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Cotton swab may damage eardrum

Inserting a cotton swab into the ear may result in a ruptured eardrum, according to a new study.

It also showed that in most cases the rupture heals on its own and surgery is only necessary for the most severe cases.

“In the past, many otolaryngologists have wondered if surgery is really necessary to treat a ruptured eardrum. The results of this study show that 97 per cent of cases healed on their own within two months, proving that most cases do not require surgery,” said Ilaaf Darrat, an otolaryngologist at Henry Ford Hospital and co-author of the study.

More than half of patients seen in otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat) clinics, regardless of their primary complaint, admit to using cotton swabs to clean their ears. But if the cotton swab is pushed too far in the ear canal, it can cause serious damage, including ruptured eardrum, also known as tympanic membrane perforations (TMP). Severe TMP can cause facial paralysis and vertigo.

“If a patient is experiencing symptoms such as hearing loss, drainage, dizziness or abnormality in their facial movements they should see a doctor immediately to assess the possible ear damage,” added Darrat.

Diabetes pill may prevent fat moms having obese babies

Soon, obese mothers-to-be will be able to prevent their babies from being born fat — thanks to a diabetes drug.

According to a new clinical trial, obesity of a child can be controlled in the mother’s womb through a metformin if taken up to three times a day during pregnancy. With studies suggesting that the seeds of obesity are sown in the womb, early intervention could save youngsters from a lifetime of weight problems and ill-health.

The treatment is designed to reduce the food supply to the baby, rather than make the expectant mother lose weight herself. Metformin, which costs pennies per tablet, has been safely used by diabetics for decades and is cleared for the treatment of diabetes in pregnancy.

Obese women make more insulin than other mothers-to-be and this leads to more fat, sugars and other foods being supplied to the baby. It is hoped that using metformin to lower levels of insulin will reduce the food supply and cut the odds of babies being born obese.

The treatment may also cut the need for caesarean sections and reduce the odds of pre-eclampsia, a potentially fatal complication of pregnancy.

Shifts in body temperature activate immune response

A study involving an Indian-origin researcher has found a temperature-sensing protein within immune cells that, when tripped, allows calcium to pour in and activate an immune response.

This process can occur as temperature rises, such as during a fever, or when it falls — such as when immune cells are ‘called’ from the body’s warm interior to a site of injury on cooler skin. The study is the first to find such a sensor in immune cells — specifically, in the T lymphocytes that play a central role in activation of killer immune cells.

The protein, STIM1, previously known as an endoplasmic reticulum (ER) calcium sensor, had been thought to be important in immune function, and now the scientists show it is also a temperature sensor. The research team, which included Bertrand Coste and Jayanti Mathur of the Patapoutian lab found that STIM1 could be activated by heat with a high degree of temperature sensitivity.

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