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Stem cells may help to stay strong in old age

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London, Feb 25: Researchers have found how an unexpectedly high number of mutations in the stem cells of muscles impair cell regeneration.

As we grow older, our muscular function declines. So, according to the researchers, this discovery may result in new medication to build stronger muscles even when in old age.

For the study, published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers investigated the number of mutations that accumulate in the muscle’s stem cells (satellite cells).

“What is most surprising is the high number of mutations. We have seen how a healthy 70-year-old has accumulated more than 1,000 mutations in each stem cell in the muscle, and that these mutations are not random but there are certain regions that are better protected,” said co-author Maria Eriksson, professor at Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet.

The mutations occur during natural cell division, and the regions that are protected are those that are important for the function or survival of the cells. Nonetheless, the researchers were able to identify that this protection declines with age.

“We can demonstrate that this protection diminishes the older you become, indicating an impairment in the cell’s capacity to repair their DNA. And this is something we should be able to influence with new drugs,” said Eriksson.

The study was performed using single stem cells cultivated to provide sufficient DNA for whole genome sequencing.

“We achieved this in the skeletal muscle tissue, which is absolutely unique. We have also found that there is very little overlap of mutations, despite the cells being located close to each other, representing an extremely complex mutational burden,” the researcher noted.

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Natural ways to boost immunity in children

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New Delhi, Jan 21: It is natural for parents to protect their children from any harm, including the endless array of germs they are exposed to every day.

As children grow up, they are continuously exposed to various germs, especially in places such as daycare centres and preschool. Children with low immunity are highly susceptible to various types of infections. The high incidence of infections has led to an increased and inappropriate use of antibiotics, which has further resulted in antimicrobial resistance.

Antimicrobial resistance, a widespread problem, takes places when microbes build resistance against the medications intended to kill them due to overuse. It is one of the world’s most pressing public health problems. The best way to tackle this is to build a strong immunity, which naturally protects your child from infections. Dr. Rajesh Kumawat, Head – Medical Services & Clinical Development, The Himalaya Drug Company, shares a few tips that can help boost your child’s immunity.

Healthy Diet

A healthy diet that comprises all fundamental components like proteins, minerals, vitamins, micronutrients and unsaturated fats in optimum quantity, helps build the immunity required to fight against various infections or diseases in children. Citrus fruits, carrots, green leafy vegetables, beans, strawberry, yogurt, garlic, and ginger help build immunity with their immunity-boosting properties.

Adequate Sleep

Sleep deprivation suppresses the functionality of the immune system, which makes children susceptible to infections. Adequate sleep is an absolute necessity to rejuvenate the body. Newborns need up to 18 hours of sleep a day, toddlers require 12 to 13 hours, and preschoolers need about 10 hours of sleep.

Hygiene

Maintaining hand hygiene before and after each meal, after playtime, handling pets, blowing the nose, using the restroom and arriving home from daycare helps prevent infections in children.

Herbal Solutions

Despite taking proper care, children’s immunity may be affected. Consumption of herbal dietary supplements like Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia), Amalaki (Emblica officinalis), Yashtimadhu (Glycyrrhiza glabra), and Guggulu (Balsamodendron mukul) can help children stay healthier as they help build immunity.

“Naturally obtained supplements strengthen the immune system. Herbs like Guduchi, Yashti Madhu, and Guggulu are natural sources of antioxidants. The antiviral property of Yashtimadhu also helps manage asthma, bronchitis, and chronic cough. The anti-inflammatory property of Guggulu helps reduce inflammation,” Dr. Kumawat added.

“Naturally obtained supplements strengthen the immune system. Herbs like Guduchi, Yashti Madhu, and Guggulu are natural sources of antioxidants. The antiviral property of Yashtimadhu also helps manage asthma, bronchitis, and chronic cough. The anti-inflammatory property of Guggulu helps reduce inflammation,” Dr. Kumawat added.

A combination of herbs may be a safe and effective adjuvant to antimicrobials in the management of recurrent infections. When co-prescribed with antibiotics, herbs may
have a role in faster recovery, reduces the duration and cost of therapy, besides preventing reinfections.

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Anti-inflammatory drugs may put you at heart attack risk

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If you have been hit by the winter cold and are thinking about taking medicines that relieve your aches, pains and congestion, be careful. Those may also put your heart at risk, the American Heart Association has warned.

A study has showed that both decongestants and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), found in many cold medicines, were listed as medications that could increase blood pressure.

People who used NSAIDs while sick were more than three times as likely to have a heart attack within a week compared with the same time period about a year earlier when participants were neither sick nor taking an NSAID.

“People with uncontrolled high blood pressure or heart disease should avoid taking oral decongestants. And for the general population or someone with low cardiovascular risk, they should use them with the guidance of a health care provider,” said Sondra DePalma, from the University of Pittsburgh in the US.

Decongestants like pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine constrict blood vessels. They allow less fluid into your sinuses, “which dries you up”, said Erin Michos, associate director of preventive cardiology at the Johns Hopkins Univerity’s Ciccarone Center in Baltimore.

The biggest concerns are for people who have had a heart attack or stroke, or have heart failure or uncontrolled high blood pressure, Michos said, in the paper published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Importantly, healthy people might also be at risk.

For the study, researchers looked at nearly 10,000 people with respiratory infections who were hospitalised for heart attacks.

Participants were 72 years old on average at the time of their heart attacks and many had cardiovascular risk factors, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

People who are sick should use both classes of medications — decongestants and NSAIDs — judiciously and understand the potential side effects.

In addition, decongestants should not be taken longer than seven days before consulting with a healthcare provider, DePalma said.

One should also rest and drink plenty of fluids if symptoms are mild or moderate, DePalma noted.

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What is to be blamed for childhood cancer?

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Representative Image , Image Credit : J Pat Carter/AP

A team of researchers has thrown light on the community beliefs about what causes cancer in children, an area which remains understudied, finds a latest research.

“Few childhood cancers are attributed to genetics or environmental factors, so when children are diagnosed with cancer, families often wonder ‘why me/why us’?” said lead author Janine Vetsch, postdoctoral research candidate from UNSW Sydney in Australia.

For the study, the team examined the beliefs of more than 600 participants — parents and childhood cancer survivors — about the causes of childhood cancer, and compared them with beliefs of 510 members of the general population.

Findings, published in Acta Oncologica, revealed that more than seven out of 10 childhood cancer survivors and survivors’ parents believed that chance or bad luck caused the cancer.

This led to most parents and survivors seem to understand that there is nothing they could have done to prevent the cancer, according to Vetsch.

However, around one in five families did believe that environmental factors and genetics played a role, despite only limited available scientific evidence, results further showed.

“It looks like healthcare professionals are successfully helping most families arrive at that view,” said Vetsch.

Such views could lead to stigma. Hence, it is important to increase community knowledge of childhood cancer causes in general.

There is a need to encourage doctors to talk about the causes with affected families to address unhelpful misconceptions,” Vetsch suggested.

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