PM 2.5 can cause blood vessel inflammation and damage

This Diwali weekend and with the onset of winter it is time again for the annual conversation about pollution. This time it starts with new research that establishes how air pollution causes damage and inflammation to blood vessels not just in already susceptible people but also in young, health adults.

Scientists from the Brigham Young University in the United States studied the effect of PM 2.5 on 72 healthy, non-smoking, adults whose average age was 23. PM 2.5 is particulate matter 2.5 microns in size – a common, critical and dangerous pollutant that is found in emissions form motor vehicles, factories, power plants fires and even tobacco smoke. They showed that periodic exposure to PM2.5 was associated with abnormal changes that trigger cardiovascular disease.

People exposed to higher levels of pollution had micro-particles in their blood indicating high levels of cell injury and cell death. They also had elevated levels of proteins that inhibit blood vessel growth as well as higher levels of proteins that indicated inflammation of blood vessels.

The study, the researchers said, substantially expands the understanding of how pollution causes cardiovascular disease and that particulate matter actually triggers a cascade of negative health effects. This cascade could manifest as high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke among younger people that those in which these diseases occurred previously. The findings were published in the journal Circulation Research.

A possible crack in the multi-drug resistant TB armour

In what is being called a breakthrough in tuberculosis research, scientists have developed a new regime of seven antibiotics that can overcome multi-drug resistant TB in just nine months – that is less than half the time it takes with current treatments.

Scientists from the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease presented the results of a two-year study at that an international conference on lung health in the United Kingdom. They demonstrated how 821 of 1006 people across nine African countries and all with multi-drug resistant TB were cured. Thus, the nine-month treatment had a success rate of 82%. One of the antibiotics that is part of the new regime is a leprosy drug clofazimine.

The current standard treatment for multi-drug resistant TB has a success rate of only 55%. Many people abandon the 20-month treatment halfway and this results in an unnecessarily high death rate. The researchers also say that the new drug combination is about a third less expensive that current treatments.

Back pain in space? Maybe yoga can help

Astronauts who have spent between four and seven months in on the International Space Station have had extensive degeneration and atrophy of the musculature in the lower spine. This weakening of the lumbar muscles can cause back pain and even increase an astronauts height temporarily by up to two inches, according to a new study.

A study by scientists at the University of California San Diego looked at flight medical data of astronauts since the 1980s to find that 28% reported moderate to severe back pain, They also found that after astronauts return to earth after their missions, their risk of developing herniated spinal discs are 4.3 times higher than before their trips to space.

The degeneration of lumbar musculature was caused by microgravity, which lengthens the torso. Astronauts also do not use these muscles as much as they would on earth because they do not bend or otherwise use their lower backs and this contributes to atrophy. The scientists compared the phenomenon to being in a body cast for six months.

The study published in the journal Spine included results from MRI scans before and after the missions, which revealed that the astronauts experienced a 19% decrease in these muscles during their flight. Even training an reconditioning once they are back on earth only restored 68% of the losses, they said. They study has serious implications for long-term manned missions, such as possible missions to Mars.

But the research team also suggested measures to counter muscle atrophy and degeneration like two- or three-hour workout sessions every day in space. This could include exercises like getting into the fetal position to exercise the lower back as well as yoga postures to strengthen the back.