islamabad - Use of statins may be associated with reduced mortality and improved survival in lung, breast, prostate, and bowel cancers, according to research presented at Frontiers in CardioVascular Biology (FCVB) 2016.

Dr Carter of Aston University said, “Our research suggests that there’s something about having a high cholesterol diagnosis that improves survival and the extent to which it did that was quite striking in the four cancers studied. Based on previous research we think there’s a very strong possibility that statins are producing this effect.”

Dr Carter continues to say that they think the effect is caused by high cholesterol medications such as statins, as the association was noted amongst all four cancers. However, studies would need to be conducted in other types of cancer to confirm this speculation.

Dr Rahul Potluri, a senior author and founder of the ACALM Study Unit, notes: “Statins have some of the best mortality evidence amongst all cardiovascular medications and statin use in patients with a diagnosis of high cholesterol is possibly the main reason that this diagnosis appears to be protective against death in patients with lung, breast, prostate and bowel cancer.”

“Other cardiovascular medications may also be protective and explain the varying levels of risk reduction in the four cancer types. For example, prostate cancer is associated with heart disease and these patients tend to take ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers.”

He adds, “The results of this study strengthen the argument for a clinical trial evaluating the possible protective effect of statins and other routinely used cardiovascular medications such as aspirin, blood pressure medications, beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors in patients with cancer. Whether it is statins and/or other cardiovascular drugs in combination that have an effect on mortality remains to be seen.”

Dr Potluri concludes that although statins look to have a positive outcome, until there is a positive result in a clinical trial, patients with cancer that are at high risk or have established cardiovascular disease should only be prescribed statins as per current guidelines.

Obesity may not keep body warm: Study

In contrast to popular belief, carrying extra fat may not play a role in keeping warm, according to an article. The new study on the insulating effect of obesity, by researchers from Stockholm University in Sweden and the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany, finds that it is in fact fur, not carrying excess fat, that contributes to a warmer body in obese mice.

“Whether an insulating effect of obesity exists is of significance both for humans and for animal models of obesity,” the research team writes.  The findings from this study are significant for obesity researchers to grasp how body fat functions to keep mice warm. Mice used for metabolic research are frequently accommodated in cooler conditions, and almost half of the calories they consume are burned to maintain body temperature.

The results reveal that fur is associated with increased insulation, protects against heat loss, and is responsible for almost half of a mouse’s insulation. The findings conclude that obesity of any kind does not increase thermal insulation in mice or aggravate the development of obesity.

Equivalent insulation studies have not yet been performed in humans. However, with the use of clothing and adjusting indoor temperatures, humans are usually in an environment where the body can maintain its core temperature solely through regulating heat loss to the external environment.  The researchers indicate that “it is doubtful that an insulating effect of obesity, even if it existed, would in any discernable way affect the development or maintenance of human obesity.”

Meanwhile, a group of researchers studying the brain patterns involved as babies take their first steps hope to apply their findings to helping children with cerebral palsy and improving the rehabilitation of adults following spinal cord injury. Dr Nadia Dominici, who heads the group at VU University’s Faculty of Behavioral and Movement Sciences, explained that the primitive stepping reflex” is the foundation on which babies build their independent walking movement. They have discovered that walking and similar movements are the result of small groups of muscles coming together in a flexible way to simplify the control of locomotion - they call these groups the “walking” or “locomotion primitives.”

“We found that human babies are born with just two walking primitives,” Dr Dominici explains, “the first directs the legs to bend and extend, the second commands the baby’s legs to alternate - left, right, left, right - in order to move forward.”

“To walk independently,” she adds, “babies learn two more primitives, which we believe handle balance control, step timing, and weight shifting.”

After studying many different animals, the team found that the primitives were remarkably alike, despite all the differences in body structure and evolution.

Dr Dominici says, “Locomotion in several animal species could start from common primitives, maybe even stemming from a common ancestral neural network.”

The researchers believe their findings could help patients with walking disabilities improve their mobility. They have already shown it is possible to use neural primitives to improve walking in injured rats.

Cerebral palsy is a disorder caused by damage to the developing brain that affects movement, muscle tone, and posture. Children with cerebral palsy may have a reduced range of movement and some may not be able to walk properly.

The team is now working out how to apply their approach to children with cerebral palsy and adults with spinal cord injuries.