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May 5, 2009, 5:30 AM CT

More potent vaccine technology

More potent vaccine technology
Blacksburg, Va. Virginia Tech virologist Chris Roberts' goal is to develop a platform for a flu vaccine that allows rapid modifications to meet new strains of flu.

Since 90 percent of complicated flu cases occur among those over 65, the associate professor in biomedical sciences and pathobiology (http://www.vetmed.vt.edu/org/dbsp/) has been working on a novel flu vaccine for the elderly. That is still his aim, but he is now more motivated than ever to speed development of his cell culture-based vaccine technology that is more rapid than the egg-based growth system presently used to create vaccines.

Influenza is an enveloped virus. It obtains its envelope or membrane as it buds from the surface of the host cell it has invaded. Roberts is using this practice against the virus introducing membrane-bound immune-system stimulatory molecules such as cytokines into cells in such a way that the virus will incorporate them as part of its envelope. "Using this approach, inactivated influenza vaccines can be created that have enhanced immunogenicity, meaning they can boost our immune response to the vaccine and hopefully provide better protection against invading viruses," Roberts said.

Normally, cytokines are secreted proteins that boost and direct the immune system's response to inflammation and infections. When a foreign particle gets into the body, the body ultimately responds by stimulating 1) B cells to secrete anti-viral antibodies, 2) cytotoxic T cells to kill infected host cells, and 3) helper T cells to regulate and control the response of both cell types. Antibodies work by recognizing and binding to specific components of the virus such as the glycoproteins on the surface of the virus (envelope). This serves to neutralize the ability of the virus to infect cells in the respiratory tract. A vaccination introduces weakened or killed forms of a virus so that the body recognizes the pathogen and begins producing antibodies to fight it. These antibodies are then ready to fight off infection should they encounter the virus.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


May 5, 2009, 5:26 AM CT

Cigarette smoke may cause low antioxidants in children

Cigarette smoke may cause low antioxidants in children
Children exposed to cigarette smoke have lower levels of antioxidants, which help the body defend itself against a number of biological stresses.

A University of Rochester Medical Center study looked at the levels of antioxidants versus the amount of smoke exposure in more than 2,000 6 and 18 years old in the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The study, which was presented at the Pediatric Academic Society Meeting in Baltimore, shows that secondhand smoke exposure is linked to lower levels of antioxidants in children.

"We don't know enough yet to say that this group of children need supplements to make up for the antioxidants they're losing, but it's always wise to feed children an abundance of fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants and other healthy nutrients," said Karen Wilson, M.D., M.P.H., a senior instructor of Pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center and the study's author.

Antioxidants are believed to play an important role in protecting the body's cells against free radicals, which can damage cells. Free radicals are produced during a number of body processes including when we use oxygen and respond to infections. It is not completely understood how antioxidants work together to neutralize free radicals, but researchers continue to discover more antioxidant compounds, including those examined in the study vitamins E and C, folate and beta-carotene.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


May 5, 2009, 5:20 AM CT

Meditate For Better Bladder Health

Meditate For Better Bladder Health
After nine years of suffering in silence and living in fear of leaving the house, Anna Raisor, 53, turned to physicians at Loyola University Health System (LUHS) for alternative measures to treat the embarrassing side effects of incontinence.

LUHS physicians enrolled Raisor in a clinical trial using cognitive treatment to manage her overactive bladder. Cognitive treatment employs deep-breathing and guided-imagery exercises that train the brain to control the bladder without medicine or surgery.

Findings from this study, which were presented today at the American Urological Association's Annual Meeting in Chicago, Ill, revealed that cognitive treatment is an effective management strategy for urge incontinence. These results also were reported in the latest issue of the Journal of Urology.

"The mind-body connection has proven to be especially valuable for women suffering from incontinence," said study investigator Aaron Michelfelder, MD, vice chair, division of family medicine, Loyola University Health System, and associate professor, department of family medicine, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. "Cognitive treatment is effective with these women, because they are motivated to make a change and regain control over their body."

Michelfelder's patients attend an initial office visit where he introduces them to cognitive treatment. They then listen to an audio recording with a series of relaxation and visualization exercises at home twice a day for two weeks. Patients track the number of incontinence episodes that they experience in a pre- and post-therapy diary. The majority of patients, including Raisor, experienced a substantial improvement in symptoms.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


May 4, 2009, 5:26 AM CT

Women live longer, not better

Women live longer, not better
Obesity and arthritis that take root during early and middle age significantly contribute to women's decreased quality of life during their senior years, as per scientists at Duke University Medical Center.

In a study that included 5,888 people over 65, women suffered up to two and a half times more disabilities than men of the same age.

Higher rates of obesity and arthritis among these women explained up to 48 percent of the gender gap in disability above all other common chronic health conditions.

"While women tend to live longer than men, this study shows that they are at greater risk of living with disability and much of the excess disability is attributable to higher rates of obesity and arthritis," said Heather Whitson, M.D., assistant professor of medicine and lead investigator of the study presented today at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Geriatrics Society. "This is important because it suggests that women's tendency to pack on extra pounds in their child-bearing and peri-menopausal years translates into loss of independence in their old age".

Scientists said the study is the first to isolate the impact of specific chronic health conditions on the difference in disability rates between older men and women. While a number of people are studying how chronic conditions affect mortality, the researchers were surprised to see the extent to which these conditions explained the gender difference in disability.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


April 30, 2009, 5:14 AM CT

Tiny differences in our genes make the big picture

Tiny differences in our genes make the big picture
By examining very small differences in people's genes, researchers from Cornell University have developed a new tool for identifying big events in human history and pinpointing the origins of specific gene mutations. This research, reported in the recent issue of the journal GENETICS (http://www.genetics.org), helps shed light on times when the human population moved close to extinction and helps researchers close in on gene mutations that make some demographic groups more likely to develop diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, among others.

"We know that a number of diseases are caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors," said Kirk E. Lohmueller, one of the scientists involved in the work from Cornell University. "To find the genes that contribute to disease, it's very helpful to know the demographic history of the population being studied. Accurate estimates of population events help inform the search for mutations that might have been helpful and necessary for survival at the time, but no longer necessary and potentially harmful today".

In their work, Lohmueller and his colleagues confirmed the existence of a major decline in European populations (called a "bottleneck") 32,500-47,500 years ago. They used computer simulations to model the expected correlation among segments of DNA containing very small genetic mutations that only involve a single letter of the genetic code (called "single nucleotide polymorphisms" or SNPs). Previous to this development, methods used to identify major population events relied on the frequency patterns of individual SNPs, while ignoring the patterns of specific groups of SNPs. This work shows that looking at groups of SNPs helps us better understand what happened long before there was a human historical record.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


April 29, 2009, 5:22 AM CT

Dairy better for bones than calcium

Dairy better for bones than calcium
A Purdue University study shows dairy has an advantage over calcium carbonate in promoting bone growth and strength.

Connie Weaver, distinguished professor and head of the food and nutrition department, observed that the bones of rats fed nonfat dry milk were longer, wider, more dense and stronger than those of rats fed a diet with calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate is the most common form of calcium used in calcium-fortified foods and supplements.

Weaver said the study, funded by the National Dairy Council, is the first direct comparison of bone properties between calcium from supplements and milk. It would be reported in the August print issue of the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research and is online at http://www.jbmronline.org/.

"A lot of companies say, 'If you don't drink milk, then take our calcium pills or calcium-fortified food,'" Weaver said. "There's been no study designed properly to compare bone growth from supplements and milk or dairy to see if it has the same effect".

Data from Purdue's Camp Calcium, a research effort that studies how calcium and other nutrients affect bone growth, show that between the ages of 9 and 18 people require 1,300 milligrams of calcium a day for optimal bone growth. This is the equivalent of about 4 cups of milk or yogurt or the equivalent from cheese or other sources, Weaver said. After the age of 9, due mostly to peer pressure, the gap between the calcium youths need and actually get widens, she said.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


April 28, 2009, 5:15 AM CT

Smoking, high blood pressure and being overweight

Smoking, high blood pressure and being overweight
Smoking, hypertension and being overweight are the leading preventable risk factors for premature mortality in the United States, as per a newly released study led by scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), with collaborators from the University of Toronto and the Institute for Health Metrics and Assessment at the University of Washington. The scientists observed that smoking is responsible for 467,000 premature deaths each year, hypertension for 395,000, and being overweight for 216,000. The effects of smoking work out to be about one in five deaths in American adults, while hypertension is responsible for one in six deaths.

It is the most comprehensive study yet to look at how diet, lifestyle and metabolic risk factors for chronic disease contribute to mortality in the U.S. The study appears in the April 28, 2009 edition of the open-access journal PLoS Medicine

"The large magnitude of the numbers for a number of of these risks made us pause," said Goodarz Danaei, a doctoral student at HSPH and the main author of the study. "To have hundreds of thousands of premature deaths caused by these modifiable risk factors is shocking and should motivate a serious look at whether our public health system has sufficient capacity to implement interventions and whether it is currently focusing on the right set of interventions." Majid Ezzati, associate professor of international health at HSPH, is the study's senior author.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


April 28, 2009, 5:13 AM CT

A pandemic flu in making?

A pandemic flu in making?
New research published recently (Monday April 27) from the University of Leicester and University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust warns of a six-month time lag before effective vaccines can be manufactured in the event of a pandemic flu outbreak.

By that time, the first wave of pandemic flu appears to be over before people are vaccinated, says Dr Iain Stephenson, Consultant in Infectious Diseases at the Leicester Royal Infirmary and a Clinical Senior Lecturer at the University of Leicester.

In his paper published in PNAS- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA- Dr Stephenson makes the first case for a pre-pandemic vaccine to mitigate the worst effects of pandemic flu.

He said: "This study is the first to show an effective pre-pandemic vaccine approach. This means that we could vaccinate people potentially a number of years before a pandemic, to generate memory cells that are long lasting and can be rapidly boosted by a single dose of vaccine when needed".

Dr Stephenson, of the Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation at the University of Leicester, said: "If an influenza pandemic occurs, vaccination will to be the main way to protect the population. The major current threat seems to be from avian influenza H5N1 (bird flu) which has spread rapidly around the world and causes human infections and deaths.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


April 22, 2009, 5:26 AM CT

Sleep pattern and risk of diabetes

Sleep pattern and risk of diabetes
Scientists at Universit Laval's Faculty of Medicine have observed that people who sleep too much or not enough are at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance. The risk is 2 times higher for people who sleep less than 7 hours or more than 8 hours a night. The findings were published recently on the website of the journal Sleep Medicine

The scientists arrived at this conclusion after analyzing the life habits of 276 subjects over a 6-year period. They determined that over this timespan, approximately 20% of those with long and short sleep duration developed type 2 diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance versus only 7% among subjects who were average duration sleepers. Even after taking into account the effect attributable to differences in body mass among the subjects, the risk of diabetes and insulin resistance was still twice as high among those with longer and shorter sleep duration than average sleepers.

The scientists also point out that diabetes is not the only risk linked to sleep duration. A growing number of studies have shed light on a similar relationship between sleep and obesity, cardiovascular disease, and overall mortality. The authors observe that among adults, between 7 and 8 hours of nighttime sleep may be the optimum duration to protect against common diseases and premature death.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


April 22, 2009, 5:14 AM CT

When healthy menus backfire

When healthy menus backfire
Just seeing a salad on the menu seems to push some consumers to make a less healthy meal choice, according a Duke University researcher.

It's an effect called "vicarious goal fulfillment," in which a person can feel a goal has been met if they have taken some small action, like considering the salad without ordering it, said Gavan Fitzsimons, professor of marketing and psychology at Duke's Fuqua School of Business, who led the research.

In a lab experiment, participants possessing high levels of self-control correlation to food choices (as assessed by a pre-test) avoided french fries, the least healthy item on a menu, when presented with only unhealthy choices. But when a side salad was added to this menu, they became much more likely to take the fries.

The team's findings are available in the online version of the Journal of Consumer Research, and will appear in its October 2009 print edition.

Eventhough fast-food restaurants and vending machine operators have increased their healthy offerings in recent years, "analysts have pointed out that sales growth in the fast-food industry is not coming from healthy menu items, but from increased sales of burgers and fries," Fitzsimons said. "There is clearly public demand for healthy options, so we wanted to know why people aren't following through and purchasing those items".........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source



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Did you know?
Adolescents who suffer physical injuries are vulnerable to emotional distress in the months following their hospitalization, yet almost 40 percent of hospitalized adolescents interviewed for a new study had no source for the follow-up medical care that could diagnose and treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress. These young trauma survivors are at risk for high levels of post-traumatic stress and depressive symptoms, as well as high levels of alcohol use, according to research by researchers at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center.

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