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"In the midst of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer." - Alert Camus

Friday, March 29, 2013

Psychosocial influences on immunity, including effects on immune maturation and senescence


Psychosocial influences on immunity, including effects on immune maturation and senescence


Published in final edited form as:

Brain Behav Immun. 2007 November; 21(8): 1000–1008.

Published online 2007 August 15. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2007.06.015

PMCID: PMC2682340


Psychosocial influences on immunity, including effects on immune maturation and senescence

Christopher L. Coe1 and Mark L. Laudenslager2

The publisher's final edited version of this article is available at Brain Behav Immun


Studies investigating the influence of psychosocial factors on immunity played a critical and formative role in the field of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI), and have been a major component of articles published in Brain, Behavior and Immunity (BBI). An analysis of papers during the first two decades of BBI from 1987–2006 revealed 
 three behavior-related topics were most prominent: 

1) stress-induced changes in immune responses, 

2) immune correlates of psychopathology and personality, and 

3) behavioral conditioning of immunity. Important subthemes included the effect of early rearing conditions on immune maturation in the developing infant and, subsequently, psychosocial influences affecting the decline of immunity in the senescent host. 

The responsiveness of cell functioning in the young and elderly helped to validate the view that our immune competence is malleable. Many technical advances in immune methods were also evident. 

Initially, there was a greater reliance on in vitro proliferative and cytolytic assays, while later studies were more likely to use cell subset enumerations, cytokine quantification, and indices of latent virus reactivation. The reach of PNI extended from the traditional clinical entities of infection, autoimmunity, and cancer to attain a broader relevance to inflammatory physiology, and thus to asthma, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal disease. There continue to be many theoretical and applied ramifications of these seminal findings. 

Fortunately, the initial controversies about whether psychological processes could really impinge upon and modify immune responses have now receded into the pages of history under the weight of the empirical evidence.


Mar. 26, 2013
— A new study by multiple sclerosis researchers at three Canadian centres addresses why bone marrow transplantation (BMT) has positive results in patients with particularly aggressive forms of MS.

The transplantation treatment, which is performed as part of a clinical trial and carries potentially serious risks, virtually stops all new relapsing activity as observed upon clinical examination and brain MRI scans.

The study reveals how the immune system changes as a result of the transplantation.
Specifically, a sub-set of T cells in the immune system known as Th17 cells, have a substantially diminished function following the treatment.

The finding to be published in the upcoming issue of Annals of Neurology and currently in the early online version, provides important insight into how and why BMT treatment works as well as how relapses may develop in MS.
"Our study examined why patients essentially stop having relapses and new brain lesions after the bone marrow transplant treatment, which involves ablative chemotherapy followed by stem cell transplantation using the patient's own cells," said Prof. Amit Bar-Or, the principle investigator of the study, who is a neurologist and MS researcher at The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital -The Neuro, McGill University, and Director of The Neuro's Experimental Therapeutics Program.

"We discovered differences between the immune responses of these patients before and after treatment, which point to a particular type of immune response as the potential perpetrator of relapses in MS."

"Although the immune system that re-emerges in these patients from their stem cells is generally intact, we identified a selectively diminished capacity of their Th17 immune responses following therapy -- which could explain the lack of new MS disease activity. 

In untreated patients, these Th17 cells may be particularly important in breaching the blood-brain-barrier, which normally protects the central nervous system. This interaction of Th17 cells with the blood-brain barrier can facilitate subsequent invasion of other immune cells such as Th1 cells, which are thought to also contribute to brain cell injury.
Twenty-four patients participated in the overall clinical trial as part of the 'Canadian MS BMT' clinical trial, coordinated by Drs. Mark Freedman and Harry Atkins at the Ottawa General Hospital.

The new discovery, made in a subset of patients participating in the clinical trial, was based on immunological studies carried out jointly in laboratories at The Neuro and the Université de Montréal.

Results of this study not only show the clinical benefits of BMT treatment, but also open a unique window into the immunological mechanisms underlying relapses in MS. 

Th17 cells could be the immune cells associated with the initiation of new relapsing disease activity in this group of patients with aggressive MS. 

This finding deepens our understanding of MS and could guide the development of personalized medicine with a more favourable risk/benefit profile.

Among the patients treated in the Canadian MS BMT clinical trial, was Dr. Alexander Normandin, a family doctor, who was a third- year McGill medical student getting ready for his surgery exams when he first learned he had MS, "I was so engrossed in my studies that I didn't pay attention to the first sign but within a few days of waking up with a numb temple, my face felt frozen. I learned that I had a very aggressive form of MS and would probably be in a wheelchair within a year. It was a brutal blow. I became patient #19 -- of only 24 for this experimental treatment. My immune system was knocked out and then rebooted with my stem cells. Today, my MS has stabilized. I now have this disease under control and I take it one day at a time."

Both the clinical and biological studies were supported by the Research Foundation of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada.

Transplant rejection
Bone marrow transplant
Liver transplantation
Stem cell treatments

Multiple Sclerosis

MS is a disorder of the brain and spinal cord that causes fatigue, disequilibrium, sensory problems and muscle paralysis.

The cause of MS is unknown, but evidence suggests that it is an auto-immune disease that destroys myelin, a substance coating axons, the thin strands that carry signals between brain cells.

It usually strikes between the ages of 15 and 40 but can begin as early as age two.

Women have twice the probability of developing MS than men.

Canada has one of the world's highest national rates -- about 1,100 new cases each year.

Some 50,000 Canadians have MS.   More than 1 in 5 lives in Quebec.

The most common form of MS is relapsing-remitting, in which acute symptoms alternate with periods of remission.

Primary progressive MS, the least common form, develops continually without remission.

Secondary progressive MS begins as relapsing-remitting, then becomes steadily progressive.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by McGill University.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:
Peter J. Darlington, Tarik Touil, Jean-Sebastien Doucet, Denis Gaucher, Joumana Zeidan, Dominique Gauchat, Rachel Corsini, Ho Jin Kim, Martin Duddy, Farzaneh Jalili, Nathalie Arbour, Hania Kebir, Jacqueline Chen, Douglas L. Arnold, Marjorie Bowman, Jack Antel, Alexandre Prat, Mark S. Freedman, Harold Atkins, Rafick Sekaly, Remi Cheynier, Amit Bar-Or. Diminished Th17 (not Th1) responses underlie multiple sclerosis disease abrogation after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Annals of Neurology, 2013; DOI: 10.1002/ana.23784

Need to cite this story in your essay, paper, or report? Use one of the following formats:



McGill University (2013, March 26). Major advance in understanding risky but effective multiple sclerosis treatment. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 26, 2013, from­ /releases/2013/03/130326121738.htm

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.


Are raspberry ketones a 'miracle' fat burner?

Dr. Oz weighs in.

Sales took off after the supplement was touted on 'The Dr. Oz Show.' But does it really work?

By Chris Woolston, Special to the Los Angeles Times

Rasberry ketone capsules sell fast, but human trials on effects are lacking. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los…)

Until recently, very few people had ever heard of raspberry ketones, the aromatic compounds that give the berries their distinctive smell. Today, health food stores have trouble keeping the capsules or drops of the stuff on their shelves. Almost overnight, an obscure plant compound became the next big thing in weight loss — and all it took was a few words from Dr. Oz.

In a February episode of "The Dr. Oz Show," Mehmet Oz told viewers that raspberry ketones were "the No. 1 miracle in a bottle to burn your fat." Once Oz calls something a "miracle," it doesn't remain obscure for long.

"An adjective like 'miracle' is used as an editorial device to describe anecdotal results, as exemplified by the guests on our show. Our audience are not scientists, and the show needs to be more lively than a dry scientific discussion," a spokesman for the show, Tim Sullivan, said in a statement, adding that the show does not view supplements as "magic bullets."

"Absolutely, my patients are asking about it," says Dr. Peter Lipson, an internist and clinical assistant professor of medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit. "I tell them that I don't know if it will help, and neither does anyone else."

Even the staff at the show found the response to be "unexpectedly zealous," Sullivan says.

A handful of studies from Asia suggests that raspberry ketones — which are chemically similar to capsaicin, the heat compound from chile peppers — might help burn fat, especially the fat that builds up in the liver. The reported benefits are impressive: lower cholesterol, increased sensitivity to insulin and, yes, weight loss.

But these studies all had a serious shortcoming: They involved rodents or cells in test tubes, not people. And that's a deal-breaker, says Melinda Manore, professor of nutrition at Oregon State University in Corvallis. She notes that a lot of weight-loss supplements that look promising in laboratory rodents fail to pan out in the real world. "I would not recommend this product until there is some evidence that it works," she says.

Some of the hype around raspberry ketones might actually be justified, says Stephen Anton, an assistant professor of aging and geriatric research at the University of Florida in Gainesville. "I don't know if I'd use the word 'miracle,'" he adds.

Anton, a paid consultant for Re-Body, a supplement company that is developing a raspberry ketone product of its own, has studied the weight-loss potential of several plant compounds. "This is something that looks promising, but you need clinical trials to validate the promise," he says.

A 2012 study from China found that raspberry ketones had several health benefits — including improved insulin sensitivity and reduced fat in the liver — in rats fed a high-fat diet. Anton compares such results to early studies of resveratrol, a plant compound that first showed heart-healthy benefits in animals before it became a popular ingredient in supplements. Later studies suggest that it helps human hearts too.

The Dr. Oz television segment featured before-and-after pictures of women who said they lost significant weight while taking raspberry ketone supplements. But Oz noted that the women had also dieted and worked out. The Dr. Oz website says that raspberry ketones work best "when paired with regular exercise and awell-balanced diet."

Nothing discussed on Oz's show "should be considered as a substitute for the basic tenets of diet and exercise," Sullivan says. "Anything strong enough to help you is strong enough to hurt you" is something Oz says frequently, according to Sullivan.

Diet and exercise — the real secret to weight loss — are not much of a secret at all, Lipson says. He adds that the old-fashioned approach doesn't make for great television, which is why he thinks Oz and other television personalities end up touting new, exciting products that may or may not work.


Xavier de Maistre, from Voyage Around My Room.

1790: I have just completed a forty-two-day voyage around my room. The fascinating observations I made and the endless pleasures I experienced along the way made me wish to share my travels with the public, and the certainty of having something useful to offer convinced me to do so. Words cannot describe the satisfaction I feel in my heart when I think of the infinite number of unhappy souls for whom I am providing a sure antidote to boredom and a palliative to their ills. For the pleasure of traveling around one’s room is beyond the reach of man’s restless jealousy: it depends not on one’s material circumstance.
I could begin the praise of my voyage by saying that it cost me nothing. This point merits some attention. It will, at first, be extolled and celebrated by people of middling circumstances; yet there is another class of people with whom it is even more certain to enjoy great success, for the same reason, that it costs nothing. And who would these people be? Need you even ask? Why, the rich, of course. And in what respect would this new manner of travel not also be suitable for the infirm? They need not fear the inclemency of the elements or the seasons. As for the faint of heart, they will be safe from bandits, and need not fear encountering any precipices or holes in the road. Thousands of people who, before me, had never dared to travel—and others who had been unable, and still others who had never dreamed of it—will now, after my example, undertake to do so. Would even the most indolent of creatures hesitate to set out with me in search of pleasures that will cost him neither effort nor money? Buck up, then. We’re on our way.

About the Author:

Xavier de Maistre, from Voyage Around My Room. The twenty-seven-year-old Maistre began writing his "voyage" while under house arrest for dueling. He did not think to publish it, and his older brother printed it without his consent in 1794. Susan Sontag called it "one of the most original and mettlesome autobiographical narratives ever written."

 Read entire story @


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Biogen Gains U.S. Approval to Sell Its First Pill for MS

Biogen Gains U.S. Approval to Sell Its First Pill for MS

Biogen Idec Inc. (BIIB), the maker of multiple sclerosis drugs Avonex and Tysabri, won U.S. approval for its first pill for the disease, Tecfidera, a medicine analysts project will dominate the MS market.

The drug, formerly known as BG-12, may generate $3.25 billion in annual revenue by 2017 for the Weston, Massachusetts-based company, according to the average of eight analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. 

Clinical Trials

The approval was announced by the Food and Drug Administration today in a statement. The drug is recommended to be taken twice a day and Biogen will make Tecfidera available to patients in the U.S. in the coming days, the company said in a statement. 

Tecfidera was shown in two studies to reduce patients’ annual relapse rate by 49 percent when given either twice a day or three times a day. It cut the proportion of patients who relapsed by 43 percent at twice-daily dosing and 47 percent at three times daily compared with placebo. 

Side effects were similar across the placebo and treatment groups, with the most common adverse events associated with Tecfidera being flushing and gastrointestinal effects, according to the company. 

The FDA recommended that a patient’s white blood cell count be assessed before starting treatment with the pill. While the medicine may decrease these infection-fighting cells, no significant increase in infections was seen in patients taking Tecfidera in clinical trials, the agency said in its statement. 

“Relative to other MS drugs, such as Tysabri and Gilenya, this basic test is a much less invasive requirement,Andrew Berens, an analyst with Bloomberg Industries, wrote today in a research note. 

Biogen Stock Price:  

 The shares rose to their highest price ever.

Biogen shares rose 3.2 percent to $182.68 at the close in New York, the highest price since the stock was first offered to the public in September 1991. The company has gained 45 percent in the last 12 months and doubled since April 2011 when Biogen first reported positive data from a late-stage trial of Tecfidera. 


Tecfidera follows Novartis AG (NOVN)’s Gilenya and Sanofi (SAN)’s Aubagio to the market as oral options for MS, a central nervous system disease otherwise treated by injection or infusion. 

The drug was recommended for marketing approval by European Union health regulators on March 22, the same day as Paris-based Sanofi’s Aubagio, another oral option for MS. Aubagio already is approved in the U.S. 
Though Sanofi’s drug Aubagio has the advantage of being a pill, its “efficacy profile is not that impressive versus other oral compounds,” Asthika Goonewardene, an analyst for Bloomberg Industries in London, said in a telephone interview. Analysts estimate the medicine will have 2017 sales of 718 million euros ($917 million). 

Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis’s Gilenya, the first oral treatment approved for MS, has safety issues that hamper its widespread use. U.S. and European regulators placed new safety precautions on the drug’s use last year after a three-month review triggered by the deaths of 15 patients. Doctors shouldn’t prescribe Gilenya to patients with a history of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease or who take heart-rate lowering medication, regulators said. Analysts expect 2017 revenue of $2.7 billion, according to the average of 10 estimates compiled by Bloomberg. 

Summary: Tecfidera

“With the FDA approval of Tecfidera, we will offer the MS community a treatment with strong efficacy and a favorable safety profile in the convenience of a pill -– a combination we believe will have a significant positive impact on the way people live with this chronic disease,” Biogen Chief Executive Officer George Scangos said in the company’s statement.

“We believe Tecfidera will raise expectations for what people living with MS can achieve with their therapy.” 

The drug may be priced at $50,000 to $55,000 a year, lower than Gilenya at $58,000 and higher than Aubagio at $45,000, said Michael Yee, an RBC Capital Markets analyst in San Francisco. 

“We believe this is an attractive level of pricing given Tecfidera’s combined efficacy and safety profile,” he wrote today in a research note. 
Because of its efficacy, safety and dosing convenience, Tecfidera may gain as much as 20 percent of the market in its first year, Cowen & Co. analyst Eric Schmidt projects.

“It really is going to be a great addition to the toolbox,” Timothy Coetzee, chief research officer of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, said in an interview before the approval was announced. “There seems to be quite a lot of patient awareness about it.

Red meat consumption was associated with a higher risk of early death.


File:Roast beef.jpg

Scientists said Monday that eating red meat was associated with an increased… (Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)

Red meat: What makes it unhealthy?

 By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times / for the Booster Shots blog

On Monday, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health released study results showing that red meat consumption was associated with a higher risk of early death. The more red meat -- beef, pork or lamb, for the purposes of the research -- study participants reported they ate, the more likely they were to die during the period of time that data collection took place (more than 20 years).

What is it in red meat that might make it unhealthy?

No one is sure, exactly, but the authors of the Harvard study mention a few possible culprits in their paper in the Archives of Internal Medicine. (see below)

First, eating red meat has been linked to the incidence of heart disease.

The saturated fat and cholesterol in beef, pork and lamb are believed to play a role in the risk of coronary heart disease. The type of iron found in red meat, known as heme iron, has also been linked to heart attacks and fatal heart disease. Sodium in processed meats may increase blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease. Other chemicals that are used in processed meats may play a role in heart disease as well, by damaging blood vessels.

Red meat has also been linked to increased risks of colorectal and other cancers. 
Again, heme iron could be a culprit — it is more easily absorbed into the body than other forms of iron, and can cause oxidative damage to cells — as could compounds that are created when meat is cooked at a high temperature. Preservatives used in processed meats also may play a role, scientists have said, because they convert into carcinogenic compounds in the body.




Red Meat Consumption and Mortality Results From 2 Prospective Cohort Studies

Background  Red meat consumption has been associated with an increased risk of chronic diseases. However, its relationship with mortality remains uncertain.

Conclusions  Red meat consumption is associated with an increased risk of total, CVD, and cancer mortality. 

Substitution of other healthy protein sources for red meat is associated with a lower mortality risk.



“What we must decide is how we are valuable rather than how valuable we are.”
~ Edgar Z. Friedenberg 

The first and the best victory is to conquer self.

- Plato

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

Man is a wingless animal with two feet and flat nails.
- Plato

To suffer the penalty of too much haste, which is too little speed.
- Plato

You can't work in the movies. Movies are all about lighting. Very few filmmakers will concentrate on the story. You get very little rehearsal time, so anything you do onscreen is a kind of speed painting.
- John Malkovich

Have compassion for all beings, rich and poor alike; each has their suffering. Some suffer too much, others too little.
- Buddha

So long as little children are allowed to suffer, there is no true love in this world.
- Isadora Duncan

For the poison of hatred seated near the heart doubles the burden for the one who suffers the disease; he is burdened with his own sorrow, and groans on seeing another's happiness.
- Aeschylus

The fool knows after he's suffered.
- Hesiod

Just living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.
- Hans Christian Andersen

Do you mind if I sit back a little? Because your breath is very bad.
- Donald Trump

Every picture that is successful has one little miracle in it.
 - Elia Kazan

There is no true love save in suffering, and in this world we have to choose either love, which is suffering, or happiness. Man is the more man - that is, the more divine - the greater his capacity for suffering, or rather, for anguish.
- Miguel de Unamuno

War will disappear only when men shall take no part whatever in violence and shall be ready to suffer every persecution that their abstention will bring them. It is the only way to abolish war.
- Anatole France

The work which is manipulated looks a little boring to me. I think life is pretty strange anyway. It is wooo, wooo, wooo!
- Annie Leibovitz

Unlike grown ups, children have little need to deceive themselves.
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

No man knows till he has suffered from the night how sweet and dear to his heart and eye the morning can be.
- Bram Stoker

Without health life is not life; it is only a state of langour and suffering - an image of death.

- Buddha

The heaviest penalty for deciding to engage in politics is to be ruled by someone inferior to yourself.
- Plato

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

All of our energy should be in sacrifice and services. Suffering, at least.
- Richard Gere

But I think it's a little different in Europe, because 40 is really the best age for a woman. That's when we hit our peak and become this ripe fruit.
- Juliette Binoche

The little reed, bending to the force of the wind, soon stood upright again when the storm had passed over.
 - Aesop

Those who aim at great deeds must also suffer greatly.
 - Plutarch

Time passes, and little by little everything that we have spoken in falsehood becomes true.
- Marcel Proust

I find little in the works of Beethoven, Berlioz, Wagner and others when they are led by a conductor who functions like a windmill.
- Franz Liszt

I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.

- Jean Cocteau

Neither the Army nor the Navy is of any protection, or very little protection, against aerial raids. - Alexander Graham Bell

Everything becomes a little different as soon as it is spoken out loud.
 - Hermann Hesse


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

New Multiple Sclerosis Drug

Decision Looms on New Multiple Sclerosis Drug

Will good news from Europe echo on this side of the Atlantic within the next few days?

Biogen Idec (NASDAQ: BIIB  ) is certainly hoping so.

The biotech's multiple sclerosis drug Tecfidera received a positive recommendation for market authorization approval from the European Union's Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use, or CHMP, last Friday. 

Next up for Tecfidera is a decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration due this week. A final decision in Europe will come in the next two months.

Many in the MS community are anxiously awaiting availability of Tecfidera. What's behind the buzz -- and how likely is it that the MS drug will gain approval?

Disrupting the market?

While there is no cure, several treatments are currently available for slowing the progression of multiple sclerosis.  Beta interferon drugs help prevent damage to myelin, a sheath that shields nerve fibers. Leading beta interferon drugs are Biogen's Avonex, Betaseron from Bayer, and Rebif, which is co-marketed by EMD Serona and Pfizer (NYSE: PFE  ) . All three drugs are administered through injection. Common side effects include inflammation at the injection site and flu-like symptoms.

Teva Pharmaceuticals' (NYSE: TEVA  ) Copaxone also works by protecting myelin. Like the beta interferon drugs, Copaxone is taken via injection with one of the most common side effects relating to inflammation at the site of injection. 

Another treatment that has demonstrated success with slowing progression of MS is Tysabri. Biogen and Elan Pharmaceuticals (NYSE: ELN  ) co-market the drug for now, but the two companies recently announced a deal where Biogen would buy full rights for Tysabri for $3.25 billion. Similar to the other drugs already mentioned, Tysabri is administered through injection. It has some of the same kinds of side effects as the others, but also can increase the possibility of patients getting a rare brain infection that can lead to death or severe disability.

The inconvenience and possibility of reactions associated with these injections opened the door for commercial success of drugs that can be taken orally. Novartis' (NYSE: NVS  ) Gilenya was the first MS pill to gain FDA approval in 2010. Gilenya racked up 2012 sales of $1.2 billion. However, sales were dampened somewhat in early 2012 after the FDA and the European Medicines Agency announced investigations of several deaths related to heart problems in patients taking Gilenya.  

Last September, the FDA approved another oral treatment for MS -- Sanofi's Aubagio. Sanofi received good news from Europe at the same time as Biogen, getting a positive recommendation from CHMP for Aubagio last week.

However, many expect Tecfidera to become the biggest seller in the MS market with annual sales topping $3.25 billion within the next four years. With all of the treatments already available, why is there such eagerness for Biogen's new drug? Three reasons stand out.

First, like Gilenya and Aubagio, Tecfidera is a pill and therefore won't have the inconvenience and injection site reactions associated with most of the other available drugs.

Second, the drug has demonstrated solid efficacy  -- reducing patients' annual relapse rate by nearly half.

Third, Tecfidera's safety profile looks to be better than the others, with the most common side effects including flushing and gastrointestinal effects such as nausea and diarrhea. Biogen hopes that the drug's convenience, efficacy, and safety will score big with patients and prescribers.

Cart before the horse?

Is all this talk getting the cart before the horse, though? Tecfidera still hasn't been approved either in the U.S. or Europe. The FDA delayed its decision on the drug by three months back in October to "allow additional time for review of the application." Murphy's Law has raised its ugly head before with promising drugs.

Like most observers, I don't expect there will be any roadblocks with approval for Tecfidera either in the U.S. or in Europe. CHMP's positive recommendation last week was definitely a good sign. The FDA delay was a standard extension and not particularly unusual. The agency didn't ask for any additional information from Biogen, so no new concerns were raised about Tecfidera's chances of approval.

Anything can happen with regulatory approval processes, but I look for more good news for Biogen this week. I also expect that Tecfidera will live up to the high expectations held by many. The drug should be a great addition to Biogen's already-strong MS portfolio. The cart might still be in front of the horse for now, but I suspect that we'll see plenty of horsepower from Biogen and Tecfidera over the years to come.


Eat the Red Berry Now


Pitbull with bunnies and chick

Picture Of Pit Bull With Bird On Its Head And Surrounded By Bunnies Goes Viral (PHOTO)

It's no secret that pit bulls get a bad rap. Myths that the dogs have "locking jaws" and always fight to the death are widespread, and studies have shown that the media sensationalize pit bull attacks.

That's probably among the reasons this picture, entitled "Your typical violent and aggressive pit bull," went viral on Reddit over the weekend, garnering nearly 1,500 comments and nearly one million views. 

If you're interested in learning more about pit bulls, visit the ASCPA or Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pit Bulls. And yes, the acronym for the latter organization is BADRAP.


Easter Pit Bull with a Bird on its Head

Picture Of Pit Bull With Bird On Its Head And Surrounded By Bunnies Goes Viral (PHOTO)

It's no secret that pit bulls get a bad rap. Myths that the dogs have "locking jaws" and always fight to the death are widespread, and studies have shown that the media sensationalize pit bull attacks.

That's probably among the reasons this picture, entitled "Your typical violent and aggressive pit bull," went viral on Reddit over the weekend, garnering nearly 1,500 comments and nearly one million views. 

If you're interested in learning more about pit bulls, visit the ASCPA or Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pit Bulls. And yes, the acronym for the latter organization is BADRAP.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Mindful Meditation Reduces Anxiety

Mindful Meditation for People with Cancer

Mindful meditation is a powerful tool for handling stress and anxiety in your life.
Australian psychologist Dr Lisbeth Lane guides you through the basics of mindfulness, allowing you to find some peace from your busy thoughts.

These simple exercises help you to take things one day at a time so you can focus more easily on the present, rather than worrying about the past or fearing the future.
Note - This recording encourages you to rest and relax. Please do not listen to these tracks while you are driving or if you need to remain alert.
Acknowledgement - We are grateful to Dr Lisbeth Lane from the Oncology Dept, Wollongong Hospital, for compiling and narrating this recording.

Music - "˜Karmic Ship'. Supplied by Getty Images.
Order a free copy of this CD by calling the Helpline on 13 11 20.
Mindful Meditation - For People With Cancer by cancercouncilnsw

 *Anxiety is a common problem for people living with chronic, progressive diseases like Multiple Sclerosis, as well as, helping people with Cancer.  Negative emotions like anxiety and resentment use up valuable energy that can better be directed to completing your daily chores and practising your vocation or hobbies you care about.  

Managing your mind and emotions is a very important defensive strategy in dealing with depression, frustration and discouragement that can be part of living with a chronic illness.


Friday, March 22, 2013

The Role of Dietary Salt in Autoimmune Diseases

New Studies on the Role of Salt in Autoimmunity

MS Update
March 13, 2013

Background: The Role of Dietary Salt in Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune diseases like MS are defined as inappropriate immune responses to cells and tissues in the body. Much work has been done to identify the types of cells involved in these responses, as well as genetic abnormalities that alter cell behavior. New studies are now looking at the role of environmental and lifestyle factors in driving autoimmune diseases, especially in light of the notable increase in these diseases over the last few decades.

Three studies were published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature examining the effects of salt (NaCl2) on immune activity. Overall the results of their experiments show that increased concentrations of salt lead to the production of a specific type of T cell involved in autoimmunity. This group of T cells, known as Th17 cells, has also been implicated in the development of EAE which is an animal model that mimics MS disease.

Dr. David Hafler, Dr. Markus Kleinewietfeld (Yale University and Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard), Dr. Vijay Kuchroo, Dr. Aviv Regev, Dr. Chuan Wu (Harvard Medical School and Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard), Dr. Regev, Kuchroo and Dr. Nir Yosef (Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard) report on the effects of salt on Th17 cells using a variety of advanced techniques both in cell culture and in animal models.
The Studies:

Dr. Hafler’s team exposed naïve T cells (immune cells which have not yet developed into specific subtypes) to increased salt concentrations. They noticed that this stimulated the naïve cells to become the Th17 cells, which play a major role in autoimmunity. The results demonstrated that the presence of salt led to the expression of molecules that promote inflammation, which is what causes damage in autoimmune diseases like MS. For example, levels of the molecule CCR6 were elevated after the administration of salt; CCR6 is required for Th17 cells to function. The researchers also explored the effects of a high-salt diet in mice which develop MS-like disease. The results showed that a modest increase in salt levels sped up the onset of EAE and increased disease severity.

Dr. Kuchroo’s team observed the effects of salt on a protein called “serum glucocorticoid kinase-1” (SGK1), which a molecule that drives the harmful effects of Th17 cells. The study reports that an increase in salt concentrations led to greater levels of the SGK1 protein, which resulted in an increased expression of molecules that promote the development of Th17 cells. In a follow-up experiment, normal mice as well as mice lacking the SGK1 protein were fed a high salt-diet. After 3 weeks, researchers noticed that mice that did not have SGK1 exhibited lower levels of Th17 cells as well as a reduction in EAE severity.

The final study conducted by Dr. Regev’s team provides evidence on the highly intricate network of signaling molecules that govern the response of the Th17 cells. A key player in this network is IL-17, which has shown to play an important role in high-salt induced autoimmunity as described in the paper from Dr. Kuchroo’s group.

This research collectively illustrates the important role of Th17 cells in autoimmunity. The activity of these cells depends on mechanisms that are governed by a number of signals. Understanding this pathway is key in developing new therapies for autoimmune diseases like MS. The link between Th17 cell activity and salt is a new line of evidence that probes the relationship between autoimmune diseases and environmental factors such as diet. It is important to bear in mind that the clinical and regulatory significance of this work is yet to be determined as these experiments are still being done in a laboratory setting. Further research is required to determine if dietary salt does in fact have an effect on MS disease activity.

Kleinewietfeld M et al. Sodium chloride drives autoimmune disease by the induction of pathogenic TH17 cells. Nature, 2013 Mar 6 [Epub ahead of print]

Wu C et al. Induction of pathogenic TH17 cells by inducible salt-sensing kinase SGK1. Nature, 2013 Mar 6 [Epub ahead of print]

Yosef N et al. Dynamic regulatory network controlling TH17 cell differentiation. Nature, 2013 Mar 6 [Epub ahead of print]

Disponible en français. National Research and Programs

The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada is an independent, voluntary health agency and does not approve, endorse or recommend any specific product or therapy, but provides information to assist individuals in making their own decisions.


Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Buddha's Five Remembrances:

I'm reading "The Dude and the Zen Master" which is a conversational book by Bernie Glassman and Jeff Bridges.

Bridges read about the five remembrances when he turned 60 years old and says it resonated with him.  

He says, :When you're young, you feel like you're going to live forever, so you don't think about those things.  Now you do.  You don't let them stop you or give you the blues, they can even inspire you..." 

We have all been forced to face these truisms, one way or another.  According to that classic, "The Denial of Death" by Ernst Becker, much of our culture is designed to protect us from "the fear and trembling unto death" (Kirkegaard).  

I watched "Gonzo" last night which is about Hunter S. reeling and careening through life while dissipating his 'gifts'/talents in the fog booze and drugs.  Then he shoots himself which is the ultimate denial of death.  

Taking your own life is a form of controlling your own fate, I think.  Denying God or whatever 'hidden metaphysical force' sets the traps to catch you unawares and to take your life...  I seldom leave the theater before the show is over.  Why not see how all this plays out.  

Every moment we are alive is a miracle.  To breath and live against so many odds, starting with being the fastest swimming, most determined sperm in that single orgasmic explosion that starts the whole process.

Buddha's Five Remembrances:

1) I am of the nature to grow old.  There is no way to escape growing old.

2) I am of the nature to have ill health.  There is no way to escape ill health.

3) I am of the nature to die.  There is no way to escape death.

4) All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change.  there is no way to escape being separated from them.

5) My actions are my only true belongings.  I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.  My actions are the ground upon which I stand.

Caution: Red Meat

All red meat is bad for you, new study says -

All red meat is bad for you, new study says

A long-term study finds that eating any amount and any type increases the risk of premature death.

Eating any amount and any type of red meat increases the risk of premature death, a new study says. (William Thomas Cain / Getty Images / March 12, 2012)
By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times March 12, 2012, 4:28 p.m.
Eating red meat — any amount and any type — appears to significantly increase the risk of premature death, according to a long-range study that examined the eating habits and health of more than 110,000 adults for more than 20 years.

For instance, adding just one 3-ounce serving of unprocessed red meat — picture a piece of steak no bigger than a deck of cards — to one's daily diet was associated with a 13% greater chance of dying during the course of the study.

Red meat: An article in the March 13 LATExtra section about a study linking red meat consumption to an increased risk of premature death said that preservatives like nitrates probably contributed to the danger. It should have included nitrites as well. —

Even worse, adding an extra daily serving of processed red meat, such as a hot dog or two slices of bacon, was linked to a 20% higher risk of death during the study.

"Any red meat you eat contributes to the risk," said An Pan, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and lead author of the study, published online Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Crunching data from thousands of questionnaires that asked people how frequently they ate a variety of foods, the researchers also discovered that replacing red meat with other foods seemed to reduce mortality risk for study participants.

Eating a serving of nuts instead of beef or pork was associated with a 19% lower risk of dying during the study. The team said choosing poultry or whole grains as a substitute was linked with a 14% reduction in mortality risk; low-fat dairy or legumes, 10%; and fish, 7%.

Previous studies had associated red meat consumption with diabetes, heart disease and cancer, all of which can be fatal. Scientists aren't sure exactly what makes red meat so dangerous, but the suspects include the iron and saturated fat in beef, pork and lamb, the nitrates used to preserve them, and the chemicals created by high-temperature cooking.

The Harvard researchers hypothesized that eating red meat would also be linked to an overall risk of death from any cause, Pan said. And the results suggest they were right: Among the 37,698 men and 83,644 women who were tracked, as meat consumption increased, so did mortality risk.

In separate analyses of processed and unprocessed meats, the group found that both types appear to hasten death. Pan said that at the outset, he and his colleagues had thought it likely that only processed meat posed a health danger.

Carol Koprowski, a professor of preventive medicine at USC's Keck School of Medicine who wasn't involved in the research, cautioned that it can be hard to draw specific conclusions from a study like this because there can be a lot of error in the way diet information is recorded in food frequency questionnaires, which ask subjects to remember past meals in sometimes grueling detail.

But Pan said the bottom line was that there was no amount of red meat that's good for you.

"If you want to eat red meat, eat the unprocessed products, and reduce it to two or three servings a week," he said. "That would have a huge impact on public health."

A majority of people in the study reported that they ate an average of at least one serving of meat per day.

Pan said that he eats one or two servings of red meat per week, and that he doesn't eat bacon or other processed meats.

Cancer researcher Lawrence H. Kushi of the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland said that groups putting together dietary guidelines were likely to pay attention to the findings in the study.

"There's a pretty strong supposition that eating red meat is important — that it should be part of a healthful diet," said Kushi, who was not involved in the study. "These data basically demonstrate that the less you eat, the better."

UC San Francisco researcher and vegetarian diet advocate Dr. Dean Ornish said he gleaned a hopeful message from the study.

"Something as simple as a meatless Monday can help," he said. "Even small changes can make a difference."

Additionally, Ornish said, "What's good for you is also good for the planet."

In an editorial that accompanied the study, Ornish wrote that a plant-based diet could help cut annual healthcare costs from chronic diseases in the U.S., which exceed $1 trillion. Shrinking the livestock industry could also reduce greenhouse gas emissions and halt the destruction of forests to create pastures, he wrote.
Copyright © 2012, Los Angeles Times

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Opening Veins Does Not Help Multiple Sclerosis Patients

Opening a Multiple Sclerosis patient's veins, a procedure often referred to as "liberation treatment" does not improve patient outcomes, researchers from the University at Buffalo revealed. In some cases patients ended up with worse symptoms, the investigators added. They will present their findings at an "Emerging Science" poster session at the annual American Academy of Neurology meeting in San Diego on March 20th, 2013.

The researchers reported that while percutaneous transluminal venous angioplasty (PTCA) is safe, it did not improve blood flow in cerebrospinal veins. PTCA is a procedure for enlarging a narrowed arterial/venous lumen by introducing a balloon-tip catheter, which when blown up dilates the lumen.

Principal investigator, Adnan Siddiqui, MD, explained that "The Prospective Randomized Endovascular Therapy in MS (PREMiSe) trial is believed to be the first prospective randomized double-blinded, controlled study of balloon angioplasty for MS being performed with Institutional Review Board approval in a rigorous fashion in the U.S. with significant safeguards in place to ensure careful determination of risks and benefits."

All the procedures in this study were provided to patients free-of-charge.

The study concluded that while percutaneous transluminal venous angioplasty is safe and not linked to any serious adverse events, it did not provide sustained improvements in multiple sclerosis patients.

The University of Buffalo researchers say that doctors and patients with MS should only consider endovascular treatment for CCSVI (chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency) in the context of randomized, double-blinded, controlled studies, such as PREMiSe.

Dr. Siddiqui said:

"Our strong recommendation to patients and to practitioners, who have, in earnest, been seeking betterment for their disease and a cure for MS is that they should instead consider enrolling in trials, rather than undergoing these procedures on a fee-for-service basis."

Since 2009, over 30,000 patients with MS have undergone the endovascular procedure that clears blockages in the veins that drain blood from the brain. Most of these interventions were performed free of charge, and not as part of clinical trials.
What is CCSVI (chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency)?
CCSVI (chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency) is a condition in which blood flow in the veins that drains the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) is obstructed. According to research, CCSVI is common among people with MS.

These vein obstructions can slow down the flow of blood returning from the CNS (central nervous system) towards the heart, resulting in blood refluxing back into the spine and brain.

Patients with CCSVI have at least one of the vein blockages listed below (in veins that drain blood from the CNS):

Stenosis - abnormal narrowing of the vein. This restricts blood flow. This could be because the vein has collapsed, twisted, has ring-like narrowings, or some other obstruction.
A faulty valve - which inhibits the flow of blood.
Atresia, hypoplasia, or agenesis - the vein may be partially closed (atresia), not fully developed (hypoplasia), or nearly entirely missing (agenesis).

Robert Zivadinov, MD, PhD, FAAN:

"Our findings over the last three years have indicated that CCSVI is more prevalent in MS patients than in healthy controls, but the cause or consequence of these venous abnormalities has not been established."

Why did experts think endovascular intervention might help MS patients?
The hypothesis was that if veins in the neck and chest do not drain the brain properly, there could eventually be injury to brain tissue.

Dr. Zivadinov explained that experts thought that angioplasty - a treatment widely used by cardiologists and endovascular surgeons to treat atherosclerosis - could unblock the veins.

Bianca Weinstock-Guttman, MD, said "The whole idea of PREMiSe was to find out if opening up the veins that drain blood from the brain and the spinal cord would improve outcomes for MS patients."

Italian cardiovascular surgeon, Dr. Paolo Zamboni was the first to develop the theory that CCSVI may play a role in causing MS, which resulted in much debate and controversy, as well as sparking huge interest among the millions of patients with MS worldwide regarding the potential cause of MS.

Paolo Zamboni
The term chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI) was developed by Paolo Zamboni in 2008

In 2011, Canadian researchers carried out a meta-analysis involving eight different studies in the USA, Germany, Jordan and Italy. They found immense variations regarding how common CCSVI is among MS patients, ranging from 100% (in the case of Zamboni's study) to 0%.

In 2010, researchers at Stanford University halted treatment for CCSVI because two patients experienced serious side effects following stenting of jugular veins, a procedure they thought would correct CCSVI in MS patients - one of the patients died from a brain hemorrhage while the other required open heart surgery after a jugular vein stent dislodged in the right ventricle of the heart.
Endovascular intervention had the opposite effect to what experts had expected
Dr. Siddiqui said that what they found was completely the opposite to what they had expected. Endovascular treatment for narrowed veins had no effect on multiple sclerosis patients.

The PREMiSe trial involved 30 patients, all of them with MS and from Western New York. The trial consisted of two phases:

Phase I - a safety trial involving 10 patients
Phase II - 20 patients were randomly selected to either receive endovascular intervention or placebo (sham treatment)

The researchers found that between those in the intervention (who underwent balloon angioplasty) group and placebo groups, there was no difference in:

clinical symptoms
brain lesions (after undergoing magnetic resonance imaging scans)
quality of life

The investigators emphasized that theirs was a small study, and that large ones should be carried out to confirm their findings.

Dr. Siddiqui concluded:

"This is not the last word on this endovascular treatment for MS. This is the first word because this was the first double-blinded, randomized sham-controlled trial on the subject. However, these findings lead us to caution strongly against the general acceptance of this invasive procedure for MS patients."

'Opening Veins Does Not Help Multiple Sclerosis Patients'

Published on Mar 15, 2013
A new University at Buffalo study finds that while a surgical intervention for MS is safe and not associated with serious adverse events, it did not provide sustained improvement in MS patients.
  • Category

  • License: Standard YouTube License

The following researchers were involved in the trial: Adnan Siddiqui, Nelson Hopkins, Bianca Weinstock-Guttman, Ralph H.B. Benedict, Elad Levy, Yuval Karmon, Jihnhee Yu, Karen Marr, Vesela Valnarov, Murali Ramanathan, Deepa P. Ramasmamy, Kresimir Dolic, David Hojnacki, Ellen Carl and Cheryl Kennedy.

Written by Christian Nordqvist
Copyright: Medical News Today
Not to be reproduced without permission of Medical News Today


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Opening Veins Does Not Help Multiple Sclerosis Patients

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Dog Invents Cat Wash

Clean jokes are hard to find.....did you know that Thomas Edison kept a journal to record jokes.  He believed that you need to break up serious thinking through out the day with some humor and fun.

Subject:  For all dog lovers

Do you have a cat that needs a wash? 

How to wash a cat 

This is simply too much of a time saver not to share it with you.

1. Put both lids of the toilet up and add 1/8 cup of pet shampoo to the water in the bowl...
2. Pick up the cat and soothe him while you carry him towards the bathroom. 

3. In one smooth movement put the cat in the toilet and close the lid. You may need to stand on the lid.

At this point the cat will self agitate & make ample suds. Never mind the noises that come from the toilet, the cat is actually enjoying this! 

5. Flush the toilet three or four times. This provides a '
Power-Wash' and 'Rinse'.

6. Have someone open the front door of your home. Be sure that there are no people between the bathroom and the front door.

7. Stand well back, behind the toilet as far as you can, and quickly lift the lid.
8. The cat will rocket out of the toilet, streak through the bathroom, and run outside where he will dry himself off.

9. Both the
 toilet and the cat will be sparkling clean.

Yours Sincerely, 
The Dog



Subject:  For all dog lovers

Do you have a cat that needs a wash? 

How to wash a cat 

This is simply too much of a time saver not to share it with you.

1. Put both lids of the toilet up and add 1/8 cup of pet shampoo to the water in the bowl...
2. Pick up the cat and soothe him while you carry him towards the bathroom. 

3. In one smooth movement put the cat in the toilet and close the lid. You may need to stand on the lid.

At this point the cat will self agitate & make ample suds. Never mind the noises that come from the toilet, the cat is actually enjoying this! 

5. Flush the toilet three or four times. This provides a '
Power-Wash' and 'Rinse'.

6. Have someone open the front door of your home. Be sure that there are no people between the bathroom and the front door.

7. Stand well back, behind the toilet as far as you can, and quickly lift the lid.
8. The cat will rocket out of the toilet, streak through the bathroom, and run outside where he will dry himself off.

9. Both the
 toilet and the cat will be sparkling clean.

Yours Sincerely, 
The Dog



Although there is not much laughter in medicine, there is much medicine in laughter!