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New hope for lung cancer treatment

Substance In Tree Bark Could Lead To New Lung-Cancer Treatment

by Staff Writers
Dallas TX (SPX) Jun 28, 2007

Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have determined how a substance derived from the bark of the South American lapacho tree kills certain kinds of cancer cells, findings that also suggest a novel treatment for the most common type of lung cancer. The compound, called beta-lapachone, has shown promising anti-cancer properties and is currently being used in a clinical trial to examine its effectiveness against pancreatic cancer in humans. Until now, however, researchers didn't know the mechanism of how the compound killed cancer cells.

Dr. David Boothman, a professor in the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center and senior author of a study appearing online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has been researching the compound and how it causes cell death in cancerous cells for 15 years.

In the new study, Dr. Boothman and his colleagues in the Simmons Cancer Center found that beta-lapachone interacts with an enzyme called NQO1, which is present at high levels in non-small cell lung cancer and other solid tumors. In tumors, the compound is metabolized by NQO1 and produces cell death without damaging noncancerous tissues that do not express this enzyme.

"Basically, we have worked out the mechanism of action of beta-lapachone and devised a way of using that drug for individualized therapy," said Dr. Boothman, who is also a professor of pharmacology and radiation oncology.

In healthy cells, NQO1 is either not present or is expressed at low levels. In contrast, certain cancer cells - like non-small cell lung cancer - overexpress the enzyme. Dr. Boothman and his colleagues have determined that when beta-lapachone interacts with NQO1, the cell kills itself. Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common type of lung cancer.

Beta-lapachone also disrupts the cancer cell's ability to repair its DNA, ultimately leading to the cell's demise. Applying radiation to tumor cells causes DNA damage, which results in a further boost in the amount of NQO1 in the cells.

"When you irradiate a tumor, the levels of NQO1 go up," Dr. Boothman said. "When you then treat these cells with beta-lapachone, you get synergy between the enzyme and this agent and you get a whopping kill."

In the current study, Dr. Boothman tested dosing methods on human tumor cells using a synthesized version of beta-lapachone and found that a high dose of the compound given for only two to four hours caused all the NQO1-containing cancer cells to die.

Understanding how beta-lapachone works to selectively kill chemotherapy-resistant tumor cells creates a new paradigm for the care of patients with non-small cell lung cancer, the researchers said. They are hoping that by using a drug like beta-lapachone, they can selectively target cancer tumors and kill them more efficiently. The current therapy for non-small cell lung cancer calls for the use of platinum-based drugs in combination with radiation.

"Future therapies based on beta-lapachone and NQO1 interaction have the potential to play a major role in treating devastating drug-resistant cancers such as non-small cell lung cancer," said Dr. Erik Bey, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher in the Simmons Cancer Center. "This is the first step in developing chemotherapeutic agents that exploit the proteins needed for a number of cellular processes, such as DNA repair and programmed cell death."

About 85 percent of patients with non-small cell lung cancer have cancer cells containing elevated levels of the NQO1 enzyme, which is produced by a certain gene. Patients who have a different version of the gene would likely not benefit from treatment targeting NQO1, Dr. Boothman said.

Dr. Boothman cautioned that clinical trials of beta-lapachone in lung cancer patients will be needed to determine its effectiveness as a treatment. He and his team have created a simple blood test that would screen patients for the NQO1 enzyme.

Along with Dr. Jinming Gao's laboratory in the Simmons Cancer Center and a joint collaboration with the bioengineering program at UT Dallas, researchers in the new "Cell Stress and Cancer Nanomedicine" initiative within the Simmons Cancer Center have developed novel nanoparticle drug delivery methods for the tumor-targeted delivery of this compound. These delivery methods have the promise of further improving this drug for non-small cell lung cancer.

Other Simmons Cancer Center researchers involved in the study were Dr. Ying Dong, postdoctoral researcher; Dr. Chin-Rang Yang, assistant professor; and Dr. Gao, associate professor. UT Southwestern's Dr. John Minna, director of the Nancy B. and Jake L. Hamon Center for Therapeutic Oncology Research and the W.A. "Tex" and Deborah Moncrief Jr. Center for Cancer Genetics, and Dr. Luc Girard, assistant professor of pharmacology, also participated along with researchers from Case Western Reserve University and UT M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.


Vaccination and neurological disorders in children

Vaccinated Children Two and a Half Times More Likely to Have Neurological Disorders Like ADHD and Autism, New Survey in California and Oregon Finds

Earth Times
Wednesday June 27, 2007

As the first trial in Vaccine Court explores the relationship between vaccines and autism, a new survey released today indicates a strong correlation between rates of neurological disorders, such as ADHD and autism, and childhood vaccinations.

The survey, commissioned by Generation Rescue, compared vaccinated and unvaccinated children in nine counties in Oregon and California. Among more than 9,000 boys age 4-17, the survey found vaccinated boys were two and a half times (155%) more likely to have neurological disorders compared to their unvaccinated peers. Vaccinated boys were 224% more likely to have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and 61% more likely to have autism.

For older vaccinated boys in the 11-17 age bracket, the results were even more pronounced. Vaccinated boys were 158% more likely to have a neurological disorder, 317% more likely to have ADHD, and 112% more likely to have autism. Complete survey results are available at http://www.generationrescue.org/.

Generation Rescue commissioned the phone survey. Data was gathered by SurveyUSA, a national market research firm, which surveyed parents by phone on more than 17,000 children, ages 4-17, in five counties in California (San Diego, Sonoma, Orange, Sacramento, and Marin) and four counties in Oregon (Multnomah, Marion, Jackson, and Lane).

The survey asked parents whether their child had been vaccinated, and whether that child had one or more of the following diagnoses: Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), ADHD, Asperger's Syndrome, Pervasive Development Disorder -- Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), or Autism. The phone survey was chosen to mirror the methodology the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) uses to establish national prevalence for neurological disorders in their national phone survey.

Timed to the release of the survey results, Generation Rescue also ran full-page advertisements in Washington's Roll Call, The Oregonian, and The Orange County Register today. The ad compares the 36 pediatric vaccines the CDC recommends today to the 10 recommended in 1983, and asks, "Are We Over- Vaccinating Our Kids?"

"No one has ever compared prevalence rates of these neurological disorders between vaccinated and unvaccinated children," said J.B. Handley, co-founder of Generation Rescue, whose son was diagnosed with autism. "The phone survey isn't perfect, but these numbers point to the need for a comprehensive national study to gather this critical information."

In Washington, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) has been advocating for such a survey. Co-sponsored by Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), the "Comprehensive Comparative Study of Vaccinated and Unvaccinated Population Act of 2006," or H.R. 2832, was introduced on June 22, and would require the National Institutes of Health to complete this research.

"Generation Rescue's study is impressive and forcefully raises some serious questions about the relationship between vaccines and autism. What is ultimately needed to resolve this issue one way or the other is a comprehensive national study of vaccinated and unvaccinated children," said Congresswoman Maloney. "The parents behind Generation Rescue only want information. These parents deserve more than road blocks, they deserve answers. We can and should move forward in search of those answers. That's why I have introduced a common sense bill that would require the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct a comprehensive, comparative study on the possible link between autism and thimerosal."

From 1983 to 2007, autism rates have climbed from 1 in 10,000 children to 1 in 150 children, a growth rate of 6,000% (boys are significantly more affected by neurological disorders, accounting for approximately 80% of all cases). ADHD currently affects 1 in 13 children. In the same period, the CDC's recommended vaccine schedule more than tripled. The simmering debate over the cause of childhood neurological disorders shows no sign of cooling, but no study had ever been done to look at unvaccinated children.

Lisa Handley, co-founder of Generation Rescue, adds, "Everyone working with autism wants to identify the cause so we can focus on treatment and prevention. A national study like HR 5940 could help end this debate and focus all of our resources on helping our kids. Its time has come, and we hope Congress will choose to put our children first."


Ecchinacea and immunology

Echinacea 'can prevent a cold'

Monday, 25 June 2007, 00:58 GMT 01:58 UK

Taking the herbal remedy echinacea can more than halve the risk of catching a common cold, US researchers say.

They found it decreased the odds of developing a cold by 58% and the duration of colds by a day-and-a-half.

The results in The Lancet Infectious Diseases conflict with other studies that show no beneficial effect.

Experts believe echinacea, a collection of nine related plant species indigenous to North America, may work by boosting the body's immune system.

'Marked effects'

Researchers, led by Dr Craig Coleman from the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy, combined the results of 14 different studies on Echinacea's anti-cold properties.

In one of the 14 studies the researchers reviewed, echinacea was taken alongside vitamin C. This combination reduced cold incidence by 86%.

When echinacea was used alone it reduced cold incidence by 65%.

Even when patients were directly inoculated with a rhinovirus - the most common cold-causing virus - echinacea reduced cold incidence by 35%.

The researchers' report said: "With over 200 viruses capable of causing the common cold, echinacea could have modest effect against rhinovirus but marked effects against other viruses."

Popular product

They found that more than 800 products containing echinacea were available, and that differing parts of the plant - flower, stem and root - were used in different products.

They said more work was needed to check the safety of these different formulations.

Professor Ron Cutler, of the University of East London, said: "The true benefits, and more importantly, how the agents work remains unclear and further better-controlled actual clinical trials still have to be carried out.

"Echinacea may reduce the duration of illness and decreases the severity of cough, headache, and nasal congestion. "

He said people with impaired immune function might benefit from taking echinacea during the winter months to prevent colds and flu, but that healthy people did not require long-term preventative use.

"There has also been the suggestion in the past that continuous treatment with echinacea is not recommended - the benefits may only be effective for one or two weeks and after taking the agent for this time people should stop and give the immune system a week without the agent."

Professor Ronald Eccles, director of the Common Cold Centre at the University of Cardiff, said the work was "a significant step in our battle against the common cold".

"Harnessing the power of our own immune system to fight common infections with herbal medicines such as echinacea is now given more validity with this interesting scientific evaluation of past clinical trials," he added.


Good Vs.BAD !

Patent sought on 'synthetic life'

2007 06 10
Article from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6733797.stm

Scientists working to build a life form from scratch have applied to patent the broad method they plan to use to create their "synthetic organism".

Dr Craig Venter, the man who led the private sector effort to sequence the human genome, has been working for years to create a man-made organism.

But constructing a primitive microbe from a kit of genes is a daunting task.

Dr Venter says, eventually, these life forms could be designed to make biofuels and absorb greenhouse gases.

The publication of the patent application has angered some environmentalists.

The Canada-based ETC group, which monitors developments in biotechnology, called on patent offices to reject applications on synthetic life forms.

The J Craig Venter Institute's US patent application claims exclusive ownership of a set of essential genes and a synthetic "free-living organism that can grow and replicate" made using those genes.

It has also filed an international application at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) which names more than 100 countries where the institute may seek monopoly patents.

'Gene kit'
Dr Venter's team intends to construct an organism with a "minimal genome" that can then be inserted into the shell of a bacterium.

By removing genes, one by one, from a bacterium called Mycoplasma genitalium they identified the minimum number of genes required for this particular organism to replicate, or reproduce, in its controlled environment.

They have been able to remove 101 of its 482 genes without killing the bacterium, meaning that 381 were required for replication.

But generating a man-made living organism from the bottom up requires much more than just its minimal genome.

For example, in order to get the genes to do something, there have to be chemicals to translate the genes into messenger RNA and proteins.

Scientists around the world have been wrestling with the task of generating a so-called free-living synthetic organism for years.

Environmental objection
The ETC Group says it will be writing to Dr Venter asking him to withdraw his institute's patent applications.

"We don't want to engage in a long-term legal strategy to slap down bad patents. These patents must be struck down before they're issued," said Hope Shand, a spokesperson for the group.

Jim Thomas, of ETC Group, added: "These monopoly claims signal the start of a high-stakes commercial race to synthesise and privatise synthetic life forms."

It said the company was pressing ahead with its work despite the fact the public had not had the chance to debate the "far-reaching social, ethical and environmental implications".

Dr Venter maintains that artificial life forms could produce solutions to global problems such as green sources of fuel and climate change.

The effort could result in "designer microbes" that produce biofuels such as ethanol, and hydrogen.

They could also be engineered to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Dr Venter first announced that scientists were working on creating synthetic life forms at a conference in California in 1999.


Alzheimer's cases worlwide- 4X more in 2050 !

Alzheimer’s cases around the world to quadruple by 2050

June 11, 2007
David Sanderson

A “global epidemic” of Alzheimer’s disease could take hold by 2050 with the number affected set to quadruple, experts predicted yesterday.

The number of people living with the condition, which is estimated at 26 million worldwide, will grow to more than 106 million by 2050, with about half of them needing high-level care, the researchers said. The Alzheimer’s Society said that about 1.7 million people will be living with the condition in the UK by 2050.

There are currently 700,000 people with dementia in the UK and 60,000 people die from it every year.

The research author Professor Ron Brookmeyer, from the Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland, told the International Conference on the Prevention of Dementia in Washington DC: “We face a looming global epidemic of Alzheimer’s disease as the world’s population ages.

“By 2050, one in 85 persons worldwide will have Alzheimer’s disease. However, if we can make even modest advances in preventing Alzheimer’s disease or delay its progression, we could have a huge global public health impact.”

Mr Brookmeyer said that the biggest rise in the number of cases would occur in Asia where currently 48 per cent of sufferers live. Prevalence there will grow from 12.65 million in 2006 to 62.85 million in 2050, accounting for 59 per cent of all cases, the study said.

It comes as other experts announced a new test that can predict a person’s risk of getting dementia in the next six years.

The test combines medical history, cognitive function and a physical examination and is 87 per cent accurate, according to experts at San Francisco VA Medical Centre in California. Neil Hunt, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, said that tools to predict dementia and encourage healthy life-styles were important to combat the disease. But he added: “There is a risk with any tool which predicts the likelihood of developing dementia of clinicians becoming reliant on diagnosis by numbers.

“Dementia is incurable and discovering you have a high chance of developing the condition may frighten people rather than empowering them into action to reduce their risk.

“Any risk model should be used alongside guidance on how people can reduce their chances of developing dementia.”

He said the Maryland research painted a “stark picture of the impact of Alzheimer’s disease on a global scale”. He added: “ “A national dementia strategy must consider the global scale of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.”


Lyme disease

Tick disease warning to doctors

Monday, 11 June 2007, 23:01 GMT 00:01 UK

Doctors have been warned to look out for a tick disease which is thought to be on the increase in Britain.

The Medical Defence Union, a doctors' insurance body, has told its members to stay vigilant for possible cases of Lyme disease.

In recent times it has dealt with a number of complaints alleging a delay in diagnosis of the condition.

Lyme disease can be difficult to spot as it has a variety of symptoms, and easily be mistaken for something else.

It is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected ticks.

The most common symptom is a slowly expanding rash which spreads out from a tick bite, usually after about five to 14 days.

Typical symptoms also include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans.

Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics.

But if left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.

Rise in cases

In England and Wales 684 cases were reported last year, and Scotland has seen a ten fold increase in numbers over the last decade, with 177 cases reported last year.

Dr Claire Wratten, MDU senior medical claims handler, said: "While a delay or failure in diagnosis is not necessarily negligent, if the condition remains untreated, patients may develop serious symptoms affecting mainly the neurological, cardiac and musculo-skeletal systems, many months to years after the initial infection.

"Doctors may see increasing numbers of cases of Lyme disease in the future as recent news reports have indicated a rise in the tick population."

Despite the fact the number of cases of Lyme disease is increasing, the MDU said it was likely that an individual doctor will only rarely see a case.

However, it has issued guidance for doctors advising them to:

Tell patients to take precautions against tick bites if they are visiting woods, heathland and parklands in high risk areas

Make themselves aware of the various clinical manifestations of the disease

Consider the diagnosis in patients with possible symptoms who have walked in areas where the disease is prevalent

Remember that only about 20% of patients are likely to recall being bitten by a tick
Sue O Connell, of the Health Protection Agency, said the MDU was right to highlight the issue, especially now when people were going off on holiday and spending more time outside.

She said: "Areas where infection has been acquired in the UK include popular holiday destinations such as Exmoor, the New Forest, the South Downs, parts of Wiltshire and Berkshire, Thetford Forest , the Lake District, the Yorkshire moors and the Scottish Highlands, but the infection can occur in other areas where ticks are present."


Food additives- revised!

Food additives pose growing danger

Chemical additives have once again been linked to hyperactivity in children and a new study says they could damage cell DNA

By Rosalind Ryan
Sunday, Jun 10, 2007, Page 9

You would think we'd all be pretty well-versed in the dangers of food additives by now. However, the British Nutrition Foundation, says most of us lack a "sufficient understanding" and has called for better education.

This campaign could not be more timely. Peter Piper, a professor at Sheffield University, has just issued a stark warning that certain compounds found in fizzy drinks could damage cell DNA, while a study into additives and their effect on children's behavior is currently being conducted by the University of Southampton on behalf of the Food Standards Agency (FSA). It will be published in a few months, but a leaked report revealed that certain colorings and additives could increase hyperactivity.

The leak coincided with a promise from the UK's major supermarkets to ban potentially dangerous additives from the majority of their own-brand products by the end of the year.

A spokesperson for the FSA said, "All additives approved for use in this country undergo stringent tests and are safe for use. The health dangers are either non-existent or controlled by the safe levels within the food."

But some experts fear that although additives may have been approved on an individual basis, we still don't know what their combined effect on the body may be.

Vyvyan Howard, a pathologist and professor of bioimaging at the University of Ulster, who has conducted research into the "cocktail" effects of food additives, said: "These chemicals are tested one at a time and declared safe one at a time, but we are exposed to a mixture of chemicals. Their combined effect could be more than simply adding two or three separate chemicals."

Modern tests

Both the FSA and experts raising awareness of additives agree that if you want to live an additive-free life, the easiest option is to eat food that is freshly prepared. But if you do buy processed food, it can't hurt to know exactly what you are feeding your body.

E211 -- sodium benzoate: Piper discovered that E211, commonly found in soft drinks, pickles and sauces to prevent mold, could damage DNA. This could cause the same sort of liver damage seen in alcoholics and is linked to neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease. Piper's original laboratory research was published in 1999, but he is raising the issue again to highlight the need for modern safety tests.

"Many of the tests on these chemicals were done 50 years ago when we simply did not know how to measure this kind of damage," he said.

A review by the WHO in 2000 into sodium benzoate reported a vast number of studies showing people suffered from hives, asthma and anaphylactic shock after exposure to this additive.

E621 -- monosodium glutamate: A flavor enhancer often associated with Chinese food, it's also found in canned and frozen foods, and snacks like potato chips.

A study by Hirosaki University in Japan in 2002 discovered eating a diet high in MSG could damage the retina, leading to loss of vision. Researchers said small amounts in the diet were OK but those with existing retina problems should be careful.

The Migraine Trusts also lists MSG as a common migraine trigger and says many sufferers eliminate it from their diets. Last year, Howard and a team of researchers from the University of Liverpool found MSG combined with other additives, such as brilliant blue food coloring, stopped nerve cells growing and disrupted brain-signaling systems.

E951 -- aspartame: This controversial additive is 180 times sweeter than sugar and found in many sugar-free foods including soft drinks, cakes and dairy products. A number of reports have cast doubt on its safety and, even 20 years ago, there were concerns over its use.

Louis Elsas, a professor of genetics and pediatrics, testified before Congress in the US that aspartame could cause neurological damage in children and raised concerns over the additive passing from pregnant mothers to their unborn child, affecting brain development.


However last year the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) confirmed it was safe to use.

E102 -- tartrazine: This synthetic food dye gives many foods their bright yellow coloring. The FSA agrees that studies show E102 can cause hives, itchy skin or asthma in susceptible people. It is commonly linked to hyperactivity in children -- research by the Hyperactive Children's Support Group in 1987 found that 87 percent of children who had been diagnosed as hyperactive also had adverse reactions to artificial colorings. A study by the University of Southampton in 2004 also found children consuming additives, including tartrazine, had higher levels of hyperactivity.

E104 -- quinoline yellow: Another yellow dye used to color medicines, some soft drinks, Scotch eggs and smoked fish. It is banned in the US and Australia for its possible cancer-causing properties. Studies by the US National Toxicology Program in 1997 found rats fed the coloring had higher rates of liver and kidney tumors.

Howard's team found that when E104 was combined with aspartame (many common soft drinks contain them both), the effect on nerve cells was up to seven times greater than when the additives were tested alone. The combined additives were not tested in vast quantities, but at concentrations that mimicked the amount in a child's bloodstream after eating foods containing these colorings.

The Aspartame Information Service, which represents the sweetener industry, dismissed the research, saying that it "did not provide any meaningful information" because it exposed mouse cells in the laboratory to undigested aspartame. Quinoline yellow is also being studied in the current University of Southampton trials.

E407 -- carrageenan: A gelling agent extracted from seaweed by boiling, carrageenan can be found in ice cream and yogurts, or as a fat substitute in some meat and soy products. Twenty-five years ago the International Agency for Research on Cancer said there was enough evidence from animal tests to class degraded carrageenan (a form of carrageenan that has been heated to very high temperatures and treated with acid to make it easier to use in other substances) as a potential cancer-causing agent to humans.

calcium loss

Degraded carrageenan is not permitted for use in food, but a review of studies into carrageenan and cancer by the University of Iowa in 2001 found the additive could become degraded in our digestive system, leading to an increased risk of cancers in the gut.

Joanne Tobacman, who conducted the University of Iowa review, said: "The widespread use of carrageenan in the Western diet should be reconsidered."

E220 -- sulphur dioxide: This preservative is commonly used in beer, wine, soft drinks and dried fruits to stop fermentation. Asthmatics may suffer an attack after inhaling sulphur dioxide and it has also been linked to stomach upsets.

An ongoing review by the WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives confirmed sulphur dioxide could destroy vitamin B1, so having a soft drink with your meal could wipe out its vitamin B1 content. The same review found that animal and lab tests revealed that consuming E220 could increase the amount of calcium lost by the body -- raising your risk of the bone-thinning condition osteoporosis -- and could cause DNA damage.

E124 -- ponceau 4R: This red food coloring is often found in soft drinks, sweets and puddings and is one of the additives currently being investigated for triggering hyperactivity. E124 has been banned in the US and Norway as a cancer-causing chemical.

A study published in Toxicological Sciences in 2001 found there was a connection between the coloring and tumors in animals, but called for more conclusive research to be carried out.

A review of food additives carried out by the FSA's committee on toxicity last year found ponceau 4R could have an effect on brain development in young children.


Vitamid D decreases the risks for cancer

Vitamin D May Cut Cancer Risk

Researchers Say "Sunlight" Nutrient Cuts Risk Significantly; Skeptics Remain

ABC News Medical Unit
June 8, 2007

Like many American women, Ivalynn Oudin has been taking supplements of calcium and vitamin D for years.

"My doctor said it would increase my bone density and help prevent hip fractures," said the 57-year-old mother of two.

But new research published today in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that vitamin D supplements may have another benefit: a 60 percent to 77 percent lower risk of cancer.

"Our study shows that with adequate vitamin D, cancer can be prevented -- or a high incidence of it can," said Joan Lappe, a professor of nursing and medicine at Creighton University and the lead author of the study.

"This is the first study that shows, in a clinical trial, that adequate levels of vitamin D can reduce the risk of cancer."

The research may already be impacting public health policy in at least one country. According to a release posted on its Web site, the Canadian Cancer Society is planning an announcement Friday that all adults should start taking vitamin D supplements. It's the first-ever move by a major public health organization to endorse daily use of the vitamin as a cancer-prevention therapy for an entire population.

However, critics of the study say this drastic drop in cancer risk is not borne out by previous research, and the effect may be much more subtle.

Dr. Jacques Rossouw of the National Institutes of Health is one of these critics. His group conducted a study that followed 36,282 postmenopausal women for seven years to test the effects of vitamin D on colorectal cancer, pegged by the NIH as the third leading cancer killer of women in the United States.

"In our study we found absolutely no indication of an effect of calcium or vitamin D [on cancer] -- zero," he said. "And that's over a seven-year period. It was a much larger study and much a longer study."

Dr. John Milner, chief of the Nutrition Science Research Group at the National Cancer Institute, agrees that some skepticism is necessary.

"We need to put this in the context of the entire diet and lifestyle and understand why we're getting some effect," Milner said. "I don't want to minimize it, but let's see a little bit more before we start jumping into public health policies."

The research was conducted with 1,179 postmenopausal Caucasian women older than the age of 55 who were randomly assigned to receive a placebo containing no medication, a dose of calcium equivalent to about five glasses of milk per day, or both calcium and a high dose of vitamin D.

Women who were on both calcium and vitamin D had 60 percent to 77 percent fewer incidences of cancer in four years than those taking the placebo, according to the study.

Salmon and Sunshine
Vitamins are substances that the body needs but cannot make entirely on its own. Although vitamin D can be found in oily fish, such as salmon, it is most commonly obtained by the body through exposure to sunlight; as the sun's rays hit the skin, the body converts a compound similar to cholesterol into vitamin D.

The body uses this vitamin D to maintain a healthy level of calcium in the blood and for proper bone health throughout life, according to Dr. Michael Holick, a vitamin D expert at Boston University Medical Center.

In the past 20 years, research has also suggested that vitamin D may play other roles within the body.

"We now recognize that every tissue and cell in the body [can use] vitamin D," Holick said. "Vitamin D tells cells to keep their growth in check and helps keep them from becoming [cancerous]."


Brain tumors and pesticides!

Brain tumour link to pesticides

Monday, 4 June 2007, 23:27 GMT 00:27 UK

Agricultural workers exposed to high levels of pesticides have a raised risk of brain tumours, research suggests.

The French study also indicated a possible higher risk among people who use pesticides on houseplants.

All agricultural workers exposed to pesticides had a slightly elevated brain tumour risk, it suggested.

But the Occupational and Environmental Medicine study found the risk was more than doubled for those exposed to the highest levels.

The risk of a type of central nervous system tumour known as a glioma was particularly heightened among this group - more than three times the risk in the general population.

Gliomas are more common in men than women, and the researchers speculate that part of the reason might be that men are more often exposed to pesticides.

However, the overall risk of developing a brain tumour remained very low.

UK experts said the findings were inconclusive.

They findings were based on an analysis of 221 cases of brain tumours by the French Institute of Public Health, Epidemiology and Development.

The research took place in the Bordeaux wine-growing region, where 80% of all pesticides used are fungicides.

The chemicals are mixed and sprayed in a mist to protect vines from fungus attack.

However, the researchers were unable to get specific enough data to pin down exactly which types of pesticide were associated with the development of brain tumours.

Evidence 'inconclusive'

They also found that the use of pesticides indoors for house plants seemed to be associated with a more than two-fold increase in the risk of brain tumour.

But they admitted further work would be needed to confirm this association - again because of a lack of detail about which pesticides were used in enclosed home environments.

Josephine Querido, science information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: "More research is needed to confirm the observations made in this study as the results were based on people's recollection of pesticide exposure.

"Brain tumours are relatively rare and, although workers exposed to high levels of pesticides in industry or farming may be at higher risk of certain cancers, current evidence is inconclusive and any risks are likely to be very small."

Parkinson's 'risk'

A spokesman for the Crop Protection Association said: "Pesticides are some of the most thoroughly regulated chemicals in the world.

"There is no conclusive scientific evidence of a link between pesticides and brain tumours.

"This type of study does not demonstrate cause and effect, and the authors themselves admit that they did not identify which pesticides were used or the levels of exposure."

Pesticide exposure was linked to a raised risk of Parkinson's disease in a study published last month.


Ginseng- good for cancer patients and not only!

Ginseng 'reduces cancer fatigue'

Sunday, 3 June 2007, 14:39 GMT 15:39 UK

The Chinese herb ginseng could give exhausted cancer patients a physical and emotional boost, research suggests.

A US team at Rochester's Mayo Clinic found daily doses improved energy levels and emotional well-being, in a study of 282 patients.

They say that as studies show over half of cancer patients experience crippling fatigue, adding ginseng to cancer therapies is worth exploring.

Cancer experts urged caution until more work was carried out.

The work was presented to the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Stress effects

Cancer fatigue is the most common side effect of cancer treatment and, according to Cancer Research UK, affects up to 90% of cancer patients.

Many people with cancer say it is the most disruptive side-effect of all, rendering them so tired they are unable to perform everyday tasks.

Ginseng has already been hailed as a remedy against colds and diabetes.

Scientists believe it works by acting as an "adaptogen" - a substance that helps the body overcome stress effects.

Since cancer patients can face high levels of stress, both physical and psychological, the Mayo team decided to test whether ginseng would be of benefit.

They enrolled 282 cancer patients and divided them at random into four groups - a control group, who received their normal cancer treatment and a dummy drug, plus three treatment groups who received one of three daily doses of ginseng (750mg, 1,000mg or 2,000mg) alongside their usual therapy.

After eight weeks, they surveyed the patients.

Marked improvements

The group given the dummy drug reported no improvement, but the patients who had been taking the ginseng reported improvements in overall energy levels and experienced less fatigue-affected activity.

The ginseng groups said they felt better mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally.

The improvements appeared to be dose related, with those on the highest dose reporting the greatest gains.

But the scientists stressed it would be premature to recommend ginseng supplements to cancer patients.

Lead researcher Dr Debra Barton explained: "Whilst the results were promising, we have more research to conduct."

Her team now plans to look at what dose is most appropriate.

Dr Barton said there were many different formulations of ginseng available on the market and that all might not work identically.

Josephine Querido, of Cancer Research UK, said: "It's too early to say whether using ginseng will help reduce tiredness in people with cancer. Further work may shed more light on this.

"Of the evidence currently available, exercise and support seem to be most effective at tackling tiredness in cancer patients."

She added: "If you're considering using complementary therapies, such as herbal supplements, you should always discuss this with your GP."


Meloterapia strilor de panica la bebelusi--- si nu numai !

Articol preluar din revista FELICIA
Autor Marius Radu

Metodele terapeutice prin auditii muzicale au devenit des utilizate în profilaxia si terapia unui numar vast de boli, mai ales la copii

Un succes important al psihologilor din Marea Britanie consta în descoperirea unor modele de meloterapie a starilor de agitatie, anxietate, stari de panica ale copiilor sugari si de vârsta mica. Astfel, au fost descris elementele de baza ale tiparelor unor armonii de sunete care pot bloca mecanismele nervoase ale aparitiei starilor de panica ale copiilor.
Studiile de neurobiologie au dovedit ca anumite sunete si mai ales succesiunea armonica sau ritmica a unor asociatii de sunete provoaca o stare de excitatie a unor zone din creier. La copii exista o arie mai larga de reactie a creierului auditiv la asociatii melodice, care determina o puternica excitatie urmata de o imediata inhibitie. Tocmai aceasta relaxare psihica împiedica o posibila extindere a excitatiilor de alerta a creierului, cauza declansarii starilor de panica.

Ritmul de tip cardiac
Melodiile care au un ritm aseamanator celui al batailor inimii provoaca o stare de liniste psihica, mai ales la copilul de vârsta mica. Aceasta se datoreaza în primul rând faptului ca, intrauterin, micutul este învatat cu asocierea dintre ascultarea ritmului inimii mamicii si starea de confort din acea perioada, în care rar erau resimtite senzatii neplacute, deci starea de panica nu se justifica. S-a constatat ca folosirea melodiilor cu ritm de tip cardiac în terapia copiilor anxiosi si cu atacuri de panica are o eficienta de 90% la fetite si 95% la baieti.
Melodiile alese nu trebuie sa contina alte percutii decât cele care se succed dupa un ritm de tip cardiac. Evita sa alegi unele în care apar refrene sau pasaje de interpretare vocala cu tonalitati foarte înalte, tipate sau ragusite, care sunt genetic identificate cu avertismente la care micutul va reactiona printr-o stare de alerta si chiar panica. Vocile foarte grave si ragusite sunt stimuli-semnal asociati instinctiv cu mârâitul fiarelor, iar micutul raspunde la astfel de sunete fiind programat genetic, deoarece acum 100.000 de ani ele anuntau un pericol real pentru puiul de om. De asemenea, nu se recomanda nici melodiile cu un ritm de tip cardic foarte alert, care va fi asociat unei conditii de boala, frig sau disconfort cu care se confrunta micutul în viata intrauterina.

Sunetele melodice prelungite
Suntele prelungite, nici prea joase nici prea înalte, au un efect linistitor aparte asupra psihicului, mai ales la copii. Aceste efecte, întâlnite în muzica clasica, electronica, slow-uri si mai ales în doinele românesti, reduc starea de excitabilitate a zonelor nervoase implicate în starile de alerta. Chiar si sunetele cu usoare vibratii, dar prelungite peste trei sunete, au un efect relaxant. Este foarte interesant ca acestea au un efect deconectant numai asupra copiilor europene si asiatici, si foarte slab asupra micutilor de culoare. Acest fapt poate fi explicat prin co-evolutia prolifica om-lup din comunitatile tribale ale continentul nostru, ce a supravietuit datorita vânatorii alaturi de lupii care gaseau hrana.

Ce tip de melodii alegem
Daca optezi pentru varianta tiparului melodic în care predomina sunetele prelungi, alege piese clasice sau cântate cu instrumente de suflat. Sunt recomandate doinele cu buciumuri sau melodii cântate numai instrumental, cu fluier, flaut. Se poate opta si pentru muzica electronica de tipul celei interpretate de Jean Michel Jarre, însa nu se recomanda acorduri de tip hard-rock, heavy metal, house sau balade rock, chiar daca acestea contin sunete prelungite. Melodiile alese trebuie sa aiba o tonalitate calda cu putine variatii de tonuri, fiind excluse cele care contin pasaje vocale.

Regulile meloterapiei pentru atac de panica
1. Se alege numai unul dintre cele doua modele descrise anterior (fie muzica cu ritm de tip cardiac, fie foarte lenta, cu sunete prelungi). Este nevoie de cel putin doua ore de muzica, ascultata în anumite perioade din zi.
2. Timp de doua luni, copilul trebuie sa asculte acelasi repertoriu selectat, dupa care se face o noua selectie.
3. Muzica se pune la o ora dupa trezire, iar durata acestei prime sedinte trebuie sa fie cuprinsa între 15 si 45 de minute.
4. Volumul la care se asculta muzica trebuie sa fie foarte discret, abia auzibil.
5. Cea de-a doua sedinta din zi trebuie sa fie la 70-80 minute dupa somnul de dupa-amiaza, iar durata auditiei sa fie între 25 si 70 de minute continuu.
6. În cazul în care copilul pare alertat de fondul sonor sau mai agitat decât de obicei, schimba melodia sau renunta la sedinta din acea zi.

Stil sanatos de viata, prin Ayurveda

Articol preluat din revista FELICIA

Autor:Oana Florea

Iscata de mintile înteleptilor Indiei, Ayurveda este considerata de secole una dintre cele mai tainice stiinte de vindecare a omului

Nu cu multa vreme in urma, lumea occidentala a împrumutat Ayurveda ca pe o solutie spirituala si a decis s-o utilizeze, considerând-o mai actuala ca oricând. Teoria ce sta la baza acestui domeniu al medicinei alternative considera corpul omenesc un întreg ce trebuie sa se afle permanent în echilibru, astfel ca el trebuie vindecat, chiar daca numai o singura parte a sa este bolnava.

Echilibrul fortelor
Conform teoriei Ayurvedice, exista trei genuri de forta interioara ce reglementeaza toate procesele din organismul uman, aceleasi forte care guverneaza Universul, spiritul si materialitatea lumii. Înteleptii vindecatori din India au alcatuit un program strict individualizat de control organic, pe care l-au denumit “Teoria celor Trei Tipare” si care împarte oamenii în functie de principiul si de forta interioara dominata:
Vata - principiul miscarii;
Pitta - principiul metabolic;
Kapha - principiul de legatura.
În ceea ce priveste femeile, Teoria Tiparelor Ayurvedice compara organismul acestora cu o soba. Pentru a functiona, el are nevoie de combustibil (forta - Kapha), de oxigen (aer - Vata) si de foc (energie - Pitta). Dar pentru ca trupul si spiritul sa actioneze în armonie, aceste trei forte interne trebuie sa fie egale. Daca ele nu se afla în echilibru, se ajunge la “decizii” organice incorecte, “balanta” se deregleaza si persoana se îmbolnaveste. De aceea, trebuie sa stii exact care este cea mai puternica dintre fortele tale interioare, astfel încât, prin alimentatie si comportament, sa întaresti partile slabe, aducându-le în echilibru. Deci e important sa afli caruia din cele trei tipuri Ayurvedice îi apartii.

Femeia “Vata”

Vata este un cuvânt din limba hindu, care defineste spatiul si aerul, însemnând totodata rece, rapid, agil, aspru, usor, mobil, dar si sensibil. Vata comanda toate componentele de miscare ale organismului uman, coordoneaza si conduce activitatea musculaturii, a tuturor organelor interne, reglementeaza circulatia sângelui, respiratia si activitatile psiho-spirituale.
Tipul cuprinde persoanele cu o constitutie usoara a corpului. Acestea sunt suple si se pastreaza adesea sub greutatea normala, fara a face eforturi în acest sens. Femeile Vata se entuziasmeaza peste masura, sunt pline de idei, au o imaginatie bogata si efervescenta, dovedesc o usurinta deosebita de a trece de la o problema la alta. În general, au tenul uscat, simt o aversiune deosebita fata de vremea rece de iarna si mai ales fata de vânt, adorm greu, au somnul superficial si neregulat, sufera adesea de constipatie si au o digestie dificila.

Recomandarile Ayurvedice pentru femeia Vata:
• Aranjeaza-ti programul astfel încât sa faci cel putin doua plimbari mai lungi pe saptamâna în aer liber, chiar si toamna ori iarna. Vei avea un somn bun, o piele mult mai elastica si mai catifelata si o mare rezerva de energie, chiar si în dragoste.
• Culca-te înainte de ora 22.00.
• Apeleaza, cât de des posibil, la exercitii de relaxare.
• Manânca regulat si odihneste-te dupa masa macar o ora.
• Elimina din alimentatie cafeaua, ceaiul negru si alcoolul.
• Acorda trupului tau mai multa liniste si relaxare.
• Bea mult ceai de plante, în special de ghimbir.

Femeia “Pitta”
Femeile Pitta pot fi caracterizate succint astfel: calde si ironice, alunecatoare, greu de “prins” în definitii, sarcastice - deseori fara motiv -, taioase, diplomate. Pitta semnifica pamântul în combinatie cu aerul. Forta Pitta dirijeaza în principal sentimentele feminine si canalizeaza consumul energetic intern si extern. Este raspunzatoare de digestie, asimilare si procesele metabolice, coordoneaza ficatul, splina, pielea si ochii. Femeile Pitta au o greutate corporala medie, nu sunt nici grase, nici slabe, iar miscarile lor au o elasticitate remarcabila. Nu le place de fel caldura, sunt nerabdatoare si înclinate catre accese de furie. Sunt gurmande, dar întrucâtva ferite de obezitate, caci au digestie foarte buna, în schimb au probleme cu dintii si gingiile, precum si usoare probleme dermatologice. Modul lor de a munci este precis si consecvent, au un talent oratoric deosebit si putere de convingere.

Recomandarile Ayurvedice pentru femeia Pitta:
• Supravegheaza-ti tensiunea, caci exista tendinta de hipertensiune.
• Evita apele de masa carbogazoase.
• Manânca în portii mici, fara sa exagerezi cu numarul meselor.
• Consuma cât mai multe fructe si legume.
• Bea mai ales apa plata, de izvor, sau apa filtrata
• Practica un sport sau fa cât mai multa miscarea în aer liber.
• Consuma frecvent apa minerala, dar naturala, neîmbogatita artificial.

Femeia “Kapha”
Kapha este cea care stabilizeaza organismul feminin, este forta concentrarii, cea care da greutate. Cuvântul indian Kapha s-ar traduce prin pamânt si apa la un loc. Femeile care apartin acestui tip au o conformatie fizica puternica, pregnanta, incitanta, o anume masivitate, sunt elegante, iar caracteristicile lor sunt moliciunea, lentoarea, concentararea deosebita si o anume greutate, dar si forta care genereaza energie bruta, pune în miscare vointa si controleaza memoria. Tenul lor are tendinta de îngrasare si necesita o atentie deosebita. Activitatea le este lenta, progresiva, însa constanta si temeinica. Dorm bine si profund, exista o anumita încetineala a perceptiei imediate, însa memoria lor este excelenta si de lunga durata. Sunt femei cu fire echilibrata, uneori chiar mult prea calme.

Recomandarile Ayurvedice pentru femeia Kapha:
• Bea cât mai multa apa, peste doi litri pe zi.
• Fa regulat sport, pentru a anihila tenditele de îngrasare.
• Stimuleaza digestia cu condimente, mai ales cu piper, boia de ardei iute, enibahar, cuisoare si scortisoara.
• În locul siestei de dupa masa de prânz, mergi fara întrerupere timp de cinci minute.
• Pentru ten, apeleaza macar de trei ori pe saptamâna la câte o baie de aburi cu musetel.

Importanta sentimentelor
Modul în care îsi manifesta sentimentele femeile din cele trei tipuri Ayurvedice este, de asemenea, foarte important. Astfel, femeile Vata înclina catre nervozitate, teama si griji exagerate, cele de tip Pitta au tendinta sa se înfierbânte usor si sunt irascibile, în vreme ce femeile Kapha sunt geloase si posesive în dragoste, stapânite de emotii negative. În terapiile Ayurveda, emotiile negative, ca gelozia, furia, banuiala, sunt considerate boli ale psihicului, caci, spun indienii, sanatate psihica înseamna calm, liniste si stabilitate sufleteasca, iar calea pentru a atinge aceste însusiri este meditatia.

“Ai sanatatea pe care o asezi în stomac”
Una dintre recomandarile “Teoriei celor Trei Tipare” deosebit de importanta în terapia feminina Ayurvedica este alimentatia, caci, asa cum spun filozofii hindusi, “Ai sanatatea pe care o asezi în stomac”. Hrana este de fapt un medicament pentru organismul uman, însa, exact ca produsele medicamentoase, trebuie aleasa si dozata cu multa atentie.
Retetele dietei Ayurvedice au trei elemente principale, elixirul, caldura si apa, sunt calculate pentru 1.000 de calorii pe zi si sunt destinate pentru a slabi mâncând. Si, pentru ca înteleptii indieni n-au lasat nimic la voia întâmplarii, exista si în acest caz reguli clare pentru cele trei tipuri feminine, referitor la ce anume trebuie sa consume fiecare pentru a preveni îmbolnavirile si a-si spori vitalitatea. Dietele sunt compuse din fructe, legume, multe mirodenii si, conform principiilor Ayurveda, daca vrei poti mânca mai mult din fiecare fel de la masa, fiindca tot vei slabi. Retetele din dieta sunt astfel combinate si aromate, încât asigura o crestere rapida a metabolismului si, prin urmare, se pastreaza forma ideala. O regula exista totusi: nu este permis sa mânanci decât la cel putin patru ore distanta fata de masa precedenta, astfel ca digestia sa fie completa.

1. Elementul principal al dietei: „Ghee - Untul Vietii”
În bucataria Ayurvedica exista un ingredient-minune fara de care nu se poate, caci este considerat un adevarat elixir al vietii si un mijloc de întinerire. Acesta este “Ghee”, care seamana întrucâtva cu untul topit al europenilor, este însa foarte usor digerabil si ajuta absorbtia substantelor hranitoare. Se consuma ca atare, încalzit, câte doua linguri o data, în procedurile zilnice de dezintoxicare, dar si la gatit sau prajit. Modul de a prepara “Ghee” este cât se poate de simplu: se topeste o bucata de unt nesarat si se lasa sa fiarba lent vreme de 15 minute. Se strecoara fierbinte printr-un tifon, dar numai în vase de ceramica sau de sticla, fara a fi atins cu unelte de metal.

2. Micul dejun - frugal si prânzul - obligatoriu cald
Indienii considera ca, la primele ore ale zilei, “masinaria” digestiei se urneste greu, iar absorbtia alimentelor va fi incompleta. Aceasta devine activa abia catre prânz, care trebuie astfel sa fie o masa consistenta. În dieta Ayurveda, micul dejun trebuie sa fie unul frugal, pentru a nu solicita foarte mult procesul digestiv. Toate prânzurile trebuie sa fie neaparat calde, pentru o mai buna digestie, iar toate felurile trebuie sa fie proaspat pregatite, din ingrediente neconservate. Cina nu se ia mai târziu de ora 18.00, iar dupa aceasta masa si mai ales înainte de culcare nu trebuie sa mai manânci nimic, pentru ca noaptea digestia este foarte grea.

3. Silueta perfecta, numai cu apa fierbinte
În dieta Ayurveda este obligatoriu sa bei cel putin doi litri de lichid pe zi, indiferent ca e vorba de apa filtrata, de apa de izvor, apa minerala fara acid carbonic ori ceai de plante cu o felie de lamâie. Toate lichidele trebuie sa aiba cel putin temperatura camerei, în niciun caz sa nu fie reci pentru ca blocheaza digestia. Elementul-cheie este apa fierbinte, pe care trebuie s-o bei cât de calda poti caci, spun specialistii medicinei ayurvedice, aceasta functioneaza exact ca un medicament pentru organism. Apa calda regularizeaza metabolismul, elimina toxinele, blocheaza radicalii liberi din corp si, cel mai imporatnt, dizolva grasimea depusa în exces. Recomandarea este de a umple un termos cu apa încalzita si de a consuma 6-8 pahare pe zi.

Alimente si mirodenii obligatorii
Unt, ardei gras, rosii, ceapa, usturoi, praz, sparanghel, mere, morcovi, pere, spanac, ridichi, linte, patrunjel, marar, iaurt, pâine graham ori de secara, fulgi de porumb, malai, fructe uscate (prune, caise, mere), ulei de floarea-soarelui, ulei de masline, piper, boia de ardei iute, anason, chimen, rozmarin, maghiran, menta, salvie, scortisoara, cuisoare, enibahar.

Electro-magnetic field and neurons renewal!

Take a look at Robert C Beck's Brain Tuner, George Lakhovsky's MWO and Edgar Cayce's Violet Ray as well !

Magnetic field found to stimulate brain cells

· Mice experiments offer hope on Alzheimer's
· Long-term possibility of enhancing memory

James Randerson, science correspondent
Thursday May 24, 2007
The Guardian

A magnetic field can stimulate the brain and promote the growth of new nerve cells, scientists have found, raising the possibility of treating conditions linked to neuron death such as Alzheimer's disease, and perhaps one day of enhancing humans' memory capacity.

Experiments on mice used a technique, transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, which has become a standard tool for investigating the brain. Avoiding the use of surgery to open the skull, rapidly changing magnetic fields induce weak electrical signals in brain neurons. TMS has been used experimentally to treat disorders such as depression, Parkinson's and schizophrenia; it is also useful for temporarily shutting down some brain regions while enhancing others in experiments to find how the brain works.

Article continues



Fortunato Battaglia and a team at City University in New York gave mice up to five short bursts of TMS a day for five days, then looked at their brains. New Scientist magazine reports today that they found large increases in the proliferation of stem cells in part of the hippocampus - a brain region known to act in memory formation and mood regulation. They also saw changes in a part of the brain for controlling movement.
This is the first time TMS has been shown to stimulate new neurons. "There is a lot of potential for this technique," said Professor Battaglia, who presented his results in Boston this month. "The effect on the stem cells is the most exciting finding ... This opens applications for patients with neurodegenerative diseases, especially Alzheimer's, and patients recovering from stroke."

The team also saw evidence of long-term potentiation - changes to the nerve cells making them more sensitive and more likely to fire if stimulated by neurons next to them. In all areas of the brain tested, TMS modified chemical receptors on the surface of nerve cells so they remained active for longer.

Alzheimer's disease is associated with neuron loss in the hippocampus, so stimulating growth could repair the damage. Even if TMS cannot stimulate growth of neurons in humans, its ability to strengthen existing neural pathways could be beneficial to Alzheimer's patients.

The next step is to demonstrate TMS improves memory in mice, and to find how to get the best effect. Prof Battaglia said it would be premature to test people. "You could go to humans, but it would be some sort of fishing expedition. Working in animals allows us to optimise the technique," he said, though he hopes eventually the technique can improve memory. "Theoretically that could also be an application."

Exercise and antidepressants promote neuron growth, but it has been impossible to target specific brain areas.

Folic acid's benefits against stroke

Folic acid 'reduces stroke risks'

Thursday, 31 May 2007, 23:06 GMT 00:06 UK

Adding folic acid to their diet can cut a person's stroke risk by a fifth, cumulative evidence suggests.

Food advisors have already recommended to ministers that the vitamin should be added to flour or bread.

This is to benefit pregnant women and those trying to conceive, by protecting the unborn child against birth defects.

The Lancet review of eight studies shows the benefits could be more widespread, but experts warn that this must be balanced against other risks.

An increase in folic acid can mask a vitamin B12 deficiency in older people.

This type of anaemia can cause serious health problems, like nerve damage.

Folate is a water-soluble B vitamin that occurs naturally in food. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate that is found in supplements and added to fortified foods

Both folic acid and vitamin B12 are essential for good health and good levels can be achieved by eating a healthy, balanced diet.

Green vegetables are rich in folic acid or folate, while B12 is found in foods such as eggs and meat.

Yet 13 million people do not consume enough folate, according to the Food Standards Agency.

How much?

The current advice is that all adults consume 200 micrograms of folate per day, and that women who are pregnant or thinking of having a baby should take a daily 400 microgram supplement from the time they stop using contraception until the 12th week of pregnancy.

Mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid is already in place in several countries, including the US, to help ensure this.

Experts have known for some time that folic acid appears to carry brain benefits.

It lowers the level of homocysteine, a blood protein linked both to heart disease and dementia.

Professor Xiaobin Wang, of the Children's Memorial Research Center in the US, and colleagues looked at available data on the effects of folic acid supplementation on stroke.

Risk reduction

They found the vitamin reduced the relative risk of stroke by an average of 18%.

An even greater risk reduction - 30% - was seen when the treatment lasted more than 36 months, or if the individual had no past history of stroke - 25% less risk.

No big reduction was seen if homocysteine did not go down, supporting the idea that this protein may be an important stroke risk factor.

Professor Wang's team recommended more research, among individuals with no history of stroke who are from regions without grain fortification, with longer follow-up - four years or longer.

A spokeswoman for the Food Standards Agency said: "Some recent studies have suggested that folic acid has even wider health benefits such as lowering the risk of heart disease, bone disease and stroke.

"However, further work is needed to establish whether folic acid does or does not have these additional effects."

Dr Cynthia Carlsson, of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, agreed, saying: "Ongoing trials are needed before we can conclude that the benefit of continued use of previously deemed 'safe' vitamin supplements outweighs the risk of other adverse cardiovascular disease outcomes."