Some cancers made worse by antioxidants

Fresh research at Sahlgrenska Academy has found that antioxidants can double the rate of melanoma metastasis in mice. The results reinforce previous findings that antioxidants hasten the progression of lung cancer. According to Professor Martin Bergö, people with cancer or an elevated risk of developing the disease should avoid nutritional supplements that contain antioxidants.

Researchers at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, demonstrated in January 2014 that antioxidants hastened and aggravated the progression of lung cancer. Mice that were given antioxidants developed additional and more aggressive tumors. Experiments on human lung cancer cells confirmed the results.
Given well-established evidence that free radicals can cause cancer, the research community had simply assumed that antioxidants, which destroy them, provide protection against the disease. Found in many nutritional supplements, antioxidants are widely marketed as a means of preventing cancer. Because the lung cancer studies called the collective wisdom into question, they attracted a great deal of attention.

Double the rate
The follow-up studies at Sahlgrenska Academy have now found that antioxidants double the rate of metastasis in malignant melanoma, the most perilous type of skin cancer. Science Translational Medicine published the findings on October 7.
“As opposed to the lung cancer studies, the primary melanoma tumor was not affected,” Professor Bergö says. “But the antioxidant boosted the ability of the tumor cells to metastasize, an even more serious problem because metastasis is the cause of death in the case of melanoma. The primary tumor is not dangerous per se and is usually removed.”

Confirmed the results
Experiments on cell cultures from patients with malignant melanoma confirmed the new results.
“We have demonstrated that antioxidants promote the progression of cancer in at least two different ways,” Professor Bergö says.
The overall conclusion from the various studies is that antioxidants protect healthy cells from free radicals that can turn them into malignancies but may also protect a tumor once it has developed.

Avoid supplements
Taking nutritional supplements containing antioxidants may unintentionally hasten the progression of a small tumor or premalignant lesion, neither of which is possible to detect.
“Previous research at Sahlgrenska Academy has indicated that cancer patients are particularly prone to take supplements containing antioxidants,” Dr. Bergö says. Our current research combined with information from large clinical trials with antioxidants suggests that people who have been recently diagnosed with cancer should avoid such supplements.”

High mortality rate
One of the fastest expanding types of cancer in the developed world, malignant melanoma has a high mortality rate – which is one reason that researchers at Sahlgrenska Academy were so anxious to follow up on the lung cancer studies.
“Identifying factors that affect the progression of malignant melanoma is a crucial task,” Professor Bergö says.

Lotions next
The role of antioxidants is particularly relevant in the case of melanoma, not only because melanoma cells are known to be sensitive to free radicals but because the cells can be exposed to antioxidants by non-dietary means as well.
“Skin and suntan lotions sometimes contain beta carotene or vitamin E, both of which could potentially affect malignant melanoma cells in the same way as antioxidants in nutritional supplements,” Professor Bergö says.

Other forms of cancer
How antioxidants in lotions affect the course of malignant melanoma is currently being explored.
“We are testing whether antioxidants applied directly to malignant melanoma cells in mice hasten the progression of cancer in the same way as their dietary counterparts,” Professor Bergö says.
He stresses that additional research is badly needed.
“Granted that lung cancer is the most common form of the disease and melanoma is expanding fastest, other forms of cancer and types of antioxidants need to be considered if we want to make a fully informed assessment of the role that free radicals and antioxidants play in the process of cancer progression.”


Posted in Health Care: Medical Errors, Nutrition: Antioxidants | Leave a comment

Dyslexia: Difficulty processing speech may be an effect, not a cause

The cognitive skills used to learn how to ride a bike may be the key to a more accurate understanding of developmental dyslexia. And, they may lead to improved interventions.

Carnegie Mellon University scientists investigated how procedural learning – how we acquire skills and habits such as riding a bike – impacts how individuals with dyslexia learn speech sound categories. Published in Cortex, Lori Holt and Yafit Gabay found for the first time that learning complex auditory categories through procedural learning is impaired in dyslexia. This means that difficulty processing speech may be an effect of dyslexia, not its cause.

“Most research on the cause of dyslexia has focused on neurological impairments in processing speech sounds that make up words, and how dyslexic individuals have difficulty learning how to map visual letters to those sounds when they are learning to read,” said Holt, professor of psychology in CMU’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences and Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC). “Our finding that procedural learning is impaired in dyslexia is important because it links observations of procedural learning deficits in dyslexia, which are not language-specific, with the phonological impairments so typical of dyslexia.”

To determine procedural learning’s role in processing speech sounds, adults with dyslexia and a control group played a video game. Holt developed the game and previously used it to show that it engages procedural learning of speech and non-speech sounds among listeners who do not have dyslexia.

While navigating through a three-dimensional outer space-themed environment, listeners heard novel complex nonspeech “warble” sounds that they had never before encountered. The object of the game was to shoot and capture alien characters. Each of the four visually distinctive aliens was associated with a different sound category defined by multiple, somewhat variable, sounds. As participants moved throughout the game, game play speed increased and encouraged players to rely more on aliens’ sounds to guide navigation.

The results showed that the participants with dyslexia were significantly poorer than the control group at learning the sound categories that corresponded with the different aliens and generalizing their learning to new sounds introduced after the game.

“Auditory training has already shown promise in remediating phonological and reading skills in dyslexia. Understanding the nature of how procedural learning deficits interact with auditory category learning in dyslexia will direct evidence-based approaches to the next generation of dyslexia interventions,” Holt said.


Watch an example of the video game used in this research:

The National Institutes of Health funded this research.

This is not the first brain research breakthrough to happen at Carnegie Mellon. CMU is the birthplace of artificial intelligence and cognitive psychology and has been a leader in the study of brain and behavior for more than 50 years. The university has created some of the first cognitive tutors, helped to develop the Jeopardy-winning Watson, founded a groundbreaking doctoral program in neural computation, and completed cutting-edge work in understanding the genetics of autism. Building on its strengths in biology, computer science, psychology, statistics and engineering, CMU launched BrainHub, an initiative that focuses on how the structure and activity of the brain give rise to complex behaviors.


Posted in Learning Disabilities: Dyslexia | Leave a comment

Preventing Memory Loss Before Symptoms Appear

Newswise — The Nantz National Alzheimer Center at Houston Methodist Hospital is part of a landmark clinical trial that looks at removing a key protein from the brain to prevent memory loss at least a decade before symptoms are noticed in healthy older adults.

The national trial is focused on an investigational treatment to reduce the impact of the protein beta amyloid. The A4 study, also known as the Anti-Amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic Alzheimer’s study, is for individuals ages 65 to 85 who are deemed at risk for Alzheimer’s disease related memory loss, but who have not yet shown signs of the disease.

Using positron emission tomography (PET scans), researchers and clinicians have found that beta amyloid begins forming plaques in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease 10-20 years before the initial symptoms of the disease. Scientists believe the accumulation of beta amyloid may play a key role in the eventual development of Alzheimer’s-related memory loss, by inducing excess production of an abnormal form of the important brain protein, tau.

The investigational drug used in the A4 study is the mono-clonal antibody solanezumab, which targets excess amyloid in the brain. The goal of this study is to learn whether solanezumab will delay cognitive decline and memory loss symptoms in patients who have not yet been diagnosed by slowing possible Alzheimer’s related damage in the brain.

Joseph Masdeu, M.D., and his team at the Nantz National Alzheimer Center in Houston is one of a handful of study sites to also scan patients for abnormal tau, which forms tangles of fibers that likely destroy nerve cells and spread brain damage.

“It is encouraging to be able to detect excess beta amyloid with PET technology in people predisposed to Alzheimer’s and then try to lower the amyloid levels with solanezumab,” said Masdeu, principal investigator of the A4 study at Houston Methodist Hospital and director of the Nantz National Alzheimer Center. “However, there appears to be a point in the development of Alzheimer’s where removing beta amyloid does not reverse or stop disease progression because too much abnormal tau has been generated by then. That is why it is important to use PET to measure the amount of abnormal brain tau as well.”

Masdeu was the first physician-scientist to detect an early imaging feature of Alzheimer’s disease and has long focused on neuroimaging’s role in determining the brain changes that underlie the memory and language problems characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s every 67 seconds and 16 million Americans are expected to be affected by the disease by 2050. In 2014, Alzheimer’s caregivers provided an estimated 17.9 billion hours of unpaid care valued at more than $217.7 billion.

“Among the major causes of death in the United States, Alzheimer’s is the only one that we currently cannot prevent or cure,” said Masdeu. “We hope that slowing the onset of Alzheimer’s will help patients hold on until a prevention or cure can be found.”

To qualify for the study, patients must be between the ages 65 and 85 and have a study partner who is willing to participate as a source of information and has at least weekly contact with the participant. Neuroimaging testing using a PET scan will determine whether abnormal beta amyloid deposits are present in the brain. If so, study patients will be randomized to either the investigational treatment or a placebo group.

Approximately 1,000 adults are expected to participate in more than 60 sites across the United States, Canada and Australia. Masdeu expects to enroll 30 people at Houston Methodist Hospital. The three-year study is funded by the National Institute on Aging, Eli Lilly and Company, and several philanthropic organizations. The A4 study is coordinated by the Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study.

For questions about the study at Houston Methodist Hospital, call 281.222.9983. For more information about Houston Methodist, visit Follow us on Twitter and Facebook or visit our blog.

Emmy Award-winning sports commentator, Jim Nantz, partnered with the Houston Methodist Neurological Institute to create the Nantz National Alzheimer Center. Jim and his wife, Courtney, work tirelessly to increase funding for research and generate awareness of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as the possible effects that concussions and traumatic brain injuries have on these diseases. Courtney and Jim have made a generous lifetime commitment to aggressively support research to find a cure for Alzheimer disease as a lasting tribute to Jim’s father, Jim Nantz, Jr. who battled Alzheimer’s for 13 years.

Posted in Alzheimer's, Cognitive Impairment, Elder Care, Human Behavior: Memory | Leave a comment

Epidural, Spinal Anesthesia Safe for Cesarean Deliveries, Study Finds

Newswise — Chicago – New research could ease the minds of expectant mothers who may be nervous about epidurals or spinal anesthesia for childbirth. A study of New York state hospitals, published in the Online First edition of Anesthesiology, the official medical journal of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), found the rate of anesthesia-related complications in women who received epidural or spinal anesthesia for cesarean delivery decreased 25 percent over the past decade.

“Cesarean delivery is the most commonly performed inpatient surgical procedure in the United States, with 1.3 million cesareans being performed under epidural, spinal or general anesthesia each year,” said Jean Guglielminotti, M.D., Ph.D., lead study author and postdoctoral research fellow, Department of Anesthesiology, Columbia University Medical Center, New York. “Women giving birth by cesarean delivery are generally at an increased risk for experiencing complications from anesthesia compared to women who deliver vaginally. However, our research shows anesthesia-related outcomes in cesarean deliveries have significantly improved.”

According to ASA practice guidelines, spinal or epidural anesthesia is preferred for most cesarean deliveries. However, general anesthesia may be administered in some cases, such as an emergency cesarean delivery.

In the study, Dr. Guglielminotti and co-authors Guohua Li, M.D., Dr PH, and Ruth Landau, M.D., at Columbia University Medical Center and Cynthia A. Wong, M.D., at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, examined trends in major (e.g. death, cardiac arrest) and minor (e.g. headache, back pain, pain during surgery, emotional distress) anesthesia-related complications, perioperative complications unrelated to anesthesia (e.g. acute heart failure, acute respiratory failure, stroke), and overall mortality in 785,854 cesarean deliveries in New York state hospitals between 2003 and 2012. Patients’ maternal age, type of anesthesia, and outcome characteristics were reviewed.

Of the 785,854 cesarean deliveries studied, 5,715 had at least one anesthesia-related complication. The overall rate of major and minor anesthesia-related complications for those who received spinal or epidural anesthesia during cesarean delivery decreased 25 percent, from 8.9 per 1,000 in 2003 to 6.6 per 1,000 in 2012. No decrease in complications was observed in cesareans performed under general anesthesia.

In contrast, the rate of perioperative complications unrelated to anesthesia increased 47 percent over the last decade, with at least one non-anesthetic perioperative complication occurring in 7,040 cesarean deliveries. The increase may be due to more women having serious preexisting medical conditions before undergoing cesarean delivery, the authors note.

Interestingly, the authors observed the number of cesarean deliveries performed significantly increased from 29 percent in 2003 to 35 percent in 2012, the proportion of women over age 40 having cesareans increased, as well as, women with preexisting medical conditions. Nonetheless, the overall in-hospital mortality rate after cesarean delivery significantly decreased.

“Over the last two decades, obstetric anesthesia providers have focused on improving the quality and safety of care provided to expectant mothers while providing pain relief during labor and safe anesthesia for cesarean delivery,” said Dr. Guglielminotti. “Our research highlights the importance and success of intervention programs to improve obstetric anesthesia care. This is all the more important with the high cesarean delivery rate in the U.S. and the increase in maternal age, chronic maternal diseases and high-risk pregnancies.”

An accompanying editorial commented favorably on the study and suggested physician anesthesiologists maintain their excellent safety record for anesthesia-related complications, but work with obstetricians and others to further reduce complications by participating as “peri-delivery” physicians.

“Anesthesia and analgesia for childbirth have become remarkably safe and the magnitude of the observed reduction in anesthesia-related complications by Guglielminotti et al. likely reflects gains in the safety of anesthetic management,” wrote editorial authors Jill M. Mhyre, M.D., associate professor of anesthesiology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock and Brian T. Bateman, M.D., M.Sc., assistant professor of anesthesia at Harvard Medical School in Boston. “However, the observation that anesthesia-related complications are declining, while non-anesthetic perioperative complications are increasing suggests the need for physician anesthesiologists to look beyond the delivery of safe anesthesia and to embrace the role of the ‘peri-delivery’ physician.”

Founded in 1905, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) is an educational, research and scientific society with more than 52,000 members organized to raise and maintain the standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology. ASA is committed to ensuring that physician anesthesiologists evaluate and supervise the medical care of patients before, during, and after surgery to provide the highest quality and safest care that every patient deserves.

For more information on the field of anesthesiology, visit the American Society of Anesthesiologists online at To learn more about the role physician anesthesiologists play in ensuring patient safety, visit

Posted in Pregnancy: Cesarean Section | Leave a comment

Why Elephants Rarely Get Cancer

Newswise — SALT LAKE CITY – Why elephants rarely get cancer is a mystery that has stumped scientists for decades. A study led by researchers at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) at the University of Utah and Arizona State University, and including researchers from the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation, may have found the answer.

According to the results, published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), and determined over the course of several years and a unique collaboration between HCI, Primary Children’s Hospital, Utah’s Hogle Zoo, and the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation, elephants have 38 additional modified copies (alleles) of a gene that encodes p53, a well-defined tumor suppressor, as compared to humans, who have only two. Further, elephants may have a more robust mechanism for killing damaged cells that are at risk for becoming cancerous. In isolated elephant cells, this activity is doubled compared to healthy human cells, and five times that of cells from patients with Li-Fraumeni Syndrome, who have only one working copy of p53 and more than a 90 percent lifetime cancer risk in children and adults. The results suggest extra p53 could explain elephants’ enhanced resistance to cancer.

“Nature has already figured out how to prevent cancer. It’s up to us to learn how different animals tackle the problem so we can adapt those strategies to prevent cancer in people,” says co-senior author Joshua Schiffman, M.D., pediatric oncologist at Huntsman Cancer Institute, University of Utah School of Medicine, and Primary Children’s Hospital.

According to Schiffman, elephants have long been considered a walking conundrum. Because they have 100 times as many cells as people, they should be 100 times more likely to have a cell slip into a cancerous state and trigger the disease over their long life span of 50 to 70 years. And yet it’s believed that elephants get cancer less often, a theory confirmed in this study. Analysis of a large database of elephant deaths estimates a cancer mortality rate of less than 5 percent compared to 11 to 25 percent in people.

In search of an explanation, the scientists combed through the African elephant genome and found at least 40 copies of genes that code for p53, a protein well known for its cancer-inhibiting properties. DNA analysis provides clues as to why elephants have so many copies, a substantial increase over the two found in humans. The vast majority, 38 of them, are so-called retrogenes, modified duplicates that have been churned out over evolutionary time.

Schiffman’s team collaborated with Utah’s Hogle Zoo and Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation to test whether the extra gene copies may protect elephants from cancer. They extracted white blood cells from blood drawn from the animals during routine wellness checks and subjected the cells to treatments that damage DNA, a cancer trigger. In response, the cells reacted to damage with a characteristic p53-mediated response: they committed suicide.

“It’s as if the elephants said, ‘It’s so important that we don’t get cancer, we’re going to kill this cell and start over fresh,’” says Schiffman. “If you kill the damaged cell, it’s gone, and it can’t turn into cancer. This may be more effective of an approach to cancer prevention than trying to stop a mutated cell from dividing and not being able to completely repair itself.”

With respect to cancer, patients with inherited Li-Fraumeni Syndrome are nearly the opposite of elephants. They have just one active copy of p53 and more than a 90 percent lifetime risk for cancer. Less p53 decreases the DNA damage response in patients with Li-Fraumeni Syndrome, and Schiffman’s team wondered if more p53 could protect against cancer in elephants by heightening the response to damage. To test this, the researchers did a side-by-side comparison with cells isolated from elephants (n=8), healthy humans (n=10), and from patients with Li-Fraumeni Syndrome (n=10). They found that elephant cells exposed to radiation self-destruct at twice the rate of healthy human cells and more than five times the rate of Li-Fraumeni cells (14.6%, 7.2%, and 2.7%, respectively). These findings support the idea that more p53 offers additional protection against cancer.

“By all logical reasoning, elephants should be developing a tremendous amount of cancer, and in fact, should be extinct by now due to such a high risk for cancer,” says Schiffman. “We think that making more p53 is nature’s way of keeping this species alive.” Additional studies will be needed to determine whether p53 directly protects elephants from cancer.

“Twenty years ago, we founded the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation to preserve the endangered Asian elephant for future generations. Little did we know then that they may hold the key to cancer treatment,” said Kenneth Feld, Chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment.

“The incredible bond our staff has with these majestic animals, and the hands-on care provided at the Center for Elephant Conservation, allows us to easily provide the blood samples Dr. Schiffman needs to further his research,” said Alana Feld, executive vice president of Feld Entertainment and producer of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. “We look forward to the day when there is a world with more elephants and less cancer.”

The elephant story represents one way that evolution may have overcome cancer. Other evidence suggests that naked mole rats and bowhead whales have evolved different approaches to the problem. Schiffman plans to use what he’s learned in elephants as a strategy for developing novel cancer-fighting therapies.

Schiffman and co-authors, Lisa Abegglen, Ashley Chan, Kristy Lee, Rosann Robinson, Michael Campbell, and Srividya Bhaskara are from Huntsman Cancer Institute and the University of Utah, Aleah Caulin and Shane Jensen are from the University of Pennsylvania, Wendy Kiso and Dennis Schmitt are from the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation, Peter Waddell is from the Ronin Institute in West Lafayette, Indiana, and Carlo Maley, senior co-author, is from Arizona State University. Also contributing to the research was Eric Peterson, elephant manager at Utah’s Hogle Zoo.

“Participating in the research is not only amazing but a win-win for humans and elephants,” said Peterson. “If elephants can hold the key to unlocking some of the mysteries of cancer, then we will see an increased awareness of the plight of elephants worldwide. What a fantastic benefit: elephants and humans living longer, better lives.”

“The animal kingdom undoubtedly holds information that could help lead to cures for many human illnesses,” said Craig Dinsmore, executive director, Utah’s Hogle Zoo. “The blood samples from our elephants at Utah’s Hogle Zoo are aiding Dr. Schiffman in his research, and we are proud to be a part of his ground-breaking work.”

“Potential mechanisms for cancer resistance in elephants and comparative cellular response to DNA damage in humans” will be published in JAMA online on October 8, 2015. For a copy of the paper, email the JAMA Network media relations department at

The work was supported by Huntsman Cancer Institute, the National Cancer Institute, Huntsman Cancer Foundation, Intermountain Healthcare Foundation, Primary Children’s Hospital Foundation, Soccer For Hope, Utah’s Hogle Zoo, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, U.S. Department of Energy, and the Department of Defense.

Posted in Animals: Elephants, Cancer | Leave a comment

Chemicals From Roasting Coffee May Be Cramping Lungs

Maybe you should start calling it “coughee.” Because it’s possible that the people roasting those delicious black beans for your morning cup are being exposed to dangerous levels of volatile chemicals—ones that are linked to a delightful-sounding condition called obliterative bronchiolitis.

The most recent alarm comes comes from investigative journalists at the Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal, who outfitted workers at two boutique roasters with air sensors, and picked up elevated levels of diacetyl, a dangerous volatile. Now that it could be hitting those additive-averse artisanal roasters gentrifying former industrial nooks, the real question is whether long bushy hipster beards work as air filters.

OK seriously, the real question is whether roasting non-flavored coffee poses any real risk to workers. The Sentinel-Journal study picked up diacetyl quantities up to four times higher than the CDC’s tentative recommended limit. And in 2013, the CDC itself released a pair of case studies that showed strong evidence that people had developed obliterative bronchiolitis after roasting for just a few months.

“You have a wind pipe and it divides into two, and then keeps branching two by two until eventually you get down to the last few branches,” says Marshall Hertz, a physician and pulmonary specialist at University of Minnesota Health.


Posted in Coffee, Environmental Health: Indoor Pollution | Tagged | Leave a comment

Waste water treatment plants fail to completely eliminate new chemical compounds

According to a piece of research by the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country, fish caught near these plants display a higher rate of endocrine disruptors

Deformities, feminisation and fall in reproductive capacity are some of the effects that living organisms can be afflicted by due to changes in the endocrine system caused by these compounds. A study conducted on the Basque coast by a research group indicates that the most polluted waters, the ones with the highest levels of bioconcentration, the highest percentage of intersex fish, etc. exist around waste water treatment plants. Most of these plants are not equipped to eliminate the new compounds, because legislation in this matter has yet to catch up with the development of the chemical industry. The journal Science of The Total Environment has recently published a paper on the subject(“Determination of endocrine disrupting compounds and their metabolites in fish bile”).

The fishing port of Ondarroa, the Deba marina, the estuary at Gernika (beside the discharge stream of the waste water treatment plant) and the industrial ports of Pasaia and Santurtzi are the scenarios where the research was carried out between May and June 2012.The fish chosen for the study was the thicklip grey mullet (Chelonlabrosus). Water samples were taken from the above-mentioned locations on the days when the mullet were caught and three months later to relate the samples to the concentrations of the compounds in the fish.“As we expected, Gernika was where the highest concentration of compounds was found and where the highest number of intersex fish were caught,” stressed Asier Vallejo, one of the researchers in the group.

But why Gernika? And why “as we expected”? This is Vallejo’s explanation:“The function of waste water treatment plants is to clean the waste that humans discharge into the water. What happens, however, is that most treatment plants are not equipped to eliminate the new chemical compounds appearing on the market. That is why even if they are discharged into rivers and seas in very low concentrations, they have serious consequences for fish because the flow is constant.That is why we expected to find such high concentrations in Gernika. But it is not a phenomenon exclusive to the Basque Country, it affects the whole planet.”

However, there is no reason to be particularly alarmed, according to the researcher:“Not yet, at least. The fish we have analysed belong to the mullet family which are not usually eaten in the Basque Country. These animals are normally scavengers.”Vallejo acknowledges that endocrine disrupting compounds probably affect humans, too “but we don’t know to what extent, we don’t know what concentration these compounds need to reach to affect humans. Doctors are the ones who will have to clarify these unknowns”.

In the bile

With respect to the technical aspects of the study, the most salient ones are as follows: firstly, to find out the concentration of the compounds, their level in the bile of the fish caught was analysed. To do this, a new analytical method based on solid phase extraction was used. The analysis itself was carried out by means of gas chromatography-mass spectrometry.

The bile samples contained various compounds not detected in the water (certain pesticides, alkylphenols, hormones, etc.) which confirms, according to the research team, the capacity of this substance to accumulate these compounds. In the view of these researchers, bile could provide an interesting tool for biomonitoring purposes in the future. It has also been confirmed that many compounds tend to accumulate in fish and that the concentration values are higher in male and intersex fish. In any case, further research needs to be done into this matter according to the authors of the study.


Posted in Environmental Health: Groundwater, Environmental Health: Water | Leave a comment

Hallucinations, Alone, Do Not Predict Onset of Schizophrenia

Newswise — CHAPEL HILL, NC – Despite decades of study, schizophrenia has remained stubbornly difficult to diagnose in its earliest stage – between the appearance of symptoms and the development of the disorder. Now, a new analysis led by researchers at the UNC School of Medicine and the Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) identified illogical thoughts as most predictive of schizophrenia risk. Surprisingly, perceptual disturbances – the forerunners of hallucinations – are not predictive, even though full-blown hallucinations are common features of schizophrenia. The results were published online today in the journal Schizophrenia Research.

“The earlier people are identified and receive treatment when they develop schizophrenia, the better their prognosis,” said Diana Perkins, MD, a clinician and professor of psychiatry at the UNC School of Medicine and one of the study’s first authors. “If we can identify people at high risk for psychosis we can then develop interventions to prevent the development of schizophrenia and the functional declines associated with it.”

Schizophrenia is a chronic mental illness that affects more than 3 million people in the United States. It typically emerges during late adolescence and early adulthood, and remains a chronic and disabling disorder for most patients. Psychosis, which more than 6 million Americans experience, refers to a group of symptoms, including paranoia, delusions (false beliefs), hallucinations, and disorganization of thought and behavior. Psychosis always occurs in schizophrenia, but can also occur in people with bipolar disorder or other medical conditions.

Early warning signs of schizophrenia include mild psychosis-like symptoms. However, only about 15-20 percent of people who have these mild psychosis-like symptoms actually develop schizophrenia or other disorders with full-blown psychosis. Current diagnostic criteria for attenuated psychosis include having at least one of the following: illogical thoughts, disorganized thoughts, or perceptual disturbances of sufficient frequency and severity to impact function.

To help clinicians know where to draw the line, Perkins and Jeffries examined what symptoms were most predictive of psychosis over a two-year follow-up period in a cohort of 296 individuals at high-risk for psychosis because of experiencing attenuated psychosis symptoms. The analysis revealed that suspiciousness and unusual thought content were the most predictive, and that difficulty with focus or concentration and reduced ideational richness further enhanced psychosis risk prediction.

Identification of the most informative symptoms was performed with “stringent randomization tests,” according to the other first author, Clark D. Jeffries, PhD, a scientist at RENCI. That means the same classifier algorithm was applied to the true data as well as 1000 random permutations of the data that mixed patients who did and did not progress to frank psychosis.

Importantly, the investigators validated these findings in a new cohort of 592 people with attenuated psychosis symptoms, confirming the findings. Suspiciousness and unusual thought content include a “feeling of being watched,” or “it seeming like others are talking about” the person but knowing that this “can’t really be true,” or fixating on coincidences that aren’t actually connected, or finding “signs” in certain experiences or having a distorted sense of time.

Difficulty with focus and concentration refers to problems with distractibility and short-term memory. Reduced ideational richness typically refers to difficulty following conversations or engaging in abstract thinking.

Somewhat surprisingly, perceptual disturbances – seeing shadows or hearing knocking noises with a sense that these experiences are “not real,” – while superficially similar to hallucinations were not predictive of psychosis. Although such symptoms were common in those who developed psychosis, they were equally common in those who did not develop psychosis.

“In terms of assessing psychosis risk, I think this study shows we need to be emphasizing the person’s thought process, and appreciate that perceptual disturbances may not be a specific early warning sign,” Perkins said. “I think that will affect how we develop our diagnostic system in the future for people who are at high risk for psychosis.”

The National Institutes of Mental Health funded this research.
Additional study coauthors include Barbara Cornblatt of the Zucker Hillside Hospital; Scott Woods, Tyrone Cannon, and Thomas McGlashan of Yale University; Jean Addington of the University of Calgary; Carrie Bearden at the University of California-Los Angeles; Kristin Cadenhead and Ming Tsuang of the University of California-San Diego; Robert Heinssen of the National Institute of Mental Health; Daniel Mathalon of the University of California-San Francisco, and Larry Seidman of Harvard Medical School.

Posted in Hallucinations, Mental Health: Schizophrenia | Leave a comment

Will Drones Really Be Our Delivery Drivers?

Newswise — According to Reuters, drone package delivery might soon be a reality as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is taking new steps to allow commercial drone operations.

While major players like Amazon and Google stand to benefit, so too does Cincinnati-based Workhorse Group.

The company is working on an integrated delivery drone that is designed to dramatically increase the efficiency and safety of delivering packages to homes and businesses. The robust HorseFly UAV™ delivery drone has been engineered to make short, quick delivery hops from atop a nearby delivery truck to a home or business, should legislation ultimately allow their use. The Horsefly resides in a portal integrated into the truck’s roof and can fly to nearby destinations to drop off a package, and then return to the truck roof for a quick recharge before the next delivery…all in the line-of-sight of the driver.

Workhorse is working with the FAA via the University of Cincinnati and has received favorable comments as it works toward FAA approval to permit its customers to incorporate drone delivery into their logistical architecture where applicable.

Steve Burns, CEO of Workhorse Group, believes that by launching delivery drones from local delivery trucks, the drone flights will be short, effective, safe and extremely economical.

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Whole Foods Roquefort Cheese Recall

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – October 7, 2015 – Whole Foods Market is recalling cheese sold in all stores nationwide that came from its supplier because it has the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women. Consumers should seek immediate medical care if they develop these symptoms.

The recalled cheese was cut and packaged in clear plastic wrap and sold with Whole Foods Market scale labels. Whole Foods Market decided to recall the cheese after routine sampling conducted by the FDA found Listeria Monocytogenes in a whole, uncut wheel of the cheese. The Papillion Organic Roquefort cheese product can be identified by the scale label that begins with PLU 029536. All sell by dates are affected.

No illnesses or infections have been reported to date. Signage is posted on retail store shelves to notify customers of this recall, and all affected product has been removed from shelves.

Consumers who have purchased this product from Whole Foods Market stores may bring their receipt to the store for a full refund. Consumers with questions should contact their local store or call 512-477-5566 ext. 20060 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. EST.

Posted in Nutrition: Food Safety | Leave a comment