What's the buzz

What's the buzz

Study links snoring to brain damage

Latest Australian research indicates that snoring and troubled nights could be a red flag for brain damage occurring during sleep. Brain scans of 60 people, aged in their mid-40s and recently diagnosed with a common sleep disorder, have shown a ‘decreased amount of grey matter’ when compared to healthy sleepers.

The damage was seen in the brains of Australians suffering from obstructive sleep apnoea, a condition affecting many overweight Australians that is also commonly overlooked. “Those would be the red flags that this could be a problem with sleep apnoea,” said sleep physician Fergal O’Donoghue from the Institute for Breathing and Sleep.

People with this sleep disorder suffer from a collapse of their airways during the night, causing a pause in breathing that forces them to rouse from deep sleep.

O’Donoghue said this could occur “many hundreds of times across the night” resulting in times when the brain was deprived of oxygen as well as “surges in blood pressure”.
The damage was seen in two pockets of the brain, one near a part that handles memory and the other in a region known to process smooth movement as well as changes in attention during complex tasks.

How leptin therapy improves Type 1 diabetes

A novel role for the brain in mediating beneficial actions of the hormone leptin in Type 1 diabetes has been found by UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers.

“Our findings really pave the way for understanding the mechanism by which leptin therapy improves Type 1 diabetes,” said Dr Roberto Coppari, assistant professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern and senior author of the study involving laboratory mice. “Understanding the mechanism is important, because if we can determine how leptin drives these benefits, then we may be able to develop drugs that eliminate the need for insulin.”

Prior research by Dr Roger Unger has shown that subcutaneous administration of leptin, a hormone produced by the body’s fat cells, can restore terminally ill rodents with Type 1 diabetes to full health. The underlying cellular mechanisms that caused that effect, however, have been unclear. The findings have been published in the ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’.

Hand sanitizers stop working after just two minutes

Are you under the impression that hand sanitizers keep the germs at bay? Well, here’s the reality, they stop working after just two minutes. A survey suggests that more than half of all Americans think the antibacterial gel last a lot longer than it really does and the fact that hand sanitizers don’t offer long-term protection may come as a shock to germiphobes.

“Alcohol sanitizers last only a minute or two and must be reapplied when recontamination occurs,” said Philip Tierno, NYU Langone Medical Centre. Len Horovitz, Lenox Hill Hospital, explained that, “hand sanitizer is better than nothing if you are going to shake someone’s hand or if you are out on the street with no sink or paper towels, but the best germicidal thing you can do is wash with soap and water.”

More than half of Americans think sanitizers last 30 times longer than they do, according to the survey from Healthpoint, which sells a sanitizer that the company says works for up to six hours. “Other than soap and water, the best way to keep harmful germs at bay is never to touch your face unless you have just washed your hands,” added Horovitz.

Scientists one step closer to universal flu vaccine

Researchers at Scripps Research Institute in la Jolla, California, teamed up with Peter Palese and colleagues at Mount Sinai Medical School in New York to test a protein that works against viruses from every flu family that attacks people.

These included three pandemic viruses (H1, H2 and H3), three others that attack occasionally (H6, H9 and H7), and the H5N1 bird flu from 2004 — albeit modified to make it less deadly.

Mice were injected with this protein twice, three weeks apart, to allow their immunity to develop. Two weeks after the second injection each mouse was exposed to one type of live flu virus, as were unvaccinated mice, reports ‘New Scientist’.

Vaccinated mice still became ill, but not as ill as unvaccinated mice, judging from the weight they lost, a standard measure of illness in mice.

Despite partial protection, the vaccine would be cheap and quick to make, and could stop people dying, the team say — which might be enough in a serious pandemic. However, since it doesn’t prevent illness altogether, people would still need constant re-vaccination to avoid ordinary, seasonal flu.

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