Wednesday, January 27, 2010
In what could revolutionize healthcare for the rising diabetes population worldwide, scientists claimed to have developed a 15-minute non-surgical treatment that could lead to drastic weight loss and reverse the onset of the disease.
The breakthrough treatment, considered a cheap and safe alternative to surgery, involves a device called EndoBarrier — a plastic sleeve that is inserted into the intestine of a patient to prevent food being absorbed into the body.
The device, developed by a United States-based company, is fed through the mouth using an instrument called an endoscope while the patient is awake, the Daily Express reported.
“Obesity surgery can be risky simply because of the patient’s weight and the fact that you are giving them a general anaesthetic. That’s why it’s so good to have a non-surgical approach,” said Keith Gersin, head of obesity surgery at Carolinas Medical Centre in Charlotte, North Carolina, which has been trialing the EndoBarrier sleeve for 18 months.
“It is so quick to fit that you can get lots more patients treated. The patients loved it so much they didn’t want us to remove it at the end of the trial period. We had no significant side effects and it was easily removed.”
Extensive tests of EndoBarrier have been carried out in the US and Europe and last week the new device was given a licence for use on European patients.
In a 12-week trial in the Netherlands, patients fitted with the EndoBarrier lost an average of 16kg compared with a control group of patients who dieted and lost just 5kg.
According to its developers, the treatment, which costs £2,000, is about half the cost of the cheapest obesity operation.
“The patients who used it have continued to lose weight. It gave them the incentive to diet and eat sensibly,” said Gersin.
The EndoBarrier device is fitted to the first two feet of the small intestine where most food is absorbed.
During trials the sleeve was able to reverse Type 2 diabetes within weeks by reducing patients’ blood sugar levels so they no longer needed to take drugs. Nadey Hakim, a leading UK consultant in weight loss surgery, said: “I would love to be able to cure a patient’s obesity with a 15-minute procedure. It’s a very clever idea”.
The EndoBarrier digestive tract liner won CE Mark approval in December, 2009, clearing the way for sales to begin in the European Union this year.
Monday, January 4, 2010
THOUSANDS HELD IN CHINA FOR INTERNET MISUSE
China arrested more than 5,000 people in a crackdown on Internet pornography in 2009, officials said, vowing tougher online policing in the new year as a key element of "state security".
China maintains strict censorship of the Internet to curb what the government deems to be unhealthy content including porn and violence - an effort that has become known as the "Great Firewall of China".
Authorities in December offered rewards of up to 10,000 yuan (1,465 dollars) to Internet users who report websites that feature pornography.
According to figures published by the ministry of public security late on Thursday, 5,394 people were arrested last year under the Internet porn crackdown, and 9,000 illegal porn-related sites were shut down.
The ministry, in a statement on its website, did not specify if all of those arrested were later prosecuted.
It said it would "strengthen punishment for Internet operators that violate the laws and regulations" in the coming year.
"Purifying the Internet environment and cracking down on Internet crimes is related to long-term state security," the ministry said.
Internet use has expanded at a dizzying pace in China, which now has the world's largest online population with at least 338 million users.
The government is concerned that left unchecked, the Internet could become a means for ordinary citizens to spread information harmful to society - including ideas that are critical of the communist authorities.
China has blocked several social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Citizens can only gain access to such sites by using proxy servers.
Earlier this year Beijing threatened to sanction major websites, including search engine giants Google and Baidu, alleging that pornography and other material that could corrupt young people was turning up in search results.
Authorities effectively cut off Internet access in the far-western Xinjiang region after deadly ethnic unrest erupted there in July.
The government says terrorists, separatists and religious extremists used the Internet, telephones and mobile text messages to spread rumours and hatred as the violence broke out.
Earlier this week, limited access to state-run news websites was restored.
EARLY BEDTIME BANISHES TEEN BLUES
Earlier bedtimes may help protect adolescents against depression and suicidal thoughts, says a new study.
Published in the Jan. 1 issue of the journal Sleep, the research found that adolescents with bedtimes that were set earlier by parents were significantly less likely to suffer from depression and to think about committing suicide, suggesting that earlier bedtimes could have a protective effect by lengthening sleep duration and increasing the likelihood of getting enough sleep.
Results show that adolescents with parental set bedtimes of midnight or later were 24 percent more likely to suffer from depression and 20 percent more likely to have suicidal ideation than adolescents with parental set bedtimes of 10 p.m. or earlier. This association was appreciably attenuated by self-reported sleep duration and the perception of getting enough sleep.
Adolescents who reported that they usually sleep for five or fewer hours per night were 71 percent more likely to suffer from depression and 48 percent more likely to think about committing suicide than those who reported getting eight hours of nightly sleep. Participants who reported that they "usually get enough sleep" were significantly less likely to suffer from depression and suicidal ideation.
Lead author James E. Gangwisch, PhD, assistant professor at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, N.Y., said that the results strengthen the argument that short sleep duration could play a role in the etiology of depression.
"Our results are consistent with the theory that inadequate sleep is a risk factor for depression, working with other risk and protective factors through multiple possible causal pathways to the development of this mood disorder," said Gangwisch. "Adequate quality sleep could therefore be a preventative measure against depression and a treatment for depression."
Friday, January 1, 2010
GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP IS LIFE’S ‘GREATEST PLEASURE’
Some of the little pleasures of life have no price tag on them - just like a good night’s sleep. Good night's sleep is life's 'greatest little pleasure' ``````
Curling up in bed after a long day and waking up feeling completely refreshed the following morning is so good that it has been voted life’s ‘greatest little pleasure’, reports The Telegraph.
In the study of 3,000 Brits, a tenner in your pocket came second, closely followed by cuddling up to a loved-one in bed.
Rob Stacey spokesman for Batchelors Cup-a-Soup, which carried out the poll, said: ‘You can’t beat the feeling of getting into bed after a long, hard day.
‘And that feeling gets even better when you wake up feeling great and back to your normal self the following morning. ‘We don’t always need something major to happen to brighten up our day - sometimes the little things have just as much of an effect.
‘Often the little gestures such as a quick cuddle or a compliment can really help to cheer someone up if they are having a bad day, and can even be more welcome than splashing out on expensive presents.’
Top 50 greatest little pleasures in life:
1. A good night’s sleep
2. Finding a forgotten tenner in your pocket
3. Cuddling up with a partner in bed
4. Crying with laughter
5. Having a lie-in
6. Sleeping in newly laundered bedding
7. Getting a bargain
8. Making someone smile
9. Catching up with an old friend
10. Laughing at things that have happened in the past
11. Eating a Sunday roast with your family
12. Someone saying you look nice
13. Curling up on the sofa with a good book and a hot drink or soup
14. discovering you’ve lost a few pounds
15. Breakfast in bed
16. Waking up thinking it’s a work day and then realising it’s the weekend
17. A random person smiling at you in the street
18. Looking through old photo albums
19. Eating a takeaway
20. First snow fall of the year
21. Singing your heart out to your favourite song in car
22. Having lunch with friends
23. Listening to a baby laughing
24. Having a massage
25. Reading a book or listening to your iPod on holiday by the pool
26. Playing in snow
27. Finding a pair of jeans that fit perfectly
28. Being chatted up
29. A girly-night in
30. A pampering session at home
31. The smell of freshly cut grass
32. Sitting in the pub with your friends
33. Looking at a baby asleep in a cot
34. Waking up in a room with an amazing view
35. Clothes shopping
36. Receiving a letter from a friend
37. Fitting into an old pair of jeans again after losing some weight
38. Staying up all night getting to know someone special
39. Your mum’s cooking
40. Getting dressed up for a night out
41. Watching a live band
42. Drinking a cold beer after work
43. Browsing in a secondhand book shop
44. Going to the cinema
45. Getting a new hairstyle
46. Your queue being the quickest in the supermarket
47. The cold side of the pillow
48. Watching a DVD
49. Getting tipsy
50. Popping bubble wrap.
SCIENTISTS WRITING FOOLPROOF SECURITY CODE
We often see websites asking us to key in wavy letters into a box to prevent computer robots from hacking into servers and databases. But these codes, which are becoming increasingly complex for an average person, are not immune to security breaches.
A project led by Danny Cohen-Or, computer science professor at the Tel Aviv University (TAU), shows how a new kind of video captcha code may be harder to outsmart. Captcha technology is intended to block spam e-mail and automated systems.
"Humans have a very special skill that computer bots have not yet been able to master," says Cohen-Or. "We can see what's called an 'emergence image' - an object on a computer screen that becomes recognisable only when it's moving - and identify this image in a matter of seconds."
"While a person can't 'see' the image as a stationary object on a mottled background, it becomes part of our gestalt as it moves, allowing us to recognize and process it."
The study was co-authored with colleagues in Taiwan, Saudi Arabia and India. Cohen-Or describes a synthesis technique that generates pictures of 3-D objects, like a running man or a flying airplane.
This technique, he says, will allow security developers to generate an infinite number of moving "emergence" images that will be virtually impossible for any computer algorithm to decode.
'Emergence,' as defined by researchers, is a unique human ability to collect fragments of seemingly useless information, then synthesize and perceive it as an identifiable whole.
So far, computers don't have this skill. "Computer vision algorithms are completely incapable of effectively processing emergence images," says Cohen-Or's colleague and study co-author Lior Wolf.
The scientists warn that it will take some time before this research can be applied in the real world."We're not claiming in our research paper that we've developed a whole new captcha technology," says Cohen-Or.
"But we are taking a step towards that - something that could lead to a much better captcha, to highlight the big difference between men and bots," concludes Cohen-Or.
"If it were to be turned into a solution, however, we wouldn't be able to give humans a multiple choice answer or common word answer for what they see, so we'll need to develop a way to use it. We have a few ideas in the works."
The researchers are also developing methods of automatically generating "hidden" images in a natural background, like a pastoral mountain setting - a digital "Where's Waldo?" game.
"We're trying to hide images like eagles or a lion in mountainscape," says Cohen-Or. Because the moving image blends into a static background, it's hard for bots to understand what the human eye perceives with only minimal training.