Monday, 30 December 2013

The Complications of High Blood Pressure

Hypertension or high blood pressure is a chronic medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is elevated. Normal blood pressure at rest is within the range of 100-140mmHg systolic (top reading) and 60-90mmHg diastolic (bottom reading). High blood pressure is said to be present if it is persistently at or above 140/90 mmHg. High blood pressure places stress on several organs (called target organs), including the kidneys, eyes, and heart, causing them to deteriorate over time. High blood pressure contributes to 75% of all strokes and heart attacks.

You can have HBP for years without knowing it. During this time, the condition can damage your heart, blood vessels, kidneys, and other parts of your body. Some people only learn that they have hypertension after the damage has caused problems, such as coronary heart disease, stroke, or kidney failure. The higher your blood pressure and the longer it goes uncontrolled, the greater the damage. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to:
  • Heart attack or stroke: High blood pressure can cause hardening and thickening of the arteries, which can lead to a heart attack, stroke or other complications. 
  • Aneurysm: Increased blood pressure can cause blood vessels to weaken and bulge, forming an aneurysm. If an aneurysm ruptures, it can be life-threatening. 
  • Heart failure: To pump blood against the higher pressure in blood vessels, the heart muscle thickens. Eventually, the thickened muscle may have a hard time pumping enough blood to meet your body's needs, which can lead to heart failure. 
  • Kidney failure: Weakened and narrowed blood vessels in kidneys. This can prevent these organs from functioning normally. 
  • Vision loss: Thickened, narrowed or torn blood vessels in the eyes. This can result in vision loss. 
  • Metabolic syndrome: This syndrome is a cluster of disorders of body's metabolism — including increased waist circumference, high triglycerides, low high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good," cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high insulin levels. If you have high blood pressure, you're more likely to have other components of metabolic syndrome. The more components you have, the greater your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease or stroke. 
  • Trouble with memory or understanding: Uncontrolled high blood pressure may also affect the ability to think, remember and learn. Trouble with memory or understanding concepts is more common in people who have high blood pressure.
So check your blood pressure regularly, do proper blood tests and keep these complications out of bay.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Apple iPod for blood-tracking

Hospitals in Nottingham will become the first in the world to take the advantage of an electronic blood-tracking system allowing nurses to use Apple iPods at the bedside.

Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust has agreed the deal with leading healthcare technology company MSoft eSolutions to implement this technology. The Trust already has a strong working relationship with MSoft which last year decided to introduce its Bloodhound solution following a rigorous tender process.

Bloodhound controls access to and from all blood fridges, while a bedside management system allows each bar-coded blood unit to be matched with the patient's bar-coded wristband in a matter of seconds. The systems provide further enhanced security and safety by ensuring that only approved staffs are allowed to access blood. The firm's blood-tracking solution provides positive identification of users and patients and in-depth auditing of all bloods across each and every stage of the transfusion process - to help get the right blood into the right patient.

"We have been in discussions with a number of Trusts about the implementation of our world first Bloodhound application. Nottingham has chosen to use Apple iPods, but the application also works with Windows or Google Android devices”, Matt McAlister, Managing Director of MSoft eSolutions said.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Artificial skin from the stem cells of umbilical cord

Patients who have suffered severe burns may require skin grafts. At present, this involves the growth of artificial skin using healthy skin from the patients' own bodies. But this process can take weeks.

Traditional ways of dealing with large losses of skin have been to use skin grafts or from a different person/cadaver. The former approach has the disadvantage that there may not be enough skin available, while the latter suffers from the possibility of rejection or infection.

Now scientists have developed a breakthrough technique to grow artificial skin - using stem cells taken from the umbilical cord. The new method means major burn patients could benefit from faster skin grafting as the artificial skin can be stored and used when needed.

To create this, the scientists used Wharton jelly mesenschymal stem cells from the human umbilical cord. They combined the umbilical cord stem cells with a biomaterial made of fibrin - a protein found in the clotting of blood - and agarose - a polymer usually extracted from seaweed. When tested in vivo, the combination of the Wharton jelly mesenschymal stem cells and biomaterial led to the growth of artificial skin and oral mucosa - a mucous membrane lining the inside of the mouth.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Understanding Neutropenia

Neutropenia is a blood condition, a granulocyte disorder, that characterized by a deficiency of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that defends the body against bacterial and fungal infections. Granulocytes are a category of white blood cells. They are made in bone marrow. They contain microscopic granules with proteins (enzymes) that digest invading bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites and play a key role in our immune system response. There are three types of granulocytes- Neutrophils, Eosinophils and Basophils. Neutropenia refers to a deficiency of neutrophils only.

There are several types of neutropenia. Some people are born with the disorder, others get it after taking certain prescription drugs, some after becoming ill, and in others patients the cause it not known.

Signs and Symptoms

Most patients with neutropenia are unaware, and only find out after a blood test for an unrelated condition, have a severe infection, or sepsis.

People with neutropenia tend to suffer from infections, chills and fevers more often than others. The patient is more likely to have recurrent bacterial skin or throat infections. The lower the neutrophil count, the greater the risk of (and severity of) infection. Some patients may complain of persistent body aches and pains.

Common infections may suddenly take an unexpected course, in which pus is notably absent. The formation of pus requires circulating neutrophils. However, some neutropenia patients may be prone to skin abscesses.

Diagnosing neutropenia

If the patient has recurrent or unusual infections, the doctor may suspect neutropenia and recommend a complete blood count. If the neutrophil count is low, it indicates neutropenia. Patients receiving radiation therapy or chemotherapy are known to have a higher risk of developing neutropenia, and in such cases, if it does occur, the cause is known. When the cause is not known, the doctor will order diagnostic tests to find out. The patient may be advised to have a bone marrow biopsy to determine whether the problem is inside the bone marrow or outside - is the body not producing enough neutrophils, or are they being used up too fast or destroyed in the bloodstream?

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Bedside blood test to diagnose sepsis

Researchers from King's College London in the UK are hopeful they have discovered a biomarker or biological footprint for sepsis that could form the basis of a rapid bedside blood test that returns results within 2 hours instead of the 2 days required by current diagnostics.

Sepsis, sometimes referred to as blood poisoning, is a potentially fatal condition where the body's immune system overreacts to an infection, which may result in septic shock. Essential organs are then disrupted, accompanied by a dangerous drop in blood pressure. Rapid diagnosis and treatment with antibiotics saves lives, but this is hampered by the lack of biomarkers - currently it can take up to two days to test blood samples for sepsis.

An another important factor is that symptoms of sepsis are similar to other types of Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (SIRS), but only sepsis responds to antibiotics. Giving antibiotics to patients with non-sepsis SIRS could contribute to the rising problem of antibiotic resistance.

The new biomarker is based on micro RNAs, small non-coding molecules that help regulate gene expression in cells. They play a key role in disease. The method used in this research diagnosed sepsis within 2 hours, with 86% accuracy.

This is an extremely exciting development which has the potential to completely transform the management of this severe disease and save thousands of lives worldwide every year. These are promising early findings, and now we need to test this approach in a large clinical trial

Monday, 16 December 2013

Understanding Biomarkers

In medicine, biomarker is a that can be used as an indicator of a particular disease state or some other physiological state of an organism. It can be a substance that is introduced into an organism as a means to examine organ function or other aspects of health. For example, rubidium chloride is used as a radioactive isotope to evaluate perfusion of heart muscle. It can also be a substance whose detection indicates a particular disease state, for example, the presence of an antibody may indicate an infection. Biomarkers are characteristic biological properties that can be detected and measured in parts of the body like the blood or tissue.

Biomarkers help in early diagnosis, disease prevention, drug target identification, drug response etc. Several biomarkers have been identified for many diseases such as serum LDL for cholesterol, P53 gene and MMPs for cancer etc. Gene based biomarker is found to be an effective and acceptable marker in the present scientific world.

Biomarkers can be generally classified into two types: Disease-related biomarkers and Drug-related biomarkers. Among these, disease-related biomarkers are again classified into risk indicator or predictive biomarkers, diagnostic biomarkers and prognostic biomarkers.

Predictive biomarkers give an indication of the probable effect of treatment on patient. Diagnostic biomarkers indicates whether the disease already exists in the patient. Prognostic biomarkers explain how such a disease may develop in an individual case regardless of the type of treatment. Thus predictive biomarkers help to assess the most likely response to a particular treatment type, while prognostic markers shows the progression of disease with or without treatment. In contrast, drug-related biomarkers indicate whether a drug will be effective in a specific patient and how the patient’s body will process it.

For chronic diseases, whose treatment may require patients to take medications for years, accurate diagnosis is particularly important, especially when strong side effects are expected from the treatment. In these cases, biomarkers are becoming more and more important, because they can confirm a difficult diagnosis or even make it possible in the first place. A number of diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease or rheumatoid arthritis, often begin with an early, symptom-free phase. In such symptom-free patients there may be more or less probability of actually developing symptoms. In these cases, biomarkers help to identify high-risk individuals reliably and in a timely manner so that they can either be treated before onset of the disease or as soon as possible thereafter.

Blood test for the early detection of pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most lethal tumor types. But a new study suggests that a simple blood test might help spot the disease earlier.

One of the main reasons for the lethal nature of this cancer is that most cancers are diagnosed too late once they have spread to other organs. Around 8 percent have spread to distant organs such as the liver or lungs, while another 10 percent have locally spread to major blood vessels. However, in the patients where cancer can be detected early and has not spread, a long-term cure is possible with surgical removal of the cancer with the surrounding lymph.

In this new study by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, researchers sought to find blood "markers" for pancreatic cancer in patients who are at increased risk for developing this cancer, such as those with a family history or heavy smokers. 

Researchers identified mutations in two genes, called BNC1 and ADAMST1; both these genetic markers were found in 81 percent of the tested blood samples of the pancreatic cancer patients. Still, an 81 percent accuracy rate is "far from perfect, the results are much more impressive than, for example, the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test used to screen for prostate cancer, which has roughly a 20 percent success rate.

This study presents an encouraging step in the right direction though this was a very small study. The blood test must be studied in many more patients with early stage pancreatic cancer and healthy individuals to really know if it will be an accurate and reliable screening test for pancreatic cancer.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

A lab test to predict life expectancy

Researchers at Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute show that a Complete Blood Count Risk Score, CBC may predict who is at highest risk to develop heart problems – and how long these people may have to live.

The complete blood count (CBC) is one of the most commonly ordered blood tests. A major portion of this test is the measure of the concentration of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets in the blood. Physicians have used this CBC lab test for years, but they did not understand that all of its components provide information about life expectancy, according to lead researcher, Benjamin Horne, PhD.

A combination of the CBC lab test and the basic metabolic profile blood test developed by scientists at Intermountain Healthcare were created to provide useful health information to allow physicians to easily compute the patient risk score while continuing to care for patients.

Among apparently healthy individuals, this risk score can help physicians identify which patients have higher risk, as well as who they should focus further time and effort. The score also gives physicians excellent confidence in identifying low-risk individuals who don’t need as much attention or costly testing.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

New devices developed could make HIV testing easier and faster

2013 witnessed two breakthrough developments in the diagnostic approach towards HIV testing. One technology uses microfluidic chips and another uses DVD scanners in estimating the level of HIV infection in AIDS suspects. Both these techniques are simple, cost effective and accurate w.r.t. flow cytometers which is in use currently.

The Microfluidic Biochip

Just like the blood sugar test which allows diabetics to quickly and easily monitor glucose levels, a new handheld device developed at the University of Illinois aims to quickly and accurately diagnose HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

The device is called a "microfluidic biochip" and it's smaller than our palm, about the size of a credit card. It can count a specific type of white blood cells that the HIV virus works to destroy.

When people are tested for HIV, the process typically involves blood being drawn by phlebotomists in a lab or clinic. Then the blood is analyzed using special equipment called "flow cytometers," which are operated by trained individuals. Results can come back in a day or two and the cost is quite expensive. The microfluidic biochip test requires fewer people to be involved. And it costs a lot less — about 10 USD a test


The cheap optics in DVD players may find a new life in a cost-effective and speedy technique for on-the-spot HIV/AIDS testing and other analytics. Researchers from KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm have developed a novel technique for cheap, quick and on-the-spot HIV testing using DVD scanners.

With an ordinary DVD player, the researchers have created a cheap analytical tool for DNA, RNA, proteins and even entire cells. They converted a commercial DVD drive into a laser scanning microscope that can analyse blood and perform cellular imaging with one-micrometer resolution. The so-called "Lab-on-DVD" technology makes it possible to complete an HIV test in just a few minutes.

Enumeration of cell-type CD4 + in blood using flow cytometry is the current standard in HIV testing, but the practice has been limited in developing countries. Flow cytometry units can cost upwards of USD 30,000, excluding maintenance. By contrast, mass-produced Lab-on-DVD units could be made available for less than USD 200. And unlike the bulky and technically-complex flow cytometry instruments, a Lab-on-DVD would be portable and require less training to operate.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Anemia: Highly prevailing in India

Anemia is a condition that develops when blood lacks enough healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a main part of red blood cells and binds oxygen. If the count of red blood cells is low or if they are abnormal, hemoglobin will be abnormal or low and cells in the body will not get enough oxygen. Symptoms of anemia like fatigue occur because organs aren't getting what they need to function properly.

Anemia is the most common disorder of the blood. Estimates suggest that over one third of the world’s population suffers from anemia, mostly iron deficiency anemia. India continues to be one of the countries with very high prevalence. National Family Health Survey reveals the prevalence of anemia to be 70-80 per cent in children, 70 per cent in pregnant women and 24 per cent in adult men.

Anemia can cause serious problems in children and pregnant mothers such as respiratory failure, cardiac arrest, breathlessness, low blood pressure, maternal death, low birth weight etc. Prevalence of anemia in India is high because of low dietary intake, poor availability of iron and chronic blood loss due to hook worm infestation and malaria. Poor nutritional status and anemia in pregnancy have consequences that extend over generations. Anemia needs to be evaluated with blood test.

A CBC (Complete Blood Count) is usually used to count the number of blood cells in a the blood sample. For anemia, the doctor will be interested in the levels of the red blood cells contained in the blood (hematocrit) and the hemoglobin in your blood. Normal adult hematocrit values vary between 38.8 and 50 percent for men and 34.9 and 44.5 percent for women. Normal adult hemoglobin values are generally 13.5 to 17.5 grams per deciliter for men and 12 to 15.5 grams per deciliter for women.

Tips to prevent anemia include consuming vitamin C rich foods such as orange, sweet lime, guava, kiwi, amla, cabbage, sprouts, capsicum, etc regularly in your diet. Doctors usually prescribe Iron tablets in anemia; they should be carefully taken two hours before, or four hours after ingestion of antacids. Inhibitors like tea, coffee, herbal drinks, calcium etc. should not be consumed with iron tablets or immediately after a meal.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Break Barriers, Open Doors: for an inclusive society and development for all

Over one billion people, or approximately 15 per cent of the world’s population, live with some form of disability! Around the world, persons with disabilities are disproportionately represented among the world’s poorest, and lack equal access to basic resources, such as education, employment, healthcare and social and legal support systems, as well as having a higher rate of mortality. In spite of this situation, disability has remained largely invisible in the mainstream development agenda and its processes.

International Day of People with Disability (December 3) is an international observance promoted by the United Nations since 1992. It has been celebrated with varying degrees of success around the planet. The observance of the Day aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life. It was originally called "International Day of Disabled Persons".

Census 2001 has revealed that over 21 million people in India as suffering from one or the other kind of disability. This is equivalent to 2.1% of the population. Among the five types of disabilities on which data has been collected, disability In seeing at 48.5% emerges as the top category. Others in sequence are: In movement (27.9%), Mental (10.3%), In speech (7.5%), and In hearing (5.8%). Across the country, the highest number of disabled has been reported from the state of Uttar Pradesh (3.6 million). Significant numbers of disabled have also been reported from the state like Bihar (1.9 million), West Bengal (1.8million), Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra (1.6 million each). Tamil Nadu is the only state, which has a higher number of disabled females than males.

The commemoration of this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities provides an opportunity to further raise awareness of disability and accessibility as a cross cutting development issue and further the global efforts to promote accessibility, remove all types of barriers, and to realize the full and equal participation of persons with disabilities in society and shape the future of development for all!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

A New blood test to detect the risk of infection in minutes

Scientists have created a device that is able to detect a person's risk of infection from a drop of blood within minutes, as opposed to current methods, which can take up to 2 hours.

One common laboratory test to determine an individual's risk of infection is the counting of Neutrophils in the blood, known as absolute Neutrophils count. Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell found in human blood. neutrophils are the "body's first line of defense" against inflammation and infection.

Within minutes of detecting infection, the neutrophils flee from the blood toward tissue, where they settle at the sites of infection. However in many cases, it may not be enough to just count the neutrophils. If neutrophils do not migrate well and cannot reach inside the tissues, this situation could have the same consequences as a low neutrophil count.

With this in mind, the researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital created a "miniaturized silicone-based device" that they say is able to measure migration patterns of neutrophils from a finger prick of blood, and this can be carried out within a matter of minutes. They conclude that being able to measure patients' risk of infections in a matter of minutes from only a droplet of blood is a "significant improvement and one that will improve current treatment.