Category » Health

Depression linked to stoke risk in women

Posted on Monday, August 15th, 2011 in Health

Researchers from the US have suggested that women who suffer from depression may also have a higher risk of stroke.

In a recent study, researchers looked at the medical records of over 80,000 women aged between 54 and 79 in the period from 2000 to 2006. The records came from women who had been participating in the Nurses’ Health Study, which has been running since the 1970s.

None of the women involved in the study had had a stroke before, and approximately 22% had been diagnosed with depression. During the research period, 1,033 of the participants suffered a stroke.

The results indicated that those who suffered from depression were 29% more likely to suffer a stroke.

However, the study also revealed that depressed women were more likely to be single, have a smoking habit and tended to be less physically active. These women also tended to be younger, they had a higher body mass index (BMI) and consequently more of them suffered from conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

Dr An Pan, from the School of Public Health at Harvard, suggested that inflammation could be the mechanism which physically links stroke to depression. However, he also said: “Regardless of the mechanism, recognising that depressed individuals may be at a higher risk of stroke may help the physician focus on not only treating the depression, but treating stroke risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes and elevated cholesterol as well as addressing lifestyle behaviours such as smoking and exercise.”

Important multiple sclerosis stem cell trial begins

Posted on Thursday, August 4th, 2011 in Health

An important new clinical trial involving 150 multiple sclerosis (MS) patients is set to begin later this year. The trial will investigate whether stem cells can be used as an effective treatment in the fight against MS.

Doctors hope that the new stem cell treatment will be able to stop or even reverse the damage sustained to brain cells in people who suffer from the disease.

At present there is no proven stem cell treatment for MS sufferers. However, many people have travelled to overseas stem cell clinics in order to pay for some of the unproven treatments that are on offer. The UK MS Society, which has partially funded the trial, hopes that it will prove and establish a treatment and prevent the need for many patients to travel overseas.

Stem cells will be collected from the patient’s bone marrow, grown in the laboratory and injected back into the patient’s blood. These cells will then be transported to the brain where researchers hope they will repair the damage.

It is estimated that there are 3 million people who suffer from MS around the world. There are approximately 100,000 people in the UK who suffer from the neurological condition. It is also the most common neurological condition found in young British people.

Dr Doug Brown, of the MS Society, said: “These experiments have confirmed that these stem cells hold that potential – but these need to be confirmed in large scale clinical trials.” Dr Brown also suggested that much more research and development is needed before this potential new treatment would be on offer to sufferers of the disease.

Potential new treatment for Duchenne muscular dystrophy

Posted on Wednesday, July 27th, 2011 in Health

new treatment for Duchenne muscular dystrophyResearchers have developed a potential treatment for some cases of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a muscle wasting condition which effects one in 3,500 newborn boys. Approximately 100 new cases arise in the UK every year.
The condition causes the patient’s muscle to waste away throughout their life and can leave many in a wheelchair by the age of ten. By the age of 30, it begins to be life threatening as it starts to damage the muscles which regulate breathing.

A gene in the X chromosome is responsible for making a protein called dystrophin. The Duchenne muscular dystrophy is where this gene is damaged or mutated and results in a loss of dystrophin production.

The new treatment works by injecting a patient with tailored pieces of antisense RNA which cuts out the damaged or mutated part of the genetic code and allows the creation of a shorter protein. The shorter dystrophin protein is still able to function. In a 12 week trial involving 19 patients, seven children saw a degree of dystrophin production return.

The lead researcher, Prof Francesco Muntoni, indicated that the best result showed a 20% return of dystrophin production. He added: “I’ve worked with patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy for many years and this is the first time we can say with confidence that we’ve made a significant breakthrough towards finding a targeted treatment.”

Prof Muntoni added that this treatment was tailored for the most common type of the condition which affects 13% of sufferers. He believes a similar treatment can be used to treat the second most common cause which affects 11% of the sufferers.

Spinal repair potential to restore impaired breathing

Posted on Monday, July 18th, 2011 in Health, Life Insurance

US researchers have successfully carried out a spinal repair treatment in mice. The treatment has been able to restore breathing which had previously become impaired following an injury.

The treatment works by applying a nerve graft with a protein to the damaged spinal cord. It is hoped that it could restore breathing to human patients who are unable to breathe without assistance after an injury to their spinal cord.

Approximately 800 spinal cord injuries occur in the UK every year. Nearly half of these are in the neck. Damage to the spinal cord in the neck can prevent or impair messages from being delivered to the diaphragm, which controls breathing. Most people who sustain a neck injury and damage the spinal cord will go on to suffer a degree of impairment in their breathing.

The spinal cord is known to be difficult to repair. When it becomes damaged, it becomes scarred and can prevent nerves from repairing and forming new connections.

Trials in mice have shown that when they were injected with an enzyme called chondoitinase ABC at the same time as a nerve graft was being applied, the enzyme attacked the molecules which inhibit the nerve repair, chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans. In later tests, the mice went on to show that they had recovered 80-100% of their breathing function.

Researchers are hoping to now begin trials of the surgery in humans. Furthermore, they are investigating whether the same treatment can restore impaired bladder function, which can occur when the lower spine is injured.

Government advise exercise for under 5s

Posted on Wednesday, July 13th, 2011 in Health

Health experts for the government have issued exercise advice to parents of children under the age of 5.

Growing concern over the lack of exercise in children has led to the government issuing advice for this age group for the first time. Experts fear that children who do not get enough exercise may face further problems later in life. Lack of exercise can be linked to obesity and brain development.

Health experts recommend that babies should be encouraged to be active from birth and all under fives should be restrained as little as possible. Parents are being advised to cut down on the amount of time they should keep babies and toddlers in car seats or buggies, and toddlers should be physically active for at least three hours a day.

Recent studies have suggested that only 30% of English children between the age of 2 and 15 get the recommended level of exercise. Most pre-school children only spend 2 to 2.5 hours a day being active.

Parents are being advised to allow their babies to crawl and roll about on mats and to encourage them to reach and grab for their toys. Baby swimming lessons are also encouraged.

Furthermore, once a child can walk, they should spend at least three hours a day doing some physical activity. Toddlers should be encouraged to undertake any exercise that makes them ‘huff and puff’: climbing, running, skipping, swimming and riding a bike are all encouraged.

Supportive text messages can help smokers quit

Posted on Monday, July 4th, 2011 in Health

A recent study has found that a person is twice as likely to successfully quit smoking if they receive supportive text messages send directly to their mobile phone.

Government statistics have suggested that approximately two thirds of smokers in the UK would like to give up tobacco. The study assessed 5,800 people who were intending to quit.

Half were sent text messages that simply thanked them for taking part in the study. The other half were sent positive and encouraging texts designed to motivate and encourage the smokers.

The messages were informal in tone and highlighted key dates, such as their ‘quit day’.

The study found that 10% of people who received the supportive messages were successful in quitting tobacco. In contrast, only 4.9% of the group who didn’t receive the supportive messages were able to successfully give up.

The findings suggest that supportive text messages are a potentially useful and low cost motivator and could be included in the services that are offered to help people quit smoking.

Experts believe that this service could also be offered on a global scale.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed that approximately 6 million people around the world die as a result of smoking each year. Furthermore, the deaths mostly occur in low and middle-income countries.
Experts believe that the SMS service could be offered globally and would “provide a useful starting point for implementing behavioural change in resource-poor settings”.

It has also been suggested that a similar approach could also be used to help people modify other types of behaviour, such as addiction.

Measles outbreak leads to calls for MMR

Posted on Tuesday, June 28th, 2011 in Health

10 cases of measles have been reported in Ceredigion and a further 20 cases have been reported in the areas of Pembrokeshire, Neath Port Talbot, Swansea, Carmarthen, Powys and the old Gwent area.

Many of the cases which have been reported have been found in children who have not received their scheduled vaccination.

Measles can potentially cause deadly complications in children under the age of five. Symptoms start with fever, cough, red eyes, blocked nose and a general feeling of illness. After 5 days, a rash will appear on the face and spread down to the rest of the body.

Doctors have advised that if your child feels unwell and you suspect it may be measles you should contact your GP. Children who have had measles should also not return to their school or nursery until 5 days after the rash appears on the body.

Dr Richard Roberts of Public Health Wales has stated that the MMR vaccine is safe and effective. He also believes that the only way to prevent measles outbreaks is to ensure that 95% of the children in Wales receive two doses of the vaccine.

Childeren should receive their first MMR vaccination at around 12 to 13 months of age, with a second dose at the age of 3 years and 4 months. Public Health Wales is keen to stress that it is never too late to catch up on a missed dose of the vaccine.

New cystic fibrosis treatment on trial

Posted on Tuesday, June 21st, 2011 in Health

Scientists from Queens University in Belfast have helped to develop a new drug to aid in the treatment of cystic fibrosis.

Last year, a group of scientists from around the world were awarded £1.7m to research and develop the new drug, called VX-770.

The drug is administered in tablet form and it works by targeting the Celtic gene. Patients who take two of the VX-770 tablets per day have shown an improvement in their lung function, quality of life and a reduced amount of flare ups of the disease.

The international team which includes specialists from Europe, America and Australia believe that the new drug represents a significant breakthrough and could potentially change the lives of cystic fibrosis sufferers around the world.

Experts say that the drug is effective because it directly treats the mutated cells found in the patients. These cells are underlying cause of the disease. Correcting the cell defect results in a significant improvement in the health of the patients.

Dr Damien Downey of the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust said: “The success of this study illustrates the benefits that come from collaborative work here in Northern Ireland.”

As a result of the success, the European Cystic Fibrosis Society Clinical Trials Network has selected some of the researchers to join them and collaborate with their European counterparts to help develop the treatments for cystic fibrosis around the world.

The drug VX-770 is to be submitted for licensing approval this Autumn and doctors hope it will
be available for use next year.

More young blood donors needed

Posted on Thursday, June 16th, 2011 in Health

The number of blood donors between the age of 17 and 34 has dropped by 20% since 2001. This has led to fears that a generation gap amongst donors is beginning to appear.

In order to care for its patients, the NHS needs 7,000 voluntary blood donations every day. Just one unit of blood can save the lives of up to three adults or 7 babies. Donors can register from the age of 17, and the process is quick and relatively painless, involving a small pinprick to the thumb to allow a small initial sample to be tested. Approved donors can donate within one hour, during which time more than a pint of blood can be taken to assist a critically ill patient.

The blood service has mobile donation centres which are set up in various locations such as church halls and community centres. There are also some permanent clinics and a video on their website which helps to explain the process. Experts state that blood donation is the easiest way anyone can help to save a life or improve someones’ living conditions.

Despite efforts to make the procedure as hassle free as possible, donations have dropped. The blood service is now turning to celebrities such as Sophie-Ellis Bextor to help generate support for their ongoing campaign.

A recent survey among 18-24 year olds showed that over three quarters of respondents believed that anyone able to donate blood should do so. However, factors such as a fear of needles, time constraints and a lack of knowledge about the process and where to go are the main reasons why people do not donate.

New treatments for advanced skin cancer

Posted on Wednesday, June 8th, 2011 in Health

New treatments for advanced skin cancer have been revealed at a cancer conference in Chicago. These innovative new treatments could potentially add years to a patients life.

Professor Richard Marais of the Institute of Cancer Research has described the treatments as “the biggest breakthrough in melanoma treatment in more than 30 years.” Professor Peter Johnson of Cancer Research UK believes this to be the first effective treatment of melanoma ever. Melanoma currently kills over 2,000 people in the UK per year.

When compared to chemotherapy, patients who are treated with a new pill called Vemurafenib could have a greater chance of surviving skin cancer for longer. Tests have recently been carried out on 675 patients with advanced melanoma and appear to uphold the scientists’ claims.

The study showed that 84% of patients who took two doses of the new drug per day were still alive six months later. In comparison, of patients receiving the standard chemotherapy treatments, only 64% were still alive after six months.

The trial also showed that the drug decreased the risk of the cancer degenerating further by74% compared to chemotherapy.

These results were successful enough to convince experts in Britain who were running the trial to halt their research ahead of schedule. They then switched all of their patients onto the drug immediately.

A second drug called Ipilimumab has also been developed and could give patients extra years of life. Ipilimumab is taken intravenously, and another study has show that a one-off infusion of the drug can extend patients’ lives.

However, the drugs are relatively expensive and it is yet not clear whether the NHS will be able to afford to use them.