Entries in Japan (25)


New Technique Could Detect Pancreatic Cancer Early

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Pancreatic cancer is a brutal and deadly disease. Fewer than five percent of patients who are diagnosed with it survive more than five years.

Doctors believe that early detection could increase survival rates. However, the disease has few symptoms that clearly warn patients they have the disease, and blood tests are not very effective at picking it up, detecting only 55 percent of pancreatic cancers.

A group of Japanese researchers has developed a new scientific technique that increases the chances of detecting early stage pancreatic cancers using a blood test.

They developed a technique that can help detect and differentiate cancerous cells from normal cells.

The researchers found that cancer cells produce molecules and proteins in different amounts than normal cells. Eventually, they came up with four molecules that, when observed together, are cancer indicators.

The new mathematical model could increase the odds of detecting early pancreatic cancer to four out of five patients.

This potential breakthrough discovery is still new, and is not widely available in hospital labs.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Pepsi Introduces Fat-Blocking Soda

Pepsi(NEW YORK) -- Soda and healthy aren’t exactly synonymous, but Pepsi-Cola in Japan is trying to change that with a new fiber-infused drink.

Dubbed the “Pepsi Special,” the soft drink -- set to go on sale Tuesday -- contains dextrin, a fiber that distributor Suntory claims helps reduce fat levels in the body.

Eager to appeal to young, health-conscious men, Pepsi has put out a comical ad on its website showing a businessman trying to choose between a woman dressed in a pizza costume and another in a burger outfit.  The message: you don’t have to give up either if you drink Pepsi Special.

Odd-flavored drinks are not unique in Japan’s $48 billion a year soft-drink market.  Past Pepsi flavors include strawberry and milk, salty watermelon, and yogurt, to name a few.

This is Pepsi’s first venture into the healthy cola market.  Rival Kirin, better known for its beer, released its own sugar-free, dextrin soda this summer: the “Mets” cola.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Protein Linked to Alzheimer's Found in Wild Cats in Japan

HANS-ULRICH OSTERWALDER/Getty Images(TOKYO) -- Could cats hold the latest clue in figuring out the cause behind Alzheimer's?

Japanese researchers say they've discovered a possible link to the disease in cats.  Scientists who studied the carcasses of wild leopard cats on the island of Tsushima say they discovered an unusual protein in their brains, similar to those in human Alzheimer's patients.

Cats have been known to develop dementia, but this is the first time researchers have found deposits of the protein linked directly to the disease.

Scientists hope to conduct a similar study on house cats.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Shunned Japanese Fukushima Plant Workers Face Emotional Toll

STR/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The March 2011 earthquake that triggered plant explosions and a meltdown in a Japanese nuclear power plant caused a chain reaction in the psyche of the workers at the plant, making them more vulnerable to emotional stress from perceived discrimination shortly after the disaster, according to a new study.

Researchers behind the study, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, administered a questionnaire to two sets of power plant workers in May and June of 2011. One group was from the Daiichi plant, where the major meltdown occurred, while the other was from the Daini nuclear power plant, which exhibited some damage but remained mostly intact.

Since the power plants had been criticized for their response efforts in the wake of the disaster, the researchers included questions designed to assess whether subjects had been the targets of discrimination or slurs from others.

The study found that while there was no difference between the number of acts of discrimination experienced by the two groups, the barbs seemed to be especially hurtful to workers who had staffed the doomed Daiichi plant.  Ten percent more workers from this plant reported that they experienced psychological as well as post-traumatic stress response, compared with stress then reported by the Daini workers.

Reported psychological stress symptoms included feelings of nervousness, hopelessness, restlessness and worthlessness, as well as depression.

“This is the first study to our knowledge to explore discrimination as a factor in post-disaster mental health,” lead study author Dr. Jun Shigemura of the department of psychiatry at National Defense Medical College in Saitama, Japan, wrote in the study.

Psychiatrists agree that the perception of discrimination after the meltdown clearly played an important role in the development of post-traumatic stress response in the workers.

“This study leads us to the conclusion that discrimination of survivors of life-threatening situations such as the meltdowns in Japan is very important in PTSD,” says Dr. Gene Beresin, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and McLean Hospital.

Other doctors acknowledge that the workers were affected not only by the disaster, but by their collective experiences that followed.

“It would not be surprising that both experience at the disaster, as well as discrimination, will have a psychological impact on the disaster workers,” says Dr. Bennett L. Leventhal, deputy director of the Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research in Orangeburg, N.Y.  “However, it is also possible that a number of other factors will play equally, if not more, critical roles in affecting the response to the disaster experience.”

Indeed, discrimination is just one kind of continuing stress being experienced by the workers.

“On top of being exposed to significant trauma by experiencing a huge earthquake, witnessing an explosion, and losing colleagues and family, the residents in Fukushima are currently living under the fear of the unknown effects of radiation in the air and grounds that their children play in,” says Dr. Mai Uchida, a fellow in child and adolescent psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Radiation from Japan Disaster Found Along California Coast

Hemera/Thinkstock(LONG BEACH, Calif.) -- Kelp along the California coast was found to be contaminated with radioactive material from a nuclear plant damaged in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan, according to a recent study.

Researchers at California State University, Long Beach found that the kelp contained radioactive iodine, cesium, xenon and other particles at levels unlikely to be detrimental to human health but much higher than the amounts measured before the disaster.

The levels were also about the same as those measured in British Columbia and Washington state after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion.

The researchers also expressed worry that the radioactivity could have made it into the coastal food chain, although they weren’t sure what impact that could have.

“Radioactivity is taken up by the kelp, and anything that feeds on the kelp will be exposed to this also,” said co-author Steven Manley in a news release.

Medical experts, however, said the disaster’s impact on U.S. public health was likely insignificant. Exposures of large numbers of people in past nuclear accidents, such as Chernobyl, have indicated that any radiation that reached the West Coast wouldn’t have much of an effect.

“But in Japan, the effects are as serious as we thought.  There’s still a lot of contamination there,” said Dr. Nagy Elsayyad, an assistant professor at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine.  “Some areas are still getting contamination in the fish, and some of the radiation is very long-lasting.”

Manley and his co-author, Christopher Lowe, wrote that exposures along the North American coast should continue to be monitored.

“The resulting data would reveal the pattern of plume dispersal and the degree of contamination of the coastal community.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Japan Concerned by Rate of Underweight Female Population

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(TOKYO) -- Americans may be battling the bulge, but the Japanese are struggling to expand their waistlines.

The Health Ministry said the number of young, skinny women has risen to troubling levels.  A record 29 percent of those in their 20s are underweight, according to a recent government survey.  Those with a body mass index (BMI) of less than 18.5 percent are considered underweight by Japanese standards.

“The women are not at risk of health problems yet, but we are making it a goal to bring the number down to 20 percent in the next decade,” Yoko Saito, at the Health Ministry’s Movement to Improve National Health, told ABC News.

The ministry has yet to come up with a plan to reduce the number of underweight citizens, but Saito said the government now treats diminishing waistlines as a national health problem, and worries that the problem could affect fertility rates. Japan already has one of the lowest birthrates in the world.

And while young women have become too skinny, Japanese men have moved to the opposite side of the spectrum.  Nearly 40 percent  of men in their 40s and 50s are considered overweight (their BMI is greater than 25 percent, about 20 percent higher than women the same age).

Weight gains prompted the government to impose waistline standards four years ago. Companies and local governments are now required to measure the waistlines of men and women between the ages of 40 and 74 as part of their annual health checkup.

Employees who exceed the standard -- 33.5 inches for men and 35.4 inches for women -- are asked to undergo counseling.  If they still fail to slim down, their companies face government fines.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Japanese Device Lets Men 'Test-Drive' Pregnancy

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(TOKYO) -- Japanese researchers have found a way for men to experience the trials of pregnancy, without actually being pregnant.

Introducing the Mommy Tummy: a pregnancy simulator that uses a water pump, vibrator, and four dozen balloons to capture a nine-month experience in a two-minute span.

“The product was inspired by insensitive Japanese men who refused to give up their seats to pregnant women on trains and buses,” said Takayuki Kosaka, with the Kanagawa Institute of Technology. “After witnessing that, I decided it was time for men to understand the difficulties associated with having a baby.”

In the Mommy Tummy, a water pump slowly injects warm fluid into a plastic bag that is attached to the suit. The “womb” expands with every second, and uses a vibrator that acts as the fetus’s heartbeat.

Nearly 50 different sized balloons inflate and deflate to mimic the kicking or movements of a fetus. Each are attached to a sensor, so the unborn baby reacts to belly rubs and uncomfortable movements, like jumping.

Strap on the pregnancy simulator, and you can go from normal to full term in just a few minutes. The fetus’s every move and weight is captured on a computer screen, just like a real ultrasound.

The simulator has the luxury of leaving out morning sickness, swelling, cravings, and any pain. But Kosaka says the idea is to help men empathize with pregnant women, and not to discourage couples from having children.

The Mommy Tummy is still a work in progress, but Kosaka hopes to eventually sell the pregnancy simulator as a product.  He believes it will be a helpful tool in reversing Japan’s rapidly declining population, and aging society.

“A lot of Japanese women want to have kids, but don’t feel like they’ll get the support necessary,” Kosaka said. “Once men experience pregnancy, I think they’ll be able to create a comfortable environment that encourages childbearing.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Fukushima Fallout in California Waters: A Health Threat?

DigitalGlobe via Getty Images(BERKELEY, Calif.) -- The radioactive fallout from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant accident has spread as far as California waters, according to scientists from the University of California, Berkeley.

But although the level of radioactivity in the water was higher than normal, they said, it was still very low and not harmful to humans.

“The levels of fallout we have observed in San Francisco Bay area rain water pose[d] no health risk to the public,” wrote the study authors, led by Eric B. Norman of UC Berkeley’s Department of Nuclear Engineering.

The March earthquake and tsunami that rocked Japan compromised the nuclear plant, causing radioactive material to run into the surrounding waters.  Researchers subsequently found some of that same material in rainwater collected from the San Francisco Bay area.

Samples gathered between March 16 and March 26 showed abnormally high levels of radioactive elements. The levels were highest in samples collected on March 24, but after that the levels returned to normal.

“The levels in the rain water went down very quickly,” said Dr. Nagy Elsayyad, assistant professor of radiation oncology at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine.  “Even the water with the highest levels would be safe. It’s impossible to ingest the amount of water it would take for the radioactivity to be harmful.”

Additionally, he said, people don’t generally drink rainwater.

Scientists also found radioactive material in samples of weeds, vegetables and milk sold in the area, but those levels were also very low.

While people have no reason to fear these findings, Elsayyad understands why people worry when they hear about elevated levels of radiation. The health effects of being exposed to radiation can be very serious, and include organ damage and cancer.

“It’s deeply ingrained in our culture that radiation is harmful,” he said. ”I wouldn’t blame people for being worried, but it’s important to make it clear that these results show the water is safe.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Diabetes Puts People at Risk for Dementia, Study Finds

HANS-ULRICH OSTERWALDER/Getty Images(FUKUOKA, Japan) -- People with diabetes may be at an increased risk of developing dementia, a new study finds.

Scientists have suspected the link between the two diseases for several years, but several experts say this latest study highlights how treating preventable diseases like diabetes and obesity may be useful in preventing the onset of dementia.

Researchers began studying residents of the town of Hisayama, Japan, in 1961, monitoring the numbers of people who got cardiovascular diseases. In 1985, they began measuring the numbers of people who developed dementia. The researchers followed more than 1,000 people for an average of 11 years.

They found that 27 percent of the people with diabetes developed dementia, compared with 21 percent of people without diabetes.

The study was published in the latest issue of the journal Neurology.

Dr. Richard Caselli, a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic, said the connection isn't particularly new, but its implications for the importance of treating diabetes are.

"Nobody doubts that diabetes is associated with a higher incidence of dementia," Caselli said. "But this is one more reason for people to be aware of the potential ravages of diabetes and to treat it aggressively and adequately and try to prevent consequences."

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), 25.8 million adults and children have diabetes in the United States, creating $174 billion in health care costs. And 79 million more Americans are pre-diabetic. Add those numbers to the $183 billion it costs to care for the 5.4 million Americans who have Alzheimer's disease, and it's not hard to see how doctors are interested in any connection between the two conditions.

Diabetes has been known to put people at risk for strokes, which can lead to a type of dementia called vascular dementia, in which damage to the brain's blood vessels deprive it of the oxygen it needs to function. But there is also increasing evidence that all types of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, may be linked to how the brain responds to insulin, the hormone connected with diabetes.

A recent study showed that an insulin-based nasal spray was effective against the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.

Although the specifics of the connection between diabetes and dementia are still a little fuzzy, scientists say their current emphasis is on the importance of prevention.

However, Dr. Michael Perskin, chief of geriatrics at New York University's Tisch Hospital, said preventing more cases of diabetes doesn't necessarily mean that the numbers of people with dementia will dwindle.

"If people aren't dying of strokes and heart attacks, they're living longer and are more likely to get dementia," Perskin said. "If you do a good job of treating cardiovascular symptoms, of course you're going to see more dementia."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Electrical Stimulation to Treat Alzheimers

Digital Vision/Thinkstoc(TOKYO) -- Japanese researchers say electrical stimulation therapy can be effective in treating Alzheimer’s disease.

In a study, published in the U.S. Journal of Neuroscience, the researchers say electrical stimulation therapy directly suppresses the effects of a protein that is mainly responsible for the disease.

The proceedure is currently being used to treat people with severe depression, and one of the researchers says “the therapy offers promise for treating those in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, who have yet to suffer extensive cell deaths.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio