While it’s not possible or practical for everyone, training for and completing a marathon significantly improves the health of a new runner’s arteries, a study suggests. For the study, researchers from Barts and University College London analysed 138 novice runners attempting the London Marathon. Following six months of training, the runners’ arteries were seen to regain some youthful elasticity, something which should reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Furthermore, the runners’ blood pressure fell by as much as if they had been prescribed medication. Interestingly, those who were the least fit before the training appeared to afford the most health benefits. The best news is that the British Heart Foundation (BHF), which funded the study, says smaller amounts of aerobic exercise are likely to have a similar effect, meaning people don’t necessarily need to train for a marathon to benefit. Speaking about the findings of the study, Prof Metin Avkiran, an Associate Medical Director at the BHF, said: “The benefits of exercise are undeniable. Keeping active reduces your risk of having a heart attack or stroke and cuts your chances of an early death.” According to NHS England guidelines, every week, adults should do a minimum of either: 150 minutes moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, doubles tennis or cycling 75 minutes vigorous exercise, such as running, football or rugby It’s also important to do strengthening activities - such as push-ups, sit-ups or lifting and carrying - at least twice a week.
A British woman has become the first in the world to receive a revolutionary new cancer therapy which involves injecting a high dose of chemotherapy directly into cancer cells. Karen Childs, from north-west London, is the first patient on the clinical trial for acoustic cluster therapy to treat cancer that has spread to her liver. During the therapy, clusters of microdroplets and microbubbles are injected into the patient at the same time as chemotherapy, which experts say will enhance its delivery. Ultrasound scans are then used to ensure the clusters “pump” the drug directly into the tumour, which should result in substantially more chemotherapy reaching cancer cells. Experts hope the technique will mean fewer doses of chemotherapy for cancer patients going forward, which should reduce side-effects. The new treatment is being trialled by the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in London. Ms Childs, who was diagnosed with cancer in November 2013, said: “I’m not sure it’s sunk in yet that I’m the very first patient in the world to be receiving this new treatment. This trial is an exciting step for the hospital and a huge step for patients like me.” The aim of the clinical trial at this stage is to establish if the new therapy is safe and to provide data on its effectiveness. Eventually, it is hoped the treatment could be used to reduce the size of tumours prior to surgery, making them easier to remove and potentially offering more patients a cure.
The hormone oestrogen fuels the growth of many different types of breast cancer. And to reduce a woman’s risk of developing the disease, a drug called anastrozole is often used to block oestrogen production in post-menopausal ladies. But now new research has revealed that anastrozole actually continues to work long after a woman has stopped taking it. According to the research by a team at the Queen Mary University of London, the findings of which are published in The Lancet, anastrozole continues to reduce a woman’s cancer risk by 49% even seven years after they stop taking it. This is in addition to it halving a woman’s risk during the five years they take the drug. In other words, the benefits of taking anastrozole continue after treatment has stopped. Trials are now focussing on whether anastrozole can be used to prevent the onslaught of breast cancer and not just used once a woman has developed the disease. Speaking about the findings of the research, Prof Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK's chief clinician, said: “Up until now we only knew that tamoxifen has long-lasting benefits, so it's reassuring that this study looking specifically at anastrozole, which has fewer long-term side-effects, gives better protection to women years after they stopped taking the drug.” Anastrozole is currently available on the NHS in England, but only about 10% of women who should be taking the drug actually are.
Experts say that food label warnings about the amount of physical exercise needed to burn off the calories contained in the product work. According to the researchers from Loughborough University in the UK, who looked at 14 separate studies to reach their conclusions, a simple label advising the consumer that it would take four hours to walk off the calories contained in a pizza, or 22 minutes of running to burn off a chocolate bar are effective in making people think twice about purchasing certain foods. They say the labels help people indulge less and could encourage healthier eating habits to fight obesity. Right now, it is estimated that two-thirds of the UK adult population are overweight or obese. Publishing their findings in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the researchers say this simple type of labelling could help cut about 200 calories from a person's daily average intake. The reason it works is because people don’t really appreciate calories when they see them as just numbers. But by elaborating and highlighting how much exercise is needed to burn off a particular food product, the consumer is able to make a much more informed decision. Lead researcher Prof Amanda Daley said: “We know that the public routinely underestimate the number of calories that are in foods. So if you buy a chocolate muffin and it contains 500 calories, for example, then that's about 50 minutes of running.”
While it’s been known for quite some time that increased exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays increases a person’s chances of developing skin cancer, no link has ever been found between precipitation and cancer risk, until now… A new study has revealed a potential link between living in cold, wet regions and increased cancer prevalence. The study, the results of which are published in the journal Environmental Engineering Science, is the first in the United States to check if a relationship exists between cancer rates, precipitation, and climate zone. To find out, the scientists collated data on breast cancer, colorectal cancer, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, and prostate cancer. They also used county-level data relating to cancer incidence, climate, and demographics. Having adjusted for age, gender, ethnicity, income level, population age, and diversity, the scientists identified a strong association between increased precipitation and an increase in incidence of all cancers. While it is important to note that not all cancer types were included in the analysis, the findings are still significant and strongly suggest climate zone is a risk factor for many cancers.
New research suggests cancer patients are at higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than the general population. According to the study, the results of which are published in the European Heart Journal, more than one in 10 cancer survivors die from heart and blood vessel problems, rather than their initial illness. Among the 3,234,256 cancer patients studied for the research, 38% died from cancer, while 11% died from cardiovascular diseases. Among the deaths from cardiovascular diseases, 76% were due to heart disease. The risk of dying from cardiovascular disease was also highest in the first year after a patient’s cancer diagnosis and among patients younger than 35. Among those cancer patients diagnosed before the age of 55 and who went on to survive their illness, the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease was more than 10 times higher than that for the general population. Meanwhile, patients with breast, prostate or bladder cancer were most likely to die from heart disease – but this is simply because these are the most common types of cancer. It is still unclear as to why cancer patients have a seemingly higher risk of heart disease, but their treatment itself or lifestyle factors, such as being overweight, drinking too much and not exercising, could be to blame, experts say.
Penicillin was discovered by chance in 1928 when Alexander Fleming noticed it had powerful antibacterial properties. Fast forward to the 1940s and penicillin was being commonly used in the fight against deadly infections. But penicillin is not for everyone and some people are allergic to the popular antibiotic. If someone has ever had a reaction to the drug, their medical records usually contain a note of this “fact”. However, new research suggests that many people who believe they are allergic to penicillin may have outgrown their allergy, or they may not have been allergic in the first place. In fact, the research shows that as many as nine in 10 people who think they are allergic to penicillin may not be. Speaking at the ACAAI Annual Scientific Meeting 2019 in Houston, TX, the researchers added that some patient’s penicillin allergies remain on their medical records even if they test negative later in life. “Our study found that of the 52 patients who tested negative to penicillin and were interviewed, 98% understood they were not allergic to penicillin,” said lead author, Dr. Sonam Sani, an allergist, immunologist, and fellow of the ACAAI. “Of those, 29% still had a penicillin allergy label in their electronic medical record, and 24% still carried the label in their pharmacy records,” she added. The research is important because it highlights just how easy it is for someone to assume they have a penicillin allergy when, in fact, they don’t. Many penicillin alternatives are more expensive, have lower efficacy, and risk boosting antibiotic resistance.
A compound found only in avocados could help reduce type 2 diabetes, new research suggests. The study by researchers from the University of Guelph in Canada found that a fat molecule called avocatin B, or AvoB - which avocados alone contain – can help strengthen insulin sensitivity and could forestall type 2 diabetes. Initial tests involving mice showed that AvoB slowed weight gain and increased insulin sensitivity by ensuring the complete oxidation of fats. As a result, mice that were given the compound had improved glucose tolerance and utilization. Then, in a separate, double-blind placebo‐controlled human trial, an AvoB supplement was given to people with an average Western diet for 60 days. The researchers found that the participants had tolerated the compound well and no negative effects in the liver, muscles, or kidneys were witnessed. There was also some weight loss among participants that took the supplement, though the authors of the study considered it statistically insignificant. Paul Spagnuolo, Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of Guelph, said the research team will now design clinical trials to assess AvoB's effectiveness in people. Furthermore, they have already received clearance from Health Canada to sell AvoB in powder and pill forms, perhaps as early as next year.
Le diagnostic précoce est l'un des facteurs clés dans la prévention et le diagnostic d'un grand nombre de maladies qui ne présentent pourtant aucun symptôme apparent chez le patient. Les bilans des santé proposés par notre partenaire espagnol, Quironsalud, se focalisent sur une exploration complète, multidisciplinaire et personnalisée, adaptée au sexe, âge et antécédents personnels du patient. A quel moment faut-il faire un check-up ? Des examens médicaux réguliers sont recommandés pour tous ceux qui veulent prendre en main leur santé et pour qui la détection des facteurs de risque dans les meilleurs délais est une priorité. Chez Quironsalud, en une journée, vous pourrez suivre un bilan de santé complet grâce à une coordination et un parcours de soins conçu spécifiquement à cet effet, pour le confort du patient et de son entourage. Les bilans de santé proposés par Quironsalud s’adressent à chacun d’entre nous. Que vous soyez en bonne santé, que vous souffriez d’une maladie chronique ou que vous présentiez certains symptômes bien spécifiques, les équipes médicales des établissements de santé QuironSalud sauront vous proposer le bilan personnalisé adapté à vos besoins. Dans cas, comme par exemple pour des patients souffrant de cancer ou de maladies cardiovasculaires, un contrôle périodique peut vous être proposé pour vous permettre de suivre au plus près l'évolution ou la rémission de votre pathologie. Si vous adoptez le programme patient international proposé par le groupe QuironSalud, tout sera mis en œuvre pour faciliter l’organisation de vos consultations, y compris, l’aide à la planification du voyage, facilitation pour l’obtention du visa, prise en charge à l'aéroport/gare et le transfert à la clinique ou à votre hôtel. Un service de traduction est à aussi à votre disposition ainsi qu'un accompagnateur qui sera à votre écoute tout au long de votre séjour au centre médical Quironsalud. Pour plus d'informations, contactez-nous dès maintenant au : firstname.lastname@example.org ou par téléphone au +33 953 02 03 09.
An innovative new blood test can detect breast cancer up to 5 years before symptoms appear, researchers say. Developed by a team at the University of Nottingham, England, the new blood test identifies specific immune system ‘autoantibodies’, which are produced when tumor-associated antigens (TAAs) are present – like those produced by breast cancer cells. While the test is still only partially effective, it could eventually provide the best chance of detecting breast cancer early, enabling faster treatment and a greater chance of success. In the pilot study, the researchers took blood samples from 90 breast cancer patients when they were diagnosed with breast cancer. They then matched these samples with ones from 90 patients without breast cancer. Then, they used a technology called protein microarray to test the blood samples for the presence of autoantibodies and 40 TAAs associated with breast cancer, plus another 27 TAAs that were not known to be linked with the disease). The researchers used a technology called protein microarray to rapidly test the blood samples for autoantibodies against 40 TAAs associated with breast cancer, plus another 27 TAAs that were not known to be linked with the disease. Speaking last Sunday at the U.K. National Cancer Research Institute conference in Glasgow, Scotland, researcher Daniyah Alfattani, a Ph.D. student at the University of Nottingham's Centre of Excellence for Autoimmunity in Cancer (CEAC), said: “The results of our study showed that breast cancer does induce autoantibodies against panels of specific tumor-associated antigens. We were able to detect cancer with reasonable accuracy by identifying these autoantibodies in the blood.” At present, annual mammograms are the best way for doctors to detect the presence of breast cancer while in its early stages.
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that occurs when a person’s body ineffectively uses insulin. It is the most common form of diabetes, accounting for 90% to 95% of the more than 30 million diabetes cases in America today. Despite rising numbers, it is estimated that around 80% of new type 2 diabetes diagnoses could be prevented with lifestyle changes and more education. But while it’s been known for some time that when added to a genetic predisposition, factors like being overweight and a lack of physical activity increase a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, very little research has been done to determine the impact of other environmental factors. That’s why a new study by a team from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) School of Public Health which set out to determine if type 2 diabetes risk changes between urban and rural environments is interesting. According to the research - which involved examining 3,134 people across the United States - the quality of the air, water, and land, as well as numerous sociodemographic factors, such as education, average household income, violent crime rates, or property crime rates has an impact on a person’s type 2 diabetes risk. So-called ‘built domain factors’ were also used. These included how many fast-food restaurants were in a particular area; how many fatal accidents occurred, and how many highways, roadways, or public housing units there were. The research found that a poorer environmental quality was linked with a higher prevalence of type 2 diabetes. Specifically, inferior air quality and built and sociodemographic factors were associated with a higher risk of diabetes in rural areas, while in urban areas, only air and sociodemographic factors were associated with diabetes risk. “There might be something happening in rural areas that is different than in urban areas. Our findings suggest that environmental exposures may be a bigger factor in rural counties than in urban areas in the U.S.,” explains Dr. Jyotsna Jagai, lead author.
Obesity is worryingly common across the world today. World Health Organization statistics from 2018 show that global obesity has almost tripled since 1975 and most of the world’s population now live in a country where being overweight or obese kills more people than being underweight. But while obesity is known to increase a person’s risk of certain health conditions, new research has revealed that it does not seemingly affect men and women in the same way. According to the study from Oxford University in the United Kingdom, the findings of which are summarized in the journal PLOS Genetics, the risks of developing different health problems as a result of being obese are different for men and women. For example, obese women are at higher risk of developing type-2 diabetes than men. Meanwhile, obese men have a higher risk of chronic kidney disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The team says their findings add to the existing evidence that preventing and treating obesity is a crucial step in countering the emergence of other health conditions. “This study shows just how harmful carrying excess weight can be to human health, and that women and men may experience different diseases as a result,” said first author Dr. Jenny Censin. For the study, the team from Oxford University analyzed genetic information and three different obesity measures in a cohort of 195,041 men and 228,466 women.
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is one of several techniques that can be used to help people with fertility problems have a baby. With IVF, an egg is removed from the woman’s body and fertilized with sperm in a laboratory. The fertilized egg – known as an embryo – is then placed inside the woman’s womb where it will hopefully implant in the lining of her uterus and grow and develop. IVF can be carried out using a woman’s eggs and her partner’s sperm, or eggs and sperm from donors. There are seven main stages associated with IVF treatment: Ovary stimulation – Medication is used to encourage the woman’s ovaries to produce more eggs than usual. Progress monitoring and maturing of eggs – Ultrasounds and blood tests are used to monitor the eggs, while medication is administered to help them develop. Egg retrieval – A needle is used to collect eggs from each ovary. This step takes around 30 minutes and the woman can usually go home afterwards. Egg fertilization – The retrieved eggs are mixed with sperm. They have the chance to find each other and fertilize the same as they would inside the body. Embryo development – If the sperm fertilizes the egg, it becomes an embryo. The embryo is then placed inside a special incubator where conditions are perfect to encourage growth and development. Embryo transplant – Once the IVF specialists are satisfied that the embryo is developing correctly, it is then transplanted into the woman’s uterus. Final blood test – Approximately two weeks after the embryo has been transplanted, a final blood test is performed to check the woman’s hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) levels, which are used to determine if she is pregnant or not. It is important to note that not all eggs, unfortunately, will fertilize and reach the embryo stage. This can occur as a result of immature eggs and/or weak sperm. If you and your partner have been struggling to conceive naturally, IVF could help you get pregnant. Find out more about how we can facilitate IVF treatment for French-speaking patients in Spain by contacting us today.
People who take daily blood pressure medication should take it just before bedtime to get the most out of it, researchers say. Writing in the European Heart Journal, the researchers say that while it may sound like a very simple tip, it’s one that could save lives. The reason why taking such medication at bedtime is more beneficial is because our body clocks alter the way our bodies respond to it. At night, our blood pressure is typically lower than it is during the day. However, if for some reason our blood pressure does not dip and remains consistently high, our chances of having a stroke or heart attack significantly increase. The study found that patients who took their daily blood pressure medication before bedtime had significantly lower average blood pressure both at night and during the day than those who took their medication in the morning. Their blood pressure also dipped more at night. Lead researcher Prof Ramon Hermida, from the University of Vigo in Spain, said doctors should consider recommending their patients take their daily blood pressure medication at night going forward – especially as it’s “totally cost-free. It might save a lot of lives. “Current guidelines on the treatment of hypertension do not recommend any preferred treatment time. Morning ingestion has been the most common recommendation by physicians based on the misleading goal of reducing morning blood pressure levels. “The results of this study show that patients who routinely take their anti-hypertensive medication at bedtime, as opposed to when they wake up, have better-controlled blood pressure and, most importantly, a significantly decreased risk of death or illness from heart and blood vessel problems.” The next step is to determine whether the findings of the study apply to different brands of blood pressure medication. Lifestyle factors that have an impact on blood pressure: Smoking Drinking too much alcohol Being overweight Not doing enough exercise Eating too much salt
Tiny microphones could provide invaluable insights into a person’s knee health, a new study suggests. According to researchers, arthritic knees are ‘noisy’ and emit telltale sounds - but sounds that can only be heard by microphones. The waveforms emitted by the noisy knees can then be analysed by computers to provide insights into the health of the knee. The researchers say the technology – similar to the kind used by engineers to listen for faults in bridges - can be used to better diagnose conditions like osteoarthritis and help develop better treatments as a result. For the study - conducted by a team from Lancaster University, the University of Central Lancashire and Manchester University – patients with osteoarthritis were asked to stand up and down five times, while acoustic signals from their knees were captured by the microphones. The theory behind the trial is that knees which are functioning normally should act like smooth and well-lubricated engineering structures, emitting very little in the way of noise. In comparison, rough and poorly-lubricated surfaces (arthritic knees) would generate acoustic signals. The trial found that the microphone technique could distinguish between the two different types of knee, thus offering a solution that did not involve an X-ray. Publishing its findings in the journal PLOS ONE, the research team said the more noisy the knee, the more severe the osteoarthritis. However, they did admit that more research and larger-scale trials are needed so the technique can be developed further.
A cost effective and widely available drug could help save hundreds of thousands of lives each year if it was given to patients brought into hospitals with head injuries, a new study has found. The drug, tranexamic acid, helps stop bleeding in and around the brain, arresting damage that can occur post-trauma. It’s already approved for clinical use and is routinely taken to prevent internal bleeding in other parts of the body following trauma, as well as women with dangerous bleeding after childbirth. According to the study published in The Lancet, if given early enough, tranexamic acid can improve patient survival rates. While it cannot reverse trauma damage, it can prevent a small bleed becoming worse. The team from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) tested tranexamic acid on almost 13,000 patients. They found that if given within three hours of a head trauma, the number of fatalities was reduced by as much as 20%. Furthermore, tranexamic acid is a cost effective treatment, with a course in the UK costing around £6.20 (7.09 euros) per patient. Speaking about the findings of the trial, one of the lead investigators, Prof Haleema Shakur, from the LSHTM, said: “The results are just amazing. It's the first trial to ever show that a [medical] treatment can reduce the risk of traumatic brain injury patients dying. “This is the first time that we have seen a beneficial effect. It will have huge implications worldwide. “It's a widely available drug, it's relatively cheap and it's really simple to give.”
Lycopene - a natural pigment that gives red fruits and vegetables their colour - is an antioxidant that protects against cell damage, and tomatoes contain plenty of it. In fact, it is estimated that tomatoes account for 80% of the lycopene in the US diet. Now, a new study suggests Lycopene may also help boost sperm quality. According to the research by a team at the University of Sheffield, healthy men who consumed the equivalent of two tablespoons of concentrated tomato puree each day were found to have better quality sperm. During the 12-week trial, 60 men were randomly selected to take 14mg of lactolycopene supplement each day. The reason a supplement was used is because the participants would have had to eat 2kg of tomatoes each day to obtain an equivalent dose of lycopene. The participants’ sperm was tested before, during and after the trial. While there was no difference in sperm concentration, the men who had been taking the lycopene had healthier and faster sperm. Encouraged by the results, the researchers now want to expand the trial to include more men and see if the findings are the same. Lycopene has also been previously linked to other health benefits, including a lowered risk of heart disease and certain cancers.
Male breast cancer is pretty rare. In fact, it accounts for just 1% of all breast cancer cases. That’s why very few studies have looked at what factors can lead to more positive outcomes for patients. To address this reality, researchers from Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, have conducted one of the largest male breast cancer studies to date, the findings of which are published in the journal Cancer. The researchers found that 51% of male breast cancer diagnoses occurred between the ages of 50 and 69, and that the average age of diagnosis was 64. In fact, only 15% of the patients were diagnosed before the age of 50. Interestingly, the study authors found that black men, older patients, individuals with other ongoing health issue and those with higher tumor grade and stage had poorer prognoses. Furthermore, they found that patients who underwent a full mastectomy also had poorer outcomes. The prognosis was better for patients who lived in wealthier areas, whose tumors carried the progesterone receptor and men who received radiation therapy, chemotherapy or anti-estrogen therapy. While female breast cancer treatment has improved dramatically over the years, the study authors say it is unclear whether these advancements have been applied to the management of male breast cancer too. Two of the reasons for this are because male breast cancer usually occurs later in life and it commonly spreads to the person’s lymph nodes. The researchers hope their paper will shine some more light on this little known condition and lead to better outcomes for patients going forward.
A new study has found that if people with type-2 diabetes achieve just 10% weight loss within 5 years of being diagnosed, they are twice as likely to experience remission at the 5-year follow-up as those who haven’t lost any weight. The findings of the study by researchers from Cambridge appear in the journal Diabetic Medicine and were obtained through analysis of 867 people aged 40-69 with newly diagnosed type-2 diabetes. Having followed the study participants for 5 years, the researchers found that 257 (30%) had diabetes in remission. Speaking about their findings, first author Hajira Dambha-Miller, Ph.D. said: “Our results suggest that it may be possible to get rid of diabetes, for at least 5 years, with a more modest weight loss of 10%. This will be more motivating and hence more achievable for many people.” The fact diabetes can be sent into remission with just moderate weight loss – and not just the drastic intensive weight loss measures we’ve known about for some time - will be welcome news for many people living with the condition. It reinforces the importance of managing one’s weight through dietary choices and physical exercise. Going forward, the Cambridge team hopes to be able to use the research to help medical professionals better support patients with type-2 diabetes and reduce their symptoms.
Gum disease is linked to an increased risk of hypertension, a new study has found. Furthermore, the more sever the gum disease, the greater a person’s risk of high blood pressure. The research by University College London's Eastman Dental Institute – the findings of which appear in the journal Cardiovascular Research – shows people with periodontitis (an advanced form of gum disease) have a higher risk of hypertension. Hypertension, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), affects 32% of all American adults, and as many as 47.2% of people aged over 30 have some form of gum disease, which is why the new research is so intriguing. While the two conditions may appear to be completely unrelated, the new research shows otherwise. And when you consider that high blood pressure is the leading cause of premature death worldwide, affecting up to 45% of adults, the findings of the study could result in much more attention being paid to combatting gum disease going forward. Specifically, the research revealed an association between moderate-to-severe periodontitis and a 22% higher risk of hypertension, Moreover, severe periodontitis was linked to a 49% higher risk of hypertension. Speaking about the findings of their research, senior author Prof. Francesco D'Aiuto, from the University College London Eastman Dental Institute in the United Kingdom, said: “Previous research suggests a connection between periodontitis and hypertension and that dental treatment might improve blood pressure, but to date, the findings are inconclusive. “Hypertension could be the driver of heart attack and stroke in patients with periodontitis,” he added.
A new tumour-agnostic drug has been approved for use in Europe. The revolutionary drug, experts say, has the potential to cure more cancer patients and reduce side-effects. Called larotrectinib, the new drug does not care where the cancer is growing in the body and instead looks for a specific genetic abnormality, which means it can be used to treat a wide range of tumours. Doctors in the UK have said the new drug is “a really exciting thing” and marks a move away from having ‘drugs that treat breast cancer’, ‘drugs that treat bowel cancer’ and ‘drugs that treat lung cancer’, to having drugs that target the genetic make-up of each patient’s tumour. However, the decision by European regulators does not mean that any cancer patient can take advantage of larotrectinib right away. Its approval for use right now only applies to patients with solid tumours that have been caused by a genetic abnormality known as an NTRK gene fusion. This rare abnormality happens when part of an individual’s DNA accidentally merges with another, leading to an alteration in the body’s blueprint that allows cancer to grow. Speaking about the drug development, Dr Julia Chisholm, a children's cancer consultant at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, said: “It is a really exciting thing, as is it works across a range of cancers. It's not confined to one.”
The method via which a baby is born has a dramatic impact on its gut bacteria and could explain why babies born by Caesarean section are more likely to experience health problems later in life, a new study has found. The study by Wellcome Sanger Institute, UCL, and the University of Birmingham – the largest of its kind – looked at babies’ microbiomes (the bacteria, viruses and fungi that live in our guts) to see if they formed differently depending on how a baby was born. For the research, samples were taken on a regular basis from the nappies of 600 babies in their first month of life. The results showed that vaginally born babies got most of their first bacteria from their mothers. However, babies born via Caesarean section showed high levels of hospital bugs, with some having as much as 30% of their total microbiomes made up by such bugs. It’s a reality that could explain why babies born by Caesarean section are more susceptible to certain conditions when they are older, like allergies, asthma and type 1 diabetes. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr Trevor Lawley, from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said: “What surprised me and scared me was the amount of healthcare bugs showing up in these children. “But what excites me is we have an amazing body of data now that we can build on, to think about how to properly establish the human ecosystem, starting at birth.”
A team of international scientists has discovered that a drug usually used to treat enlarged prostates may be beneficial in the fight against Parkinson’s disease. The drug, Terazosin, helps ease the discomfort associated with an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH) by relaxing muscles in the prostate and part of the bladder. This helps relieve symptoms like difficulty in beginning to urinate and needing to urinate frequently or urgently. Now, researchers believe it may also help slow the progression of Parkinson’s by protecting brain cells from being damaged – something that is not possible at present. For the research, the team of scientists studied thousands of patients with both BPH and Parkinson's disease. They found that Terazosin boosted energy production in brain cells and slow neurodegeneration. It does this by activating an enzyme called PGK1. Publishing their findings online in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, the scientists said that while it was too premature to talk about a cure for Parkinson’s, their research was ‘exciting’ and could have the potential to change the lives of people with Parkinson’s disease going forward. Because Terazosin is already approved for use in patients with enlarged prostates, getting it repurposed as a Parkinson’s drug also shouldn’t be a problem.
Having high blood pressure before middle age may pose a risk to brain health in later life. According to a new study, the results of which are published in The Lancet Neurology, the “window of opportunity” to safeguard brain health runs from the mid-30s to the early-50s. And having high blood pressure in the 30s and 40s could lead to blood vessel damage and brain shrinkage. For the study, a team of researchers from UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology followed 500 people born in 1946. Throughout the study, participants had their blood pressure measured and had brain scans. The researchers found that blood pressure increases between the ages of 36 and 43 were linked to brain shrinkage. Moreover, blood pressure increases between 43 and 53 were associated with blood vessel damage or “mini strokes” when people reach their 70s. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr Carol Routledge, director of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, said: “High blood pressure in midlife is one of the strongest lifestyle risk factors for dementia, and one that is in our control to easily monitor and manage. “Research is already suggesting that more aggressive treatment of high blood pressure in recent years could be improving the brain health of today's older generations. “We must continue to build on this insight by detecting and managing high blood pressure even for those in early midlife.”
It’s widely accepted that eating more fruits and vegetables is beneficial to a person’s health. But now a new study has firmly and scientifically concluded that eating foods that are rich in flavonoids (like fruits and vegetables) could stave off disease and extend life. According to research by a group of scientists from Edith Cowan University, Australia, people who eat 500mg of flavonoids every day have the lowest risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease-related deaths. So how much do you need to eat to reap these benefits? Well, the scientists say it is important to get the flavonoids from a variety of sources. They say someone can achieve the 500mg of total flavonoids by consuming one cup of tea, one apple, one orange, 100g of blueberries and 100g of broccoli. Interestingly, the study of more than 50,000 adults found that the benefits of consuming 500mg of flavonoids daily were most pronounced in people who smoke and drink more than two alcoholic beverages every day. However, the scientists were quick to point out that consuming flavonoids does not enough to undo the harmful effects of smoking and high alcohol consumption. The study also found that consuming more than 500mg of flavonoids daily was not associated with any additional benefits. The paper appears in the journal Natural Communications.
Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bone quality and density to decline over time. As a result, people with osteoporosis are at greater risk of fracturing bones. And it’s often not until a fracture occurs that an individual realises they have osteoporosis. That’s because the disease affects bones silently and progressively, with few symptoms. Following a fracture, osteoporosis patients are often prescribed medication to help support their bone health. Common osteoporosis drugs include etidronate and nitrogen bisphosphonates (usually alendronate and risedronate). Now, new research has revealed just how effective these drugs are. According to two different studies conducted by the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Darlinghurst, Australia, osteoporosis drugs not only reduce the risk of further fractures, but also decrease a person’s risk of premature death. In the first study, the research team analysed data relating to over 6,000 osteoporosis patients aged 50 and over. They found that people taking alendronate had a 34% lower risk of premature death. For the second study, the researchers looked specifically at how nitrogen bisphosphonates impact bone loss and mortality risk in women aged 50 and over. They found that patients who took nitrogen bisphosphonates had both a lower rate of bone loss and a lower mortality risk. However, the studies also revealed that many osteoporosis patients do not follow their drug prescriptions and neglect to take the necessary drugs. Speaking about the findings of the two trials, lead author Dana Bliuc, Ph.D. said: “For many individuals with osteoporosis, bone health isn't front-of-mind. We hope our study results will encourage people with osteoporosis or at risk of a fracture to seek treatment — and commit to taking it.” So the advice is clear: if you have been prescribed osteoporosis drugs, make sure you take them as directed.
While exercise has long been thought to help boost mental health and there’s evidence to support this, less is known about whether physical activity can actually prevent the onset of mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. Indeed, previous studies have suggested that low levels of physical activity are associated with a greater incidence of several common mental health problems, but few studies have investigated whether the opposite is true: more exercise = less risk of developing mental health disorders – until now. By conducting a systematic review and meta-analysis of four different studies, the researchers from University College London were able to assess the impact of physical exercise on mental health risk. Publishing their findings in the Journal of Affective Disorders, the researchers said low and medium levels of cardiorespiratory fitness are associated with a 47% and 23% greater risk of common mental health disorders, compared with high levels of cardiorespiratory fitness. In other words, doing more physical exercise does seem to have a positive impact on a person's mental health risk. The research makes for interesting reading when you consider that mental health issues are growing and not everyone benefits from therapies and medication. The researchers are now planning to explore this avenue further to see if they can identify the underlying mechanisms of the relationship between exercise and mental health.
Eating chocolate makes us feel good, right? But is there actually any evidence that it can combat conditions like depression? Well, a new survey-based study of over 13,000 people suggests there is, but only if you eat dark chocolate. Having analysed data from the United States National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the researchers concluded that there was no link between eating dark chocolate and a reduction in depressive symptoms. However, when they looked specifically at dark chocolate consumption, they found people who ate this type of chocolate were 70% less likely to report depressive symptoms than individuals who ate no chocolate at all. Furthermore, the analysis also showed that people who ate the most chocolate (regardless of type) were less likely to experience depression than people who ate no chocolate. While chocolate lovers might rejoice at these findings, more research is needed. That’s because the study is merely observational, so no causational conclusions can be drawn. If subsequent research is performed and does suggest that a link exists between eating chocolate and a lower risk of depression, the biological reasons why will need to be investigated. For now, if you’re a fan of dark chocolate in moderation, you could be reducing your chances of developing depression.
New research suggests that tickling the ear with a small electric current could help rebalance the body’s nervous system in people over-55 and help them age more healthily. The therapy works by stimulating the vagus nerve, the longest of the nerves that connect the brain with other parts of the body such as the heart, lungs and gut. The vagus nerve is usually difficult to access and usually requires surgical intervention so that electric stimuli can be delivered. However, one small branch of the vagus nerve reaches a part of the outer ear and that’s where the researchers from the Universities of Leeds and Glasgow — both in the United Kingdom – stimulated it from. Patients who received the electric stimuli for 15 minutes a day over a 14-day period noted improvements in body, sleep and mood. As we age, our body’s nervous system gradually becomes out of balance and the sympathetic branch begins to dominate. This makes us more prone to diseases, such as hypertension and heart problems, as well as anxiety and depression. The researchers found that the electric ear tickling therapy – named so because that’s how it feels – helped rebalance the body’s nervous system by increasing parasympathetic activity and decreasing sympathetic activity. People with the greatest imbalance at the start of the trial showed the biggest improvement at the end.
By adding just a handful of nuts to their daily diet, men could improve their sexual function, a study suggests. The 14-week trial, which involved 83 men split into two groups, found that adding 60 grams of almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts to a Western-style diet benefitted sexual function. Reporting their findings in the journal Nutrients, the authors of the study said the group of men who ate the extra nuts each day showed significant increases in two measures of erectile and sexual function: orgasmic function and sexual desire. A previous analysis of the trial data in 2018 yielded signs that eating more nuts also improves sperm quality. “Including nuts in a regular diet significantly improved auto-reported orgasmic function and sexual desire,” the Spanish researchers concluded. They are now calling for further, large-scale studies to determine the effect of eating nuts on sexual function – especially as separate research found that consuming pistachios helped improve erectile function. The theory is that pistachios, like many other nuts, contain antioxidants and arginine, a powerful compound that increases vasodilatation. So, if you are not easily able to follow a Mediterranean diet, rich in fruit, vegetables and nuts, you could still reap some of the sexual function rewards by adding just a handful of nuts to your daily diet.
If you’re looking to lose some weight, eating earlier in the day and intermittently fasting could help, new research suggests. According to a paper published in the journal Obesity, the timing of meals and intermittent fasting influences metabolism, which can have an impact on weight loss. Researchers discovered this following a trial involving 11 men and women, all of who were in good health, aged between 25 and 45 years and carrying some excess weight. The trial participants were split into two groups: one who ate breakfast at 08:00 and then ate their last meal of the day at 14:00, and another who ate breakfast at 08:00 and had their last meal of the day at 20:00. Both groups ate the same meals each day. At the end of the trial, participants underwent a battery of tests in a respiratory chamber to assess their metabolism. The number of calories, fat, carbohydrates and proteins burned were all measured. It was revealed that the participants who ate their last meal of the day at 14:00 and, therefore, fasted longer overnight, burned more fat than the other group. They also had lower levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin. “Eating in sync with circadian rhythms by eating early in the daytime appears to reduce body weight and improve metabolic health,” the authors of the paper wrote.
Most people feel nervous ahead of surgery, even if the procedure they’re about to undergo is straightforward. To calm these nerves, patients are often given medication. But a new study suggests that music could be just as effective. According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, a special song written to reduce anxiety, blood pressure and heart rate performed as well as a sedative for calming patients ahead of surgery. For the trial, 157 surgery patients were either given the drug midazolam or play the so-called “world’s most relaxing song”, Weightless by UK band Marconi Union, while they were being given an anaesthetic to numb a part of their body. Patient anxiety was equally reduced in both groups, suggesting the music was an effective alternative to the drugs. The great news about this is the music medicine is both free and completely safe, whereas the drugs cost money and can have side effects. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr Veena Graff, assistant professor of anaesthesiology and critical care at the University Of Pennsylvania Perelman School Of Medicine, said: “Music lights up the emotional area of the brain, the reward system and the pleasure pathways. “It means patients can be in their own world, they can be comfortable and have full control.” Intrigued what the world’s most relaxing song sounds like? Listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JNM-xPZXgI
Even if you’ve been pretty physically inactive for much of your life, exercising more in your later years can still afford benefits and lower your risk of premature death, a new study has found. According to research by the University of Cambridge - which studied 15,000 Brits - by doing 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week, physically inactive individuals can reduce their risk of early death by 24%. However, it’s people who are already physically active who can benefit the most from more exercise. That’s because the study found that individuals who were already doing 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week could reduce their risk of early death by as much as 42%. Finally, all older adults involved in the study saw a “substantial” boost to their life expectancy by being more active – regardless of their activity levels previously. So, the simple message is clear: the more exercise, the better. And it’s never too late to make a difference in your life. Speaking about the findings of the study, the results of which are published in the British Medical Journal, Huw Edwards, from health body UKactive, said: “This provides further evidence against the outdated idea that people should do less as they age or while managing a long-term illness. “The time has come for a total rethink of how we approach our later years.”
Postmenopausal women who have more fat on their legs and thighs have less risk of stroke or heart disease than their peers who carry fat around their stomach, a new study has found. As a result of the research, the findings of which appear in the European Heart Journal, scientists say women should aim to be more “pear-shaped” than “apple-shaped”. For the research, scientists followed 2,600 women with BMIs of between 187 and 25 for 18 years. The scientists found that the women who were apple-shaped i.e. had fat around their stomachs were more than three times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than the women who were pear-shaped i.e. had fat on their legs and thighs. It’s already known that fat stored in the visceral region (around the abdominal organs) can increase a person’s chances of developing type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems, but the exact reasons why remain unknown. Further research is needed. The advice for women (and men) is to reduce the amount of fat they have stored around their stomachs. Speaking about the findings of the study, Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “This study uncovers an interesting link between where fat is stored and your risk of heart attack and stroke, but can't tell us why it exists. “Future research to uncover how the distribution of body fat is related to these diseases could reveal important new ways to prevent and treat the world's biggest killer.”
We are frequently warned about the health consequences of leading a sedentary lifestyle. But new research reveals that not all types of sitting are equally unhealthy. The study by researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons found that sitting in front of a TV (known as ‘leisure-time sitting’) was associated with a greater risk of heart disease and death. In fact, study participants who watched four or more hours of TV a day were found to have a 50% greater risk of cardiovascular events and death compared to those who watched less than two hours a day. However, the study also found that participants who sat for long periods at work had the same level of risk as those who sat the least, suggesting the type of sitting really does have an impact. Furthermore, the study also revealed that even the most avid TV watchers could reverse the effects of their longer sedentary periods with moderate to rigorous exercise. For example, individuals who watched TV for four hours or more each day, and undertook 150 minutes or more exercise a week, had no increased risk of stroke, heart attack or death. Speaking about the findings of the study, Keith M. Diaz, Ph.D., assistant professor of behavioural medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, said: “It may be that most people tend to watch television for hours without moving, while most workers get up from their desk frequently. The combination of eating a large meal such as dinner and then sitting for hours could also be particularly harmful.”
New research shows that some drugs commonly prescribed for treating depression, epilepsy and other conditions may increase a person’s risk of dementia. The drugs, which belong to a family of medicines called anticholinergics, have previously been lined to short-term problems with thinking. According to the new study of patients in the UK, the findings of which are published in Jama Internal Medicine, using such drugs could lead to possible long-term brain side effects. However, experts are stressing that the study findings do not prove there is a direct risk and that patients already taking these drugs – literally millions of people in the UK - should not stop doing so. Anticholinergic drugs block the action of a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) in the brain which controls signals around the body. They are used to treat a variety of conditions, including depression, epilepsy, psychosis, overactive bladder, Parkinson’s disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and some allergies. For the study, researchers looked at nearly 300,000 patients (58,000 with dementia) and their use of medication going back more than 20 years. They found a strong link between the use of certain anticholinergic drugs – namely ones used to treat depression, Parkinson’s, psychosis, bladder conditions and epilepsy - and an increased risk of dementia in individuals aged 55 and over. Anticholinergic drugs used to treat asthma, muscle problems, heart rhythm issues and gastrointestinal problems were not found to pose a dementia risk. Speaking about the findings of the study, Dr Jana Voigt, from Alzheimer's Research UK, said: “There is a growing body of evidence that suggests certain anticholinergic drugs are linked to an increased dementia risk. “While finding a link between certain strong anticholinergic drugs and an increased risk of dementia, it doesn’t tell us if these drugs cause the condition.”
The humble garden snail could provide us with some ammunition in the fight against aggressive bacteria, according to two researchers from the United Kingdom. Intrigued how garden snails spend their lives sliding over dirt and coming into contact with deadly bacteria, yet don’t seem affected, Sarah Pitt, Ph.D. and Alan Gunn set out to discover why. It seems the answer lies in the mucus snails excrete. After analysing snail mucus, Pitt, principal lecturer in the School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Science at the University of Brighton, and Gunn, subject lead for biosciences in the School of Natural Sciences and Psychology at Liverpool John Moores University, discovered four new previously unknown proteins. What’s more exciting is that two of these proteins appear to have strong antibacterial properties – especially against aggressive strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterium that causes dangerous lung infections in people who have cystic fibrosis. Speaking about the findings of their research, which appears in the British Journal of Biomedical Science, Pitt said: “In previous work, we found that the mucus consistently and convincingly inhibited the growth of one species of bacterium P. aeruginosa, a tough bacterium that can cause disease, but it did not seem to work against other bacteria. “So, in this study,we tried all the control strains of P. aeruginosa we had available in the lab here at the university as well as five strains taken from patients with [cystic fibrosis] who had lung infections with this bacterium.” The new discoveries could open up new possibilities in the fight against bacterial infections.
Children whose parents divorce are more likely to get fat than their peers whose parents stay together, new research has revealed. According to the study by researchers from the London School of Economics and Political Science, children whose parents divorce before they are six are particularly impacted. For the study, the researchers analysed data collected by the UK Millennium Cohort Study on 7,574 children born between 2000 and 2002. Of the children involved, 1,573 (around one in five) had witnessed their parents divorce by the time they were 11. These kids gained more weight in the 24-month period following their parents’ divorce than their peers whose parents remained together. Furthermore, the kids whose parents had divorced were also more likely to become overweight or obese within 36 months of their parents separating. The authors of the paper say their findings underline how much of an impact a divorce can have on children and that parental separation is “a process with potentially long-lasting consequences”. As a result, the authors are calling for more health help and support to be given to families going through a break-up. The paper also offers some reasons why children put on weight following a divorce, namely: There’s often less money in separated households for fresh fruit and vegetables Parents having to work longer hours, so there’s less time to prepare nutritious food There’s often less money for extra-curricular activities, including sport Parents with less time and energy to promote healthy eating habits in their children Emotional problems leading to parents overfeeding their children and kids eating too much sugary and fatty food
There are more than 376 million new cases of chlamydia, gonorrhoea, trichomoniasis, and syphilis among people aged 15-49 every year, according to figures recently released by the World Health Organization (WHO). That equates to over one million new cases of these sexually transmitted infections (STIs) every single day. It’s a reality, the WHO says, that should serve as a wake-up call – especially as such diseases can cause serious and chronic health effects like infertility, stillbirths, ectopic pregnancy, and increased risk of HIV. In 2016 alone, syphilis caused an estimated 200,000 stillbirths and newborn deaths globally. The figures show that one in 25 people, on average, has at least one of these STIs. However, many continue to live with multiple infections simultaneously. Sexually transmitted infections are predominantly spread through unprotected sexual contact, but chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and syphilis can also be passed from mother to child during pregnancy and childbirth. The number one way to prevent STIs is to practise safe sex, which includes wearing a condom and having an understanding of sexual health education. People who are sexually active should also undergo regular STI screening to pick up any infections they might be carrying – sometimes completely obliviously. There is a wide variety of medications that can cure bacterial STIs. Speaking about the figures, Dr Peter Salama, Executive Director for Universal Health Coverage and the Life-Course at WHO, said: “This is a wake-up call for a concerted effort to ensure everyone, everywhere can access the services they need to prevent and treat these debilitating diseases.”
Scientists have developed a heart patch from millions of living, beating stem cells that could help heal heart attack damage. Grown in a lab from a sample of a patient’s own stem cells, the patches are sewn on to the heart and subsequently turn into healthy, working muscle. After three days, the patches start to beat, and after one month, they mimic mature heart tissue. They also release chemicals that stimulate the repair and regeneration of existing heart cells. Tests involving rabbits showed that the patches appear safe and led to an improvement in the function of the heart following a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when a clogged artery leads to the flow of oxygen blood to the heart muscle being disrupted. This causes the heart to be starved of oxygen and vital nutrients, resulting in its pumping power being damaged. The British Heart Foundation (BHF) said the patches could one day provide an off-the-shelf treatment for patients who have experienced a heart attack. Clinical trials involving humans are set to begin within two years. Speaking about the patches, Researcher Dr Richard Jabbour said: “One day, we hope to add heart patches to the treatments that doctors can routinely offer people after a heart attack. “We could prescribe one of these patches alongside medicines for someone with heart failure, which you could take from a shelf and implant straight in to a person.”