Review Category : Health

Study Finds Life on a Dairy Farm May Help Prevent Allergies

iStock/Thinkstock(GOTHENBURG, Sweden) — Want to reduce the risk of your child developing allergies? Move to a dairy farm.

Researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden say children who live on farms that produce milk run one-tenth the risk of developing allergies compared to other rural children.

Heath experts say there’s been a dramatic increase in the occurrence of allergic diseases in Western societies in recent years, and one often-cited reason is that children are less exposed to microorganisms and have fewer infections than previous generations. As a result, that delays maturation of their immune system.

The researchers monitored children until the age of three to track the maturation of their immune system in relation to allergic disease. All of the children lived in rural areas in Sweden, with half of them on farms that produced milk. The study found that kids being raised on dairy farms ran a much lower risk of developing allergies than the other children.

“Our study also demonstrated for the first time that delayed maturation of the immune system, specifically B-cells, is a risk factor for development of allergies,” says Anna-Carin Lundell, one of the researchers.

The study found children with an allergic disease between the ages of 18 and 36 months had a higher percentage of immature B-cells in their blood circulation at birth and during the first month of life.

The researchers suggest that pregnant women may also benefit from spending time on dairy farms to promote maturation of the fetal and neonatal immune system.

Lundell says they will now try to identify the specific factors on daily farms that strengthen protection against allergies.

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Split Liver Transplants May Be as Safe as Whole Organ Transplants

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A new study shows that doctors may be able to increase availability of donated livers by splitting the donated organs into two and giving each half to a different recipient.

The study, published in the American Journal of Transplantation, showed that splitting the donated livers may be just as safe as a single whole liver donation. Such a finding would allow doctors to double the number of individuals who could receive liver transplants — which is important since 16,000 Americans are on the waiting list for a new liver.

Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic compared 48 split-liver transplants to 121 matched whole-liver transplants over a span of nine years and found no discernible difference in survival rate of the transplanted organs.

The study did note that patients receiving a split transplant did have a higher rate of complications, with some requiring further procedures and potentially surgery. The split transplant is also more difficult, researchers say. Still, with thousands waiting, some in vain, for a donor liver, researchers continue searching for a safe way to increase the number of transplants available.

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First Ever Dengue Vaccine Shows Signs of Efficacy

moodboard/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A new vaccine to help prevent dengue infections is showing promise, researchers say, in limiting infections of the disease that strikes nearly 100 million people per year.

The study, published in the journal The Lancet, showed that slightly more than half of the children between the ages of two and 14 included in the study were effectively protected from dengue. Approximately 10,275 children were included in the study, all from Southeast Asia.

The vaccine was given as a three-part series, on the day of the child’s birth, at six months, and at 12 months.

Children who received the vaccine did not suffer from any more adverse events than those who received placebo injections.

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First Ever Dengue Vaccine Shows Signs of Efficacy

moodboard/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A new vaccine to help prevent dengue infections is showing promise, researchers say, in limiting infections of the disease that strikes nearly 100 million people per year.

The study, published in the journal The Lancet, showed that slightly more than half of the children between the ages of two and 14 included in the study were effectively protected from dengue. Approximately 10,275 children were included in the study, all from Southeast Asia.

The vaccine was given as a three-part series, on the day of the child’s birth, at six months, and at 12 months.

Children who received the vaccine did not suffer from any more adverse events than those who received placebo injections.

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Researchers Use Microchip-Based Device to Culture Certain Types of Breast Cancer Cells

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A preliminary study at Massachusetts General Hospital found that specially developed microchips may be able to detect certain types of breast cancer cells in a patient’s bloodstream.

The study contained data from just 36 patients, but researchers were able to detect breast cancer without a biopsy. Still, specific breast cancer cells were detected in just six cases, women with advanced breast cancer.

Techniques for culturing the cancer cells in the bloodstream must be improve before the microchip-based technique is ready for clinical use. Still, the use of microchips to find circulating tumor cells would be a big step forward from requiring a biopsy.

The microchip would not rely on previously identified marker proteins on the surface of the tumor cells, which limits the existing methods. It also allows researchers to uncover new possible mutations.

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Split Liver Transplants May Be as Safe as Whole OrganTransplants

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A new study shows that doctors may be able to increase availability of donated livers by splitting the donated organs into two and giving each half to a different recipient.

The study, published in the American Journal of Transplantation, showed that splitting the donated livers may be just as safe as a single whole liver donation. Such a finding would allow doctors to double the number of individuals who could receive liver transplants — which is important since 16,000 Americans are on the waiting list for a new liver.

Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic compared 48 split-liver transplants to 121 matched whole-liver transplants over a span of nine years and found no discernible difference in survival rate of the transplanted organs.

The study did note that patients receiving a split transplant did have a higher rate of complications, with some requiring further procedures and potentially surgery. The split transplant is also more difficult, researchers say. Still, with thousands waiting, some in vain, for a donor liver, researchers continue searching for a safe way to increase the number of transplants available.

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Girl ‘Cured’ of HIV at Birth Now Has Virus

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — A girl believed to be “cured” of HIV at birth now has detectable levels of the virus, health officials said on Thursday.

The unnamed girl, dubbed the “Mississippi baby” after being born to an HIV-positive mother in 2010 and quickly treated with an intense dose of antiretroviral medication, showed no signs of the virus for roughly four years, according to the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease. But a recent round of tests revealed detectable levels of HIV in her blood as well as antibodies to the virus and a decreased T-cell count — all signs of the infection.

“Certainly, this is a disappointing turn of events for this young child, the medical staff involved in the child’s care, and the HIV/AIDS research community,” NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a statement. “Scientifically, this development reminds us that we still have much more to learn about the intricacies of HIV infection and where the virus hides in the body.”

The case of the Mississippi baby made headlines across the globe after being published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Dr. Hannah Gay, the University of Mississippi Medical Center pediatrician who treated the infant at birth, was listed as one of Time magazine’s most influential people of 2013.

Gay’s decision to give the newborn antiretroviral medication in the days before it was confirmed that she was in fact HIV-positive was controversial, since there was only a 25 percent chance that the girl would contract the virus from her mother.

The girl continued treatment for 18 months before her mother stopped taking her to her clinic appointments. Five months later, when she went back for a check-up, she surprised doctors with undetectable levels of the virus.

At first, Gay and her colleagues said the baby had been “functionally cured” of the virus, but later revised their language to “remission” to better convey that there was a chance the virus could rebound, they said at the time.

Although the girl’s positive test results have been described as a disappointment, experts say her case still shows tremendous progress in treating the virus that causes AIDS.

“The fact that this child was able to remain off antiretroviral treatment for two years and maintain quiescent virus for that length of time is unprecedented,” Dr. Deborah Persaud, professor of infectious diseases at the John Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore, said in a statement released by NIAID. “Typically, when treatment is stopped, HIV levels rebound within weeks, not years.”

Persaud is one of the two pediatric HIV experts involved in the ongoing analysis of the case. NIAID and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development announced on Thursday that they would provide funding to analyze the unique case and will take the new findings into account during a new clinical trial.

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Defense Department Seeks Brain Implant to Restore Memory

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Defense Department has backed a multi-million dollar program that hopes to develop a brain implant that will help retrieve memories.

Researchers believe the device would be able to help members of the military with traumatic brain injuries and possibly help others with Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy.

“TBIs don’t just occur in the battlefield, though a lot of them do. Everyday there are people who suffer TBIs from car accidents and suffer repetitive concussions like our players in the NFL and even in high school teams, so the audience is pretty large,” lead researcher Satinderpall Pannu told ABC News.

The research is working towards developing a device that could be surgically implanted into the user’s brain so that it is able to stimulate neurons that will help retrieve certain memories.

“Research has shown that by stimulating certain neurons, they will spontaneously produce memories,” Pannu said.

Pannu and his team at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California have been working on this class of device for more than 10 years, but now they have teamed up with labs at both UCLA and the University of Pennsylvania to complete this device in the next four years.

UCLA will be awarded $22.5 million, UPenn will receive $15 million and LLNL will get $2.5 million over the course of the project from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

“Anyone who has witnessed the effects of memory loss in another person knows its toll and how few options are available to treat it. We’re going to apply the knowledge and understanding gained in RAM to develop new options for treatment through technology,” DARPA project manager Justin Sanchez said in a statement Wednesday.

Pannu explained that the device will be about the size of a watch battery and will be implanted underneath the user’s skin but above their skull to avoid causing undue pressure on the brain.

The device will be attached to two small “spaghetti-like” wires that will go into the user’s brain through the skull so that electrodes that are attached to either end of the wires will touch two parts of the user’s brain that control memory.

The neural device will then be able to stimulate neurons in the brain, which will stir memories.

Once completed, the project will be tested on a group of patients with Alzheimer’s, dementia and TBI.

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Boy with Brain Cancer Becomes Sheriff Deputy

Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health (INDIANAPOLIS) — A young boy battling brain cancer has been named the “nation’s youngest special sheriff deputy” in Huntington County, Indiana.

Wyatt Schmaltz, a 3-year-old with stage 4 neuroblastoma, was dubbed “Deputy Wyatt” by County Sheriff Terry Stoffehel in a ceremony Wednesday.

“We have given Wyatt all the powers of a real Sheriff Deputy, which are to carry out the orders of the Sheriff,” Stoffehel said in a statement. “Right now, his only orders are to get better.”

Stoffehel said the sheriff’s department had planned to host Wyatt at a local camp run by different law enforcement personnel, but changed their plans after Wyatt returned to the hospital with an infection.

Instead, the department cut a uniform shirt down to Wyatt’s size and gave him a special certificate. Stoffehel even had the boy recite the same oath that all other deputies take when they’re sworn in.

“We put it all together,” Stoffehel said. “He was just overwhelmed. It took a while for everything absorb in. He was just floored.”

Wyatt is fighting to survive stage 4 neuroblastoma, a form of brain cancer that most commonly affects children 5 years old and younger, according to the Mayo Clinic. He was diagnosed in April and has already undergone several rounds of chemotherapy at the Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health, according to a hospital statement.

Wyatt’s mother, April Schmaltz, said her son was most excited about the police badge, since he often “arrests” his older brothers when they play at home.

“It’s very touching that they would all do this for him,” she said of the gesture. “When he sees all the support, it makes him stronger.”

Wyatt used his new badge today, and told a nurse tasked with taking his blood that she was “under arrest,” Schmaltz said.

Although Schmaltz expects Wyatt to be released from the hospital on Friday, the young new deputy faces more complicated treatments, including surgery to remove a tumor in his abdomen and stem cell treatments, she said.

Dr. Michele Saysana, a pediatrician with Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, said the badge could help Wyatt through the healing process.

“It brought tears to our team member’s eyes to see officers who are sworn to protect and serve travel to pay tribute to one of our patients,” she said in a statement.

Wyatt got his own badge and uniform as part of his new position, but evidently that wasn’t quite enough. After being given his new gifts, Wyatt turned to the sheriff and deputy and said, “What’s next?”

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The Secret to Being Happier: Quitting Facebook for 99 Days?

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — A campaign called “99 Days of Freedom” is daring Facebook users to take a summer detox from the addictive social network.

However, not everyone has what it takes to go three months without logging on to check their newsfeed for friends’ selfies, relationship updates and vacation snaps.

The campaign, which launched earlier this week, has so far encouraged just more than 2,800 of Facebook’s one billion active users to take a vow of abstinence.

The initiative comes as a response to Facebook’s “mood experiment” on 700,000 users, said Merijn Straathof, the art director at Just, the Netherlands-based creative agency behind the “99 Days of Freedom” idea.

“Facebook is an incredible platform, we’re all fiercely loyal users and we believe that there’s a lot to love about the service,” he said. “But we we also feel that there are obvious emotional benefits to moderation.”

“Our prediction is that the experiment will yield a lot of positive personal experiences and, 99 days from now, we’ll know whether that theory has legs,” he added.

If the average user spends 17 minutes per day on Facebook and completes the challenge, they will have an extra “28 hours of freedom” to pursue other activities, Straathof said.

While it’s still early in the challenge, Straathof said participants have reported a “rough” day one, while others have said they’re much happier spending the extra time reading or going outside.

“Day 1 is the roughest. I am always looking for my app when I deleted it. I feel empowered to keep doing this though. I know I can stay strong!” a user named Henderson Cunningham wrote.

A man named Kurt wrote he was using his Facebook hiatus as motivation to work out more. “I’m heading back to the gym and getting more exercise with my ‘re-captured’ time,” he wrote.

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