German’s Death At Olympics Has Saved Four Lives

 

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Stefan Henze, who coached Germany’s Olympic ‘canoe slalom’ team – whatever that is – died as a result of an automobile accident in Rio de Janeiro a few days before the end of the Olympics. Unfortunate as his death was, its aftermath has been hailed as ‘one of the greatest moments’ of this year’s often-troubled Olympics.

Henze had designated himself as an organ donor, and no fewer than four individuals are beneficiaries of that generosity.

“Heart, liver and both kidneys have been successfully transplanted. Thus he has saved four lives,” a spokesperson from the Brazilian health ministry told the German newspaper Die Welt. Henze’s family, who travelled to Rio after the accident, reportedly gave their consent to the transplants.

 

Several news reports say his heart, liver and both kidneys have been successfully transplanted. Henze’s relatives reportedly gave their consent to the transplants, Britian’s The Independent newspaper confirmed.

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, one person is added to the national transplant waiting list every 10 minutes, and around 22 people die every day waiting to get an organ transplant. A single donor can make a huge difference and save up to eight lives.

“One thing to remember is that every number in the statistic you view is a person — a person who either needs your help and is waiting for a lifesaving transplant or a person who has left a lasting legacy through organ and tissue donation,” the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states on its website. “Either way, each number represents a life, a mom, a dad, a brother, a sister or a child—someone who is important to someone else, maybe even you.”

The Health & Human Services website provides information on becoming an organ donor.

 

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Young Footballers’ Head Injury Risk Highest In Practice, Not Games

 

 

Not only are players of American football who are between six and 14 years of age at risk for head injuries, a recent study revealed they are more at risk of high-impact injuries during practice sessions than during actual games.

“High-magnitude head impacts are more likely to result in concussion,” said study co-author Steven Rowson, an assistant professor with Virginia Tech’s Center for Injury Biomechanics.

It’s estimated that up to 3.8 million sports-related concussions occur each year, the study authors said. And, football has been linked to the highest risk of brain injuries in team sports, according to the study.

While most research has focused on high school, college and professional football players, kids 14 and under are estimated to make up 70 percent of all football players in the United States.

And, those youngsters may be more at risk than older players, one expert noted.

“We know that kids in general — particularly adolescents — take longer on average than adults to recover from concussion,” said Anthony Kontos. He’s the research director with the Sports Medicine Concussion Program at the University of Pittsburgh.

“We don’t yet know the effects of concussions on the maturation and developmental processes in the brains of children and adolescents,” he explained.

Rowson noted that research such as this study can help develop better prevention approaches. “And by reducing players’ exposure to these impacts, concussions in youth football can be reduced.”

The new study hoped to understand when football players in the 6-14 age group suffer the most head impacts.

To find the answer, researchers outfitted 34 players on two teams in Blacksburg, Va., with helmet devices that measure the movement of the head in impacts. The average age of the children was 10.

The researchers tracked almost 7,000 impacts. Of those, 408 (6 percent) had the highest accelerations. Tackling and blocking drills accounted for 86 percent of all these high-level impacts, even though they made up just 22 percent of practice time.

“We found that impact rates between practices and games were largely consistent,” said study author Eamon Campolettano. He’s a graduate student at Virginia Tech.

“However, teams practice significantly more than they play games. This means that players are exposed to a greater number of head impacts in practice than in games,” Campolettano said.

A drill called “King of the Circle” produced the most head impacts (25 to 68 per hour).

“In King of the Circle, all players but one stand in a large circle,” Campolettano said. “The remaining player is in the middle of the circle and rushes at a player on the perimeter. Each player gets three opportunities to be the rusher in this drill.”

Should this particular drill be eliminated? The rate of high magnitude impacts,”are very different than what players experience during games, suggesting it may not be necessary to practice this drill,” Rowson added.

What about eliminating other kinds of drills that cause head impacts? Kontos cautioned that concussions can occur at lower magnitudes than the highest level in the study.

“And, there are times when very high magnitudes do not result in concussion,” Kontos said. Indeed, none of the players suffered a concussion during the time of the study.

Instead of eliminating tackling drills, he said, “teams and coaches can use progressive approaches to teach proper tackling technique as advocated by USA Football and other programs.”

“Importantly, we want to teach kids safe tackling technique with limited exposure to impacts to the brain. But it should be in a way that allows kids to then tackle properly when they play games, which are faster and involve a more dynamic environment,” Kontos said.

Another option is to eliminate youth football entirely or encourage parents to take their kids out of the game. But Kontos disagrees with this approach.

“We need to balance concerns about concussion risk in sports with the benefits from playing youth sports including improved cardiovascular health, maintaining a healthy weight, and psychosocial benefits such as teamwork and self-confidence,” Kontos said.

The study appears online Aug. 23 in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics.

Study: Same Nicotine Levels, but lower carcinogens exposure in e-cigs

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YouSayWHAT.info first reported on vaping and e-cigarettes in late July. We then quoted The Mash, a publication distributed to Chicagoland schools, which declared that “research from institutions like the Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) suggests that [it] may be true” that, as some users of e-cigs believe, “vaping is a safer alternative to smoking that [using] traditional cigarettes.”

Now, RPCI researchers have declared that, for e-cig users, “nicotine exposure remains the same, while exposure to specific carcinogens and toxicants is reduced,” among smokers who switch from tobacco cigarettes to electronic cigarettes. Their new research was published online ahead of print in the journal Nicotine Tobacco Research.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study with smokers to demonstrate that substituting tobacco cigarettes with electronic cigarettes may reduce exposure to numerous toxicants and carcinogens present in tobacco cigarettes,” says lead author Maciej Goniewicz, PhD, PharmD, Assistant Professor of Oncology in the Department of Health Behavior at Roswell Park. “This study suggests that smokers who completely switch to e-cigarettes and stop smoking tobacco cigarettes may significantly reduce their exposure to many cancer-causing chemicals.”

In a study conducted between March and June 2011, 20 healthy adult daily smokers were provided with electronic cigarettes and 20 tobacco-flavored cartridges. Participants in the study had smoked traditional cigarettes for an average of 12 years, and 95% of them said they planned to quit smoking. All participants were asked to substitute their usual tobacco cigarettes with e-cigarettes for two weeks.

The international scientific team measured participants’ urine levels of seven nicotine metabolites and 17 biomarkers of exposure to carcinogens and toxicants present in cigarette smoke over a two-week period. The biomarkers measured in the study are indicators of the risk of several diseases, including lung cancer. For 12 of 17 measured biomarkers, they found significant declines in exposure to toxicants when participants changed from tobacco cigarettes to e-cigarettes. The decline in toxicant levels was similar to the decline seen among tobacco users who quit smoking. Nicotine metabolites remained unchanged among the majority of study participants, confirming findings from earlier laboratory studies showing that e-cigarettes effectively deliver nicotine to the blood.

“Our findings suggest that e-cigarette use may effectively reduce exposure to toxic and carcinogenic substances among smokers who completely switch to these products,” says co-author Neal Benowitz, MD, Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “Future research will help determine whether e-cigarettes reduce the risk of disease among dual users — those who both smoke and vape — and those who use electronic cigarettes for a long time.”

The study, “Exposure to nicotine and selected toxicants in cigarette smokers who switched to electronic cigarettes: a longitudinal within-subjects observational study,” is available at ntr.oxfordjournals.org.

This work was supported by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of Poland (grant no. NN404025638) and the U.S. National Institutes of Health (award nos. P30DA012393, National Institute on Drug Abuse, and S10RR026437, National Center for Research Resources). Dr. Goniewicz received a research grant from Pfizer, a pharmaceutical company that markets smoking-cessation medications. He and Benowitz have been consultants to pharmaceutical companies that market smoking cessation medications, and Dr. Benowitz has been an expert witness in litigation against tobacco companies.

Promising New Pain Killer Not Addictive Like Opioids

 

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Scientists have developed a new drug that promises the pain-numbing effects of opioids without their addictive characteristics. An article last week in MIT Technology Review said this “promising new pain-killer… appears to separate the powerful pain dulling effects of synthetic opioids from side effects that include physical dependence, constipation, and potentially fatal respiratory depression.”

To find the new drug–named PZM21 and detailed in a paper published August 17 in Nature–a research team at UCSF’s School of Pharmacy simulated some four trillion different chemical interactions between the brain’s “morphine receptors,” and a virtual library of close to 4 million commercially available drug compounds. Choosing the best candidates, they then worked in collaboration with researchers from three other institutions to develop a compound that functioned in the way they hoped, after testing it in mice.

“Opioids can cause respiratory depression–that’s why people die, because they stop breathing,” says Brian Shoichet, a professor of pharmaceutical chemistry at UCSF’s School of Pharmacy and co-senior author on the paper. “Our hope was to come up a molecule that doesn’t have those effects.”

HEROIN OPIOID USE
Chart shows the rise in heroin addiction and opioid use. Credit: Associated Press

The scientists have raised venture capital funds from Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers to start a new company called Epiodyne, that will seek to develop the painkillers.

The finding is just the latest promising development in the ongoing effort to separate the pain numbing effects of opioids from their potentially deadly and addictive side effects—an effort that has taken on new urgency as opioid-related deaths and addiction in the United States reach epidemic proportions. (See “The Painkillers that Could End the Opioid Crisis”). A number of efforts are underway to develop a new painkiller without side effects, including a similar compound that’s currently being tested in humans.

An estimated 100 million Americans are afflicted with chronic pain. Up to 8 percent of patients prescribed narcotic painkillers for chronic pain will become addicted, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse. In 2014, the number of deaths from opioid overdoses in the United States topped 18,000, about 50 a day—more than three times the number in 2001. And that doesn’t even take into account painkiller addicts who have turned to heroin to soothe their cravings. Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently compared the scale of the problem to the HIV epidemic of the 1980s.

The Nature paper, produced by scientists at UC San Francisco, Stanford University, the University of North Carolina, and the Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg in Germany, grew out of a years-long collaboration between Shoichet and Brian Kobilka, a Stanford University Nobel Laureate, Bryan Roth, a leading expert in opioid pharmacology, and Peter Gmeiner, a leading medicinal chemist.

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Brian Kobilka, a Stanford University Nobel Laureate, is among the researchers behind the drug discovery.

The findings showcase the power of two key innovations that make it easier to develop new drugs. In 2007, Kobilka developed a new method that for the first time allowed scientists to map the precise atomic structure of a class of proteins in the brain known as G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). (In 2012, Kobilka’s innovations won him the Nobel Prize). GPCRs straddle the inside and outside of the cells and play a key role in the ability of brain cells to respond to biochemical signals emanating from elsewhere in the body—including the nerve impulses that make us feel pain.

Shoichet, meanwhile, has been working for almost three decades to build a computer program capable of simulating the way that different kinds of drugs interact on the molecular level with the brain. At the time of the analysis for the Nature paper, Shoichet’s computer program included a database with the chemical structures of between three and four million commercially available drugs.

Shoichet and Kobilka have been collaborating since 2007, when the Stanford researcher first developed his new techniques for mapping GPCRs. So when one of Kobilka’s graduate students, Aashish Manglik, used his methods to, for the first time, map the atomic structure of the receptors activated by opioids, it seemed an ideal opportunity.

Opioids, from OxyContin to heroin and morphine, work their magic by binding to what are known as MU receptors at the junctions where nerve cells meet. The binding reduces the ability of these cells to fire. So when nerve fibers at the periphery of the body send pain signals up to the brain for processing, the neurons that would normally make us feel this pain don’t respond.

But MU receptors aren’t located simply in the centers of the brain that detect pain. They are also found at other junctions all around the body in areas that have nothing to do with registering pain. Thus opioids can cause a wide number of side effects by exerting their influence in other parts of the body.

The challenge has been to find novel drug compounds that activate the proteins that numb pain without activating proteins that lead to the side effects. Working with another graduate student in Shoichet’s lab, Manglik programmed the database to simulate the way different drugs might interact with the receptor, in the hopes of finding one that did not produce unwanted side effects, which is what PZM21 appears to do.

“The virtual screening technology really pulled this out of a 4 million compound haystack,” says Stanford’s Kobilka, a co-author on the paper.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines ‘opioids’ thusly:

Opioids are medications that relieve pain. They reduce the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain and affect those brain areas controlling emotion, which diminishes the effects of a painful stimulus. Medications that fall within this class include hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin), oxycodone (e.g., OxyContin, Percocet), morphine (e.g., Kadian, Avinza), codeine, and related drugs. Hydrocodone products are the most commonly prescribed for a variety of painful conditions, including dental and injury-related pain. Morphine is often used before and after surgical procedures to alleviate severe pain. Codeine, on the other hand, is often prescribed for mild pain. In addition to their pain relieving properties, some of these drugs—codeine and diphenoxylate (Lomotil) for example—can be used to relieve coughs and severe diarrhea.

Opioids act by attaching to specific proteins called opioid receptors, which are found in the brain, spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs in the body. When these drugs attach to their receptors, they reduce the perception of pain. Opioids can also produce drowsiness, mental confusion, nausea, constipation, and, depending upon the amount of drug taken, can depress respiration. Some people experience a euphoric response to opioid medications, since these drugs also affect the brain regions involved in reward. Those who abuse opioids may seek to intensify their experience by taking the drug in ways other than those prescribed. For example, OxyContin is an oral medication used to treat moderate to severe pain through a slow, steady release of the opioid. People who abuse OxyContin may snort or inject it, thereby increasing their risk for serious medical complications, including overdose.

Smoking Rates Dropped Significantly During Obama’s Administration

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The steady decline in smoking rates among U.S. adults that began in the early 1960s has accelerated substantially during the 7 years of the Barack Obama presidency. Since 2009, the prevalence of cigarette smoking in the United States has fallen at a rate of about 0.78 percentage points per year — more than double the rates observed during the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush (mean decreases of 0.28 and 0.36 percentage points per year, respectively, according to a report this week in The New England Journal of Medicine.

If the current rate of decline were to continue, the article said, the prevalence of smoking among U.S. adults would fall from its current level of 15.3% to zero by around 2035. In contrast, at the slower rates of decline observed during the Clinton and Bush years, smoking would not reach zero until approximately 2070 and 2057, respectively.

(Although cigarettes account for most of the combustible tobacco products sold in the United States, sales of non-cigarette tobacco products such as cigars have not decreased at the same rates.)

The recent accelerated decrease in cigarette smoking has not occurred in a vacuum. The striking decline since 2009 is most likely due to the implementation of an array of tobacco-control interventions at the federal, state, nonprofit, and private-sector levels.

These interventions, particularly those at the federal level, were highly intentional, well planned, and well organized. During the first 2 years of the Obama era, several legislative acts provided both the foundation and the essential tools for concerted action on tobacco control. Three of these new laws were particularly influential: the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009, which increased the federal cigarette excise tax rate from $0.39 to $1.01 per pack; the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act passed in June 2009, which gave the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to comprehensively regulate thousands of tobacco products for the first time; and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed in March 2010, which mandated insurance coverage of evidence-based smoking-cessation counseling and medications without barriers or copayments and expanded Medicare and Medicaid coverage for smoking-cessation treatments. The ACA also established the National Prevention Council and the Prevention and Public Health Fund. Other legislation that contributed included the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act, and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act; these provided research funding, levied taxes on Internet sales of tobacco products, helped to reduce such sales to children, and incorporated assessment of tobacco use into “meaningful use” requirements for health information technology.

The Obama administration also advanced tobacco control through its leadership choices for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including many senior appointees with extensive tobacco-control experience, such as Deputy Secretary of Health William Corr, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Tom Frieden, FDA Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) Director Mitch Zeller, and Assistant Secretary for Health Howard Koh.

All these appointees focused attention and energy on tobacco control. Koh, for instance, led the effort to develop the first HHS comprehensive strategic plan to confront tobacco use in America and created the HHS Tobacco Control Steering Committee, which brought together key HHS agencies each month to coordinate departmental actions designed to reduce tobacco use.

The HHS agencies involved (including the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) capitalized on the tools and opportunities made possible by the new legislation to greatly increase tobacco-control interventions. HHS directed $200 million from ARRA to launch Communities Putting Prevention to Work, a program that encouraged 22 cities and counties to implement evidence-based strategies to reduce tobacco use. In September 2011, the CDC awarded more than $100 million in prevention funding through a new program called Community Transformation Grants to aid states, communities, and tribes throughout the country in implementing tobacco-control programs. Both of these programs provided much needed funds as state and local tobacco-control funding was being reduced.

In March 2012, the CDC launched the first paid national tobacco-education campaign, “Tips from Former Smokers,” which features compelling stories of former smokers living with smoking-related diseases and disabilities. The CDC estimates that the Tips campaign has helped at least 400,000 smokers quit smoking for good since 2012 and is projected to help prevent at least 17,000 premature deaths.

The FDA’s CTP has been central to federal efforts including banning the manufacture and sale of fruit- or candy-flavored cigarettes; prohibiting the use of misleading claims such as “low,” “light,” and “mild”; issuing a final “deeming” regulation that extends its authority over tobacco products to include e-cigarettes, cigars, and pipe and hookah tobacco; conducting more than 600,000 retailer inspections to ensure compliance with laws restricting sales of tobacco products to young people, and issuing warning letters, monetary penalties, and prohibitions of tobacco sales for violations; requiring tobacco manufacturers to report the ingredients and levels of harmful and potentially harmful constituents in their products; and launching “The Real Cost” and other information campaigns warning young people of the dangers of tobacco products.

The cumulative effects of these legislative, regulatory, and policy actions may have resulted in a snowball effect — a decline in smoking that has accelerated over the Obama years. This progress has made the total elimination of tobacco use in the United States seem possible, rather than merely aspirational.

Capitalizing on this progress, the 50th-anniversary Surgeon General’s report, The Health Consequences of Smoking (2014), outlined a series of specific and feasible steps for eliminating tobacco use in America. The progress already made does not argue for future passivity; it argues for continued actions, ranging from sustaining national media campaigns to expanding the provision of tobacco-use counseling and medication treatments.

The path followed to reduce smoking rates during the Obama era provides a road map for the elimination of smoking in the United States. The past seven years have seen substantial progress, which suggests that the policies and programs implemented over this period have meaningfully reduced smoking prevalence. Obviously, there is no incontrovertible evidence linking the observed decreases in smoking with the administration’s actions and policies. However, other secular trends, such as economic changes and use of alternative tobacco products such as electronic nicotine delivery systems, do not seem substantial enough to account for the pronounced changes observed in cigarette smoking.

Despite this great progress, tobacco use continues to cause substantial harm in the United States, with about 15% of adults, or more than 36 million Americans, continuing to smoke. About half these people will die prematurely unless they can stop smoking.

Although an end to tobacco use in the United States now appears achievable, it will be realized only if we expand on the successful actions begun during the Obama era.

 

 

Kids Die, But Shouldn’t, When Left Alone inside Cars That Overheat

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Photo: KidsandCars.org

 

We’ve all heard the warnings/cautions: Don’t leave kids or pets in cars when temperatures are high. Safe Kids Worldwide, a global organization dedicated to preventing injuries in  children, says that every eight days a child dies from heatstroke from being left in a car that got too hot. That’s inexcusable, and totally preventable, the group says.

Sometimes parents forget little ones are in the car if the kids have fallen asleep. Other times, people think they just have to go into a store for a few minutes. But, young children’s bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adults, Safe Kids Worldwide says.

Heat stroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle related deaths among children, the group noted.

To protect young children from dying of heatstroke in a car, parents and other caregivers need to remember to “ACT.”

  • Avoid heat stroke by never leaving children alone in a car, not even for a minute. Always lock your car when you’re not in it so children don’t get in on their own.
  • Create reminders that your child is in the car by putting something next to your child in the back seat, such as a briefcase, purse or cell phone that you’ll need when you arrive at your destination. This is especially important if you’re not following your usual routine.
  • Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911. Doing so could save a life.

The alarm to parents and caregivers to never leave a child alone in a car sounded louder during a week in 2012 after three more children died of heatstroke in cars. As summer temperatures reach record highs across the country, as tey are doing again this year, these preventable tragedies remind us to be even more vigilant to prevent heatstroke from killing another child.

Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children under the age of 14. Since 1998, 545 children across the United States have died in cars from heatstroke, including 18 children this year.

More than half of these deaths occur when a driver forgets that the child is in the car. Experts will tell you this can happen to anybody. Our busy lifestyles create enough stress to trigger mental “lapses,” which can bury a thought and cause your brain to go on autopilot. The lapses can affect something as simple as misplacing your keys or something as crucial as forgetting a baby.

Almost 30 percent of the time, children get into a car on their own. Kids love to pretend they’re driving. They find a way into the car, but sometimes, they can’t find a way out.

The third scenario is when someone intentionally leaves a child alone in a car. A parent might be running an errand and think, “The baby just fell asleep. I’ll just be gone for a second.” But seconds turn into minutes, and before you know it, the temperature inside of the car has reached lethal levels.

Many people are shocked to learn how hot the inside of a car can actually get. On an 80 degree day, the temperature inside of a car can rise 20 degrees in 10 minutes. You can only imagine what happens when the temperature outside is 100 degrees or more, as it has been in many places around the country this summer. And cracking the window doesn’t help.

Heatstroke sets in when the body isn’t able to cool itself quickly enough. Young children are particularly at risk as their bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s. When a child’s internal temperature reaches 104 degrees, major organs begin to shut down. When that child’s temperature reaches 107 degrees, the child can die. Heatstroke deaths have been recorded in 11 months of the year in nearly all 50 states. These tragedies can happen anytime, anywhere.

Two years ago, 49 children died in cars from heatstroke. Last year, one of the hottest years on record, we lost 33 children. Losing one child is one too many.

News From China, Period

Fu Yuanhui

CBS News reported a few days ago that Chinese athletes don’t, these days, necessarily stick to the old formulaic language thanking the Communist Party, thanking the people, and thanking the country, then bowing out after winning an ‘honorable’ place in an Olympic event:

When Fu Yuanhui, a 20-year-old Chinese swimmer competing in Rio de Janeiro, who has more than six million followers on Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter, gave a post-game interview to state television last week, her pronounced facial expressions and giddy response to unexpectedly winning a bronze medal were quickly turned into GIF animations and went viral on the Chinese internet.

Then, when her team came in only in fourth place in the 4x100m event, she made news again by breaking the Chinese taboo of publicly discussing menstruation.

While her teammates talked to a reporter from China’s CCTV, vying to accept blame for the loss, she crouched behind a board but eventually stood up to say on-camera: “I didn’t swim well today, I’m sorry.”

When asked about “stomach pain,” she bluntly admitted, “yes, I’m having my period.”

Her dad Fu Chunsheng was quick to offer a comforting message on Weibo: “Baby, you’re always the best in dad’s heart, don’t let this ruin your mood, we should still respect nature.”

In 2010, 18-year-old speed skater Zhou Yang was criticized by a senior sports official when she thanked her parents, teammates and coaches for helping her achieve the gold medal, but forgot to mention the country and government.

But no one is criticizing Fu, who’s instead enjoying the love of millions of social media followers, many more fans all around China – and big advertisers.

And she seems to be taking it all in stride, even if the limelight has come as something as a surprise.

“I never thought so many people could like me. It puts me under a lot of pressure,” she admitted in a recent interview.