Monthly Archives: June 2017

Scientists Move One Step More Near

What if you could reap the benefits of exercise without moving a muscle? A new study from England has taken an important step toward understanding how the human body senses when it’s exercising and developing a potential way to flip this “switch” without breaking a sweat.

But don’t cancel your gym membership just yet: The new study was done in mice, and much more research is needed to explore the effects in humans.

During exercise, a person’s heart rate increases, pumping more blood throughout the body. But this increased blood flow doesn’t reach all parts of a person’s body equally; more blood goes to a person’s skeletal muscles and brain, and less goes to internal organs such as the stomach and intestines. [The 4 Types of Exercise You Need to Be Healthy]

What wasn’t clear, however, was how the body knew to divert blood from one part of the body to another during exercise, said senior study author David Beech, a professor of cardiovascular science at the University of Leeds in England.

In the new study, the researchers identified a protein in mice that appears to do just that: detect when exercise is happening and divert blood flow accordingly, Beech told Live Science.

The protein, called Piezo1, acts as an “exercise sensor,” Beech said. It’s found in the cells that line the inner parts of the blood vessels near the stomach and intestines. During exercise, the blood flows faster, and Piezo1 can sense this change in speed. In turn, the protein triggers the blood vessels near the digestive organs to constrict, so that less blood flows to this part of the body and more goes to the skeletal muscles and the brain, according to the study.

In the study, published today (Aug. 24) in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers compared the blood flow in normal mice with the blood flow of mice without the Piezo1 protein. During physical activity (in this case, running on a wheel), the blood vessels near the digestive organs didn’t constrict in the mice without the protein. In addition, the mice that had the protein performed better physically than the mice without the protein.

Exercise plays an important role in a person’s health, and a big question is whether this protein could contribute to these health benefits, Beech said. And, if that’s the case, could scientists develop a drug that could activate the protein?

Beech and his team have already taken a step in that direction. In another part of the study, the researchers did experiments with a compound called “Yoda1” that interacted with the Piezo1 protein. (Yoda1 was given this name by a different group of scientists because it was known that the protein it interacted with had something to do with force, Beech added.)

In the experiments, which were conducted in lab dishes, Yoda1 appeared to turn on Piezo1, similar to the way increased blood flow would, the researchers found. [11 Surprising Facts About the Circulatory System]

Now, they’re working on making a form of the Yoda1 compound that they could give to mice, to see if it would have the same effects inside the animals’ bodies, Beech said. In other words, the research could be an early step toward developing a drug that could mimic the effects of exercise.

Although the new study was done in animals, Beech noted that human cells also have the Piezo1 protein.

“We know the mechanism is present in human” blood vessel cells, Beech said. And “we know that blood flow is restricted to the intestines in humans during exercise just like it is in mice,” he said. The researchers would expect similar findings in humans, Beech said, but of course, that still needs to be studied in great detail.

Young People Facing Risk of Stroke with Methamphetamine Use

Young People Face Stroke Risk with Methamphetamine Use Using methamphetamines may increase the risk of stroke among young people, according to a new review.

Methamphetamine use was linked most strongly to a type of stroke caused by bleeding in the brain, known as a hemorrhagic stroke, as opposed to ischemic stroke, which is caused by blood clots.

What’s more, strokes among young methamphetamine users tend to be deadlier than strokes among young people in general, the review found.

Given the increasing use of methamphetamine worldwide, the findings are cause for concern, the researchers said.

“With the use of methamphetamine increasing, particularly more potent forms, there is a growing burden of methamphetamine-related disease and harms, particularly among young people,” the researchers wrote in the Aug. 23 issue of the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry. In fact, it’s likely that methamphetamine abuse is contributing to the increase in the rate of stroke among young people that has been seen in recent decades, the researchers said. [9 Weird Ways You Can Test Positive for Drugs]

In the review, the researchers analyzed data from 77 previous reports on the link between methamphetamine use and stroke in people under age 45. These data included reports of just a single person or of a few patients, as well as reports of larger groups of people who either used illicit drugs or had a stroke.

Overall, the reports showed a link between methamphetamine use and stroke, particularly hemorrhagic stroke, the researchers said. For example, one study of more than 3 million patients treated at hospitals in Texas found that young people who abused amphetamines (including methamphetamine) were five times more likely to have a hemorrhagic stroke, compared with young people who didn’t use this type of drug.

In addition, the review looked at 98 cases of young people who had a stroke and used methamphetamine. Of these strokes, 80 percent were hemorrhagic. This is much higher than the rate of hemorrhagic stroke among the general population of people under 45, in which 40 percent to 50 percent of strokes are hemorrhagic, the review said.

About one-third of young methamphetamine users who experienced a hemorrhagic stroke died as a result of the stroke. That’s also much higher than the death rate among young people in the general population who experience a stroke, which is around 3 percent, the study said.

Hemorrhagic stroke is associated with vascular abnormalities, such ashigh blood pressure and vasculitis, or inflamed blood vessels, according to the review. And repeated use of methamphetamine raised blood pressure even in those users whose blood pressure was normal to start with, the researchers said.

Young people who use methamphetamine, and the doctors who treat them, need to be aware of the increased risk of stroke tied to this drug, the researchers said. Users should also be aware of early warning signs of stroke; some users may experience symptoms such as headache, speech and language difficulties, and vision problems that may be temporary at first, but which later predict a full-blown stroke.

Rabbits, Dogs, Humans, How Can One Bacteria Spread Infections

A woman in Arizona died from an infection called rabbit fever, despite never coming into contact with any rabbits, according to a recent report of the woman’s case.

The 73-year-old woman first got sick on June 6, 2016, and died five days later from severe breathing problems, according to a report published today (Aug. 24) by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It wasn’t until June 17 of that year, however, when the results of a blood test came back, that doctors learned the woman had rabbit fever, which is also called tularemia. [10 Bizarre Diseases You Can Get Outdoors]

Rabbit fever is a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis, according to the report. Symptoms typically start three to five days after exposure to the bacteria and can include fever, skin lesions, difficulty breathing and diarrhea. Though the infection can be deadly, most infections can be treated with antibiotics, according to the CDC.

People can get rabbit fever through insect bites, coming into contact with an infected animal or inhaling the bacteria.

Though the woman lived in a semirural area, she told doctors that she didn’t participate in outdoor activities, according to the report. In addition, the woman didn’t have any insect bites, and hadn’t been exposed to any animal carcasses or untreated water, the report said.

Her dog, however, had been found that May with a dead rabbit in its mouth, and was later noted to be lethargic and eating less. After the woman died, doctors tested the dog, and found signs of the infection in its blood. In addition, investigators found a number of infected rabbits around the woman’s property.

Because the woman had respiratory symptoms, the researchers think she inhaled the bacteria, potentially from her dog, the report said. It’s possible that the dog had the bacteria in its mouth after catching the dead rabbit, or there were bacteria on its fur, the authors said.

About 125 rabbit fever cases are reported in the U.S. each year, the report said.

Four Weeks Pregnant, What to Expect

During the fourth week of your pregnancy (measured from the first day of your last period), you may begin to have positive results on a home pregnancy test. For the sake of accuracy, it’s best to wait until the end of the first week after a missed period to take the test, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Office on Women’s Health.

If the test comes back positive, congratulations! You should make an appointment to see your health care provider to confirm your pregnancy with a blood test and arrange a prenatal checkup. If the results are negative, take another test at five weeks because you may have taken the test too early for it to show a positive result.

Home pregnancy tests measure the amount of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in your urine, a hormone that is produced by the placenta when a woman is pregnant. The hormone begins to appear shortly after the embryo attaches to the lining of the uterus, and hCG levels increase rapidly in early pregnancy.

Most practitioners don’t see pregnant women until they are eight weeks along, so you may need to wait a few weeks before actually seeing your health care provider. However, if you have had a high-risk pregnancy or a history of problems in giving birth, you should see a health care provider sooner than that.

At this early stage in the pregnancy, there typically won’t be any major outward changes in your body, though your basal body temperature — your temperature first thing in the morning — will be higher than usual. You may experience some mild uterine cramping. Some women will notice a small amount of spotting or vaginal bleeding, caused by the fertilized egg attaching to the uterine lining, according to the Mayo Clinic. This is called implantation bleeding, and light bleeding or spotting is normal.

A woman may experience some pregnancy symptoms at this point, including fatigue and exhaustion, which may be linked to rising levels of the hormone progesterone during the first trimester, according to the Mayo Clinic. Rising hormone levels can also increase the blood flow to your breasts, causing them to feel tender and sore during early pregnancy. In addition, elevated hormone levels can increase blood flow to your pelvic region, causing the need to urinate more frequently.

The rapidly rising levels of estrogen could even cause a heightened sense of smell. An increased sensitivity to smells and odor could contribute to the nausea and vomiting known as “morning sickness,” which may begin between the second and eighth weeks of pregnancy. You may start craving certain foods, and foods that you previously enjoyed might start to taste different.

By the fourth week of pregnancy, a woman may gain one pound in weight.

At four weeks, the blastocyst — a tiny group of embryonic cells — would have already made the journey from your fallopian tube into your uterus and implanted in the uterine lining. After the fertilized egg implants, some of the cells will develop into an embryo and other cells will form the placenta, which will provide nutrients and oxygen to the developing embryo. A sac filled with fluid surrounds the embryo, called the amniotic sac, to help cushion and protect it.

During the first month of pregnancy, the brain and spinal cord begin to form, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Arms and legs begin to form, and the heart and lungs begin to develop.

At this point and throughout the pregnancy, you should avoid alcohol, recreational drugs and smoking, substances that may affect fetal development. Certain medications should also be avoided — ask your health care provider to make sure that none of the medications you are taking may be harmful to the fetus.

Limit your consumption of caffeine to 200 milligrams a day — about one 12-ounce cup of regular coffee, recommends the March of Dimes.

At least one month before becoming pregnant, women should begin taking a daily multivitamin containing at least 400 micrograms of folic acid, a B vitamin that is important in helping to prevent certain birth defects, advises the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

When a woman knows she is pregnant, her health care provider will prescribe a daily prenatal vitamin that has 600 micrograms of folic acid in it. It is hard to get this amount of folic acid from foods alone.

Taking folic acid before becoming pregnant and during early pregnancy may help to reduce a baby’s risk for birth defects of the brain and spine, according to the March of Dimes.

Besides folic acid, a prenatal vitamin will also supply additional amounts of calcium, iron and vitamin D, three nutrients that are important for the healthy development of your baby. In addition to taking a prenatal vitamin, calcium should also be obtained from foods, such as yogurt, milk, cheese and some leafy green vegetables. Pregnant women should also include more Iron-rich foods in their diet, such as chicken, meat, fish, beans and iron-fortified cereals, as well as good sources of vitamin D, such as salmon and milk.

You can learn more about healthy eating and weight gain during pregnancy here. See the following articles for more lifestyle information on sleep needs during pregnancy and tips for exercising during pregnancy.