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Oct 22

Gates Foundation grants support unusual research

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SEATTLE — What do chewing gum, chocolate and malaria have to do with each other? Not much, unless you're a young scientist exploring unusual ways to think about world health.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Tuesday announced new grants of $100,000 each for 76 unconventional approaches to world problems.

One will help a UCLA doctoral candidate explore the idea of using chewing gum to detect malaria biomarkers in saliva. Another will give a researcher at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York the money he needs to test chocolate for combatting the malaria parasite.

Andrew Fung — the UCLA student — admits his idea for an inexpensive and noninvasive new way to detect malaria started out as an intellectual exercise designed to showcase his creativity for a potential postdoctorate employer. He was hoping for a job, not a research grant. He may get both.

Fung's idea was built on the need for a malaria test that does not require a blood draw and on research using saliva for detecting other diseases. On the plus side: Saliva is relatively easy to collect, the process is painless and the gum test doesn't require a battery or computer to run.

On the negative side: Saliva isn't as "clean" as blood and biomarkers aren't as prevalent in saliva as they are in blood. And since children would be a primary target of this new test, the researchers may also have some problems getting the gum away from the kids before they swallow it or hide it away.

The biomedical engineer chuckles at the issues involved in working with kids and is clearly delighted the Gates Foundation thought his unconventional idea was worth exploring.

"Very few organizations are willing to invest into that space," said Fung.

Tuesday's announcement is the third round of the Gates Foundation's Grand Challenges Exploration program to support innovative, unconventional global health research.

The five-year health research grants are designed to encourage scientists to pursue bold ideas that could lead to breakthroughs, focusing on ways to prevent and treat infectious diseases, such as HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, pneumonia and diarrheal diseases.


Maranz's plan to look at the effect of chocolate on the malaria parasite may sound a little strange but it's based on conventional science.

Maranz had been studying medicinal plants from West Africa and testing them to see how they affect the malaria parasite. Both current and past drugs effective at killing the malaria parasite were based on compounds that come from plants.

Since the malaria parasite has developed, over time, resistance to the drugs used to treat people, Maranz doesn't want to kill the parasite. He wants to find ways to interrupt its lifecycle in other ways.

Chocolate is a promising substance for malaria research because it binds with cholesterol and takes it out of circulation. Since the malaria parasite feeds on fat in the blood, if you take away the fat, you starve the parasite, Maranz said.

Maranz wants to kill some of the parasites but leave enough in the blood to help children develop a lifetime resistance to malaria. He will be looking at several different compounds but he thinks chocolate is the best candidate because it is rich in the right elements and is known to be safe.

His chocolate "medicine" will be delivered in a liquid form, similar to hot chocolate, because the cocoa in most chocolate bars has been altered with most of its helpful elements removed.

The scientist is quick to point out that although he feels confident of his idea, it's still an unproven hypothesis.

"This is an exploration grant. The ideas I've been talking to you about need experimental support. Nothing is proven at this point," said Maranz, speaking for himself and all the other scientists receiving Grand Challenges grants.
source: AP
Oct 22

For Obese, Weight Gained in Pregnancy May Not Leave

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Obese women who gain more than 15 pounds during pregnancy tend to retain much of it long after delivery, a new U.S. study finds.
Oregon researchers collected data on almost 1,700 obese women (their body mass index was 30 or higher) who gave birth between 2000 and 2005.
"We found that 70 percent of the women were exceeding the recommended weight gain for women in their weight category," said researcher Victor J. Stevens, a senior investigator at Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research. What's more, "these women had a lot of difficulty losing that weight, and on average retained 40 percent of it [a year later]," he said.
"That's a concern as they are already heavy enough to have health problems related to their weight, and retaining significant weight gain after pregnancy just makes it worse," Stevens said.
For an obese woman, gaining too much weight during pregnancy also increases the risk of complications, such as diabetes, hypertension, preeclampsia, bigger babies, C-sections and birthing injuries.
The research was funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and appears in the November issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.
In the study, Stevens' team noted the women's starting weight (between six months before conception and 12 weeks after conception), delivery weight and their later weight at eight and 18 months after giving birth.
The researchers defined excess weight gain as more than 15 pounds.
Women who gained 15 to 25 pounds were twice as likely to retain 10 pounds of that weight over the next year and a half, compared to women who had less weight gain. Those who packed on more than 35 pounds were almost eight-times more likely to retain 10 pounds of that extra bulk, the team found.
Younger women and first-time mothers were most likely to put on too much weight, the researchers note.
"We would like to see better services for women to help them manage their weight gain during pregnancy," Stevens said.
source:http://health.usnews.com
Oct 20

Using Music to Ease Patient Stress During Surgery

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For as long as humans have pounded drums and plucked strings, listening to music has affected people's sense of well-being, lifting their spirits and — as new research shows — calming their nerves. Literally. According to a study at Cleveland Clinic, music can slow the neuronal firings deep within the brain during surgery designed to treat Parkinson's patients.


The seeds of this study were planted about two years ago, when a patient named Damir Janigro was being prepped for spinal surgery. Janigro, who is also a neuroscientist at the clinic, lay captive to the nerve-racking din of the operating room and in his frazzled state thought about how dentists often give their patients earphones to help ease anxiety.

If people getting root canals merited a musical intervention, he thought, why not people undergoing brain surgery? Patients with conditions such as epilepsy, brain tumors, severe depression, and obsessive-compulsive and motor disorders like Parkinson's have to be awake for surgical procedures that often take several hours. Janigro and his team decided to use that wakeful period to determine whether music made the subjects' experience in the operating room less stressful.


In Janigro's study, more than a dozen neurosurgical patients, predominantly with Parkinson's, listened to three musical selections — rhythmic music with no discernible melody (by Gyorgi Ligeti, of Stanley Kubrick–movie fame), melodic music with undefined rhythm (by Aaron Jay Kernis, a Pulitzer Prize winner) and something in between (Ludwig van Beethoven). In the later stages of the research, to prevent familiarity from swaying the subjects' responses, music was specifically composed for the study by students from the Cleveland Institute of Music.

In the end, patients almost unanimously said the purely melodic offerings were the most soothing. But the recordings of their brain activity were eye-opening.

Listening to melodic music decreased the activity of individual neurons in the deep brain, says Janigro, adding that the physical responses to the calming music ranged from patients' closing their eyes to falling asleep. Some patients even settled into a nice round of snoring. And when lead neurosurgeon Ali Rezai needed patients to perform an action, such as lifting a limb, during the procedures, he simply removed their earphones and relayed instructions. Once the music resumed, patients returned to their snoozing.

These are very desirable results, says Janigro. With the right music, he says, patients can be more relaxed in the operating room. And that relaxation may mean not only that procedures involve less medication — to control blood pressure, which increases with stress — but perhaps that patients have quicker recovery times and shorter hospital stays.

Janigro anticipates that following institutional approval, music will be used during certain neurosurgical procedures at the clinic as early as 2010. He hopes other hospitals will soon follow Cleveland's lead. "This type of surgery can be a traumatizing experience, and using music can decrease anxiety," he notes.

Source: http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1929994,00.html
Oct 18

How fish oil supports heart health

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 When it comes to heart health, there is one fat that won't work against you -- fish oil.
Experts recommend eating fresh fish at least once a week.

While most of us need more fish in our diets, heart experts recommend that people at risk for or with coronary artery disease should consume about one gram of fish oil per day. That's the same amount in three ounces of wild salmon (farmed fish may have less heart-healthy fats than wild).

Healthy people should aim for 500 milligrams a day, according to Dr. James O'Keefe, a cardiologist with the Mid-America Heart Institute in Bethesda, Maryland.

Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and fish oil as well as some plant foods, can decrease the likelihood of cardiovascular disease.

Eating at least one fish meal a week was associated with a 52 percent reduction of risk for sudden cardiac death, according to a 1998 study of over 20,000 U.S. male physicians. Specifically, it can help prevent arrhythmias, lower triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood), slow down the buildup of plaque in the arteries, and slightly lower blood pressure.

   
Nutritionists recommend taking a food-based approach to fish oil before turning to capsule supplements, because fish is also a good source of protein and other nutrients.

Joyce Baber, 54, from New Egypt, New Jersey, is trying to do just that to help lower her high cholesterol, 233 (LDL, 174; HDL, 59) and slightly elevated blood pressure.

"My doctor recommended omega-3," she says. "My LDL should be 130 or less and my HDL should be closer to 100." Patients with high cholesterol patients who consumed EPA, an omega-3 fatty acid, daily showed a 19 percent decrease in non-fatal coronary events, including heart attack, according to a 2007 Japanese study of over 18,000 people.

How much fish should you eat?

People with a history of cardiovascular disease should include fatty fish, such as mackerel, trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, and salmon, in their diet two to three times per week. Those without a history of heart disease are advised to eat fish at least one to two times per week. Health.com: Five fab fish dishes

Pregnant women should consume two fatty fish meals a week, while avoiding shark, tile fish, king mackerel and swordfish, which may contain some environmental contaminants such as mercury, according to the FDA.

Eat with your mind as well as your mouth, and pay close to attention to how the fish is prepared. Fried fish and fish from fast food restaurants do not offer the same heart health benefits as baked and broiled fish. Health.com: 20 meals that won't kill your cholesterol

Tofu and other forms of soybeans, canola, walnuts and flaxseeds, and their oils, are also rich sources of alpha-linolenic acid, which is converted to omega-3 fatty acid in the body. Omega-3-enriched eggs are also available in supermarkets.

sorce: http://edition.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH
Oct 11

Ayurveda aid for wounded elephant

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Jamshedpur: The forest department is pinning hope on ayurvedic medicines to cure the injured baby elephant that was rescued from Rajabasa jungle in Ghatshila on Monday. The calf’s condition has deteriorated.

A.T. Mishra, the divisional forest officer (DFO) of Dhalbhum, said: “We are looking for an ayurvedic expert who can treat the baby elephant.” He added that they were not very optimistic about the recovery of the calf, which had fever yesterday and stopped eating. It was also suffering from diarrhoea. Though its temperature was normal today, it has developed urinary problems.

Although the DFO expressed satisfaction with the treatment being provided to the calf at Tata Steel Zoological Park in Jamshedpur, he said that ayurvedic medicines needed to be administered along with allopathic to completely cure it.

“The baby elephant, which had injury marks on its body, was running a temperature of 102°. Due to the efforts of the zoo veterinary doctor, Manik Palit, the fever subsided, but some urinating problems have developed,” Mishra said.

Palit said that the calf developed some kind of infection in its urinary tracts and as a result, has stopped urinating. “It seems that the calf was deprived of breast milk. Colostrum in mother’s milk helps babies acquire immunity,” the vet added.

He said that ayurvedic medicines were available for adult elephants, but had no idea whether such medicines could be given to calves.
source:http://www.telegraphindia.com
Oct 11

China says traditional medicine effective on A/H1N1

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    BEIJING,(Xinhua) -- Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) had proved effective for preventing and curing A/H1N1 flu in clinical tests, Beijing health authorities said Wednesday.

    After five months' scientific research, the effectiveness of TCM on A/H1N1 flu patients had been proved in clinical tests, said the Beijing Municipal Health Bureau.

    The city has reserved 2 million TCM doses to fight against the flu.

    "The Beijing municipal government has invested 10 million yuan (1.4 million U.S. dollars) to test the effectiveness and safety of TCM to treat A/H1N1 flu since May," said Zhao Jing, head of Beijing Administration of TCM.

    Zhao said as of Sept. 1, 326 of 845 confirmed cases of A/H1N1 in Beijing had been cured with TCM treatments.

    "It has proved very effective to use TCM and a combination of TCM and Western medicine to treat A/H1N1 flu patients," Zhao said.

    Wang Yuguang, a senior expert with Beijing Ditan Hospital, which has been designated to treat A/H1N1 flu cases in the city, said all 184 patients who received TCM treatment at the hospital had been discharged after full recovery.

    "Clinical tests have showed that TCM doses help reduce symptoms of fever, sore throat and cough," he said. "No side effects and adverse reactions have been reported."
Oct 11

More Americans Willing to Try Ayurveda

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here's a strong inclination today among many Americans to try alternative medicines, as Americans are increasingly dissatisfied with western medicine's inability to deal with many chronic disorders and illnesses. Americans are more than willing to explore and see if an alternative medicine like Ayurveda, that's gaining popularity in the U.S., could offer a better solution.

With over a fifth of American hospitals now offering some sort of alternative therapy along with conventional medicine, an astonishing one in three Americans have used — and are continuing to use some form of alternative or complementary medicines, most of them without informing their physicians.

With the ever rising demand for such wellness therapies to offset life’s many stresses and health disorders that make life unbearable and make people age more quickly than they expect, DanGlobalMed, a medical tourism company is offering 12 great wellness programs at an Ayurvedic Spa Beach Resort.

As a complementary therapy Ayurveda's popularity in the U.S. is increasing. "There is a major push for study on Ayurveda in the United States,” says Dr. Daniel Furst, director of clinical research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, who led a study of rheumatoid arthritis to test combinations of allopathic and Ayurvedic treatments to determine efficacy. “It (Ayurveda) has been practiced for 3,000 years. No one will do it if it is garbage. It will gain credibility if adequately tested and will be used more.” Americans are spending billions on alternative medical treatments. And major hospitals and medical schools are embracing them.Ayurveda addresses the well-being of the entire person. Herbs and minerals, nutrition and purification, affirmative ways of living are a few of the ways in which Ayurveda treats not just the ailment but the whole person, emphasizing prevention of disease to avoid the need for cure.

Source:  http://www.pr.com

Oct 10

"Climate change threatening herbs" Indian President

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Indian president Pratibha Devisingh Patil on Wednesday expressed concern over climate change that was threatening the existence of several Indian herbs which are key ingredients in the traditional Ayurvedic system of medicine.

“The Ayurvedic medicines make intelligent use of herbs. Climate change is disturbing the ecological balance which is making herbs, used in Ayurvedic medicines, extinct. It is a big challenge for us,” she said while inaugurating the centenary celebrations of the All-India Ayurvedic Congress here.

She said herbs and plants which are getting extinct should be properly categorised and efforts made to protect them. Ms. Patil sought the help of the National Medicinal Plants Board and the Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants in this endeavour.

Ms. Patil also sought strict action against “quacks” who, she said, were bringing disrepute to Ayurveda. She advocated documentation, collation and certification of therapies of the medicinal system.

Sep 16

Study Shows Yoga Helps in Lower Back Pain

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When you think about a solution for back pain, yoga probably is the last thing that comes to mind but a study was conducted using Iyengar yoga twice a week for 6 months and results show participants had less pain after the 6 months.

"I was having a lot of trouble with my back and the pain was going into my left leg where it was really bad," says Lynnmarie Kuntz, 62.

Kuntz was one of 90 people who participated in the Iyengar yoga study.

Half of the people attended 24 weeks of yoga therapy and the other half, the control group, continued their standard medical care.

"Back pain is a thing that is different to treat and it's only been partially successful using the medical approach," says researcher Dr. Kimberly Williams.

Williams became interested in the Iyengar therapy approach after she experienced back pain of her own.

She says once she recovered she turned to helping people who had never done yoga.

The method of yoga uses principles of alignment and the use of props to get the most out of the poses.

"We're trained to learn to observe to know when people need adjustments and modification in the poses," says Iyengar yoga instructor Siegfried Bleher.

The study was published in Spine medical journal and shows that people like Kuntz can benefit and relieve their pain.

"I would like to knock on wood right now," says Kuntz "But no I don't have any more back problems at all the program really helped."

Several participants in the study have transitioned into the regular yoga classes.

Williams plans to do a larger study in the future adding a control group with group support using a larger sample size.
Sep 16

Ayurveda Convention '09 to be held

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The Association of Ayurvedic Professionals of North America (APNA) and the Ayurveda Wellness Center (AWC) of Coopersburg, Pennsylvania will jointly hold the National Ayurveda Convention 2009 from October 30 to November 1 at Twin Ponds Integrative Health Center in Breinigsville, Pennsylvania.

The theme of this year's convention is 'Ayurveda for Optimum Health and Wellness -An Integrative Approach'. The three-day event will feature presentations by more than 10 Integrative Medicine doctors and ayurvedic doctors on a variety of health and wellness topics, including - the role of Ayurveda in contemporary medicine, integrating Ayurveda into health care for women; ayurvedic management of diabetes mellitus, ayurvedic management of auto immune disorders; developing clinical research study using Ayurveda and good science, ayurvedic insight on obesity etc. Sponsors of the event include Komal Herbals, Inc of Pennsylvania, Sandhu Products of California, and Pure Indian Foods Corporation of New Jersey.

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