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Second-hand smoke, also known as environmental tobacco smoke or ETS, is clearly associated with cancer, respiratory and cardiovascular disease in humans. Several studies have shown that up to 20 different carcinogens contained in tobacco smoke can be inhaled by non-smoking bystanders.

Dr. Timothy Fan, veterinary oncologist at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana, explains that although associations between ETS and diseases in animals have not been as extensively researched, a handful of studies show a correlation between ETS and certain forms of cancer in pets.

Cats living in homes where people smoke cigarettes are more than twice as likely as other cats to acquire a deadly form of cancer known as feline lymphoma, according to a first-of-its kind study in cats conducted by scientists at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine and the University of Massachusetts.

The study, entitled "Environmental Tobacco Smoke and Risk of Malignant Lymphoma in Pet Cats," was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. The authors conclude that these findings offer a compelling reason for further study of the relationship between passive smoke and non-Hodgkins lymphoma in humans, which is similar to lymphoma in cats.

A drug commonly used to treat severe acne can lead to depressive behaviour in mice, according to research published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

Since the drug’s introduction in the early 1980s there have been controversial reports of depression and suicidal behaviour that may have occurred in some people taking Roaccutane (Accutane in the US).

This has led to the drug’s manufacturers, Roche, including a warning in the product information that taking the medication may cause depression, psychosis and suicidal behaviour.

Electrical deep brain stimulation can dramatically alleviate depression that is resistant to other treatments, researchers have found in an initial study on six patients. The finding is important, they said, because up to 20 percent of patients with depression fail to respond to standard treatments--requiring combinations of antidepressant drugs, psychotherapy, and electroconvulsive treatment (ECT) that still may fail. The number of resistant depression patients can be large, since depression is the leading source of disability in adults under age 50 in North America.

Researchers at the University of Toronto and The Toronto Hospital have discovered a biological basis for the phantom sensations that are frequently experienced on the missing limbs of amputees. The findings of the study are published in the Jan. 22 issue of Nature.

The researchers found that the neurons in the brain that used to represent sensation in the lost limb were still functional but now driven by the stimulation of other body parts, usually the part of the body closest to the amputated limb. The investigators also found that in patients experiencing phantom pain, the sensation can be recreated by stimulating within the brain. Phantom sensations could not be elicited, however, in amputees without a history of phantom sensations.

A study of follow-up care for patients with unsatisfactory outcomes from deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery for movement disorders offers insights into reasons for problems and proposes strategies for improved outcomes. The study is posted online today and will appear in the August print issue of Archives of Neurology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

According to background information in the article, since the Food and Drug Administration approved deep brain stimulation for the treatment of Parkinson's disease, essential tremor and dystonia (uncontrolled muscle movement), there has been a surge in the number of centers offering this surgical procedure, which involves implanting a device to deliver mild electrical stimulation to block the brain signals that cause tremor. There is currently no consensus regarding appropriate screening procedures, necessary training of individuals providing the therapy, the need for an interdisciplinary team, or guidelines for the management of complications, the authors report.