what's the buzz....

what's the buzz....

Exposure to pollution ups heart disease risk

A new study has found that long-term exposure to fine particle matter (PM) air pollution in part derived from traffic pollution is also associated with atherosclerosis independent of traffic noise.

Details of the study were described by Dr Hagen Kalsch from West-German Heart Center in Essen, Germany, who explained that the study was designed to establish where responsibility for the increased heart risks associated with traffic actually lay - with noise or particle pollution, or both.

The study was based on data from the German Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study, a population-based cohort of 4814 participants with a mean age of 60 years. Their proximity to roads with high traffic volume was calculated with official street maps, their long-term exposure to particle pollutants assessed with a chemistry transport model, and road traffic noise recorded by validated tests.

The participants` level of atherosclerosis was evaluated by measurement of vascular vessel calcification in the thoracic aorta, a common marker of subclinical atherosclerosis (known as TAC), by computed tomography imaging.

Results showed that in the 4238 subjects included in the study small particulate matter (designated as PM2.5) and proximity to major roads were both associated with an increasing level of aortic calcification - for every increase in particle volume up to 2.4 micrometers (PM2.5) the degree of calcification increased by 20.7 percent and for every 100 metre proximity to heavy traffic by 10 percent.

Social video games promote healthy behaviour

Video games that have some sort of social aspect leads people to exercise more frequently and helped them decrease their body-mass index, according to new research.

For the ten-week behavior tracking program, researchers from the USC School of Cinematic Arts, the Keck School of Medicine of USC, the USC School of Social Work and the University at Buffalo, SUNY, studied young and middle-aged adults across a range of lifestyles, from sedentary to very active. Study participants invited someone they knew, usually friends or family members, to participate with them.

One group of participants was randomly assigned to keep an online diary of physical activity, a commonly used strategy for activity adherence and weight management. The diary is part of Wellness Partners, a program developed at USC to explore the role of socially networked games in encouraging lifestyle changes.

A second group was asked to keep a version of the Wellness Partners diary that included social gaming such as earning points for their exercise reporting, redeeming them for animated activities performed by their virtual character, collecting memories and earning gifts they shared with other participants in their network. After five weeks, the groups switched programs.

Caffeine as cancer-cell killer generates buzz

University of Alberta researchers are abuzz after using fruit flies to find new ways of taking advantage of caffeine’s lethal effects on cancer cells—results that could one day be used to advance cancer therapies for people.

Previous research has established that caffeine interferes with processes in cancer cells that control DNA repair, a finding that has generated interest in using the stimulant as a chemotherapy treatment.

But given the toxic nature of caffeine at high doses, researchers from the faculties of medicine and dentistry and science instead opted to use it to identify genes and pathways responsible for DNA repair.

“The problem in using caffeine directly is that the levels you would need to completely inhibit the pathway involved in this DNA repair process would kill you,” said Shelagh Campbell, co-principal investigator. “We’ve come at it from a different angle to find ways to take advantage of this caffeine sensitivity,” the researcher noted.

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