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Google develops diabetes-fighting contact lenses

Life may be getting a bit easier for people diagnosed with diabetes. Google is developing contact lenses with speck-sized glucose-monitoring chips that could end the era of finger-prick blood tests.

By Karis Hustad, Staff writer / January 17, 2014

Google glass? Old news. A new form of Google eyewear could revolutionize the monitoring of a chronic disease.
On its blog Thursday, Google announced it has been working on a pair of contact lenses embedded with a glucose-monitoring chip that would replace the tedious finger-prick tests diabetes patients rely on today. The move, though likely years away from hitting the market, could mean a far more comfortable and accurate blood-sugar monitoring method for people with diabetes.
“Many people I’ve talked to say managing their diabetes is like having a part-time job,” write Brian Otis and Babak Parviz, smart contact lens project co-founders, on the Google blog. “Glucose levels change frequently with normal activity like exercising or eating or even sweating. Sudden spikes or precipitous drops are dangerous and not uncommon, requiring round-the-clock monitoring.”
Currently, that monitoring comes in the form of little finger-prick kits, that require people with diabetes to test their blood several times per day to monitor their blood-sugar levels, a process that is “disruptive and painful,” the two researchers point out. For years scientists have found that tears are an equally accurate measure, but access is difficult. Unless someone has a copy of “Sophie’s Choice” or “Terms of Endearment” on hand to muster up a sob every few hours, finger pricking seemed more feasible.
Until now. Google has developed a prototype of the lenses, which case two glitter-speck-sized chips with antennas thinner than the width of a human hair between two soft lenses. It would take a reading every second, and potentially there would be LED lights that change color when blood sugar levels dip too low or reach too high – all without any effort from the patient.
Google says on its blog that it is working with the US Food and Drug Administration as it develop the technology, and is seeking partners to further fine-tune the technology. There is even talk of developing apps that could make readings easier for the patient and doctor.
The project is still squarely in the development stages, according to Google, though they have done some clinical trials. But apparently Google was not the only outlet seeking eye-oriented solutions. Microsoft had actually worked on a similar project three years ago with Mr. Parviz, who at the time was working at the University of Washington.
Though this doesn’t bode well for Microsoft, the increasingly ubiquitous technology could mean significant improvements in the lives of diabetes patients.

10:38 AM 1/19/2014

Mediterranean Diet May Decrease Diabetes Risk

Those who consume a mostly Mediterranean style diet may be at a decreased risk for type-2 diabetes, according to a new study from researchers in Spain.
Researchers surveyed 3,541 men and women without diabetes between the ages of 58 and 88. Each of the participants was at a high risk for heart disease, which is a key indicator of diabetes risk. All of the participants were assigned a different form of diet with some following a Mediterranean diet high in extra-virgin olive oil or nuts.
By the end of the four-year trial, 273 participants had developed type 2 diabetes with 101 coming from a low-fat diet group, 80 from a Mediterranean diet group with added olive oil and 92 from the Mediterranean with added nuts.
"A Mediterranean diet without calorie restrictions that is supplemented with EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil) or nuts may reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes," the researchers said. 

Diabetes in winter has its challenges

The holidays are over and Old Man Winter has settled in. Winter brings some challenges to our healthy lifestyles. Our activity levels have slowed and often our stress levels increase. For the diabetic, winter is definitely no party and can actually pose some dangers.
Among the many complications of diabetes, peripheral neuropathy can be complicated by cold weather. Peripheral neuropathy is a result of nerve damage that often causes numbness and pain in the hands and feet of diabetics, as well as in other areas of the body.
People generally describe the pain of peripheral neuropathy as a tingling or burning sensation and at the same time compare the loss of sensation to the feeling of wearing a thin stocking or glove. It’s the loss of sensation that is most troublesome.
When you can’t feel your feet, you’re not as likely to notice any problems that may be going on. Diabetes causes changes in the skin of your foot. The problem is that the nerves that control the oil and moisture in the feet no longer work, which prevents sweating and can cause them to become very dry. The skin may peel and crack and if not watched carefully can develop ulcers (open sores) and become infected.
Ulcers occur most often on the ball of the foot or on the bottom of the big toe. Even though some ulcers do not hurt, every ulcer should be seen by your doctor right away. It may require a special shoe, brace or cast in order to protect it. Some severe ulcers may also require hyperbaric oxygen treatment (HBOT). Patients spend time in a special chamber in order to increase oxygen to tissues and speed healing.
Calluses can be a big issue with diabetes. They occur more often and build up faster on the feet of diabetics. Daily use of a pumice stone can help keep calluses under control. Note: It is best to use the pumice stone on wet skin, followed by a thin application of lotion. Over applying lotions or ointments can lead to a fungal infection. Do not attempt to cut calluses or corns yourself as this can lead to ulcers and infections. Let a podiatrist or your health care provider cut your calluses. The same goes for nail trimming.
Another complication working against diabetics is Peripheral Arterial Disease, which is a narrowing or blockage of blood vessels in the legs by fatty deposits. This causes poor blood circulation to feet and legs.
Poor circulation can make your feet feel cold. You’ll be tempted to warm them, but when you can’t feel heat around your feet, it is easy to burn them with hot water, hot water bottles or heating pads. I’ve even had a patient whose feet, placed too closely to heating vents, were burned during a long-distance car trip.

•   The best way to help cold feet is to wear warm socks and sensible, well-fitting shoes.
There are some good techniques for managing this facet of diabetes during the winter:
8 First and foremost, inspect your feet regularly, at least twice a day.

• Test your blood sugar regularly to keep your sugar levels under control. High blood glucose levels make it hard to fight infections.

• Be particularly mindful of what you eat. People tend to consume more during the winter months for a variety of reasons.

• Exercise. Even a little will keep you warmer and increase your body’s ability to use insulin better.
• Stay hydrated and use moisturizers. Both will help with problem dry skin.
When problems do come up, talk with your doctor. Early treatment will prevent infections from getting worse.

Dr. Scott W. Kujath, MD, FACS, is a vascular surgeon and Medical Director of the Center for Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine at St. Mary’s Medical Center and can be reached at 816-655-5780.

How a strict diet of 800 calories a day can cure diabetes in weeks

MILLIONS of people with Type 2 diabetes have been given fresh hope after researchers discovered a short-term “crash diet” can reverse the killer ¬condition.

By: Sarah Westcott

Overweight patients who were put on a diet of just 800 calories a day were free of the disease within a few weeks of following the strict regime.
Experts last night hailed the results as “enormously exciting” and are now working on a trial to test whether the reversal of this form of the disease could be permanent.
Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in people of working age and a major cause of lower limb amputation, kidney failure and stroke.
In the UK, there are some three million people living with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, and around 850,000 more who have Type 2 diabetes but don’t know it because they haven’t been diagnosed.
As many as seven million people are at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and if current trends continue, an estimated five million people will have diabetes by 2025.
The diet, which was tested on 11 patients, is a key part of a new £2.4million medical trial of almost 300 people with obesity-induced diabetes.
Professor Roy Taylor, of Newcastle University, who led the study, said: “We demonstrated that by changing calorie intake we could change fat levels in the liver and pancreas and return insulin production to normal.
“The new study is to see whether GPs can use this approach to reverse diabetes in their patients and whether it will stay reversed. The evidence is that it will, but we need a large-scale trial to prove that it works.”
They used MRI scans to watch how crash dieting removes fat around the liver and pancreas.
In healthy people, the liver should contain around two per cent of fat, but in obese people, it can reach 40 per cent and suppress insulin production. Professor Taylor said the results were “enormously exciting”.
He added: “The good news is that if you cut fat in the diet then the liver fat falls very rapidly and that means the pancreas can start working again.”
The new study will see 280 patients with Type 2 diabetes monitored for several years – with half of them on a crash diet for eight to 20 weeks.
Professor Lean said: “We’re confident that some people with Type 2 will be able to achieve remission.
“But what we really want to know is how many can do it.
“If our analysis shows this approach is both effective and cost-effective, our aim will be to produce a programme that can be implemented in the NHS as soon as possible.”
Diabetes UK said that the approach was promising and said that, if the results are positive, the impact on patients will be “huge”.

Fighting disease on a global scale

by Alvin Powell

The idea that the wave of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer breaking over the world is largely the result of wealth and inactivity is not only wrong, it's counterproductive, says a Harvard research fellow who recently founded a nonprofit organization to fight disease.
In the past, such noncommunicable diseases have been attributed to lifestyle because of their links to high-calorie diets in wealthy, increasingly sedentary industrialized nations. But Alessandro Demaio, a fellow at the interfaculty Harvard Global Equity Initiative, takes issue with that description.
Instead of wealthy Western businessmen, he says, the typical person suffering a noncommunicable disease today is a woman under 70, living in poverty, most likely in Asia.
Demaio sees noncommunicable diseases as likely to be high on the global health agenda after 2015, the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, which have guided global health efforts since their establishment in 2000.
In the fall, Demaio and a handful of others, both at the Harvard School of Public Health and outside the University, started a global nonprofit, NCDFREE. As part of its effort to raise awareness about noncommunicable diseases, it hopes to find young leaders to work at the local level, and to make "NCD" a household term, much as AIDS/HIV has become over the past 25 years.
The nonprofit is using a combination of Web savvy and old-fashioned face-to-face meetings to promote change. Financed partly through a successful crowd-sourcing campaign and with seed funding from the Harvard Global Equity Initiative, members have traveled to Mongolia and Ghana to create videos of "change makers" producing results against noncommunicable diseases.
The videos were shown as part of launch events held in September in both Boston and Melbourne, Australia, which also featured TED-style talks and artist performances. The organization has also created a crowd-sourced film about NCDs for the World Health Organization, using cellphone-camera clips. NCDFREE estimates that its message has reached a million people.
Felicia Knaul, associate professor of global health and social medicine and head of the Harvard Global Equity Initiative, said that although Demaio is based at HGEI, he works largely independently. She described him as dynamic and good at bringing people together.
Noncommunicable diseases have become the leading health problem in most nations, Knaul said, with the exception of the poorest, where inefficient or absent health care systems provide little protection against infectious disease.
Advances in science are blurring the lines between infectious and noncommunicable diseases, she pointed out. Cancer, for example, is typically considered a noncommunicable disease, but cervical cancer is known to be transmitted by the human papilloma virus.
Though advocacy to fight noncommunicable diseases is clearly important, NCDFREE goes a step beyond advocacy to capacity-building, Knaul said, by raising the profile of "change makers" and helping them get further training.
The nonprofit is "very good at giving the microphone to smart people with good ideas from developing countries," she said, adding that its leaders are taking a broad approach that avoids the "only my disease counts" problems that have plagued some past efforts.
"That's the right approach," she said.

Diabetes Risk May Come from Neanderthal Gene

By Charles Q. Choi, LiveScience Contributor

Mexicans and other Latin Americans have a higher risk of diabetes because of a Neanderthal gene mutation, researchers say.
These findings could uncover new targets for diabetes drugs, investigators added.
An international team of researchers focused on Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, accounting for 90 percent to 95 percent of diabetes cases in humans. In Type 2 diabetes, the body either does not generate enough insulin or its cells ignore the molecule. Insulin is a hormone the body needs in order to use sugar for energy.
The scientists investigated the genetic basis of Type 2 diabetes in Mexican and other Latin American populations, where the disease is roughly twice as common as it is in white, non-Hispanic populations in the United States. [Salud! 8 Ways Hispanic People Are Healthier]
Diabetes risk
The research team, known as the Slim Initiative in Genomic Medicine for the Americas (SIGMA) Type 2 Diabetes Consortium, performed the largest and most comprehensive genetic study to date of Type 2 diabetes in Mexican and Mexican-American populations. This involved analyzing the genomes of more than 8,200 Mexicans and other Latin Americans, including more than 3,800 people with Type 2 diabetes and more than 4,300 without the condition.
The investigators discovered a risk gene for Type 2 diabetes known as SLC16A11 that had gone undetected in previous research. People who carry the higher-risk mutation of the gene, which is active in the liver, are 25 percent more likely to have diabetes than those who lack the mutation, and people who inherited copies of this gene variant from both parents are 50 percent more likely to have diabetes.
The higher-risk version of this gene is seen in up to half of people who have recent Native American ancestry, including Latin Americans. The fact that this gene mutation is more common in Latin Americans could account  for as much as 20 percent of their increased levels of Type 2 diabetes.
The researchers noted changing levels of the protein that the gene encodes could alter the amount of a specific type of fat, one that prior studies have linked to the risk of diabetes.
"What is most exciting to me, and has the greatest long-term implication, is a new clue about the biology of Type 2 diabetes,"study co-authorDavid Altshuler, professor of genetics and medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Broad Institute, told LiveScience.
"If we can come to understand the biological function of SLC16A11, and how changing its sequence increases risk of Type 2 diabetes, then we may in the long run be able to develop improved prevention or treatment," Altshuler added.
Roots of diabetes
Although this gene variant is common among people with recent Native American ancestry and is also found in about 20 percent of East Asians, only 2 percent of Europeans have it, and no known Africans carry SLC16A11. This pattern is somewhat unusual; modern humans arose in Africa, so nearly all common human genetic variants are found in African populations. [Top 10 Mysteries of the First Humans]
To uncover the roots of this odd pattern, the researchers investigated ancient human DNA and found the high-risk mutation of this gene was apparently inherited from Neanderthals, the closest extinct relatives of modern humans. Recent analysis of Neanderthal DNA revealed the ancestors of modern humans interbred with Neanderthals; the first high-quality genome sequence from a Neanderthal suggests about 1.5 percent to 2.1 percent of the DNA of modern humans living outside Africa is Neanderthal in origin. In contrast, Neanderthal DNA is much less common among modern Africans, matching these latest findings.
The scientists are now using their findings "to design new studies that aim to understand how this variant influences metabolism and disease," study co-authorTeresa Tusie-Luna, principal investigator at the National University of Mexico's Biomedical Research Institute, said in a statement.
These insights could "illuminate new pathways to target with drugs and a deeper understanding of the disease," study co-author José Florez, from the Broad Institute and Harvard Medical School, said in a statement.
The researchers cautioned that Type 2 diabetes is a complex disease influenced by multiple genes and by environment and behavior. "Our finding is only one piece in a large and complex puzzle," Altshuler said. "Any clinical translation of this finding will take many years. It is still in the research phase, and any health benefits will take time."
The scientists detailed their findings online Dec. 25 in the journal Nature.
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