Review Category : Health

Two Anti-Aging Scientists Make Million-Dollar Bet on Who Will Die Last

SylvieBouchard/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Two prominent anti-aging scientists are betting the farm over who will buy the farm first.

Dmitry Kaminskiy, a senior partner at Deep Knowledge Ventures in Hong Kong, and Alex Zhavoronkov, Ph.D., CEO of the anti-aging drug company Insilico Medicine Inc. in Russia, signed a wager last month at a large anti-aging science conference, stating that the one who died first owed the other a million dollars in stock or cash.

“If one of the parties passes away before the other, $1 million in Insilico Medicine stock will be passed to the surviving party,” the agreement stated, adding that if the company is no longer in existence the other has to pony up the dollar amount in cash.

This life-or-death gamble will kick in on Feb. 24, 2079, Zhavoronkov’s 100th birthday — he turned 36 on Tuesday and is just over a year younger than Kaminskiy. Zhavoronkov said the competition came about as a way to combat psychological aging and ensure each man’s continued desire to live.

Zhavoronkov told ABC News that there are a few ground rules for the bet.

“We are not allowed to contribute to each other’s demise and I cannot recommend any treatments to Dmitry,” he said. “Each one of us will have his own strategy for testing the various interventions.”

Kaminskiy could not be reached for comment.

Zhavoronkov is supremely confident he will win the bet. He’as been taking low-dose aspirin since 1998 plus an anti-aging cocktail of statins and other supplements for over four and a half years. He’s had an HPV shot to prevent cancer and takes other drugs to avoid getting the flu. He has a diagnostics lab on speed dial to quickly triage any signs of health trouble.

But he admitted that Kaminskiy may have an edge, due to an enviable family history for longevity, stable sleeping patterns, and a regular exercise routine.

“Access to a few hundred million dollars, state-of-the-art information systems and a venture fund investing in longevity companies also helps,” Zhavoronkov said. “But I still believe in the power of simple, affordable and reasonably safe interventions.”

Science is on the cusp of some huge breakthroughs in anti-aging science, said Zhavoronkov. For example, he said he believed that Insilico, within the next 12 to 24 months, will be the first to deliver a set of working solutions to significantly and conclusively slow aging.

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Why Some Cancer Centers Offer Yoga to Their Patients

Courtesy of MD Anderson Cancer Center(NEW YORK) — A new hospital program dispenses downward dogs and tree poses to help kids with aggressive forms of cancer deal with their illnesses.

The MD Anderson Cancer Center’s integrative medicine department hopes to show that yoga can help cancer patients of all ages cope with the stress and symptoms of their disease.

Each week, Amie Koronczok, one of three mind-body intervention specialists at the center, takes pediatric cancer patients between 3 and 12 years of age through a 45-minute yoga class that often incorporates art, music and storytelling.

“We focus on relaxation, mindful meditation and breathing,” she said, adding that the class was developed at the request of parents looking for some help with the emotional side of their children’s illnesses.

Though the kids class is relatively new, the center has been holding yoga classes for adults for more than 13 years.

No studies suggest that yoga will cure or prevent cancer. It might not be of use for every patient, either. But a growing body of evidence indicates regular yoga practice might help manage the emotional turmoil that often accompanies a physical diagnosis.

A recent review of 10 studies, for example, indicated that yoga might help to reduce anxiety, depression, fatigue and stress for some patients. Trials included in the review associated meditative yoga with improvements in sleep quality and a boost in patient mood and well-being.

The authors of the review, published in the Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects, stressed that there needs to be more research to prove definitively the usefulness of yoga in cancer care and recovery. However, Koronczok said she’s already seen its positive effects on her littlest patients, including a little boy who came into class reluctantly and didn’t appear to pay much attention throughout.

“I saw him a few weeks later when he didn’t feel good and it hurt to move, and he asked me if the sparkling meditation globe we used during class could help him stay calm,” she recalled. “That impressed me because I thought he was resistant to the things we were doing, but it turned out he listened and got something out of it.”

“There is no downside to teaching cancer patients yoga,” said Cindy Finch, a clinical psychologist with the Mayo Clinic and with Reimagine, an online resource for cancer survivors.

Finch, who is also a cancer survivor, said she believed that health care need not treat patients exclusively with medications, surgery and other therapies that address only the physical side of illness. Treating the whole person, including the mind and spirit, helps the whole person recover, she said.

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Popular YouTube Videos Seem to Glorify Drunken Behavior

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(PITTSBURGH) — You can find virtually anyone doing anything on YouTube, including people who are intoxicated, whether it’s with their knowledge or not.

This is disturbing to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health (CRMTH), who say that these videos often don’t show the ramifications of drunkenness, which can lead to violence, vehicular accidents and health problems.

In fact while examining the 70 most popular YouTube videos that display excessive alcohol consumption, the researchers say that humor is used in about 80 percent of them with very few referencing alcohol dependence.

Perhaps even more disconcerting is that the videos have been watched more than 333 million times, and the ratio of likes to dislikes is better than 23-to-one.

Lead author Brian A. Primack says that while people tend to cast a wary eye on ads or music videos that tend to show drinking in a benign way, “those same viewers may be less cynical when viewing user-generated YouTube videos portraying humorous and socially rewarding escapades of a group of intoxicated peers.”

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Wearing a Patch Effective in Treating Peanut Allergies

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — In what may be the most innovative way yet of treating people with peanut allergies, a new patch has been developed to help increase tolerance to this food.

Until recently, slowly exposing those with peanut allergies to small amount of peanuts over time has had some success in helping to alleviate serious side effects such as breathing problems that can lead to death.

However, participants in these experiments have complained about itchy mouths and swollen stomachs.

The Viaskin patch developed by DBV technologies was used by participants for one year, at which point they could safely consumer one gram of peanut protein. While only the equivalent of four peanuts, it’s 10 times more than what they tolerated at the beginning of the experiment.

Dr. Hugh Sampson, director of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Kravis Children’s Hospital at Mount Sinai in New York City, says that toleration levels should improve the longer the patch is worn, adding that it was most effective with children.

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Doctor Groups, American Bar Association Recommend Gun Control Measures

gibgalich/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The American Bar Association and eight major medical and public health professional societies – including physicians, surgeons, and psychiatrists – are putting forth recommendations to curb the growing number of deaths and injuries caused by firearms.

The recommendations, released Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, include criminal background checks for all firearm purchases, eliminating “gag laws” that prevent doctors from speaking to patients about gun ownership, and supporting improved access to mental health care.

This new collaboration looks to gain more support from other professional societies and to eventually provide recommendations for gun safety legislation.

The collaborators are looking to release their recommendations and seek additional support.

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WHO Raises Red Flag on Reuse of Syringes

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The World Health Organization says the reuse of needles on patients is driving the global spread of deadly diseases like Hepatitis and HIV. That’s why the WHO is urging doctors and hospitals to switch to smart syringes, which intentionally break after the first use.

“Once you push down on the plunger to inject, it actually will block or break so that you can’t actually use it a second time,” Lisa Hedman at the WHO’s headquarters in Geneva tells ABC News.

She says smart syringes would go a long way towards protecting patients and their caregivers.

“Some of them also have features that would actually cover up a needle so that the health care worker, the person giving the injection, doesn’t get exposed to the sharp in case they’re dealing with somebody who’s got a highly infectious disease,” Hedman notes.

Given that about 16 billion injections are given worldwide every year, malpractice is virtually inevitable, she says.

“In a situation where somebody doesn’t understand that they can’t reuse that syringe on a second patient, that second person is then very, very much at risk for catching the disease — and it could be a very serious disease — of the person before,” she explains.

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Measles Continue to Spread, Reaching 154 Cases in 17 States

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The measles outbreak isn’t showing signs of waning yet, with 13 new cases in the last week, and there are now three separate outbreaks, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC reported on Monday that it had confirmed 154 cases of the measles since Jan. 1 as part of three separate outbreaks, plus several additional cases not linked to those outbreaks. As of Feb. 20, an outbreak linked to a group of unvaccinated people who visited Disneyland in December had 118 reported cases.

Two other unrelated outbreaks are occurring in Illinois and Nevada, according to the agency’s latest report.

The measles cases are heating up vaccine discussions nationwide, with daycare chain KinderCare changing its staff policies after several infants in one Illinois location were infected with the virus.

Of the first 34 people with measles for whom the California Department of Public Health had vaccination records, only five had received both doses of the measles vaccine, as generally recommended, according to the agency. One received just the first dose.

Nationally, officials are seeing the same trend, said Dr. Anne Schuchat, who directs the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. Some of those 34 cases tracked by California may not be included in the 121 tally by the CDC because they were reported before Jan. 1.

“This is not a problem with the measles vaccine not working,” she said during a news conference earlier this year. “This is a problem of the measles vaccine not being used.”

The CDC is seeing more adult cases of measles than usual during this outbreak, Schuchat said, adding that children are getting the virus, too.

Cases have now been reported in 17 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Georgia, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Washington, according to the CDC. The agency issued a health advisory on Jan. 23, at which point the virus had only spread to six states beyond California and Mexico.

The United States last year reported its highest number of measles cases in two decades, with 644 cases as part of 20 separate outbreaks, according to the CDC. Health officials attribute the spike to a measles outbreak in the Philippines and overseas travelers.

The measles virus is contagious long before symptoms appear and it is airborne, which is what makes it so contagious, according to the CDC. One infected person with the measles can spread it to an average of 18 other people, and it can linger in the air and live on surfaces to spread after an infected person has left a room.

Complications include hearing loss, pneumonia and swelling of the brain, according to the CDC. About one or two people out of every 1,000 people infected with the measles die of the virus.

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Three Pregnant Dads: Meet the Men Wearing ‘Empathy Bellies’

Three Pregnant Dads(NEW YORK) — From exhaustion to bladder discomfort to lack of sleep, pregnant women endure an array of aches and pains on the path that culminates with childbirth.

If only a man could even begin to understand what it was like. Well, now three guys are trying to do just that.

In an effort to pay tribute to the challenges of pregnancy as well as to their wives and mothers, three men have decided to wear 33-pound ’empathy bellies’ for one month straight in the run up to March 6, when Mother’s Day is celebrated in England. To spread awareness of their plight, the men are sharing the ups and downs of the experiment with readers on a site titled, appropriately enough, Three Pregnant Dads.

Jason Bramley, Steve Hanson and Jonny Biggins–who all hail from the United Kingdom but work together in Barcelona for The Book of Everyone, a company that creates personalized books for birthdays and family events–have strapped on their pregnancy suits for just a little over a week.

The men could not be reached for comment, but The Book of Everyone’s community manager Mike Smith spoke with ABC News about the Three Pregnant Dads’ experience so far.

“[They] get a lot of belly rubs from beautiful strangers, fun and excited reactions from the public and have received a lot of sympathy from colleagues, friends, and women,” said Smith.

Despite their comical appearance, ’empathy bellies’ can provide a serious shift in perspective, according to experts.

“I think it is as close as possible to simulating how pregnancy may feel for some women,” said ABC News Senior Medical Contributor Dr. Jennifer Ashton, an OB-GYN based in the United States. “While many of the changes that women may experience in pregnancy are physical, some are also emotional, and the ’empathy belly’ can’t simulate that, but it does make an effort.”

To wit, the suits are designed to reproduce “abdominal distention, pelvic tilt, a shift in posture causing waddling gait, abdominal aches, lower back stress, pressure on bladder, stomach, and lungs, shortness of breath” even fetal movement, among other pregnancy symptoms, Smith said.

“Something moves inside the belly,” explained Jonny Biggins in his second blog post. “A weird alien-like lump of solid resin swings like a embryonic pendulum with each move you make. It’s freaky.”

Bridging the experiential disconnect between men and women during pregnancy is just part of the inspiration behind the project. The men also wanted pay homage to Anna Jarvis, who is credited with trademarking the Mother’s Day holiday as an annual celebration of motherhood.

Before embarking upon their project, the three men wrote out a list of rules for the experiment on a couple of drink coasters, including:

  • The suit must be worn the whole time for one month (apart from showering or bathing).
  • A daily video diary must be kept to monitor the joys, trials and tribulations.
  • A daily written diary must also be kept. About 150 words.
  • No cheating, you will only be cheating the honor of your mother.

Some observers have reacted to the experiment with negative sentiments. After the Three Pregnant Dads project was written about in an article in the UK’s Daily Mail, Steve Hanson relayed some of the less supportive reactions on his blog.

“I have just spent a most pleasant hour reading the comments,” Hanson wrote. “From ‘Idiots … and I am a woman’ to ‘Divorce these 3 wimps immediately ladies please.'”

While some comments expressed disgust, another reader felt the project undermined a father’s traditional role.

“Men already have roles during pregnancy and after the birth of their children,” the person wrote. “This is just another example of the anti-male, anti-Fatherhood agenda at work in society nowadays.”

But such responses leave the men relatively unfazed, said Smith.

“[They] don’t take it too seriously, as it’s just a bit of a fun,” he said. “We’re happy that it provokes discussion.”

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Strangers Save a Birthday Party for Shunned Autistic Boy

Ashlee Nighswonger(NEW YORK) — When no one showed up to her autistic son’s birthday party, the boy’s mom posted an emotional message on her Facebook page. Within an hour, strangers showed up to save the day.

Glenn Buratti invited all 16 of his kindergarten classmates from a Florida elementary school to his sixth birthday party last weekend. His mother, Ashlee Buratti, said not a single one responded to the invite.

“He was so devastated when he realized no one was coming to his birthday party that he refused to smile,” Ashlee Buratti told ABC News Monday. “He tried to hide the fact that he was crying by pinching the bridge of his nose.”

“I know this might be something silly to rant about, but my heart is breaking for my son,” Buratti wrote to the Facebook group “Osceola Rants, Raves and Reviews List”, which has more than 10,000 members. “He keeps asking ‘when will my friends get here?’”

The post quickly went viral. And then the guests arrived.

First it was the owner of a local pet shop and her family, Buratti said. They brought a gift for her son and stayed for hotdogs and cake. Soon, half a dozen families stopped by to help the little boy celebrate his big day. As the house filled up, her son’s smile grew bigger, she said.

Someone from the Osceola County Sheriff’s Department also saw the post. They sent a helicopter to join in the celebration. For 20 minutes it flew over their house, circling and swooping low again and again to make sure everyone knew it was for her son, Buratti said.

Later in the week, the department sent over police cars, fire trucks, a SWAT van and a canine unit.

“At first he was scared and got a little upset but when I explained it was all for him, he just loved it,” Buratti said.

Buratti said her son, who is mildly autistic and also has epilepsy, sometimes experiences social anxiety and has difficulty managing his behavior when in a group.

“It can be tough for kids with autism to make friends,” said Wendy Fournier, president of National Autism Association. “They can have trouble making eye contact and communicating and there is sometimes a processing delay so their conversations don‘t always flow.”

Though not a single parent has yet to offer an apology or explanation for the no-shows, Buratti said she is not upset with anyone. But she hopes people keep in mind what it takes to put together a birthday party and what it means for a child to have someone attend.

“When you are thinking about something as simple as a birthday party, think about the child who is sitting there waiting for his friends to show up,” she said.

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FDA Says It Knew Scopes That Allegedly Spread ‘Superbug’ Could Transmit Bacterial Infections

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The revelation that contaminated endoscopes were cleaned, according to manufacturer instructions, but still allegedly caused seven people to become infected with a deadly drug-resistant bacteria, has raised questions about whether the scopes are too difficult to clean.

Seven people have become infected with the drug-resistant “superbug” known as CRE at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center after undergoing endoscopy procedures, and CRE may have played a role in two of its patients’ deaths, hospital officials said Wednesday afternoon, adding that 179 people were exposed to the germ.

The scopes — called duodenoscopes, which are inserted by mouth to access patients’ small intestine, the pancreas and the liver — were new and had only been in use since June, but they were cleaned in accordance with manufacturer guidelines, officials said yesterday. The hospital said they traced the bacteria back to two endoscopes manufactured by Olympus Corporation of the Americas.

The Food and Drug Administration told ABC News that it has been aware of cleaning issues and bacterial transmissions associated with duodenoscopes for more than a year.

“The CDC first alerted the FDA to a potential association of multi-drug resistant bacteria and duodenoscopes in fall 2013,” an agency spokesperson told ABC News. “The FDA has been actively working with federal partners, manufacturers, and other stakeholders to better understand the issues that contribute to the infections and what can be done to mitigate them.”

The FDA issued a safety communication about the duodenoscopes Thursday, explaining that they are used in about 500,000 procedures a year, but meticulous cleaning and disinfecting “may not entirely eliminate” the risk of transmitting infection. From January 2012 through December 2014, the FDA received reports of 135 patients suspected of contracting germs from reprocessed duodenoscopes, the agency said.

According to the CDC, almost every state has had a confirmed case of CRE, but state health departments are not required to notify the CDC about CRE infections.

Last month, a report revealed that 23 endoscopy patients at a Seattle hospital were infected with the antibiotic-resistant bacteria between 2012 and 2014. Eleven additional patients with CRE at the hospital died, but it’s hard to say whether the superbug played a role in their deaths. Similar incidents have occurred in Pittsburgh and Chicago.

Duodenoscopes are made by various manufacturers. One lawyer told ABC News he may sue the endoscope manufacturer, Olympus, because he believes it was used on one of his clients who later died after contracting the superbug CRE at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and on another, a teen, who has been hospitalized on and off for three months after being infected with the bug.

Olympus did not respond to repeated requests for comments about this possible lawsuit, but the company said in a statement to ABC News that it is aware of reports involving its duodenoscopes, and it is working with the FDA, medical organizations and customers to address concerns. It is also making supplemental educational materials available to customers.

“While all endoscopes, including duodenoscopes, require thorough reprocessing after patient use in order to be safe, the Olympus TJF-Q180V requires careful attention to cleaning and reprocessing steps, including meticulous manual cleaning, to ensure effective reprocessing,” the company said.

Dr. Michael Kochman, who chairs the American Gastroenterological Association’s Center for GI Innovation and Technology, said possible transmissions associated with duodenoscopes came to light last year, and since then, his organization has been working on sponsoring a meeting between the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, infectious disease specialists, gastroenterologists, endoscope companies and others. The meeting is scheduled for March 21.

“The AGA is really pushing toward a stance of no toleration of device-associated infections,” Kochman said, explaining that that may mean redesigning the scopes, finding new ways to clean them, or finding technologies to rapidly test the devices between each use. “It’s a complex issue without an easy solution.”

He said duodenoscopes appear to have nooks and crannies that can harbor bacteria, but to stop using them would be “a major, major step back for patient care.” Procedures involving these scopes allow doctors to treat patients with deadly diseases and infections without surgery, he said. And using other methods would actually lead to more patient deaths.

“The value of the procedures performed utilizing these devices far outweighs the unfortunate events that have occurred,” Kochman said.

Kochman said patients undergoing routine colonoscopies and upper endoscopy procedures have nothing to fear because duodenoscopes are not used.

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