New smartphone app offers non-invasive test for diabetics

British scientists have developed a new smartphone app that can help measure and monitor blood glucose levels without using a drop of blood, a finding that can transform lives of millions of people with diabetes. The app — called as Epic Health — replaces the need for diabetics to prick their fingers several times a day.

The app, suitable for both Type 1 and 2 diabetics, works by placing a fingertip over the camera lens of a smartphone and capturing a series of close-up images that convey information about the user’s heart rate, temperature and blood pressure to respiration rate and blood oxygen saturation, the researchers said.

“The app uses a simple protocol which prompts the user to take a noninvasive test and this allows us to capture the vital information in a systematic way which produces the most consistent results,” Dominic Wood, founder of the app, was quoted as saying to the express.co.uk.

“This is a massive driver of prevention,” and even targets, “everyone yet to be diagnosed with or in the general risk of diabetes when it’s still preventable”, Wood added.

Importantly, the Epic app can measure insulin resistance level — a key way of determining whether someone is pre-diabetic. It does this by measuring the variation in the patient’s pulse which is related to blood glucose concentration. This would allow someone to alter their lifestyle to avoid developing full-blown Type 2 diabetes, the researchers said.

“The prospect of a non-invasive app that monitors blood glucose levels without a drop of blood and without even an accompanying piece of technology is an exciting one,” said Dan Howarth from Diabetes UK. The app, which has been in development for three years, will undergo clinical trials in the coming months.

It will be available to download, free of charge, by the end of the year, the researchers said.

Meningitis shot also offers some defence against gonorrhoea: Study

Researchers studying a mass vaccination campaign against meningitis have found a surprising side effect – the shots also offered moderate protection against gonorrhoea, a sexually transmitted infection that is causing global alarm.

The findings, published in The Lancet medical journal on Tuesday, mark the first time an immunisation has shown any protection against gonorrhoea and point to new avenues in the search for a gonorrhoea vaccine, scientists said.

“This new research could be game-changing,” said Linda Glennie, an expert at the Meningitis Research Foundation who was not directly involved in the study.

Gonorrhoea has become an increasingly urgent global health problem in recent years as strains of the bacterial infection have developed high levels of drug resistance.

The World Health Organization warned last week that some totally drug-resistance superbug strains of the disease already pose a major threat.

Yet so far, efforts to develop a gonorrhoea vaccine have yielded disappointing results: Four potential shots have reached the clinical trial stage, but none has been effective.

In New Zealand, around 1 million people under age 20 received a meningitis vaccine known as MeNZB during a 2004-2006 immunisation programme. This provided a valuable opportunity to test for cross-protection, the scientists explained.

For their study, the team used data from 11 sexual health clinics for all people aged 15 to 30 who had been diagnosed with gonorrhoea or chlamydia, or both, and who had also been eligible to be immunised against meningitis in the 2004-2006 campaign.

They found that those who had been vaccinated were significantly less likely to have gonorrhoea. And taking into account factors such as ethnicity, deprivation, geographical area and gender, having the MeNZB vaccine reduced the incidence of gonorrhoea by around 31 percent.

Helen Petousis-Harris, who co-led the study at the University of Auckland, said the findings “provide experimental evidence and a proof of principle” that meningitis vaccines might offer moderate cross-protection against gonorrhoea.

“Our findings could inform future vaccine development for both the meningococcal and gonorrhoea vaccines,” she said.

Despite the diseases being very different in symptoms and transmission modes, she added, the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Neisseria meningitidis have an up to 90 percent genetic match, providing a biologically plausible mechanism.

New biomarkers may help detect brain injury faster

Researchers have identified inflammatory biomarkers which can be used to develop a test that can help detect whether the brain has suffered injury in the first hour of accident.

The test can be used on the side of a sports pitch or by paramedics to detect traumatic brain injury — which leads to very early alterations in inflammatory proteins — at the scene of an accident, as well as improve clinical interventions, the researchers said.

“Traumatic brain injury is the leading cause of death and disability among young adults and, according to the World Health Organization, by 2020 this will become the world’s leading cause of neurological disability across all age groups,” said Lisa Hill from the University of Birmingham in the Britian.

The study identified three inflammatory biomarkers — known as CST5, AXIN1 and TRAIL — of traumatic brain injury.

While CST5 identified patients with severe traumatic brain injury within the first hour of injury, AXIN1 and TRAIL were able to discriminate between brain injury and uninjured patient controls in an hour.

“Early and objective pre-hospital detection of traumatic brain injury would support clinical decision making and the correct triage of major trauma,” added Valentina Di Pietro from the University’s Institute of Inflammation and Ageing.

Moreover, correct diagnosis of traumatic brain injury, which is one of hardest diagnosis to make in medicine, would allow clinicians to implement strategies to reduce secondary brain injury at an early stage, the researchers said.

Currently, no reliable biomarkers exist to help diagnose the severity of traumatic brain injury and identify patients who are at risk of developing secondary injuries that impair function, damage other brain structures and promote further cell death.

“In addition, this has potential implications for drug development, as novel compounds could be given immediately after injury and potentially commenced at the roadside, if there was sufficient confidence in the diagnosis of traumatic brain injury,” Pietro said.

For the study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, blood samples were taken from 30 injured patients within the first hour of injury prior to the patient arriving at hospital.

These tattoos changes colour depending on blood-sugar level and could be the next big boon for diabetics

Love getting inked? With time we have come across various tattoo trends, from minimalist tattoos to elaborate colourful tattoos, that says a story of their own. But do you think it’s just a fashion statement? While there may have been few bizarre and unusual tattoo trends in the last couple of years, from people donning eyeball tattoos to freckles. There are many who have used tattoos for a good cause. scare-hiding tattoos have been there for quite some time now, that helps patients with big surgical scars and acid attack victims to beautify their marks, now there is a colour-changing tattoo. Yes, and it’s not about style, this has been designed for patients with diabetes.

Scare-hiding tattoos have been there for quite some time now, that helps patients with big surgical scars and acid attack victims to beautify their marks, now there is a colour-changing tattoo. Yes, and it’s not about style, this has been designed for patients with diabetes.

A group of researchers from Harvard and MIT have recently created tattoos that change colour based on the rise and fall in the blood sugar levels. The colour-changing ink used in these ‘biosensing tattoos’ turns the body’s surface into an ‘interactive display’ to alert diabetics when their blood sugar level is too low or high. “It blends advances in biotechnology with traditional methods in tattoo artistry,” the team writes on their blog.

If blood sugar level is low it changes from brown to blue, and if it is high then it changes from blue to brown.

These helpful medicinal tattoos are a result of the Dermal Abyss project. “Traditional tattoo inks are replaced with biosensors whose colours change in response to variations in the interstitial fluid. It blends advances in biotechnology with traditional methods in tattoo artistry,” says their blog-post on the project that is still at the research level.

The salt-sensing inks track the mineral by measuring sodium levels. “The pH sensor changes between purple and pink, the glucose sensor shifts between blue and brown; the sodium and a second pH sensor fluoresce at a higher intensity under UV light,” the blog added.

 

The research could be quite revolutionary for people living with Type 1 and 2 Diabetes. As severe patients now need to pierce their skin, 3 to 10 times, these tattoos can ut an end to their pain. “With Dermal Abyss, we imagine the future where the painful procedure is replaced with a tattoo, of which the colour from pink to purple based on the glucose levels. Thus, the user could monitor the colour changes and the need for insulin.”

Getting a tattoo has been more than a fashion statement for centuries. While many tribes used it as a symbol of the clan, ancient practices also suggest it’s used as a punishment and there is some evidence of medicinal tattoos in ancient Egypt.

Malaria medicine shows promise in reducing Zika virus transmission from mother to foetus

A drug already in use to treat malaria and certain autoimmune diseases in pregnant women has shown promise in reducing transmission of Zika virus from mothers to their foetuses, according to a new study led by an Indian-origin researcher.

The drug, Hydroxychloroquine, works by inhibiting autophagy, a process by which cells remove toxins and recycle damaged components to generate energy. Researchers showed that Zika virus may manipulate this process in the placenta to infect the developing foetus.

In a study published online in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, the researchers, led by Indira Mysorekar from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, showed how the drug appeared to reduce transmission of Zika virus from pregnant mice to their foetuses.

“Zika virus infection during pregnancy can lead to a devastating array of birth defects, including microcephaly, abnormal reflexes, epilepsy, and problems with vision, hearing and digestion,” said Catherine Spong, Deputy director of US National Institutes of Health’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), which funded the work.

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“This study suggests that treating Zika-infected pregnancies with autophagy-inhibiting drugs may lower the risk of these abnormalities, but more research is needed to confirm these findings,” Spong added.

Previous research had established that autophagy plays an important role in the placenta’s defence against bacteria and other disease-causing agents.

In the current study, the researchers demonstrated that Zika virus infection activates autophagy in lab cultures of human placental cells and in the placentas of mouse models of Zika virus transmission.

The researchers administered hydroxychloroquine, a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drug known to inhibit autophagy, to Zika-infected pregnant mice.

Mice treated with hydroxychloroquine have lower levels of detectable virus in their placentas and less placental damage, compared to untreated mice, the findings showed.

The treatment also restricted Zika infection in the foetal head and led to a larger foetal body size, suggesting that the drug limits cross-placental transmission of the virus.

Matcha a healthy choice: Drink this Japanese tea as it improves mood, memory and concentration

With Indian consumers getting more aware and conscious of healthy eating, consumption of green tea, gluten-free products or super foods has seen a rise. Matcha, a green tea from Japan, is an ingredient being innovatively used in ice creams, cupcakes and doughnuts.

For the uninitiated, Matcha is a finely ground green tea. In ancient Japan, monks primarily consumed it as a beverage of choice. Now it can either be dissolved in milk or water to add to its versatility — and also for its health benefits.

“Apart from health benefits like improving moods, memory and concentration, helping you relax, aiding in weight loss, matcha has taken a diverse transformation into the culinary world with people being more conscious about what they eat,” Chef Himanshu Taneja, Director of Culinary at The St. Regis Mumbai, told IANS.

“Adding matcha in food from a simple Frappuccino and turning it into a green tea Frappuccino, to adding matcha in our desserts like matcha cheesecake or a matcha ice cream, the ingredient is versatile and helps add to the health quotient,” he added.

Experts say eating healthy and staying fit has become an area of focus for people across all age groups, and they are increasingly looking at a variety of options that contribute to that lifestyle.

Given that Matcha is high in antioxidants, enhances calmness, boosts memory and concentration, increases energy levels and endurance, helps to burn calories and detoxifies the human body, improve cholesterol levels and more, it is fast making its way as an ingredient of significance.

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Chef Rahis Khan of Delhi’s Metropolitan Hotel and Spa says matcha nowadays is used to add flavour to a variety of Western-style confectionery items including chocolates, cakes, candies, cookies and green tea ice creams as it is the only tea in which the entire tea leaf is dissolved in water to provide the maximum benefits of its components.

“We, at (the hotel’s) Sakura (restaurant) serve matcha ice cream. Also, matcha-based drinks have been introduced such as smoothies, lattes, milkshakes and also alcoholic beverages,” Khan told IANS.

Foodhall, a premium lifestyle food destination by the Future Group, is also experimenting a lot with matcha. It has started a matcha experience zone that has flavoured macarons, iced tea latte, cupcake, cookies, baklavas, eclairs and doughnuts.

“I think with more places experimenting with matcha as an ingredient, people have become more open to adding it and experimenting with such dishes,” Olivier Vincenot, Corporate Chef at Foodhall, told IANS.

The combination of flavour and nutrition that it provides is interesting, says Smritika Sharma, Marketing Head at beverage brand RAW Pressery.

“Matcha is stronger as compared to other green teas, even when compared on caffeine levels. One must lower quantities right before bed time. Packed with catechins, matcha is an ideal pre-workout beverage. It boosts thermogenesis by 8 to 10 percent and hence improves fat burn.

“Matcha in cosmetics or through homemade masks is great for the skin. The chlorophyll present in the leaves acts as a powerful detoxifier which stimulates skin cells. Matcha, when applied topically, is also known to reduce sebum production and therefore is great for acne,” Sharma told IANS.

Children concieved by IVF are just as healthy as children born naturally

Children conceived by in vitro fertilization (IVF) are as healthy as their naturally-conceived peers, according to a study published on Wednesday.

The study, compiled by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI), found that IVF children were healthy physically, mentally and emotionally by the time they reached school age, Xinhua news agency reports.

Lead researcher David Amor said the results should provide peace of mind for parents of IVF children as the number of births from sperm donor conception has doubled in Victoria since 2010. “Women and couples who are choosing donors put a lot of thought and effort selecting them,” the report quoted Amor as telling the Australian media.

“The IVF services put a lot of effort into recruiting donors. The information the recipient gets about the donor is fairly minimal,” he added.

Amor said, “There’s some general health screening, but we don’t know if these men are representational of the general population. Given IVF is undergoing a bit of a renaissance in terms of the demand, these findings should be reassuring for parents.”

For this study, the mothers of 224 Victorian IVF children were asked to fill out a survey on the health and well-being of their kids as well as themselves. Results indicated that donor-conceived children had more special health needs than naturally-conceived children but IVF children generally had a healthier family life, the report said.

Amor said that both of those results could be explained by the parents of IVF children being more protective of their own kids.

He said that researchers would now move on to study the health of IVF children who are now in their own child-bearing years.

Here’s why some people develop coffee bubble phobia

Some people experience intense aversion and anxiety when they see bubbles in a cup of coffee or the holes in a sponge and this condition may be an exaggerated response linked to deep-seated anxiety about parasites and infectious diseases, says a study.

Previous explanations for the condition — known as trypophobia — include the suggestion that people are evolutionarily predisposed to respond to clusters of round shapes because these shapes are also found on poisonous animals, like some snakes and the blue-ringed octopus.

The new research, led by Tom Kupfer of the University of Kent in Britain, suggests that the condition may instead be related to an evolutionary history of infectious disease and parasitism that leads to an exaggerated sensitivity to round shapes.

The team noted that many infectious diseases result in clusters of round shapes on the skin: smallpox, measles, rubella, typhus and scarlet fever, among others. Similarly, many ectoparasites, like scabies, tics and botfly also lead to clusters of round shapes on the skin.

The study, published in the journal Cognition and Emotion, saw the participation of over 300 people with trypophobia.

A comparison group of around 300 university students without trypophobia also took part.

Both groups were invited to view sixteen cluster images. Eight were pictures of clusters relating to diseased body parts (for example, circular rash marks on a chest; smallpox scars on a hand; a cluster of ticks).

The other eight cluster images had no disease-relevant properties (for example, drilled holes in a brick wall; a lotus flower seed pod).

Both groups of participants reported finding the disease-relevant cluster images unpleasant to look at but whereas the university students did not find the disease-irrelevant cluster images unpleasant, the trypophobic group found them extremely unpleasant.

This finding supports the suggestion that individuals with trypophobia experience an overgeneralised response, to the extent that even an image of bubbles on a cup of coffee can trigger aversion in the same way as a cluster of tics or lesions.

Less diverse gut viruses raise diabetes risk

Your child’s chances of developing Type I diabetes may depend on the diversity of viruses present in his or her intestines, researchers say.

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic autoimmune disease in which one’s own immune system destroys the cells needed to control blood-sugar levels, requiring daily insulin injections and continual monitoring. The study showed that children whose gut viral communities are less diverse are more likely to generate self-destructive antibodies that can lead to Type 1 diabetes.

Further, children who carried a specific virus belonging to the ‘Circoviridae family’ were found less likely to develop diabetes than those who carried members of a different group of viruses. On the other hand, differences were found in a group of viruses called bacteriophages that infect bacteria in the gut, not human cells.

Children carrying bacteriophages that target Bacteroides species — one of the major groups of intestinal bacteria — were more likely to start down the path toward diabetes, the researchers said.

“We identified one virus that was significantly associated with reduced risk, and another group of viruses that was associated with increased risk of developing antibodies against the children’s own cells,” said Herbert “Skip” Virgin IV, Professor at the Washington University in St. Louis.

For the study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team analysed the viruses in 22 children, who carried genes that put them at high risk of developing the disease. The results showed that children who went on to take a first step toward diabetes had fewer and a narrower range of viruses than those who did not.

“There are many autoimmune diseases that are much more common these days. It could be that we’ve made ourselves unhealthy by not having the right viruses in our virome,” Virgin said.

How diabetes fosters gum disease?

Diabetes causes a shift in the oral microbiome which may lead to an increased risk of developing periodontitis, also known as gum disease, which causes inflammation around the teeth as well as bone loss, researchers say.

The study, conducted in mice, revealed that when diabetic mice developed high blood sugar levels or were hyperglycemic, their microbiome became distinct from their normal littermates, with a less diverse community of bacteria.

These diabetic mice also had periodontitis, including a loss of bone supporting the teeth, and increased levels of IL-17 — a signalling molecule associated with periodontal disease in humans.

“The diabetic mice behaved similar to humans that had periodontal bone loss and increased IL-17 caused by a genetic disease,” said Dana Graves from the University of Pennsylvania in the US.

For the study, published in the journal Cell Host and Microbe, the team of researchers transferred microorganisms from the diabetic mice to normal germ-free mice, animals that have been raised without being exposed to any microbes.

These recipient mice also developed bone loss.

However, a micro-CT scan revealed they had 42 per cent less bone than mice that had received a microbial transfer from normal mice.

Further, mice that received microbiomes from diabetic mice treated with an anti-IL-17 antibody had much less severe bone loss.

The findings “demonstrate unequivocally” that diabetes-induced changes in the oral microbiome drive inflammatory changes that enhance bone loss in periodontitis, the researchers said.

Though IL-17 treatment was effective at reducing bone loss in the mice, it is unlikely to be a reasonable therapeutic strategy in humans due to its key role in immune protection.

The study highlights the importance for people with diabetes of controlling blood sugar and practicing good oral hygiene.

“Diabetes is one of the systemic disease that is most closely linked to periodontal disease, but the risk is substantially ameliorated by good glycemic control. And good oral hygiene can take the risk even further down,” Graves noted.