Stress during pregnancy may affect baby's sex, risk of preterm birth

It's becoming well established that maternal stress during pregnancy can affect fetal and child development as well as birth outcomes, and a new study from researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and NewYork-Presbyterian now identifies the types of physical and psychological stress that may matter most.

The study was published online in the journal PNAS, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"The womb is an influential first home, as important as the one a child is raised in, if not more so," says study leader Catherine Monk, PhD, professor of medical psychology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and director of Women's Mental Health in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

Because stress can manifest in a variety of ways, both as a subjective experience and in physical and lifestyle measurements, Monk and her colleagues examined 27 indicators of psychosocial, physical, and lifestyle stress collected from questionnaires, diaries, and daily physical assessments of 187 otherwise healthy pregnant women, ages 18 to 45.

About 17% (32) of the women were psychologically stressed, with clinically meaningful high levels of depression, anxiety, and perceived stress. Another 16% (30) were physically stressed, with relatively higher daily blood pressure and greater caloric intake compared with other healthy pregnant women. The majority (nearly 67%, or 125) were healthy.

Fewer Baby Boys with Mental Stress?

The study suggested that pregnant women experiencing physical and psychological stress are less likely to have a boy. On average, around 105 males are born for every 100 female births. But in this study, the sex ratio in the physically and psychologically stressed groups favored girls, with male-to-female ratios of 4:9 and 2:3, respectively.

"Other researchers have seen this pattern after social upheavals, such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City, after which the relative number of male births decreased," says Monk. "This stress in women is likely of long-standing nature; studies have shown that males are more vulnerable to adverse prenatal environments, suggesting that highly stressed women may be less likely to give birth to a male due to the loss of prior male pregnancies, often without even knowing they were pregnant."

Other Impacts of Stress

  • Physically stressed mothers, with higher blood pressure and caloric intake, were more likely to give birth prematurely than unstressed mothers.
  • Among physically stressed mothers, fetuses had reduced heart rate-movement coupling -- an indicator of slower central nervous system development -- compared with unstressed mothers.
  • Psychologically stressed mothers had more birth complications than physically stressed mothers.

Social Support Matters

The researchers also found that what most differentiated the three groups was the amount of social support a mother received from friends and family. For example, the more social support a mother received, the greater the likelihood of her having a male baby.

When social support was statistically equalized across the groups, the stress effects on preterm birth disappeared. "Screening for depression and anxiety are gradually becoming a routine part of prenatal practice," says Monk. "But while our study was small, the results suggest enhancing social support is potentially an effective target for clinical intervention."

An estimated 30% of pregnant women report psychosocial stress from job strain or related to depression and anxiety, according to the researchers. Such stress has been associated with increased risk of premature birth, which is linked to higher rates of infant mortality and of physical and mental disorders, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and anxiety, among offspring.

How a mother's mental state might specifically affect a fetus was not examined in the study. "We know from animal studies that exposure to high levels of stress can raise levels of stress hormones like cortisol in the uterus, which in turn can affect the fetus," says Monk. "Stress can also affect the mother's immune system, leading to changes that affect neurological and behavioral development in the fetus. What's clear from our study is that maternal mental health matters, not only for the mother but also for her future child."


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Type 2 diabetes and obesity could be treated by new, less invasive procedure

New research from King's College London published in EBioMedicine, has found that a newly tested medical device, called Sleeveballoon, mimics the effects of traditional bariatric surgery in rodents and produces impressive results on body weight, fatty liver and diabetes control.

Sleeveballoon is a device that combines a balloon with a connected sleeve, which covers the initial parts of the small intestine. It is inserted into the stomach and bowel during minimally invasive surgery under general anaesthetic.

In this study, researchers compared the effects of the Sleeveballoon and traditional bariatric surgery on 30 rodents fed with a high-fat diet, achieving very similar results. Results were also compared to sham-operated rats, with the new device reducing food intake by 60% and resulting in a 57% reduction in fat mass. The effect on diabetes was similarly impressive with blood glucose levels dropping by 65%.

"Gastric bypass surgery is a highly effective treatment of obesity and type 2 diabetes. However, very few eligible patients, only around 1%, are offered surgery and some also prefer less invasive approaches," said lead author Professor Geltrude Mingrone from King's College London.

"We found that the metabolic effects of the Sleeveballoon device are similar to those of the gastric bypass but have distinct advantages over the traditional method. In both, insulin sensitivity and heart functions improved. However, while gastric bypass causes a rapid rise in post food blood glucose levels which can cause hypoglycaemia, the Sleeveballoon induces a slowing down of digestion which has a steadying effect on blood sugar levels. This helps control appetite and hunger, keeping the person fuller for longer and substantially reduces weight."

The device should be removed after 6 to 12 months, and the team are eager to test the device in say more research is needed to manage this process and avoid reversal of the positive effects on obesity and diabetes.

"About two billion adults, or 30% of the world's population, live with overweight or obesity according to the World Health Organisation," said Professor Mingrone.

"At present, 500 million people suffer from type 2 diabetes and about two billion people have fatty liver disease. We hope that our discovery will be tested in humans soon and revolutionise the way we tackle this epidemic."


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New study is 'chilling commentary' on future of antibiotics

The health care market is failing to support new antibiotics used to treat some of the world's most dangerous, drug-resistant "superbugs," according to a new analysis by University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine infectious disease scientists.

In a study published today in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology, investigators used nationwide prescription data to determine that the current annual U.S. sales of new antibiotics to treat carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), one of the world's most insidious drug-resistant bacteria, is about $101 million annually -- significantly short of the $1 billion believed to be necessary to assure the financial viability of a new antibiotic. Even if new anti-CRE agents were used as widely as possible to treat CRE infections, the projected market size is only $289 million.

"New drugs against CRE address a major, previously unmet medical need and are critical to save lives. If the market can't support them, then that is a chilling commentary on the future of antibiotic development," said lead author Cornelius J. Clancy, M.D., associate professor of medicine and director of the mycology program and Extensively Drug Resistant Pathogen Laboratory in Pitt's Division of Infectious Diseases. "Without antibiotics against increasingly resistant bacteria and fungi, much of modern medicine may become infeasible, including cancer chemotherapies, organ transplantation and high-risk abdominal surgeries."

CRE infections are estimated to cause 1.5 to 4.5 million hospitalizations worldwide each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has classified CRE as urgent threat pathogens and calls them the "nightmare bacteria." The World Health Organization and Infectious Disease Society of America have designated CRE as highest priority pathogens for development of new antibiotics.

Since 2015, five antibiotics against CRE have gained U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval and trials have so far shown three of them to be more effective and less toxic than the previous first-line antibiotics. One of the developers of the new anti-CRE drugs -- the biopharmaceutical company Achaogen -- declared bankruptcy in April because of its steep losses.

After reporting earlier this year that new CRE antibiotics are being prescribed in only about a quarter of infections that warrant them, Clancy and senior author M. Hong Nguyen, M.D., Pitt professor of medicine and director of UPMC's Antimicrobial Management Program, investigated the market needed to make antibiotic development sustainable. They found a shortfall in revenue potential, evidenced by the financial difficulties faced by drug companies that created the new anti-CRE drugs.

"The prudent approach when fighting bacteria is to have multiple treatment options in the pipeline so that when resistance is inevitably developed to the current drug, a new antibiotic is waiting in the wings," said Nguyen. "But we found that market prospects will become even more daunting if more anti-CRE drugs are approved, which is bad news for infectious disease physicians and, more importantly, our patients."

Clancy and Nguyen propose a combination of "push" and "pull" incentives to encourage sustainable antibiotic development, starting with approval of the bilateral DISARM Act, which currently is under consideration in Congress. DISARM would assure full Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reimbursement for use of new antibiotics against resistant infections in hospitalized patients, rather than subsuming antibiotic costs into the discounted bundled payment hospitals receive. This would remove the disincentive hospitals face in using more effective but more expensive new agents rather than cheaper, older agents.

There also needs to be a cultural and behavioral change among hospitals and clinicians to encourage faster adoption and appropriate use of new antibiotics, the researchers said. Infectious disease physicians and pharmacists need to take responsibility for educating the wider clinical community about the importance of quickly updating and following guidelines on the best possible antibiotics to be using for their patients.

There was no funding for this study. Clancy and Nguyen report unrelated research funded by various pharmaceutical and medical device companies, detailed in the study manuscript.


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Bad Mood Affects Human Health

Grumpy people are not pleasant to the rest; at the least setback they have shown bad character, serious face and are little communicative. That way of being subtracts laughs, good treatment to others, as well as enthusiasm to undertake new projects in a positive way.

Specialists say that being in a bad mood is an alternative that also affects health and influences the way in which it is perceived and considered.

The level of bad luck has to do with a person like those described above in a reception, store, market or any other service delivery center.

However, it is not something irremediable; some scholars of the subject advise that when you feel that the bad mood invades you or you are not in the mood to do anything, it is possible to try to feel better in some way, such as listening to a favorite song or performing an action that causes pleasure.

There are many investigations carried out on the impact of certain actions on mood and bad mood, such as thanking. This fills the brain with serotonin and makes you feel good. According to an article from the University of California in the United States. An investigation found that people of all ages and diverse nationalities, who are willing to be more grateful, report fewer health complaints, such as headaches, stomach aches and runny nose.

On the other hand, a team of psychologists from Iowa State University found a way to improve mood and bad mood. To do this, they tested the benefits of three different techniques that can reduce anxiety and increase happiness or well-being, along with the support of a group of university students. Participants had to walk around a building practicing one of the proposed strategies.

Bad Mood Affects Human Health

The first was based on the love-kindness relationship and consisted of looking at the people around them and dedicating good wishes to them. The second was the interconnection that is about looking at those who were going through it and thinking about how they could be connected to each other based on common positive aspects. The third and last was the descending social comparison, which was to think about how you could be better than the people who were close.

The researchers compared each technique by surveying students to measure anxiety, happiness, stress, empathy and connection. They found that those who practiced goodness or wished that others were happier, felt more connected, affectionate and empathetic, as well as less anxious. The interconnection group was the most empathetic.

According to psychologists, extending loving kindness to others slows bad moods because it works to reduce anxiety, increase happiness, empathy and feelings of social connection. In addition, it is a simple strategy that does not require much time and works whatever the type of personality.

Being supportive also has a positive impact on well-being. Dean Yeong, a specialist at Taylor Lakeside University in Malaysia, explained:

“There are scientific studies that support the idea that solidarity and compassion reduce stress and depression, because of the positive feelings they generate in people. In addition, a group of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania found that solidarity is contagious, and that it depends more on the people around you than on yourself.”

Some recommended practices include when you have been working at the desk for more than an hour, stop and stretch your muscles. Five minutes is enough to energize and improve the attitude to continue the task.

Also hugging; Physical contact greatly improves mood. Not being so cold with the people you deal with on a daily basis, makes things a lot easier in everyday life; Performing exercises that release endorphins give a pleasant sensation and helps drain negative emotions and recharge the forces. Having a smile on hand and being kind to everyone favors empathy, as well as fostering good relationships with those around us.

By Teresa Valenzuela

Explorers discover huge ‘lost’ cave with 3 floors & giant hall in Antarctica (PHOTOS)

Polar explorers have discovered a monumental “lost” ice cave with three floors, a giant hall, 200 meters of walkways, several lakes and a river hidden in Antarctica.

The mysterious cave was found on Galindez Island, where explorers from the Ukranian Antarctic Expedition (UAE) are based. There was a known entrance to the cave opposite the island’s shore station, however several years ago the opening was blocked when a glacier shifted into the ocean.

The team searched tirelessly to find another entrance into the cave. After several unsuccessful attempts, they found an opening at an old British base – only to discover that the cave is actually three times larger than the team previously thought.

READ MORE: 118yo painting discovered in mint condition in Antarctica (PHOTO)

On the bottom floor of the magnificent cavern the team found a frozen lake and a giant hall that is almost as high as a four-storey building (12 meters), eight meters wide and a whopping 30 meters long. Over the cave’s three floors and about 200 meters of walkways, the team also discovered an ice river and a bird’s feather in an ice block some 20 meters (65ft) below the surface.

Vintage film reveals Antarctic glaciers are melting faster than thought

We can learn a lot about the future from the past, and now environmental scientists have found a way to look further back in time in more detail than ever before. By studying vintage film containing radar data of Antarctica gathered throughout the 1970s, the team found that the ice shelf of Thwaites Glacier is melting even faster than we thought.

About the size of Florida, Thwaites Glacier lies on the western coast of Antarctica and is a key piece of the continent’s structure. It stands between the ocean and other glaciers, so it’s thought that if Thwaites falls others will soon follow.

And sadly, this is among the places climate change has hit the hardest. A recent study showed that almost a quarter of glacier ice in West Antarctica has become unstable, with ice loss happening five times faster now than it was in the 1990s. Thwaites Glacier in particularly vulnerable, after another survey discovered a huge cavity eating away at the ice from underneath.

But this is all based on modern data, gathered between 1992 and 2017. To make the most accurate predictions for the future, it’s important to cast the net as far back in time as possible. And now, scientists from Stanford, Cambridge, Imperial College London and the University of Edinburgh have widened the window back to the early 1970s.

Dustin Schroeder (front) and art historian Jessica Daniel, preparing the film for digitizationDustin Schroeder (front) and art historian Jessica Daniel, preparing the film for digitization.

The team has digitized old film reels of data gathered between 1971 and 1979. This data was the result of around 250,000 miles (400,000 km) of flights across Antarctica during that decade, using ice-penetrating radar to examine the structure of the ice and the landscape beneath it.

By comparing the measurements taken back then to those gathered more recently, the team was able to get a sense of how much had changed in the intervening 40 to 50 years.

“By having this record, we can now see these areas where the ice shelf is getting thinnest and could break through,” says Dustin Schroeder, lead author of the study. “This is a pretty hard-to-get-to area and we’re really lucky that they happened to fly across this ice shelf.”

The researchers found that the old data was surprisingly detailed, allowing them to identify features like ash layers from past volcanic eruptions, and channels underneath the ice sheet where water is eroding the ice.

In particular, one of these channels was found to have remained fairly stable over the last 40 years – Thwaites, on the other hand, appears to have lost even more ice than previously thought, shrinking by up to a third between 1978 and 2009. And because the stable channel provides a good baseline comparison, the researchers can be more sure about the results.

https://assets.newatlas.com/dims4/default/37cf035/2147483647/strip/true/crop/705x470+0+0/resize/840x560!/quality/90/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fassets.newatlas.com%2F53%2Fba%2Faa7b97c948aeabde7acb4e6fd666%2Fantarctic-reel-1.jpgSeveral hundred rolls of vintage film were condensed into 75 before being digitized.

“The fact that we were able to have one ice shelf where we can say, ‘Look, it’s pretty much stable. And here, there’s significant change’ – that gives us more confidence in the results about Thwaites,” says Schroeder.

This study helps fill in more details about the environmental history of Antarctica, and how climate change is affecting it. Unfortunately, as usual it’s not great news.

Widespread aspirin use despite few benefits, high risks

Medical consensus once supported daily use of low dose aspirin to prevent heart attack and stroke in people at increased risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD). But in 2018, three major clinical trials cast doubt on that conventional wisdom, finding few benefits and consistent bleeding risks associated with daily aspirin use. Taken together, the findings led the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology to change clinical practice guidelines earlier this year, recommending against the routine use of aspirin in people older than 70 years or people with increased bleeding risk who do not have existing cardiovascular disease.

Aspirin use is widespread among groups at risk for harm including older adults and adults with peptic ulcers -- painful sores in the lining of the stomach that are prone to bleeding that affect about one in ten people. In a research report published today in Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) report on the extent to which Americans 40 years old and above use aspirin for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease.

"Although prior American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology guidelines recommended aspirin only in persons without elevated bleeding risk, the 2019 guidelines now explicitly recommend against aspirin use among those over the age of 70 who do not have existing heart disease or stroke," said senior author Christina C. Wee, MD, MPH, a general internist and researcher at BIDMC and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. "Our findings suggest that a substantial portion of adults may be taking aspirin without their physician's advice and potentially without their knowledge."

Using data from the 2017 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), a nationally representative survey of U.S. households conducted before the release of the new guidelines, Wee and colleagues characterized aspirin use for primary prevention of CVD. The team found that about a quarter of adults aged 40 years or older without cardiovascular disease -- approximately 29 million people -- reported taking daily aspirin for prevention of heart disease. Of these, some 6.6 million people did so without a physician's recommendation.

Concerningly, nearly half of adults 70 years and older without a history of heart disease or stroke reported taking aspirin daily. The authors noted that a history of peptic ulcer disease -- another contraindication for the routine use of aspirin -- was not significantly associated with lower aspirin use as one would have expected.

"Our findings show a tremendous need for health care practitioners to ask their patients about ongoing aspirin use and to advise them about the importance of balancing the benefits and harms, especially among older adults and those with prior peptic ulcer disease," said lead author Colin O'Brien, MD, a senior internal medicine resident at BIDMC and fellow at Harvard Medical School.

Coauthor, Stephen Juraschek, MD, PhD, a primary care physician at BIDMC, cautions that "these findings are applicable to adults who do not have a history of cardiovascular disease or stroke. If you are currently taking aspirin, discuss it with your doctor to see if it is still needed for you."

Juraschek, who is also an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School, is supported by grant K23HL135273 from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

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Cancer tissue-freezing approach may help more breast cancer patients in lower income countries

A new reusable device created by the Johns Hopkins University can help women with breast cancer in lower income countries by using carbon dioxide, a widely available and affordable gas, to power a cancer tissue-freezing probe instead of industry-standard argon.

A study detailing the tool's success in animals was published this month in PLOS One.

"Innovation in cancer care doesn't always mean you have to create an entirely new treatment, sometimes it means radically innovating on proven therapies such that they're redesigned to be accessible to the majority of the world's population," says Bailey Surtees, a recent Johns Hopkins University biomedical engineering graduate and the study's first author.

"This project is a remarkable example of success from the Biomedical Engineering Design Program," says Nicholas Durr, an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins and the study's senior author. "This team of undergraduates has been so successful because they created a practical solution for the problem after really understanding the constraints that needed to be met to be impactful."

The largest cause of cancer-related mortality for women across the globe, breast cancer disproportionately affects women in lower-income countries due to lack of treatment. While the survival rate for women in the United States is greater than 90%, they are significantly lower at 64%, 46% and 12% in Saudi Arabia, Uganda and The Gambia, respectively.

"Instead of saying 'She has breast cancer," the locals we met while conducting focus groups for our research said 'She has death,' because breast cancer is often considered an automatic death sentence in these communities," adds Surtees.

In lower-income countries, the main barriers to treating breast cancer are inadequate treatment options -- with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation being impractical or too expensive -- and long travel times to regional hospitals where efficient treatment is available. Even if a woman is able to travel to a hospital for treatment, she may not be seen and recovery times will keep her out of work for an additional few weeks.

Killing cancerous tissue with cold, or cryoablation, is preferable to surgically removing tumors in these countries because it eliminates the need for a sterile operating room and anesthesia, thus making it possible to local clinics to perform the procedure. It's also minimally invasive, thereby reducing complications such as pain, bleeding and extended recovery time.

Current cryoablation technologies, however, are too expensive, with a single treatment costing upwards of $10,000, and are dependent on argon gas, which typically isn't available in lower-income countries, to form the tissue-killing ice crystals.

With these barriers in mind, the student-led research team, named Kubanda (which means "cold" in Zulu), wanted to create a tissue-freezing tool that uses carbon dioxide, which is already widely available in most rural areas thanks to the popularity of carbonated drinks.

The research team tested their tool in three experiments to ensure it could remain cold enough in conditions similar to the human breast and successfully kill tumor tissue.

In the first experiment, the team used the tool on jars of ultrasound gel, which thermodynamically mimics human breast tissue, to determine whether it could successfully reach standard freezing temperatures killing tissue and form consistent iceballs. In all trials, the device formed large enough iceballs and reached temperatures below -40 degrees Celsius, which meets standard freezing temperatures for tissue death for similar devices in the United States.

For the second experiment, the team treated 9 rats with 10 mammary tumors. Afterwards, they looked at the tissue under a microscope and confirmed that the tool successfully killed 85% or more tissue for all tumors.

Finally, the team tested the tool's ability to reach temperatures cold enough for tissue destruction in the normal liver of a pig, which has a temperature similar to a human breast. The device was successfully able to stay cold enough during the entire experiment to kill the target tissue.

"When we started the project, experts in the area told us it was impossible to ablate meaningful tissue volumes with carbon dioxide. This mindset may have come from both the momentum of the field and also from not thinking about the importance of driving down the cost of this treatment," says Durr.

While the results are promising, the device still requires additional experiments before it's ready for commercial use. Mainly, the research team's next steps are to ensure it can consistently kill cancer tissue under the same heat conditions as human breast tissue.

In the near future, the team hopes to continue testing their device for human use, and expand its use to pets.

Other authors on this paper include Sean Young, Yixin Hu, Guannan Wang, Evelyn McChesney, Grace Kuroki, Pascal Acree, Serena Thomas, Tara Blair, Shivam Rastogi, Dara L. Kraitchman, Clifford Weiss, Saraswati Sukumar and Susan C. Harvey, all of Johns Hopkins.

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