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Tue, 02 Jun 2020
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CDC: Out of Excuses on the Autism Study that "Should be Done"

A simple study of autism rates among vaccinated and unvaccinated children "could be done and should be done" to help settle the raging debate that has now spilled into the U.S. Federal Courts.

Health

Researcher sees link between vitamin D and autism

The growing prevalence of autism is one of the biggest scientific whodunits in the medical world, with few clues for its rising incidence.

But a U.S. researcher is advancing a controversial hypothesis: that autism is related to vitamin D deficiency during fetal development and early childhood.

Magic Wand

From the corner of the eye: Paying attention to attention

Every kid knows that moms have "eyes in the back of their heads." We are adept at fixing our gaze on one object while independently directing attention to others. Salk Institute neurobiologists are beginning to tease apart the complex brain networks that enable humans and other higher mammals to achieve this feat.

In a study published in the July 5, 2007 issue of Neuron, the researchers report two classes of brain cells with distinct roles in visual attention, and highlight at least two mechanisms by which these cells mediate attention. "This study represents a major advance in our understanding of visual cognition, because it is the first study of attention to distinguish between different classes of neurons," says system neurobiologist John Reynolds, Ph.D., associate professor in the Systems Neurobiology Laboratory at the Salk Institute.

Health

Chronic fatigue: clues in the blood

Researchers at UNSW believe that blood may hold vital insights into what is happening in the brain of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

In a study unparalleled in its scope, a team led by UNSW Professor Andrew Lloyd of the Centre for Infection and Inflammation Research, has studied the differences in gene expression patterns in the blood of people who either recover promptly after acute glandular fever or develop the prolonged illness called post-infective syndrome.

The researchers examined six million pieces of gene expression information for analysis in the project, known as the Dubbo Infection Outcomes Study. The study is named after the NSW town in which the work was conducted. The team studied the expression of 30,000 genes in the blood, testing each of the 15 individuals between four and five times over a 12-month period.

The team was able to narrow its findings to the expression of just 35 genes whose pattern of expression correlated closely with the key symptoms of the illness when examined from onset through to recovery. Gene expression is significant because it is the process by which a gene's DNA sequence is converted into the proteins which ultimately determine the manifestations of disease.

Heart

Organic food 'better' for heart

Organic fruit and vegetables may be better for you than conventionally grown crops, US research suggests.

A ten-year study comparing organic tomatoes with standard produce found almost double the level of flavonoids - a type of antioxidant.

Comment: So let's get this straight - food that is saturated in toxic substances such as industrial chemical fertilizers and pesticides actually leads to... less nutritious food? What a good job we have the clever scientists to tell us these things.

Health

High fluoride in drinking water is associated with poor performance on intelligence tests

Chinese children drinking well water with very high levels of fluoride scored poorly on intelligence testing compared to those with lower exposures.

This is one of the first studies in humans to find that too much fluoride is associated with low performance on intelligence tests. More information is needed to ascertain if the sum total amount of ingested fluoride from tap water, consumer products and other sources are enough to inhibit brain development in children living in the US and other countries where fluoridation is common.

Comment: For more information on Fluoride read:

Fluoride Accumulates in Pineal Gland


Magic Wand

How pain distracts the brain

Anybody who's tried to concentrate on work while suffering a headache knows that pain compellingly commands attention - which is how evolution helped ensure survival in a painful world. Now, researchers have pinpointed the brain region responsible for pain's ability to affect cognitive processing. They have found that this pain-related brain region is distinct from the one involved in cognitive processing interference due to a distracting memory task.

Ulrike Bingel and colleagues at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf published their discovery in the July 5, 2007 issue of the journal Neuron, published by Cell Press.

To search for the region responsible for pain's ability to usurp attention, the researchers asked volunteers to perform a cognitive task involving distinguishing images, as well as a working memory task involving remembering images. The researchers asked the volunteers to perform the tasks as they experienced different levels of pain caused by the zapping of their hands by a harmless laser beam.

During these tests, the volunteers' brains were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In this widely used analytical technique, harmless magnetic fields and radio waves are used to scan the brain to determine blood flow across regions, which reflects brain activity.

Light Saber

Apple consumption during pregnancy reduces risk for childhood wheezing and asthma

Eating apples while pregnant may give new meaning to an apple a day keeping the doctor away. Compelling new research has concluded that mothers who eat apples during pregnancy may protect their children from developing asthma later in life. The study was published in Thorax online.

This unique longitudinal study tracked dietary intake by nearly 2000 pregnant women, then examined the effects of the maternal diet on airway development in more than 1200 of their children five years later. Among a wide variety of foods consumed and recorded by the pregnant women, the researchers concluded that the children of mothers who ate apples had a significantly reduced risk for the development of asthma and childhood wheezing.

This study focuses on medical evaluations for asthma and related symptoms (i.e., wheezing) when the children were five years old. As a result of the evaluations cited in this research, other than apples, there were no consistent associations found between prenatal consumption of a range of healthful foods and asthma in the 1253 children who were evaluated.

Magic Wand

New 'asthma gene' could lead to new therapies

A gene that is strongly associated with a risk of developing childhood onset asthma was identified by an international team of scientists, whose findings are published today in the journal Nature.

In a genetic study of more than 2,000 children, scientists from the University of Michigan and colleagues from London, France and Germany found genetic markers that dramatically increase a child's risk for asthma. These markers are located on chromosome 17, and children with this marker had higher levels of a new gene called ORMDL3 in their blood, which occurs in higher amounts in children with asthma. The presence of the disease-associated version of ORMDL3 increases the risk of asthma by 60-70 percent, the study suggests.

"In terms of an asthma gene, there have been quite a few reports but not one that can be clearly reproduced in samples," said Goncalo Abecasis, associate professor at the U-M School of Public Health. "I think eventually it will lead to new therapies because it points to a specific biological molecular pathway. Once we understand the biology and we know the players, it's possible to target with specific drugs."

Childhood asthma treatments are heavily focused on allergic responses, since most children with asthma also have many allergies. The discovery of a so-called 'asthma gene' would provide a new set of mechanisms to try and modify and manage childhood asthma, Abecasis said.

"Before we finished the paper, we would have guessed (ORMDL3) would be a gene with a well-understood role in allergic responses, but that is not what we found," said Abecasis, noting that the gene has no known relation to allergic responses.

Asthma, a complex disease caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, is the most common chronic disease of childhood. Asthma occurs in 7-10 percent of children in the United States and one child in seven in the United Kingdom. Its prevalence differs widely among different geographic areas.

Attention

Scotland: Doctor 'hastened babies' deaths'

A doctor's administration of drugs hastened the deaths of two terminally ill babies and was "tantamount to euthanasia", an inquiry has heard.

Consultant neonatologist Michael Munro, 41, gave 23 times the normal dose of a muscle relaxant at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital, medical watchdogs were told.

The General Medical Council (GMC) fitness to practise panel heard the doctor failed to record his actions.

Dr Munro denies his conduct was below standard, dishonest or inappropriate.

Dr Munro was working in the neonatal unit of Aberdeen Maternity Hospital on 5 December, 2005, when a child - known only as Baby X - was born more than three months premature.

The panel heard that the child suffered a brain haemorrhage and the decision was taken to withdraw treatment after its condition worsened.