Archives for March 2013

1-in-50 U.S. school kids has autism: Gov’t survey

A government survey of parents says 1-in-50 U.S. schoolchildren has autism, surpassing earlier federal estimate for the disorder. Health officials say the new number doesn’t mean autism is occurring more often. But it does suggest that doctors are diagnosing autism more frequently, especially in children with milder problems. The earlier government estimate of 1-in-88 comes from a study that many consider more rigorous. It looks at medical and school records instead of relying on parents.

For decades, autism meant kids with severe language, intellectual and social impairments and unusual, repetitious behaviors. But the definition has gradually expanded and now includes milder, related conditions. The new report released on March 20, 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would mean at least 1 million children have autism. The number is important: Government officials look at how common each illness or disorder is when weighing how to spend limited public health funds. It’s also controversial.

The new statistic comes from a national phone survey of more than 95,000 parents in 2011 and 2012. Less than a quarter of the parents contacted agreed to answer questions, and it’s likely that those with autistic kids were more interested than other parents in participating in a survey on children’s health, CDC officials said. Still, CDC officials believe the survey provides a valid snapshot of how many families are affected by autism, said Stephen Blumberg, the CDC report’s lead author.

The study that came up with the 1-in-88 estimate had its own limitations. It focused on 14 states, only on children 8 years old, and the data came from 2008. Updated figures based on medical and school records are expected next year. “We’ve been underestimating” how common autism is, said Michael Rosanoff of Autism Speaks, an advocacy group. He believes the figure is at least 1-in-50.

There are no blood or biologic tests for autism, so diagnosis is not an exact science. It’s identified by making judgments about a child’s behavior. Physicians have been looking for autism at younger and younger ages, and experts have tended to believe most diagnoses are made in children by age 8. However, the new study found significant proportions of children were diagnosed at older ages.

Dr. Roula Choueiri, a neurodevelopmental pediatrician at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, said she’s seen that happening at her clinic. Those kids “tend to be the mild ones, who may have had some speech delays, some social difficulties,” she wrote in an email. But they have more problems as school becomes more demanding and social situations grow more complex, she added.

The greatest change in prevalence estimates was seen in boys and for adolescents aged 14 to 17 years old. Also, children who were first diagnosed in or after 2008 were more likely to have milder autism than those diagnosed in or before 2007, which may be because of increased awareness among parents and doctors and better diagnostic testing.

 

References 

Blumberg SJ, Bramlett MD, Kogan MD, Schieve LA, Jones JR. Changes in Prevalence of Parent-reported Autism Spectrum Disorder in School-aged U.S. Children: 2007 to 2011–2012. National Health Statistics Reports 2013; Number 65: 1-11.

Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network Surveillance Year 2008 Principal Investigators; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevalence of autism spectrum disorders–Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 14 sites, United States, 2008. MMWR Surveill Summ. 2012; 61 (3): 1-19.

 

 

Autism Warning Signs

10 early warning signs of autismistockphoto “Could my child have autism?” With one in 88 children being diagnosed with autism, according to the CDC’s latest estimate, that’s what many new parents want to know. Autism is generally not diagnosed until age three, but signs of developmental delay can begin to appear as early as six months of age.

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Autism-spectrum disorders: 24 warning signs Pictures – CBS NewsView Autism-spectrum disorders: 24 warning signs photos in CBS News’ Autism-spectrum disorders: 24 warning signs photo gallery

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Mercury Dental Fillings Infographic

mercury dental filling

Discover more about mercury and how you can get this toxic, bioaccumulative substance from your dentist through our infographic “Mercury Dental Fillings: By the Numbers.” Use the embed code to share it on your website.

<img src="http://media.mercola.com/assets/images/infographic/dental-fillings.jpg" alt="mercury dental filling" border="0" style="max-width:100%; min-width:300px; margin: 0 auto 20px auto; display:block;">

Discover more about mercury and how you can get this toxic, bioaccumulative substance from your dentist through our infographic “Mercury Dental Fillings: By the Numbers.” Use the embed code to share it on your website.

Hofmann’s Potion

This documentary offers a compassionate, open-minded look at LSD and how it fits into our world. Long before Timothy Leary urged a generation to “tune in, turn on and drop out,” the drug was hailed as a way to treat forms of addiction and mental illness. At the same time, it was being touted as a powerful tool for mental exploration and self-understanding.

Featuring interviews with LSD pioneers, beautiful music and stunning cinematography, this is much more than a simple chronicle of LSD’s early days. It’s an alternative way of looking at the drug… and our world. (National Film Board of Canada, 2002)

Counting the cost of mercury pollution

MercuryCleaning up mercury pollution and reducing prenatal exposure to the neurotoxin methylmercury (MeHg) could save the European Union EUR 10,000 million per year, finds a new study published in BioMed Central’s open access journal Environmental Health. New estimates suggest that between 1.5 and 2 million children in the EU are born each year with MeHg exposures above the safe limit of 0.58µg/g and 200,000 above the WHO recommended maximum of 2.5µg/g.

While some mercury occurs naturally in the environment for example from volcanic eruptions or forest fires, most is generated by burning fossil fuels. Marine and fresh water species bioconcentrate MeHg; consequently the main source of exposure for humans is from eating fish.

A team of researchers from across Europe used the DEMOCOPHES study of exposure to environmental chemicals to assess the impact of MeHg on humans. Hair samples of child-mother pairs, collected from 17 European countries, demonstrated that, as a lower estimate, 1,866,000 children are born in Europe exposed to toxic levels of MeHg. 232,000 of these are exposed to hazardous levels, five times higher. But not every child in Europe is equally at risk. When analysed per country, children born in Portugal and Spain were the most exposed to MeHg, and Hungary the least.

Exposure to MeHg in humans affects brain development, resulting in a lower IQ, and consequently a lower earning potential. The long term cost to society can be calculated as lifetime earning loss per person, although this estimate does not take into account other aspects of brain toxicity or risks of cardiovascular disease in adults.

Prof Philippe Grandjean explained, “If we convert the effects of MeHg on developing brains into IQ points then the benefits of controlling MeHg pollution equates to 700,000 IQ points per year and monetary benefits of EUR 8,000 to EUR 9,000 million per year for the whole of the EU. Exposure abatement would mainly benefit southern Europe .”

Once MeHg is formed, it cycles though the environment for thousands of years, exposing humans and other species to potentially toxic levels for generations. Commenting on the research Dr Elsie Sunderland said, “Mitigating the harm caused by methylmercury requires global-scale cooperation on policies and source reductions. Negotiations by the United Nations Environment Program are currently underway to address mercury emission levels.”

 

References

Bellanger M, Pichery C, Aerts D, Berglund M, Castano A, Cejchanová M, Crettaz P, Davidson F, Esteban M, Exley K, Fischer ME, Gurzau AE, Halzlova K, Katsonouri A, Knudsen LE, Kolossa-Gehring M, Koppen G, Ligocka D, Miklavcic A, Reis MF, Rudnai P, Tratnik JS, Weihe P, Budtz-Jørgensen E, Grandjean P. Economic benefits of methylmercury exposure control in Europe: Monetary value of neurotoxicity prevention. Environmental Health 2013, 12:3 doi:10.1186/1476-069X-12-3.

Why fish is so good for you

Scientists of Friedrich Schiller University Jena and Jena University Hospital decode the antihypertensive impact of omega-3 fatty acids.

Scientists of Jena University and Jena University Hospital now analyzed the impact of omega-3 fatty acids and described the underlying molecular mechanisms for the first time.

Scientists of Jena University and Jena University Hospital now analyzed the impact of omega-3 fatty acids and described the underlying molecular mechanisms for the first time.

Fish is healthy: easy to digest and with a high level of precious proteins, fish is considered an important part of a healthy diet. And with the so-called omega-3 fatty acids fish contains real ‘fountains of youth’. These fatty acids – like docosahexaeonic acid (DHA) occur mostly in fatty fish like herring, salmon and mackerel. They are thought to lower the blood pressure, to strengthen the immune system and to have positive effects on the development on the nervous system and the cardiovascular system.

“Clinical studies about the intake of nutritional supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids haven’t provided complete clarity so far,” Prof. Dr. Stefan H. Heinemann from Friedrich Schiller University Jena (Germany) says. “The molecular impact of the omega-3 fatty acids isn’t fully understood yet,” the biophysicist continues. But now scientists of the DFG research group FOR 1738 based at Jena University are able to bring new facts to light: in two newly published articles for the well-known science magazine ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA’ they describe how they analyzed the impact of omega-3 fatty acids on a systemic level and they also described the underlying molecular mechanisms for the first time.

The teams around Prof. Heinemann (Jena University), Prof. Dr. Michael Bauer (Jena University Hospital) and Prof. Dr. Toshinori Hoshi (University of Pennsylvania) were able to show that the so-called ‘SLO1′ potassium channel is an important component in the effectiveness of omega-3 fatty acids. “These ionic channels act like very specific receptors for DHA and are opened by the binding of the omega-3 fatty acids,” Biophysicist Heinemann explains. In the case of other omega-3 fatty acids – like the shorter eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) or the alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) extracted from plants – the impact is much weaker.

Prof. Bauer and his colleagues examined the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on SLO1 channels of the cardiovascular system by experimenting with mice. “Administration of DHA should result in an expansion of the blood vessels and consequently a drop in blood pressure,” the physician says. The laboratory experiments confirmed exactly that. In genetically modified mice however, which were not able to produce the SLO1 channel, the antihypertensive impact of DHA failed to appear. “Thus we were able to show for the first time that DHA directly influences the blood pressure, which is being mediated through SLO1 channels,” Bauer summarizes.

Beyond that, the scientists made another surprising discovery: a variant of DHA, which can often be found in nutritional supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids, doesn’t show an antihypertensive effect. Moreover, it suppresses and even diminishes the effect of the natural DHA from fish oil. “The intake of non-natural omega-3 fatty acids can therefore also have counter-productive effects,” Prof. Bauer stresses. This is of particular importance for the nutritional supplements of patients in intensive care who are being drip-fed: their supplements of omega-3 fatty acids should be specifically aimed at and adapted to the patients’ clinical requirements.

 

References

Hoshi T, Wissuwa B, Tian T, Tajima N, Xu R, Bauer M, Heinemann SH, Hou S (2013) Omega-3 fatty acids lower blood pressure by directly activating large-conductance Ca2+-dependent K+ channelsProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1221997110)

Hoshi T, Tian T, Xu R, Heinemann SH, Hou S (2013) Mechanism of the modulation of BK potassium channel complexes with different auxiliary subunit compositions by the omega-3 fatty acid DHAProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1222003110)

 

Pomegranate: a heart-healthy fruit

Consuming pomegranate juice regularly improves heart health(NaturalNews) Pomegranate juice is rich in antioxidants such as polyphenols, tannins, and anthocyanins. The health benefits of pomegranate juice have been compared to that of red wine, purple grape juice, and black tea. The only potential downside of fresh pomegranate juice is that it is very high in natural sugar.

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Nanoparticles loaded with bee venom kill HIV

Anti-HIV nanoparticles

Nanoparticles (purple) carrying melittin (green) fuse with HIV (small circles with spiked outer ring), destroying the virus’s protective envelope. Molecular bumpers (small red ovals) prevent the nanoparticles from harming the body’s normal cells, which are much larger in size.
Credit: Joshua L. Hood, MD, PHD.

Nanoparticles carrying a toxin found in bee venom can destroy human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) while leaving surrounding cells unharmed, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have shown. The finding is an important step toward developing a vaginal gel that may prevent the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

“Our hope is that in places where HIV is running rampant, people could use this gel as a preventive measure to stop the initial infection,” says Joshua L. Hood, MD, PhD, a research instructor in medicine.

The study appears in the current issue of Antiviral Therapy.

Bee venom contains a potent toxin called melittin that can poke holes in the protective envelope that surrounds HIV, and other viruses. Large amounts of free melittin can cause a lot of damage. Indeed, in addition to anti-viral therapy, the paper’s senior author, Samuel A. Wickline, MD, the J. Russell Hornsby Professor of Biomedical Sciences, has shown melittin-loaded nanoparticles to be effective in killing tumor cells.

The new study shows that melittin loaded onto these nanoparticles does not harm normal cells. That’s because Hood added protective bumpers to the nanoparticle surface. When the nanoparticles come into contact with normal cells, which are much larger in size, the particles simply bounce off. HIV, on the other hand, is even smaller than the nanoparticle, so HIV fits between the bumpers and makes contact with the surface of the nanoparticle, where the bee toxin awaits.

“Melittin on the nanoparticles fuses with the viral envelope,” Hood says. “The melittin forms little pore-like attack complexes and ruptures the envelope, stripping it off the virus.”

According to Hood, an advantage of this approach is that the nanoparticle attacks an essential part of the virus’ structure. In contrast, most anti-HIV drugs inhibit the virus’s ability to replicate. But this anti-replication strategy does nothing to stop initial infection, and some strains of the virus have found ways around these drugs and reproduce anyway.

“We are attacking an inherent physical property of HIV,” Hood says. “Theoretically, there isn’t any way for the virus to adapt to that. The virus has to have a protective coat, a double-layered membrane that covers the virus.”

Beyond prevention in the form of a vaginal gel, Hood also sees potential for using nanoparticles with melittin as therapy for existing HIV infections, especially those that are drug-resistant. The nanoparticles could be injected intravenously and, in theory, would be able to clear HIV from the blood stream.

“The basic particle that we are using in these experiments was developed many years ago as an artificial blood product,” Hood says. “It didn’t work very well for delivering oxygen, but it circulates safely in the body and gives us a nice platform that we can adapt to fight different kinds of infections.”

Since melittin attacks double-layered membranes indiscriminately, this concept is not limited to HIV. Many viruses, including hepatitis B and C, rely on the same kind of protective envelope and would be vulnerable to melittin-loaded nanoparticles.

While this particular paper does not address contraception, Hood says the gel easily could be adapted to target sperm as well as HIV. But in some cases people may only want the HIV protection.

“We also are looking at this for couples where only one of the partners has HIV, and they want to have a baby,” Hood says. “These particles by themselves are actually very safe for sperm, for the same reason they are safe for vaginal cells.”

While this work was done in cells in a laboratory environment, Hood and his colleagues say the nanoparticles are easy to manufacture in large enough quantities to supply them for future clinical trials.

(news.wustl.edu. March 7, 2013)

 

Reference

Hood JL, Jallouck AP, Campbell N, Ratner L, Wickline SA. Cytolytic nanoparticles attenuate HIV-1 infectivity. Antiviral Therapy 2013; 19: 95-103.