Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Improving The Analysis Of Medical Images To Facilitate The Study Of Psychotic Disorders

A team of researchers from the UPNA/NUP-Public University of Navarre has developed new superresolution and segmentation methods for magnetic resonance images so that they can be applied to the structural study of psychosis. The aim is to be able to identify the differences that are produced in specific parts of the brain in psychotic patients with respect to their healthy relatives or other people.

The project, run in coordination with doctors in the Psychiatry and Radiology Service of the Complejo Hospitalario of Navarre, is based on the study of medical images obtained by means of magnetic resonance and has already begun to yield results: "We have seen that in individuals who have suffered a first psychotic episode, the area of the brain of the subcortical ganglia displays certain differences in size with respect to that in healthy individuals," explained the researcher Beatriz del Cerro.To a certain extent this contradicts what the psychiatric scientific literature used to say. So we argued that antipsychotic pharmacological treatment might be a determining factor in these discrepancies, since our patients were evaluated during the first weeks of treatment using medication while the studies in the literature provided data on patients who had been on treatment for a long time."

Today, the delimitation of certain structures of the brain or areas of interest in magnetic resonance imaging is often done manually. From the medical point of view, the promoters of the project consider that it would be desirable to have automatic methods that would increase the quality of the images and calculate the desired sizes in the image analysis.

Comparing psychotic patients with their siblings

In parallel with this project, the researchers attached to the Psychiatry and Radiology service of the Complejo Hospitalario of Navarre are doing a study entitled "Motor alterations in patients with recent psychosis onset and their healthy siblings and controls in Navarre" (Alteracionesmotoras en paciente con psicosis de inicioreciente y sus hermanossanos y controles en Navarra). This research focuses on the clinical aspects of the patients who will have the above-mentioned new methods of superresolution and segmentation inmagnetic resonance imaging applied to them.

The sample in the study comprises people who have had a first psychotic episode, people related to them and a third group without any kinship with the former but who do coincide in parameters like sex, age and educational attainment.They all underwent cerebral magnetic resonance imaging.

Once the magnetic resonance images reach the UPNA, the researchers have two main tasks ahead of them.Firstly, they use mathematical superresolution techniques to reconstruct and enhance the quality of the images acquired by the medical equipment.Secondly, they segment each image by applying artificial intelligence techniques; in other words, they divide it into various parts (groups of pixels with common features) in order to simplify it or to swap its representation for another one that is easier to analyse."To do this, we used commercial software that already exists but we have improved the algorithms and adapted them to our purposes," explained AranzazuJurio.The idea is that although there are various methods of segmentation, the one that best adapts to each type of image has to be determined and then modifications have to be made to adjust it properly to each specific case."In this phase they also have the expertise provided by the doctors.

To validate and determine the quality of this segmentation they have compared the results with other more used segmentation methods and with the manual segmentation done by the doctors."We have been able to see that our new method, based on grouping functions, obtains the best results in all the images in the experiment," they pointed out.

The clinical trial is the third main activity in the project and is handled by the medical team.With the results obtained from the images they will be studying the cerebral size differences in the areas of interest (frontal lobes, the hippocampus and the amygdala as well as the subcortical nuclei) and will be determining the existence or otherwise of significant structural differences among the three groups of people being examined.
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Suicide Can Be Contagious Among Teens

Suicide can be contagious, especially among teenagers, according to a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ).

The research suggests that one person's suicide can influence another person's suicidal thoughts or behavior, and this is particularly seen among younger adolescents.

Additionally, the teens do not have to be personally associated with the suicide victim to start thinking about suicide or to attempt suicide themselves, the investigators discovered.

Dr. Ian Colman, an assistant professor at the Department of Epidemiology and Community Medicine and Canada Research Chair in Mental Health Epidemiology, said:

"When someone dies, particularly a young person, the deceased is described by their loved ones in the media and in social media in glowing, romantic terms, often mentioning how beautiful the child was.

Talk like this is common when any child dies, but it can be dangerous when talking about suicide. When other vulnerable youth are reading or hearing about this, they see the reports about how wonderful the person was and they want their loved ones to feel the same way about them."

A previous study suggested that teens are at the highest risk of attempting suicide within two years after a parent has attempted suicide or has received inpatient care because of a mental disorder.

For the current investigation, the experts gathered and analyzed data from more than 22,000 volunteers between the ages of 12 and 17.

According to the results, 12-to-13 year olds who had been exposed to suicide had a five times higher risk of contemplating suicide themselves or to say that they had attempted suicide.

After factoring in the adolescent's personal knowledge of the person who died, the scientists were surprised to see that there was nearly no difference in these statistics.

As the teenager grows older, the influence seems to decline, the researchers explained. Fourteen-to-fifteen year olds who were exposed to suicide were three times as likely to think about or attempt suicide, while those aged 16-to-17 were twice as likely.

These results have practical implications for experts in the mental health field concerned with prevention.

Dr. Colman said:

"It's clear that these results support the suicide contagion hypothesis, especially among younger adolescents.  It most certainly supports school-based interventions as opposed to high-risk interventions aimed solely at the friends of the deceased."

The report emphasizes the unfortunate consequences that may unintentionally result when the public pays too much attention to individual suicide cases.

It is critical to re-evaluate current strategies that are associated with the support and creation of mental health programs, the authors said.

A study from earlier this year indicated that most suicidal teens being treated still attempt suicide, suggesting that they are not being given the proper treatment.
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Your Feet Are Home To Nearly 200 Types Of Fungi

Researchers have discovered that there are close to 200 different types of fungi species living on our feet - more than any other part of the body.

Although fungi also inhabit other areas of the body - such as behind our ears - the researchers found that most of them are living between our toes.

The study, carried out and published in the journal Nature, is the most extensive analysis of the body's fungal diversity to date.

Although only about half of all types of fungi are harmful, they commonly live on the skin and can be a major cause of infection. This finding is key to discovering new ways to treat skin conditions caused by fungal infection.

If you have a weakened immune system or take antibiotics you are more likely to develop a fungal infection.

Although there are treatment options available for fungal infections, research published in the journal Nature has shown that fungi have a lot of potential for "horizontal" gene transfer, similar to the mechanisms that allow bacteria to evolve so quickly, which may lead to antibiotic resistance.

Common fungal infections include:
  • Yeast infections - a fungus that lives almost everywhere, including in your body. Yeast infections of the skin cause itching and rashes.
  • Athlete's foot - A very common infection caused by fungi. It affects the space between the toes. Symptoms include itching, burning, and cracked, scaly skin between your toes.
  • Ringworm - a red skin rash that forms a ring around normal-looking skin - the condition is not caused be a worm.

The study was led by researchers at the National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland.

10 healthy adults participated in the study, the scientists sequenced the DNA of fungi living on their skin and other parts of the body.

They took samples from behind their ears, between their toes, their backs, toenails, groin, chest, forearm, nostrils, heel, and palm.

The part of the body with the most fungi was the heel with 80 different types of fungi, followed by toenail clippings (60 types) and the toes (40 types). The head contained the fewest types of fungi (only 10).

Lead researcher of the study, Dr Julia Segre, said:

"The data from our study gives us a baseline about normal individuals that we never had before. The bottom line is your feet are teeming with fungal diversity, so wear your flip flops in locker rooms if you don't want to mix your foot fungi with someone else's fungi."

The researchers believe that an imbalance of microbes may be the reason why harmful ones spread. In conclusion the diversity of fungi living on the human body was much higher than expected.
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Cure For Gray Hair And Vitiligo Found

A modified pseudocatalase, a new compound that reverses oxidative stress may provide a cure for loss of skin or hair color, i.e. gray hair or vitiligo, researchers from the United Kingdom and Germany reported in The FASEB Journal.

The need to use hair dyes to cover up a classic sign of aging - gray hair - may soon be a thing of the past.

Scientists from the Institute for Pigmentary Disorders in association with E.M. Arndt University of Greifswald, Germany and the Centre for Skin Sciences, School of Life Sciences at the University of Bradford, United Kingdom, explained that people's hair goes gray because of massive oxidative stress caused by a build up of hydrogen peroxide in hair follicles. This causes hair to bleach itself from the inside out.

The researchers found that this massive build up of hydrogen peroxide can be reversed with a UVB-activated compound called PC-KUS, a modified pseudocatalase. The research team developed this new proprietary treatment.

PC-KUS restores skin color in patients with vitiligo

The authors added that PC-KUS treatment is also effective for patients with vitiligo. Vitiligo is a long-term skin problem that produces white depigmentation patches that develop and grow in certain sections of skin.

Study author, Karin U. Schallreuter, M.D., said:

"To date, it is beyond any doubt that the sudden loss of the inherited skin and localized hair color can affect those individuals in many fundamental ways. The improvement of quality of life after total and even partial successful repigmentation has been documented."

Schallreuter and team analyzed 2,411 patients from several countries with vitiligo. Fifty-seven (2.4%) of them were diagnosed with SSV (strictly segmental vitiligo) and 76 (3.2%) were diagnosed with mixed vitiligo, which is SSV plus NSV (non-segmental vitiligo).

They discovered that those with SSV with a specific nerval distribution involving eyelashes and skin showed the same oxidative stress found in the much more common general NSV. General NSV is associated with decreased antioxidant capacities, including thioredoxin reductase, catalase, and the repair mechanisms methionine sulfoxide reductases.

They found that PC-KUS treatment led to successful patient outcomes - patients' pigmentation in their skin and eyelashes was restored - i.e. they recovered their original skin and hair color.

Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal, said:

"For generations, numerous remedies have been concocted to hide gray hair. but now, for the first time, an actual treatment that gets to the root of the problem has been developed.

While this is exciting news, what's even more exciting is that this also works for vitiligo. This condition, while technically cosmetic, can have serious socio-emotional effects of people. Developing an effective treatment for this condition has the potential to radically improve many people's lives."

Woman with gray hair
Gray hair is caused by a massive accumulation of hydrogen peroxide in the hair follicles.

This report is a follow-up on a 2009 study that explained why our hair turns gray. Scientists from the Universities of Bradford, England, and Mainz and Luebeck, Germany, explained in The FASEB Journal (March 2009 issue) that graying hair has absolutely nothing to do with wisdom. They wrote that "Going gray is caused by a massive build up of hydrogen peroxide due to wear and tear of our hair follicles."

Hydrogen peroxide eventually blocks the normal production of melanin, the natural pigment responsible for hair color, as well as skin and eye color.
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Bras Make Breasts Sag, 15-Year Study Concludes

Wearing a bra does more harm than good - it does nothing to reduce back pain and weakens the muscles that hold up the breasts, resulting in greater breast sagging, Jean-Denis Rouillon, a sports science expert from the University of Besançon, France, reported after a 15-year study.

Rouillon says that the main conclusion from the preliminary results of his "marathon experiment" is that the bra is a false necessity.

In an interview with France Info (radio), Professor Rouillon said:

"Medically, physiologically, anatomically - breasts gain no benefit from being denied gravity. On the contrary, they get saggier with a bra."

Prof. Rouillon used a slide rule and a caliper (a device used to measure the distance between two opposite sides of an object) to carefully measure changes in breast features of hundreds of women over a 15-year period at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire, Besançon.

All his volunteers were between 18 and 35 years old. Rouillon emphasized that although his study spanned many years and included hundreds of women, he in no way claims his sample population is representative of the global population of women.

Rouillon found that women who never wore bras had nipples on average seven millimeters higher in relation to their shoulders each year than regular bra users.

In an interview with France Info, a 28-year old female called Capucine says she swears by Rouillon's findings.

Capucine, who was one of the volunteers in Rouillon's study, said:

"There are multiple benefits (to being without a bra): I breathe more easily, I carry myself better, and I have less back pain."

Rouillon warns that some women should not throw their bras away immediately. For example, older women (45 years or more) would derive no benefit from throwing away their bra. In an interview with Reuters, he said "But a middle-aged woman, overweight, with 2.4 children? I'm not at all sure she'd benefit from abandoning bras."

In an interview with The Local, an English-written newspaper in France, Rouillon stressed "These are preliminary results. The small sample of 320 young women is not representative of the entire population - that would require something like 300,000 subjects."

The study did confirm that, according to preliminary data, when young women stop wearing a bra:
  • There is no deterioration in the orientation of their breasts
  • There is widespread improvement in the orientation of their breasts
A previous study by the University of Portsmouth, England, revealed that some women are damaging their breasts because they are wearing the wrong bra size.

Rouillon acknowledged that women wear a bra for a number of reasons, apart from hoping to conserve the shape of their breasts and to prevent sagging. Some find them more comfortable, especially those who live far from the equator during wintertime.

In order for these "preliminary results" to become "definitive", Rouillon says he needs to recruit a much larger sample of women, and to conduct further research on the subject.

John Dixey, former CEO of bra-maker Playtex, explained in a Channel 4 (British TV channel) interview "We have no evidence that wearing a bra could prevent sagging, because the breast itself is not muscle, so keeping it toned up is an impossibility.... There's no permanent effect on the breast from wearing a particular bra. The bra will give you the shape the bra's been designed to give while you're wearing it."
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Beware Of Deadly New Virus, CDC Warns Officials

Coronaviruses 004 lores
Coronaviruses viewed under an electron microscope, with their crown-, or halo-like (corona) appearance
State and health officials have been warned about a deadly virus which has so far killed 8 of 14 infected people in the Middle East and the United Kingdom. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) explained that this virulent coronavirus is part of the same family of viruses as the common cold and SARS.

Experts believe this new coronavirus comes from the Middle East. Of the four confirmed infections in the United Kingdom, three occurred among people who had travelled to the Middle East, one of whom was a family member of an infected person, he had no history of recent travel and had never been to the Middle East. This means that it has become human-transmissible; infected humans can pass it on to other people.

One of the family members, the one who had not travelled, died. According to UK authorities, the patient had an underlying condition that may have increased susceptibility to respiratory infections.

The novel virus is a coronavirus, part of the same virus family as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and the common cold. During the SARS epidemic of 2003/2004, 10% of infected people were killed. This new coronavirus has a death rate of over 50% (8 out of 14 infected people have died).

"Corona" is Latin for "crown" or "halo". Coronaviruses have halo-like projections on their surfaces.

Scientists working at the Health Protection Agency, UK, say that the new coronavirus (N-CoV) is not the same as SARS-CoV (the virus that causes SARS), but is similar to it. N-CoV is similar to a coronavirus found in bats.

According to the CDC, no cases of infection with the new coronavirus have been reported in the USA.

The first case of the novel coronavirus infection was diagnosed Qatar, the patient was taken to the United Kingdom for treatment in September 2012.

According to Professor John Watson, head of the respiratory diseases department at Britain's Health Protection Agency:

"The routes of transmission to humans of the novel coronavirus have not yet been fully determined, but the recent UK experience provides strong evidence of human-to-human transmission in at least some circumstances.

The three recent cases in the UK represent an important opportunity to obtain more information about the characteristics of this infection in humans and risk factors for its acquisition, particularly in the light of the first ever recorded instance of apparently lower severity of illness in one of the cases. The risk of infection in contacts in most circumstances is still considered to be low and the risk associated with novel coronavirus to the general UK population remains very low. The HPA will continue to work closely with national and international health authorities and will share any further advice with health professionals and the public if and when more information becomes available."

The CDC is advising doctors and health care authorities in the USA to be watchful for any patients who have been to the Middle East during the past 10 days with unexplained respiratory infections.

The CDC has set up a Coronavirus Website with infection updates.

What are the signs and symptoms of novel coronavirus infection?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the following signs and symptoms were reported in the confirmed cases of human illness:
  • acute severe respiratory illness
  • breathing problems
  • fever
  • shortness of breath
Virtually all patients develop pneumonia. In some patients there is kidney failure.

WHO and the HPA emphasize that with only 14 cases to go by, the features of the infection may change.

Novel coronavirus less human transmissible than SARS

Experts from the UK and WHO say that although the signs and symptoms of N-CoV are similar to those found in S-CoV (the virus that causes SARS), the novel coronavirus is much less human transmissible.

Nobody knows how widespread N-CoV is. Except for one person - the patient in the UK who caught the infection from a family member - how the others became infected is still a mystery. Health authorities do not know whether N-CoV infection resulted from close contact with infected animals or people.

In an official communiqué in February 2013, WHO asked all Member States to continue their surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections and to carefully review unusual patterns. Patients with unexplained pneumonias should be tested, as should those with unexplained severe, progressive/complicated respiratory illness who do not respond to treatment.

WHO, the HPA and the CDC do not advise screening people at points of entry, or implementing any travel or trade restrictions.

Written by Christian Nordqvist
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First-Ever Enterovirus 71 Vaccine Protects Young Children Against Common And Potentially Deadly Hand, Foot, And Mouth Disease

The first enterovirus 71 (EV71) vaccine candidate to reach phase 3 clinical testing provides young Chinese children with significant protection against disease caused by EV71, a growing public-health threat which has caused over 6 million cases of hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) and 2000 deaths worldwide over the last decade, according new research published Online First in The Lancet.

Since its discovery in 1969, EV71 has caused major outbreaks of HFMD around the world, affecting mostly children. No vaccines currently exist against disease caused by EV71.

The novel inactivated EV71 vaccine was developed for use in the Asia-Pacific region where the greatest number of serious cases, that can cause potentially fatal meningitis and encephalitis, occur.

The randomised trial took place at four sites across China (three in Jiangsu province and one in Beijing), and involved 10245 healthy infants and children aged 6-35 months, who were randomly assigned to receive two doses of placebo (5125) or vaccine (5120) 28 days apart.

The vaccine gave 90% protection against clinical EV71-associated HFMD and 80.4% against EV71-associated disease (including neurological complications) for at least 12 months.

Importantly, the vaccine also demonstrated 100% efficacy against EV71-associated hospitalisation, "suggesting that it could have a significant impact on public health by preventing severe outcomes of EV71 infection"*, say the authors.

The vaccine was well tolerated and had a safety profile similar to inactivated poliovirus vaccines. Frequencies of adverse events were similar between the vaccine and placebo groups. No vaccine-related serious adverse events were recorded.

The investigators propose that a titre of 1:32 is the protective antibody level needed to prevent EV71-associated disease.

However, they caution that there was no evidence that the vaccine had cross-protection against coxsackievirus A (CA) 16 that is frequently found to co-circulate with EV71 and cause HFMD.

Moreover, they point out that there are many viruses that can cause HFMD and the vaccine only has an impact on EV71-related disease, "In the 1-year surveillance period, only a small proportion of cases of HFMD were confirmed as associated with EV71...[Therefore] despite its high efficacy for preventing EV71-associated HFMD, the EV71 vaccine might have little part in reducing the overall incidence of HFMD, even by universal mass immunisation of children."

Writing in a linked Comment, Nigel Crawford and Steve Graham from the University of Melbourne and Murdoch Children's Research Institute in Australia say, "The next step is to assess the appropriateness of including an EV71 vaccine in China's national immunisation programme, including a cost-effectiveness analysis...The gains made in Zhu and colleagues' trial need to be shared internationally, including assessment of any potential cross-protection for other EV71 genogroups [prevalent in other epidemic countries or regions eg, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, and Japan]...Monitoring for epidemiological variations in EV71 will also be crucial to determine whether the vaccine has ongoing efficacy and if any genogroup replacement has occurred."

*Quote direct from authors and cannot be found in text of Article.
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