February 10, 2009, 6:31 AM CT
Parent's role in teen obesity
There appears to be a reason teenagers eat more burgers and fries than fruits and vegetables: their parents.
In a new policy brief released recently by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, scientists observed that adolescents are more likely to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day if their parents do. Contrarily, teens whose parents eat fast food or drink soda are more likely to do the same.
Every day, more than 2 million California adolescents (62 percent) drink soda and 1.4 million (43 percent) eat fast food, but only 38 percent eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables, as per the policy brief, "Teen Dietary Habits Correlation to Those of Parents."
The cause of the deficit of healthy foods in teen diets has been attributed in part to the high concentration of fast food restaurants in certain cities and neighborhoods and other environmental factors.
The new research is a reminder, however, that "good dietary habits start at home," as per center research scientist Susan H. Babey, a co-author of the policy brief. "If parents are eating poorly, chances are their kids are too." .
Nearly one-third (30 percent) of California's teenagers are overweight or obese. Poor dietary habits, along with environmental and other factors, are strongly associated with obesity.........
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February 10, 2009, 6:30 AM CT
Happy patients in the happy hospital
Imagine a hospital where morale is high, employee turnover is low and patient call buttons rarely go unanswered---and if they do, you can call the hospital's CEO.
That's exactly the type of culture and service that "delights" patients and makes for the most successful community hospitals in the country, as rated by caregivers and patients, says John Griffith, professor in the University of Michigan School of Public Health.
In a newly published report, Griffith examined the attributes of 34 community hospitals in nine states that have earned the Health Care Sector Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, a nationally recognized quality benchmark for various industries.
Griffith's findings suggest that the single-biggest factor in patient satisfaction is hospital employee morale, which starts with outside-the-box thinking at the very top management levels.
These community hospitals had the happiest patients and caregivers, but only because these hospitals departed radically from traditional hospital management, Griffith says.
For instance, at the Florida hospital where patients receive a welcome letter with the CEO's signature and home phone number, they're also paid a visit by their unit's nurse manager, who also leaves cell and office phone numbers.........
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February 10, 2009, 6:28 AM CT
Chronic Lung Diseases In Smokers
Eventhough the immune system is designed to protect the body from harm, it may actually worsen one of the most difficult-to-treat respiratory diseases: chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), as per new University of Cincinnati (UC) research.
In a preclinical research study, UC environmental health researchers have identified a link between cigarette smoke and activation of a specific cellular receptor (NKG2D) critical to immune system activation. They say the finding is key to understanding COPD disease progression and developing future interventional drug therapies.
"People have historically believed that if you smoke, you suppress the immune system. We've shown that you actually activate certain parts of the immune system and it could potentially work against you," explains Michael Borchers, PhD, lead investigator of the study and UC assistant professor of environmental health.
Borchers and his team report their findings in the March 2009 issue of theJournal of Clinical Investigation. The study appears online ahead of print Feb. 9, 2009. It is the first study to report data defining a link between the immune system and COPD disease progression and severity.
COPD is a progressive pulmonary disease thought to becaused by long-term cigarette smoking. Typically the irreversible and incurable condition is characterized by emphysema and severe inflammation of the lung tissue.........
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February 10, 2009, 6:07 AM CT
MRI to predict Alzheimer's
Using special MRI methods, scientists have identified a pattern of regional brain atrophy in patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) that indicates a greater likelihood of progression to Alzheimer's disease. The findings appear in the online edition of Radiology
"Previously, this pattern has been observed only after a diagnosis of probable Alzheimer's disease," said the study's main author, Linda K. McEvoy, Ph.D., assistant project scientist in the Department of Radiology at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine in La Jolla. "Our results show that some individuals with MCI have the atrophy pattern characteristic of mild Alzheimer's disease, and these people are at higher risk of experiencing a faster rate of brain degeneration and a faster decline to dementia than individuals with MCI who do not show that atrophy pattern".
As per the Alzheimer's Association, more than five million Americans currently have Alzheimer's disease. One of the goals of modern neuroimaging is to help in early and accurate diagnosis, which can be challenging. There is no cure for Alzheimer's disease, but when it is diagnosed early, drug therapy may help improve or stabilize patient symptoms.
In Alzheimer's disease, nerve cell death and tissue loss cause areas of the brain to atrophy. Structural MRI allows radiologists to visualize subtle anatomic changes in the brain that signal atrophy. MCI is linked to an increased risk of progression to Alzheimer's disease. Rates of progression vary. Some patients progress rapidly, while others remain stable for relatively long periods of time.........
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February 10, 2009, 6:04 AM CT
Cirrhosis, Inflammation And Heart Rhythm Problems
Liver cirrhosis is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, taking 25,000 lives per year. It is often the result of alcohol over-consumption or exposure to hepatitis C, either of which can damage the liver and prevent it from filtering toxins. These toxins then accumulate in the blood stream and eventually reach the brain where they disrupt neurological and mental performance, a condition known as hepatic encephalopathy.
Individuals with cirrhosis are also susceptible to a change in heart rhythm (decreased heart rate variability). Since cirrhosis, hepatic encephalopathy and heart rate variability are known to be linked to inflammation, scientists have examined what role cytokines (inflammatory molecules) play.
A newly released study from The American Physiological Society suggests that these cytokines can lead to both the neurological and cognitive abnormalities and changes in heart rhythm in patients with cirrhosis. The results of the study may also apply to other conditions where heart rate variability is also decreased, such as bipolar disorder and post-menopausal depression.
The study, "Decreased heart rate variability in patients with cirrhosis relates to the presence and severity of hepatic encephalopathy," was carried out by Ali R. Mani, Sara Montagnese, Clive D. Jackson, Christopher W. Jenkins, Ian M. Head, Robert C. Stephens, Kevin P. Moore and Dr. Morgan. All are affiliated with the University College London Medical School, with the exception of Mr. Jackson, who is with the Royal Free Hospital, London. The study appears in The American Journal of Physiology-Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology.........
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February 10, 2009, 6:01 AM CT
Reading minds with infrared scan
Scientists at Canada's largest children's rehabilitation hospital have developed a technique that uses infrared light brain imaging to decode preference with the goal of ultimately opening the world of choice to children who can't speak or move.
As per a research findings published this month in The Journal of Neural Engineering,
Bloorview researchers demonstrate the ability to decode a person's preference for one of two drinks with 80 per cent accuracy by measuring the intensity of near-infrared light absorbed in brain tissue. http://www.iop.org/EJ/abstract/1741-2552/6/1/016003.
"This is the first system that decodes preference naturally from spontaneous thoughts," says Sheena Luu, the University of Toronto PhD student in biomedical engineering who led the study under the supervision of Tom Chau, Canada Research Chair in pediatric rehab engineering.
Most brain-computer interfaces designed to read thoughts require training. For example, in order to indicate yes to a question, the person needs to do an unrelated mental task such as singing a song in their head.
The nine adults in Luu's study received no training. Previous to the study they rated eight drinks on a scale of one to five.
Wearing a headband fitted with fibre-optics that emit light into the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, they were shown two drinks on a computer monitor, one after the other, and asked to make a mental decision about which they liked more. "When your brain is active, the oxygen in your blood increases and depending on the concentration, it absorbs more or less light," Luu says. "In some people, their brains are more active when they don't like something, and in some people they're more active when they do like something".........
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February 9, 2009, 6:19 AM CT
Silence is golden
A team of scientists led by Rutgers' Samuel Gunderson has developed a novel gene silencing platform with very significant improvements over existing RNAi approaches. This may enable the development and discovery of a new class of drugs to treat a wide array of diseases. Critical to the technology is the approach this team took to specifically target RNA biosynthesis.
The research findings are published in the journal Nature Biotechnology
, published online in the February 8th issue.
Gunderson, an associate professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, has created highly efficient gene silencing agents that function via a novel mechanism of action. The agents are single-stranded oligonucleotides, called U1 Adaptors, that have dual, and independent, functions. First is a target-gene binding domain that can be tailored to any gene. The second domain inhibits mRNA maturation by binding U1 snRNP, a component of the cellular splicing apparatus.
By combining both capabilities in the same molecule, the U1 Adaptor can inhibit the pre-mRNA maturation step of polyA tail addition in a gene specific manner. Further, the domains of the oligonucleotide are independent so transcript binding and U1 snRNP binding can be independently optimized and adapted to a wide array of genes linked to disease.........
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February 9, 2009, 6:17 AM CT
Marijuana might increase risk of testicular cancer
Frequent and/or long-term marijuana use may significantly increase a man's risk of developing the most aggressive type of testicular cancer, as per a research studyby scientists at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The study results were published online Feb. 9 in the journal Cancer
The scientists observed that being a marijuana smoker at the time of diagnosis was linked to a 70 percent increased risk of testicular cancer. The risk was especially elevated (about twice that of those who never smoked marijuana) for those who used marijuana at least weekly and/or who had long-term exposure to the substance beginning in adolescence.
The results also suggested that the association with marijuana use might be limited to nonseminoma, a fast-growing testicular malignancy that tends to strike early, between ages 20 and 35, and accounts for about 40 percent of all testicular-cancer cases.
Since the 1950s, the occurence rate of the two main cellular subtypes of testicular cancer, nonseminoma and seminoma the more common, slower growing kind that strikes men in their 30s and 40s has increased by 3 percent to 6 percent per year in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. During the same time period, marijuana use in North America, Europe and Australia has risen accordingly, which is one of several factors that led the scientists to hypothesize a potential association.........
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February 9, 2009, 6:02 AM CT
Racial difference in uterine cancer deaths
Black women with cancers of the uterus are less likely to survive the disease than white women, and relatively little progress has been made over the past two decades to narrow this racial difference. That is the conclusion of a newly released study reported in the March 15, 2009 issue of CANCER
, a peer-evaluated journal of the American Cancer Society.
While prior research has shown that black women are more likely to die from uterine cancers than their white counterparts, little is known about the factors involved in this discrepancy. In addition, studies have not looked at whether efforts to provide equal therapy to all patients have lessened this disparity in recent years.
To investigate the issue, Dr. Jason Wright, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and his colleagues studied the clinical data of 80,915 patients, 7 percent of whom were black, who were documented to have uterine cancer between 1988 and 2004 in the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Database. The researchers divided the data into three groups based on when women were diagnosed: 1988-1993, 1994-1998, and 1999-2004.
The scientists observed that black patients were significantly younger and had more advanced and more aggressive tumors than white women. Advanced cancers (stage III/IV) occurred in 27 percent of blacks between 1988 and 1993 and in 28 percent from 1999 to 2004. The corresponding figures for white women were 14 percent from 1988 to 1993 and 17 percent from 1999 to 2004.........
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February 9, 2009, 5:59 AM CT
Pregnancy does not decrease breast cancer survival
Young women who develop breast cancer during their pregnancy, or who are diagnosed within one year of their pregnancy, have no difference in rates of local recurrence, distant metastases and overall survival in comparison to other young women with the disease, as per scientists at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.
However, the largest single-institution study to look at pregnant patients with breast cancer finds that women with Pregnancy Associated Breast Cancer (PABC), are more likely to be diagnosed later with advanced stages of the disease and, thus, have necessary therapy delayed.
The findings appear in the March 15 issue of the journal Cancer
"Breast cancer in young women is a highly aggressive disease, and it's important that we study it in hopes of making a difference in terms of therapy," said Beth Beadle, M.D., a radiation oncology resident at M. D. Anderson and the study's first author. "When we looked at our young breast cancer population, a relatively large percentage had disease affiliated with pregnancy. We thought it would be really instructive to review our data to determine how we can best serve these women".
It's estimated that up to 3.8 percent of pregnancies are complicated by breast cancer, and approximately 10 percent of patients with breast cancer under age 40 develop the disease during pregnancy, said the researchers. As the age for first and subsequent pregnancies increases and intersects with advances in imaging and screening, this statistic will only continue to climb, explained George Perkins, M.D., associate professor in M. D. Anderson's Department of Radiation Oncology.........
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