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SLEEP APNEA CURE USING A VACUUM CLEANER & HOW DOES IT EFFECT YOU & OTHER TREATMENTS

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

An article on how an Australian man using a vacuum cleaner solved an evolution blunder. Snoring may be a sign of other conditions

It began late in the 1970s. Colin Sullivan is a physician in the respiratory unit at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Australia. There, he treats patients who have breathing problems. The most common complaint, by far, is snoring. Sullivan knows better than most medicos in his field that snoring is at times a sign of a more serious disorder known as sleep apnea. The disorder had been just identified only about ten years earlier.

Patients with sleep apnea experience a wierd nightly sensation that brings the body disturbingly close to death. Initially, the throat closes randomly throughout the night, cutting off the body’s air supply. This puts in motion a cascade of increasingly bad side effects. Like in a domino effect, the lack of air causes the oxygen levels in the blood to plummet and the blood pressure to rise markedly. The lips and skin begin going blue. Air may not come into the lungs for a minute or so. Also for some patients, the heart stops beating for maybe 10 seconds at a time.

Before long, the brain gets the urgent message that the body is choking. The brain jolts awake, and the body instinctively gasps for air. Yet as soon as the airway is clear, the brain immediately falls back to sleep. That’s when the cycle begins once again. It is all so quick that it can happen more than 20 times an hour, throughout the entire night, without the sleeper remembering it at all the next day. Someone lying next to him or her, however, can hear & or see this process taking place: When the rhythmic pattern of a snorer’s breathing pauses and then becomes a hard ghhack-ghhack-ghhack, it’s propably the body frantically clearing its airway.
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Sleep apnea was initially discovered when a group of American physicians noticed that some obese patients complained of extreme fatigue and would drift asleep unintentionally. With a literary flourish, they named the condition Pickwickian syndrome after a character who falls asleep standing up in Charles Dickens’s first novel, The Pickwick Papers. Doctors inadvertedly attributed the sleepiness to a combination of excess weight and abnormally high levels of carbon dioxide in the blood. It was only later that science understood sleep apnea to be a common breathing disorder caused by the combined position of the tongue and tissues of the throat. It was then given the name of apnea, derived from the Greek word for breathless.

Sleep apnea was on the frontier of sleep medial research in the late 1970s. Sullivan had recently returned from a fellowship in Toronto, where he spent three years analysing  the breathing patterns of dogs while they slept. British bulldogs, pugs, and other breeds with pushed-in faces are the only animals besides humans that experience the condition of sleep apnea. The years spent working with dogs gave Sullivan an idea. Once back in Sydney, he devised a mask that fit over a dog’s snout. The mask continuously pumped in air from the surrounding room, increasing the air pressure in the throat and preventing it from closing up. Experiments with dogs suggested that the steady flow of air dramatically improved sleep. All Sullivan needed was a human to give it a go

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In June of 1980, he found one. A man entered the hospital with such a severe case of sleep apnea that Sullivan recommended an immediate drastic tracheotomy. This procedure, which consisted of making a hole in the throat to allow a person to breathe without using the nose or mouth, was one of the few approved treatments for sleep apnea at the time. It required a permanent, coin-size opening in the neck, however, and was quite painful.

The patient refused the tracheotomy. But he was prepared to volunteer as a test patient for Sullivan’s air-pressure machine. Sullivan built a test model that day. He grabbed the motor out of a vacuum cleaner and attached it to a number of plastic tubes. He then took a diving mask and coated the edges with a silicone sealant that prevented air from leaking out of it. Soon, he had a workable system that allowed him to pump air through the mask under controlled pressure. Sullivan found an empty room hospital room and set up equipment to monitor the patient’s breathing and brain patterns, which would tell him what stage of sleep the man was in. The patient was hooked up to the monitors, put on the mask, and fell asleep within seconds.
ProSnore

The man began experiencing sleep apnea within minutes. Sullivan then slowly started to increase the pressure in the air flowing through the mask and into the patient’s airway. Suddenly, the apnea ceased. The patient began breathing normally. As Sullivan watched in amazement, the patient instantly went into a deep REM sleep—a rare phenomenon suggesting that his brain had been starved of restorative sleep. Sullivan then slowly decreased the pressure of the air flowing through the mask. Apnea resulted once again. Sullivan rapidly went through several repetitive cycles of increasing and decreasing the pressure. Finding that with the machine’s controls alone, he could effectively turn the patient’s sleep apnea on and off at will

The machine performed  well. The next question was whether its benefits would last throughout the night. Sullivan left the settings on the machine at a level where the patient was totally free of sleep apnea. Then he waited. For about seven straight hours, the patient was in abnormally intense, deep sleep. When he woke up the next day, he told Sullivan that he felt awake and alert for the first time in years.

A study in 1994 found that about 10 percent of women and 25 percent of men have difficulties breathing whilst sleeping. These numbers climb as a person ages, so that as many as 1 out of 3 elderly men have at least a mild case of sleep apnea. All told, about 20 million Americans are believed to have the disorder.

Its cause could simply be the trade-off that the human body makes for having the ability to speak in a complex language. A short tour of fossils illustrates such a possibility. If you were to look at a Neanderthal’s mouth, you might deem that its descendants would have been the ones to survive over the long run, considering their jawbones were larger and stronger than our ours now. Plus, with extra room in their mouths, Neanderthals never experienced the pain of impacted wisdom teeth. Homo sapiens differed from Neanderthals by developing a flatter face, a smaller jawbone, and a tongue that descends deeper into the throat than in any other mammal. With this physical feature, humans were able to move beyond making simple grunts. Those first, complicated sounds uttered by Homo sapiens soon evolved into language

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However the positioning of the tongue in the Homo sapiens mouth complicates the acts of eating, drinking, and breathing. Food could literally go down the wrong pipe, a biological problem unique to modern humans. Darwin noted “the strange fact that every particle of food and drink we swallow has to pass over the orifice of the trachea with some risk of falling into the lungs.” The longer tissues of the soft palate at the back of the throat made it possible for the airway to become blocked after a routine exhalation, which could start the cycle of sleep apnea. In the mid-1990s, researchers in Japan found that slight changes in the size and position of the pharynx at the back of the throat drastically increased the likelihood that someone would develop a breathing disorder such as sleep apnea during sleep. The shape of a person’s neck and jaw may also be a factor. A large neck, tongue, or tonsils, or a narrow airway often signal that a person will develop sleep apnea because of the increased chance that breathing will become blocked during the night.

Yet the physicians who first recognized sleep apnea were half right when they assumed that the disorder was a side effect of obesity. Sleep apnea is a flaw that is part of the blueprint of the human body, and excess fat often teases it out. The chances of developing sleep apnea go up with weight because the tissues in the throat become enlarged, making it more likely that they will obstruct the airway during sleep. For some patients, losing weight alone canstop the slep apnea. Other changes in behavior—like reducing alcohol intake, cutting back on smoking, sleeping on one’s side instead of on the back, or doing exercises or playing musical instruments that build up the muscles in the throat—may be beneficial.
ProSnore

Breathing masks like those manufactured by ResMed, the company Sullivan co-founded in 1989 after developing simpler prototypes of his machine, are the most common medical treatment for sleep apnea, but they aren’t for everyone. Some patients never adapt to the awkward sensation of sleeping with a mask on their face or never become comfortable with breathing in the cold air that is continuously pumped into their mouth throughout the night. In the long term, patients with mild sleep apnea wear the masks between 40 and 80 percent of the time, according to various studies. There is also a social stigma that complicates treatment. Some patients with sleep apnea decide not to use a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, machine because they are worried that it will make them less attractive to the person they are sharing a bed with & gives them the appearance of being on a life support system. In an online support group for patients with sleep apnea, a man wrote that he was “feeling like I am going to be Darth Vader if I have to wear one.” A woman wrote that her husband “fought it, cried, said he is defective, said he would prefer to put a gun to his head then wear one of those things.” Another wrote that “I’ve yelled that I feel like a freak to my husband way too many times this fall.”
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Oral dental devices are typically the next choice. These aren’t as effective as CPAP machines for severe sleep apnea, but they may be easier for some patients to use, especially those who have to travel frequently. One of the most popular looks like a sports mouthguard. It forces the lower jaw forward and slightly down to keep the airway open. Another device holds the tongue in place to prevent it from getting in the way. Surgery is the last option. One procedure, called an uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, consists of removing excess soft tissue from the back of the throat. Its long-term success rate is only about 50 percent, and it can lead to side effects such as difficulty in swallowing, an impaired sense of smell, and infection. It is also extremely painful. Few medications have been shown to help sleep apnea and may in fact make the problem worse. Sleeping pills and tranquilizers, for instance, can make the soft tissues in the throat sag and obstruct the airway more than they would otherwise.
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In 2000, four separate studies found conclusive evidence that sleep apnea was associated with increased rates of hypertension. Left untreated, patients with sleep apnea are at a greater risk of developing kidney disease or vision problems, or having a heart attack or stroke. Those studies helped convince some government insurance programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and the British National Health Service to pay for a portion of the cost of each ResMed device, which can be several-thousand dollars if a patient were to buy it out of pocket. Slumber labs across the country now conduct overnight tests in which patients who are suspected to have sleep apnea are hooked up to equipment that monitors their heart rhythums, breathing patterns, and brain activity, as well as the number of times they wake up throughout the night and how often they move their limbs.

As scientists began to understand sleep apnea in more detail, they started to see it as the foundation for serious illnesses affecting the mind. In one study, researchers at UCLA conducted brain scans of patients with extensive histories of sleep apnea and compared them with the scans of control subjects who had normal sleep patterns. The investigations focused their inquiry on the mammillary bodies, two structures on the underside of the brain so named because they resemble small breasts. Mammillary bodies are thought to be an important part of the memory and have long been associated with common cases of amnesia. This memory center of the brain was 20 percent smaller in patients with sleep apnea. Had a doctor looked at a patient’s brain scan alone, it would have suggested severe cognitive impairment: A similar shrinkage in the size of the mammillary bodies is found in patients with Alzheimer’s disease or those who experienced memory loss as a result of alcoholism. It was the first indication that sleep apnea leaves a permanent scar beyond the daily difficulties of focus and attention that come with sleepiness.
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A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association supported this conclusion. Kristine Yaffe, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California-San Francisco, led a study that recruited nearly 300 elderly women who were mentally and physically fit. The average age of the subjects in the study was a ripe 82. Each woman spent a night in a sleep lab, and Yaffe found that about 1 in every 3 met the standard for sleep apnea. Yaffe re-examined each woman five years later. The effects of age on the mind seemed to depend on the quality of sleep. Nearly half of the women with sleep apnea showed signs of mild cognitive impairment or dementia, compared with only a third of the women who slept normally. After controlling for factors such as age, race, and the use of medicines, Yaffe found that the women with sleep apnea were 85 percent more likely to show the first signs of memory loss. The frequent interruptions in sleep and the reduced oxygen availability to the brain may reduce the brain’s ability to form and protect long-term memory recall
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Sleep apnea and weight are not problems limited to the United States, a fact that hasn’t been lost on companies like ResMed. The spread of Western fast-food companies like McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Pizza Hut to emerging countries such as China and India may be the greatest growth engine for ResMed. Simply put, more fat in the bodies of the world’s population equals a larger number of sleep apnea cases, creating a larger customer base for ResMed’s products. “Genetically you’re still engineered for a low-calorie, low-fat diet,” Kieran Gallahue, CEO of ResMed at the time I visited the company’s headquarters in 2010, told me. “That’s what your body has been optimized for over centuries. Boom, you introduce burgers, fries and fast food fads, and your body is not going to handle it well. One of the outcomes is going to be a skyrocketing in the prevalence of sleep-disordered breathing.
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Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

WILD CHERRY BARK TREE TEA FOR ASTHMA

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

After drinking this tea,
THIS WOMAN IS  ASTHMA-FREE!


Hasn’t had an attack in several years!

“How on earth do you find all these remedies?” I asked them. “Actually,” they replied, “some of the best ones find us! For example…

“A woman phoned in to our radio show with a wild-sounding asthma remedy. She’d been suffering for years, but she said her life has been totally changed by…

WILD CHERRY-BARK TEA! “She swore she hasn’t had an asthma attack since she started drinking it 5 years ago. Still, we wondered…

“WILL IT WORK FOR ANYONE ELSE?”

“Does it ever! Ever since that radio show, folks with breathing problems have been telling us THANK YOU! They say it’s great for asthma, bronchitis and coughs.”

NOTE: This unusual tea can be hard to find.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

SNORING FIX DEVICE NOW AVAILABLE

Thursday, December 30th, 2010


Experimental shock therapy device offers hope for sleep apnea sufferers

Noisy snoring is not just a tiring irritation for partners but also can be a sign of sleep apnea. The National Institutes of Health reports that more than 12 million Americans suffer from the most common of the three varieties – obstructive sleep apnea, where the upper airway is repeatedly blocked during sleep. There are several treatment options already available and Minneapolis-based Inspire Medical Systems is about to add a shocking new addition to the treatment options on offer. The new system – which is about to enter clinical trials – electrically stimulates the nerve at the base of the tongue & keeps it from blocking the air’s journey to and from the lungs, and so offers the patient a good night’s sleep. Read More

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha



EARLY LUNG CANCER DETECTION NOW POSSIBLE FOR HIGH RISK PERSONS

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

Early Lung Cancer Detection:

Optical Technology Shows Potential

for Prescreening Patients at High Risk

Science (Oct. 9, 2010) — Researchers from Northwestern University and NorthShore University HealthSystem (NorthShore) have developed a method to detect early signs of lung cancer by examining cheek cells in humans using pioneering biophotonics technology.


Early detection is critical for improving cancer survival rates. Yet, one of the deadliest cancers in the United States, lung cancer, is notoriously difficult to detect in its early stages. Now, researchers have developed a method to detect lung cancer by merely shining diffuse light on cells swabbed from patients’ cheeks.

“By examining the lining of the cheek with this optical technology, we have the potential to prescreen patients at high risk for lung cancer, such as those who smoke, and identify the individuals who would likely benefit from more invasive and expensive tests versus those who don’t need additional tests,” said Hemant K. Roy, M.D., director of gastroenterology research at NorthShore.

The optical technique is called partial wave spectroscopic (PWS) microscopy and was developed by Vadim Backman, professor of biomedical engineering at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. Backman and Roy earlier used PWS to assess the risk of colon and pancreatic cancers, also with promising results.

The lung cancer findings are published online Oct. 5 by the journal Cancer Research. The paper will appear in print in the Oct. 15 issue.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Survival rates are high with surgical resection (removal of the tumor) but only if detected at an early stage. Currently there are no recommended tests for large population screening to detect lung cancer early. The disease is already advanced by the time most lung cancer patients develop symptoms. The five-year survival rate for lung cancer patients is only 15 percent.

PWS can detect cell features as small as 20 nanometers, uncovering differences in cells that appear normal using standard microscopy techniques. The PWS-based test makes use of the “field effect,” a biological phenomenon in which cells located some distance from the malignant or pre-malignant tumor undergo molecular and other changes.

“Despite the fact that these cells appear to be normal using standard microscopy, which images micron-scale cell architecture, there are actually profound changes in the nanoscale architecture of the cell,” Backman said. “PWS measures the disorder strength of the nanoscale organization of the cell, which we have determined to be one of the earliest signs of carcinogenesis and a strong marker for the presence of cancer in the organ.”

“PWS is a paradigm shift, in that we don’t need to examine the tumor itself to determine the presence of cancer,” added Hariharan Subramanian, a research associate in Backman’s lab who played a central role in the development of the technology.

After testing the technology in a small-scale trial, Roy and Backman focused the study on smokers, since smoking is the major risk factor related to 90 percent of lung cancer patients. “The basic idea is that smoking not only affects the lungs but the entire airway tract,” Roy said.

The study was comprised of 135 participants including 63 smokers with lung cancer and control groups of 37 smokers with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), 13 smokers without COPD and 22 non-smokers. The research was not confounded by the participants’ demographic factors such as amount of smoking, age or gender. Importantly, the test was equally sensitive to cancers of all stages, including early curable cancers.

The researchers swabbed the inside of patients’ mouths, and then the cheek cells were applied to a slide, fixed in ethanol and optically scanned using PWS to measure the disorder strength of cell nanoarchitecture. Results were markedly elevated (greater than 50 percent) in patients with lung cancer compared to cancer-free smokers.

A further assessment of the performance characteristics of the “disorder strength” (as a biomarker) showed greater than 80 percent accuracy in discriminating cancer patients from individuals in the three control groups.

“The results are similar to other successful cancer screening techniques, such as the pap smear,” Backman said. “Our goal is to develop a technique that can improve the detection of other cancers in order to provide early treatments, much as the pap smear has drastically improved survival rates for cervical cancer.”

Additional large-scale validation trials are necessary for PWS. If it continues to prove effective in clinical trials at detecting cancer early, Backman and Roy believe PWS has the potential to be used as a prescreening method, identifying patients at highest risk who are likely to benefit from more comprehensive testing such as bronchoscopy or low-dose CT scans.

The paper is titled “Optical Detection of Buccal Epithelial Nanoarchitectural Alterations in Patients Harboring Lung Cancer: Implications for Screening.” In addition to Roy, Backman and Subramanian, other authors of the paper are Dhwanil Damania, Thomas A. Hensing, William N. Rom, Harvey I. Pass, Daniel Ray, Jeremy D. Rogers, Andrej Bogojevic, Maitri Shah, Tomasz Kuzniar and Prabhakar Pradhan.

Editor’s Note: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


CIGARETTES,CHINA AND HEAVY METALS

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

High amounts of heavy metals found in China tobacco


By Tan Ee LynPosted 2010/10/07 at 7:55 am EDT

HONG KONG, Oct. 7, 2010 (Reuters) — Some Chinese cigarettes contain amounts of lead, arsenic and cadmium that are three times higher than levels found in Canadian cigarettes, a study has found.


While consuming such heavy metals is widely known to be harmful to health, there is little research done so far about their impact when inhaled into the body.

The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Tobacco Control on Thursday, said more investigation was needed.

“While the per-stick levels of metals are what we measured, the real issue is repeated exposure. Smokers don’t smoke just one cigarette, but 20 or so a day every day for years because cigarettes are addictive,” wrote lead author Richard O’Connor of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York.

“These metals get into smokers along with a cocktail of other toxicants. The effect of cumulative exposure to multiple toxicants, including metals, is the public health question that needs to be sorted out.”

The researchers used Canadian cigarettes for comparison in their study because Canadian manufacturers and importers are required to test for metals content in tobacco, and Health Canada, the country’s public health agency, recently released data concerning this.

China has more than 320 million smokers and a million Chinese in the country die each year from tobacco-related illnesses. Smoking has been causally linked to hypertension, stroke, diabetes, cancer, heart and respiratory diseases, among others.

China has the world’s largest smoking population and is also the biggest producer of tobacco, manufacturing 2.16 trillion cigarettes in 2007, according to the Tobacco Atlas.

O’Connor and colleagues analyzed 78 varieties of popular Chinese cigarette brands and found significantly elevated levels of heavy metals, with some containing three times the levels of lead, cadmium and arsenic compared with Canadian cigarettes.

“The higher yields of cadmium and lead in cigarettes manufactured in China are worrisome given current smoking prevalence in China and China National Tobacco Company’s export ambitions,” the researchers wrote in their paper.

A member of the team, Geoffrey Fong from the University of Waterloo in Canada, said the heavy metals content was due to contaminated soil.

“Tobacco like other crops absorbs minerals and other things from the soil, so if the soil has cadium, lead or arsenic, they will be absorbed into the tobacco,” Fong said.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

GROWING NEW LUNGS ON A FRAME

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Scientists Grow New Lungs

Using ‘Skeletons’ of Old Ones

Science (June 28, 2010) — For someone with a severe, incurable lung disorder such as cystic fibrosis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a lung transplant may be the only chance for survival. Unfortunately, it’s often not a very good chance. Matching donor lungs are rare, and many would-be recipients die waiting for the transplants that could save their lives.


Such deaths could be prevented if it were possible to use stem cells to grow new lungs or lung tissue. Specialists in the emerging field of tissue engineering have been hard at work on this for years. But they’ve been frustrated by the problem of coaxing undifferentiated stem cells to develop into the specific cell types that populate different locations in the lung.

Now, researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston have demonstrated a potentially revolutionary solution to this problem. As they describe in an article published electronically ahead of print by the journal Tissue Engineering Part A, they seeded mouse embryonic stem cells into “acellular” rat lungs — organs whose original cells had been destroyed by repeated cycles of freezing and thawing and exposure to detergent.

The result: empty lung-shaped scaffolds of structural proteins on which the mouse stem cells thrived and differentiated into new cells appropriate to their specific locations.

“In terms of different cell types, the lung is probably the most complex of all organs — the cells near the entrance are very different from those deep in the lung,” said Dr. Joaquin Cortiella, one of the article’s lead authors. “Our natural matrix generated the same pattern, with tracheal cells only in the trachea, alveoli-like cells in the alveoli, pneumocytes only in the distal lung, and definite transition zones between the bronchi and the alveoli.”

Such “site-specific” cell development has never been seen before in a natural matrix, said professor Joan Nichols, another of the paper’s lead authors. The complexity gives the researchers hope that the concept could be scaled up to produce replacement tissues for humans — or used to create models to test therapies and diagnostic techniques for a variety of lung diseases.

“If we can make a good lung for people, we can also make a good model for injury,” Nichols said. “We can create a fibrotic lung, or an emphysematous lung, and evaluate what’s happening with those, what the cells are doing, how well stem cell or other therapy works. We can see what happens in pneumonia, or what happens when you’ve got a hemorrhagic fever, or tuberculosis, or hantavirus — all the agents that target the lung and cause damage in the lung.”

The researchers have already begun work on large-scale experiments, “decellularizing” pig lungs with an eye toward using them to produce larger samples of lung tissue that could lead to applications in humans. They’re also taking on the challenge of vascularization — stimulating the growth of blood vessels that will enable the engineered tissues to survive outside the special bioreactors that the researchers now use to keep them alive by bathing them in a life-sustaining cocktail of nutrients and oxygen.

“People ask us why we’re doing the lung, because it’s so hard,” Cortiella said. “But the potential is so great, and the technology is here. It’s going to take time, but I think we’re going to create a system that works.”

Other authors of the Tissue Engineering Part A paper are UTMB research associate Jean Niles, associate professor Gracie Vargas, medical student Sean Winston, graduate student Shannon Walls, summer research fellows Andrea Brettler and Jennifer Wang, Andrea Cantu of Stanford University and Dr. Anthony Pham of Brown Medical School

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THIN AIR – THICK AIR – GENETIC SECRETS REVEALED – LIVE LONGER

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Genetic Secrets That Allow Tibetans

to Thrive in Thin Air Discovered

ScienceDaily (June 9, 2010) — A new study pinpoints the genetic changes that enable Tibetans to thrive at altitudes where others get sick.


In the online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, an international team has identified a gene that allows Tibetans to live and work more than two miles above sea level without getting altitude sickness.

A previous study published May 13 in Science reported that Tibetans are genetically adapted to high altitude. Now, less than a month later, a second study by scientists from China, England, Ireland, and the United States pinpoints a particular site within the human genome — a genetic variant linked to low hemoglobin in the blood — that helps explain how Tibetans cope with low-oxygen conditions.

The study sheds light on how Tibetans, who have lived at extreme elevation for more than 10,000 years, have evolved to differ from their low-altitude ancestors.

Lower air pressure at altitude means fewer oxygen molecules for every lungful of air. “Altitude affects your thinking, your breathing, and your ability to sleep. But high-altitude natives don’t have these problems,” said co-author Cynthia Beall of Case Western Reserve University. “They’re able to live a healthy life, and they do it completely comfortably,” she said.

People who live or travel at high altitude respond to the lack of oxygen by making more hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying component of human blood. “That’s why athletes like to train at altitude. They increase their oxygen-carrying capacity,” said Beall.

But too much hemoglobin can be a bad thing. Excessive hemoglobin is the hallmark of chronic mountain sickness, an overreaction to altitude characterized by thick and viscous blood. Tibetans maintain relatively low hemoglobin at high altitude, a trait that makes them less susceptible to the disease than other populations.

“Tibetans can live as high as 13,000 feet without the elevated hemoglobin concentrations we see in other people,” said Beall.

To pinpoint the genetic variants underlying Tibetans’ relatively low hemoglobin levels, the researchers collected blood samples from nearly 200 Tibetan villagers living in three regions high in the Himalayas. When they compared the Tibetans’ DNA with their lowland counterparts in China, their results pointed to the same culprit — a gene on chromosome 2, called EPAS1, involved in red blood cell production and hemoglobin concentration in the blood.

Originally working separately, the authors of the study first put their findings together at a March 2009 meeting at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, NC. “Some of us had been working on the whole of Tibetan DNA. Others were looking at small groups of genes. When we shared our findings we suddenly realized that both sets of studies pointed to the same gene — EPAS1,” said Robbins, who co-organized the meeting with Beall.

While all humans have the EPAS1 gene, Tibetans carry a special version of the gene. Over evolutionary time individuals who inherited this variant were better able to survive and passed it on to their children, until eventually it became more common in the population as a whole.

“This is the first human gene locus for which there is hard evidence for genetic selection in Tibetans,” said co-author Peter Robbins of Oxford University.

Researchers are still trying to understand how Tibetans get enough oxygen to their tissues despite low levels of oxygen in the air and bloodstream. Until then, the genetic clues uncovered so far are unlikely to be the end of the story. “There are probably many more signals to be characterized and described,” said co-author Gianpiero Cavalleri of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

For those who live closer to sea level, the findings may one day help predict who is at greatest risk for altitude sickness. “Once we find these versions, tests can be developed to tell if an individual is sensitive to low-oxygen,” said co-author Changqing Zeng of the Beijing Institute of Genomics.

“Many patients, young and old, are affected by low oxygen levels in their blood — perhaps from lung disease, or heart problems. Some cope much better than others,” said co-author Hugh Montgomery, of University College London. “Studies like this are the start in helping us to understand why, and to develop new treatments.”

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 11th June 2010

NEW DRUG IS SUCCESSFUL TREATING LUNG CANCER

Monday, June 7th, 2010

Surprise: A Pfizer Cancer Drug Works

June 5, 2010 – 10:53 am
//
Robert LangrethBio | Email
Robert Langreth is a senior editor at Forbes, in charge of health care coverage

Its been a tough couple years for Pfizer on the cancer front, as numerous cancer drugs have failed in trials. Among others, Pfizer is presenting results from a failed trial of a lung cancer drug called figitumumab.

But Saturday morning at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago, Pfizer is getting some good news. A new super-targeted lung cancer drug that treats a defective gene called EML4-ALK is showing great promise in early trials. Roughly 3% to 5% of lung cancer patients, generally younger nonsmokers, have this gene alteration. Roughly 10,000 lung cancer patients in the United States may have the genetic defect in their tumors.

Of 82 lung cancer patients with the defective gene who got the drug, called crizotinib, tumors shrank dramatically in 57% of them. The trial is still ongoing, so the duration of response is unknown, but some patients have gone 15 months without disease progression. The early results are so promising that Pfizer plans to apply for approval next year, even as larger studies are still ongoing.

The defective gene driving these cancers was discovered by basic researchers in 2007. “In just three short years we have gone from a description on an oncogene to a therapy,” said Mark Kris of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, at a press conference. “It is an amazing example of how once we understand a cancer cell we can come up with a therapy quickly.” He compared the development of the ALK drug to the development of Gleevec, from Novartis, for leukemia. Side-effects of crizotinib include nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 7th June 2010