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PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 5:23 am 
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Deaf gerbils 'hear again' after stem cell cure

UK researchers say they have taken a huge step forward in treating deafness after stem cells were used to restore hearing in animals for the first time.

Hearing partially improved when nerves in the ear, which pass sounds into the brain, were rebuilt in gerbils - a UK study in the journal Nature reports.

Getting the same improvement in people would be a shift from being unable to hear traffic to hearing a conversation.

However, treating humans is still a distant prospect.

If you want to listen to the radio or have a chat with a friend your ear has to convert sound waves in the air into electrical signals which the brain will understand.

This happens deep inside the inner ear where vibrations move tiny hairs and this movement creates an electrical signal.

However, in about one in 10 people with profound hearing loss, nerve cells which should pick up the signal are damaged. It is like dropping the baton after the first leg of a relay race.

The aim of researchers at the University of Sheffield was to replace those baton-dropping nerve cells, called spiral ganglion neurons, with new ones.

While there is excitement at the prospect of using stem cells to restore nerves in the ear this exact technique will not help the vast, vast majority of people with hearing loss.

Most hearing problems are caused by damage to the tiny delicate hairs which convert mechanical vibrations into electricity.

This research group have also converted embryonic stem cells into the early versions of the hair cells.

However, injecting them into the ear to restore hearing will be no easy task.

The hairs cells all need to be in the exact place and pointing in exactly the right direction.

Prof Dave Moore said using stem cells to repair the hairs was "almost an impossible task" and that the far-fetched concept of growing and transplanting a replacement ear seemed more likely.

They used stem cells from a human embryo, which are capable of becoming any other type of cell in the human body from nerve to skin, muscle to kidney.

A chemical soup was added to the stem cells that converted them into cells similar to the spiral ganglion neurons. These were then delicately injected into the inner ears of 18 deaf gerbils.

Over 10 weeks the gerbils' hearing improved. On average 45% of their hearing range was restored by the end of the study.

Dr Marcelo Rivolta said: "It would mean going from being so deaf that you wouldn't be able to hear a lorry or truck in the street to the point where you would be able to hear a conversation.

"It is not a complete cure, they will not be able to hear a whisper, but they would certainly be able to maintain a conversation in a room."

About a third of the gerbils responded really well to treatment with some regaining up to 90% of their hearing, while just under a third barely responded at all.

Gerbils were used as they are able to hear a similar range of sounds to people, unlike mice which hear higher-pitched sounds.

The researchers detected the improvement in hearing by measuring brainwaves. The gerbils were also tested for only 10 weeks. If this became a treatment in humans then the effect would need to be shown over a much longer term.

There are also questions around the safety and ethics of stem cell treatments which would need to be addressed.

'Tremendously encouraging'

Prof Dave Moore, the director of the Medical Research Council's Institute of Hearing Research in Nottingham, told the BBC: "It is a big moment, it really is a major development."

However, he cautioned that there will still be difficulties repeating the feat in people.

"The biggest issue is actually getting into the part of the inner ear where they'll do some good. It's extremely tiny and very difficult to get to and that will be a really formidable undertaking," he said.

Dr Ralph Holme, head of biomedical research for the charity Action on Hearing Loss, said: "The research is tremendously encouraging and gives us real hope that it will be possible to fix the actual cause of some types of hearing loss in the future.

"For the millions of people for whom hearing loss is eroding their quality of life, this can't come soon enough."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-19570024


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2012 5:20 am 
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Want to stay healthy? A 'can do' attitude really does made a difference, experts claim

Your attitude really can influence your health, Australian researchers have claimed.

Researchers from the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research analysed data on the diet, exercise and personality type of more than 7000 people.

The study found those who believe their life can be changed by their own actions ate healthier food, exercised more, smoked less and avoided binge drinking.

Researchers say a positive, 'can do' attitude, such as that displayed by the 2012 Gamesmakers, seen here doing the Mobot, is the key to a healthy life

Professor Deborah Cobb-Clark, Director of the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, said those who have a greater faith in ‘luck’ or ‘fate’ are more likely to live an unhealthy life.

'Our research shows a direct link between the type of personality a person has and a healthy lifestyle,' she said.

Professor Cobb-Clark hoped the study would help inform public health policies on conditions such as obesity.

'The main policy response to the obesity epidemic has been the provision of better information, but information alone is insufficient to change people’s eating habits,' she said.

'Understanding the psychological underpinning of a person’s eating patterns and exercise habits is central to understanding obesity.'

The study also found men and women hold different views on the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

Men wanted physical results from their healthy choices, while women were more receptive to the everyday enjoyment of leading a healthy lifestyle.

Professor Cobb-Clarke said the research demonstrated the need for more targeted policy responses.

'What works well for women may not work well for men,' she said.

'Gender specific policy initiatives which respond to these objectives may be particularly helpful in promoting healthy lifestyles.'

The study used data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/ ... z26kxb3vdN


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2012 5:22 am 
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Cancers on the rise in pregnant women: study

(Reuters Health) - The number of pregnant women diagnosed with cancer has increased over the past couple of decades, a new study from Australia suggests.

In 2007, the most recent year studied, researchers found 192 out of every 100,000 pregnant and postpartum women received a cancer diagnosis - up from 112 per 100,000 women in 1994.

Researchers couldn't determine what was behind that increase in risk, but said it could be due in part to the older average age of expectant moms combined with better cancer detection.

Another explanation could be "the increased interaction with health services during pregnancy," said Christine Roberts, an obstetrics researcher at the University of Sydney who worked on the study.

Roberts said some doctors in her department had seen a few cases of expectant moms with cancer and wanted to know whether this was indicative of any increase in risk.

To try to answer that question, her group collected information from three large databases on births, cancer cases and hospital admissions in New South Wales, Australia. That included data on roughly 780,000 women who gave birth more than 1.3 million times between 1994 and 2008.

During the same period, there were about 1,800 new cancers diagnosed in moms-to-be and those who'd given birth within the last year.

As diagnoses became more common over the years, pregnant women also got older, on average, the researchers noted in the obstetrics and gynecology journal BJOG.

For example, in 1994, 13 percent of pregnant women were over age 35, compared to almost 24 percent in 2007.

The risk of cancer is known to increase with age - and 35-plus women in the study were over three times more likely to get cancer compared to those under 30 in 2007.

But age only accounted for a fraction of the increased cancer risk over time, the researchers found.

Dr. Lloyd Smith, who treats gynecologic cancers at the University of California, Davis, agreed that improved detection likely accounts for some portion of the increase in cases.

He pointed out that melanoma was the most common cancer diagnosed, affecting 45 out of every 100,000 pregnant or postpartum women.

Australia claims the highest rate of melanoma diagnoses in the world.

Given increasing awareness of the problem of melanoma in Australia, "they probably also have ramped up their surveillance of melanoma, so they're going to detect more," Smith, who wasn't involved in the new study, told Reuters Health.

Roberts said that despite the increase in cancer risk, it is still considered a rare event among pregnant or postpartum women.

Women in the study with cancer were more likely to plan an early birth, but "importantly there was no evidence of harm to the babies of women with cancer - they were not at increased risk of reduced growth or death," Roberts wrote in an email to Reuters Health.

She said more research on cancer treatments for pregnant women is needed.

Smith said that in his experience, treating pregnant patients has been extremely difficult.

"When you have a pregnant woman who has cancer, the infant's at risk, the woman's at risk, the family is in extreme distress and they're seeking the best advice, which is often confused because no one knows quite what to do," Smith said.

One recent study found that chemotherapy does not appear to harm the fetus, while planning an early delivery to avoid chemo exposure to the baby is actually more risky (see Reuters report of September 27, 2011).

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/ ... 2R20120919


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