South Korea confirms deaths from MERS virus.


Two people die from respiratory syndrome as the country, which has reported 24 cases, tries to contain the disease.

  • South Korea has reported 24 cases of the disease since diagnosing the country's first MERS illness last month [AFP]
South Korea has reported 24 cases of the disease since diagnosing the country’s first MERS illness last month [AFP]

South Korea confirmed the country’s first two deaths from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) as it fights to contain the spread of the virus that has killed hundreds of people in the Middle East.

Seoul has reported 24 cases of the disease since diagnosing the country’s first MERS illness last month in a man who had travelled to Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries.

Tests on a 58-year-old woman who died of acute respiratory failure on Monday showed she had been infected with the disease before her death, the health ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

A 71-year-old man who tested positive for the virus last week has also died, it said.

The statement said both stayed at the same hospital with the first patient.

Inside Story – Is the MERS virus worrisome?

South Korea’s cases have largely connections to the first patient, either medical staff who treated him, or patients who stayed near the man at the hospital before he was diagnosed and isolated, and their family members.

Health officials said Tuesday that about 750 people in South Korea were isolated at their homes or in state-run facilities after having contact with patients infected with the virus. They said the number could rise and that depending on their conditions many of the isolated could be banned from leaving the country.

Last week, the son of one of the patients ignored doctors’ orders to cancel a trip to China, where he was later diagnosed as that country’s first MERS case.

China isolated the South Korean man at a hospital, and Hong Kong authorities said Sunday that 18 travellers were being quarantined because they sat near him, but they were not showing symptoms.

MERS was discovered in 2012 and has mostly been centred in Saudi Arabia. It belongs to the family of coronaviruses that includes the common cold and SARS, and can cause fever, breathing problems, pneumonia and kidney failure.

The virus has spread primarily through contact with camels, but it can also spread from human fluids and droplets.

There have been about 1,170 cases of the virus worldwide and about 480 of the patients have died, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Your Body’s Witching Hours .


Circadian rhythms help determine when we are most vulnerable to disease

Researchers are finding that the body’s internal clocks can play a role in determining when some diseases may flare up. WSJ’s Melinda Beck reports.

Heart attacks often occur in the morning. Epileptic seizures peak in the late afternoon. Asthma attacks get worse and more deadly between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m.

Researchers are finding that circadian rhythms, which cycle every 24 hours or so, drive virtually every system in the human body, from circulation and cognition to metabolism, memory and mood. And they play a big role in determining when we are most vulnerable to disease.

Chronobiology—the study of these internal clock mechanisms—has exploded in recent years thanks in part to the discovery of specific genes, to which scientists have given names like Clock, Period and Cryptochrome. Those genes help keep our biological systems in sync with light and darkness, which makes for a rush hour of chemical changes at dawn and dusk.

Understanding biorhythms is helping doctors direct treatments, including the best times to take various medications. It is also suggesting new treatment strategies, such as adjusting the light in nursing homes to help people sleep better.

Of course, people often disrupt their circadian cycles with jet travel, erratic work schedules, watching TV and Web surfing long into the night. That can raise the risk for a variety of health problems, including heart disease and diabetes.

The body’s master time keeper is a group of neurons in the hypothalamus, located behind the eyes, called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN. In darkness, the SCN prompts the pineal gland to release melatonin, the hormone that facilitates sleep. Other chemical changes reduce body temperature, blood pressure and heart rate, all of which are at their lowest overnight.

ENLARGE
JASON SCHNEIDER

Other systems are highly active at night. Stomach-acid production peaks between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., digesting the evening meal and possibly exacerbating heartburn. The liver dumps glucose into the bloodstream just before dawn. Leptin, a hormone that damps appetite, is high, so people tend to be least hungry when they wake up. And the immune system may be overactive, inflaming airways in asthma sufferers and swelling arthritic joints.

In the morning, light on the retinas signals the SCN to shut off melatonin. Cortisol, a stress hormone, rises instead, preparing the body for the day’s demands. Blood pressure and heart rate start increasing. A substance called PAI-1, which makes blood clot more readily, peaks around 6:30 a.m. Experts think PAI-1 may have protected early humans from bleeding to death from an injury as they set off foraging for food. But in modern humans with plaque-lined arteries, the substance raises the risk of blockages that cause heart attacks and strokes. Those peak around 9 a.m., studies show.

Exposure to bright light at a time the body isn’t used to can advance or delay the circadian cycle. But that doesn’t happen right away, as jet-lag sufferers know. An earlier study that lasted 11 years found that heart attacks among vacationers in Hawaii corresponded more closely to early morning back home than they did to local time.

Eating, sleeping and other behavioral patterns, of course, also affect the body’s daily changes. But various biological systems, including blood pressure, heart rate, blood clotting and adrenaline, rise and fall in circadian rhythms of their own, according to research at the Medical Chronobiology Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and at other centers. If those behavioral patterns and circadian rhythms get out of sync, a variety of health problems can result, as researchers have shown in experiments with lab animals and observed in humans.

For example, when rodents are fed during their usual sleep time, their liver and pancreas adjust to that feeding schedule but their SCN master clock doesn’t. Even if the amount of food is the same, they will gain more weight and fat than rodents fed at the normal time, says Frank Scheer, the chronobiology program’s director.

ENLARGE

Shift workers—who make up about 10% of the U.S. workforce—are vulnerable to similar problems when they eat, sleep and work out of sync with their circadian rhythms. Many have higher rates of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, stroke and other disorders.

Millions of other people develop what experts call “social jet lag” by staying up late and sleeping late a few days each week. “If you do that Friday, Saturday and Sunday, then by Monday morning, when you have to go to work, you are waking up at a much earlier circadian time, which can have consequences for days to come,” says Dr. Scheer. Even theone-hour shift that occurs with setting clocks forward in the spring raises the rate of heart attacks for a week, studies show.

Surveys of tens of thousands of adults by the University of Munich’s Institute of Medical Psychology have found that the greater the difference between sleep time on weekdays and weekends, the more likely people are to be obese.

Many people with depression, bipolar disorder and other mental-health issues have disrupted circadian rhythms and erratic sleep patterns. Patients with bipolar disorder tend to have cycles that are longer than 24 hours, says psychiatrist Michael McCarthy, a member of the University of California, San Diego’s Center for Circadian Biology. There is growing evidence that these problems may be related to defects in clock genes.

Sleep cycles become earlier, shorter and more fragmented as people age. “The studies all show that having disrupted circadian rhythms puts older people at greater risk for cognitive impairment, depression and mortality,” says Sonia Ancoli-Israel, a professor emeritus of psychiatry at the UCSD center.

Such issues are even more pronounced in people with Alzheimer’s disease, whose sleep, core temperature and other biorhythms don’t follow predictable patterns. The increased restlessness, irritability and confusion known as “sundowning” that some Alzheimer’s patients experience in late afternoon isn’t well understood. Another mystery is the so-called witching hour surge in crankiness that babies often demonstrate at the end of the day.

“At the extremes of life, in babies where the brain hasn’t fully developed or in dementia patients, when you are getting degeneration, the time connections in the brain may not be fully coordinated,” Dr. McCarthy suggests. “And fatigue makes everything worse.”

Researchers are starting to develop treatment strategies to take advantage of circadian rhythms or restore them when they are out of sync—a field called chronotherapy.

“It’s a very promising area but the field is very young. More clinical trials need to be done,” says Steven Shea, a professor of public health and preventive medicine at Oregon Health and Science University.

Taking medications at night that help prevent heart blockages, such as long-acting beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors, may lower the risk of early morning heart attacks, experts say. Taking acid-blocking drugs at night might be more effective, given the overnight surge of stomach acid.

Light therapy has been shown to be effective at improving sleep among older people in nursing homes, according to several randomized, controlled trials. “Many older adults are not getting sufficient sunlight,” says Dr. Ancoli-Israel, of UCSD. She says nursing-home patients typically get only a few minutes of bright sunlight a day.

Administering melatonin to aid sleep also has been studied, but with mixed results. And melatonin can worsen glucose tolerance, so it isn’t useful for everybody.

In general, experts say going to bed, getting up and eating meals at the same time every day, getting lots of light in the morning and avoiding it at night can go a long way to improve health and mood. “It’s the same advice we’ve always given,” says Dr. McCarthy. “But now we understand a lot more about why that’s true.”

Researchers are finding that the body’s internal clocks can play a role in determining when some diseases may flare up. WSJ’s Melinda Beck reports. Photo: iStock/dashek

Researchers are finding that circadian rhythms, which cycle every 24 hours or so, drive virtually every system in the human body, from circulation and cognition to metabolism, memory and mood. And they play a big role in determining when we are most vulnerable to disease.

Chronobiology—the study of these internal clock mechanisms—has exploded in recent years thanks in part to the discovery of specific genes, to which scientists have given names like Clock, Period and Cryptochrome. Those genes help keep our biological systems in sync with light and darkness, which makes for a rush hour of chemical changes at dawn and dusk.

Understanding biorhythms is helping doctors direct treatments, including the best times to take various medications. It is also suggesting new treatment strategies, such as adjusting the light in nursing homes to help people sleep better.

Of course, people often disrupt their circadian cycles with jet travel, erratic work schedules, watching TV and Web surfing long into the night. That can raise the risk for a variety of health problems, including heart disease and diabetes.

The body’s master time keeper is a group of neurons in the hypothalamus, located behind the eyes, called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN. In darkness, the SCN prompts the pineal gland to release melatonin, the hormone that facilitates sleep. Other chemical changes reduce body temperature, blood pressure and heart rate, all of which are at their lowest overnight.

ENLARGE
JASON SCHNEIDER

Other systems are highly active at night. Stomach-acid production peaks between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., digesting the evening meal and possibly exacerbating heartburn. The liver dumps glucose into the bloodstream just before dawn. Leptin, a hormone that damps appetite, is high, so people tend to be least hungry when they wake up. And the immune system may be overactive, inflaming airways in asthma sufferers and swelling arthritic joints.

In the morning, light on the retinas signals the SCN to shut off melatonin. Cortisol, a stress hormone, rises instead, preparing the body for the day’s demands. Blood pressure and heart rate start increasing. A substance called PAI-1, which makes blood clot more readily, peaks around 6:30 a.m. Experts think PAI-1 may have protected early humans from bleeding to death from an injury as they set off foraging for food. But in modern humans with plaque-lined arteries, the substance raises the risk of blockages that cause heart attacks and strokes. Those peak around 9 a.m., studies show.

Exposure to bright light at a time the body isn’t used to can advance or delay the circadian cycle. But that doesn’t happen right away, as jet-lag sufferers know. An earlier study that lasted 11 years found that heart attacks among vacationers in Hawaii corresponded more closely to early morning back home than they did to local time.

Eating, sleeping and other behavioral patterns, of course, also affect the body’s daily changes. But various biological systems, including blood pressure, heart rate, blood clotting and adrenaline, rise and fall in circadian rhythms of their own, according to research at the Medical Chronobiology Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and at other centers. If those behavioral patterns and circadian rhythms get out of sync, a variety of health problems can result, as researchers have shown in experiments with lab animals and observed in humans.

For example, when rodents are fed during their usual sleep time, their liver and pancreas adjust to that feeding schedule but their SCN master clock doesn’t. Even if the amount of food is the same, they will gain more weight and fat than rodents fed at the normal time, says Frank Scheer, the chronobiology program’s director.

ENLARGE

Shift workers—who make up about 10% of the U.S. workforce—are vulnerable to similar problems when they eat, sleep and work out of sync with their circadian rhythms. Many have higher rates of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, stroke and other disorders.

Millions of other people develop what experts call “social jet lag” by staying up late and sleeping late a few days each week. “If you do that Friday, Saturday and Sunday, then by Monday morning, when you have to go to work, you are waking up at a much earlier circadian time, which can have consequences for days to come,” says Dr. Scheer. Even theone-hour shift that occurs with setting clocks forward in the spring raises the rate of heart attacks for a week, studies show.

Surveys of tens of thousands of adults by the University of Munich’s Institute of Medical Psychology have found that the greater the difference between sleep time on weekdays and weekends, the more likely people are to be obese.

Many people with depression, bipolar disorder and other mental-health issues have disrupted circadian rhythms and erratic sleep patterns. Patients with bipolar disorder tend to have cycles that are longer than 24 hours, says psychiatrist Michael McCarthy, a member of the University of California, San Diego’s Center for Circadian Biology. There is growing evidence that these problems may be related to defects in clock genes.

Sleep cycles become earlier, shorter and more fragmented as people age. “The studies all show that having disrupted circadian rhythms puts older people at greater risk for cognitive impairment, depression and mortality,” says Sonia Ancoli-Israel, a professor emeritus of psychiatry at the UCSD center.

Such issues are even more pronounced in people with Alzheimer’s disease, whose sleep, core temperature and other biorhythms don’t follow predictable patterns. The increased restlessness, irritability and confusion known as “sundowning” that some Alzheimer’s patients experience in late afternoon isn’t well understood. Another mystery is the so-called witching hour surge in crankiness that babies often demonstrate at the end of the day.

“At the extremes of life, in babies where the brain hasn’t fully developed or in dementia patients, when you are getting degeneration, the time connections in the brain may not be fully coordinated,” Dr. McCarthy suggests. “And fatigue makes everything worse.”

Researchers are starting to develop treatment strategies to take advantage of circadian rhythms or restore them when they are out of sync—a field called chronotherapy.

“It’s a very promising area but the field is very young. More clinical trials need to be done,” says Steven Shea, a professor of public health and preventive medicine at Oregon Health and Science University.

Taking medications at night that help prevent heart blockages, such as long-acting beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors, may lower the risk of early morning heart attacks, experts say. Taking acid-blocking drugs at night might be more effective, given the overnight surge of stomach acid.

Light therapy has been shown to be effective at improving sleep among older people in nursing homes, according to several randomized, controlled trials. “Many older adults are not getting sufficient sunlight,” says Dr. Ancoli-Israel, of UCSD. She says nursing-home patients typically get only a few minutes of bright sunlight a day.

Administering melatonin to aid sleep also has been studied, but with mixed results. And melatonin can worsen glucose tolerance, so it isn’t useful for everybody.

In general, experts say going to bed, getting up and eating meals at the same time every day, getting lots of light in the morning and avoiding it at night can go a long way to improve health and mood. “It’s the same advice we’ve always given,” says Dr. McCarthy. “But now we understand a lot more about why that’s true.”

Immunotherapy Drug Combo Shrinks Tumor Size In 58% Skin Cancer Patients: New Cancer Treatment?


http://www.medicaldaily.com/immunotherapy-drug-combo-shrinks-tumor-size-58-skin-cancer-patients-new-cancer-335890

U.S. Army Is Testing Pocket-Sized Reconnaissance Drones – Drone 360 : Drone 360


http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/drone360/2015/06/01/army-drones/#.VWzCU-fmqlo

Vaping may harm the lungs


New toxicity data show why the inhaled vapors may prove toxic

More U.S. teens now vape from electronic cigarettes than smoke conventional tobacco cigarettes. They may think the high-tech devices yield a safe kick from nicotine. New studies suggest that even vaping may pose serious health hazards.

More U.S. teens now vape from electronic cigarettes than smoke conventional tobacco cigarettes. They may think the high-tech devices yield a safe kick from nicotine. But new studies suggest that even vaping may pose health hazards.

You’ve seen them on television, in celebrity photos and in magazine ads — cool superstars vaping on electronic cigarettes. Their high-tech gadgets seem to be available everywhere, from shopping malls to the 24-hour convenience mart. Is it any wonder that teens are being tempted to try out the vaping craze?

Yet scientists are disturbed by the fascination teens have with this nicotine-dispensing alternative to smoking. And with good reason. Data from a growing number of studies indicate that electronic cigarettes are not harmless.

Chemicals in e-cigarettes can damage lung tissue, provoking inflammation. That damage can reduce the ability of the lungs to keep out germs and other harmful substances, new studies show.

Evidence of vaping’s growing appeal can be seen everywhere — from urban storefronts (as here) to kiosks in suburban shopping malls.

Yet teens seem largely unaware of — or unconcerned by — the emerging data on these risks. Their use of e-cigarettes has now surpassed that of conventional cigarettes. In the past year alone, e-cigarette use by U.S. middle-school and high-school teens has tripled. That’s the finding of a new government survey released last month.Mitch Zeller directs the Center for Tobacco Products in Silver Spring, Md. It’s part of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “I can say definitively,” Zeller says, “that nicotine is harmful to the developing teenage brain. And no teenager, no young person, should be using any tobacco or nicotine-containing products.” These include e-cigarettes, he adds.

Smokeless nicotine

Unlike true cigarettes, electronic cigarettes do not burn tobacco. They don’t burn anything. Instead, they turn a flavored liquid into a vapor. Users inhale, or vape, the mist. The liquid usually contains nicotine. That is a highly addictive substance naturally found in tobacco.

It’s presence in vaping liquids is no accident. E-cigarettes were designed to help tobacco addicts wean themselves off of smoking. Cigarette users become addicted to tobacco’s nicotine, a natural stimulant. But smoking also exposes their lungs to tar and other pollutants. E-cigarettes allow users to inhale the nicotine without those other substances.

Electronic cigarettes may be smoke-free, but they do contain chemicals that may cause changes in the lung that could affect a vaper’s susceptibility to infection. Among those chemicals: nicotine.

Yet nicotine is more than addictive. It can actually harm the lungs, a new study finds.Researchers tested the effects of nicotine on lung tissue growing in a lab dish. Those lung cells were exposed to nicotine alone, in cigarette smoke and in e-cigarette vapors. Follow-up tests exposed lab animals to these same substances.

Nicotine caused inflammation in lung tissue. It also reduced that tissue’s ability to serve as a barrier to foreign substances, the researchers found. Irina Petrache is a doctor and lung specialist at Indiana University in Indianapolis. She headed the research team. Her group showed for the first time that nicotine, whatever its source, can harm lung tissue. So in this respect, her team now concludes, vaping would be no better for the lungs than cigarette smoking.

But even an e-cigarette liquid having no nicotine disrupted the barrier function of lung cells, the team found. They don’t know why. But this is unexpected and disturbing, Petrache’s team says. The scientists suspect it may have to do with solvents and other potentially toxic materials. These chemicals are present in the flavored liquids that are inhaled through e-cigarettes.

Petrache and her colleagues shared their new findings May 26 in the American Journal of Physiology — Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology.

More evidence of harm

Scientists also have collected evidence of e-cigarette lung impacts from a small number of people. Onestudy of 25 people, for instance, found that smoking cigarettes and vaping had the same short-term effects on the lungs. Both created signs of inflammation and lung damage. Scientists reported the findings in the July 1, 2014 issue of Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology.

Far more tests of vaping have taken place in animals or dishes of cells. These studies add to the growing body of evidence of harm that e-cigarettes and their flavorings may cause.

Recently, scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill exposed human lung cells to 13 e-cigarette flavorings. Exposures lasted either 30 minutes or a full day. Five of the flavorings — hot cinnamon candies, banana pudding, kola, vanilla and menthol tobacco — affected the cells. Sometimes the treated cells no longer could replicate (reproduce) at normal rates. At high doses, these flavorings even killed the cells.

Most vaping-products companies want people to link their flavors closely to popular, brand-named food and flavors, including soft drinks. One vape-products website promises that: “This vape is so authentic to your favorite soda pop that you’ll think you’re sipping it from a straw rather than your electronic cigarette,” notes the Stanford Research into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising.

Temperance Rowell and her co-authors presented their findings on May 18 in Denver, Colo., at a meeting of the American Thoracic Society. (Members of this society focus on understanding, preventing and treating lung diseases.)At the same meeting last year, Laura Crotty Alexander showed vaping can make it harder for the body to kill germs. Crotty Alexander is a lung specialist and scientist. She works with the Veterans Administration San Diego Healthcare System.

Crotty Alexander studied Staphylococcus aureusbacteria. Unchecked, these germs can cause pneumonia. In bad cases, they can kill. Luckily, the human body makes a material that normally can kill these bacteria.

In the lab, she exposed the bacteria to e-cigarette vapors. The idea was to create conditions like ones the germs might find in the lungs of someone who vaped. The germs responded by covering themselves with a heavier biofilm coating than normal. This gave them an extra-thick layer of protection.

Crotty Alexander then allowed mice to breathe in air containing these vaping-exposed germs. By the next day, the mice had three times as many of these germs in their lungs as did mice that had been exposed to normal Staph bacteria. Clearly, mice did not do well at fighting off the germs exposed to e-cigarette vapors.

“E-cigarettes are definitely not benign,” or harmless, Crotty Alexander concluded.

Inflamed lungs with an impaired barrier might help explain why there had been more germs inhabiting the lungs. If true, that also might explain related data that emerged earlier this year.

In that study, mice inhaled e-cigarette vapors for two weeks. Their lungs showed signs of inflammation. Later, these animals were exposed either to Staphylococcus or to flu virus. Mice with inflamed lungs were less able to fight off infection than were mice that had not vaped. Some vaping mice even died from the flu. All nonvaping mice survived.

Additional concerns

Vaping liquids contain solvents to help flavorings dissolve into them. When heated in an e-cigarette, at least one commonly used solvent transformed into something worrisome: carbonyls (Kar-boh-NEELS), a 2014 study showed. These carbonyls included formaldehyde and other compounds that are known or suspected of causing cancer.

Other ingredients in vaping liquids also have been linked to harm. At high doses, nicotine can kill people. And the potential for accidental nicotine poisonings may be quite high around e-cigarettes. That’s the conclusion of Jennifer Cameron of the College of Nursing at Washington State University in Spokane and her colleagues.

Some e-cigarette makers have designed their products to resemble tobacco cigarettes, and compare their nicotine delivery to conventional cigarettes. In fact, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration describes e-cigarettes as “electronic nicotine delivery systems,” or ENDS.

Nicotine can be absorbed in the gut or through the skin. As little as 30 to 60 milligrams (0.001 to 0.002 ounce) of nicotine can kill an adult. A mere 10 mg may kill a child. In its new study, Cameron’s team showed that a small vial of e-cigarette liquid can contain 100 mg of nicotine. (How much a vial contained was not always reported accurately on a product’s label.) If a child or adult consumed much of what was in a vial, they could die, the team concluded. Their findings appear in the January 2014 issue of Tobacco Control.In fact, there are few rules about what manufacturers can put into vaping fluids. Some companies label their flavored liquids as being “food grade.” Others describe those flavorings as “generally recognized as safe” for foods and drinks. However, something that may be safely eaten or drunk might be “quite unsafe when inhaled,” notes James Pankow’s team at Portland State University in Oregon.

Pankow headed a team of chemists and engineers who analyzed the flavorings and other chemicals in 30 e-cigarette solutions. Flavoring agents made up a relatively large share of the liquids, they found. Several of the chemicals, such as benzaldehyde (Benz-AL-duh-hide) can irritate the lungs. They published their findings online April 15 in Tobacco Control.

Pankow’s team warns that it could look at only a small portion of the e-cigarette liquids now available. As of January 2014, it notes, there were “an astonishing 7,764 unique flavor names” for these solutions on sale. And the researchers cite data indicating that the number of new flavors continues to grow at a rate of roughly 240 a month.

More U.S. teens move to e-cigarettes

In recent years, teens have been moving away from smoking cigarettes and cigars. That’s according to new data from the latest annual National Youth Tobacco Surveys. These are jointly sponsored by two U.S. health agencies, the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Results of the latest round of these surveys “are astounding and concerning,” Zeller of the FDA reported on April 16. (Part of his announcement of the survey’s findings can be heard in the video at right.) Cigarette and cigar use has been falling over the past decade. But that “good news is now being threatened by the bad news of this dramatic increase in the use of e-cigarettes,” he said.

In fact, the new surveys showed that by 2014, e-cigarettes had become the most commonly used tobacco product by middle- and high-school students. (It’s called a “tobacco” product because its nicotine comes from tobacco.)

This new trend, Zeller says, “should raise alarm bells for parents and educators.”

Nor should toxicity data be ignored by teens, warns Garry Sigman. He is head of adolescent medicine at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. It’s in Maywood, Ill.

Vaping has become big business. Sales of supplies is now a multi-billion-dollar industry in the United States alone. And what to vape — and how — offers users lots of choices. As of 2014, there were already an estimated 466 brands available, offering more than 7,500 different flavored liquids to use in those devices.

Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances available to teens, he told Science News for Students. “With only a few inhales it can create an addiction,” he says. When exposure occurs as the adolescent brain is still developing, there is a concern that the risk of addiction will be heightened, he says.“But while addiction is our main concern, we also have other health concerns,” he notes. For instance, some liquids used in e-cigarettes have been shown to contain heavy metals, silicates and other materials. These might be toxic to the lungs. And because no government agency currently regulates vaping fluids, he says, the safety of these flavored liquids have not been well studied.

The FDA acknowledges that many questions about the safety of e-cigarettes remain. But with what’s already known, Zeller concludes, “The striking increase in middle school and high school use of e-cigarettes . . . is really a public health emergency.”

Power Words

(for more about Power Words, click here)

addiction  The uncontrolled use of a habit-forming drug or uncontrolled and unhealthy habit (such as video game playing or phone texting). It results from an illness triggered by brain changes that occur after using some drugs or engaging in some extremely pleasurable activities. People with an addiction will feel a compelling need to use a drug (which can be alcohol, the nicotine in tobacco, a prescription drug or an illegal chemical such as cocaine or heroin), even when the user knows that doing so risks severe health or legal consequences. (For instance, even though 35 million Americans try to quit smoking each year, fewer than 15 out of 100 succeed. Most begin smoking again within a week, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.)

adolescence     A transitional stage of physical and psychological development that begins at the onset of puberty, typically between the ages of 11 and 13, and ends with adulthood.

bacterium (plural bacteria)  A single-celled organism. These dwell nearly everywhere on Earth, from the bottom of the sea to inside animals.

benign  Not harmful to one’s health.

biofilm  A gooey community of different types of microbes that essentially glues itself to some solid surface. Living in a biofilm is one way microbes protect themselves from stressful agents (such as poisons) in their environment.

cancer  Any of more than 100 different diseases, each characterized by the rapid, uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. The development and growth of cancers, also known as malignancies, can lead to tumors, pain and death.

cell   The smallest structural and functional unit of an organism. Typically too small to see with the naked eye,it consists of watery fluid surrounded by a membrane or wall. Animals are made of anywhere from thousands to trillions of cells, depending on their size.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC  An agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CDC is charged with protecting public health and safety by working to control and prevent disease, injury and disabilities. It does this by investigating disease outbreaks, tracking exposures by Americans to infections and toxic chemicals, and regularly surveying diet and other habits among a representative cross-section of all Americans.

chemical      A substance formed from two or more atoms that unite (become bonded together) in a fixed proportion and structure. For example, water is a chemical made of two hydrogen atoms bonded to one oxygen atom. Its chemical symbol is H2O.

e-cigarette  (short for electronic cigarette) Battery-powered devices that disperse nicotine and other chemicals as tiny airborne particles that users can inhale. They were originally developed as a safer alternative to cigarettes that users could use as they tried to slowly break their addiction to the nicotine in tobacco products.

Food and Drug Administration  (or FDA) A part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, FDA is charged with overseeing the safety of many products. For instance, it is responsible for making sure drugs are properly labeled, safe and effective; that cosmetics and food supplements are safe and properly labeled; and that tobacco products are regulated.

formaldehyde    A widely used and toxic chemical that manufacturers add to plastics, resins, some fertilizers, dyes, medicines and embalming fluids. It’s even in the treatments used to keep fabrics from wrinkling.

germ  Any one-celled microorganism, such as a bacterium, fungal species or virus particle. Some germs cause disease. Others can promote the health of higher-order organisms, including birds and mammals. The health effects of most germs, however, remain unknown.

inflammation  The body’s response to cellular injury and obesity; it often involves swelling, redness, heat and pain. It is also an underlying feature responsible for the development and aggravation of many diseases, especially heart disease and diabetes.

influenza (or flu)  A highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory passages causing fever and severe aching. It often occurs as an epidemic.

nicotine  A colorless, oily chemical produced in tobacco and certain other plants. It creates the ‘buzz’ effect associated with smoking. It also is highly addictive, making it hard for smokers to give us their use of cigarettes. The chemical is also a poison, sometimes used as a pesticide to kill insects and even some invasive snakes or frogs.

pharmacology   The study of how chemicals work in the body, often as a way to design new drugs to treat disease.

physiology  The branch of biology that deals with the everyday functions of living organisms and how their parts function.

pneumonia  A lung disease in which infection by a virus or bacterium causes inflammation and tissue damage. Sometimes the lungs fill with fluid or mucus. Symptoms include fever, chills, cough and trouble breathing.

silicate  A mineral containing silicon atoms and usually oxygen atoms. The majority of Earth’s crust is made of silicate minerals.

solvent   A material (usually a liquid) used to dissolve some other material into a solution.

Staphylococcus aureus  (also known as staph) A species of bacteria that is responsible for a number of serious human infections. It can cause surface abscesses, or boils. If it gets into the bloodstream, where it can be carried throughout the body, it may also cause pneumonia and infections of the joints or bones.

tissue  Any of the distinct types of material, comprised of cells, which make up animals, plants or fungi. Cells within a tissue work as a unit to perform a particular function in living organisms. Different organs of the human body, for instance, often are made from many different types of tissues. And brain tissue will be very different from bone or heart tissue.

toxic  Poisonous or able to harm or kill cells, tissues or whole organisms. The measure of risk posed by such a poison is its toxicity. The branch of science that probes poisons and how they disrupt the health of people and other organisms is known as toxicology.

vaping  A new slang term for the use e-cigarettes, because these devices emit vapor, not smoke. People who do this are referred to as vapers.

vapors  Fumes released when a liquid transforms to a gas, usually as a result of heating.

virus  Tiny infectious particles consisting of RNA or DNA surrounded by protein. Viruses can reproduce only by injecting their genetic material into the cells of living creatures. Although scientists frequently refer to viruses as live or dead, in fact no virus is truly alive. It doesn’t eat like animals do, or make its own food the way plants do. It must hijack the cellular machinery of a living cell in order to survive.

U.S. Army Is Testing Pocket-Sized Reconnaissance Drones .


Soldiers in the United States Army could someday have a new kind of “eyes in the sky.”

Since March, an Army Special Forces team has been testing a pocket-sized, lightweight reconnaissance drone that sends video feeds directly to a chest-mounted screen on a soldier’s vest.

Meet the Black Hornet

Norway’s Proxdynamics developed the minuscule drone, called the PD-100 Black Hornet, and it’s been in wide use among elite British soldiers for three years now. The Black Hornet is the size of a small bird and weighs just 18 grams, or about the weight of three pieces of paper.

Despite its small size, the Black Hornet carries three cameras on board, including a thermal camera for nighttime missions. It can remain aloft for about 25 minutes, and has a range of just over a half mile.

But versatility is the main advantage for the Black Hornet. The entire surveillance system fits on a soldier’s utility belt. The drone itself is launched from a small box attached to the belt, and it is controlled with a video game-like controller. Video is then fed to a small monitor that fits squarely on the soldier’s chest. For security, the video feed is stored entirely in a drive on the soldier’s uniform, so enemies can’t see what the drone saw if it is captured.

A Bit Behind the Times

Soldiers in the British Brigade Reconnaissance Force have deployed Black Hornets in Afghanistan to scope out enemy compounds, Proxdynamics CEO Arne Skjaerpe told Defense One. Back in March, Army infantryman tested the Black Hornet at Fort Benning’s Maneuver Center of Excellence.

Although the Black Hornet is tiny, its price is not: One system costs $40,000.

Watch the video. URL: https://youtu.be/4o7mRg74qcY

Top Tips to Limit Your Exposure to Aluminum and Lead – Natural News Blogs


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In this modern age, there seems to be an increasing list of toxins in the environment that people who are health-conscious need to look out for. Among the most serious of these toxins are heavy metals like aluminum and lead. Although these metals occur naturally in the environment, they are also extremely toxic and can build up in the system. High levels of these metals in the body can lead to liver and kidney damage, neurological problems like Alzheimer’s and other diseases which cause cognitive deficits. It can even lead to the onset of cancer. There are however, steps that everyday people can take to help limit their exposure to these dangerous metals. These steps are outlined below.

Choose Personal Care Products Wisely

Using organic, all-natural personal care products like deodorants, creams, moisturizers and lotions can help reduce exposure to aluminum in particularly, which is a frequently additive to this kind of merchandise. Even when buying these natural products, however, be sure to read the label carefully before purchase to make sure it is aluminum-free. These kinds of products are some of the most common ways in which people are exposed to aluminum.

Avoid Using Aluminum Foil

Aluminum foil is a very common household product that is probably in every American home and is used to wrap up food or to bake it in the oven. However, particularly when heated, aluminum can leach out of the foil and into the food and can over time build up in various organs like the liver. Consider alternative forms of food storage and preparation. For example, using a covered roast pan to bake or roast meals instead of covering the pan with aluminum foil.

Do Not Use Aluminum Nonstick Cookware

While nonstick cookware may seem like a great thing in the kitchen, it is actually quite dangerous. Not only can aluminum leach into the food that is being prepared, but heating such pans releases dangerous volatile chemicals that are then inhaled and taken into the lungs, where they can cause respiratory damage. Be sure to use iron, glass or porcelain-coated skillets instead.

Avoid Canned Food

The aluminum used to make tin cans is also capable of leaching into the food that is stored inside it. What’s more, BPA is found in most tin cans as a liner and can also leach into the food; it has been associated with neurological problems and cancer and has been banned in many countries as a result. Consider using frozen or pickled foods instead: frozen foods retain all the nutritional value of the fresh product, while fermented foods also provide the body with healthy probiotic bacteria.

Most of these recommendations are not drastic or radical. They largely involved changing purchasing habits and finding alternatives to household and personal care products that reduce the exposure to aluminum and other toxins as well. However, though these changes seem small, they can have a big impact on long-term health.

First-in-class HER3/EGFR Antibody Safe, With Antitumor Activity in Patients With Refractory Epithelial Cancers


MEHD7945A, a dual-action antibody that targets two members of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) family, was found to be safe and showed clinical activity in some patients with locally advanced or metastatic refractory epithelial cancers, including cancers of the head and neck, according to phase I clinical trial data published in Clinical Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

“MEHD7945A is a humanized IgG1 antibody that has the capacity to target two members of the EGFR family, EGFR [also known as HER1] and HER3,” saidJosé Baselga, MD, PhD, physician-in-chief and chief medical officer at theMemorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

Baselga, who is also president of the AACR, explained, “For about 20 years, we have been working on the hypothesis of targeting EGFR in epithelial cancers as a fruitful approach based on our understanding that dysregulated EGFR plays an important role in tumorigenesis. What we have learned since then is that there are other players in the EGFR family, such as HER3, which are functionally similar to EGFR and, therefore, have a significant role in tumor promotion. We felt it is important that we hit not just EGFR alone, but also target HER3, with the goal of achieving more durable responses.”

Binding of growth factors to EGFR and HER3 in a cell leads to activation and downstream signaling to promote cell growth. Dysregulated EGFR and/or HER3 can lead to overactive signaling, causing uncontrolled cell growth and proliferation, as seen in a variety of epithelial cancers. MEHD7945A has two antigen-binding arms, and they bind to unique targets on HER3 and EGFR, thus inhibiting the activity of multiple cancer signaling pathways.

“In a phase I clinical trial, we found that MEHD7945A was well tolerated as a single agent, and we were able to confirm partial responses in patients who had refractory disease, which clearly suggests that this dual-targeting approach is a good strategy moving forward,” Baselga added.

Baselga and colleagues enrolled 66 patients at six sites in the United States and Spain: 30 patients to the dose-escalation study and 36 to the dose-expansion study. All patients had received prior systemic therapies, and about 50 percent of them had received prior anti-EGFR therapies. Patients had incurable, locally advanced, or metastatic epithelial cancer, including colorectal, non-small cell lung, or head and neck cancers, which had progressed despite prior therapies.

Six different dose levels were tested in the dose-escalation study, and patients enrolled in the dose-expansion study received 14 mg/kg b.w. of the drug intravenously, every two weeks until patients experienced toxicity or disease progression.

No dose-limiting toxicities or drug-related grade 4 adverse events were reported in the dose-escalation or the dose-expansion cohorts. Two patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (in the tongue and larynx, respectively) had partial responses, and eight patients had stable disease that lasted for 16 weeks or longer.

Patients whose tumors had high levels of the growth factor heregulin, which binds to EGFR, were found to benefit from the drug, according to Baselga. “Presence of high levels of the ligand [heregulin] could be a marker of response to this drug, but this needs further confirmation,” he said.

“We have been using antibodies to treat cancers for a while now, but recent advancements in technology are allowing us to use antibodies in a way we have not done in the past,” Baselga noted. “Dual targeting of HER2 and HER3 was shown to be a promising strategy for breast cancers; this study adds further support to the dual-targeting approach, and also speaks to the increasing opportunities we all have with engineering antibodies for patient benefit.”

Killer Drugs? Homicide Risk Linked to Medications


Both mental illness and the use of psychiatric drugs have been blamed for violent behaviors, but the scientific evidence for a connection is limited. Now, a new study suggests that taking not only tranquilizers but also regular prescription pain relievers is linked with an increased risk of committing homicide.

Researchers in Europe found that people who were on certain medications were at greatest risk of killing someone, compared with people who were not using these medicines. The high-risk drugs include benzodiazepines, a class of tranquilizers used to treat anxiety, insomnia and panic disorders, as well as pain relievers, such as opioid medications and anti-inflammatories,

The results also showed that people taking antidepressants had only a slight increase in homicide risk compared with people taking other medications involved in the analysis, even after the researchers took into account factors such as mental illness. The study was published online today (June 1) in the journal World Psychiatry.

The substantially smaller risk associated with antidepressants is the study’s most important finding, said lead author Dr. Jari Tiihonen, a professor of psychiatry at the Karolinsksa Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden.

Antidepressants have previously been thought to be linked with crimes, for example, in some high-profile school shootings in Finland and the United States over the last decade, Tiihonen said.

In the new study, the researchers looked at data collected from about 960 men and women in Finland, ages 13 to 88, who were all convicted of homicide. For a control group, the researchers matched each person who committed homicide with 10 other people who had not committed homicide but were the same age and gender, and lived in the same town.

The researchers then searched a nationwide drug registry, looking at whether the people in the study had used psychiatric drugs, as well as medications that relieve pain, manage epilepsy and control addictions, over a seven-year period. The researchers also reviewed police reports to check whether the criminals were considered drunk or high at the time of these murders.

The findings showed that tranquilizers increased the risk of committing a homicide by 45 percent and antidepressant use increased the risk by 31 percent. [Understanding the 10 Most Destructive Human Behaviors]

But those psychiatric drugs had a more modest effect on homicide risk than other types of medications. The researchers were surprised to find that the use of anti-inflammatory pain relievers was tied to an increase of more than 200 percent in the risk of committing homicide, while opioid pain relievers elevated risk by 92 percent, Tiihonen said.

The researchers speculate that tranquilizers may weaken people’s impulse control. Other studies have suggested that using certain painkillers may dull mechanisms responsible for processing emotions.

It’s important to point out that the study found an association, not a cause-and-effect relationship, so it does not prove that the use of specific drugs could lead someone to kill.

And while a 200-percent increase may seem like a large effect, the actual likelihood of someone committing a murder is still quite low, because the baseline rate of homicides is low, Tiihonen told Live Science. This is true even in the United States, which has a higher rate than Finland, he said.

Tiihonen said he suspects that doing a similar analysis of homicide and drug use in the United States would produce similar results. The higher baseline rate of homicide in the United States may be attributed to a higher proportion of premeditated crimes compared with Finland, a country where homicides tend to be impulsive acts, he said.

When asked about the practical implications of these findings, Tiihonen said that people should not be worried about the risk of violence associated with antidepressant use.

“If anything, we should be concerned about prescriptions of high-dose benzodiazepines and opioid painkillers for people with substance abuse,” he said.

Will Smoking Pot Get Rid Of Your Intestinal Worms?


 

The 400 members of the Aka tribe, indigenous to the Congo River basin in Africa, are some of the last remaining hunter-gatherers in the world. Collectively, they’re also pretty into smoking marijuana, which might help them keep their bodies rid of harmful intestinal parasites, according to arecent study published in the American Journal of Human Biology. To the researchers, this may offer a different explanation for human drug use: an unconscious drive to rid ourselves of parasites.

When surveyed, 70 percent of Aka males said that they had recently smoked marijuana, which the researchers confirmed by checking the men’s urine for THCA, a biomarker that indicates recent marijuana consumption (6 percent of Aka women said they had smoked recently, but the percentage was so small that the researchers decided to restrict their study to males). The researchers checked the men’s stool to see how many parasitic worms were living in their bodies. They found that, though 95 percent of the men had parasites, the ones that had recently smoked pot had significantly fewer worms. A year after they were treated with commercial anthelmintics (to kill the worms), the pot-smokers were re-infected much more slowly.

Though the Aka don’t consider marijuana to be medicinal, study author Ed Hagen of the Washington State University suggests that they might be using marijuana to unconsciously keep the worms at bay, as the percent of the population smoking it is higher than the global average and marijuana has been shown to kill toxins in petri dishes. Hagen warns that these conclusions are indirect–though the findings are statistically significant, there is no directly proof that the pot is keeping the parasites at bay and not another factor. But if the study authors are right, their work could start casting doubt on the prevailing theory that recreational drug use is just for pleasure. “In the same way we have a taste for salt, we might have a taste for psychoactive plant toxins, because these things kill parasites,” he said in a statement.

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