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Nitrc oxide plays role in aiding melatonin's antidepressant effects

Had to look up several references but was finally able to confirm that nitric oxide synthase inhibitor, when combined with melatonin, measurably improves antidepressant effects in mice. Now the combination of nitric oxide synthase inhibitor and melatonin are being tested prophylactically to help with sleep disturbances that are associated with stroke and to effectively reduce post-stroke depression.

Having known someone who had a stroke at a fairly young age and seeing how he had to struggle with depression, I am especially glad to hear of finding new ways to help with this difficult problem using natural means.

Asthma inhalers: One small step against global warming

The FDA took a stand recently when it approved a new propellant for asthma inhalers. Up until the ruling, inhalers were made with propellants containing CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons)–now known to be harmful to the Earth’s ozone layer. The new chemical, HFA (hydrofluoroalkane), is considered safe for human ingestion but is much safer for the earth’s environment.

AstraZeneca is currently recruiting for a clinical trial of one type of the HFA inhaler for people with asthma ages 18 to 65. The tests will measure among other things the amount of exhaled nitric oxide (NO) after each dose–a non-invasive way to gauge the need for changes in asthma medication.

The FDA move appears to signal a greater acceptance among government agencies of humankind’s role in global warming. And Walmart has just introduced an HFA inhaler for $9–a lot cheaper than previous prices. Let’s hope this is the start of real change at every level to reverse the trend toward depleting our earthly resources through irresponsible and profligate use.

Nanotech teams with nitric oxide to help diabetics, organ transplants

A product that can help people with medical problems from controlling diabetes to growing hair to preserving transplant organs? Snake oil, anyone?

Nope. A blue bandage made with synthetic nanoparticles promises just such wonders. Its secret? When you wet the bandage, the way the fibers degrade releases nitric oxide–a natural chemical that works wonders for people but that diabetics don’t make enough of. Their invention takes advantage of earlier efforts with nanofiber bandages that help wounds heal faster by releasing nitric oxide.

The researchers will focus, among other things, on making materials such as socks or wraps to improve blood flow in the feet of patients with diabetes.

Vegetable flavonoid promising for cancer treatment

I remember wondering a while back why I loved green beans so much when they didn’t appear to have an especially high food value/nutrition. A few years ago I was excited to learn that green beans, in fact, contain something called flavonoids (a recently discovered nutrient) that were really good for you. Hurray, I thought. My body’s wisdom does work after all.

Today I found this on the value of flavonoids as tools in sensitizing cancer cells–but not healthy ones–so that they will react more intensely to standard cancer treatments such as chemo and radiation.

Researchers are talking about trying to synthesize this element and use it in stronger doses to further boost cancer cell death. Now that’s one of my favorite topics–taking advantage of nature’s wisdom.

Healthcare reform or bust?

Interesting discussion here on how the financial and credit crisis in American is causing upheaval in the healthcare industry and is expected to continue to do so. Hospitals delaying construction; purchases of high technology gadgets canceled; doctors delaying retirement because of investment losses.

Good coverage on both sides of the issue–the negatives but also the positives that could come out of it. That our fascination with high-tech stuff hasn’t made the quality of care higher, so maybe we can learn to do things better instead of throwing money at them. That we have a huge number of people without insurance and therefore with little or no access to healthcare, so maybe this is a good time to institute reform. That doctors delaying retirement could mean we won’t suffer quite so soon such a shortage of general practitioners as is expected as the baby boomers age.

Also both presidential candidates claim they will not forget about their healthcare reform agendas–and one source claiming that the fact that the government just paid $600 billion to bail out Wall Street is a clear sign that health care will never receive top priority. It’ll be interesting to see what happens after the election.

Secrets of Nanotechnology for non-scientists – video conference

If you live in one of the states that’s got a location, this sounds like it’s worth attending. The Nanotechnology Colloqium is presenting a video-conference lecture through the auspices of the University of Texas by Jan Beck, PhD–whose credentials as an expert on nanoscale engineering are impressive.

The blurb says you don’t have to know math or quantum physics to understand how the materials are made and how they act. Lots of real world examples of nano-materials in action. Read the announcement and register here–the date is Monday, October 20, from 12:00 to 1:30 CT.

In Chicago, it’ll be broadcast at Illinois Institute of Technology, Stuart Building, room 21210 West 31st Street. The rest of the locations are in Texas–congrats to Chicago for snagging a venue.

Evidence that drugs can slow COPD progress

Believe it or not, a couple of the drugs you see advertised on television for asthma are actually being used in combination with other drugs as a deterrent against the slow but deadly progression of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). My mother had this difficult disease, and we watched as it progressed over the years into emphysema.

The industry-sponsored study refers to positive results with Advair’s active ingredient (salmeterol) when combined with fluticasone proprionate–reducing the loss of ability to breathe out over a year. It also gave similar positive ratings to the ingredient in Flonase (fluticasone) combined with another bronchodilator (salmeterol in Serevent).

Significantly, the study indicates that patients must have some kind of treatment and that use of corticosteroids is “unnecessary and inappropriate.” Details of the large study (5000-plus patients) here. It will be good to see followup studies that confirm the results but are conducted without the sponsorship of the drug companies.

Update on uninsured America

One-third of uninsured Americans have at least one chronic disease, according to a new report from the Annals of Internal Medicine, including asthma/COPD, diabetes, heart disease, and previous cancer. It refutes suggestions that the uninsured are mainly healthy people not much in need healthcare.

Latest stats are that 43 million Americans are without insurance. The nearly 11 and a half million with chronic diseases and no way to get healthcare are much more likely to “face early disability and death as a result.” But researchers say that insurance reform will not be sufficient. That because of budget issues, optimal care is not available even to many of those who have coverage. That if resources flow to organizations that serve many vulnerable patients and quality improvements are made, that alone can “improve outcomes for the uninsured.”

Better biomarker detection part of move to earlier diagnosis

Watched a Chicago angel investors’ group at work this past week. Sword Diagnostics presented the business plan and revenue projections for its new super-sensitive biomarker testing technology. The quote in their presentation is from the CEO of GE, Jeff Immelt: “Over the next decade, $250 billion in healthcare spending will shift from disease treatment to diagnosis.”

Sword uses its own version of Raman spectroscopy to get detailed readouts on not only the presence but also the levels–in many cases, even very low levels–of various biomarkers. One such is troponin in coronary artery disease, where the ability to detect its presence at earlier stages can prevent misdiagnosing unstable angina which, when missed, can lead to more deaths.

Other applications include finding low-level biomarkers for cancer in the blood–thus not sending patients home to wait for the cancer to grow big enough to test for–and being able to detect Alzheimer’s biomarkers with a blood test, thus saving patients the necessity of having a painful and intrusive lumbar punch.

Heartland Angels is helping Sword find investors, so if this sounds as good to you as it does to me–and so it seemed to several of the investors at the meeting–talk to Ron Kirschner at Heartland.

Vitamin D levels relate to mortality

If you were a bookworm or otherwise inclined to stay inside when you were a kid, your mom may have yelled at you to get outside and play. Turns out she was right–that being outside is literally good for your health.

Vitamin D, that elusive nutrient that’s only available from sunshine and from vitamin supplements, seems to play a significant role in death rates. A study shows people tend to die sooner from all causes when their vitamin D is lower than accepted levels. How’s that for a powerful reinforcement of your mom’s prescription!

Plus, I read the other day about a test comparing how students’ hearts behaved while doing an assignment and viewing either a) a blank wall, or b) a video screen showing a nature scene, or c) an actual window onto the same natural scene. Guess what? The only situation that proved favorable to the students’ hearts was viewing the real natural scene.

So with the impending holiday weekend ahead, it’s good advice to take to heart. Getting outside’s good for it.