Scientists Just Identified The Physical Source of Anxiety in The Brain

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A new study investigating the neurological basis of anxiety in the brain has identified ‘anxiety cells’ located in the hippocampus – which not only regulate anxious behaviour but can be controlled by a beam of light.

The findings, so far demonstrated in experiments with lab mice, could offer a ray of hope for the millions of people worldwide who experience anxiety disorders (including almost one in five adults in the US), by leading to new drugs that silence these anxiety-controlling neurons.

“We wanted to understand where the emotional information that goes into the feeling of anxiety is encoded within the brain,” says one of the researchers, neuroscientist Mazen Kheirbek from the University of California, San Francisco.

To find out, the team used a technique called calcium imaging, inserting miniature microscopes into the brains of lab mice to record the activity of cells in the hippocampus as the animals made their way around their enclosures.

874 anxiety neurons brain light 2Anxiety cells (Hen Lab/Columbia University)

These weren’t just any ordinary cages, either.

The team had built special mazes where some paths led to open spaces and elevated platforms – exposed environments known to induce anxiety in mice, due to increased vulnerability to predators.

Away from the safety of walls, something went off in the mice’s heads – with the researchers observing cells in a part of the hippocampus called ventral CA1 (vCA1) firing up, and the more anxious the mice behaved, the greater the neuron activity became.

“We call these anxiety cells because they only fire when the animals are in places that are innately frightening to them,” explains senior researcher Rene Hen from Columbia University.

The output of these cells was traced to the hypothalamus, a region of the brain that – among other things – regulates the hormones that controls emotions.

Because this same regulation process operates in people, too – not just lab mice exposed to anxiety-inducing labyrinths – the researchers hypothesise that the anxiety neurons themselves could be a part of human biology, too.

“Now that we’ve found these cells in the hippocampus, it opens up new areas for exploring treatment ideas that we didn’t know existed before,” says one of the team, Jessica Jimenez from Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons.

Even more exciting is that we’ve already figured out a way of controlling these anxiety cells – in mice at least – to the extent it actually changes the animals’ observable behaviour.

Using a technique called optogenetics to shine a beam of light onto the cells in the vCA1 region, the researchers were able to effectively silence the anxiety cells and prompt confident, anxiety-free activity in the mice.

“If we turn down this activity, will the animals become less anxious?” Kheirbek told NPR.

“What we found was that they did become less anxious. They actually tended to want to explore the open arms of the maze even more.”

This control switch didn’t just work one way.

By changing the light settings, the researchers were also able to enhance the activity of the anxiety cells, making the animals quiver even when safely ensconced in enclosed, walled surroundings – not that the team necessarily thinks vCA1 is the only brain region involved here.

“These cells are probably just one part of an extended circuit by which the animal learns about anxiety-related information,” Kheirbek told NPR, highlighting other neural cells justify additional study too.

In any case, the next steps will be to find out whether the same control switch is what regulates human anxiety – and based on what we know about the brain similarities with mice, it seems plausible.

If that pans out, these results could open a big new research lead into ways to treat various anxiety conditions.

And that’s something we should all be grateful for.

“We have a target,” Kheirbek explained to The Mercury News. “A very early way to think about new drugs.”

The findings are reported in Neuron.

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Scientists Think They’ve Found a Way to Stop Allergic Reactions Before They Happen

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If you’re one of the unlucky millions of people burdened by allergies, you know that sometimes there’s only so much antihistamines can do to help.

Researchers have been working to find more effective allergy treatments, and now they’ve discovered how a particular antibody can stop an allergic reaction from happening altogether.

An allergic reaction is the immune system’s way of completely overreacting to a normally benign substance, from proteins in cat saliva to surprisingly deadly peanuts.

When the body is exposed to an allergen, the immune system goes into overdrive producing ridiculous amounts of a specific type of antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). It’s a large, Y-shaped molecule that attaches itself to the immune cells tasked with releasing invader-attacking chemicals.

These compounds – especially histamine – go on to produce the varied and miserable symptoms of an allergy, whether it’s a runny nose and eyes, or the more serious anaphylactic reaction that accompanies severe food allergies or insect bites.

Allergy tablets typically target these immune system compounds or their receptors, therefore preventing or at least easing the allergy symptoms. But if we target IgE itself, there’s a chance to prevent the allergic reaction from even taking place.

A team led by scientists at Aarhus University in Denmark has now discovered a mechanism through which a particular anti-IgE antibody can make this miracle happen.

This new antibody, called 026 sdab, was first derived from llamas, and is akin to a range of such molecules discovered in camelid species and cartilaginous fishes.

The way 026 sdab works in the human body is by preventing IgE from getting to two specific types of immune receptors – CD23 and FceRI – and thus stopping the allergic reaction before it even starts.

“Once the IgE on immune cells can be eliminated, it doesn’t matter that the body produces millions of allergen-specific IgE molecules,”  says senior author of the study, Edzard Spillner from Aarhus University.

“When we can remove the trigger, the allergic reaction and symptoms will not occur.”

While the antibody hasn’t yet been tested in actual people, the team used blood samples from people with diagnosed allergies to birch pollen and insect venom, and watched how the antibody performed.

Within just 15 minutes, treatment with 026 sdab reduced IgE levels down to 30 percent from the starting amount, and even further down when the test lasted longer.

“We can now precisely map how the antibody prevents binding of IgE to its receptors,” says one of the team, molecular biologist Nick Laursen from Aarhus University.

“This allows us to envision completely new strategies for engineering medicine of the future.”

There’s already one anti-IgE therapy on the market, called omalizumab – it’s approved in over 90 countries for the treatment of stubborn cases of allergic asthma, but isn’t always effective.

According to the team, 026 sdab is a much smaller antibody than what’s currently available or in development. It’s also easier to produce, and is “extremely stable”, which means it doesn’t have to be injected like omalizumab does.

“This provides new opportunities for how the antibody can be administered to patients,” says Spillner.

There’s still a while to go before this amazing-sounding treatment makes its way to humans – it still needs to undergo extensive testing, including safety research.

But the team’s findings could also open up avenues for discovering more similar antibodies, thus speeding up the process – and we’re really excited.

“Our description of the 026 sdab mode of action is likely to accelerate the development of anti-allergy and asthma drugs in the future,” the team writes in the paper.

The study has been published in Nature Communications.

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Two months after GST rate cut, consumers still overcharged by Ayurveda & cosmetics manufacturers

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More than two and half months have passed since GST Council has reduced GST rates of unbranded ayurvedic medicines and cosmetic products having medicinal benefits from 12% to 5% and 28% to 18%, the manufacturers of ayurvedic products and cosmetics are still overcharging consumers.

Though some of the Ayurveda manufacturers have slashed MRP of their products but the product price has not come down in proportion to decline in GST rate. A difference of 3% to 4% in the MRP on those ayurvedic formulations where GST has been dropped by 7% from the 12% has been observed.

In cosmetics, again the MRP is even unchanged or reduced by 5% at the most while the GST rate has declined to 18% from 28%.

For instance, Himalaya Drug Company, one of the leading manufacturers of Ayurveda and cosmetic products has lowered MRP of certain Ayurveda products such as Neem, Amalaki, Tulsi Syrup, Shatvari Syrup, Arjuna by 3-4% which is not in proportion to cut in GST rate (7%).

Similar anomalies have been noticed in the company’s cosmetic products where the GST has been reduced by 10% (previously 28%) after the amendment. The firm has not reduced the MRP of Hairzone despite decline in GST rate from 28% to 18%. On the other hand, the MRP of Himalaya’s Clarina Facewash has declined by just 5%.

No changes have been observed while dealing similar products (Cosmetic Products) of Zydus Healthcare Limited, Hegde and Hegde Pharmaceutica LLP etc.

Joydeep Sarkar, general secretary of All India Chemists and Distributors Federation (AICDF) said, “In the last few months we have observed the consumers as the worst sufferers since they remained deprived of getting minimum advantages of the GST rate cut. Though the reduction in MRP has been noticed after the alleged manufacturer enjoyed the immediate first week after the modification of GST tax regime, yet the amendments of MRP which they effected is not proportionate.”

The initial complaints against the alleged manufacturers, so published at Pharmabiz.com, compelled them to reduce their MRP. We find no proportionate reduction despite GST percentages on ayurvedic proprietary medicines and cosmetics have already declined by 7% to 10% from the pre-November regime of 12% and 28%, said Sarkar.

Manufacturers were always in the good books of NPPA, the price monitoring authority. It is an irony that every year the maximum recovery of overcharging amount on medicines is only 12% to 15% at most of the total alleged amount. AICDF believes in such ‘favouritism’ of the concerned authority is the impetus for the manufacturers which encouraged them to maintain old, unchanged MRP even after stricture of the GST Council.

AICDF has urged National Anti-Profiteering Authority to take action against the manufacturers of Ayurveda products and cosmetics for overcharging consumers despite reduction in GST rates.

GST Council had reduced GST rates of almost 177 products at a meeting held in Guwahati, Assam on November 10, 2017. Of which, unbranded ayurvedic medicine rates have been slashed from 12% to 5% and rates of diabetic food, medicinal grade oxygen, skincare products and certain cosmetic products used as essential medicines mostly at the derma, gynae segments have decreased from 28% to 18% with a directive to get implemented immediately.

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We Just Got More Evidence For The Strange Link Between Sugar And Alzheimer’s

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People with high blood sugar stand to experience worse long-term cognitive decline than their healthy peers, even if they’re not technically type 2 diabetic, new research suggests.

The findings are not the first linking diabetes with impaired cognitive functions, but they’re some of the clearest yet showing blood sugar isn’t just a marker of our dietary health – it’s also a telling predictor of how our brains may cope as we get older.

“Our findings suggest that interventions that delay diabetes onset, as well as management strategies for blood sugar control, might help alleviate the progression of subsequent cognitive decline over the long-term,” explain the researchers, led by epidemiologist Wuxiang Xie from Imperial College London.

The researchers sourced their data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, an ongoing assessment of the health of a representative sample of the English population aged 50 and older, which began in in 2002.

For its analysis, the team tracked 5,189 participants – 55 percent women, with an average age of 66 years – assessing their level of cognitive function between 2004-2005 to 2014-2015, spanning several waves of the ELSA study.

In addition, the researchers monitored participants’ levels of HbA1c, aka glycated haemoglobin, a measure of blood sugar control over time.

While all of the participants showed some level of cognitive decline over the course of the assessment due to simply getting older, the researchers found those with greater levels of HbA1c experienced a steepened rate of decline, tracked by tests measuring their cognitive, memory, and executive function abilities.

Other studies have previously shown this kind of link between diabetes and the cognitive decline seen in conditions like Alzheimer’s disease – but never before by using HbA1c.

Interestingly, though, the new findings go beyond just re-establishing the link between diabetes and cognitive decline – because the HbA1c trend was observed in participants regardless of whether or not they were technically diabetic.

Healthy people’s HbA1c levels are lower than 42 millimoles per mole (mmol/mol, or below 6 percent), while diabetic people show readings of 48 mmol/mol or above (6.5 percent or above).

In the middle, people with the precursor condition prediabetes (high blood sugar, but not considered diabetic) have readings between 42 to 47 mmol/mol (6 to 6.4 percent).

What the researchers found is that the associated rate of cognitive decline isn’t limited to just those who are diabetic, but to higher HbA1c counts generally.

“Our findings show a linear correlation between circulating HbA1c levels and cognitive decline, regardless of diabetic status,” the researchers explain.

It’s a bit too early to know what the dietary implications are for people concerned about their blood sugar levels – suffice to say it’s another compelling reason why we should all be watching what we eat so as to prevent developing type 2 diabetes – although even if you do, some clever choices could help you reverse that diagnosis.

“One strength of this large study is that it followed people over time to show a faster decline in memory and thinking in those with poorer blood sugar control,” says Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Chief Scientific Officer, David Reynolds.

“But it does not shed any light on the potential mechanisms underlying this decline.”

While researchers continue to explore what those mechanisms could be, it’s becoming clearer that none of us, diabetic or otherwise, should assume diets high in sugar are necessarily harmless to both body and mind.

“Just because you don’t have type 2 diabetes doesn’t mean you can eat whatever carbs you want,” epidemiologist Rosebud Roberts from the Mayo Clinic, who wasn’t involved in the study, told The Atlantic.

“Especially if you’re not active. [What we eat is] a big factor in maintaining control of our destiny.”

The findings are reported in Diabetologia.

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Indian Pharmacopoeia Commission adds 10 new impurities standards

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The Indian Pharmacopoeia Commission (IPC) Ghaziabad has added 10 new impurities standard. Now a total of 117 impurities and 537 Indian Pharmacopeia Reference Standards (IPRS) are available at IPC for stakeholders.

The move is to strengthen its availability of impurity standards and reference substances. The new list of impurity standards covered Carvedilol Impurity A, 3 Impurities of Quiniodochlor, Diazepam Impurity A, Alprostadil Impurity K, Butylparaben Impurity E and Tramadol Impurity A, Impurity of Carbamazepine (10,11 –Dihydrocarbamazepine) Oxacillin Impurity A, said Dr. PL. Sahu, Principal Scientific Officer, Head, R&D, Indian Pharmacopoeia Commission

Impurity standards are very essential for related substance analysis. Further, it is also important for ensuring the product quality, he added.

Impurity standards are used to perform the system suitability, qualitative and quantitative parameters for compliance to Indian Pharmacopoeia monograph.

The Commission has created a set of standards for drugs in the country. Its basic function is to update regularly the standards of drugs commonly required for treatment of diseases prevailing in this region. It publishes official documents for improving quality of medicines by adding new and updating existing monographs in the form of Indian Pharmacopoeia (IP). It further promotes rational use of generic medicines by publishing National Formulary of India, said Dr Sahu.

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