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Targeting mosquito sperm can help combat malaria

Anopheles Gambiae MosquitoScientists have discovered a way of reducing the fertility of malaria-carrying mosquitoes by targeting an enzyme that protects their sperm, potentially providing a new tactic to combat the disease.

Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes are the main transmitters of malaria, which affects  around 200 million people every year. The females mate only once during their lives.

They store the sperm from this single mating in an organ called the spermatheca, from which they repeatedly take sperm over the course of their lifetime to fertilise the eggs that they lay. The female needs the sperm to stay healthy whilst they are in storage in the spermatheca, so that they are viable each time she uses them to reproduce.

The new research shows that the sperm are partly protected by the actions of an enzyme called HPX15. When the researchers interfered with HPX15 in female A gambiae mosquitoes in the laboratory, the females fertilised fewer eggs and therefore produced fewer offspring. This is the first time that scientists have discovered a mechanism that preserves the function of sperm in A gambiae.

The researchers, from Harvard School of Public Health, the University of Perugia and Imperial College London, believe that their insight could ultimately lead to a new weapon in the fight against malaria. This would work by disabling HPX15 to reduce female fertility and through that, reduce the number of malaria-carrying mosquitoes in circulation.

“Malaria kills over 650,000 people every year and we need to find new ways of tackling it, partly because mosquitoes continue to evolve ways of resisting our efforts,” Dr Robert Shaw, one of the lead authors of the research, said.  “We are interested in cutting the numbers of malarial mosquitoes by impairing their ability to reproduce, and our new study suggests a way that we might be able to do this.

“There is no single magic bullet for tackling malaria, but making mosquitoes less fertile could provide us with a  valuable weapon against the disease,” said Shaw. The study suggests that HPX15 may protect the stored sperm against potentially damaging molecules called free radicals, which are particularly abundant after a female takes a blood feed.

Ensuring that the sperm are healthy after blood-feeding is important for the female’s fertility as she reproduces after each feed, fertilising her eggs with sperm released from the spermatheca. The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Sudden cardiac death linked to sleep apnea

People with Apneamoderate obstructive sleep apnea bear a significant risk of sudden cardiac death.

That’s what the researchers of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology have claimed. A sudden cardiac arrest is a serious condition when the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating.

Unfortunately, it is the leading cause of death among males and females in India owing to its occurrence at any hour of the day, but it reaches its peak during sleeping hours. Sleep apnea is diagnosed when a person stops breathing for 10 seconds or longer for at least five times in an hour while asleep. The patient would typically snore, choke or gasp during sleep, and will wake up drowsy. Although snoring while sleeping is not unusual but one must be aware that excessive snoring can pose a serious health problem that may result in severe complications, if not treated in time. It is quite clear that if a person has sleep apnea, he or she increases their chance of developing hypertension in the future. When a person has sleep apnea, his sleep is disturbed because he is unable to breathe properly. For short intervals, the body does not receive any oxygen and the carbon dioxide levels in the blood go up. This may result in a grave situation, because besides causing a weak heart and cardiac arrest, it can affect the hormones and result in insulin abnormalities or diabetes.

It becomes difficult to define the relationship between sleep apnea and heart disease, as people with sleep apnea often suffer from other coexisting diseases as well, primarily cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure, heart failure, atrial fibrillation and stroke. In some situations, fat deposits around the upper airway also become an obstruction to breathing. This disorder is commonly seen in overweight, middle aged people, but sometimes it can also be seen in children and people who are not overweight. People tend to have other heart risk factors such as heart failure or heart disease. Having these other risk factors already puts a person at risk of sudden cardiac death. Sleep apnea simply makes the person more vulnerable.

Sleep apnea has over time emerged as a proven cause of abnormal heart rhythms or cardiac arrhythmias. Many heart arrhythmias are harmless. Occasionally everyone experiences irregular heartbeats, which may feel like a racing heart or fluttering. Some arrhythmias, however, especially if they bend too far from a normal heartbeat or result from a weak or damaged heart, may cause upsetting and even potentially fatal symptoms.

Approximately 50 per cent of patients with atrial fibrillation are found to suffer from sleep apnea. It gradually results in the deterioration of the heart muscles pumping ability, leading to congestive heart failure. Fortunately, treating sleep apnea in these patients greatly improves the chance of successfully treating heart arrhythmia and strengthens the heart muscle, thereby reducing the risk of heart attack or stroke.

When it comes to treating milder cases of sleep apnea, some lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, a healthy diet or quitting smoking and alcohol might be all the treatment that is required. If these measures do not improve, the signs and symptoms will grow from moderate to severe, then surgery may be recommended. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is another common reliable method of reducing the cardiovascular consequences of sleep apnea. The CPAP machine works by blowing air into the back of the throat, keeping the airway open. Treating sleep apnea may help you stop snoring, but that does not mean that it has been cured and one can stop using CPAP. It will return, once a patient stops using the machine.

It has now been well established that obstructive sleep apnea is a serious disorder, which may become a major risk to one’s health, causing significant lung and heart problems over a period of time. So those who thought that their sleepless nights were just another problem in their daily routine should consider this as wake up call.

(This article has been provided by Dr. Amar Singhal, Senior Consultant, Cardiology, Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute)

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18 Health Tricks to Teach Your Body

TricksEating 10 hot dogs in 6 minutes and belching the national anthem may impress your friends, but neither of those feats will do much for your body—at least not much good.

Instead, why not train yourself to do something that may actually pay off?

We’re not talking bench presses and interval training (though those do help). You can teach your body to cure itself from everyday health ailments—side stitches, first-date jitters, even hands that have fallen asleep.

Just study this list, and the next time your friends challenge you to an ice cream eating contest, chow down: You know how to thaw a brain freeze—and 17 other tricks that’ll make everyone think you’re the next David Blaine. But without all that “hold your breath for 17 minutes” mess.

Do Them Right: To mazimize your workout, good form is a must. Men’s Health Personal Trainer features videos demos that you can download and take with you to the gym.

1 – Cure a Tickling Throat

When you were 9, playing your armpit was a cool trick. Now, as an adult, you can still appreciate a good body-based feat, especially if it serves as a health remedy. Take that tickle in your throat: It’s not worth gagging over. Here’s a better way to scratch your itch: Scratch your ear. “When the nerves in the ear are stimulated, it creates a reflex in the throat that can cause a muscle spasm,” says Scott Schaffer, M.D., president of an ear, nose, and throat specialty center in Gibbsboro, New Jersey. “This spasm relieves the tickle.”

2 – Experience Supersonic Hearing

If you’re stuck chatting up a mumbler at a cocktail party, lean in with your right ear. It’s better than your left at following the rapid rhythms of speech, according to researchers at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. If, on the other hand, you’re trying to identify that song playing softly in the elevator, turn your left ear toward the sound. The left ear is better at picking up music tones.

3 – Overcome Your Most Primal Urge

Need to pee? No bathroom nearby? Fantasize about Jessica Simpson. Thinking about sex preoccupies your brain, so you won’t feel as much discomfort, says Larry Lipshultz, M.D., chief of male reproductive medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine. For best results, try Simpson’s “These Boots Are Made for Walking” video.

4 – Feel No Pain

German researchers have discovered that coughing during an injection can lessen the pain of the needle stick. According to Taras Usichenko, author of a study on the phenomenon, the trick causes a sudden, temporary rise in pressure in the chest and spinal canal, inhibiting the pain-conducting structures of the spinal cord.

5 – Clear Your Stuffed Nose

Forget Sudafed. Here’s an easier, quicker, and cheaper remedy to relieve sinus pressure: Alternate thrusting your tongue against the roof of your mouth, then pressing between your eyebrows with one finger. This causes the vomer bone, which runs through the nasal passages to the mouth, to rock back and forth, says Lisa DeStefano, D.O., an assistant professor at the Michigan State University college of osteopathic medicine. The motion loosens congestion; after 20 seconds, you’ll feel your sinuses start to drain.

6 – Fight Fire Without Water

Worried those wings will repeat on you tonight? Try this preventive remedy: “Sleep on your left side,” says Anthony A. Starpoli, M.D., a New York City gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at New York Medical College. Studies have shown that patients who sleep on their left sides are less likely to suffer from acid reflux. The esophagus and stomach connect at an angle. When you sleep on your right, the stomach is higher than the esophagus, allowing food and stomach acid to slide up your throat. When you’re on your left, the stomach is lower than the esophagus, so gravity’s in your favor.

7 – Cure Your Toothache

Just rub ice on the back of your hand, on the V-shaped webbed area between your thumb and index finger. A Canadian study found that this technique reduces toothache pain by as much as 50 percent compared with using no ice. The nerve pathways at the base of that V stimulate an area of the brain that blocks pain signals from the face and hands.

8 – Make Burns Disappear

When you accidentally singe your finger on the stove, clean the skin and apply light pressure with the finger pads of your unmarred hand. Ice will relieve your pain more quickly, Dr. DeStefano says, but since the natual method brings the burned skin back to a normal temperature, the skin is less likely to blister.

9 – Stop the World from Spinning

One too many drinks left you dizzy? Ah, luckily there’s a remedy. Put your hand on something stable. The part of your ear responsible for balance—the cupula—floats in a fluid of the same density as blood. “As alcohol dilutes blood in the cupula, the cupula becomes less dense and rises,” says Dr. Schaffer. This confuses your brain. The tactile input from a stable object gives the brain a second opinion, and you feel more in balance. Because the nerves in the hand are so sensitive, this works better than the conventional foot-on-the-floor wisdom.

10 – Unstitch Your Side

If you’re like most people, when you run, you exhale as your right foot hits the ground. This puts downward pressure on your liver (which lives on your right side), which then tugs at the diaphragm and creates a side stitch, according to The Doctors Book of Home Remedies for Men. The fix: Exhale as your left foot strikes the ground.

11 – Stanch Blood with One Finger

Pinching your nose and leaning back is a great way to stop a nosebleed—if you don’t mind choking on your own O positive. A more civil approach: Put some cotton on your upper gums—just behind that small dent below your nose—and press against it, hard. “Most bleeds come from the front of the septum, the cartilage wall that divides the nose,” says Peter Desmarais, M.D., an ear, nose, and throat specialist at Entabeni Hospital, in Durban, South Africa. “Pressing here helps stop them.”

12 – Make Your Heart Stand Still

Trying to quell first-date jitters? Blow on your thumb. The vagus nerve, which governs heart rate, can be controlled through breathing, says Ben Abo, an emergency medical-services specialist at the University of Pittsburgh. It’ll get your heart rate back to normal.

13 – Thaw Your Brain

Too much Chipwich too fast will freeze the brains of lesser men. As for you, press your tongue flat against the roof of your mouth, covering as much as you can. “Since the nerves in the roof of your mouth get extremely cold, your body thinks your brain is freezing, too,” says Abo. “In compensating, it overheats, causing an ice-cream headache.” The more pressure you apply to the roof of your mouth, the faster your headache will subside.

14 – Prevent Near-Sightedness

Poor distance vision is rarely caused by genetics, says Anne Barber, O.D., an optometrist in Tacoma, Washington. “It’s usually caused by near-point stress.” In other words, staring at your computer screen for too long. So flex your way to 20/20 vision. Every few hours during the day, close your eyes, tense your body, take a deep breath, and, after a few seconds, release your breath and muscles at the same time. Tightening and releasing muscles such as the biceps and glutes can trick involuntary muscles—like the eyes—into relaxing as well.

15 – Wake the Dead

If your hand falls asleep while you’re driving or sitting in an odd position, rock your head from side to side. It’ll painlessly banish your pins and needles in less than a minute, says Dr. DeStefano. A tingly hand or arm is often the result of compression in the bundle of nerves in your neck; loosening your neck muscles releases the pressure. Compressed nerves lower in the body govern the feet, so don’t let your sleeping dogs lie. Stand up and walk around.

16 – Impress Your Friends

Next time you’re at a party, try this trick: Have a person hold one arm straight out to the side, palm down, and instruct him to maintain this position. Then place two fingers on his wrist and push down. He’ll resist. Now have him put one foot on a surface that’s a half inch higher (a few magazines) and repeat. This time his arm will cave like the French. By misaligning his hips, you’ve offset his spine, says Rachel Cosgrove, C.S.C.S., co-owner of Results Fitness, in Santa Clarita, California. Your brain senses that the spine is vulnerable, so it shuts down the body’s ability to resist.

17 – Breathe Underwater

If you’re dying to retrieve that quarter from the bottom of the pool, take several short breaths first—essentially, hyperventilate. When you’re underwater, it’s not a lack of oxygen that makes you desperate for a breath; it’s the buildup of carbon dioxide, which makes your blood acidic, which signals your brain that somethin’ ain’t right. “When you hyperventilate, the influx of oxygen lowers blood acidity,” says Jonathan Armbruster, Ph.D., an associate professor of biology at Auburn University. “This tricks your brain into thinking it has more oxygen.” It’ll buy you up to 10 seconds.

18 – Read Minds

Your own! “If you’re giving a speech the next day, review it before falling asleep,” says Candi Heimgartner, an instructor of biological sciences at the University of Idaho. Since most memory consolidation happens during sleep, anything you read right before bed is more likely to be encoded as long-term memory.

Astofer: Haemoglobin Booster

Astofer Suspension

Haemoglobin Booster

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