ISLAMABAD  – Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health have indicated that anxiety, stress and depression during pregnancy may lead to a greater risk of asthma for the offspring.

“Approximately 70 percent of mothers who said they experienced high levels of anxiety or depression while they were pregnant reported their child had wheezed before age 5,” said Marilyn Reyes, senior research worker at the Mailman School of Public Health’s Columbia Centre for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH), and lead author of the study.

“Understanding how maternal health affects a child’s respiratory health is important in developing effective strategies to prevent asthma,” she added.

The study of 279 inner-city women was conducted before, during pregnancy and after birth.

The findings support a growing body of research showing that exposures can influence the risk of developing asthma. The study has been published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the scientific journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).

A glass of milk could contain painkillers

Scientists have found that a glass of milk may contain up to 20 painkillers, antibiotics and growth hormones. Through a highly sensitive test, scientists found a host of chemicals used to treat illnesses in animals and people in samples of cow, goat and human breast milk, a newspaper reported.

Though the doses of drugs were far too little to create an effect on anyone drinking them, the results highlight how man-made chemicals were now found through out the food chain. The highest quantities of medicines were found in cow’s milk.

Researchers believe some of the drugs and growth promoters were given to the cattle, or got into milk through cattle feed or contamination on the farm. A Spanish-Moroccan team analysed 20 samples of cow’s milk bought in Spain and Morocco, along with samples of goat and breast milk.

Their breakdown, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, revealed that cow’s milk contained traces of anti-inflammatory drugs niflumic acid, mefenamic acid and ketoprofen - commonly used as painkillers in animals and people.

It also contained the hormone 17-beta-estradiol, a form of the sex hormone oestrogen. The researchers claim their new 30-minute test is the most sensitive of its kind.

 If the findings are true for Spanish and Moroccan milk, they could equally be true for milk produced in Britain and northern Europe

A safer, effective option to treat brain cancer

Scientists have developed a new way to avoid virus, potential complications in gene therapy-by using nano-particles that can be freeze-dried and stored for up to three months prior to use.

“Most non-viral gene therapy methods have very low efficacy,” says Jordan Green, PhD, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins.

“Nanoparticle-based gene therapy has the potential to be both safer and more effective than conventional chemical therapies for the treatment of cancer.”

To develop the nano-particle, Green’s team started with store-bought small molecules and systematically mixed combinations together to generate chemical reactions that resulted in different polymers.

They then mixed DNA that encodes a glowing protein with each different polymer to allow the DNA to bind to the polymers and form nano-particles.

Each different sample was added to human brain tumour cells and human brain tumour stem cells. After 48 hours, the team examined and counted how many cells glowed from having taken up the nano-particles and made the glowing protein encoded by the introduced DNA.

 The team rated success by counting how many cells survived and what percentage of those cells glowed.

Of the many combinations they tested, the researchers found that one particular formulation of so-called poly (beta-amino ester) nano-particles did particularly well at getting into both glioblastoma and brain tumour stem cells.

The researchers then freeze-dried these nano-particles and stored them at different temperatures (freezer, refrigerator and room temperature) for different lengths of time (one, two and up to three months), and then retested their ability to get into cells.

According to Green, after six months storage, the effectiveness dropped by about half, but they found that up to three months storage at room temperature there was virtually no change in effectiveness.

Furthermore, the team found that certain nano-particles had a particular affinity for brain tumour cells over healthy brain cells. The study will be published in the journal