Today's Medical Fact
About 75 percent of what we perceive as taste actually comes from our sense of smell.
Cues to a mother's mental health might be found in the way she holds her baby. New research suggests that moms who cradle their babies on their right-hand side may be showing signs of extreme maternal stress. The findings may hold clues to identifying women at risk of developing post-partum depression, a condition that affects 1 in 10 new mothers.
The study looked at the relationship between maternal mood and stress and how it affects the preference for cradling on the left or right. The results indicated that mothers who were neither stressed nor depressed cradled to the left in 86% of the cases, regardless of whether they were right- or left-handed, and to the right in 14% of the cases. Examining the group of stressed mothers, it was shown that the preference was for right-side cradling.
Most new mothers do not realize when they are overly stressed and in need of support. Researchers say studying such non-verbal cues as cradling preference could potentially help doctors identify new mothers who are at risk of developing depression before it's too late.
Obesity is a growing worldwide epidemic that is often blamed solely on an unhealthy diet and a sedentary lifestyle. That notion is being reconsidered, however, in light of new research. Recent findings show that some cases of obesity may actually be caused by a virus that can be caught much the same way as the common cold.
Scientists at Louisiana State University have found that the human adenovirus-36, known to cause respiratory and eye infections, can also transform adult stem cells found under the skin into fat cells and increase the fat content in humans. The findings suggest that the virus might contribute to the development of obesity in susceptible people.
Not all people infected with the virus will develop obesity and not all cases of obesity are caused by the virus, but the research does seem to indicate that in some people factors other than diet and exercise may play a part in being overweight. Experts still agree, however, that a healthy diet and an active lifestyle will help most people maintain a healthy weight.
The loss of smell in aging adults may be more than just another inevitable part of getting older. According to a recent study funded by the National Institute on Aging and the Illinois Department of Public Health, losing the ability to recognize common scents may be the first sign of Alzheimer's disease.
The study followed 600 people between the ages of 54 and 100 over a five year period, comparing a person's ability to recognize a dozen familiar smells (banana, black pepper, chocolate, cinnamon, gasoline, lemon, onion, paint thinner, pineapple, rose, soap, and smoke) with any signs of mental decline. The results indicated that as the difficulty to identify odors developed, so did the risk of progressing from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer's.
While no one knows what causes Alzheimer's disease, researchers have long known that the brain lesions that develop with the disease first appear in the brain region important to the sense of smell. While there is yet no cure, the results of this test may prove useful in developing a scratch-and-sniff test that would identify a person's risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. The test could be used to slow down or prevent the disease from developing once a cure is available.
The information is not meant to cause a panic, as a diminishing sense of smell may also indicate other less serious conditions such as infected sinuses or a polyp in the nose, but it should be reported to your doctor for further examination.
Exciting new research will help diabetics check their blood-sugar levels without having to prick their fingers with a needle up to six times a day. Scientists and researchers, who have been working for years to develop a non-invasive method of monitoring blood-sugar levels in the body, are applying new technology into color-shifting contact lenses that will allow diabetics to check their blood-sugar levels by simply looking into a mirror.
The technology behind this breakthrough is the study of nanoparticles, tiny microscopic materials that are being studied and used to develop many new products. Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh have been studying small particles called photonic crystals, particles which change color in the presence of certain chemicals. More specifically, they have been experimenting with photonic crystals that can detect blood-sugar levels in tear fluid.
The two scientists working on the research, Vladimir Alexeev and Sanford Asher, have been successful in the laboratory with this technology. While it will be several more years before these contact lenses are available to the public, this sugar-sensing, color-shifting technology will benefit millions of people who are suffering from diabetes. The specially designed contact lenses would be embedded with gel strips at the edge of each lens. If blood sugar levels are at a healthy level, the gel strip appears green; if blood sugar levels are too low, the gel strip will turn red; if there is too much sugar in the body the strip will turn blue.
Researchers at the University of Bath, one of the top universities in England, have found a connection between the length of children's index and ring fingers and SAT test scores.
Their findings claim that you can predict whether kids will have a higher verbal score or a higher math score by comparing the length of the ring fingers to the length of the index fingers. Kids with longer ring fingers than index fingers tend to score higher on the math portion of the college entrance exam, while kids with longer index fingers than ring fingers are more likely to score higher on the reading, writing, and verbal portion of the exam.
The connection is attributed to the amount of estrogen and testosterone that a baby is exposed to while in the womb. Scientists have known that differing levels of these hormones affect finger length, which reflects the areas of the brain that are more highly developed than others. Exposure to testosterone in the womb promotes areas of brain development associated with math and spatial skills; it also lengthens the ring finger. Exposure to estrogen increases development in areas of the brain associated with verbal ability and tends to make the index finger longer than the ring finger.
The researcher who led the study, Mark Brosnan, explains that the finger length ratio can provide us with all kinds of interesting insights into our natural cognitive abilities. In addition to predicting SAT test scores, research will continue to determine the connection between other behavioral and cognitive issues, such as temperament and career choices.
It has been reported that Viagra, a drug approved by the FDA in 1998 to treat male impotence, may have another useful application. Researchers at a Argentinian University state that findings from their study suggest that the drug could also be useful in treating jet lag and helping people cope with shift work.
The test subjects for this study were a group of adult male hamsters who were given doses of Viagra after the scientists manipulated the lights to induce the conditions of jet lag. The hamsters who were given Viagra recovered from jet lag up to 50% faster than the hamsters that were not given the drug. In order to avoid certain Viagra-induced side effects, the dosage was given at an intermediate strength rather than at full strength.
Viagra helps in the recovery of jet lag by interfering with an enzyme that plays a role in the regulation of the body's circadian cycle. The body's circadian rhythm, which is the body's biological clock, is roughly a 24-hour cycle. Jet lag, a sleep disorder that occurs when the body's circadian rhythm is out of sync, is most likely due to the disruption in the "light/dark" cycle that affects the circadian rhythm. Jet lag is not induced by the amount of travel time, but occurs when traveling from east to west across time zones.
While the finding could prove useful in treating jet lag, it is not reported how the researchers decided to test this application of Viagra.
A new discovery offers hope for finding a treatment for hair loss from male-pattern baldness, scarring alopecia, and scalp injury. Studies done on adult mice at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have shown that hair follicles can be regenerated in adult mammals, something that was once thought to be impossible.
The research focused on the healing process of deep skin wounds on the backs of adult mice. It is known that mammals are able to heal from injuries, but it was accepted that they could not replace lost body parts, such as limbs or hair follicles. In this study, the researchers found a way to amplify the natural healing process and reactivate dormant embryonic molecular pathways. Stem cells, which are master cells capable of transforming into other cell types, were sent to the damaged skin. The stem cells reprogrammed epidermal cells, which are cells that don't normally make hair follicles, and instructed them to make a follicle. The new follicle functioned normally, cycling thru the hair growth cycle and producing hair.
The findings of the research will be used to develop treatments not only for male-pattern baldness, but also for hair loss due to diseases and injuries that destroy hair follicles. It is also thought that the information will lead to scar free surgery. While products available for actual use in humans will take years to develop, at least there is hope on the horizon for an effective baldness remedy.
When a sore on Catrina Hurlburt's leg would not heal with traditional oral antibiotics, her doctor suggested they try using topical honey. The patient, a borderline diabetic, had been suffering from cellulitis and staph infections for over eight months from injuries sustained in a car accident. With honey treatment, the sore healed completely within a few months.
The doctor, Dr. Jennifer Eddy at the University of Wisconsin, has successfully saved many diabetic patients from having an amputation using honey therapy.
Diabetics face a high risk of amputation of the feet and legs because the disease often causes poor circulation and a decreased ability to fight infection that makes it difficult for wounds to heal. It is estimated that every 30 seconds an amputation is performed on someone somewhere in the world due to a diabetic foot ulcer.
The ancient Egyptians were aware of the antibiotic benefits of honey and commonly used it as a medicine to treat wounds and prevent infection.
Today, doctors and researchers are finding that honey does indeed kill bacteria and fight infection. It has even been effective at treating antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria and "flesh-eating" bacteria. When applied to burns and wounds, honey heals without leaving any scars.
A new study has linked migraines to brain damage. The severity of damage depends on the type of migraine.
28 million Americans, or approximately 1 in 10 Americans, suffer from migraines-- most of those being between the ages of 20 to 40. Women are the primary sufferers of migraines.
The study was done on mice, but people with migraines may also be suffering from some brain damage as brain cells swell and become starved of oxygen. Their findings could help explain why migraine sufferers have a higher risk of stroke.
Doctors said their research suggests that migraine sufferers should not simply get pain relief but should take drugs that prevent the migraine, which is often preceded by an "aura" -- a sensation that can include flashes of lights or a current of warm or cold air.
Usual pain medication often has little effect on migraines, however a class of drugs called triptans and ergotamine drugs, have been successful in preventing the worst effects if they are taken at the first sign of migraine symptoms. The newly released study also suggests that giving oxygen may help reduce the damage.