Health en Sat Aug 06 17:03:43 IST 2022 why-some-people-are-mosquito-magnets <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>It's impossible to hide from a female mosquito -- she will hunt down any member of the human species by tracking our CO2 exhalations, body heat, and body odor. But some of us are distinct &quot;mosquito magnets&quot; who get more than our fair share of bites. Blood type, blood sugar level, consuming garlic or bananas, being a woman, and being a child are all popular theories for why someone might be a preferred snack. Yet for most of them, there is little credible data, says Leslie Vosshall, head of Rockefeller's Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Behavior.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is why Vosshall and Maria Elena De Obaldia, a former postdoc in her lab, set out to explore the leading theory to explain varying mosquito appeal: individual odor variations connected to skin microbiota. They recently demonstrated through a study that fatty acids emanating from the skin may create a heady perfume that mosquitoes can't resist. They published their results in Cell.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;There's a very, very strong association between having large quantities of these fatty acids on your skin and being a mosquito magnet,&quot; says Vosshall, the Robin Chemers Neustein Professor at The Rockefeller University and Chief Scientific Officer of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A tournament no one wants to win</b></p> <p>In the three-year study, eight participants were asked to wear nylon stockings over their forearms for six hours a day. They repeated this process on multiple days. Over the next few years, the researchers tested the nylons against each other in all possible pairings through a round-robin style &quot;tournament.&quot; They used a two-choice olfactometer assay that De Obaldia built, consisting of a plexiglass chamber divided into two tubes, each ending in a box that held a stocking. They placed Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes -- the primary vector species for Zika, dengue, yellow fever, and chikungunya -- in the main chamber and observed as the insects flew down the tubes towards one nylon or the other.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By far the most compelling target for Aedes aegypti was Subject 33, who was four times more attractive to the mosquitoes than the next most-attractive study participant, and an astonishing 100 times more appealing than the least attractive, Subject 19.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The samples in the trials were de-identified, so the experimenters didn't know which participant had worn which nylon. Still, they would notice that something unusual was afoot in any trial involving Subject 33, because insects would swarm towards that sample. &quot;It would be obvious within a few seconds of starting the assay,&quot; says De Obaldia. &quot;It's the type of thing that gets me really excited as a scientist. This is something real. This is not splitting hairs. This is a huge effect.&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers sorted the participants into high and low attractors, and then asked what differentiated them. They used chemical analysis techniques to identify 50 molecular compounds that were elevated in the sebum (a moisturizing barrier on the skin) of the high-attracting participants. From there, they discovered that mosquito magnets produced carboxylic acids at much higher levels than the less-attractive volunteers. These substances are in the sebum and are used by bacteria on our skin to produce our unique human body odor.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To confirm their findings, Vosshall's team enrolled another 56 people for a validation study. Once again, Subject 33 was the most alluring, and stayed so over time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;Some subjects were in the study for several years, and we saw that if they were a mosquito magnet, they remained a mosquito magnet,&quot; says De Obaldia. &quot;Many things could have changed about the subject or their behaviors over that time, but this was a very stable property of the person.&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Even knockouts find us</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Humans produce mainly two classes of odors that mosquitoes detect with two different sets of odor receptors: Orco and IR receptors. To see if they could engineer mosquitoes unable to spot humans, the researchers created mutants that were missing one or both of the receptors. Orco mutants remained attracted to humans and able to distinguish between mosquito magnets and low attractors, while IR mutants lost their attraction to humans to a varying degree, but still retained the ability to find us.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These were not the results the scientists were hoping for. &quot;The goal was a mosquito that would lose all attraction to people, or a mosquito that had a weakened attraction to everybody and couldn't discriminate Subject 19 from Subject 33. That would be tremendous,&quot; Vosshall says, because it could lead to the development of more effective mosquito repellents. &quot;And yet that was not what we saw. It was frustrating.&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These results complement one of Vosshall's recent studies, also published in Cell, which revealed the redundancy of Aedes aegypti's exquisitely complex olfactory system. It's a failsafe that the female mosquito relies on to live and reproduce. Without blood, she can't do either. That's why &quot;she has a backup plan and a backup plan and a backup plan and is tuned to these differences in the skin chemistry of the people she goes after,&quot; Vosshall says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The apparent unbreakability of the mosquito scent tracker makes it difficult to envision a future where we're not the number-one meal on the menu. But one potential avenue is to manipulate our skin microbiomes. It is possible that slathering the skin of a high-appeal person like Subject 33 with sebum and skin bacteria from the skin of a low-appeal person like Subject 19 could provide a mosquito-masking effect.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;We haven't done that experiment,&quot; Vosshall notes. &quot;That's a hard experiment. But if that were to work, then you could imagine that by having a dietary or microbiome intervention where you put bacteria on the skin that are able to somehow change how they interact with the sebum, then you could convert someone like Subject 33 into a Subject 19. But that's all very speculative.&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She and her colleagues hope this paper will inspire researchers to test other mosquito species, including in the genus Anopheles, which spreads malaria, adds Vosshall: &quot;I think it would be really, really cool to figure out if this is a universal effect.&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Sat Oct 29 16:17:06 IST 2022 if-you-put-on-a-smiling-face-you-can-trick-your-mind-into-happin <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Just like the famous lyrics suggest, if you put on a happy face you will feel a little brighter, according to a new study published in Nature Human Behaviour.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A new study has found that by posing our facial muscles in a smile we can feel happier.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Led by Stanford University, and conducted with the Florida State University and the University of South Australia, and working with a team of international collaborators, the study assessed whether people's subjective experiences of emotion could be influenced by their facial expressions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Collecting data from 3878 participants across 19 countries, the study found a noticeable increase in happiness from people who mimicked smiling photographs or pulled their mouth toward their ears.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>UniSA researcher, Dr Fernando Marmolejo-Ramos says it's a timely finding as the world heads toward a fourth year of the COVID-19 pandemic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;There's no doubt that the world's been struggling amid the current pandemic. While individuals naturally respond differently to adverse situations, it's encouraging to think that we can sway our emotions by simply putting on a happy face,&quot; Dr Marmolejo-Ramos says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;The concept of being able to influence our emotions by simply moving our facial muscles has long been debated by researchers, but until now, no test or theory has been globally agreed upon.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;In this study, we assembled a team of sceptics and a team of believers (called the 'Many Smiles Collaboration') to test a mutually agreed methodology, and what we found was reliable evidence that the physical formation of a smile can produce feelings of happiness.&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The study tested three well-known techniques:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>1) mimicking facial expressions of actors seen in photos;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>2) moving the corners of their mouths to their cheeks using only their facial muscles; and</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>3) using the 'pen-in-mouth' technique which moves the facial muscles in a simulated smile shape.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;Two out of three of these conditions generated noticeable increases in happiness, providing a compelling argument that human emotions are linked to muscle movements,&quot; Dr Marmolejo-Ramos says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;But as the pen-in-mouth technique didn't achieve the same mood changes (possibly because the simulated mouth shape wasn't as representative of a smile as we thought) we can't say with absolute certainty that one always causes the other.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;Still, the evidence is strong, and knowing that we can somewhat 'fake it 'til we make it', is definitely a reassuring proposal.&quot;</p> Fri Oct 28 14:18:47 IST 2022 afraid-of-needles--china-rolling-out-oral-covid-19-vaccine <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The Chinese city of Shanghai started administering an inhalable COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday in what appears to be a world first.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The vaccine, a mist that is sucked in through the mouth, is being offered for free as a booster dose for previously vaccinated people, according to an announcement on an official city social media account.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Scientists hope that such needle-free vaccines will make vaccination more accessible in countries with fragile health systems because they are easier to administer. They also may persuade people who don't like getting a shot in the arm to get inoculated.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>China wants more people to get booster shots before it relaxes strict pandemic restrictions that are holding back the economy and are increasingly out of sync with the rest of the world. As of mid-October, 90 per cent of Chinese were fully vaccinated and 57 per cent had received a booster shot.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A video posted by an online Chinese state media outlet showed people at a community health centre sticking the short nozzle of a translucent white cup into their mouths. The accompanying text said that after slowly inhaling, people hold their breath for five seconds, with the entire procedure completed in 20 seconds.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was like drinking a cup of milk tea,&quot; one Shanghai resident said in the video. &quot;When I breathed it in, it tasted a bit sweet.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The effectiveness of non-needle vaccines has not been fully explored. Chinese regulators approved the inhalable one in September, but only as a booster shot after studies showed it triggered an immune system response in people who had previously received two shots of a different Chinese vaccine.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A vaccine taken orally could fend off the virus before it reaches the rest of the respiratory system, though that would depend in part on the size of the droplets, one expert said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Larger droplets would train defences in parts of the mouth and throat, while smaller ones would travel further into the body, said Dr. Vineeta Bal, an immunologist in India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The inhalable vaccine was developed by Chinese biopharmaceutical company CanSino Biologics Inc. as an aerosol version of the company's one-shot adenovirus vaccine, which uses a relatively harmless cold virus.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The traditional one-shot vaccine has been approved for use in more than 10 markets including China, Hungary, Pakistan, Malaysia, Argentina and Mexico. The inhaled version has received a go-ahead for clinical trials in Malaysia, a Malaysian media report said last month.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Regulators in India have approved a nasal vaccine, another needle-free approach, but it has yet to be rolled out. The vaccine, developed in the US and licensed to Indian vaccine maker Bharat Biotech, is squirted in the nose.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>About a dozen nasal vaccines are being tested globally, according to the World Health Organisation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>China has relied on domestically developed vaccines, primarily two inactivated vaccines that have proven effective in preventing death and serious disease but less so than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines at stopping the spread of the disease.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Chinese authorities also have not mandated vaccination entering an office building or other public places requires a negative COVID-19 test, not proof of vaccination. And the country's strict zero-COVID approach means that only a small proportion of the population has been infected and built immunity that way, compared to other places.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As a result, it's unclear how widely COVID-19 would spread if restrictions were lifted. The ruling Communist Party has so far shown no sign of easing the zero-COVID policy, moving quickly to restrict travel and impose lockdowns when even just a few cases are discovered.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Authorities on Wednesday ordered the lockdown of 900,000 people in Wuhan, the city where the virus was first detected in late 2019, for at least five days. In remote Qinghai province, the urban districts of Xining city have been locked down since last Friday.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Beijing, Universal Studios said it would close its hotels and attractions to comply with pandemic prevention and control.&quot; The city of more than 21 million people reported 19 new cases in the latest 24-hour period.&nbsp;</p> <p>(AP)&nbsp;</p> Thu Oct 27 16:55:19 IST 2022 write-research-papers--don-t-limit-yourselves-to-treatment--up-c <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Thursday advised the state's doctors to write research papers and get them published and not limit themselves to treating patients.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Adityanath inaugurated the the Department of Vascular Surgery and Thoracic Surgery at the King George Medical University (KGMU) and also launched Asia's first 'Pathogen Reduction Machine'.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;Some teachers of the KGMU have been recognised across the world as good scientists, but still there is a need for us to do a lot more,&quot; the chief minister said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;When we talk about appointing doctors of existing medical colleges as teachers in newly set up medical colleges, the NMC (National Medical Commission) says that it has no objection but the problem is that they have not written a single research paper,&quot; he added.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If we are not able to write research papers, there will be no progress towards patenting, the chief minister asserted.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;There is no shortage of patients in KGMU but where are the research papers and publications? We have to make it a part of our daily routine and if we do not engage with it, it will hinder our progress,&quot; he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;Let us also make writing a habit. Don't just limit yourself to treatment. New research papers should come from KGMU, on behalf of every faculty member, on behalf of every department, we should give our publications. All the departments here should have some articles published in international journals,&quot; he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The chief minister said KGMU must move with the times.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;KGMU has come a long way. Five years ago, KGMU completed its 100-year journey, which is a milestone for any institution. In these 100 years, a lot of progress has been made in many areas of medical science,&quot; he said.&nbsp;</p> Thu Oct 27 15:09:44 IST 2022 genes-link-bipolar--schizophrenia--once-thought-unrelated <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>When Chastity Murry had her first psychotic break, she went into her bathroom and downed a whole bottle of pills, hoping to die. Her teenage daughter had to perform CPR to save her life.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Around that same time more than a decade ago, the man who would become her husband, Dante Murry, also lost touch with reality and considered suicide.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Different illnesses led them down similar paths bipolar disorder in her case and schizoaffective disorder in his conditions long considered by many to be distinct and unrelated.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But a growing body of research shows that bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and the in-between diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder share common genetic underpinnings as well as overlapping symptoms and signs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;They can be considered as part of a spectrum, said Dr. Morgan Sheng, who co-directs a psychiatric research center at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bipolar disorder is known for causing extreme mood swings. Schizophrenia is characterized by delusions, hallucinations and disordered thinking. Schizoaffective disorder includes symptoms of both.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The theory that they exist on a continuum has gained ground as more and more studies have found that variations in some of the same genes influence how susceptible people are to these conditions. One of the latest examples is the AKAP11 gene, which scientists at Broad and elsewhere pinpointed as a strong risk factor for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia in research published in the journal Nature Genetics this year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Experts say these insights will help doctors better understand what drives the illnesses, how they affect the body's most notoriously bewildering organ and what more can be done to help people. Down the road, experts envision the research could help guide treatment and lead to better drugs. For now, they hope it reinforces the idea that such disorders are biologically rooted and not moral failings or mysterious, unknowable conditions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That's what the science is giving us a clear indication that there are genetic markers and risk factors, said Dr. Ken Duckworth, chief medical officer for the National Alliance on Mental Illness.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Murrys who met through the alliance and married in 2020 hope the research provides answers for them and so many others with mental illness who they've gotten to know. With they help of doctors and one another, they are keeping their disorders in check and have found purpose helping others in similar straits.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Chastity Murry, 48, called them perfect partners; He's the peanut butter; I'm the jelly.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yes, Dante Murry, 50, added with a smile. She's sweeter than I am.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>PASSING DOWN PUZZLING CONDITIONS</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mental illness runs in both of their families haunting hers for at least five generations, she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Knowing this helped me to understand why this is happening to me, Chastity Murry said. That possibility was always there.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sheng said genetics plays a big part in bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia. But experience and environment also play a big part, and these things interact in subtle ways. So it's not like everyone with risk genes is destined to become ill.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Morgan said a severe risk gene for schizophrenia, for example, may increase the chance of getting the disease 10-fold. But that only brings it up to 10%, since the population-wide risk of developing the illness is 1%. Given those odds, parents with the gene might not have any children with the illness.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But if you take a whole extended family that has that risk gene, there will be a number of cases popping up, Morgan said. It's a roll of the dice.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Experts say other illnesses along what some call the psychosis continuum are also more likely. When you look at a family, if you have one person with schizophrenia, you're more likely to have schizophrenia yourself, but you're also more likely to have bipolar, said Dr. Fernando Goes, a psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins University.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The same is true for schizoaffective disorder, studies show.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are no tests for these conditions which together affect around 9 million U.S. adults so diagnosis is based on history and the sometimes overlapping symptoms. For instance, psychosis can happen in all three illnesses.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This can make diagnosis difficult. Sally Littlefield of Oakland, California, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, then schizoaffective disorder, after spiraling into psychosis during a work meeting in 2018. For 10 months, she was convinced a team of psychologists had assumed control of her life and were experimenting on her against her will.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At one point during a manic episode, Littlefield wandered the streets of San Francisco, breaking into houses and cars, shoplifting and jumping from one car rooftop to another. She was eventually tackled by police and hospitalized. She came to realize she was ill when her delusions got so grandiose she believed she was president of the United States.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She said she's now doing well and willing to tell her story to help dispel stigma, discrimination and shame, which prevents a lot of us from recovering.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A VERY LONG JOURNEY'</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>People with mental illness hope stigma fades as doctors learn more about how these disorders arise and affect the brain.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A 2019 study said a growing number of experts now recognize that schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder and bipolar not only share common genetic risk factors and symptoms but also look similar in neuroimaging and may have common treatment regimens. The mood stabilizer lithium, for example, is often used to treat bipolar and schizoaffective disorder. The recent Broad Institute research may provide clues to how the drug works, since AKAP11 interacts with what's thought to be lithium's target.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Other drugs also treat more than one of the illnesses. The Murrys take several of the same medications.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Someday, experts said genetic insights might allow doctors to intervene earlier in the disease process. While few people get genetic testing now except perhaps to see how they might react to a particular drug scientists said that could change in the future. If people knew their genetic risk and family history, Sheng said, they could seek help if something didn't seem quite right, before an illness caused major problems.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some scientists, while acknowledging common genetic underpinnings of bipolar, schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia, are skeptical about framing them as on a psychosis continuum, particularly if that leads to changing categories doctors use to diagnose people with each disorder. They say the current criteria are useful in deciding treatment and care.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Scientists agree that more research is needed. Finding new illness risk genes, for instance, is only the first step toward developing new medicines. A Broad road map says researchers must also figure out how the genes function, understand disease mechanisms and identify targets for the drugs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>NAMI's Duckworth said it might be 5 to 50 years before genetic findings translate into changes in clinical practice. It's a very long journey.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Meanwhile, many people living with mental illness rely on peer support in addition to medication and psychotherapy. The Murrys check on each other daily.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I can always tell when he's having a bad day. He can always tell when I'm having a bad day, said Chastity Murry, who has also been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and an anxiety disorder. If I'm acting a little off or something, he'll ask me: Have you taken your meds today? But I don't get offended because I know he's got my best interest in mind.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Both have also learned and grown from working as volunteers. Together, they facilitate support groups twice a week, check in with peers regularly by phone, and have been trained to help people who are suicidal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is my path in life, and his path as well, Chastity Murry said. We're helping them, but they're also helping us.&nbsp;</p> <p>(AP)&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> Tue Oct 25 15:55:02 IST 2022 test-scores-show-historic-covid-setbacks-for-kids-across-us <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The Covid-19 pandemic spared no state or region as it caused historic learning setbacks for America's children, erasing decades of academic progress and widening racial disparities, according to results of a national test that provide the sharpest look yet at the scale of the crisis.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Across the country, math scores saw their largest decreases ever. Reading scores dropped to 1992 levels. Nearly four in 10 eighth graders failed to grasp basic math concepts. Not a single state saw a notable improvement in their average test scores, with some simply treading water at best.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Those are the findings from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) known as the nation's report card which tested hundreds of thousands of fourth and eighth graders across the country this year. It was the first time the test had been given since 2019, and it's seen as the first nationally representative study of the pandemic's impact on learning.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is a serious wakeup call for us all, Peggy Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, a branch of the Education Department, said in an interview. In NAEP, when we experience a 1- or 2-point decline, we're talking about it as a significant impact on a student's achievement. In math, we experienced an 8-point decline historic for this assessment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Researchers usually think of a 10-point gain or drop as equivalent to roughly a year of learning.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said it's a sign that schools need to redouble their efforts, using billions of dollars that Congress gave schools to help students recover.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Let me be very clear: these results are not acceptable, Cardona said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The NAEP test is typically given every two years. It was taken between January and March by a sample of students in every state, along with 26 of the nation's largest school districts. Scores had been stalling even before the pandemic, but the new results show decreases on a scale not seen before.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In both math and reading, students scored lower than those tested in 2019. But while reading scores dipped, math scores plummeted by the largest margins in the history of the NAEP test, which began in 1969.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Math scores were worst among eighth graders, with 38 per cent earning scores deemed below basic a cutoff that measures, for example, whether students can find the third angle of a triangle if they're given the other two. That's worse than 2019, when 31per cent of eighth graders scored below that level.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>No part of the country was exempt. Every region saw test scores slide, and every state saw declines in at least one subject.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Several major districts saw test scores fall by more than 10 points. Cleveland saw the largest single drop, falling 16 points in fourth-grade reading, along with a 15-point decline in fourth-grade math. Baltimore and Tennessee's Shelby County also saw precipitous declines.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is more confirmation that the pandemic hit us really hard, said Eric Gordon, chief executive for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. To help students recover, the school system has beefed up summer school and added after-school tutoring.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I'm not concerned that they can't or won't recover, Gordon said. I'm concerned that the country won't stay focused on getting kids caught up.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The results show a reversal of progress on math scores, which had made big gains since the 1990s. Reading, by contrast, had changed little in recent decades, so even this year's relatively small decreases put the averages back to where they were in 1992.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Most concerning, however, are the gaps between students.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Confirming what many had feared, racial inequities appear to have widened during the pandemic. In fourth grade, Black and Hispanic students saw bigger decreases than white students, widening gaps that have persisted for decades.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Inequities were also reflected in a growing gap between higher and lower performing students. In math and reading, scores fell most sharply among the lowest performing students, creating a widening chasm between struggling students and the rest of their peers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Surveys done as part of this year's test illustrate the divide.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When schools shifted to remote learning, higher performing students were far more likely to have reliable access to quiet spaces, computers and help from their teachers, the survey found.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Other recent studies have found that students who spent longer periods learning online suffered greater setbacks. But the NAEP results show no clear connection. Areas that returned to the classroom quickly still saw significant declines, and cities which were more likely to stay remote longer actually saw milder decreases than suburban districts, according to the results.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Los Angeles can claim one of the few bright spots in the results. The nation's second-largest school district saw eighth-grade reading scores increase by nine points, the only significant uptick in any district. For other districts, it was a feat just to hold even, as achieved by Dallas and Florida's Hillsborough County.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>(AP)&nbsp;</p> Tue Oct 25 12:16:47 IST 2022 life-after-breast-cancer-what-to-expect-and-how-to-manage <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer among women globally as well as in India. According to the World Cancer Report 2020, the most effective way for breast cancer control is early detection and rapid treatment. The only way to detect breast cancer early is awareness among people. If detected early or on time, breast cancer has higher survival rate.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When a person is diagnosed with breast cancer, not only does her life change, but the people associated with the patient are also affected in the process. Family, friends, and caregivers are expected to provide support for the loved one while also balancing their own needs. Sometimes this may become overwhelming for the people close to the patient, but it can be handled with the right attitude and emotions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Recently, actor Chhavi Mittal’s diagnosis of breast cancer has attracted people to know more about disease. She is a breast cancer survivor because she got her diagnosis on time. However, early diagnosis and treatment is one phase of breast cancer. Another important phase is the post-treatment care that is less talked about.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How to manage if you are suffering with breast cancer?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Breast cancer can mean making new lifestyle changes as the treatments can bring physical alterations to your body. After a surgery, there can be body scars that are visible, and some might also experience hair loss after chemotherapy.</p> <p>Breast cancer patients can also experience swelling in the hand, arm, or breast area because of built-up lymph fluid in the tissue surface called lymphoedema. If a woman has lymphoedema, she might have to wear full sleeves tops and dresses that will cover the area.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Three important changes affecting women undergoing breast cancer treatment:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Loss of breast</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Breast cancer surgery does not mean a woman has to loose her breast. Our present practice of breast surgery is known as ‘Oncoplastic Breast Preservation Surgery’ (OBPS). It involves simultaneous restructuring of breast after removal of the affected part/quadrant of breast by mobilising tissues from the same breast. If the defect is large or whole breast is removed then reconstruction of the part or whole breast is done by mobilising tissue from the either back or abdomen or an implant can also be inserted. Ninety-five times our patient leaves the operation theatre with breast. All the women who have lost their breast due to breast cancer and our cancer free at present can get their breast back with the help of advanced reconstructive techniques.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Swelling in the ipsilateral arm</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>More than 30 women post breast cancer treatment experience swelling in the ipsilateral arm which is sometimes associated with pain/tingling/numbness. This can be majorly prevented by taking right and appropriate measures during treatment. Breast cancer majority of times spread to axillary lymph nodes before spreading to other parts of the body. Henceforth, alongwith removal of breast tumour axillary lymph nodes are also removed/cleared as a part of breast cancer surgery. In standard axillary lymph node dissection majority of the lymph nodes are removed; which leads to swelling of the arm known as lymph edema due to interruption of lymph drainage from arm. Radiation compounds the lymph edema. If the patient is diagnosed at early stage and cancer has not spread to armpit i.e., axillary lymph nodes; the surgical procedure to address the axillary lymph nodes should be Sentinel Lymph node biopsy (SLNB) rather than axillary lymph node dissection (ALND). In Sentinel Lymph node biopsy special dyes are used to identify first station of axillary lymph nodes, the lymph node are identified and sent for biopsy. It is said if these lymph nodes are negative/clear, then 97 per cent times the cancer has not spread further and axillary lymph node dissection can be avoided, thus reducing the incidence of arm edema to less than 3 per cent. In patients who present with advanced cancers, now the norm is to give systemic therapy in form of chemotherapy/targeted therapy/immunotherapy/hormonal therapy before surgery and depending on the response those patients who show very got response can be subjected to SLNB instead of ALND.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even in patients undergoing ALND certain techniques like reverse axillary mapping, lymph venous anastomosis have led to decrease in lymphedema rates.</p> <p>Post-surgery all the patients of ALND should be coerced to start early rehabilitation in form pf physiotherapy, yoga and massages which delay/decrease lymphedema.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For patients who have already developed lymph edema post-surgery, the initial management is in form of physiotherapy and pressure garments. Certain form of yoga also helps in decreasing lymphedema. Majority patients, if they do these measures diligently does get relieve, also the important factor is early intervention, the lymphedema should not be allowed to progress, then it becomes difficult to treat.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lastly, surgical interventions in form of secondary lymph venous anastomosis and lymph node transfer can be considered, but results are guarded.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Loss of hair/skin changes and weakness</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This majority of times is a temporary phenomenon. Certain measures like cold cap and ayurvedic packs and supplements can decrease the intensity of these changes and enhance the recovery.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, these changes can be dealt with the following tips:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>1. Getting comfortable to the changes</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The sooner a person accepts the changes in body, it will be easier for them to become confident. This will be a little difficult initially for the patient at they might be shocked at first but over time they get more used to how it looks and feels after the treatment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>2. Maintain a proper diet and ensure regular exercise</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Breast cancer medications can lead to weight gain, and they may increase appetite and patients may eat more due to anxiety. Weight gain in patients can also be due to less activity during the treatment. Women are concerned about how their bodies look and weight gain can leave them with low self-esteem. However, with proper diet and routine exercise, breast cancer patients can lose weight.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>3. Don’t worry about the hair loss</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The main reason for hair loss is chemotherapy. Losing hair drastically can impact the confidence in a woman. However, this is a temporary side-effect that can be treated once the treatment is completed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>4. Reconstruction and prosthesis</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Women might want to reconstruct their natural appearance after a breast cancer surgery. While the reconstruction can give a breast shape, it might not be able to bring back the original breast but, will help them gain confidence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How to take care of someone suffering with breast cancer?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Taking care of someone with breast cancer requires dedicated time and energy for the patient. Sometimes this might put burden on the family, emotionally and economically.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A person suffering with breast cancer does not only need medical care but also need practical care like preparing meals, doing grocery, laundry, etc for the patient. Depending about the condition of the patient, they may also require assistance in eating food, going to the washroom or even getting dressed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Apart for physical assistance, emotional care is another aspect to keep in mind while taking care of the breast cancer patient. A caregiver should understand the fear of pain, recovery, and death that a patient goes through. Emotional care means listening to the patient, supporting during the therapy and show empathy and validation without minimising the person’s feelings.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At times, while caring for the breast cancer patients there may be situations that are beyond a caregiver’s abilities to manage alone. In situations like, change in medication, concern about self-harm/suicide or a change is person’s physical health, medical help should be taken.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Dr Mandeep Singh Malhotra is a surgical oncologist at CK Birla Hospital in New Delhi</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of THE WEEK.</i></p> Sat Oct 22 22:00:13 IST 2022 late-night-eating-could-lead-to-weight-gain--diabetes <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Northwestern Medicine scientists have uncovered the mechanism behind why eating late at night is linked to weight gain and diabetes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The connection between eating time, sleep and obesity is well-known but poorly understood, with research showing that over-nutrition can disrupt circadian rhythms and change fat tissue.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>New Northwestern research has shown for the first time that energy release may be the molecular mechanism through which our internal clocks control energy balance. From this understanding, the scientists also found that daytime is the ideal time in the light environment of the Earth's rotation when it is most optimal to dissipate energy as heat. These findings have broad implications from dieting to sleep loss and the way we feed patients who require long-term nutritional assistance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The paper, &quot;Time-restricted feeding mitigates obesity through adipocyte thermogenesis,&quot; will be published online today, and in print tomorrow (Oct. 21) in the journal Science.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;It is well known, albeit poorly understood, that insults to the body clock are going to be insults to metabolism,&quot; said corresponding study author Dr. Joseph T. Bass, the Charles F. Kettering Professor of Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. He also is a Northwestern Medicine endocrinologist.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;When animals consume Western style cafeteria diets -- high fat, high carb -- the clock gets scrambled,&quot; Bass said. &quot;The clock is sensitive to the time people eat, especially in fat tissue, and that sensitivity is thrown off by high-fat diets. We still don't understand why that is, but what we do know is that as animals become obese, they start to eat more when they should be asleep. This research shows why that matters.&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bass is also director of the Center for Diabetes and Metabolism and the chief of endocrinology in the department of medicine at Feinberg. Chelsea Hepler, a postdoctoral fellow in the Bass Lab, was the first author and did many of the biochemistry and genetics experiments that grounded the team's hypothesis. Rana Gupta, now at Duke University, was also a key collaborator.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Scrambling the internal clock</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the study, mice, who are nocturnal, were fed a high-fat diet either exclusively during their inactive (light) period or during their active (dark) period. Within a week, mice fed during light hours gained more weight compared to those fed in the dark. The team also set the temperature to 30 degrees, where mice expend the least energy, to mitigate the effects of temperature on their findings.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;We thought maybe there's a component of energy balance where mice are expending more energy eating at specific times,&quot; Hepler said. &quot;That's why they can eat the same amount of food at different times of the day and be healthier when they eat during active periods versus when they should be sleeping.&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The increase in energy expenditure led the team to look into metabolism of fat tissue to see if the same effect occurred within the endocrine organ. They found that it did, and mice with genetically enhanced thermogenesis -- or heat release through fat cells -- prevented weight gain and improved health.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hepler also identified futile creatine cycling, in which creatine (a molecule that helps maintain energy) undergoes storage and release of chemical energy, within fat tissues, implying creatine may be the mechanism underlying heat release.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Intermittent fasting and gastric feeding tubes</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The science is underpinned by research done by Bass and colleagues at Northwestern more than 20 years ago that found a relationship between the internal molecular clock and body weight, obesity and metabolism in animals.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The challenge for Bass's lab, which focuses on using genetic approaches to study physiology, has been figuring out what it all means, and finding the control mechanisms that produce the relationship. This study brings them a step closer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The findings could inform chronic care, Bass said, especially in cases where patients have gastric feeding tubes. Patients are commonly fed at night while they sleep, when they're releasing the least amount of energy. Rates of diabetes and obesity tend to be high for these patients, and Bass thinks this could explain why. He also wonders how the research could impact Type II Diabetes treatment.&nbsp;</p> Sat Oct 22 16:22:21 IST 2022 who-chief-scientist-says-new-omicron-subvariant-may-cause-fresh-covid-19-wave <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A new subvariant of Omicron could trigger a fresh wave of Covid-19 infections in some countries, World Health Organisation (WHO) chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan has said.</p> <p>There are over 300 subvariants of Omicron, but what is of concern right now is the XBB, which is a recombinant virus, she said. “We had seen some recombinant viruses earlier. It is very immune-evasive, which means it can overcome the antibodies. So slightly that we may see another wave of infections in some countries because of XBB,&quot; she told reporters on the sidelines of the annual general meeting of the Developing Countries Vaccine Manufacturers Network (DCVMN) in Pune.</p> <p>The WHO is also tracking derivatives of variants BA.5 and BA.1, which are also more transmissible and immune-evasive. She, however, clarified that so far there is no data from any country to suggest these subvariants are more clinically severe.</p> <p>She further said: &quot;We need to continue to monitor and track. We have seen that testing has gone down across countries, the genomic surveillance has also gone down over the last few months. We need to maintain at least a strategic sampling of genomic surveillance so that we can keep tracking the variants as we have been doing and studying,&quot; she said.</p> <p>She further stated that the Director General of the WHO has said that Covid-19 continues to be a public health emergency of international concern.</p> <p>Speaking of vaccine coverage, she said the goal is to fully vaccinate 100 per cent of people over the age of 60 and 100 per cent of health care and frontline workers</p> <p>&quot;The full vaccination schedule is actually three doses. The primary two doses plus booster in the next four to six months. But in many countries, including India, the uptake of the booster is low. So we really encourage people to take the third dose,&quot; she said.</p> <p><b>Low booster coverage</b></p> <p>Speaking on the sidelines of the same event, Chief Executive Officer of Serum Institute of India (SII) Adar Poonawalla said there is no demand for Covid-19 booster vaccines as people are fed up with the pandemic.</p> <p> Poonawalla added that SII stopped the production of the Covishield vaccine since December 2021. Around 100 million doses also got expired, he said.</p> <p>Going forward, when people take a few shots every year, they may take anti-coronavirus vaccines and other shots together, Poonawalla said, adding, &quot;It will become that kind of a product.&quot;</p> Fri Oct 21 15:41:36 IST 2022 less-than-5-hours-of-night-sleep-linked-to-risk-of-chronic-disea <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Sleeping for less than five hours in mid-to-late life is associated with the risk of developing at least two chronic diseases, a UK study has found.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Researchers from the University College London (UCL) in the UK found that people who reported getting five hours of sleep or less at age 50 were 20 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with a chronic disease.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They were also 40 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with two or more chronic diseases over a follow-up period of 25 years, compared to those who slept for up to seven hours.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The study, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, also found that sleeping for five hours or less at the age of 50, 60, and 70 was linked to a 30 per cent to 40 per cent increased risk of multimorbidity, or being diagnosed with two or more chronic diseases, when compared with those who slept for up to seven hours.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;Multimorbidity is on the rise in high income countries and more than half of older adults now have at least two chronic diseases,&quot; said study lead author, Severine Sabia. &quot;This is proving to be a major challenge for public health, as multimorbidity is associated with high healthcare service use, hospitalisations and disability,&quot; Sabia said. The researchers also found that sleep duration of five hours or less at age 50 was associated with 25 per cent increased risk of mortality over the follow-up period.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This can mainly be explained by the fact that short sleep duration increases the risk of chronic diseases that in turn increase the risk of death, they said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;As people get older, their sleep habits and sleep structure change. However, it is recommended to sleep for 7 to 8 hours a night - as sleep durations above or below this have previously been associated with individual chronic diseases,&quot; said Sabia.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers examined the relationship between how long each participant slept for, mortality and whether they were multimorbid such as with heart disease, cancer or diabetes over the course of 25 years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The study analysed the impact of sleep duration on the health of more than 7,000 men and women at the ages of 50, 60 and 70, from the Whitehall II cohort study, which was conducted from 1985 to 1988 and examined the health of 10,308 civil servants aged 35 to 55, of whom two thirds were men and one third women.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;Our findings show that short sleep duration is also associated with multimorbidity. To ensure a better night's sleep, it is important to promote good sleep hygiene, such as making sure the bedroom is quiet, dark and a comfortable temperature before sleeping.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;It is also advised to remove electronic devices and avoid large meals before bedtime. Physical activity and exposure to light during the day might also promote good sleep,&quot; said Sabia.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As part of the study, researchers also assessed whether sleeping for a long duration, of nine hours or more, affected health outcomes. There was no clear association between long sleep durations at age 50 and multimorbidity in healthy people.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, if a participant had already been diagnosed with a chronic condition, then long sleep duration was associated with around a 35 per cent increased risk of developing another illness.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Researchers believe this could be due to underlying health conditions impacting sleep.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers noted that because the data used for the study was self-reported by the participants, it was likely to be subject to reporting bias, even though the findings were confirmed through electronic measurements of the sleep of 4,000 participants.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The research only involved members of the civil service, who were all employed when recruited to the study and likely to be healthier than the general population, they added.&nbsp;</p> Thu Oct 20 16:49:02 IST 2022