Tag: 13/1/22

Many Young People with Cancer Experiencing Distress in the Pandemic

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A new study has reported that many adolescents and young adults with cancer are suffering high psychological distress during the COVID pandemic. During the pandemic, adolescents and young adults with cancer had an 85% higher odds of experiencing psychological distress compared with a similar group surveyed in 2018.

For the study, which was published in Psycho-Oncology, 805 individuals in Canada who were diagnosed with cancer between 15 and 39 years of age completed an online survey.  

More than two‐thirds of the group (68.0%) experienced high psychological distress. Additionally, those whose employment had been disrupted during the pandemic and those with blood cancer were more likely to experience high psychological distress, while those who were older and those with a personal income in 2020 that was less than $40 000 tended to have lower distress.  

The survey revealed overarching themes of pandemic experiences that included inferior quality of life, impairment of cancer care, COVID–related concerns, and extreme social isolation.  

“The pandemic has adversely impacted the mental health of adolescents and young adults with cancer,” said senior author Sapna Oberoi, MBBS, MD, DM, of the University of Manitoba. “The findings of this study underscore the importance of providing enhanced and tailored interventions to combat psychological distress among these patients. Cancer organisations and policymakers must prioritise mental health supports for adolescents and young adults with cancer to optimise their health outcomes and quality of life.”

Source: Wiley

Prompts During Sleep Boosts Recall of Names and Faces

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Hearing names repeated during deep sleep may help bolster recall of names and faces, according to new research from Northwestern University.

The researchers found that people’s name recall improved significantly when memories of newly learned face-name associations were reactivated while they were napping. Uninterrupted deep sleep was key in this improvement.

“It’s a new and exciting finding about sleep, because it tells us that the way information is reactivated during sleep to improve memory storage is linked with high-quality sleep,” said lead author Nathan Whitmore, a PhD candidate in the Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program at Northwestern University.

The research is reported in the Nature partner journal npj Science of Learning.

The three main stages of the experiment of Whitmore et al. (2022). First, participants learned 80 face-name associations. Next, they slept while EEG was monitored to determine sleep stage, and 20 of the spoken names were presented softly over background music during slow-wave sleep. Finally, memory testing showed superior memory due to memory reactivation during sleep, but only when sleep was undisturbed by sound presentations. Credit: Nathan Whitmore, a Ph.D. candidate in the Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program at Northwestern University.

The results also highlighted the importance of adequate sleep: for study participants with EEG measurements that indicated disrupted sleep, the memory reactivation had no effect and may even be detrimental. But in those with uninterrupted sleep during the specific times of sound presentations, the reactivation helped participants recall just over 1.5 more names.

The study recruited 24 participants, aged 18-31 years old, who were asked to memorise the faces and names of 40 pupils from a hypothetical Latin American history class and another 40 from a Japanese history class. When each face was presented again, they were asked to recall the associated name. After the learning exercise, participants took a nap while the researchers carefully monitored brain activity using EEG measurements. When participants reached the N3 “deep sleep” state, some of the names were softly played on a speaker with music that was associated with one of the classes.

When participants awoke, they were again tested on recognising faces and recalling their names.

According to the researchers, the finding on the relationship between sleep disruption and memory accuracy is noteworthy for several reasons.

“We already know that some sleep disorders like apnoea can impair memory,” said Whitmore. “Our research suggests a potential explanation for this—frequent sleep interruptions at night might be degrading memory.”

The lab is currently exploring the reactivation of memories and deliberately disrupting sleep in order to learn more about the relevant brain mechanisms.

Source: EurekAlert!

COVID Misinformation Less Prevalent than Believed

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Contrary to what might be expected, misinformation about COVID was less prevalent than for other health topics, researchers found.

Before the COVID pandemic, health misinformation was already widely spread. While all types of information about COVID (including misinformation) were popular between March and May 2020, posts about COVID were more likely to come from governments and academic institutions. Often, these posts were more likely to go viral than posts from sources that routinely spread misinformation.

“At the start of the pandemic, governments and organisations around the world started paying attention to the problem of health misinformation online,” said David Broniatowski, an associate professor at the George Washington University. “But when you compare it to what was going on before the pandemic, you start to see that health misinformation was already widespread. What changed is that, when  COVID-19 hit, governments and social media platforms started paying attention and taking action.”

The researchers collected public posts on Twitter and Facebook at the outset of the pandemic, between March and May 2020, when content about COVID was growing rapidly. They compared those to posts on other health topics from the same time period in 2019, and looked at the credibility of the websites that each post shared. More credible sources included government and academic sources as well as the traditional news media. Sources deemed “not credible” comprised conspiracy-oriented sites and state-sponsored sites known for spreading  propaganda, which were 3.67 times more likely to spread misinformation than credible sites.

“Misinformation has always been present, even at higher proportions before COVID started. Many people knew this, which makes the ensuing misinformation spread during COVID entirely predictable,” said study co-author Mark Dredze, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University. “Had we been more proactive in fighting misinformation, we may not have been in an anti-vaccination crisis today.”

“These findings suggest that the ‘infodemic’ of misinformation is a general feature of health information online, not one restricted to COVID-19,” Broniatowski said. “Clearly there is a lot of misinformation about COVID, but attempts to combat it might be better informed by comparison to the broader health misformation ecosystem.”

Source: George Washington University

Long-term Use of RAS Inhibitor Drugs Could Damage Kidneys

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New research is raising concerns that long-term use of renin-angiotensin system (RAS) inhibitor drugs such as ACE inhibitors could be contributing to kidney damage.

The researchers stress that patients should continue taking the medications. But the scientists are urging studies to better understand the drugs’ long-term effects.

“Our studies show that renin-producing cells are responsible for the damage. We are now focusing on understanding how these cells, which are so important to defend us from drops in blood pressure and maintain our well-being, undergo such transformation and induce kidney damage,” said UVA’s Dr Maria Luisa Sequeira Lopez. “What is needed is to identify what substances these cells make that lead to uncontrolled vessel growth.”

A billion people around the world are affected by chronic hypertension. In a study published in JCI Insight, University of Virginia (UVA) researchers were seeking to better understand why severe forms of the condition are often accompanied by atherosclerosis in the kidney, leading to organ damage.

They found that renin cells, which help regulate blood pressure through renin production, play an important role. Harmful changes in the renin cells can cause the cells to invade the walls of the kidney’s blood vessels. The renin cells then trigger a buildup of another cell type, smooth muscle cells, that cause the vessels to thicken and stiffen, resulting in impeded kidney blood flow.

Long-term use of RAS inhibitor drugs, such as ACE inhibitors, or angiotensin receptor blockers, have a similar effect. But the study found that long-term use of the drugs was associated with hardened kidney vessels in both lab mice and humans

The researchers note that the medications can be lifesaving for patients, so they stress the importance of continuing to take them. But they say additional studies are needed to better understand the drugs’ long-term effects on the kidneys.

“It would be important to conduct prospective, randomised controlled studies to determine the extent of functional and tissue damage in patients taking medications for blood pressure control,” said UVA’s Dr Ariel Gomez. “It is imperative to find out what molecules these cells make so that we can counteract them to prevent the damage while the hypertension is treated with the current drugs available today.”

Source: University of Virginia

UK Surgeon Who Branded Initials on Livers Struck Off

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A liver surgeon in the UK who branded his initials on the livers of two patients has been struck off the medical register.

The incidents, which occurred in 2013, involved the surgeon using an argon beam machine to write his initials “SB” on the livers of two anaesthetised patients while working at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital. In liver transplants, the argon beams are normally used for cauterisation and to highlight areas to work on.

His actions came to light when 4cm initials were discovered by another surgeonon an organ that had been transplanted by Bramhall and failed about a week after the operation. Pictures of the branding were taken with a mobile phone.

Bramhall tendered his resignation at the Birmingham hospital in 2014.

In a review of the case, the UK’s Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) said it was an “act borne out of a degree of professional arrogance”, adding that his actions “undermined” public trust in the medical profession.

In December 2017, Simon Bramhall, admitted two counts of assault by beating at Birmingham Crown Court and was fined £10 000 (R210 000). In December 2020 , he was suspended from the profession for at least five months, but a report from the latest tribunal on Monday said a review hearing on 4 June found his fitness to practise was no longer impaired by reason of his criminal convictions and his suspension lifted.

After an appeal from the General Medical Council (GMC), the sanction was quashed and then the case resubmitted to MPTS for its consideration.

On Monday, MPTS found Bramhall’s actions “breached” the trust between patient and doctor, and he was struck off.

The MPTS tribunal concluded that a suspension order would be “insufficient to protect the wider public interest” and said erasure from the medical register would be an “appropriate and proportionate sanction”.

Source: The Guardian