5 studies you may have missed
May 23rd, 2014
05:21 PM ET

5 studies you may have missed

Here's a roundup of five medical studies published this week that might give you new insights into your health, mind and body. Remember, correlation is not causation – so if a study finds a connection between two things, it doesn't mean that one causes the other.

Mental illness reduces lifespan even more than smoking
Journal: World Psychiatry

Oxford University psychiatrists say the life expectancy of people with serious mental illness is reduced by 10 to 20 years. That's a toll on life roughly equal or even more dramatic than for people who smoke at least 20 cigarettes a day.

Mental illness is also roughly as common in the United Kingdom than smoking cigarettes, the researchers report: 25% of people will suffer from a mental health problem annually, while 19% of British men and 19% of women are smokers. In the United States, mental illness affects 20% of Americans over 18 in a year.

The study examined information about 1.7 million patients, analyzing 20 scientific reviews and studies that had mostly drawn upon data from wealthy countries.

Lead study author Dr. Seena Fazel told NPR that stigma may play a role in the pattern observed in this study. 

"So much emphasis has been placed on reducing smoking and smoking deaths. Mental illness doesn't receive the same attention in public health and public policy," Fazel told NPR. 

Read more from NPR

Placenta has a good chunk of bacteria, and importance

Journal: Science Translational Medicine

Your body has 10 times more bacterial cells than human cells on average, but doctors used to think the placenta, which develops in the uterus while a woman is pregnant, is sterile. These days, we know better. A new study reveals the bacterial diversity in the placenta, and how it might affect the baby.

Premature births, for instance, may occur in part because of a particular combination of bacteria in the placenta. And bacteria that's beneficial to the infant may be passed to the baby via the placenta.

The placenta isn't overflowing with bacteria; it's only about 10% bacteria by mass, researchers said. Still, scientists found about 300 kinds of bacteria, the majority being innocuous.

Intriguingly, the researchers also found that bacteria in the placenta closely matched what was in the mother's mouth, which was also similar to what they found in infant intestines, The New York Times reported.

This was a small, preliminary study, but could inspire deeper looks at the wonders of the placenta.

Read more from The New York Times

Diabetic women have a higher likelihood of heart problems than men
Journal: Diabetologia

A new study has discovered a striking gender gap in diabetes.

Women with diabetes are 44% more likely to develop coronary heart disease than diabetic men, the study found. They are also 44% more likely to die of heart disease than men with diabetes.

Researchers examined data on 850,000 people.  This information was pooled from 64 studies spanning 1966 to 2013.

"The days of lumping men and women together are coming to an end," Dr. Tara Narula, associate director of the Cardiac Care Unit at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, told HealthDay News. "We need to see women as unique entities regarding their risk factors and, if we recognize there's this gender differential, we need to be more aggressive in screening and treating women for diabetes or heart disease."

Read more from HealthDay News via WebMD

Malaria vaccine in the works
Journal: Science

Thanks to a rare antibody, researchers say they have a promising direction for a malaria vaccine.

Study authors took blood samples from hundreds of Tanzanian children and found antibodies in 6% of them that appeared to be important in fighting malaria. These antibodies seemed to confront the malaria parasites while they were asexually reproducing, and counter a protein important to the life cycle of the parasite, Forbes reported.

The children who had these antibodies did not have severe malaria, researchers found. Another study on Kenyans also found a connection between the antibodies and fewer malaria parasites.

Researchers are using these antibodies as the basis for a vaccine.

“Most vaccine candidates for malaria have worked by trying to prevent parasites from entering red blood cells," Dr. Jonathan Kurtis of Rhode Island Hospital, the research team’s spokesman, told Forbes. “We’ve taken a different approach. We’ve found a way to block it from leaving the cell once it has entered. It can’t go anywhere. It can’t do any further damage."

The vaccine has not been tested in humans. Researchers hope to start trials in monkeys in six weeks.

Read more from Forbes

Mice that can't feel pain live longer
Journal: Cell

We don't know how this would pan out in humans, but in mice it sounds nice: Researchers found that mice lacking a certain pain receptor live longer.

Study authors genetically engineered mice so they wouldn't have TRPV1 pain receptors. Normally, such receptors get activated as a result of high temperatures or hot chili peppers, New Scientist reported.

Male mice without these receptors lived 12% longer than those that had them. The outcome for female mice was even more promising: Those that lacked the receptors lived 16% longer.

It appears that those without the receptor also produced more insulin. On the flip side, mammals have these pain receptors so they will be biologically warned about dangerous objects and situations.

"Pain is very important for animals living in the wild and probably outweighs the benefits of a youthful metabolism," Andrew Dillin at the University of California, Berkeley, told New Scientist.

Still, there could be therapeutic applications that stem from these insights.

Read more from New Scientist

soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. chrissy

    That pain thing probably holds true with humans as well. If you dont feel pain you are more likely to exercise more making you healthier. Also less likely to commit suicide lol. There have been days when its been so bad the option of a bullet was looking pretty damn good!

    May 23, 2014 at 18:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Brandon

    well if you want to be a drone, feeling no pain would be great. But without it, how would you know your alive?

    May 26, 2014 at 17:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Pippa

    You can die of a broken heart. Pain kills. Feeling no pain is liberating. Could it be that "drugs" would become useless, if we didn't feel pain?

    May 26, 2014 at 19:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Lojack

    "Mental illness is also roughly as common in the United Kingdom than smoking cigarettes". As common than? C'mon editor!

    May 27, 2014 at 18:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Portlandtony

    How are you going to tell a doctor where it hurts? ..........Think about it, as our living cells rapidly die from an injury, they are in essence telling us through pain that we're hurt, to lie down, to rest, let healing begin! I think this study needs more work!

    May 27, 2014 at 21:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. naidu

    If someone touch/kick/stab your ass from back you'll barely feel it. Holding burning things .. Try to let that mice into real world n see which 1's survive longer

    May 31, 2014 at 04:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. A.R.

    So should women avoid yeast, activia brand yogurt or other yogurts, cheese, and maybe chicken, fish, and shellfish because they may contain unacceptable levels of bacterium, whether they are beneficial or not?

    Also, to clarify which bacterium are beneficial or neutral, why not take saliva samples of healthy adults, list the bacterium you find there, take out plaque and gingivitis bacterium, and the remaining list should be fine if found in the placenta when you measure a testable placenta's bacterium types. A testable placenta is probably found in a mother who is a low-risk pregnancy. Conversely, if a high-risk pregnancy is the case, then probably only test the mother's saliva for the same bacterium list as found in healthy adults saliva. IF there is a discrepancy then administer anti-biotics, but only IF necessary to combat rogue bacterium not found on the healthy adults saliva list. This limits an anti-biotic regimen for the entire duration of the pregnancy, which could result in a loss of beneficial bacterium as we all know.

    Additional Notes: For high risk pregnancies, where the placenta breaks, and the "water" comes out prematurely, is there any studies being done to inject either a sterilized pectin solution, boiled and softened collagen, even particilized fat cells taken from the mother [ and maybe ran through a dialysis machine to sterilize and micronize the human fat particles] into the placenta? This may turn a high risk pregnancy into a low-risk pregnancy, without the "water" breaking prematurely.

    June 11, 2014 at 13:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. A.R.

    The theory being that if the softened and boiled collagen is just the right consistency, and have the mother lay down in a gyroscopic table, you can inject the softened collagen above the fetus. First in one direction above the fetus, and as the fat rises to the placenta wall, it may bond in a thin layer. Rotate the gyroscope table gently [ like covering a frying pan with butter ]. Next, turn the gyroscope table upside down and repeat the process. IF necessary, turn her on her side, but it could be risky for a high-risk pregnancy mother to even be in that position, adding undue stress to her just by being in the hospital. It is better to measure the weakest points of high-risk pregnancy mother's placentas and take an average of where those weak points are [ such as top, side, or bottom, or by the hip bones ] and coat only the most susceptible areas to breakage with boiled collagen taken from the mother.

    The sterilized pectin idea is to change the "water" from being too easy for the baby to kick through when it reaches maybe 6 months or so. Around that time, a study could be done for super high-risk pregnancies, to add a 2% pectin solution to the placenta to make it more viscous, and so the baby cannot build up as much speed to kick through the placenta wall [ possible around the hip bones ].

    June 11, 2014 at 14:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. A.R.

    In closing, I would add that I am not a doctor, just an amateur science and technology buff, and any ideas need to be ran through a review committee before any testing, trials, or other research even begins on any of these ideas. Thank you.

    June 11, 2014 at 14:15 | Report abuse | Reply
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  14. Paddle App

    I learned something about the placenta her that I thought I'd never learn . When I came across this article I was not expecting to read anything about a placenta . Good read !

    June 7, 2017 at 18:12 | Report abuse | Reply

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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.