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School stars enjoy better health

Children who are the most popular and powerful at school tend to go on to enjoy better health as adults, a new study suggests.
The study, which was based on a 30-year follow-up of more than 14,000 children born in Sweden in 1953, has been published in the ‘Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health’.
The study found that the least popular children had a nine times higher risk of ischaemic heart disease. They were also more at risk of diabetes, drug, alcohol and mental health problems.
According to lead researcher Ylva Almquist, from the Centre for Health Equity Studies at the University of Stockholm, children with a low status might lack social support, and be starved of information. And this could lead to a more negative self-image, which could lead to lower expectations, stunted ambition — and poor choices in life.
“For example, children in lower peer status positions may adopt a more health-damaging lifestyle, including behaviours such as heavy smoking and drinking.”
“These behaviours are known to be major risk factors for heart diseases,” the expert said.

How living conditions affect reproductive health

Indiana University researchers have shed light on how a person’s living conditions can affect his/her reproductive health.
Virginia J Vitzthum, a senior scientist at the university’s Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, says that when costs outweigh benefits, successful pregnancies are less likely to occur.
She has shown that during periods of intense labour and low food intake, rates of early pregnancy loss can more than double.
This is the first study to show seasonality of early pregnancy loss in a non-industrialised population — in this case rural Bolivian women — and the first to demonstrate a relationship between economic activities and early pregnancy loss.
Vitzthum’s research challenges the past belief that nearly all early pregnancy losses are caused by genetic defects in the embryo.

Port wine stains can be wiped off with laser therapy

Port wine stain, a vascular birthmark characterised by reddish to purplish discolouration of the skin, is now easy to wipe off through laser therapy.
Three of every 1,000 children born have a port wine stain, which is made up of numerous dilated vessels in a localised part of the skin, and for most the skin discolouration has caused discomfort, embarrassment, and even pain.
One such individual is Maureen Dillon, who for 56 years was not able to go out in public with only one layer of makeup on, as the port wine stains became darker and brought more distress as years went by.
After dealing with blood vessel clusters and papules, swelling and infections, Dillon’s family doctor sent her to see Dr Jeffrey Orringer, director of the Cosmetic Dermatology and Laser Centre at the University of Michigan Health System.
Orringer used lasers that, over eight treatments, removed Dillon’s port wine stains.
“There are lots of theories about why port wine stains develop, but the truth is that no one really knows why a child is born with a port wine stain,” Orringer said.

Microchip-based device, a new way for diagnosis

Canadian experts at the University of Toronto have come up with a microchip technology that they believe can prove helpful in diagnosing cancer and infectious disease in just half an hour.
Just as big in size as a BlackBerry, the novel device is expected to revolutionise the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of cancers and other ailments.
The researchers say that it is aimed at eliminating the need for painful biopsies by detecting the presence and severity of cancer via a urine sample.
They hope that their device will also eliminate equally painful wait times that patients undergoing cancer diagnoses routinely endure, as test results computed by it can be completed in just 30 minutes.
“Today, it takes a room filled with computers to evaluate a clinically relevant sample of cancer biomarkers and the results aren’t quickly available,” said Shana Kelley, the U of T professor who was a lead investigator on the project.
“Our team was able to measure biomolecules on an electronic chip the size of your fingertip and analyse the sample within half an hour,” Kelley added.

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