Monday, 27 February 2017

NHS to start prescribing Apps

NHS to start prescribing Apps to patients with long term conditions   

Having read this I do feel that this could be a big step forward for those with long term illnesses, and may cut down appointments each year

If this is picked up used for other illnesses it could be a huge step forward, for those with chest and Heart problems 

The future of healthcare could be in your pocket.

Two new medical apps that help people monitor their health at home, reducing their need to visit a doctor, are set to be rolled out to as many as four UK National Health Service trusts over the next year. 

The apps, which are currently being trialled in four hospitals in Oxfordshire, UK, transmit patient data from a tablet or smartphone directly to clinicians. According to Ilan Lieberman, a member of the Royal Society of Medicine’s council on telemedicine and e-health, such apps will have a huge impact on the management of chronic diseases. 

One system, called GDm-health, helps manage the treatment of gestational diabetes – a condition that affects about 1 in 10 pregnant women. The smartphone app lets women send each blood glucose reading they take at home to their diabetes clinician. 

“Now when a diabetes midwife logs on between clinics, she will see all the patients who are most in need of attention,” says Lionel Tarassenko, of the Oxford University Institute of Biomedical Engineering, who led the development of the technology.

A two-year trial at the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust found that the system meant that patients didn’t need to go in person to the clinic as often, reducing the number of patient visits by 25 per cent. 

App-solutely fine 
“We’ve got three trusts wanting to install this for their gestation diabetes management,” Tarassenko says, but his research group is too small to support any more trials. To overcome this hurdle, Drayson Technologies, owned by entrepreneur and Labour peer Paul Drayson, is setting up a team of developers and support staff based in Oxford, UK, to commercialise it.

The team will manage the rollout of this technology – as well as two other apps – at up to four as-yet-unnamed NHS trusts within a year. Beyond that, Drayson says he plans to eventually offer these products to the entire NHS. 

“This technology enables patients to go home and then be able to safely monitor their condition and be well connected back to the hospital,” Drayson says.

Charles Lowe, managing director of the Digital Health and Care Alliance, says that these smartphone apps make it easier for patients to manage their conditions while carrying on with their daily routines. 

Another system being rolled out by Drayson Technologies, also developed by the Oxford University Institute of Biomedical Engineering, is for managing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a condition that affects between 1 million and 1.5 million people in the UK. Patients with COPD use a finger probe to measure their heart rate and blood oxygen saturation every day and enter the results into an app.

After three months of measurements, the app learns to recognise a patient’s specific range of normal oxygen saturation levels, and issues an alert to clinicians when the measurement falls below that range. “It is very important that the analysis adapts to individuals,” says Tarassenko. If the system is too sensitive, it will send too many alerts to clinicians, but if it’s not sensitive enough, it might miss problems. 

In a 12-month clinical trial, the app reduced hospital admissions by 17 per cent and GP visits by 40 per cent. “Patients are much more confident about managing themselves and are getting into trouble far less often,” Tarassenko says. 

A third product ready for rollout, called SEND, is an iPad app used by nurses to input details about patients’ vital signs as they make their rounds of the wards. It automatically calculates an early warning score based on the vital signs, giving an indication if the patient is deteriorating. 
Critical journey 

Rury Holman, at the Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, thinks the NHS trials are the right way forward. Although smartphone app stores are already crammed full of medical apps designed to manage all kinds of conditions, he believes that if similar apps are going to be used in the UK healthcare system, it’s vital they are developed in close collaboration with the NHS. 

“It’s a bit like the Wild West out there with lots of keen and very motivated people producing these apps,” he says. “What we need are consistent standards and an interface with electronic patient records, particularly with the NHS, so that information, with permission from the patients, can be put to use centrally.” 

But approaches like this can raise privacy concerns.

Last year, New Scientist revealed details of a data-sharing agreement between the NHS and Google’s DeepMind that gave the company access to healthcare data on 1.6 million patients including details of drug overdoses and abortions.

Since late 2015, the AI company has been developing a healthcare app, Streams, that monitors the health of people with acute kidney injury. 

According to Tarassenko, his diabetes and lung disease apps only have access to information relating specifically to those conditions. T
he measurements sent to clinicians via the app are fed into existing patient records, but that process takes place outside of the app, within the NHS’s central patient record systems. 

Developing these apps has taken eight years, but Tarassenko says securing the appropriate ethical clearance and building up a clear evidence base for their use is a critical, journey. “It’s been very important for us to have credibility with our clinical colleagues, and we will continue to do that because it’s designed in the NHS, for the NHS.” 

Friday, 24 February 2017

Children and dementia

There is a lot of stigma around around dementia these days, but it's amazing how children react to those with the illness

There have been a few stories in the media about children going into care homes and helping those with the illness to learn art etc.

I have noticed on  my travels with dementia friends training,  that children are far more forth coming and engaging that  many adults, and what is more they don't seem to hold back, if they have questions or something to ask.

We did a few sessions with some girl guides and they were absolutely amazing to work with.

I do feel that adults are more reserved,  perhaps frightened of the name, as well as the illness

In some cases this is expected if they have someone in the family who has dementia, but it seems that children are becoming more active in supporting people with the illness.

Years ago they would have been kept well away, but these days, they are leading the fight and are very supportive

It could well be that adults from a certain age remember the days, when people with this illness were locked away in hospitals etc

In my case our grandchildren have been marvelous with me, although at times it can be a little over powering,

My eldest granddaughter who is 13, has Asbergers is truly amazing to be with.
She is very protective of me, and always seems concerned that I am alright. 

She has a mobile phone now, for her own security when she is at school or out with friends, and has taken to sending me texts, or phones up to see if I am alright.

The other day we went to London because I had to go to a reception at the House of Commons with the Lewy  Body Society. So she sent a text at night to see if I was alright.

The following morning she sent a text to see I had got home alright,  even though my wife had been with me all day

At first she wanted to speak to me over Skype,  but this is something that I struggle to cope with, even though she set it up on my tablet computer, but as we were out shopping I had a good excuse

However when I did not answer because we were crossing the road, she then rang up for a chat.

Although she has her own problems, people are are amazed how she looks after me.

It seems that when she is about to have a melt down, she disappears to her own room, or somewhere else well away from me.

Her sister who is younger is very similar, and if I make a mistake, she always says, don't worry grampy,  you are allowed to make mistakes because you have "OLD TIMERS."

Both of these girls have phones, but as I have their photographs on my phone I know who is trying to text or phone me.

This service is good because I don't always recognise voices these days, so having a photograph with the number is very helpful.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Lewy Body Society

Today, my wife and I had the honour of joining many guests from the Lewy Body Society at the House of Commons to celebrate their 10 years as a charity.

This charity ws set up by Ashley Bayston, to honour those who lost their lives to this terrible illness.

Since it started the running of the charity was taken over by Jacqui Cannon, the CEO.

Jacqui works tirelessly to give the charity a higher profile, in honour of her father who had the illness until he passed away

This charity is supported by people like Prof  Ian McKeith who is the  Lewy Body Societies President, and who works  tirelessly at Newcastle university,  looking and researching Lewy  Body Dementia

Without this Gentleman's eagerness we would not have the answers we have today, and while we have no cure, I have no doubt that it will come sooner or later.

Newcastle University is one of the top Dementia research places in the UK, if not in Europe,  and like others I have every faith that sooner or later, they will find the answers to this jigsaw

The event started with a presentation by our host for the afternoon,  MP for Wigan, Conor McGinn, who is also an Ambassador with the charity.
After that we had a short presentation by Ashley herself, and then Prof Ian McKeith spoke to us about his work and ambitions,   where the illness us concerned

It was a real honour for my wife and I to be there after two years of problems, with diagnosis and also recurring chest problems, all of which seem to be in the process of being resolved

My diagnosis  of Lewy Body Dementia, was reversed to Mild Cognitive Impairment, because I was not deteriorating as fast as normal expected. However it was said that I may well have a slower burning form of Lewy Body Dementia.

As these medical problems seemed to get  a lot worse over the last two years, I got to the stage where I backed away from all charity and dementia work.

However today, we went to London and had a lovely time. I was proud and privileged to be called a Lewy Body Society Ambassador again.

Over the next few months I have been invited to speak at events so it will be nice to go on  representing the Lewy Body Society, in the hope that they get more publicity

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Smoking and health

We hear so much these days about smoking being bad for your health, yet I do wonder if people take any notice of these warnings

I find it very hard going to our local hospitals, because you end up having to walk through a wall of smoke, from people who simply ignore the No Smoking Signs.

To my it's wrong when this happens, but  I dont think that I am alone

Even outside the main door to the Accident and Emergency Department, these people can bee seen, puffing away.

However these are not all visitors, some are patients in their pyjamas and dressing gowns.

Years ago I remember a consultant telling patients to stop smoking before they were admitted into hospital for an operation. But I suppose these days, it's against people's civil liberties telling them to stop smoking

I understand that some hospitals work  with patients, so they can give up smoking before they go into hospital, but not everyone wants to give it up

However it's not just cigarettes which can be hazardous these days. I do wonder about these people with the vapour E cigs.

It took a long time for the government to admit that cigarette smoking was bad for the health, but they seem to have ignored the fact that even cigs are fairly new, and as such there is very little safety information on hand about them.

Having read some of the information I do wonder if they are more deadly than cigarettes.

But NHS England seems to want people to smoke them, and this seems to be going against the grain to me.

I would have thought it better all round for the NHS to say that all smoking is bad for you, because no one knows exactly what health problems e cigs  are going to cause in the future.

Is that going to leave the door open for people to sue the NHS in the future.

I tend to steer clear of anyone smoking these electronic cigarettes, because the vapour has an effect on my chest, and other people have said the same.

I simply do not understand people who have serious chest problems, but still carry on smoking.

No matter what happens,  your treatment cannot work properly if you carry on smoking, so to me it's common sense to give it up all together.

I think it's time that everyone was educated about the hazards of smoking, and then we may get somewhere.

But I do feel that we must start with school children

Processing information

Most people these days cope quite well with daily things, and don't struggle to cope with thought  processing problems

I guess I did not know anything about this subject, until I was hit by these problems

I guess it all started the day I went to look at an Electrical distribution board, and realised that nothing made sense anymore, I no longer understood what cable was what.

That was just the start of the slippery slope, and since then things have got much worse

But when you no longer understand your job, or your hobby, life becomes very hard.

It's like buying a new gadget, and then finding that you don't understand the instruction manual

Like reading an article in a newspaper and then realising that you did not understand what it meant.

I have struggled with processing information for some time now, and I guess it becomes distressing at times, because my brain is slowing down.

I often sit in meetings and struggle to understand fully what people are saying.

But I always take my wife with me, so that she can explain things to me when needed.

The problem is that if you misunderstood what was being said, and you then answered wrongly, then that  is very embarrassing as well as distressing 

If I am asked to do a presentation somewhere, I need time to sit down and decide what I want to say, and then take my time writing it out,  

I simply cannot turn up and do it on the hoof, as many people do these days .
This in turn is usually done by voice activated software on my computer.

So we just write some notes out, before sitting in front of the computer and talking through the topic, the machine does everything itself
This way I don't have to keep looking at the keyboard, and then back up at the screen to see what's been written

While I was working I was involved in committee meetings, and could just sit and answer questions as they came. These days I need time to think them through

I have no idea what caused this to happen, but I understood from MCI scans in 2009 that the results showed signs of  "Ischemia and Cerebral Atrophy" what ever that may be.

This was after my diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia, so whether I have a mixed form of dementia I don't know

But this thought processing can take its toll on your hobbies etc, as it takes longer to work your way through it all

I have realised recently  that unless I have support at home, I cannot cook anymore, apart from microwave food,  but even then, it's getting things done in the correct order.
After years of being able to cook, this has hit me very hard.

Even answering emails etc has become a nightmare, because I don't always see the obvious, and my wife has to correct things, which is very distressing at times

Monday, 20 February 2017


While I was working, I had two computers on my desk.

One for general work, like estimates, health and safety, reports and electrical testing etc.

The other computer controlled every boiler room and ventialtion systems in the college, and if there was a fault, I could sort it out without leaving my chair.

These days I have lost a lot of this information,  and I am just hanging onto using a tablet computer for basic things.

But I think that it's all down to understand and processing the information, which is in front of me.

I struggle at times listening to what is being said, and hope that I have understood it properly,  before I answer .

I was horrified when  I started writing a blog, because I did not recognise certain obvious things, and even these days it's a struggle. I have noticed that when Google change things on the blog, I get confused and uncertain about what I need to do.

But it's all down to a lack of basic information processing, and it's becoming harder by the day.
It's also very  frustrating after being an engineer for 28 years

My brain does not process information the way it used to do it, and there days it has become a nightmare at times.

However these days we hear that everything should be done via a computer and the internet, and it's becoming alarming when I see so many things turning this way

It's all well and good if you were brought up with this technology and understand it

But  many people simply don't understand technology, and many find it overpowering or intimidating
I find things so much easier to cope with, when I am discussing  something face to face with a real person, rather than relying on the computer, or listening to ore recorded messages on the telephone

But it's not just transactions from  a bank or local council, it's everywhere we look.

After a diagnosis we are told about support lines, or support centres, where we can call and get support, but many people like myself, would prefer to be sat down, talking face to face with a person we can see.

Websites are becoming so complex these days, and it takes me a while to find out the correct section, I  need to look at.

It seems that many websites also change things round on a regular basis, just like supermarkets, which is fine to a certain extent, but when you have problems processing information as I do, it all becomes a nightmare.

While I can understand a website being changed to make it easier for customers to use I certainly don't think they are in anyway dementia friendly.

I do think that a lot if websites would benefit, if the companies involved  asked people for their  views rather than assuming that all is fine

They may well be fine for business people, but that's about it.

However more and more railway stations are converting to automatic ticket machines, rather than having people in kiosks selling you the tickets, and this is becoming a step too far for me.

Machines like computers don't understand that the person standing there has information processing problems, and some of these things cut you off, if you take too long.

As well as that, people standing waiting to use the machines usually get agitated and annoyed because you are causing a hold up,

Technology goes in other directions too these days, as many people expect us to have smart phones, so that we can get emails, and online tickets for trains etc.

But we must remember that there are thousands of people in this country who are unable to use technology for one reason or another, so we must never leave them behind.

Yes there are millions in the country who use a phone every moment of the day, and never go anywhere without one clamped to their ears, but other people don't understand or want to go there

So please don't expect everyone to enjoy able to use technology, because it cannot ever work.
I wonder if we are losing too much control these days, and machines are taking over.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Social care cuts

We are seeing cuts to our social care in many local areas of the  UK, and this problem will only get worse before it can be improved.

The NHS is struggling to cope, because people are not getting the social care they really need, and when this happens, hospitals get clogged up with patients who should be at home or in care homes etc.

This problem cannot be allowed to carry on, and if councils cannot or will not provide social care, it should be taken over and provided be the NHS, and then the councils should be charged for it.

As we know social care is funded locally from things like council tax.

But there is a major problem with this, and that is that the council tax raised in your area, is not used locally, but is sent to Whitehall where it is then spilt amongst other councils in the UK.

Many councils are facing savage cuts in funding, while at the same time they are seeing their council taxes being used by other county councils, who in many cases are much better off.

These councils cannot possibly carry on providing social care  when  they are faced with these savage cuts, and to be honest,  many people have no idea where their council taxes are spent.

While I understand some councils are very small, population wise, and possibly need extra money, our council tax from the North East subsidises places like Surrey which is very wealthy.

This leaves me feeling very annoyed at this Tory Government, because they have made many  savage cuts to the council subsides over the last 10 or so years, and this simply cannot go on.

A few years ago the councils in the North East  did not get their quota of Rock salt for the roads, because the government thought that it was more important to give it to the southern regions.

This was disgusting because the North gets a lot more snow and ice than the southern regions, so the roads here

Councils cannot go on having these savage cuts without loosing more services, which are already down to the minimum already

It seems wrong to me that money raised in local council taxes should be sent off to other councils in times like this, especially wealthy councils in the London Boroughs.

It's also very  wrong for a government to throw money at projects like "HS2" and Cross rail, glorified train sets for certain areas,  when the NHS and social care are in such a terrible state.

It's also fairly obvious that this government does not like Labour run councils, but they do not consider the fact that many millions of people actually voted Tory in the first place, no matter which political party  are ruling their council

However social care like the NHS,  is important to all, yet it's not being provided because of these these false cuts, especially when the government is wasting billions of pounds on unwanted schemes. 

Robots and care of the elderly

Academics turn to robots to solve aged care dilemma

Many of us remember being enthralled as kids by the future of robots. Remember the Jetsons with their robotic maid?

This could be the future of aged care.

Many of us remember being enthralled as kids by the future of robots.
Remember the Jetsons with their robotic maid?

But how many of us actually thought we’d ever end up with a robotic helper of our own?
It could be a reality sooner than we think, but instead of helping us around the home, robots could find their home in a much more socially responsible role.

We’ve all heard about fears of a future shortage of aged care workers and a big increase in demand for aged care facilities and services, and now academics think they might have the answer.

According to reports in the BBC, a group of academics believe that robots could be the answer to the crisis facing the future of caring for the elderly.

That’s right, researchers from two British universities are working on a multi-million dollar project to develop robots that could help look after us when we get older.

The robots, named Pepper Robots by the researchers from Middlesex University and the University of Bedfordshire, could help with everyday tasks from helping you take your tablets to offering companionship.

While it’s hard to imagine having a social interaction with a robot, it could very well be a reality for aged care facilities that are struggling to maintain their staff to resident ratios.

Professor Irena Papadopoulos told the BBC that the robots wouldn’t be replacing nurses or aged care workers, they’d simply support them provide care.
“As people live longer, health systems are put under
increasing pressure,” she said.
“Assistive, intelligent robots for older people could relieve pressures in hospitals and care homes as well as improving care delivery at home and promoting independent living for the elderly.”

And the robots could expand beyond just caring for residents in nursing homes.

The researchers are hoping that robots could also become acceptable to help care for people in their own homes, keeping them in their own home for longer and reducing the demand for nursing homes and aged care.

So, just how smart are these robots?

Well, the Pepper Robots will apparently be able to speak and move hand gestures.

They’ll also be able to move around without any assistance and they’ll even be smart enough to identify when the person they’re caring for is unwell or in pain.

While some of you probably doubt you’ll ever see this technology, it’s well and truly on its way.

Robots like the Pepper Robots are already helping people in their homes and in hospitals in Japan, and they could be just three years away from being used in the UK.

While the technology has the researchers excited, it’s sure to bring up questions for many older people who are suspicious or doubtful about technology.

It raises the ultimate question, would you trust a robot to look after you or your elderly parents?

What do you think about this?

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Early Diagnosis Important

Early diagnosis beneficial for people with dementia

At first, Chuck Brockman started misplacing his keys and wallet.

It must be signs of getting older, Brockman thought. The East Side resident was 56 at the time, which, "while not old, wasn't young, either," he told himself.

He then kept forgetting to punch in and out of work and couldn't remember how to add or the combination to his locker.

His doctor told him he was stressed and overworked and should try relaxing more.

But once he started having hallucinations and vivid dreams, including one in which an angel told him the date of his not-so-distant death, Brockman knew he was dealing with something much more serious.

So he went back to his doctor, who diagnosed Alzheimer's disease, the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.

A specialist - a doctor treating his mother for Alzheimer's - later confirmed that Brockman had early-onset Lewy body dementia, a neurodegenerative disorder often confused with other disorders because of similar symptoms. People with Lewy body, for example, can experience confusion or memory loss like Alzheimer's, or stiffness, tremors and trouble with gait like Parkinson's.

Though initially reluctant to accept the diagnosis, he now is thankful for the early detection and the opportunity it has given him and his wife, Mindy, to plan for what's to come.

"I've accepted it," said Brockman, now 61, who attends as many support groups as he can to help himself and others. "I figured the good Lord gave it to me for a reason, and maybe it's to be an advocate. I'm at peace with that."

Nearly 1 in 9 Ohioans age 45 or older reported increased confusion or memory loss over the previous 12 months, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But fewer than half talked to their doctors about their concerns, despite the benefits of early detection.

Of the Ohioans surveyed, nearly 52 percent said their worsening memory interfered with work or social activities or caused them to give up activities, cooking, cleaning or paying bills. Almost 36 percent said they needed assistance with daily activities.

"There's definitely a stigma attached to Alzheimer's disease, and many people are afraid to talk about memory changes because they assume the worst," said Vince McGrail, executive director and CEO of the central Ohio chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.

In one survey, Americans said they feared developing Alzheimer's disease more than any other major, life-threatening disease including cancer, stroke, heart disease or diabetes. Because there's no cure, prevention or treatment to slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease, many see getting it as a death sentence, McGrail said.
In Ohio, more than 210,000 people are living with Alzheimer's and 596,000 are providing unpaid care for someone with the disease, according to the Alzheimer's Association. Nationally, an estimated 5.4 million Americans are living with the disease at an annual cost to taxpayers of $236 billion.

While some might have mild cognitive impairment or be in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia, experiencing increasing or worsening confusion or memory problems - "subjective cognitive decline," as it is called - is just a warning sign, he said.

Early and accurate detection allows whatever is causing the problem - whether it's dementia-related or something else entirely - to be targeted before severe deterioration occurs, said Tricia Bingham, director of programs and services for the central Ohio Alzheimer's Association chapter.

"People don't realize it, but research has shown that 9 percent of individuals experiencing dementia-like symptoms actually have a potentially reversible cause such as depression or a vitamin B12 deficiency," she said.

An early diagnosis, even if for Alzheimer's or another form of dementia, also allows individuals and their families to get treatment to help with symptoms, build a care team, enroll in support services and participate in clinical trials, she said.

Affected individuals can be involved in important decisions about their care and finances while they still have the capacity to make them, she said.

Despite hating that he had to stop driving and working, Brockman said he still fells like his old self and now focuses on what he can do, instead of what he can't. He and his wife enjoy the education, encouragement and support they receive at the various support groups they attend.

They joined family and friends in participating in last year's Columbus Walk to End Alzheimer's, raising $900 for Alzheimer's care, support and research.

Brockman, who recently was asked by the national Alzheimer's Association to serve as a Lewy body dementia advocate, also was approved to participate in a drug trial through Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center. And he and his wife are doing things they've always dreamed of, such as attending a Florida State-Clemson game in Tallahassee last fall. No more putting things off, they agreed.

"We're not going to let it stand in our way," Mrs. Brockman said.

"I'm focused on living in a way I wasn't before my diagnosis," Mr. Brockman added.

If you have questions or concerns about memory loss generally or Alzheimer's and other dementias specifically, you can call the Alzheimer's Association 24-7 Helpline at 1-800-272-3900 or go to

Monday, 6 February 2017

The Role of Robots in society

A lot has been written in  the media about the role of Robots in a caring role in society.

This could include helping people to remember to take their medication on time, or playing games with someone living on their own,  etc.

I confess that I have a fascination with Robots, as I remember, going to the cinema as a child and seeing a film called the  "Forbidden Planet",  and the robot was called Robbie.

Since then I have grown up wondering what role Robots would have in  any future society.

I admit that Robots these days,  look vastly different to those of Robots,  which were around back my early childhood days

These days we have Robots working on production lines in factories, and this was never expected, but they seem you be working well.

It has been suggested that some Robots could help us to play games, and I guess this is a positive way to help those living on their own. They could also be used your contact the emergency services if something goes wrong.

In all honesty when we look around there are some games, where you can play against your computer, so I guess this is another step forward from that.

But will someone take kindly to a robot beating  them at games?

Can a robot support a person in care. I confess that I am unsure, but I suppose it could be possible in the future, if they are programmed properly.

It may take time, but I suppose it could happen, but can it replace a real person who is trained to do the work. 

There are days when my memory is total rubbish,  and I forget most things including my medication, but I am not sure how I would react to a robot telling me what to do and when to do it.

I suppose I still like my independence,  even though I know it is done times difficult without my wife or someone else reminding me what to do.

I have realised this week, that I have been retweeting things over and over without realising it, so I have to accept that my memory is not as good as it used to be

However I wonder if a robot could make people more vulnerable,  when it gets out that a robot is supporting someone.

I say this because there are always people out there, who would like you steal a robot in he hope that they could programme it to do what they want

There is a down side to this and that is, a robot could spook someone with dementia or a nuerological illness.

We heard a lot about talking dolls these days, and the fact that some may be used in care homes, so that those with the illness don't feel lonely. But how will people react to a robot moving around the house in the early hours of the day.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Parkinson's Fighting Steroid found

Parkinson's-Fighting Steroid Is Identified in Fast Food Fish
The spiny dogfish shark carries a potent toxin-fighting steroid, which scientists can now manufacture synthetically.

The spiny dogfish shark, which has been marketed as "rock salmon" and reportedly sold as a fast food fish, turns out to carry a potent toxin-fighting steroid that shows promise in treating Parkinson's and a certain form of dementia, new research finds.

Concerns over fast food and fishing of the shark, which is now listed as being vulnerable to extinction by the IUCN, have been erased since scientists have synthesized the steroid—squalamine—in a lab, so no spiny dogfish sharks have to die in order for people to benefit from the compound.

Results of the new research on squalamine, conducted by an international team, are reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"The synthesized steroid is identical to the molecule produced in the shark," co-senior author Michael Zasloff told Seeker. "It is a beautiful white powder. It will be administered as an oral tablet in human clinical trials."

Zasloff, a professor of surgery and pediatrics at Georgetown University School of Medicine, and a scientific director of the MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute, has been studying the spiny dogfish shark for well over two decades. The shark may live up to 100 years, and is suspected of having the longest known gestation period of animal: 18 to 24 months.

RELATED: Shark Q&A: What's Cool About a Shark's Immune System?
One reason for the longevity is that "the shark is remarkably resistant to infections, despite having a primitive immune system," Zasloff said. "We suspected that this animal made protective compounds."

In earlier research, he and his colleagues discovered squalamine in the shark and determined that the steroid had antimicrobial properties. The researchers then determined its chemical structure and devised a way to synthesize it from a plant steroid.

For the new study, lead author Michele Perni, Zasloff and their team genetically programmed nematode worms (C. elegans is a popular animal model for research projects) to over-express a protein called alpha-synuclein. Clustering of this protein happens with Parkinson's as well as with Lewy Body Dementia, a condition said to have afflicted the late entertainer Robin Williams.
Photo: Spiny dogfish shark. Credit: Doug Costa, NOAA/SBNMS

Zasloff explained that alpha-synuclein is attracted to negatively charged cellular surfaces. Squalamine, a positively-charged molecule, is attracted to these very same surfaces, such as within nerve cells.

For people with Parkinson's, tiny vesicles positioned at nerve endings become coated with the protein, so they can start to aggregate with others and clump together. As the clumps grow, the nerve's function becomes damaged, often leading to the death of the entire cell.

The scientists showed that squalamine can displace the damaging protein from nerve cells. Even if some minor clumps form, Zasloff said, "The normal cell has a means of naturally digesting these aggregates, and can do so effectively, so long as the garbage disposal system isn't overwhelmed."
That's exactly what happened to the nematode worms. Those not given squalamine experienced cellular damage and became paralyzed, but the treated worms were able to stave off the protein clustering and resulting problems.

RELATED: Woman Can 'Smell' Parkinson's
You might be wondering why a shark that doesn't suffer from Parkinson's and/or dementia would produce squalamine. Zasloff said the steroid "can kill bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses," so it "protects the shark from the infective agents that must accompany the food it ingests."

The connection to humans may not be so remote. Intriguingly, most people with Parkinson's suffer from severe constipation and other gastrointestinal problems, with such symptoms often appearing before the obvious onset of the disease. As a result, Zasloff said, "Many in the field now believe that Parkinson's actually begins in the gut." Lewy Body Dementia may initiate in a similar manner, since Lewy bodies—the abnormal protein aggregates—can be found in the gut.

The planned multi-center clinical trial on humans will focus on how squalamine affects GI function, and how this, in turn, may link to disease formation.

It's important to note that "drugs" and nutritional supplements on the market now under the label "squalamine" do not contain any significant amounts of the steroid, according to Zasloff.
"The amount of squalamine in shark tissues is quite low," he explained, "even in the liver of the dogfish. I do worry that the Asian fisheries will respond to our report by further decimating shark species."

An actual squalamine-based drug, made from the synthesized compound, is already being envisioned.
Co-author Christopher Dobson explained that if the forthcoming trials on humans are successful, "it is possible that a drug treating at least some of the symptoms of Parkinson's Disease could be developed from squalamine.

We might then be able to improve on that incrementally, by searching for better molecules that augment its effects."

Friday, 3 February 2017

Animals and relaxation

Animals can have a relaxing effect on people, and its now well known that they can help people who are ill including those with a neurological illness

Over the years the animals we had at home, have had an effect on us one way or another, but they are not simply animals, they are actually a major part of our family

Not just that, but they don't ask for anything, just friendship and food, and in return they help us by providing undiluted love and friendship in return.

How many of us have returned home to be greeted by a cat or a dog, running round wildly because we have come back
Our two dogs had an uncanning knack of knowing when you were walking up the street towards the house,  and would sit just inside the front or back door waiting patiently

That's undying friendship and one which cannot be replaced.

Over the years we have had a cat, two dogs, a Budgie  and a tropical fish aquarium, but I think we got the most pleasure from either a dog or a cat.

What is more, these four legged friends seem to sense when you are struggling, and come to support you in what ever way they can, either by sitting at your feet, or forcing you to cuddle them.

I had noticed many years ago that by simply stroking an animal, your stress flows out if your body.

I have heard many people say that an animal has kept them going when they were feeling a bit down, or slightly depressed

When we got married we understood that we could not have children, so after a few years, we decided to go out and look for a dog.

Its was then that we got Major, a Lab Cross, who took over the house, and was bundle of fun

He somehow got a liking for Baileys cream, but I guess that was because it smelt quite nice

I left the room one night and found that he had climbed onto my chair and somehow managed to reach my glass, which had been put out of his way, on a shelf

I came back to find him cleaning the glass on the floor. Needless to say that the glass was still in one piece, but was spotlessly clean. After that we had to watch him like a hawk.

He was a lovely dog, and was a constant friend when you were tired, or feeling off colour

Around two years later Claire was Born, and we were unsure as to how Major would react, to someone else getting the attention

However when Claire came out of Hospital, he curled up and went to sleep beside her carry cot and stayed there.

He then  refused point blank to let either my mother in law or her sister,  get anywhere near to Claire's carry cot, let alone pick her up.,

This was quite a shock bearing in mind that she had just come out of hospital and he had never seen her before

Each time someone new went near to her he growled, as it to say she belongs to me, back off.

No matter what Claire did to this dog as she grew up,  he protected her and kept an eye on others in the room

Then Mark came along and he too was guarded by Major, and when no one was looking he would quite happily jump up on to one of their beds and sleep in the sun

Here again Mark could do no wrong in Majors eyes

A few years later when Major was getting old and tired, we had hired a caravan near to Hereford, and the children went horse riding etc.

They also had a boating lake, which was quite good, because I loved fishing as did Mark.

So one day we hired a boat and went fishing leaving Major with my wife Janice and Claire.

However Major had other ideas, because when we were out in the middle of the lake we heard a shout, and then saw Major swimming out towards us.

Needless to saw we did not catch anything, apart from what Mark called a Dogfish?
I had no idea how he managed to swim that far, and we were worried that he would not reach us, but he was determined to be with us. Needless to say we returned soaked though, as he kept shaking the water off himself and onto us.

Then one day the family were at a friends house were they saw one of their cats giving birth to a litter of kittens, one of which was Pepe who was identical to the cat below apart from the fact that she had a black dot on the right nostril

This tiny little kitten was not frightened of Major, and she would often walk under his legs while he was eating his supper, and would often help her self to his food knowing full well that he would not dare to move to stop her.


Major in later life

Major would often guard the family and the flat,  if I was called out at work at night, or during the night, and would stop anyone getting close to the rest of the family.

He would often be curled up just inside the front door, when I came back at odd hours during the night, after a callout

If I went for a nap after a long night, he too would join me and would lie curled up behind my knees

I would often wake up with Major behind me, while Pepe would be curled up in front of me
Nothing seemed to frighten him at all, but he was a true watch dog, even though he was not a big dog

After he passed away, we said we would never get another dog, but in the end we got another Lab Cross and he was called Ben

Ben was very nervous when we got him, but I guess the children and Pepe helped him to settle down, and he became a real friend to all in the house

This is Ben on Marks bed enjoying the Sun while the children were at school

Ben watching our neighbour's in the garden

Although he was a nervous dog, he was a bundle of fun, and would often run down the back garden until the neighbour's security light came on, the he would run back into the house.

This was a nightly event which I am sure annoyed the neighbours, but there was nothing we could do about it, because he could get out through our cat door.

One summers night, Ben followed Pepe out of Claire's open bedroom window, until he lost his grip.
We were all sat outside in the garden that night and saw what was happening in slow motion.

Ben slid down a PVC lean too roof landing on the Dust bin, then ran down the garden wagging his tail.

We were all grateful that the dustbin had broken his fall, but we were all killing ourselves laughing as he ran off, partly shocked, and partly well aware just how silly he had been to follow the cat out of the window

Needless to say, he never did that again

Pepe sadly passed away shortly after this, and we all missed her including Ben

If I was ever called out late at night, I would often find him sitting in the back garden waiting for me to return with my push bike, then he would disappear upstairs to bed.

If it was wet or cold, he would be sat with his head out of the cat door waiting

When I was ill and waiting for the diagnosis, he was a constant companion, and at times would drive my nuts, because I could not even go to the toilet without him following, and waiting outside the door for me to return

I had problems with hallucinations at the time, but I realised that if he did not move, then that's all it was, and in some way it helped me to cope

Bens only problems was that he disliked loud noise and would shake terribly if a firework went off,

Needless to say on fireworks night or New Years eve when fireworks went off, I would spend a lot of time trying to support him

Eventually we moved back to the North East, where I was diagnosed  with early onset Lewy Body Dementia, and from then on his health went down hill.

He then passed away and that was hard to accept, but the vet said that perhaps he had been ill for sometime, but had hidden it until my diagnosis had been sorted out, and then decided to let go 

It seems that animals can sense things like this, and have an uncanny knack of keeping us going at their expense. I think this hit me harder after the vet had said those words.     

There are times when I really miss having a dog especially Ben around the house

However I realise that there are days when it could be too much for me  to go out for long walks each day even though it would keep me fit

However I will always remember these three friend's, who came into our lives and brightened things up at times    

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