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Herbs & Plants

Prunus mahaleb

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Botanical Name : Prunus mahaleb
Family: Rosaceae
Genus: Prunus
Species: P. mahaleb
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Rosales

Common Names :Prunus mahaleb, aka mahaleb cherry, aka St Lucie cherry

Habitat :Prunus mahaleb  is native in the Mediterranean region, Iran and parts of central Asia. It is adjudged to be native in northwestern Europe or at  least it is naturalized there.The tree occurs in thickets and open woodland on dry slopes; in central Europe at altitudes up to 1,700 m, and in highlands at  1,200-2,000 m in southern Europe. It has become naturalised in some temperate areas, including Europe north of its native range (north to Great Britain and  Sweden), and locally in Australia and the United States.

Description:
Prunus mahaleb is a deciduous tree or large shrub, growing to 2–10 m (rarely up to 12 m) tall with a trunk up to 40 cm diameter.The tree’s bark is  grey-brown, with conspicuous lenticels on young stems, and shallowly fissured on old trunks. The leaves are 1.5-5 cm long, 1-4 cm. wide, alternate, clustered at the end of alternately arranged twigs, ovate to cordate, pointed, have serrate edges, longitudinal venation and are glabrous and green. The petiole is  5-20 mm, and may or may not have two glands. The flowers are fragrant, pure white, small, 8-20 mm diameter, with an 8-15 mm pedicel; they are arranged 3-10  together on a 3-4 cm long raceme. The flower pollination is mainly by bees. The fruit is a small thin-fleshed cherry-like drupe 8–10 mm in diameter, green at  first, turning red then dark purple to black when mature, with a very bitter flavour; flowering is in mid spring with the fruit ripening in mid to late  summer……....CLICK & SEE THE PICTURES.

Cultivation:  
Thrives in a well-drained moisture-retentive loamy soil, growing best in a poor soil. Prefers some lime in the soil but is likely to become chlorotic if too much lime is present. Succeeds in sun or partial shade though it fruits better in a sunny position. Most members of this genus are shallow-rooted and will produce suckers if the roots are damaged. Plants in this genus are notably susceptible to honey fungus.

Propagation:       
Seed – requires 2 – 3 months cold stratification and is best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Sow stored seed in a cold frame as early in the year as possible. Protect the seed from mice etc. The seed can be rather slow, sometimes taking 18 months to germinate. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Grow them on in a greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter and plant them out in late spring or early summer of the following year. Cuttings of half-ripe wood with a heel, July/August in a frame. Softwood cuttings from strongly growing plants in spring to early summer in a frame. Layering in spring.

Edible Uses:
The fruit might be edible. The fruits of all members of this genus are more or less edible, may not be always of very good quality. However, if the fruit is bitter it should not be eaten in any quantity due to the presence of toxic compounds. The fruit is about 6mm in diameter and contains one large seed. Seeds are eaten  raw or cooked. The dried seed kernels are used as a flavouring in breads, sweet pastries, confectionery etc. They impart an intriguing flavour. Do not eat the seed if it is too bitter – see the notes above on toxicity.

Medicinal Uses:
The seed is tonic. Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, all members of the genus contain amygdalin and prunasin, substances which break down in water to form hydrocyanic acid (cyanide or prussic acid). In small amounts this exceedingly poisonous compound stimulates respiration, improves digestion and gives a sense of well-being.

Known Hazards:      Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, it belongs to a genus where most, if not all members of the genus produce hydrogen cyanide, a poison that gives almonds their characteristic flavour. This toxin is found mainly in the leaves and seed and is readily detected by its bitter taste. It is usually present in too small a quantity to do any harm but any very bitter seed or fruit should not be eaten. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is

always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prunus_mahaleb
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Prunus+mahaleb

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Herbs & Plants

Calea zacatechichi

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Botanical Name : Calea zacatechichi
Family: Asteraceae
Genus: Calea
Species: C. ternifolia
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Asterales

Common Name:Dream Herb, Bitter Grass,Calea zacatechichi

Habitat:The plant naturally occurs from southern Mexico to northern Costa Rica. It has been scientifically demonstrated that extracts of this plant increase reaction times and the frequency and/or recollection of dreams versus placebo and diazepam.

Description:
Calea zacatechichi is a medium sized shrub that has reportedly been used by the Chontal indians of Mexico as a hallucinogen. Its dried leaves are used before sleep to increase dreaming. Its effects are not well documented.

 

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Cultivation:
Generally Calea is a southern plant. Growing Calea from fresh seed is easy; also cloning this plant is extremely simple. The most common way to grow it is propagation from cuttings or layers, the latter of which is very easy in late summer. The Calea plant likes full sun, well drained soils, and medium irrigation. Anecdotal evidence suggests the flowering or post flowering plant harvested in the dry or cold season yields the best herbal product. A good soil mix for calea cultivation is: 1/3 of a rich substrate, 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 of humus, or a light garden soil.

Propagation:
Propagation from seeds can be tried with the following method: Sow the seeds in a pot with the soil mix indicated as above. Don’t cover the seeds, moisten the seeds with water and cover with a plastic bag. This little greenhouse needs from 4 to 6 hours of light to germinate. If the seeds dry out during this period, the plants will not germinate.

Medicinal Uses:
The Chontal medicine men, who assert that this plant is capable of “clarifying the senses” causing euphoria, call it thle-pela-kano, meaning “leaf of God”. Whenever they desire to know the cause of an illness or the location of a distant or lost person, the common ritual is to smoke a cigarette, whilst drinking a tea, both made of Calea Zacatechichi, right before going to sleep. Some also report placing the leaf of God under their pillow before sleeping. Reportedly, the answer to the question comes in a dream

Calea zacatechichi is a plant used by the Chontal Indians of Mexico to obtain divinatory messages during dreaming. At human doses, organic extracts of the plant produce the EEG and behavioral signs of somnolence and induce light sleep in cats. Large doses elicit salivation, ataxia, retching and occasional vomiting. The effects of the plant upon cingulum discharge frequency were significantly different from hallucinogenic- dissociative drugs (ketamine. quipazine, phencyclidine and SKF-10017). In human healthy volunteers, low doses of the extracts administered in a double-blind design against placebo increased reaction time end time-lapse estimation. A controlled nap sleep study in the same volunteers showed that Calea extracts increased the superficial stages of sleep and the number of spontaneous awakenings. The subjective reports of dreams were significantly higher than both placebo and diazepam, indicating an increase in hypnagogic imagery occurring during superficial sleep stages. Sources: Crimson Sage

Chemical composition:
Several compounds have been isolated from the plant, including the sesquiterpenes calaxin, ciliarin (Ortega et al.), the germacranolides 1-beta-acetoxy zacatechinolide and 1-oxo zacatechinolide (Bohlmann and Zdero), caleochromene A and B, calein A and B (Quijano et al.), caleicine I and II (Ramos, 1979), as well as acacetin, o-methyl acacetin, zexbrevin and an analogue, and several analogues of budlein A and neurolenin B, including calein A (Herz and Kumar).

Preparation and dosage:
Crushed dried leaves are steeped in hot water, and the resulting tea is drunk slowly, after which the user lies down in a quiet place and smokes a cigarette of the dried leaves of the same plant. The human dose for divinatory purposes reported by the Chontal people is a handful of dried plant, but effects can be felt with as little as two to three grams of dried leaf matter. The user knows that he or she has taken a large enough dose when a sense of tranquility and drowsiness is experienced and when he or she hears the beats of his or her own heart and pulse. Calea is an extremely bitter herb and is known to induce strong nausea when drunk. Many users prefer to smoke it rather than drinking the tea. Alternatively alcoholic tinctures and placing the leaf matter in algae capsules can be as effective as tea while being much less bitter and much more palatable. There are no reports of hangover or other undesirable side effects. Many report an extremely mild cannabis like state of relaxation from smoking calea leaf or taking calea tincture.

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calea_zacatechichi
http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_C.htm
http://www.shamansgarden.com/p-150-calea-zacatechichi-dream-herb.aspx
http://www.erowid.org/plants/calea_zacatechichi/
http://naturalhealingherbs.org/product_info.php?products_id=273

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Ailmemts & Remedies

Anthrax

Alternative Names: Woolsorter’s disease; Ragpicker’s disease; Cutaneous anthrax; Gastrointestinal anthrax.

Definition:
Anthrax is a life-threatening infectious disease that normally affects animals, especially ruminants (such as goats, cattle, sheep, and horses). Anthrax can be transmitted to humans by contact with infected animals or their products.
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Anthrax is an acute disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Most forms of the disease are lethal. There are effective vaccines against anthrax, and some forms of the disease respond well to antibiotic treatment.

Like many other members of the genus Bacillus, Bacillus anthracis can form dormant endospores (often referred to as “spores” for short, but not to be cnfused with fungal spores) that are able to survive in harsh conditions for decades or even centuries. Such spores can be found on all continents, even Antarctica.  When spores are inhaled, ingested, or come into contact with a skin lesion on a host they may reactivate and multiply rapidly.

Anthrax spores can be produced in vitro and used as a biological weapon. Anthrax does not spread directly from one infected animal or person to another; it is spread by spores. These spores can be transported by clothing or shoes. The dead body of an animal that died of anthrax can also be a source of anthrax spores.

In recent years, anthrax has received a great deal of attention as it has become clear that the infection can also be spread by a bioterrorist attack or by biological warfare.

Symptoms:

There are three different types of anthrax.
1.Cutaneous anthrax ,2.Inhalational anthrax  and 3.Intestinal anthrax

1.Cutaneous anthrax – this type accounts for about 95 per cent of cases. People handling dead animals – such as abattoir workers and tanners – are at most risk. Infection occurs when the bacterium comes into direct contact with a cut or abrasion in the skin.

At first the skin itches. This is soon followed by the appearance of a small, raised itchy bump that looks like an insect bite. This skin lesion is commonly located on the head, forearms or hands.

Within one to two days the skin lesion develops into a vesicle and becomes a painless ulcer, usually about 1cm to 3cm in diameter. After two to six days the black dying central area of the ulcer that’s characteristic of cutaneous anthrax is apparent.

If left untreated, cutaneous anthrax infection can spread and cause blood poisoning, which is fatal in up to 20 per cent of cases, but with effective antibiotic treatment few deaths occur.

2.Inhalational anthrax – when inhaled, the larger spores lodge in the windpipe or throat, while smaller ones lodge further down the respiratory tract in the lungs. The anthrax bacteria produce toxins that enter the bloodstream and cause haemorrhaging and tissue decay.

Initial symptoms of inhalational anthrax, which is rare, are mild and non-specific, similar to the symptoms of a flu-like infection. These include tiredness, weakness, fever, mild non-productive cough and chest pain.

If left untreated, over the next two to six days this mild phase becomes severe, causing breathing problems, sepsis and bleeding. By the time the infection has reached this stage it’s usually fatal.

3.Intestinal anthrax
– a very rare form of food poisoning that may follow the ingestion of contaminated meat.

Initial symptoms are nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and fever. As the infection becomes more severe, abdominal pain, vomiting of blood and severe diarrhoea occur.

Intestinal anthrax is often fatal.

Cause:-
Bacteria :-

Bacillus anthracis is a rod-shaped, Gram-positive, aerobic bacterium about 1 by 9 micrometers in length. It was shown to cause disease by Robert Koch in 1876. The bacterium normally rests in endospore form in the soil, and can survive for decades in this state. Herbivores are often infected whilst grazing or browsing, especially when eating rough, irritant or spiky vegetation: the vegetation has been hypothesized to cause wounds within the gastrointestinal tract permitting entry of the bacterial endo-spores into the tissues, though this has not been proven. Once ingested or placed in an open cut, the bacterium begins multiplying inside the animal or human and typically kills the host within a few days or weeks. The endo-spores germinate at the site of entry into the tissues and then spread via the circulation to the lymphatics, where the bacteria multiply.

Exposure:-

Occupational exposure to infected animals or their products (such as skin, wool, and meat) is the usual pathway of exposure for humans. Workers who are exposed to dead animals and animal products are at the highest risk, especially in countries where anthrax is more common. Anthrax in livestock grazing on open range where they mix with wild animals still occasionally occurs in the United States and elsewhere. Many workers who deal with wool and animal hides are routinely exposed to low levels of anthrax spores but most exposures are not sufficient to develop anthrax infections. It is presumed that the body’s natural defenses can destroy low levels of exposure. These people usually contract cutaneous anthrax if they catch anything. Throughout history, the most dangerous form of inhalational anthrax was called Woolsorters’ disease because it was an occupational hazard for people who sorted wool. Today this form of infection is extremely rare, as almost no infected animals remain. The last fatal case of natural inhalational anthrax in the United States occurred in California in 1976, when a home weaver died after working with infected wool imported from Pakistan. The autopsy was done at UCLA hospital. To minimize the chance of spreading the disease, the deceased was transported to UCLA in a sealed plastic body bag within a sealed metal container.

Pulmonary:

Respiratory infection in humans initially presents with cold or flu-like symptoms for several days, followed by severe (and often fatal) respiratory collapse. Historical mortality was 92%, but, when treated early (seen in the 2001 anthrax attacks), observed mortality was 45%. Distinguishing pulmonary anthrax from more common causes of respiratory illness is essential to avoiding delays in diagnosis and thereby improving outcomes. An algorithm for this purpose has been developed. Illness progressing to the fulminant phase has a 97% mortality regardless of treatment.

Gastrointestinal:-

Gastrointestinal infection in humans is most often caused by eating anthrax-infected meat and is characterized by serious gastrointestinal difficulty, vomiting of blood, severe diarrhea, acute inflammation of the intestinal tract, and loss of appetite. Some lesions have been found in the intestines and in the mouth and throat. After the bacterium invades the bowel system, it spreads through the bloodstream throughout the body, making even more toxins on the way. Gastrointestinal infections can be treated but usually result in fatality rates of 25% to 60%, depending upon how soon treatment commences.  This form of anthrax is the rarest form. In the United States, there is only one official case reported in 1942 by the CDC.

Cutaneous :

Anthrax skin lesionCutaneous (on the skin) anthrax infection in humans shows up as a boil-like skin lesion that eventually forms an ulcer with a black center (eschar). The black eschar often shows up as a large, painless necrotic ulcer (beginning as an irritating and itchy skin lesion or blister that is dark and usually concentrated as a black dot, somewhat resembling bread mold) at the site of infection. In general, cutaneous infections form within the site of spore penetration between 2 and 5 days after exposure. Unlike bruises or most other lesions, cutaneous anthrax infections normally do not cause pain.

Mode of infection :-
Inhalational anthrax, mediastinal wideningAnthrax can enter the human body through the intestines (ingestion), lungs (inhalation), or skin (cutaneous) and causes distinct clinical symptoms based on its site of entry. In general, an infected human will be quarantined. However, anthrax does not usually spread from an infected human to a noninfected human. But, if the disease is fatal to the person’s body, its mass of anthrax bacilli becomes a potential source of infection to others and special precautions should be used to prevent further contamination. Inhalational anthrax, if left untreated until obvious symptoms occur, may be fatal.

Anthrax can be contracted in laboratory accidents or by handling infected animals or their wool or hides. It has also been used in biological warfare agents and by terrorists to intentionally infect as exemplified by the 2001 anthrax attacks.

Diagnosis:
Other than Gram Stain of specimens, there are no specific direct identification techniques for identification of Bacillus species in clinical material. These organisms are Gram-positive but with age can be Gram-variable to Gram-negative. A specific feature of Bacillus species that makes it unique from other aerobic microorganisms is its ability to produce spores. Although spores are not always evident on a Gram stain of this organism, the presence of spores confirms that the organism is of the genus Bacillus.

All Bacillus species grow well on 5% Sheep blood agar and other routine culture media. PLET (polymyxin-lysozyme-EDTA-thallous acetate) can be used to isolate B.anthracis from contaminated specimens, and bicarbonate agar is used as an identification method to induce capsule formation.

Bacillus sp. will usually grow within 24 hours of incubation at 35 degrees C, in ambient air (room temperature) or in 5% CO2. If bicarbonate agar is used for identification then the media must be incubated in 5% CO2.

B.anthracis appears as medium-large, gray, flat, irregular with swirling projections, often referred to as “medusa head” appearance, and is non-hemolytic on 5% sheep blood agar. It is non-motile, is susceptible to penicillin and produces a wide zone of lecithinase on egg yolk agar. Confirmatory testing to identify B.anthracis includes gamma bacteriophage testing, indirect hemagglutination and enzyme linked immunosorbent assay to detect antibodies.

Treatment:
Anthrax cannot be spread directly from person to person, but a patient’s clothing and body may be contaminated with anthrax spores. Effective decontamination of people can be accomplished by a thorough wash-down with antimicrobial effective soap and water. Waste water should be treated with bleach or other anti-microbial agent. Effective decontamination of articles can be accomplished by boiling contaminated articles in water for 30 minutes or longer. Chlorine bleach is ineffective in destroying spores and vegetative cells on surfaces, though formaldehyde is effective. Burning clothing is very effective in destroying spores. After decontamination, there is no need to immunize, treat or isolate contacts of persons ill with anthrax unless they were also exposed to the same source of infection. Early antibiotic treatment of anthrax is essential—delay significantly lessens chances for survival. Treatment for anthrax infection and other bacterial infections includes large doses of intravenous and oral antibiotics, such as fluoroquinolones, like ciprofloxacin (cipro), doxycycline, erythromycin, vancomycin or penicillin. In possible cases of inhalation anthrax, early antibiotic prophylaxis treatment is crucial to prevent possible death. In May 2009, Human Genome Sciences submitted a Biologic License Application (BLA, permission to market) for its new drug, raxibacumab (brand name ABthrax) intended for emergency treatment of inhaled anthrax.[28] If death occurs from anthrax the body should be isolated to prevent possible spread of anthrax germs. Burial does not kill anthrax spores.

If a person is suspected as having died from anthrax, every precaution should be taken to avoid skin contact with the potentially contaminated body and fluids exuded through natural body openings. The body should be put in strict quarantine. A blood sample taken in a sealed container and analyzed in an approved laboratory should be used to ascertain if anthrax is the cause of death. Microscopic visualization of the encapsulated bacilli, usually in very large numbers, in a blood smear stained with polychrome methylene blue (McFadyean stain) is fully diagnostic, though culture of the organism is still the gold standard for diagnosis. Full isolation of the body is important to prevent possible contamination of others. Protective, impermeable clothing and equipment such as rubber gloves, rubber apron, and rubber boots with no perforations should be used when handling the body. No skin, especially if it has any wounds or scratches, should be exposed. Disposable personal protective equipment is preferable, but if not available, decontamination can be achieved by autoclaving. Disposable personal protective equipment and filters should be autoclaved, and/or burned and buried. Bacillus anthracis bacillii range from 0.5–5.0 ?m in size. Anyone working with anthrax in a suspected or confirmed victim should wear respiratory equipment capable of filtering this size of particle or smaller. The US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) approved high efficiency-respirator, such as a half-face disposable respirator with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, is recommended.[29] All possibly contaminated bedding or clothing should be isolated in double plastic bags and treated as possible bio-hazard waste. The victim should be sealed in an airtight body bag. Dead victims that are opened and not burned provide an ideal source of anthrax spores. Cremating victims is the preferred way of handling body disposal. No embalming or autopsy should be attempted without a fully equipped biohazard laboratory and trained and knowledgeable personnel.

Delays of only a few days may make the disease untreatable and treatment should be started even without symptoms if possible contamination or exposure is suspected. Animals with anthrax often just die without any apparent symptoms. Initial symptoms may resemble a common cold—sore throat, mild fever, muscle aches and malaise. After a few days, the symptoms may progress to severe breathing problems and shock and ultimately death. Death can occur from about two days to a month after exposure with deaths apparently peaking at about 8 days after exposure.[30] Antibiotic-resistant strains of anthrax are known.

In recent years there have been many attempts to develop new drugs against anthrax, but existing drugs are effective if treatment is started soon enough.

Early detection of sources of anthrax infection can allow preventive measures to be taken. In response to the anthrax attacks of October 2001 the United States Postal Service (USPS) installed BioDetection Systems (BDS) in their large scale mail cancellation facilities. BDS response plans were formulated by the USPS in conjunction with local responders including fire, police, hospitals and public health. Employees of these facilities have been educated about anthrax, response actions and prophylactic medication. Because of the time delay inherent in getting final verification that anthrax has been used, prophylactic antibiotic treatment of possibly exposed personnel must be started as soon as possible.

Prognosis:
When treated with antibiotics, cutaneous anthrax is likely to get better. However, up to 20% of people who do not get treatment may die due to anthrax-related blood infections.

People with second-stage inhalation anthrax have a poor outlook, even with antibiotic therapy. Up to 90% of cases in the second stage are fatal.

Gastrointestinal anthrax infection can spread to the bloodstream, and may result in death.

Possible Complications:

Cutaneous anthrax:
•Spread of infection into the bloodstream

Inhalational anthrax:

•Hemorrhagic meningitis
•Swelling of lymph nodes in the chest (mediastinal adenopathy)
•Fluid buildup in the chest (pleural effusion)
•Shock
•Death

Gastrointestinal anthrax
•Severe bleeding (hemorrhage)
•Shock
•Death

Prevention:
There are two main ways to prevent anthrax.

For people who have been exposed to anthrax (but have no symptoms of the disease), doctors may prescribe preventive antibiotics, such as ciprofloxacin, penicillin, or doxycycline, depending on the strain of anthrax.

An anthrax vaccine is available to certain military personnel, but not to the general public. It is given in a series of six doses over 18 months. There is no known way to spread cutaneous anthrax from person to person. People who live with someone who has cutaneous anthrax do not need antibiotics unless they have also been exposed to the same source of anthrax.

An anthrax vaccine licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and produced from one non-virulent strain of the anthrax bacterium, is manufactured by BioPort Corporation, subsidiary of Emergent BioSolutions. The trade name is BioThrax, although it is commonly called Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed (AVA). It was formerly administered in a six-dose primary series at 0, 2, 4 weeks and 6, 12, 18 months, with annual boosters to maintain immunity. On December 11, 2008, the FDA approved the removal of the 2-week dose, resulting in the currently recommended five-dose series.

Unlike NATO countries, the Soviets developed and used a live spore anthrax vaccine, known as the STI vaccine, produced in Tbilisi, Georgia. Its serious side-effects restrict use to healthy adults.

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.

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Featured

The Genes Battle

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Can genes, which are present in nature, be patented? A US court recently ruled that they cannot. The outcome may be cheaper diagnostic kits, says Hari Pulakkat
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It’s a debate that will continue for a few years, and the dust is unlikely to settle down even after that. Are human genes patentable? While the world slowly seemed to move towards a grudging acceptance of human gene patents, an American judge suddenly springs a surprise, ruling they aren’t valid, providing new hope for those campaigning against them. If the higher courts uphold this judgment, patients around the world could expect cheaper diagnostic tests soon.

To summarise, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation, two non-profit organisations, filed a lawsuit against Myriad Genetics, a biotech company based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Myriad, along with the University of Utah Research Foundation, is the holder of several patents on two breast cancer genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2. Myriad has developed tests for breast cancer susceptibility, and no one else can do those tests. Now Judge Robert Sweet of the New York District Court has ruled that some claims of the patents are invalid, thus opening the door for competitors.

The US and Europe have been allowing human gene patents for over two decades, and this is the first time a judge has questioned their validity. In the last two decades, the US Patent Office granted patents to over 4,300 genes, which is about 20 per cent of active human genes.

Diagnostic tests based on these patented genes are expensive, and not within the reach of many. In the US, for example, testing for breast cancer susceptibility can cost as much as $3,000 for a full analysis of both genes. “Many patients will benefit from this judgment,” says Mark Stoler, president of the American Society for Clinical Pathology. The judge himself noted that the tests cost less than $1,000 in Canada, where the genes are not patented.

On the other hand, several biotech companies have built business models around those, and raise money based on their gene patents. “Some biotech companies will now find it more difficult to raise money,” says Lisa Haile, partner of life sciences practice at DLA Piper, a large law firm. In fact, as a way of buttressing this fact, the shares of Myriad fell 9.2 per cent immediately after the judgment. Myriad’s revenues had increased almost 50 per cent last year, mostly owing to BRCA gene testing.

So a fierce battle is on between two factions. On one side are the life sciences industry, venture capitalalists and other investors in life sciences companies. On the other side are a large number of doctors, scientists, patients and non-profit organisations. Each has its arguments and supporting evidence. Although the second faction is unlikely to win in a superior court, its victory will have far-reaching impact on the life sciences industry and the future of medicine. “This is very likely to go to the Supreme Court,” says Haile. That would take at least two to four years, and what happens in the US is also a good pointer to what will happen later in other countries.

Opponents of gene patents have more than one argument against them. One of the first is, of course, the principle itself: genes are present in nature and thus cannot be patented. Myriad and others have argued what is patented is a unique DNA sequence isolated in a lab. Judge Sweet in his judgment says genes are genes, whether inside or outside the body. However, there are even stronger arguments against gene patenting. They push up medical costs, stifle innovation and prevent patients from taking a second opinion. It is not just the patients who have to pay Myriad; even scientists who work on the BRCA gene have to pay the company.

“Myriad is just one example,” says Stoler. “Around 5,000 new tests are likely to be developed in the next 10 years.” These tests will be based on genes, and indiscriminate patenting can make them unaffordable except to a small fraction of the world population. Some of these products will be built by a research foundation funded by the public, and hence won’t be the exclusive property of private companies. For example, the BRCA gene was discovered in the University of California Berkeley by Marie-Claire King, now at the University of Washington. King herself is known to be averse to gene patents.

On the other hand, the life sciences industry argues gene patents are no different from drug patents, and a 20-year exclusivity is a small price to pay for treatments and diagnostics that would not exist otherwise.

Even an unfavourable ruling by the Supreme Court is unlikely to stop innovation or patents, as the industry is trying to tell the world. Many diagnostic tests are on multiple genes, and products based on unique combinations of genes may be patentable, even if single genes themselves are not. In any case, the next four years will see some interesting battles.


Source:
The Telegraph (Kolkata,India)

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Healthy Tips

Keep Joints Limber and Arthritis at Bay

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ACHIEVE GREATER MOBILITY WITH THESE QUICK TIPS & SAY GOODBYE  TO PAIN  :-

If you’ve ever crawled out of bed in the morning aching as if you’d played a mean game of rugby in your sleep, heard your knees creaking as you descended the stairs, required three ibuprofen before you could bend over to tie your shoes, and/or received an embroidered sampler with the words “My Back Hurts” for your birthday, then this article is for you.

Making some simple changes in your diet and daily activities — even the way you sit — coupled with taking a few key supplements a day can save a lot of wear and tear on your joints and ligaments as well as reduce your pain. Here’s a starting lineup of tips that help you where you hurt.

1. Sip a cup of green tea in the morning. Polyphenols called catechins in green tea prevent arthritis in mice and significantly reduce cartilage damage in humans.

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2. When you sit, keep both feet on the ground. Crossing your legs cuts off your blood circulation and pulls your back out of alignment.

3. Switch over to spicy foods when your arthritis flares. Spices such as cayenne pepper, ginger, and turmeric contain compounds that reduce swelling and block a brain chemical that transmits pain signals. So head to the bookstore for some Mexican, Indian, and Thai cookbooks, or keep a bottle of hot sauce on your table at all times.

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4. Empty out (or better yet, have someone else empty them for you) any cabinet or shelf below waist level. You’d be surprised how much unnecessary bending people do to get at those low places, says Howard Pecker, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon in Rahway, New Jersey. He gives this advice to all his patients with arthritis. They tell him it makes their lives much less painful. Just fill the empty cabinets with less-used items, like the turkey roaster that only comes out at Thanksgiving.

5. Use a wrist rest to keep your wrists straight, not to rest your wrists on. Resting your wrists on the pad when typing can compress soft tissues — such as tendons, nerves, and blood vessels — in your forearms, reducing blood flow to your wrists and fingers, says Peter W. Johnson, Ph.D., assistant professor of environmental health at the University of Washington in Seattle. This, in turn, can increase pressure in the carpal tunnel located inside your wrists and ultimately lead to nerve damage. Instead, use the pad only for support during typing breaks. Even then, most experts recommend resting the palms of your hands, rather than your wrists, on the pad to reduce the risk of injury, he says.

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6. Keep a small rubber ball on your desk and in your car. Every time you get up to go to the bathroom (at work) or hit a red light (in the car) squeeze the ball 20 times on each hand. This helps strengthen your hands and improve flexibility.

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7. Wash your dishes by hand and give the dishwasher the night off. The combination of warm, running water and light exercise, requiring complex movement of the wrist and hand, is an effective and low-cost way of rehabilitating the hand and wrist after injury or surgery, says B. Sonny Bal, M.D., assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Missouri School of Medicine in Columbia. It will also keep your wrists and hands flexible with good blood circulation if you have arthritis or other painful problems.

8. Prevent tennis elbow by icing your arm after play. The easiest way, says Scott Herron, M.D., who directs the sports medicine department at the Advanced Orthopaedic Surgery Center in Temecula, California, is to put water in a Styrofoam cup before you start playing, freeze it, then peel back the top of the cup to expose the ice. Now you can hold the ice against your arm without freezing your hand off. If, however, the tennis elbow arrives despite the ice, try this exercise: Bend your arm at 90 degrees, keeping your elbow at your side, palm facing up. Hold this pose for 5-10 seconds, then slowly lower your arm. Do this 10 times.

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9. Enhance the range of motion in your wrist with this exercise. Slowly bend your wrist backward and forward, holding for a 5-second count in each position, suggests Dr. Herron. Do three sets — 10 times for each hand — twice a day.

10. Always bend from the knees, not the back, when lifting. Also, keep the weight you’re carrying close to your body, as if you were carrying a baby. This puts less strain on your back.

11. On long drives, pull over every hour, get out of the car, and walk around for five minutes, stretching like a cat. Your back will thank you later.

12. For back relief, get on your hands and knees (on a padded surface) and round your back like a scared cat. Hold for five seconds, then let your stomach relax and sag for five seconds. Do two sets of 10 each anytime you’ve been sitting for more than an hour.

13. Crunch your way through 20 modified sit-ups every morning. These strengthen the abdominal muscles while stretching and relaxing the back, says Dr. Herron. To do a modified sit-up, bend your knees or place your feet on a small stool or chair as you complete the crunch.

14. Serve up some pickled herring for breakfast or lunch. This fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, shown to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain from arthritis and other joint diseases.

15. Play a video game, read the latest Dan Brown book, or watch a Lord of the Rings movie when your joints are hurting. Researchers find that concentrating on what you’re doing, whether leisure activities or work, distracts you from your pain.

16. Wear tight-fitting gloves at night. They help reduce swelling and fluid accumulation in the night so your hands don’t ache when you wake up.

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17. Take these super supplements:

*Ginger extract twice a day. Researchers from the University of Miami found ginger significantly reduced knee pain in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, as well as improved how the knee worked. Turns out ginger has some anti-inflammatory effects, just like ibuprofen.

*Fish-oil capsules. A British study found that 86 percent of people with arthritis who took cod liver oil had far fewer enzymes that cause cartilage damage compared to those who got a placebo. Plus, they had far fewer pain-causing enzymes. Cod liver oil is a fish oil, so your basic fish-oil supplement will do fine.

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*Vitamin E containing pure alpha-tocopherols. A German study found taking 1,500 IU of vitamin E every day reduced pain and morning stiffness and improved grip strength in people with rheumatoid arthritis as well as prescription medication.

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*Glucosamine/chondroitin. Orthopedic surgeons agree that this supplement can provide long-term pain relief and slow the degeneration of cartilage. It has also been found that glucosamine and condroitin can actually repair demaged cartilage. After about a month you should be getting enough pain relief from the glucosamine to stop taking ibuprofen.

18. Quit smoking. Smoking reduces your circulation and that, according to a study in the medical journal Spine, increases your risk for back pain and slows healing.

From  :Stealth Health