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Cut marks on 4,000-yr-old skulls show ancient Egyptians tried to treat cancer

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New Delhi, May 29 (IANS) Ancient Egyptians attempted to operate on excessive tissue growth or learn more about cancerous disorders after a patient’s death, revealed a study on two 4,000-year-old skulls.

Known to be the place of one of the early civilisations, ancient Egyptians have been known to identify, describe, and treat diseases and traumatic injuries, build prostheses, and put in dental fillings.

To understand their further prowess, an international team of researchers studied two human skulls — male and female and each thousands of years old.

The cut marks on the skulls revealed the extent of traumatological and oncological treatments practised by the ancient Egyptians, they said in the paper published in the journal Frontiers in Medicine.

Edgard Camaros, a paleopathologist at the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain called the discovery “unique and extraordinary” evidence of how ancient Egyptian medicine would have tried to deal with or explore cancer more than 4,000 years ago.

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The two skulls — Skull and Mandible 236, dating from between 2687 and 2345 BCE, belonged to a male individual aged 30 to 35, while Skull E270, dating from between 663 and 343 BCE, belonged to a female individual who was older than 50 years.

Microscopic observation of skull 236 showed a big-sized lesion consistent with excessive tissue destruction, known as neoplasm.

Further, there were also 30 or so small and round metastasised lesions scattered across the skull, with cut marks probably made by a sharp object such as a metal instrument.

“When we first observed the cut marks under the microscope, we could not believe what was in front of us,” said Tatiana Tondini, a researcher at the University of Tubingen in Germany.

Analysis of Skull E270 also showed a big lesion consistent with a cancerous tumour that led to bone destruction, and two lesions from traumatic injuries that received treatment.

“This may indicate that although today’s lifestyle and cancer-causing substances in the environment increase cancer risk, it was also a common pathology in the past,” the team said.

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–IANS

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Study suggests relation between gut microbiome and neurodegenerative diseases

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New Delhi, June 16 (IANS) A new study has suggested that the gut microbiome plays a vital role in the onset and progression of some neurodegenerative diseases (NDDs).

NDDs, which have no known cures and elusive causes, result in irreversible damage to the brain and nervous system, according to the study published in the journal American Society for Microbiology.

A team of researchers reported a new association in humans between a metabolite produced by gut microbes and 3 NDDs. As per their investigation, the metabolite DHPS (2,3-dihydroxypropane-1-sulfonate) may help respond to crucial questions about how sulphur metabolism pathways can relate the microbiome to these disorders.

In their study, the researchers aimed to identify the specific bacterial and metabolite profiles of the gut microbiome in individuals diagnosed with one of three NDDs: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and Parkinson’s disease (PD).

To gather data on the early stage of the diseases, they collected stool samples from diagnosed patients during their first two visits to a specialist and then compared the analysis of those samples to samples collected from healthy individuals. The researchers found 19 metabolic biomarkers for neurodegeneration in all 3 NDD groups as well as 20 unique ALS markers, 16 unique AD markers and 9 unique PD markers.

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Those shared biomarkers included metabolites that have been linked to dyshomeostasis in sulphur metabolism pathways, the study showed. The researchers also found links to ‘Bilophila’ and ‘Desulfovibrio’ bacterial taxa in all 3 disease groups, which play a role in synthesising and degrading DHPS. Bilophila can degrade DHPS into hydrogen sulphide, and the accumulation of hydrogen sulphide has been implicated in the dysfunction of mitochondria, which is known to contribute to NDDs, according to researchers.

–IANS

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Avoiding long exposure to severe temperatures vital to save kids' developing brain: Experts

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New Delhi, June 16 (IANS) As exposure to extreme temperatures during early developmental stages can significantly impact neurodevelopment, specifically the integrity of white matter, experts on Sunday suggested that proper insulation, avoiding prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures, and educating parents and caregivers on recognising signs of heat and cold stress are essential measures to protect the developing brain of children.

According to Sreenivas U.M., Consultant — Neurology, MGM Hospital Chennai, heat exposure can lead to hyperthermia, disrupting normal cellular processes and causing neuronal injury, particularly in the developing brain, which has a high metabolic rate and is susceptible to heat-induced oxidative stress.

“Exposure to extreme temperatures during early developmental stages can significantly impact neurodevelopment, specifically the integrity of white matter. In the critical early years of life, the brain undergoes rapid growth, making it vulnerable to environmental stressors like extreme heat or cold, which can impair cognitive functions by damaging myelin,” Sreenivas U.M. told IANS.

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As per experts, young children are especially at risk due to their underdeveloped thermoregulatory mechanisms, which can lead to white matter injury.

“Temperature extremes can disrupt myelination, trigger inflammatory responses damaging myelin, and induce structural brain changes,” said Shivananda Pai, Consultant Neurology, KMC Hospital, B.R. Ambedkar Circle, Mangalore.

In a recent study by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, which included 2,681 children, the researchers found that exposure to cold during pregnancy and the first year of life, and exposure to heat from birth until three years of age were associated with higher mean diffusivity at preadolescence, pointing to slower white matter maturation.

‘Cold’ and ‘heat’, in this case, was defined as those temperatures that are at the lower and upper end, respectively, of the temperature distribution in the study region.

According to the experts, brain development involves stages such as neurogenesis, migration, maturation, synaptogenesis, pruning, and myelination, with myelination being crucial for efficient nerve signal transmission.

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“This process, starting in the third trimester and continuing into middle age, can be disrupted by extreme temperatures, leading to physiological stress, neuro-inflammation, oxidative stress, cell death, and delayed myelination, all of which underscore the importance of maintaining an optimal thermal environment for healthy brain maturation and function,” said Amrut S.D., Associate Consultant – Neurology, Manipal Hospital, Goa.

–IANS

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Lucknow hospital surgically treats ‘suicide disease’

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Lucknow, June 16 (IANS) Balrampur Hospital in Lucknow has become the first district hospital to offer surgical treatment for Trigeminal Neuralgia, also known as the suicide disease (mainly because of the high-level pain that the patient suffers).

This achievement follows the successful operation of Ashok Kumar, 46, who was suffering from the condition. The patient had to spend merely Rs 400 for the surgery.

Bollywood star Salman Khan also had this disease. Trigeminal neuralgia affects about 10-12 out of 100,000 people and is more frequently found in women.

Ashok was experiencing severe pain on the right side of his face for six years. Despite using painkillers and undergoing treatments since the age of 40, he found no relief. Later, considering his financial constraints, some persons recommended him to visit Balrampur Hospital.

Ashok sought help from Dr Vinod Tiwari, a neurosurgeon at Balrampur Hospital. Dr Tiwari noted that Kumar’s right facial pain was triggered by minor activities such as wind, brushing his teeth, gargling, eating, drinking water, or a light touch on his right cheek, causing him hours of excruciating pain.

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“I told him if it is not cured by medicines, then surgery is the only solution,” said Dr Tiwari.

Further, MRI scan revealed that an artery was compressing the fifth nerve on the right side of Kumar’s brain, leading to unbearable pain. The medical team decided to perform surgery to relieve the compression and ease the patient’s suffering.

“I and my team at Balrampur Hospital decided to perform the surgery to remove the tumour and decompress the nerve,” Dr Tiwari explained.

The operation, which took over three hours under general anaesthesia, was successful. Ashok is currently recovering in ICU ward.

The patient can speak normally and is no longer experiencing pain, Dr Tiwari said.

Dr Pawan Kumar, Chief Superintendent at Balrampur Hospital, said: “Due to this disease, the patient is at risk of paralysis due to brain pressure.”

–IANS

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Protein that boosts body's immunity against cancer discovered

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New Delhi, June 15 (IANS) A team of researchers has discovered a protein which can also play a critical role in the immune system’s defence against cancer.

Researchers at the University of Turku in Finland found TIMP-1, a protein traditionally known to prevent damage to the body’s cells and tissues.

They discovered this protein also has a key role in the body’s immunity against cancer, a finding which can improve the effectiveness of current cancer treatments.

TIMP-1 protein is produced by dendritic cells, which are responsible for initiating immune responses and boosting the immune system’s ability to recognise and destroy cancer cells.

Researcher Carlos Rogerio Figueiredo from the University of Turku said for patients deficient in TIMP-1 expression, our discovery helps create rational therapeutic innovations.

Figueiredo added that the findings are also relevant for fighting infections by viruses and bacteria, as the process is part of a universal mechanism that fights microorganisms and cancer in a similar fashion.

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The study was published in the journal Genes & Immunity, which is part of the Nature Portfolio series.

The study used samples from the Finnish Auria Biobank for clinical-oriented discoveries, which were further validated with the latest biochemical and immunological tools to propose a new molecular view of how the body fights cancer.

–IANS

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How fasting can help immune system better fight cancer

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New Delhi, June 15 (IANS) Fasting has a myriad of benefits, and now, a team of researchers has claimed that it can even reprogramme the metabolism of natural killer cells, helping them to survive in the harsh environment in and around tumours while also improving their cancer-fighting ability

The new study in mice from researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) in New York revealed that fasting may help the body defend against cancer, starving cancer cells of the nutrients they need to grow.

“Tumours are very hungry. They take up essential nutrients, creating a hostile environment often rich in lipids that are detrimental to most immune cells,” according to immunologist Joseph Sun, the study’s senior author.

Fasting reprogrammes these natural killer cells (a type of white blood cell) to better survive in this suppressive environment, he said in a paper published in the journal Immunity.

For the study, mice with cancer were denied food for 24 hours twice a week, and then allowed to eat freely in between fasts.

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Just like humans, the mice saw a drop in their glucose levels and a rise in free fatty acids, which are lipids released by fat cells that can serve as an alternative energy source when other nutrients are not present, according to Rebecca Delconte, lead author of the study.

During each of these fasting cycles, natural killer cells learned to use these fatty acids as an alternative fuel source to glucose.

This optimised their anti-cancer response because the tumor microenvironment contains a high concentration of lipids, and now they were able to enter the tumour and survive better because of this metabolic training, the authors noted.

While more research is needed, the results suggest fasting could be a strategy to improve immune responses to make immunotherapy more effective.

–IANS

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