Review Category : Health

Dogs Appreciate Treats More When They Work for Them

iStock/Thinkstock(UPPSALA, Sweden) — Although dogs are man’s best friend, they don’t necessarily want a handout.

That, according to a study from University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden, which says that canines better appreciate a treat if they have to complete a task to receive it.

Researchers trained beagles in learning how to operate various pieces of equipment, and dogs that figured out the puzzles had a choice of rewards: food, a human who would pet it or another beagle.

Not surprisingly, the dogs picked food over the other rewards but the researchers also noted a high level of happiness when puzzles were solved, such as tails wagging and excitability.

The researchers thus concluded, “Opportunities to solve problems, make decisions, and exercise cognitive skills are important to an animal’s emotional experiences and ultimately, its welfare.”

In other words, they don’t mind challenges as long as it leads to a doggie treat.

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Researchers Say ‘Bionic Pancreas’ May Lower Risk of Hypoglycemia Among Diabetics

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Researchers say a newly-developed “bionic pancreas” may provide better control over blood sugar and limit hypoglycemic episodes in diabetic patients.

The device was created by Edward Damiano, whose son has Type-1 diabetes. The standard treatment is constant blood sugar measurement and use of an insulin pump. Deciding that there must be a better way, Damiano created the “bionic pancreas” which continuously monitors a patient’s blood sugar every five minutes using a smartphone app. The device then delivers insulin if sugars are too high or glucagon if blood sugar levels are too low.

The device was tested in 20 adults and 32 adolescents, each of whom was allowed to eat whatever they wanted. They were closely supervised during the trial, which determined that the patients saw a lower average blood sugar reading, but also lower rates of hypoglycemia, a major concern for diabetics, according to the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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Man, 101, Attends 80th College Reunion, Named College President for Day

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(CARLISLE, Pa.) — Dickinson College celebrated one of its oldest living alumni this weekend at a ceremony for 101-year-old Dr. Benjamin James.

James graduated from the college in 1934 and returned to the campus, in Carlisle, Pa., this weekend for the honorary ceremony, in which he was named “Honorary College President” for the day, according to ABC News affiliate WHTM-TV.

James was also given the moniker “Mr. Dickinson” by a previous school president for his involvement with his alma mater over the years, according to the report.

James began teaching at Dickinson in 1940 and served in many positions on campus, including dean of admissions and assistant coach of the Red Devils football team.

He even had a building dedicated to him in 1987.

“I feel very good,” James told WHTM-TV when asked about the reunion. “First, because of the presentation of the present president, who sent some appreciation and love, and that makes me feel very good.”

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How Might Researchers Be Able to Wipe Out Malaria?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Scientists think they have figured out a way to wipe out mosquitoes that transmit malaria, a horrible disease that kills a million humans every year.

Based on laboratory experiments, they think they can do it by messing up the sex life of Anopheles gambiae, the mosquito that sucks blood out of other animals, including humans, that carries the parasite that causes a disease for which there is no vaccine.

It has been estimated that a child dies every 30 seconds in sub-Sahara Africa from malaria, so if the lab results also work in the real world then this could be the turning point in an effort that has frustrated medical researchers for many decades.

That’s a big “if,” but scientists at Imperial College London, who have spent years working on this problem, think they are finally on the right track.

Their “breakthrough,” as other scientists have called it, works by genetically engineering mosquitoes to produce offspring that are exclusively male at least 95 percent of the time.

With fewer and fewer females in each succeeding generation, the technique wiped out the entire population of caged wild mosquitoes within six generations, according to a study published in Nature Communications.

The scientists transferred a gene from slime mold that produces an enzyme that chops up DNA when it finds a specific sequence. In this case it latched on to a section of the x chromosome, which determines gender, during the period when the male mosquito was producing sperm. Thus nearly all the offspring were males.

“We think our innovative approach is a huge step forward,” lead researcher Andrea Crisanti said in releasing the report. “For the very first time, we have been able to inhibit the production of female offspring in the laboratory and this provides a new means to eliminate the disease.”

The technique could pay off immediately in that only females bite humans, because they need the nutrients in blood to produce healthy eggs, so fewer females would mean fewer bites.

That sounds like good news for the entire world, since mosquito bites are irritating and dangerous. Mosquitoes transmit several diseases, not just malaria, including West Nile Virus and yellow fever, which devastated New Orleans in 1905.

Unfortunately, even if this works in the wild, it will work only on Anopheles gambiae, one of at least 3,000 species of this nasty insect, so don’t throw away your DEET yet. But it could point the way to other genetic avenues that would work with other species.

However, this would be a new chapter, and perhaps a dangerous one, in the ongoing human effort to change the natural world through genetic engineering to solve a problem that is faced by one species, ourselves. And it is possible that once experiments begin in the wild, an entire species could be wiped out through genetic engineering, a threat that troubles many critics.

On the surface, this would appear to be a slam dunk. Why would anyone object to sacrificing mosquitoes to save the lives of millions of children?

The mosquito has been described as the deadliest animal on the entire planet, and it’s safe to say that nearly all humans detest these little beasts, but wiping out an entire species is something that should require a lot of thought and discussion. Even if the victim is a just a mosquito. Everyone hates mosquitoes. The female attacks with a vengeance, drawing blood and leaving a blister-like wound.

But is it worth it to wipe out an entire species of another living creature just to serve the needs of a single species, ourselves? My guess is nearly everyone would answer that in the affirmative, but this is a bridge that doesn’t lead to nowhere. We’ve never experimented on that scale before, and if this works it will surely lead to wider genetic engineering in the animal world.

Even Crisanti described this as a “quantum leap in terms of what has been done before.”

Yet even though the stakes here are high, it’s hard not to get excited about this potential breakthrough.

The only other progress in fighting malaria has involved hanging insecticide-treated nets over the beds of children and pregnant women, and that has reduced malaria by an estimated 50 percent. Drying out muddy ponds where mosquitoes lay their eggs also has helped. But that still leaves a lot of room for human suffering, and the nets only last for a few years.

The mosquito is not likely to easily give up its preference for human blood. As anyone who lives in a damp area knows, it can smell human breath 75 feet away and travel a couple of miles per day, beating its wings 300 to 600 times per second. It seems ideally equipped to torment humans.

And it is equally successful at developing immunity from the scores of insecticides that have been produced over the years.

That raises another question. If it has been so successful in the past, can it out-engineer the engineers and defeat human efforts to mess up its sex life? (Scientists call it a “sex ratio distortion system.”)

Maybe. We won’t know for at least two years when this project is expected to move from the lab to the real world.

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Mosquito-Borne Virus Found in Rhode Island, CDC Concerned

Hemera/Thinkstock(PROVIDENCE, R.I.) — The Rhode Island Department of Health said on Friday that they had confirmed two cases of chikungunya, a viral infection, involving travelers who returned from the Dominican Republic last month, the first cases of the disease being found in the northeast.

According to officials, the virus is primarily spread through the bites of infected mosquitoes. It is typically found in Caribbean countries, as well as Africa, Asia and islands in the Indian and western Pacific oceans, but there have been about 41 cases reported in the U.S. this year. Previous cases of chikungunya were reported in Florida, North Carolina and Tennessee. The spread of the disease prompted travel advisories for those Americans traveling to the Caribbean.

The two Rhode Island residents infected with chikungunya returned from the Dominican Republic 12 days apart. Multiple other possible cases remain under investigation.

There is no vaccine for the disease, and the treatment involves eliminating the symptoms, which include fever, joint pain, headache, muscle pain, joint swelling and/or a rash.

Officials also urge Rhode Island residents to eliminate potential mosquito breeding grounds, as mosquitoes can allow for person-to-person transmission of the disease.

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Over 800 Cases of Whooping Cough Reported in California in Last Two Weeks

Hemera/Thinkstock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — More than 800 cases of whooping cough have been reported in the state of California in the last two weeks.

According to the California Department of Public Health, the latest figures on the disease also know as pertussis indicate that there have been 3,458 cases reported this year, more than were reported in the entirety of 2013. The disease is most dangerous for infants too young for full immunization, as two-thirds of the hospitalizations related to the whooping cough outbreak were in children four months old or younger.

The CDPH urges pregnant women to receive the Tdap vaccination during the third trimester of their pregnancies and infants should be vaccinated as soon as possible after birth.

In children, pertussis often begins with a cough and runny nose for up to two weeks. The child then often suffers a more severe cough that can occur in spells. The disease can be fatal if untreated.

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Over 800 Cases of Whooping Cough Reported in California in Last Two Weeks

Hemera/Thinkstock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — More than 800 cases of whooping cough have been reported in the state of California in the last two weeks.

According to the California Department of Public Health, the latest figures on the disease also know as pertussis indicate that there have been 3,458 cases reported this year, more than were reported in the entirety of 2013. The disease is most dangerous for infants too young for full immunization, as two-thirds of the hospitalizations related to the whooping cough outbreak were in children four months old or younger.

The CDPH urges pregnant women to receive the Tdap vaccination during the third trimester of their pregnancies and infants should be vaccinated as soon as possible after birth.

In children, pertussis often begins with a cough and runny nose for up to two weeks. The child then often suffers a more severe cough that can occur in spells. The disease can be fatal if untreated.

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Kansas City Twins Born 39 Days Apart

iStock/Thinkstock(KANSAS CITY, Mo.) — Days after Boston twins made headlines for having birthdays 24 days apart, a pair of Kansas City twins is trumping them with their 39-day spread.

Elene Cowan delivered her first son, Carl, a mere 24 weeks into her pregnancy. But doctors used a special balloon and medication to keep Carl’s twin brother, David, inside.

“It was like those things you hear about happening but you never expect it to happen to you,” Cowan told ABC News of the complicated delivery, which kept her on virtual bed rest for nearly six weeks. The only moves she made were to visit Carl, who weighed 1.4 pounds at birth, in the neonatal intensive care unit.

“It was the balance of dividing my time I guess,” Cowan said. “It was pretty tough to decide what was the right thing to do at each day and time.”

Cowan’s second son, David, was born nearly six weeks after Carl weighing 2.9 pounds – more than double the weight of his brother. Now 4 and 6 months old, Cowan said both babies are doing well, although Carl still needs oxygen.

Cowan said she’d been looking forward to joint birthday parties during her pregnancy. But now she and her husband are excited to celebrate their sons’ separate birthdays.

“My husband and I thought we were going to save money and have one birthday party, but now we’ll have two separate ones,” she said. “I think that’s a remembrance of what they went through.”

Boston twins Alexandre and Ronaldo Antunes were born in March 24 days apart. Their parents expect them to be discharged from the hospital in time for their June 18 due date.

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Toddler Meets Life-Saving Bone Marrow Donor

iStock/Thinkstock(PHOENIX) — When she was 18 months old, Maddie Weimer broke out in red spots all over her belly and back. Weeks later in April 2012, blood tests and a biopsy led to a frightening diagnosis — Maddie had myelodysplastic syndrome or MDS, the same rare blood disorder that struck ABC’s Robin Roberts.

MDS, which can lead to leukemia, is even rarer in children, according to the American Cancer Society.

Maddie’s mother Stacey Weimer was told the “only option” for Maddie’s survival was a bone marrow transplant. But unlike Roberts, whose sister Sally-Ann was a perfect match, Maddie had no siblings and none of her relatives were compatible.

Now 3 years old, Maddie is in remission thanks to Bailey Personette, who in 2011 volunteered to be a bone marrow donor at a fair held at Purdue University in Indiana. Personette, now 21, said she never hesitated.

“It took about two minutes,” she said of the simple mouth swab test that landed her on a donor registry. Eight months later, she was notified there was a baby in need.

“When you get the call that you are a match and this could be lifesaving, for me, without a doubt, I definitely wanted to do this,” she told ABC.

Thursday, a year and a half after Maddie’s October 2012 bone marrow transplant, she met her donor for the first time at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

“There was never any doubt in my mind that I would meet her,” Weimer said of Personette. “She has given my daughter a second chance at life.”

Young adults like Personette make up the biggest increase in new bone marrow donors, according to James Kirkland, spokesman for the national donor center Delete Blood Cancer DKMS.

“They are also the donors most in demand because they are healthier and in a more robust state than any 45-year-old,” Kirkland said.

Maddie’s doctors told ABC News that Robin Roberts’ battle with MDS helped open the doors to new and younger bone marrow donors.

Blood cancer kills more children in the United States than any other disease, according to Delete Blood Cancer. They say that 70% of all patients needing a transplant have to look outside the family for a match, and of the 14,000 Americans who need transplants each year, fewer than half will find one.

At first, Weimer and her husband AJ said they were discouraged because their insurance company did not have a financial contract with the hospital.

But the hospital’s transplant program made arrangements for the family to go out of state to Seattle Center Care Alliance at Seattle Children’s Hospital, which used the bone marrow donor registry Be the Match.

In July 2012, the family learned that the hospital had found a perfect “10/10 match,” which means Maddie’s and Personette’s human leukocyte antigen or HLA typings were the same, ensuring the best chance of success.

“We didn’t know anything except the donor was a 19-year-old female,” said Weimer.

In preparation for the transplant, Maddie had eight “vigorous” days of chemotherapy. By October, her immune system was suppressed enough so her body would not reject Personette’s bone marrow.

The transplant was quick and simple, and involved an IV infusion of Personette’s bone marrow cells into Maddie’s vein.

Despite the near-perfect match, Maddie developed graft-versus-host disease, a complication in which the donor cells attack the recipient’s body.

“It looked like she had third degree burns from head to toe and fevers over 105 degrees for three days,” said Weimer.

Dr. Roberta H. Adams, director of the transplant program at Phoenix Children’s in association with the Mayo Clinic of Arizona, said that Maddie’s MDS was caused by a genetic deletion on her number 7 chromosome. Because the disorder was genetic in origin, the Weimers said they were worried about having more children. But doctors reassured them the mutation was not hereditary.

“It’s a pretty common finding in MDS and one of the flags we look for to help confirm the diagnosis,” said Adams. “We suspect it causes the disease. I wouldn’t say this family is at increased risk in having another child. It happened in her blood stem cells, not the stem cells in her whole body.””

While Adams said Maddie “is not completely out of the woods,” she also said Maddie “has done very well and we are optimistic about her chances.”

By August 2013, Weimer said Maddie was starting “to act more like a fun-going toddler and finally put on weight.”

As for Personette, her part of the transplant also went smoothly. Be the Match paid for her flight to Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C. She was put under anesthesia, two six-inch needles were inserted in her lower backbone and the marrow was removed and sent off to Maddie in Seattle.

Personette said she carried a stuffed lamb along every step of the medical journey, taking photos and creating an album she gave to Maddie, so she could feel a part of the process.

Maddie’s doctor said she was impressed with the generosity of Personette, who is now a college senior studying nutrition.

“I have been surprised by the number of young people signing up as donors,” Adams said. “There has been a real change over the last five years. That may be because there has been a better educational approach at college campuses where younger people congregate. It’s an age when young people are very altruistic and want to participate and know about it.”

“And it gives you the life-long feeling that you’ve saved someone’s life,” Adams said. “Few of us can say that.”

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Texas Boy Gives Tips to NFL Player Fighting Cancer

Joe Robbins/Getty Images(HOUSTON) — A pint-size fan of the Houston Texans has some tips for offensive tackle David Quessenberry, who announced this week that he’s battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Jake Daniel of Mont Belvieu, Texas, is just 7 years old, but he’s already been through treatment for the same cancer. When the soon-to-be third grader heard about Quessenberry’s diagnosis, he made him a video packed full of advice.

“When you get the mouth sores, always eat jello,” he said in the video. And “always flirt with nurses!”

Jake’s mom, Bonnie Daniel, said her son went into remission in May and “just wanted to encourage” Quessenberry.

“He’s a huge Texans fan,” she told ABC News.

Jake also told Quessenberry to “keep praying,” “keep your head up,” and “never give up.”

Quessenberry took to Twitter Thursday to thank Jake for the tips. He wrote, “Jake you just made my day my friend. Wise words young stud can’t wait to meet you!”

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