Drinking Alcohol May Up Cancer Risk: Study

August 9th, 2016

Even moderate consumption of alcohol may increase the risk of several types of cancer, a new study has warned.

According to researchers at the University of Otago, drinking was responsible for 236 cancer deaths under 80 years of age in New Zealand in 2012.

The research builds on previous work that identified 30 per cent of all alcohol-attributable deaths in New Zealand to be due to cancer, more than all other chronic diseases combined.

The study used evidence that alcohol causes some types of cancer after combining dozens of large studies conducted internationally over several decades.

The cancers that are known to be causally related to alcohol include two of the most common causes of cancer death in New Zealand, breast and bowel cancer, but also cancer of the mouth, pharynx, oesophagus, larynx and liver.

The study estimated mortality for 2007 and 2012. “About 60 per cent of all alcohol-attributable cancer deaths in New Zealand women are from breast cancer,” said Professor Jennie Connor of the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine at Otago Medical School.
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One In Nine Men At Risk Of Sudden Cardiac Death

August 8th, 2016

About one in every nine men, and one in 30 women in the US may experience sudden cardiac death, most before age 70, scientists including one of Indian origin have found.

Sudden cardiac death claims up to 450,000 American lives each year, according to a new study and most commonly occurs in people with no prior symptoms of cardiovascular disease.

The study offers the first lifetime risk estimates for sudden cardiac death.

“We often screen for conditions that are less common and much less deadly than sudden cardiac death,” said Donald Lloyd-Jones, from the Northwestern University in the US.

“The lifetime risk of sudden cardiac death for men is one in nine, and yet we’re not really screening for it,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »

Fitness Bands Undervalue Exercise By Up To 40 Per Cent:

August 6th, 2016

Fitness freaks, take note! Popular wrist-worn tracking bands may underestimate exercise levels by up to 40 per cent, a new study has found.

Researchers from the University of Queensland (UQ) in Australia determined the accuracy of several popular wrist-worn fitness monitors.

“None of the devices proved to be consistently more accurate overall and the percentage error for energy expenditure was between nine and 43 per cent. Measurement of heart rate was more accurate, with only minor variances,” said Matthew Wallen from UQ’s School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences.

“Combining these two factors, it shows there are limits to how much trust we can place in such devices to monitor energy balance and, therefore, to serve as weight loss aids,” said Wallen.

Testing for the study involved 22 healthy volunteers (even split of males and females) completing a variety of activities – ranging from running, cycling and walking, to seated and laying rest – for a period of approximately one hour.
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Eat Fruits, Vegetables To Feel Happy, Suggests Study

August 5th, 2016

Eating more fruit and vegetables can substantially increase people’s happiness levels later, a new study has claimed.

The study is one of the first major scientific attempts to explore psychological well-being beyond the traditional finding that fruit and vegetables can reduce risk of cancer and heart attacks, researchers said.

Happiness benefits were detected for each extra daily portion of fruit and vegetables up to 8 portions per day. Researchers found that people who changed from almost no fruit and veg to eight portions of fruit and veg a day would experience an increase in life satisfaction equivalent to moving from unemployment to employment. The well-being improvements occurred within 24 months, researchers said.
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Scientists Outline Strategy For AIDS Cure

August 4th, 2016

PARIS, FRANCE:  Calling the AIDS epidemic “the most important global health challenge in modern history,” more than 50 top scientists pressed their case on 12th July for a drive to stop the killer disease in its tracks.
Anchored by Nobel Medicine laureate Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, the group unveiled an aggressive research strategy for an outright cure — an objective once seen as unrealistic and out of reach.

“Not long ago, few considered the possibility that a cure for HIV infection could some day be possible,” said Barre-Sinoussi, who in 1983 helped identify the mysterious virus that causes AIDS.

Today, “the search for a cure has become a top priority in HIV research,” she said in a statement, hailing a “new optimism” among experts.
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Boys At Higher Risk Of Life-Threatening Complications At Birth

August 3rd, 2016

MELBOURNE:  Baby boys are much more likely to experience potentially life threatening outcomes at birth than girls, a first of its kind population-based study in Australia has found.

Researchers studied data of more than 574,000 births in South Australia over a 30-year period (1981 to 2011), to confirm the presence of differences in birth outcomes based on the sex of the baby.

The team – involving the University of Adelaide in Australia and the University of Groningen in The Netherlands – evaluated the relationship between the babies’ sex and adverse outcomes, such as pre-term birth, pregnancy-induced high blood pressure disorders, and gestational diabetes mellitus.
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Pregnancy Multivitamins ‘Unnecessary’ For Most

August 2nd, 2016

Multivitamins and mineral supplements in pregnancy are an “unnecessary expense” with no proven benefits for most well-nourished women or their babies, said a review of science data.

Pregnant women are a soft target for products which promise to give their baby the best start in life “regardless of cost”, said the authors.

And while daily doses of a B vitamin called folic acid, and vitamin D to a lesser degree, are known to be beneficial, there is no evidence that cocktails stuffed full of other vitamins are protective.

Some may even be harmful, said the paper: high doses of vitamin A can harm a developing foetus.
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5 Ways to Use Aloe Vera to Rejuvenate Your Skin and Hair

August 1st, 2016

1. Hair Rejuvenator

Aloe vera gel is an excellent hair rejuvenator and tonic. Take a leaf, cut it lengthwise into half and scoop out the clear gel from the inside. Blend this with 1egg and 2-3tsp olive oil, and massage into the scalp and hair. Cover with a hot towel for 10 minutes and shampoo after 40 minutes. If done twice a week, you will notice that your hair fall has reduced and your hair has started to look healthier and conditioned.
2. Nourishing Hair Mask

Aloe vera makes a wonderful hair nourishing food. You can add 2tsp of the gel to the following – 1 mashed avacado, 1 egg, 2tsp honey and 1tsp triphala. Mix all these ingredients well and use all over your scalp and hair. Cover with ashower cap and leave on for a minimum of one hour. This will soften and nourish the most damaged and driest of hair and promote a healthier hair growth.
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Simple Blood Test To Tell If Patients Need Antibiotics

July 30th, 2016

In a breakthrough, researchers, including one of Indian-origin, are developing a simple and low-cost blood test that can accurately identify which patients need antibiotics.

Antibiotics have saved millions of lives and created a world in which complex and lifesaving surgeries are possible.

But the overuse of antibiotics threatens to create a global scourge of antibiotic-resistant bacterial pathogens, researchers said.

“A lot of times you cannot really tell what kind of infection someone has. If someone comes into the clinic, a bacterial or a viral infection often look exactly the same,” said Timothy Sweeney from Stanford University in the US.

“The idea to look for a diagnostic test came from our previous paper in Immunity last year. In that paper, we found a common response by the human immune system to multiple viruses that is distinct from that for bacterial infections,” said Purvesh Khatri from Stanford.
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Tango Therapy May Cut Risk Of Falls In Cancer Patients

July 29th, 2016

Argentine Tango dance has the potential to significantly improve balance and reduce falls risk among cancer patients post treatment, finds a study that addresses the prevalent side effects of cancer treatment.

According to researchers nearly 70 per cent of cancer patients treated with chemotherapy will experience peripheral neuropathy as a side effect post treatment.

Peripheral neuropathy is weakness, numbness or loss of sensation in the hands, fingers, feet and toes and pain from nerve damage.

The findings revealed that after just five weeks of Argentine tango, medial and lateral sway decreased by 56 per cent indicating that this is a promising balance intervention for cancer survivors experiencing impaired balance post treatment.

“The study showed that Argentine Tango has measurable effects on balance — but our patients report really enjoying dance as therapy. It is a fun, social way to do the necessary work and our initial data shows it has some positive impact for restoring balance,” said Mimi Lamantia from The Ohio State University in the US.

In addition, the patients also found that the Argentine tango was more easier to adhere than the traditional physical therapy.

“So many patients tell us that it is difficult to stay committed to physical therapy because it is hard and feels like work,” Lamantia added.

Long-term neuropathy in the feet and toes can be especially problematic because it affects a person’s balance and gait. This puts them in an elevated fall risk when they are engaging in daily life activities.

“That’s a big deal because many more people are surviving cancer. Dealing with the issues that impact a person’s quality of life after cancer is extremely important,” noted another researcher Lise Worthen-Chaudhari from The Ohio State University.

For the study, the team designed a dance intervention course that involved 20 sessions of adapted Argentine Tango. Patients participated in one-hour sessions twice a week for 10 weeks.

Researchers measured patients’ standing postural sway (eyes closed) with a computer-aided force platform at the beginning of the dance intervention series and at completion of the 10-weeks of instruction. Patients were also asked to report satisfaction with the intervention.

Initial data from the first three patients who participated in the Argentine Tango study will be presented at the 2016 annual meeting of American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine in Chicago.


High Body Mass Index May Increase Spread Of Blood Cancer

July 27th, 2016

Researchers have found that as body mass index (BMI) increases, so does the growth and spread of the blood cancer multiple myeloma.

“Once a person with cancer is out of the normal weight category, their BMI is contributing to multiple myeloma growth and progression,” said Katie DeCicco-Skinner from American University.

Researchers examined BMI of normal, overweight, obese and morbidly obese patients, and the effects on multiple myeloma. Obesity is believed to be a risk factor for many cancers, and each 5 kilogramme per metre square increase in BMI is associated with an increase of 10 per cent in cancer-related deaths, studies show.

In the multiple myeloma study, normal weight was defined as a BMI of no more than 25 kilogrammes per square metre, and morbidly obese was in the range of 35 to 40 kilogrammes per square metre.

Researchers obtained stem cells from the discarded fat of liposuction patients who underwent elective surgery. They turned them into fat cells and cultured the fat cells with multiple myeloma.

In bone marrow, where multiple myeloma often takes root, fat cells play an important role in the proliferation, survival, progression and drug resistance of the cancer cells.

As a patient’s BMI increases, fat cells communicate with multiple myeloma cells, researchers found. Fat cells grow larger, gain additional lipid and secrete proteins linked to cancer.

Researchers also found a correlation between BMI and angiogenesis and adhesion, key indicators of progression.

“We know multiple myeloma cells will anchor into bone marrow, and fat cells in the bone marrow will support the growth and spread of the cancer,” said DeCicco-Skinner.

“In our study, as BMI increased, we started seeing an

increase in the ability of multiple myeloma cells to adhere, which causes the cancer to better anchor,” DeCicco-Skinner said.

“With angiogenesis, cancer cells cannot exist without their own blood supply. We also found the amount of blood vessels that developed was directly proportional to a patient’s BMI,” she added.

Researchers assumed cancer proliferation would benefit from higher-than-normal BMI because of the epidemiological link between obesity and cancer. But the relationship between multiple myeloma and the BMI of obese and morbidly obese patients was drastic, researchers said.

“We found that fat cells from obese or morbidly obese patients secreted a high amount of inflammatory proteins, which contributed to tumour progression,” said DeCicco-Skinner.

The findings suggest a new approach for the treatment of multiple myeloma. Physicians may want to consider tailoring drugs based on a patient’s BMI because a drug may not be as effective in obese or morbidly obese patients, researchers said.


DNA Test May Predict Academic Achievement

July 25th, 2016

Scientists have found a new genetic scoring technique that may predict a student’s academic achievement from DNA alone and help identify children who are at risk of having learning difficulties.

The technique is the strongest prediction of behaviour from DNA to date, researchers said.

The research shows that a genetic score comprising 20,000 DNA variants explains almost 10 per cent of the differences between children’s educational attainment at the age of 16.

The findings from King’s College London mark a ‘tipping point’ in predicting academic achievement and may help identify children who are at greater risk of having learning difficulties.

Twin studies can tell us the overall genetic influence on a trait in a population. Polygenic scores, however, estimate genetic influence from common variants only, which explains the discrepancy between these DNA-based studies and twin studies (10 per cent vs 60 per cent).

As human traits are so complex and influenced by thousands of gene variants of very small effect, it is useful to consider the joint effects of all of these trait-associated variants – and this principle underlies the polygenic score method.

Calculating an individual’s polygenic score requires information from a genome-wide association study (GWAS) that finds specific genetic variants linked to particular traits, in this case academic achievement.

Some of these genetic variants, known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), are more strongly associated with the trait, and some are less strongly associated.

In a polygenic score, the effects of these SNPs are weighed by the strength of association and then summed to a score, so that people with many SNPs related to academic achievement will have a higher polygenic score and higher academic achievement, whereas people with fewer associated SNPs will have a lower score and lower levels of academic achievement.

The new research examined almost 10 million SNPs and identified 74 genetic variants that were significantly associated with years of completed education.

‘Years of education’ was used as a proxy measure for education achievement and related traits.

Researchers measured academic achievement in Mathematics and English at ages 7, 12 and 16, in a sample of 5,825 individuals from the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS).

Their findings show that what makes students achieve differently in their educational achievement is strongly affected by DNA differences.

On average those with a higher polygenic score would obtain a grade between A and B, while those with lower score obtained an entire grade below at age 16.

About 65 per cent of people in the higher polygenic group went on to do A-levels, whereas only 35 per cent from the lower group did so.

The findings appear in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Chicken Odour Prevents Malaria

July 23rd, 2016

The smell from a live chicken could help protect humans against malaria, researchers said today after finding that chicken’s odour puts the mosquitoes off.

Ethiopian and Swedish scientists discovered that malarial mosquitoes tend to avoid chickens and other birds.

The experiments, conducted in western Ethiopia, included suspending a live chicken in a cage near a volunteer sleeping under a bed net.

Infection and death rates are declining but health officials are continuing to look for new ways to prevent the spread of the disease.

The malaria parasite, which initially hides in the liver before going into the bloodstream, is carried from person to person by mosquitoes when they drink blood.

The scientists, whose research was published in the Malaria Journal, concluded that as mosquitoes use their sense of smell to locate an animal they can bite, there must be something in a chicken’s odour that puts the insects off.

Addis Ababa University’s Habtie Tekie, who worked on the research, said that the compounds from the smell of the chicken can be extracted and could work as a repellent.

Field trials for this stage of the research are now “in the pipeline”, he said.

Researchers from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences were also involved in the project.

Compounds extracted from chicken feathers were also used in the experiments, as well as live chickens.

Researchers discovered that the use of the chicken and the compounds “significantly reduced” the number of mosquitoes that were found in the trap nearby.

The scientists say that with reports that some mosquitoes are developing resistance to insecticide “novel control methods” need to be embraced.


Breastfeeding May Protect Moms Against Diabetes

July 22nd, 2016

Breastfeeding may be a cost-effective intervention aimed at reducing the long-term risk of developing type 2 diabetes among women with gestational diabetes, scientists have found.

Researchers at the Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen in Germany studied the metabolism of women with gestational diabetes after giving birth.

Along with partners at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the German Centre for Diabetes Research (DZD), they were able to show that breastfeeding for more than three months brings about long-term metabolic changes.

Four per cent of all pregnant women in Germany develop gestational diabetes before the birth of their child, researchers said.

Although their blood sugar levels initially return to normal after delivery, one in two of the mothers affected develops type 2 diabetes within the next ten years.

While it has been shown that lactation can lower this risk by 40 per cent, the reasons for this are not yet understood.

In an earlier study, researchers led by Professor Anette-Gabriele Ziegler, Director of the Institute of Diabetes Research (IDF) at the Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen, showed that breastfeeding for more than three months postpartum has a protective effect, which lasts for up to 15 years after gestational diabetes.

In the recent study, they examined whether the metabolism could be responsible for this.

For their analyses, scientists examined almost 200 patients who had developed gestational diabetes.

The participants in the study received a standardised glucose solution and gave a fasting blood sample beforehand, and during the test.

The scientists then compared the samples on the basis of 156 different, known metabolites.

On average, the women had given birth three and half years earlier.

“We observed that the metabolites in women who had breastfed for more than three months differed significantly from those who had had shorter lactation periods,” said first-author Daniela Much from the IDF.

“Longer periods of lactation are linked to a change in the production of phospholipids and to lower concentrations of branched-chain amino acids in the mothers’ blood plasma,” Much said.

This is interesting because the metabolites involved were linked in earlier studies with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, researchers said.

“The findings of our study provide new insights into disease-related metabolic pathways that are influenced by lactation and could thus be the underlying reason for the protective effect,” said Sandra Hummel, head of the Gestational Diabetes working group at the IDF, who led the study.

The research was published in the journal Diabetologia.


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Early Bedtime For Preschoolers Cuts Obesity Risk Later

July 20th, 2016

Preschoolers who are regularly in bed by 8 p.m., are far less likely to become obese teenagers than young children who go to sleep later in the night, a new research has found.

According to the research published in the Journal of Pediatrics, bedtimes after 9 p.m. appeared to double the likelihood of obesity later in life.

“For parents, this reinforces the importance of establishing a bedtime routine,” said Sarah Anderson, associate professor at the Ohio State University College of Public Health.

Obesity can set kids up for a lifelong struggle with weight and health complications that can accompany it, including diabetes and heart disease, the study revealed.

“It’s something concrete that families can do to lower their child’s risk and it’s also likely to have positive benefits on behavior and on social, emotional and cognitive development,” added Anderson.

For the study, the researchers used data from 977 children who were part of the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development.

The researchers divided preschool bedtimes into three categories — 8 p.m. or earlier, between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. and after 9 p.m. The children were about four and a half years old when their mothers reported their typical weekday bedtime.

The researchers found a striking difference. Only one in 10 of the children with the earliest bedtimes were obese teens, compared to 16 per cent of children with mid-range bedtimes and 23 per cent of those who went to bed latest.

Half the kids in the study fell into the middle category. A quarter had early bedtimes and another quarter went to bed late.

Because the emotional climate at home can influence routines such as bedtime, the researchers also examined interactions between mothers and their children.

Regardless of the quality of the maternal-child relationship, there was a strong link between bedtimes and obesity, the researchers found. But the children who went to bed latest and whose moms had the lowest sensitivity scores faced the highest obesity risk.

The researchers also found that later bedtimes were more common in children who were not white, whose mothers had less education and who lived in lower-income household.



How A Protein Can Cause Blindness In Diabetics Explained

July 19th, 2016

Researchers have shown how a small protein that can both damage or grow blood vessels in the eye can cause vision loss in people with diabetes, an advance that may lead to better treatment of the disease.

By combining data on optometry patients’ eyes with advanced computational methods, researchers from Indiana University in the US created a virtual tissue model of diabetes in the eye.

The findings show precisely how a small protein that can both damage or grow blood vessels in the eye causes vision loss and blindness in people with diabetes, researchers said.

The study could lead to better treatment for diabetic retinopathy, which currently requires multiple invasive procedures that are not always effective in the long term. Diabetic retinopathy is responsible for 1 per cent of all blindness worldwide, researchers said.

A major way diabetic retinopathy threatens vision is diabetic edema. In this condition, the smallest vessels supplying the retina with oxygen become leaky, causing fluid to swell the central retinal area and impairing the type of vision required for precise activities such as reading.

This happens because the loss of blood flow in a blood vessel causes the local oxygen level to drop, which stimulates local production of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a protein that in most tissues causes the growth of new blood vessels to repair damage, researchers said.

However, in a retina with elevated sugar levels, instead of repairing the damage, physicians observe a cascade of damage that propagates from the initial blocked vessel. The rate and area of the damage’s progression also vary greatly between patients in a seemingly unpredictable way.

The virtual retina model in the study provides the first strong evidence for why this pattern of disease progression is so variable, and it predicts where damage will occur next.

It shows that the blockage of one vessel causes a local loss of oxygen in the retina, which triggers release of VEGF that spreads over a larger region which, in turn, increases the probability of blockage in the surrounding vessels, creating a “domino effect,” researchers said.

The spread of damage from region to region depends on the detailed pattern of blood vessels in each patient and the amount of blood they carry, both of which vary greatly from person to person, they said.

Based on a patient’s specific vascular structure, the scientists’ new model calculates how much a blockage in one blood vessel will increase the probability of blockage in each neighbouring vessel.

As a result, their programme predicts the specific rate and pattern of cascading vascular damage in the individual. The findings were published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology.



Hypertension Biggest Global Risk Factor For Stroke

July 18th, 2016

Hypertension is the single major risk factor for stroke, which is a highly preventable medical condition globally, irrespective of age and sex, reveals a study led by an Indian-origin researcher.

Stroke which is caused when poor blood flow to the brain results in cell death, is the leading cause of mortality and disability, particularly in low-income and middle-income countries.

The findings showed that 47.9 per cent of stokes were caused as a result of hypertension whereas physical inactivity caused 35.8 per cent.

Poor diet and obesity caused 23.2 per cent and 18.6 per cent of strokes, respectively.

While smoking caused 12.4 per cent, heart diseases was accounted for 9.1 per cent of strokes.

Diabetes resulted in 3.9 per cent and alcohol intake in 5.8 per cent of strokes.

Stress caused 5.8 per cent and lipids 26.8 per cent of strokes.

Further, hypertension was found as the highest reason behind strokes in Southeast Asia (59.6 per cent), whereas in western Europe, North America and Australia it caused 38.8 per cent of strokes.

Alcohol intake was found lowest in western Europe, North America, Australia but at 10.4 per cent and 10.7 per cent it was highest in Africa and south Asia, respectively. Physical inactivity was found as the highest reason of strokes in China.

In addition, ischaemic stroke — caused by blood clots — accounted for 85 per cent of strokes and haemorrhagic stroke — bleeding in the brain — accounted for 15 per cent of strokes, was found as the two major types of strokes.

Governments, health organisations, and individuals should proactively reduce the global burden of stroke, said the paper published in The Lancet.

For the study, the team included 6000 participants from 22 countries and later an additional 20000 individuals from 32 countries in Europe, Asia, America, Africa and Australia.

Chikungunya Virus Is Transmitted Across Mosquito Generations

July 17th, 2016

Researchers have found that “Aedes aegypti” mosquitoes that transmit the chikungunya virus, pass it on to their offspring- a feature that allows these mosquitoes to maintain the virus within their population for generations.

In other words, mosquitoes emerging from eggs laid by infected Aedes also carry the virus, thus enabling the virus to keep circulating in nature.

A team from the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), National Institute of Malaria Research and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has reported this finding in the reputed journal ‘Acta Tropica.’

“Called transovarian transmission (TOT) or vertical transmission, this is an important feature by which viruses survive in nature until they reach a population large enough to infect human population,” Sujatha Sunil, head of Vector Bourne Diseases Group at ICGEB and principal investigator of the study, told IANS.

In India, chikungunya re-emerged in 2006, after a gap of 32 years and since then it has been occurring either as single infection outbreaks or as co-infections with dengue in different parts of India.

TOT, in which a virus spreads from mosquito to mosquito, is known to occur in the case of yellow fever virus which is also transmitted by A. aegypti mosquitoes.

“However, there have been no reports on TOT of chikungunya virus in field samples till date,” Sujatha said. “The present pilot entomological survey is the first study to confirm this feature in natural population of Aedes mosquitoes.”

In their study, female Aedes mosquitoes collected from the field — that tested positive for the chikungunya virus — were fed uninfected blood in the laboratory and allowed to lay eggs. The progeny that emerged from these eggs were tested and found positive for chikungunya virus, “thus clearly establishing the prevalence of vertical transmission of chikungunya virus in A. aegypti natural populations,” the scientists reported.

Information on vertical transmission of chikungunya virus in natural population of Aedes mosquitoes is important to understand the possible mechanisms of virus survival during inter-epidemic periods, the report said. By confirming the presence of TOT, the “study has provided insights as to the mode by which the chikungunya virus may exist in the population during adverse climatic conditions,” Sujatha said.

For instance, she noted, the pilot survey carried out in Delhi and neighbouring Haryana has revealed that Aedes mosquitoes survive even during peak summer season and their population “explodes quickly once the monsoon starts”.

“Therefore it is very crucial to initiate vector surveillance and control programmes well before the monsoon actually starts,” the scientists said in their report.

They said their study has further demonstrated the importance of identifying permanent breeding sites for proper Aedes species control. “Identification of such sites and timely control of mosquito population in these sites before the onset of monsoon will prove to be extremely important in vector control programmes,” the report said.

But if TOT is taking place in nature, why chikungunya epidemic is not occurring throughout the year?

Sujatha said mosquito population is the deciding factor for disease transmission. “During non-rainy season, the habitats and breeding of the mosquitoes are greatly curbed and the number of mosquitoes is very low. This automatically translates to lesser cases of chikungunya,” Sujatha said.

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Pomegranates May Help Fight Ageing

July 15th, 2016

Researchers have found that a molecule in pomegranates, transformed by microbes in the gut, may enable muscle cells to protect themselves against one of the major causes of ageing.

As we age, our cells increasingly struggle to recycle their powerhouses.

Called mitochondria, these inner compartments are no longer able to carry out their vital function, and thus accumulate in the cell, researchers said.

This degradation affects the health of many tissues, including muscles, which gradually weaken over the years.

A buildup of dysfunctional mitochondria is also suspected of playing a role in other diseases of ageing, such as Parkinson’s disease, they said.

Scientists from Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) and Amazentis company in Switzerland identified a molecule that, all by itself, managed to re-establish the cell’s ability to recycle the components of the defective mitochondria: urolithin A.

“It is the only known molecule that can relaunch the mitochondrial clean-up process, otherwise known as mitophagy. It is a completely natural substance, and its effect is powerful and measurable,” said Patrick Aebischer from EPFL.

Researchers started out by testing their hypothesis on the usual suspect: the nematode C elegans.

It is a favourite test subject among ageing experts, because after just 8-10 days it is already considered elderly, they said.

The lifespan of worms exposed to urolithin A increased by more than 45 per cent compared with the control group, they said.

The results led researchers to test the molecule on animals that have more in common with humans.

In the rodent studies, like with C elegans, a significant reduction in the number of mitochondria was observed, indicating that a robust cellular recycling process was taking place.

Older mice, around two years of age, showed 42 per cent better endurance while running than equally old mice in the control group.

The fruit does not itself contain the ‘miracle molecule’, but rather its precursor.

That molecule is converted into urolithin A by the microbes that inhabit the intestine, researchers said.

Because of this, the amount of urolithin A produced can vary widely, depending on the species of animal and the flora present in the gut microbiome.

Some individuals do not produce any at all, they said.

Researchers are currently conducting first clinical trials to test the molecule in humans.

The findings were published in the journal Nature Medicine.

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