Thursday, July 19, 2007

Growth hormone a stroke remedy

INJECTING human growth hormone directly into the brain in the days and weeks after a stroke could lead to improved recovery rates. New research also reveals the treatment could enhance the recovery of newborn babies whose brains are injured because of a lack of oxygen during labour and of people who sustain brain trauma in motor vehicle and other accidents.

Research by University of Auckland scientists Arjan Scheepens and Praneeti Pathipati showed laboratory rats whose brains were injected with animal growth hormone made remarkable recoveries from stroke-like events. "The rats regained 100 per cent of their motor skills within seven days, much faster than untreated animals, and their memory functions improved as well," Dr Scheepens told The Australian during an international neuroscience conference in Melbourne yesterday. "Because people have been using growth hormone for 50 years its pharmacological safety is well known, so we think clinical trials on humans could start pretty much straight away." He estimated that commercial application was five to 10 years away.

Dr Scheepens said the research had enormous potential, given that no effective treatment existed for stroke unless the victim made it to hospital in the first two to three hours after the incident. Very few did. That treatment involved injecting thinning agents to allow blood flow to be restored to affected areas of the brain, and even then it was only effective in halting further damage, he said. "The most exciting aspect of our breakthrough is that it shows a positive effect when the growth hormone is given at a point in time much later than those first hours," Dr Scheepens said. "The rats received injections four days after the stroke, and there was significant improvement."

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows an estimated 340,000 Australians have some form of acquired brain injury. Dr Scheepens's work may come too late for those who have already incurred injuries but it offers hope for future victims.

The research team first discovered that growth hormone, not normally produced in the brain, was generated as a self-protection mechanism after brain injuries such as a stroke. They found it eventually led to neuron regeneration, and experimented with boosting those regeneration levels by injecting synthetic growth hormones directly into the brain. "The potential we found for humans was a more complete recovery if done in conjunction with physical therapy," Dr Scheepens said. "It's one thing making new brain cells, but you have to tell them where to go. "Future treatment would be a combination of a slow release of the growth hormone via a pump inserted under the skin near your neck with a needle into the brain, and the physical therapy. "The physical therapy would force the neurological growth to be where it's needed."

He said the risk of side effects was small, as the quantity of growth hormone involved was thousands of times less than the levels used by rogue athletes looking to boost muscle mass. Growth hormone is essential for the development of bones, tissues, muscles and the brain, especially in puberty. It is believed growth hormone levels drop as people age.

Synthetic human growth hormone is promoted as an anti-ageing therapy, an industry viewed with scepticism by scientists who say there is little proof to support it. Dr Scheepens said the traditional view that the brain did not have the capacity to regenerate, and so any damage done by excessive drinking was permanent, had long been debunked. "In the last 10 years the neuroscience world has accepted that you do make new neurons throughout your life, and that is particularly important for memory and cognition," he said. "Neurogenesis is an established fact."


A rare good-news report about mobile phones

Refreshing after the endless speculative claims that mobiles will give you cancer

A new study has found mobile phones have enhanced the lives of most Australians. Researchers from the Australian National University, working with colleagues from New South Wales and New England, found only 3 per cent of people believed mobiles had a negative impact on their lives. More than half of those questioned said their mobile phones helped them achieve a better work-life balance. Three-quarters of people said carrying a mobile made them feel more secure.

Research Professor Judy Wajcman says overwhelmingly people use their mobile to phone family and friends. "What it seems to us, when we look at our findings overall is that the mobile phone is not primarily a work tool," he said. "Indeed, one of the principal uses of the mobile phone is to strengthen ties with kin and close relationships, close friends."

The project was based on collaboration between university-based researchers and the peak organisation of mobile phone service providers, the Australian Mobile Telecommunication Association (AMTA), under the umbrella of the Australian Research Council Linkage grant scheme. The report says AMTA's mission is 'to promote an environmentally, socially and economically responsible and successful mobile telecommunications industry in Australia'. The collaboration follows a workshop held in May 2004, jointly sponsored by AMTA and the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia.



Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.


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