Thursday, June 8, 2017

Stress while pregnant can lead to child’s eating disorder

Israeli researchers find stressed pregnant mice have offspring predisposed to binge eating, but also discovered that a certain diet can prevent it.

Pregnancy can be a stressful time. Now there’s a new stressor and it’s about stress itself.

A new study on pregnant mice, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, shows a causal link between prenatal stress and the onset of eating disorders — particularly binge eating disorder (BED) — later in life for the child.

The study, done by scientists at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science, also revealed good news: The researchers were able to prevent the onset of a compulsive eating disorder by feeding the mice a diet high in folic acid and B-vitamins.

Moderate exposure to stress during pregnancy is not all negative, according to the research team led by Prof. Alon Chen, head of the neurobiology department at the Weizmann. In fact, it makes good evolutionary sense, providing mothers with a way to communicate with their unborn offspring about the world into which they are about to emerge.

Stress, for example, can signal the embryo that it will be born into an area with poor food availability and that it should slow down its metabolic rate. The problem arises when a child with such “programming” is raised in a culture with an abundance of high-calorie foods – as is the case in much of the developed world today. The mismatch can lead to obesity.

Chen and his team stressed the mother mice while pregnant. When the babies were subsequently fed a high-calorie “Western” diet, they developed an impulse to binge eat.

The researchers then looked into the young mice’s brains and found “large molecular differences between offspring whose mothers’ stress mechanism was activated and those in whose mothers it was not activated,” Chen said.

While the DNA in the mice did not change, the expression of their genome did. One of the most important mechanisms in epigenetics (literally: “on top of genetics”) is a biochemical process involving molecules in the methyl group that takes place in the hypothalamus, the brain region that regulates metabolic processes, hormone production and stress reactions.

“Perhaps the most unexpected finding in the study,” said Chen, “is that we succeeded in preventing the disorder from emerging simply by providing a balanced diet of methyl sources,” such as folic acid, choline, methionine, and vitamins B12 and B6.

“Does this mean that a balanced diet would also help cure eating disorders in humans? It is important to note that the research was conducted on a mouse model at this stage, but all the biological genes and pathways it described are shared by mice and humans.”

The main researcher was postdoctoral fellow Mariana Schroeder, with the participation of Maya Sharon Lebow, Yonat Drori, Mira Jakovcevski, Tamar Polacheck, Mareen Engel and Shifra Ben-Dor from the Weizmann’s Department of Life Sciences.

Protect yourself from deadly brain tumours

Today is World Brain Tumour Day. Do you know all about the deadly brain tumour?

The human body is built in a way that tiny building blocks known as body cells make up our organs and tissues. These cells further divide themselves in a controlled way to make new cells that enable the body to grow, heal and repair. The abnormal growth of these cells forms a lump, that’s what we call tumour.

Tumours can grow and behave in a different manner. They may be malignant that means cancerous or benign that is non-cancerous. Malignant brain tumours can easily spread in other parts of the brain and to the spinal cord from their point of origin. Whereas, benign brain tumour usually doesn’t spread in brain but it may press the nearby tissues causing problems.

Brain tumour can be classified in two broad categories each having different grades. The one that arises within brain tissue is called primary brain tumour. When cancer cells spread from where the cancer first started to other parts of the brain, it is called as secondary brain tumour.

Primary brain tumour can be further categorised on the basis of the tissue in which it originates. The tumour that begins in glial tissue is the most common primary brain tumour known as gliomas. It may be of several types:

Astrocytomas: It may grow anywhere in the brain and spinal cord. In adults, it generally originates in cerebrum. However, in children it occurs in brain stem, cerebrum or cerebellum.

Oligodendrogliomas: It generally arises in cerebrum and grows slowly. It doesn’t generally spread in surrounding areas of brain tissue.

Ependymomas: It usually develops in the lining of the ventricles. This tumour is most common in childhood and adolescence but can develop in any age.

There are few brain tumours other than those which do not develop in glial tissue.

Meningiomas: It is usually benign. It grows very slowly and the brain gets adjusted to its presence gradually. It occurs usually in females between thirty to fifty years of age. Without showing any symptoms, it may grow quite large.

Schwannomas: It occurs most often in adults. These tumours affect women twice as often as men.

Craniopharyngiomas: It develops in pituitary gland. These tumours occur most often in children and adolescents.

Germ cell tumour: It originates from developing sex cells or germ cells.

Pineal region tumour: It occurs in or around the pineal gland - a tiny organ near the centre of the brain. This area is very difficult to reach. So, most often it can’t be removed. This tumour can be slow or fast growing.

Secondary brain tumours are completely different from primary brain tumours. They have the same name as the original cancer like if lung cancer spreads to the brain, it is called as metastatic lung cancer. Metastasis is the spread of cancer within the body. The cells in secondary tumour resemble to abnormal cells of the organ in which the cancer originated. The most common cancers that can spread to the brain are breast cancer, colon cancer, kidney cancer, lung cancer and melanoma.

Symptoms of brain tumour:

Severe headaches and their changing patterns, more frequent and more severe headaches.

Nausea and vomiting.

Motor seizures, unintentional movements such as twitching, changes in performance of daily activities and walking patterns.

Growth of hands and feet in adults.

Fatigue, sluggishness and loss of initiative.

Muscle weakness, soreness and paralysis.

Memory difficulties, confusion, personality or behaviour changes.

Sensory changes in vision, smelling, hearing or emotional state etc.

Loss of control of body functions, partial or total loss of consciousness.

Altered menstrual periods or secretion of breast milk in women.

Preventive and healing natural remedies:

Adequate sleep is the basic requirement of a healthy brain. A good sleep flushes out the toxins through a glymphatic system. These toxins naturally accumulate during the day. Lack of sleep distracts the natural process of glymphatic system affecting cognitive function.

Live a healthy lifestyle comprising of meditation, yoga and deep breathing exercises. These stress reducing practices can help lessen inflammation from swelling in the brain. Reduce stress and stay happy.

Herbs and vegetables are becoming progressively more popular to combat brain tumour. Turmeric, ginger, oregano, basil, thyme, green tea and green leafy vegetables contain cancer fighting phytonutrients. Consume them daily along with ketogenic diet containing adequate amount of proteins, healthy fats and low carbohydrates that trigger ketone production. A ketogenic diet may reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain and obstructs the supply of nutrients to tumour. Calorie restriction with diet control and fasting may also reduce inflammation, prevent cancer metastasis, constrain cancer cells from multiplying and produce ketones to fuel neurons.

Reduce your exposure to radiation from wireless devices. Make more use of landline phones instead of cell phones. Text instead of talking on mobile phone whenever it can serve the purpose. Use the speaker phone. Don’t talk when signals are poor. Never sleep with your mobile phone in your bedroom especially keeping it near your head. Power off your wireless device when not in use. Besides these healthy lifestyle habits, ‘Hyper Basic Oxygen Therapy’ received at a young age can reduce the risk of brain tumour and also improve cognitive function of survivors of brain tumour.

Save the most important organ of your body. It controls the ability to speak, think, learn, move and control your emotions. A healthy lifestyle is the key to prevent brain tumour. Know your risk factors like age, exposure to radiation, a family history of brain tumour and currently having cancer in another part of your body from where it could metastasize to your brain. If you notice any symptom seek medical opinion at earliest. Live healthy and longer!

Simple blood test holds out hope for Huntingdon's disease breakthrough

A simple blood test could predict Huntingdon's disease years before its onset, in a breakthrough which could one day lead to the first treatment for the incurable condition.

Research by University College London said they have identified the strongest potential blood biomarker yet which can identify and track the genetic brain disorder.

More than 10,000 people in the UK suffer from the disease which is fatal and currently incurable.

The researchers say their findings, published in Lancet Neurology, should help test new treatments for the genetic brain disorder, which is fatal and currently incurable.

"This is the first time a potential blood biomarker has been identified to track Huntington's disease so strongly," said the study's senior author, Dr Edward Wild, from UCL.

The test measures the neurofilament light chain - a protein released from damaged brain cells.

Scientists Are Now Using AI To Predict Autism In Infants

Despite all the headway that science has made in understanding autism in recent years, knowing which children will one day develop autism is still almost impossible to predict. Children diagnosed with autism appear to behave normally until around two, and until then there is often no indication that anything is wrong.

But by scanning the brains of babies whose siblings have autism and then running the data from those scans through a machine learning algorithm, researchers say they may have come up with a method for accurately predicting which children will wind up diagnosed with autism at as young as six months.

For autism researchers, this feat has long been elusive. Diagnosing autism spectrum disorder before children develop symptoms could allow families to begin treatments like behavioural therapy earlier in hopes of making it more effective, as well as allowing researchers to test potential treatments, enabling them to more accurately judge whether these treatments actually work.

In a paper out Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Washington University School of Medicine scanned the brains of 59 high-risk, six-month-old infants to examine how different regions of the brain connect and interact. At age two, after 11 of those infants had been diagnosed with autism, they scanned their brains again. After that, the researchers turned to artificial intelligence, using an algorithm that trained itself to identify patterns in brain connectivity that separated those six-month-olds who developed autism and those who did not. Using deep learning, they were then able to develop a model capable of predicting which six-month-olds would eventually develop autism.

Using this method, researchers were able to accurately predict nine of the 11 infants who would wind up with an autism diagnosis. And it did not incorrectly predict any of the children who were not autistic.

"Our treatments of autism today have a modest impact at best," said Joseph Piven, a psychiatrist at UNC Chapel Hill and author of the study, told Gizmodo. "People with autism continue to have challenges throughout their life. But there's general consensus in the field that diagnosing earlier means better results."

Estimates suggest that about one out of every 68 children in the US has autism. The Australian Bureau of Statistics found that around one in 150 Australians had autism in 2015. Still, there are no good biomarkers to predict who is most at risk for developing it. Some rare genetic mutations are linked to autism, but most cannot easily be linked to genetic risk factors. While some findings have indicated that brain-related changes occur in children with autism before any behavioural symptoms emerge, those changes have been difficult to identify.

The study was a follow-up to one published earlier this year that looked at whether brain growth could be a biomarker for autism, since children with autism tend to have larger brains than developmentally normal children. In that study, MRI scans revealed that the volume of the brains of infants with autism grew faster between 12 and 24 months. Based on those scans, an algorithm was able to detect which children between six and 12 months would develop autism about 80 per cent of the time, though it also identified a few false positives.

By looking instead at connectivity, the new study shows a method of prediction that's more accurate and identifies children at a younger age. In total, they found 974 functional connections that were associated with autism-related behaviours.

"It's a data driven approach," said Piven. "We didn't start with a particular hypothesis."

Piven said they hope to reproduce the study, as well as expand it to not just predict whether a child might wind up with autism, but how severe it will be and what sorts of behaviours they will exhibit. Autism is a spectrum disorder ranging from mild symptoms to ones that severely inhibit a person's life, so this would make the tool much more useful and potentially also make treatment more impactful.

The study is only an early indicator of a good predictive measure. It will have to be reproduced before it's ready for clinical use. And the test in its current form would unlikely be used in the general population, but rather as a measure to be taken after an infant has already been identified as high risk. One in five siblings of children with autism, for example, eventually develops autism. Developing other screening techniques for high-risk infants would make such a test more useful.

"I would look at this study as a proof of principle," he said. "Our intention is to provide early detection intervention just like we now do for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's."

Daily tipple can shrink your brain

A glass of wine a day is enough to damage the brain and could raise the risk of Alzheimer's disease, a study by Oxford University suggests.

The research found that even those who drink in line with recommended weekly limits are three times more likely to suffer atrophy to the brain, with a steeper rate of cognitive decline.

The 30-year study tracked 550 civil servants, with brain imaging used to explore links between drinking and brain health. Those drinking between 14 and 21 units of alcohol a week - six to nine medium glasses of wine - were three times more likely than teetotallers to suffer hippocampal atrophy.

Such shrinkage can precede symptoms of dementia.

Participants who drank less, between seven and 14 units (three to six glasses weekly), had twice the risk of those who never drank alcohol, the research found. Even those drinking less than seven units of alcohol a week had an increased risk of damage.

The greatest risks were among the heaviest drinkers. Those consuming more than 30 units of alcohol saw an almost sixfold rise in their risk.