January 30, 2009, 6:24 AM CT
Protein that may explain 'healthy' obesity
Dr. Philipp Scherer
Mice whose fat cells were allowed to grow larger than fat cells in normal mice developed "healthy" obesity when fed a high-fat diet, scientists at.
UT Southwestern Medical Center found in a newly released study.
The fat but healthy mice lacked a protein called collagen VI, which normally surrounds fat cells and limits how large they can grow, like a cage around a water balloon. The findings appear online and in a future edition of Molecular and Cellular Biology.
"The mice lacking collagen VI fared much better metabolically than their counterparts that retained this particular collagen," said Dr. Philipp Scherer, director of the Touchstone Center for Diabetes Research at.
UT Southwestern and the study's senior author. "The mice without collagen VI don't develop inflammation or insulin resistance. They still get obese, but it's a 'healthy' obesity".
When people take in more calories than needed, excess calories are stored in adipose or fatty tissue. The fat cells are embedded in and secrete substances into an extracellular matrix, a type of connective tissue that provides support to fat tissue, like scaffolding. Collagen VI is one component of the extracellular matrix. Too much of this connective tissue prevents individual cells from expanding and can lead to fibrosis and eventually inflammation.........
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January 30, 2009, 6:20 AM CT
Exercise for chronic back and neck pain
Exercise is usually used to improve physical function, decrease symptoms and minimize disability caused by chronic low back or neck pain. Numerous randomized trials and clinical practice guidelines have supported this practice, and studies suggest that individually tailored, supervised exercise programs are linked to the best outcomes.
Nevertheless, there is a lack of knowledge about exercise prescription, including who is prescribing it, who is getting it and what type of exercise is being prescribed. A newly released study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, examined these questions and observed that exercise appears to be underutilized for chronic back and neck pain. The study was reported in the recent issue of Arthritis Care & Research
Led by Timothy S. Carey and Janet K. Freburger of the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, scientists conducted a telephone survey of almost 700 individuals with chronic back or neck pain who saw a physician, chiropractor and/or physical therapist (PT) during the prior 12 months. They asked participants whether they were prescribed exercise, the amount of supervision received, and the type, duration and frequency of the prescribed exercise.........
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January 30, 2009, 6:18 AM CT
Fluorouracil-based Therapy May Cure Colon Cancer
Adjuvant fluorouracil-based chemotherapy can lead to significant disease-free survival in colon cancer patients and may do even better in some, scientists report in an advance on-line issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
As lead investigator Dr. Daniel Sargent told Reuters Health, "The primary clinical implications of this research are that adjuvant fluorouracil-based therapy actually cures colon cancer patients -- as opposed to simply delaying a recurrence -- and that most relapses occur in the first 2 years after surgery".
Dr. Sargent of the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, and his colleagues analyzed data from 18 trials involving more than 20,800 patients with stage II or III colon cancer. The scientists observed a significant benefit of adjuvant chemotherapy over 8 years of follow-up.
Significant disease-free survival benefit was seen in the first 2 years. However, after this point there were no significant differences from untreated controls.
Nevertheless, the recurrence rates were less than 1.5% per year after 5 years, and 0.5% per year after 8 years. "The risk of recurrence in patients treated with adjuvant chemotherapy never exceeds that of control patients, signifying that adjuvant chemotherapy cures some patients," the researchers explain.........
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January 30, 2009, 6:15 AM CT
Bone marrow transplant for multiple sclerosis
Scientists from Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine appear to have reversed the neurological dysfunction of early-stage multiple sclerosis patients by transplanting their own immune stem cells into their bodies and thereby "resetting" their immune systems.
"This is the first time we have turned the tide on this disease," said principal investigator Richard Burt, M.D. chief of immunotherapy for autoimmune diseases at the Feinberg School. The clinical trial waccording toformed at Northwestern Memorial Hospital where Burt holds the same title.
The patients in the small phase I/II trial continued to improve for up to 24 months after the transplantation procedure and then stabilized. They experienced improvements in areas in which they had been affected by multiple sclerosis including walking, ataxia, limb strength, vision and incontinence. The study will be published online January 30 and in the recent issue of The Lancet Neurology
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the central nervous system. Typically in its early stages, the disease is characterized by intermittent neurological symptoms, called relapsing-remitting MS. During this time, the person will either fully or partially recover from the symptoms experienced during the attacks. Common symptoms are visual problems, fatigue, sensory changes, weakness or paralysis of limbs, tremors, lack of coordination, poor balance, bladder or bowel changes and psychological changes.........
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January 30, 2009, 6:12 AM CT
Blue light destroys staph infection
Two common strains of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus
, usually known as MRSA, were virtually eradicated in the laboratory by exposing them to a wavelength of blue light, in a process called photo-irradiation that is described in a paper published online ahead of print in Photomedicine and Laser Surgery
The article will appear in the April 2009 issue (Volume 27, Number 2) of the peer-evaluated journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. The paper is available free online at www.liebertpub.com/pho.
Antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections represent an important and increasing public health threat. At present, fewer than 5% of staphylococcal strains are susceptible to penicillin, while approximately 40%-50% of Staph aureus
isolated have developed resistance to newer semisynthetic antibiotics such as methicillin as well.
Chukuka S. Enwemeka, Deborah Williams, Sombiri K. Enwemeka, Steve Hollosi, and David Yens from the New York Institute of Technology (Old Westbury, NY) had previously demonstrated that photo-irradiation using 405-nm light destroys MRSA strains grown in culture. In the current study, "Blue 470-nm Light Kills Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus
(MRSA) in Vitro," the authors exposed bacterial colonies of MRSA to various doses of 470-nm light, which emits no UV radiation.........
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January 30, 2009, 6:09 AM CT
New class of allergy drugs
If you've ever wondered why some allergic reactions progress quickly and may even become fatal, a new research report reported in the February 2009 issue of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology
(http://www.jleukbio.org) provides an important part of the answer. In the report, researchers from Queen's University of Belfast, University of Oxford and Trinity College Dublin show for the first time that eotaxin, a chemical that helps immune cells locate the site of infection, blocks basic "fighter" cells from transforming into "seeker" dendritic cells, resulting in a heightened allergic response.
"Our study reveals a new role for the chemokine eotaxin in controlling immune cell types at the site of allergic reaction," said Nigel Stevenson, a researcher involved in the study. "These findings are crucial for our understanding of allergic responses and appears to be instrumental for the design of new allergy drugs".
Stevenson and his colleagues made this discovery by using immune cells grown in the lab and from healthy volunteers. Then the scientists mimicked what occurs during an allergic reaction by treating the cells with eotaxin, which was previously believed to only attract immune cells during an allergic reaction. Through a series of laboratory procedures, they tracked changes in immune cell type and observed that eotaxin inhibits monocytes becoming dendritic cells (that find foreign invaders so other immune cells can neutralize them), resulting in more "fighter" cells being present during an allergic response. This discovery shows how and why eotaxin plays an important role in the severity of allergic reactions and appears to be a target for an entirely new class of allergy medications.........
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January 30, 2009, 6:06 AM CT
Genes linked to Parkinson's side effects
People with Parkinson's disease usually suffer a slowing or freezing of movement caused by the death of neurons that make dopamine, a key chemical that allows brain cells to send and receive messages essential to voluntary movements. Patients regain the ability to move, seemingly miraculously, by taking L-DOPA or related drugs that mimic the missing dopamine. After a few years on L-DOPA, however, most patients again lose motor control but in an opposite way. Instead of too little, there is too much movement, like involuntary nodding and rocking side effects known as L-DOPA-induced dyskinesias.
"L-DOPA-induced dyskinesias are a major problem for patients, and there is a great need to help with these drug side effects," said MIT Institute Professor Ann Graybiel, a prominent Parkinson's researcher at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT.
Graybiel and her colleagues have identified two molecules whose expression in the brain is altered in the brains of animals with L-DOPA-induced dyskinesias. The results may lead to new approaches to the therapy of dyskinesias in Parkinson's patients, of which there are more than 1 million in the United States alone.
"We're very excited because these genes are concentrated in precisely the places that lose dopamine in Parkinson's disease, so they might be reasonable targets to go after therapeutically," Graybiel said. This research was published Jan. 26 in the advance online issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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January 30, 2009, 6:02 AM CT
How vision sends its message to the brain
Researchers have known for more than 200 years that vision begins with a series of chemical reactions when light strikes the retina, but the specific chemical processes have largely been a mystery. A team of scientists from the United States and Switzerland, have she new light on this process by "capturing" this chemical communication for future study. This research, reported in the February 2009 issue of The FASEB Journal
(http://www.fasebj.org), may lead to the development of new therapys for some forms of blindness and vision disorders.
At the center of the discovery is the signaling of rhodopsin to transducin. Rhodopsin is a pigment in the eye that helps detect light. Transducin is a protein (sometimes called "GPCR") which ultimately signals the brain that light is present. The scientists were able to "freeze frame" the chemical communication between rhodopsin and transducin to study how this takes place and what goes wrong at the molecular level in certain disorders.
As per Krzysztof Palczewski, a senior scientist involved in the research, "The results may have important implications for discovery and development of more specific medicines to treat GPCR-linked dysfunction and disease." Examples of health problems involving GPCR dysfunction include blindness, diabetes, allergies, depression, cardiovascular defects and some forms of cancer.........
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January 30, 2009, 5:58 AM CT
Who might be interested in whom
When it comes to assessing the romantic playing field -- who might be interested in whom -- men and women were shown to be equally good at gauging men's interest during an Indiana University study involving speed dating -- and equally bad at judging women's interest.
Scientists expected women to have a leg up in judging romantic interest, because theoretically they have more to lose from a bad relationship, but no such edge was found.
"The hardest-to-read women were being misperceived at a much higher rate than the hardest-to-read men. Those women were being flirtatious, but it turned out they weren't interested at all," said main author Skyler Place, a doctoral student in IU's Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences working with cognitive science Professor Peter Todd. "Nobody could really read what these deceptive females were doing, including other women."
Place's study, reported in the recent issue of the journal Psychological Science,
focused on the ability of observers to judge romantic interest between others because this ability has evolutionary benefits when it comes to finding a mate. Decisions that other people around us make, said Place, can influence or inform our own choices.
"So, if you walk into a room and there's 20 people you've never met before, being able to know which individuals might be available and which are clearly smitten by others can make you more efficient in finding your own romantic interest to pursue," he said.........
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January 29, 2009, 6:22 AM CT
Anxiety and depression and cancellation rates
Anxiety and depression before and during fertility therapy does not affect the likelihood of a woman becoming pregnant or of her cancelling her therapy, as per a research studypublished in Europe's leading reproductive medicine journal, Human Reproduction
 on Thursday 29 January.
Dr Bea Lintsen, a doctor at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre (The Netherlands), and her colleagues used questionnaires to assess the levels of psychological distress in 783 women at two points before and during fertility therapy. Results from the 421 women who completed both questionnaires showed that levels of depression or anxiety either before or during fertility therapy had no influence over cancellation rates and did not predict pregnancy rates either.
Until now, studies of the links between anxiety and depression and the success of fertility therapy have been inconclusive. Dr Lintsen believes hers is the largest prospective study yet to look at the influence of distress on the outcome of a first IVF or ICSI therapy, and that the findings are reliable. However, she and her colleagues say the associations between psychological factors and pregnancy rates after IVF are complex and require further research into mediating factors such as lifestyle and sexual behaviour.........
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