What's the buzz....

What's the buzz....

Tai chi cuts depression in elderly people

Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles found greater improvement in the level of depression, along with improved quality of life, better memory and cognition, and more overall energy.

Helen Lavretsky and colleagues looked at 112 adults aged 60 or older with major depression, who were treated with the standard antidepressant drig escitalopram for about four weeks. Seventy-three participants, who showed only partial improvement, continued to receive the medication daily but were also randomly assigned to 10 weeks of either a tai chi class for two hours per week or a health education class for two hours per week.

All the participants were evaluated for their levels of depression, anxiety, resilience, health-related quality of life, cognition and immune system inflammation at the beginning of the study and again four months later.

The level of depression among each participant was assessed using a common diagnostic tool known as the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, which involves interviewing the individual.

Chinese herbs more effective against malaria

Scientists have found that antimalarial drug artesunate, which is derived from herbs used in Chinese medicine, is more effective than quinine at preventing death in patients with severe malaria.

Severe malaria occurs when the disease affects the function of vital organs. It is associated with rarer cerebral malaria, which affects the brain and can lead to long-term disability.

Artesunate was recommended as the preferred treatment for adults with severe malaria by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2006, but there was insufficient evidence at the time to recommend a change from the standard treatment of quinine in children.

Cochrane researchers updated the review of artesunate by adding a new large multicentre trial of African children in 2010 to the existing 8 trials.

The review now includes a total of 1,664 adults and 5,765 children, from a variety of settings across Africa and Asia.

According to the results, taking artesunate reduces the risk of death by 39 per cent in adults and 24 per cent in children compared to quinine.

In adults, deaths caused by severe malaria were reduced from 241 per 1,000 with quinine to 147 with artesunate. In children, deaths were reduced from 108 per 1,000 with quinine to 83 with artesunate.

Delivering drugs to brain helps Alzheimer’s sufferers

Scientists from the University of Oxford have developed a new way to deliver drugs directly to the brain, raising hopes that more effective treatments could be used to help Alzheimer’s disease sufferers.

Any attempt to get drugs into the brain is hampered by the blood-brain barrier — the natural defence against potentially harmful chemicals floating around the body.

However, the team has successfully switched off a gene implicated in Alzheimer’s disease in the brains of mice by exploiting tiny particles naturally released by cells, called exosomes. The exosomes, injected into the blood, act as ‘drugs vehicles’ — crossing the normally impermeable blood-brain barrier to the brain where they are needed.

The scientists said the research is still at an early stage and is many years from being tested in people. But it could also make it easier to treat Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease and muscular dystrophy.