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January 21, 2008, 8:06 PM CT

A new view of drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis

A new view of drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis
Powerful drugs used to treat patients with rheumatoid arthritis have a profound, previously unrecognized effect on the immune system, breaking up molecular training camps for rogue cells that play an increasingly recognized role in autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

A team of physicians and researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center reports that drugs known as anti-TNF compounds which include drugs such as Enbrel, Humira and Remicade affect our B cells, which play a role in a number of autoimmune diseases.

As per a research findings reported in the cutting-edge section of the Jan. 15 issue of the Journal of Immunology, the team observed that anti-TNF compounds help eliminate abnormal B cell activity in patients, raising the possibility that the drugs improve the health of patients in a way no one has realized before.

The most important considerations for any drug are: Is it safe, and does it work? said Ignacio Sanz, M.D., professor of Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology, and one of two rheumatologists leading the research. The answer is certainly yes to both questions for these anti-TNF compounds. The drugs have revolutionized the therapy of patients with rheumatoid arthritis. But it also turns out that, even though millions of patients have been treated with these medications, we really havent understood to a significant degree how they actually work.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


January 21, 2008, 7:59 PM CT

Pros, cons of drug to prevent prostate cancer

Pros, cons of drug to prevent prostate cancer
Dr. Yair Lotan's analytical research calls for men to weigh the potential benefits and as well as the side effects of the drug finasteride before taking it to prevent prostate cancer.

Credit: UT Southwestern Medical Center
Findings by UT Southwestern Medical Center scientists encourage men to weigh both the potential benefits and side effects of the drug finasteride before taking it to prevent prostate cancer.

In todays online issue of Cancer, UT Southwestern doctors analyzed data gathered by the National Cancer Institutes Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial, or PCPT. The trial, which began in October 1993, was designed to test whether finasteride could prevent prostate cancer in men 55 years of age and older. It was stopped early in June 2003 when an analysis showed that finasteride reduced the risk of developing prostate cancer by 25 percent.

UT Southwesterns analysis of the PCPT data indicates that cost effectiveness and quality of life issues linked to taking the drug are not clear cut, said Dr. Yair Lotan, assistant professor of urology and the Cancer studys senior author. The PCPT data show that in addition to preventing prostate cancer, finasteride also reduces urinary-tract symptoms linked to non-malignant prostatic hyperplasia. It also decreased sexual desire and caused impotence in 5 percent of the trial participants. Some PCPT participants who did develop prostate cancer also had high-grade tumors, eventhough there is ongoing debate whether this result might have been due to sampling bias.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


January 17, 2008, 10:22 PM CT

Value of drugs for pre-osteoporosis exaggerated

Value of drugs for pre-osteoporosis exaggerated
A series of recent scientific publications have exaggerated the benefits and underplayed the harms of drugs to treat pre-osteoporosis or osteopenia potentially encouraging therapy in millions of low risk women, warn experts in this weeks BMJ.

The authors think that this represents a classic case of disease-mongering: a risk factor being transformed into a medical disease in order to sell tests and drugs to relatively healthy people.

Osteopenia or pre-osteoporosis is said to affect around half of all older women and, in at least one country, drug companies have already begun to market their drugs to women with osteopenia, based on re-analyses of four osteoporosis drug trials.

But the authors of this weeks BMJ paper argue that this move raises serious questions about the benefit-risk ratio for low risk individuals, and about the costs of medicalising and potentially treating an enormous group of healthy people.

These reanalyses tend to exaggerate the benefits of drug treatment, they say. For example, the authors of one reanalysis cite a 75% relative risk reduction, though this translates into only a 0.9% reduction in absolute risk.

In other words, up to 270 women with pre-osteoporosis might need to be treated with drugs for three years so that one of them could avoid a single vertebral fracture.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


January 17, 2008, 10:14 PM CT

ESF's workshop restores good name of sugar

ESF's workshop restores good name of sugar
Sugars were once credited with magical healing powers but are now seen like salt as an evil necessary in small doses but the cause of numerous diseases such as diabetes if taken in excess. Yet latest research suggests this view ignores the vital role played by more complex sugars in a number of biological structures, and the great therapeutic potential they have.

This all emerged in a recent workshop organised by the European Science Foundation (ESF) on the current state of the art in glycoscience, the study of complex sugars in biology. Delegates heard how glycoscience has become one of the hotbeds of biological and medical research, intimately involved in every aspect of metabolism and immune function. The big challenge now is to coordinate research in the field, bring together the relevant specialisms, and determine where to go next, as per the ESF workshops convenor, Tony Merry from Manchester University in the UK. There is so much progress in the field it is a bit difficult to predict where the greatest impact will be, said Merry.

The key point is that complex sugars are involved every time cells, and smaller structures within cells, communicate or bind with each other. This means they play a major part in all processes, including immune recognition and brain functions such as memory. It also means complex carbohydrates are often implicated in diseases where these functions go wrong, including auto-immune disorders such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as some cancers. The immune response often depends on the identity and location of sugars on antigens, which are the surface molecules on pathogens such as bacteria, or in principle any cells or smaller biological components such as protein complexes, that are recognised by the bodys own machinery for detecting foreign bodies. Complex sugars such as polysaccharides are core components of antigens, alongside lipids (fatty compounds) and proteins. These antigens in effect determine the outcome of an infectious disease and the response by the host organism such as human - structural differences between these antigens often account for the inability of a number of diseases to cross from one animal species to another and this is exemplified in the case of influenza where key molecules on the virus interacty with different complex sugars in birds and humans.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


January 17, 2008, 9:54 PM CT

Do Today's Young People Really Think They Are So Extraordinary?

Do Today's Young People Really Think They Are So Extraordinary?
When asked about the state of today's youth, former president Jimmy Carter recently mused "I've been a professor at Emory University for the past twenty years and I interrelate with a wide range of students.I don't detect that this generation is any more committed to personal gain to the exclusion of benevolent causes than others have been in the past".

Now research is beginning to support this notion. An article appearing in the recent issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, found no evidence that today's young people have inflated impressions of themselves in comparison to the youth of prior generations.

Psychology expert Kali Trzesniewski of the University of Western Ontario and her colleagues Brent Donnellan and Richard Robins measured narcissism --a personality trait encompassing characteristics like arrogance, exhibitionism, and a sense of entitlement -- in over 25,000 college students from 1996 to 2007. The scientists then compared their data to similar studies conducted in the late 1970's to mid 1980's and found no evidence that levels of narcissism had increased.

Levels of "self-enhancement" -- the tendency to hold unrealistically positive beliefs about the self -- were also assessed in a sample of high school seniors. As with college students, the high school seniors showed no prominent increase on this component of narcissism.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


January 17, 2008, 9:30 PM CT

Next Generation Optical Fibres

Next Generation Optical Fibres
Electron microscope image of the hollow-core fibre
Researchers have discovered a way of speeding up the production of hollow-core optical fibres - a new generation of optical fibres that could lead to faster and more powerful computing and telecommunications technologies.

The procedure, described today in the journal Optics Express, cuts the production time of hollow-core optical fibres from around a week to a single day, reducing the overall cost of fabrication.

Initial tests show that the fibre is also superior in virtually every respect to prior versions of the technology, making it an important step in the development of new technologies that use light instead of electrical circuits to carry information.

These technologies include faster optical telecommunications, more powerful and accurate laser machining, and the cheaper generation of x-ray or ultra-violet light for use in biomedical and surgical optics.

"This is a major improvement in the development of hollow-core fibre technology," said Professor Jonathan Knight from the Centre for Photonics & Photonic Materials in the Department of Physics at the University of Bath.

"In standard optical fibres, light travels in a small cylindrical core of glass running down the fibre length.

"The fact that light has to travel through glass limits them in a number of ways. For example, the glass can be damaged if there is too much light.........

Posted by: Mike      Read more         Source


January 17, 2008, 9:25 PM CT

Contact lenses with circuits

Contact lenses with circuits
University of Washington
A researcher holds one of the completed lenses.
Movie characters from the Terminator to the Bionic Woman use bionic eyes to zoom in on far-off scenes, have useful facts pop into their field of view, or create virtual crosshairs. Off the screen, virtual displays have been proposed for more practical purposes -- visual aids to help vision-impaired people, holographic driving control panels and even as a way to surf the Web on the go.

The device to make this happen may be familiar. Engineers at the University of Washington have for the first time used manufacturing techniques at microscopic scales to combine a flexible, biologically safe contact lens with an imprinted electronic circuit and lights.

"Looking through a completed lens, you would see what the display is generating superimposed on the world outside," said Babak Parviz, a UW assistant professor of electrical engineering. "This is a very small step toward that goal, but I think it's extremely promising." The results were presented today at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' international conference on Micro Electro Mechanical Systems by Harvey Ho, a former graduate student of Parviz's now working at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, Calif. Other co-authors are Ehsan Saeedi and Samuel Kim in the UW's electrical engineering department and Tueng Shen in the UW Medical Center's ophthalmology department.........

Posted by: Mike      Read more         Source


January 17, 2008, 8:40 PM CT

opening door to 'personalized' asthma therapy

opening door to 'personalized' asthma therapy
In the last few years, personalized medicine using genetic or other molecular biology-based diagnostic tests to customize therapy for a particular patient has emerged as a powerful new tool for health care.

Therapy guided by genetic testing has proven highly successful in treating some types of leukemia and breast and lung cancer. Similar personalized therapies are on the horizon for other types of cancer, as well as diabetes, heart disease and other deadly disorders.

Now, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) scientists and their colleagues elsewhere have taken the first steps toward bringing the methods of personalized medicine to asthma.

Applying state-of-the-art protein screening techniques to samples taken from 84 asthmatic volunteers, theyve made the first identification of different subtypes of asthma based on distinct protein profiles, unique combinations of 10 or more proteins with which they are associated.

One of these profiles corresponds to a variety of severe, therapy-resistant asthma that, while rare, is responsible for 40 to 50 percent of the total health care costs linked to the disease.

We know that in asthma some people respond to very specific types of therapies and others dont, said Dr. Allan Brasier, director of UTMBs Sealy Center for Molecular Medicine and a senior author of a paper on the study appearing in the just-published recent issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (online at http://journals.elsevierhealth.com/periodicals/ymai). Being able to discover different asthma subtypes should allow us to tailor our therapys to increase the odds of a positive response, Brasier added.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


January 14, 2008, 5:27 PM CT

Got carrots?

Got carrots?
A specially developed carrot has been produced to help people absorb more calcium.

Scientists at Texas A&M AgriLifes Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center studied the calcium intake of humans who ate the carrot and found a net increase in calcium absorption. The research, which was done in collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine, means adding this carrot to the diet can help prevent such diseases as osteoporosis.

If you eat a serving of the modified carrot, youd absorb 41 percent more calcium than from a regular carrot, said Dr. Jay Morris, lead author on the paper, a post doctorate researcher at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

The finding will be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences online edition Jan. 14.

The primary goal was to increase the calcium in fruit and vegetables to benefit human health and nutrition, Morris said. Fruit and vegetables are good for you for a number of reasons, but they have not been a good source of calcium in the past.

Morris, who worked on the study while earning a doctorate at Texas A&M University, said fruits and vegetables play a role in good bone health for other reasons.

We think that if this technology is applied to a large number of different fruits and vegetables, that would have an even greater impact on preventing osteoporosis, he said.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


January 14, 2008, 5:18 PM CT

How allergic reactions are triggered

How allergic reactions are triggered
In demonstrating that a group of calcium ion channels play a crucial role in triggering inflammatory responses, scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) have not only solved a longstanding molecular mystery regarding the onset of asthma and allergy symptoms, but have also provided a fundamental discovery regarding the functioning of mast cells. Their findings are reported in the January 2008 issue of Nature Immunology.

A group of immune cells found in tissues throughout the body, mast cells were once exclusively known for their role in allergic reactions, as per the studys lead author Monika Vig, PhD, an investigator in the Department of Pathology at BIDMC and Instructor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Mast cells store inflammatory cytokines and compounds [including histamine and heparin] in sacs called granules, she explains. When the mast cells encounter an allergen pollen, for example they degranuate, releasing their contents and triggering allergic reactions.

But, she adds, in recent years, researchers have uncovered numerous other roles for mast cells, suggesting they are key to many biological processes and are involved in diseases ranging from multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis to cancer and atherosclerosis.

In order for mast cells to function, they require a biological signal specifically, calcium. Calcium moves in and out of the cells by way of ion channels known as CRAC (calcium-release-activated calcium) currents. Last year, several research groups, including Vigs, identified CRACM1 as being the exact gene that was encoding for this calcium channel.........

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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