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Infection defense: Call for support by the killer cells

 A few days after a viral infection, countless killer cells swarm out to track down and kill infected body cells. In this way, they are highly effective at preventing pathogens from being able to spread further. An international research team has now explained an important mechanism behind building this army. The work under the aegis of the University of Bonn is published in the journalImmunity.

Killer cells — called cytotoxic T cells in the technical jargon — are somewhat like a well-trained police dog: as long as they don’t know that an infection is currently spreading somewhere in the body, they behave peacefully. They only become active and multiply when forensics rubs a “piece of property” of the pathogen under their nose. Only then do they head out to destroy the intruder.

The role of forensics is assumed by the dendritic cells. They patrol around the clock and keep a lookout for molecules that should not actually be inside the body. When they make a find, they present the foreign molecule on their surface. Then they wait for a killer cell, to which they can show their find.

However, there are a

Could You Have a Fractured Bone?

Any crack or break in a bone is considered to be a fractured bone. Although auto accidents are a common cause of fractured bones, most fractures actually occur inside the home.

The most common fractured bone in children is an arm bone, because kids hold out their arms when they fall. For people over age 65 who fall, the most common fractures are hip, spine, arm, and leg fractures.

Fractured bone symptoms depend on what bone is fractured and the type of break you experience, from a stress fracture in the shin or a compression fracture in the spine. The shin bone is the most commonly broken long bone in the body, but fractured leg symptoms from the shin bone can range from mild swelling to a bone actually sticking out through the skin.

Avoid These Hip-Fracture Risk Factors

Symptoms that may occur with most fractured bones include:

  • A misshapen or deformed bone or joint
  • Bruising and swelling around the fracture
  • Severe pain that is worse with movement
  • Broken skin with visible bone showing
  • Loss of sensation or a tingling
  • Limited or complete loss of movement

Types of Bone Fractures

A bone fracture can range

Onions Make Us Cry|Why ?

 For some people, slicing a raw onion is no big deal, but for others, it causes a stinging reaction that results in tears and mild discomfort.

What’s to blame for this teary reaction? Enzymes in the onion that release a pungent gas when you slice into it, and when the gas comes into contact with your eyes, it forms sulfuric acid, which is responsible for that telltale stinging sensation. “The more pungent the onion is, the more likely it will make you tear up,” says Irwin Goldman, PhD, department chair and professor of horticulture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

That means that yellow onions popular in cooking are the biggest culprits, and sweet, mild Vidalia onions are the least likely to trigger tears. Luckily, onions are the only type of vegetable that cause this crying reaction, because of their unique sulfur compounds.

So why do onions make you well up, but don’t seem to make your partner weepy at all? Dr. Goldman says it’s probably due to the individual chemistry of your eyes: Some people have little or no reaction to sulfuric acid, while others

Basic Health Advice of Little Help

Primary care doctors should be selective in offering lifestyle-change behavioral programs aimed at preventing cardiovascular disease (CVD) to healthy patients who have unhealthy habits, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended.

“Although the correlation among healthful diet, physical activity, and the incidence of CVD is strong, existing evidence indicates that the health benefit of initiating behavioral counseling in the primary care setting to promote a healthful diet and physical activity is small,” according to Virginia Moyer, MD, MPH, and other USPSTF members writing online in Annals of Internal Medicine.

“Clinicians may choose to selectively counsel patients rather than incorporate counseling into the care of all adults in the general population,” they concluded.

The recommendations applied to what the task force called “medium- or high-intensity behavioral counseling interventions in the primary care setting,” not to simple, brief advice to exercise more and cut back on ice cream.

Medium-intensity programs were those that involved from 31 minutes to 6 hours of direct patient contact. Interventions with more than 6 hours of contact were considered high-intensity.

Although such intensive counseling is unlikely to cause direct harm to patients, spending such time with patients who end

Coffee Linked to Lower Death Risk

Analysis of a large prospective study of more than 400,000 people found that men who drank four to five cups of coffee daily reduced their risk of death over a 13-year period by 12 percent, while women’s risk dropped by 16 percent, according to Neal Freedman, PhD, of the National Cancer Institute, and colleagues.

The inverse associations were seen for deaths due to heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes, and infections, but not for deaths due to cancer, the researchers found.

On the other hand, a suite of other behaviors that often go hand-in-hand with coffee drinking – smoking, lack of exercise, and poor diet – usually combine to mask the benefit, the researchers noted in the May 17 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

Freedman and colleagues cautioned that the study could not prove that coffee is good for you.

“It may be that there’s something that goes along with coffee-drinking that’s affecting our results that we couldn’t take into account in our analysis,” Freedman toldMedPage Today.

But, together with previous research, he said, the findings provide “some reassurance that coffee drinkers don’t have a higher

Bug Bites may Infect a Skin

 Zebras evolved from all black to striped in order to repel insects that distract them from feeding, a new study contends.

Researchers from Hungary and Sweden said that zebras’ black and white stripes are the least-attractive hide pattern to disease-carrying bloodsuckers known as tabanids or more commonly, horseflies.

The researchers found that horseflies are drawn to horizontally polarized light resembling reflections from water. They explained that this is how insects find areas of water where they can lay their eggs. Female horseflies also use the light reflected from animals’ hides, particularly black hides, to detect their victims, the study noted.

The study, published online in the March issue of the Journal of Experimental Biology, pointed out that as embryos, zebras start out with dark skin. They go on to develop their white stripes before birth. The researchers suggested this was an evolutionary adaptation to help them avoid bug bites.

The researchers tested their theory at a horse farm near Budapest that was infested with horse flies. They altered the width, angle and density of the stripes and changed the direction of polarization of the light

Federal Judge Strikes

A federal judge ruled Monday that the new U.S. health-care reform law is unconstitutional, saying the federal government has no authority to require citizens to buy health insurance.

That provision is a cornerstone of the new legislation, signed into law in March by President Barack Obama.

The judge’s decision was not unexpected, and both supports and opponents of the legislation anticipate the validity of the new health law ultimately will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ruling was handed down by U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson, a Republican appointed by President George W. Bush who had seemed sympathetic to the state of Virginia’s case when oral arguments were heard in October, the Associated Press reported.

Last week, White House officials said a negative ruling would not affect the implementation of the law because its major provisions don’t take effect until 2014, the AP reported.

Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli, a Republican, had filed a lawsuit in defense of a new Virginia law barring the federal government from requiring state residents to buy health insurance. He argued that it is unconstitutional for the federal law to force citizens to buy

Pill Bottle Warnings Often Go Unnoticed

Those colorful warning labels on vials of medication don’t always capture a patient’s attention, especially if the patient is older, researchers found.

When groups of older and younger participants were tested on their ability to notice information on medication vials, just 54 percent of the older group fixed their gaze on the prescription warning labels, compared with 91.8 percent of the younger participants, according to Laura Bix, PhD, of Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich., and colleagues.

And that means that many older patients simply fail to remember their contents and act on them, Bix and colleagues argued online in PLoS ONE. The finding may help to explain why older patients — who often take several medications — are at greater risk for adverse drug events.

The researchers tested two age groups — 15 volunteers ages 20 to 29, and 17 volunteers ages 51 to 77 — for their ability to notice the information on the vials, using eye-tracking technology to see what parts they examined.

In addition, they were tested on how well they remembered what they had looked at, Bix and colleagues reported.

The vials had different-colored warning labels,

6 foods that can damage your metabolism

Soda

One of the main reasons soda gets a bad rap is because it’s sweetened with a little something known as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). HFCS, a sweetener found in many of America’s highly processed foods and soft drinks, is as damaging as it is cheap. It has been argued that Fructose consumed in the same quantities as other sugar has more damaging effects on the metabolism (making it an even more sinister commodity).  A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutritionfurther explained the link between HFCS and obesity. HFCS may lead to obesity because of its negative effects on the metabolism. In fact, consuming high fructose corn syrup can cause something called “metabolic syndrome,” which is basically a group of risk factors for diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Therefore, drinking a glass of soda can directly hurt your metabolism.

Margarine

Fortunately most sources of trans fat are off the market, but they can still be found in stick margarine and baked goods. The trans fats in the margarine can wreak havoc on your metabolism because they can lead to insulin resistance (which is when the body can’t use insulin effectively). Insulin

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Researchers found that people with the highest blood levels of these essential fatty acids — found in fish such as salmon and tuna — were more likely to perform well on tests of mental functioning and to experience less age-related brain shrinkage.

“We feel fatty acid consumption exerts a beneficial effect on brain aging by promoting vascular health,” said study lead author Dr. Zaldy Tan, an associate professor in the Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research and the division of geriatrics at the University of California, Los Angeles. This might include reducing blood pressure and inflammation, he added.

Previous research linked dementia risk with the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in blood plasma, which reflects how much people had eaten in the past few days. But in the current work, researchers could estimate the amount of omega-3s that participants had consumed in the past several months by looking at how much had built up in their red blood cells.

“This represents their average intake of fatty acids, not just a snapshot,” Tan said.

The study, published in the Feb. 28 issue of the journal Neurology, did not prove that omega-3 fatty