Category Archives: Health

How Your Heights Can Affect Increase Your Blood Clot Risk

Your height may be linked to your risk of blood clots: A new study from Sweden found that taller men and women were more likely to develop blood clots in their veins than their shorter counterparts were.

Compared with men who were taller than 6 feet 2 inches (190 centimeters), men who were shorter than 5 feet 3 inches (160 cm) were 65 percent less likely to develop a blood clot in their veins, according to the study. And compared with women taller than 6 feet (185 cm), woman who were shorter than 5 feet 1 inch (155 cm) were 69 percent less likely to develop a venous blood clot.

Venous blood clots, or “venous thromboembolisms,” are blood clots that start in a person’s veins, according to the American Heart Association(AHA). One type of venous blood clot is called a deep vein thrombosis (DVT), and it often forms in the vein of a person’s leg. If a DVT breaks free from a person’s vein, it can travel to the individual’s lungs and get stuck, causing the second type of venous blood clot, a pulmonary embolism. These embolisms can be deadly. [5 Surprising Ways to Be Heart Healthy]

Venous blood clots affect up to 600,000 Americans each year and are the third-leading type of blood vessel problem, after heart attack and stroke, the AHA says.

In the new study, published yesterday (Sept. 5) in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics, the researchers looked at data on more than 2.5 million Swedish adult siblings who didn’t have a venous blood clot when the study began. Using the Swedish Hospital Register, a national database that includes information on hospital patients’ medical diagnoses, the researchers identified who had a blood clot during the 30- to 40-year study period.

By including siblings in the study, the researchers could account, in part, for genetic factors that may increase a person’s risk of blood clots, the study said. The researchers found that among same-sex sibling pairs, the risk of venous blood clots was significantly lower in siblings at least 2 inches (5 cm) shorter than their taller siblings.

The study didn’t look into why height was linked to risk of venous blood clots.

“It could just be that because taller individuals have longer leg veins, there is more surface area where problems can occur,” lead study author Dr. Bengt Zöller, an associate professor of internal medicine at Lund University in Sweden, said in a statement.

Gravity may also play a role in the possible link: There’s more gravitational pressure in the leg veins of taller individuals, and that can increase the risk of blood flow slowing or temporarily stopping, Zöller said.

The researchers noted that the study had several limitations. For example, the researchers didn’t account for lifestyle factors — such as smoking, diet and physical activity — that could increase a person’s risk for venous blood clots. In addition, the research was done in Swedish adults, and the results may not apply to Americans or other nationalities, the researchers said.

Zöller acknowledged that a person can’t do anything to change their height. However, he suggested that health care workers take height into consideration when looking at a person’s risk of developing venous blood clots.

PSA Playback Can Reduce Deaths of Prostate Cancer

For men approaching 50 years old, deciding whether or not to be screened for prostate cancer can be confusing: Information about a screening test — called the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test — is riddled with conflicting advice.

The test measures the blood level of the protein PSA, which is produced by cells in the prostate gland. Abnormally high levels of PSA can mean that a man has prostate cancer, but not always. Some organizations, such as the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (an expert panel that advises the government) do not recommend that men undergo routine screenings with the PSA test. But others, including the American Cancer Society, recommend that men discuss the test with their doctor.

Now, a new analysis of conflicting findings from two of the largest prostrate screening trials conducted suggests that PSA testing does lead to a lower risk of death from prostate cancer. These results should reduce uncertainty in an area of medicine where patients, doctors and policymakers have many questions, and could help raise awareness about who is best-suited for the blood test, said senior study author Ruth Etzioni, a biostatistician at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. [5 Things You Should Know About Prostate Cancer]

“They’ll feel more confident that this is a beneficial test with the caveat that a beneficial test doesn’t save everybody. Screening is only one of our tools to save lives with cancer,” Etzioni told Live Science

The analysis was published yesterday (Sept. 4) in thejournal Annals of Internal Medicine.

In the new analysis, the investigators found no evidence that results of PSA screening differed between the two clinical trials, but found strong evidence that getting screened lowered the risk of dying from cancer up to 32 percent, compared with not getting screened.

“The trials aren’t as different as they appear,” Etzioni said.

The two trials in question are the European Randomized Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer (ERSPC), which was conducted in the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Finand, Italy, Spain and Switzerland, and the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial (PLCO), which was conducted in the United States. The ERSPC trial found PSA screening was associated with a 21 percent lower risk of dying from prostate cancer. The PLCO trial, however, found no link between PSA screening and the reduced risk of death from prostate cancer.

But the different results may stem from the different ways and the different countries in which the two trials were conducted, the researchers said. For example, men in the two trials were screened at different frequencies (annually versus every two to four years). They were also told to get a biopsy when their PSA level reached different thresholds (4.0 micrograms per liter [μg/L] versus 3.0 μg/L). And screening was stopped at different times. [5 Myths About the Male Body]

In the PLCO trial, only 40 percent of those recommended for a biopsy actually had one within one year, Etzioni added.

Both PSA trials had two main groups, or “arms,” being studied — an arm receiving PSA testing and a control arm that was not receiving PSA testing. But in the PLCO trial, more than three-fourths of the control group had at least one screening test during the trial, the authors said.

“It’s called ‘contamination,’ and there were very high levels in the U.S. study,” said Andrew Vickers, an attending research methodologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Vickers was not involved in the new analysis, but wrote an editorial that was published alongside the new analysis in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Adding to the contradictory results of these trials are medical considerations around prostate cancer that can muddy a decision about whether to have the test. For instance, a test can help detect cancer early, but prostate cancers are generally slow-growing and many never spread. This means the test may not well serve men over age 70, who may die from other causes long before their prostate cancer becomes dangerous, Vickers told Live Science.

Prostate cancer is easy to treat, according to the Mayo Clinic, but the treatment can produce side effects, such as urinary incontinence, erectile dysfunction or bowel dysfunction. PSA tests aren’t perfect. Protein levels can be elevated even if there’s an infection and cancer isn’t present. As a result, tests can produce unnecessary anxiety and fear.

“The question is, Does it do more good than harm,” Vickers said.

To get a better idea of whether early detection itself is effective, Etzioni and her team used computer modeling to summarize the different factors that impacted the amount of early detection on each arm of the two trials and put them on an even playing field. Then, they compared each of the four arms to a historical population of men that had never undergone PSA screening to create a score that represented the amount of early detection of prostate cancer.

“It takes all of the influences and turns it into one score that means the same thing for the four different arms,” Etzioni said.

Next, they correlated the four scores with the number of men who died of prostate cancer in each arm. They found a strong correlation, and no evidence of differences in screening benefit between the trials after accounting for the scores, Etzioni said.

“The modeling study essentially shows is that if the rates of screening in the US trials had been similar to the European studies, they would have had similar results,” Vickers said.

Although mathematical models are standard in medicine, when it comes to deciding whether a cancer-screening test is effective or not, they all depend on a huge number of assumptions, Vickers said. Ideally, large clinical trials would be done in ways that are identical to each other, but this is virtually impossible.

Vickers also said that other, smaller studies have shown that PSA testing was effective at finding prostate cancer.

“If [Etzioni’s study] was just one modeling study, that would not be very good evidence,” he said. “But the fact that this is congruent with other evidence … makes it a compelling study.”

How Zika Virus Can Help Combat Brain Cancer

The Zika virus can be a serious health threat, especially to unborn children, but now researchers say the virus itself could help treat another devastating illness — brain cancer.

A new study suggests that the same properties that make Zika a dangerous virus for unborn children could be useful in treating brain cancer in adults. The study was done in lab dishes and animals, and much more research is needed before it could be tested in humans.

It’s thought that the Zika virus naturally targets and kills brain stem cells, which are abundant in fetal brains during development. As a consequence, women infected with Zika virus during pregnancy are at increased risk of giving birth to children with neurological problems. But adults have fewer active stem cells in their brains, and as a result, the effect of Zika on adult brains is usually much less severe, the researchers said.

What’s more, the growth of certain brain cancers — including often-lethal glioblastomas — may be driven by cancer stem cells that divide and give rise to other tumor cells. These glioblastoma stem cells are typically resistant to therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation, and may fuel the return of the cancer after treatment. The researchers hypothesized that the Zika virus could target these cancer stem cells. [5 Facts About Brain Cancer]

“We wondered whether nature could provide a weapon to target the cells most likely responsible” for the return of glioblastoma after treatment, study co-author Milan Chheda of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said in a statement.

The researchers found that the Zika virus preferentially targeted and killed human glioblastoma stem cells in a lab dish, without having much of an effect on normal adult brain cells.

Next, the researchers tested the Zika therapy on mice with glioblastomas. To do this, they injected a mouse-adapted strain of Zika virus into the glioblastoma tumors. (The strain of Zika virus that infects humans does not infect mice.)

They found that mice treated with Zika showed slower tumor growth and lived longer than those that didn’t get the Zika treatment. All of the untreated mice died after about a month, but close to half of the treated mice were still alive after two months, the researchers said.

Still, much more research is needed to show that the therapy is safe and effective in humans. The researchers plan to genetically modify the Zika virus so that it is weaker and would not be expected to cause disease. A preliminary test of such an “attenuated” Zika strain showed that this virus was still capable of targeting and killing glioblastoma stem cells in a lab dish.

“Our study is a first step towards the development of safe and effective strains of Zika virus that could become important tools in neuro-oncology and the treatment of glioblastoma,” said study co-author Michael Diamond, also of Washington University.

But concerns over the safety of a Zika-based therapy will need to be addressed with further studies in animals before the therapy is tested in humans, Diamond said. Ultimately, the Zika therapy might be used along with other traditional brain cancer therapies to treat glioblastomas, the researchers said.

The new study is published today (Sept. 5) in The Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Zika is not the only virus being considered as a potential treatment for glioblastomas. Other research groups are testing measles, polio and herpes viruses as possible ways to target glioblastomas.

‘Hearing Sound’ in Schizophrenia can Trace Specific Brain Areas

'Hearing Voices' in Schizophrenia May Trace to Specific Brain Region

 

The study involved 59 patients with schizophrenia who said they heard voices that other people could not perceive. The people in the study answered questions about the nature of these voices, including whether the voices were friendly or threatening, happened frequently or only occasionally, or were “internal” (perceived as coming from inside a patient’s head) or “external” (perceived as coming from outside a patient’s head). Based on the participants’ answers, the individuals were given an “auditory hallucinations” score, with higher scores indicating more-severe hallucinations.

The researchers then used a therapy called high-frequency transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which sends magnetic pulses through a person’s scalp to stimulate brain cells. The scientists targeted a specific part of the brain that is linked with people’s understanding and production of language, within an area known as the temporal lobe. [10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Brain]

Patients were randomly assigned to receive either TMS or a “sham” treatment that was not expected to have an effect. Each group underwent two sessions of their treatment a day, for two days.

About 35 percent of patients in the TMS group showed a significant response to the therapy, compared to just 9 percent of patients in the sham group. A significant response was defined as a more than 30 percent decrease in the auditory hallucinations score.

‘Hearing voices’ can be a disturbing symptom of schizophrenia, both for patients and for those close to sufferers,” said study author Sonia Dollfus, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Caen in France, said in a statement. “We have shown that treatment with high-frequency TMS makes a difference to at least some sufferers,” Dollfus said. However, she noted that more research is needed to determine whether TMS is the best way to treat these patients in the long term.

The study was presented Sept. 5 at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP).

Previous studies have suggested that TMS could treat auditory hallucinations in people with schizophrenia, but those studies were less rigorous than the current one. The new study is “the first controlled trial to show an improvement in these patients by targeting a specific area of the brain and using high-frequency TMS,” Dollfus said. (A controlled trial is one that includes a “control group,” i.e., a group that did not get the TMS treatment.)

Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, director of the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim, Germany, who was not involved in the study, said that the research builds on previous work suggesting that this brain region plays a critical role in the generation of voice hallucinations in schizophrenia. Although the percentage of people whose symptoms improved from the therapy was moderate, “TMS is a welcome addition to the therapeutic repertoire [for schizophrenia patients], especially for patients who do not respond to medication,” Meyer-Lindenberg said in a statement. (Meyer-Lindenberg is a member of the ECNP executive board.)

Male bladder stones are almost as big as ostrich eggs. Why so?

The panel on the left shows a scan of the man’s abdomen. The large white circle is the neobladder stone, and above it, a black arrow points to another stone in the man’s left ureter. The middle panel shows the man’s abdomen from the side, and the panel on the right shows the egg-shaped neobladder stone after it was surgically removed.

Credit: The New England Journal of Medicine ©2017When a man in California went to the hospital because of bladder problems, doctors found a large reason for his pain: a mineral stone nearly the size of an ostrich egg, according to a new report of the case.

The 64-year-old man went to the emergency room because he had pain in his left side and trouble urinating. His doctors found an egg-shapedbladder stone that weighed a whopping 1.7 lbs. (770 grams) and measured 4.7 inches by 3.7 inches by 3 inches (12 by 9.5 by 7.5 centimeters), according to the report. (For reference, a typical ostrich egg weighs about 3 lbs., or 1,360 grams.) [Here’s a Giant List of the Strangest Medical Cases We’ve Covered]

Bladder stones are mineral masses that form in the bladder. In some cases, the stones are too small to be seen with the naked eye, but in others, the stones can be quite large, reaching an inch or more in diameter. According to Guinness World Records, the largest bladder stone was 7 inches long, 5 inches thick and 3.7 inches tall (17.9 by 12.7 by 9.5 cm), and weighed 4.2 lbs. (1.9 kg).

CT scans of the man’s adbomen also revealed another, much smaller stone in the man’s left ureter, which is the tube that carries urine from the kidneys to the bladder, according to the report, which was published today (Sept. 6) in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The doctors who treated the man noted that he’d had invasive bladder cancer more than a decade before he developed the stones. At the time, surgeons needed to remove his bladder, and they constructed what doctors call a “neobladder” out of segments of the man’s intestines. Like a regular bladder, the neobladder is connected to both the ureters and the urethra, which is the tube through which urine exits the body, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Using part of the intestines to create a neobladder can increase a person’s risk of developing stones, the authors wrote.

The man had surgery to remove the stone from his bladder, and doctors used a laser to break up the stone in his left ureter, according to the report. The man had no problems after his surgery, though doctors are continuing to monitor him in case new stones form.

Lack of Sleep May Cause, Not Symptoms, Mental Health Conditions

An online therapy program designed to treat insomnia also appears to reduce levels of anxiety and depression, a new study from the United Kingdom finds.

Sleep problems are common in people who also have mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression. In fact, sleep issues are often thought to be a symptom of these other issues, according to the study. But the new findings suggest that the opposite may be true: Some mental health conditions may stem from a lack of sleep.

“How well we sleep might actually play a role in our mental health,” lead study author Daniel Freeman, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Oxford, said in a statement. “If you can sort out your sleep, you could also be taking a significant step forward in tackling a wide range of psychological and emotional problems.” [Get Better Sleep in 2017]

The new study, which was published today (Sept. 6) in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry, included more than 3,700 British college students (with an average age of 24) who had insomnia. All participants filled out questionnaires about their sleep and other mental health conditions — including paranoia, hallucinations, anxiety and depression — at the beginning of the study and then again after three and 10 weeks, when the treatment ended. Twelve weeks later, the participants filled out the questionnaires for the final time.

The people in the study were randomly assigned to either the treatment group or the control group. Those in the treatment group participated in an online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) program. CBT focuses on the way people think, and helps them challenge their own thoughts and beliefs; a specialized type of CBT for insomnia, called CBT-I, is considered to be a “first-line” therapy for people with insomnia that lasts longer than one month, according to the American College of Physicians. The people in the control group did not receive CBT.

The online program involved six 20-minute-long sessions, and the participants were asked to keep a sleep diary, practice certain behavioral techniques and learn about healthy sleep, according to the study. Using data from the sleep diaries, the program tailored its advice to each participant.

The researchers found that after 10 weeks, the people in the treatment group reported less insomnia, fewer hallucinations and fewer experiences of paranoia than those in the control group. In addition, the people in the treatment group had decreased levels of depression and anxiety, and improved psychological well-being and perceived functioning, compared with the people in the control group. (“Perceived functioning” refers to how well the people thought they were functioning on a daily basis.) Further analysis showed that 60 percent of the decrease in paranoia levels could be linked to improved sleep, the study found.

The findings suggest that sleep plays an important role in mental healthand that doctors should consider it a priority to improve patients’ sleep, the authors wrote.

“For too long, insomnia has been trivialized as merely a symptom” of other mental health conditions, and has been thought of as a problem to be tackled, Freeman said. But “for many people, insomnia can be part of the complex package of causes of mental health difficulties,” he said.

The researchers noted that the study had limitations. For example, many people did not complete the study, so it’s unclear if the findings would apply to larger groups of people, the researchers said. Only half of the participants logged in to two therapy sessions, and just 18 percent logged in to all six sessions. In addition, the participants self-reported their symptoms, which can be an unreliable method, the researchers said.Q

Is ‘Chicken Sashimi’ Safe to Consume?

It’s not uncommon to find raw foods on a restaurant menu — think sushi or steak tartare — but if you see uncooked poultry as an option the next time you’re dining out, you may want to opt for something else.

Several restaurants in the United States are serving up a raw chicken dish that’s referred to as either chicken sashimi or chicken tartare, according to Food & Wine Magazine. Though the “specialty” hasn’t caught on much in the U.S., it’s more widely available in Japan.

But if you’re wondering whether raw chicken served in a restaurant has suddenly become safe to eat, the answer is still no. [Top 7 Germs in Your Food That Make You Sick]

Eating chicken sashimi puts a person at a “pretty high risk” of getting an infection caused by Campylobacter or Salmonella, two types of bacteria that cause food poisoning, said Ben Chapman, a food safety specialist and an associate professor at North Carolina State University.

“There’s a pretty good chance that one or both of these pathogens are on/in the chicken meat itself,” Chapman told Live Science in an email.

Campylobacter infections are one of the most common causes of diarrheal infections in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The bacteria cause gastrointestinal symptoms including diarrhea, cramping and abdominal pain, and in some cases can also cause nausea and vomiting, the CDC says. There are an estimated 1.3 million cases in the U.S. each year and fewer than 100 deaths, on average, each year from the infection.

Salmonella infections also cause symptoms such as diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps, according to the CDC. About 1.2 million people contract Salmonella each year, and about 450 people die from the infection, the CDC says.

Chapman noted that eating raw chicken is different from eating raw fish, which can be found in sushi dishes. With raw fish, the germs that are most likely to make a person sick are parasites, and these parasites can be killed by freezing the fish, he said. Salmonella, on the other hand, “isn’t going to be affected by freezing.”

Chicken sashimi is sometimes prepared by boiling or searing the chicken for no more than 10 seconds, according to Food & Wine Magazine.

But these preparations probably only kill off the germs on the surface of the chicken, Chapman said. “But even that I’m not sure about,” he added. In addition, when a chicken is deboned, other germs can get into the inside of the chicken, he said.

In Japan, where the dish is more popular, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare advised restaurants in June 2016 to “re-evaluate raw and half-raw chicken menus,” according to The Asahi Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper. The ministry urged restaurants to cook chicken to an internal temperature of 75 degrees Celsius (167 degrees Fahrenheit).

The recommendation from the ministry came after more than 800 people said they were sickened several months earlier after eating chicken sashimi and chicken “sushi” rolls, The Asahi Shimbun reported.

Marijuana with ‘CBD’ May Pose Less Risk to Long-Term Users

Marijuana with relatively high levels of a compound called cannabidiolmay be less risky to smoke over the long term, because this ingredient may counteract some of the drug’s harmful effects, according to a new study in mice.

The study found that adolescent mice injected with frequent doses oftetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the ingredient in marijuana that produces a “high” — showed signs of impaired memory and increased anxiety over the long term. But mice that received daily doses of THC combined with an equal amount of cannabidiol (CBD) did not experience these negative effects.

The study “suggests that strains of cannabis with similar levels of CBD and THC would pose significantly less long-term risk due to CBD’s protective effect against THC,” study author Dr. Ken Mackie, a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University, said in a statement.

Over the last several decades, THC levels in marijuana used in the United States have increased 300 percent, while levels of CBD in marijuana have decreased, the researchers said. But the long-term effects of exposure to THC and CBD need to be studied further, they said. [25 Odd Facts About Marijuana]

Studies on whether CBD can counteract the negative effects of THC have been mixed, according to a 2013 review paper on the topic. For example, some studies have found that people experience fewer symptoms of anxiety when they smoke marijuana with high CBD levels, compared to when they smoke marijuana with high THC levels, but other studies failed to replicate these results, according to the review. Another study,published in 2011, found that people who tended to use marijuana products with high CBD levels were at lower risk for psychotic symptoms over the long term, although the effect was subtle.

In the new study, the researchers examined the effects of THC and CBD on both adolescent and adult mice. The mice were divided into five groups: a group that received THC only; a group that received CBD only; a group that received THC and CBD; a group that received a placebo; and a group that received no treatment. The mice in the first four groups were injected with the substances every day for three weeks. The researchers examined the mice shortly after their drug treatment and after a six-week drug-free period.

The researchers found that, immediately after treatment, the mice exposed to THC alone showed signs of impaired memory and increased obsessive-compulsive behavior. Six weeks later, the adolescent mice still showed these symptoms, while the adult mice did not. (This finding agrees with research in humans suggesting that teens may be at greater risk for long-term problems from marijuana, compared with adults.)

However, both the adolescent and adult mice that were exposed to THC experienced long-term increases in anxiety.

In contrast, mice that were exposed to both THC and CBD together (in equal amounts) showed no changes in their behavior, either over the short or long term.

“This is the first study in a rigorously controlled animal model to find that CBD appears to protect the brain against the negative effects of chronic THC,” Mackie said.

Animal models allow researchers to conduct experiments in a controlled way, without putting people at risk for harm from the study. But findings in animals don’t always translate to humans.

More studies are also needed to determine how CBD counters the effects of THC, and how much CBD is needed to confer a protective effect, the researchers said.

Earlier this year, Canada issued new guidelines for how people can lower their risk of health problems linked to marijuana use, if they choose to use the drug. (In April, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced legislation to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in the country.) One of the recommendations was to choose products with high levels of CBD relative to THC, which the guidelines also said may be “lower- risk” products.

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.