Generally, the results from studies examining the effects of stem cells in treating cancer are mixed. Other studies indicate that stem cells promote tumour growth by forming new blood vessels while others suggest that stem cells halt tumour growth. Now, a new study on mice indicates that its all about "timing". The study was conducted by a collaborative team of researchers from the Université Joseph Fourier and the CHU de Grenoble hospital, both located in France.Read More... Read more »
Michelle Kéramidas, Florence de Fraipont, Anastassia Karageorgis, Anaïck Moisan, Virginie Persoons, Marie-Jeanne Richard, & Jean-Luc Coll and Claire Rome. (2013) The dual effect of MSCs on tumour growth and tumour angiogenesis. Stem Cell Research . info:/
Take Home Message: Players sustained more head impacts and higher severity of impacts on days of diagnosed concussion compared to days with no diagnosed concussion. Also, peak linear acceleration was the best predictor of immediately diagnosed concussions.
Concussion prevention methods are difficult to develop because we lack an understanding of the relationship between head impact mechanics and subsequent concussions. We can improve our understanding by measuring impact forces during sporting events; however; most studies have only included a small number of athletes, which limited the ability to determine which biomechanical characteristics result in injury among football athletes. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to compare frequency and kinematic response of head impacts on days with and without a diagnosis of concussion and identify sensitivity and specificity of single-impact severity measures to diagnose concussive injuries.... Read more »
Beckwith JG, Greenwald RM, Chu JJ, Crisco JJ, Rowson S, Duma SM, Broglio SP, McAllister TW, Guskiewicz KM, Mihalik JP.... (2013) Head Impact Exposure Sustained by Football Players on Days of Diagnosed Concussion. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 45(4), 737-746. PMID: 23135363
Why do some people recover anorexia nervosa relatively quickly while others seem to struggle for years or decades? Does it depend on the person’s desire to get better? Their willpower? How much they are willing to fight? Is it just that some try harder than others? Some might say yes, but most will correctly realize that the picture is much, much more complex.
We can spend hours talking about barriers to treatment, but in this post I want to talk about something slightly different, something perhaps that is perhaps less “obvious.”
Suppose a group of girls–all roughly the same age, same illness duration, same socioeconomic background and race–enter the same treatment facility. What determines why some will do well in treatment and continue to do well after whereas others will relapse and yet others won’t respond to treatment at all? We know that catching eating disorders early is crucial, but what else is important?
There will never be a treatment that will work for all eating disorder patients. But some types of treatment will work better than others for …
You May Also Like:
Think You Are Not “Sick Enough” Because You Didn’t Lose Your Period? Read This.
Excessive Exercise in Eating Disorders
Predictors of Diagnostic Crossover and Symptom Fluctuation in Eating Disorders
... Read more »
Zerwas, S., Lund, B., Von Holle, A., Thornton, L., Berrettini, W., Brandt, H., Crawford, S., Fichter, M., Halmi, K., Johnson, C.... (2013) Factors associated with recovery from anorexia nervosa. Journal of Psychiatric Research. DOI: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2013.02.011
It may not come as a surprise to anyone who has a mother, but a new study found that eating fresh fruits and vegetables is good for your health.... Read more »
Leenders, M., Sluijs, I., Ros, M., Boshuizen, H., Siersema, P., Ferrari, P., Weikert, C., Tjonneland, A., Olsen, A., Boutron-Ruault, M.... (2013) Fruit and Vegetable Consumption and Mortality: European Prospective Investigation Into Cancer and Nutrition. American Journal of Epidemiology. DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwt006
Sun, Q. (2012) Red Meat Consumption and MortalityResults From 2 Prospective Cohort Studies. Archives of Internal Medicine, 172(7), 555. DOI: 10.1001/archinternmed.2011.2287
Researchers have reported that glyphosate (N-(phosphonomethyl)glycine), the active ingredient in Roundup, could be the cause of a number of health related disorders such as gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disorders, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
Roundup, world's most popular and best selling weed and grass killer developed by Monsanto, is sprayed on millions of acres of crops in the world. Researchers have reported that the residues of "glyphosate" are found in the food comprised mainly of sugar, corn, soy and wheat. Those residues increase the destructive effects of the other food-borne chemical residues and toxins in the environment resulting in a number of diseases, according to the report.
Technically speaking, glyphosate inhibits cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes. This enzyme plays an important role in removing the xenobiotics, which are chemical compounds, for example, drugs or pesticides that are foreign to the body of a living organism.
"Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body," the study says.
We "have hit upon something very important that needs to be taken seriously and further investigated," Stephanie Seneff, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of the authors of the study, said in a statement.
Reuters via HuffingtonPost
Samsel, A., & Seneff, S. (2013). Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases Entropy, 15 (4), 1416-1463 DOI: 10.3390/e15041416... Read more »
Samsel, A., & Seneff, S. (2013) Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases. Entropy, 15(4), 1416-1463. DOI: 10.3390/e15041416
Yesterday I heard a male Blackcap singing on my way to work. Although it was high on a tree, luckily, I had a small pair of binoculars with me and I found him on a Sycamore in bloom. While I watched it, the Blackcap alternated singing and clearly drinking from the Sycamore flowers, in one occasion clinging upside down from a branch like a tit to reach them. It is well documented that several European birds, especially warblers, regularly drink nectar (I have posted on Blue Tits feeding on Mahonia nectar before in this blog). I could only take some distant shots of this behaviour, and when I got back, I did some research on the nectar feeding habits of the Blackcap. The Blackcap is actually one of the most nectarivorous European warblers. Nectar feeding in warblers is most common during spring migration, and has been documented in many stopover sites. Blackcaps often have stained faces due to their flower feeding habits (you can see some examples here and here. This can result on the formation of a 'pollen horn' a matted mass of nectar, pollen and feathers around their bills. Given that their long, thin bill leaves flowers intact after feeding, that they visit many flowers and the presence of pollen on their faces indicating regular contact with the flower's anthers, it is not surprising that Blackcaps can also act as pollinators. Experiments on birds trapped during migration indicates that migrating warblers seem to prefer nectar to mealworms when both are offered simultaneously. Nectar feeding is not a last food resort for emaciated birds, but a valuable source of easily digested carbohydrates when birds have reduced digestive systems and high energy demands. Blackcaps feed on nectar from a large diversity of flowers, both native and introduced. From the references below, I have compiled the following list of visited plants, which also includes some Mediterranean plants that they encounter during migration, and the Sycamore too. I note the native status in the UK.Goat Willow, Salix capraea. Native.Sycamore, Acer pseudoplatanus. Native.Oregon Grape. Mahonia sp. Ornamental.Citrus trees, Citrus. Mediterranean.Hawthorn. NativeDamsons. Here. Native.Almond blossom. here. Mediterranean.Scrophularia. Here. Four large flowered species. Mediterranean, Canaries.Aloe arborescens This female has so much orange pollen on its chest that almost looks like a robin. South African plant widely introduced in the Mediterranean.Anagyris foetida. The only documented native European plant that is exclusively pollinated by birds. Mediterranean.Giant fennel Ferula communis. Mediterranean.Brassica oleracea-group.More informationOrtega-Olivencia, A., Rodríguez-Riaño, T., Valtueña, F., López, J., & Devesa, J. (2005). First confirmation of a native bird-pollinated plant in Europe Oikos, 110 (3), 578-590 DOI: 10.1111/j.0030-1299.2005.13877.xFord, H. (1985). Nectarivory and Pollination by Birds in Southern Australia and Europe Oikos, 44 (1) DOI: 10.2307/3544053Schwilch, R., Mantovani, R., Spina, F., & Jenni, L. (2001). Nectar consumption of warblers after long-distance flights during spring migration Ibis, 143 (1), 24-32 DOI: 10.1111/j.1474-919X.2001.tb04166.xJacopo G.Cecere, Costanza Matricardi, Beatrice Frank, Simona Imperio, Fernando Spina, Gabriel Gargallo, Christos Barboutis & Luigi Boitani. (2010). Nectar exploitation by songbirds at Mediterranean stopover sites. Ardeola, 57(1), 143-157.Ortega-Olivencia, A., Rodriguez-Riano, T., Perez-Bote, J., Lopez, J., Mayo, C., Valtuena, F., & Navarro-Perez, M. (2011). Insects, birds and lizards as pollinators of the largest-flowered Scrophularia of Europe and Macaronesia Annals of Botany, 109 (1), 153-167 DOI: 10.1093/aob/mcr255... Read more »
Ortega-Olivencia, A., Rodríguez-Riaño, T., Valtueña, F., López, J., & Devesa, J. (2005) First confirmation of a native bird-pollinated plant in Europe. Oikos, 110(3), 578-590. DOI: 10.1111/j.0030-1299.2005.13877.x
Ford, H. (1985) Nectarivory and Pollination by Birds in Southern Australia and Europe. Oikos, 44(1), 127. DOI: 10.2307/3544053
SCHWILCH, R., MANTOVANI, R., SPINA, F., & JENNI, L. (2008) Nectar consumption of warblers after long-distance flights during spring migration. Ibis, 143(1), 24-32. DOI: 10.1111/j.1474-919X.2001.tb04166.x
Ortega-Olivencia, A., Rodriguez-Riano, T., Perez-Bote, J., Lopez, J., Mayo, C., Valtuena, F., & Navarro-Perez, M. (2011) Insects, birds and lizards as pollinators of the largest-flowered Scrophularia of Europe and Macaronesia. Annals of Botany, 109(1), 153-167. DOI: 10.1093/aob/mcr255
I read a Nature News article recently about gun control in the USA that horrified me so much that I now have to write a bit about this horrifying topic myself. It goes without saying that there is a huge … Continue reading →... Read more »
"Vaccine". "Autism".I'm struggling to think of two words in combination which, in modern times, are any more likely to stir up emotion, debate and even argument. Indeed in these times of measles outbreaks and seemingly daily news reporting on the very, very strong requirement for vaccination to protect against the disease, it is coincidental that two research papers should now land in my inbox which mention both of those words in the title.Paradise in Zakynthos @ Wikipedia The first paper is by Ivan Gentile and colleagues* reporting on seropositivity rates to measles, mumps and rubella in cases of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) following MMR vaccination. The second paper, by Brittany Pequegnat and colleagues**, discusses the concept and early development of a vaccine targeting a specific type of gut bacteria which the authors speculate might have some interesting knock-on effects to some of the signs and symptoms linked to cases of autism.Although pertinent to the current measles news, I'm not on this occasions heading too far into the Gentile paper. My reasoning is two-fold: (i) the paper is fairly explanatory in that "children with ASD have a similar level and seropositivity rate of antibodies against the MMR vaccine to same-age controls" (bearing in mind the small participant numbers) and, (ii) I'm not really qualified to go into any heavy duty discussions on how this fits into the existing scientific literature on this topic; bearing in mind a similar finding previously published*** and a contrary one****. All I will say is that vaccination saves lives as per this CDC flier.The Pequegnat paper has received some media attention with headlines like: "Vaccine To Help Autism Symptoms Developed" and "Scientists develop first vaccine to help control autism symptoms". As one might expect, headlines which don't necessarily reflect the actual science reported so far...The long-and-short of the research is that based on some earlier findings of a specific gut bacterium being discovered in a group of children with autism***** - Clostridium bolteae previously called Clostridium clostridioforme (see here******) but renamed, I think, after Ellen Bolte******* - the authors applied some established know-how to begin formulating a vaccine targeting the surface sugars, polysaccharides, of C.bolteae. If you want to see the human face of the researchers involved, look no further than this article from 2012.All that talk of this research helping to 'control' autism symptoms is, at the moment, more speculation than fact. As far as I can see, the authors got no further than providing the "first description of a C.bolteae immunogen" following some initial investigation in rabbits. It is therefore a significant jump to say that this vaccine will affect the behavioural presentation of autism. Indeed, no-one really knows if it will impact on any gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms either.That being said, I am quite interested in their report and the concept that we could artificially stimulate immunity to 'undesirables' such as specific types of gut bacteria. As well as being particularly interested in all things bacteria on this blog (see here and here), a quick trawl of the scientific literature suggests that the future is now as per the paper by Sougioultzis and colleagues******** (open-access) on a C.diff toxoid vaccine. One wonders whether we might also apply similar logic to other bacterial findings related to autism such as that very interesting Sutterella work?I am also drawn to the polysaccharide bit of the Pequegnat paper and whether or not it is useful to link back to the work of Harumi Jyonouchi and colleagues on the presence of specific polysaccharide antibody deficiency (SPAD) comorbid to some cases of autism. If I am interpreting this correctly, the suggestion is that SPAD interferes with correct antibody formation to polysaccharide coated bacteria which could have implications I assume, for vaccination to/against bacteria like C.bolteae also. I could be wrong though.I'm gonna stop with this post shortly. There are other things I could say, for example, discussing the method of vaccine delivery (nanoparticle anyone?) including doing away with the big scary needle in favour of something a little more 'ouchless' (microneedles or even inhaled delivery). But that is perhaps fodder for another day.Oh, and just so you know, on purpose I posted a lovely serene picture from the beautiful island of Zakynthos instead of one of those pictures of big needles complete with crying child which, as other commentators have pointed out, might not necessarily be the best platform on which to discuss the topic of vaccination.----------* Gentile I. et al. Response to Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccine in children with autism spectrum disorders. In Vivo. 2013; 27: 377-382.** Pequegnat B. et al. A vaccine and diagnostic target for Clostridium bolteae, an autism-associated bacterium. Vaccine. April 2013.*** Baird G. et al. Measles vaccination and antibody response in autism spectrum disorders. Arch Dis Child. 2008; 93: 832-837.**** Singh VK. et al. Abnormal measles-mumps-rubella antibodies and CNS autoimmunity in children with autism. J Biomed Sci. 2002; 9: 359-364.***** Finegold SM. et al. Gastrointestinal microflora studies in late-onset autism. Clin Infect Dis. 2002; 35 (Supplement 1): S6-S16.****** Song Y. et al. Real-time PCR quantitation of Clostridia in feces of autistic children. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 2004; 70: 6459-6465.******* Bolte ER. Autism and Clostridium tetani. Med Hypotheses. 1998; 51: 133-144.******** Sougioultzis S. et al. Clostridium difﬁcile toxoid vaccine in recurrent C. difﬁcile–associated diarrhea. Gastroenterology 2005; 128: 764–770.----------... Read more »
Pequegnat B, Sagermann M, Valliani M, Toh M, Chow H, Allen-Vercoe E, & Monteiro MA. (2013) A vaccine and diagnostic target for Clostridium bolteae, an autism-associated bacterium. Vaccine. PMID: 23602537
Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium. It spreads through cough or sneeze from subjects with an active infection. While in most cases the disease is asymptomatic, a minority of latent infections does become active (i.e. the subject develops symptoms), and when it does, if left untreated, the disease can be deadly. According to the CDC one third of the world's population are infected with TB, and while in the US the incidence of the disease has been declining over time, it is still a huge problem in parts of the world like Asia and sub-saharan Africa. While normally the chance of a latent TB infection becoming active is one in ten, the chance is much higher for HIV-positive subjects because their immune system is already debilitated by the HIV virus. As the CDC reports:"TB is a leading killer of people living with HIV (PLHIV)."A regimen of 3-4 drugs has been available for years to keep latent infections from becoming active. Sadly, TB infections from multidrug resistant strains (MDR) have been steadily increasing, setting back the progress made in the past decades.From the World Health Organization:"Drug resistance arises due to improper use of antibiotics in chemotherapy of drug-susceptible TB patients. This improper use is a result of a number of actions including, administration of improper treatment regimens and failure to ensure that patients complete the whole course of treatment. Essentially, drug resistance arises in areas with weak TB control programmes. A patient who develops active disease with a drug-resistant TB strain can transmit this form of TB to other individuals."One of the countries plagued by MDR TB strains is North Korea, where the incidence of TB has dramatically advanced over the past years, reaching one of the highest incidences outside sub-saharan Africa. In this week's issue, Science Magazine describes a joint effort between two countries that, according to the recent news, you'd least expect to pair up: North Korea and the United States. In collaboration with Stanford University, the Korean ministry of Public Health opened in 2010 a National Tuberculosis Reference Laboratory (NTRL). "NTRL researchers can now diagnose TB cases that are resistant to first-line drug combinations, making it possible to spot patients who need more aggressive therapy. And the lab will soon add capacity to screen for extensively drug-resistant TB, known as XDR—the worst strains, some of which are close to impossible to treat."The Science report covers stories of hope in the midst of desperation. It points to pressing issues the North Korean government has to address within its borders, and focusing on them would seem a more reasonable and logical strategy than polishing nuclear arsenals. Let's hope that the roots of this collaboration grow deeper than any political discrepancies. Let's hope that a common enemy will put an end to the empty, unfounded threats and pave the way to a broader, more civilized way of communication between countries. Stone, R. (2013). Public Enemy Number One Science, 340 (6131), 422-425 DOI: 10.1126/science.340.6131.422... Read more »
The first post in a series of monthly updates on Blastocystis research mainly based on emerging papers in PubMed.... Read more »
Gould R, & Boorom K. (2013) Blastocystis surface antigen is stable in chemically preserved stool samples for at least 1 year. Parasitology research. PMID: 23609598
Dogruman-Al F, Simsek Z, Boorom K, Ekici E, Sahin M, Tuncer C, Kustimur S, & Altinbas A. (2010) Comparison of methods for detection of Blastocystis infection in routinely submitted stool samples, and also in IBS/IBD Patients in Ankara, Turkey. PloS one, 5(11). PMID: 21124983
Alfellani MA, Stensvold CR, Vidal-Lapiedra A, Onuoha ES, Fagbenro-Beyioku AF, & Clark CG. (2013) Variable geographic distribution of Blastocystis subtypes and its potential implications. Acta tropica, 126(1), 11-8. PMID: 23290980
Alfellani MA, Jacob AS, Perea NO, Krecek RC, Taner-Mulla D, Verweij JJ, Levecke B, Tannich E, Clark CG, & Stensvold CR. (2013) Diversity and distribution of Blastocystis sp. subtypes in non-human primates. Parasitology, 1-6. PMID: 23561720
Abdulsalam AM, Ithoi I, Al-Mekhlafi HM, Khan AH, Ahmed A, Surin J, & Mak JW. (2013) Prevalence, predictors and clinical significance of Blastocystis sp. in Sebha, Libya. Parasites , 86. PMID: 23566585
Malheiros AF, Stensvold CR, Clark CG, Braga GB, & Shaw JJ. (2011) Short report: Molecular characterization of Blastocystis obtained from members of the indigenous Tapirapé ethnic group from the Brazilian Amazon region, Brazil. The American journal of tropical medicine and hygiene, 85(6), 1050-3. PMID: 22144442
by Andrea in Science of Eating Disorders
Dear Science of Eating Disorders readers, please welcome Andrea, our newest contributor! Below is her introduction and first post.
Hello SEDs readers, my name is Andrea and I’m excited to be contributing to the blog. I have an undergraduate degree in sociology and I am currently a Masters student studying family relations and human development. My research is looking at the experiences of young women in recovery from eating disorders, and uses qualitative methods including narrative interviews and digital stories to explore stories of eating disorders and recovery. I am particularly interested in stories that fall outside of the “norm,” as I feel that we sometimes hear a limited, scripted story of what it means to be someone who has had and recovered from an eating disorder.
I myself am recovered from ED-NOS, and I am happy to be making meaning from my experiences by exploring eating disorders in an academic way. I hope to be able to add my voice to the conversation–I’ll be looking mainly at the qualitative literature on eating disorders, their treatment, and recovery. You can …
You May Also Like:
How Do Anorexia Nervosa Patients Define Recovery and Engage in Treatment? The Need for Individualized Treatment
What Makes a Good Nurse? Perspectives of Anorexia Nervosa Patients
Who Gets Treatment? Your Ethnicity Matters
... Read more »
Boughtwood, D., & Halse, C. (2009) Other than obedient: Girls' constructions of doctors and treatment regimes for anorexia nervosa. Journal of Community . DOI: 10.1002/casp.1016
The Shambulance is an occasional series in which I try to find the truth about bogus or overhyped health products. Helping me keep the Shambulance on course are Steven Swoap and Daniel Lynch, both biology professors at Williams College.
Sticking a Q-tip up one’s nose is not the source of many great insights. Yet it’s how an American doctor in the early 20th century developed the theory that became modern reflexology. He would be proud—though maybe a little confused—to see people today flocking to reflexology spas, where practitioners treat all their problems via the soles of their feet.
The American doctor in question was William H. Fitzgerald, an ear, nose and throat specialist. In a 1917 book, he explained the genesis of his big idea:
Six years ago I accidentally discovered that pressure with a cotton tipped probe on the muco-cutinous margin (where the skin joins the mucous membrane) of the nose gave an anesthetic result as though a cocaine solution had been applied . . . Also, that pressure exerted over any bony eminence of the hands, feet or over the joints, produces the same characteristic results in pain relief . . . This led to my ‘mapping out’ these various areas and their associated connections and also to noting the conditions influenced through them. This science I have named "Zone Therapy."
Chapter titles from Zone Therapy include "Zone Therapy for Women" (tongue depressor into the back of the throat for menstrual cramps), "Painless Childbirth" (rubber bands around the toes, among other interventions) and "Curing Lumbago with a Comb."
A nurse and physical therapist named Eunice D. Ingham extended the idea of zone therapy in the 1930s and 1940s, eventually mapping the entire body onto the soles of the feet. She called each important point on the foot a “reflex” because it reflected back to a certain organ or body part. Ingham wrote two books on the subject, now called reflexology: Stories the Feet Can Tell and Stories the Feet Have Told.
Today, the International Institute of Reflexology describes its practice as as “a science which deals with the principle that there are reflex areas in the feet and hands which correspond to all of the glands, organs and parts of the body.” Stimulating these points “can help many health problems in a natural way.” The site insists, “Reflexology…should not be confused with massage.”
There has been some confusion and blending, though, between Western reflexology and traditional Chinese medicine. Ingham and Fitzgerald's idea of "zones" is similar to the Chinese principle of "meridians." In traditional Chinese medicine, meridians are paths that carry qi through the body and connect the acupuncture points. Reflexology groups like to say that Fitzgerald "rediscovered" the science from more ancient roots. They even claim that ancient Egyptians practiced it, based on tomb paintings showing people holding each other's feet.
Whoever thought it up first, the idea that the soles of your feet hold a miniature map of the entire rest of your body defies a scientific explanation.
“The problem is communication,” says physiologist Steven Swoap. “How does the foot talk to the pancreas?”
The foot is full of sensory nerves, Swoap explains. These can detect temperature, pain or position and send that information to the spinal cord. If the signal is something urgent—say, you stepped on a nail—the spinal cord will send a quick command back to the foot (“STOP!”). If the signal from the foot is a non-painful one (“Hey, I’m walking on grass”), it will travel all the way up the spinal cord to the brain.
“But in no instance do those sensory nerves bypass either the spinal cord or the brain and go directly to the liver, or the kidney, or the colon,” Swoap says. This means your foot can’t communicate directly with any other body part except your spinal cord or brain. Whatever stories the feet have told, they’ve had a limited audience.
Daniel Lynch, a biochemist, points out that sex organs are missing from some reflexology maps. “Why aren’t the gonads on there?” he asks. Other maps label a "testes and ovaries" region around the middle of the heel, but there's variation from one chart to the next.
Setting aside the map itself, Lynch says, “Where is the evidence that it actually works?”
The evidence is slimmer than a stiletto heel. In a 2011 review paper, complementary medicine researchers at the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth dug up every scientific study of reflexology they could find. Out of 23 randomized clinical trials, only 8 “suggested positive effects.”
The quality of the studies was “variable,” the authors write, “but, in most cases, it was poor.” Only four studies that found a positive effect used a placebo control—that is, did massaging the feet without regard to “zones” give patients the same symptom relief? In general, studies tended to use small groups of subjects and not to be replicated by other researchers.
Reflexology has been tested on conditions including asthma, premenstrual syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, multiple sclerosis, and back pain. If reflexology does have a benefit, “The most promising evidence seems to be in the realm of cancer palliation,” or making patients more comfortable, the authors write. Overall, though, they found no convincing evidence that reflexology has power beyond the placebo.
Not that we should thumb our Q-tip-free noses at the placebo effect. The body has an impressive power to make itself feel better based on our expectations. A foot rub from a professional may very well ease a person’s pain. If that professional says anything about zones, though, it’s only a story.
Image: Foot reflexology chart by Stacy Simone (Wikipedia)
Ernst, E., Posadzki, P., & Lee, M. (2011). Reflexology: An update of a systematic review of randomised clinical trials Maturitas, 68 (2), 116-120 DOI: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2010.10.011
... Read more »
Ernst, E., Posadzki, P., & Lee, M. (2011) Reflexology: An update of a systematic review of randomised clinical trials. Maturitas, 68(2), 116-120. DOI: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2010.10.011
Brain Putamen Highlighted in OrangeThe search for biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease is very active. I have summarized some of the relevant Alzheimer's biomarker research here and here.Biomarker research in Parkinson's disease has been less active.However, a recent research study published in Plos One demonstrated the potential for brain magnetic resonance imaging in Parkinson's disease.Miguel Ulla and colleagues in France conducted a prospective MRI study of 27 subjects with Parkinson's disease and 26 control subjects. The key elements of the design of their study included:Subjects: Case subjects met criteria for idiopathic Parkinson's disease using the criteria from the "Parkinson's Disease Society Brain Bank". Mini Mental Status Examination (MMSE) scores were 26 or greater in the case group indicating the absence of any significant dementia.Parkinson's Disease Severity Measures: Hoehn and Yahr stages, right and left motor scores from the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating ScaleMRI: 1.5 Telsa MRI focusing on brain ganglia regions mapping the proton transverse relaxation rate R2*.Statistical Analysis: Cases were compared to controls on R2* and cases with two longitudinal MRI scans had R2* compared at each time point and changes were compared with changes in Parkinson's Disease Severity scoresThe results of the study showed promise for the R2* as a biomarker for Parkinson's disease. R2* measures in the basal ganglia regions of the substantia nigra and the caudate putamen were increased in cases compared to controls. Cases rescanned an average of 3 years later showed increases in R2* measures that correlated with the measures of the worsening of motor symptoms.The authors note the R2* relaxation rate in the basal ganglia is likely influenced by the level of iron deposition. Iron deposition is a known pathology in the basal ganglia of Parkinson's disease and correlated with the level of dopamine reduction.The authors note their study is limited by the relatively small sample size and the use of a relatively less powerful 1.5T magnet used in MRI. The note their findings need to be replicated by other sites in larger samples of subjects.Valid Parkinson biomarkers holp promise for several clinical applications. Sensitive biomarkers may allow for early diagnosis and early intervention before the development of clinical symptoms. Clinical symptoms develop relatively late in the course of basal ganglia pathology making earlier identification important.Additionally, the authors note that this type of biomarker may be valuable in assessing the "efficiency of specific iron chelators and disease-modifying treatments".Readers with additional interest in this research can access the full-text article at the link in the reference below.Image of the putamen, a brain region affected in Parkinson's disease is from a screenshot of the iPad app 3D Brain.Ulla M, Bonny JM, Ouchchane L, Rieu I, Claise B, & Durif F (2013). Is R2* a new MRI biomarker for the progression of Parkinson's disease? A longitudinal follow-up. PloS one, 8 (3) PMID: 23469252... Read more »
Ulla M, Bonny JM, Ouchchane L, Rieu I, Claise B, & Durif F. (2013) Is R2* a new MRI biomarker for the progression of Parkinson's disease? A longitudinal follow-up. PloS one, 8(3). PMID: 23469252
A new study by researchers at the University of Southern California (USC), led by Professor Chuong Cheng Ming, reveals how stem cells contribute to the unique and complex patterns bird feathers have. Surprisingly, the study has implications in the field of regenerative medicine, say the researchers.Read More... Read more »
Lin, S., Foley, J., Jiang, T., Yeh, C., Wu, P., Foley, A., Yen, C., Huang, Y., Cheng, H., Chen, C.... (2013) Topology of Feather Melanocyte Progenitor Niche Allows Complex Pigment Patterns to Emerge. Science. DOI: 10.1126/science.1230374
Schizophrenia is a disabling brain disorder characterized by psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions.Schizophrenia has a prevalence rate of about 1% of the population with relatively stable rates across nations and cultures.Early brain imaging studies focused on regional evidence of brain atrophy primarily in brain gray matter. However, with the development of diffusion tensor imaging, there is a growing body of research examining white matter changes in schizophrenia. White matter typically functions as connection pathways between brain regions allowing for functional circuitry.Alba-Ferrara and de Erausquin recently summarized what is known about white matter changes in schizophrenia in the journal Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience. Here are some of the key highlights from their review:The diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) measure of white matter integrity known as fractional anisotropy (FA) is an indirect measure that has limitationsFA is felt to reflect abnormalities in white matter myelinization that may produce functional brain impairmentBrain oligodendrocytes are key neuron components in myelin and abnormalities of oligodendrocytes have been identified in schizophreniaGenetic abnormalities identified in schizophrenia include genes related to oligodendrocyte development and regulationFA abnormalities in schizophrenia include evidence for both increased and decreased FA in multiple brain white matter bundles and brain regionsFA has been found to be increased in schizophrenia in the superior longitudinal fasciculus, arcuate fasciculus, corpus callosum, substantia nigra and ventral tegmental areasFA has been found to be decreased in schizophrenia in the inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, right anterior corona radiata, left uncinate fasciculus, posterior corona radiata and in whole brainThe distribution of increases in FA are consistent with playing a role in the positive symptoms of schizophrenia, i.e. hallucinations and delusionsThe distribution of decreases in FA are consistent with playing a role in the negative symptoms of schizophrenia, i.e. lack of motivation, apathy, social withdrawalThe authors examined first-degree relatives of individuals with schizophrenia and found evidence of similar (but to a lesser degree) FA abnormalities that have been found in schizophrenic subjectsThese early findings suggest white matter pathology may play a key role in schizophrenia possibly by "aberrant axonal pruning through neurodevelopment leading to maintenance of inefficient/redundant neural networks as in the case of dopaminergic projections".The limitations of FA methodology makes it necessary to cautiously interpret these early studies, new improved white matter analytical techniques are neededI think the authors of this review have provided a good summary of what is known about white matter abnormalities in schizophrenia. Early findings are intriguing but need to be cautiously interpreted. Improved imaging techniques of brain white matter structure and function are needed.Readers with more interest in this topic can access the free full-text review by clicking on the reference below.Photo of sunset in Florida Keys is from the author's files.Alba-Ferrara, L., & de Erausquin, G. (2013). What does anisotropy measure? Insights from increased and decreased anisotropy in selective fiber tracts in schizophrenia Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, 7 DOI: 10.3389/fnint.2013.00009... Read more »
Alba-Ferrara, L., & de Erausquin, G. (2013) What does anisotropy measure? Insights from increased and decreased anisotropy in selective fiber tracts in schizophrenia. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience. DOI: 10.3389/fnint.2013.00009
Spinal cord injuries can lead to permanent disabilities such as paralysis. Research in rats and mice for new treatments involve severing nerve fibres, which can cause moderate or severe suffering. Professor Sue Barnett, University of Glasgow, who is a 3Rs Prize 2012 runner up, writes about an in vitro technique, funded by NC3Rs, to replace the use of rodents in her laboratory.... Read more »
Boomkamp, S., Riehle, M., Wood, J., Olson, M., & Barnett, S. (2012) The development of a rat in vitro model of spinal cord injury demonstrating the additive effects of rho and ROCK inhibitors on neurite outgrowth and myelination. Glia, 60(3), 441-456. DOI: 10.1002/glia.22278
When does the the term 'correlation does not equal causation' become a moot point? It's a question I've often pondered, having discussed the issue quite a few times on this blog for all manner of correlations and associations linked to autism (sorry, the autisms).The weight of the heart @ Wikipedia Is there, for example, a recognised tipping point where the weight of evidence correlating A with B might actually lead to the consensus that A causes B either wholly or partially?Yes, I know that science deals with probabilities not absolutes (something which we are all guilty of forgetting from time to time) and that science is generally quite reserved about its findings. But surely as per the example of smoking and lung cancer, there must be a time when the likelihood that A causes B creeps over the 'chance' explanation to something a little more concrete and directional?The reason for the question(s) follows the publication of a study by Jakob Christensen and colleagues* (open-access) which suggested that in large and pretty well-defined Danish cohort "maternal use of valproate during pregnancy was associated with a significantly increased risk of autism spectrum disorder and childhood autism in the offspring". Regular readers might remember that quite recently there was some similar chatter on this antiepileptic medication based on the Bromley paper (see here) but on an altogether smaller scale compared with the current dataset.There has been some media attention paid to the recent trial (see here and here) which is perhaps not surprising given the suggestion that approximately 1 in 20 mothers who were using valproate during pregnancy to control epilepsy or seizure disorders subsequently had a child with autism or an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The actual risk (absolute risk) was quoted as 2.5% and 4.4% respectively based on the 508 children exposed to valproate in-utero. Even the latest 'survey' figures of 1 in 50 children presenting with an ASD in the US are seemingly dwarfed by the Christensen findings.There are obviously caveats to all this talk about risk, and how risk is risk, not certainty. That also valproate is actually quite effective in controlling cases of epilepsy** is a point which should not get lost in any discussions on risk. Indeed when one reads such studies linking drug A to condition B, it's all too easy to forget that drug A is being taken for a reason; often a very important reason. Physicians generally do not enter lightly into such clinical decisions, particularly in light of past scandals of medication and pregnancy (see here). Not forgetting too that epilepsy can, in extreme cases kill***.Outside of the autism-valproate link (if I can call it that) the Christensen data also includes some other potentially interesting factoids, as per the suggestion that among children of mums with epilepsy who were not exposed to valproate during pregnancy (n=6152), the absolute risk of a diagnosis of autism and ASD were 1.02% and 2.44% respectively. I hasten to add that I'm not an expert on risk, absolute risk, but 2.44%, by my reckoning, equates as roundabout 1 in 40 with an ASD born to mums with epilepsy. I'm cautious not to read too much into this just in case I've got it completely wrong but if it is correctly interpreted, might imply some greater connection between offspring autism and a maternal history of epilepsy as per previous findings****.I'm not going to go through all the possible weaknesses in the Christensen paper because the manuscript does that quite well enough itself including some discussion on that folate-autism link. Likewise my previous post on valproate and offspring autism talked about some of the possible mechanisms to account for any effect, so again no need to cover all that ground. There is one tidbit to pick up on: "Valproate is a fatty acid derivative" so the authors report. I've often wondered about this point and the suggested mechanism of seizure control in some cases by use of the ketogenic diet impacting on fatty acids (see the paper by Chang and colleagues*****). Assuming the Chang findings are accurate, does this place more emphasis on the HDAC inhibition side of things when it comes to valproate and offspring autism risk?The question still remains about the 'correlation does not equal causation' mantra with prenatal valproate exposure and offspring autism in mind. The Christensen paper at the very least, makes a really strong case for a lot more detailed inspection of this potential association as once again the use of pharmacotherapy during pregnancy comes under the spotlight.Oh, and just in case you thought I was singling out valproate for special attention in relation to autism, have a look at the recent paper by Dheeraj Raj and colleagues****** (open-access) on prenatal antidepressant exposure and offspring autism risk again adding to the previous literature. Indeed it makes me wonder if that environmental exposome fish experiment carried out a while back might well be a model, albeit with revisions, we need to revisit.A song to close methinks. Something vintage and snazzy today.... Elvis and Viva Las Vegas.----------* Christensen J. et al. Prenatal valproate exposure and risk of autism spectrum disorders and childhood autism. JAMA. 2013; 309: 1696-1703.** Marson AG. et al. The SANAD study of effectiveness of valproate, lamotrigine, or topiramate for generalised and unclassifiable epilepsy: an unblinded randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2007; 369: 1016–1026.*** Berg A. Mortality in epilepsy. Epilepsy Curr. 2001; 1: 28.**** Leonard H. et al. Maternal health in pregnancy and intellectual disability in the offspring: a population-based study. Ann Epidemiol. 2006; 16: 448-454.***** Chang P. et al. Seizure control by ketogenic diet-associated medium chain fatty acids. Neuropharmacology. 2013; 69: 105-114.****** Raj D. et al. Parental depression, maternal antidepressant use during pregnancy, and risk of autism spectrum disorders: population based case-control study. BMJ. 2013; 346: f2059----------... Read more »
Jakob Christensen, Therese Koops Grønborg, Merete Juul Sørensen, Diana Schendel, Erik Thorlund Parner, Lars Henning Pedersen, & Mogens Vestergaard. (2013) Prenatal Valproate Exposure and Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorders and Childhood Autism. JAMA. info:/
Lifestyle choices made during the teenage years—such as alcohol, smoking, diet and exercise—may still increase your risk of having a stroke later in life.... Read more »
Castilla-Guerra L, & Mokdad AH. (2013) Stroke prevention in the Stroke Belt: Is the adolescence period the clue?. Neurology. info:/10.1212/WNL.0b013e3182905006
Ducey TF, Miller JO, Busscher WJ, Lackland DT, & Hunt PG. (2012) An analysis of the link between strokes and soils in the South Carolina coastal plains. Journal of environmental science and health. Part A, Toxic/hazardous substances , 47(8), 1104-12. PMID: 22506703
Howard V, McClure LA, Glymour MM, Cunningham SA, Kleindorfer DO, Crowe M, Wadley VG, Peace F, Howard G, & Lackland DT. (2013) Effect of duration and age at exposure to the Stroke Belt on incident stroke in adulthood. Neurology. info:/10.1212/WNL.0b013e3182904d59
Scientists from the Manchester Collaborative Centre for Inflammation Research (MCCIR) have discovered why a particular cancer drug is so effective at killing cells. Their findings could be used to aid the design of future cancer treatments.... Read more »
Morwenna Grills. (2013) Video reveals cancer cells’ Achilles’ heel. The University of Manchester . info:/
Brain white matter plays a key role in connecting functional brain areas. These connections are required for complex brain processing required for memory and executive functions, i.e planning and problem solving.Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) is a relatively recent brain imaging tool that provides a method of analyzing regional human white matter function. Additionally, when DTI is paired with cognitive testing it allows for study of the brain regions and circuits responsible for specfic cognitive domains.Efrat Sasson and colleagues from Tel Aviv University in Israel and the United States recently published a study of DTI paired with neuropsychological testing in 52 subjects ranging in age from 25 to 82 years of age. They focused on the effects of aging on changes in neuropsychological performance and white matter imaging.The key elements of the design of their study included:Subjects: 52 right-handed adults (20 males and 32 females) without a history of any neurological or psychological disorderNeuropsychological testing: Each subject completed a computerized cognitive test battery known as Mindstreams testing "memory, executive function, visual spatial processing, verbal function, attention, information processing speed and motor skills".Cognitive domain identification: 20 cognitive function areas were analyzed using factor analysis to identify relevant common factors. Three cogntive domains were identified in the factor analysis including: executive function, memory and information processing speedImaging: 3T MRI brain images were obtained white matter bundle regions of interest were identified including the cingulum, the fornix, the inferior longitudinal fasciculus, the superior longitudinal fasciculus and the uncinate fasciculusStatistical analysis: Regression analysis of regional DTI indices, age and neuropsychological test performance. The findings of this study are really quite impressive and highlight the specific white matter bundles associated with cognition and the effects of age on white matter changes. The findings demonstrate the key role white matter temporal lobe projections play:Cingulum bundle: memoryFornix bundle: memorySuperior longitudinal fasciculus bundle: executive function and information processing speedInferior longitudinal fasciculus bundle: memory and information processing speedUncinate fasciculus: memoryThe image on the right shows areas of the right and left temporal lobes identified in green. White matter bundle projections to the temporal lobe have been shown in this study to play a key role in cognitive function.Measures of white matter integrity (fractional anisotropy) from DTI show deterioration with age in these key regional bundles. This implies white matter deterioration may contribute the decline in executive function, memory and information processing found with aging.Understanding this effect may point the way to interventions that might slow the rate of white matter aging in the brain. These types of interventions may reduce the level of age-related cognitive decline in humans.Readers with more interest in this important study can access the free full-text manuscript by clicking on the reference below.Photo of great blue heron from the authors file.Image of temporal lobes is an iPad screen shot from the app Brain Tutor.Sasson E, Doniger GM, Pasternak O, Tarrasch R, & Assaf Y (2013). White matter correlates of cognitive domains in normal aging with diffusion tensor imaging. Frontiers in neuroscience, 7 PMID: 23493587... Read more »
Sasson E, Doniger GM, Pasternak O, Tarrasch R, & Assaf Y. (2013) White matter correlates of cognitive domains in normal aging with diffusion tensor imaging. Frontiers in neuroscience, 32. PMID: 23493587
Do you write about peer-reviewed research in your blog? Use ResearchBlogging.org to make it easy for your readers — and others from around the world — to find your serious posts about academic research.
If you don't have a blog, you can still use our site to learn about fascinating developments in cutting-edge research from around the world.
Research Blogging is powered by SMG Technology.
To learn more, visit seedmediagroup.com.