Posted on

Zimbabwe govt to issue cannabis licenses to growers

Monitoring Desk

HARARE: Zimbabweans can now apply for licenses to grow cannabis for medical and research purposes, the government has said in a legal notice, making the southern African nation the second country in Africa to legalize the cultivation of the plant.

Lesotho last year announced the continent’s first license to grow cannabis legally.

Until now, it has been illegal to grow, possess or use cannabis in Zimbabwe, with offenders facing up to 12 years in jail.

Health Minister David Parirenyatwa published new regulations, seen by Reuters on Saturday, allowing individuals and companies to be licensed to cultivate marijuana, known locally as mbanje.

The five-year renewable licenses will allow growers to possess, transport and sell fresh and dried cannabis as well as cannabis oil.

Applications should include plans of the growing site, quantity to be produced and sold and the production period.

A license can be refused when information has been received from a “peace officer, a competent authority or the United Nations” that an applicant was involved in the diversion of a controlled substance or precursor to an illicit market or use”, the regulations said.

“The Minister may not oblige if the issuance, renewal or amendment of the license is likely to create a risk to public health, safety or security.”

Posted on

Healthy eating habits can reduce of liver disease

Monitoring Desk

People who make an effort to improve their diet may be more likely to have less fat in their livers and a lower risk of liver disease than individuals who stick to unhealthy eating habits, a U.S. study suggests.

Researchers focused on what’s known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFDL), which is usually associated with obesity and certain eating habits. While dietary changes are recommended to treat this type of liver disease, research to date hasn’t clearly demonstrated whether these changes can work for prevention.

For the current study, researchers examined data from dietary questionnaires and liver fat scans for 1,521 people enrolled in the long-running Framingham Heart Study. Participants did the questionnaires and scans twice, at least three to four years apart.

During the study, people with above-average increases in adherence to a healthy Mediterranean diet rich in whole grains, fish, lean protein, veggies and olive oil were at least 26 percent less likely to develop fatty liver than individuals with average increases in adherence, the study found.

Above-average increases in sticking to another liver-friendly diet, the so-called Alternative Healthy Eating Index, were associated with at least 21 percent lower odds of developing fatty liver, researchers report in Gastroenterology.

People with a high genetic risk for fatty liver disease whose diet scores decreased during the study period accumulated more fat in their livers. But even with a high genetic risk, fat accumulation didn’t increase if people kept their diets the same or improved them.

“Our findings demonstrate that increasing diet quality is associated with less liver fat accumulation and reduced risk for new-onset fatty liver, particularly in individuals with a high genetic risk for NAFLD,” said senior study author Dr. Daniel Levy, director of the Framingham Heart Study and a researcher at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

Participants who had improved diet quality scores consumed more fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, which have high amounts of water and fiber.

“We speculated that these foods may decrease energy intake by affecting satiety and improve weight control and therefore reduce liver fat,” Levy said by email. “It is also possible that fiber intake may affect gut bacteria and subsequently have impact on liver fat.”

Both diets in the study also limit intake of red meat that can lead to liver fat, and encourage consumption of foods like nuts, which may help reduce liver fat accumulation, Levy added.

Most people have a little bit of fat in their liver. Fatty liver disease can occur when more than 5 percent of the liver by weight is made up of fat. Excessive drinking can damage the liver and cause fat to accumulate, a condition known as alcoholic fatty liver, but even when people don’t drink much, they can still develop non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

The study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how diet changes might impact the risk of developing fatty liver. Researchers also relied on questionnaires to assess participants” diets, which can be unreliable, and they lacked data on non-dietary causes of liver fat accumulation including certain medications and viral infections.

Even so, the findings add to the evidence suggesting that healthy eating habits can minimize the risk of fatty liver disease, even when people have a genetic risk for this condition, said Shira Zelber-Sagi, a researcher at the University of Haifa in Israel who wasn’t involved in the study.

“Genetics is not a destiny,” Zelber-Sagi said by email. “The patients have the power to improve their liver health by themselves in many cases of NAFLD.” – Reuters


Posted on

Women can avoid fatal consequences by overcoming shyness, ignoring taboos

F.P. Report

PESHAWAR: Whereas, breast cancer is the most prevalent disease among women worldwide, in Pakistan one out of eight women suffer from this life threatening disease.

Devouring thousands of women annually, this killer disease can only be cured 100 % by early detection and by consulting the doctor right away. This was the crux of consultation with every medical expert who came across the scribe while penning down this piece of information.

The symptoms as pointed by a doctor at Nuclear Oncology Research Institute, Dr. Samina Manzoor are breast lump, node in axila, nipple discharge having blood, nipple retraction and skin changes. “Some people are asymptomatic having no symptoms at all,” she said.

About the causes of breast cancer, she said, it occurred in women who were not married, late marriage, after marriage no pregnancy, fatness and weakness in women.

When asked about the heavy casualty rate in women due to breast cancer, Dr. Samina said that it was due to shyness and ignorance of the sufferers owing to which they come at third or fourth stage for treatment.

She floated the message for women to overcome shyness, ignore taboos and go for check- up to save precious life.

Another medical practitioner, Dr. Shazia Zahoor, advising about the precaution regarding breast cancer said, one should eat a balanced diet, maintain a healthy weight, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, avoid exposure to chemical that can cause cancer.

Moreover, she said,”social networking improves condition of breast cancer patient.” “But, there is no way to avoid any type of cancer,” she maintained.

She advised the women to have regular check-ups even if one was not suffering from any disease.

Her views regarding social networking were endorsed by a research saying that breast cancer survivors with a strong social support or networking seemed to live longer and have a lower risk of cancer coming back.

The researchers found that women with fewer social ties before and during the cancer treatment are at higher risk of death form the malignancy.

She lamented that with treatment of the breast cancer at the last stages, survival rate decreased.

She said that the high ratio of the deadly disease might be due to the reason that it was not diagnosed early and consequently if there were three cancer patients one was suffering from breast cancer.

About the social implications of breast cancer, mother of a victim of breast cancer, Amna Bibi while talking to APP said that the disease had devastated the life of her daughter.

Amna Bibi said after falling prey to breast cancer the life of her daughter was totally destroyed as her son-in-law divorced her daughter instead of taking care of her. She said, social consequences might be the reason, why women were shy about the disease so that that their life might not be spoiled.

The husband of a patient of breast cancer at NORI, Ghaffar Khan when asked about the problems being faced, demanded of the government to construct more cancer hospitals to cater to huge population.

Medical experts were of unanimous view that awareness should be created among masses about the fatal consequences of the killer disease in order to save precious human lives.

Moreover, they said women should keep aside shyness, ignore taboos and go for check up to avoid fatal consequences.



Posted on

Autism disorder are increasing in U.S. Children

Monitoring Desk

U.S. autism prevalence has grown, according to a federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention report, with about 1.7 percent of 8-year-olds affected in 11 states.

The study, based on 2014 research, again identifies New Jersey with the highest incidence. One in 34 children in that state, or 3 percent, fall on what’s called the autism spectrum, which encompasses a range of social, behavioral and learning disorders ranging from the barely noticeable to the profoundly debilitating.

Nationally, the prevalence has increased 150 percent since 2000, according to the study, which called autism “an urgent public-health concern.”

“The new numbers we’re discussing today are extraordinary,” said U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat and sponsor of legislation signed by President Barack Obama to spend $1.3 billion on autism research and education through 2019.

Researchers aren’t sure what causes autism, although they suspect environmental risks or triggers. It has no cure. They caution that more children being diagnosed doesn’t necessarily mean that autism is becoming more common.

New Jersey — a wealthy, educated state with ready access to world-class health care in Philadelphia and New York City — has “better access to higher-quality information that lets us be more complete” in screening, Walter Zahorodny, a New Jersey Medical School professor and director of the New Jersey Autism Study, said in a conference call about the findings.

“Other states are likely underestimating autism,” he said. Research from 2012 put the rate at 1.5 percent among the 11 states. The New Jersey percentage at that time was 1.9 percent.

The data, from the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, were culled from tracking 8-year-olds in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin.



Posted on

Researchers find out enzyme that could help fight aging

Monitoring Desk

Although most of us accept aging as a natural part of life, it might not have to be. Researchers at UC Berkeley have now mapped out the structure of telomerase – an enzyme known to play a key role in aging and cancer – in more detail than ever before, and the breakthrough could inform a new generation of highly-targeted drugs.

The physical decline we associate with aging can be largely traced back to one little thing in your body: telomeres. These short sequences of DNA form protective caps on the tips of each chromosome, making sure that no important information is lost when the cell divides. Unfortunately, they can’t keep that up forever, eventually wearing down to the point where crucial DNA degrades, slowly giving us wrinkled skin, slower metabolisms, weaker organs, and higher chances of disease.

Telomeres aren’t alone in fighting aging, though. They have backup in the form of an enzyme known as telomerase, which tries to delay the decline as long as possible by replenishing the telomeres. Plenty of anti-aging research has focused on telomerase, be it experimenting with boosting its levels via injection, supercharging its function or manipulating its natural “off” switch.

In order to really take advantage of telomerase, scientists have been studying this complex enzyme in more detail to better understand its structure. It’s made up of an RNA backbone decorated by six kinds of protein, which all move around while they replenish telomeres. But it was hard to pin down how it all fit together, how many proteins are at work there, and how they perform that function.

So the UC Berkeley team isolated telomerase, purified it, and examined it using a state-of-the-art cryoelectron microscope. This instrument uses an electron beam as a light source to study a sample cooled to cryogenic temperatures, and allowed researchers to peer closer than ever before.

“The best previous images of human telomerase had a resolution of only 30 Ångstroms (3 nanometers); we were able to get about 7 to 8 Ångstroms (0.7 to 0.8 nm) resolution using cryoelectron microscopy,” says Thi Hoang Duong Nguyen, first author of the study. “When I got to the point where I could see all the subunits – we had 11 protein subunits in total – it was a moment of, ‘Wow, wow, this is how they all fit together.'”

According to the team, these high-resolution images, along with our current understanding of the telomerase gene sequence, is enough to start thinking about potential drug targets related to the enzyme. Finding ways to increase the activity of telomerase, for example, could help stave off the negative effects of aging for longer, while blocking its function could help fight cancer, which often hijacks telomerase to make its own cells essentially “immortal.”

To improve that understanding, the next step for the researchers is to further boost the resolution of the images to about 3 or 4 Ångstroms. The team describes the work in the video below.


Posted on

Forceful exercise can  develop Motor Neurone Disease

Monitoring Desk

ISLAMABAD: Vigorous physical activity could heighten the risk of developing motor neurone disease also known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a study said.

According to researchers ALS is a progressive, fatal neurodegenerative disease for which there is currently no treatment. Genes account for a proportion of cases, but a role for environmental factors, including physical activity, has also been mooted,reported health news.

But the evidence to date has been inconclusive, possibly because of the differences in research design and methods, said the researchers. In a bid to try and plug this gap, they compared the lifestyles of 1557 adults newly diagnosed with ALS in their mid 60s in Ireland, Italy, and The Netherlands with those of 2922 similarly aged people who didn’t have the condition.

Each of the participants provided details of their educational attainment; lifestyle, employment history and lifetime physical activity levels (weekly leisure and workplace quotas). Physical activity was measured in Metabolic Equivalent of Task (MET) minutes.

These express the amount of energy (calories) expended per minute of physical activity. Analysis of the data showed that lifetime physical activity was associated with a heightened risk of ALS, after taking account of potentially influential factors, such as age and other potential workplace exposures.

The heightened risk was six percent for leisure time activities; seven percent for workplace activities; and six percent for all activities combined. The associations were strongest among the Italian and Irish participants.

And the higher the MET score, the greater was the risk of ALS, which adds weight to other studies describing a higher prevalence of motor neurone disease among former professional athletes, the researchers added.

This is an observational study, and as such, it can’t establish causation. It was also based on recall, and factors such as diet, trauma or some metabolic or energy deficit induced by activity can’t be ruled out, say the researchers.

“An increased risk of 6 percent for all activities combined can be translated into a 26 percent increase in risk when comparing a person who is more active than average and a person who is less so,” they explain.

While exercise is not likely to be a major factor in the development of ALS, this level of increased risk might be important in those who are genetically predisposed, they suggested. “Overall, physical activity has been demonstrated to be protective against many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and a variety of cancers,” they pointed out, and suggested that “Decreasing the risk of these common conditions may be a trade-off with increasing the risk of a relatively rare disease such as ALS.”

 activities combined. The associations were strongest among the Italian and Irish participants.

And the higher the MET score, the greater was the risk of ALS, which adds weight to other studies describing a higher prevalence of motor neurone disease among former professional athletes, the researchers added.

This is an observational study, and as such, it can’t establish causation. It was also based on recall, and factors such as diet, trauma or some metabolic or energy deficit induced by activity can’t be ruled out, say the researchers.

“An increased risk of 6 percent for all activities combined can be translated into a 26 percent increase in risk when comparing a person who is more active than average and a person who is less so,” they explain.

While exercise is not likely to be a major factor in the development of ALS, this level of increased risk might be important in those who are genetically predisposed, they suggested. “Overall, physical activity has been demonstrated to be protective against many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and a variety of cancers,” they pointed out, and suggested that “Decreasing the risk of these common conditions may be a trade-off with increasing the risk of a relatively rare disease such as ALS.”

Posted on

Malaria increasing at alarming rate in Balochistan

F.P. Report

QUETTA: The health experts said that the Malaria is increasing in Balochista at an alarming rate and adding the 7,000 are being affected annually by the disease in the province.

Dr Kamalan Gichki, the director of the Balochistan Malaria Control while speaking to the journalists on World Malaria Day, said that up to 1.6 million people in Pakistan are affected by malaria annually, while many have died as well due to this disease.

He added that there has been an alarming rise in malaria cases in Balochistan and adding that in 2016, at least 53,000 cases were reported while the number increased to 75,000 for the year 2017.

Increasing at a rate of seven percent, the disease has speared to 29 of the 34 districts of Balochistan.

One of the leading causes of malaria being spread at an alarming rate in Balochistan can be cited to lack of awareness about the subject and living in sub-standard conditions.



Posted on

Fat waist with normal weight bigger health problem than obesity

Monitoring Desk

PARIS: People of “normal” weight who sport a wide waist are more at risk of heart problems than obese people, said researchers Friday, urging a rethink of healthy weight guidelines.

How fat is distributed on a person’s frame determined disease risk as much as how much fat they had overall, according to an investigation of nearly 1,700 people aged 45 and over.

Even people who are not classified overweight on the Body Mass Index (BMI) scale, should be concerned if they had an “apple” shape with a waist wider than their hips, said research leader Jose Medina-Inojosa of the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

Such excess fat around the middle is called “central obesity”.

“Current guidelines do not recommend measuring central obesity in those with normal weight as they claim their is no risk exposure,” Medina-Inojosa told AFP.

“We found greater risk… for those with normal weight and central obesity, on the contrary. This has the potential to change guidelines.”

Study participants, 1,692 residents of Olmsted County, Minnesota, had their weight, height, and waist and hip circumference measured between 1997 and 2000.

They were monitored until 2016 for cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and stroke.

Participants with a normal BMI but central obesity had a two-fold higher long-term risk of disease than pear-shaped participants — even technically obese ones, the research found.

BMI is a ratio of height to weight used to divide people into low- or high-risk categories for developing heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or certain cancers.

A person with a BMI of 25 or more is considered overweight, and 30 or higher obese.

The World Health Organization has defined “abdominal obesity” as a ratio of waist circumference divided by hip circumference of 0.9 or higher for men, and 0.85 or higher for women, or a BMI of 30 or more.

The new data showed that people with a “normal” BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 must not automatically be considered at low risk of heart disease, said Medina-Inojosa.

“If you have fat around your belly and it’s greater than the size of your hips, visit your doctor to assess your cardiovascular health and fat distribution,” he said.

“If you have central obesity the target will be waist loss rather than weight loss.”

The data is the latest to question the current reliance on BMI in healthy weight guidelines. The results were presented at a congress of the European Society of Cardiology in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

They have yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal. AFP


Posted on

Diabetes: experts develop better wound healing

Monitoring Desk

The Yale University research uncovered the role of a particular protein in maintaining the wounds and suggested that reversing its effects could help aid wound healing in patients with diabetes.

“We discovered that a specific protein, thrombospondin-2 (TSP2), is elevated in wounds of patients with diabetes as well as in animal models of diabetes,” said Britta Kunkemoeller. “To determine whether TSP2 contributes to delayed wound healing, we genetically removed TSP2 from a mouse model of diabetes and observed improved wound healing. Our study shows that TSP2 could be a target for a specific therapy for diabetic wounds.”


Most previous work on wound healing in diabetes has focused on the types of cells that are involved in wound healing such as immune cells, skin cells and the cells that form blood vessels. By contrast, Kunkemoeller’s research focuses on TSP2, a component of the extracellular matrix. The extracellular matrix is a meshwork that serves as the structural foundation for cells, like the scaffolding used in construction.

In addition to providing structural support, the extracellular matrix regulates processes that are important to wound healing, including the behavior of immune, skin and vessel-forming cells. TSP2 is a component of the extracellular matrix that influences how the matrix is formed, as well as the development and communication of other types of cells that grow within the matrix.

“Our focus on TSP2 therefore allowed us to study a single molecule that influences several wound-healing related processes,” explained Kunkemoeller.

The research will be presented at the American Society for Investigative Pathology annual meeting during the 2018 Experimental Biology meeting.



Posted on

Researchers discover cancer diagnosis implant

Monitoring Desk

GENEVA (Xinhua): Swiss scientists have developed an early warning system for four most common types of cancer, so that a visible mole will appear on the skin should a tumor develop, according to a press release from Zurich Federal Institute of Technology (ETHZ) on Sunday.

In the research, which has been published in U.S. medical journal Science Translational Medicine, an ETHZ team has developed a prototype implant which can be inserted under the skin. It contains a network of cells which constantly monitor calcium levels in the body. As cancer can cause calcium levels to rise in the body, the implant detects when a threshold is exceeded and triggers the production of melanin, causing a small dark mole to form. The implant can recognize four most common types of cancer: prostate, lung, colon and breast cancer, at a very early stage. Cancer is the main cause of death alongside cardiovascular disease in industrialized countries. However, many of those affected are only diagnosed after a tumor has developed extensively. “Early detection increases the chance of survival significantly,” said Martin Fussenegger, professor at the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering at ETHZ in Basel.

If breast cancer is detected early, for example, the chance of recovery is 98 percent. However, if the tumor is diagnosed too late, only one in four women has a good chance of recovery, he added.

The implant is intended primarily for self-monitoring, making it very cost effective. However, the service life of such a device is limited, as encapsulated living cells last for about a year. After that, they must be inactivated and replaced.

So far, the prototype early warning device has been tested on mice and on pig skin, where it functioned reliably, the ETHZ press release said. Tests on humans are still years away.

“Continued development and clinical trials in particular are laborious and expensive, which we as a research group cannot afford,” said Professor Fussenegger. He believes it will take another ten years of research and development for a cancer diagnosis implant to be available for sale.