preventing another drug debacle like the one from the past.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

2009: Top 9 Issues for Health Industries

The coming year is being considered as a watershed for healthcare industry in the United States. Affecting hospitals, insurers, employers and patients alike, it is hoped that the convergence of market and political forces will lead to changes that will benefit patients and make the health system sturdier. In the wake of the pressing financial crisis of 2009, PricewaterhouseCoopers has identified top nine issues for health industries.

More at: Themedica

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Low-carb diets Can Lead to Poor Thinking

A new study from the psychology department at Tufts University shows that when dieters eliminate carbohydrates from their meals, they performed more poorly on memory-based tasks than when they reduce calories, but maintain carbohydrates.A Confused Owl When carbohydrates were reintroduced, cognition skills returned to normal.

"This study demonstrates that the food you eat can have an immediate impact on cognitive behavior," explains Holly A. Taylor, professor of psychology at Tufts and corresponding author of the study. "The popular low-carb, no-carb diets have the strongest potential for negative impact on thinking and cognition."

Taylor collaborated with Professor Robin Kanarek, former undergraduate Kara Watts and research associate Kristen D'Anci. The study, "Low-carbohydrate weight-loss diets. Effects on cognition and mood," appears in the February 2009 edition of the medical industry journal "Appetite."

While the brain uses glucose as its primary fuel, it has no way of storing it. Rather, the body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose, which is carried to the brain through the blood stream and used immediately by nerve cells for energy. Reduced carbohydrate intake should thus reduce the brain’s source of energy. Therefore, researchers hypothesized that diets low in carbohydrates would affect cognitive skills.

"Although the study had a modest sample size, the results showed a clear difference in cognitive performance as a function of diet," says Taylor.

"The data suggest that after a week of severe carbohydrate restriction, memory performance, particularly on difficult tasks, is impaired," Taylor explains..

While the study "only tracked dieting participants for three weeks, the data suggest that diets can affect more than just weight," says Taylor. "The brain needs glucose for energy and diets low in carbohydrates can be detrimental to learning, memory, and thinking."

Source: Tufts University News

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Chemical War Agents – A New Way of Decontamination

On March 20, 1995, 7:00-8:10 am – during the rush hour at the Tokyo subway, in five well planned acts of terror, members of the Aum Shinrikyo in Japan released sarin gas on several lines of the Tokyo Metro, killing about a dozen people, severely Sarin Gas Attackinjuring fifty and causing vision problems for nearly a thousand other victims. The incident remains, the most serious attack to occur in Japan since the end of the Second World War.

The incident involving a poisonous laboratory chemical starkly revealed how annihilating an attack by chemical warfare agents can be, and given the frequency of the terror attacks these days, the possibility of a terrorist attack by means of toxic laboratory chemical supplies can't be ruled out.

With research by their side, the scientists in Texas, California, and Maryland, via the American Chemical Society, recently claimed to have developed sophisticated "wipes" that could be used to clear up people and equipment exposed to a range of harmful military and industrial and laboratory chemicals.

The Next Generation Wipes

The high-tech wipes are being considered a big leap toward a universal personal decontamination system for nearly that could clear up just about any toxic or hazardous chemical, and save countless lives. For instance, "mustard" is one of the deadliest blister agents around. It is known to cause severe, delayed burns to the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract, damages cells within minutes of contact and large exposures to the chemical may be fatal. However, the new wipes are effective against it as well.

Another distinction about the new wipe is that unlike the earlier generation of decontaminating agents were either powders or liquids, this one is fabric-based. And hence it doesn't carry the disadvantages of its predecessors. For example the powders, like activated carbon, can pollute the air and cause lungs damage, the liquids on the other hand are effective against only a handful of harmful agents as many laboratory chemical manufacturers would vouch for , and that they can also damage electronic equipment.

Comprising a layer of activated carbon pressed between layers of absorbent fibers, they've been shown to work better than particulate carbon and a just as good as the military decontamination kit.

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Study: How Poverty Affects the Brain

University of California, Berkeley, researchers have shown for the first time that the brains of low-income children function differently from the brains of high-income kids.Electroencephalography, or EEG, uses electrodes on the scalp and held in place by a cap to measure underlying brain activity.

In a study recently accepted for publication by the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, which seems to have surprised many including those from the medical industry, scientists at UC Berkeley's Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute and the School of Public Health report that normal 9- and 10-year-olds differing only in socioeconomic status have detectable differences in the response of their prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that is critical for problem solving and creativity.

Brain function was measured by means of an electroencephalograph (EEG) - basically, a cap fitted with electrodes to measure electrical activity in the brain - like that used to assess epilepsy, sleep disorders and brain tumors.

"Kids from lower socioeconomic levels show brain physiology patterns similar to someone who actually had damage in the frontal lobe as an adult," said Robert Knight, director of the institute and a UC Berkeley professor of psychology. "We found that kids are more likely to have a low response if they have low socioeconomic status, though not everyone who is poor has low frontal lobe response."

UC Berkeley News

Should Mental Health be Integrated into Primary Care?

Mental disorders affect millions around the world, which are often fundamentally linked to a number of physical ailments such as cancer, heart disease and AIDS.
Mental Illness
According to NIMH estimates, about 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older that's about one in four adults suffering from a mental disorder in a given year. And these figures translate into 57.7 million people afflicted with mental disorders, considering the 2004 U.S. Census. Despite the widespread prevalence of mental illness across the word, there's a huge gap between the number of people affected and those who get treatment, which often requires prescription of pharmaceutical drugs. This is true for all countries. A recent report by the WHO titled “Integrating mental health into primary health care: a global perspective,” suggests integrating mental health into primary care, citing many benefits and justifications.

More at: Themedica

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Pharma Packaging – Innovation Key to Cost Savings

In the pharmaceutical industry, while the status of the packaging function might only be that of an appendix, if properly utilized, it can be an invaluable resource for innovation and cost savings.A Pharmaceutical/Medical Packaging Plant

During the whole process of production, the packaging people are roped in only after the product research and development teams are over with their jobs. And at times they're brought in even past the stage of product engineering. Naturally, by this stage, the schedule gets tight and there's barely time left for meeting deadlines, leave aside innovation.

Innovation might not be an invention but just a new way of doing something. And as Peter Drucker identified, it's one of the only two basic business functions, the other being marketing, it has has been known to result in improved quality, reduced labor costs, improved production processes, reduced pharmaceutical packaging materials, reduced energy consumption, etc. – all of which spell profitability.

However, if packaging is only considered as an afterthought, the possibility of innovation is lost somewhere, and consequently its benefits too.

Leveraging Integration for Innovation

Experts believe that integrating the packaging function with the research and development function requires only a few tweaks. To breed innovation it's important to allow the packaging function more influence within R&D. This is so because when the two functions work jointly, it will enable the packaging department to better help with quality initiatives, continuous enhancement programs, costs reduction, etc.

Also, when the packaging department is aware of the projects that are underway including the high priority ones, it can prepare in advances and has the time necessary to think and innovate, and better use their pharmaceutical packaging equipment .

Further, in addition to just an influence within R&D, a more innovative set-up could include merging R&D and packaging. Because a lot of cost reduction, quality, and continuous improvement depends on packaging, so including packaging within the whole process sounds like a better option.

Posts, Possibly of Interest

Assistive Technology – Robots are the Future

Hospital Reforms - A Must for the Future

Lab Work - A Top Germy Job

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Eye Diagnostics – A New Way To Capture Color Retinal Images

Monitoring and treatment of eye diseases with a potential to cause blindness can be challenging. However, with new advances in research, scientists may have just developed an effective means of taking high quality color photographs of eye inflammation with the help of diagnostic equipment.A Human Eye

Recently, scientists made a headway by taking high quality color photographs of the clinical stages of ocular inflammation in mice, using what they call “Topical Endoscopic Fundal Imaging (TEFI).” And it seems that mice are just the beginning, soon humans could replace the mice, and for the better.

How TEFI would help?

Topical Endoscopic Fundal Imaging or (TEFI), makes use of an endoscope (the good old diagnostic equipment) along with parallel illumination and observation channels connected to a digital camera to capture images eye images. The development of this technique is attributed to Michel Paques, et al.

In the new study a team researchers from the University of Bristol's Academic Unit of Ophthalmology tracked the changes in the mice retina, and the best part was that it didn't cause distress to the animals or was there a need administer anesthesia to the patients (mice, in this case). Quite a painkiller find!

The paper was published in the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology journal Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science in a paper titled "The Clinical Time-Course of Experimental Autoimmune Uveoretinitis Using Topical Endoscopic Fundal Imaging with Histologic and Cellular Infiltrate Correlation."

According to experts, TEFI would enable monitoring of clinical disease quickly and in a non-invasive fashion. And based on the clinical observations, the investigators will be able to design experimental protocols. In addition, this new technique also paves the way to detect changes in the eye that were previously undetectable.

At the same time, while TEFI along with other histological methods does enable observation of clinical features and severity of disease, in order to gather information about the dynamics, phenotype, function, etc - a detailed analysis of cell populations during different stages of disease as it progresses might be needed.

For now only the mice used in the study seem to have benefited from it, humans may need to wait a bit.

I think the most exciting aspect of medicine is innovation. Not too far back Video Game Surgery provided new means for training surgeons. Or more recently, as it was revealed that Robots are the Future of Assistive Technology.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Assistive Technology – Robots are the Future

Imagine a world where you have a faithful aide by your side that can assist you with just about anything from moping up the floors, washing the dishes, patrolling your house, providing elder care to being you best buddy by being ready to help whenever you need it. It seems that after the dog, robots are going to be man's most faithful friend.Robot Asimo

We seem to have come far from the times when robots or mechanical servants were only heard of in ancient mythologies, such as the robots built by the Greek god Hephaestus to the age of patient aid and assistive devices. While, modern robotics has come a long way, there was a lot of buzz recently about the “uBOT-5” - the robot, supposed to be an awesome robotic assistant for the elderly in future.

The State-of-the-art Robotics

And it's not without a reason because computer science researchers are well set on their path to endow these “mechanical servants” with never seen capabilities. For instance the uBOT-5 would not only be able them to assist the elderly but Robot UBot-5would also act to help them, e.g. dialing 911 in case of emergencies. Or they could send out reminders to patients when its time for their medication. To top it all, they could even help them with grocery shopping in addition to allow them to talk to their friends 'n' family including healthcare providers.

However, this is only one side of the story, because when a patient's friends, family or medics need to talk to their loved ones – they too can initiate a conversation via the assistant. For instance, a concerned family member who wants to know about whether their elderly relative is ok or not? They can establish a link with any Internet connection, or better still navigate around the house to look for mom or dad. This can be especially useful if a patient needs help and is unable to take the call.

At the same time, while the technology may have advanced, cost concerns still seem to persist for these patient aids. For instance, at present the prototypes at University of Massachusetts Amherst cost close to $65,000 for a unit. However, experts believe that with commercialization the robots may cost about $5,000. That's less, but lesser still would be be better.

Till the time that happens, perhaps cutting edge enhancements to the already existing patient aid equipments aren't bad either – as some interesting gadgets came to life at this year's Assistive Technology Exposition of the Saint Francis University’s CERMUSA - including retina-steered wheelchairs, digitized and synthesized speech-generating devices and pressure sensing prosthetic limbs that could fill up a glass or water or wine!

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Monday, December 1, 2008

Hospital Reforms - A Must for the Future

Experts believe that value of hospital-based care will not decrease in the future, rather, hospitals will be required to meet the high expectations of the public and all stakeholders of a medical facility in addition to a progressively challenging medical industry environment.
A Hospital Building
Consequently, just like earlier, hospitals of today must be prepared to remain flexible to accommodate the changing healthcare environment and to remain sustainable. Recently, the Joint Commission released a report titled “Health Care at the Crossroads: Guiding Principles for the Development of the Hospital of the Future” urging hospitals and public policymakers to use the guidelines in the report to prepare today's hospitals for the future.

More at: Themedica

Saturday, November 29, 2008

FDA: Traces of Melamine Safe in Baby Formula

Issuing an update on the reports from China of infant formula contaminated with melamine, the FDA has issued a Health Information Advisory to proactively reassure the American public that there is no known threat of contamination in infant formula manufactured by companies that have met the requirements to sell such products in the United States.

This is so because because none of the Chinese manufacturers of infant formula have fulfilled the requirements to sell infant formula in the United States. Based on World Health Organization reports, tainted infant formula in China has claimed the lives of four babies and more than 47,000 children in China had to be hospitalized, and and 12,000 were hospitalized from melamine-contaminated dairy products.

The FDA’s ongoing investigation has shown that the domestic supply of infant formula is safe and that consumers can continue using U.S. manufactured infant formulas. In fact the FDA has concluded that levels of melamine alone or cyanuric acid alone, at or below 1 part per million (ppm) in infant formula do not raise public health concerns.

Here's the FDA update: Melamine Contamination in China

Btw: Did you know that Lab Work is A Top Germy Job or that how How Dietary Supplements Can Save Billions.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Lab Work - A Top Germy Job

If you are one of those who work with sophisticated laboratory equipment, and feel guilty when you take a sick day, there might be no need to feel that way anymore. Because being a laboratory worker entitles you to qualify as one of America's germiest professionals.Lab work is amongst the Top 10 Germiest Jobs in America

These findings were recently made known by Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, who's better known by the moniker "Dr. Germ."

However, laboratory workers aren't alone, in fact they rank at #5 position, and you may be somewhat surprised to know that teachers and day care workers are over the top. And following them are bank employees, tech support pros, medics – the lab workers surface in the next position. Beyond rank #5, police officers, animal control officers, plumbers, sanitation workers and meat packers are subsequently included.

Germy Lab Work

And it seems that laboratorians have a good reason to figure in the list because of how and where they work. For instance, microbiology lab staffers can often be seen walking out from their labs swabbing hands and surfaces in the hospital and then return to find the many of the microbiological cultures test positive for different microbes.

Despite the fact that all of it is very typical of lab workers – nevertheless regular handwashing or using sanitizers in addition to thorough cleansing of medical equipment and lab products around the hospital should provide more protection.

At the same time and according to experts avoiding the office completely or a completely germ free work environment might backfire too. Because a totally sterile environment can make your immune system lazy as it doesn't get enough exercise. As a consequence it might not act promptly when your body actually needs a quick response.

Btw – the data also point to men's desktops being more germier than women's! Fashionable Medical Clothing is becoming a means to self-Expression In The Workplace

Monday, November 24, 2008

How Dietary Supplements Can Save Billions

The national healthcare costs continuing their upward spiral were a good 6.9 percent higher in 2007 than the previous year. This meant that it was twice as much as the inflation rate, and ate into 16 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the United States. Can dietary supplements control some of these costs?

Naturally, concerns to curb this burgeoning and out of control rate of increase has become a priority in the minds of policymakers and government officials. And while experts debate inefficiencies, administrative expenses, wastage and fraud as the reasons for the current state of affairs, they may have overlooked dietary supplements as an effective and easy answer in the quest of reducing healthcare costs.

More at: Themedica

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fashionable Medical Clothing - Self-Expression In The Workplace

The standard medical clothing has remained virtually unchanged for over 40 years. However, be it the medical industry the new generation of medics, especially women in healthcare, may be inspired to try out fashionable medical clothing, combining utility and elegance.

The need to incorporate fashion in healthcare medical clothing has long been overlooked. Imagine, scrubs, lab-coats, hospital and medical apparel bringing in a new look and utility attire that helps women find a balance between looking fashionable at the same time presenting the professional look that's so important for the industry. An initiative of bringing out such clothing can already be seen in the collection of clinician scrubs and lab coats from Medelita.

However, trying to induce fashion into medical clothing and help women find a sense of self-expression and femininity, and yet allow them to fit in with the generally accepted standards of the industry, which for the most part is male dominated, can be quite a challenge for designers.

Consider for instance, that to mold hospital clothing in stylish yet professional form they'd need to make design improvements to the scrub tops, perhaps by darting at the bust, or include tailored sleeves, and tapered waist and hips that so as to give women modern and trendy lines, coupled with an attractive fit. And not to compromise on comfort associated with the dresses. On the other hand the clinician pants might need to be given a contoured rise and a subtle bootleg for a slimming look.

It won't too far in future, when attractive details, feminine colors, design improvements is a commonplace, and lend medical clothing a fresh appearance on a familiar style and give women a professional look tailored to the female figure that many think, they simply crave for.

Also, this year's European Medical Devices Green Excellence Product Innovation Award by Frost & Sullivan tell you why Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Is The Winning Formula for medical wastes.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Medical Waste - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Is The Winning Formula

Medical wastes not only pose a risk to human lives but also to the environment and animal life. Though treatment at waste management plants does reduce the risks, indirect health risks may occur through the release of toxic pollutants or through treatment or disposal of waste. Given this scenario, the three R's - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle seems to be an apt solution for managing medical wastes. And for the most part a winning formula too.

Medical wastes include a myriad byproducts from healthcare activities, such as Infectious wastes -- cultures and stocks of infectious agents, etc, Anatomic wastes – the body parts and animal carcasses, Sharp wastes--syringes, disposable scalpels, etc., Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals, Radioactive matter --radioactive diagnostic material, Wastes with high heavy metal content e.g. broken mercury thermometers. In addition to these include the used up medical consumables like gloves, bandages, medical tapes, sanitary products, etc, which are processed by waste treatment equipment and waste management plant.

Though it may have taken some time for adjusting to the three R's, it seems to be gaining momentum pretty fast, as can be witnessed from the growth of the medical device reuse industry. Presently valued at $4 billion, it's forecasted for a significant annual growth rate of 12.9% through 2012. And much of the popularity is due to the cost savings derived from reuse.

As for the winning formula, The 2008 European Medical Devices Green Excellence Product Innovation Award by Frost & Sullivan to the EcoGlove system should be proof enough.

The company was successful in introducing a system that change the glove supply from a commodity style purchasing to a full service based approach. The medical waste management equipment innovation promises high quality glove, lower overall cost, better quality control, and also addresses the issues of waste management and overuse of resources in healthcare.

For instance, these gloves can be reconditioned for repeated use (up to 7 times). An H2O2 process cleans the gloves, which has the capability to reduce waste by as much as 75 per cent, thus slashing energy use and expense when compared to a single-use disposable product.

It appears that in these times of environmental concerns, especially the management of medical wastes and cost cutting, where often quality is given a back-seat to meet price pressures, only innovative solutions by the industry and waste management companies, incorporating the R's will be the winners.

Also, discover Why Medical Device Reuse Is Hot.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tracking Hospital Bed Availability During Emergencies

Unlike the underdeveloped nations, there no shortage of hospital beds in the US. And considering the normal course of affairs, about 2.5 million hospital beds that are in use in the US are sufficient. But if everyone in the country needed one of these items of hospital furniture at once, they won't be sufficient.

Now considering a worst case scenario, this sort of a situation is possible in case of a public health emergency or a bioterrorist event. In order to make it easy for organizations to track the availability of beds in such a case the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has developed standard hospital bed definitions to enable hospital systems and emergency responders seeking beds to know and understand each other's language.

The following are the classification of hospital beds to help emergency responders to communicate better.

Licensed Beds: These pieces of medical furniture refers to the maximum number of beds for which a hospital holds a license to operate. For many hospitals the number of beds in operation is less than the all of the beds for which they are licensed.

Physically Available Beds: These hospital beds are licensed, physically set up, and available for use. Further, these beds are periodically maintained in the hospital for the use of patients, which supply accommodations coupled with support services viz. food, housekeeping, laundry, etc. However, these beds may or may not be staffed despite being physically available.

Staffed Beds: These are beds licensed and physically available, and there's also staff available to attend to the patient using the bed. Staffed beds make up both the occupied ones as well as the vacant ones.

Unstaffed Beds: Just like staffed beds these too are licensed and physically available, however they don't have no current staff on hand to take care of the patient, if one were to occupy it.

Occupied Beds: These beds are licensed, physically available, staffed, and occupied by a patient. Simply put, they are in use.

Vacant/Available Beds: As the title suggests these beds are vacant and are available for occupation by patients immediately. Also, for a bed to be called “Available,” these beds must include supporting space, equipment, medical material, ancillary and support services, and staff to operate under normal circumstances. In addition, these beds are licensed, physically available, and have staff on hand to attend to the patient who occupies the bed.

So many classes of beds, so that emergency responders can speak the same language

Monday, November 17, 2008

Why Medical Device Reuse Is Hot?

Just as healthcare costs skyrocket and landfills & medical waste disposal add to the woes of healthcare providers, reprocessing single-use labeled medical devices and medical instruments takes on priority. Not to say that the practice or medical device reuse hasn't been questioned on account of patient safety, but reports on the issue, especially the new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) showed that reused medical devices didn't pose and extra risk to patients. On the whole, proper reuse of medical devices and instruments is not only safe and cost effective but also helps the cause of the environment. More at: Themedica


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Precision Motion Medical Devices – A Medical Manufacturing Innovation

Over the years the medical industry has been demanding more precise, smaller, less invasive and more portable medical devices. And it now seems that their wishes may have been granted with new developments in motion-based components and subsystems.

The medical device industry can make use these cutting-edge technologies to power motors, pumps, subsystems in several different ways. At the forefront of these innovations has been one of the world's largest providers of motion actuators, Johnson Electric.

Solenoids: A number of compact solenoids can enable machine and process automation functions right from the most basic on-off function to extremely complex sequencing. In fact, they are best suited to medical applications and medical tools such as medical carts, blood analyzers, medical instruments sterilizers and pharma pill dispensers.

Motors: Speaking of which, a large number of brush and brushless, synchronous and piezo-ceramic motors can help manufacturers to overcome a variety of obstacles such as accurate positioning and motion in surgical assist medical devices, precise movement in MRI environments and silent operation of sleep apnea treatment applications.

Subassemblies/Subsystems: A range of design, rapid prototyping and manufacturing services for medical device subsystems can help companies to reduce supply chain complexity and get products to market by up to 50 percent faster. Reportedly, innovations from the manufacture house a variety of subsystems and subassemblies, including multi-axis stages for precision lens positioning in microscopes, robotic surgical assist, and long-life switch assemblies for medical applications.

Pumps: Pumps that are small, light and possess features viz. adjustable speed and reverse flow capabilities, are apt for use in a variety of drug delivery and variable flow applications for medical, pharmaceutical and laboratory applications.

Meanwhile, other advancements helping the medical industry have been reported to. For instance: Innovation To Vanquish Biotechnology Products Deficit and Self-Assembling Hydrogel - A New Drug Delivery System. At the same time and for the industry, there are challenges too. See: How Pharma Drugs Can Harm Pets and When Hospital Beds Bite!