February 7, 2011, 7:59 AM CT
Allergies lower risk of glioma
The more allergies one has, the lower the risk of developing low- and high-grade glioma, as per data published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention
, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
Scientists from the University of Illinois at Chicago, used self-reported data on medically diagnosed allergies and antihistamine use for 419 patents with glioma and 612 cancer-free patients from Duke University and NorthShore University HealthSystem. Controls had no history of brain tumors or any cancers, and did not have a history of neurodegenerative disease.
"Other studies have observed a connection between allergies and glioma risk," said Bridget McCarthy, Ph.D., a research associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health. "In this study we confirmed that allergies are protective and observed that the more allergies one has, the more protected he or she is."
Participants completed a web-based or telephone survey and were asked if they were medically diagnosed with allergies or asthma at least two years previous to the survey, and if so, the age of diagnosis. In addition, they were asked to indicate the number of individual allergies within each of the following groupings: seasonal, pet, medication, food and other.........
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February 5, 2011, 7:21 AM CT
HPV Vaccine Works for Boys Too
Joel Palefsky, MD
The vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV) can prevent 90 percent of genital warts in men when offered before exposure to the four HPV strains covered by the vaccine, as per a new multi-center study led by H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and UCSF.
The four-year, international clinical trial, which also found a nearly 66 percent effectiveness in the general population of young men regardless of previous exposure to these strains, provides the first reported results of using the HPV vaccine as a prophylactic in men.
Initial data from this study informed the Food and Drug Administration's decision to approve the vaccine for boys in 2009 to prevent warts, while results from a substudy led the FDA to expand approval late last year to prevent anal cancer. Findings can be found in the Feb. 3 issue of the New England Journal (NEJM), or online at www.nejm.org.
While the HPV vaccine was approved in 2006 for girls to prevent cervical cancer, the vaccine's benefit for young men was not initially addressed. Yet infection and diseases caused by HPV are common in men, the scientists said, including genital warts, which are one of the leading sexually transmitted diseases (STD) for which therapy is sought nationwide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that half of all sexually active Americans will get HPV at some point in their lives.........
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February 5, 2011, 7:16 AM CT
The brain knows what the nose smells, but how?
Professor Liqun Luo, left, in his lab with post doctoral fellow Kazunari Miyamichi who is the lead author on the paper to be published in Nature magazine.
Credit: L.A. Cicero, Stanford University News Service
Mice know fear. And they know to fear the scent of a predator. But how do their brains quickly figure out with a sniff that a cat is nearby?
It's a complex process that starts with the scent being picked up by specific receptors in their noses. But until now it wasn't clear exactly how these scent signals proceeded from nose to noggin for neural processing.
In a study to be published in Nature
(available online now to subscribers), Stanford scientists describe a new technique that makes it possible to map long-distance nerve connections in the brain. The researchers used the technique to map for the first time the path that the scent signals take from the olfactory bulb, the part of the brain that first receives signals from odor receptors in the nose, to higher centers of the mouse brain where the processing is done.
"No one could trace signals across neural connections to a specific type of neuron at a specific location before," said biology Professor Liqun Luo. This is Luo's first study of the mouse olfactory system, but his lab has spent 10 years studying olfactory pathways in the fruit fly. Because mouse brains are so much larger and more complex that those of flies, Luo and postdoctoral researcher Kazunari Miyamichi had to develop an entirely new experimental technique.........
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February 5, 2011, 7:08 AM CT
ParentCorps helps children do better in school
Scientists at the NYU Child Study Center demonstrated that a brief program for families of Pre-Kindergarten students attending schools in disadvantaged urban communities improved children's behavior at school. The study, called "Promoting effective parenting practices and preventing child behavior problems in school among ethnically diverse families from underserved, urban communities," was reported in the February 2011 issue of Child Development.
Dr. Laurie Miller Brotman and her colleagues spent several years developing ParentCorps, a program for families of young children as they transition to school. ParentCorps includes a series of 13 group sessions for parents and children held at the school during early evening hours, facilitated by trained school staff and mental health professionals. The program is unique by reaching parents through public schools in underserved communities to help them learn a set of parenting strategies. For example, parents can learn ways to establish routines and rules for the family, reinforce positive behavior and provide effective consequences for misbehavior. ParentCorps helps each parent to select from a portfolio of scientifically-proven strategies that will work for them based on their own family goals, values and culture. By bringing families and early childhood educators together to support and learn from each other, the ParentCorps program helps young children succeed.........
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February 5, 2011, 7:07 AM CT
Peripheral artery disease harder on women
Small calf muscles appears to be a feminine trait, but for women with peripheral artery disease (PAD) they're a major disadvantage. Scientists at Northwestern Medicine point to the smaller calf muscles of women as a gender difference that may cause women with PAD to experience problems walking and climbing stairs sooner and faster than men with the disease.
The study was reported in the February 2011 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology
Peripheral artery disease affects eight million men and women in the United States. The disease causes blockages in leg arteries, and patients with PAD are at an increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke, said Mary McDermott, M.D., professor of medicine and of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and doctor at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
McDermott and a team of scientists observed 380 men and women with PAD for four years, measuring their calf muscle characteristics and leg strength every year. Oxygen is needed to fuel calf muscles, and blockages in leg arteries prevent oxygen from reaching the calf muscles of people with PAD.
The scientists also tracked whether or not the patients could walk for six minutes without stopping and climb up and down a flight of stairs without assistance every year.........
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February 3, 2011, 7:53 AM CT
Uterine health more important than egg quality
For women seeking pregnancy by assisted reproductive technologies, such as in-vitro fertilization (IVF), a newly released study shows that the health of the uterus is more relevant than egg quality for a newborn to achieve normal birth weight and full gestation. This study, published in Fertility and Sterility
, an international journal for obstetricians, offers new information for women with infertility diagnoses considering options for conceiving.
The study was conducted by Dr. William Gibbons, director of The Family Fertility Program at Texas Children's Hospital and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine, along with colleagues at the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technologies (SART) Marcelle Cedars, MD and Roberta Ness, MD. They evaluated three years of data that compared average birth weight and gestational time for single births born as a result of standard IVF, IVF with donor eggs and IVF with a surrogate. While the ability to achieve a pregnancy is tied to egg/embryo quality, the obstetrical outcomes of birth weight and length of pregnancy are more significantly tied to the uterine environment that is affected by the reason the woman is infertile.
There were more than 300,000 IVF cycles during the time of the study producing more than 70,000 singleton pregnancies.........
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February 3, 2011, 7:50 AM CT
Weak electrical fields in the brain help neurons fire together
Ephaptic coupling leads to coordinated spiking of nearby neurons, as measured using a 12-pipette electrophysiology setup developed in the laboratory of coauthor Henry Markram.
Credit: Image from Figure 4 in Anastassiou et., Nature Neuroscience, 2011
The brain�awake and sleeping�is awash in electrical activity, and not just from the individual pings of single neurons communicating with each other. In fact, the brain is enveloped in countless overlapping electric fields, generated by the neural circuits of scores of communicating neurons. The fields were once believed to be an "epiphenomenon, a 'bug' of sorts, occurring during neural communication," says neuroscientist Costas Anastassiou, a postdoctoral scholar in biology at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
New work by Anastassiou and colleagues, however, suggests that the fields do much more�and that they may, in fact, represent an additional form of neural communication.
"In other words," says Anastassiou, the main author of a paper about the work appearing in the journal Nature Neuroscience
, "while active neurons give rise to extracellular fields, the same fields feed back to the neurons and alter their behavior," even though the neurons are not physically connected�a phenomenon known as ephaptic coupling. "So far, neural communication has been thought to occur at localized machines, termed synapses. Our work suggests an additional means of neural communication through the extracellular space independent of synapses".
Extracellular electric fields exist throughout the living brain, though they are especially strong and robustly repetitive in specific brain regions such as the hippocampus, which is involved in memory formation, and the neocortex, the area where long-term memories are held. "The perpetual fluctuations of these extracellular fields are the hallmark of the living and behaving brain in all organisms, and their absence is a strong indicator of a deeply comatose, or even dead, brain," Anastassiou explains.........
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February 3, 2011, 7:42 AM CT
Older adults often excluded from clinical trials
Older individuals, who constitute a rapidly growing population in the United States, account for a disproportionate share of health care utilization and cost.
Yet more than half of clinical trials exclude people based on their age or age-related conditions, as per a newly released study by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Clinical Scholars� at the University of Michigan.
"These findings are concerning because it means that doctors cannot be confident that clinical trial results apply to their older patients," says Donna Zulman, M.D., the study's main author and a Veterans Affairs scholar with the RWJF Clinical Scholars program at the University of Michigan Health System. "Health care providers and patients need better evidence about therapy strategies that improve the health and quality of life of seniors".
As of 2009, Americans over the age of 65 represented 12.5 percent of the U.S. population�about one in every eight Americans�and by 2030, that number is expected to almost double.
This population accounts for 34 percent of personal health care expenditures, with the majority of spending attributed to individuals with chronic diseases.
Yet in a review of clinical trials published in major medical journals, Zulman and her colleagues observed that one in five trials excluded patients based on their age alone. Furthermore, almost half of the remaining trials excluded individuals using criteria that could disproportionately impact elderly adults, such as physical frailty or impaired cognition.........
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February 2, 2011, 10:55 PM CT
New nanoparticles make blood clots visible
Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA.
A blood vessel (top) with ruptured atherosclerotic plaque, shown in yellow, is developing a blood clot. The nanoparticles, shown in blue and black, are targeted to a protein in the blood clot called fibrin, shown in light blue. A traditional CT image (bottom left) shows no difference between the blood clot and the calcium in the plaque, making it unclear whether this image shows a clot that should be treated. A spectral CT image (bottom right) "sees" the bismuth nanoparticles targeted to fibrin in green, differentiating it from calcium, still shown in white, in the plaque.
For almost two decades, heart specialists have searched for ways to see dangerous blood clots before they cause heart attacks.
Now, scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis report that they have designed nanoparticles that find clots and make them visible to a new kind of X-ray technology.
As per Gregory Lanza, MD, PhD, a Washington University heart specialist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, these nanoparticles will take the guesswork out of deciding whether a person coming to the hospital with chest pain is actually having a heart attack.
"Every year, millions of people come to the emergency room with chest pain. For some of them, we know it's not their heart. But for most, we're not sure," says Lanza, a professor of medicine. When there is any doubt, the patient must be admitted to the hospital and undergo tests to rule out or confirm a heart attack.
"Those tests cost money and they take time," Lanza says.
Rather than an overnight stay to make sure the patient is stable, this new technology could reveal the location of a blood clot in a matter of hours.
The nanoparticles are designed to be used with a new type of Computerized axial tomography scanner that is capable of "seeing" metals in color. The new technology, called spectral CT, uses the full spectrum of the X-ray beam to differentiate objects that would be indistinguishable with a regular Computerized axial tomography scanner that sees only black and white.........
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February 2, 2011, 10:52 PM CT
Losing body fat before pregnancy
Obesity among women of childbearing age is increasing worldwide. Because babies of obese mothers are themselves predisposed to obesity, society can reasonably expect the epidemic of obese and overweight people to continue through future generations.
In the midst of this trend, UT Health Science Center San Antonio obstetrics scientists are studying the question: If mothers lose body fat before pregnancy, does it improve the lifelong health of their children? This could be one way to break the transgenerational cycle. A collaborative study between scientists with the Center for Pregnancy and Newborn Research at the Health Science Center and the National Institute of Nutrition in Mexico City showed that if obese mothers lose weight before pregnancy, it confers health benefits on their offspring.Research in rat mothers
In the study, scientists induced maternal obesity by feeding a group of female rats a high-fat diet previous to mating. This group of females ate the fatty chow from weaning through adolescent life to breeding and remained on it through pregnancy and lactation. Meanwhile, females in a second group were switched to normal chow one month before mating.Reversible metabolic effects
Only male offspring were studied. At weaning, triglycerides, leptin, insulin and insulin resistance were elevated in offspring of obese mothers and all returned to normal if their mothers had received prepregnancy dietary intervention. Fat mass and fat cell size were increased in offspring of fat mothers and these changes were significantly reversed, though not completely abolished, by the dietary intervention. The authors said this is the first study showing reversibility of adverse metabolic effects of maternal obesity on offspring by a pre-pregnancy intervention. Outcomes and reversibility varied by tissue affected.........
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