Monday, September 3, 2012

Abnormal Brain Structure In Both Siblings - Addiction Only Affects One

A study conducted by Dr. Karen Ersche, Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, England, and published in Science, reveals that one sibling who is addicted to drugs, and the other who is not, have similar brain abnormalities. These abnormalities come from an area of the brain that is vital for aiding people in exhibiting self control.

This research will help people understand why it is more likely, for people who have a history of drug abuse in their families, to actually develop the addiction, than those without any family history of drug addiction or abuse.

The researchers compared 50 healthy participants' brain scans with the brain scans of 50 pairs of siblings. In the pairs of siblings, one was addicted to cocaine, and the other sibling did not use alcohol or drugs at all.

The findings determined that the person addicted to the cocaine, and their sibling, possessed brain abnormalities in an area of the brain called the frontal-striatal system.

The drug-dependent person and his/her non-dependent sibling displayed abnormalities in the frontal striatal region (yellow/blue), compared to healthy controls. The drug-dependent siblings had further abnormalities (green) which grew the longer their cocaine abuse went on for.

Dr. Karen Ersche says:

"It has long been known that not everyone who takes drugs becomes addicted, and that people at risk of drug dependence typically have deficits in self-control.

Our findings now shed light on why the risk of becoming addicted to drugs such as cocaine further exacerbates this problem, paving the way for addiction to develop from occasional use."

She adds:

"The next step will be to explore how the siblings who don't take drugs manage to overcome their brain abnormality in daily life."

The abstract of the journal says these findings support the idea of an underlying neurocognitive endophenotype for stimulant drug addiction.
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What are Blackheads? How to Get Rid of Blackheads

A blackhead, or open comedo is a wide opening on the skin with a blackened mass of skin debris covering the opening. Despite their name, some blackheads can be yellowish in color. A comedo is a widened hair follicle which is filled with skin debris (keratin squamae), bacteria and oil (sebum).

A closed comedo is a whitehead, while an open comedo is a blackhead. the plural of "comedo" is comedomes".

Blackheads are said to be the first stage of acne. They form before bacteria invade the pores of the patient's skin. A blackhead can develop into a pimple, which is also known as a papule or pustule.

Blackheads, and acne in general, usually develop after puberty, when hormone levels surge and reach the skin. The presence of higher levels of hormones in the skin triggers the stimulation of the sebaceous glands, which produce oily substances. The sebaceous glands produce too much oil in the pores, which accumulates and gets stuck. When the occluded oil is exposed to air it becomes black.

Several conditions and circumstances can cause blackheads, or make them worse, such as the use of topical oils and make up. Blackheads can affect people with any type of skin, but are generally more common in those with oily skin.

Blackheads on a man's nose

What are the causes of blackheads

The overproduction of oil is the main cause of the emergence of blackheads. This is likely to occur in a high proportion of humans during puberty. Spikes in hormone production can result in the high levels of DHT (dihydrotestosterone), a hormone which triggers overactivity in the oil glands, resulting in clogged pores.

Clean skin - if the skin is not cleaned properly, more blackheads can appear, especially during those milestones in life when they are more prevalent, such as puberty. Improperly cleaned skin makes it more likely that dead skin cells build up within the pores. The pore openings can become clogged, which accelerates the build up of oil inside - thus causing blackheads to form. However, many experts warn that dirt does not cause blackheads to form - which frequently confuses and frustrates patients. Blackheads are caused by oxidized oil, not dirt, experts add. Over-cleaning the skin can lead to irritation.

In some cases, blackheads can emerge if moisturizers, sun screens, make up, or foundations are overused.

In the majority of cases, blackhead susceptibility is not heredity, with the exception of some severe acnes.

Food does not cause acne - although parents and grandparents commonly tell their teenage offspring not to eat chocolates and greasy foods, because they think they encourage the formation of acne - they do not cause blackheads or make them worse. Some studies have pointed towards a link between some dairy products and acne, but the evidence is not compelling.

Stress - stress does not directly affect blackhead occurrence. However, stress and anxiety can cause people to pick at their blackheads and acne, which may make them worse. Put simply, the behaviors resulting from stress and anxiety may worsen acne symptoms, but not the stress/anxiety itself.

What are the treatment options for blackheads

Hormonal treatments - contraceptives have often been used for the treatment of blackheads and acne, often with good results.

Cleaning the skin - clean your face with a good cleanser, ideally, one for oily skin, such as a salicylic acid cleanser.

Medications - adapalene is a third-generation topical retinoid, used mainly in the treatment of mild to moderate acne. Many patients with blackheads have had good results. In the USA adapalene is available under brand name Differin, in three preparations - 0.1% cream, 0.1% gel, and 0.3% gel. Since 2010, it has also been available in the USA under the generic name Teva, (0.1% gel). Only the 0.1% cream and 0.1% gel forms are available in Europe.

UV exposure - exposing the skin to sunlight or ultra-violet light encourages it to peel, which helps unblock pores. Sunbathing or using sunbeds may help. However, it is important to discuss this with your doctor. Exposing skin to sunlight, if overdone, also raises the risk of burning and developing skin cancer.

Hair - greasy hair touching the face of your skin can spread infection and in some cases encourage the spread of blackheads and acne. Keeping your hair away from your face may help keep blackheads to a minimum.
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10 Neglected Tropical Diseases - Target For End Of Decade

The aim is to eliminate or at least control 10 neglected tropical diseases by 2020 - it is a public and private partnership, including 13 drug companies, the UK, US and United Arab Emirate Governments, the World Bank, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and some other worldwide organizations.

The partners aim to work together to eliminate neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in countries where they are endemic. They have pledged to liaise closely with affected countries. According to WHO (World Health Organization), 1.4 billion people are affected by the ten NTDs; the majority of them live in the poorest countries in the world.

In an official announcement made today at the Royal College of Physicians, London, the partners said they would combat NTDs by:
  • Expanding or at least sustaining drug donation programs so that demand is met right through to the end of 2020.
  • Share knowhow and new active ingredients to speed up R&D of new medications.
  • The allocation of over $785 million to improve R&D efforts and support drug distribution and implementation programs.
  • The endorsement of the "London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases". The Declaration promises a new level of commitment and collaboration in the tracking of progress.
Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said:

"Today, we have joined together to increase the impact of our investments and build on the tremendous progress made to date. This innovative approach must serve as a model for solving other global development challenges and will help millions of people build self-sufficiency and overcome the need for aid."

The Gates Foundation says it is donating $363 million over the next five years towards NTD product and operational research.

WHO has published its guide on how best to combat NTDs in a new report, called "Accelerating work to overcome the global impact of neglected tropical diseases - A roadmap for implementation" (PDF). The document lays out what target are achievable by 2020.

Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO:

"The efforts of WHO, researchers, partners, and the contributions of industry have changed the face of NTDs. These ancient diseases are now being brought to their knees with stunning speed. With the boost to this momentum being made today, I am confident almost all of these diseases can be eliminated or controlled by the end of this decade."

The partners have pledged more funds to close the shortfall gap in the drive to eradicate the following NTDs by 2020:
  • Blinding trachoma
  • Chagas disease
  • Guinea worm disease
  • Leprosy
  • Lymphatic filariasis
  • River blindness
  • Schistosomiasis
  • Sleeping sickness
  • Soil-transmitted helminthes
  • Visceral leishmaniasis
68-4062-1 (ATED)
River blindness (onchocerciasis) is endemic in some parts of the world. In this picture, children are leading blind adults
Sir Andrew Witty, CEO of GlaxoSmithKline, said on behalf of the partners from the pharmaceutical industry:

"Many companies and organizations have worked for decades to fight these horrific diseases. But no one company or organization can do it alone. Today, we pledge to work hand-in-hand to revolutionize the way we fight these diseases now and in the future."

The IFPMA (International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations) has pledged approximately $1.4 billion treatments annually for those in need.

11 pharmaceutical companies and some DNDi (Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative) collaborators are making their data available to libraries. They are also working together with database companies and libraries to develop WIPO Re:Search, a database of compounds, expertise and knowledge.

The Gates Foundation, The Children's Investment Fund Foundation, and The Carter Center and His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates, have said they are donating $40 million to The Carter Center. The UK Government's Department for International Development (DFID) has pledged £20 million (approx. $30 million) as long as others also donate, as part of a £195 target towards NTDs.

With the extra $89 million announced by USAID, the organization will have given $212 towards the elimination of DNDs.

The World Bank has announced an extension of its financial and technical support for African countries so that they can improve and strengthen their health systems and more effectively eliminate NTDs, or control them. The Bank also says it is, along with other partners, expanding a trust fund to address the problem of river blindness, as well as other NTDs which are endemic in Africa.

Stephen O'Brien, U.K. Minister for International Development, said:

"The world has come together to end the neglect of these horrific diseases which needlessly disable, blind and kill millions of the world's poorest. Britain and other partners are leading the way to provide critical treatments to millions of people, which allow children to attend school and parents to provide for their families so that they can help themselves out of poverty and eventually no longer rely on aid."

The declaration and pledges made today are in response to Working to overcome the global impact of neglected tropical diseases, a WHO 2010 report.

Some national governments where NTDs are widespread, such as Tanzania, Mozambique, Brazil and Bangladesh, said they will implement comprehensive plans to eradicate NTDs - they have pledged government-level commitment towards this ultimate goal.

Dr. Alexandre Manguele, Health Minister, Mozambique, said:

"From the moment the evidence of the very heavy burden of NTDs in Mozambique was understood, the government of Mozambique has taken action and continuously increased its commitment and investment to control or eliminate these diseases. With the resources pledged today in the context of this partnership the government of Mozambique feels ever more assured that the mission can be accomplished."

Examples of partner commitments pledged include:
  • NTD drug program donors said they will continue to extend, or at least sustain the programs until 2020.
  • Global Lymphatic Filariasis Elimination program - the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Eisai, and Sanofi pledge to donate 120 million DEC tablets. This means supplies should be enough to last until the end of the decade.
  • Chagas disease - Bayer says its donation of nifurtimox will double.
  • DEC tablets for lymphatic filariasis - Eisai says its donation will extend to 2.2 billion tablets.
  • Visceral leishmaniasis - Gilead's AmBisome donation for last year will continue (at cost). The company also pledges to continue investing in R&D and new technologies to help combat visceral leishmaniasis, as well as helping affected, resource-limited nations cope.
  • Soil-transmitted helminthes - GSK (GlaxoSmithKline) says its albendazole donation will be extended to 400 million tablets annually for an extra five years (through 2020).
  • Lymphatic filariasis - GSK's 600 million tablets per year will continue to the end of the decade.
  • Soil-transmitted helminthes - J&J (Johnson & Johnson) says it will extend its 200 million per year mebendazole donations through to the end of this decade.
  • River blindness and lymphatic filariasis - MSD says its ivermectin donations will continue through to 2020. The company is also looking into using ivermectin to combat other illnesses and conditions.
  • Schistosomiasis (snail fever) - Merck KGaA says its 25 million current donation of praziquantel tablets will increase to 250 million annually. The company adds that this will continue indefinitely.
  • Leprosy - Novartis says its commitment to provide rifampicin, clofazimine and dapsone will be extended.
  • Blinding trachoma - Pfizer says it will continue donating azithromycin until 2020. The company will also donate the medication and placebo for childhood mortality studies.
  • Sleeping sickness - Sanofi says it is extending its donations of eflornithine, melarsoprol and pentamidine. The company says it is also helping local in the logistical support so that patients get their medications free of charge.
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Pomegranate Seed Oil For Menopause No Better Than Placebo

Women who took pomegranate seed oil pills to relieve symptoms of the menopause, such as hot flashes, were found to receive no significantly better benefits than those who were given a placebo pill which contained sunflower oil, researchers from the Medical University of Vienna wrote in the journal Menopause. The authors added that theirs is the first (albeit small) proper clinical trial to test pomegranate seed oil for the symptoms of menopause.

The researchers explained that more than four in every five females experience hot flashes during the menopause.

Hot flashes refers to a sudden wave of body heat rushes of hormonal changes that occur in a woman - her levels of various hormones, particularly estrogen, decrease. These flashes can occur at any time of day, and can go on from just a few seconds to about thirty minutes. They occur because the blood vessels dilate and constrict. The woman has a sensation of warmth (flushing), which spreads to various parts of her body - it is usually followed by sweating, an accelerated heartbeat, and a feeling of anxiety. These symptoms usually appear when the female is in her forties, and may come and go for up to ten years. As time goes by, they occur less frequently. Experts say hot flashes are due to fluctuating hormone levels, rather than simply low hormone levels.

Lead researcher, Leo Auerbach, said that over a 12-week period pomegranate seed oil does not seem to make any significant difference to menopausal symptoms. However, in order to determine what the long-term effects and/or benefits might be, further studies are required.

Auerbach and colleagues set out to determine what impact pomegranate oil seed might have on 81 females aged between 45 and 60 years; they were all postmenopausal. They had all been experiencing at least five hot flashes per day for over 12 months since their final menstruation.

They were randomly divided into two groups:
  • The pomegranate seed oil group - they took two 30-milligram pomegranate seed oil capsules per day for 12 weeks
  • The placebo group - they took two identically-looking capsules per day during the 12 weeks. However, the capsules were dummy ones (they had no active ingredient in them)
All the participants' hormone levels were tested at the beginning and end of the study.

The following findings were reported in the journal:
  • The pomegranate seed oil group
    The women had an average of 11.1 hot flashes per day at the start of the 12 weeks
    They had an average of 6.8 hot flashes per day at the end of the 12 weeks - a 39% drop
  • The placebo group
    The women had an average of 9.9 hot flashes at the start of the 12 weeks
    They had an average of 7.3 hot flashes per day at the end of the 12 weeks - a 26% drop
Menopausal symptoms tend to respond well to placebos anyway, the authors wrote. They had expected to see a drop in symptoms in both groups (a placebo effect was expected).

They explained that the difference between the two groups does not represent a significant benefit, i.e. a 13% difference is too small.

Hormone levels at the beginning and end of the 12-week period were not statistically different between the two groups, the researchers said.

However, those in the pomegranate group did report considerably better quality sleep.

In an Abstract in the journal, the authors concluded:

"In postmenopausal women, PGS does not significantly reduce hot flashes within a 12-week observation period, but further studies are needed to investigate the long-term effect."

PEKANA, a German herbal supplement maker and marketer, funded the study and provided the supplements.

The US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has only approved hormone therapy for the treatment of hot flashes.
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