• Certain types of Oral Contraceptive Pill increase risk of blood clot formation 6-fold

    Summary: A 8-year long study involving a total of 1,296,120 women aged 15-49 found that all of the Oral Contraceptive Pill (OCP) tested did increase the risk of a venous blood clot (“venous thromboembolism” or VTE in short), however some types of OCP (those which use desogestrel, gestodene, or drospirenone type progesterone) have a risk double that of other progesterone type pills. This blog entry lists the forms of progesterone tested and the associated risk of VTE found. Readers are advised to check their OCP for the type of progesterone used. The risk of VTE was not increased with use of progestogen-only OCP or hormone releasing intrauterine devices.

    About VTEs: VTEs are a group of disorders where a blood clot forms in a vein, travels upstream towards the heart and gets stuck in a small blood vessel upstream, such as the leg, causing deep venous thrombosis or the lung (pulmonary embolism).

    Risk levels found by this study: Using women who do not use OCP as a baseline, the relative risk of confirmed VTE was found as follows:

    > OCP containing ethinylestradiol with levonorgestrel was 2.9x the risk of non-OCP users (i.e. nearly 3x more likely to suffer VTE than if not on this type of OCP)

    > OCP with desogestrel was ~6.6x more likely than non-OCP users to suffer VTE

    > OCP with gestodene was ~6.2x

    > OCP with drospirenone was ~6.4x

    Important note: The numbers include only “first ever confirmed venous thromboembolic events” ( a total of 2847), and exclude those events that were only suspected VTEs. The total number of all VTEs (suspected and confirmed) was 4246. It is quite possible for a blood clot to dissolve on its own (especially in younger subjects with low levels of systemic inflammation) so it is likely that the numbers of factual VTEs were higher than the numbers of ‘confirmed’ VTEs. The levels of risk listed above only reflect confirmed VTEs.

    To read the research in its entirety go to: http://www.bmj.com/content/343/bmj.d6423.full (open access).

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  • Coriander Oil against Salmonella, E-Coli & MRSA: Another angle on antibiotic resistance

    Note: The Coriander Oil referred to in this research is FOOD-GRADE, and not the more commonly commercially available essential oil for aromatherapy use. Do not take essential/aromatherapy oils internally. If you consider buying Coriander Oil for internal use, we recommend Cilantrol - a mix of the oil of coriander leaves (= Cilantro) and the coriander seed oil. You can obtain Cilantrol from our shop or many other sources on the web.

    Summary: Coriander Oil has been shown to be toxic to a broad range of harmful bacteria including the common E-coli, Salmonella and MRSA ("Golden Staph"); Coriander Oil is now being investigated as a preventative for food-borne illnesses and as an alternative in antibiotic-resistant infections.

    In more detail: Coriander is a commonly used and well-known aromatic plant widely used in mediterranean cooking. Coriander oil is produced from the seeds of the coriander plant. Researchers from the University of Beira Interior in Portugal tested solutions containing 1.6% or less of Coriander Oil against 12 harmful bacterial strains, including E-coli (Escherichia coli), Salmonella enterica, Bacillus cereus and meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). ALL of the tested strains showed reduced growth, whilst MOST were outright killed.

    The study also found the mechanism of action by which Coriander Oil kills bacteria: it damages the cell membrane surrounding bacterial organisms and interferes with cell reproduction.

    "In developed countries, up to 30% of the population suffers from food-borne illness each year. This research encourages the design of new food additives containing coriander oil that would combat food-borne pathogens and prevent bacterial spoilage," said Dr Domingues. "Coriander oil could also become a natural alternative to common antibiotics. We envisage the use of coriander in clinical drugs in the form of lotions, mouth rinses and even pills; to fight multidrug-resistant bacterial infections that otherwise could not be treated. This would significantly improve people's quality of life."

    Read the article on the Society for General Microbiology's website here.

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  • Implanted oxygen generator shrinks tumours (Cancer, chemotherapy, radiotherapy)

    Background: Anti-cancer therapies result in horrendous side effects and are costly to healhtcare providers. Any reduction in the amount of radiation/chemotherapy needed would greatly benefit patients and HC funding alike.

    Summary: Tiny oxygen generators implanted in tumour areas are shown to boost effectiveness of radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment, thus resulting in smaller doses of therapy needed to reach the same effect.

    Detail: It has long been known that Oxygen sensitises cancer cells to anticancer treatment (both radiotherapy and chemotherapy). But how can we deliver the oxygen to the affected area(s) in the most effective way? Researchers have previously looked at locally increasing the blood supply to the tumour cells in the hope of increasing oxygen supply to the cancer cells. But an increased blood supply would equally mean increased nutrient supply.

    Researchers from Purdue University have created & tested a miniature implant device (less than 1cm long) which is implanted via a biopsy needle to sit inside a solid tumor, where it generates and releases oxygen. The device receives ultrasound signals and uses the energy to generate a small voltage which separates oxygen and hydrogen from water in a a chemical process called "water electrolysis". Once the device is inserted in the tumour, the tumour is exposed to ultrasound - the ultrasound energy then powers the device, generating oxygen.

    "Radiation therapy needs oxygen to be effective," said Babak Ziaie, a Purdue University professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering. Pancreatic and cervical cancers often have hypoxic areas at their centre (ares without sufficient oxygen supply) - if blood does not reach these areas, they are hard to kill. "If you generate oxygen you can increase the effectiveness of radiation therapy and also chemotherapy."

    The Researchers have so far tested the devices in pancreatic tumors in mice and were able to demonstrate their effectiveness in generating oxygen and shrunking tumors at a faster rate than tumors without the devices.

    Read the article published by Purdue Uni here.

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  • Highly resistant: Bacteria to antibiotics, and the 1 billion dollar beatle to Monsanto

    The headline refers to 2 different articles: 1) on bacterial resistance to antibiotics (here) and 2) the beatle "Diabrotica virgifera" managing to elude Monsanto's efforts to devise a GM maize crop that will lead to its extinction (french language article in today's Le Monde, here).

    Summary: Resistance to antibiotics is seen as an increasing problem as it undermines modern medicine's most effective weapon in the fight against infection. Given the speed with which bacteria have developed resistance to antibiotics drugs which were after all only developed less than a century ago - which, in terms of genetic adaptation, is a very short time - it is important to understand which mechanisms underlie the development of resistance.

    More detail: Researchers from the McMaster University in Canada have demonstrated that bacterial resistance is a natural phenomenon that pre-dates the modern use of antibiotic drugs. They isolated and studied bacteria DNA from soil from a 30,000-year-old permafrost sample taken from the Yukon, and discovered antibiotic resistant genes existed alongside genes encoding DNA for ancient species (mammoths, bison etc) . Once the DNA had been isolated, the gene product was then recreated in the lab, its protein purified and tested: In this fashion the researchers could demonstrate that "it had the same activity and structure then as it does now." The methodology used is quite a feat: It represents only the second time that an ancient protein has been "revived" in a lab setting. The researchers now want to go back into the past far further: "We can go back a million years in the permafrost, which is our next goal."

    Another interesting angle on genetic adaptation is highlighted by an article appearing in today's Le Monde which tells how the "1 billion dollar beatle" has defeated a third GM attempt by Monsanto to eradicate it in the US.

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  • Appetite for salt linked to addictive behaviour - how salty foods are messing with our brains

    Summary: Recent research on rodents suggests that addiction to drugs may 'hijack' an ancient pathway in the hypothalamus programmed to ensure vital homeostasis. The hypothalamus controls the balance of vital statistics such as salt, water and energy in the body. The researchers found that the gene patterns activated by stimulating an instinctive behavior, salt appetite, were the same groups of genes regulated by cocaine or opiate (such as heroin) addiction.

    Relevance: This research highlights a potential new angle in the understanding of addictions as well as, say the researchers, "the detrimental consequences when obesity-generating foods are overloaded with sodium". In other words: Salty foods mess with our brains, quite literally.

    In more detail: The researchers demonstrate that the pathways activated by one classic instinct - the craving for salt caused when the body's salt household is out of balance - also serve in addiction to opiates and cocaine. Viewing addiction patterns in front of the backdrop of deep embedded pathways of ancient instincts why addiction treatment is so difficult when no substitute for the drug is provided. This might explain the relative success of approaches that use substitute substances (e.g. methadone, nicotine gum/nicotine patches).

    In this study, instinctive behavior was actively induced in mice by withholding salt from their diet at the same time as administering a diuretic as well as the stress hormone ACTH (both measures increase salt excretion).

    The researchers found that during a salt craving, a specific region in the hypothalamus becomes susceptible to the effects of dopamine - a reward/motivation generator in the brain. The craving ( the instinctive need) seems to "spring-load the hypothalamus for the subjective experience of reward which follows when animals gratify the need - a satisfied feeling".

    Read the original article here: http://www.dukehealth.org/health_library/news/a-classic-instinct-salt-appetite-is-linked-to-drug-addiction

    References: Wolfgang B. Liedtke, Michael J. Mckinley, Lesley L. Walker, Hao Zhang, Andreas R. Pfenning, John Drago, Sarah J. Hochendoner, Donald L. Hilton, Andrew J. Lawrence, Derek A. Denton. Relation of addiction genes to hypothalamic gene changes subserving genesis and gratification of a classic instinct, sodium appetite. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1109199108

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