Sunday, June 8, 2008

Brush twice daily to avoid heart attacks

When it comes to cardiac diseases, most of us (scientists included) link it to our diet, body fat and smoking. Little do we know that a healthy heart is also related to maintenance of good oral hygiene. Sounds unbelievable? That is what a group of scientists from Howard University, Washington D.C., Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore, and National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, have found out in a study.

Their research, published in the Journal of Periodontology, establishes a direct link between oral hygiene and cardiac health and also suggests that brushing daily may cut your risks from suffering from a cardiac arrest. The scientists say that a reaction to the bacteria associated with periodontitis (inflammatory diseases that affect the tissues supporting and surrounding the teeth) may lead to an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

The researchers from Howard University identified 11 studies that had previously examined clinically-diagnosed periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease and analysed the results. They specifically looked for the presence of the bacteria associated with periodontal diseases and found that individuals with periodontal disease whose biomarkers showed increased bacterial exposure were more likely to develop coronary heart disease or atherogenesis (plaque formation in the arteries).

While the scientists say that they need more time to better understand the linkage between periodontal diseases and cardiac arrests, they are sure that brushing twice daily and maintaining good oral hygiene will definitely help in protecting yourself from cardiac arrests.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Depression makes you obese

According to a paper published in the March 2008 issue of Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, there is a strong link between depression and obesity. While it can be understood that being obese leads to depression, a team of scientists led by Sarah M. Markowitz conclude in their review paper that being depressed leads to obesity in a person as well.

According to the scientists from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, people who are depressed may be more likely to become obese because of physiological changes in their hormone and immune systems that occur in depression. Due to depression, they also take poor care of themselves and do not adhere to fitness regiments, participate in overeating, and have negative thoughts.

Scientists feel that treatment for obesity and depression should be linked. Exercise and stress reduction can help to manage both obesity and depression at the same time. They also suggest that, dieting, which can worsen mood, and antidepressants, which can cause weight gain, should be minimized.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Pop a camera to help the doc!

How about swallowing a camera for better diagnosis? No matter how ridiculous it sounds, that is what you may need to do if you are suffering from gastric problems and want to avoid the painful procedure of endoscopy.
In the last few years, scientists had come up with small cameras that human beings can swallow and help doctors diagnose problems with the internal organs. These cameras contain small transmitters which send images of our internal organs to a receiver located outside (usually in a belt) which the doctors can see.

However, the problem doctors were facing was in getting a good image of the esophagus and the stomach. The reason being the fact that camera takes about three or four seconds to make its way through the esophagus and manages to click two to four images per second. Once it is inside the stomach, its weight (around 5 gm) causes it to drop very quickly to the lower wall of the stomach. In other words, it is too fast to deliver usable images.
However, scientists have managed to find a way to control the free fall and using their method the camera can be retained in the esophagus for up to 10 minutes.

According to a report published in Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, researchers from the manufacturer Given Imaging, the Israelite Hospital in Hamburg, Royal Imperial College in London and Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering in Sankt Ingbert, have managed to develop a magnetic system to control the camera. According to Dr Frank Volke, leader of the research team, “We have developed a magnetic device roughly the size of a bar of chocolate. The doctor can hold it in his hand during the examination and move it up and down the patient’s body. The camera inside follows this motion precisely.” In other word, the doctor can take good quality images at leisure that will help in better diagnosis.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Please don’t smoke if you are pregnant

The fact that smoking during pregnancy is injurious to the baby is well-known. However, that does not deter a large percentage of would-be mothers to quit their love for nicotine. According to the Discovery channel more than 13 per cent of pregnant women in the US smoke and if all of them stopped smoking there would be a 10 per cent reduction of in infant deaths!
Quite a sad situation considering that health awareness in the US is amongst the highest in the world and almost everyone knows that cigarette contains more than 2500 chemicals harmful for the foetus. (To know more about the harmful effects of smoking during pregnancy that puts the would-be-mother and child’s lives at risk, check out this Discovery Health article)
Recent research conducted by scientists from the University of Calgary makes the situation worse for pregnant women who don’t stop smoking and establishes a direct correlation between smoking and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). According to the paper, published in American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, prenatal cigarette smoke exposure can contribute to the destabilising effects of hypoxia (shortage of oxygen in the body) and thermal stress on neonatal breathing. In other words, the newborn will find it extremely difficult to breathe due to lack of oxygen and increase in body temperature, thereby increasing the chances of sudden infant death.
In an effort to investigate the compounding effects of cigarette smoking on babies and other known risk factors for SIDS, namely thermal and oxygen stress, researchers exposed pregnant rat pups to either room air (control) or mainstream cigarette smoke equivalent to that a pack-a-day smoker would experience. After studying these rat pups the scientists found that just 13 per cent of the control animals (those kept in room air) exhibited gasping, whereas nearly three times that—36 per cent—of the cigarette smoke exposed animals did. The effects were much more pronounced in pups that had been exposed to cigarette smoked prenatally. The scientists feel that the same risks hold true for humans as well.Dr. Shabih Hasan, staff neonatologist and associate professor in the department of pediatrics at the University of Calgary was the principal investigator of the study.

Friday, May 30, 2008

A dressing that dissolves

Being in the difficult age bracket where diabetes – leading to poor healing of cuts and wounds – is a major problem, a recent discovery from a group of German researchers comes as a boon.

Scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC in W├╝rzburg have discovered a new type of wound dressing made of silica gel fibers that helps heal difficult wounds caused by burns or diabetes. The scientists explain that the dressing forms a supporting matrix for newly growing skin cells and is fully absorbed by the body during the healing process, leading to faster healing. According to a media release, in Germany alone, about three million patients suffer from poorly healing large-area wounds caused by complaints such as diabetes, burns or bedsores.

The standard procedure of applying ordinary bandages to the wounded areas is largely unsuccessful in diabetics. That is where this new silica dressing scores. The biggest advantage of this novel dressing is that it is bio-resorbable – once applied it remains in the body, where it gradually degrades without leaving any residues. Apart from this, it also is shape-stable and pH-neutral

Since this is the inner bandage and doesn’t need to be changed (since it dissolves automatically), in large wounds, only the outer bandage needs to be changed, thereby leading to lower risks of infection. The scientists also plan to integrate active substances such as antibiotics or painkillers in the dressing to improve and accelerate the healing process.

However, the dressing is not yet commercially available. According to a media release, Bayer has already agreed to support them in development and marketing of the dressing and expects hospitals to start using the silica gel wound dressing in 2011.