Tuesday, 31 January 2012

8 Little-Known Benefits of Treating Depression

Anyone with depression knows that the condition can rob you of more than just happiness — its debilitating symptoms can affect your relationships, your ability to work, even your desire to get up off the couch. So should you just cross your fingers and hope things get better soon?

“In some cases, depression may resolve on its own without treatment, but much of the time it doesn’t,” explains Michael S. Ziffra, MD, an assistant professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Evanston, Ill.

Many people go through a trial-and-error period of treatment before they find the most effective combination of lifestyle changes, therapy, and medication, says Dr. Ziffra — but with the right treatment, the positives can be sizable (and well worth the effort): Better sleep. Better memory. Better sex life!
Once you get the right treatment for your depression, here’s what you can look forward to.

Healthier Weight

Some people with depression lose weight because their appetite has taken a hike; others cope with food and end up putting on pounds. Then add the fact that folks with depression are often stripped of their motivation to be physically active and may be less inclined to engage in other healthy behaviors, and that can lead to some serious weight issues, says Dr. Ziffra.
However, treating depression could help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight. A recent review of six years worth of research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners reported that people whose depression was stable or treated were better able to maintain their weight loss.

Better Zzzs (and More Energy!)

One of the most pronounced symptoms of depression is sleep trouble, whether it’s sleeping too much or too little. For some people, the insomnia-depression cycle turns vicious: You may lose sleep over your mental health, and then the lack of quality sleep feeds the depression and makes it worse.
But overcoming depression may mean you start sleeping soundly. However, because some antidepressants worsen or fail to address sleeplessness, your doctor may recommend an additional medication to correct sleep issues until your sleep problem and the depression are resolved (a study of 385 adults published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that supplementing their primary antidepressant with one that targets sleep improved their sleep overall).

Much-Needed Memory Jolt

Been feeling a little foggy? “One of the possible symptoms of depression is that it can affect some cognitive abilities,” notes Ziffra.
In fact, many people find that they’re better able to concentrate once they overcome depression. However, if your depression is related to another cause of memory loss, such as dementia or brain injury, depression treatment can improve your quality of life and might improve cognition, but it won’t cure the memory issues.

A Sizzling Sex Life

Sex and depression are connected in quite complicated ways — while the mental health condition may dull your interest in sex to begin with, some people experience sexual side effects from the drugs they take to treat depression.
However, some research has found that depression treatments may bring back your desire: In an analysis of more than 1,000 adults who took the depression drug Abilify (aripiprazole) along with another antidepressant, women using the medication reported an increased interest in sex (however, men did not report similar results).
But if medications have turned you off, there are a number of things you can do turn on your love-life switch again: For example, you might be able to change to another depression drug or get an additional prescription. And remember, once treatment is over and you’re feeling better, your interest in sex should return, says Ziffra.

Fewer Aches and Pain

The hallmark symptoms of depression are emotional, but the condition may also come with physical symptoms. In fact, numerous studies show that people who have a pain-related condition, such as joint pain or pain caused by cancer treatment, feel their pain more intensely if they are also depressed.
It’s difficult to determine whether the depression is due to ongoing pain or is simply making pain worse, but doctors recommend that you treat depression along with being proactive about pain management — the physical aches could dramatically improve once depression disappears.

A Jump-Start on Your Job

What’s the leading cause of lost productivity and work time in this country? Depression. Estimates suggest that, in the United States, about $42 billion is lost annually because of depression-related productivity issues.
However, a study of Korean workers published in Value Health found that just eight weeks of depression treatment reduced absenteesism and costs related to depression. So don’t delay treatment — your big promotion could depend on it.

More Motivation

If you feel robbed of your enthusiasm for the things you love, you’re not alone — in fact, depression can make it hard just to get off the couch.
However, Ziffra explains that once you take that first step off the sofa and start seeking help, you will start feeling more motivated to take other important steps, such as delving into challenging projects at work, reconnecting with the important people in your life, and renewing interest in the passions you used to enjoy (salsa dancing, anyone?).

Less Likelihood of Relapse

Perhaps the only thing that can make you feel worse about your symptoms of depression is fear that you’ll go through depression again later on. But if you and your doctors aggressively work to overcome depression now, you can breathe a little easier.
“There’s some evidence that treatment may help to prevent relapse, especially in people who have had multiple episodes or who have a strong genetic predisposition,” Ziffra says.

EMBL Conference: Microfluidics 2012

Microfluidics is a quickly growing, highly interdisciplinary field at the interface of physics, engineering, chemistry and biology. Over the past years microfluidic approaches have been used for a variety of applications, including chemical synthesis, nucleotide sequencing, functional genomics and single molecule/ single cell/ single organism studies. Many of these applications, including next-generation sequencing devices, have been revolutionized by miniaturization, paving the way for global gene analysis and hence transforming biology.

In addition, working on the pico- to nanoliter scale not only allows a high degree of parallelization, but as well offers superb spatiotemporal control. Small objects such as cells or even discrete parts thereof can be exposed to unique conditions, facilitating entirely novel approaches in modern biology and chemistry.
The EMBL Microfluidics Conference 2012 aims to bring together top researchers in the field and to spark scientific exchange, also across different disciplines. The latest Lab-on-a-Chip technologies and applications will be presented, which should be of major interest for experts as well as scientists looking for a first glance at this exciting new technology.

EMBL Heidelberg, Germany Wednesday 25 July - Friday 27 July 2012

Read more:

Monday, 30 January 2012

67 Years Ago Today The Soviets Liberated Auschwitz

Holocaust Memorial Day has been celebrated on January 27, for years. It is on this day in 1945 that the Soviets liberated Auschwitz, the most notorious of Nazi concentration camps. 
But while the Holocaust happened decades ago, anti-Semitism continues to exist in large parts of Europe. What's worse, 21 percent of Germans under 30 have never heard of Auschwitz, and 31 percent do not know where it was built (Poland), according to Spiegel Online.

Although some in Europe may not give much thought to the Memorial, the day is marked across the world with services, talks, concerts, and vigils, and is observed in remembrance of not only those who died in World War II, but also the victims of genocides that have occurred since, the Guardian reports.

Hitler came to power in January 1933, and opened Dachau, the first concentration camp, two months later.

The entrance to the Dachau camp, built outside Munich in Germany. The words "Arbeit Macht Frei" ("Work Brings Freedom") greeted new arrivals at the hundreds of concentration camps that dotted the Reich (German-occupied Europe).

In 1935, The Nuremberg Race Laws denied Jews German citizenship and closed Jewish businesses in Germany.

Jews were subject to various other humiliations. The yellow badge was a cloth patch Jews had to sew on their outer garments to mark them as Jews in public.

On November 9, 1938, 'Kristallnacht' ('Night of Broken Glass'), a pogrom against Jews, swept through Germany, and occupied Austria and Czechoslovakia.

Instigated primarily by Nazi Party officials and members of the SA (Storm Troopers) and Hitler Youth, Nazis destroyed and plundered synagogues, and Jewish homes and businesses. German officials announced that Kristallnacht had been a spontaneous public outburst in response to the assassination of Ernst vom Rath, a German embassy official stationed in Paris, by a Polish Jew. 

On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland and World War II began. A ghetto was soon established in Warsaw.

The ghetto was enclosed by 10-foot high wall, topped with barbed wire and closely guarded. Over 400,000 Jews lived in an area of 1.3 square miles, averaging 7.2 persons per room.

Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing units) shot almost 60,000 Jews in four months in 1941. A year later, mass deportations began.

The Sachsenhausen camp, north of Berlin, held not only Jews, but also homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, "asocials", and, later, captured Soviets, including Stalin's son. The number of prisoners varied from 21 at the beginning of 1937 to 11,100 at the beginning of 1945.

More than 1.2 million Jews were deported to concentration camps all over Europe in 1942 alone.

At the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942, German officials met to coordinate the deportation of European Jews to "extermination camps” (like this one in Auschwitz-Birkenau) in German-occupied Poland, by rail. Many of the deportees died before the trains reached their destinations.
The Germans sought to portray the deportations as a "resettlement" of the Jewish population in labor camps in the "East."

The "Final Solution" would aim to deport and murder 11 million Jews, including those living in nations outside the Reich.

SS General Reinhard Heydrich announced that “...Jews will be deployed under appropriate supervision at a suitable form of labor deployment in the East. In large labor columns, separated by gender, able-bodied Jews will be brought to those regions to build roads, whereby a large number will doubtlessly be lost through natural reduction."
Prisoners like those at Dachau were used as forced labor for SS infrastructure projects.

Auschwitz in Oswiecim, Poland, was the biggest Nazi concentration camp during World War II.

It was established in 1940 for Polish political prisoners, but soon it was occupied by Jews, Russians, Czechs, Yugoslavs, Austrians, and Germans. 

In total, approximately 1.1 million Jews were deported to Auschwitz.

From 1942, Auschwitz became the biggest centre for the mass extermination of Jews. Figures vary, but at least 960,000 Jews were killed in Auschwitz. Other victims included approximately 74,000 Poles, 21,000 Roma (Gypsies), 15,000 Soviet PoWs, and 10,000-15,000 people of other nationalities.

Everything from forced labor, to scientific experiments on inmates, and gassing prisoners happened at Auschwitz.

Between the crematorium and the medical-experiments barrack stood the "Black Wall," where SS guards executed thousands of prisoners.

New arrivals at concentration camps underwent selection to determine their fate.

The SS staff determined the majority to be unfit for forced labor and sent them immediately to the gas chambers. Those that managed to survive were forced to work grueling hours while being systematically starved.

Most of the killing centers were in Poland, the country with the largest Jewish population at the time.

Heydrich's final pronouncement on the destiny of Jews who survived the camps' harsh life was chilling: "They must be dealt with appropriately, since, representing the fruit of natural selection, they are to be regarded as the core of a new Jewish revival."
The Nazis did this with the use of gas chambers. The bones of the dead were burned.

The Chelmno camp was the first killing center to be built.

In 1942, systematic mass killing in stationary gas chambers (with carbon monoxide) began. The Nazis later switched to the more efficient nerve gas Zyklon B, whose empty canisters you see here. The tighter the gas chambers were packed, the faster the victims suffocated.

At the height of the deportations, up to 6,000 Jews were gassed each day at Auschwitz.

As victims were "unloaded" from cattle cars, they were told that they had to be disinfected in "showers". Their bags and other belongings were taken away as they were stripped naked and forced into the gas chambers.

The Nazis kept everything the prisoners owned.

Before being sent to the gas chambers, women were shorn of their hair, which was used to make socks for U-boat crews. After the victims had been gassed, SS officials pried off gold teeth and any other jewelery on the bodies.

The camps were finally liberated in 1945.

While Soviet troops freed Auschwitz on January 27, Dachau was liberated on April 29 by American soldiers. In order to hide what they had done, the SS officers in charge of the camps attempted to burn the bodies and destroy buildings before the Allies got there.
But they didn't get everything. Allied troops in Auschwitz found hundreds of thousands of men's suits and women's outfits, and more than 14,000 pounds of human hair.

30 Amazing Facts About Your Brain

1. You have a finite amount of will power each day because to exercise will power you need energy in the form of oxygen and glucose That’s why it’s harder to say ‘no’ when you are tired or not feeling yourself.
2. A thought is a physical pathway in the brain. The more you have that thought the more you groove that path and the easier it is to have it again. That’s why having the thought “Why do I suck?” is never a great idea.
3. Speaking of which, you have approximately 70,000 thoughts per day, although many will be the same ones looping round and round on your grooved cranial highway.
So make sure you don’t think, “Why do I suck?” 50,000 times a day, or suck ye shall.
4. Even if you consider yourself a left-brained person, your brain will still switch over to the right side every 90 to 120 minutes and then back again.
That’s why even left-brained people can have times of the day when they are more creative and right-brained people can sometimes get their taxes in order.
5. Reading out loud to kids accelerates their brain development.
6. Reframing negative events in a positive light literally rewires your brain and can make you a happier person, as can regular meditation.
7. The brain is approximately 75% water, but you should never drink it.
8. Your brain only weighs about 3lbs yet the greedy bastard uses between 20% and 25% of your energy supplies each day.
9. There are approximately 10 to the power of 60 atoms in the universe. Your brain laughs in the face of that figure however, as it has 10 to the power of 1,000,000 different ways it can wire itself up.
That’s the number 10 followed up with 1 million zeroes, which is to all intents and purposes (for anybody not called Stephen Hawking or Rob Collins), an infinite amount of ways.
10. Speaking of large numbers, there are approximately 1.1 trillion cells and 100 billion neurons in the average human brain.
11. The slowest speed information passes around your brain is approximately 260 mph
12. Your brain was disproportionately large compared to other organs when you were born.
That’s why babies look a bit like aliens. Not yours of course, yours are cute, just other peoples babies.
13. If you lose blood flow to your brain you will last about 10 second before you pass out.
14. Your brain has no pain receptors which is why if I managed to remove the top of your skull without you noticing I could poke around all day without you feeling a thing. The skull removal may hurt a bit though.
15. Even though we say the amygdala regulates danger, the cerebellum motor control, and the limbic system emotions etc, this is somewhat misleading as no part operates independently and all need other parts of the brain to get their job done.
16. Your peripheral vision improves at night which is why pilots are taught to use their peripheral vision when looking for traffic.
17. Leaving aside degenerative brain disease, your brain never loses the ability to learn and change because it’s effectively plastic and constantly rewiring itself.
Leopards may indeed not change their spots, but you’re not a Leopard and you can change yourself and your brain is up for the challenge.
18. It ‘s a self development urban myth that we only use 10% of our brain.
Note: Unfortunately the new movie, Limitless due out soon is going to re-embed this myth as it’s based on the story line that we use 20% of our brain and you can take a pill to access the other 80%. Ho-hum.
19. If you were to measure your brainwave activity you wouldn’t see any drop off when you’re asleep.
You may be napping, but your brain is still working hard pumping your heart, digesting your food, maintaining your blood pressure and much more to make sure you don’t wake up dead.
20. Research has shown that the hippocampus which which deals with visual-spatial awareness, is larger in London Taxi drivers than normal people. London ‘cabbies’ have to spend months, sometimes years, learning literally every street in the Capital before they are allowed a license.
This process is known as ‘The Knowledge’ and it literally enlarges that part of their brain. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help them with anger management issues when cyclists get in their way.
21. Until relatively recently scientists thought that the brain was the only area of the human body that didn’t generate new cells. We now know that’s not true and the brain does reproduce shiny new cells for you to use
22. You have something in your brain called mirror neurons. If you see somebody stub their toe for example, the same pain area will light up in your own brain causing you to flinch.
Mirror neurons weren’t even known to exist prior to the early 1990’s, but now there is a growing belief in the scientific community they are responsible for us feeling empathy toward others.
23. When somebody takes cocaine their pleasure center (nucleus accumbens) lights up and dopamine and serotonin are released. Fortunately, you don’t have to blow your life savings, act like a dick and lose your nasal lining to get similar results.
24. Multi-tasking is a self development urban myth. You simply cannot do it efficiently no matter what manufacturers of smart phones want you to believe.
According to the University of Utah, there are a few people (about 2.5% of the population) who can do two things consciously* at once without seeing any degradation in performance.
They are called super-taskers.
However, for most people all the brain is doing is going backwards and forwards very quickly and giving the illusion of multi-tasking. The reality is performance is inhibited by this approach not improved.
* I do appreciate that you can do multiple things unconsciously at once such as driving and talking. (Not texting though!)
25. Your brain is constantly lying to you when you have your eyes open. Because it cannot deal with every single detail that you’re looking at, the occipital lobe is joining the dots with what it presumes is there.
26. Similarly, your brain doesn’t record memories like video as it would be easy to assume. It takes snapshots of the more important bits and then when you recall the event it guesses what happened in between based on prior experience.
27. Your brain finds it very easy to create false memories largely because of the above and the fact that it spends so much time guessing what’s happening.
When scientists exposed people to Photoshopped images of themselves at various event years prior they were soon able to explain what they were doing and recall the event with clarity even though they were never there.
There will be events you swear blind happened the way you remember, but never actually did. A sobering thought.
28. The reason why some Chinese born people struggle to pronounce words like ‘fried’ is not because they can’t be arsed to learn them, as I ignorantly and embarrassingly believed when I was younger.
It’s because no similar pronunciation is needed in the Chinese language.
Therefore, if they are not exposed to the English language before around the age of 3, that part of the brain is allocated to other purposes.
29. Your brain is fairly crap at distinguishing between what’s really happening and what you are merely imagining. Which is why horror films scare people and porn films, er…ahem, well you know.
30. The brain is very poor at concentrating for long periods of time and needs to clear it’s head so to speak about every 90 minutes or so.
Which is why if you’re delivering training and you want to maximize results, you should allow people to take lots of mini breaks rather than one long break for lunch.

7 Places to Find Daily Inspiration for Minimalism

Minimalism – the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it – requires a conscience choice. It is a counter-cultural lifestyle that begins with the decision to pursue it. For me, that occurred over a Memorial Day weekend while cleaning my garage. The juxtaposition of my possessions piled in my driveway with my son playing baseball in the backyard caused me to finally realize my belongings weren’t adding joy to my life… they were detracting from it. At that moment, we intentionally decided to live with less.
But this world that we live in is not friendly to the pursuit of minimalism. Its cultural tendencies and never-relenting advertising campaigns constantly call us to acquire more, better, faster, newer, and trendier.  The journey towards minimalism becomes a road that requires daily inspiration – a consistent re-centering of focus on the things that are the most important.

To that end, here is a list of 7 places to find daily inspiration in your pursuit of minimalism:

1. Simplify Your Life:
             A Tumblr blog that provides quotes, images, and links on a daily basis inspiring readers to simplify life.

2. Simple Links:
           Links and images collected by Leo Babauta posted on an almost daily basis.

3. Becoming Minimalist Facebook Page:
            Our Facebook page provides links to our newest articles and inspiring quotes every single day.

4. Twitter (Joshua Millburn, Courtney Carver, Dave Bruno, Joshua Becker):
            Four minimalist tweeters that offer minimalist inspiration as it strikes throughout the day.

5. Zen Habits Archives:
           There’s a reason Zen Habits is considered to be among the most thought-provoking, life-changing blogs on the Internet. And with 5 years of archives to choose from, you’ll find plenty of inspiration every single day.

6. Unclutterer:
           Unclutterer is a blog that I read often when we first became minimalist. Their team of writers publish daily and generally stay focused on removing clutter from our lives. Interestingly enough, I eventually found the blog design to be a bit too cluttered for my preference… but I did find it helpful to my journey during the initial phase of decluttering our home and life.

7. Take a look outside:
            If we pause for a moment, stop the hustle and bustle of our lives just long enough to see, we can observe in nature amazing ways that it lives the ultimate minimalist existence.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Kerala MSc/MTech Biotech jobs

Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology(RGCB-DBT), Thiruvananthapuram,Kerala invites applications for the following post.


Cancer Stem Cell Phenotype – Genotype Variables and Chemoresistance.


 M.Sc. in Life Sciences or M.Tech in Biotechnology with consistent good academic grades.
UGC-CSIR/DBT/ICMR JRF  qualification  and previous documented laboratory experience in cell and molecular biology is preferred.

Rs.12,000/- + 20% HRA per month or
Rs.16,000/- + 20% HRA for those having valid UGC-CSIR/DBT/ICMR JRF certification.

Application deadline:
03 February 2012

IIT-Madras Biotechnology Summer Research Fellowship Programme-2012

Indian Institute of Technology,Madras invites applications for its Summer Fellowship Program- 2012

The Program:
The IITM – Summer Fellowship Programme of two months with stipend is designed to enhance awareness and interest in high quality academic research among young Engineering, Management, Sciences and Humanities students through a goal oriented summer miniproject undertaken at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras.

Candidates pursuing third year of B.E./B.Tech, Integrated M.E./M.Tech. programme, first year of M.Tech/M.Sc.

Period of the Project:
The contact period for the project will be two months normally during 15th May – 14th July 2012. However depending on the convenience, the selected candidates can undertake the project at any time subject to the availability of faculty.

A sum of Rs.6,500/- (maximum) will be given as a stipend for a total period of 2 months.

Application deadline:
17 Feb 2012

Rare Disease Day 2012?

A rare disease, also referred to as an orphan disease, is any disease that affects a small percentage of the population.Most rare diseases are genetic, and thus are present throughout the person's entire life, even if symptoms do not immediately appear. Many rare diseases appear early in life, and about 30 percent of children with rare diseases will die before reaching their fifth birthday.

A disease is rare if fewer than 200,000 people in the United States have it. There are close to 7,000 rare diseases and about 25 million people in the U.S. have one. Many rare diseases are caused by changes in genes and are called genetic diseases.

Policy News

PDUFA Goes to Energy and Commerce Committee
FDA announced on Jan. 13 that it had completed and submitted to Congress its recommendations for PDUFA V (the Prescription Drug User Fee Act) and new user fee programs for human generic drugs and biosimilar biological products.  Read FDA's press release.  PDUFA V, which includes important new provisions related to rare diseases, now goes to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.  NORD's VP of Public Policy, Diane Dorman, has been invited to present testimony to the committeee on its opening day of hearings.
NORD and Other Advocates Submit Amicus Brief
NORD and 13 other national disability and health organizations have submitted a Supreme Court amicus brief stating that the Affordable Care Act's minimum coverage provision "falls squarely within Congress' authority to regulate interstate commerce" and therefore is constitutional.  The patient advocates believe the minimum coverage provision is necessary for insurance reforms, such as eliminating discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, to be successful. 

Record Number of Orphan Drugs Approved in 2011

The pharmaceutical industry won marketing approval for a record number of new drugs for rare diseases last year.  Thirty-seven percent (11 of the 30 new drugs approved by FDA) were for rare medical conditions.  "We believe this reflects growing recognition that innovative research and business, combined with responsive regulatory science, is beginning to have an impact on bringing these desperately needed therapies to market," said Peter L. Saltonstall, NORD president and CEO.  Read story in Washington Post.

NIH News

Moving Forward With NCATS
Following Congressional approval of a fiscal 2012 spending bill, NIH has established the new National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), which will serve as the nation's hub for translating scientific discoveries into new drugs, diagnostics, and devices.

FDA News

Warning Issued About Stem Cell Claims
FDA cautions consumers to make sure that any stem cell treatment they are considering has been approved by FDA or is being studied under a clinical investigation that has been submitted to, and allowed to proceed by, FDA.
Recent Drug Approvals
FDA has expanded the label for Berinert for the treatment of hereditary angioedema to include acute laryngeal attacks as well as abdominal attacks.  Berinert is manufactured by CSL Behring.
Recent Orphan Designations
Pinnacle Biologics, Inc. has received orphan drug designation for Photofrin (porfimer sodium) photodynamic therapy as adjuvant therapy to surgery for the treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs.
Halo Therapeutics has received orphan drug designation for HT-100 to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
AiCuris has received orphan drug designation for a human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) inhibitor AIC246 (Letermovir) for the prevention of HCMV-related viremia and disease in at-risk patients.
Amsterdam Molecular Therapeutics has received orphan drug designation for its gene therapy program for treatment of hemophilia B.
CanBas Co., Ltd. has received orphan drug designation for its chemotherapy drug CBP501 to treat mesothelioma in combination with cisplatin and pemetrexed.
Ikaria has received orphan drug designation for inhaled nitric oxide with the INOpulse DS drug-delivery system as a combination therapy to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension.

News From NORD Board and Medical Advisory Committee

Three New Members Elected to NORD Board
Three new members have been elected to the NORD Board of Directors.  They are Brett Kopelan, executive director of Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa Research Association of America (DebRA); Kari Luther Rosbeck, president and CEO of Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance; and Marshall L. Summar MD, of Children's National Medical Center.  View full list of Board members.
NORD Medical Advisor Appointed to CDC EGAPP
Doris T. Zallen, PhD, a member of NORD's Medical Advisory Committee, has been appointed to the CDC Evaluation of Genomic Applications in Practice and Prevention working group.  The EGAPP develops recommendations and evidence-based reviews on genetic tests and other applications of genomic technology that are in transition from research to clinical and public health practice.  Dr. Zallen is a professor in the Department of Science and Technology in Society at Virginia Tech.

News From NORD Member Organizations

Alport Syndrome Foundation (ASF)
The ASF has announced the availability of funding for basic science and clinical research on the natural history, biochemical basis, and treatment of Alport syndrome.  A total of $100,000 for up to two years is anticipated.  Proposals are due January 31.
Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration (AFTD)
The AFTD has announced that its Fifth Annual Conference will be held in Atlanta on April 27.  More information will be available in the near future at http://www.theaftd.org.
Prader-Willi Syndrome Association USA (PWSA USA)
PWS USA has announced the availability of grant assistance for projects aimed at discovering and developing treatments, cures, and technologies beneficial to those with Prader-Willi syndrome.  Proposals are due March 6.
Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance (TS Alliance)
A new white paper from the TS Alliance, entitled "Unlocking a Cure for Tuberous Sclerosis Complex: An Assessment of Scientific Progress and Research Needs", concludes that rare disease research is poised to provide "new therapies that modify progression of the disease, and possibly even prevent some of the most devastating manifestations". 

Funding Opportunities

DIA Patient Advocate Fellowship Program
The Drug Information Association is offering scholarships to 501(c)3 organizations in the U.S. or registered charities in Canada that serve constituents with major chronic diseases, rare diseases, and/or diseases with limited or no treatment to attend the DIA Annual Meeting.  Applications are due Feb. 1.

Patient Recruitment

Anyone considering participating in a clinical trial should discuss the matter with his or her physician.  NORD does not endorse or recommend any particular studies.
The Worldwide Sarcoidosis Research Study (WISE) is designed to gain more information about the characteristics and clinical course of sarcoidosis in order to help physicians and researchers better understand how to treat the disease.  Researchers at the University of Iowa Institute for Clinical and Translational Science will be gathering information from a large number of sarcoidosis patients localed all around the world using a web-based survey.

Rare Disease Testing

Genetic Cause of Rare Immune Disease Identified
A mutation in the PLCG2 gene that codes for an enzyme involved in the activation of immune cells has been found to be associated with a form of cold urticaria.  It is possible that some people previously diagnosed with common variable immunodeficiency disease or with granulomatous diseases could have a PLCG2 gene mutation.


Many Clinical Research Results are Unpublished
Researchers report that fewer than half of a sample of trials that received NIH funding were published within 30 months of the trials' completion. 

International News

Passing of the Torch at Orphanet
After 15 years, Dr. Segolene Ayme is stepping down as director of the widely respected European portal on rare diseases and orphan products, Orphanet.  Her successor will be Dr. Odile Kremp.  
Hepatic Glycogen Storage Diseases
An international symposium dedicated to glycogen storage diseases type I and type III will be held in Lyon, France, April 4-6.
Child Neurology Congress
The 12th International Child Neurology Congress and 11th Asian and Oceanian Congress of Child Neurology will take place as a joint meeting May 27-June 1 in Brisbane, Australia.

Upcoming Meetings and Webcasts

Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute Rare Disease Day Symposium
Eric Green, MD, PhD, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, will be the keynote speaker at the third annual Sanford-Burnham Rare Disease Day Symposium on Feb. 24.
New York Academy of Sciences: Complex Drugs in Light of Established Regulatory Guidance
This conference on March 9 will focus on recent regulatory developments for follow-on versions of complex drugs, including experimental design, interchangeability and immunogenicity issues from the perspective of government, industry, physicians and consumers.
Rare Syndromic Body Fat Disorders: What Can They Teach Us?
NIH is sponsoring this workshop, which will focus on several disorders, including Prader-Willi syndrome, ciliopathies, and lipodystrophies on March 1-2. 
Rare Disease Leaders Forum
Timothy R. Cote, MD, MPH, NORD's Chief Medical Officer, and Pat Furlong, a NORD Board member, will speak at the upcoming Rare Disease Leaders' Forum in San Francisco March 12-14.


PCORI Request for Information
The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute Methodology Committee is seeking input from experts in the scientific community on a Draft Translation Table Framework to determine research methods most likely to address specific comparative clinical effectiveness research questions.  The deadline is Feb. 17. 
Taubman Prize for Excellence in Translational Medical Science
A newly established $100,000 annual award will recognize work in the field of translational research.  The deadline for all nominations is April 1. 



Stem Cells Build a Better Rat Penis

Men in need of penis reconstruction could soon enjoy the benefits of a special ingredient: stem cells. A new study in rats shows that lacing a penis graft with adult stem cells yields better healing and sexual function than using the graft alone. The finding may point the way to improved treatments for a variety of human penile impairments.

Men with penis injuries, deformities, or severe Peyronie's disease—which causes excessive scarring that can curve or shrink the penis—sometimes need surgery to reconstruct their genitalia and restore their sexual function. Many receive a graft made of their own tissue, cadaver tissue, or pig intestines, but the surgery can cause complications, including erectile dysfunction.

Wayne Hellstrom, a urologic surgeon at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, Louisiana, who regularly treats men with Peyronie's disease and other penile problems, wanted to offer his patients a surgical intervention with fewer side effects. So he teamed up with colleagues in California and China to build a better penis graft.

The team seeded pig intestine grafts with adult stem cells taken from fat tissue in rats. Because rats don't develop Peyronie's disease, the researchers had to induce scarring by making incisions in the rodent penises. They then operated on the scarred rats, removing part of the scar tissue and supplanting it with a graft, as is done in patients with severe Peyronie's disease. Eight rats received the stem cell-laced grafts; another eight got the grafts sans stem cells. A third group had a "sham" surgery that didn't involve a graft, and a control group didn't undergo surgery at all.

Eight weeks later, when the rats had recovered from surgery, the researchers examined the rodents' penises. They found that rats with stem cell-laden grafts had less scarring and better erectile responses, as measured by the animals' reactions to electric stimulation, than did those with stem cell-free grafts. The rodents' erections were comparable in rigidity, blood flow, and response time to those in the "sham" and control rats. Cells from the penises with stem cell-laced grafts contained more neuronal and endothelial NOS, enzymes that help trigger and maintain erections. They also had more VEGF, a growth factor whose functions include stimulating new blood vessel development.

The results, published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that lacing the grafts with stem cells enhances blood flow and boosts the production of molecules that make and maintain erections, all of which makes for a better penis reconstruction.
"We were really excited and surprised that stem cells can create this much improvement," says Tulane urologist Asim Abdel-Mageed, a co-author of the study.

"This is an excellent study, with lots of clinical implications," says Trinity Bivalacqua, a urologist at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore, Maryland. But he notes that the method applies only to reconstructions, not to cases where a surgeon may need to build a new penis from scratch. And although the technique works well in rats, "this doesn't always translate to humans," Bivalacqua says.
Hellstrom and colleagues plan to test the method in primates next and then eventually in people. "Peyronie's affects 3% to 9% of adult males and causes a lot of psychological distress," Hellstrom says. "If we can improve what we have now, it seems like the logical thing to do."

Where to Find Fungi to Fuel Orchids

Young orchids depend entirely on symbiotic fungi to provide energy for growth, and new research shows that those fungi are finicky, preferring older forests. Scientists had previously speculated that fungal distributions influenced orchid distributions. But separating out the effects of soil condition, such as moisture and acidity, has been difficult. So researchers from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Maryland, planted seeds from three endangered orchid species in plots on six sites in Maryland: three in younger forests aged 50 to 70 years old and three in more mature forests aged 120 to150 years old. The scientists added the symbiotic fungi for each orchid to half of the plots. Over 4 years, they found that fungal abundance was highest in mature forests and that orchid germination and growth depended on an abundance of their partner fungi, not merely their presence.

Japanese Experts Question Safety of—and Need for—Nuclear Power

Japan is preparing for the possibility of a summer without nuclear power as utilities and safety experts squabble over the safety of the country's remaining reactors. And a key government minister is calling the power industry's bluff—that blackouts will occur if plants idled for inspection are not brought online—by saying the nation could avoid disruption by relying on conservation and thermal power.
By law, nuclear power plants must be periodically shut down for maintenance and inspection; utilities need national and local permission to restart operations. In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, last summer the governing Democratic Party of Japan required "stress tests," analyses of a facility's ability to withstand natural disasters, to be part of the periodic inspection routine. That analysis was carried out for two reactors at a plant in Ohi on the Japan Sea coast and submitted for review to Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), which concluded they had passed. Operator Kansai Electric Power is seeking approval to restart the two reactors.

But today two members of a NISA advisory committee called the stress tests flawed and "not proof of safety." At a press conference, Hiromitsu Ino, a materials scientist and professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, and Masashi Goto, a former nuclear power plant designer, said their concerns were simply ignored in the final report.

Ino said there are nine issues the stress tests failed to address. He said the criteria for the tests should reflect lessons learned from the Fukushima disaster, but that the studies into the sequence of events that led to the cascade of failures are ongoing. Without the results of those studies, he says, the criteria being used are "subjective and unclear." He notes that the stress tests called for checking facility resistance to shaking 1.8 times the design earthquake, yet seismologists have noted that those design events are based on the historical record and it is now clear that much more powerful earthquakes have occurred over geologic time. The analyses also do not consider the inevitable degradation over time of a reactor's materials.

Meanwhile, Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano was reported in this morning's Asahi Shimbun (newspaper) as saying it is conceivable that none of the country's nuclear power plants will be operating this summer because of the difficulty of gaining local approval to restart. Of Japan's 54 nuclear reactors, only three are currently operating, and they must shut down for periodic inspection by the end of April.

Although gaining local approval is not legally required, Edano's comments indicate that the national government might support the stance of local officials, which puts a very high hurdle in front of the utilities. The governor of Fukui Prefecture, which hosts the Ohi nuclear power plant, is on record as opposing the restart of any commercial nuclear power plants. "I am hoping that in this situation decisions will reflect what local people want," Ino said.

Edano told the newspaper that thermal power and conservation efforts should get the country through the summer without the cutbacks and blackouts imposed last year. He added that his ministry is working on countermeasures to handle reduced power output.

A new national energy policy is due by the end of the summer, and observers expect it could call for a phase-out of nuclear power. A sudden and permanent shut down of all reactors, however, would be a huge surprise.

High animal fat diet increases gestational diabetes risk

Women who consumed a diet high in animal fat and cholesterol before pregnancy were at higher risk for gestational diabetes than women whose diets were lower in animal fat and cholesterol, according to researchers at the National Institutes of Health and Harvard University.

Gestational diabetesis a form of diabetes seen during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes increases the risk for certain pregnancy complications and health problems in the newborn.

Women whose diets were high in total fat or other kinds of fats — but not in animal fat or cholesterol — did not have an increased risk.

Moreover, the increased risk for gestational diabetes seen with animal fat and cholesterol appeared to be independent of other, dietary and non-dietary, risk factors for gestational diabetes. For example, exercise is known to reduce the risk of gestational diabetes. Among women who exercised, however, those who consumed higher amounts of animal fat and cholesterol had a higher risk than those whose diets were lower in these types of fat.

"Our findings indicate that women who reduce the proportion of animal fat and cholesterol in their diets before pregnancy may lower their risk for gestational diabetes during pregnancy," said senior author Cuilin Zhang, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., of the Epidemiology Branch at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), one of three NIH institutes supporting the study.

The researchers concluded that changing the source of 5 percent of dietary calories from animal fat to plant-derived sources could decrease a woman’s risk for gestational diabetes by 7 percent.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture website, ChooseMyPlate.gov contains information on healthy eating for children and adults, as well as health and nutrition information for pregnant and breast feeding women.

First author Katherine Bowers, Ph.D., conducted the research with NICHD colleagues Dr. Zhang and Edwina Yeung, Ph.D., and with Deirdre K. Tobias and Frank B. Hu, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., of Harvard University, in Boston.

Their findings appear online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The research was also funded by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

The researchers utilized information from more than 13,000 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study II . The women were 22 to 45 years old when they enrolled in the study. Every two years they responded to questions on their general health, pregnancy status, and lifestyle habits, such as consuming alcohol or smoking. In addition, every four years they completed a comprehensive survey about the kinds of food and drink they consumed.

About 6 percent of the participants reported having been diagnosed with gestational diabetes. The researchers calculated the amount of animal fat in participants’ diets as a percentage of total calories and divided participants into five groups, or quintiles, based on those percentages. Then the researchers compared the risk for developing gestational diabetes for each group. Women in the highest quintile of intake had almost double the risk for gestational diabetes compared to women in the lowest quintile.
They also observed that women in the highest quintile for cholesterol consumption were 45 percent more likely to develop gestational diabetes than were women in the lowest quintile.

"This is the largest study to date of the effects of a pre-pregnancy diet on gestational diabetes," Dr. Bowers said. "Additional research may lead to increased understanding of how a mother’s diet before and during pregnancy influences her metabolism during pregnancy, which may have important implications for the baby’s health at birth and later in life."

Walk in Interview in Plant molecular biology research at ANGRAU, Hyderabad

WALK IN INTERVIEW at Acharya N.G.Ranga Agricultural University, Hyderabad
Project Title : 
Development of rapid regeneration and genetic transformation methods in major pulses of Andhra Pradesh.

Duration :
3 years

1. Senior Research Fellows (SRF) : 2
2. Technical Asst : 1
Both the positions are temporary

Qualifications :

  • M.Sc. (Ag.) Plant Molecular Biology & Biotechnology/M. Sc. (Ag.) Biotechnology / M. Sc. (Ag.)   
  • 2 years of experience in the relevant field is desirable  
Technical Asst :  B.Sc.(Ag.)/B. Sc. with 2 years of lab and field knowledge

Pay :
  • SRF: Rs. 10,000/‐ per month (Consolidated)
  • Technical Asst : 6500/‐per month (Consolidated)
Place of Interviews : Institute of Biotechnology, ANGRAU. Opp. to Directorate of Oilseeds Research, Rajendranagar, Hyderabad

Note : Interested candidates are requested to appear for interviews along with CV, thesis, experience certificate, publications, original certificates, testimonials and proof of additional credentials. The TA and DA will be met by the candidates only. Any change in the date and venue of interview will be notified on University Website

Date of Interviews : 10.02.2012 at 10.00 AM

Friday, 27 January 2012

Enriched Skim Milk Good for Gout, Study Suggests

If you have gout, drinking enriched skim milk may help reduce the frequency of painful flare-ups, new research suggests.

The new study included 120 patients who had experienced at least two flare-ups in the previous four months. They were divided into three treatment groups that consumed either lactose powder, skim milk powder or skim milk powder enriched with glycomacropeptide (GMP) and G600 milk fat extract (G600).

Gout, a common form of arthritis, is caused by uric acid buildup in blood. Often, the big toe is the first place where gout strikes. Previous research has shown a higher risk for gout among people who consume fewer dairy products, and earlier work suggested that GMP and G600 tone down the inflammatory response to gout crystals.

The powders were mixed in roughly 8 ounces of water as a vanilla-flavored shake and consumed once a day. The patients recorded their flare-ups and went to a rheumatology clinic once a month.
The findings from the 102 patients who completed the three-month study showed that those who drank the enriched skim milk had a much greater reduction in gout flare-ups than patients in the other two groups.

The patients who drank the enriched skim milk also had greater improvements in pain and the amount of uric acid in their urine, and a trend towards having fewer tender joints, according to the report published online Jan. 23 in the journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

Drinking enriched skim milk did not lead to weight gain or a rise in levels of potentially harmful blood fats, the study authors noted in a journal news release.

"This is the first reported randomized controlled trial of dietary intervention in gout management, and suggests that daily intake of skimmed milk powder enriched with GMP and G600 may reduce the frequency of gout flares," Nicola Dalbeth, associate professor in the department of medicine at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and colleagues concluded.


Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, news release, Jan. 23, 2012

Protein That Controls Movement Does the Opposite in Parkinson's

Researchers who identified a protein that worsens symptoms of Parkinson's disease say their finding could eventually lead to new treatments for the neurodegenerative disease.

The protein, RGS4, normally helps regulate the activity in neurons in the striatum, the part of the brain that controls movement.

But in models of Parkinson's disease in mice, the researchers found that RGS4 actually contributes to problems with motor control, leading to a deterioration of movement and motor coordination.
The study, published online Jan. 25 in the journal Neuron, was conducted by scientists at the Gladstone Institutes, a nonprofit biomedical research organization affiliated with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

It's long been known that decreased levels of the brain chemical dopamine are associated with Parkinson's. Patients take a drug called Levodopa to increase dopamine levels but the drug's effectiveness begins to weaken as the disease progresses.

This has led scientists to start looking for potential new treatment targets.

"About 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson's annually, and dopamine-based therapies often do not provide a long-term solution," Anatol Kreitzer, a Gladstone investigator and an assistant professor of physiology and neurology at UCSF, said in a Gladstone news release.

"Our discovery that RGS4 may play a role in the development of Parkinson's symptoms helps us lay the groundwork for a new therapeutic strategy -- independent of dopamine," he claimed.
While studies involving animals can be promising, they frequently fail to produce similar results in humans.

More information
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about Parkinson's disease.

(SOURCE: Gladstone Institutes, news release, Jan. 25, 2012)

Calm Your Nerves With Relaxation Exercises

Breathing exercises are the mainstay of relaxation exercises that you can do anywhere, at any time. And they can make a world of difference in how you feel.

Try it: Take a deep, slow breath and exhale — and repeat the process one more time. Do you feel better?

Relaxation Exercises: Why They Work
When we are stressed, our muscles tighten up and our breathing changes and becomes shallow. As you breathe more lightly, you are participating in a vicious circle, because your body responds to your change in breathing with a fight-or-flight response, adding to your tension and stress.
So the most basic thing you can do when you start to feel stressed out is to stop and take some deep, even, slow breaths.

“If you sit and even just take five or 10 deep breaths and really try to just relax your breathing, that can be tremendously helpful,” says Mary Coussons-Read, PhD, professor of psychology and health and behavioral sciences and associate dean of the University of Colorado in Denver.

Relaxation Exercises: Exercises to Try
Here are some options that can enhance the relaxing effect of breathing exercises:
  • Try visualization. “Going to your happy place” is something we often joke about, but there is some truth in the humor. Coussons-Read advises planning ahead and creating an internal picture of a place that relaxes you so you can bring it to mind when you need it. Bedrooms and beaches top the list, but obviously your happy place is a personal destination. “Spend a little time creating what that picture looks like. When you feel stressed out, stop, put the picture in your head, take a few deep breaths,” she says.
  • Pray. Granted, not everyone has or wants a prayer life, but for those who do, Coussons-Read says prayer can be a very helpful relaxation exercise. “It can have the component of relaxation but also the component of feeling part of something else, and feeling like you’re not by yourself,” she says.
  • Exercise. Being physically active on a regular basis is helpful for overall stress management, but if time allows, you can use physical exercise for immediate relaxation as well. Taking a brief walk around your office building, doing some yoga stretches, or closing the door and dancing to a favorite tune can all help alleviate stress. But “you don’t want exercise to become just one more thing you have to do,” says Coussons-Read, so pick something you enjoy.
  • Mini-massage. “Once of the most important things is to recognize where and how you carry stress in your body — some carry it in shoulders, head, neck, jaw, hands, or even their stomach,” says Coussons-Read. Try scheduling an appointment with a massage therapist who can teach you how to take care of your trouble spots while at work or home.
  • Apply heat. If you have the option of a warm bath or shower, or simply have some warming gloves, socks, or heat packs, use the heat to help relax tight muscles.
  • Aromatherapy. Although research on aromatherapy is mixed, many people find certain scents, such as lavender, to be relaxing. If you respond well to the smell, have a sample on hand (in a desk drawer or your purse) for a relaxing sniff as needed before or after your breathing exercises.
As hard as everyone works these days, we all deserve a time out now and then to calm our nerves and decompress. Relaxation exercises can help us stay productive and happy.

CN Creative nails $3.1M for electronic inhaler smoking cessation device

CN Creative has secured $3.1 million in new financing to fund final development work for its electronic inhaler nicotine replacement therapy device to help patients quit smoking.
Advent Life Sciences led the Series A financing round for the U.K. company, which will take the Nicadex device through final clinical reviews and then regulatory submissions to the U.K.'s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and, finally, the FDA in the U.S. Plans call for marketing the Nicadex inhaler as a medically supervised device designed to help patients quit smoking as part of a larger smoking cessation program.

Nicadex is a hand-held device. A rechargeable lithium battery powers a vaporizer, which turns a pharmaceutical-grade nicotine solution into vapor, and the patient then inhales it. The company explains that patients who have tested the device say it works similarly to smoking but there is no smoke or carbon monoxide in the vapor. It is similar to an electronic cigarette but differs in that it is being submitted as a regulated product that requires medical supervision to use. It would be the first medically approved electronic inhaler nicotine replacement therapy to help patients quit smoking.

Helping patients quit smoking is a potentially lucrative, but challenging market. CN Creative points out as much in its financing announcement, noting that 20% of adults in the U.K. and U.S. keep smoking even in the face of broad public health education efforts. Apparently two-thirds of smokers say they'd like to quit and nearly 75% say they've tried to stop and couldn't. (Smoking is profoundly addictive, after all.)

Companies are developing new anti-smoking options beyond devices, with mixed results. One--Selecta Biosciences, a 2011 Fierce 15 company--began a Phase I trial in late November of a synthetic nanoparticle vaccine for smoking cessation. The biotech Extab has also generated some promising data using an old Bulgarian drug to help smokers quit.

On the other hand, Nabi Biopharmaceuticals ($NABI) faced a big setback late last fall when its NicVAX smoking cessation vaccine flunked a Phase III trial. Pfizer's ($PFE) anti-smoking drug Chantix has been popular, but it appears in some patients to drastically raise the risk of heart attack or other heart problems. A recent study also suggested that the drug increased the risk of suicidal behavior in some patients, but Pfizer challenged the results.

Gene Mutations May Boost Ovarian Cancer Survival: Study

Genetic mutations known as BRCA1 and BRCA2 raise the risk of getting ovarian cancer, but new research shows that those same mutations may boost a woman's odds of surviving the deadly disease.
Women with invasive epithelial ovarian cancer who carry the mutations have a better prognosis than women without the genetic variations, according to an analysis of 26 previous studies. The BRCA2 carriers, in particular, had a better five-year survival rate.

"Our paper provides definitive evidence that BRCA1 and BRCA2 carriers have improvement in survival [compared to ovarian cancer patients without the mutations]," said Kelly L. Bolton, lead author of the new analysis and a medical student at the University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine.

The study, which confirms previous findings, is published Jan. 25 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Nearly 23,000 women will get a diagnosis of ovarian cancer this year in the United States, and about 15,500 will die of it, according to the American Cancer Society. Epithelial ovarian cancer, the type Bolton focused on, occurs in the cells on the surface of the ovary.

Germline BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations are found in up to 15 percent of women with this type of cancer. A germline mutation is a gene change in a reproductive cell that can be passed on to offspring.
Data from more than 1,213 ovarian cancer patients was included in the studies reviewed. Of these, 909 had BRCA1 mutations; 304 had BRCA2 variations.

The studies also included 2,666 women who did not have the genetic mutations.
At the five-year mark, 44 percent of the BRCA1 carriers and 52 percent of the BRCA2 carriers were alive, compared to 36 percent of those without the mutation.

Bolton said the survival differences remained after the researchers took into account such factors as the stage of the cancer and age, although it was less significant among women with a family history of ovarian and/or breast cancer.

Exactly how the mutations may improve survival is not known. However, Bolton and others speculate the BRCA1 or BRCA2 status may modify the response to platinum-based chemotherapy, a common treatment.
The new analysis will have important implications for future research and treatment of ovarian cancer, the authors said. Routine genetic screening of women with high-grade cancer might be warranted, they added.

Dr. Elizabeth Poynor, a gynecologic oncologist and pelvic surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, suggested the findings can help health care providers tailor treatment and more accurately counsel them regarding expected survival.

While not new, the information is valuable, Poynor said. "For a long time, we've known that individuals with BRCA1 or 2 actually have a better prognosis," she said. "This is not new information, it's expanded information. It's reinforcing what we already know."

More research is needed, the authors said, acknowledging some study limitations. For instance, the analysis lacked complete information on types of chemotherapy used, which might also have influenced survival.

Some co-authors reported consultancy fees from Complete Genomics Inc., a company engaged in gene sequencing, and from Merck Sharp & Dohme, Roche, Schering-Plough, Pfizer and other pharmaceutical firms.


Kelly L. Bolton, Ph.D., medical student, University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine; Elizabeth Poynor, M.D., gynecologic oncologist and pelvic surgeon, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Jan. 25, 2012, Journal of the American Medical Association

Common Household Chemicals Might Harm Kids' Immunity

Exposure to high levels of a group of common household chemicals may impair children's immunity, a new study suggests.

The team of researchers, from the United States and Denmark, showed that elevated exposures to perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) in early childhood was associated with a reduced immune response to two routine immunizations.

"We found that PFC pollution is apparently making the immune system more sluggish, so that it doesn't react as vigorously to vaccines as it should," said study author Dr. Philippe Grandjean, an adjunct professor of environmental health at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

The findings appear in the Jan. 25 issue of the Journal of the Medical Association.

PFCs are commonly used in a wide range of household products including nonstick cookware, carpets, upholstery and food packaging such as microwave popcorn bags; previous research has found that the chemicals are present in most people's bloodstreams.

Other recent studies have linked increased exposure to the chemicals with early menopause and elevated cholesterol levels. But Grandjean said this is the first study in humans to find an association between high levels of PFCs in the blood and an impaired immune response.

"What we don't know is whether this association represents a general immune system dysfunction, and if it has implications in regards to infections, allergies or even cancer," Grandjean said. "We are looking at something that appears to be just the tip of the iceberg, and we'd very much like to know what the rest of the iceberg looks like."

For the study, Grandjean and his colleagues followed 587 children born in the Faroe Islands between 1999 and 2001. In the Faroes, located in the North Atlantic Sea between Iceland and Norway, frequent intake of seafood is associated with increased exposure to PFCs.

To examine the chemicals' effects on immunity, the research looked at antibody levels to the tetanus and diphtheria vaccines, which children in the Faroes are given at 3, 5 and 12 months of age, with a booster shot at 5 years of age. The children's prenatal exposures to five kinds of PFCs were measured by conducting blood tests on their mothers in the last weeks of their pregnancies. Postnatal exposure was assessed through blood tests at age 5. The researchers then measured serum antibody concentrations against tetanus and diphtheria vaccines at ages 5 and 7.

Grandjean's team found that all of the five PFCs measured showed negative associations with antibody levels. In children who had twice the average levels of PFCs in their blood at age 5, their immune response to the tetanus and diphtheria vaccines at age 7 was only half of what it should have been, Grandjean said.

The researchers noted that most levels of PFCs measured in the children studied at age 5 were lower than the levels found in a group of 3-year-olds to 5-year-olds in the United States studied in 2001 and 2002.

Another children's environmental health expert said the findings were concerning. "It's one more thing, along with a number of other findings about perfluorinated chemicals, that suggests we should all be concerned about them in general and try to decrease everybody's exposure to them," said Dr. Jerome Paulson, medical director of the Child Health Advocacy Institute at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Grandjean said that in addition to avoiding products made with PFCs such as microwave popcorn and nonstick cookware, parents who want to reduce their young children's exposure to PFCs should vacuum their rugs and upholstery more frequently "to control the levels of house dust."


Philippe Grandjean, M.D., D.M.Sc., adjunct professor, environmental health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston; Jerome Paulson, M.D., medical director, Child Health Advocacy Institute, Children's National Medical Center, Washington, D.C.; Jan. 25, 2012, Journal of the American Medical Association

Swimming lowers older adults' blood pressure

Many older adults like to take a dip a pool, and now a small study suggests it can be good for their blood pressure.

Researchers found that among 43 older men and women, those who started swimming a few times a week lowered their systolic blood pressure -- the "top" number in a blood pressure reading.

On average, the swimmers started the study with a systolic blood pressure of 131 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Three months later, it was 122 mm Hg.

Normal blood pressure is defined as an average reading no higher than 120/80 mm Hg. Readings of 140/90 or higher are considered high blood pressure, and anything in between is considered "pre-hypertension."

Swimming is often promoted as a good way for older people to exercise, since it's easy on the joints and it's not likely to cause overheating. And many follow that advice: after walking, swimming is the second-most popular form of exercise among the older set.

But there's been little research into the health benefits of swimming -- though a number of studies have suggested that it's as safe for older adults as walking and bicycling, said Hirofumi Tanaka, senior researcher on the new study.

Published in the American Journal of Cardiology, the research appears to be the first to demonstrate that swimming can improve older adults' blood vessel function and curb their blood pressure.
"Swimming is a very attractive form of exercise," Tanaka, a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin, told Reuters Health in an email.

"It's easily accessible and inexpensive," Tanaka noted. "And because it does not involve bearing of body weight, due to the buoyancy of water, it is friendly to knee and ankle joints."
The study included 43 adults, with an average age of 60, who had high blood pressure or pre-hypertension but were otherwise healthy.

The researchers randomly assigned them to either have supervised swimming sessions or learn relaxation exercises. Over 12 weeks, the swimmers got in the pool three or four times a week, gradually working their way up to 45 minutes of swimming at a time.

By the end of the study, the swimmers had shaved an average of nine points from their systolic blood pressure. In contrast, that number did not budge in the relaxation group.

The picture was similar when the researchers had the study participants wear portable monitors that tracked their blood pressure over 24 hours. On average, the swimming group had a 24-hour systolic blood pressure of 119 mm Hg -- down from 128 mm Hg at the study's start.

Tanaka's team also used ultrasound tests to measure how well participants' blood vessels were dilating in response to blood flow. Again, they found improvements in the swimming group, but not in the relaxation group.

The study was small, and it's not clear whether the blood pressure reduction lasts -- or whether it translates into a lower risk of heart attack or stroke down the line.

But the results line up with what experts already recommend for older adults' heart health: get regular moderate exercise, along with a healthy diet.

Tanaka said that as long as an older adult has gotten the OK to exercise moderately, swimming should be a safe activity. But if you're sedentary, check with your doctor before becoming newly active.
There was a time when swimming was considered potentially risky, Tanaka noted, because being in cold water "elicits cardiovascular changes."

But most studies have indicated that bobbing in the waters of your local pool would be as safe as a walk around the neighborhood.


http://bit.ly/xtT6VI American Journal of Cardiology, online January 16, 2012.

Healthy Snack Tips and Snack Recommendations

I love snacks. Snacks are those micro mini-delicious foods which keep us satisfied until our next meal.

This Article

  • Improved My Health
  • Changed My Life
  • Saved My Life
However, many of us tend to purchase and grab convenient snacks in the fancy packaging. The best snacks are those which have their own natural packaging like the skin of a banana or orange.

Another fabulous rule of thumb is when you are reading the contents of your pre-packaged snack, if you cannot pronounce the ingredients of your snack, don’t purchase it. Walk over to the fresh produce section at the grocery store and buy some fresh fruit.

I know the price of grapes during the winter months is ridiculous but your body will thank you years later for not eating processed food with hydrogenated oil.

Also, don't be embarrassed about packing your own food. Some people feel there is a stigma behind packing your own lunch or snacks. There is no shame.

I remember watching a lecture by the late Dr. Leo Buscaglia. Dr. Leo, as he was called by his students, mentioned a story about his beloved mama.

His loving Italian mother would pack his lunch with a calamari sandwich and fresh, exotic fruit. Dr. Leo, wanting to fit in with the rest of the kids, would always raise a stink and demand that she pack him a cold-cut (processed meat) sandwich and candy like the other kids.

Years later, Dr. Leo realized his mama was packing him the healthiest lunch in town.

Here are some easy snack foods to keep you out of the office’s vending machine. You can wrap most of these in wax paper or purchase mini-baggies to keep the snack portion size under 100 calories.
You can recycle the wax paper and re-use the baggies for other snacks. Or if you are like my husband, you can use the baggies as future doggie pooper-scoopers.

*  ½ cup of pumpkin seeds. These nutty flavored beauties contain 92 percent of your daily value of magnesium, a mineral in which many of us are deficient. Also, they are rich in fiber as well as vitamins B and E.

* One gram of pumpkin seed protein contains as much tryptophan as a full glass of milk.

* 1 Tbsp. peanuts and 2 Tbsp. dried cranberries

* 1 cup of raspberries with 2 Tbsp. plain yogurt and 1 tsp. honey

* Small banana.

* This natural wonder is loaded with potassium.

• 1 cup baby carrots with 2 Tbsp. hummus

• Sliced tomato with a sprinkle of feta cheese and a dap of olive oil

• 3 cups of air-popped popcorn

• 5 Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Kisses. The dark chocolate has antioxidants to fight aging.

• Small box of raisins has only 130 calories

• Animal crackers. Sixteen crackers has 160 calories of comfort food goodness.

• A pear or apple. Fifty calories of crunchy health.

• One cup of strawberries equals 60 calories of natural sweetness.

Best Snacks - Healthy Low Calorie Snack Foods For Weight Loss. Get Into Shape Stay Fit - Meal Plans & Workout Routines To Burn Fat & Build Muscle. Retrieved January 25, 2012, from

Healthy School Snacks ~ Center for Science in the Public Interest. Center for Science in the Public Interest. Retrieved January 25, 2012, from http://cspinet.org/nutritionpolicy/healthy_school_snacks.htm

Keller, L. Healthy Snacks Shopping List. Better Homes and Gardens - Home Decorating, Remodeling and Design Ideas, Gardening, Recipes. Retrieved January 25, 2012, from

Top 28 Best Healthy Snacks | Women's Health Magazine. Women's Health: Health, Fitness, Weight Loss, Healthy Recipes & Beauty. Retrieved January 25, 2012, from