By jeremyc | February 5, 2016
No less than 21 million individuals worldwide suffer from schizophrenia, a mental disorder marked by impaired thought process, delusions, and hallucinations. Until now the exact cause of schizophrenia was not known. For the very first time, scientists have made a breakthrough discovery that shows the biological origin of this mental disorder.
Almost two years back, researchers identified that over 100 areas of human genome are associated with schizophrenia. With the aim of building on this finding, scientists at Harvard Medical School did new research. They have found that one gene has very strong link to this mental disorder. The gene is C4.
In the study, the aim of which was to develop a clearer understanding about the way C4 functions inside the brain, researchers used a novel technique for characterizing C4 gene structure in DNA samples of over 65,000 people. Out of these 65,000 people, approximately 29,000 individuals had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and the remaining 36,000 hadn’t. Researchers also studied the activity of C4 gene in about 700 post mortem brain samples.
Researchers found that C4 is quiet a unique gene in the sense that it structure can vary from individual to individual. Most importantly, they found a particular structure of C4 gene resulted in greater expression of that form of C4 gene (the variant is called C4A) that is linked to greater schizophrenia risk.
This breakthrough discovery significantly improves the knowledge of how schizophrenia develops and may pave way for new strategies to prevent and treat the mental disorder.
By jeremyc | February 4, 2016
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is just as effective as second-generation antidepressants in major depression, as per new clinical guidelines released in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The new guidelines encourage doctors to have discussions with their patients regarding the success rate of the treatment, adverse effects associated with it, accessibility, and cost before picking an approach. They should also take into account the patient’s preferences.
The common side effects of major depressive disorder (MDD) are inability to enjoy things that were previously enjoyed and low energy, but that’s not all. MDD can also cause absenteeism from study or work, physical disease, disability, and even premature death.
Both cognitive behavioural therapy and second generation antidepressants are common first line treatment of major depressive disorder. However, it is found that primary care physicians, to whom the patients approach first, are more inclined to start treatment with second generation antidepressants, which include SSRIs (serotonin reuptake inhibitors), like bupropion, trazodone, nefazodone, and mirtazapine.
Cognitive behavioural therapy, on the other hand, focuses on bringing about a positive change in a patient’s thought process, so that he or she overcomes and changes negative behaviour patterns.
In the recent guideline, health experts summarized and graded evidence comparing the safety as well as the effectiveness of cognitive behavioural therapy and second generation antidepressants and found both showed almost same levels of effectiveness.
By jeremyc | February 3, 2016
Partial Meniscectomy, a type of arthroscopic surgery used to treat people having torn meniscus, is not effective for individuals exhibiting symptoms associated with degenerative knee, according to a recent study.
One of the common symptoms of degenerative knee is a torn meniscus. There are two menisci in the knee, which do the all important job of cushioning and protecting the shinbone as well as the thighbone. When any of the two menisci is damaged, then patient is said to have a torn meniscus.
Apart from a torn meniscus, people with degenerative knees might also report mechanical symptoms like joint catching or locking.
Partial meniscectomy, in which the damaged part of the torn menisci is removed surgically, is the standard treatment that doctors recommend to patients showing mechanical symptoms of knee degeneration, even though there’s not much evidence to show this surgery is effective.
In the study, the researchers analyzed the data of 146 patients with a torn meniscus. Out of these 146 patients, 69 patients also had mechanical symptoms.
The patients were divided into two group, one received a sham treatment and another a partial meniscectomy. Out of the 69 patients with mechanical symptoms, 37 patients were put in the sham treatment group and 42 in the partial meniscectomy group.
Fifteen patients belonging to the sham treatment group declared complete relief from mechanical symptoms during the full duration of the follow-up period. Whereas, only 9 patients with mechanical symptoms who underwent partial meniscectomy reported complete relief.
By jeremyc | February 2, 2016
Prehypertension developing during pregnancy might increase the risk of giving birth to stillborn or underweight babies, according to a latest study.
Earlier studies have linked hypertension to a greater risk of giving birth to stillborn babies. However, not many studies have studied how prehypertension developed during pregnancy affects this risk.
For the study, researchers looked at the data of over 150,000 women and selected women who carried only singleton babies, carried the baby for a minimum of 37 weeks, and did not record blood pressure reading higher than 140/90 mm/Hg during the course of their pregnancy.
Researchers found that women who developed hypertension during pregnancy were 70 percent more likely to have stillbirth and 69 percent more likely to deliver an underweight baby than women who had their blood pressure in the normal range throughout their pregnancy.
In comparison to women with normal blood pressure, women who recorded up to 15 points increase in their diastolic blood pressure were two times more likely to have an underweight infant.
The risk of delivering an underweight infant increases by 2 percent for every single-point increment in the diastolic blood pressure. This was true for both women with hypertension and with normal blood pressure.
By jeremyc | February 1, 2016
Breast milk is extremely good for infants. However, there are some concerns that mothers might pass on certain toxins to their infants through breast milk. Thankfully, researchers have now developed a novel technique to detect and quantify the presence of two common toxins in breast milk—bisphenol A (BPA) and parabens (PBs).
Both bisphenol A and parabens are suggested to be endocrine-disrupting chemicals and so can cause development as well as reproductive problems.
BPA is commonly found in polycarbonate plastic which is frequently used for drink and food packaging. PBs, on the other hand, are found in cosmetics, where they are used in form of preservatives.
Exposure to both BPA and BPs is through direct ingestion, inhalation, or skin contact. New mothers who are exposed to these two toxins might pass them on to their infants through breast milk.
The researchers used the novel method to measure the amount of these two toxins in milk samples of 10 women. They found Bisphenol A, in the range of 0.6 to 2.1 ng/ml, in five samples and Parabens in similar levels in seven milk samples.
On basis of their findings, researchers state that these two toxins are present in nearly all breast milk and the new identification technique should be used to identify the levels at which BPA and PBs become most harmful for the mother as well as the baby. To identify the latter, more studies using more samples needs to be done.
By jeremyc | January 31, 2016
The FDA has given approval to Halaven to treat unresectable liposarcoma (that is, liposarcoma which cannot be taken out through surgery) or advanced liposarcoma in patients who have received prior chemotherapy containing an anthracycline drug. Halaven is also a chemotherapy drug.
As per the clinical data reviewed by the FDA, Halaven improved overall survival by 7 months. The clinical trial involved 143 patients who had either unresectable liposarcoma or advanced liposarcoma and who all had previously undergone chemotherapy.
The participants were either administered Halaven or dacarbazine, which is also a chemotherapy drug. Researchers measured the overall survival, that is the time period from the beginning of the treatment till the death of a patient, for both the groups and found that patients who were given Halaven recorded a median overall survival of 15.6 months; whereas, the median overall survival for participants who were administered dacarbazine was 8.4 months.
The common side effects linked with the use of Halaven were nausea, fatigue, constipation, hair loss, peripheral neuropathy, fever, and abdominal pain.
By jeremyc | January 30, 2016
The FDA has given approval to Zepatier to be used alone or with ribavirin to treat chronic hepatitis C genotype 1 and genotype 4.
A type of viral disease, hepatitis C leads to reduced liver function or even liver failure. The disease is marked by inflammation in the liver. Unfortunately, the disease doesn’t show any symptoms until significant liver damage has been done. Chronic hepatitis infection can lead to liver cirrhosis, which in turn can cause serious complications like jaundice, bleeding, infections, accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, or liver cancer.
A clinical study was done, in which 1,373 patients with chronic hepatitis C genotype 1 or 4 infections participated, to evaluate the effectiveness as well as the safety of Zepatier with ribavirin or without it. The patients were administered Zepatier with ribavirin or without it for a period of 12 weeks or 16 weeks. After which the patients’ sustained virologic response (SVR) was measured. A hundred percent response meant that the patient has been cured and no traces of hepatitis C virus were found in the patient’s blood sample.
Researchers noted that for genotype 1-infected patients the SVR rates were in the range of 94 to 97 percent. The SVR rates for patients with genotype 4 infection were in the range of 97 to 100 percent.
Some side effects were noted with the use of Zepatier without ribavirin as well as with it. Headache, fatigue, and nausea were commonly reported in the first case and headache and anaemia in the second case.
By jeremyc | January 29, 2016
The heart health of patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (RA for short) or juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA for short) can improve if they do high intensity interval training, according to a new study. High intensity interval training may also reduce pain associated with these two conditions, researchers further concluded.
The results are encouraging, but there’s an obvious problem here. Exercise reduces symptoms of RA. However, the pain associated with this autoimmune disorder makes it harder for patients to exercise.
With that said, besides the encouraging result, the study tells another positive bit of news: RA or JIA patients can do rigorous exercises.
Usually, these patients are recommended low-impact exercise routines, like yoga or water aerobics. However, this study shows that RA or JIA patients can tolerate high intense workouts as well. This is indeed encouraging news, but as pain is relative, you are recommended to consult with your doctor before doing high intensity interval training.
This small study involved 18 women in the age group of 20-50 years, with 7 women suffering from RA and 11 from adult-JIA. The participants did high intensity interval training on stationary bikes for a period of 10 weeks. During the workout session, the heart rate of the participants was in the zone of 85-95 percent of maximum heart rate.
Researchers found that the participants had reduced risk to cardiovascular disease and did not experience any increase in pain. On the contrary, some participants reported experiencing less pain during the interval training period.
By jeremyc | January 28, 2016
According to a new study, the frequency of migraines in women increases during perimenopause, which is the period of life before menopause.
The main reason for this, study authors think, is changes in the levels of estrogen and progesterone during perimenopause.
In the study, involving over 3,600 women with migraine problem, researchers noted that the chances of high-frequency migraines (occurrence of 10 or more migraine headaches in one month), increased by up to 60 percent during perimenopause. In comparison to the early period of perimenopause, the risk was substantially more in the latter period.
According to a leading neurologist, migraine women patients approaching menopause can benefit from hormonal therapies. During the early stage of perimenopause, birth control pills are recommended. For the latter period of perimenopause, estrogen patches can do the job.
Hormonal imbalance, however, may not be the only cause of migraine in women who are in the perimenopause stage of their life. Overuse of pain medication, which is not uncommon in women in this age group, may also cause an increase in the frequency of headaches.
By jeremyc | January 27, 2016
Certain pathogens at present are hard or impossible to detect—but this may not be the case in the future. Researchers have created a new test called, PathoChip, that might detect many ambiguous pathogens in patients having a compromised immune system.
The researchers subjected a tissue sample of a person experiencing relapsed AML (that is, acute myelogenous leukemia). The patient in question had been treated with chemotherapy, a cancer treatment that reduces the ability of the patient’s immune system to ward off infections, and subsequently had developed an unidentified infection.
Using PathoChip, researchers were able to identify the cause of their patient’s “unidentified” fungal infection as a species of an uncommon fungus called Rhizomucor.
Incidences of unidentified fungal infections in patients with compromised immune system are common. For treating any infection quickly and effectively, identifying the cause immediately is paramount. However, there are many pathogens for which there are not effective identification techniques.
Rhizomucor is one such pathogen. It causes zygomycosis, a type of fungal infection that is difficult to treat. Fungal species, like Rhizomucor, that cause it do not culture in lab at all or until a long time. Through the new test, researchers could identify one species of Rhizomucor (in total, it has two species) in almost 24 hours.
PathoChip can be used for clinical use in future but only after more studies on it, according to the researchers.