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What's the buzz

Eating dried plums can prevent fractures

Dried plums have been found to have a positive effect on bone health, and a Florida State University researcher has said that eating them could help prevent fractures and osteoporosis.

Bahram H Arjmandi, Florida State’s Margaret A Sitton Professor and chairman of the Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences in the College of Human Sciences, and a group of researchers from Florida State and Oklahoma State University conducted the research.

“Over my career, I have tested numerous fruits, including figs, dates, strawberries and raisins, and none of them come anywhere close to having the effect on bone density that dried plums, or prunes, have,” Arjmandi, said.

The team tested two groups of postmenopausal women over a 12-month period.  The first group, consisting of 55 women, was instructed to consume 100 grams of dried plums  each day, while the second - a comparative control group of 45 women - was told to consume 100 grams of dried apples.

All of the study’s participants also received daily doses of calcium (500 milligrams) and vitamin D (400 international units).

The group that consumed dried plums had significantly higher bone mineral density in the ulna (one of two long bones in the forearm) and spine, in comparison with the group that ate dried apples.

This, according to Arjmandi, was due in part to the ability of dried plums to suppress the rate of bone resorption, or the breakdown of bone, which tends to exceed the rate of new bone growth as people age.

Dance club drug, ecstasy,  may help treat blood cancer
Scientists have claimed that dance club drug ecstasy could be used to treat cancers of the blood.

Modified versions of the drug may help to fight leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma.
Six years ago researchers found that cancers affecting white blood cells responded to psychotropic drugs including ecstasy, weight-loss pills and anti-depressants.

The University of Birmingham team has now adapted ecstasy to be 100 times deadlier to cancerous cells.Further work could lead to ecstasy, which is an amphetamine derivative properly known as MDMA, being trailed on patients.

“The prospect of being able to target blood cancer with a drug derived from ecstasy is genuinely exciting. This is a significant step,” the Daily Mail quoted Dr David Grant, of the charity Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, which helped fund the study, as saying.

Professor John Gordon, from the university’s School of Immunology and Infection, said it was “an exciting step”, adding: “The results hold the potential for improvements in treatments in years to come.”

He said the scientists had their work cut out adapting ecstasy. Research showed that the dose needed to treat a tumour was fatal, so they had to isolate its cancer-killing properties.

Painkillers are more effective for women than men
While it has been recognised since the mid-nineties that some narcotic analgesics are more effective in women than men, the reason for this difference was largely unknown.

Narcotic analgesics decrease pain by activating opioid receptors, which are located on nerves that transmit painful sensations.

Since levels of mu, delta, and kappa opiate receptors—the three main types of opioid receptor in the brain and spinal cord—are not thought to differ dramatically in men and women, it was difficult to understand why the effectiveness of some painkillers is dependent on sex.

Now, the new research by researchers at the State University of New York revealed that the same major types of opioid receptor interact differently, depending on sex. The spinal cord of female laboratory animals was found to contain almost five times more kappa-mu heterodimer—a complex of mu-opioid and kappa-opioid receptor—than the spinal cord of male animals.

The study further suggests that kappa-mu opioid receptor heterodimers could function as a molecular switch that shifts the action of kappa-opioid receptors and endogenous chemicals that act on them from pain promoting to pain alleviating.

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