Overweight teens who smoke ‘more likely to have migraines’

Washington, Aug 19 (ANI): Teenagers who are overweight, do little exercise and smoke are more likely to have frequent headaches and migraines than their peers with none of these factors, a new study has revealed.

Adolescents with all the three of the negative lifestyle factors were 3.4 times more likely to have frequent headaches than those with none of the negative lifestyle factors. Of those with all three negative lifestyle factors, 55 percent had frequent headaches, compared to 25 percent of those with no negative lifestyle factors. Those with two negative factors were 1.8 times more likely to have frequent headaches.

Overweight teens were 40 percent more likely to have frequent headaches than those with no negative factors. Teens who smoked were 50 percent more likely to have frequent headaches, and teens who exercised less than twice a week were 20 percent more likely to have frequent headaches than those who exercised at least twice a week and had no other negative factors.

“These lifestyle factors have rarely been studied in teens. This study is a vital step toward a better understanding of lifestyle factors and potential preventive measures that can be taken,” Andrew D. Hershey, a member of the American Academy of Neurology said.

As part of the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study, 5,847 students age 13 to 18 in Nord-Trøndelag county in Norway were interviewed by nurses about headaches and their weight and height measurements were taken. They also completed a questionnaire about physical activity and smoking. Out of the group, 36 percent of girls and 21 percent of boys reported having recurrent headaches within the last year.

A total of 16 percent of the students were overweight, 19 percent were smokers, and 31 percent exercised less than twice a week.

Study author John-Anker Zwart of the University of Oslo said the study suggests that the treatment and prevention of headaches in teens may need to include management of healthy habits such as regular exercise, healthy food choices and stopping smoking.

The study was published in the online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. (ANI)

Why Alzheimer”s drug is both safe and effective

Washington, Aug 19 (ANI): A new study has unravelled exactly how memantine—a drug used to treat Alzheimer”s disease— helps patients without causing serious side effects.

It is known that memantine (marketed in the United States as Namenda), which is currently FDA-approved can treat moderate-to-severe Alzheimer”s disease.

Developed, in part by Dr. Stuart A. Lipton, Director of the Del E. Web Center for Neuroscience, Aging and Stem Cell Research at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham), memantine improves symptoms by blocking abnormal activity of glutamate, a chemical that transmits messages between nerve cells.

In the new study, researchers at Sanford-Burnham led by Dr. Lipton unravel exactly how the drug helps Alzheimer”s patients without causing serious side effects.

“While memantine is partially effective in treating Alzheimer”s disease, one of its major advantages is how safe and well-tolerated it is clinically,” said Lipton

Memantine is a particularly safe treatment for Alzheimer”s disease because it dampens excessive glutamate signaling that occurs away from synapses without blocking glutamate activity at the synapses.

This is important because interfering with synaptic glutamate signaling would disrupt normal brain activity.

“We showed definitively for the first time that memantine, the drug our group developed for Alzheimer”s disease, works in a unique way. It inhibits a protein that binds glutamate called the NMDA receptor, but predominantly blocks NMDA receptors that signal molecularly to cause neuronal injury and death. It spares the synaptic receptors that mediate normal communication between nerve cells in the brain,” said Lipton.

The finding helps explain why the drug is so well tolerated by Alzheimer”s patients and might provide hints for the development of future therapies targeting the NMDA receptor and similar cellular machinery in other diseases.

The study is appearing in The Journal of Neuroscience. (ANI)

New satellite images reveal how world”s mangrove forests have declined

Washington, Aug 19 (ANI): Scientists have got the most comprehensive and exact data on the distribution and decline of mangrove forests from across the world, all thanks to new satellite imagery.

The research, carried out by scientists from the U.S Geological Survey and NASA, and reveals forest distribution is 12.3 percent smaller than earlier estimates.

Mangrove forests are among the most productive and biologically important ecosystems of the world, including trees, palms and shrubs which grow at tropical and subtropical tidal zones across the equator.

Now scientists can use the world”s most definitive map of the Earth”s mangrove forest to reveal that approximately 53,190 square miles (137, 760 km2) of mangroves exist, substantially less than previous estimates.

“Our assessment shows, for the first time, the exact extent and distribution of mangrove forests of the world at 30 meters spatial resolution, the highest resolution ever,” said Dr Chandra Giri from USGS.

“This reveals that 75 percent of the remaining forest is found in just 15 countries, out of which only around 6.9 percent is protected under the existing protected areas network,” added Giri.

Mangrove forests have adapted to the most severe environmental conditions thriving in regions of high salinity, scorching temperatures and extreme tides across the equator.

However, increasingly human activity and frequent severe storms have taken their toll, resulting in a loss rate for mangrove forests higher than the loss of inland tropical forests and coral reefs.

“The current estimate of mangrove forests of the world is less than half what it once was, and much of that is in a degraded condition. It is believed that 35% of mangrove forests were lost from 1980 to 2000 which has had an impact on the coastal communities that use mangrove forests as a protective barrier from natural disasters such as hurricanes and tsunamis,” said Giri.

Using data from the NASA satellite Giri and an international team, including 30 student interns and visiting scientists from across the world, analysed more than 1,000 ”Landsat” scenes using digital image classification techniques.

This enormous task allowed the team to slowly piece together the world”s most accurate map of mangrove distribution.

This work represents the most comprehensive global database of mangrove forests ever created and has revealed that the world”s remaining mangrove forests are spread across 118 countries and territories.

Asia has 42 percent of the world”s mangroves, followed by 21 percent in Africa, 15 percent in North and Central America, 12 percent in Oceania and 11 percent in South America.

“The mapping of mangrove forests at this resolution, on a global scale, has never been attempted, partly due to cost and computation limitations,” concluded Dr Garik Gutman, from the NASA Land Cover/Land-Use Change Program, which funded the project.

“The Global Land Survey data produced by NASA and USGS has enabled worldwide land cover projects like this, because pre-processing global coverage of Landsat data at project levels is a gigantic task,” added Gutman.

The study is published in Global Ecology and Biogeography. (ANI)

Unrealistic claims of home genetic tests should be avoided

Direct to consumer (DTC) genetic tests are increasingly being marketed to the public via television, print ads, and the Internet.

These home genetic tests provide access to a person”s genomic information without necessarily involving a doctor or insurance company in the process.

And now, medical geneticist Dr. James P. Evans, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine and colleagues have said that medical professionals “must ensure that rapidly evolving and multiplying genomic technologies are responsibly harnessed and that their promise is not oversold to the public.”

In their article, the authors argued that “a primary role of health care professionals in the future may be to interpret their patients” DTC genetic test results and advise them about appropriate follow-up.”

While the authors acknowledge that individuals should continue to be permitted direct access to their genomic information, they noted that “consumers must be protected from unrealistic claims and the misinterpretation of complex and dynamic genomic information.”

Noting that segments of the public already embrace DTC genetic tests, the authors point out that in many cases, there is “little or no evidence of the clinical validity of tests developed from genetic technologies.”

The authors said that clinical validity data “are limited because they can be difficult and expensive to obtain and because there is no FDA requirement for the premarketing submission of such data for most genetic tests.”

In testimony last month to the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Evans stressed that consumers “…deserve an honest accounting of what such information means and the assurance that it is derived in a manner that ensures quality, reliability and confidentiality.”

The study has been published in the Online First edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. (ANI)

”Diet” soft drinks linked to premature births

London, Aug 19 (ANI): Drinking lots of artificially sweetened beverages during pregnancy increases the risk of premature births, according to a new study.

The study, conducted on almost 60,000 pregnant women in Denmark, found that those who drank artificially sweetened soft drinks, whether fizzy or still, were more likely to give birth early.

Researchers found that those who drank one serving per day of artificially sweetened fizzy drink were 38 per cent more likely to give birth before 37 weeks gestation and those who consumed four servings a day were 78 per cent more likely to have their baby prematurely.

The effect was weaker for still artificially soft drinks and there was no link between premature birth and sugar-sweetened drinks, they said.

Researchers think that the artificial sweeteners are broken down in the body into chemicals, which may change the womb.

The study conducted by Thorahallur Halldorsson, of the Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen, did not examine which artificial sweeteners were contained in the drinks.

The effect was limited to women whose birth was deliberately induced early suggesting the drinks do not trigger premature labour but rather cause changes in the body that mean an early birth is necessary.

It was suggested that this could due to a rise in blood pressure or development of diabetes but the researchers ruled this out.

“In conclusion, our findings suggest that the daily intake of artificially sweetened soft drinks may be associated with an increased risk of preterm delivery,” the Telegraph quoted Dr Halldorsson as saying.

“The relative consistency of our findings for carbonated and noncarbonated soft drinks and the absence of an association for sugar-sweetened soft drinks suggest that the content of artificial sweeteners might be the causal factor.

“However, the replication of our findings in another experimental setting is warranted,” Dr Halldorsson added.

The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. (ANI)

NASA Mary J. Blige team up to encourage science careers for women

Washington, Aug 19 (ANI): NASA and award-winning recording artist Mary J. Blige are teaming-up to encourage young women to pursue exciting experiences and career choices by studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

A public service announcement featuring veteran NASA space shuttle astronaut Leland Melvin and Blige debuts this week on NASA TV and the agency”s website at: http://www.nasa.gov.

NASA”s Summer of Innovation (SoI) project and Blige”s Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now (FFAWN) have much in common. Both show students the many possibilities available if they follow their dreams and reach for the stars.

The SoI project is part of the President”s Educate to Innovate Campaign. It started earlier this summer to help keep middle school students engaged in fun and stimulating STEM-related activities during the school break.

“Working with FFAWN is a rare opportunity to help spread the STEM message into communities not always readily accessible to us,” Melvin


“Mary”s presence can help NASA make the STEM message more appealing to these communities and increase the pipeline of underrepresented students going into these disciplines,” Melvin added.

Working with the NASA Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace

Academy project at York College of the City University of New York (CUNY), the joint effort is providing on-the-job training for FFAWN high school participants. High school girls in the program will be prepared to deliver NASA SoI content to middle school students this summer at the New York City Housing Authority Van Dyke Community Center and the Harlem Children”s Zone Promise Academy.

The FFAWN participants also will have the opportunity to support the NASA Academy fall academic session at CUNY as student aides for grades one through nine later this year. (ANI)

Tai Chi an alternative treatment for chronic pain condition

New Delhi, Aug 19 (ANI): Practicing Tai Chi can help ease fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition, say US researchers.

Researchers at Tufts Medical Center in Boston found out that fibromyalgia suffers who practiced hour-long sessions of Tai Chi, a Chinese exercise of slow body movements, felt less pain, less fatigue, depression and anxiety, enjoying an overall better quality of life.

According to English.news.cn, they also reported better sleep quality and improved physical conditions.

Widespread pain, fatigue, insomnia and multiple tender points are symptoms of Fibromyalgia.

The syndrome can also cause psychological issues, including anxiety, depression, and memory and concentration problems, sometimes called the “fibromyalgia fog.”

The findings are published in the Aug. 19 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. (ANI)

New software enhances climate change research

Washington, Aug 19 (ANI): A new powerful computer software will allow scientists to study the climate change in a more detailed manner.

The Community Earth System Model (CESM) will be one of the primary climate models used for the next assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The new model”s advanced capabilities will help scientists some important questions:

What impact will warming temperatures have on the massive ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica?

How will patterns in the ocean and atmosphere affect regional climate in coming decades?

How will climate change influence the severity and frequency of tropical cyclones, including hurricanes?

What are the effects of tiny airborne particles, known as aerosols, on clouds and temperatures?

Two colour scales show sea surface temperatures and sea ice concentrations. The system also captures sea level pressure and low-level winds, including warmer air moving north on the eastern side of low-pressure regions and colder air moving south on the western side of the lows.

The CESM is one of about a dozen climate models worldwide that can be used to simulate the many components of Earth”s climate system, including the oceans, atmosphere, sea ice, and land cover.

“Thanks to its improved physics and expanded biogeochemistry, it gives us a better representation of the real world,” said NCAR scientist James Hurrell.

Scientists rely on computer models to better understand Earth”s climate system because they cannot conduct large-scale experiments on the atmosphere itself.

Using the CESM, researchers can now simulate the interaction of marine ecosystems with greenhouse gases; the climatic influence of ozone, dust, and other atmospheric chemicals; the cycling of carbon through the atmosphere, oceans, and land surfaces; and the influence of greenhouse gases on the upper atmosphere.

This approach enables researchers to simulate global climate over years, decades, or millennia.

Such knowledge, Hurrell said, can eventually lead to forecasts spanning several years of potential weather impacts, such as a particular region facing a high probability of drought, or another region likely facing several years of cold and wet conditions. (ANI)

Drug-eluting stents safe for long-term use in angioplasty patients

Washington, Aug 19 (ANI): Researchers have confirmed that the use of drug-eluting stents (DES) improves the long-term clinical outcome for patients undergoing percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), commonly known as angioplasty.

Rabin Medical Center researchers in Israel examined the benefits and long-term risks of DES by evaluating the established pattern of DES versus bare-metal stent (BMS) use in routine clinical practice.

Results showed that use of DES compared with BMS reduced the occurrence of myocardial infarction and the need for clinically driven target vessel revascularization.

Mortality was significantly lower in the DES group, showing a persistent benefit of DES over time.

Study leader Dr. Tamir Bental concludes, “The main effect of DES is reduced restenosis, which is evident in our analysis. This outcome was sustained over time and could certainly be a major factor contributing to the survival benefit of DES.”

“We suggest that a possible additional factor contributing to our results could be the pattern of use of the DES in our practice—treatment of more territories and more sites per territory, probably leading to a more complete revascularization. Another salient feature was the preferential treatment of more proximal main vessel. Therefore, treatment of proximal lesions could contribute to a better outcome,” he added.

Results of this study appear in the September issue of Catheterization and Cardiovascular Interventions. (ANI)

Scientists discover how corals fight diseases and bleaching

Washington, Aug 19 (ANI): Australian researchers have achieved a breakthrough in understanding the immune system of coral reefs.

Caroline Palmer, Bette Willis and John Bythell, scientists from the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University (Queensland) and Newcastle University (UK) conducted the experiment.

“Potentially, this will enable us to more accurately predict the vulnerability of coral reefs to disease and bleaching, before there are obvious signs of stress,” said Palmer.

“Variation in levels of immune function among different species is likely dependent on the energy they assign to it. As energy is vital for an effective immune response, corals that utilise energy to grow and reproduce rapidly have less to spare for their immune response,” she added.

Corals like the staghorns and Acropora are most vulnerable to temperature stress or disease.

The coral immune system is mainly protected by melanin, which may also be used to stop harmful UV light from reaching the symbiotic algae and causing bleaching.

“Our increased understanding of coral immune systems may therefore be used to address the causes rather than the symptoms of coral declines”, said Palmer.

Two of the main factors that cause corals to bleach are attacks by disease-causing microbes and temperature stress.

The preventive measures envisioned involve minimising human impacts which might further injure the coral, such as dredging, building construction, pollution, land runoff or damaging corals by boat activity or fishing.

The paper was published in the June issue of The FASEB Journal. (ANI)

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