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August 1, 2007, 8:45 PM CT

New pregnancy labeling rules

New pregnancy labeling rules
Thalidomide tragedy still fresh in our minds
September 12, 2007 marks the tenth anniversary of a public hearing that was hoped to spark substantial changes in the way drugs are labeled for use during pregnancy. However, 10 years after the FDA recognized that the rules needed to be revamped, they have not yet been modified, resulting in anxiety on the part of physicians and patients and the unnecessary termination of wanted pregnancies. A position paper published online in Birth Defects Research Part A, the official journal of The Teratology Society, reviews the history and rationale behind the effort to change pregnancy labeling and calls for the immediate approval of new rules that have been proposed by the FDA. The journal is available online via Wiley InterScience at http://www.interscience.wiley.com/journal/bdr.

Written by the Public Affairs Committee of the Teratology Society, the paper notes that the possibility that medicine taken during pregnancy could cause congenital abnormalities became more widely understood in 1961, when birth defects caused by thalidomide started to be recognized. An increase in animal testing and reports of varying quality on birth defects in humans in the 1970s only served to confuse clinicians. The FDA introduced pregnancy labeling categories in 1979 that were meant to make it easier for doctors to determine the safety of prescribing drugs, but Teratology Society members found the categories lacked information about the nature, severity, timing, and treatability of potential fetal damage and overall found them to be unhelpful, as per the paper.........

Posted by: Emily      Read more         Source


August 1, 2007, 8:42 PM CT

Taming the anthrax threat

Taming the anthrax threat
Shown here is an electron micrograph of a Bacillus anthracis spore, magnified 92,000 times.
Credit: University of Michigan/ Journal of Bacteriology
In the American governments biodefense efforts, the potential for terrorists to cause a deadly anthrax outbreak remains a significant concern, six years after the letter attacks that shook the nation shortly after 9/11.

Now, scientists at the University of Michigan Medical School have developed the first complete picture of how anthrax-causing bacteria survive and grow inside unwitting immune cells their supposed attackers during the crucial first moments of anthrax infection. They have also identified gene candidates to pursue as possible anthrax drug targets. They say the methods they used to detect the microbes activities should become important new tools for other researchers.

Ultimately, the goal in this and other related research is to discover more effective, more easily tolerated therapys than those available now if an anthrax attack occurs, says U-M scientist Nicholas H. Bergman, Ph.D., the lead author of the study, which appears in the July edition of Infection and Immunity. Drugs given to people within a day of exposure, before symptoms develop, can prevent illness and death.

In mouse studies using DNA microarray technology, the U-M researchers were able to track which genes and enzymes play key roles in the bacterium that causes anthrax, while it sneaks inside the immune systems first-responder cells in the lungs, called macrophages, and begins to multiply. The work is a significant advance because it will make it much easier to identify precise new targets for better anthrax drugs and vaccines, says Bergman, a research assistant professor of Bioinformatics at the U-M Medical School.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


July 31, 2007, 9:51 PM CT

Older Folks Don't Get The Joke

Older Folks Don't Get The Joke
It's no laughing matter that elderly adults have a tougher time understanding basic jokes than do younger adults.

It's partially due to a cognitive decline linked to age, as per Washington University in St. Louis scientists Wingyun Mak, a graduate student in psychology in Arts & Sciences, and Brian Carpenter, Ph.D., Washington University associate professor of psychology.

Humor comprehension in elderly adults functions in a different fashion than humor comprehension in younger adults. The scientists studied elderly adults from a university subject pool as well as undergraduate students. The subjects participated in tests that indicated their ability to complete jokes accurately as well as tests that indicated their cognitive capabilities in areas of abstract reasoning, short-term memory, and cognitive flexibility. Overall, elderly adults demonstrated lower performance on both tests of cognitive ability as well as tests of humor comprehension than did younger adults.

"However, just because you're an older adult does not mean that you can't understand humor. All hope is not lost," said Mak. "This is just the first step in understanding how humor comprehension functions in elderly adults." There are likely a multitude of factors, like prior experiences, preferences, and personality that also contribute to how well someone understands different types of humor.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


July 31, 2007, 9:44 PM CT

Research Focuses On Vocal Cords

Research Focuses On Vocal Cords
Image of normal vocal cords, courtesy of the Milton J. Dance Jr. Head and Neck Center at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, Baltimore. For video of the vocal cords in action and vocal cord disorders.
Damaged or diseased vocal cords can forever change and even silence the voices we love, from a family member's to a famous personality's.

Julie Andrews, who starred in such classics as The Sound of Music, is among the professional singers who have undergone surgery to remove callus-like growths that can form from overuse of these two small, stretchy bands of tissue housed in the larynx, or voice box. Sadly, Andrews may never fully recover her singing voice after surgery on her vocal cords in 1997.

Engineering pliable, new vocal cord tissue to replace scarred, rigid tissue in these petite, yet powerful organs is the goal of a new University of Delaware research project. It is funded by a five-year, $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

Xinqiao Jia, UD assistant professor of materials science and engineering, is leading the project. Jia's research focuses on developing intelligent biomaterials that closely mimic the molecular composition, mechanical responsiveness and nanoscale organization of natural extracellular matrices--the structural materials that serve as scaffolding for cells. These novel biomaterials, combined with defined biophysical cues and biological factors, are being used for functional tissue regeneration.........

Posted by: Sue      Read more         Source


July 30, 2007, 10:14 PM CT

Drug improves symptoms of severe Alzheimer's disease

Drug improves symptoms of severe Alzheimer's disease
A drug initially used to treat mild to moderate Alzheimers disease improved the memory and global function of people with severe Alzheimers disease and was safe and effective, as per a research studyreported in the July 31, 2007, issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The six-month study involved 343 people with severe Alzheimers disease at clinics in the United States, Canada, France, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Half of the group received a daily dose of donepezil; the other half received placebo. Cognitive tests were performed throughout the study.

The study found cognitive function stabilized or improved in 63 percent of people taking donepezil in comparison to 39 percent of people taking placebo. In comparison to the placebo group, those taking donepezil showed improvement in memory, language, attention, and recognizing ones name. The donepezil group also showed less of a decline in social interaction, skills needed to complete a jigsaw puzzle, and arranging sentences in comparison to the placebo group.

The effectiveness of donepezil in preserving cognitive and global function in people with severe Alzheimers disease, as evidenced by this study and others, is encouraging, said study author Sandra Black, MD, Brill Professor of Neurology at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, University of Toronto in Canada, and member of the American Academy of Neurology.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


July 30, 2007, 10:10 PM CT

Caffeine plus exercise to prevent skin cancer

Caffeine plus exercise to prevent skin cancer
Regular exercise and little or no caffeine has become a popular lifestyle choice for many Americans. But a new Rutgers study has found that it may not be the best formula for preventing sun-induced skin damage that could lead to cancer. Low to moderate amounts of caffeine, in fact, along with exercise can be good for your health.

According to the National Cancer Institute, sunlight-induced skin cancer is the most prevalent cancer in the United States with more than 1 million new cases each year. A research team at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, showed that a combination of exercise and some caffeine protected against the destructive effects of the suns ultraviolet-B (UVB) radiation, known to induce skin cancer. The caffeine and exercise seemingly conspire in killing off precancerous cells whose DNA has been damaged by UVB-rays.

The studies, conducted in the Susan Lehman Cullman Laboratory for Cancer Research at Rutgers Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, appear in the July 31 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Groups of hairless mice, whose exposed skin is vulnerable to the sun, were the test subjects in experiments in which one set drank caffeinated water (the human equivalent of one or two cups of coffee a day); another voluntarily exercised on a running wheel; while a third group both drank and ran. A fourth group, which served as a control, didnt run and didnt caffeinate. All of the mice were exposed to lamps that generated UVB radiation that damaged the DNA in their skin cells.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


July 30, 2007, 10:08 PM CT

Bariatric surgery patients have fewer complications

Bariatric surgery patients have fewer complications
Bariatric surgery patients had 64 percent fewer complications and a 26 percent shorter hospital stay if they went to a five-star rated hospital compared with a one-star rated hospital, as per a new study released recently by HealthGrades, the healthcare ratings company. The study of bariatric surgery outcomes at hospitals in 19 states over the years 2003 to 2005 also observed that five-star rated hospitals those with better-than-average patient outcomes -- performed about twice the number of procedures compared with hospitals that rated poorly.

A clear trend away from traditional, more invasive gastric bypass to a less invasive laparoscopic procedure was also found in the study, as per the second annual HealthGrades Bariatric Surgery Trends in American Hospitals. Over 70 percent of the surgeries done in 2005 were laparoscopic, which are linked to fewer inhospital complications than traditional gastric bypass.

Bariatric surgery has been demonstrated to be highly effective for those with morbid obesity, but the relatively new procedures are still not regulated or a credentialed surgical subspecialty, said Samantha Collier, MD., HealthGrades chief medical officer. So it is important that patients considering surgery know how hospitals rate.

The HealthGrades study analyzed 166,410 bariatric surgery procedures in the years 2003, 2004 and 2005 in the 19 states that collect and release all-payer outcomes data. Those states are: Arizona, California, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


July 30, 2007, 9:57 PM CT

One cannabis joint equal to up to 5 cigarettes

One cannabis joint equal to up to 5 cigarettes
A single cannabis joint has the same effect on the lungs as smoking up to five cigarettes in one go, indicates research published ahead of print in the journal Thorax.

The scientists base their findings on 339 adults up to the age of 70, selected from a research study that's ongoing of respiratory health, and categorised into four different groups.

These comprised those who smoked only cannabis, equivalent to at least one joint a day for five years; those who smoked tobacco only, equivalent to a pack of cigarettes a day for at least a year; those who smoked both; and those who did not smoke either cannabis or tobacco.

All the participants had high definition x-ray scans (computed tomography) taken of their lungs and they took special breathing tests designed to assess how well their lungs worked.

They were also questioned about their smoking habits.

Seventy five people smoked only cannabis, and 91 smoked both. Eighty one people did not smoke either, and 92 smoked only tobacco.

Combined smokers tended to use less tobacco, the findings showed.

Cannabis smokers complained of wheeze, cough, chest tightness and phlegm. But emphysema, the progressive and crippling lung disease, was only seen in those who smoked tobacco, either alone or in combination.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


July 30, 2007, 9:50 PM CT

Obese patients get patchy weight-loss support

Obese patients get patchy weight-loss support
Only one in seven UK doctors surgeries provide well-developed support programmes for obese patients, as per a survey of primary care nurses reported in the latest Journal of Advanced Nursing.

Sheffield-based scientists surveyed just under 400 nurses in the north of England in mid 2006, including district nurses, practice nurses and health visitors.

Their aim was to ask the nurses about their clinical practice, views and support for patients with obesity.

The scientists discovered that 89 per cent of nurses recognise the need for more effective primary care services to tackle obesity and see obesity advice and support as part of their role.

However, one in five nurses also admitted that they felt awkward or embarrassed about talking to patients about obesity and only a fifth felt they were effective when it came to helping patients to lose weight.

Half said that they found providing care and support for obese patients especially rewarding, but some also expressed negative attitudes and beliefs.

Its estimated that one in five adults in the survey area which covered four primary care trusts in the north of England - are obese, reflecting national UK trends.

A number of of the nurses in the current survey also had weight problems - 14 per cent were obese and 29 per cent were overweight.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


July 30, 2007, 8:21 PM CT

Increased White Matter And Poor Motor Skills In Children With Autism

Increased White Matter And Poor Motor Skills In Children With Autism
A study reported in the recent issue of the journal Brain demonstrates, for the first time, an association between increased white matter volume and functional impairment in children with autism. Findings from scientists at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Md. reveal that in children with autism, increased white matter volume in the motor region of the brain predicts poorer motor skills. On the other hand, in typically developing children, increased white matter volume predicts improved motor skills, with a similar association observed in children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The relationship between increased white matter volume and functional impairment, which appears to be specific to autism, may be representative of global patterns of brain abnormality in autism that not only contribute to motor dysfunction, but also to deficits in socialization and communication that define the disorder.

Children with autism are typically motorically clumsy and awkward, similar to how they are socially clumsy and awkward. They often experience difficulties with basic motor control and with learning more complex motor skills, such as riding a tricycle, pumping their legs on a swing or buttoning, zipping and tying shoe laces. Additionally, high-functioning children with autism often excel in academic areas, such as math, as opposed to athletic activities, such as baseball. Because measures of motor function are highly quantifiable and reproducible, they are much easier to study than measures of social and communication behavior. Motor signs can serve as markers for deficits in parallel brain systems important for control of socialization and communication.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source



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Did you know?
Studies in monkeys and women suggest that unlike traditional estrogen therapy, a diet high in the natural plant estrogens found in soy does not increase the risk of uterine cancer in postmenopausal women, according to Mark Cline, D.V.M., Ph.D., an associate professor of comparative medicine at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

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