January 18, 2010, 8:08 AM CT
Concussions not taken seriously enough
Despite growing public interest in concussions because of serious hockey injuries or skiing deaths, a researcher from McMaster University has observed that we may not be taking the common head injury seriously enough.
In a study to be reported in the recent issue of the journal Pediatrics
, Carol DeMatteo, an associate clinical professor in the School of Rehabilitation Science, observed that children who receive the concussion label spend fewer days in hospital and return to school sooner than their counterparts with head injuries not diagnosed as concussion.
"Even children with quite serious injuries can be labelled as having a concussion," said DeMatteo, an occupational therapist and associate member of the CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research at McMaster. "Concussion seems to be less alarming than 'mild brain injury' so it appears to be used to convey an injury that should have a good outcome, does not have structural brain damage and symptoms that will pass".
But despite the non-malignant terminology, a concussion is actually a mild traumatic brain injury which could have serious repercussions.
DeMatteo and her research team at McMaster University, funded by the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation (ONF) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), analyzed medical records for 434 children who were admitted over two years to the McMaster Children's Hospital in Hamilton with the diagnosis of acquired brain injury. Of the 341 children with traumatic brain injury, 300 children had a severity score recorded and, of that group, 32 per cent received a concussion diagnosis.........
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January 18, 2010, 7:59 AM CT
Artificial muscles restore ability to blink
Surgeons from UC Davis Medical Center have demonstrated that artificial muscles can restore the ability of patients with facial paralysis to blink, a development that could benefit the thousands of people each year who no longer are able to close their eyelids due to combat-related injuries, stroke, nerve injury or facial surgery.
In addition, the technique, which uses a combination of electrode leads and silicon polymers, could be used to develop synthetic muscles to control other parts of the body. The new procedure is described in an article in the January-recent issue of the Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery
"This is the first-wave use of artificial muscle in any biological system," said Travis Tollefson, a facial plastic surgeon in the UC Davis Department of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery. "But there are a number of ideas and concepts where this technology may play a role".
In their study, Tollefson and colleagues were seeking to develop the protocol and device design for human implantation of electroactive polymer artificial muscle (EPAM) to reproducibly create a long-lasting eyelid blink that will protect the eye and improve facial appearance. EPAM is an emerging technology that has the potential for use in rehabilitating facial movement in patients with paralysis. Electroactive polymers act like human muscles by expanding and contracting, based on variable voltage input levels.........
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January 15, 2010, 8:16 AM CT
Mechanism for the Proliferation of Epstein-Barr Virus
Epstein Barr Virus. Photo: CDC
Researchers of Helmholtz Zentrum München have elucidated a crucial mechanism in the lytic cycle of Epstein-Barr virus. A team of scientists led by Professor Wolfgang Hammerschmidt identified the function of a protein which plays a critical role in the proliferation of the virus. The Epstein-Barr virus can induce cancer. The findings, reported in the current issue of the renowned journal PNAS, represent a major step forward in understanding tumor development.
The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a virus of the herpes family, has two distinct life phases: After infecting a cell it first goes into a resting phase. Under certain circumstances the virus can become active - and then induces tumor growth or promotes its synthesis in the cell. Particularly in patients with weakened immune systems, EBV can cause its host cells to divide uncontrollably - causing a tumor to develop.
The causes for the transition of EBV from the quiescent phase to an active mode - especially with respect to the responsible factors and to how the molecular mechanisms function - have until now remained elusive. With their findings, the researchers at Helmholtz Zentrum München have discovered how the virus terminates latency and activates its synthesis in the infected cells.
Professor Wolfgang Hammerschmidt, head of the Department of Gene Vectors at Helmholtz Zentrum München, explained: "We have now identified the crucial function of the viral BZLF1 protein: It activates the genes of EBV, which are essential for the proliferation of virus particles." About 70 different genes are switched off during the latent phase because certain DNA segments are chemically modified: Some DNA building blocks carry methyl groups. They are a kind of stop signal for the cell apparatus, so that these genes cannot be converted into protein.........
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January 15, 2010, 8:08 AM CT
Fit to drive?
A number of healthcare professionals are failing to advise people with medical conditions that could affect their ability to drive whether they should get behind the wheel, as per research from the University of Warwick.
Scientists from the University's Warwick Medical School have found a number of healthcare professionals are failing to tell patients with certain conditions such as diabetes or visual impairment if they are not fit to drive.
In a study undertaken for the Department for Transport, the research team explored the knowledge and attitudes of healthcare professionals towards advising patients about their fitness to drive. The scientists recruited 1519 health professionals, 358 patients and 55 medical school personnel to the study.
The research team, led by Dr Carol Hawley, Principal Research Fellow at Warwick Medical School, found doctors in training received little tuition on medical aspects of fitness to drive.
They also observed that eventhough most healthcare professionals were aware of the Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) guidelines stipulating fitness to drive, a number of were unable to reliably distinguish between medically unfit drivers, borderline drivers and fit drivers. When presented with paper case studies of patients only 7.5% scored all of them correctly.........
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January 15, 2010, 8:07 AM CT
Trial of new osteoporosis drug
Endocrinologists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UPMC are launching a human trial of a new drug that their research indicates holds great promise for building bones weakened by osteoporosis.
For the study, 105 participants will be randomly assigned to receive either teriparitide ( Forteo), a drug that already is FDA-approved for osteoporosis therapy, or an experimental agent called parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP), explained principal investigator Mara J. Horwitz, M.D., an assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Pitt School of Medicine, and a practicing metabolic bone specialist at UPMC.
"We are very eager to find out how this new drug compares to a treatment that is currently available," Dr. Horwitz said. "Our prior studies suggest that it may increase bone density more dramatically with fewer side effects, but this is the first head-to-head comparison".
On the cellular level, bone is constantly being broken down, a process known as resorption, and then rebuilt. In osteoporosis, this balancing act is off-kilter, leaving bones less dense and more vulnerable to fracture. A number of drugs, such as alendronate (Fosamax), and raloxifene (Evista), work by decreasing bone resorption. They can improve bone density by two to 10 percent over several years to a decade and reduce fractures, but a number of patients' bone density already has been reduced by half when therapy begins.........
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January 14, 2010, 8:12 AM CT
Some antiviral drugs may make diseases worse
As the flu season continues in full-swing, most people can appreciate the need for drugs that stop viruses after they take hold in the body. Despite this serious need for new drugs, a team of scientists from the University of Texas at Austin raise serious concerns about an emerging strategy for stopping viral infections. As per their research report appearing in the January 2010 issue of the journal GENETICS,
medications that cause viruses to die off by forcing their nucleic acid to mutate rapidly might actually, in some instances, cause them to emerge from the process stronger, perhaps even more virulent than before drug therapy.
"This work questions whether the practice of 'lethal mutagenesis' of viruses works as predicted," said Jim Bull, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the study from the Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology at the University of Texas at Austin. "It remains to be seen whether an elevated mutation rate that does not cause rapid viral extinction enhances therapy or may instead thwart therapy by enhancing viral evolution." Bull's research collaborators included Rachael Springman, Thomas Keller, and Ian Molineux from the same institution.
Researchers tested the model of viral evolution at high mutation rates by growing a DNA virus in the presence of a mutagenic agent. The current accepted model predicted that the virus would not be able to handle the high mutation rates and would eventually die off. However, this study proved the model false, as the virus actually increased its fitness at elevated mutation rates. During this study, researchers found molecular evidence that rapid mutations had two effects. The first effect of most mutations, which was expected, was that they killed or weakened the virus. The second effect of some mutations, however, was that they actually helped the virus adapt and thrive. Eventhough the scientists did not question that extremely high mutation will lead to viral extinction on the whole, this discovery raises the specter that forcing viruses to undergo rapid mutations could, if the mutation rate is not high enough, accidentally lead to well-adapted "super viruses." .........
Posted by: Mark Read more Source
January 14, 2010, 8:00 AM CT
Who's afraid of the HPV vaccine?
A newly released study concludes that people tend to match their risk perceptions about policy issues with their cultural values, which may explain the intense disagreement about proposals to vaccinate elementary-school girls against human-papillomavirus (HPV). The study also says people's values shape their perceptions of expert opinion on the vaccine.
HPV is a widespread disease that, when sexually transmitted, can cause cervical cancer. In October of 2009, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that the vaccine be given to all girls ages 11 or 12. However, the recommendation has been mired in controversy, and so far adopted in only one state and the District of Columbia.
An online experiment involving more than 1,500 U.S. adults reveals that individuals who have cultural values that favor authority and individualism perceive the vaccine as risky, in part because they believe it will lead girls to engage in unsafe sex. But individuals with cultural values that favor gender equality and pro-community/government involvement in basic health care are more likely to see the vaccine as low risk and high benefit.
The study was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and is being published online this week in the journal Law and Human Behavior. It observed that people exposed to unattributed, balanced information about HPV vaccines tended to produce something called "biased assimilation," a phenomenon in which culturally-identifiable groups draw opposing conclusions and become more divided rather than less divided as they consider evidence.........
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January 14, 2010, 7:50 AM CT
Eye test could detect Alzheimer's
A simple and inexpensive eye test could aid detection and diagnosis of major neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's at an earlier stage than is currently possible, as per new research by UCL scientists.
The research, led by Professors Francesca Cordeiro & Stephen Moss and published recently in Cell Death & Disease
, demonstrates a new technique that enables retinal, and therefore brain cell death, to be directly measured in real time. The method, demonstrated in an animal model, could not only refine diagnosis of neurodegenerative disorders and help track disease progress; it could also aid the evaluation and development of new therapys.
The technique uses fluorescent markers that attach themselves to the relevant cells and indicate the stage of cell death. The retina is then observed using a customised laser ophthalmoscope. Until now, this kind of technique has only been used in cells in the lab, rather than in live animals. This research is therefore the first ever in vivo demonstration of retinal nerve cell death in Alzheimer's Disease.
Professor Cordeiro, UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, said: "The death of nerve cells is the key event in all neurodegenerative disorders but until now it has not been possible to study cell death in real time. This technique means we should be able to directly observe retinal nerve cell death in patients, which has many advantages in terms of effective diagnosis. This could be critically important since identification of the early stages could lead to successful reversal of the disease progression with therapy.........
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January 14, 2010, 7:49 AM CT
56 percent of young adults infected with HPV
A groundbreaking study of couples led by Professor Eduardo Franco, Director of McGill University's Cancer Epidemiology Unit, in collaboration with a team of colleagues from McGill and Universit de Montral/Centre Hospitalier de l'Universit de Montral (CHUM), found more than half (56 per cent) of young adults in a new sexual relationship were infected with human papillomavirus (HPV). Of those, nearly half (44 per cent) were infected with an HPV type that causes cancer.
Dr. Ann Burchell, the Project Coordinator and a former PhD student and post-doctoral fellow with Dr. Franco at the Cancer Epidemiology Unit, conducted the HITCH Cohort Study (HPV Infection and Transmission in Couples through Heterosexual activity) to determine the prevalence of HPV infections among recently formed couples. This is the first large-scale study of HPV infection among couples early in their sexual relationships when transmission is most likely.
The results, reported in the January 2010 issues of Epidemiology and Sexually Transmitted Diseases
, also indicate there is a high probability of HPV transmission between partners. When one partner had HPV, the scientists found that in 42 per cent of couples, the other partner also had the infection. Moreover, the scientists observed that the presence of HPV in one partner was the strongest predictor of finding the same HPV type in the other partner. If one partner was infected with HPV, the other partner's chance of also being infected with the same HPV type increased over 50 times.........
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January 13, 2010, 8:23 AM CT
Hypertension Linked to Dementia
Older women with high blood pressure are at increased risk for developing brain lesions that cause dementia during the later part of life, as per data from the Women's Health Initiative Memory Study (WHIMS). The findings were reported in the December 2009 online issue of the Journal of Clinical Hypertension.
The research was conducted as part of the Women' Health Initiative (WHI), the largest multi-site longitudinal study looking at health risks among postmenopausal women. WHIMS, which involves a subgroup of the women enrolled in WHI, looks at the influence of hormone treatment on thinking and memory. All the women in WHIMS were 65 or older.
Upon enrolling in the trial and annually during their participation in it, the women had their blood pressure measured and underwent tests to measure their cognitive ability. Some of the WHIMS participants - 1,403 of them - also underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at 14 U.S. academic centers in 2005 and 2006. All of these women were free of dementia when they enrolled. Examination of the data on these 1,403 women was led by Lewis H. Kuller, M.D., Dr.P.H., of the University of Pittsburgh, in conjunction with scientists at other WHI centers, including Dr. Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology and population health and the Dorothy and William Manealoff Foundation & Molly Rosen Chair in Social Medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Dr. Wassertheil-Smoller is also the principal investigator of Einstein's WHI and WHIMS studies.........
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