Friday, October 7, 2011

Blog is moving!

Note to my blog followers: I have officially moved my blog to our office website:
I will leave the posts from this site up for a few months; however, no new posts will be appearing.
I look forward to your comments.
Happy reading!
Toby (Mandelman)

Friday, September 30, 2011

An Apple a Day Really May Keep the Doctor Away Fruits and vegetables with white flesh associated with drop in stroke risk, study finds

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Sept. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Fruits and vegetables whose edible sections are white may lower your risk of stroke more than other fruits and vegetables, Dutch researchers report.
Every 25 grams per day of white fruits and vegetables consumed led to a 9 percent decrease in the risk of stroke, and apples and pears were the most commonly consumed "white fruit," according to the study, published in the November issue of Stroke.
"Green, orange/yellow and red/purple fruits and vegetables weren't related to stroke. However, the risk of stroke incidence was 52 percent lower for people with a high intake of white fruits and vegetables, compared to people with a low intake," said study author Linda M. Oude Greip, a postdoctoral fellow at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.
But, Oude Greip pointed out that the findings don't mean it's OK to stop eating other fruits and vegetables. First, she noted, the findings need to be replicated. And, even if future research confirms these findings, "because other fruit and vegetable color groups may protect against other chronic diseases, it remains of importance to eat a lot of fruit and vegetables," she stressed.
Oude Greip said past research has shown that higher fruit and vegetable consumption can lower the risk of stroke, but none of that research looked at specific fruits and vegetables to see if any contributed more to the reduced risk than the others.
For her study, Oude Greip used data collected by the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment of the Netherlands that included more than 20,000 people. Study participants were between the ages of 20 and 65 at the start of the study, and none showed any signs of cardiovascular disease.
All of the study volunteers completed a 178-item food frequency questionnaire. The study then included 10 years of follow-up information on the participants' health. During the follow-up period, 233 people had a stroke.
Fruits and vegetables were divided into four color groups, each based on the color of the "fleshy" portion of the fruits and vegetables: Green, orange/yellow, red/purple and white.
The only group that was associated with a statistically significant decrease in stroke risk was white fruits and vegetables.
Fruits and vegetables included in the white category were apples, pears, apple juice, apple sauce, bananas, cauliflower, chicory, cucumber and mushrooms. White fruits and vegetables were the most commonly consumed produce, with 36 percent of fruit and vegetable intake coming from the white group. Within the white group, apples and pears were the most commonly consumed, representing 55 percent of what was consumed.
For every 25-gram increase in the amount of white fruit consumed each day, the risk of stroke went down by 9 percent, according to the study. A typical apple is 120 grams, the researchers added.
Oude Greip said it's not clear exactly what components in white fruit might be protective for stroke, but she suspects that the dietary fiber and the flavonoids play a role. Apples and pears are high in a flavonoid called quercetin.
Jessica Shapiro, an associate wellness dietitian at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, said, "Apples and pears are very good fruits. They're available year-round and are almost consistently good.
"As with any study, there are limitations. One is that the food intake was self-reported. Food frequency questionnaires are inherently biased because it's hard to remember exactly what you've eaten in the past. But, the positive thing to take from this is that everything we've been saying is confirmed again. Fruits and vegetables are good for you," she said.
Shapiro also said it would be difficult to single out what it is about white fruits that might reduce the risk of stroke. "It's really the whole foods. There's fiber and phytochemicals and flavonoids, and these all work together synergistically. I don't think you can single out one nutrient."
She said that she wouldn't recommend limiting your diet to just white fruits and veggies. "Eat the rainbow of fruits and vegetables," she added. "Each fruit and each vegetable provides certain nutrients that combine and interplay with others."

Friday, September 23, 2011

myVisionTrack App in Development To Test Vision Changes in People With Macular Degeneration

DALLAS, August 2011 — An upcoming iPhone/iPod Touch app called myVisionTrack will give macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy patients the ability to monitor changes in their vision over time. This in turn can help their eye doctor adjust treatment as needed. 

The 90-second test displays three circles, one of which is different from the others. You would cover one eye, then touch the circle that looks different. The differentiation becomes more subtle as the test progresses, and your scores are formulated and stored in the device. Then you test the other eye.

If your scores indicate that your vision has changed significantly, then you are instructed to visit your eye doctor.

Usually people with degenerative eye disease use an Amsler grid which looks like graph paper with a dot in the middle. When focusing on the dot, they may see distortions or blurriness in the lines of the grid, and recording these can help track their vision changes. But the developers of myVisionTrack say their device is twice as sensitive as Amsler grids in detecting subtle vision changes.

Prototypes are still in testing now, and the app is expected to be available sometime in 2012.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The plastic eye implant to replace reading glasses

By Victoria Lambert
8:00AM BST 11 Sep 2011
The Telegraph

It is one of the signs of reaching middle-age: the need to wear reading glasses.An estimated 23 million Britons suffer from presbyopia, or age-related longsightedness.Now a revolutionary new treatment, involving an operation to insert a plastic implant into the eye, could allow millions to abandon their spectacles.
The procedure will be available to private patients in Britain for the first time from tomorrow. Its promoters predict up to four million Britons – one in six of those who now use reading glasses – will have the operation over the next decade.
Independent experts say that the early signs from trials are promising, although one side effect is a worsening of night vision and there is not yet evidence of what long-term effect the operation might have.

In the procedure, a laser is used to make an incision in the cornea – the front lens of the eye – so that an inlay thinner than a red blood cell can be inserted by hand.
Looking like a flattened black polo mint, and smaller than a contact lens, the implant sits around the iris and pupil.
Working like a pinhole camera, it reduces the amount of light allowed through the pupil to reach the retina, the part of the eye where rays of light are turned into images.
By allowing through central beams, which produce the sharpest images, and blocking out those on our outer range of vision, which are useful for seeing in dark light but do not produce clear pictures, the implant can restore the perfect vision most of us were born with.
"Finding a treatment for presbyopia is important," said ophthalmologist Dr David Allamby, who specialises in the condition.
"As we age, the crystalline lens, which sits behind the cornea and acts like a zoom, stiffens from a squashy gel-like substance to a fixed structure. This makes it harder for eye muscles to squeeze it into shape, in order to get a clear image.
"Most over 45s will know that feeling: suddenly, struggling to read menus or maps. We squint at text messages, but our longer sight for driving, say, remains good.
"By the age of 50, 90 per cent of your lens flexibility is lost. The only people who will still read easily are those who were born short-sighted, but who already use glasses for distance work."
He added: "This is like granting immunity from the ageing process – at least for your eyes."
The procedure, called Z Kamra, was developed at a cost of $70 million (£44 million) in California where it is still in clinical trials. It has been available in Japan and parts of Europe since last year, with 6,000 treatments carried out so far.
Theresa Ferguson, 53, a health worker from south east London, was the first in the UK to have the treatment.
The mother-of-three said: "I had brilliant eyesight until I was 45. Then I began struggling with newspapers; I need to read small print on medical forms for work so I tried reading glasses and then varifocals."
A specialist suggested she might join a Z Kamra trial instead, and she had the surgery last month.
"I was nervous," she admitted. "But it was painless, although uncomfortable. It took 15 minutes."
During the procedure, the eye is anaesthetised by drops and held open to prevent movement.
Dr Allamby said: "I use a laser to even out the corneal surface and create a flap then, using high magnification tools, insert the implant by hand. The flap heals without stitches, but we give steroid drops for up to eight weeks to prevent rejection."
Mrs Ferguson's eyes were blurry and sore on the day of treatment, but the following morning she awoke with perfect vision. "I read a text message in bed without even thinking," she said. "It was amazing."
Dr Allamby said: "We believe this will be permanent as long as your near sight remains stable.
"The Kamra inlay is made of Polyvinylidene Fluoride (PVDF), a pure thermoplastic fluoropolymer, used for years for replacement cataracts, known to be safe and inert in the body."
Early trial patients have had implants, studded with 8,400 perforations to allow nutrients to pass through, for six years with no reported problems.
Those with a high degree of short or long sight, such as prescriptions of minus six or plus three, or those over 70 might not be suitable for the treatment as their cataracts may be close to needing replacement.
The procedure costs £2,800 for one eye but 90 per cent of patients will need both eyes treating for £4,600. Equivalent laser surgery would cost £4,000.
Dr Larry Benjamin, an eye surgeon at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire and chair of the Royal Society of Ophthalmologists education committee, was cautious.
He said: "This is an interesting concept. But it won't suit everyone and I imagine certain professionals such as pilots, where night vision is important, would not be allowed it, but the research so far shows it works reasonably well.
"However, I would like to see more follow-up data in terms of complications and visual symptoms."

Saturday, September 10, 2011

One Drink A Day May Be Beneficial For Middle-Age Women.

Moderate drinking has been linked with various health benefits, and now a study finds that middle-age women who indulge in one drink a day or less on a regular basis may have a better chance of being healthier when they're older.

The study, released today in the journal PLoS Medicine, looked at data on alcohol consumption among 121,700 femalenurses who were part of the Nurses' Health Study. Of those participants, 13,894 lived to the age of 70 or older. Among them, 1,491 were considered to have aged successfully, defined as having no heart diseasediabetes or other chronic diseases, and no substantial cognitive declines, mental impairment or physical limitations at age 70 and older.

Among the study participants, about one-fourth were non-drinkers, about 62% drank one drink per day, almost 10% drank one to two drinks per day, and 3% drank two to three drinks per day.

Overall, moderate drinking was linked with having better odds of successful aging. Looking at both the amount and frequency of drinking, women who drank five or more grams of alcohol (between one-third and one drink) per day and spread their drinking out over three to seven days a week had better odds of successful aging compared with non-drinkers.

Looking just at frequency, researchers found that spreading out drinking throughout the week was linked with better general health, but drinking just one to two days a week was not.

Compared with teetotalers, women who drank several days out of the week had a 50% better chance of overall good health later in life.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Chocolate (but not too much of it) may be good for your heart

Eating chocolate could benefit the heart, a study finds, possibly lowering heart disease by 37%.

The results come from a meta-analysis released online Monday in the British Medical Journal. Researchers from the United Kingdom and Colombia focused on seven studies looking at the link between eating chocolate and a reduction in heart disease that included 114,009 people.

Of those seven, five showed an association between higher levels of chocolate consumption and a lowered risk of cardiometabolic illness. The highest levels were linked with a 37% drop in cardiovascular disease and a 29% reduction in stroke, compared to the lowest levels. There was no significant association seen between chocolate consumption and heart failure, and only one study drew a link between eating chocolate and a lowered risk of diabetes. None of the studies, including the meta-analysis, were funded by a chocolate company or a related industry.

But before you dash to the supermarket to buy that five-pound bag of M&Ms, the study authors caution about eating chocolate with abandon. After all, they point out, chocolate isn't exactly calorie-free. Although the participants in the studies ate a variety of chocolate products, including chocolate bars, drinks, nutritional supplements and desserts, all chocolate is not created equal, and eating too much of the stuff that's filled with fat and sugar can put on pounds, possibly upping the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes -- the very stuff that can lead to cardiovascular problems.

The study authors noted that among the studies there was no obvious dose-response relationship between chocolate and the risk of cardiometabolic disorders, so for now, everything in moderation, as they say.

And although the studies reviewed did control for a number of factors, including age, body mass index, physical activity, smoking and aspects of diet, there still may be other factors at work causing the heart benefits.

If chocolate is the root of these heart-healthy advantages, it may be due to its polyphenol content, anti-oxidants that could improve endothelial function (which may affect the risk of stroke and heart attack) as well as have a positive effect on blood pressure and insulin resistance.

More studies are needed, the authors wrote, to go beyond just an association and determine causation. We guess that means scientists will need more study participants willing to eat chocolate. That's going to be tough.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mouse-eye view may lead to gene therapy for blindness

Wed, Aug 17 - 4:54 AM

Chronicle Herald

IF YOU’VE EVER wanted to look through someone else’s eyes, you can do it right here in Halifax at Dalhousie’s medical school.

Or, more specifically, you can look through the retina of a mouse. The retina is being kept artificially alive in a dish, fed with oxygen and glucose, and its optic nerve is hooked up to a computer. If you visit Dr. Gautam Awatramani’s lab, you can watch the computer screen and see what the mouse would see if it still had its retina.

Sounds like sci-fi? In fact, Awatramani’s research into vision is so cutting-edge that he was turned down for grants only a few years ago. He said the Canadian Institute of Health Research told him he was crazy and should stick to basic science. Now the neurobiologist’s work, which offers some of science’s best prospects for restoring sight to the blind, is feeding into a booming academic field that is slowly being taken up by biotechnology companies around the world.

Awatramani’s specialty is called optogenetics. Like it sounds, it combines optics, or light, with genes that are tweaked to respond to that light.

In 2008, with friends in a lab in Switzerland, he was part of a scientific breakthrough when his team took genes from green algae, a plant that responds to light, and injected them into the retinas of mice that were predisposed to go blind later in life.

The mice that had been treated with algae genes kept some of their vision while the others went completely blind. The effects of the gene therapy also lasted in the long term as the part of the eye that had degenerated began to express the new gene on its own. Down the road, Awatramani said, he hopes to see a new surgery developed that could do the same for human eyeballs.

"The operation should be very simple. That’s the beauty of the system," he said. "I think it’ll form its own niche, for sure."

The business world might take some time to catch up. Companies have been busy over the last few years developing visual prosthetics, or implants that can help stimulate parts of the eye.

It’s a small field but has attracted a fair amount of attention and investment.

The commercial leader in visual prosthetics, Second Sight Medical Products Inc. in California, made Fast Company magazine’s top-10 list of innovative health companies this year and counts billionaire bioengineer Alfred Mann, who helped develop the cochlear implant for the deaf, among its investors.

Optogeneticists’ attempts to do the same thing — restore some vision to the blind — are slowly starting to win some of that attention, Awatramani said. While the prosthetics stimulate an entire layer of the retina more indiscriminately, feeding the brain information that it finds harder to decipher, algae genes work in a more specific and natural way since they build on the retina’s existing structure.

"It’s a little bit of a crazy idea, but I think people find it less crazy now than they did a handful of years ago," said Alan Horsager, co-founder of a tiny Los Angeles firm called Eos Neuroscience Inc., one of the only companies trying to usher the research through clinical trials.

Horsager said some of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies are also looking at gene therapy for the blind. Incorporating genetics into medicine is becoming a more common idea, he said, although no type of gene therapy has been approved for humans yet.

He and his two co-founders at Eos are talking to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and could bring research like Awatramani’s to market in five to eight years.

"People are coming around and saying, OK, gene therapy isn’t so weird," Horsager said. "You have some data here."

For the medical industry, being able to "light up" specific neurons has far-reaching applications, especially understanding the brain’s more complex patterns.

"The retina’s a piece of brain," Awatramani said in his lab.

"It’s the most accessible part of the brain. We can get to it fast and easily, and from a business perspective, that’s why it’s so attractive for treating neurological disease, because you don’t have to open the skull to get to it."