TIME Research

Ice Bucket Challenge Money Has Boosted ALS Research, Scientists Say

The Ice Bucket Challenge raised more than $100 million for ALS research

The Ice Bucket Challenge raised more than $100 million for research and treatment of ALS. Now, scientists say that the money has already begun paying dividends for research into the devastating disease.

A study published last week in the journal Science explains the problems in a dysfunctional protein in ALS patients, a mystery that researchers have been studying for decades. Johns Hopkins researchers received funding for the study from the ALS Association, a key recipient of Ice Bucket Challenge money. The research, which was conducted in mice, needs to be expanded upon before it can be applied.

“With any luck this could lead to possibly a cure or really just slowing down this terrible disease,” said study author Jonathan Ling, a Johns Hopkins researcher, in a YouTube video explaining the research.

The Johns Hopkins research is one of many ALS projects funded with the help of the Ice Bucket Challenge money. The ALS Association has announced new breakthroughs, as well as $11 million in new grants, at a rapid clip in recent months.

ALS is a neurodegenerative disorder that diminishes a person’s normal operation of muscles, speaking and other functions. Most people die within a few years of being diagnosed with the disease. It affects around 30,000 people in the U.S.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

You Asked: Does Compression Gear Really Work?

Compression Clothing
Illustration by Peter Oumanski for TIME

It’s the latest craze in active wear. But so far the known benefits are iffy.

From shorts and socks to sleeves and tops, athletes everywhere—amateur and professional alike—are squeezing into super-tight “compression” garments in an effort to boost performance and recovery.

While pinpointing the start of a trend is tricky, the compression craze seemed to spark back in 2001, when NBA star Allen Iverson scored 51 points the first night he wore a long compression sleeve on his right arm. Iverson’s doctor had improvised the sleeve to treat Iverson’s swollen, bursitis-stricken elbow. But after seeing “AI” light it up, other players quickly adopted the accessory.

Many of today’s popular basketball players, including LeBron James, still wear compression sleeves or leggings. And the trend has spread to other sports. Along with Nike and Under Armour, upstarts like 2XU and Tommie Copper have blossomed as compression gear manufacturers.

By squeezing and compacting the flesh of your arms, legs, or torso, these garments supposedly increase blood circulation, which helps deliver more oxygen to your muscles while speeding the removal of acids and the other byproducts of physical activity. There are other purported mechanisms of action, all of which supercharge performance while speeding recovery. That’s the theory, at least. The only thing missing is the proof.

“So far there is little evidence to suggest that wearing compression garments during an event can improve performance,” says Dr. Mike Hamlin, an associate professor of exercise and sports science at New Zealand’s Lincoln University.

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Hamlin has studied the effect of compression garments on short-term recovery. And while his research observed recovery improvements among rugby players who wore compression leggings, those improvements only came from donning the leggings for 24 hours straight following exercise. Other researchers have found similar benefits among weightlifters who slipped into compression body suits, but only when those suits were worn continuously for more than a day following exercise.

Hamlin mentions one 1996 study that found trained volleyball players were able to increase their average—but not maximum—leaping height when wearing compression shorts. But he says there’s “little evidence” that endurance athletes perform better while wearing compression tights and tops. A recent study from Indiana University looked into lower-leg compression among distance runners and failed to find meaningful gains.

Which takes us back to Allen Iverson and his sleeve. Iverson’s doctor improvised the arm compression as an aid for the player’s inflamed elbow—not to boost Iverson’s performance. And when it comes to medical conditions that involve swelling or poor blood flow, compression is still a “mainstay” of treatment and recovery, says Dr. Thomas Wakefield, a professor of vascular surgery with the University of Michigan Health System.

Particularly for lower body blood clotting and venous circulatory issues, Wakefield says compression garments are helpful either in place of or in addition to blood thinning drugs and other forms of treatment. There’s some evidence compression may help control muscle cramps and restless leg syndrome, though Wakefield says its unclear whether compression might be helpful.

MORE: How Exercise Helps Curb Alzheimer’s Symptoms

While mixed, there’s also some evidence that compression can provide a small performance benefit when it comes to explosive movements: a basketball player leaping repeatedly for a rebound, say, or a soccer player suddenly sprinting a few feet for a loose ball. But a 2013 review of the existing research on compression doesn’t rule out the possibility that the placebo effect may explain these performance gains. (You can’t really trick an athlete into thinking she’s wearing compression garments if she’s not, the authors of that review write.)

So here’s the compression gear story, compressed: there are certainly medical conditions for which compression clothing can be beneficial. And when worn for lengthy periods—a day or more following exercise—compression appears to help with muscle recovery.

But for now, the question of whether compression gear can amp up your athletic performance is still up in the air.

TIME Sex/Relationships

See How ‘Female Viagra’ Works

This graphic explains the newly-approved drug

The first drug to treat a lack of female sexual desire has been approved by federal authorities.

The drug flibanserin, which has been coined ‘female Viagra,’ is intended to treat women with a condition called hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) that’s characterized by lagging libido. On Tuesday, the drug was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “Today’s approval provides women distressed by their low sexual desire with an approved treatment option,” Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a statement.

Although the drug is being called a “Viagra” for women, it actually works quite differently. You can see how below.

Female Viagra
Heather Jones for TIME

Read next: What 8 Medical Experts Think About ‘Female Viagra’

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TIME Sex/Relationships

‘Female Viagra’ Drug Approved By FDA

Authorities have approved flibanserin to treat lack of sexual desire among women

The first drug to treat a lack of female sexual desire has been approved by federal authorities.

The drug flibanserin, which has been coined “female Viagra,” was approved Tuesday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The drug is intended to treat hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD)—a persistent lack of libido—in premenopausal women. The agency had rejected the drug twice in the past.

In June, an advisory panel to the FDA voted 18-6 in favor of approving flibanserin, which is developed by Sprout Pharmaceuticals. Though it’s compared to Viagra, the male drug for erectile dysfunction, flibanserin works in the brain by targeting neurotransmitters thought to play a role in sexual excitement.

MORE: Here’s What It’s Like To Take ‘Female Viagra’

The drug’s approval is not without controversy. Critics have expressed concern that the benefits of the drug do not override the side effects, which can include sleepiness and nausea. In clinical trials of the drug, 13% of women stopped taking flibanserin due to side effects. Some critics also take issue with the fact that the drug needs to be taken every day.

“I think it’s a disaster. It’s unsafe and it doesn’t work. That is all a drug is supposed to do,” Leonore Tiefer, clinical associate professor of psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine told TIME.

Other experts argue that though the drug may be imperfect, it gives physicians an option to offer female patients. “Currently, there is no drug available in the U.S. for the treatment of HSDD, and clinicians and patients are very interested in having access to an approved medication,” Dr. Bob Barbieri, chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital told TIME. “Once the drug is available to clinicians and patients, the role of the drug in the treatment of HSDD will be better clarified.”

The FDA has taken steps to cite possible risks. Due to risks associated with drinking alcohol while taking the drug, the FDA says flibanserin will only be available through specially certified health care professionals and certified pharmacies. The drug will also contain a “boxed warning” that highlights the risk of severe low blood pressure and loss of continuousness among patients who drink alcohol and take flibanserin and other at-risk patients.

MORE: What 8 Medical Experts Think About ‘Female Viagra’

Women’s groups that advocated for the drug’s approval under the campaign, Even the Score, framed the issue as sexist, arguing there are 26 approved drugs for sexual dysfunctions among men but none for women. The campaign was backed by Sprout.

Sprout Pharmaceuticals will be selling flibanserin under the brand name ADDYI. You can read more about the FDA decision here.

TIME Cancer

The Connection Between Light Drinking and Cancer: Study

healthiest foods, health food, diet, nutrition, time.com stock, red wine, alcohol
Danny Kim for TIME

The latest study shows how much alcohol is linked to a higher risk of developing certain cancers

Researchers say that indulging in as little as one drink a day for women and two drinks daily for men can boost the risk of breast, colon, oral, liver and esophageal cancers. But the risk was higher for men who smoked, even those who had quit, than for non smokers.

Scientists at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital report in the BMJ on a review of nearly 136,000 men and women enrolled in studies that followed their health-related behaviors and outcomes for 30 years. Overall, those who drank more showed a higher risk of alcohol-related cancers, which wasn’t surprising, given that over-indulging can promote abnormal growths in certain organs like the liver.

MORE: 5 Things You Need to Know About Alcohol, Backed By Research

But what was more surprising was that, according to their observations, it didn’t take much. Previous studies have focused on heavy drinking, while the current analysis looked at light to moderate drinking. Among women, up to one drink a day contributed to a 13% higher risk of developing alcohol-related cancers, primarily breast cancer. For men, up to two drinks a day also increased the risk of certain cancers, but only for those who had smoked. Non smoking men didn’t show any higher risk.

The results suggest that smoking may be an important contributor to certain cancers, especially in combination with alcohol. In fact, says Yin Cao, a post doctoral research fellow at the School of Public Health and lead author of the study, it’s enough to consider becoming even stricter when it comes to imbibing. “For men, especially those who ever smoked, they should limit alcohol to even below the recommended limit,” she says. “And smoking and heavy alcohol consumption should be absolutely avoided to prevent cancer.”

 

 

TIME medicine

Pharmaceutical Giant Amgen Settles for $71 Million For Misleading Consumers

Amgen Pharmaceutical
Robert Galbraith—Reuters Amgen's office in San Francisco on Oct. 21, 2013.

The company was accused of "making unapproved and unsubstantiated claims about prescription drugs" Aranesp and Enbrel.

Pharmaceutical company Amgen Inc. has settled with 48 states and the District of Columbia for $71 million after being accused of illegally promoting two drugs for “off-label” uses, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Tuesday.

The pharmaceutical company was accused of promoting its two brands, Aranesp and Enbrel, for uses not approved by the FDA.

“Pharmaceutical companies are prohibited from making unapproved and unsubstantiated claims about prescription drugs,” Schneiderman said in a press release. “Consumers need to have confidence in the accuracy of claims made by pharmaceutical companies.”

Aranesp is an anemia medication that works by stimulating bone marrow production of red blood cells. Enbrel is used to treat multiple conditions, notably chronic and severe plaque psoriasis.

A complaint filed against Amgen said Aranesp was promoted for longer dosing frequencies and for cancer-caused anemia, for which it had neither FDA approval nor scientific proof. Enbrel was promoted for mild cases of plaque psoriasis, despite being only approved for severe cases; it was also advertised to be far more effective than scientifically shown, according to the complaint.

As part of the settlement Amgen will have to change its advertising strategy to exclude it of its current misleading intent and is forbidden from continuing its current claims.

In a statement, Amgen responded by saying it “is pleased to have this matter resolved, and remains committed to fulfilling its mission to serve patients.”

TIME public health

5 Things You Should Know About Listeria

Getting sick from listeria is relatively rare, and only a small part of the population is at risk of getting seriously ill from it

Nearly four months after recalling all of its products due to possible Listeria contamination, the maker of Blue Bell ice cream announced yesterday that its trucks are back on the road.

Listeriosis is one of the most deadly foodborne illnesses in the U.S., and the recent outbreak raised panic and fear across the country, in part because Blue Bell is one of the nation’s largest ice cream suppliers. In total, ten cases of listeriosis were reported from four states, and three hospital patients who ate milkshakes made with Blue Bell products died as a result of the disease. But listeriosis is relatively rare, and only a small part of the population is at risk of getting seriously ill from it.

To clear up misunderstandings about the disease, here are 5 things you should know:

1. What is listeriosis and how do you get it?

People typically become infected with listeriosis after eating food contaminated with a bacterium called Listeria monocytogenes. It can be found in soil and water, and animals can carry the bacterium without getting ill. Uncooked meat, vegetables, and dairy can all be contaminated with Listeria, and the bacteria can be tracked into factories in a number of ways—workers can accidentally bring it in on the bottoms of their shoes, for instance. Babies can be born with listeriosis if their mothers ate contaminated food during pregnancy.

2. How common are listeria outbreaks?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, listeriosis infects an estimated 1600 people each year in the United States and causes about 260 deaths, making it a serious public health problem. While the Blue Bell outbreak is on track to be the most far-reaching listeria scare of 2015, there have been deadlier outbreaks in recent years. (In 2014, 35 cases of listeriosis were attributed to prepackaged caramel apples, with 7 deaths linked to the outbreak. A cantaloupe outbreak in 2011 infected nearly 150 people, with 33 reported deaths.)

3. What happens if I get listeriosis?

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, symptoms of listeriosis can appear several weeks after eating contaminated food (and affected individuals will not know they’ve consumed contaminated food until that point). People experiencing muscle aches, sometimes preceded by gastrointestinal symptoms, or develop a fever and chills after eating the ice cream should seek medical care.

4. I ate Blue Bell ice cream before they announced the recall. Am I at risk?

If you’re not in a high-risk category (i.e. pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems, and adults over the age of 65), listeriosis is rare. Even if you do get infected, it is unlikely you’ll become seriously ill. Additionally, no related listeriosis cases have been reported since the Blue Bell recall—all 10 cases linked to the outbreak occurred between January 2010 and January 2015. But that doesn’t mean you should eat all the Blue Bell ice cream buried away in your freezer (“When in doubt, throw it out,” is the CDC’s official line).

5. Is it okay to eat Blue Bell ice cream again?

In April, Blue Bell Creameries announced it “will embark on an intensive cleaning program while it simultaneously conducts a new training program for its employees.” The company also set up agreements with the Alabama Department of Public Health, the Texas Department of State Health Services, and the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry outlining steps to safely bring its products back to market.

But while Blue Bell ice cream may soon be back on shelves, it seems the company won’t emerge unscathed: Lawsuits against the company have already been filed, and Blue Bell’s CEO announced in May that 37 percent of the company’s 3900 employees would be laid off because of the pause in production.

This article originally appeared on Food52

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TIME Research

64 Scientific Studies Retracted By One Publishing Company

The studies were associated with fake emails and fabricated peer reviews.

A company that publishes scientific research has retracted 64 articles from 10 journals after discovering that the peer-review reports—summaries of how the papers were vetted by experts in the field prior to publication—were fabricated.

Springer, which publishes more than 2,200 English-language research journals, issued a statement on the retraction on Tuesday, noting that the problems included fake email addresses.

“After a thorough investigation we have strong reason to believe that the peer-review process on these 64 articles was compromised,” a Springer spokesperson said in a statement.

Peer review is an integral part of respected research; journals rely on that process to assess the viability of the results, to weed out unscientific claims, to flag poor study design or to reject unreliable findings. The process for getting a paper published is highly competitive, and retractions appear to be on the rise—about 1,500 papers in multiple journals have been retracted for various reasons since 2012, as the editors of Retraction Watch note.

Last November, BioMed Central, a Springer company, retracted 43 studies for similar reasons, and in the past three years alone. While that’s only a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of studies published each year, scientists are worried that the incidence rate of fabrication may be higher.

Springer said as much in its statement, noting, “The peer-review process is one of the cornerstones of quality, integrity and reproducibility in research, and we take our responsibilities as its guardians seriously. We are now reviewing our editorial processes across Springer to guard against this kind of manipulation of the peer review process in future.”

TIME Addiction

Teen E-Cigs Smokers More Likely to Turn to Cigarettes: Study

New research suggests e-cigarette use among young people could be a gateway to conventional smoking

Teenagers who use e-cigarettes may be more likely to report using conventional tobacco products like cigarettes, hookah and cigars, new research suggests.

Researchers looked at 2,530 students from 10 Los Angeles public schools. They asked the teenagers about their smoking and vaping activities and found that teens who had used e-cigarettes were more likely to report using tobacco products over the next year compared to teens who had never used e-cigarettes. The findings were published Tuesday in the journal JAMA.

The researchers cannot conclude from their data that using e-cigarettes leads a teen to use other tobacco products. More research is needed to determine if the link is causal. However, they suggest it’s unlikely that the number of teens who use both e-cigarettes and other tobacco products can be entirely attributed to teens already smoking and then trying e-cigarettes later on. “These results raise the possibility that the association between e-cigarette and combustible tobacco use initiation may be bidirectional in early adolescence,” the authors write.

MORE: E-cigs Are the New Cool Thing for Teenagers

Some view e-cigarettes as a healthier alternative to tobacco. However, both e-cigarettes and tobacco products contain nicotine, which is addictive, and some research shows that e-cig flavors are dangerous and that the devices, too, produce potentially dangerous byproducts when heated. Since data suggests that teenagers are increasingly using e-cigarettes, some public health experts are worried.

“Adolescents may be especially susceptible to develop nicotine addiction after e-cigarette exposure because their brains are still developing and are particularly sensitive to nicotine,” writes Dr. Nancy A. Rigotti of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in a corresponding editorial.

The researchers also note teens may be more likely to use e-cigarettes before other combustible tobacco products due to a perception that they are not harmful or addictive. The fact that e-cigarettes are sold in different flavors can be attractive to young people, the authors argue, and in some cases it remains easy for teens to get access to them due to a lack of regulation.

 

TIME public health

Head Lice in 25 States Are Now Resistant to Treatment

TIME.com stock health rx prescription bottle drugs
Illustration by Sydney Rae Hass for TIME

A large number of lice populations have gene mutations that may make it resistant to over-the-counter treatments

Here’s some lousy news: Lice in half of America—at least 25 states—are now resistant to over-the-counter treatments. That’s according to new research presented at the American Chemical Society’s national meeting.

Study author Kyong S. Yoon, PhD, assistant professor in the Biological Sciences and Environmental Sciences Program at Southern Illinois University, has been researching lice since 2000. (“My PhD entirely focused on head lice,” he says with a laugh.) Using the services of professional nitpickers across the country, Yoon decided to take an American lice census by collecting pest populations from every state.

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His research is still ongoing, but what he’s found so far in 109 samples from 30 states is startling: the vast majority of lice now carry genes that are super-resistant to the over-the-counter treatment used against them.

Lice is commonly treated by a group of insecticides called pyrethroids, used for mosquito control. One of those, permethrin, is the active ingredient in some anti-lice treatments—but lice populations can develop a trio of mutations that make it resistant to pyrethroids.

MORE: Head Lice Is No Reason To Keep Kids Out Of School

In 25 of the states, lice samples had all three of these genetic mutations, making them the most resistant to treatment. Lice populations from four other states had one, two or three mutations, and in just one state—Michigan—were the pests not resistant at all to the insecticide.

“It’s a really, really serious problem right now in the U.S.,” Yoon says. Though head lice aren’t known to transmit any diseases, they can be an itchy nuisance—and now, they’re harder to kill. Yoon suggests prescription-based products, like ivermectin or spinosad, if pyrethroid-based treatments don’t work.

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