Archive for the 'Health' Category

26
Jul
10

High-Def Body Scanner Spots Heart Problems Early

NEWS
High-Def Body Scanner Spots Heart Problems Early

HD Scanner Spots Flaws Before Heart Attacks: Plymouth’s Derriford Hospital Use GE Healthcare Device

Monday, July 26, 2010

••• A new high definition body scanner is giving U.K. doctors the clearest ever view inside the human body – helping them spot problems before people suffer heart attacks, Sky News reported Today.
The scanner generates pictures of diseased arteries in the heart that are twice as clear as older machines.

It means doctors at Plymouth’s Derriford Hospital in the South West of England can identify problems at an early stage, long before patients suffer a heart attack or even develop any symptoms.


It’s brilliant. It’s a relief there is no structural problem for the chest pain, so I can get on with life now.
John Hughes, after a HD scan on his heart.

“When we started doing the heart research in 2002, we used to struggle to see the blood vessels, let alone see the narrowings within them,” Professor of radiology, Carl Roobottom, said. “Now, we have a technique that can see to within a fraction of a millimeter.”
In just five seconds, the scanner takes 220 X-rays, each of them a cross section of the heart. Computers then turn the raw snapshots into a 3D image.
Doctors can add color to distinguish between different types of tissue, strip away layers that obscure problem areas, and rotate or flip the image to get the best possible view.
• Latest News & Headlines » Home «
• Source(s): Sky News / BskyB / News Corporation
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20
Jul
10

“Microneedle” Skin Patch May Replace Flu Shot

NEWS
“Microneedle” Skin Patch May Replace Flu Shot

Disappearing Needles: Vaccine-Delivery Patch with Dissolving Microneedles Eliminates “Sharps” Waste and Improves Protection

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

••• Traditional flu jabs may be rendered obsolete by a hi-tech skin patch which delivers vaccine painlessly through scores of tiny needles.

The patch could revolutionize pandemic control by allowing vaccines to be self-administered, scientists in the U.S. say.

The patch can be easily used at home by someone with no medical training.

When the patch is applied to the skin, its hundred ‘microneedles’ – each measuring just over half a millimetre – deliver the vaccine and simply dissolve away.

The needle arrays are made from a plastic-like polymer that is known to be safe for use in the body. What remains is a water-soluble backing that can safely be discarded.

The head of the research team, professor Mark Prausnitz, from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta said: ‘We have shown that a dissolving microneedle patch can vaccinate against influenza at least as well, and probably better than, a traditional hypodermic needle.’

Tests on mice showed that vaccination with the microneedles caused a stronger immune response than an injection by syringe.

The patch could aid mass-immunization in poor parts of the world. It could help to avoid infections such as HIV and hepatitis B that are often spread by re-use of dirty hypodermic needles.

‘We envision people getting the patch in the mail or at a pharmacy and then self-administering it at home,’ said Dr Sean Sullivan, another member of the Georgia team.

‘Because the microneedles on the patch dissolve away into the skin, there would be no dangerous sharp needles left over.’

Other vaccines could be applied with the same technique, the scientists believe.

The cost of mass-produced patches are estimated to be about the same as conventional jabs. But the reduced need for personnel may bring the overall cost of immunization programmes down.

The patch will still have to undergo patient trials to assure its safety and effectiveness before being made generally available.
• Latest News & Headlines » Home «
• Source(s): Georgia Institute of Technology
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14
May
10

Surgery Tool Shows Route Map To The Brain

NEWS
Surgery Tool Shows Route Map To The Brain

Brain Surgery Advance: Alder Hey Children’s Hospital Using BrainLAB Navigation To Remove Tumours

Friday, May 14, 2010

••• A sat nav-style guidance system has given surgeons a precise route map deep inside the brain.

The technique, unveiled by Alder Hey children’s hospital in the U.K., allows doctors to remove tumours and other abnormal tissue more safely.

And for the first time in Europe, surgeons can also wheel their patient straight into an MRI scanner to double-check all diseased areas have been removed.

Patients remain anaesthetised and only have their wound closed up once the scan gives the all-clear.

Paediatric surgeon Sasha Burn told Sky News that a brain tumour can re-grow if any cells are left behind in an operation.

The new set-up gives peace of mind, she said.

‘With children’s tumours it’s very important that we take away all the tumour at the first operation. It increases the survival after the operation enormously,’ she said.

The navigation system – called BrainLAB – synchronises pre-operative brain scans with the child’s position on the operating table.

It shows surgeons the best route to the target area in the brain.

The scans can be updated during the operation, allowing the route map to be refreshed.

Millimetres matter because diseased tissue can be next to crucial parts of the brain, including those controlling speech and vision.
One of the first patients to benefit from the system is 12-year-old Bradley Martin.

He has epilepsy caused by a pea-sized cyst on his brain – and surgeons were able to remove it in a five-hour operation, which could prevent future seizures.

Before the surgery, his dad, Brett, said: ‘He loves mountain biking, but it’s a terrible worry for us that he might have an episode when he is cycling quickly.

‘To have him fit-free would be a wonderful thing.’

Afterwards Miss Burn said he had ‘an extremely good chance of being completely seizure free’.

The operating theatre was made possible with a £3 million ($4.432 million) donation from the Barclay Foundation.
• Source(s): Sky News / British Sky Broadcasting Ltd. (BSkyB) / News Corp.
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28
Mar
10

SIDS: It’s not the parents’ fault

NEWS
SIDS: It’s not the parents’ fault

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
Sunday, March 28, 2010

••• The dusky hours before dawn may appear to be the most serene of times. For infants, whose arousal mechanisms and reflexes are not yet fully mature, they can be a time of peril. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) strikes more babies in the early morning than at any other time.

One explanation for these mysterious and tragic deaths is that they are caused by a defect in the brain that renders the baby incapable of responding appropriately to the rising levels of carbon dioxide that result when babies breathe stale air trapped under blankets. And yet this hunch has been difficult to prove.

“By conventional histology, the brains of SIDS victims look normal,” says Hannah Kinney, Harvard Medical School associate professor of neuropathology at Children’s Hospital.

Sounding the Alarm
Kinney and her colleagues have recently uncovered a subtle but potentially fatal flaw in the brains of some SIDS babies. The defect lies in a scatter of neurons, known as the arcuate nucleus, located on the underbelly of the brain stem.

Normally, cells in the arcuate nucleus are studded with receptors for a neurotransmitter that responds to carbon dioxide in the blood. When levels of carbon dioxide rise, the receptors signal the respiratory system to increase the rate of breathing. They may also be part of a delicate alarm system in the brain that is designed to wake the sleeping baby.

It appears that the arcuate nucleus of some SIDS babies is deficient in its binding of the neurotransmitter. As a result, the carbon-dioxide warning system of SIDS babies is less sensitive to rising levels of carbon dioxide in the blood and does not sound the alarm to other systems in the body.
The arcuate nucleus, normally located on the underside of the brain stem (dark splotches in L and center images), is absent in the brains of some SIDS babies (R image).

Not all SIDS babies have this defect, Kinney says. In fact, the decreased carbon-dioxide sensitivity is probably one of several causes of SIDS. However, the discovery does help to dispel some of the apparent capriciousness surrounding SIDS. “It is not a normal baby that dies of SIDS,” Kinney says.

Knowledge of SIDS was in its infancy when Kinney first began her research. Despite an ancient and grim history-occurrences of “crib death” are well-documented throughout history and even in the Bible-it was only in 1969 that SIDS was identified as a syndrome.

When Kinney began a residency in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital in the mid-1970s, SIDS was still an ill- defined syndrome, with no discernible cause. Although some parents reported that their babies had some symptoms-such as coughs, gastrointestinal trouble and listlessness-in the 48 hours before death, most said their babies had been completely well. Some babies were found face down in their blankets, suggesting asphyxiation, and yet others were found on their backs.

“What I remember most about that is the tremendous sadness and suddenness of the death and the tremendous despair that the parents had,” says Kinney.

Nor did autopsies help alleviate the parents’ confusion. Typically, there were no signs of disease-pneumonia, meningitis or hemorrhages-in the brains or bodies of the babies.

The first clue to a possible brain defect came in 1977 when a pediatric pathologist reported subtle gliosis-or scarring-in the brain stems of SIDS patients. Gliosis, which is an overgrowth of glial cells, occurs when neurons die, leaving room for new growth. Yet it was not clear from the study what was causing the neurons to die in the first place. “It just told us something had gone on in these brains,” says Kinney.

Locating the Flaw
Suspecting an “invisible” flaw in the brains of SIDS patients, Kinney spent the next few years learning new high- tech methods for studying the chemistry of the brain at HMS. Richard Sidman, Bullard professor of neuropathology, had developed computer-based methods for imaging the brain in three dimensions that allowed subtle quantitative differences in the brain to be assessed. Frost White, who was also in the HMS neuropathology department at the time, had developed methods for labeling chemical receptors in three dimensions. Kinney spent time working in both men’s labs.

It was old-fashioned brainstorming with Jim Filiano, a postdoc in her lab, that led to the site of the hidden brain flaw. “Jim and I used to have long conversations about this. Where can the defect in SIDS be? What respiratory controlling mechanism could it be?” says Kinney.

By 1987, the arcuate nucleus had been identified, but its function was unknown. It was Filiano who first demonstrated that the arcuate nucleus in humans might be involved in the control of breathing.

Still, it was not clear what role the arcuate nucleus might play in SIDS. To find out, Kinney and her collaborators began analyzing a database of serially sectioned brain stems collected from autopsies of 41 SIDS babies and 27 controls. “We looked through it blinded, without knowledge of who the SIDS babies were,” Kinney says. They found two cases where the arcuate nucleus was absent. When they decoded the cases, they found that both had died of SIDS.

Yet other babies in the sample had died of SIDS, and they appeared to have an arcuate nucleus. Suspecting that the two cases might be the most severe from an anatomical point of view, and that the other babies might have had more subtle biochemical defects in this region of their brains, the researchers began investigating the neurochemical structure of the arcuate nucleus of SIDS babies.

They found that cells in the arcuate nucleus of some SIDS babies, though not all, were less able to bind acetylcholine than babies suffering from other acute diseases. Acetylcholine normally attaches to a particular receptor on the arcuate cells known as the muscarinic receptor.
A Lack of Receptivity
This finding suggests that the culprit, in at least some SIDS cases, is the muscarinic receptor. Babies with a full complement of muscarinic receptors are able to respond to distress signals.

“A normal infant meets a challenge during the night like hypercardia-increased carbon dioxide-or low oxygen-asphyxiation,” Kinney says. “This could happen from upper airway occlusion or from the face being down in the bedding.” Once stimulated, the muscarinic receptors, which are part of a more complex relay system, signal the respiratory system to increase the rate of breath. “The infant would turn its head to take in more air and presumably wake up.”

However, babies with fewer-or defective-muscarinic receptors would not respond to rising carbon dioxide levels in the blood and would fail to arouse.

Why there should be a scarcity of muscarinic receptors is not clear. Kinney speculates that the defect may lie in the failure of the nucleus to develop normally. “This is basically a clue. It doesn’t tell us why SIDS occurs,” she says.

Even normal infants do not respond to arousal signals very well in the early morning. This is especially true during the first six months of life when the baby is still making the transition from being a fetus. “There are many changes going on in the respiratory, autonomic and sleep- wake systems,” Kinney says. In fact, 90 percent of SIDS cases occur during the first six months of life; 75 percent occur between two and four months.

In addition to this critical developmental danger zone, there are two other factors contributing to SIDS, Kinney believes. One is that the baby has an underlying vulnerability, such as a defective arcuate nucleus. Second, there must be a stressor. Such stressors might include the prone sleeping position, infection, swaddling and fever, all of which can contribute to an overabundance of carbon dioxide in the blood.

An obvious way to reduce the number of SIDS deaths would be to eliminate the stressors. Campaigns to encourage parents to put babies to sleep on their backs have worked in countries like New Zealand, England and Australia. Such campaigns have decreased the incidence of SIDS by 50 percent. China, where babies have always been trained to sleep on their backs, has one of the lowest rates of SIDS in the world.

Women who safeguard their health while pregnant may also be protecting their babies from SIDS. Kinney believes that the defects in the brain that make a baby more vulnerable to SIDS could develop as a result of suboptimal intrauterine environments. “This may be due to smoking, drugs-such as cocaine-and also to lack of access to medical care and good nutrition,” Kinney says, adding that “these are things that come along with poverty.”

The United States, where access to cigarettes and drugs is relatively easy, has one of the highest rates of SIDS in the world. SIDS is currently the leading cause of death among American infants, killing 6,000 babies each year. The rate is especially high among the poor. The rate of SIDS among Native Americans is six times the national average.

Ultimately, there may be a way to predict clinically who is at risk for SIDS, although Kinney thinks that such tests will be a long time in coming. Developing a clinical test for a receptor system in the arcuate nucleus “would be extremely difficult,” she says. An alternative approach would be to look for some other factor that correlates with decreased binding to the muscarinic receptors in the arcuate nucleus.

Kinney and her colleagues are currently investigating whether the muscarinic defect is part of a more general neuronal defect. “The more we know about the causes of SIDS, the more ideas of how to test for it and prevent it may come to us.”
• Source(s): Harvard Medical School
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome – Also called: Crib death, SIDS
American Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Institute
Related: SIDS Research Breakthrough GO
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26
Mar
10

Doctors remove boy’s extra fingers, toes

NEWS
Doctors remove boy’s extra fingers, toes

Friday, March 26, 2010

••• Li Jinpeng, a 6-year-old boy born with 15 fingers and 16 toes, is happy he will soon be able to wear a normal pair of shoes.

Doctors at the Shengjing Hospital of China Medical University in Shenyang, Liaoning province, successfully removed Li’s additional fingers and toes in a surgical operation that lasted more than five hours on Tuesday.

Before the surgery, Li, the son of migrant workers from Heilongjiang province, was believed to be the world record holder for having the maximum number of fingers and toes.

He is not the least bit sad at losing the record to two Indians, Pranamya Menaria and Devendra Harne, who each have 12 fingers and 13 toes.

Li was happier to hear doctors tell him he would be able to eat with chopsticks in a few months’ time.

Tian Lijie, director of microsurgery at the Shengjing Hospital, who led the surgical team, said the operation, which started at 10 am and ended at 3:20 pm, went well and Li now has 10 fingers and 10 toes.

“The functions (of the boy’s fingers) will not be affected and he will be able to live a normal life,” Tian told China Daily on Wednesday.

Explaining the surgical procedure, Tian said: “It just took a few hours to trim the neurovascular bundles and the surgery was completed with microvessel clamps.”

The doctor said Li had survived the critical stage and is now in a stable condition.

“His dressing will be changed in three days and he will be able to go back home in a week,” Tian said, adding, “His rehabilitation training will begin in a month, when he will be able to do basic hand movements like pinch and grip.”

According to Tian, the cause of Li’s deformity could be several factors like “genetic, genetic mutation, or problems during pregnancy”, but doctors do not know for sure.

However, Li’s parents, who work in Yingkou, Liaoning province, said no one from their families had ever had such a problem.

“We were obviously stunned when Li was born with all those fingers and toes. I was crying the whole day after the delivery,” Li’s mother, Liu Lichun told local media.

Liu added she was embarrassed to take her son outdoors, because so many people would look at him strangely or make comments about his deformity.

Liu said she and her husband took Li, who had seven fingers on his left hand, eight on his right and eight toes on each foot, to several doctors, all of whom advised them to wait until he grew a little older before having surgery.

The couple now cannot wait to enroll Li in school.

“We didn’t let him go to school before out of pity,” said Li’s father.

Prior to the surgery, Li told reporters: “I want to wear a pair of normal shoes, too, but they pinch my toes.”

He said he had always worn slippers to give his extra-broad feet some space to breathe.

He also could not hold a pencil normally. He used to hold it between the second and third finger of his right hand.

“My friends treat me differently at kindergarten. They call me a monster. They beat me and scratch me,” Li said before his surgery.

Now things are different. And Li knows it.
• Source(s): Xinhua News Agency (China)
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08
Mar
10

SIDS Research Breakthrough

NEWS
SIDS Research Breakthrough

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
Friday, February 5, 2010

Last modification: Monday, March 8, 2010

••• Researchers from Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital Boston annouced today that they may have found the reason why babies are so vunerable to sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.

Infants who died of SIDS had 26 percent lower levels of serotonin, which helps regulate automatic functions according to the study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study performed autopsies on 41 babies who had died of SIDS to brainstems of seven babies who died of other causes and five babies who were hospitalized with low oxygen levels before their deaths. Researchers believe a low level of serotonin may be the “fundamental abnormality” in babies who die from SIDS. If serotonin levels are too low a baby won’t wake up when breathing is disrupted.

Unfortunately, there are no tests to determine serotonin levels in infants. According to USA Today, doctors eventually hope to use their discovery to screen babies for serotonin problems and find a way to protect them, says co-author David Paterson, also of Harvard and Children’s Hospital. Those developments are still years away, he says.

The number of babies who die of sudden infant death syndrome has dropped over the last 20 years, thanks to campaigns urging parents to put babies to sleep only on their backs. To avoid the risk of SIDS, here are some important tips to protect your baby from SIDS, suffocation and accidents during sleep:

• Always place your baby to sleep on her back!

• The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a safety-approved crib with a firm mattress that fits snugly and is covered with only a sheet.

• Remove all soft and fluffy bedding and other items from the sleep area. This includes blankets, pillows, bumper pads, positioners and stuffed animals.

• Adult beds can be dangerous for sleeping babies. Bring your baby into bed to breastfeed and bond, but when it is time to go to sleep, place your baby in her own separate space alongside your bed for at least the first six months.

• Use a wearable blanket or other type sleeper instead of blankets to keep your baby warm and safe.

• Never fall asleep with your baby on a sofa or armchair.

• Make sure your baby has a safe place to sleep when visiting or traveling.

••• Serotonin: A hormone, also called 5-hydroxytryptamine, in the pineal gland, blood platelets, the digestive tract, and the brain. Serotonin acts both as a chemical messenger that transmits nerve signals between nerve cells and that causes blood vessels to narrow.
Changes in the serotonin levels in the brain can alter the mood. For example, medications that affect the action of serotonin are used to treat depression.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome – Also called: Crib death, SIDS
American Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Institute
Related: SIDS: It’s not the parents’ fault GO
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