Sunday, 12 August 2012

Medicine stuff from the fortnight 30/7 - 12/8/12

Dr. Phil Hammond's videos for - i've watched them all through, and they're all enlightening, with the added bonus that Dr. Phil's very entertaining as he does them.


'Ugandans urged to avoid contact as Ebola spreads'
The first victim of the outbreak was a 3-month-old girl, who transmitted it to 15 of the 65 people at her funeral:
But don't worry - the WHO says the outbreaks under control:
Even though Ebola is much more likely to kill, if caught, it's actually far less dangerous than diseases like influenza.
The reason for this is that it kills off its vectors of propagation before it can spread to many others. Influenza, however, rips though populations, spreading itself to millions before petering out.


'Sleep affects potency of vaccines'
"The researchers found that people who slept fewer than six hours on average per night were far less likely to mount antibody responses to the vaccine and thus were far more likely (11.5 times) to be unprotected by the vaccine than people who slept more than seven hours on average. Sleep quality did not affect response to vaccinations."
I'm not sure how easy it is to assess quality of sleep - i suspect difficult. But stressed people do sleep worse than less stressed people; and cortisol release, as a consequence of stress, is known to suppress the immune system (i'm not an immunologist so i'm not exactly sure how). Might the real cause of hampered vaccine-response be the long-term stress experienced by the patients?

And sleep is not improved by long-term use of sleeping pills. In fact, they sometimes exacerbate insomnia, and often leave the user with drug dependency. Be warned - they're only for one-off use!

A new technology in stem cell application could be widely applicable, in treating ulcers.
The mixture of skin stem cells (keratinocytes and fibroblasts), with blood clotting proteins, has been used to accelerate the recovery of patients with venous leg ulcers.
"The study examined the effects of different dosages of the treatment, with those who received the most effective dosage experiencing a 52% greater likelihood of wound closure than the control group at 12 weeks, and a 16% greater reduction in wound area after 7 days. In addition to closing a higher overall proportion of wounds, the active treatment also accelerated wound closure by an average of 21 days compared to the control group."

'Study finds mechanism that turns white fat into energy-burning brown fat'
Brown fat is popularly known as the fat that keeps babies warm, which, because of larger size and better-honed hormonal-circulatory systems, adults don't need, and so do not keep.
In lean times, brown fat wastes calories of energy, but in modern climes, with abundant food, conversion of white fat cells to brown, could aid people's efforts to stay slim and healthy.
The trouble is, in the past, the drugs used to convert white fat cells into brown - TZDs (thiazolidazines) - have adverse side-effects, such as liver toxicity, bone loss, and, ironically, weight gain.
The way TZDs work, is by increasing the activity of a cell receptor called ppar-gamma (peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor–gamma).
What the researchers have found, is that sirtuins cause similar results to TZDs, in increasing the metabolism of cells. Sirtuins do this by deacetylating the ppar-gamma cell receptor - literally cutting the acetyl group off the receptor.
If TZDs can be modified so that they reproduce this pathway, without the current side-effects, then it could become the first weight-loss pill to *actually work*!

Mental Health:

Depression has previously been linked to all-cause risk of death, and this study adds to that, finding that cancer sufferers live less long if depressed.

Heart health can be hurt by even mild depression or anxiety. In the case of dysthymia, the two tend to go hand-in-hand. This increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, and other heart conditions.

And while relatively healthy, depression and anxiety increase the chances of sick leave, whatever the stated cause. Many millions of people experience dysthymic depression without ever realising it. The commonly-stated statistic is that 1 in 3 will experience depression at some point in their lifetime.

A noted cause of mental health difficulties, most obviously depression and anxiety, is trauma, especially childhood abuse, which tend to involve repeated traumatic experiences, which become cemented into the child's psychology.
In this small case study, severe trauma resulted in increased chances of depression, leading to dangerous lifestyles, but not leading far enough to observe direct health deficits, like in the other articles ^ stated.

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