Monday, 23 October 2017

One Ring to Rule Them All: Cure-all Drug for Neurodegenerative Conditions Possible

The secret to finding a single drug treatment for neurodegenerative conditions may lie in unfolding the mystery of misfolded proteins. Most of the non-infectious neurodegenerative diseases (like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s) are characterized by progressive death of neurons due to the accumulation of misfolded proteins in brain cells.

To understand the pathogenesis of these diseases we have to first understand proteins.  They are essential for building our body structures and functional regulation. Thus, there are thousands of different proteins with various functions. These proteins are made up of only 20 amino acids. These 20 amino acids are like the alphabet in a language, they can create thousands or millions of proteins when used in different combinations. A single misplaced letter in a word results in a spelling error. Similarly, a misplaced amino acid can create the wrong kind of protein. Misplaced words can create a grammatically wrong and incomprehensible sentence. In a similar fashion, misfolded proteins have no structural or functional value.

Another important concept that has to be understood is how prions are involved. From school books, we know that infections are caused by microorganisms like bacteria, fungi, and viruses. All of them have genetic material in the form of nucleic acids (as DNA or RNA, or both), that is essential for the reproduction or multiplication of these microorganisms. But prions, unlike microorganisms, are just protein chains that are infectious. These proteins, after entering the living organism, cause misfolding of proteinaceous infectious particles (PrPs). PrPs are found in all of us, our brain and neurons are especially rich in them. Their role, however, is still poorly understood.

Misfolded PrPs cause encephalopathies. These misfolded proteins are also thought to cause a chain reaction resulting in the misfolding of other proteins. These misfolded proteins propagate further like an infectious microorganism. What causes this chain reaction and propagation is still unclear. These chains of proteins are called prions. They cause Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in humans and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle. Prions have a long incubation period, it takes a long time for the disease to appear and progress.

In many neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, misfolded proteins get progressively accumulated in brain cells, leading to the death of neurons. There is growing evidence that the prion-like process of seeding and templated protein corruption are behind the progression of these diseases.

PrP (healthy prion) is commonly found in our brain cells. However, when a defective prion protein is somehow introduced into the cells, it causes misfolding of newly forming PrP. This process is progressive and propagated like an infectious disease to the other cells. Thus, one of the potential treatment approaches is to block the propagation of this prion-like protein.

Accumulation of these prion-like misfolded, mutant proteins is toxic for cells. The prolonged toxic stress produced in brain cells induces specific death pathways. Understanding how these toxic proteins cause stress for neurons and why the cells die could also help to find new treatment strategies.

With increasing evidence that prion-like mechanisms are behind the progression and propagation of most neurodegenerative disorders, scientists have started looking for methods to stop this propagation. One such method is the use of specific immunotherapy, where researchers are trying to develop vaccines that can cure these disorders, or at least stop disease progression.

Larger proteins in our body contain hundreds or thousands of amino acids in various combinations. These large proteins are folded into specific structures. If a protein is misfolded, it loses its specific structure too. It also loses its properties and becomes toxic for cells. One therapeutic approach aims to develop a vaccine that can activate our immune system (B and T cells) against these defective misfolded proteins so that they are destroyed in a timely manner.

To achieve this aim, scientist have tried two methods. One of them is to create a vaccine that works against very short chains of misfolded proteins called monomers. They exist while these proteins are being assembled. Another approach is to target the fully formed misfolded protein fibrils. However, both of these methods have so far failed to produce the intended results.

Recently, researchers are exploring a new strategy for the development of immunotherapy against these diseases. This strategy targets so-called “oligomers”. The oligomers are molecular intermediates that exist in the process of assembling the prion fibrils. They are not very small like monomers (initial building blocks of prions) and are also not fully formed prion fibrils.

Smaller monomers lack the antigenic properties (associated with protein structures called beta-sheets) of misfolded proteins that are needed for an immune response. Meanwhile, fully formed fibrils are too big to propagate through cell walls. Thus, it is quite possible that these oligomers play a critical role in the disease propagation processes. A vaccine or immunotherapy targeting these oligomers could be more effective in initiating an immune response against the misfolded pathological prions than their smaller or larger counterparts. Moreover, these intermediate oligomers are common to most neurodegenerative disorders, unlike fully formed fibrils that are specific to each disease.

Although this new approach has shown some success in animal models, there are several challenges to using such immunotherapy in humans. In humans, it is not easy to initiate the immune response because of “self-tolerance.” The misfolded proteins are very similar to normal proteins (normal PrPs). Even if this immune tolerance can be overcome, there is a risk of initiating the wrong kind of immune response against normal proteins. This may lead to sterile encephalopathy or another kind of damage. Further, the blood-brain barrier also poses a challenge: it is important that antibodies created by a vaccine are able to reach a good concentration in the brain.

Despite these challenges, the idea of having just a single approach to treat all (or at least most) types of neurodegeneration is clearly exciting. These diseases have lots in common in terms of the molecular mechanisms involved, and it is quite likely that immunotherapy targeting all of them can be developed.


Frost, B., Diamond, M.I., 2010. Prion-like Mechanisms in Neurodegenerative Diseases. Nat. Rev. Neurosci. 11, 155–159. doi:10.1038/nrn2786

Goedert, M., Clavaguera, F., Tolnay, M., 2010. The propagation of prion-like protein inclusions in neurodegenerative diseases. Trends Neurosci. 33, 317–325. doi:10.1016/j.tins.2010.04.003

Marciniuk, K., Taschuk, R., Napper, S., 2013. Evidence for Prion-Like Mechanisms in Several Neurodegenerative Diseases: Potential Implications for Immunotherapy. J. Immunol. Res. doi:10.1155/2013/473706

Rao, R.V., Bredesen, D.E., 2004. Misfolded proteins, endoplasmic reticulum stress and neurodegeneration. Curr. Opin. Cell Biol. 16, 653–662. doi:10.1016/

Walker, L.C., Diamond, M.I., Duff, K.E., Hyman, B.T., 2013. Mechanisms of Protein Seeding in Neurodegenerative Diseases. JAMA Neurol. 70, 304–310. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2013.1453

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Patients need rest, not antibiotics, say health officials

Health officials say many illnesses get better on their own and patients don't need prescriptions. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Health tourism charges come into force in England

Providers of NHS treatment are now required to charge patients who aren't eligible for free care. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

3D tech used in bowel cancer surgery

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Sunday, 22 October 2017

Director General rescinds Goodwill Ambassador appointment

Over the last few days, I have reflected on my decision to appoint President Robert Mugabe as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for NCDs in Africa. As a result I have decided to rescind the appointment. via WHO news Read More Here..

WHO cancels Robert Mugabe goodwill ambassador role

The World Health Organization cancels the appointment of Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe amid outcry. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

'Bullying caused my anorexia'

Jamie Pye, from Norfolk, says his work with horses helped him deal with the condition. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Friday, 20 October 2017

WHO supports containment of rare virus on Uganda-Kenya border

WHO supports containment of rare virus on Uganda-Kenya border via WHO news Read More Here..

Could Too Much Exercise Be Bad for Men's Hearts?

Maybe, but only for white men, study suggests

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'Mug's game': Inside the mind of a gambling addict

Paul Grover lost hundreds of thousands of pounds; now he's at a rehab centre for gambling addicts. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Henna crowns: 'Hair' for cancer patient

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Prosthetic arms made in Salford help Ugandan machete attack victim

Machete attack victim Ninsiima is given prosthetic arms made by Salford University students. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Thursday, 19 October 2017

'Handful of changes' make cancer

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Novelty contact lenses 'can cause sight loss'

Eye experts warn of nasty infections and even sight loss if they are not used safely. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Lord Steel: We should decriminalise abortion

Former Liberal leader Lord Steel says the 1967 Abortion Act is "out of date" via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

7 000 newborns die every day, despite steady decrease in under-five mortality, new report says

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Governments commit to reduce suffering and deaths from noncommunicable diseases

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Protein 'can stop viruses developing'

Researchers at the University of the West of Scotland had already established the same protein can suppress cancer. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Hundreds of families block organ donation

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'Steep rise' in self-harm among teenage girls

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Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Sex life 'dead' after mesh implant

A couple married for 40 years say it's made it "impossible" for them to be intimate. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Anna Raeburn: I had a backstreet abortion

Writer and broadcaster Anna Raeburn had an illegal abortion in 1965 when she was 21. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Suspected cases from Seychelles test negative for plague

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Catwalk debut for Down’s syndrome teen

Kate, 19, wants to challenge people’s perception of beauty. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Pre-sex HIV drug 'no-brainer" for NHS

Prep treatment could prevent a quarter of new HIV cases and save the NHS millions, experts calculate. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Hospital targets missed en masse as performance slumps

Doctors concerned as BBC analysis shows growing waits in A&E, cancer care and for operations. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Dr Mahmoud Fikri

World Health Organization announces with great sadness the death of Dr Mahmoud M Fikri, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Region. via WHO news Read More Here..

GP services in Northern Ireland are 'in crisis'

Some patients in Northern Ireland are waiting up to three years to see a consultant about having surgery, following a referral. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Leeds United players and staff donate pay to boy's cancer care

Toby Nye was diagnosed with a stage four neuroblastoma on his fourth birthday. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Drug therapy 'restores breathing' after spinal injury

The researchers hope the results in rats could ultimately help paralysed patients come off ventilators. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

NHS surgery waits run into years in Northern Ireland

Waiting times are increasing as the health services struggles to cope, figures obtained by the BBC reveal. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

AI used to detect breast cancer risk

Machine learning is being used to spot whether breast lesions are cancerous or not. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Man diagnosed with breast cancer

Ian Cranston underwent a mastectomy and warns that men can get breast cancer too. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Concern over norovirus increase by Betsi Cadwaladr health board

Wales' largest health board urges people to be alert to sickness bug. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Reality Check

It's been claimed that US dogs have better access to cancer treatment than Nigerian people. Do they? via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Male disease too

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'I felt so low, I couldn't see a way out'

A record number of children seek help from Childline over suicidal thoughts and feelings. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Inpatient mental health care for new mothers 'unacceptable'

There are calls for a mother and baby unit to be opened in south Wales. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Restaurant chain 'cut sugary drink sales' with price rise

A fall in sales of high-sugar drinks in Jamie's Italian restaurant chain was linked to the levy and menu changes. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Monday, 16 October 2017

WHO supports the immunization of 874 000 people against yellow fever in Nigeria

WHO supports the immunization of 874,000 people against yellow fever in Nigeria via WHO news Read More Here..

Electrical Brain Stimulation in Treatment of Neurodegenerative Diseases

The early Egyptians and Romans recognized the numbing effect of the electric properties of catfish. In fact, Romans were the first to cultivate electric fishes for pain relieving effect. But since then, not much has changed in the development of electricity based medical treatments. Things only started to change two millennia later with the discovery of electricity and a better understanding of neurophysiology.

Electroconvulsive therapy was born in the middle of the 19th century. In the early days, it was primarily used to treat neuropsychiatric disorders. In the mid-19th century, direct electric current was used for electroconvulsive therapy. By the end of 19th-century, the alternate current was discovered, and its use along with the use of magnetic fields became the subject of experiments not only investigating neuropsychiatric conditions but also other diseases like epilepsy and chronic severe headaches.

Electroconvulsive therapy is still used in the treatment of severe neuropsychiatric conditions like schizophrenia or depression, where suicidal tendencies do not respond to pharmacological agents. Unlike in the old days, now this is a non-invasive treatment usually performed under general anesthesia. The therapy non-selectively resets various centers in the brain and thus has wide-ranging side effects like loss of memory, headaches, and muscle aches.

Considering the widespread side effects of electroconvulsive therapy, the need for more selective stimulation of particular brain centers specific for a particular disease was obvious. The improvements in understanding of brain physiology and surgical techniques gave rise to “deep brain stimulation” (DBS). This is an invasive method where electrodes are surgically placed inside the specific part of the brain that are connected to a small electrical device that generates the stimulation.

At present, DBS has been shown to be effective in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, obsessive compulsive disorder, and dystonia. It is being studied for applications in treating depression, drug addiction, and other neurodegenerative disorders such as dementia. As the method is invasive and involves the surgical implantation of electrodes inside the brain, it is reserved for cases that fail to respond to pharmacological therapy.

Deep brain stimulation in Parkinson’s disease

Dopamine is a chemical messenger in the brain that plays an important role in physical movement. In Parkinson’s disease, there is a progressive loss of dopamine-producing neurons resulting in motor deficiencies. Thus, the first line therapy for this disease is to give dopamine replacement therapy by prescribing a drug called levodopa.

The problem is, one-third of cases of Parkinson’s disease progress quickly and stop responding to the therapy with levodopa or other pharmacological agents, thus necessitating a treatment like DBS.

For the best results, it is recommended to go for DBS well before the symptoms become debilitating. In the later stages, the effectiveness of DBM tends to be lower.

DBS in Parkinson’s disease involves the application of continuous high-frequency electrical pulses through electrodes implanted in the subthalamic nucleus (STN) in the brain (though sometimes other locations may also be chosen). The STN is demonstrated to be over-activated in Parkinson’s disease. These electrodes are connected to the compatible pulse generating device. The pulse generator uses various pulses to achieve the optimal effect, where the right kind of settings can be chosen for a person by assessing treatment effectiveness.

Continuous DBS was shown to improve motor symptoms in more than two-thirds of patients, as compared to no stimulation or intermitted stimulation.

In one of the clinical studies, bilateral STN DBS was performed on patients that were not responding to the maximum dose of levodopa or to a continuous infusion of apomorphine. DBS showed marked improvement in motor function in 61% of cases. After the procedure, there was a 37.1% decrease in the daily dosage of levodopa in the patients. There was an almost 70% decrease in the need for apomorphine, with some patients not requiring apomorphine at all. Thus, the effectiveness of bilateral STN DBS in advanced Parkinson’s disease is well established.

Although the exact mechanism whereby DBS is effective is still unknown, it is believed to involve overcoming abnormal electrical patterns generated in the basal ganglia.

With the devices and surgical technique being constantly refined,  the effectiveness of this treatment may improve sufficiently enough to be widely used during the early stages of the disease in the future.

Deep brain stimulation in Alzheimer’s disease

In Alzheimer’s disease, DBS is still an experimental treatment. Lots of research with the use of various techniques has been done on animals, some with positive results. In one such study in monkeys, intermittent DBS was used with 60 pulses for 20 seconds with an interval of 40 seconds in between. The experiment demonstrated improvements in the memory of the primates. The experiment also showed deterioration of memory following continuous stimulation. The differences with results in the treatment of Parkinsonism might be explained by the differing pathological mechanisms involved.

After months of intermittent stimulation, the monkeys demonstrated improvements in memory even on discontinuation of stimulation. This lasting effect has not yet been explained. It is quite possible that such intermittent stimulation results in an improved connection between neurons, or higher levels of release of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.

DBS has certain benefits over drugs, as it stimulates specific areas of the brain, while anticholinergic drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s have widespread non-selective action. Thus, DBM may prove to be a safer treatment option in the future.

It has to be noted that apart from DBS, non-invasive neurostimulation using transcranial magnetic stimulation has also demonstrated promising effects in animal studies.


Dubljevi?, V., Saigle, V., Racine, E., 2014. The Rising Tide of tDCS in the Media and Academic Literature. Neuron 82, 731–736. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2014.05.003.

Elder, G.J., Taylor, J.-P., 2014. Transcranial magnetic stimulation and transcranial direct current stimulation: treatments for cognitive and neuropsychiatric symptoms in the neurodegenerative dementias? Alzheimers Res. Ther. 6, 74. doi:10.1186/s13195-014-0074-1.

Green, A.L., Bittar, R.G., Bain, P., Scott, R.B., Joint, C., Gregory, R., Aziz, T.Z., 2006. STN vs. Pallidal Stimulation in Parkinson Disease: Improvement with Experience and Better Patient Selection: STN vs. Pallidal DBS. Neuromodulation Technol. Neural Interface 9, 21–27. doi:10.1111/j.1525-1403.2006.00038.x.

Hansen, N., 2014. Brain Stimulation for Combating Alzheimer’s Disease. Front. Neurol. 5. doi:10.3389/fneur.2014.00080.

Little, S., Pogosyan, A., Neal, S., Zavala, B., Zrinzo, L., Hariz, M., Foltynie, T., Limousin, P., Ashkan, K., FitzGerald, J., Green, A.L., Aziz, T.Z., Brown, P., 2013. Adaptive deep brain stimulation in advanced Parkinson disease. Ann. Neurol. 74, 449–457. doi:10.1002/ana.23951.

Mallet, L., 2010. Deep Brain Stimulation in Psychiatric Disorders, in: Koob, G.F., Moal, M.L., Thompson, R.F. (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Behavioral Neuroscience. Academic Press, Oxford, pp. 376–381. doi:10.1016/B978-0-08-045396-5.00249-9.

Sharifi, M.S., 2013. Treatment of Neurological and Psychiatric Disorders with Deep Brain Stimulation; Raising Hopes and Future Challenges. Basic Clin. Neurosci. 4, 266–270. PMCID: PMC4202568.

Varma, T.R.K., Fox, S.H., Eldridge, P.R., Littlechild, P., Byrne, P., Forster, A., Marshall, A., Cameron, H., McIver, K., Fletcher, N., Steiger, M., 2003. Deep brain stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus: effectiveness in advanced Parkinson’s disease patients previously reliant on apomorphine. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 74, 170–174. doi:10.1136/jnnp.74.2.170.

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Hip implant patients sue manufacturer

More than 300 individuals want compensation for injuries they claim were caused by DePuy metal-on-metal hips. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Conjoined twins survive gruelling journey to separation

The one-week-old baby girls had to go on a 15-hour journey on the back of a motorbike. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Hospitals in England to ban 'super-size' chocolate bars

Sweets and chocolate should be under a 250-calorie limit, NHS England says. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Magic mushrooms can 'reset' depressed brain

Psilocybin - the hallucinogenic ingredient in mushrooms - may help in depression, a study suggests. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

NHS patients to be asked about sexuality

NHS England says the question will deter discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual people. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Disabled children hate crime reports increasing

Families with disabled children describe being abused online and in the street. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Gloves off

Former Liverpool and England goalkeeper Chris Kirkland tells BBC Sport about his battle with anxiety. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

'My condition will kill me'

James Dunn has started a campaign to raise awareness for his rare genetic skin condition. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Ready, steady, bake!!

Article Oct 13, 2017

Add crunch and nutrition to your baking

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Attack on vaccines sets back immunization efforts in eastern Syrian Arab Republic

The World Health Organization has received reports of an attack on medical facilities in eastern Syria that has destroyed the only vaccines cold room in al-Mayadeen district, Deir Ezzor Governorate. via WHO news Read More Here..

Breast reconstruction: 'I wanted to feel normal again'

Rita had a mastectomy last year, after being diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Friday, 13 October 2017

Girl's lung collapses after screaming at One Direction

The girl became short of breath during the concert but continued cheering "because she was a super fan". via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Over the moon

Alison Farmer was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the age of 40. Luckily, it was caught early. Here's the story of how she recovered - and went on to have her daughter. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Detrimental Effects of Bright Screens on Sleep Patterns

We often complain about people around us constantly being glued to their phone. Mobile technology is everywhere these days. When not on the go, we still tend to stare at computer screens both in the office and back at home. For many, this addiction to high-tech devices represents a way to be connected to friends and family. Many others think that these devices isolate us from real interaction with the world around us. One way or another, we do indeed spend too much time with our computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

Apart from changing the way we communicate (for better or worse), all these devices have one more thing in common: bright screens. These light emitting screens can seriously affect our sleeping pattern. Moreover, the blue light (of a wavelength of ~470 nm) that is emitted by these devices is particularly harmful to normal sleep.

These days, an increasingly large number of people report problems with sleeping. Many people can’t fall asleep in the evening and then do not feel refreshed the next morning when they have to go to work. Lots of people complain about disturbed shallow sleeping and frequent awakenings at night. With normal sleeping hours often affected, people sleep less at night and if they can, compensate for this lack of sleep with daytime naps.

Disturbed sleep patterns are often linked to a diminished ability to focus on work, lack of motivation, and a generally low mood. This may lead to conflicts and stress at the workplace resulting, in some cases, in anxiety and depression. There are long-term negative consequences for other organs and systems of the body too. For instance, the link between chronically bad sleep and cardiovascular problems is well documented. Sleeping pattern disturbances also contribute to excessive body weight. It is estimated that around half of all Americans suffer from chronic stress at moderate or severe levels. Disturbingly, this number is growing in recent years.

Apart from many social and psychological factors, the growing level of stress in the general population can also be linked to the growing and excessive use of computers and smartphones. Exposure to bright screens in the evening hours is particularly harmful.

Our circadian rhythm (the sleep-wake pattern) is regulated by our exposure to light. There are several components of this system that are particularly important. First, we have specific cells in our eye retina that function as detectors of the duration and intensity of light. These cells, called intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs), are particularly sensitive to short wavelength blue light.

Light-exposed ipRGC cells send signals to the suprachiasmatic nucleus in the brain. This region is responsible for setting the body clock, achieved by regulating the production of the hormone melatonin in the pineal gland. Melatonin plays a role in the adjusting mechanism: it synchronizes the body’s circadian rhythms with the real-life cycle of day and night experienced by the body. The problem is, this system can be easily fooled by prolonged exposure to artificial light. When you stare at your laptop screen late in the evening, you are also sending a signal to your brain that you are currently experiencing daytime. Your body will try to adjust accordingly to help you take advantage of daytime hours—it will reduce your desire to sleep. And once the screen is off, you don’t feel like sleeping anymore…

Recently published experimental data demonstrated that just two hours of evening exposure to bright computer screens emitting blue light decreases sleep duration and, more importantly, dramatically reduces its quality. People exposed to computer screens were awakening during the night much more often compared to those who did not use computers in the evening. The data also demonstrated that both the type of light emitted by the screens and its intensity is important for nighttime sleep quality. The screens with low brightness were less disturbing for sleep quality, and the screens emitting red light did not affect nighttime sleep at all.

Exposure to blue light-emitting bright screens in the morning is actually a positive thing: it can help to readjust the body to the correct time of the day. In fact, morning exposure to blue light is even used in a number of bright light therapy methods aimed at normalizing the circadian cycle, particularly in elderly people who often experience sleep-wake pattern disturbances.

It is quite unlikely that after reading this article anyone will immediately give up the habit of late-night internet browsing or chatting with friends via social networks before going to sleep. There are, however, several simple methods to reduce evening exposure to blue light emitted by screens. First, you can reduce the brightness of your screen. You can also change the background color while reading some types of documents. Text with white letters on a black background definitely reduces light exposure. If you anticipate working with documents in the evening, it might be a good idea to print them out. Paper is certainly much friendlier to the eyes. It is also possible to cover your computer screens with special filters that block out blue light. These small changes won’t require any major changes to your habits and routine but will help you to regain a normal sleep-wake pattern and bolster feeling refreshed the next day.


Arendt J. (2006) Melatonin and human rhythms. Chronobiol Int. 23(1-2): 21-37. DOI: 10.1080/07420520500464361.

Figueiro, M.G., Wood, B., Plitnick, B. et al. (2011) The impact of light from computer monitors on melatonin levels in college students. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 32(2):158-63. PMID: 21552190.

Skene DJ, Arendt J. (2006) Human circadian rhythms: physiological and therapeutic relevance of light and melatonin. Ann Clin Biochem. 43(Pt 5): 344-53. DOI: 10.1258/000456306778520142.

Wright HR, Lack LC, Kennaway DJ. (2004) Differential effects of light wavelength in phase advancing the melatonin rhythm. J Pineal Res. 36(2): 140-4. DOI: 10.1046/j.1600-079X.2003.00108.x.

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DNA study provides insight into how to live longer

A year in school adds nearly a year to your life, study in Edinburgh shows. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Prince Harry calls for regular HIV and Aids testing

The prince was accepting an honour on his mother's behalf at the Attitude magazine awards in London. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Baby talk: Mums' voices change when speaking to infants

Mums alter the timbre of their voice when talking to adults or babies, say US scientists. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Is there period poverty in the UK?

We spoke to four college students about their experience. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

The little girl who is always hungry

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Thursday, 12 October 2017

Toxoplasma Gondii: Common Brain Parasite Behind Brain Disorders?

Most people have never heard of the brain parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. We tend to think that creatures of such kind belong to the realm of exotic tropical diseases affecting people somewhere in miasmatic swamps of equatorial jungles. However, toxoplasma infection is remarkably common: it is believed that one in every three persons around the world have it. And not only in tropical regions, the prevalence of this infection in France is estimated at 84%! In fact, T. gondii is one of the most common parasites in the developed world. The majority of people reading this article have it in their brains.

If the infection is so common, why is it hardly ever mentioned? The reason is simple. As horrible as it sounds to have a parasite living in your brain, the infection with Toxoplasma gondii is asymptomatic and doesn’t seem to affect us in any obvious way. The initial exposure to the parasite may cause some flu-like symptoms, but very soon the infection enters latent stages and does not manifest itself. It can, however, become dangerous in people with weakened immune system, such as those with HIV/AIDS.

The parasite has a rather curious life cycle. It can live in almost any warm-blooded animal, but its major hosts are cats and other felines. In their bodies, the parasite can sexually reproduce giving rise to new generations of offspring. In other animals, as well as in humans, Toxoplasma gondii can only reproduce asexually. Thus, feline species are the definite hosts of T. gondii, while humans can only be intermediate hosts.

The oocysts produced in cats get excreted with feces and spread in the environment. This is where they can be picked up by rats and mice. In these animals, the parasite eventually reaches the brain, and here is where something really unusual happens. The parasite modifies the behavior of the rodents, making them less afraid of the smell of cats.

In addition, the brain infection affects the motor ability of animals, thereby making them easier prey for cats. These behavioral changes are achieved by introducing some epigenetic modifications affecting key neurons regulating the above behavioral characteristics. The behavioral modification of the host increases the chances of the parasite getting into the body of cats, and thus increases the chances of its reproductive success.

The important question is: does the infection with Toxoplasma gondii change human behavior as well? It appears that the answer to this question is yes. The results of psychological testing published in 2007 demonstrated gender-dependent changes in the behavior of humans affected by toxoplasmosis. Infected men had a tendency to disregard rule and were more expedient, suspicious, and jealous. Infected women, however, were more warmhearted, conscientious, and moralistic. The gender differences are related to different levels of testosterone in men and women.

Motor functions also appear to be affected in infected people. One study demonstrated a 2.65 times higher chance of traffic accidents among people with latent toxoplasmosis. The antibodies to the parasite were detected more often among drivers who were involved in traffic accidents, as compared to the statistical average.

Furthermore, a number of reports demonstrated a correlation between toxoplasmosis and the incidence of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Several studies have shown that the risk of attempted suicide is also higher among people affected by latent T. gondii infection. Correlation does not necessarily imply that the infection is the causative factor of neurological disorders, but it is likely to be a risk factor in the development of these conditions.

It is important to mention here that not all researchers believe that T. gondii infection really affects human behavior or the risk of diseases to any significant degree. Some recently published studies indicate that these risks are very small, and the previously published correlations with various behavioral changes are not as significant as we might think.

However, the most recent publication on this subject sounds the alarm again. Scientists used comprehensive systems analysis to look at the range of biomarkers generated by various parasites and to assess their impact in a large cohort of subjects. The data point to a correlation between toxoplasmosis and several neurodegenerative conditions including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. The T. gandii infection was also positively correlated with epilepsy and a number of cancers. The scientists not only identified correlations, they also described the biochemical pathways that may actually lead to the increased risk of developing these conditions. They concluded that toxoplasmosis is a risk factor for many neurological disorders, and thus this infection has to be taken into consideration when developing strategies for preventing or delaying the onset of various brain diseases.

Can something be done to cure or at least prevent T. gondii infection? Unfortunately, not much. There are no drugs or vaccines to treat this infection. There is a number of simple strategies to decrease the risk of infection among healthy people. They include avoiding the consumption of raw or undercooked meat (among humans, this is the most common way of getting infected), as well as general basic food handling safety practices.


Berdoy, M; Webster, J; Macdonald, D (2000) Fatal attraction in rats infected with Toxoplasma gondii. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 267 (1452): 1591–1594. doi:10.1098/rspb.2000.1182.

Flegr, J (2007) Effects of Toxoplasma on Human Behavior. Schizophrenia Bulletin. 33 (3): 757–760. doi:10.1093/schbul/sbl074.

Flegr, J; Havlícek, J; Kodym, P; Malý, M; Smahel, Z (2002) Increased risk of traffic accidents in subjects with latent toxoplasmosis: a retrospective case-control study. BMC Infectious Fiseases. 2: 11. doi:10.1186/1471-2334-2-11.

Kocazeybek, B; Oner, Y; Turksoy, R; Babur, C; Cakan, H; Sahip, N; Unal, A; Ozaslan, A; Kilic, S; Saribas, S; Aslan, M; Taylan, A; Koc, S; Dirican, A; Uner, H; Oz, V; Ertekin, C; Kucukbasmaci, O; Torun, M (2009) Higher prevalence of toxoplasmosis in victims of traffic accidents suggest increased risk of traffic accident in Toxoplasma-infected inhabitants of Istanbul and its suburbs. Forensic Science International. 187 (1–3): 103–108. doi:10.1016/j.forsciint.2009.03.007.

Torrey, EF; Bartko, JJ; Lun, ZR; Yolken, RH (2007) Antibodies to Toxoplasma gondii in patients with schizophrenia: a meta-analysis. Schizophrenia bulletin. 33 (3): 729–36. doi:10.1093/schbul/sbl050.

Arling, TA; Yolken, RH; Lapidus, M; Langenberg, P; Dickerson, FB; Zimmerman, SA; Balis, T; Cabassa, JA; Scrandis, DA; Tonelli, LH; Postolache, TT (2009) Toxoplasma gondii antibody titers and history of suicide attempts in patients with recurrent mood disorders. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. 197 (12): 905–8. doi:10.1097/nmd.0b013e3181c29a23.

Sugden, K; Moffitt, TE; Pinto, L; Poulton, R; Williams, BS; Caspi, A (2016) Is Toxoplasma Gondii Infection Related to Brain and Behavior Impairments in Humans? Evidence from a Population-Representative Birth Cohort. PLOS ONE. 11 (2): e0148435. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0148435.

Huân M. Ngô, Ying Zhou, Hernan Lorenzi, Kai Wang, Taek-Kyun Kim, Yong Zhou, Kamal El Bissati, Ernest Mui, Laura Fraczek, Seesandra V. Rajagopala, Craig W. Roberts, Fiona L. Henriquez, Alexandre Montpetit, Jenefer M. Blackwell, Sarra E. Jamieson, Kelsey Wheeler, Ian J. Begeman, Carlos Naranjo-Galvis, Ney Alliey-Rodriguez, Roderick G. Davis, Liliana Soroceanu, Charles Cobbs, Dennis A. Steindler, Kenneth Boyer, A. Gwendolyn Noble, Charles N. Swisher, Peter T. Heydemann, Peter Rabiah, Shawn Withers, Patricia Soteropoulos, Leroy Hood, Rima McLeod. Toxoplasma Modulates Signature Pathways of Human Epilepsy, Neurodegeneration & Cancer. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-10675-6

Image via Free-Photos/Pixabay.

via Brain Blogger Read More Here..

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros appoints Cook Islands’ Elizabeth Iro as WHO’s Chief Nursing Officer

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros appoints Cook Islands’ Elizabeth Iro as WHO’s Chief Nursing Officer via WHO news Read More Here..

Elizabeth Hurley: ‘Breast cancer will be beaten’

Actress and model Elizabeth Hurley has told BBC Radio 5 live she believes breast cancer can be beaten. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Quick to act

The maid of honour's life was saved by her two cousins, who had just learned how to do CPR. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Child and teen obesity spreading across the globe

Obesity rates have risen ten-fold in the last four decades, meaning 124m boys and girls are now too fat. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Children's door-crush finger injuries 'can be lifelong'

Plastic surgeons say parents should fit safety catches on doors at home to prevent serious injury. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Tenfold increase in childhood and adolescent obesity in four decades: new study by Imperial College London and WHO

Tenfold increase in childhood and adolescent obesity in four decades: new study by Imperial College London and WHO via WHO news Read More Here..

No laughing matter

Following a brutal assault Paul Pugh was left with pathological laughter - a condition which causes him to laugh at the most inappropriate moments. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Men and miscarriage

Researchers think half of unexplained miscarriages could be linked to the man's health and have possibly found a treatment. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

The origami-inspired bots that could perform surgery

Researchers at MIT have developed miniature bots that can fold into a number of different shapes. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Are men forgotten after miscarriages?

One in four couples who discover they are pregnant have a miscarriage, but some men feel they are often forgotten about in terms of emotional support. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

New rules for eating eggs

The Food Standards Agency says raw and lightly cooked eggs, with the British Lion mark stamp, are safe. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Fertility MOT tests 'a waste of money'

Measuring how many eggs a woman has left cannot predict likelihood of getting pregnant, experts say. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

WHO to establish high-level commission on noncommunicable diseases

WHO Director-General announced today the establishment of a new High-level global Commission on Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs). via WHO news Read More Here..

Can prosecco ever be hangover-free?

As claims abound of a prosecco that leaves you feeling fine the morning after, we ask if they're true. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Care after miscarriage 'not consistent enough'

Women are not being told all the options when deciding how to dispose of pregnancy remains. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

NHS future precarious, says regulator

Staff shortages and rising demand means standards are likely to slip, says England's regulator. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Monday, 9 October 2017

Kent mussels tested for plastic contamination

Almost two thirds of mussels in the sea around Kent are contaminated with plastic particles, research has shown. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Tunisia health minister Slim Chaker dies after charity run

The minister, Slim Chaker, had a heart attack after taking part in a charity marathon. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Illegal tongue splitting procedures exposed

Body modification artists exposed carrying out illegal and dangerous tongue splitting procedures. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Why going sockless could be a health risk

It may be fashionable but it's being claimed going sockless is not good for your feet. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Can Deadly Zika Virus Cure Brain Cancer?

Not long ago, Zika virus was dominating headlines. A new infection was hardly ever heard about before then, yet is now affecting hundreds of thousands of people in Latin America, causing disfiguration and microcephalia in new-born babies. Microcephalia is caused by severe delayed and abnormal development of the brain, resulting in the range of intellectual disability, dwarfism, poor motor functions and speech. With no cure or even preventive vaccination available, many women in the most affected regions were reportedly considering postponing any planned pregnancies.

The virus was actually discovered back in 1947 in Zika forest in Uganda (and this is where its name comes from). The pathogen is related to better known viruses causing dengue and yellow fever. The disease is spread predominantly by one type of mosquito and was a rare occurrence until the epidemics of 2015–2016, when in Brazil alone well over 100,000 cases were reported. The disease caused particular concern as it coincided with the run-up to the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro.

Apart from mosquitoes, the virus can be spread through sexual contact and from mother to child during pregnancy or at delivery. The latter way of transmission is a particular concern: while adults suffer only very mild symptoms (fever and rush), children infected during pregnancy suffer major brain damage. The reason for this is that viral infection delays brain development.

Further research identified a more specific reason: Zika virus specifically targets neural progenitor cells, the cells responsible for production of other neurons. This is what makes the virus very dangerous for the developing fetus. Neuron progenitor cells are abundant in the developing fetal brain. However, only a few are left in the brain of adults. In adults with completely formed brain, Zika virus infection causes only mild symptoms, if any (Zika fever). But the specificity with which the virus targets neural progenitor cells gave researchers an idea that might revolutionize the treatment of one of the deadliest types of brain cancer—glioblastoma.

Glioblastoma is one of the most difficult types of cancer to treat, with patients rarely surviving even one year after diagnosis. Unfortunately, this is also one of the most common types of brain cancer. Approximately 12,000 people are diagnosed with glioblastoma in the US alone. The quick return of the disease even after aggressive surgery is caused by the survival of a few glioblastoma stem cells. Many  types of cancer like glioblastoma grow due to the existence of cancer stem cells that give rise to other tumor cells. The glioblastoma stem cells remain almost unaffected by all radio- and chemotherapy regiments currently used to treat this malignancy, even though these therapeutic approaches do kill other cells in the tumor. They also successfully avoid detection and elimination by the immune system, allowing the regrowth of cancer in a short period of time after surgery, replenishing the cancer cells eliminated by therapy.

Researchers noted that glioblastoma stem cells are, in many ways, very similar to normal neural progenitor cells. Therefore, infecting a person with glioblastoma with Zika virus might help in treating the disease by eliminating the stem cells. This was a core idea that researchers initially tested on cancer cells from tumors obtained from surgeries. It turned out that the virus does indeed kill cancer stem cells, leaving other cancer cells almost unaffected.

To further make sure that the virus doesn’t affect the normal cells of the brain, scientists have performed experiments on brain tissues from patients with epilepsy. The tests did not detect any damage to these cells due to viral infection.

The findings suggest that combining traditional chemotherapy with treatment with Zika virus may help to eliminate stem and non-stem cancer cells. Such an outcome will most certainly be beneficial for the patients.

To test the idea further, scientists injected Zika virus directly into the brain of mice with brain tumors. In all animals infected with the disease, tumor growth slowed down significantly and the animals survived longer.

The researchers suggest that Zika virus can be injected into the brain of a glioblastoma patient at the time of surgery. The subsequent chemotherapy will remove any remaining cancer cells that survived surgery, and Zika virus will kill the residual glioblastoma stem cells. The published findings also suggest that the virus can be further engineered to be more easily eliminated from normal healthy brain cells using the patient’s immune system. Less harmful strains of the virus have already been developed to this end and have demonstrated some success in animal experiments.

It remains to be seen if a successful therapeutic approach to treat deadly glioblastoma can be developed using Zika virus. The path to future use of Zika-based treatment in hospitals will likely be long. The original results, however, are very encouraging. This new approach is another fascinating example of a growing number of new innovative tools that are currently being developed to treat a variety of cancers.


Bleeker, Fonnet E, Molenaar, Remco J; Leenstra, Sieger (2012) Recent advances in the molecular understanding of glioblastoma. Journal of Neuro-Oncology. 108 (1): 11–27. PMC3337398.

Lathia J, Mack SC, Mulkearns-Hubert EE, Valentim CLL, Rich JN (2015). Cancer stem cells in glioblastoma. Genes & Development, 29(12), 1203–1217. doi:10.1101/gad.261982.115.

Rasmussen, Sonja A, Jamieson, Denise J, Honein, Margaret A, Petersen, Lyle R (2016) Zika Virus and Birth Defects — Reviewing the Evidence for Causality. New England Journal of Medicine. 374 (20): 1981–7. doi:10.1056/NEJMsr1604338.

Zhu Z, Gorman MJ, McKenzie LD, Chai JN, Hubert CG, Prager BC, Fernandez E, Richner JM, Zhang R, Shan C, Wang X, Shi P, Diamond MS, Rich JN, Chheda MG. Zika virus has oncolytic activity against glioblastoma stem cells. The Journal of Experimental Medicine, Sept. 5, 2017 doi:10.1084/jem.20171093.

Image via NeuPaddy/Pixabay.

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Reported child-on-child sex offences 'tip of the iceberg'

The victims are going unheard, says the mother of a six-year-old girl who was assaulted. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Opt-out organ donation

What do people waiting for an organ, or who have recently had a transplant, make of plans for an opt-out organ donation system in England? via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Gene test 'narrows down breast cancer risk'

It could reduce the number of mastectomies among high-risk women, researchers say. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Does educating women boost vaccinations?

In poor countries, better education for women sees more children immunised but the trend reverses in rich countries. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Trump rolls back access to free birth control

The new rule could strip birth control coverage from millions of women, demolishing an Obama provision. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Pesto sauces: 'More salt than McDonald's burger'

Consensus Action on Salt and Health says two products are 30% saltier than seawater. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Australia thunderstorm asthma risk raised to 'moderate'

There is a "moderate" risk of asthma attacks triggered by conditions caused by a thunderstorm. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Breathing poison

At the age of 17, Urmila Yadav became one of the youngest certified cases of silicosis in India. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

'Awkward silences'

Almost half of girls aged 14-21 in the UK are embarrassed by their periods, a new survey has found. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Breast cancer: 'Why I had a double mastectomy'

Three women who decided to go through with the surgery explain why they felt it was necessary. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Assaults on mental health staff up 25% in four years

Workers describe a "powder keg" as a result of staffing shortages and service cuts. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Friday, 6 October 2017

WHO provides 1.2 million antibiotics to fight plague in Madagascar

WHO provides 1.2 million antibiotics to fight plague in Madagascar via WHO news Read More Here..

Cardiff mother wins premature baby care changes

New guidance is issued to hospital staff caring for premature babies following a mother's campaign. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Excessive Porn Consumption Can Cause Erectile Dysfunction – Myth or Truth?

There’s a growing trend of healthy young men using medications like Viagra and Cialis, drugs intended for older men and those with health-related erectile dysfunction (ED).

Many of these young men (unknowingly?) use these drugs to treat a condition that is psychological rather than physiological: porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PEID).

Online social groups and websites such as Your Brain on Porn and Reddit’s “no fap” group ( were founded to help men with PIED.

At the same time, studies that checked for a connection between watching porn and erectile dysfunction found no evidence associating the two. If that’s the case, what explains the sharp rise in ED cases in young men in recent years?

In 2012, Swiss researchers used the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF-5), finding an ED rate of 30% in a cross-section of Swiss men aged 18 to 24. A 2013 Italian study reported that one in four patients who sought help for new-onset ED were younger than 40, with rates of severe ED nearly 10% higher than in men over 40.

We asked Takeesha Roland-Jenkins (MS in psychology and MS in neurology) a professional consultant for the Between Us Clinic, to weigh in. Takeesha is an expert in both psychology and neurology, and she has a unique insight into both the psyche and the brain.

In your opinion, can excessive porn consumption really cause a man to experience erectile dysfunction?

Yes, watching hardcore porn excessively, especially pornography with deviant and violent behavior can cause mental changes that may result in erectile dysfunction.

What happens in a man’s brain when he is exposed to extreme sexual stimuli (such as hardcore pornography) and how does this relate to ED?

Hardcore pornography is often graphic and generally displays deviant, violent, and abnormally kinky behavior. This is not typical for the average sexual encounter and it can create unrealistic mental perceptions of how a man should engage in sexual activity. Furthermore, a man may initially get a thrill from watching what he believes is an exotic encounter, but over time excessive porn watching desensitizes men to intense sexual stimuli and even sexual violence which sometimes occurs in the porn that is being viewed, thereby lowering the ability to engage in true intimacy.

Pornography, in general, causes intense mental stimulation that changes the way the brain views sexual activity and sexual violence in pornography exaggerates the alterations in the brain.

This phenomenon is similar to becoming more tolerant to a certain drug after prolonged use; meaning you eventually need higher and higher doses to experience the same feelings of euphoria. Repeatedly watching hard-core porn can have a similar effect on sexual performance. In other words, watching excessive porn changes the way the brain processes sexual arousal and activity, often leading to desensitization that lowers libido and causes psychological erectile dysfunction.

Some say that men who watch too much porn can develop performance anxiety. Why does anxiety affect the ability to get and maintain an erection?

In addition, because a man’s brain has now become accustomed to getting stimulated at the sight of intense pornographic images, an ordinary encounter will cause the man to wonder if he will be able to perform at a similar level (e.g., for extended periods) as what has been observed in a pornographic video. Therefore, the performance anxiety is still related to the changes that occur in the brain and wondering if he can satisfy his partner in the manner that the brain has become used to. In other words, the anxiety is a direct result of worrying about being able to re-enact the sexual scenes in porn; this unrealistic goal can lead to performance anxiety. Subsequently, a man may get an erection, but after beginning to worry about whether he can perform like the actors in porn, the erection may soften or stop altogether.

So, other than performance anxiety, is there another reason why porn could cause men to experience ED?

The changes that occur in the brain’s ability to lead to an erection contributes more to PIED than performance anxiety. Over time the brain needs increasing levels of stimulation from the pornography in order to initiate an erection. Performance anxiety can unfortunately worsen erectile dysfunction.

Does porn-induced erectile dysfunction cure itself if the man stops watching porn?

Discontinuing pornographic viewing does not automatically cure PIED. Furthermore, drugs such as Viagra or Cialis target the physical aspect of erectile dysfunction, not the psychological aspect. This means that a man will become completely dependent upon such drugs until the brain restores its ability to initiate an erection under ordinary sexual circumstances. A healthy relationship (e.g., marriage) with a patient partner can help a man overcome PIED over time.

What form of treatment would you recommend a man who suffers from PIED?

Beneficial treatment would be in the form of individualized therapy, which may vary in time (e.g., weeks, months) depending on the individual and the degree of PIED. As PIED is often the result of an addiction to pornography, this form of treatment should be viewed as the first step to addiction recovery.

The purpose of therapy is to begin to desensitize the brain to the pornographic images and to address some of the reasons that the addiction to porn more than likely started. Men are also encouraged to reconnect intimately with their partners in order to help the brain restore its ability to initiate sexual arousal during ordinary sexual encounters. Overall, a man must be willing to give himself time to gradually overcome PIED.

*Originally published on


Prause N and Pfaus J. (2015), Viewing Sexual Stimuli Associated with Greater Sexual Responsiveness, Not Erectile Dysfunction. Sexual Medicine, 3: 90–98. doi:10.1002/sm2.58.

Landripet I and Štulhofer A. (2015), Is Pornography Use Associated with Sexual Difficulties and Dysfunctions among Younger Heterosexual Men?. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 12: 1136–1139. doi:10.1111/jsm.12853.

Park BY, Wilson G, Berger J, Berger J, Christman M, Reina B, Bishop F, Klam WP, Doan AP. Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review with Clinical Reports. Lane SD, ed. Behavioral Sciences. 2016;6(3):17. doi:10.3390/bs6030017.

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Amy Winehouse, arthritis and me

20-year-old Jade Carter was diagnosed with arthritis as a baby. She explains how Amy Winehouse's charity is helping her use music to ease the pain. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Father loses IVF damages claim

Father loses damages claim against London IVF clinic after ex-partner forged his signature to use frozen embryos. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Yoga at The Shard fuelled by California Walnuts!

Article Oct 6, 2017

California Walnuts showed us how to get #WellnessCracked with yoga and breakfast in The Shard.

via Healthy Eating Read More..

Being a male midwife

When a teenage boy in Birmingham said he wanted to become a midwife, he found himself swimming against the tide. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Baby sleep positioners dropped by shops after deaths warning

UK stores drop products after US regulators say they can cause suffocation and are linked to 12 deaths. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

In and Out of the Abyss: Depression After Brain Surgery

Once again I was on the phone to my friend, sobbing. She’d put up with my tears every day since I left the hospital. Two or three daily meltdowns were the norm.

Many of my tears were over things that would have merely irritated me before: misplaced scissors, dirty socks in the middle of the living room, a brief computer glitch.

I have cavernous angiomas, tangles of malformed blood vessels, scattered throughout my brain. Two of them—one larger than a golf ball in my right parietal lobe, and the other, smaller, in my brain stem—had bled, and I underwent brain surgeries to remove them.

The bleeds and surgeries led to side effects including loss of balance, vertigo, nystagmus, trouble with sensory overload, and a number of cognitive deficits. My emotions also seemed volatile. I expected that my emotions would settle down as my brain healed. They didn’t.

After putting up with about a month’s worth of meltdowns, my friend spoke up. “I think you need meds.”

I was shocked. The possibility of psychiatric medication had not occurred to me. The people I knew who needed it had major issues: a cousin whose mother had died when she was ten years old, a friend who had been suicidal, a student with bipolar disorder. I wasn’t depressed. I just got really upset too easily. I was just fragile, and, given what I’d been through, that was understandable.

I wasn’t in denial over my emotional state. Aware of my extreme vulnerability, I’d been proactive: I’d started seeing a psychotherapist regularly within days of my return home from the hospital. I had things under control.

I knew that brain injury can cause chemical imbalances, which can lead to clinical depression. In one account I read, a patient lamented not having gone on antidepressants sooner. Feeling fortunate that I wasn’t in that bad of shape, I sympathized with those who were.

I didn’t need meds.

Over the next few weeks, as the tears flowed more often and more freely, my friend grew more insistent. I continued to resist, explaining away my vulnerabilities. It was normal to grieve over losses. I blamed really bad days on my menstrual cycle.

But as the severity and frequency of my meltdowns increased, I had more trouble rationalizing.

I spiraled into the abyss and finally reached the bottom. I felt desolate. I knew I was a burden on everyone around me and that my life wasn’t much of a life. Suicide seemed logical, perhaps the only solution.

I kept my suicidal thoughts secret—I didn’t want my friend or my therapist to try to talk me out of it.
Weeks later, when I began to emerge from the abyss, I kept my silence because I felt ashamed, and later still, I added guilt to the shame—I had betrayed the trust of both my friend and my therapist.

I tried to rationalize my lie-by-omission: I told myself that I could never really take my life, that I didn’t have it in me.

But in some corner of my mind there must have been doubt mixed with the rationalization because a few days later I decided to discuss antidepressants with my therapist. She agreed with my friend: it was time to consider meds.

Until the brain bleeds, I was averse to pill popping. I took painkillers for my migraines and antibiotics for bacterial infections—no other medications. After the bleeds, I started taking blood-pressure meds (Verapamil) to cut back on the chances of another bleed and anti-seizure meds (Lamictal). I was concerned about messing with my body chemistry, and worried about drug interactions—I wanted to avoid medications that listed seizures as a possible side effect. Given my concerns, my therapist sent me to a psychiatrist who specialized in psychopharmaceuticals.

I wasn’t sure whether there was a viable solution within my comfort zone, but the answer turned out to be straightforward: the psychiatrist suggested simply increasing my daily dose of Lamictal. Anti-seizure meds not only prevent seizures; they also act as mood stabilizers and are often used to combat depression and bipolar disorder.

My psychiatrist conferred with my neurologist, who, concerned about adverse reactions to the Lamictal, was firm about capping my daily dose at 600 milligrams. My psychiatrist, determining that my depression was severe, decided to increase the dose directly from the 400 milligrams I was on to 600 milligrams, instead of ramping up in increments, which is the standard procedure.

I responded well to the increase. Feeling like myself once again, I realized just how badly off I’d been. Like my cousin, my student, and my friend, I too had major issues. Except that I really wasn’t like them—my issues were temporary. Once my brain healed, my depression would be over, and I’d be able to get off the meds.

It took a good four years and a couple of trial runs with lowered dosages before I managed to fully shrug off that piece of denial.

A decade later, I’m still on antidepressants, for good reason.

This depression isn’t “situational.” Good friends and therapy help me survive, but they aren’t enough. The bleeds and surgeries changed my neurochemistry. These changes are real, and they’re here to stay. The meds are here to stay, too.

Image via 5arah/Pixabay.

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Moving Just 1 Hour a Week May Curb Depression Risk

Intensity of exercise didn't matter, and benefit leveled off after 2 hours of activity, study finds

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Source: HealthDay via Exercise and Physical Fitness New Links: MedlinePlus RSS Feed Read More Here..

Being asexual

At first Stacey thought she wasn't normal, then she thought she might be ill. Finally she discovered she was actually asexual. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Lauren is researching the impact bowel conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome can have

Lauren is mapping the toilets in her town with fellow IBS sufferers to see what impact bowel conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome can have via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Partners commit to reduce cholera deaths by 90% by 2030

An ambitious new strategy to reduce deaths from cholera by 90% by 2030 will be launched tomorrow by the Global Task Force on Cholera Control (GTFCC), a diverse network of more than 50 UN and international agencies, academic institutions, and NGOs that supports countries affected by the disease. via WHO news Read More Here..

New WHO leadership team announced

Dr Tedros, WHO Director-General, announced the senior leadership team. via WHO news Read More Here..

Online Game Could Boost Family Fitness

But more research needed because study participants were all white, and wealthier than most Americans

HealthDay news image

Source: HealthDay via Exercise and Physical Fitness New Links: MedlinePlus RSS Feed Read More Here..

AncestryDNA angers privacy campaigners

Genealogy service AncestryDNA angers privacy campaigners. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Fewer Scots eating 5-a-day, says survey

The Scottish Health Survey shows Scottish adults are only managing three portions of fruit and veg per day. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

Grief becomes strength

Kingdom of Us tells the story of Vikie Shanks and her seven children after their father's suicide. via BBC News - Health Read More Here..

People with type 2 diabetes should 'save carbs for last'

"Diabetics should save bread for last at mealtime to keep their blood sugar under control," the Mail Online reports. A small study found that people with type 2 diabetes who saved their carbohydrates until the end of their meal were less likely to experience a sudden rise in their blood sugar (glucose) levels. The medical term for this spike in blood sugar levels is postprandial hyperglycaemia.

Postprandial hyperglycaemia is best avoided as not only can it make the day-to-day symptoms of diabetes worse, it has also been linked to an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

It has been suggested that leaving carbohydrates until the end of a meal could slow the emptying of the stomach and give it a chance to digest the protein and vegetables first, which could help prevent a blood glucose spike. The researchers wanted to see whether this was true.

This study included just 16 people who ate the foods of their meal in different orders to test which order was most effective at lowering blood sugar and related hormones. They either ate carbohydrates first, carbohydrates last, or all nutrients together at the same time.

The researchers generally found that consuming carbohydrates last was better at lowering blood sugar levels and insulin secretion when compared to the other ways of eating carbohydrates.

While the results are interesting, the study was far too small to form the basis of any firm medical guidance. For now, it's best to follow current advice, which is to consume a healthy diet and keep active to help you manage your blood sugar level. This will also help you control your weight and generally feel better.


Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by US researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College, Columbia University and Boston Children's Hospital. It was funded by the Louis and Rachel Rudin Foundation Grant, and Diane and Darryl Mallah from The Diane and Darryl Mallah Family Foundation.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care. It is available on an open-access basis and can be read for free online.

The Mail Online's coverage generalised the results to all diabetics – but the study only looked at those with type 2 diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes typically require insulin injections to keep their blood sugar levels under control.

It also presented the findings as if they were a solid recommendation, but this is not the case, especially given this was an early-stage study using a very small number of people.


What kind of research was this?

This was a randomised crossover trial that aimed to determine the best time during a meal to eat carbohydrates to lower blood glucose levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes. The researchers also wanted to explore whether changing the order in which foods were eaten during a meal had any effect on the secretion of insulin and other glucose-regulating hormones.

Previous research has suggested that saving carbohydrates until the end of the meal lowers blood glucose levels. This follows on from the notion that eating proteins at the start of a meal stimulates insulin secretion (which helps control glucose levels). However, data on this hypothesis is limited and the researchers of this study wanted to investigate this idea further.

Crossover trials such as this are often used when the sample size is very small. Each person acts as their own control, which effectively increases sample size. The study would ideally need to be conducted using a much larger sample with people randomised to consume nutrients in different orders over a longer period to compare effects.


What did the research involve?

The researchers recruited 16 people with type 2 diabetes, between the ages of 35 and 65. All the participants had a body mass index (BMI) of between 25 and 40kg/m2 (covering the range from overweight to severely obese) and had been diagnosed with diabetes within the last 10 years.

All 16 people consumed the same meal on three separate days spaced out one week apart, with each meal following a 12-hour overnight fast.

The meals varied in terms of the order in which the nutrients were eaten. Participants were assigned the following meal types in random order:

  • carbohydrates first, followed by protein and vegetables 10 minutes later
  • protein and vegetables, followed by carbohydrates 10 minutes later
  • all nutrients eaten together

Blood samples were taken before consumption, and then at 30-minute intervals up to 180 minutes. The following were measured:

  • glucose levels
  • insulin levels (a hormone released in response to high glucose levels)
  • glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1, a hormone secreted in the gut in response to food to signal the release of insulin)
  • glucagon levels (a hormone released in response to low glucose levels)

All participants were instructed to maintain their usual level of diet and physical activity during the full study period.


What were the basic results?

The following was observed:

  • When carbohydrate was consumed last, lower levels of insulin were secreted (24.8% lower than the meal with carbohydrates first), which would suggest a smaller spike in glucose. There was no significant difference between eating carbohydrates last and having all nutrients together.
  • Consistent with this, glucose levels were 53.8% and 40.4% lower in the meal with carbohydrates last compared to having carbohydrates first and all nutrients together, respectively.
  • The GLP-1 levels were higher in people who ate carbohydrates last.
  • Glucagon levels were not significantly different between the three meal conditions.


How did the researchers interpret the results?

The researchers concluded: "In this study, we demonstrated that the temporal sequence of carbohydrate ingestion during a meal has significant impact on postprandial glucose regulation. These findings confirm and extend results from our previous pilot study; the inclusion of a third nutrient order condition, a sandwich, had intermediate effects on glucose excursions compared with carbohydrates last versus carbohydrates first."



This crossover trial investigated the optimal time to eat carbohydrates during a meal to lower blood glucose levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes. It generally found that consuming carbohydrates last was better at lowering glucose levels and reducing insulin secretion when compared to having carbohydrates first or all nutrients together.

The researchers say that suggesting people with type 2 diabetes follow this advice may be an effective behavioural strategy to improve glucose levels after meals.

Although the findings are interesting, there are a few points to note:

Most importantly, this study was very small. A study using a much larger sample could give completely different results. Ideally the findings would need to be verified in a well-designed trial that randomised a much larger number of people with type 2 diabetes to consume their nutrients in a specific order, and then followed their response to this pattern over a longer period of time.

There may be other factors affecting individual responses to the order of carbohydrate consumption – for example, the level of physical activity was not standardised across all participants. Again this is another factor that would need to be controlled in a larger trial.

We are all different – and saving carbohydrates until the end of a meal may only be effective for some people with type 2 diabetes, and not others.

The findings cannot be applied to people with type 1 diabetes.

These findings may pave the way for further research through larger trials, which in time may result in a change in the current recommendations for meal consumption for people with type 2 diabetes.

However, they have no current implications. For now, a healthy diet and keeping active will help you manage your blood sugar level. This will also help you control your weight and generally feel better.

Links To The Headlines

Don't eat the bread first: Saving carbs for last at mealtime may help control blood sugar levels for diabetics, study finds. Mail Online, September 29 2017

Links To Science

Shukla AP, Andono J, Touhamy SH, et al. Carbohydrate-last meal pattern lowers postprandial glucose and insulin excursions in type 2 diabetes. BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care. Published online September 14 2017


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Monday, 2 October 2017

New Fibromyalgia Treatment: Emotional Awareness and Expression Therapy

Psychotherapy that encourages addressing emotional experiences related to trauma, conflict, and relationship problems has been found helpful for people with the chronic pain condition fibromyalgia.In the randomized clinical trial at Wayne State University in Detroit, 230 adults with fibromyalgia received one of three treatments. Each was presented for eight weekly sessions to small groups of patients.

The new therapy, called Emotional Awareness and Expression Therapy (EAET), helps patients view their pain and other symptoms as stemming from changeable neural pathways in the brain that are strongly influenced by emotions, the researchers explain.

EAET helps patients process emotional experiences, such as disclosing important struggles, learning how to adaptively express important feelings—especially anger and sadness, but also gratitude, compassion, and forgiveness—and empowering people to be more honest and direct in relationships that have been conflicted or problematic, according to the researchers.

The EAET intervention was compared to both an educational intervention, as well as the gold standard psychological approach in the field, cognitive behavioral therapy. Six months after treatments ended, patients were evaluated for the severity and extent of their pain and other problems that people with fibromyalgia often experience.

Patients who received EAET had better outcomes—reduced widespread pain, physical impairment, attention and concentration problems, anxiety, and depression, and more positive emotions and life satisfaction—than patients who received the education intervention, the researchers report.

More than twice as many people in EAET (34.8 percent) reported that they were “much better” or “very much better” than before treatment, compared to 15.4 percent of education patients.

An important additional finding was that the new emotion therapy also had greater benefits than cognitive behavior therapy in reducing widespread pain and in the number of patients who achieved at least 50 percent pain reduction, the researchers point out.

Mark A. Lumley, Ph.D., a professor of psychology said:

Many people with fibromyalgia have experienced adversity in their lives, including victimization, family problems, and internal conflicts, all of which create important emotions that are often suppressed or avoided. Emerging neuroscience research suggests that this can contribute strongly to pain and other physical symptoms.

We developed and tested an approach that tries to help people overcome these emotional and relationship problems and reduce their symptoms, rather than just help people manage or accept their fibromyalgia. Although this treatment does not help all people with fibromyalgia, many patients found it to be very helpful, and some had dramatic improvements in their lives and their health.

The Wayne State researchers collaborated with a team of researchers from the University of Michigan Medical Center led by David A. Williams, Ph.D., a professor of anesthesiology.

The study was published in the journal PAIN.

This guest article originally appeared on New Therapy Technique Offers Hope to Those with Fibromyalgia by Janice Wood.


Lumley, M., Schubiner, H., Lockhart, N., Kidwell, K., Harte, S., Clauw, D., & Williams, D. (2017). Emotional awareness and expression therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and education for fibromyalgia. PAIN, 1. DOI: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001036.

Image via stevepb/Pixabay.

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