News on Health & Science

Scientists Show How Certain Vegetables Combat Cancer

While it has been known for some time that eating cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, can help prevent breast cancer, the mechanism by which the active substances in these vegetables inhibit cell proliferation was unknown — until now.


Scientists in the UC Santa Barbara laboratories of Leslie Wilson, professor of biochemistry and pharmacology, and Mary Ann Jordan, adjunct professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, have shown how the healing power of these vegetables works at the cellular level. Their research is published in this month’s journal Carcinogenesis.

“Breast cancer, the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women, can be protected against by eating cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage and near relatives of cabbage such as broccoli and cauliflower,” said first author Olga Azarenko, who is a graduate student at UCSB. “These vegetables contain compounds called isothiocyanates which we believe to be responsible for the cancer-preventive and anti-carcinogenic activities in these vegetables. Broccoli and broccoli sprouts have the highest amount of the isothiocyanates.

“Our paper focuses on the anti-cancer activity of one of these compounds, called sulforaphane, or SFN,” Azarenko added. “It has already been shown to reduce the incidence and rate of chemically induced mammary tumors in animals. It inhibits the growth of cultured human breast cancer cells, leading to cell death.”

Science Blog December 23, 2008
Carcinogenesis December 2008; 29(12):2360-8

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Ailmemts & Remedies

Boils(Skin Abscesses)

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What is a boil?
A boil, also referred to as a skin abscess, is a localized infection deep in the skin. A boil generally starts as a reddened, tender area. Over time, the area becomes firm and hard. Eventually, the center of the abscess softens and becomes filled with infection-fighting white blood cells that the body sends from the blood stream to eradicate the infection. This collection of white blood cells, bacteria, and proteins is known as pus. Finally, the pus “forms a head,” which can be surgically opened or spontaneously drain out through the surface of the skin.

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Boils At A Glance
1.A boil, or skin abscess, is a collection of pus that forms inside the body.
Antibiotics alone can be inadequate in treating abscesses.
2.The primary treatments for boils include hot packs and draining (“lancing”) the abscess, but only when it is soft and ready to drain.
3.If you have a fever or long-term illness, such as cancer or diabetes, or are taking medications that suppress the immune system, you should contact your healthcare practitioner if you develop a boil (abscess)

4.There are a number of methods that can be used to prevent the various forms of boils.

There are several different types of boils. Among these are:

Furuncle or carbuncle:
This is an abscess in the skin caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. A furuncle can have one or more openings onto the skin and may be associated with a fever or chills.
Cystic acne: This is a type of abscess that is formed when oil ducts become clogged and infected. Cystic acne affects deeper skin tissue that the more superficial inflammation from common acne. Cystic acne is most common on the face and typically occurs in the teenage years.
Hidradenitis suppurativa
: This is a condition in which there are multiple abscesses that form under the arm pits and often in the groin area. These areas are a result of local inflammation of the sweat glands. This form of skin infection is difficult to treat with antibiotics alone and typically requires a surgical procedure to remove the involved sweat glands in order to stop the skin inflammation.
Pilonidal cyst: This is a unique kind of abscess that occurs in the crease of the buttocks. Pilonidal cysts often begin as tiny areas of infection in the base of the area of skin from which hair grows (the hair follicle). With irritation from direct pressure over time the inflamed area enlarges to become a firm, painful, tender nodule making it difficult to sit without discomfort. These frequently form after long trips that involve prolonged sitting.

Why do boils occur?

There are many causes of boils. Some boils can be caused by an ingrown hair. Others can form as the result of a splinter or other foreign material that has become lodged in the skin. Others boils, such as those of acne, are caused by plugged sweat glands that become infected.

The skin is an essential part of our immune defense against materials and microbes that are foreign to our body. Any break in the skin, such as a cut or scrape, can develop into an abscess should it then become infected with bacteria.

Who is most likely to develop a boil?

Anyone can develop a boil. However, people with certain illnesses or medications that impair the the body’s immune system (the natural defense system against foreign materials or microbes) are more likely to develop boils. Among the illnesses that can be associated with impaired immune systems are diabetes and kidney failure. Diseases, such as hypogammaglobulinemia, that are associated with deficiencies in the normal immune system can increase the tendency to develop boils.

Many medications can suppress the normal immune system and increase the risk of developing boils. These medications include cortisone medications (prednisone and prednisolone) and medications used for cancer chemotherapy.

What is the treatment for a boil?

Most simple boils can be treated at home. Ideally, the treatment should begin as soon as a boil is noticed since early treatment may prevent later complications.

The primary treatment for most boils is heat application, usually with hot soaks or hot packs. Heat application increases the circulation to the area and allows the body to better fight off the infection by bringing antibodies and white blood cells to the site of infection.

As long as the boil is small and firm, opening the area and draining the boil is not helpful, even if the area is painful. However, once the boil becomes soft or “forms a head” (that is, a small pustule is noted in the boil), it can be ready to drain. Once drained, pain relief can be dramatic. Most small boils, such as those that form around hairs, drain on their own with soaking. On occasion, and especially with larger boils, the the larger boil will need to be drained or “lanced” by a healthcare practitioner. Frequently, these larger boils contain several pockets of pus that must be opened and drained.

Antibiotics are often used to eliminate the accompanying bacterial infection. Especially if there is an infection of the surrounding skin, the doctor often prescribes antibiotics. However, antibiotics are not needed in every situation. In fact, antibiotics have difficult penetrating the outer wall of an abscess well and often will not cure an abscess without additional surgical drainage.

When should I seek medical attention?

Any boil or abscess in a patient with diabetes or a patient with an underlying illness that can be associated with a weakened immune system (such as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.) should be evaluated by a healthcare practitioner. Additionally, many medicines, especially prednisone, that suppress the immune system (the natural infection-fighting system of the body) can complicate what would be an otherwise simple boil. Patients who are on such medications should consult their healthcare practitioner if they develop boils. (If you are not sure about your medications’ effects on the immune system, your pharmacist may be able to explain to you which medicines to be concerned about.)

Any boil that is associated with a fever should receive medical attention. A “pilonidal cyst,” a boil that occurs between the buttocks, is a special case. These almost always require medical treatment including drainage and packing (putting gauze in the opened abscess to assure it continues to drain). Finally, any painful boil that is not rapidly improving should be seen by the healthcare practitioner.

What can be done to prevent boils (abscesses)?

There are some measures that you can take to prevent boils from forming. The regular use of antibacterial soaps can help to prevent bacteria from building up on the skin. This can reduce the chance for the hair follicles to become infected and prevent the formation of boils. In some situations, your healthcare practitioner may recommend special cleansers such as pHisoderm to even further reduce the bacteria on the skin. When the hair follicles on the back of the arms or around the thighs are continually inflamed, regular use of an abrasive brush (loufa brush) in the shower can be used break up oil plugs and build up around hair follicles.

Pilonidal cysts can be prevented by avoiding continued direct pressure or irritation of the buttock area when a local hair follicle becomes inflamed. At that point, regular soap and hot water cleaning and drying can be helpful.

For acne and hidradenitis suppurativa (see above), antibiotics may be required on a long-term basis to prevent recurrent abscess formation. As mentioned above, surgical resection of sweat glands in the involved skin may be necessary. Other medications, such as isotretinoin (Accutane) can be used for cystic acne and has been helpful in some patients with hidradenitis suppurativa. Recurrences are common in patients with hidradenitis suppurativa.

Finally, surgery may occasionally be needed, especially in pilonidal cysts that recur, but also for hidradenitis suppurativa. For pilonidal cysts, surgically removing the outer shell of the cyst is important to clear the boil. The procedure is typically performed in the operating room. For hidradenitis suppurativa, extensive involvement can require plastics surgical repair.


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News on Health & Science

Why is the heart pear-shaped?

T.V. Jayan explains, with the help of a new study:  It’s often been said that there is no engineer quite like Mother Nature. A living organism ” with all its parts that fit in so smoothly  is after all an engineering marvel. But this near-perfect  manufacturing  skill of Nature has often fanned the debate on whether life was created, or evolved.


If the advocates of creationism are ready to swallow, however grudgingly, the theory that life originated from the amoeba eons ago, science has not been able to give convincing answers to a number of sub-questions. How does, for instance, a tiny, fragile fertilised egg grow into a body of full-blown organs without any “external” guidance? Why are the shapes of organs in a human being as they are? Why are our legs longer than our arms?

Ardent proponents of evolutionary biology, however, may no longer have to fumble for answers to many such questions. A team of scientists from the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine, affiliated to the New York University School of Medicine, recently proved that logic could explain some of these difficult questions. Led by Deborah Yelon, the scientists unravelled the factors governing the complex process of the formation of the heart, which is a simple tube in early development, growing into a four-chambered, intricate organ with a characteristic pear shape. The researchers published their study in the February 20 issue of PLoS (Public Library of Science) Biology.

The heart, like many other organs, undergoes dramatic changes in its three-dimensional form as the embryo develops and functional demands intensify. Before it becomes a multi-chambered organ, it exists as a simple tube made up of myocardium (muscle) lined by endocardium (endothelium). As this thin-walled tube bulges outward, the chambers emerge and eventually acquire the characteristic dimensions of curvature and thickness.

In an article in Current Biology (September 2005), Sheffield University scientist David Strutt wrote that in order to control the shape and size of an organ, it is necessary that the dimensions be measured as the organ grows, and growth stops in each axis at the appropriate time.

But how this is achieved largely remains a mystery.

Developing organs acquire a specific three-dimensional form that ensures their normal functioning. The unique shape of the heart in higher-order animals, too, is critical for proper functioning. It is composed of a series of chambers that rhythmically drive blood circulation. Each of the chambers is designed for its optimal functional capacity. The organ, which commences beating from approximately 21 days of conception, is responsible for pumping blood via blood vessels through repeated, rhythmic contractions. In the process, it picks up carbon dioxide from the blood and drops it off in the lungs in exchange for oxygen which is in turn circulated through the blood.

Organs acquire their characteristic shapes not simply as a consequence of the accumulation of cells that profusely divide and multipl  Shape is also a physical process during which tissues are pressed, pulled and moved,  the scientists said.

In the experiments using transgenic (containing genes transferred from another species) zebra fish in which individual cardiac cells can be watched, Deborah Yelon, her student Heidi Auman and others demonstrated that cells change size and shape, enlarging and elongating to form bulges in the heart tube and eventually the chambers. The big question was whether the function of the heart — that is, blood flow — too influences cell shape.

Their studies using zebra fish   genetically modified so that each fish has a functional defect — helped them to find out that both blood flow and contraction of the cardiac tissues play a role in shaping cardiac cells. The unique tools the researchers used helped to clearly show that blood flow affects form. Further, they could define this at the cellular level.

The contribution of individual cell morphology to the overall shape was not previously shown, particularly in relation to the impact on chamber morphogenesis (formation and shape), said Deepak Srivastava, director of the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease, University of California, San Francisco.

“This is an important advance as although it has long been thought that blood flow does affect morphogenesis, the two have been difficult to isolate in a cause-and-effect manner,” Srivastava told KnowHow.

Moreover, the work is more rigorous and detailed than previous such exercises, he said.

However, Larry Taber, professor of biomedical engineering at Washington University, feels that the researchers are missing some key points. For example, he says, they talk about curvature (of the heart chambers) but never explicitly discuss looping, which causes the greatest changes during heart development. Looping, it may be mentioned, involves the bending and twisting of the heart tube to create asymmetry of the chambers as is required for optimal functioning.

There are a lot of misconceptions about looping among developmental biologists, including some propagated in this paper,  Taber, who has been studying heart formation in chicks for a couple of decades, told KnowHow.

He, however, said that the Skirball team’s conclusion that contraction and blood flow are important for chamber expansion seems plausible. He also said that cell shape changes can cause curvature changes as well. What he disagrees with is their implication that contraction and blood flow regulate looping.

The use of zebra fish with minor induced genetic defects helped the Skirball Institute scientists to show that slight abnormalities in cell morphology may lead to substantial changes in the shape and functioning of the cardiac chambers. This could probably explain aberrations observed in some types of heart disease.

Source:The Telegraph (Kolkata,India)

Health Alert

If Dog Or Cat Bites Children

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What Parents should do when dog or cat bites children ?

Remain calm and reassure your child that everything will be okay!

Superficial bite from a family household pet who is immunized & in good health:
1.Wash the wound with soap and water under pressure from a faucit for at least five minutes, but do not scratch as this may bruise the tissue. Apply an antiseptic cream or lotion.

2. Watch for signs of infection at the site, such as increased redness or pain, swelling, or drainage, or if your child develops a fever. Call your child’s physician or healthcare provider right away if any of these occur.

3.Check to make sure your child’s Tetanus immunization is correct.

For Deeper bites or puncture wounds from any animal,or from any bite from a strange animal.
1.If the bite or scratch is bleeding, apply pressure to it with a clean bandage or towel to stop the bleeding.

2.Wash the wound with soap and water under pressure from a faucet for at least five minutes, but do not scrub as this may bruise the tissue.

3.Dry the wound and cover it with a sterile dressing. Do not use tape or butterfly bandages to close the wound as this could trap harmful bacteria in the wound.

4.Call your child’s physician or health care provider for help in reporting the attack and to decide if additional treatment, such as antibiotics a Tetanus booster or a rabis vaccination is needed