Saturday, December 28, 2013

Michiaki Takahashi, 85, Who Tamed Chickenpox, Dies

Michiaki Takahashi, 85, Who Tamed Chickenpox, Dies
By WILLIAM YARDLEYDr. Michiaki Takahashi, whose experience caring for his 3-year-old son after the boy contracted chickenpox led him to develop a vaccine for the virus that is now used all over the world, died on Monday in Osaka, Japan. He was 85. The cause was heart failure, said his longtime secretary, Maki Fukui.
In 1964 Dr. Takahashi, who had spent several years studying the measles and polio viruses in Japan, was on a research fellowship at Baylor Medical College in Houston when his son, Teruyuki, came down with a severe case of chickenpox after playing with a friend who had the virus.
“My son developed a rash on his face that quickly spread across his body,” Dr. Takahashi recalled in a 2011 interview with The Financial Times. “His symptoms progressed quickly and severely. His temperature shot up and he began to have trouble breathing. He was in a terrible way, and all my wife and I could do was to watch him day and night. We didn’t sleep. He seemed so ill that I remember worrying about what would happen to him.”
“But gradually, the symptoms lessened and my son recovered,” he added. “I realized then that I should use my knowledge of viruses to develop a chickenpox vaccine.”
He returned to Japan in 1965 and within five years had developed an early version of the vaccine. By 1972 he was experimenting with it in clinical trials. Within a few years, Japan and some other countries had begun widespread vaccination programs. Yet the Food and Drug Administration did not approve the United States’ first chickenpox vaccine until 1995.
The delay was caused by several factors, including concerns that the immunity created by the vaccine might not last long enough, that there could be unwanted side effects and, more generally, that chickenpox might not be a serious enough disease to warrant a vaccination program.
Chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, a form of herpes. If a person contracts the virus, has an active infection and then recovers, the virus is not actually gone from the body. It can hide in nerve cells for years or decades, then emerge again to cause shingles, a painful condition that causes a skin rash and occurs mostly in adults.
Dr. Takahashi developed his vaccine by growing live but weakened versions of the virus in animal and human cells. The vaccine did not cause the disease, but it prompted immune systems to produce antibodies.
“It fools the immune system into thinking it has seen this disease before,” said Dr. Anne A. Gershon, the director of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Disease at Columbia University Medical Center and a friend of Dr. Takahashi’s.
Dr. Gershon said Dr. Takahashi’s is “the only vaccine successful against any of the human herpes viruses.”
In 2006, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began recommending a second dose of the vaccine. The C.D.C. recommends that children receive their first dose when they are 12 to 15 months old and a second dose when they are 4 to 6 years old.
“Prior to the licensing of the chickenpox vaccine in 1995,” the agency said, “almost all persons in the United States had suffered from chickenpox by adulthood. Each year, the virus caused an estimated four million cases of chickenpox, 11,000 hospitalizations, and 100 to 150 deaths.”
Today, chickenpox — like other childhood diseases for which vaccines had been developed earlier, including measles, mumps, rubella and polio — is largely a thing of the past. A large long-term study published this year found that a very small percentage of children who receive one dose of the vaccine still get the virus, and that most of those cases are mild or moderate. Among children in the study who received a second dose, none contracted the disease.
Dr. Takahashi was born on Feb. 17, 1928, in Osaka. He received his medical degree from Osaka University in 1954. Before his work on the chickenpox vaccine, he collaborated on mumps and rubella vaccines. He later served on the board of directors of the Research Foundation for Microbial Diseases of Osaka University.
His survivors include his wife, Hiroko, and his son.

Israeli Researchers Link Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, Proteins

Hebrew University research teams have found how bacteria can survive treatment with antibiotics – even when the strain is not inherently antibiotic-resistant. 
The discovery, which was published this week in prestigious science journal Nature Communications, could possibly improve treatment methods for bacterial infections.
Hebrew University’s medical school and department of developmental biology and cancer research coordinated the research. Together, they found that while some bacteria mutates to become resistant to antibiotics, a small percentage also simply becomes “inactive” during the course of treatment.
The “inactive” bacteria – also labeled as “persistent bacteria” – then reactivates itself to reinfect patients, the researchers say. 
Until now, it has been known that there is a relationship between the dormant bacteria and toxin called HipA. However, the medical world could not determine what chain of actions activates the toxin, eventually causing some bacteria to sleep and thus evade the effect of the antibiotics.
Now the study’s authors, Professor Gadi Glazer of the Faculty of Medicine and Professor Nathalie Balaban of the Racah Institute of Physics, were able to unravel the mechanism that causes certain bacteria to “sleep,” so to speak.
The research shows that when the antibiotics attack the bacteria, the toxin found in the cell prevents the entry of crucial amino acids – inhibiting protein-building molecules that would allow the bacteria to leave, researchers say.
Scientists say the information could provide an entirely new way to treat bacterial infections – through manipulating the protein output. 
Protein and antibiotics have been linked before. In 2011, a joint project by the research teams at Hebrew University – Hadassah Medical School and a visiting professor from the University of Vienna revealed that protein synthesis under stress conditions affected bacteria. Bacteria which collapsed under “stress conditions” by the protein synthesis process demonstrated then that antibiotics could use the process as an alternative mechanism against resistant infections. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Breakthrough in treating essential tremor

Rambam Medical Center claims Israeli breakthrough in treating essential tremor

11/25/2013 01:55

Other experts skeptical of the technique, involving ultrasound ablation and MRI.

A patient (through window) undergoing non-invasive ablation for essential tremor.
A patient (through window) undergoing non-invasive ablation for essential tremor. Photo: Courtesy Rambam Medical Center
For the first time in Israel, and with only a handful of precedents in the world, doctors at Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center have “ablated” a dysfunctional part of the brain in a patient with essential tremor (ET) using MRIguided ultrasound rather than performing surgery.

A 73-year-old man, who was unable to sign his name clearly or even hold a cup of tea without spilling it, greatly improved from the painless procedure and was completely awake throughout, doctor said.

Medical ablation is the removal of tissue by vaporization or other erosive processes.

The technique of ablation by heat of deep-seated brain tissue through an intact skull was made possible with Israeli technology originally developed to remove myomas (benign fibroid growths in the uterus) but was later applied abroad to ET, which manifests due to a malfunction in the brain. The therapy was made possible by the integration of MRI guidance and the heating of the tissue using focused ultrasound.

The first Israeli patient, a Jerusalem hardware store owner named Sami Zangi, for years could not hold a cup of water without spilling it, tie his shoelaces or use the simplest tools. After the short treatment, he came out of the special MRI scanner and, as his family watched, he wrote in a steady handwriting Herzl’s famous quotation: “If you will it, it is no dream.”

The patient reportedly spent three calm, wide-awake hours inside an MRI machine, communicating with and monitored by Rambam senior neurologist Dr. Ilana Schlesinger, head of the movement disorders and Parkinson’s center, while Prof.

Menashe Zaaroor of the neurosurgery department used a computer mouse to direct 1,000 ultrasonic beams to the thalamic focal point that had been targeted for thermal ablation.

The trade name of the noninvasive treatment that he underwent is ExAblate Neuro.

The technology, a product of InSightec Ltd., was developed at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and experimented on at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer.

Today, ultrasound ablation is sometimes still used for uterine surgery along with conventional surgery. “But using it on myomas was the proof of concept,” said Rambam director-general Prof. Rafael Beyar, a leading interventional cardiologist.

ET is a slowly progressive movement disorder of rhythmic shaking whose cause lies deep within the brain.

Although usually not a dangerous condition, essential tremor worsens over time and can be severe in some people.

Sometimes mistakenly confused with Parkinson’s disease, it can occur at any age but is most common in people over the age of 40. ET is at least eight times more common than Parkinson’s, but up to a fifth of ET patients develop Parkinson’s disease and a tenth have a family history of PD.

Beyar told The Jerusalem Post that his hospital had spent millions of dollars on the special MRI and InSightec’s ultrasound ablation technology.

Zangi’s treatment was paid for by the patient’s public health fund, but Beyar would not disclose which insurer it was and could not say whether the treatment would be included in the basket of health services available to all Israelis.

“We are a beta site for InSightec’s device,” Beyar said. “The procedure we did here – this ability to treat problems inside the brain without making holes – is a breakthrough. Surgeons can actually see what they are doing from the outside, without going in. We think there is a potential of also treating Parkinson’s and even [to] perform non-invasive surgery on the brains of children. As ultrasound gets into children’s soft skulls more easily than adults’ skulls, it might eventually be used on pediatric brain surgery.”

After identifying the diseased part of the brain that causes the essential tremor, Beyar said, the ultrasound is used to heat it to 40 degrees Celsius. This part of the ablation is reversible. When it is determined that the warming up is effective, it is heated to 60 degrees to stop the tremor permanently, and this is irreversible.

Thus one has to work very exactly. We expect to try it on Parkinson’s symptoms later.”

But Beyar conceded that Rambam will continue to perform the deep-brain stimulation (DBS) – for surgically inserting electrodes into the brains of ET and Parkinson’s patients to relieve their severe tremors. ExAblate Neuro is not suited for everyone, he concluded.

Asked to comment during a visit to London, Prof. Shlomo Constantini, a senior neurosurgeon who heads the pediatric neurosurgery unit at Dana Hospital of Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, told the Post that his own hospital was offered the InSightec device free, but that due to lack of consensus among the staff, it was decided to hold off until treatment results became more clear.

“The technology has been studied already for 10 years.

It will take a long time, if ever, [before] the US Food and Drug Administration approves it to ablate tumors or for use on children,” Constantini said. “[ExAblate Neuro] is a promising technology, but the future will determine whether conventional surgery or non-invasive ablation will be better. I can’t predict now, but I am rather skeptical that it will be widely used. Perhaps it will find a use in treating epilepsy.”

Dr. Zvi Israel, a leading DBS neurosurgeon at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem, told the Post that while theoretically the InSightec technology was a breakthough, he was not convinced that it would find broad uses.

“It can be used safely only on one side of the brain, and ET usually affects both sides,” he said. “It has been known for 60 years that making bilateral lesions on both sides of brains is associated with a high risk of speech and swallowing difficulties. We at Hadassah will continue to perform DBS implants; we have performed 350 such implants, and only a small proportion were operated on for ET. We think the impact of ultrasound ablation therapy will be small.”

Dr. Kobi Vortman, InSightec’s CEO and president, who is an electro-optics and electrical engineer and not a physician, maintained on his website that “the way I see the future is the building of the next generation operating room, replacing traditional surgery by non-invasive outpatient procedure.”

The company was established in January 1999.

“We’ll definitely look as the next step at brain tumors, prostate cancer, liver tumors, breast cancer and so on,” Vortman said. “Eventually, we see it as a next generation operating room centralized service in the hospital.”

Monday, October 7, 2013

Heart Attacks and Water

Mayo Clinic
How many folks do you know who say they don't want to drink anything before going to bed because they'll have to get up during the night!!
Heart Attack and Water -
I asked my Doctor why people need to urinate so much at night time. Answer from my Cardiac Doctor - Gravity holds water in the lower part of your body when you are upright
(legs swell). When you lie down and the lower body (legs and etc) seeks level with the kidneys, it is then that the kidneys remove the water because it is easier. This then ties in with the last statement! I knew you need your minimum water to help flush the toxins out of your body, but this was news to me. Correct time to drink water... Very Important. From A Cardiac Specialist!
Drinking water at a certain time maximizes its effectiveness on the body:
2 glasses of water after waking up - helps activate internal organs
1 glass of water 30 minutes before a meal - helps digestion
1 glass of water before taking a bath - helps lower blood pressure
1 glass of water before going to bed - avoids stroke or heart attack
I can also add to this... My Physician told me that water at bed time will also help prevent night time leg cramps. Your leg muscles are seeking hydration when they cramp and wake you up with a Charlie Horse.
Mayo Clinic Aspirin Dr. Virend Somers, is a Cardiologist from the Mayo Clinic, who is lead author of the report in the July 29, 2008 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Most heart attacks occur in the day, generally between 6 A.M. and noon. Having one during the night, when the heart should be most at rest, means that something unusual happened. Somers and his colleagues have been working for a decade to show that sleep apnea is to blame.
1. If you take an aspirin or a baby aspirin once a day, take it at night. The reason: Aspirin has a 24-hour "half-life"; therefore, if most heart attacks happen in the wee hours of the morning, the Aspirin would be strongest in your system.
2. FYI, Aspirin lasts a really long time in your medicine chest for years, (when it gets old, it smells like vinegar).
Please read on. Something that we can do to help ourselves - nice to know. Bayer is making crystal aspirin to dissolve instantly on the tongue. They work much faster than the tablets.
Why keep Aspirin by your bedside? It's about Heart Attacks -
There are other symptoms of a heart attack, besides the pain on the left arm. One must also be aware of an intense pain on the chin, as well as nausea and lots of sweating; however, these symptoms may also occur less frequently.
Note: There may be NO pain in the chest during a heart attack.
The majority of people (about 60%) who had a heart attack during their sleep did not wake up. However, if it occurs, the chest pain may wake you up from your deep sleep.
If that happens, immediately dissolve two aspirins in your mouth and swallow them with a bit of water.
Afterwards: - Call 911. - Phone a neighbor or a family member who lives very close by. - Say "heart attack!" - Say that you have taken 2 Aspirins. - Take a seat on a chair or sofa near the front door, and wait for their arrival and ...DO NOT LIE DOWN!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Applying a Compression Wrap for a Sprained Ankle

A compression wrap is used to prevent swelling. It does not support the ankle or prevent it from moving, so it does not protect it except by reminding you to be careful of your ankle.
  1. Roll up the elastic bandage if it isn't already rolled up. Hold your ankle at about a 90-degree angle. Start where your toes meet the body of your foot. Hold the loose end of the bandage at the side of your foot. Wrap the bandage around the ball of your foot once, keeping it somewhat taut with a light pull.
  2. After this, slowly start circling your way around the arch of the foot. Pull the bandage diagonally from the bottom of the toes across the foot's top and circle it around the ankle. Now bring the bandage diagonally across the top of the foot and under the arch in a figure-eight pattern.
  3. When you get to the anklebone, wrap the bandage around the felt piece so it stays in place at the outside anklebone. Continue around the ankle and foot in a figure eight, moving toward the heel on the bottom and toward the calf at the top of the eight.
  4. The wrap should cover the entire foot (but not the heel) and end several inches above the ankle. Most compression wraps are self-fastening or come with clip fasteners. If not, use tape to secure the end. The wrap should be snug but should not cut off circulation to the foot.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

These foods that can wreck your sleep

Junk Food

No surprises here. High fat, high sugar processed food is a really bad idea before bed. Fatty foods over stimulate the production of acid in the stomach. This can lead to heartburn and indigestion. Sugary junk  foods, including soda, rapidly crank up your blood sugar levels. You might fall asleep easily (the “sugar crash”), but during the night when your blood sugar plummets, your body will sense this chemical imbalance, disturbing your sleep cycle, possibly waking you up.


Chocolate in it’s unrefined form is actually quite healthy for you. Raw cacao, the bean that chocolate is processed from contains loads of antioxidants and essential minerals and amino acids. A real superfood if ever there was one. However, chocolate also happens to contain natural stimulants1 including caffeine, theobromine and phenylethylamine. In addition, processed chocolate contains lots of sugar, which as we know can cause a  ’sugar high’.

Spicy Foods

Unless you have a cast iron stomach, avoiding hot and spicy foods before bedtime just seems like common sense.A study2 showed that foods such tabasco sauce and mustard showed marked changes in male subjects, reducing the overall amount of stage 2 light sleep and stages 3 & 4 of deep sleep. Whilst indigestion is a likely cause for the sleep zapping effects, the subjects also exhibited elevated body temperatures, suggesting the hot spices were interfering with the body’s natural thermoregulation process.

Leafy Greens

Green vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts are high in fiber. Depending on how well your body digest carbohydrates, these vegetables can often be resonsible for producing excess gas in the stomach. Symptoms can include burping, passing wind, bloating and even abdominal pain. If greens affect you in any of these ways, it’s best to avoid them before bed time.

Preserved Meats

Bacon, ham, pepperoni and all preserved meats contain an amino acid called tyramine. Tyramine causes the adrenal gland to release the neurotransmitter norepinephrine which is part of our brain’s ‘flight or flight’ mechanism. This can make you feel alert and agitated, not the ideal state you want to be in at bedtime. Tyramine also occurs in aged cheeses, sauerkraut and some vegetables.


If you’re fond of a night-cap to send you off, you may be making things worse than better. Although alcohol has a sedative effect, it’s effects are short lasting it interrupts your natural sleep cycles.3  In the latter stages of your sleep, when REM (rapid eye movement) occurs more frequently, sleep is often interrupted causing you to stir easily in the night. This often causes drinkers to wake early from their slumber without feeling as if they have slept properly.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Why do we yawn?

Why do we yawn?

baby yawning
Yawning is such a common, everyday phenomenon that we scarcely pay any attention to it. Although most people put it down to tiredness or boredom, the truth is far more complex and mysterious.

Common beliefs about yawning

In 1986, Dr Robert R Provine (a world authority on yawning research) stated “at present, yawning may have the dubious distinction of being the least understood, common human behavior.”1 Over 30 years later, we’re still not that much wiser and this has led to a number of misconceptions and over simplifications. The three most common associations with yawning are:
Yawning is most commonly associated with being tired or sleepy. Scientists have demonstrated that yawning most frequently occurs during the hours before you fall asleep and just after you wake up.2 In a separate study EEG recordings confirmed that a sleepy brain will indeed prompt yawning behaviour.3
As well as sleepiness, yawning seems to be inextricably linked to situations where we feel bored or are lacking stimulus. The boredom hypothesis was demonstrated in an experiment which subjected students to 30 minutes of a television test bar pattern whilst another group watched 30 minutes of music videos.4 The first group yawned on average 70% more, confirming the belief that people yawn more during uninteresting as opposed to more interesting, stimulating events.
3:Oxygen deprivation
There’s a widely held belief that yawning is a mechanism to allow more oxygen into the body and/or expel carbon dioxide. According to this theory, when we get tired we breathe more slowly, reducing the amount of oxygen into the lungs. This causes a carbon dioxide build up in the blood, signalling the brain to take a deep breath, whereby a yawn is produced. Although there’s a certain logic to this assertion, it’s almost certainly a myth. The ‘oxygen/CO2′ theory was tested in 19875 and the results showed that CO2 deprivation did not result in increased yawning, nor did an enriched oxygen supply decrease instances of yawning.
A comprehensive 2010 review by Adrian G Guggisberg supported these findings, stating “…given current evidence, it seems unlikely that yawning has respiratory or circulatory functions.6

Other theories

Yawning cools the brain

One of the more popular theories of recent years has been that yawning is a way to cool down an overheated brain. Two studies support this theory, the first found that applying cold packs to the subjects’ heads practically eliminated contagious yawning.7 The second study8 found that yawning frequency differed from season to season and was more likely to occur when the outside temperature is either equal to or higher than internal body temperature.

Untested theories

Many other theories have been spawned over the years concerning yawning and its’ regulatory function on body physiology. Even Hippocrates, the father of medicine hypothesized about yawning, imagining it as a means of removing bad air from the lungs. Some more recent ideas include:
  • yawning stretches out the lungs and nearby tissues, preventing them from collapsing in a condition known as atelectasis (Cahill, 1978);
  • yawning distributes a chemical called surfactant, a fluid that coats the airways in the lungs and helps to keep them open. (Forrester, 1988);
  • yawning is linked to blood cortisol levels and a number of neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis and stroke (Thompson Cortisol Hypothesis, 2011)
Although these may be true, none of these propositions have been experimentally tested.

Yawning as a social phenomenon

In recent years, much of the research has moved away from physiological explanations towards the idea that yawning may serve a communicative or sociological purpose. Some have postulated that yawning is a remainder of our distant evolutionary past – a subtle means to coordinate the actions of a social group, similar to the herding behaviour found in flocks of birds. Others hypothesize that yawning may be associated with “mental state attribution”9 ie the ability to see things from someone else’s point of view.
One experiment found that students who scored highly on tests of empathy, yawned more in response to videos of other people yawning. This ‘contagious’ quality of yawning is strongest when people are related or are close friends10 The effect is so powerful it has even been observed across different species. A 2007 study11 showed that 21 out of 29 dogs yawned when shown videos of yawning humans.
Dogs can catch yawns from humans. (CLICK FOR VIDEO)


Sadly there doesn’t seem to be a single ‘unified theory’ about the causes and functions of yawning. While it’s clear that some physiological factors such as sleepiness and boredom play key roles in triggering yawning, recent research into empathy and contagious yawning is starting to unravel the complex social interactions that can cause a chain reaction in humans and other species.
Many questions are yet to be answered. Is yawning just a vestigial remainder from our primitive evolutionary past? Could it be an indicator of vital bodily functions and potential illnesses? Or maybe it’s a subconscious form of communication we have yet to fathom? More research is needed but for now, yawning remains a mystery.
If you want to find out more about the world of yawning, check out the excellent archive at
photo by: twob


  1. Yawning: Effects of stimulus interest. R. R. Provine and H.B.Hammernik. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 24, 437-438.
  2. Yawning: Relation to sleeping and stretching in humans. R. R. Provine, H. B. Hamernik, and B. C. Curchack. Ethology, 76, 152-160.
  3. The functional relationship between yawning and vigilance. Guggisberg AG, Mathis J, Herrmann US, Hess CW. Center of Sleep Medicine, Department of Neurology, Inselspital, University of Berne, CH-3010 Bern, Switzerland. Behav Brain Res. 2007 Apr 16
  4. Yawning as a stereotyped action pattern and releasing stimulus. R. R. Provine. Ethology, 72, 109-122.
  5. Yawning: no effect of 3-5% CO2, 100% O2, and exercise. Provine RR, Tate BC, Geldmacher LL. Department of Psychology, University of Maryland Baltimore County. Behav Neural Biol. 1987 Nov;48
  6. Why do we yawn?Adrian G Guggisberg, Johannes Mathis, Armin Schnider, Christian W Hess University of Geneva, Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Division of Neurorehabilitation. DOI:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2010.03.008
  7. Yawning as a brain cooling mechanism: Nasal breathing and forehead cooling diminish the incidence of contagious yawning. Andrew C. Gallup, Department of Psychology, State University of New York at Albany, Albany, NY 12222 Evolutionary Psychology 5
  8. Contagious yawning and seasonal climate variation. Andrew C. Gallup, Omar Tonsi Eldakar. Department of Biological Sciences, Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY, USA. Center for Insect Science, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA
  9. Contagious yawning: the role of self-awareness and mental state attribution. Platek SM, Critton SR, Myers TE, Gallup GG. Department of Psychology, State University of New York at Albany, Albany, NY, USA. Brain Res Cogn Brain Res. 2003 Jul
  10. Yawn Contagion and Empathy in Homo sapiens. Norscia I, Palagi E (2011). PLoS ONE 6(12).
  11. Dogs catch human yawns. Ramiro M Joly-Mascheroni, Atsushi Senju, Alex J Shepherd. School of Psychology, Birkbeck, University of London, Malet Street, London