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Shun stress for better sperm fertility

D not take undue stress in life and enjoy better quality, fertile sperm to maximize your chances.

Psychological stress is harmful to sperm and semen quality, affecting its concentration, appearance, and ability to fertilise an egg, a significant study says.

“Men who feel stressed are more likely to have lower concentrations of sperm in their ejaculate. The sperm they have are more likely to be misshapen or have impaired motility,” explained Pam Factor-Litvak, an associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman school of public health.

Stress may trigger the release of steroid hormones called glucocorticoids, which could blunt levels of testosterone and sperm production.

Another possibility is oxidative stress that has been shown to affect semen quality and fertility.

“Stress has long been identified as having an influence on health. Our research suggests that men’s reproductive health may also be affected by their social environment,” added Teresa Janevic, an assistant professor at Rutgers University’s school of public health.

To understand this, researchers studied 193 men, ages 38 to 49, enrolled in the study of the environment and reproduction at the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan in Oakland, California, between 2005 and 2008.

The men completed tests to measure work and life stress on subjective scale (how they felt overall) and objective scale (life events behind the stress).

Measured subjectively or objectively, life stress degraded semen quality.

Workplace stress was not a factor, however the researchers say it may still affect reproductive health since men with job strain had diminished levels of testosterone.

Unemployed men had sperm of lower quality than employed men regardless of how stressed they were, said the study published online in the journal Fertility and Sterility.


The weed that causes cancer may well kill it

SYDNEY: Tobacco has been associated with and much maligned for causing cancers. Researchers have now found that the tobacco plant’s defence mechanism could well work in humans to destroy invading cancer cells.

Nicotiana sylvestrisA molecule called NaD1 is found in the flower of the tobacco plant that fights off fungi and bacteria. This compound also has the ability to identify and destroy cancer, the team discovered.

“This is a welcome discovery whatever the origin,” Mark Hulett from La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science in Melbourne was quoted as saying.

The molecule, found in nicotiana sylvestris (flowering tobacco) plant, forms a pincer-like structure that grips onto lipids present in the membrane of cancer cells.

It then effectively rips them open, causing the cell to expel its contents and explode.

According to researchers, this universal defence process could also potentially be harnessed for the development of antibiotic treatment for microbial infections.

The pre-clinical work is being conducted by the Melbourne biotechnology company Hexima. “The preliminary trials have looked promising,” said Hulett.

The study was published in the journal eLife.

Oxeta Update: Carrots tipped as new sperm superfood

A new study has found that eating orange and yellow fruits and vegetables may make sperm swim faster.

According to researchers at Harvard University’s School of Public Health, eating red vegetables may increase the production of healthy sperm, the New York Daily News reported.

Carrots in particular were singled out for their sperm-boosting properties. These orange veggies, along with lettuce and spinach, are high in beta-carotene.

Researchers found that this antioxidant improves sperm motility, or its ability to swim toward an egg, by 6.5 percent to 8 percent.

Lutein, a carotenoid or antioxidant also found in spinach and lettuce, had a similar effect on sperm motility, researchers said.

The participants with diets rich in lycopene, the chemical that gives tomatoes their red color, had lower levels of abnormally shaped sperm.

The study is published in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

New immunity-boosting drug helps body kill cancer

Immunity cells killing cancer cellsA new type of drug that “revs up” the immune system to destroy cancer is being tested on humans for the first time. Scientists at the University of Southampton have developed the treatment in an attempt to tackle cancers, such as those of the pancreas, head and neck, that are particularly hard to deal with using available techniques.

The new drug works by increasing the ability of the immune system to recognise and attack tumours.

Recent research has suggested that many cancers can switch off immune cells, leaving them unable to follow their natural course of attacking the tumour and stopping its growth.

The new drug, which is called ChiLob 7/4, turns these cells back on and increases their numbers. By giving patients a vaccine at the same time that can train these immune cells to target cancer, doctors say they can focus the immune system’s attacks on the tumour.

A trial of 26 patients with pancreatic cancer has already shown encouraging results and now the scientists are to start a £5 million European Union funded trial of the new treatment next year.

Prof Martin Glennie, a cancer specialist who has led the research at the University of Southampton, said: “What we are finding is there are a whole spectrum of receptors on immune cells that switch them on and off.

“Some cancers are able to switch the immune cells off. We have been working on a drug that effectively puts the foot on the accelerator to rev up the immune system.

“If we use this with a vaccine we can steer the immune cells and train them to target the cancer.”

The drug is the latest in an emerging field of cancer treatment known as immunotherapy that attempts to exploit the patient’s own immune system to tackle tumours rather than relying upon chemotherapy or radiotherapy to kill the cancer cells.

So far one cancer immunotherapy has been approved for use in patients.

Called Ipilimumab, it effectively reverses the dampening effect of cancer cells on the immune system by switching it back on and has been approved for use against melanoma, a form of skin cancer.

The University of Southampton is now establishing a dedicated Cancer Immunotherapy Centre to carry out research on more of these drugs.

Already scientists there are working on a number of other compounds like ChiLob7-4 that can target cancer in this way.

Professor Glennie said: “Ipilimumab works a bit taking the brakes off part of the immune system called T cells, while our compound revs up the T cells – it is like giving them a caffeine hit.

“We believe this could provide us with some quite wide spectrum treatments, unlike many of the new cancer drugs which are for specific cancers and even individuals. This makes them very expensive.

“We believe many cancers have immune cells in them that are trying to react against the tumour but have been switched off. So if we turn them back on then they should destroy the cancer, especially when used in combination with other treatments.”

Professor Glennie said he hoped ChiLob7-4 could start being used widely in patients within the next five years if the clinical trials are successful.

Pancreatic cancer affects around 9,000 people in the UK each year and has extremely low survival rates – less than four per cent of patients survive for longer than five years.

He added: “We know from our phase one trials that it produces symptoms like the flu, but this is relatively mild compared to the side effects of chemotherapy and disappears once the antibodies have gone away.

“We think these kind of drugs could be particularly useful in difficult to treat cancers but potentially could be used in all cancers.”

Heart disease number one killer of Indians

HeartHeart disease has emerged as the number one killer among Indians, a new survey has revealed.

According to a recent study by the Registrar General of India (RGI) and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), about 25 percent of deaths in the age group of 25- 69 years occur because of heart diseases.

If all age groups are included, heart diseases account for about 19 percent of all deaths. It is the leading cause of death among males as well as females and in all regions of India, the study found.

India, with more than 1.2 billion people, is estimated to account for 60 percent of heart disease patients worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, heart related disorders will kill almost 20 million people by 2015, and they are exceptionally prevalent in the Indian sub-continent. Half of all heart attacks in this population occur under the age of 50 years and 25 percent under the age of 40.

It is estimated that India will have over 1.6 million strokes per year by 2015, resulting in disabilities on one third of them. The need is urgent.

It is in this context that the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) has launched educational “Networks” of renowned thought leaders in the areas of Cardiology, Diabetes, and Stroke to foster high quality medical education of physicians of Asian Indian origin in the US.

Man survives for record 2 years without heart

HeartA British man has set a record after he lived without a heart for two years – surviving with the help of an external blood pump.

Matthew Green, 42, a married pharmaceutical consultant with a seven-year-old son, received a donor heart early last month Matthew Green, 42, a married pharmaceutical consultant with a seven-year-old son, received a donor heart early last month having lived for two years with an external blood pump after the removal of his own fatally diseased organ. The heart transplant was carried out at Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire. Green remains in hospital but doctors are hopeful he will be able to return home soon, ‘The Sunday Times’ reported. “I feel incredibly lucky that I have been given a third lease of life as a result of my heart transplant,” said Green.

In July 2011, both main chambers of Green’s heart failed as a result of an unusual form of the condition cardiomyopathy that causes the electrical impulses controlling the heart to go out of rhythm. He underwent an experimental procedure at Papworth to remove the diseased organ altogether, and instead connect his blood vessels to an external pump. After the procedure his heart function was taken over by a large pump on a trolley. A rechargeable battery powered pump in a backpack allowed him to leave the house for up to three hours at a time. However, Green was warned against relying on it for longer than two years because of a risk that it may cause fatal blood clots. At 6ft 3in Green needed a sufficiently powerful heart from a similar-sized donor. He was just within this two-year cutoff when a suitable organ became available last month.

“I am delighted that we were able to find a suitable donor heart for Matthew to have a heart transplant and I expect him to go home very soon,” Steven Tsui, clinical director of transplant services at Papworth, said.

Cheap tea may pose health risk

TeaTea drinkers who opt for cheaper supermarket blends could be at a higher risk of bone and teeth problems, researchers, including an Indian origin scientist, have claimed.

Many supermarket value brands have been found to contain potentially harmful levels of fluoride – a mineral that can severely damage bones if consumed in large amounts, researchers said.

Levels of fluoride found in 38 tea products were compared with each other and to the US National Academy of Sciences’ (NAS) daily dietary reference intake in the research by Laura Chan, Professor Aradhana Mehra and Professor Paul Lynch from the University of Derby London.

Using Ion Selective Electrode (ISE) analysis – which can analyse trace elements, such as fluoride, in a liquid – of the dry tea, and of the tea infusions brewed with boiling water for two minutes, the researchers compared the fluoride levels ingested by someone drinking the average daily intake of tea (four cups or one litre).

Significant differences in fluoride levels were discovered when economy black tea blends from supermarkets Asda, Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s were compared with branded black tea blends such as PG Tips, Twining’s, Typhoo; and with green tea blends including Clipper Organic leaf, Green Twining’s bags and pure blends.

Infusions of economy black tea blends, such as Asda Smartprice, Tesco Value, Morrisons Value, Sainsbury’s Basics, and Waitrose Essential, were found to have the highest concentration of fluoride – an average of six milligrammes (mg) per litre.

Although, Waitrose Essential was significantly lower in fluoride compared to the other economy black blends.

When compared to the NAS daily dietary reference intake of four milligrammes of fluoride per day, these economy blends of tea contained from 75 per cent to 120 per cent of the recommended daily intake.

Infusions of green tea blends had the next highest concentrations, followed by branded black blends such as PG Tips, Twining’s and Typhoo with an average of 3.3 mg per litre, then pure blends.

Oolong and Pu’er teas had the lowest concentrations of fluoride – an average of 0.7 mg/litre or just ten per cent to 16 per cent of the daily reference intake.

“Although fluoride is considered an essential micro-nutrient for human health, in the prevention of tooth decay and promotion of healthy bone growth, excess fluoride in the diet can have detrimental effects. Dental fluorosis, the mottling of tooth enamel, and skeletal fluorosis, pain and damage to bones and joints through calcification, can occur,” said Chan.

The study was published in journal Food Research International.

US drug watchdog cracks down on natural Indian cures for diabetes

New York: The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) moved to block the sale of what are widely considered natural or Indian ayurvedic and homeopathic remedies for diabetes. It cracked down on 15 companies’ dietary supplements for diabetes, saying the therapies don’t work, can be dangerous and, in some cases, include undisclosed prescription drugs.

The FDA sent letters on Tuesday asking for written responses from each of the companies within 15 business days, saying that failure to correct the violations could result in criminal prosecution.

It’s not uncommon for diabetes patients to look for alternative remedies, but the FDA is clearly skeptical of ayurvedic products and what it describes as “medicine of the healing arts that originated in India.”

“Diabetes is a serious chronic condition that should be properly managed using safe and effective FDA-approved treatments,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg.
“Consumers who buy violative products that claim to be treatments are not only putting themselves at risk but also may not be seeking necessary medical attention, which could affect their diabetes management.”

FDA officials noted three of the most potentially harmful “natural” supplements originated from Asia and contained pharmaceutical ingredients that were not disclosed on the product labels. It said Diexi, marketed as a natural herbal formula from Surat-based Amrutam Life Care in India actually contained the diabetes drug metformin.

“Undeclared ingredients can cause serious harm,” said the FDA which tested products marketed as “all natural” treatments for diabetes. It discovered some of them contained ingredients found in prescription drugs to treat Type 2 diabetes.

FDA explained that if consumers are unaware of the actual ingredients in the products they are taking, these products may interact in dangerous ways with other medications. One possible complication is that patients may end up taking a larger combined dose of the diabetic drugs than they intended, which may cause hypoglycemia.

Amrutam was also cited for tall claims with regards to supplements such as Zoom (for erectile dysfunction), Arexi (for arthritis) Allexi (for allergy), Cholexi (for cholesterol control), and Obexi (for obesity).

“By marketing your products Diexi and Zoom as ‘all-natural,’ ‘safe and effective’ treatments with ‘no chemically generated compounds,’ consumers are misled to believe your products do not bear unknown risks nor contain APIs found in approved prescription drugs. Accordingly, the failure to disclose the presence of metformin and sildenafil renders these products’ labeling false and misleading,” the FDA said in its letter to Amrutam.

In some products the FDA found Jiang Tan Yi Huo Su Jiao Nang, a Chinese remedy found to contain metformin and glyburide as well as phenformin, a substance pulled from the market in the US in 1978 because it had been linked to a condition known as lactic acidosis.

The agency said they aren’t currently aware of any injuries or illnesses linked to the offending products, but said they are acting in order to protect Americans from potential harm linked to the substances.

Over 25 million Americans have diabetes and 60 million Indians also suffer from the condition, in which a patient’s blood glucose or blood sugar levels are high as a result of the body’s inability to produce or effectively utilize insulin. If the disease is not managed properly, there is an increased risk for heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, lower-extremity amputations or other serious medical complications, the FDA warned.

Several Indian drug manufacturers like Ranbaxy Laboratories, Jubilant Life Sciences and Sun Pharmaceuticals Industries have faced compliance issues over the past three to four years, mainly after FDA investigations.

Wockhardt shares have fallen 25.8 percent so far this week, wiping 25.1 billion rupees from its market value, after a warning from the FDA about subpar manufacturing practices at its Waluj plant. Wockhardt has previously said the US ban would cost it about $100 million in sales a year.

Meanwhile, the FDA said menthol cigarettes likely pose a greater public health risk than regular cigarettes based on the result of an independent review released Tuesday. The FDA said menthol cigarettes appeals to younger smokers and is likely associated with greater addiction.

Oxeta Update: Lycopene May Reduce the Risk of Colorectal Cancer

Oxeta-The Daily Health ProtectorMany health organizations recommend eating more produce for colorectal cancer protection, but the mechanism for its disease-fighting ability is less well understood. Fruits and vegetables are rich in fiber and antioxidants – compounds that protect cells – and scientists have suspected that both play a role. Researchers from Stuttgart, Germany looked the relationship of three antioxidants – lycopene, beta-carotene, and alpha-tocopherol – and their association with colorectal adenomas, growths that are possibly precancerous.

The 165 volunteers were part of a larger study of lifestyle habits and colorectal adenomas. All had a recent colonoscopy to evaluate hidden blood in the stool, but were otherwise healthy, with no prior personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps. Polyps discovered during the colonoscopy exam were removed and classified as adenomatous – growths that might turn cancerous if not removed – or hyperplastic, which tend to be smaller and are thought to be unlikely to ever develop into cancer. A nutritionist questioned the volunteers about their diets, including consumption of alcoholic beverages, and other habits. Blood samples were measured for levels of lycopene, beta-carotene, and alpha-tocopherol. The investigators looked for relationships between blood levels of the antioxidants and colorectal growths.

Low blood levels of lycopene and smoking were both associated with an increased risk for adenomas, after other factors were ruled out that can influence colorectal cancer risk, such as age, body fat, and gender. There was no relationship between the presence of adenomas and levels of beta-carotene and alpha-tocopherol.

Lycopene is concentrated in tomatoes and tomato products. The researchers concluded that lycopene is in part responsible for the protective effect high tomato intake has against the risk of colorectal adenomas. Other studies have shown that beta-carotene and alpha-tocopherol have a healthful influence too, but this study does not substantiate that. Lycopene appears to protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals, which are by-products from the body’s oxygen use and also a result of exposure to cigarette smoke and excessive sunlight.

Besides tomatoes and tomato products, other lycopene-rich foods include watermelon, pink grapefruit, pink guava, and papaya. Include these foods in your daily mix of fruits and vegetables. The American Cancer Society recommends at least five servings of produce a day. Another lifestyle choice, which consistently proves beneficial – as in this study – is not to smoke.

SKIMS starts Cancer Fund for poor patients


Srinagar, July 1: Kashmir’s sole tertiary-care specialty, the SK Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), Soura has started a fund-raising bank account for free treatment of cancer patients.
The SKIMS authorities Monday “appealed philanthropists and civil society members of Jammu and Kashmir to contribute towards the poor patients suffering from cancer by depositing donations (Zakat, Sadqat) in the account number SB-15060 J&K Bank at SKIMS Soura branch.”
“The institute has created the SKIMS Endowment Fund approved by its governing body on July 6, 2010. All those who require financial assistance will be provided assistance under this fund,” the SKIMS PRO Sanna Kulsoom said in statement.
“Under this fund the financial assistance will be provided to the people living below poverty line and falling under the low income group,” she said.
According to the statement, “cancer is treatable if diagnosed early through proper management which includes surgery, radio- therapy or a combination of these regimens.”
“It involves huge expenditures beyond the means of patients who come from modest economic backgrounds. So, the institute provides free drugs and diagnostic facility to patients out of the amount placed at the disposal of Director SKIMS, from Prime Minister’s and Chief Ministers Fund,” the statement added.

– Greater Kashmir, Srinagar
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