Normal or Caesarean?

A newborn baby with umbilical cord ready to be clamped

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Why did you have a normal delivery with so much pain? A caesarean is so much better and easier.” A common inconsiderate comment to a new mother, that requires an adequate and appropriate knowledgeable response.

The arrival of a baby should be a happy event awaited with joyful anticipation. Pregnancy is, after all, not a disease. It is a normal part of the cycle of birth and death. It is nature’s way of propagating the species. As for the “unbearable” pain of labour, it only appears to last forever. Once the delivery is over, the pain is gone and the mother is back to normal.

In ancient Indian manuscripts and in Egyptian mythology, there are records of disruption in the sequence of events of child birth. The child sometimes refused to come out. It got stuck in the uterus, posing grave danger to the life of the mother and baby. Ancient physicians learnt to cut open the uterus, saving the life of the baby. Under Roman law (a decree of Caesar), operations were compulsorily performed on women dying during child birth to save the life of the unborn baby. With no anaesthesia, suture materials or aseptic surgical techniques, the women did not survive this procedure. Contrary to popular perception, Julius Caesar was not born in this manner.

A Caesarean section may result in a compromise in the mother-child bonding

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In the 1900s only 10 per cent of women had caesareans. Now with better medical care, greater awareness and the adoption of the small family norm, the incidence has been steadily increasing. Some 25-40 per cent of the pregnancies today end up as caesarean sections. In affluent urban areas as many as 50 per cent of the deliveries are caesareans. Many women opt for a caesarean and demand it from their obstetrician. They are anxious, fearful of the outcome of the pregnancy or unwilling to attempt the process of normal labour. They are even willing to pay to have an elective caesarean section at an auspicious time and day, convenient for both the doctor and patient.

Caesareans are needed if:-

Labour does not progress satisfactorily, an attempt at normal labour has failed and the baby’s life is in danger.

The position of the baby is abnormal (breech or transverse).

There are multiple babies (twins or triplets).

There is a disproportion between the size of the baby and that of the mother (a large baby and mother with a small pelvis).

The mother is an older woman.

She has conceived the baby after intervention (test tube babies).

The mother has a medical condition complicating the pregnancy.

Caesareans are fast and easy, but they are a major surgical procedure involving anaesthesia and opening up of the abdomen. Maternal mortality in the best of hands varies from 0.5 per cent to 3 per cent.

There may be other complications after the surgery, which may or may not be fatal. There may be excessive loss of blood. The uterus may fail to contract after the operation. Infection may occur in the wound. There may be clot formation in the legs, leading to dangerous or fatal pulmonary embolism.

In an elective caesarean, where the time and place are preset, the baby may not be ready to be born. Spontaneous breathing may not occur and resuscitation may be required. Soon after the surgery, the mother may be sedated for relief from pain. There may be IV lines in her arms and a catheter to collect the urine. The abdomen has sutures and is bandaged. All these pose physical impediments to breast feeding. Of course, some strongly motivated women still manage to exclusively breast feed the new-born baby. In others, lactation is never satisfactorily established. Very soon the baby is artificially fed with cow’s milk or tinned formula milk. The child’s health and immunity suffer. The physical presence of the mother is not required for sustenance (anyone can feed the baby). As a result, mother and baby bonding may be compromised.

After a caesarean (elective or necessary) section, the new mother is often horrified by her waistline. With the surgical procedure, exercises to regain muscle tone and to lose weight may be delayed. Actually today studies have shown that anaerobic exercises to a count of 20 for tightening the abdominal muscles and slow walking can be started only about two weeks after the surgery.

It is easier to have a caesarean today than it is to have a normal vaginal delivery. However, even if the first delivery has been a caesarean, the second can be normal, provided the indication for the first operation is a non-recurrent condition.

If you want to attempt a normal vaginal delivery, when you choose your hospital and physician, check the statistics of normal deliveries versus caesarean at that centre. Also, walking for 40 minutes in the morning and evening during pregnancy keeps the mother physically fit, builds her endurance and goes a long way towards ensuring a normal outcome.

Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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Cell Phone Use During Pregnancy Can Seriously Damage Your Baby

Women who use mobile phones when pregnant are more likely to give birth to children with behavioral problems, according to a study of more than 13,000 children.

Pregnant women using the handsets just two or three times a day was enough to raise the risk of their babies developing hyperactivity and difficulties with conduct, emotions and relationships by the time they reached school age.

The likelihood is even greater if the children themselves used the phones before the age of 7.
The Russian National Committee on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection says that use of the phones by both pregnant women and children should be “limited”. It concludes that children who talk on the handsets are likely to suffer from “disruption of memory, decline of attention, diminishing learning and cognitive abilities, increased irritability” in the short term, and that longer-term hazards include “depressive syndrome” and “degeneration of the nervous structures of the brain”.

Specifically, mothers who used mobile phones were 54 percent more likely to have children with behavioral problems. When the children also later used the phones themselves, they were:

* 80 percent more likely to suffer from difficulties with behavior
* 25 percent more at risk from emotional problems
* 34 percent more likely to suffer from difficulties relating to their peers
* 35 percent more likely to be hyperactive
* 49 percent more prone to problems with conduct

The results of the study took the top scientists who conducted it by surprise. The research will carry particular weight because one of its authors, UCLA’s Professor Leeka Kheifets, had previously been skeptical that mobile phones could pose a risk to health.

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Sources:

* The Independent May 18, 2008

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Many Children ‘Brush Teeth Alone’

Parents have been accused of failing to help their children look after their teeth properly.

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A survey found more than one in five under-fives were being left to brush their teeth unsupervised.

A quarter of parents wrongly thought children did not need to brush twice a day, and 67% thought brushing for one minute was enough – two is recommended.

The survey, of 1,000 people, was carried out by the British Dental Health Foundation (BDHF).

The results also showed that 23% of those surveyed thought there was no need for children to avoid fizzy drinks, even though they have been linked to dental damage.

Dr Nigel Carter, BDHF chief executive, said: “These results really are very worrying and help explain why around half of children under the age of five currently have tooth decay here in the UK.

“Teaching children good dental habits is vital.

“Not only has research shown that people who learn good habits as children are far more likely to carry them into adulthood, but taking bad habits into adulthood will cause gum disease and this has been linked to all manner of serious conditions including diabetes, strokes, heart disease and low birth weight babies.”

“These results really are very worrying and help explain why around half of children under the age of five currently have tooth decay here in the UK”….. SAYS Dr Nigel Carter, British Dental Health Foundation

Janet Clarke, of the British Dental Association, said teaching children how to brush their teeth was a vital part of oral hygiene.

She said: “Twice-daily brushing with fluoride paste should begin as soon as the baby teeth begin to erupt and will need to be performed or supervised by an adult until children are around six years of age.

“Parents have a crucial role to play in encouraging their children to get into good oral health habits from a young age.”

The survey also found that 29% of UK adults suffered with bleeding gums and almost half of those simply ignored it or brushed their teeth more softly to avoid aggravating it.

Dr Carter said: “Bleeding gums are a sign of a poor oral healthcare routine and, if left, can lead to serious health problems.

“People need to brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, cut down how often they have sugary foods and drinks and visit the dentist regularly, as often as they recommend if they want to keep their gums and body healthy.”

BRUSHING FOR CHILDREN:-
*Start brushing children’s teeth as soon as they erupt
*Brush twice a day using fluoride toothpaste
*Brush using small circular motions, making sure that all tooth surfaces are cleaned
*Select a brush with a small head and medium strength bristles
*For children up to three years of age brush the teeth yourself, using a smear of 1,000ppm fluoride paste
*For children aged between three and six, encourage the child to brush themselves but supervise their brushing. Use a pea-*sized blob of 1,350-1,500ppm fluoride paste

Sources: BBC NEWS:3rd.June,’08

Coeliac Disease

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What is Coeliac Disease?

Coeliac disease is a gut disorder which can strike at any age……..CLICK & SEE

Coeliac disease is caused by gluten, a protein that is found in wheat, and other similar proteins that are found in rye and barley.

In some people these proteins cause damage to the tiny projections – or villi – that line the small intestine.

Villi play a significant role in the digestion process.

However, when damaged they become inflamed.

This renders them unable to absorb food properly, and can lead to diarrhoea and malnutrition.

What are the symptoms?

In small children with Coeliac disease can cause chronic diarrhoea, distension of the abdomen and muscle wasting.

Infants with the disease are likely to be poor feeders, fail to put on weight in the normal way and fail to thrive.

Adults suffer from chronic diarrhoea, weight loss, weakness, fatigue, breathlessness and anaemia.

Are there any complications?

What complications can occur?

Women with untreated gluten sensitivity can experience infertility, but this is restored when they stop eating gluten.

People with the disorder are also at heightened risk of the brittle bone disease osteoporosis.

More severe damage than usual, including narrowing of the intestine, and even the development of a special form of cancer can rarely occur.

These complications are very uncommon, especially if the condition is well treated.

Is it linked to any other condition?

People with a condition called dermatitis herpetiformis are almost gluten sensitive.

This condition causes an itchy, blistering skin eruption affecting the knees, elbows, buttocks and back.

How is Coeliac disease diagnosed?

A blood test can now help doctors to tell if somebody is likely to have the condition.

However, the only way to confirm a diagnosis is to remove a small piece of tissue from the intestine for analysis in the laboratory.

How can it be controlled?

The only way to keep the symptoms under control is to eat a diet completely free of gluten and related proteins.

Once this is done, people with coeliac disease find that their symptoms quickly disappear and that they are able to lead an active and healthy life without any problems.

What foods are safe to eat?

Food that is completely free of gluten includes fruit, vegetables, fresh meat, fish, cheese, eggs, and milk.

Foods that contain wheat, barley, and rye should be avoided and replaced with rice and corn flour, for example.

These include bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries, puddings and pies, which are all usually made with flour containing gluten.

Wheat flour is also widely used in many processed foods.

Click to learn more about Coeliac Diseases……..(1)..…..(2).….(3)…….(4)

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose

Sources:BBC NEWS:6th.March.’03

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Easy Ways To Reduce Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases

Reducing risk:-
Becoming more active and improving your diet can make a tremendous difference to your heart. Taking more exercise helps reduce blood pressure, improves cholesterol levels and boosts metabolism – all of which can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease.

Even if you’ve already been diagnosed with heart disease, making lifestyle changes can help you live a longer, healthier and more enjoyable life.

Adopting a healthier lifestyle is not about denying yourself the things you enjoy, making vast changes such as joining a gym, becoming a vegetarian or eating nothing but ‘health foods’. Small, easily achievable adaptations such as becoming more active in your everyday life and learning to enjoy fresh, wholesome food can make a tremendous difference to your wellbeing and improve the health of your heart.

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Being active:-

Being active is absolutely essential for a healthy heart – for the simple reason that your heart is a muscle. Even if you haven’t been active for some time, your heart can become stronger, so that it is able to pump more efficiently giving you more stamina and greater energy.

Becoming more active will also improve the ability of your body’s tissues to extract oxygen from your blood, help you maintain healthy levels of blood fats and speed your metabolism.

Three types of exercise are needed in order to become fitter and healthier. These are aerobic, resistance training and flexibility. All three are vital for all-round fitness.

Aerobic (cardiovascular) exercise:-

Particularly important to prevent coronary heart disease is aerobic or cardiovascular exercise. This is any kind of activity that increases your breathing rate and gets you breathing more deeply. These activities include: walking, running, swimming, dancing or any of the aerobic (cardiovascular) machines at the gym such as the rowing machine, treadmill, stepper or elliptical trainer.

These are designed to increase the strength of your heart muscle by improving your body’s ability to extract oxygen from the blood and transport it to the rest of the body. Aerobic exercise also enhances your body’s ability to use oxygen efficiently and to burn (or metabolise) fats and carbohydrates for energy.
Watch your weight!

If you are overweight, you’re 80 per cent more at risk of heart disease. The best way to control your weight is to eat a healthy diet and take regular exercise.

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Strength (resistance training) exercise:-

Strength exercise (or resistance training) helps to make your muscles stronger, strengthens your bones and protects your joints from the risk of injury (because muscles protect the joints). This type of exercise may involve the use of free weights and weights machines such as those found in the gym – or any kind of activity in which you load your muscles. For example, carrying heavy shopping bags or exercises such as press-ups, lunges and squats, and some of the exercises involved in yoga which use your body weight, are all good for resistance.

Resistance training does not increase the fitness of your heart like aerobic exercise. What it can do is help control your weight because muscular tissue burns more calories than fat. This type of exercise is not recommended for people with uncontrolled high blood pressure or heart disease; so if you are affected, check with your doctor.

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Stretching:-

Stretching helps relax and lengthen your muscles, encourages improved blood flow, and helps keep you supple so you can move more easily. Experts say it’s good to stretch for 5-10 minutes every day. There are a number of simple stretches which you’ll find in virtually any book about exercise or can be taught by the instructor at the gym.

If you want more organised stretching, yoga and Pilates are safe and gentle for people with heart problems, as they help calm the mind and body and reduce stress. That said, there may still be some exercises or postures that are not recommended if you have heart disease, so check with your doctor first and tell your instructor if you have high blood pressure or heart disease.

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Getting started:-

There’s no need to join a gym or take part in organised sport, unless you want to, of course. Simply incorporating more activity into your daily life and doing activities like walking, gardening, cycling can be just as effective as a structured exercise programme.

Your aim should be to be moderately active for 30 minutes most days of the week. If you find it hard to fit this into your life, split it up into shorter periods. You should feel that your heart rate is increasing, you are breathing more deeply and frequently. You should be able to walk and talk at the same time – if you can’t then the activity is too strenuous.

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Safety first:-

If you experience any or all of the following, stop exercising and consult your doctor.

* chest pain
* dizziness, light-headedness or confusion
* nausea or vomiting
* cramp-like pains in the legs (intermittent claudication)
* pale or bluish skin tone
* breathlessness lasting for more than 10 minutes
* palpitations (rapid or irregular heart beat).
* continued fatigue (lasting for 24 hours or more)
* fluid retention (swollen ankles, sudden weight gain)

Rest and relaxation:-

While exercise can help lower blood pressure and strengthen your heart, rest and relaxation can reduce your levels of anxiety and improve your reactions to stress – both of which can affect the blood vessels and heart.

All of us have to contend with major life events from time to time such as a divorce, bereavement, job loss or financial problems. However, there’s also a wide range of everyday events (being stuck in traffic, a row with your partner or a disagreement with someone at work) that can be stressful – and these everyday irritations may be even more stressful because they are constant.

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Ways to manage stress:-
1. Keep a diary: make a note of stressful situations and how your react to them. This will help you identify what stresses you out, so you can begin to change your reactions.
2. Stay positive: your thoughts control your feelings. If you stop and listen to your emotions, you may be surprised to discover how negative they are. Replacing negative thoughts with positive ones will help you deal with stressful situations more calmly.
3. Learn to relax: pay attention to your posture and consciously relax physically. You may also want to try a technique such as yoga, massage, meditation or other complementary therapies.
4. Get as much sleep as you need: we all need different amounts of sleep and you will know how many you need to feel refreshed. Try to get this amount of sleep most nights.

Sources:http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/conditions/heart/prevention_activity.shtml

‘Vitamin D Essential for Strong Bones’

Milk and cereal grains are often fortified with vitamin D.

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Most patients with vitamin D deficiency were found to have a history of fragile bones that exposed them to the risk of osteopororis, according to a study.

The bone disease not only affected adults, but also children. Vitamin D insufficiency may also contribute to low bone mass or even aggravate underlying metabolic bone disease.

Vitamin D is essential in bone growth and mineralisation in children and adults. A mild deficiency causes rickets in children and can be overcome with increased amount of nutritional vitamin D intake as well as sun exposure.

The new study, conducted by US physicians, is the first to investigate vitamin D insufficiency in pediatric patients with low bone density.

Sasigarn Bowden, the study’s co-author, explained: “We need to check vitamin D levels in all patients with history of multiple fractures or low bone density and treat the vitamin D problem if the levels are low.

“The supplementation of vitamin D should be a priority in the management of paediatric patients with osteoporosis or osteopenia in order to optimise their bone health and potentially prevent fractures.”

Potential factors that may account for vitamin D insufficiency in various chronic medical conditions include low vitamin D intake and decreased sun exposure.

Four studies in Europe found that 80 per cent of healthy children and adolescents had insufficient vitamin D levels in the winter.

You may click to learn about:->The Vitamin D Endocrine System

Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D

Sources:The study has been published in the latest issue of the journal Paediatrics.

Who Should Get Gastric Banding?

Permission to use this image was given by INAMED Health - the manufacturer of the LAP-BAND system.

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Television presenter Fern Britton has caused controversy after it was revealed that her recent weight loss followed a “gastric band” operation, and was not simply down to dieting and exercise.


Fern Britton has shed three stone since the band was fitted

But how does a gastric band work, who should receive them, and is there still a stigma attached?

For some obese people, attempts at conventional dieting and exercise will fail, and their weight means a far higher risk of health problems later in life.

It is at this point that their doctor may suggest gastric banding.

The principle is a simple one. Most people eat when they feel hungry, and when their stomachs are full, they stop.

*A fluid-filled balloon is clipped around the upper end of the stomach with a band
*This restricts the flow of food into the lower stomach, making the patient feel full sooner
*The band can be adjusted via the reservoir which is sited beneath the skin.

The operation leaves a silicone loop tightened about three-quarters of the way up the stomach, creating a much smaller space at the top, with a tiny gap leading to the rest of the stomach.

Much less food is needed to fill up this little “pouch” at the top, at which point the person feels full.

The “pouch” then slowly empties through the gap into the rest of the stomach, and appetite returns.

Dr Ian Campbell, Medical Director of the charity Weight Concern, said: “If you reduce the volume of food you can comfortably put in your stomach, you’ll eat less.”

The NHS does offer gastric banding, but many people choose to have the operation privately, at a cost of around £7,000.

On average, people will lose up to 50% of their excess weight in the two years after they have one, almost immediately cutting the risk of diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure.

But it is not recommended to all obese people – guidelines from the National Institute of Clinical Excellence say that it should be considered only after other, non-surgical solutions, have been fully exhausted, and patients need to be free of psychological problems, and receive the correct advice and counselling.
“I’m of the opinion that no-one should need that drastic an intervention”…Says Dr Funke Baffour, Psychologist
New lifestyle
The reason it is not recommended to all overweight people are the small, but significant risks of having a band, which are normally balanced against the health risks of obesity.

Although the band is normally placed using “keyhole” surgery, having a general anaesthetic still carries a risk, especially to an obese patient. There is also the chance of infection, or a problem with the band, such as leakage, which will require a second operation to correct.

Dr Campbell insists it is no easy option. Patients will need to change what they eat – the new stomach shape may not cope well with food which comes in large chunks, causing vomiting, and lavish dinner parties may be a thing of the past.

“You need to break off your love affair with food. You simply can’t sit down to a three course meal with your friends any more.”

Despite that, the stigma remains, despite the fact that thousands of gastric banding operations are carried out each year in the UK.

Fern Britton chose to keep her operation private, and was criticised for doing so by newspaper columnist Carole Malone.

She is a public persona, but she is making money out of her weight. She also has made a career out of being a trustworthy person – a person that people look up to.

“She shares lots of parts of her life with the viewing public, and she gets paid an awful lot of money for that. She has made a little bit of a career out of dieting.”

Psychological need

Some psychologists are also not convinced that the rising numbers of operations is a good thing.

Dr Funke Baffour, who specialises in the psychology of weight management, suggested that would-be patients should first be dealing with the underlying emotional issues which helped cause the weight gain.

“People aren’t using their willpower, they’re looking for a quick fix, but this will not resolve the psychological problems they may have.

“I’m of the opinion that no-one should need that drastic an intervention.

“I have had patients who are thinking about it, tell me they have done everything they can to lose weight, but, after discussing it, they haven’t.”

Dr Campbell, however, is adamant that the public perception of weight loss surgery is a false one. He said: “It’s seen as a cop-out, a cowardly way of dealing with it.

“But what we have here is a perfect example, someone who is an intelligent, very able person, who has tried everything, over many years, without success.

“The forces that make her overweight cannot be overcome just by willpower.”

Sources: BBC NEWS:3rd. June,’08

COPD (Respiratory Disease)

Some 600,000 people in the UK are known to have COPD and it is the sixth most common cause of death in England and Wales, killing more than 30,000 people a year.

Despite this, many people are still unaware of this lung disease.

Introduction of COPD

What is COPD?

COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, which is a term that covers a number of lung conditions including chronic bronchitis (inflammation of the airways) and emphysema (damaged air sacs).

CLICK & SEE

As the name suggests, the main problem is airway obstruction. In COPD, the lung airways are damaged and narrowed, which makes it harder for air to get in and out.

What causes it?

COPD is generally a smokers’ disease. The lung damaged caused by smoking increases with duration of smoking.

Most people who develop COPD have been a smoker for many years and are aged 40 or older.

Air pollution and certain occupations, such as coal mining, may also play a part, but it is rare for a non-smoker to develop COPD.

What are the symptoms?

Cough (sometimes called a “smoker’s cough“), phlegm/sputum production and shortness of breath.

In mild cases, these symptoms may only appear occasionally – in the winter for example.

As the disease progresses the symptoms become much worse.

A person with severe COPD may become so breathless that they are no longer able to carry out normal daily activities such as walking.

Click to learn more

What is the outlook?

There is no cure for COPD. Once the damage is done to the lungs it cannot be reversed.

Stopping smoking will greatly help improve the symptoms and stop the disease from progressing further.

It is never too late to stop smoking and it will benefit even those with advanced COPD.

Keeping fit and healthy by taking regular exercise and maintaining a health weight can also help.

People with chronic lung diseases are also advised to have an annual flu jab.

Severe COPD is extremely debilitating. As the lungs become more damaged, too little oxygen gets into the bloodstream and this lead to other health problems such as heart failure.

There are therapies that can help at all stages of the disease.

How can it be treated?

Bronchodilator medications, usually given via an inhaler, help open up the airways and make it easier for the person to breathe.

People with COPD often have flare-ups of their condition.

When this happens, or as the disease becomes more severe, steroid medication may be required to help reduce the airway inflammation.

Some may require hospitalisation and intensive treatment with oxygen and antibiotics if they develop a chest infection, for example.

Other medicines, called mucolytics, make the sputum less thick and easier to cough up.

When COPD is severe, portable oxygen may need to be used every day to help with the breathlessness.

Various cylinders are available and they can be used in the home for the long term.

Breathing exercise lessons, or pulmonary rehabilitation, are available at some hospitals.

These teach a person how to improve their exercise performance to maintain quality of life.

.Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose

Sources: BBC NEWS:14th.March. ’06

Now, Hair Cloning ‘To Treat Baldness’

If clumps of your hair suddenly start falling out due to a common form of premature baldness, please don’t fret — scientists have pioneered a treatment to clone hair.

According to them, the technique, known as follicular cell implantation, works by replicating remaining hair strands and it could eventually help bald people to regain a full head of their own hair, The Daily Telegraph reported.

In fact, the technique has the potential to re-grow a limitless supply hair for individuals who have become bald during cancer treatment, from suffering severe burns, or the onset of age, the researchers said.

However, the treatment may require more than 1,000 tiny injections to produce that number of hair in extensively bald patients, but it promises to be quicker and less invasive than current hair transplant techniques.

The procedure is being developed by Intercytex, a British company based in Manchester, which is among many competing to find a cure for hair loss — a condition which affects 40 per cent of men over 50.

Trial results have indicated that the cell therapy can increase hair count in at least two thirds of patients after six months, and four out of five if the scalp is stimulated beforehand through gentle abrasions which encourage growth.

The therapy could be made available to patients within five years, the researchers hoped.

You may click to see:->Hair Cloning (process ,research etc.)

Hair cloning Be New Option

What is Hair Follicle Cloning?

Should I Start Treatment Now or Wait for Follica?

Sources: The Times Of India

Autism: Know Where It Originates

A New York researcher, in collaboration with investigators at Duke University and the University of North Carolina, has identified the brain regions associated with autistic behaviour.

A Long Island, New York, researcher has pinpointed for the first time brain regions in children with autism linked to “ritualistic repetitive behaviour,” the insatiable desire to rock back and forth for hours or tirelessly march in place.

Collaborating with investigators at Duke University and the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, Dr. Keith Shafritz, an assistant professor of psychology at Hofstra University, unmasked brain regions in children with autism typified by reduced neural activity. In a series of high-tech mapping studies, he compared brain images of children with autism to those of neurologically normal youngsters.

Repetitive behaviour is one of autism’s core traits and has driven some parents to extremes as they try to distract a child to engage in other activities.

Shafritz and colleagues used a form of magnetic resonance imaging to explore sites in the brain. They reported their findings in the current issue of Biological Psychiatry.

In children with autism, Shafritz found deficits in specific regions of the cerebral cortex, the outer layer of grey matter linked to all higher human functions, including repetitive behaviour. He also mapped deficits in the basal ganglia, a region deep below the cerebral hemispheres.

“We like to think about the research process as discovering clues on why people engage in certain behaviours,” Shafritz said last week.

“We were able to identify a series of brain regions that showed diminished activity when people were asked to alter certain behaviours, and were not able to do so.”

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is rapidly becoming a major public policy issue. Health officials in the US estimate it affects one in every 150 children.

School systems lack a sufficient number of appropriately trained teachers and social services departments are overwhelmed by parents in need of support and respite care.

Amid social concerns are the plodding attempts to understand the disorder’s basic biology. Some scientists are scanning the human genome in search of suspect DNA. Others like Shafritz are exploring the geography of the brain.Edward Carr, a professor of psychology at Stony Brook University, said the Shafritz discovery is important because it helps demystify repetitive behaviour.

“Repetitive behaviour is sometimes called self-stimulatory behaviour. A very common form of it is body rocking; a child will do it for hours,” Carr said. “Another child may wave his or her hands back and forth in front of their eyes. This is very common and it’s called hand flapping. They extend their arms forward and wave their hands in front of them. “Some kids will take 100 crayons and line them up over and over. If you move one of the crayons they get very upset. It might lead to a tantrum, a major outburst of problem behaviour.”

Even though the brain mapping revealed sites associated with repetitious behaviour, Shafritz emphasised these areas are not associated with injurious acts, which may occur as a result of dysfunctions elsewhere in the brain. Some children repeatedly slam their heads against a wall and indulge in other self-injurious behaviour.

Still, Shafritz found a relationship between the newly identified brain areas and overlapping regions linked to schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Dr. Anil Malhotra, director of psychiatric research at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y., said he is not surprised. He, too, is studying links between autism and schizophrenia, and autism and obsessive compulsive disorder.

“This is an area of great interest,” Malhotra said, adding that autism and schizophrenia are related because both disorders are marked by problems with social interaction.

“We also see an overlap between (obsessive compulsive disorder) and autism,” Malhotra said.

Sources:Los Angeles Times