Health & Wellness


Schizophrenia genes blessed by evolution

The reason the psychosis is so common goes to the root of what it means to be human, says Roger Highfield,

Schizophrenia discovery opens path to new treatments

Schizophrenia has been linked to a split protein, opening a path to a new class of treatments for the common mental illness.

It was once thought - wrongly - that sufferers have a "split personality" but now, researchers at the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology, VIB, and University of Leuven have discovered that faulty snipping of a protein called neuregulin, or Nrg-1, lies at the basis of the development of the disease.

Mobilizing white blood cells to the lung: New discovery could lead to an improved influenza vaccine

Findings just published in the scientific journal Immunity by researchers at the Trudeau Institute shed new light on how a previously-unknown messaging mechanism within the human immune system prompts specific influenza-fighting cells to the lung airways during an infection.

Comment: For another take on flu vaccines see here.


Vietnam suspects anthrax in mass food poisoning

Health authorities in communist Vietnam suspect the bacterial livestock disease anthrax caused an outbreak of food poisoning in the country's far north, a health official confirmed Wednesday.

Hundreds of people fell ill, and at least one person died, after eating beef in a village in Meo Vac district in the mountainous Ha Giang province near the Chinese border late last month, local newspapers have reported.

Vietnam's National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology was testing whether the outbreak was caused by anthrax, institute official Le Quynh Mai told AFP.

Fibromyalgia a frustratingly mysterious illness

Imagine hurting all over, every day, with no end in sight. Couple that with a physical exhaustion that never completely subsides, not even with adequate sleep and rest. Add in insomnia, brain fog and depression.

The worst part - there's no cure.

Sufferers of fibromyalgia don't have to imagine that nightmare. They live it. Daily.

The chronic pain syndrome, which manifests itself by widespread muscle pain, results from a chemical imbalance in the brain, causing sufferers to perceive pain differently than the average person, said Dr. Neal Shparago, a Jackson rheumatologist of 15 years.

"There are many physicians who do not believe fibromyalgia exists," he said. "I believe it exists and try to treat it - sometimes successfully and sometimes not."

Stress, sleep deprivation and traumas are triggers of fibromyalgia. It is a common malady, said Shparago, who has seen an increase in the number of patients diagnosed in recent years. Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue are basically one and the same, according to Shparago.

Chinika Hughes-Hood walks along the water near the Canebrake subdivision in Hattiesburg, Miss. The stay-at-home mom suffers from fibromyalgia, a chronic pain syndrome. 'I'm in pain from sunup to sundown,' she says. Stress, sleep deprivation and traumas are triggers of fibromyalgia.

Virulence Factor That Induces Fatal Candida Infection Identified

Scientists here have found that certain substances from bacteria living in the human intestine cause the normally harmless Candida albicans fungus to become highly infectious.

This discovery by researchers at Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)'s Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) could possibly lead to the development of novel treatments for immunocompromised patients infected by the fungus.

The team of scientists, led by Associate Professor Wang Yue, a principal investigator at the IMCB, identified peptidoglycan (PGN) -- a carbohydrate from bacteria -- as a factor responsible for causing the conversion of the otherwise harmless C. albicans to its infectious form.

Once in the infectious form, the fungus is able to invade surrounding tissues and escape destruction by the body's own immune cells. Since immunocompromised patients such as those with AIDS or those undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment are extremely susceptible to fungal-induced systemic infections, this finding offers an important clue to the basis of C. albicans infections.

After confirming the presence of PGN-derived molecules in human blood, the researchers discovered that the fungus is able to "sense" the presence of the same molecules, which are produced in abundance by bacteria residing in the gastrointestinal track. Earlier studies suggested that PGNs can enter the blood stream through the intestinal wall.

Hippocampal Structural Asymmetry in Unsuccessful Psychopaths

Background: Structural and functional hippocampal abnormalities have been previously reported in institutionalized psychopathic and aggressive populations. This study assessed whether prior findings of a right greater than left (R L) functional asymmetry in caught violent offenders generalize to the structural domain in unsuccessful, caught psychopaths.

Volume Reduction in Prefrontal Gray Matter in Unsuccessful Criminal Psychopaths

Background: Although studies of neurologic patients have suggested that prefrontal structural impairments may predispose to sociopathy, it is unknown whether there is a relationship between psychopathy and prefrontal volume in individuals from the community and whether any prefrontal structural impairment is specific to "unsuccessful" (caught) psychopaths as opposed to "successful" (uncaught) psychopaths. This study tests the hypothesis that psychopathy is associated with a reduction in prefrontal gray volume but that this abnormality is specific to unsuccessful psychopaths.

Method: Prefrontal gray and white matter volumes were assessed using structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in 16 unsuccessful psychopaths, 13 successful psychopaths, and 23 control subjects.

Results: Higher total as well as subfactor psychopathy scores (arrogant/deceptive, affective, and impulsive/unstable) were all associated with low prefrontal gray volume. Unsuccessful psychopaths, but not successful psychopaths, had a 22.3% reduction in prefrontal gray matter volume compared with control subjects.

Conclusions: These results demonstrating for the first time a prefrontal structural deficit in community psychopaths provide partial support for a prefrontal theory of psychopathy but highlight an important difference between successful and unsuccessful psychopaths.

Dementia patient makes 'amazing' progress after using infra-red helmet

Two months ago Clem Fennell was fading fast.

The victim of an aggressive type of dementia, the 57-year-old businessmen was unable to answer the phone, order a meal or string more than a couple of words together.

In desperation, his family agreed to try a revolutionary new treatment - a bizarre-looking, experimental helmet devised by a British GP that bathes the brain in infra-red light twice a day.

To their astonishment, Mr Fennel began to make an astonishing recovery in just three weeks.

©North News and Pictures Ltd
Dr Gordon Dougal, a GP from County Durham, treated dementia patient Clem Fennell with his infra-red device

U.S. still flunks healthcare test, group says

The United States fails on most measures of health care quality, with Americans waiting longer to see doctors and more likely to die of preventable or treatable illnesses than people in other industrialized countries, a report released on Thursday said.

Americans squander money on wasteful administrative costs, illnesses caused by medical error and inefficient use of time, the report from the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund concluded.

"We lead the world in spending. We should be expecting much more in return," Commonwealth Fund senior vice president Cathy Schoen told reporters.

The Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation, created a 100-point scorecard using 37 indicators such as health outcomes, quality, access and efficiency.

They compare the U.S. average on these to the best performing states, counties or hospitals, and to other countries. The United States scored 65 -- two points lower than in 2006.