HEALTH & FITNESS

Stem cells: heart patients need not lose heart
Dr Harinder Singh Bedi
Heart attacks and heart failure remain among the nation's most serious health-related challenges . Recent research is providing early evidence that special cells called “stem cells” may be able to replace damaged heart muscle cells and create new vessels to supply blood.

eYESIGHT
Beware, there’s a new form of conjunctivitis
Dr Mahipal Sachdev
When a patient walks in wearing dark glasses in this season after unexpected rains, it is conjunctivitis most of the times! It gives jitters to all as all others are at the risk of getting it. And now a serious form of conjunctivitis has been noticed which is causing concern among doctors.

Prostate cancer screening: counsel your husbands, ladies!
Dr Meenal Kumar
If women are scared about their breast cancer, their husbands are about prostate cancer during the middle age. Prostate cancer is fairly common. Anyone having frequent urination or obstruction in passing urine may get scared/ inconvenienced.

MRIs can predict whether cancer will return
Washington: A recent research has found that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can help to predict whether prostrate cancer will return in patients who have previously suffered from the disease.

Health Notes

  • Link between domestic violence and asthma

  • Honey can help diabetics

  • Statins may cut risk of cataracts by half

  • Online tool for clinical trial transparency

  • Older-adult dieting may not reduce activity

  • Blood pressure climbs along with weight

 

 

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Stem cells: heart patients need not lose heart
Dr Harinder Singh Bedi

Heart attacks and heart failure remain among the nation's most serious health-related challenges . Recent research is providing early evidence that special cells called “stem cells” may be able to replace damaged heart muscle cells and create new vessels to supply blood.

Stem cells are nature’s blank slates that have the potential to become heart cells or 200 other types of specialised cells. They are one of the most tantalising mysteries in medicine. Stem cells are primitive cells with an extensive capacity for self-renewal and the ability to differentiate into multiple cell types, including heart cells, nerve cells, liver cells , skin cells and pancreatic cells.

How can stem cells play a part in repairing the heart? The potential capability of stem cells to develop into new heart cells in the damaged heart is now being explored as part of a strategy to restore heart function among people who have had heart attacks or had heart failure.

Researchers now know that under highly specific growth conditions in laboratory culture dishes, stem cells can be coaxed into developing as new heart cells (called CD 34+ cells) . This approach has immense advantages over heart transplant, particularly in the light of the scarcity of donor hearts available to meet the current transplantation needs.

Today heart failure — the ineffective pumping of the heart caused by the loss or dysfunction of heart muscle cells -- afflicts 4.8 million people, with 400,000 new cases being reported annually. One of the major contributors to the development of this condition is a heart attack, which occurs in nearly 1.1 million people each year.

It is easy to recognise that impairments of the heart and circulatory system represent a major cause of death and disability in India -- which has the dubious distinction of being the World’s No 1 in heart disease.

Despite advances in interventional procedures, mechanical and electrical assistance devices, drug therapy and organ transplantation, more than half of the patients with heart failure die within five years. Lives can be saved by using replacement cells for dead or impaired cells so that the weakened heart muscle regains its pumping power.

SOURCES OF STEM CELLS: Among the cells being evaluated for transplantation are foetal cardiomyocytes, embryonal stem cells and adult autologous stem cells including bone marrow cells and skeletal myoblasts.

Stem Cells can yield heart valves: Scientists for the first time have grown human heart valves using stem cells from the fluid that cushions babies in the womb, offering an approach that may be used to repair defective hearts. The idea is to create new valves in the laboratory while a pregnancy progresses and have them ready to implant in a baby with heart defects after it is born.

One per cent of all newborns, or more than one million babies born worldwide each year, have heart problems. Such defects kill more babies in the first year of life than any other birth defects. Defects in heart valves can be detected during pregnancy with ultrasound tests. Conventional procedures to fix faulty heart valves have drawbacks. Artificial valves are prone to blood clots, and patients must take anti-clotting drugs for life.

Valves from human cadavers or animals can deteriorate, requiring repeated open-heart surgeries to replace them. That is especially true in children because such valves do not grow along with the body.

Valves made from the patient's own cells are living tissue and might be able to grow with the patient. Foetal stem cells are isolated from the fluid, cultured in a laboratory dish, then placed on a mold and allowed to grow into a valve in four to six weeks. This research would revolutionise the care for people with valve disease. About 250,000 patients worldwide undergo surgery to replace heart parts each year.

The writer, Director and Chairman, Cardiac Sciences, Ludhiana Mediciti, was earlier associated with Fortis, Mohali.

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eYESIGHT
Beware, there’s a new form of conjunctivitis
Dr Mahipal Sachdev

When a patient walks in wearing dark glasses in this season after unexpected rains, it is conjunctivitis most of the times! It gives jitters to all as all others are at the risk of getting it. And now a serious form of conjunctivitis has been noticed which is causing concern among doctors.

Routinely, conjunctivitis takes about a week to get over. But this viral conjunctivitis may take between two and four weeks for healing. Recently it was noticed that not only conjunctiva (the transparent membrane that lines the eyelid and the white of the eye) is involved but also the cornea.

Most viral infections produce a mild, self-limiting conjunctivitis, but some have the potential to produce disabling visual difficulties. This conjunctivitis, being noticed now, is most probably epidemic keratoconjunctivitis.

Viral conjunctivitis is characterised by a prior episode of fever and sore throat. It can be unilateral or bilateral. It is caused regularly by adenovirus type 3 and occasionally by types 4 or 7, where corneal infiltrates are rare. The disorder varies in severity but usually persists for four days to two weeks.

The usual complaints of the patient include:

  • Redness of the eyes
  • Watering
  • Serous/ sticky discharge
  • Lid swelling
  • Tiny red spots on the white of the eye (sclera).

But when the cornea is affected, the patient will get:

  • Blurring vision
  • Intolerance to light
  • Increase in watering

We are getting cases of the corneal infection recurring after the patient first got the infection six months ago.

Viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious. Patients usually report recent contacts with someone who had either red eyes or an upper respiratory infection. Usually, it starts in one eye and further spreads to the other eye within a few days.

Preventing conjunctivitis

To avoid getting conjunctivitis from someone who has it, or to avoid spreading it to others, follow these instructions:

  • Wash your hands frequently; do not touch or rub your eyes.
  • Do not share towels, washcloths, or pillows and sheets with anyone.
  • Avoid swimming in swimming pools if you have conjunctivitis.
  • Avoid mixing with people until you recover.

There is no effective treatment for viral conjunctivitis but the eyes may be made more comfortable by using lubricant drops. Antibiotic drops are also given to prevent secondary bacterial infection.

The writer is Chairman and Medical Director, Centre for Sight, New Delhi.
Email: msachdev@bol.net.in
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Prostate cancer screening: counsel your
husbands, ladies!
Dr Meenal Kumar

If women are scared about their breast cancer, their husbands are about prostate cancer during the middle age. Prostate cancer is fairly common. Anyone having frequent urination or obstruction in passing urine may get scared/ inconvenienced.

Since PSA testing became available the diagnosis became easier, and the death rate from prostate cancer decreased substantially. Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is produced by the prostate tissue. PSA is present in both benign and cancerous prostate cells, but cancer cells make much more PSA than do benign cells, causing PSA to rise early in the course of prostate cancer.

However, if you are using finasteride for hair loss or finasteride for benign prostatic hypertrophy, it can significantly decrease your PSA reading levels.

Pros and cons of the test

  • PSA screening allows the early detection of prostate cancer. Cancer is easier to treat and is more likely to be cured in the earlier stages of the disease.
  • PSA testing can be done with a simple blood test. lFor some men, knowing is better than not knowing. Having the test done can provide you with a certain amount of reassurance. If you have it, you can get it treated.
  • Prostate cancer, if detected early, can be successfully treated.
  • The number of deaths from prostate cancer has gone down since PSA testing became available.
  • Prostate cancer is slow growing and may never spread.

PSA tests may not tell the difference between prostate cancer and other non-cancerous prostate conditions.

  • You may end up with a diagnosis of prostate cancer and feel the dread.
  • Testing for prostate cancer may lead to unnecessary treatments. Treatment for prostate cancer can have serious risks and side-effects, including urinary incontinence, erectile dysfunction or bowel dysfunction.
  • There is no clear evidence that the decrease in deaths from prostate cancer is due to the PSA test.

Risk factors

Age — As you get older, your risk of prostate cancer increases. After age 50, your chance of having prostate cancer increases substantially. Most prostate cancers are found in 65-year-old men or older.

Race or ethnicity — Black men have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer.

Family history — If a close family member has prostate cancer, your risk of the disease is greater.

Diet — A high-fat diet and obesity may increase your risk of prostate cancer.

After considering all the pros and cons of screening, your age, general health and risk factors, talk to your doctor and then you can make an informed decision. Getting a routine annual PSA test done is not out of place. Doctors cannot abandon the examination of the patient even if a PSA test is normal.

The writer, a Chandigarh-based senior gynaecologist, has authored books on health-related subjects.

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MRIs can predict whether cancer will return

Washington: A recent research has found that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can help to predict whether prostrate cancer will return in patients who have previously suffered from the disease.

MR images taken of prostate cancer patients before the treatment show that cancer extending outside the prostate gland capsule will return, according to a recent study by radiologists at the University of California, San Francisco.

Tumour size, stage and extra-capsular extension (cancer spread outside the prostate gland capsule) were all traced. — ANI

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Health Notes
Link between domestic violence and asthma

Washington: A new study finds a strong association between domestic violence and asthma.

The study, from researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), raises questions about the role of stress in the development of this common respiratory condition.

“Classic environmental triggers for asthma have been carefully studied, but there is less information on the role of stress in asthma episodes,” a Press release quoted lead researcher S.V. Subramanian, Assistant Professor in the Department of Society, Human Development and Health at HSPH, as saying.

“The risk posed by domestic violence — and perhaps other psychosocial factors — could be as high as some well-known environmental risk factors such as smoking.” The authors of the study performed their research using a large national representative database of 92,000 households in India, where domestic violence is highly prevalent. Each respondent was surveyed in a face-to-face interview in one of 18 Indian languages. — UNI

Honey can help diabetics

Madison (Wisconsin): Spreading honey on a diabetic ulcer could prevent the need to amputate an infected foot, researchers say.

A doctor at the University of Wisconsin who helped about half a dozen of her diabetic patients avoid amputation has launched a controlled trial to promote the widespread use of honey therapy.

The therapy involves squeezing a thick layer of honey onto the wound after dead skin and bacteria have been removed.

The honey kills bacteria because it is acidic and avoids the complication of bacterial resistance found with standard antibiotics, Jennifer Eddy, a professor at the University’s School of Medicine and Public Health, told AFP.

“This is a tremendously important issue for world health,” Eddy said. — AFP

Statins may cut risk of cataracts by half

NEW YORK: Cholesterol-lowering “statin” drugs, such as Lipitor or Zocor may protect the eyes as well as the heart. In a study of older adults, it was found that people who took statins had almost a 50 per cent reduced risk of developing a cataract, a clouding of the lens of the eye.

“Because a protective influence from statins on cataract could have potentially important health care implications, this relationship needs confirmation and exploration,” research-ers conclude.

Oxidative stress is thought to play a role in the development of cataracts. Therefore, researchers say it is plausible that treatment with statins, which are thought to have antioxidant as well as cholesterol-lowering properties, could protect against this common age-related eye problem. — Reuters

Online tool for clinical trial transparency

Geneva: The World Health Organisation (WHO) has launched a new website that will enable researchers, health practitioners, consumers, journal editors and reporters to search more easily and quickly for information on clinical trials.

The site works as an entry point or portal into multiple, high quality clinical trial registers with a global search function.

For a doctor or a patient, identifying all clinical trials relevant to a decision to receive a specific treatment option is a difficult task, made easier if the results have been reported in the published literature.

However, a significant proportion of research is never published and, even if it is published, it is possible that only part of the story is told in the publication.

Relying on information provided only by published trial research is, therefore, unreliable and leads to inadequately informed treatment decisions. — ANI

Older-adult dieting may not reduce activity

Washington: New research carried out by the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center has revealed that older- adult dieting doesn’t necessarily result in reduced physical function.

Weight loss results in the loss of both muscle and fat, and scientists have wondered whether it’s safe for older adults to compound this effect by dieting.

The current study has suggested that it is wise to embark on a diet programme to cut calories.

“Our results suggest that losing weight through calorie cutting won’t lead to increased disability in older women,” said Dr Jamehl Demons, the lead investigator of the project, which is evaluating the effects of weight loss on physical performance. — ANI

Blood pressure climbs along with weight

NEW YORK: A man’s risk of developing high blood pressure rises along with his weight even when it’s within normal range, according to a new study.

In a study of more than 13,000 male doctors, researchers found that the higher a man’s body mass index (BMI) was at the outset, the higher his risk of developing high blood pressure over the next 15 years. This was true even among men who were normal-weight or only mildly overweight.

Dr Rebecca P. Gelber and colleagues at Harvard Medical School report the findings in the American Journal of Hypertension. — Reuters

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