New assay assesses multiple cellular pathways at once

A novel technological approach developed by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine expands from two to six the number of molecular pathways that can be studied simultaneously in a cell sample with the dual luciferase assay, a type of testing method commonly used across biomedical fields.

Published in the journal Nature Communications, the report shows that multiplexed hextuple luciferase assaying, meaning a testing method that can effectively probe six different pathways. It can also be used to monitor the effects of experimental treatments on multiple molecular targets acting within these pathways. The new assay is sensitive, saves time and expense when compared to traditional approaches, reduces experimental error and can be adapted to any research field where the dual luciferase assay is already implemented, and beyond.

“One of the interests of our lab is to have a better understanding of the processes involved in cancer. Cancer usually originates through changes on many different genes and pathways, not just one, and currently most cell-based screening assays conduct single measurements,” said corresponding author Dr. Koen Venken, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, and pharmacology and chemical biology at Baylor.

To get a more detailed picture of the cellular processes that differentiate normal versus cancer cells, researchers resort to conduct several independent screening assays at the expense of time and additional cost.

“Our goal in this study was to measure multiple cellular pathways at once in a single biological sample, which would also minimize experimental errors resulting from conducting multiple separate assays using different samples,” said Venken, a McNair Scholar and member of the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor.

Dr. Alejandro Sarrion-Perdigones, first author of the paper, focused on developing a multiplexed method—a method for simultaneously detecting many signals from complex systems, such as living cells. He developed a sensitive assay using luciferases, enzymes that produce bioluminescence. The assay includes six luciferases, each one emitting bioluminescence that can be distinguished from the others. Each luciferase was engineered to reveal the activity of a particular pathway by emitting bioluminescence.

“To engineer and deliver the luciferase system to cells, we used a ‘molecular Lego’ approach,” said co-author Dr. Lyra Chang, post-doctoral researchers at the Center for Drug Discovery at Baylor. “This consists of connecting the DNA fragments encoding all the biological and technological information necessary to express each luciferase gene together sequentially forming a single DNA chain called vector. This single vector enters the cells where each luciferase enzyme is produced separately.”

Treating the cells with a single multi-luciferase gene vector instead of using six individual vectors, decreased variability between biological replicates and provided an additional level of experimental control, Chang explained. This approach allowed for simultaneous readout of the activity of five different pathways, compared to just one using traditional approaches, providing a much deeper understanding of cellular pathways of interest.

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South Beach Diet vs. Nutrisystem: Which Is Better?

There are many different diets and approaches to weight loss that you can try when it’s time to shed a few pounds. Some have been around longer than others, and some require a little more effort on the part of the dieter. Two common diets that many people turn to when they want some help losing weight include the South Beach diet and Nutrisystem.

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South Beach Diet Overview

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In 2003, cardiologist Arthur Agatston published a best-selling book titled, “The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss.” This book established the principles of his now widely used South Beach diet, that aims to help people lose weight and improve heart health. Additional books with recipes and tips followed, and eventually an entire diet company was born, with options for a meal delivery service for people seeking to follow the plan.

The basic premise of the South Beach diet uses a phased process and a good-bad approach to certain carbohydrates and fats to help dieters shed weight quickly. Dieters start with a 14-day restriction phase, called phase 1, in which bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, baked goods, sweets, ice cream, alcohol, sugar and even fruit are strictly off limits. The idea is to halt sugar dependence and shake up the metabolism to shift the body into a fat-burning mode.

The diet promises to help you drop 8 to 13 pounds in that first two weeks if you follow it to the letter. It also boasts of improved internal health, with a focus on better cardiovascular health.

“You will have corrected the way your body reacts to the very foods that made you overweight,” Agatston explains in his book. “There’s a switch inside you that had been turned on. Now, simply by modifying your diet, you’ll have turned it off. The physical cravings that ruled your eating habits will be gone, and they’ll stay away as long as you stick with the program.”




After that initial two weeks, you’ll begin adding back some carbohydrates, but only the good ones such as brown rice and some fruits. This phase 2 is designed to be less restrictive, and you’ll stay in this phase until you reach your goal weight. You can expect to lose about 1 to 2 pounds per week in phase 2, which conforms to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about safe and sustainable weight loss.

The third and final phase of the diet is a “more liberal” maintenance phase intended for dieters who have achieved their desired weight loss, Agatston writes. This phase is intended to be followed long term and looks a bit like a Mediterranean diet with lots of vegetables and fresh fish, lean meats and some dairy.

Across all phases of the diet, the South Beach approach favors inclusion of low-glycemic carbohydrates over high-glycemic carbs. Low-GI carbs do not trigger as intense an insulin response in the body, meaning that they can help you maintain a steady blood sugar level. A steady blood sugar level eliminates spikes and crashes in blood sugar, which can affect energy levels throughout the day or trigger overeating in some people.

The diet also emphasizes healthy fats. Instead of unhealthy saturated and trans fats, such as can be found in baked goods, processed meats and French fries, the diet includes healthier monounsaturated fats such as olive oil and avocado. These foods have been linked with positive implications for heart health.

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Nutrisystem Overview

Founded in 1972 as a brick-and-mortar operation in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, Nutrisystem has grown to become one of the leading providers of prepared meals and nutritional support for people seeking to lose weight. The company offers counseling and a range of resources for members via the phone and internet.




“Nutrisystem is a program that looks at balanced nutrition,” says Courtney McCormick, a registered dietitian and manager of clinical research and nutrition with Nutrisystem. Portion control and management of blood sugars are the name of the game.

Nutrisystem relies on an understanding of the glycemic index – values assigned to foods based on how they impact blood sugar levels – to drive its program. A lower-carb, higher protein ratio can help support weight loss, and that principle guides the company’s approach to nutrition. Nutrisystem also seeks to keep carbohydrate intake consistent throughout the day, which can help eliminate spikes and crashes in blood sugar that can lead some people to overeat.

Clients purchase pre-made food items directly from the company, but are also encouraged to supplement these ready-to-eat meals with fresh foods and their own meals. “We provide about 60% of the person’s calories for the day, and then we provide guidance for them to add in fresh grocery additions,” McCormick says. Clients can select from a variety of shelf-stable and frozen prepared options.

Web-based resources, including a new app and lifestyle blog, are also intended to support today’s dieter. But the company still emphasizes personal counseling and support. “Everyone who’s on our program has access to nutritional counselors,” McCormick explains. “They can call in anytime they have questions or need motivation.”

For dieters with diabetes, these resources include certified diabetes counselors. “They can help those individuals personalize their meal plans,” she says.

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Health Benefits

Both the South Beach diet and Nutrisystem can help you achieve weight loss, and thus they can induce health benefits. The health benefits of losing weight if you’re overweight or obese are well documented and include reduced blood pressure, reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes, reduced risk of stroke and reduced risk of some cancers.

South Beach. Registered dietitian and certified sports nutritionist Shawn Wells, based in Dallas/Fort Worth, says one of the benefits of the South Beach diet is that it can make you more aware of what you’re eating and how those foods might impact your health. “It encourages fresh, whole foods, which is optimal.” The phased approach is good because it “allows for progress as you are on the diet.” He says the idea that you need to “earn” your carbs is another helpful way of thinking about food as fuel that can encourage more physical activity. “When you’re exercising, you allow yourself more carbohydrates as you can utilize this fuel.”

Nutrisystem. With Nutrisystem, because you don’t have to count calories or weigh food, that takes a lot of the guesswork out of sticking with the plan and staying on target to lose weight. Having access to nutritional counselors and coaches is also a helpful way to stay motivated and work towards your goal in a healthy way.

Health Risks

South Beach. Wells says that while the South Beach diet can trigger weight loss, “it may be too low in fat for improving heart health. The Mediterranean, Atkins and keto diets are higher in healthy fats and have been shown to improve heart health,” but the South Beach diet is lower in fat. “Low-fat diets actually lower HDL,” which is the good type of cholesterol that can actually protect your cardiovascular health. Because low-fat diets can make these levels drop, that could “possibly put you at higher risk for heart disease,” he explains. Therefore, he cautions against becoming “fat-phobic” as a means of cutting calories when using the South Beach diet.

Also, because the diet can be restrictive, especially in the first phase, it can be triggering for individuals who currently have an eating disorder or those who have battled eating disorders in the past. Wells also notes that the South Beach diet is likely unnecessary for some people, specifically those who are very active. “Lean, insulin-sensitive athletes may not need to follow the South Beach diet at all, or those working highly intensive jobs,” because they get so much exercise. This diet is more helpful for “the sedentary, insulin-resistant individual.”

Nutrisystem. The Nutrisystem program is balanced, so if you’re eating a variety of foods, it should cover all your nutritional bases. In response to user feedback that the diet could be a little too rigid, especially when dieters are faced with social events or other food-centric experiences where they can’t be in full control, McCormick says the company has built in more flexibility.

“We have more flex meals, and that gives the customer the opportunity to learn how to make their own meals or go out to dinner and still be following the program and be successful on it,” she says.

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Cost

South Beach. If you’re doing your own approach to the South Beach diet, you’ll be doing your own meal planning, shopping and preparation. This can result in significant cost savings when compared to using a meal delivery service. However, the South Beach diet company does offer such a service, with several different plans available. The sliver plan starts at $10.36 per day and includes a four-week Body Reboot Kit, choice of meals and free FedEx shipping. The gold plan starts at $11.79 per day and is the company’s most popular plan. It offers the four-week Body Rebook Kit, a wider selection of meals and foods to choose from and free FedEx shipping. The platinum plan starts at $12.86 per day, and in addition to all the perks of the gold plan, it also includes 20 South Beach Simply Fit shakes that are keto-friendly.

The company’s Diabetes Gold Plan is aimed at helping people with Type 2 diabetes lose weight and better control blood sugars. That plan starts at $11.79 per day. The company also offers a 1-week Body Rebook Kit, which costs $99.99. It’s designed for people with less than 10 pounds to lose and includes specially selected breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks and shakes.

Nutrisystem. The four-week basic plan starts at $8.10 per day (for women; $9.20 per day for men). It includes five Nutrisystem breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks each week and free FedEx shipping. The top-rated Uniquely Yours program starts at $9.89 a day ($10.99 for men) and includes everything in the basic plan plus a choice of over 160 menu items, unlimited frozen meals and snacks and freedom to pick the frozen and non-frozen foods you want.

The top of the line plan, called Uniquely Yours Ultimate, starts at $10.99 per day ($12.09 for men) and includes all the Uniquely Yours benefits plus seven Nutrisystem breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks each week. It’s the best option for people who need additional structure and convenience throughout the week. The company also customizes plans for those with diabetes and those who prefer to eat a vegetarian diet. The company often runs incentives to make getting started a little cheaper.

Which Is Better?

The South Beach diet tied for No. 20 overall in U.S. News’ 2019 Best Diets rankings. For weight loss, it tied for 17th place. Nutrisystem tied for 23rd place in Best Diets Overall and tied for 12th place in the Best Weight-Loss Diets category.

For faster weight loss, the South Beach diet might be your better option. The diet promises to strip 8 to 13 pounds off your frame within the first two weeks during the restrictive, super-low carb phase. That can jump-start a more sustainable weight-loss effort for some people. For steadier and potentially more sustainable weight loss, Nutrisystem relies on the tried-and-true 1 to 2 pounds weight loss per week standard that the CDC says is healthy.

Because Nutrisystem takes the guesswork out of preparing meals, that can be a big benefit for some people who are either too busy or uninterested in cooking their own food. If you choose to use one of the South Beach diet company’s food delivery plans, you’ll also be freed of having to plan, shop and cook your meals. However, this can also have a downside in that once you’ve reached your goal weight, you may have some difficulty transitioning to a more do-it-yourself approach to long-term maintenance of weight loss.

Though not much long-term data exists about the efficacy of either diet, one 2015 study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that dieters on Nutrisystem experienced at least 3.8% greater weight loss at three months than the control group.

Elaine K. Howley, Contributor

Elaine Howley began writing for U.S. News in 2017, covering breast cancer and COPD. Since …  Read more

Sources

Courtney McCormick, RD, MPH; Shawn Wells, MPH, LDN, RD, CISSN

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Major Milestone Achieved on the Road to Banning Horse Slaughter

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Today, on the National Day of the Horse, we are celebrating a major milestone in the fight to end horse slaughter. There are now officially 218 U.S. Representatives committed to vote in favor of the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, a federal ban on this grisly practice.

Why is 218 important? This number represents more than half of the members in the U.S. House, and our democratic process should now allow this bill to move to the floor of the House for a vote. Thank you to each and every one of you who has worked so hard with us to help secure this moment; majority support for the SAFE Act has never been achieved this swiftly and early in a session of Congress. We appreciate your commitment and we ask you to stay with us through this next important phase of work.

A gap exists in our federal laws that enables horses to be plucked from auctions and pastures and sent over our borders to be butchered for foreign demand. For each year that passes without fully closing this loophole, we lose at least 80,000 equine companions, athletes and work partners to this tragic fate.

As we’ve been on the ground in communities providing vet care, euthanasia, and rehoming support, we have learned from owners that the continued looming threat of horse slaughter is often what causes them to hold on to their horses beyond their own limits. Sadly, this sometimes leads to the very neglect and harm we seek to prevent. We must eliminate any legal option for horse slaughter for the sake of our country’s horses—and for their owners, who agonize about releasing them to new homes for fear they will fall into the slaughter pipeline. It is past time to pass the SAFE Act.

Time and time again, Congress has affirmed its commitment to ending horse slaughter and keeping this industry off American soil by barring federal funds that would allow it—this is truly a rare issue of bipartisan agreement. But the final step of making it permanent and prohibiting the export of our horses is the most critical piece of this work. We must press on to close the door on this practice once and for all. 

With majority support in the U.S. House, we now have the best opportunity to end horse slaughter we’ve seen in years. We must get over the finish line this Congress, and we need your help to do it! Please visit the ASPCA Advocacy Center to quickly and easily contact your members of Congress and urge them to support and pass the SAFE Act.

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Tracking titin in real time

Using new high-resolution imaging techniques, MDC researchers and colleagues have tracked titin, the body’s largest protein, in real time throughout its entire lifecycle. The method and results could provide new insight into muscle development as well as treating damaged muscles and heart disease.

As twinkling lights brighten the holiday season, Max Delbrueck Center for Molecular Medicine researchers are cheered by red and green lights for an entirely different reason. Using colorful probes, a team has tracked the full lifecycle of titin, the body’s largest protein known to play a key role in muscle tissue. Observing titin from synthesis to degradation has provided novel insight into the formation of sarcomeres, the main contractile units of heart and skeletal muscle. The results were reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Titin is such a large molecule that its analysis provides unique challenges. The team attached red and green fluorescent tags to opposite ends of the protein, enabling them to observe titin’s precise movements in muscle cells derived from the mouse heart, called cardiomyocytes.

“Cardiomyocytes are highly specialized and cannot skip a beat,” said Michael Gotthardt, who heads MDC’s Neuromuscular and Cardiovascular Cell Biology Lab and spearheaded the research. “We can watch how titin is made and inserted into the myofilament while everything is still working. It’s beautiful to see.”

Not just a pretty picture

The insight gained from being able to watch titin in real time is significant. Titin has long been assumed to be the rigid backbone of sarcomeres, the basic functional segments of heart and skeletal muscles that expand and contract. It turns out that titin is much more dynamic than previously thought, Gotthardt said.

Heart muscle cells appear to have a pool of soluble titin spread throughout the sarcomere, ready to replace proteins damaged in the repetitive process of muscle expansion and contraction. Overextended proteins are moved out of the cells and then degraded. All of this happens over the course of a few hours, which sounds fast, but is actually much longer than for any other sarcomeric protein.

The large amount of titin located outside the sarcomere was a surprise, seen for the first time thanks to the new genetic mouse model and imaging technique, Gotthardt said. Another unexpected finding was the diversity of titin molecules, called isoforms, that were observed. Faster moving proteins are likely different isoforms than slower moving ones.

“This is a look at the real life of the sarcomere,” Gotthardt said. “We can understand the formation and remodeling of the myofilament structure, which has relevance to human disease and development.”

Potential applications

The fluorescent probes can help researchers study how muscles rebuild themselves after exercise, or how heart muscles remodel after a heart attack. They might also help to better understand heart diseases associated with mutations in other sarcomeric proteins, said Franziska Rudolph, first author of the paper.

“This is amazing, to follow endogenous titin variants in real time from start to finish,” Rudolph said. “So many experiments are possible with these mouse models and different imaging techniques.”

For example, the technique could potentially be used to track implanted cells to see how well they are integrating with the native muscle fiber, and if they properly connect with their new neighbors to work as a unit or not. Such insight could show if cell based therapies are effective.

Validating the novel tools and establishing methods for image analysis was a challenge and required the collaboration with colleagues from MDC’s Berlin Institute for Medical Systems Biology, University Medical Center Goettingen, and the University of Arizona. The team worked hard to show how the fluorescent proteins, which are genetically generated, had no unexpected side effects on muscle or titin development and function.

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The truth about your thinning hair

If you notice your hair isn’t quite as thick and lustrous as it once was, you’re not alone. According to trichologist Anabel Kingsley of the Philip Kingsley Clinic, around a third of all women will experience some amount of hair loss over their lifetime (via Cosmopolitan). For those who have experienced (or are currently dealing with) with thinning hair, it can be stressful, and at times, it can even be alarming. 

Not only are you likely to be seeing more strands of your hair on hairbrush than usual or more hair in the drain when showering, losing hair can even affect your mental health, leading you to feel insecure, anxious, or depressed. This is why it’s so important to understand why your hair is falling out in order to combat it.

Kingsley believes the reason for hair thinning generally falls into two categories: genetics, meaning you were born with hair follicles that are likely to thin over time, and reactive, meaning something has triggered it. As Kingsley told Cosmopolitan, “Excessive daily hair shedding (which is know as telogen effluvium) is not reliant on having a genetic predisposition, it occurs as the result of an internal imbalance or upset, such as a nutritional deficiency, severe stress, crash dieting, or an illness.”

Several factors can trigger hair thinning

“While our hair is incredibly important to us psychologically, physiologically it is non-essential; we could survive without it with no detriment to our physical health,” Kingsley explains. “This means that any nutritional deficiency often first shows up in our hair.” For this reason, Kingsley lists vitamin B12 deficiency, iron deficiency, and weight loss as common triggers for hair thinning. Other triggers include stress, hormones, thyroid disease (most commonly hypothyroidism), and age.

If you are experience hair thinning or loss, Kingsley recommends scheduling an appointment with your regular doctor or an endocrinologist to get to the root of the cause. Most of the time, all you need to do is make some changes to your diet, like adding more protein or carbs, and style your hair less to avoid adding any extra stress, but it could be something that needs some medical attention. 

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Do weighted blankets really work?

Weighted blankets are believed to one of the best solutions for those who have trouble sleeping. According to Dr. Cristina Cusin, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, they have been used for decades, and are popular with adults and children who have autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHA), insomnia, or anxiety. Speaking to Harvard Health Publishing, Cusin explained, “It is one of the sensory tools commonly used in psychiatric units. Patients who are in distress may choose different types of sensory activities — holding a cold object, smelling particular aromas, manipulating dough, building objects, doing arts and crafts — to try to calm down.” But do weighted blankets really work?

As of March 2019, there is no solid evidence to support claims associated with weighted blankets. According to Cusin, this is due to the fact that there are too many variables to complete a study accurately. “A randomized clinical trial to test the blankets would be very difficult,” she said, adding, “And it’s unlikely that somebody would sponsor such a study.” An example of why a randomized trial would be difficult is that people will immediately be able to feel the difference between a regular blanket and a weighted blanket.

Weighted blanket are a form of pressure therapy

Though there are no clinical trials that prove the effectiveness of weighted blankets, Penn Medicine explains that weighted blankets are simply an extension of pressure therapy, describing them as the equivalent to a hug. Pressure therapy works to calm you, affecting your nervous system and lowering your heart rate. Using ADHA as an example, Dr. Martin L. Levinson, MD, FACP, FCCP, a physician at Penn Sleep Center Cherry Hill, told Penn Medicine, “Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder have a harder time with self-control, especially when it comes to paying attention and sitting still,” which can lead to various social issues. As the pressure of a weighted blanket aids in relaxing those with ADHA, it can help them fall asleep. The effect is similar for those with autism.

According to WebMD, one industry-funded study did show that 31 men and women reported calmer night’s sleep after using the blanket for two weeks.

Ultimately, the effectiveness of weighted blankets differs person to person, so if you’re having trouble sleeping, the best thing to do is talk to your doctor and determine whether or not it’s something that might work for you.

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Safety First! How to Protect Your Baby Monitors and Home Security Cameras Against Hackers

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After an 8-year-old Mississippi girl was allegedly contacted by a stranger through a Ring camera in her bedroom, many parents are wondering what they can do to make sure their own security devices are safe from hackers.

“The problem is that many users do not think of these devices as working just the same as a computer; they have the false ideal that something as innocent as a baby monitor cannot put their homes and families at risk,” reads a March 2018 blog post on the National Cyber Security Alliance’s website, written by parenting expert Giselle May. “Without proper security, infant monitors can be an open door into your life.”

The post goes on to offer tips on keeping your baby monitors safe, like researching the most well-reviewed products, knowing the “ins and outs” of your device well enough should an incident occur and purchasing a monitor with a frequency-hopping spread spectrum (FHSS) radio signal as opposed to direct-sequence spread spectrum (DSSS).

“[FHSS] limits outside access by randomly hopping frequencies at an incredible rate (the Federal Communications Commission requires that devices spread over 75 frequencies within a period of 400 milliseconds), making it harder to establish a connection,” May explains.

Other tips for secure baby monitors, according to May, include options for a digital monitor rather than an analog one, regularly updating related software, making sure your wireless network is secure with a custom network ID and password (changed from the default manufacturer setting), disabling SSID broadcasting to hide your Wi-Fi network from prying eyes and encrypting your wireless data.

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Mom in kitchen with baby monitor

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As far as keeping home security cameras protected against hackers, Craig Shue — an associate professor in computer science — told TIME that he recommends regularly changing passwords (as well as ensuring passwords are unique across a user’s various devices and accounts) and activating two-factor authentication.

“I would also encourage everybody to do their own form of risk assessment and determine what they need in these devices and whether it’s worth the risk to have that functionality,” Shue added. “It’s kind of crazy that we use passwords as a line of defense for a sensitive device.”

For general web safety, Consumer Reports urges individuals to update router firmware, turn off router features you aren’t using (this will allow fewer ways in) and ensuring WPA3 or WPA2 encryption are turned on.

“Don’t use WEP, an outdated security protocol,” says NBC News. “Consumer Reports found that some new models still make WEP encryption an option. If your current router only has WEP or WPA encryption, get rid of it.”

In chilling video footage recently obtained by outlets including ABC News, The Washington Post and WMC-TV, Ashley LeMay’s daughter Alyssa could be seen walking into the room when strange music started playing from the Ring camera. A man’s voice then started talking to the girl.

“At first she was trying to figure out where the noise is coming from,” LeMay explained to PEOPLE of the scary incident. “It’s a man’s voice. At first she thought it was her dad; you can see her walk out the door and say, ‘I can’t hear you,’ speaking to her father.”

According to the Post, the full video shows the male voice repeatedly using a racial slur and telling Alyssa to misbehave. LeMay told PEOPLE that the voice also tried to convince her he was Santa Claus. LeMay said her husband heard their daughter yell, “Mommy, Mommy!” as the voice continued to talk to her, and he went into the room and discerned that their camera may have been hacked.

“I really thought he was just kidding because that’s my worst nightmare,” LeMay added. “I watched part of the video because I’m like, ‘Surely he’s just messing with me’ — and then I heard the voice and that was all I needed to hear.”

Baby monitor

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In a statement to PEOPLE, a Ring spokesperson said, “Customer trust is important to us and we take the security of our devices seriously. Our security team has investigated this incident and we have no evidence of an unauthorized intrusion or compromise of Ring’s systems or network.”

“Recently, we were made aware of an incident where malicious actors obtained some Ring users’ account credentials (e.g., username and password) from a separate, external, non-Ring service and reused them to log in to some Ring accounts,” the statement continued. “Unfortunately, when the same username and password is reused on multiple services, it’s possible for bad actors to gain access to many accounts.”

The statement concluded, “Upon learning of the incident, we took appropriate actions to promptly block bad actors from known affected Ring accounts and affected users have been contacted. Consumers should always practice good password hygiene and we encourage Ring customers to change their passwords and enable two-factor authentication.”

Ring also posted a similar message in a blog post on Thursday.

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Salmonella the most common cause of foodborne outbreaks in the European Union

Nearly one in three foodborne outbreaks in the EU in 2018 were caused by Salmonella. This is one of the main findings of the annual report on trends and sources of zoonoses published today by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

In 2018, EU Member States reported 5 146 foodborne outbreaks affecting 48 365 people. A foodborne disease outbreak is an incident during which at least two people contract the same illness from the same contaminated food or drink.

Slovakia, Spain and Poland accounted for 67% of the 1581 Salmonella outbreaks. These outbreaks were mainly linked to eggs.

“Findings from our latest Eurobarometer show that less than one third of European citizens rank food poisoning from bacteria among their top five concerns when it comes to food safety. The number of reported outbreaks suggests that there’s room for raising awareness among consumers as many foodborne illnesses are preventable by improving hygiene measures when handling and preparing food” said EFSA’s chief scientist Marta Hugas.

Salmonellosis was the second most commonly reported gastrointestinal infection in humans in the EU (91 857 cases reported), after campylobacteriosis (246,571).

West Nile virus and STEC infections at unusually high levels

By far the highest increase in the zoonoses covered by this report was in the number of West Nile virus infections. Cases of this zoonotic mosquito-borne disease were seven times higher than in 2017 (1605 versus 212) and exceeded all cases reported between 2011 and 2017.

“The reasons for the peak in 2018 are not fully understood yet. Factors like temperature, humidity or rainfall have been shown to influence seasonal activity of mosquitoes and may have played a role. While we cannot predict how intense the next transmission seasons will be, we know that the West Nile virus is actively circulating in many countries in the EU, affecting humans, horses and birds. ECDC is stepping up its support to countries in the areas of surveillance, preparedness, communication and vector control”, said ECDC’s chief scientist Mike Catchpole.

Most locally acquired West Nile virus infections were reported by Italy (610), Greece (315) and Romania (277). Czechia and Slovenia reported their first cases since 2013. Italy and Hungary have also registered an increasing number of West Nile virus outbreaks in horses and other equine species in recent years.

Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) has become the third most common cause of foodborne zoonotic disease with 8 161 reported cases—replacing yersiniosis with a 37% increase compared to 2017. This may be partly explained by the growing use of new laboratory technologies, making the detection of sporadic cases easier.

The number of people affected by listeriosis in 2018 is similar to 2017 (2 549 in 2018 against 2 480 the previous year). However, the trend has been upward over the past ten years. Of the zoonotic diseases covered by the report, listeriosis accounts for the highest proportion of hospitalised cases (97%) and highest number of deaths (229), making it one of the most serious foodborne diseases.

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Breast cancer risk from menopause hormones may last decades

Women who use certain types of hormones after menopause still have an increased risk of developing breast cancer nearly two decades after they stop taking the pills, long-term results from a big federal study suggest.

Although the risk is very small, doctors say a new generation of women entering menopause now may not be aware of landmark findings from 2002 that tied higher breast cancer rates to hormone pills combining estrogen and progestin.

“The message is probably not clear” that even short-term use may have lasting effects, said Dr. Rowan Chlebowski of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, California. He discussed the new results Friday at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

The results are from the Women’s Health Initiative, a federally funded study that tested pills that doctors long thought would help prevent heart disease, bone loss and other problems in women after menopause. More than 16,000 women ages 50 to 70 were given combination hormone or dummy pills for five to six years.

The main part of the study was stopped in 2002 when researchers surprisingly saw more heart problems and breast cancers among hormone users. Women were advised to stop treatment but doctors have continued to study them and have information on about two-thirds.

With roughly 19 years of followup, 572 breast cancers have occurred in women on hormones versus 431 among those on dummy pills. That worked out to a 29% greater risk of developing the disease for hormone takers.

Still, it was a difference of just 141 cases over many years, so women with severe hot flashes and other menopause symptoms may decide that the benefits of the pills outweigh their risks, doctors say. The advice remains to use the lowest possible dose for the shortest time.

Why might hormones raise breast risk?

“The hormones are stimulating the cells to grow” and it can take many years for a tumor to form and be detected, said Dr. C. Kent Osborne, a Baylor College of Medicine breast cancer expert.

Women are prescribed hormones in combination because taking estrogen alone raises the risk of uterine cancer. However, one-quarter of women over 50 no longer have a uterus and can take estrogen alone for menopause symptoms.

So the same study tested estrogen alone versus dummy pills in more than 10,000 such women, and the conclusion was opposite what was seen with combination hormones. Women on estrogen alone for seven years had a 23% lower risk of developing breast cancer up to 19 years later. There were 231 cases among them versus 289 in the placebo group.

These results contradict what some observational studies have found, though, and doctors do not recommend any hormone use to try to prevent disease because of the murky picture of risks and benefits.

The federal study only tested hormone pills; getting hormones through a patch or a vaginal ring may not carry the same risks or benefits.

The results are another reason that hormone users should follow guidelines to get regular mammograms to check for cancer, said Dr. Jennifer Litton, a breast specialist at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

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HIMSSCast: Cybersecurity is out of the basement and into the spotlight

Other coverage from the Healthcare Security Forum:

What we learned at the HIMSS Healthcare Security Forum

Machine learning, AI, telemedicine and other technologies will pose data security risks, says Dr. John Halamka

Former Twitter CISO: Biggest cybersecurity threats are old problems, not new ones

Cybersecurity needs to be put in business terms

HHS cybersecurity leader describes the active threats on agency’s radar

Managing risk in a hyper-outsourcing world requires facilitating good vendor relationships

Hospitals embracing IoT must be prepared to secure a decentralized environment

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