Why You Probably Can’t Donate a Kidney Even If You Want To .


When it comes to kidney donation, deciding you want to go through with it is actually the easy part. Most Americans couldn’t donate a kidney even if they wanted to, finds a new study presented at the American Society of Nephrology’s Kidney Week conference in Philadelphia.

Dr. Anthony Bleyer, professor of internal medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, and his son Anthony Bleyer, Jr., an economics major at Wake Forest University, looked at data from a representative sample of 7,000 U.S. adults from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey survey. They discovered that a full 55% of the U.S. population would be ineligible to donate a kidney because of medical conditions—most of them preventable. Based on the criteria the Bleyers used, 15% of adults would be excluded due to obesity, 19% to hypertension, 12% to excessive alcohol use and 12% to diabetes.

That’s not necessarily because a medical condition has rendered the organs damaged. “Our number one thing is we want to preserve the health of the donor,” says Dr. Bleyer. “The donors have to be in really pristine condition.”

The more you weigh, the more strain you’ll put on your remaining kidney, and obese people also have a higher risk of complications after surgery and wounds that heal more slowly, he says.

The Bleyer team also looked at how financial concerns might prevent donation. Because kidney donors don’t receive compensation for lost work time in the U.S., 36% of healthy, medically eligible people make less than $35,000 per year, so they probably couldn’t afford to donate, the study found.

“Only 6% of patients who need a transplant get a living-donor kidney transplant,” Dr. Bleyer says.

That might not be because people are getting more stingy about their organs—but poorer and sicker instead.

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Scientists have identified the gene that makes mosquitoes crave human blood .


Scientists have identified the gene that makes mosquitoes crave human blood

Scientists have discovered that mosquitoes weren’t always this annoying – over time, they evolved to become attracted to human body odour.

Female mosquitoes that spread dengue and yellow fever didn’t always rely on human blood to feed their eggs – in fact, their ancestors fed on forest animals such as guinea pigs and horses. But thousands of years ago they recognised a distinctive human odour called sulcatone as a source of food, and switched from feeding on furry forest animals to sucking the blood of people, a new study has found.

To investigate the evolution of this attraction, researchers from Rockefeller University in the US looked at the genes of two mosquito species with different diets – the black Aedes aegypti formosus mosquito, and its light-brown cousin, Aedes aegypti aegyptiA. aegyptiformosus prefers human blood, and has managed to spread yellow fever, dengue, and chikungunya viruses throughout the world. A. aegypti aegypti on the other hand, lives in the forest and prefers to feed on forest animals.

The team decided to crossbreed the two species to create thousands of genetically diverse grandchildren. They then separated the mosquitoes based on their preference for forest animals or humans, and compared the genes of the two groups. The results identified 14 genes that were strongly linked to liking humans, but one odour receptor gene – Or4 – was particularly active in the mosquitoes that crave human blood.

To find out what odour the Or4 gene was making the mosquitoes attracted to, the researchers had humans and guinea pigs wear stockings for a day (and, no, unfortunately we weren’t able to find a photo). The stockings were then placed into a machine to separate their smell into the hundreds of chemicals that make up a body’s scent. One chemical in particular – sulcatone – was identified to be present only in the tights worn by humans.

The team points out that there are probably other scents and genes that contribute to mosquitoes’ preference for humans. But whatever it is, it must be addictive, because the switch in diet for mosquitoes involved a big change in their lifestyle, such as moving into areas inhabited by humans.

“It was a really good evolutionary move,” said Leslie Vosshall, neurobiologist and lead researcher, in a press release. “We provide the ideal lifestyle for mosquitoes. We always have water around for them to breed in, we are hairless and we live in large groups.”

New Ebola Treatment Filters Virus Out of the Blood .


Researchers say that a new device that yanks Ebola virus from the blood may have saved an infected doctor’s life

Battling a virus is all about timing, and Ebola is no exception. Our immune systems are capable of destroying Ebola, but once in the body, the virus multiplies furiously, spreading like wildfire. Pretty soon the invader overwhelms the body’s immune system. In most cases, the virus wins.

That’s when Geiger recalled reading about a novel way of treating viruses that didn’t involved drugs. Aethlon Medical, a California-based company, was testing a way to quite literally filter viruses out of the blood of infected patients. The team had been testing their device, which attached to standard kidney dialysis machines, on hepatitis C and HIV patients in India. The German doctors, desperate to help their patient, asked to test it for Ebola.

“We did not know if it was possible to retract viruses from the blood,” says Geiger. “But we knew from earlier data that viral load is directly correlated to the outcome of the patient. We thought if we could reduce the viral load through some kind of intervention, then it would be positive for the patient.”

Their hunch paid off. The device, called the Hemopurifier, was attached to the dialysis machine that was already filtering the patient’s blood. The specially designed filter is made of a protein that acts as glue for proteins found on the Ebola virus’s surface. Over a period of 6.5 hours, the filter extracted the virus from the blood that flows through. While most dialysis filters can pull out molecules that are less than 4 nanometers in diameter, the virus filter boasts a mesh that’s able to filter out larger viral particles that are less than 250 nanometers. That means only the virus is pulled out, and the immune cells remain in the blood, ready to fight off any remaining viral invaders.

“We had no [idea] about how much [virus] would be extracted, because this was the first patient, but I was very surprised because the drop in viral load was deeper than I expected,” says Geiger. Before the filtration began, the patient’s virus count was about 400,000 per mL blood. After the session it had dropped to 1,000 copies/mL.

What’s more, when Geiger’s team sent the filter, which was designed to safely contain the Ebola virus it had extracted, to the University of Marburg, which has a biosafety level 4 laboratory for safely handling the virus, they learned that the device had managed to trap 242 million copies of the virus.

Freed from that viral burden, the patient soon began to improve rapidly. His own immune system began fighting off the remaining virus, and he no longer needs dialysis or a ventilator. The patient is walking and waiting to be released from the hospital.

MORE: See How Ebola Drugs Grow In Tobacco Leaves

Geiger stresses that it’s not clear yet whether the Hemopurifier alone was responsible for the patient’s recovery, since he was given other experimental therapies, but the amount of virus removed from his body and his rapid recovery after the filtration suggests that it at least played a role in helping him survive his infection.

While puling viruses out of infected individuals has never been tried before, Geiger believes it will be an important strategy for treating not just Ebola but other vial infections as well, including HIV, hepatitis and even influenza. “It’s a very interesting concept. The big advantage is that the plasma is filtered, and only the virus is removed and the other plasma components like immune cells go back to the patient. That’s important because with viral infections, the patient is in a reduced immune situation.”

The device works with most standard kidney dialysis machines, so Geiger says most hospitals would have no problem using it. And his team have worked out the mechanics of setting the blood flow to the proper levels to ensure the filter works at its best. “We have all the data that could be applied at other centers and for other users of the device,” he says.

How to Be Alone: An Antidote to One of the Central Anxieties and Greatest Paradoxes of Our Time.


“We live in a society which sees high self-esteem as a proof of well-being, but we do not want to be intimate with this admirable and desirable person.”

If the odds of finding one’s soul mate are so dreadfully dismal and the secret of lasting love is largely a matter of concession, is it any wonder that a growing number of people choose to go solo? The choice of solitude, of active aloneness, has relevance not only to romance but to all human bonds — even Emerson, perhaps the most eloquent champion of friendship in the English language, lived a significant portion of his life in active solitude, the very state that enabled him to produce his enduring essays and journals. And yet that choice is one our culture treats with equal parts apprehension and contempt, particularly in our age of fetishistic connectivity. Hemingway’s famous assertion that solitude is essential for creative work is perhaps so oft-cited precisely because it is so radical and unnerving in its proposition.

A friend recently relayed an illustrative anecdote: One evening during a short retreat in Mexico by herself, she entered the local restaurant and asked to be seated. Upon realizing she was to dine alone, the waitstaff escorted her to the back with a blend of puzzlement and pity, so as not to dilute the resort’s carefully engineered illusory landscape of coupled bliss. (It’s worth noting that this unsettling incident, which is as much about the stigma of being single as about the profound failure to honor the art of being alone, is one women are still far more likely to confront than men; some live to tell about it.)

Solitude, the kind we elect ourselves, is met with judgement and enslaved by stigma. It is also a capacity absolutely essential for a full life.

That paradox is what British author Sara Maitland explores in How to Be Alone(public library) — the latest installment in The School of Life’s thoughtful crusade to reclaim the traditional self-help genre in a series of intelligent, non-self-helpy yet immeasurably helpful guides to such aspects of modern living as finding fulfilling work, cultivating a healthier relationship with sex, worrying less about money, and staying sane.

While Maitland lives in a region of Scotland with one of the lowest population densities in Europe, where the nearest supermarket is more than twenty miles away and there is no cell service (pause on that for a moment), she wasn’t always a loner — she grew up in a big, close-knit family as one of six children. It was only when she became transfixed by the notion of silence, the subject of herprevious book, that she arrived, obliquely, at solitude. She writes:

I got fascinated by silence; by what happens to the human spirit, to identity and personality when the talking stops, when you press the off button, when you venture out into that enormous emptiness. I was interested in silence as a lost cultural phenomenon, as a thing of beauty and as a space that had been explored and used over and over again by different individuals, for different reasons and with wildly differing results. I began to use my own life as a sort of laboratory to test some ideas and to find out what it felt like. Almost to my surprise, I found I loved silence. It suited me. I got greedy for more. In my hunt for more silence, I found this valley and built a house here, on the ruins of an old shepherd’s cottage.

Illustration by Alessandro Sanna from ‘The River.’ Click image for more.

Maitland’s interest in solitude, however, is somewhat different from that in silence — while private in its origin, it springs from a public-facing concern about the need to address “a serious social and psychological problem around solitude,” a desire to “allay people’s fears and then help them actively enjoy time spent in solitude.” And so she does, posing the central, “slippery” question of this predicament:

Being alone in our present society raises an important question about identity and well-being.

[…]

How have we arrived, in the relatively prosperous developed world, at least, at a cultural moment which values autonomy, personal freedom, fulfillment and human rights, and above all individualism, more highly than they have ever been valued before in human history, but at the same time these autonomous, free, self-fulfilling individuals are terrified of being alone with themselves?

[…]

We live in a society which sees high self-esteem as a proof of well-being, but we do not want to be intimate with this admirable and desirable person.

We see moral and social conventions as inhibitions on our personal freedoms, and yet we are frightened of anyone who goes away from the crowd and develops “eccentric” habits.

We believe that everyone has a singular personal “voice” and is, moreover, unquestionably creative, but we treat with dark suspicion (at best) anyone who uses one of the most clearly established methods of developing that creativity — solitude.

We think we are unique, special and deserving of happiness, but we are terrified of being alone.

[…]

We are supposed now to seek our own fulfillment, to act on our feelings, to achieve authenticity and personal happiness — but mysteriously not do it on our own.

Today, more than ever, the charge carries both moral judgement and weak logic.

Illustration by Maurice Sendak from ‘Open House for Butterflies’ by Ruth Krauss. Click image for more.

Curiously, and importantly, mastering the art of solitude doesn’t make us more antisocial but, to the contrary, better able to connect. By being intimate with our own inner life — that frightening and often foreign landscape that philosopher Martha Nussbaum so eloquently urged us to explore despite our fear — frees us to reach greater, more dimensional intimacy with others. Maitland writes:

Nothing is more destructive of warm relations than the person who endlessly “doesn’t mind.” They do not seem to be a full individual if they have nothing of their own to “bring to the table,” so to speak. This suggests that even those who know that they are best and most fully themselves in relationships (of whatever kind) need a capacity to be alone, and probably at least some occasions to use that ability. If you know who you are and know that you are relating to others because you want to, rather than because you are trapped (unfree), in desperate need and greed, because you fear you will not exist without someone to affirm that fact, then you are free. Some solitude can in fact create better relationships, because they will be freer ones.

And yet the value of aloneness has descended into a downward spiral of social judgment over the course of humanity. Citing the rise of “male spinsters” in the U.S. census — men over forty who never married, up from 6% in 1980 to 16% today — Maitland traces the odd cultural distortion of the concept itself:

In the Middle Ages the word “spinster” was a compliment. A spinster was someone, usually a woman, who could spin well: a woman who could spin well was financially self-sufficient — it was one of the very few ways that mediaeval women could achieve economic independence. The word was generously applied to all women at the point of marriage as a way of saying they came into the relationship freely, from personal choice, not financial desperation. Now it is an insult, because we fear “for” such women — and now men as well — who are probably “sociopaths.”

This fairly modern attitude, which casts voluntary aloneness as a toxic trifecta of “sad, mad, and bad” — is reinforced via rather dogmatic circular logic that doesn’t afford those who choose solitude the basic dignity of their own choice. Reflecting on the prevalent response of pity — triggered by the “sad” portion of the dogma — Maitland plays out the exasperating impossibility of refuting such social assumptions:

If you say, “Well, no actually; I am very happy,” the denial is held to prove the case. Recently someone trying to condole with me in my misery said, when I assured them I was in fact happy, “You may think you are.” But happiness is a feeling. I do not think it — I feel it. I may, of course, be living in a fool’s paradise and the whole edifice of joy and contentment is going to crash around my ears sometime soon, but at the moment I am either lying or reporting the truth. My happiness cannot, by the very nature of happiness, be something I think I feel but don’t really feel. There is no possible response that does not descend almost immediately to the school-playground level of “Did, didn’t; did, didn’t.”

Underlying these attitudes, Maitland argues, is the central driver of fear — fear of those radically different from us, who make choices we don’t necessarily understand. This drives us, in turn, to project our fright onto others, often in the form of anger — a manifestation, at once sad, mad, and bad, of Anaïs Nin’s memorable observation that “it is a sign of great inner insecurity to be hostile to the unfamiliar.”

Illustration by Marianne Dubuc from ‘The Lion and the Bird.’ Click image for more.

These persistently reinforced social fears, she notes, have chilling consequences:

If you tell people enough times that they are unhappy, incomplete, possibly insane and definitely selfish there is bound to come a grey morning when they wake up with the beginning of a nasty cold and wonder if they are lonely rather than simply “alone.”

(This crucial difference between aloneness and loneliness, in fact, is not only central to our psychological unease but also enacted even in our bodies — while solitude may be essential for creativity and key to the mythology of genius, loneliness, scientists have found, has deadly physical consequences on our risk for everything from heart disease to dementia.)

Paradoxically, Maitland points out, many of our most celebrated cultural icons had solitude embedded in their lifestyle and spirit, from great explorers and adventurers to famous “geniuses.” She cites the great silent film actor Greta Garbo, a famous loner, as a particularly poignant example:

Garbo introduced a subtlety of expression to the art of silent acting and that its effect on audiences cannot be exaggerated… In retirement she adopted a lifestyle of both simplicity and leisure, sometimes just ‘drifting’. But she always had close friends with whom she socialized and travelled. She did not marry but did have serious love affairs with both men and women. She collected art. She walked, alone and with companions, especially in New York. She was a skillful paparazzi-avoider. Since she chose to retire, and for the rest of her life consistently declined opportunities to make further films, it is reasonable to suppose that she was content with that choice.

It is in fact evident that a great many people, for many different reasons, throughout history and across cultures, have sought out solitude to the extent that Garbo did, and after experiencing that lifestyle for a while continue to uphold their choices, even when they have perfectly good opportunities to live more social lives.

So how did our present attitudes toward solitude emerge? Maitland argues that our lamentable refusal to afford those who choose aloneness “the normal tolerance of difference on which we pride ourselves elsewhere” is the result of a “very deep cultural confusion”:

For two millennia, at least, we have been trying to live with two radically contrasting and opposed models of what the good life would or should be. Culturally, there is a slightly slick tendency to blame all our woes, and especially our social difficulties, either on a crude social Darwinism or on an ill-defined package called the “Judaeo-Christian paradigm” or “tradition.” Apparently this is why, among other things, we have so much difficulty with sex (both other people’s and our own); why women remain unequal; why we are committed to world domination and ecological destruction; and why we are not as perfectly happy as we deserve. I, for one, do not believe this — but I do believe that we suffer from trying to hold together the values of Judaeo-Christianity (inasmuch as we understand them) and the values of classical civilization, and they really do not fit.

She traces the evolution of that confusion all the way back to the Roman Empire, with its ideals of public and social life. Even the word “civilization” bespeaks these values — it comes from civis, Latin for “citizen.” (Though it warrants noting that one of the greatest and most enduring Roman exports issued the memorable admonition that “all those who call you to themselves draw you away from yourself.”) Still, the Romans were notorious for their lust for power, honor, and glory — ideals invariably social in nature and crucial to the political cohesion of society when confronted with the barbarians at the gate. Maitland writes:

In these circumstances solitude is threatening — without a common and embedded religious faith to give shared meaning to the choice, being alone is a challenge to the security of those clinging desperately to a sinking raft. People who pull out and “go solo” are exposing the danger while apparently escaping the engagement.

Maitland fast-forwards to our present predicament, the product of millennia of cultural baggage:

No wonder we are frightened of those who desire and aspire to be alone, if only a little more than has been acceptable in recent social forms. No wonder we want to establish solitude as “sad, mad and bad” — consciously or unconsciously, those of us who want to do something so markedly countercultural are exposing, and even widening, the rift lines.

But the truth is, the present paradigm is not really working. Despite the intense care and attention lavished on the individual ego; despite over a century of trying to “raise self-esteem” in the peculiar belief that it will simultaneously enhance individuality and create good citizens; despite valiant attempts to consolidate relationships and lower inhibitions; despite intimidating efforts to dragoon the more independent-minded and creative to become “team players”; despite the promises of personal freedom made to us by neoliberalism and the cult of individualism and rights — despite all this, the well seems to be running dry. We are living in a society marked by unhappy children, alienated youth, politically disengaged adults, stultifying consumerism, escalating inequality, deeply scary wobbles in the whole economic system, soaring rates of mental ill-health and a planet so damaged that we may well end up destroying the whole enterprise.

Of course we also live in a world of great beauty, sacrificial and passionate love, tenderness, prosperity, courage and joy. But quite a lot of all that seems to happen regardless of the paradigm and the high thoughts of philosophy. It has always happened. It is precisely because it has always happened that we go on wrestling with these issues in the hope that it can happen more often and for more people.

And wrestle we do, often trying to grasp and cling our way out of solitude — a state we don’t fully understand and can’t fully inhabit to reap its rewards. Our two most common tactics for shielding against solitude, Maitland notes, are the offensive fear-and-projection strategy, where we criticize those capable of finding joy in solitude and condemn them to the sad-mad-bad paradigm, and the defensive approach, where we attempt to insulate ourselves from the risk of aloneness by obsessively accumulating a vast network of social ties as a kind of “insurance policy.” In one of her most quietly poignant asides, Maitland whispers:

There is no number of friends on Facebook, contacts, connections or financial provision that can guarantee to protect us.

One of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s original watercolors for The Little Prince. Click image for more.

Our cultural ambivalence is also manifested in our chronic bias for extraversion despite growing evidence for the power of introverts. Maitland writes:

At the same time as pursuing this “extrovert ideal,” society gives out an opposite — though more subterranean — message. Most people would still rather be described as sensitive, spiritual, reflective, having rich inner lives and being good listeners than the more extroverted opposites. I think we still admire the life of the intellectual over that of the salesman; of the composer over the performer (which is why pop stars constantly stress that they write their own songs); of the craftsman over the politician; of the solo adventurer over the package tourist… But the kind of unexamined but mixed messages that society offers us in relation to being alone add to the confusion; and confusion strengthens fear.

Among Maitland’s toolkit of “ideas for overturning negative views of solitude and developing a positive sense of aloneness and a true capacity to enjoy it” are the exploration of reverie and the practice of facing the fear. She enumerates the five basic categories of rewards to be reaped from unlearning our culturally conditioned fear of aloneness and learning how to “do” solitude well:

  1. A deeper consciousness of oneself
  2. A deeper attunement to nature
  3. A deeper relationship with the transcendent (the numinous, the divine, the spiritual)
  4. Increased creativity
  5. An increased sense of freedom

In the remainder of How to Be Alone, Maitland goes on to offer a series of “exercises” along each of these five directions of aspiration — psychological strategies for retuning our relationship with solitude.

Complement the book with other excellent installments in The School of Life’s series, including Philippa Perry’s How to Stay Sane, John Armstrong’s How to Worry Less About Money, Alain de Botton’s How to Think More About Sex, and Roman Krznaric’s How to Find Fulfilling Work.

Donating = Loving

Seeking a Low-Cost Solution to Cardiovascular Troubles? Hibiscus May Be the Answer.


Seeking a Low Cost Solution to Cardiovascular Troubles Hibiscus May Be the Answer Seeking a Low Cost Solution to Cardiovascular Troubles? Hibiscus May Be the Answer

If you have traveled to Mexico then chances are that you’ve seen the vibrant, scarlet-hued herbal tea known as hibiscus. Commonly referred to as “sour drink” in Iran, hibiscus not only is a refreshingly tart brew but also has been used worldwide as an effective medicinal beverage. Rich in vitamin C, alkaloids and bioflavonoids, this bright-red elixir is traditionally used for supporting respiratory and cardiovascularhealth, lowering blood pressure, maintaining fluid balance and alleviating insomnia.

And now, contemporary research has validated the herb as a health-promoting tonic in a variety of areas.

Originally grown in Angola, the cultivation ofHibiscus sabdariffa has spread around the world to such subtropical regions as Sudan, China, Egypt, Mexico and Thailand.

“In Egypt and Sudan, hibiscus is used to help maintain a normal body temperature, support heart health, and encourage fluid balance. North Africans have used hibiscus internally for supporting upper respiratory health including the throat throat and also use it topically to support skin health. In Europe, hibiscus has been employed to support upper respiratory health, alleviate occasional constipation, and promote proper circulation. It is commonly used in combination with lemon balm and St John’s Wort for restlessness and occasional difficulty falling asleep”, states Naturopathic Doctor Tori Hudson.

Presently, studies on hibiscus have shown it to be beneficial for reducing cadmium toxicity [1], easing Parkinson’s disease [2] and lowering blood pressure. [3][4][5]

Moreover, research has indicated a positive connection between hibiscus consumption and managing metabolic syndrome, as well as maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. Dr. Hudson notes:

“Hibiscus extract was also studied in 222 patients — some with and some without metabolic syndrome (MS). A total daily dose of 100 mg H. sabdariffa extract powder (HSEP) was given for 1 month to men and women, 150 without MS and 72 with MS. Participants were randomly assigned to a preventive diet, HSEP treatment or diet combined with HSEP treatment.

“The MS patients receiving HSEP had significantly reduced glucose, total cholesterol and LDLc and increased HDLc. A triglyceride lowering effect was seen in all groups but was only significant in the control group that was treated with diet. The triglyceride/HDL-c ratio was also significantly reduced with HSEP in the control and MS groups, indicating an improvement in insulin resistance.

“It has been hypothesized that the anthocyanins regulate adipocyte function, which has important implications for both preventing and treating metabolic syndrome”, says Dr. Hudson.

Sources:

  1. Influence of aqueous extract of Hibiscus sabdariffa L. petal on cadmium toxicity in rats., Asagba, S O;Adaikpoh, M A;Kadiri, H;Obi, F O, Biological trace element research, 2007. Retrieved on November 29, 2013, from: http://science.naturalnews.com
  2. Methanolic extract of Hibiscus asper leaves improves spatial memory deficits in the 6 hydroxydopamine lesion rodent model of Parkinson’s disease. Foyet, Harquin Simplice;Hritcu, Lucian;Ciobica, Alin;Stefan, Marius;Kamtchouing, Pierre;Cojocaru, Dumitru, Publication: Journal of ethnopharmacology, 2011. Retrieved on November 29, 2013, from:http://science.naturalnews.com
  3. Hibiscus sabdariffa L. tea (tisane) lowers blood pressure in prehypertensive and mildly hypertensive adults, McKay, Diane L;Chen, C-Y Oliver;Saltzman, Edward;Blumberg, Jeffrey B, The Journal of nutrition, 2010. Retrieved on November 29, 2013, from:http://science.naturalnews.com
  4. The effects of sour tea (Hibiscus sabdariffa) on hypertension in patients with type II diabetes, H Mozaffari-Khosravi1, B-A Jalali-Khanabadi2, M Afkhami-Ardekani3, F Fatehi3 and M Noori-Shadkam4, Journal of Human Hypertension, 2008. Retrieved on November 29, 2013, from:http://www.nature.com
  5. Clinical effects produced by a standardized herbal medicinal product of Hibiscus sabdariffa on patients with hypertension. A randomized, double-blind, lisinopril-controlled clinical trial, Herrera-Arellano A, Miranda-Sanchez J, Avila-Castro P, Herrera-Alvarez S, Jimenez-Ferrer JE, Zamilpa A, Roman-Ramos R, Ponce-Monter H, Tortoriello J. Planta Med. 2007 Jan;73(1):6-12. Retrieved on November 29, 2013, from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

 

Study questions B12 dementia advice


 

Conceptual computer artwork depicting neurology. From left to right: MRI brain scans, 3D dsi white matter brain scan, brain, Alzheimer's brain versus normal brain, MRI brain scan
Earlier studies linked low vitamin B12 and folic acid intake with poor memory, scientists said

Taking vitamin B12 and folic acid supplements does not seem to cut the risk of developing dementia in healthy people, say Dutch researchers.

In one of the largest studies to date, there was no difference in memory test scores between those who had taken the supplements for two years and those who were given a placebo.

The research was published in the journal Neurology.

Alzheimer’s Research UK said longer trials were needed to be sure.

B vitamins have been linked to Alzheimer’s for some years, and scientists know that higher levels of a body chemical called homocysteine can raise the risk of both strokes and dementia.

Vitamin B12 and folic acid are both known to lower levels of homocysteine.

No protective effect

That, along with studies linking low vitamin B12 and folic acid intake with poor memory, had prompted scientists to view the supplements as a way to ward off dementia.

Yet in the study of almost 3,000 people – with an average age of 74 – who took 400 micrograms of folic acid and 500 micrograms of vitamin B12 or a placebo every day, researchers found no evidence of a protective effect.

All those taking part in the trial had high blood levels of homocysteine, which did drop more in those taking the supplements.

But on four different tests of memory and thinking skills taken at the start and end of the study, there was no beneficial effect of the supplements on performance.

The researchers did note that the supplements might slightly slow the rate of decline but concluded the small difference they detected could just have been down to chance.

Study leader Dr Rosalie Dhonukshe-Rutten, from Wageningen University in the Netherlands, said: “Since homocysteine levels can be lowered with folic acid and vitamin B12 supplements, the hope has been that taking these vitamins could also reduce the risk of memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease.

“While the homocysteine levels decreased by more in the group taking the B vitamins than in the group taking the placebo, unfortunately there was no difference between the two groups in the scores on the thinking and memory tests.”

The researchers stressed the research cannot be extrapolated to people who already had cognitive problems and earlier research had suggested they may benefit.

Healthy brain

Dr Eric Karran, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “This large trial adds to previous evidence suggesting that while vitamin B supplements can lower homocysteine levels, this does not translate into improved memory and thinking in the general older population.”

But he said the trial did not look at people who were already experiencing memory decline.

Longer follow-up periods would be needed to see if vitamin B12 or folic acid could slow the severe memory decline associated with dementia, he said.

Dr Karran added: “Although this study casts doubt on the use of vitamin B or folic acid supplements to aid memory, a balanced diet is a good way to keep healthy at all ages.

“Evidence suggests that we can maintain a healthy brain for longer by keeping a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, not smoking, staying active, drinking in moderation and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol in check.”

Plastics and premature baby warning


Newborn baby in an incubator

A study suggested babies may be exposed to high levels of a phthalate called DEHP in medical equipment.

US researchers have warned that premature babies are being exposed to high levels of a potentially dangerous chemical in plastics.

A study suggested babies may be exposed to high levels of a phthalate called DEHP in medical equipment.

Some US healthcare providers have banned the use of DEHP, and other products were available, the researchers said.

The UK is currently re-evaluating its position on phthalate use in devices.

Evidence on the safety of phthalates in humans has been inconclusive, but European regulators have classified DEHP as possibly carcinogenic to humans.

Newborn babies in intensive care were in a high-risk population for exposure to DEHP, regulators said, because they were dependent on multiple medical devices.

From July 2015, France will become the first country to ban the use of DEHP-containing tubes in neonatal, paediatric, and maternity units.

A preliminary EU report on the safety of DEHP in medical devices published in September concluded that the potential replacement for DEHP in medical devices needs to be balanced with the benefits they bring in treatment, but that wherever possible low-release material should be used.

In the UK, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency is re-evaluating its position on the safety of medical devices containing DEHP and is reviewing the EU report.

It has previously said that exposure to high levels of DEHP is a cause for concern, but that there had been no evidence to suggest that medical devices with DEHP presented an unacceptable health risk.

The phthalate can make medical devices easier to use, less likely to cause damage to tissue and more comfortable for the patient, the agency has said.

DEHP is used in the manufacture of PVC plastic and helps to make it softer and more flexible, but it can leach out of the plastic, and has been shown in the laboratory to cause reproductive birth defects and infertility in animals.

The new study suggested the amount of DEHP in medical equipment such as breathing tubes, intravenous lines and blood bags meant vulnerable babies may be in contact with levels far higher than that deemed to be safe.

Estimating the impact

Previous research that attempted to calculate exposure to DEHP in babies in hospital had measured how much was passed out in the urine, but this was difficult to do accurately, the researchers said.

Instead the team, from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, calculated potential exposure based on studies that had shown how much DEHP could leak out of certain medical devices.

Reporting in the Journal of Perinatology, they estimated that premature babies who were on a ventilator could be exposed to about 16mg/kg per day, which is 4,000 to 160,000 times higher than those believed to be safe.

Analysis of the possible health impacts, other than the most commonly reported effects on reproduction showed, at least in animals, phthalates could also cause problems with the development of the lungs, gut, brain and eyes development.

Study leader Dr Eric Mallow said critically ill premature babies were cared for in an environment almost completely made of plastic.

“The role of these synthetic materials in the clinical course of our patients remains almost completely unexplored.

“PVC is the predominant flexible plastic in most NICUs [neonatal intensive care units], and this can result in considerable DEHP exposures during intensive care,” he said.

“You need to consider the materials you are using when you’re taking care of very tiny, very vulnerable patients,” he added.

Duncan Wilbur, head of communications for premature baby charity Bliss, said: “Careful consideration should always be given when treating premature and sick babies.

“Any risk to the health and safety of these vulnerable babies created by medical products is a potential concern. Based on the findings of this study we would recommend that further research is needed,” he added.

Mind-controlled gene switch made


Mind-controlled gene switch made http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-29974833

From the desk of Zedie.

ADHD Stimulant Drug Abuse Common Among Young Adults: Survey .


Nearly one in every five college students abuses prescription stimulants, according to a new survey sponsored by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. The survey also found that one in seven non-students of similar age also report abusing stimulant medications.

Young adults aged 18 to 25 report using the drugs to help them stay awake, study or improve their work or school performance. The most commonly abused stimulants are those typically prescribed for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), such as Adderall, Ritalin andVyvanse, the survey found.

“The findings shed a new and surprising light on the young adult who is abusing prescription stimulants,” said Sean Clarkin, director of strategy and program management for the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. “While there is some ‘recreational’ abuse, the typical misuser is a male college student whose grade point average is only slightly lower than that of non-abusers, but who is juggling a very busy schedule that includes academics, work and an active social life.”

Clarkin said the findings point to the need for parents and educators to increase their efforts to help young people develop effective time-management skills to balance academics, work and social activities.

“The profile that emerges is less that of an academic ‘goof-off’ who abuses prescription stimulants to make up for lost study time than a stressed out multitasker who is burning the candle at both ends and trying to keep up,” Clarkin said.

The nationally representative study, conducted by independent researcher Whitman Insight Strategies, surveyed more than 1,600 young adults online this past summer, including approximately 1,000 college students.

Half of the students reported they took stimulant drugs to study or improve their academic performance, the survey noted. And, the survey found that two-thirds of those students believed the drugs helped them get a better grade or be more competitive at school or work. Around 40 percent took the drugs to stay awake. About a quarter of abusers said they took the stimulants to improve their work performance, according to the study.

These are the same reasons former user Linda Stafford said she began using the drugs.

Stafford began taking Adderall and Vyvanse without any prescriptions while she was a college student in Statesboro, Ga.

“I wanted to go to school, work and party, and Adderall helped me to focus pretty well at first,” Stafford said. In reality, however, she said taking the stimulant did not change her test grades much. “Then,” she said, “I got hooked.”

Stafford began experiencing depression, paranoia and social anxiety and became unable to communicate even with her closest loved ones, she said.

“I was totally incapable of handling life,” Stafford said. “I could not manage a simple job, my class assignments or relationships. Adderall was the center of my life.”

Stafford has since been through recovery and uses a support network and support groups to manage, but her story is one that Miami University staff psychiatrist Dr. Josh Hersh has heard often.

“These survey findings have confirmed a lot of the things I have seen clinically,” Hersh said. “Young adults are mainly using prescription stimulants to improve academic and work performance and to stay awake.”

Although Hersh said some of the students taking these drugs may feel the invulnerability of youth, others are simply desperate to juggle everything even while they know the possible risks of taking the drugs, such as anxiety or panic attacks even with occasional use.

“The fact that students often use these drugs around deadlines, when their natural adrenaline is already high, elevates the risk even more,” Hersh said. “Sporadic use can lead to severe sleep deprivation and cause stimulant-induced psychosis, when a student gets paranoid and may hallucinate.”

He said snorting the pills can lead to internal nasal damage and regular use can lead to addictions that are destructive and difficult to treat.

Even young adults who are legally prescribed stimulants for specific health conditions can risk becoming more addicted, as happened to the son of Kathleen Dobbs, a retiree who co-founded the grass roots coalition Parent to Parent, Inc.

Her son was diagnosed with ADHD at age 8 and began taking Ritalin at age 10, but by high school doctors switched him to various other drugs before Dobbs requested no more prescriptions. By then, however, he was seeking out Ritalin from classmates and then moved on to cocaine to “feel normal,” Dobbs said.

“Children with ADHD will do anything to fit in, to be able to learn and be like other kids,” said Dobbs, adding that the addiction tore their family apart. “When you have a child who is addicted, it is like a bomb goes off in your home and everyone scatters. I prayed and did all the right things, but it creeps into your life and destroys your entire family and leaves you with pain and loss.”

Her son is now married, sober and in ongoing recovery, but she recommends that parents remain vigilant and educate themselves about drugs, especially those their children are prescribed.

The survey found that 28 percent of people legally prescribed stimulants have exaggerated their symptoms to get a larger dose. The same percentage reported sharing their medicine with friends. Just over half the adults surveyed said stimulants were easy to obtain, usually from friends, and most said their friends abused them as well.

Red flags that parents can watch for in their children, Hersh said, include having dilated pupils, anxiety or manic behavior, talking about not sleeping for days and “crashing” when home from college, such as sleeping often and having difficulty concentrating.

Tackling College, Marathons, and Multiple Myeloma.


“Having cancer in college doesn’t seem real.” That was my first thought when I received what would become life-changing news at the age of 22 as a senior at the University of Maine (Orono). My body went numb and tears started to form when my doctor told me I hadmultiple myeloma, a rare form of blood cancer predominately found in people over the age of 65. [Less than one percent of multiple myeloma cases are diagnosed in people younger than 35.] On that infamous July day in 2013, I went from a normal college student to an asterisk whose life was suddenly tipped upside down.

Ethan_Hawes_treatment

A few months prior to my diagnosis, while studying abroad in Spain, I felt a sharp, aching pain in my right hip region while training for and running the Madrid marathon. Each mile dragged on as I limped my way across the finish line. The pain was excruciating, but the blissful joy of accomplishing my goal masked any ailments. This was the last running I would do for quite some time, even though the most grueling of marathons was just around the corner.

A few months after returning home, I finally went in for an X-ray of my hip. When the doctor told me the neck of my femur was eroding and there was a fist-sized tumor in its place, I couldn’t believe it. I listened from a distance as the doctor said the tumor was potentially cancerous, as though I was looking in on someone else’s life rather than living my own. Quickly, I was brought back down to earth and my fight or flight reflexes went into overdrive.

Where earlier I had been focused on achieving my marathon goal, my diagnosis became my new focus in life. I quickly began an array of treatments at the Jerome Lipper Multiple Myeloma Center at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center for my multiple myeloma, a disease that was completely foreign to me. I started with an intensive 10-day course of radiation followed by hip surgery, during which they placed a dynamic hip-screw going up my femur into my hip region. Then, on October 1, 2013, I began a three month course of chemotherapy known as RVD: Revlimid, Velcade, and Decadron. After another three months of maintenance therapy, all while I continued to attend class at the University of Maine, I was ready to embark on the most difficult journey yet: a stem cell transplant.

Ethan on marathon day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My stem cell transplant in June 2014 wiped away all of my white blood cells, essentially giving me the immune system a newborn baby. I was quarantined for two weeks as I anxiously awaited the return of some immune function. A week after I was cleared to go home, I became seriously ill with a fever and what turned out to be pneumonia. The doctors were very candid with me when they told me the seriousness of the matter; this was probably the scariest moment of my entire cancer experience.  I was at my lowest of lows both physically and emotionally.

Fortunately, while cancer has left me vulnerable and exposed, I made it across the finish line of this marathon, too, and I am now three months into remission. If there’s one thing that I learned from running a marathon with the unfriendly, hidden company of a malignant tumor, it’s that I, and anyone else who is unlucky enough to be diagnosed with cancer, can do anything. Cancer can be beaten in both the body and the mind. I’m looking forward to ending my experience with cancer on a high note, finishing my last semester of college in spring 2015 and completing another marathon – cancer-free this time – in the near future.