Archive | November, 2009

Placebo Pain Control

New research has come to light to show the “placebo effect” involves evolutionarily old pain control pathways in the human brainstem. Placebo analgesia refers to a person’s relief from pain following being given a chemically inert substance. It is thought to be due to a person’s belief that a potent pain medication was administered. Endogenous opioids are naturally produced by the brain in small amounts and play a key role in the relief of pain and anxiety. Brain imaging studies have shown placebo analgesia stimulates release of endogenous opioids from higher brain regions. “It has been hypothesized that placebo analgesia also recruits the opioidergic descending pain control system, which inhibits pain processing in the spinal cord and, therefore, subsequently reduces pain-related responses in the brain, leading to a decreased pain experience,” says Falk Eippert. Eippert and his colleagues used advanced brain imaging techniques to examine higher cortical and lower brainstem responses in two groups of subjects. The first one received a drug called naloxone which blocks opioid signaling. The second had a natural opioid state. Expectations of pain relief were induced in both groups using an established placebo analgesia paradigm. I was  found that naloxone reduced behavioral placebo effects as […]

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Micro RNA and it’s role in Oral Cancer Detection

New research has emerged in Clinical Cancer Research which could aid in the diagnosis of oral cancer by looking at saliva, specifically MicroRNAs. MicroRNAs are molecules produced in cells that have the ability to simultaneously control activity and assess the behavior of multiple genes. Knowing the that microRNA is present in saliva represents a major step for the detection of oral cancer at an early stage. “It is a Holy Grail of cancer detection to be able to measure the presence of a cancer without a biopsy, so it is very appealing to think that we could detect a cancer-specific marker in a patient’s saliva,” said Jennifer Grandis, M.D. David T. Wong, D.M.D., D.M.Sc. and his colleagues measured microRNA levels in the saliva of 50 patients with oral squamous cell carcinoma and also in 50 healthy control patients. They were able to detect approximately 50 microRNAs in the saliva. Two specific microRNAs, miR-125a and miR-200a, were present at significantly lower levels in patients with oral cancer than in the healthier control patients. Further and larger research is needed to better be able to more forward with this ability to detect MicroRNA in salivia. Adapted from materials provided by American Association […]

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Lasers to Detect Tooth Enamel

A group of researchers in Australia and Taiwan led by Wang, Fleming, and their colleagues showed that they could analyze the health of  extracted human teeth using lasers. This is done by measuring how the surface of a tooth responds to laser-generated ultrasound. This allows them to then valuate the mineral content of tooth enamel. Enamel is the hardest and most mineralized substance of the human body which engulfs teeth in a protective layer. Enamel constantly undergoes a cycle of mineral loss and restoration, in which healthy teeth maintain a high mineral content. If the balance between mineral loss and gain is lost, teeth can develop areas of softened enamel which are precursors to cavities and damaged teeth. This research could lead to the ability to assess oral health and predict emerging dental problems, such as tooth decay and cavities before they become severe and require treatment. However, using this technique on teeth alive in humans may still be many years off. What Wang, Fleming, and their colleagues have developed a way to measure the elasticity of tooth enamel by adapting laser ultrasonic surface wave velocity dispersion. This is quite  similar to how engineers evaluate the integrity of metals,  thin […]

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