Category Archives: Health

Bacteria in the gut could be linked to Parkinson’s, research finds

Animal experiments by scientists in California has successfully linked bacteria in the gut to Parkinson’s disease.

active-1853657_960_720

Parkinson’s disease is when an individual’s specific nerve cells in the brain don’t work properly, this is because the nerve cells in question create neurotransmitter, Dopamine. Dopamine transports signals to the section of your brain that influences motion. A Parkinson’s sufferer’s nerve cells that manage movement are damaged, meaning they can no longer move with ease. The disease has no cure and slowly worsens with time.

The recent research is a step in the right direction for those with Parkinson’s. The scientific process looked at mice with Parkinson’s and healthy mice. The scientists found that only the mice with stomach bacteria began to experience Parkinson’s symptoms.

According to the summary of the Scientist’s entry in Science Journal, Cell ‘microbmicrobial re-colonization promotes, pathophysiology in adult animals, suggesting that postnatal signaling between the gut and the brain modulates disease’. 

medic-563425_960_720.jpg

Director of Research at Parkinson’s UK, Dr Arthur Roach, says:

“The greatest need in Parkinson’s research is to develop treatments that can stop or slow down the processes that first lead to the condition, something no current treatments can do. This work opens an exciting new avenue of study on the gut-brain connection in Parkinson’s. There are still many questions to answer but we hope this will trigger more research that will ultimately revolutionise treatment options for Parkinson’s.”

 

 

Should we keep an open mind on Cryonics?

Earlier this year, a 14-year-old British girl suffering from a rare form of cancer won a major legal battle to have her body cryogenically frozen after her death. The teenager, who died in October, has since been moved to the US, where she is one of 250 people being preserved after death. Following this BBC story , several media outlets were outraged and questioned the reliability of Cryonics.

alcor-or3
Cryonics in action, Cryonics Institute

Death has always been a controversial subject, with Christianity and Islam stating that there is a life after death and the quality of your life after death depends on how you lead this life. Cryonics is used by various people for a myriad of reasons and maybe one of them is to have another opportunity at life.

Tim Gibson of charity, Cyronics UK suggests that those who choose the process are often scientists who simply want to preserve their data”, explaining why many of those who have undergone the process have had only their heads cryopreserved. Cryonics originated in 1962, with the book ‘The Prospect of Immortality’ authored by the Founder of the Cryonics Institute, Robert Ettinger. According to Mr Gibson the book is not exclusively about Cryonics, it also mentions “stem-cell technology” and “nanotechnology” both of which “are in use now”.

alcor-or4
Surgeons at work,Cryonics Institute

Stem-cell technology has experienced a high-level of controversy, especially in terms of embryonic stem-cell research as its seen as cruel and pro-life campaigners are arguing that conception is the start of life, raising ethical questions. Cryonics only happens with the consent of the individual in question and it would take extensive research and in-depth thinking before an individual even decides to be cryopreserved. What is it that subjects Cryonics to so much criticism?

The high cost of Cryonics could be part of the cynicism surrounding the process. Mr Gibson states that £40,000 is on the “lower end of the potential price of Cryonics” this cost is usually paid for “using life insurance”. The sum is high, yet the level of technology and power necessary for cryopreservation could help to explain the cost off the high-tech “equipment” and the medical procedures required. The rest is put into a trust fund that helps to protect the individual in case the Cryonics Institute goes bankrupt.

alcor-or2
Cryonics lab, Cryonics Institue

Marine Engineering Lecturer at Newcastle University, Dr Dawei Wu is interested in this controversial subject, but believes “there is a slim chance that a government body would subsidise the process, so at present it could alienate those less economically mobile.” Mr Gibson also stated that the process could be expensive “for a young family with a few kids”. Dr Wu thinks that Cryonics has a future and “it could also be useful if in the future if we decided to move around in space”.

World AID’s day

aids.jpgEvery year December world AID’s day is held and people around the world wear a red ribbon to demonstrate their support. The event is organised by the charity Nation AID’s Trust (NAT) and aims to unite the world in the fight against aids, support people living with the virus and commemorate the people that have lost their lives to AID’s
The HIV/AID’s epidemic started in the 1984 and since then has taken the lives of around 35 million people. There are roughly 100,000 people living in the UK with AID’s, two thirds of them are men and an estimated 6,000 more people are diagnosed each year with the virus.
One of the main focuses of the day is to try and remove the stigma around being diagnosed with AID’s. Since the virus was discovered drugs and methods of keeping the symptoms under control have been used successfully in practice. Now a diagnosis of HIV/AID’s is not a death sentence; people with the virus usually have the same life expectancy as someone without it.
NAT and the NHS are working in collaboration trying to fight the virus and the health service has promised a greater emphasis on person-centred care and more joined-up services. Deborah Gold, Chief Executive of NAT, says:
“This World AIDS Day, NAT is calling for a step-change in how the NHS approaches HIV. We need to maintain our excellent treatment outcomes while building future health services which meet the care and support needs of the over 100,000 people who will live with HIV for the rest of their lives.”
Removing the stigma around having the virus and getting people initially tested is one of the most important hurdles to overcome when tackling AID’s. To raise awareness this year Prince Harry and Rhianna both went to get tested for the virus in Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados. They both had the finger-prick test and both cases came back negative but the purpose of this was to show how quick and easy it is to get tested.
Since the AID’s epidemic broke out just over 40 years ago lots of high profile figures have come forward as being HIV positive including Charlie Sheen, Danny Pintauro and Freddie Mercury.
Positively UK is a charity based in Islington that works with people who have been diagnosed HIV positive, offering workshops, support groups, medical help and advice about how to live with HIV on a daily basis. Silvia Petritti, the deputy CEO of Positively UK explains the huge advancements in HIV care including being able to have children who are HIV free, being able to not pass on the virus to sexual partners when it’s controlled with medication and longer life expectancy.
Silvia emphasises that the stigma around the virus is still the biggest thing people need to overcome;
“It is because of stigma that many people are still too scared to test for HIV and access lifesaving services. The most powerful tool we have to beat stigma is education and talking about HIV. The HIV activists of the 80’s used to say Silence = Death, and this is still true today.”

How Close Is the UK to Medical Marijuana Legalisation?

The scientific community appears split when it comes to recreational use of marijuana. Despite proof that marijuana consumption might trigger latent mental illnesses, several experts argue cannabis poses limited health threats.

However, evidence concerning medicinal cannabis is considered more solid. Research points to marijuana being a viable treatment for illnesses ranging from multiple sclerosis to epilepsy, from chronic pain to depression.

In last month’s United States election, four additional states voted to legalise marijuana. As a result, marijuana for medical purposes is legal in 28 US states, while recreational use is allowed in eight.

Ireland is  unprecedentedly close to legalisation, as the Dàil (Assembly of Ireland) recently received permission by the Government to pass a bill that would decriminalise medical marijuana. In Europe, ten states currently allow patients to access medical cannabis, with the addition of Germany in 2017.

The issue of marijuana legalisation in the UK appears hazy. UK drug policies regulating the consumption of marijuana date back to 1971. The Misuse of Drugs Act classifies marijuana as a class B drug, implying the substance has no medical properties. However, there are limited ways to legally get hold of the substance for medicinal use.

Paul Hussey, London-based sound engineer, is a regular marijuana user. However, he wouldn’t be caught dead holding a joint. Paul is a cancer survivor who relied on medical cannabis oil all throughout his recovery, and continues to use it to prevent a recurrence. He told City Beat: “The worst thing that happened to marijuana is that it’s become synonymous with smoking. Smoking is the last thing you should do with it.”

The oil Paul swears by is currently illegal in the UK. He recently launched a petition and a Facebook campaign, calling for the decriminalisation of marijuana for cancer patients.

In the video interview below, Paul explains his approach to cannabis oil and the reasons behind his petition.

His cause is also receiving support on a larger scale, with an All Party Group of MPs currently advocating for the legalisation of medical marijuana. Labour MP Paul Flynn, Conservative former cabinet minister Peter Lilley and Green Party leader Caroline Lucas were quick to back a pro-legalisation report issued by the Adam Smith Institute. The report indicates a legal marijuana market would bring significant economic benefits to the UK, with an estimated annual worth of £6.8m.

Marijuana-derived products are available on the UK market in two limited forms. Medicinal cannabis can be legally prescribed to cure spasticity in multiple sclerosis patients, though access is left at the discretion of GPs.

Other types of oils containing marijuana are available in the UK: they are referred to as CBD and are useful in the treatment of various conditions resulting in seizures, primarily epilepsy. These products do not contain TCH, marijuana psychoactive component, meaning they do not provide the substance’s traditional ‘high’. Until recently, these products were not classified as medicine and, therefore, were not subject to the same quality controls as pharmaceutical products.

UCL Pharmacognosy Professor Michael Heinrich explains CBD products are going to face tougher regulations from the Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) by the end of the year, as they are now considered medicine.

This is likely to reduce circulation of CBD oils, usually produced by small companies, which do not have the funds to get in line with the MHRA’s medicine-level standards. Dr Heinrich suggests the UK might want to draw inspiration from the Dutch medical marijuana model, should the MHRA decide to legalise the substance.

Dementia – “The most feared disease in the UK”

dementia.jpg

Dementia has become the leading cause of death in the UK. It is also the most feared disease among British people, overtaking cancer and heart disease.

The term dementia refers to a variety of neurodegenerative diseases all affecting the brain. The most common impairment associated with dementia is memory loss but mobility, balance and orientation can all be triggered by dementia.

Last year 1 in 8 people in England and Wales died from dementia. Medics are suggesting the rising number of dementia related deaths is due to increased life expectancy and better diagnosis. Women are particularly more susceptible to dementia, as it has been proven that women tend to live longer than men. What is more, dementia typically develops later in life. The risk factors and chances of developing dementia increase the longer people live.

There is still no cure for the killer disease. Sarah Robertson, a medical researcher at University College London is looking into finding a cure for dementia and investigating methods of prolonging the most common symptoms of dementia.

“Billions of pounds have been spent on trying to find a cure for dementia and it’s been unsuccessful, and we’re quite far from a cure.  Different people will say different things but we have a huge crisis in care at the moment that needs to be dealt with and we need research to understand how best to provide care for people with dementia because they exist here and now and we are decades at best away from finding a treatment for them.”

She argues that the biggest crisis dementia research faces at the moment is whether or not to pour money into funding medical research for finding a cure or by supporting the care workers that have to deal with the effects of dementia on a daily basis.

Caring for someone with dementia can be physically and emotionally draining. Carers need to be on constant alert, helping patients with routine tasks on a daily basis and provide emotional comfort and support. Alzheimer’s Society predict that there are around 670,000 unpaid people in the UK working as full time dementia carers, totalling an estimated saving of £1 billion a year for the NHS.

Groups and workshops are available all over the country offering help and support to people suffering from dementia and their carers. Madhumita Bose runs a Memory Group based in Barbican every  Tuesday afternoon,at The City of London Education and Arts Centre,targeted to help anyone who has already been diagnosed with dementia or is suffering from memory loss. Here participants are able to relax, have a drink and snack, make friends, participate in activities, go on trips and enjoy listening to a variety of guest speakers.

“The session gives them a chance to talk and relax and not feel depressed about it, a lot of them are not well they are very frail, we try to encourage them to forget all of their problems”, says Madhumita.

Local communities do as much as they can to help improve the lives of people living with dementia, but as more money is funded into finding a cure for the disease, local councils are very limited with the amount of money they can allocate towards helping carers and patients.

Dementia is claiming more and more lives every year, killing 61,686 people last year. However, investigations published earlier this month in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine suggest that more education could delay the process of developing symptoms associated with dementia. The study found that the longer that adults are in education, the more this helps to keep the brain engaged in later life meaning that as the neurones in the brain start to deteriorate the remaining parts of the brain are able to compensate for the loss and prevent the symptoms of dementia from showing.

The investigation was conducted at the University of Michigan by Professor Kenneth Langa who said: “Our results add to a growing body of evidence that this decline in dementia risk is a real phenomenon, and that the expected future growth in the burden of dementia may not be as extensive as once thought.”

The NHS is still struggling to supply care to the millions of people suffering from dementia and the lengths to which it can stretch are becoming increasingly strained, as the population continues to live longer.

The study conducted in America that proved spending more time in education results in a smaller chance of developing symptoms of dementia has been supported by data collected across Europe giving hope to people and the health care service that the dementia diagnosis may not look as bleak as was once predicted.

One third of children found to be behind in their development by age 5 in England

Research conducted by the Department of Education has found that a third of school children in England are behind in their development by the age of 5. The study details that 31% of under-5’s lack development in the areas of communication, language, maths and social skills.

It is believed that this is an even greater problem with children who originate from deprived backgrounds; as 52% of children who receive free school meals fall behind national expectations, compared to just 70% overall. Save the Children, an international NGO (non-governmental organisation) which promotes children’s rights, has hit out at the Department of Education, claiming that this is clear evidence children are being “denied a fair start in life”. The chief executive for the organisation, Kevin Watkins, has stated:

“It’s shocking that in this day and age so many children in England, 0particularly the poorest, are at greater risk of falling behind by the time they reach school because of our chronic shortage of nursery teachers, a shortage that shows little signs of improving.”

Evidence corroborates this; in England, there is thought to be a shortage of 11,000 teachers for the particular age group, leading some to believe that this is the main source of the problem.

Nevertheless opinions vary over what the real reason for the issue could be. Sophie Higgins, a nutritional therapist from London claims to not be at all shocked by the findings- “I think it has a lot to do with how our diet is over here, so no, it doesn’t surprise me at all.”

London students Sheri Chucks and Alex Hillyard likewise share this opinion- “you’d think there wouldn’t be a lack in development because there’s so much more information about their development as whole”.

They also believe it has to do with the way parents bring up children, particularly with regards to communication-“It think when they’re younger, it’s about how much conversation you have with them…I’ve got a 7 year old sister and we talk to her as though she is a grown up person, like someone our age, so she’s more advanced in the way that she speaks.”

However, the Department of Education has denied any wrongdoing, claiming that; “We are clear that high quality early education is vital in giving all children the best chance to fulfil their potential…We are determined to go further to improve quality, which is why we are doing more than ever to help attract and retain the best staff and are investing a record £6bn per year in childcare by 2020.”