1. New prenatal treatment offers hope for fetuses diagnosed with Down SyndromeA group of researchers from Kyoto University in Japan have produced a chemical compound that is able to inhibit the symptoms of Down Syndrome in fetuses which were diagnosed with the genetic condition. The findings of the research which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, could have a significant impact on expectant mothers.
The team tested the new compound on pregnant mice whose fetuses were induced with Down Syndrome. The results of the test found that, offspring mice showed normal cerebral cortex growth and improved learning abilities. When compared, the cognitive abilities of the Down Syndrome mice were found to be comparable to those of health mice. While the treatment does not correct the genetic abnormality, it manages to promote neuronal growth sufficiently to overcome the symptoms of Down Syndrome.
The drug has yet to be tested on pregnant women and is currently undergoing further studies. Lead researchers, Masatoshi Hagiwara added, “There are high hurdles to overcome before we administer the compound to pregnant women. We are looking to make it clinically available first as a drug for cerebral infarction and other diseases.”
2. Fat distribution a predictor of breast cancer subtypes
Scientists in China have discovered a link between the distribution of body fat and specific breast cancer subtypes in women.
Published in the journal, The Oncologist, the findings of the research showed that women with a high body-mass index (BMI) were more likely to have estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer, especially if they were premenopausal. On the other hand, women with a high waist-hop ration (WHR) were more likely to develop estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer, especially if they had passed menopause.
Unlike their western counterparts, higher BMI did not contribute as a protective factor against breast cancer in Chinese women. Commenting on the results, head researche Yu added, “…compared to western women, premenopausal Asian women, including Chinese women, tend to be slender, and fat mass may have a greater impact. Second, Asian women are more likely to become obese by accumulating visceral fat; this is quite different from western countries, where women are more likely to accumulate subcutaneous fat.”
Based on their findings, Yu and his team recommended more research into the effects of other risk factors leading to breast cancer in obese women.
3. Smartphone apps that help treat depression
An Australian-lead research has discovered that smartphone apps can significantly reduce symptoms of depression in individuals with mild to moderate depression. Using specially designed apps as a form of “integrative medicine”, patients with depression have shown signs of improved mood and reduced symptoms.
“The data shows us that smartphones can help people monitor, understand and manage their own mental health,” said co-author Jerome Sarris, of Australia's National Institute of Complementary Medicine.
Despite the promising results, the authors of the study have cautioned against using apps alone as a mode of treating depression or as a mode to replace standard psychological therapies or antidepressant medication. With the rates of depression constantly rising year on end, the team has stated that further study will be done to better understand the viability of smartphone apps in treating depression.
4. Acupuncture to increase chances of conceiving?
While the evidence is inconclusive, the number of women receiving acupuncture treatment as a means of improving fertility have significantly increased over the past decade. The traditional Chinese treatment may not be directly linked to improving fertility but, some have pursued acupuncture as a form of stress, anxiety and frustration relieve related to infertility.
Acupuncture may not work on every patient but, for those who perceive a benefit, acupuncture may be started at any point a woman decides to conceive. This can be immediately before trying to conceive or after several unsuccessful tries and fertility treatments.
After pregnancy occurs, many choose to continue acupuncture treatment with a combination of nutrition and lifestyle modifications as a means of reducing stress, nausea and low back pain. Historically, acupuncture is believed to improve fertility via the regulation of the menstrual cycle and hormone levels, increasing blood flow to the uterus and improving the quality of the gametes.
5. New cardiac catheter combines fluorescent light and ultrasound
Biomedical engineers at UC Davis have created a cardiac catheter probe which combines intravascular ultrasound with fluorescence lifetime imaging (FLIM) which allows clinicians to visualise the smaller arteries of the heart. With the new catheter, clinicians can leverage the benefits of both imaging techniques to gather structural and biochemical information about arterial plaques.
Headed by Professor Laura Marcu and her lab in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, the team have successfully created a new probe capable of more reliably predicting heart attacks. Thus far, the new catheter has been tested on living swine hearts and samples of human coronary arteries.
Professors Marcu’s group is currently awaiting approval by the FDA before they will be able to test their new catheter on human patients. MIMS
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