Fatness can lead to 'brain shrinkage'

TIMES OF INDIA  24 August 2009
A new study from University of California in Los Angeles suggests that piling on the pounds can shrink brains of older people, making them more vulnerable to cognitive problems. 

According to Paul Thompson, brains of elderly obese people looked 16 years older than the brains of leaner peers. 

The research involving 94 people in their 70s showed that people with higher body mass indexes had smaller brains on average, with the frontal and temporal lobes - important for planning and memory, respectively - particularly affected. 

While no one knows whether these people are more likely to develop dementia, a smaller brain is indicative of destructive processes that can develop into dementia. 

The team also found that the brains of the 51 overweight people were 6 per cent smaller than those of their normal-weight counterparts, on average, and those of the 14 obese people were 8 per cent smaller. 

"The brains of overweight people looked eight years older than the brains of those who were lean, and 16 years older in obese people," New Scientist quoted Thompson as saying. 

Thompson suggests that as increased body fat ups the chances of having clogged arteries, which can reduce blood and oxygen flow to brain cells, the resulting reduction in metabolism could cause brain cell death and the shrinking seen. 

He said that exercise protects the very brain regions that had shrunk. 

"The most strenuous kind of exercise can save about the same amount of brain tissue that is lost in the obese," he said. 

The findings appear in journal Human Brain Mapping.

Now, a new treatment for spinal injuries

TIMES OF INDIA   22 August 2009
A doctor and a bio-technologist from Kerala have come up with an alternative treatment for patients with critical spinal injuries and are now  awaiting clearance from the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) to conduct human trials.
P.S. John, an orthopaedist, and C.S. Poulose, a bio-technologist, claim to have successfully conducted trials on rats and rabbits at the department of neurosciences at the Cochin University of Science and Technology from 2002 to 2008. 

John, who retired as head of the department of orthopaedics from the Kottayam Medical College, said: "We have developed a treatment protocol where one's own bone marrow cells and neurotransmitter (a hormone like chemical messenger that carries impulses from one nerve cell to the other) will be injected to the patient. Depending on the nature of injury, the injection could last a month or for 12 months." 

The laboratory tests were done under the supervision of Poulose, who is director of neurosciences at the university. 

Their work has by now been presented at many international conferences and is accepted for publication in Current Science. 

The study team has already secured a patent on their technique in the country. 

Elaborating on the new method, John said: "Since we are using the patient's own bone marrow, no ethical issues are involved. Moreover there will be no chance of adverse reactions or rejection reactions. The neurotransmitter combination that is used to modulate the bone marrow is naturally occurring amines in our system and hence will not produce any untoward effects." 

The study team has secured written consent from hundreds of patients willing to undergo the clinical trials using the new technique. 

Speaking to IANS, 27-year-old George K. Thomas, who has been bed-ridden after a road accident in 2007, said: "I have tried various treatments and there is no change. I am prepared to go through the clinical trials of this new technique. I really wish they get the sanction for the trials."

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