A new study has seemingly identified a gene that puts women at a higher risk of heart disease.
The results of the study could have a significant influence on treating the deadly condition in the future.
Coronary heart disease results from blockages or interruptions to the heart’s supply due to fatty substances, and this has generally been attributed to behavioural reasons.
Factors such as smoking, high cholesterol and diabetes can increase the risk of suffering from heart disease.
The condition is one of the biggest killers in Britain, with NHS figures suggesting that heart disease is responsible for over 73,000 deaths annually.
With such an obvious incentive to tackle the problem, a team of researchers from University College London decided to investigate heart disease further.
In particular, scientists examined the relationship between heart disease and the female anatomy.
The study was funded by the British Heart Foundation, and involved the analysis of data from five separate European research projects.
Over 4,000 cases were involved in the report, with both male and female subjects assessed.
Researchers compared the participants’ genes, health of their blood vessels and the thickness of key arteries.
And by engaging in this process, the scientists ultimately found a version of a gene that was linked to a higher risk of heart attacks, strokes and diseased blood vessels in women.
It is believed that this gene could be involved in the process of encouraging the mass migration of cells into blood vessel walls.
This process wouldn’t make them thicker, and thus increase the risk of blockages that ultimately lead to heart attacks and strokes.
Commenting on the important findings of this research, Freya Boardman-Pretty pointed out that it is important to understand this issue from a gender perspective.
“We’ve known for a long time that risk factors for heart disease are different for men and women. This gene effect seen only in women, could be contributing to this difference, although we expect there are a lot of other factors at play,” Boardman-Pretty commented.
Boardman-Pretty struck a hopeful note regarding the findings of the study.
“If we can confirm that this gene is involved, and work out exactly how it leads to an increased risk of heart disease in women, it could become a new target for drugs in the future.”
Speaking about heart disease, Shannon Amoils from the British Heart Foundation added: “It is imperative that everyone takes steps to prevent it. Women can reduce their risk by not smoking, getting regular physical exercise and eating healthily.”
Despite the undoubted threat that heart disease poses, the number of people dying from the condition has actually fallen significantly in the last few decades.
Since 1961, the number of people dying from cardiovascular related illnesses has fallen by more than half.
Yet there are still an estimated 7 million people in the UK currently living with cardiovascular disease.
New research has indicated that soldiers who have served in the UK armed forces are 50 per cent more likely to develop motor neurone disease that those who have not.
The survey in question has been published in the Occupational and Environmental Medicine journal, and assesses a significance Tranche of over 57,000 armed forces veterans.
Motor neurone disease is an incurable neurodegenerative condition that attacks nerves in the brain and spinal cord.
The condition ultimately leads to progressive paralysis, and is considered extremely debilitating.
Although it is a relatively rare condition, motor neurone disease nonetheless affects 5,000 people in the United Kingdom alone.
Several previous studies carried out in the United States, where motor neurone disease is referred to as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, have linked the condition to military service in the Gulf region.
But this latest study, carried out by researchers at the University of Glasgow, examine a number of Scottish veterans who have served in the British armed forces.
All subjects of the report were born between 1945 and 1985, and that the study was sure to acquire a wide range of subjects with a diverse raft of experience.
Length of service was also subjected to alterations in order to ensure the most valid dataset possible.
The study particularly examined the rate of hospitalisation and death from motor neurone disease, and found that subjects involved had a 50 per cent higher risk of developing the disease compared with people who had never served in the armed forces.
However, no link was established to any particular deployment, and it was also found that length of service had no impact on the likelihood of developing the condition.
Although further research is required in order to understand the reasons behind the results, it has been suggested that a higher rate of smoking in the military could be partly responsible.
And although there is clearly an increased risk of developing motor neurone disease in the armed forces, researchers are still believe that veterans and serving personnel should not worry unduly about the issue.
Motor neurone disease remains an extremely rare condition, and ultimately the chances of contracting it are still pretty slim even for those serving in the armed forces.
But the results of the report do imply a need to examine the issue further with the hope of understanding the root causes of this statistical anomaly.
Commenting on the findings of the research, the lead researcher, Beverly Bergman, stated: “This is an important study which has confirmed an increased risk in military personnel. We also showed that there was a higher risk in everyone who had experienced an injury, but the risk was greater in people who had served in the armed forces.
“Because the cases occurred over such a long period of time, we are confident that there is no specific link to Gulf war service, although higher rates of military smoking may explain the increased risk. This is a very rare disease and veterans should not worry unduly.”
A report from the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust condemns mistakes made at a Midlands hospital with regard to endoscopy.
As a result of the errors made at the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch, eleven patients were infected with poisonous bacteria.
The bug in question was potentially dangerous, and had emanated from unclean surgical equipment at the hospital.
The Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust noted that the endoscopy equipment in question was outdated.
Eleven patients were infected over two incidents related to problems with the decontamination of equipment.
A report from the acute hospitals trust indicated that the machines utilised by the hospital for the process of decontamination where more than eight years-old.
The report concluded that they were overdue for replacement.
“In addition, the environment of the endoscopy unit is outdated and due to the environment there is no clear separation between clean and dirty routes. The environmental issues including the age of the equipment have been on the directorate and divisional risk registers for a number of years,” the report outlined.
The problems had been originally uncovered back in March, when water sampling revealed bacterial growth.
Two probable cross-infection incidents also came to light at this time, both of which involved patients undergoing endobronchial biopsy to their lungs.
In the first incident, samples from seven patients grew the bacteria pseudomonas.
Although the pseudomonas bug can be harmless in some individuals, those contracting the virus suffering from illness, or in post-surgery condition, can experience serious problems.
In particular, the virus is one of the main causes of pneumonia in patients who are on ventilation machines, while patients with serious wounds can develop dangerous blood infections, or bone and urinary tract difficulties.
The second of the two incidents took place between June and July, when the virus serratia was isolated from four patients.
Investigations into the incident established that the patients in question had been examined with a wet instead of dry scope from the drying cabinet.
Serratia particularly thrives in moist conditions and can cause pneumonia and other infections.
The report noted that the “hazard of possible transmission of a highly resistant organism remains”, and that it had indeed already occurred in another hospital in the West Midlands.
Perhaps one of the more radical suggestions emanating from the report is the notion that decontamination facilities should be eliminated completely.
It suggests that “we have to consider that we are approaching the point” where such facilities should no longer be utilised.
The report was also by the Trust Infection Prevention and Control Committee, and could ultimately have far reaching consequences on the implementation of endoscopy in the NHS.
The NHS has recently approved a new ultrasound technology that could have a significant impact on liver disease in the United Kingdom.
The groundbreaking new system is capable of both diagnosing and monitoring liver disease without the need for surgery.
Virtual Touch Quantification (VTQ) is manufactured by Siemens Healthcare, and could offer doctors in the NHS much greater flexibility and sophistication in treating liver conditions.
VTQ assesses the condition of the liver based on readings from invisible, high-intensity shear waves that are transmitted through the organ.
This is a significant departure from previous clinical techniques related to liver disease.
Liver biopsy has been utilised in order to diagnose disease of the liver for nearly 100 years, but this particular approach has always had drawbacks.
The usage of a lengthy needle for this process has always ensured that the risk of bleeding and infection is significant.
Thus, this new system provided by Siemens Healthcare can significantly reduce the amount of suffering caused to patients with liver disease.
There are also potential physical benefits to this technology. Indeed, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) suggests that significant economic benefits will be discovered via this new system.
NICE estimates that the high-intensity shear treatment could save the NHS in the region of £430 per patient.
It would be difficult to contest the assertion that the existing system for assessing liver damage places a significant strain on patients.
Patients are currently placed under a local anaesthetic, with a section of the liver removed for further assessment.
It is notable that the existing method only results in a small sample size being obtained from a local area, consequently leading to a rather weighty level of misdiagnosis.
Indeed, as many as 40 per cent of liver disease cases can be prone to misdiagnosis.
By contrast, VTQ uses Acoustic Radiation Force Impulse (ARFI) in order to provide an extremely accurate evaluation of liver tissue stiffness; a key indicator of liver disease.
In total, ten separate measurements are taken across the organ via this new sophisticated system.
The revolutionary technology involved with shear waves ensures that they are transmitted in the region of 10,000 times more rapidly than conventional ultrasound.
This new development is particularly important for health in the UK, as the disease is the only major cause of death that is still increasing on a yearly basis. It is also the third highest cause of premature death in the country.
Despite the seriousness of liver disease, treating it remains incredibly difficult as it is essential to diagnose the condition in the early stages if it is to be reversed successfully.
Commenting on this important new development for the treatment of liver disease, Mark Flint, division lead for VTQ at Siemens Healthcare UK, suggesting that the technology has the potential to revolutionise the treatment of liver conditions.
“Virtual Touch Quantification has the potential to transform this practice, using tissue strain imaging which should remove the need for an invasive procedure. It is also beneficial for patients where current methods of non-invasive liver damage assessment are unsuitable due to factors including obesity or illness.
We believe the NICE guidance will see this under-utilised technology become increasingly prevalent within the NHS. In the future, this could even be extended to primary care settings such as GP surgeries for ease-of-access,” Flint asserted.