Replacing your furnace filter could help protect from COVID-19

Replacing your furnace filter could help protect from COVID-19

Until a vaccine is readily available, a high-efficiency furnace filter used along with other precautions could help protect people from COVID-19 while they spend time together indoors.

Dr. Yue-Wern Huang, director of S&T’s Laboratory of Environmental Toxicology and a professor of biological sciences, is studying bioaerosols—the particles people release when they speak, sing or cough. He and his team of researchers are observing how viruses travel through the air, how time and environmental conditions affect the viability of viruses, and how proper ventilation can help control viral spread.

“As particles travel in time and distance, their physical properties such as size continue to change due to environmental factors like humidity and temperature,” says Huang. “The viability of pathogens contained within these bioaerosols is largely unknown right now.”

Huang uses a portal chamber and a walk-in chamber to create simulations and then studies the behavior of bioaerosols by collecting and analyzing pathogens on various filters. He uses bioaerosols that contain pathogens similar to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Working with Huang at S&T is Dr. Yang Wang, assistant professor of civil, architectural and environmental engineering, and Dr. Guang Xu, associate professor of mining engineering. The project is funded by a $330,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

“This research project is an excellent example of in-depth collaboration between very different disciplines,” says Huang. “Dr. Wang is a particle physicist who knows all about aerosol physics, while Dr. Xu is an expert in mining ventilation. We put together our three areas of expertise to create a unique team to successfully pursue this research during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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This Is One Of The Most Soothing Sounds That Can Help You Feel Better Throughout The Day

As many of us search for small tweaks to our routines to make the days more exciting, music has offered a welcome relief to the sometimes-monotonous routine of 2021. While some employ various anxiety-relieving techniques, music can also offer relief while helping you feel focused. From waterfall sounds to classical melodies, the type of tunes that you choose can make a big difference in your mood. But, when it comes to feeling at peace, one type of sound outshines the rest.

Those cooing birds outside of your window may be doing more for your state of mind than you think — studies show that these chirps offer the most restorative vibrations of any nature sound, The Guardian reports. While many who have studied natural well-being are well versed in the benefits of contact with nature, simply adding these sounds to your morning even while you’re indoors offers holistic recovery attributes. The Guardian reports that birdsong reduces stress and assists in focusing one’s attention and feeling renewed — not a bad playlist addition after all. 

Apparently, when you turn on a chorus of birdsongs — in the forest, at the ocean, or whatever location your playlist takes you to — you’re likely hearing the mating calls of various species. The Guardian notes that listening to the sounds of birds has scientific evidence of improving the way that you feel, no matter the time of day. Furthermore, having birdsong playing in the background can make focusing much easier, whereas music with lyrics can take away from your ability to stay present, the BBC contends.

The reasons behind birdsongs' health benefits stem from evolution

Beyond just helping you feel focused and alert, listening to these types of sounds actually allows your body to feel safe. The BBC reports that bird-chirping melodies produce a “body relaxed, mind alert” state that many seek to create in their daily lives.

“People find birdsong relaxing and reassuring because over thousands of years they have learned when the birds sing they are safe, it’s when birds stop singing that people need to worry,” Julian Treasure, author of Sound Business and chairman of noise consultancy, The Sound Agency, told the BBC. “Birdsong is also nature’s alarm clock, with the dawn chorus signaling the start of the day, so it stimulates us cognitively.”

This simultaneous relaxing-but-alert response may help you sail through your day with less resistance and a higher level of mental prowess. Birdsong provides no rhyme or reason and no beat to focus on while you work — it simply soothes, BBC notes. Rather than redirecting your energy toward following the pattern of the music, bird songs provide a naturally random tune. The outlet reports that, when used in children’s schools and hospitals, songs of birds aid in reduction of stress as well as an increase in the students’ concentration levels.

Next time you’re looking for music to play during work, play, sleep or meditation, turn on the bird tunes! 

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Immune response to insulin could identify, help treat those at risk for type 1 diabetes


Researchers from the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus have found that immune responses to insulin could help identify individuals most at risk for developing Type 1 diabetes.

The study, out recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, measured immune responses from individuals genetically predisposed to developing Type 1 diabetes (T1D) to naturally occurring insulin and hybrid insulin peptides. Since not all genetically predisposed individuals develop T1D, researchers sought to examine T-cell immune responses from the peripheral blood that could occur before the onset of clinical diabetes.

“We want to know why people develop T1D, and this research has helped provide a lot more information and data as to what it looks like when genetically at-risk individuals are headed towards clinical diagnosis,” says Aaron Michels, MD, the study’s lead researcher, Associate Professor of Medicine at CU Anschutz and researcher at the Barbara Davis Center. “Ideally, you want to treat a disease when it’s active, so this is a need in our field to understand when people have an immune response directed against insulin producing cells.”

Researchers collected blood samples from genetically at-risk adolescents every 6 months for two years. Inflammatory T-cell responses to hybrid insulin peptides correlated with worsening blood glucose measurements and progression to T1D development. The results indicate an important advancement in identifying the risk of T1D early as well as the potential for intervention.

“There are now therapies used in research studies that have delayed the onset of clinical type 1 diabetes,” says Michels. “Patients with these specific immune responses, may benefit from immune intervention to delay T1D onset and possibly prevent it for years.”

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The device that can help save a child's mental health

The device that can help save a child’s mental health: Think a laptop is only needed for online learning? Wrong… they also have psychological benefits, experts say

A laptop is not only a key educational accessory, it provides a lifeline to children who might otherwise risk losing the friends they have, as well as the social skills to make new ones, writes Cristina Odone (pictured)

The seven-year-old stood on her own in a corner of the playground. Silent and sombre-faced, she watched her classmates chase one another around the swings.

While they laughed and shouted, she nervously picked at the paint on the fence, avoiding all eye contact.

Scenes like this were played out up and down the country when normal schooling — or close to it — resumed last September.

Teachers were prepared for ‘academic slippage’. Educationalists had warned that the unprecedented interruption of schooling from March last year when lockdown was imposed, had robbed children of many months of learning.

Pupils of all age groups would have regressed and indeed, at the start of the autumn term, children were three months behind the level expected of them, according to research by The Nuffield Foundation.

Among students in the most deprived areas, the difference increased to four months.

But what many teachers were unprepared for was the social and emotional impact of school closure.

Some primary school children, in particular, no longer seemed able to connect with either teacher or classmate. When asked to join a game or a lesson, they would break down in tears.

Older pupils, meanwhile, had lost all ability to self-regulate: some were acting up, disrupting classes, and seemed hell bent on drawing everyone’s attention.

Others were withdrawn and seemed indifferent to everyone and everything around them.

These long months away from school have cast adrift a whole generation. Our children are forfeiting academic progress which risks affecting their school career — and beyond.

A report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies suggests that a loss of six months of normal education during the pandemic could equate to an average loss of £40,000 of income over the course of their working life.

But equally important is the fact that many children and adolescents face losing their ability to socialise, to strike up, and to maintain, friendships.

They are also missing out on the vital emotional support of their peers at what, in normal times, would be a hugely challenging period of their lives. Under Covid restrictions, there is much that is harder to endure.

What many teachers were unprepared for was the social and emotional impact of school closure. Some primary school children, in particular, no longer seemed able to connect with either teacher or classmate. When asked to join a game or a lesson, they would break down in tears [File photo]

Relationships are key to well-being, yet it is clear that some youngsters, confined to their home and restricted in who they meet and when because of lockdown, no longer feel at ease with the give and take of social life.

Teenagers polled by the Mental Health Foundation recently admitted to feeling anxious ‘most days’ about their loss of friends.

This is why the Daily Mail’s campaign to provide free laptops to schoolchildren is so welcome. 

A laptop is not only a key educational accessory, it provides a lifeline to children who might otherwise risk losing the friends they have, as well as the social skills to make new ones. Indeed, what better way to mark Mental Health Week than by giving every school child access to a social network.

Many lucky youngsters already rely on their laptops to socialise. I know of one eight-year-old who organised a virtual sleepover with two pals for his birthday: they ate pizza while watching a film together — linked by their screens.

Our teenage daughter has regular Zoom calls with her three best friends whom she has not seen in person for months. And online gaming has boomed during lockdown, offering kids a chance to enjoy a two-player game or to attend a football game, as part of a stadium-sized virtual audience.

But not all parents have the means to keep their children connected in such a way. Covid has become a social justice issue, exposing the digital gap between the middle classes and the more disadvantaged.

Teenagers polled by the Mental Health Foundation recently admitted to feeling anxious ‘most days’ about their loss of friends. This is why the Daily Mail’s campaign to provide free laptops to schoolchildren is so welcome

Around 7 per cent of UK households remain without any internet access and the most financially vulnerable are particularly excluded, with 29 per cent living in households without internet access or laptops.

For some of the poorest families, if there is a laptop, it is kept exclusively for the use of the working parent(s) or older siblings.

When the Parenting Circle, the charity I founded, asked mums and dads what worried them most about raising children during lockdown, they were unanimous: their children’s loneliness.

And I have to admit that I was surprised, because most of us have never spent so much time with our children.

How can our offspring feel ‘lonely’ when millions are simultaneously working from home and juggling home-schooling.

But now I know better. Covid-19 has brought this home with some grim statistics; 69 per cent of teenage respondents in a YoungMinds poll described their mental health as poor. Childline, the telephone help line run by the NSPCC has seen a 37 per cent increase in the number of young callers.

The number of girls who need hospitalisation for their self-harming has soared during the pandemic. And all of this has happened while many parents have been with their children, if not 24/7, then not far off it.

When it comes to brain stimulation, even the most dedicated parent cannot compensate for their child’s loss of interaction with their peers. The ‘serve and return’ involved in any exchange, verbal or non-verbal, exercises the cognitive function, making for healthy brain development.

And it is socialising (as well as learning) that flexes the young brain ‘muscle’ and stretches it. Isolation so atrophies that same ‘muscle’ that the brain of a neglected, isolated child is significantly smaller than that of a sociable one.

Lockdown loneliness casts a long shadow. ‘Keeping relationships with others during this period provides the foundation for good mental health in adulthood,’ according to Eamon McCrory, Professor of Developmental Neuroscience at University College London.

‘If we are to reduce the enduring legacy of the pandemic on young people, it is critical that we counter the constraints imposed by social distancing through the use of digital platforms.’

This is especially important in adolescence when young people start to feel more independence from their parents and seek their peers’ approval more than ours, and will confide in them rather than in us. It’s all part of establishing their identity.

As they compare experiences with friends, even virtual ones, our children are discovering that they are not alone in feeling stranded, confused, or afraid during this bleak period. 

Many parents feel loath to raise issues such as the deaths caused by Covid-19. Some feel unable to answer adequately their children’s questions about infection rates, the efficacy of vaccinations, or the need for a loved one to be shielding.

This silence about the most urgent issue in their lives can prompt children to catastrophise about what is happening to Granny, or their parents, or even to themselves.

Research by Oxford University has found that young people who experience a death in the family or have a seriously ill parent felt better able to cope when they could speak with peers in similar circumstances. We know that being able to go online and support one another about Covid can boost a child’s resilience.

Of course, all of us as parents worry about our children’s online activities: we’ve heard about the lure of online gambling, and the danger of online grooming.

But while online engagement must be monitored, experts urge us not to dismiss the importance of these virtual networks in fostering a real sense of belonging, alleviating boredom and isolation.

Feeling safe and happy in the shadow of a global pandemic is a challenge. But a child with a laptop can keep friends and make new ones. That can be enough to transform their view of the future — from ‘I can’t cope’ to ‘we will get through this’.

Cristina Odone’s Audible book, Talk, Read, Play, is out now

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New York sisters hope to help more than 200 seniors sign up for COVID-19 vaccines

New York sisters help seniors get vaccinated

Ava and Lily Weinstein tell ‘Fox and Friends Weekend’ they created a service to help seniors sign up for COVID-19 vaccine after assisting their own grandparents.

Two sisters from New York have teamed up to help senior citizens in their community get vaccinated.

Ava and Lily Weinstein started a service to help seniors register online and make appointments to get the coronavirus vaccine.

The two teenagers were inspired to launch their business after their own grandparents had trouble navigating the system to register for the vaccines.

“We were helping out our grandparents and it was very hard and difficult for them…many people don’t have kids or grandchildren to help them…We want to get out of this pandemic as soon as we can…we wondered how other people are supposed to do this,” Ava Weinstein told “Fox and Friends Weekend” on Saturday.

Lily Weinstein said she and her sister started to reach out to people in the community by creating and handing out fliers in front of their grandparents’ apartment building.

“It’s the best feeling in the world. They are so nice and they just love that we are so ready to help them,” Lily Weinstein said.

Ava and Lily Weinstein said their grandparents happily received their first coronavirus vaccine and have been doing well. They are expected to receive their second shot by the end of February.

“Anybody can call us at 65 or older and eligible for the vaccine… in New York, we’re just primarily doing right now… we’ll put them on our list and help them,” Ava Weinstein said.

The Weinstein sisters now have more than 200 seniors on a waitlist that they are ready to help once more vaccine appointments are available.


For more information, visit the sisters’ website at

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At Colorado’s Rural Edges, Vaccines Help Assisted Living Homes Crack Open the Doors

Bingo is back in the dining room. In-person visits have returned, too, though with masks and plexiglass. The Haven Assisted Living Facility’s residents are even planning a field trip for a private movie screening once they’ve all gotten their second round of covid-19 vaccines.

Such changes are small but meaningful to residents in the Hayden, Colorado, long-term care home, and they’re due mostly to the arrival of the vaccine.

While the vaccine rollout has hit snags across the U.S., including in many large urban areas, some rural counties — with their smaller populations and well-connected communities — have gotten creative about getting the doses out quickly to long-term care facilities. They are circumventing bogged-down Walgreens and CVS, the pharmacy chains contracted for the campaign, and instead are inoculating their older residents with the counties’ shares of doses.

It’s clear why the counties are trying their own path. Federal data provided by the state of Colorado shows that, as of Jan. 21, dozens of long-term care facilities in Colorado were enrolled to receive vaccines from Walgreens or CVS but still did not have any vaccination dates scheduled. Among assisted living facilities in particular, rural locations tended to have later start dates than non-rural ones. By mid-January, over 90 facilities had opted out of the program that has been beset by cumbersome paperwork and corporate policies.

When Roberta Smith, who directs the Routt County Public Health Department, learned in December that The Haven and another facility in the county hadn’t gotten any dates from Walgreens for their shots, she diverted about 100 doses from the county’s allotment. The vaccines would likely have gone to health care workers, she said, but she couldn’t let the most vulnerable in the county wait.

Fourteen of the 19 people who died of covid in the county, after all, had been residents of those two long-term care facilities.

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The county received a shipment of Moderna vaccines the following week to continue with its health care workers, Smith said.

The health department ensured that all able and willing residents of the county’s two long-term care facilities received their first doses before 2021 began. Smith suspects such reprioritization and fast deployment — despite the department’s reliance on spreadsheets and sticky notes to schedule visits — is easier in small communities.

“There is a sense of community in our smaller, rural counties that we’re all kind of looking out for each other. And when you tell someone, ‘Hey, we need to vaccinate these folks first,’ they’re quick to say, ‘Oh, yeah,’” Smith said.

Hayden, a town of about 2,000 in northwestern Colorado, is the kind of place where, within hours of Haven staffers posting online that they were looking for a grill, workers from the hardware store delivered one at no charge. It’s the kind of town where locals have come throughout the pandemic to serenade Haven residents with guitar, flute and violin performances outside the windows. When the virus hit The Haven, eventually killing two of its 15 residents, locals paraded past the facility in their cars, taped with balloons and signs that said “We love you” and “Get well soon.”

After all the heartache, isolation and waiting, newly vaccinated resident Rosa Lawton, 70, is ready to bust out of The Haven. She said she expected to get her second vaccine dose Jan. 28.

“I hope to be able to go shopping at Walmart and City Market and go to the bank, the library, the senior center. … I won’t stop,” she said, laughing. “Right now, we’re restricted to the building.”

Even after getting everyone vaccinated, though, assisted living locations won’t be able to fling open the doors quite yet. State and federal officials need to give the OK, said Doug Farmer, president and CEO of the Colorado Health Care Association, which represents long-term care facilities in the state. Still, the combination of vaccines, repeated negative covid tests and a lower level of virus spread in the community is allowing some facilities the peace of mind to crack the doors open just a bit in the meantime.

Until recently, Lawton and others at The Haven were playing bingo perched in their doorways, with a staff member moving down the hallway calling out numbers. Lawton said she could see about four others from her door, but not her friends Sally, Ruth or Louise. Now, they’re back in the dining room, with one person to a table and playing with sanitized chips.

“We can see each other and we’re closer together and we can hear the caller better,” said Lawton. “It’s just more of a group experience.”

Residents can now gather in the common areas, wearing masks, to play the piano and do target practice with foam dart guns. And the excursion to a movie theater next month will be the first field trip in nearly a year. (Lawton is rooting for watching “The Sound of Music.”)

“It just feels overall lighter,” said Adrienne Idsal, director of The Haven, hours before receiving her second vaccine dose.

Fraser Engerman, a spokesperson with Walgreens, confirmed that some counties moved ahead with vaccinations before the company received its allocation, and said the company is on track to complete vaccinations at all Colorado long-term care facilities that they were responsible for by the end of January. Monica Prinzing, a CVS Health spokesperson, said that her company has completed first doses for all 119 skilled-nursing facilities in Colorado and more than half the assisted living sites it partnered with, adding that their team is working closely with facilities to “remain on track to meet our program commitments.”

Along the state’s eastern edge, where Colorado meets Kansas, a pair of counties is already done vaccinating long-term care residents, according to Meagan Hillman, the public health director for Prowers and Kiowa counties.

In December, Hillman and her colleagues started to wonder just how Walgreens was going to get the shots to their four local long-term care facilities.

“Out here, I’m two-plus hours from the closest Walgreens, and I don’t even know where a CVS is,” she said. “It’s such a huge operation and we just were worried, you know. Oftentimes the little guy gets left out or left for last.”

Hillman said she and her colleagues managed to secure Pfizer vaccines from a local hospital.

“We have been so beat down in public health that I actually went and did the vaccination clinic,” said Hillman, who is also a physician assistant. “We just needed that — a good, heart-swelling thing to do.”

She said it indeed helped boost her spirits to give the shots herself. “Finally, I feel like the light at the end of the tunnel is not a train,” she said.

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LOL! Jessica Alba Disciplines 3 Kids With Help From 'Spy Cameras'

Jessica Alba has got an eye on her kids at all times! The actress has installed cameras around her Los Angeles home.

How Savannah Guthrie, More Parents Are Homeschooling Kids Amid Coronavirus

“I have spy cameras in their room so I can see [whether] they [are] messing around or … focusing [while doing virtual learning],” the Honest Company creator, 39, said during a Friday, January 15, Ellen DeGeneres Show appearance. “I can call them out. I’m the voice from the ceiling coming in.”

The California native added that when Honor, 12, Haven, 9, and Hayes, 3, bicker, she “can rewind and really see who hit who first.”

How Jenelle Evans, More Celeb Parents Are Keeping Kids Busy in Quarantine

Alba and her husband, Cash Warren, have their hands full at home with their three kids. Their youngest, especially, is “nonstop,” the Fantastic Four star told guest host Stephen “tWitch” Boss. “He literally wakes up, he’s running, he’s throwing ball, he wants to play gold, cars, all of it,” she said.

As for the Golden Globe nominee’s daughters, Honor and Haven are “great” and “different.” Alba explained that her eldest is in “that sweet teen kind of age” and is taller than her mom. “I don’t know how it happened, it happened so fast,” she said. “It’s just like, she’s not the little baby anymore. What happened? I’m looking at her like, ‘You’re bigger than me?’”

Haven is “the best” and loves having a social circle, the L.A.’s Finest star added. “That’s her vibe. She’s really found her way through COVID and all of this and has done it really well.” She has even been teaching her mom TikTok dance routines while quarantining amid the coronavirus pandemic, doing family game nights and binge-watching shows.

Boss, 38, gushed that Alba’s kids have a “boss” mom, but she admitted they call her “so cringey.” She explained that when Honor found out her mom was famous, “she felt so betrayed” and “mortified.”

Stassi Schroeder’s Daughter Hartford, More Celebrity Kids With Unique Names

The entrepreneur said, “She came home and was like, ‘Why didn’t you tell me? You never told me that you were gonna be in grocery stores or in Target?’ A friend [had] brought a magazine to school and put her on blast and Honor was like, ‘What are you doing on this magazine?’ Then I had to break it to her that I was an actress, sometimes I do the magazines.”

Alba loves being a mom and said during a February 2020 event that a lot of her parenting skills translate to running her company. “It’s more about who you surround yourself with,” the Sin City star said at the time. “The goal you end up reaching is great, you’re only thinking of the next challenge you’re wanting to do and the next goal you want to overachieve and what will come. It’s hard not to be totally and completely overwhelmed.”

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How can we help victims of torture?

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, affects many people who are exposed to extreme situations, such as torture. Recent research suggests that chronic pain may make it more difficult to treat trauma.

“Trauma-focused therapy is effective for many patients with PTSD, enabling them to talk through the trauma they experienced,” according to Iselin Solerød Dibaj, a psychologist at Oslo University Hospital.

However, not everyone benefits equally from this form of therapy.

“Torture victims who struggle with both chronic pain and PTSD unfortunately often reap less benefit from ordinary treatment,” says Dibaj.

The Red Cross estimates that between 10,000 and 35,000 people with a refugee background who have come to Norway have experienced torture, reflecting the great need for effective treatment in this country as well.

“Torture is one of the most extreme abuses a person can experience. Physical and mental pain is inflicted with the intention of breaking a person down or obtaining information,” says Håkon Stenmark, a specialist in clinical psychology at RVTS Midt, a regional resource centre for violence, traumatic stress and suicide prevention in central Norway.

“Mental health therapists find it difficult to provide effective help to victims of torture. They are pushing to increase their knowledge and find more effective methods,” says Stenmark.

Now Dibaj and Stenmark, along with Professor Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair and Joar Øveraas Halvorsen, a specialist in clinical psychology and Ph.D. at the Regional Unit for Trauma Treatment at St. Olavs Hospital, have published an article in the journal Torture about treating this patient group.

Professor Kennair, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, has been a supervisor and the driving force behind the research project that might lead to better treatment of torture victims.

“Exposure therapy” involves delving into patients’ memories and trying to talk through the trauma.

“But trauma-focused treatment for torture victims has been criticized in several clinical and academic settings for being too concerned with the traumas and not taking context into account, such as social, political and historical factors,” says Dibaj.

Dibaj says they understand this criticism, at the same time as they do not want to write off a trauma treatment for this group that has documented effectiveness in other patient groups.

Other trauma-exposed groups in recent years have shown evidence that chronic pain and PTSD mutually contribute to reinforcing the other condition. One disorder can trigger the other, ensuring that neither disappears.

“So people with both disorders have worse treatment results with both the trauma condition and the chronic pain than if they only had one disorder,” says Kennair.

Having both disorders also brings with it a number of additional challenges that therapists do not address specifically and purposefully in either trauma treatment or pain treatment.

“So we’re questioning whether these factors are partly to blame for the trauma treatment being less effective for victims of torture,” Kennair says.

Effective trauma treatment is largely about experiencing mastery and learning new ways to deal with painful memories.

“But if the patient experiences unmanageable pain, without the tools to deal with it, he or she risks not having this experience. The patient might then drop out or not be willing to delve into the memories,” says Dibaj.

In the same way, pain treatment with the physiotherapist rarely works directly with trauma memories. Thus, this therapy can fall into the same trap—that the patient doesn’t dare to do the rehabilitative exercises for fear of re-experiencing the trauma.

“We’re criticizing the current ‘gold standard trauma therapies’ for not working purposefully and specifically enough with important maintenance mechanisms for patients who have both pain and PTSD,” says Dibaj.

But these patients might actually achieve better outcomes if the therapists worked with the pain and trauma simultaneously.

“In other words, psychologists and physiotherapists should collaborate more in treating these patients,” Dibaj says.

“We also have to remember that torture is such an extreme and unique experience that we can’t just conclude that the pain problems in these patients are the same as we see in other patients with the same problem,” says Dibaj.

Norway has ratified the UN Convention against Torture. It states that people who have been subjected to torture have the right to rehabilitation. In a report from earlier this year, the Red Cross found the services offered to torture victims in Norway to be fragmented and highly person-dependent.

“At the same time, those of us working in the health care services are obliged to offer evidence-based treatment and equal health services,” says Halvorsen.

This means that patients with PTSD need to be offered the form of treatment that currently seems to have the best documented effect. This guideline applies regardless of background. The treatment has to be adapted to each individual patient.

“International guidelines for the rehabilitation of torture victims recommend interdisciplinary, specialized follow-up of these patients. However, studies show that even patients who receive such multi-faceted treatment experience only modest effects. We simply need to gain more knowledge about how we can help this group,” says Dibaj.

“We’ve been pointing out that Norway lacks specialized rehabilitation services for victims of torture for a long time. But since we still have limited knowledge of what characterizes effective rehabilitation for this group, funding and implementing clinical studies need to become an integral part of a specialized rehabilitation program,” Halvorsen says.

But why do some people suffer from PTSD?

“From an evolutionary perspective, we can understand the function of both pain and anxiety. These are alarm systems that signal us that something could potentially pose a danger to us. These signals cause us to avoid that situation. This can be adaptive in the short term, so that we steer clear of potential harm,” says Dibaj.

With PTSD and/or chronic pain, our alarm system is overactive and fires a series of false alarms about danger.

Avoidance normally decreases when the acute danger is over, but with PTSD and/or chronic pain, our alarm system is overactive and fires a series of false alarms about danger.

“If we respond to these alarms as a real danger and avoid what’s triggering the alarm, we risk making the alarm system more sensitive,” Dibaj says.

“Research indicates that post-traumatic cognitions or thoughts—that is, thoughts that come up after experiencing a trauma—play an important role in developing and prolonging post-traumatic distress. Examples of this kind of post-traumatic cognition might be, ‘The world is a dangerous place’ or ‘I’m a broken person,'” says Halvorsen.

Both PTSD and chronic pain are characterized by numerous such false alarms. The affected person might have flashbacks, for example, where something dangerous from the past is perceived as dangerous now. Victims can also experience pain signals without connecting them to something actually being wrong in their body.

“Torture is designed to create this form of distress and, especially in recent times, to create pain that doesn’t result in visible scars,” says Dibaj.

Many victims of torture experience that completely normal movements trigger their alarm system. This naturally leads to less physical activity and also makes a lot of people afraid to move. This condition is called kinesiophobia, when normal activities can lead to severe pain and re-experiencing the trauma.

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Can Mindfulness Help Ease Migraine?

THURSDAY, Dec. 17, 2020 — A mind-body practice that combines meditation and yoga might help people better manage migraine pain, a new clinical trial finds.

The trial, which tested the effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), found that the approach helped relieve migraine sufferers’ depression and disability. It also boosted how they rated their quality of life.

MBSR is a standardized, eight-week program developed in the 1970s. It combines meditation and gentle yoga postures, with the goal of shifting people’s responses to stress, including body pain.

It’s not that mindfulness makes pain go away, explained Daniel Cherkin, a senior investigator emeritus at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute, in Seattle.

Instead, he said, it helps people first become aware of their habitual reactions to their pain — whether they tend to ruminate or “catastrophize,” for example. From there, they can learn to “reframe” how they think about the pain and what it means.

Cherkin wrote an editorial published with the new findings in JAMA Internal Medicine on Dec. 14. His own research has found that MBSR can help people deal with chronic lower back pain.

Less has been known about whether people with migraines can benefit.

Worldwide, an estimated one billion people have migraine headaches, according to the Migraine Research Foundation. Along with intense head pain, migraines often cause nausea, visual disturbances, and sensitivity to light and sound.

For people who suffer frequent migraine episodes, medications can help prevent them. But they’re not always enough.

Some people end up taking potentially addictive opioids, which is not recommended, said Dr. Rebecca Wells, a neurologist who led the new trial.

Still other patients, she added, stop taking their migraine medication because of side effects.

So there’s a need for additional options, including non-drug ones, said Wells, an associate professor at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C.

To study MBSR, her team recruited 89 patients who were having anywhere from four to 20 “migraine days” a month. The researchers randomly assigned half to the eight-week mindfulness program, and the other half to receive education about migraines. All kept using their standard medications.

Three months later, both study groups had improved similarly on one measure: the number of migraine days. On average, patients reported about two fewer per month.

But the mindfulness group was doing better in other ways, including depression symptoms and how much disability their migraines caused. They also gave improved ratings to their quality of life.

“Those outcomes are very important to patients’ lives,” Wells said.

More research is needed to see what happens in the long run, according to Wells. But, in this study, the improvements in the MBSR group held up over nine months.

It’s hard to know the specific reasons why, Wells said. But, like Cherkin, she pointed to the general principles of MBSR, including the fact that it helps people “live in the present moment,” rather than allowing the mind to spin off.

No one is saying the physical pain is just “in people’s heads.” But the mind is intimately involved in how people experience pain.

“The mind and the body interact,” Cherkin said. “They’re connected.”

If pain treatment does not acknowledge that, he added, it’s a “missed opportunity.”

Beyond specific effects of mindfulness, Cherkin said it’s “empowering” for people to have a way to help themselves, rather than relying solely on treatments given by someone else.

“I think a lot of the benefit has to do with the fact that it engages people in their own care,” he said.

But mindfulness practices are not for everyone. Just as people with an aversion to needles are unlikely to line up for acupuncture, people who view mindfulness as “weird” probably won’t engage with it, Cherkin said.

And active participation is clearly key: The MBSR program is eight weeks, but people have to continue the practices afterward. During the course, they’re encouraged to practice at home every day for 30 minutes.

There can also be practical barriers. The MBSR course is widely available, including online, but there is a cost. And, in general, insurance coverage of mind-body therapies is spotty, Cherkin said.

One question, according to Wells, is whether mindfulness practices in “other formats” could have the same benefit as MBSR. Her team wanted to study a standardized approach, in part, to identify a specific program that works.

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Blocking DNA repair enzyme could help treat certain cancers

Researchers at the Francis Crick Institute have found a new way to prevent some tumors from repairing their own DNA, a function that is essential for cancer cell survival. This discovery could lead to much needed new treatments for certain types of the disease.

In their study, published in Molecular Cell today, the researchers showed that blocking an enzyme called ALC1 in certain human cancer cells in the lab caused the cells to die.

It has emerged that many cancers lose specific DNA repair processes. As a consequence, these cancers become critically dependent on backup DNA repair pathways, which present an ‘Achilles heel’ that can be targeted to kill cancer cells.

Cancers that lack homologous recombination (HR), a key pathway involved in DNA repair, including some breast and ovarian cancers, can be selectively killed by PARP inhibitors. However, in about half of cases, people do not respond to these drugs and of those who do, many will eventually develop resistance.

In the search for urgently needed new drug targets to exploit DNA repair deficiencies, the team studied the effect of removing ALC1, an enzyme which plays an important role in repair of damaged DNA bases. Unexpectedly, cells lacking ALC1 were found to be exquisitely sensitive to PARP inhibitor treatment. Removing ALC1 also conferred synthetic lethality in HR deficient cancers. The researchers also found that HRD cancer patients with higher levels of ALC1 in their tumors were predicted to be less likely to survive.

Simon Boulton, senior author and group leader of the DSB Repair Metabolism Laboratory at the Crick says, “This work provides strong evidence for developing new drugs that block the ALC1 enzyme. If shown to be effective in further studies, these drugs could be used alone or in combination with existing PARP inhibitors to target HRD cancers.”

To understand why this enzyme has this particular effect, the team also analyzed the genomes of human cancer cells where ALC1 had been removed. They observed that without this enzyme, DNA gaps accumulated in the cancer cells, which are normally repaired by HR.

Graeme Hewitt, author and postdoc in the DSB Repair Metabolism Laboratory at the Crick says, “Many different types of cancer have weaknesses in their ability to repair DNA that could be targeted with new treatments.”

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