Indian Doctors Perform Rare Surgery On Clinically Dead Infant

Clinically it is called deep hypothermic circulatory arrest (DHCA). A surgical technique in which the patient’s heart and the brain are shut down during the procedure. The normal human body temperature is 37°C and humans quickly die if the core body temperature drops below 22°C. In this technique. The body temperature was lowered to 15°C to successfully remove a 200 gm cancerous tumor that had grown inside and outside a two-year-old boy’s heart.

The kid was rendered clinically dead as a team of 30 doctors operated upon him for removal of intracardiac yolk sac germ cell tumor in the heart, an extremely rare condition. His heartbeat and brain activity was stopped for 40 minutes during the surgery and he was restored back to life after the procedure. The lead doctor on the team commented that the surgery was the fifth such successful surgery performed in the world. In all the four other cases, the tumor was reported inside the heart but in this case, the tumor was inside and outside the surface of the heart. The yolk sac tissue develops on the third day of pregnancy and is usually dissolved within a month. But in this case, the tissue developed into a cancerous tumor. It is a very rare condition and an extremely difficult surgery to perform as the tumor infiltrates the heart muscle and comes out.

The condition was detected in the boy during a recent occurrence of fever. In spite of strong denial for travel from doctors, the parent of the boy flew to Kochi, India from Dubai for the surgery. The patient was brought in a critical condition with severe breathlessness as 95% of his blood circulation was blocked by the tumor. Physicians suspected that he developed the tumor during intrauterine life. The child was operated on the auspicious day of Eid and now he is recovering fast. He is advised chemotherapy course once in three weeks about 3 to 4 times. Doctors are hopeful that post-surgical chemotherapy will heal the residual tumor, if any.

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A Giant Neuron Has Been Found Wrapped Around the Entire Circumference of the Brain

For the first time, scientists have detected a giant neuron wrapped around the entire circumference of a mouse’s brain, and it’s so densely connected across both hemispheres, it could finally explain the origins of consciousness.

Using a new imaging technique, the team detected the giant neuron emanating from one of the best-connected regions in the brain, and say it could be coordinating signals from different areas to create conscious thought.

This recently discovered neuron is one of three that have been detected for the first time in a mammal’s brain, and the new imaging technique could help us figure out if similar structures have gone undetected in our own brains for centuries.

At a recent meeting of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies initiative in Maryland, a team from the Allen Institute for Brain Science described how all three neurons stretch across both hemispheres of the brain, but the largest one wraps around the organ’s circumference like a “crown of thorns”.

You can see them highlighted in the image at the top of the page.

Lead researcher Christof Koch told Sara Reardon at Nature that they’ve never seen neurons extend so far across both regions of the brain before.

Oddly enough, all three giant neurons happen to emanate from a part of the brain that’s shown intriguing connections to human consciousness in the past – the claustrum, a thin sheet of grey matter that could be the most connected structure in the entire brain, based on volume.

This relatively small region is hidden between the inner surface of the neocortex in the centre of the brain, and communicates with almost all regions of cortex to achieve many higher cognitive functions such as language, long-term planning, and advanced sensory tasks such as seeing and hearing.

“Advanced brain-imaging techniques that look at the white matter fibres coursing to and from the claustrum reveal that it is a neural Grand Central Station,” Koch wrote for Scientific American back in 2014. “Almost every region of the cortex sends fibres to the claustrum.”

The claustrum is so densely connected to several crucial areas in the brain that Francis Crick of DNA double helix fame referred to it a “conductor of consciousness” in a 2005 paper co-written with Koch.

They suggested that it connects all of our external and internal perceptions together into a single unifying experience, like a conductor synchronises an orchestra, and strange medical cases in the past few years have only made their case stronger.

Back in 2014, a 54-year-old woman checked into the George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates in Washington, DC, for epilepsy treatment.

This involved gently probing various regions of her brain with electrodes to narrow down the potential source of her epileptic seizures, but when the team started stimulating the woman’s claustrum, they found they could effectively ‘switch’ her consciousness off and on again.

Helen Thomson reported for New Scientist at the time:

“When the team zapped the area with high frequency electrical impulses, the woman lost consciousness. She stopped reading and stared blankly into space, she didn’t respond to auditory or visual commands and her breathing slowed.

As soon as the stimulation stopped, she immediately regained consciousness with no memory of the event. The same thing happened every time the area was stimulated during two days of experiments.”

According to Koch, who was not involved in the study, this kind of abrupt and specific ‘stopping and starting’ of consciousness had never been seen before.

Another experiment in 2015 examined the effects of claustrum lesions on the consciousness of 171 combat veterans with traumatic brain injuries.

They found that claustrum damage was associated with the duration, but not frequency, of loss of consciousness, suggesting that it could play an important role in the switching on and off of conscious thought, but another region could be involved in maintaining it.

And now Koch and his team have discovered extensive neurons in mouse brains emanating from this mysterious region.

In order to map neurons, researchers usually have to inject individual nerve cells with a dye, cut the brain into thin sections, and then trace the neuron’s path by hand.

It’s a surprisingly rudimentary technique for a neuroscientist to have to perform, and given that they have to destroy the brain in the process, it’s not one that can be done regularly on human organs.

Koch and his team wanted to come up with a technique that was less invasive, and engineered mice that could have specific genes in their claustrum neurons activated by a specific drug.

“When the researchers fed the mice a small amount of the drug, only a handful of neurons received enough of it to switch on these genes,” Reardon reports forNature.

“That resulted in production of a green fluorescent protein that spread throughout the entire neuron. The team then took 10,000 cross-sectional images of the mouse brain, and used a computer program to create a 3D reconstruction of just three glowing cells.”

We should keep in mind that just because these new giant neurons are connected to the claustrum doesn’t mean that Koch’s hypothesis about consciousness is correct – we’re a long way from proving that yet.

It’s also important to note that these neurons have only been detected in mice so far, and the research has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, so we need to wait for further confirmation before we can really delve into what this discovery could mean for humans.

But the discovery is an intriguing piece of the puzzle that could help up make sense of this crucial, but enigmatic region of the brain, and how it could relate to the human experience of conscious thought.

The research was presented at the 15 February meeting of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies initiative in Bethesda, Maryland.

Postbiotics: Uses + 5 Benefits for Gut Health & Beyond

While knowledge about the benefits associated with probiotics has exploded over the past decade, many people are still unsure about how prebiotics and postbiotics work. Probiotics are the “good” (or “friendly”) bacteria that colonize the digestive system and support many functions of the immune system. Prebiotics essentially feed probiotics, helping them survive and reproduce through the process of fermentation. What are postbiotics? Postbiotics are produced as a byproduct of the fermentation process carried out by probiotics. Examples include organic acids, bacteriocins, carbonic substances and enzymes.

A 2014 report published in the Journal of Gastroenterology states: (1)

Probiotics are alive nonpathogenic microorganisms present in the gut microbiota that confer benefits to the host for his health. Some of these beneficial effects are determined by secreted probiotic-derived factors that recently have been identified as postbiotic mediators.

Researchers now believe that for certain people suffering from inflammatory conditions, the use of postbiotics may be a smart alternative to the use of whole bacteria (in probiotic form). Due to their ability to decrease inflammation and help maintain colonic and intestinal homeostasis, postbiotics might be the next wave of supplements used to foster better gut health.


What Are Postbiotics?

Postbiotics are byproducts of probiotic bacterial fermentation. (2) When probiotics feed on certain types of fiber molecules in order to thrive, they leave behind “waste products” that are collectively called postbiotics. (3) The microbiota therefore naturally releases postbiotics, which in turn help regulate the composition of the microbiome.

Being a waste product might not sound too impressive, but more research is now showing that postbiotics might play an essential role in gut health. According to the Postbiotica website, an organization that’s affiliated with the University of Milan, “Most of the immunomodulatory activities of bacteria are associated to their metabolites.” (4) Benefits associated with postbiotics include helping treat:

  • Inflammatory conditions including irritable bowel disease (IBD) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Side effects due to obesity
  • Allergic reactions, such as dermatitis or conjunctivitis
  • Gut-related problems such as leaky gut syndrome, dysbiosis or small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
  • Joint pain due to inflammation
  • Diabetes and prediabetes
  • Eye problems, including allergic conjunctivitis
  • Side effects due to exposure to environmental irritants
  • Skin problems, including acne or eczema
  • Veterinary uses

While there’s still more to learn about how exactly postbiotics contribute to homeostasis, they seem to help regulate the microbiota via anti-pathogenic activities and supporting growth of beneficial bacteria. They also seem to help the immune system adapt to changes in gut bacteria by having regulatory effects.

Researchers at Probiotica explain that compared to taking probiotics, using postbiotics may have certain advantages. These include the fact that they don’t contain any harmful bacterial components, they’re considered very safe, they don’t require the need for bacterial growth or colonization in the host (the person taking the product), they can be used in lower concentrations, and they may contain higher amounts of active components.

Examples of postbiotics include:

  • short-chain fatty acids, such as acetate, butyrate and propionate. These are produced by fermenting undigested carbohydrates in the intestine. These fatty acids provide a major energy source for the colon and play a role in intestinal growth and differentiation. They impact many metabolic processes.
  • lipopolysaccharides, including polysaccharide A and exopolysaccharide
  • muramyl dipeptide
  • indole, derived from tryptophan
  • teichoic acid
  • lactocepin
  • p40 molecule

The Connection Between Prebiotics, Probiotics and Postbiotics

The body is home to trillions of gut bacteria, which together are called the microbiome. Another name for this bacterial community is the microbiota, the large collection of microorganisms that live in symbiosis within the human body. There are three main categories of bacterial components/substances that help keep the microbiota in balance. These include:

Bacteria that make up the microbiome are capable of sending inflammatory signals to the brain and elsewhere throughout the body, changing how food is digested, how hormones are produced, how capable insulin is of lowering glucose in the blood and many other functions. (5) When pathogens take over the microbiome, dysbiosis occurs. This is associated with problems like diarrhea, allergies, IBS or IBD, and many others. Often these problems are treated with medications including anti-inflammatory or immunomodulatory drugs. However, these can cause side effects.

  • Prebiotics are types of soluble fiber molecules found in certain carbohydrates, especially those that are starchy. Their main role is to nurture probiotics by supplying them with energy, as probiotics feed on prebiotics through a process of fermentation. They’re undigestible by humans, meaning they pass through the human digestive systemwithout being broken down or absorbed until they reach the lower part of the large intestines.
  • Types of prebiotics include oligosaccharides, arabinogalactans, fructooligosaccharides and inulin. The best prebiotic foods sources are plant foods like root veggies, certain under-ripe fruits, grains and legumes. (6) Include more high-fiber foods in your diet to increase your intake of prebiotic compounds, such as raw garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, jicama, dandelion greens, raw onions, raw asparagus and under-ripe (slightly green) bananas.
  • Probiotics are supplements or foods that contain viable microorganisms that alter the microflora of the host. Examples include bifidobacterialactobacillus and bacteroides. Probiotic bacteria have numerous roles, some of which include promoting intestinal barrier function, regulating inflammation, generating reactive oxygen species, regulating apoptosis (cell death), and helping with hormone and neurotransmitter production.
  • Live probiotic bacteria can be taken in supplement form, including as pills, powders or liquids. Additionally, certain fermented foods naturally contain probiotics, including yogurt, kefir, and cultured veggies like sauerkraut or kimchi.
  • When probiotics are combined with prebiotics, they’re often called synbiotics. These products may offer the most benefits due to how the prebiotics support growth of the probiotics.

 

5 Benefits of Postbiotics

1. Help Support Growth of Probiotic “Good” Bacteria 

Postbiotics are produced during metabolic processes carried out by lactic acid bacteria. They can mimic activities of probiotics in certain ways, in addition to helping probiotics thrive. Lactic acid bacteria that are supported by postbiotics have many benefits within the microbiome, including helping remove heavy metals from the body and decreasing the presence of viruses and toxins. (7) One of the most promising things about using postbiotics in place of probiotics is due to how postbiotics mimic the beneficial and therapeutic effects of probiotics while avoiding the risk of administering live microorganisms to patients who cannot tolerate them, such as those with immature intestinal barriers or impaired immune defenses.

Additionally, there’s some evidence that probiotic bacteria that are killed due to heat in the gastrointestinal tract may function as postbiotics. These microorganisms seem to retain their structure and continue to have beneficial effects on the host, such as accelerating intestinal barrier maturation and healing. (8)

2. Reduce the Presence of Harmful Pathogens

The body is home to both beneficial and harmful bacteria. Some natural substances — including certain herbs and plants — have antimicrobial properties, allowing them to diminish harmful bacteria and therefore helping prevent infections and illnesses. Researchers believe that postbiotics may have some of the same antimicrobrial abilities, which is why it’s speculated that postbiotics may be the next frontier in supporting the immune system against pathogens.

Some of the pathogens that postbiotics may be capable of diminishing include listeria monocytogenes, clostridium perfringens, salmonella enterica, and escherichia coli.

3. Help Lower Inflammatory Diseases and Oxidative Stress

Studies have found that probiotic bacteria, including lactobacillus casei DG (LC-DG), produce beneficial postbiotic byproducts that together help modulate inflammatory/immune responses. (9) In studies. postbiotics — such as the fatty acids called acetate, butyrate and propionate — have been linked to inflammatory suppression, reduced generation of reactive oxygen species and regulation of apoptosis.

Due to their ability to decrease inflammation, such as after someone has recovered from an illness or infection, probiotics and postbiotics together can be helpful for treating symptoms of IBS and IBD, in addition to many other inflammatory conditions. Some research even shows that  in certain cases when probiotics are not helpful or necessarily safe to give to patients with inflamed GI tissue, “Postbiotics may be a safe alternative for the treatment of patients with IBD in the acute inflammatory phase.” (10)

4. May Help Lower Blood Sugar and Prevent Diabetes

A recent study done at McMaster University in Canada found that use of postbiotics is associated with reductions in blood sugar levels in obese individuals who have prediabetes. Postbiotics seem to have anti-diabetic effects because they improve the body’s use of insulin. (11) Research suggests that postbiotics’ mechanisms of action include reducing fat inflammation and decreasing liver insulin resistance.

Mice that were injected with the type of postbiotic called muramyl dipeptide experienced reduced adipose (fat) inflammation and reduced glucose intolerance even without losing any weight. Based on the study findings, certain postbiotics are therefore considered to be “insulin sensitizers” with various protective effects in obese or diabetic patients.

5. Well-Tolerated by Those with Suppressed Immune Systems (Including Infants)

Studies have found that probiotics are effective in decreasing necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a serious health condition that is one of the leading causes of complications and death in preterm infants. NEC is characterized by intestinal injury and inflammation. It develops in about one out of 10 preterm infants and is considered a medical emergency.

While probiotics are currently considered “the most promising therapy on the horizon for this devastating disease,” researchers are now turning to prebiotics and postbiotics as potential alternatives or adjunctive therapies to probiotics. Probiotic and postbiotic bacteria are essential infants for digestion, absorption, storage of nutrients, development and immunity (just like they are in adults). Some infants cannot tolerate supplementing with live microorganisms (probiotic bacteria) but may respond well to prebiotics and postbiotics.

A 2014 report published in Clinics in Perinatology explains: “The infant/host provides an hospitable, temperature-stable, nutrient-rich environment for bacteria while receiving, in return, benefits from the commensal bacteria.” (12) Postbiotics may help the infant’s intestine protect itself from bacterial pathogens that cause inflammation, encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria, control epithelial immune responses and maintain intestinal homeostasis.


Top Sources of Postbiotics

For the most part, postbiotic supplements are still not widely available, especially compared to the number of probiotic products on the market. Look for postbiotic products that include a number of different types of postbiotics, especially short-chain fatty acids. One of the most researched types of short-chain fatty acids is butyrate.

You can also naturally increase your production of postbiotics by including certain foods in your diet, especially those with prebiotics and probiotics (mentioned above). Some of the best food and supplement sources to boost postbiotic concentration include:

  • Spirulina and chlorella — Types of algae that help detox the body, reduce inflammation, feed beneficial bacteria and possibly help increase secretory immunoglobulin A, which improves gut health.
  • Mycelium, which produces mushrooms — Mycelium contains many enzymes, antimicrobial agents, antiviral compounds, in addition to supporting bacterial growth in the microbiome.
  • Grape pomace — The solid remains of grapes, olives or other fruit that contains skins, pulp, seeds and stems of the fruit. These provide energy for probiotics, which in turn boosts postbiotics.
  • Fermented aloe — Helps with detoxification, digestive support and producing immune-boosting beta-glucans.
  • Shilajit — An ancient herb with anti-inflammatory compounds, antiviral activity and high fulvic acid content.
  • Apple cider vinegar and coconut vinegar
  • Humic and fulvic acids
  • Bacterial protease — A collection of enzymes that supports the immune system, helps lower pathogens, helps the body deal with stress and improves gut health.
  • Saccharomyces enzymes — Support healthy digestion, many metabolic processes, and breakdown of fats, carbohydrates and protein.
  • Grow BioGurt nutrients — Supply lactobacillus cultures, which help improve digestion in a proprietary form that is highly bioavailable and heat-resistant.

 

Precautions Regarding Postbiotics

While use of prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics can certainly make a big difference in terms of improving digestive health and other symptoms, simply taking these in supplement form likely won’t be enough to solve all your problems. These treatments work best when combined with lifestyle changes, especially eating a healthy diet, reducing intake of toxins or unnecessary medications, and controlling stress.

Remember that when it comes to supporting your microbiome and maintaining a healthy gut, keep your eye on the big picture. Eat a nutrient-dense diet, limit or avoid processed foods, and consider other lifestyle changes that you can afford to make in order to better your health.


Final Thoughts on Postbiotics

  • Postbiotics are byproducts of probiotic bacterial fermentation. The microbiota naturally releases postbiotics, which in turn helps regulate the composition of the microbiome.
  • Benefits of postbiotics include reducing inflammation, mimicking the effects of probiotics, killing pathogens, regulating hormone and insulin levels, and increasing immunity.
  • Ways to improve postbiotic concentrations include eating prebiotic and probiotic foods, in addition to taking certain supplements.

Chronic sleep disruption, or social jet lag, impairs normal liver function and may contribute to liver cancer

Science Translation

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common form of liver cancer. HCC was traditionally considered a rare cancer but its incidence has been steadily on the rise since the 1980’s and is now the fastest rising cause of cancer death. Major risk factors for HCC include: hepatitis infection, fungal toxin exposure (Aflatoxins), and obesity. In developed countries, nearly 50% of all HCC cases are due to fatty liver disease caused by obesity. Fatty liver disease causes accumulation of fats droplets in the liver resulting in inflammation, scaring, and liver dysfunction. It can be caused by excessive alcohol consumption (called Alcoholic Fatty liver disease) or by insulin resistance, type-2 diabetes, and obesity (called Non-alcoholic Fatty liver disease). In the developed world, Non-alcoholic Fatty liver disease is found in 95% of people who are morbidly obese. In these patients the disease can predispose them to liver cancer, specifically HCC. Another risk…

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Working the night shift could limit your body’s ability to repair damaged DNA

Science Translation

Shift work, or work that occurs outside the normal 9-5 hours, has been associated with chronic disease and illness including an increased risk of certain cancers, heart disease, obesity, and depression. These negative effects are likely due to a loss of a normal sleep schedule which disrupts the body’s production of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland (specialized gland in your brain) that helps to regulate your sleep cycles. Melatonin also has an important role as an antioxidant and as a protector of DNA in your cells. Previous studies have linked shift work with elevated levels of oxidative stress which is known to damage DNA and potentially lead to an increase risk for chronic disease. To understand if shift work and sleep disruptions are associated with a loss in the melatonin anti-oxidant mechanism, a team of researchers from Seattle recruited night shift workers and monitored the…

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Psychobiotics, gut biomarkers, and the future of mental health

The past five years have been an especially rapid time of discovery, thanks to scientists studying the gut microbiota and how it influences the gut-brain axis—the two-way communication channel between the digestive tract and the brain. Not only are links being made between gut microbiota composition and conditions like depression and anxiety, but the gut also shows potential for revealing new approaches to diagnosis and treatment of brain-related disorders.

Jane A. Foster, associate professor at the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioural Neurosciences of McMaster University (Canada), has zeroed in on the gut microbiota and its metabolites in her study of the relationship between body and brain. She and other scientists are on a quest to find parameters in the gut that could tell them something about the brain—especially when it comes to addressing mental health.

Foster says, “What we’re looking at is the signalling systems that might go between the bacteria in the gut and the brain, because in the long run we want to know if biomarkers that we can look at outside the brain might give us indications of what’s happening in the central nervous system.”

“We have studies going on both in mice and in people,” she explains. “In the people we’re interested in getting a blood test, or a urine marker that we can use as a marker to help determine: how can we clean up some of the heterogeneity in mental illness by sub-typing people into better groups so that we can apply the correct treatment?”

This would mean, for instance, from the large and diverse group of people currently categorized as having depression, it might be possible to identify smaller groups with something biologically in common. This ‘precision medicine’ approach could involve directing people toward more effective treatments. Foster gives an example of how it could play out: “Somebody comes into their doctor’s office and the doctor can do a blood test or [brain imaging] that would identify the best approach for that individual—whether it be [a drug], neural stimulation, cognitive behavioural therapy—among all the choices for depressed patients.”

At the same time, Foster and other scientists are looking to realize the development of new mental health treatments that leverage the gut microbiome, called “psychobiotics”.

The term psychobiotic was introduced by Irish scientists in 2013 and originally referred to a subset of probiotics that could produce a health benefit in those with psychiatric illness. Foster says, “People like the term—it makes them think about it, and that’s a good thing.” She supports a recent proposal by the same Irish scientists to expand the definition of psychobiotics beyond probiotics, to include prebiotics and other means of influencing the microbiome for the benefit of mental health.

Certain probiotics are leading contenders in the category of psychobiotics, according to Foster. For example, probiotics were associated with a reduction in depressive symptoms, especially for those aged 60 or younger, in a review of multiple studies on probiotics for depression; moreover, some species of probiotics appeared to reduce both depression and anxiety in another review of multiple studies.

Psychobiotic treatments need more study in humans, especially when it comes to understanding how the biology works—but they could be a reality sooner than some people think, says Foster. “Some products are readily available and they’re being applied to clinical trials,” she notes. “They’re easy to apply to clinical populations. Even if it’s an adjunctive treatment.”

Understandings of mental health may change rapidly in the years ahead as we come to grasp new therapeutic approaches enabled by this gut-brain work. “It’s one of the fastest moving areas I’ve ever seen,” Foster says. “The ideas that we’ve generated in the mouse, the fact that clinical people are talking about them immediately has never been seen before.”

The association between gut bacteria and food sensitivity in young children.

Science Translation

Sensitization to food allergens often occurs early in the preschool years. While not all kids who develop food sensitivities end up with full-blown allergies, it is often considered the precursor to the development of allergies and asthma. These conditions are typically grouped together under the term atopic disease because of their tendency to be caused by over active IgE, an antibody in your blood. This IgE latches onto allergens in everyday objects you come in contact with and initiates the allergic response. Atopic diseases include asthma, anaphylaxis and eczema and it is not uncommon for someone with atopic disease to develop all forms of the disease at some point in their life. This is called the atopic march.

Courtesy of LEAP Study, Evelina Children's Hospital, London Courtesy of LEAP Study, Evelina Children’s Hospital, London

One of the leading theories behind the development of atopic diseases, or an over active IgE response, is called the hygiene hypothesis

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