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Marijuana Use is Associated with Excessive Daytime Sleepiness in Adolescents

By Dr Kathy Kramer

American researchers found 10% of adolescents sent to a sleep centre for evaluation of excessive daytime sleepiness had urine drug screens positive for marijuana.

“Our findings highlight and support the important step of obtaining a urine drug screen, in any patients older than 13 years of age, before accepting test findings consistent with narcolepsy, prior to physicians confirming this diagnosis,” lead research Dr Mark L. Splaingard, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, said.

The 10-year retrospective study looked at 383 children and will be published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

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Maternal Smoking Linked to Shorter Foetal Telomere Length

Source: Medical Xpress

Prenatal exposure to tobacco is associated with shorter foetal telomere length, according to research published in the February issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Hamisu M. Salihu, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of South Florida in Tampa, and colleagues administered a self-report questionnaire and salivary cotinine test to confirm tobacco exposure in pregnant women admitted to the hospital for delivery. Genomic DNA from neonatal umbilical cord blood was analysed to assess foetal telomere length. The ratio of relative telomere length was determined by the ratio of telomere repeat copy number to single copy gene copy number (T/S ratio).

The researchers found that smoking was inversely related to foetal telomere length in a dose-response pattern. T/S ratio was greater in descending order in nonsmokers, than in passive smokers, than in active smokers. For each pairwise comparison, significant differences were observed in telomere length. The greatest difference in telomere length was found between active smokers and nonsmokers… Read More>>

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Air Pollution Affects Short-Term Memory, IQ and Brain Metabolic Ratios

Source: University of Montana via Medical Xpress

City smog lowers children’s IQ. This is among findings from a recent University of Montana study that found children living in cities with significant air pollution are at an increased risk for detrimental impacts to the brain, including short-term memory loss and lower IQ.

Findings by UM Professor Dr. Lilian Calderón-Garcidueñas, MA, MD, Ph.D., and her team of researchers reveal that children with lifetime exposures to concentrations of air pollutants above the current U.S. standards, including fine particulate matter, are at an increased risk for brain inflammation and neurodegenerative changes, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Calderón-Garcidueñas’ findings are detailed in a paper titled “Decreases in Short-Term Memory, IQ and Altered Brain Metabolic Rations in Urban Apolipoprotein ε4 Children Exposed to Air Pollution,” which can be found online… Read More>>

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Toxic Exposure Could Be Causing a Pandemic of Brain Disorders in Kids

Source: Elizabeth Grossman via Quartz

The numbers are startling. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1.8 million more children in the US were diagnosed with developmental disabilities between 2006 and 2008 than a decade earlier. During this time, the prevalence of autism climbed nearly 300%, while that of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder increased 33%. CDC figures also show that 10 to 15% of all babies born in the US have some type of neurobehavorial development disorder. Still more are affected by neurological disorders that don’t rise to the level of clinical diagnosis.

And it’s not just the US. Such impairments affect millions of children worldwide. The numbers are so large that Philippe Grandjean of the University of Southern Denmark and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Philip Landrigan of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York—both physicians and preeminent researchers in this field—describe the situation as a “pandemic.”

While earlier and more assiduous diagnosis accounts for some of the documented increase, it doesn’t explain all of it, says Irva Hertz-Piccioto, professor of environmental and occupational health and chief of the University of California, Davis, MIND Institute. Grandjean and Landrigan credit genetic factors for 30 to 40% of the cases. But a significant and growing body of research suggests that exposure to environmental pollutants is implicated in the disturbing rise in children’s neurological disorders.

What, exactly is going on? And what can we do about it?

Chemicals and the brain

Some chemicals—leadmercury and organophosphate pesticides, for example—have long been recognized as toxic substances that can have lasting effects on children’s neurological health, says Bruce Lanphear, health sciences professor at Simon Fraser University. While leaded paint is now banned in the US, it is still present in many homes and remains in use elsewhere around the world. Children can also be exposed to lead from paints, colorings and metals used in toys, even though these uses are prohibited by US law (remember Thomas the Tank Engine), and through contaminated soil or other environmental exposure as well as from plastics in which lead is used as a softener. Mercury exposure sources include some fish, air pollution and old mercury-containing thermometers and thermostats. While a great many efforts have gone into reducing and eliminating these exposures, concerns continue, particularly because we now recognize that adverse effects can occur at exceptionally low levels.

But scientists are also now discovering that chemical compounds common in outdoor air—including components of vehicle exhaust and fine particulate matter—as well as in indoor air and consumer products can also adversely affect brain development, including prenatally.

Chemicals in flame retardants, plastics, and personal care and other household products are among those Lanphear lists as targets of concern for their neurodevelopment effects… Read More>>

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Specific NSAIDs Increase Nonfatal Ischemic Stroke Risk

Source: Medical Xpress

Use of specific nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), diclofenac and aceclofenac, is associated with increased risk of nonfatal ischemic stroke, according to a study published online Jan. 22 in the Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis.

Patricia García-Poza, Pharm.D., from the University of Alcalá in Madrid, and colleagues examined the risk of nonfatal ischemic stroke associated with NSAID and acetaminophen use. Data were included from 2,888 case patients, who were on treatment within a 30-day window before the index date, and 20,000 controls.

The researchers found that, overall, there was no increased risk with traditional NSAIDs as a group (odds ratio [OR], 1.03; 95 percent confidence interval [CI], 0.90 to 1.19). However, there was variation in results across individual agents and conditions of use. Diclofenac use correlated with increased risk (OR, 1.53), especially when used at high doses (OR, 1.62), over long-term periods (OR, 2.39 for more than 365 days), and in patients with high background cardiovascular risk (OR, 1.78). Aceclofenac also correlated with increased risk when used at high doses, long-term treatments, or in patients with cardiovascular risk factors (ORs, 1.67, 2.00, and 2.33, respectively). No correlation was seen for ibuprofen (OR, 0.94; 95 percent CI, 0.76 to 1.17) or naproxen (OR, 0.68; 95 percent CI, 0.36 to 1.29). There was no significant effect modification noted with concomitant aspirin use…. Read More>>

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Cerebral Palsy – It Can Be in Your Genes

Source: David Ellis via Medical Xpress

It has long been the belief that cerebral palsy occurs when a child experiences a lack of oxygen during pregnancy or at birth; however, the Australian Collaborative Cerebral Palsy Research Group, based at the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Research Institute, has found at least 14% of cerebral palsy cases are likely caused by a genetic mutation.

The findings of this research are published in the prestigious Nature journal Molecular Psychiatry.

The Head of the Cerebral Palsy Research Group, Emeritus Professor Alastair MacLennan, says prior to this research it was believed that as little as 1% of cerebral palsy cases had a genetic cause.

“Cerebral palsy is a major neurodevelopmental disorder, which disrupts movement control, and it occurs in 1 in 400 children,” Emeritus Professor MacLennan says… Read More>>

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Gastric Bypass Surgery Improves Long-Term Survival

By Dr Kathy Kramer

Obese patients who undergo gastric bypass surgery have significantly better long-term survival rates than obese patients who do not receive the surgery, according to an American study.

The study compared 401 patients who received gastric bypass in 2002 and 2003 with 401 obese patients who did not have the surgery but had very similar health conditions.

Substantial improvements in survival were evident beginning five years after surgery: the five-year mortality rate for gastric bypass patients was 2.2%, compared with 6.7% among patients who didn’t have the surgery, with 10-year mortality rates of 6.5% and 12.7%, respectively.

Source: American Journal of Surgery

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A Tricky Balancing Act: Antibiotics Versus the Gut Microbiota

Source: Medical Xpress

Antibiotics are valuable, potentially life-saving tools that have significantly reduced human morbidity and mortality. Unfortunately, antibiotics may also have unintended consequences from their off-target effects that may increase the risk of many long-term conditions. Recent epidemiologic studies have detected a possible link between antibiotic use in childhood and weight gain—with disruption to the normal gut microbiota considered the most likely cause.

“Infancy is an important time in the development of the human microbiota and these studies provide evidence that early exposure to antibiotics may disrupt the early-life microbiota and lead to changes in growth and metabolic development,” says Dr Laura Cox (New York University, USA). “In animal studies, we are carefully trying to understand how the intestinal microbiota influences body composition and metabolism and what impact antibiotics might have.” …Read More>>

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Poor Hygiene Can Infect Contact Lens Cases

By Dr Kathy Kramer

Not washing hands with soap and water, not allowing contact lens cases to air dry, and not using cases and disinfecting solutions from the same manufacturer increase the risk of contamination of contact lens cases, according to a study in the official journal of the American Academy of Optometry.

The study looked at 119 contact lens wearers. As in previous studies, contamination rates were high: 66% of contact lens cases tested positive for bacterial or fungal contamination and in nearly 40% of contaminated cases multiple organisms were isolated.

Contamination was also higher in patients who had worn contact lenses for two years or longer, suggesting that more-experienced wearers may become less vigilant with hygiene habits over time.

Contaminated contact lens cases can bacterial keratitis.

Reference: Optometry and Vision Science DOI:10.1097/OPX.0000000000000477

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Obesity, Epigenetics, and Gene Regulation

Source: Jill U Adams via Scitable

Of two genetically identical mice, how can one be small and another fat? Research on epigenetic changes resulting from the environment can give us clues into obesity in mice–and humans.

Our genome contains all the information to make us who we are, but many of the details of our behavior and appearance are actually determined by gene regulation. A striking example of the power of gene regulation is seen in agouti mice, in which genetically identical twins can look entirely different in both color and size. For example, one mouse may be small and brown, but her twin sister may be obese and yellow. Another genetically identical sister may have a mottled look with both fur colors present and fall in the middle of the weight range. The genome of each of these mice is the same, but the gene expression obviously differs.

In these mice, the epigenome is what makes the difference. Picture a network of molecules that are intimately intertwined with nuclear DNA and that have the power to silence genes. The behavior of this entourage of molecules can be altered by the environment (or “nurture,” to use the terminology of the classic “nature versus nurture” debate) and can have a profound effect on an individual’s phenotype.

For instance, in normal, healthy mice, the agouti genes are kept in the “off” position by the epigenome, which attaches methyl groups to the corresponding regions of DNA, resulting in the DNA’s compaction to prevent transcription. In yellow and/or obese mice, however, the same genes are not methylated; thus, these genes are expressed or “turned on.” The turning on of this single gene results in an apparent freak of nature. Mice whose agouti gene is “on” are also more likely to suffer from diabetes and cancer as adults…Read More>>

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