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Decoded: How Omega-3 fatty acid helps inhibit cancer’s spread

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New York, July 16: While eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish, certain nuts and seeds, have been known to prevent heart diseases and arthritis, a new research, led by one of Indian-origin, showed that omega-3 fatty byproducts may also have anti-cancer effects.

The new study, led by Aditi Das from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, US, showed that when the human body metabolises omega-3 fatty acids, it produces a class of molecules called endocannabinoid epoxides, or EDP-EAs. These have anti-inflammatory properties and can inhibit cancer’s growth and spread.

The EDP-EAs have similar properties to cannabinoids found in marijuana — but without the psychotropic effects — and they target the same receptor in the body that cannabis does.

“We have a built-in endocannabinoid system which is anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing. Now we see it is also anti-cancer, stopping the cells from proliferating or migrating,” said study leader Aditi Das from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“These molecules could address multiple problems: cancer, inflammation and pain,” Das added.

For the study, published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, the team studied the effect of the molecule in mice with tumours of osteosarcoma — a bone cancer that is not only painful but also difficult to treat.

The results showed that the endocannabinoids slowed the growth of tumours and blood vessels, inhibited the cancer cells from migrating and caused cancer cell death.

The higher concentrations of EDP-EAs did kill cancer cells, but not as effectively as other chemotherapeutic drugs on the market. But, the compounds slowed tumour growth by inhibiting new blood vessels from forming to supply the tumour with nutrients. They also prevented interactions between the cells, and most significantly, they appeared to stop cancerous cells from migrating.

While dietary consumption of omega-3 fatty acids can lead to EDP-EAs, for those with cancer, something concentrated and fast acting is needed, Das said.

“That’s where the endocannabinoid epoxide derivatives come into play – you could make a concentrated dose of the exact compound that’s most effective against the cancer. You could also mix this with other drugs such as chemotherapies,” she added.

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Your work emails can affect your health, relationships

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New York, Aug 14: Does your boss expects you to be ever-connected on emails and work without boundaries? If so, besides causing harm to your health and well-being, it could also lead to conflict in family relationships, a new study has revealed.

Stress due to employers’ expectations of work during non-working hours brings strain in the family ties as the employee is unable to fulfil non-work roles at home.

Such expectations are “an insidious stressor that not only increases employee anxiety, decreases their relationship satisfaction and has detrimental effects on employee health, but it also negatively affects their partner’s health and marital satisfaction perceptions,” said Liuba Belkin, Associate Professor at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, US.

Employees do not need to spend actual time on work in their off-hours to experience the harmful effects.

The mere expectations of availability increase strain for employees and their significant others — even when employees do not engage in actual work during non-work time.

“The competing demands of work and non-work lives present a dilemma for employees, which triggers feelings of anxiety and endangers work and personal lives,” added William Becker, Associate Professor at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in the US.

The findings were presented at the Academy of Management’s annual meeting in Chicago.

According to Becker, policies that reduce expectations to monitor electronic communication outside of work should be ideal to mitigate the adverse effects of negative health outcomes.

When that is not an option, the solution may be to establish boundaries on when electronic communication is acceptable during off-hours by setting up off-hour email windows or schedules when employees are available to respond.

Importantly, organisational expectations should be communicated clearly, Becker noted.

“If the nature of a job requires email availability, such expectations should be stated formally as a part of job responsibilities.”

Knowing these expectations upfront may reduce anxiety in employees and increase understanding from their family members, he said.

As for employees, they could consider practising mindfulness, which may help them to “be present” in family interactions, and help reduce conflict and improve relationship satisfaction, said Becker.

However, while mindfulness is within the employees’ control, email expectations are not, he added.

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Blue light from digital devices could accelerate blindness

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Washington, Aug 13 : Blue light from digital devices including smartphones could accelerate blindness, researchers have found.

According to a research by the University of Toledo in the US, exposure to blue light continuously might cause poisonous molecules to be generated in the eye’s light-sensitive cells and lead to macular degeneration, Xinhua news agency reported on Monday.

As one of the leading causes of blindness in the US, macular degeneration does not lead to total blindness, but can make daily activities difficult.

“It’s no secret that blue light harms our vision by damaging the eye’s retina. Our experiments explain how this happens, and we hope this leads to therapies that slow macular degeneration, such as a new kind of eye drop,” said Ajith Karunarathne, an assistant professor in the university’s department of chemistry and biochemistry.

Macular degeneration is caused by the death of photoreceptors, a kind of light-sensitive cells.

Photoreceptor cells need molecules called retinal to sense light and trigger signalling to the brain, enabling us to see.

“If you shine blue light on retinal, the retinal kills photoreceptor cells as the signalling molecule on the membrane dissolves,” said Kasun Ratnayake, a PhD student at the university who was involved in the study.

“Photoreceptor cells do not regenerate in the eye. When they’re dead, they’re dead for good,” Ratnayake added.

To protect eyes from blue light, researchers advise people to wear sunglasses which filter both UV and blue light outside and avoid using smartphones or tablets in the dark.

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This new type of bed net can help prevent Malaria

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London, Aug 11: Researchers have developed a new type of bed net with a specific combination of an insecticide and insect growth regulator that could prevent millions of cases of malaria.

The novel net, detailed in the journal The Lancet, contains a pyrethroid insecticide, which repels and kills the mosquitoes, and an insect growth regulator — pyriproxyfen — which shortens the lives of mosquitoes and reduces their ability to reproduce.

Compared to conventional nets, this new type of mosquito net reduced the number of cases of clinical malaria by 12 per cent.

In areas with new combination beds, there was also a 51 per cent reduction in risk of a malaria infective mosquito bite.

Children sleeping under the new bed nets were 52 per cent less likely to be moderately anaemic, which is a major cause of mortality in children under two years, the research showed.

“This new invaluable tool would enable us to tackle more efficiently this terrible and deadly disease that affects many children. If deployed correctly, we could certainly prevent millions of cases and deaths of malaria,” said principal investigator Alfred B. Tiono, from the CNRFP in Africa.

For the study, the team conducted a two-year clinical trial in Burkina Faso, West Africa, involving 2,000 children, aged between six months and five years.

In the trial, the conventional bed nets were replaced over time with the new combination nets in 40 rural clusters covering 91 villages, involving 1,980 children in 2014 and 2,157 in 2015.

The number of mosquito bites and incidence of clinical malaria in the participants were recorded by health clinics and the number of mosquitoes in the houses was tracked through monthly light traps.

The latest figures from the World Health Organisation shows that in 2016 malaria infected about 216 million people across 91 countries, up from five million in 2015.

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