Zinc helps the immune system fight infections, including the common cold

Ohio: A new scientific study has revealed how the mineral zinc stops the immune system from spiralling out of control, as happens when people develop life-threatening infections.
The researchers say the findings could also explain why taking zinc supplements at the start of a cold can prevent it becoming worse.

Zinc tablets

The researchers from Ohio State University had shown that zinc-deficiency could lead to excessive inflammation, which is what happens in  sepsis, when in response to a severe infection, the body goes into overdrive, with potentially fatal consequences.
Through further experiments in human cells and animal studies the researchers found that a protein called NF-kB lured zinc into the immune cells that responded fastest to fight infection.
Once inside, the zinc then put the brakes on further activity in the NF-kB pathway, slowing down the immune response and limiting the amount of inflammation, the study, in Cell Reports, indicated.
Study leader, Dr Daren Knoell, said: “The immune system has to work under very strict balance, and this is a classic example of where more is not always better.
“We want a robust inflammatory response, which is part of our natural programming to defend us against a bug.
“But if that is unchecked, and there is too much inflammation, then it not only attacks the pathogen but can also cause much more collateral damage.”
He added that the finding narrowed the gap in scientists’ understanding of the role zinc had in fighting infection, but that it was too early to make the leap to zinc as a treatment for sepsis.
Zinc has been shown to reduce the severity of the common cold in humans and possibly shorten its duration.
“Whether this is because of improved balance in immune function, similar to what we report with sepsis, remains to be proven but perhaps requires further study,” Dr Knoell said.
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UK patients implanted with stolen body parts, authorities admit

London: London: UK patients have been implanted with stolen body parts which may be potentially contaminated, the country’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority has confirmed.

Over 70 pieces of bone have been grafted into the patients in 20 hospitals in the UK after they were imported from the New Jersey company Biomedical Tissue Services (BTS). The company which has now been shut down and is under investigation by the US Food & Drug Administration.

The imported bones were harvested by the firm from corpses in US funeral parlours without the deceased family’s consent and without proper checks to ensure the bodies were disease free. The stolen bodies included that of veteran broadcaster Alistair Cooke, who died of cancer last year, aged 95.

Although many of the bones were recalled after a safety alert, 77 implants had already been grafted into the hips and jaw bones of British patients. These patients have been offered screening for diseases such as HIV, hepatitis and syphillis which can be transmitted from the bones of the dead.

The scandal has exposed a growing trade in body tissue, bones and ligaments which are harvested in the US and exported around the world. In the US it is illegal to sell bodies directly to the US tissue banks which take ownership of the bodies after death but they sell them on to commercial companies who harvest, store and process the samples.

Imports to the UK have increased as there is a shortage of these parts which are used to repair serious fractures and as dental implants.

The UK government responsible for monitoring this trade, the Human Tissue Authority does not know which countries export skin, bone and ligaments to Britain or even the quantities.

The export of the particularly batch to Britain by BTS is confirmed by the Medicines and Healthcare products REgulatory Authority, the agency responsible for ensuring the safety of medical treatments. They said the patients had received what is known as allografts to fill holes in jaws and hip bones.

Regulators say the chance of infection is low as the bones were steralised prior to implantation.

The company BTS was forced to close last autumn after allegations that it had forged consent forms and other documents to gain access to dead bodies from undertakers.

Among the bodies desecrated was that of Alistair Cooke, whose bones were stolen and recyled. The US authories also claim that BTS did not carry out proper screening of the bodies. Also the bones of elderly people may not be suitable for transplants as they are more likely to have degenerative bone diseases such as osteroporosis.

The director of the company, Michael Mastromarina, a dentist who lost his practising licence because of drug addiction, and two assistants, face criminal charges including soliciting undertakers to prove illegally body parts such as tendons, skin and bone from corpses.